Banana Bread

Neglected bananas are a sorry sight. I had three of them in my fruit bowl this morning and they were at an advanced stage of ripeness; way past speckly-brown, they were completely black, and were beginning to go moldy on the outside. I was about to throw them in the bin, but out of curiosity I peeled one open to have a look, and it seemed fine, if a bit sticky and caramelised. They would be perfect for banana bread.

I’m quite particular when it comes to bananas as a snack; for me, they must be only just ripe; the greenness gone but still slightly firm inside. That’s a perfect banana. When a banana passes this stage, I’m pretty disinclined to peel it open for a snack. I think subconsciously I know I can make banana bread if I wait for it to go soft sticky, and overripe, and it doesn’t have to go to waste! I’ll admit; I actually prefer banana bread to a banana on its own. It’s not quite as healthy, I know, but that’s rarely a priority for me. It tastes better, and that’s what really counts.

  • 125g salted butter
  • 125g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 2 large ripe bananas, the riper the better
  • 190g self raising flour
  • ½ tsp baking powder
  • 60ml whole milk
  • ¼ tsp icing sugar, for dusting
  1. Heat the oven to 175C and line a 1kg loaf tin with baking parchment.

  2. Place the butter, sugar and vanilla essence in a pot and melt over a medium heat, stirring frequently. Add the bananas and egg and mix. Now add the flour and milk, and mix thoroughly to combine. Pour everything into the lined loaf tin then immediately place in the center of the oven. Cook for around 30-40 minutes. To test if it’s cooked, insert a skewer into the centre of the loaf; if it comes out with no raw batter stuck to it then it’s ready. Remove from the oven and cool on a wire rack. Use a small sieve to dust the top with the icing sugar.

Neglected bananas are a sorry sight. I had three of them in my fruit bowl this morning and they were at a...

Dal Makhani

Dal is the Indian name given to lentils or beans. In India you can find a huge variety, and many more delicious savory concoctions made from them. When I visited the country, I was astounded at the depth of flavour that could be found in a dal; they were undeniably tasty, and had a powerful savoriness that I had previously thought wasn’t possible in a dish with no meat.

As lentils and beans are relatively inexpensive, they are used in everyday meals for lunch and dinner. This dal, made from black urid beans however, is a bit more special. Due to the toughness of these beans, they must be soaked for several hours, then slowly simmered over a gentle heat for several hours more. Of course, a customary mixture of garlic, onion and spices is added to the mixture, and the result is a dark earthy bean stew that has a hint of smokiness. It’s very rich, there’s no denying it, so I have finished it with a swirl of yoghurt and some freshly chopped coriander.

  • 200g urid beans, soaked in water for at least 6 hours
  • 30g unsalted butter
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 5 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 20g root ginger, grated to a pulp
  • 3 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 ¼ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp cayenne pepper
  • ¼ tsp ground asafoetida
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp garam masala
  • 15g unsalted butter
  • 1 bunch fresh coriander
  • 3 tbsp natural yoghurt
  1. Drain the beans and rinse. Place in a pot and add water until just covered. Add ½ tsp salt, then bring to the boil, skimming off and discarding all the scum that rises. Simmer gently for 45 mins, topping up with water if necessary.

  2. While the beans are simmering, add the 30g of butter to a separate pot and place over a medium heat. Once the butter has melted, add the onions and ¼ tsp salt. Turn the heat to low and fry gently for 20 minutes until soft and sweet. Add the garlic and ginger and continue to cook for a further 5 minutes. Now add the tomato puree, cayenne pepper, asafoetida, ground cumin, ground coriander. Stir thoroughly and cook for a further 5 minutes on a low heat. Now add the beans, the remaining ½ tsp of salt 300ml water. Bring to the boil, then turn to a gentle simmer and cook, stirring frequently, for 2 hours, topping up with water if necessary. By the end, it should be dark in colour and fairly thick; almost but not quite as thick as porridge.

  3. To finish, add the 15g butter and mix vigorously to thicken the dal. If, at this point, it seems too thick just add a splash of water. Mix the yoghurt in at the last second to create a marble effect. Roughly chop the coriander and scatter over, along with the garam masala.

Risotto of Winter Greens

It’s one of my comfort foods, the risotto. I’ve become very fond of this classic dish over the years, possibly because it’s a fairly quick, easy meal that can be rustled up at a moment’s notice. A plain risotto bianco is hard to beat I reckon, especially when served alongside a simple green salad and a glass of crisp white wine. And it only takes a little more than 30 minutes from start to finish. This risotto is a little more involved, however. It’s a proper winter dish, making good use of cavolo nero, that classic vegetable so loved by the Italians, and tough winter herbs thyme and rosemary to give a depth of earthiness.

Cavolo nero has wonderful textured leaves that are strikingly dark green, hence its English name “black kale”. The more nutrition-conscious out there will know of its status as a superfood, but it’s also got an intense savouriness that goes perfectly with something bold like a risotto. I fried some in hot oil until crispy, and sprinkled it with sea salt. A perfect garnish for the risotto as it adds a nice bit of texture. Be careful when frying it though because it will sizzle violently!

For this recipe you’ll need 3 pots; one for the risotto, one for the chicken stock and one for the fried cavolo nero. If you’re organised though you could fry the cavolo nero beforehand and wash the pot.

  • 140g risotto rice
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 glassful dry white wine
  • 1 bunch thyme
  • 2 sprigs rosemary
  • 1 handful baby spinach
  • 750g cavolo nero (black kale)
  • 40g parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • 40g unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
  • 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • vegetable oil, for frying
  1. The secret to a good risotto is to stir it continuously as the rice is cooking. This is the only way of getting the ultimate glossy and thick texture. So we’ll measure all the ingredients out and get everything chopped before we start.

  2. Pick the leaves from the thyme, being careful to leave behind the woody stalks. Place them in a bowl, then pick the leaves from the rosemary, and chop them finely. Line up the long rosemary stalks in batches, which makes for easier chopping. Add to the bowl with the thyme. You should have approx 2 full tablespoons of chopped/picked herbs. Remove the tough central stalks from the cavolo nero leaves. Take approximately a third of the leaves and cut them into roughly squares. Roughly chop the rest of it into small shreds. Bring the chicken stock to the boil. Make sure your garlic and onion are finely chopped, ready to go.

  3. The final preparation step is to fry the squares of cavolo nero for our garnish. In a medium high-sided pot, add vegetable oil to 1cm depth and place over a medium-high heat. Wait about 3 minutes for the oil to heat up (might take longer, depending on the size of your pot), then add the cavolo nero. It will spit hot oil at you violently; be careful! When the cavolo nero has almost stopped sizzling, it’s crispy. Remove from the oil with a slotted spoon or spider and drain on a plate lined with kitchen paper.

  4. Now, to start cooking. Place a medium high-sided pot or pan over a medium high heat and add the olive oil. Wait until the oil is hot, about 1 minute, then add the onion and garlic along with a pinch of salt. Immediately turn down the heat and cook slowly for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are soft and sweet. This is the soffrito.

  5. Now turn the heat to high and add the rice. Stir vigorously for about 30 seconds to coat the rice in the flavour of the soffrito, then add the wine. Turn the heat to medium-high and continue to stir until all the liquid has gone. From this point the risotto will take about 15 minutes. Set a timer for 10 minutes, which is when we’ll add the shredded cavolo nero and herbs. Continue to add the chicken stock, 1 ladleful at time, stirring continuously to massage and coax the starch from the rice. This creates the heavenly unctuous sauce of the risotto. When the timer goes off, add the shredded cavolo nero and herbs. Stir, and continue cooking.

  6. After about 15 minutes, the risotto should be ready. When you taste a grain of rice, there should be a slight bite to it. If it’s still quite hard, continue cooking for a bit longer. Add the baby spinach and stir until it’s wilted. Turn the heat off, then add the chilled butter and parmesan gradually, whilst beating the risotto to emulsify it into a lovely creamy texture. If it seems too thick, add a bit of stock. As Giorgio Locatelli says “It should ripple like waves on the sea”. If you run out of stock, just use boiling water.

  7. Portion the risotto into bowls and garnish with the fried cavolo nero. The risotto does not keep well, so eat immediately.

Recent Recipes


This isn’t the first time I have extolled the virtues of sourdough bread. I find great satisfaction in cultivating my own supply of fresh, wild yeast, extracted from thin air! It’s a rewarding process; after feeding the sourdough every day for a week or more, the resulting product is a tangy, mature starter that will lend your bread a superior flavour and texture. The bonus is that if you use a mature sourdough starter to make your bread, you don’t have to knead it quite as much as regular bread to get a great texture because a complex gluten structure is already in place.

There is one caveat to using sourdough; the leavening power of the wild yeast is not as strong as that of pure fresh or dried yeast that you buy from the shop. Because of this, I find that my pure sourdough bread is somewhat denser than my regular loaves. There’s a trade-off though; to use dried/fresh yeast instead of sourdough will give you a lighter loaf, but it also means that you won’t have the depth of flavour and texture of a sourdough loaf. After some amount of experimentation, I eventually decided to go for a hybrid loaf. This recipe uses a generous amount of sourdough starter, and supplements it with a little dried yeast to give it a lighter texture. The result is a beautifully crunchy loaf with an aerated, bubbly texture.

When I make this at home, I mix the dough 1 day in advance, and prove it slowly in the fridge. This is just more convenient for me when I’m at work all day. I can come home the following evening, microwave the dough briefly to bring it up to temperature, and bake it immediately. It’s a great time saver.

You’ll need a wide baking sheet or stone, and a baker’s linen or kitchen cloth to prove the bread in. You’ll also need some sourdough starter; find my instructions at

  • 450g strong white flour
  • 350g sourdough starter, at least 5 days old
  • 190g water, tepid
  • 1 tsp dried yeast
  • 3 tbsp fine quality rapeseed oil
  • 13g salt
  1. Pour the sourdough starter into a large bowl. Add the flour, salt and yeast on top, and mix briefly without disturbing the sourdough underneath.

  2. Make a well in the middle of the flour mixture, and add the water and rapeseed oil. Using a sturdy wooden spoon, mix everything together thoroughly until you have a wet, sticky dough. Continue to mix for about 5 minutes. The dough should have become slightly elastic. Cover lightly with a cloth or cling film, and leave in a warm place to rise for 1 hour.

  3. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and pat into an approximate rectangular shape. Take the two right hand corners, stretch them outwards, then fold back in to opposite corners. Repeat this with the left side, then turn the dough over, pat into a rectangle again and repeat once more. Place the dough back in the bowl, cover and leave in the fridge overnight.

  4. In the morning, repeat the folding and stretching process from Step 3, then cover and place back in the fridge for about 8 hours.

  5. Turn the oven to 220C and put in your baking tray to get it nice and hot. Dust your baker’s linen or a thick kitchen cloth with flour, and place on a large chopping board or tray. Take the dough from the fridge and microwave at full power for 20 seconds. Scrape the dough onto a floured surface, place back in the bowl the other way up and give it another 20 seconds. The dough will now be warmed through, and rising nicely. There should be some visible air pockets forming.

  6. Turn onto a floured surface and pat into a wide baguette shape about 30cm x 15cm. Cut it in half lengthways to create two thinner baguettes, and place each on the floured cloth, creating a fold in the centre to separate them, and something to weigh the edges down to stop the dough from spreading out. Boil a mugful of water in the kettle.

  7. Once the oven is up to temperature, place each of the baguettes onto the tray. You’ll find this easier if you can find a thin “transfer” spatula or paddle. A piece of thick cardboard would suffice. Using a sharp knife, score the baguettes across at an angle several times, then dust with a little flour. Place in the oven, then throw the mug of boiling water into the bottom and immediately close the door. Bake for 25 minutes, then turn around and give another 5 minutes. The loaves should be hollow when tapped underneath.

Chicken Vindaloo

Of all the curries in the world, the Vindaloo is probably the most misunderstood. It’s notorious for being extremely hot and spicy, yet a genuine vindaloo is nothing near as spicy as its reputation would suggest, as I discovered when I visited Goa; the former Portuguese colony in India that is the Vindaloo’s home. I sampled several local versions of the famous curry there, and expecting my head to be blown off with heat and spice, I was actually pleasantly surprised; these Vindaloos were only moderately spicy, but strong with garlic and also had a distinctive vinegary tang.

Vinegar is the key ingredient in a Vindaloo, and it’s possibly the cause of the Vindaloo’s fearsome reputation. Accidentally adding too much vinegar, and a little too much cayenne pepper, and you’ll have a concoction so eye-wateringly powerful that it’s probably not very enjoyable to eat.

Madhur Jaffrey’s recipe for Vindaloo calls for duck, which is a break from tradition; the classic was typically made with pork. I have opted for chicken, and the result is excellent. This is adapted from Madhur’s recipe, although the underlying technique is hers. Afterall, she is the master of Indian cooking. Personally, I like to enjoy this with nothing more than some plain white basmati rice, although some sautéed green vegetable such as kale or chard, will go alongside nicely.

  • 4 chicken thighs, bones and skins removed
  • 3 tbsps of high quality rapeseed oil
  • 90ml white wine vinegar
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 ½ tsp garam masala
  • ½ tsp brown mustard seeds
  • ¼ tsp whole fenugreek seeds
  • 15 fresh curry leaves
  • 2 medium onions, finely sliced along the grain
  • 2 tbsps fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 10 medium cloves of garlic, peeled and finely grated
  • 2 medium tomatoes, coarsely grated
  • 1 handful of baby spinach leaves
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp salt
  1. Put a large, heavy based pan on a medium-high heat and add the rapeseed oil. Wait for the oil to heat up. Season the chicken thighs generously all over with salt, then fry in the pan, on both sides, until golden. Remove, and set aside.

  2. While the chicken is browning, measure out the turmeric, cumin, coriander, paprika, cayenne pepper and garam masala and set aside in a bowl.

  3. Ideally, your pan will be big enough to cook the rest of the curry in it; if not, transfer all the fat from the pan into a larger one. Set the pan over a medium-high heat and add the mustard and fenugreek seeds. When the mustard seeds begin to pop, add the onions and curry leaves. Stir and fry until the onions turn a light golden brown. Add the ginger and garlic, and stir until fully mixed. Now add the spice mixture and tomatoes. Turn the heat down and continue to cook for around 5 minutes.

  4. Cut the browned chicken pieces into approx. 2cm chunks, and add to the pan along with the salt, sugar, and 270ml water. Bring to the boil, then simmer gently for 20 minutes.

  5. Taste the curry and add more salt if necessary. Finally, add the baby spinach and stir until gently wilted. Serve with white rice.

Parsley and Almond Pesto

This is pesto with a difference. Classic pesto, made with basil and pine kernels, is a distinctly summer affair, when basil is abundant and your pesto could be happily paired with some ripe vine tomatoes fresh from your garden.

Unlike basil, parsley is a fairly resilient herb, and in the UK you could probably grow it outside for the best part of the year, and will easily survive autumn and winter in a greenhouse. So this is a winter pesto, an alternative to the classic. It’s a refreshing break from tradition, and pretty delicious too! Due to parsley’s more vibrant green colour, this pesto is eye-catchingly bright. There are no tomatoes in season at the moment, but it will go nicely with a green salad instead.

You will need a large pestle and mortar, or an electric blender.

  • 50g flat leaf parsley, or curly parsley
  • 1 small clove of garlic
  • 25g parmesan, finely grated
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon flaked almonds, roughly chopped
  • Sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 200g dried pasta
  1. Pick the parsley leaves from the stalks and finely chop. Add to the pestle and mortar (or blender), along with the parmesan and a pinch of sea salt.

  2. Add about two thirds of the olive oil to the mix, and bash with the pestle until a rough paste is achieved.

  3. At this point, boil a pan of water and season it generously with salt, then cook your pasta according to the instructions on the packet.

  4. Meanwhile, finely grate the garlic clove, and add to the pesto along with the almonds. Continue to grind for about 1 minute, to crush the almonds a little more. If it’s too thick, add more olive oil. Taste, and season with more salt if necessary. Add a generous pinch of cracked black pepper.

  5. When the pasta is done, drain it and reserve some of the cooking liquid. Mix the pesto through the pasta, adding a few spoonfuls of the water to loosen it. Serve and eat immediately, with a little extra grated parmesan on top.

Crispy Fried Egg and Black Beans

I’ve become quite fond of black beans. I’ve starting substituting them for kidney beans in chilli con carne, fajitas and other Mexican favourites. Also, one of my favourite Madhur Jaffrey recipes is a South African red kidney bean curry; it’s a simple but amazingly delicious recipe that impresses me every time I make it. I tried making it with black beans instead of kidney beans and it was even better! I’m not sure exactly what it is about these beans that makes me like them so much. I suspect it may have something to do with the fact that my all-time favourite meal from my local Chinese restaurant is beef and black bean sauce. It’s an umami-rich delight. For this dish, I think they ferment the beans which makes them extra flavorsome. Fermented or not, I believe black beans actually have a deeper, more savory flavour than most other beans.

This recipe is a really simple, easy dish that’s perfect as a weekend breakfast or brunch. Nothing more than onion, garlic and some cumin accompany the stewed beans; and to top the egg I have scattered over some rustic chopped coriander and a squeeze of lime. I like to fry the egg until it’s golden and crispy around the edges.

It’s a fairly quick recipe; only about 50 minutes of cooking time, however, remember to soak your beans overnight first!

  • 100g dried black beans
  • 2 large free range eggs
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • ½ onion, sliced
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely sliced or chopped
  • 1 small handful of coriander, roughly chopped
  • ½ a lime, juice of
  • sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2 tablespoons of good quality rapeseed oil
  • vegetable oil, for frying
  1. Put the beans in a bowl and cover generously with cold water. Leave for 6 hours, or overnight.

  2. Place a pan over a medium heat and heat up 1 tablespoon of rapeseed oil. Wait for the oil to get hot, then add the sliced onion and garlic. Turn the heat to medium-low and cook gently for 5 minutes until soft.

  3. Drain the beans in a sieve. Turn the heat to high and add the cumin. Stir and fry for 30 seconds. Add the beans along with 450ml water and a generous pinch of salt. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 40 minutes, until the beans are tender and the water is almost all absorbed. Add more water if necessary.

  4. In a frying pan, heat about 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil over a medium-high heat. Crack your eggs in and cook until the white is just cooked in the middle, but crispy around the edges.

  5. Before serving, check the beans for seasoning and add more salt if necessary. Add the remaining 1 tablespoon of rapeseed oil and stir vigorously to thicken the liquid. It should be quite thick.

  6. Serve the eggs on top of the beans, and scatter the coriander over. Finally, finish with a squeeze of lime juice.