Banana and chocolate cake

I’m on a hunt for a good banana bread recipe. I’ve tried a couple of recipes and none are quite hitting the mark. This one is totally delicious straight out of the oven but it’s definitely more of a cake than a ‘bread’. It was wonderful for a little afternoon tea but the next day I found it too moist. You should be able to spread banana bread with butter!!

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It’s based on a Nigel Slater recipe we changed because we didn’t have the right sugar and I couldn’t be bothered to grate the chocolate. I should add Lexie loved this cake – both making and eating it! She was great at mashing the bananas with a fork, cracking open the eggs and helping me break the chocolate (i.e. trying to eat as much of it as possible).

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Banana and chocolate cake

  • 250g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 125g soft butter
  • 235g brown sugar (we used demerara which is pretty crunchy but it was tasty!)
  • 400g peeled weight of ripe bananas
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • loaf tin, 24 x 12 x 7, lined with baking paper
  • 1 big bar of milk chocolate

Preheat the oven 180/gas 4. Cream together the sugar and butter. Beat the eggs and add the vanilla extract then add this to the sugar/butter mix.

On a plate mash the bananas with a fork so they are still a bit lumpy. Break the chocolate into large chunks and mix into the banana. Add all of this to the sugar/egg mixture.

Mix the flour and baking powder then slowly sift and fold this into the mixture. Pour the mixture into the baking tin and bake in the oven for about 50 mins. Use a knife or a strand of spaghetti to check it’s done by skewering the middle of the cake – it should come out clean. If it’s still gooey, cover with foil and bake for a few more mins.

Once it’s done let it cool for 15 mins then remove from the tin. Let it to cool a little longer then remove from the paper and serve in thick slices.

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A nourishing vegetable curry… and a baby!

I’ve been pondering how to return here. With an overspill of events since early autumn to catch up on, not to mention the backlog of recipes still from the summer, where to start? With the most important news of course…

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My son Finn was born on the 2nd of December. Having spent most of September and October rueing the unseasonal heat, I was delighted in bitter November when the wind began to howl, the trees became skeletons and it finally got cold. I’m so happy Finn was born at the start of December, at the beginning of this frozen month, and just before the Christmas festivities began in earnest.

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Now he’s here it’s like he was always with us, as is the way with babies. I feel complete and also delighted to no longer be pregnant. He’s a beautiful, blue eyed boy. Looks remarkably like his sister did as the picture below shows. Very strong, very sweet and growing exponentially, especially considering he’s been plagued with viruses since birth. The love came instantly this time round.

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Obviously we are exhausted! To the bone. He has colic, poor little boy. It is really hard. So the first recipe I’m noting is from the food parcel delivered by my mother-in-law the week after he was born. A gentle vegetable and chickpea curry, delicately spiced and laced with coconut milk. It’s comforting, nourishing and also a good January dish being both warming and good for the body and the soul. It’s easy to make a huge vat of this for freezing or for quick suppers and it’s mild so suitable for little ones. There is a one off investment in the requisite spices, after that this recipe is as cheap as chips. She first made us this when we arrived for a stay at her house in the Scottish highlands, perfect after 12 hours of travel culminating in a 3 hour drive with a screaming child. When she asked us what we wanted in the food parcel it was my first choice (Lewis wanted fish pie). She says the spicing comes from a Nigel Slater recipe. Pic of curry to follow and I don’t know why the pics are so massive on this post – sorry!

Vegetable curry

Prep: 20 mins
Cook: 45mins – 1hr
Serves: 6
Budget: £5-10 assuming spices not included

  • 1 or 2 tins chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 2 medium onions, chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 3 red chillis (or less if wanted), chopped
  • 3 carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 2 tsp coriander seeds
  • 6 cardamon pods
  • Groundnut oil (or sunflower/vegetable oil)
  • 15 curry leaves
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 2 tsp turmeric
  • 500g tomatoes, roughly chopped
  • 1 large sweet potato (new potatoes are nice too instead), peeled and in chunks
  • 1 red pepper, thick slices
  • Spinach, rinsed
  • Vegetable or chicken stock, 750 ml
  • 1/2 or 1 tin of coconut milk
  • Handful of chopped fresh coriander

Grind the coriander seeds in a pestle and mortar. Remove the seeds from the cardamon pods and also grind.

Heat the oil in a heavy-bottomed pan and gently cook the onions and garlic until soft.

Stir in the curry leaves, mustard seeds, ground coriander, turmeric, cardamon seeds and chopped chillis. Fry for a few mins then add the carrots and cook on a low heat for 5 mins.

Add the tomatoes, sweet potato and peppers then pour in the stock. Bring to the boil and skim off any froth that comes to the surface, then simmer gently for 20-30 mins, stirring from time to time.

When the veg is nicely tender but not overdone the curry is ready. Stir in the chickpeas and when they are warm add the coconut milk.

Finally stir in the spinach which should wilt instantly in the heat then garnish with fresh coriander and serve with rice.

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Chocolate and almond cake

Hmm my last recipe was sweet and so is this one… Looks like I’m getting to the ‘cake’ phase of pregnancy. With Lexie, I had a sugar aversion during my first trimester but, by the time I finished breastfeeding, cake had become a major food group. A la ‘sleeping child = nice cup of tea/coffee and slice of cake.’ Indeed it is 3:37pm and, after a lovely and hectic morning at the London Transport museum my child is asleep. Here I sit with a lovely little latte and a slice of this scrummy chocolate and almond cake. If only my flat were tidy rather than toy strewn madhouse then we’d be pretty close to nirvana… (yes I could be tidying up instead of blogging BUT I’M NOT.)

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That picture is not my slice! That’s what is left of the cake at the moment. My much more reasonable portion is pictured below. The other pictures are from the London Transport museum. Ok so the recipe is another recommendation from my friend Dani. I’ve made it about 6 times now and think it tastes better the next day or even after a few days. It’s a Hugh Fearnley jobby (his recipes are so reliable I find, as if he’s Delia’s prodigal son) but I’ve changed it a little after a few mishaps/larder emergencies. I had no caster sugar so twice I used granulated white sugar. I’ve since made the recipe properly (and also once with a bar of Lindt chocolate orange by mistake) and I prefer it with granulated sugar. Lewis says I’m cray cray as one must always bake with caster sugar but I think granulated gives it a cruncher crumb and nicer texture. I also usually half or third the recipe as it’s a big cake.

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Chocolate and almond cake

Prep time: 15-20 mins
Cooking time: 30 mins
Budget: £5-£10 depending on what essentials you have £5-£10 (£5 chocolate, £1.50 eggs)
Ease: Easy to medium
Serves: At least 6
Ingredients:

  • 250g dark chocolate (around 70% cocoa solids – we use Lindt), broken into chunks
  • 250g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
  • 4 medium eggs, separated
  • 200g granulated sugar!!!! Or as the original recipe states either 100g caster mixed with 100g soft light brown sugar OR 200g just caster sugar)
  • 50g plain flour
  • 50g ground almonds
  • 23cm springform cake tin

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Preheat the oven to 170/gas 3 and grease the cake tin with butter. I use the leftover paper from the butter used in the recipe to do this. Put the chocolate and butter in a bain marie or, as I do, in a smaller saucepan suspended over a larger pan of barely simmering water, ideally making sure the water isn’t touching the smaller pan. Stir occasionally until the butter and chocolate have melted.

Meanwhile, whisk the egg yolks and sugar together in a large bowl until well combined. Then stir in the melted chocolate and butter. Combine the flour and almonds and then fold these in.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until they hold firm peaks. Stir a large spoonful of egg white into the chocolate mixture to loosen it, then carefully fold in the rest of the egg whites with a large metal spoon, trying to keep in as much air as possible. When I first made this, I didn’t mix the egg white in properly so my cake was marbled with streaks of chewy egg white. So it should be a glossy brown when you are done.

Pour the mixture into the cake tin, place in the oven and bake for about 30 mins, until only just set. Hugh says: “It should still wobble slightly in the centre – this means the cake will have a divinely sticky, fudgy texture once it’s cooled down.” YUMMY! Then leave to cool for 10-15 mins before taking it out of the tin. It tastes better cold than warm and way better the next day, especially if you use the granulated sugar.

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Steak tacos/burritos

A long hiatus I know. I’m about 4 months pregnant and my first trimester saw me completely reject ‘screens’ – no blog, no instagram, no facebook. This would have been a Very Good Thing were I not sick as a dog. Thankfully it passed early, around 8 weeks, and I’m having a lovely pregnancy now, very mellow and relaxed. I’m also back on fish in a big way! So happy about this as I went off seafood massively when pregnant with Lexie. With her all I wanted was cheese and ham toasties, burgers and pies!

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This baby seems to want citrus, chilli and fish and I’m really craving Mexican food. So far I’ve made carnitas which I’ll share another day (I roasted pork belly instead of braising pork leg – nice but I’d like to try the braised version), yummy fish tacos and my current fave – these delicious steak tacos.

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The recipe (and pic above) is from Mexican Food Made Simple (though I do my own fresh tomato salsa and guacamole and add to the refried beans). I’m not a huge fan of the Wahaca restaurants but so far all the recipes I’ve made from this book have been good. I love the refried beans in particular. Even though the steak is marinated with chilli it isn’t spicy and was fine for my toddler to eat. I tend to do one chilli free salsa for Lexie and give her slices of avocado, which she prefers, instead of guacamole. It’s also good to serve with some fresh orange juice (or a mix of orange and grapefruit juice which I love with ice and sprigs of mint!) as vitamin C helps to absorb the iron from the meat.

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This is not a ‘use up the cupboard’ dinner and there are some specialist Mexican ingredients worth buying. Also, as there are a few salsas and sides to make, it’s best prepped with napping children, or on the weekend when the adult:child ratio improves! It’s a ‘lots of little bowls’ on the table meal so bear this in mind if you don’t fancy washing lots of dishes after!

I think it’s the most complicated recipe I’ve ever written up due to all the components. Tacos are definitely quicker than the burritos and I often make a much simplified version of this recipe with just steak, spring onions, fresh tomato salsa and guacamole – takes about 30 mins, no specialist ingredients needed and totally delicious so please don’t feel overwhelmed by this long recipe! There is an easier way to make it!!

If you want to go the whole shebang I recommend printing this off (print button should be below) and reading it with a cold beer a week before you make it! Preferably listening to this soundtrack. And definitely make the chipotle salsa and beans in advance. As faffy as it is making all these sides, because some of them keep well, they do make instant other meals (nachos or just rice with refried beans/salsa/cheese/sour cream etc) so it’s nice having them in the fridge.

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Sorry there are no pictures of the actual meal – it’s my first post in ages and I’m a bit slow on the take – I’ll update with real photos when I next make this. Instead here are nice pictures of Lexie enjoying this summer. I feel like I should write an update on her and what we’ve been up to but this is a long recipe so I’ll let the photos speak for us!

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Steak tacos

Steak

  • 600g butterfly cut onglet steak – we got this from the butcher. Original recipe calls for thin skirt steaks
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • Juice of 1/2 an orange
  • 1 finely chopped chilli de arbol
  • Salt and pepper

Refried beans (optional)

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 chopped white onion
  • Salt and pepper
  • 2 chopped cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 chile de arbol chopped (optional)
  • 1 tbsp chopped coriander stalks or 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano

Then either a tin of black beans (or any beans – pinto/borlotti are good and taste great refried) OR cooked black beans. If doing the cooked version

  • 250g dried black beans 
  • 4 bashed cloves of garlic
  • A few sprigs of thyme (optional – I’ve never used)
  • A few bay leaves
  • A little chicken or veg stock (1/2 cube)
  • Espazote (comes with this black bean kit) (optional, I’ve made delicious beans without it)
  • 1 onion cut in 1/4s
  • 1 tbsp salt

Chipotle salsa (this is amazing!!) (optional)

  • 4 plum tomatoes
  • 2 cloves unpeeled garlic
  • 1 tbsp chopped coriander
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • Salt to taste
  • 1 white onion in 1/4s
  • 1 or 2 tbsp chipotles en adobo

Fresh tomato salsa (optional)

  • 4 chopped vine or plum tomatos
  • 1/2 crushed garlic clove
  • 1 chopped spring onion
  • Handful of chopped coriander
  • 1 chopped birdseye chilli (red or green or both!) (omit for kiddies)
  • Olive oil to taste – 2 tbsp approx
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp salt to taste
  • 1/2 – 1 tsp sugar to taste
  • Juice of 1/2 lime to taste

Guacamole

  • 1 or 2 mashed ripe avocados
  • 1 sliced spring onion
  • 1 chopped green birdseye chilli (optional)
  • Olive oil to taste (maybe 1 tbsp)
  • Lime juice to taste (maybe 1/2 lime)
  • Salt to taste

(A speedy guacamole is just to mash avocado and add a tablespoon or two of the fresh tomato salsa and mix. Or just have slices of avocado a la Lexie.)

Other ingredients

  • Corn tortillas – little ones for tacos, big ones for burritos (most supermarkets sell tortillas)
  • Sour cream
  • Grated cheddar cheese (medium cheddar is good) (optional)
  • Limes
  • Chopped coriander
  • White basmati rice (optional)
  • 6 spring onions sliced into 3cm lengths
  • Kitchen towel paper

Marinate the steak in the olive oil, garlic, orange juice, chilli and seasoning for 30 mins. If having rice make it now. Prepare all the salsas and sides. The chipotle salsa and the refried beans can be made in advance as both keep well in the fridge. The guacamole and fresh tomato salsa should be prepared from scratch now. Here’s how!

For the chipotle salsa get a heavy bottomed pan and dry roast the tomatoes, onion and garlic for about 15 mins. They should blacken and keep turning them. When done, squeeze the garlic out of the skins and put in a blender along with tomatoes and onion. Add the chipotles en adobo and whizz. Put into a bowl and add the chopped coriander, salt and lime to taste. This salsa will keep for a few days to a week in the fridge and it’s bloody lovely.

For the refried beans, heat the oil in a pan and soften the onion and garlic with the spices. After 5-10 mins add the beans with either some of the cooking water, or a little water if using a can, and mush some of the beans with a masher to thicken the sauce. Season and taste. Add a little chicken or veg stock if it needs it. This will keep for up to a week in the fridge.

(If not using canned beans, soak the black beans overnight. Drain and rinse then place the beans in a pan covered in about 10cm of water. Add the garlic, herbs and onion, bring to the boil and skim off any scum on the surface. Simmer, partially covered, for 2-3 hours. Add salt to taste when the beans are done not before or it will toughen the beans up.)

For the fresh salsa and guacamole literally combine all the ingredients for each and mix. I usually do this in jars to save on having 90 bowls on the table and both will keep for a day in the fridge (but not longer really).

Once all the salsas and sides are done assemble the other ingredients. Chop coriander, slice limes, grate the cheese and open the sour cream. Warm the tortillas either by lightly dry frying each one on both sides for a few mins or by wrapping all of them in foil and placing in a warm oven for 5 mins.

Heat a griddle or heavy bottomed pan until smoking hot and add olive oil. Chop the spring onions, season with salt and pepper and put on the hot pan. Pat the steak dry with kitchen towel and add to the pan. Sear for a minute on both sides (90 secs max – this cut of beef can toughen up but is very tender if cooked quickly and served rare). Leave the beef to stand for a minute on a warm plate and finish cooking the spring onions. When done remove the onions and put on the steak plate, adding the reserved steak marinade to the pan, sizzling it up then pour into a separate bowl. Slice the steak into bite size pieces cutting across the grain. Then either add to the marinade or serve separately.

Make sure everything is on the table and then finally….. to assemble!

If having a taco place a little steak and marinade in the middle of the tortilla and dollop on top the spring onions, guacamole, chipotle salsa, sour cream and fresh coriander (you can add cheese too – I don’t). Roll up the tortilla like a wrap or fold in half making a half moon and enjoy!

If having a burrito add a little rice to the tortilla then top with steak, spring onions, guacamole, salsa, cheese and sour cream. Make a little parcel by folding in the outside edges (so tuck in the top and bottom sides then tuck in the side sides!). Roll over and eat or toast for a few minutes in a dry pan and then eat!

Serve with slices of fresh lime, ice cold beer or juice. I think slices of watermelon make a great pudding after these tacos/burritos.

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A spring minestrone

There are buds on the magnolias and the garden is full of daffodils and crocuses – signs that spring is on the way! We have one back garden and access to two beautiful communal gardens and while I never managed to do any gardening last year, I did note down all the flowers that bloomed throughout the year. I’m filled with anticipation of what is to come.

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One of the gardens overlooks the old church, now an orchestra rehearsal and recording studio. When the weather is warm and the church windows open we get to hear the performance by the visiting orchestra of the day – the Royal Philharmonic, the English Symphony Orchestra to name a few. There are two ancient cherry blossoms and I cannot wait for them to bloom. Last year Lexie and I spent many an afternoon lying in their shade, reading books, having ice creams and, if we were lucky, listening to the orchestra’s music.

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Lexie really loves minestrone and, seeing as there was fresh chicken stock from Sunday’s chicken, I made a spring version with no tomato. It’s adapted from a Jane Grigson recipe that calls for spring greens and butternut squash as well as the usual potato, pasta and beans. If you haven’t heard of Jane Grigson she was born in 1928 and a protege of Elizabeth David. Her book Good Things is a classic – a celebration of the seasons and the foods they bring. I made this soup listening to some beautiful Debussy flute, daydreaming about endless days in the garden and all the flowers yet to bloom, the magnolia, the camelias then the glorious summer roses, agapanthus and chrysanthemums…

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Spring minestrone

Prep time: 10 mins
Cooking time: 20-30 mins
Budget: £5-10 (£1 butternut squash, £1.50 leeks, £2.50 pancetta, £1 spring cabbage)
Ease: easy
Serves 4

  • 1 sliced onion
  • 3 sliced leeks
  • 1/2 diced carrot
  • 1/2 stick celery chopped
  • 1 peeled and cubed potato
  • 1/2 butternut squash diced
  • 2 cloves garlic sliced
  • A large handful of spring cabbage, rinsed and sliced
  • 2 sticks of thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • A handful of fresh chopped parsley
  • A handful of pasta
  • 1 tin of cannellini beans or chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • Grated parmesan
  • Olive oil
  • Pancetta
  • Chicken stock

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Heat the olive oil in a pan and add the onion, carrot and celery and cook on a gentle heat for 10 mins. Add the garlic, squash, potato and the bay leaf and thyme, pour in the stock and cook for 10 mins. Then add the spring cabbage and the pasta and cook for another 10 mins. In a separate pan fry the pancetta in a little olive oil and set aside when done. The minestrone should be ready and just before serving add the beans so they heat through. When it’s ready, garnish with the chopped parsley and pancetta and serve with grated parmesan and olive oil for drizzling.

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Pork chops with lemon and baked rosemary garlic potatoes

Finally, after what feels like months of rain, we are getting some bright blue skies. I’m still dreaming of escaping London… This time it’s long walks in the countryside and afternoons in front of the fire. Over the Christmas holiday we stayed with friends in their amazing Tudor home in Hampshire. We walked back from the pub across fields in the pitch black, awoke to a bright frosty morning and visited the neighbouring horses, meandering along a magical river. Tammy, our host, had a great way to keep toddlers happy on the long walks – luckily the toy fairy and the chocolate fairy were two steps ahead of us at all times leaving Max and Lexie little gifts under rocks and leaves!

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Tammy also prepared the most wonderful glazed ham with delicious sliced roast potatoes and onion for a lunch (with champagne!). I’ve been thinking about those potatoes ever since and wondering when to try them. A special deal on pork chops at my favourite butchers provided the impetus. Remembering how uplifting it was when I roasted lemon, garlic and rosemary potatoes – the incredible smells of lemon and herbs that filled our kitchen – I decided to do a take on these flavours. Not the same as a long walk in the countryside but pretty cheering nonetheless. The pork is a River Cafe recipe and the potatoes were inspired by Tammy’s using this recipe. The star of this dish was definitely the potatoes – they were amazing! The pork chop was nice but I preferred the gammon by a mile (I’m not crazy about pork chops or fillet in general – love pork belly, love ham, love bacon!).

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Pork chops with lemon and rosemary garlic potatoes

Serves 2
Prep time: 10 mins
Cooking time: 40 mins
Budget: £10-15 (£5 pork chops, 60p lemons, £1.50 herbs, £1.50 potatoes)
Ease: easy

  • 2 Pork chops
  • 1 lemon quartered
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 1 stick rosemary – leaves removed and chopped
  • 3 or 4 cloves of peeled garlic
  • 3 potatoes – washed and sliced into 4 mm rounds, skin on

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Preheat the oven to 200/gas mark 6. Put the potatoes in a baking tray with a generous amount of olive oil, season and add the rosemary and garlic. They should take about 30 mins to roast, check them half way and turn.

Get a griddle pan (or heavy bottomed pan) and heat until smoking. Season the pork and smooth a little oil on both sides. Seal the meat on both sides, 2 mins per side then place in a baking tray with the lemon quarters. Squeeze one of the lemons on the pork and pop in the oven for 5 mins. After 5 mins take the meat out, baste and squidge the lemon quarters into the meat. Depending on the thickness of the pork they should take another 5-10 mins to cook but err on the side of caution and try only 5 mins first. Once done, let the meat rest covered in foil for a few minutes before serving with the potatoes and maybe some nice dijon mustard. (The reason the skin is off in the pic below is because I attempted this Jamie Oliver crackling tip – it was a failure!)

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Basque piperade with eggs

There are so many nights when I still don’t know what to make us for dinner. Yesterday was another day where the fridge was bare and it was too late to pop to the shops. The only fresh ingredients I had were eggs and some peppers.

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Omelettes never feel very substantial and scrambled eggs on toast I reserve for when I’m completely out of time. Egg fried rice was an option but I kept thinking about a recipe for baked eggs with tomato and chilli my friend Dani recommended. I didn’t have chilli but was reminded of Basque piperade – a tomato sauce with peppers – that I did have the ingredients for.

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Piperade goes with lots of things – cod, chicken – but in our family we always had it with rice and fried eggs. My mum made this for me a lot growing up but I associate it more with my aunty Consuelo, herself a mother of 5. My mother Carmen, Consuelo and their little sister Feli were known as the Brigitte Bardot sisters such was the resemblance – three blonde bombshells! (See the pic above – my mum is in stripes with Consuelo behind her – I need to find some more pics of them!). They are wonderful cooks, even now they are in their 80s with arthritis ravaged fingers, the food they produce is incredible (I’ve a vivid memory of watching my aunty last year expertly joint a chicken with a machete and she still pulls off a 6 course Christmas dinner for 15!!).

This is a tasty recipe that’s quick and easy to make and very cheap. I’ve used my mum’s recipe with no paprika or pimenton (spicy paprika) because we don’t really like the smoky taste. I’ve asked my cousin to send me my aunty’s version which I’ll add here when it arrives and another time I’ll share a very similar recipe for courgette or marrow that is just wonderful. Lexie loved it – she loooves fried eggs so much so anything that is a vehicle for them goes down well with her.

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Basque piperade with eggs

Serves 4
Prep time: 5 mins
Cooking time: 20-30 mins
Budget: £5 (£1.80 eggs, £1.50 peppers, £1.50 parsley)
Ease: easy

  • 1 or 2 tins of whole plum tomatoes
  • 1 white onion peeled and chopped
  • 1 clove of chopped garlic
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp tomato puree
  • 1 tsp white sugar
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • Handful of fresh chopped parsley
  • 1 red pepper, deseeded and sliced
  • 1 green pepper, deseeded and sliced
  • Rice
  • 4 eggs
  • A little sunflower oil – the amount you use to fry eggs, we use quite a lot

Put enough rice on to cook for 4 people. I use the cup method – one cup of rice to two cups of water, stir once, bring to the boil then cover and reduce the heat, leave simmering for 10 mins. Check the rice is done and if it is then turn the heat off and cover the saucepan with a clean tea towel with the pan lid on top to seal it tightly shut. My Spanish flatmate taught me this – apparently the tea towel helps absorb moisture. Even without a tea towel it’s good to let the rice rest off the heat for another 10 mins and it will sit happily for longer, steaming away making the rice all perfect. Another very Spanish way to cook rice is to fry a bit of chopped garlic in olive oil in the saucepan, then adding the dried rice and tossing it about in the oil before adding the water then cooking as above.

While the rice is cooking, heat a generous amount of olive oil in a heavy bottomed pan (i.e. Le Creuset). Add the onion and a little salt and fry gently for 10 mins. You can make a piperade with a sofrito base (slow cooked onion for ages) but traditionally all the veg is cooked quickly and retains a bit of bite which I prefer. Add the peppers and garlic then fry for another 5 mins. Then add 1 tin of tomatoes or 2 sieved tins of tomatoes according to preference (in Spain we always sieve tinned tomatoes), add the bay leaf, a pinch of salt and a tsp of sugar and bubble away for a few minutes. Bring the heat down to a simmer and cook for about 20 mins or until you are happy with the sauce. Add a little water or wine or stock if it’s drying out. 5 mins before you want to serve it add the fresh parsley.

Around the time you add the parsley start cooking your eggs. I can manage 2 at a time, no more than that so do batches – kids first for example so their meal can cool a little while you cook yours. Our method is to heat some sunflower oil to a high temperature (but not spitting) in a non-stick frying pan with one peeled garlic clove. Break the egg into the frying pan and reduce the heat immediately – it should sizzle when it hits the pan and the white should bubble up. Salt then fry until you are happy with it, baste with a bit of the oil if you like. Discard the garlic! It’s only there to flavour the oil.

To serve we’ve always put the rice and sauce separately on a plate with the fried egg on top and some fresh baguette or white bread to dip into the egg and mop up the delicious juices!

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