Category Archives: Chilli

Lime & Pineapple

Last November my husband and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary with a very decadent trip to the Maldives, staying at the incredible Six Senses Laamu. During the week we met and made friends with Phil and Jenny Howard. Phil is head chef at the 2 Michelin starred restaurant, The Square in Mayfair, and was out in The Maldives as a guest chef. I attended his master class (amazing squid linguine) but Chris got a touch of heat stroke (over enthusiastic turtle-chasing) which prevented us from enjoying what was no doubt a sublime meal at the Leaf restaurant that night.

As compensation he bought me Phil’s two cookbooks for Christmas, and I have been dipping my toe slowly in. Under the banner of The Square, they are, as you would expect, very ‘fine dining’, with gorgeous, if intimidating photos, and I fear that many of these beautiful books will resentfully reside on London’s glass coffee tables without ever seeing a kitchen. This is a real shame, as Phil has painstakingly and intelligently written his recipes to be cooked by everyday cooks, giving explicit directions, with ‘make or break’ tips at the beginning of each. I really welcomed this, as I have often found that it is the tiniest of things which make a difference, and recipes rarely point them out, (which makes me wonder how often they really have been tried and tested).

So, which recipe of Phil’s can I recommend? For me, this one wins hands down, and actually, the recipe is fairly straightforward as long as you have the time, and Radio 4 / Carly Simon / No Kids to keep you company. The first time I made this, I followed it to the letter, and made individual tarte tatins, with sticky caramelised rings of pineapple, spiked with tiny shards of chilli (see this review for a pic of the real thing). For the purpose of this blog post, I was a little lazier as time was short, and adapted it to make one large tarte.

I am, I admit, in the middle of a crush on limes, and its ability to add sharp enhancement to Asian dishes, and fragrant sophistication to desserts. I don’t think however, that I have ever come across lime and pineapple together (let alone with the addition of chilli) before – except maybe in a cocktail? And I love it – and am planning to devise a lime and pineapple cake, with maybe a touch of coconut?  In fact, Phil asks that we present his individual tartes on a flurry of coconut powder, which alas, I did not have handy, but will endeavour to source (or make with coconut oil and Sosa maltrodextrine, as advised….) next time…

The lime ice-cream however, deserved more care, as it’s completely UNBELIEVABLE! (- the first time I have used capitals in this blog, as the trend annoys me, but necessary here to give you some idea of its fabulousness). Such a simple recipe, and delicious on its own, but with crisp butter pastry, and darkly toffeed pineapple, it is truly elevated to Michelin Star status.


Puff Pastry (all butter – Anchor’s is great) – 400g

For the ice-cream

4 limes

250ml whipping cream

250ml icing sugar

For the Pineapple

1 supersweet ripe pineapple (important that it’s sweet for caramelising)

150g unsalted butter

150g caster sugar

1 red chilli

30ml white rum


– Grate the zest from the limes as finely as possible and add to the cream and squeeze in 100ml of the juice, passed through a sieve.

– Add sugar and stir to dissolve, and if you can, leave for a few hours to infuse – preferably overnight.



– Churn in an ice-cream machine no more than two hours before serving

– Transfer to freezer

– Top and tail the pineapple

– Cut into small pieces, removing all the ‘eyes’

– Dry on kitchen roll for one hour

– Roll out the puff pastry into a round to fit a 20cm cast iron pan (2mm thick) and leave to rest

– Add butter and sugar to the pan and cook over a medium heat until you have a rich caramel


– Add the pineapple and cook until they are a rich hazlenut brown.

– Finely slice the chilli and add along with the rum and mix in.


– place the pastry over the pan and tuck in the sides


– put the whole pan in the oven on 180 degrees for 15 minutes until the pastry is golden and crisp.


– Turn out, slice up and serve with the lime ice-cream.



I only wish I had photographed the full Phil version, as it does look way more glamorous, with its flouncy skirt of crisp pastry accessorised with caramel swirls,  but it tastes just as good, I promise!







Sent from my iPad


Cheese & Cayenne Pepper

My nanna was a great cook;  one of the things she made that stood out for me as a greedy child (nothing much changed there then!) was her Sables. French for ‘sand’,  they were particularly delicious cheese biscuits with a spicy kick that she would serve with drinks, cut into triangles and sprinkled with salt. Google tells me that they date back to 1670, and originated in Southern Normandy. Asking one day how she made them, I remember her saying. ‘easy as pie – equal quantities of butter, flour and cheese with a large pinch of cayenne pepper’ . I never forgot that, and although I have tried numerous other recipes – mainly for cheese straws (I like the statuesque impact of a spray of them on the table) I always go back to this one. You can’t make them into straws as the dough is too sticky, but they are always a huge hit whenever I serve them.

The brilliant thing is that they also welcome other flavours – I love poppy seeds in the dough itself, but I have also rolled them in the seeds for a pretty, crunchy border, or you can also add herbs (rosemary is good) crushed black pepper, chilli flakes or even garlic. I tend to use Gruyere cheese, but any hard cheese would be good – especially a strong cheddar. I have grated it finely here, but larger bits add a good crunch if you don’t have the seeds. The addition of cayenne pepper is quite unusual however, but it works so well with cheese and I often sprinkle it on cauliflower and macaroni cheese too for a bit of a kick! (see Tomato & Chilli, below). Some recipes advocate an egg yolk, but I’ve always found this makes the mixture too wet.

INGREDIENTS – makes 20 (I often double up….)

75g plain flour
75g cold unsalted butter, cubed
75g Gruyere cheese, grated
½ tsp cayenne pepper
Sea salt


– Sift the flour and a pinch of salt into a bowl or food processor. Add the butter.

– Rub in or blitz in the processor until it resembles breadcrumbs.
– Add the cheese, poppy seeds and cayenne pepper.


– bring the mixture together with your hands or pulse in the processor.

– Roll out into a sausage shape, wrap in clingfilm and chill for 30 minutes.

– Heat oven to 200 degress and butter two baking sheets.
– Slice the biscuits off the roll in 5mm thickness (I find this easier than rolling out the dough as it’s still quite sticky).
– Put them on the sheets, leaving plenty of room for spreading.

– Bake for ten minutes – keep an eye on them as they can go too dark quite quickly.

– Once out of the oven, grind some sea salt on them and leave to cool for a few mins before transferring to a wire rack.

These are best eaten completely cold – I find if they are warm they are a little too greasy (although I know pinching one beforehand is virtually impossible to resist). These are fabulous with a glass of ice cold champagne – or sherry, should you wish to carry on my grandmother’s tradition…




Tomato & Chilli

I think if I could add chilli to almost every dish, I would. Just a hint of heat. I stop myself because a) that would be weird and b) I cannot eat anything hot without an ice cold glass of wine or beer, and as I am trying to cut down on mid-week alcohol, it would not be prudent….Then I spotted this recipe in Harry Eastwood’s ‘A Salad for All Seasons’  and as I had a lonely fat chilli slowly withering in the fridge, along with a surplus of cherry tomatoes, I decided to give it a go. I have also just had some ‘pantry’ shelves installed in my utility room, which are crying out for rows of home-made jars of deliciousness. And delicious it is. I have popped it on practically everything I have eaten since; crunchy cheddar cheese, left over roast chicken, smoked salmon, omelette, jacket potato and stirred into creme fraiche for a dip for chips. A bottle of New Zealand Sauvignon has also disappeared. Oopsie.

I adapted Harry’s recipe a bit as I knew my chilli was fiery, (she recommends 5) but go with what is available and how hot you like it.

It’s so easy to make – and looks stunning on the table.

INGREDIENTS – makes 1 x 350ml jar

300ml wine wine vinegar

300g caster sugar

One large or two small red chillis

6-7 cherry tomatoes


– Warm the vinegar and add the sugar until melted


– scoop out the cherry tomatoes (you could easily use normal tomatoes actually)


– chop the chilli (I don’t have a photo of this, but I think you know how it looks!)

– add to the pan and simmer for 15 mins (look, I’ve made up for it with two more pics of the pan!)



– pour into a sterilised jar (put it in the oven on 180 for 15 mins, then cool)


– cool, add a wax seal if you’re thinking of keeping (sure about that?) along with a smug, hand-written label!

Obviously if you have a surfeit of chillies (as we inexplicably did one year in our tiny veg patch) make a large batch and give some away to friends. This will mean you can then greedily but shamelessly help yourself whenever you eat at their place…