Sardine Ragu

Sardine Ragu

I love how some recipes have a magnetic quality that keep you coming back to them time and time again. I’m talking about the ones that surreptitiously work their way into your everyday repertoire until you can’t imagine how you ever did without them. This, for me, is one of those recipes. It’s peasant food of my own creation – a dish that delivers a depth and complexity of flavour that you’d never expect given its simple list of ingredients, and most importantly of all… even when the cupboards are bare and the fridge is empty, I still usually have everything I need on hand to make it. That’s how simple it is. And yet somehow, it still manages to feel like a treat. The sort of meal I want to curl up on the sofa to eat, quietly delighting in every morsel.

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Lamb, Beetroot and Quinoa Burgers

Lamb, Beetroot and Quinoa BurgersIn our last house, we were lucky enough to live just around the corner from a great pub* that did to-die-for burgers – perfectly cooked, with a herb-laced side salad and spot-on french fries. They were so profoundly joy-inducing that we made them the centrepiece of our ‘end-of-a-long-hard-day-treat’, the crucial pillar of a holy trinity that came to be known as ‘Beer, Burger, Bed’. After a particularly long, hard day’s filming, K and I would stagger to the pub, order one of these burgers, wash down a beer (or a cider in my case) and stagger immediately back home to bed to collapse in the warm, magical glow of a burger-induced coma. In fact, Beer, Burger, Bed became such a mesmerising mantra that on particularly tough days we’d often start reciting it at about midday, just to get us through!

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Salt cod, new potato and Valencia orange salad

Salt cod, new potato and Valencia orange saladIsn’t it strange how you can sometimes go your whole life without encountering a certain flavour or ingredient, and then all of a sudden, it’s everywhere?! That happened to me last year with salt cod. It was as though it was trying to find me. My first taste of it was while working in Rio de Janeiro last Easter, where we dined on delicious fried salt cod balls called bolinhos de bacalhau that are hands down the best bar snack I have ever tasted. Shortly after that I discovered brandade de morue, a beautiful French dip of salt cod, whipped into a state of ecstasy with copious amounts of olive oil. And the final clincher was on a trip to Malaga, where they served up their local specialty – Malaga Salad, combining delicate salt cod flakes with sweet oranges, olives and potatoes to create a salad that completely blew me away. By the end of last year, after a whirlwind romance, I had to admit that I had fallen head over heels with salt cod. But it hadn’t always been that way.

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Moroccan Baked Eggs

Moroccan Baked Eggs

They say necessity is the mother of invention. That may be true, but I’m inclined to believe that laziness is just as powerful a motivator. Take the inventor of the wheel. Nobody needs a wheel. Oh no. No, I’m betting that the wheel was invented by some paleolithic paragon of laziness, who was so idle that they couldn’t even be bothered to carry things around with their own two hands and decided to seek out a better way. Ditto Archimedes, who so could-not-be-bothered to transport water around that he invented an ingenious and very elaborate screw to do the job for him instead. No wonder he went around shouting ‘Eureka!’. That is the exclamation of a man who has spent his life not wanting to do things, and coming up with inventions so he doesn’t ever have to.

That’s what I think anyway. And the reason that I am sharing these pearls of wisdom with you is because I’m quite keen to convince you that being lazy is something noble and profound. You see, I’m about to share a story about my own laziness, and without that preamble I’d fear you would think I was just… well, just plain lazy.

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My version of Itsu’s amazing ‘green sauce’

Itsu green sauce recipe

I don’t know if you have the Asian-inspired healthy food chain Itsu where you are, but if you do you’ll already know all about their magical green sauce (aka green herb dressing). I am in love with that sauce. For the uninitiated, it’s actually not so much a sauce, more of a salad dressing, but it’s just about the tastiest salad dressing that I’ve ever tasted. Honestly, I would eat twigs if they were slathered in this sauce. It’s herby, limey, zingy, sweet and slightly mysterious tasting too. It’s so popular that my nearest branch has started selling little ‘extra shots’ of it in case the rather sizable pot that comes with your salad isn’t enough (it’s never enough! how could it be enough?!). And if I’m totally honest I often have to restrain myself from bypassing the salad delivery system altogether and eating it straight from the pot.

Unfortunately, my bank statements now read something like this: ITSU ITSU ITSU ITSU and my addiction to green sauce is leaving a sizeable hole in my wallet. But having eaten it about a billion times, this weekend it occurred to me – hey, maybe I could reconstruct this…

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Cauliflower Olivieh Salad

Cauliflower Salad Olivieh

Last weekend was D-day for our kitchen. Ever since we moved in I’d been itching to get rid of the miserable oak units and battered and tired old appliances. But almost as soon as we started taking the old units down, it became obvious that whoever had originally fitted them must have been the only non-cowboy in town! With almost tear-inducing levels of fastidiousness, they’d carefully concealed every screw in the most inaccessible of places. Where one screw would suffice, they had used two. And just to be on the safe side, they’d slathered on some glue too.

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Gluten Free Tabbouleh

Gluten Free Tabbouleh

In the run up to Christmas, the arrival of winter seems like an utterly magical thing to me. I love the frosty winter haze that creeps over the autumnal sky, and the low winter sun which illuminates everything in shades of tangerine. I love the way the evening darkness is punctuated by the warm glow of inviting pubs, beckoning and promising warmth and good company. And most of all I love the statuesque beauty of trees stripped of their leaves, crisscrossing the blue sky with their dark, inky branches.

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