Back in bisqueness

Is this thing still on?

Bearing in mind that London seems to eat up as much of my time as it does the content of my wallet, my sabbatical is perhaps understandable (and forgivable?).

If you have the time and the patience, making a simple crab & saffron bisque can be an almost therapeutic pastime. The flavour achieved here is more than worth the wait, and just the smells it creates alone, are enough to brighten any gloomy winter day.

Treat your ears to songs like this, a perfect accompaniment to a bisque journey.

Aso – Seasons

For this I used blue crabs. They’re slightly smaller than the brown crab and carry a sweeter flavour – perfect for a bisque. Blue crabs are also considerably easier to manage once cooked, although watch out for their spiney claws!

To make the stock:
blue crabs x 2
white onions x 1
carrots x 2
celery sticks x 2
garlic cloves (smashed) x 3
tomato puree
splash of dry white wine
lemon thyme
juice of 1/2 lemon
boiling water 2.5l

For the bisque (Serves 4):
crab stock (see above)
white onion x 1
carrots x 2
celery sticks x 1
garlic clove x 1
saffron threads x 3
fennel seeds x 1 pinch
single cream x 2tbsp
white crab meat, lemon zest & fresh parsley to garnish

The stock


Start by roughly chopping your veg, smashing your garlic cloves, and boiling your water.
Heat a glug of olive oil and a knob of butter in a large stock pot or pan and add your veg. Keeping the heat on high, add a squeeze of your tomato puree.
Season well.

After 5 minutes or so, add a good splash of white wine, the thyme, lemon juice and reduce. Now add the water and keep it simmering for 20 minutes.
Season well.


If you bought your crabs alive, I’d urge you to use a humane method of dispatching them before cooking them. You can find these methods online, complete with video instructions. 

Boil the crabs in the stock for 10 minutes and then carefully lift them out, and leave to cool before handling. Twist off its two main claws. With the crab lying on its back, use your thumbs to push the purse (main body) away from the top shell. Now, remove the legs and leave to one side.


On the underside of the purse you will notice feather-like gills – remove all of these and discard, as they are poisonous. 

Using a large knife, divide the purse into four sections, keeping aside as much of the white meat as possible.


Don’t bother scooping out the brown meat from the top shell, this will add even more flavour to the stock.

Wrapping the pieces of shell, claws and legs in a cloth, use a rolling pin to smash the pieces up finely and re-add to the stock along with the four sections of the purse.

Season well and simmer on medium-high for 80 minutes.
Use a spoon to skim off any scum that collects at the top.

Using a fine sieve, remove all the solids, and transfer to another pan.

Et voila, you have some delicious crab stock.
From here you really have a blank canvas. This stock can be used in risottos, soups, pasta sauces, paellas, curries etc. You’ll struggle to replicate this seafood flavour any other way.

The bisque

The hard part’s over, now all you have to do is use the stock to make a creamy bisque.

Finely chop the vegetables, and add to a hot pan with a knob of butter. Fry on medium until soft. Grate your clove of garlic and keep on a low heat for a few more minutes. Now add 600ml stock, along with with the saffron and fennel seeds, turn up the heat and reduce for 10 minutes.

Blend with a hand blender until smooth.

Finish by adding the cream, and turning down the heat.

Serve with a sprinkling of fresh parsley, white crab meat and lemon zest, if you like.



Honey honey

I had a few (very welcome) days off, and the indulgence that followed left me craving something fresh and healthy. I bought a few chicken breasts to last me a whole week’s worth of lunches to take into work.


I ended up making a very simple Honey Mustard Chicken and Watercress Salad. Turns out I already had most of the ingredients at home.


For the marinade I used:
Organic runny honey, wholegrain mustard, olive oil, zest of 1 lime, ground coriander, black pepper and salt

My salad:
1 bag of watercress, 1 large white onion, 2 handfuls of fresh chives and 1 of fresh coriander, 1 bunch of spring onions, 1 sweet red pepper

I applied all marinade ingredients liberally and poked a few holes into the chicken. After rubbing the flavours into the fillets I left them in the fridge overnight.

When the time arrived, I laid out my chicken pieces with some cherry tomatoes under a very hot grill for 20 minutes.

While the chicken was cooking I sliced the white onion finely and fried on medium for 5 minutes before adding the watercress and red pepper. After another minute on a low heat, I turned off the heat and added the herbs.

Serve your chicken with the salad and a sprinkling of diced spring onions if you feel like it!




Treat City Vol. 4

I hope you’ve all had a brilliant Mothers’ Day. I also hope you’ve treated your mothers in some way or another. Perhaps you cooked something delicious for her, or maybe you took her out for the day.

Either way, here’s your chance to continue treating her for the coming days with a batch of freshly baked Peanut Butter, Choc Chunk and Maple Syrup Cookies!

In the upper echelons of the treat world you will find the cookie.

A simple and delicious treat that allows for almost endless tastes and flavours. A treat so good that even cookie dough is arguably its own treat.


What you’ll need:
100g peanuts, 200g dark chocolate (70% cocoa), 140g unsalted butter, 250g plain flour
1 duck egg, 2 and half tbsp maple syrup, 200g caster sugar, 120g chunky peanut butter, 1/2 tsp baking powder

Set your oven to 180 degrees celsius.

Get your peanuts on a baking tray and place them in your hot oven to toast them to your liking.


Break up the chocolate into chunks. Beat your egg lightly.

Take a large mixing bowl and mix together all the ingredients, except the egg and syrup. Don’t forget to sift your ingredients into the mixing bowl.

I used the tips of my fingers to mix the ingredients until it resembled large bread crumbs.

Now you can add your egg and syrup. Mix for another minute or so.

Fold in 2/3 of your peanuts and chocolate chunks, keeping the remainder for topping your cookies. Next take a spoon and have a mouthful of the cookie dough.

Mind. Blown.

Back to business.
Roll the dough into balls, just bigger than golf balls and then press slightly. Cover a baking tray with greaseproof paper and rub with some butter. Place your cookie dough balls on the baking tray. I would say about 4 cookies per batch, as they do spread a lot in the oven.

Cover the cookies in peanuts and chocolate.



Keep them in the oven for 12 minutes. If the edges of the cookies have started to brown, they’re ready. Leave them to cool on a cooling rack.

You should end up with around 8-12 cookies depending on how much cookie dough you ate prior to baking.


Store in a cool, dry place. 




When lamb met mango

Work has become relentless over the past two weeks but you’ll be pleased to hear that nearly every spare minute has been spent in the kitchen.

With lamb shanks well and truly perfected by a dear friend of mine, and having already done a lamb shoulder previously, I decided on a Slow-cooked Leg of Lamb with Mangos and Cinnamon.

It was simply one of the best meat dishes I’ve ever had the pleasure of making.


The recipe was ridiculously straight forward, and was served with a light couscous salad, fresh greens, mint yogurt and warm naan breads.


The shopping list:
1 leg of lamb, 100g dried mangos, 1 cinnamon stick, 2 tbsp organic runny honey, sunflower seeds
150ml white wine vinegar, 700ml lamb stock, 4 smoked garlic cloves (normal is also fine)
2 red onions, 1 tbsp smoked paprika and 1 tbsp cayenne pepper, fresh rosemary, mint and tarragon

Couscous, 1 red pepper, 1 bunch of spring onions, fresh basil and coriander
Naan bread, 300g Greek style natural yogurt, 1/2 a cucumber

For the rub:
Zest of 1 lime and lemon, olive oil, ground coriander, dried rosemary

The night before you cook the lamb, rub it generously(!) with olive oil, salt and pepper, the citrus zests and the herbs and spices. Place inside 2 freezer bags… into the fridge it goes.


Set the oven to 220 degrees celsius.

Chop the onions however you like, they don’t need to be chopped finely at all. Crush your garlic cloves, don’t bother peeling them.

Heat some oil and butter in a large casserole dish on high. Throw in the onions and garlic. Cook on medium for 5 minutes.

Turn the heat up high and brown your leg of lamb nicely on both sides. Remove from the dish and turn the heat back to medium. Throw in the sunflower seeds with the white wine vinegar.

Season well.

Once the vinegar begins to bubble, chuck in the mangos and a handful of tarragon. Add the smoked paprika and cayenne pepper.


Keep on medium high. Add the lamb stock, around 4 or 5 fresh rosemary stalks. Crush your cinnamon stick into the mixture and finally add the honey.

After around 3 minutes on medium, you can add the leg of lamb again.
Season well.

Bring to the boil and cover. Place into your hot oven and reduce the temp down to 140 degrees celsius. 

Leave for 4-5 hours, turning the joint of meat every hour.


When the time arrives, your house should be filled with the most amazing smell.

At this point I chopped my cucumber finely and mixed with a handful of fresh mint and the yogurt.

Get your naan breads in the oven!

The couscous salad simply included diced red pepper and spring onions, basil and coriander. I’m sure you know how you like your couscous anyway…

Finish with a handful of fresh parsley over the lamb.



Perfect with those warm naan breads and mint yogurt.



Treat City Vol. 3

Enough of the healthy stuff.

What better way to start your week than with a
white chocolate, blueberry and lime cheesecake.

Big enough and sweet enough to keep your friends happy. Perfect as a dessert or with a good cup of coffee in the afternoon. I used duck eggs just to take it to that next level.


Your shopping list:
300g white chocolate, 300ml single cream, 400ml light cream cheese (I used philadelphia)
3 duck eggs, 210g oat biscuits, 90g butter
1 tsp vanilla essence

For the sauce:
300g blueberries, juice of 1 and half limes, 2 tbsp granulated sugar

Start by setting your oven to 180 degrees celsius. Proceed to smash up your biscuits in whichever way you find most entertaining. 

Melt your 90g of butter gently in a sauce pan.

Combine with your smashed biscuits, and using the backside of a spoon, press the mix down firmly into the base of a baking tin.


Real buttery.

Go ahead and place the tin in the middle of the oven for 15 minutes.

In the meantime, break your white chocolate up into small chunks and add to a bowl suspended in a saucepan of hot water, on a very low heat. Once the chocolate starts to melt you can add the cream.

Keep on very low heat, stirring until the mixture is smooth.

At the same time, heat your blueberries in a large sauce pan with the sugar and a splash of boiling water.
Keep on medium heat.


Keep stirring that chocolate and cream mixture until there are no lumps.

Remove the baking tin, complete with your biscuit base. Leave to cool at one side.

Reduce your oven temp to 140 degrees celsius.

Add the lime juice to the blueberries bubbling away and reduce the heat to low.

Take the chocolate mix off the heat as soon as it’s done.


You can keep the blueberries on very low for the duration of this recipe, they won’t ruin. If you think they have become too dry, you can just add a little boiling water to keep the consistency satisfactory.

Break your duck eggs into a large bowl and combine with the cream cheese and vanilla essence.
Once the chocolate and cream mixture has cooled for around 8 minutes you can add it to this bowl and whisk on high for around 6 minutes.

You should be aiming for it to be completely mixed and beginning to show air bubbles.


Coat the inside of your baking tray with a line of greaseproof paper, buttering it on both sides.

In order to marble 2/3 of my sauce through the cheesecake, I added a little sauce, in random blobs onto the base.

I then added half of the white mix, and did the same again.


I then added the final bit of white mix.

For the final part of the marbling, I used the end of a spoon and carefully dragged the sauce over the surface of the mixture.


Wrap the base of your baking tin in tin foil, and place in an oven tray half filled with boiling water.

Place in your oven for an hour.

When the time arrives, turn off the oven and open the door slightly.

After another hour you can remove the cheesecake to allow it to cool fully, and then place in your fridge to chill overnight.


Serve with the remainder of the sauce, which can simply be heated up again in the microwave for a few seconds.

What a treat!




Lunchbox dreams

It’s been a while.

February is turning out to be quite a busy month. In between travelling cross country for graduate assessment days, starting a part time job at a deli counter (dream job right?!), and arguing with Italian racists on twitter (don’t ask…), my time in the kitchen has been limited.

I returned home from a hard day of slicing cheese and cured meats, wanting something simple and healthy that could also double up as the coming days’ lunch for work.

The fridge looked bare by normal standards.

I hadn’t made them for a while, but I decided to make the most delicious tuna burgers I could with what I had.

After a few minutes rooting through the fridge, I decided to embark on making some sage, paprika and emmental tuna burgers.

With the burgers, I cooked up a quick salad of sweet red peppers and mushrooms.


For the burgers:
Roughly 240g canned tuna, handful of chopped emmental cheesepine nuts, 1 leek, 2 cloves of garlic
paprika, fresh sage and dill, 1 egg, plain flour

The salad:
2 sweet long red peppers, green beans, mushrooms (any type will do)
leafy greens of your choice! I used spinach

Set your oven to 250 degrees celsius. Or as high as it will go.

Finely chop your leek and herbs. Put them to one side.
Heat some oil in a pan, add your garlic.

Keep on medium heat for 1-2 minutes.

Add your pine nuts and after another minute on medium, add the leek.

Heat on medium-high for 4 minutes.


Break your egg, add a serving spoon’s worth of the flour, and combine with the tuna and leek. Finally add the herbs and chopped emmental cheese.


Season well.

Use whatever you have handy (eg. your hands…) to make the mix into burgers, ready for your griddle pan.


Give them around a minute on each side, just to get a nice colour.

Transfer them to your red hot oven for 8 minutes.

In the meantime, add your 2 chopped red peppers and however many mushrooms you fancy to a pan on high heat.

Season well with just black pepper.

After 3 minutes, place your green beans on top of the peppers and mushrooms.


Reduce the heat to low and place a plate over your pan, just to steam the greens, rather than fry them.


Keep them covered until you need to take the burgers out the oven.

Serve with your favourite leafy greens.


Easy and delicious.

Perfect for your lunchbox.



The storm before the calm

Time for a duck recipe.

But first I must share with you a most unfortunate incident.


Half way through chopping some fresh sage, I took a considerable slice out of my finger. As I looked down to see part of my finger on the chopping board, I started to feel very nauseous and tired. Luckily I managed to remain conscious. Perhaps rather recklessly, home alone, I carried on cooking for ten minutes.

Browning duck legs with one hand isn’t ideal though.

As the adrenaline faded, the pain became unbearable.

I called it quits and pondered my options.

Without going into too much detail, the amount of blood still being lost an hour later prompted me to make my way to accident and emergency, complete with piece of finger in a bag of ice (y’know, just incase they need to glue it back on…)

A wonderful family friend took me to hospital where I was swiftly bandaged up and sent back home.

What’s that saying?

The show must go on.

So the thinking behind this one was that everybody likes duck, right? And everyone likes peanuts, right? (Unless you’re allergic obviously…)

After a few different approaches, I decided on slow cooked duck in port, and fresh pasta tossed with peanuts and mushrooms.

Your shopping list:
2 duck legs, half a bag of shallots, 3 sticks of celery
2 bay leaves, fresh sage, juice of half an orange
100ml of ruby port, chicken stock

fresh pasta (of your choice), 1 red onion, shiitake mushrooms
fresh parsley and chives, crushed unsalted peanuts, 1 garlic clove

For the duck legs, start off by turning your oven to 175 degrees celsius. Chop up your celery and shallots. Leave them to one side. Drizzle the legs with oil and rub well with salt and black pepper.

Heat some oil on high in an oven proof dish and brown both legs well for 6 minutes. Remove the legs and turn heat to medium and add the vegetable. Cook for 5 minutes.

Add the sage and bay leaves and cook for a further 2 minutes.


Pour in the port and reduce on medium-high for 5 minutes. Add the chicken stock cube, the orange juice, and half a cup of boiling water.

When it’s simmering, re add the duck legs, season, and cook for a further 4 minutes.


Place in the oven and reduce temperature to 125 degrees celsius.

Leave it to slow cook for 3-4 hours.

When the time comes, check on the duck. Then you can start the pasta.



Start by dicing your red onion as finely as possible. Slice your mushrooms into thirds. Have your herbs finely chopped and ready to go.

Heat some oil on high in a frying pan or wok. Add a big handful of the peanuts and crush the garlic clove into the pan. Cook for 3 minutes until the nuts start to turn golden brown. Turn heat to low and add the mushrooms.

Add your fresh pasta to a large pan of boiling water with a pinch of salt. Simmer for 3-4 minutes.

In the meantime, add the onion and a handful of the parsley to your other pan. Cook on medium-low.


Strain your pasta. Add to the frying pan with the chives.


Season well, add a splash of olive oil, and cook on high for one minute.

Serve immediately with the tender duck leg and gravy from its dish, in which ever way you fancy. The duck should just fall away from the bone.