Chicken livers are packed full of nutrients, are low in fat and are really quick to cook. What’s not to like? I know some people are a little put off by the thought of eating offal or maybe just think it looks a little unappetising. Ok, it doesn’t look pretty, but I assure you it more than makes up for it in taste. It also offers very good value for money compared to other meats available nowadays. I think offal is seriously underrated and after the enjoyment of this recipe I will definitely be buying chicken livers and other varieties, such as calves and lambs liver, as well as kidneys, more often.
This recipe was inspired by a seven-spice chicken liver dish I had at Dock Kitchen, run by the hugely talented chef, Stevie Parle. I haven’t used seven spices here but simplified by using cumin, all spice and black pepper – enough of each to give a serious taste punch. The sweetness of the pomegranate seeds and freshness of the salad offset the rich spicy chicken livers perfectly. It really is a super quick meal to prepare so definitely one to enjoy in the week when time is poor but you crave a healthy but satisfying meal. Great served with warm flatbreads and hummus as a side if you’re feeling particularly puckish.
400g chicken livers (preferably organic)
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tbsp olive or pressed rapeseed oil
1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 tsp all spice
70g bag of lamb’s lettuce
100g flame-grilled red peppers, chopped into strips
1/4 tin of chickpeas, drained
Handful of pomegranate seeds
- Firstly, prepare the chicken livers. Using some kitchen scissors and cut away any green bits or sinew or they will taste bitter. Cut into as even sized pieces as possible.
- Season the chicken livers with salt. Heat a large frying pan with 1 tablespoon of the oil over a medium heat until hot, add the livers and fry for about 2 minutes on each side so that they are brown and caramelised. Any smaller pieces will take less time to cook so remove these earlier. The livers should be cooked all the way through but still pink in the middle. Rest the livers on a warm plate while you make the dressing.
- Put the red wine vinegar into the same pan and bubble for 5 seconds seconds before adding the rest of the oil and then the spices. Stir the pan and cook for about 30 seconds, add the pomegranate molasses and any juices from the chicken livers, give the pan a swirl to combine and then remove from the heat.
- Arrange the lamb’s lettuce, red pepper, chickpeas and the livers on plates. Drizzle the sticky dressing over the livers, sprinkle the pomegranate seeds over and serve.
It’s New Year and healthy eating should be on the agenda but I’m not ready for the transition from enjoying food with uncaring abandon to careful consumption just yet. Although I didn’t have my usual excess of Xmas goodies, as I was on holiday in Belize over the Xmas period, any normal restraint obviously flew out of the window. Which is as it should be whilst on a holiday. I made up for lack of mince pies and Xmas pudding with lots of chocolate as Belize has some excellent cocoa producers and I indulged in the most decadent dark chocolate torte (it was so good I ordered it the next day too) as well as the best chocolate gelato ever.
I’m easing in gently and being relatively virtuous for breakfast with homemade granola and yogurt (the bacon was sooo tasty though!) and vegetable soup (cream of swede was surprisingly delicious) for lunch, but wanting something more satisfying and hearty for dinner. What with golden-crusted pies currently adorning a lot of the food magazines I guess I’m not the only one who feels this way. The shock of binge then crash diet is too drastic for the body anyway and is not much fun so in my mind it’s best to not to change your diet too drastically. January is a bleak enough month already without having to abstain from all the fun things to eat and drink.
This comforting macaroni cheese dish is like being wrapped in a duck down duvet and will leave you sitting back and patting your stomach with a satisfied smile on your face. Try and buy good quality bacon that has lots of flavour and it won’t be pumped full of water and additives too. To get ahead make up to step 6 and set aside the dish until you’re ready to cook but add an extra 10 minutes to the cooking time to ensure piping hot all the way through. You could serve with a contrasting crisp green salad on the side to offset the creaminess, if you like. Happy New Year!
Serves 2, generously
2 rashers of smoked or dry cure bacon, chopped into strips
100g chestnut mushrooms
2 small leeks
2 tbsp plain flour
450ml full fat milk
50g mature cheddar cheese, grated
20g dried white breadcrumbs
4 cooked chestnuts
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves
¼ tsp fresh nutmeg, grated
Salt and pepper
- Preheat oven to 190C/fan 170/Gas 5. Cook the macaroni in boiling water until al a dente – about 9 minutes. Add a splash of oil to it prevent from sticking together. Drain and set aside.
- Fry the bacon in a small amount of oil over a medium heat until golden. Remove and drain on kitchen paper. Repeat with the mushrooms.
- Turn down the heat then add 30g of the butter and cook the leeks gently until soft. Remove and set aside.
- In a small saucepan, melt the remaining butter over a gently. As soon as the butter melts add the flour and, over a medium heat, stir vigorously until you have a smooth paste. Begin adding the milk, a little at a time, incorporating well before adding the next amount of liquid. When you’ve added about half the milk you can start to add more milk whilst stirring briskly. Once all the milk is in turn down the heat, add the cheese and simmer for 5 minutes, stirring from time to time. Taste and season with grated nutmeg, salt and pepper.
- While the sauce is simmering, blitz the breadcrumbs and chestnuts in a mini processor until combined.
- Mix the leeks, mushrooms, bacon and thyme in an ovenproof dish. Pour over the sauce and mix gently. Top with the chestnut breadcrumbs and bake in preheated oven for about 15-20 minutes until golden on top and bubbling around edges. Once done, let it sit for a few minutes before tucking in.
Lamb is one of my favourite meats and it works so well with Middle Eastern spices. I have used leg steaks in this recipe, which is unusual for me as I usually favour the slow cook cuts such as shoulder or neck. I tend to buy a whole or half leg of lamb and then cut what I need for dishes such as this because it’s cheaper. You can’t beat cooking meat on the bbq but they can just as easily be cooked on a griddle pan if bbq’ing is not an option.
This dish is such an exciting mix of flavours, texture and colour and is a feast for the eyes as well as the tastebuds. If you don’t want to push the boat out and use saffron then the couscous is still tasty without. It’s not essential but it does add a beautiful colour and exotic note. The watermelon and feta side salad is so unexpectedly good (I sadly admit I had never tried the combination before) and the mint lifts it and is incredibly refreshing on the palette. It’s a perfect accompaniment so give it a go and I’m sure you’ll be as pleasantly surprised as I was.
When using spices, it’s definitely worth buying whole seeds and then creating a spice mix when you need it. It does require a small amount of extra effort than using ready-ground spices but they stay fresher for much longer and the flavour is more intense. By all means use ready ground spices if time is short.
Lamb and couscous
4 lamb leg steaks
1 tbsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp sumac
1 tbsp olive oil
200g barley or normal couscous
Half lemon, zest only
200ml vegetable stock
4 spring onions, finely chopped
2 tbsp olive oil
Large handful of fresh corriander, finely chopped
Handful of pistachios, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Half of mini watermelon, medium dice
Large handful of mint, chopped into thin strips
Half lemon, juice only
1 tsp olive oil
Pepper to taste
2 tsp tahini
4 tbsp natural or Greek yogurt
Half small garlic clove, crushed
Lemon juice to taste
Salt and pepper to taste
- Toast the cumin seeds in a dry frying pan over a medium heat until the aroma is released. Bash to a fine powder using a pestle & mortar and add to a dish big enough to hold the lamb. Mix together with the sumac and oil then add the lamb and coat thoroughly. Cover with clingfilm and set aside. Marinade for at least 1 hour if you can.
- Prepare the salad by combining all the ingredients, apart from the feta, in a serving bowl. Crumble the feta on top and set aside until ready to serve.
- Prepare the tahini dressing by combining all the ingredients together in a small bowl and season to taste. Set aside.
- Bring 200ml of vegetable stock in a saucepan to a simmer, then add the saffron and leave to infuse for 20 minutes. Bring the saffron infused stock back up to the boil and add the couscous, olive oil, lemon zest and raisins. Cover with a tight fitting lid and let stand for 10 minutes. Fluff up the grains with a fork and then add the spring onions and corriander.
- Heat up the bbq or griddle pan until smoking hot. Season the lamb on both sides and cook on a high heat for 3-4 minutes on each side depending on the size of the steaks and how pink you like it. Allow the meat to rest for a few minutes before serving.
- Place a lamb steak on a large spoonful of couscous and scatter with chopped pistachios. Serve with a dollop of the tahini dressing and the watermelon salad on the side.
After a recent trip to Scotland I arrived back with lots of lovely Scottish goodies, in particular a pack of smoked venison from the Rannoch Smokery, which you can also purchase online. After the usual holiday binge and some proper summer weather at last I wanted to make a vibrant seasonal salad. OK, I confess that the pears are definitely not seasonal but they go so well with venison so I balanced this out with new season redcurrants. This is a really simple recipe and can be assembled in 15 minutes so great for a summer evening when you want to spend less time cooking and more time sipping G&T’s outside. Incidentally, I enjoyed this dish with a chilled glass of Vendanges Nocturnes Rose, which was fresh, crisp and went perfectly with the venison and tart redcurrants.
1 pack of smoked venison
Baby salad leaves
80g redcurrants (save a handful for serving)
1 tsp caster sugar
Half tsp red wine vinegar
Squeeze of lemon
1 tsp water
1. To make the dressing put the redcurrants, red wine vinegar and water in a saucepan and simmer for 3-4 minutes until the fruit release their juice and start to break down. Add the redcurrant mixture to a mini food processor along with a small squeeze of lemon juice and whizz until pureed. Pass the liquid through a sieve to remove the skin and seeds. This makes more than you need but chill in the fridge for further use – it would work really well with a feta salad.
2. Assemble the smoked venison slices, salad leaves, thinly sliced pear and pecans on a plate and dot the redcurrant dressing over. Add a small handful of redcurrants to finish.
The sun is finally shining and summer is here! Nothing says sunshine to me more than mangoes so I decide to buy a whole box of heavenly, golden mangoes and know I won’t have any problems using them. So, you will find a few mango recipes on the site as a result! One of my favourite salads is a chicken, asparagus and mango salad but tonight I want to be a bit more exotic, so I opt to use a few of them in a rice salad served with some spicy Thai chicken.
You can obviously cheat and buy the red Thai curry paste but making your own tastes so much more vibrant and fresh than shop bought. The first time I made Thai curry paste using my pestle and mortar the white kitchen walls were splattered with a beautiful pattern of red chillis. I once did a Thai cookery course whilst on holiday and had great fun making curry paste with a huge pestle and mortar – until the chilli flew up in my eye! Ouch.
I now make it in a mini food processor and it does make life a lot easier. It also gives me an excuse to use my favourite kitchen gadget that I use regularly to make spice pastes, dressings and pestos.
The amount for the paste given here is more than enough for the recipe but it keeps well in the fridge in a sterilized jar for up to 3 weeks, so you don’t have to use it all at once unless you really want a real lip tingling experience. I use normal red chillis but if you find Thai ones then use these, although be warned they are a lot hotter.
I have been a bit lazy here and used boneless thighs. I do generally try and joint chicken, which works out cheaper, but when you want 6 thighs then it’s a whole different story! You can use breast meat but I find thighs are so much tastier and they don’t dry out as easily when cooking. If possible, cook the chicken on the bbq but you can also cook this in the oven too, as I did in this instance – just add 5 minutes onto cooking time. The rice salad is a great side dish as it goes well with any South East Asian, Indian or Caribbean style food.
35 minutes prep, 1-4 hours marinating and 10-15 minutes cooking
6 boneless chicken thighs
120g basmati rice
80ml coconut cream
20g cashews, toasted
Half bunch of spring onions
20g dessicated coconut, lightly toasted
1 tsp of sesame oil
Large handful of corriander
Red Thai curry paste
6 red chillis
2 tbsp lemongrass
1 tsp fresh corriander root or stalk
2 large garlic cloves
3cm piece of fresh ginger
1 tsp shrimp paste
1 tsp corriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
Pinch of white pepper
1 tsp salt
- To make the paste roughly chop the first 6 ingredients and put in a food processor. Add the rest of ingredients and process to a thick paste.
- Cut slashes into the chicken thighs. Combine half of the paste with the coconut cream and rub well into the meat. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.
- Rinse the rice well and boil enough water to cover the rice in a large saucepan by 1cm. Add the rice, stir and cover with a lid. Time for 8 minutes then turn off the heat and leave to stand still covered for a further 5 minutes. Fluff up the grains with a fork and leave to cool and set aside. I always use this method and it produces fluffy rice every time.
- Peel and dice the mango into small chunks. Remove the outer layer from the spring onions and finely chop. Roughly chop the cashews and the corriander. Add the rice to a large bowl along with the spring onions, coconut, cashews, corriander, juice of a lemon and the sesame oil. Add the mango to the bowl and stir to combine. Set aside.
- When ready to cook light the bbq or preheat oven to 180C / gas 4 / 350F.
- Remove excess marinade and cook for 10-15 minutes until the juices run clear. Once the chicken is cooked, rest for a few. Serve with lime wedges and a generous portion of the mango rice salad.
Like a lot of people, my childhood experience of eating cauliflower is a negative one with cooked-to-death florets smothered in a heavy cheese sauce or, in my case, a basic white sauce. Sorry mum! In some restaurants I also have memories of it being served as a side dish in a medley of boiled vegetables, such as carrots and broccoli, to accompany meat or fish. Poor cauliflower was reserved to the sidelines and it’s no wonder I gave it a wide berth for many years.
There are not many ingredients I dislike and I struggled with olives for years, which I found overly bitter, but my perseverance eventually paid off. I have to admit, I’m still a bit scared by the huge green ones as they can be so strong tasting but generally I love them now. So I thought I’d try the same dogged approach with cauliflower. Since I have started to eat cauliflower again I have tried it in a spicy curry, a creamy velvety soup and pureed with scallops and black pudding but I had never had roasted cauliflower. Boy, have I been missing out! As with most ingredients that are roasted, it really enhances the flavour, but it was an absolute revelation. Delicious!
So I arrived home today with a perfect looking cauliflower flower and decide to team it up with some oak-smoked chorizo that I have been meaning to use. This warm salad made a really satisfying lunch on a cold, wet day (in May!) and once I had cleared my plate I scoffed the remaining roast cauliflower as it was just too good to waste. I confess that I found slicing the cauliflower looked good in the finished photo but it was quite crumbly and wasted too much, so I would recommend cutting small florets instead.
Serves 4 for lunch or 2 for dinner
15 minutes, plus 40 minutes (is using dried chick peas)
75g chickpeas (soaked overnight)
125g pearl barley
150g chorizo, sliced
50g Manchego or Parmesan, grated
2-3 fat garlic cloves
Generous handful of chopped flat leaf parsley
2 tbsp of olive oil, and extra for drizzling
Salt and pepper
- Pre-heat oven to 180C / gas 4 / 350F.
- Put the chickpeas and pearl barley in two separate saucepans and cover with lots of cold water. Simmer the chickpeas for 40-45 minutes until tender and the pearl barley for about 20 minutes. The pearl barley should still retain a slight bite. Add them both into the same saucepan. Finely chop the parsley, add a drizzle of olive oil, season with salt and pepper and stir to combine. Set aside.
- Meanwhile trim the root from the cauliflower and chop into small florets. Coarsely chop the garlic and add to a large bowl with the olive oil, juice of half a lemon and some salt and pepper. Add the cauliflower to the bowl and coat completely. Spread out on a non-stick baking tray and roast for 20-25 minutes, turning once half way through. Check the cauliflower with a fork and when it’s nearly cooked add the cheese and the juice of the remaining half a lemon. Stir in the pearl barley and chickpeas and time for about another 5 minutes, until the cauliflower is cooked through.
- Slice the chorizo and cook for a minute each side in a frying pan.
- Spoon the cauliflower mixture onto plates, add the chorizo and a further sprinkling of chopped parsley, if you like.