Category Archives: The Start

Starter Recipes

Spiced Butternut Squash Soup

Spiced Butternut Squash Soup
Spiced Butternut Squash Soup

This creamy, hearty yet healthy soup, tantalised the tastebuds of my colleagues when I bought a batch to work for my lunch. at around 200 kcals per portion (without an added dash of cream) it makes a tasty and filling lunch.

Serves 4 – Gluten Free*


  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 medium brown onions, roughly chopped
  • 1 kg Butternut Squash, peeled, de-seeded and roughly chopped
  • 2.5 cm root ginger, peeled and chopped
  • 1 red chilli, de-seeded and sliced thinly
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds, dry roasted
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 1 litre hot vegetable or chicken stock


  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan.
  2. Add the onion, ginger and chilli. Cook on a low to medium heat for 5-10 minutes until the onions are soft.
  3. Add the Butternut squash , ground spices, cumin seeds and garlic  and cook for a further 5 minutes until the aromas are released.
  4. Turn up the heat, then add the stock plus a good grind of black pepper and bring to the boil.
  5. Turn down to a simmer and allow to bubble slowly for 30 to 35 mins or until the squash is cooked (press against the side of the pan with the back of a spoon, it should be soft).
  6. Blend to a fine consistency with a stick blender, you might need to add some more hot water if the soup is too thick.
  7. Season to taste, then top with a swirl of single or soured cream (optional).

Serve with a hunk of home made bread like my Irish Soda Bread and enjoy…

*Gluten Free – Although I make every effort to ensure that the ingredients list are gluten free, you should double check at the time of using as products change their base ingredients frequently

Cockles with Pancetta and Thyme

Cockles with Pancetta and Thyme
Cockles with Pancetta and Thyme

Living by the sea allows me to enjoy the freshest of bounty from it, and shellfish, especially is at it’s best when it bought fresh from a fish shop owned by a fisherman. The Cockles recipe is from Shaun Rankin and was devised for the Great British Menu. Although it’s bursting with a the flavours of the Mediterranian it harks back to my Welsh roots as I had the best cockles on the Gower Coast.

Serves 4 – Gluten Free*


  • 1 tbsp of olive oil
  • 1 shallot, trimmed and sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, sliced
  • 90g of cubed pancetta
  • 900g of cockles
  • 2 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 300ml of white wine
  • 6 basil leaves, roughly chopped
  • Freashly ground black pepper


Thoroughly rinse the cockles before cooking, discarding any that are broken.

  1. Scrub well to remove any sand, mud or grit. If the shells are open, give them a light tap; if they do not close, discard
  2. Heat the olive oil in a heavy based frying pan and sauté the shallot and garlic over a medium heat for about 2 minutes until the shallots are soft and translucent but not coloured
  3. Add the pancetta cubes and fry for a further minute.
  4. Now add the cockles, thyme and finally the white wine. 
  5. Cover with a lid and steam w for 4 minutes or until the shells have fully opened
  6. Spoon the cockles into a serving dish and sprinkle the basil on the top. 
  7. Pour over the cooking juices and finish with black pepper.

Serve with some toasted focaccia (or a Gluten Free alternative)

*Gluten Free – Although I make every effort to ensure that the ingredients listed are gluten free, you should double check at the time of using as products change their base ingredients frequently

Scallops with chorizo

Scallops with chorizo
Scallops with chorizo

This simple starter is based on one of my favourite Tapas, it only takes a few minutes to prepare less to cook but you’ll remember this delicious dish for ages.

Serves 4- Gluten Free*


  • olive oil
  • 1 tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 1 shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 cooking chorizo , sliced into rounds the thickness of a pound coin (ensure your Chorizo is Gluten Free for a Gluten Freen Recipe)
  • 12 scallops, cleaned
  • a large bunch flat-leaf parsley, leaves roughly chopped
  • a handful of roasted red peppers from a jar, sliced roughly


  1. Whisk 3 tbsp olive oil with the sherry vinegar and shallot and season well.
  2. Heat a little olive oil in a pan, then fry the chorizo until cooked through and coloured.
  3. In a separate pan, heat a little olive oil then sear the scallops for a minute on each side until golden and crusted, seasoning as you turn.
  4. Add the oil from the chorizo to the dressing, then toss the parsley and pepper strips in before arranging on warmed plates with the chorizo and scallops.

Serve, with slices of fresh crusty bread (like Soda Bread)

*Gluten Free – Although I make every effort to ensure that the ingredients list are gluten free, you should double check at the time of using as products change their base ingredients frequently

Moules marinière

Moules MariniereImage:
Moules Mariniere

Mussels are in season in any month that has an ‘R’ is the old British adage, and this classic French\Belgian recipe is a restaurant classic which is deceptively easy to replicate at home. Although I love the mussels, my favourite part of the dish is the creamy white wine sauce, mopped up with fresh crusty bread, like a home-made Irish Soda Bread.


  • 1.75kg fresh live mussels
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 15g butter
  • a bouquet garni of tied parsley stalks, thyme stems and bay leaves
  • 100ml dry white wine or cider
  • 120ml double cream
  • handful of parsley leaves, coarsley chopped

Serves 4 – Gluten Free*


  1. Wash the mussels under plenty of cold, running water, discarding any open ones that won’t close when lightly squeezed ot tapped.
  2. Pull out the tough, fibrous beards protruding from between the tightly closed shells and then knock off any barnacles with the back of a large knife, giving the mussels another quick rinse to remove any little pieces of shell and beard.
  3. Soften the garlic and shallots in the butter with the bouquet garni, in a large pan big enough to take all the mussels (it should only be half full so that thay have enough space to steam).
  4. Add the mussels and wine or cider, turn up the heat, then cover and steam them open in their own juices for 3-4 minutes. 
  5. Give the pan a good shake every now and then.
  6. Remove the bouquet garni, add the cream and chopped parsley and remove from the heat.
  7. Spoon into four large warmed bowls (discarding any closed mussels)

Serve with lots of crusty bread (chose your favourtie Gluten free bread for a gluten free version), to mop up the creamy sauce.

*Gluten Free – Although I make every effort to ensure that the ingredients list are gluten free, you should double check at the time of using as products change their base ingredients frequently

Hugh’s Mackerel with Oatmeal and Rhubarb

Mackerel Oatmeal Rhubarb
Mackerel Oatmeal Rhubarb

I saw this recipe on the television a couple of weeks ago while flicking through the less frequented satellite channels, Hugh’s mackerel, oatmeal, rhubarb, taken from Hugh’s Three Good Things on More4. Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall has recognised a simple pattern that underpins so many well-loved dishes – that they are little more or less than three good things on a plate.

This trifecta of ingredients fits that bill to perfection and tastes as good as it looks

Serves 2 – Gluten Free


  • 2 medium-thick rhubarb stems or 3–4 smaller, thinner ones (about 150g)
  • 20g caster sugar
  • A pinch of thyme leaves
  • 4 mackerel fillets from 2 medium fish (I get my fishmonger to fillet and scale the fish for me)
  • 100g medium oatmeal (use Gluten Free Oatmeal, like Hale and Hearty’s Pure Gluten Free Porridge Oats, for the Gluten Free version)
  • Sunflower oil for frying
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Trim the rhubarb, then cut into 2–3cm pieces.
  2. Place in a pan with the sugar, thyme leaves, if using, and 1 tablespoon water.
  3. Partially cover with a lid and cook gently, at a bare simmer, for 5–7 minutes. Don’t stir the rhubarb or it will lose its shape.
  4. When it is tender, remove the pan from the heat.
  5. Season the mackerel fillets all over with salt and pepper.
  6. Spread out the oatmeal on a plate, I sieved the oatmeal first and used the larger grains that were left in the sieve
  7. Coat the fillets on both sides, pressing the oatmeal on well and gently shaking off any loose bits. (For a decent coating, the mackerel should be ‘tacky’. If the oatmeal doesn’t stick, brush the fillets with just a little milk, and try again.)
  8. Heat about 2 tablespoons oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat.
  9. Add the mackerel fillets, flesh side down, and cook for 3 minutes, until the oatmeal coating is crispy and golden brown.
  10. Then carefully flip them over and cook for 2 minutes on the skin side, until cooked through.
  11. Transfer the fish to warm plates and accompany with a spoonful of the warm rhubarb compote.

Serve with bread (the Cheese Soda Bread works well here) and a fresh green salad.

Broad Bean and Prawn Risotto

Broad Bean Risotto
Broad Bean Risotto

This is a great summer supper dish, and goes well with a glass of an ice cold white wine or a glass of something bubbly. A smaller portion makes a sophisticated starter, too.
I also enjoy this on a cold winters night as it invokes those feeling of a warm summers evening with an al fresco supper out on the deck, watching the swifts and swallows darting round the sky catching insects. If I make this out of season, I use frozen baby broad beans rather than fresh, like peas they freeze exceptionally well.

When using broad beans, either fresh or frozen remember to remove the bean from that silvery casing, leaving the fresh button of resplendent green. The bean case will become tough when it’s cooked and spoil the meal

Serves 4 – Gluten Free


  • 50g butter
  • 1 onion, peeled, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled, finely chopped
  • 300g Arborio rice or other Italian risotto rice
  • 150ml oz dry white wine
  • 1.5l hot chicken stock
  • 250g fresh broad beans, double podded if fresh, single podded when frozen
  • 150g small prawns, peeled
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh chervil leaves
  • 2 tbsp mascarpone
  • 30g Parmesan cheese, grated
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


  1. Melt the butter in a large pan over a medium heat until foaming, then fry the onion and garlic for 2-3 minutes, or until softened.
  2. Add the risotto rice and stir well to coat in the butter. Cook for 1-2 minutes, or until the rice grains begin to turn translucent.
  3. Add the wine and cook for 3-4 minutes, or until nearly all of the liquid has evaporated.
  4. Add a ladleful of the chicken stock to the pan and stir well. Cook for 1-2 minutes, or until nearly all of the stock has been absorbed, then add another ladleful of the stock.
  5. Repeat the process until the rice is cooked but still al dente (you may not need all of the stock).
  6. Add the prawns in the 6-7 minutes of cooking and the the broad beans during the last 2-3 minutes of cooking.
  7. Then stir in almost all of the chopped chervil, (leaving some for the garnish) the mascarpone and Parmesan.
  8. Season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper

Serve, garnished with the rest of the chervil and a few Parmesan shavings with a couple of slices of a good artisan bread or make some Irish Soda Bread.




Butternut Squash Soup with Sage and Panchetta

Pumpkin and Panchetta Soup
Pumpkin and Panchetta Soup

This is a gloriously golden and rich soup, Just the ticket for today, which has been a grey, wet and windy Sunday in November.

Serves 4 and it’s Gluten Free too!


  • 3 tablespoons of Butter
  • 2 tablespoons of Olive Oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 2 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 tablespoon fresh sage leaves, finely chopped (about 3 leaves)
  • 200g thin pancetta slices, roughly chopped
  • 2  medium Butternut Squash ( should be 1 to 1.5 kg), peeled and diced
  • 2 tablespoons of Sherry
  • 1/8 th teaspoon of Cayenne Pepper
  • 1 litre of Chicken Stock (Use Gluten Free Stock for a Gluten Free soup)
  • 150 ml Double Cream
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to season


  1. Heat a the butter and olive oil in a large pan and lightly sauté the onion, garlic and sageuntil softened.
  2. Add the diced Butternut Squaash and saute for a further 5 mins.
  3. Add the sherry and sizzle for a few seconds to cook out the alcohol.
  4. Pour in the stock and Cayenne and bring to a boil.
  5. Cover with a lid and simmer for 25 minutes until the the Butternet squash is tender.
  6. Fry the panchetta until it’s crispy and pop on a piece of kitchen towel to drain off the fat.
  7. Biltz the soup until it’s smooth, I used my hand blender, you can use a food processor but I’d let it cool a bit first.
  8. Stir in the cream and check for seasoning
  9. Serve the soup in bowls, sprinkle over some crispy panchetta and eat…

Eat with crusty bread (like my Irish Soda Bread), it’s perfect comfort food for a blustery day.