Pea and Mint Spread

Pea and mint spread recipe

I had to go into Truro to have my eyes tested this morning.  I went out early and skipped breakfast (tut tut) then arrived in town just in time for my appointment.  I went through the usual rigmarole; puffs of air in the eye, a lecture for leaving it too long between appointments and complete indecision when choosing new frames to go with the new prescription.  By time I left I was just in time for my bus home.

On the up side that meant no time wasted.  On the down side it meant no time for a self indulgent cup of coffee – and I do like my coffee.

All in all, I arrived home at lunch time tired, hungry and a little bit grumpy.  I opened the fridge and couldn’t immediately find anything quick and tasty – so I made this.  And it was delicious.  And quick.  And easy.  And healthy.  In other words a perfect Monday lunch.

I have called it a spread, because I spread it on some crackers, but it could just as easily be a dip with some crudité.    And it is so simple it doesn’t really need a recipe – change the flavours to suit whatever you have in the fridge:  No crème fraiche?  Use natural yoghurt or cream cheese.  No mint?  Try coriander or parsley.  Just make it your own and enjoy it.

I’ve stopped being grumpy now but I might just have a little bit more pea spread – just to make sure…

Pea Dip Recipe


100g frozen peas

A sprig or two of fresh mint

1 Spring Onion

1 tbsp crème fraiche


Put the peas in a pan, just cover with water and bring to the boil.  Simmer for a minute until heated through.  Drain and rinse with cold water.  Drain again.

Blitz the peas with a stick blender until you have a course purée.

Finely slice the spring onion and mint leaves.  Add to the peas along with the crème fraiche.  Season well.

You can eat this as a dip with vegetable crudité or spread it onto crackers or a chunk of crusty bread.




Chilled Pea Soup with Parmesan Ice Cream

I have to confess to a guilty secret – I am a huge fan of Come Dine With Me.  Generally speaking I am not a fan of reality TV shows but there is something about this one that I love – maybe it’s the frequent ineptitude, lack of food knowledge or hapless social skills but I just can’t help it.

One common theme on the programme is that of soup – every time someone makes soup as a starter it is condemned as lazy, uninspired and overly simple – and that’s before it has been tasted.  This always surprises me, not just because I love soup but because it is so easy to elevate it into an elegant dinner party dish.

This chilled pea soup is light and flavoursome and I would happily eat it just as it is, as a simple mid-week lunch.  It is a great way to use up a glut of peas from the allotment but works just as well with frozen peas.

The recipe I used came from Jason Atherton’s Maze cookery book where nothing is uninspired!  He garnishes the soup with spring onions, peas, edible flowers and confit shallots and then serves it with parmesan ice cream – delicious.  Jason serves the ice cream on polenta tuiles but I used parmesan crisps which worked beautifully.

This really is not a “lazy” soup but it is worth all the effort if you have friends over for lunch a more formal meal.

Chilled Pea Soup Recipe


1 Onion (finely sliced)

3 oz / 75g Butter

9 fl oz / 250 ml Chicken Stock

9 fl oz / 250 ml Whole Milk

1 lb / 500g Peas (fresh or frozen)

Salt & Pepper


Melt the butter in a large pan and add the onions.  Sautee over a low heat until soft and translucent.  Pour in the stock and milk and bring to the boil, tip in the peas and bring back to the boil then remove from the heat.

Strain the peas and onions over a jug then put into a liquidizer with half the liquid and blend (you may need to do this in two batches).  Push the soup through a sieve to make sure it is really smooth then add more of the stock/milk liquid until you have the consistency you want.  Season to taste.

Cover the soup and chill before serving in cold bowls garnished with chopped spring onions, peas, edible flowers and shallot confit (recipe below).  Serve with a scoop of parmesan ice cream on a parmesan crisp (recipes below) on the side.

Shallot Confit Recipe


9 long shallots – finely chopped

7 fl oz / 200 ml Olive Oil

1 Sprig of Thyme

A large pinch of Sea Salt


Put all the ingredients in a heavy based pan.  Cook over a very low heat for 30 minutes until the shallots are soft and translucent.  Allow to cool, discard the thyme and put into an airtight container and store in a cool place (use within a week).  Drain off the excess oil before using.

Parmesan Ice Cream Recipe


500 ml Double Cream

140g finely grated Parmesan


Heat the cream until almost boiling.  Remove from the heat and whisk in the grated parmesan.  Keep whisking until the cheese is melted.  Sieve into a bowl to remove any lumps.  Place the bowl of cream over a bowl of iced water.  Use a stick blender or electric hand mixer to mix on low until the cream cools then increase the speed and keep blending until it is completely cold and has thickened to a custard like consistency.

Pour into a shallow container and freeze.

This forms quite a dense ice cream so remove from the freezer 10 mins before you need it and use a cutter to remove disks of the firm, savoury yumminess.

Parmesan Crisps


Parmesan Cheese


Pre-heat the oven to 180 C /  350 F / Gas Mark 4

Finely grate the parmesan.

Put a sheet of greaseproof paper on the back of a baking sheet (this makes it easier to remove the crisps).  Place a 2″ cookie cutter or cooking ring onto the baking sheet, put a heaped teaspoon of cheese into the ring and spread it around – make sure the edges are particularly well coated.  Don’t press the cheese down – it will melt into itself and create a lacy effect.

Move the ring along to create the next disc and repeat until you have used all the cheese (or filled the sheet!).  You only need a couple of mm in between discs as they don’t spread much.

Place the tray in the oven and bake for 8-10 minutes until golden and bubbling.  Careful – they burn quickly after this stage.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool.  Store in an airtight tin.

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Baked Camembert with Nuts and Toffee Sauce

I quite often see photographs of food on Pinterest which look amazing but, when I read the recipe I kind of go off the idea.  This one, however, intrigued me.  Could a toffee sauce work with cheese?

The original recipe used brie but I happened to have some wonderfully ripe Cornish Camembert so I used that instead – you could use either.

The recipe also called for a sauce made from brown sugar and Kahlua but I really thought the coffee flavour might be a step too far – if you disagree give it a go and let me know how you get on.  I made a simple brown sugar and water syrup but it definitely lacked a little umph.  Next time I’ll try using the soy caramel sauce that I served with the mushroom custards to add a salty dimension to the flavours.

The original recipe also used pecan nuts whereas I chose mixed nuts – on balance I think it only needs the slighly bitter edge of walnuts – brazil nuts were definitely not quite right.

My original thought was that it looked somewhere between dessert and a cheese course so it could be a good way to end a meal.  In reality it is very sweet and very rich so it would probably be better served as part of a buffet or with nibbles for a girls night in – that way everyone can dunk in crackers or crudites and really enjoy the flavours without being over faced.

I will definitely try this again because it is great but not yet perfect.  Try experimenting with it yourself and let me know how you get on.


A round of Camembert or Brie in a wooden box – size to suit you.

A handful or two of (unsalted) Nuts – Walnuts work well.

2 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespons Water


Pre-heat the oven to 180C / 350F / Gas Mark 4

Remove the brie from the box and open (but do not remove) the wax paper wrapping.  Replace the cheese and the paper wrapper in the base of the box – open side up.  Fold back the paper to reveal the top of the cheese.

Trim the bloom (white rind) from the top edge of the cheese all the way around.  Place the cheese, in its box, on a baking sheet on the middle shelf of the oven.  Leave for around 5 or 6 minutes until the inside of the cheese is soft, gooey and runny.  Place the nuts on an oven tray and put them in the oven to toast for a few minutes – keep an eye on them as they can burn easily.

In the meantime make the sauce.  Place the sugar and water in a small saucepan over a medium heat until the sugar has melted (do not stir).  Turn up the heat and boil until you have a thick syrup.

Remove the cheese from the oven – you can serve it in its box and paper but place the whole thing on a serving plate because it can be messy.  Remove the top layer of bloom.

Stir the nuts into the sugar syrup until well coated and then spoon over the cheese.  Serve with oatcakes, crackers or crudites for dipping.  Or, if this is lunch, serve with hunks of crusty bread.

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Wheat Free Pizza

Pizza is yet another of my guilty treats (there are so many…) and I, along with many of my friends, was really pleased by the recent opening of the Cornish Pizza Company in the village where I live.  If you live in a large town or city you probably won’t appreciate this but when you live rurally quality take away food nearly always requires a substantial drive and the food is often cold by time you get it home.

But not everyone who enjoys pizza can get away with eating the wheat base – lots of people avoid wheat for medical reasons or because of a mild intolerance or indeed because they are on a low carb diet for weight loss.

So when I saw this cauliflower based pizza base I decided to try it out – if I can get a pizza hit and add to my 5 a day then it’s definitely worth experimenting.

The base is made from mashed cauliflower, grated mozzarella and basil, all bound together with some egg.  Once baked it becomes firm and stable and the cheese browns nicely giving it that wonderful cooked cheese hit that you really want from a pizza.  You can then add the topping of your choice as you would with any other base.

I have to say I loved this pizza – it was tasty and moreish but if it had a slight downside (very slight) it is that you really need to eat it with a knife and fork – the base is not quite stiff enough to be able to pick a slice up in your fingers without a laundry disaster.

The cauliflower base is so tasty that I am also going to make it again in tiny portions because I think it will make a really good vehicle for all sorts of dips or even as a canape base.



1 medium / large Cauliflower

250g Mozzarella – grated (don’t buy pre-grated if you can help it – it’s much less “rubbery” if you buy fresh and grate it yoursef)

2 Eggs – lightly whisked

A small handfull of basil leaves, shredded.


Whatever you like to put on your pizza!  I used:

1 Red Onion – sauteed

3 or 4 Mushrooms – sliced and sauteed

Small Plum Tomatoes, halved.

10-12 Slices of Pepperoni

Some torn up, left over Mozzarella

A few torn Basil Leaves.


Makes 2 8″ / 20cm Pizzas

Pre-heat the oven to 200 C / 400 F / Gas Mark 6

Chop up the cauliflower and steam until just cooked.  Set aside to cool and then grate into a sieve over a bowl.  Squeeze out as much water as you can and discard the water.  Put the cauliflower into the now dry bowl, add the grated mozzarella, the shredded basil leaves and the eggs and stir it all together.

Lightly grease a non-stick baking sheet (it really needs to be non-stick) – you may need two sheets.  Spoon the cauliflower mixture into two piles on the sheet(s) and flatten into rough circles approximately 8″ / 20cm in diameter and 1/4 ” / 5mm deep.  If you want to be neater you can use the outer ring of a springform cake tin as a guide.

Place the tray(s) in the top of the oven for 12 – 15 minutes.  I like the crispy bits round the edge that come from longer cooking – if you do too keep an eye on it after 12 mins and leave it until it looks brown and bubbly.


Remove the pizza bases from the oven and add the topping of your choice. You can use a traditional tomato sauce but I like the freshness that comes from lightly roasted fresh tomatoes – particularly in the summer when they are home grown.

Return to the oven for 5 minutes until the topping is heated through and any cheese is melting nicely. Serve with a green salad.

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Red Onion Tarte Tatin

I wrote this piece during National Vegetarian week because I was saddened to read an article which claimed that over 70% of people would avoid inviting a friend for dinner if he / she was a vegetarian.  I don’t really understand why people are afraid of vegetarian food – there are so many great, simple recipes to cook which don’t include meat but then I used to be a vegetarian myself so maybe I am biased.

These days I am a confirmed meat eater but I still cook vegetarian meals once or twice a week at home.  It may just be a simple soup or stew served with crusty bread, roasted mediterranean vegetables with grilled halloumi, a rich, lentil heavy curry or a huge bowl of salad using whatever is in season plus some pasta or new potatoes.  These meals are tasty and satisfying and also have the added benefit of being cheaper than meat.  The saving I make on veggie nights allows me to buy really good quality meat when I am being a little more carniverous.

If you are still feeling in need of inspiration just type “vegetarian recipes” into your favourite search engine and browse – you are bound to find something that you want to make.

My inspiration today came from a quick trip to the village greengrocers where a box full of little, sweet red onions inspired me to make a red onion tarte tatin.  I have been making this tart for years (I think the original recipe came from a Delia Smith book) and it’s a lovely savoury twist on the classic apple tarte tatin.  This one uses shortcrust rather than puff pastry (I much prefer the short crispness) and it’s flavoured with cheese and thyme.

If you are making it for vegans just replace the butter with a soya margerine and either leave out the cheese (add a little more fat to the pastry) or use a vegan cheese alternative.  If you are not sure what your guests do or don’t eat then ask them – it’s better than leaving them out.


2½ lb / 1kg Red Onions

1 oz / 25g Butter

1 tsp Caster Sugar

6 small Thyme Sprigs

1 tbsp Fresh Thyme leaves

1 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar

Salt and Pepper

For the pastry

5 oz / 75 g Plain Flour

2 oz / 50 g Butter (softened)

1 oz / 25 g Cheddar Cheese (grated)

1 oz / 25g Parmesan Cheese (grated) plus a few extra shavings to serve

1 teaspoon chopped fresh Thyme Leaves


Pre-heat the oven to 180°C / 350°F / Gas Mark 4

Peel the onions and slice in half through the root (this helps them to stay intact during cooking).

Place a heavy based, oven proof frying pan on a medium heat. Add the butter and the sugar. When the butter has melted add the thyme sprigs and remove the pan from the heat.

Arrange the onions cut side down in the pan – bear in mind that the underside will be the top of the tart once it is turned out. Cut any left over onions into wedges and use to fill in any gaps between the onion halves.

Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, scatter over the chopped thyme and sprinkle in the vinegar. Return the pan to a low heat and cook gently for 10 minutes. Cover the pan with foil and place in the oven for 50 minutes.

While the onions are cooking, make the pastry. Rub together the flour and butter until the mixture resembles fine crumbs. Stir in the grated cheese and chopped thyme. Add enough cold water – about 2-3 tablespoons – to make a soft dough. Wrap the dough in cling film and put it into the fridge for 30 minutes to rest.

Remove the pan from the oven and check the onions – they should be cooked through but still offer some resistance.

Turn the oven temperature up to 200°C / 400°F / Gas Mark 6.

Put the pan back on the hob over a medium heat until the buttery juices are reduced to a very small amount of syrup.

Roll out the pastry to a circle about the same diameter as the pan. Place the pastry over the onions, pushing down and tucking in the edges all round the inside of the pan. Return the tart to the oven and cook for 25-30 minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden.

When the tart is cooked, remove it from the oven and allow it to cool for 20 minutes before turning it out onto a flat serving plate or board. If some of the onions are left in the pan just lift them out and replace them in the pastry case.

Serve the tart warm with a few shavings of parmesan and a side salad.