Vietnamese Beef Salad

IMG_0543The missus was heading out for the evening, So I thought i’d whip myself something up that was really tasty, hastle and guilt free. These types of salads are absolutely perfect for me. Filling, crunchy, sweet, sour, hot. They’ve got it all. Chuck a sliced medium-rare sirloin on the top of it and serve it with an ice cold beer and you’ve got the makings of a dream dinner. It all takes about 10 minutes to prepare too.
Just make sure there’s some left-over for when your other half gets in, otherwise there will be problems!

For 2 you’ll need:
1 Sirloin Steak
2 Nests of Rice Vermicelli Noodles
1 carrot, grated
1 Cucumber, peeled into ribbons
1/2 onion, sliced
1/2 pack of salad radishes, quartered
1 chilli, finely sliced
Small bunch of coriander, roughly chopped
Small bunch of mint, chopped
Thumb-sized piece of ginger, finely grated
1 clove of garlic, finely grated
juice of 2 limes
3 tbsp fish sauce
1 tbsp palm sugar

Place your rice noodles in a bowl and cover with boiling water. After 3 minutes drain and fill bowl with cold water so that you stop them from cooking further. Place to one side.
In a separate bowl place your grated carrot, sliced onion and radishes, chilli, and peel your cucumber with a vegetable peeler so that you get nice delicate ribbons. Once your noodles are cold add them to your bowl of vegetables.
Now mix up your dressing by adding all of the ingredients together and mixing well. Taste. It may well need more lime juice or fish sauce, remember it needs to be zingy and slightly salty so that the flavour carries through into your salad. Once mixed add this to your bowl of vegetables and noodles so that these flavours can start to mix and react.
Put a heavy-based frying pan onto a high heat until it begins to smoke. In the meantime slightly oil your steak and season it well with salt and pepper. Once the pan is as hot as you dare through it in. Cook your steak to your liking, I cooked my rib-eye for 2 minutes on each side. Once your steak is cooked place on a plate so that it can rest and the meat can relax. Whilst your steak is resting roughly chop your mint and coriander.
Slice your steak against the grain and throw it into your bowl, not forgetting those lovely juices that the meat will have released whilst it rests.

Plate up and devour.


Crab and Fennel Curry

I know what you’re thinking; Fennel and crab aren’t the most traditional curry ingredients and you’re unlikely to get this down you’re local Lal Akash on Leatherhead High Street. But using fish and seafood in curries is very common in Southern India, crab curries being a particular speciality of Chettinad in Tamil Nadu.

As with most of my recipes, Ive pinched, borrowed and simplified. This is originally a Jamie Oliver (surprise, surprise) recipe, but the recipe didn’t contain any vegetables other than chillies, garlic, ginger and sliced onion. For this reason I decided to add some sliced fennel, as i thought the sweetness and slight anise flavour of the fennel would compliment both the spices and the crab. It worked perfectly, resulting in a delicious curry.
Its also ridiculously easy to make, with there being no complicated pastes to make before hand, simply finely sliced veg and whole spices. Perfect for throwing together on a Friday night after work if you’re not going out. The crab meat gives it the indulgence of a weekend dinner, but the preparation is that of a weeknight supper. Perfect!

For 4 you’ll need:
15g butter
1 tbsp oil
2 tsp fennel seeds
2 heaped tsp black mustard seeds or Mustard Seeds
8 green cardamom pods, crushed and outer husk discarded
2 tsp cumin seeds
thumb sized piece of ginger, cut into matchsticks
3 garlic clove, finely sliced
1 white onion, finely sliced
2/3 fresh red chilli, finely sliced
2 heaped tsp turmeric
3 med-small bulbs fennel, finely sliced
100g brown meat
1 x 400g tin of coconut milk
250g white crab meat
Small bunch of coriander
Juice 1-2 lemons
300g Basmati Rice

Firsts things first, get your rice on My method of cooking rice is simple, and it takes 20 minutes for perfect rice every time. Put your weighed rice into a saucepan, with double the amount of water. So 300g of rice and 600g of water. Bring this to the boil as rapidly as possible and boil for 1 minute. Now move to the smallest hob and turn it down to very low, place a tight-fitting lid on the rice and simmer for 9 minutes. After 9 minutes, turn off the hob and leave to steam for 10 minutes. Don’t remove the lid to check! You’ll have perfect rice at the end.

For the curry: heat your oil and butter in a frying pan on a medium heat and add all of the spices to fry for several minutes. When the mustard seeds begin to pop and crackle add your sliced onion, garlic, chilli and fennel and a pinch of salt.
Sweat these vegetables for 5 minutes or so, before adding the turmeric, brown crabmeat, coconut milk and a 1/2 a tin of water. Simmer for 10 minutes, then add your white crabmeat and simmer for a further 2 minutes.
Add the coriander, reserving some to sprinkle on top, lemon juice and season. You may have to add a splash more water just to get it to the consistency of your liking.

Plate up!

Chicken and Leek pie with Braised Lettuce and Five-Spice Roast Carrots.

The days are short and the weathers cold. Thats pie weather for me. This originally was a chicken and mushroom pie, but due to my sisters aversion to ‘shrooms, we had to change the recipe for her. The original recipe for the pie and lettuce are from Jamie’s 30 minute meals, so its quick and delicious. I do feel it is important however, to make the chicken and leek filling ahead of time. Jamie would have you bang puff pastry straight on top of hot pie mix, which would make the pastry soggy before its even had a chance to get golden and crisp. So I make the filling a few hours ahead of time so that it can cool down. Even if you can just give it half an hour that will make your pie better. For this dish you’ll need an oven-proof baking dish.
Its not strictly seasonal I know, what with leeks, lettuce and peas being spring vegetables. Leeks are one of the first vegetables to push up through the thawing winter soil.
So this recipe sort of goes against everything I believe in, but its also just bloody delicious, so my heart says no but my stomach says yes. Bit like every time I have a MacDonalds. Oh the shame.

To feed 4 you’ll need:
The Pie
4 chicken breasts, cut into 1cm strips
4 leeks, sliced
1 bunch of spring onions, finely sliced (Set aside 3 for the braised lettuce)
1 tbsp Oil
20g Unsalted Butter
1 tbsp plain flour
2 tsp English mustard
1 tbsp creme fraiche
300ml chicken stock
a few prigs of thyme
1/2 a nutmeg
250g puff pastry
1 egg

Braised Lettuce
20g Unsalted Butter
1 tbsp Oil
1 heaped tsp plain flour
2 little gem lettuce, shredded
400g frozen peas
3 spring onions, finely sliced
200ml Chicken Stock
juice of 1/2 – 1 lemon

500g Chantenay Carrots
1 tbsp Chinese Five Spice
1 tbsp Runny Honey

Start of by frying your portioned and seasoned chicken pieces in olive oil over a medium-high heat in a casserole dish or large saucepan. You want to get a little bit of colour on these, as this is going to add depth of flavour to your sauce. Once your chicken is nice and browned, remove it to a plate using a slotted spoon.
Now add the butter and get it foaming. Add your sliced spring onions and leeks and a pinch of salt and leave to sweat for 5 minutes.
Now add the flour and stir well before adding the mustard, creme fraiche, chicken stock and chicken back to the pan, along with its resting juices from the plate. Thats all good flavour. Finely grate in the nutmeg and also add a few sprigs of thyme. Turn the heat down and simmer for 15 minutes.
At this point you need to get the seasoning and consistency of your pie filling right, as once the pastry goes on, its final! If you like a bit more sauce, thin it out a little bit, and make sure the seasoning is on point.
Put to one side and leave to cool.

Chicken and Leek filling

Once your pie filling is cool (or you’re so hungry you cant wait any longer) take your pastry out of the fridge and onto a lightly floured surface and turn your oven to 220ºC.
You’ll either need to roll out your pastry until its 3-5mm thick or simply unroll the pre-rolled sheet. Cut to a similar size of your baking dish, and score lightly with the back of your knife. Dont use the blade as you’re likely to cut all the way through. I like to make a nice diamond pattern.
Put onto your pie filling, I like to tuck the pastry down the sides of my pie mix, as opposed to having a tight, flat lid. Make a small inch sized cut in the top of your pie so that steam can escape. Glaze with a little beaten egg and place in the fridge for 10 minutes to ensure your pastry is cold when going into the oven, which will ensure the best rise, colour and texture.

Now place your carrots in a bowl and season liberally with salt and pepper, a drizzle of oil and the Chinese five spice. Toss and coat well, and place in a roasting tray and bang it in the oven. They’ll take about 30 mins, and 2 mins before taking them out, drizzle with the honey and give them a few extra minutes before serving them up.

Now whack your pie in the oven, it’ll need around 15-20 minutes to get a lovely golden and crispy top. It may need turning half way through cooking to ensure that it has an even colour.

Now get cracking with your lettuce! Heat the butter and oil in a saucepan over a medium heat before adding your finely sliced spring onions and a pinch of salt. Sweat for 2-3 minutes before tossing in the flour. Stir really well. Add your shredded lettuce, frozen peas and stock and simmer for 10 minutes. Just before serving season with lemon juice and salt and pepper.


I like to get everything on the table and let everyone dig in. Make sure everyone gets an equal sized piece of pastry though, as in my house that’ll cause a fight! Enjoy.

Italian Cannelini Bean Stew

Beef Cheek and Ox tail stew

Some of the most satisfying meals are those which use leftovers. There is something hugely satisfying in creating something delicious that others might simply bin. Waste not, want not in my house!

I was given a container of ox-tail and beef cheek ragu from a chef at work, as she’s made a huge lasagne with it and had a bit left. The meat was tender and falling apart and coated in a little of the stock that it was cooked in. This recipe could easily be made with leftover roast chicken, beef or lamb. All would be delicious.
I didnt know instantly how I was going to use it, but I knew it had to be filling, warming and to be eaten with big pieces of torn off bread.
In the end I settled on a veg-packed stew with some cannelini beans thrown in as a delicious bulker. Im definitely going to make this again, with or without the added leftover beef, it still would have been delicious. The meat just notched it up from a 9 to a 10!

To feed 4 you’ll need:
1 Carrot, diced
1 Med white Onion, sliced
3 Sticks celery, sliced
2 Medium White Turnips, diced
25g Butter
2 tbsp Olive Oil
Small bunch of thyme
1 tbsp tomato puree
6 stems of cavolo nero, centre removed and cut into long thin pieces
A glass of white wine
300ml Chicken Stock
200g left over meat (Optional)
1 x 400g tin of cannelini beans, drained

Zest 1 lemon
A small clove of garlic, grated
Bunch of parsley, finely chopped
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Start by prepping all of your veg ready to sweat, whilst your butter and oil melt, fizz and foam together over a medium heat. Once prepped throw in your carrot, onion, celery and turnip, a nice generous pinch of salt, the thyme, stripped off its woody stalk and place a lid on the whole lot. You’re looking to sweat these veg, so you don’t want any colour at all.
Adding a pinch of salt is really important here. It firstly starts the seasoning of your dish early, so that you’re now building into a delicious dinner. The salt also helps to draw the moisture out of the veg, so that it sweats and doesnt colour.

After 5-10 minutes of nice slow sweating, crank the heat up to full and add the tomato puree. Stir it constantly for 2 minutes before adding the glass of white wine. You want to rattle this for a good few minutes until it reduces by more than half. You need to burn off the alcohol and deepen the wines flavour, otherwise it will rain sharp and so will your stew!

Now add the rest of your stew ingredients: cavolo nero, chicken stock, cannelini beans and if you’ve got it, leftover meat. You may need to add a little water or hold back a little of the stock here, depending on how you like your stew. I like mine with a touch more ‘thin’ than most, so I add a touch of extra water at the end.

Leave this to blip away for 20 minutes or so until all the flavours have softened, deepened and amalgamated, whilst you crack on with your gremolata.
This really couldn’t be easier. Zest 1 lemon. Grate a small clove of garlic on a microplane, and finely chop a nice bunch of parsley. Place in a bowl and drizzle in oil until you have a ‘pesto-like’ consistency. There’s really no right or wrong consistency here. Taste, season, and set aside.

By now everything your stew should be soft and delicious. Serve up in nice big bowls, grated with parmesan, dotted with gremolata and a nice hunk of bread on the side.


Spaghetti Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino

Sometimes simple is best. It’s cold outside, I’ve got Miles Davis floating out of my laptop (I know, I know, im a wanker) and I have to be up at 2.30am to go to work and bake 100+ loaves.  If ever there was a need for a fuss-free dinner, tonight’s the night. 

The inspiration for tonight’s dinner stems from Rachel Roddy’s fantastic book ‘Five Quarters – recipes and notes from a kitchen in Rome’. Rachel did what most of us dream of doing on a dreary English evening – upping sticks and moving to Rome. The book is therefore a story of her journey and some of the wonderful food she has eaten and continues to cook and eat. 

What’s most poignant about the book is its authenticity. These are recipes that Romans cook and eat. The real-deal. 

Italian food is based around the quality of your ingredients, and this recipe is that epitomised. Good quality pasta, dressed in aromatic garlic and chilli, sizzled in a little good quality extra virgin olive oil and served with handfuls of chopped parsley and freshly grated Parmesan. Pinch of salt, twist of pepper. That’s how Romans eat. 

For 1 easy dinner you’ll need:

  • 100g good quality dried spaghetti
  • 1 fat garlic clove 
  • 1/2-1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 2tbsp good quality extra virgin olive oil 
  • Handful of chopped parsley
  • Handful of freshly grated Parmesan 

Get your pasta on. This should be cooked in a big pot of heavily salted water. I’d advise cooking it for 1 minute less than the packet instructions, it should be Al dente! 

After a few minutes chop your garlic and add to a frying pan with your oil and chilli. I like to bring it up to frying from cold, it’s much easier to keep control of your garlic that way. It burns very easily. If it’s ready early, put to one side. It should be cooled and ever so slightly golden, but not brown. 

When your pasta is ready, drain and get it straight into your frying pan to toss around in the luscious oil. Now add your Parmesan and parsley. Toss. Taste. Season. Devour. 

Delia’s Basque Chicken

Basque Chicken

This recipe is an absolute classic in my house hold, my Mum’s been cooking this one first for my Dad and then for us kids for years. This is the perfect one pot wonder for me with the whole lot being cooked in a casserole dish that you’ve bunged in the oven. Its Delia at her best.
Full of smoky, comforting flavours that are perfect for this time of year. It’s guaranteed to rid you of that chill in your bones on a cold eve.
Another thing I love about this dish is that it makes loads and is perfect for portioning up and putting in the freezer. Take it out before you go to work and you’ll be looking forward to dinner for the rest of the day. Sometimes it just doesn’t always make it to the freezer though.

This recipe feeds four and you’ll need:
1 Med-Large Chicken (around 1.75kg), jointed into 8 pieces
2 Large Red Peppers
2 White Onions
2-3 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
150g Chorizo
1 tbsp Sweet Paprika
50g Sun-dried Tomatoes in Oil
2 Large Garlic Cloves
1 tbsp Tomato Puree
Brown Basmati rice, measured to 275ml in a measuring jug
375ml Chicken Stock
170ml White Wine
1 large Orange, peeled and cut into wedges
A few sprigs of fresh thyme
50g Kalamata Olives

Get your oven onto 180ºC

Firstly you’ll need to joint your chicken into 8 pieces. If you’ve never done this before there are tutorials on YouTube and also in books. You’ll have 8 pieces of chicken, all on the bone. Two drumsticks, two thighs, and 4 pieces of breast, still on the breast bone. Season all of these well and place to one side.
As opposed to getting these straight into the pan to start browning, i like to get everything I need weighed out and prepped so that there is no mad dashes during cooking to get things, prep things and weigh them out! This saves time in the long run and is how you would cook in a professional kitchen.
De-seed and slice your red peppers into fairly large strips, remember that they are going to cook for a while so you want them to stay intact throughout cooking. Each pepper should get you 6 strips. Also slice your onions into similar sized pieces. Peel and cut your chorizo into 1/4 inch pieces, chop your garlic, segment your orange and drain your sun-dried tomatoes and cut in half. Now just weigh your rice, measure your stock and you’re ready to go!
Start by heating 2 tbsp olive oil on a medium-high heat in your casserole dish and start browning your chicken pieces. It’s important to do this in batches, otherwise you will over-crowd the pan and your chicken will stew and not brown! They should be a lovely nutty brown colour on both sides. Remove with a slotted spoon once browned to a dish.
This is one of the first building blocks for a delicious dinner, those dark crusty bits on the bottom of your pan are what will turn your dinner from the ordinary to the extraordinary!
Once all of your chicken is browned and put to one side, add your chorizo. You are looking to crisp this up a little bit and also to render all of its paprika laced pork fat. Once this is starting to crisp remove with the slotted spoon and add to the chicken.
Now add the peppers and onions and fry till the edges start to brown and have turned translucent. This will take 5-10 minutes.
Now add your garlic, paprika, thyme, sun-dried tomatoes and tomato puree and fry this on a gentler heat for 2 minutes, stirring regularly. Now add your rice and stir thoroughly so that each individual grain has a coating of blood-red oil. This will ensure that you have beautiful individual grains of rice in the finished dish and avoid clumping.
Now add the stock and wine and also a good pinch of salt and pepper. Trying to get the seasoning right at the stage is important as it will result in a much superior dish to trying to bring the seasoning up once the dish has come out of the oven.
Add the chorizo back in and mix through, and nestle your chicken pieces on the top of the rice. They should be partly submerged but also still visible at the top so that they are roasting as well as poaching.
Lastly place the orange wedges on the top and chuck on your olives.
I line my lid with a piece of tin foil to ensure that as much of the moisture stays in as possible, get this on and bung it in the oven for an hour.

Bob’s your Uncle, and you’ve got the perfect dish for autumn. Even down to the colour of the changing leaves.
Serve with a big glass of Rioja.

Asian Steak and Mango Salad

Ok – This ones a goody. The salad is based on food journo God-Mother Diana Henry from her book ‘A Change of Appetite’. It’s an absolute cracker and the original recipe is with a marinated and grilled pork chop. Yum!
I’ve gone with a simple steak with mine because it was what I fancied. It just so happened that they were on a deal at my local supermarket and it also it cuts down on the faff of Diana’s recipe. There’s no marinade in my recipe, just a simple, pan-fried, well rested steak. Beautiful.
The washing up here is also pretty minimal – Win!
Enough waffle, just make sure you make this. Its unbelievably umami-delicious, the list of ingredients isn’t massive and it’s also pretty healthy.

To feed two greedy bastards:

  • 2 mangoes
  • 4 cloves of garlic
  • 2 steaks (mine were 2 X 225g Sirloins)
  • a thumb sized piece of ginger
  • zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 1 tbsp Wholegrain Mustard
  • 1 Red Chilli
  • 2 tsp sugar (I had soft brown sugar)
  • Bunch of coriander

Before starting make sure your steaks are out of the fridge well in advance of when you plan to cook them. Having them at room temperature (what they call in the restaurant bizz ‘tempering’) ensures that they will cook evenly and be as juicy and tender as possible.
Peel your mangoes, take off each cheek and lump into whatever shape or slither you like. I just sliced mine. Thinly slice your chilli and roughly chop your coriander, toss through the mango making sure you reserve some for a bit of wanky instagram garnish. Add the zest and juice of your lime too.
Grate your garlic and ginger into a small bowl and stir through a few tablespoons of water, to create a paste. Alternatively whizz it all up with a food processor, hand-blender or bash it up in a pestle and mortar.
Meanwhile get a heavy-bottomed frying pan onto a high heat on the largest ring. Drizzle your steaks with olive oil and season really really well with salt. A good steak tastes a million times better when its well seasoned. Be brave.
After a few minutes heating up, get your timer ready and pop your steaks into the pan. Once they are in, do not touch them. Let them sit and create a beautiful caramelised crust. How long you cook your steaks for is completely up to you. Just think about how you like it cooked and also the thickness of your meat. I gave mine 2 minutes on each side as sirloins are fairly thin and I like my meat cooked medium.
Once out, put your steaks onto your chopping board to rest for as long as you have cooked them for.

Take your pan off the heat and leave it there for at least 2 minutes before adding your ginger and garlic paste. Put it in too soon and it’ll burn in seconds! Add a tbsp of oil to the pan before adding your paste and stir constantly for around a minute. You should be able to tell by the smell once it has cooked out – it won’t smell raw!
Stir through your mustard, add your fish sauce and sugar and throw in your mango, coriander and chilli mix. Taste and season. It may need a touch more lime juice, fish sauce or chilli. I like mine sour, salty and hot!
By this time your steak will be perfectly rested and ready to slice. Being an ex-chef I cant resist cutting it at a jaunty angle. You get a much better view of the tender, pink meat.

Lob it all on a plate and devour!