Food Writing

Wild garlic butter

We sat down to supper, the children just having gone to bed. They were supposed to be asleep, yet by the volume of giggling wafting downstairs were still wide awake. Perhaps we could finish our meal in peace before resorting to investigation followed by threats.

I'd spent about half an hour in the afternoon making wild garlic butter from scratch. About 600ml of double cream into the churning jar was enough for a large pat and the buttermilk left over will go very well in some scones or to marinate some chicken.

A few handfuls of the garlic leaves and flowers, dug from the garden and cleaned of soil were wilted in a pan and squeezed dry. Salt and a pinch of turmeric went in to the blender with the butter until it became a vivid green, then I poured it, still fairly liquid, into a dish in the fridge to firm.

Making your own butter means you can choose cream that you know comes from well looked after cows. Grass-fed and allowed to live as they should: on pasture and well treated, contributing to and being part of the wider healthy biosphere. There is also a freshness to homemade, as well as a the excitement of seeing the simple magic of separating whey from fat. And once you've rinsed and squeezed it through muslin you can flavour it as you like.

When the children help, we wrap and label theirs with their names so they have personalised butter pats. They usually stick to plain butter, but you could spice it with garam masala or a tablespoon of harissa, rosemary or tarragon. You could even go sweet with ground cinnamon and sugar.

When you make a batch, roll each into a cylinder and wrap well in paper. You can freeze for later use or keep in the fridge for about a week if salted.

I used the wild garlic butter last night with chorizo scrambled eggs. The spices from the meat mingling with the deep green butter as the cubes sizzled and crisped. On the side were garlic-laden sautéed courgettes and a green salad lightly dressed with a punchy mustard vinaigrette. As if it wasn't rich enough, I had some very creamy goats cheese on my eggs. Maybe I'm calcium deficient at the moment and my body is trying to tell me something. If that meal was the result of subliminal dairy messaging, then I'm all ears.

Things I like in the kitchen (part one)

Just as we've recovered from our trip to Legoland, it's time for the school summer fair. I found myself flipping burgers and sausages for four hours with Mike on a hot Saturday after volunteering to help. I'm sure there must have been some form of mind control involved, or perhaps he asked me when Maya was pulling my nose and Noah was falling off his scooter at speed. However it happened, he must have caught me at a weak moment.But now the meat sweats have calmed down, and I no longer smell like a forest fire and can face eating again it's been little but salads this week, or ham and egg on toast. Simple and quick things that don't require much thought or time.So in light of not a great deal going on in the kitchen for the past few days, here is a selection of things I find essential and interestingly useful from my bulging shelves.La isla bonito:dried and fermented smoked tuna is a surprisingly delicious addition to many seafood dishes and stocks. I particularly like to add it to the pasta when I'm making spaghetti alle vongole. And I occasionally just like smelling the jar for that strange almost fish food smell.We bought a yuzu:I'll often use this in dressings instead of lemon juice to give a slightly different citrus tang or in sorbets and lemon tarts.Yeast today, once more:Usually I make the weekly bread using my sourdough starter, but when I want a quicker loaf, pitta breads, ciabbattas or the like, I'll use this fresh yeast from Sweden (via Ocado or the internet). It's tangy, I much prefer fresh than the dried powdery stuff and I like the packaging.Tarragon with the wind:Not many days pass in this house without a salad and our house vinaigrette. Cider vinegar that has had a small bunch of tarragon steeping in it is key to this. Aniseed and apple flavours make this vinaigrette stand out.Fungi to be around:Dried porcini mushrooms, ground to a powder (or for that matter, dried mushrooms of most kinds) make an excellent seasoning for steak, or beef. I also add it to my mushroom pasta and many other dishes where I want that deep umami hit.Oil be seeing you, in all the old familiar places:I have a standard olive oil to cook with and I have a few special ones to dress with. Food that is, I don't need oil on hand when putting clothes on. Just spending a little more on a really good quality olive oil makes such a difference to finishing dishes or for making dressings or just to dip good bread in.Sitting on the dock of the Old Bay:First of all, I love the packaging. Second, no fish taco in this house is complete without Old Bay seasoning. Easy.Pepper the conversation:Japanese pepper is slightly fruity and lemony, so is great on seafood or with meringues and strawberries. I use it a lot when I want an extra kick without too much pepper flavourAil be seeing you, in all those old familiar faces:A house without garlic is a sad house.Cutting the mustard:Maille is my preferred brand of Dijon mustard. I use it in vinagrettes and it's a must(ard) with roast chicken.Chilli in here:I like chilli heat, we have a variety of hot chilli sauces on the shelves too. And one of my favourite uses for them is hot green chilli sliced onto scrambled eggs. Hot green chillies probably would improve most dishes in my opinion.Herb Salt:A mix of rosemary, thyme, sage and parsley, this salt will turn your morning fried eggs into delicious morning fried eggs. And there are plenty more uses for it than that too. Seasoning chicken skin before the bird goes in the oven, sprinkling over flaky white fish or seasoning, even curing salmon, this salt is just a little bit more than the usual. All you need is a spice grinder and it keeps for a long, long while.

Artichoke with Vinaigrette

artichoke-vinaigrette-5An unseemly noise for a teenager, let alone a human came from me when I first dipped the leathery leaf of an artichoke into a mustardy vinaigrette in Brasserie Le Linois, Place Charles Michels.Usually, it's difficult if not impossible to recreate those dishes from memories of the past in a foreign country. The smells, the sounds, the air all colour our memories and we are destined to be disappointed. But fear not! The artichoke doesn't suffer from this problem. It tastes the same to me now, dipped in that dressing as it did all those years ago.How does this happen I imagine myself hearing you ask? I have no idea, but being May, and them appearing in my greengrocer I'm not going to ask too many questions.You can cook them in simmering water, covered for 30-45 minutes depending on their size, or, if you are desperate for your hit, they do just as well in the microwave, wrapped in clingfilm for about ten. I prefer simmering them though, you can add aromatic flavours to the cooking water.To the water, add 2 fresh bay leaves, a tablespoon of peppercorns, a large splash of tarragon vinegar (or plain white wine vinegar if you prefer) and some salt. Bring the water and artichoke to the boil, then simmer until cooked, that is, when the leaves come away easily.Leave it to cool a little and eat slightly warm dipped in vinaigrette made by whisking together one tablespoon of Dijon mustard, a pinch of salt, two tablespoons of tarragon cider vinegar (or again, plain) then slowly incorporating about ten tablespoons of olive oil. Use less if you prefer a sharper dressing.Pull the leaves from the globe, dip them in and tease off the flesh into your mouth as you remember your long lost youth...

Fruit smoothie

IMG_5395About an hour after I've had my jasmine tea in the morning,  I'm ready for breakfast, which almost every morning is a Nutribullet smoothie.Usually I will start with a base of kale or other greens then add a little fruit or avocado, some coyo yoghurt, and top it up with almond milk and various ground things from mysterious containers. (Actually, they're all labelled, so there's no real mystery).This morning though, I was distracted. No hemp seeds, no flax seed, no greens. Mainly berries. And that's fine every now and then. It was much like a fruit ice-cream milkshake, and that's a pretty good way to start any day.Fortunately I have a few boxes of Bioglan superfood powders on the shelf. A tablespoon of the supergreens one went in. A quick fix. I can steam the greens later with some garlic, chilli and ginger and have them with lunch.Ingredients for two1 large or two small bananasA large handful of frozen berries (I used a mix of raspberries, blackberries, redcurrants and blackcurrants)1tbsp PB2 powdered peanut butter (amazing stuff- goes great with bananas)1tbsp Bioglan supergreens powder, we got ours on Ocado (if you don't have this, I would recommend it. Along with hemp powder, flax seed, chia seeds and all those things you can get in the health food shop and many supermarkets now)1tsp raw cocoa nibs1tsp turmeric (fresh preferably, but I only had extract and powdered on my shelf)Almond milk, fill up to the line, otherwise enough for two glasses (unsweetened and preferably with a high almond content)MethodBlend it all together until smooth. Couldn't be simpler. If you don't have a Nutribullet, a normal blender should do the job.

Carb bored. Cut out.

gingerI'll explain the ginger later, but this week, we have decided to stop eating refined carbs and sugar for the foreseeable future. So I did what any sane person would and have stuffed my face full of cake, crumpets, pancakes, sandwiches, potatoes in their various, seductive guises, ice cream and chocolate. I thoroughly enjoyed it, although my stomach may have had a few complaints.In my daily life working with food, I often munch and graze my way through the day like a goat eating a coat sleeve just because it's there. And while a lot of the recipes are not too unhealthy, when you combine that with three meals a day it's easy to see why my clothes from ten years ago have inexplicably shrunk.When I'm out, I find it very difficult to buy food on the go that isn't stodgy and carb heavy. Now, I think hard about snacks and what I'm eating. It's shocking how much rubbish food we buy. I'm not going to turn into a health nut, but I feel excited by the thought of returning to eating how we were designed to. I will, on occasion, allow myself to revel in a burger, or have a great pile of steamed basmati rice with a curry, or some silken home-made pasta with ragu in a seaside Italian restaurant, or hot, salty chips with vinegar on the beach. I'm not a freak.So, I've stunk the house out with chicken stocks and chinese spices bubbling away in mysterious pots. I've worried about where I can store all the veg in addition to the fruit and veg I was already buying for my morning Nutribullet. These days, a liquid breakfast or lunch means a very different thing... Breakfast this morning, as an aside, was some sliced roast pork from the weekend, two fried eggs and a pile of steamed spinach with herb salt and chilli flakes. It took a little while longer than toast, but not much.This week, apart from the soups and stocks, and leftover meat, I am making a batch of ginger beer. My usual brand, 'Granny Steads' has sugar in it. And while I love its warming ginger heat, it's time to say goodbye. I'll use date syrup in this one. Adjust the quantities as you see fit. Bottoms up! (and with hope, smaller too...)Ingredients:2 large ginger roots, scrubbed and grated2tbsp date syrup250ml water1tsp yeast1 small red chilli1tsp turmericJuice of up to one lemon2l waterMethod:Heat the ginger, syrup, chilli, turmeric and water in a pan until just below the boil, simmer for a few minutes then turn off and leave to cool completely.Strain the syrup and add the yeast. Divide between two litre bottles and fill up with water (I'd use plastic ones at this point, just until you're ready to decant into glass and store in the fridge. You don't want to risk having to redecorate the kitchen. Add the lemon juice and shake well.Leave these for a week at room temperature, checking occasionally for excess gas buildup then transfer to glass bottles in the fridge. This will stop any further fermentation.

Porridge with iced fruit, turmeric, spirulina and coconut nectar

porridgeIt’s just gone seven o’clock in the morning, a rainy and grey London summer morning. I have to take the children to school and nursery soon and then drive to a shoot in Camden.So, before I start the day, it’s time for a few moments to myself.A cup of green chai tea and a bowl of porridge makes the move from the warm comfortable bed to daytime a pleasure, especially when you jazz it up a little.This time, I’ve added frozen fruit. Get a heavy bottomed saucepan, pour in a load of sprouted porridge oats and add double the volume of almond milk. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 4-5 minutes, stirring all the time. When the milk is absorbed, add a handful of frozen fruit, some turmeric and spirulina then drizzle with coconut nectar. If that doesn’t get your day off to a good start then there’s no hope for you.

North African chickpea and tomato stew

Chickpea morrocanI say North African, but this really is a mix of store cupboard items that could be Asian, Indian, Turkish, Moroccan and Mediterranean.Chickpeas were a staple growing up and my aunt always told me they make you fart a lot. Whether or not this is true, I’m not sure, but it means that I tend to always put caraway seed in every chickpea recipe just in case.This dish really punches above its weight in flavour. It’s rich, comforting and quick to make. I served it as part of a mezze platter the other week and it worked really well with dishes such as baba ganoush, flatbreads and spiced courgette. Alternatively, eat it with cauliflower ‘rice’ or sweet potato.Serves:                         4 as a side dish or 2 as a main coursePreparation time:      5 minutesCooking time:            30 minutesIngredients2 onions2 cloves of garlicA large splash of rapeseed oil6 large tomatoes, roughly chopped2tbsp tomato purée1 tin of chickpeas1 tin of cannellini beans1tbsp berbere spice mix1tbsp baharat spice mix1tbsp cumin seeds1 medium bunch of fresh coriander1-2 red birdseye chillies1tsp caraway seedsA splash of waterSalt and pepper to season Method:

  1. Fry the onions and garlic in rapeseed oil then add the spices and chilli.
  2. Add the spices and cook for a minute or two.
  3. Add the chillies, tomato purée and tomatoes, season, add some water and stir well. Cover and simmer for about 20 minutes then squash down with a wooden spoon.
  4. Add the chickpeas and beans heat through then stir in the chopped coriander, check the seasoning and serve.

Nettle and wild garlic pesto with prawns and sweet potato

Nettle prawnsNettles grow like mad this time of year. Now, after many childhood tears, it’s time for revenge.They have a grassy, earthy flavor that goes well in risotto or soup and if you like spinach, sorrel and other greens, you’ll love nettles. They’re also free, although ridiculously I’ve seen them for sale in a few farmers’ markets.I’ve paired it with wild garlic in this pesto recipe; it’s coming to the end of the season now it’s June so I’m trying to cram it into everything I can, flowers and all. Mix the pesto through pasta, preferably trofie or trenette, serve it with seared tuna and a tomato salad or toss it through buttery new potatoes or cauliflower. Here I’m serving it with some fresh prawns and sweet potato fries. It keeps for a couple of weeks in the fridge, just top it up with oil every so often.Wear a pair of rubber gloves when picking nettles (they lose their sting after boiling for one minute) and if you don’t have any in your garden, try and avoid picking them from areas well used by dog walkers or foxes…Makes:                          A big tubfulPreparation time:      10 minutesCooking time:            10 minutesIngredients150g stinging nettles3 cloves of garlic40g parmesan180ml rapeseed oil1 green chilli100g toasted pine nutsA handful of wild garlic leaves and flowersSalt to seasonRapeseed oil for frying180g raw, shelled tiger prawns per person1/3 of a sweet potato each5cm of cucumber1 tbsp black sesame seeds1 tbsp ground turmeric2 spring onions2 red birdseye chillies, slicedJuice of a limeMethod1.  Blanche the nettles in boiling water for one minute, refresh in cold water then pick the leaves and discard the stems.2.  Add all the ingredients apart from the oil to a food processor and pulse until roughly chopped.3.  With the machine running, pour in the oil in a steady stream until you have a fairly coarse but loose paste. Check the seasoning and add more salt if needed.4.  Decant into an airtight jar, pour over some oil and store in the fridge.For the prawns and sweet potato:1. Heat about three centimetres of rapeseed oil in a deep, heavy-bottomed pan to about 180c. For each person use about 1/3 of a sweet potato, skin and all, and cut it very finely lengthways into long matchstick chips. I use a mandoline for this with a julienne blade.2. Fry the potato in the oil and drain on kitchen paper. Season with salt, black sesame seeds and turmeric powder then set aside.3. Toss some shelled, raw tiger prawns (I use about 180g per person because I’m greedy) in rice flour and fry in batches in the oil until cooked and crisp. Drain on kitchen paper then stir through a couple of tablespoons of the pesto and toss well. Set this aside for a minute too.4. Salt the cucumber then squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Mix the cucumber, spring onion and red chilli together and season well.5. Divide the sweet potato between the plates, top with the prawns in pesto and the cucumber mix. Serve immediately with a squeeze of lime juice.

Kasha with spiced roast vegetables


This vibrant dish can be served warm or cold. Kasha, or roast buckwheat is so good for you and has a nutty taste and texture that complements the sweet roast vegetables.

What I really like about this dish is it has loads of flavour, texture and colour and is healthy too. I didn’t this time, but in future I think I’ll serve it drizzled with a basil and cumin yoghurt.

Serves:                               2Preparation time:            20 minutesCooking time:                  30 minutes

Ingredients2 tbsp rapeseed oil2 eggs, boiled for 6 ½ minutes then run under cold water to refresh2 garlic cloves150g buckwheat1 red pepper, seeds removed and cut into chunks1 fennel bulb, sliced thinlyA handful of button mushrooms, halved1 red onion, peeled and quarteredA large handful of kale, stems removed4-6 cherry tomatoes½ tsp rosewater1 tbsp chilli flakes1 tbsp ground coriander2 tsp ground cumin2 tsp ground turmeric1 tbsp toasted fennel seeds3 tbsp each of chopped coriander, chives and parsleySalt and pepper to seasonMethod1. Bring a small saucepan of salted water to the boil. Add the buckwheat, return to the boil and simmer for five minutes. Drain and set aside2. Place the garlic and vegetables – apart from the tomatoes – on a roasting tray and drizzle with the oil then season generously. Roast at 220c until they start to char – about 25 minutes.3. Stir in the buckwheat, spices, cherry tomatoes and rosewater, check the seasoning and keep warm.4. Peel and halve the eggs. Divide the vegetables between two plates and serve with the eggs and chopped herbs.

Hawthorn tea

Hawthorn tea

It’s hawthorn blossom season in London at the moment and while the trees are in bloom it's a great time to make fresh tea or dry the flowers for future use.

The tea has a subtle flavour and apparently is good for circulation, blood pressure and mental wellbeing. Plus it’s free.I find it really satisfying to make things from stuff you’ve grown or found so get picking. Just watch out for the thorns on the hawthorn tree.

IngredientsAs many leaves and sprigs of hawthorn flowers as you can get, without, obviously, ruining the tree.Just use one sprig per cup, no need to remove it, it looks pretty in the cup.

Spicy filo vegetable parcels

filo1Bourek, samosa, pasty or empanada? They’re all good ways to eat a messy filling with your hands. I first had bourek in a cous cous restaurant in Paris and loved the delicate pastry and the oozing cooked egg inside. With that in mind, I’ve combined a spicy vegetable filling with the egg on top and added quorn for texture.Feel free to use minced lamb if you prefer and it’s up to you whether you make six large ones or 12 small to have as snacks. You can use quails’ eggs for these. Serve with a mint crème fraiche.Makes:                             6-12Preparation time:         20 minutesCooking time:                45 minutesIngredients1 onion, finely chopped2 cloves of garlic1 celery stick, finely chopped1 medium carrot, finely choppedA handful of buckwheat1 tsp paprika1 tsp coriander1 tsp turmeric2 bay leaves½ a butternut squash, diced1 packet of Quorn mince (approx 300g)4 medium tomatoes, chopped1 mug of water2 tbsp tomato puréeA small handful of kale leaves2 tbsp za’atar spice mix6 eggs (optional) plus one for glazingSalt and pepper to season1 220g pack of ready rolled filo pastry sheetsMethod1. Sauté the onions and garlic in a little olive oil until soft then add the carrot and celery.Season well and cook gently for five minutes.2. Add the buckwheat and toast well before mixing in all the spices apart from the za’atar then add the squash and quorn and mix well.3. Stir in the tomatoes, mix the purée with the water and pour into the pan. Cover and cook for 20 minutes then stir in the kale and cook for a further 15 minutes with the lid off. The liquid needs to reduce so you don’t end up with soggy pastries. Set aside to cool.4. Preheat the oven to 180c5. When cool, lay the filo pastry on the work surface and brush the edges of the top one with some beaten egg mixed with a little milk or water.6. Put a large spoonful of the filling in one corner of the pastry, make a well in the centre and add the egg. Sprinkle with the za’atar. Fold over into a triangle. Brush with more egg and fold again. Repeat until you have a firm parcel. Glaze the pastry with the egg, repeat with the remaining mixture and bake the parcels in the oven for about 25 minutes, or until golden and crisp. Serve with a mint crème fraîche made with a mix of dried and fresh mint.

Wild garlic risotto

wildgarlicrisottoWild garlic is in full flower in late April and May, so now is the time to get it. Mine grows in the garden, but it’s easy to find in churchyards, woods and fields. The flowers are edible and tasty, as well as looking really pretty on the plate. Its uses range from pesto to soups and, in this recipe, risotto. I like to use Carnaroli rice for its creaminess, but feel free to use other types. You could even substitute spelt for the rice, adjusting the liquid and cooking time as required.Serves: 4Preparation time: 10 minutesCooking time: 25 minutesIngredients1l vegetable stock, preferably homemadeOlive oil2 garlic cloves, finely chopped4 small shallots, finely slicedHalf a glass of white wine, better still, vermouth (optional)A large handful of wild garlic leaves and a good sprinkle of the flowers2 tbsp butter2 tbsp grated parmesanA dash of truffle oil if you’re feeling luxuriousSalt to season Method

  1. Heat the stock in a saucepan and keep it warm on the stove.
  2. In a deep, heavy bottomed pan sauté the garlic and shallots in a little olive oil until soft, then add the rice and a pinch of salt. Stir well and toast the rice for a minute.
  3. Add the vermouth if using and let it reduce right down. Add the stock a ladleful at a time, only adding another when the previous ladleful has been absorbed. Make sure you keep stirring the rice to release the starch for a creamy risotto.
  4. Halfway through, add half of the finely sliced wild garlic leaves and stir well.
  5. Finish adding the stock, then vigorously stir in the butter and Parmesan while shaking the pan.
  6. Stir in the remaining leaves, cover and rest for five minutes. Check the seasoning; add the garlic flowers and serve.

Quick carb-free crab ‘courgetti’

courgettiThis is a take on one of my favourite pasta dishes. It’s a great way to cut out carbohydrates if you're on a health kick, and it really stands out as a dish in its own right.It’s so quick to make, as long as you have a spiralizer. If not, you’ll have to slice the courgettes very finely by hand. I have a small hand-held spiralizer that only cost a few pounds and I highly recommend it.Use good olive oil, juicy tomatoes and adjust the chilli to your taste. Don’t overdo it though, this is a delicate dish. It also works very well with prawns if you prefer.Serves: 4 Preparation time: 5 minutes Cooking time: 5 minutesIngredients2 tins of crab1 large courgette½ a clove of garlicA large handful of cherry tomatoesOlive oilA pinch of chilli flakes2 tbsp fresh chives, finely slicedSalt to seasonMethod

  1. Prepare the courgette and set aside for a minute.
  2. Gently heat the olive oil and add the garlic, then cook for a minute.
  3. Add the courgette, season and toss in the pan for a minute or two, until it starts to soften.
  4. Add the crab, tomatoes and chilli flakes and cook for a further minute to warm through.
  5. Check the seasoning and stir the chives through just before serving with a salad.

Delicious homemade doughnuts


The first time I had fresh doughnuts straight from the fryer was a revelation. There was a small stall between Covent Garden tube station and the market, basically a fryer on wheels. When some friends and I used to come up to London for whatever reason and found ourselves there, we would stuff our faces. They were hot and soft, sugary and delicious and felt like such a treat. Completely unlike the stodgy, cold shop-bought ones. Now, whenever possible I make my own.Cooking with the children is always good fun and baking is a really easy way to involve them. Rather than starting off with complicated savoury dishes, things like biscuits, cakes and doughnuts are great hands on recipes.Makes: 12 Preparation time: 20 minutes Cooking time: 5-6 minutesIngredients7g dry yeast5tbsp golden caster sugar230g plain flour160ml milk65g melted butter1 egg, beatenPinch of salt500ml rapeseed oil for fryingFillings of your choiceGolden caster sugar to coatMethod1. Warm the milk and add the yeast and a pinch of sugar. Leave to stand for about ten minutes until slightly foamy.2. Add the flour and sugar to a large bowl or food mixer and add the milk mixture and remaining sugar along with themelted butter and egg.3. Knead for about five minutes then cover the bowl and leave to rise for about an hour, or until doubled in size.4. Knead again for a couple of minutes then on a floured surface shape into balls and doughnuts and leave to rise for another twenty minutes or so.5. Heat the oil to 175c in a deep pan or preferably a deep-fat fryer and gently cook the doughnuts in small batches for a couple of minutes or so on each side. Don’t let the oil get too hot or they will remain uncooked on the inside and burn on the outside.6. Drain on kitchen paper and roll in sugar. When cool enough to handle, fill the centre of the balls using a pipette with your choice of filling. I think you can’t beat raspberry jam, but you could also use caramel or Nutella or whatever you fancy. I also like to drizzle them with caramel or melted chocolate and chopped hazlenuts.doughnut montage

Jasmine-cured mackerel fishcakes

IMG_0905Fishcakes are a great way of either using up fish trimmings or making fish a bit more accesible for the children.I'm a big fan of Thai fishcakes. Full of zingy flavours, and with their added prawn and no potato they are firm and can be roasted in a little oil or deep fried, as with the traditional British ones. When making the British kind, something that's really important to me is not including too much potato and not making them too large.This recipe is for fishcakes that are a bit special because they use mackerel that has been cured in sugar, salt and jasmine pearls. These are easily found in supermarkets in the tea section. The fishcakes have turmeric and spices in them to boost the flavour. Increase the quantity to suit your palate; I made these to be very child-friendly. Normally I prefer them with a bit more kick.Serve with a cucumber and dill mayonnaise or some smoked paprika ketchup.Serves: 4Preparation time: 30 minutesCooking time: 20 minutesIngredients4 fresh mackerel, filleted4 tbsp of jasmine pearls4 tbsp caster sugar4 tbsp salt4 medium floury potatoes50g butter, melted50ml milk1 tbsp turmeric powder1 tbsp garam masala2 tsp ground coriander seedsSalt and pepper to seasonFlour for dustingMethod1. Place the fish on a large plate or tray and sprinkle over the jasmine, salt, sugar and a twist of pepper. Make sure all the skin and flesh is covered then wrap in clingfilm and leave to cure in the fridge for at least an hour.2. Rinse and gently poach the fish in water for about five minutes then remove the skin, flake the fish and set aside to cool.3. Cook the potatoes until soft and starting to fall apart when you prod them with a knife. Drain and leave to steam dry for a while then mash well with the butter and milk until creamy.4. Mix together the fish, potato and remaining ingredients and shape into fishcakes.5. Toss them in flour to dry them out and shallow-fry in vegetable oil (preferably rapeseed) until golden brown, flipping halfway through.6. Drain on kitchen paper and serve with the mayonnaise and ketchup and a beetroot and chicory salad.

Infused oils: getting more flavour into your meals

chilli oilHere’s a quick and easy way to add a little more flavour to your cooking. Depending on what you’re making, using infused oils to cook with can make the difference between a good dish and a great one.I like to use this garlic, rosemary, chilli and tomato vine oil to make tomato sauces for pasta, such as arrabiata or beef ragú.IngredientsThe vine stems from four packs of tomatoes1 sprig of rosemary5/6 cloves of garlic2 chillies (serrano are good for this)400ml olive oil100ml rapeseed oilA splash of cider vinegarMethod

  1. Gently heat the oil and add all the ingredients to the pan.
  2. Cook on a medium heat for five minutes, until things start to sizzle and change colour.
  3. Turn the heat off and leave to cool and infuse for 20 minutes.
  4. Add the vinegar and store in sterilised airtight glass jars or bottles.

Other oilsOils are good to experiment with; here are some other ideas for oils that can add in-depth flavour to your cooking:Curry oil: a mix of cumin, coriander and cardamom seeds with peppercorns, cloves, garlic and ginger powder in a 50/50 mix of olive oil and rapeseed oil.Chilli oil: add chilli flakes, a selection of fresh chillies, some garlic and a dash of vinegar.Lobster oil: roast lobster shells in a little oil, then smash them up and add more oil before storing in a jar.Lemon oil: this one is great for South East Asian cooking. Blend lemon grass, lemon zest and lemon juice with some kaffir lime leaves and, if possible, verbena in a 50/50 mix of olive oil and rapeseed oil.