January blues … reds, greens, limes, pinks and purples


The best advice I can give anyone in January is don’t give up anything. It is the most miserable month of the year in the UK. Not only is it bitterly cold and grey but the twinkling lights of the festive season have disappeared and no one has any money! So take this month to make small changes and don’t beat yourself up. There is nothing better than a long walk with a good friend on a frosty, sunny day but why drag yourself out when the rain is sideways and the temperature is just above freezing? Curl up with a cozy blanket and treat yourself to a few glasses of port from the festive stash:) Our Christmas bar has more spirits now than it did before the 25th and I don’t see any reason to punish myself with dry January; moderate January and February and dry March seems a much better way to soothe my soul and give my liver a break!

Lastly, eat yourself healthy with a rainbow of colour and lots of spice, it’s the best remedy for grotty weather. Try homemade roasted butternut squash soup or make some Thai curry paste and explore a world of warm spicy dishes that remind you of the Tropics. This recipe for tomato masala has a beautiful blend of spice with the sweet sharpness of tamarind. It is filling and warming, which makes it perfect for the January blues!

Tomato and red onion in sweet tamarind masala

This is a wonderful blend of hot, sweet and sour flavours which makes the dish very moorish.  A firm favourite at Eliane; a comforting main for vegans, which is often nabbed by the meat eaters as well!

Serves 6

2-3 tbsp coconut oil
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp nigella seeds
2 tsp ground coriander
1 large onion, finely chopped
2cm (1”) chunk fresh ginger, grated
4 cloves garlic, crushed
1-2 chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
2 red onions, thinly sliced
8-10 large vine ripened tomatoes, roughly chopped
6 tbsp desiccated coconut
4 tbsp raisins
2 tbsp coconut nectar
3 tsp tamarind paste
Himalayan pink salt and pepper, to taste
A small handful fresh coriander, chopped

Heat the coconut oil in a heavy based, deep frying pan over a medium heat.  Tip in the seeds and fry for a few minutes to release their aroma, be careful not to burn.  Next add in the ground coriander, onion, ginger and chilli, turn down the heat a little and fry until the onion is soft, add a little water from time to time to stop everything from sticking.  Once the sauce is well combined, add the red onion and continue to fry until the onion is just beginning to soften.  Next tip in the tomatoes, desiccated coconut, raisins, coconut nectar and tamarind paste.  Stir well, cover and simmer on a low heat for ten minutes.  Taste and adjust the seasoning with salt, pepper, a little coconut nectar and tamarind paste until it is to your liking.  The sauce should be thick, a coating rather than a soup; if the sauce is too thin, uncover the pan and turn up the heat to cook off some of the liquid.  Scatter over the fresh coriander and serve.

Hints and tips for a calm Christmas


It’s all in the prep!

Get as much done beforehand as possible and plan your menu well. Make sure you don’t overload the festive period by doing too much, especially if you’re cooking for a crowd on the day. Always, always accept help that is offered; if you want to do all the cooking give helpers a specific task like bringing champagne, crackers, cheese etc. Just make sure you specify how much you need.

By the first week of December (or before)

Order any big items like your turkey and make sure you add on all the extras you may need; hams, bacon, sausages etc. If you have space in the fridge then definitely collect everything on 23rd NOT 24th when the world and their dog are out scrabbling around and there is zero festive cheer :).

Make your Christmas pudding, cake and mincemeat, if you’re so inclined or order and store it ready for Christmas.

Try and get all your present shopping done and wrapped so you don’t have that to worry about.

Post anything that needs posting :).

If you don’t put up the tree until later in December, at least get out your decorations and check that the lights work!

Start buying in any festive drink you may have your eye on, including soft drinks and mixers. The only thing you then have to do is not drink it before Christmas! The same goes for chocolates and treats.

Get in non-perishable essentials: food wrap, foil, freezer bags etc.

Check out your kitchen implements and make sure you have everything you need for your planned menu – roasting tins, saucepans, serving dishes and platters, jugs, serving spoons, condiments, small dishes for relishes and sauces, glasses, crockery and cutlery 🙂

Lots of Christmas essentials freeze well, so if you want to get ahead, think about making: cranberry sauce, bread sauce, braised red cabbage, carrot and swede mash, sausages wrapped in bacon, stuffing balls, gravy, blinis, homemade sausage rolls. All of these can be cooked through, chilled and frozen. I always make some really good chicken and onion gravy around now and freeze it.

It’s nice to take your time to make a really decent version when your not too stressed trying to get everything cooked on time. I get it out on Christmas morning and, if I run out of time, I use it instead of making fresh turkey gravy (just one less thing to worry about) and its always good to have a meat free gravy on offer, even if you don’t need it.

2 weeks before Christmas

Double check everything has been ordered, frozen, decorated, posted………………
Buy any outstanding things that will keep; such as brandy butters, cheeses etc.

22nd December

Last shop, hopefully! Buy all your vegetables, salad stuff, fresh milk etc.

23rd December

Keep this day free to collect your meat and prep all your vegetables for the big day. It’s amazing what you can do before hand and that keeps Christmas Eve free to enjoy yourself (or run around town trying to find the last string of fairy lights for the tree because yours gave up the ghost this morning!!).

First, I roast all my potatoes and parsnips:

Pre-heat the oven to 220°C. Prep everything as usual, par-boil the vegetables and leave to drain until all the moisture has steamed off (this will make it easier to brown them in the oven). Rough up the surface of the potatoes by shaking around in a colander. Pour a little of your preferred oil in a large, flat roasting tray and tip on the potatoes. Slide in the oven and turn them every 15 minutes or so until brown all over. Do the same with the parsnips in a separate tray. Once everything is cooked to perfection, remove and leave on the side to cool. If you have room, slide the cooled trays into the fridge, if not decant into a plastic tub or freezer bag. On the big day wait until the oven is empty and your meat is resting. Slide the trays of potatoes and parsnips back into the hot oven for approximately 10-15 minutes. They will crisp up beautifully and it means no stress trying to get everything to be ready at the same time!

I always use olive oil as it’s a little healthier and I don’t have to worry about my vegetables being vegan friendly.

Next, my vegan main (or interesting side dish):
This year I’m making a sweet potato and onion gratin with cardamom and nigella seeds. I roast off all the vegetables and put into an oval baking dish, sprinkle with herby breadcrumbs and bake for approximately 30 minutes, or until the breadcrumbs are crisp and the centre of the dish is hot.

Allow dish to cool and refrigerate.

Prep the meat by making sure that you have the right sized tins, herbs and fruit (such as bay leaves and oranges) to stuff the cavity of any poultry or lay under any large joints of meat.

Prep any green vegetables to be cooked on the day.

Make any canapés, nibbles or starters you are planning, or at least get them done as far as is possible. E.g. blinis can be made, sour cream spiced and smoked salmon shredded ready to be assembled on the day.

Lay the table ready for Christmas day. If you don’t have loads of space then make room in a cupboard or on some shelves and set out piles of crockery, boxes of cutlery, napkins, glasses etc. that you will be using.

Double check your freezer items – bread sauce, cranberry relish, gravy, braised red cabbage, stuffing balls etc. Or do all of these now and pop in the fridge.

Check the drink situation – wines, spirits, mixers, soft drinks, water ice etc.

Make any desserts your planning and double check you have any accompaniments you want: cream, custard, brandy sauce etc.

On the day

Remove everything you need from the freezer and set aside to defrost.

Get the meat in the oven so it is ready at least 30 minutes before your desired serving time.

Lay the table (if not already done) and make sure all the drinks needed are on ice (or outside the back door in the freezing cold:).

Plate-up any nibbles, starters etc.

Decant gravies and sauces into saucepans and dishes, if you are tight on hob space and themos flask is a great way to keep gravy hot for an hour or so.

Enjoy time with your family guests.

Remove the meat from the oven and set it aside to rest, make sure to wrap it in foil and some thick clothes and keep it somewhere warm, this will help it to a stay hot. Put in your gratin or cauliflower cheese or any other dish that needs to be heated up into the hot oven. 20 minutes later, slide in the trays of potatoes, parsnips, stuffing balls etc.

Heat up the braised red cabbage in a saucepan and cook your green vegetables (I restrict these to a maximum of two!).

Make sure someone helps to get everyone to the table, lays out plates etc. and gets the wine flowing.

Then your ready to serve, drink, enjoy and someone else can wash up 🙂

Bouyant brunches

…an intimate gathering


Superfood Toast

Serves 4

2 ripe avocados
Juice of a lemon
6-8 spring onions, chopped (don’t throw away the green bits, just keep chopping)
A small handful each of flat leaf parsley and coriander
A pinch of Himalayan pink salt and cracked black pepper
Your choice of toasted bread
A handful pumpkin seeds

Mash the avocados with some of the lemon juice, chopped spring onion, chopped herbs and a little salt and pepper. Taste and add more lemon juice and/or seasoning. Spoon the avocado salsa onto hot toast and sprinkle over the pumpkin seeds.


This is a Tunisian dish of eggs baked in a sauce of tomatoes, peppers, and onions, spiced with cumin and a little chilli. If you’re serving vegans as well just poach the eggs in water, rather than adding them to the main dish. Then serve two dishes of Shakshuka, one with eggs and one without!

Serves 4
Set the oven to 200°C / 400°F / Gas Mark 6

3-4 tbsp coconut oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1-2 tsp smoked paprika
1 large red onion, finely sliced
2 large red peppers, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 small chilli, finely chopped
1 tin chopped tomatoes, or approximately 200g fresh tomatoes, skinned, deseeded and chopped
Juice of half a lemon
Himalayan pink salt and pepper
4 large organic, free-range eggs
A small handful of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

Heat up the coconut oil in a heavy based, deep cast iron skillet. Toast off the cumin and coriander seeds in the oil until fragrant and then add the smoked paprika followed by the onions and peppers. Fry the vegetables for a few minutes until they begin to soften and then add the garlic and chilli. Once the onion mix has softened, pour in the tomatoes and lemon, season and simmer until cooked. Now make four shallow wells in the surface of the sauce and crack in the eggs. Slide the skillet into the oven and bake until the eggs are cooked, approximately 30 minutes, sprinkle over parsley and serve. I usually serve this with toast or bread to mop up the runny, spicy egg but it works well on its own or with some wilted spinach.

Savoury French toast

This is a great recipe to use up a loaf and works well with gluten free bread, as the egg counteracts some of its inherent crumbliness.

Serves 4
Set the oven to 200°C

4 large slices of bread (or 6-8 small ones)
4 eggs
A little nondairy milk
1 tbsp dried mixed herbs
A little Himalayan pink salt and pepper
A little coconut oil for frying
200g fresh spinach leaves
A pinch of nutmeg
Approximately 100g grated cheese

Start by laying the slices of bread in a single layer in a shallow tin. In a large bowl, beat together the eggs, milk, herbs and a little salt and paper. Pour the egg mixture over the slices of bread and, once one side has soaked up some egg, flip over the slices until all the egg is absorbed. Heat a little coconut oil in a heavy based frying pan over a medium heat and panfry the bread on both sides until golden brown. Layout the French toast on a small baking tray and set aside. In the same pan, over a low heat, wilt the spinach leaves with the nutmeg. Squeeze the excess water out of the cooked spinach and arrange a little on top of each slice of bread. Sprinkle over the cheese and slide the tray into the oven and bake for approximately 5-8 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbling.

Sweet potato pancakes

Makes approximately 8 pancakes:
Ideally, use a round metal ring mold to make thick, uniform pancakes.

250g mashed cooked sweet potato (needs to be cold, so make the day before)
1 tsp grated nutmeg
Approximately 100g rice flour
1 tbsp psyllium husk powder
Approximately 200ml almond or rice milk
Coconut oil for frying

To Serve:
A small pot of coconut yoghurt
A selection of prepared fruit
Coconut nectar

Blend the sweet potato and almond milk in a food processor until completely smooth. Next add the rest of the ingredients and blend to form a thick batter (pourable but not too runny), add a little more milk or rice flour to get the right consistency. Let the batter rest for about 20 minutes, this is a crucial step, as the psyllium husk needs to react and bind the mixture together.

Heat a non-stick frying pan over a low to medium heat and melt a little coconut oil. Pour in a little batter, into the mold if you have one, and allow it to spread gently. Once the surface begins to bubble and set, flip over the pancake and cook the other side. To save on effort, these pancakes can be made in advance and reheated in a frying pan when needed.

Serve the pancakes with small dishes of coconut yoghurt, fresh fruit and coconut nectar, so your guests can help themselves.

avocado and grapefruit

Feeding a crowd (ideas to make your life easier:)

Superfood toast:

Make the smashed avocado the day before and add lots of chopped tomatoes or some pink grapefruit segments (the acidity will help to keep the colour of the avocado bright). Scrape into a serving bowl and squeeze some extra lemon juice over the surface. Cover the dish with cling film, making sure the film adheres to the top of the avocado mixture, this will also stop everything discolouring. Serve the salsa surrounded by hot toast so your guests can help themselves.


The sauce can be made 3-4 days in advance and kept in the fridge until needed (or frozen for a longer period). Poach off batches of eggs up to a day before, plunge the cooked eggs into a container of cold water and store the whole thing in the fridge. When ready serve, boil a fresh pan of water and re-immerse the eggs for a few minutes, in batches if necessary. Meanwhile, in a separate pan, reheat the sauce and pour into your serving dish then slide the poached eggs onto the Shakshuska just before serving. For a vegan alternative; pan fry some slices of butternut squash in a little coconut oil and lay them onto the Shakshuska instead of the eggs.

Savoury French toast:

Make the French toast and the wilted spinach the day before and store in the fridge. When needed, cover a large baking sheet in baking paper and set out the slices of eggy bread. Chop up the wilted spinach and scatter over the bread, followed by the grated cheese. Pop in a hot oven, or under a grill, until golden brown and serve.

Sweet potato pancakes:

Make up to 3 days in advance and store in the fridge between leaves of baking parchment. Prepare the fruit up to a day before and refrigerate. When needed, set the oven to 200°C. Layout a sheet of baking paper on a large roasting tray and spread the pancakes in a single layer over the tray. Pop the tray into the oven for approximately 5 minutes, or until the pancakes have warmed through. Set out the fruit with the coconut yoghurt and coconut nectar in separate bowls and serve the pancakes.

Roasted trout with chermoula

roasted trout with chermoula 1

Serves 4 as a main
Preheat the oven to 180°C, gas mark 4-5

For the Chermoula:
2 tsp each of cumin and coriander seeds
6 cloves garlic, peeled
A large handful of fresh coriander (use the leaves and stalks)
A large handful of flat leaf parsley
1 preserved lemon, chopped
1/2 red pepper, chopped
3 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp each of Himalayan pink salt and pepper
Approximately 60ml (1/4 cup) organic, cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
4-8 whole trout (depending on their size) cleaned and gutted

For the stuffing:
100g (3/4 cup) raisins
2 tbsp lemon juice
4 spring onions, finely chopped
1 tsp each of Himalayan pink salt and pepper

Chermoula is a vibrant herb and lemon marinade used often in North African cooking, especially Tunisia, Algeria and Libya. The flavours work well with fish and seafood but can be used to flavour soups, roasted vegetables etc.

Start by making the Chermoula; toast off the cumin and coriander seeds in a dry pan over a medium heat, stirring intermittently to making sure they do not burn. Add these and all the other Chermoula ingredients to a food processor and blend until smooth. Adjust the seasoning, scrape into a small bowl and reserve.

Lay out each of the trout onto a large sheet of baking paper. Score the fish gently by cutting three diagonal lines on each side.

Mix all the stuffing ingredients together and spoon into the cavity of each fish. Sprinkle a little salt and pepper over the fish and then wrap up tightly in the baking paper. Transfer into a large baking tray and bake for approximately 20 minutes or until cooked through.

Serve whole or filleted with a dollop of Chermoula sauce; the fresh herby taste compliments the trout beautifully, the acidic sweetness of the fruit and lemon a perfect foil for the delicate flavours of the fish.

Pan-fried fish with roasted pepper and nut salsa

salmon with roasted pepper and nut salsa

Set the oven to 200°C / 400°F / Gas Mark 6
Serves 6 as a main

3 large red bell peppers
50g (2oz) nuts; hazelnuts, pistachios, pine nuts etc. 3 garlic cloves – crushed
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
2tbsp of organic apple cider vinegar
8 tbsp of organic, cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
8 spring onions, finely chopped
A small handful each of fresh coriander and parsley, finely chopped
pinch of Himalayan pink salt and pepper
6 large, firm fish fillets (salmon, cod, tuna, monkfish)
2 tbsp coconut oil

Start by roasting the peppers in the oven until soft and blistered. Tip them into a mixing bowl and cover with cling film; this will make it easier to peel off the skin. While they are cooling, heat a dry heavy based pan over a medium heat and slightly toast off the nuts. Next coarsely crush the nuts in a pestle and mortar or a blender. When the peppers have cooled, remove their skin and dice. Make the salsa by mixing all of the ingredients together, season and cover then refrigerate until needed.

Heat the coconut oil in the frying pan and fry the fish fillets until golden brown on each side. Turn down the heat, cover the pan and continue to fry gently until cooked through. Serve the fish warm or cold with a dollop of the salsa on top.

Lawar kachang

lawar kachang in white bowl 2

Serves 6 as a main dish

Spice Paste:
120g (1 cup) cashew nuts
1 tsp black peppercorns
2 tsp shrimp paste (optional)
1-2 red chillies, deseeded and sliced
2 tbsp turmeric powder
2 sticks of lemon grass, finely chopped
2cm (1”) chunk galangal (Thai ginger) or fresh ginger, finely chopped

For the main dish:
Approximately 6-8 tbsp coconut oil
500g minced chicken
2 tbsp palm sugar or honey
Approximately 300g French green beans
5 shallots, finely sliced
2 red onions, finely diced
6 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1-2 Birdseye chillies, deseeded and chopped (leave out if you prefer less spicy heat)
Approximately 100g grated fresh coconut (or 60g (1/2 cup) desiccated coconut if you can’t get fresh)
Juice of 2 limes
2 tbsp fish sauce

In a pestle and mortar, pound all the spice paste ingredients together until they form a rough paste. The paste can be made in advance and either frozen or kept in the fridge for up to a week. A quick alternative is to roughly chop the lemon grass and galangal (or ginger) and blend in a food processor.

In a large bowl mix together the spice paste, chicken mince and palm sugar until well combined.

Heat 2-3 tbsp of the coconut oil in the wok and stir fry the chicken mixture until cooked through. Set the chicken aside to cool, if necessary refrigerate until needed.

While the chicken is cooking, set a large pan of salted water on to boil. Wash and trim the green beans and blanch in boiling water for a few minutes, be careful not to over cook. Drain and rinse the beans under cold water until they are cold. Cut the beans into pieces, approximately 2cm (1”) in length, and set aside them aside.

When ready to eat, Heat 2 tbsp coconut oil in a wok over a high heat and fry the shallots until crispy, then transfer to absorbent paper to soak up the excess oil. Reheat the wok with a little more oil, if necessary, and stir fry the onions, garlic and chilli until soft. Now add in the cooked chicken and green beans and fry until heated through. Tip the hot chicken into a serving dish and scatter over the grated coconut. Lastly, create a dressing with the lime juice and fish sauce, pour over the dish and serve.

Fish cakes with apple and mint raita

fish cakes with apple and mint raita

Preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F / Gas Mark 6
Serves 4 as a main dish

For the raita:
1tsp cumin seeds
200g thick Greek yoghurt
Large apple, grated
A small handful of fresh mint, chopped
1 tbsp organic apple cider vinegar
Himalayan pink salt and pepper, to taste

For the fish cakes:
Approximately 800g fish (e.g. salmon, monkfish, cod etc.)
A small handful each of fresh mint, parsley and dill, chopped
1 cm (1/2”) chunk of fresh ginger, finely chopped
2 large cloves of garlic, crushed
Grated zest of a small lime (keep juice for the dressing)
1 tsp each of ground cumin, coriander and turmeric
1 egg, beaten
2 tbsp gram (chickpea) flour – rice flour will do
1 tsp each of Himalayan pink salt and ground black pepper
Coconut oil for frying

Make the raita by dry frying the cumin seeds until fragrant and mix into all the other ingredients. Season to taste and set aside until needed.

Cut the fish into a small dice (firm white fish is good but remember that this is a great recipe to use up odds and ends of fish and shell fish from other dishes). Add all the remaining ingredients and mix well; the mixture should hold together easily, so add a little more flour, if necessary. Ideally, rest the mixture for at least an hour to allow the flour to bind with the other ingredients, the fish cakes will hold together much better.

Heat a few tablespoons of coconut oil in a heavy based frying pan over a medium heat, until a small dollop of the fish cake mix bubbles when added to the oil. Shape the fish mixture into small patties (about 4cm in diameter) and fry on each side until golden brown. Cook off the cakes in batches, if necessary, and set onto a large baking tray lined with foil or baking paper. Place the baking sheet into the oven and cook for a further 8 minutes (or until cooked through, the thinner the cakes the quicker they will cook).

Serve the apple raita in a bowl surrounded by the fish cakes. You can make the fish cake mix and the raita a few days in advance; although only add the grated apple to the raita at the last minute, otherwise it will discolour. The fish cakes also make great bite sized canapés.

Lavender and honey glazed chicken

lavender & honey glazed chicken

Heat the oven to 190°c / 375°F / gas mark 5
Serves 4

For the glaze:
5 tbsp fresh orange juice
1 tsp organic apple cider vinegar
3 tbsp runny honey, or coconut nectar
1 tsp dried lavender
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs of rosemary, about 2cm (1”) long, finely chopped
4 chicken breasts, on the bone

To finish:
6 tbsp pine nuts, lightly toasted
Handful chopped chives

About an hour in advance, heat all the ingredients for the glaze together in a small pan. Simmer the glaze for a few minutes, then allow to rest and the herbs to infuse.

Start the chicken by setting the roasting tin over a medium heat on the hob, add the chicken, skin side down and fry off until golden brown. Off the heat, turn the breasts over and paint on the glaze. Cover in tin foil and cook in the oven for approximately 30-40 minutes, or until, when skewered, the chicken juices run clear not pink. Allow the meat to rest for 5 minutes then scatter over the pine nuts and chives and serve with the pan juices.

Chicken with dates and olives

chicken with dates &olives on black lattice

Preheat the oven to 200°C / 400°F / Gas Mark 6
Serves 6-8 as a main dish

6-8 large chicken breasts or 12-16 thighs, skinned and boned
2 large onions, chopped
1 cm (1/2”) chunk of fresh ginger, finely chopped
3 large cloves of garlic, crushed
Zest and juice of a lemon
1 tsp each of ground cumin, cinnamon and nutmeg
1 tsp chilli flakes
2 tbsp gram (chickpea) flour
100g (6/8 cup) pitted dates, chopped
100g (1 cup) pitted green and black olives, chopped
Himalayan pink salt and pepper, to taste

Start by chopping the chicken into bite sized chunks, removing any excess fat and skin. Heat a deep, heavy based pan on a medium heat and fry off the chicken with the onions; followed by the ginger, garlic, lemon and spices and continue to fry until the chicken begins to colour. Add the flour and cook for a few minutes to form a sauce with the pan juices, add a little water if necessary. Finally, stir in the dates and olives, cover the pan and cook for a further 10 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the flavours have infused. Adjust the seasoning and serve with rice.

Mushrooms with kohlrabi and herbs

19 copy

Serves 4 as a main dish, 6-8 as a side:
2-3 shallots, finely chopped
2 kohlrabi bulbs, peeled and thinly julienned
4-5 tbsp coconut nectar
5-6 tbsp unfiltered, organic apple cider vinegar
Approximately 400g (4 cups) button mushrooms, washed and thinly sliced
1/2 tsp of Himalayan pink salt and pepper
A handful of fresh flat leaf parsley, chopped
A small handful of fresh mint, chopped
5-6 tbsp organic, cold pressed extra virgin olive oil
1 small bunch of spring onions, chopped
3-4 tbsp raw pumpkin seeds (optional)
Pomegranate seeds to decorate (optional)

Whisk together the coconut nectar and apple cider vinegar in a large bowl. Add the shallots and kohlrabi to the bowl, stir through the dressing and allow them to marinate for about an hour. Finally, mix in all of the remaining ingredients, except the seeds; making sure they are all coated well in the dressing. Season and serve with sprinkle of pumpkin seeds and or pomegranate seeds.