Recipe – Espresso & Rum Semi-Freddo

I didn’t set out to make a semifreddo, it just evolved into one. I was intrigued by the utter simplicity of a classic Italian dessert that should have taken no more than 5 seconds to make in a blender; ricotta, sugar, espresso and dark rum. A quick blitz, nothing more.

Unfortunately, the overnight ‘setting’ process didn’t happen, so I folded in some whipped cream which didn’t in any way detract from the wickedly good combination of rum and coffee. It was still a bit runny for my taste so I stuck it in the freezer for 20 minutes after which it was absolutely perfect.

This is a bit on the boozy side, so is unsuitable for the very young; however, adult children will love it and you can make this in under 30 minutes – from blender to freezer to table – in fact just about the same time it takes to eat your main course.

Espresso & Rum Semifreddo


(Serves 6-8)


1.5 lbs (680g) of ricotta

2/3 cup (160ml) of sugar (caster sugar in the UK)

5 tablespoons of good, dark rum

1/2 cup (120ml) of cold espresso, plus 2 tablespoons

1/2 cup (120ml) of heavy whipping cream, beaten into soft peaks

A few coffee beans for decoration


Put the ricotta, sugar, rum and espresso in a blender – blend until creamy.  Transfer to a bowl and with a large metal spoon, gently fold in the whipped cream.

Divide between dessert glasses ( I like martini glasses) – put them on a tray and stick in the freezer for 20-30 minutes. Top each with a few coffee beans before serving.




Posted in Desserts, Gluten Free Desserts, Made in Under 30 mins | Leave a comment

Recipe – Brazil Nut Pesto & Rice

Who doesn’t love a simple pesto sauce especially as it freezes beautifully, making it one of those easy pasta suppers that you throw together in minutes when you come home feeling too tired to cook?

This version made with Brazil nuts, parsley, tarragon and lemon is fragrant and rich-tasting and the flavors will complement fish, chicken or grilled lamb as a side dish.

Served on it’s own with pasta (or as in this case, with arborio rice), it makes a wonderful vegetarian entrée, in which case you’ll just need to add a few extra shavings of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese. Just cook the pasta in the usual way and toss the pesto into the hot, not overly-drained pasta to serve.

Serve this dish warm or at room temperature.

Brazil Nut Pesto & Rice

Brazil Nut Pesto & Rice


(Serves 4 or 6 as a side dish)


For the pesto:

1/2 cup (120 ml measure) of coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1/4 cup (60ml measure) of Brazil nuts, coarsely chopped
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/2 tsp of finely grated lemon zest
3 tbsp of extra-v olive oil
3 heaped tbsp of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Sea salt and freshly ground pepper


In a food processor combine everything except the olive oil, cheese, sea salt and black pepper. Pulse a few times until you have a coarse paste.

Add the olive oil and Parmesan and pulse again until combined. If it’s too thick, add a little more water. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Cover and refrigerate overnight or freeze it but make sure you bring it back to room temperature before using.

To make the pesto rice you’ll need:

One quantity of the pesto from above, at room temp

8 fl oz (225ml) measure of arborio rice

1 pint (450ml) of boiling vegetable bouillon/stock (preferably organic)

The juice of half a lemon, or so

2 tbsp of extra-v olive oil

Extra shavings of Parmesan (if serving it on it’s own)


Put the rice in a heavy pan with a lid, along with about 1/4 of the pesto recipe. Pour the boiling stock over this, along with 1/2 – 1 teaspoon of sea salt, give it a good stir to combine and bring it to a rapid boil. Cover and lower the heat to a simmer – cook for 20 minutes without checking.

After 20 minutes, remove the pan from the heat and stir in the remaining pesto, lemon juice and 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Check the seasoning and add more lemon juice if you think it needs it.

Transfer the pesto rice to a warmed serving bowl and scatter with shaved Parmesan (or not).

Note – if you’re curious about the nutritional value of Brazil nuts, click here.


Posted in Pasta, Salads & Appetizers, Vegetables / Vegetarian | Leave a comment

Recipe – Smoky Stuffed Mushrooms

Liquid smoke is versatile, completely natural and eliminates the risk of burning your food on the grill, when you want to impart an authentic smoke flavor to your food. Plus I’m a lazy cook.

I marinate tofu in liquid smoke with great results, so thought why not mushrooms as well?

The other versatile ingredient here is porcini powder*. It’s really easy to make (as shown here) and all you need is a spice grinder. It also eliminates the need for soaking, rinsing, straining and chopping dried mushrooms – (I told you I was lazy, didn’t I?)  – and is a wonderful addition to sauces, mashed potatoes, pasta dishes, sauteed mushrooms, or basically anything that cries out for a deeply intense, wild mushroom flavor.

If you don’t gather and dry your own porcini mushrooms, you can buy  small packets of dried porcini in most good supermarkets these days. The Italian ones have the most intense flavor, in my opinion.

This recipe is for 24 stuffed mushrooms and I think two per person as an appetizer will suffice, so adjust your quantities accordingly.

I start making this the day before so that the mushrooms have time to marinate.

Smoky Stuffed Mushrooms

Smoky Stuffed Mushrooms


(Makes 24)


24 small portabella/crimini/chestnut mushrooms about 2 ins (5cm) across, wiped clean with a damp cloth or paper towel, then stalks removed and set aside

For the marinade:

1/4 cup of x-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup of liquid smoke (I used hickory)

Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

For the stuffing:

3 tbsp of x-virgin olive oil

1 cup measure (240ml) of onion, very finely chopped

The mushroom stalks, finely minced

3 tbsp of porcini powder *

1 1/2 cups of plain panko breadcrumbs

1/2 cup of grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

4-5 tablespoons of freshly chopped Italian flat-leaf parsley

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


In a large bowl combine the cleaned mushrooms with ¼ cup of olive oil and the liquid smoke, seasoning with a little sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Toss to evenly coat the ‘shrooms and set them aside to marinate for at least one hour and up to 8. Take them out of the marinade, shake off the excess liquid and arrange them in a single layer on a baking tray, gills-up.

Preheat the oven to 400°F/200C and bake them for about 10 minutes before stuffing (you can make them ahead to this point).

For the stuffing, heat a sauté pan until it’s quite hot then add 3 tablespoons of olive oil and the minced onions. Cook for about 4-6 minutes until the onion has softened, stirring frequently, then add the chopped mushroom stalks, stirring for a minute or so until they’ve also softened. Stir in the porcini powder and cook for another 30 seconds, then transfer the mixture to a bowl and add the breadcrumbs, grated Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley (reserving some for decoration). Season to taste with salt and pepper.

The stuffing should just hold together when squeezed but if it’s too dry and crumbly, add small amounts of olive oil until it holds together.

Divide the stuffing between the mushrooms and bake in a 400F/200C preheated oven for about 15 minutes until slightly crispy on top. Garnish with the remaining chopped parsley and serve them while they’re still warm. Delicious!

Posted in Salads & Appetizers, Vegetables / Vegetarian | Leave a comment

Recipe – Gnocchi

Gnocchi is incredibly easy to make, a lot easier to make than fresh pasta for instance and it’s so comforting, whether you serve it with a robust wild boar ragout or a light tomato and basil sauce (as I did in this instance).

It also cooks in less than 2 minutes and apart from the baked potato (more of that later), you can whip up a batch and have it on the table in under 30 minutes.

That marvelous London-based Italian Chef, Antonio Carluccio recommends using baked potato rather than the usual mashed spud to create a lighter dumpling and he’s absolutely right!

Loving the concept of a light little potato dumpling, and because I didn’t have any Italian flour, I used cake flour and it works very well indeed.

Another great plus is that gnocchi freezes beautifully. Arrange the freshly made dumplings in a single layer on flat tray lined with lightly-floured baking parchment. After 3-4 hours, transfer the frozen gnocchi to a plastic bag. Defrost completely in a single layer before cooking.

So go ahead and impress your friends. They probably won’t believe that you weren’t slaving away for hours in which case, share this recipe with them, courtesy of Antonio Carluccio.




(Enough for 4)


1.75lbs (800g) – about 2 large – baking potatoes

7 oz (200g) of Italian ‘OO’ flour or cake flour

1 medium-large egg

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Your favorite pasta sauce and lots of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano cheese.


Prick the potatoes with a knife and bake them in a preheated 400F (200C) oven for about an hour until soft, then cool until they’re cool enough to handle. Cut then in half and scoop out the potato, discarding the skins or using them for something else.

In a large bowl, mash the cooled potato with a masher (don’t use a blender – it makes the potato heavy). Add the egg and flour and a grind of sea salt and black pepper. Stir everything together then get your hands in there and knead it until you have a nice smooth dough. At some point you’ll find it easier to do this on a lightly floured board.

Take smallish amounts at a time and again on a lightly floured surface, roll the dough with your hands into a long sausage about 3/4 inch (2cm) wide. It only takes a few seconds. Cut them at 3/4 inch (2cm) intervals and using the back of a fork, roll each piece until you have little indentations (they hold the sauce). Set each piece on a lightly floured parchment-lined tray until you’ve made them all this way and are ready to cook.

Bring a lot of salted water to a boil in a large pan – meanwhile start warming your preferred sauce in a separate wide pan over a gentle heat. (Note, if you’re using fresh pesto, just have it in a warmed serving bowl at room temperature and drop the cooked gnocchi onto the pesto and toss thoroughly to coat with sauce).

Once the water is boiling, drop in the gnocchi and lower the heat slightly. After about a minute they’ll float to the surface which means they’re cooked. Transfer them with a slotted spoon to the pan with your warm sauce and serve immediately with lots of freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

Buon appetito!


Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Recipe – Pasta con Pomodori Crudi, Basilico e Aglio

Or in other words, spaghetti with fresh cherry tomatoes, basil, garlic and lots of really good olive oil.

On a friend’s recommendation I found some edamame spaghetti in Costco so bought rather a lot as I was impressed by its high protein, fiber and potassium content, plus I love anything organic. It was a bit of a risk as I’d never tasted it so I wasn’t too surprised to find it had a faint whiff of hay-bale when I opened the packet.

However, it cooked very quickly (3-4 minutes) and following the instructions, I rinsed it immediately in cold water which resulted in a very nice al-dente texture; much nicer in fact than many of those other GF types of pasta that can be quite revolting.

Now faced with a bowl of cooked, cold edamame spaghetti that tasted and smelled a bit un-pasta-like, I decided to smother it with some bright and robust summer flavors; fresh basil, fresh tomatoes and garlic, with lots of extra-virgin olive oil. Pure and simple.

The sauce is raw (‘crudo’), absolutely wonderful and is definitely one for garlic lovers. You can cut back on the garlic but it’s essential so don’t leave it out entirely.

You can make this with regular pasta which will extend your total cooking time to a whopping 11 minutes or so. Once assembled,  I recommend allowing it to sit a room temp for about an hour, allowing the flavors to develop.

Warm crusty bread is the only other thing you’ll need, and of course a nice little chianti – so here you are, summer in a bowl from someone who is now totally hooked on edamame spaghetti!

Pasta with Fresh Tomatoes, Basil, Garlic & Olive Oil


(Enough for two)


Approx 8 oz (227g) of spaghetti (edamame or regular) cooked, rinsed in cold water and drained

A 2/3 oz (19g) packet of fresh basil or the equivalent amount from your own garden, leaves roughly torn

A generous handful or two of very ripe cherry tomatoes, halved

One or 2 fat cloves of garlic, peeled and coarsely chopped

Half a teaspoon of coarse salt

Freshly ground black pepper

About 1/3 – 1/2 cup of the very best cold pressed, extra-virgin olive oil that money can buy


Using a pestle and mortar, pound the garlic with half a teaspoon of salt until you have a creamy emulsion. Whisk that into the olive oil then pour this over the tomatoes and basil in a smallish bowl.

In a large bowl, tip the sauce onto the cooked pasta and give it a generous grind of black pepper. Toss everything together until it’s well combined, then let it sit for about and hour or so at room temperature.


Posted in Pasta, Vegan, Vegetables / Vegetarian | Leave a comment

Recipe – Chicken Salad with a Walnut Sauce

This unusual dish is adapted from a traditional Turkish recipe and is absolutely delicious. Both the chicken and the walnut sauce are served at room temperature so I’m calling it a salad, mainly because I like to serve it over baby mâche lettuce. You can use whatever leafy greens you like.

It’s also very simple to make because I roast my chicken in a slow cooker, doused with a good amount of white wine. This yields a delicious stock without having to boil up the carcass if you roast it in the conventional way. I also like the minimum cleanup associated with using a slow cooker and best of all, time-wise it frees me up to do other things.

I recommend cooking the chicken the day before so that everything is well chilled.

Chicken Salad with a Walnut Sauce


(Serves 6)


A 3.5-4lb (1.5-18kg) chicken, preferably organic and free range

1 large carrot, peeled and chopped

1 large stick of celery, trimmed and chopped

1 medium onion, peeled and quartered

1 bay leaf

a few sprigs of fresh oregano

a large glass of wine and about as much again of water

Sea salt, freshly ground black pepper

For the sauce:

3/4 pint ( 425ml) of chicken stock (from cooking the chicken – make up any shortfall with water)

4oz (110g) of walnuts

2oz (50g) of fresh white breadcrumbs

To finish:

2 tablespoons of walnut oil (or extra-v olive oil) and 1 teaspoon of smoked paprika, mixed together

To serve:

Enough salad leaves for six.


Put the carrot, celery, onion, oregano and bay leaf in the bottom of a slow cooker and sit the chicken on top. Pour the water over the chicken followed by a large glass of white wine, then season with sea salt and black pepper. Cover and cook on the high setting for approx 4 hrs.

After 4 hours, test the chicken by piercing the thigh at the thickest part. If the juices run clear it’s done. Carefully remove the chicken (it may fall apart so collect those stray bits as well) and transfer it to a bowl. Set it aside, cover and chill in the fridge.

Strain the crock pot stock discarding the veg (or maybe give the carrots to your pet). Cover, cool and chill, preferably overnight.

For the sauce (I recommend making this ahead as you want it to cool to room temp), you’ll use 3/4 pint (425ml) of the strained stock which will have jellified during the overnight cooling process. First scrape off any fat from the surface and discard it (or feed it to your pet), then gently heat the stock.

Now put the walnuts and breadcrumbs in a food processor and blitz until you have no remaining nut chunks. Add this to the stock and bring it all to a simmer. Cook for about 5 minutes until you have a nicely thickened sauce. Season with sea salt and black pepper then set it aside to cool.

When you’re ready to assemble the salad, shred the chicken discarding the skin and bones (or use them to make stock for something else).

Divide the salad leaves between 6 plates and arrange the shredded chicken on top. Spoon the walnut sauce over and finish it with a drizzle of paprika oil.


Posted in Poultry | 2 Comments

Recipe – How to Cook Lobster

I’m sure there are many people out there who enjoy fresh lobster but are daunted by the task of cooking it themselves, so when I was invited to my friend’s annual lobster party, this time rather than going for a brisk walk when they got dropped in the pot, I decided to hang around and get instructions.

You hear stories of them scrambling to escape the boiling water but the way she did it put them out of their misery in a nanosecond which made me feel slightly better about it.

When you order lobster in a restaurant, it’s been cleaned, opened up, prettied up and all you need is a small fork. None of that here – this is how to cook and eat a whole lobster and I recommend doing it outside with paper plates, loads of paper napkins and bibs.

You’ll also need nutcrackers, nut picks, plenty of melted butter, corn on the cob, potato salad, etc., as this is a messy, delightful, lobstery feast in traditional Maine style. Plenty of sunshine is also a plus.

I also learned that you can eat every bit with the exception of the shell and feathery gills – the green paste (Tomalley) is particularly delicious!

Note: my friend who hosts her annual event, orders her lobster via ‘Claws for a Cause’ that benefits a really worthy charity, offering free grievance counseling and support to parents who have lost a child through S.I.D.S.

Maine Lobster ~ Ready To Eat

Maine Lobster ~ Ready To Eat

Allow one live lobster weighing approximately 1.5lbs (680g) each, per person.

To cook 3-4 lobster at a time you’ll need a 5-8 quart (4.5 – 7.5 liter) pot with a lid, about one third full of water.

Bring the water to a rapid boil then plunge each lobster into the water headfirst (this kills it instantly). The water will rise, foam up and possibly spill over – a bit messy. You don’t want to skim the foam off. Put the lid on and watch it carefully, taking the lid off a few times to lower the level of foamy water.

Every few minutes and using long tongs, rotate the lobsters so that they all cook evenly.

The lobsters should be cooked after 10-12 minutes – they’ll be bright red and the best way to find out if they’re ready is to gently pull at one of the long feelers which should come away easily.

Transfer the lobsters to a large bowl and once they’re cool enough to handle, get cracking!


Posted in Fish, Made in Under 30 mins, Uncategorized | 2 Comments