I’m totally a New Years resolution person. I love a fresh slate and a clean start, and boy do I love a list. Resolutions couldn’t have been further from my mind this year though. There has been enough “fresh start” in the past four months to last me a while I think. As much as I planned for this move, of course I couldn’t really anticipate what it would be like.

I didn’t foresee getting incredibly ill for several weeks when I first arrived back in England and I definitely didn’t anticipate that it would take four months to be reunited with my husband while we applied for his visa. When you take a huge leap like this, leaving a country, city, job, and much loved people, turns out life is not super predictable. Control is not yours for the taking so you may as well stop trying.

Roasted Parsnip and Green Lentil Salad

One of the things that helped to keep me sane amid the constant uncertainty was cooking and eating well. Having eaten out for the entire first two months of living here I was beyond ready for some home cooked fare when I moved into our flat.

I’ve fallen for lentils in a big way this winter. From hearty soups, to lunchtime salads, and simple dal, lentils have been playing a big role in my cooking. They’re packed full of protein and rich in iron, vitamin B6, and magnesium, making them a wonderful staple to include in your diet and they’re endlessly adaptable.

Roasted Parsnip and Green Lentil and Cress Salad

This is a perfect rainy day lunch for winter. Parsnips become sweet and caramelise slightly when roasted, playing off against the other ingredients in this salad beautifully. Lamb’s lettuce has a distinctive, tangy flavour which I think works really well with the sweeter elements and of course they add a lovely colour contrast too. The dressing really pulls it all together – it’s a classic combination of tart lemon, garlic, and hot mustard, all mellowed out by sweet honey.

Roasted Parsnip and Green Lentil Salad
adapted from River Cottage Veg by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall

Note: the onion, parsley stems, and bay leaves aren’t essential in the cooking water, but they will add a lovely extra flavour so don’t skimp if you have them.


  • 5 medium parsnips
  • 2 tablespoons organic rapeseed or canola oil
  • coarse sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
  • 2/3 cup / 125g green lentils (known as Puy lentils in the UK)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1/2 an onion
  • A small handful of parsley stems
  • 2 large handfuls of lamb’s lettuce

For the dressing:

  • 1/4 cup / 60ml organic rapeseed or olive oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice (from about 1 medium sized lemon)
  • 2 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp stone ground/ Dijon mustard (I think any mustard would work just fine)
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed with some coarse sea salt


  1. Preheat the oven to 190C / 375F. Peel the parsnips and cut them in half crosswise. You’l want to cut the wide tops in half again so that ultimately you end up with similar sized chunky pieces. Put the parsnips in a roasting pan, season with salt and pepper, then toss with the oil. Roast, turning once, for about 40 minutes, until they’re tender and crispy at the edges.
  2. While the parsnips are roasting, begin the lentils. Put them in a saucepan and cover them with plenty of water. Bring to a boil and then simmer for just a minute before taking them off the heat and draining them. Return to the pan with the onion, bay leaves, and parsley stems and add just enough water to cover them. Simmer very gently for about half an hour, until tender but not mushy.
  3. To make the dressing, whisk together the oil, lemon juice, honey, mustard, and garlic in a bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper.
  4. Drain the lentils and remove the onion, bay leaves, and parsley stems. Toss the lentils with the dressing while still warm to coat.
  5. Arrange the lentils on plates with the lamb’s lettuce and parsnip chunks, tossing gently to combine. Serves four as a side dish or two for lunch with some crusty bread.

5 comments     posted in:   Farmers' Market, Recipe

Kung Pao Tofu

January 20, 2014

Kung Pao Tofu Bowl

This recipe is a Dan special. Dan is my husband, for those of you new to this corner of the internet. He grew up eating kung pao chicken at Big Bowl in the States and after his friend started working there and making it, he taught Dan the recipe.

I’ve wanted to share it here for a long time and now that we’ve been reunited, after four months of living apart, this seemed like a really fitting time.

Dan cooks a lot of the food in our house – I think he’s quite brilliant in the kitchen: unafraid, experimental, bold, with a real sense of how to keep things simple but make flavours work. I am quite in awe of his cooking skills. Living alone, one of the things I’ve loved most is getting to know our new kitchen and starting to cook again after two months of living out of a suitcase, but I’ve desperately missed evenings at home with Dan trying a new recipe or making one of our classics.

Kung Pao Tofu Recipe

Quick, fiery and deeply satisfying to eat, kung pao tofu (or kung pao tizzy, as it’s known around here) is a huge favourite of ours, especially on a weeknight when we crave something salty-sweet, hot and filling. It’s one of the dishes that I’ve always let Dan just cook solo since it comes together in the wok in a flash and there’s not much room or time for an extra body to get in the way. Being apart for four months changed that.

I got a mad craving for kung pao a month or two ago while we were still an ocean apart and had Dan text me the recipe immediately. My first attempt didn’t taste as good as I remembered his tasting, but since he’s joined me in London we’ve made it together and now I’m pretty sure I’ve got it down. Or maybe it just tastes better when he’s with me? Either way, consider this a celebratory kung pao tizzy/my husband is finally here blog post. Feels good to be back.

Kung Pao Tofu

Kung Pao Tofu

Make sure you have black bean paste and hoisin sauce for this dish. You can make a delicious stir fry without those two ingredients, but it won’t be kung pao. Also, don’t be shy when frying the tofu. You are essentially deep frying, not sautéing it, and you need a lot of hot oil for this job. The result is lovely crispy tofu. Finally, this dish comes together quickly so make sure you have all your ingredients prepped and laid out ready to go before you begin cooking.


  • 400g (14oz) package tofu, drained and pressed to remove as much moisture as possible
  • 175 – 200ml (3/4 – 1 cup) organic rapeseed oil (or other neutral oil that takes high heat well)
  • 1 small onion, chopped to a large dice
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp fresh ginger, grated
  • 1 or 2 dried arbol chilli peppers, minced
  • 1.5 tbsp black bean paste
  • 1 tbsp hoisin sauce
  • 1 tbsp tamari sauce (or soy sauce)
  • 1/2 tbsp rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame oil
  • small handful peanuts, roughly chopped
  • 1 green onion, thinly sliced, to serve
  • Cooked rice (we use jasmine or basmati), to serve


  1. Cut the tofu into into half-inch cubes and set aside.
  2. Heat a wok over high heat for a minute. Once very hot, add the oil and let it heat up. It should be sizzling hot. Add half the tofu and fry until golden brown and crispy, turning over to ensure all sides are equally crisp and coloured. Remove from the wok with a spider strainer or slotted spatula and put aside on a plate covered with paper kitchen towels to soak up some of the oil. Repeat with the rest of the tofu.
  3. Carefully remove most of the hot oil from the wok, reserving about 2 tablespoons. Add the onion and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring frequently. Add the fresh ginger, garlic, and dried chilli pepper to the wok and cook for a further minute, keeping everything moving and coated in oil. Add the fried tofu and peanuts to the wok and toss to coat with the other ingredients.
  4. Add the black bean paste, hoisin sauce, tamari, and rice vinegar to the wok, stirring and tossing the other ingredients in it. Finally, add the sesame oil, give everything a final stir and remove from the heat.
  5. Add rice to a bowl and top with kung pao. Scatter green onions on top and serve, piping hot. Serves two with some leftovers (if you don’t go back for more, which you will).

20 comments     posted in:   Recipe

Plum and Apple Crumble

September 10, 2013

Apples and Plums

Here I am, typing to you from England where everything is so very British and familiar. Buildings are ancient. It rains, then shines, then rains again. Everyone understands everything I say (at least I think they do, if not, then they’re too Britishly polite to tell me my accent has been mangled). I’m home and it feels pretty wonderful. The only thing missing is my mister, but I’m working hard on changing that and getting him over here quick-sharp.

On my third day back in the UK, I drove out to Wasing Park in Berkshire with my best friend and her dude, to see where they’ll be getting married next summer. Afterwards we three stopped into her future in-laws for coffee and cake and left with a heavy bag of cooking apples and a smaller bag of plums, picked that morning from their garden.

Plum & Apple Crumble

I was slightly giddy at this gift and knew pretty quickly that a crumble was in the making. Plum and apple crumble! It just seems brilliantly British. I love the lack of fuss in a crumble and how it becomes a jumble of soft warm fruit, crunchy topping, and cold-but-rapidly-melting ice cream.

I didn’t expect to have an opportunity to bake nearly so soon after moving (ahem, please excuse the iPhone photos) and I spent a lovely hour peeling, coring, and chopping apples, then softening them over heat with the plums under a generous dusting of sugar, cinnamon, and lemon zest.

As the crumble baked, I tap-tap-tapped away at my keyboard but soon enough I was completely distracted by the smell and by the time my friends were home from work, the crumble was cooling and I’d already eaten a bowlful which soon became three helpings. Let’s just call it dinner and leave it at that.

Apple and Plum Crumble

Plum and Apple Crumble
adapted very slightly from Good Housekeeping

I found this to be a delightful crumble – the topping is pretty substantial yet light, with a lovely crunchy sweetness giving way to a really perfume-y mix of plums and soft cinnamon-scented apples. Do taste your apples and plums before adding sugar. My crumble was quite tart, which I liked with the sweet topping and is magnificent with the addition of a scoop of ice cream, but you may prefer to add more sugar.


  • 6 large plums (or 10-12 little ones)
  • 3 Bramley apples (or other cooking apples), about 500g (1lb 2oz)
  • 50g (2oz) light brown soft or caster sugar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

For the crumble topping:

  • 175g (6oz) plain (all purpose) flour
  • 125g (4oz) butter (or non-dairy alternative), chilled and cut into cubes
  • 50g (2oz) rolled oats
  • 75g (3oz) demerara sugar


  1. Preheat oven 200°C/400F. Halve and stone the plums, then roughly chop and put into a large pan. Peel and core the apples, roughly chop, and add to the pan with the sugar, cinnamon, lemon zest and 5 tbsp water. Cover and heat gently until apples are softening, about 5 mins.
  2. Empty fruit into a shallow, ovenproof serving dish. Set aside.
  3. To make the topping, put the flour into a bowl and rub in the sunflower spread (or butter) with your fingers until the mixture resembles fine rubble. Mix in the oats and demerara sugar, then scatter the topping over the fruit.
  4. Bake for about 30 minutes or until the crumble is golden and the fruit is bubbling. Try to serve it immediately (it can bake as you eat dinner) or re-heat it 10-15 mins before serving. Serve with vanilla ice cream (optional).

9 comments     posted in:   Food Experience, Recipe