I love using pickle brine in dressings as it adds gently spiced acidity and some sweetness. Here, it finds a way into all the frilly, charred leaves of the cabbage, their bitter edges a pleasant contrast. Plump prawns make this feel special, and I’d definitely add some potatoes or buttered brown bread to bulk it out, if in the mood.

Charred Sweetheart Cabbage with Prawns and a Pickle Brine Dressing

1 sweetheart cabbage, quartered
350g raw, shell-on prawns (around 12 prawns)
Generous sprinkle of Urfa chilli
A wedge of lemon

Pickle Brine Dressing

2 tablespoons dill pickle juice from a jar (I used Mrs Elswood)
1 tablespoon strained pickling spices from the jar
½ shallot, very finely chopped
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
Light a barbecue for direct cooking.

Combine all the dressing ingredients in a clean lidded jar or bowl and shake or whisk to combine.

Rub the cabbage with a little neutral oil and season with salt. Grill over direct heat for 6-8 minutes on each side, or until nicely charred. You can take this quite far, as the inside leaves will stay soft and tender.

Coat the prawns in oil too, then grill for a minute on each side, or until fully pink and cooked through.

Separate the charred cabbage leaves, remove the root and arrange them on a plate. Add the prawns, dressing, Urfa chilli and a big squeeze of lemon juice. Serve.

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 seem to go through all or nothing phases with this website; a flurry of new content and then silence for a month. The fact I’m still sharing recipes after 12 years must count for something though, right? Just think of me now as a cantankerous old vending machine in need of a kick every now and then to get the Coke out.

I’m very into rice noodles (and soba, come to think of it) once the weather warms up. It’s gloomy today in London but the weather has generally settled into the sweet mid-20’s spot which is pretty much perfect as far as I’m concerned. You can keep your 30C+ until this city gets air-con.

I’ve always got the barbecue lit at this time of year, and we had a piece of really good onglet to put on it. Onglet wants to be cooked quickly and sliced thinly across the grain – this will leave you with just the right amount of chew. Sliced too thicky it can become a real jaw workout. The flavour is incredible, and it’s very inexpensive compared to the swaggering ribeye.

I made a dressing from a pounded scotch bonnet (hi, still me!), garlic, grapefruit juice, lime, honey and fish sauce – the kind of salty/sweet/sour/hot thing that gets me excited during the warmer months. Loads of crunchy veg and roughly torn herbs and you’ve got a pretty amazing dinner. This recipe serves four but we ate it between two followed by Double Caramel Magnums because we are greedy and not even the heat seems to affect my ferocious appetite.

Rice Noodles with Onglet, Grapefruit and Scotch Bonnet Recipe

(Serves 4, honestly)

It helps if you have everything ready before you cooking the onglet unless you are fast at prepping. So make the dressing and chop the veg while you are waiting for the barbecue to be ready.

1 large onglet steak, butterflied (you can ask the butcher to do this)
1 scotch bonnet pepper, deseeded and chopped roughly (this is a hot dressing so reduce to half a pepper if you want less heat)
2 cloves garlic, peeled
4 tablespoons grapefruit juice
3 tablespoons lime juice
3 tablespoons fish sauce
1 teaspoon honey
The flesh of 1 grapefruit, segmented
1/2 cucumber, thinly sliced
1/4 daikon, peeled, quartered and thinly sliced
2 spring onions, thinly sliced
4 leaves Chinese cabbage, frilly parts thinly sliced
170g flat rice noodles
White pepper, for seasoning the onglet (just use black if you like)

Prepare the barbecue for direct cooking.

Make the dressing by pounding the chilli and garlic to a paste in a pestle and mortar. Stir in the grapefruit and lime juices, fish sauce and honey. Taste and adjust until you have a good balance of hot/sour/salty/sweet – this depends on the sweetness of your fruit and heat of your chilli.

Once the barbecue is hot, season the onglet heavily with salt and less so with white pepper, then grill for 2-3 minutes each side. Set aside to rest for at least 10 minutes.

Cook the rice noodles by covering with boiling water and leaving for 6-8 minutes (or according to instructions on the packet).

Once the noodles are cooked, drain and mix with half the dressing. Slice the onglet very thinly and add to the noodles with the vegetables, grapefruit and herbs. Plate up and finish with the remaining dressing.


Duck and Endive Salad with Pickled Walnut Dressing Recipe

Serves 2

2 duck breasts (weighing around 230g each), skin scored lightly in a criss-cross pattern
250g stale sourdough bread, torn roughly into crouton-sized chunks
The cloves from a half a bulb of garlic, separated but unpeeled
Olive oil
2 pickled walnuts
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 shallot, cut into fine rings
2 red chicory, leaves separated
4 large handfuls watercress


Preheat the oven to 180C.

Place the sourdough chunks into a roasting tray and add the garlic, 3 tablespoons of olive oil and some salt and pepper. Mix well and cook for around 25 minutes, turning once, or until golden and crisp.

Place the shallot rings into a bowl of iced water.

Make the dressing by smooshing 3 cloves of the now-roasted garlic with a pinch of salt, the pickled walnuts, 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and 1 tablespoon good red wine vinegar. Shake in a jar to emulsify (or use your preferred method).

Season the skin of the duck breasts and place them in a cold cast iron skillet or other heavy based pan. Turn the heat on low-medium and let them slowly heat up for 5 minutes or so. Turn the heat up to medium and cook for another 5 minutes then turn over and cook for a few minutes more. Cooking time will depend on the exact size and heat but this should give you crisp golden skin and pink flesh. Allow to rest for 5 minutes.

Mix the salad leaves with some of the dressing and the croutons and arrange on two plates. Arrange the duck slices and some of the shallot rings on top, then drizzle with a little more dressing and sprinkle with crunchy salt. You may feel like adding a further dribble of olive oil – I did.

BBQ Chicken Caesar Salad

Regular readers will know that I had to get a personal trainer because being a food writer made me fat (there is absolutely nothing wrong with being fat – I just wasn’t happy). When I first started he – my personal trainer – asked me to keep a food diary, to which I responded, “boy, are you in for a shock.”

At the time I was judging an afternoon tea competition, which required me to eat six teas a week for a couple of months. I’ve never seen anyone’s mouth drop open so fast (except perhaps mine every time I walk into the kitchen and see the peanut butter banana bread I’ll be posting about next week).

Grill the spring onions and broccoli too.

Every now and again he still says something like, “so, how’s the food going?” to which I respond, “um, yeah fine” because I really don’t know what else to say. How do I tell him that I started the day with a cheese börek from the Turkish food centre, spent the day testing recipes, which meant I ate two lunches and then I’m out for dinner because I’m working on an area guide?

Yeah I know, you’re jealous. Well, let me tell you that actually, eating a lot is hard. Often I just want to sit in bed and slurp instant noodles while watching Netflix.

And sometimes, I just want to eat a salad.

I made this salad on Snapchat last week and loads of people asked for the recipe. It barely resembles a traditional Caesar but really, who cares? The chicken is cooked on the BBQ because that’s fun and tastes great, but we’ve also had it just grilled or bashed thin then fried in a skillet. We add Tenderstem broccoli because I’m obsessed with it and also because this salad is a celebration of green things. I love the flavours of Caesar but really it’s just a load of lettuce in a bowl. This, my friends, is more satisfying.

Making the dressing.

Finally, no mayo here because I just find it gross in dressings, coating the back of your throat like engine oil. Grim. Yoghurt is fresher and combined with garlic, Parmesan and anchovies makes a really lovely, rich yet sharp dressing.

Oh, one more thing – there’s a lot of garlic here, so I wouldn’t advise eating this before, say, a meeting, or indeed any human contact. Big flavours are what makes healthy-ish food work for me – it’s basically the opposite of energy balls, obscure flours and the milking of things that have no teats (see: almonds). I’m all about balancing salads with banana bread, and I’m about hitting a gym where the trainer kicks my ass so hard I sweat from my eyelids.

Super Green BBQ Chicken Caesar Salad

This serves two for a massive lunch that’ll make you feel like a total boss in the nutrition department.

For the dressing

4 cloves garlic, crushed
1 scant teaspoon sea salt
5 anchovy fillets
100g grated Parmesan
2 tablespoons olive oil
Juice ½ lemon (but reserve the other half)
3-5 tablespoons natural yoghurt

For the chicken

4 chicken thighs, boneless (I leave the skin on because again, I’m not wasting chicken skin for the sake of saving calories)
Salt and pepper

For the salad

6 spring onions
200g Tenderstem broccoli
2 little gem lettuces, leaves separated

Prepare a BBQ for direct cooking.

Open out the chicken thighs and give them a little bash if needed to make them the same thickness all over. We used skewers to fan them out too as you can see from the photos. When it’s ready, rub the spring onions and broccoli with a little oil and salt and pepper, and grill under tender and slightly charred (5-10 minutes).

Set aside while you cook the chicken. Season and cook over direct heat, turning every so often, until cooked through – around 20 minutes depending on the size of the thighs.

In a pestle and mortar, bash up the garlic with a pinch of salt. Add in the anchovy fillets and mush them up too. Add about half the cheese, mush it up then add the yoghurt. Stir in the rest of the cheese, plus the oil and lemon juice. Check for seasoning and balance – add more lemon juice or some black pepper if you want it.

Mix the lettuce leaves and a heaped tablespoon of the dressing in a large bowl then mix with hands. Do the same thing with the Tenderstem and spring onions.

Arrange on a plate and top with the chicken and a bit more of the dressing to taste.

Potato Salad

I can mark stages of my life with different versions of potato salad. In teenage years it was all about those pots of uniform, factory-diced potatoes in mayonnaise. We used to get drunk, then nip into the Co-op before it closed to clear their shelves (cheeky Ginsters cheese and onion slice on the side, thanks). There was something very comforting about those cold, salty cubes in their bland coating; it was just oily carbs in a box and we were okay with that.

Then I started cooking and was amazed at how the freshly cooked potatoes with a bit of Hellman’s lobbed in was just so much better than the claggy boxed stuff. A handful of fresh parsley or dill on top of the still-warm spuds and OMAFG it was a life-changing experience.

Additions came next. What would happen if spring onions got involved? Or chopped bacon, its fat still sizzling? I remember discovering the German style of potato salad, a magnificent mixture of chopped gherkins, mustard, and herbs, and I became fond of a variation using salami, fried in a pan until crisp. Might have to re-visit that one.

In recent years everyone seems to have rejected mayonnaise (or any creamy dressing), so the potatoes might come with a shiny glaze of olive oil, a flutter of herbs, perhaps some mustard or cress. Very Jamie Oliver. I dunno if this qualifies, though. I mean, it’s just a dish of potatoes, isn’t it? Potato salad needs to feel like a guilty pleasure.

Bacon makes everything better.

Often now, I use mayonnaise + yoghurt for a bit of sharpness, chives and parsley, lemon and maybe a clove of garlic that’s been boiled with the potatoes. It’s a halfway point between classic and modern. Sometimes, though, all-out is the only way. This is a kitchen sink recipe, which could be adapted depending on what you have knocking about.

The reason I’ve called it mind-bending is because it has chopped hard boiled eggs, which combined with the creme fraiche create a sort of egg mayo vibe. That’s a melon-twister. Still, egg mayo and carbs go together very well indeed, as we all know. I then added bacon, chopped gherkins and capers, spring onions, parsley and a dressing made with creme fraiche and mustard.

There is nothing restrained about it but it is a lot of fun. Rich and salty with pops of acidity, it’s full-on but not overwhelming, thanks to the creme fraiche; the flavour of the Jersey Royals still comes through. Would I eat this version every time? No, but then I have at least four other styles to choose from.

Mind-Bending Potato Salad Recipe

1kg Jersey Royal Potatoes
2 free-range eggs (I use Clarence Court)
80g bacon, chopped into lardons
1 tablespoon capers, chopped
4 gherkins (medium sized, larger than cornichons but not as large as burger pickles), finely chopped
3 spring onions, finely sliced
1 clove garlic
300ml creme fraiche
1 heaped teaspoon Dijon mustard
Juice of 1/2 lemon
Large handful parsley, chopped

Boil the potatoes in salted water until just cooked, then drain and run under cold water to cool a little. Fry the bacon until crisp and hard boil the eggs, then peel and chop.

Mix the creme fraiche, mustard, garlic, lemon juice and some salt and pepper in a bowl. Mix the potatoes with the bacon, eggs, spring onions, capers and gherkins. Add the dressing and herbs and mix again, gently. Taste for seasoning and add more salt and pepper if needed.

Figs, feta and hazelnuts

I recently fell for the idea of combining figs, hazelnuts and pomegranate molasses. I’ve ramped up the sweet/sharp thing already going on with the pom syrup and figs by adding a little feta and some pomegranate seeds, for fleshy pops of juice. This took a few minutes to assemble and although it’s not filling enough on its own as a main meal, it is one of the most perfectly delicious ways to begin; a total triumph in the contrasts department.

Figs, Feta and Hazelnuts with Pomegranate Molasses

3 ripe figs
1/2 a pomegranate
A little feta
Small handful blanched hazelnuts
A few leaves of lambs lettuce
1 scant teaspoon pomegranate molasses
1 tablespoon light olive oil

Mix the pom molasses and oil together in a small bowl. Arrange the lambs lettuce on a plate. Halve the figs and add them also. Break the hazelnuts slightly in a pestle and mortar and scatter over the figs, along with the feta. Hold the pomegranate half over a bowl and bash the skin with a wooden spoon until all the seeds fall out (remove any white bits that fall in). Sprinkle a few seeds over the salad and eat the rest. Spoon over the dressing. Serve.


I just love how the Americans cut a big wedge of iceberg, drench it in blue cheese dressing and then call it a salad. Respect.

I’m rather fond of the poor old iceberg. It doesn’t have any flavour to speak of but as a big ol’ wedge of crunch, no lettuce does it better. So, you take a quarter of the lettuce and drench it; yes, drench it, in a blue cheese and sour cream dressing. Dribble. You’ll need something to offset all that richness and tang though, so why not sprinkle on a handful of sweet ‘n salty pig-candy pieces? Oh yes indeedy. Picture this: kerrrunch down through that wedge; creamy, salty; nuggets of blue cheese sneaking into every layer but then, hang on what’s this? Chewy shards of sticky, streaky candied bacon, that’s what. Salad garnish crack.

Caramelised walnuts would make a lovely alternative to the bacon but I wasn’t allowed to make those because that would have taken up time I could have been using to make more candied bacon.

Wedge Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing and Candied Bacon

(serves 4)

1 iceberg lettuce (try to get a nice round one so your wedges look good)

150g blue cheese (I used Roquefort)
100ml sour cream
100ml natural yoghurt
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon lemon juice (plus extra just in case; I found I wanted a little more)
1 tablespoon chives, snipped with scissors

For the candied bacon

8 rashers streaky bacon
1-2 teaspoons of sugar per bacon rasher, depending on size

First candy the bacon by laying the rashers out on a baking tray and sprinkling the sugar evenly over them. Whack them under a hot grill until crisp and caramelised. Wipe the rashers around in the stick juices that have accumulated in the tray, turn them over and cook the other side. Watch them like a hawk once you’ve turned them as they will caramelise extremely fast. Once cooked, remove and let cool on a wire rack. Don’t let the pieces touch each other as they will stick together.

Crush the garlic with a teeny pinch of salt in a pestle and mortar until creamy. Blend the garlic with all the other dressing ingredients together in a bowl. You can do this with a blender if you like but I like my blue cheese dressing quite chunky so I mash it in a bowl to achieve the right consistency; it’s nice to get the odd nugget of cheese. Taste and add salt and pepper if you like; the cheese will already be quite salty. Taste again and add a little more lemon juice if you think it needs it.

Remove any manky outer leaves from your iceberg and quarter it. Wash it. Arrange each wedge on a plate, dollop on the blue cheese dressing. Cut the bacon into pieces and sprinkle over. Serve.