Light spinach, mushroom and ham tagliatelle

It’s that time of year again when minds turn to lighter meals but without compromising on flavour. This tagliatelle recipe is super speedy and delicious so get reading and rustle this up in under half an hour. I lightened this up by using a low fat creme fraiche but you can substitute this with cream if you prefer. It is also delicious without the ham for a vegetarian version.

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Ingredients- serves 2
200g tagliatelle
1 shallot- finely chopped
1 garlic clove- finely chopped or crushed
8- 10 small chestnut mushrooms- cleaned and sliced
4 slice of Parma ham- sliced into ribbons
2 handfuls of baby leaf spinach- washed and roughly chopped
2-3 tbsp low fat creme fraiche
75g creamy blue cheese such as dolcelatte

1. Start off by bringing a large pan of water up to the boil and cooking the pasta according to the pack instructions. Try and aim for al dente tagliatelle so it won’t go limp and soggy.

2. Take a large frying pan and heat a small amount of oil. Cook the shallot and garlic for a minute before adding in the sliced mushroom for an additional couple of minutes until beginning to turn golden. Add the ham ribbons and cook for another minute.

3. Pop in the spinach and allow to wilt before taking the pan off the heat and stirring through the creme fraiche and blue cheese. You must take it off the heat so the creme fraiche doesn’t split. Season to taste.

4. When the pasta is ready, drain well and add to the frying pan and combine with the sauce. I sometimes finish it off with a small amount of freshly grated parmesan cheese before serving.

A light yet creamy spinach perfect for Spring!

Kung Pao chicken

This has to be one of the most ordered and eaten dishes in Chinese restaurants so this is my take on it. The key here is to prep everything before you get cooking as once you get going it is really quick. I have used cashew nuts as a bit of a change as I find they give a creamier finish but you can use peanut if you like. The recipe calls for Facing Heaven Sichuan chillies and they can be bought from Spice Mountain- you can visit them in Borough Market in London or online here. I challenge you to only buy those and not all the other chilli based goodies on offer!

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Ingredients- serves 4
For the marinade

4 skinless chicken breasts- cut into bite size pieces
1 tbsp dark soy
2 tsp Chinese rice wine
1 tsp cornflour

For the sauce
2 tsp Sichuan peppercorns- roasted and ground
1 tbsp Chinese rice wine vinegar
1 tsp dark soy
1 tsp oyster or Hoisin
1 tsp sesame seeds
2 tsp sugar
1 tsp cornflour
1 tsp sesame oil

Plus
8 dried Facing Heaven Sichuan chillies
1 small red and 1 small green bell pepper- cut into chunks
2 garlic cloves- finely chopped
3cm piece of fresh ginger-grated
3 spring onions- finely sliced
2 handfuls of unsalted cashew nuts (or peanut if you prefer)

1. Start off by marinading the chicken breasts pieces in the soy, rice wine and corn flour. Make sure that when you combine the ingredients that the cornflour had no lumps- give it a good whisk! Cover and leave to rest for around 15 minutes but a little longer if you have time.

2. Mix together all the ingredients for the sauce and check the levels of sweetness and heat so it suits you. Set aside.

3. When you are ready to cook, simply add a splash of groundnut oil to a hot wok and fry the dried chillies for a minute or so. This may smoke a little so be careful- this releases the flavour of the chilli. If you can’t get hold of these specific chillies, any medium heat dried red chillies will be fine. Next up goes the chicken pieces and the peppers; cook the chicken so it is nearly cooked through. Add the sauce you have set aside and the rest of the ingredients except the nuts and onions and then stir well. The sauce should begin to reduce down and leave a coating over the chicken. Just before serving, add in the onion and nuts to warm.

Serve with rice and Asian greens and dig in.

Kung pao chicken- you’ll never pick up that takeaway menu again!

Spiced kefta tagine

You just can’t beat a hearty helping of meatballs so read on for a Middle Eastern twist! The meatballs should be gently spiced and you should be able to taste each spice so don’t be tempted to go crazy! Any leftovers (if there are any!) are perfect reheated and served in a pitta bread with salad and yogurt sauce. I used a normal harissa in the tomato sauce however if you prefer less of a kick then rose harissa can be substituted which is sweeter.

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Ingredients- serves 4
For the meatballs
400g lamb mince
1 small red onion- finely chopped
3tsp ground cumin
3 tsp ground coriander
1 1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp dried oregano
Handful of flat leaf parsley- chopped
Salt and pepper to season

For the sauce:
1/2 red onion- chopped
2 garlic cloves- chopped
2 tbsp harissa
2 tins chopped tomatoes
150ml lamb stock
2-3 jarred roasted red peppers- sliced (optional)
2 handfuls of baby spinach- washed and chopped (optional)

1. Get going by combining all the meatball ingredients. I don’t use egg or breadcrumb to bind it all as, if you work on the mince enough, the balls should hold together anyway. Squidge the mince around in a bowl before shaping into balls which should be about the size of a golf ball. Place on a baking sheet and pop in the fridge to chill for around half an hour.

2. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180c/160fan. Take a large, wide based pan (or tagine if you have one) and heat a splash of oil over a medium heat in your pan of choice. Gently fry off the onion and garlic for a couple of minutes before adding the harissa, tomatoes and stock and stir well. Pop the red peppers in at this stage if you are using them. Lower to a simmer whilst you grab a frying pan and brown off the meatballs. You need the meat to brown on all sides and you may need to do this in batches- don’t overcrowd the pan! When they are browned and the sauce has started off, simply drop the balls into the sauce and bring back up to a simmer.

3. Cover the meatball pan and cook in the oven for 45 minutes until the sauce is reduced and the meatballs are cooked through. Jiggle the meatballs in the pan from time to time! I like to also stir through some spinach towards the end of cooking to add a little something (and spinach is also a love of mine so any excuse!).

Serve with warmed bread or cous cous and enjoy! A spoonful of a cooling yogurt and mint sauce is also delicious too!

Comforting creamy potato, cabbage and onion bake

I made this dish as an accompaniment to a recent St Patrick’s day dinner with a gammon joint on the side but the beauty of this recipe is that it is good for any occasion. This is a great way of also using up any odds and ends you may have.

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Ingredients-serves 4
500g potato such as Maris Piper- peeled and cubed into inch chunks
1 large onion- sliced
2 garlic cloves- sliced or crushed
Leaves from 4 sprigs of fresh thyme
Small cabbage such as celtic or savoy- sliced
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
100ml double cream
100ml vegetable stock
100g Taleggio
Salt and pepper to season

1. Start off by parboiling the potatoes in lightly salted water before draining well. Preheat the oven to 180c/ 160fan. While this is happening, take a large frying pan and heat a little vegetable oil before frying the onion, garlic and thyme for a couple of minutes.

2. Next up goes the cabbage slices which need to cook down for another couple of minutes so they soften. Remember to remove any hard veins in the cabbage as you cut it as nobody wants to end up chewing on one of those all evening. Drizzle over the cream and stock before adding the mustard and stirring well to combine. Simmer for a minute before seasoning well and do always check the seasoning. Pop in half of the Taleggio by cutting into small pieces.

3. Toss the potato chunks through and ensure all the ingredients are well combined. Place the whole lot in an ovenproof baking dish and top with the remaining cheese, and dots of butter if you like, before baking for around half an hour until lightly golden and bubbling.

Serve with meat such as gammon or enjoy by itself. Place in the centre of the table and watch everyone dig in- just make sure there’s some left for you!

Potato, cabbage and onion bake- a great way to celebrate humble vegetables in the most delicious way!

St Patrick’s day stout marinated chicken wings

Have a good craic this St Patrick’s day with this simple and moreish chicken wing recipe. The chicken can be served warm or cold and it is perfect with a beer so get cooking and gather your friends together to celebrate!

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Ingredients
Pack of chicken wings- approx. 500g
3 banana shallots- finely chopped and pureed
1-2 garlic cloves
1 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tsp cayenne pepper
Pinch of all spice
2 tsp granulated sugar
1 tsp freshly ground black peppercorns
200ml stout or Guinness

1. Start off by marinating the chicken wings by combining all the ingredients, except for the stout, and leave to rest in a bowl for around half an hour. When you are ready to get cooking, simply heat a little oil in a large wok or frying pan. Remove the chicken wings from the bowl and brown off in the pan. When they have colour to them, add in the marinade and the stout and lower the heat. Cook for 10- 15 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the juices run clear. Stir from time to time and watch the marinade thicken before your very eyes.

Stout marinated chicken wings- a simple finger food this Paddy’s Day!

Epic morcilla laced burgers

Now let’s get this straight, this burger won’t win awards based on its beauty but it will win all the plaudits for it’s taste and probably make you a lot of friends! Morcilla is the star of the show here and really helps to bring out the flavours of the beef. I also added some additional spices to compliment the meats.

I have used morcilla from Brindisa (www.brindisa.com) which has the perfect meatiness to spice ratio. While you’re here, also check out this stunning quail recipe which also uses morcilla or to find out more about it: http://whatchloecooked.co.uk/2015/02/06/spanish-style-marinaded-quail-with-morcilla-and-pepper-potatoes/.

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Ingredients- makes 4-5 burgers
500g beef mince- I used 20% fat
100g morcilla
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
Handful of flatleaf parsely- chopped
Salt and pepper to season

1. This couldn’t be must more straightforward (unless of course someone else made these for you!), take a large bowl, combine all the ingredients and bring it together. Feel free to play around with the levels of spice but be sure not to overdo it- remember the morcilla is the star of the show here! I give the mince a decent squidge around so it firms up and binds well. You may have noticed that there is not an egg or breadcrumb in sight to help the meat come together- I have never found the need to use either. The morcilla I used has some rice which also helped it come together. When the meat is ready, shape it into patties and they are then ready to fry in the pan.

2. Heat a little oil in a non- stick frying pan or griddle, if you prefer, and cook to your tastes. I gave them 2-3 minutes on each side which was spot on. Serve in a good bun and I also added some maple bourbon gherkins and salad which was fabulous!

Morcilla laced burgers- a great twist on the classic!

Roasted whole trout with confit tomatoes, capers and olive

Trout is such a delicate fish that is often overlooked in favour of salmon but this is set to change with this simple Mediterranean inspired dish. Confit tomatoes are well worth the time and effort and any leftovers can also be stored in the fridge for a few days. Don’t rush the tomatoes as long, slow cooking gives the juiciest and sweetest resuts.

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Ingredients- serves 2
For the trout

2 whole trout- gutted, scales removed and rinsed
1 lemon
1 small bunch of fresh thyme

For the tomato mixture
2 handfuls of cherry tomatoes- halved
1 tbsp non- pareille capers- drained
1 tbsp black olives- sliced roughly
Olive oil
Salt and pepper to season

For the garlic sauteed spinach
Glug of olive oil
1 small garlic clove
1/2 banana shallot- finely chopped or sliced
1/2 a bag of baby spinach- washed and harder stalks removed

1. You need to start this in advance so prepare the tomatoes in plenty of time. Heat the oven to 90c/ 70fan and line a baking tray with parchment paper. Simply cut the tomatoes in half and place cut side up on the tray. Drizzle a little oil and season with salt. Roast in the oven for around 3 hours until the outside of the tomatoes have shrunk down but the centres are still juicy. Remove from the oven and cool until you need them. If you have any leftovers you can place them in a small Kilner jar, cover with oil and store.

2. When you are ready for dinner, preheat the oven to 180c/ 160 fan. Make sure the trout are well cleaned and place on a foil lined baking tray. Give the foil a quick brush with oil to ensure the trout don’t stick as they cook. For the trout stuffing, all you need to do is stuff them with lemon slices and a good sprig or two of thyme. A lot of recipes ask you to then use cocktail sticks or skewers to hold the trout together but I have never found this to be needed so long as you don’t overstuff the fish. Bake in the oven for around 20 minutes until the trout is juicy and just cooked through. Top tip: when a whole fish is cooked, the eyes will turn white as well as the flesh looking a brilliant blush colour.

3. Meanwhile, heat a few glugs of oil in a small pan with thyme sprigs, a whole clove of garlic and a couple of strands of lemon zest. Bring the oil to a bubble and heat for around 30 seconds. Take off the heat and leave the flavours to infuse.

4. When the trout is nearly ready to serve, take one medium pan and gently heat from of the infused oil. Of course, you can make the oil well in advance if you like. Add in the olives and capers and toss lightly before adding the tomatoes just before serving to warm through. At the same time, I also heated a small amount of oil in a large pan along with shallot and garlic until softened but not golden before adding the spinach and cooking covered for one minute and then seasoning and cooking for a further two minutes.

Serve the tender trout with the confit tomatoes, olives and capers with the sauteed spinach and a finishing drizzle of the tyme infused oil and away you go!

Super quick chicken fajitas with homemade guacamole and salsa

There really is no excuse not to whip up a quick dinner with this fajita recipe. Long gone are the days of using a jar of stir in sauce- this takes no time at all without compromising on flavour. I serve fajitas with guacamole and salsa as well as a liberal helping of soured cream so I have also given you recipes for this. Enjoy!

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Ingredients- serves 4
4 chicken breasts- cut into chunks
2 tsp paprika
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp oregano
1 tsp chilli powder
1 lime
1 red onion- finely sliced
1 red and 1 yellow pepper- finely sliced
Handful (generous!) of jalapeno chillies
Splash of vegetable oil

1. Start by marinating the chicken chunks. The marinade works just as well if you only leave it for a few minutes or if you leave it for longer. Put the chicken in a large bowl and add the paprika, cumin, oregano and chilli powder along with the juice of a lime and you can also add a little zest if you like. Set aside until you’re ready to use it.

2. Heat a splash of oil in a large frying pan and add the chicken for a couple of minutes just to get a bit of colour before adding the onion and peppers. Cook until the chicken is cooked through and the vegetables are softening. If you like your peppers a bit crunchier in your fajitas then simply add them in towards the end of cooking. When the fajita mix is nearly ready, throw in the jalapenos and cook for a further minute or so.

Serve the mix in a large bowl so everyone can dig in and help themselves. I serve with options of guacamole, soured cream, salsa, lettuce and some cheese. Actually talking of guacamole and salsa…

Guacamole
3 medium tomatoes
3 ripe avocados
Juice of a lime
1/2 a small onion- finely chopped
2 garlic cloves- grated
Fresh coriander- chopped
2 red chillies finely chopped
Salt

1. Start off by preparing the tomatoes by making a small cross on the end of each and blanching them in hot water for 30 seconds. Remove and then peel the skin off. Of course you can leave the skin on too if you like a bit more texture. Scoop out the seeds and chop finely.

2. Next up sort out the avocados by halving, removing the stone and scooping out the flesh. Use the back of a fork and mash until it reaches a smooth consistency before adding in the lime juice.

3. Take the onion, garlic, coriander and chilli and stir through the avocado to combine before adding the tomato. Check the seasoning and adjust to taste.

Salsa
6 tomatoes- finely chopped
1 onion- finely chopped
1 garlic clove- crushed
4 green chillies- finely chopped
Juice of half a lime
Fresh coriander- chopped
Pinch of sugar and salt

1. Step one: combine all the ingredients and serve! It could not be easier!

Ultimate slow cooked bolognese

A great bolognese should be in everyone’s culinary repertoire so let me share mine with you. The key to a beautiful bolognese sauce, or ragu, is slow cooking so be patient! Also remember that Italians traditionally serve this with tagliatelle so use a good quality pasta so the sauce clings to every strand. If you’re not a huge fan of mince then substitute it with diced beef but remember that this would cook better in the oven on a low heat to ensure the meat falls apart.

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Ingredients-serves 4
2 tbsp olive oil
400g beef or veal mince or half and half
1 onion finely sliced
2 garlic cloves crushed
200g chestnut mushrooms- sliced
Handful of rehydrated dried porcini mushrooms
1 tbsp tomato puree
2 celery sticks- finely sliced
1 carrot- finely chopped
Small pack of pancetta cubes
120ml red wine
400ml tinned chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp dried oregano
Beef stock cube
1/2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
400g dried spaghetti or tagliatelle

1. To start, take a large pan and heat 1tbsp of the oil over a high heat and brown off the mince which will take a few minutes. I often use veal mince as it has a lower fat content and gives a lighter bolognese.

2. In a frying pan sautee the chestnut and porcini mushrooms until golden. Mushrooms need to be cooked over a high heat to draw out the water

. 3. Take a heavy based pan (time to crack out my Le Creuset again!) and heat the remaining oil over a medium heat.Cook the onion, celery, carrot and pancetta until it all begins to soften and then add the garlic into the pan for 1-2 minutes until fragrant. Pancetta cubes are easy to find however if you want to ramp up the flavour even more then look for a small block of pancetta which you then cut yourself. This tends to have more flavour and a smokey note which you don’t get with precut cubes so head to the local deli and treat yourself!

4. Next the tomato puree goes in to cook off for another couple of minutes, followed by the red wine and aim to reduce this by half. Pop the bay leaf in and sprinkle the oregano.

5. Stir the tomatoes and balsamic vinegar in and crumble in the stock cube which will add an additional depth of flavour. Season to taste, bring the bolognese up to a simmer, cover and cook on the hob for 1- 1 1/2 hours or until the sauce has reduced and thickened. I also keep some of the porcini mushroom liquor back and add a little to give an extra meatiness.

6. When the bolognese is nearly ready cook the pasta and drain well. I add the pasta into the sauce to ensure each stand if pasta is well coated. Divide the bolognese between the bowls and serve with parmesan.

A classic dish to please any family! I mean who wouldn’t want this simmering away on their hob?…