Supper & brunch menu w/c 22th of August


Potato gnocchi with fresh tomato sauce & pecorino, rocket salad


Griddled mackerel fillets with salsa verde, served with boiled new potatoes & a green bean salad


Braised chicken thighs, chorizo & chickpeas served with couscous


Crab & pea risotto, poached Burford brown


Lamb kebabs with mint, griddled aubergine slices with yoghurt sauce & toasted flatbread


Ricotta hot cakes & blackberries

Oat, seeds, vanilla & live bio-yoghurt thickie


Scrambled eggs with smoked trout

Sweet Eve strawberries


Supper & brunch menu w/c 15th of August


Pea, dill & Parmesan risotto, poached Burford brown egg


Paprika chicken, roast vegetables & ebly salad


Mackerel in chermoula, red & white minted quinoa, harissa 


Griddled spiced lamb chops & tahini, runner bean & fig salad


Spicy aubergine curry, wholegrain basmati rice & toasted almonds


Roast tomato, basil & Feta frittata

Tendresse aux peaches (peach eggy bread muffin)


Sweetcorn fritters with roast tomatoes & crispy Parma ham

Blackberry smoothie

Supper & brunch menu w/c 8th of August


Potato gnocchi & fresh tomato sauce,  courgette  & rocket salad


Sea bream baked on potatoes, capers & olives, green beans & samphire


Griddled lamb cutlets with hoummos & tabbouleh


Ottoman five spice & roasted garlic chicken thighs, sweet pepper, lemon & mint quinoa


Linguine with crisped Parma ham, broad beans, ricotta & lemon


Duck egg omelette & watercress

Balsamic strawberries


Crispy streaky bacon & oven-dried tomatoes

Discovery apple & blackberry crisp

Supper & brunch menu w/c 1st of August


Risotto with broad beans, Feta & dill


Chicken thighs, chorizo & chickpeas


Lime & mint sea-trout fillets with cucumber basmati rice, edamame beans & toasted sesame seeds


Baked lamb koftas with tzatziki, balsamic roast tomatoes & bulghur wheat


Veal, sage & lemon aubergine “cannelloni” with a chunky tomato sauce, rocket & Parmesan salad


Boiled Burford Browns & Serrano ham soldiers

Strawberry gazpacho


Mushrooms on toast

Blueberry & almond milk smoothie

Supper & brunch menu w/c 25th of July


Spinach, tomato & chickpea curry served with basmati rice & toasted almonds


Chermoula fish fillets parcel with sweet pepper & courgette couscous


Poached chicken with summer vegetables, crisp bread & tahini sauce


Roast beetroot salad with anchovy, mint & mozzarella


Griddled salmon on lemony lentils & green bean salad


Parma ham & courgette frittas

Fromage frais with raspberries


Mushrooms & poached egg on toast

Donut peach

Supper & brunch menu w/c 18th of July


Linguine with fresh broad beans, Feta and dill.


Griddled chicken thighs, tomato salsa & Mexican  new potato salad


Lime & mint salmon fillets, basmati rice with peas, edamame beans & toasted sesame seeds


Pan-fried minute steak with lamb’s lettuce & fennel salad with bagna cauda


Chorizo, chicken & chickpeas, served with green beans


Griddled maple cure bacon & roast vine tomatoes

Kentish cherries


Duck egg omelette with fresh herbs

Gooseberry, elderflower & almond crumble

Supper & brunch menu w/c 11th of July


Assam tea-marinated tofu stir-fried with buckwheat noodles, spring onions & mangetout


Italian baked fish fillets with green olives, potatoes & tomatoes, served with courgettes


Moroccan lamb meatballs, bulghur wheat & roasted vegetables, minted yoghurt


Pea & chestnut mushroom risotto, poached Burford Brown egg & Parmesan


Lime & mint trout fillets with cucumber basmati rice, sesame seeds & edamame beans


Smoked trout & scrambled eggs

Sweet Eve strawberries


Ricotta & lemon hot cakes

Almond & blueberry smoothie

Supper & brunch menu w/c 4th of July


Spicy aubergine curry, basmati rice & toasted almonds


Thai turkey & lettuce parcels, sticky rice


Roast mackerel with farro, Swiss chard & tahini sauce


Spinach & walnut-stuffed mushrooms, tomato & red onion salad


Persian kebabs served with rice, pickled green chillies, beetroot salad & minted yoghurt


Duck egg omelette

Tendresse aux peches 


Poached eggs with smoked salmon

Rhubarb, macadamia & white chocolate muffin

Charlie the greyhound appeal


a resident of
Whittingham Greyhound Re-homing Kennels


Charlie is 10 years old and has lived in a home for 6 years.

He did not come from Whittingham Kennels but was taken in by us in May 2011 when his owners said they were moving house and could no longer keep him.

Charlie was panting and wheezy and appeared to have difficulty breathing and the vet who examined him diagnosed Laryngeal Paralysis which is a life
threatening condition.

Left un-treated Charlie will become intolerant to exercise, heat, stress or anything which puts the slightest burden on his already lessening ability to take in air.

Eventually it will cause collapse and death from lack of oxygen.

Charlie’s condition can be successfully treated with surgery with entails tying back one of the laryngeal cartilages thus opening the larynx and allowing normal breathing.

Unfortunately the required surgery is expensive (estimated to be between £1000 and £2000) and way beyond the means of Whittingham Kennels which relies very much on donations for it’s day to day running.

Charlie can only be saved if we can raise the funds through the generosity of people like you and your friends. So if you are able I would be very grateful for any amount that you can spare.

A real bonus would be to find him a loving home … We would take him, if it wasn’t for the fact that we have only 6 weeks ago re-homed another retired greyhound and now have 2 hounds already.

Please send any donations that you collect from family & friends direct to me; cheques should be made payable to James Roberts who is coordinating the appeal on behalf of Johanna Beumer OBE who runs
Whittingham Kennels

Jim Roberts who has been one of Whittingham volunteers since 2000 is coordinating the fund-raising for Charlie. You can also call him on 01268 414123 if you need any further information.

Thank you in advance for your support!

Monique xx

Supper & brunch menu w/c 27th of June


Steamed vegetable “salad” with Indonesian nut sambal, quail’s eggs & rice


Chicken kofte with tzatziki, green beans & Jersey Royals


Pan-fried sea bass fillets with artichoke & broad bean couscous


Veal, spinach & lemon meatballs, tomato sauce & bulghur wheat served with Greek yoghurt


Roast beetroot salad with anchovy, mint & mozzarella


Asparagus & Serrano ham soldiers, toasted multigrain

Chocolate brownie


Ricotta hotcakes with Sweet Eve strawberries

Supper & brunch menu w/c 20th of June


Japanese style tofu, egg & rice bowl


Lamb koresh with rhubarb and coriander, served with rice and yoghurt


Griddled chicken thighs with a lemony lentil & green bean salad


Aubergine bake with Feta served with fresh tomato sauce


Chermoula mackerel with spring vegetable couscous


Smoked salmon and scrambled Burford Brown eggs

“Doughnut” peaches


Boiled Burford Brown eggs with asparagus & Serrano ham soldiers

Chocolate & cherry brownie

Supper & brunch menu w/c 13th of May


Chargrilled leeks, dill, Parmesan & poached Burford Brown egg on basmati rice


Pan-fried mackerel with new potatoes, radish & cucumber


Asian griddled beef salad with rice noodles &  a squeeze of lime


Griddled chicken & green beans with a black olive dressing and bulghur wheat


Italian baked pollock fillets with tomatoes, potatoes & oregano, served with courgettes


Duck egg omelette with fresh herbs

Strawberry & raspberry crisp


Smoked salmon & scrambled eggs

Kentish cherries

Supper & brunch menu w/c 5th of June


Fragrant aubergine curry with basmati rice & toasted almonds


Salmon fillets with Puy lentils, salsa verde & roast tomatoes


Chicken thigh fillets baked with new potatoes, oregano, white wine & creme fraiche, served with runner beans


Veal & courgette frittas, chunky tomtoes sauce and bulghur wheat


Lime & mint trout fillets with cucumber quinoa, black sesame seeds & edamame beans


Soft boiled Burford Brown eggs with asparagus-Parma ham soldiers

Strawberries & vanilla fromage frais


Huevos rancheros

Banana espresso muffin

Supper & brunch menu w/c 30th of May


Asparagus & pea risotto, poached Burford Brown egg & Parmesan


Spicy fish cakes with cucumber-peanut relish, basmati rice and wilted pak choi


Chorizo, tomato & chickpea stew with baby spinach


Linguine with mozzarella, rocket & anchovy


Hot & sour chicken noodle bowl with shitake mushrooms & toasted sesame seeds


Duck egg & herb omelette, roasted cherry tomatoes

Spelt, almond & blueberry cookies


Roast Portobello mushrooms, with spinach & melted Gubbeen

Strawberries & fromage frais

Supper & brunch menu w/c 23rd of May


Butternut squash, tomato & spinach curry, wholegrain basmati rice & toasted almonds


Greek style chicken thigh fillets with a zesty Feta topping, rice & courgettes


Moroccan lamb meatballs, roast vegetable bulghur wheat & minted yoghurt


Beetroot & spelt salad with anchovy, mint and mozzarella


Spiced griddled mackerel with tomatoey white beans + rocket


Soft boiled Burford Brown with Parma ham soldiers & cherry tomatoes

Lady Grey fruit loaf


Scrambled eggs & smoked salmon, watercress

Apple & rhubarb crisp

Supper & Brunch menu w/c 16th of May


Chinese style noodles stir-fried with shitake mushrooms, sugar snap peas & toasted sesame seeds


Baked salmon on leeks with anchovy-parsley vinaigrette & new potatoes


Chianti-baked beef meatballs with spaghetti, griddled courgette salad


Griddled chicken thighs with lemony lentils & green beans


Trout fillets with an oat & mustard crust, chive creme fraiche & roast beetroot salad


Duck egg omelette with chives

strawberries & fromage frais


Boiled Burford Brown egg with Parma ham soldiers

Lady Grey tealoaf

Supper & brunch menu 9th of May


Beetroot risotto with wild garlic & goats cheese


Griddled sea-trout with South Indian style green beans and coconut rice


Japanese-style chicken, egg & rice bowl


Vegetable salad with Indonesian nut sambal


Lamb, courgette & halloumi burger on toasted ciabatta, minted yoghurt


Eggs Florentine

Rhubarb compote with live bio-yoghurt & granola


Omelette with fresh herbs & roast vine tomatoes

Banana espresso muffins

Supper & brunch menu w/c 2nd of May


Warm lentil & broccoli salad with goat’s cheese


Salmon in a Bengali mustard sauce, basmati rice & dal


Linguine with mozzarella, wild garlic & anchovy and a tomato salad


Chicken & courgette frittas, boiled new potatoes & a watercress salad


Spiced mackerel with tomatoey white beans & wilted spinach


Scrambled eggs & smoked salmon

Strawberries & fromage frais


Griddled Portobello mushrooms with thyme & Gubbeen

Carrot, orange & walnut bar

Matt Roberts’ “I will make you fit fast”

Written by personal trainer to the stars (and the Camerons) Matt Roberts who learnt the importance of fitness from his father, the footballer John Roberts who played for Arsenal and Wales and later trained with the sprinter and Olympic gold winner Darren Campbell.

Matt Roberts presides over a multi-faceted fitness and nutrition empire, including 4 personal training centres (he opened his first gym in an abandoned art gallery in Mayfair at the age of 22), 8 books, fitness DVDs and an exercise clothing range; he is a fitness expert for BBC Radio 1 and BBC Breakfasts, columnist and a nutrition and fitness consultant for brands including Sony, Gillette and Danone.

In his latest book, Matt encourages you to think like a celebrity, presenting two of his tried and tested fitness & diet programmes. By setting very precise, clear goals against a timeline, Matt gives his clients purpose and direction and, crucially, gets results – every time!

The basic principle of the 12 week plan described in his latest book is to combine a pretty strict diet with a rigorous, albeit short, daily workout. This, Roberts says, increase calorie usage, increases muscle activity and generally makes heart and lungs stronger, allowing time to radically change your body – sculpting your shape, stripping fat and increasing fitness levels.

The second part of the book, the 2 week blitz, describes the approach Matt uses with celebrities who are preparing for a fast approaching “red carpet” moment.

It is intensive. You will need to work out 6 days a week, with one day off for recovery. The upside (!) is that you won’t need to restrict your calorie intake too much because the programme is so intense …

The  book is broken down in such a way that it provides all you need to focus on each day during the programme: “today’s diet” and “today’s workout”.

Diet is an important part and there is breakdown of your meals for each day. A small collection of easy to follow recipes are provided.  Meals are typically low-fat and low-ish carb (think Portobello burger, chicken fajitas, wheat-free pasta with smoked salmon … ), and portion sizes on the small side. Meals are repeated throughout the programme, but you could substitute meals/ingredients to suit your palate, provided they fall within the plan guidelines.

Having given up my gym membership a year ago, I was interested to find out how my routine compares and what I could do differently to make my workouts as efficient and effective as possible.

As with most things worth having in life, there is no easy, quick fix or magic wand  – and Matt states very clearly that in the 1st chapter of the book. If you eat too much and do too little, you will get out of shape and fatter. No short cuts!

The main thing that I took away from the book is that goal setting is absolutely key. Having purpose, direction and a recognisable end point is important for anyone who wants to be successful and this is an ethos that can equally be applied to fitness.

 I was pleased to read that I am, unwittingly, already implementing a number of Matt’s exercise principles designed to achieve maximum results in the shortest possible time: interval training, super sets, compound training and MHR (maximum heart rate).

Here’s an exercise from the book, knee crossover tucks, which I do a couple of time a week: it’s great for developing stability around the lower back.


Here’s how:

1. Assume a face down position on the ground with palms of hands on the floor under the shoulders and legs extended with the balls of the feet touching the ground. Raise yourself up using your arms, maintaining a stable, straight torso.

2. Holding this position, slowly lift one foot off the floor and raise the leg, bringing the knee across the upper body. Stop raising the leg at the point you feel your lower back bending and slowly lower back down to the starting position. Repeat for the other side.

Not feeling your best? Unhappy with the shape of your body? Preparing for an event where you need to impress?

Prepared to work hard + diligently and to give exercise your undivided attention?

If you answer “yes” to one of more questions, then this book could be for you.


Supper & brunch menu w/c 25th of April


Spring vegetable casserole with wild garlic-walnut pesto and multi-seed bread


Chicken with leeks and mustard, served with new potatoes


Chermoula pollock fillets with roast sweet pepper couscous


Japanese style chicken, egg and rice bowl


Lemony lamb meatballs, rice and wilted chard


Boiled egg and Serrano ham soldiers

Fruit salad with natural bio-yoghurt and seeds


Wholemeal pancake stack with banana and honey

Almond milk thickie

Supper & brunch menu w/c 18th of April


Spicy aubergine curry served with Thai jasmine rice & toasted sesame seeds


Griddled mackerel  with spiced cannellini beans and wilted spinach


Linguine with sprue asparagus carbonara


Risotto style barley with tarragon chicken and Portobello mushrooms, grated Parmesan


Moroccan lamb meatballs, roast vegetable bulghur wheat & minted yoghurt


Eggs Florentine

Espresso banana muffins


Scrambled eggs,  smoked salmon & watercress

Apricot multi-seed bar

Supper & Brunch menu w/c 11th of April


Spring vegetable casserole with wild garlic-walnut pesto and spelt bread


Griddled salmon with new potatoes, olives and herbs


Chinese style noodles with ducks’ liver, pak choi & toasted sesame seeds


Chorizo & chickpea stew served with wilted baby spinach


Warm lentil & purple sprouting broccoli salad with goats’ cheese


Eggs Florentine

Tendresse aux pommes


Buttermilk pancakes with maple cured crispy bacon + vine tomatoes

Rhubarb + oat crisp



SavvyCook. Keeper of the kitchen. Invisible chef. Fuss-free wife.

“Not having to plan, shop for, and prepare my own meals is brilliant. It really takes the stress off your plate! Portions are generous and the meals are healthy, convenient and tasty. I highly recommend it when you are working & playing hard”.

SavvyCook’s kitchen-keeping service provides you with an invisible chef who makes sure that your kitchen is stocked with everything you need to keep, or get, your healthy eating habits on track.

Meal planning, shopping & chopping are all taken care of.

 On a weekly basis Savvy Cook supplies

 5 ready-to-cook dinners 

The menu changes every week and is published here on SavvyCook’s blog on Friday Very simple cooking instructions accompany every meal.

5 breakfasts (e.g. fruit compote with live natural yoghurt + home-made granola  or fruity porridge  + our own super seed mixture)

5 delicious but nutritious desserts OR energy boosting snacks

 The ingredients for a weekend brunch (e.g. Parma ham or bacon, vine tomatoes, field mushrooms or smoked salmon + watercress, free-range organic eggs, muffins/loaf cake)


 Fresh bread, milk, fresh juice, seasonal fruit, fresh mint


 A top-up of basic groceries (such as tea, coffee, butter, olive oil, marmalade/jam/honey, mustard, pepper/salt etc.) as required.


Full service described above £ 200 per person per week. £375 for 2 people at the same address.

 The grocery start-up pack costs £ 95 which includes a top-up of the groceries as required.

No breakfast or no dinner on request. 

Want to be savvy too?

  1. contact SavvyCook
  2. we’ll meet or contact you to discuss the finer details
  3. start the week after


Supper & brunch menu w/c 4th of April


Nasi rawit with atjar tampoer and a fried Burford Brown egg


Griddled mackerel fillets with farro, wilted Swiss chard & tahini


Chicken & courgette frittas, boiled new potatoes and watercress salad


Pasta Puttanesca, rocket & Parmesan salad


Griddled chicken thighs with barley, orange, walnut & chicory salad


Griddled field mushrooms, Parma ham & roast vine tomatoes on sourdough

Apricot, banana & cardamom muffin


Smoked salmon & scrambled Burford Brown eggs and watercress on toasted rye

rhubarb compote with fromage frais

Dinner menu w/c 27th of March


Chinese style noodles with Oolong tea marinated tempeh, sugar snap peas & toasted sesame seeds


Salmon fillets baked with curried leeks & peas, served with basmati rice and toasted almonds


Moroccan spiced chicken thighs with carrots, chickpeas and bulghur wheat


Spring vegetable & barley casserole with gremolata, served with walnut bread



Baked pollock fillets with tomatoes, potatoes and olives, served with tenderstem broccoli


Rose harissa griddled chicken, Persian spiced pilaff, green beans and minted yoghurt


Oven baked chestnut mushroom, porcini and wild garlic risotto, poached Burford Brown egg & Parmesan

Dinner menu w/c 21st of March


Chinese-style noodles with shitake mushrooms & sugar snap peas, a fried duck egg and toasted sesame seeds


Pan-fried trout fillets with an oat & mustard crust, chive creme fraiche and roast beetroot salad


Sticky lemon chicken with ginger & lemongrass, wilted greens and basmati rice


Veal, sage & spinach cannelloni, chunky tomato sauce, rocket & Parmesan salad


Coley fillets baked with a spicy tomato sauce, butternut squash and rice


Griddled lamb leg steaks with roast red onion & tomato bulghur wheat, minted yoghurt


Baked salmon with leeks and a parsley-anchovy vinaigrette, boiled Cyprus potatoes

Dinner menu w/c 14th of March


Big curry noodle pot with tofu and udon noodles


Chicken thighs baked with cannellini beans, tarragon, white wine & creme fraiche, served with wilted greens


Griddled salmon, wholegrain rice, spinach & edamame salad with creamy miso dressing


Spiced lamb meatballs with rice ‘n beans, served with pilli-pilli sauce


Italian baked cod with potatoes, tomatoes & green olives, served with a little gem salad


Butternut squash, sage & lemon risotto, poached duck egg & Parmesan, rocket salad


Rose harissa seared beef, roast vegetable bulghur wheat & minted yoghurt

Dinner menu w/c 7th of March


Zesty risotto-style barley with celeriac, Parmesan & toasted walnuts served with watercress salad


Griddled jerk chicken skewers served with courgettes & rice


Smoked haddock gratin with wilted spinach & Cyprus potatoes


Chinese style noodles with tea-marinated tofu, shitake mushrooms & sugar snap peas


Griddled Italian sausages with thyme roast vegetables and soft Parmesan polenta


Pollock fillets baked with curried leeks & cherry tomatoes, served with basmati rice & toasted almonds


Rigatoni with Chianti baked beefsteak meatballs, rocket & olive salad

Spiced cauliflower with Bill’s ginger pachadi

Part of the flowering greens family, which also includes  “regular”, tenderstem and purple sprouting broccoli and romanesco, cauliflower is available pretty much all year round but at its best in winter.

Although delicious and popular, there are more ways to prepare cauliflower than covered with a cheesy bechamel sauce.

Try adding lightly cooked cauliflower florets to macaroni cheese next time, or bake sprinkled with a mixture of wholemeal breadcrumbs and Parmesan.

When buying, look for caulis with white, tight heads; avoid if discoloured or if they smell strongly.

Cook all varieties as lightly as possible to avoid the unpleasant sulphurous smell and to retain nutrients.

Brown basmati rice is rich in vitamin B and has a low GL (glycemic load) score which means that the energy is released slowly into the bloodstream to help keep your blood sugar levels even.

Broccoli contains substances called sulphurophanes, which have been shown to help remove liver toxins and support the immune system. The combination of ginger, in the recipe below, and the cauliflower is packed with antioxidants.

Sesame seeds are a good source of omega-6 fats and, toasted, have a delicious nutty flavour.

In the delicious and easy recipe below I have used ginger pachadi from Bill’s Produce Store to add an exotic touch to cauliflower.


Pachadis are spice mixtures, popular in South India: use them like I have done here, to flavour vegetables, mix into natural yoghurt and use as a dip or marinade for meat or fish.

This meal, which is really quick to prepare and can be on the table in minutes, serves 2 as a wholesome, vegetarian main course.

This is what you need:

2 generous handfuls of cauliflower florets, cut into bite-size pieces

1 heaped tbsp of Bill’s ginger pachadi

2 tsp turmeric dissolved in 100ml of hot water

1/2 tsp chilli flakes

juice of 1/2 a lime

1 tbsp toasted sesame seeds (toast in a dry, hot frying pan until seeds begin to pop + colour – watch closely as they can burn quickly!)

1 tbsp sunflower oil

2 large free-range hen (or try duck for a wonderfully rich, creamier taste) eggs

half a small bunch of coriander

wholegrain basmati rice, cooked according to the instructions on the packet

This is what you do:

  1. heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat
  2. add the cauliflower florets and stir-fry for 2 minutes
  3. add the chilli flakes and ginger pachadi and stir in to mix
  4. add the hot water with turmeric  and lime juice
  5. simmer for 2 minutes; the liquid will almost disappear
  6. in the meantime, break the eggs in a bowl and beat lightly
  7. pour the eggs into the cauliflower mixture, stirring around for 30 seconds or so until the eggs scramble
  8. sprinkle with a ltlle bit of sea salt, chopped coriander + sesame seeds
  9. eat immediately – with the wholegrain basmati rice

Bon appetit!

Monique x


Dinner menu w/c 28th of February


Baked pancakes with spinach, chestnut mushrooms and Gruyère, served with balsamic roast tomatoes


Moroccan spiced chicken with carrots & chickpeas served with bulghur wheat


Rose harissa griddled lamb leg steaks, Persian spiced pilaff, green beans and minted yoghurt


Salmon fillets baked on rosemary roast potatoes, beetroot salad & horseradish-walnut creme fraiche


Italian baked pollock fillets with tomatoes, potatoes & Kalamata olives, served with purple sprouting broccoli


Mixed root & kidney bean borscht & chive cream served with smoked salmon pumpernickel bread


Butternut squash, sage and barley risotto with crumbled Roquefort, rocket & toasted pumpkin seed salad

Supper menu w/c 21st of February


Spiced cauliflower with scrambled eggs, wholegrain basmati rice & toasted almonds


Griddled chicken thighs with roast fennel, new potatoes & preserved lemon


 Pan-fried trout fillets  with Puy lentils, roast tomatoes & salsa verde


Greek style chicken fillets with a zesty Feta topping, tenderstem broccoli and rice


Veal & spinach cannelloni with a chunky tomato sauce, rocket  & Parmesan salad


Winter minestrone with parsley & walnut pesto, toasted sourdough


Rice pilau with oyster, chestnut mushrooms & toasted hazelnuts, served with a green salad

Fragrant, seductive & elegant Valentine’s Day menu

Sweets for my sweet ...

Love it ….. or don’t love it, it’s Valentine’s Day on Monday!

If nothing else, it’s an opportunity to make a certain person feel special, be kind to ourselves and practice a bit of self-love,  spend time with loving people or …  simply eat delicious food!

Rose & orange blossom dark chocolate Smyrna figs stuffed with almonds

This is what’ll be cooking chez nous:

Griddled haloumi with chicory and pomegranate


Braised cod cheeks with walnut dukkah and sumac onions

Zesty, herby bulghur wheat


Mini ginger & rhubarb Pavlovas

 And these moreish stuffed figs to nibble on with an espresso or verveine (depending on how full we are!).

Made with love xxx

And remember, love is contagious!

Happy Valentine’s Day & bon appetit,

Monique x

Dinner menu w/c 7th of February


Butternut squash, sage & blue cheese barley risotto, watercress & toasted pumpkin salad


Smoked haddock gratin, wilted spinach & Charlotte potatoes


Spiced baked chicken thighs with preserved lemon yoghurt, basmati rice & chard


Penne with Chianti baked Aberdeen Angus beef meatballs, chunky tomato sauce, rocket & Parmesan salad


Honey & chilli salmon fillets on courgette & coriander soba noodles with toasted sesame seeds


Curried cauliflower & quinoa pilaff with  fried duck eggs


Aromatic lamb with sticky apricots, served with couscous & green beans

Supper menu w/c 31st of January

Can’t believe next week is already the end of January 2011 …

It feels like it’s been a long, grey and cold month, but we’re doing our best to cheer you up with delicious, warming & nutritious meals to ward off colds, flu and worse!


Gnocchi alla Romana with a chunky tomato sauce, rocket salad 


Spiced lamb meatballs, rice ‘n beans, pilli-pilli sauce


Chinese-style noodles with tea-marinated salmon, sugar snap peas & toasted sesame seeds


Griddled chicken thighs with lemony Puy lentils, wilted spinach and minted yoghurt


Salt cod & sweet potato fish cakes, red pepper sauce, watercress salad


Winter minestrone with parsley-walnut pesto,  wholegrain multiseed bread


Coconut turkey breast fillets, chilli & thyme roasted butternut squash, green beans

Dinner menu w/c 24th of January


Mushroom and chestnut Stroganoff, served with quinoa


Italian baked pollack fillets with potatoes and green olives, tenderstem broccoli


Rose harissa chicken thighs + roast butternut squash, Savoy cabbage


Spiced cauliflower, spinach and eggs, wholegrain basmati rice with toasted almonds


Griddled mackerel with salsa verde, braised Puy lentils and green beans


Penne with Chianti baked Aberdeen Angus meatballs, chunky tomato sauce, rocket salad


Honey roast chicken, lemon + rosemary potatoes, curly kale with horseradish

Dinner menu w/c 17th of January


Baked pancakes with spinach, mushrooms and Gruyère, balsamic roast tomatoes


Baked salmon on leeks, anchovy-parsley vinaigrette, boiled Charlotte potatoes


Spiced, griddled chicken thighs with preserved lemon yoghurt, purple sprouting broccoli, basmati rice


Chinese style noodles with shitake mushrooms, mangetout + toasted sesame seeds, fried duck egg


Pan-fried trout fillets in an oat and mustard crust, roast beetroot salad, chive creme fraiche


Honey roast chicken, lemon & rosemary potatoes, curly kale with horseradish


Moroccan lamb tagine with chickpeas and prunes, served with bulghur wheat

Kitchen cupboard detox

Cooking from the cupboard?

With a well-chosen cooking “wardrobe” + a few fresh ingredients it’s easy!

Here’s how I do it. 

Shopping list

Here is my list of essentials that make up my basic “cooking wardrobe”, with fresh, seasonal ingredients as the dynamic accessories that provide colour and texture.

When shopping for fresh ingredients, think of your fridge and freezer working alongside the cupboard: together, their contents are your cooking must-haves!

If you have a well stocked cupboard, fridge and freezer, then cooking a fresh & delicious meal from scratch will be so much easier and more of a pleasure!

The list below reflects what works for me: feel free to edit and add to it in keeping with the kind of meals you like to eat.


Dried pasta

Thin: linguine, spaghetti, angel hair. Great for thin or oil-based sauces. Particularly suited to seafood and simple, bold flavours like lemon, chilli, garlic and herbs.

Short: orecchiette, macaroni. More dense than the thin pasta and ideal for chunky vegetable sauces such as broccoli. Can also be used in soups and broths.

Wide: pappardelle, ziti, fettucine. Best with robustly flavoured sauces: cream or tomato or meat based.

Round: penne, rigatoni. The wide shapes are easily coated with sauce and excellent for holding it. Also make a great base for baked pasta dishes.


Basmati: long grain and fragrant. Its low starch content means the grains stay separate after cooking. Particularly suited to Indian foods or dishes with a similar spice base.

Short grain: a great standard rice for a multitude of sweet and savoury dishes. Unlike long-grain rice, has no distinctive flavour. The grains just stick together after cooking.

Arborio, carnaroli, vialone: grown in the Po valley in Northern Italy, these types of rice contain more starch than other types and will withstand long, slow cooking. As the rice cooks, starch is released which gives risotto its creamy texture.

Jasmine: fragrant and slightly perfumed. Delicious with Chinese, Vietnamese, or Thai-style dishes. Rice contains enough starch to keep the grains together after cooking, making it easy to eat with chopsticks.


Egg: wheat noodles which have been enriched with egg. They come in varying thicknesses. Cook in boiling water before mixing with other ingredients

Rice: made from ground rice and water, these noodles need to be soaked or boiled before being used. They come in varying thicknesses.

Wheat, ramen, soba: tend to be similar in thickness as spaghetti and require boiling in water before being added to a stir-fry, soup or broth.

Grains + lentils

Cannellini beans and chickpeas: canned beans make a fantastic base for a simple meal, soup or salad. Simple drain, rinse and add at the end of the cooking time so they retain their shape and texture.

Lentils: red lentils take only a few minutes to cook and can add texture and volume to stews and soups. Du Puy are small and green-brown to blue with an earthy, nutty flavour. They can be simply boiled, mixed with olive oil as a side dish and complement meat and fish equally well.

Couscous: made from semolina and wheat, the grains vary from medium to coarse and have a very mild taste. Cook by soaking in hot stock or water until swollen.

Bulghur wheat: similar to couscous but with a nuttier flavour and more knubbly texture. Boil in hot water or stock until the grains have soaked up the liquid.

Quinoa: pronounced “keen wa” is a tiny seed used as a cereal for more than 5,000 years. Regarded as a sacred food by the Incas who called it “the mother seed”. Provides one of the best sources of vegetable protein and its flavour is comparable to couscous. Cook like rice.


Dried: they are generally not a substitute for fresh herbs, but some varieties are better dried than others. Only use dried herbs in cooked dishes, never in raw foods such as salads. Use a quarter of the amount of dried herbs as you would use fresh ones. Store cupboard basics: rosemary, thyme, oregano, sage, bay leaves and tarragon.


A mixture of ground and whole: they are essential for flavouring food. Buy the nutmeg whole and grate it as you need it rather than buying pre-ground. Keep some cinnamon sticks as well as ground cinnamon for flavouring compotes and tagines. Good quality sea-salt is a must for its purity and flavour.

Ground cumin, ground coriander, cinnamon, nutmeg, turmeric, saffron, ginger, sweet and smoked paprika, black peppercorns, sea salt.


Canned tomatoes: good quality tinned plum tomatoes are preferable to inferior, tasteless fresh ones out of season. Choose a good brand.

Olive oil and olives: use a good quality olive oil for frying, and an extra virgin single estate for drizzling over soups, bruschettas and to dress salad. It is a seasonal product and when first harvested and pressed in November has a completely different taste and colour. Choose firm, unblemished olives with a good colour and wash before use if preserved in brine. Kalamata olives from Greece are my favourite for their strong, salty and distinctive flavour.

Capers: small and green, they are the buds of the caper bush and can be bought packed in brine or salt. Rinse well before use.

Tuna: for maximum flavour, choose canned in olive or sunflower oil over brine. The only tuna not listed as endangered is skipjack. Trawling for fish using nets puts dolphins at risk of getting caught. Check labelling on cans to ensure it contains “dolphin friendly” tuna.

Anchovies: salted or tinned, which are very different in character, but both are useful melted into a sauce to dress pasta or vegetables.

Balsamic vinegar: is grape juice boiled for a long time then transferred to wooden vats for ageing for up to 50 years for the most expensive. The older the vinegar, the darker in colour and the more intensely sweet.

Harissa: a hot and spicy Middle Eastern chilli paste that traditionally accompanies couscous. Use sparingly to add flavour to tagines, sauces or a simply griddled piece of meat or fish.

Dijon mustard: the smooth and wholegrain varieties are both medium-strength which makes them good all-rounders for dressings, marinades and sandwiches.


Soya, fish and oyster sauce: these salty sauces are essential for Asian cooking. Soya sauce is made from fermented soybeans, varies in intensity and sweetness and also comes in a reduced salt variety. Fish sauce has a pungent aroma, but the taste is addictive!

Sweet chilli and hoisin sauce: these two offer sweetness with a subtle kick. Ideal for stir-fries and marinades or as a dipping sauce.

Rice wine: or “shao hsing” has a mild taste. You can use medium or dry sherry instead.

Sesame oil: adds a unique taste of toasted sesame to vegetables and other foods. Use sparingly as a flavour maker not for frying.

Thai red and green curry paste: the red paste is made from ground red chillies, garlic, lemon grass, ginger and fermented shrimps amongst other things. The green variety includes coriander and green chillies. Keep in the fridge once opened.

Miso paste: this very thick paste is made from fermented soya beans and rice. It has a nutty flavour and is a bit salty. Generally the darker the colour, the stronger the miso.

Coconut milk: pressed from the kernel of ripe coconuts, this is a mainstay of Asian and Caribbean cooking and can be used to flavour curries, soups and desserts. I use the reduced fat variety without any loss of taste or eating quality.

Sambal oelek: a paste made from fresh chilli peppers which can be used as a convenient substitute for fresh chillies.


Flour: stone ground plain (white or brown) flour for bread making and soft wheat flour, sold as plain or self-raising flour, for cakes and pastry making. Plus cornstarch for thickening sauces and for baking, in combination with other flours, to give a finer texture.

Cocoa, minimum 70% chocolate and vanilla: remember, the better the quality the better the flavour! Use vanilla extract instead of vanilla essence and use a vanilla stick to flavour sugar for baking.

Almonds and coconut: ground almonds produce a buttery flavour in baking when mixed with flour. Coconut is readily available dessicated (dried and very fine) or shredded. Both are high in fat, and make cakes and biscuits moist.

Baking powder, bi-carbonate of soda, cream of tartar: are all leavening agents. Baking powder, out of the three, has the mildest taste and leaves no residual flavour.


Honey: made by bees from flower nectar and stored in their hives in a maze of waxy honeycomb. In general, the darker the colour the stronger the flavour. Any mild coloured honey is suitable for baking.

Sugar: white, caster and icing sugar are all white sugars with a different texture. Brown, dark brown and Demerara sugar all have residual molasses that have not been removed during processing and which gives them a caramel taste. Buy fairly traded products where possible.

Blackstrap molasses: is a natural sweetener with a rich, bittersweet taste. It is a good source of minerals and vitamins and the flavour enhances many dishes including cakes, chutneys and stews.

Date syrup: made from the juice of fresh dates, it’s got a distinctive sweet-sour taste.

Jam: can be used to make a quick dessert as well as eaten on a piece of toast.



Natural yoghurt

Single cream or crème fraiche

Butter: unsalted

Chunk of Parmesan

1 other cheese you love: goats cheese or a piece of blue cheese for example.

Tub of ricotta: if you like fresh cheese, but be aware that it does not have a long shelf life and needs to be eaten fairly quickly once you have opened the tub.

Coffee: freshly ground or beans which you grind yourself as and when needed; best kept in an airtight jar for freshness.


Peas: frozen can be superior to fresh, unless very recently picked

Soya beans: soya protein can help maintain a healthy heart but make sure its non-GM.

Berries: as I write, I still have two plastic bags of blackberries waiting to be turned into a apple & blackberry crumble or whizzed into a nutrient packed smoothie with some natural yoghurt, seeds and tablespoon of oats.

Tub of good quality vanilla ice cream: goes well with fresh fruit and most desserts

Stock: make and freeze your own into an ice cube tray or buy in tubs. A “must” as a base for soups and quick meals in a bowl with pasta or noodles.

And …

Eggs: medium, free range organic

Tea: I keep a few different types, loose and teabags, black, green and herbal to suit different moods and occasions

Marmite: love it or hate it?

Good luck with sorting out your kitchen cupboards: I bet once you’ve got a good store + system going, you’ll never look back and will find scratch cooking + shopping so much easier.

As always, I am keen to hear your comments!


Monique x


Supper menu w/c 10th of January


Curried quinoa with winter vegetable pilaff with toasted coconut


Baked buttermilk chicken with a herb crust, honey + mustard sauce, Roseval potatoes and tenderstem broccoli


Ricotta, Parmesan and spinach gnocchi with a chunky tomato sauce, watercress and toasted pumpkin seed salad


Griddled lamb leg steaks with roast vegetable bulghur wheat, minted yoghurt


Baked lime & mint trout fillets with cucumber basmati rice, edamame beans and toasted sesame seeds


Chicken thigh fillets baked with cannellini beans, tarragon, white wine and creme fraiche, served with January King cabbage


Fragrant beef tagine with rose harissa, sweet potatoes and tomatoes, served with couscous

How not to get Fat: your daily diet

How not to get Fat: your daily diet

As I am writing this review, I have listened to Radio 4 Woman’s Hour on diets and the diet industry with, amongst others, Arabella Weir who has struggled with weight all her life and whose latest book is called “The real me is thin”.

From listening to the introduction to the programme, where women recount the many and varied (mad) diets they have tried, it is abundantly clear that although many of us know more about food and nutrition than ever, diets don’t keep the weight off (diets have a 97% failure rate!) and as a nation we are generally becoming fatter.

I have also watched Channel 4’s documentary “Britain’s Fattest Man”  which looked at Britain’s most desperate cases of overeating and the nation’s rising tide of obesity: at 57 stone, the 49-year-old Paul Mason is the tragic object of tabloid scrutiny, logistical nightmares and extreme medical measures. One thing is for sure, there is no dignity for the super-obese!

Of course, it is hard to relate to extremes, but Paul Mason wasn’t born fat. He grew fat, and fatter and fatter still.

Dieting is big business: worth £2.6b in the UK alone.

We believe fad (read “quick fix”) diets will quickly deliver the desired weight loss and the concept of “healthy eating” has become a muddled term. “Weight management” and “nutrition” are often confused as  a diet based on food choices focused on nutritional content can still lead to weight gain.

So, if you are among the millions of people for whom day-to-day-dieting is a way of life, what now?

The Author Ian Marber

Ian Marber, also known as The Food Doctor , believes there is another way to eat.

One that enables you to manage your weight, promotes energy, reduces hunger and still provides the good nutrition you require.

This is what his new book “How not to get Fat: your daily diet”, due out on the 11th of January, is about.

I must state here that I have never been keen on The Food Doctor’s ready meals and salads: they lack imagination, look “messy” in their plastic containers and every single meal has been generally sprinkled with mixed seeds.

Bit I do rate Ian Marber, MBANT Dip ION, regular contributor to leading magazines and publications, prolific writer, founder and principal consultant at The Food Doctor Clinc and his no-nonsense approach to nutrition.

In his latest book, Ian Marber takes us through the basic science of how food becomes energy, in particular glucose management, how much glucose different foods create and their effect on your energy levels and how soon after eating you feel hungry again.

This section is excellent: it explains in layman terms how food is turned into fuel by the body’s digestive system. In particular, Ian explains glucose management, which is such a vital aspect of weight management, in detail.

In my work with clients at SavvyCook and children and parents at SavvyKids I am very aware how confused many people are about food and what constitutes appropriate eating.

Earlier this year I wrote in this blog about glycemic index and glycemic load in an effort to demystify glucose management and to explain some simple facts about how the human body works as well as offer tactics to manage bloodsugar levels.

Ian Marber goes on to apply the understanding of glucose management to knowledge of other food groups, fat and protein.

A vital concept in the daily diet is always to eat protein and complex carbohydrates together and to eat every two and a half to three hours, starting every day with breakfast.

The book then goes on to provide information on 50 typical healthy foods you might choose to eat, including advice on how to choose, buy, prepare and cook these foods and offers over 200 suggestions on how to turn them into easy but appealing meals and snacks.

I was pleased to see a wide range of ingredients described, including some less well-known grains, pulses, different kinds of meat and a wide range of vegetables. More information about provenance and seasonality under “what to look for” would have been welcome, although I appreciate that in the context of this diet these factors are largely irrelevant.

The recipes + meal suggestions are imaginative, practical and should be easy to follow by even not very confident cooks.

I liked the dry roasted chickpeas with chilli, cumin and cinnamon snack suggestion, curried quinoa and vegetable pilaff with toasted coconut and braised steak with olives, tomatoes and orange zest.

Suggestions on batch cooking are included plus ideas on what to do with left-overs.

I am no fan of freezing food: domestic freezers are not really equipped to freeze food really fast so no ice crystals are formed in the process. More often than not, the eating quality of a previously frozen meal is compromised as a result.

Nuts and seeds play an important role in “the daily diet”. One of the ultimate convenience foods, seeds are an instant way of adding protein, fibre and “good” fats to a dish.

I was surprised not to read a recommendation to grind the seeds to make the absorption of the nutrients by the body much easier.

In the final section of the book, Ian shares a number of food planners, including his own (!), based on different ages, circumstances and lifestyles.

The food planners aim to show you how easy it is to follow the plan. You simply work out which case study most closely resembles your situation and use the food planner as a blueprint that you can adapt.

All in all this book is an excellent addition to the plethora of books on weight management already on the shelves – and perhaps on your shelf if you are among the millions of people who have happened to gain weight and are considering a(nother) diet?

I like the fact that the focus is on understanding the science of turning food into fuel, the effect of glucose on your body, energy levels and mood, not calorie counting, and the importance of eating little and often.

Naturally, as with anything in life worth having, eating well does take time, thought and effort.

Not having the time to eat well is not an excuse in my, or Ian Marber’s, book! Time, or lack of, is an issue for all of us, but this a question of priorities and eating well does not have to be complicated.

I’d like to finish here with a delicious recipe for French leek and onion soup, with the novel addition of a poached egg over which the hot soup is ladled just before eating.

French leek & onion soup with poached eggs

Serves 4

This is what you need:

3 tbsp sunflower oil

2 fairly large onions (about 350g total weight), halved and sliced

2 large leeks, well-washed and sliced

4 tbsp quinoa

1 litre strong beef or vegetable stock

1 bay leaf

freshly ground black pepper

4 eggs

85g Gruyère or Cheddar, grated

This is what you do:

  1. Heat the oil in a large, non-stick, saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and leeks and fry, stirring until they begin to soften and colour, for about 4 minutes. Then reduce the heat as low as possible, cover and cook very gently for 10 minutes. Remove the lid, turn up the heat and fry, stirring, for 3-4 minutes until golden. Stir in the quinoa.
  2. Add the stock, the bay leaf and some seasoning. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat, cover, and simmer gently for 20 minutes.
  3. Pre-heat the grill. Break the eggs, one at a time, into a cup and slide each into the simmering soup. Simmer for 2-5 minutes, depending on how well-cooked you like your eggs. Carefully lift out the eggs with a slotted spoon and place in 4 flame proof  soup bowls. Don’t worry if there are bits of egg white left behind. Ladle the soup over.
  4. Cover the top of each bowl with the grated cheese and place under the grill until melted and bubbling, about 3 minutes.

Bon appetit!



Supper menu w/c 4th of January 2011: 1st savvy menu of the new year!

Happy new year!

Happy New Year to you all!

Wishing you a happy, rewarding and above all healthy 2011.

No “detox” nonsense here, but plenty of  flavoursome, nutritious and nourishing meals to help you face the January cold + fight colds and flu.


Spicy spinach + chickpeas with fried duck eggs, wholegrain basmati rice


Simple fish stew with green peppers and olives, Charlotte potatoes


Veal meatballs with egg + lemon sauce, wilted greens and rice


Griddled venison sausages, Winter rainbow gratin


Gnocchi alla Romana with a chunky tomato sauce, watercress salad


Honey + lemon chicken, rosemary roast potatoes, wilted Savoy cabbage

Effortless eating this Christmas

Wintry table

Every year, I approach Christmas with conflicting thoughts.

I love cooking and I want to cook, but … I don’t want to be stuck in the kitchen all the time.

Because it’s the one time of the year when the business closes for 2 weeks, I have time on my hands which means an opportunity to experiment with new recipes and flavours.

So a chance to cook what I fancy, however … I also want our guests to enjoy their food including those with more conservative (or should that be traditional?) tastes.

I feel equally ambivalent about all the richness of seasonal Christmas foods: Christmas cake, mince pies, nuts, lots of meat and want to counter that with some lighter, fragrant meals.

If you’re entertaining this Christmas, I believe that it’s not so much a case of just making a shopping list …

this is the time for some serious plotting, planning and scheming to produce delicious food – effortlessly!

Remember that old training chestnut (no pun intended!):

“fail to prepare, prepare to fail”x

Boring, but very true.

Also, remember that its your choice whom you bestow your money on; I do like to buy well all the time, but especially at Christmas do look forward to luxury treat and indulgences.

Shopping right is part of good citizenship as far as I am concerned.

Golden crusted Brussels sprouts

Here’s how:

  1. Start by writing down all the eating occasions, from breakfast, brunch to the big Christmas lunch, afternoon tea and everything in between and how many people (approximately) you’ll be feeding.
  2. The work out what you want to serve: I try to strike a balance between tradition and adventure by mixing old favourites with new dishes and adding a lighter, more contemporary twist.
  3. Try and shop local and support British farmers and producers. There’s a bound to be a (farmers) market taking place in your neighbourhood this week. The Real Food Festival’s Christmas Market took place on the South Bank: I realise this is not much help to you now, but make a mental note to visit next year. It was a great place for festive cheer and to buy some wonderful goodies for your Christmas table.
  4. Visit local retailers if you don’t already: unless you shop at the local butcher, fish monger, bakery, veg man etc. they could soon be boarded up.
  5. Soups, pates + terrines make great party food that’s easy to prepare and  scale up if necessary; includes at least one vegetarian option to offer a break from meat/fish to those who want it.
  6. Stock up on fresh herbs: I like to have coriander, mint, chives and flatleaf parsley to hand to add freshness and zing to soups, vegetables and salads.  If you buy “cut” rather than “potted” herbs, wrap them in moistened paper kitchen towel and store  in a plastic bag in the vegetable drawer of your fridge. Rosemary, thyme and sage are great standbys for adding flavour to stews, casseroles and roast. But I find that their dried equivalents work almost as well.
  7. Stock up on a few varieties of decent bread: sourdough, multiseed, rye or try spelt for a change. Real bread stays fresh for longer and is useful in some many ways: at breakfast, “things” on toast, sandwiches and leftovers can be made into breadcrumbs or bread & butter pudding.
  8. Eggs are a versatile super food: try free-range duck‘s eggs for a change. Wonderfully rich in an omelette or in scrambled eggs. Quail‘s eggs are ever so pretty, fried/poached for a minute and used as a salad or canape topping, or boiled, half peeled and dipped in dukkah or celery salt as a snack with drinks.
  9. Make a double quantity of crumble topping (I like to add chopped toasted nuts to mine for extra texture + flavour) and keep in the fridge or freezer: very handy if you want to make a hot pudding with whatever fruit you’ve got to hand.
  10. Baked apples, stuffed with mincemeat and a small piece of marzipan leftover from decorating the Christmas cake, make a very simple but crowd-pleasing pudding. Serve with single cream or custard.
  11. I will also make a cinnamon flavoured fruit compote, probably with quinces, but you coul use a mixture of apples + quinces or dried fruit steeped in strong tea. Go easy on the sugar or honey, taste it first. Delicious topped with natural yoghurt + granola or mixed seeds for breakfast or a substantial cold pudding.
  12. Another great, easy to make, standby are jellies: jelly has had a bit of a renaissance this year, partly thanks to the efforts of Sam Bompass & Harry Parr from The Jellymongers. . My favourite is a grown-up red wine jelly with pears poached in red wine. Very Christmassy, especially with a thin layer of cream poured over the top.
  13. impromptu lunch or supper? Try a whole baked  Vacherin Mont  d’Or with boiled baby potatoes + good bread to dunk and a fresh, green salad on the side. Remove all plastic packaging from the cheese, carefully slice the top off, add a glug of white wine (and a few truffle shavings to make is taste even more amazing!) and black pepper, then replace the top, wrap the cheese in aluminium foil and replace in its wooden box. Bake for about 25 minutes at 180C until warm and runny. Smelly, you’ve been warned, but utterly delicious!
  14. I’m not one for “canapes” preferring to serve a few good quality olives or some nuts with drinks instead of anything too fiddly. I make an exception for smoked fish (trout, salmon or mackerel)  torn into bitesize pieces and served, with a slick of horseradish cream, on pumpernickel or bitesize oat cakes or blinis.





Easy sweet treat: semi-dried figs stuffed with an almond + dunked in dark chocolate with a drop of rose water


Some of the suppliers whose food I trust & love 

Impeccable credentials, amazing buffalo mozzarella and buffalo cuts & joints; their box offers are particularly good value. Try Laverstoke’s buffalo milk ice cream: a creamy revelation!

Born & Bread Bakery

020 8693 1222

Hand shaped breads, craft baked in a wood-fired oven: sourdough, spelt, rye and much much more.  They only use imported, unbleached French flour. It is stone milled which enables the grain to maintain the beneficial vitamins and minerals that would otherwise be lost in commercial factory milling processes.

A Kentish Starter (originally made with apples from Kent, hence the name) is used as the raising agent for all of their breads.

 The wonderful breads are sold via independent retailers, delis and bakeries. Call to find out your nearest stockist. 

Venison, small game from the Scottish Highlands. Their venison sausages make a wonderfully easy meal, braised with Puy lentils or simply served with a root veg-potato mash: meaty and lean with a great gamey flavour.

Deep filled, hand raised pies, including chicken & salmon, with delicious pastry. A really useful standby: makes a tasty, easy supper or light lunch with a fresh salad + condiments.

This Christmas, Sainsbury’s is exclusively selling the first British, free range turkey, reared in woodland, in the Taste the Difference range. 

The Norfolk Black is a slow-growing turkey, bred especially for its succulence and flavour. 

The Woodland Trust receives 10p from every Norfolk Black sale at Sainsbury’s, and the turkeys are also reared to RSPCA Freedom Food approved standards. 

Norfolk Black turkeys

The birds will arrive in store between 21st and 23rd December.

My mother-in-law is bringing pheasants shot in the Yorkshire Howardian Hills around Castle Howard. So the “yes/no turkey debate” has been settled – for 2010 at least!

I’ll be making a stuffing from minced veal, fresh sage, cooked chestnuts + lemon zest. Leftovers (or make extra on purpose!) are delicious stirred into pappardelle, with strips of cavolo nero, coarsely shopped flatleaf parsley and grated Parmesan. their Elvas Plums  are not cheap but they are a very special, seasonal treat! 

St-Germain artisanal elderflower liqueur: “discovered” at the Real Food Festival earlier this year. A beautiful product and delicious as an aperitif added to champagne or white wine in a “St-Germain kir blanc”.

I love  all their three flavours of gravadlax, or cured salmon – a classic cure with dill and a touch of star anise, and dill, but particularly the colourful beetroot cure.

Snow-topped spice cake

So what’s cooking chez nous?

We’ll kick off with afternoon tea:

my “black” Christmas cake, frangipane quincemeat pies, cheese & pumpkin seeds scones, smoked salmon on pumpernickel


Mexican spicy sweet pepper soup with diced avocado + tortilla chips, warmed flat breads, fruit

Whole baked Vacherin Mont d’Or, boiled baby potatoes & bread to dunk, a green salad, red wine & pear jellies

Chestnut & champagne soup, chicken terrine, green salad, bread, baked apples

Baked chermoula salmon, roast sweet pepper & mint couscous, green beans, toasted hazelnut fruit  crumble


full English or smoked salmon with eggs any style, spiced tomato juice or orange juice, fruit compote, yoghurt, jams, toast, Christmas muffins

Christmas dinner:

dressed crab, roast pheasant with veal, chestnut & lemon stuffing, Port sauce, golden crusted Brussels, braised red cabbage, celeriac puree, Christmas pudding or persimmon, orange, pomegranate & mint salad

Frangipane quince pies

Recipes for some of the dishes mentioned above have featured this year as a blog post, but do get in touch if you want guidance/suggestions on any of the dishes.

And naturally, I look forward to receiving your comments!

All that remains is to wish you & yours a very happy Christmas and a healthy, rewarding and above all delicious 2011.

I’ll be reading Ian Marber’s soon to be published book “How not to get Fat” over the festive break … and will review it here for its publishers, Quadrille.

With my very best wishes,

Monique x

Sunshine vitamin D deficiency

A good friend has been diagnosed with vitamin D deficiency.

This is in fact quite a common problem.

Vitamin D, also called the “sunshine vitamin” because we get most of our vitamin D through the action of the sun shining on our skin, is a fat soluble vitamin.

The fact that it dissolves in fat is important because it means the body can store it for future use. 

The thinking goes that, if you get 20 minutes of sun exposure (on your arms or face) between 10am-3pm between the months of April-September, when sun’s rays are strong enough to trigger the conversion of vitamin D in our skin), your body can make enough vitamin D to see you through the winter months. 

Foods rich in vitamin D include oily fish (such as herring, mackerel and salmon), liver, egg yolk, butter and some fortified foods such as margarine and breakfast cereals.

Reading through the list above, you can see that a vegetarian and vegan diets can easily be low in vitamin D.

Some of the causes of vitamin D deficiency are:

  • you don’t eat enough foods right in vitamin D. If that’s the case, change your diet and start including more foods that are rich in vitamin D.
  • you are overweight. Vitamin D is absorbed by fat cells which can lead to low vitamin D levels in the body. Lose weight, because if you don’t your bones can become very fragile.
  • you have dark skin or always wear sun protection creams with a high factor. Be aware of your skin’s reduced ability to produce vitamin D and expose your skin more to the sun or  take a supplement.
  • Limited exposure to sunlight. This is easiest to treat: just spend more time outside!
  • Absorption from the gut is poor. This can affect people with Crohn’s and Coeliac disease.

Deficiency symptoms in adults can be vague and unspecific and include depression, chronic fatigue and osteoporosis.

However, there is increasing evidence that vitamin D is important for more than strong bones and teeth and has many other roles within the immune system.

Low vitamin D levels in adults are linked to SAD (seasonal affective disorder) or “winter blues”, cancers, bowel disease and arthritis.

A good quality multivitamin  mineral + a cod liver oil supplement every day can provide a sensible (10 micrograms) dose of vitamin D.

For more general information check out

For more specific advice I recommend you contact a Dietician.

I can personally recommend Dr Sarah Schenker and Jane Griffin .

Both ladies are registered with The British Dietetic Association, know their onions, and have between them provided the nutritional analysis  and narrative of  every Savvy Cook’s meal.


Very moist & delicious vegan chestnut loaf cake

This recipe was a bit of an experiment, but one that has worked wonderfully well which is why I’m sharing it with you.

I’d wanted to bake a vegan cake for a while, but struggled with the idea of substituting the ubiquitous eggs and butter and did not want to end up with something dry, heavy and “worthy”.

In this cake, I’ve used

The secret (which is out now!) I think to this moist, moreish cake are the chestnut puree and the coconut milk.

This cake is no looker”: it’s a dark brown brick of a cake, much like Parkin, studded with small pieces of cooked chestnuts, but its plainness is part of its appeal I think.

Serve it, like I did, with pears poached in red wine + coconut cream as a dessert or sliced thickly for elevenses or afternoon tea.

If you want to tinker with the recipe, you could substitute the chestnut puree for (canned) pumpkin puree, replace the chestnuts with (toasted) walnut pieces and use 2 tsp of mixed spice + 1 tsp of ground ginger to flavour the cakes.

It could probably also be turned into something chocolatey by replacing 100g of the flour with cocoa powder (the real thing, not drinking chocolate powder) and the chestnuts with small pieces of dark chocolate.

Let me know if these suggestions work: I’m interested in broadening my vegan cake repertoire!

Makes 2 1kg cakes

This is what you need:

440g plain flour

440g dark brown soft sugar

500g unsweetened chestnut puree (1 can + a bit)

250ml Carotino oil

150ml reduced fat coconut milk

2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp salt

2 tsp vanilla extract

2 tbsp dark rum

150g cooked chestnuts, chopped into small pieces

This is what you do:

  1. pre-heat the oven to 180C/gas 4
  2. put the chestnut pieces in a small bowl, add the rum, vanilla extract and 1 tbsp of the sugar
  3. grease + line the bottoms of 2 1kg loaf tins with baking paper
  4. in a large bowl mix the remaining sugar with the oil using a handheld mixer
  5. add the chestnut puree and coconut milk, whizz until smooth
  6. add the flour, bi-carbonate of soda and salt in three batches, making sure that the flour has been absorbed before you add the next batch
  7. fold in the chestnut pieces + all the soaking liquid
  8. divide the mixture over the two baking tins and smooth the tops with the back of a metal spoon
  9. bake at 180C for 1 hr and 15 minutes or until a skewer poked into the centre of the cake comes out clean
  10. remove the cakes from the oven and cover tightly with aluminium foil for 10 minutes, leaving the cakes to steam
  11. remove the foil and turn the cakes out onto a wire rack to cool completely

Good luck (if you’re planning to tinker with the recipe) + enjoy!

Monique x

Chunky, spicy butternut squash & chickpea soup

This is an incredibly easy, delicious soup that you can whip up for a quick wintry supper in no time!

There’s not much to shop for either, as the recipe using mainly store cupboard ingredients that you probably have to hand anyway.

Re-heats really well, so don’t hesitate to make it a few days before you need it if that’s more convenient.

Serves 4 generously

This is what you need:

1 large onion, chopped roughly

1 tbsp olive oil

1 medium butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded and cut into bitesize chunks (not too small!)

2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely

1 bay leaf

leaves of 5 sprigs of fresh thyme or 1 tsp dried thyme

1 heaped tsp cumin seeds, toasted until they pop in a dry frying pan

1 tsp (or slightly less if you don’t like your soup too spicy) dried chilli flakes

1 cinnamon stick

1 can (400g) chickpeas, drained and rinsed

500ml water

half a small bunch of fresh coriander

This is what you do:

  1. over medium heat, heat the olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan
  2. add the onion and fry over medium heat for 10 minutes until glazed and floppy
  3. add the garlic, thyme, bay leaf, chilli and cumin and fry for 5 minutes
  4. add the squash and cinnamon stick and stir for a couple of minutes
  5. tip everything into a pan large enough to hold the veg + 500ml water
  6. add the water, bring to the boil over high heat then reduce the heat to a simmer
  7. cook for about 15 minutes until the squash is tender but not falling apart
  8. add the chickpeas and season
  9. blitz half the soup in a food processor, pulsing a couple of time till you have a fairly smooth mixture; or push half the mixture through passe-vite
  10. combine with the rest of the soup and if necessary re-heat gently before serving
  11. fish out the cinnamon stick and bay leaf!
  12. sprinkle with roughly chopped coriander
  13. delicious & satisfying as it, or add some crumbled Feta or grated Lancashire cheese
  14. vegans could add cubes of tofu
  15. a sprinkling of toasted pumpkin seeds, if you have any to hand, adds another  interesting layer of texture and a useful amount of immune supporting zinc

Bon appetit!

Monique x

Dinner menu w/c 13th of December


Spinach, tomato & chickpea curry, poached duck egg, basmati rice with toasted almonds


Griddled lamb leg steaks with roast red onion and tomato cannellini beans, minted yoghurt


Baked chermoula turkey meatballs, roast sweet pepper, lemon & mint couscous and green beans


Rose harissa chicken fillets baked with butternut squash, Savoy cabbage


Greek style chicken fillets with a zesty Feta topping, rice and courgettes


Baked salmon fillets with an oat & mustard crust, Roseval potatoes with chive creme fraiche, beetroot salad


Griddled venison sausages and winter rainbow gratin

Gnocchi alla Romana: cold weather comfort food

Gnocchi alla Romana

This is a dish which defines for me cold weather comfort eating!

Large discs of polenta are layered and baked in the oven until the Parmesan and butter form a brown, crunchy crust.

Served with a generous ladle of chunky tomato sauce.


Here, I’ve added semi-dried tomatoes (the ones sometimes called “mi-cuit” or “slow roast” not the ones preserved in oil) snipped into small pieces, but you could also use fried, chopped mushrooms or some finely chopped wilted (and very well-drained!)  leaf spinach.

I made fresh tomato sauce made from a glut of very ripe, cheap tomatoes earlier this year which I froze in handy portions. ready to dip into in the winter when fresh (green house) tomatoes have no taste.

Instead, use a 400g can of good quality chopped tomatoes simmered for 20 minutes until thick with a clove of finely chopped garlic, pinch of sugar, 1 tsp of dried thyme, tsp of tomato puree and a glug of olive oil, pepper & salt.

Serves 2 with a green salad

This is what you need:

120g quick cook Polenta

480ml milk

50g semi-dried tomatoes, snipped into small pieces with a pair of kitchen scissors (  these slow roast tomatoes from Merchant Gourmet are good)

20g Parmesan

20g butter, melted

2 egg yolks

leaves from 5 sprigs of fresh thyme or 1 1/2 tsp of dried thyme

1 bay leaf

1/2 tsp sea salt

freshly ground black pepper

This is what you do:

  1. preheat the oven to 220C
  2. use half the butter to grease an oven proof baking dish
  3. pour the milk into a saucepan, add the semi-dried tomatoes and bay leaf
  4. bring to the boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes
  5. remove the bay leaf with a fork, then add the polenta mixing until the mixture begins to thicken and pull away from the sides of the pan
  6. this usually takes about 5 minutes or so, but check the instructions for making “firm” polenta on the bag/packet
  7. remove the pan from the heat and add half the Parmesan, egg yolks and pepper & salt
  8. work quickly because the eggs yolks will start to cook as soon as they hit the hot polenta
  9. let the mixture cool for 10 minutes
  10. clear and clean a worktop space
  11. turn the polenta mixture out onto the worktop and with wet hands shape into a 2cm thick slab
  12. cut the polenta into 5cm circles with a cookie cutter
  13. gather up the scraps, press them out again and keep stamping out circles until all the polenta has been used
  14. you may be able to loosen the polenta circles from the cookie cutter over the baking dish with one hand, catch it with the other and lay it in the baking dish
  15. slightly overlapping each circle on the previous one
  16. alternatively, use a spatula to lift the circles off the worktop
  17. drizzle over the rest of the butter and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan
  18. bake for 25 minutes or until the top is brown
  19. serve piping hot, with extra Parmesan and a tomato sauce on the side
  20. fire-place + sheepskin slippers optional!

Bon appetit!

Monique x

.... aahhhh: toasty!

Dinner menu w/c 6th of December


Big curry noodle pot with tofu and toasted sesame seeds


Moroccan spiced fish fillets, roast vegetable bulghur wheat and minted yoghurt


Honey roast chicken and  rosemary & lemon potatoes, curly kale with horseradish


Greens-packed lamb and soba noodle stir-fry


Salt cod and sweet potato fish cakes, red pepper sauce and watercress salad


Sushi bowl with tea-marinated salmon, avocado, toasted nori and brown rice


Sticky lemon & ginger turkey with tenderstem broccoli and basmati rice

Moroccan spiced chicken with carrots & chickpeas

A favourite with SavvyCook clients because it’s an easy to prepare, fragrant and satisfying meal.

Chicken is an excellent source of protein and provides useful amounts of B vitamins, particularly B1 and niacin. Carrots are a valuable source of vitamin A in the form of beta-carotene which gives carrots their bright orange colour. Unlike most vegetables, which are more nutritious when eaten raw, carrots have more nutritional value when cooked. Cooking breaks down the tough cell walls, enabling the beta-carotene to be more easily absorbed and converted into vitamin A.

Nutritional analysis







Of which saturates



hydrate (g)

Of which  sugars (g) Fibre






516   38  9  1  73  10  5  160  0.4

Left-over roast chicken or lamb works really well too in this recipe too: just add along with the tomatoes and carrots at step 4.

Serves 4

This is what you need:

1 onion, sliced into 8 half moons

1 clove of garlic, chopped finely

1 tbsp olive oil

4 carrots, topped, tailed and thickly sliced

3 tsp Ras El Hanout spice mix

400g can chopped tomatoes

400g can chickpeas, drained and rinsed

300ml water

8 chicken thighs, each cut into half

small bunch of coriander, roughly chopped

This is what you do:

  1. heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat
  2. add the onion and garlic and sweat for 5 minutes
  3. increase the heat, add the chicken and spice mix and fry until the chicken pieces are lightly browned
  4. add the tomatoes and carrots and pour in the water
  5. bring to a simmer and simmer for 15 minutes, covered
  6. in the meantime, prepare the bulghur wheat according instructions on the packet
  7. when ready to serve, check the seasoning, stir in the coriander and serve with bulghur wheat

Enjoy – and let me know what you think!



Dinner menu w/c 29th of November


Stir-fried chilli tofu, sweet potato and broccoli in coconut noodle broth


Griddled salmon fillets with spicy lentils, wilted spinach and minty yoghurt


Baked buttermilk chicken with a herb crust, honey & mustard sauce, spring onion mash


Ricotta & mushroom cannelloni, chunky tomato sauce, rocket & Parmesan salad


Aromatic tilapia baked on curried leeks, served with basmati rice and toasted almonds


Harissa chicken thighs, baked butternut squash and Savoy cabbage


Griddled lamb leg steaks with roast red onion and tomato bulghur wheat

Frangipane quince tarlets

Quinces & quince meat

LOVE quinces!

Partly because they are such an ancient fruit, partly because they are pretty hard to get hold of (they are really only around in November) which makes them a much-anticipated treat.

And then their scent is divine: a mixture of honey, musk and roses. When I am able to buy quinces, the first thing I do is fill a large bowl with them and just enjoy their colour and fragrance for a week or so.

Quinces do need quite a bit of work: their acidic, hard flesh needs to be cooked long and slowly until the pale flesh takes on a pinky hue. 

Luckily, because they are so perfumed you don’t need to do anything complicated with them. Poach them like pears, only longer.  Just add a splash of water and dollop of honey to peeled, cored and quartered quinces, with a pinch of cinnamon if you like.

The flavour of cooked quince is powerful enough to take on rosemary, cinnamon, cloves even star anise, bay and even saffron.

Frangipane quince tartlets


For the recipe below you want a dry-ish compote with some of the quinces poached to a pulp and some still retaining their shape so you can chop the flesh up roughly.

The frangipane quince tartlets I made are inspired by a quince Bakewell tart I spotted in Lawson’s delicatessen  in Aldeburgh, Suffolk, a few weeks ago.

I have since also come across a recipe by Sam & Sam Clarke, chef-owners of Moro , for Tarta de Santiago which reads like a Spanish version of the Bakewell tart made with membrillo (quince paste).

These frangipane quince tartlets are a delicious, almondy mouthfuls. Their butteriness balanced by the slightly astringent quince compote.

I find the texture very pleasing too: crunchy almonds, soft frangipane and the soft, slightly grainy texture of the quinces.

And not too much pastry which can feel like a “sandy mouthful”: the balance between filling, topping and pastry shell is just right.

I like this ratio of pastry shell-filling-topping

The recipe below makes about 20-24 tartlets. You will 2 x 12-hole, non-stick jam-tart tins.

Make your own short crust pastry or take a short-cut. You can buy very decent ready-made pastry. Look out for “all-butter”: Dorset Pastry’s organic short crust pastry is good as is Waitrose’s own label short crust pastry sheets (no rolling out necessary).

To make frangipane quince pies for Christmas: simply replace the filling with 1/2 mince meat and 1/2 poached, very finely chopped quinces. Really delicious, much fruitier and with a more interesting texture I think, they beat traditional mince pies hands down!

Ready for the oven

This is what you need:

275g short crust pastry

100g unsalted butter

100g caster sugar

100g ground almonds

25g plain flour

1 large egg

1 tbsp brandy

chopped, poached, cooled flesh of about 3-4 medium quinces (see above)

4 tbsp flaked, toasted almonds

icing sugar to dust

This is what you do:

  1. pre-heat the oven to 180C
  2. roll out the pasty on a very lightly floured surface until quite thin
  3. using a pastry cutter (or glass/cup) cut out thin rounds marginally larger than the holes in the baking tin
  4. press a round very  gently into each hole then put the tins in the fridge for 30 minutes; this helps to “relax” the pastry and stops it from shrinking in the oven
  5. for the frangipane, beat together the butter and sugar until pale, then gradually add the ground almonds, mix in the flour, followed by the egg and finally the brandy
  6. 3/4 fill the pasty cases with poached quince; I find this easiest with two teaspoons where I use one spoon to scoop up the quince and the other to scrape the fruit into the pasty case
  7. spoon a heaped teaspoon of frangipane over the top of each one
  8. sprinkle with the toasted, flaked almonds
  9. bake for 25 minutes until slightly puffed and golden brown
  10. cool in the tin for 15 minutes, then remove and finish cooling on a wire rack
  11. dust with icing sugar before serving if you like

18 little beauties minus 1 ... (quality control!)

Enjoy – really good in the afternoon with a strong cup of Oolong tea or glass of chilled sweet wine! 

Monique x