Best hot, baked Florentine artichoke dip

Here is another winner recipe after researching countless baked spinach-artichoke recipes for a family- friendly holiday appetizer. Hot and bubbling straight from the oven with a lovely crispy topping.

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makes 4 cups and is enough for 8 to 10 people

1 (10 oz) pkg frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1 (12 oz) jar marinated artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
12 oz cream cheese, softened
1 heaped cup freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano
1/2 cup good mayonnaise
3 large garlic cloves, squeezed
2 tbsp lemon juice
1 & 1/2 cups French breadcrumbs (homemade)
2 tbsp butter, melted

Drain the spinach, press between layers of paper towels to remove excess moisture.
Combine the spinach, artichoke hearts and the next 5 ingredients in a bowl, stirring well.
Spoon into a lightly greased 11″ by 7″ baking dish.
Combine the breadcrumbs and butter, sprinkle over the spinach mixture.
Bake, uncovered at 375 degrees for 25 to 30 minutes.
Serve with assorted crackers or breadsticks.


“Vaghareli Makai” (Spicy corn with peanuts, lime, cilantro and mustard seeds)

This is a real gem from Heidi Swanson’s new book “Near and Far” What a stunning array of flavors!

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The original recipe called for “2 small red chiles” so you can use whatever kind of chile pepper you want, depending on how hot and spicy you like things. If you are avoiding nuts then use pumpkin seeds. To make it vegan, Heidi recommends using sunflower oil in place of the butter.

2 small red chiles, stemmed, seeded (if desired), and sliced
2 medium garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
One 1-inch (3cm) piece of fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
¼ teaspoon ground turmeric
¾ teaspoon sea or kosher salt
2 tablespoon clarified butter (ghee)
1 ½ teaspoons yellow or brown mustard seeds
3 cups (450g, about 3 large ears) fresh corn kernels
½ cup (60g) roasted peanuts
1 cup (30g) chopped cilantro
lemon or lime wedges
2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

1. In a mortar and pestle, or with a mini food processor, grind the chiles, garlic, ginger, turmeric, and salt to a paste.

2. Heat the clarified butter in a wide skillet. Add the mustard seeds and cook, stirring until they pop, which will take a minute or two. Stir in the corn kernels and cook a few minutes, stirring frequently, until they just start to feel tender, which will take a couple of minutes.

3. Stir in the peanuts, half of the cilantro and half of the red chile paste. Cook for another minute then taste. If desired, for additional heat, add more of the chile paste and perhaps a bit of salt. Remove from heat and add a squeeze of lemon or lime juice.

Serve the spiced corn over rice, or as a side dish, topped with the remaining cilantro and sesame seeds.

Have lemon or lime wedges handy for guests to add as they wish. Any leftovers can be reheated in a skillet with a little more clarified butter.

Middle Eastern zucchini fritters

I just love these and the combination of feta cheese, dill and mint takes the flavor so far above anything else.

These are lovely served hot or cold with tsatsiki. (yoghurt, cucumber, mint and onion)


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Serves 4

1 large onion, chopped coarsely
3 tbsp sunflower oil
1 lb zucchini, chopped finely
3 large eggs
3 tbsp plain flour
3 sprigs fresh mint, chopped
3 sprigs fresh dill, chopped
8 oz Greek feta cheese. mashed with a fork
oil for frying

Fry the onion in 3 tbsp oil over a medium heat until it is soft and lightly colored. Add the zucchini and saute, stirring, until they too are soft.
In a bowl, beat the eggs with the flour until well blended. Add pepper (there is no need for salt as the feta is salty enough) and the herbs and mix well.
Fold the mashed feta cheese into the eggs, together with the cooked onions and zucchini.
Fil the bottom of a (preferably) non-stick frying pan with oil and pour in the mixture by the half ladle (approx 2 tbsp) to make a few fritters at a time.
Turn each fritter over once and cook until both sides are browned a little.
Drain on kitchen paper and serve.

Slow cooker spinach and artichoke dip

This couldn’t be easier and I highly recommend you go out and get a slow cooker, especially for around the Holiday times. I use it throughout the year. From the food blog called “Damn Delicious”

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Yield 8 servings

Simply throw everything in the crockpot (slow cooker) for the easiest, most effortless spinach and artichoke dip.

2 (14-ounce) cans artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1 (10-ounce) package frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
8 oz sour cream
1 small onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup milk
1/2 cup crumbled feta cheese
1/3 cup mayonnaise
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/4 tsp freshly ground black pepper
8 oz cream cheese, cubed

Place the artichoke hearts, spinach, sour cream, onion, garlic, Parmesan, milk, feta, mayonnaise, vinegar and pepper into a slow cooker. Stir until well combined. Top with cream cheese.
Cover and cook on low heat for 2 hours.
Uncover and stir until cream cheese is well combined. Cover and cook on high heat for an additional 15 minutes.

Roast pumpkin with cream, thyme and parmesan

It doesn’t come much better than this! Make sure you serve this as an appetizer with lots of crusty bread for dipping.

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3 1/2 lb pumpkin,like a Hubbard
11 fl oz heavy double cream
5 fl oz whole milk
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp thyme leaves
2/3 cup grated parmesan

Heat the oven to 300F.
Cut the lid off the pumpkin and scoop out the seeds and strands. Put the pumpkin on a baking tray. Meanwhile, heat the cream, milk, garlic and most of the thyme, with plenty of seasoning. When hot, pour into the pumpkin and stir in 2oz of the Parmesan. Put on the lid.
Bake for 1½ hrs, take from the oven, then turn up the heat to 400F.
Remove the lid, sprinkle with pepper and the rest of the cheese, then bake for 15 mins more until golden.
Scatter over the remaining thyme leaves. Scoop the tender pumpkin flesh into bowls with the cheesy cream and serve with crusty bread as a starter.

Spinach with roasted sesame dressing

All you need with this is some boiled rice and a lovely piece of fish or meat. It’s delicious as the nutty sesame flavors go so well with spinach

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Serves 4

1/3 cup white sesame seeds
1 tsp sugar
1 1/2 tbsp Japanese soy sauce
1/4 cup dashi stock
1 1/4lb spinach, trimmed
Bamboo sushi mat for rolling the spinach.

Toast the sesame seeds in a heated small frying pan, without oil, shaking the pan continuously until browned lightly and the seeds begin to pop. Remove from the heat, reserve 1 tsp for garnish. Blend, process or grind the hot seeds until smooth.
Combine the ground seeds with the sugar, soy sauce and dashi in a screw top jar and shake well until the sugar dissolves.

Wash the spinach well. Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Immerse the spinach, drain immediately and rinse under cold water to stop the cooking process and retain the color.
Wrap the spinach leaves in a bamboo mat. Roll firmly, gently squeeze out the excess water. Cut the spinach into 1 inch lengths and arrange on a serving plate.

Just before serving, pour the dressing over the spinach. Serve at room temperature, sprinkled with the reserved sesame seeds.

* You can also use chopped dry roasted peanuts sprinkled over as a garnish

Beet, lentil and mint salad with pomegranate molasses and orange dressing

A stunning combination for a healthy, clean tasting winter salad.

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Serves 4 to 6

3-4 fl oz extra virgin olive oil
1 small leek, cut in half lengthways and sliced thin
1 small red onion, sliced
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
8 oz Puy lentils
1 tbsp each of chopped rosemary, thyme and sage.
3-4 fl oz mirin
3 tbsp white miso
1-2 fl oz soy sauce
5 oz raw beets, peeled and cut into fine strips
A large handful of mint leaves, shredded
A couple of handfuls of baby wild arugula or rocket
About 4 oz Greek feta cheese to crumble over the top (Optional)

1 tbsp pomegranate molasses
4 tbsp Cabernet Sauvignon vinegar
juice and grated zest of 1/2 large orange
3 fl oz (approx) of olive oil
pinch of salt

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan, add the leek, onion and garlic and cook, stirring over a high heat until caramelized. Add the lentils, herbs and mirin and continue to fry for 4 minutes, stirring from time to time.

Add enough water to cover lentils by 1 inch, then bring to the boil and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until tender (add a little more water if needed).
Remove from the heat and stir in the miso and soy sauce. Check the seasoning, adding more soy if needed, then leave to cool.

Whisk together all the dressing ingredients. Toss the beets, mint and lentils together in a bowl with a generous slosh of the dressing. Add salad leaves and mix gently. Sprinkle over the feta cheese, if wanted.
Serve immediately