Persian Rice Salad with Grilled Vegetables

Middle Eastern (and Persian, in particular) food is all the rage now. So much so, in fact, that this vibrant and colourful cuisine has been identified as one of the hotspots for the 2016 food trends. And rightly so! As someone who knows very little about the culture and cuisine of this part of the world, I am completely spellbound by such bold and yet delicate flavours. Also, I love how perfumed and scented some of these dishes are, which turns a meal into a sensory experience, as it should be. Among many sources of inspiration, the cookbook Persiana by Sabrina Ghayour is probably one of those which I am mostly obsessed with at the moment.

The recipe below is my version of her red rice salad, which looks brilliant on paper and offers, to my mind, the right balance of sweetness, tangy citrus juice, crunch and saltiness. However, as it often happens, you need to make do with what you have in the kitchen (or can find in shops without embarking on the trip of a lifetime). Therefore, I had to amend a few details here and there, possibly making the dish a little bit less authentic – but still really delicious.



  • 350g long grain brown rice
  • 100g green raisins (swap cranberries for a more sour note or normal raisins if preferred)
  • 1 red onion, finely diced
  • 1 large courgette, sliced lengthways into 5mm strips
  • 1 large aubergine, cut into 1cm thick round slices
  • 300g roasted red peppers in oil, drained and roughly diced
  • 1 x 20g packet flat leaf parsley, finely chopped (leaves only)
  • 2 x 20g packet coriander, finely chopped (leaves only)
  • 100g toasted sliced almonds
  • good-quality olive oil
  • juice of 1 1/2 orange
  • 2 tbsp clear honey
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper


  1. Cook the rice as per packet, bearing in mind instructions may vary. Once cooked, drain well and transfer to a large bowl to cool slightly.
  2. Add the diced onion, raisins, orange juice, honey, vinegar and a good glug of olive oil to the rice, then mix well to combine. Set aside to allow the rice to soak in all the flavours.
  3. In the meantime, preheat a griddle pan over a medium heat. Brush the slices of courgette with olive oil and grill them for 4-5 minutes or until black griddle marks appear on each side. Transfer to a chopping board and allow to cool.
  4. Repeat the process with the aubergine slices, cooking them for longer (8 minutes per side), before adding them to the courgettes. Roughly chop the vegetables and add, together with the chopped red peppers, sliced almonds, herbs, salt and pepper to the rice mixture, then give the salad a good stir before serving. Enjoy!



Potato Pierogies (Ruskie)

My friends know very well I love cooking and baking, and that I particularly enjoy trying out different cuisines. What with having lived in Russia, I am particularly fond of Eastern European and Russian food. You don’t necessarily find a great deal of Polish or Russian restaurants in the North of the UK. When you do, moreover, they tend to be hit and miss (or tourist traps). Therefore, I would much rather cook my own food than venture outside to try and find someone who could do it to a decent standard. Some good friends of mine recently gave me a book on Polish food called, quite tellingly, Authentic Polish Cooking (by Marianna Dworak). Broadly speaking, I think the book starts on a very good basis, but unfortunately misses a few details here and there.

There are some great recipes, but the details provided tend to be too vague at times (e.g. ‘use a cake tin’ – what size?). Also, I am not a massive fan of very meaty dishes, which probably goes against everything I have said earlier. Pierogies (or dumplings), however, are a classic I never tire to make. First of all, the dough (and filling) is very easy to make. And secondly, you can tailor the filling to your own liking. Here I have gone for a fairly traditional take, although I have heavily amended the recipe for the dough.


Ingredients (for the dough)

  • 450g plain flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 250ml warm water

Ingredients (for the filling)

  • 900g potatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 250g soft goat’s cheese
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1-2 tsp nutmeg
  • salt and black pepper

Ingredients (for the sauce)

  • 150g pancetta cubes (or diced bacon)
  • black pepper (to taste)


  1. Start by making the filling. Peel the potatoes and cut into chunks. Add to a large pan of salted boiling water, then cook until soft (but not falling apart). Drain in a colander and set aside to cool slightly.
  2. In the meantime, peel and finely chop the onion. Melt the butter in a frying pan over low-medium heat, then add the onion and cook for at least 15 minutes, until nicely browned and caramelised.
  3. In a bowl, mash the potatoes to obtain a slightly coarse texture. Add the gently fried onions and crumble in the cheese, then add the nutmeg, season well and mix to combine. Taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. Set aside.
  4. To make the dough, combine the flour with the salt in a bowl, then make a well in the middle. Gently pour in the warm water and either use a wooden spoon or your hands to combine the dough, drawing all of the flour in as you mix. Turn onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth.
  5. Roll the dough out with a rolling pin into a thin sheet (slightly thinner than a pound coin). Use a cookie cutter (or a glass) about 6cm in diameter to stamp out as many circles as you can. Put about 1 tablespoon of filling in one half of the circle, then fold over the other half to make a crescent shape. If the dough is not sticking well, moisten the edges with water before you seal them.
  6. As you roll and fold, place the prepared pierogies on a floured cloth or a tray lined with baking parchment. Bring a big saucepan of salted water to the boil.
  7. Reduce to medium heat, then drop in the pierogies making sure not to overcrowd the saucepan. Stir once or twice so as to ensure they do not stick to the bottom. When they come up to the surface, wait one more minute, then fish them out with a slotted spoon.
  8. To make the sauce, fry the pancetta cubes in a frying pan with no oil/butter (the pancetta is fat enough) until nice and crispy. Remove the cubes with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Add the boiled pierogies to the pan and pan fry over a medium heat on both sides until slightly golden. Serve with the pancetta cubes and some black pepper. Enjoy!




Salmorejo-style Tomato Soup

For those of you who don’t have a clue, salmorejo is a tomato soup very similar to gazpacho and usually served cold with hard-boiled eggs, lashings of olive oil, jamon serrano (Spanish dry-cured ham) and sometimes tuna. True to its origins, this recipe contains all of the above and black olives. It’s a true revelation and I need to thank chef José Pizarro for this wonderful concoction.  Salmorejo originated in the Spanish city of Cordoba, in Andalucia, but this tomato and bread soup has now conquered the whole country and is enjoyed on every dinner table. And quite rightly so! The scent alone is wonderful.

Opt for vine-ripened tomatoes as they have a more intense flavour. If you can get your hands on some heirloom varieties, then even better. As for the bread, use a decent sordough loaf, if you can. Don’t even remotely consider that sliced plastic bread you find in shops – you need something wholesome and thick. Finally, as odd as it sounds, serve this soup cold. My partner thought it very weird and did not enjoy it as much as I did, but I completely see why. The colder the soup, the thicker it gets and the more satisfying it is to eat. A true foodie experience.



  • 340g slightly stale rustic-style bread
  • 1kg vine-ripened tomatoes
  • 3 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 150ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 large free-range eggs
  • 6-8 thin slices of serrano ham
  • 100g black olives, halved
  • 2 x tins of tuna in brine, drained


  1. Start by preparing the tomatoes, which will need to be skinned. In order to do so, bring a large pan of water to the boil over a high heat. Score a cross at the bottom and at the top of each tomato, then plunge them in the boiling water for about 40 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon to a colander, refresh under cold running water (or place into a bowl with water and ice), then peel. The skin will easily come off.
  2. Quarter the tomatoes, scoop out the seeds into a sieve set over a bowl, roughly chop the flesh and add to the bowl of a liquidiser. Rub the juices from the seeds through the sieve, then add to the liquidiser. Discard the seeds.
  3. Break the bread into a bowl and sprinkle with 250ml cold water. Leave for at least 30 minutes.
  4. Add the garlic cloves to the liquidiser and blend until smooth. Squeeze as much water as you can from the bread, then add to the liquidiser and blend again. With the motor running, gradually add the olive oil, vinegar and a pinch of salt. Pour into a bowl, cover with clingfilm and chill for a minimum of 2 hours.
  5. Before serving, put the eggs in a saucepan filled with cold water, then bring to the boil and cook for 10 minutes. Drain, then cover with cold water. Peel the eggs and cut them into small pieces.
  6. Heat a large frying pan over a medium heat, then add the serrano ham slices and cook until crisped up, turning them halfway through. Set aside to drain on kitchen paper, then roughly chop.
  7. To serve, ladle the tomato soup into chilled bowls, then top with some of the olives, tuna, hard-boiled eggs and ham. Finally, drizzle with some more extra virgin olive oil and add a pinch of pepper. Enjoy!



Green Store Cupboard Pasta

Picture the scene. You had a terrible day at work, your boss has probably shouted at you a couple of times and you clearly couldn’t see eye to eye with that client you were trying to help. It happens to all of us. I was stuck in a dead-end job for 2 years before embarking on a more exciting career and believe me, I had plenty of these days. Rather than coming home, pouring yourself a large glass of wine and ordering a take-away to drown your sorrow, I will ask you to cook. ‘Not a chance,’ I hear you say. Think again. Cooking has a therapeutic effect, it helps to make you relaxed and you get to feel like a child again while pottering away and turning the kitchen into a battlefield.

In addition, this pasta dish requires no more than simply blanching the vegetables and cooking the pasta. Surely that isn’t asking too much? I have made this dish with whatever I had in my frozen garden (a Nigella-esque way of referring to the freezer) and in tins stashed away in my store cupboard. It couldn’t get any simpler. The goal here was to show you that with minimal effort, no real recipe and a lot of love, even comfort food can aspire to be a jaw-dropping beauty. I certainly hope I have succeeded.



  • 500g pasta (tortiglioni or maccheroni would do)
  • 250g king prawns, shelled and deveined
  • 1 x 340g tin of sweetcorn (frozen is also good)
  • 300g frozen peas
  • 100g ricotta (creme fraiche/cream cheese/mascarpone also good)
  • 250g green beans
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely minced
  • salt and pepper
  • olive oil
  • bunch of parsley, chopped


  1. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil, tumble in the pasta and cook according to packet instructions. 5 minutes before draining, add the green beans, so that they can cook with the pasta but still retain their crunch.
  2. Meanwhile, heat some olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat, then tumble in the frozen peas. Cook for 2 minutes, then add the minced garlic and a splash of water. Leave to simmer for 3 minutes, then add the frozen prawns and cook until pink. Don’t overcook or they will be too rubbery.
  3. Take the peas and prawns off the heat and add the ricotta and lemon juice, mixing well to combine. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. Drain the pasta and green beans, then transfer to a large bowl. Add the prawn mixture and tumble in the sweetcorn, then mix to combine. Adjust the seasoning with salt and pepper if needed.Arrange on a serving platter and decorate with the chopped parsley and the lemon zest. Enjoy!



Drunken Spaghetti (Spaghetti ‘mbriachi)

No, I haven’t completely gone mad. This is an actual recipe I found in the March issue of La Cucina Italiana, an Italian food and cooking magazine I sometimes manage to get my hands on. This dish comes from the so-called Roman Castles area (Castelli Romani), a set of small towns on the Alban Hills, not far from Rome. After the fall of the Roman Empire, many wealthy and noble families decided to leave the ransacked capital to build themselves a fortified castle on the hills surrounding Rome and start over. Now the Castelli Romani is one of the biggest residential areas outside Rome and a very popular tourist destination too. Every year tourists flock there to take in its history and try its food and, most importantly, the local red wines.

This extremely simple recipe combines a few local ingredients, namely red wine, parsley, pecorino (a hard goat’s cheese) and chillies. The wine is slowly reduced to an almost syrupy consistency, while the pasta should be slightly undercooked so that it can absorb the deep red grape juice while cooking. The result is a non-alcoholic dish (the alcohol evaporates during cooking) which boasts bold and simple flavours without trying to mask them with unnecessary embellishments. If you can’t find pecorino, don’t worry. A strong cheddar or another cheese along those lines would do just fine.



  • 500ml red wine (choose a good one)
  • 350g spaghetti
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 bunch of parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped
  • pecorino, grated
  • salt


  1. Pour the wine into a saucepan and bring it to a simmer. Cook for a good 20 minutes, until reduced to approximately 50ml or the liquid takes on a slightly syrupy consistency. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  2. Bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil, then add the spaghetti and cook until slightly harder than al dente.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large pan, then add the finely chopped parsley (reserving some for decoration later), red chilli and garlic. Cook over a gentle heat for 3 minutes, then remove from the heat and add the boiled down red wine.
  4. Drain the pasta reserving a ladleful (2-3 tbsp) of water, pour that into the saucepan then add the pasta and continue cooking, tossing frequently, over medium to high heat.
  5. To serve, plate the spaghetti and grate some of the pecorino on top, then sprinkle with some of the leftover parsley and enjoy!



Spicy Chicken and Green Quinoa Salad

On a recent business trip to Vienna, I stayed with one of my former classmates from my MA in interpreting at the University of Leeds, Aimee, who now works as a freelance interpreter for the OSCE (and is a genius). She introduced me to the concept of food cooperative, something which is all the rage in Austria but is almost unheard of in Italy. In a nutshell, a bunch of people group up to order directly from farmers and producers so as to cut out the middlemen. This also means you get to choose what kind of food you want (organic, for instance) and can also check whether the farmers you order from are respecting certain standards and looking after their livestock. You then arrange weekly deliveries and stock the supplies in a common place where all of the members of the cooperative can go and get it from.

It’s an amazingly easy yet effective agreement, but it relies on the goodwill of some of the cooperative’s members to go get the deliveries, print out the distribution lists, etc. Not for me, then, at least not now I have a pretty hectic lifestyle. I have, however, decided to start ordering food from an organic farm which delivers nationwide and I have to say I am very satisfied both with the quality and the service (it’s Abel & Cole, in case you’re wondering). This recipe was put together before my organic epiphany, but I like to think it’s a bit of a precursor. What better way to celebrate the start of spring than to use brightly coloured food and arrange it artistically on a plate? Original recipe credit goes to the BBC Good Food magazine, albeit with minor changes.



  • 2 organic chicken breasts
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 160g quinoa
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 2 spring onions, sliced
  • 150g baby spinach leaves
  • a bunch each of coriander and mint, chopped
  • 1/2 pomegranate, seeds only
  • 30g peppadew peppers
  • 200g cooked beetroot (not in vinegar), sliced
  • 100g feta, crumbled
  • 1 mango, peeled and flesh cut into chunks
  • lemon and lime juice, to taste
  • vegetable oil
  • salt and pepper, to taste


  1. Heat the oven to 180C. Lightly brush the chicken breasts with some oil, then rub with the paprika, chilli powder, salt and pepper. Heat a non-stick frying pan over high heat, then sear the breasts on each side for about 2 minutes. Arrange on a lined baking tray and roast for 20-25 minutes or until cooked.
  2. Meanwhile, bring a saucepan of water to the boil. Rinse the quinoa under cold running water, then put in the pan with some sea salt. Cook for 15 minutes (or follow packet instructions) until the quinoa is translucent and transparent. Drain in a sieve and set aside to cool slightly.
  3. In a food processor, add the spring onions, coriander, mint, chilli, spinach and blend. Add some lemon/lime juice and some seasoning to taste, then whiz to a smooth puree.
  4. Remove the chicken from the oven and allow to rest for at least 10 minutes. Cut into slices.
  5. Add the vibrant green puree to the cooked quinoa and mix well to tinge the latter a bright green. Arrange on a plate, then start adding the other ingredients, including the mango, beetroot pieces, feta and chicken pieces, then sprinkled with some extra spring onions and sliced chilli (optional), then serve and enjoy!



Fennel Ratatouille

Winter has been particularly cold this year. Despite the heating being on full, I still find myself desperately wanting soothing and comforting food which can warm your cockles, and nothing beats a good bowl of ratatouille. This French vegetable stew (which comes in many shapes and sizes) is mostly prepared in autumn when vegetables are plentiful and cheap. However, I feel the same could apply to winter. Feel free to play with the recipe and add whatever you have knocking about in the kitchen: carrots, potatoes, celery, turnips and even pulses such as chickpeas all make for wonderful additions.

I found this version with fennel here and I thought it would be a good alternative to the classic recipe. If you are not keen on the liquorice-like flavour of fennel, then leave it out (alongside the dill) and it will be just as amazing. When it comes to the passata, please choose a plain and chunky one, there’s no need to go for the one with basil, garlic or the like and you are never quite sure what it actually contains. Finally, I served this with a nice and soft rye bread I made on the day, but please feel free to have any kind of crusty bread (a good rustic bloomer would be perfect) to complement this heavenly and oh so good dish.



  • 2 aubergines
  • 2 large red peppers
  • 2 fennel bulbs
  • 1kg courgettes
  • 2 onions
  • 4 garlic cloves
  • 1 x 400g chopped tinned tomatoes
  • 600ml tomato passata
  • chopped fresh dill (optional)
  • olive oil


  1. Start by prepping the vegetables. Cut the aubergines in approximately 3cm chunks, then set aside. Slice the courgettes in thick rounds and put in a bowl. Remove the stems and the core from the fennel bulbs, then slice roughly and add to the courgettes. Peel, halve and finely slice the onions, then roughly chop the garlic.
  2. Heat some olive oil in a frying pan, then tumble in the aubergine cubes and fry until golden, turning occasionally. Use a slotted spoon to remove them to a plate lined with kitchen paper, then set aside.
  3. Add some more oil, then fry the peppers for about 5 minutes, then remove from the pan and set aside in a bowl.
  4. Add some more oil and pan fry the courgette rounds and the fennel slices for 3-4 minutes, then remove from the heat and add to the peppers.
  5. Drizzle some more olive oil in the same pan and add the onions over a medium to low heat, gently sweating them for about 10 minutes, until they turn a nice golden brown. Add the garlic and fry for another 3 minutes, then return all of the vegetables to the pan (ensure it is big enough), add the tinned tomatoes, the passata, some seasoning and gently simmer with the lid on for 30 minutes, stirring now and then. Stir in the chopped dill (if using), add some more seasoning (if needed) and serve alongside some crusty bread. Enjoy!



Cocoa Ravioli Stuffed with Gorgonzola and Walnuts

I won’t take any credit for this recipe. It comes from Venice, a wonderful book by Katie and Giancarlo Caldesi on the secret cuisine of this romantic city. As it happens, the recipe was in turn taken from the Pastificio Serenissima in Castello, so at least I cannot be blamed for outright stealing. Mixing cocoa in the pasta dough might sound a bit odd, although Italy (and not only) has been manufacturing coloured pasta for a long time now. I am sure you have all seen it, it’s usually found in tourist shops all over the country. Pasta usually comes in red, green, brown and black, made with beetroot, spinach, cocoa and squid ink respectively. As the book says, the cocoa lends a certain depth of flavour and nuttiness to the pasta, which then complements the filling perfectly.

If you don’t have a pasta maker, please consider investing in one. I rolled this pasta by hand and I can tell you that, on top of being extremely hard and tiresome, the process takes a huge amount of time and gives you results which are in no way similar to the almost transparent pasta you can get with a good pasta machine. In Italy, these devices are usually called Nonna Papera. The name is probably derived from the character by the same name (in English, Grandma Duck) which appears in Disney cartoons together with Donald Duck and his family. Etymology and history aside, I do think such a device would make your life a lot easier. Otherwise, be my guest and allocate plenty of time to roll the pasta by hand.


Ingredients (for the pasta)

  • 200g ’00’ pasta (you can easily find this in major supermarkets)
  • 2 whole eggs
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 15g cocoa powder
  • 1 tbsp water, if necessary

Ingredients (for the filling)

  • 50g walnuts, finely chopped
  • 200g Gorgonzola (Stilton or any hard blue cheese is also fine)
  • 100g ricotta
  • 30g Parmesan, finely grated
  • salt and pepper

Ingredients (for the pasta sauce)

  • 75g butter
  • a sprig of rosemary
  • squeeze of lemon juice
  • 30g Parmesan, grated


  1. To make the pasta, pour the flour and cocoa in a mixing bowl and combine. Make a well in the middle, then crack the eggs and the egg yolk into the well. Using a table knife, gradually combine the flour into the eggs starting with the flour around the eggs and working your way out. Keep mixing until you form clumps of mixture.
  2. Use one hand to incorporate the bits together. Lightly wet your hand to bring the dough together if the mixture is too dry and won’t hold,, but be careful not to add too much water. Remove the dough from the bowl and place on a lightly floured work surface. Knead the dough by flattening and folding it for around 5-7 minutes, adding a little bit more flour if the dough is very sticky. Ultimately, you want to reach the consistency of a very soft and pliable dough which doesn’t stick to your hands or the work surface. Leave the pasta to rest covered in clingfilm for at least 20 minutes.
  3. To roll it out, either do it by hand or put it through a pasta machine to obtain long sheets of very thin pasta.
  4. To make the filling, combine all of the ingredients together and season with salt and pepper. The original recipe stated to use soft Gorgonzola, but I believe it’s best to use the harder variety.
  5. To make the ravioli, use a biscuit or a ravioli cutter to cut round shapes on the sheets of pasta you have rolled out. Dollop 1 tablespoon of filling in the centre of each ravioli round, then cover with a second round and press the rim together to seal it properly. You can also dab the rim of the ravioli with some water to ensure the dough sticks together. Proceed until you have run out of filling or dough.
  6. To cook them, bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, then tumble the ravioli in and cook for approximately 5 minutes. Drain.
  7. To make the sauce, melt the butter in a large frying pan with the rosemary for a couple of minutes. Add the lemon juice and shake the pan to blend it together. Discard the sprig of rosemary. Add the pasta to the pan and shake it to cover the ravioli evenly with the sauce. Dust with the grated Parmesan and serve immediately. Enjoy!



Smoky Pea, Cheese and Prosciutto Quiche

I love it when I manage to source Italian ingredients from my local supermarkets. Although I normally shop at Morrison’s (mostly because it is the biggest in town), I sometimes like to browse the shelves at M&S for new and intriguing ingredients. Don’t ask me why, but they seem to very interested in widening the range of food they have on offer. Also, they import quite a lot from Italy. True, the majority of the food you find there is overpriced (£6 for 100g of Gianduiotti, seriously?!?) and please be aware most of these goods are specifically packaged and manufactured for exporting purposes. That said, they seem to be pretty much on the ball in terms of sourcing new ingredients, such as new varieties of oranges, etc.

It was in one of my latest trips to this wonderland that I found a close equivalent to speck. I have talked about this ingredient in previous posts, mostly complaining because I could not find it here. Well, now I can (happy me!). True, it is called ‘smoked prosciutto’ and it’s not the original one, but being as close as it gets, that will do. This is a recipe which I improvised to make good use of it – and what better way than to use it in a quiche? The traditional Quiche Lorraine, after all, also includes lardons, so why not stay more or less on the same theme? I added peas and smoked cheese because I think they work well together, but asparagus or cherry tomatoes would also taste nice.


Ingredients (for the pastry)

  • 225g plain flour
  • 50g unsalted butter, fridge-cold
  • 50g lard, fridge cold
  • pinch of salt

Ingredients (for the filling)

  • 2 eggs
  • 3 egg yolks (keep one of the whites)
  • 200ml double cream
  • 100ml creme fraiche
  • 2 x 83g smoked prosciutto packets
  • 50g smoked cheese, finely grated
  • 100g peas (frozen is fine)
  • salt and pepper


  1. To make the pastry, put the flour and the salt in a large bowl. Cube the fat (butter and lard) and add it to the flour mixture, then use your fingertips to rub the fat into the flour until you get a breadcrumb consistency. Don’t overwork the fact or the pastry will be tough, but don’t leave big lumps of fat in the mixture either.
  2. Now add the water. I normally add 4 tbsp icy cold water to the mixture and it works fine every time, but start with 3 and take it from there. Use a round bladed knife to mix the water into the flour mixture and to bring the mixture together. Switch to your hand to briefly work the pastry into a big ball. You are looking for the pastry to be fairly dry and not excessively wet.
  3. Wrap the pastry in clingfilm, gently press it down so it turns into a rough square and put it in the fridge for at least 1 hour.
  4. After this time has elapsed, remove the pastry from the fridge and use a rolling pin slightly dusted in flour to roll out the pastry on your work surface. Please ensure to lightly flour the rolling pin and the work surface. Don’t flour the pastry or you’ll compromise the balance between flour, fat and water. Roll out the pastry to a round big enough to line a 20cm fluted round tart tin. Gently press the pastry in place and ensure it closely adheres to the fluted edges, then use a knife or run your rolling pin onto the tin to cut the excess pastry overhanging. Working with your fingers, gently press the pastry upwards on the fluted edge so that the pastry comes approximately 2-3mm over the edge of the tin. This way, when you bake it, the pastry has room to shrink.
  5. Prick the tart base with a fork, then chill the pastry case for at least 30 minutes to relax the pastry.
  6. Move on to the filling. If you’re using frozen peas, gently poach them in simmering salted water for about 5 minutes, then drain and set aside. In a large frying pan set over high heat, fry approximately half the smoked prosciutto slices until crisp, then set aside to cool. Chop then finely, then combine with the peas and the grated cheese. In a bowl, mix the eggs, egg yolks, double cream and creme fraiche with a pinch of salt and pepper. Go easy with the salt as the prosciutto and the cheese are already quite salted. Combine with the peas, cheese and chopped prosciutto, then set aside.
  7. Pre-heat the oven to 200C. Slide a flat baking tray in the oven to warm up. Line the pastry case with baking parchment, then fill with baking beans and blind bake for 15 minutes. Remove the beans and parchment, then bake for another 10 minutes until the base is fully cooked.
  8. Use a pastry brush to lightly cover the cooked base of the pastry with the egg white, then return to the oven for 3 minutes to cook. This layer will make the pastry waterproof, ensure you get a nice crispy bottom and insulate the pastry from the wet filling.
  9. Lower the oven temperature to 180C. Remove the cooked base from the oven and arrange half of the uncooked slices of smoked prosciutto on the bottom so that they evenly cover it. Pour in the filling, then arrange the remaining slices on top in a pattern you fancy. Bake for 30 minutes until golden brown on top and fully cooked. Remove from the oven and allow to stand for 10 minutes before removing from the tart case. Slice and enjoy!




Christmas Ham, Leeks and Mustard Lasagne

In my household, we have two food-related traditions for Christmas. The first is that there has to be a ham, which I normally boil for a good 2 hours in cider and spices. I then slice it and we have it cold on bread with cheese and pickle throughout the holidays. Also, the choice par excellence for Christmas Eve is salmon. I buy a whole side from the fishmonger (about £25), slather it in honey, spices, mustard and citrus juice, then roast it until it’s just cooked and tender. Normally these are the two dishes which would accompany our holidays right until the end. However, not all things are eternal and even the ham is not going to last forever. What can you do, then, to make those leftovers go the extra mile?

Rather than throwing them away, I use them again in recipes. I would usually cook pasta and make a sauce with the leftover salmon and crème fraîche. The ham is very versatile and can be used in a wide variety of dishes, the lasagna suggested here being just one of them. You could also transform it into cannelloni, filled pasta shells, or ditch the pasta altogether and opt for a salad or a mousse. The amount of ham indicated below is purely an indication – use as much as you like. Also, make sure you wash the leeks after you sliced them as they tend to contain quite a lot of dirt and you don’t want to feel the grittiness under your teeth.



  • 1L whole milk
  • 100g + 50g unsalted butter
  • 100g plain flour
  • 2 tsp mustard powder
  • 2 tbsp Dijon mustard
  • approximately 700g cooked gammon joint
  • 2 large leeks, halved and finely sliced
  • approximately dried 10 lasagna sheets
  • 300g extra mature cheddar, coarsely grated
  • salt and pepper


  1. Start by making the bechamel sauce. In a large saucepan, gently melt 100g butter. Once that’s all melted, take the pan off the heat and add the flour. Use a wooden spoon to combine the mixture, which will look very messy but that is fine. Transfer the saucepan back onto a medium heat and cook the mixture for about 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Make sure the flour and butter mixture does not stick to the bottom of the saucepan.
  2. Meanwhile, warm the milk in another saucepan. Bring it to the boil, then turn off the heat. Slowly pour about a third of the warm milk into the egg and flour mixture, then mix with the wooden spoon to dissolve all of the flour. The mixture will thicken quickly since there is not much liquid. Slowly add another third of the milk and mix again to dissolve any lumps which might form. Finally, when the mixture is smooth again, pour in the remaining milk. If the mixture turns very lumpy, you can use a whisk to energetically mix it all together. Cook over a medium heat, stirring constantly, for a good 5-10 minutes, until the mixture has thickened and easily covers the back of the wooden spoon.
  3. In the meantime, melt the 50g butter with a drizzle of olive oil in another saucepan and add the sliced and washed leeks. Cook over a medium heat for approximately 10 minutes, until the vegetables have cooked down and are translucent. Remove the pan from the heat.
  4. Finely dice the cooked gammon, then add them to the pan with the leeks. Dollop in the Dijon mustard and season generously with salt and pepper. Season the bechamel sauce too and whisk in the mustard powder. Pour the bechamel sauce in the pan with the ham and leeks, then mix to combine.
  5. Pre-heat the oven to 180C.
  6. Start to assemble the lasagna by pouring a couple of ladlefuls of the bechamel mixture onto a deep baking tray (mine is 30x25cm). Spread the mixture to cover the bottom of the tray, then cover with the lasagna sheets, which you might have to trim to cover the whole surface. Now dollop about a third of the bechamel mixture onto the dried lasagna sheets, then sprinkle about a third of the grated cheese on top. Cover with more lasagna sheets, then repeat this process until you have run out of bechamel mixture and the top layer has been sprinkled with the cheese. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes until the lasagna is a lovely golden brown on top and the sauce is bubbling away. Remove from the oven and allow to sit for a good 10-15 minutes before serving, then cut it into portions and enjoy!