Burn out is something I thought happened to other people. I’ve always worked hard at juggling various commitments – a tough career as a freelancer, editing a magazine, desperately trying to finish a PhD, my personal life – but it’s always been OK. Friends who’ve been on the receiving end of cancellations or people I’ve lived with might feel differently but I always thought I was holding things together quite well.

Until three weeks ago. I felt it creeping in before I was due to go away on a work trip but ignored the signs and ploughed on. I’m tough, I work hard, this is what I do. I got sick before a 24-hour journey involving three flights and had to take to bed with tonsillitis for two weeks. I had conjunctivitis in both eyes – a strong look – and ended up feeling pathetic. More than the physical sickness though I was just at the end of my tether – at the end of being committed to doing things, done with getting out of bed and definitely 100% through with cooking.

Trying to find energy to cook when you’re feeling down is bad enough but my problem is that I actually can’t. I genuinely seem to lose the ability and end up making horrible food. So many people say they cook ‘to relax’ or ‘forget about problems’ but that’s not my motivation at all. I cook because I love creating beautiful food and because I’m greedy. I cook because I have an idea of what I want to eat and nothing else will do. I cook because I like eating my own food better than almost anyone else’s.

When I’m upset, it’s like my anger channels into my hands and my mood darkens every dish. Once, during a particularly gloomy period, I didn’t cook for a whole six months.

The good news is I think this curse might be coming to an end. I made soothing chicken soup when I was beginning to feel better, trekking to the butcher to get chicken wings and carcasses (then lying down for an hour before I could begin). So when yesterday became the first time serious cooking was on the cards it felt fitting to make something fairly time-consuming, like pasta.

I had my first taste of sweetcorn ravioli at London’s super-hot-right-now 10 Heddon Street. Why have I never come across this before? I fell in love with the dish and made a note to rip it off as soon as possible. My take is packed with fresh corn cooked down with butter, shallot, an absolute metric f*ck tonne of smoked garlic and a swoosh of fluffy ricotta. I added salty crisp Parma ham and more melted butter on top, along with wilted basil and a heavy Parmesan snowfall. I made it and I didn’t immediately share it on Instagram as usual. Instead, I went to sleep on the sofa for an hour and was only woken up by the church bells ringing across the road – nowhere near as romantic as it sounds.

I still found myself itching to get here and start writing and had to check myself because old habits die hard. I’ve been writing and posting recipes on this site for nearly 12 years, which is an extraordinary length of time to do something you only get paid for occasionally. I guess it just has to be more on my terms now, as I learn how to balance this very weird life I’ve chosen to lead.

I think I might finally have the motivation again.

Sweetcorn Ravioli with Crispy Parma Ham, Butter and Basil Recipe

(makes around 30-50 ravioli, depending on the size of your cutter. Mine was quite small so made 50. You will feed 4 people with a big side salad)

For the pasta dough

200g 00 flour
2 eggs and 1 egg yolk
Pinch of salt
Fine polenta, for dusting

For the filling

3 cobs sweetcorn, kernels removed
Half a bulb (around 8 cloves) smoked garlic, crushed
3 cloves regular garlic, crushed
50g butter
3 heaped tablespoons ricotta
1 shallot, very finely chopped

For the topping

1 packet Parma ham or similar (around 6 slices)
Black pepper
Squeeze of lemon juice

Make the pasta dough first by making a volcano with your flour and sprinkling the salt on top. Place the eggs and yolk into the top of the volcano and bring it all together until you have a mass.

Knead for around 10 minutes for a good arm workout. It needs to be smooth and springy. Divide into 2 balls, wrap in cling film or a damp cloth and set aside at room temp for 1 hour while you make the filling.

Melt the butter and sweat the shallot and corn kernels in it for 10 minutes or so – do this on a very low heat so the corn doesn’t brown too much. Add the garlic and continue cooking for around 5 mins more.

Mix with the ricotta and season with salt. Set aside in the fridge while you roll out the pasta dough.

Use a rolling pin to roll each pasta ball into a strip 1cm thick. This makes it easier to pass through the pasta machine. Of course, you can roll it by hand but be prepared for a proper workout. Pass it through, working through the different settings until it’s as thin as possible – this is setting number 6 on our machine.

Scatter a work surface with polenta. Lay one strip of pasta down on it and use a ravioli stamp or cooker cutter to gently mark your ravioli so you know where to put the filling. You can also do this without a cutter, just by cutting around the filling afterwards.

Place half teaspoons (or larger, depending on cutter size) onto the pasta, then wet the edges using your finger. Lay another sheet on top, gently pressing around each dot of filling to remove air. Stamp out the ravioli and set aside on a tray scattered with polenta.

Heat the oven to 180C and crisp up your Parma ham by laying it on a baking sheet and baking for around 10 minutes, turning halfway through. Melt some butter and wilt a handful of basil leaves in it.

Cook the ravioli in boiling salted water for a few minutes. Garnish with ham, basil butter, a good squeeze of lemon juice, Parmesan and pepper.

Jerk Spiced Corn Fritters

When it comes to hangovers I’m sorry to say that I have many points of reference, not that they get any easier. When once it was possible to giddily make your way out into the world after a night on the tiles, it becomes increasingly difficult to even haul your ass out of bed before midday. The still young adult starts off – dare I say it – almost enjoying a hangover, then progresses through various stages of increasing pain before reaching full-blown knuckle-dragging misery.

I have written before that taming the hangover is like dealing with a ferocious beast – you’d better tread carefully because one wrong move and it’s all over. The hangover is something that needs minute-by-minute management, and although I consider myself an expert everyone is different. I am very fussy about food, for example, to the point where things I usually adore, like eggs, cannot pass my lips post-booze. This is a recent development likely to change at any moment. I also can’t stick tea; so where usually I’m a ten cups a day gal, the morning after it’s just rancid tannic bile.

Jerk Spiced Corn Fritters

This is a recipe for a level 2-3 hangover (out of 5). I say that because it does require you to stand up in the kitchen, mix things together in a bowl and fry the results in a pan. The fritters are excellent, though, because a) they’re fried b) they’ve got corn and sour cream and c) they’ve got habanero sauce and I think we all know that it’s my absolute favourite chilli. Make these, pile them up and eat them in bed while binge-watching Netflix.

Jerk Spiced Corn Fritters with Sour Cream and Hot Sauce

This makes 15-20 fritters (depending on how large you make them)

2 x 198g cans (pre-drained weight) sweetcorn, drained
140g plain flour
¼ teaspoon baking powder
220ml milk
3 spring onions, very finely sliced
Handful coriander leaves, chopped
2 teaspoons ground allspice
1-2 teaspoons Tabasco Habanero Sauce  (remember you’ll add more at the table/in bed)
1 egg, beaten lightly with a fork
Oil, for frying (such as vegetable or groundnut)

To serve

Tabasco Habanero Sauce
Lime wedges
Sour cream
You could also add some grilled bacon…

Sift the flour into a large bowl with the baking powder. Pour in the milk and mix well to make a smooth batter.

Add the sweetcorn, coriander, allspice, spring onion, Tabasco and egg and season with two large pinches of salt.

Heat a 1cm depth of oil in a heavy based frying pan or skillet and wait until it starts shimmering, but not smoking. Turn the heat to medium-high. Drop a tablespoon of the batter into the oil at a time and flatten it out into a round fritter shape. It will take a few minutes to turn golden on the underside – you can then flip it over and brown the other side.

Be wary as the oil will spit a little and splash as you turn them. Set aside to drain off excess oil on kitchen paper. To serve, add lime wedges, sour cream and more coriander and Tabasco alongside.

This recipe was commissioned by Tabasco. All content was written and created by me and I retain full editorial control. 


Sweetcorn and Kimchi Fritters

So brunch is a big thing, then. We’re not allowed to go out for breakfast any longer – we must brunch. The Australians are mad for it, with their avocados and endless cups of coffee. In America, they’ve long loved those stacks of impossible-to-finish pancakes dripping in syrup. Why a stack? One of those fluffy facecloths is enough. I had a shock the first time I saw a plate of those arrive, let me tell you, giving the waitress my best, ‘when will the other people be arriving?’ look. She didn’t care, it’s normal. They’re used to picking up the remains and chucking them straight in the bin.

I feel a bit like this about brunch in general, it’s all just too much for the morning. Eggs, meat, bottomless booze and all of the rich things on one plate. Instead of setting you up for the day, this meal can easily send you back to bed. I like to draw the line at a single egg, a couple of bacon rashers and my new secret weapon – the corn and kimchi fritter. Corn fritters are obviously brilliant already (what with them containing corn and all), and kimchi goes really well with their sweetness, adding its own special funky punch of heat and crucially, acidity to lighten things. The drippy egg means it’s enough to fill you up, but not f*ck you up, because we all have stuff we’d like to do on a Saturday morning that doesn’t involve going back to bed, right?

Sweetcorn and Kimchi Fritters

Makes 12 fritters.

140g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
220ml milk
3 spring onions, finely sliced (plus another to serve)
1 x 165g can sweetcorn (drained weight)
150g kimchi, roughly chopped
Small handful of coriander leaves, chopped
Oil, for frying

Bacon and eggs, to serve

Mix the flour and baking powder then whisk in the milk to make a smooth but thick batter. Add the other ingredients (saving 1 spring onion and a little coriander for garnish). Season with salt and pepper.

Heat some oil in a frying pan, a couple of tablespoons to start, you can add more as you go, and drop tablespoons of the mixture into the pan. Flatten them out and cook for a minute or so each side until golden. Set aside on kitchen paper while you cook the others.

Serve with grilled bacon and a poached egg. Scatter with the remaining spring onion and coriander to serve.

Corn Soup

It’s the end of the summer and the corn is going cheap. I bought four cobs for a quid in Peckham yesterday and a frankly quite staggering twelve red peppers for the same. Twelve. Not joking.

This soup only uses one you’ll be pleased to know, along with two cobs and some classic Caribbean flavours: thyme, scotch bonnet chilli and coconut. It’s a hearty mix, thickened with yellow split peas and potato but my version is light compared with other recipes which use pumpkin or squash and other vegetables. I prefer a fresher version that keeps the focus on the juicy bursts of corn. I strip one cob and slice the other so I’m not denied the pleasure of gnawing on it.

The scotch bonnet chilli is left whole and slit lengthways to release just moderate fruity heat and the creamy coconut milk smooths things over. It tastes tropical and most importantly, it celebrates the corn. At that price, it would be rude not to.

Jamaican Style Sweetcorn Soup

1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 scotch bonnet chilli
150g yellow split peas
1 litre stock (I used vegetable)
400ml tin of coconut milk
2 sprigs of thyme
2 cobs corn
1 red pepper, diced
1 large potato, diced

Heat a couple of tablespoons of vegetable or groundnut oil in a pan and add the onion. Let it sweat over a lowish heat for about 8 minutes then add the garlic for a couple of minutes more, taking care not to let it burn. Make a cut down the length of the chilli, but keep it intact and add it to the pan with the split peas, thyme and stock – simmer for 30 minutes.

Prepare the corn by shaving the kernels from one of the cobs, running your knife down the sides, top to bottom. Slice the other one into 2cm thick slices (I nicked that idea from this recipe recently. I also nicked their presentation). Add the corn, coconut milk and potato and simmer for 10-15 minutes. Add the red pepper for the final 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Allow the soup to cool a little then remove the chilli, thyme and corn slices (reserve the corn slices) and blend half the soup. If it is still quite hot then make sure not to fill the blender more than half way and hold the lid down because if you don’t you will end up with soup all over your kitchen. It will blast the lid off the blender. Return to the pan and add back the corn slices. Reheat if necessary, adjust the seasoning and serve.