Tag Archives: seasonal food

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


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. www.realfoodfestival.co.uk
  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.  www.jellymongers.co.uk . 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. 

www.rainhasanta.co.uk 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

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

A tale of two soups

Beautiful soup, so rich and green,

Waiting in a hot tureen!

Who for such daintiness would not stoop?

Soup of the evening, beautiful soup!

Beautiful soup! Who cares for fish,

Game or any other dish?

Who would not give all else for two

Pennyworth only of beautiful soup?

(Lewis Carroll, Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, 1865)

I love the versatility of soup.

The endless possibilities that it offers at different times of the year and the variety of accompaniments that go well with soup.

From the tang of a chilled summer starter, to the intense flavour  of a consomme, restorative power of a nourishing broth, the enveloping comfort of meal-in-a-bowl of chowder or a chilli-spiked Vietnamese pho …

soup is one of the most versatile dishes you can think of.

Soup and health are often linked and understandably so: it is soothing, easy to eat and digest and can demonstrate that lots of flavour and texture + calories do not have to go hand-in-hand.

Antoine Careme, arguably the greatest chef of all time and founder of haute cuisine summed it up by saying “there is a whole world of health and eating pleasure in soup”.

Trying to eat more locally grown ingredients can be a challenge, but it’s easy at this time of year.

The two recipes that follow make the most of  British vegetables that are plentiful now.

You can easily substitute other veg for the ones I used in the minestrone, but I urge you to give watercress a try in the pesto. It really is rather wonderful. If you can lay your hands on them, cob nuts make a nice, seasonal change from hazelnuts.

If you want to add pasta to the soup in addition or instead of the pearl barley, I recommend that you boil it separately and add it to the plates just before serving. In case you have soup left over, the pasta in it does not re-heat well and because too soft.

I keep the rinds of Parmesan and other hard cheeses to flavour minestrone and leek & potato soups; it really makes  a huge difference to the depth of flavour.

The field mushrooms for the mushroom soup are roasted first with garlic and lemon juice, then blitzed to an almost black pulp with their juices before being gently simmered with breadcrumbs and balsamic vinegar. The result is a thick, dark and deeply savoury, almost “meaty”, soup.

Serve with some garlicky bruschetta made with stale sourdough.

Here goes … both recipes serve 4 generously.

Autumn minestrone with watercress & hazelnut pesto

Minestrone with watercress & hazelnut pesto

This is what you need:

  • 1 large carrot
  • 2 sticks of celery
  • thick slice of celeriac, peeled
  • 1 medium onion, peeled
  • 1 leek, washed and finely shredded
  • 4 leaves of cavolo nero, central nerve removed and shredded 
  • 3 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 60g pearl barley
  • 600g stock (homemade chicken stock or made with a good quality stock cube – I like Marigold and Kallo)
  • one of more hard cheese rinds

for the pesto

  • small bunch of watercress, stalks included
  • small handful of whole hazelnuts
  • 2 tbsp olive oil (or rapeseed oil if you want to keep ingredients 100% British)

This is what you do:

  1. Dice the onion, carrot and celeriac into pea-sized pieces and keep them separately
  2. heat the oil in a non-stick sauce pan over medium heat
  3. add the onion, reduce the heat to low and fry for 5 minutes until just beginning to brown
  4. add the carrot and celeriac and fry for another 5 minutes, stirring the vegetables occasionally so the pieces colour evenly
  5. add the stock, cheese rinds, thyme sprigs and pearl barley
  6. simmer for 25 minutes or until the pearl barley is cooked but still has some bite
  7. in the meantime make the pesto by shopping the hazelnuts, then adding the watercress followed by the oil; season to taste with salt and pepper
  8. when the pearl barley is ready, add the leeks and cavolo nero and simmer for another 5 minutes
  9. fish out the cheese rinds
  10. serve the soup in deep plates with a tablespoon of pesto and some good bread

Dark, deeply savoury, "mysterious" roast mushroom soup

Roast field mushroom soup

This is what you need:

  • 750g field mushrooms, wiped clean
  • 4 garlic cloves, chopped finely
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2 tsp thyme leaves
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 1 slice of wholemeal or sourdough bread, blitzed into breadcrumbs
  • 600ml stock  (see above)

This is what you do:

  1. pre-heat the oven to 200C
  2. arrange the mushrooms on 1 (or 2) baking trays in a single layer
  3. pour over the olive oil and lemon juice, scatter with garlic and thyme
  4. bake for 25 minutes
  5. liquidise the mushrooms and their juices with the balsamic vinegar and a ladle of the  stock in a food processor
  6. tip the mush into a pan, add the rest of the stock, stir in the breadcrumbs and simmer gently for 10 minutes
  7. taste and season with salt and pepper

Bon appetit and happy slurping!


Butternut squash & ricotta cake

Butternut squash & ricotta cake

Squashes, pumpkins and gourds.

Crown Prince, Turks Turban, Harlequin, Onion, Gem, Wee be little, Gold Dust, Howden Big Boy, Sumo, Rouge de Temp, Munchkin ….  

I can go on and on and on!

One of autumn’s most versatile vegetables, I really love the squash family which also includes courgettes and marrows.

The harvest is in October, but as they store well, the pumpkin season can last until January. When buying pumpkins look for unblemished skins. They should be heavy for their size, which indicates ripeness.

Munchkins: almost too cute to eat, but delicious stuffed + baked

I usually roast pumpkins, cut into slices and well seasoned, because this concentrates the flavour, before using in soups, risottos and pasta.

They also add wonderful bite when added in chunks to curries and stews.

To ring the changes from savoury, here follows a recipe for a wonderful cake that makes the most of pumpkin’s inherent sweetness and dense texture.

Based on a recipe by Leela, author of the beautiful and inspirational food blog  www.shesimmers.com this is without doubt my favourite cake at the moment!

Light as a feather, soft and with a texture best described as a cross between a cheesecake and a sponge cake.

Autumnal, easy to make, delicious with (whipped) cream this cake can easily double as a dessert.

Perfect for those of you who are not that keen on regular cheesecake (me included: too rich, too claggy) or traditional pumpkin pie.

To lighten the cake somewhat, I have replaced the mascarpone (40% fat) with ricotta (8% fat). I used large eggs, slightly less milk, a smaller spring form and also reduced the baking time.

Use good quality, free-range (and organic), eggs. It really makes a difference. I love Burford Browns but they are too small for this recipe.

The whiskey and vanilla come through (more as a scent than a flavour especially when the cake is still warm), but they don’t overpower the subtle flavour of the ricotta and pumpkin providing just a hum in the background – as it should do.

Instead of butternut squash you can ofcourse use any other squash or pumpkin. They’ll all give the cake a subtly different colour.

Leela says its OK to use canned pumpkin but I don’t see the point of that when squashes are so plentiful at the moment. If you are going to make this cake, having to boil + puree a chunk of pumpkin should not hold you back.

I urge you to give this cake a try – you won’t regret it!

This is what you need:

A buttered, bottom lined with baking paper, 8 inch/20 cm spring form or round cake tin

  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 240g pumpkin (I used butternut squash), boiled until soft + pureed until lump-free and left to cool completely
  • 140g granulated sugar
  • 125g ricotta
  • 3 tbsp milk
  • 2 tbsp whisky
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract (not flavouring!)
  • 50g butter, melted
  • 65g plain flour
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp cream of tartar

Just out of the oven, lightly puffed up + tops cracked slightly

This is what you do:

  • pre-heat the oven to 170C
  • in a large bowl, mix the ricotta with the milk
  • using a handheld electric mixer, whisk in the vanilla extract, whiskey and melted butter until the mixture is smooth
  • add the egg yolks, one by one, whisking (on low setting) to make sure each egg yolk is fully absorbed before you add the next one
  • using a spatula, mix in the pumpkin puree
  • gently whisk in the flour and salt
  • in a freestanding mixer/food processor, whisk the egg whites with the cream of tartar
  • add the sugar in 3 lots, continuing to whisk until the mixture is glossy and starting to form peaks
  • using a large metal spoon, lightly fold 1/4 of the eggs whites into the squash puree until absorbed
  • mix in the remainder of the egg whites until well combined and the mixture is streak-free
  • pour the cake mixture into the prepared baking tin
  • bake for 50 minutes and then check to see if the cake is done: the cake should be golden brown and the middle should feel firm but springy when pressed lightly with a finger
  • if not add continue baking and check at 5 minute intervals
  • remove from the oven and leave the cake to cool completely in the baking tin before turning the cake out

Perfect with a cup of tea - in the garden whilst catching last few rays

I love the soft sheen on the top of this cake and its pale orange colour and therefore prefer to leave it unadorned, but you could dust the cake lightly with icing sugar.

Serve as it is or with whipped cream.

Hello autumn – happy baking!


Dinner menu w/c 11th of October


Chianti-baked beef meatballs with penne, griddled courgette salad


Trout with an oat & mustard crust and chive creme fraiche, roasted beetroot salad


Spiced baked chicken with purple sprouting broccoli, basmati rice and preserved lemon yoghurt


Stir-fried rose harissa lamb, roast vegetable couscous and minted yoghurt


Salmon baked on leeks with anchovy-parsley vinaigrette and Roseval potatoes


Griddled chicken with lemony lentils and green beans


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