Butternut and chicken laksa

Have been knocked out with a cold for most of the weekend, so planned a healing dinner of laksa-style soup.

This is my go-to dinner when I get the lurgy as it’s easy to eat and packed with garlic, ginger, chilli and fresh herbs which can only be good for you 🙂
This time (inspired by a Jamie’s 15-minute dinner episode) I added grated butternut squash to bulk it out, and heavily garnished with fresh coriander and Thai basil which were lurking in the back of the fridge. No piccies as I could barely keep myself focussed for the half hour it took to make, but will be doing again and will write up the recipe soon!

Here’s what went into it……
In a big pot, 1.5 pints boiling water from the kettle and add 1 chicken stock cube and 2 tablespoons Thai curry paste, a tablespoon each of sesame oil, fish sauce and nut butter. (I used macadamia paste)
Stir to dissolve everything and bring it back to the boil and chuck in half a butternut squash (grated in the food processer), 4 sliced spring onions, finely shopped stems from a small packet of coriander (reserve the leaves for later) and a whole can of coconut milk. I got this back to a boil before adding 2 chicken thighs, cut into bite sized pieces, and simmered for about 20mins until the chicken was cooked.
Before serving, add the juice of 2 limes and scatter over the chopped coriander leave – because you’re worth it. x


Aioli, or allioli, was the staple food during my short trip to Ibiza. I like to think the garlic content off-set the effects of too much sun and gin, as well as deterring the mozzies. It’s a little hard to get hold of in the UK; Morrisons is supposed to stock ‘Chovi’ Allioli but I’ve yet to find it in my local stores. Most supermarkets’ versions are actually mayonnaise with garlic added. Not the same and no where near as punchy as the Catalan version which just combines crushed garlic, salt and olive oil.  The Provençal version also includes egg yolk to give a slightly thicker texture, but still it’s garlic in the lead role.


This is my current favourite version to make:

3 cloves garlic, crushed to a smooth paste with a pinch of flaked salt. Add an egg yolk and a splash of cold water, stirring to combine. Now slowly trickle in up to 200ml olive oil until a nice thick consistency is achieved. Check for seasoning and add more salt to taste. Voila!

Swede chips!

I was getting a bit bored with sweet potato (curse of the Paleo life) so I thought I’d try swede to go with my chilli and lime chicken dinner last night. Similar consistency when mashed, but about half the price.

Result? Looks like a chip 🙂


Discovery Chicken

After a bit of a stressy dinner the night before, I thought I’d better give myself a break and deploy one of my prepped dinners from the freezer. The original recipe this is based on calls it west African, but I can’t see why as the ingredients are more east African but then it’s a bit of a jumble anyway!

I prefer to call this Discovery Chicken as it includes tomatoes and chillies introduced to Africa by the Portuguese  explorers from their colonies in the New World. Why not just call it Portuguese chicken? That’s Nandos!


1kg Chicken thighs, skinless and boneless (about 10-12 pieces)

1 x onion, diced

Thumb-sized piece of root ginger, grated

6 cloves garlic, grated

1 tablespoon ground Coriander seeds

1 tsp Cayenne pepper (reduce or omit if you don’t like spicy)

400g can chopped tomatoes

85g Sunflower seed or Almond butter  (about half a small jar)

Half tsp vanilla extract


Heat a tablespoon of Coconut oil in a casserole pot, or large skillet with a lid. Generously season the chicken with S+P then brown, in batches. Set aside.

In the same pan, sauté the onion and ginger for a few minutes until the onion starts to soften. Add the garlic, coriander, cayenne (if using) and stir well to combine. Add the tomatoes plus half a can of water and bring to  a boil.

Return the chicken to the pot along with any resting juices and bring back to a boil before turning down to a simmer for 25-30mins.

When the time is up, carefully remove the chicken pieces. They will be quite tender. To the sauce add the nut or seed butter and vanilla, and give it a good stir. At this point you can break up the chicken and put it in the sauce to serve. I prefer to leave the pieces whole, as it’s easier to portion for freezing, then break it up in the sauce when reheating.

Crispy shredded chicken Asian veg salad

The only reason I called this “Asian” salad is because I was replicating the most amazing salad I had at Asian Box in Macy’s SFO. Who’d have thought you could get fresh, tasty, gluten-free food in a department store basement food hall?!

You start your “box” with a base of rice, noodles or salad – I go with the brown rice or salad depending on jet-lag levels – then add protein* of your choice followed by steamed or wok-fired veggies. If that’s not enough there’s a whole pick ‘n mix of toppings like crispy shallots, fresh herbs, pickled veggies and chillies. As it’s all built in front of you, you can easily opt out of bits your don’t want.

STOP! We’re not quite finished yet! there’s still the 6 house made sauces to choose from! I normally have this as a treat so I’ll happily have a little sriracha sauce, even though it’s not sugar-free or soy-free, but they also have “Asian Street Dust” which is a mix of dry spices. Amaaazing!  Perfect mix of fresh, crunchy, spicy and comforting. Even if your body clock doesn’t feel ready for dinner time, it looks light enough to not be off-putting and just the thing for blowing away the long-haul flight cobwebs. Plus, it’s not in a restaurant so no expectation for you to interact with people or tip 🙂

So, back to dreary Berkshire, UK. Here’s what I threw together:

Asain Box Salad


Crispy chicken:

  • 2 tablespoons Coconut oil
  • 1 x whole Poached chicken breast (about 2 cups)
  • 1tsp Chinese 5 Spice
  • 1tsp Fish Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Coconut aminos


  • 1 x Yellow pepper, deseeded and cut into thin strips
  • 2 handfuls Beansprouts (about 150g)
  • Half a Cucumber, peeled into ribbons
  • Hard boiled eggs, peeled and halved


  • 25g Cashew nuts
  • 4 x Shallots, finely sliced
  • 1 x Red chilli, finely chopped (as mild or spicy as preferred)
  • 2 x Spring onions, thin sliced
  • Half a Lime, in wedges
  • Sriracha sauce, shop bought or homemade


Heat 1 tablespoon coconut oil in a wok or skillet. Tear the chicken into bite sized strips and fry in the oil until starting to brown and starting to get crispy strands. Add the 5 Spice, fish sauce and coconut aminos and stir well. You should get a slightly caramelised effect. Turn off heat, and set pan aside.

Assemble all the salad ingredients on a serving plate.

Now we work fairly quickly. Heat a small frying pan and dry roast the cashews until golden, then pour onto a chopping board to rough chop. Now heat the other 1 tablespoon coconut oil in the same pan and add the shallots. The natural sugars will start to caramelise and they’ll crisp up – keep them moving so they don’t burn. When you’ve achieved desired crispiness, remove from the pan and transfer to a piece of kitchen towel. They shouldn’t be massively greasy, but draining them prevents sogginess.

Serve up a portion of the chicken onto the salad, top with chilli and spring onions followed by a squeeze or two of sriracha and a spritz of lime. Sprinkle over the sweet and crispy shallots and the roasted cashews.

Asain Box Salad

*I couldn’t find any allergy info on their website, so I can’t be sure what’s in the marinades but I didn’t have any adverse reaction.

Barbacoa Beef Brisket

I found this recipe on Paleo Pot a few weeks ago and became a little obsessed with it. Problem was I didn’t have a slow cooker or canned chipotles, and I object to paying for fresh beef stock unless it’s actually going to be part a noticeable element of the final dish e.g. French onion soup.

So I had a trawl around the great online library and cross referenced a few different recipes and techniques to come up with my own. Result, AWESOME! if I do say so myself 🙂

Step 1: went to farm shop and asked if they had any unrolled brisket. Nice chap went out the back and returned with what looked like a whole side of cow. Ooops. I came out with just under 2kg of beef, which is about equivalent to the 4lb maximum mentioned in the Paleo Pot recipe, @ £8.50/kg – not bad.

Step 2: When I got this huge slab of meat home I realised that I didn’t have a big enough roasting tin. No problem. I thought it might be a bit too much for just the 2 of us to eat in a week, even with leftovers, and I wasn’t 100% sure how it would come out [ this being my first attempt at cooking brisket ] so I halved it and put a piece in the freezer for another day.

Step 3: Mixed up a blend of Texas-style BBQ seasoning [sorry, secret recipe] and gave the beef a good rub down before wrapping tightly in cling-film and stashing in the fridge over night.

Step 4: Heat oven to 180c and give the beef a good blast for 1hr. After that, reduce heat to 150c and carefully pour in a mixture of home-made chipotle abobo sauce and fresh apple juice. This is just to give enough liquid to help braise the meat, so only needs to be about 2cm depth. Apply a lid, or cover in foil, and ignore for 2 hours.

At this point it was very late in the evening so I just turned off the oven and left it there over night.

Next day it was chilled in the fridge, so I could scoop off some of the excess fat and it makes it easier to cut thin slices. To serve, I cut 1cm thick slices across the grain and reheated it in the braising sauce.

My original inspiration had been the Chipotle salad bowls we enjoyed in San Francisco, with crunchy salad, sautéed peppers and onions, avocado and a little cheese  – so that’s what I did 🙂

Note: only half of the batch was used for dinner so there are leftovers for later in the week, plus there was enough to sneak a slice onto breakie with eggs and hash. Bonus! 

Next week I’ll get to play around with the other kilo currently hiding in the freezer 🙂

Ox cheek bourguignon recipe

I was asked for the bourguignon recipe I mentioned last week, so here it is! I use ox cheek instead of shin beef, and only a large glass-worth of wine so you can use something semi-decent. To keep the cost down I’ve used onion instead of shallots and stock cube stock instead of shop brought fresh stock, and omitted the mushrooms because I don’t like them included 🙂

Serves 4, very generously (Could even say 4 adults and 2 munchkins, with plenty of veg on the side)


  • 1 tblsp duck fat, or fat of choice
  • 90g Smoked bacon lardons
  • 1kg Ox cheek, trimmed but left whole
  • 1 x Onion, diced
  • 2 x Carrot, cut lengthways then cut into 3 chunks
  • 2 x celery stick, cut into 3
  • 1tsp dried Thyme
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 tblsp Tomato puree concentrate
  • 250ml Red Wine (tradition says Burgundy/ Pinot Noir, but anything medium-bodied that you can actually drink will be fine)
  • 200ml Beef stock (if using Oxo, use half a cube dissolved in 200ml boiling water)
  • 2 x Bay leaf


Preheat oven @ 150°C (130°F, Gas Mark 2)

Heat the duck fat in a large, lidded casserole and fry the bacon lardons until starting to crisp and the lovely bacon-fat has rendered. Remove from the pot with a slotted spoon and set aside – I find the upturned casserole lid handy here. Saves on washing up 🙂

Season the ox cheeks well with S+P, and fry for about 5 mins on each side. We’re looking for a nice, dark brown crust so you may need to do these one at a time to prevent overcrowding, dependant on the size of your pot. Remove from pan and set aside with the lardons.

Add the onion, carrots, garlic and celery to the pot with the dried thyme and stir well to coat in the oil.

Sauté for a few minutes until the onions are translucent and the raw garlic smell has subsided. Stir in the tomato puree and allow it to cook out. Turn up the heat and add the red wine, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon or silicon spatula to deglaze the sucs. Allow the alcohol to burn off. Hint: when you sniff the pan it won’t singe your eyebrows 😉

Now return the meats to the pot, tucking a couple of bay leaves in with the ox cheeks. It may look a bit snug to start with but it will shrink a little during cooking. Carefully pour over the beef stock. You don’t need to cover the meat in water; this is braising, not stewing.

Apply the lid and put on the bottom shelf of the oven. Set timer for 2½ hrs (150 minutes). After about an hour take off the lid and turn the meat over in the braising liquid.

After 2½ hours the meat should be tender and the sauce thickened slightly. If you’re makng this ahead, now would be a good time to let it cool before portioning into suitable containers and freezing. This would also keep in the fridge for a couple of days. As with all such dishes, it tastes best reheated the next day.

Remove the lid and put the casserole on the hob. Bring to the boil then turn down to a simmer, uncovered, for 15-20mins. If you are reheating this after freezing and thawing, please ensure it’s fully heated through before serving.  When you come to serve, break the meat into large chunks using a wooden spoon or spatula. A sprinkling of chopped, fresh parsley would be pretty but not essential.

Leftovers: I took half of the meat out (avoiding the veggies) after braising in the oven and still just firm enough to hold together, and froze with a few ladles of the sauce to serve another day as a chilli. However, as the meat is 

über-tender after being reduced in the pot for 15-20mins, it would lend itself well to being stirred enthusiastically and turned into a ragu (meat sauce). 

Confit duck with honey, orange and figs (Middle-class leftovers)

So I had some confit duck legs leftover, as you do. I’d love to say that I confit them myself but that would be a lie. I bought a few tins in France and we had 2 of the legs a couple of weeks ago, with celeriac and garlic greens, so the spare 2 were liberated from the freezer ready for an encore.

The nice thing about getting them in a tin, aside from the time saved, is that easily you get a jam jar of duck fat to use as you please for weeks!  

Back-in-the-day, they would have been baked in a hot oven until crispy before being shredded to be served with jarred plum sauce and Chinese pancakes, but for this encore I wanted to try something a bit different.


  • 2 x confit duck legs, excess fat wiped off
  • 1 x large orange, zest and juice separated
  • 2 tblsp honey
  • 6 x small fresh figs, halved


Preheat oven @ 200°c (400°F / Gas Mark 6)

Heat a small frying pan over medium heat, without adding fat, and fry the duck legs skin side down. After 5 mins turn over and brown on the other side. Drain and discard any extra fat; pref into a jar for later, but most definitely not down the kitchen sink.

Place the duck legs in a baking dish, drizzle over the honey and sprinkle on the orange zest. Season with S+P and roast for 15 mins. [I did sneak a look and baste the duck with the honey mix halfway through – probably not necessary]. After 15 mins pour over the orange juice, add the figs to the dish and roast for a further 10 minutes. Serve. Simples 🙂

Could do this with raw duck legs, or even chicken legs, but give them longer to roast with the honey and orange as you need to actually cook them, as opposed to just heating through. Big fan of this “roast then add liquid for the final minutes” method as you get a really tasty result. I do the same with my garlic and rosemary chicken, creating a sharp lemon edge to the chicken pan gravy. Yum!

Ox cheek bourguignon

We like a challenge. Ox cheek (or beef cheek) was hard to get hold of in the UK for a while following the post-BSE/ CJD legislation, but the lovely folk at Waitrose have it all trimmed and ready to go!

I took a traditional Boeuf Bourguignon recipe and swapped in whole pieces of ox cheek, in place of the usual braising steak, and braised in a low oven for 3 hours. I’m not going to lie – it’s a an ugly, brute of a piece of meat. Using tongs helped a lot 🙂

Mise en place

2 large pieces, which were just under 1kg altogether, only just fitted in my 4.2 litre Le Creuset pot. After the first hour I took the casserole out of the oven and turned the meat over in the braising liquid. They had shrunk a little by then, which made the job easier. After 2½ hours both pieces were very tender and the sauce thickened a bit, but I turned the meat over again and popped it back in for a final half hour while I dealt with the veggies.

The mashed root veg was already prepped in the freezer, so reheated with butter in a sauté pan. Had a huge bag of kale to get through, so steamed a few handfuls of that too.

Served chunks of fork-tender ox cheek with the chunky braising veggies, buttered mash and bright green kale. Perfect Sunday lunch 🙂

Ox Bourguignon, swede and kale