Tag Archives: recipes

baking pride

17 Jul

My name’s Ollie and I’m competitive.  Yes I admit it, if there’s a challenge I’m 100% in, and I’m pretty embarrassing to be around.

I wish this competitive streak had an off button, but unfortunately it doesn’t and it also stretches to the work environment. I don’t think it’s by accident I sit on a desk with one other (very placid) person, isolated from the rest of the team.

Now for some unbeknownst reason there seems to be a big group of  home baking ‘fans’ in our office, who take it in turns to conjure up all manner of amazing goods. Ever so recently this group has turned from sweet toothed (and natured) baking friends into hardcore competitors that makes Iron Chef look like a quaint village fete.

As a loose member of this fraternity (read desperate to belong), any opportunity to try and impress them with my baking skills I’ll bloody take it.

So as it was my placid desk friends 40th Birthday, I thought I’d try and bake a rainbow layer cake. I’d seen a few pics about these online recently, and thought if I wanted to be seen as mover and shaker in the office baking circle this might be my chance..

Not the sort of cake you’d bake for anyone with issues about artificial colours (or hyperactivity), but for cutting the cake “wow” factor, its hard to beat.

I think it turned out pretty well – my table mate was pretty ‘proud’ of my efforts and you’ll be pleased to know the baking fraternity are beginning to talk to me a little more…  as too are the LGBT group bizarrely.


broke or in a bunker? here’s dinner

29 May

It’s an apocalypse.

The riots have started up again and you can’t leave the house (happened to us!).

It’s the end of the month. You haven’t been paid yet and you have a fiver to last until Friday.

If any of the above apply, I have a recipe for you.

This is a very quick, cheap, foolproof and delicious way to make lentils.



Put a cup of lentils, the contents of those cans (including the juice) and some spinach (frozen or fresh) into a pan. Add herbs and spices if you like.

Cook for about half an hour.

Et Voila!

This is more than enough for four people, and is fine to tupperware up and have the next day.


diamond jubilee strawberry “easecake”

28 May


We all do stupid things when we’re young, and for me one of the most idiotic (that I’ll divulge here anyway), was thinking it’d be a good idea to take a job picking strawberries for a month or two, so I could pay to go on a surf trip to France.

Irrespective of having to hunch over plants in ridiculously hot poly-tunnels (it was just my luck that we experienced one of those mythological “Indian Summers”), the worst impact of the job was the self imposed 50m barrier between strawberries and I for the next five years due to eating so many whilst working (and that I associated the taste of strawberries with searing back pain).

Having finally gotten over my ‘issues’, I now fully embrace the strawberry again, especially when they’re in season, taste great and are sold off at the end of the day down the market for 20p a punnet.

Here’s one of those ridiculously quick recipes I nicked from a magazine (I call it a four song recipe.. because fairly obviously that’s how many songs you listen to whilst prepping it) for a very summery dessert. I made this on the weekend and thought it’d be perfect to share prior to the impending Jubilee celebrations.

Strawberry & Lemon “Easecake”

As named by my good friend Laura.. who I think possibly ignored a calling to be a pun writer.

200g strawberries – this is just under a punnet full..
1 tsp caster sugar
4 digestive biscuits
100g cream cheese, easier to whisk if it’s at room temperature.. but unless you’re a wimp you’ll probably manage if it’s straight out the fridge.
2 tbsp icing sugar
125ml double cream
1 tbsp lemon juice
½ tsp vanilla extract
4 wine glasses

First chop the strawberries into small pieces. Put these into a cereal bowl, sprinkle the caster sugar over them, put a plate on top and give a couple of gentle shakes so they begin to macerate.

Then ideal if you’ve had a rubbish day and need to vent any frustration, put the the biscuits into a freezer bag and smack it with a rolling pin until you have a sandy bag of crumbs…then divide equally into your glasses.

Measure the cream cheese and icing sugar into a bowl and whisk – try and not get icing sugar everywhere as I invariably do.

Then add the cream, lemon juice and vanilla, and whisk gently to combine – it should be a nice smooth consistency – not too runny or stiff.

Now the hard part (and the bit that takes the most time..) divide the cream between each glass, and try not to get any on the sides of the glass.. it’s impossible I swear.

Then finally pop your chopped strawberries in the glasses, and sprinkle with a little chopped mint. Serve and impress friends… bending the truth at this point in regards to how long they took to prep always helps.

I’ve also found that out of a punnet of strawberries you have just enough fruit left over for your glass of the best summer drink going a Sipsmith Summer Cup.


herby goodness

24 Apr

I once read an interview with a high profile chef who said “never trust anyone who recommends using dried herbs in a recipe”. Now I couldn’t be any more on board with using fresh herbs, as flat leaf parsley is basically the only concealer of my otherwise bland creations..

Sometimes however, getting your hands on bread and milk can be a struggle in my local supermarket, let alone fresh tarragon or oregano, so unfortunately Nigel, dried herbs often do come into the equation..

I always used to buy bunches of herbs, but not use them in one go. So I’d store them in my fridge only to find them limp and dank a day or so later and pretty unappealing to use.

Now I’m not sure if this is a common trick, but I was taught by a wise Greek Cypriot this method for keeping your herbs perfectly fresh, which has been used from times as far back as to when Greece didn’t have a budget deficit (longer than anyone can remember).

So, simply cut the end of the bunch of the herbs

Pop them in a fresh glass of water

Ideally stick a sandwich/ freezer bag over the herbs (we’d run out so I used a normal carrier bag).

Pop it in the fridge, and voila your herbs will stay fresh for days (just remember to change the water regularly)… bland food banished, and celebrity chef kudos ahoy!



the perfect devon scone

2 Apr

Knowing Ollie’s mum was coming up for the weekend, and remembering the scones she baked on our recent trip to Devon very fondly, I phoned her to ask if she would mind bringing up the recipe.

She went one better – bringing with her some fresh Devon clotted cream and an offer to spend Sunday morning teaching me to make Devonian scones.


200 g self raising flour

60g butter

250ml milk

A pinch of brown sugar

We had some honey and ginger (fresh from the Caribbean!), so we decided to add this in as well. If you want to go crazy, you could add 60g of dried fruit for fruit scones, or 60g of cheese and some cayenne pepper for savoury scones.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.

Start by mixing the flour and the butter (we cheated and used the Magimix), followed by a tablespoon of honey.

Transfer everything into a mixing bowl and slowly add the milk.

Knead everything together and use a knife to divide it into sections (only cut to about halfway). Brush with a small amount of milk (we just used our finger – Jamie Oliver style), and drop a pinch of brown sugar on each section.

Put the scones in the hot oven for twenty minutes….et voilà!

These were inhaled before they even had a chance to cool down. The perils of living with two boys!

feeling fresh(er)

23 Mar

If you’ve been so kind to read my posts across the last 5 days, you’ll have probably realised I haven’t been the bastion of healthy living.. large doses of late nights, red meat and food that could make a calorie counter cry.. in fact at one point during the week I’m pretty certain there had been more meals that had included a variation on fried potato than not.

When this scenario arises, I make a grab for what I class as my “want to eat something vegetable based & healthy, but its got to be easy” recipe book, (shorthand for I’m tired and generally hungover, and picking leaves off 5 different bunches of herb isn’t going to happen I’m afraid Mr Ottolenghi).

Nearly nine times out of ten the book of choice is usually our foppish friend from Dorset, Hugh Fearnley-Whittingsall and his book “River Cottage Veg Everyday”

The staple in the His and Hers repertoire from this collection is the leek and cannellini bean soup with chilli oil.

For me its the perfect soup, with a light base stock and plenty of flat leaf parsley, it gives the whole dish a really fresh feel. Best of all its really quick to make, and for all those thrifty chefs out there it freezes really well, perfect for tackling the onset of a bout of gout at a later date.

Here’s the recipe, and with only a month or so of the British Leek season left, now’s the perfect time to try it.. enjoy!

Leek and Cannellini Bean Soup with Chilli Oil

(The chilli oil takes a little extra time, but it really makes the soup and keeps well)

Serves 4-6

4 x medium leeks (white and pale green bits only)
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp butter
2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme leaves
1 x bay leaf
3 x garlic cloves, finely chopped
1.3 litres vegetable stock
2 x 400g tins of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed well
2-3 sprigs of fresh oregano, chopped (or 2 tsp dried)
Bunch of fresh parsley, roughly chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Chilli oil

200ml olive oil
4 x red chillies, deseeded and sliced
2 x sprigs of fresh thyme
1 x garlic clove, squashed

How to:

  1. For the chilli oil warm the olive oil in a small saucepan, adding the chopped chilli, thyme and garlic. Heat on a really low heat until the olive oil begins to simmer. Keep on a really low simmer until the chillies have softened, about 20 minutes. Set aside and leave to cool.
  2. Wash and clean leeks well under running water then half lengthways and slice thinly.
  3. Heat the olive oil and butter on a med/low heat. Add leeks and stir. Add thyme and bay leaf, stir and cook gently for about 15 minutes. basically gently softening and sweating the leeks in the oil and butter. Add the garlic, stir and leave for another one or two mins.
  4. Next add the stock cannellini beans, oregano and half the parsley. Bring it to the boil and then gently simmer for 20 minutes. Check salt & pepper.
  5. Remove the bay leaf and stir in the rest of the parsley.
  6. Serve with a trickle of chilli oil.

a birchin’ breakfast!

13 Mar

Ottolenghi is a deli around the corner from me which has been responsible for my passing off many a successful dinner party as ‘obvs all my own work’.

Yotam Ottolenghi, who runs it, is a pretty dab hand in the kitch and we are lucky enough to have a couple of his cookbooks to decorate the kitchen refer to when cooking gourmet meals.

By far his greatest gift (yes, even more than those hyperinflated meringues I drool over on my cycle home), has been this Bircher Muesli recipe. I make up a big batch of this on Sunday nights and it keeps brilliantly for the work week.

(It should look like this – thank you guardian.co.uk):

  Serves 4-6 (or lasts five days)

200g rolled oats
200ml cold milk (full fat, low fat, soy or rice milk are all fine)
80ml apple juice
150g yoghurt (low fat or normal)
1 large granny smith apple, cored and roughly grated
70g agave nectar (I use honey – I’m not Gwyneth Paltrow)
60g raisins (I use sultanas)
½ tsp vanilla extract
Juice of 1 lime

1. Put the oats in a large mixing bowl and add the milk and apple juice. Stir and leave aside for 10 minutes to soften. You can leave them to soak overnight in the fridge, which will soften them up a bit more, but it’s not necessary.
2. When ready to serve, add the yoghurt, grated apple, honey, sultanas, vanilla and lime juice.
3. Stir and transfer to serving bowls. Top with whatever you like.