From a simple pasta supper the kids will adore, to a sensational showstopper for your festive table, the ‘queen of greens’ Anna Jones shows that making sure your family get their five a day is child’s play…

Chard and ricotta pasta for Dylan

As the child of a food writer, I imagined my son Dylan would be sipping spirulina smoothies by now, but that’s not the case, he’s a pasta lover. So, this one is for you my little guy.


150g chard
olive oil
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 unwaxed lemon
200g spaghetti
100g ricotta
whole nutmeg, for grating

Pull the chard leaves away from the stalks. Warm a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a deep frying pan over a medium heat. Finely shred the chard stalks and add them to the pan with the garlic and a pinch of salt. Allow the stalks to cook like this for a couple of minutes, then grate in the zest of the lemon. Cook for a further 3 minutes, until the stalks have lost their rawness and toughness.

Put a large pan of salted water on to boil and when it’s at a rolling boil, add the spaghetti and cook according to packet instructions. Back to the chard. Finely shred the leaves and add them to the pan of stalks. Spoon in a dash of pasta water (no more than about 3 tablespoons) to help the leaves steam and wilt as they cook.

Mix the ricotta with the juice of half the lemon and season well with salt and pepper. Drain the pasta, reserving a mugful of pasta water. Add the pasta, ricotta and reserved pasta water to the pan of chard and mix well. Finish with a good grating of nutmeg and serve in warm bowls.

 Celebration celeriac and sweet garlic pie

This has been my Christmas centrepiece for the last couple of years. It is everything I want in a pie: a Cheddar and winter herb flaky pastry; a creamy filling, sweet with balsamic garlic and roasted
celeriac; and a crisp grated celeriac roof. This high-sided pie takes a little time, but at Christmas I think that’s okay.


250g plain spelt flour, plus a little extra for dusting
126g cold unsalted butter, cubed
1h teaspoon fine sea salt
a few sprigs each of rosemary, thyme and sage, leaves picked and finely chopped
the zest of 1 unwaxed lemon
25g good Cheddar, grated
1 medium egg yolk
60-70ml cold water


3 heads of garlic, cloves separated and peeled
olive oil
1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon runny honey
2 sprigs each of rosemary, thyme and sage, leaves picked and finely chopped, plus extra to finish
1kg celeriac
220g Lancashire or good Cheddar cheese, crumbled
150g crème fraiche
150g the juice of half a lemon
1 tablespoon wholegrain mustard
a small bunch of parsley, chopped
Worcestershire sauce
2 organic eggs, beaten

Put the flour into a mixing bowl. Add the butter and salt. Rub gently with your fingertips until the mixture is like fine breadcrumbs. Stir through the herbs, lemon zest and Cheddar.

Beat the egg yolk with 1 tablespoon of cold water. Add to the flour and mix until it forms a dough. Add more water, a teaspoon at a time, until it comes together into a smooth dough. Wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge while you make the filling.

For the filling, put the cloves of garlic into a saucepan, cover with cold water and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook for 2-3 minutes, then drain. Wipe the saucepan dry. Add the garlic and 1 tablespoon of olive oil and fry on a high heat for 2 minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and 1OOml water, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 10 minutes.

Add the honey, most of the rosemary and thyme (reserving the rest, with the sage) and a good pinch of salt. Continue to cook on a medium heat for a further 5 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated and the garlic cloves are coated in a dark syrup.

Meanwhile, peel the celeriac and cut it into quarters. Set aside 300g and slice the rest into 2cm-thick pieces. Put them into a saucepan, cover with hot water and boil for 7-10 minutes, until they are soft and have turned slightly translucent.

Drain and tip into a big mixing bowl. Add the cheese, crème fraiche, lemon juice, mustard, parsley, a splash of Worcestershire sauce and eggs. Add a good pinch of salt and grind of pepper and gently fold in the garlic cloves.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/160°C fan/gas 4. Sprinkle flour onto a work surface and roll out the pastry to 3-4mm thick. Line a 20cm-diameter cake tin with the pastry, ensuring a little spills over the edges.

Pour the filling into the pastry case. Coarsely grate the reserved celeriac and pile it on top. Finish with the reserved rosemary and thyme, all the sage, and a drizzle of olive oil. Bake for 45 minutes or until the tart filling has set and the top is golden brown.

Remove from the oven, leave to cool a little, then take it out of the tin. Lay a few herbs on top and serve warm.

Recipes from The Modern Cook’s Year by Anna Jones, published by Fourth Estate HB RRP £26. 


Wendy McCague


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