Category Archives: Budget

Meat Fruit Loaf (Chicken Liver Parfait with Clementine Jelly)

Heston Blumental meets Jamie Oliver in a strictly practical, less indulgent but still exquisite take on the iconic Meat Fruit from Dinner at the Mandarin Oriental. No fiddly individual fruits here – just an ineffably smooth and deeply savoury chicken liver parfait, topped with a fresh clementine jelly rather than the traditional clarified butter.


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Ginger-Spiced Fruit Bread + bread troubleshooting

What’s the best way to say “I love you”? Assuming words are out of the question, there’s always the grand gesture – but that can backfire. For example, a chap I knew at university covered every available surface of his bedroom with glowing tea lights, only to be informed by his not-for-much-longer girlfriend that “Fire hazards are not romantic”.

To adequately convey a sense of “I love you – obviously not romantically because that would be super weird – just as friends but somehow more than friends, siblings almost but without any sense of obligation, and in fact it’s more of a collective expression of love; that is, we love you (plural)” I can think of worse ways than a loaf of homemade bread.


You don’t have to use words, or even make eye contact! What could be less awkward than that?

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Penang Char Kway Teow 

…or, fried flat noodles with prawns and eggs.


The photo doesn’t do it justice, but this is one of my favourite things to eat – probably top 5, maybe top 3. It’s a speciality in Malaysia, where half of my family is from, and where my mum learned how to make it by carefully watching (and interrogating) the specialists, who cook nothing else on fiery hot woks in hawker centres and coffee shops.

My mother’s is just as good (or better) and that isn’t some kind of fluffy emotional bias talking (we’re really not that kind of family, by which I mean, we’re Asian. “I won a maths prize Mummy!” “Hmmm.”) it’s cold objective analysis. I always request char kway teow when I go home, and order it pretty much whenever it’s on the menu. But I’ve been watching carefully too, and even without a wok, managed to make it at home on my own.

I sent her this photo and asked “Mummy are you proud??”


And she replied “Looks really authentic and I am thinking ,tastes really good too.  Well done you.”

…which would have been the sweetest taste of all!! except that after I’d sent the photo I realised it was underseasoned. But a few more iterations later and I’m ready to write down the recipe, something neither my mother nor her hawker gurus have done, as far as I know. So here goes:

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Healthy Pizza

Or, as per the message I sent to my vegetarian friend, “come round for dinner? I’ve made cauliflower pizza dough, so we can eat like hipsters”.

It might not quite be hipster pizza, because I forgot to put the kale on top, but I consider this relatively healthy pizza – with a thin wholewheat crust, half made up of vegetables, topped with reduced fat cheese and more vegetables (spoiler alert: heaps of vegetable ribbons, instead of tomato sauce), it doesn’t seem entirely unreasonable for a weeknight dinner.

Traditional pizza with asparagus, mozzarella and fresh basil

Healthier version: thin crust courgette pizza with aubergine, salami and reduced fat cheese

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Fresh Egg Pasta – Pumpkin Ravioli with Salami and Chives

A week after coming back from a long weekend in Florence in January, and I was already nostalgic. Rather than go through photos or finish unpacking(!), I preferred to eat my memories. We’d eaten incredible handmade pasta all over the city – with ragu of rabbit, wild boar, or beef shin, and with mushrooms, squash and burnt onions. Without the equipment or expertise to recreate any one of those dishes exactly, we made this instead: egg-yellow envelopes of ravoli, filled with sweet, silky pumpkin puree, with a touch of brown butter and garnished with cubes of salami and chives.

Totally worth the effort!


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Whole Wheat, No-knead, Sourdough Bread

This is real bread, not breadlike foodlike substance – just grains, water and salt in its simplest version. And lots of time. Bread isn’t great for a diet, I know that – but sourdough is lower GI than conventionally yeasted bread, longer fermentations like those in no-knead bread ease digestibility, and whole wheat provides fibre alongside the carbohydrates, lowering the GI further. By which I mean it’s probably as diet-friendly as it’s possible to be whilst still being bread, not broccoli or egg whites in disguise. Substituting 10% of the wheat flour for rye also makes it incrementally healthier! It took me many iterations to develop this formula and timings, based on the helpful recipes found online for white no-knead, whole wheat sourdough, and sourdough no-knead – but I couldn’t find a single recipe that combined all three – so here goes.

Having neglected my previous (highly-strung) sourdough starter to death, I wanted to try and develop a basic loaf that would fit in with our daily schedule and be as low GI as possible. This starter is based on Mike’s from Sourdough Home, and it’s wonderful – very stable and with a lovely rise. It was started on organic, stoneground rye but it’s now fed on plain white supermarket own-brand flour/filtered water and has a 100% hydration ratio (equal weights flour and water). His instructions and pictures are great, but the timings can vary depending on conditions – for example, in my cold February kitchen it took twice as long at each stage initially, 24 hours instead of 12 to see any activity. I gave some to a close friend who is a much better baker than I am, and we’ve both been baking with it for a few weeks very happily – so if you don’t fancy the one-week lead time or the faffing about, rather than making your own starter, see if you have a friend who can give you some of theirs. (maybe me!)

Bread and honey (2)

My friend came round for weekend breakfast – sourdough toast with butter, eggs and honey – she brought me some lovely green tea and I gave her a jam jar of starter to take home. The honey in the picture was a gift from the wonderful people at The Ledbury restaurant in West London, where the Husband took me for the best meal I’ve eaten in the UK.

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Healthy Banana Crumble

The essential elements of this pudding – bananas caramelised into toffeeish decadence, and a naturally sweet, buttery oat crumble – are gorgeous despite having not a single gram of refined sugar. Served with a touch of cool Greek yoghurt, or even some very cold cream, it is a gloriously satisfying low-GI dessert.

Banana crumble - sugar-free, dairy-free, wheat-free - yet delicious!

Banana crumble – sugar-free, dairy-free, wheat-free – yet delicious!

It’s been a great pudding for friends who come round, too (and the non-dieting husband) – a few extra elements mean that everyone can customise their pudding to their own specific dietary requirements, whether that’s minimum impact on blood sugar or maxmimum indulgence. I’m low GI but pretty relaxed about fat/protein, but someone limiting their fat intake might sprinkle on less crumble and have Greek yoghurt/ half-fat creme fraiche rather than cream. To cater for the other end of the spectrum, I’ll make a quick salted caramel sauce and heat up some custard (either tinned or homemade) and the building blocks are there for everyone to tailor their own dessert – from dairy-free and sugar-free dessert to banoffee crumble with lashings of custard.

add a layer of salted caramel sauce to make Banoffee Crumble

add a layer of salted caramel sauce to make Banoffee Crumble

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