Mushroom and Lentil Soup


It’s been a relatively healthy beginning to 2017. Despite the odd hiccup, (Saturday’s birthday celebration for my friend Dwight included a stick of butter per person to ensure the Louisiana shrimp was authentic) I’ve been pretty well behaved. Making a big batch of this incredibly satisfying and unintentionally vegan soup has been the largest contributor to my restraint. It has also been especially comforting to have a steaming bowl of soup after walking Daisy in these frigid temperatures. It’s hearty, healthy, and very very tasty!


Mushroom and Lentil Soup

Serves 4


2 tablespoons olive oil

2 small onions, peeled and diced

2 large cloves garlic, peeled and smashed

1 large dried chili (any mild dried chili works)

5 oz. mushrooms, sliced (I used a mixture)

4 oz. small brown lentils (I used Puy lentils), rinsed

4 cups vegetable stock

3 sprigs of thyme


1 lemon

Good French bread for dipping



1. Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan and add the onions. Cook on medium until soft, about 5-8 minutes. Save some of the browned mushrooms to a separate plate for garnish.

2. Add the garlic and chili and cook for a further minute or two, stirring regularly, before adding the mushrooms and cooking for a further 5 minutes.

3. Add the lentils, pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Once boiling, reduce to a low simmer with a lid almost covering the pot for about 30 minutes or until the lentils are soft. 

4. Season with salt, pepper, a dash of cognac and the juice of a lemon.

5. Remove the garlic, chili and thyme and then whizz using a hand held blender till about half of the soup is pureed but you still have plenty of texture. 

6. Serve warm with browned mushrooms as a topping and extra bread for dipping.



Cairo Falafel


Doaa and Freda are very serious about their research as they set about creating a new spice kit. Falafel was no exception. Eaten throughout the Middle East, each region makes it a little different. Doaa and Freda decided to go to the source after discovering that falafel originated in Egypt. They combined the influences of both Egypt and the Levant to come up with their unique spice blend. The cumin and coriander are typically the only seasonings used in Egypt. Egyptian falafel is also characterized by the heavy use of spices and herbs, whereas Levantine falafel is less heavy-handed with both. Traditionally, Egyptians would use dried, split fava rather than chickpeas to make their falafel and if you can find them, I would definitely recommend it. Either way, these fried balls of deliciousness are packed with flavor incredibly easy to make at home.


Cairo Falafel

Makes approximately 18 balls

1 cup dried split fava or chickpeas, soaked for 8 hours in a bowl of cold water
1 medium onion, quartered
4 garlic cloves
4 sprigs of parsley
2 tbsp Spice Tree Organics Cairo Falafel
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking soda
1 tbsp water, or more if needed
3-4 cups of oil, for frying


1. Drain the fava or chickpeas, and place them along with the other ingredients and 2 tablespoons water in a food processor. If your food processor bowl is small, pulse the chickpeas first, remove them, and then pulse the onion, garlic, and parsley.
2. Add the chickpeas back to the bowl, along with the spices, salt, baking soda, and water. Run the food processor until the mixture is well combined and finely chopped.
3. If the mixture is not coming together, add more water, a little at a time, until it does.
4. Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed pot to 350°F.
5. Take a tablespoon of the falafel and roll it between your hands to form a ball. Press firmly so that the ball holds together and squeeze off any excess water so that you are left with compact falafel balls. Repeat until all balls are made.
6. Carefully deep fry falafel until golden brown, about 2 minutes each (fry in batches of 4 at a time to prevent over-crowding). They will puff up significantly, so do not shallow-fry these!
7. Serve hot, with tahini sauce, hummus and tabouleh salad.

Sesame Noodle Salad with Chili Oil



I’ve been working on a TEDx talk about community and as a result thinking a lot about what that word actually means. It is impossible to think of community without thinking of food. The story behind this recipe embodies my feelings about the true meaning of community and how generous and giving a group of people can be.


My great friends Camille and Josh were married in upstate NY before I met them, so sadly I didn’t get to experience their wedding first hand but tales of it are legendary! In lieu of wedding presents, everyone pitched in for the meal. There were BBQ aficionados doing meat, Vietnamese beef sticks from the groom’s sister, platters of vegetables and dips from the groom’s parents and even the cake was made by a hobbyist baker friend. It was essentially one large feast and the happiest of communal meals.


Hilary, knowing how much Camille loved her sesame noodles, made it for over 100 people at the wedding and it was a fast favorite among all the guests. It has since become one of Camille’s signature dishes and for the happy couple, this dish has come to symbolize people coming together to celebrate. In their typical generous style, they now make it for a large party every year on July 4th.



Sesame Noodle Salad with Chili Oil

Adapted from: The Greens Cookbook by Deborah Madison

Serves 4-6



14 oz of noodles (I used wholewheat soba noodles)

1 cup of snow peas, julienned

1/2 lb of bean sprouts

1 carrot, peeled and julienned

2 tablespoons of roasted sesame seeds (to roast, add to a pan on medium heat and cook till color turns, about 2 minutes)



2 tablespoons of chopped cilantro

2 tablespoons sliced scallions



4 tablespoons of dark sesame oil

4 tablespoons of soy sauce

4 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar

1 1/2 tablespoons of Brooklyn Wok Shop’s Chili Oil

1 heaped tablespoon of sugar

1 teaspoon of salt

2 teaspoons of crushed garlic

2 teaspoons of fresh ginger, peeled and minced

1 bunch of scallions (cut off two inches from the green end and discard. Thinly slice the rest.)

2 tablespoons of chopped cilantro



1. In a large bowl, mix all the marinade ingredients together. Stir until all the sugar is dissolved.

2. Bring a large pot of water to boil and cook the noodles according to the package instructions.

3. Pour the noodles into a colander and immediately rinse with cold water to stop the cooking process.

4. Add the well drained and cooled noodles to the bowl with the marinade. Mix well to distribute the marinade.

5. In another pot of boiling water, blanch the carrot strips and snow peas for 30 seconds before adding the bean sprouts. Continue cooking for 30 seconds more, then pour the contents into a colander and rinse with cold water until cool to the touch.

6. Add the blanched vegetables and half the sesame seeds to the noodles and mix well.

7. Garnish with the remaining sesame seeds as well as the reserved cilantro and scallions.

8. Serve at room temperature. Recipe can be made the night before as flavor improves over time.

Panzanella (Tuscan bread and tomato salad)


I’ve been spending the last few days of my time in Italy staying with my oldest friend, Catherine, in what is to my mind, the most beautiful house in Tuscany. A stunning farmhouse at the end of a treacherous road where I feel completely at home and happy. I’m incredibly lucky to have my nearest neighbor be one of my closest friends and I always make sure our time here overlaps. I just can’t imagine being here without her. We spent last night at a local festa reminiscing about a slightly more glamorous party that used to be the highlight of every summer but which sadly no longer happens.


Every August, the courtyard of Badia a Coltibuono, a 12th Century monastery outside Gaiole, would be the stage for a concert by students of the famous Academia Chigiana. The classical music was followed by food and drinks in the formal garden while the courtyard was transformed into a disco. Huge ceramic bowls filled with Panzanella and platters of Parma ham, salami and cheese were laid out for the guests to feast on before the dancing began. I decided to recreate the panzanella today and I’m sure the fact that it was so delicious was thanks to every ingredient except the bread coming straight from Catherine’s garden.





4 slices of tuscan bread or good sourdough

1/2 red onion, thinly sliced

1 red pepper, deveined, seeded and sliced into strips

2 large heirloom tomatoes

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

5 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil


Basil leaves



1. The bread should be a little stale. If it is not, you can put it in a low oven for 15 minutes to dry out. Then cut into 1″ cubes.

2. Soak the sliced onions in a bowl of water for 10-15 minutes to bring out the sweetness then drain and dry.

3. In a large bowl, mix the red pepper, tomatoes, bread and red onion.

4. Sprinkle the vinegar and then the olive oil all over the salad and mix well with your hands. Add salt, taste and mix again. Tuscan bread is made without salt so I used quite a lot but it depends on your ingredients.

5. Finish by sprinkling with some chopped basil leaves and leave it to sit for at least 10 minutes. The bread will soak up all the juices of the tomatoes and continue to improve.

Wild Rice Salad with Mango and Pecan


You may have figured out from previous posts that I feel very strongly about pasta and could blind taste the difference between most brands. The same, I’ve discovered, is absolutely true of beans and grains which I’m trying to eat more of. I came across Rancho Gordo on a food foraging trip in San Francisco and after tasting, quickly understood why they are so universally beloved. Steve Sando founded Rancho Gordo out of a frustration of not being able to find ingredients especially those native to the New World. And we’re very grateful that he did! Their beans and grains are so versatile that I’m constantly thinking up new ways to use them.


This wild rice salad is adapted from a Christopher Schlesinger recipe. The flavors and textures are as vibrant as the colors; sweet, tart, spicy, nutty, crunchy and juicy all rolled into one. It is just one of the many ways, I’ve incorporated Rancho Gordo products into my repertoire – more to come soon!



Wild Rice Salad with Mango and Pecans

Serves 4


1 cup of wild rice

Salt to taste
2 mangoes
1 red pepper
1 cup of pecans (roasted)



1/4 cup of chopped cilantro
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon chili powder
1 crushed garlic clove
1/4 cup of olive oil
1/2 cup of lime juice



1. In a medium sized sauce pan, mix rice with 2 cups of cold water.

2. Bring to a boil, cover and let simmer on a low heat for 45 minutes or until the rice is chewy but still has a bite.

3. Drain excess water and let the rice cool, adding salt to taste.

4. Cube the mango and red pepper.

4. In a small bowl, whisk all the dressing ingredients together.

5. In a large serving bowl, mix the rice, mango, red pepper and pecans.

6. Pour the dressing over the rice, mix well and serve at room temperature as a side dish to pretty much any grilled meat or fish.


Garden Fresh Bruschetta



My whole life I was led to believe that you could only get good tomatoes in Italy so I studiously avoided them anywhere else. To be fair, English tomatoes in the 70’s were notoriously bad. I can’t remember who first broke the spell and introduced me to my first home grown American tomato but I now can’t wait until they start turning up in farmer’s markets every summer and I can honestly say that they are better than any I’ve ever had in Italy. Top of the list of the best tomatoes I’ve EVER tasted are grown by Sam Butler in his Connecticut garden.



He gets them from Maple Bank Farm in Roxbury, CT where they have been partially raised in a greenhouse.  I’m lucky enough to visit for a weekend every Summer and even able to take a couple of these wonderfully named ‘Big Boys’ home with me.



My only contribution is to make Bruschetta for the Butler family, which as you can see below is ridiculously easy so I’m definitely getting the better end of the deal.





Good white bread


Tomatoes, in season and sun ripened is the best

Olive oil




1. Toast the bread slices and rub with a little raw garlic.

2. Cover with chopped tomatoes and drizzle with olive oil.

3. Sprinkle a little salt and some basil and then eat!

The Perfect Tomato Sauce





Growing up in England, it seemed like someone somewhere was always putting the kettle on. Major life events from childbirth to funerals seemed to always solicit an offer of a cup of tea as if that would somehow make everything ok. Having an Italian mother, my childhood version of a cup of tea was a bowl of pasta. If a friend was mean to me or later if a boy broke my heart, a steaming bowl of spaghetti would always make things seem a little better. And it was always spaghetti with tomato sauce. I must have watched my mother make that sauce a thousand times but when I grew up and moved into my own place in NY, I could never get it to taste quite the same. But I finally figured out where I was going wrong. The trick to a good sauce is that it MUST leave an orange ‘sheen’ of oil on your plate after you’ve hoovered up the pasta. The answer was simple; more olive oil…. A lot more olive oil. So here’s the basic recipe which can then be used as a base for a hundred different dishes from Bucatini all’Amatriciana to meatballs and which I hope to package and one day sell on Many Kitchens.


Spaghetti al pomodoro 

Serves 4 people


5 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

1 (28oz can) of plum tomatoes

2 garlic cloves

1 teaspoon sugar

pinch of oregano

1 bay leaf

salt and pepper.
1 lb pasta (feeds 4 people as a starter)



1. Use a bigger saucepan than you think you’ll need (splattering is key!), heat the olive oil.

2. When hot, add the tomatoes so you’re essentially frying them. It’s just as important to use a good brand of tomatoes as it is to use a good brand of pasta. I can blind taste the difference between Barilla and De Cecco in a second. For tomatoes, I like to use Cirio or Mutti and for pasta, De Cecco or if you’re going artisanal, then pasta from Gragnano is the best. As sacrilegious as this may sound, I think dried pasta is better for this dish than fresh.

3. Next, add garlic cloves cut in half, sugar, oregano, bay leaf and generous amounts of salt and pepper.

4. Turn up the heat and let it splatter away. This stage can take as little as 15 minutes or you can leave it as long as 40 mins having reduced to a very low heat.

5. Discard the garlic pieces and the bay leaf. I then use a potato masher to smooth out the sauce but if you don’t have one, the back of a wooden spoon works too.

6. Boil plenty of salted water (my mother’s friend, Anna del Conte, says it should be as salty as the Mediterranean) and cook spaghetti according to packet. I estimate 5ozs per person (we still insist my mother cooks at least 7ozs per person as there never seems to be enough). Always scoop out a cup of the salty water before you drain whenever making pasta, it can be used to rehydrate leftovers or, more likely, second portions.

7. Now the important part is to add the spaghetti to the sauce and cook for another minute or two so the sauce begins to infuse the pasta.

8. Serve on warmed plates and then at the table, add all the extras; tear some fresh basil, grate some fresh parmesan and then pour some good olive oil to ensure you get that special orange sheen!