Anyone who loves dim sum will have eaten lo mai gai which is a lotus leaf wrapped around glutinous, sticky rice mixed with meat, mushrooms and egg. This delicious combination is a fantastic breakfast dish and one of the first Chinese dishes that my kids fell in love with. It’s not easy to find lotus leaves and Chinese sausage in UK supermarkets so to get our lo mai gai fix I decided to experiment with ingredients I could get hold of easily then wrap everything in regular greaseproof paper. These sausage and egg rice parcels are not complicated to make but they do need sticky rice which holds everything together. You can buy this at big supermarkets or Asian markets. Soaking the rice overnight is a must to get the best texture and flavour out of your rice. I make big batches then freeze individual parcels to defrost whenever I need a lo mai gai inspired breakfast.
INGREDIENTS Makes 4 parcels 350g sticky rice 200g chorizo or kabanos (Polish sausage) 115g shitake or chestnut mushrooms 2 tbsp dark soy sauce 1 tbsp oyster sauce 2 tsp sesame oil 2 tsp rice wine or white wine vinegar 1 tsp white sugar 2 tbsp vegetable oil 2 spring onions 1 egg 1 tsp Chinese 5 spice
The night before making the rice parcels wash the rice then leave the washed rice in a bowl of water until you’re ready to cook (at least 12 hours).
Line a steamer basket (bamboo or stainless steel) with greaseproof paper then brush over a little vegetable oil. Drain the rice then tip it into the lined basket and put the lid on. Put a heatproof plate or small colander into a large cooking pot then place the steamer basket on top. Pour in water up to 2cm below the steamer then place a lid on the pot. Bring the water to a gentle boil (slow moving bubbles) and steam for 45 minutes or until the rice is tender.
Finely chop the mushrooms, spring onions and sausage then whisk the egg in a small bowl. In another small bowl mix together the soy sauce, oyster, sesame oil and sugar.
Fry the sausage until it starts to crisp up a little then add the mushrooms and cook for another 3 minutes then add the Chinese 5 spice and stir using chopsticks. Add the chopped spring onion and the soy sauce mixture then cook for 1 minute before adding the whisked egg and stirring rapidly with the chopsticks until it is cooked. Add the cooked rice and use the chopsticks to break it up and mix with the other ingredients. At this point you can serve the dish immediately with roasted chilli oil or you can make up parcels that are re-heated another day.
Brush a little vegetable oil onto a 20x30cm piece of greaseproof paper. Spoon the rice mixture into the centre of the paper (about the volume of 2 packs of cards on top of each other).
Fold the paper over lengthways first then pull over the bottom and top halves. Flip the parcel over to stop the paper moving and repeat until you have a stack of parcels. These can be frozen (slide into a plastic bag before freezing) or stored in the fridge until ready to be re-steamed.
Take your de-frosted parcels and place 2-4 inside a steamer basket and secure the lid. Place the basket on top of a pan with about 5cm of water and steam for 15-20 minutes until the parcels are piping hot.
I have a deep love of cabbage and will make these parcels as either the star of the show served with rice or as a side dish for a Sunday lunch feast. Pork, apple and cabbage are a classic trio because the sweet, salty, bitter flavours combine to make a perfectly balanced dish. However you choose to serve these tasty parcels you get a deliciously sweet pork filling wrapped in soft, salty cabbage.
INGREDIENTS Serves 2 Adults & 2 Kids 1 head of savoy cabbage 2 shallots 2 garlic cloves 2 apples 30g breadcrumbs 2 thick pork sausages 4 sage leaves 1 lemon 1/2 tsp salt
Pre-heat the oven to 195° (175° Fan). Remove the large outer leave from the savoy cabbage and cut away the woody stem then wash. Put the leaves into a large pan of boiling salted water, cook for 4 minutes then remove and plunge into ice water to stop the cooking. Finely chop the smaller, lighter inner leaves until you have about 150g and set aside to use in the filling.
Peel and core the apple then cut into small cubes. Peel and finely dice the shallots and garlic. Put 1 tsp of olive oil in a medium frying pan on a medium heat then squeeze the sausage meat out of the skins into the pan, use a spoon to break up the meat and fry until golden. Add the apple, shallots and garlic to the pan and cook for a couple of minutes until fragrant. Add the breadcrumbs and chopped sage, then stir in the shredded cabbage, sprinkle over 1/2 tsp of salt squeeze in the juice of a lemon and cook for a few minutes. Set aside the mixture until you’re ready to assemble the parcels.
Oil 6 wells in a sturdy muffin tin then line each well with the large, blanched cabbage leaves. Divide the sausage/apple mix between the 6 parcels then fold the edges of the leaves over the parcels to make a ball. Cover with tin foil then put into the oven, on a middle shelf below for 20 minutes.
As the name suggests, Lentil and Cavolo Nero Stew is incredibly good for you but thankfully it’s also delicious. Life’s too short to eat something healthy that doesn’t also taste fantastic. Cavolo Nero is the Italian cousin of Curly Kale and it’s packed full of iron and Vitamins K, A, C and B. Cavolo Nero leaves are tender and delicious but the stalks are incredibly tough so remove the stalks and use the leaves. The thing I love about this stew is that it’s delicious on its own but you can also add protein to it in the form of meatballs, chicken or sausage. If you can’t find Cavolo Nero then substitute for kale or savoy cabbage.
INGREDIENTS Serves 2 Adults and 2 Children 240g cooked lentils (equivalent of 1 drained tin) 200g cavolo nero (including the stalks) 1 yellow onion 2 celery stalks 2 carrots 1 tin of cherry tomatoes 750ml vegetable stock 2 tbsp olive oil 1/2 head of garlic 2 bay leaves 1 tsp oregano 1 tsp basil 1 tsp parsley 1/2 tsp crushed chilli flakes 1 tsp salt 1/4 tsp black pepper optional: grated parmesan
Peel and finely chop the onion, carrots and celery. Add the oil to a large skillet over a medium to medium high heat then add the chopped veggies then sprinkle over with half the salt and cook for 8-10 minutes. Add the chopped garlic and cook for another 2 minutes.
Add the stock, herbs, chilli flakes the rest of the salt, pepper, tomatoes and lentils. Stir and bring everything to the boil then turn the heat down and simmer (small, slow bubbles breaking the surface of the liquid) for 20 minutes.
Cut the stalks away from the cavolo nero then chop the leaves into bite-sized pieces. Add the greens to the pan, stir and put a lid on then cook for 5 minutes.
Slow baked fish and olives might sound like an unusual combination but it’s sweet and salty deliciousness that’s great served with rice. This is a fantastic way to use frozen fish which is cheaper than fresh fish. You can switch up the veggies to suit your preferences but make sure you use the sauce because it ties everything together with a sweet, salty, spicy dressing.
INGREDIENTS Serves 2 Adults 450g frozen cod or haddock fillets 130g cherry tomatoes 1 yellow or green courgette 1 small onion 100g pitted, green olives 50g capers 2 garlic cloves 60ml olive oil 2 tbsp red wine vinegar 2 tbsp honey 1 tsp and 1/2 tsp of salt (separate) 1/4 tsp chilli flakes handful of fresh parsley black pepper
Pre-heat the oven to 170°C (150°C Fan). Peel and slice the onion then slice the courgette. Peel and finely chop the garlic. Add the courgette, onion, garlic, tomatoes, olives and capers to a baking dish.
In a small mixing bowl pour the olive oil, red wine vinegar, honey, 1 tsp of salt and the chilli flakes then whisk together. Pour the mixture over the vegetables then pop the tray into the oven and roast for 30 minutes. Leave the fish fillets at room temperature whilst the vegetables are cooking.
Remove the tray from the oven and nestle the fillets into the vegetables then sprinkle the remaining salt over the fish. Return to the oven for another 25 minutes then grind over with black pepper and sprinkle with chopped fresh parsley. Serve with 20 minute rice.
I find meatballs really useful to add flavour and protein to stews, soups and pasta dishes. I make some from ground meat and others I make using sausages. These Italian Sausage Meatballs are light, tasty and easy to make. I boost the flavour of some supermarket Italian sausages with a blend of dried Italian herbs that you probably have knocking about the place. You can freeze these little flavour bombs then add them to a quick pasta sauce or stew when you need them.
INGREDIENTS Makes approx. 16-18 meatballs 450g Italian sausage (about 8 sausages) 25g fine breadcrumbs 1/2 tsp salt 1/2 tsp of dried: thyme, parsley, oregano, sage and basil 1/4 tsp of dried garlic powder olive oil
Pre-heat the oven to 220° (200° Fan). Squeeze the sausage meat out of its casing into a small baking dish then add the breadcrumbs, herbs and salt.
Squish everything together with your hands then form the mixture into a long sausage shape the diameter of your desired meatball size then halve the mixture and halve again until you have the right volume to roll into a meatball.
Drizzle a little olive oil over the meatballs then cook in a pre-heated oven for 30 minutes. Drain off any excess fat from the dish then add the meatballs to your chosen sauce.
I make this delicious side dish to serve with roasted pork loin, roasted salmon or roasted cauliflower. Artichoke, Spinach and Cannellini Bake has a great dose of iron, protein and calcium so it’s full of nutritional ingredients smothered in a cheese sauce which makes it my kind of dish. As I’ve confessed before I simply don’t have the patience to core artichokes so I use tinned artichoke hearts to save time. You need to squeeze out as much liquid as possible from the artichokes so that it doesn’t thin out the cheese sauce. Same goes for the spinach, give it a good squeeze before adding to the bake. Any leftovers will keep in the fridge and can be reheated gently in the microwave.
INGREDIENTS Serves 2 Adults and 2 Kids 240g washed baby spinach 240g drained tinned artichokes 235g drained, tinned cannellini beans juice of 1 lemon 125g cream cheese 100g grated mozzarella 1 tsp Dijon mustard 1 tsp roasted garlic (or finely chopped raw garlic) 1/2 tsp salt ground pepper
Wilt the spinach in a saucepan with a lid over a medium heat. Once the spinach has shrunk take it out of the pan, run it under a cold tap then squeeze out as much moisture as possible.
Mix together the cream cheese, mustard, garlic, salt and lemon juice in a medium sized bowl then add the spinach and drained cannellini beans. Stir the spinach and beans into the cheese mixture then add the drained, squeezed artichoke hearts and fold into the mixture. Add the grated mozzarella and stir again.
Spread the mixture in a medium-sized baking dish (the mixture needs to be at least 3cm deep) then grind over with pepper and bake for 20 minutes in a 190°C (170°C Fan) oven.
Paul loves a Crispy Chicken Burger so I have a few in my repertoire and this is the easiest one. There’s very little prep and the actual cooking is incredibly fast, just 30 seconds each side. I use my trusty chicken seasoning mix to season the flour. A Crispy Chicken Burger has to have lettuce for me but otherwise I’ll add any toppings I fancy at the time. Cheese, pickles, tomatoes add whatever you like. I always use my burger sauce because it adds just the right sweet, acid, salt and smoke to any burger.
Tip the breadcrumbs and chicken seasoning into a bowl and whisk to combine. Tip the flour into another bowl then whisk the two eggs together in a third bowl.
Slice the chicken breasts in half horizontally then dip each piece in the flour, then egg then breadcrumbs in turn. Make sure you cover the chicken completely in each component.
Put the vegetable oil in a large, shallow skillet on a medium high heat. Drop a small piece of white bread in the oil and if it sizzles then the oil is ready. Carefully slide each piece of chicken into the pan and cook for 30-45 seconds on each side until it’s golden then remove from the oil onto kitchen roll to drain.
Spread the burger sauce on the buns then top with whatever fillings you like and top with the crispy chicken fillets.
I make a few small batches of seasoning mixes that I use most often and one of those is Chicken Seasoning. I use it for roasting a whole chicken, seasoning a tray of chicken legs and add it to flour to use in Crispy Chicken Burgers. You can buy chicken seasoning from the supermarket but it’s also easy to make your own.
INGREDIENTS Enough to season 1 roast chicken or 6 chicken legs or 4 chicken burgers 1/2 tsp salt 1/2 tsp paprika 1/2 tsp garlic powder 1/2 tsp thyme 1/2 tsp basil 1/4 tsp parsley 1/4 tsp ground black pepper optional: 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
Mix together all the ingredients then rub on your chicken. If you like a spicier seasoning add 1/4 tsp of cayenne. If you want to make a big batch then multiply the quantities equally and store in a jar or small Tupperware.
I love this time of year when the apple harvest comes in and there’s an abundance of cinnamon in the kitchen. One of my lovely neighbours dropped off a gigantic bag of apples from her tree and the thought of peeling them all was a little daunting so I decided to roast them into apple sauce instead. This is an easy, if a little messy, way of getting a smooth, flavoursome apple sauce.
INGREDIENTS apples water
Pre-heat the oven to 195°C (175°C Fan). Wash the apples, don’t dry them simply place them in a large baking dish. Put the baking dish in the pre-heated oven and roast for 25 minutes. The apples will implode which breaks the skin.
Let the apples cool slightly then place one or two apples in a clean cloth or piece of muslin then gather up the edges then over a bowl squeeze from the top down to push out the apple sauce. Discard the pulp and repeat on all the apples.
Keep the apple sauce in the fridge for up to 2 weeks. Alternatively, heat the apple sauce in a saucepan (adding spices if you wish) then ladle into sterilized jars which will store in a dark place for up to 3 months.
Unsurprisingly there wasn’t a lot of sushi in 1980s Yorkshire so I didn’t eat it until I was an adult and was immediately hooked. Vancouver has an abundance of sushi restaurants so for 12 years I ate it every week then moved back to the UK where it was harder to find again. My kids love sushi so I decided to try making my own and I was pleased to find it wasn’t complicated. You must use sushi rice but besides that you can use a lot of everyday ingredients to make great homemade sushi. You can buy sushi rice online, at international food shops as well as regular supermarkets Tesco, Sainsbury’s and Waitrose)
INGREDIENTS 240g sushi rice 350ml water 50ml vinegar (either rice wine or apple cider) 2 tbsp sugar 1/2 tsp salt 1 tsp vegetable oil
Wash the rice twice in a sieve then put into a small saucepan and cover with 350ml of clean water and bring to the boil then immediately reduce the heat, put a tight fitting lid on and cook on low for 30 minutes. Once the rice is cooked let it cool completely.
In another small saucepan add the oil, vinegar, salt and sugar then stir until the sugar is dissolved then set aside until the rice is cooked and cooled. Once the rice is cooled pour over the liquid and stir then let it absorb for 20 minutes before shaping.
Tuna Mayo Roll
Spoon the cooled, seasoned rice onto a large piece of greaseproof paper then use the edges of the paper to make the rice into a 20x10cm rectangle.
Drain a tin of tuna then mix with mayonnaise and grind over with salt. Spoon a line of tuna mayo in the centre of the rice then line with narrow strips of cucumber. Slide your hands under each side of the paper and form the rice into a roll and press the edges together. Gently roll the sushi roll on the surface then remove the greaseproof paper and slice into sections.
Use previously frozen, farmed salmon to make nigiri. This ensures any bacteria has been killed. Remove the vertical vein from the fillet then cut across the grain (not in the same direction as the fat lines) to make sushi sized pieces.
Place a heaped tablespoon of rice into your hand and form it into a bite-sized oblong. You can put a fingertip’s worth of wasabi on the rice before placing the salmon on top or leave it plain.
Place a sheet of nori on a piece of greaseproof paper then flatten out some rice on top leaving a 1cm boarder all the way around. Top with some fine pieces of cucumber then slide your hands under each side of the greaseproof paper and form into a roll. Gently roll the sushi roll on the surface then remove the greaseproof paper and cut into individual pieces.