These super easy cookies are made with just 5 ingredients. They are like a chocolate shortbread really – buttery, crumbly and delicious. Add some choc chunks too if you like, or drizzle melted chocolate over them too once cooled. Keep reading for my top tip on how to get them all a beautifully even, round shape too….
Mix the butter and sugar together with a wooden spoon. Stir in the flour and cocoa, followed by the orange zest.
Roll the dough into a log about 6-7cm thick – or adjust, depending on how big or small your want your cookies. Wrap and chill for at least 1 hour, until firm, or for up to 5 days. The dough can also be frozen at this stage, for up to 1 month.
Preheat the oven to 180C, gas mark 4. Using a sharp knife, cut the unwrapped log into 1cm-thick rounds. Transfer to a baking tray lined with baking parchment and bake for 10-12 minutes.
Remove from the oven and immediately, while they are still hot, use a round cutter, just bigger than the cookies, to shape each one like this….see the video below…this is called cookie scooting. Leave them to cool on the tray.
This easy recipe is perfect for warming you up on a cold Autumnal day. They’re great with sausages and meats, or scattered over a salad or into soup to make it more substantial. I’ve even been known to add them to a bolognaise to increase the veg quota without the children being any the wiser. They also freeze really well – the lentils, not the children.
425g lentils (brown, green or Puy) 1 tbsp olive oil 2 cloves garlic or 1 tsp garlic granules 1 onion, diced 2 sticks celery, diced 2 carrots, peeled and diced A few thyme sprigs (I keep mine in the freezer then add them straight from frozen) 3 bay leaves (as above – keep them in the freezer) 800ml vegetable stock, hot 6 cavolo nero leaves, stalks removed, finely shredded
Rinse the lentils under cold running water in a sieve then drain well.
Warm the oil in a wide ovenproof cast iron pan then add the garlic or garlic granules, and the onion, celery and carrot. Cover and cook gently for 10-15 minutes, until softened.
Add the lentils and mix well to coat in the oil. Add the herbs, followed by the stock. Cover and simmer for 40-50 minutes or until the lentils are as tender as you like them, and have absorbed almost all the liquid. Alternatively, you can do this in a preheated oven at 170C, gas mark 3.
Mix the cavolo nero into the lentils and leave to wilt. Season and serve, or set aside to cool.
Tip: these lentils will keep in the fridge for up to 3 days and can be eaten cold or hot – just make sure you reheat them really thoroughly before eating. The same applies if you are freezing them – add a little extra stock or water too during reheating if they look a little dry.
This traybake is incredibly easy to make and tastes delicious. Better still my children love it and have zero idea that they’re actually eating vegetables!! It’s based on the recipe from page 18 of Nigella Lawson’s ‘How to be a domestic goddess’, with a few tweaks here and there which I think make life easier.
1 large courgette (300-350g), washed and dried 2 large eggs 125ml vegetable oil 150g caster sugar Finely grated zest of 1 small lemon Finely grated zest 1/2 lime 225g self-raising flour 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda 1/2 tsp baking powder
For the cream cheese frosting: 100g icing sugar 200g cream cheese Juice of 1/2 lime, plus some zest to serve (optional) Juice of 1/2 small lemon
1. Preheat the oven to 180C, gas mark 4 and line a 20x30cm rectangular tin. Coarsely grate the courgette and put in a sieve over the sink to drain a little.
2. Put the eggs, oil and sugar in a bowl and beat well until all the sugar has dissolved and you have a creamy batter. Add the lemon and lime zests.
3. Sieve the flour, bicarb and baking powder into the bowl and mix well to combine, then stir in the courgette. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden and springy to the touch. Leave in the tin for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack and leaving to cool completely.
4. To make the frosting, sieve the icing sugar into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the cream cheese and citrus juices. Whisk thoroughly until smooth and thickened. Spread onto the cake. I like to put the cake into the fridge for at least 1-2 hours at this point but you can eat it immediately.
Cook’s tip: the cake keeps really well in an airtight container in the fridge for 3-5 days. I actually think it’s better about 24-48 hours it’s baked.
30g unsalted butter 3 tbsp clear honey 1/2 tsp vanilla extract 150g plain flour 1 1/4 tsp baking powder 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda 1/2 tsp mixed spice Large pinch sea salt flakes 2 large, very ripe bananas Sesame seeds, to sprinkle
Preheat the oven to 190C, gas mark 5 and line a 20x20cm square tin with baking parchment.
Warm the butter, honey and vanilla extract in a small pan over a low heat until melted. Then set aside to cool slightly.
Meanwhile, put the flour, baking powder, bicarb, mixed spice and salt into a large bowl. Mash the bananas and mix with the butter mixture. Don’t over mix – it should be lumpy, but all the flour should be incorporated.
Pour into the prepared tin, sprinkle with sesame seeds, and bake for 20 minutes until springy to touch. Leave to cool for 5 minutes in the tin, then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely before cutting into squares.
Top tip: you could also spoon the mixture into 12 muffin cases – they might take 20-25 minutes to cook though. Try swapping the sesame seeds for roughly chopped walnuts, or a blend of pumpkin, sunflower and linseeds.
A variation on one of my most-cooked recipe’s from the amazing Diana Henry. In her version, Diana stuff’s the chicken with a feta and tomato mixture – it’s delicious, but I didn’t have time or the ingredients to do that this time.
Prepare: 5 minutes Cook: 80 minutes Serves: 6
1.8kg whole chicken 1 tbsp olive oil 1 tsp za’atar (optional) 225g orzo pasta 500ml hot chicken stock 1 tbsp chopped fresh parsley or oregano
1 Preheat the oven to 190°C, gas mark 5. Put the chicken into a 30cm cast iron ovenproof dish or roasting tin.
2 Drizzle the chicken with the olive oil and season well with salt, pepper and za’atar, if you have it.
3 Roast in the oven for 50 minutes. Remove from the oven. Sprinkle the orzo around the chicken and pour the stock over the orzo. Put the tray back into the oven to cook for 20 minutes more. Check during this time to make sure the orzo isn’t drying – there should be enough stock, but top it up with a little boiling water if needed.
4 Once the 20 minutes are up the chicken should be cooked – check that the juices run clear, with no trace of pink meat – and the orzo should be tender. The stock should also have been absorbed. Stir the fresh herbs into the orzo. Serve the chicken straight from the pan. A dressed green salad is all you need on the side.
If you’re trying to sneak some extra fruit in to your diet (or that of your children) without feeling too hard done by, then this recipe is for you.
An extremely easy and quick bake that will satisfy sweet cravings, without any added sugar – just honey. They’re flour-free too!
Meanwhile, banana and apple increase your fruit quota whilst helping to bring the mixture together, so you don’t need so much butter or sugar.
It’s a great recipe for using up ingredients too. I used over-ripe bananas and apples that were on their way out. I can’t bear to let anything go to waste, so this couldn’t be better.
You can also mix things up a bit depending on the dried fruit and seeds you have in the cupboard. Dried apricots, cherries, cranberries, raisins or mixed dried fruit would all work well.
As for the seeds, I used a blend of pumpkin, sunflower, sesame and linseed, but use whatever you have. Poppy seeds are always a good addition to bakes and some chia would taste good too.
You could also try adding a little finely grated orange or lemon zest to the mixture before baking.
Or for something a little more indulgent, try drizzling the cooled flapjack with some melted chocolate – white, dark or milk are all really tasty additions (but might blow all those low sugar and fat intentions out of the water!).
Prepare: 10 minutes Cook: 60 minutes Makes: 16
50g butter, plus extra for greasing 2 tbsp tahini 3 tbsp honey 2 bananas 2 small eating apples 250g porridge oats 100g prunes 75g currants 75g mixed seeds (eg. pumpkin, sunflower, sesame & linseeds)
Preheat the oven to 160˚C, gas mark 3 and grease a 20cm square tin. Melt the butter, tahini and honey in a small pan over a low heat. Stir to combine.
Meanwhile mash the banana and coarsely grate the unpeeled apple into a bowl (no need to remove the core before-hand, just grate around it, then throw it away). Mix these into the melted butter mixture together with 100ml hot water.
Put the oats into a large bowl. Snip in the prunes using some scissors, to make pieces about the size of a plump raisin. Add the currants and seeds. Mix in the banana mixture until everything is well coated.
Tip into the prepared tin and spread out to level the surface. Bake for 55 minutes or until golden. Leave to cool in the tin for at least 2 hours, before turning out and cutting into squares.
Tip: I found using a serrated bread knife the neatest way to cut this flapjack.
Plaice is a delicious fish. It’s often over-looked on menus and fish slabs for some reason, but I love it! It’s extremely quick and easy to cook, versatile (grill, fry, bake or poach) and is fabulous to eat – its fine, moist texture and delicate flavour making it ideal for family meals and entertaining alike. Better still it is high in protein, low in fat and calories.
It’s in season for most of the year from May – December, but at its best in the summer. When buying plaice I look for nice bright orange spots on it’s pretty skin and perky, clear eyes.
This delicious and easy bread recipe makes a perfect accompaniment to scores of dishes and is also amazing on its own spread with lashings of Taleggio or goat’s cheese.
Preparation: 20 minutes, plus proving time
Cooking: 20 minutes
250g strong white bread flour
1 tsp (5g) salt
7g sachet easy blend yeast
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus extra for drizzling
2 figs, cut into thin wedges
1 small red onion, cut into thin wedges
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1 large sprig rosemary
1 tbsp pine nuts
Maldon sea salt, for serving
Place the flour, salt, 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and 200ml warm water (1 part boiling:1 part cold water) into the bowl of a stand mixer. Knead with a dough hook on a low setting for 15 minutes until soft. Alternatively knead in a mixing bowl by hand.
Cover the bowl with a lightly oiled piece of kitchen film and leave to rise in a warm place for 1 hour, or until doubled in size. Turn the dough into a square tin 20 x 20 cm in size and press it into the corners. Cover with the film again and leave for a further 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 220C, gas mark 7. Meanwhile toss the fig and onion wedges with the molasses. Press them randomly into the top of the dough, together with little sprigs of rosemary and the pine nuts. Drizzle with the remaining tablespoon of olive oil.
Bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until golden. Remove from the oven and drizzle with more oil and sea salt flakes, before cutting into squares to serve. Great spread with soft taleggio or goat’s cheese.
It’s Chinese New Year – the year of the Rooster. If you don’t think it’s inappropriate to celebrate by eating chicken (!) then try this delicious, family-friendly (not too spicy) and very easy roast recipe. The slow cooker version can be found in my book – Slow Cooking.
1.5kg whole chicken
1 tbsp five spice powder
1 tbsp sesame oil
600g plums, halved and stoned
100ml dry fino sherry
200ml chicken stock
1 tbsp clear honey
Preheat the oven to 190°C, gas mark 5. Place the chicken in a roasting tin and pat the skin dry with kitchen paper. Mix the five spice powder and the oil together. Rub the mixture over the chicken as evenly as possible. Place in the oven and cook for 15 minutes.
Place half of the plums around the chicken, and pour the sherry and stock over them. Return to the oven and cook for another 45 minutes.
Add the remaining plums and continue to cook for another 25 minutes or until the chicken is golden (cover the chicken with foil if it is browning too fast) and the juices run clear when tested with a skewer inserted into the thickest part between the leg and the breast.
Place the chicken on a platter and allow to rest in a warm place. Warm the plum mixture in the roasting tin over a high heat. Stir in the honey to taste and season well. Carve the chicken and serve with the plum sauce, steamed oriental greens and rice or noodles.