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Lemon and berry cake with vanilla cream

Lemon and berry cake with vanilla cream

In our house, I think it's pretty obvious that we love cake. I'm always looking for yummy bakes that are simple to make, that I can take to friends and can be just as easily enjoyed with a cup of tea as well as a pudding coated in cream or custard. This bake has you covered for all! It can be made using whatever seasonal berries are about - but it's perfect with blackberries and raspberries, it works just as well with frozen berries as fresh so you don't have season restrictions either! The yogurt in this makes it deliciously light, there is a brightness from the lemon zest and the berries add a nice tang. I sprinkle brown granulated sugar on the top before it goes to bake so between all that you get a lovely little crunch on the topping! Thi is a recipe I don't recommend swapping out the baking spread for butter, something like Stork (or a supermarket's own alt) it much lighter and less rich and works better for this bake. *makes an 8’ cake 170g baking spread 170g soft light brown sugar 3 eggs Zest of 3 lemons ½ teaspoon vanilla extract 3 tablespoons plain/natural yogurt 190g Self-raising flour with 1 teaspoon of baking powder Approx. 15 berries blackberries and/or raspberries – if out of season feel free to use frozen 2 tablespoons granulated brown sugar *makes an 8’ cake Oven at 170*C 1 – Cream together the spread and sugar for 2-3 minutes - this will be easier with a hand mixer - till it has gone light in colour. 2 – Add the lemon zest and vanilla extract and mix for a further 30 seconds. 3 – Whisk the eggs and yogurt and then add to the creamed sugar 4 – Sift the flour and baking powder together and fold in. 5 – Pour the mixture into a lined 8-inch baking tin and leaving a little room between them pop the berries on top, don’t press them into the cake batter, as they will naturally sink when the cake is baking. 6 –  Sprinkle with the granulated sugar and bake for approx. 20 - 25 minutes – keep an eye on it, you’ll know when it's ready if it passes the knife test or bounces back if you lightly press the top. 7 –  Leave to cool for a few minutes then remove to a cooling rack. This is delicious served warm with a pouring of light vanilla cream – which I make by lightly whisking 300ml of double cream with ½ teaspoon of vanilla paste or extract and 2 tablespoons of icing sugar till it is all incorporated - and extra berries

Lemon and chicken one pot

Lemon and chicken one pot

This deliciously bright, yet comforting dish is one that we cook often in our house. Its simple to make, and a beautiful mix of flavours. Great for a winter evening, and equally good lightened up with some salad for a more summer-esque roast! I love a one pot, as i often have friends and family round to eat, the joy of just prepping and throwing everything in, being able to do a quick tidy and then not be cooking when guests arrive is a joy, it means I can enjoy time with friends when hosting instead of being stuck in the kitchen whilst everyone has a good time! As it serves 4 its easy to just double (or triple) if you're feeding more people, kids also tend to love it! I always go to my local butcher and buy a whole chicken as they will always joint and portion it there and then for you, it means you can keep the breast on the bone, which makes it so much juicier and flavoursome when cooked! Lemon and Oregano are what I call foundation flavours within Greek and Cypriot cooking. Lemon is in almost every meal and acts not only to give that zesty flavour we love but also to enhance the flavours of what its pared with, it also acts as a tenderiser for any meat, which is why you'll find it in many marinades!! Serves 4 1 whole chicken cut into 8 pieces (2 thighs, 2 legs and the breasts cut into half) 5 medium potatoes cut into ¼  2 onions cut into wedges 2 carrots cut down the middle and halved (depends on size) 4 tomatoes cut into ¼ 150ml olive oil The juice of 4 lemons, keep the empty lemon shells 2 tablespoon dried oregano 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 2 cloves of garlic grated or very finely chopped 1 chicken stock cube Oven at 200*C 1 - In a large saucepan with a splash of oil seer the chicken pieces for a few minutes on each side till lightly browned and set aside 2 - Put the chicken into a large oven dish and add in the potatoes, onion and tomatoes, top with the olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, cinnamon, garlic and some salt and pepper and mix the lot together (I always just get stuck in with my hands, but make sure to wash them well before and after!) so everything is coated, then arrange in a single layer and pop in the empty lemon skins. 3 - Dissolve 1 chicken stock cube in 1 mug full of water and pout into the dish then cover tightly with foil and roast for 40 minutes, then uncover, give everything a stir and a baste and roast for a further 25 minutes uncovered to brown. 4 - Top with some fresh parsley before serving and enjoy with a salad or greens and some warm bread to mop up all those juices. Want to check the chicken is cooked, cut into the thickest point near the bone and if the juices coming our are clear then you're good to go!

Chocolate dipped Vanilla Whirls (VG)

Chocolate dipped Vanilla Whirls (VG)

These are so quick to make and are a staple in our house, I often make them as an edible gift and I have a great orange and lemon variation too! One thing to really make these sing – good vanilla paste. I use a brand called Vanilla Mart as it gives lots of those lovely little flecks of vanilla, it's one ingredient that is worth going the extra mile for! My version uses a piping bag for speed and a good finish but if you’re unsure or don’t have one just use an ice cream scoop to pop them on the baking tray then squash them down with a fork! These are great to make into edible gifts, to take to a friends and share over a drink and a chat, or to pop the kettle on at home, wrap up in a blanket and devour all on your own like they never existed. I won’t tell if you don’t! 250g baking spread (I use an ALDI supermarket own to keep this vegan, but stork or a baking block would do too) 50g icing sugar 2 tbsp cornflower 250g plain flour 1 teaspoon vanilla paste 1 block of plain chocolate Sprinkles 1 - Oven at 190*c 2 - Using an electric whisk beat the sugar and baking spread till it goes light and soft, then add the vanilla. 3 - Add the flour and cornflower and mix till you have a soft pipeable dough. 4 - Using a piping bag with a large nozzle pipe between 18 – 22 swirls onto a lined baking tray and bake for 15 minutes or until they start to brown on the edges, then leave to cool. 5 - Once the biscuits are cool melt the chocolate and dip each biscuit half way into the chocolate and sprinkle ontop some sprinkles then leave on a tray on the side or in the fridge for the chocolate to firm up – Enjoy! Variation – Orange OR lemon Instead of the vanilla add ½ tsp of orange or lemon essence and the zested rind of 2 large oranges or 2 lemons. Enjoy as is without the chocolate, or swap for white chocolate – a slightly more grown-up and equally delicious treat!

Roast baby potato, shallot and tomato salad

Roast baby potato, shallot and tomato salad

This is another one that although a perfect side (This is absolutely perfect with any roast!!) I love to eat it on its own, I sometimes crumble some feta on top (because you all know I love feta) It's also delicious as a midweek tea with a couple of fried or poached eggs! Any leftovers are amazing in frittata the next day The roasted shallots and tomatoes release a beautiful, sweetness and the balsamic caramIt'selises as it roasts. It’s a great gluten and dairy-free side and is completely Vegan! Its so super quick and simple to do, and all the ingredients are easy to come by! Serves 6 as a side 750gr baby potatoes halved 4 shallots (or small brown onions) cut into 4 lengthways Tablespoon dried mint 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar 3 tablespoons olive oil 250g cherry tomatoes 1 - Oven at 190*C 2 – Put the halved baby potatoes into a pan with boiling water and a generous pinch of salt and bring to a rolling boil, simmer for a few minutes until the potatoes start to soften but still have bite. Drain. 3 – In a roasting tin add the potatoes, shallots, dried mint, balsamic and olive oil, along with some salt and pepper and mix so everything is coated. Roast for 15 minutes. 4 – Stir in the cherry tomatoes and roast for further 20 minutes. 5 – Can be served hot, warm or at room temperature.

Fattoush-esque Chicken salad

Fattoush-esque Chicken salad

This absolute beauty is my fattoush-esque chicken salad. Lettuce, cucumber, parsley, orange and pomegranate, topped with some warm roast chicken and some pitta chips. An olive oil and pomegranate dressing finishes this off an absolute treat. I often use rotisserie chicken for this, and shop-bought pita chips, which makes it a really quick midweek tea. A delicious mix of sweet and tangy. This is yum, full of goodness, light but filling. It's just as perfect as a lighter alternative after the indulgence of Christmas as it is on a warm summer's day.
As a plus, it's yummy with leftover turkey too! 1 roast chicken, cooled and shredded, or 4-6 cooked chicken breasts 1 iceberg or 2 cos lettuce 1 cucumber chopped 1 carrot julienne or thick grated Handful of fresh parsley leaves roughly chopped 1 orange, skin and pith removed and cut into rough chunks 1 cup pomegranate seeds Pitta chips (if you can't find pita chips any croutons will do) For the dressing: 4 tablespoons olive oil 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar 1/2 lemons worth of juice 1 teaspoon of honey 1/2 teaspoon sumac 1 – Mix all the salad dressing ingredients together 2 – In a large bowl add the cucumber, lettuce, carrot, parsley, half the pomegranate seeds and orange, then drizzle over half of the dressing and toss to coat. 3 – Top with the chicken, pita chips and the rest of the pomegranate seeds and enjoy! Addition – I like to add some toasted pine nuts or almonds to the top of this for a bit of extra crunch and texture! Yep That simple.

Muhammara – charred red pepper dip

Muhammara – charred red pepper dip

This dip is ALL about big flavours: Charred red pepper, toasted nuts, paprika and, of course, garlic. Traditionally this dip has the inclusion of breadcrumbs to add body, but I substitute these for ground almonds to make it gluten-free. It doesn’t change the flavour, but it does make it more inclusive, as it's already dairy free and vegan! Pomegranate molasses and sumac may not be ingredients you’ve cooked with before but they're great to have in the cupboard as they are fabulous on salads – both are readily available in large supermarkets. Serves 6-10 5 red peppers – stalk removed, halved and deseeded ½ mild chilli – stalk removed and deseeded (optional) 3 Tablespoon Extra Virgin Olive Oil plus extra 2 garlic cloves chopped or grated 2 tablespoon tomato puree 65g ground almonds 2 tablespoon pomegranate molasses 1 teaspoon paprika ½ teaspoon sugar 1 teaspoon sumac ½ teaspoon salt Handful rough chopped toasted walnuts (roast in a hot oven for 5-10 minutes) and pomegranate seeds to serve 1 – Oven at 200*c 2 – Rub the peppers with some olive oil and place them skin side up along with the mild chilli if using – roast for 35 minutes or until the skin has started to char. Remove into a bowl, cover with some cling film and leave to sit for 10 minutes – the cling film creates moisture in the bowl and will make it easier to remove the skins. 3– Whilst the peppers are roasting place the ground almonds in a small pan and toast for 5 minutes stirring constantly so they don’t burn, this will release additional flavour 4 – Remove the skins from the peppers they should easily peel away, and don’t worry if a few bits are left on. 5 – In a food processor combine the roasted peppers, and chilli (if using) with the extra virgin olive oil, tomato puree, ground almonds, pomegranate molasses, paprika, sugar, sumac, and salt. Blend into a smooth paste. 6 – Serve at room temperature topped with the chopped walnuts and a drizzle of olive oil. You can also use pre-packaged toasted flaked almonds if you prefer instead of walnuts This is delicious with any meat, as a base for a wrap or just as it is with lots of warm toasted pita.

Raw Courgette and sugar snap salad

Raw Courgette and sugar snap salad

As the warm weather hits us it's time to start our summer sides series! This is the first and it's just perfect for any hot weather bbqs you plan on having this week. This dish absolutely screams sunshine to me, it has courgettes and sugar snap peas for freshness, and a peppery hit of the rocket alongside the bright fresh flavours of lemon and garden herbs. Topped with a crunch of toasted nuts it’s a real treat, plus it's full of goodness!! Serve warm or at room temperature Dressing ingredients A handful of fresh mint (approx. 10-15 leaves) finely chopped with a few spare for serving 3 fresh basil leaves – finely chopped 1 garlic clove – finely chopped or grated salt and pepper Zest and juice of 1 lemon 1 tablespoon honey OR 1 teaspoon maple syrup if Vg 3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil Everything else 3 courgettes 1 packet sugar snap peas Handful of pine nuts or toasted almond flakes Handful rocket leaves 1 – Mix all the dressing ingredients together and set aside. 2 - Slice the courgettes lengthways on a mandoline (watch your fingers!), or with a flat vegetable peeler, into strips about 2-3mm thick. Place the strips in a colander over a bowl and season with a little salt; leave them to stand for about 5 minutes to extract any extra water (this will keep it nice and crisp) then give them a quick rinse with cold water and leave to drain and dry on some paper towel. 3 – Trim any wiry ends off the sugar snaps and pop in some salted boiling water and leave on a rolling boil for 2 minutes, drain the water out and blanch into cold water. 4 – In a small pan, gently toast off the pine nuts – make sure you keep an eye on them, as they can burn fast. 5 – On a platter arrange the courgettes, sugar snaps and rocket leaves and drizzle over the dressing, scatter the nuts on top and finish with some small fresh mint leaves.

Slow cook Lamb Gyros.

Slow cook Lamb Gyros.

One of my all-time favourite dishes is lamb kleftiko, slow-cooked over 8 hours, with potatoes, onions and tomatoes it’s a proper winter warmer, but once it gets to spring I'm not sure I want a heavy dinner, I start craving something a little lighter. Here is where my slow cook lamb gyros take centre stage. A Gyro-Kleftiko hybrid it combines the things I love about both! Gyros, pronounced YEE-ros (please, not G-eye-rose) are meat, salad, tzatziki and a few hot chips wrapped in a soft pitta, and often eaten walking home from drinks whilst spending the week relaxing on a Greek Island. So whilst I can't give you the sea, sand and sunshine of the island, I can give you some of the flavours. Kids love creating their own at the table and it’s great for fussier eaters who know exactly what they want in their wrap The best bit – the lamb can be made the day before serving and keeps really well in the fridge, great for a weekend slow cook to be devoured for Monday tea! For the lamb 1.5 – 1.8kg shoulder or leg of lamb (bone in weight) 1 tbsp oregano 1 tbsp mint 1/2 tbsp paprika ½ teaspoon cinnamon 2 cloves garlic minced 1 tablespoon pomegranate molasses Juice 1/2 orange 1.5 tsp salt 1/2 tsp ground black pepper 2 tbsp olive oil 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar 1 large onion cut into wedges To serve Soft Greek flatbreads or pitas Greek yoghurt or Tzatziki Cut cucumber and tomatoes Lemon wedges Chips (I use thin-cut oven fries) 1 - Mix all the ingredients, excluding the onion wedges, together and rub them onto the lamb and marinate for a few hours or overnight – be sure to remove from the fridge approx. 1 hour before cooking 2 - Preheat the oven to 200*c. 3 – Place the lamb into a deep oven dish and surround it with the cut onions, pour 150ml of water into the bottom of the dish and cover tightly with foil 4 – Put the lamb in the oven and after 10 minutes turn it down to 175*c and cook for 3-4 hours, checking every hour to baste with the juices from the pan. Once it can easily be removed from the bone with a fork you know it's ready. 5 – Remove the foil and cook the lamb for a further 40 minutes. 6 - Cover loosely with foil and leave to rest for a minimum of 30 minutes. 7 – Shred or slice the meat from the bone and pour over a few tablespoons of the juices from the pan 8 - Serve on a platter with flatbreads, salads, lemon, Yoghurt and chips and let everyone build their own! Prep ahead – the lamb can be cooked the day before, simply go up to step 7 and once cooled pop in the fridge juices and all – the next day about an hour before serving pour in 50ml of boiling water, cover with foil and pop the pan back in the oven at 170 for 30-45 minutes

Kritharaki.

Kritharaki.

Kritharaki. Comfort in a bowl. Orzo, cooked in stock with fresh tomatoes, onion and cinnamon. You can have it as it is, with some chicken or fish or with additional veggies such as squash or courgettes mixed through but whatever you go for is has to be topped with some grated halloumi and a sprinkling of mint. And yes, after I took this I quadrupled the amount of halloumi on top. It's very simple to make, keeps well and has all those comforting flavours I love. Its easy to make more or less of this - just know for Orzo pasta its always 1 to 2 of orzo to water, so if you use 1 cup or orzo its 2 cups of water - i use a measuring jug, filling the jug up to a measurement line of orzo and then doubling that amount of stock serves 5-6 as a side with a protein or 3-4 as a main on its own 1 onion chopped fine 2 carrots chopped fine 3 fresh tomatoes blitzed up 1 Tablespoon tomato paste 1 lemons worth of juice 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon Orzo pasta - measured up to the 400ml line in a measuring jug (or around 2 cups) 800ml boiling water with either a chicken or vegetable stock cube dissolved in 1 250 block of halloumi - grated Dried mint 1 - In a lidded saucepan melt a tabelspoon of butter or olive oil and once hot fry the onion and carrot for about 3-4 minutes till the onion starts to turn translucent. 2 - Pour in the fresh blitzed tomatoes, tomato paste, the lemon juice and cinnamon, along with some salt and pepper to personal taste and stir together. 3 - Stir in the Orzo pasta and make sure its all well coated and finally pour in the boiling water. Stir well until it all starts bubbling. 4 - Pop the lid on and turn down to a low simmer and leave for approx 10-15 minutes, until the orzo is soft and cooked through, if you find its too dry add in some more water a half cup at a time. I like it in a bit of a broth but its personal preference 5 - Top with a good handful of the grated halloumi and a pinch of the dried mint and enjoy hot. Enjoy!

Homemade pork and apple sausage rolls.

Homemade pork and apple sausage rolls.

One of my all time favourite, pick up and eat as you walk around the house, cover you, the floor and everything you touch in pastry, snacks. Theyre a great evening tea with a salad or as a lunch box treat, we often have sausage rolls on winter buffets, or on an evening when we’re sick of eating turkey leftovers. And they’re almost always requested when we head to a boxing day or NYE house party. Quick to make and adapt by adding whatever flavours you want, my personal favourite are these delicious, slightly sweet Pork and apple ones. These never last long, and I almost always burn my mouth with impatience when they come out the oven. 1 bramley apple peeled, cored and grated 500 g minced pork or sausage meat 2 teaspoon apple sauce 3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme leaves 2*puff pastry sheets 1 large free-range egg Sesame or poppy seeds 1 - Preheat the oven to 200°C 2 - Combine the pork, apple, apple sauce and thyme leaves in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper and combine. 3 - Roll out the pastry sheets onto a flat surface and halve them lengthways place a strip of meat down the middle of each. 4 - Brush the edges lightly with some water, roll up and seal. Brush with the beaten egg and sprinkle on a few poppy or sesame seeds, then cut each strip into 3 rolls for larger sausage rolls or 6-8 for smaller bitesize rolls 5 - Score the tops and bake for 20 minutes, or until golden and cooked through. A Christmas alternative is pork and cranberry filling, leave out the thyme and simply substitute the apple sauce for cranberry sauce and the grated apple for about 30g chopped dried cranberries, plus the zest of half an orange!

Cider and bay slow cooked pulled pork

Cider and bay slow cooked pulled pork

This fabulous slow-cooked pork recipe will be perfect to enjoy after a cold winter walk or to share with friends at a winter party. Perfect crammed into a brioche bun with some bbq sauce and carrot slaw, it's just as delicious over mash with some of those cooking juice and I love leftovers (if there ever is any) in a sandwich the next day too! Serves 8 1.8kg boneless pork shoulder cut into large chunks 2 bay leaves 1tsp each of dried thyme, dried sage anddried oregano ¼ ground cinnamon 1 tbsp smoked paprika 150ml cider 200ml chicken stock 3 tbsp brown sugar 1. Oven at 175*c 2. In a small bowl stir the thyme, sage, oregano, cinnamon and smoked paprika together with a generous grinding of black pepper and a pinch of salt. 3. In a large lidded casserole dish or oven safe lidded pan brown the pork in batches and once all have been browned add them all back to the pan along with the spices and stir together til the pork is coated in the spices. 4. Add the brown sugar, chicken stock and cider. stir well then finally add the bay leaves and bring to a low bubble. 5. Place the lid on the dish and cook for 3-4 hours, checking every hour till it can be easily pulled apart with 2 forks. If you notice its getting to dry add some water a half cup at a time. 6. Once done take out the oven and remove the bay leaves. Pull all the pork apart and stir through with any juices left in the pan. This can be made a day in advance and heated the next day, just add a ½ cup of water and cook for half hour hour on 160*. It's also fine to sit for a few hours before serving - so its great to make in advance of a party!

Strawberry sandwich cookies

Strawberry sandwich cookies

Buttery sweet shortbread biscuits with some wonderfully British strawberry jam sandwiched in the middle. These are a favourite of mine - a perfect summer treat - and the best bit, they can be made completely Vegan! They make a lovely gift too - a good friend of mine has made them as a lovely end of term gift for her children's teachers, and I love taking them when i go to visit family so we can enjoy them with a good cup of tea whilst catching up. Whatever you make them for, I know you'll love them. Makes about 1--12 complete sandwich cookies (or approx. 24 singles) 125g unsalted butter (or stork baking block if Vg) 60g Caster sugar 1 teaspoon vanilla extract 1/2 teaspoon of strawberry extract or flavouring (available from most supermarkets) 180g plain flour 1/4 teaspoon of fine salt. Strawberry jam for filling 1 – Cream together the butter and sugar for 2-3 minutes - this will be easier with a hand mixer - till it has gone light in colour. 2 – Add the vanilla and strawberry extract and mix for a further 30 seconds. 3 – Sift the flour and salt together and the mix into the butter mixture - you'll know when its mixed enough as it will start to naturally clump together - if you find it too dry add a teaspoon of milk (or oat milk) to help bring it together. 4 - Collect it all together with your hands and roll onto a floured surface, ideally to the thickness of a £1 coin. 5 - Stamp out your shapes and place them on a lined baking tray and pop them in the freezer for half an hour (do NOT skip this step - see below why*) 6 - Heat your oven to 170*c and bake for about 12 minutes or until they start to brown on the edges. 7 - Cool, pop some jamp in the middle and sandwich them together. 8 - Test 3-4 with a cup of tea - quality control! * freezing and chilling this type of biscuit before baking is very important, as we work the dough the butter inside starts to warm. chilling hardens up the butter before baking, which helps them keep shape and stops spread in the oven, key for a good and crisp looking end product!

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