Vegetable Mélange

It’s the only name I could give it, to be honest, as the ideas in my head ranged from Moroccan to Persian to Turkish to Greek all in one morning and I think I eventually shoved in everything I had, apart from the things that wouldn’t actually fit in the pot.

I started out, as I often do when I need inspiration, in the local Turkish grocer, eyeing up what vegetables they had. I’d already got aubergines, which I’d planned to bake with white miso as my husband was going to be away (he doesn’t like the smell of miso), but then it turned out that he wasn’t going to be away after all so I needed to plan something else for my dinner.

It’s hard not to buy everything they have as it’s all so good, but I tried very hard not to, and then I spotted some lovely looking leeks, so thought of the braised leeks from Istanbul And Beyond, and then there were big boxes of fresh herbs as I went past the leeks. The mint looked and smelled so good, that had to come home with me so it went in to the basket. Mint in a vegetable stew adds such a delicious back note that people often can’t define, and I’ve become quite addicted to using it that way. Try it in a green bean, garlic and tomato braise, it’s delicious.

Then I recalled Olia Hercules singing the praises of dill, so thought it was time I got over my dislike of that delicately frondy herb. Maybe using it as a vegetable not as a fresh herb might do the trick.  In it went. Parsley adds a lemony freshness, and lots of colour, so that came home with me too.  There is something so…Mediterranean about wandering home with big bunches of fresh herbs sticking out of your bag.

Once I got home, winging it as I was, I first had a Moroccan tagine in my head, heady with cinnamon and fruit, then a Persian stew, with the big, bold green flavours in there that come from entire bunches of herbs. I recalled the Turkish lamb and leek braise which I’d loved, but I just didn’t want meat, and pondered about Greek green beans and tomatoes and feta. It gets busy in the cooking part of my brain!  I just started with the aubergines in the end, and then made it up from there as I went along.

You will need a large frying pan, and a large capacity pot for this. My casserole dish holds 4 litres.

Vegetable Mélange

2 medium aubergines, cut in half lengthways and then cut across into large chunks

1 carrot, sliced into 5mm thick rounds

2 large leeks, halved, cut into 3 inch pieces then rinsed well

1 can chickpeas, drained

1 large potato, skin on, cut into quarters

8 dates stoned and halved

2 heaped tbs red pepper paste

1 heaped tbs tomato puree

1 tin chopped tomatoes

1 bunch mint

1 bunch parsley

1/2 bunch dill

2 tsp cumin

1 tsp chilli (I use pul biber as it has a gentle heat)

1 tsp dried mint

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp salt

1 veggie stock cube

water to cover

extra virgin olive oil

Pop the aubergine chunks into a large frying pan, but with no oil initially, just a light sprinkle of salt.

Cook them on a medium heat, to get some colour on the cut sides. Add a touch of oil on a cube it starts to stick.

Once all the sides have some good colour, pop them into a large casserole dish.

Add the tomato paste and red pepper paste to the frying pan, with 1 tbs olive oil.

Stir and fry the pastes for about 5 minutes, it intensifies their flavours.

Stir in the leeks and coat well with the pastes, then add them to the casserole pot too.

Pour in the tin of drained chickpeas, then the chopped tomatoes along with their juice, then add that can full of water.

In with the spices! Cumin, pul biber, dried mint, cinnamon, salt.

Tuck in a veggie stock cube.

Add the carrot and large chunks of potato, then it the water level needs raising to cover it all, do so now.

Mix it all really well, and leave it to simmer, covered, for about an hour or two, stirring every so often to make sure the stock cube has dissolved.

Once all the vegetables are tender, chop up all the herbs, holding a little bit of each back for later, and add them in too.

Add a good 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil, which enriches the juices, and stir again.

Cover and cook on the lowest heat you can for another 2 hours, then simmer uncovered, until the liquid level has reduced down by about a centimetre or two and the colour has darkened. You want it more like a stew than a soup.

Taste it, and see if you think it needs more salt or chilli for your taste.

I served mine with bulghur wheat as rice fills me up way too fast.

Bulghur Wheat Side Dish

2/3 cup of medium bulghur wheat

Enough water to cover the wheat by 1 cm

1/2 tsp salt

1 heaped tablespoon of the red pepper paste

2 tbs chopped dill

Put the bulghur in a pan or bowl.

Stir in the salt, and the paste.

Add the water, and keep mixing the paste in.

I microwaved mine in a jug for 2 minutes, then let it sit with the cling film on for 10 minutes.

It looked a bit dry, so I added 2 tbs of water, and stirred in the dill.

Microwaved for another minute, and let it sit, covered, until I was ready to serve it up.

I piled the stew over the bulghur, and added more chopped herbs, plus a little olive oil and plain Greek yoghurt.

Before cooking down

Finished dish


Nigel Slater’s Middle East: Fragrant Lebanese Rice Pudding, a variation

I adore rice pudding. From the vanilla laden stodge in a can which I will eat cold, to the snackpots, and through to the very best baked and sugared topped-with-a-baked-skin that Nans make, I will eat them all and go back for more.

It’s nursery food I suppose, but for me it’s definitely a comfort food in that I would always get fed a milk pudding if I’d not been well. It’s recovery food. If your tummy is feeling all stretched and worn, or your throat has been raspy and full of raw tickle, then a rice, macaroni, tapioca or even sago pudding just slips down easily. 

One day recently I was at home, and full of vertigo with wobbly legs, so I desperately wanted comfort food. I very carefully made this for my tea, and I think it took roughly 15 minutes beginning to end.

I had no pudding rice, but I did have the ever fragrant Basmati, and that morning I’d watched the veritable television hug that was Nigel Slater’s Middle East, so I knew what I needed.

When I realised I didn’t have much milk (I needed to stretch it out in order to leave some to make tea with) I used half evaporated coconut milk and half milk. I suppose you could do half milk and half water, but it wouldn’t have that same richness.

I more or less halved the recipe that was on the BBC website, and adjusted the fruit to what I had.

75g basmati rice

125ml evaporated coconut milk

125ml full-fat milk

1 tbsp golden caster sugar

1 tsp vanilla paste

8 dried apricots, chopped

2 tbs sultanas

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/4 tsp Spice Sanctuary Sweet Delights mix (you really do not need much)

1 tsp rosewater

1 tsp orange blossom water

12g shelled pistachios, roughly chopped

1 tbs toasted coconut curls

A few food-grade rose petals

Put the rice in a medium-sized, heavy-based pan, and add in the milks, sugar and vanilla.

Bring to the boil over a medium heat, then reduce the heat until the milk is bubbling gently.

Stir in the cinnamon, Sweet Delight, sultanas and apricots.

Allow to simmer for 25 minutes, or until the rice is tender, giving it the occasional stir.

If it needs more liquid, just add more coconut milk.

Serve piled with the  finely chopped pistachios and coconut curls, plus a few rose petals if you wish. I did wish, as I wanted it to look as pretty as I wasn’t feeling.

That worked as both lunch and dinner for me, and I fell asleep still extremely dizzy, but very happy.

Lebanese Rice Pudding

Spelt Flour Koulourakia–Easter Cookies

I try to make these every Easter. Buttery, short cookies that are moreish and come flavoured with orange or lemon or vanilla. As I had no fresh oranges, I decided to go with orange blossom water, orange extract and mastiha, seeing as I had some left over from making the savoury hot cross buns. I really wanted to make them dairy free too, so that my colleague could eat them, and the spelt was for the same reason, although not for the same person.

The non dairy spread was pleasant to use, much faster to work with as it was soft straight from the fridge, although I did need more flour than planned.

I used a stand mixer for this but I have done it by hand in the past. 

200g Vitalite dairy free spread (or soft butter)

130g icing sugar

6 mastic tears, ground finely with ½ tsp demerara sugar

1 medium egg (aquafaba may well work here)

2 tbs coconut milk (or dairy milk)

400-500g white spelt flour

1 tsp baking powder

1 tsp orange flower water

1 tsp orange extract

Pinch salt

Sesame seeds (optional)

Warning: The Vitalite spread doesn’t harden up like butter in the fridge, so be prepared for your hands to feel oily when you shape the cookies.

Put the spread and icing sugar in a large bowl, or in the bowl of a stand mixer.

Mix gently/on low. (I cover the mixer with a towel so that the sugar doesn’t cloud out too much.)

Add in the ground mastic, the egg, milk, 400g of the flour, baking powder, salt and flavourings.

Mix well/mix on low until it all comes together. If it looks way too sticky, just keep adding flour a spoon at a time until it starts to stick together and gather around the spoon/beater.

It should be soft, and a bit squidgy, but it should not stick to your hands.

Shape it into a disc, wrap it in cling film and leave it in the fridge for a good hour.

When you want to shape the cookies, the shapes are up to you!

I like ‘S’ shapes, as that’s what I grew up with, but whatever shape you like is fine. Some people make twists, some circles, some S shapes. I roll mine out into a rope, then curl each end in to make the ‘snail shell’ of the S.

Some of the edges will crack when you roll and shape them, but that’s fine too.

Lay them onto lined baking trays, spaced about 2 cm apart. They will spread a bit, but if the dough is kept cold, not that much. It is a very forgiving dough, too, you feel free to re-shape if you like.

I did not egg wash mine, as I’m not overly keen on it, to be honest but do feel free to do so! Sprinkle with sesame seeds if you want to use them.

Bake for 20 minutes at 175°C. If they haven’t turned golden on the edges then put them back in for another 5 minutes. I don’t think a non dairy spread lends itself easily to goldenness.



close up


Winging It: Bulghur Wheat Burgers

This recipe is entirely Sabrina Ghayour’s fault. A lot of my cooking is her fault, to be honest.

She posted a photo of these bulghur wheat balls, and I remembered I had a pack of the wheat to use up, so I hit the kitchen, soon discovering that I didn’t have coriander leaves, or an onion.  Or dried cranberries. Or quite enough bulghur wheat. So here’s where the winging it started.

(NOTE: I suspect I hadn’t cooked the wheat for long enough as the stuff WOULD NOT stick together so that’s why I have ground almonds and gram flour in my version. More winging it.)

4oz bulgur wheat (I used medium)

1 medium free-range egg (or 2-3 tbs aquafaba)

2-3 tbs ready fried crispy onions

1 heaped tsp turmeric

1 heaped tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

½ –1 tsp pul biber

6 large mint leaves, finely chopped

1 tsp dried mint

3 heaped tbs dried barberries

4 level tbs ground almonds

3 level tbs gram flour

1/2 tsp sea salt

4 tbsp olive oil

Cook the bulgur wheat for a little longer than the packet instructions say, so it’s very puffy, about 20 minutes. (My pack said to cover with water and simmer until all the water had gone, so that’s what I did.)

Rinse under cold water to remove the starch and leave to drain until cool enough to handle.

Preheat the oven to 180C/160C Fan/Gas 4.

Mix all the ingredients, except the oil, for the bulgur wheat balls together. Mix it really well to make sure the flour is distributed.

Squeeze the mixture using your hands so it sticks together. If it won’t hold, add a little more gram flour.

I took half a packed cup of the mixture, and shaped it into burgers. The mix made 2 big burgers, and 3 little balls shaped with a cookie scoop.

Heat a frying pan that can also go in the oven and add the oil. Heat it gently, then once hot add the burgers carefully and fry or 3-4 minutes on each side until they go golden.

I finished them in the oven for 5-10 minutes to make sure the gram flour was cooked out.

I served my one in a brioche burger bun, with tahini slathered on both buns, fresh mint leaves, and a drizzle of pomegranate molasses for a delicious tang.

I really liked this, and will make it again for certain. Just need to buy more bulghur wheat…

Burger and bun

Close up


Lemon Semolina Cake

Originally this was a honey and lemon semolina cake, where it got drenched in a syrup after cooking. It was an absolutely gorgeous cake, I made it for my 40th, but my tastes don’t run as much to sweet nearly a decade on so I decided on a variation.

It’s my last Cake Club at work this week, so I made it for them.

It is flourless cake, though it’s NOT gluten free as semolina is made from durum wheat.

125g softened butter (I used Vitalite as it is dairy free and I have a dairy intolerant colleague)

1/2 cup sugar

1 1/2 tbs finely grated lemon rind

2 eggs

2 tbs brandy or rum or just lemon jujice

1 cup fine semolina

1 cup ground almonds

1/4 cup finely chopped pistachios

1 tsp baking power

1/2 tsp lemon extract

1/2 tsp almond extract

1/8 tsp ground cardamom

pinch salt

Heat oven to 200C.

Whisk soft spread, sugar and lemon rind together until fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition.

Stir in the brandy and the flavourings, plus the cardamom.

Add semolina, almonds and baking powder then whisk again.

Put into an oiled tin (I used a silicone loaf tin lined with a paper liner because it looks quaint)

I put candied lemon slices on it, as I had some to use up, and dotted a few pistachios around.

Reduce oven to 180C, put the cake in and bake for 30-35 minutes until a skewer comes out clean.

Allow to cool and then poke holes all over it with a skewer if using the syrup.

Optional Topping from original recipe

2 packs shelled pistachio nuts

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

Clear honey

Toast pistachios lightly in a dry pan.

Add enough clear honey to coat them all, then add the juice of 1/2 a lemon.

Heat gently to mix. Taste a bit of the syrup, if it is too sharp, add another spoon of honey.

Pour the warm syrup all over the cake.

Leave to soak in.

semolina lemon cake


Greek Easter Buns

Orthodox Easter can’t be pinned down. It wanders about, never in the same place. Every year those of us without a Greek family group nearby to remind us, Google “When is Orthodox Easter?” with the vague worry that we might have missed it. The Orthodox Easter dates are often different because they are based on the old Julian calendar. Although most of the world now follows the Gregorian calendar, the Eastern Orthodox Church still uses the earlier Julian calendar for calculating the dates of festivals such as Easter that are not fixed. When they happen to occur at the same time, there’s a flurry of activity and a bit of a dilemma between eating all the chocolate and all the flaounes. Thankfully most of us like lamb at Easter, so we’re ok there.

I’m not a churchgoer, though if there was a Greek church near me I’d probably pop in just to light a candle, and immerse myself in the smell of beeswax and incense. Greek Church incense is one of my favourite smells. It gets into the very walls and furnishings of places and never leaves.  I’d burn it at home if I could but my husband would hate it.

I really wanted to make a Cypriot version of hot cross buns. I wanted them to be savoury not sweet, but still with a nod to Greek tradition, with the red eggs. Cypriot Easter pastries – flaounes - have many delicious, scented ingredients in them, and I wanted all of those in my baked creation. There had to be halloumi and mint. There had to be sweet bombs of sultanas, a hint of sesame and cinnamon and there just had to be the underlying resinous scent of mastichi. So off I went.

You can put red dyed quail eggs in them, or pipe crosses, or just brush with beaten egg and sprinkle sesame seeds, it’s entirely  up to you.

Things that I never knew, that I know now: You cannot reliably dye quail eggs, as the speckles are not shell-deep, they're just a very thin layer. I ended up with white eggs, and all of the patterns slid off into the sink. The whitened eggs took the colour afterwards, once I found proper egg dye. Things I do so you don’t have to.

Note: I used a food processor for the cheese mix, and a stand mixer for the dough itself, because it’s just far easier on my rubbish hands, but if you are able bodied you can just as easily grate the cheeses, finely chop the mint and make the dough by hand with the handle of a wooden spoon and elbow grease.

Cheese Mix

1 tsp ground cinnamon

250g halloumi

200g cheddar

150g sultanas

1 bunch fresh mint (leaves only, I’d say about half a packed cup)

1 – 2 tsp dried mint

The Dough

500g strong white bread flour, plus extra in case the dough is too sticky, and for dusting when you knead to bring it together

8g salt

75g caster sugar

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp ground mastichi tears (grind them with sugar, it’s much easier.)

14g instant yeast

40g soft butter

2 medium eggs, beaten

120ml hand hot full-fat milk

120ml hand hot water

For the crosses

75g plain flour

75ml water

2 tsp tahini


Cube the halloumi and cheddar.

Strip the mint leaves off the stalks.

Pop all of this plus the dried mint and cinnamon into a food processor and whizz until it is fine crumbs.

Mix in the sultanas and then leave it to sit while you make the dough.


Tip the flour into a large mixing bowl/stand mixer and add the salt, sugar, yeast, ground mastic and cinnamon then give it a good mix.

Add in the butter, water, milk and egg then 2-3 cups of the halloumi/cheddar/mint mixture. Add as much as you wish, or as much as you think the dough will take. I used 2 cups of it, but I think it could take 3.

Next add the butter and pour the hand-hot milk and the hand-hot water over the butter followed by the beaten egg.

Now mix everything to a dough, starting with a spatula and finishing with your hands until it is all combined, evenly mixed and leaves the bowl clean. (I used the dough hook on low so that nothing splashed out of the bowl)

If it is too sticky to be cohesive, add flour 50g at a time until it comes together into a ball. It will be a little tacky because of the mastic.

Next cover the bowl with a polythene bag (I used a shower cap) and leave it at room temperature to rise – it will take about 1½ hours to 2 hours to double its original volume. It does go whoosh a bit nearer to the end time.

Turn the dough out on to a clean work surface (you shouldn’t need any flour) and press out the air.

Now divide the mixture into twelve using a palette knife. (I weighed each piece as I’m like that)

Take one piece of the dough and shape it into a round then roll it between the fingers of each hand, keeping your hands flat, to form a fairly smooth round ball (this should only take about 10 seconds or so) then do the same with the remaining pieces of dough.

This video helps a lot!

Arrange them on the lined or greased baking sheet (allowing plenty of room for expansion).

Poke a hole in each one and pop in a red quails egg if you want to, or just pipe crosses on all of them after they have risen, if you want the least faff version.

Leave them to rise on the lined baking sheet inside a large, lightly greased polythene bag for 45 minutes to an hour, or again until about double the size.

Mix the cross ingredients together. It has to be smooth enough to pipe (I used a disposable, small piping bag).

Once the buns have risen, pipe the crosses on OR brush gently with beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Also less faff.

Bake for 17 minutes at 200C until well risen, browned and sounding hollow when the bottoms are tapped.

I have resisted these all weekend, as I’m taking them to work, but I gave in and tried one. They are delicious. Exactly how I wanted them to be. Savoury, with an overtone of cheese, and small sweetness pockets from the sultanas. I will absolutely make these again.

no pattern eggs

Tiny eggs



Cheese mixture


Dough risen

Buns n eggs

Baked buns


Calcutta Cabbage Tangles

This is not my recipe, but one borrowed from Nisha Katona, founder and powerhouse behind the Mowgli chain of Indian restaurants.

I say chain, but they are the furthest from the bland, corporate chain than anything could be. There’s a beating heart in each one, and each one, like siblings, retains the looks, but the details and personalities are all different.

I read this recipe from an interview Nisha did with Good Things magazine, and they linked to it.

I had cabbage, I had spices, and I had to make it. It turns out that I didn’t have all the spices, but I winged it. I also didn’t use English mustard powder, as I dislike it intensely.

This is the original recipe: http://goodthingsmagazine.com/calcutta-cabbage-tangles/

And here is mine.

It’s fresh, and spring-like, vegetal but not overpowering, and gently warming. It made a gorgeous lunch.

Serves 4


1 tbsp oil
1.5 tsp white mustard seeds
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 spring cabbage, washed and finely sliced
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp chilli powder (I used pul biber, as I prefer the softer heat)
1 dsp Red’s mustard sauce, thinned a little with 2 tbs water
1 tsp sugar
1/2 salt, or to taste


Heat the oil in a large frying pan set over a medium heat, and fry the mustard seeds until they crackle and pop.

Add the garlic, followed swiftly by the cabbage, turmeric, and chilli.

Reduce the heat to low and cook until the cabbage is soft.

Add the salt, sugar and the diluted mustard just before dishing up.

Tip: A final squeeze of lemon works a treat.

Recipe courtesy of Nish Katona. For more information visit nishakatona.com | mowglistreetfood.com

Calcutta Cabbage Tangles

Artichokes with browned butter and Hilopites noodles

You know how sometimes a cooking method can escape you time and time again, and then one day you read one more account of how to do it, and it all makes sense? Today I had that with artichoke prep.

Not the big globe ones, but the smaller, purple ones. Perfect little flower heads that, nonetheless, still have something of the Audrey II about them. I’ve never really felt that I’d got to grips with them, until today when I read a passage in Giorgio Locatelli’s book Made in Italy, and boom, there it was. Once I have a visual on how something works, I can usually get it right (not always!) and he painted a good picture. This is very important for me, as I adore the things.

First, of course, you have to prepare them, which isn’t as complicated as you might think. Start by taking the artichoke in one hand and, leaving the stalk on (because it makes the artichoke look more elegant), snap off and discard each outside leaf in turn, stopping when you get down to the tender, pale green-yellow leaves. Next, with a small sharp paring knife, peel off the stringy outside of the stalk and work around the top of the stalk at the base of the artichoke, trimming and scraping away the base and turning the artichoke as you go. Finally, trim off the pointed tops of the remaining leaves, then cut each artichoke in half lengthways and use a spoon to scoop out and discard the hairy choke from each half (it will be very small, as the artichokes are not fully developed). To prevent the artichokes discolouring, rub them with a halved lemon, then keep them submerged in a bowl of water with a squeeze of lemon juice added (or vitamin C, which you can buy from health food shops) until you are ready to use them. ~ Locatelli, Giorgio. Made in Italy: Food and Stories (Kindle Locations 1133-1140). HarperCollins Publishers. Kindle Edition.

I’d just bought four of them at Borough Market, along with some Greek flat noodles and graviera from Oliveology, so as soon as I got home I set to it, though my artichokes didn’t have long stalks, so no faff required there. The only salt you need is in the pasta, as the cheese and butter have enough. (I’m sure chefs would tell me otherwise.)

2 medium purple artichokes (they will probably have a little bit of the choke in if they are larger than egg size)

1 lemon

Prep the artichokes like Giorgio says. I cut mine in half to get the choke out, then in half again, and submerged them in water with a squeeze of half the lemon in it.


About 1 oz/28g butter

Graviera cheese, or fresh pecorino, grated – how much is up to you!

1 cup small pasta ribbons

Melt the butter, then turn the heat up so that it starts to brown. You will smell it change to a caramel aroma when it starts to brown. Keep an eye on it as you want browned and nutty, not burned and gritty.

At the same time put a small pan of water on to boil, and salt it.

Pat the artichokes dry, then put them cut side down into the foaming browned butter. Careful, it will splutter a bit.

Turn them with tongs to get them all coated.

Add the noodles to the boiling water.

Keep turning and basting the ‘chokes until every side is full of the butter, add 1 tbs of the pasta water, then turn the heat down, and put a lid on so they can cook through. When a knife pierces the stalk end easily, they are done.

When the noodles are cooked, drain and add to the ‘choke pan. Mix in really well so they get coated too.

Serve in a bowl, because you don’t want to lose any of that butter, and top with a cloud of grated cheese and an extra spritz of fresh lemon.

I will happily admit that upon the first mouthful of artichoke, I just closed my eyes and luxuriated in the taste. I think I’m going to go buy some more…

artichokes before prep


artichoke prep

finished dish


Hot Cross Buns

I’ve tried making these before, and although they always tasted good, the texture left a lot to be desired. Tasty hockey pucks come to mind. I know that with the huge proliferation of them in the shops, I really do not need to make my own, but that fruited spiced smell wafting through the house as they rise and then bake is…well it’s on equal footing with the Christmas cake for me.  

Having had a lot of success with Paul Hollywood’s breads, and rolls, I decided to go with his recipe. Goodness me it seemed to take forever.

  • Mix the plain dough, let it rise 1, 2, 3, hours.
  • Chop the whole peels into very small bits.
  • Knock the dough down, knead in copious amounts of spices and dried fruits for ten minutes.
  • Let it rise again for another hour.
  • Knock it down, measure it out into 12 equal pieces, roll each into a ball, place on a lined baking tray.
  • Let them rise again for an hour.
  • Mix up paste for crosses.
  • Pipe crosses
  • Bake.

Oh they were good though. A bit more dense by the next day but still good.

Purely in the interests of Science (mostly) Tex suggested I also bake Delia Smith’s recipe. Well why not, says I? After all, I’ve got a lot of fruit and peels to use up, and it’s Easter, and we all like some hot bun action.

Delia's seemed to come together faster, though I did have to add extra flour. Her 450g was just too wet, so I made it up to 500g.

  • Put all dough ingredients, fruits, peels and spices into a bowl/stand mixer and mix it all until well combined.
  • Leave to rise for 1 – 2 hours.
  • Knock it down, measure it out into 12 equal pieces, roll each into a ball, place on a lined baking tray.
  • Let them rise again for an hour.
  • Mix up paste for crosses.
  • Pipe crosses
  • Bake.

Also very good, and they seemed to rise and round out more and stayed softer overnight.

I think I’ll probably do an amalgamation of the two recipes next year. Most of Paul’s ingredients (minus the apple and the orange zest) and Delia’s method (with my own additions), though her yeast measurement works a treat, so that stays.

Hollywood mixed with Delia Buns (which just sounds weird)

500g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting

10g salt

75g caster sugar

14g instant yeast

40g unsalted butter, softened

2 medium eggs, beaten

120ml hand hot full-fat milk

120ml hand hot water

150g sultanas

80g chopped mixed peel (whole peels are much MUCH nicer. Just dip them in flour to make them easier to chop finely. I get mine from here.)

1 tsp orange blossom water or orange extract

1 tsp ground cinnamon

2 – 3 tsp mixed spice

For the crosses

75g plain flour

75ml water

1 tsp icing sugar

1 tsp orange extract

(I used a stand mixer, I fully admit it.)

First tip the flour into a large mixing bowl and add the salt, yeast, mixed spice and cinnamon then give it a good mix.

Add the caster sugar followed by the sultanas and candied peel then mix these dry ingredients together and make a well in the centre.

Next add the butter and pour the hand-hot milk and the hand-hot water over the butter followed by the beaten egg. Now mix everything to a dough, starting with a spatula and finishing with your hands until it is all combined, evenly mixed and leaves the bowl clean. Add a spot more milk if it needs it. (I used the dough hook on low so that nothing splashed out of the bowl)

Next cover the bowl with a polythene bag (I used a shower cap) and leave it at room temperature to rise – it will take about 1½ hours to 2 hours to double its original volume.

Turn the dough out on to a clean work surface (you shouldn’t need any flour) and press out the air.

Now divide the mixture into twelve using a palette knife. (I weighed each piece as I’m like that)

Take one piece of the dough and shape it into a round then roll it between the fingers of each hand, keeping your hands flat, to form a fairly smooth round ball (this should only take about 10 seconds or so) then do the same with the remaining pieces of dough.

This video helps a lot!

Arrange them on the lined or greased baking sheet (allowing plenty of room for expansion).

Leave them to rise once more inside a large, lightly greased polythene bag for 45 minutes to an hour, or again until about double the size.

Make up the paste, and put into either a small piping bag or a plastic bag that you can cut the corner off.

This video shows it much more clearly than I can explain it. It also seems to be the most sensible one I’ve seen. All the others cut the tip off the bag and then filled it. That’s a very good way to get paste everywhere before you even start.

Plain dough

Risen plain dough

chopped whole peel

Whole peel citron choppedi

Paul’s: shaped and piped

Hollywood: shaped buns and piped

Delia’s: shaped and piped

Delia: shaped buns and piped

Paul’s: baked

Hollywood recipe baked

Delia’s: baked

Delia buns baked

Paul’s: texture

Hollywood buns texture

Delia’s: texture

Delia buns texture


Leftovers Live To Feed Another Day

I’m not one to throw much away, unless forced to by mould (and then not always) or circumstance, so when I have not quite one serving of a really good dish, I want to make it into something equally as satisfying, and maybe have enough to freeze some.

I’d made a Lamb, Leek and Chickpea stew, and wanted to eke out the last bit of it. There was a good just over half portion left, so I bulked it out with more vegetables, and lots of fresh, green herbs.

1 medium aubergine, cut into 2cm cubes

200g slim green beans, topped and tailed and cut into 3 (or 2 if they are small)

2 tbs tomato puree


small bunch of fresh mint

small bunch of fresh flat leaf parsley

zest of 1 lime

1 tsp chicken or veg stock powder to add depth

2 tbs olive oil to add richness

Put the cubed aubergine into a dry frying pan. Start to toast it adding a little olive oil here and there to help the browning process along.

Add about a cup of water to the leftover stew, then pop in the beans while the aubergine is browning. 

Add the tomato puree and mix it in well.

When the aubergines are browned and starting to collapse, add them in too, and sprinkle with 1/4 tsp salt. 

Chop all the herbs together finely, and stir them in as well along with the lime zest.

I let that cook down for about 30 minutes, tasted it and thought the liquid was a bit thin, so added 1 tsp of stock powder for depth, one spoons of ajvar (more tomato puree will do), 2 tablespoons of olive oil for richness and a touch more salt.

Cooked it for another 30 minutes on low, and there it was, done.

Note: I would imagine that the basic lamb and leek stew can be turned #vegetarian or #vegan just by using Quorn mince or soya mince. Add in some nutritional yeast to get a bit more depth of flavour, and a little smoked paprika, and cook off the mince with the yeast, paprika and tomato puree first to get a good caramelisation on it. There are very good kosher stock powders out there that mimic meat flavours and richness, but aren’t meat based.


Jazzed up leftovers


Istanbul and Beyond: Inspirations. Lamb, Leek and Chickpea Stew

I’m currently reading Istanbul & Beyond. There’s so much more to Turkish cuisine than the meat and salads that we usually see here.

“Standing at the crossroads between the Mediterranean, the Middle East, and Asia, Turkey boasts astonishingly rich and diverse culinary traditions. Journalist Robyn Eckhardt and her husband, photographer David Hagerman, have spent almost twenty years discovering the country's very best dishes. Now they take readers on an unforgettable epicurean adventure, beginning in Istanbul, home to one of the world's great fusion cuisines. From there, they journey to the lesser-known provinces, opening a vivid world of flavours influenced by neighbouring Syria, Iran, Iraq, Armenia, and Georgia.”


The book takes you through so many regions, and shows you how much things differ. It pretty much makes you hungry in every part of that vast nation. Yes, there’s breads, and amazing cheeses – not just feta style and hellim (halloumi) – but there are so many dishes that you just don’t see in restaurants. Recently I ate at a Turkish restaurant in London, and made a beeline for the one thing on the menu I had never heard of, especially when they said “It’s what our grandmothers cook at home.” Sold. Immediately. That’s the food that I really want to know about, and Istanbul & Beyond brings you that.

For more, go get the book. Really. It’s beautiful, and learned; kind and generous like the peoples it writes about. You may find yourself inspired like I was.

I’d read a recipe involving slow braised leeks, and happily I had two fat leeks waiting to be used. I also knew I had some lamb mince, and I always have a tin of chickpeas knocking around. Off we went.

This is a gentle dish, quite soothing, and easy to eat. Even though the broth has such a rich colour, it’s actually quite light. (It will set up a bit when cooled, due to the lamb fat.)

400g lamb mince – fatty is good

2 leeks trimmed of any hardened leaves

2 tbs Turkish red pepper paste (use mild or spicy, your choice, most Turkish shops stock this)

1 tbs tomato puree

1 400g tin of chick peas

1 tsp pul biber (most Turkish shops stock this too)

1/2 tsp turmeric



Add the lamb to a large pan, and cook until it turns brown. Don’t drain the fat off, it’s all flavour.

While that’s cooking, split the leeks into quarters lengthways, then cut into 2 inch pieces. Wash thoroughly to get rid of any sand.

Once the lamb is browned, stir in 2 good spoons of the pepper paste and the tomato puree. Mix well, and cook it out for a few minutes.

Add in the leeks, mix very well to coat, then cover the leeks three quarters of the way with water.

Add in the chick peas, and the spices, then stir well to combine.

Cook until the leeks have all wilted down, probably around 50 minutes or so.

Season with salt to your taste.

You can leave this to cool, and lift out any fat if you wish but…well, I certainly do not.

Serve with either feta or thick, strained yoghurt, and a good amount of bread to dip in the sauce.


Stew with feta

Stew with yoghurt



The things I do for my colleagues.

Ed mentioned that when he’d been on holiday in Croatia, he’d had this gorgeous dip made of aubergines and red peppers, and was bemoaning the fact that he hadn’t been able to find it since. I was pretty sure I’d be able to find a recipe, and I knew I had peppers and aubergines, so that was my task for the weekend all set.

Wikipedia lists ajvar as:

Ajvar ([ǎj.ʋaːr], Serbian Cyrillic: ajвар; Bulgarian: aйвар; Macedonian: aјвар) is a pepper-based condiment made principally from red bell peppers. It may also contain garlic, eggplant and chili peppers. Ajvar is used in the Balkans in Albanian, Bosnian, Bulgarian, Croatian, Gottscheerich, Macedonian, Serbian, and Slovenian cuisine. In Serbia, it was long known as "Serbian salad"[1] or "Serbian vegetable caviar".[2] It became a popular side dish throughout ex-Yugoslavia after World War II and is nowadays popular in Southeastern Europe.

Homemade ajvar is made of roasted or cooked peppers. Depending on the capsaicin content in bell peppers and the amount of added chili peppers, it can be sweet (traditional), piquant (the most common), or very hot (ljutenica). Ajvar can be consumed as a bread spread or as a side dish. If it contains tomato, then it is called pindjur.

The charring of the vegetables – especially the aubergines – gives a gentle smoky back note, so to me that’s a non negotiable part of this recipe. Of course you can bake them in the oven, but I’d suggest blasting them under the grill, too, to get the char. (You can actually buy pre smoked, skinned aubergine in jars in many Turkish supermarkets, look for the jars marked patliçan. It doesn’t look terribly appetising but oh the taste…)

jarred aubergine

There do seem to be as many ways to make this as there are people who make it, so in the end after lots of internet reading, this is they way I did it. Colleague ate the whole lot in one sitting, so I think it worked! I didn’t add hot peppers to mine, as I don’t like much heat, and colleague hadn’t specified. Better to err on the side of caution.

2 medium to large aubergines

5 red peppers (I used a mix of bell and pointed)

1 whole bulb of garlic

olive oil


1 tbs vinegar

I put the aubergines on a gas flame diffuser, as it gives them a steady platform to char. They do have a tendency to roll about, otherwise.

I balanced a couple of peppers on there too, and then got out The Blowtorch.

Yes, I was serious about getting that smoky, charred taste. Plus, it’s fun! It’s a blowtorch! Okay so maybe not everyone blowtorches peppers at 0800 on a Sunday morning, but it had been a hard weekend and fire made it all better.

Once they all had a good level of char all over, I put them in the oven with the whole bulb of garlic, drizzle the lot with a bit of olive oil, and cook them down until the garlic was soft enough to squeeze out of its casing.

I tipped the whole lot into a bowl, and put cling film over, then left them to cool down.

Once they were cool enough to handle, I scraped the flesh out of the aubergines, and took the seeds out of the peppers. Yes some of the charred aubergine skin got in, but hey ho. It all adds to the taste.

I did not peel the peppers, as they were all going to go into a food processor anyway, along with the softened garlic, and get blitzed to a smooth pulp.

Then the vinegar went in, and instantly the smell changed to the one I was familiar with, from when I’ve bought jars of ajvar from my local Turkish shop.

I tasted it, added a little more salt, and another tablespoon of oil, then called it done.

Into two small airtight Tupperware boxes it went, and into the fridge to sit for a few days.

Cue one very happy colleague, which was my aim. It was a pleasure to watch him dig right in with a crusty baguette. 

Good use for a gas diffuser

Crackles and blisters

All the colours

Finished sauce

Raymond Blanc’s Slow Cooked Squid with Chorizo

Squid is one of those things that I always associate with charcoal grills, holidays and blazing sunshine. I’ve only ever eaten it grilled or deep fried, so I thought I’d give it a go in a different dish to see how it changed the taste. I know that with squid the rules are that you either cook it as fast as you can, or long and slow. Anything in between and you have rubber bands, and nobody wants that.

I found Raymond’s recipe on the BBC website. As ever, a joy to watch. I didn’t have all the things that he used so, yes you guessed it, I winged it. I wanted to bulk it out more, too, so added chick peas in, and left the garlic out as I wanted a more gentle taste.

1 large white onion

olive oil

1 tbs tomato puree

1/2 cup Commandaria wine (use what you have. That’s what I had.)

1 400g tin of good quality chopped tomatoes

300g squid tubes, cleaned and skinned (thank you Ocado)

1 tin chick peas, drained

100g chorizo (mine was plain, not the picante one) cut into 1 inch pieces

Peel the onion, cut in half, and chop into thick ish slices.

Sauté off in some olive oil until it starts to soften, then add the tomato puree.

Stir and fry that until it is well mixed in with the onion.

Add the wine, turn the heat up so that the wine boils for a minute or so, then turn the heat back down to low.

Add in the tomatoes and the chick peas, then the chorizo.

While that’s simmering, slice the squid tubes open, lightly cross hatch the skin with the back of a dinner knife, then cut into large pieces.

Pop that in to the sauce, pushing down so that it is covered well, put a lid on and then leave it to cook on a very low heat for 1 hour.

After one hour, the squid will be tender, and will have soaked in a lot of the chorizo flavour, and vice versa.

I actually left mine overnight, and then gently reheated it the next day.

The flavour of the squid is very pronounced, a lot stronger than when you flash fry it, and I realised that it was missing that char grill taste that I loved so much, so I did what any normal person would do at 8am on a Sunday, and got the blow torch out.

Adding that charred edge to the pieces took it from a good dish, to an excellent one that I will most definitely make again. I might use white beans next time.

first stage

  Final char


Cauliflower, parsnip, Jerusalem artichoke and coconut soup

This was one of those soups that came about because I had things I really needed to use up. It was cold and snowy, and I love having a big pot of soup on the stove plipping and pootling away gently. I know that seems like a lot of coconut, but it was a large pot of soup!

You will need a blender or a processor, as this is a smooth soup.

1 head of cauliflower, broken into pieces

6 baby parsnips or 2-3 average sized ones, peeled and chopped into large chunks. (I just chopped the baby ones into 3 bits)

5 Jerusalem artichokes, roughly peeled

1 block creamed coconut (I used Biona, but any one will do)

chicken or vegetable stock powder – I used 2 teaspoons of Essential Cuisine chicken, made up to 1000ml of stock, but then I also added more liquid later as the coconut thickens the soup up a lot.

1 tsp pul biber (soft heat Turkish chilli)

1 tsp garam masala

1 tsp Lebanese 7 spice

1 tsp sea salt

Coconut milk in case you need to thin the soup down

Bring the stock to a simmer, and gently pop in the cauliflower and the parsnips.

While they are softening, roast the artichokes off on 170C Fan until they soften and the edges start to brown. I had bacon fat left over in my pan, so I used that, but you can use olive oil too.

When the ‘chokes are soft, pop them into the soup too then add your spices.

Chop the coconut block up, and stir that in to the soup mix.

Once everything is soft, and the coconut has melted into the stock, leave it to cool down before you blend it in batches.

Taste it to see if you want any more spices, or salt.

Ladle it into the blender, half of it at a time. If it’s way too thick, you may need to add more water or so coconut milk to get the blades to turn so you need some extra room in the machine.

You can blend it to be as smooth as you like. I like my soup very smooth, like a thick, velvety cream.

You could warm chunks of tofu in here, or halloumi, too.

Personally I think it would be good topped with crispy fried onions or shallots. Or bacon. Because bacon.

Jerusalem artichokes

Roasted chokes


Panful of soup


Review: Ishtar, Marylebone

As you turn into Crawford Street, a waft of scented shisha smoke greets you gently. I love that smell, because you know that, pretty much, there will always be very good food indeed nearby.

I have a bit* of a love affair with scents and tastes of Middle Eastern food. Cyprus was invaded by everyone, so our foods have a lot of Arab and Moorish influences, and some of the words used in Cypriot Greek still hark back to those occupations**, so when Mum moved to North Cyprus I was excited to be able to learn even more about the foods from the Turkish table. It’s a vast cuisine. Turkey is a nation that straddles Eastern Europe and western Asia with cultural connections to ancient Greek, Persian, Roman, Byzantine and Ottoman empires. Hurrah  says I, because that means even more recipes.

Going back to the short walk along Crawford Street towards Ishtar, the shisha smoke and a smell of hot charcoal on the breeze boded well for the dinner to come. I am very happy to report that I was not mistaken in that view.

From the outside, especially on a dark evening, Ishtar looks warm and welcoming, and it didn’t disappoint.

Front of house

They couldn’t find my booking at first, as it had been booked under Cookwitch, and I’d said my actual name, but even so they just sat me down, fussed over me and made me very welcome, despite not knowing if I even had a booking or not. I was having a clumsy day, and I think I dropped or knocked over at least 3 or 4 things, but the lovely Selin put me at ease.

When my partner arrived, and we were settled with drinks, we perused the menu. Perused in the true sense of the word***.   I know I’ve eaten a lot of Turkish food, but there were some things on the menu that I’d never heard of, which makes me very happy.

Zyuleyha, our very patient waitress, explained anything we didn’t understand, and let us sit and discuss at length what we wanted. The manager, Serhat, came to greet us with smiles and handshakes which, far from being just for us, was how he greeted everyone in the restaurant.  It made us feel truly at home and welcomed.

Eventually we decided on our starters.

Silky smooth houmous and spiced olives were brought out, along with some warmed, nutty tasting wholemeal bread. I managed to avoid my usual pitfall of eating all the bread with the dips, because I definitely wanted to leave room for dessert.


They’d also brought us a dish of kisir, which is a traditional salad that gets brought out at every restaurant meal I’ve had in Cyprus. The main ingredients are bulghur wheat, parsley, and tomato paste but it can be quite spicy, too. Ours had tangy, sticky pomegranate molasses, spring onions and lemon and, to my relief, no chilli. This one was more rich than others I’ve had, and I thought it was actually far better than most. The addition of a dark puddle of the molasses just made for a brilliant contrast of flavour against the smooth richness of the tomato paste.


Kisir with molasses

Patlican ezme for me, because I am a total fool for aubergine.  This is a dish of chopped, smoked aubergine, garlic and yoghurt. It wasn’t at all overpowering, and had a pleasant woodsmoke background note from the aubergine. Mixed in with very creamy yoghurt, and with a nice hit of garlic – but not too much.Parlican


This was a dish I could have eaten all on its own, with a large spoon and some bread. In fact, I did, so here is a photo of the almost empty bowl.

Kalamar for Simon, which was large pieces of very tender and fresh tasting squid, beautifully crumbed, and sautéed in garlic and parsley with their house tartare sauce. (At this point we discovered that the knives felt really odd when we used them. The handle is aligned horizontally to the blade, so keeps feeling like you are holding it the wrong way, when  in fact you aren’t. If you hold it the way that feels right, the blade is actually on its side, and turns in your hand very easily.)


Choosing a main was even more difficult, and I was sorely tempted by stuffed chicken with chestnut sauce, and flank steak on smoked aubergine, but eventually I went for Meyveli Kuzu; lamb poached with apricots and pears, served over couscous. (It was actually served over bulghur wheat, which I prefer to couscous anyway.) This is an Ottoman dish, more redolent of what might be cooked at home. The lamb pieces needed no knife, you could just split them with your fork. There were flaked almonds in amongst the pears, apricots and prunes, and their bittersweet, toasted flavour lightly scented everything. As a true almond lover, this made every mouthful a little piece of heaven, and I think I zoned out for a while each time I ate a forkful. Yes it has sweet overtones, but it is still a savoury dish. There was enough fruit to add balance, but it didn’t overpower.

Meyveli Kuzu

Simon decided on kofte with garlic yoghurt and bulghur wheat, served on a very thin piece of flatbread that caught any meat juices. I tasted a bit, and while they were spiced, and very meaty, they retained a light, slightly crumbly texture, and were still juicy.

Kofte (grilled minced lamb served on garlic yoghurt, with flat bread) at Ishtar, Marylebone

Dessert…well…there was only one choice for me, and that was their speciality of kunefe. This is the Turkish variant of the pastry kanafeh, and the wiry pastry shreds are called tel kadayıf. You often see them wrapped around a nut and cinnamon mixture, looking like miniature Dougal dogs.

A semi-soft cheese such as Urfa peyniri (cheese of Urfa) or Hatay peyniri (cheese of Hatay), is used in the filling. The kadayıf pastry is not rolled around the cheese; instead, cheese is put in between two layers of kadayıf. It is cooked in small copper plates, and then served very hot in syrup with clotted cream (kaymak) and topped with pistachios or walnuts. It doesn’t sound like it would work, but it really does. The cheese had such a clean, fresh taste, that it contrasted perfectly with the sweet, crisp, buttery shreds. It also wasn’t overly sweet, which was a boon for me. I’m not a huge fan of sugar syrups on pastries, preferring them to be light and crisp with a bit of sweetness, not a full on sugar hit. This one did not disappoint. The ice cream that came with it was a good vanilla, and there were three pieces of fruit on there too that gave a lovely hit of sharpness after you’d finished the kunefe. 


Kunefe (sweet shredded phyllo filled with mozzarella cheese sweeted with syrup, topped with vanilla ice cream and cracked pistachio) at Ishtar, Marylebone

All in all, I will say that this was a really lovely, and delicious, evening out, and one that we will absolutely repeat, because we want to go back and work our way through the rest of the menu.

Thank you to Serhat, Selin and Zyuleyha for making it a perfect evening.

http://www.ishtarrestaurant.com/ (this has auto starting sound)

Disclosure: We ate as guests of Ishtar.

*understatement of the decade

** Watermelon is karpouzi - From Ottoman Turkish قارپوز‏ (karpuz, “melon”), from Persian خربز‏ (xarboz, “melon”) and likely influenced by Greek καρπός (karpós, “fruit, grain”), both from Ancient Greek καρπός (karpós, “fruit, grain, produce”)

*** peruse verb formal  - to read (something), typically in a thorough or careful way.