Sophie’s Puglian Recipes

These are the recipes I cooked in my demonstrations at The Taste of Kent Show on 7th & 8th September, and also at Cressing Temple Barns on 28th & 29th September 2019.

Polpette di Pane Bread & Cheese Fritters

Orecchiete al Primitivo Orecchiete Pasta with Red Wine and Meatballs

Dolcetti di Pistacchii Pistacchio Biscuits

Polpette di Pane

Makes plenty, eat hot

120g stale bread of good quality

60-70g finely grated Cacioricotta, Rodez, Pecorino or Parmesan

4 large eggs

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

1 clove garlic, crushed


Sunflower oil (or a mix of sunflower and a dash or two of olive oil) for deep-frying

Break the bread up into chunks, crusts and all.  Soak in cold water for 10 minutes or so.   Squeeze out the water and plop into your mixing bowl.  Beat in all the remaining ingredients except the oil.  Don’t add salt – the cheese will be salty enough on its own. 

Use a deep-fat fryer if you have one, or if not heat a 7.5-10 cm depth of oil in a saucepan.  Slide in a test-run dessert spoonful of the batter mix and cook until golden brown, turning carefully once or twice.  This should take around 3-4 minutes. If it cooks too quickly, reduce the heat of the oil. 

Drain the fritter on kitchen paper, and bite into it as soon as the heat will let you.   The outside should be firm with a hint of crispness, the inside tender but set, and divinely cheesy.   Add more pepper if you like.  Now fry the rest of the batter, spoonful by spoonful, until you have a burnished heap of golden fritters.  

Orecchiette Al Primitivo di Manduria

Orecchiete Pasta with Red Wine and Meatballs

serves  4

For the meatballs:

300g minced beef or veal, or pork

75g soft or slightly stale breadcrumbs (crusts included)

75g freshly grated pecorino or parmesan

2-3 tablespoons finely chopped parsley

2 cloves garlic, very finely chopped

1 egg, lightly beaten

Lots of freshly ground black pepper

Salt if needed

Extra virgin olive oil for frying

And the rest:

300g orecchiette

1 red onion, chopped

250 ml Primitivo wine

To serve:

A little roughly chopped parsley

Freshly grated pecorino or parmesan

First make the meatballs (polpette):  mix the minced beef, cheese, breadcrumbs, parsley, garlic, egg and pepper  thoroughly with your hands.  Don’t add salt yet – the cheese will probably have already done the job. Test for seasoning by rolling a tiny piece of the mixture  into a mini-patty and frying in a miserly smear of oil.  Taste and adjust seasoning accordingly.  Now that’s sorted, roll the rest of the mixture into small balls.  Size-wise we’re talking around 2 cms in diameter.  

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a wide frying pan over a moderately lively heat.   Add the polpette (you should hear a hissing sizzle as they hit the oil – if you don’t then it isn’t hot enough).   Fry for a few minutes without disturbing, then shake the pan gently, to roll them over.   Fry until browned, scoop out and set aside.

Return the pan to a gentle heat, add 2-3 more tablespoons olive oil and add the onion.   Cook gently for about 10 minutes until very, very tender.

 Meanwhile, bring a large pan of water to the boil, and salt generously.   Add the orecchiette and simmer until cooked through (check packet instructions for timing).   Scoop out a cup of cooking water and reserve.  Drain the pasta.

Reheat the onion if necessary, pour in the red wine and let it sizzle for a minute or two until reduced by about half.  Tip in the meatballs and any juice they’ve given off.   Heat through, stirring so that the balls are all dyed a lush dark purple brown.   Now pile in the cooked pasta and 2 or 3 tablespoons of the reserved cooking water.  Stir so that the pasta, too, is stained purple.   Add a little more of the reserved cooking water if it seems dry but remember that it is not a dish that should be swamped in sauce.

Serve hot from the pan, scattered with parsley, and with oodles of freshly grated cheese.  

Dolcetti Di  Pistacchi

Soft almond  and pistachio biscuits

These little biscuits are simple to make and a joy to eat with their moist interior and gentle waft of lemon.

Makes 20

100g shelled pistachios

150g icing sugar, plus extra for rolling

100g ground almond

Finely grated zest 1 lemon

1 egg white, lightly beaten

Pinch of salt

Blitz the pistachios with the icing sugar until they are finely chopped.  Mix with the almonds, lemon zest and salt in a bowl. Add the egg white and mix until you have a soft dough. Knead briefly to smooth out, then wrap loosely in baking parchment and chill in the fridge for 1 hour to firm up.

Pre-heat the oven to 180C/160Fan/Gas 4. Dust the work surface with icing sugar. Divide your  dough in two. Roll each one out to form a plump sausage, 2-3 cms in diameter. Cut each sausage into 10 pieces. Round the corners and even up each piece with your fingers, to form a thick disc. Turn the base and top in icing sugar, and then place on a baking tray lined with baking parchment.

Bake for 10-12 minutes. The biscuits will crack here and there, but should not be brown. Cool on a wire rack. Those that aren’t eaten straight away can be store in an airtight tin.

Bake for



Cooking in a tent in a field, even when that field is virtually on royal turf, or at least within view of Windsor Castle, always presents extra challenges, but last weekend was a stunningly cold one for mid-April. Despite this, we managed to turn out some pretty decent delights between all of us. There were two ex-Masterchef and one ex-Bake-Off contestent : Ondine Hartgroves knocked out her famous Korean chicken, Saira Hamilton cooked from her new book My Bangladesh Kitchen, and Ian Cumming swung a startling hand-made icing gizmo over a chocolate tart turning at a stately pace on an old microwave motor.


And me…I just cooked (recipes below) and sampled, and generally worked on quality control.




Poached Chicken with Sumac and Pomegranate, with Preserved Lemon Aioli; Persepolis Marinated Aubergine ;  Bean, Rosemary and Pancetta Soup;  Torta Caprese with Raspberry Ripple Mascarpone, honey comb


1 whole free range chicken

1/2 lemon

whichever of the following you have to hand (none of them is fine, too):

1 carrot, quartered

1 onion, quartered

1 stem celery, quartered

1 bay leaf

a small handful of parsley

several sprigs thyme

Put the whole chicken into a deep saucepan.   Add the lemon and any other items from the list that you happen to have handy.   Pour in enough cold water to more or less cover.  Bring gently up to the boil, then lower the heat and cook at a bare simmer for around 45-60 minutes.   Take off the heat and leave the chicken to cool in its stock, 

Persepolis Marinated Aubergine Salad

2 aubergines, thickly sliced

10 prunes

1 tablespoon runny honey

2 bay leaves

2 cloves and 1 stick cinnamon

¼ teaspoon chilli powder

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

Salt and pepper

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

50g sesame seeds, lightly toasted

Parsley, roughly chopped

Toss the aubergines with a little olive oil, salt and pepper.  Griddle or sear until browned and tender. 

Warm the honey gently and drizzle over the prunes, turning so that it is evenly distributed. 

Mix the bay leaves, cloves, cinnamon, chilli, vinegar, salt, pepper and olive oil toss with the aubergine, prunes and most of the sesame seeds.   Set aside the remainder to garnish.   Cover and leave overnight if possible. 

Just before serving, stir and taste.   Adjust the seasoning, fold in some parsley, then pile into your serving dish.   Sprinkle with remaining sesame seeds and parsley.

Poached Chicken with Sumac,Pomegranate & Preserved Lemon Mayo

Poached chicken




Pomegranate molasses

Pomegranate seeds

Coriander leaves


To serve:

Preserved lemon Mayonnaise

Prepare a bed of shredded lettuce leaves, and cucumber.   Pile the chicken on top.  Drizzle very lightly with the pomegranate molasses,, then scatter generously with pomegranate seeds, coriander leaves and kalonji.   Serve with the mayo.

Preserved Lemon Aioli

3 garlic cloves, roughly chopped


1 large egg yolk

1 egg

1 tablespoon very hot water or stock

1 ½ tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

300 ml sunflower or rapeseed oil

50 ml extra virgin olive oil

2 small, or 1 large preserved lemon(s), prepped, thinly sliced

Drop the garlic into the bowl of the food processor, with the blades running.  Add the egg yolk and egg, whir around to mix, then, with the motor still running, add the hot water.   Now add the lemon juice. Process until smooth.

With the machine running, pour the oils in a thin, steady stream through the feed tube to make a thick mayonnaise. Stir in the preserved lemon, then taste and adjust seasonings.

Torta Caprese

Serves 8-10 (at a pinch)

200g (7 oz) dark chocolate

250g (9 oz) ground almonds

4 eggs

170g (6 oz) caster sugar

1 teaspoon vanilla essence

200g (7 oz) butter, melted and cooled until tepid

icing sugar

To serve: raspberries, icing sugar, raspberry ripple mascarpone (see below)

Line the base of a 24 cm (9 1/2 inch) cake tin with non-stick baking parchment and grease the sides. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. 

Process the chocolate until finely chopped, but still retaining a little texture. If you don’t have a processor, chop the chocolate finely with a large knife. Beat the eggs with the sugar and vanilla essence until the mixture is pale and thickened a little. Fold in the chocolate and almonds and the butter. Spoon into the prepared cake tin, and bake for about 50-60 minutes, until just firm to the touch. Leave to cool in the mould, then turn out. Dust the surface with icing sugar before serving.

Serve wedges of the cake with raspberries and a spoonful of raspberry ripple mascarpone


250g Mascarpone

3 tablespoons Double cream

150g Raspberries

Icing sugar to taste

A few drops of kewra water or vanilla extract

A squeeze of Lemon

Honey comb (optional)

Beat the mascarpone with the double cream.   Crush the raspberries roughly with icing sugar, a squeeze of lemon juice and the kewra water or vanilla.   Ripple the raspberry crush through the mascarpone.   Serve with the cake.


1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 carrot, diced small

1 stem celery, diced small



1 tin butterbeans or cannellini beans or borlotti beans or chickpeas

Chicken stock

Finely grated zest of 1 lemon

Salt and pepper

Squeeze of lemon juice

To serve:

Olive oil

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

4 strips pancetta, snipped into thin short strips

Parmesan shavings

Fry the onion, carrot and celery gently in the olive oil until beginning to colour.  Add the garlic and the rosemary and cook for a minute or so more.   Now add the parsley, beans, chicken stock, salt and pepper.   Bring up to the boil, then simmer for 5 minutes.  Blend about 2/3 of the beans and the stock until smooth, either with a hand held blender, or in a liquidiser, in which case return the blended mixture to the saucepan.   Stir in the squeeze of lemon juice and the lemon zest, then taste and adjust seasonings, adding more chicken stock if the soup is too thick.  Set aside until needed.

Just before serving, heat up the soup.   Heat the remaining olive oil in a small frying pan, add the garlic and pancetta and fry until the garlic begins to colour.   Whip off the stove quickly before it burns.  

Spoon the soup into serving bowls and garnish with the brown garlic and pancetta and a few shavings of Parmesan.

Oxford Foodies Festival

Just setting off for the Oxford Foodies Festival in South Parks.   It’s not raining, which is good, but it’s not warm either.   But if previous years are anything to go by the audience will be warm and welcoming and of course, the food will be fabulous.

Here are my  recipes for today, making the most of the excellent crop of English plums, and reintroducing an old favourite – proper home-made salad cream.

Old-Fashioned Salad Cream with coarse grain mustard and tarragon


Serves 4-6


2 hard-boiled egg yolks

½ tablespoon coarse grain mustard

a good pinch of cayenne pepper

¼ tsp sugar

2 teaspoons white wine vinegar

100ml single cream

Finely chopped leaves 1 large sprig tarragon


Mash the cooked egg yolks in a bowl, then work in the mustard, sugar, cayenne, vinegar and salt.  Gradually whisk in the cream.   Stir in the tarragon. Taste adjust seasoning, adding a splash more vinegar and/or salt if needed.



Seared Lettuce and New Potato Salad with Home Made
Tarragon Salad Cream


Serves 4

400-500 g new potatoes

A splash of white wine vinegar

a little sunflower oil

salt and pepper

2 little gem lettuces, quartered lengthways through their bases

Home-made salad cream (see above)


Boil the potatoes in their skins in salted water until tender.   Drain and halve or quarter depending on their size.   While still warm, dress with a little vinegar, oil, salt and pepper.   Leave to cool.

Shortly before serving, put a heavy griddle pan or frying pan on a high heat.   Brush the cut sides of the lettuce with oil.   Lay, cut side down, on the hot pan.   Turn onto the other cut side as soon as the first is patched with brown.   Brown the other side, then toss with the potatoes in a serving dish.   Drizzle over some of the salad cream and serve the remainder alongside.







Chicken Escalopes with Plum Sauce

Serves 4

60g butter

280-300g English plums, stoned and roughly chopped

1 red chilli, finely chopped

1 star anise

sugar to taste (around 50-60 g)

2 spring onions, finely chopped

2 large or 4 small chicken breasts

a little sunflower oil

a few handfuls of watercress

salt and pepper

To make the sauce, melt half the butter in a saucepan and add the plums, chilli and star anise. Cover and cook over a low heat until the juices begin to run, then raise the heat slightly. Continue cooking until fruit is very tender. Remove the star anise.  Mash the fruit roughly and stir in the remaining butter, just enough sugar to take the edge off the sourness, the spring onions, salt and pepper.

Now beat up your chicken breasts.   If they are quite small, just sandwich each breast between two sheets of clingfilm.  Use a rolling pin to bash and roll them out until very thin.  Try not to make too many holes in them.   If you have really big chunky chicken breast, cut them in half horizontally, then sandwich each half between sheets of clingfilm and bash them gently to a nice thinness.


Shortly before you want to eat, heat a large heavy frying pan or griddle pan over a high heat until massively hot.  Brush the chicken escalopes lightly with oil, and lay on the frying pan without overlapping (you’ll probably have to cook them in two batches, or two frying pans).   Cook for about 2 minutes, then turn and cook for another 1-2 minutes on the other side, until cooked through.   Season with salt and pepper.

Make a bed of watercress, lay the chicken escalopes on the watercress, and spoon over some of the plum sauce.   Serve at once, with the remaining sauce on the side.

Recipes from Elder Stubbs Festival 2018

The Elder Stubbs Festival is one of the most joyous intimate festivals of Oxford, set amongst the verdant allotments, so full of fruit and vegetables and flowers.  This year’s theme, the Rainforest, prompted an exuberant outburst of stuffed parrots, colour and sparkle.   It prompted ideas for the recipes I used in my demonstration,  armed with beautiful produce from Restore’s vegetable patches.

From the allotments:  onions, pumpkin, basil, chard

From the rainforest:  cashew nuts, brazil nuts, chocolate, avocado


Stir-Fried Chard with Cashew Nuts, Brazil Nuts, golden raisins, olives and feta

Serves 2-3

A  bunch of chard

a small handful Cashew nuts

A small handful Brazil nuts, roughly chopped

Extra virgin olive oil

1 onion, sliced

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

a small handful golden raisins, soaked in  water for half an hour

A handful of black olives, stoned and roughly chopped

Lemon juice

Salt and pepper


To serve:

Lightly toasted sourdough bread

Crumbled goats cheese or feta


First prepare the chard.   Fold leaves in half and cut out the broad stem.   Shred the leaves to a thickness of around 2 cms.   Set to one side.   Now cut the stems into 1 cm pieces, cutting across the grain.

Heat a large wok, or a heavy frying pan over a moderate heat.   Add the nuts and dry fry, stirring all the time, until lightly browned.  Tip out and reserve.   Wipe nutty crumbs out of the pan, and return to the heat.   Add a generous slurp of olive oil, then add the onion and chard stems and fry for a few minutes until beginning to soften.   Next add the garlic cook for a minute or so.

Raise the heat high and add the chard leaves.   Turn and stir and toss until they are tender.   Around 5 minutes.   If they are still a bit on the chewy side, add a splash of water, cover the pan tightly with a lid, and leave to steam for a few more minutes.

Now remove the lid if necessary, add the raisins, olives, toasted nuts and thyme.   Season with salt and lots of pepper.   Toss and turn for another minute or so, then turn off the heat.  Add lots of fresh lemon juice, then pile on top of the sourdough slices.   Scatter with cheese and serve.



Serves 3-4

Around 600-700g chunk of pumpkin or squash

A little Sunflower oil

100g Caster sugar

1 teaspoon Vanilla extract

1-2 tablespoons Clotted cream, plus extra to serve

Roughly 25g dark chocolate,

1 teaspoon Vanilla extract


Peel the squash and discard seeds and woolly fibres.   Cut the squash into slices about ½ cm thick.

Preheat either a barbecue or a griddle pan.  Oil the rack of the barbecue or the griddle pan well.   Cook the slices of pumpkin/squash over a high heat, turning once, until they have brown scorch stripes on them.  Don’t overlap or it won’t work.   They don’t have to be cooked through, just striped with brown.

Now transfer to a saucepan, dredge with sugar, add the vanilla and 100-150 ml water.  Set over a gentle heat, and turn the pieces of pumpkin, so that the sugar dissolves.   Now bring up to a good boil, shaking the pan gently to get the sugar syrup evenly distributed.   Cook for some 10 minutes or so, turning the pumpkin pieces frequently, until the pumpkin flesh is soft and tender, and the liquid has virtually evaporated.  Mash with a fork or your spoon, or with a potato masher. Leave to cool.   Mix in 1 or 2 of tablespoons of cream, depending on how rich you would like it.

Pile into little serving glasses or bowls,add a scoop of clotted cream, grate chocolate over it and serve.



Serves 3-4

1  ripe avocado

A handful of basil leaves



Scoop the flesh of the avocado into the jug of a liquidiser.   Add the basil leaves, roughly torn up and a good squirt of honey, and somewhere around 250-300 ml milk.   Whizz up together.   Add more honey if you would like it sweeter, more milk if you would prefer it thinner.

That is it.  Drink and enjoy.