Barbecue Butter Beans

Beans, beans they make you…ok well let’s just say they are very good for you, in fact butter beans can help reduce your cholesterol and are generally full of fibre and good stuff to keep you healthy.  Personally, I just like the look of them, they are like giant baked beans and that is how they were described when a suddenly fusspot 3 year old told me she didn’t like butter beans, however when described as giant beans to help you grow big and tall (thank you Mr Green Giant) she was super keen and wolfed them all down.

Serves 2/3 or 4/5 as a smaller side


  • 1 tin of butter beans
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped and softened
  • 1 chunky clove of garlic, chopped
  • 1 tin of tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 packet of smoked bacon lardons (200g) or use some good streaky bacon
  • 2 dessert spoonfuls of balsamic vinegar (cheap stuff)
  • 1 dessert spoonful of soft brown sugar
  • 1 dessert spoonful of Worcester sauce
  • 1/2 a teaspoon of Dijon mustard
  • Salt and pepper


Fry your lardons in a saucepan in a little oil until crispy and brown.  Add the softened onions and garlic and fry until starting to turn golden.  Add the tomatoes and all the other ingredients and simmer gently for about 15 minutes.  Drain and rinse your beans.  Add beans to sauce and cook on a low heat for a further 15 min.

I served mine with some grilled good quality gluten free sausages but they make a great side for all kinds of dishes.

Chai Kheer with Spiced Plum Compote

I’ve made Kheer before and posted it here but this time I wanted to add another element.  I’m a big fan of Chai, I drink it every morning and somehow feel a little short changed when I have to settle for regular tea at work.  I drink it sweetened with milk and love that early morning cuddle it provides as I blearily get my self ready for the day ahead.   I’ve even got my 3 year old hooked on the stuff, I’m not saying I dole it out in beakers or anything but she always, always asks to have a sip and by that she means finish the mug, so I’ve learnt to share, or at least put the kettle on for another.

If you didn’t already know, Kheer is an Indian rice pudding made with basmati rice and flavoured with cardamom, more likely to be served cold it makes a lovely sweet creamy ending to meal, or whenever, in fact the last lot I made got gobbled up eagerly for breakfast one morning.

I bought some beautiful British purpley pink Oval plums in the greengrocer the other day and that settled it, as delicious as they were raw they made a lipsmacking compote that cuts through the creamy sweetness of the Kheer and makes a perfect companion.

Serves 2/3


  • 1 pint of whole milk
  • 1 tablespoon of basmati rice
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 3 cardamom pods, lightly crushed
  • 2 Chai teabags

For the compote:

  • 8 Oval plums (or plums of your choice)

    Spiced Plum Compote

  • 1/4 teaspoon of cinnamon
  • 1 dessert spoonful of agave syrup (or sugar/honey)


Heat the milk in a sauce pan until just coming up to simmer.  Add cardamom, teabags and rice.  Simmer gently for about 45 min until the milk has reduced by half.

Whilst the rice is cooking make the compote.  Slice the plums into quarters, add to a small hot sauce pan with the cinnamon and syrup and cook until the plums soften slightly.

Once the Kheer is ready leave to cool.  It is at it’s best served luke warm or room temperature with a dollop of compote in the middle.

The Chai Kheer also works well on it’s own or with a garnish of chopped pistachios and the compote is a great instant pudding mixed with yoghurt, cream or served warm on ice cream, mmm I’m hungry now, are you?

Citrus Drizzle Fairy Cakes (Gluten Free)

Interesting day today, I’ve  been trawling round the charity shops of West Wickham and found a lovely set of teacups, a pretty plate, a kite, a set of glass bowls, a Polaroid camera and a couple of bargainous children’s books. Good day.  So to top it all off with a sparkle I (well I had a bit of help, elbow grease provided by P. Curtis, thankyou!) we made some very gorgeous and delectable fairy cakes.  Yes you heard me right, FAIRY cakes, not cupcakes (as lovely as they are) but good old fashioned fairy cakes, WITH sprinkles, mmm yeah.  These are moist, sweet and moreish little numbers that you would be proud to provide at a children’s party and even damn prouder to produce for grown ups even if you are having a glass of cider on the side(!).  I used the basic recipe from the side of the Doves Farm Gluten Free Self Raising Flour packet and adulterated it with zest, drizzle and sparkly bits.


  • 150g butter
  • 150g sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 150g Doves Farm Gluten Free Self Raising Flour
  • Zest of 1 orange and 1 lemon
  • 5 tablespoons of milk

For the drizzle:

  • Juice of 1 orange and 1 lemon
  • Icing sugar
  • Zest of one lemon


Pre heat the oven to 200 degrees or 180 degrees (fan oven).

Cream the butter and sugar together until while and fluffy (if anyone asks if they can help at this point say yes and hand it over, this recipe is not hard but this is the most labour intensive part!).  Grate in the zest of the orange and lemon.  Beat in the eggs.  Add the flour and milk and mix together.  Spoon into paper cases (half full). Then bake for 10-15 min.

Whilst baking put together your drizzle.  Squeeze the juice of an orange and lemon into a bowl.  Add icing sugar until you have a double cream consistency syrup.  Zest a lemon in and stir. Taste and add more sugar or juice if necessary.

Once the cakes are baked spoon the drizzle on whilst warm (to allow it to soak in).  Sprinkle over the best sparkly bits you can find (there is no shame in hundreds and thousands) and serve.

Duck Breasts with Orange and Ginger Carrots

I’m typing in pain, during the making of this delicious dish I was a complete eejit and managed to burn myself with boiling hot duck fat.  Lets just say when draining hot fat out of a pan do not attempt to hold the dish you are pouring into in your hand, particularly if it is glass, as said glass dish could break in your hands sending boiling hot fat everywhere.  Lesson learnt. Hand burnt.

I bought duck breasts because I saw them reduced in the local supermarket and thought I might be able to knock up something oriental inspired to make up for the lack of Chinese takeaway deliveries to this flat lately.  My finger is still burning and typing seems to be aggravating this so I keep it short.

Serves 2


  • 2 carrots, sliced into fine julienne
  • 3 spring onions, sliced
  • 1 inch of ginger, chopped
  • 1 fat clove of garlic, chopped
  • zest of 1 orange
  • juice of orange
  • good slosh or two of soy sauce ( I used Tamari, gf)
  • 2 dessert spoonfuls of agave syrup, or sugar
  • 2 duck breasts


Prepare all your veg and set to one side.  Score the duck skin in a criss cross pattern, and salt.  Heat a frying pan.  Place duck breasts skin side down in hot, dry pan.  Fry for about 5 min on skin side and 3 on other side, depending on size, this should ensure a crispy skin and a pink middle.

Take the breasts out of the pan and rest on a board.  Drain off fat bar about a teaspoonful (you can use this for frying potatoes in at another time).  See cautionary tale above for tips on how to be a complete butter fingers and burn yourself.  Add ginger and garlic to the pan, stir fry for a minute.  Add the carrots, spring onions, soy, orange juice and zest.  Stir fry for a couple of minutes.  Add syrup or sugar and stir letting it bubble up into a sticky coating.  Pile a heap of carrots onto each plate, slice duck diagonally and place on top.  Serve.


Salt and Spice Toffee Popcorn (Pop!)


I’ve been meaning to make popcorn for sometime.  My little lady and I have got into a rainy day afternoon ritual at the weekend of downloading an animated film and kicking back and relaxing with it as the rain pours outside.  Yesterday we watched Lady and the Tramp, what a beautiful film ‘and they call it bella notte’, anyway, enough singing in a bad Italian accent. So, this afternoon on cue, the rain tumbled down and in preparation for the film screening of the afternoon, I’ve made popcorn.  This is a twist on the traditional flavours, I love sweet popcorn, I’m not a salted fan but I do love the savoury/sweet combination of salted caramel so I decided to put a bit of punch into my toffee and add some paprika and salt.  Now this stuff comes with a warning, it’s addictive, could cause tooth decay and will not last longer than an afternoon (you’ll have eaten it before tea time anyway).  So here is the recipe:

Makes a bowl big enough for an indulgent afternoon for one or sharing between one adult and a small child (there is a ratio here and it is height and size appropriate)


  • Popcorn – (I used a ramekin full)
  • A drizzle of oil (enough to coat a the pop corn pan, you can use butter but I’d already made the sauce and was feeling guilty)

For the Salt and Spice Toffee Sauce:

  • 3 heaped dessert spoonfuls of Demerara sugar
  • 1 desert spoonful of agave syrup (sub golden if no agave, let’s face it there is no point pretending to be healthy with this stuff,  although I might just point out that pop corn is a vegetable and as one should clearly be counted as one of your five a day –  same rule goes for chips in case you were wondering)
  • 2 tablespoons of water
  • 2 teaspoons of smoked paprika
  • a good shake of salt
  • about 50g of salted butter


Melt all the sauce ingredients together in a pan, leave the paprika until towards the end to make sure it doesn’t burn.  Bubble the sauce together until the sugar has dissolved and you have a toffee brown coloured sauce.  See picture for info.

salt and spice toffee sauce

Heat a large saucepan, coat the bottom with a drizzle of oil or some melted butter.  Pour in your pop corn kernels put the heat on low to medium, place on lid and wait for the pop….pop…pop….shake your pan with the lid on to encourage popping and discourage burning.  Take a peek and when most kernels have popped turn the heat off and coat in your sticky spiced toffee sauce.  Turn out your popcorn onto a tray to cool then pop into a bowl, stick on your favourite film and sit back and relax.

Salt and Spice Toffee Popcorn

So in light of the weather forecast for the week, what animated films do you recommend?

Pan Fried Mackerel with a Quinoa and Mango Salad

I’ve been trying to up my fish intake recently, I’m on holiday so can make more of an effort to get down to the fish mongers and see what is on offer.  Mackerel is one of my favourite fish. It’s full of flavour, packed with healthy omega 3s and a reasonable price. This is a fresh summery way to serve this rich fish and would work well packed up for lunch as well.  The mango and lime cut through the oily meat of the fish and the flavours meld perfectly with the light quinoa grains.  So, errr, yeah,  it tastes good, OK? Try it…

Serves 2


  • 2 mackerel, filleted and boned
  • 1 large mango
  • A ramekin full of quinoa
  • A handful of coriander
  • A handful of mint
  • 1 or 2 spring onions
  • 1/2 a lime


Cook your quinoa following the instructions on the packet or check out these instructions here.  Peel and chop your mango into little chunks (about 1/2 cm dice), finely chop your spring onion, coriander and mint and mix together with the quinoa.  Squeeze in the juice of half a lime, season and spoon onto plates.

Heat a dry pan.  Oil your mackerel fillets and place in the searing hot pan skin down.  Cook until for a couple of minutes or until the fish is almost cooked through then flip and cook for a further minute.  Sit the fillets on top of the quinoa salad and serve.



Iced Banana Espresso Pick Me Up

Hello there, I’ve been a bit slack lately haven’t I? It was my last week at work last week before the summer holidays (yay!) and, typically, I suddenly realised as it kicked in on Monday that I had shed loads still to do so I ws busy getting stuff together and packing for my 3rd office move in 2 1/2 years(!). At the weekend I attended a very interesting conference come residential training course and have since been pottering about and trying to entertain my 3 year old daughter. We went to Brighton yesterday, I really love it there and they have the best play area by the beach so the little lady was more than entertained with that, the beach and running down the promenade at top speed. Here a few pictures of the day:

Priya and Megan throwing stones into the sea

The old pier

Forget Zumba try walking up and down these for an hour, thighs of steel I tell you!

After getting back we were cream crackered, there is something about the sea air and trekking round and up and down the hills and pebbly beaches of Brighton that makes you realise how incredibly unfit you are, my thighs are literally aching today after dragging the push chair through the pebbles and pushing it arduously up the hill back to the station. Anyway we were a bit unlucky with our choices of food and drink that day and towards the end of the afternoon I really fancied a proper milkshake, so we went into what looked like a reputable establishment amongst the Lanes and ordered said milkshake. After reading the claims of ‘mixed with homemade ice cream’ I had somewhat got my hopes up that this would be a thick flavoursome affair but unfortunately I was sadly disappointed by the syrup based, watery, sweet milk drink that arrived. But I was not deterred, I would, by the end of the day, find or make my ultimate milk pick me up and that I did! I became a little obsessed last summer with those frozen mocha coffee drinks all the big chains do but after realising they were practically the sum total of my expected calorie intake of a day and then getting that post caffeine sugar slump I decided it was best I cut back on these icy delights. So to compensate and as a little treat (this can be naughty) I concocted my own rather healthier and far, far tastier iced coffee drink. If you’ve been with me for a while you will have read one of my first very simple recipes for an ice cream like banana milkshake (the secret – frozen banana) so this is an extension of that technique with or without the optional (perhaps depending on the time of day you wish to drink this) slosh of Kahlua.


Serves 2


2 frozen bananas (this is a great way to use up bananas that are starting to brown, chop them up into chunky slices, bag and chuck in the freezer then next time you fancy a rather virtuous treat, you have the main ingredient to hand and no waste!)

Half a pint of milk (you choose your fat level, skimmed works and is healthy but if you fancy a more full on creamy sensation then whack up the fat content and go full fat)

2 espressos, I use Percol, it’s instant but very good

A squirt, or maybe 2 of agave syrup, failing that golden, honey or sugar – I like the idea that I’m being semi healthy with the agave (plus this is the stuff they make tequila from!)

A capful of vanilla extract

A couple of measures of Kahlua (optional)


Whizz all the ingredients in a blender. Serve in glasses of your choice or a mug like I used this afternoon in my non alcoholic version ( no ones looking you know). Grate some chocolate on top if you are feeling fancy and drink or spoon down your throat whilst smugly thinking how fantastically good this is for you. This drink not only gives you one of your five a day, it gives you a good caffeine kick, has calcium in it, the banana adds fibre and prevents that post caffeine slump AND if you use agave its sugar free. What more could you want? Make one NOW!!!

p.s. if you want to halve the recipe and make enough for one, go on you’re worth it, then it might be advisable to let the espresso cool for while so that it doesn’t melt your drink too much, I found with 2 bananas it is fine but with one you can end up losing the ice cream finish so just wait a little while yeah?