Friday, 25 December 2015

Merry Christmas

My trifle bowl has found a new use this Christmas,  a cute snow scene with cheeky elves. I'm also delighted with the figures for my Christmas cake. The decorations were both ordered from the Etsy site. Sent all the way from New York no less. 

Happy Christmas to everyone who views my blog, and I hope to carry on into 2016,

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Eggs Benedict

This is a perfect brunch for a lazy weekend or perhaps a breakfast on Christmas Day if you're eating your meal later in the day. I've always been afraid to try hollandaise sauce, but this recipe was very striaghtforwrd. It will no longer be something I only have for a hotel breakfast.  The recipe is from the BBC good food website.

Serves 2 
4 Eggs
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
2 English muffins, halved
a little butter for spreading
8 slices smoked salmon or ham
chopped chives, to serve

For the hollandaise sauce
2 tsp lemon juice
2 tsp white wine vinegar
3 egg yolks
125g unsalted butter, diced

  1. First make the Hollandaise sauce. Put the lemon juice and vinegar in a small bowl, add the egg yolks and whisk with a balloon whisk until light and frothy. Place the bowl over a pan of simmering water and whisk until mixture thickens. Gradually add the butter, whisking constantly until thick – if it looks like it might be splitting, then whisk off the heat for a few mins. Season and keep warm.
  2. To poach the eggs, bring a large pan of water to the boil and add the vinegar. Lower the heat so that the water is simmering gently. Stir the water so you have a slight whirlpool, then slide in the eggs one by one. Cook each for about 4 mins, then remove with a slotted spoon.
  3. Lightly toast and butter the muffins, then put a couple of slices of salmon on each half. Top each with an egg, spoon over some Hollandaise and garnish with chopped chives.

Thursday, 10 December 2015

This years table decoration

Although I'm not cooking Christmas dinner this year it's still nice to have a festive table for mealtimes throughout the Christmas period. I saw this idea on Facebook and thought it was a really simple, effective decoration. Tiny baubles are available at a reasonable price in lots of shops and most people have a few different sized wine glasses to hand. I think it still needs a touch of seasonal greenery to give a little more colour, but I love the overall effect with the candles. 

Wednesday, 9 December 2015


I'm starting to get into the Christmas spirit and have been doing a bit of Christmas baking for some friends coming around tomorrow evening. It's ages since I have made theses delightful biscuits, which are similar to a macaroon, soft, chewy with a beautiful almond flavour. This is a recipe from Nigellas 'How to be a Domestic Goddess'. They would make lovely homemade Christmas presents. I challenge you to just eat one. 

2 large egg whites
Pinch of salt
225g caster sugar
Zest of 1 lemon
half tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp almond essence
300g ready-ground almonds
Icing sugar for dusting

Whisk the egg whites and salt until they are stiff and dry; then gradually whisk in the sugar until you reach a marshmallowy consistency. Add the lemon zest, vanilla extract and almond essence, along with the ground almonds; mix to a hard paste. Shape into small diamonds, dusting icing sugar over your hands to help form the lozenges. Lay on two baking sheets lined with greaseproof and leave to dry overnight. Heat the oven to 140ºC and cook the ricciarelli for 30 minutes. When cool, dust with icing sugar and serve. Makes about 34.

Sunday, 29 November 2015


I decided I needed a bit of a challenge in the cookery department and choux pastry is something  I've rarely tried to make. So I was inspired to make a Croquembouche the other evening. I followed Delia Smiths recipe, as I always find her recipes very reliable and successful. The choux buns turned out incredibly well and they weren't as difficult as I had imagined. They were light and airy inside and crisp on the outside. The filling was easy to make, the only bit I found challenging was dipping the buns into scalding hot caramel, which resulted in a few burnt fingers.  The caramel starts  to set quite quickly so you need to work efficiently to assemble your creation. The finished result looks very special, and would look even more so, if the amount was doubled to make a very high tower. 

Her is the link to the recipe, Croquembouche 

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Spicy tomato soup

I made this on Monday which was probably the coldest day we have had in a long while. It was so delicious and warming, and what was great about it was, making it with odds and ends of veggies that I would normally have thrown away.  Carrots I found lurking in the bottom drawer of the fridge, very floppy celery, a wrinkly old red chilli and tomatoes that had been on the bench, growing soft for a couple of weeks. Of course any tired vegetables can be added to stock to make a hearty soup, so this is just a rough guide. 

Serves 4
1 tbsp Sunflower oil for frying
1 medium onion, sliced
2 sticks and the heart of the celery, chopped
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
A pack of fresh tomatoes (skins removed by placing in boiling water)
1 pint Vegetable stock ( bouillon is my favourite)

Fry the onion in the sunflower oil until golden and soft, add the celery, chilli and carrots and fry for a few minutes. All the fresh tomatoes and tinned tomatoes along with the stock. Cover and cook until the carrots are cooked and tender. Give the soup a good blitz or leave a bit chunkier if you prefer. Add a bit of Greek yoghurt to cool the heat of the chilli if you don't want it too spicy. 

Friday, 20 November 2015

Ginger cake Trifle

Here's a great recipe from the December issue of Olive Magazine. It's incredibly quick to make, ideal for entertaining and impressing last minute guests over the Christmas period. I think I'll keep the ingredients at hand especially for those occasions. I have made it using fresh and tinned pineapple, both versions are lovely. 

ginger cake 1 small loaf, cubed
pineapple 2 rings, finely chopped
stem ginger 3 balls, cut into shards, plus 4 tbsp syrup
ginger cordial or wine 4 tbsp
mascarpone 250g
ready-made custard 500g
double cream 300ml

Sprinkle the cake cubes into a trifle bowl and then add the pineapple. Add some ginger pieces and spoon over 2 tbsp syrup and the ginger cordial or wine.Whisk the mascarpone with the custard, spoon it over the ginger base and chill for 30 minutes.Whisk the
cream until it is thick and floppy, then whisk in the remaining ginger syrup. Carefully spoon this on top. Cover with clingfilm and chill until you want to serve it.Arrange the remaining ginger on top.

Monday, 16 November 2015

Jamie Oliver's Chicken and Squash Cacciatore

This is a great one pot recipe from Jamie's new cookbook 'Superfood'. It's perfect for a wintery evening meal and great for feeding a crowd. I assume it would adapt well to a slow cooker recipe, though the vegetables may get a bit soft, they could be added after a few hours of cooking. I have a huge amount of sauce left over, so tonight I'm going to add some stock and blitz it up and I think it'll make a delicious soup.  

1 onion
1 leek
4 cloves of garlic
2 rashers of smoked pancetta
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
olive oil
2 fresh bay leaves
½ a butternut squash or sweet potatoes , (600g)
100 g chestnut mushrooms
2 x 400 g tins of plum tomatoes
250 ml Chianti , or other good red wine
4 free-range chicken thighs, bone in
8 black olives (stone in)
200 g seeded wholemeal bread


Preheat the oven to 190°C. Peel the onion and cut into eighths, trim, wash and slice the leek, peel and slice the garlic. Place a large ovenproof casserole pan on a medium heat. Finely slice the pancetta, pick and finely chop the rosemary leaves, then place both in the pan with 1 tablespoon of oil and the bay leaves. Stir regularly for 2 minutes, then add the garlic, followed by the onion and leek. Cook for 10 minutes, stirring regularly.

Meanwhile, chop the squash or sweet potato (wash first) into bite-sized chunks, leaving the skin on and discarding any squash seeds. Add the mushrooms and chopped squash or sweet potato to the pan. Remove and discard the chicken skin and add the chicken to the pan. Pour in the wine and let it reduce slightly, then add the tomatoes and break them up with a wooden spoon. Half-fill each tin with water, swirl about, pour into the pan and mix it all together. Destone the olives, then poke them into the stew. Bring to a gentle simmer, then transfer to the oven to cook for 1 hour, or until thick, delicious, the chicken falls off the bone and the squash or sweet potato is lovely and tender. Season to perfection, then serve with bread to mop up that tasty sauce.

Wednesday, 4 November 2015

Linguine with garlic mushrooms and sage

A simple midweek dinner from Olive Magazine tonight, using some of the sage from my garden that looks like it's seen better days. Be sure to sprinkle on lots of parmesan and black pepper .

Serves 2

linguine 150g
butter 25g
chestnut mushrooms 250g, sliced
garlic 1 clove, crushed
chilli flakes a good pinch
sage a handful of leaves, chopped
lemon ½, juiced
parmesan or grano padano (or veggie alternative) 50g, finely grated

Cook the linguine. Heat the butter in a frying pan, add the mushrooms and fry until really soft and golden and any liquid has reduced to almost nothing.Add the garlic and chilli and cook for 2-3 minutes, then stir in the sage and cook for another minute. Season really well.
Drain the pasta but keep a teacupful of the cooking water. Add the linguine to the mushroom pan with the lemon juice, parmesan and enough pasta water to make a light sauce. Toss everything together until the pasta is coated then serve.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Hairy Dieters Sticky Chicken

This is another recipe from the Hairy Dieters 'Eat for life' cookbook. Its nice, its not my favourite of their recipes, but the kids really enjoyed it. I think I prefer my sister in laws version of Sticky Chicken. I added some spring onions and coriander for a little extra flavour. 

Serves 4

8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
5 tbsp of tomato ketchup
1 tbsp red or white wine vinegar
2 tbsp runny honey
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp dried chilli flakes
flaked sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 200ºC. Line a large baking tray with foil. Place the chicken thighs on a board and carefully trim off as much visible fat as possible. Season with freshly ground pepper.

Put the ketchup, vinegar, honey, Worcestershire sauce and dried chilli flakes in a medium non stick saucepan and bring to a simmer over a low heat. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the chicken thighs until they are thoroughly coated with the sauce.

Place them on the baking tray and cook in the oven for 15 minutes.
Remove the chicken thighs from the oven and brush them with any sauce that his dripped onto the baking tray. Return to the oven for a further 10 minutes until the chicken is cooked and the coating is glossy. Serve the chicken hot or cold.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Thai Salmon Filo parcels

Forgive the short interlude, I have been making a lot of meals from the Hairy Dieters cook books for the past month or so, most of which I have posted the recipes for in the past. They are super recipes if you are trying to lose a little weight, lower in calories but still full of flavour. It certainly doesn't feel like dieting, that and cutting down on my wine intake has made a positive difference to my weight. This meal which I made the other evening is a Delia Smith recipe. I just love the flavours of the ginger, lime and coriander with the fish. The filo pastry makes the dish lighter in calories, but if dieting isn't on your agenda, puff pastry would be a good substitute. 

Serves 2
2 thick-cut salmon fillets
4 sheets of Filo pastry
1 tsp fresh ginger, grated
1 clove of garlic, crushed
1 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
1 small spring onion, finely sliced
grated zest and juice of a lime
1 oz butter, melted
salt and pepper

First of all, in a small bowl, mix together the ginger, lime zest, garlic, coriander and spring onion, then stir in the lime juice.
Now melt the butter in a small saucepan, then lay 1 sheet of filo pastry out on a flat surface, brush it all over with some of the melted butter, spread another sheet of filo on top and brush this lightly with melted butter as well.
Now position one of the salmon fillets near to one end of the filo, season it and sprinkle half the lime and herb mixture on top.
Next, fold the short end of pastry over the salmon, then fold the long sides inwards, roll the salmon over twice more and trim any surplus pastry (it's important not to end up with great wedges of pastry at each end).
Wrap the other piece of salmon in exactly the same way and, when you're ready to cook, brush the parcels all over with melted butter, place them on a lightly greased baking sheet and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until the pastry is brown and crisp.
Serve, garnished with sprigs of coriander and wedges of lime to squeeze over.

Tuesday, 29 September 2015

Banana and chocolate chip muffins

I was in the midst of a baking frenzy for a family party on Friday, so I thought I might as well use up my over ripe bananas and make these banana muffins while I was in the baking mood. They were delicious straight from the oven, the only way to eat them I think. I found the recipe on a website called Baking Mad. I did only eat one, honest. 

Makes 12
100g butter, softened
2 eggs, medium
175g golden caster sugar 
225g self-raising white flour 
1tsp baking powder
3 tbsp milk 
2 banana(s) very ripe, mashed
100g dark chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 180°C and line a 12 hole muffin tin with paper cases.
Place all of the ingredients in a bowl and beat until smooth.
Spoon the mixture evenly into the paper cases and place in the oven for 25 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean and the muffins are golden brown in colour.
Remove from the oven and cool on a cooling rack.

Slimming world chicken curry

I'm cutting down again, so whilst looking for lower calories meals, I came across this chicken curry on the Slimming world website. I'm not about to go posting all the recipes I try off the website, as they are available to see if you so desire. This was particularly tasty tonight though, so I thought I would share it for those who are looking for a healthier curry. I added a little fresh spinach to the meal at the end of cooking.

2 large onions, sliced
600ml chicken stock
2 tsp turmeric
3 cardamom pods
1 x 2.5cm piece cinnamon stick (I didn't have this)
4 black peppercorns
4 cloves
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tbsp peeled and grated root ginger
1 tsp ground cumin
½ tsp mild chilli powder
3 garlic cloves, crushed
4 skinless and boneless chicken breasts, sliced
275ml fat free natural yogurt, brought to room temperature (I didn't use this)
2 tbsp chopped coriander leaves, to garnish

Put the onion and 425ml of the chicken stock in a large, heavy-based saucepan. Cover the pan, bring to the boil and then boil for 10 minutes. Reduce the heat, uncover the pan and cook gently for 20 minutes, until the onion is tender, golden and syrupy.
Add all the spices and garlic to the pan, and cook for 3-4 minutes. Then add the chicken and cook for a few minutes to coat in the spices, then stir in the remaining chicken stock.
Cover the pan and simmer very gently over a medium heat for 20 minutes until the chicken is cooked.
Transfer the curry to a large serving bowl. Add 4 tbsp of the cooking sauce to the yogurt and stir well. Gradually add the yogurt into the curry, stirring continuously. Season to taste with salt, and serve immediately with boiled rice, and garnish with fresh coriander.

Monday, 28 September 2015

Broccoli and coconut soup

This recipe gives a simple broccoli soup a little extra zing, with the addition of the ginger and chilli. Today I used low fat greek yoghurt instead of the coconut milk in an attempt to lower the calories. The previous time I made it I did use the coconut milk and it gave the soup a wonderful creamy, rich flavour. The recipe came from Olive Magazine. 

onion 1, finely chopped
broccoli 800-900g, chopped
garlic 1 clove, crushed
ginger 2cm piece, grated
green chilli 1, finely chopped
coconut milk 400g tin, shake it to mix it well and reserve 2-3 tbsp for decoration
vegetable or chicken stock 750ml

Fry the onion in a little oil in a large pan until it is soft but hasn’t browned too much. Add the broccoli, garlic, ginger and chilli, and stir everything for a minute or so until it smells fragrant.Add the coconut milk and stock, and bring everything to a simmer, then cook for 20 minutes, or until the broccoli stems are tender. Season well and blend the soup with
a hand blender or liquidiser until it is as smooth as you can make it. Pour it back into the pan and leave it for the bubbles to settle.

Wednesday, 23 September 2015

Hairy Dieters rich beef in Red wine

I am a huge fan of beef casseroles and this one from the Hairy Dieters 'Eat for Life' book is no exception. I cooked mine the other evening for a lot longer than the recipe said, the meat was beautifully tender without breaking up. There is no scrimping on flavour with this meal even though the calories count is only 416 calories per portion. It's a perfect meal for the forthcoming wintery evenings. The only thing I'm disappointed with is the photo which really doesn't do the meal justice. 

Serves 6
1.25kg braising steak
150g rindless lean smoked back bacon (about 5 rashers)
1 tbsp of sunflower oil
2 medium onions, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, crushed
300ml of red wine
2 tbsp tomato puree
500ml of cold water (I didn't add this, just used more wine)
1 beef stock cube
2 large bay leaves
400g small shallots
3 bushy sprigs of thyme (I didn't have this)
250g button mushrooms, wiped and halved
2 tbsp cornflour
2 tbsp cold water
freshly chopped parsley to garnish (optional)
flaked sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 170ºC. Trim the braising steak of any fat and cut into chunky pieces, each about 4cm. Season the beef really well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Trim the bacon of any visible fat and cut into 2cm wide strips.
Heat the oil in a large casserole dish. Fry the beef and bacon over a meduim heat for 3 minutes until lightly browned on all sides, turning every now and then.
Add the onion and garlic to the dish and fry for 2 minutes more. Pour over the the wine and stir in the tomato puree and water. Crumble over the stock cube, add the herbs and bring to a simmer. Stir well and cover with a lid and transfer to the oven. Cook for 1½ hours.
While the beef is cooking, peel the shallots.
Take the casserole out of the oven and stir in the shallots and mushrooms. Return to the oven for a further 45 minutes or until the beef is completely tender.
Mix the cornflour with 2 tablespoons of water until smooth and stir this into the casserole. Place the dish on the hob and simmer for 1-2 minutes until thickened, stirring occasionally. Don't stir too much or the beef could fall apart.
Adjust the seaseonong to taste, sprinkle with the fresh parsely and serve with small portion of rice or mashed potatoes and green beans.

Sunday, 20 September 2015

Courgette scarpaccia

I made this meal a month or so ago when the weather still felt summery. It's a mix between a tart and a pancake. It wasn't at all popular with the kids, but I really enjoyed it. I'd say it was more a light lunch than an evening meal.  The recipe came from Olive magazine, which has a good description of the recipe. There are sweet and savoury versions of this Tuscan pancake-tart hybrid – this is salata (savoury). Scarpaccia means old shoe, perhaps because the end result should be as thin as the sole of an old shoe. ...

courgettes 300g
plain flour 50g
baking powder a pinch
eggs 2
milk 75ml
parmesan or grana padano (or veggie alternative) grated to make 4 tbsp, plus lots of shavings for the top
olive oil
spring onions 2, sliced

Finely slice the courgettes into a sieve, using a mandoline if you have one. Sprinkle on some salt and leave them for 30 minutes to disgorge some liquid. Rinse and then squeeze them dry.
Heat the oven to 200C. Tip the flour and baking powder into a bowl, make a well in the centre and break in the eggs. Gradually stir the flour into the eggs, adding the milk when the mixture gets too thick. Beat the mixture with a balloon whisk to make sure it is smooth, then stir in the parmesan, most of the courgette and plenty of black pepper.
Liberally oil a 20cm square tin with a fixed base or a baking dish, put the spring onions in with another slug of oil and bake for 3 minutes. Remove the tin from the oven and pour the batter into the tin. Toss the remaining courgette slices in a little oil and add them to the top in an even layer. Bake for 20 minutes, or until browned around the edges and set in the centre, scatter on the parmesan shavings, allow to cool, and cut into pieces to serve.

Thursday, 17 September 2015

Nigel Slaters moist plum cake

This is just a reminder of this delicious,moist, almondy, plum cake. We were lucky enough to be able to go and pick some plums from a neighbours garden. Even though they were sweet enough to eat on their own, I couldn't resist making a cake or two. Its wonderful with a cup of tea or to eat as a dessert warm from the oven. 


150g butter
150g unrefined golden caster sugar
16 plums (size dependent, less if large plums)
3 large eggs
75g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
100g ground almonds
50g shelled walnuts (I didn't use these)

Set the oven at 175ºC. Line the base of a 20-22cm cake tin with baking parchment.
Beat the butter and sugar until it is pale and fluffy. A food mixer will do this far more efficiently than by hand. Stop when the mixture is light, soft and the colour of vanilla ice cream. Meanwhile, halve the plums, remove the stones, then cut each half in two.
Break the eggs, beat lightly with a fork, then add them bit by bit to the butter and sugar. Sift the flour and baking powder together and fold them gently into the mixture. I do this with a large metal spoon rather than the food mixer. Fold in the ground almonds, then chop the walnuts so they are the size of small gravel, then fold them in, too.
Scrape the mixture into the cake tin. Place the quartered plums on the cake mixture. Bake for 40-45 minutes, then test with a skewer. If it comes out clean, the cake is ready. Remove from the oven and leave to cool for 15 minutes before turning out.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Vietnamese style chocolate and coffee pots

These little pots of loveliness were perfect for a meal with friends last night. I made them in the morning and left them to chill until ready to serve. The espresso cups were just the right size for a sweet ending to dinner, without overindulging. The recipe is from Olive Magazine. 

Serves 4
50g dark chocolate broken into pieces, plus extra for decoration
1 tbsp of condensed milk
1 tsp of cocoa powder
2 tbsp of strong espresso coffee
1½ egg whites
½ tsp of lemon juice

Put the chocolate, cocoa powder and condensed milk into a medium heatproof bowl and melt over a pan of just simmering water. Remove from the heat (it will be quite thick at this stage) and, while it is still hot, stir in the just made coffee. Set aside to cool for 15 minutes.
Whisk the egg white in a clean medium bowl with the lemon juice, until they form stiff peaks. Stir one large spoonful into the cooled chocolate mixture to loosen it, then fold the remaining whites into the chocolate mixture. 
Divide between the 4 espresso cups or pretty glasses and chill until ready to serve. Grate some dark chocolate on the top before serving. 

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Spiced black bean & chicken soup with kale

This is another great soup which uses leftover cooked chicken. Even without the leftover chicken there are enough wonderful flavours with the spices and beans, so the chicken isn't absolutely necessary. The recipe came from the BBC delicious magazine. 

2 tbsp mild olive oil
2 fat garlic cloves, crushed
small bunch coriander stalks finely chopped, leaves picked
zest 1 lime, then cut into wedges
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chilli flakes
400g can chopped tomatoes
400g can black beans, rinsed and drained
600ml chicken stock
175g kale, thick stalks removed, leaves shredded
250g leftover roast or ready-cooked chicken
50g feta, crumbled, to serve
flour and corn tortillas, toasted, to serve (see tip)

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, add the garlic, coriander stalks and lime zest, then fry for 2 mins until fragrant. Stir in the cumin and chilli flakes, fry for 1 min more, then tip in the tomatoes, beans and stock. Bring to the boil, then crush the beans against the bottom of the pan a few times using a potato masher. This will thicken the soup a little.
Stir the kale into the soup, simmer for 5 mins or until tender, then tear in the chicken and let it heat through. Season to taste with salt, pepper and juice from half the lime, then serve in shallow bowls, scattered with the feta and a few coriander leaves. Serve the remaining lime in wedges for the table, with the toasted tortillas on the side. The longer you leave the chicken in the pan, the thicker the soup will become, so add a splash more stock if you can’t serve the soup straight away.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Skinny Chicken Caesar Salad

Replacing the traditional mayonnaise based dressing with low fat Greek yoghurt, lowers the calories in this delicious salad, without losing any of the flavour and the creaminess. A little cutting down is required after being on holiday for the past few weeks. We have eaten like kings the last few days at a friends house, homemade cheesecake, banoffee pie, summer pudding and lemon meringue pie to name a few of the treats. Also the most delicious Mary Berry leek and bacon quiche, which I will make soon and post the recipe for, it was the best quiche I have ever eaten. Thank you Karen and Elizabeth for all your wonderful hospitality. 

Serves 4

4 skinless chicken breasts
2 tsp olive oil
juice 1 lemon
1 large Romaine or Cos lettuce, chopped into large pieces
1 punnet salad cress (Optional)
4 hard-boiled eggs, peeled and quartered
25g Parmesan, finely grated
50g anchovies fillets, half chopped, half left whole
170g pot fat-free Greek yogurt

Put the chicken breasts in a large bowl with the olive oil and 1 tbsp lemon juice, then season. Heat the grill to high. Put the chicken breasts on a foil-lined tray and cook under the grill for 10-12 mins until golden and cooked through, turning once during cooking. Transfer to a plate or board and slice.
Arrange the lettuce, cress and eggs on a platter or serving plates and top with the cooked chicken. Mix together the Parmesan, chopped anchovies, yogurt and remaining lemon juice, season to taste and pour over the salad. Arrange the whole anchovy fillets on top of each salad.

Note: I cooked the chicken in the oven in a roasting dish as my grill isn't very effective, so either method is fine. 

I made this tonight and instead of using eggs I just fried some ciabatta until golden and crisp. I added tomatoes and cucumber and for the dressing just added parmesan and lemon juice to the yoghurt. The chicken breasts were pre cooked and it took such a short time to prepare and was just the tastiest salad I've had in a while . 

Sunday, 26 July 2015

Banoffee Pie

I find this is a very popular dessert amongst adults and kids. I think the banana and toffee flavour takes us all back to our childhood, remember banana chews? This version is a bit of a cheats version as I am using a pre-made pastry base to save time. You can also buy condensed milk, caramel version, which would save time on making the caramel too. 

Serves 8-10
1 large good quality pastry case
1 tin of condensed milk
150g butter
150g dark brown sugar
2 bananas
300 ml of double cream

Rapidly melt the butter and sugar together until starting to boil. Add the tin of condensed milk and combine well, then keep stirring on the heat until the sauce has thickened slightly. Pour the caramel into the pastry case and leave to cool a little before putting it in the fridge to set. Once set, chop the bananas and arrange on top of the carmel mixture. Whisk the double cream until it has thickened and spoon this on top of the banana. Decorate with shaving of chocolate or chocolate sprinkles. 

Wednesday, 8 July 2015

Coconut chicken with cucumber salad

I would never have thought of coating chicken with dessicated coconut, but what a winning combination. This recipe from the goodfood website was simple and summery with wonderfully fresh asian flavours.  Perfect for a fuss free evening meal. 

Serves 2
1 egg white, lightly beaten
2 skinless chicken breasts
3 tbsp desiccated coconut
1 tsp sunflower oil
½ cucumber, thinly sliced on the diagonal
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 tsp caster sugar
2 tbsp white wine vinegar or rice vinegar

Heat oven to 200⁰C. Season the egg white. Dip the chicken in the egg, then in the coconut. Place on a lightly oiled baking sheet and bake for 20-25 mins, turning once until the chicken is cooked through.
Meanwhile, tip the cucumber slices into a colander, sprinkle with a little salt and leave for 5 mins to drain. Pat the cucumber slices dry with kitchen paper. In a bowl, mix the onion with the sugar and vinegar, then add the cucumber and serve with the chicken.

Thursday, 2 July 2015

Jamie Oliver's Fish tray bake

I think the photos say it all about the flavours in this dish. It's obviously not an everyday meal with all those ingredients, but we had friends for dinner last night and the sun was shining, until we had the most almighty storm. It seemed a fitting meal for the occasion. The great thing about this dish is it's all cooked together. I have done something very similar where I roasted potatoes in the same dish, just cooking them for a little while before the salmon goes in. Last night I served this with some buttered jersey royals. I bought the prawns from Iceland, I didn't realise they had such a good reasonable selection of shellfish. The recipe is from 'Jamies 30 minute meals'.

Serves 4
4 salmon fillets
8 large unpeeled raw tiger prawns (use peeled raw prawns if you don't like the look of the whole thing)
A bunch of asparagus, woody ends snapped off.
1 lemon, quartered
4 garlic cloves, crushed with skins on
1 30g tin of anchovies in oil
Small bunch of basil
3 – 4 tomatoes, roughly chopped
4 slices of pancetta
1 fresh red chilli

Place the salmon and the prawns in a large roasting tray.
Snap the woody ends off the asparagus and scatter over and around salmon seasoning with salt and pepper.
Place in the lemon.  Finely chop the chilli and add to the tray with the basil leaves. 
Pour the oil from the anchovy tin over all ingredients, then place in the anchovy fillets.
Drape in the pancetta over the fillets and crush in 4 unpeeled garlic cloves.
Roughly chop the tomatoes and add.Drizzle with olive oil.
Bake at about 190⁰C for 20 minutes or until fish is cooked to your liking.

Tuesday, 30 June 2015

Spaghetti with sun dried tomatoes, basil and feta cheese

It's been such a wonderfully sunny day and I felt like the meal tonight had to have the taste of summer. This recipe delivered those flavours, fresh and fragrant without being difficult to make. Add some toasted pine nuts for a little extra something. 

Serves: 6

1 (500g) packet spaghetti
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, crushed (I missed this out)
100g sun-dried tomatoes, softened and chopped
200g feta cheese, crumbled
1 bunch fresh basil, chopped
1/2 teaspoon crushed chilli flakes (optional)
salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Cook spaghetti in boiling water until done  then drain. Return pasta to the pan.
Mix in olive oil, garlic, tomatoes and feta. Stir in basil, chilli flakes (if using), salt and pepper and serve warm.

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Smoked Haddock and Chive fishcakes

The fondue was nice but a bit gimmicky for an everyday meal. I made a Swiss fondue with emmental and gruyere, recipes for this are widely available on the internet if you fancy trying one. I made the fish cakes the other evening for dinner.  This isn't a meal that can just be thrown together because of all the different stages involved, but if you have the time the end result is worth it. I bought frozen haddock pieces which could be cooked in the microwave and were surprisingly chunky, also a lot cheaper than fresh haddock. If you didn't have chives, you could substitute some chopped capers or grate in some lemon rind and add a bit of lemon juice for extra flavour. I made a lemon mayonnaise to dip the fishcakes in, they were so much better than the bland, potatoey ones you can buy. This is another meal that can be made in advance and cooked when you are ready. They can also be frozen. 

Makes 12-14
floury potatoes 1.2 kg, peeled and cut into chunks
trimmed leeks 250g, chopped
butter 50g
smoked haddock 600g
chives 2 tbsp of finely chopped
flour for dusting
eggs 2, beaten
dried breadcrumbs 150g

Boil the potatoes in salted water until tender, then drain well and mash or push through a potato ricer into a bowl.
Cook the leeks in the butter with seasoning until really soft. Leave to cool.
Put the smoked haddock on a microwavable plate, cover with clingfilm and cook for 3 minutes, or cook in a little water in a covered pan, then drain well. Leave for 5 minutes, then flake into big chunks, discarding any skin or bone.
Stir the leeks and chives into the potato bowl, then fold through the haddock. Taste and add more seasoning if needed. Form into 8 cakes and chill for 20 minutes.
Dust the cakes in flour, then dip them in the beaten egg and finally roll them in the breadcrumbs until covered.
To cook, heat a little oil in a pan, then fry for 4-5 minutes on each side until they are golden all over and piping hot in the middle.
If you want to freeze them;
Open-freeze the fishcakes on sheets of baking paper for 2 hours, then transfer to containers or bags and freeze until needed.
Follow the cooking instructions above once completely defrosted.

Tuesday, 16 June 2015

Chicken Kiev

Here's an old classic which is very easy to make. The recipe is from an old edition of Olive Magazine. I'm having another retro meal tonight in the form of a cheese fondue. I'll see what the kids make of that. 

Serves 2
dried breadcrumbs, 75g
butter 25g, softened, plus 2 tsp
chicken breasts, 2 large
soft cheese,25g
wild garlic a small handful of leaves, finely chopped (or 2 fat garlic cloves, crushed and mixed with 1 tbsp finely chopped parsley)
plain flour 2 tbsp
eggs 2, beaten
salad and shoestring fries to serve

Toast the breadcrumbs in a frying pan in 2 tsp butter until golden, then leave to cool.
Using a small, sharp knife, poke a hole into the side of each chicken breast at the thickest point. Carefully wiggle the knife inside, cutting a large pocket inside the breasts without widening the hole or poking the knife out at another point. Mash the butter, cream cheese and wild garlic (or garlic and parsley mix) together with some seasoning, then use your fingers to push half into each breast pocket. Dip each breast in some flour to coat, followed by the egg, then finally into the toasted breadcrumbs to fully coat. Chill for at least an hour (or make the day before and leave in the fridge overnight)
To cook, heat oven to 200⁰C. Sit the chicken on a non-stick baking tray and cook for 25 mins, or until cooked through (check by poking a skewer into the centre of the thickest part of the breast – it should feel piping hot). Eat with salad and fries, if you like.

Wednesday, 10 June 2015

Sumac spice crusted and green bean salad with spiced yoghurt dressing

This is just a perfect recipe for a summer salad. What was even more perfect about it last night was eating outside in the garden for the first time this year. I even had to open a bottle of wine to celebrate.  It can be made in advance and put together when you are ready to eat. The spicy chicken with the sweet pomegranate and the creamy yogurt dressing just complimented each other beautifully. I would highly recommend this recipe from this months Olive Magazine. I hadn't heard of sumac before now, but it seems to be widely available, I bought some in Tesco.

Serves 4 
skinless chicken breasts 4
extra-virgin olive oil 1 tbsp
aleppo (or regular) chilli flakes 3 tbsp (I didn't use anywhere near this amount)
sumac 3 tsp
ground cinnamon 1 tsp
ground cumin 2 tsp
pine nuts 40g

Yoghurt dressing
yogurt 100ml
milk 2 tbsp
white wine vinegar 2 tbsp
lemon 1, zested and juiced
dill chopped to make 1 tbsp (I didn't have this)
garlic ½ clove, crushed

green beans 300g, trimmed and some sliced
in half lengthways
red onion 1 small, cut into half moons
sumac 1 tsp
dill a few fronds, chopped (not essential)
pomegranate 1, seeded, or a tub of seeds
carrot 1 purple or orange, cut into ribbons

Heat the oven to 190⁰C Rub the chicken with the oil and season well. Mix the chilli flakes, sumac, cinnamon and cumin together then roll the chicken in the spices. Put the chicken onto a baking tray and roast for 20 minutes or until the chicken is very tender. During the last 4 minutes of cooking, sprinkle the pine nuts over. Remove and leave to cool.

Mix the dressing in a small bowl and set aside. For the salad, cook the beans for 1 minute in salted water, drain and refresh in cold water. Dry and arrange on a platter. Mix the onions with the sumac and spread over. Top with the dill, pomegranate and carrot. When the chicken has cooled, slice and arrange over the vegetables with the pine nuts. Serve with the dressing to pour over.

Tuesday, 2 June 2015

Kidney bean and red pepper burgers

Meat free Monday, and I made the kids the halloumi, chargrilled peppers, rocket and houmous brioche buns. I'd had one for lunch so I wanted something different. Finding a very wrinkled red pepper in the fridge I searched for a bean burger recipe on line. The result was much modified from the recipe to suit the ingredients I had, but it was  really delicious as a meat free meal. If I had made these especially for James he would have complained, but as I didn't offer him one at first he insisted on having one and tucked in enthusiastically.

Makes 6 burgers
1 can is kidney beans, drained and rinsed (the recipe was for black beans)
1 red pepper, deseeded
½ red onion
2 cloves of garlic 
Sprinkle of chilli flakes
½ tsp of cumin
1 egg
3 slices of brown bread made into breadcrumbs
Salt and pepper to season

Heat the oven to 200⁰C. 
Mash the kidney beans in a bowl until relatively broken down. In a food processor whizz together the deseeded pepper, garlic and the half onion. Leave some substance to the vegetables, so don't blitz for too long. Add this to the kidney beans and mix well. Add the spices, egg and breadcrumbs and make sure everything is well combined. Shape into 6 patties and place on an oiled baking tray. Bake in the oven until crispy and cooked through, approximately 20 minutes. I served mine with a slice of fried halloumi on top. 

Note: I have just heated the two that were left over from last night in a frying pan with a little olive oil. Every bit as nice the next day and really tasty with a dollop of lime pickle on top.

Monday, 25 May 2015

Panettone Bread and Butter Pudding

I better get something on here before people abandon me altogether. I haven't been feeling too well for the last couple of weeks so haven't been creative in the kitchen. I'm picking up now and on holiday and made this ultimate comfort pudding for tea last night, with a Christmas panettone. I found the recipe on the goodfood website and I'll 
put the link to it below the photograph. It's a great way of using up Panettone and a very popular dessert with most people. I added the chocolate as an extra treat. 

Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Persian rice pudding

I got the idea for this recipe from watching a programme called 'Dinner Date' (I really shouldn't admit to watching it). The concept of the programme is to find love through the love of good food. So a guy or a girl choses three people to cook them a meal in the hope that they will find one person that they connect with, then take them out for a second date. The programme is lighthearted and good entertainment but they never do seem to meet the man or woman of their dreams. A beautiful Iranian lady cooked this for her surprise date. There was no chemistry between them at all and the only thing they talked about was what the ingredients were in the food. Anyway if nothing else, it inspired me to have a go at making the rice pudding. I adapted a recipe from a Telegraph article online, to suit the ingredients I had at home, but below is the full recipe. My children tried the mixture as it was cooking, and both of them said how the taste transported them back to Primary school days. Its a lovely comforting traditional dessert with extra some special flavours.

Serves 4

1 litre milk
100g caster sugar
zest of 2 oranges
Zest of 1 lemon
1 cinnamon stick (I used a pinch of cinnamon powder)
1 vanilla pod, split and seeds scraped out (I used vanilla paste)
100g risotto rice, washed
1 egg yolk
200g double cream (I didnt use as much as this)
1 tsp of orange flower water (I used Rosewater)
A pinch of saffron
2 tbsp of fresh green pistachios, finely chopped
The seeds from half a pomegranate (I didnt have these)
1 tsp of dried rose petals
6 medjoul dates, finely chopped (I didnt have these)

Combine the milk, sugar, cinnamon stick, orange flower water, orange and lemon zest, vanilla pod and seeds and rice in a large heavy-based saucepan and set over a medium heat.
Bring to the boil and then turn the pan right down, stirring occasionally. Cook for 45 minutes or until the rice is completely soft.
Be careful not to let the rice catch on the bottom of the pan, especially when it gets thick when it’s almost ready.

Remove from the heat. Whisk half of the cream with the egg yolk and then stir this into the hot rice with the saffron and dates and set aside to cool completely.

Whisk the remaining cream until thick and then stir it into the rice. Chill until cold.

To serve, spoon the rice into bowls and sprinkle with the almonds, pomegranates, rose petals and pistachios.

Wednesday, 22 April 2015

Hairy Dieters Turkey burgers with paprika chips

I liked these fresh turkey burgers for a change, and they are lower in calories than a regular beef burger. I would say cook them in a frying pan rather than the oven. They were quite anaemic when I took them out of the oven after the specified cooking time. I finished them off in the frying pan to give them a little colour. The recipe is from the second Hairy Dieters book "Eat for Life".

Serves 4

4 tsp sunflower oil
2 small leeks (about 125g) trimmed and finely sliced
1 medium courgette (about 150g) trimmed and finely grated
500g minced turkey breast
finely grated zest of half a lemon
plenty of freshly ground black pepper
½ tsp flaked sea salt
tomato relish to serve

Paprika wedges:
3 medium potatoes (about 475g)
1 tsp sunflower oil
½ tsp paprika
½ tsp salt
freshly ground black

Preheat the oven to 220ºC.
Peel and chop the potatoes length ways into roughly 8-10 wedges for each potato. Put into a bowl, add the salt, pepper, paprika, oil and mix till all wedges are coated evenly. Scatter on a tray and bake until golden and cooked through, I would say about 45 minutes. Check after 30 minutes and loosen from the tray if sticking and give a shake around.

Whilst the wedges are cooking, add 2 tsp of the sunflower oil to a large non-stick frying pan. Once the oil has heated fry the leeks gently for around 3 minutes when they have softened, but not coloured.  Tip these into a bowl and leave to cool for 5 minutes.

Once cooled add grated courgette, zest of lemon, salt, lots of black pepper and minced turkey breast. Mix well until everything is combined, I did this by hand.

Divide the mixture and form by hand into 8 balls and flatten them into burger shapes. Brush the remaining oil onto a baking tray and place the burgers on the tray.

Bake on the shelf above the potatoes for 5 minutes, turn them over and bake for a further 5 minutes, or until golden brown and cooked thoroughly. If you prefer, you could cook the burgers in a frying pan, lightly misted with oil. Fry them for about 5 minutes on each side or until thoroughly cooked.

Serve the burgers with the wedges and salad. Instead of serving with tomato relish I used a sweet chilli dipping sauce.