Kirstie’s Real Kitchen: Brilliant simple recipes for modern families

 

My new cookbook is about my journey towards cooking: as a passionate traveller; as a pretty miserable, single 20-something; as a new girlfriend, a terrified stepmother, then a new mother, and as a crafter learning new things in front of impatient TV cameras. It brings me to now, when cooking is how I relax and what I love to do when I am not working.

 

These recipes are what I cook day in and day out for my children and stepchildren, my partner Ben and our friends and family. I’ve learnt what works best for us by experimenting – making breakfasts for assorted family and guests, finding the easiest way to feed crowds of people at parties, cooking teas and suppers for recalcitrant children. (All these years later I am still finding my way with the last of these, but I have learnt a few tricks and some of the ideas in the book may help those of you who are faced with a fussy eater.)

 

Ben and I love entertaining, whether in London or at Grange, our home in Devon. We have lots of big dishes that we turn to for feeding crowds and Sunday lunches that last until teatime, and we are also keen on cooking and eating outside.

 

Mdoroni Swahili fish curry
Mdoroni Swahili fish curry

Cooks always talk about their food influences, often their mothers or grandmothers. I adored my mother and her early death from breast cancer is the greatest loss of my life so far. She was an inspiration and brilliant at entertaining, but she was not one of my food influences. Oddly, someone I’ve never met – my great-great-grandmother Minnie, Lady Hindlip – has influenced me more in terms of food. That’s because I happened to come across a signed copy of the cookbook she published in 1933. It offers a fascinating insight into life back then and some of her recipes definitely stand the test of time.

 

I firmly believe that you can find the cook in yourself at any age. Being brought up in a microwave household does not mean you have to pass that legacy on to your children. Fundamentally, the reason for my learning to cook and for writing the book is that I want my children and stepchildren to cook. I want this because food is life, and life is lived better if we know what goes into our meals and take an interest in it. I very much hope you will enjoy what’s served within this special section and that it may tempt you to explore the book itself.

 

TO ALL THOSE WHO CAN’T COOK: IF I CAN, ANYONE CAN, AND IT’S MUCH MORE FUN THAN YOU THINK!

INSPIRATION, INSPIRATION, INSPIRATION

 

I have to admit that for many years my cooking was very hit and miss and I just went by instinct. It was only when filming Kirstie’s Handmade Britain, which involved working with a number of talented chefs, that I was able to combine my instinct with a more solid foundation of knowledge and experience. Now I turn to my cookbooks almost every day and I cook from other people’s recipes all the time – there are several of them in the book and in this special section – but I still tweak and adjust as I go along, often because I don’t have all the ingredients listed. This is no bad thing, as it’s important to trust your instincts as a cook. As my confidence has grown, my happiest time of the week is now between 10am and 11.15am on a Sunday.

 

I am in the kitchen down in Devon, The Archers omnibus is on the radio and I am cooking something for lunch. There is no rush, no stress, as no one is going to pitch up until at least one o’clock. It’s my new pleasure: chopping, sizzling, listening to the radio, knowing that people we like are coming to eat and drink. That is just bliss.

 

Gretchen’s bread

 

My mother-in-law Gretchen was born in South Africa, to an Afrikaans father (of Bavarian missionary stock) and a mother whose maternal ancestors came from Devon. Before she married, Gretchen lived for a while with friends in France, then came to Britain, where she has stayed. Much of her time here, apart from raising a family, has been spent keeping shop at The Lacquer Chest on Kensington Church Street. She also has a home in Italy, near her sister’s. When my mother-in-law joins us on holiday, she has been known to come armed with everything needed to make her delicious bread. Although I am competitive in all things, I long ago stopped being troubled by Gretchen’s amazing cooking talents. To attempt to outcook her would be futile. I now just try to learn as much as I can. There is something fundamental and joyous about making your own bread and feeding it to your family. Give it a try. This is Gretchen’s bread recipe, told largely in her own words. I have put in some suggested quantities, relying on the instructions on a packet of strong flour. Note that everything you are working with should be at room temperature.

 

MAKES A 900G LOAF

 

300ml lukewarm water (use a third boiling to the rest cold)

2 tsp clear honey

1 x 7g sachet dried yeast

340g strong white bread flour, preferably organic

160g strong wholemeal bread flour, preferably organic

2 tsp salt

1 tbsp olive oil

1 egg, beaten

up to 150g dry-ish mashed potato (optional)

 

● I made bread on holiday because you couldn’t buy good bread or even the ingredients where we were. I had two bags of organic strong flour, one white and one brown, and a box of sachets of dried yeast.

 

● Everything you need to do if you are the sort of cook who likes accurate measurements is on the packet. The people who sell this are anxious that you get it right! They are better than I am on measuring, timing and temperature.

 

● First measure out the lukewarm water in a jug. Pour 5 tablespoons of it into a cup and sweeten with half the honey. Add the yeast, then stand the cup in a bowl of quite hot water so that it will not get cold while it’s starting to work. This fascinating process involves it gradually coming to life and bubbling up.

 

● Then I get out a large mixing bowl and toss in two-thirds white and one-third brown flour, together with the salt, olive oil and remaining honey, plus an egg. Another magic ingredient you can work in with your hands is an amount of cooked potato.

● For the next step, please wear a huge apron and also have oven gloves to hand.

 

● When the yeast mixture is ready, pour it into the flour and stir with a big wooden spoon, then start to add the rest of the water. Before it begins to look like dough, put your floury hands in, bring it all together and start kneading it. If you have too much water, you can always add more flour or vice versa.

 

● Put a dusting of flour and the ball of dough on your surface to finish off the kneading. This is the most enjoyable part as you find the bread coming alive and bouncing back as you push it and turn it.

 

● Wipe oil around inside the mixing bowl, which you should have left more or less clean. Put your dough back in the big bowl and place it inside a large plastic carrier bag to keep it from drying out while it is rising. This is more effective than a cloth. You can leave it for as long as you like. Too long is not a problem; hurrying the process might be.

 

● Punch the dough back – it will have risen a lot – and place in a lightly oiled 900g loaf tin. Cover again and leave to prove for about 20 minutes.

 

● Preheat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6.

 

● Make sure you have heated the oven well before you put the bread in to bake. Treat it gently as you put it in.

 

● Bake for 30-35 minutes, then turn the oven down to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4 and bake for another 15 minutes.

 

● A tip a friend gave me is to put a large upturned iron pot over the bread. This should be taken off 10 minutes before the finishing time.

 

● Try to resist eating the bread until it has cooled right down on a wire rack. It will be more digestible for one thing, and will go further. If you add the potato it will last for days.

 

Picnic quiche

 

I was inspired to learn how to make quiches by those I tasted at Sally Clarke’s deli in Kensington. A classic quiche, from Lorraine, is a pastry case containing a custard of eggs and cream, with added onion, bacon and cheese. (I have made the cheese optional here, as the cream filling is very rich.) Once you have mastered the basic custard recipe, you can ring the changes by using fish and different vegetables: smoked haddock would be good, perhaps with some onion and red pepper; fried, sliced mushrooms are also a tasty addition. For a portable feast or picnic, wrap the cold quiche in clingfilm, preferably still in its tin, and transport like that. Cut into wedges when you are at your destination. If you don’t want to make your own shortcrust pastry, use 275g ready-made.

 

SERVES 10-12

 

2 tbsp olive oil

2 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped

450g bacon pieces or ready-chopped pancetta

100g Gruyère cheese, grated (optional)

salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

FOR THE SHORTCRUST PASTRY (OR USE 275G READY-MADE)

 

180g plain flour, plus a little extra for dusting

90g cold butter, chopped

3-4 tbsp iced water (just add ice to

a small glass of water)

 

FOR THE CUSTARD

 

2 large eggs, plus 1 medium egg yolk

300ml double cream

freshly grated nutmeg

 

● First make the pastry. Put the flour, butter and a pinch of salt in a food processor and whiz until the mixture looks like fine sand. Add the iced water and pulse until the mixture starts to form a dough. Tip into a bowl and very quickly knead it with your hands until it comes together and looks smooth. Flatten into a disc and wrap in clingfilm. Chill in the freezer for 10 minutes. Don’t forget it or it will harden into an unrollable slab!

 

● Dust a clean work surface with a little flour and roll out the pastry quickly and evenly. Use it to line a 23cm x 4cm loose-bottomed fluted tart tin. Trim the edges, then prick the base all over. Place in the freezer for about 20 minutes, until firm.

 

● Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200C/ fan 180C/gas 6.

 

● Line the pastry case with baking parchment and baking beans, place it on a baking sheet and blind-bake for 15 minutes. Remove the parchment and beans, and return the pastry case to the oven for a further 5-10 minutes, until the base feels and looks dry. Turn off the oven and remove the tin, leaving the pastry case on the baking sheet.

 

● To make the filling, heat the oil in a medium pan, then stir in the onions and a good pinch of salt. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Take a sheet of baking parchment, scrunch it up and wet it well. Open it out slightly and place on top of the onions. Cover the pan with a lid and turn the heat down to very low. Cook for about 25 minutes, until the onions have softened. Check them every 8-10 minutes and give them a stir, replacing the parchment and lid every time. If they start to brown and look as if they’ll burn, add a good splash of water. They need to be really soft once they’re done: if you don’t cook them for long enough, they’ll be hard and crunchy when you bite into the quiche, plus there’s a chance they’ll curdle the cream. Leave to cool.

 

● Meanwhile, cook the bacon pieces or pancetta in a large frying pan until golden and just starting to crisp. (If your pan is not big enough, you’ll need to do this in two batches.) Extra oil shouldn’t be necessary, but add a drizzle if you think it is. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Leave to cool. Preheat the oven to 150C/fan 130C/gas 2.

 

● Spoon the onion into the base of the pastry case and spread it out. Do the same with the bacon, spreading the bits evenly over the top. Whisk together the eggs, egg yolk and double cream in a jug, then season with salt, pepper and nutmeg. Carefully pour this mixture into the pastry case. If using the grated cheese, mix it into the jug of eggs or sprinkle it over the filled quiche.

 

● Return to the oven, still on the baking sheet, and bake for around 40 minutes, rotating the tin halfway through so it cooks evenly. The top should have just a slight wobble. Serve warm or cold.

 

 

Kofta, apricot and prune biryani

One of the best things about doing an annual Christmas show is learning new recipes for food and cocktails from a selection of brilliant professionals. High on my list of favourites is Angela Malik, who is such a kind and encouraging teacher. I hope my passion for all things Indian comes through loud and clear in the book, but learning this recipe from Angela really changed my cooking because there is nothing you cannot cook in her masala sauce. Ben brings all sorts of stuff home – rabbit, pheasant, mutton and various kinds of fish – and all have been chucked in the masala and come out the better for it. Biryani is an all-in-one rice dish containing meat and veg. Angela’s version, with lamb koftas, dried fruit and masala sauce, is superb. I particularly like the crusty bits of rice at the bottom of the pan.

 

SERVES 8

 

FOR LAYERING THE BIRYANI

 

3 oranges, zest of 2 and juice of all 3

100g pitted prunes

100g dried apricots

1 tbsp sunflower oil, for frying

2 onions, peeled and sliced

50g butter

 

FOR THE RICE

 

450g basmati rice

3 litres water

2 tsp salt

2 black or green cardamom pods

2 x 5cm cinnamon sticks

4 cloves

2 bay leaves

bunch of fresh coriander, stalks chopped and leaves roughly chopped

 

FOR THE MASALA SAUCE

 

3 tbsp sunflower oil

2 medium onions, peeled and finely chopped or whizzed in a blender

2 tbsp ginger paste

1 tbsp garlic paste

1 cinnamon stick

1 bay leaf

1 black or green cardamom pod

200g chopped tomatoes (tinned or fresh)

100ml water

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp garam masala

½ tsp ground turmeric

¼ tsp red chilli powder

1 tsp salt

3 tbsp plain yoghurt

 

FOR THE KOFTAS

 

500g leg of lamb meat, minced, or use 500g lamb mince

1 onion, peeled and grated

1 large egg, beaten

2 tsp ginger paste

1 tsp garlic paste

2 tsp garam masala

½ fresh green chilli, chopped

2 tsp chopped coriander leaves

salt, to taste

1 tbsp sunflower oil

 

● Start by soaking the fruit for layering the biryani and preparing the rice. Put half the orange zest into a bowl, then add all the orange juice and the dried fruit. Set aside. Wash the rice in a sieve, tip into a large bowl and cover with cold water. Set aside.

 

● Now prepare the masala sauce. Heat the oil in a heavy-based saucepan. Add the onions and fry over a moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until golden brown. This will take at least 10 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic and whole spices. Fry for about a minute, until you feel the ginger paste starting to stick to the pan. Add the tomatoes and water. Cover and cook on a medium heat, mashing the mixture down every now and then, until it becomes a pulp, about 10 minutes. Add the ground spices, the salt and yoghurt and stir thoroughly.

 

● To make the koftas, put the lamb in a bowl and add the onion, egg, ginger, garlic, spices, coriander and salt. Mix well. Shape the mince mixture into balls about 3cm-5cm in diameter. Heat the oil in a large frying pan. When hot, fry the koftas, in batches, on all sides for 2-3 minutes. Set aside on a plate.

 

● While the koftas are cooking, fry the ‘layering’ onion in the oil in a saucepan until golden, at least 10 minutes. Stir frequently, then set aside once done.

 

● Drain the rice. Boil the 3 litres of water in a large saucepan with the salt. Add the spices, bay leaves and some of the chopped coriander leaves to the pan. Once it reaches a rolling boil, add the rice. Bring back to the boil and cook for about 4 minutes: it should still be hard in the middle. Drain the rice and remove the cinnamon and bay, then add extra salt to taste. Mix in the orange zest reserved from the layering ingredients. Decant the rice into a large bowl.

 

● Preheat the oven to 170C/fan 150C/gas 3. Drain the fruit, reserving the liquid. Now you have to layer the biryani. In a large, wide ovenproof casserole pan, melt the butter. Add half the rice and spread evenly in the bottom of the pan. Add a layer of half the fried onions, then half the apricots and prunes. Add all the koftas in one layer, then cover with the masala sauce. Spoon the remaining rice on top and spread it over the koftas. Top with the remaining fruit and finish with the rest of the fried onions.

 

● Pour the reserved orange juice all over the layers. Cover the pan tightly with a lid and cook on a high heat for 5 minutes. Transfer to the oven for a further 30-40 minutes. After 30 minutes, pinch a few rice grains between your fingers. If they are tender, take the dish out of the oven. If overcooked, the rice will turn mushy.

 

● The biryani can be served straight from the pan or turned on to a large, flat dish. In both cases, garnish with the remaining coriander. The crusty layer from the bottom of the pan is a delicacy.

ON THE SIDE Angela Malik would serve this with pomegranate raita (seasoned with cumin, chilli, black pepper and fresh coriander) – such an interesting change from the usual cucumber version. See the full recipe in the book.

 

Lasagne

 

I love lasagne, but Ben hates it, so much so that I am rarely allowed to serve it. Up to the age of 16 he lived in London and Italy and ate wonderful food cooked by his mother Gretchen. He probably liked lasagne then, but later he left home and moved in with a girlfriend on the Fulham Road. This was the time when the first ready-meals were being sold and lasagne was probably one of them. Fulham Sloanes were quite keen on ready-meals, which might explain Ben’s present-day aversion to the dish. Lasagne is fiddly to make, but it can be prepared in advance and, best of all, can be frozen. It’s great for a crowd – the quantities can easily be doubled or trebled – and the kids love it, too.

 

SERVES 6-8

 

250g lasagne sheets (the ones you don’t need to pre-cook are the easiest)

100g Parmesan or pecorino cheese, freshly grated

100g mozzarella cheese (optional)

salt and freshly ground black pepper

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FOR THE MINCED BEEF FILLING

 

2 tbsp olive oil

1 large onion, peeled and chopped

3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

130g bacon or pancetta pieces

1kg minced beef

2 tbsp tomato purée

a sprinkling of dried oregano

2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes

150ml inexpensive red wine

1 beef stock cube, dissolved in 100ml boiling water

 

FOR THE BECHAMEL SAUCE

 

1 litre milk

1 bay leaf

50g butter

50g plain flour

freshly grated nutmeg

 

● To start the beef filling, heat the olive oil in a large pan and add the onion and garlic. Cook gently for about 10 minutes, until soft. Add the bacon and mince and stir well to break up the clumps. After about 5 minutes, when the mince has turned from grey to brown, add the tomato purée, oregano, chopped tomatoes, wine and stock, and season. Stir everything together and leave to bubble, uncovered, for about 40 minutes. It should be thick and not too runny.

 

● Meanwhile, heat the milk for the béchamel in a pan until almost boiling. Take off the heat, add the bay leaf and leave to infuse for about 20 minutes.

 

● Melt the butter in a clean medium pan over a low heat. Slowly sprinkle in the flour, stirring all the time. Once you have a smooth paste that’s beginning to bubble, start adding the milk slowly, stirring continuously. Keep stirring until the sauce is smooth and has thickened slightly. Discard the bay leaf, then season with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

 

● Preheat the oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5. Set out a baking dish measuring about 30cm x 22cm x 7cm.

 

● To assemble the lasagne, spread about a quarter of the mince in the bottom of your chosen dish. Cover with some of the pasta sheets, overlapping them slightly if necessary. Spread some of the béchamel over them and add a sprinkling of the Parmesan. Repeat these layers (you might not need all the pasta), finishing with béchamel and Parmesan on top.

 

● If you like, slice the mozzarella and use as another layer, or simply grate it over the top before baking.

 

● Bake for about 40 minutes, or until the pasta is cooked and the top is golden. (A lasagne made in a bigger dish will take a little longer to cook.) All you need as accompaniment is a huge bowl of green salad.

 

Homemade beef burgers

 

Many people feel it’s a bit of a chore to make their own burgers or fish fingers, but I like to because it’s the only way I can be sure what has gone into them. Ben sometimes buys ready-made burgers when we are in Devon, but I can’t complain too much as he is the one who does the shopping and he gets them from an excellent local butcher. These burgers are also perfect for picnics or barbecues at home and away – and, even better, all the boys like them!

 

MAKES 6

 

1 medium onion, peeled

1 garlic clove, peeled

500g good-quality beef mince

1 tsp Dijon mustard

1 tsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tsp soy sauce

1 large egg

pinch of chilli powder (optional)

plain flour, for coating (optional)

olive or sunflower oil, for frying

salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

TO SERVE

 

6 good-quality burger buns

 

selection of toppings, eg, sliced Cheddar, lettuce, tomatoes, gherkins, mustard, mayo, ketchup

 

● Chop the onion roughly, then put it in a blender with the garlic and blend to a purée. Decant into a large bowl. Add all the remaining burger ingredients apart from the flour and oil, season and mix until the texture is like sausage meat. Divide into six equal pieces, roll into balls and flatten to the size of the burger buns.

 

● Coat each burger in a fine dusting of flour if you like. If you have time, put the burgers on a plate and chill for 20 minutes or so; this helps them firm up.

 

● Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a frying pan and fry the burgers for 2-3 minutes on each side, according to how rare or well done you like them. If cooking on a barbecue or griddle pan, simply brush them first with oil. Use a spatula to lightly press them down, making sure they are in full contact with the hot pan or rack.

 

● Lightly toast the buns and put a burger in the middle. Serve with all the toppings laid out so that people can help themselves.

 

Grange lamb & apricot tagine

We have great mutton in Devon, so I often make this wonderful recipe by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. I have adapted it to include more chilli, garlic and ginger, tossed in some chickpeas – perfect for when you need to bulk up a dish to serve more – and a bag of my beloved spinach. The result is wildly edible and freezes brilliantly. It’s great with couscous, rice or roast potatoes.

 

SERVES 4-6

 

1kg shoulder of lamb, boned and cut into 3cm chunks (about 840g boned meat)

1 cinnamon stick

2 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp each sweet paprika, hot paprika, ground coriander and ground turmeric

4 cardamom pods, lightly crushed

½-1 tsp dried chilli flakes

2 fresh red chillies, chopped

1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes

2 onions, peeled and finely sliced

40g fresh root ginger, peeled and grated

1 tsp saffron strands

1 tbsp tomato purée

2 tbsp olive oil

6 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

250g dried apricots

2 tbsp clear honey

a little pared zest and the juice of 1 lemon

1 x 400g tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed

1 x 200g bag baby spinach leaves

salt and freshly ground black pepper

 

TO FINISH AND GARNISH

 

handful of coriander leaves, finely chopped, plus a few sprigs

small handful of mint leaves, finely chopped

lemon wedges

 

● Put the lamb into a bowl, add all the dry spices and the fresh chillies and mix well. Cover and leave to stand in a cool place for at least 3 hours.

 

● Put the spiced lamb, tomatoes and onions into a large pan and add just enough water to cover.

 

● Bring to a simmer, then add the ginger, saffron, tomato purée, olive oil and garlic. Stir well and bring back to a simmer. Lower the heat and cook very gently, with the lid partially on, for 2 hours.

 

● Add the apricots, honey, lemon zest and juice.

 

● Cook gently for another 30 minutes, adding a little water if you think it is needed.

 

● About 10 minutes before the end of this time, add the chickpeas and spinach, and allow them to warm through.

 

● Taste and adjust the seasoning.

 

● Stir in the chopped coriander and mint. Serve the lamb, garnished with coriander sprigs and with lemon wedges on the side. Accompany with Moroccan breads, boiled rice or couscous finished with a little butter.

 

Carla’s lentil, feta & coriander salad

 

If I’m filming I am often away from home or have a very early start and can’t take the boys to school, so I really treasure the days when I can get on my Swifty Scooter and whiz down Ladbroke Grove behind my speed-freak sons. Once they are safely in school, I head to Tea’s Me, a tiny café run by Carla, a Notting Hill legend. As well as running the café, Carla has been catering for every sort of event for years, including some parties of ours. This salad is one that goes down a storm, and I often make it now, too. It’s easy to prepare in advance, feeds the masses and looks lovely. It also seems to last for a few days afterwards, which is fine by me as I’m a great one for leftovers. Bless Carla for letting me include it.

 

SERVES 8

 

500g Puy lentils

2 bay leaves

125ml good-quality extra virgin olive oil

90ml lemon juice

salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 bunch each of fresh mint and coriander, leaves chopped

2 medium red onions, peeled, halved and thinly sliced

200g baby spinach leaves

400g good-quality feta cheese, cubed or crumbled

 

● Put the lentils and bay leaves in a large pan, cover with boiling water and simmer for 20 minutes. Drain well, rinse in cold water, then drain thoroughly again.

 

● Put the lentils in a large salad bowl and add the olive oil and lemon juice, with salt and pepper to taste. Toss in the mint, coriander and red onions.

 

● At the last moment, mix in the spinach leaves and small chunks of feta. Serve cold with delicious grilled bread.

 

Heather’s bang-bang chicken

During the school term, when I’m often away filming and Ben is working late, the kids don’t fend for themselves. We have an amazing nanny called Heather, who came to us when Bay, now ten, was a baby. Heather didn’t cook much when she first arrived, but over the years she has grown keener and keener on cooking, and is one of the inspirations for the book. I know through Heather’s experience, and my own, that cooks aren’t all born; many people develop an interest in food much later in life. This is a recipe that Heather found in a charity cookbook published by the boys’ school and it was a massive hit with everyone from the first.

 

SERVES 2-3

 

2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts

2 slices of white bread

2 handfuls of grated Cheddar or any hard cheese

1 tbsp roughly chopped parsley

1 large egg

olive oil

salt and freshly ground

black pepper

 

● Cut the chicken breasts into strips about 1cm wide.

 

● Put the bread, cheese and parsley into a food processor and blend until the bread is crumbly and everything is combined. Put the mixture in a bowl.

 

● Break the egg into another bowl and beat with a fork until well mixed, seasoning with salt and pepper.

 

● Dip the chicken first into the egg, and then into the breadcrumbs until well coated.

 

● Heat a generous amount of oil in a frying pan and fry the coated chicken for about 2-3 minutes on each side, depending on how thick the pieces are, until cooked through.

 

● Serve straight away.

 

Mdoroni Swahili fish curry

Having spent quite a lot of time in India and East Africa, I have enjoyed some very special spicy dishes. This recipe is one of my favourites and it comes from Naomi, who is the cook at Mdoroni, a beautiful house in Kilifi on the Kenyan coast. Kenya is a fantastic country, which I first visited when I was 25. This delicious fish curry brings back happy memories of that amazing trip.

 

SERVES 4-6

 

4 tbsp coconut or sunflower oil

2 large onions, peeled and finely chopped

2 chillies of your choice, chopped

480ml water

4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed to a paste

small knob of fresh root ginger, peeled and grated

½ tsp ground turmeric

1 tsp cumin seeds, freshly ground

2 tbsp medium curry powder

½ tsp tomato purée

2 medium tomatoes, roughly chopped

1 large sweet green pepper, seeded and roughly chopped

1 bunch of fresh coriander, leaves and stalks

1 chicken stock cube

1 x 250ml carton coconut cream

500g white fish fillets, cubed, or peeled prawns

2 tbsp plain yoghurt (optional)

handful of fresh coriander leaves

salt and freshly ground

black pepper

 

● First, start the sauce. Put the oil in a medium saucepan over a medium heat. When hot, add the onions and stir them for 2 minutes, until nearly brown. Add the chillies and fry until the onions are dark brown. Turn the heat down to low.

 

● Holding the saucepan lid in one hand, add 50ml of the water to the onion mix, then immediately replace the lid and cook for 1 minute. Turn the heat up to high and stir until combined.

 

● Add the garlic and ginger and fry for 3 minutes, then add the turmeric, cumin and curry powder. Fry for about 4-5 minutes, until the spices smell good. Stir in the tomato purée as they cook.

 

● Put the tomatoes, green pepper and fresh coriander (leaves and stalks) into a food processor. Add 2 tablespoons of the remaining water and blend to a smooth paste. Add this to the hot spice mixture and cook over a moderate heat, stirring, until it becomes a smooth purée and smells beautifully aromatic.

 

● Crumble in the stock cube and add salt and pepper to taste. (Be careful as the stock cube will probably be quite salty already.) Pour in the remaining water and leave the mixture to simmer and bubble for 5 minutes. Add the coconut cream and bubble for another 5 minutes.

 

● Gently tip in the fish cubes or prawns and cook for 4-8 minutes (the time depends on how big the pieces are and how high the heat is). If using white fish, do not stir as it will break up: simply shake the pan, if necessary, to mix the fish into the sauce.

 

● When the fish turns opaque and is cooked all the way through, turn off the heat and add the yoghurt (if using) and the fresh coriander leaves. Shake the saucepan to spread them through the curry. Leave to stand for 2 minutes, then serve with chapatis or poppadoms, rice, cucumber raita (topped with a few toasted cumin seeds and a little extra chopped cucumber) and mango chutney. Naomi says, ‘Enjoy.’

 

Banana cake

 

 

This is a very soft cake that we make a lot. We always have bananas in the fruit bowl and sometimes can’t eat them fast enough – even though we’re addicted to fried bananas for breakfast (see the method in the book) – so we use them in this cake. We take the cake with us as travelling fodder, as none of my children will eat the food offered on trains or planes: in fact, one of my stepsons used to throw up whenever he saw his passport. The cake is also great served as a pudding. Top it with some cream or crème fraîche and a fruit purée made by mashing raspberries or strawberries with icing sugar. Also try it as a breakfast bread, add it to a school lunchbox, or offer it as a snack when the kids come home hungry after swimming or surfing. The recipe comes from Maravic, who has worked for Ben for many years. She is a great cook (and her spring rolls are a wonder – there’s a recipe in the book).

 

MAKES 10-12 SLICES

 

150g butter, at room temperature

125g light muscovado sugar

225g self-raising flour

4 large ripe bananas (about 550g in total, weighed in their skins)

3 medium eggs, beaten

pinch of salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

 

● Preheat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Line a 21cm x 11cm loaf tin with greaseproof paper or a 2lb loaf-tin liner.

 

● Put the butter into a large bowl and whisk until softened. Add the sugar and continue to whisk until the mixture is pale and fluffy. Sift the flour over the top. Mash the bananas in a separate bowl, then add to the flour.

 

● Add the eggs, salt and vanilla and beat until smooth. This is best done with some type of electric whisk.

 

● Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin and bake for 60-80 minutes. The cake is ready when a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Chocolate chip & hazelnut cookies

 

In the fight to avoid buying over-sweet biscuits for special occasions or when people are coming for the weekend, these cookies hit the jackpot. They are light, full of flavour and packed with goodness from those delicious hazelnuts (my favourite nut). To keep the cookies light and fluffy, leave until completely cold, then store in airtight plastic boxes: this prevents them from becoming brittle. The unbaked dough also freezes beautifully. Simply bake from frozen at the temperature below for 20 minutes.

 

MAKES ABOUT 27

 

170g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

110g unsalted butter, softened

50g granulated sugar

100g light brown soft sugar

½ tsp salt

1 tsp vanilla extract

1 large egg

150g Belgian dark chocolate chips

50g shelled hazelnuts, toasted and roughly chopped

 

● Preheat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Line 3 large baking sheets with baking parchment. (You will have to bake in batches if you don’t have this number of sheets or oven shelves.)

 

● Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl, then put to one side. Put the butter and both sugars into another bowl and beat with an electric whisk until light and fluffy. Add the salt, vanilla and egg and beat for about 1 minute, until well mixed.

 

● Tip the flour mixure into the butter mixture, along with the chocolate chips and hazelnuts, and beat until combined.

 

● Using 2 teaspoons (one for scooping and the other for pushing), place rough balls of the dough on the lined baking sheet, spacing them well apart as they spread during baking. You should be able to get 9 on a square baking sheet and about 12 on a rectangular one. Bake for 11-13 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through, until the cookies are golden around the edges but still soft in the centre.

 

● Set aside to cool on the baking sheets for a couple of minutes. Transfer to a wire rack until completely cold. The cookies will keep in an airtight container for up to 5 days.

 

Blackberry & apple crumble

 

Where I was brought up in the country there were endless hedgerows and we always picked blackberries from them. About 14 years ago I really overdid things when making Location, Location, Location and I got a mild form of pneumonia. I took ten days off work and went to my parents’ house in Dorset. There was just me and my border terrier Foxy, so I began my recovery by watching the first three series of West Wing back to back. I also went on long walks and picked blackberries – loads of them – and made lots of lovely things, including blackberry vodka, blackberry jam and jelly, and blackberry and apple crumble. These days, however, a family berry-picking expedition with the four boys means we rarely make it home with a single blackberry, so we end up eating apple crumble.

 

SERVES 6

 

700g Cox’s apples, cored and cut into wedges

300g blackberries

juice of 1 orange

1 tsp ground mixed spice

2 tbsp light brown soft sugar

 

FOR THE TOPPING

 

175g plain flour

100g butter, chopped

50g light brown soft sugar, plus an extra tablespoon for sprinkling

50g regular rolled oats

 

● Preheat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/ gas 6.

 

● Put the apples in a bowl with the blackberries, orange juice, mixed spice and sugar. Mix well then spoon into a shallow ovenproof dish.

 

● To make the topping, put the flour into a large bowl and rub in the butter. Stir in the sugar and oats, then spoon the mixture over the fruit in a thin layer. Sprinkle the remaining tablespoon of sugar over the crumble.

 

● Bake for 40 minutes, until the crumble is golden brown and the fruit underneath it has softened. Serve with custard.

 

Lemon & polenta cake

 

Here’s a wonderful cake that could be served for pudding or for afternoon tea. The recipe was kindly given to me by Carla of Tea’s Me, my regular breakfast haunt. Polenta (cornmeal) is an interesting ingredient when used in baking. It adds texture and flavour, as do the ground almonds, with their melting sweetness. Since the cake is completely flourless, it’s great for coeliacs and others who can’t tolerate gluten. (You can buy gluten-free baking powder as well.)

 

SERVES 12

 

200g unsalted butter, plus extra for greasing

175g caster sugar

200g ground almonds

150g fine polenta

1 tsp vanilla extract

3 large eggs

juice and finely grated zest of 2 small lemons

1 tsp baking powder

pinch of sea salt

icing sugar, for dusting

 

● Preheat the oven to 190C/fan 170C/gas 5. Butter a 20cm round springform cake tin and line it with baking parchment. Place on a baking sheet.

 

● Put the butter and the sugar into a bowl and beat together with an electric whisk for 10 minutes. Gradually add the almonds and polenta, along with the vanilla, and whisk for another 2 minutes. Add the eggs to the mixture and beat until fully combined. Finally add the lemon juice and zest, baking powder and salt. Mix well.

 

● Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin and bake for 50 minutes, or until dark golden on top and a skewer inserted in the centre comes out clean.

 

● Place the tin on a wire rack and leave the cake to cool completely before releasing it and removing the parchment.

 

● Dust with icing sugar and serve warm or cold with berries and whipped cream, crème fraîche or Greek yoghurt, if wished.

 

Rocky road

 

 

Everyone loves rocky road, a delightfully knobbly mixture of biscuit, marshmallow and chocolate that is so much fun to make at home, especially for children. They like measuring everything, melting the chocolate and eating most of the ingredients before they get to the mixing bowl! You can use just dark chocolate or a mixture of dark and milk chocolate (as in the ingredients, right), which creates something that is still toothsome but not too sweet. Kids often prefer the texture and taste of it.

 

MAKES 24 SQUARES

 

175g unsalted butter

4 tbsp golden syrup

175g dark chocolate

100g milk chocolate

150g digestive biscuits, broken into small pieces but not crumbs

150g rich tea biscuits, broken into small pieces but not crumbs

100g mini marshmallows

50g Maltesers

 

● Line a 20cm-21cm square cake tin with baking parchment.

 

● Put the butter, syrup and both types of chocolate in a large pan over a low heat and melt together, stirring every now and then to mix well. You should end up with a smooth and silky mixture.

 

● Add the biscuits and half the marshmallows to the pan and mix thoroughly.

 

● Spoon into the lined tin and press down using the back of a wooden spoon. Scatter over the remaining marshmallows and the Maltesers and press down to make sure they stick to the warm chocolate mixture.

 

● Refrigerate for at least 5 or 6 hours, preferably overnight, until hard. Cut into squares and enjoy!

 

Guinness & chocolate brownies

 

 

I have done Question Time on BBC television four times because I believe that it’s good to do things that frighten us. The last time I popped up on the panel I was alongside Jack Monroe. We’d never met before, but I knew her food writing and was thrilled to meet her. A few months later I signed up to spend a Saturday morning clearing out a new woodland play area at the back of the boys’ school. I thought coffee and cake might be in order, and Jack sent me this recipe, which I made in batches. I never tasted them, but every brownie I produced was consumed with an enthusiasm for sweet treats you don’t usually see among Notting Hill mums!

 

MAKES 24

 

oil, for greasing (optional)

250ml Guinness

200g dark chocolate, broken into small pieces

200g butter, cubed

3 eggs

300g caster sugar

pinch of salt

150g plain flour

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100g milk chocolate, broken into small pieces

 

● Preheat the oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. Use a little oil to grease a shallow 30cm x 20cm baking tin, or line it with baking parchment. Pour the Guinness into a small pan and place over a low-medium heat. Perch a mixing bowl on top, add the dark chocolate and butter and allow to melt together, stirring occasionally.

 

● Meanwhile, break the eggs into a bowl, add the sugar and salt and whisk together until well combined. Gradually add the flour a quarter at a time, beating it all in before adding the next batch.

 

● When the melted chocolate and butter have combined, very gradually beat them into the flour and egg mixture. Now it is time to add the hot Guinness, which should have reduced by half (125ml instead of 250ml). Gradually pour it into the chocolate mixture, mixing well all the time. It will be very runny – Jack says it looks like ‘brownie soup’.

 

● Pour the batter into the prepared tin, then poke the milk chocolate pieces into it at random intervals. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 40 minutes – don’t be tempted to open the door.

 

● Set aside to cool for at least an hour before cutting into 24 squares. Leave to cool completely before serving.

 

SAVE 25 PER CENT ON KIRSTIE’S NEW BOOK 

 

Today’s recipes are from Kirstie’s Real Kitchen by Kirstie Allsopp, to be published by Hodder & Stoughton on Thursday, price £25. As well as Kirstie’s personal introduction, chapters include breakfast, salads and vegetables, big dishes, children and fussy eaters, baking, Sunday roasts, picnics and barbecues, Christmas, and cocktails and drinks. To pre-order a copy for £18.75 (a 25 per cent discount) until 17 September, visit you-bookshop.co.uk or call 0844 571 0640; p&p is free on orders over £15.