Smoking Chestnut Noodles

Great dish that’s simple and quick to prepare, but tastes and looks like you’ve put a lot of effort in!


  • Noodles, one ‘nest’ per person
  • Cooked vacuum packed chestnuts, chopped
  • Smoked tofu, chopped
  • Dark soy sauce
  • Fresh chives, chopped
  • Fresh chilli, chopped
  • Spices such as Baharat, or an Oriental spice mixture
  • 2tsp smoked paprika
  • Olive oil
  • 2tsp brown sugar
  • Stock


Cook the noodles first in the stock.

Add the rest of the ingredients and heat through.

Serve immediately.

How to eat mince pies and not get fat

The average shop-bought mince-pie contains around 253 calories, making it one of the main reasons why you’re going to get fat this Christmas. One mince-pie and one for the road is about quarter of the calories you’d need to consume in a day. Now you know why Santa struggles with his weight.

What’s the alternative? Well eating such mince-pies doesn’t allow you to get away with being a pig over Christmas, but there is an alternative. If you make your own mince-pies with filo pastry and nice quality mincemeat, instead of 253 calories per pie, you consume only 43 calories per mince pie. That means, not only can you get away with eating more of them, you can also say ‘Yes, thankyou, I would like a large dollop of rum cream to go with it.’

Oh yes.

All you do is:

  • get 6 sheets of filo pastry,cut into 8 strips.
  • put a dollop of mincemeat at one end, and fold over into a triangle
  • keep folding over and over until you run out of pastry
  • use up all the pastry
  • put on making trays
  • bake in preheated oven at about 160ºC for about 10 mins (but keep checking).
  • serve with cream. You can because you have a nice calorie margin right there.

I’d take a picture of the finished items, but my camera’s broken, so I ate them instead.

Hot spiced beetroot and halloumi protein boost salad

Warm salads always sound a bit dodgy to me. This one’s hot. Serve it hot out of the oven (or reheated) and add as much spice as you like. It’s a great way of boosting your protein intake – but better still, it just tastes nice.

If you’re keen on boosting your protein intake, this will give you about 50g of protein (obviously it’ll serve more than one person – how many depends on how hungry/greedy you are!)


  • 200g beans – either a drained can, or the equivalent dried and soaked beans – haven’t tried it with baked beans though 😉
  • 4 cooked beetroots diced
  • 1 pack of half fat halloumi cheese
  • 200g tofu chunks (the marinated ones are particularly nice)
  • Spices to taste such as black pepper, chilli, cloves, allspice or something middle eastern, perhaps


Dice everything and chuck it in a grill-proof dish and add the spices, putting the halloumi on top.

Grill it for a few minutes until it’s browning.



Iced Tea with Apple

Great iced drink for hot summer days.


  • Two large pots of freshly brewed darjeeling tea
  • 250ml or threabouts of apple juice
  • Fresh mint leaves
  • Plenty of ice


Pretty simple, add them all to a large jug. Enjoy from a deck chair as an accompaniment to a good book.

Mince Pie Cake

A great way to use that left over mincemeat that you’re never sure what to do with.


  • 70g brown sugar, soft
  • 50g butter
  • 150g self raising flour
  • 1 egg
  • splosh of rum or whiskey, or whatever tipple you fancy
  • 100g mincemeat (you can add more depending on consistency of cake mixture)


Preheat oven to 160°C

Mix the butter, sugar and rum (or alternative) together.

Add the flour and egg, and then finally add the mincemeat. Add more mincemeat so the mixture is firm but still sticky.

Add to a greased tin or silicone container.

Spread a thin layer of mincemeat over the top.

Bake for 30 mins. (But keep checking, might need more or less, depending on your oven).

Mmmm. Enjoy.

Pineapple and Banana Cake


  • 50g butter
  • 75g brown sugar
  • 150g self-raising flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1 banana, mashed
  • Slices or chunks of pineapple to top with (fresh or tinned in juice – thoroughly dried with kitchen paper)
  • A couple of generous dollops of golden syrup


Preheat oven to about 180°C.

Mix butter and sugar together to form a paste. Add the banana, egg, and flour and mix thoroughly.

Turn out into either a pre-greased cake tin or a silicon one.

Top with pineapple, and a liberal dosing of golden syrup

Cook for about 30 minutes, but turn after 15 minutes and keep checking.

Allow to cool in the tin, and then turn out.

Lock the doors, close the curtains, hide behind the sofa and enjoy.

Chocolate and Banana Cookies


  • 115g butter, melted
  • 40g sugar
  • 40g banana milkshake powder
  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 100ml golden syrup
  • 150g chocolate left in large squares


Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4.

Mix the butter, banana powder and sugar together.

Add the remainder of the ingredients. If the mixture isn’t very stiff, add more flour.

Form into balls and place on either a greased baking tray or silicon sheet. There should be one piece of chocolate to each ball. (Or put extra in if you’re feeling abundant…)

Bake for about 10 minutes – but feel free to keep checking, hey, every oven’s different.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool for a few minutes, the chocolate will still be melted and the biscuits will be warm. Serve with a glass of milk.

Bean and Pear Pie


  • Filo pastry
  • Beans – mixture of butter beans, cannellini beans, lentils, black turtle beans, anything you can find
  • 2-3 pears, chopped
  • Aubergine, chopped
  • Onion, chopped
  • Cream cheese
  • Milk
  • Sesame seeds
  • Spices and herbs (I used mint and ground coriander, but whatever you fancy is fine)
  • Vegetable stock cube


Preheat the oven to about 180°C.

Mix vegetables and cheese in a pan, heat gently and add the stock cube and a splash of milk. Mix together to make a creamy sauce. Once the sauce is made you can turn the heat up a bit (but not too much) until it starts to bubble.

Once the vegetables are slightly sloftened, pour into a casserole dish.

Separate the filo sheets. Hold one by a corner, and with the sheet on the work surface, start turning the pastry so that it twists into a loose rose shape. Put on top of the mixture in the casserole dish. Repeat for all of the sheets of filo until the whole mixture is covered in pastry.

Sprinkle over the seeds.

Cook for about 20 minutes or until the pastry is nicely browned. (Keep an eye on it though!)

Yorkshire Cake


  • Strong cup of tea (Assam would do nicely)
  • 100g mixed dried fruit (raisins, cherries etc)
  • 50g butter
  • 75g brown sugar
  • 150g self-raising flour
  • 1 egg
  • 1tsp ground mixed spices (allspice, cinnamon, ginger, or whatever you like)


Pour the cuppa over the mixed fruit and leave to soak for about 12 hours.

Preheat oven to about 180°C.

Drain the fruit but reserve the tea, just in case.

Add the fruit to a large bowl, chuck in the rest of the ingredients and mix well. If the mixture seems quite dry,  add the tea a tablespoon at a time until the consistency is stiff but cakey, rather than biscuity.

Turn out into either a pre-greased cake tin or a silicon one.

Cook for about 40 minutes, but turn after 15 minutes and keep checking.

Allow to cool in the tin, and then turn out.

Ideal to serve to friends with a cuppa, and some good conversation. Enjoy.

Lime and garlic salad dressing

  • Olive oil
  • Cream cheese
  • Garlic purée
  • Dill
  • Lime juice

Honey and Mustard salad dressing

  • Olive oil
  • Wholegrain mustard
  • Honey
  • Black pepper
  • Oregano
  • Thyme

Smoky salad dressing

  • Chilli oil
  • Smoked paprika
  • Coarsely ground black pepper
  • Balsamic vinegar

Roasted ‘Gettes with Chestnuts

This makes a nice side dish, great for barbecues – and helps to prevent the vegetarians feeling like they’ve been forgotten. It’s also an interesting filling for baked potatoes.


  • Courgettes, sliced as thinly as you can
  • Chestnuts (the vacuum packed sort are perfect)
  • Olive oil
  • Sherry or balsamic vinegar, whichever you have
  • Ground coriander,
  • Smoked paprika
  • Dill
  • Oregano
  • Lime juice


Chuck it all in a casserole dish, stir it up and cook it on a low-ish heat, about 150°C until tender.

Thursday Night Pasta

Yummy comfort food – and even better, it’s super quick!


  • Pasta, cooked
  • tin of chopped tomatoes
  • mozzarella ball
  • 70g smoked cheese
  • herbs to taste
  • smoked paprika
  • ground chillies
  • coarsely ground black pepper


Once the pasta is cooked and drained, return to the pan, roughly chop the cheese and add to the pasta, reheat and add the tomatoes and the rest of the ingredients except for the black pepper.

Heat through. When piping hot, share between plates and sprinkle with black pepper, and a some fresh herbs if you’re feeling fancy.

Peanut Hotpot with Couscous


  • Aubergine
  • sweetcorn
  • onion
  • pepper, chopped
  • allspice
  • peanut butter
  • chilli powder
  • 2 vegetable stock cubes
  • water
  • tinned chopped tomatoes
  • tomato purée
  • carrots
  • herbs to your taste
  • couscous


Chop the vegetables and cook together with some boiling water and the stock cubes in a large pan until slightly softened.

Add the tomato purée and tinned tomatoes along with the peanut butter, herbs and spices. Gently simmer.

Add boiling water sparingly to the coucous and then gently fry, this makes the coucous light and fluffy and not stodgy and heavy.

Serve together with maybe some fresh bread.

Banana Curry


  • Small aubergine, chopped
  • 1 large onion, peeled and chopped
  • Can of coconut milk
  • 1 dessert apple, chopped
  • 4 bananas, sliced
  • 100-200g cashew nuts
  • Turmeric
  • Cumin
  • Dried chillies
  • Pint of vegetable stock
  • A little oil for frying


Lightly fry the onions and cashew nuts. When the nuts are browned, add the remainder of the ingredients, and the spices to taste.

This is a remarkably quick meal to make, once you’ve chopped the vegetables. If your curry is too runny, you can thicken it with flour (any type will do).

Serve with rice and/or flatbread.

Figger Rolls

Ah, fiendishly simple, and unlike the shop-bought fig roll originals, these babies aren’t getting any smaller! Hurrah!


  • Filo pastry
  • Dried figs
  • Black treacle, honey or golden syrup, you choose.


Preheat the oven to about 180°C.

Open out the filo pastry. Chop the figs and sparingly add the treacle/honey/syrup – make a thick paste.

Spread the mixture over the pastry, and roll up.

Cut into slices.

Place on a greased or silicone baking tray and bake until crispy. Put the timer on for 12 minutes, and keep checking after that until they’re done to perfection.

Get a glass of milk, crack open the Ker-plunk and enjoy!

Almond, Fig and Orange Cake


  • 175g butter (softened)
  • 175g brown sugar plus extra for topping
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 2 eggs
  • Vanilla essence/extract
  • 8 dried figs, chopped into little bits
  • 1 orange, grate the zest and slice the rest
  • 150g marzipan, cut into chunks
  • Carton of double cream
  • 2tbsp honey


Preheat the oven to about 160°C

Mix the flour,  sugar, butter and eggs with some vanilla extract/essence and the figs, marzipan, and orange zest.

Spread into a cake tin (grease if they’re not silicon).

Top with the sliced orange.

Bake for about 40mins  (but remember to keep checking). When you think it might be done poke a fork into the middle; if it comes out clean of cake mixture, it’s about done (but there’s no substitute for common sense and a trained eye!).

While it’s cooking, whizz the cream and honey together.

When the cake is cooked, allow to cool for a few minutes before attempting to remove from the tin.

Serve with the honey cream, and put your feet up.

Baked Squash

This is a tasty little side dish and has a variety of textures; it looks good, and tastes expensive.


  • 1 butternut squash, in coarse chunks
  • 1tbsp peanut butter
  • 2tbsp honey
  • 1tbsp olive oil or groundnut oil, or similar
  • Liberal scattering of seeds (I use a combination of poppy, sunflower and pumpkin seeds)
  • Spices (cumin, ground coriander, chilli powder or flakes)


Mix them all together in a casserole dish, and bake for about 40 mins or until tender. Every 10-15 minutes, check it’s doing OK, and give it a stir round to coat the squash with the honey, oil and peanut butter.

Serve it with pretty much anything.

Cranberry Sauce

There’s nothing like proper cranberry sauce – and this stuff is dead easy to make and tastes expensive! Buy a punnet of cranberries, it will make a lot of sauce, but it seems to be OK frozen if there’s a surplus (but maybe use it up before the next year’s festivities!) It takes a while to do, but it’s low maintenance,  so get it started and have it bubbling away at the back of the stove while you start chopping the veggies.


  • Fresh cranberries
  • Red wine
  • Apple juice
  • Spices, such as cinnamon, allspice, freshly ground black pepper, chilli powder (if you’re feeling fiesty)


Put the cranberries into a pan, add a fair old slosh of red wine and about the same of apple juice – enough for the berries to be bobbing around in it, chuck in the spices as well, to taste. Put on a low heat and allow to bubble away with the lid on until there isn’t much liquid left, then add another slosh of wine and apple juice. Keep adding the wine and juice as required.

Eventually the cranberries will have exploded and become soft, and the liquid will become more like sauce and less like punch. By the time it’s done, it’s likely that you’ll have used almost half a bottle of wine, and about the same volume of apple juice.

Serve it with anything you like.