sesame seeds

Yaki udon

udon noodles

This dish is becoming a firm family favourite. It makes an excellent, quick, midweek dinner and can be easily adapted to please the fussy tastes of children. This was the dish that I always used to order at Wagamamas. I don’t bother now that I can make it so easily at home but the reduced portion sizes at Wagamamas have put me off going there in any case.

In this recipe everything revolves around the sauce and noodles. You can then freestyle the rest adding whatever vegetables are in your bottom drawer of your fridge. The original recipe (from Tim Anderson’s ‘Nanban – Japanese Soul Food’) adds beansprouts and mushrooms but I generally use cabbage and carrots because I always have those in and everyone in our household likes them. Tim also adds bacon and you could add chicken or prawns if you like, but I prefer to keep it vegetarian.

With regards to the noodles, I use ready made quick cook udon noodles which I buy from Tesco. Loyal followers of this blog may remember that I did once attempt to make my own but this was very hard work (you have to knead and walk on the dough multiple times and then hand roll the noodles!). I generally don’t mind putting in the effort if the end result is fabulous but in this case the final noodles were a bit rugged and rather stodgy.

My children don’t like onion and so I only put the crispy onion and spring onion on the adult plates. Likewise with the sesame seeds. Everyone likes the omelette topping though and the children squabble over who gets the biggest portion of this.


Serves 4

  • 4 x 200g cooked udon noodles
  • ½ a cabbage cut into very thin strips
  • 4 carrots sliced lengthways as thinly as possible and then cut into fine strips
  • 3 cloves of garlic finely sliced
  • A thumb sized piece of ginger finely chopped or grated


  • 2 tablespoons of sesame oil
  • ½ a teaspoon of ground white pepper
  • 3 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of mirin
  • 1 tablespoon of rice vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon of dashi powder or MSG (optional – obviously don’t use dashi if you’re a vegetarian)

To garnish

  • Thin omelettes cooled and very finely sliced
  • Sesame seeds
  • Crispy fried onions (you can buy these ready made or make your own buy slicing an onion very, very thinly and then frying on a high heat in a lot of oil for 5-10 minutes until brown and crispy. Drain well on kitchen roll before using)
  • The green tops of spring onion

This makes a large amount. You will need a large wok, otherwise cook in two batches.

Heat a little oil in a large wok until hot. Stir fry the carrots for 1-2 minutes. Add the ginger, garlic and cabbage and stir fry for another 3-4 minutes until wilted.

Mix up the ingredients for the sauce and add to the pan, then stir in the cooked or straight-to-wok udon noodles. Stir fry for another couple of minutes until heated through and then serve.

Garnish with the sesame seeds, egg, spring onion and crisp fried onion (or any combination of these that you like).


Banana fritters with coconut ice cream


Cooked banana is like marmite, you either love it or hate it.

I absolutely love it (I take after my father here).

If I ever see banana fritters (AKA: Pazham Pori, Toffee banana, Glouy Tod) on a dessert menu then I just have to order them even if I’m already stuffed. We won’t talk about my gannet-like behaviour at the Golden Dragon in Shardlow where they offer banana fritters as part of their all-you-can eat Sunday buffet.

I recently I had the best banana fritters (Glouy Tod) I’ve ever eaten at ZAAP Thai in Nottingham and it made me want to try making them myself. I’ve had a go before with a simple flour and egg batter (not a great success) but the addition of coconut and sesame seeds here adds something extra special.

Now I need to forget that I’ve ever discovered this recipe or I’ll end up the size of a house.

Thai style banana fritters

Serves 2-4

  • 2 bananas cut on the diagonal into 1cm slices
  • Groundnut oil for shallow frying
  • Golden syrup to serve

For the batter

  • 3 -5 tablespoons of cornflour
  • 3 tablespoons of water
  • ½ teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tablespoon of dried unsweetened coconut
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of sesame seeds (plus more for sprinkling)
  • A pinch of salt

Mix all the ingredients for the batter together in a bowl until smooth. Start with 3 tablespoons of water. At first the consistency will be slightly weird because of the cornflour (both runny and thick at the same time), you need to add just enough additional water for the mix to be smooth without the cornflour resisting being stirred (hopefully this will make sense when you do it). The original recipe uses rice flour so you can use this if you prefer.

Tip in the banana and stir gently with your hands until each piece is well covered with the batter.

Fill a frying pan with enough groundnut oil to cover the whole bottom of the pan and heat to a medium-high heat. Put each piece of battered banana into the hot pan and fry on each side until golden brown (about 3 minutes each side). You may need to do this is two batches depending on the size of your pan.

You can also deep fry them if you like. In this case they only take around 2-3 minutes. Make sure your oil is really hot though.

Lift out with a slotted spoon and drain on some kitchen towel.

Eat immediately with golden syrup drizzled over the top and coconut or vanilla ice cream on the side.

NOTE: For the coconut ice cream follow this recipe for vanilla ice cream but substitute half the double cream for coconut cream, omit the vanilla essence and add 3 tablespoons of dried unsweetened coconut before churning. Served on its own with chocolate sauce this would be like a frozen Bounty.

Chinese chicken wrapped in lettuce leaves

chinese chicken in lettuce leaves

I asked my husband to write an introduction to this recipe. Surprisingly he obliged. He also took the photo.

“If Zoe hasn’t attended a meal out, which is rare, the first thing she has to know is what was eaten and how good it was.  Even if it was a mediocre Chinese.  Which this was.  But the one highlight was a dish of minced chicken wrapped in lettuce leaves.  She was straight on the case to replicate and, of course, improve”.

This is also to appease all those people on healthy eating regimes. It ticks so many diet boxes. No carbs – tick, low in fat – tick, high in protein – tick, two of your five a day – tick. It’s also pretty tasty.

Chinese chicken wrapped in lettuce leaves

Serves 2 as a main course, 4-6 as a starter

  • About 550g of minced chicken
  • 1 large carrot chopped into small cubes, or, if you want to be more authentic, a handful of water chestnuts chopped into small cubes
  • A handful of chives or the green tops of spring onions


  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • A thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, grated or crushed
  • Chilli to taste (I use one dried red chilli finely chopped, with the seeds, for a medium hot heat)
  • 1 tablespoon of Chinese rice wine vinegar
  • 4 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon of sugar

To serve

  • 1 iceberg lettuce, separated into leaves

If, like me, you struggle to find minced chicken in your supermarket/butcher’s, then you will need to mince your own. For roughly 550g of meat use the legs, thighs and mini fillets from the breast cut from a largish chicken. You will need to trim off the skin and as much fat and sinew as possible before mincing in a mini food processor, or you can chop with a knife.

Heat a tiny bit of oil in a frying pan (I use groundnut) and brown the chicken over a medium heat until cooked through (about 5 minutes). Break up the mince with a spoon as you cook.

Add the carrot/water chestnuts and fry for a minute.

Mix together all the ingredients for the sauce and add these to the pan. Heat for about a minute.

Remove from the heat and stir through the chives or spring onion tops.

Serve immediately. Put spoonfuls of the chicken mixture into each lettuce leaf and wrap around.

NOTE: You could also substitute the chicken mince for pork or turkey mince.

Nigella’s brilliant breakfast bars

breakfast bars

These breakfast bars are really clever. They’re a bit like flapjack but instead of combing the dry ingredients with butter, sugar and syrup, they simply use a tin of condensed milk. There is still some sugar (about 14 grams per bar), but a lot less fat and a good amount of calcium from the milk. Plus there are wonderfully healthy nuts, seeds and oats  (I’m avoiding using Jamie’s ‘superfood’ buzz word because that’s just annoying),

Breakfast is the only meal of the day where I can entertain the concept of eating ‘on the go’. Even then it’s only because the mornings are terribly chaotic now that I have children to herd off to school. But whilst I allow myself to eat breakfast standing up, I will not eat and walk because I’m a complete snob about that.

I love Scarborough, but I’m disgusted by the sight of people strolling along the seafront eating cartons of fish and chips, dropping a few on the pavement as they go. Even when we buy ice cream from a van I make the children find a nice place to sit first.

Rant over.

These bars aren’t just for breakfast, they also make a good mid-morning/mid-afternoon snack too (just make sure you’re sitting down nicely though before you tuck in). I’ve been making them for my husband to nibble on (do men nibble?) when he’s bored in the shop or when he’s driving around in his van delivering furniture. They are slightly more wholesome than chocolate orange digestives (his current obsession) which don’t feel at all satisfying unless you eat at least four.

Breakfast bars (From ‘Nigella Express’)

Makes 16 large bars

  • A 397g tin of condensed milk
  • 250g of jumbo rolled oats
  • 75g of shredded coconut
  • 100g of dried fruit (Nigella uses cranberries but I use sultanas because they’re cheaper and I don’t like cranberries anyway. But I’ve also had good results with chopped, dried apricots or dates)
  • 125g of mixed seeds (pumpkin, sunflower and sesame)
  • 125g of unsalted, unroasted peanuts (or other nuts that you like)

Preheat the oven to 130oC.

Line a 23 x 33 x 4 cm baking tin with parchment, making sure that it goes all the way up the sides, and grease with oil or margarine.

Warm the condensed milk in a large saucepan, then tip in all the other ingredients and stir well to combine.

Tip the mixture into the tin and press down firmly either with a wooden spoon or with damp hands (which is what I do).

Bake for 1 hour, then remove and leave to cool for 15 minutes.

Cut into squares with a very sharp knife. Make them as big or small as you like (Nigella cuts hers four down and four across to make 16).

Leave to cool completely before storing in an airtight container.

Mr Hallam’s tamarind chicken curry

tamarind chicken curry large

The curries I cook tend to fall into two categories – ones that you slow cook for hours and hours (which tend to use cheaper cuts of meat), and super quick ones that you cook just long enough for the meat to be done.

This curry falls into the second group, but whilst it’s quick to cook there are a truly staggering number of ingredients so it’s the shopping that takes a while. This did put me off at first but I assure you that it’s worth it, and once the spices are bought and stored snugly away in your spice rack you can conjure up this meal in just 20 minutes.

This recipe came from my friend Ben who was given it by his father who has become a granddad this week. I think this fragrant, luxurious curry is the perfect dish to celebrate the birth of a new baby.

Tamarind chicken curry

  • 4 chicken breasts chopped into pieces about 1 inch square

For the marinade

  • 4 tablespoons of tomato ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon of tamarind paste
  • A thumb sized piece of ginger, crushed
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 4 tablespoons of water
  • 1 ½ teaspoons of chilli powder
  • 1 ½ teaspoon of cumin
  • 1 ½ teaspoons of ground coriander
  • 1 ½ teaspoons of salt
  • 1 tablespoon of sugar
  • 2 tablespoons of desiccated coconut
  • 2 tablespoons of sesame seeds
  • 1 teaspoon of poppy seeds

To cook

  • 2 tablespoons of sunflower oil (or other flavourless oil)
  • 8 curry leaves
  • ½ a teaspoon of nigella (onion) seeds
  • 2 dried red chillies
  • ½ teaspoon of fenugreek seeds (or powder)
  • 10 cherry tomatoes, halved (or half a tin of chopped, tinned tomatoes)
  • A handful of fresh coriander, chopped
  • 2 fresh green chillies, chopped (optional if you like a lot of heat)

Put all the marinade ingredients into a large mixing bowl and stir well to blend everything together.

Add the chicken pieces to the mix and stir until they are well coated with the spice mixture.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok and when hot add the curry leaves, nigella seeds, dried red chillies and fenugreek seeds and fry for about 30 seconds. Lower the heat to medium and add the chicken pieces along with the sauce.

If you are using tinned tomatoes then add them at this stage and simmer gently for about 12-15 minutes or until the chicken is just cooked through.

If you are using fresh cherry tomatoes then add these once the chicken is done along with the coriander and green chillies.

Serve with rice (if you need a recipe for cooking rice then see my post ‘Nice Rice’.)