Griddled squash with feta, mint and chilli

griddled squash

This is such a beautifully simple dish, inspired by a Nigella Lawson recipe from Nigella Summer. As Nigella says herself, it’s really more of an assembly job than cooking.

griddled squash3

The star of the original recipe is griddled aubergine but because we currently have a glut of yellow, patty pan squash in the garden, I thought I’d experiment by swapping the aubergine for squash. And I’m pleased to report it wasn’t a complete disaster. The griddled squash didn’t hold together quite as well as aubergine would have done, and so the end result probably wasn’t quite as pretty as it should have been, but it was stonkingly tasty nonetheless.

griddled squash2

The creamy filling of lemon-soaked feta partnered with chilli and mint is gloriously fresh and zingy, making this an incredibly moreish dish while being really rather healthy at the same time; a very good combination, if you ask me.

Griddled squash with feta, mint and chilli

1 large patty pan squash (or 2 large aubergines (thinly sliced lengthwise)
4 tbsp olive oil
250g feta cheese
1 large red or green chilli (finely chopped & deseeded)
1 bunch fresh mint (finely chopped – with extra for sprinkling)
juice of 1 lemon
black pepper

Quick and easy gazpacho

gazpacho

I like to think of this as a summer salad in a soup. A beautifully refreshing, fragrantly deliciously ice-cold soup, perfect on a hot, sticky day.

It’s an excellent way to use up those salad ingredients that have been sat in the fridge just a little too long. I always seem to be over ambitious when I buy salad stuff. Ideally you should buy your salad the day you’re going to eat it – ideally from a fabulous farmer’s market where all the produce has been grown within a few miles’ radius. But like most people, I do a weekly shop at the supermarket and by the end of the week, the contents of the salad drawer are beginning to look a little sad. This soup is definitely the solution.

What’s more, it’s a cinch to make too. I can’t be bothered to peel and seed my tomatoes, or peel and salt the cucumber, as gazpacho recipes usually demand. Clearly if I were entertaining and out to impress, I might push the boat out and make a little more effort. But when I’m rustling up a speedy lunch, I simply bung everything in a food processor, give it all a quick whizz and in seconds you have the most glorious gazpacho. Job done!

gazpacho

Quick and easy gazpacho

Serves 2

Half a cucumber, chopped
750g ripe tomatoes, chopped
2 spring onions, sliced
handful fresh mint, roughly chopped
handful fresh basil, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tbsp olive oil, plus more for drizzling
juice of half a lemon
celery salt
pepper

This really couldn’t be easier. Simply place the cucumber, tomatoes, spring onions, herbs and garlic in a food processor and blend. I like my gazpacho to be quite smooth, while my husband prefers it a little chunky. So we usually end up somewhere in between.

Stir in the olive oil and lemon juice, and season with celery salt and pepper to taste.

Chill in the fridge for a couple of hours. Serve with a drizzle of olive oil and, if you like it really cold, a couple of ice cubes.

gazpacho

I’m entering my quick and easy gazpacho into a number of blog events…

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No Croutons Required is a monthly blog event for soups and salads suitable for vegetarians, hosted by Lisa’s Kitchen and Tinned Tomatoes. I think this soup fits the bill.

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Vegetable Palette is a new vegetarian blog challenge from Allotment 2 Kitchen, which calls for dishes made from fruits or vegetables of a chosen colour. July’s theme is red, so I think this tomato-based soup is perfect.

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With all that tomato and cucumber, I think this gazpacho definitely qualifies as a serving of Extra Veg, which is the theme for the blog challenge hosted each month by Fuss Free Flavours and Utterly Scrummy, and this month is being guest-hosted by Juggle Mum.

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Of course, I’ve got to enter my soup into July’s hosted Family Foodies, the blog challenge I take turns in hosting with Louisa at Eat Your Veg. This month the theme is Chill Out, Baby!

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Al Fresco is the theme for this month’s Four Seasons Food, a seasonal blog event hosted by Eat Your Veg and Delicieux. I reckon this gazpacho would make a lovely lunch to eat out on the patio.

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Basil is the theme for July’s Cooking with Herbs challenge hosted by Lavender & Lovage, and as my soup features lots of lovely basil (and mint too), I’ve just got to enter it.

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And finally, with all those seasonal salad goodies, I’ve got to enter it into Ren Behan‘s Simple and in Season challenge, hosted this month by My Custard Pie.

Lemon roast chicken for Sunday supper and Monday lunch

lemon roast chicken beetroot carrot sweet potato

Before I had a family and had slightly more disposable income, I rarely took a homemade lunch into work. I’d usually pop out to the local sandwich shop, or on a Friday I might join colleagues for a pub lunch and a shandy. Those were the days!

Keeping a lid on our food budget means preparing a packed lunch most days, for me and my husband and the girls. And very often that means making the most of the leftovers from the night before. But lunchbox leftovers don’t need to be dull, and they don’t need to be a case of simply reheating last night’s dinner.

leftover lunchesI’ve teamed up with Most Wanted, the lifestyle magazine from money-saving site VoucherCodes.co.uk to devise a recipe that demonstrates how you can spend just a tenner on a delicious family meal for four that can then be magically transformed into a deliciously different lunch the following day.

The good folk at Most Wanted are keen to help people make the most of their money without compromising on life’s little luxuries. While a trip to the local deli might be a nice treat, regularly spending £5 on a salad or panini can’t be cost-effective. So they’re on the search for tasty recipes that create an abundance of leftovers you can eat for lunch without it costing a fortune.

I love a roast on a Sunday and, what’s more, they are ideal for leaving you with heaps of delicious leftovers for versatile weekday lunches, from soups and curries to sandwiches, wraps and salads. Personally I like to play with my leftovers a little, so I don’t find myself growing bored eating the same dish again and again.

This lemon roast chicken with beetroot, carrot and sweet potato is a colourful and cheery take on a roast dinner, making the most of those seasonal root vegetables. The veggies are roasted along with the chicken for an incredibly easy meal, full of rich, sweet, caramelised flavours.

lemon roast chicken carrot beetroot sweet potato

To give the chicken its incredibly fresh, vibrant flavour, I roast it with half a lemon stuffed inside, and then when the cooked chicken is resting, I squeeze the juice of the other half all over the skin. It’s so simple but it tastes glorious.

lemon roast chicken

Then to turn the roast into a different dish for Monday lunch, I’ve used the leftover meat and vegetables in a tasty bulgur wheat salad with fresh mint and coriander and lots of nutty, juicy pomegranate seeds. The colours are fantastic and I love the way the beetroot juices soak into the bulgur wheat turning it pink.

lemon roast chicken beetroot carrot sweet potato

What’s more, you should also have enough chicken left over to cook up a soup for Tuesday lunch, making a stock from the chicken bones.

And all this for under £10. Pretty good, eh?

lemon roast chicken carrot beetroot sweet potato

Lemon roast chicken with beetroot, carrots and sweet potato

Serves 4 with leftovers

1 medium chicken (around 1.5kg)
1 lemon
salt and pepper
25g soft butter
400g raw beetroots
450g carrots
350g sweet potatoes
olive oil
mixed salad leaves

Preheat the oven to 220°C / gas mark 7.

Sit the chicken in a roasting tin. Cut the lemon in half, and then one of the halves into quarters. Place the lemon quarters inside the chicken cavity and sprinkle some salt in there too.

Rub the butter over the skin and sprinkle with some more salt. Put the chicken in the oven and roast for around 1 hour and 20 minutes, or until the juices run clear when you poke a sharp knife into the thickest part of a leg. If the skin is browning too quickly, cover with a sheet of kitchen foil.

Peel the beetroot, carrot and sweet potato. Cut the beetroot and sweet potato into wedges, and slice the carrot into similar sized chunks.

Place the beetroot onto a sheet of foil and drizzle over a little olive oil and a grind of salt and pepper. Wrap loosely and place in another roasting tin.

Place the carrot and sweet potato at the other end of the tin, and similarly drizzle with oil and a little salt and pepper. Mix it up with your hands to make sure the vegetables are well coated.

Put the vegetables in the oven once the chicken has had around 50 minutes of its cooking time. Roast the vegetables for around 40 minutes, until they are tender and beginning to brown.

When the chicken is out of the oven, sprinkle with a little more salt and squeeze the juice from the other half of lemon all over the crispy skin. Leave to rest for 10 minutes before carving.

Serve the roast chicken and vegetables with a simple leaf salad. There’s no need for any dressing; simply pour over the lemony roast chicken juices. Don’t be greedy now – make sure you leave enough chicken and veggies for tomorrow’s lunch.

So now for those leftovers…

lemon chicken bulgar wheat roast vegetables

Lemon chicken and bulgur wheat salad with roast vegetables and pomegranate seeds

Serves 4

125g bulgur wheat
leftover roast vegetables – beetroot, sweet potato and carrot
handful each of fresh coriander and mint, roughly chopped
seeds from half a pomegranate
juice of half a lemon
olive oil
salt and pepper
leftover cold roast chicken

Rinse the bulgur wheat and place in a large bowl. Cover with boiling water to at least double the height of the bulgur wheat, and leave for 15 minutes. Drain the bulgur wheat and leave to cool.

To assemble the salad, simply place the bulgur wheat in a large bowl with the vegetables, fresh herbs and pomegranate seeds.

Squeeze over the lemon juice and drizzle with a little olive oil. Season to taste.

Mix it all together gently. Taste and adjust the seasoning if required.

If you’re serving this straightaway, lay pieces of shredded chicken on top of the salad and bring to the table.

If you’re taking the salad to school or work for lunch, I share the salad between the plastic boxes and then place the torn pieces of chicken on top before popping the lid on.

For some reason, I prefer to keep the chicken separate to the rest of the salad, but feel free to mix it all up together if you like.

So there you have my two ways with a roast chicken.

How do you use your Sunday roast leftovers?

Disclosure: This post is sponsored by VoucherCodes. I received a fee to buy the ingredients and develop the recipes. 

no food waste challenge

 

As these recipes are a brilliant way to ensure you reduce your food waste, I’m entering them into this month’s No Waste Food Challenge hosted by London Unattached and Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary.

Sweet and sour winter salad

sweet and sour winter salad

This article first appeared in the Wells Journal on 9 January 2014.

In the deepest, darkest days of winter, it is not uncommon to crave large helpings of a warming slow-cooked casserole, a rich, meaty pie or a satisfying steamed pudding smothered in hot custard.

There are times though when it’s not heavy, stodgy comfort food my body yearns for. Instead I need something light, crunchy and zingy; a fresh and healthy dish to transport my head to more sunshiny climes.

While this salad is comprised for the main part of seasonal winter produce, it successfully delivers a taste of summer, as well as providing a much-needed alternative use for those seemingly uninspiring ingredients filling our veggie boxes week after week at this time of year.

Based on a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe, this salad is extremely versatile and can be used with just about any root vegetable or cabbage. All the vegetables are served raw, either grated or finely shredded, so it is very much like a winter coleslaw or remoulade. But it is the dressing that really elevates this salad, featuring generous handfuls of fresh herbs, lemon juice, salty capers, mustard, sour cherries, sultanas and a little sugar, for a superbly vibrant sweet and sour kick.

I served it alongside a baked ham for our Boxing Day gathering and it went down a storm with family and friends. It’s also a very good accompaniment to simple grilled fish or chicken, or include it as part of a mezze.

So next time you pull up yet another swede or parsnip from you veg box or allotment, don’t automatically boil it up or roast it. Instead, give this sweet and sour salad a go and bring your taste buds out of hibernation.

sweet and sour winter salad

Sweet and sour winter salad

Serves 4-6

500g winter vegetables, shredded or grated
(I used red cabbage, celeriac, parsnip and swede)
handful fresh coriander, roughly chopped
handful fresh mint, roughly chopped
50g capers
juice of 1 large lemon
1 tsp cider vinegar
4 tbsp olive oil
4 tbsp vegetable oil
3 tsp wholegrain mustard
3 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp caster sugar
50g dried sour cherries
50g raisins
salt and pepper

Place all the shredded or grated vegetables in a large mixing bowl and simply add the rest of the ingredients. Use your hands to thoroughly combine everything to make sure the vegetables absorb all those flavours.

Add salt and pepper to taste, and possibly a little more vinegar or sugar depending on how sweet or sour you like it.

Leave the salad for an hour or so before serving to allow the flavours to develop. I always intentionally make too much, as I think it tastes even better the next day.

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As this salad features both fresh herbs and zingy lemon, I’m entering it into this month’s Cooking with Herbs hosted by Karen at Lavender & Lovage where the theme for January is Herbs & Citrus Fruits.

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It is also my offering for Extra Veg, a new challenge hosted by Fuss Free Flavours and Utterly Scrummy, encouraging us all to eat an extra portion of vegetables each day. With a big bowl of this in your fridge, there’s no excuse to snack on the bad stuff when you get the munchies.

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Since it’s such an unbelievably healthy bowful of goodness, I’ve got to share it with Four Seasons Food (hosted by Eat Your Veg and Delicieux), where the theme this month is Virtuous Food.

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And finally I’m also entering this salad into the Fabulous Fusion Food challenge, hosted by by the very talented Deena Kakaya.

After Eight ice cream sundaes

Sundae CollageIn the words of Perry and Bing and may other crooners, it’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas. Our tree went up at the weekend and suddenly the house feels transformed into a magical, sparkly wonderland. It’s the earliest  we’ve ever put it up. My husband doesn’t think we should have a tree until Christmas Eve, but I’ve been working on him over the years and, having been to the children’s school Christmas fair the day before, it just felt right for it to go up last Saturday.

We also made these After Eight ice cream sundaes at the weekend, which got us into the festive feasting spirit. Wow – they were good. Indulgent, rich and decadent, just like a proper sundae should be. Not of course, something you should eat every day though. But for a Christmas treat, these are just the ticket.

after eight sundae

I must admit, I haven’t eaten After Eight Mints for some years. I associate them with Christmas as a child back in the eighties. I can clearly remember being at my grandparents’ house in Lancashire for Christmas and having them at the end of a meal. As the grown ups were chatting, I pretty much worked my way through the box, and I couldn’t deny how many I’d eaten as the evidence was there in front of me in the form of a pile of those little black envelopes. I’d forgotten how much I like them. And my children seem rather partial to them to. It was a battle keeping the grubby little mitts off them so that I had enough to make this dessert.

The good people at After Eight sent me some of their goodies to experiment with: a box of After Eight Mints and their After Eight Collection, a selection of dark and white mint chocolates. The challenge was to come up with a dessert featuring their chocolate mints. As my children adore mint choc chip ice cream, an ice cream sundae was the obvious choice. 

These sundaes are very simple to make; more of an assembly job really. There are chocolate brownies at the bottom. Feel free to bake your own, but I made things easy on myself by buying some. Next comes a layer of forest fruits, which bring a touch of tartness to the proceedings. You need it to cut through all that rich sweetness. Then there’s the After Eight ice cream. Even if you don’t fancy making the whole sundae, do try making the ice cream – it’s a lovely take on the classic mint choc chip and really couldn’t be easier to create.

after eight ice cream

Melted After Eight Mints combined with a little cream conjure up a wonderful chocolate sauce, which is loving drizzled over the ice cream before topping with whipped cream for that extra level of indulgence.

after eight chocolate sauce

So there you have it – my simple After Eight ice cream sundaes. You’re welcome!

After Eight ice cream sundaes

Makes 4 large sundaes

Half a litre vanilla ice cream
300g box of After Eight Mints
4 chocolate brownies, cut into bite-size chunks
300ml double cream
250g forest fruits (fresh or frozen)
After Eight Collection chocolates for decoration

Place the ice cream in a bowl and allow to soften at room temperature for about 10 minutes.

Chop half the After Eight Mints into small pieces. Fold the mint pieces into the ice cream, spoon into a plastic carton, cover and place in the freezer until it has re-frozen.

To make the sauce, place the remaining After Eight Mints and 100ml of the cream in a saucepan over a gentle heat. Stir until the chocolate mints have completely melted and the sauce has formed. Leave to cool.

Whip the remaining cream in a large bowl until stiff.

Place the brownie pieces at the bottom of four sundae glasses and top with a couple of spoonfuls of the frozen fruits. On top of the fruits place a couple of scoops of the chocolate mint ice cream and drizzle with a generous smothering of chocolate mint sauce. Finally, spoon whipped cream on top of each sundae and decorate with a pretty chocolate from the After Eight Collection. 

Dig in and enjoy to your heart’s content!

Disclosure: this post is sponsored by After Eight who paid me to develop this recipe and provided me with complimentary boxes of After Eight Mints and the After Eight Collection.

As this pudding definitely fits the description of a Festive Treat, I’m entering it into December’s Teatime Treats hosted by What Kate Baked and Lavender & Lovage.

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And these sundaes would be great for parties, so I’m also entering them into Four Seasons Food hosted by  Delicieux and Eat Your Veg.

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My children adored the sundaes, so I reckon they would also make a good entry for December’s Family Foodies challenge over at Eat Your Veg, where the theme is Kids Christmas.

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Beetroot and carrot pancakes with herby mascarpone

What is it about pancakes that makes them just so popular? Whenever I announce to my brood that pancakes are on the menu, there are always shrieks of excitement. They don’t seem to care either what the pancakes are made from, so if you’re finding it tricky to get certain foodstuffs, such as beetroot, into your youngsters, pancakes could be the ideal way to sneak it past them.

These pancakes are made from beetroot and carrot, although I’m sure if you did a blind taste test no-one would be able to guess. They simply taste good in a savoury, wholesome kind of way. I was rather hopeful the final pancakes would be pink like the batter. My girls would have loved that. But unfortunately the colour changed as the pancakes fried. Perhaps if you use only beetroot you end up with a stronger colour? I need to experiment some more, I think.

I came up with these pancakes as my entry for this month’s Recipes for Life challenge. The three set ingredients for March, you see, are beetroot, carrot and cheese. So the beetroot and carrot are in the pancakes, while the cheese comes in the form of Italian mascarpone cheese combined with Greek yoghurt, lemon juice and lots of fresh herbs for a very delicious topping.

I’m running the Recipes for Life challenge in partnership with Somerset charity SWALLOW which works with adult with learning difficulties. Over a six month period we’re challenging food bloggers to come up with a whole host of tasty, healthy and easy-to-cook dishes and the best of these will appear in a new cookbook to raise money for the charity. So if you have your own ideas of what to cook with beetroot, carrot and cheese why don’t you get involved?

But for now, back to my pancakes…

Beetroot and carrot pancakes with herby mascarpone

Serves 4 to 6

250g self-raising flour
50g beetroot, scrubbed and grated
50g carrot, scrubbed and grated
2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
salt and pepper
2 eggs
90g melted butter
420g milk
vegetable oil for frying
200g mascarpone cheese
200g Greek-style yoghurt
2 tbsp lemon juice
large handfuls of fresh parsley and mint (or whatever herbs you fancy), roughly chopped

For the pancake batter, put the flour, beetroot, carrot, bicarbonate of soda and a generous grind of both salt and pepper in a large bowl and mix together well.

Gently beat the eggs in a separate bowl and then add the melted butter and milk and mix. Add this to the beetroot and carrot mixture and stir until everything is well combined.

Heat a spot of oil in a heavy-based non-stick frying pan. When it’s hot, drop in spoonfuls of the batter and cook your pancakes for a minute on each side. Keep your pancakes warm in the oven until you’ve worked through all the batter.

To make the herby topping, simply put the mascarpone and yoghurt in a bowl with the lemon juice and throw in the chopped herbs. Mix it all together and season to taste.

Serve your pancakes with a good dollop of the herby mascarpone on top.

As this dish features lots of lovely fresh herbs, I’m also entering it into Lavender & Lovage’s Herbs on Saturday blog challenge, which this month is being hosted by London Busy Body. Lots of lovely recipes featuring herbs as a star ingredient have already been entered, so do take a look. I’m sure you’ll be inspired!

I’m also entering it into Turquoise Lemons’ fantastic No Waste Food Challenge where food bloggers are asked to share recipes using a particular ingredient in a bid to prevent food waste. This month the challenge is hosted by Elizabeth’s Kitchen. Do pop over and take a look. A great resource if you’ve got lots of eggs to use up!

And finally as beetroot and carrot are both in season, I’m entering the pancakes into this Fabulicious Food’s Simple and in Season challenge, which this month is being hosted by my fantastic Food Blogger Connect buddy Chez Foti.

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Slow roasted pork neck in thyme, rosemary & bay with mint flatbreads

Generally in January I yearn for rib-sticking, stodgy, winter warmers; the kind of hearty, satisfying food that provides an extra layer of insulation against the cold and damp outside.

But occasionally I find myself craving sunshine food; dishes that remind me of blue skies, eating al fresco and the scent of honeysuckle. And this slow roasted pork does exactly that. The sweet, fragrant and tender pork neck is shredded and served simply with flatbreads, salad and tzatziki, very reminiscent of incredible gyros we enjoyed on holiday in Kefalonia last summer.

Pork neck is a very cheap cut of meat but you’ll probably need to ask your butcher for it. Ours doesn’t have it out on the counter as it’s not all that popular; he normally uses it in his sausages. But it is perfect for slow cooking – so delicious and full of flavour, especially when you marinade it in plenty of herbs, garlic and lemon juice. Don’t be tempted to rush the roasting. For a wonderfully succulent texture, the pork neck will need around four to five hours in the oven.

Slow roasted pork neck in thyme, rosemary and bay

Serves 4

1kg pork neck
6 cloves of garlic, peeled
large bunch of fresh thyme, leaves stripped
2 large sprigs of rosemary
1 lemon
handful of bay leaves

Preheat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 6. You begin with a high temperature to get it started and then whack it right down low to slow cook.

Using a pestle and mortar, roughly crush the garlic cloves with the thyme, a handful of rosemary picked from the stalk and the juice of half the lemon. Put the piece of pork into a medium-sized ovenproof dish, pierce all over with a sharp knife and rub all over with the garlic and herb mixture so it penetrates the flesh.

Chop the remaining lemon half into half again and place in the dish alongside the pork with the rest of the rosemary and bay leaves. Cover tightly with foil and place in the oven. (If you’re using an Aga, place in the middle of the top oven.)

After 15 to 20 minutes, just enough time to really get the meat hot, turn the temperature down to 140°C/gas mark 1, or the middle of the simmering Aga oven.

Roast for four to five hours until the meat is tender and beginning to fall apart.

Remove the foil and increase the temperature to 200°C/gas mark 6 (back to the top Aga oven) again for another 10 to 15 minutes to brown the pork a little.

Shred the pork using a couple of forks and pile onto a large serving plate. Bring to the table with a simple salad, tzatziki and a stack of warm mint flatbreads (below).

Mint flatbreads

These flatbreads were inspired by a Yotam Ottolenghi recipe in his wonderful book Plenty. I’ve swapped coriander for mint, which perfectly complements the Greek-style pork and yoghurt.

280g plain flour
3tsp baking powder
1½ tsp salt
280g Greek yoghurt
1 tbsp dried mint
butter
olive oil

Place the flour, baking powder, salt, yoghurt and mint in a large bowl and mix together to form a dry dough. Add a little more flour it it’s a bit sticky. Knead the dough for a couple of minutes until it is smooth and stretchy. Wrap the dough in clingfilm and chill in the fridge for an hour.

Divide the dough into 10 to 12 pieces, form into balls and then roll with a rolling pin into round discs about 2mm thick.

Heat a knob of butter and a little olive oil in a large, heavy-based frying pan over a medium heat and fry the flatbreads, one at a time, for a couple of minutes on each side until golden brown. Add a little more butter and oil as required. Keep the flatbreads warm until you’ve cooked them all.

Enjoy with your slow roasted pork!

As this dish features lots of lovely herbs, I’m entering it into Lavender & Lovage’s Herbs on Saturday recipe challenge, which I also happen to be hosting this month!