Terrific Tarka Dal – A Recipe

In the 1990s, we used to live in India and I developed a real taste for all sorts of lentil and pulse based dishes, and I still like them today. My ‘go to’ favourite has to be tarka dal because it’s relatively quick and easy and you can throw in whatever vegetables you have in the fridge. It’s definitely one of those meals that’s useful at the end of the week when you want to use things up. A slightly soft courgette or a bendy carrot languishing in the vegetable rack undergoes a complete transformation once immersed in a spicy lentil base.

This recipe is a real feast for the eyes as the colours jump out at you. Red peppers, courgettes, aubergines, onions and spinach – this is what ‘eating a rainbow’ is all about. Even better, this recipe is fat-free and therefore ideal for anyone on a diet. For Slimming World members, it’s all *free food* based around protein (lentils) and speed food (the vegetables).

Purists may say that my version of tarka dal isn’t truly authentic and they may be right. However, it’s a recipe I’ve adapted to suit my taste – not too ‘chilli’ hot but with lots of flavour. I think it tastes amazing and with any recipe, isn’t that what matters?

Recipe serves 4 – 6 people.

Ingredients

350g split, dried red lentils, washed and drained

2cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated

1 tsp ground turmeric

1 onion, sliced

4 plump cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed

I medium courgette, aubergine, red pepper – all cut into bite-sized chunks

FryLight low calorie cooking spray

150g fresh spinach leaves

1 tsp cumin seeds

2 tsps black mustard seeds

1 tsp garam masala

1 tsp ground cumin

2 tsps ground coriander

1 tsp jalapeno red chilli flakes – add more if you like your dal with more heat

Method

Spray a large non-stick pan with Frylight and add the garlic, onions, courgette, aubergine and red pepper and cook on a relatively high heat, stirring occasionally, until lightly browned. Put pan to one side.

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In another large pan, add the lentils, turmeric and ginger to 1 ½ litres of water and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally. Skim off any froth as it appears. Once boiling, reduce the heat to a gentle simmer and cook for 15 minutes, stirring every so often.

Add the cooked vegetables to the lentil mixture along with the fresh spinach and stir together. Simmer for 10 more minutes to ensure everything is cooked through and the spinach has wilted.

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While the lentil mix is cooking, take a small non-stick frying pan, spray with FryLight and allow to heat up. Once the pan is hot, add the cumin seeds and the black mustard seeds. After a short while on a high heat, they’ll start to pop and splutter in the pan. At that point, add the garam masala, ground cumin, ground coriander and jalapeno flakes and stir for about a minute.

Add the spices into the lentil and vegetable mixture and stir them in. Add salt and pepper to taste and the dish is ready to eat.

 

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“Flexible” Thai Red Curry – a recipe

I have to admit that I’m a bit of a wimp when it comes to curries. Too much heat and my face turns an unflattering shade of purple and my nose starts to run uncontrollably. Not a good look especially on a lady of certain years!  So that means I’m usually limited to mild curries although since I’ve been losing weight I’ve intentionally stayed away from them because a lot contain coconut milk which is delicious but lethal in the calorie and fat department.

I fancied something other than a roast for our Sunday meal this weekend and finding a small jar of Thai red curry paste in the cupboard (not past its sell-by date, I hasten to add), I was inspired to create a “flexible” curry.

What is this, I hear you ask? Well, in my house there are some foods I like and other foods my husband prefers so sometimes, although we always eat together, there may be different things on our plates. After 31 years of marriage, we compromise, and it works for us with minimal food wastage.

Basically, a flexible curry is one that you can easily adapt during the cooking process. In this case, a vegetable curry becomes a prawn curry, or a chicken curry depending what you have to hand. I’m sure this is probably how a lot of restaurants do it but for me, it was the first time I’d really thought about it and it’s a really practical idea, especially if you’re cooking for a crowd and you don’t know their food preferences. I realised recently that a lot of my dishes are quite flexible – I seem to do it automatically these days.

I should mention that a lot of Thai red curry pastes contain fish or shrimp extracts (the Bart Spices paste I used did) and therefore you need to check before using them if you are cooking for vegetarians.

The good thing about the recipe below is that there aren’t many ingredients, it’s simple to make and it tastes great with just a little touch of heat to liven it up.

You’ll see that I added a very small amount of sweetener to my curry but this is optional. I find that it takes the edge off the spices (I told you I was a wimp) but you may prefer to leave it out.

I used FryLight in my recipe as it’s a Slimming World member’s saviour when frying food but if you are not particularly diet conscious, feel free to use some oil instead if you prefer.

Note for Slimming World members: this recipe could feed 4 people or 2 very hungry people! Count 1/2 a Syn each for four people and 1 Syn each for two.

Ingredients

FryLight or other low calorie cooking spray

1 large or 2 small red onions, finely sliced

1 large clove of garlic, crushed or finely chopped

2 level tablespoons Thai red curry paste of your choice

100g baby sweetcorn, cut in half lengthways

100g mangetout

1 red pepper, deseeded and sliced into batons

2 pak choi, roughly chopped

400mls vegetable stock

1 tablespoon dark soy sauce

1 teaspoon sweetener (optional)

Method

Spray a large non-stick frying pan or wok with a thin coating of FryLight and place over a medium heat.

Add the garlic and onion and gently stir-fry for 3 – 4 minutes until softened.

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Stir in the Thai red curry paste and stir for a minute.

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Add the baby sweetcorn and stir it around until its coated in the sauce.

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Slowly add the stock and soy sauce, bring to a simmer and cook for a minute then stir in the mange tout, red pepper and the pak choi.

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To make this dish “flexible”, at this point you could stir in some cooked prawns, chicken or any other meat of your choice. You could also add tofu but don’t stir too vigorously or it will disintegrate.

Bring back to a simmer, cover and cook for about 5 minutes until the vegetables are just cooked (and the meat or tofu has heated through). The vegetables should still have a bit of bite.

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Serve with rice and a refreshing salad if you wish. I added cooked prawns to my portion just before serving as you can see.

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Let me know if you make this recipe – I’d love to know what you thought of it.

 

 

 

 

 

JosephJoseph Spiro Spiraliser – Product Review

People who follow ‘The Little Pink Kitchen’ on social media are aware that in the last year I’ve lost a lot of weight at Slimming World – over 5 stone. As a result, I’ve recently changed the focus of my blog from baking (which I love but it isn’t good for my waistline) to healthy eating – although this doesn’t mean that I’ll never eat cake again!

When I say ‘healthy eating’, I don’t mean anything faddy just fresh food that is prepared from scratch in a healthy way (low fat / low sugar etc) but without compromising on flavour.

It was therefore very timely that I was contacted by JosephJoseph who asked if I’d like to try their new 3 in 1 hand-held spiraliser – called Spiro – and write a review. As I’m already a fan of the brand, I had no hesitation in saying yes and yesterday I spent some time playing around with the spiraliser and a selection of vegetables. Oh, and some cheese was involved too.

When you purchase the spiraliser, it looks like this:

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Out of the packaging, there are 5 components which include 3 different blades: a coarse and a fine spiralising blade and a grating blade. The soft grip lid is easy to turn and it has 2 guide arms that keep the food straight when you twist it.

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The spiralised or grated food is then collected in the clear container which means you don’t get bits of vegetables over the worktop. What’s really handy is how compact the gadget is: when not in use the three blades stack on top of each other and the whole thing takes up hardly any space in a cupboard or a drawer.

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I selected vegetables with different textures (courgette, peeled carrot and peeled butternut squash), washed them and trimmed them into straight pieces. JosephJoseph recommends that for the best results, the vegetables should measure roughly 3 inches x 1 ½ inches (8 x 4 cms).

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JosephJoseph provides clear instructions on how to use the spiraliser:

  1. Cut food into straight pieces with flat ends
  2. Select blade type – take care as they are sharp!
  3. Place food in the centre of the blade disc and push down onto the spindle in the centre
  4. Place the lid on top and insert the guide arms into the slots
  5. Twist the lid clockwise and push downwards to spiralise. (Try and keep a constant pressure as you twist.)

I started with the courgette and used the fine spiralising blade. While the courgette went through easily enough, the resulting spirals were very small and quite watery so I changed to the coarser blade and this gave thicker and very long courgette spirals. You can see the difference in the photograph below. I patted the spirals dry with kitchen towel afterwards as they have a high water content and I didn’t want them to go soggy.

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Next, I tried carrot on the fine blade and again, it worked well although I didn’t get very long spirals. On reflection, this was due to the fact that my carrot was a bit too skinny and once on the spindle, didn’t reach all of the blade. Note to self: next time buy fatter carrots! You can see the result of using a carrot that was too thin in the photograph below although of course it’s still edible.

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After this, I used the butternut squash with the coarse blade and given that my pieces were not round, the resulting spirals were good. There were one or two shorter ones but on the whole, the butternut squash ‘spaghetti’ came out very well as you can see in then photograph.

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I had intended to try beetroot as well but I couldn’t find any in the supermarket but as in its raw state it is quite hard, I’m sure it would have spiralised well. I’m not sure if it would stain the gadget though so that’s something to be mindful about. Sweet potatoes would also be a suitable vegetable to spiralise.

I’ve eaten a lot of vegetables during my weight loss journey with Slimming World and it’s always good to find new ways to serve them. I really like raw veggies in salads and when they’re spiralised they look so pretty and are easier to eat and digest. Here’s a photograph of my beautiful spiralised vegetables just before I put them in the fridge.fullsizerender-19-copy

We had spiralised raw vegetable salad with our dinner last night with a little lemon juice and a sprinkle of herbs and red jalapeno flakes. My husband added some olive oil to his portion and I have to say, the glistening veggies looked extremely appetising. They would have been equally as good lightly stir-fried with some garlic and perhaps a dash of soy and / or sweet chilli sauce.

One of the latest food trends is to have spiralised vegetables instead of traditional pasta (giving a low carbohydrate option) and in this case, they just need a quick steam for about a minute. Any longer and they will turn to mush so don’t overcook them.

Finally, I tried the grating blade with a chunk of hard cheddar. The cheese went through the grater like butter – very smoothly indeed. You really don’t have to apply a lot of pressure at all on the lid to get good results which makes it ideal for people who don’t have a lot of strength in their wrists or hands.

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Overall, I was impressed with the JosephJoseph Spiro spiraliser and I’d rate it as follows:

 

Ease of use:                5/5

Easy to clean:              5/5

Easy to assemble:       5/5

Easy to store:              5/5

 

I have previously used another brand’s hand-held spiraliser – one that is described as being operated with a ‘pencil-sharpening’ motion. That one didn’t have its own container and I actually found it quite hard work turning it so it’s currently languishing in the back of a drawer.

I’ve also seen the somewhat clunky spiralisers that you have to assemble that then sit on a worktop, taking up a lot of space. While these might be quite useful for large households, they aren’t particularly attractive and they are quite cumbersome especially as you have to crank a handle to work them. These tend to be recommended by some of the high profile but not always nutritionally qualified ‘clean-eating’ brigade and are quite expensive compared to the Spiro.

In my opinion, the Spiro would be an ideal addition to your kitchen if you have young children as it would certainly encourage them to eat more vegetables. For a two person household like mine, I found it quick and easy to spiralise a few vegetables for us and the clean-up was also fast. The Spiro can be put in a dishwasher although it’s easy to wash it in the sink. I love the fact that all the parts stack up together into a compact little unit which can be easily stored. The Spiro will not be languishing in the back of my cupboards, that’s for sure.

 

You can find the Spiro spiraliser in good cook shops and online at: www.josephjoseph.com. The retail price is £16.

 

A note for Slimming World members (like me) – the Spiro will really encourage you to eat more speed vegetables so do think about buying one.

 

Disclaimer: JosephJoseph sent me a Spiro Spiraliser in return for an honest review. After thoroughly testing it, I was genuinely impressed with it and I will continue to use it. If you’re thinking of purchasing one, I’m happy to discuss my review in more detail with you via email: littlepinkkitchen@hotmail.com

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Joy of Juicing – A Product Review

When I was asked to review the L’Equip XL Juicer I was rather excited as I have spent silly money in the past buying bottled or commercially made ‘fresh’ juices (I get suckered in at places like Planet Organic or Wholefood Market) so I thought it was an ideal opportunity to have a go myself. My only concern was that the juicer in question might be really high tech because I’m a simple soul and like kitchen equipment to be straightforward and easy to use. (You have to remember that I started work back in the days when telex machines were all the rage, we had no computers and used carbon paper to make copies of typed letters!)

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With that in mind, I was pleased to find that when I took the juicer out of the box, it was already put together and I only had to remove some packing paper. I was also very happy to see that the only ‘control’ was the on-off switch – nothing complicated at all. The essential components are also dishwater friendly which is a bonus.

The L’Equip XL Juicer comes with quite a large container for the pulp which is extracted but you provide your own glass or jug to collect the juice from the small spout. It also comes with a ‘pusher’ with which you press down on the fruit and vegetables to facilitate their progression through the juicer. The juicer as a whole is rather compact which makes it suitable for kitchens where space is at a premium.

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Having rummaged in the fridge and my fruit bowl, I decided to make two juices: carrot, orange and ginger and then apple, courgette and spinach. While I do like freshly squeezed fruit juices, I find that adding greens and other vegetables makes them more robust and filling and of course, we are always being reminded that we should be consuming more vegetables. To give my juices a bit more ‘ooomph’, I also selected some other ingredients, namely turmeric powder and nutmeg. (I found a courgette after I’d taken the photo!)

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My next step was to wash, peel and cut the fruit and vegetables into big chunks. The L’Equip juicer has a wide feeding tube but it’s easier to push items through if they are even sizes. I didn’t bother about removing pips or cores from the fruit as I knew they would be removed during the juicing process and end up in the pulp container. I peeled the oranges though as the skin and pith can be quite bitter and could have potentially challenged the juicer a bit too much.

Then I was ready to go! With the fruit and vegetables on a chopping board next to the juicer, I switched it on and started feeding through the carrots, orange chunks and a 2cm piece of unpeeled ginger. I also added ¼ teaspoon of turmeric powder because I like the subtle taste and warmth it gives. I pressed down on the pusher to ensure everything went through smoothly and added more oranges and carrots and repeated the action. It only took a few seconds and the bright orange juice started coming out of the spout straight into the waiting glass. It’s worth mentioning that I felt the juicer wasn’t too noisy although obviously I’ve never had one before to compare it to.

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I then made a second juice with the apples, courgette (well it was sitting in the fridge with no other purpose in mind!) and spinach plus a dash of nutmeg powder. The instructions for the juicer advise that if you use leafy greens, you should roll them up into a more solid ball so I made the effort to squash the spinach up as tightly as I could. This juice was a beautiful vivid green and it’s sad that a lot of people won’t even try a green juice purely because of the colour. You really don’t taste the spinach – or the courgette for that matter – so I’d suggest trying it.

I had wanted to try a juice with kale – as it’s such an up and coming vegetable – but unfortunately my local supermarkets didn’t have any apart from the chopped curly variety but the chunks of stalk aren’t good for juicing – too bitter & really hard.

Once I’d made the juices, it was time to wash the juicer. Dismantling it was really simple and I easily washed the parts in the sink, dried them and quickly reassembled the machine ready for next time. I’m keen to try other juices with ingredients like beetroot (good quality ready-made beetroot juice is really expensive to buy in the shops), blueberries and mangoes which I’ve had in home-made smoothies before. Smoothies are very filling – especially if they are so thick you almost have to chew them – but over spring and summer it’ll be good to have the lighter option of juices.

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The pulp that resulted from the two juices that I made was pretty dry which indicates that the juicer does a very good job of extracting as much juice as possible. Rather than waste the pulp I’ll use it to make vegetable soup or vegetable patties, which is a benefit you don’t get from shop-bought juices.

Overall and bearing in mind I’m a juicing novice with nothing to compare this model to, I’d rate the L’Equip XL Juicer with pulp extraction as follows:

Easy to use:            5/5

Easy to clean:         5/5

Easy to assemble:   5/5

A note for any followers of ‘Slimming World’ (like me) – when you make fresh juice it does contain Syns. I’ve checked these on the Slimming World app and generally you have to calculate 1.5 – 2 Syns per 100mls of fresh fruit or vegetable juice which isn’t excessive in my opinion so you could treat yourselves to an occasional fresh fruit or green juice every once in a while without affecting weight loss. Making your own juice is so much better than buying it from a shop because there are no added preservatives or bulking ingredients.

One final point – I’d recommend drinking the juices within 15 minutes of making them as they can discolour if you leave them too long (green juices have a tendency to look a bit ‘muddy’ if left although the flavour is unaffected). If you decide to make a juice and keep it in the fridge overnight, it may separate but will be fine once you stir it.

 

Disclaimer: Steamer Trading provided me with the L’Equip Juicer in return for an honest and objective review. The above represents my genuine opinion of this product and I’d be happy to discuss my first juicing experience further with anyone who is considering buying one. I can be contacted via email: littlepinkkitchen@hotmail.com.

 

The juicer is available to purchase here:  https://www.steamer.co.uk/electricals/juicers-blenders/l-equip-215-xl-juicer.html

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posh Porridge? I don’t mind if I do…

On cold mornings there’s nothing like a hot, steaming bowl of porridge to set you up for the day. Except that porridge on its own can be a little dull. I’ve never been the type of person to make it with water as it makes it taste like wallpaper paste. Oh no, I like my porridge to be a little luxurious and so back in the days when I was over 6 stone heavier than I am now, my porridge often contained nuts, seeds, fruit and even a touch of cream. To think I thought the nuts and stewed fruit made it healthy. How deluded can you be?

When I started to lose weight, my porridge contained semi-skimmed milk, a grated apple and some cinnamon which tasted good but after a while became a little “samey”. That made me look at other additions that would also be good for me and fill me up. I’ve since tried “carrot cake porridge” using grated carrot in place of apple and adding nutmeg as well as cinnamon and also – somewhat surprisingly you may think – sweet potatoes and pumpkin. I highly recommend these if you want a really REALLY filling breakfast.

My latest porridge related recipe was inspired by Mullerlight yoghurts who have just introduced a “Cherry Bakewell” flavour in conjunction with Slimming World. The classic flavour combination of cherries and almonds is always a winner in my house but at the moment cherries are out of season and I tend not to eat nuts as I usually can’t stop until an entire packet has been emptied!

So I had to be creative for my next porridge extravaganza and turned to my baking supplies cupboard (not that I bake these days…. too much temptation) to get some ideas.

The result was a “Raspberry Bakewell” flavoured baked porridge breakfast that is *FREE* on the Slimming World plan (if you use some of your Healthy Extra milk allowance). A good quality brand of almond essence (I use Nielsen Massey) gives you the hint of “bakewell” without adding any fat, calories or Syns and adding the raspberries at the end gives a burst of flavour as you tuck in.

It’s porridge but definitely a bit posh.

Give it a try and let me know what you think.

 

Ingredients

40g porridge oats

½ teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon granulated sweetener

1 egg, beaten

175mls milk (I use 1% fat these days but semi skimmed or other is fine)

½ teaspoon good quality almond essence

Small handful of fresh raspberries

Method

Preheat your oven to Gas Mark 4, Fan 160 degrees C or 180 degrees C.

Mix the porridge oats, baking powder and sweetener together in a bowl.

In a jug, beat the egg and add the milk and almond essence. Mix well.

Stir the wet ingredients into the dry and pour the mixture into a small ovenproof dish. The one in the photos is 5 inches (14cms) in diameter.

Bake in the centre of the oven for 20 – 25 minutes or until the top is golden and no longer ‘wobbles’ if you wiggle the dish. You want it to be slightly firm – not like cement – although if you leave it for a while before eating it will thicken up.

Serve topped with the fresh raspberries.

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Just out of the oven!

 

 

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Mmmm. Delicious.

 

 

 

 

 

Guilt Free ‘Cream’ Cheese

Having lost over 5 stone with Slimming World in less than a year, I’ve changed my eating habits drastically and feel so much better for it. It has been a challenge to overcome the cravings I frequently used to have for butter, cream, chocolate, cakes, anything with salted caramel in it and salt and vinegar crisps (to name but a few things) but I’ve done it. What helped me to lose weight was creating healthier versions of certain dishes that I used to love even though they weren’t always good for me. I now spend a lot of time in the kitchen working on new recipes and ensuring they taste as good as the ‘full fat’ versions but are much better for you.

One thing I used to like quite a lot was rich, creamy (and calorie laden) garlic and herb soft cheese. And I ate quite substantial portions of it as I didn’t seem to have a full button. So, in order to have an occasional indulgent cheese fest, I needed to come up with a recipe that would satisfy my cheese-y tooth while adhering to the Slimming World guidelines.

So, here is my recipe for a FAT FREE (yup, you read that correctly) creamy tasting garlic and herb cheese that is good spread on bread, bagels and buns or dolloped on a jacket potato or chilli dish. The possibilities are endless. I’ve used chives but you could use any herbs you like. I like the cheese made with fresh garlic but when I don’t have any I use garlic granules. The small amount of sweetener counters the slightly sour taste of the quark but you can leave it out if you wish.

While you can play around with the added ingredients, the key thing in this recipe is that you have to strain the cheese for at least 8 hours, preferably overnight, in the fridge. This is what changes the consistency and fools you into thinking that a thicker cheese must mean a creamy cheese. Yes, it’s thicker but you can eat copious amounts of it with a clear conscience because it’s FAT FREE!

Ingredients

250g fat free quark (usually at the end of a supermarket cheese aisle)

1 ½ tablespoons of fresh or dried chives. If fresh, snip them into small pieces

½ teaspoon granulated sweetener

¼ teaspoon of garlic powder or 1 small/medium fresh garlic clove, crushed

Salt and pepper to taste

 

You’ll need a nut milk bag (Amazon or health food shop purchase) or a jam straining bag.

 

Method

Place all of the ingredients in a small bowl and mix together with a spoon.

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You should end up with a fairly sloppy textured mixture, like this:

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Take a nut milk bag (pictured) or jam straining bag, and spoon the mixture into it.

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You then need to suspend the filled bag over a bowl to catch the liquid that comes out of the cheese. I have to improvise with a silicone spatula (see photo) but I think that’s a sign of a creative cook!

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Place the bowl and the suspended cheese filled bag in the fridge for 8 hours or overnight.

You can see how much liquid comes out of the cheese in this photo.

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Once strained, tip the now firm cheese into a small bowl. If not eating immediately, cover with cling film and keep in the fridge.

Eat and enjoy!

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For any Slimming World members reading this, as this creamy cheese is actually fat free quark it is a FREE FOOD and not a Healthy Extra A choice like many other cheeses. How brilliant is that?

 

 

 

Nadiya Hussain Q & A

To whet your appetite for the BBC Good Food Show at Olympia, London from 11th – 13th November 2016, here’s a mini Q&A soundbite from Nadiya Hussain, the 2015 Great British Bake Off winner (as if I needed to remind you). Sadly it wasn’t an interview with me but via the publicity people who organise the Show who have kindly allowed me to post it here.

Q. What is your favourite dish to cook?

N.H. I love one pot dishes. So a chicken tagine, with preserved lemons and dates. Served with lemon couscous.

Q. What is your top tip for festive cooking?

N.H. Try and do as much in advance. I like to pre prep anything that can be done and then par cook anything that can be finished off last minute. I always par cook/blanch my roasties and then freeze them and cook again in fat to get them really crispy.

Q. What is your most treasured item in the kitchen?

N.H. My favourite thing in the kitchen has to be my micro plane. I can’t believe how well those things grate the zest of any fruit. I’m always mesmerised. But my treasured item would have to be my oven as without it I’m quite literally half a person. Recently moving house I hadn’t used an oven for 9 days – it’s the longest I have been without baking and it was pretty tough.

Q. What are you most looking forward to about the BBC Good Food Shows?

N.H. I have attended the BBC Good Food Shows before but this year it will be interesting to come back since so much has changed. Very excited to be a part of it all.

Q. What new ingredient or ingredients are you inspired by right now?

N.H. I am loving yellow ras-el-hanout. It works so well as a coating on fish but it’s even better with slow cooked lamb.

 

Don’t forget that I have two *FREE* tickets up for grabs – you can go to the Show in London on Friday 11th November or Sunday 13th November 2016. Follow me on Twitter for details of how to enter the draw – @TheLittlePK.

 

www.bbcgoodfoodshow.com