Sausage Plait

There are certain processes in the kitchen I find to be inherently therapeutic. Usually these are repetitive, methodical simple steps of a recipe that allow you to zone out Stirring a risotto is the most well-known – letting your mind wander as you add stock, stir and repeat for twenty minutes. Rolling meatballs, stamping out shortbread and dicing cucumber are more of my favourites. But the one I probably do the most would have to be plaiting pastry for this, one of my favourite go-to dinners.

Sausage Plait

Admittedly, plaiting the pastry here doesn’t take as long as stirring a whole risotto, but it is just as satisfying to do. So satisfying and simple in fact, that it became a very frequent staple of my family’s dinner rotation. Every time we make it, we end up making several more to last us the next few days. Eventually we have to go on a temporary Sausage Plait Ban to ensure we don’t have it for the sixth day in a row. This always lasts for a while, until there is some puff pastry and leftover sausages that need using up in the fridge…and then it is back to square one.

Sausage Plait

Serves 4

  • 450g sausage meat (or six sausages, removed from their skins
  • 1 apple, cored and diced
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 375g ready rolled puff pastry
  • 1 egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 220’C.

Mix together the apple, onion and sausage meat. Unroll the pastry and lay on a baking tray. Shape the sausage meat into a long rectangle down the centre third. Use a sharp knife to cut the pastry on either side of the sausage meat into horizontal strips 1cm wide. Lay these over the sausage meat, one from each side at a time to form a plait style. Tuck the pastry at each end up over the sausage meat.

Brush the beaten egg all over the pastry. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the pastry is golden and crisp.

Green vegeree

As I get older, I am definitely becoming a less fussy eater. Things I used to once hate have been tentatively embraced into my kitchen as I discover new ways of cooking that are too good to resist. Courgetti persuaded me to get on board with courgettes (although never as a permanent substitute for spaghetti, I’m not crazy). Shakshuka helped me embrace red peppers, squeaky texture and all. Certain foods remain strongly disliked – any conversion ideas welcome! – so blue cheese, walnuts and mushrooms are yet to make it on to any plate of mine. Smoky flavours are also hit and miss with me, hence why I had never made a traditional kedgeree with smoked haddock before. When I saw this idea in Waitrose magazine, swapping fish for veg, I was hooked!

vegeree

The basic idea of a kedgeree had certainly always appealed. Spicy rice, perfectly cooked oozing eggs – it all sounded like an ideal brunch or easy dinner. Like I say, this vegeree keeps all those vital elements whilst simply subbing in some hearty spinach instead of fish. This could also be adapted further by swapping the spinach for kale, cavolo nero or chard. I also loved the crunch of the salty cashew nuts on top, balancing the rich egg yolk perfectly. I’ll admit I often struggle to cook rice perfectly in this way and always find it hard to get dry, fluffy rice without burning the bottom or crunching on raw grains! For this recipe, I think it is okay to err on the more liquid side to prevent these issues and ensure fully cooked rice as there are enough other ingredients to balance a softer texture.

Green vegeree

Serves 3-4, recipe adapted from here.

  • Oil
  • 1 onion
  • 300g basmati rice
  • 2tsp curry powder
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 large handfuls baby spinach
  • handful toasted cashew nuts

Add the onion and oil to a large pan and cook for 5-10 minutes until the onion starts to soften. Meanwhile, rinse the rice until the water runs clear.

Stir the curry powder into the onion, cook for 1 minute, then add the drained rice and stock. Season generously with salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, stir, then simmer gently, covered, for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, simmer the eggs in a separate pan of boiling water for 6-7 minutes. Cool briefly in cold water, then peel and halve.

After 10 minutes, stir the spinach through the rice. Season generously, re-cover the pan, then turn off the heat and leave for 10 minutes. Fluff up with a fork and top with the halved eggs and cashew nuts.

Spinach and feta filo pie

Travelling always has an influence on what I’m cooking. It’s inevitable really – you go on holiday, have fabulous meals in fabulous sunny places and want to recreate some of those good memories back home. After visiting Tresco, I craved fresh crab – a tricky thing to source in London. When my Mum came home from two weeks in Italy we were treated to lemony pasta dishes and affogato. My biggest influence this summer was going to the Greek island of Symi and eating daily spanakopita (spinach and feta filo pie) on the beach for lunch. Picked up from the harbour bakery before hopping on the boat in the morning, my sister and I carefully guarded it until lunchtime – even fending off goats sniffing around our sun loungers on one beach! It made the perfect lunch in the sunshine once you were ravenous from a morning of swimming. Once home, I knew this was a dish I wanted to continue having.

Spinach and feta filo pie

Spanakopita is a very simple filo pie stuffed with spinach, feta and a sprinkling of nutmeg. The ones I ate in Symi were individually coiled into swirls like a pain au chocolat, giving a delicious contrast between crispy outsides and buttery soft centres. I kept it simple when recreating this at home and made one big pie. Of course, eating it in London in October doesn’t have quite the same charm as on a beach in August. However, even though my tan has faded and my summer clothes are folded away, this can transport me temporarily back to Symi beaches.

Spinach and feta filo pie

  • 150g butter
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 200g spinach leaves
  • ½ tsp grated nutmeg
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 100g feta
  • pack of filo pastry

Preheat the oven to 180’C.

Melt 50g of the butter in a medium saucepan. Finely dice the onion and add to the pan. Cook over a medium pan for 10 minutes until golden and completely soft. Crush the garlic into the pan and cook for 1-2 minutes more.

Add the spinach, stir into the onion and cover with a lid. Cook for five minutes until the spinach is wilted down. Remove from the heat and let cool for a few minutes. Grate in the nutmeg and crumble in the feta. Add the beaten eggs and stir so everything is fully combined.

Melt the remaining 100g butter in a small saucepan. Take a sheet of the filo and brush liberally with butter. Lay butter side down into a 20cm loose-bottomed cake tin and up the sides. Repeat with 3-4 sheets of filo, buttering each one, until the tin is fully covered and there is an even layer. Scrape in the spinach filling. Butter more filo sheets and lay over the top, encasing the filling. Brush the top with butter.

Bake in the oven for 30minutes until the pastry is crisp and golden.

Florentine Pizza

One of the headlines on the October issue of Cosmo recently read ‘Asos, Uber, Deliveroo – can you afford your lifestyle?’ Never has a headline felt so targeted towards me – I was pretty sure they’d had a sneaky look at my bank account. Deliveroo is dangerously addictive. You do it once as a treat, after a particularly stressful or exhausting day that leaves you craving Byron but with no desire to head back outside into a cold October night. After that first time, you remember how easy it was and how quickly the food came and it takes a lot of resistance to prevent it becoming a habit. The particularly tempting point for me came when a nearby Five Guys was added to the list of my local ordering options. But, as Cosmo was trying to remind me, takeaways are also annoyingly expensive and unhealthy, so it was time to try making my own.

Florentine pizza

My issue with cooking burgers at home is not only the struggle to get them to match up to a Five Guys offering, but also the inherent leftovers that come from inevitably buying a four pack of burger buns or large packet of mince. Pizza at home seemed like the way to go instead. This version is not completely cheat free, but it is so worth it and still feels more virtuous than a Dominos. My sneaky trick for making this extra delicious is using a garlic bread base instead of a plain pizza dough. These are usually nicer quality than plain bases from the supermarket anyway, but also that hidden layer of garlic butter adds so much more flavour. This makes more tomato sauce  than you need, but that just means there is enough for another non Deliveroo evening!

Florentine Pizza

Serves 1, generously!

  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 1 clove of garlic
  • 400g tin of tomatoes
  • 1/2tsp dried thyme
  • 1 round garlic bread base
  • 60g of cheddar, grated
  • large handful of baby spinach
  • 1 egg
  • large handful of rocket

Add a glug of oil and the diced onion to a medium saucepan. Heat over a medium-low heat for 10-15 minutes until the onions are soft and beginning to caramelise. Add the garlic clove and cook out for 1-2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and thyme and simmer for 10-15 minutes until reduced slightly and thickened.

Preheat the oven to 220’C and place a baking tray on the middle shelf to heat through. Spread a few tablespoons of tomato sauce over the garlic bread. Top with the spinach and grated cheese. Bake for 8 minutes to allow the bread to begin to get crispy. Remove from the oven and carefully crack the egg into the centre of the pizza. Return to the oven for 3-5 minutes until the white is set but the yolk is still runny. Remove from the oven and top with rocket. Enjoy!

Roast carrot, puy lentil and feta salad

When I left home and started university at Cambridge, I knew I would miss my home kitchen. Filled to the brim with every grain, spice, flour and baking ingredient you could need, it was a stark contrast to my empty cupboards on arrival in college. However, lacking a stocked store cupboard also proved to be refreshing – I was able to start from scratch and build stores of all just my favourites instead of the whole families. Goodbye Marmite and teabags, hello Dairy Milk and three types of pasta. Also hello to precooked pouches of lentils – a new discovery at uni and a rapid must have. I steered clear of cooking lentils much before these; lacking the patience to stir a cooking pan of lentils from scratch only for them to end up disappointingly mushy. With these pouches (Merchant Gourmet are the easiest to get hold of) however, healthy lentil lunches were suddenly only minutes away.

Roast carrot, lentil, feta salad

This is a perfect example of a healthy lunchtime salad that is still really filling and won’t leave you reaching for the Hobnobs by 3pm. The flavours give you a little bit of everything – earthy lentils, salty feta and sweetness from the roast carrots. Butternut squash or sweet potato would also work well in place of carrots, or even alongside them for a gorgeous orange veg medley.

Roast carrot, puy lentil and feta salad

Serves 2

  • 3 large carrots
  • 3tbsp olive oil
  • 250g pouch ready cooked lentils
  • ½ red onion
  • ½ lemon
  • 100g feta

Preheat the oven to 200’C. Peel the carrots and cut into sticks around 7cm long and 1cm wide. Toss in 2tbsp of the olive oil and spread in a single layer on a baking tray with a generous sprinkle of salt and pepper. Roast for 20-25 minutes, until tender and caramelised.

Meanwhile, finely slice the red onion, juice the half lemon and crumble the feta.

Microwave the lentils in the pouch according to packet instructions. Tip into a bowl and mix with the remaining ingredients, remaining olive oil, large pinch of salt and generous grinding of pepper. Serve warm and enjoy.

Avocado, bacon, tomato and pesto pasta salad

Every now and then, a dish comes along that just totally surprises you. This could be a restaurant dish that seemed like the risky choice and ends up stealing the show. A way of cooking a certain ingredient that turns you from a sceptic to a full on fan. Or maybe a pasta salad designed to just use up bits and bobs from the fridge that becomes your favourite lunch in a long time!

Avocado, bacon, tomato and pesto pasta salad

Calling this pasta salad ‘a dish’ is probably almost too extravagant. Yes, it is super simple, but it puts those packaged supermarket offerings to shame. It all just works perfectly together and is so addictive that The spare serving you’d made for lunch the next day might just get eaten too… Super crispy salty bacon, peppery rocket, creamy avocado and juicy tomatoes – what is not to like? Just looking at the picture again is making me hungry. The recipe is really just a guideline, for example I used orzo pasta here, in the spirit of using things up from my cupboard, but of course use any shape you fancy.

Avocado, bacon and tomato pesto pasta salad

Serves 2

  • 100g orzo
  • 3tbsp pesto
  • 4 rashers of bacon
  • 1/2 avocado
  • handful cherry tomatoes
  • large handful of rocket

Boil the pasta in a large saucepan of boiling salted water for 8-10 minutes until al dente. Meanwhile, fry the bacon until crisp. Place on kitchen paper to absorb excess oil and snip into 3cm chunks. Next, halve the cherry tomatoes and dice the avocado into large cubes.

When the pasta is cooked, drain well and tip into a large mixing bowl. Stir through the remaining ingredients and season generously with pepper (the bacon and pesto should be salty enough). Enjoy!

Confit shredded duck, miso plums and yuzu dressing

I remember once at cookery school getting thoroughly upset because I just couldn’t master an espagnole sauce. Every time we had to make it I got all nervous, found the whole thing a huge palaver and it never turned out right. However, after a while I realised that actually, not being able to master an espagnole, a word I’d never even heard of a few months before, was not the biggest flaw in the world. There were several other examples of that throughout my year at cookery school; moments where words you’d only discovered the day before suddenly ruled your day. A dish of ‘Bavarois, tamarillos and lebukchen’ was my clearest example – gobbledegook one day, three deal breakers the next.

Confit shredded duck, miso plums and yuzu dressing

This dish wasn’t quite up there with that, but it was still an adventure to make. I’d obviously heard of miso and yuzu, but I’d never actually cooked with them myself. Hunting down the red miso in Sainsbury’s, the little bottle of yuzu juice in Waitrose and then racing back to Waitrose at the last minute after realising the recipe called for duck legs that were already confit and not just regular ones all meant that this salad was quite the mission to get together. After all that though, it came together fairly speedily. The temptation to wrap the shredded duck up into pancakes with plum sauce and spring onions instead was tempting I can’t lie, but I’m glad I stuck with giving this a go. Tangy, fruity and peppery – all the flavours balanced into one intriguingly moreish plateful. The full recipe by Rose Prince is on The Telgraph website here – enjoy!

Creamy lemon courgette risotto

Last night I was woken up three times by crazy thunderstorms. Huge flashes of lightning, followed by counting the seconds until the seemingly endless rumble of thunder breaks, the rain persistently pounding the roof. Not exactly ideal July weather. Good for the garden, maybe, but not for maintaining a holiday tan. It also causes a dilemma for summer cooking – despite it being late July, torrential rain does not call for summer salads.

Courgette and lemon risotto

This summer risotto is the answer. It’s hearty enough to suit the weather, but with fresh flavours and a way to use up some of the courgette glut that regularly occurs at this time of year. The swirl of crème fraiche at the end is entirely optional but I love it for making this extra creamy and luxurious, balanced perfectly by the crunchy pine nut sprinkling. Time to curl up with a big bowl, listen to the rain and cross your fingers for sunshine soon.

Creamy lemon and courgette risotto

  • 1 onion
  • 3 courgettes
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 200g risotto rice
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 2 litres warm chicken stock
  • 3tbsps pine nuts
  • knob of butter
  • 2tbsp crème fraiche
  • parmesan, for sprinkling

Finely dice the onion and sweat in a medium saucepan in a generous drizzle of oil until softened. Coarsely grate 2 of the courgettes and add to the onion, cooking for 2-3 minutes until beginning to soften. Add the garlic and cook out.

Pour in the risotto rice and stir to coat in the onion and courgettes. Next, add the lemon zest and juice. Once the rice has absorbed the lemon juice, begin adding the chicken stock, one ladle at a time. Stir the risotto regularly and once it has absorbed each ladle of liquid, add the next one.

Meanwhile, finely dice the remaining courgette. Melt the butter in a frying pan, add the courgettes and fry over a high heat until the courgettes are beginning to go brown and crispy. Add the pine nuts and fry for a further 2-3 minutes until golden.

Once all the liquid has been absorbed by the rice and it is al dente (about 20-25 minutes), stir through the crème fraiche into the risotto. Ladle into bowls and serve topped with the crispy courgette and pine nuts, and a sprinkling of parmesan.

Giant veggie samosas

Being a Cambridge student leads to a lot of questions when I get home. ‘Is everyone incredibly posh? Do you know anybody related to a Lord or Earl? Did everyone go to Eton?’ My answer to all these is, perhaps disappointingly, no. I found myself getting slightly swept up in the Cambridge bubble though when I exclaimed in Cambridge, ‘Oh, this Sainsbury’s doesn’t have any filo!’ Happily, my very #firstworldproblem must have been heard by the Sainsbury’s gods as a few weeks later there it was alongside the puff and shortcrust.

Giant veggie samosas

My initial plan had been for a spinach and filo pie, but that had long been made at home and gone by the time this filo was found. Samosas were the main result of a brief ‘filo recipe’ Google, but I was sceptical that with my highly limited store cupboard ingredients they would turn out bland. Luckily, I gave them a go anyway and I was so pleasantly surprised! It turns out a generous hand with the curry powder can bypass the myriad range of spices and herbs that would normally provide some complexity of flavour. These proved highly therapeutic to make due to the repetitive buttering and folding of pastry, and highly addictive to eat!

Giant veggie samosas

Makes 6

  • 1 onion
  • 1 small sweet potato, peeled and diced to 1cm chunks
  • 100g butternut squash, peeled and diced to 1cm chunks
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 3 large handfuls of spinach
  • 2 handfuls of peas
  • 1 heaped tbsp. of medium curry powder
  • 75g butter
  • 1 packet filo pastry
  • nigella seeds, for sprinkling

Finely dice the onion and sweat in a drizzle of oil until soft. Add the sweet potato and butternut squash and cook until cooked through, adding a splash of water to stop them sticking and stirring regularly, around 10-15min. Add the remaining veg and curry powder and cook until the peas are cooked through and the spinach wilted. Leave to cool slightly.

Preheat the oven to 180’C. Melt the butter in a mug in the microwave. Unroll the filo, keeping the pastry you are not working with covered to prevent it drying out. Take one sheet of filo, lay it flat and brush with melted butter. Fold in one third of the pastry lengthways towards the middle. Brush again with the butter and fold in the other side to make a long triple-layered strip.

Place one tablespoon of the filling mixture at one end of the strip, leaving a 2cm/1in border. Take the right corner and fold diagonally to the left, enclosing the filling and forming a triangle. Next, fold again along the upper crease of the triangle. Keep folding in this way until you reach the end of the strip. Finally, brush the samosa with more butter, sprinkle with nigella seeds and place onto a baking sheet. Repeat with the rest of the pastry and filling. Bake in the centre of the oven for 25-30 minutes, or until the samosas are golden and crisp,

Tortellini minestrone

Tortellini is the easiest last minute meal. I’m known for being so busy doing something I delay and delay cooking dinner, until suddenly it is 9pm and I’m totally ravenous. At that point, the thought of having a filling meal ready in essentially the time it takes to boil the kettle is highly appealing. However, on days when I remember to begin cooking before I reach that stage, this dish is the perfect way to sneak some extra veg into a simple pasta dinner.

tortellini minestrone

I’m not a huge fan of regular vegetable minestrone – something about it feels slightly too virtuous for me to enjoy without spoiling its effect with a heap of parmesan on top. The addition of tortellini therefore bulks it out to be a more filling meal and distract from all that veg. The recipe is highly flexible to whatever you have languishing in the fridge – red peppers, some butternut squash or even diced aubergine would all fit in nicely here.

Tortellini minestrone

  • 1 onion
  • 2 small carrots
  • 1 courgette
  • one clove of garlic
  • half tin of tomatoes
  • 300ml chicken stock
  • handful of green beans
  • large handful of spinach
  • half a packet of spinach and ricotta tortellini

Finely dice the onion, carrot and courgette. Sweat in a medium saucepan in a generous drizzle of olive oil until soft, about 10 minutes. Crush the garlic, add to the pan and cook out for 1-2 minutes.

Next, add the tomatoes and stock and simmer over a medium heat for 10 minutes, until reduced and thickened slightly. Add the green beans and simmer for a further five minutes. Add the spinach and tortellini and cook for 2 more minutes. Finally, ladle into bowls and top with a generous sprinkling of parmesan.