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Posts from the ‘Light meals’ Category

Prawn, feta and lemon courgetti

prawn, feta and lemon courgetti


The lure of a new kitchen gadget can prove hard to resist. I’ve been toying with the idea of getting a spiraliser for a while now; there is something very appealing about swapping the carbs for something a little bit lighter, especially in summer.

Until I have a massive kitchen with oodles of storage, I try not to act on impulse and commit my already bulging cupboards to yet another gadget, however exciting it might seem. So in an attempt to work out whether long thin strands of vegetables will indeed prove to be a total revelation to my cooking, I bought a significantly smaller, cheaper julienne peeler instead, which can live comfortably and guilt-free in the utensil drawer.

Prawns and feta are one of my favourite flavour combinations – the tangy, salty cheese sits perfectly alongside the sweet, meaty prawns. Handfuls of herbs and some lemon zest make this taste like a summer evening by the seaside. Read more

Crab and ricotta gnudi with lemon butter and pea shoots

Hello summer! Despite the fact that it’s not exactly tropical here in London at the moment, the long light evenings are definitely making me feel like summer has arrived. There’s something about eating dinner whilst it’s still daylight that always feels a bit wrong somehow. I find myself eating later and later as the evenings get progressively longer, waiting for my appetite to finally kick in at dusk. Eventually it will get to the point where I can’t practically wait any longer, so I’ll compromise with something light to eat, like these little crab and ricotta gnudi.

These little dumplings somehow manage to meet the criteria for a light supper, despite their predominantly cheese based filling. I’ve made these before, but just the more usual ricotta and parmesan ones. This time I was feeling experimental, so I added crab in the place of parmesan and was pretty pleased with the result.

These really are a bit of kitchen magic. Little dollops of crab and ricotta, dropped unceremoniously into a sandpit of semolina, transform into dumplings overnight in the fridge. The semolina absorbs some of the moisture from the filling to form a delicate skin, like a thin layer of pasta, so they end up akin to a very well filled ravioli, although with much less work involved.

Apart from the overnight rest in the fridge, these are really very quick and easy – just 10 minutes prep the night before and another 10 minutes when you’re ready to eat.

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Boiled eggs with asparagus and parma ham soldiers

boiled eggs, asparagus and parma ham

One bunch or two? I was deliberating my options at the asparagus stall this weekend, when the owner mentioned that next weekend would probably be the last of his harvest for this year, thus prompting an immediate panic-induced purchase of three bunches of asparagus by me. Only two more weeks of asparagus! I feel like I’ve barely got started with it this year.

Still, I can easily get through three bunches in a week. This is one of my asparagus favourites and happily it’s quick and easy, so it’s perfect for a weeknight supper or brunch at the weekend. There aren’t many recipes that take less than 10 minutes yet still feel like a treat, but this is one of them.

As with so many simple recipes, the quality of the ingredients is key. So to pair with the freshest asparagus I bought some lovely rare breed biodynamic eggs from the next stall along, with beautiful yolks the colour of apricots. It’s worth trying some non-standard eggs for things like this, I find the flavour generally superior to the mass produced kind.

Start by snapping off the woody ends of a bunch of asparagus. In a shallow pan, just wide enough for the spears to lie flat, add a generous splash of boiling water and cook the spears for a couple of minutes before removing from the pan and setting aside to cool. Drain any remaining water from the pan and retain.

Bring another pan of water to the boil for your eggs. If you keep your eggs in the fridge, bring them up to room temperature by popping them into a bowl of hot tap water for a couple of minutes. This should stop them cracking when you put them into the boiling water.

Once the asparagus is cool enough to handle, coil strips of parma ham around the stem of each spear. A whole slice per spear is too much, so I try to cut each slice lengthways into two, which invariably results in it falling apart, but it doesn’t matter, so long as some ham gets wrapped around somehow.

Heat a splash of oil in the shallow pan over a medium heat and add the ham wrapped spears. Now put your eggs on to boil. I like to err on the side of caution with my eggs – I don’t know about you, but I think there is nothing more disappointing than cracking into an egg and discovering a set yolk. So I boil them for 4 minutes, but if the chance of a little undercooked egg white would put you off entirely, then you may wish to err on the other side of caution and cook them for a little bit longer.

Jiggle the asparagus around whilst the eggs cook, so the ham crisps up nicely. Drain the eggs and serve immediately with the asparagus. A perfect speedy sunset supper.

To serve one:

One medium sized bunch of asparagus

However many eggs

A few slices of parma ham

Spring chicken

Spring chicken

It’s no coincidence to me that all the vegetables coming into season in May taste amazing together. All those sweet tender peas, delicate asparagus spears and buttery, waxy new potatoes are a match made in heaven.

This dish makes the most of all of these wonderful flavours of an English spring garden. For me, the holy trinity of May is the Jersey Royal potato, English asparagus and baby broad beans. I could eat combinations of these three in various guises all month, but this chicken dish wins the prize for one of my perfect Sunday suppers.

You could use any combination of vegetables for this, but I think that full on spring feeling only comes if everything is green, green, green, so aim for a pick and mix selection of peas, beans, green leaves and herbs.

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Grilled halloumi with beetroot, carrot, lemon and cumin salad

Grilled halloumi with beetroot, carrot, lemon and cumin salad

Something about the advent of spring means I want to make everything feel fresh and new, so I started my spring cleaning a couple of weeks ago, to get everything well prepared for the bright months ahead after the long winter hibernation.

I try to clear out my larder cupboard every 6 months or so, so I’m incredulous that somehow there always seems to be a small packet of something that went off circa 1996. Its the bit of the spring clean that I relish the most, a voyage of discovery through the packets and jars I’ve got squirrelled away. I’m a bit of a magpie collector of weird and wonderful foodstuffs on my travels, which are randomly all the more appealing when I can’t understand the label – an interesting surprise maybe; a bit of dinner roulette.

I also amass foodie gifts from people who know I am a sucker for an unusual spice, a new flavoured oil or a special gadget. And so it was that I rediscovered a halloumi cheese making kit that we had been given for Christmas. My husband has a particular fondness for cheese, so I think it was technically a gift for him, but I view all of these things as for sharing really. Read more

Steamed dumpling soup

Steamed dumpling soup

Happy new year! I’m starting 2015 with one of my favourite weekday suppers – steamed dumpling soup. It’s a go-to recipe when you need something quick and easy, when you don’t have the time or energy for making anything complicated.

It’s dark and cold seemingly all of the time at the moment, so I want to eat gentle, soothing dishes which will be warm and comforting on these long dark nights. There is something magical about a chicken broth. Its deep savouriness manages to be both rich and nourishing, yet calming and light all at the same time. The addition of a stack of greens makes you feel suitably January-virtuous, plus some little asian dumplings which bring some glorious sticky stodge to the bowl.

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Salmon, dill and fennel cakes, mixed greens, fennel salad

Salmon, dill and fennel cakes

Salmon is a rare treat for me. I only ever cook it when my husband is away as he not only refuses to eat salmon, but complains profusely about the cooking smell too. I enjoy having something that I only cook especially for me, it seems to add to the pleasure; a solitary, illicit supper.

Northern lights!I was in northern Norway last weekend, hoping to see the northern lights. We were lucky that they obliged us, dancing briefly but mesmerisingly across the starry skies. The stars themselves were also fabulous, with the milky way in full view, an unfamiliar sight for us city dwellers! I ate a lot of fish whilst I was there, although none of it salmon. Every dish I ordered seemed to come with a tangle of fennel shavings on the top.  I wouldn’t normally choose fennel as I don’t like aniseed flavours, but eating it like this was really enjoyable, adding subtle flavour, freshness and crunch, so I thought I’d try it myself with some salmon cakes.

This is a quick and light supper dish. You could make it more substantial by adding some noodles or rice maybe, but I like it as it is, with just green vegetables in a little light broth. Read more

Grilled beetroot salad with pumpkin seed pesto and goats milk yogurt dressing


Making a salad can often feel like a slapdash affair; a few fresh ingredients quickly tossed together, fast food at its healthy best. So it was nice to spend a little extra time over the weekend to make this salad, packed with the sort of sweet, earthy flavours that I start to crave when the autumn comes.

Unless you are eating it raw, beetroot will never be a fast food. And whilst I do use those pre-cooked, vacuum-packed beetroots from time to time, they can be a little bit watery, losing some of their fabulous rich flavour and colour. Much better to cook your own, although this takes time. I’m amazed by the number of recipes that insist you can roast a beetroot in 30-40 minutes. The only time I roasted some beetroots, I was amazed at the length of time they took to cook, taunting me from the depths of the oven as they remained hard as nails for hours on end, disregarding my every effort to hurry them along. I’ve not roasted a beetroot since. But for this recipe I wanted the dense, sweet flesh that only roasting seems to yield, so I decided to experiment with simmering them and then grilling them to get that sweet caramelised flavour in a fraction of the time. Its still not exactly quick, but it does save on oven-induced torment.

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Coconut crab cakes with sweet cucumber pickle

coconut crab cakes with sweet cucumber pickle

My kitchen is showing signs of a burgeoning coconut obsession – I currently have coconut water and yogurt in the fridge and a store cupboard containing everything from desiccated coconut to coconut oil.

Coconut oil takes me back to my childhood holidays. My mum would always buy a jar from the chemist for us to moisturise with after sunbathing, to maintain our hard-won English seaside suntans for as long as possible. I remember putting the jar by the fire to warm, waiting for the solid mass to melt into clear oil, ready to anoint my skin with its lovely coconutty scent.

My coconut oil comes from the health food store these days and it seems to be enjoying a bit of a renaissance in the culinary world. It seemed the natural choice to use to cook these lovely little coconut crab cakes. They have plenty of coconut in them, which blends so well with a southeast asian inspired palate of ginger, chilli and coriander.

ingredientsI wanted to make a crab cake with as few other ingredients as possible. For this reason I’ve left out the customary breadcrumbs used to bind the cakes together, adding more coconut to the mixture instead. This has the upside of making them delectably crabby, but the downside is that they are a quite fragile. To be honest, a tablespoon or two of breadcrumbs would probably firm them up nicely, but I was content with these soft, delicate little cakes as they were.

Start by making the cucumber pickle, which adds a satisfying crunch and tang to the plate. Its not a proper pickle, more of a marinade I guess. Cut about a 2 inch length of cucumber into 1cm strips. Deseed them and then cube the remaining flesh. In a small bowl mix 1tbsp white wine vinegar with 1tbsp caster sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves. Add a pinch of salt and then the cubes of cucumber. Put in the fridge for an hour or so to infuse.

coconut coatingI recently discovered little 100g pots of half white and half dark crabmeat in the supermarket, which are ideal for this. Put 100g mixed crabmeat into a bowl and then add 1tsp grated root ginger, half a red chilli, finely chopped, the zest of half a lime, 1 spring onion, finely chopped and a small handful of chopped coriander. Then stir in a scant teaspoon of mayonnaise and 3 tbsp desiccated coconut. At this point taste the mixture and see if you want to adjust the flavourings at all. Then separate 1 egg and lightly whisk the white with a pinch of salt before adding about half of it to the mix. Half an egg white seems abut ridiculous I know, but I’ve tried making these without it and they just fall apart.

coated crabcakePut the mixture into the fridge for around an hour, which will help the mixture to firm up a bit and also allow the flavours to develop.

Once chilled, you need to form the little cakes. Cover a plate with a generous layer of desiccated coconut. Form heaped tablespoons of the mixture into rounds and drop onto the coconut. The crab mix will remain quite sticky, but should form cakes quite easily. Thoroughly coat the cakes with the coconut.

Heat a tablespoon of coconut oil in a frying pan. If you don’t have coconut oil use another flavourless oil. You will need to keep the heat quite low to prevent the coconut coating from burning. Cook gently for a couple of minutes until golden brown, then turn gently. They will be very delicate so turn with care.

Once cooked, drain the cucumber and serve with the warm crab cakes.

Makes one lavish lunch.

coconut crab cakes

Shopping list:

100g crabmeat, a mix of white and dark meat

1 spring onion,

1 red chilli, or 1/4 teaspoon of lazy chilli,

small bunch coriander

1 lime

1 knob fresh ginger

100g dessicated coconut

1 egg


white wine vinegar

caster sugar

coconut oil (optional)


Broad bean and mozzarella toasts

Broad bean and mozzarella toasts

I’m not one to pick favourites, but if I had to, broad beans would definitely be on my list. Their delicate, fresh green flavour is the epitome of summer to me. They have a wonderful affinity with the fresh lemon zest, fragrant basil and rich creamy buffalo mozzarella in this recipe.

Preparing broad beans is a labour of love. I always, always double-pod mine. For both flavour and aesthetic reasons, I like the bright green inner bean to be completely disrobed. Broad beans lead such a cosseted life,  enveloped in the thick, soft wadding that forms their pod; the vegetable equivalent of a cashmere blanket. The beans inside have a tough white skin which also needs to be removed. I have read many times that if you catch the beans when they are young enough, this white skin is edible, but I’ve never found it to be anything other than slightly bitter and so I remove it as a matter of course. Read more