Category Archives: Spicy

Barbecue sauce and fried neurones


My nerves have taken a hit this week. Léo, in a bid to make up for lost time after finally having his plaster cast removed, thought that running with bulls, swinging from trees on ropes and bumper cars would all be excellent rehabilitation techniques. His schemes, each more horrifying than the last, had me rushing to enquire about the possibility of having hand brakes and airbags installed on the horses.


Java befriended a hedgehog and has a permanently bloody nose as a result. Without wishing to cast aspersions, I think she’s yet to make the link between her bleeding nose and new-found love. Even the eminently wise Hugo has become self-appointed Inspector of Wasp Nests and has a nasty sting above his eye to show for it. It seems that the long-lasting extreme heat has got to us all – hopefully our neurones will fall back into place in the next few days, although I’m not holding my breath…


I made this barbecue chicken dish for Léo’s birthday – he’s a big fan. It is made with fresh tomato sauce which makes it relatively healthy, and it’s deliciously tangy. I cooked it in the oven, but I’m sure it would be excellent barbecued too.

Ingredients (serves 4-6)

150ml fresh tomato sauce

100ml apple cider vinegar

Dash of worcester sauce

50g cane sugar

3 teaspoons paprika

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon sea salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Combine the ingredients in a small saucepan and simmer for about five minutes, or until the sauce begins to thicken. Coat the chicken and cook for about 25 minutes or until the coating begins to caramelise.

Crab gratin and if it looks like a dog and barks like a dog…



…but eats like a human, then it’s probably Hugo.


I’m in splendid shape, but every year Bossy insists on taking me to visit the vet. She knows that I’m a force to be reckoned with when it comes to socialising with other animals, but she seems adamant on putting herself through the trauma. Upon arrival, I willingly led her – perhaps even dragged her if I’m entirely honest – to the door, which I only had to headbutt once to open. I then efficiently ushered her (again, if we’re being pedantic, ‘hauled her’ might be more accurate) to the reception desk, where I planted my front paws on the desk in a business-like manner. By this time, for some reason, Bossy was very red in the face. The vet is a nice lady and I gave her a big lick on the face to show that I felt no ill will towards her, even though she spent rather a long time prodding my private parts. When we were ready to leave, she told me that I had been a good boy (yeah, whatever) and gave me a dog biscuit. I mean, really? A dog biscuit? Who does she think I am? Camembert? Yes. Foie Gras? Yes. Dog biscuit? Err, not so much. Does she not know that I’m a foodie? Anyway, I spat it out onto the floor because I think it must have been a joke. Bossy by this time was even redder in the face and really quite flustered and tried to explain that I was off my food. What a liar! I’m not off normal food, just dog biscuits…

Ingredients (serves 4)

250g new potatoes, peeled, sliced and cooked

2 leeks, sliced and cooked

250g crabmeat (I used tinned)

150g sweetcorn

1 large spring onion, finely sliced

150ml pouring cream

Sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper

1 teaspoon chilli powder (optional)

100g hard cheese, grated (I used Comté)

Fresh parsley to garnish

Preheat the grill. Place the potatoes, leeks, crabmeat, sweetcorn and onion together in an oven-proof dish and then add the cream and seasoning. Mix well and sprinkle the grated cheese on top. Cook under the grill until the cheese is bubbling and golden (about eight minutes). Garnish with the fresh parsley before serving.

Coconut crab risotto and bathroom devotion


Admittedly an unfortunate juxtaposition for my risotto, but I spent today mixing concrete. Never let it be said that I don’t lead a glamorous life. For the uninitiated amongst you, cement mixing is not dissimilar to mixing a very large cake, which I suppose doesn’t say much for my cakes. It’s very therapeutic though, concrete; I now better understand Winston Churchill’s passion for building walls. There was a bit of a low point this morning when I tripped and fell flat on my face, leaving 25kg of sloppy concrete mix to ooze in my wake, but other than that I think I did quite well. Although I’m obviously no expert, one top tip would be to keep the dogs well out of the way, because they will be tempted to come and ‘help’:


We’re in the process of building another bathroom – my husband is a big fan; adding on bathrooms is a hobby of his. If publications such as ‘Bathroom Weekly’ or ‘Faucets and Drains Today’ existed, he would certainly subscribe. In our previous house, last count, we had ten bathrooms. This is why we had to sell really – we had exhausted its bathroom potential. We’ve been in our present house for seven years and are now on our fourth. Hopefully we won’t break through the bathroom ceiling any time soon though because I like it here…

This is a recipe for a quick, easy but nonetheless delicious risotto. It never fails to please. And if ever you need advice on mixing cement, I’m your girl.

Ingredients (serves 4)

2 tablespoons coconut oil

3 shallots, finely chopped

1 red pepper, sliced and chopped

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 teaspoon of fresh ginger, grated

280g rice (I used whole basmati)

120ml white wine

700ml chicken or vegetable stock

Sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper

1 teaspoon chilli powder

150g sweetcorn

200ml coconut milk

300g tinned crabmeat

Handful of fresh basil, shredded

Heat the oil in large pan over a low heat, add the shallots and cook for five minutes until softened. Add the pepper, garlic and ginger and cook a little more. Add the rice and stir until it’s well coated with oil. Pour in the wine, stirring until all the liquid has been absorbed. Add the stock little by little and stir until almost completely absorbed. Repeat this process, adding the stock a ladle at a time, stirring constantly until all the stock has been used up (about 20 minutes). Add the seasoning and you can add more water if the rice isn’t cooked (this will be the case if you’re using whole basmati, as I did). Add the sweetcorn and coconut milk, stirring until the coconut milk absorbs. Add the crabmeat, cover and leave to heat through for about five minutes. Add the shredded basil to serve.

Mango and ginger kulfi and fire-proof mouths


When I lived near Paris, an English friend and I used to frequent a wonderful little Indian restaurant where we invariably ordered kulfi and halwa for dessert. I’m sure they used to cringe and don their heat-proof clothing and goggles as they saw us approach because we always ordered everything extra extra hot, which is unusual in France where Indian restaurants tend to be more subtle than in the UK. I’m all for subtle; subtle is usually a good thing, but not when it comes to Indian food when my tastebuds demand strident, lurid and brash. Eating Indian food is an extreme sport for me: bungee jumping for the palate.

This ice cream is divine and absolutely perfect after a brazen vindaloo – it puts out the fire like applying aloe vera to sunburn. It is usually made with condensed milk instead of coconut cream.

Not only is ginger deliciously tangy and refreshing, it is also a potent antibacterial, antifungal and anti-inflammatory, as well as being an excellent antioxidant source. It aids digestion and helps prevent nausea and motion sickness as well as headaches, respiratory infections and arthritic pain.

Ingredients (makes about 12 mini moulds)

400ml coconut cream, any excess water removed

400ml Greek yoghurt

1 large mango, peeled and pureed

25g almonds, finely chopped

25g pistachios, finely chopped

1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon fresh ginger, grated

1 teaspoon cardamom seeds, ground

Place all the ingredients in a large mixing bowl and combine well. Pour the mixture into silicon muffin moulds (I used a mixture of muffin moulds and canelé moulds). Freeze for at least two hours. Take out individual portions and leave to defrost slightly at room temperature about 45 minutes before serving. Delicious served with halwa.

Homemade harissa and picnic mortification


I wouldn’t claim to be a perfect mother by any stretch of the imagination. The ability to discipline, for example, appears to be something that has completely passed me by; lack of motivation is almost certainly the cause because, unfortunately, mischief amuses me no end. I’m apparently known amongst Léo’s friends as a bit of a pushover and I have, no doubt, the same reputation amongst the animals. A healthy diet for my son though is something that I do usually manage quite well. I had to provide a picnic the other day as he was attending an all-day riding course. Picnics for Léo are an absolute minefield because he doesn’t do, amongst other things, warm cheese, soggy bread, raw vegetables, floppy salad, softened chocolate etc. In other words, he doesn’t really do picnics. He does, however, have a bit of a thing for ketchup so, in an attempt to dilute the menace of the healthier components of his sandwich, I applied liberally. More fool me. When I went to fetch him, he shouted (loudly) in front of over a dozen other people: ‘Maman, you totally ruined my sandwiches by drowning them in ketchup – they were inedible!’. I think in future he’ll either be getting a generous dollop of this eye-wateringly spicy harissa instead, or learning to make his own sandwiches!

Chili peppers contain capsaicin, which gives them their strong spicy pungent flavour. Capsaicin has antibacterial, anticarcinogenic, analgesic and antidiabetic properties. Fresh chilli peppers are also a rich source of vitamin C and contain other antioxidants such as vitamin A, lutein and beta carotene. They also provide reasonable quantities of minerals such as potassium, manganese, iron, and magnesium.


15 chili peppers, rinsed, topped and tailed

1 teaspoon caraway seeds

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

1 teaspoon dried mint leaves

3 tablespoons olive oil plus extra for jar

1 teaspoon sea salt

5 cloves garlic

Juice of 1 lemon

Put the chilies into a bowl, cover with boiling water and leave to soak until softened (about 20 minutes). Heat the caraway, coriander, and cumin seeds in a frying pan over medium heat. Toast the spices for about four minutes until very fragrant. Drain the chilies and transfer to the bowl of a food processor with the spices, olive oil, salt, garlic and lemon juice. Purée, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides of the bowl, until the paste is very smooth. Transfer to a sterilised glass jar and fill with oil until ingredients are submerged. Refrigerate, topping off with a little more oil after each use.

Lamb, fresh fig and almond tagine and fledgling couscous enthusiasts


We have a young turtle dove in temporary residence at the moment. At least I think it’s temporary. Léo found her nestling in a hole at the bottom of an oak tree and brought her into the house, claiming that she’d fallen from the nest and didn’t know how to fly. He then went on to explain that the hens are  ‘blood-thirsty and vicious she-devils’ and Hugo is an ‘irresponsible nutter’ and that she couldn’t possibly be left to fend for herself. In the face of this irrefutable logic, how could I refuse? At first Léo had to feed her himself, but after about a week she learned to peck and developed an absolute passion for couscous seasoned with Ras el Hanout. A neighbour told us that there are lots of Moroccan turtle doves that have settled in the area, which would explain her exotic tastes. This recipe is the result of my searches for ‘things to serve with couscous’ because, gorgeous as she is, I draw the line at cooking separate dishes for a month-old bird. Léo is coaching her in her valiant efforts to fly, and she now executes perfect sorties from her box to the water jug and back (photo below). And she’s apparently a lot more fun than toy helicopters because you ‘don’t have to recharge her batteries’. The jury’s still out though as to which is harder work; you don’t have to clear up helicopter mess innumerable times a day… I’m not altogether convinced that her plan is to put her flying skills to the ultimate test and up and leave, as I suspect she’ll have a bit of a hard time finding Ras el Hanout-flavoured couscous in the forest around here.


Ingredients (serves 4)

85g almonds

1kg lamb, cut into 3cm cubes

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 medium onions, finely sliced

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

3 carrots, peeled and cut into thumb-size pieces

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 tablespoon freshly grated ginger

1 cinnamon stick

1 tablespoon cumin seeds

2 teaspoons ground paprika

I teaspoon turmeric

1/2 teaspoon saffron threads

2 tablespoons honey

6 fresh figs, cut in half

Fresh coriander, chopped, to serve

Toast the almonds for about 15 minutes in a small frying pan. Chop and set aside. In a medium-sized tagine or covered casserole dish (dutch oven), combine the lamb, olive oil, onions, garlic, carrots and spices, tossing well to combine. Add two cups of water, cover and gently simmer for an hour. Add the honey and figs and simmer for a further 30 minutes, checking from time-to-time that there is still some liquid (add more water if necessary). The tagine is ready once the lamb is tender and most of the liquid has evaporated. Sprinkle with almonds and coriander and serve with couscous or rice (couscous is you have an epicurean turtle dove at the table).

Courgette, cheese and chickpea cake (gf)


As a follow-on to my previous recipe, I thought I would try a savoury version of the chickpea cake. The result was a protein-rich cross between a paschtida and a savoury flan or cake. In any case, it was very tasty and would make an ideal accompaniment (we ate it with spicy sausages), or could be served on its own with a green salad. This recipe is particularly for Jenna, who is currently in need of quick and easy-to-make gluten-free sustenance.

Ingredients (serves 6)

300g chickpeas (garbanzo beans), pre-cooked and rinsed (you can use tinned)

4 eggs, beaten

1 courgette, peeled and finely chopped

½ red pepper, washed and sliced

1 shallot or small onion, peeled and sliced

1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper

2 teaspoons paprika

150g hard cheese (I used Comté), grated

Preheat the oven to 160°C. Grease and prepare a medium-sized cake tin, round or square. Pulse the chickpeas in a food processor until they reach a paste-like consistency and then mix in the other ingredients, except the cheese, one at a time, continuing to pulse. Add the cheese last and mix in by hand. Pour the mixture into the cake tin and bake for an hour (a fork inserted into the centre should come out clean). May be served hot or cold.


Spelt pilaf and painful toes


Yesterday, when Castaño, our Exceedingly Naughty Horse, stood heavily on my little toe, I thought my husband’s reaction, ‘don’t worry, it can’t possibly be broken – he’s not very heavy’ (translated: ‘stop moaning and get over it’), could have been a little more sympathetic. I don’t know what his point of reference is, but half a ton of gyrating horse on my little toe certainly felt heavy to me.

Today, while treating our mare’s foot (she managed to stand on the only piece of stray metal within a ten kilometre radius), Luc had his toe stamped on. Castaño, in full-blown ‘joys of Spring’ mode, saw fit to bite the mare’s rear end while she was tied up and, in reaction to the whippersnapper’s blatant audacity, she lashed out behind and stood on Luc’s toe in front.  When he yelled at me to get my ‘damned Iberian hooligan’ out of the way, my innate sense of decorum prevented me from saying: ‘it can’t have hurt that much, she’s not very heavy’. Or it almost did anyway. 😉


Spelt grain has a robust, slightly nutty flavour and is high in fibre, B vitamins and minerals. It also contains all nine amino acids. Another considerable benefit of spelt is that it is less likely to cause allergy or intolerance than wheat.

Ingredients (serves 4)

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 shallots, peeled and chopped

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped

200g spelt grain

1 tomato, peeled and cubed

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

I teaspoon curry powder

750ml chicken or vegetable stock

20g cashew nuts

fresh parsley or basil

Gently fry the shallots and garlic in olive oil in a large frying pan until softened. Add the spelt grain and continue to fry for a few minutes, mixing well so that the grain is covered in olive oil. Add the tomato, stock and seasoning, again mixing well. Leave to simmer for about 30 minutes until the spelt is cooked, stirring from time to time to prevent sticking. Stir in the cashew nuts a few minutes before the end of cooking time and add the parsley or basil to garnish before serving.

Italian-style green beans and lace-chewing mini goats


Castaño, our most misbehaved horse, still attends the School for Exceedingly Naughty Horses a couple of times a week and Léo has taken to accompanying us. I’m not sure whether he comes because he’s looking for general naughtiness tips, or whether he’s fallen for the stable’s miniature goat. I suspect it’s the latter; my family and I have an immoderate fascination for mischievous animals and this little she-goat fits the bill very nicely. They spend an hour climbing trees, inspecting muddy ditches, making the horses spook and charging each other with imaginary horns. She invariably takes pleasure in undoing Léo’s shoe laces with her teeth and chewing them to bits. Is ‘chewing the lace’ a goat variation on ‘chewing the cud’ I wasn’t aware of? Anyway, as I appear to lack the foresight to buy several replacement pairs at once, I’ve spent much of the past month on a quest for flourescent green laces. Never let it be said that I don’t live life on the edge.

This dish makes a wonderful accompaniment to fish or meat, or it may be served as a light lunch or supper with a poached egg on top.

Ingredients (serves 6)

1kg green beans

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion, peeled and chopped

1 red pepper, sliced

1 tomato, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

handful of pine nuts

12 black olives

6 anchovies

Sea salt and freshly-ground black pepper

1 teaspoon paprika, piment d’Espelette or chilli powder

10g Parmesan cheese, grated (optional)

Precook the beans until ‘al dente’, strain and set aside. Gently heat the olive oil in a large frying pan adding the onions and cooking for a few minutes. Add the sliced red pepper, tomato and garlic and continue to cook until the red pepper and tomato soften. Add the green beans, pine nuts, olives, anchovies and seasoning, gently combining and cook for a few more minutes.

Simple coconut chicken curry and a fine way to drive


No doubt in retribution for the gentle mockery in my last post, I received a speeding fine this morning in the post. Or to be precise, my husband received a speeding fine, which absolutely thrilled him. The irony is that I was flashed coming back from a very active skiing weekend and traffic cop-in-the-making, Léo, was fast asleep and not in a position to attend to his functions. Of course, the problem with radar tickets is that you can’t flirt negotiate your way out of them. If I’m stopped by an actual live policeman, I play the ‘oh gosh I’m so sorry officer —it must have been a slip of the foot during a fleeting blonde moment’ card. Shiny grey metal boxes, however, are not nearly as indulgent with lame excuses.

I like my curry the way I like my driving: fast and hassle-free. It is none the less delicious for it though.

Ingredients (serves four)

1 tablespoon coconut oil

4 chicken breasts, cut into chunks

1 onion, thinly sliced

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

4 carrots, peeled and cut

2 green chillies, chopped

1 tablespoon of peeled, grated fresh ginger

1 kaffir lime leaf (or bay leaf)

1 cinnamon stick

½ teaspoon turmeric

3 teaspoons cumin seeds

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

100ml chicken stock

100ml coconut milk

Gently fry the onion, garlic and chicken in the coconut oil for a few minutes in a medium-size casserole dish. Add the seasoning and spices (cumin seeds, salt, pepper, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon stick…) and continue to brown, stirring frequently. Add the carrots and chillies and then the chicken stock and coconut milk. Simmer for about 20 minutes and then serve with basmati rice, naan bread, chickpea pancakes or just a green salad.

Sweet potato crab cakes and lettuce pilfering


Not only is this recipe extremely appetising, it also has the advantage of being very nutritious: sweet potatoes are bursting with vitamin C and are also high in calcium, folate, potassium and beta-carotene. They have a low glycemic index, far lower than that of regular potatoes. Crab meat is high in protein and Omega 3, as well as being a potent source of vitamins and minerals.

Young delinquent horses, on the other hand, are less beneficial from a nutritional standpoint, particularly if they break into your vegetable garden and steal all your salad while you’re out to lunch. In an ideal world (a world in which horses do not kick down fences), a crisp green salad makes a delicious accompaniment, but they may also be served alone with a spicy chilli sauce.

Ingredients (serves 4)

350g sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

¼ red pepper, diced

2 cloves of garlic, peeled

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

olive oil

350g crabmeat (I used tinned)

1 tablespoon fresh parsley, chopped

2 spring onions, chopped

Flour for coating the ‘cakes’ (I used quinoa flour)

2 tablespoons peanut oil for frying

Place the sweet potatoes, red pepper and garlic cloves on a roasting tray and douse with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast in an oven preheated to 180°C for about 25 minutes. Mash the vegetables with a potato masher until you obtain a rough purée. Add the crabmeat, parsley and chopped onions, mixing well. Shape into individual cakes (roughly 8 cakes 5cm in diameter) and coat with flour. Fry in peanut oil (you could use another oil but I find peanut oil gives a lovely crisp result) until golden brown on both sides (roughly 4 minutes on each side). Serve with or without salad, depending on  your animals’ disposition. 😉

Curried prawns in agar agar and how to pluck a hen


by Hugo, 
Canine Correspondent


I’ve had quite a relaxing week because The Noisy One has been away on a sailing trip. I expect he’ll be quite hoarse by the time he gets home from barking orders at adjacent boats (did you like my animal imagery there?). Anyway, it’s nice to have some time off from being shot at and tackled to the ground. There has been one thing that’s been bothering me a bit though: two of the hens are nesting (and very unpleasant they’re being about it too), which leaves one hen wandering around alone looking a bit pathetic; even more so than usual ;-). I’ve been trying to keep her spirits up by grabbing her for a cuddle and an affectionate chew of her wings, but I just get yelled at by old Bossy Boots. Life can be very complicated sometimes *doggie sigh*.

Ingredients (makes 6 mini terrines)

250g frozen prawns

juice of half a lemon

25g butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

150ml fish stock

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 shallot, chopped

1 bay leaf

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 teaspoons curry powder

1 tablespoon mango chutney

4 fresh basil leaves

4g Agar-Agar powder

Place the prawns steeped in lemon juice in a frying pan and add the olive oil and butter. Fry gently, gradually adding all the other ingredients with the exception of the Agar-Agar and basil leaves. Simmer for about 10 minutes, until the prawns are cooked through and the liquid partly evaporated. Once cooked, add the basil, blend briefly in a food processor and set aside. Dissolve the Agar-Agar in a small amount of water and bring to the boil (according to the instructions on the packet). Once boiled, add to the prawn mixture and distribute into moulds (I used silicon muffin moulds). Compact the mixture well. Refrigerate for at least a couple of hours and serve chilled.

Health benefits of agar agar

Agar is a good source of calcium and iron, and is very high in fiber. It is an excellent aid in digestion and weight loss and also carries toxic waste out of the body. Other benefits include its ability to reduce inflammation, calm the liver, and benefit the lungs.