Coconut Chutney (and a top tip at removing a coconut shell)


Have you ever had trouble getting into a coconut or rather removing the outer shell so that the sweet flesh within is easy to tuck into? If you have then you are going to love the following tip.

All you need to do is the following:

  1. Place the coconut in the freezer for 30-45 mins.
  2. Remove from the freezer and then use a rolling pin to bang down on the coconut whilst holding it in your other hand. The outer shell will break away.
  3. Easy hey!


Drinking the coconut milk is a whole lot easier this way I find.

So on to the coconut chutney.

Once you have the naked coconut you then need to peel it – the outer skin comes away so easily. Then it is simply a matter of grating the coconut.


Using a whole coconut does produce a lot of coconut chutney, but I find it lasts for up to a week in the fridge no problem. A dollop on the side of some spiced semolina – upma, from my previous post, works wonders or equally it would be great with any south Indian curry. In southern India they eat coconut chutney as part of breakfast, lunch or supper so if you take a similar attitude it will be used up pretty fast!


Coconut Chutney

1 coconut

2 tbsp chana dal, roasted

2 fresh green chillies



2 tbsp vegetable/coconut oil

1/2 tsp black mustard seeds

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

pinch of asafoetida/hing

2 dried red chillies

7 curry leaves

1 tsp salt

  1. Remove the shell from the coconut by placing it in a freezer for 30 minutes and then banging down on it carefully with a rolling pin.
  2. Remove the skin from the coconut using a potato peeler and then grate the coconut.
  3. In a frying pan dry roast the chana dal so they begin to bronze slightly. Let them cool and then use a spice grinder to grind them up.
  4. Place in a smaller blender along with the grated coconut and fresh green chillies. You will need to add a little water to loosen it up (the amount of water added depends on how thick you like your chutney! I tend to use 300ml). Blend to form a smooth paste. Add a little salt to taste.
  5. In a frying pan heat the oil and when it is hot add the mustard and cumin seeds, the dried chillies, curry leaves and hing. Move around the pan for 20 seconds before pouring over the coconut chutney.
  6. Stir into the chutney and serve.


A tasty breakfast treat – spiced semolina (Upma)


Semolina and I did not start out on a good footing.

For a few years when I was young I attended a convent – not as a nun, but as a pupil, and the nuns had a habit of being very strict. You had to eat every morsel on your plate and were not allowed to leave the table until your plate was clean.


The food in the early 80’s was not something you would particularly blog about and the puddings that were dished up to us were well, how can I put this politely, not that appetising. The gruel that I particularly disliked was sloppy semolina with a dollop of sweet jam. I found it so hard to eat that on one occasion after the dining hall had emptied and I was sitting all alone and the minutes were ticking by I decided that when Sister was not looking I would deposit the contents of my bowl into my pocket. I did it like a stealth ninja and no one found out, other than my mother, who is such a sweetie she didn’t seem to make much of a fuss.


Fast forward 34 years and I now love semolina – but only if I eat it the savoury way. In India a hugely popular breakfast snack is spiced semolina known as ‘Upma’. It is so quick and easy to put together it takes minutes to create a really warming bowl of goodness. I eat it at any time of day in all honesty – breakfast, snack, lunch, supper – you name it, it is super versatile. You can also add whatever vegetables need to be used up in the fridge, so it’s a win win in my book.


Spiced Savoury Semolina – Upma

Serves 2-3 (or for 4 if eating as a snack)

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp black mustard seeds

12 fresh curry leaves

1 fresh green chilli finely chopped

1 banana shallot or small onion, finely chopped

1 tsp salt

20g fresh ginger, finely grated

1/4 tsp turmeric powder

1 carrot, finely cubed

60g green beans chopped in half

40g red peanuts

150g course semolina (sooji)

275ml water

  1. Heat a pan with the oil and when it is hot add the mustard seeds, curry leaves and fresh chilli. The mustard seeds will begin to splatter after 20-30 seconds so then add the shallot/onion and salt and lower the heat. Allow the shallot to soften for around 5 minutes.
  2. Add the fresh ginger and and stir gently.
  3. Now add the carrot and beans or another vegetable that needs using up along with the red peanuts.  After 1 minute add the water and leave to simmer for up to 5 minutes or when the vegetables have softened.
  4. Add the semolina gradually and stir constantly so that it does not clump together too much. Once it has soaked up the water – you can add a little more water if needed at this stage – place a lid on the pan and switch off the heat so that it can steam for a few minutes before serving.



Toasted Cumin and Cinnamon Cauliflower


I often think that cauliflower gets a little overlooked as a vegetable, unlike its more ‘superfood’ cousin, the broccoli. Boiling it can be bland, like most things, but roast it and add a little spice and textures then you have a truly delicious treat. I wrote a piece a few years ago on the merits of the humble cauliflower here so do check it out.


This recipe is quick, extremely tasty (ok I know I am biased), full of goodness and great as a lunch to take to work in a tupperware or as an evening meal. It can be eaten hot or cold so is hugely versatile. A slight chill is now in the air in London, although I am still hopeful for an Indian summer, so the warming cumin and cinnamon gives the dish autumnal comforting notes. The sweetness come from the cinnamon and the saltiness from the feta so no extra salt is necessary.

Toasted Cumin and Cinnamon Cauliflower

serves 2 or 4 if serving with another dish 

1 cauliflower, chopped into florets and greenery removed

1 tsp cumin powder

1/2 tsp cinnamon

5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

30g pine nuts, toasted

30g raisins or sultanas

1 small handful of fresh coriander

30g feta, crumbled

  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees (if using fan). In a large mixing bowl add the cauliflower florets and add the cumin and cinnamon powder along with the extra virgin olive oil. Mix gently with your hands so that the florets are evenly coated.
  2. Place on a baking tray in the oven for 20 minutes, so that the edges are nicely charred.
  3. Meanwhile heat a heavy frying pan and toast the pine nuts so that they begin to bronze. They bronze quickly so keep an eye on this. Add the raisins/sultanas to warm them and allow them to become soft. Place to one side in a bowl.
  4. Once the cauliflower is cooked add to a new mixing bowl and add the pine nuts, sultanas, coriander and crumbled feta. Toss gently and either plate up or leave to cool before adding to your lunch container.

I have also made this with prunes instead of raisins/sultanas, which works really well. Dates would also be another option.


Foraging for Cockles on the Welsh Coast


There is something very rewarding about foraging for your own food, it’s like a treasure hunt for grown ups. I am no expert forager mind you and I would draw the line at foraging for mushrooms. I did a post a few years ago on foraging for samphire which you can read here.

This past week, however, I have been in a corner of Wales that even the locals requested I keep secret for fear that their corner of paradise will be overwhelmed by zealous visitors. The beaches are HUGE – think California expansive – stretching over a couple of miles long. This gives the treasure seeker a wonderful opportunity to forage for tasty goodies.


We opted for cockles this time, but when I return to Wales I will also try for razor clams as the locals say they are also great to search for when there is a spring tide. Cockles are basically like small clams and you may have had them in southern Spain where they are referred to as ‘coquinas’. They also sell them in seaside towns in Britain, cold in little pots without their shells. That never particularly appealed, but hot with loads of garlic, parsley, lemon juice and zest and spaghetti certainly does.

The day we foraged was a little drizzly (the rest of the week was completely sunny, unlike the rain clouds over London I hear). The tide was a long way out and we searched between the shoreline and the sea. We looked for clues – cockle shells laying scattered on the beach surface and then would dig a hole about 1-2 inches deep and then feel around with our hands. Once you have found a couple you can normally find a whole group of around 10 or so. My daughters and I (Mr B had decided to take himself off for a walk along the 2.5 mile beach instead) lucked out and found over 250 in under an hour and a half. Result.


We placed them in a pot (bucket is ideal) which we had filled with sea water. Overjoyed with our foraging success we went back to the cottage and let the cockles remain in the sea water overnight to get rid off the grit and sand.


The following day we then cleaned each cockle and placed them in a bowl of salted water (below). At this point they are still alive and do stretch their limbs beyond the shell from time to time (you can see this happening in fact in the photo above). When you take them out of the water, gently knock the shell and they should close tight shut. If they do not then discard them. We found that there were only 10 or so that were a bit suspect, the remaining 250 were ready for our feast.


This amount could  easily feed 6 people. We kind of over foraged but seeing as we had cooked them we decided it would be a shame to waste any so ate the lot between the four of us. Piggie I know! Both my daughters (6 and 9) adored them. I am a big believer that if you make a scene about shellfish or any particular kind of food in fact, then your children will too and not want to eat them. If you show them how delicious they are and get stuck in then invariably they will too and not want to be left out.


We feasted royally and before you ask, we all felt on top form the next day. They are great fun to forage for so have a go when you are next on the British coast.

Cockles with Garlic, Lemon, Parsley and Spaghetti

Serves 4-6 easily

250 cockles (I did not weigh them but guess it is around 1-1.2kg)

1 tbsp butter

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

6 garlic, finely chopped

1 lemon, juice and zest

160ml white wine

2 large handfuls of flat leaf parsley

400g spaghetti

black pepper

  1. Leave the foraged (or not) cockles overnight in salted water – ideally sea water, to allow the sand and grit to be dispelled.
  2. Scrub them clean in the grooves of the shell under running cold water. Make sure they shut firmly. Place in a clean bowl of water with 1 tsp of salt.
  3. Place the spaghetti in a pan of boiling water and simmer for around 10 minutes, then leave in the boiling water until ready to add to the cockle pan (no9)
  4. Heat a large deep pan with the butter and olive oil and when it is hot add the garlic. Keep on a medium low heat.
  5. Once the garlic softens after a couple of minutes, add the lemon zest and stir.
  6. Turn the heat up high and add the cockles. Add the lemon juice, white white and then place the lid on the pan. Shake the pan gently from side to side.
  7. After a minute check to see if some of the shells are opening. Keep the pan moving with the lid on.
  8. After another minute the shells should be open.
  9. Add the spaghetti and the parsley and mix all the ingredients together for 30 seconds before plating up and adding a little black pepper.

Any shells that have not opened then discard – do not try to prize open.

Spiced Masala Paneer Skewers, Coriander/Mint Chutney and Bejewelled Couscous


I was recently approached by the the UK’s number 1 tableware provider, Denby Pottery to come up with an exciting vegetarian BBQ recipe for their blog. They kindly provided me with some of their china from the  ‘Imperial Blue’ range, to present the food. I ended up creating spiced masala paneer skewers, coriander and mint chutney and bejewelled couscous. As well as cooking the paneer skewers on the BBQ they can equally be cooked on a griddle pan or under the grill so are super versatile.

Take a look at my recipe and post here and I would love it if you can share it through your social channels.

Hope you are all having a wonderful summer (winter if you are in the southern hemisphere).


Vietnamese Summer Rolls – healthy and utterly delicious


Vietnamese summer rolls, also known as Gỏi cuốn in Vietnam, are THE perfect lunch time meal, starter or snack when the sun is shining and you want something light, tasty and flavoursome. They are great fun to make and you can get creative on what to fill them with. The original Vietnamese ones often have pork loin and prawn wrapped inside them, however, I have always omitted the pork and simply added prawns, but its up to you. If you do include pork loin boil it in water for around 20 minutes and then thinly slice the pork loin when it has cooled.


Fresh herbs are key and you ideally need: coriander, garden mint and Thai basil, although regular basil will suffice if you can’t lay your hands on the former. If you happen to live near or pass by an Asian grocers pick up some perilla/shiso leaves to add a more authentic flavour. A little lettuce – cos works well – is also good to include (I didn’t have any in my fridge so for the ones above I have not included this). Rice noodles, carrot and cucumber batons are also needed.



So to wrap you need to follow the photos above:

  1. Pour tap water into a tray and then dip the rice paper in it. Literally quickly submerge and take out straight away or else it will become too wet and sticky.
  2. Place a small amount of herbs, noodles, carrot and cucumber buttons and lettuce if using, at the central bottom of the circular rice paper.
  3. Roll it once and then bring in each side. Now place the prawns (if they are large slice them in two) and a couple of garlic chives/thin slices of  green spring onions with the ends poking out and roll again.
  4. Continue to roll tightly until the rice paper is firmly wrapped around the filling. Place to one side.


I like to use my nuoc cham dipping sauce – recipe here. Equally they are also tasty if you dip them into a combined sauce of crunchy peanut butter with hoisin sauce.


Vietnamese Summer Rolls

makes around 16

A packet of Vietnamese rice paper – size 22cm

300g prawns (if you do not eat prawns you could add tofu)

packet of thin rice noodles

2 large carrots, sliced into thin batons

half a cucumber, slice into thin batons

cos lettuce

large handful of fresh coriander

large handful of fresh garden mint

large handful of thai basil (or regular basil if cannot find thai)

large handful of perilla/shiso leaves – optional

  1. Soak the rice noodles in a bowl of boiling water for around 7 minutes with a plate covering the bowl to keep in the heat. Check to taste they are cooked and then drain under cold water. Place to one side.
  2. Prepare all the ingredients and place them on a plate ready to use. If you are using giant chunky prawns it is best to slice them in two.
  3. Pour tap water into a tray and then dip the rice paper in it. Literally quickly submerge and take out straight away or else it will become too wet and sticky.
  4. Place a small amount of herbs, noodles, carrot and cucumber buttons and lettuce if using, at the central bottom of the circular rice paper.
  5. Roll it once and then bring in each side. Now place the prawns and a couple of garlic chives/thin slices of  green spring onions with the ends poking out and roll again.
  6. Continue to tightly roll until the rice paper is firmly wrapped around the filling. Place to once side and repeat.

They can be made ahead of time and then covered and placed in the fridge until ready to use. Bring out of the fridge 30 minutes before eating.

I often use my nuoc cham dipping sauce which you can see here. If you like this recipe you might also like some of my other Vietnamese ones such as:

Vietnamese pancakes – bahn xeo

Vietnamese chicken herb salad

Vietnamese fish with turmeric, ginger and dill

Vietnamese chicken rissoles with shallots, lemongrass and garlic

Vietnamese inspired salmon, cucumber, red onion and grapefruit salad

Bun cha

Vietnamese Pho Bo – Beef Noodle Soup

Vietnamese iced coffee

Cold Spiced Soba and Cucumber Noodles


When it’s hot I like nothing more than a bowl of spiced cold noodles. If you have only ever eaten them hot before you are going to have to trust me when I say that cold noodles are seriously good. The whole meal takes 10 minutes max to prepare, which is even better when the sun is shining and you don’t really fancy spending too long over the stove.

The crunch of the cucumber noodles and nuts (from the crunchy peanut butter) really compliment this dish. I decided to use dragons back chillies which you can purchase from World of Zing here. The chilli gave the dish a kick without being too overpowering. The spring onion and garlic also adds other wonderful flavours running through this dish. The star of the sauce in my mind is chinkiang vinegar, which is also known as Chinese black vinegar. I adore the stuff and if you love Chinese cooking it is an absolute must for your store cupboard. You can easily pick is up in any Asian food store.


The sauce is salty, sour and sweet and mixed through the noodles it is absolutely heavenly. It’s a perfect meal to take to work as it is easily transportable and can be prepared the morning or night before and then stored in a fridge until lunch. Remember to take it out of the fridge around 30 minutes before eating so that it has reached room temperature.

IMG_1354Cold Spiced Soba and Cucumber Noodles 

Serves 2 or (1 if you are feeling a little piggy)

85g soba noodles

1/2 cucumber, noodles if you have this or thinly chopped into sticks if not

2 spring onions, sliced at an angle

1 dragons back chilli, halved or quartered

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 tbsp chinkiang vinegar

1 tbsp light soy sauce

1 tbsp chilli oil

1 tsp sesame oil

1 tsp crunchy peanut butter

1 tsp caster sugar

1 tsp black sesame seeds

1 tsp salt – optional

1. Place the soba noodles in boiling water and boil for around 5 minutes or according to the packet. Drain and run under cold water so that the noodles are completely cold. Place to one side.

2. Mix the chinkiang vinegar, light soy sauce, chilli oil, sesame oil, chopped garlic*, sugar and crunchy peanut butter in a bowl and stir to form a dressing. Taste and add salt if required.

3. Prepare the cucumber noodles or chop the cucumber into thick sticks.

4. Heat a small pan and when it is hot add the dragons back chilli or other dried chilli so that it darkens slightly in colour. I keep all the seeds, but if you like it less hot you can reduce these. Then add 1/2 tsp of chilli oil and add the spring onions for a minute. Take off the heat.

5. In a mixing bowl add the cold soba noodles, the cucumber noodles, the dressing and the dried chilli and spring onions.  Gently fold in together and place in two bowls. Sprinkle some black sesame seeds on top.

* if you prefer to cook the garlic add it to the pan with the spring onions so that it softens slightly.