Wednesday, 27 February 2013

Smoked Haddock and Cauliflower Cheese

I didn't eat this myself this evening but I have it on very good authority from my husband that it was absolutely delicious. He said it was fit to be served at The Ivy, London. We have only been there once on a lunchtime years and years ago, but this meal obviously brought it to the forefront of his mind tonight. Not a bad compliment. 
This recipe is from John Torode in Olive Magazine. I"ll make sure I get to eat it next time.

Serves 4
½ a small cauliflower, broken into florets
whole milk, for poaching (I couldn't see the point in poaching the florets in milk and just used water)
butter, for greasing
200g young spinach, wilted
4 pieces skinless smoked haddock fillet, approx 125g each
25g butter
25g plain flour
300ml whole milk
100g Gruyère, grated, plus a handful to top
1 egg yolk ( I forgot to add this)

Heat the oven to 200ºC. To make the sauce, melt the butter in a pan, stir in the flour and cook for a couple of minutes. Gradually stir in the milk until you have a smooth sauce. Simmer for 3 minutes then stir in the cheese until melted. Cool a little, season, then stir in the egg yolk.
Put the cauliflower in a pan and just cover with half milk and half water. Bring to the boil then simmer for two minutes. Drain well.
Butter 4 heatproof dishes and divide the spinach between them. Mix most of the sauce with the cauliflower and divide between the dishes. Put a haddock fillet on top of each and finish with a little more sauce and more gruyère. Bake for 12-15 minutes until bubbling.

Note: I used one large dish instead of individual dishes.

Tuesday, 26 February 2013

Braised sausages in red wine

Sausage and Mash for grown ups. This is my second in line to a beef casserole on a cold wintery day. It is so long since I made this dish, but with the first mouthful I was reminded why it used to be one of my favourites. It's a classic Delia recipe, which I first had about 20 years ago in a cosy cottage with friends in Yorkshire, cooked by a good friend. It takes me back to that time every time I have it. I think Delia may have updated the recipe since then, but to me this is perfect as it is.

450g good quality pork sausages 

225g lean streaky bacon in one piece cut into cubes (I used a back of smoked back bacon, chopped)
225g small button onions (I used 1 large onion, sliced)
olive oil
1 heaped teaspoon plain flour
275 ml of red wine
1 clove garlic crushed
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon chopped fresh or ½ teaspoon dried thyme
175g mushrooms, sliced if large,
salt and freshly milled black pepper

Fry the sausages in some olive oil in a casserole dish or large lidded pan until browned. Remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon, then add and lightly brown the bacon cubes and onions in some olive oil. When they're done, sprinkle in the flour to soak up the juices, then gradually stir in the wine. Now pop the sausages in, plus the garlic, bay leaf, thyme and a little seasoning. Put the lid on when simmering point is reached, turn the heat as low as possible and simmer very gently for 30 minutes.
After that add the mushrooms, stirring them in well, then leave everything to cook for a further 20 minutes - this time without a lid. (I forgot to remove the lid)

Saturday, 23 February 2013

Houmous and Sun dried tomato wraps with pine nuts

I have been making these wraps on a regular basis ever since I ordered one for lunch in a local cafe. I find wraps make a much more substantial and interesting lunch than a sandwich. The kids like piling in a variety of fillings and making them so fat they can hardly fold them. This is one of my favourite fillings.

Serves 4 for a light lunch
4 flour tortillas
a pot of houmous
sundried tomatoes
a handful of pine nuts
a bag of salad leaves

Lightly dry fry the pine nuts until they are just browning.
Place the salad, houmous and sundried tomaotes in the middle of the wrap. Sprinkle the pine nuts on top and fold in the wrap at the bottom and then the sides. 

Chocolate Fondue

I bought a few of these Fondues for presents in Marks and Spencer at the end of last year. Having given them all away without trying them I was delighted to receive one myself for Christmas. I took it along on our weeks holiday and served it with chopped bananas and mango. The glass container inside the tin heats in the microwave and melts the chocolate into a wonderfully rich, creamy sauce with crunchy salted caramel bits in. The glass makes a lovely tea light holder afterwards. You had to get in quick the other night, competing for chocolate with Rachel is no mean feat.
We looked on line and found them on the following website at a very reasonable price.

How many people have a chocolate fountain in the back of their cupboard? I think I have used mine twice.

Friday, 22 February 2013

A half term holiday at Centre Parcs, Cumbria

I first visited Centre Parcs when the children were tiny little things. At the time I was in too much of a blur to really form an opinion of the place, apart from feeling that the whole place was rather too commercial. However we decided to give it a go again this half term, given that February can be a pretty dreary month. With the children being the age they are now we hoped that they might enjoy the activities and we might get a chance to relax.
Firstly, its expensive, you have to overcome the fact that you are paying a premium rate for the lodges because of the facilities within the centre. Although we did pay extra anyway for one of the nicer lodges.
Secondly, it's busy, the village centre reminded me somewhat of a shopping mall.
Thirdly, if you want the kids to do activities the prices are not cheap, it's a real money making system.
Despite all of that I have really enjoyed our week there.
The weather was incredibly kind to us, clear blue skies and sunshine. It may have been a different experience if it had rained every day.
The swimming pool is great fun, it's warm and it has a myriad of exciting slides for the kids and adults to enjoy. Really warm outdoor pools for the not so adventurous to bob about in.
The bike hire is great, and with no cars to worry about the children can ride around freely and safely without you worrying.
You can get away from the busier areas by visiting the bird hide or exploring the  further out forest trails. A Roe Deer ran out in front of the kids as they cycled along one of the quieter tracks. They were delighted.
There are red squirrels dotting around the forest, we were lucky enough to see the one above on our first visit to the Bird Hide.
There are restaurants and cafes, bars and a well stocked supermarket, but I decided to do self catering for the  majority of the holiday as the restaurants didn't appeal to me that much. 
On one of the days in the supermarket I watched a guy racking up a huge bill on convenience food, drinks, small packets of cereals and generally food just to survive on for the holiday. I couldn't help thinking if he'd just got himself organised a little before he came away, he would, 1) save a fortune and 2) actually have some decent food on holiday.
I planned our meals and shopped before we left home (no surprise there). Let me say it was almost precision planned, as I have brought very little home with me. We bought pastries from the shop in the morning (a good experience for the children to go on their own) and the odd coffee, drink and snack out, but otherwise have been very self sufficient. Of course as I am on holiday and you never know what the facilities are like, I planned easy meals, which didn't involve alot of preparation and cooking. An Indian takeaway which is delivered by the centre went down a treat one evening.
I'll do a breakdown of lunches and meals with the idea that it may be helpful for others with holidays coming up at Easter and May half term. It might take the stress away from the thought of self catering.
I always raid the store cupboard and take random jars of olives, tins of soup, beans and this time a delicious chocolate fondue which I had received for a Christmas present. I'll put a link to it soon, I'm hoping to get hold of some more. M & S did stock them in their speciality range, though I'm not sure they still do.


Brunch with bacon, beans and eggs

Tuna Panini's and salad

Wraps with houmous, sundried tomatoes, salad and pine nuts

Smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwiches (salmon left over from meal )


Heinz Tomato soup


Ham and cheese, fried tortillas, (wraps left over from Mon lunch)


Friday night 
Arrival night, quick tea needed as kids desperate to get in the swimming pool,
M & S pizza with garlic bread and salad

Saturday night

Nigellas Italian chicken
Chocolate fondue with chopped fruit

Smoked salmon, capers, pasta and cream

Indian takeaway


Spaghetti Carbonara

Gnocchi Bake

Mince pie and mushy peas
Bananas and custard

My verdict of the Holiday:

Great for families, especially with a 12 year old boy who has more energy than the rest of his family put together. Well organised activities, great sub tropical aqua park, nice, clean, warm accommodation. Lovely woodland setting.
Be prepared to self cater otherwise you will end up spending a small fortune.
We would definitely return.
Not for those who like to get away from it all though.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Oven Baked Bacon and Leek Risotto

What a really gorgeous risotto this was, and so simple to make. I would definitely recommend this dish if you haven't made a risotto before. The rice was perfectly cooked and the risotto had a lovely creaminess to it. I cut down the amount of leeks as my kids can be picky with leeks and I didn't use sage as that would have involved going out into the snow blizzard and pinching some from my neighbours garden. I found this recipe on another lovely food blog I follow and just had to try it. Unfortunately I don't think the photo above does the meal justice.

Check out the food blog at Miss Friday's Feast.

Serves 4
180g oak smoked bacon lardons
400g leeks, washed, trimmed and sliced (I used 200g)
175ml Arborio (risotto) rice (I used nearer 200g)
60g butter
1 white onion diced (I used two banana shallots)
75ml white wine
510ml vegetable stock
40g sage, chopped plus extra to garnish
60g Romano cheese, plus extra for serving (I used parmesan)
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 150⁰C. 
Place a small baking dish in the oven to warm through.
In a large saucepan melt the butter; add the lardons, onion and black pepper. Let them cook over a medium heat for about 5 minutes, or until the onion is soft and golden.
Add the leeks and rice, stir well to ensure the butter coats all of the ingredients; do not allow the rice to stick to the pan. Immediately add the wine, stock and sage leaves, bring to a gentle simmer then transfer the contents of the pan into your baking dish. Place in the centre of the oven for 20 minutes.
After 20 minutes remove the risotto from the oven and stir through the Romano cheese, ensure that you give it a really good stir. Place the risotto back in the oven for a further 15 minutes. Serve immediately in a warm bowl, garnished with a sprinkling of Romano cheese and a few sage leaves.

Note: I used a small casserole dish to cook the risotto on the hob then transferred it straight into the oven. Saved on the washing up. 

Tuesday, 12 February 2013

Two little reminders, Spaghetti with Prawns and Chilli and Upside down Pear and Gingercake

This trying new meals all the time, means that I forget to cook some of my most favourite meals. Last night with a bag of raw prawns in the freezer, store cupboard ingredients of pasta, sun-dried tomatoes and dried chilli, and some nearly past it rocket in the fridge, I was reminded of this simple and vibrant seafood pasta. The recipe uses spaghetti but I used fusilli in the unusual absence of spaghetti. I added a little grating of lemon rind and some tomato puree as well as a little of the cooking water from the pasta to make a richer sauce this time. As Rachel has decided prawns is on her dislike list now, I removed the prawns and added tuna for her instead. 

For a reminder of the recipe,

I have had a thoroughly enjoyable afternoon, helping my mum with the last minute preparations for a lunch she was having for good friends. It meant my mum could relax and enjoy the meal more while I kept an eye on things in the kitchen. Eating leftovers of smoked salmon pâté and drinking cava, not bad for a Tuesday afternoon. I offered to make my mum a pudding. What could be nicer than sticky warm gingerbread? I forgot that it was pears in the recipe and only had pineapple in the cupboard, but I couldn't see any reason why this wouldn't be as delicious. On removing the pudding from the tin, a big chunk was left behind. A little manoeuvre with a knife and a bit of pressing together, it still looked good. Luckily there was a little piece left over for me, just checking the quality of course.

For a reminder of this recipe,

Sunday, 10 February 2013

Homemade Nutri Grain Bars

I have been buying various brands of cereal bars to give the kids in their pack lunches. They quite often bring them home untouched, which given the taste or should I say lack of taste is not surprising. This recipe comes from a lovely blog that I follow, see the link below and be sure to have a look the 'Homemade Gingerbread House' post, it is truely a work of art.
I couldn't wait to try them when they came out of the oven. I used a layer of raspberries, which I luckily had in the freezer, the result was like a raspberry crumble in a bar form. I should have used a larger dish as they ended up being quite thick, and maybe not as firm as they should have been. 0n cooling they did firm up and have been providing great snacks over the weekend.

See the recipe and check out Elizabeths Kitchen at,

and for the marvellous Gingerbread House

Saturday, 9 February 2013

Hairy Bikers Chicken Korma

I now have a collection of really great authentic curries. If I ever need to knock up an Indian Banquet I will be more than capable. Last night I made the Hairy Bikers low calorie Chicken Korma, which Steve thought surpassed last weeks Chicken Jalfrezi. I am assuming that a full fat Korma would be made with coconut milk, this one just has water added to it, but I still felt it had plenty of flavour. However, as it is traditionally a coconut based sauce I thought that the addition of some desiccated coconut made sense. Be careful when pureeing the sauce as the spices are of the staining variery and my food processor blade ended up being stained yellow. 

Serves 4
294 calories per portion (without rice)
4 fairly small boneless, skinless chicken breasts (about 600g)
25g low-fat natural yoghurt
1 tbsp sunflower oil
2 large onions, chopped (400g prepared weight)
4 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
20g chunk of fresh root ginger, peeled and finely grated
12 cardamom pods, seeds crushed
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp ground coriander
½ heaped tsp ground turmeric
¼ tsp hot chilli powder
1 bay leaf
4 whole cloves
1 tbsp plain flour
small pinch of saffron
2 tsp caster sugar
½ tsp fine sea salt, plus extra to season
300ml cold water

3 tbsp double cream (I forgot to put this in)
freshly ground black pepper
fresh coriander, roughly torn, to garnish (optional)

Cut each chicken breast into 8 or 9 bite-sized pieces, season with black pepper and put them in a non-metallic bowl. Stir in the yoghurt, cover with cling film and chill for a minimum of 30 minutes but ideally 2–6 hours.
Heat the oil in a large, non-stick saucepan and add the onions, garlic and ginger. Cover and cook over a low heat for 15 minutes until very soft and lightly coloured. Stir the onions occasionally so they don’t start to stick.
Once the onions are softened, stir in the crushed cardamom seeds, cumin, coriander, turmeric, chilli powder and bay leaf. Pinch off the ends of the cloves into the pan and throw away the stalks. Cook the spices with the onions for 5 minutes, stirring constantly.
Stir in the flour, saffron, sugar and ½ a teaspoon of salt, then slowly pour the water into the pan, stirring constantly. Bring to a gentle simmer, then cover and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove the pan from the heat, take out the bay leaf and blitz the onion mixture with a stick blender until it is as smooth as possible. You can do this in a food processor if you prefer, but let the mixture cool slightly first. Te sauce can now be used right away or cooled, covered and chilled until 10 minutes before serving.
Drain the chicken in a colander over the sink, shaking it a few times – you want the meat to have just a light coating of yoghurt. Place a non-stick frying pan on the heat, add the sauce and bring it to a simmer. Add the chicken pieces and cream and cook for about 10 minutes or until the chicken is tender and cooked through, stirring regularly. Exactly how long the chicken takes will depend on the size of your pieces, so check a piece after 8 minutes – there should be no pink remaining.

Friday, 8 February 2013

Smoked Mackerel Paté

"This week I'll mostly be eating Smoked Mackerel Paté". (For those of you who remember The Fast Show). So quick to make and so tasty, you just can't help dolloping huge amounts of the paté on toast or crusty bread. It doesn't last very long in our house. Put a squeeze of lemon juice on just before you eat it, for a hit of tanginess and to really lift the flavour.

Wednesday, 6 February 2013

Roast Peppers with red onion, pasta and mozzarella

This is just a reminder about this simple and gorgeous roast pepper dish. I first posted the recipe in February 2012, only using peppers, pasta and feta cheese. Since having my sisters version,  I have livened it up a bit, and have used red onion, courgettes, tomatoes, garlic and anchovies in past meals. Chuck anything in that will roast really, drizzled with olive oil and with cheese very gently melted in, it does make a really flavoursome pasta dish. Last night I roasted only peppers and red onions.

Sunday, 3 February 2013

Hairy Bikers Chicken Jalfrezi

This curry was absoultely delicious, if I do say so myself. I am not a connoisseur on chicken jalfrezi as I don't eat that many curries, and if I do I usually go for chicken tikka masala. I only used 4 chillis as I thought it was going to be too spicy, but I could have used more and made it a bit hotter.  There were lots of appreciative noises during the meal and most of those were from me. I served it with nan bread and didn't feel the need for rice. It's much lower in calories than an Indian takeout with only 279 calories per serving, (without rice or nan).

Serves 4

6 long green chillies
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 tbsp sunflower oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
3 ripe tomatoes, chopped
1 tbsp ground cumin
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp flaked sea salt
200ml cold water
2 tbsp low-fat natural yoghurt
1 medium onion, cut into 12 wedges
1 green pepper, deseeded and cut into rough 3cm chunks
2 tomatoes, quartered
2 tsp cornflour
1 tbsp water

Finely chop 4 of the chillies – deseed a couple or all of them first if you don’t like very spicy food. Split the other 2 chillies from stalk to tip on 1 side without opening or removing the seeds. Cut each chicken breast into 7 or 8 bite-sized chunks.
Heat a tablespoon of the oil in a large, fairly deep, non-stick frying pan (or wok) over a high heat. Add the garlic, chopped chillies, chopped tomatoes, cumin, garam masala, turmeric, sugar and salt, then stir-fry for 3–4 minutes until the vegetables soften. Don’t let the garlic or spices burn or they will add a bitter flavour to the sauce.
Next, add the chicken pieces and whole chillies and cook for 3 minutes, turning the chicken regularly. Pour over the 200ml of water, stir in the yoghurt and reduce the heat only slightly – you want the sauce to simmer. Cook for about 8 minutes, stirring occasionally until the chicken is tender and cooked through and the sauce has reduced by about a third. The yoghurt may separate to begin with but will disappear into the sauce.
While the chicken is cooking, heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in a clean pan and stir-fry the onion and pepper over a high heat for 3–4 minutes until lightly browned. Add the quartered tomatoes and fry for 2–3 minutes more, stirring until the vegetables are just tender. Mix the cornflour with the tablespoon of water to form a smooth paste.
When the chicken is cooked, stir in the cornflour mixture and simmer for a few seconds until the sauce thickens, stirring constantly. Remove from the heat, add the hot stir-fried vegetables and toss together lightly. Serve immediately. And just in case you were wondering – don’t eat the whole chillies!

Saturday, 2 February 2013

Banana Bread

I first blogged the recipe for this banana cake in February 2012, this is just a reminder for people who may not have been following my blog for that long. It's one of my favourite cakes, and very simple to make. When I talk about using up the over ripe bananas in the fruit bowl, and I really do mean over ripe, (see the photo below), this is my recipe of choice to do so. 

You can see from the page in my recipe book,Nigellas 'How to be a Domestic Goddess', how frequently I make this cake.