Category Archives: Recipes

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



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

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!

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!



A delicious way of preparing … Brussels sprouts

Let’s be honest:

Tt can be difficult to get charged up about cruciferous vegetables


Which is a shame because vegetables of the Brassica family, particularly when prepared with care, are packed with antioxidants and typically contain a powerful arsenal of cancer-prevention compounds.

Cruciferous vegetables contain substances called sulphurophanes, which have been shown to help remove liver toxins and support the immune system.

And even if you enjoy eating these vegetables, it can be even tougher to get other people excited about them!

I understand that, so …

Here is a different, easy and delicious way of preparing nutrient rich Brussels sprouts.

Look for sprouts that are on the small side and tightly closed.

Instead of Parmesan you can use the very similar light, dry + salty Pecorino or choose a heavier cheese such as a  mature Cheddar or Gouda.

Golden-crusted Brussels sprouts

Serves 2 -3

This is what you need:

35og sprouts, ends trimmed, loose outer leaves removed

1 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp grated Parmesan

finely grated zest of 1/2 a lemon

sea salt, freshly ground black pepper

This is what you do:

  1. cut the sprouts in half from stem to top
  2. heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a non-stick frying pan over medium heat
  3. place the sprouts, cut side down, in the pan
  4. sprinkle with pepper and salt (go easy with the salt – the cheese is already quite salty)
  5. cook for 4 minutes or until the bottoms of the sprouts are starting to brown and the sprouts are almost tender
  6. check this by tasting one; if they are still a bit hard, cover the pan with a lid and given the sprouts another minute or so
  7. turn up the heat
  8. sprinkle over the cheese and shake the pan to cover the sprouts in the cheese
  9. grate over the lemon zest and serve immediately

I think Brussels sprouts done this way are delicious … but let me know what you think.

If I can convert one sprout hater into a sprout lover this season I’ll be happy!

Bon appetit,

Monique x

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