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.

A dish of crab and corn feels like the heady height of summer. I made this plate to cheer myself up, truth be told; there’s nothing ‘wrong with me’ per se, I just feel a bit overwhelmed. Arranging sunny flavours on a plate can go a long way towards lifting my spirits, particularly followed by an hour or two on the sofa with a book. Like a kind of reset button.

I bought a dressed crab for this because cooking and picking one would’ve been too much, and I charred the corn indoors on a griddle pan rather than on the barbecue because I didn’t want the smokiness to overwhelm the crab but honestly, I also couldn’t be bothered with faff.

Rich, salty crab meat and sweet niblets (niblets!) of corn are a wonderful combination and I brought it all together with a sauce of melted butter, harissa and brown crab meat. A squeeze of lime plus its zest and a few wiggly tarragon leaves and this is a very fine and really quite decadent lunch.

There are different directions you could take this in depending on mood – an Old Bay and chilli butter would be fantastic, as would straight up tarragon, or tarragon and chive. Try swapping lime for lemon or grapefruit, or add carbs e.g. small potatoes. It’s a very simple recipe – just a lovely arrangement of good things which has the potential to make you feel very clever and capable.

And yes, I’m feeling much better, thank you.

Charred Corn and Crab with Harissa Butter Recipe

Serves 2 with bread/potatoes/whatever as a main dish, or 4 as a side

1 dressed crab or 1 brown crab cooked and picked – separate the white and brown meat
2 large cobs of corn, husks removed
1 spring onion, white and green parts very finely sliced
A couple of sprigs of tarragon leaves, picked
Juice and zest of 1-2 limes
25g butter
1 tablespoon harissa

Heat a griddle pan until very hot. Rub the corn lightly with oil and season with salt and pepper, then place into the pan. Cook, turning frequently until charred lightly on all sides. Remove and allow to cool, then slice the niblets from the cob.

Gently melt the butter and stir in the harissa and brown crab meat.

Scatter the corn over a serving plate, add the white crab meat and spring onion. You may not want/need all of the spring onion. Drizzle over the harissa butter and follow with a good squeeze of lime juice and zest. Taste and adjust by adding more seasoning or lime juice. Finally, add the tarragon leaves and serve.

Want more crab recipes?

Hot Crab Dip | Crab, Corn and Caviar Tacos | Crab Lasagna | Crab Fried Rice | Louisiana Crab Cakes 

Want more corn recipes?

Jerk Spiced Corn Fritters | Sour Creamed Corn | Corn and Kimchi Fritters | Pickled Corn with Scotch Bonnet 

I have so many recipes to share with you but London is currently experiencing a heat wave and I’m finding it hard not to just flop onto the cool kitchen tiles with the cats. Nobody wants to cook anyway, right? Yeah, yeah, so 30 degrees doesn’t seem that extreme but there’s something about the fuggy London heat that clings to your skin like a special kind of grime. It’s oppressive.

I’ve always wondered, when visiting places like Borneo or Vietnam, why they have such an extreme approach to indoor temperature control and it’s because they genuinely like to freeze in between bouts of professional sweating. I heard a story the other day about someone who grew up in Dubai and they had to carry around a jumper when it was 45 degrees outside so they wouldn’t become Mr. Frosty if sat inside for more than half an hour. That’s ridiculous.

Broad beans with yoghurt and smoky chilli butter

Some people claim to like the heat, of course. Good for them. I say it’s just not natural for a human to be exposed to these conditions. In Malaysia, I asked someone if they were born able to bear the heat or if they built up resistance over time and their answer was: neither. People living in very hot countries don’t enjoy it either. They just have to get on with it.

If all this sounds like a bitch and a moan about the good weather then I’m sorry to tell you that’s exactly what it is. Give me 25 degrees and a gentle wind and I’m a happy woman. That’s perfect weather for a BBQ, say, or sitting in the park with an ice cream. It becomes more about Vitamin D and less about survival.

Broad beans with yoghurt and smoky chilli butter

Tomorrow, this weather is due to break and it’s then that I will share with you a recipe for ice cream because I’m doing this on my terms now, weather. I’m taking back control.

Broad Beans with Yoghurt and Smoky Chilli Butter

This is a lovely thing to eat with lamb, as we did (recipe coming soon), or on its own with bread for swooshing through that sauce. The yoghurt is very cooling (yes, COOLING) and the butter is great because it’s butter and it’s infused with ground up smoky chilli. It’s essential that you use a whole chilli here – one of those Mexican ones with a complex flavour, not, say smoked paprika.

This also works best with small, sweet beans.

500g broad beans in their pods
50g butter
1 smoky chilli e.g. Poblano, Ancho (Chipotle would be a bit much)

Pod the beans and cook them. Pop them from their tough husks. Allow to cool.

Melt butter. Grind the chilli. Add to the butter.

Spread yoghurt on a plate, top with beans and the butter. Serve.

Spaghetti with 'Nduja

‘Nduja is a spicy, spreadable, Calabrian sausage up there with the trendiest of ingredients. For months I’ve resisted its porky charms, the only reason being that my only other experience with a (different) spreadable sausage (at a very popular East London restaurant) ended in 3 days of food poisoning hell. The very idea of spreadable meat made me queasy, until I came across a ‘nduja stall in Borough Market last week. The giant red lobes glistened seductively in the sunlight, I approached cautiously for a taste, then promptly kicked myself for being such a wuss and missing out on what is one of the most delicious pork products I’ve tasted in a very long time.

It is made mostly from bits of the head, super-charged with outrageous quantities of fiery red Calabrian chilli pepper (at least 60% according to some websites) which gives it the most intensely savoury umami addictive quality. You can just taste the sun in the bitter-sweet intensity of those red peppers. I can’t get enough.

It’s wonderful melted and scrambled into eggs, or used as a dip for bread (as the Calabrians apparently eat it). Tim Hayward likes it with crab. My favourite way to eat it is melted into pasta sauce, with or without tomato. Its power to enrich a basic tomato pasta sauce is second to none but now I prefer it stirred into just a little onion and butter; the sausage melts away to a hundred flecks of scarlet pepper swirling in heavenly porcine oil. Mixed through spaghetti, with just a squeeze of lemon, this may be one of the most perfect pasta sauces of all time.

Spaghetti with ‘Nduja

(some people say this amount of pasta should serve 2 people; I can eat the lot no problem)

200g spaghetti
1 generous heaped tablespoon nduja sausage (it will keep for months in the fridge, too)
Half a small white onion, finely chopped
A knob of butter
A squeeze of lemon juice
A few leaves of parsley, chopped
Salt and pepper

Cook the spaghetti in plenty of boiling salted water. Meanwhile, melt the butter and soften the onions it. When they are translucent, melt in the nduja. Add a squeeze of lemon and some salt and pepper.

When the spaghetti is cooked, spoon 2 tablespoons of the cooking water into the sauce, then drain the pasta. Mix the sauce with the spaghetti and serve, scattered with the parsley.

Chicken Pie for Lurpak

I have been asked many times to name the ingredient I cannot live without. The answer has always been the same: butter. Fat makes things taste good and we all know it. Crumpets oozing with butter that dribbles down your chin; a roast chicken smothered and crisped and dipped in the pan juices; a fresh hot paratha smeared generously with ghee. You get the idea.

I get approached a lot by people wanting me to help them promote things –  e-mails ping into the inbox with the opening line, “I think this may be of interest to your readers.” This one was different though. For a start they actually wanted me to go and cook something which, you know, I’m quite keen on doing and secondly, well, I really love butter don’t I. Would I come and make a pie for the new Lurpak ad campaign? Damn right I would.

And so I found myself at a studio in Shoreditch one sunny afternoon cooking up a chicken and fennel pie. There was also a home economist there who, thankfully, was very entertaining. I usually can’t stand sharing a kitchen with anyone. We made two pies, just to make sure that they could capture ‘the shot’. The idea was to make the pie look as ‘epic’ as possible. It had to be a beast – a tall, proud, epic beast. This was where the home economist came in, employed as she is to make food look ‘right’ for ads and mags and books etc.

Photographing the Pie

The result was a shiny domed beauty; a steaming, puffy, bubbling pot of meat and pastry. I wanted to eat it but of course, couldn’t. It was whisked away to be lit and snapped and lit and snapped again. It was a whole new world to me, this advertising business. The main thing I learned is that there is a huge amount of hanging around. All in all though, a fun day and an experience I’d definitely repeat. They also asked me to come in for a casting for the TV ad, but sadly I couldn’t make the date, being as I was on my way to Lisbon.

In the end, that perfect shot was achieved and it was time for me to go home and for Jeanne to start baking her cupcakes. The ad campaign is featured on billboards around the country – I’ve already seen it in Old Street and last night spotted one on my own turf in Peckham! It’s rather nice to see my little pie all big and out there on its own in the city, doing its best to encourage people to cook and use more butter. Now that’s a message I can really get behind.

Chicken and Fennel Pie

(fills an 18-20cm pie dish)

1 free-range chicken, cooked (I used a roast chicken but you could use cooked chicken pieces if you don’t want to roast one).
2 bulbs fennel, tops, bottoms and core removed and finely sliced
1/2 large onion, sliced
4 rasher smoked bacon, diced
1 large leek, sliced
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small handful of chopped parsley
Splash of white wine
A dollop of wholegrain mustard (optional)
Oil, for cooking

350 – 400ml bechamel or white sauce (bought or home made)

For the pastry

The pastry is puff but I prefer shortcrust so here’s my recipe. Just use whichever you prefer.

100g Lurpak, at room temperature
220g plain flour (not strong white bread flour)
A large pinch of salt
1 egg, beaten

Prepare the pastry by sieving the flour and salt into a large bowl. Cut the softened butter into cubes and add it to the bowl. Using a knife, start cutting the butter into the flour until it is fairly well mixed. You can now use your hands to start rubbing the butter into the flour – do this as lightly as possible. If you try to squidge the butter between your fingers too much the pastry will become tough. When it resembles fine crumbs, get some cold water (the colder the better) and add a tablespoon at a time, cutting it in with the knife each time, until it starts to come together. When it starts to form large lumps, use your hands to bring it together into a ball. It should leave the bowl clean. Rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Heat a splash of olive oil in a pan and add the bacon to it. Once the bacon is cooked add the leeks, garlic, fennel and onion (plus the wine if using) and cook on a very low heat with the lid on for around 15 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 200C.

To assemble the pie divide the pastry into two portions – one portion should be two thirds of the total amount and this will be the base and sides of the pie. The remaining pastry will form the lid. Roll out the base pastry into a circle shape on a lightly floured surface. The shape will need to be larger than your dish as it needs to form the sides of the pie also. Carefully lower this into the dish. Roll out the lid and set aside.

Mix the chicken, fennel mixture, mustard (if using), parsley and bechamel together. Take care when adding the bechamel. Add a little at a time to get an idea of how much you will need. Season the mixture with salt and pepper then fill the pie and top with the lid. You want the lid to overlap the sides of the pie dish. Crimp it down to make sure it is sealed. Cut a cross in the top with a knife and brush with the beaten egg.

Bake for 20-30 minutes at 200C until golden brown.

The other bloggers involved were Jeanne, who made these cupcakes and Mary-Rose, who made a roast chicken.

The photos above are used with the kind permission of Wieden and Kennedy and thanks to the whole team who were nothing but a pleasure to work with.