Monday, 28 May 2012



“What are we having WITH the salad?” asked one of the teens as we basked in the evening sunshine for yet another meal in the garden.

“With it? Umm..?” 

 I hastily retreated to the cool of the kitchen and hunted through the fridge.

 As this mini heat wave continues I am happy to eat salad every day, however the rest of the family need a little more than this.

So after a variations of salads; nicoise, mixed beans, quinoa and pasta to name but a few, and ample portions of tomato tart (see May th post for recipe) I  went down to the local market in search of inspiration.

There I saw bundles of fresh local spinach.


OK I know we can get spinach all year round in plastic bags in every supermarket, but it’s in season now and the local stuff is delicious.

If it’s good enough for Popeye, it’s good enough for us. Packed with vitamins, A, K, C, and B2 its excellent for magnesium and iron as well. 

Just what we all need.

With that in mind I decided to make a spinach and mozzarella pie.

It’s inspired by Greek spinach and feta pie but certain fussy eaters chez nous aren’t wild on feta and so I have adapted it for mozzarella and it’s delicious.

I also love this recipe because it works well warm the day you make it or cold the next day. 

It is also possible to make it in about half an hour, always a bonus.

Spinach and mozzarella pie


This is my version of the Greek spinach and feta pie but as half the family don’t like feta we have adapted it for mozzarella and find it works really well. I think it is delicious with either.

Preparation time 10-15 minutes
Cooking time15- 20 minutes
You will need a frying pan, bowl and 9 inch loose bottom tart tin


1 large onion
3 cloves of garlic
450g spinach
1 pack of mozzarella
Handful of pinenuts
Pinch of fresh grated nutmeg
1 pack of filo pastry
25-50g melted butter
Olive oil for frying
Salt and pepper to season and sesame seeds to scatter on the top.

Wilting spinach

Spinach and mozzarella tart ready to cook


1.     Slice the onion and garlic thinly and fry in the olive oil for 3 minutes.

2.     Wash the spinach and then add to the frying pan to wilt this will take about 4 minutes the turn off. Drain off any extra moisture and let it cool slightly.

3.     In a bowl mix the cheese, pine nuts and nutmeg and mix well.

4.     Now get the pastry ready. Melt the butter and then brush the tin with it then lay one of the sheets of filo on it. Brush this with the melted butter and add another sheet of filo.

     Lay them round in a pattern so you aren’t always putting the sheets in the same place. Lay about 6 – 8 sheets in the same way.

5.     Now put the spinach mixture into the bowl with the cheese stir well and then put it in the pastry case.

6.     Once it’s all packed in start to layer the remaining sheets of pastry on top brushing the layers with butter until you have used them up.

7.     Seal the edges with butter and tuck in then brush the top with the remaining butter. Scatter with sesame seeds and place in the oven for 15- 20 minutes until golden.
This can be eaten hot, cold or warm!! 

Spinach and mozzarella pie

If you want to be super healthy serve this with a generous portion of watercress. 

To quote an academic friend who knows about these things..  

“The chemicals in this little leaf (watercress) have been shown to stop the signalling molecules that lead to the formation of breast cancer cells- so keep eating.”

Sounds like excellent advice to me.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012


Alresford Watercress Festival 2012

“Is it just going to be watercress?” asked foodie daughter hesitantly, as I tried to persuade her to come to the annual Alresford Watercress Festival last Sunday.

When I had mentioned we might go to a festival, this was not the kind she had in mind.

However the promise of some live music, hog roasts, local ice-cream and a whole range of other delicious treats quickly convinced her it was worth the trip despite the cold grey summers day.

We weren’t disappointed.

For those of you who haven’t been, it is worth a visit as it's so English, in both the location and the atmosphere.

The Georgian main streets of Alresford were closed off to cars and lined with lots of different stalls, all offering the best of local food produce from around Hampshire.

There were also Morris dancers, sword dancers, comedy police men on stilts and a variety of live folk groups to jolly everyone along. It's good fun and relaxing.

Morris Men- Alresford 2012

Watercress was as you can imagine a feature on most stalls.

 We sampled a delicious watercress dip, as well as hog roasts with apple sauce and watercress, burgers, with name but a few.

 Local cafe’s offered water cress soup and one bakery stall had watercress muffins that looked great. I am ashamed to admit I was too full up to actually try one of these by the time we reached there!!

Watercress Muffins

Stall holders offered tasters of their produce and there was a range of local fruit juices and beers to suit your age and stage!

I think some of the watercress eating contestants must have needed a draft of the local Watercress line ale after they polished off 2 bags of watercress with a tiny amount of water in just under a minute..all in front of a cheering audience. Rather them than me.

What I loved was being able to talk to the farmers and cheese makers, to hear how and where they make their produce.

The owner and cheese makers of TUNWORTH SOFT CHEESE kindly offered to let me spend a day with them to see how they make their delicious soft British cheese which I sampled several times. So I’m looking forward to setting up a date for that and will keep you posted.

Tunworth Soft Cheese

As I left, the judging of the watercress soup competition was underway. Participants, from all over the world, had brought their soup in flasks for the competition and recipes were being discussed.

I left with a basket of goodies to keep us all happy and well fed for the next few days. Including a delicious Tunworth cheese,

some sirloin steak from The Traditional Beef Company

that looks like it will melt in your mouth, some smoked trout for Teen V who looked rather horrified at the steak  and of course,  bundles of watercress

which I will serve with all of the above!

I leave you with the watercress co recipe for Watercress dip, (from the above website which also offers an excellent range of watercress recipes I will no doubt try out soon) and which was divine!

Hampshire Watercress


Preparation time- under 10 minutes


40g watercress – roughly half a bag
½ clove of garlic
120 g mayonnaise
2 tbsp water
½ tsp horseradish sauce
2 tbsp rapeseed or olive oil
½ tsp salt


Put all the ingredients in a blender and blitz until smooth.

This keeps in the fridge for a couple of days!!

I'm going to try it out as an alternative snack to go in pita bread with falafel or burgers now the sun has finally made an appearance.

Sunday, 20 May 2012


Measuring cups

I had a question from a reader the other day about the use of cups in the cow pat bread recipe last month.

Here in the UK we’re not so used to using cups as a measurement preferring good old pounds and oz or grams.

To be honest, I used to avoid any recipe that used cups as it was a hassle.

 However the last time I was in New York I bought a set of American measuring cups.

Bizarrely I bought them in MOMA of all places, not from some trendy down town cook shop!!

They are very retro and have been great.

American measuring cups

 I can now make recipes from American recipes without trying to transpose them to pounds, oz or grams.

I still use my balance scales I got as a wedding present from Divertimenti and have both metric and imperial weights for them and have to admit I prefer this method of measuring.

The question got me thinking though.

 What are the actual equivalents of cups?

I checked out the various cooking gurus on line

Delia has a useful conversion chart on her website if you want the scientific approach:

However as I was measuring out the cups flour for my bread this morning I did a quick weigh of the cups of ingredients as well..

I don’t have more time than sense honestly...

My research showed that

1 cup of water was equivalent to 9 fl oz or ¼ litre


1 cup of flour was about 8 oz or 185 g

Which doesn’t seem very scientific at all I’m afraid.

All the websites agreed that wet and dry ingredients seem to have different conversions so I suggest you check out exactly what they are, or head down to a good cook shop and get a set of cups if you are unsure!

Retro measuring cups

Finally before I pack the umbrella and head off for the day I have just seen that
Not Just For Rabbits
has now had over 

It is fantastic to know people are clicking on, reading AND COOKING from my recipes...

Thank you

Saturday, 19 May 2012



"Yipppy,” at last a glimmer of sunshine has broken through the endless grey of the past few weeks.

As we all breathed a collective sigh of relief and shed a few of the winter layers my thoughts instinctively went to food.

We are, as I think I mentioned before, in the midst of the exam season in our house and so I am conscious of keeping everyone calm, healthy and happy.

Pining for a picnic or at least lunch in the garden after all the soups and stews of recent weeks, I decided a healthy salad and tomato tart was called for, using as many home grown ingredients as possible.

OK.. so the tomatoes plants are barely flowering, so I did have to buy the tomatoes, but the pots of lettuce, that have been  so well watered naturally over the last few weeks, are looking fantastic as is the rocket and basil.

As I went round the garden with my scissors and bowls to gather the produce it felt like I was auditioning for the Good Life!

Home grown Lettuce and Rocket

Home grown Lettuce and Rocket 

This tomato tart is so easy to make and delicious. Both teenagers have made it independently for friends and the results have been very well received.

So if you want a quick lunch or something to take on a picnic this is worth a try. For picnics I have made individual mini square tarts that look cute and have great puff pastry edges that all the children and youngsters love.

This has also proved very popular with my daughter who doesn’t eat raw tomatoes...the roasting with the pesto creates a soft sweetness that alters the texture and makes them delicious.



Preparation 5 minutes
Cooking time 20 minutes
Feeds 4-6


½ Packet or block of puff pastry- I use the Jus-Rol block of puff pastry   that is available in most supermarkets

1 pack of mozzarella
Handful of Basil
500g tomatoes
Flour to dust the baking sheet
3 tbsp red pesto


1.     Pre heat the oven to 170 degrees

2.     Dust the work surface with flour and roll out half the packet of puff pastry into an oblong and place on a flour dusted baking sheet

3.     Spread the spoonfuls of red pesto onto the pastry leaving a an inch or so around the edge of the pastry

4.     Slice the tomatoes into circles then arrange them artily on top of the pesto putting slivers of mozzarella in between the tomatoes.

5.     Lightly season with salt and pepper and place a half of the basil over the tomatoes.

6.     Put in the pre heated oven for about 20 minutes or until the pastry has risen and is golden.

Tomato,  basil and mozzarella tart

All that’s missing from the salad is some delicious local watercress.
 For that I wait until tomorrow and the Alresford Watercress Festival. A day of events, Farmers Markets and food tastings at Alresford in Hampshire..

Sounds like my perfect Sunday!

Sunday, 13 May 2012



With one child convalescing and the exam season starting for the other I felt the need for something healthy, light, tasty and good for the brain.

Food magazines and TV chefs all rave about the arrival of asparagus.

The season is short, eight weeks maximum, they say.

According to local growers the recent incessant rain here has stalled its appearance.

As the sunshine has tentatively broken through the drizzle this week so has the asparagus, and our local market and veg shops now have boxes of delicious stuff.

This simple but delicious recipe was inspired by Jamie Oliver’s Pan cooked asparagus and mixed fish recipe in his Jamie at Home book.

The use of cod loin steaks and small prawns was absolutely delicious.

Soft, light and delicately flavoured.

It was an instant hit with everyone.

Especially the cooks, as it was so quick and easy to make.

Anything that tastes this good and takes ten minutes from pan to plate is a winner.


Preparation and cooking time: under 10 minutes


500g Cod loin fillet
200g small prawns
Olive oil
2 bunches of asparagus approx 450g
½ fresh red chilli
Juice of a lemon and a squeeze of fresh lime


1.     Score the fish and season with salt and pepper and the juice of half the lemon and a squeeze of lime.

2.     Heat a large tbsp of olive oil and sear the fish for a minute each side then add the prawns and asparagus.

3.     Once the fish has cooked remove from the pan and keep warm nearby.

4.     Turn the asparagus to stop it burning and keep coating in the oil until the asparagus is cooked.

5.     Finely chop the chilli into thin strips and add half of it to the pan with the prawns and asparagus.  

6.     Place the fish on a dish ready to serve with the asparagus and prawns add the rest of the lemon juice and pour the remaining oil and fish juices over the platter. Sprinkle the remaining chilli over, then serve.

Pan fried cod with prawns and asparagus

We served this with thin homemade potato chips. The softness of the fish, prawns and asparagus contrasted well with the crispiness of the chips.