The fabulous Burts Chips recently ran a competition to find the Ultimate Crisp Sandwich - you can see the winning sandwich recipe at It started me thinking about what MY Ultimate Crisp Sandwich would be.
Husband and I are off to Sorrento next month. We had an amazing holiday there last year with so many good things to eat and drink. I must surely have eaten my body weight in mozzarella and beef in all its forms: bresaola, carpaccio, butter soft fillet steaks... So that was my starting point.
Next important question was which flavour of crisps would be the perfect match for my sandwich? Obvious choice seemed like Devon Roast Beef. But actually that was a bit too overall beefy. Vintage Cheddar and Spring Onion? No, too overpowering. Thai Sweet Chilli? A bit weird with the mozzarella. Spicy Chorizo? Maybe but not perfect.
Next up, Firecracker Lobster. Now, I wouldn't normally buy these, imagining the awful smell of the prawn cocktail crisps I hated so much as a kid. But BINGO! These are an entirely different thing. They added some lovely sweetness, with a hint of chilli, plus the crunch. I had finally found my Ultimate Crisp Sandwich, and even better, I got to eat lots of delicious crisps and call it research!

My Ultimate Crisp Sandwich

- Fresh bread
- Pea shoots
- Slightly rare roast beef
- A sprinkle of Parmesan shavings
- A torn ball of mozzarella
- Burts Firecracker Lobster crisps

Next weekend is Valentine's Day.

Most sweet Valentine recipes tend to focus on chocolate but (though god knows I'm not one to ever turn down chocolate), here's a fruitier alternative. Rose water isn't everyone's cup of tea, so leave it out if you want but it gives this cake the fragrance of Turkish Delight, and with the raspberries turn a really easy sponge into something much more glamorous and romantic. It's also much cheaper than a dozen roses, but I can guarantee it won't last as long!

225g butter, softened
225g caster sugar
275g self-raising flour
2 tsp baking powder
4 eggs
4 tbsp milk
300g fresh raspberries

250g icing sugar
4 tsp rosewater
1-2 tbsp water
Pink colouring

How to make it:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180c/gas 4 and line a tray bake tin with greaseproof paper.

2. Put all the cake ingredients, except the raspberries, in a bowl and beat for about 2 mins.

3. Fold the raspberries carefully into the the cake mix, making sure not to break them up too much.

4. Put it in the oven and bake for 35-40 mins until a cocktail stick comes out clean but the texture still has some spring. If the top starts to catch, cover with some scrunched up greaseproof paper.

5. Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 10mins, then lift it out by the greaseproof paper and allow to completely cool on a cooling rack.

6. While it cools, make the icing.

7. Put the icing sugar and rosewater in a bowl and stir until it becomes a paste. If it's too stiff, add the water gradually but not too much - if it's too runny it won't stay on the cake. Add the pink colouring a few drops at a time until you get the shade you want.

8. Once the cake is cool cut it into squares.

9. Spoon icing onto each square and carefully smooth across the top - don't worry if a bit runs down the sides. After a while the icing will set slightly without hardening.


This week the lovely Amanda who works for me left for maternity leave, as her baby girl is due in a week. We're all going to really miss her, and part of her send-off was a food day - generally an excuse for us to bring in far too much food and spend most of the day eating.

I decided to make some apple and blackberry crumble pies but wanted to make something savoury as well. So these were my idea of something super quick and easy to make but with lots of flavour.

As we'd be eating them cold, the potato stops the cheese solidifying into a hard lump. In theory you could use left over mashed potato for these, but we never have anything left over in our house. So, as time was short I cheated and bought some pre-made mashed potato. They were really good cold but they're even better warm from the oven.


For the filling

200g mashed potato

Half a small onion finely chopped

100g grated mature cheddar

2 tsp whole grain mustard

A splash of Worcestershire sauce

Quarter tsp white pepper

Pinch of cayenne pepper

A pack of shop bought puff pastry

A beaten egg

Sesame seeds (optional)

How to make it:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180c/gas 4 and line a baking tray with grease proof paper.

2. Put all the filling ingredients in a bowl and mix thoroughly.

3. Unfold the pastry and cut out circles using a 10cm cutter. You could make them bigger but if you go too small you won't be able to get enough filling in.

4. Place a blob of the filling in the centre of each circle - you need to fill the pastry, leaving just enough room to seal the edges.

5. Pick up the circle and press together the edges of the pastry to form a half moon shape, then crimp to make sure it's really well sealed.

6. Brush the puffs with plenty of beaten egg and sprinkle with the sesame seeds if you're using them.

7. Put in the oven and bake for around 15-18mins until they're puffed up and golden.

8. Leave to cool for about 5mins before eating, as the filling will be really hot (though I usually can't wait that long!)


I don't know if I'd like mince pies so much if I could have them all year round. But as with my love of Cadbury's Cream Eggs, I can use the seasonality excuse to eat as many as possible while they're around.

These are a tweak on my version from last year. There's nothing wrong with bog standard mincemeat but it's so easy to tart it up with some of your favourite flavours: different booze, nuts, spices, dates, figs - whatever you like. I personally love the lemon curd which gives a bit of zing against the sweetness.

This year I've added the crumble topping which I find a much nicer texture than more pastry. I usually make a bigger batch of crumble, as it'll keep in the fridge for ages, making these even quicker to knock up.


250g shop bought sweet pastry

1 jar mincemeat

3 tbsp lemon curd

Handful of chopped pistachios

1 tbsp sherry

For the topping:

75g cold butter

75g self-raising flour

35g golden castor sugar

25g chopped or flaked almonds

How to make it:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180c/gas 4.

2. Put the flour and sugar in a bowl and cut the cold butter into small cubes.

3. Add the butter to the bowl and rub together until you have fine crumbs.

4. Keep going past that point and the crumbs will start to clump together. Once you have a mix of lumps and fine crumbs, put the mixture in a bag and leave in the fridge for at least 20mins.

5. Take the sweet pastry out of the fridge about 20mins before you need it.

6. Grease a 12-hole muffin tin.

7. Put the mincemeat in a large bowl and add the lemon curd, pistachios and sherry. Mix well.

8. Sprinkle some plain flour onto your work surface and then sprinkle with some ground cinnamon.

9. Roll out the pastry to about 3mm. You want the pastry thin, but if you go too thin, it won't be strong enough to hold the filling.

10. Cut out rounds to fit the holes of your muffin tin - you should get about 10.

11. Put the pastry rounds into the tin, gently pushing it into the bottom of the hole. If you get any tears or the bottom looks a bit too thin, add some extra patches of pastry.

12. Add the mincemeat into the pastry cases, probably about a teaspoon and a half in each one. Make sure you leave a gap for the crumble.

13. Take the crumble mix out of the fridge and sprinkle over the mincemeat. Try to cover it as much as you can to stop it bubbling out when it gets hot.

14. Sprinkle the almonds on top of the crumble.

15. Bake for 12-15 mins, until the crumble has turned light gold.

16. Remove from the oven and place the tin on a cooling rack for 10mins.

17. Remove carefully from the tin with a small palette knife and eat warm with lashings of Baileys cream.


My husband loves sausage rolls. Well, he loves anything pig related really, so I can never go wrong with a sausage roll.

I first made this version in the summer. It was warm, the sun was shining and my parents came over to sit on our new little patio. We had these and fresh lemonade made with Amalfi lemons. Bliss.

Now when it feels like it's been raining forever, sitting in the sun seems a faint memory. But these are just as delicious on a dark afternoon in December as they were that day.


350g sausagemeat
3 tsp harissa paste
10 kalamata olives, halved

Half a small onion finely chopped

375g of pre-rolled puff pastry
1 beaten egg
3 tbsp sesame seeds

How to make it:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180c/Gas 4.

2. Take the pastry out of the fridge about 20mins before you start (unless your kitchen is very hot in which case leave it in there a bit longer).

3. Mix the Harissa paste, olives and onion into the sausagemeat. If you can face it, use your hands to get a better mix but be prepared for looking like an extra from a horror film.

4. Roll out the pastry and cut down the centre to give you two long strips. Place the strips onto a large baking tray with the long edges at top and bottom.

5. Use a teaspoon to add a channel of the sausage mixture along the centre of each strip. Don't be tempted to overfill or you'll need to stretch the pastry too much to cover it.

6. Brush the border of the pastry with the beaten egg.

7. Lift the pastry edge furthest away from you over to cover the sausage. It helps to roll the sausage over slightly to make sure the edges meet neatly.

8. Press down the edges really well, either with your fingers or a fork. If you don't makes sure it's all well sealed, the filling will leak or the pastry will open when it puffs up.

9. Do the same with the second roll and brush both with the beaten egg. Sprinkle liberally with the sesame seeds.

10. Bake for about 25mins until the pastry is golden.

11. Leave to cool for about 10mins then cut into individual rolls using a bread knife (or other knife with a serrated edge).

I've never really been a fan of cheesecake - usually it's a bit too......well cheesy for me. I particularly dislike those American-style baked ones which tend to have a texture which makes me gag.

I like the idea though, and have created this version which has just a hint of cheesiness but is creamy, sweet and delicious.

I've used this basic idea to make different versions such as soaking raisins in rum and mixing through the cream, adding Chambord to the cream and topping with fresh raspberries or using coconut biscuits for the base and topping with mango purée.

This is still my husband's favourite though, he'd be very happy if I made this twice a week!


200g Bourbon biscuits
30g salted butter
150ml double cream
150g Philadelphia Light
15g vanilla extract
15g icing sugar
370g cherry pie filling
A chunk of dark chocolate

How to make it:

1. Put the biscuits into a large bowl and crush to a fine crumb with the end of a rolling pin.

2. Melt the butter by putting it into the microwave for 1-2 mins - keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn't boil.

Tip the butter into the crumbs and stir thoroughly making sure that it covers all of the biscuit.

4. Pour the biscuit mix into the bottom of a springform tin and press down with the back of a dessert spoon, making sure the base is even.

5. Put the tin into the fridge while you make the topping.

6. Whip the cream, Philadelphia, vanilla and icing sugar to stiff peaks. Be careful though as it can go to far and solid in a few seconds.

7. Take the tin back out of the fridge and spread the creamy topping onto the base.

8. Gently pour the cherries onto the topping - you may need to move them about a bit to make sure they're evenly distributed.

9. Grate some chocolate over the top.

10. Put back into the fridge for at least a couple of hours for it to set.


On Thursday evenings I volunteer with Swindon Young Carers - 12-18 year olds whose lives are affected by looking after someone in their family. For two hours each week we have a big house filled with 20-30 young people having a break from home and getting the chance to just be kids.
Most weeks you'll find me in the kitchen, with a few of them helping me to turn out something tasty for everyone else.

But it's a challenge. By the time things get started, I've probably got 60 minutes from start to finish. Sometimes we've been quite ambitious with the timescales (cake pops and banoffee pies spring to mind) but it's more practical to stick to something simpler like cupcakes, tray bakes and sausage rolls. And of course biscuits.

For me anyone new to baking should start with biscuits, as they're quick, everything goes in one bowl and it's quite difficult to get them wrong.

Whatever I make with the Young Carers, there's always a bit of 'eurgh I hate that!' from someone and when I said we were making peanut butter cookies there was even more than usual. However, even the people who swore they hated peanut butter really loved these nutty, chocolatey, slightly salty biscuits.


100g butter at room temperature
80g caster sugar
90g dark muscavado sugar
1 medium egg
185g crunchy peanut butter
210g flour
1 tsp baking powder
130g small chocolate chips

How to make it:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C/gas 4 and line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper.

2. Cream the butter together with both sugars until pale and fluffy.

3. Add the egg and mix well, then stir in the peanut butter.

4. Sift together the baking powder and the flour and then stir them into the mixture. If the dough is too wet, gradually add more flour until you have a dough which comes together and isn't sticky. You may need to use your hands at this point.

5. Add the chocolate drops to the bowl and knead them gently into the dough making sure they're evenly distributed.

6. Roll the dough into ping ping sized balls and place on the baking sheet, flattening slightly.

7. Bake for 15-20 mins or until just golden brown - you still want them a bit moist in the middle.

8. Allow to cool on a cooling rack.


I've only recently got into lentils. My suspicion was that they would be tasteless and dull. I could not be more wrong.

My first foray was with puy lentils, both with sausages and duck. Delicious. Now, with my love of Indian food, surely the obvious next step was daal? On my various travels around India, I honestly don't remember eating daal, which seems impossible.

I've made several version, with different types of pulses, but this is the first and still my favourite.

The addition of the butternut squash gives a lovely sweetness and much of it tends to melt into the sauce. The lentils should be deliciously creamy and the coconut milk gives a lovely gloss.

If you want to make it more non-veg, you could add some chicken about 20mins before it's ready, but it really doesn't need it - in fact I found it distracts from the beautiful richness of the daal.


75g green lentils, rinsed
75g red lentils, rinsed
1 large onion, finely chopped
1tsp garlic purée
1 tsp ginger purée
2 tsp ground cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
2 tsp black mustard seeds
1 tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp cayenne
½ tsp asafoetida 
½ tsp cinnamon
375 ml chicken (or vegetable) stock
200g canned chopped tomatoes
200g butternut squash, cubed
200 ml coconut milk
1 tbsp muscavado sugar
½ tsp garam masala

How to make it: 

1. Rinse the lentils at least 3 times with cold water.

2. Heat some oil in a large frying pan and cook the onion, stirring, for at least 15mins until they start to brown.

3. Add the spices [except the garam masala], garlic and ginger and stir through until the spices release their fragrance. Don't let them burn - add a few spalshes of water if need be.

4. Add the lentils and stir for a few minutes until they're coated in the spices.

5. Add the stock and bring to the boil. 

6. Stir in the tomato and butternut squash, then cover and cook over a very low heat on the hob for two hours, stirring every now and again. 

7. Mash a few of the lentils against the side of the pan with a spoon to thicken the sauce.

 8. Stir in the sugar and garam masala. Add the coconut milk a few spoonfuls at a time, allowing it to absorb into the lentils before you add more. This will take about another 10-15mins.

9. Taste and check the flavour, adding salt, sugar or some extra coconut milk as needed.

About 5 years ago I took a couple of months unpaid leave from work and went to Jaipur to teach English to children living in the slums.

It was a fantastic experience working in another country, if at times bewildering, as I was never entirely sure what was happening from one day to the next - teaching the entire school to sing Jingle Bells in assembly or a class of teenagers how to use superlatives.

One thing though was a given: at 3pm every day a small boy from a stall down the road would bring chai for all the teachers. Thick, creamy, spicy, super sweet, blisteringly hot, served in tiny disposable cups. Nothing in the world could have hit the spot more, and now when I drink chai it takes me back to sitting in the school hall with the other teachers marking books and drinking tea.

I've always loved tea loaf and wanted to add those chai spices. This is quite a dense, moist tea loaf and delicious either on its own or spread with butter. You can easily get chai tea bags in supermarkets now - they won't replicate my 3pm experience but they will help create plump spiced sultanas.


350g sultanas
50g demerara sugar
50g dark muscavado sugar
150ml cold black chai tea
225g self-raising flour
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
Half tsp nutmeg
2 cloves
Seeds of 3 cardamom pods
3 black peppercorns
1 medium egg, beaten
110g glace cherries halved
50g chopped pistachios

20g very soft unsalted butter
50g demerara sugar
20g icing sugar
Half tsp vanilla extract
How to make it:

1. Put the dried fruit, both sugars and the tea into a bowl, stir and leave overnight. The fruit will soak up the liquid and the spicy flavours of the tea.

2. Pre-heat the oven to 180ºC/gas 4. 

3. Grease a loaf tin and line it with baking paper.

4. Grind the cloves, pepper and cardamom to a very  fine powder with a pestle and mortar.

5. Mix the flour, spices, egg and fruit together till totally combined. Stir through the cherries and pistachios.

6. Put the mixture into the loaf tin and push it  carefully into the corners with a spoon making sure the top is even.

7. Put it in the oven for 30mins or until a  cocktail stick comes out clean.

8. Put all the topping ingredients into a bowl and mix.

9. Once the cake is cooked and still in the tin, take spoonfuls of the topping and spread onto the cake while it's still hot. It will form a thin crunchy crust on the cake.

10. Leave the cake to cool and the topping to set for about 10mins then remove from the tin carefully and place on a cooling rack.
This is my all time favourite curry to make. This was one of the first I made but I constantly come back to it because it never goes wrong and never disappoints. The tang of tamarind should be strong, but balanced by the sweetness of the potato and peas.

If you think you haven't tried tamarind before, you probably have, as it's an ingredient in both Worcestershire Sauce and HP Sauce. The pod-like fruit of a tree, you can buy it in supermarkets either as a solid block or a runnier paste. You can use either, though it will take more for the more solid version to break down in the sauce.

Here the sweet potato is soft but sweet from roasting. I've also cooked it in exactly the same way but without the oil, which gives the same flavour but a much firmer texture. You need to keep more of an eye on it though, in case it catches.


Spice mix
2 tsp corriander seeds
1½ tsp cumin seeds
½ tsp mustard seeds
½ tsp peppercorns
½ tsp chilli powder
½ tsp ground tumeric

500g sweet potato, peeled and cubed
1 sweet white onion sliced
1 tsp ginger puree
½ tsp garlic puree
½ tsp dried chilli flakes
8-10 curry leaves
400g chopped tomato
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tbsp tamarind paste
400ml reduced fat coconut milk
150g frozen peas
A handful of unsalted cashew nuts

How to make it:

1. Pre-heat the oven to 160C/gas 3.

2. Put the cubed sweet potato into a bowl and add 1 tbsp of oil. Mix thoroughly so that all the potato is lightly coated with the oil. Spread the potato out on a baking sheet covered with greaseproof paper and bake for around 20mins, depending on how big you've cut the cubes.

3. For the spice mix, grind the whole spices with a pestle and mortar to a fine powder, then add the chilli powder and tumeric.

4. Fry the onion on a medium heat for about 20mins, stiring frequently until it starts to brown. If you want to save time you can just fry it until soft but you'll get a deeper flavour with more time.

5. Add the spice mix, curry leaves, chilli flakes, ginger and garlic with the onion and cook for a couple of minutes, stiring to make sure the spices don't burn. If you think they're getting too hot, add a few splashes of water.

6. Add the tomato and turn the heat up a bit, then cook for a couple of minutes. Add the coconut milk, sugar and tamarind paste. Bring up just to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for 15mins.

7. Taste to test the balance of tangy and sweet, adjusting the sugar and tamarind as needed. Season with a few pinches of salt.

8. Add the peas straight from frozen - you want them to defrost and warm through but not cook so long that they lose their flavour.

9. Toast the cashew nuts in a dry pan, moving them constantly to make sure that they brown but don't burn. Add them to the other pan.

10. Add the roasted sweet potato to the pan and stir through, making sure all the elements are hot before serving.