What's for Supper - Cucumber soup

Every day I receive beautiful and inspiring photos from all the teaching chefs, who all to a woman treat their families and loved ones to amazing lock-down food, based on more or less store-cupboard ingredients.

The inspiring Jackie Hobbs made this soup while the weather was warm.

Although there is a very chilly wind in Cambridge today, the sun continues to shine from a clear blue sky which turns ones thoughts to more summery food.

This soup is made from such humble ingredients - one cucumber and one potato, plus a splash or milk and stock. It tastes lovely warm as well, if you prefer warm soup to cold. Our little milk rolls would go very well with this - click here for the recipe

Cucumber soup – serves 2

This soup can be served hot or cold. If serving cold it is probably easier to make the day before. It has a delicate flavour and it is therefore important not to overpower the cucumber flavour with too much onion or very concentrated stock.  You could substitute the onion with a small amount of leek. I only used half of a little Knorr stock pot to 750ml of hot water.  If you have any left over salad leaves, watercress or spinach, then these can be added near the end of cooking.  Fresh herbs such as dill or mint could be added at this point too. If you want to make the soup dairy free or vegan then it is not necessary to add the milk as it tastes delicious without also.  

1 medium cucumber

1/2 small onion

1 medium potato

1 tablespoons oil

750ml weak vegetable stock

Juice of half a lemon

75ml cream or milk

salt and pepper


Prepare the vegetables:

Dice the onion and cucumber and peel and chop the potato.

Heat the oil in a large pan and slowly cook the onion with a little salt over a gentle heat until soft and translucent.  Add the cucumber, potato and vegetable stock, bring to the boil and then turn to simmer for about 15 minutes, or until the potato is soft. At this point add any additional leaves or herbs, if using.  Leave to cool and then process in a liquidiser.  Add the cream or milk, if using, and juice of half a lemon.  Taste and season with salt and pepper.


What's for Supper tomorrow 

Now that all days tend to follow the same rhythm it hardly seems relevant to distinguish between weekday and weekend food. I made steak Béarnaise the other day, and Saltimbocca was on the menu midweek. I have a craving for the sweet, sour, hot and spicy flavours of Thailand and am planning to make Thai style glass noodles with prawns for supper.


What's for Supper - Easy Easter lunch

We have so much skill in our group of Leiths and Cordon Bleu trained teaching chefs.

We also still love cooking at home and recipe sharing and talking about what we have made remains a daily joy.

Of course there are days and nights when we are too tired to feel inspired and that's when leftovers come into their own. The more you cook from scratch, the more delicious leftovers you have and the less money you spend on food.

Cold chicken is a shared all time favourite and we all like roasting more than we need just to make sure there is cold chicken. Enjoying it with a dark rye, mayonnaise, sweet pickled gherkins, jalapeño peppers, pickles or mustard is just so good.

Of course you can also pick the scraps off the carcass and use it in fragrant Thai style noodle soups, curries, salads or pies. The options are endless.

Today's recipes comes from our chef Caroline Sandford, whose wonderful teaching has inspired so many over the years, not least those who have taken our 8-week course where we teach all the classic essentials for those seeking a slightly more professional grounding in the art of cooking.  A mother of 6, now all teens and young adults, we are in awe of Caroline's serene and unflappable approach to any challenge. These recipes reflect the style of cooking that has sustained her very lucky family over the years. Good, simple ingredients, delicious and healthy dishes and often using store cupboard ingredients.


Curried Parsnip Soup

Approx. 50g butter

1 onion chopped

1 clove garlic crushed

1 teaspoon mild or medium curry powder

4 parsnips cubed

Approx. 30g flour

1 tbs flour

1 litre chicken stock well seasoned

Milk and / or single cream

Salt and pepper


Lemon juice

Chives chopped


Soften onion in butter, add garlic. Add curry powder, cook few mins. Add parsnips sprinkle in flour and cook a little more. Add the stock and leave to simmer gently until parsnips are cooked. Blend in processor or using a stick blender. Add milk/ cream to achieve right consistency. Season to taste, with salt , pepper and lemon juice.  Garnish with créme fraîche and snipped chives.


Homemade Baked Beans

1 onion finely chopped
1 Stick of celery finely chopped
1 clove garlic, puréed with sea salt
A small squirt of tomato purée
1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika
Approx. 150 ml passata
Soy sauce
2 tsp brown sugar
1 tin cannellini beans, drained
Salt and pepper
Flat leaf parsley
  1. Soften onion and celery in a little sunflower oil. Add garlic followed by tomato purée and paprika, cook for a minute, then add passata, soy, brown sugar. Reduce a little, check seasoning then add beans to heat through. Garnish with parsley. Quick and delicious.


Roast chicken

1 whole chicken

1 lemon

A few wedges of onion (optional)

Hard herbs such as thyme, tarragon or rosemary

Sea salt and ground black pepper

Olive oil or butter for the chicken skin

  1.         Set the oven at 190C.
  2.         Prick the lemon a few times with the tip of a knife
  3.         In the roasting tin, pour a tablespoon of sunflower oil
  4.         Add to it a very generous few pinches of salt and pepper
  5.        Roll the lemon in it, then push into the chicken carcass
  6.        Push in the herbs
  7.        Place the chicken in the tin
  8.        Drizzle a little olive oil or smear some soft butter over the chicken and season with salt and
  9.        pepper
  10.        No matter how small the chicken, roast for an hour.
  11.        For a medium chicken (1.2-1.5kg) roast for 1 hour 15 min
  12.        For a large chicken (1.5-2.5kg) roast for 1 hour and a half
  13.       To check that the chicken is cooked, remove the tin from the oven
  14.       Insert into the thickest part of a thigh, the tip of a knife and gently press on the thigh
  15.       The juices that run out should be clear. If pink or red, put it back in the oven and check    again after 10 minutes.

Remove the roasting tray from the oven and let the kitchen sit to cool down for 10-12 minutes.   This will keep it juicy. It will still be very warm, just not piping hot when you carve it. The chicken meat should be succulent, tender and moist. Far too often chicken is served way past its "done" point which means the meat is dry and dull. Cold chicken, and any leftover roast potatoes and veg is one of life's absolute joys. With dark rye and mayonnaise it is addictively good. You could roast two smaller chickens instead of one larger, to make sure there is plenty for leftovers.

What's for supper tomorrow

An easy Easter Sunday lunch of confit salmon, oven fried cherry tomatoes, in my case served with a celeriac mash. I need to use up the final celeriac of the past 5 months. Such a delicious and versatile root vegetable which has been a weekly, sometimes daily ingredient in my winter cooking both at home and in the café. I now turn my eyes and thoughts to that most special of seasonal crops - asparagus...


What's for Supper - Borscht

It has turned into quite a warm afternoon here in Cambridge and this Eastern European soup is more of a cold weather dish, really. The first time I tried Borscht was in a Russian restaurant  in Helsinki, back in the late 1980's, on a bitterly cold evening in February. The snow covered scenery was more Russia than Scandinavia, and the food memory stands out as one of my top ten. Like most first comers to this beetroot and potato based soup, I expected it to be perhaps a tad bland, tasting mainly, I imagined, earthy. I was completely blown away by the rich, savoury, umami-redolent, deeply satisfying flavour. The contrast between the thick, rich, savoury and piping hot soup and a dollop of cool, soured Smetana and some chopped sweet pickled gherkins was sensational. I tend to use Crème Fraiche or sour cream, but you can of course exclude that bit entirely if you are Vegan. If you are a carnivore, then using beef stock for the soup helps to underpin the savoury richness, but given that all the ingredients are plant based, a good vegetable stock would be the most obvious choice.

The red pepper in my bowl is not a traditional ingredients in Borscht, but it's the right colour, and its sweetness does the soup no harm. My tomatoes are on their last leg, so perfect for soup.

Peel, chop and/or slice the following 

1 onion

2 large potatoes 

A couple of celery stalks

3 garlic cloves,

4 beets

1/2 small red cabbage

A couple of tomatoes - mine shown here are about to reach the end of their shelf life so perfect for soup making.

A generous splash of one of my previously mentioned stove side favourites, Marsala wine

Good beef or vegetable stock

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To serve: Full fat Crème Fraiche, chopped sweet pickled gherkins

Heat a good lug of sunflower oil and a large knob of butter in a large saucepan.

Add all the prepared vegetables, a couple of good pinches of sea salt and a little black pepper. Sweat over a medium heat, while stirring occasionally. If you are a carnivore, using goose or duck fat instead of the oil and butter will add lovely depth.

The vegetables should be glossy from the cooking fat and should just have started to take on a little bit of colour: 5-10 minutes or so of cooking.

Add the Marsala and the stock.

Cover and leave to simmer for 25-30 minutes.

Some recipes for Borscht leave the soup as it is with the bits of vegetables but I much prefer blending it. Taste it, adjust the seasoning. I would expect to add a bit more salt and I might be tempted to add a little Balsamic vinegar or Pomegranate molasses - both utterly in-authentic but both do something very nice by introducing both acidity and sweetness at the same time.

To serve, pour very hot soup into bowls, add a good dollop of Crème Friache, and a little spoonful of chopped sweet pickled gherkins. I happened to have a stalk of rosemary in my fridge, but dill would be more in keeping with the origins of the soup.

Join me again tomorrow

As usual, no sooner have I finished one meal than I begin to think of the next. I have a very nice organic rump steak in my freezer. I could go classic French and make a Béarnaise sauce and serve the steak very rare, with a baked potato. Not your average Tuesday supper and the weather is meant to be warm, so maybe I will make steak Burritos instead. I have avocado that could do with using up so that's probably what will be on the menu tomorrow...

What's for Supper Breakfast special - 5 second scramble

In preparation for my Monday morning zoom yoga class with local teacher and café regular Helen Pomeroy, I felt some protein was in order. What better than a 5 second scramble. A healthy, lean protein breakfast, brunch or lunch which takes a total of three minutes to make if you include toasting bread, getting your utensils out, cooking and plating up! Not many dishes deliver that.

We often get asked by our guests in the café how we make our popular scramble. Fast and furious are the key words. We use eggs, a teaspoon of sunflower oil and full heat under the pan. No cream, no water and most definitely no milk.

Break up the eggs using a fork. Don't whisk, just mix to create an elastic texture.

While you do this, whack the heat up under you frying pan in which you have poured about half a teaspoon of sunflower oil. Tip in the eggs, spatula or fork at the ready - as shown in the little video clip here. Some of may shudder at the sound of my stainless steel fork in my non stick pan. There is something about plastic, silicon and rubber utensils that I find unappetising and quite annoying, so I prefer a fork, applied with a light touch. So far, my trusted pans remain unscathed.


Tip the scramble onto a piece of toasted sour dough. I love adding Sriracha sauce - creamy egg and hot chilli is a match made in heaven. I am also unapologetic about my love of parsley.

What's for supper this evening

My recipe for supper this evening will be my take on Borscht - a savoury, umami-redolent, muscular Beast from the East soup. All you will need is potato, beets (raw) onion, garlic, stock...