Friday, 30 March 2012

Citrus Salmon with herb and caper crushed potatoes

There's not much to say about this dish, apart from how simple it is and how very nice it is. It's from the BBC Good Food Website. I'm a day behind in posting the recipe, but tonight I'm doing the Chicken Tikka Masala dish again, so I don't need to post that one. My mouth is watering at the thought of it.

serves 2

2 skinless salmon fillets
1 lemon, juiced
1 orange, juiced
olive oil
300g new potatoes
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
½ small bunch basil, chopped
1 tbsp capers, rinsed and drained


Heat the oven to 180C. Put the salmon in a freezer bag with half the lemon juice, all the orange juice and 1 tbsp olive oil and season well. Leave for 10 minutes then tip the salmon and marinade into a shallow ovenproof dish and bake for 6-8 minutes until just cooked through.
Boil the potatoes until tender. Gently crush with 1 tbsp olive oil, the rest of the lemon juice, mustard, basil and capers. Serve with the salmon and any juices from the dish.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

Bacon, blue cheese and ciabatta salad

My thoughts have turned to salads, due to the unbelievably warm weather we are having. This is quick and easy to prepare, which was perfect last night as we were all rushing around. I love bacon and blue cheese together, but if blue cheese is not your thing, it could be substituted with asparagus or boiled eggs. Add anything that takes your fancy really. I got the idea from a recipe from Jamie Oliver which uses pancetta, roquefort cheese and sour dough bread. So really this is just a poor mans version, but every bit as tasty.

Serve 4
1 packet of salad leaves of your choice
1 packet of smoked bacon
1 packet of St Agur cheese
3 ciabatta rolls or a loaf of ciabatta (If part-baked, crisp up in the oven first)
olive oil
balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper

Chop the bacon into small bits and fry in some olive oil until crispy. Roughly tear the ciabatta into chunks and throw them in with the bacon, continue to fry until they are golden and starting to crisp. Add the bacon and the ciabatta to the salad leaves. Break the amount of cheese you desire into small chunks and add this to the bowl and mix everything together . Make a dressing with 2 parts olive oil, 1 part balsamic vinger, add some french or english mustard, salt and ground pepper and give a good shake. Pour this over the salad, mix and serve.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Spaghetti with Prawns and chilli

Last nights meal was full of light and summery flavours to compliment the lovely sunny day we had yesterday. It's a good store cupboard/freezer meal.  A packet of prawns is a good ingredient to have in the freezer and defrost them on the morning of use. Spaghetti and a tin of sundried/sunblush tomatoes are staple ingredients in my cupboard, so this is a good standby meal.  I used raw king prawns and just fried them after the spring onions were cooked. I also added some tomato puree to mine for a bit of extra flavour. This is a recipe where the amounts don't really matter and when you have done the dish once, you'll just be able to chuck it all in and experiment a bit. This is based on a recipe from "Nigella Express", 

Serves 2 (that is a Nigella sized portion)
200g packet of frozen cooked, peeled prawns, defrosted
250g spaghetti
olive oil
4 spring onions, finely sliced
half a teaspoon of crushed chilli flakes
200g sunblush/sundried tomatoes in seasoned oil
125ml white wine 
50 g rocket
freshly grated parmesan
salt and black pepper

Drain the defrosted prawns and leave on one side.
Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions.
Heat the oil in a large pan (big enough to take the pasta after) and fry the sliced spring onions and chilli flakes for a couple of minutes, then tip in the tomatoes with their oil and the prawns.
When both have warmed through, add the wine and let it bubble up. Add the rocket and stir until wilted.
Drain the pasta when ready, reserving 125ml or so of it's cooking liquid and toss the drained pasta in the chilli-prawn pan, add more of the cooking water if needed.
Serve onto warmed serving dishes and sprinkle with some fresh parmesan if desired.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Chicken and broccoli supper pie

My mum reminded me about this recipe that she got years and years ago from a can of Campbell's condensed chicken soup. We had friends for dinner last night with young children so this recipe popped to mind as something we would all enjoy. The good thing about it was it was all prepared and ready to put in the oven for 30 minutes once we were ready to eat. I was a  bit more organised and tidy than I was last week and had a lot less clearing up.  Not cordon bleu cooking but very tasty comfort food. Now you can buy condensed chicken soup more readily again, I'll definitely make this more often.

Serves 4
1 cooked chicken, cut into chunks
1 head of broccoli cooked
2 tins of campbells condensed chicken soup
4 tablespoons of mayonaise (not a specific amount)
1 teaspoon of curry powder
1 packet of ready salted crisps crushed
grated cheddar cheese

Heat the oven to 180C. In a large shallow baking dish mix the lightly cooked broccoli and the chicken. Spoon the chicken soup over the top of the chicken and broccoli mixture. Mix together the mayonnaise and curry powder and dollop this over the chicken. Sprinkle on cheddar cheese and the crushed crisps and then the put in the oven for about 30 minutes until bubbling and crispy.

Baked raspberry cheesecake

I use the BBC Goodfood website quite often as inspiration for new recipes. On the home page this recipe pops up each time as one of their highest rated recipes. I had also tried it at a friends house some years ago, so I knew it was good. It was fairly simple to make as far as cheesecakes go, no baking in a water bath. The only thing I would say is that it took much longer than the 40 mins that the recipe stated. I must have put it in to cook for another 20 minutes longer. I tested the centre with a skewer and when it came out clean was satsified it was ready.
Don't think about the calorie content.

Serves 8
8 digestive biscuits
50g butter , melted
600g cream cheese
2 tbsp plain flour
175g caster sugar
vanilla extract

2 eggs, plus 1 yolk
142ml pot soured cream
300g raspberries
icing sugar

Heat the oven to 180C. Crush 8 digestive biscuits in a food processor (or put in a plastic bag and bash with a rolling pin). Mix with 50g melted butter. Press into a 20cm springform tin and bake for 5 minutes, then cool.
Beat 600g cream cheese with 2 tbsp flour, 175g caster sugar, a few drops of vanilla extract, 2 eggs, 1 yolk and a 142ml pot of soured cream until light and fluffy. Stir in 150g raspberries and pour into the tin. Bake for 40 minutes and then check, it should be set but slightly wobbly in the centre. Leave in the tin to cool.
Using the remaining 150g raspberries, keep a few for the top and put the rest in a pan with 1 tbsp icing sugar. Heat until juicy and then squash with a fork. Push through a sieve. Serve the cheescake with the raspberry sauce and raspberries.

Saturday, 24 March 2012

Asparagus and Gruyere Parcels

This is probably one of my favourite vegetarian recipes. Crisp puff pastry with an oozing cheese filling. They are light, not too difficult to make, and perfect if you need a vegetarian option. They can be made in advance and kept in the fridge until ready to cook. The recipe may look fiddly but I made a couple of them, while waiting for pizza and chips to cook in the oven. This is taken from Delia's "Vegetarian Collection".

Serves 6 (light lunch or starters)
350g fresh asparagus
175g of gruyere
3 tablespoons of freshly grated parmesan, plus extra to sprinkle
200 ml of creme fraiche
salt and black pepper

For the pastry:
375g pack of fresh ready rolled puff pastry
flour for dusting
2 large egg yolks, beaten with a tablespoon of milk

You will need a large baking tray, lightly oiled

First remove the pastry from the fridge and let it come to room temperature (about 10 minutes). Meanwhile, wash the asparagus in cold water, then take each stalk in both hands, and bend and snap off the woody end. Then lightly steam the asparagus until tender for 2-3 minutes.
Remove them from the steamer and allow them to cool. When cool, cut each one into 3, on the diagonal. Next, using a small sharp knife remove the rind from the Gruyère and cut it into ½ in (1 cm) cubes. In a small bowl, mix the Parmesan and crème fraîche and add some salt and freshly milled black pepper. Now carefully unroll the sheet of pastry onto a lightly floured work surface and cut it 3 widthways. Roll out one third until it measures 7 x 14 in, and then cut that into 2 squares measuring 7 x 7 in. Then repeat the rolling and cutting with the other 2 pieces of pastry, so you end up with 6 squares in all. Beat the egg yolks with the milk.
Next, you need to carefully brush the edges of the 6 pastry squares with this mixture. Then divide the crème fraîche filling between these 6 pieces of pastry, spooning about a level dessertspoon into the centre of each square. Next, divide the asparagus on top of the crème fraîche, with several cubes of cheese tucked in-between. Now pull up the opposite corners of each square to meet in the centre like an envelope. Carefully pinch the seams together to seal them, and make a small hole in the centre of each one to allow the steam to escape. Then, using a fish slice, transfer the parcels to the baking tray. Once you have made 6 parcels, cover them with clingfilm and chill until you are ready to cook them. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Then, brush each one with some of the remaining beaten-egg mix and lightly sprinkle each one with some Parmesan. Bake on a high shelf in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until they are golden brown, and serve them straightaway.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Chicken Tikka Masala

At a party at Christmas, I tried one of the nicest homemade curries I have ever tasted. Lisa, the girl who made it, was kind enough to give me the recipe and let me share it. She devised it using a combination of a few recipes she had found.  Although in England we call this a traditional Indian dish, it has very little to do with authentic Indian cuisine. However, this was better than anything I have ever eaten in an Indian restaurant or takeaway. There is a big list of ingredients and it may seem a bit daunting but it wasn't that difficult. I marinated the meat in the morning and cooked the curry yesterday evening. It takes a little time, but it was well worth it. We had a friend for dinner who adores curries and he was in raptures. I gave him some of the left over sauce to take home, so he could make his own curry this weekend. Also lovely the next day, better even, as curries usually are.

Chicken Tikka Marinade ingredients - Serves 4

4 chicken breasts - cubed
Cayenne pepper 1/2 tsp
Chilli powder 1/4 - 1/2 tsp
Garlic paste 4 cloves (crushed garlic cloves)
Ginger paste 2 tsp (grated fresh ginger)
Ground coriander 1 tsp
Garam masala 1 tsp
Turmeric 1 tsp
Natural yogurt 1 large pot
1/2 of a lemon or lime - juice only
Red food colouring 2 cap fulls

Fresh coriander - chopped

Mix all together and leave overnight.
Before making the sauce, griddle the chicken pieces on a high heat so they
are slightly charred for 3-4 mins each side. Try to remove as much of the marinade as you can whilst you are griddling/frying. Then put aside and let cool.
Then make the sauce.

MASALA SAUCE ingredients

Garlic paste, 4 cloves
Ginger paste,2 tsp
Ghee or butter - fry the above then add:
Garam masala 1 tsp (can add a bit more)
Turmeric, 1 tsp (can add a bit more) then add:
1 tin of tomatoes, then add:
200-250 mls double cream (I didn't use this)
1/2 tin coconut milk
2-4 tbsp ground almonds
Handful fresh coriander
Then liquidise it to a smooth sauce.
Heat through and taste, add a pinch of sugar, At this point you might want to add more lemon juice, almonds or cream to your own liking.

Add the chicken and cook for about 20 minutes until the chicken is cooked through. Garnish with fresh coriander.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Sizzling Korean-Style beef

This is a recipe from Olive Magazine in March 2010, I couldn't believe that when I looked at the date on the magazine. It seems like yesterday I first tried this recipe. The only part of the recipe that takes time is cutting the beef really thinly. Also try to stir fry without adding too much of the marinade, as the meat will fry much quicker and not poach, as mine did tonight. It was still really good, although I still have problems cooking rice. Maybe time to invest in a rice cooker, just not sure whether I can find room for it on my work surface.

Serves 2
300g rump steak, trimmed of all fat
2 tsp of sugar
2 tbsp soy sauce
2 tbsp mirin
2 garlic cloves chopped
sesame oil
vegetable oil
4 spring onions sliced lengthways
1 tbsp of toasted sesame seeds
100g basmati rice to serve

Slice the meat as thinly as possible. Mix the sugar, soy, mirin, garlic and 1 tsp of sesame oil, add the beef and stir well. Crack over a good grind of black pepper
Heat a wok until very hot with 2 tsp of vegetable oil. Sear the meat for a few minutes and then add the spring onion. Stir fry for another minute then add the sesame seeds. Serve with the steamed basmati rice.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Penne with Prosciutto

A great, no fuss pasta sauce with minimal preparation, but full of wonderful flavours. It's hard to believe that such few ingredients can make such a good tasting sauce. This recipe comes from "Living and Eating" by Annie Bell and John Pawson.

Serves 4
350g pasta penne
50g unsalted butter
125g prosciutto, sliced into thin strips
150g creme fraiche
salt and pepper
100g Parmesan cheese freshly grated, plus extra for serving

Bring a large pan of salted boiling water to the boil. Add the penne, give it a stir and cook until tender. Meanwhile melt the butter in pan over a medium heat. Separating the pieces of prosciutto, add them to the pan and cook until they colour and begin to crisp. Add the creme fraiche and some seasoning and simmer for a few minutes until the butter and cream emulsify.

Drain the pasta without being to thorough and return it to the pan. Add the sauce to the pasta and toss, then mix in the grated parmesan. Serve straight away with extra parmesan to serve.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Simple Smoked Mackerel Pate

I'd forgotten how good this was, it's a while since I've made it. It was delicious at lunch time with some crusty french bread, also goes really well with jacket potatoes. The amount written below was a good portion which will probably last for another couple of lunches. For a smaller amount, serving around 4 people, half the amount shown. 

100g of cheddar cheese
300g boneless smoked mackerel fillets
2 big dollops of natural yoghurt
juice of half a lemon
salt and pepper

The easiest way is to put all the ingredients in to a food processor and blitz until smooth. Alternatively mash and mix by hand for a rougher pate.

For a lower calorie version use low fat cottage cheese instead of the cheese and yoghurt.

Sunday, 18 March 2012

Mezze Plate

I seem to have a bit of a Mediterranean thing going on, must be the sunshine. An easy lunch today with no cooking. Unless heating up falafel and frying halloumi cheese can be classed as cooking. A nice idea for an informal lunch or a starter. 

pitta breads
fried halloumi cheese
feta cheese
cous cous

My mothers day bouquet made by Rachel and James

Pot Roasted Chicken with sun dried tomatoes, cinnamon and oregano

We had this dish for lunch at our friends recently. I really enjoyed it that day, so I decided to give it a try as we had family coming for dinner last night. I wanted to do something all the children would eat and enjoy, this was a good choice. I made the sauce in advance and doubled the recipe to feed 8 of us. I made a huge mess in the kitchen (see photo below), not an inch of work surface to be seen. Things didn't go too smoothly in the kitchen, one of the chickens was slightly underdone when I first took it out of the casserole dish, I returned it to the oven for a little longer than the recipe stated. This was due to the fact that the dish was a bit small for the chicken and it was half covered with sauce. The other one was perfectly cooked. The hassle was probably due to two things, my sous-chef and tidy up person was watching the rugby and not helping at all. Also too much wine was drunk prior to the meal being ready, which affected any chance of a smooth operation in the kitchen. However the flavours were really lovely, the chicken really tender, I would do it again, but I'd try to be a bit more organised next time. This is also from Rick Stein's "Mediterranean Escapes".

Serves 4
1 x 2kg chicken
4 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large onion, halved and thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
60g sun-dried tomaotes 
400g tin of chopped tomaotes
a cinnamon stick
1 tsp dried oregano
a generaous pinch of crushed dried chillis
150ml of chicken stock
400g orzo pasta
25g butter
50g finely grated parmesan
a small handful of flat leaf parsley leaves, roughly chopped
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 180C. Season the inside of the chicken. Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large casserole dish and add the chicken and brown on all sides over a medium heat.
Remove the chicken to a plate and add the remaining oil and the onion to the casserole and cook until soft and lightly browned. Add the garlic, sun-dried tomatoes and tin of tomatoes, cinnamon, oregano, dried chilli flakes, chicken stock, 1 teasppon of salt and some black pepper. Bring to a simmer, replace the chicken and cover the casserole with a tight fitting lid. Transfer the casserole to the oven and bake for 1 and half hours until the chicken is tender.
Bring a large pan of salted boiling water to the boil in a large saucepan. When the chicken is cooked, lift it onto a carving board and leave it to rest covered in foil for 10 minutes. Skim the excess fat from the surface of the sauce, place the casserole over a medium heat and simmer until the sauce is reduced and thickened.
Cook the orzo for 7 minutes until al dente. Drain and return to the pan with the butter and grated cheese and toss together well.
Remove the cinnamon stick from the sauce, stir in the parsley and season to taste.
Carve the chicken . Spoon the sauce onto warmed plates and place the chicken on top. Spoon the orzo alongside and serve.

Spanakopita, Spinach, mint and feta pastries

These little greek spinach, mint and feta pastries were a first for me yesterday. Thankfully Rachel was on hand to get the rolling part right. My first attempt ended up looking more like a spring roll. They were fiddly to make, not difficult, just a bit time consuming, so not an ideal starter if you have time restrictions. I think they could have done with more feta in them and a little less mint. They looked great and we made them in advance and kept them in the fridge until we were ready to cook them. I brushed the tops with the melted butter just before they went in the oven. I made some Tzatziki to dip them in. This recipe is from Rick Stein's "Mediterranean Escapes".

Makes about 18
500g spinach
1 tablespoon olive oil
half a small onion, chopped
100g Greek feta cheese
1 large egg
1 tablespoon of finely grated parmesan
a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
2 tablespoons fresh mint
250-275 packet of filo pastry, about 6 sheets
100g butter, melted
salt and pepper

Wash the spinach and remove the large stalks and dry. Shred the leaves. Heat the oil in a large pan and cook the onion until soft but not browned. Add the spinach a handful at a time, until it has all wilted down. Tip into a colander and drain, press out all the excess liquid, then return to the pan with the spring onions and cook for one minute.
Crumble the feta cheese into a mixing bowl and mash with a fork to remove any large lumps but leave it a bit chunky. Mix in the eggs, grated cheese, spinach, nutmeg, mint and salt and pepper to taste.
Preheat the oven to 180C. Unroll the sheets of filo pastry and cut the stack lengthways into strips 7.5cm wide. (This will give you 3 strips with about 6 pieces in each stack). Brush the top layer with melted butter. Place a heaped teaspoonful of the filling in the centre of one strip, at the end nearest to you.  Fold one bottom corner of the pastry diagonally over the filling, so the corner touches the opposite side to make a triangle. Then fold over the filled triangular corner and continue folding it alond the whole strip into a triangular parcel. Repeat to make all the spanakoptia.
Brush the undersides of each one with more butter and place on a lighly buttered baking tray. Brush the tops with butter and bake for 25 minutes until crisp and richly golden brown. Serve while the pastry is hot and crisp.

If I hadn't seen these being made on a food programme a couple of weeks ago I may not have attempted them.  The folding part of the recipe is quite confusing. It may take a couple if attempts to get right.  Have a look at this video which shows the assembling part really clearly. 

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Traditional Trifle

I made a chocolate amaretti cake today for a dinner party, I have made this numerous times before and it's always been successful. Today, however this was not the case. I'm not sure what happened, but the cake was burnt on top and too moist in the middle. Despite appearances it tasted really good, so I decided to make a trifle as I couldn't really rescue it as it was. I figured once it was covered with raspberries and doused with some amaretto liqueur it couldn't fail to taste nice. This is a very simple but really delicious Trifle from "Delias complete illustrated cookery course". The recipe uses custard made from scratch, but I have only ever used ready made custard.

Serves 6-8
5 trifle sponge cakes (or other cake chopped up)
some raspberry jam
225g frozen raspberries - no need to defrost (I used fresh ones) 
2 fl oz sherry
2 small bananas, peeled and sliced thinly (I did not use these)
2 tins of ready made custard
16 fl oz of double cream whipped

Break the sponge cakes in pieces and spread a little jam on each piece. Then put them into a large glass bowl and sprinkle raspberries and sherry over them, giving everything a good stir to soak up the sherry.
Slice the bananas, sprinkle them amongst the raspberries and pour the custard over the sponge cakes. Whip up the cream and spread it over the top. Decorate if you want with flaked almonds or grated chocolate. Cover and chill for 3 or 4 hours before serving.

For my version today I didn't use the jam, there was enough flavour in the cake. I used Amaretto Liqueur instead of the sherry. I grated chocolate on top and sprinkled the top with red edible glitter. Thanks to my friend Karen for the gorgeous bowl she gave me as a gift. Anything would look good in it. I haven't tasted the trifle yet but I'm pretty sure it's going to be good.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Tuna Fishcakes

A really good way to use up any leftover mashed potato. I made extra mash last night with the view to making these today. They are lovely and moist, unlike some fishcakes which are lacking in fish and very dry. I vary what I put into them, depending on the ingredients I have. A red chilli could be added for a little spice, lemon juice could be used instead of the lime juice. Chopped fresh coriander would also be a good addition. They make a really tasty and easy meal, and selfishly as I am going out for a meal tonight, I didn't want to do much cooking. I have written the ingredients I used today, but this is just a guide, feel free to experiment. 

Serves 2
300g mashed potato
juice of half a lime
1 tin of tuna, drained
3 spring onions
a tablespoon of sweet chilli dipping sauce
salt and pepper
olive oil
1 egg beaten
breadcrumbs for coating (I used Paxo)

Mix together the mashed potato, lime, spring onions, tuna and sweet chilli dipping sauce. Season, then form the mixture into 4 large fishcakes. Dip each one into the beaten egg and then the breadcrumbs. Heat some oil in a frying pan and cook the fishcakes on both sides until golden and until heated through. Just be careful when turning them as they are a little fragile when cooking, although coating in the breadcrumbs does hold them together. Serve with some green salad, I used spinach today. Use noodles if you want a more substantial meal. Accompany with sweet chilli dipping sauce. 

Thursday, 15 March 2012

Pork with Mustard Sauce

I like cooking with pork fillet, it's a really good cut of meat, tender and quick to cook. My usual dish to cook with this is Pork Saltimbocca, but I'll save that one to cook for a dinner party. Pork in mustard sauce was a favourite meal of mine before the children came along, so I thought I'd give it a try tonight. We all enjoyed it, though Rachel thought it was lacking in sauce. They both ate it all, apart from the bit that James flicked across the table, which landed in my hair. Don't ask, but I didn't find it as funny as they did. I used Marsala in the sauce as I had no wine open, I can not open wine and just cook with it, it has to be drunk. I used half fat creme fraiche instead of cream, the sauce was a wee bit thick.  Next time I'll use wine and cream. I added some sage leaves, but they are not essential to the flavour. This is a variation from Nigel Slater's "Appetite". He has some fabulous recipes that I have been reminded of whilst flicking through his cook books tonight. 

Serves 4  
Approx 450g of pork fillet cut into round slices or 4 pork escalopes 
seasoned plain flour
a glass of white wine
a dollop of wholegrain mustard
a small carton of double cream (you will know how much to add)

Flatten the pieces of pork with a rolling pin as flat as they will go without breaking up the meat. Heat a knob of butter in the frying pan. Coat the pork in the seasoned flour and add to the frying pan. Cook the pork on both sides on a high heat until cooked through, a few minutes each side if they are thin enough. Remove the meat to a warmed dish in a warm oven. Hopefully they will leave some good bits in the pan, pour in the wine and stir in the bits, reduce the wine by half. Add the cream, mustard and season to taste. let it bubble away until you have a lovely creamy sauce. then pour over the pork and serve with your desired accompaniment. 

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Pasta with savoy cabbage, bacon, thyme and mozzarella

Jamie Oliver is getting a good airing this week. Love him of hate him, he has some pretty good recipes. This is a recipe I associate with my good friend Karen, she introduced me to this lovely meal, it's one of her favourite family meals. It must be from the only Jamie Oliver book I haven't got which is "The Return of the Naked Chef". My children wouldn't choose to eat savoy cabbage on it's own, but when it's mixed with the bacon and stringy mozzarella and sprinkled with pepper and parmesan it seems to go down a treat. Cook in a large deep frying pan, preferably with a lid.

Serve 4
8 rashers of smoked bacon thinly sliced (or pancetta)
olive oil
1 clove garlic finely chopped
a sprinkling of fresh thyme (I don't think it's essential)
1 large savoy cabbage, quartered, cored and finely sliced (outer leaves removed)
1 handful of grated parmesan
350g dried farfalle pasta
salt and pepper
1 pack of mozzarella diced
2 handfuls of pine nuts toasted

Fry the bacon in olive oil until golden. Add the garlic and thyme and soften. Add the cabbage and cover with a lid, and cook until the cabbage is nice and tender. Add the parmesan cheese. Cook the pasta in salted boiling water. When the cabbage is tender, season and loosen with some nice peppery extra virgin olive oil. Toss in the cooked pasta and at the last minute the mozzarella (let it melt a little) and pine nuts and serve.

Tuesday, 13 March 2012

Charity shop find

I know this has nothing to do with food, but I just had to share this gorgeous little coffee set I bought in a charity shop yesterday. I tried to talk myself out of it, I really did, but even my friends said it would look lovely on my blog. I'd love to know where it's come from and who's sat around and chatted and drank coffee out of the delicate little cups. I guess I'll never know but I'll enjoy using it and admiring it from now on.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Spaghetti Bolognaise

Part of me thought it wasn't worth posting Spag Bol as everyone has their own variation on this classic dish. I don't usually follow a recipe and just throw in whatever I fancy, never really measuring the ingredients. It tastes different each time, but that's not a bad thing. However this Jamie Oliver recipe from "Happy Days with the Naked chef", jumped out at me again the other day. The ragu as he calls it, is cooked slowly in the oven. Jamie says "no decent Italian Cook has any recollection of what we know as Spaghetti Bolognaise". The flavour of the sauce intensifies and the sauce becomes quite concentrated. I like to make it this way if I have time. The actual preparation time was 15 minutes but it takes one and a half hours to cook. I think it's worth the wait.

Serves 4
10 slices of pancetta or smoked streaky bacon rashers, sliced
1 handful of rosemary, leaves picked and roughly chopped ( I used thyme as I had some left over, dried herbs could also be used)
olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
455g minced beef
1 wineglass of red wine
1 level teaspoon dried oregano ( I have left this out)
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
1 x 200g tube of tomato puree or small jar of sun dried tomatoes (I used a little of each)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
455g dried spaghetti
1 handful of fresh basil (not essential)
2 handfuls of grated Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 180C. In a large hot pan that can go in the oven, fry the pancetta and rosemary in a little olive oil until lightly golden. Then add the onion and garlic and fry for another 3 minutes, until softened, before adding the minced beef. Stir and continue frying for 2-3 minutes before adding the wine. Reduce slightly, then add the oregano, all the tomatoes and the tomato puree. Season well to taste and bring to the boil. Place in a preheated oven for an hour and a half. Towards the end of the cooking time, put your spaghetti in a large pot and cook until al dente. Just before serving add some ripped up fresh basil to the sauce. Serve with your spaghetti and some grated Parmesan or strong cheddar. A green salad is also nice with this.

Sunday, 11 March 2012

Chicken Pie

A lovely, light and flavoursome chicken pie tonight, loosely based on a recipe from Jamie Oliver's "30 Minute Meals".  I used chicken thigh fillets in place of the chicken breasts. I didn't have any spring onions so I used a couple of shallots instead. I was out of mushrooms and also substituted english mustard for dijon mustard. Even so it tasted great, sometimes you just need a good base recipe and you can experiment from there.  The recipe below is the recipe taken from the book.

Serves 4
4 x 180g skinless chicken breasts
a knob of butter
olive oil
a bunch of spring onions
1 heaped tbsp plain flour
2 tsp English mustard
1 heaped tbsp of creme fraiche (I used sour cream)
300ml chicken stock
a few sprigs of thyme 
1 sheet of pre-rolled puff pastry
1 egg (I brushed with milk)

Slice the chicken breasts into thin strips. Put a lug of olive oil and a knob of butter into a hot, large, pan. Add the chicken and cook for 3 minutes or so. Meanwhile quickly trim the spring onions and wash the mushrooms, slice them and add them to the pan with 1 heaped tbsp of flour and stir. Add 2 tsp of mustard, 1 heaped tbsp of creme fraiche and 300 ml of chicken stock and stir well. Pick the thyme leaves and stir into the pan. Leave to simmer for approx 5-10 minutes.

Unroll the sheet of puff pastry onto a clean floured surface. Use a small knife to lightly crisscross and score it. Take the chicken off the heat. Tip the filing into an ovenproof baking dish slightly smaller than the sheet of pastry. Cover the filling with the pastry sheet, tucking it in at the edges. Brush the top of the pie with a beaten egg. Put in the oven at 200C and cook on the top shelf for about 15 min or until golden.

Saturday, 10 March 2012


After a lovely day out today I didn't want to come home and have to start cooking a full on meal. I had all the ingredients for these delicious South American sandwiches, which are one of my favourite quick fixes. If you were only going to try one recipe from this blog, I would say try these. So utterly tasty and satisfying. For the children I do just ham and cheese and serve with some sour cream. This is another recipe from "Nigella Express". Don't take the ingredients too literally, a couple of slices of parma ham and a handful of cheese then a sprinkling of the other ingredients will do. If you haven't got a griddle just fry them instead. 

For each tortilla wrap
30g parma ham
3 slices of pickled green jalapeno chilli peppers from a jar
50g grated cheese (I use cheddar)
1 spring onion finely sliced
few coriander leaves
1 teaspoon of olive oil

Heat a ridged griddle.
Place the tortilla wrap on the counter in front of you and cover with the ham.
Over one one half, sprinkle the jalapeno, grated cheese and chopped spring onion. Scatter the coriander leaves over the top.
Carefully fold the tortilla wrap in half.
Lift this carefully and brush each side with the oil before putting into on the hot griddle, grill for a minute each side.
Transfer the tortilla to a board and cut into 3 triangles.

For a vegetarian option use slices of avocado instead of the parma ham.

Paneer tikka masala

A very interesting and very good curry for tea last night. I cooked with paneer cheese for the first time. I certainly didn't miss meat in this curry and found it very easy to make using a ready made tikka paste. I added the juice of a lemon to the sauce for a little sharpness. I didn't puree the sauce as specified, as when I tried to it splatted everywhere. Another recipe from Olive magazine.

Serve 2
1 pack of paneer cheese, approx 200g
3 tbsp of tikka paste
1 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato puree
4 tbsp natural yoghurt
chopped coriander to serve

Toss the paneer in 1 tbsp of the paste, spread on a non-stick baking tray and grill until golden, turning a few times.
Heat a large knob of butter in a pan and add the onion and a pinch of salt. Cook until soft and golden.
Add the rest of the paste and cook for a further 5 min, then tip in the tomatoes, the tomato puree and a splash of water. Simmer for 10 min, then blend the sauce with a hand blender or in a food processor (optional). Add the paneer and simmer for another 10 min.
Stir in the yoghurt and add lemon juice if desired just before serving and gently heat through. Scatter over coriander and serve with rice or naan bread.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Very quick salmon with teriyaki, lime and ginger

Obviously I eat quite alot of salmon as the recipes are piling up for salmon dishes. I couldn't resist posting this one even though it's using teriyaki sauce again. I've just used up two salmon fillets in a meal that took 5 minutes in the microwave, and it was delicious. I wanted a light lunch, so I omitted rice or noodles and just served it with some green beans and slices of thinly peeled cucumber. The lime adds a lovely tartness to the sauce. Healthy, low in calories and really quick. Again there is no need to be too specific about the quantities you use.

Serves 2
2 salmon fillets
approx 2 tbsp of teriyaki sauce
a thumb sized piece of ginger peeled and chopped into small bits
juice of 1 lime
black pepper

Put the salmon fillets into a microwavable bowl. Pour on the desired amount of teriyaki, add the juice of the lime and the ginger and give the whole thing a little stir to coat the salmon. Cover the bowl with clingfilm and cook on full power in the microwave for approx 5 mins or until the salmon is cooked through. Serve with rice, noodles or greens, pouring the sauce on top of the salmon and grind on some black pepper.

Thursday, 8 March 2012

All-in-one chocolate cake

I made this chocolate cake for the first time yesterday for a birthday cake, using a recipe from Olive Magazine. I have quite a collection of chocolate cake recipes now, but I would definitely use this one again. It was lovely and light and quick to make.
Unfortunately I have no meal to post this evening. I bought the ingredients to make the £5 meal from tesco, which was sausages in spaghetti sauce. It was ok, but I wouldn't make it again, so I didn't think it was worth sharing on here today. 

175g self raising flour sifted
175g butter, completely softened
3 tbsp 70% cocoa powder (I used green and blacks, which I'm sure wasn't 70%, that was fine)
175g caster sugar
1 tsp baking powder
3 eggs
1-2 tbsp milk
300ml double cream

Ganache Icing
100g butter cubed
100g dark chocolate chopped plus extra to decorate

Heat the oven to 180C. Butter and base-line 2 x 18cm sandwich tins. Take 3 tbsp flour from the full flour amount and put it back in the bag - the cocoa powder will make up the difference.
Put all the cake ingredients (not the double cream) in a large bowl and beat them together with an electric whisk until you have a creamy mixture. Add a little milk if the mixture is too stiff - it should fall off a spoon easily. Divide the mixture between the two tins and level the surfaces. Bake on the same shelf in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the sponge springs back when pressed.
Cool for 5 minutes and then turn out onto wire racks, peel of the base paper and cool completely.
To make the icing, melt the butter and chocolate together in a microwave, or a bowl over simmering water. Stir well and then leave until it's cool enough to spread easily and will run a little (I left mine a bit too long so it did not run, I also added icing sugar to sweeten the chocolate, as I had used very dark chocolate)
Whip the cream and use it to sandwich together the cakes. Spread the top with the chocolate ganache. Decorate with grated chocolate.

Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Mirin Glazed Salmon

This is such a tasty way to serve salmon, and such a quick meal to cook. I have served it at dinner parties in the past, it gives the impression of being alot more complicated than it is. The dark, salty sauce drizzled over the salmon and a little bit of sushi ginger on the side is a delight. Tonight it was all about quickness and I used express microwave rice, on other occasions I have used sushi rice. The mirin and rice vinegar are readily available in large supermarkets. They will last a long time, but I think once you try this dish it will become a regular meal choice. A recipe from "NIgella Express".

Serves 4
60ml mirin (Japanese sweet rice wine)
50g light brown sugar
60ml soy sauce
4 salmon fillets approx 125g each (narrow but tall fillets)
30ml rice vinegar
1-2 spring onions, halved and shredded into fine strips

Mix the mirin, brown sugar and soy sauce in a shallow dish that will take all 4 pieces of salmon and marinate the salmon until you are ready to cook it. When you are ready to cook, heat a large non-stick frying pan on the hob.
Cook the salmon in the hot, dry pan for 2 minutes and then turn the salmon over, add the marinade and cook for another 2 minutes.
Remove the salmon to whatever plate you are serving it on, add the rice vinegar to the hot pan and warm through.
Pour the dark, sweet, salty glaze over the salmon and top with the spring onion strips. Serve with rice or noodles and consider putting sushi ginger on the table too.

Tuesday, 6 March 2012

Roasted Butternut Squash Risotto

This is one of my favourite risottos. There is a lovely sweetness to the squash once it's roasted, and the pumpkin seeds with the chilli flakes add a special edge to the meal. I think alot of people are put off by risottos feeling that they are time consuming, the thought of having to stand over them ladling in the stock. However today I wanted to make my sister a nice lunch as she had come to help me sort my house out a little. It's gone to pot since I've started this blog. That's my excuse anyway. In the middle of cooking lunch the washing machine repair guy turned up, so I really wasn't paying that much attention to the risotto bubbling in the frying pan. In my sister's words it was "gorgeous". This is taken from a book called "No-fuss Suppers".

Serves 2 (large portions)

500g butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and diced
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 and a half teaspoons dried chilli flakes
salt and pepper
25g pumpkin seeds
850 ml of vegetable stock (bouillon powder)
1 small onion, finely chopped
150g Arborio rice
100 ml white wine (I didn't want to open wine, so I used dry sherry instead)
50 g of parmesan cheese, finely grated
creme fraiche to serve (optional)

Preheat the oven to 230C.
Put the butternut squash in a small roasting tin with 1 tbspn of olive oil, half a tspn of chilli flakes and season well. Toss the squash in the oil and put in the preheated oven for about 20 min, or until soft and golden, stir occasionally while cooking.
Heat 1 tbspn of olive oil in a small frying pan and toast the pumpkin seeds with the remaining chilli flakes for about 1-2 mins until browned. Set aside until needed.
Whilst the squash is cooking in the oven, make the risotto. Heat the last tbspn of oil in a frying pan, fry the onion until soft and golden. Add the rice and stir for 2-3 mins, then add the wine and let simmer until reduced by half. Add some of the vegetable stock and let the risotto continue to simmer gently, adding another ladleful each time the liquid has been absorbed by the rice. At this stage I did wander off and just come back to check the risotto and add more stock. Keep cooking until all the stock has been used and the rice is cooked and tender. Stir in the butternut squash, add the Parmesan cheese and season to taste. Serve immediately, topped with the pumpkin seeds and creme fraiche if using.