BBQ ribs but in the oven

I have been watching the Kevin Spacey series House of Cards.
In the show Congressman Frank Underwood despite his wealth and power loves nothing more than take away ribs from a back street BBQ joint.
It got my taste buds going and when a friend recently went to Texas I asked her to get me some BBQ sauce. I ended up with Ray Benson’s Asleep at the Wheel BBQ sauce and decided to have bash at recreating some typical US style ribs soaked in smokey sweet sauce.
After getting some baby back ribs from my butcher Nathan Mills the Butchery in Bermondsey I did some research and got cooking.
They were delicious, especially with some homemade coleslaw


Ingredients (serves one)

Two half racks of baby back ribs
BBQ sauce of your choice (make your own if you like)


1) Coat ribs with BBQ sauce and leave to marinade in casserole dish for at least four hours or overnight in the fridge.
2) Preheat oven to 150c and cover ribs with foil and cook on middle shelf for two and a half hours, turning and basting several times.
3) Turn off oven and pre-heat grill or griddle pan.
4) Add ribs and after brushing with residual sauce caramelise until crisp and almost burnt.
Serve with plenty of napkins. This is delicious with a cold beer or two.




Spaghetti vongole

Shellfish are one of my favourite ways to eat fresh seafood. Clams, mussels, cockles and oysters seem to hold mouthfuls of the delicious ozone you get from being near a crashing wave and release them only under pressure of heat or the shuckers knife.
It is worth tracking down a good seafood supplier and taking the time to prepare the shellfish yourself – i dread to think how the supermarkets do it on an industrial scale.
Be aware this recipe involves soaking the clams for at least two hours so maybe put them in the fridge to soak before you leave for work.
This dish marries my love of Italian food with the simple tiny clam which seems to inhabit a shell far to large for itself.
There are very few ingredients in the dish which is usually a sign of a classic and this recipe is adapted from one by my friend Felicity Cloake whose wonderful work perfecting the “perfect” example of so many recipes has helped me on many a culinary task.
You can buy her book from Amazon. Perfect: 68 Essential Recipes for Every Cook’s Repertoire


Ingredients – for one serving

Three handfuls of small clams
100g spaghetti (dried)
Two knobs of butter
Splash of good extra virgin olive oil
One clove of garlic, finely chopped
1/4 medium-hot red chilli, finely chopped
Half a glass of dry white wine
tbsp of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Two grates of lemon zest and a spritz of juice


1. Rinse the clams in cold running water, and scrub if necessary, then put them into a large bowl and cover with cold water. Salt generously and leave for a couple of hours, then drain and rinse well to remove any grit or sand.

2. Put the spaghetti into a large pan of salted boiling water and cook for a couple of minutes under the recommended time, until nearly done.

3. Meanwhile, put a knob of butter and the olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat and soften the garlic and chilli.

4. Add the drained clams, and turn up the heat. Pour in the wine, cover and leave for a couple of minutes until most of them have opened. Discard any that are still closed. Add the others to the sauce, picking a few out of their shells for variety.

5. Drain the spaghetti and add to the pan along with the remaining knob of butter. Toss well and leave for a minute, then stir through the chopped parsley, lemon zest and juice, season to taste and serve.

Beetroot and chocolate brownies

I’m in a race against time to eat all the root vegetables on my allotment before the first frosts turn lovely earthy beetroots to slush.
So like the courgettes before I am trying recipes of every kind – soups, roasted, dips and, err, cake.
I first tasted this combination at the River Cottage Canteen in Axeminster and it was great.
It might sound funny but I guess it’s no different to the principles of carrot cake whereby the vegetable adds moisture and bite.
It doesn’t matter what kind of beets you use, I put in a mixture of boltardy and golden but I guess the really red ones make the cakes even darker?
Tip, use a pair of washing up gloves to stop staining your fingers when grating the cooked and cooled beets.
I’ve cooked a beetroot and chocolate fondant pudding recently but this is more of a crowd pleaser.
Thanks to the River Cottage website for this recipe.


Ingredients (makes around 20)

250g unsalted butter, cut into cubes
250g dark chocolate (about 70% cocoa solids), broken into pieces
3 medium eggs
250g caster sugar
A pinch of sea salt
150g self-raising flour (wholemeal ideally but white works well too)
250g beetroot, boiled until tender, cooled, peeled and grated


1) Grease a shallow baking tin, approximately 20 x 25cm, and line the base with baking parchment.
2) Put the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl and melt them together in the traditional way, over a pan of hot water.
3) Whisk the eggs and sugar together in a large bowl until combined then beat in the melted chocolate and butter until smooth. 4) Combine the salt with the flour, sift them over the chocolate mixture, then gently fold in with a large metal spoon. Fold in the grated beetroot – be careful not to over-mix or it will make the brownies tough.
5) Pour the mixture into the prepared tin and smooth the top with a spatula.
6) Bake for 20 – 25 minutes; when the brownies are done, a knife or skewer inserted in the centre should come out with a few moist crumbs clinging to it. Don’t be tempted to overcook them or they will be dry.
7) Remove the tin from the oven and leave on a wire rack to cool before cutting in to squares.

Spaghetti with courgettes

This is probably one of my favourite lightning quick week night dinners during the summer when my allotment is throwing out courgettes like missiles.

It’s simple to make and contains chilli, garlic and salt – ingredients which go really well together – in fact the garlic I’ve used in the picture was also home grown.

The other lovely aspect of this dish is you can fiddle with the ratios depending on your taste and make enough for a a family or simply a meal for one.


 Recipe – serves one


Two average-sized courgettes (any variety and the fresher the better but you can also use big ones just cook down for longer)

Half a red chilli, finely chopped 

Half a garlic clove, finely chopped 

Pinch of salt and grinds of pepper

100g of pasta (I prefer spaghetti)

Splash of olive oil



1) Boil a saucepan of water and cook pasta as pack instructions.

2) Using a box grater grate the courgettes on the medium blades.

3) Heat oil in frying pan over medium heat and add chilli and garlic.

4) Add courgettes, stir and add a pinch of salt and couple of grinds of black pepper.

5) Stir occasionally while pasta cooks but do not let courgettes brown, you are trying to draw some of the moisture out of the vegetables not brown them.

6) Drain pasta and add to the courgettes, stir, transfer to a plate or bowl and grate over some Parmigiano-Reggiano if you have some.


Shepherd’s Pie with cheese champ topping

When the nights close in and the leaves start falling from the trees my mind turns to hearty oven cooked favourites like shepherd’s pie.
Here’s a belting one from Gordon Ramsay’s new book Ultimate Home Cooking.
He says it’s his “all-time favourite family recipe” and it’s certainly tasty and very easy to make.
I “pimped” mine by adding a chopped red chilli at the same time as the garlic and it gave it some underlying heat.
It’s just as tasty a day later reheated and served with buttered carrots or, as in this case, some cavolo nero from the allotment dressed in Di Simone olive oil and chopped anchovies.


olive oil, for frying

1kg minced lamb

2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

1 red chilli, finely chopped

1 onion, peeled and diced

2 leeks, trimmed, halved lengthways andfinely sliced

1–2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

1 tbsp tomato purée

100ml  red wine

250ml chicken stock

2 rosemary sprigs, leaves only, chopped

sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


750g-900g potatoes, eg Maris Piper, peeled and cut into chunks

50g butter

3 spring onions, trimmed and finely chopped

100g  Cheddar cheese, grated

50ml–100ml milk, optional

1) Preheat the oven to 180C. Place a large, wide frying pan or hob-proof casserole dish over a medium-high heat. Add a dash of oil and fry the mince in batches, seasoning each lot, until well browned. Add the garlic for the last 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate.

2) Put a little more oil in the same pan and cook the onion and leeks over a medium heat for 5–7 minutes, until completely softened. Add Worcestershire sauce to taste, then stir in the tomato purée.

3) Return the mince to the pan and stir well. Pour in the wine, scraping up any bits from the bottom. Bubble for a couple of minutes to burn off the alcohol, then add the stock and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer, then add the rosemary and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Cook gently for 10–15 minutes, until the sauce has reduced slightly and the flavours are well combined. Set aside to cool.

4) Meanwhile, prepare the topping. Boil the potatoes until tender, then drain and mash until smooth. Mix in the butter and seasoning, then add the spring onions and three-quarters of the cheese and mix again. Taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary. If the mash is too dry add a splash of milk to loosen.

5) Put the lamb mixture into a 28cm x 22cm (11in x 81⁄2 in) baking dish and top with the mashed potato. Sprinkle with the remaining cheese and a little salt and pepper. Bake for 15–25 minutes or until the potato is golden brown and the meat is bubbling underneath, and serve.

Taken from Gordon Ramsay’s Ultimate Home Cooking