Chilli and Cucumber Salad

This is based on a salad I had at the School of Artisan Food in Welbeck, Nottingham. It was a summer side dish that I thought was so fresh and refreshing and made from the simplest of ingredients. I knew I had to make it at home.

Chilli cucumber salad

I couldn’t get the taste quite the same, so the next time I went I asked what was in the dressing. They didn’t give me the exact recipe, but they did tell me it contained white balsamic vinegar, something I hadn’t tried before. I went home and tried various dressings until I came up with the one below.

I’ve used fresh and zingy mint and coriander here, but it works just as well with dill.

For extra crisp cucumbers, I have tried salting and using ice water but I normally just make this and eat straightaway.

I have all the ingredients chilled ready in the fridge as it tastes best eaten cold on a hot day.

1 large cucumber
1-2 red chillies – depending on heat
10 mint leaves, rolled and very finely shredded, plus a little extra for the top
Small bunch of coriander/cilantro, leaving some aside

3 tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 tbs white balsamic vinegar
1 tsp honey
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper

Chilli cucumber salad1

Whisk together the ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl.

Slice the cucumber lengthways and using a spoon, remove the seeds slice into semicircles.

Slice the chillies lengthways and carefully remove the seeds and white membrane and very finely chop.

Toss everything in a bowl and add enough dressing to moisten. Place in your serving bowl or platter and scatter over additional herbs.

This is a lovely salad to serve with grilled fish, chicken tikka or lamb kebabs and flatbreads.

Cucumber salad close up 2

Goats Cheese, Spinach and Bacon Stuffed Mini Sweet Peppers

I saw these mini peppers at the market and thought they are just asking to be stuffed with something delicious!

I love goats cheese and knew I had some spinach in the freezer, so decided to make a creamy goats cheese and spinach filling and add in some smoked bacon too. The end result was super delicious and just the thing to eat with drinks as it was SO hot over the weekend.

Stuffed peppers

1 punnet (around 300g) of mini mixed peppers
1 100g pack of French Chevre, or any other goats cheese
100g of full fat cream cheese
100g of frozen spinach, thawed and all the water squeezed out
200g of smoked streaky bacon
Freshly ground black pepper

Pre heat the oven to 200°C/400°F

Place the bacon on a foil lined backing tray and cook in the oven until cooked through and crisp, leave to cool before snipping into small pieces.

While the bacon is cooking, slice the peppers lengthways, remove any seeds and membranes and place in a oven proof dish.

Mix together the cheeses and spinach with a few grinds of black pepper. Stir in the bacon. I don’t add any extra salt as the cheese and bacon both contain salt.

Using a spoon, fill the pepper halves with the cheese mixture and bake for around 20 minutes until the tops are just staring to catch.

These are delicious served at room temperature with drinks on a hot day, but equally as enjoyable, served warm with red wine on a cold day.

Pepper closeup

No Bake Chocolate Caramel Shortbread

This isn’t really shortbread as it has a cookie crumb base like a cheesecake, but its not a tray bake either as its not baked, just assembled and allowed to set.

Malteser Caramel Shortbread

My husband loves caramel shortbread and has been asking for ages for me to make some.

My youngest son William, loves the Malteser topped crunchy traybakes from Costa, so I thought I would combine the two and make them both happy.

I have tried the base made with both Maryland double chocolate chip cookies and Oreos – bashed to smithereens.  The verdict was that the chocolate chip cookies were the preferred base, so this is what I have used here.  Any cookies can be used for the base, including digestive or gingernuts, or you can even bake a proper shortbread base yourself.  This however, is much quicker…!


2 x 100g packs of Maryland Double Chocolate Chip cookies (the purple packet) – crushed
85g butter – melted

1 397 can of Condensed Milk
150g butter
75g Dark Muscovado Sugar
75g Soft Light Brown Sugar

Marbled Chocolate Top:
2 x 100g packs of 70% Good Quality Chocolate – broken into pieces
1 x 100g pack of Good Quality White Chocolate – broken into pieces
1 pack of Maltesers

Prepare a 20cm tin by lining the base and sides with parchment or cling film will also do the job.  The finished squares look best if you use one with square corners

Mix the crushed cookie crumbs with the melted butter and press into the base of your lined tin.  place in the freezer while you make the caramel.

Melt the butter and sugars together until the sugar has disolved.  Add the condensed milk and bring to the boil, stirring all the time.  The caramel with thicken and turn golden.  Leave for a minute so it cools slightly and then pour onto the waiting cookie crumb base.  This needs to be left to cool completely in order to set before you add the final layer of chocolate.  If you can’t wait, then put it in the freezer.

When your caramel is firm to the touch, place the dark chocolate in the microwave and heat for around 30 seconds before stirring, then keep heating for 10 seconds and stirring until almost melted.  Keep stirring and the residual heat will melt the final few pieces.  Be careful not to burn the chocolate.  You can of course do this in a bowl over simmering water, but I have had more than one batch seize up on me, so I always melt it in the microwave nowadays.  Repeat with the white chocolate.

When the chcolate has cooled a little, pour over the dark chocolate, making sure to coat the whole of the caramel.  Spoon blobs of the white chocolate on the top of the dark chocolate and swirl with a spoon to create a marbled effect.  Place Maltesers in the middle of where your squares will be when you cut them out.

Leave until the chocolate has just set and using a very sharp knife to cut into squares.  I run the knife under very hot water and dry to help go through the chocolate.  you don’t have to go all the way through at this point, its just easier to cut the chocolate at this point.

Leave in the fridge until completely chilled before gently lifting out the parchment or cling film and do your final cut with the knife and cut into individual squares.