There’s still plenty of time to make your nearest and dearest some tasty Christmas presents. At the very least, you should make a batch of spiced nuts – they’re good to take round to parties or anywhere else nibbles are required, and if they don’t make it out of the house (and they are quite hard to part with) you can eat them to sustain you while you wrap presents. It goes without saying that they go well with the drinks you will probably be drinking at this time of year.

Also, they are easy-peasy. For some reason I spend a fortune on similar flavoured, spiced, coated etc. nut products all year round and only actually make my own at Christmas. Just writing that I’m baffled at myself. Because basically, all you do is spread your choice of plain, unsalted, unroasted nuts on a baking tray, mix them with whatever herbs and spices take your fancy, drizzle over a little oil and salt and toast in the oven until golden and delicious. That’s all there is to it. However, I do have a couple of variations that I particularly like and can heartily recommend. They taste far better than anything you can buy in a supermarket aisle.

The first is an Ottolenghi recipe cut out of an old Christmas food edition of the Guardian (along with a particularly great slaw with maple, pecans and cranberries which I have also made often since). I think this might have been the recipe that opened my eyes to the nigella seed. They work so well in this, and that’s before you even get to the honey with the salt, the heat of cayenne pepper with the earthiness of rosemary – completely addictive.

The second is from Allegra McEvedy’s brilliant Colour Cookbook and comes in the form of a za’atar coated almond. There’s a bit of egg white in it for a stiffer crust and again it’s a combination that works in opposites – the sumac is bright, the thyme is a base note. You should make more za’atar than you need as it’s so good on flatbreads (or what about breadsticks – the party nibble ideas just keep on coming!) and takes seconds to make. And even if you can’t be bothered you can buy it in Waitrose now.

Ottolenghi’s spicy nuts

Makes loads: enough for at least 6-8 people

I’m giving the original quantities/varieties of nuts from Ottolenghi’s recipe, which I like, but you can obviously substitute for any other nuts you prefer.

100g cashew nuts
100g macadamia nuts
120g pecan nuts
60g almonds
80g pumpkin seeds
1 tbsp sunflower seeds
2 tbsp nigella seeds
3 tbsp sunflower oil/rapeseed oil
2 tbsp honey or maple/agave syrup
1 tsp fine sea salt
2 sprigs rosemary, leaves picked off
2 tsp black pepper
2 tsp cayenne

Preheat the oven to 170c. Mix all the ingredients except for the black pepper and cayenne in a big roasting tray and roast for 15-17 minutes, until dark brown. Stir once or twice during the cooking time.

Stir in the cayenne and pepper when the nuts come out of the oven and add more salt if needed. Store when cool in an air-tight container.

Za’atar almonds

Enough for 6 or more

500g whole almonds (it doesn’t matter whether they’re blanched or not)
1 egg white

for the za’atar:
1 tbsp dried thyme
1 tbsp sumac
1 tbsp sea salt
1 tbsp sesame seeds

Preheat the oven to 200c.

Make the za’atar by grinding the ingredients together in either a pestle and mortar or a coffee/spice grinder (double or triple the quantities if you want za’atar left over).

Whisk the egg white until frothy, whisk in the za’atar and stir into the almonds until well coated. Tip onto a greased baking tray and spread out evenly.

Roast for 15-20 minutes, until dark brown. Serve warm or cool in the tray and store in an air-tight container (you might need to break them up a bit).

From Allegra McEvedy’s ‘Colour Cookbook’


The next in my series of homemade Christmas presents: quince paste (membrillo to the Spanish). It didn’t feature in my gift plans until I saw two gloriously enormous quinces outside the Moroccan deli. It was an impulse buy, but the sort that doesn’t leave you with buyer’s remorse. The owner was quite curious about what I would be doing with them (in Morocco, he said, they would stew it with lamb).

I’m afraid that, like the previous two recipes, this one is quite time consuming, but you don’t have to do much during that time other than be around. I plan to give it to people in slabs with a nice piece of cheese, some manchego or a Cashel blue maybe. The basic recipe I used comes from Stevie Parle (see also: other quince recipes) and he suggests putting it inside a roasting game bird or eating it on toast. I think it would also be nice instead of the jam layer in a bakewell tart, or in small pieces in an apple pie or crumble (I think I’ve stolen that last idea from somewhere).

Quince paste

Makes as much as you have quinces

Where I differed from Stevie’s recipe was to blend the mixture to make a smooth paste, for aesthetic neatness. You can skip this for a coarser paste.

Quinces (I used two large ones which weighed just over 1kg)
About the same amount of sugar as quince

Preheat the oven to 180c. Put the whole quinces in a deep roasting tin, add 2.5cm water and cover with foil. Bake for two hours, or until completely soft. Take them out and leave them until they’re cool enough to handle.

Pull the quinces apart and discard the hard core. Any soft bits, including the skin, can be kept, although you might want to get rid of any black bits that you don’t want in the paste. Weigh the soft flesh and the remaining liquid from the tray and put it in a saucepan – preferably with a heavy base – along with roughly the same amount of sugar (if you want to use a bit less, another recipe I consulted suggested three quarters sugar to quince pulp.) Put the pan on a low heat, stir and cook until the paste turns a deep red colour. If you want to blend it, you can do this when the sugar has dissolved using a hand-held blender. Stevie says this cooking process ‘might take an hour’ – it took me an hour and three quarters. It might seem like nothing is happening at first, but it will darken a lot and start to thicken considerably. You just need to stir it occasionally and check it’s not sticking on the bottom of the pan.

When it’s ready, pour it into a tray lined with baking parchment and leave it to set. Wrapped up pieces can be kept in an airtight box.

Adapted from Stevie Parle’s ‘Real Food From Near and Far’

In my last post I suggested that a batch of rosehip syrup might prove handy with the Christmas gift season approaching. Today I have another homemade present idea, and this one has already been tried and tested on last year’s recipients. They almost all said it was too sweet, so I’ve tweaked the sugar content this year to make it as bitter as any true marmalade lover could wish. The one person who truly loved it last year, Tom’s brother-in-law, sent me a forlon facebook message the day his jar ran out, so apologies to him in advance if he now finds his favourite marmalade unpalatably sharp. Sorry Don.

The genius of this marmalade is the grapefruit and lemon, which contribute the sour element which you get in a traditional marmalade from Seville oranges. Since Seville oranges aren’t available until January and don’t last long, this means your marmalade-making season is extended, theoretically year round. I think of this as a winter thing, though, because of the citrus which are around in the colder months, and slightly more obtusely, because I associate homemade marmalade and grapefruit for breakfast with my family and Christmas time. My mum also introduced me to Campari and grapefruit, which is the drink equivalent of this: clean and reviving and bittersweet.

I plan to post some more recipes in the run up to Christmas for the edible presents I make – there are a few things that always seem well received (there have also been plenty that didn’t work out as I hoped…but I tend to think that chucking a substandard biscuit in the compost is less effort than transporting an unwanted gift set to Oxfam). Some of them are honestly less effort than rosehip syrup or marmalade, although I do like doing that kind of lengthy kitchen work at this time of year. Something about pottering around with the central heating on and laying in stores of things in jars is immensely satisfying.

Orange, grapefruit and lemon marmalade

Makes about 4.5kg (around 12 jars)

2 oranges and 2 grapefruit, weighing 1.3kg (I used 2 1/2 grapefruit to make up the amount)
4 unwaxed lemons
3.6 litres water
2.2 kg sugar

You will also need a huge saucepan, or to be prepared to split the ingredients between two big pans.

Wash the fruit (remember you’ll be eating the peel!) and cut in half. Squeeze out all the juice. Remove the membrane – a bit of determined scraping with a teaspoon should do the job. Cut the peel into quarters and slice the rind widthways into thin slivers. Put the rind in a bowl with the juice and water.

Put the membrane, including pips, in a muslin bag/clean tights/other thin porous material and add to the bowl. Leave this overnight.

The next day, simmer the fruits, with the bag of membrane, in your huge saucepan for 1 to 1 1/2 hours until the peel is edibly soft (it must be really soft before the sugar is added, otherwise it will become irredeemably hardened). Make a note of the volume when you start – marking it on a wooden spoon is handy – so you know how much it has reduced by later. Cover the pan for the first half an hour, then uncover and allow the liquid to reduce, eventually to between a third and a half of its original volume.

While the liquid is reducing, warm the sugar in a moderate oven for about 10 minutes and sterilise your jars.

Remove and discard the muslin bag from the pan. Add the warmed sugar and stir until it has dissolved. Bring to the boil and cook until it reaches setting point, which should take around 10 minutes*. Pour the marmalade into the sterilised jars and cover while still hot.

*To check setting point, put a saucer in the fridge until cold. Put a teaspoonful of marmalade onto the cold saucer and put it back in the fridge for a couple of minutes (turn off the marmalade while you do this to prevent it setting too hard). If the marmalade forms a wrinkle when you push it with your finger then it’s ready.
Adapted from Darina Allen’s ‘Ballymaloe Cookery Course’
Rose hips, see also Rose hip

Image via Wikipedia

I have a cold again. I feel as if I’ve had a cold constantly since autumn arrived – sometimes it’s been on standby, but it’s always been ready to send me running for the tissues at a moment’s notice. And this time I’m feeling particularly self-pitying about it. Good news, then, that rosehips have twenty times more vitamin C than an orange – according to my Richard Mabey  – and that I had picked a whole stash of them in a more energetic point in the cold lapse.

I made a rosehip syrup last year but found it disappointing on the flavour front. I’ve since had it pointed out to me that I probably picked my hips too early – this may seem blindingly obvious, but like any other fruit, they ripen. While they appear from late August, at first they’ll be hard; later on they’ll soften and have more flavour. You can eat them raw if you want to see how they taste, but avoid the little seeds which are not good for your insides.  Be careful, also, if you’re picking them at the squishy stage: they have tiny inner hairs which will itch like crazy if you get them on your skin. I speak from uncomfortable experience.

This year I used the recipe in Mabey’s book, which is in fact an old Ministry of Food recipe used when citrus fruit was scarce and the aforementioned vitamin C status of rosehips became particularly valuable. It’s more time consuming than the one I used last year, so best to do it on a day you’re planning to stay in, but the results just about capture the flavour – something like a cross between apple and rose. It’s also recommended that you bottle the syrup in small portions as it will only last a couple of weeks once it’s open. Since this recipe yields a lot, you will end up with several small bottles of syrup. In other words, that’s a few Christmas presents sorted.


Rosehip syrup

Makes about 750ml

1kg rosehips
900g sugar

Wash and drain the hips (they can be frozen if you don’t want to make the syrup straight away). Bring 1.5 litres of water to the boil and roughly chop the hips in a food processor. Toss them into the boiling water, turn off the heat and leave to infuse for 15 minutes. Pour everything into a jelly bag or piece of muslin or clean tights and leave it to drip into a bowl until just about all of the liquid has dripped through. Put the hip residue back into the saucepan, add another 750ml boiling water and leave to stand for 10 minutes. Put it back into the jelly bag and let it drip through a second time. Put the first cupful of liquid back through the jelly bag for a final time (to make sure you don’t get any of the tiny itchy hairs in your syrup). Measure the final amount of liquid and put it back into a clean saucepan. Bring to the boil and reduce until you have about 750ml left (measuring it first makes this easier to judge). Add 900g sugar and boil for 5 minutes. Pour straight into sterile bottles and seal. Store in a dark cupboard.

The syrup can be used as a cordial or flavouring for milk puddings or ice-cream – the flavour is quite delicate so it needs to be paired with something subtle.

From Richard Mabey’s ‘Food for Free’

When I was little, my favourite cereal came in the form of big clusters of satisfyingly hard, sweetened oats with raisins in. We called it ‘crunchy’. It was made by Jordans. Nowadays crunchy seems to have been replaced by its US cousin, granola; and OK, it has a proper cereal name and not just an adjective, but I nevertheless stand by the fact that granola should be crunchy (in texture) and it should come in clusters. I’m always disappointed by cereals that purport to be granola but are actually nothing more than toasted muesli. I’ve made a few uninspiring batches myself, the problem being, I think, that in order to get enough of a sticking, hardening quality you need to use quite a lot of oil and/or syrup and therefore the less healthy and the closer to a flapjack your breakfast becomes. Well, this recipe produces the perfect (for me) consistency and uses only a bit of oil and OK, quite a lot of maple syrup, but at least it comes from a tree. I like to put it on top of fruit and yoghurt for extra virtuousness.

I first had granola with garam masala in it from a little stall at a farmers’ market in Ireland and I loved it. Not everyone loved it, because we ended up with another pot of it in our house that someone else had relinquished in disgust. That one had lime juice and jaggery and goji berries in it as well; I know, because I kept the tub so I could look at the ingredients list. My version adds in some of the things I most like to put in granola: nutmeg and coconut. If you don’t like them, or anything else, leave them out or substitute for something you do – as long as you keep the ratio of dry to wet roughly the same, you will end up with crunchy.

Indian-spiced granola

Makes about 450g

10og oats
50g barley flakes
50g rye flakes
75g almonds
4 tbsp sunflower seeds
4 tbsp pumpkin seeds
1/2 tsp garam masala
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
50g dessicated coconut
175ml maple/agave syrup, or a mixture
2 tbsp rapeseed oil
75g chewy banana chips

Preheat the oven to 180c.

Mix all the dried ingredients together (except the dried fruit). Mix the syrup and oil and pour over, stirring well to combine. Tip the whole lot onto an oiled baking tray or two and bake for 15-20 minutes, stirring a couple of times, until the granola is golden brown. Leave it to cool before breaking it into small chunks and mixing in the banana chips. Store in an airtight container.

I thought I’d pretty much covered Gwyneth Paltrow’s cookbook in my last post, but then I had these for dinner, and I enjoyed them so very, very much that I had to share. These are some seriously delicious burgers. Juicy and zingy and fresh tasting and really, really quick and easy to put together. The perfect TV dinner. We ate them with sweet potato chips and a rocket salad, which was entirely great, but you could also do the bun thing, and Gwyneth has a little recipe for a soy and sesame mayo which I wasn’t about to go anywhere near (me and mayo…let’s just say we don’t see eye to eye). Either way, whatever you eat them with, eat them. The only thing that’s going to stop me making these burgers on a near constant basis is the fact that tuna is rather expensive, justifiably, since there isn’t too much of it left, and I’m a long way short of a Hollywood star’s salary.

Tuna and ginger burgers

Serves 2

The recipe calls for you to marinate the burgers for at least an hour, which I didn’t have time for, and I can’t see that it would make a huge difference. If you did want to make them in advance, though, know that you can do this as early as the night before.

1-2 tsp wasabi paste, or to taste
black pepper
small knob of fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
1 tbsp rapeseed oil, plus more for cooking
2 fat tuna steaks, cut into chunks
2 shallots, peeled and thinly sliced
accompaniments of your choice: burger buns, rocket, sweet potato chips, etc.

Put the wasabi, ginger, garlic and oil in a food processor. Add a good dose of salt and pepper – it depends how much tuna you have, but you want around 1/4 tsp sea salt per 225g tuna. Pulse together to make a paste. Add the tuna and pulse carefully to combine, just so the mixture will come together as a burger but making sure the tuna still has some texture. Form 2 burgers, which at this point you can refrigerate. If you want to check the seasoning, you can fry a small amount in a pan (or you could taste it raw if you’re confident in the quality of your tuna).

When you’re ready to eat, saute the sliced shallots for 10 minutes or so, until soft and golden. Heat a frying pan or griddle over a high heat, rub the burgers with a little oil, and cook for a couple of minutes a side. You have a bit more leeway than when cooking a tuna steak, which you definitely want rare – I’d say these can be just cooked all the way through, but obviously don’t let them dry out. If using buns, you can grill them alongside.

Serve with the shallots on top and serving suggestions of choice.

Adapted from Gwyneth Paltrow’s ‘Notes from My Kitchen Table’

The other day I was in TK Maxx looking for a new coat rack. I generally have a good official reason to go to TK Maxx, but the subtext is always that I want to look at the cheap cookbooks. I initially picked up Gwnyneth Paltrow’s ‘Notes from My Kitchen Table’  thinking it would be an amusing source of derision (I know, judging the efforts of others is not the most edifying way to entertain yourself, but so it goes sometimes). Well, the joke’s on me, because I ended up buying it. It turns out Gwyneth and I have similar taste (not in men, I hasten to add) – we both like food which is healthy without drawing attention to itself as health food; in other words, it’s tasty first and healthy second. I may have some issues with her obsession with something called Vegenaise and her objections to red meat, but I like the fact that she includes some baking recipes without refined white flour or sugar and suggests more natural sweeteners and wholegrains often, without being fanatical about it. It’s mostly quite simple stuff, but I like simple; lots of pasta, burgers, salads – everyday food, mostly, although there’s a recipe for perfect Chinese crispy duck I’ve got my eye on as a weekend project.

And it was from Gwyneth that I got the idea of making cavolo nero into a pesto, which I seized on because I often like the idea of eating things like cavolo nero more in theory than in practice. Combine it with anchovies, garlic and parmesan and it tastes a lot less bitter and good for you and a lot more salty and delicious. It also makes your pasta a glorious shade of green.

Cavolo nero pesto

Serves 4

Gwyneth suggests serving this with penne and peas, but I’m not sure I really felt the peas fitted in. When I had it again I put in some chargrilled purple sprouting broccoli which seemed a bit more harmonious (and another way of fitting in some healthy greens). It is more work, though. I say the mascarpone is optional because I left it out, simply because I didn’t have any, but I’m sure it would be a nice addition.

1 bunch cavolo nero (about a handful)
10 anchovies
1 small clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
5 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
80g mascarpone (optional)

To serve:
350-400g penne or other pasta
150g frozen peas (optional)

Steam the cavolo nero for 7 mins, or until tender. Put it in a blender with the anchovies, garlic, olive oil and pepper and whizz to a smooth paste. Stir in the mascarpone, if using.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta. If adding peas they can go into the pasta water for the last minute or two of cooking time. Reserve a little of the pasta water, then drain the pasta and combine it with the pesto. Use a little bit of the water if it’s too thick. Grate lots of parmesan on top to serve.

From Gwyneth Paltrow’s ‘Notes from My Kitchen Table’

OK, so Nigel calls this a ‘beetroot seed cake’ but I find seedy beetroot cake more amusing, like it wears a stained mac and hangs around in dark bars. Which is in fact completely inappropriate, because this is one of the most wholesome cakes you could hope to come across. Not only does it have seeds in it, and a vegetable, but you can swap some of the white flour for wholemeal or spelt quite safely. If you wanted to make it almost completely healthy, you could leave off the icing, but I think the sugariness is a nice contrast – as Nigel points out, the cake itself has a fairly muted sweetness. If it sounds so far like a cake you’re not really going to get excited about, let me tell you, it is delicious. Usually when I bake things I send the leftovers off with Tom to work so I don’t have to eat them all, but this cake I cut in half first so I’d have a few slices left to look forward to with a cup of tea. This is definitely a cup of tea cake. It’s not going to give you a sugar high and then dump you, it’s going to provide you with the gentle reassurance of a warm and well loved jumper.

A couple of notes on the method – the main drawback of this cake is the amount of mess it creates. I recommend wearing an apron so you don’t spatter yourself in beetroot juice. Otherwise, the cake is quite forgiving – I used different flour, different sugar, different oil and lime juice instead of lemon and didn’t whisk my egg whites properly (did I mention I was a bit hungover?) and it turned out more than fine. One thing though, that I don’t recommend: I used some hemp seeds in my seed mix and they were a bit too hard and crunchy. So stick with the more traditional seed varieties.

Seedy beetroot cake

Serves 8-10

225g self-raising flour, or 150g self-raising flour and 75g spelt/wholemeal flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
a scant tsp baking powder (use a heaped tsp if using spelt or wholemeal)
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
180 ml sunflower oil (can be swapped with half nut oil – I used half olive and half walnut)
225g light muscovado sugar
3 eggs, separated
150g raw beetroot (about 2 medium sized beetroot)
juice of half a lemon or a whole lime
75g sultanas or raisins
75g mixed seeds e.g. pumpkin, sunflower, sesame, linseed

for the icing:
at least 8 tbsp icing sugar – I found I needed about 12 for a good covering
lemon juice or orange blossom water
poppy seeds (optional – I didn’t have any)

Heat the oven to 180c and grease a standard sized loaf tin.

Sift together the flour, bicarbonate of soda, baking powder and cinnamon. Beat the oil and sugar in a food mixer (or food processor, or by hand) until well creamed, then beat in the egg yolks one at a time. Grate the beetroot and fold it in, then add the lemon/lime juice, sultanas/raisins and seeds. Fold in the flour mixture.

Beat the egg whites until fluffy but not quite at stiff peak stage. Fold gently into the mixture and pour into the tin. Bake for 50 mins – 1 hour, covering the top with a piece of foil after the first 30 mins so it doesn’t burn. Leave it to cool for 20 mins before turning out of the tin.

Make the icing by sifting the sugar and adding enough juice/orange blossom water to make a runny consistency – but thick enough so most of it stays on the top of the cake. Drizzle the icing over the cooled cake and sprinkle over the poppy seeds, if using.

Adapted from Nigel Slater’s ‘Tender: Vol. 1’

I used to have an allotment, and every year I would grow beetroot because they seemed to be the only thing guaranteed to survive my inept gardening. They also have a very long season. Consequently I would have to eat beetroot a lot, for months, and by the time I handed in the keys to my plot, about a year ago, I felt like I’d eaten my beetroot quota for life. But then I was at the farmers’ market at the weekend and they had these bunches of beetroot, and they looked so stylish with their glossy purple-tinged leaves and matt burgundy skin that I found myself putting some in my basket and taking them home.

The first of the beetroot I ate for lunch, cut into wedges and roasted with some maple syrup and thyme and balsamic vinegar, with griddled halloumi. It was very good. I was a bit hungover and it made me feel a lot better; I think beetroot is so vividly coloured that it seems as it it must be incredibly good for you. In the afternoon I made a beetroot cake with most of the rest of the beetroot (the recipe for that will follow soon). And for dinner I made an impromptu pasta dish with the leaves, based on the limited contents of the fridge/cupboards. Usually whenever I have beetroot leaves I do a Nigella thing with lots of soy sauce and soba noodles, but since I was out of soba and had expended all my energy on the cake I came up with something else with the requisite strong flavours and earthy savouriness to match the bitter leaves.

Spaghetti with beetroot leaves and toasted garlic breadcrumbs

Serves 2

If I have bits of stale bread I make them into breadcrumbs and keep them in the freezer – they can be used straight from frozen. I would have liked to put some anchovies in with this, except I’d run out, but they could go in with the garlic. Some chilli might also be good at that point.

200g spaghetti, wholewheat or spelt would work well
olive oil
2 small garlic cloves, finely chopped
100g or so breadcrumbs (a couple of big handfuls)
leaves from one bunch of beetroot (about 5 beetroot)
parmesan, to serve

Put the spaghetti on to cook. Heat a decent amount of olive oil in a frying pan and fry the garlic until it starts to smell garlicky. Add the crumbs and a pinch of salt and stir, frying until the breadcrumbs turn crispy. Meanwhile discard and yellowy or not so nice looking beet leaves, give them a rinse, and separate the leaves from the stalks. Roughly shred the leaves and finely chop the stalks. Throw them in with the spaghetti for the last couple of minutes of cooking time.

Drain the spaghetti, reserving a couple of tablespoons of pasta water. Mix in the breadcrumbs, grind over some black pepper and grate over lots of parmesan. Add a bit of the pasta water if the pasta looks too dry.

I’ve been struggling to find anything I wanted to write about, lately. I’ve been eating out a bit too much – just last week, I had five spice braised beef brisket and the best ma-po tofu at Sojo, amazing sushi (as always) at Edamame, an OK smoked haddock macaroni cheese at The Red Lion and salmon with caponata at a little pub near my parents’ (owned by Deborah Mitford!). Which is all well and good, but since I don’t really do restaurant reviews it doesn’t leave me much to work with. And I love eating out – in fact, as the evidence suggests, I find it nigh on impossible to resist an invitation to eat out – but I’m never happier than when I’m in my kitchen with a jotted list of recipes to try out and full cupboards and plenty of time. So, thank you Bill Granger. Thank you for bringing me back to kitchen harmony with these excellent light and juicy meatballs. I thought I had meatballs pretty much covered, but it turns out what I was missing was something paler, with a delicate touch of chilli and a heavier smack of bacon. And, the chance to use my own homegrown multicoloured cherry tomatoes, which always makes me feel very smugly domestic.

Spicy chicken meatballs

Serves 2

Now, this recipe calls for chicken mince, which is not so readily available. Unless you have your own mincer (I wish I did) you have a few options: 1) ask a friendly butcher to mince some chicken for you; 2) substitute turkey mince, which has the bonus of being cheap and stocked in most supermarkets; 3) what I did, which was to buy some chicken, chop it roughly and pulse it in the food processor. Don’t go too far, texture is a good thing. I used a breast and a thigh, but obviously you can use light or dark meat as you prefer.

2-3 tbsp olive oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/2 chilli, deseeded and thinly sliced (or one, if you like it hotter)
250-350g minced chicken (see notes above)
2 tbsp breadcrumbs
25g smoked pancetta, chopped small
2 tbsp chopped parsley
250g cherry tomatoes
125ml chicken stock

to serve:
pasta (Bill suggests wholewheat fusilli, I used spelt spaghetti)
parmesan shavings

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a saucepan and fry the onion and garlic over a medium heat until softened. Add the coriander and chilli and cook for a further minute.

Mix together the chicken mince, breadcrumbs, pancetta, parsley and onion mixture. Season well, pinching off a small amount of the mix and frying it in the saucepan to test the seasoning. When you’re happy with the taste, refrigerate the bowl for 30 minutes to firm up. Heat the oven to 200c.

When cold, roll the mixture into small meatballs – around 8-10 – and place on a baking tray. Drizzle with oil. Put the tomatoes on a second tray, drizzle with the remaining oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast the meatballs and tomatoes in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until the tomatoes are starting to split and the meatballs are golden brown. In the meantime, you can start getting the pasta ready.

Put the stock and tomatoes back in the saucepan, add the meatballs and simmer for 5 minutes. It occurred to me that it might be nice to add a splash of wine as well at this point, if you had some open.

Spoon the meatballs and sauce over the pasta and shave some parmesan over the top.

Adapted from Bill Granger’s ‘Every Day’