This recipe is the first of three produced as part of a paid partnership with Parmigiano Reggiano.

Turns out lying around on the sofa isn’t all that great for your mental health, then. Who knew? People need purpose, which is usually what employment brings. It’s the same with cleaning your living space or doing some exercise – those tasks we put off generally make us happier in the long run.

Creating something is nourishing – be it a painting or a plate of food – and keeping things simple maximises the chances of positive reward. Even the most straightforward cooking, like mashing potatoes or boiling an egg to plomp on top of instant noodles can be the difference between a good day and a forgettable one.

I know there are lots of you who enjoy cooking but aren’t interested in spending hours over it, or queueing outside a specialist shop on the off chance they’ll have the right ingredient. I wanted to come up with some simple recipes that still have big flavour, as you know I don’t do timid when it comes to cooking.

This brings me to Parmigiano Reggiano, who I’m working with again because I love their product but also because it’s a particularly useful cheese to have around right now – it keeps for ages and adds lots of umami, even in small amounts. The intensity comes from the minimum maturation period of 12 months (fun fact: it has the longest ageing period of any PDO cheese) and it can mature for up to 48 months, by which time it has a strong, spiced flavour. It’s incredible to think that something so flavourful is made from just three ingredients: raw, unpasteurised milk, rennet and salt.

I’ve used it here in scones, which as we all know are so simple a child can make them. In fact, the success of scones really lies in not getting involved with them too much at all, barely handling the mix before cutting. I’ve kept the flavour simple by adding chives to the cheese and topping with chilli butter, but you could add nigella seeds or dried herbs maybe, depending on what you have in the cupboard. They’re light, crumbly and properly comforting with a big, deeply-brewed mug of tea.

Parmigiano Reggiano and Chive Scones with Chilli Butter Recipe

Makes 12-14, depending on size

450g plain flour
4 teaspoons baking powder
120g cold butter
1 teaspoon salt
200g Parmigiano Reggiano, finely grated
300ml milk
3 tablespoons chopped chives
1 teaspoon English mustard powder
1 egg, beaten, for glazing

For the chilli butter

Chilli flakes

Preheat the oven to 220C (fan) and grease two baking trays.

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and mustard powder in a mixing bowl.

Grate the butter into the mixture (this is easiest if you hold it using a piece of the packet, so it doesn’t melt in your hand), then rub it in using your fingertips until the mixture resembles crumbs.

Add the chives and grated Parmesan and mix well.

Make a well in the centre and pour in the milk, bringing the dough together until just combined – it should still look shaggy. Don’t handle it any more than necessary.

Tip the dough onto a very lightly floured work surface and gently pat it into a rectangle around 2cm thick.

Use either a circular cutter or something round such as a glass to cut circles (or use a knife to make squares if you prefer).

Place on the baking trays and brush with the beaten egg. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden. Place on a wire rack to cool a little – they’re good when they’re still slightly warm.

Make the chilli butter by mashing the two ingredients together, to taste. Spread on the still warm scones!

Sticky Pecan Buns Recipe

This is the third of four recipes I created in partnership with Vitamix and Great British Chefs

Yeah I know, you’re shocked. Look, I’ve never been much of a baker. Baking is so different from other types of cooking; the first is very exacting and results in lots of sweet things while the others result in dinner. I have no objections to baking on health grounds, you understand (I think that’s very clear from the content of this site) but I just don’t have a sweet tooth in the same way I am greedy for, say, a wodge of freshly churned butter, glistening with sea salt crystals, spread over crusty white bread. A friend once said to me, ‘Helen, you don’t have a sweet tooth, you have a fat tooth.’ Cheers, pal.

Savoury baking, I do. See my billboard-famous chicken pie or my cavolo nero and white cheese börek (I could eat that forever) but sweet stuff? Well, I’ve mastered the basics but FFS do not ask me to knock up a batch of canelés or macarons anytime soon because you are barking up the wrong croquembouche.

Sticky Pecan Buns Recipe

Anyway, I was required to make something with nuts for my third recipe in partnership with Vitamix, the wonder blender that busts its blades through just about anything (previous recipes were chipotle and coffee rubbed short ribs and sorrel fettuccine with brown shrimp sauce) and I’m proud of these, actually.

I’m proud of them because firstly, they worked and secondly, I managed to conquer something I’ve never been too good at, which is making caramel. For years my mum kept a saucepan that I’d destroyed while trying to make the salted stuff, shiny remains welded to the bottom, an unwelcome varnish. Well, ha! In your face, sugar. I am your master now.

These are as good as they look, by the way. Make sure you’re not left alone with more than two.

Sticky Pecan Buns Recipe

For the dough

450g strong white flour
50g golden caster sugar
125g unsalted butter
7g dried yeast
120ml milk (lukewarm)
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon salt
For the filling
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
100g light muscovado sugar
150g pecan nuts
60g unsalted butter, melted

For the topping

80g pecan nuts, roughly chopped
100g light muscovado sugar
45g butter, room temperature, cut into pieces
60ml double cream
1 pinch of salt

You will also need

Vitamix Pro750 fitted with 2.0l low profile container
2 x 12 hole muffin tins

To make the dough, add the flour, salt, sugar and butter to a Vitamix container and select Variable 5. Pulse the ingredients to a rubble consistency, using the tamper to mix equally. Add the yeast and eggs and turn the Vitamix to Variable 1.

Press start, remove the plug and slowly pour in the warm milk. Pour in a slash at a time until the dough begins to come together – you may not need all the milk.

Tip the dough out onto a floured surface, using a spatula to scrape it all out. The dough is quite a soft and sticky so flour your hands well. Knead the dough for 10–15 minutes until soft and springy. Remove to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with a tea towel and leave to rise in a warm place until doubled in size.

To make the topping, heat the sugar over medium heat, stirring constantly. The sugar will clump and eventually melt into pools of brown liquid as you continue to stir. Be careful not to burn it.

Once completely melted, add the butter (it will bubble furiously, so take care). Stir the butter in until completely melted. Very slowly drizzle in the cream (this will also splutter!). Allow the mixture to boil for 1 minute (it will rise up), remove from the heat and add salt. Set aside to cool.

To make the filling, add the nuts, sugar and cinnamon to the Vitamix container, select Variable 5 and pulse until you have a fine crumb consistency.

Knock back the dough and divide it into pieces, rolling them out into 3 rectangles approx. 20x30cm in size. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle over the nut mixture. Roll each up from one of the long ends and cut each into 8 pieces.

Divide the pecans for the topping between the holes of two 12 hole muffin tins. Divide the caramel between them, then add the buns. Cover lightly with cling film and set aside for half an hour.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4.

Bake the buns for 30 minutes until golden brown. Turn out while still warm onto a wire rack and allow to cool before eating.