July | 2014 | The Proof of the Pudding


Following on from the sangria recipe in my last blog post, I have another Spanish-themed recipe for you. This would actually be a perfect dish to serve with a big jug of chilled sangria, either by itself as a main course or alongside a feast of other tapas dishes like tortilla, calamari or patatas bravas.

This is a simple recipe, with ingredients that work together like a dream. The chorizo is salty and spicy, but doesn’t overpower the sweet prawns. The lemon and white wine (or, even better, sherry) add the acidity that the prawns need, and the parsley brings everything together. This dish is best made with raw, unpeeled prawns, but I couldn’t get my hands on any raw ones this time. Using cooked prawns is fine, but reduce the cooking time accordingly – add the prawns and alcohol at the same time, rather than waiting for the prawns to colour first. If you’re not on board with peeling your own prawns then feel free to use ready-peeled ones, but the shells add extra seafood flavour and there’s nothing better than an interactive dinner. Who doesn’t like to play with their food?

Ingredients (serves 1 as a generous main, or 2-3 as a starter or tapas dish) 150g chorizo 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped 150g prawns with the shell on 1 small glass (about 150ml) of white wine or sherry 1 lemon

1 small bunch parsley, roughly chopped

Method 1. Slice the chorizo into small bite-sized chunks.


Last week was named Salad Week and we had different summer salads from sweetcorn salsa to refreshing watermelon to raw fennel. All delicious, healthy dishes, packed with strong flavours and perfect for summer eating. However, in the interest of balance this week will be all about booze and frying.

In our house, sangria means New Year (or Hogmanay as we call it here). A slightly odd combination, I’m not actually sure where it came from, but it’s now a firm family tradition. Sangria is one of my favourite alcoholic cocktails, and when I’m in Spain I can drink it by the bucket load with a bowl of olives and be happy with the world. It’s the perfect drink to make for a barbecue during the summer, or for any occasion that involves lots of people, as you can multiply up the quantities to serve as many as you like – just make sure you have a jug big enough!

This recipe is based on one from Katie Stewart’s Cookbook (our cooking bible, as I mentioned before), with a little extra booze and fruit thrown in for good measure. You can follow this exact recipe to start with, but adapt it to your own taste as you learn what works for you. I’ve had some sangrias in Spain that have enough liquor to get you under the table after just a couple of glasses (I remember one particular concoction at a beach bar which included nearly every spirit in the bar – actually very delicious, but totally deadly) so experiment with different spirits if that’s up your street. If you have a particularly sweet tooth then use lemonade instead of soda water, but personally I find this too much. As for the fruit, basically anything goes. We added peach in to this batch and it worked a treat, as would nectarine. Melon is a great addition to sangria, though some people don’t like the taste. I should probably tell you to get a half decent wine to use, and in fact a Rioja is a perfect option if you find a nice bottle, but really this is a great opportunity to use a cheaper wine. Once the fruit, spirits and soda have gone in, no one will be any wiser. Even more true after a couple of glasses have been quaffed.

Ingredients 1 orange 2 lemons Any other fruit you like e.g. apple, peach, melon 1 tbsp sugar 1 tbsp brandy 1 tbsp cointreau 70cl bottle of red wine, chilled

350ml soda water, chilled

Method 1. Chop the fruit into similarly sized pieces. Remove any pips from the lemons and orange, but leave the skin on.

2. Place the fruit into a large jug and pour over the sugar and spirits. Mix well and leave to marinade for at least an hour.

3. Add the chilled red wine to the jug and leave for at least another half hour.

4. When ready to serve top the sangria up with soda water. You can alter the quantities of soda water to your taste, depending on whether you like the sangria weaker or stronger.

5. Fill glasses with ice and pour over the sangria with some fruit pieces.

Serve as a punch at a party, with the main course of a Spanish meal or as an aperitif with olives, some sliced Manchego cheese and serrano ham or just some fresh crusty bread with olive oil and balsamic vinegar for dipping. Close your eyes as you sip and you could nearly be on the beaches of Spain.


We’re finishing off Salad Week with a vegetable that is very much in the love-hate category for most people. If you love fennel, then you are definitely going to love this salad and will take no convincing to try making it. However, even if you think you dislike fennel, I’m going to try to persuade you to give this recipe a go anyway. I used to despise fennel – I found the flavour of cooked fennel overwhelming and just couldn’t understand how anyone could enjoy it. Then I discovered Jamie Oliver’s raw fennel and radish salad and suddenly I saw the light. Raw fennel is crisp, sweet and juicy. It still has a strong aniseed flavour, but somehow this worked for me in its fresh, raw form. After a few years of enjoying raw fennel in salads, I now find myself liking cooked fennel in certain dishes – particularly with white fish. I’m on the path to fennel enlightenment.

In my mind, this is a perfect way to get on board with fennel. The intense vegetable can stand up to the chilli heat and zesty lemon, and the courgette adds a sweet mellow flavour. If you really can’t stand fennel, but want a similar salad then substitute it for a bunch of raw asparagus sliced into thin shavings with a speed peeler. Or just double up on the courgette quantities, especially if you can get your hands on both green and yellow courgettes for a burst of colour.

Ingredients 1 medium courgette 2 small fennel bulbs A few sprigs of mint 1 red chilli 1 lemon 1 tbsp olive oil

Salt and pepper

Method 1. Slice the courgette into thin ribbons. You can do this with a sharp knife if you have the patience and don’t want the thinnest possible slices, but the easiest way to achieve ribbons is with a speed peeler. You can also use a mandolin or the slicer attachment on a food processor, if you have those. Place in a large bowl.

2. Remove the fennel tops (keeping the fronds for decoration) and the bases. Thinly slice with a knife (or again with a mandolin or food processor if you wish) and add to the courgette.

3. Finely chop the leaves from the mint sprigs. Slice the chilli thinly on the diagonal. It’s a good idea to try a small piece of your chilli first to find out how hot it is – I used about half of the chilli shown.

4. Add the chilli and mint to the vegetables along with the zest from one lemon. Mix thoroughly, adding the juice from half the lemon and the olive oil. Season to taste and place in the fridge to chill for half an hour or more.

5. Once chilled give the salad another mix up and transfer to your serving bowl. Top with some of the delicate fennel tops and some extra sliced chilli.

This salad is very versatile. We had it with steak, chips and a large glass of red wine, but it would be perfect served with some grilled chicken or fish and chilled white wine.

How do you feel about fennel? Have you always loved it, grown to like it or is it firmly on the hate list? Might this recipe change your mind….?


Ok so this one might take some convincing. In fact, when I served it up last Friday night there were initially some suspicious glances and tentative prods with forks. But once everyone had tucked in and tried some, the conclusion was that this salad was a resounding success.

This recipe comes from a family friend of many years (Thanks Valerie!) and I absolutely adore it. I cannot get enough of watermelon, so I guess it’s an easy sell, and I’m sure lots of you love it too, as a sweet snack or dessert. However, you might not ever have had it in a savoury dish and right now you may be shaking your head at the computer screen, with an eyebrow sardonically raised. But, believe me, the addition of sharp onion, aromatic mint and tangy vinegar creates an unbelievable salad. It’s fresh, it’s sweet and savoury (the best combination to ever exist) and it’s super-summery. This is a refreshing, unusual side dish to serve up at a summer dinner or barbecue, and eat in the warm evening sunshine.

Ingredients 1 medium watermelon 1 small red onion 4-6 sprigs of mint 4 tbsp rice vinegar

Freshly ground black pepper

Method 1. Remove the rind from the melon and chop into bite-size chunks. If your watermelon is full of black seeds you probably want to remove these, but the smaller, thinner white ones aren’t a problem.

2. Dice the red onion and finely chop the mint leaves.

3. Mix the red onion and mint with the water melon chunks and sprinkle over the rice vinegar. Season generously with black pepper and toss thoroughly.

Chill in the fridge until you’re ready to serve. This salad is best eaten on the day you make it, as the watermelon doesn’t keep for long once it’s cut up.

Watermelon salad? Be brave and give it a go!


This week we’re all about salads. But never fear, these are not limp salad leaves topped with a sad halved cherry tomato and slice of cucumber, nor an uninspiring pile of shredded iceberg lettuce. These are fresh, vibrant, interesting salads that are bursting with flavour and made for summer eating.

Today’s recipe is a sweetcorn salad. It’s sweet from corn and cherry tomatoes, savoury from onion and pepper, fragrant from coriander and zingy from lime juice. The dish can take on different guises, as the name suggests: keep the ingredients chunky as I did in order to serve it as a salad, or finely chop everything to turn it into a delicious salsa which could be served with tortilla chips. If you feel like something spicier then some finely chopped red chilli would be an excellent addition.

Ingredients 250g frozen sweetcorn 150g cherry tomatoes 6 spring onions Small bunch of coriander 1 red bell pepper 1 lime 1 tbsp olive oil

Salt and pepper

Method 1. Remove the sweetcorn from the freezer and allow to defrost at room temperature for a few hours. Quarter the tomatoes, chop the spring onion into small pieces and finely chop the coriander. If you forget about the red pepper (read: I forgot to buy a red pepper) then just chop it into squares and add to the salad later!

2. Place all the vegetables and the coriander into a bowl and mix well.


3. Squeeze the juice of 1 lime over the salad and drizzle with olive oil. Season to taste and pile into a serving bowl. Top with some extra lime wedges if it takes your fancy.

This dish is the ideal side dish for a barbecue. The first time I made it we had it with chicken marinated in my homemade barbecue sauce and sticky glazed sausages, and the second was as part of a Spanish meal alongside barbecued paella and some small tapas dishes. It would transport well in a tupperware tub for a picnic, or, as I suggested above, chop it finely and serve as a starter. I think this just might be my new favourite summer salad!


It’s been a busy few weeks. Trips to the countryside, graduations, birthdays, painting, football, tennis, family celebrations, BBQs. Just like summer should be. Unfortunately it has meant that there has been very little time to photograph and write up new blog posts, although we have still been doing a lot of cooking (including an incredible beef brisket recipe which I can’t wait to share with you, if I could just manage to photograph it before it all gets gobbled up!).

But today I’m back with a simple, yet satisfying recipe: strawberry muffins. I used Paul Hollywood’s recipe for blueberry muffins, substituting the fruit and adding some vanilla extract for good measure. He recommends leaving the mixture to rest overnight, but after reading this article by Felicity Cloake (whose “How to make the perfect” series I absolutely love) I decided to skip this step in the name of speed and ease. I have to admit that blueberry muffins are still my all-time favourite flavour, but right now seems like the perfect time to go with a seasonal, summery fruit. If you have some slightly over-ripe strawberries then these light and fluffy muffins are the ideal way to use them up.

Ingredients (makes 9 muffins) 100g butter, softened 65g caster sugar 2 medium eggs 1 tsp vanilla extract 110g plain flour 110g plain flour 1½ tsp baking powder

125g ripe strawberries

Method 1. Preheat the oven to 180C fan/200C/Gas Mark 6 and line a muffin tray with 9 paper cases. If you don’t have paper cases then don’t worry – cut small squares of baking parchment and press them into the moulds, folding slightly in a few places. Pleasingly rustic.

2. Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.

3. Add the eggs one at a time and then the vanilla, mixing for a few minutes. Fold through the flour and baking powder and stir well to combine.

4. Chop the strawberries into small pieces and fold through the muffin mixture.


5. Spoon the mixture into the cases, filling to roughly half way. Bake for 20 minutes until golden brown.

Cool on a wire rack.


These are delicious eaten still warm from the oven, but will also keep well for a couple of days in an airtight container. If they survive hungry siblings and last that long…