Recipe: Traditional Vietnamese Pho

Today it’s time to get back in the kitchen and cook something Vietnamese. I loved the food so much on my recent trip there and even did a cookery course at the wonderful Victoria Phan Thiet Beach Resort and Spa.

Vietnamese cuisine is considered one of the healthiest in the world. It incorporates lots of fresh herbs like lemongrass, mint, coriander and basil and spices like ginger, chilli and cinnamon. You’re often given a plateful of aromatic herbs to add to your dish at the table.

We ate Pho at the rooftop bar of The Majestic Hotel in Saigon. A huge bowl of tasty broth with plenty of noodles and the meat of your choice, served with that aromatic plateful.

I left Vietnam armed with recipes to try at home and today it was time to make some Pho. It does take some time as the flavours need to infuse properly, but it’s very little work with amazing results. Go on, give it at try.

Traditional Pho noodle soup with chicken

Serves 4

The tasty noodle soup topped with herbs and fresh lime

1 x 3cm piece of ginger, peeled

2 shallots, peeled

1 litre of vegetable stock

1.5 litres of water

2 pieces of Star Anise

1 cinnamon stick

1 tsp cloves

Half a tsp of chilli powder

2 chicken breasts

200g rice noodles, soaked and ready to add to the broth

To serve

150g bean sprouts

6 spring onions, sliced into small pieces

Handful of mint, chopped

Handful of basil, torn

2 limes, halved

Place the ginger and shallots on a baking tray and roast in the oven for about 30mins until soft and cooked.

Leave to cool and then put in a blender to make a paste.

Place a large pot on the hob and turn on to the lowest setting. Add the vegetable stock and water, star anise, cinnamon stick, cloves and ginger and shallot paste and stir.

Leave to heat through and bubble slightly for half an hour.

Add the two whole chicken breasts and leave on low for them to poach for one hour.

Meanwhile, arrange the bean sprouts, spring onions, mint, basil and lime on a plate.

After the chicken has cooked for an hour, remove it from the pan and add the noodles. Warm through for about 5 mins and while that is happening, slice the chicken.

Ladle out the noodles and broth into a bowl. Place the sliced chicken on top.

Serve with the herb selection which gets piled on top of the chicken broth mix.

Squeeze over the juice of half a lime and tuck in.

Pho chopped with tender poached chicken

Today’s top tips

Pho works equally well with beef. Instead of the chicken breasts, add 250g of rump steak and let it simmer in the mixture for about 2 hours.

You should always tear fresh basil rather than chop it to retain maximum flavour.

Try different adding different herbs like coriander or parsley to your Pho.

Vietnamese cooking doesn’t use a lot of chilli but if you’re a fan of hot stuff, up the chilli in this recipe.

Pho is also great for vegetarians, simply leave out the meat.

It also works well with fresh prawns. Just drop them in to the simmering mixture for about five minutes before serving, until they go pink.

I’ve used 200g of noodles here, if you’re a big noodle fan, add more – it can make a substantial meal.

Adding a plateful of crunch and freshness

Do you have a favourite Vietnamese recipe? What did you eat while you were visiting Vietnam. Let me know, I’d love to hear about your experiences.

Recipe: Pea, mint and ham hock soup in a fab Ceracraft pan

Anyone who  knows me well can tell you that I’m obsessed with kitchen “stuff”. And I don’t only mean gadgets, I can spend far too long rummaging through the €1 knives and veggie peelers and the €5 frying pans in any Spanish market. It’s time well spent, I always come away with a bargain and a smile.

So when given the opportunity to try out something new, lets say I’m certainly not backward in coming forward. Today it’s a fabulous new pan from a manufacturer called Ceracraft.

These stylish aluminium pans come in dark grey or dark red (as it happens dark red perfectly matches my range cooker!). They have an ultra non-stick coating which means they are a total pleasure to cook in – I hate it when I’m having to scrape bits of my potential masterpiece off the bottom of a pan. No chance of this here. And this magic surface means they’re also super-easy to clean. Plus they are beautifully light, so no risk of  injury or accident! And they’re good value with a set of three pans with lids going for £79.99. A great addition to my kitchen. For more information and to buy online visit


My sparkling new pan…its non-stick surface means it’s easy to keep sparkling

To test out my new pan I decided to make a summery soup for friends who were coming round. This is definitely going to become a favourite in our house, it’s beautifully light and flavoursome, has few ingredients and is quick and easy to make. Plus it looks beautiful! How can you resist?

Pea, mint and ham hock soup


A beautifully green summery soup sprinkled with tasty morsels of ham

Serves 6

50g butter

1 onion, peeled and chopped

1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped

3 sprigs of mint

1 litre chicken stock

900g frozen peas

2 packs (200g) of shredded ham hock

Put the pan on the hob on medium heat and melt the butter. Fry the onion and garlic until softened. Add the mint sprigs and keep frying for another five mins.

Add the chicken stock and 50g of the ham hock.

Add 700g of the frozen peas, keeping back 200g to add to the soup later.

Bring to the boil, turn down and simmer for 10 mins. Take off the heat and leave to cool slightly before blending with a hand blender until smooth and velvety.

When ready to serve add the remainder of the fresh peas and heat through. Serve with the remainder of the shredded ham hock (make sure you take it out of the fridge so it warms to room temperature) in a bowl for guests to sprinkle over the top of their soup.

I discovered ready-shredded ham hock in packs in Sainsbury’s, which makes life easy. For vegetarians, leave out the ham and use vegetable stock instead.

Adding the rest of the peas later adds texture and a small surprise to your soup.

Top-10 recipes from 2013

Happy (somewhat belated) 2014 everyone.

Apologies for my blog silences over the past month,  I’ve moved to self-hosting (more difficult and time consuming than I was expecting) and I took the opportunity to redesign. Plus of course there’s been the whirlwind of socialising with family and friends in the beautiful Cape Town sunshine. Let’s just say it’s been hectic, and so much fun.

Now it’s time to get serious and I’m ready to jump right back into full blogging mode…with plenty of lovely restaurants, recipes and adventures to share with you.

I thought I’d start with my favourite recipes from last year. It was interesting looking back to discover how the recipes I cooked were influenced by my travels. And of course the ingredients I was surrounded by at the time.  These 10 dishes are all easy to make, taste amazing and have become firm favourites in our household. I hope they will be in yours too. Do try them out and let me know what you think.

Spanish-style sausage stew

I love Spain and visit as often as I can. Cooking is a joy there, a quick visit to the market for the freshest (and cheapest) ingredients you can find and a bit of imaginative thinking. So you’ll see that a lot of my dishes have a Spanish influence. I came up with this stew while I was in London – the paprika, garlic, butter beans and tomatoes add a distinctly Spanish touch.

sausage stew

Serves 2

4 sausages

2 carrots, peeled and chopped

1 onion, peeled and chopped

1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed

2 sticks of celery, chopped

8 small new potatoes, halved

400g tin of butter beans

1 tsp paprika

227g tin of tomatoes

4 tbsps passata (pureed tomatoes)

400ml chicken stock

Salt and pepper to taste

Fry the sausages and onion in a little oil for about 15 mins on a medium/low heat until lightly browned.

Place the sausages and onions in the bottom of a casserole dish.

Add all the rest of the ingredients and pour over the stock.

Cover the dish with foil and cook in the oven at 180C for about 60 minutes or until the potatoes are soft.

Biltong, watercress and pea soup

Cooking with unusual ingredients is always a challenge. And it’s fun. So when the Chichester Biltong Company asked me to come up with some recipes cooking with that fabulous South African ingredient, biltong, I was only too happy to get creative. This soup was the clear winner in a range of (I think) inventive biltong recipes.

Biltong's the perfect addition to a summery soup

Biltong’s the perfect addition to a summery soup

Serves 4

1 medium potato, peeled and chopped

1 medium onion, peeled and chopped

Olive oil for frying

400g watercress

150g fresh peas

1 litre of vegetable stock

4 sprigs of fresh mint

100g wet biltong, chopped into dice-size pieces

2 tsps  horseradish sauce

For the horseradish cream

2 tsps double cream

1 tsp horseradish sauce

Fry the chopped potato and onion in the olive oil in a deep pan for about 10 minutes until softened.

Add the peas and the vegetable stock and bring to the boil.

Add the chopped biltong and watercress and boil until the watercress has wilted.

Add the fresh  mint and the horseradish.

Take off the heat and blend with a hand blender until the soup is thick and fairly smooth.

To make the horseradish cream, mix together the double cream and horseradish.

Serve the soup with a dollop of horseradish cream on top and a sprig of mint.

Moroccan-style roast lamb

Roasts are always a favourite in our household. A Moroccan-style marinade lifted this leg of lamb to another level.

An exotic twist on an old favourite

An exotic twist on an old favourite

Serves 6

2kg leg of lamb, on the bone

175g salted butter, softened

4 garlic cloves, peeled

1 tsp sea salt

2 tsp ground coriander

2 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp paprika

Half tsp cayenne pepper

Place the garlic cloves into a pestle with the salt and grind to a paste. Add the other spices.

Mix together with the softened butter.

Make small slits all over the lamb, going quite deep into the meat so the flavours can infuse.

Spread generously with the butter and leave for about 4 hours.

Cook the meat at gas mark 8 (220C) for 30 mins and then turn it down to gas mark 5 (190C) for 30 mins per 450g. About two hours 40 minutes for this leg.

For the last hour add chunks of onion and carrots into the dish with the lamb and roast in the juices. Pour over 2 handfuls of dried apricots and a handful of flaked almonds for the last 10 mins of cooking.

Take the lamb out and rest for 10-15mins, covered with foil. Leave the vegetables to carry on cooking.

Carve thinly and serve with roast or mashed potatoes and the vegetables.

Summer salad with peas, prawns, broad beans and Dijon dressing

Nothing says summer like this salad – both in its appearance and taste. I love the beautiful greens combined with the pale pink of the prawns.

A real treat, this is summer on a plate

Serves 2

2 little gem lettuces, quartered

150g peas, steamed and cooled

150g broad beans, peeled, podded, steamed and cooled

Small bag of pea shoots

4 spring onions

2 handfuls of fresh mint leaves, pulled off the stem

1 tbsp fresh tarragon leaves, pulled off the stem

150g peeled, cooked prawns

For the dressing

3 tbsps olive oil

2 tbsps white wine vinegar

1 heaped tsp Dijon mustard

Once you’ve cooked and cooled the peas and broad beans, simply combine all the salad ingredients. Top with the prawns, pour over the dressing, toss and serve. Summer on a plate!

Meatballs in a spicy pepper and tomato sauce

Another Spanish-influenced dish, these meatballs make a hearty yet light dinner.

More Spanish influences with spicy meatballs

More Spanish influences with spicy meatballs

Serves 4

For the meatballs

500g minced pork

1 onion, grated

50g fresh white breadcrumbs

1 egg, beaten

1 handful chopped fresh parsley

2 tbsp olive oil

For the sauce

2 tbsp olive oil

6 garlic cloves, finely chopped

1 onion, finely chopped

2 red peppers, finely chopped

700g fresh tomatoes, skinned and finely chopped

1 dried red chilli, crumbled

1 handful fresh, chopped parsley

200g fresh or frozen peas

To make the meatballs, combine the pork, grated onions, breadcrumbs and parsley in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. Use your hands to mush all the ingredients together until they are thoroughly mixed. Wet your hands and shape into little balls about the size of an apricot. Cover with clingfilm and leave in the fridge to settle for about half an hour.

To make the sauce, heat the olive oil in a pan. Add the garlic, onion and peppers and fry for about 15 minutes until the peppers are soft.

Add the tomatoes and crumble the chilli into the mixture and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat to as low as possible and simmer lightly, uncovered for about 45 minutes until the sauce is slightly thickened. Make sure you stir it regularly to ensure it is not sticking.

To fry the meatballs, add the olive oil to a frying pan and when it is hot, add the meatballs. Turn it down slightly so the meatballs aren’t frying too furiously. Cook until browned and then turn around until browned all over.

Gently add the meatballs into the sauce, spoon the sauce over, cover and simmer lightly for 15 minutes.

Add the peas and stir through gently. Simmer for about 10 minutes to heat through.

Serve in bowls with chopped fresh parsley scattered over. Add crusty bread on the side to mop up all the juices.

Spaghetti with clams

I love Vongole – another dish with very few ingredients that delights in its simplicity. Here’s my version, used making fabulous clams from the local market in Spain.


Serves 2

200g dried spaghetti

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

1 small dried chilli

2 medium plum tomatoes, skinned by immersing in boiling water for 2 minutes and then chopped

150ml dry white wine

500g small fresh clams (almejas)

2 handfuls chopped, fresh parsley

Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions.

Five minutes before it’s ready, add 2 tbsps of olive oil to a pan and add the chopped garlic. Crumble in the chilli and add the chopped tomatoes.

Stir together for a couple of minutes.

Add the clams and pour in the wine. Leave for about 4 minutes, shuffling the pan. When the clams open up your sauce is ready.

Drain the pasta and add it to the clams. Add the chopped parsley and toss everything together.

Asian-style prawn salad

South East Asia is another inspiration. I love the freshness and zestiness of Thai and Vietnamese food and came up with this prawn dish for a starter when I had friends round for dinner. Totally amazing.

asian prawn salad

Serves 4

12 large prawns, shelled but with tail still on

1 cucumber, peeled into ribbons

2 handfuls basil leaves

2 handfuls mint leaves

2 handfuls coriander leaves

6 spring onions, chopped

2 handfuls peanuts, dry fried

For the marinade and dressing

1 stick lemon grass, trimmed and thinly sliced

Half a cup of freshly squeezed lime juice

2 tbsps vegetable oil

1 tbsp brown sugar

2 tsps fish sauce

2 small red chillies, deseeded and sliced

Mix the marinade ingredients together. Pour three quarters of the mix over the prawns and leave to marinate for about an hour, stirring occasionally. Save the rest of the liquid to dress the salad.

Mix all the salad ingredients together, pour over the remaining dressing and toss.

Fry the prawns in a little olive oil in a hot pan for about 3 to 4 mins until they are nicely pink.

Place on top of the salad. Sprinkle with the peanuts and serve.

Beef satay

Another Thai-inspired dish – I’ve been to Thailand many times and love Thai food. It was interesting making satay sauce as it comes in many guises. I was very pleased with the results.


For the skewers

500g rump steak, very thinly sliced. I ran a very sharp knife through the middle of the steak (lying flat on the board), to cut it into half before slicing it into strips.

For the marinade

2 cloves garlic, minced

2 sticks of lemongrass, chopped

1 chilli, chopped

2 tsps ginger, chopped

Half a tsp of turmeric

1 tsp coriander powder

1 tsp cumin powder

2 tbsp dark soya sauce

1 tbsp fish sauce

4 tsp brown sugar

Juice of 1 lime

Mix all the marinade ingredients together and add the thinly sliced steak. Leave to marinate for at least two hours, overnight if you have time.

Meanwhile, make the peanut sauce.

This makes a good batch for two meals. We quickly fried  prawns in  chilli oil the next night and dipped them into the leftover sauce. Totally delicious.

1 cup dry roasted peanuts

One-third of a cup of water

1 clove of garlic, peeled

2 tsp sesame oil

2 tbsp brown sugar

1 tsp fish sauce

Half a tsp of cayenne pepper

160ml tin of coconut cream

Place everything into a food mixer and blend until your sauce is completely smooth.

Top tip: Make sure you use dry roasted peanuts they give the sauce a much deeper flavour.

Thread the thin slices of beef in folds onto skewers. If you’re using wooden skewers, make sure to soak them in cold water in the sink for at least half an hour.

Place under the grill for about 4 minutes on each side. They won’t take long as the steak is so finely sliced.

Serve with a generous dollop of the peanut sauce on the side.

Beef Bourguignon

On a cold winter night, you can’t beat comfort food. This bowl of deliciousness is perfect to warm the cockles of your heart and your tummy.


Serves 2

400g diced braising beef

200g shallots, peeled and cut in half

8 rashers of streaky bacon, diced

250g button mushrooms, cut in half

2 cloves garlic

3 tsp dried herbes de Provence

1 carrot, peeled and diced small

2 sticks of celery, thinly sliced

1 tbsp tomato paste

1 tbsp sunflower oil for frying

200ml water

500ml Burgundy wine

Heat the oil in a pan over medium heat and brown the beef. Set aside.

Add the garlic, onions and bacon and fry until softened, about 10 mins. Add the mushrooms and fry for another 5 mins. Add the carrots and celery and fry for another 5 mins.

Add the tomato paste and stir through. Pour in the wine and the water and stir through. Add the beef back in.

Simmer on a low hob for 3-31/2 hours until the liquid is nicely reduced and the meat is tender.

I served it in bowls as a cross between a hearty soup or a stew. For a more substantial meal serve with mash potato and peas

Pan con tomate

Yes, we’re back in Spain. This simple dish is one of my all-time favourites, simple, bursting with flavour and ideal eating as a snack, starter and especially for breakfast with a coffee and some sunshine.

A wonderful any-time dish that I enjoy for breakfast in Spain

A wonderful any-time dish that I enjoy for breakfast in Spain

1 large plum tomato

3 slices white bread/baguette

1 clove of garlic

2 tbsps olive oil plus extra to serve

Salt and pepper

Peel the tomato by immersing in boiling water for about 2 mins and then removing the skin.

Cut it up into small pieces and pour over the olive oil. Use the back of a wooden spoon to mush up the tomato a bit and leave to marinade for at least two hours, overnight is good.

Toast the bread.

Cut the garlic clove in half and rub it over the warm toasted bread, make sure you cover the toast thoroughly.

Top with the tomato topping and serve.

What’s the best thing you cooked in 2013? I’d love to hear all about it.

Recipe: Spinach, celeriac, broad bean and pea soup

In an attempt to detox I decided to make a batch of vegetable soup. I wanted something fairly substantial and I do love the flavour of celeriac so here’s what I came up with. Adding the peas and broad beans after I pureed the mixture gave the soup more texture and they literally popped their sweetness in my mouth. A (very)  green bowl of goodness!

You can use frozen peas and broad beans, just defrost them first. I thought adding frozen broccoli would be good, too, instead of the spinach for a different flavour.

A delicious autumn warmer

A delicious autumn warmer

Serves 4

500g celeriac, peeled and thinly sliced

2 tbsp olive oil

1 medium onion, peeled and chopped

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped

300g tin of broad beans

100g frozen peas

250g spinach

600ml vegetable stock

2 tbsp of chopped chives

Fry the onion and garlic in olive oil until softened – about 10 mins.

Add the celeriac and fry for another 10 mins.

Add the stock and simmer for 20 mins until the celeriac is soft.

Add the spinach and bring it to the boil.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool slightly, then blend to a creamy consistency, making sure everything is broken down.

Add the peas and broad beans and heat through. Stir in 1 tbsp of chives and a grind of black pepper. Serve immediately with the rest of the chives scattered over the top.

Need a new appliance?

Visit for a wide range of kitchen appliances, including blenders and mixers that are ideal for all your soup-making needs.

The Cook with Biltong Club: Biltong, watercress and pea soup

I’m cooking with biltong again, and had the idea of using it as one of the ingredients in a tasty soup. Honestly, I think this soup is one of the best I’ve ever tasted. I didn’t use a lot of biltong but it really added such a depth of flavour.

This is the perfect soup for a chilly evening – and it’s so quick and easy to make. Give it a try and let me know what you think. Oh, and don’t you love my new tea towel? Another one from

The amazingly rich soup

The amazingly rich soup

Serves 4

1 medium potato, peeled and chopped

1 medium onion, peeled and chopped

Olive oil for frying

400g watercress

150g fresh peas

1 litre of vegetable stock

4 sprigs of fresh mint

100g wet biltong, chopped into dice-size pieces

2 tsps  horseradish sauce

For the horseradish cream

2 tsps double cream

1 tsp horseradish sauce

Fry the chopped potato and onion in the olive oil for about 10 minutes until softened.

Add the peas and the vegetable stock and bring to the boil.

Add the chopped biltong and watercress and boil until the watercress has wilted.

Add the fresh  mint and the horseradish.

Blend with a hand blender until the soup is thick and fairly smooth.

To make the horseradish cream, mix together the double cream and horseradish.

Serve the soup with a dollop of horseradish cream on top and a sprig of mint.

All the tasty ingredients ready to go

All the tasty ingredients ready to go

Join our club

I’m regularly going to post a new recipe using biltong, so watch this space.

And if you want to order some yourself, I highly recommend the Chichester Biltong Company where you can choose the wetness and fattiness of your biltong too (it’s very personal, you know).

Go to and enter the code EATINGCOVENT when you order.

Please also like our facebook page at

Need a new appliance?

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Cheese recipes of the month: we’re going Italian

I have to admit to being a bit of a cheese lover. Easily able to turn down the prospect of pudding, I can rarely say no to a cheeseboard. Cheese is also great for cooking with and a great way to liven up vegetables (think cauliflower cheese, one of my favourites) or  bring another dimension to dishes.

So I was delighted when I was sent the new Italian cheese range from DIVO Cheeses selected by renowned Italian chef Aldo Zilli. There’s Gorgonzola, Ricotta and amazing Parmigiano to choose from. I’m concocting some new recipes as I write this (in my head!) but in the meantime, here’s some from Aldo himself. Particularly love the souffles!

Truffle and DIVO Parmigiano Reggiano souffles

The ultimate in indulgent souffles

The ultimate in indulgent souffles

Serves 4

2 tablespoons butter, plus extra for greasing

4 tablespoons breadcrumbs

4 tablespoons plain flour

75 ml milk

200g mozzarella cut into pieces

2 tablespoons DIVO grated heart of Parmigiano Reggiano cheese

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

50 g fresh truffle, finely sliced, or use truffle paste

4 eggs, separated

4 tbsps truffle oil, to drizzle

Preheat the oven to 190°C.

Butter 4 ramekins and coat with the breadcumbs.

Mix together the flour and milk. Melt the butter in a pan and gradually stir in the milk mixture.

Continue stirring and cooking the sauce until it just reaches boiling point. Cook the sauce for 3 minutes, then add the mozzarella, DIVO Parmigiano Reggiano, seasoning, truffle and egg yolks.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites to stiff peaks. Gently fold the whites into the truffle mixture. Pour into the coated ramekins and cook for 23 mins.

Serve immediately.

Cannellini bean soup

Zesty soup with Parmesan

Zesty soup with Parmesan

Serves 4

1 onion, quartered

3 garlic cloves

40g fresh parsley

2 tbsps olive oil

2 x 400g cans cannellini beans

1.2 litres chicken stock

Juice of 1 lemon

DIVO Parmigiano Reggiano P.D.O. Extra, for grating over the top

Blend the onion, garlic and parsley in a food processor until finely chopped.

Heat the oil in a pan, add mixture and cook until the onion is soft. Add the cannellini beans and cook for two minutes. Pour over the stock, season and bring to the boil. Cover and cook for 15 mins until the beans are cooked.

Add the lemon juice and reheat gently before serving with the DIVO Parmigiano Reggiano Extra grated over the top

Aubergine Cannelloni

Aubergine cannelloni stuffed with silken ricotta

Aubergine cannelloni stuffed with silken ricotta

Serves 4

2 aubergines

300g DIVO ricotta

50g DIVO Parmigiano Reggiano Extra, grated (or for vegetarians DIVO Vegetarian Grated Italian Hard Cheese)

150g mozzarella, finely diced

15g fresh basil, torn into pieces, plus extra to garnish

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

200g cherry tomatoes

4 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 180°C

Cut the aubergines lengthways into 5 mm thick slices and grill on both sides until soft.

In a bowl, mix the DIVO ricotta with half the grated DIVO Parmigiano Reggiano (or for vegetarians, DIVO Vegetarian Grated Italian hard cheese) and the mozzarella. Add almost all the basil and seasonings.

Spread the ricotta mixture over each aubergine slice and roll up.

Arrange the aubergine rolls in a buttered roasting tin and sprinkle with the rest of the grated DIVO Parmigiano Reggiano/DIVO Vegetarian Grated Italian hard cheese. Bake in the oven for 10 minutes.

Meanwhile, blend the cherry tomatoes with the olive oil and remaining basil leaves in a blender or food processor. Pour the sauce into a pan and heat through.

Serve the cannelloni, sprinkled with the extra basil, with the tomato sauce.

The DIVO range of cheeses are available from Ocado and Morrisons.