Fresh Tomato, Cucumber & Red Onion Chutney


screenshot_2016-09-16-18-36-15-11 22/09/2016

This isn’t really a recipe but is really lovely served as a fresh and vibrant side for any curry. It’s great slathered on poppadoms as a starter or a snack and provides a welcome break from the rich heaviness of many curries.


  • 1 tomato, diced
  • ½ red onion, diced
  • 3 thick slices of cucumber, diced
  • Small handful of fresh coriander, chopped
  • A few mint leaves, chopped
  • A pinch of cumin and chilli powder
  • A squeeze of lime juice
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl. Season to taste.

Tip: Season with salt when ready to serve as the salt will draw the moisture from the chopped veggies.


Sweet Potato & Pea Samosas


Screenshot_2016-05-05-20-46-34-1[1] 05/05/2016

These vegetarian samosas are a great way to get 3 of the 5-a-day into your family as well as a huge burst of flavours. They’re also rich in fibre, folate, vitamin C, calcium and iron. They are not fried like traditional samosas but baked in the oven with minimal oil.

You can play around with whatever you like in the filling. Spinach is fantastic in these but at the time of making, I didn’t have any or I would have added it instead of peas.

They are great served hot and crispy from the oven but can also be eaten warm or cold as a snack for the next day – if they last that long.

Makes 6 large samosas.


  • 2 large sweet potatoes (about 500g), peeled and cut into small pieces
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil, plus extra for brushing
  • 1 red onion, chopped
  • thumb-sized piece ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated
  • 1 tsp each medium curry powder, garam masala, turmeric
  • small bunch coriander or mint, finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp curry paste (I used madras)
  • 1 tsp black onion (nigella) seeds
  • 200g frozen peas
  • 270g pack filo pastry (6 sheets)


  1. Put the sweet potatoes in a large bowl, cover with cling film and microwave on full power for 5-8 minutes or until soft.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large pan, add the chopped onion and cook for a few mins to soften. Stir in the ginger, garlic and coriander/mint, stirring for a couple of minutes more until fragrant. Add the curry paste, spices and the black onion seeds to the pan, stir for 30 seconds or so until fragrant then add the frozen peas. Season well and mash everything together with the back of a spoon, leaving some chunky bits of potato. Leave to cool completely.                                            Screenshot_2016-05-05-20-50-34-1[1]
  3. Unroll the pastry and pull out two sheets to work with – keep the rest covered with a tea towel to prevent it from drying out. Brush both sheets with a little oil. Put the other sheet on top. With the shortest side facing you, cut down the centre to make two long strips. Scoop a sixth of the sweet potato mixture onto the top right-hand corner of the filo in a rough triangle shape. Fold the pastry over on an angle, continuing down the length of the pastry until you reach the bottom and have a neat triangle encasing the filling. Trim off any excess pastry with a knife. Repeat to make six samosas. Heat oven to 200C/180C fan.                            Screenshot_2016-05-05-20-48-53-1[1]
  4. Put the samosas on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Brush with a little more oil and sprinkle over some extra black onion seeds or cumin seeds if desired. Bake for 20-30 mins or until deep golden brown. Cover with foil if the corners begin to burn before the base is browned.

Sourdough Starter


IMG_20150823_170451[1] 25/08/2015

A starter (also known as a polish or levain) is a fermenting dough or batter, all or part of which is used to raise a batch of bread. The term sourdough broadly applies to bread raised with wild yeasts. Defining characteristics of such breads are a slower fermentation and distinctly sour (but by no means unpleasant) flavour. Both are the result of high acidity caused by the presence of certain bacteria, among them lactic acid bacteria (the same bacteria used to make yoghurt), which colonise the starter among the yeasts. Making a starter is easy. Yeasts need sugar, warmth and moisture to reproduce. All you need to do is provide these. Here is the recipe, if you can call it that.

For the first stage:

  • A cupful of flour (about 150g)
  • A cupful of warm water (about 250ml)

For the first ‘feeding’:

  • A cupful of flour (about 150g)
  • A cupful of warm water (about 250ml)

For each subsequent feeding:

  • A cupful of flour (about 150g)
  • A cupful of warm water (about 250ml)

The first stage:

You need a big plastic container with a lid to make your starter in. It should be big enough to allow plenty of room for frothing – at least four times the volume of your initial batter (because you will add more later). You can use any type of flour you like; I have made excellent starters from rye, spelt and wheat. I recommend that you use wholemeal rather than white flour though; it will ferment sooner and more vigorously.

There is no need to be precise about the quantities of flour and water. For the first stage, just use roughly equal volumes of each to make a thick batter and whisk it well – this incorporates more air and therefore, more yeast spores. Put the batter into the container, pop the lid on and leave it somewhere fairly warm.

The first feeding:

At some point, your starter will begin to ferment. This depends on many factors such as the flour used, how much you whisked it, which yeasts and bacteria happen to be around and how warm it is. Check every 12 hours or so and when you see the first signs of fermentation (small bubbles at the surface), give your starter its first ‘feeding’ by whisking in another 150g flour and 250ml warm water. Replace the lid and leave it again.

Check your starter again after another day. Don’t worry if all this takes longer than you expect – it will get there in the end. When it does, I should warn you about the smell. You will either love it or hate it. It might be sickly sweet or sickly sour, smelling of vinegar, rotten apples, brandy or gone off milk perhaps. Breathe in deeply; I want you to remember this smell.

Subsequent feedings:

Now tip out half of the starter and discard it. Replace this with another 150g flour and 250ml cold water this time. Whisk really well and leave it another day, at a fairly cool room temperature now. For the first week at least, while your starter is getting established, it is best to feed it daily, discarding half and replacing it. Keep smelling it and you’ll become aware of the aroma changing, becoming less harsh and more complex as it matures. You will also notice different smells at different stages of fermentation. You will get to know when it needs feeding, when it is most active, when it is tired and sluggish and when it could do with a good beating. About a week into your routine of daily feeding, when fermentation is vigorous and regular and the smells have become established, you are ready to use your starter.

IMG_20150823_170613[1] IMG_20150823_170535[1]

If you are likely to bake regularly, keep your starter as it is – a thick batter at room temperature, feeding daily. If you will only be using it every couple of weeks or less, you should slow the fermentation then you’ll need to feed it less. To do so you can make it cooler or drier or both:

  • Keep your dough in the fridge and it can go for a week without being fed.
  • Add enough flour to make a stiff dough and you could happily feed it every three or four days. To feed a dough, discard half, make a new flour and water dough the same volume as the discarded part and knead it into the remaining starter.
  • You could also do both of these then the dough will only need feeding every couple of weeks.

What is important is that your starter is really active when it comes to baking, so at least a couple of days ahead, remove it from the fridge and bring it back to a thick batter by adding water and feeding daily until you bake.

Nurtured in this way, your starter will live forever. You can even freeze the dough if you will not be using it very frequently.

Making bread with your starter:

Sourdough baking is different from conventional bread baking only in that the process takes longer.

I have provided a detailed recipe for a basic sourdough loaf in the next post (unfortunately, my IT skills lack to be able to insert a direct link for you).

Sourdough Bread


IMG_20150824_182850[1] 24/08/2015

Deliciously chewy and tangy with enormous air holes and a fine savoury crust, this is one of my favourite breads. The large air holes are due to a wetter than usual dough so you may find it tricky to handle. The shaped loaves will be rather saggy and would benefit from the support of proving baskets if you have them. In any case, this sourdough will rise dramatically in the oven and will always end up looking glorious, if occasionally perhaps a little misshapen.

This bread really is a labour of love. The starter takes about a week to make and establish if you don’t happen to have any to hand but while making it – as strange as it may sound – you develop a relationship and an understanding with your starter. You get to know it and what it needs and just a ladleful and a bit of nurturing can turn some flour and water into the most incredible thing.

I recommend that you read the recipe through before starting to familiarise yourself with the timings and techniques. Although this is not a challenging recipe, you will need to set aside some time for this one. Perfect for a rainy day and the biggest sense of satisfaction achieved too!

Makes 2-3 loaves


For the sponge:

  • 650ml warm water
  • 500g strong white bread flour
  • A ladleful of sourdough starter (see sourdough starter post)

For the dough:

  • 600g strong white bread flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 25g salt
  • A handful of rye flour to finish


  1. Before you go to bed, make the sponge. Mix the water, flour and starter together in a bowl. Cover and leave in a fairly warm place overnight.
  2. The next morning, mix the flour and salt into the sponge. Bring it together and squidge in a glug of olive oil. The dough should be soft and sticky – just kneadable but rather wetter than a normal dough. You will need some extra flour for your hands, the dough and worktop. It will be quite messy to begin with. Every now and then, clean your hands and scrape the worktop. Use more flour if you need to but be sparing with it – you don’t want to make the dough stiff or you won’t get big air holes.
  3. When your dough is smooth and satiny (after about 10-20 minutes of kneading), shape it into a nice tight round and place in a lightly oiled bowl. Cover and leave somewhere warm for about an hour.
  4. Now lightly oil the worktop and tip the dough out onto the surface. Press it out flat with your fingertips, shape into a round again, put it back in its bowl, cover and leave in a warm place for another hour. Do this twice more. You will see and feel the dough becoming smoother, shinier and more airy.
  5. After these four hours of rising and deflating, the dough will feel soft and puffy. Sink your hands in and diflate it once more. Divide into two or three and shape into loaves. Coat with rye flour and transfer to well floured wooden boards.
  6. Lay a plastic bag over the whole batch to stop it drying out and leave to prove for 2-3 hours or until doubled in size. You will probably notice big air holes developing near the surface. Unlike with other breads, you should err on the side of over-proving the loaves as the air holes will be bigger.
  7. When the loaves are almost ready, switch the oven to 250C, put a baking tray inside and place a roasting tin on the bottom shelf. Put the kettle on. Have a water spray bottle, a serrated knife and an oven cloth ready. Clear the area around the oven. You will need to work quickly now.
  8. When the loaves are ready, transfer them to the hot tray (removed from the oven). Slash the tops with the serrated knife. Spray the bread all over with water. Put the tray into the oven and pour some boiling water from the kettle into the roasting tin and close the door as quickly as you can.
  9. Turn the heat down after 10 minutes to 200C if the crust is still very pale, 180C if the crust is noticeably browning or 170C if the crust seems to be browning too quickly. Bake until the loaves are well browned and very crusty. They should feel hollow when you tap the base. In total allow 30-40 minutes for smaller loaves or 40-50 minutes for larger ones. Leave to cool on a wire rack.


This bread is immense served just warm from the oven with a nice thick soup to dunk into. It is also amazing as sandwich bread, toasted, tossed into tomato salads or simply on its own. This really is the best bread I’ve ever eaten. It is so crisp and flavourful on the outside and the inside is so springy, tangy and chewy.