Category Archives: Simple Meals

Salad of Crisp Pork Cheeks, from Arbutus


I did say as soon as I get my hands on some pork cheeks I would make the delicious starter I had at Arbutus, and to my utter amazement (and I’m sure yours also) I was able to grab some off Morrison’s pork section in the supermarket, and at an astonishing £1.24 a pack.

To those of you that think pork cheek sounds a bit odd, they are delicious when cooked properly, with a beautiful soft texture and heaps of flavour. They need to bebraised or slowly cooked so that the meat just falls apart, otherwise they will be tough and chewy.

I thus set forth in my little London kitchen, and have conjured up a reliable recipe similar to the one served up in Arbutus  the other week.

Serves 2 as a starter, or light meal:

For the crispy cheeks:

300-400g pork cheeks
1 glass of red wine
500ml beef stock
1 bay leaf
1 tsp juniper berries
1 clove garlic, peeled and bashed
2 tbsp corn flour
1 tbsp lard for frying

For the parsley puree:

Large bunch of parsley, stalks removed
Juice of half a lemon
100ml olive oil
3 tbsp water
1 tsp salt
½ clove garlic grated

For the Puy lentils:

100g Puy Lentils
200ml stock
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
100ml double cream
½ clove garlic grated

Handful of parsley to serve (optional)



Preheat oven to 160oC

First make the parsley puree by wizzing the parsley in a blender, before adding all the remaining parsley puree ingredients, blitz until smooth and set aside until required. (You can keep this for a week in a covered jar in the fridge, great with fish!)

Season the pork cheeks generously with salt and pepper, then on a high heat sear the cheeks in a frying pan for about a minute on each side so that they brown in colour, this adds flavour to the dish. Then remove the cheeks from the pan and place in an ovenproof casserole dish. Add the wine into the hot frying pan and swill this out onto the pork cheeks, along with the stock, bay leaf, juniper berries and garlic.

Place the casserole dish with lid on (or tinfoil if you don’t have one) in the preheated oven and cook for 2 hours, or until the pork is falling apart.

Remove the pork from the liquor (you’ll need this later) in the casserole dish and place in a large bowl, shred the pork using 2 forks. When it is all shredded form into patties, about 1 per cheek (so if you had 4 cheeks this will make 4 patties), compressing them as tight as you can.

If you have a ring mould this will make them neater and firmer, but they do firm up in the fridge. Keep them in the fridge for about 20 minutes, or until you are ready for them.

Make the Puy lentils by bringing to a simmer in the vegetable stock and garlic for 20 minutes, partly covered. If you are running out of liquid add some more, after 20 minutes remove the lid, turn up the heat and add 1 tbsp of sherry vinegar cooking for a few minutes until the liquid has just about evaporated. Stir the cream into the lentils, remove from the heat, cover and set aside until required.

Take the pork cheek patties out of the fridge, put the cornflower onto a separate plate. 1 by 1, using the liquor that the pork cheeks were cooked in, dunk the pork cheeks in the liquor before dusting with the corn flour, this will help them get a real crispy edge. Melt the lard in a frying pan on a medium high heat before frying the pork cheek patties for a few minutes on each side. Let them colour and crisp up on each side before turning.

Serve by placing the puy lentils on a plate with the parsley puree, then the pork patties on top, I served this for dinner with buttered french green beans.


Pork Chops in a Creamy Mushroom Sauce


I wasn’t intending to blog about this one, but when I pulled these pork chops out of the oven I couldn’t help but want to take a photo! And it was such a simple dish to make I thought I’d whack it on the blog, mainly to share it but also so I could remember how to do it for next time.

Serves 2:

2 pork chops

150g chestnut mushrooms, quartered

1 onion, finely sliced

200ml cider (about a wineglass full) preferable dry, non fizzy but any will do.

3 sprigs of thyme

600ml creme fraiche (full fat tastes better!)

1 tsp wholegrain mustard

Butter for frying

 Preheat the oven to 180C.

 Using a large frying pan fry the onions in a knob of butter until soft, remove from the pan, then turn up the heat high and fry the pork chops for a few minutes on either side.

Remove the pork from the pan and season generously with salt and pepper on both sides, add another knob of butter and fry the mushrooms and 2 sprigs of thyme until golden (a couple of minutes). Remove the mushrooms from the heat then add the cider to deglaze the pan. Let the cider simmer down to reduce by about ½ the initial volume, then add the cream, mustard and mix before adding the onions, mushrooms and pork back into the pan. Cover with foil and place in the oven for 20 minutes (You could transfer to an ovenproof dish if you are concerned about your frying pan going into the hot oven).

I served this with fresh mangetout and new potatoes seasoned and mixed with a little porcini and black truffle oil.

Benares Inspired Monkfish Curry Recipe (Meen Molee)


I went away from my evening at Benares, not just with a happy tummy, but also a head buzzing with flavours. For my main course I had Sea Bream with curried moghrabieh, and coconut sauce. The sauce was creamy and mildly spiced, with a wonderful depth of flavour, and the curried moghrabieh was a fantastic alternative to rice with its pearl like texture. Moghrabieh is basically the same as giant couscous, a toasted larger form of regular couscous, with a smooth texture similar to pasta.
The sea bream was pan fried with a crispy skin, but I decided to simplify things, using monkfish I cooked this in the sauce to develop the flavour of the sauce. This style of spicing and cooking is similar to a traditional Keralan fish curry called Meen Molee.

Serves 2:
2 fillets of monkfish tails
1 tsp salt
1 tsp turmeric
2 tbsp coconut oil (or vegetable oil)
20 curry leaves
2 onions, finely sliced
3 whole green chillies, slit lengthways
3 garlic cloves
500ml coconut milk
Small bunch of coriander, chopped

For the moghrabieh:
200g uncooked giant couscous, (merchant gourmet in Waitrose)
½ tsp ground cumin
½ tsp ground coriander
1 tbsp coconut oil (or vegetable oil)
Handful fresh coriander, chopped

1st marinade the fish by mixing ½ tsp of salt and ½ tsp turmeric and gently rubbing the mixture in the fish. Leave the fish to marinade for at least 30 minutes, or until required.

Make the coconut curry sauce by heating the coconut oil in a large saucepan, fry 10 curry leaves until they are crisp, remove with a draining spoon and place on kitchen paper. Set aside until required. Reheat the oil and sauté the onions, chillies, and garlic.

Add the remaining 10 curry leaves and cook for 3-5 minutes until the onion is translucent. Add the rest of the turmeric and salt, pour in the coconut milk, bring the sauce to simmer and uncover for 5 minutes.

Make the moghrabieh by placing in a pan of salted boiling water, cook for 3-5 minutes or until the grain is cooked (should still be slightly firm like an al dente pasta), drain. In a mixing bowl add the drained moghrabieh, ground cumin, coriander, coconut oil and fresh coriander and mix until all combined.

Simmer the fish in the sauce for 5-8 minutes, uncovered until the fish is just cooked. Garnish with the fried curry leaves and coriander, and serve.

Benares Inspired Roast Fennel and Lamb Salad


As a bit of a follow up from my night at Benares, I’ve created 2 Atul Kochhar inspired dishes, now tried and tested by moi for you to give em a go. So starting with the starter of Kentish Mutton, marinaded and served as a salad with roasted fennel and crispy croutons. I used Lamb instead of Mutton because I find it a lot easier to get hold of. The licoricey taste to fennel really compliments lamb, and I doubled up this flavour by using a little fennel seed and pernod in the marinade which worked superbly!

Serves 2

For the croutons:

1 slice bread, cut into about 15mm cubes
½ tsp cumin seeds
Sunflower oil for frying

Heat a frying pan with oil, and fry the croutons along with the cumin seeds for a few minutes on a low heat, turning them in the pan so they crisp up on all sides.

For the marinade:

1 tbsp mango chutney
2 cloves garlic finely chopped garlic
1 tsp finely chopped green chilli peppers
1 tsp ground fennel seed (it’s better if you get the whole seeds, dry toast them to get the aroma oils out, then grind with a pestle and mortar
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp mustard
3 tbsp milk
2 tbsp gram flour
2 tbsp Pernod or Ricard
pinch of grated nutmeg
pinch of salt

To make the marinade combine all the above ingredients into a bowl and mix thoroughly.   

For the tamarind vinaigrette:

4 tbsp fresh tamarind extract (made by soaking dried tamarind pulp in water and passing through a sieve)
1 tbsp finely chopped red onion
½ tbsp each finely chopped red and green pepper
5 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
salt, to taste

Make this tamarind vinaigrette by thoroughly mixing all the ingredients together, either whisk in a bowl or I sometimes shake in an old jam jar.

Other bits:

1 large leg lamb steak (200g), thinly sliced
1 medium sized fennel bulb, roughly chopped
100g of prepared salad leaves
1 sprig of fresh mint, stalk removed
1 sprig of fresh coriander, stalk removed

Start by preparing the croutons,  marinade and tamarind vinaigrette as above.

Add the lamb to the bowl of marinade and allow the marinade to fully coat the lamb. Cover and leave in a cool environment for about 3 hours (min 1 if you’re in a rush) but you can leave it overnight in the fridge if you want a really good flavour. I sliced the lamb before marinating so the flavour could really penetrate.

Spread the fennel on a baking sheet with a little oil, and roast in a preheated oven (180oC) for about 20 minutes, or until soft and tender. Turn off the oven and leave it in there to keep warm whilst you cook the lamb.
Fry the lamb in a little oil on a hot heat for about 10 minutes, turning to ensure even cooking.
Combine the salad leaves, roasted fennel, lamb and croutons for the ultimate tasty lamb salad!

Benares on Urbanspoon

Slow Roast Breast of Lamb with Lemony Apricot Stuffing


Booze binging leads to luxury stinging… everyone has to be a bit frugal every now and then, but lamb breast is such a great tasting cheap cut of meat, you don’t have to compromise flavour. At around £4 a kilo, I think Lamb Breast is the new pork belly now that every other Briton wants a bit of a porky belly. The good news is that Sainsbury’s apparently ‘award winning’ Basics lamb breast comes ready rolled with string, so stuffing it is real easy, you simply: un roll-stuff-roll. It is quite a rich and fatty joint of meat so having a citrusy stuffing cuts right through the richness.

Feeds 3

1 lamb breast joint, approx 650g

½ lemon, Juice and zest of

40g bread crumbs

½ onion, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

2 sprigs of rosemary

Handful dried apricots, rehydrated in hot water for 10 minutes

Handful chopped spring onions

1 tbsp sherry vinegar

1 tsp Dijon mustard

Knob of butter for frying

Salt and pepper

 Preheat the oven to 140C

Start by making the stuffing, fry the onions gently in a little butter on a low heat until soft and translucent. Then add the crushed garlic and chop and add 1 of the rosemary sprigs allowing to cook for a further 3-4 minutes. Remove from the heat. Roughly chop the rehydrated apricots and add to the onion mixture along with all the remaining ingredients (bar the other sprig of rosemary) and season with salt and pepper.

Untie the lamb breast and spread the stuffing mixture into the middle of the meat (the outside part of the joint needs to remain on the outside).  Some joints may come with an extra bit like mine in the picture here, just place this in the middle, season it with salt and pepper and roll it up. Now re-tie with string (I actually used the elastic string that was originally used for tying the joint) and place on a baking tray on the other sprig of rosemary. Season with salt and pepper and place in the preheated oven.

This joint needs slow roasting on a low heat to allow the fat to render out of the joint (you can discard later) and the meat to be nice and succulent. You’re looking at around 3 hours, basting every 40 minutes or so with the meat juices so that is doesn’t dry out, at around the 1.5 hour mark I added a little water so that the bits in the tray didn’t burn. Turn the heat up to 220C and cook for a further 20 minutes to get the outer bits crispy. Now remove from the hot heat and allow it to rest for about 10 minutes so the meat goes real tender. This is where you can prepare vegetables to go with the meat??.

Courgette, Ricotta and Basil Calzone


Look at these beautiful little home grown courgettes, I cannot claim these as being my own unfortunately but instead have my parents vegetable patch in Leicestershire to thank for these little beauties! So how to cook them?? instead of turning to the old favourite pasta, I decided to opt for the 2nd Italian favourite, pizza. I wanted to make a calzone (a folded, sealed pizza) so that all the juicy-ness of the courgettes and ricotta could stay inside until you cut it open.


If you think to make a pizza dough is a faff, I actually had no idea how easy the supermarkets have made it for us. I bought 1 sachet of pizza mix from Morrisons for about 30p, taking me a total of 20 minutes to prepare, with the amusement factor of squidging the dough around (aka kneading).

Serves 2-3

1 pizza dough mix

2 courgettes, roughly chopped

1 onion, sliced

2 cloves garlic

125g ricotta

50g mozzarella, roughly chopped

a handful of toasted pine nuts (toast them yourself in a dry pan on a gentle heat)

a handful of basil

Zest and juice of half a lemon

Salt and pepper

2 tbsp olive oil

Start by making your dough following the instructions on the packet, this will involve adding water, mixing, then kneading. Knead until you have a smooth, bouncey dough. Leave it in a warm place for about 20 minutes in a bowl with a damp cloth over it, to allow the yeast to do its job (rise).

Meanwhile heat a frying pan with olive oil and fry the onions for a few minutes before adding the courgettes and garlic. Fry on a medium heat until they start to go a little golden, turning them occasionally. Add the Pine nuts, ricotta and mozzarella and half heartedly mix to combine, remove from the heat.

Right, now check out your dough, hopefully it should have grown a bit. Knock the air out of it and knead it for about a minute until it’s a smooth ball again. Now roll it out on a floured surface to the size you desire, and place it on to a lightly greased baking sheet. Place your courgette mixture in a heap on half of the dough, folding the other half over and sealing.

Cook in a hot oven (220C) for about 15 minutes or until its starting to turn golden.

Tomato Tart Tatin with Olive Sorbet


Look at the beautiful hot, clear blue sky…. that and the shutters gives away the fact that this photo is not in England! But I just cannot escape wanting to cook things that I eat,  so here for example I was on holiday in Corsica when we ate out at A Pasturella, a beautiful hotel and restaurant in the quaint little village Monticello, and the little starter that I had was so tasty, I wanted to conquer it! I cannot promise to you that my recipe is identical to the dish I had, firstly because I’m not a chef but secondly because I can’t speak Corsican/French in order to successfully interrogate the chef. But what you do get on this post is a recipe for a simple rendition of this tasty little starter that I had:

Soft, sweet slightly roasted tomatoes on a crispy disc of puff pastry, served with a caramelised pear syrup (I made it with redcurrant jelly, you need something sweet and fruity basically), and a smooth intensely flavoured olive sorbet.

Oh just a note, a black olive sorbet would have a greater flavour intensity, but like me I’m sure you will also struggle to find good quality black olives when you need them. Oh don’t be fooled into believing the black olives available in supermarkets are the real McCoy…. THEY DYE THEM! Terrible I know, so obviously this isn’t the taste you are going for in your sorbet. Purple is the real black olive i.e. kalamata. I had some fantastic green Spanish olives so I used these but I would otherwise recommend black (purple) olives.

Serves 4 (as a starter)

For the Olive Sorbet (make up to 4 hours in advance)

15  stoned fresh olives

3 tbsp Olive oil

5 tbsp cold water

Pinch of Black Pepper

The rest:

4 medium sized ripe tomatoes

200g puff pastry

Redcurrant jelly (I used my mums homemade which she may allow me to post at some point)

4 largish ramekins/1 round cake or flan tin

1 egg yolk

I made these into single tarts by using large ramekins, but you could do one large one and slice it up, eat straight away though or the bottom will go soggy!

Make the sorbet by placing all the sorbet ingredients in a blender and blitz until you have a fairly smooth consistency. Season with salt if you think it needs it (some olives are naturally quite salty). Churn in an ice-cream machine, or place in the freezer, stirring the sorbet by hand every half-hour for the first two hours to prevent crystallisation. (If you leave it in the freezer for too long at the early stages, it will form larger ice crystals and the sorbet will be kind of crunchy, not good.

Roll out your pastry really thin (about 2mm thickness) and cut into discs the size of your ramekins. Slice the tomatoes at about a 5mm thickness, and layer around the ramekins. Place in a hot oven (220 oC) for 15 minutes until they start to soften and caramelise. Remove them from the oven and place the pastry discs on top, brush the pastry with a bit of egg yolk before placing in the hot oven for a further 5-10 minutes to allow the puff pastry to puff.

Take your sorbet out of the freezer 5-10 minutes before serving as it will make it easier to scoop.

Turn the tarts up side down so the tomatoes are at the top, and serve the olive sorbet on top, and a spoonful of the redcurrant jelly.