Recipe – Poached Egg Vol-au-Vents with Spinach, Wild Mushrooms, Goat Cheese & Hollandaise

Someone just gave me a few duck eggs and I already had a stash of sauteed chanterelles and frozen puff pastry in the freezer, so this was pretty easy to put together.

However, the simple recipe below is made from scratch and as it’s rather rich, it would make a luxurious brunch or *drunch dish  – either way it’s quite wonderful.

Duck eggs are almost twice the size of regular hen eggs, which explains the top heavy pic but they aren’t necessary and neither are the chanterelles.  Good old chuck eggs and little brown ‘shrooms would do very nicely here.

*drunch = one of those lingering lunches accompanied by good wine.

poached egg vol au vents with wild mushrooms, spinach & goat cheese

Poached Egg Vol-au-Vent with Spinach, Wild Mushrooms, Goat Cheese & Hollandaise


(Serves 4)


4 uncooked puff pastry vol-au-vent cases

A splash of olive oil

3oz (85g) of soft mild goat cheese

5oz (140g) of ready-washed baby spinach leaves

3oz (85g) of fresh wild mushrooms such as porcini or chanterelles – or small crimini/brown chestnut mushrooms, finely sliced

4 large eggs (hen or duck)

Sea salt

A few snipped chives to finish

Ingredients for the easy microwave hollandaise sauce:

2 large egg yolks

Juice of a quarter to ½ a lemon, to taste

A pinch of cayenne

A pinch of sea salt

4 tablespoons of butter, melted


To make the pastry cases and filling:

To make the vol-au-vents, preheat the oven to 425F and bake them for 18 mins until puffed and golden. When cool enough to handle, pull off and discard the tops and any uncooked pastry inside, leaving a hollow, crisp shell. Keep warm.

(Can be made ahead; just keep in an airtight container at room temp)

For the filling and while the pastry is cooking, heat a couple of tablespoons of oil in a large sauté pan set over a medium heat. When the pan is hot, sauté the mushrooms until golden, add the baby spinach and cook, stirring until it’s wilted.  Take it off the heat and stir in the goat cheese until it melts. Cover and set it aside while you poach the eggs and make the hollandaise.

(The filling can also be made ahead – cover and chill but bring it to room temp before stuffing the vol-au vents, then warm them through in a 350F oven while you poach the eggs and make the sauce)

While the vol-au-vents are heating through, bring a pan of salted water to a boil and poach the eggs for 3-4 minutes depending on size.

While the eggs are poaching, make the hollandaise. In a microwaveable bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, lemon juice, cayenne and salt. In a thin stream, pour the melted butter over the yolk mixture, whisking all the time. Microwave for 10 seconds then whisk. Repeat this 4 – 5 times or until you have a lovely thick sauce.

Serve right away on warmed plates – top each spinach and mushroom-stuffed pastry case with a poached egg and a couple of tablespoons of hollandaise followed by a sprinkle of snipped chives.

Posted in Eggs, Made in Under 30 mins, Vegetables / Vegetarian | Leave a comment

Recipe – Truffled Lobster Mac ‘n Cheese

Looking for something really luxurious to serve on New Year’s Eve that doesn’t involve hours of prep?

This is my easy version of lobster mac ‘n cheese using ready cooked chunks of lobster and *lobster juice  – and it doesn’t require baking in the oven like regular mac ‘n cheese.

Generously studded with glorious chunks of lobster meat and finished with a drizzle of white truffle oil – it really doesn’t get much better than this!

*Bottled lobster juice (8oz / 240ml) is available from Whole Foods and if you can’t find it, just double up on the half and half or pouring cream.

Truffled Lobster Mac 'n Cheese

Truffled Lobster Mac ‘ n Cheese


(6 servings)


1lb (453g) of macaroni, dry weight

1lb (453g) of cooked lobster meat, cut into bite sized chunks (Costco sells bags of frozen lobster meat that’s perfect for this, unless you want to start with a live one…)

1 medium sized shallot, finely minced

1 clove of garlic, minced or crushed

5 tablespoons of unsalted butter

4 tablespoons of all-purpose / plain flour

A pinch of cayenne

A pinch of freshly ground nutmeg

3/4 teaspoon of dry mustard powder

1 bay leaf

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1.5 cups (354ml) of half and half or pouring cream

1.5 cups (354ml) of lobster juice plus extra to finish (that’s two 8fl oz / 240ml bottles) or half and half as above

4 oz (113g) of Marscapone

4.5 oz (128g) of grated Gruyere

4.5 oz (128g) of grated Fontina

White truffle oil to finish


In a separate large pan, melt the butter and gently sweat the shallots and garlic until soft and translucent. Add the flour, nutmeg, cayenne and mustard, stirring for about 2 minutes to create a ‘roux’, then slowly whisk in the half and half and lobster juice. Add sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste then add the bay leaf and bring it to a gently simmer for about 8-10 minutes until it thickens, stirring every minute or so.

Start cooking the pasta.

Back to the sauce; once thickened, discard the bay leaf and reduce the heat to very, very low. Fold in the Marscapone until it melts into the sauce, followed by the grated Gruyere and Fontina. Stir well to melt the cheeses.

Quickly drain the pasta and fold it into to the sauce along with the remaining lobster water (if you aren’t using lobster water, use some of the pasta cooking water if the sauce needs thinning out) Stir to combine and check the seasoning.

Fold in the fresh lobster meat and let everything heat through gently for a couple of minutes before dividing between warmed individual bowls.

To serve, top each bowl of pasta with a small drizzle of really good white truffle oil (don’t overdo it as you don’t want the truffle to dominate)

Happy New Year!


Posted in Fish & Seafood, Pasta | 2 Comments

Recipe – Salmon Tagine with Lemony Couscous

Here’s a deliciously different  way of serving fresh salmon that’s been marinated in an African spice paste called chermoula. If you can’t find chermoula, make your own (*simple instructions below) – it will taste even better.

Served over a lemony, minted couscous, this colorful and rather exotically fragrant dish is loaded with vegetables – and if you don’t make your own preserved lemon, use finely grated fresh lemon zest to give the couscous a perfumed tang.

Start by marinating the salmon for an hour or better yet, overnight if you have time.

Note: I used little purple potatoes because that’s what I had  but for a brighter-looking dish, use baby white potatoes or the red-skinned variety.


Tagine of Wild Salmon & Vegetables with Lemony Minted Couscous


(Serves 4)


5 fl oz (170g) of chermoula paste (recipe below)

1lb of wild salmon fillet, skinned and cut into chunks

11 oz (300g) of wholewheat couscous

A good grind of sea salt

The thinly sliced rind of 1/2 a preserved lemon – or the finely grated zest of half a fresh lemon

3 tablespoons of extra-v olive oil (for the couscous)

A small bunch of fresh mint, leaves stripped and chopped (save a few for a garnish)

3 tablespoons of olive oil

1 medium red onion, thinly sliced

2 medium carrots, peeled and sliced

12 oz (340g) of baby potatoes, washed and halved

1 teaspoon of ground cumin

2 fat cloves of garlic, minced

14oz (400g) can of chopped tomatoes and their juice

A handful of pitted kalamata olives, halved


Spread the chermoula paste over the fish, cover and chill for at least 1 hr or overnight.

Make the couscous: put it in a bowl with a grind of sea salt and pour 14fl oz (400ml) of boiling water over. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes then fluff it with a fork. Add most of the lemon peel (or fresh lemon zest), the extra-v olive oil and chopped mint. Set it aside.

In a heavy sauté pan, heat the remaining oil over a medium heat then add the sliced onion, carrots, potatoes, cumin and a good grind of sea salt. Sauté for 5-6 minutes then add the garlic and sauté for another 2-3 minutes.

Add the canned tomatoes along with 10 fl oz (300ml) of water and the olives. Bring it to a boil then reduce to a gentle simmer for 20 minutes until the vegetables are slightly tender. Add the fish, gently tossing to combine, then simmer for another 5-6 minutes until everything is cooked through.

Check the seasoning and let it sit covered for another 5 minutes. Serve with the couscous plus a few mint leaves and the remaining lemon peel or zest scattered over.


Put the following ingredients in a blender and pulse until you have a thick, green-flecked paste:

250ml fresh cilantro (coriander leaf)

4 fat cloves of garlic

2 tbsp of white wine vinegar

The juice of 1 lemon

1 tbsp of ground paprika

1 tbsp of ground cumin

1 red chili, seeds discarded

2 tbsp of olive oil

Posted in Fish & Seafood | 4 Comments

Recipe – Easy Chicken Tortilla Soup

If you have a slow cooker and a can opener, this is one of the easiest, tastiest and most heartwarming soups imaginable and it only takes about 15 minutes to assemble – the next 5-6 hrs of simmering in a slow cooker can mind its own business while your working, skiing or whatever it is you like to do elsewhere.

The wonderful aroma that greets you when you return is just what you’ll need when you stagger home cold and exhausted.  Even if your’e bouncing with energy, this soup will make a delicious and fool-proof addition to your repertoire.

A meal in itself and bursting with spicy Southwestern flavors, there are many versions out there – I happen to like this one, adapted from a friend’s recipe.

Toppings can include crispy tortilla strips or chips, sour cream, fresh cilantro (coriander), sliced avocado, chopped chives, shredded Jack (or mozzarella) cheese…or not.

Either way, this hits the spot.

Chicken Tortilla Soup

Southwestern Chicken Tortilla Soup


(6 servings)


1lb of boneless, skinless chicken breast

1 x 15oz can (425g) of black beans, rinsed and drained

1 x 15oz can (425g) or chopped tomatoes – preferably fire-roasted

12oz (340g) of frozen sweetcorn kernels

1 large red and 1 large green pepper, seeded and diced

1 medium onion, finely chopped

3 fat cloves of garlic, minced

A small handful of fresh cilantro (coriander), chopped

1 tablespoon of ground cumin

1 bay leaf

1-2 large tablespoons of chipotle in adobo sauce, chopped (or chili powder)

1 teaspoon of sea salt

2 – 3 cups (480ml – 720ml) of chicken stock


Combine everything in your slow cooker and nestle the chicken breast somewhere in the middle.  Cook on low for 8 hrs or high for 5-6.

Before serving, use two forks to shred the chicken to distribute it throughout the soup.

To serve, top with all, some or none of the suggestions listed above.

Like many soups, this tastes even better the next day – just warm it through gently.



Posted in Poultry, Soups | 1 Comment

Recipe – Banana Nut Chocolate Chip Oat Bites

Just 4 ingredients; three if you leave out the nuts. You could also leave out the chocolate chips but why deny yourself? These chewy little cookie bites are ridiculously simple to make and are a delicious grab-and-go breakfast substitute or anytime snack, when your energy is lagging a bit.

They’re also yummy dunked in a cold glass of milk or served with a nice cup of tea.

This almost non-recipe comes courtesy of a friend. You know who you are and I want you to know that I’ve eaten six today already.

Oh – and they’re healthy.

And vegan.

Banana Walnut Chocolate Chip Oat Cookies

Banana Nut Choc-Chip Oat Bites


(Makes approx 16)


2 ripe bananas, mashed

1 cup (240ml measure) of quick cooking oats

1/4 cup (60ml measure) of chopped walnuts or pecans

1/4 cup of organic dark chocolate chips


Preheat the oven to 350F / 180C.

Line a baking sheet with parchment. Mix the mashed banana with the oats until well combined then stir in the chopped nuts followed by the chocolate chips. Make sure everything is well blended then drop walnut-sized amounts onto the baking sheet, flattening slightly.

Bake for 15 minutes – cool. They store well in an airtight container for a few days – not that they’ll last that long.

Note – if you like your cookies dairy and wheat free, try these made with chocolate chips and peanut butter -they’re amazingly good, only take 12 minutes to bake and freeze like a dream!




Posted in Cookies & Edible Gifts, Vegan, Vegetables / Vegetarian | Leave a comment

Recipe – Tagliatelle with Oven Roasted Baby Tomatoes, Basil & Goat Cheese

Baby tomatoes roasted with garlic, olive oil and a splash of balsamic vinegar create an intensely delicious sauce for pasta in just 20 minutes. Roast tomatoes are also fabulous served with grilled lamb.

I like it served over fresh tagliatelle, topped with torn basil leaves and a soft goat cheese.

A simple, hearty pasta and very easy to make.

Tagliatelle with Roasted Baby Tomatoes, Basil & Goat Cheese


(Enough for 4 servings)


2 pints/4 cups/1 liter measure of tiny tomatoes, any variety

3-4 cloves of garlic, minced

2 tablespoons of olive oil

2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar

A few chili flakes (for optional bite)

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

A good handful of fresh basil leaves, torn

3 oz/85g of soft fresh goat cheese, crumbled

Enough pasta for 4 people


Preheat the oven to 400F/200C.

Combine the tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and balsamic vinegar in a roasting pan. Season with sea salt and black pepper (add a few chili flakes if you want some heat) and toss well to coat the tomatoes. Roast them for about 20 minutes, stirring every 5 minutes or so, until the tomatoes are starting to pop. Even if they don’t all burst open, they’ll still be cooked through. With a slotted spoon, transfer the tomatoes to a separate bowl and keep them warm.

Over a moderate heat, reduce the remaining liquid in the roasting pan by about half while you’re cooking the pasta.

Drain the pasta (if you use fresh pasta it only takes about 4 minutes to cook), tip it into a warmed serving bowl and pour the reduced sauce over, tossing well to combine.

Add the roasted tomatoes to the pasta along with any accumulated juices, then top with torn basil leaves and goat cheese.

Serve immediately (although it tastes wonderful at room temperature).

Posted in Made in Under 30 mins, Pasta, Vegetables / Vegetarian | Leave a comment

Recipe – A Simple Pear Tart

It really doesn’t get much simpler than this. If you don’t have time to make an elaborate dessert but want to create something with lots of oooh-factor, then this luscious little fruit tart with a flaky crust is an absolute winner.

You also wont mind cheating by using frozen puff pastry (which incidentally, is usually vegan unless it mentions butter on the packaging).

All you need are a few ripe, juicy Bartlet pears, a scattering of flaked almonds, a splash of amaretto perhaps – and a sprinkling of sugar. That’s it.

Barely a recipe.

A Simple Pear Tart with Flaked Almonds


(Makes 6 individual tarts)


6 raw frozen puff pastry shells, defrosted

3 medium to large ripe, juicy pears, halved and cored, then each half cut into 5 wedges

A good handful of flaked almonds

A splash or two of Amaretto liqueur

A tablespoon or so of fine white sugar

A little beaten egg


Preheat the oven to 400F (200C)

Ignoring the fact that raw puff pastry shells are designed to rise and be stuffed with something, roll them out into a circle on a lightly floured board until they’re about 4-5 inches (10-12cm) across. Brush a little beaten egg around the edge and roll it in about 1/2 inch (1cm) and press lightly to create a rim. Transfer the pastry circles to a parchment-lined baking sheet.

Arrange the pears slices in the center of each tart and scatter with flaked almonds. Give each a splash of Amaretto followed by a good sprinkling of sugar.

Bake in the middle of the oven for about 20 minutes or until the pastry is puffed and golden and the pears are tender.

Allow to cool slightly before serving with custard, cream or vanilla ice cream.

So simple and so very good.

Posted in Desserts, Vegan | Leave a comment