Recipe – Cinnamon Spiked Chicken Pilaf with Olives, Lemon & Almonds

I love one-dish meals that involve little effort but taste as though you slaved away for hours.

Apart from the chicken marinating time, this aromatic pilaf will be on the table in under 30 minutes, provided you have all the ingredients lined up first – something I recommend doing anyway.

If you have any leftovers, heat them through gently with a drizzle of cream stirred in – it keeps everything nice and moist.

The chicken can be marinated for 1-24 hours but bring it to room temp before grilling. I prefer boneless, skinless thigh meat over chicken breast as it’s more succulent and has more flavor but you can use either.

The olives I recommend using are the pitted Castelvetrano variety from Sicily due to their rich, buttery quality.

Chicken Pilaf with Green Olives, Lemon & Almonds

Cinnamon Spiked Chicken Pilaf with Lemon, Olives & Almonds


(Serves 4)


14 oz (400g) of boneless, skinless chicken thighs

4 heaped tablespoons of plain yogurt (not fat-free)

2 cloves of garlic, finely minced

1 1/2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon, separated

The finely grated zest of 1 lemon and 2 teaspoons of lemon juice

1 oz (30g) of unsalted butter

2 shallots, minced

7 oz (200g) of basmati rice

1 teaspoon of salt

12 fl oz (350ml) of organic chicken stock

4 oz (115g) of pitted green olives, rinsed and drained

A small handful of fresh cilantro (coriander), chopped

1 oz (30g) of flaked almonds, lightly toasted


In a large bowl, whisk together the yogurt, 1 teaspoon of lemon juice, minced garlic, and 1 teaspoon of the cinnamon. Add the chicken thighs and give them a good stir to coat well. Set aside for 30 minutes at room temp, or refrigerate covered for up to 24 hrs but bring them back to room temp before cooking.

To cook the chicken, grill/broil for 5 minutes each side until golden brown in patches and cooked through. Set aside covered with foil while you cook the rice.

Preheat the oven to 350F /180C.  (it should already be hot enough from the grill).

In a wide ovenproof skillet or heavy casserole with a lid, heat the butter until foaming and saute the minced shallot until soft and translucent, then add the rice and give it a good stir to coat each grain, followed by the salt, lemon zest, 1 teaspoon of lemon juice and the remaining half teaspoon of cinnamon. Add the stock, bring it to a boil then put the lid on and stick it in the oven for 15 minutes.

Remove the rice from the oven and stir in the olives and chopped cilantro. Set aside, covered while you chop the chicken into smallish chunks, then fold them through the rice.

Serve immediately with a squeeze of lemon on the side and a green vegetable, or not.



Posted in Made in Under 30 mins, Poultry | Leave a comment

Recipe – Rosemary-Scented Blackberry Fool

When you find yourself in a field that’s almost completed fenced in by towering blackberry bushes loaded with fruit, you have to run and get a large container.

I know I go on about British fruit but I can honestly say that I’ve never seen so many blackberries in one location in my entire life – and they were perfectly ripe and smelled heavenly.

Scratched to pieces, with deep purple fingers and aching arms, I staggered back to the house barely able to carry the load.

As time was tight, most of them ended up in the freezer but I did make this lovely summer dessert for that evening’s meal, taking advantage of a small sun-warmed rosemary bush, just outside the kitchen door.

So simple and absolutely luscious with perfumed fruit.

Rosemary Scented Blackberry Fool


(Serves 4-6)


A sprig of fresh rosemary

1lb (approx 500g) of ripe blackberries

2 oz (56g) of fine white (caster) sugar

The juice of half a lemon and a good-sized piece of lemon zest with no white pith

11 fl oz (330ml) of heavy whipping (double) cream

7 oz (200ml) of Greek style low fat or fat-free yogurt


Put the sprig of rosemary, lemon zest, lemon juice, sugar and all but 12 blackberries (set aside for decoration) in a large pan and bring it to a boil over a medium heat for a few minutes, until the blackberries have released a lot of lovely purple juice but haven’t quite fallen apart. Adjust the sugar to taste and allow it to cool, then remove the rosemary and lemon zest.

You can make this a day ahead – just cover and chill it in the fridge.

In a large bowl, whisk the cream to form soft peaks then fold in the yogurt. Once they’re well combined, fold in about a third of the blackberries and juice, just enough to create a marbled effect.

Divide the remaining blackberries and their juice among 4-6 pretty dessert glasses, top with the fruit-yogurt mixture and decorate with fresh blackberries. You can assemble these an hour or so ahead; just chill them in the fridge.



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

Recipe- Roasted Pork Loin with Spiced Plums

British plums are best. There, I’ve said it and nothing will persuade me otherwise.

Picking plums from trees that are buckled over by the weight of ripe fruit is incredibly nostalgic – especially as it was bucketing down with rain – I was flooded with childhood memories of late summer fruit-gathering in wet and soggy English gardens.

This time I was a guest at an English country house and so armed with a huge basket, I went to the bottom of a very long garden to pick as many plums as possible. Most of the purple variety were still hard as bullets but the golden plums were so ripe, they were almost translucent. Some plucked straight from the tree had become positively alcoholic but those were eaten there and then as they would have been too soft to cut  – but not so alcoholic that I couldn’t tackle the task at hand.

So, faced with about 30lbs weight of ripe fruit and having prepped and frozen most of them, I had to find a way to cook them (besides stewing and puréeing), in order to produce a delicious supper for my friends and hosts.

This old standby fit the bill perfectly so here it is; great British pork with spiced plums – impressive enough for a dinner party, absolutely delicious and quite simple to make.

Note: if you prepare the plums and sauce the day before, this dish can be on the table in 40 minutes.

Roast Pork Loin with Spiced Plums

Roasted Pork Loin with Spiced Plums


(Serves 4-6)


6-8 large, ripe but still firm plums (I used a combination of purple and golden plums) quartered and stoned

2 cups (480ml) of medium dry white wine

1 cup (240ml) of dry red wine

2 whole star anise

A stick of cinnamon

1/4 cup (60ml) of sugar plus a separate 1.25 teaspoons

2 cups (480ml) of low sodium chicken broth

5 fresh thyme sprigs, plus 3 separate teaspoons of finely chopped thyme

2 tablespoons of finely chopped shallot

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

Two 1.25 pound (just over half a kilo each) of pork tenderloins

3 tablespoons of olive oil

A few chopped fresh chives to finish


Combine the first 5 ingredients and 1/4 cup (60ml) of the sugar in a heavy saucepan and bring it to the boil stirring gently until the sugar dissolves, then reduce the heat and simmer until the plums are tender (15-20 minutes). Using a slotted spoon, transfer the plums to a shallow dish then strain the liquid and return it to the saucepan.

Add the chicken broth, 5 thyme sprigs and chopped shallot to the plum cooking liquid and bring it to a boil, cooking until it’s reduced to about 1 cup (240ml). Strain the sauce again and stir in 1.25 teaspoons of sugar and 1 teaspoon of the chopped thyme. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Set it aside.

You can make it up to one day ahead to here – just cover the sauce and plums separately and put them in the fridge. Bring both back to room temp when you’re ready to proceed. It will take approximately 40 minutes to finish the dish from this point.

When you’re ready to cook the tenderloin, preheat the oven to 400°F/200C.

Pat the pork dry then brush all over with 1 tablespoon of olive oil, then sprinkle all over with the remaining 2 tablespoons of thyme and minced garlic. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil in large ovenproof skillet large enough to contain both tenderloins, over a medium to high heat. Brown the pork on all sides, turning often for about 4-5 minutes.

Transfer the skillet to the preheated oven, and roast the pork for 20 minutes. Remove it from the oven, tent it with foil and let the pork rest for 10 minutes while you gently reheat the sauce and plums.

To serve, carve the tenderloins crosswise into ½”/1.25cm thick slices and serve the sliced pork on a warmed platter with the poached plums and sauce poured over.

Sprinkle with chopped chives and offer some mashed potatoes and a green vegetable on the side.

Golden Plums

Very English Golden Plums


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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!


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