Chicken and Gnocchi Traybake

On cold days you want eat something wholesome and delicious with very little effort, and this is perfect. Roast chicken veggies and potato dumplings mmm.

What’s even better is that everything is cooked in the same tray, so you have fewer dishes to wash.

I use shop bought gnocchi, as most of us don’t have time to make them. This helps make this a really easy dish, that just needs to be assembled and then the oven does the work.

Ingredients

8 Small or 4 large chicken thighs

1 Leek (cut into chunks)

1 Red pepper (cut into chunks)

100 Grams Spinach

1 Tsp Smoked paprika

1 Tbsp Olive oil

1 Tbsp White wine or cider vinegar (I promise you won’t taste vinegar, but it will help bring out the flavours)

500 Grams Bag of Gnocchi

Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees (Celsius)
  2. Sprinkle the olive oil on the base of a large roasting tray
  3. Place the chicken, Leeks, peppers and gnocchi in the tray and sprinkle with smoked paprika, salt and pepper
  4. Bake for 30 minutes, and remove from the oven. Sprinkle the vinegar over vegetables and add the spinach and mix through the contents of the tray
  5. Bake for a another 15 minutes and the serve. Double check that the chicken is cooked (the juices should run clear, cook for longer if they aren’t)

Blackberry Muffins

When it’s cold and wet outside its nice to have a recipe that you can rustle up something yummy out of what you have in the cupboards. These are great for brunch, lunch boxes, or just because you want something nice with a cup of tea or coffee.

I’ve used frozen blackberries and orange zest to flavour these. This can be swapped for blueberry and lemon, which is also delicious. Dried fruit works well too.

Makes 12 Muffins

Ingredients

300 Grams Self raising flour

100 Grams Sugar

100 Grams Butter

2 Eggs

150 Grams Blackberries (defrost first if using frozen)

1 Tsp Vanilla extract

1 Tsp Baking powder

Zest of one orange

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees (Celsius), line a muffin tin with paper cases
  2. In a mixer or with an electric whisk, cream the butter and sugar together
  3. Add the eggs and mix well before adding the flour (set aside 2 Tbsps of flour), baking powder, orange zest and vanilla and mix until combined (it might look a bit lumpy, but that’s OK)
  4. Toss your fruit in the flour you set aside (this will stop it sinking to the bottom of your muffins). Gently fold the fruit through your muffin mix
  5. Spoon the mix into your muffin cases as evenly as possible and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown

Tayto Sandwich The official taste of a Belfast childhood. It has to be Nutty Crust bread, real butter and Tayto crisps. Perfection in simplicity.

Ottolenghi’s Cauliflower Cake

I love Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipes, he does some amazing things with vegetables. He’s able to avoid the usual criticisms of vegetarian food, that it can be a bit rabbit foody and uninteresting.

While a lot of people are vegetarian for health reasons, there are times you still want something rich, unctuous and indulgent.

I’ve filed this under Pure Filth due to the amount of cheese involved. The original recipe calls for just Parmesan cheese. I didn’t have enough, so I used half strong Cheddar. This recipe would probably still work well as a way to use up cheese you have hanging about the fridge. The original recipe recommends that it should be served cold or room temperature (I’ve also eaten it hot, as I couldn’t wait on it cooling and it was yummy). I used a mix of nigella (onion seeds) and sesame seeds on the outside, but you could swap out this for just sesame seeds (I think using just nigella seeds would be too much)

Line the bottom of the cake tin and then coat the sides with nigella and sesame seeds

Ingredients

1 Cauliflower

2 red onions

1 Tbsp Olive oil

7 Eggs

1/2 Tsp Rosemary (optional)

15 Grams Basil

120 Grams Plain flour

1 1/2 Tsp Baking powder

1/2 Tsp Turmeric

Salt and pepper

Melted butter (for greasing)

1 Tbsp Nigella (onion) seeds

1 Tbsp Sesame Seeds

75 Grams Parmesan (grated)

75 Grams Cheddar cheese (grated)

Method

  1. Break the cauliflower into florets and simmer in hot water until soft (but not mushy), drain well and allow to cool
  2. Peel the onions, slice half the first onion into 1/2 cm thick rings and set to one side. Coarsely chop the remaining onions.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and fry the onions over a medium heat for 10 minutes, allow to cool
  4. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees (Celsius), and line the base of a 24cm x 24cm spring form cake tin with baking parchment. Brush the sides of the tin with melted butter and sprinkle with the nigella and sesame seeds
  5. Transfer the cooked onions to a large bowl, add the eggs, herbs, and turmeric and whisk in the flour and baking powder
  6. Stir in the cheese, and then add the cauliflower and mix until the cauliflower is coated in the batter (be careful not to break up the florets, as you want to keep some texture)
  7. Add the batter to your prepared cake tin, making sure you spread it to the edges. Top with the onion circles you set aside earlier and bake for 45 minutes

Almondina

After Christmas many of us want a break from big heavy sit down dinners. With cheese and grazing boards becoming popular, almondina are the perfect addition to lend some interest if you’re bored of crackers.

This is also a great recipe to use up any left over nuts or dried fruit. I actually think it’s better to have mix of fruit and nuts.

Ingredients

175 Grams Nuts (I used a mix of almonds, walnuts and pecans, but any mixture will work)

125 Grams Plain flour

25 Grams Brown sugar

125 Grams Dried fruit (I used roughly chopped apricots and dates, if you are using smaller fruit like raisins or sultanas, keep an eye in them during the second bake as they can catch quickly)

1/4 Tsp Baking soda (bicarbonate of soda)

1/2 Tsp Salt

175Ml Milk

Method

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees (Celsius). Grease a loaf pan
  2. Add all the dry ingredients to a large bowl and combine
  3. Stir in the milk with a wooden spoon and when thoroughly mixed transfer to the loaf tin and bake for 60 minutes
  4. Remove from the oven and allow to cool
  5. Wrap in cling film and freeze for 1 hour. This will help you slice the almondina thinly. Do not freeze for longer than this
  6. Pre-heat your oven to 200 degrees (Celsius) and line a baking sheet with parchment
  7. Take the almondina out of the freezer and remove the cling film
  8. With a bread knife, slice the loaf into 1/2 cm thick slices and place on the baking sheet for 12-15 mins (until they brown around the edges), before cooling on a wire wrack
  9. These will last in an airtight container for up to a week

Vanillekipferl (Almond Crescent Cookies)

About a million years ago I lived in Germany, and nobody does Christmas or Christmas confectionery like the Germans.

These rich buttery cookies are the perfect Christmas cookie. I have used pistachios but you could use any type of nut you prefer. These are quite rich, but they aren’t something you’ll be eating everyday. They also make great Christmas gifts.

You could also swap out the vanilla extract for almond essence or pistachio paste if you want to experiment with different flavours.

(Makes 24 cookies)

Ingredients

95 Grams Ground almonds

75 Grams Sugar

270 Grams Plain flour

25 Grams Pistachios (chopped)

225 Grams Butter (chilled and cut into cubes)

1 Tsp Vanilla extract

Method

  1. Add all the dry ingredients to a mixing bowl and combine
  2. Add the vanilla extract and butter, and rub the butter into the dry mix (you can also use a food processor to do this)
  3. When the butter has been rubbed into the dry mix, start pressing together to form a dough
  4. Wrap the dough in cling film and chill for 30 minutes
  5. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees (Celsius), and line a baking sheet with baking parchment
  6. Take the dough out of the fridge and turn out on a lightly floured surface
  7. With your hands, roll the the dough into a sausage and divide into 24 equal parts
  8. Shape each section of dough into a half moon shape with your hands and place on your prepared baking sheet
  9. Bake for 12-15 minutes until the cookies start to brown at the edges
  10. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire wrack
  11. When cool, dust liberally with icing sugar
  12. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for 2-3 days

Christmas Goodies from D Rum Pot

Who doesn’t love a surprise batch of goodies.

The very lovely Debbie from D Rum Pot (check out her delicious Caribbean food on Facebook) dropped off some amazing treats with a Trinidadian flare. Debbie also runs a great Caribbean supper club, and like me can’t wait for restrictions to lift to get back to it.

Yummy spiced sweetbread, rum punch, homemade raspberry sauce, and Caribbean sweets. The diet can start tomorrow!

Cranberry and Orange Shortbread Cookies

I love baking at Christmas, something about the smell of delicious things coming out of the oven adds to my Christmas spirit.  It’s also brilliant way to keep little hands busy if you have kids at home.

Fresh out of the oven and cooling on a wire wrack.  Your kitchen will smell fabulous!!!

Shortbread can be fiddly to cut out, but these cookies just need slicing into rounds.  What’s even better, you can make the shortbread dough up to 72 hours in advance and let it chill in the fridge and then take the log of dough out to slice and bake them just before you need them.  They can be stored in airtight box for up 3 days (they won’t last that long).

Shortbread dough rolled into a sausage ready to be chilled

I used a food processor to make these, which makes them super quick and easy.  If you don’t have one, you can chop the cranberries and mix the butter and flour together using the rubbing in method.

You can also dip or drizzle with dark chocolate if you’re feeling particularly indulgent. However they are still delicious just as they are.

If like me you can’t be trusted to moderate your consumption of these, they also make great gifts.

Makes around 30 cookies

Recipes

70 Grams Dried cranberries

100 Grams Sugar

230 Grams Butter (chilled and cut into cubes)

340 Grams Plain flour

1 Orange (zest and juice)

100 Grams Dark chocolate (optional)

Method

  1. Add the cranberries and about a third of the sugar into a food processor and pulse for about 30 seconds, until the cranberries have started to break up (the shouldn’t be too finely sliced)
  2. Transfer the sugar and cranberry mix to a bowl.  Add butter and flour to the food processor and pulse until they look like fine breadcrumbs.
  3. Add the butter and flour mix to the cranberry mix with the rest of the sugar and the orange zest and mix well
  4. Start adding the juice of the orange a little at a time (how much you will need will depend on your flour). Get your hands in the bowl and start pressing the mix together to form a dough
  5. Turn out onto a large sheet of cling film and squeeze into a sausage shape about 4-5cm in diameter.  Wrap tightly in the cling film, you can also give it a little roll to help it look a little neater
  6. Chill for at least 30 minutes (but the dough can live in your fridge for 2-3 days if you want to make ahead of time
  7. When you are ready to bake, pre heat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius. Line a cookie sheet with baking parchment. Remove the cling film from the dough and cut into 1cm thick slices and put on the baking parchment (they will spread a little, so allow some space between them)
  8. Bake for 12-15 minutes, and allow to cool
  9. If you want to dip or drizzle the cookies in chocolate, make sure they are cool. Break the chocolate into small pieces into a microwave proof bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds at a time until melted and then either dip the cookies or drizzle with a spoon

Potato Latkes

Food is one of the best ways to nurture people but also remember those who we loved.

We are in the middle of the Jewish holiday of Hanukah. I’m not Jewish, but my much loved sister in law Bobra Fyne was. She was great at describing the customs surrounding the holiday and was a brilliant story teller (she was one of my favourite people in the world).

She also shared my family’s love of carbs and was an amazing cook, and so I made these as a way to remember her.

Squeeze your grated potatoes in a clean tea towel to remove as much liquid as possible

This is a simple recipe from Claudia Roden’s The Book of Jewish Food. While grating the potato is a bit of a faff the results are delicious served the traditional accompaniments of sour cream or apple sauce. Similar to a potato rosti, they can be served as an appetiser or side dish.

Ingredients

1kg Potatoes

2 Eggs

1 Tsp Salt

Oil for frying

Method

  1. Peel and grate the potatoes, rinse in cold water to remove the starch.
  2. Drain in a colander. Depending on the type of potatoes you use, you might need to put the grated potatoes in a clean tea towel and squeeze out the excess liquid. Transfer to a large bowl
  3. Lightly beat the eggs with the salt and add to the potatoes. Mix until combined
  4. In a large pan, add just enough oil to cover the base and heat over a medium heat
  5. Add a tablespoon of the potato mixture to the pan at a time and flatten slightly so they cook evenly, (they should be thin enough to make sure you don’t have raw potato in the middle)
  6. When brown, turn with a spatula and cook until brown on he other side
  7. Drain on kitchen paper and serve while hot

London – Covent Garden and Dinner at the Ivy

Covent Garden

You could visit London twenty times and never see the same thing twice. However, there are some places that draw you back.

Monmouth Street

Covent Garden and the Seven Dials area are probably thought of as pure tourist areas, but I’m OK with that.

Neal’s Yard

If gorgeous buildings, quaint shops, street performers and bustling nightlife are your thing then you’ll love it.

I visited last week when the area was being decorated for Christmas. Little outdoor pods are popping up everywhere to allow people to enjoy outdoor drinking/dining.

The Ivy

As a birthday treat, my friend Bronagh booked us into the Ivy for dinner. There are several Ivy restaurants in London, but the original is in the heart of theatre land and has always been a favourite haunt of acting luvvies as far back as Noel Coward.

Seafood bisque

Smaller than I expected, the service was immaculate from the minute you walk through the door until you leave when the lovely coat check lady slips your coat on and artfully arranges your scarf for you.

Veal Holstein

The gorgeous art deco interior is classy but understated. The lighting is the perfect mix of being flattering to anyone over 30, bright enough to let you celeb spot (you can often catch sight of a Hollywood A lister), and dark enough for people who want to dine ‘discreetly’. It’s the perfect restaurant for people watching.

Chocolate fondant and hazelnut ice cream

The food is also excellent, you don’t survive for as long as the Ivy has in a city with so many restaurants if your food isn’t up to scratch.

The Ivy knows its audience, the food is rich and comforting, with dishes like cottage pie and steaks seeming popular. Classic dishes done well, you won’t find infused foams and molecular gastronomy on the menu.

Pisco and Yuzu Sour
Elderflower and Lychee Martini

It may not be somewhere most people would visit weekly, but well worth visiting for a treat. There are also fabulous watering holes nearby for pre or post dinner cocktails.