Mexican Red Rice

This rice dish is full of flavour and texture and is great side for almost any savoury Mexican dish or just on its own with avocado and tangy salsa.



2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 medium onion, finely chopped

1-1/2 cups uncooked long grain white rice

3 cloves garlic, minced

2-1/2 cups vegetarian/chicken stock (from the cubes is just fine)

400g passata/canned chopped tomatoes

1 teaspoon chilli powder

1/2 cup frozen petits pois

salt to taste

chopped spring onion/coriander for serving (optional)


  1. In a medium-sized saucepan, heat oil over medium heat. Add the chopped onion, sauté for a few minutes or until softened and translucent.
  2. Add the dry rice and continue cooking, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes or until rice becomes a golden brown colour. Do not allow the rice to burn. Add the garlic to the rice and cook for one more minute.
  3. Add the passata/chopped tomatoes, chicken stock, petit pois, chilli powder and salt, mix well, lower heat and cover with a lid.
  4. Simmer for 20 to 25 minutes until all liquid is absorbed. Remove from heat and allow to sit, covered, for 5 minutes. Fluff with a fork and serve.




Mixed Beans and Aubergine Chilli

Aubergine is not the vegetable you usually find in a chilli, but their meaty, spongy texture perfectly absorbs all the flavours and together with the beans makes a delicious combo.

Mixed bean and aubergine chilli


(recipe adapted from S. Rimmer’s ‘The Accidental Vegetarian’ book)


about 80ml vegetable oil

1-2 aubergines, depends on the size, cut into chunky cubes

1 red onion, chopped

1 green pepper, chopped

4 garlic cloves, finely chopped

2-3 red chillies, finely chopped

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon paprika

1/2 teaspoon cumin

pinch of ground cinnamon

1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes

1 x 400g tin mixed beans

1 cup of water

1/2 teaspoon sugar (optional)

1/2 teaspoon cocoa powder (optional)

salt and pepper to taste

grated cheese/soured cream to serve (optional)


  1. Heat some oil in a pan and fry the aubergine pieces for about 7 minutes or until they get some colour and soften. Remove and drain on the kitchen towel.
  2. Fry the onions until soft and translucent, add chopped green peppers, continue to fry for another 4 minutes. Add the garlic, chillies, all spices, stir well and cook for another 2 minutes.
  3. Then add the beans, tomatoes, aubergines, sugar and cocoa powder (if you use it) and a cup of water. Season well, cover with the lead and cook on a medium heat for about 20 minutes.
  4. Check again for seasoning and serve with rice/baked potatoes, with dollop of soured cream and some grated cheese.

Pan Fried Salmon and Tomato-Braised Lentils Stew

This is one of my favourite ways of cooking green lentils, the consistency is so soft and creamy, it’s almost like a risotto, just using lentil instead of rice. Occasionally when we have it as a main dish, served just with broccoli rabe, I would add splash of cream at the end of cooking, but on this occasion I opted out.

Pan-fried salmon and tomato-braised lentil stew



Serves 4

4 fillets of salmon

1/2 lemon (optional)

4 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped

1 celery stick, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 1/2 cups green French lentils
1 tablespoon tomato paste
3 cups stock (chicken or vegetable), plus some extra if needed
1 can of chopped tomatoes
1 to 2 tablespoons butter
Handful fresh basil leaves, roughly torn (optional)
Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Heat two tablespoons of the olive oil in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Sweat the onions over a low heat for about 8 minutes until translucent, add the celery, garlic and cook another minute. Add the lentils, tomato paste, chopped tomatoes and a splash of the stock. Increase heat to medium and stir occasionally until stock has been absorbed. Continue adding stock and stirring occasionally until the lentils are just tender, about 30-35 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Meanwhile, prepare the salmon.  Melt the butter in a frying pan. Add the salmon skin-side down, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and squeeze over a little lemon juice. Fry for 2-3 minutes, then turn the salmon over and fry for a further 1-2 minutes, or until cooked through. Squeeze over a little more lemon juice and taste to check the seasoning. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  3. Stir and check for taste the lentil stew. Stir in the basil leaves, then serve immediately with the salmon on top.


Apparently the ‘real’ Gazpacho has bread in it, but I prefer the ‘clean’ version with fresh bread or other bread things on the side. Easy to modify to suit your taste. Even better the next day!



(Recipe adapted from Ina Garten)

1 medium cucumber, halved and seeded
2 red bell peppers, cored and seeded
4 plum tomatoes
1 red onion

1 red chilly
3 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups tomato juice
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
1/4 cup good olive oil
salt & pepper to taste


1. Roughly chop the cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes, and red onion and chilli. Put all vegetables into a food processor fitted with a steel blade and process it until the mixture appears creamy.

2. Transfer the mixture into large bowl or saucepan and add the garlic, tomato juice, vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Mix well and chill before serving. The longer gazpacho sits, the tastier it gets. To garnish you can add finely chopped onion, tomato, cucumber or small croutons on top. I’ve just splash extra olive oil on top before serving. We had it with Empanadas on a side, the combination of flavours, cold and hot was wonderful!



If you think about, this is another food you can find almost in every country around the world with its own version of a pastry or dough stuffed with sweet or savory fillings: Cornish pasties, pirogi, samosas, dumplings, turnovers, pastels, etc. They can be served alone or as a side dish. Empanadas are a very versatile, once you know the basic method, you can try different fillings. It is a great way to use seasonal veg and fruits. This version is always a hit in our household and amongst our friends.



For the pastry

450g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

1 teaspoon baking powder

85g butter, chilled and diced

2 eggs, beaten, plus extra for glaze

4-6 tablespoons cold water

For the filling:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

4 tomatoes, chopped

2 tablespoons tomato purée

1/4 teaspoon dried chilli flakes/powder

1/2 teaspoon ground cumin

1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika

1 can tuna, drained

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

salt & pepper


1. Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl. Rub in the butter with your fingertips until it looks like coarse breadcrumbs.

2. Add the beaten eggs and the water, a little at a time, mixing them with the knife, then your fingertips, until a ball of dough is formed. Wrap the pastry in cling film and chill in a fridge for 30 minutes.

3. Heat the oil in a frying pan and cook the onion over a medium heat for 5-8 minutes, or until soft.

4. Add the tomatoes, tomato purée, chilli, cumin, paprika, tuna and  parsley, mix well, season with salt and pepper. Reduce the heat and continue to cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set the mixture aside to cool.

5. Preheat the oven to 190C. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface to 3mm thick. Use a 9cm (or close to) pastry cutter to cut out circles.

6. Put a heaped teaspoon of the filling inside each circle, then brush the edges with water. Fold the pastry over to form a half-moon shape, then firmly crimp the edges to seal.

7. Place the empanadas on a baking tray lined with baking paper and brush the tops with beaten egg. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm. We had them on a side with Gaspacho.


P.S Unfortunately, I can not remember which book the recipe came from. I had a black & white copy of it without any references on it for ages. I treasure it very much and now would like to share it with you, as this recipe is excellent and works every time.



According to Wikipedia, Shakshuka is a dish of eggs poached in a sauce of tomatoes, chilli peppers and onions, often spiced with cumin. It is believed to have a Tunisian origin. The first time I heard about it, was on Ottolenghi’s TV cooking show. Thing is, I remember my grandma used to cook something very similar but without chillies and with some pre-cooked potatoes. Using up all the leftovers we called it ‘Poor Man’s Breakfast’.

It is warming and comforting, ideal for mornings or days when you are not up for a great culinary challenge. We had it with Soda Bread and it was a perfect match.



3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 large red bell pepper, seeded and thinly sliced

1 medium hot chilli pepper, finely chopped

3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 teaspoon ground cumin

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

5 large tomatoes, chopped

4 eggs

Salt & Pepper

Bread to serve


1. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion and bell pepper. Cook gently until very soft, about 20 minutes. Add garlic and cook until tender, 1-2 minutes; stir in cumin and paprika, and cook 1 minute. Pour in tomatoes and season with 3/4 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper; simmer until tomatoes have thickened, about 10 minutes.

2. Gently crack eggs into skillet over tomatoes. Season with salt and pepper. Cover skillet with a lid and leave it cooking until eggs are just set, 5 to 7 minutes. Sprinkle with some fresh herbs, feta cheese or serve with hot sauce, if you wish, but definitely with some crusty bread to scoop up delicious sauce.

Italian Chicken with Basil and Cherry Tomatoes




4 chicken legs, halved through the joints

Olive oil (approx 4 table spoons)

1 onion, finely chopped

2 celery sticks, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

3 bay leaves

100 ml white wine

1 can chopped tomatoes

1 tablespoon tomato paste

1 teaspoon sugar

1 teaspoon dry oregano

250 g cherry tomatoes

25 g basil leaves, torn into pieces

125 g mozzarella cheese

salt & pepper


1. Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and fry the chicken pieces until brown. Drain to a plate.

2. Add the onion and celery to the pan and gently fry for about 10 minutes, add the garlic, bay leaves and fry for a further 2 minutes.

3. Add the wine, can of chopped tomatoes, sugar, tomato paste, oregano, salt and pepper and bring to boil. Then reduce the heat, return chicken pieces to the pan and cook very gently, uncovered for about 40 minutes.

4. Then place cherry tomatoes around the chicken, put on top torn half of the basil, following by torn pieces of mozzarella on top and cook for 20 minutes under the lead.

5. Stir in the rest of the basil leaves just before the serving and check for seasoning. Enjoy!