socca with mushrooms, parmesan and truffle oil

On holiday in the South of France we tried the traditional Niçoise socca for the first time and couldn’t believe how delicious it was. It’s crispy and pancakey like a pizza and it really lends itself to all the flavours of a pizza or a sandwich, because like bread it’s a blank canvas. It’s also gluten free and made with chick pea flour so it’s high is protein. If you make small ones they could be fantastic as gluten free canapé bases… just sayin’. They are really easy to make, too… and my new store cupboard staple.
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braised squid in red wine with olives

This recipe is Turkish in origin and from a cookbook by Ghillie Basan. It’s the perfect winter stew as it has lots of spicy flavours and the red wine turns the squid a lovely dark aubergine colour. I have replaced the sugar with maple syrup so it’s a bit healthier. You can cook it in advance and reheat it later, if you want to do hassle free entertaining. I serve mine with roasted sourdough bread or basmati rice and a salad and pretend I’m on holiday.

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pistachio and chocolate meringue biscuits

These are my version of the traditional biscuits called “Brutti-ma-Buoni” in Italian… they are light, chewy, crispy and melt in the mouth and a bit macaron like and the chocolate and nuts magically end up in the centre. They are also gluten and dairy free. Pistachio and chocolate are a fantastic combination and they are perfect with a coffee at the end of a meal and they are super easy to make. I think they make fantastic home made gifts wrapped in cellophane with a ribbon. Perfect at Christmas or anytime.

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savoury stuffed apples with rice pine nuts and currants

I adore sweet and savoury flavours together and this recipe from The Complete Book of Turkish Cooking nails this perfectly. I have tweaked it a bit because the first time I cooked them the cooking apples burst and so I had to start again even though they tasted amazing, so I went with Braeburn apples instead. I have also added more pine nuts and currants as I thought the recipe needed it and replaced the sugar with maple syrup as it’s low GI and used basmati rice. They are perfect as a side to a roast instead of stuffing or cold with a salad.

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whole roast pumpkin stuffed with rice pistachios apricots and cranberries

This really delicious stuffed pumpkin tastes and looks amazing, it makes a fantastic center piece on the table for Christmas or Halloween. It’s packed with nuts and fruit, is perfumed with saffron and based on a traditional Turkish recipe from a cookbook by Ghillie Basan but I’ve made it a bit easier. It’s great with roast potatoes and all the trimmings of a traditional roast dinner instead of turkey or even with turkey or you can stay trad and serve it with other middle eastern dishes and salads, it’s also perfect with labneh with garlic in it.

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freekeh salad with roasted vegetables

Freekah is fast becoming the new superfood. It’s a baby green wheat which has been roasted which gives it a slightly smoky flavour and it’s much higher in protein and fibre than quinoa and has a much better texture and flavour. It can be added to stir fries and salads. If you google its health benefits they are endless. You can use it as you would quinoa and I buy it ready cooked from the supermarket in a bag made by Merchant Gourmet(or you can cook it from scratch) This healthy salad recipe is middle eastern in its style of flavours with cinnamon and smoked paprika. It’s perfect with other salads, roasts or humus and bread. It’s also a perfect lunch with a dollop of garlicky yogurt.

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spaghetti al nero with mushrooms and chilli

This spaghetti recipe is a traditional Italian recipe which is like a lot of Italian recipes, it’s really simple but nails it with its flavours. I bought my mushrooms at Morrison’s as they have a brilliant selection of veg, fruit and herbs. The spaghetti al nero I got from my local Italian deli, but it’s equally good with standard spaghetti. It’s essentially vegan except for the spaghetti al nero which is made with squid ink, so to get the same vibe you could use black rice noodles. For the Parmesan lovers like myself, you can add lots of freshly grated Parmesan. If you’re vegan or vegetarian, you can find a vegan parmesan in your local supermarket or health food shop.

It’s perfect for a dinner party served with a salad and some crusty bread or for a date night as it looks really beautiful.

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beetroot salad with pistachios

Apart from being very pretty, this beetroot salad tastes amazing. It’s from the fab cookbook Many Greek Kitchens by Tessa Kiros which is stuffed with brilliant recipes and pictures. I served this at a dinner party with other salads, fries and roast fish, but you could also serve it as part of a mezze. It’s fresh creamy sweet and crunchy, my favourite things.

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