Garlic, Rosemary and Black Olive Focaccia

I’ve played around with so many focaccia recipes this past year, given there was not much else to do during lockdown! But with most of the recipes I tried I failed to reach that light and airy texture that you get in a good Italian restaurant. I then discovered the ‘slapping’ kneading technique – you literally have to slap the dough against the counter and pick it up again – and my life changed forever, I was left with a soft and airy loaf of bread. I also place a tray of water on the bottom of the oven which creates steam during the cooking process, which all contributes to creating the perfect loaf of bread.

I love olives and garlic so have stuffed my loaf with these, but you can omit these or substitute with sundried tomatoes, regular tomatoes, onions or cheese for example.

Ingredients:
Makes one large loaf

  • 500g strong white bread flour,
  • plus extra for dusting
  • 8g dried yeast
  • olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and halved
  • handful of black olives
  • 3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 6g fine sea salt

Method:

  1. Place the flour into a large bowl, and make a well in the middle. In a jug, mix the yeast and 360ml of lukewarm water, and leave for a few minutes. Gradually pour the yeast/water mixture into the well, stirring with a fork and bringing the flour from the outside to form a dough. The dough will be pretty wet but don’t be alarmed and don’t add more flour, it will start to come together in the kneading process.
  2. Knead the dough on a surface lightly dusted with flour by picking it up and slapping it back down. Continue for 8-10 mins or until the dough is smooth and springy.
  3. Grease the same mixing bowl you used for the dough with 1 tablespoon of olive oil using your hand. Place the dough into the bowl, cover with a damp tea towel and leave to prove in a warm place for at least an hour. I like to turn my oven on for 1 – 2 mins and then turn it off again to create a warm space ideal for proving.
  4. When the dough has almost doubled in size, leave in the bowl and sprinkle a little water on top and add half the sea salt, then fold the dough a few times. To fold the dough, wet your hand with a little bit of water and grab the dough at one side, lift it up, and fold it over on top of itself. Fold the dough four or five times. Then cover the bowl and let the dough rest in a warm place until doubled in size again, this should take roughly another hour.
  5. Line a deep baking tray with baking parchment (about 40cm x 30cm). Take the dough, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil on top and spread the dough all around the tray by pressing it with your fingers and then use your fingers to make dimples. Place the olives, the halved garlic cloves and the sprigs of rosemary on top and press them into the dough. Try to place them fairly deeply into the dough so that they don’t burn. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and sprinkle the remaining sea salt all over the dough.
  6. Preheat the oven to 230°C/gas 9 and place a small tray of cold water at the bottom of the oven (this will be used
    to create steam in the oven and create the perfect environment for the bread to bake).
  7. Bake the focaccia for 15 to 20 mins, or until nice and golden.
  8. Once the focaccia is out of the oven, drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil on top and let it cool for at least 30 mins.
  9. Store in foil or an airtight container at room temperature for up to a week. It also freezes nicely!

Easter Nests

Easter doesn’t feel like Easter with out some nest cakes. They’re literally one of the easiest ‘bakes’ on the planet. Most recipes normally tell you to use rice krispies or cornflakes but I find that shredded wheat creates a better nest like effect! The mix of chocolate, drinking chocolate, butter and golden syrup is super tasty.

Ingredients:
Makes 12- 15 nests

  • 200 g Milk Chocolate 
  • 200 g Dark Chocolate 
  • 100 g Unsalted Butter
  • 100 g Golden Syrup
  • 1 tablespoon Drinking Chocolate
  • 150g Shredded Wheat 
  • 80g packet of Mini Eggs

Method:

  1. In a large saucepan add your butter, chocolate and golden syrup on a low heat until melted. Then stir in your drinking chocolate.
  2. Crush your shredded wheat into small pieces and then stir into your chocolate mixture.
  3. Line a baking tray with baking parchment. Scoop your chocolate/shredded wheat mixture into little nest shapes and lay out on the tray, then add your mini eggs on top to decorate.
  4. Leave to set in the fridge for at least 5 hours.

Aubergine Parmigiana

Aubergine parmigiana is such a delicious dish, it’s basically multiple layers of aubergine, a slow cooked herby tomato sauce, and parmesan and mozzarella cheeses (drool). I personally think it goes well with a side salad and a crusty garlic bread or focaccia to mop up the sauce. YUM.

This recipe serves 2, and is a mini parmigiana. I’d recommend using a standard sized loaf tin (23 x 13 x 7 cm) as you’ll want to get lots of layers in. If you’re going to double up on the recipe and make a larger dish you can use a larger sized baking tray.

Ingredients:
Serves 2

  • 1 large aubergine
  • olive oil
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 3 gloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablespoon dried oregano
  • 1 tablespoon tomato puree
  • 400g chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • handful of fresh basil (roughly 15g)
  • 150g mozzarella
  • 30g parmesan cheese, grated
  • salt and pepper

Method:

  1. First make your slow cooked tomato sauce. Pour 2 tablespoons olive oil into a medium saucepan with a lid on a medium-high heat and then add your onion with salt and pepper. Fry for 2-3 minutes until soft and then add your tomato puree, garlic and oregano and reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 10 minutes.
  2. Add the tinned tomatoes, sugar and basil and stir. Place the lid on the pan and leave to simmer for 20 minutes minimum (the longer you cook it, the more flavoursome it will be!)
  3. Remove the stalk from the aubergine and slice into 1cm thick slices. Lay out your slices on a chopping board and use a pastry brush or kitchen towel to rub a dash of olive oil onto each slice (on both sides). You don’t want to add to much oil here. Sprinkle salt and pepper over the slices.
  4. Heat a large frying pan on a high heat and add your aubergine slices, char both sides, working in batches if necessary. It should take roughly 4-5 minutes to cook each side.
  5. Preheat your oven to 190C/gas 5. Assemble the parmigiana in your loaf tin (23 x 17 x 7cm) by first adding a thin layer of tomato sauce, then a layer of mozzarella and parmesan and then a layer of aubergine. You’ll end up with approximately 4 layers of each type so make sure you space out your ingredients accordingly. Repeat the layers until you’ve used all the ingredients.
  6. Top with a layer of mozzarella and parmesan. Bake for 45 minutes or until golden, crispy and bubbly.

Hot Cross Buns

Easter is coming up, which means warm, glossy hot cross buns are on the menu. My birthday is around Easter, and two years ago (my last pre-pandemic birthday *sigh*!) I went on a hot cross bun making class on my birthday at a cookery school in London where we learnt how to make the perfect hot cross bun. They’re worth making from scratch, I promise you’ll never buy a store bought version after this! They’re not too difficult to prep, plus your kitchen will smell amazing afterwards! You’ll need a piping bag for this recipe.

Ingredients:
Makes 6 buns

  • 250g strong white bread flour
  • 35g caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon mixed spice powder (you can also use allspice)
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 5g salt
  • 5g fast-action dried yeast
  • 20g butter
  • 150ml whole milk
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 100g sultanas
  • olive oil, for greasing
  • 35g plain flour
  • 1 tablespoon golden syrup

Method:

  1. Mix the bread flour, sugar, mixed spice, cinnamon and lemon and orange zests in a bowl. Move this half of the mixture to one side of the bowl and then add the salt and yeast on the opposite side.
  2. Melt the butter in a saucepan, and warm the milk in a separate pan or in the microwave (until just warm/tepid).
  3. This step and step 4 can either be done by hand or using a stand mixer with a dough hook. Add the butter and half the milk to the dry ingredients, then add the egg and use your hands to bring the mixture together, incorporating the dry ingredients from the edges of the bowl as you do. Gradually add the remaining milk until you have a soft dough. You may not need all of the milk.
  4. Knead the dough on a lightly floured surface for 10 minutes and incorporate the sultanas and lemon and orange zest into the dough. The dough should be silky and elastic and form a smooth ball.
  5. Oil a large mixing bowl and place the dough inside. Cover with clingfilm and leave to prove in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size. I usually warm up my oven for 3-5 minutes, turn the heat off and then place the bowl in there to prove.
  6. Divide the dough into 6 balls and line a baking tray with baking parchment and place on top, fairly close together and flattening them slightly. Cover in clingfilm and leave to prove again for 60 minutes until doubled in size.
  7. Preheat your oven to 220C/200C Fan/Gas 7.
  8. For the ‘cross’ toppings for your buns, add your plain flour to a bowl with 50ml water. Mix together to make a paste and spoon into a piping bag. Pipe a cross on each bun.
  9. Bake for 15-20 minutes until pale golden-brown, turning the baking tray round halfway through if necessary.
  10. Melt the golden syrup in a pan and while the buns are still warm, brush the buns with the syrup to give them a shine and then leave to cool on a wire rack.

Za’atar Cacio e Pepe

I was really hesitant to play with the classic cacio e pepe recipe, as it’s such a classic – butter, cheese and pasta is an almost perfect combination in my opinion. However, the addition of za’atar is such a game changer, and works SO well. For those unfamiliar, za’atar is a Middle Eastern herb that usually includes a combination of dried oregano, thyme, marjoram, sumac and toasted sesame seeds. It’s rich and flavoursome but isn’t overpowering, and it goes incredibly well with cheese! This recipe is based on an Ottolenghi recipe that I’ve experimented with and adapted to make it easier to prepare (I personally found the original recipe had a few pitfalls and did not have enough cheese for my liking!)

Ingredients:
Serves 2

  • 200g spaghetti
  • 25g unsalted butter
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 5g za’atar
  • 1 teaspoon freshly cracked black pepper
  • 15g pecorino cheese
  • 85g parmesan cheese
  • Salt
  • Sumac, to garnish (optional)

Method:

  1. Bring 1L of water to boil in a saucepan on a medium-high heat and add 1 teaspoon salt. Add the spaghetti and cook for 9 minutes (you want it to be al dente).
  2. Drain your pasta, but reserve all the pasta water as you’ll need this for your sauce.
  3. In a large saucepan (large enough to eventually hold all your spaghetti), add the butter and olive oil on a high heat for 1 minute, then add your za’atar and cook for another minute. It’s really important you add olive oil when cooking your butter, otherwise it will burn! (A huge problem I found with the original recipe).
  4. Add 3 ladlefuls of your reserved cooking water to the saucepan and boil on a high heat for 5 minutes, it should reduce a little.
  5. Turn the heat to low. Add the spaghetti to the sauce and stir so it is covered in your sauce. Add the parmesan and continue to stir so it melts through, then add your pecorino until melted and season with salt and the cracked black pepper. If your sauce is looking a little thick you can add more pasta water. Garnish with sumac.

Veggie Shepherd’s Pie

It’s British Pie Week! So in celebration of this fantastic event, I have a new pie recipe for you. This veggie shepherd’s pie is full of lentils, veg and warm spices that are slow cooked and topped with a creamy sweet potato mash. It’s a little different to your average shepherd’s pie, but is delicious all the same. The longer you slow cook the lentil/veg mixture, the more flavoursome it will be! Don’t be alarmed by the unusual mix of seasonings in the recipe, I promise the marmite and soy sauce combination will pay off and you’ll be left with a lovely rich and delicious pie! Lentils soak up a lot of flavour, so you’ll need a lot of seasoning.

Ingredients:
Serves 6

For the sweet potato mash:

  • 1kg sweet potatoes (approximately 5), peeled and cubed
  • 120ml milk
  • 25g butter
  • 150g cheddar cheese, grated
  • handful of parsley, roughly chopped
  • salt and pepper

For the filling:

  • 1 red onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 red pepper, roughly chopped
  • 3 carrots, diced
  • 5 garlic cloves, minced
  • 200g mushrooms, roughly chopped
  • 250g split red lentils
  • 400g chopped tomatoes
  • 450ml vegetable stock
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 2 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tsp marmite
  • 2 tbsp oregano
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Salt and pepper

Method:

  1. In a large, lidded saucepan, heat your olive oil on a medium-high heat for 1 minute and then add your onion and pan fry for 2-3 minutes until soft. Add your mushrooms, carrots and red pepper and cook for another 2-3 minutes. Add the garlic and immediately reduce the heat to low.
  2. Add all the remaining ingredients for your filling then cover the saucepan. Leave to cook on a low heat for at least 30 minutes (I recommend leaving it as long as possible for maximum flavour and stirring occasionally).
  3. Meanwhile, in another saucepan, place your sweet potatoes in boiling water and boil for 20 minutes, until soft. Drain, and prepare your mash. Mash your potatoes in the saucepan and add the milk, butter and salt and pepper, you should be left with a smooth consistency.
  4. Place your lentil mixture in a pie dish. Spoon your mashed potatoes on top and pat down with the back of a spoon. Scatter your cheese and parsley on top.
  5. Bake in the oven on 180C for 30 minutes until the potato topping is crispy and the cheese golden.

Japanese Soufflé Pancakes

A new yummy pancake recipe for you just in time for the big day tomorrow! These Japanese Soufflé Pancakes are extra fluffy and taste fab with any topping of your choice, I opted for maple syrup and a bit of butter.

What makes these different to your average pancake is that you basically have to make a meringue mixture which adds airiness to the pancakes. It’s a little more effort but worth it!

Ingredients:
(Makes 4 medium pancakes)
2 egg yolks
3 egg whites
30g plain flour, sifted
40g sugar
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla essence
20g whole milk
10g vegetable oil

Method:

  1. In a mixing bowl, whisk your egg yolks, milk and vegetable oil (with a hand whisk) until light and foamy, this should take around 2-3 min.
  2. Add your flour and whisk again for another 2-3 mins.
  3. In a separate bowl add your egg whites and vinegar and whisk using an electric whisk. Gradually add in the sugar, you want the mixture to form stiff peaks.
  4. Using a spatula, scoop the egg white mixture, a spoonful at a time, into your other flour mixture and fold. Do not overbeat as you will end up with less than fluffy pancakes!
  5. Add a teaspoon of olive oil to a frying pan and use a paper towel to spread it across. Turn your hob on to the lowest heat and leave to warm up for 1-2 mins.
  6. Add scoops of your pancake mixture on to the pan (an ice cream scoop is perfect for this). Then cover your frying pan. After 4 minutes, the pancakes will be ready to flip. Turn them over and cover the pan again and cook for another 4 minutes.

Turkish Eggs

Turkish eggs are such a great brunch dish, the garlicky yoghurt topped with a herby butter sauce and gooey poached eggs is such a winning combo. It’s also ridiculously easy to prepare (as long as your egg poaching skills are on point!). They taste fantastic with a side of warm sourdough bread, make sure you use it to scoop up your egg yolk and sauce.

Ingredients:
Serves 2

  • 200g greek yoghurt
  • 1 small garlic clove, minced
  • sea salt flakes
  • 2 eggs
  • handful of fresh dill, roughly chopped
  • 25g butter
  • 1 teaspoon aleppo pepper (or chilli powder/paprika)
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon sumac

Method:

  1. Stir your garlic into your yoghurt and place in a bowl. Sprinkle some sea salt on top.
  2. On a low heat, add your butter a small saucepan. Once it has melted stir in your aleppo pepper and olive oil and then pour your butter sauce over the yoghurt.
  3. Poach your eggs. The way I do this is by bringing a saucepan of water to boil, cracking the egg into a mug and then adding to the saucepan with the water on simmer, it usually takes about 1 minute. There are loads of tips and tricks for poaching eggs flying about on the internet, I have found this usually works fine!
  4. place your eggs on top of your yoghurt mixture then sprinkle your sumac and dill on top.

Homemade Quiche

Quiche is something I’ve always bought from a supermarket, and often taken on a picnic! They’ve tasted fine, nothing mind blowing, but an easy lunch or dinner. However, it turns out that making a quiche from scratch is surprisingly easy, and it tastes a hundred times better than the store bought kind! It can be eaten hot or cold, so leftovers are also great for a packed lunch.

I filled mine with salmon, goats cheese and spinach, which tasted lovely and fresh. But you can put pretty much anything in your quiche! Other ideas include a quiche lorraine, feta and sundried tomato, or any roasted veg.

I didn’t make my pastry by hand, I find the ready rolled stuff from the supermarket tastes the same and it saves a lot of time! In some stores you can even buy pastry quiche trays, which normally also taste good, which will save you even more time! You’ll need a 26cm flan or tart dish and baking beads.

Ingredients:
Serves 4

  • 300g shortcrust pastry, ready rolled
  • 250ml crème fraîche
  • 150ml double cream
  • handful of spinach leaves, roughly chopped
  • handful of dill, roughly chopped
  • 100g goats cheese, crumbled
  • 50g cheddar cheese, grated
  • 1 salmon fillet, chopped into chunks
  • 3 eggs
  • pinch of nutmeg (optional)
  • salt and pepper

Method:

  1. Line your flan/tart dish with the pastry, easing it into the base. Trim any edges with scissors so it sits slightly above the tin and lightly prick the base with a fork and then lay your baking beads on top (make sure they reach the edges). Bake in the oven at 200C/fan 180C/gas 6 for 15 minutes.
  2. Remove the beads and bake again for 5 mins until the pastry is a light gold colour.
  3. Prepare your quiche filling. In a large bowl, beat your creme Fraîche to slacken it and then beat in your double cream. Beat your eggs separately and then add to your mixture.
  4. Add your salmon, spinach, dill, salt and pepper, nutmeg and goats cheese and stir until evenly spread through the mixture. Pour into your pastry case and then sprinkle the cheddar on top.
  5. Bake in the oven for another 30 minutes, or until the topping is golden brown.
  6. Remove from the oven and leave to set for 5-10 minutes before eating (otherwise it will be a bit watery!)

Baileys Cupcakes

Valentine’s day is around the corner, so I’ve put together a recipe for the ultimate indulgent cupcake – a Bailey’s cupcake! The sponge is a rich Baileys-chocolate combo, and it’s topped with a decadent Bailey’s buttercream icing. It tastes pretty boozy, yet moist and fluffy at the same time. The Bailey’s flavour really comes through!

The batter is slightly more runny than your average cake batter, due to the large amount of Bailey’s in it, so don’t be alarmed if it seems a bit runny, it will cook just fine.

Ingredients:
Makes 12 cupcakes
Prep time: 25 minutes

For the cupcakes:

  • 150g unsalted butter
  • 150g light brown sugar
  • 200ml Bailey’s
  • 3 eggs
  • 125g self raising flour, sifted
  • 50g cocoa powder, sifted

For the icing and decoration:

  • 150g unsalted butter
  • 250g icing sugar
  • 100ml Bailey’s
  • Handful of sprinkles of your choice

Method:

  1. Preheat your oven to 180C/160 Fan. Beat your butter and sugar together until light and fluffy, then add your eggs one at a time and beat again.
  2. Add your flour and cocoa powder and beat again until combined.
  3. Add your Bailey’s slowly, and beat until combined.
  4. Scoop your mixture into the 12 cupcake cases, they should all be equally filled to ensure an even bake.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes, and check the cakes are cooked through. Leave to cool for roughly 30 minutes, until the cakes are no longer warm when you can add your icing.
  6. Prepare your icing by beating your butter until light and fluffy. Add the icing sugar and beat again, then add your Bailey’s a little at a time and continue to beat until combined.
  7. Top your cakes with the icing either using a piping bag or spreading it on top, then add your decorations. Store the cakes in a cool dry place to prevent the icing from getting too soft. I personally think they taste better kept out of the fridge!