Monday, 24 December 2012

Chocolate Salami

Once I saw the picture of this I just had to give it a go. I'm taking it along to a family gathering this evening. I thought it would be perfect to cut into slices and hand around. I missed out the nuts and added stem ginger instead to make it more child friendly. You need time and patience to make it, the stringing had me confused, but then it doesn't take much. The recipe comes from 'Nigellisima', which I'm hopefully getting for Christmas. The following link is for the recipe.

Happy Christmas to everyone who has followed my Blog since I started in January. If I have managed to inspire just a few people in the cooking department that will make me very happy xx 

Sunday, 23 December 2012

Mulled Wine

There is nothing wrong with buying ready made mulled wine, but if you have two minutes to just add the following ingredients to a bottle of red wine, I think this recipe just pips the bought stuff to the post.

1 bottle of red wine
60g of sugar
1 cinnamon stick
1 orange sliced
a grating of nutmeg

Just heat the wine and all the other ingredients gently, until the sugar has dissolved and it is warmed through. Be careful not to boil the alcohol off, of course.

Thursday, 20 December 2012

Christmas Rocky Road

How could you fail to be disappointed receiving these as a gift. Dusted with icing sugar and wrapped in cellophane, half a dozen of these rich chocolate squares make a very thoughtful present for friends or family. I haven't made them this year yet, the photo above was taken a couple of years ago. I have obviously been taking pictures of food for sometime now. I usually do try to make some homemade edible gifts, but it's all time dependent. I'll try and get the children involved when school breaks up tomorrow. This recipe comes from 'Nigellas Christmas'.

250 gram(s) dark chocolate
150 gram(s) milk chocolate
175 gram(s) butter (soft)
4 tablespoon(s) golden syrup
200 gram(s) amaretti biscuits
150 gram(s) brazil nuts (shelled)
150 gram(s) glace cherries (red)
125 gram(s) mini marshmallows
1 tablespoon(s) icing sugar
1 sprinkling of edible glitter

Chop both sorts of chocolate small, or use chocolate buttons made for melting, and then put into a heavy-based pan to melt with the butter and syrup over a gentle heat.
Put the biscuits into a freezer bag and bash them with a rolling pin to get big- and little-sized crumbs; you want some pieces to crunch and some sandy rubble.
Put the Brazil nuts into another freezer bag and also bash them so you get different-sized nut rubble.
Take the pan off the heat, and add the crushed biscuits and nuts, whole glacé cherries and mini-marshmallows. Turn carefully to coat everything with syrupy chocolate.
Tip into a foil tray or a greased baking tray, smoothing the top as best you can, although it will look bumpy.
Refrigerate until firm enough to cut, which will take about 1½ –2 hours. Then take the set block of rocky road out of the foil tray ready to cut.
Push the icing sugar through a small sieve to dust the top of the Rocky Road. Then, if you like, add a sprinkling of edible glitter for some festive sparkle.
With the long side in front of you, cut into it 6 slices down and 4 across, so that you have 24 almost-squares.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

Cheesy Hearts

These bite sized cheesy hearts take minutes to make in the food processor. Ideal if you have unexpected guests calling in over Christmas for a few drinks. They are nice cold, but better warm from the oven. The recipe comes from the 'Christmas Cooking' Book by Usborne childrens books.

makes about 25 hearts
150g self raising flour
half a tsp of salt
75g butter or margarine
75g of cheese, finely grated (I used a bit more and used cheddar and parmesan)
1 egg and a tbsp of milk, beaten together
a heart or star shaped cutter
a greased baking tray

Heat the oven to 200C.
Sift the flour and salt through a sieve. Add the butter or margarine and rub in with your fingers to make fine crumbs. (I did this in the food processor). Leave a tablespoon of the grated cheese on a saucer. Add the rest of the cheese to the bowl and stir it in. Put a tablespoon of the beaten egg and milk mixture into a cup. Mix the rest into the flour to make a dough. (Again I just added the cheese, milk and egg to the food processor and it makes a dough). 
Sprinkle flour onto a clean work surface and roll out the dough, until it is slightly thinner than your little finger. Use the cutter to cut out your shapes. Cut them close together then make the scraps into a ball and re roll. Brush the shapes with the egg mixture and sprinkle them with the rest of the cheese. 
Put the hearts onto the greased baking sheet. Bake them in the oven for eight to ten minutes, until they are golden. 

Sunday, 16 December 2012

The Icing on the Cake

For the marzipan;
apricot jam
500g natural marzipan
icing sugar

Using a pastry brush cover the entire cake with apricot jam

Sprinkle your surface and rolling pin with icing sugar. Roll the marzipan into a ball with your hands and then take a rolling pin and start rolling out a circle which will be big enough to cover the cake. Cover the cake with the marzipan, there will be folds so just flatten them down as much as you can, then trim off the excess along the bottom. It really doesn't have to be perfect as the cake will be covered in icing. Eat the excess marzipan bits.

For the icing;
This year I went for the snow scene look, using a packet of ready made Silver Spoon Royal icing sugar, to which you just add water and beat until thick (follow the instructions on the packet). I would say keep beating until stiff peaks form, as when it came to icing the cake it seemed to be too runny and there was a lot of fussing about on my part. The alternative is to buy ready made fondant icing and this time glaze the marzipan in apricot jam. Roll the icing into a ball then basically do what you did with the marzipan. This time you want it a little bit neater so carefully smooth down on the sides of the cake and trim off the excess icing. The thing is you want the cake to look homemade, so any imperfections are fine. 

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Hot smoked salmon and spinach kedgeree

Kedgeree was a dish I used to make for the children quite frequently when they were little. I used to use mackerel and was quite amazed when they used to tuck in with great enthusiasm. This recipe comes yet again from Olive magazine this month, from a section on healthy makeover breakfasts. I cooked it for dinner the other night and was reminded what a great dish it is. The original recipe calls for smoked trout but due to the lack of this in tesco I used salmon fillets with black pepper. The use of ready cooked rice and cooked fish makes for quite a speedy supper.

Serves 2
2 eggs
1 onion halved and thinly sliced
1 green chilli, finely chopped
2 tsp mild curry powder
½ tsp tumeric
250g pouch cooked basmati rice
100g young spinach
100g hot smoked trout or salmon, flaked

Put the eggs into a pan of boiling water and boil for 7 minutes. Rinse to cool. then leave in cold water.
Cook the onion and chilli with 1 tsp oil in a non stick pan until softened and golden. Stir in the spices and cook for a minute. Stir in the rice until hot, then stir through the spinach until wilted. Add the trout/salmon and mix in without breaking the flakes up.  Pile onto the plates and top with the shelled and halved egs.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

A Very Aldi Christmas

How cute is this gingerbread house, available at Aldi at the moment for £3.99. We have bought kits to make them in the past, but these ones were ready made, packaged in cellophane and tied with ribbon. They would make lovely presents. The thing is I never let the kids touch them until after Christmas by which time the gingerbread is inedible. 

Sorry, I noted the wrong price for the gingerbread house. They were £5.99, but are now down to £4.99

Like most people I find cooking Christmas dinner very stressful, and by the time I sit down to eat, I could be eating anything. I have had the pleasure of being entertained the last couple of Christmas's, but when we have had Christmas at home I have usually cooked turkey. I remember quite a few years ago now ordering a Kelly Bronze turkey and nearly passing out at the butchers counter when I saw the price. I overcooked it, was disappointed in the flavour and just wondered if it was worth all the effort. It is difficult to judge how long to cook the turkey for, there are so many varying recipes. I have usually followed Delias instructions, but found that the meat is rather dry. Saying all that it's a tradition and most people will be cooking turkey anyway. This year I am making it easy on myself. I want to enjoy the day, I don't want to be in the kitchen for the majority of it, so I am cooking two Aldi, Four Bird Roasts (for 10 people). They comprise of turkey, chicken, goose and duck with a pork and onion stuffing. They are bought frozen and cooked from frozen in 2½ hours. I have tried them twice to make sure they are special enough for a Christmas meal and the whole family has really enthused about them. I'll do all the trimmings, pigs in blankets, stuffing, bread sauce, cranberry sauce, roast vegetables and of course sprouts, but the main part of the meal will be so much easier. I found that there were enough juices from the roast after cooking to make gravy, or the gravy could be made in advance to make things even easier. It doesn't quite carve like the photo on the box, but it is extremely moist and full of flavour. I cook so much all year round and although I want Christmas dinner to be special, I don't want it all to be all about the meal and miss out on the day with my family. So if you feel the same about turkeys and want a stress free option maybe give this dish a try this year. 
Oh and incase you are wondering I'm not on commission from Aldi.

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Chicken stuffed with stilton

I can not stress how easy this meal is. It used to be an old favourite of mine, but I haven't done it for absolutely ages.  If you are not a stilton fan, you could always use boursin or something similar in it's place. I'm not sure where this recipe originated from, but I remember it was my staple dinner party meal about 20 years ago.

Serves 4
4 chicken breasts
4 slices of prosciutto
a chunk of stilton cheese (how much depends on how strong you want the sauce)
2 tablespoons of creme fraiche
olive oil
salt and pepper

Heat the oven to 190ºC. In a small dish crumble the stilton with a fork then mix with the creme fraiche. Cut a pocket in the larger side of the chicken breast and stuff the mixture into the pocket. Wrap in a piece of prosciutto and place in a roasting dish. Drizzle with  some olive oil and season and place in the oven for approx 25 minutes until the chicken is cooked and the cheese is bubbling and golden. Serve the chicken with the sauce poured over it with vegetables of your choice.

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Christmas morning muffins

Well you don't have to wait until Christmas morning to have them. I must be getting excited about Christmas as I am waking up early and can't get back to sleep. I got up at 6.30 this morning so I made these muffins for the kids breakfast. I tried not to get cross when James pulled them to bits to remove the sultanas. He hates dried fruit in things, even though he will eat them normally. They are easy and quick enough to make on Christmas morning if you so desired and they really do taste good fresh from the oven. The recipe comes from Nigellas 'How to be a domestic goddess'.

Makes 12
For the muffins:
200g plain flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
75g demerara sugar
good grating fresh nutmeg
1 clementine or small orange
approximately 50ml milk
60g unsalted butter, melted
1 large egg
150g dried cranberries (I used sultanas)
12-bun muffin tin with papers

for the topping:
2 teaspoons demerara sugar
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 200ºC.
In a large bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, bicarb and sugar, and grate over a generous amount of fresh nutmeg. Squeeze the orange or clementine juice into a measuring jug, then pour in milk on top till it comes up to the 150ml mark. Add the melted butter and the egg, and beat to combine. Pour the jug of liquid ingredients into the bowl of dry ingredients and stir till the ingredients are more or less combined, remembering that a lumpy batter makes light muffins. Last of all, lightly fold in the cranberries and fill the muffin cases or cups. The amount of cranberries specified here makes for heavily fruited muffins; if you want them sparser, use half the amount.

Mix together the demerara sugar and ground cinnamon and sprinkle over the tops of the muffins. Stick them in the oven and bake for 20 minutes,bu which time they should be 
golden-brown and ready to be eaten – as they are, or broken open and spread with butter and marmalade.

Spiced carrot and lentil soup

My sister reminded me of this lovely soup recently when she cooked it for me for lunch. It's low fat, healthy and very filling, so with the accompaniment of some warm naan bread last night it made a very ample meal. The recipe is from the Good Food website. I love the fact that you don't even have to chop an onion for this soup.

Serves 4
2 tsp cumin seeds
pinch chilli flakes
2 tbsp olive oil
600g carrots , washed and coarsely grated (no need to peel)
140g split red lentils
1l hot vegetable stock (from a cube is fine)
125ml milk
plain yoghurt and naan bread, to serve

Heat a large saucepan and dry-fry the cumin seeds and chilli flakes for 1 min, or until they start to jump around the pan and release their aromas. Scoop out about half of the seeds with a spoon and set aside. Add the oil, carrot, lentils, stock and milk to the pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 15 mins until the lentils have swollen and softened.
Whizz the soup with a stick blender or in a food processor until smooth (or leave it chunky if you prefer). Season to taste and finish with a dollop of yogurt and a sprinkling of the reserved toasted spices. Serve with warmed naan breads.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Mozzarella, tomato and prosciutto ham tart

I made this tart on Friday night for the rest of the family as I was dining out, I was quite disappointed to be missing out on it, as it looked and smelt delicious. I served the tart with some sweet potato wedges. I found the recipe on the Tesco real food website and just added the ham as I thought it was a bit short on tomatoes.

Serves 4 - 6

6 tomatoes
150g mozzarella cheese
6 garlic cloves ( I didn't use that many)
2 tablespoons medium-grain semolina (not quite sure why this was necessary)
200g block store-bought butter puff pastry
2 sprigs of rosemary, leaves picked
sea salt
1 bunch of tarragon, leaves picked (I used dried)
olive oil


Preheat the oven to 180C. Cut the tomatoes into slices. Do the same with the mozzarella. Peel and slice the garlic cloves. Roll out the pastry and scatter the semolina over.
Arrange the tomato slices on the pastry so that they overlap, then add the garlic, rosemary leaves and mozzarella. Season, scatter over the tarragon and drizzle with olive oil. Bake for 30 minutes.

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Chicken Gumbo

A flavoursome and easy to prepare midweek meal. Unfortunately I had to eat it so quickly to get somewhere on time, I really didn't have the chance to enjoy it. I found the recipe on the tesco grocery website in their meal planning section, which is very handy when you run out of ideas. 

I had a fair amount of the sauce left over and added some vegetable stock to it and pureed it to make a really good soup with a great spicy flavour. 

Serves 4
1tbsp olive oil
500g (16oz) skinless chicken thighs, cut into chunks
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 sticks celery, finely diced
1 green pepper, deseeded and diced (I used red pepper as I prefer them)
1 bay leaf
2tbsp plain flour
1tbsp Cajun seasoning
400g chopped tomatoes
250ml (8fl oz) chicken stock
175g (6oz) okra (or 1 additional green pepper, cut into chunks)
2tbsp finely chopped fresh sage
crusty bread, to serve

Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the chicken and cook for 5 minutes to brown all over – you may need to do this in 2 batches. Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside.
Add the onion, garlic, celery, green pepper (plus extra pepper if you’re not using okra), and bay leaf to the pan and cook for 5 minutes. Return the chicken to the pan, then stir in the flour and Cajun seasoning and cook for 30 seconds.
Add the tomatoes, stock, okra (if using) and sage, bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer, cover and cook for 10 minutes. Remove the lid and cook for another 5 minutes, then season to taste and serve with crusty bread.

A wintery sunrise this morning

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Smoked Salmon and potato gratin

A bit of a fancy meal for a  Monday night I know, but I had family coming for dinner. I had a bit of a rush on when I discovered that this meal took an 1½ hours to cook as I knew that it was going to take a little while to prepare. The use of a mandoline to slice the potatoes made it a much quicker process than thinly slicing them by hand. There are quite a few stages to making the dish, but none of them are difficult. I love potato dauphinoise and the fact that you could just add smoked salmon to it (another Aldi purchase to recommend) and make a complete meal appealed to me. The recipe is from January Olive Magazine. I think I need to cut down now before Christmas, lots of homemade soup perhaps. 

Serves 4
1kg of floury potatoes, sliced very thinly
200ml of double cream
200ml whole milk (I used semi-skimmed)
1 clove of garlic halved
140g of smoked salmon cut into bite sized pieces
300g spinach
50g Grand Padano (parmesan would be fine)

Heat the oven to 160ºC. Gently heat the cream and milk with the halved garlic clove. Season really well, then turn off the heat and leave for 10 minutes. Take out the garlic and discard. Stir in the salmon.
Put the spinach in a colander and pour over a kettleful of water to wilt. Cool then tip into a clean tea towel and squeeze out as much water as possible (or else it will dilute the gratin). Season and add a grating of nutmeg.
Butter an ovenproof dish. Layer the potatoes and spinach, spooning over salmon and cream as you go. Finish with a layer of potatoes and squash down so the cream just comes to the surface. scatter with the cheese. Cover with foil and bake for 1½ hours , removing the foil after 45 minutes.

Make a healthier version by using half fat creme fraiche in the place of double cream.

Monday, 3 December 2012

Sweet mince pies

My first mince pies of the year. I made pastry following the same recipe as the Tarte au citron pastry (see previous entry). It's just so easy in the food processor. I used the top of a glass to cut out the pastry and put a heaped teaspoon of mincemeat in each pie, in a greased bun tin. Cooked in the oven for approx 15 minutes at 200ºC, the pastry was light and short, and melted in the mouth. Once removed from the oven I left them in the baking tray for a few minutes, they then transferred easily, without breaking to a wire cooling tray. Once cold I dusted them with icing sugar. I made about 20 from the pastry recipe. 

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Tarte au Citron

My first ever attempt at Tarte au Citron proved to be relativley successful. I don't make pastry very often and I am sure this is the first time I have made a pastry case, baking blind and all that. The process of making the tart is quite long as you will see from the length of the recipe. So if you are in a hurry it's not the dessert to make. My pastry edges were a bit of a disaster, if I made it again I would trim off the excess pastry before it goes in the oven, unlike the method stated in the recipe below. Also my tin wasn't deep enough so I could only put in half the lemon mixture. The tart filling was a bit grainy, but it had the right contrast of tangy lemon and sweetness and none of the artifical after taste you get from bought lemon tarts. I found the recipe online from Good Food Website from Mary Berry.

For the pastry;
175g plain flour
100g cold butter, cut into small cubes
25g icing sugar
1 egg yolk
1 tbsp cold water

For the filling;
5 eggs
125ml double cream
225g caster sugar
4 lemons, juice and zest
icing sugar, for dusting

To make the pastry, place the flour, butter and icing sugar into a food processor. Pulse briefly until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs, then add the egg yolk and water.
Pulse again until the mixture sticks together in clumps then tip onto a work surface and gather it into a ball with your hands. Knead the pastry just two or three times to make it smooth. If your butter was a bit too soft, the pastry might be too. If so, wrap it in parchment paper and chill for 15 minutes.
Grease a 23cm/9in loose-bottomed, fluted tart tin.
Lay a piece of parchment paper on the work surface. Remove the base from the tart tin and lay it on the paper. Using a pencil, draw a circle onto the paper 4cm/1½in bigger than the tin base.
Dust the base of the tin with flour. Place the pastry ball in the centre of the tin base and flatten it out slightly. Roll out the pastry, still on the base, until it meets the circle mark. As you are rolling out, turn the pastry by turning the paper. Gently fold the pastry surrounding the tin base in towards the centre.
Carefully lift the tin base off the work surface, drop it into the tin, then ease the pastry into the corners and up the sides of the tin, pressing the overhang lightly over the rim. If the pastry has cracked at all, simply press it together to seal. Press the pastry into the flutes of the tin then lightly prick the base with a fork, but not quite all the way through. Place the pastry-lined tin on a baking tray, cover loosely with cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 200C.
Remove the cling film from the pastry case and line with foil so it supports the sides, then fill with baking beans. Bake blind for 12-15 minutes, until the pastry is set, then lift out the foil and beans. Carefully trim the excess pastry from the sides using a sharp knife, holding the knife at a sharp angle and slicing away from you. Remove the trimmings from the sheet. Return the empty pastry case to the oven for another 10-12 minutes or until it is pale golden and completely dry. Set aside to cool while you make the filling. Reduce the oven temperature to 170C.
For the filling, break the eggs into a large bowl and whisk together with a wire whisk. Add the rest of the filling ingredients and whisk again until they are all well combined. Pour the filling mixture into a jug, then into the cooled baked pastry case. To prevent it spilling as it goes in the oven, pour in most of the filling so it almost fills the tart, carefully sit the baking sheet and tart on the oven shelf, then top up with the rest of the filling to completely fill it. Bake for about 30-35 minutes or until just set but with a slight wobble in the centre.
Leave to cool slightly then, when the pastry seems firm enough, remove the tart from the tin. The easiest way to do this is to place the base of the tin on an upturned can or jam jar and let the outer ring fall to the work surface. Transfer the tart to a serving plate and serve warm or cold, dusted with sifted icing sugar.

Thursday, 29 November 2012

Winter tomato soup with fried cheese sandwiches

I didn't expect this soup to taste half as good as it did because of the use of tinned chopped tomatoes. There was bags of flavour in it, especially with the accompaniment of the fried cheese sandwiches. They were crispy on the outside and melty in the middle. Definitely a winter warmer. The recipe is taken from Olive Magazine. 

Serves 2
1 onion, chopped
1 carrot , chopped
1 stick celery, chopped
400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato purée (forgot that)
750ml vegetable stock
1 tbsp creamed horseradish (optional) (I used a tsp of horseradish sauce)
75ml double cream (I just poured a little on top)
4 slices white bloomer (any bread would be fine)

slices cheddar or Gruyère

Melt a knob of butter in a pan and cook the onion, carrot and celery until softened. Add the tomatoes, purée and stock then simmer for 15-20 minutes, till the veg is soft. Blend until smooth, stir in the horseradish and cream and re-heat gently. To make the sandwiches, butter the bread on both sides and put the cheese in between. Fry on each side until the cheese has melted. Cut into soldiers.

Tuesday, 27 November 2012

No fuss Christmas Cake

I found this recipe in Good Housekeeping magazine in 2006 and have made this cake every Christmas since. It's one that doesn't have to be made ages in advance to cut well, infact it could be made a week before Christmas if need be. I always used to make Delia's classic christmas cake, which was lovely, but there were a lot more ingredients and it did seem more of a hassle to make. This one tastes great, there is not a huge list of ingredients and it really doesn't take long to make. It's cooking now and it smells fantastic. I have always used ground almonds in the place of the roasted marcona almonds. I can't see the point of grinding the almonds myself, and today as I could only get raspberry and vanilla vodka from tesco I have used that. It may add an interesting flavour to the cake. It's not a huge cake but it's sufficient for us to cut up and share at Christmas. 


cuts in 24 slices
250g  each plump raisins and sultanas
100g dried cranberries or blueberries (I always use cranberries)
200g natural glace cherries, halved
200ml vanilla vodka (or normal vodka with 2 tbsp vanilla extract)
150g roasted Marcona almonds ( I use 150g ground almonds)
200g  unsalted butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
200g unrefined dark muscovado sugar
4 medium organic eggs, beaten
100g  plain flour

Put the raisins, sultanas, dried cranberries and cherries in a large bowl. Add the vodka and stir well. Cover and leave to soak for 2-3hr or overnight.
Grease and line the base and sides of a 8in round tin with greaseproof paper. Preheat the oven to 150ºC. Put the almonds in a food processor and blend lightly until coarsely chopped. Tip out 75g and blend the remainder until ground. (no need for this if you are using ground almonds)
Put the butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl and beat with a handheld electric whisk for 2-3min until light and creamy. Gradually whisk in the beaten eggs, adding a little of the flour if the mixture starts to curdle. (mine often looks like it is starting to curdle) Stir in the ground and chopped nuts (or just add the bag of ground almonds) and flour. 
Tip the soaked fruit mixture into the bowl with any unabsorbed liqueur. Mix well, then spoon into the prepared tin and level the surface. Bake for 3½ (check at 3 hours mine is usually done then) or until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean. Leave to cool in the tin, then remove and wrap in a double thickness of foil until ready to decorate. Once baked you can boost the cakes vanilla flavour by dousing with extra vodka before wrapping it it and storing it.

The photos above are the cakes from previous Christmas's and my mum and dad's Golden Wedding Anniversary cake, all from this recipe. The photo on the cake was a great idea from the site
Making marzipan fruits has become a tradition of mine now, and Rachel loves helping me make them (and eat them as she goes along). I got the idea of decorating the cake with them from some magazine or other. I'll post the method for marzipan fruits in December, they make lovely presents. 

Italian broccoli and salmon bake

There is nothing very Italian about this dish apart from the use of pasta, but it was a super dish to make for a crowd on Sunday. It can be made in advance and refrigerated until ready to bake. It's the second time I have made it, the first time I found it a wee bit bland so this time I added a big handful of parmesan to the sauce and a pinch of chilli flakes, this gave the dish more flavour. It's a recipe I found on the Good Food website. I doubled the recipe for 8 people, there was enough for seconds and two of us had leftovers for tea last night.

Serves 4
250g penne
300g broccoli, cut into large florets
25g butter
25g plain flour
600ml milk
100g mascarpone
8 sundried tomatoes (preserved in olive oil), drained and thickly sliced
2 tbsp small capers (optional) rinsed to remove excess salt or vinegar
8 anchovy fillets, halved (optional)
10 large fresh basil leaves, roughly torn
4 fresh skinless salmon fillets
50g mature cheddar , finely grated

A handful of parmesan cheese and a pinch of chilli flakes (Optional)

Preheat the oven to 190ºC and get out an ovenproof dish (measuring 20 by 30cm, and about 5cm deep). Meanwhile, put a large pan of water on to boil for the pasta. When it is boiling rapidly, tip in the pasta with a generous sprinkling of salt. Give it a stir, return to the boil and cook for 6 minutes. Add the broccoli, then return the water to the boil and cook for 4 minutes more, until the broccoli is on the firm side of just tender. Drain well.
While the pasta is cooking, put the butter, flour and milk in a large pan and heat, whisking or stirring continuously, until it thickens to make a smooth sauce. Remove from the heat and stir in the mascarpone, parmesan and chilli flakes (if using) sun-dried tomatoes, capers (if using), anchovies (if using) and basil, then add the pasta and broccoli and season well.
Halve the salmon fillets widthways (you will see that there is an obvious divide on each fillet) then place the pieces in a single layer on the base of the ovenproof dish. Spoon the broccoli mixture on top, then scatter with the grated cheddar. (You can chill this for up to 4 hours if you want to get ahead.)
Bake for 30 minutes until the mixture is just starting to bubble round the edges and the mixture is pale golden - don't let it go too dark or the fish will overcook.

Sunday, 25 November 2012

Pasta with savoy cabbage, bacon, thyme and mozzarella

James told me at the last minute he needed ingredients for his cookery lesson, so another trip to Aldi was needed. I picked up some pitta breads to make the kids pitta bread pizza for tea on Friday.
The adults had the left over cheese and potato pie which heated up beautifully (Aldi meal No. 4). I enjoyed it more that night. It can definitely be described as frugal food. Even with the extra trip my shopping bill has been way less this week and I still have some of the ingredients in the fridge to make another meal on Monday. I have had to resort to a tesco shop today as I have family coming for tea and could not have stretched to a meal for nine people. Last night for Aldi meal No.5, I made this very delicious Jamie Oliver, meal first posted in March 14th.

Thursday, 22 November 2012

Potato, cheese and onion pie

I decided to try this meal as I had some ready made short crust pastry to use up. The children had the leftover spaghetti bolognese tonight as I didn't think they would appreciate the pie. And what a pie it was. It was huge and as Aldi Meal No.3, I think it will also be Aldi Meal No.4 as there is so much left over. I'll serve it with baked beans for a meal tomorrow night. I'm not sure whether to have it cold or reheat it gently, either would be good. It was certainly very tasty, although not a particularly quick meal to do, but certainly not difficult. I had bought ready rolled shortcrust pastry and had to roll it a bit thinner to make the top and bottom of the pie. I wasn't too particular in lining the pie dish and had to botch bits here and there but I thought it still looked pretty impressive once cooked. The recipe is from the Good Food Website.

Serves 6
200g strong, hard cheese (we used cheddar ), ½ coarsely grated, ½ cut into small chunks
200ml tub crème fraîche
500g shortcrust pastry
1kg floury potatoes, thinly sliced
2 onions, finely sliced
1 bunch spring onions, roughly chopped
small pinch grated nutmeg
large pinch paprika
1 egg, beaten

Heat oven to 200°C. In a small bowl, mix the grated cheddar with the crème fraîche, then set aside. Grease and lightly flour a ceramic or metal pie dish, or shallow cake tin, about 23cm wide. Roll out two-thirds of the pastry on a lightly floured surface until large enough to line the tin with a little overhang.
Place a layer of potatoes over the tart and scatter over some of the sliced onions, spring onions and chunks of cheese. Season with salt, pepper, nutmeg and paprika. Layer over more potatoes, scatter again with more onions and cheese, then splodge over half the crème fraîche mix. Repeat with 2 more layers (the potatoes will come up way above the pastry), pushing the filling down slightly, then finish with the remaining crème fraîche mix.
Roll the remaining pastry so it fits over the potatoes. Brush the sides with egg, then lay the pastry over the top. Squeeze the edges together and trim with a knife. Crimp the sides and brush the top all over with egg. Place the pie on a baking sheet, bake for 30 mins, reduce the temperature to 180°C, then carry on baking for 1 hr until golden. Leave the pie to rest for 10 mins, then serve straight from the dish cut into
slices, with a salad or baked beans on the side.

Quick Spaghetti Bolognese

For meal No. 2 on the Aldi menu, the simple Spag Bol. I blogged an oven cooked recipe in March, (photo above) so I'll keep this quick. I also guess most people have their own recipe for this popular dish. I fried one chopped onion with two cloves of chopped garlic and browned 500g of Aberdeen Angus mince. I then added two tablespoons of tomato puree and a 400g tin of chopped tomatoes. I sprinkled in some dried thyme, seasoned with salt and pepper and a spoonful of sugar and then left to simmer for 30 minutes. I cooked mine earlier on in the day and left it to reheat for tea time.

Tuesday, 20 November 2012

Salmon with leeks and parsnip mash.

As a little experiment I am seeing if I can use Aldi as my main source for shopping this week. My food bills have been rather high recently, and as Aldi seem to be branching out in their range of good fresh food I thought I would plan meals that used their ingredients. My food bill came to about £53 yesterday and I think that included ingredients that could last the whole week (I may have to add to it by Friday, only because I may have friends coming for tea). My friend Debbie has been asking me for another weekly meal plan so this could be the start of it. 
I thought I would try this meal from the Good Food website, the parsnip mash seemed a change from the usual. Though as I am not a huge fan of parsnips, it was not my favourite meal. I just wasn't sure about the sweetness of it. I would have preferred simple creamy mashed potato and leeks. Although if you love parsnips it would be a winner.

Serves 4
4 x 130g salmon fillets
juice and finely grated zest 1 lemon
2 tbsp thyme leaves (I didn't have these)
1kg parsnips , chopped
4 tbsp fromage frais (I used creme fraiche)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 leeks, thinly sliced

Heat oven to 200C. Place the salmon pieces into a roasting tin, squeeze over the lemon juice and scatter with ½ the zest. Season and sprinkle over ½ the thyme. Roast for 15 mins until salmon is cooked through.
Meanwhile, bring a lightly salted pan of water to the boil and cook the parsnips for 15 mins, until tender. Drain well, then mash with the remaining lemon zest and the fromage frais. Keep warm.
Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan. Cook the leeks over a medium heat for 6-8 mins, adding a splash of water and covering with a lid after 5 mins, until soft. Stir the leeks into the mash and serve with the salmon, scattered with the remaining thyme leaves.

Monday, 19 November 2012

Lemon cupcakes

I was in need of cake last night for Sunday tea, having a large amount of lemons in my fruit bowl these seemed like the obvious choice from The Hummingbird Bakery Cookbook. As I used large cupcake cases the mix only made 9 cakes. The recipe also make a huge amount of icing so I probably reduced it by half. They were delicious. I think the cupcakes from the Hummingbird Bakery are the most successful ones I have ever made. 
Make 12
120g of plain flour
150g of caster sugar
1½ teaspoons of baking powder
2 tablespoons of grated lemon zest, plus extra to decorate
40g of unsalted butter (at room temperature)
120 ml of whole milk
1 egg

For the lemon frosting:
250g of icing sugar (sifted)
80g of unsalted butter (at room temperature)
2 tablespoons of grated lemon zest (I used the juice of the two lemons I had zested for the sponge)
A few drops of yellow food colouring (optional but pretty)
25 ml of whole milk

You will need
A 12-hole cupcake tray lined with paper cases
Preheat the oven to 170°C.
Put the flour, sugar, baking powder, lemon zest, and butter in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) and beat on slow speed until you get a sandy consistency and everything is combined.
Gradually pour in the milk and beat until just incorporated.
Add the egg to the flour mixture and continue beating until the flour is just incorporated, making sure to scrape any unmixed ingredients from the side of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Continue mixing for a couple of minutes until the batter is smooth, but be careful not to overmix.

Spoon the mixture into the paper cases until two thirds full. Bake in the preheated for 20-25 minutes, or until the cake bounces back when touched. A skewer inserted in the center should come out clean.
Let the cupcakes cool slightly in the pan before turning out into a wire rack to cool completely.
When the cupcakes are cold, spoon the lemon frosting on top and use extra lemon zest to decorate accordingly.

For the Lemon frosting:
Beat together the confectioners' sugar, butter, lemon zest (or juice), and food coloring in a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment (or use a handheld electric whisk) on medium-slow speed. Continue until the mixture is well-mixed.
Turn the mixer down to a slower speed and slowly pour in the milk. (I didn't use milk as I used the juice from the lemon)
Once the milk has been incorporated, turn the mixer up to high speed.
Continue beat until the frosting is light and fluffy; this should take at least 5 minutes.

Gluten free apple and sweet mincemeat crumble

I apologise for the quality of the photograph, the light was a bit poor when I took the photograph on Friday evening. The simplicity of this dessert seemed like a good follow up to a main course with lots of flavours,( Lamb Machbous). I also wanted a gluten free topping and found this lovely recipe on an a website called Australia, I added the mincemeat to the recipe as I have enjoyed that combination before. I cooked the crumble for 1 hour covered, and then took it out of the oven until just before it was needed. Then all it took was 15 minutes uncovered until the topping was a lovely golden brown colour.

Serves 6
6 large apples
1 tablespoon white sugar
¼ tsp cinnamon
I jar of sweet mincemeat (optional)

Crumble Topping
3 tablespoons ground almonds
4 tablespoons rice flour
2 tablespoons desiccated coconut
2 tablespoons sugar


Preheat oven to 190°C. Grease a medium sized round baking or casserole dish. Peel, core and chop apples into 1 cm pieces and place directly into the baking dish. Sprinkle sugar and cinnamon over apples and toss well.
Combine topping ingredients and rub together with fingers. Sprinkle topping over apples and bake, covered, in preheated oven for one hour or until apples no longer have shape, and then bake uncovered for a few more minutes to crisp the topping.

Sunday, 18 November 2012

Linguine with tuna sauce

It was a real struggle today to find a recipe which included the small amount of ingredients I had in the fridge and cupboards. I finally came across this pasta dish and nearly had the correct ingredients. I used spaghetti instead of linguine and a tin of chopped tomatoes instead of passata. It had quite a kick to it, it was easy to make and tasted fresh and healthy. I added some chopped cherry tomatoes just at the end of the cooking time as suggested by someone who has also tried the recipe on the Good food website. A sprinkling of Parmesan and a glass of red wine and it made a good standby lunch.

Serves 4
4 tbsp olive oil
3 tbsp fresh flatleaf parsley , chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 red chilli , deseeded and finely chopped
1cm fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
450g passata
2 x 200g cans tuna in olive oil, drained and flaked
375g linguine

Prepare the sauce. Heat the oil in a medium pan. Toss in 2 tbsp of the parsley, the garlic, chilli and ginger and fry for a few minutes until slightly soft. Tip in the tomatoes and cook for another few minutes. Fold in the tuna and season the sauce generously. Leave the sauce to simmer for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, cook the pasta for 8-10 minutes, or as directed on the pack. Drain, then return to the pan. Pour the tuna sauce into the pasta and toss well. Sprinkle over the remaining parsley, divide between four bowls and serve.

Saturday, 17 November 2012

Lamb Machbous

This lovely fragrant lamb dish is a recipe I have acquired from my father in law. He cooked it for us for dinner recently after discovering the dish on an Emirates flight. It's a traditional dish from Bahrain. He researched the recipe when he returned home and gave it to me. I cooked it a day in advance for a dinner party with friends last night. Leaving it overnight and reheating on the evening gave all the wonderful flavours a chance to develop. It also meant I didn't have a lot to do once the guests arrived. The dish is somewhere between a mild curry and a tagine. I served this with roast sweet potatoes (see below) and basmati rice. 

Serves 4 - 6

1 tsp ground black pepper
¾ tsp ground coriander
¾ tsp ground cinnamon
¾ tsp ground cloves
1 tsp ground cumin
5 cardamon pods (remove the shells and ground up the seeds)
a pinch of ground nutmeg
1½ tsp paprika
1 kg lamb (bought as chunks or shoulder cut into bite size chunks)
2 tbsp oil
2 onions, chopped
2 tins of canned chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp parsley, chopped
½ tsp grated lime peel
½ tsp ground turmeric

Mix the black pepper, coriander, cinnamon, cloves, cumin, cardamon, nutmeg and paprika and set aside.
Salt the lamb. Saute it with the onions on the oil, until the lamb is brown and the onions are golden brown. Add the prepared spice mixture, the tomatoes, the parsley, the lime peel and the turmeric. Mix well, bring to a full boil, then reduce the heat and simmer, covered, for an hour, adding water as necessary to keep it moist. Taste and add more salt if needed.
Tastes best if done the day before and then simmered for another hour before serving.
Serve with basmati rice (saffron optional) and roast sweet potatoes. Cube the potatoes, toss with oil, cayenne pepper, allspice, a tsp of brown sugar and salt in a freezer bag, then roast for 20 mins at 220 degC or until dark brown.

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Butternut Squash, chickpea and spinach curry

I found this recipe on a food blog called A combination of a vegetarian friend coming for tea and a lone butternut squash sitting on my kitchen work bench for the last few days led me to the recipe. A very tasty meal which I made earlier in the day and just heated up. I think it may taste even better tomorrow.

Serves 4

1 butternut squash, 6-8 inches high, peeled and diced with seeds scooped out
200g spinach, washed and excess water squeezed out, chopped
1 tin chickpeas
1 tin tomatoes
1 tin coconut milk
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1 green chilli, finely chopped. More if you like it very hot!
thumb size amount of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
A handful of chopped fresh coriander
Half a lemon

1 tbsp cumin seed
1 tbsp coriander seed
1/2 tbsp turmeric
8 black peppercorns

Grind the spices in a pestle & mortar.
Fry the onion until translucent over a medium heat in some oil (sunflower or groundnut). Add the garlic, ginger and chilli for a minute or so. Add the spices for a minute or so, you’ll start to smell them as they temper. Add the butternut squash and coat in the ingredients in the pan. Cook for a couple of minutes.
Add the tomatoes and coconut milk, and cook for 10-15 minutes (mine took a lot longer) until the squash is cooked and you can push a fork through it.
Drain the chickpeas and add to the sauce. Also add the spinach.
When the spinach is wilted and the chickpeas are warmed through, add the coriander and a squeeze of lemon juice. The lemon juice lifts the flavour nicely, taste as you go.
Salt to taste and serve with rice and/or flatbreads.

Monday, 12 November 2012

Stilton, chard and walnut wellington

I made this meal out of the Christmas edition of Olive Magazine on Saturday night, because I love anything with Stilton in, but I also thought it might be a good recipe for anyone looking for a vegetarian Christmas dinner recipe. It certainly looked and tasted impressive enough to serve on the big day. I served mine with some asparagus and some cranberry sauce, which complimented the stilton beautifully. James wasn't too keen, but it was rather an adult taste. It wasn't difficult to make. You could actually make the filling in advance then assemble it just before cooking. 

Serves 6
12 shallots peeled
25g butter
100g walnuts, roughly chopped
200g Stilton, crumbled
2 sprigs of thyme (I didn't have this)
500g chard, tough stalks removed and finely shredded.(ooops didn't do that either)
500g block of puff pastry ( I used ready rolled and just halved it once it was opened out)
1 egg beaten


Fry the shallots in half the butter until they are soft and browned, this will take about 15 minutes over a low heat. Tip into a bowl and add the walnuts, Stilton and thyme. Blanch the chard in boiling water for 1 minute, drain well and tip into the frying pan  with the remaining butter and lots of seasoning. Cook for a minute or two to dry it out a little and then tip into the rest of the mix and cool.
Heat the oven to 200°C. Roll out the pack of puff pastry to the thickness of a £1 coin (about 35cm square) and cut into 2 pieces (or half the ready rolled sheet). Arrange the filling in a fat pile on one piece. Brush the edges with beaten egg then drape the second piece over the top to make a parcel. Trim and crimp the edges. Score the top and decorate with the pastry off cuts, then brush all over with egg. Cook for 40 minutes until crisp and golden.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Pasta with spicy sausage and rosemary sauce

I cooked this meal for the children earlier on last night as we were having a meal with friends later. For the friends I cooked Beef stew with green peppercorns and cheddar dumplings and pear and ginger upside down cake (both October entries). A really easy dinner party meal as everything could be prepared in advance and all I had to do was the mash and put the dumplings in to cook 20 minutes before eating. 
This meal was another from Good Food website that I happened to have nearly the right ingredients in for. I substituted single cream instead of double and used pasta penne as it was all I had in. It was incredibly tasty, I was tempted to have a portion for myself, but I didn't want to ruin my appetite for the meal to come.

The new link (you might also like:) at the bottom of each post appears to be becoming a bit random. It's supposed to link relevant recipes to the one I have just posted. Not sure where the relevance of some of them is coming from. Never mind it serves as a little reminder of the past recipes I have done. I hope it's useful. 

Serve 2
200g rigatoni 
75g chorizo, chopped into small chunks
olive oil
a pinch chilli flakes
2 sprigs rosemary needles, chopped
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
4 tbsp double cream (optional)

Cook the pasta following packet instructions. Fry the chorizo in a little olive oil for 3 minutes. Add the chilli flakes and rosemary and cook for 1 minute then tip in the tomatoes. Simmer for 15 minutes then add the cream (if using) and stir well.
Toss with the pasta and serve.