“Vine-Baked Feta” from “Sirocco”

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Kirstin: So I tweeted the very lovely Sabrina Ghayour to ask her what I should make next from her fab book and she suggested the vine-baked feta. I am always up for anything with feta, so when Anna and Tom couldn’t get into work because of flooding, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to make it. Because while I could have eaten all that feta by myself, I felt it was probably best to share it with others!

Did we love it? We totally did! I couldn’t find any vine leaves and instead wrapped it in baking parchment like a present as she suggests in her intro. I should also add that while I was looking for vine leaves I also found a new Lebanese food selection in our local M and S which was very exciting! I am definitely going to make this again as it’s a perfect starter; super easy and very tasty especially with flat bread and olives. All I had to do to make it was add the zest of a lemon, some garlic oil, chilli and thyme to the top of the cheese before baking. And with all the rain today, it was the nearest we were going to get to the taste of the Mediterranean on a summer’s day. Yum, yum, yum! Thank you for the tip! We’ll be making this one again, for sure. And even better with a cheeky glass of rosé.

“Vine-Baked Feta” from “Sirocco”

“Dark Chocolate, Cardamom and Espresso Mousse Cake” from “Sirocco”

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Kirstin: It’s always a wonderful feeling to find a recipe that you know you will treasure and pass on to others. These recipes, for me, must be easy and delicious. I set the bar even higher when it comes to desserts and baking as our family is not a fan of sweet food. But this recipe might just make into our Hall of Desserts Fame. Fabulously easy and tasting rather special, this chiffon cake is a winner. I was a tad worried about the cardamom, but I shouldn’t have been as it set off the chocolate and coffee perfectly. I am already looking forward to making this again, and smile at the thought of the book page becoming more splattered as the years go by.

“Dark Chocolate, Cardamom and Espresso Mousse Cake” from “Sirocco”

“Citrus and Za’atar Chicken” from “Sirocco”

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Kirstin: I knew I wanted to make this recipe as soon I opened the book.

Tom: Why’s that then?

Kirstin: I’ve never made anything with za’atar before, even though I have the spice in my cupboard. So I’ve been curious about it for a while.

Tom: And what do you think of this recipe?

Kirstin: I love the flavourings. But the chicken is a little dry.

Tom: I love the little accompaniments you’ve made here too which make it less dry. So what are in these bowls?

Kirstin: One has harissa in it. The other is greek yoghurt with some minced garlic and salt. They do work well with it, don’t they?

Tom: I love harissa.

Kirstin: Ha! I know you too well.

“Citrus and Za’atar Chicken” from “Sirocco”

“Avocado Mash on Griddled Sourdough” from “Sirocco”

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Kirstin: So this is the third time I’ve made us avocado mash from one of our cookbooks of the month.

Tom: This is great!

Kirstin: I love the spring onions, chilli and griddled bread with this. All supremely good additions. Also I finally found the tahini after a trawl of our local shops.

Tom: I was worried the tahini would be too much and overpower it all.

Kirstin: But it’s good with the lemon zest, isn’t it? You know when you make food and you get all the ingredients together and you just know they’re going to make you smile when you make the final meal. That’s what happened with this recipe.

Tom: I can see why!

“Avocado Mash on Griddled Sourdough” from “Sirocco”

“Bo Bun Salad” from “It’s All Easy”

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Tom: This is yum! This is like being at Slanted Door.

Kirstin: Ah. So we had Zuni and now Slanted Door.

Tom: All my favourite restaurants in San Francisco.

Kirstin: You know I’ve never been to Slanted Door, but you always tell me about it. One day!

Tom: Well I like going there on a Thursday lunch time and having a cheeky lunch.

Kirstin: But without me!

Tom: Well I wish you were there! And this is yum!

Kirstin: It has all the Vietnamese feels, doesn’t it?

Tom: It’s the fried shallots…

Kirstin: Yes, I’m going to smell of fried shallots all day now. Oooops. Also I couldn’t find palm sugar, sorry Gwyneth. And I still don’t have a spiralizer, so I bought the courgette ready spiralized. And the Armenian cucumber. I have no idea what that was all about. So a bit of a faff, but worth every second.

Tom: This is epic! My favourite lunch for a very long time.

Kirstin: I think we need to go to Vietnam some time. It’s so delicious! Right, let’s going back to listening to The Police.

“Bo Bun Salad” from “It’s All Easy”

Chicken Piccata” from “It’s All Easy”

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Tom: Oh this very yum!

Ella: Ooooooo.

Miles: Yummmm.

Tom: I like this!

Miles: Is this Pepper Pots again?

Kirstin: That’s right. Pepper Pots and her latest cookbook.

Tom: So did you put a lot of pepper in this?

Kirstin: Actually, I taught Miles how to season things today, so there is some pepper!

Tom: What’s in the sauce.

Kirstin: Lemon juice, capers, butter. I think that’s it. And the flour thickens things.

Tom: Whatever it is, it’s lovely!

Kirstin: I’m DEFINITELY making this again!

Chicken Piccata” from “It’s All Easy”

“Minced Turkey Chilli” from “A Year of Good Eating”

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Anna: This was as advertised: fast, easy and tasted, well, kind of like a chilli. I say that because it was hot (“It has some tickle”, said Peter) though the spice combination isn’t what I’d usually choose for a chilli. Interestingly the recipe calls for curry powder. I was doubtful. Frankly it reads like something out of the 70s. Like a chilli recipe written by someone who has just discovered the concept and decides to sexy up their usual mince recipe. But I went with it. That’s what I’m here for. And do you know what? The spicing wasn’t the issue in the end. It was the sauce, or lack of it. I was so convinced there was a typo in the recipe that I searched online but could find no correction. How you can be expected to ‘simmer’ something that is made up of fried-off mince and drained beans I don’t know. So I added chicken stock. Which is what I would recommend you do too. Served with a baked sweet potato it was a decent mid-week meal. Just don’t forget the chicken stock.

 

“Minced Turkey Chilli” from “A Year of Good Eating”

“Gnocchi Dolcelatte” from “A Year of Good Eating”

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The photo may be rubbish, but the dish is anything but.

I made this for Meat Free Monday. It is far from healthy– there’s double cream, gorgonzola and the gnocchi– but it is delicious. It’s also easy, which is helpful when you’re trying to get back into the swing of things following the Christmas break. In this house, we are doing neither Dry January NOR a detox month, so this was just the ticket for a cold January night.

The original recipe calls for spinach, but Nigel helpfully offers up alternatives of purple sprouting broccoli or lightly cooked brussels sprouts. I used tenderstem broccoli, which isn’t purple, but it’s close enough. Three-quarters of this family like spinach, but the remaining one-quarter is a very vocal dissenter in fondness for spinach, and it’s not worth the fight sometimes.

The broccoli went a long way to breaking up the richness of the cheese, double cream and pasta. However, after a few bites the younger set found this dish too rich. But the adults loved it regardless.

Would I make it again? Most definitely.

If you’d like to make this yourself, click through on this sentence to find the original recipe in The Guardian.

 

“Gnocchi Dolcelatte” from “A Year of Good Eating”

“Pomegranate Muesli”

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Anna: We are Bircher muesli converts. On a weekly basis, on a day of his choosing, Peter constructs his Bircher and the next morning, like a little surprise, there’s a bowl of oaty, chia-seedy goodness waiting for me to take to work. So I had to try Nigella’s take for comparison, it would have been remiss of me not to. Cobbling together the ingredients was painless. Pomegranate seeds in a tub, and scissor-snipped dried apricots helped. You can always rely on Nigella for shortcuts. The verdict? A bit milky, but good. It filled me up. I’ll take that. Peter’s verdict? Incredulous despair at the seemingly small portion. He required a marmalade and toast chaser. Next time I’ll double the recipe.

“Pomegranate Muesli”