The cheese & mustard scones of winter

A hot, savoury, cheesy mouthful of scone, with chunks of cold butter melting into the crumb and dripping onto the plate. What could be better to warm chilled fingers and soothe the soul on a cold, wet London evening?

Mine were dunked into a steaming leek, butternut and bean soup, but these beauties could be eaten with anything. Or on their own, as you please.

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Nut and seed roast with cheese and tomato layer

This adaptation from an old Cranks recipe is one that I’ve been pleasurably cooking for years. The addition of the layer of cheddar, feta or Vegan cheese and sliced tomato adds a piquancy to the savoury nuttiness of the loaf that’s a lovely surprise to those that haven’t eaten it before.

I chop 250g of nuts by hand. My food processor tends to grind them too finely – a bit of crunch is best. An onion, chopped and sautéed in butter, Vegan spread or oil. Add 100g of breadcrumbs, some chopped parsley if you have it, and a handful of seeds. Enough Vegan bouillon with a teaspoon of marmite or a sloosh of soy sauce to make a fairly loose mix, then dollop half the mix into a baking tin, add a layer of cheese, a layer of sliced tomato, then the rest of the nut mix. Press down and transfer to a hot oven to bake for about 35 minutes.

As delicious cold the next day as it is hot. Gorgeous served with a fresh tomato salsa, fresh tomato sauce or chimichurri sauce on the side.

Leek and potato soup

It’s dark, cold and wet out there in London, so I’m breaking out the leek and potato soup with crusty bread for supper.

This was the very first soup that I learned to make, back in my twenties. In those days I’d liquidise and sieve it for perfect creamy smoothness, but now I feel that life is too short, and just leave it chunky.

This soup couldn’t get any simpler – four ingredients, and that’s it – potatoes, leeks, stock and creme fraiche. You could replace the creme fraiche with almond or soya milk to make this totally vegan.

Despite its simplicity, this is delicious, comforting and economical. The pot I made has fed two of us for two meals.

Let the wintery rain fall – as long as I have a bowl of homemade soup, I’m happy.

The healthy sweet hit

I get sweet cravings often –it’s just the way I’m wired. But rather than reaching for a bar of chocolate or a wedge of cake (which I confess I’m prone to do way too often) I’ve been trying to find a more healthy way of satisfying those sweet urges.

So…a few spoonfuls of thick Greek yoghurt with fresh blueberries, a handful of mixed seeds for crunch, and a drizzle of maple syrup. Quick to assemble, one of your five a day, full of calcium and vitamins, and it comes with a creamy unctuousness from the yoghurt and a sweet, dark caramel hit from the maple syrup, of which there’s really only a drizzle.

Perfect for when the sweet cravings hit and I’m sure it’s way better for me than a snickers bar. You could make this Vegan by using soya or coconut yoghurt instead.

Baked vanilla honey pears 

Pears are in season right now, and I’m making the most of them. I love them fresh and sliced for eating alongside a piece of salty sheeps milk cheese, the aromatic sweetness melding perfectly with the tang of the cheese. 

I also bake them. Peeled, cored, and split in half, baked with vanilla seeds, honey and sweet Marsala wine. Thirty minutes in the oven until they’re meltingly soft, slightly charred and stickily delicious.

So simple, but so delectable. Serve with a scoop of cream, creme fraiche or ice cream for a decadent treat. 

Gorgeous ceramics from the Isle of Skye

There is something deeply satisfying about drinking or eating out of a well crafted piece of pottery. And something very much of “place” about a piece, made from the earth and fired locally, which takes me back  to its origin every time I use it.

A recent, glorious visit to Skye had me track down a potter whose work I’d recently discovered online – Katharina Lenz. Her studio is on the south of the island. She was warm, welcoming and her small studio was filled with wonderful things.

Flight baggage restrictions were the only thing that stopped me bankrupting us both, as I fell in love with her work. It’s full of tiny, exquisite details, like this aemonite impressed into the clay. 

Drinking breakfast tea out of this mug, which sits so comfortably in the hands,and which pleases the eye so much, adds great pleasure to a slow breakfast. 

Small, wonderful things. Life is good. 

Chunky root vegetable soup

A morning has been spent happily gathering and chopping carrots, swede, leeks, sweet potatoes, small turnips and butternut squash. 

Add a couple of handfuls of organic lentils and split peas. A tin of tomatoes, a top up of the pan with water, a splash of soy sauce, salt and pepper. Simmered for an hour, and the seasoning to adjusted to taste along with a handful of chopped fresh chives. 

This makes up a hearty, chunky soup, enough for several bowls, and it’s perfect with doorstops of crusty, seeded bread. Or perhaps, cheese scones to dunk. Simple food, and a hug in a bowl. 

Chickpea, leek and red pepper patties

I love a good chickpea burger! 

Heavily laced with garlic, fresh coriander and seasonings, these patties do have a tendency to fall apart a bit with no eggs to bind them, but that’s a small price to pay for the sheer deliciousness of them.

Finely chopped onion, garlic, half a leek, a tin of chickpeas mashed down with a fork, half a red pepper, sumac and paprika. Molded into patties with floury hands and fried in olive oil for ten minutes until crispy. 

So useful to use up “bits” of remaining vegetables in the fridge, and a healthy, filling supper. As well as cheap to boot.

What’s not to love 😊

Flatbread Friday

I’m having a bit of a baking day today in preparation for the weekend. Tomorrow evening we’ll be eating houmous amongst other things, and homemade flatbreads are so much nicer to dip than shop bought. The great thing is that the dough lasts a good few days uncooked in the fridge, so I’m able to get the prep out of the way we’ll in advance. 

Not that there’s much prep involved. These are yeast-free breads that make up in minutes. The only thing that takes any time is rolling them out. I like to add something to add a bit of pep, like cardamon or poppy seeds, but the beauty of these are their simplicity. 

The Salt & Pepper Pots of Joy

I’ve spent most of my adult life searching for salt and pepper mills that work brilliantly as well as looking the part. There’s nothing more frustrating for a cook to have mills that need constant refills, or that clog frequently, or that just refuse to spit out anything more than an irritating trickle of condiment. 

I’ve tried electric mills, manual mills, Peugout mills, ceramic, stainless steel and just about every type going. They all work after a fashion, but not brilliantly, and none were anything to write home about in terms of looks. 

Now these beauties may just have broken the jinx. Made by an artist in Wales, and hand carved and painted, they certainly look the part. Sort of spiky and fifty shades of grey in a culinary way…😊. But would they deliver?

I’ve just filled them and used them to season a huge pot of vegetable soup that I’m making, and I’m delighted to report that they grind both sea salt crystals and peppercorns wonderfully well. This may well be it… 💕