Monthly Archives: April 2014

Aubergine Basil Salad

Cost: £2, including the basil, but living basil is quite happy in a sunny spot indoors, so hopefully you would only need to buy this once!

Roasted aubergines, slightly charred without, silk and velvet within, are topped with a rough but fragrant pesto whizzed up in the food processor. This quick vegetarian side dish is nut-, gluten- and dairy-free. We served it as part of a buffet lunch on Easter Sunday, where everyone helped themselves – served alongside slow roast lamb, jewelled couscous, roasted sesame cauliflower, halloumi salad, garlic and coriander hearthbreads, homemade hummus and cherry tomato salsa. A few people very kindly and politely asked for the recipe – and I am delighted to give it out!

Aubergine salad


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Bacon and Banana Pancakes

Cost: less than £1, but mostly storecupboard ingredients – ideal Low-Ceilinged food because the restaurant dish that I wanted to copy is around £10, but this is both quick and easy to make.

The sweet-salty combination that works so well in popcorn, pulled pork and salted caramel anything is wonderful here. It feels indulgent, but isn’t as calorific as it sounds – by using whole grains and low-fat yoghurt, the pancake batter is still very light but with an extra flavour dimension, and the addition of bananas, which soften into a fragrant caramel, means that very little sugar is required. Finally, cooking bacon is not only much cheaper than normal bacon, but it is pre-chopped into little nuggets which means a little goes a long way so you don’t need quite as much – it’s more of a seasoning than a main ingredient, but it does its work in providing salty, savoury bass notes of flavour, as well as a meaty, crisp-edged textural contrast to the cloudlike pancake doused in maple syrup.

Banana Bacon Pancakes

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Easy Ramen and Char Siu

Cost: about £9, serves 6 with seconds for everyone

Ramen is not just a London trend, and not just a Japanese obsession – although it is both these things, the darling of hipsters and food fans, the subject of consumer quests for the best ramen in London and scientific quests led by patient, meticulous Japanese chefs, it is a food experience that soothes and thrills at the same time, both simple in its innate comfort and complex in the depths of savoury flavour it achieves.

This recipe is a practical way of recreating that experience at home. I say recreating, not replicating, because whilst I believe it is possible to do, it’s really not practical. This recipe for the tonkotsu ramen broth delivers collagen-rich, intensely porky broth which in turn delivers sticky-lipped contentment – but it’s easy. And although it takes many hours to physically cook, the active time for the cook is well under an hour.

Homemade "Ramen"


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Little Fruit Jellies

Cost: about £1 for 5 jellies (600ml total volume) but it depends on the juice and fruit you choose

These little jellies are jewel-bright and intensely fruity – with no added sugar and zero fat, they are an extremely healthy treat. And they are super-satisfyingly wobbly. A great treat for kids…and a useful gluten-free and dairy-free dessert option for guests with dietary restrictions.

Little Raspberry Jelly


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Guotie (aka gyoza or potsticker dumplings)

Cost: about £1 for a batch that serves 2 as a main dish or up to 6 as a side dish

These little pockets of juicy savouriness have become one of my favourite things to make at home, and by making the filling in advance and freezing it in 400g batches, it can be a weeknight treat as well as a weekend project. This is perfect low-ceilinged kitchen fare – at a restaurant these little beauties will run at about £4 for an order of 6, but at home a batch of about 24 only costs around £1 and nobody judges you for ordering 4 portions. They might seem like a restaurant food but really, they are so easy to make at home – no precision in cooking is required, and even imperfectly wrapped and inexactly seasoned dumplings will be delicious – comfort food for two (or one!) and always a hit with guests.

Pork and Leek Guotie (accompanied by Chicken Summer Rolls...which are very straightforward in case anyone wants the recipe?)

Pork and Leek Guotie (accompanied by Chicken Summer Rolls…which are very straightforward in case anyone wants the recipe?)

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Chopped Lobster Salad

Cost: £2 per generous serving, based on using the £6 frozen cooked lobsters from Lidl.

Chopped salad – all the healthy, virtuous charm of uncooked vegetables but without the ungainly challenge of wrestling leaves onto cutlery and into mouth. This salad is a crunchy confetti that carries the flavour of fancy schmancy lobster and fresh prawns, and served over wholewheat pasta or on toast, it’s an economical way to make special ingredients go further.


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Savoury Spring Tart

Cost: about £1.50 – £2, but really it’s a tart to make out of the bits and pieces left in the fridge by the weekend. Serves 4 as a main course or 6-12 as a side dish.

This tart was an unexpected delight – eaten in warm crumbly wedges outside for lunch on the lawn, and then leftovers enjoyed on the sofa the following evening. The pastry is from Nigella Lawson’s luscious How to be a Domestic Goddess, and it is my favourite for any savoury tart. She says that it is too friable for a large tart and makes little individual ones, but I’ve had reliably good experiences with making a 23cm fluted tart – it is golden, and as short and crumbly as a shortbread biscuit, very slightly flaky and with an almost-sweet edge from the semolina. Whilst it has elements in common with a quiche, the ratios of the filling are reversed to give a healthier, more flavourful tart – rather than ingredients fossilised in waxy dairy, here the pastry is generously heaped with a ribbony tangle of soft, sweet leeks, with nuggets of bacon and little juicy peas nestled within. The filling – eggs, cheese and milk (no cream) is lighter than for a quiche, and just keeps everything moist and in shape.

Leek and Bacon Tart

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