Chicken Noodle Soup

The classically vibrant chicken noodle soup, is one of my all time favorite meals in winter. It's packed full of nutrients and doesn't skimp on the flavour. I often make the Asian infused version, as I find it adds more character and substance to the soup.

Serves 4
4 chicken thighs, with skin and bones
5 spring onions
5cm ginger piece, skin peeled and finely sliced
4 garlic cloves, finely sliced
2 red chillies, deseeded and finely sliced
2 corn on the cob
200g pak choi, slice the stem and leaf
1 lemon grass
1 chicken stock cube
120g wheat broad noodles
coriander/ cilantro
light soy sauce
toasted sesame seed oil
ground nut oil

1) In a heavy based pan, on a medium high heat, add 2tbsp of ground nut oil and sear the chicken on both sides for 4 mins, each side. Remove and set aside.
2) Slice the white part of the spring onions and leave the green top for later.
3) In the same pan add 1tbsp of toasted sesame seed oil and add the white sliced spring onions, garlic, ginger and half of the red chilli and cook for 2/3 mins.
4) Crumble in the stock cube, give it a stir and add 800ml of boiling water. Stir well and add 3tbsp of light soy sauce. Bruise the lemon grass and add that to the pan.
5) Add the seared chicken thighs into the broth and turn down the heat to a medium low. Leave to cook for 20mins.
6) With a sharp knike, slice the kernels off the cob and add to the pan, along with the two naked cobs. And leave to cook for another 10mins.
7) Remove the chicken from the broth and remove the skin and shred the meat from the bone. Return the shredded chicken to the pan. Add the pak choi stalks only at this point. Leave to cook for 5 mins.
8) Remove the cobs from the pan and add the noodles, pak choi leaves and the rest of the chopped chillies to the soup and cook for 4 mins.
9) Separate the noodles and add a handful of chopped coriander/ cilantro and the sliced green spring onions. Serve immediately.

*Cooks Tip: If you can't find pak choi, any other cabbage will do. Such as a pointed cabbage.


Mince Pies

~21st Century Mince Pies ~
These new generation mince pies were just what my family needed after many years of the classic shortcrust variety. Don't be fooled by their extravagant appeal, they are extremely simple to make. Due to their simplicity and style, they are the perfect addition to any Christmas meal.

Makes 12 Mince Pies
1 orange
10 hazelnuts
50g 70% chocolate
250g mincemeat
370g puff pastry
200g fillo pastry
100g melted butter
icing sugar

1)  Using a pestle & mortar, pound the hazelnuts into fine crumbs. And with a sharp knife chop the  chocolate finely.
2)  On a well floured surface, roll out the puff pastry into a 3mm rectangle. 
3)  Grate half an orange and using your finger tips move the zest around the dough, covering its entire surface. 4) Spoon over the mince meat all over the rectangular dough and sprinkle over the hazelnuts (leaving a hand full aside) and dark chocolate.
5)  Tightly roll the dough lengthways, until you have a long log.
6)  Cut 12 rolls and set them aside.
7)  Preheat the oven to 180C/ 350F/ gas mark 4
8)  On a clear surface, overlap four corners of the fillo sheets, resulting in a a large rectangle. Thinly brush all over with melted butter. Repeat the process until you have 4 layers, that will be a total of 16 fillo pastry sheets. On the top layer, cover with melted butter.
9)  Using a 12 cup cupcake oven tray, place the buttered side of the fillo pasty layers over it and carefully press in the pastry into the moulds, covering the whole oven tray.
10)  Place the 12 puff mince rolls in each mould and sprinkle the rest of the grounded hazelnuts on top of each one. Brush over the remaining butter over the fillo pastry and sprinkle some icing sugar and place in the preheated oven for 25mins.
11)  Leave to cool completely and break each one apart. Give a final dusting of icing sugar...
12)  Enjoy...





Empanadas are highly regarded in Argentina and can be found on almost every menu. Whether served fried or oven baked, filled with meat, fish or cheese, empanadas have become a staple of Argentinean cuisine. While other countries have their own take on this meat filled patty, the Argentineans are one of the most passionate about them and even have takeaway and home delivery outlets solely for empanadas! The classic filling is the beef filled variety but I wanted to make my own version, combining the empanada casing and a ricotta and salami calzone filling. These empanadas are great to serve at a party or even as an Argentinean dinner.  

Makes 6 Beef & 6 Ricotta and Salami  Empanadas
~For the pastry~
450g plain flour
1tsp salt
1/2tsp black pepper
1tsp baking powder
60g cold lard
60g cold butter
200ml cold water
1 egg, for brushing pastry

~Traditional Beef filling~
250g sirloin steak, fat removed and finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, sliced
2 eggs, hard boiled and shelled
1/2tsp cumin seeds
1/2tsp paprika
1/2tsp chilli powder
10 small black olives, such as leccino, sliced
2tsp tomato paste
olive oil

~Ricotta & Salami filling~
250g ricotta
150g salami block, such as napoli salami, 1/2cm cubes
1 mozzarella ball, dried and finely chopped
50g pecorino cheese, finely grated
1tsp black pepper

1) In a large mixing bowl, add the flour, salt, black pepper and baking powder and mix well.
2) Cube the lard and butter into 1cm cubes and combine them with the flour and incorporate by rubbing the fat and flour together, until they form into fine crumbs.
3) Add the chilled water, bit by bit, until it forms into a soft dough. Place in the fridge to rest for 1hr.
4) Meanwhile, in a large frying pan add 3tsp of olive oil and the finely chopped onion and garlic and fry for 2/3mins. Then add the finely chopped steak and cook until browned. Add the cumin, black olives, paprika, tomato paste and chilli powder and stir well. Season well with salt and black pepper. Chop the eggs and add to the pan, mix well and cook for a further 5mins, then leave to cool completely.
5) Meanwhile, in a large mixing bowl, add the ricotta, cubed salami, mozzarella and pecorino and mix very well. No need to add salt, as pecorino is salty, but add 1tsp of black pepper.
6) Preheat the oven to 200C/ 390F/ gas mark 6.
7) Half the pastry dough and on a well floured surface, roll it out into a thin sheet. Using a saucer, cut six circles. And repeat the same process for the other half of the pastry dough.
8) On one side of each circle fill with each filling. Brush the edges with egg and fold over and twist braid the edges to close. Or just crimp the edges.
9) Brush with egg and place in the preheated oven for 15mins or until golden.
10) Enjoy!

*Cook's Tip: You can make the empanadas and freeze to cook at a later date. Just egg wash before placing in the oven. Also if your in a hurry or not confident making your own pastry, you can use a ready made puff pastry.


Panettone Bread and Butter Pudding

This recipe originates from a classic British dessert, known as 'bread and butter pudding' and dates back to the early 18th century. The use of panettone instead of bread, gives this dessert a completely different dimension and adds a depth of flavour, that only panettone could bring. This is quite an effortless dessert to make, nevertheless,  still manages to please and indulge any crowd.

Serves 6
1 panettone
60g sultanas
200ml sweet dessert wine
200ml milk
300ml double cream
1 vanilla pod
4 egg yolks
salted butter
150g caster sugar

1) Soak the sultanas with the dessert wine for at least 2hrs or preferably overnight.
2) Preheat the oven to 180C/ 350F/ gas mark 4.
3) In a pan, pour the milk, cream and add the egg yolks and sugar. Slice the vanilla pod length ways and remove the seeds with the tip of the knife and add to the mixture. Whisk them together before adding the pan to a medium low heat for 3mins, whisking constantly. Drain the sultanas and pour the drained dessert wine into the milky mixture and leave to cool down.
4) Remove the crust from the panettone (and enjoy..) and slice the rest into 2cm slices.
5) Add the slices to the bottom of an oven proof dish and cover with half of the milky mixture. Scatter the soaked sultanas and layer more slices of panettone until it reaches the top of the dish and cover everything with the rest of the milky mixture. Leave to absorb for 5mins.
6) Add a few small knobs of butter around the corners of the dish and place in the preheated oven for 35-40mins. You'll know it's done, when you have a crispy topping and a luxurious, firm, creamy centre.
7) Leave to cool until it reaches room temperature and enjoy either on its own, with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or warm custard.


Minestrone d'inverno

There is nothing better on a cold winters day than a nice, hot bowl of authentic minestrone. It's a very forgiving and versatile dish, you can adapt the vegetables to suit seasons, preferences, occasion or just simply what you have in the fridge. For the winter version of minestrone, I personally tend to just change the pulses and the green leafy vegetables.

Serves 4
1onion, diced
4 garlic cloves, sliced
5 celery stalks, slices
2 large carrots, roughly cubed
150g cubed pancetta, optional
2x 400g plum tomato tins
270g dried cannellini beans, soaked overnight and cooked
400g cavolo nero, or swiss chard, curly kale
1 organic chicken stock cube
100g spaghetti, snapped in small pieces
grated parmesan cheese
olive oil

1) In a heavy based pan, on a medium heat, add 3tbsps of olive oil and add the cubed pancetta. Fry the pancetta until crisp and golden and immediately add the onion, garlic, carrot and celery. Add a pinch of salt so the onions don't brown and cover with a lid and leave to cook for 25mins, on a low heat.
2) Add the plum tomatoes and season with salt and a generous amount of black pepper. Stir well and leave to cook for a further 10mins. Slice the stalks of the basil and add to the pan.  
3) Pour in 700ml of boiling water and crumble in the stock cube. Check the seasoning again.
4) Slice the cavolo nero and add to the pan. Followed by the cannellini beans and stir well. Leave to cook on a medium low heat for 5mins.
5) Add the broken pieces of spaghetti and leave to cook for a further 10mins.
6) Grate over a little parmesan and add a generous amount of torn basil leaves.
7) Serve with a nice crusty bread and more parmesan to serve at the table.

*Cooks Tip: Never throw away parmesan rind. For a dish such as this, you can add it to the cooking process and take it out at the end. Once you grate the parmesan as much as you can, store the rind in the fridge and it keeps for months.