Roast Aubergine With Yoghurt Dressing


This is a sumptuous Middle-Eastern inspired dinner.  The aubergines are sliced in half, rubbed with oil and cumin seeds and baked until soft.  You then top them with a beautiful yoghurt dressing, toasted cashew nuts and fresh coriander.  Allow about 10 minutes of effort and 50 minutes of roasting.

Cumin seeds are definitely one of my most *exciting ingredients*  I also sprinkle them over soups and once had an unforgetful wrap filled with fried halloumi, beetroot, yoghurt and cumin seeds!

Roast Aubergine With Yoghurt Dressing (serves 2)

  • 2 aubergines, sliced in half lengthways
  • Olive oil or vegetable oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 200g Greek or natural yoghurt
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 2 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 tbsp cashew nuts/pine nuts , toasted (do this by frying them on a high heat in a dry non-stick pan, shaking regularly, for about 30 seconds – 1 minute until golden – careful not to burn!)
  • 1 handful of roughly chopped coriander

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6/200 degrees.  Gently score the 4 cut halves of aubergine flesh with criss cross cuts, then carefully rub/brush over 1 tbsp of oil between them and sprinkle over the salt and pepper and cumin seeds.  Roast for around 50 minutes until browned and soft.

While the aubergine is roasting mix the yoghurt, garlic and lemon juice together.  To serve, spoon the yoghurt dressing over the aubergine then top with the toasted cashew nuts and fresh coriander.



Potato, Onion and Fennel Tortilla


This potato, onion and fennel tortilla is my favourite recipe from Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals cookbook.  The slightly caramelised potatoes and red onions are delicious encased in the egg, and the fennel seeds are a really interesting addition.  As you can see my tortilla turned out flatter and more like an omelette, but it doesn’t matter either way!

We ate our omelette/tortilla with baked trout and peas and sweetcorn, but it would also be nice with a salad and/or sausages.  My kids enjoy eating it with their hands (hence it also makes a great cold snack the next day)!  Allow about 30 minutes to make.

Fennel seeds are one of my *exciting ingredients* and also work well in fish pies and Mediterranean tomato based sauces.  They are cheap and last for months in the cupboard!


Potato, Onion and Fennel Tortilla (serves 4-6 with a side)

200g potatoes, chopped very small in to approx 1cm chunks (I don’t bother peeling – I like the nutty texture)

1 red (or white) onion, chopped small

1 tsp fennel seeds

1 large clove garlic, crushed

1 tsp dried mixed herbs or handful of fresh rosemary/parsley, chopped

5 eggs, lightly beaten, with a little salt and pepper

Fry the potatoes in a frying pan in oil on a medium heat until they start to soften and get a little golden (about 8-10 mins), then add the onion, fennel seeds and herbs.  Mix well and keep stirring for another 6 mins or so, until the onion is soft.  Add the garlic and stir, then pour the eggs in.  Briefly stir and swirl the eggs in the pan until the pan is covered and the other ingredients are nicely spread out.

Once the egg starts to set around the edges, you have two choices.  You can either finish the tortilla off by cooking the top for a few minutes under the grill until set (my preferred option) or you can leave it on the hob to gently cook through.

Once cooked, carefully cut the tortilla in to wedges and eat alongside whatever you fancy.

Chickpea, spinach and potato curry


I wanted to make a tasty veggie curry that is spicy and without an endless list of ingredients, and here it is!  You can eat the chickpea, spinach and potato curry scattered with coriander and with rice, naan bread or poppadoms (or all three!)  It is perfect with cucumber raita on the side (mix yoghurt with chopped cucumber, crushed garlic and a shake of pepper).

The curry contains garam masala, an Indian spice mix, which is a great spice to introduce to children as it is slightly sweet and not fiery.  My kids were not convinced about this dish, but they love kedgeree, which also uses garam masala and is one of our top family meals:

Also, if you drain a can of chickpeas and shake over a little oil and garam masala and then roast in the oven for 15 minutes on a fairly hot heat, out come crunchy roast chickpeas!   A great snack for on the go.  Yes, garam masala has to be one of my *exciting ingredients*.  Anyway, I’m rambling, so here is the recipe.  Allow about 30 minutes to make it.

Chickpea, spinach and potato curry (serves 4)

1 large potato, chopped small (don’t bother peeling it)

1 onion, chopped small

100g spinach, roughly chopped

Can chickpeas, drained

1 large clove garlic, crushed

Little finger of ginger, chopped very small

1/2 can coconut milk

1 tsp garam masala

1/2 tsp cumin seeds (or more if you fancy)

Optional – if you want it spicy – fresh chilli or chilli flakes

Salt and pepper

Small handful coriander, roughly chopped

Cook the potato in a pan in oil for about 12 mins until tender.  Add the onion and cook for another 5 mins.  Add the spinach and chickpeas, garlic, ginger, garam masala and cumin and cook for 1 minute.  Add coconut milk and seasoning and simmer for a final 5 mins.  Scatter with coriander (and chilli if you wish!) and eat alongside rice, naan bread or poppadoms.

Sweet potato and goats cheese pasta bake

sweet potato pasta bake

I was going to make this sweet potato and goats cheese pasta bake with butternut squash, but couldn’t be bothered with all that awkward, endless chopping…  Luckily using sweet potato instead makes a lovely dinner!  They (the sweet potatoes) are roasted with onions, garlic and sage then whizzed in a food processor with some creme fraiche and (oxo) stock.

sweet potato pasta bake

sweet potato pasta bake

Add the sauce to cooked pasta then layer in a buttered dish with cheese.  Top with goats cheese and some sage leaves for added prettiness and flavour.  All our bowls were empty by the end of dinner!

sweet potato pasta bake

sweet potato pasta bake

The preparation/assembling takes about 20 minutes and the oven does most of the work (allow about 1 hour 20 mins in total).  You could always prepare the sauce or assemble the bake in advance and cook later on.

Sage is a herb with a beautiful distinctive flavour which crisps up when roasted/cooked and goes really well with goats cheese and sweet potato/butternut squash.  If you wanted to disperse the flavour more you could tear up the sage finely on top of the dish.  Garlic cloves go wonderfully sweet and slightly caramelised when roasted – you can literally pop them out of their skins and eat them whole like this!  Roast garlic cloves are one of my *exciting ingredients* (for more exciting ingredient ideas check out the category on the right hand side of the blog).

We had the bake on it’s own but it would be nice with salad.  It costs about £5 in total.

Sweet potato pasta bake (serves 4-6 people)

2 large (or 3 small/medium) sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped in to chunks

1 onion, roughly chopped

Salt and pepper

3 cloves garlic, with skin still on

14 sage leaves

260g pasta (nothing too small)

3 heaped tbsp creme fraiche (I used lighter creme fraiche)

4 tbsp water

2 stock cubes (I like Oxo vegetable as they crumble easily)

60g cheddar cheese, grated

Optional –    120g goats cheese, roughly chopped

Heat the oven to gas mark 6/200 degrees.  Put the sweet potatoes, onion, garlic and 8 of the sage leaves in a non-stick oven tray with a good glug of olive/veg/sunflower oil and some salt and pepper and mix it all together.  Pop in the oven for around 30 mins, turning a few times, until cooked through and lightly browned.  Meanwhile cook the pasta according to the pack instructions, drain and put aside.

Take the roast veg out, pop the garlic out of their skins and return to the tray, then put it all in a food processor.  Add the creme fraiche, water, crumble in the stock cubes and blitz until smooth.  Pour it in to the drained pasta and mix well.  If it seems a little dry add more water – you want it to be creamy and moist but not watery.

Layer half of the pasta in to a buttered oven proof dish and top that with half the cheddar cheese and half the goats cheese.  Put the remaining pasta on top followed by the remaining cheddar and goats cheese.  Pop in the oven for around 30 mins, until slightly golden on top.  15 mins in to cooking, take the dish out and arrange the sage leaves nicely on top then return the dish to the oven for the last 15 or so minutes.  Take out and eat!

Mad dog salad (ready in 25 mins) – using surprisingly delicious roast avocado!

mad dog salad jamie oliver

This is a brilliant, pretty and unique salad from Jamie Oliver’s America cookbook, made using ingredients popular in Arizona.  It combines roast avocado (my favourite discovery of recent years!), cheese and seed topped tortilla crisps, salad leaves, cress, lemon juice, chilli (optional) and cumin seeds.  When you roast avocado it becomes slightly charred on the outside and extra soft in the middle and the olive oil, cumin seeds and seasoning really bring it alive.  It is pretty special.  You only need a baking tray and mixing bowl to prepare everything.

mad dog salad jamie oliver

This is a great meal for guests but it is also handy to try with kids as it contains some naughty and appealing ingredients!  My kids bulk at the word salad but were intrigued at the name (so called ‘mad dog salad’ because a cheeky local dog kept running off with the ingredients when Jamie was making it!)  I gave them just one of each of the salad leaves (so they weren’t too put off) and a few sprigs of cress along with a little of the avocado (they are used to eating avocado raw) and plenty of the cheese and seed topped crisps.

mad dog salad jamie oliver

Although the cheesy crisps were definitely the highlight, they did at least taste each salad leaf, and my youngest liked the avocado, so perhaps the term ‘salad’ has taken on a slightly more positive meaning in their little heads.  We can hope!

The dish works out as about £5 in total.   Allow 25 mins to make it.

Mad dog salad (serves 4)

2 ripe avocados
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
2-3 large handfuls of plain tortilla crisps
Large handful of grated cheddar cheese
Small handful of pine nuts (optional as expensive and not essential to the dish)
Handful of pumpkin seeds (cheap and available at supermarkets, normally in the Homebaking section)
1 bundle of cress, snipped
4 good handfuls of salad leaves
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Olive oil
1/2 chopped chilli or shake dried chilli flakes (optional)

Preheat your oven to full whack.  Halve, stone and peel your avocados and lay them on a roasting tray (cut smaller if you wish). Drizzle over some olive oil and season generously with salt and pepper and the cumin seeds. Toss until nicely coated, then roast in the oven for 15 mins so they get a bit of colour (you may need to roast for a few mins longer – until slightly golden at the edges). About 10 mins in, take the tray with the avocados out, lay out your tortilla crisps next to them and sprinkle over the cheddar, pine nuts and pumpkin seeds (over the crisps). Return to the oven for approx 5 mins so the cheese has time to melt and the nuts and seeds toast a little.

Mix your cress and salad leaves together. Drizzle over the lemon juice and some olive oil and sprinkle over a good pinch of salt and pepper. Quickly toss together.  Take your avocados and tortillas out of the oven.

Put the salad leaves on individual plates, then the cheesy seedy crisps, avocado and scatter over any remaining seeds/pine nuts from the tray.  Top with the chilli if you fancy.  Serve!

Moroccan preserved lemons (20 mins prep and only £1 per jar – great chopped up in salads and stews)

I have been wanting to make preserved lemons for ages since coming across them in salad, tagine, stew and dressing recipes.  They are really easy and quick to make, make a great gift and the ingredients work out as about £1 per jar – you simply chop some lemons in to quarters, put them in a jar with some lemon juice, coriander seeds, bay leaves and lots of salt and leave them to preserve and marinate for at least 4 weeks.  They are finely chopped and used lots in Moroccan and Mediterranean cooking to add a ‘mellow, sweet and salty undertone’ apparently.  Once mine are ready I will try them out and report back here! easy preserved lemons You can use old jam/olive jars to store the lemons.  Just wash them first then sterilise the jars and lids by placing them on a tray in an oven at 150 degrees/gas mark 2 for 10 minutes (or a dishwasher cycle will do the trick).  Fill the jars while still warm (be careful as they will be very hot at first but don’t take long to cool down). This recipe makes about 4 jam jars worth (or 1-2 large jars).  You should be able to find the coriander seeds and bay leaves in large supermarkets and international shops. Preserved lemons (makes 4 small jars) 20 lemons (8 for squeezing and 12 for cutting in to quarters) 4 tsp coriander seeds 12 bay leaves 100g salt Cut 12 of the lemons in to quarters and rub them with plenty of salt.  Divide them in to 4 jam jars.  Separately squeeze 8 lemons and add 100g salt.  Give the mixture a vigorous stir and divide it between the jars (you want it to cover all of the lemons – I had to top mine up after the photo was taken).  Add 1 tsp of coriander seeds and 3 bay leaves to each jar.  Put the lids on and shake.  Leave them for at least 4 weeks, turning often.  They will keep for up to 12 months.  When using, discard the flesh and chop the rind finely.

Algerian omelette from The Park Cafe (10 mins prep/15 mins cooking)

algerian omelette

Hands down one of THE most memorable meals I ate in 2014 was an Algerian omelette from the brilliant Park Cafe In The Hub in Victoria Park, London.  An unusual omelette made from eggs (obviously), chips, cheese, red onion, tomato, coriander and smothered in a smokey harissa rub, it is like a big, comforting, spicy hug.  The cafe’s manager Jamsheed very kindly shared their recipe with me so I could recreate it at home (I have also simplified it slightly).   While mine is not a patch on the cafe’s own, it is definitely worth a try!

algerian omelette

The cafe make their chips properly in a deep fat fryer while I cooked my shop-bought chips in the oven and as usual managed to overdo them slightly – try to just about cook yours without browning them too much.  The cafe also make their own harissa – a fiery North African rub that is used to flavour and marinate food (mostly meat) – while I bought mine from the supermarket.  I am addicted to harissa at the moment and have also been rubbing it on to halloumi cheese before griddling and enjoying it with salad.  For another harissa recipe using fish click here

To fully appreciate this Algerian omelette recipe I would suggest visiting the Park Cafe in the Hub itself (which has a number of other equally wonderful and interesting menu options).  If you have children or just happen to like slides then you can enjoy the massive, fast slides in the play area next door too!

algerian omelette

Algerian omelette (serves 2 hungry people)

4 eggs

1 small red onion, finely chopped

8 cherry tomatoes, each quartered

Large bunch coriander, chopped

Large handful grated cheddar

30 chunky/regular chips

Harissa (available from supermarkets)

Cook the chips (either in the oven or a deep fat fryer) until just cooked but not too browned.  While they are cooking get a mixing bowl ready.  Crack in the four eggs with the onion, tomato and most of the coriander.  Mix gently until the egg is blended well and make sure the texture is not too fluffy.

Once the chips are ready place and spread them in a fairly hot pan with some oil (veg or rapeseed oil – the cafe recommend rapeseed oil as it brings out the flavours more but i didn’t have any so used veg oil).  After one minute pour over the egg mixture, on a medium flame.  Cook for a few minutes until the egg is 3/4 cooked, then sprinkle on the cheddar and place it under a grill.  Once the egg is fully cooked and the cheese is melted and slightly browned, smear on the harissa (generously if you want lots of flavour and spice!) and place it under the grill again for 40 seconds.  Remove and garnish with the remaining coriander.  Cut and serve (with a crispy salad if you like).

Recipe by The Park Cafe in the Hub, Victoria Park, Hackney, London.  You can find their website at, Facebook ‘The Park Cafe in the Hub’ and on twitter @jamsheedt 

Seasonal pumpkin, blue cheese and watercress lasagne

When I saw this seasonal recipe I thought it looked unusual. The roast pumpkin, cinnamon, chilli flakes, garlic, blue cheese and watercress compliment each other perfectly and it makes an interesting change from a more traditional tomato-sauce-based lasagne. It would make a good veggie Christmas dinner option too (although you might need to use butternut squash instead).

pumpkin watercress blue cheese lasagne

You need to allow about 1 hour 45 minutes to make this, but at least 1 hour of that is cooking in the oven so it is not all graft! You could prepare the roast mix in the morning and then layer the lasagne and cook it later on.

The recipe is based on one from Guardian Cook but I have adapted the quantities and used danish blue cheese instead of gorgonzola as it is cheaper. Next time I might try topping it with chopped walnuts.

pumpkin watercress blue cheese lasagne

Instant dry chilli flakes are great by the way – they might not be fresh but they are still delicious! I often use them in salad dressings and when roasting veg. In fact I would even go so far as to say they are an *exciting ingredient* (see the ‘exciting ingredient’ category on the right hand side for more ideas).

For a more traditional veggie lasagne (my signature recipe!) check out this link:

Pumpkin, blue cheese and watercress lasagne (serves 4)

1 medium sized pumpkin or butternut squash, cut in to wedges and skin chopped off (pumpkin is easier to cut!)
4 garlic cloves, skins on
1 tsp cinnamon
1-2 pinches dry chilli flakes
Salt and black pepper
A glug of olive oil
60g grated parmesan
6-8 dried lasagne sheets
150g danish blue, gorgonzola or stilton cheese, crumbled
2 bunches watercress, roughly chopped
200ml double cream

Heat the oven to 180 degrees/gas mark 4. In a large bowl mix the pumpkin, garlic, cinnamon, chilli, salt, pepper, glug of olive oil and a splash of water. Place on a non-stick baking/roasting tray and roast for approx 30 minutes, until soft. Stir regularly to avoid sticking.

Pop the garlic out of their skins, finely chop and put back with the pumpkin mixture and then add 40g of the parmesan. Mix together. Turn the oven up to 190 degrees/gas mark 6.

Layer the lasagne dish. Start with the lasagne sheets, then the pumpkin mixture, half the danish blue cheese and half the watercress. Layer again with the lasagne sheets, pumpkin mixture, remaining danish blue and watercress and then pour over the cream. Sprinkle the lasagne with the remaining parmesan then bake for approx 40 minutes, until the top is bubbling and golden. Serve with salad.

Kulfi (Indian cardamom spiced ice cream) – no ice cream maker required!

easy kulfi annum an and

I am very happy to have successfully made kulfi, an Indian style ice cream containing cardamom, which must be one of the most beautiful, delectable spices in the world. It definitely makes it in to my *exciting ingredient* list.

This kulfi is refreshing, surprisingly easy to make (95% of the work is stirring), you don’t need an ice cream maker and it tastes gorgeous and exotic. I have my sister to thank for my obsession with cardamom – she went to University in Bradford and every visit involved a trip to the Indian sweet shop.

The ice cream contains whole milk, ground almonds, rice flour, sugar and cardamom and is cleverly topped with flaked almonds and chopped pistachios to give it a little crunch. Allow about 1 hour 30 mins to make it (as I say most of this is stirring and cooling) and then at least 5-6 hours for it to freeze. It serves 4-6 people depending on what container you use – I recycled glass ramekins but you could use any small freezable container. You can get rice flour from most supermarkets now (sometimes in the gluten free section) and ground cardamom from Indian shops. If you can’t find ground cardamom you could buy cardamom pods from the supermarket and crush them. My kulfi was a little lumpy in parts when I put it in the ramekins but it still worked!

The recipe is from the inspiring book Indian Food Made Easy by Anjum Anand. It is a great book if you want to try out Indian cooking for the first time and then feel pleased with yourself! For two equally manageable and delicious recipes from the book check out these previous posts: and

Kulfi (serves 4-6 people)

1 litre whole milk
2 tbsp ground almonds
1 tbsp rice flour
5-6 tbsp sugar
1/2 tsp cardamom powder or crushed cardamom
2 tbsp chopped pistachios
2 tbsp flaked almonds

Heat the milk in a saucepan over a low heat and bring to the boil. Then lower the heat and cook gently, stirring often. Place the ground almonds and flour in a small cup and once the milk is warm, stir in a little milk, make a thin paste and stir back in to the pan with a little sugar. Continue to cook gently as the milk needs to reduce by half – this takes about one hour. If a skin forms on the surface just stir it back in.

Stir in the cardamom powder to taste. Cool completely, then decant in to your freezable containers (you will need 4-6 depending on the size). Freeze for at least 5-6 hours and take the containers out of the freezer 20 mins before serving. Dip them for a while in hot water to loosen them (and you may need to use a knife to cut around the edge) then turn on to serving plates. Sprinkle with the nuts!

From Indian Cooking Made Easy by Anjum Anand

Sicilian sardine pasta – bursting with flavour

Sicily is a place that gets me all excited because, as an island, there are many cultural influences on the food. Not least North African. This means interesting little dishes like this one have evolved, that combine typical Italian food such as pasta with North African staples such as raisins and flaked almonds.

easy quick sicilian sardine pasta

This seriously tasty dish contains a wealth of flavours and textures, only takes 25 mins to make and uses tinned sardines. In my head I imagine every Sicilian grandma has a version of this dish and it is the cause of many an argument. Anyway it will be interesting to see what my Italian friend Gio (and son of a Sicilian woman) makes of it! Recipe courtesy of Jane Baxter in Guardian Cook.

One final note – the recipe contains anchovies, which are one of my *exciting ingredients*. They are brilliant used as seasoning for many pasta dishes and tomato/cream sauces – they just melt in to the heat and add a salty richness. They definitely should not just be considered hairy little fish.

Sicilian sardine pasta – serves 4

2 tbsp raisins/sultanas
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 tsp chilli flakes/crushed chillies
1 tsp fennel seeds
2 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
6 anchovy fillets (from a tin)
2 x 120g tins of sardines in olive oil
3 tbsp water
400g spaghetti
2 tbsp toasted almonds/pinenuts (you can buy them toasted or do this in a hot, dry pan for a couple of mins – just keep turning so they don’t burn)
2 tbsp chopped parsley
Olive oil, for drizzling
Salt and pepper

In a small bowl cover the sultanas/raisins with boiling water and set aside.

In a large pan, cook the red onion, chilli and fennel seeds in the olive oil over a medium heat for approx 10 mins. Add the garlic and cook gently for another 5 mins. Tip in the anchovy fillets and stir well until they have ‘melted’.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta as per the pack instructions.

Drain the tinned sardines, roughly chop and add to the onion mixture with 3 tbsp water. Put back on the heat for a few mins and stir until all warmed through. Add the (drained) sultanas/raisins, almonds/pinenuts and the parsley. Add the pasta, mix well and season. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and a fresh sprig of parsley.

Recipe by Jane Baxter in Guardian Cook