Spiced Parsnip and Apple Soup

Simple soups are great for the January slump, when you don’t want to be fussing about making anything too complicated, but you need a warming and comforting bowl of food. This spiced parsnip and apple soup will do the job: make a batch and keep it in your fridge, ready to heat up for an easy meal. The addition of lentils make it hearty and filling, and the spices make it a bit more interesting than its plainer cousins.


Bramley apples are the definitive English cooking apple: sour and juicy, they work very well here, lending a little sweetness when cooked and complementing the soup’s spices. Parsnips are one of my favourite root vegetables. Cheap, readily available, easy to prepare, with a satisfying nutty flavour, they are wonderful in soups. Both apples and parsnips are in season in January, and should be easy to find and at their best for this parsnip and apple soup.



Generous knob of butter
1 white onion, thinly sliced
600g parsnips, peeled and cut into roughly 2cm chunks
2 tbsp curry powder (or less, if you don’t like your food a bit spicy)
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp paprika
2 garlic cloves, crushed
150g dry red lentils
300g Bramley apples, peeled and cut into chunks
1 litre vegetable stock
100ml cream
flaked sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
fresh coriander and cream, to finish


  1. Melt the butter in a large saucepan on a medium heat until foaming. Add the onion and the parsnips. Cook for 5 minutes.
  2. Add spices, garlic, lentils, and apples. Stir well, and cook for 2 minutes. Pour the stock into the pan. Bring to a simmer and cook for 20-30 minutes, or until the parsnips are totally soft.
  3. Blitz the soup until smooth, either with a stick blender or in a food processor. Stir in the cream. Taste and season. Serve with a drizzle more cream and some chopped fresh coriander, if you like.

Caramel Apple Crumble

Hello January. My last recipe was a healthy salad option. This is a decadent and delicious crumble. Absolutely packed with warming buttery goodness. As you might be able to tell, I don’t really go in for the whole health kick January thing. Yes, some post-Christmas moderation is absolutely fine, if that’s what you want to do to feel better in yourself. But cutting out entire food groups is the road to sadness. January is hard enough for us all without ditching stuff that can bring us pleasure. I plan to spend January eating plenty of tasty homemade food, and that will include salads and soups and stews and fish, but also crumbles and brownies and pie. Because I’m a realist (about this, anyway).


Also, I love crumble. Humble crumble is an underrated dessert. But god, it’s just so delicious. And easy. And adaptable. This week I am bringing you this classic apple crumble number with a caramel and calvados twist. Next week, I am going to bring you a completely different crumble recipe. It will use the exact same proportions and method, but I’ll tweak the ingredients to make a different dish.


As I write this, it’s flat and grey outside. The trees are bare. It’s pouring with rain. The cat is bored and fed up of hanging out with me, but doesn’t want to leave because the weather is so grim, so she’s just giving me evil looks as if I am the one who has ruined the outside world. This is the morning that most people have gone back to work – as, indeed, have I, but I get to do the work from my living room. This month can be rough on us all, so let’s try to be kind to ourselves and each other. For instance, I am going to continue to lavish affection on the cat, even though she keeps sitting on the keyboard while I am trying to type because she’s cross that I’m working instead of playing with her. Baby steps.



Once you have the basic proportions and method down, you can do a million different things with a crumble recipe. I’ll give you another example next week. Because I care about you all.

This will make 6-8 portions. I am not saying it will feed 6-8 people, because we can happily polish this off between the two of us. Not in one sitting. I think crumble makes a great breakfast.


For the crumble topping

240g plain flour
120g golden caster sugar
130g cold butter, cut into pieces
100g hazelnuts, blitzed in food processor or finely chopped

For the base

200g sultanas
100ml calvados (or brandy of your choice, or feel free to skip the alcohol)
6 medium eating apples
70g unsalted butter
70g light brown soft brown sugar
2 tsp ground cinnamon
100g caramel (homemade or from a jar)

Cream or ice cream, to serve


  1. Pop the sultanas and the calvados in a bowl together so the sultanas can absorb some of the alcohol.
  2. Heat your oven to 190C/170C fan/gas 5. Tip the flour and sugar into a large bowl. Add the butter, then rub into the flour with your fingers until you reach breadcrumb texture. Stir in the hazelnuts. Spread the crumble evenly over a baking sheet and bake for 15 minutes, or until lightly coloured.
  3. Meanwhile, peel, core and cut the apples into chunks. Put the butter and sugar in a large saucepan and melt together over a medium heat. Cook for a couple of minutes until everything is dissolved, and the mixture is a caramel colour. Stir in the apples, and cook for 5 minutes. Add the sultanas, any remaining alcohol that hasn’t been absorbed, and cinnamon, and cook for 5 minutes more. Tip the mixture into your chosen crumble dish. Dot it with spoonfuls of the caramel.
  4. Top the fruit with your crumble. Cook the whole thing in the oven for around 15 minutes, or until hot through, golden, and bubbling. Serve with cream or ice cream.

Fennel, Apple, and Cucumber Salad

I don’t post many savoury recipes on this blog, mostly because I don’t tend to cook savoury food from recipes. It’s much more about what we’ve got in the cupboards, and what I fancy tossing into the pot that I think might taste good. Translating that into recipes for blog posts is tricky, because I don’t tend to make something in the same way twice and I’ve usually forgotten how I made a meal by the time we’re eating it.

Also, most of the time I have no idea what I am doing. With cakes, it feels more like a science to me. Add x, y and z and mix to the power of n to make blueberry muffins. The outcomes feel more predictable with desserts than savoury dishes, although I admit that’s partly because I cook proper meals so haphazardly most of the time.

But mainly, it’s because by the time I get dinner ready, we’re far too hungry to hang about while I photograph it. For dinner this evening, we had chicken wrapped in streaky bacon, stuffed with spinach and goats’ cheese and roasted in homemade garlic butter. It tasted pretty great, but I can’t do a blog post on it because it never got photographed before being fallen upon by ravenous coyotes (or, more accurately, James and I at 9pm after a really long day).


This salad feels like a cheat of a blog post, to be honest, because it’s not even really a ‘recipe’. All you have to do is chop things up and chuck them in a bowl.

Still, it’s delicious and healthy and summery, and I make it all the time, so I thought I might as well post it to break up the endless parade of cakes, if nothing else.


Notes: Obviously you don’t need to worry massively about quantities here. Use your best judgement.


1 large fennel bulb
1 eating apple (I use Jazz apples here, partly for the pleasing colour contrast of their red skins with all the green, and partly because they provide a good balance of sweetness and sharpness)
1/2 cucumber, seeds removed
1 lemon
5 tbsp good quality olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
a few sprigs of fresh dill


  1. Slice your fennel as thinly as you reasonably can, and chop your apple and cucumber into small matchsticks. There are probably julienne peelers or mandolins or something that would do this job admirably, but I just use a knife. Pop the fennel, apple, and cucumber into a bowl and mix them together.
  2. Juice your lemon, and mix it with around 5 tbsp of your good olive oil. Feel free to use more or less as you wish – you want to coat the salad well without drowning it. Toss the fennel, apple, and cucumber in the lemon and olive oil mixture. Season well with salt and pepper, then toss again.
  3. Top the salad with some fresh dill. Cover, and chill in the fridge until needed. I find this salad is best served cold.

See? There was hardly any point at all in me writing that. You could have worked it all out from looking at the picture.