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Packed full of festive spices, stem ginger and ginger wine this rich and fruity Christmas cake is a real treat.

This recipe was originally featured in a feature I did for Waitrose Food magazine November 2015. img_8737

Makes 1 X 25cm round cake


700g mixed currants, raisins and sultanas

200g soft dried apricots, quartered

200g soft dried prunes, quartered

150g dried cherries (not glace cherries)

125g stem ginger, finely chopped

150ml ginger wine

finely grated rind and juice of 1 orange

350g plain flour

1 tsp ground allspice

1 tsp ground cloves

1 ½ tsp ground cinnamon

½ of a whole nutmeg, grated

275g unsalted butter, at room temperature

275g soft dark brown sugar

1 tbsp vanilla bean paste

5 medium eggs

75g ground almonds

200g pistachios, roughly chopped

extra ginger wine for maturing

25cm round tin, lightly greased with butter


Place all of the dried fruits and ginger in a large bowl and stir in the 150ml of ginger wine, orange juice and zest. Cover and leave in a cool place overnight for the fruits to plump up.


Line the base and sides of the cake tin with a double layer of baking parchment so it comes about 5cm above the tin. Put a double layer around the outside of the tin, and rather than struggling with a piece of string, hold in place with a couple of staples or paper clips. Doing this prevents the cake from overcooking around the outside during the long cooking time.


The next day, pre-heat the oven to 150C, gas mark 2. Sift together the flour, allspice, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg. In a large bowl or electric mixer, beat together the butter, sugar and vanilla bean paste until light and creamy. Beat in the eggs one at a time, adding about 1 tbsp of the spiced flour with each egg. Mix in the remaining flour and then stir through the ground almonds, pistachios and soaked fruits until thoroughly combined.


Spoon the mixture into the prepared cake tin, making sure there are no air pockets and spread evenly across the top, using a wet palate knife. Place the tin in the oven, sitting on a few pieces of baking parchment or newspaper. Again this will prevent the outside of the cake from overcooking. After 2 ½ hours, insert a skewer into the centre of the cake. If it comes out clean without any raw cake mix attached, the cake is cooked, if not, carry on cooking, testing every 10 minutes. During the cooking time, if the top seems to becoming too dark, loosely cover with a piece of baking parchment or foil.


When cooked, leave the cake in the tin to cool for about 1 hour and then turn out onto a wire rack. When the cake is completely cold, make several deep holes with a skewer and pour over a couple of tablespoons of ginger wine – which will be absorbed giving a richer moister finish as the cake matures.


Wrap in a double layer of greaseproof paper or foil and store in a tin. Repeat moistening with ginger wine a couple more times before you ice the cake ready for Christmas.






It’s been a few weeks since I returned from a fabulous holiday to the Algarve in Portugal with my family. We stayed in a lovely villa close to the sea and some great markets. In my opinion staying in a villa is the best type of summer holiday choice as it’s a brilliant way of getting to cook with some delicious local ingredients. You also have the option of sitting down and enjoying a meal in the comfort of our own villa, at a time that suits rather than rushing about to get a table in the local restaurant during the busy summer period.

Of course, holidays should be about relaxing, so when it comes to the actual cooking, simple to prepare dishes are essential, keeping time in the kitchen to a minimum. I have recently written some holiday food recipes for James Villa Holidays that you can look at and also cook along to some video recipes in your own home or on holiday.

However the below recipe is something I made on holiday for the family. Paella is a traditional Spanish recipe but the range of seafood in Portugal was fantastic I decided to give it a go. I added a Portuguese twist to an original recipe and the end results were delicious. Piri Piri is a spicy seasoning used widely in Portugal and I added a good pinch to the paella which gave some heat! We were also very excited by the size of the tiger prawns out there so I cooked a couple separately and added them at the end. They were so meaty and sweet.

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serves 4

2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

100g chorizo, chopped

1 red pepper, sliced

300g paella rice

1 large glass of white wine (about 250ml)

a large pinch of saffron strands

1 heaped tsp Piri Piri seasoning

1 litre hot fish or chicken stock

500g clams, cleaned

8-12 raw prawns

100g frozen peas, defrosted

2 very large tiger prawns, butterflied

few sprigs of fresh oregano, leaves roughly chopped

1 lemon, cut into wedges

Heat the olive oil in a paella pan or a very large frying pan. Add the onion, garlic, chorizo and red pepper, and sauté until the onion has softened.

Stir in the rice for a minute or so until it is coated in the oil, then add the wine, saffron, piri and enough stock to cover the rice (about two-thirds of the measured quantity). Stir well and bring to a simmer. Allow to gently cook for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent the rice sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add some more of the stock if it is being absorbed too quickly.

Stir in the clams, 8-10 prawns, peas and season with salt and pepper. Pour over the remaining stock, cover tightly with foil and leave to gently cook over a low heat for about 10–15 minutes, until the rice is tender and the seafood is cooked through (the clam shells should be open).

Meanwhile heat a drop of oil in a separate pan. Add the very large prawns and fry until cooled through and opened up.

Sprinkle the oregano over the paella and place the lemon wedges and butterflied large prawns on top and serve.


To clean the clams, wash well under cold running water, discarding any open shells that don’t close when tapped. It is also worth remembering that any shells that haven’t opened once the paella is cooked, should be discarded.




This rose scented chocolate mousse is rich and creamy, and actually good for you! Instead of cream the mousse is made with avocados, which give a thick creamy texture and also make this dessert dairy-free, much lower in saturated fat and loaded with antioxidants and omegas. As for the chocolate – well. providing you use a high cocoa solid chocolate (such as 70%) you will be obtaining less sugar and even more antioxidants, iron and magnesium than other types of chocolate. In my book that makes this delicious dessert completely guilt-free!

The recipe is taken from my latest cookbook IN THE MOOD FOR HEALTHY FOOD.

Check out the video below to see just how easy these little beauties are to make…

Preparation time: 15 minutes plus 2 hours chilling

Serves 4-8


75g/2 ½ oz dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), roughly chopped

3 egg whites

3 tbsp agave syrup

1 ripe small-medium avocado, peeled and stone removed

¼ tsp rosewater, plus extra to taste

1 tbsp pistachio nuts, roughly chopped

pinch of dried rose petals (optional)


Gently melt the chocolate either in a bowl set over a pan of simmering water, or on a low heat in the microwave. Once melted, leave to cool to room temperature.

In a separate bowl, whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add the agave and whisk until they form firm peaks.

Blend the avocado and rosewater with a hand blender until completely smooth then mix into the chocolate. If you the avocado isn’t smooth enough, you can press it through a sieve using a spatula to remove any lumps. Mix in one spoon of the egg whites to loosen then gently fold in the rest.

Spoon into glasses/dishes, such as espresso cups for mini puds or ramekins for larger ones. Chill in the fridge for about 2 hours, then scatter with chopped pistachios and rose petals to serve.

Recipe taken from In the Mood for Healthy Food

With thanks to Etan Ilfeld for producing the video.

Seeded Salmon with Crushed Minty Peas


This really tasty recipe is taken from my latest cookbook IN THE MOOD FOR HEALTHY FOOD. Check out the video below to see just how easy and good for you it is.

Salmon is a wonderfully healthy fish due to the beneficial omega fatty acids it contains (good for your memory and lowering cholesterol and blood pressure). Adding a crunchy seeded topping to the salmon will give you an even bigger dose of omegas. The wasabi paste used to stick the seeds on top of the fish provides a nice kick. If wasabi’s not your thing then pesto, tapenade,tomato puree or sun dried paste can be used as a substitute.

Preparation time: 10 minutes

Cooking time 10 minutes

Serves 4



For the salmon:

4 thick salmon fillets, skinned, about 150g/5 ½ oz each

1-2 tbsp wasabi paste

4 tbsp mixed seeds using sesame seeds, flaxseed, chia seeds and hemp seeds

olive oil for frying

lemon wedges, to serve


For the peas:

125ml/4fl oz chicken stock

1 clove garlic, crushed

450g/1lb/3 cups frozen peas, defrosted

finely grated zest of 1 lemon

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 small bunch mint, leaves chopped



To prepare the salmon, put the seeds in a shallow bowl and mix together with a good pinch of salt. Lightly spread the wasabi paste over the top of the salmon fillets then lightly press into the seeds, coating the top of each fillet.

Heat a non-stick frying pan over a medium – high heat. Add a trickle of oil and fry the salmon skin side down for 4-5 minutes until the skin is crisp. Turn over and cook for 2 minutes until the seeds are golden and salmon is just cooked through.

While the salmon is cooking, put the stock and garlic in a medium-large saucepan. Bring to the boil and simmer for 1 minute to cook the garlic. Add the peas and return to the simmer. Cook for 1-2 minutes to heat the peas through.

Remove from the heat and stir in the mint, lemon zest, olive oil and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Using a potato masher, crush the peas until they are fairly mushed up, but still retain some texture. Serve straight away with the crusted salmon and lemon wedges to squeeze over.

Recipe taken from In the Mood for Healthy Food






With thanks to Etan Ilfeld for producing the video.




If you’re not yet familiar with chia seeds, then it’s well and truly time for youFullSizeRender (1)

to get to know about these tiny little balls of goodness as they are among the

healthiest foods on the planet. They’re the size of poppyseeds and come in

either black/grey or white. They can be easily be found in health food shops

(numerous supermarkets sell them, too), and their popularity is increasing all

the time.



Chia seeds originate from a flowering plant in the mint family called Salvia hispanica that is native to Mexico and Guatamela, and they are said to have been the food of choice of the Aztecs and Mayans back in the day due to their ability to provide sustainable energy. In fact chia is the ancient Mayan word for ‘strength’, and a single tablespoon would keep them going for 24 hours!



Don’t be fooled by their size – these tiny seeds pack a powerful, nutritional punch. As well as providing energy, they are ridiculously high in fibre, omega-3 fats, protein and antioxidants. They are low in calories, classed as a ‘whole-grain’ and are naturally gluten free. One recommended daily serving is only 1 tbsp (15g/.oz), which is incredibly easy to include into your daily diet.


uses of chia

The seeds taste pretty bland alone, so you should add them to other things, such as cereals, yogurt, salads, and veggie or rice dishes. Stir them into soups, porridge and stews, blend them into smoothies or add to your baking, such as bread, cakes and muffins. The thing about chia seeds that amazes me the most is that they absorb so much liquid (12 times their weight) and can therefore be used to thicken sauces, make puddings and used as a substitute for eggs in pretty much most recipes.

When mixed with liquid the seeds plump up, forming a gel layer around each seed, which then acts as a binder in the same way eggs do. To create an egg substitute, simply mix 1 tablespoon chia seeds with 3 tablespoons water or other liquid such as milk or juice. Leave to soak for about 5-10 minutes until you have a gloopy

gel equivalent to one whole beaten egg. Each 1 tablespoon of chia seed is equivalent to one egg, so increase quantities of chia seed and liquid

according to your recipe. It’s worth pointing out that once made, chia seeds

still retain a slightly crunchy texture when in gel form. For many recipes this is just fine, such as in baking, but you can grind the seeds in a blender

or coffee grinder before mixing with liquid for a smoother end result. This is particularly useful when making puddings or sauces.


Recipe inspiration

My latest cookbook In the mood for Healthy Food is out mid July and contains many recipes using Chia seeds such as Chia Seed Flapjacks, Beef and Quinoa meatballs, Raspberry Chia Jam. However here is a sneak peek of a versatile salad dressing which uses chia seeds to create a creamy texture.


Lemon Chia Caesar Salad Dressing…

This is great to use as a salad dressing with crunchy Cos lettuce, crunchy baked bread croutons and some shavings of Parmesan cheese. It also works really well as a dip for crudites or to toss into cooked new potatoes for a very tasty

potato salad. Place 3 tablespoons lemon juice, 2 tablespoons

chia seeds, 3 tablespoons avocado or extra virgin olive oil, 1 anchovy fillet, 1 small peeled garlic clove, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard and 1 teaspoon honey in a blender and blitz until smooth. Check for seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 4.


For more recipe inspiration like this, check out my new book…

cover shot thumbnail       IN THE MOOD FOR HEALTHY FOOD

Available from Nourish Books in July 2015

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