This rich Japanese-style broth, flavoured with vibrant fresh herbs, ginger and garlic, peps up firm, white cubes of tofu and long strands of earthy buckwheat noodles. It is a delicious low-fat vegetarian recipe for protein-rich tofu. Serve it for lunch or supper.

 Serves 2
Preparation time: 15 minutes
Cooking time: 10 minutes
Ingredients for teriyaki-style noodles with tofu
150 g soba (Japanese buckwheat noodles)
250 g mixed vegetables, such as asparagus tips, broccoli, carrots, cauliflower, green beans or snow peas
100 ml light soy sauce
300 ml vegetable stock
4 tablespoons rice wine (sake or mirin) or dry sherry
300 g firm tofu, diced
2 spring onions, chopped
1 fresh red chilli, seeded and chopped
1 heaped tablespoon chopped fresh mint
1 heaped tablespoon chopped fresh coriander
1 large clove garlic, crushed
1/2 teaspoon grated fresh ginger
2 teaspoons sesame oil (optional)
Preparation for teriyaki-style noodles with tofu
1 Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil and cook the noodles for about 6 minutes, or according to the packet instructions, until al dente.
2 Meanwhile, cut all the mixed vegetables into bite-sized pieces. Add them to the simmering noodles for the final 3–4 minutes of cooking.
3 Drain the noodles and vegetables in a large colander. Place all the remaining ingredients in the empty saucepan and return it to the heat. Heat until simmering, then reduce the heat to the minimum setting. Return the noodles and vegetables to the pan, and cook very briefly until they are reheated.
4 Serve in deep soup bowls, with a spoon to drink the tasty broth and a fork or chopsticks for picking up the solid ingredients.
Each serving provides 2072 kJ, 495 kcal, 30 g protein, 14.5 g fat (1 g saturated fat), 65 g carbohydrate (4.5 g sugars), 5 g fibre
Health tip
Evidence is accumulating from around the world to suggest that eating soybeans and soya products, such as tofu, may help to reduce the risk of certain cancers, heart disease and osteoporosis, as well as helping to alleviate symptoms associated with menopause.

A creamy sauce of zucchini, low-fat ricotta and walnuts reinterprets an Italian classic, and makes a wonderful, sophisticated dressing for baked pasta shells filled with a delicious spinach and bright green herbed stuffing.

Serves 4
Preparation time: 35 minutes, plus 5 minutes standing
Cooking time: 35 minutes
Ingredients for giant stuffed pasta shells
500 g spinach, trimmed
3 zucchini, thinly sliced
4 cloves garlic, chopped
2 cups (500 ml) vegetable stock
1 cup (250 g) ricotta
1 cup (100 g) walnuts, coarsely chopped
3/4 cup (75 g) freshly grated parmesan
1/4 cup (15 g) chopped fresh chervil or marjoram
1/4 cup (15 g) snipped fresh chives or 3 small French shallots, finely chopped
1/4 cup (15 g) chopped fresh basil
1 egg, lightly beaten
12 no-precook conchiglie grande (giant pasta shells for stuffing)
1/2 cup (65 g) grated edam cheese
2 tablespoons finely shredded fresh basil or tiny basil leaves
salt and pepper
Preparation for giant stuffed pasta shells
1 Wash the spinach well and place the wet leaves in a large saucepan. Cover and cook over a high heat for about 3 minutes, shaking the pan frequently. When the spinach is just tender and wilted, tip it into a colander and leave it to drain and cool.
2 Meanwhile, place the zucchini and half the garlic in a saucepan. Pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Cook over a high heat for about 3 minutes or until the zucchini are just tender.
3 Purée the zucchini and stock in a blender or food processor until smooth, adding half the ricotta, the walnuts, 2 tablespoons parmesan and seasoning to taste. The resulting sauce should have a consistency halfway between pouring and thick cream, slightly more runny than a coating sauce should be.
4 When the spinach is cool enough to handle, squeeze it dry in small handfuls and chop it coarsely. Mix the spinach with the chervil or marjoram, chives or shallots, basil, the remaining garlic and ricotta, the egg and seasoning to taste.
5 Preheat the oven to 190ºC. Use a small teaspoon to stuff the pasta shells with the spinach mixture, then arrange them in an ovenproof dish in a single layer.
6 Pour the sauce over the stuffed shells and sprinkle with the remaining grated parmesan. Cover the dish tightly with foil and bake for 30 minutes.
7 Sprinkle the edam cheese and basil over the cooked stuffed pasta and leave to stand for 5 minutes, uncovered, until the cheese melts, then serve.
Each serving provides 2638 kJ, 630 kcal, 34 g protein, 38 g fat (13 g saturated fat), 39 g carbohydrate (6 g sugars), 5.5 g fibre

If anything can improve the steamy combo of strong espresso and intense chocolate, it's the dash of cinnamon in the signature mocha. Note: You can replace the espresso with double-strength coffee, using twice the recommended amount of ground coffee when brewing it.

Adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking, by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, copyright © 2008. With permission of the publisher, Stewart, Tabori & Chang.

This recipe is one of the most decadent (retro) desserts we found in a tiny Brooklyn bakery.

Read more: 
Servings: Serves 2Ingredients
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp. dark unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon , plus more for garnish
  • 2 long shots (1/2 cup) freshly brewed espresso
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • Whipped cream (optional)
DirectionsIn a small heatproof bowl, whisk together cocoa powder, sugar, and cinnamon. Slowly add the hot espresso and whisk until mixture is smooth.

In a medium saucepan, heat milk over medium heat, about 5 minutes or until it begins to simmer. Add espresso mixture and whisk until combined. Stirring constantly, bring mixture to a boil (about 5 minutes), then remove from heat.

Divide mocha evenly between 2 mugs. If desired, add whipped cream so that it forms a heart shape on top and sprinkle with cinnamon. Serve immediately.

This plump confection is a Valentine's Day take on a New York classic, the black-and-white cookie.

This recipe is one of the most decadent (retro) desserts we found in a tiny Brooklyn bakery.

Read more: 
Servings: Makes 18 cookiesIngredients
  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 1 3/4 sticks butter
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk
  • 1 Tbsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 1 Tbps. freshly grated lemon zest
  • 4 cups confectioners' sugar
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 3 Tbsp. heavy cream
  • 2 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • Red no-taste gel food coloring
To make cookies: Preheat oven to 350°. Sift flour, baking soda, baking powder, and salt into a large bowl.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter and sugar until fluffy (about 2 minutes). Scrape down the bowl and add eggs and egg yolk one at a time, beating briefly after each addition. Scrape down the bowl again, and turn mixer to low. Add the flour mixture in 3 parts, alternating with the buttermilk in 2 parts. Scrape down the bowl; add vanilla and lemon zest, and mix on low speed for a few more seconds.

Using an ice cream scoop (about 1/4 cup), drop dough onto parchment-lined baking sheets spaced about 3 inches apart (6 cookies per sheet).

Bake for 17 minutes, rotating sheets between oven racks halfway through, until edges are golden brown and tops spring back when gently touched. Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes, then remove cookies and cool on racks.

To make frosting: In a large bowl, whisk together confectioners' sugar, milk, and cream. If mixture is too thick, add a little more milk (by the teaspoon until desired consistency is reached). Pour half of the frosting (about 3/4 cup) into another bowl and add vanilla and red food coloring until desired red color is reached.

Use an offset spatula to spread red frosting on half of the top of each cookie. Let stand until almost set, 20 minutes. Using a clean spatula, spread white frosting over unfrosted half of each cookie. (If the frosting thickens up during the process, whisk until loose.) Let set completely, about 1 hour.

Cinnamon-flavored frosting gives red velvet cupcakes an added kick—the perfect treats for your sweet.

Adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking, by Matt Lewis and Renato Poliafito, copyright © 2008. With permission of the publisher, Stewart, Tabori & Chang.

This recipe is one of the most decadent (retro) desserts we found in a tiny Brooklyn bakery.

Read more: 
Servings: Makes 36 cupcakesIngredients
  • 1/4 cup dark unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 Tbsp. red no-taste gel food coloring
  • 1/4 cup boiling water
  • 6 Tbsp. unsalted butter , cut into small pieces and softened
  • 2 Tbsp. room temperature vegetable shortening
  • 1 2/3 cups sugar
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 cup buttermilk
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 2 1/2 cups cake flour
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 1 Tbsp. cider vinegar
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 cups milk
  • 1/4 cup heavy cream
  • 3 sticks unsalted butter , soft but cool, cut into small pieces
  • 1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • Cinnamon imperials candies (optional)
  • Red white-chocolate hearts (optional)
To make cupcakes: Preheat oven to 325°. Line 36 (2 1/2-inch) muffin pan cups with paper liners. In a medium bowl, whisk together cocoa powder, food coloring, and boiling water. Set aside to cool. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter and shortening until smooth. Scrape down bowl and add sugar. Beat until mixture is light and fluffy, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Stir buttermilk and vanilla into the cooled cocoa mixture. Sift cake flour and salt together into another bowl. With the mixer on low, alternate adding the flour mixture (in 3 parts) and the cocoa mixture (in 2 parts) to the egg mixture. Beat until incorporated. In a small bowl, combine vinegar and baking soda and stir until baking soda dissolves; the mixture will fizz. Add to batter and stir until just combined.

Fill each cupcake liner about 2/3 full with batter. Bake 20 to 25 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from oven, transfer to a wire rack, and let cool for 10 minutes. Remove cupcakes from pan, and let cool completely.

To make buttercream frosting: In a heavy-bottomed saucepan, whisk the sugar and flour together. Add the milk and cream and cook over medium heat, whisking occasionally, until the mixture boils and has thickened, about 12 minutes. Transfer the mixture to the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Beat on medium-high speed until cool, 5 minutes. Reduce the speed to low and add the butter; beat until thoroughly incorporated. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until frosting is light and fluffy, 3 minutes. Add the vanilla and cinnamon and continue mixing until combined. If the frosting is too soft, transfer the bowl to the refrigerator to chill slightly, then beat again until it is the proper consistency. If the frosting is too firm, place the bowl over a pot of simmering water and beat with a wooden spoon until it is the proper consistency.

Frost each cupcake with buttercream. Garnish with cinnamon imperials and white-chocolate hearts, if desired

These fancy-looking appetizers are ideal when entertaining large groups. The cute crunchy cups are stuffed with a cheesy meat sausage filling that kids of all ages enjoy 
Ingredients (16 Servings)

1 package (12 ounces) wonton wrappers
1 pound bulk sausage 
2 cups (8 ounces) shredded Colby cheese 
1/2 medium green pepper, chopped 
1/2 medium sweet red pepper, chopped 
2 bunches green onions, sliced 
1/2 cup ranch salad dressing


Lightly press wonton wrappers onto the bottom and up the sides of greased miniature muffin cups. Bake at 350° for 5 minutes or until edges are browned.

In a large skillet, cook sausage over medium heat until no longer pink; drain. Stir in the cheese, peppers, onions and salad dressing. Spoon a rounded tablespoonful into each wonton cup. Bake for 6-7 minutes or until heated through. Yield: about 4 dozen.

Kung Hei Fat Choi,
Celebrate Chinese New Year with these delicious recipes! 
A recipe to make delicious Chinese dumplings for your family 


300g cabbage, finely chopped
1 tsp salt
500g minced pork
50g Chinese chives, finely chopped
50g spring onions or scallions, finely chopped
1 tbs minced young ginger
1 tbs minced garlic
2½ tsp light soy sauce
1 tbs Chinese cooking wine
2 tbs sesame oil
1 tbs chilli bean paste (dou ban jiang)
96 frozen round pot-sticker wrappers


Julienned young ginger
Rice vinegar
Light soy sauce
Chilli bean paste (optional)

  • Toss the chopped cabbage and salt in a bowl. Set aside for 30 minutes, then squeeze the cabbage to extract water.
  • Combine the cabbage, minced pork, chives, spring onions, ginger, garlic, soy sauce, Chinese cooking wine, sesame oil and chilli bean paste in a large bowl. Mix well and refrigerate for 30 minutes.
  • To wrap the jiaozi, have a small bowl of water handy. The frozen wrappers should be defrosted in the fridge and kept under a damp towel as you work. Place approximately one tablespoon of filling onto a wrapper. Place it slightly off-centre. Dip a clean finger into the bowl of water and use it to moisten the rim of the wrapper. Fold it over so that you end up with a semicircle, crimping only the layer facing you as you press it down to seal. Six pleats are usually just about right. Place the completed dumplings on a tray dusted with flour. Repeat with the remaining filling and wrappers.
  • At this point, the jiaozi can be dusted with more flour and frozen.
  • The dumplings can be boiled, steamed, pan-fried or deep-fried. To prepare pot-stickers, preheat a shallow pan filled with just enough oil to thinly coat its base. Use a pan that has a lid. A non-stick surface also helps.
  • Place the jiaozi in the pan (frozen ones go in frozen). Be careful not to overcrowd the pan or they will stick together. Fry them until they develop a crisp, golden brown base. Drizzle some water or stock into the pan and cover it immediately. Add just enough liquid to cover the base of the pan, and be sure to drizzle some onto the jiaozi so that the crimped edges don’t get crispy. Let the dumplings steam until the skin becomes somewhat translucent. Uncover the pan and continue to cook until the water has evaporated.
  • Serve immediately with julienned ginger, rice vinegar, soy sauce and chilli bean paste (if using), combined to taste.

Sweet and Sour Chicken Pancakes 
This is a novel way of serving the popular Chinese dish of stir-fried sweet and sour chicken. Here courgettes and bean sprouts are added, and the mixture is folded up in lacy pancakes 

Serves: 4

Pancake batter
115 g (4 oz) plain flour
2 eggs, beaten
200 ml (7 fl oz) semi-skimmed milk

Chicken filling
450 g (1 lb) skinless boneless chicken breasts (fillets)
2 tbsp tomato pure
3 tbsp sunflower oil
grated zest and juice of 1 lemon
1 tsp malt vinegar
1 tbsp demerara sugar
2 tsp clear honey
1 onion, halved and sliced
1 courgette, cut into 5 cm (2 in) matchsticks
225 g (8 oz) bean sprouts
1 tsp sesame seeds
2 tbsp rich soy sauce, plus more to serve
salt and pepper
spring onions to garnish

Preparation method
Prep: 15 mins | Cook: 40 mins

1. To make the pancakes, sift the flour into a bowl and season with a little salt and pepper. Make a well in the centre. Mix the eggs, milk and 90 ml (3 fl oz) water together and pour into the well, then whisk in the flour to form a smooth batter. Cover and leave to stand while you prepare the filling.

2. Cut the chicken into long thin strips. Mix together the tomato pure, 1 tbsp of the oil, the lemon zest and juice, vinegar, sugar and honey in a bowl. Add the chicken to this sweet and sour sauce, and toss to coat the strips.

3. Heat a wok or large frying pan and add 1 tbsp of the remaining oil. Add the onion and stir-fry for 5 minutes or until softened. Add the courgette and stir-fry for 3 minutes. Using a draining spoon, remove the vegetables from the wok and set aside.

4. Reheat the wok, then add the chicken mixture and stir-fry for 3–4 minutes or until cooked. Return the vegetables to the wok. Toss together, then remove from the heat and set aside.

5. Heat a 20 cm (8 in) pancake pan, preferably non-stick or well seasoned. Rub a little of the remaining oil over the surface using a crumpled piece of kitchen paper. Pour in a little batter and tilt the pan so that the batter spreads evenly over the surface; tip any excess batter back into the bowl. Cook the pancake over a moderately high heat for 2 minutes, then loosen the edges and flip it over. Cook the second side for about 30 seconds. Slide the pancake onto a plate and cover with a square of greaseproof paper. Repeat with the remaining batter to make 8 pancakes in all, stacking them up, interleaved with greaseproof paper, as they are made. Keep warm over a pan of simmering water, covered with foil.

6. Reheat the filling. Add the bean sprouts, sesame seeds and soy sauce, and stir-fry for 1–2 minutes until everything is hot. Fill the pancakes, fold into quarters and garnish with spring onions. Serve with extra soy sauce.

Chinese New Year Skillet Recipe 
An easy recipe to serve during New Year celebration 


1 boneless pork shoulder butt roast (1 pound), cut into 1/2-inch cubes
1 tablespoon canola oil 
1 can (20 ounces) unsweetened pineapple tidbits 
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar 
1 tablespoon sugar 
3/4 teaspoon salt 
1/4 teaspoon garlic powder 
1 cup uncooked long grain rice 
1 tablespoon cornstarch 
2 tablespoons water 
1/2 cup coarsely chopped green pepper 
1 medium tomato, cut into wedges 
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce


In a large skillet, cook pork in oil over medium heat on all sides until pork is lightly browned; drain.Drain pineapple, reserving juice in a 2-cup measuring cup; set pineapple aside.

Add enough water to the juice to measure 1-1/4 cups; stir into pork. Add the vinegar, sugar, salt and garlic powder. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat; cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until meat is tender. Meanwhile, cook rice according to package directions.

In a small bowl, combine cornstarch and water until smooth; stir into pork mixture. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 2 minutes or until thickened. Stir in the green pepper, tomato, Worcestershire sauce and reserved pineapple; heat through. Serve with rice. Yield: 4 servings.

Asian-style Baked Snapper with Noodles 
A whole fish cooked with ginger, garlic and spring onions is a traditional centrepiece in a Chinese meal. Here it is served with a mixture of noodles and bean sprouts to make a very special dish. 

Serves: 4

1 teaspoon sunflower oil
1 whole snapper, about 800 g, cleaned and scaled 
1 lime, cut into 4 slices 
6 spring onions, cut into fine shreds 
1 carrot, cut into fine matchsticks 
2 cm piece fresh ginger, cut into fine matchsticks 
2 garlic cloves, thinly sliced 
2 tablespoons reduced-salt soy sauce 
1 teaspoon sesame oil 
1 tablespoon fresh coriander leaves, plus extra leaves to garnish 
lime halves to serve

250 g fine Chinese egg noodles 
1 tablespoon sunflower oil 
2 small red onions, cut into very thin wedges 
1 garlic clove, thinly sliced 
300 g bean sprouts 
3 tablespoons reduced-salt soy sauce

Preparation method
Prep: 15 mins | Cook: 35 mins

1. Preheat the oven to 200ºC. Brush a large sheet of thick foil with the oil and place the fish on top. Place the lime slices inside the fish and scatter over the spring onions, carrot, ginger and garlic. Drizzle over the soy sauce and sesame oil, and sprinkle over the coriander leaves. Bring the ends of the foil together and fold and twist to seal in the fish. Place on a baking tray. Bake for 30–35 minutes or until the fish flakes easily (open the parcel to check).

2. Meanwhile, place the noodles in a saucepan of boiling water, return to the boil and simmer for 3 minutes. Or cook them according to the packet instructions. Drain well. Heat the oil in a wok, add the onions and garlic, and cook over a high heat for 30 seconds. Add the bean sprouts and cook for 1 minute or until they begin to soften. Add the noodles together with the soy sauce. Cook over high heat for 2–3 minutes, stirring and tossing well.

3. Remove the fish from the oven, unwrap and transfer to a hot serving platter. Garnish with coriander leaves and lime halves. Serve the fish cut into slices, with the noodles.

Wonton noodle soup recipe 
This wonton noodle soup is healthy and delicious 
Serves: 4 Yield: 4 servings 
Ready in: 45 mins (35 mins prep - 10 mins cook)

Ingredients for wonton and noodle soup

20 g dried shiitake or Chinese mushrooms 
300 g minced pork 
1 tablespoon cornflour 
1 tablespoon oyster sauce 
3 teaspoons soy sauce 
2 teaspoons sesame oil 
32 won ton wrappers 
375 g fresh egg noodles 
1 bunch baby buk choy, about 400 g, trimmed and washed 
3 spring onions, sliced
Preparation method for wonton and noodle soup
1 litre chicken stock 
2 teaspoons soy sauce 
1½ teaspoons sesame oil 
1 slice fresh gingerTo Serve
hot chilli sauce 
soy sauce with a splash of sesame oil
Preparation method for wonton and noodle soup
To make the filling for the won tons, put the mushrooms in a small bowl, cover with boiling water and soak for 15 minutes, or until rehydrated. Remove the stems and discard. Finely dice the caps and combine with the mince, cornflour, oyster and soy sauces and sesame oil. 

Place about 2 teaspoons of filling on a won ton wrapper and gently gather the edges together to enclose the filling. Repeat until you have 32 won tons. 

Combine the soup ingredients and 2 cups of water in a saucepan and bring to the boil, then cover and reduce to a gentle simmer. Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Set out four large Chinese soup bowls. 

Cook the noodles in the pan of boiling water for 2 minutes, then remove from the water and strain. Lift into the soup bowls. Cook the buk choy in the same pan for 1 minute, or until bright green but still crunchy. Use a slotted spoon to lift into a strainer, then add to the bowls. 

Cook the won tons for 3–4 minutes in the same water; they will float to the surface when cooked. Remove with a slotted spoon and lift into the bowls. Ladle in the soup and sprinkle with spring onions. Serve with a small bowl of hot chilli sauce and another of soy sauce and sesame oil.


Gotta try this main dish for New Years Media Noche!!! The robust flavor of beef sweetened by onions makes this a recipe you’ll repeat 

4 pounds beef sirloin tip roast, cut into 1-inch cubes 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 large sweet onions, halved and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons butter
4 garlic cloves, minced
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
2 cans (10-1/2 ounces each) condensed beef consomme, undiluted
1 can (14-1/2 ounces) reduced-sodium beef broth
2 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
2 bay leaves
1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
8 slices French bread (1/2 inch thick), toasted
1 cup (4 ounces) shredded part-skim mozzarella cheese


Sprinkle beef with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, brown meat in oil in batches; drain. Transfer to a greased 13-in. x 9-in. baking dish.

In the same skillet, cook onions in butter over medium-low heat for 25-30 minutes or until golden brown, stirring occasionally. Add garlic; cook 1 minute longer.

Stir in flour until blended; gradually add consomme and broth. Stir in Worcestershire sauce and bay leaves. Bring to a boil; cook and stir for 1 minute or until thickened. Pour over beef.

Cover and bake at 325° for 1 hour. Carefully stir in cream; discard bay leaves. Bake, uncovered, 25-35 minutes longer or until meat is tender. Place toast over beef mixture; sprinkle with cheese. Bake for 5 minutes or until cheese is melted. Yield: 8 servings.

 Nutrition Facts: 1 cup beef mixture with 1 slice cheese toast equals 585 calories, 26 g fat (12 g saturated fat), 186 mg cholesterol, 1,039 mg sodium, 29 g carbohydrate, 2 g fiber, 56 g protein.

Here are some tips to spread DIY epicurean cheer to your loved ones this festive season 
One of the biggest problems my wife and I face during the festive season is picking out Christmas gifts for friends and family members who seem to always already have every other fancy toy, sexy bag and en vogue accessory out there. The solution we’ve come to depend on over the years is creating food-related gifts that we know our friends will appreciate – and perhaps most importantly – not be able to pick up at any regular mall.

Five or six years back, we assembled some DIY molten chocolate cake kits, each of which contained the popular dessert recipe, metal moulds, chocolate and other dry ingredients, and distributed these as Christmas goodie packs to friends and family. Then three years ago, we compiled several of our favourite simple recipes into a small cookbook, which we self-printed using and gave to our close friends as gifts.

Other great foodie gifts that your loved ones will appreciate can range from simple things such as homemade jars of vanilla sugar or preserved lemons (both really easy to whip up), to more complex creations such as gingerbread houses with self-decorating kits, even homemade duck prosciutto (idea courtesy of a friend who recently generously bestowed it upon us).

The trick we’ve learnt to making these presents really special? Take time to package them beautifully. A pretty handwritten label or gorgeous box can really go a long way in transforming your homemade goodies into an artisanal creation.

Chicken breasts stuffed with a delicious spinach and mushroom filling, served with pasta 
Ingredients for Spinach mushroom chicken pockets

1½–2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large portobello or flat mushroom, coarsely chopped
4 spring onions, sliced
5 cups baby English spinach leaves, about 250 g, coarsely chopped
1½ tablespoons dry low-GI breadcrumbs
1½ tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
freshly ground black pepper
4 skinless chicken breast fillets or thigh fillets, each about 175 g
½ cup reduced-salt chicken stock, hot pasta, such as spaghettini or spaghetti, and fresh salad greens with an olive oil and vinegar dressing, to serve.

Preparation method for Spinach mushroom chicken pockets

Preheat the oven to 180°C. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large, deep frying pan, cook mushroom and spring onions over a medium heat for 5 minutes until mushroom is tender. Stir in spinach and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes, until wilted.

Transfer to a large bowl, using a slotted spoon to drain off any excess moisture from the spinach. Add the breadcrumbs, Parmesan and pepper and toss well.

Flatten chicken between two sheets of plastic wrap. Spread 2 tablespoons of spinach filling onto each piece of chicken, to about 1 cm from the edges. Start at a narrow end, roll up and secure each pocket with cocktail sticks or kitchen string.

Clean frying pan, add remaining oil and set the pan over a high heat. Add the pockets, seam side down first, and cook for 6 minutes, or until browned all over.

Place the pockets in a shallow ovenproof dish and pour in the hot stock. Cover and bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through.

To serve, remove cocktail sticks or string from pockets and cut chicken diagonally into 1-cm slices. Serve hot, drizzled with cooking juices on pasta with salad greens.

Tips:Cooking the pockets seam side down first seals them closed and prevents the filling from falling out.

Serves: 4
Yield: 4 chicken breasts
Ready in: 45 mins (15 mins prep - 30 mins cook)