Tuesday, 30 October 2012

Sweet Potato chips

These little chips would be a good accompaniment to any soup or even just to eat as little snacks.

Serves 4
350g sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into thin discs
2 tablespoons of soy sauce
2 tablespoons of olive oil
a sprinkling of salt
creme fraiche, to serve

Preheat the oven to 220°C
Mix together the oil and the soy sauce. Place the sweet potato discs in a non stick roasting tin in an even, single layer. Pour the oil mixture over the sweet potatoes and toss the discs until they are coated.
Bake in the oven for 20 minutes or until golden and cooked through. Serve immediately with creme fraiche for dipping

Saturday, 27 October 2012

Spicy butternut squash and coconut soup

I'm finding it difficult to please a certain young lady in my house at the moment. Could it be because she is coming up to thirteen? All of a sudden there is a huge list of food that she doesn't like. I'm not used to this as she has always eaten and enjoyed most things I make. I'll just go with it, it may be a phase, she will surely get sick of pitta bread pizza and beans on toast. I made this soup for tea for the kids tonight it's a similar recipe to one I did way back in February. It's delicious for this time of year, autumnal, warming and hearty.  I used a full tin of coconut milk in it, as the leftovers would have just gone off in the fridge. This just makes it more creamy. The sweet potato chips are a first time recipe for me, I'll post the recipe tomorrow if they work. Both recipes are from a book called 'No fuss suppers'.

Serves 4
25g butter
1 large onion, roughly chopped
185 g carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
500g butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cubed
½ tsp of cumin
1 tsp curry powder
750ml of stock (I use bouillon)
1 tablespoon of brown sugar
170ml of tinned coconut milk
Freshly squeezed juice of half a lime
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
A handful of fresh coriander (optional)

Melt the butter in a large saucepan over low heat. Add the onion, carrot and squash and gently sauté for 5 - 8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the vegetables begin to soften. Add the cumin and curry powder and stir over a medium heat for 1 minute until the vegetables are well coated with the spices.
Stir in the stock, sugar and coconut milk and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until  the vegetables are cooked through and soft.
Blend the soup until smooth, either in a blender or food processor. Taste and season with salt and pepper, then add the lime juice. Stir in the chopped coriander. Pour the soup into warmed bowls and swirl some extra coconut milk over the top (oops, I've used all mine in the soup).

Thursday, 25 October 2012

Chocolate St Emilion Slice

Due to the shortage of recipes this week here is one I made earlier. I made this for the Golden Wedding party and saved it to blog at a later date. It is like a giant Rocky Road, very delicious, very rich and very easy as no cooking is required. I have made it for years and have the recipe written on a scrappy piece of paper and can not remember where I first got the recipe from. If you need a dessert for this weekend this will not fail to impress.
Serves 10

300g Dark Chocolate
150ml milk
150g Golden Syrup
140g unsalted butter
1 egg, lightly beaten
150g Amaretti Biscuits, broken into pieces
3 meringue nests, broken into pieces
Cocoa for dusting


Line a 23x13cm loaf tin with clingfilm so that it hangs over the edges.
Break the chocolate into pieces and combine with the milk, syrup, butter and a pinch of salt in a wide saucepan. Warm gently over a very low heat until everything has melted.
Slowly stir in the egg to allow it to cook slightly in the chocolate mix before removing the pan from the heat. Fold the broken biscuits and meringue into the chocolate, being careful not to crush them too much, you want whole pieces in the finished terrine togive it texture.
Pour the mixture into the lined loaf tin, smooth the top with a spatula and tap the tin a few times to force any air bubbles to the surface. Cover with the overhanging clingfilm, and chill for at least 4 hours until firm. Turn out of the loaf tin carefully, dust with cocoa and slice thinly to serve. 

Tuesday, 23 October 2012

Creamy Linguine with ham, basil and lemon

It seems a while since I have done a simple pasta dish. I chose this from the Good food website under the section of cooking for kids as we had school friends for tea. It's ingredients are similar to that of a carbonara but it tasted quite different. It was quite similar to the lemon linguine I did a while back, but the addition of the prosciutto  gave a lovely salty flavour to compliment the lemony sauce.

Serves 6
400g linguine or spaghetti
90g pack prosciutto
1 tbsp olive oil
juice 1 lemon
2 egg yolks
3 tbsp crème fraîche
large handful basil leaves
large handful grated Parmesan, plus extra to serve

Cook the linguine. Meanwhile, tear the ham into small pieces and fry in the olive oil until golden and crisp.
Drain the pasta, reserving a little of the cooking water, then return to the pan. Tip in the cooked ham. Mix together the lemon juice, egg yolks and crème fraîche, then add this to the pan along with the basil and Parmesan. Mix in with tongs, adding a little of the cooking water, if needed, to make a creamy sauce that coats the pasta. Serve with extra Parmesan grated over the top, if you like.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Granny Boyd's Biscuits

These are not my Grannies biscuits, but a recipe taken from Nigellas, 'How to be a Domestic Goddess'. Rachel asked me to go to the shops to buy some biscuits for packed lunches tomorrow and I figured it was quicker to make these from scratch than go to the nearest shop. They are so melty in the mouth and delicious when they are warm from the oven, you have got to give them a go.

Makes 35
300g self-raising flour
30g cocoa powder
250g unsalted butter (room temperature)
125g caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 170C.
Sieve the flour and cocoa powder and set it aside.
Cream the butter and sugar till light and pale in colour. (I did this in a food processor and then just added the flour and cocoa, it forms a dough itself after a little mixing)
Mix in flour mixture, it might look like it needs liquid, but keep working the ingredients in and it will form a dough.
Roll into walnut-sized balls and arrange these on the baking sheets.
Flatten these balls with the back of the fork.
Bake for 5 mins at 170C and then turn the temperature down to 150C for a further
10 -15mins.
The biscuits should feel firm on top although not hard. Remove from the oven and transfer to cool on wire rack, before storing in air-tight container.

Friday, 19 October 2012

Upside down pear and ginger cake

I made this dessert last night for a meal this evening. The smells in the kitchen as it was cooking were wonderful. Steve was hoping that I wouldn't be happy with it and that we could eat it last night for tea. Unfortunately for him it looked just like the picture in Olive Magazine this month, and he won't even get a chance to try it. 

Serve 10

125g plain flour
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger
Pinch of fine sea salt
¼ tsp grated nutmeg
A pinch ground cloves
1 medium egg
125g light brown sugar
90g black treacle
125ml soured milk (I used a few drops lemon juice added to fresh milk)
50g melted

50g butter

400g tin of drained pears
100g light brown sugar
walnut halves to decorate

Heat oven to 180°C
To make the topping, gently melt the butter in a small saucepan, add the sugar and stir for 1-2 mins (mine looked a bit separated at this point, it didn't seem to matter) Smooth over the base of a greased 20cm cake tin with a removable base, 7cm deep (I used a larger tin about 23cm) Arrange the pears on top, cut-side down with a few walnuts around the outside.
Sift the flour, bicarb and spices in a bowl and add ¼ tsp of fine sea salt.
Blend the egg, sugar, treacle, soured milk and butter in a separate large bowl, and fold in the flour mixture. Beat with a wooden spoon for 1 minute, and then pour the mixture over the fruit in the tin. Put on a baking tray and bake for 40-50 minutes (check at 40 mins) until a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean (try to skewer a patch with cake rather than a pear!). Remove from the oven, run a knife around the edge and set aside to cool for about 10 minutes.
To serve, remove the collar if using the tin with the removable base, and turn onto a plate or cake stand. Enjoy warm or at room temperature. Avoid chilling. Serve with cream or creme fraiche.

Thursday, 18 October 2012

Sticky Sausages with grapes

The kids looked at me like I'd gone a little bit mad this evening when I said we were having sausages with grapes for tea. Actually the sweetness of the red grapes was delicious with the sausages, sticky onions and slightly vinegary sauce. It was under the heading of comfort food on the good food website and it was certainly that.

Serves 4

450g pack good-quality pork sausages
2 onions, sliced
1 garlic clove, sliced
1 tsp fennel seed
100g grapes
2 tbsp red wine vinegar

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan set over a medium
heat, tip in the sausages, then cook for 10 mins, turning every so often. Stir in the onions, then leave to cook for 5 mins more until the sausages are browned and the onions softened.
Tip in the garlic, fennel seeds and grapes and cook for 5 more mins, stirring often, until the grapes are starting to soften. Pour over the vinegar and swirl around the pan. Cook for a few mins more until the onions are sticky and the sausages cooked through. Serve with soft polenta or mashed potato.

Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Acapulco Chicken in a wrap

This is not a new recipe, only a variation on a recipe I did in May. Instead of serving the chicken with rice we had tortilla wraps. Serve the chicken in the wraps and then top with sour cream, cheddar cheese and advovado slices. Jalapeno peppers would have been a good accompaniment too. I only had two chicken breasts between four us, but with the addition of the kidney beans there was plenty to go around.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Tiny cheese and olive scones

With the risk of sounding a bit like Nigella here, these little scones are ideal if you are thinking of having a drinks party and you want something lovely just to serve warm as little canapes. Ideal for Christmas time, they freeze well and can just be defrosted and warmed up, then buttered just before serving. I have made them for years out of Delias Christmas Cookbook, and have always had such compliments on them.

Makes about 26

40g Parmesan, grated
40g strong cheddar, grated
1 medium onion, diced small
6 black olives pitted and chopped
1 tbsp of olive oil
25g butter
175g self raising flour
½ level tsp salt
½ level tsp mustard powder
½ level tsp cayenne pepper
1 large egg beaten
approx 2-3 tablespoons milk
freshly milled black pepper

Fry the onion in the oil over a highish heat for about 5-6 minutes or until it's a nice brown caramel colour and darkened at the edges. Keep it moving about so that it doesn't burn. Now transfer it to a plate to cool. While that's happening, take a large mixing bowl, sift in the flour, salt, mustard powder and cayenne, and add a good grinding of black pepper (the scones need to have a piquant bite). Now rub in the butter, toss in the cooled onion, the olives and two thirds of the grated cheeses, forking them in evenly. Beat the egg and pour this in, mixing first with a knife and finally with your hands, adding only enough milk to make a soft dough – it mustn't be too sticky. Turn the dough out on to a lightly floured surface, knead it gently till it's smooth, then roll it out to about ¾ inch (2 cm) thick, being careful not to roll it too thinly. Next, use a 1¼ inch (3 cm) plain cutter for cutting: place it lightly on the dough and give a sharp tap to stamp out the scones. Lightly knead together and re-roll any trimmings. Then, when all the scones are cut, brush them with milk, top them with the remaining grated cheese and bake them near the top of the oven for 10-12 minutes. Remove them to a wire rack to cool.

Thursday, 11 October 2012

Turkey Burgers

The nicest thing about these turkey burgers was the salsa that accompanied them. They would have been a little bland on their own, unless you smother them in tomato ketchup as the kids did. They were quick to make, relatively healthy using turkey mince and a good midweek meal. The recipe is from Olive Magazine this month, I served it with some frozen potato wedges.

Serves 4
400g of turkey mince or lean chicken
1 tsp cumin
1 red onion, ½ grated and ½ finely chopped
1 lime, zested and juiced
½ a small bunch of coriander
1 small avocado diced
4 ciabatta rolls halved and toasted 
2 tomatoes diced
some little gem lettuce leaves

Put the mince, grated onion, cumin and lime zest in a bowl. Chop half of the coriander and add to the bowl with lots of seasoning. Mix well and form into 4 burgers. Grill or fry for 4-5 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Mix the chopped onion, rest of the coriander, avocado, and tomato with the lime juice. Fill the rolls with lettuce then the burgers and top with the salsa.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Beef stew with green peppercorns and cheddar dumplings

Mince and dumplings was a regular meal in our house as we were growing up. This
meal tonight was a bit more sophisticated using steak instead of minced beef and light cheesy dumplings instead of dumplings made with suet. There were lots of really good flavours coming though with the balsamic vinegar being one of the stronger ones. I loved the roasted carrots in the dish and felt that peas were enough of an accompaniment as the dumplings provided the carbohydrates. This recipe was taken from olive magazine this month.

Serves 6
1kg braising steak, trimmed of fat and cut into chunks
2 tbsp of plain flour
olive oil
Salt and pepper
2 onions sliced
500g of carrots, peeled and halved
2 tbsp of thyme, chopped leaves (I sprinkled in some dried thyme) 
1 tbsp Green peppercorns in brine, drained and rinsed
250ml of Guinness
400ml beef stock
2 tbsp of tomato puree
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

Cheddar Dumplings;
150g self raising flour
60g chilled butter, cut into small pieces
60g mature cheddar
1 egg beaten
1-2 tbsp milk

Heat the oven to 190C. 
Season the meat,then coat in the flour. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and fry the steak in batches, shaking off the excess flour and cook until browned on all sides. Remove from the pan and set aside. Fry the onion in more oil for 5 minutes then add the meat again with the thyme, Guinness, stock, vinegar, worcestershire sauce, tomato puree, carrots and peppercorns and bring to the boil. Put in the oven covered for 1½ -2 hours. 
Put the dumpling ingredients together in a bowl and stir to a soft dough. Be careful not to overmix, so just bring it together. (At this point I used my hands to rub in the butter slightly before adding the milk and egg, although this was not specified) Add the dumplings at the end of the cooking time, leave the lid off and cook until golden and crusty for about 20 minutes.

Monday, 8 October 2012

Balti Chicken

Having had a bit of a social life in the last week I haven't had many recipes to post. This curry was cooked for me by Steve last week and it's taken me until now to get the recipe from him. He loosely follows a recipe from 'The Balti Cookbook' by Shehzad Husain, but I find each time he makes it, the flavours are slightly different. Curry is always nicer if it's made for you as your sense of smell has not been saturated in the cooking process. Also if it's made the day before and heated up the following day the flavour will only get better. These ingredients are a rough guide and can be modified to suit your taste

Serves 2 with generous portions
1 Pack of boneless, skinless chicken thighs approx 450g,
or 2 chicken breasts if you prefer
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 or 2 onions, chopped
vegetable or olive oil
1 tsp cumin seeds
2 tsp fresh ginger, chopped small
3 cloves of garlic chopped small
2 tsp garam masala
1 whole red chilli, chopped or 1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp salt
ground black pepper
2 tbsp of natural yoghurt or cream
juice of 1 lemon
handful of fresh coriander
fresh coriander and a red chill to serve

Fry the onion in the oil in a heavy bottomed dish until golden. Add the garlic, ginger,  chilli and all the spices and fry for a few minutes. Add the chicken and fry until sealed. Add the tin of tomatoes, salt and some black pepper and cook covered for half an hour until the chicken is cooked. 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time add the natural yoghurt or cream and just before serving squeeze in the lemon juice and sprinkle in some fresh coriander, to taste. Serve scattered with fresh coriander on top and chopped chilli if you like a good kick. 

Friday, 5 October 2012


Just because they look so pretty. See the recipe for meringues in February. I added a bit of gel food colouring and piped them onto a baking sheet. 

Roast Salmon with peppers and pesto cream

This recipe torn out of a Sunday paper was a possible contender for the party at the weekend, but I decided that it was too much work for a large amount of people and too last minute. However I need a meal for a crowd in a few weeks time (much less than 30 this time) and I tried it last night for a smaller number. It was very successful, very easy and very tasty. Next time I won't mix the pesto with the creme fraiche and I might be tempted to serve pesto rice salad (see May entry) along side to make the meal more substantial, 

Serves 4
1 red onion, cut into 8 wedges
1 head of fennel, trimmed and thinly sliced
1 orange pepper, deseeded and cut into chunks
1 yellow pepper, deseeded and cut into chunks
4 baby courgettes, trimmed and halved (I just used normal courgettes)
2 tbsp garlic infused oil (I used olive oil)
4 salmon fillets
4 strings of cherry tomatoes on the vine
25g fresh basil leaves
25g toasted pine nuts
25g grated parmesan cheese
3 tbsp olive oil
200ml tub of creme fraiche

Preheat the oven to 200c. Toss the onion, fennel, peppers and courgettes with the garlic oil and spread out in a single layer on a baking tray and roast for 25 mins. Stir the vegetables well and spread out. Arrange the salmon and vine tomatoes over the top and season with salt and pepper. Bake for 12-15 mins until the salmon is cooked trough. While the salmon is cooking, whizz the basil, pine nuts, parmesan cheese and olive oil together to make a thick pesto sauce. Beat the creme fraiche and spoon into a bowl. Pour the pesto sauce over and stir once with a spoon until ripples. Serve with the salmon and vege.

Wednesday, 3 October 2012

Prawn Pad Thai

My meal tonight was a variation on a recipe I found on the Good food site. Thinking that I had Tamarind paste in the cupboard, I assumed that the only ingredient I was lacking was the peanuts. Steve had a clear out of all my spices in the summer and obviously decided anything with a sell by date more than 3 years out of date had to go, hence the missing Tamarind. The meal was quick, easy and really fresh and tasty. Yzen, a good one for you perhaps, no cheese this time.

Serves 2
250g udon noodles (I used dried egg noodles)

2 tsp vegetable oil
100g peeled raw prawns
4 spring onions, chopped

2 eggs, beaten
1 red chilli chopped into small pieces (optional, I added this, it wasn't on the recipe)
2 tbsp roasted peanuts , chopped
small handful coriander leaves
lime wedges, to serve
2 tbsp tamarind paste (I substituted this with 2 tbsp soy sauce)
1 tbsp fish sauce
juice 1 lime
1 tbsp soft brown sugar

Boil the noodles in salted water for 3 mins until soft. Drain and rinse in cold water. To make the sauce, mix all the ingredients together in a small bowl.
Heat a wok with half the oil. Add the prawns, chilli and spring onions, and cook, stirring quickly, for 1 min or until the prawns turn pink. Push to the side and add the remaining oil. Add the egg and let sit for 30 secs, then scramble until cooked. Add the noodles and sauce, and cook, stirring continuously, for 3 mins or until everything is hot.
Serve the noodles with the peanuts and coriander sprinkled on top, and lime wedges for squeezing over.

Slow Roast Aromatic Pork

I have never cooked for 30 people before this weekend and doubt that I will do so again. No matter how organised you feel before hand the reality is it's really hard work. I chose two dishes to make for my mum and dads Golden Wedding Anniversary party, both which needed very little last minute effort. Delia Smiths, Beef Bourguignon I made the day before, that just needed to be reheated and served with some plain rice. It was delicious and making it the night before really improves the flavour. The pork was huge and could possibly have fed everyone without doing the other dish and  was relatively straight forward. I burnt the crackling and couldn't serve that, but that wasn't the end of the world. This is a different recipe to the slow cooked marmalade pork I have blogged before (February), and along with that recipe I would recommend it when cooking for a large group of people. The pork is so tender after hours of slow roasting that it practically falls away from the bone. I served mine with Jamie Olivers fiery noodles, which could be made in advance and served cold. The recipe is from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstalls, 'Meat' cook book

Serves 20 -25

1 whole shoulder of pork on the bone — it will weigh about 5-8kg (mine was 6.5KG)
5 large garlic cloves, peeled
5cm piece of fresh ginger root, peeled
2 tsp dried chilli flakes
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tbsp brown sugar
4 tbsp flaky salt
1 tbsp sunflower or groundnut oil
1 tbsp soy sauce

For the five-spice mix:
2 star anise
2 tsp fennel seeds
4 cinnamon stick
4 cloves

1 tsp black peppercorns
(If you don't want to make your own, just use bought five spice mix)

Score the rind of the pork shoulder with a Stanley knife in parallel lines about 1cm apart, to a depth of 4-1cm (or ask your butcher to do this).
Grate the garlic and fresh ginger into a small bowl and mix to a paste with the chilli flakes, ground ginger, brown sugar, salt, oil and soy sauce. Pound the five spices in a pestle and mortar (or grind in a coffee grinder) and mix 1 tablespoonful into the paste (any left over will keep in an airtight jar; you could make larger quantities, if you like, and store).
Place the pork shoulder, skin-side up, on a rack above a large roasting tin. With your fingertips, rub just over half the spice paste into the scored rind of the pork. Place the joint in the centre of a very hot oven (230C/gas mark 8) for 30 minutes.
Then remove from the oven and, using oven gloves or a thick, dry cloth, carefully turn the joint over to expose the underside. Using a knife or wooden spoon this time (the meat will be very hot), smear the remainder of the spice paste over the underside of the meat (now facing uppermost).
Pour a glass of water into the roasting tin, turn the oven down to 110C/gas mark 2 and replace the joint. Leave for anything from 16-24 hours (yes, really, I left mine for 20 hours), turning it skin-side up again, and basting with the fat and juices in the tin, about half way through. About 45 minutes before you want to eat, whack up the heat to 230C/gas mark 8 again to crisp up the crackling. Keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t burn.
To serve the pork, remove the crackled skin in a single piece and break it up to hand around your guests. Don’t so much carve as scoop the tender, melting, aromatic meat on to warmed plates. Serve with a simple starch, such as noodles, plain buttered macaroni, boiled rice or even mashed potatoes. 

Tuesday, 2 October 2012

Macaroons, attempt No 5

Finally, I made a near perfect batch of macaroons for my mum and dads Golden Wedding Anniversary party at the weekend. I tried a different recipe again, and this is the one I'm going to stick with. Apart from the colour, everything else was right, the smoothness, no sticking, and the texture. I will put a link to the recipe in case anyone wants to try them, though don't expect great results first time.