Homemade Tagliatelle

Homemade Tagliatelle

Homemade egg tagliatelle – simple and delicious

Sometimes it makes sense to take shortcuts in the kitchen. Life is, as they say, too short and I’m more than happy to buy pre-prepared ingredients like all-butter puff pastry if it means a little more time with my friends and family or freedom to pay attention to the rest of a recipe.

Sometimes it doesn’t. Hummus and pesto are two major bugbears of mine, both such staple ingredients (in certain middle class sections of society anyway), perennially popular yet tasting of little more than the cheap, bland ingredients from which they are made (sunflower oil and cashews instead of olive oil and pine nuts? Yes, Sacla, I’m looking at you). Continue reading

Spaghetti alla norma & a dose of Sicilian sunshine


Cefalu bathed in Sicilian sunshine

Italy holds a special place in my heart. I’ve been visiting my parents house in Tuscany every summer since before I can remember, and have grown up loving the rich, rustic flavours of the region; hearty ribollita, simple sauces over thick, hand-rolled pici, earthy cavolo nero, beautiful Chianina beef and the ubiquitous cannellini bean (the Tuscans are sometimes referred to by other Italians as mangiafagoili, or ‘bean eaters’). However, while the Tuscan mountains are a place I’ll return to time and again, I also love the seaside, and this summer I was excited to visit Sicily with a group of girlfriends for the very first time. Continue reading

Crab & chilli linguine


Crab & chilli linguine

Another Easter Bank holiday has flown by in a haze of sunshine, family and food. I’ve eaten homemade hot cross buns (toasted on my Granny’s AGA with wedges of salty butter), yellow-yolked Burford Browns, new season British asparagus drizzled with fruity olive oil, my Mum’s incredible homemade quiche, a beautiful free range roast cockerel from Seldom Seen Farm with knobbly pink fir apple potatoes, rich truffle torte . . . and of course the obligatory half ton of chocolate in its various egg-shaped disguises.

Combined with the sudden heatwave, this Easter feasting has left me craving something light and bright to eat. I need fresh flavours that deliver a punch of chilli, a kick of garlic and a palate cleansing wake-up call that will rouse my tastebuds from their chocolate-induced stupor.

Crab is one of my all-time favourite ingredients. I like the intensely fishy hit of brown meat in small doses, but it’s the white meat that brings a real smile to my face. Sweet, delicately flavoured and packed with protein, these melt-in-the-mouth flaky nuggets are best left to speak for themselves, paired with a select few delicate additions. This crab linguine is just that – light, bright and bursting with flavour; the perfect combination of sweetness and spice to take you into Spring.

And, if you find yourself reaching for the stash of chocolate eggs afterwards, you’re only human.


Garlic, chilli & olive oil – hard to beat

Crab linguine
Serves 2

175g linguine (I tend to use dried, although this dish is also delicious with fresh egg-rich pasta)
A good fruity olive oil
2 small red chillis, chopped (I use the seeds, but if you’re sensitive to spice you can scrape these out)
2 small garlic cloves, crushed
100g white crab meat (if I can’t get a fresh crab, I like the Seafood & Eat It range, see note below)
Salt & pepper
A handful of parsely, coarsely chopped
Half a lemon


Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Add the pasta with a pinch of salt and cook according to packet instructions. In the meantime, pour a generous lug of olive oil into a frying pan and add your crushed garlic and chilli. Fry for a minute or so to release the flavours, then add the white crab meat and remove from the heat. Drain the pasta and add to the crab mixture. Return to the heat and toss quickly to distribute the sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper then add the chopped parsely at the last minute and divide between two plates. Squeeze lemon over the pasta and serve.

white_crabSeafood & Eat It is a family company based in Cornwall, set up by brothers Richard and Neville. Their mission is to bring the fresh taste of Great British crab to food lovers across the UK. Endorsed by the likes of Angela Hartnett, it’s a great local company to support, and if beautiful fresh crabs aren’t available to you locally, this is a seriously good alternative.

Rocket & Basil Pesto


Artichoke ravioli with homemade pesto

You might wonder why I’m posting a recipe for pesto. Pesto is something that appears on menus and food packaging around the world. Over-used and under-appreciated, there’s most likely a sweaty jar of mass produced pesto lurking in most people’s deepest cupboard space (am I right?). As a student it certainly formed an essential part of our storecupboard staple of pasta, pesto and frozen peas (the 3 P’s), possibly washed down with a pint (make that 4 . . . P’s, not pints that is). The ‘middle class ketchup’ phenomenon . . .

So why a recipe? Because this much maligned sauce doesn’t deserve these bogus impersonators; mean little jars of processed cashews, sunflower oil, preservatives and stabilisers. Pesto should be eaten fresh. It should sing with the rich green notes of freshly torn basil, toasted nuts and salty cheese. Yes, the ingredients can be expensive, but, as with good quality meat and other little luxuries in life, I’d suggest quality over quantity. Instead of plonking pesto onto every baguette, salad, sandwich and snack in sight, savour it, allowing the flavours to shine through.

This recipe is so simple, it’s hardly a recipe at all. Almost as quick and easy as opening a jar of pesto, but infinitely nicer, once you’ve tried it, I’m pretty positive you won’t look back. My recipe mixes rocket and basil for a really light, fresh flavour, and I’ve included  few ingredient variations below for the budget conscious or more adventurous amongst you. If you have any other favourite or interesting pesto recipes, I’d love you to share them below.

Rocket & Basil Pesto (makes 1 jar)

2 tbsp pine nuts
Pinch of salt
1/2 clove garlic, crushed
150g rocket
100g freshly picked basil leaves
50g Parmesan, grated
300ml extra virgin olive oil

Dry fry the pine nuts in  pan until lightly toasted and golden. Pound in a pestle and mortar with salt and crushed garlic. Add the rocket and basil leaves, continuing to mash until it becomes a thick green paste (you could do this in a food processor, althoug purists would argue against this, preferring the subtler flavours of the bruised ingredients). Add the grated cheese and most of the olive oil until fully blended, reserving a little oil for the top. Transfer to a jar, cover with remaining oil and keep in the fridge for up to one week.

Serve simply with al dente linguine, Ligurian style with trofie pasta, potatoes and green beans, as I’ve done above with ravioli or spoon over chicken or white fish. Delicious.

Some tasty pesto variations:

Basil & pine nut – the classic
Coriander & cashew – omit the cheese and try a little chilli for more of an Eastern feel
Watercress & walnut – earthy and rich, perfect in winter