Spiced Lamb and Aubergine Pilaf

I love this kind of dish. It can be made well in advance and with a basic selection of spices from you cupboard i.e. cumin, cinnamon, chilli, coriander, you can transform other plainer ingredients like rice and aubergines into an exotic, budget-friendly dish. This is most definitely a real crowd pleaser. Also by using lamb mince instead of cuts of lamb, the whole process even easier.

Spiced Lamb & Aubergine Pilaf


(Original recipe by Sophie Wright)


2–3 medium aubergines, cut into 2cm pieces
olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 large onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
500g lamb mince
2 teaspoons ground cumin
½ teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground turmeric
75g chopped dried apricots (raisins or dates also work really well)
200g chopped tomatoes, fresh or canned
250g white rice (I like basmati but any will do)
600ml lamb or chicken stock
75g toasted pine nuts, flaked almonds (optional)
10–15 fresh mint leaves, shredded (optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/Gas 4. Place the prepared aubergine onto a baking tray (you may need two), drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and season. Bake in the preheated oven for 25 minutes, turning once halfway through. Ensure the aubergine pieces on the outsides of the tray don’t burn.
  2. While the aubergine is cooking, place a large casserole dish on the stove and add 1 tablespoon vegetable oil. Once the oil is hot, add the onion and garlic, season and cook for around 10 minutes on a low heat until the onion is soft and translucent.
  3. Now add the lamb, increase the heat and seal for 5 minutes. You want the lamb mince to have a little colour. Now add the spices, the cooked aubergine, the sultanas and the chopped tomatoes and stir well. Cook for 8–10 minutes to allow the spices to properly cook out. Season again.
  4. Now add the rice. Coat it well in all the spices and pan juices before adding the stock. Put on the lid and bring to the boil, then transfer the casserole dish to the oven and cook for 35–40 minutes. Check it once whilst cooking – if it looks like it needs a little more stock, now is a good time to add it.
  5. You may want to add some toasted nuts and freshly shredded mint before taking the dish to the table. You can have this with griddled flatbreads and some Greek yoghurt. However, we had it simply with fresh cucumber, radishes and yoghurt salad on the side.

Spiced Lamb & Aubergine Pilaf

No-knead Honey Seed Bread

This is my kind of bread! Although it is a yeast dough, as the title says, it doesn’t require kneading and it’s full of texture due to the amount of seeds in it. Good with soups and on it’s own, but even better with the daubing of soft goats cheese.

No-knead seeds and honey bread


(Recipe taken from the book ‘Entertaining Vegetarians’
by Celia Brook)


2 tablespoons honey

1 tablespoon active dry yeast

2 cups whole-wheat flour

1 1/2 cups of all purpose flour

2 tsp salt

2 tablespoons pumpkin seeds

2 tablespoons sunflower seeds

2 tablespoons leenseeds

butter for greasing

milk, for brushing (optional)

1 tablespoon poppy seeds (for sprinkling)


  1. Dissolve the honey in 1-1/4 cups hot (but not boiling) water in a small bowl or pitcher. Whisk in the yeast and let stand in a warm place for about 15 minutes until frothy.
  2. Combine the two flours in a mixing bowl. Using a wooden spoon, stir in the salt and the pumpkin, sunflower and leenseed. Gradually add the yeasty water and mix to a dough. As the dough draws together, put the spoon aside and start using the one hand to press the dough into a ball and the other hand to turn the bowl, incorporating everything into a soft, pliable mixture that leaves the sides of the bowl fairly clean. If the mixture is very sticky, sprinkle in a bit of flour to form a soft dough.
  3. Grease a cookie sheet. Please the dough on it and form into a tapered “eye” shape — or whatever shape you fancy. Dust with flour and over with a damp dish towel. Let rise in a warm place for about 1 hour, until doubled in size. Preheat the over to 200C. Use kitchen scissors to make a decorative snips down the middle of the read. Brush all over with milk and sprinkle with poppy seeds, if desired. Bake the loaf in the preheated oven for 30 – 40 minutes, until golden, firm and hollow-sounding when tapped. Let cool on a wire rack.

No-knead seeds and honey bread

Celery and Cashew Nut Soup

Many years ago, I had the privilege to share a house with the most wonderful lady – Vicky, whom I’m honoured to call my friend. She is an incredible baker/cook, that can make a proper feast form a few leftovers. Her quiches, pies and lamb roasts are the stuff of legends, but for me there is another thing which I am very fond of. It is a celery and cashew nut soup! The first time I tried this soup of hers I was completely smitten. I never thought of cooking with celery and to be honest, 15 years ago, I maybe wasn’t very familiar of it either! For me, it wasn’t on my shopping list back then and the same goes for cashew nuts. They were more of a rare treat. However the combination of the two is a surprise match made in heaven, and is both creamy and wonderful.

Vicky would normally cook it based on a vegetarian stock if I remember it right, but I had a really nice chicken stock I made earlier, so I used it.

Mark also hadn’t heard of this soup before either, but now he’s a big fan! 🙂

Thank you, Vicky!

Celery and Cashew nuts Soup



1 onion, peeled and chopped

2 medium sized potatoes, peeled and chopped

300g celery, washed and chopped

2 tablespoons butter

50g cashew nuts

1 1/4 pints chicken (or vegetable) stock

3/4 pint milk

salt & pepper


  1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan.
  2. Saute the prepared vegetables gently until the onion is transparent.
  3. Add the cashews and continue cooking for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  4. Add the stock, bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 20 minutes.
  5. Add the milk and allow to cool slightly.
  6. Tip the soup mix into a blender and purée until smooth.
  7. Season with the salt and pepper and serve.

Chicken Liver Paté

Here’s an idea to add to your recipe collection during the Christmas season if you want to impress when entertaining. Something you can make ahead as it only enhances the flavour. The red wine adds body to this spread and cuts through the richness of the liver.

Chicken Liver Pate with red wine



350g chicken liver

115g butter

150ml red wine

5 springs of thyme, leaves stripped, plus extra for garnishing

salt & pepper to season


  1. Rinse the chicken livers and pat them dry with kitchen paper. Trim away any white sinew or greenish portions from the livers with small scissors, the cut each in half.
  2. Melt half the butter in a large frying pan over a medium heat until it forms. Add the livers and cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes or until browned.
  3. Add the thyme, wine to the pan. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat  and cook, stirring occasionally for 5 minutes or until the liquid is reduced and the livers are just cooked through when sliced open.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool for 10 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste, then tip the livers and sauce into a blender, and blend until smooth. Adjust the seasoning if necessary. Spoon the paté into a serving bowl, pressing it down with the back of the spoon, then set aside.
  5. Melt the remaining butter over a medium heat, then pour it over a medium heat, then pour it over the top of the paté. Chill for at least 2 hours.
  6. Serve with rye bread or toasted french bread slices or cornichons, which are the traditional French accompaniment.

Chicken Liver Pate with red wine


Stir-fry with Paneer and Peppers

This is one of the simplest and fastest Indian dishes you can do with homemade Paneer.

I will often vary the vegetables depending on what’s available and what we are in the mood for.

This recipe is versatile!




5 tablespoons clarified butter or vegetable oil

1 1/2 tablespoons coriander seed, toasted and ground

1 teaspoon paprika

2 medium onions, finely diced or grated

1 fresh green chilli, chopped, with or without seeds

2 large yellow bell pepper, cut into cubes/thin strips

2 courgette, cut in halves

200g cherry tomatoes, cut in halves

1 tablespoon fenugreek powder (or fresh leaves, if you wish)

250g paneer, cut into cubes

Juice of 1-2 limes, to taste


  1. In a saucepan, melt 3 tablespoons of ghee on medium heat. Add coriander seed and paprika. Stir and cook for thirty seconds.
  2. Add the onions and green chilli and fry for 5–6 minutes, or until the onions are just softening but not browned and still have a little crunch. Add the peppers, courgette, salt and fenugreek powder, and fry for a further 3–4 minutes.
  3. Lower the heat, add the paneer to the pan and gently stir everything together for about five minutes, then add the tomatoes and heat through. Stir in the lime juice, check seasoning and serve immediately.



Homemade Paneer

All you need to make your own paneer is milk, a lemon and a clean muslin. It’s so easy. See for yourself.
1 litre milk (I used full-fat one)
2 teaspoons lemon juice
Extras: (optional)
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
1/2 coriander seeds
piece of cheese cloth or muslin
some bowls and a heavy weight
  1. Boil milk.
  2. When the milk starts boiling, add the lemon juice and extras (if you chose to use it).
  3. As soon the milk completely curdles, remove from heat.
  4. Strain the milk in the cheesecloth and drain the whey.
  5. Collect the cheesecloth tightly together with the lumps of milk shreds, place it on a plate and keep a heavy weight on top of the cheesecloth (as a weight, I used a big jar filled with water).
  6. Check after 30-40 minutes, the paneer should be set. If not, leave a bit longer. Once set and cooled, cut paneer into cubes or any shape.
  7. You can also refrigerate the paneer, keeping it in an air tight container or immerse the paneer block in a bowl of water and keep in the fridge. Paneer stays fresh for 3-4 days.