Sausage, blue cheese and rocket risotto

I got this recipe from a free handout at the Taste London festival a couple of years ago. It's by someone called Gizzi Erskine, and was intended to promote Stilton cheese. It's a really tasty recipe, which I've made several times, but I had to write it up here because Gizzi's recipe is dreadfully written. She doesn't tell you how much rice to use, when to add the meat to the risotto - I'm always left guessing. So here's my version for two piglets or four moderately appetited people, as I made it the other day. Gizzi suggests Italian pork and fennel sausages, but as long as they're really meaty, flavoursome ones, it'll work fine. As to the sage leaves - they really make it tasty, so include them if you can. Sage is so easy to grow, it's really a must for any garden or windowsill (note to self, write a gardening blog), but fresh leaves also freeze rather well too - they defrost in a couple of minutes, and don't lose much flavour.

  • 1 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of butter
  • 4 meaty sausages (I used Cumberland ones)
  • 1 onion
  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • 180g rice (I suppose it should be risotto rice, but I used brown long-grain rice and it worked fine)
  • 1 glass of white wine
  • 750ml of hot vegetable stock
  • 100g blue cheese (I used Cornish Blue, which was nice, but good Stilton has the best flavour)
  • 1 generous handful of rocket leaves
  • 4 or 5 sage leaves

  1. Cut the sausages into chunks. Remove the skins if you can be bothered.
  2. Heat the oil and butter in a wide, non-stick pan, and fry the sausages until browned.
  3. Remove the meat and set aside for now. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon of oil from the pan.
  4. Chop the onions finely, and add to the pan. Cook over a low heat until softened and transparent, which takes about 10 minutes.
  5. Crush the garlic and add to the pan. Cook for 1 minute, stirring it in.
  6. Add the rice and stir for a minute or two to coat the grains with oil.
  7. Pour in the wine and keep stirring until it's absorbed into the rice.
  8. Put the meat back into the pan.
  9. Add a splosh of stock and stir until it's absorbed.
  10. Continue to add stock in sploshes and stir to let the rice soak it up.
  11. Complain to anyone who will listen about how your arm aches from stirring.
  12. Once all the stock is absorbed, test a grain of rice to ensure it's cooked (don't forget that brown rice will have more bite than white rice). Turn the heat down very low.
  13. Crumble up the cheese and stir it into the pan.
  14. Stir in the rocket and sage leaves. Then season with pepper (if you like) and serve.

Baked cornflake chicken

I love deep fried food as much as anyone, but I can't bring myself to deep-fry anything at home - the sight of all that oil just puts me off. So I was very interested when a friend mentioned that she had heard you can create the same effect by baking chicken in crushed cornflakes. Well, I gave it a go, and I must say I'm very pleased with the results. Popcorn chicken without the saturated fat! I experimented with the spices in the crunchy coating, but the flavours didn't really come through strongly enough. Next time I think I'll try dried chilli flakes, maybe sesame seeds, certainly more salt and pepper. I served this with tzatziki for dipping, and Nigella Lawson's lemon and rocket cous cous. This recipe served two people heartily.

  • 2 large chicken breasts (free range unless you like the taste of guilt)
  • 1 egg
  • 4 or 5 large handfuls of cornflakes
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • ½ teaspoon of salt
  • ½ teaspoon of ground paprika
  • ½ teaspoon of ground coriander
  • ¼ teaspoon of ground allspice
  • 5 or six good grinds of black pepper
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180°C / gas mark 4.
  2. Take a roasting tin and line the bottom of it with tin foil. Then smear one tablespoonful of olive oil over the foil.
  3. Cut the chicken into generous bite-size chunks.
  4. Take a small polythene bag, and put the cornflakes and spices into it. Then crush the bag in your hands until the cornflakes are reduced to little chips, the smaller the better. Then tip into a bowl.
  5. In another small bowl, beat the egg with a fork.
  6. Dip the chicken pieces in the egg, and then roll in the crushed cornflake mix.
  7. Put the coated chicken pieces into the roasting tin, and drizzle the remaining olive oil over them.
  8. Bake for 1 hour.

Almond cake

Oh how I suffered for this cake! I have a couple of friends who can't eat gluten, so I pounce on any tasty gluten-free cakes whenever I find them. This one from Majorca via Hugh Stanley-Fearnley-Whittingstall seemed ideal, but boy how I struggled. It didn't help that Thames Water had cut off my water supply the night I made it. I found I have no talent for separating eggs, or whisking whites, and eventually I had to just give up and hope for the best. The result wasn't too bad - the cake rose, against all the odds - and my guests enjoyed it. I'm not keen on the flavour, and would probably leave out the cinnamon next time. This is my warped version of Hugh's recipe.

  • 8 eggs
  • 250g caster sugar
  • 1 vanilla pod
  • The zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 300g of ground almonds
  • 1 pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
  • 2 tablespoons of icing sugar
  • Butter for greasing
  • Creme fraiche, to serve
  1. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  2. Use the butter to grease and line a round cake tin that's 20-ish cm across (or 8 inches), with a loose bottom.
  3. Separate the eggs. Take all night. Mess it up. Fail hopelessly. Start again.
  4. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks and sugar until they're light and creamy. Use an electric whisk, for the love of God.
  5. Slit open the vanilla pod and scrape in the innards.
  6. Beat in the lemon zest and cinnamon.
  7. Fold in the ground almonds a little at a time. I ended up with a dense, sticky yellow lump. On purpose, naturally.
  8. In another bowl, add the salt to the egg whites, and beat until they form soft peaks (if you're Hugh). If you're me, spend three quarters of an hour trying to conjure peaks out of your whites. Drink heavily. Wonder what a peak actually looks like. Imagine there's some kind of mistake in the recipe. Interpret a light, transient froth on your egg white slop as 'soft peaks'.
  9. Add the bicarbonate of soda to the egg white slop, beat again and offer up a prayer to your deity of choice that the cake will rise.
  10. Fold the egg white slop into the rest of the mixture. You'll find 'folding' impossible, so just try to integrate it as thoroughly as possible into a loose vanilla slop.
  11. Put the batter into the cake tin and bake for 35 to 40 minutes.
  12. Open the oven after this time to discover that the cake has, against all the laws of baking and nature, actually risen. A skewer comes out miraculously clean.
  13. Let this miracle cake cool, dredge with the icing sugar, and then serve with the creme fraiche.

Thai pork salad

This salad is called 'larp'. No idea how to pronounce it, but who cares, this is light, fresh and tasty. I got the recipe from a booklet of summer salads by Jane Baxter, which came free in The Guardian. I doctored it slightly to account for some fussy eaters (including myself).


  • 1 tablespoon of brown rice
  • 2 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 400g of pork mince
  • Half a red onion
  • 2 fresh red chillies
  • 1 small bunch of mint leaves
  • 1 tablespoonful of fresh coriander
  • 1 tablespoon of lemongrass paste
  • The juice of 1 lime
  • 1 pinch of paprika
  • 2 romaine lettices

  1. Toast the rice in a dry pan. The grains start to pop, a bit like popcorn. At this point, put the rice into a pestle to cool down, then get a volunteer guest to grind it to powder.
  2. Heat the oil in the pan, and fry the pork for five minutes.
  3. Drain the cooked pork on kitchen paper and set aside to cool.
  4. Chop the onion, chillies, mint and coriander finely.
  5. Roughly chop the lettice.
  6. When the pork is cool, mix it with the lemongrass paste, paprika, onion, chillies, mint, coriander and lime juice.
  7. Sprinkle the ground rice on top, and serve with the lettice.

Chorizo and chickpea stew

This is based on a recipe by Henning Marstrand in The London Cookbook by Jenny Linford. Henning’s exclusive ingredients are only available from Brindisa in London’s Borough Market. I work near there so I planned to source all the authentic produce, but in the end I bailed and got everything at the supermarket. I fiddled the recipe a little to compensate, but when I dished this up the other day everyone cleaned their plates and asked for more, so who knows how good it would have been if I hadn’t cheated.

  • 1 cooking chorizo sausage (250-ish grams)
  • 200g chopped pancetta
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 can of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 generous glass of red wine
  • 4 large cloves of garlic
  • 4 teaspoons of dried oregano
  • Pepper (I just happened to grab green pepper, but of course black will do)
  • 3 cans of chickpeas in brine

  1. Chop the onion and red pepper finely.
  2. Fry the chorizo, pancetta, onion and red pepper in a dry pan until the meat starts to brown. The oil will come out of the meat.
  3. Crush the garlic.
  4. Add the tomatoes, fill the can with water and add that too, with the wine, garlic, oregano and pepper.
  5. Bring to the boil, and then simmer for 15 minutes.
  6. Add the chickpeas with their brine (this gives the dish enough salt).
  7. Bring back to the boil, and then simmer for ten minutes.