Tuesday, 13 December 2011

The Epic Pork

Partly because everyone seems to be making it or asking me for the recipe, partly because I've chucked one in to slowcook overnight for tomorrow's tea... here it is.  The manna from heaven that is slowcooked bbq pulled pork.

I can't claim the original inspiration for this, it was passed to me by someone I shared internet forum space with yonks ago.  She turned out to be a nutter, so the pulled pork may be her one sane contribution to humanity!  Do try to make your own BBQ sauce, and don't be put off by the list of ingredients, it's not complicated in the least to just throw it all into the pan.  You don't even have to be too exact about measuring, I've made it so many times that I just approximate, aim and chuck!  If you like a fiery kick, add more chilli. I never bother with the salt, and use reduced salt/sugar ketchup to make me happier about feeding it to the delicate-kidneyed snarflings, but equally you can use basics/value/smartprice ketchup, it doesn't need to be premium branded stuff.

Without any further ado - the pork.  It makes lots.  You will enjoy eating the leftovers!

To make the pork:

Get a boneless pork joint - shoulder is a cheap cut and works well - and stick it in the slowcooker with some form of liquid - cider, apple juice, pineapple juice, cola, water, whatever - about half a mugful. Cook on low for at least 8 hours.

When it's cooked, remove the meat, hive off a mugful of the liquid in the slowcooker and set this aside. Drain the rest away.

Cut the fat off the pork and chuck it. Using 2 forks, shred the meat, then return it to the slowcooker.

Use the liquid to make a BBQ sauce. You could use a bought one but I think this is nicer:

BBQ sauce

about 2tbsps/a hunk of butter
Small onion, pureed or finely chopped
mugful of ketchup
mugful of cooking liquor or water
tsp salt (I don't use salt in mine and it's fine)
1/2 tsp pepper
spoonful jarred garlic or a couple of cloves, blitzed with the onion
2 tbsp worcestershire sauce
2 tbsp vinegar (balsamic is nice)
2 tbsp lemon or lime juice
2 tbsp brown sugar/honey/golden syrup/whatever sugar you have lying around
1tsp paprika (pref smoked)
pinch chilli flakes (optional)

Melt the butter, saute the onion and garlic for a few minutes, chuck in everything else, simmer for 20 mins. Throw over the pork and stir to coat it and leave it in the slow cooker to all warm through for as long as you can wait.

You can serve with jacket spuds or in floury rolls or tortilla wraps, with beans, coleslaw, corn on the cob, all the above...

Monday, 12 December 2011

Winter Beef

Mmmmm, more slowcooker goodies.  What do you mean, you haven't bought a slowcooker yet?  To Argos with ye, now!

This isn't really a casserole, it doesn't have the requisite gravisauciness.  It's hard to define, really, if you don't really want to use the words 'beefy goodness'.  The beef just falls apart, the veg cook down to create a mass of... beefy goodness.

Well, you make it then try to describe it then, go on!

Serves 4 generously.  Chills/freezes well.

approx 1kg caesserole beef pieces
1 red cabbage, finely shredded
3 smallish parsnips, chopped
250ml red wine
2 crushed garlic cloves
1/2 tsp coarge ground black pepper
gravy granules, or 2 x beef stock cubes and thickening granules or cornflour.

Put everything bar the gravy granules in a slowcooker.  Cook for 8 hours on low.  If you plan on thickening with gravy, don't use stock cubes, it will be too salty, but if you're thickening with cornflour or similar, add 2 stock cubes now for flavour.

Before serving, stir in a few tsp of gravy granules or a little cornflour/cold water paste, and cook for 5-10 minutes more until thickened.

Serve with creamy mash, veg, or piled on top of a crisp-skinned, buttered jacket.

Thursday, 8 December 2011

Welsh and proud

I know, I'm sorry, I've been gone ages.  We've been super busy with visitors and things going on and I've been mostly making super-simple things or cooking up frozen portions of delights I've already regaled you with. like the nicer chicken nuggets.  Or we've been eating out.  Naughty naughty.

I was chatting with some pals about regional stereotypes the other day (it's amazing the discussions I can get into on Facebook when I'm procrastinating and don't want to clean the dining room) and I realised that I'm something of a Welsh stereotype because I *love* leeks.  Literally cannot get enough of their silky sweet oniony goodness.  Never mind bread of heaven, I want heavenly leeks.

With this is mind, tonight's dinner is a bit of an experiment based on a dish my husband ordered on a recent eating-out-escapade to celebrate my birthday (I was 21.  Honestly).  The pub called it Welsh Chicken, so I plan to follow suit.  I have fiddled with it, naturally - this is me, I live to adapt, remember? - and therefore if it's a success I shall claim it for my own.  If it's awful, it's not my fault!

Welsh chicken, to serve 4.  Halve quantities for dinner a deux.

4 free range/high welfare standard chicken breast fillets, skinless
4 leeks, sliced
about 150ml boiling water
1 large/2 small head of brocolli, cut into small florets
2 heaped dessert spoons butter/spread
2 heaped dessert spoons plain flour
Milk, approx a pint
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
200g strong white cheese, cheddar or Caerphilly, grated
Olive oil

Heat a splash of oil in a wok or frying pan and briefly cook the chicken breasts on both sides.  Pop into an ovenproof dish and cover, setting aside.  In the same pan, add the leeks, stir to coat in the oil then add the water.  Turn the heat down to low, stirring occasionally. Meanwhile, pop the brocolli on to boil and cook until just al dente.  Drain and set aside.

When the leeks are soft and silky, remove from the heat.  Strain off any water and reserve this. Tip the brocolli over the browned chicken breasts then tip the leeks on top, covering the chicken.  Set off to one side, covered again.

Make the sauce - it's a basic bechemel/white sauce, as previously blogged.  Use the reserved leek water in with the milk.  Add the cheese and melt, then add the mustard seeds and pepper.  I don't think this dish needs any extra salt, the salt present in the cheese is seasoning enough, but you could always add some at the table if you preferred.  Pour the sauce all over the dish of chicken, leeks and brocolli, coating evenly.

Pop into a hot (200 degree) oven for about 25 minutes until bubbly and starting to turn golden.  Serve with whatever side dish you fancy - we're having rustic skin-on oven baked chips with ours.  It's all in the oven right now so I will update with a pic and verdict in a little while!

Update - it was delicious, you need to try it!

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Most Awesome Mince Pies

What cheese can you use to hide a horse in?

Marscapone.  Mask-a-pony?  Geddit?

That's one of my Dad's favourite jokes for you.  The relevance will become clear later.

Sorry for the lack of dinner bloggage - we've been eating out/eating leftovers/eating fajitas from commercial kits.  Nobody would have been interested, trust me.

Now, onto the Christmassy yumminess. I'm always looking for new ways to quickly and easily gussy up some shop bought mincemeat, and this little stroke of inspiration brings some sassy gorgeousness to the humble mince pie.  Also fun to make are mini mince pie 'pasties', and super-quick if you have a miniature device to make pasties like these beauties from Lakeland:

 Lakeland Pasty Press Set

(and not honestly all that taxing if you don't - if you can fold a circle and use a fork you're pretty much sorted.)

Pear and Chocolate Mince Pies - makes approx 18 pies or 24-30 small 'pasties'

822g (large jar) of classic/basic mincemeat or equivalent amount of homemade (Lidl's is very nice, and reasonable)
1 large/2 small firm pears, conference or similar, peeled, cored and finely chopped
40g dark chocolate, finely chopped
320g plain flour
30g cornflour
125g butter, cubed
100g vegetable fat (Trex/Crisp N Dry) cubed
1 egg, beaten
cold water
pinch salt
vegetable oil to grease tins
milk or another beaten egg, to glaze
icing sugar to serve

If making pies, grease the cups of a muffin tin with oil. If making pasties, pop some greaseproof on a couple of baking trays.

To make the pastry, rub the fats into the flour, cornflour and salt until it resembles nubbly breadcrumbs.  Add the beaten egg then stir with a cold clean knife, adding the cold water 1tsp at a time until it comes together in a dough but not so much it becomes sticky.  If it's sticky, add more flour.

Wrap in clingfilm and chuck in the fridge for 15 minutes. Turn the oven on, about 200 degrees.

Mix the mincemeat with the chopped pear and chocolate.

On a floured surface, roll out some of your dough to about 3-4mm thick.  Cut circles to fit your muffin tins, if you're using a bona fide muffin tin they'll need to be about 3" diameter, bit smaller for shallower bun tins.  Pat the circles into the greased tin, then roll out the rest of your dough and cut star, Christmas tree or other natty little shapes for the lids.

Fill each cup to just below the brim with the mincemeat, then pop on the natty lid. No need to stick it down, it will seal itself with the sugar from the mincemeat. Glaze with milk or egg and bake for approx 15 minutes, until golden.  Leave to cool a little before extracting from the tin with a spoon.  You can then pop them into fancy paper cases if you so wish, or just snarf them with a cup of coffee.

If you want to make the crisp, flaky little pasties instead, just cut lots of 3" circles.  If you have a pasty press, pop the circle into the press, add a scant teaspoon of mincemeat and press to seal.  If not, add the mincemeat then fold in half, pressing all around the outside with the tines of a fork to seal in place.  Repeat till everything is used up, place on the greasproofed baking trays and glaze and bake as above.

To make these gorgeous, you can sift icing sugar all over them, as though dusted prettily in beautiful snow.  Even though we know that snow is only pretty for five minutes, until you realise you're housebound with two fractious children and no bread by great drifts of the stinking, freezing stuff.  No, you may keep snow, but the sugared pies do look quite fetching.

Very tasty served warm with thick cream, brandy butter or those fancypants liqueur creams from supermarkets, or my personal favourite - a great dollop of marscapone.

Told you it would all make sense in the end!

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Sticky sausage traybake

Minimum washing up, maximum feel good factor.  Lovely for cold nights, this is the sort of food you want to eat when you've been tramping around in leaves like you're in a Boden photoshoot.  Or possibly just doing parents evening and school run, as per my afternoon...

It's roughly based on a recipe I saw in Tesco magazine, but has been fiddled with sufficiently that I'm happy to claim it for my own.  Which is a good job, given that I now cant find the magazine anyway.  I can't leave a recipe alone, I have to fiddle, I think it's actually a medical condition.  Cooking something exactly as it's described in a recipe would be my challenge task on I'm A Frazzled Mum... Actually I Think I'll Stay Here, It's Peaceful.

I'm not going to give quantities.  You're all big and ugly enough to judge how many sausages and chunks of root veg you are capable of eating.

Sticky sausage traybake

Good quality sausages
Selection of root veg, trimmed, peeled if needed, and chunked.  Suggest sweet potatoes, parsnips, carrots, peppers, white potatoes, butternut squash - whaever you have in/like/need to use up
A red onion, cut into chunky slices
Some red/orange/yellow peppers, if liked, cut into chunks

3tsp clear honey
6 tsp worcestershire sauce
2 tsp apple juice
1 tsp garlic puree
pinch of dried chilli flakes
tsp smoked paprika

Heat a splosh of oil in a baking tray. Add root veg, pop into the oven (190 degrees) for 25 minutes.

Remove, pop in peppers and sausages and return to the oven for 20 minutes. 

Remove, splash dressing all over, return to oven for 5-10 minutes until sticky.  Remove, stir, serve.  Put some water in the tray and leave it to soak.  The washing up can wait...

Hostess with the Roast-est

We had family here on the weekend, so I decided to make a roast on Sunday.

I'm not going to tell you how to make a roast.  It's all fairly self explanatory.  I just thought you'd like to see a picture.  The Never Knowingly Undercatered Roast.  Nom.

Treats for my sweets

It's Bonus Time.  No, not on overpriced facial soap, but on Yummy Recipes.  I know what you want.

Little step-by-step of an easy and yummy Christmas treat, a nice alternative to mince pies.  They look posh and people will think you're dead clever but they are so simples, a meerkat could make them.

Mince Pie Twists - makes 12-14.

1 pack ready rolled puff pastry
about 3/4 of a jar of mincemeat
an egg

Get your puff pastry and let it sit out of the fridge for 10 minutes or so,  Unroll, with the short side closest to you, like theeeeeeees:

Fold over and mark the halfway point, scoring a faint line once you flip the pastry back into place.

Cover the half nearest you with a layer of mincemeat, thin as you can without it looking scanty.

Incidentally, I opted for Duerrs 1881 Luxury Mincemeat with Dark Chocolate and can report that it is VERY VERY NICE.

(hopefully awaits crates of free mincemeat from grateful company...)

Anyway, when your pastry is mincemeated up, flip the top half of the pasrty over the top, line up the edges neatly, and press down all over with a clean palm to expel as much air as you can without mushing it all out of place.  Thus:

Using a sharp, slightly serated knife, cut the folded pastry into strips, top to bottom.  About a cm wide is ideal.  Like this:

Now, pop some greasproof onto baking trays.  Take a strip and, holding one end in each hand, twist three times.  Put it onto the greasproof and repeat with all the strips.

Beat the egg with a splash of cold water and brush the twists with the egg wash.  Bake in a hot (190 ish) oven for ten to twelve minutes until golden.  Leave to cool before serving, if you can...

Monday, 21 November 2011

Ch, ch, ch....

This is yummy, Spanish-style peasant fare at it most ribsticking fine.  Warming, fragrant and filling, you can make it in the slowcooker, oven on a low heat or even in a pan.  Serve with veg, rice, mash or crusty bread on a cold night for a dose of happy.

Chicken, chorizo and chickpea casserole, serves 2 big, 2 small with possibility of leftovers.  Freezes well.

1 red onion, sliced
approx 600g diced boneless chicken, or approx 8 thighs, cut up
1 chorizo ring, cut into chunky slices
1 tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 small carton passata
1 tsp dried mixed herbs
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 cloves garlic, or the equivalant of garlic puree/paste/granules

Throw it all in the slowcooker.  Cook for 6-8 hours on low.  Serve!

Or... pop in an oven proof lidded casserole dish and cook ina low oven for 2-2.5 hours.

Or... saute the onion in a little oil, add the chorizo and cook a minute or so.  Add the chopped chicken and stir to coat in the by-now-fragrant oil.  Sizzle for a few minutes then add everything else and simmer for 20 minutes or so until thickened.

Very small people may struggle with the chorizo, and it's a little salty - if cooking for babies, maybe leave out the chorizo, frying it off separately and adding to yours after their portion has been served up.  For toddlers, pick the chorizo out of theirs, maybe giving them one small chunk cut into manageable pieces, just to try!

I massively favour chicken thigh fillet for this dish over breast meat - it slowcooks so much better, and is cheaper and more tender.  If you like chicken on the bone, you could substitute one chicken leg per person in the oven-cooked version.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Beef pie

I make a slowcooker and a non-slowcooker version of this hearty pie.  I'll share the slowcooker version here, as it's what I made yesterday, and the other I'll share another time. 

You can throw the carrots into the slowcooker with the beef if you like, I like them a little al dente so cook them just before putting the pies in the oven, it only takes ten minutes.

Feeds 2 adults and 2 small people.

1 pack lean casserole steak, approx 500g
3-4 sticks of celery, finely sliced
1 red onion, finely sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1tsp ground black pepper
1tsp dried mixed herbs
2-3 carrots
1 beef stock cube
gravy granules, cornflour or thickening granules
1 pack ready rolled puff pastry
1 egg and splash of milk, beaten together

Put the beef, onion, celery, garlic, herbs, pepper and stock cube in the slowcooker with a mugful of boiling water.  Cook on low for 7-8 hours.

to serve:

Cut the carrots into chunks and boil for 10 minutes. Drain, reserving the water.  Stir into the beef mix.  Thicken the liquid with cornflour, thickening granules or a little gravy granules (if serving to babies, avoid using gravy, as it ramps up the salt content; if you need to add another stock cube for flavour try to use a reduced salt version).  If more gravy is needed, use the cooking water from the carrots and thicken accordingly.  Tip into a pie dish, cut a lid to fit from the rolled puff pastry, brush with the egg wash and bake in a hot oven for 15-20 minutes until puffed up and golden brown.

Serve with peas or mixed vegetables.

You can make one big pie, or individual pies if you have a selection of dishes.  I am fortunate enough to have some charmingly 50's-retro Mason Cash pie dishes, so I get to make big pies and baby pies, thus...

Cute, no?

Thursday, 17 November 2011

Creamy ham pasta

Sometimes you just want something comforting to nosh on, and today is one of those days for me.  Pasta it is!

This is creamy and cheesy and moreish, perfect for a cold and foggy autumn evening, the like of which is murking outside my door.

Winner with the snarflings, cheap and easy.  If you don't have an obliging local butcher who sells reasonably-priced ham offcuts - and if that's the case, move to the Valleys, I'll introduce you to mine - you can use bacon, or roast a small bacon or ham joint and hack it up into bitty bits.

Creamy ham pasta - serves 4, or 2 adults and 2 snarflings with worky leftovers

500g pack of pasta
some butter or spread suitable for cooking
some plain flour
some milk
about 150g strong cheddar, grated
some black pepper
4-5 spring onions, finely chopped
small tin of sweetcorn, drained
approx 300g ham offcuts,  chopped or torn into small pieces

Put the pasta on to boil.

Use the butter, flour and milk to make a bechamel sauce.  PLEASE don't make me give you quantities.  I don't weigh things, I do it all by eye, so trying to tell you how much to use is really awkward.  I would suggest doubling this basic recipe for this dish.  It will also tell you how to make the bechamel, or white, sauce, which will stand you in good stead to make 785615783664 other yummy things.

Classic bechemel sauce

When the sauce is made, stir in the cheese, pepper to taste, spring onion and sweetcorn.  Drain the pasta when it's cooked, return to the pan, add the ham and stir the sauce through until everything is cheesily coated.  You can add more grated cheese on top when you serve, if you're having a real inneedofcheese day.

Easy Thai-ger

The crappy punny titles never fail to amuse me.

Didn't get a chance to blog these yesterday so popping them on now, although it was yesterday's tea.  The children, gratifyingly, loved them.  As did one of my cats, who pinched my last two from my plate when I stepped away from the table.  He can't even say he was trying to protect my waistline, because when there's chocolate being eaten he's nowhere to be seen.  Swine.


Easy Thai Fishcakes

350g skinless boneless salmon fillet.
approx 150g raw prawns
1 tsp sugar
heaped tbsp thai red curry paste (we use Blue Dragon)
1 egg
4-5 spring onions
tbsp lime juice
oil for frying

put everything bar the spring onions in a food processor.  Blitz until smooth.  Slice the spring onions very finely and stir them in.  Heat some oil in a frying pan,you'll need it about 1/2 to 1cm deep, have it going over a low to medium heat.  Wet your clean hands to stop the mixture sticking then take golf ball sized dollops of the mixture, shape into patties and drop into the pan, 4-5 in a pan is plenty per batch.  Flatten a bit with a fish slice and cook for about 2 minutes until you can see the sides of the patties going opaque.  Flip them - they should be crisp and golden on the underside - and cook for 1.5-2 minutes more on the other side.  Remove from pan, put on a plate lined with kitchen towel to drain off the oil, and do the next batch.  You should get 16-20 from the mix, enough for 4 with an accompaniment. You can chuck them back into the pan briefly to get them piping hot to serve.  We ate ours with fine egg noodles tossed with a bit of soy sauce, lime juice and some stir fried veggies.  Fan-thai-stic.  Alright, I'll stop now.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Pizza, as it should be.

This blog post begins with the warning that once you've made your own pizza from scratch, frozen pizza will never appeal to you ever again. Neither will you be willing to fork out silly money for Dominos or Pizza Hut takeaways, having realised how cheaply it can actually be made!

The base recipe is adapted from Jamie Oliver, with quantities reduced and salt omitted.  You can make double, roll out the bases and wrap and freeze for future use, but I quite enjoy making mine fresh each time.  There's something inherently soothing about pounding the bejeezus out of some dough.  The sauce recipe is mine, the toppings you are quite capable of choosing for yourself, though I've made some suggestions.

The dough recipe will make 2 larger and 2 snarfling-sized bases.  If you roll them thin like I do, you'll have enough for a small loaf of tear and share garlic bread too.  I favour the '00' flour as I think it makes a crisper, lighter base but if you can't find any, regular bread flour will do just fine.


500g bread flour or '00' Tipo/pasta flour
4 tbsp olive oil
1 sachet easy bake yeast
1 tbsp sugar
300ml warm water

Weigh the flour into a large bowl.  Measure the warm water into a jug, and add the sugar and yeast, stir and set aside for a minute.  Stir the oil into the flour, then start adding the (by now foamy, yeasty) water, stirring and bringing it together into a ball of dough.  You may need slightly more water if it's a bit dry, just add whatyou need to get a non-sticky dough.

Turn onto a floured surface and knead for 10 minutes. Pop back into the bowl, put acloth over and leave for 30-45 minutes until risen.

Tip it back out onto a freshly floured surface and knead briefly to knock back.  Pull off a lump, shape into a ball, and roll out using a floured pin.  Pop onto a pizza tray or baking sheet ready for topping, and repeat.


1 tin chopped tomatoes (or 2 small - if you can find 'chair de tomate' or extra-finely chopped, all the better)
1tbsp tomato puree
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1tsp sugar
1 tsp dried mixed herbs/Italian seasoning

Chuck into a pan.  Simmer until thick over a low heat.

Making the pizzas

Smear a large spoonful of sauce over each pizza.  Top with grated cheese - about 150g will do for 2 large and 2 small, I use a pregrated mix of emmental, cheddar and mozzarella.  Top with whatever you fancy.  Some suggestions:

Thinly sliced mushrooms
thinly sliced or diced peppers
sweetcorn (Green Giant do a no added sugar or salt version that's ideal for small people)
sliced salami, chorizo, serrano ham, regular ham, turkey, chicken breast...
thinly sliced deli sausage
thin spears of asparagus

If you have time and can stand the mess, small people love being given bowls of various toppings and the opportunity to design their own pizzas.

Bake your pizzas in a hot oven (220, or 200 fan) for 8-10 minutes for thin crust, a little longer if you've rolled the crust a bit thicker.  It should be golden, light and crisp, if it seems too doughy, put it back in for another minute or two.


Monday, 14 November 2011

Lessons in chicken

I make this goat's cheese and pesto stuffed chicken quite a lot.  Older snarfling loves it, she's been a bit of a goat's cheese fiend since she was tiny.  I've decided to present it as something of a step-by-step guide, so you can make it too.  I'm nice like that.

Goat's Cheese and Pesto Chicken

Serves 4, easy to halve quantities for 2

4 chicken breasts, freedom food or free range, pleaseandthankyou.
4 tsp red pesto
pack of soft goat's cheese
8 rashers of good quality smoked bacon

Take your chicken breast and flip it over, moving the 'butterfly' bit out of the way.

Take a sharp knife and cut a deep slash (but NOT all the way through!) where the butterfly bit meets the main chicken breast.  So -

Open it out to make a pocket -

Pop in a teaspoonful of the pesto (tip - decant your pesto into a little dish before using in this recipe, then if your spoon touches the raw chicken, you aren't transferring bacteria back into the jar to breed.  Always thinking of you, folks.)

Then wodge in a teaspoonful of the goat's cheese -

Close up your pocket as best you can and flip your butterfly bit back over the top, thus -

Wrap two rashers of bacon around the chicken, using the widest medallion bit over the opening of the pocket to cover it up -

Now wrap your chicken breast firmly in foil, and repeat!

Bake them in a 180 degree oven for about 20 minutes.  If you're making the roasted baby potatoes and carrots that I served with this, microwave your veg for 5 minutes whilst you heat a little oil in a roasting pan, pop the veg in for ten minutes, then put the chicken in and roast all together for another 20-25 minutes (25 if you have especially large or thick chicken breasts).

All done-

You can crisp the bacon under a hot grill for a few minutes if you like, but I had small snarfling screaming at me, so dispensed with that step!

Ready to eat -

Well, that's just souper.

Happy Monday.

I'll get on and blog tonight's dinner in a little while but first of all thought I'd share the soups I made over the weekend.

I love soup, and it's great to make in batches and freeze in portions for quick lunches. Pour and Store bags are brilliant for this, or for storing in larger quantities, the plastic lidded jars you get canned fruit in.  Genuis.

First up, a simple leek and potato.

Leek and Potato Soup

Makes 8 large portions

6 leeks, trimmed and sliced
6 large/8 medium  scrubbed potatoes, chopped (leave the skin on, it's good for you!)
1 large onion, sliced
3 stock cubes
some dried herbs
1/2 tub creme fraiche - you can use reduced fat if you like
Splash of oil

heat the oil in a large pan and saute the onion and leek for 5 minutes, stirring to avoid sticking/burning.  Tip in the potatoes, crumble in the stock cubes and add the herbs.  Top up with enough water to cover the veg and simmer for 15-20 minutes.  Take it off the heat and blitz with a handheld blender, adding more water as needed to get the consistency you want.  Stir in the creme fraiche, check for seasoning and serve or portion up for freezing.

Secondly, a slightly fancier and feistier recipe.  We ate this as part of a simple but tasty lunch on a Saturday, but it does double duty as a supper party starter if you gussy it up a bit.  Add a swirl of creme fraiche and cut some chorizo into teeny tiny dice and fry until crispy, scattering over the top just before serving.  Fancy schmancy.  Squash-based soups need quite a bit of salt, taste and add more if you think it's warranted but the spicyness and salt mean it's not really suitable for little people.

Spicy roasted butternut and red pepper soup

makes 4 portions

1 butternut squash
3-4 red peppers, quartered and seeded
1 largeish or 2 small leeks, sliced
2 stock cubes
large pinch of sea salt
splash of olive oil
pinch of dried chilli flakes
tsp smoked paprika

Halve the squash lengthways, scoop out the seeds, drizzle with a tiny bit of oil and wrap in foil.  PLace in a hot oven and roast for 45 minutes.  Add the peppers to the oven and roast for 15 minutes more.  Meanwhile, sautee the sliced leeks in a little oil for 5 minutes, until soft.  Remove the pan from the heat.  Tip in the roasted peppers, and scoop the flesh out of the squash shell and pop that in too.  Crumble in your stock cubes (I like chicken ones in this recipe, but use vegetable to make it veggie-friendly) and add water to just cover the veg.  Pop it back on the heat and simmer for a few minutes, then take off the heat and blitz with a hand blender.  Stir in the paprika and chilli - you might want to add half, let it sit a minute then taste, to make sure it's not too spicy for your palate, before adding the rest if needed.  Season to taste with the sea salt, and serve.

Friday, 11 November 2011


Or as a friend's son likes to say, "Pasta Tits".

Pastitsio is a Greek pasta dish, there are various versions of it served up in Cyrpus and other Mediterranean countries.  This is nothing like an authentic recipe, it's been tweaked to make it quick and easy and also much healthier.  If you are following Slimming World you should be able to adapt this easily to make it a free dish on Green or Extra Easy if you use the cheese as a Healthy Extra (you'll need to ensure you use fat free natural yoghurt and reduce the cheese or make yours in a separate dish with less cheese).

This is suitable for vegetarians, obviously you can substitute the veggie mince with real meat if you prefer.

This makes a large dish to feed 4 adults or 2 adults, 2 kids and a leftover portion for lunch.  If you're cooking for 2, I'd recommend halving quantities and making a smaller one, the cheesy topping doesn't freeze well.


approx 300g dried pasta
1 onion, thinly sliced
1/2 punnet mushrooms, halved
1/2 bag frozen vegetarian 'mince'
1 carton/tin chopped tomatoes
1 carton passata
teaspoon dried herbs
clove garlic, crushed/teaspoon of jarred galic or garlic granules
teaspoon ground cinnamon
olive oil
large carton natural or greek yoghurt, any fat content
2 eggs, beaten
200g cheddar cheese

Put the pasta on to boil.  Cook for 5-6 minutes, until softened but not fully cooked, drain and set aside.

Heat a splash of oil in a saucepan and saute the onion for a few minutes until soft.  Add the mushrooms and cook for a few minutes more.  Tip in the frozen mince and cook for another few minutes, stirring frequently as it's prone to sticking.  You can add a little splash of hot water if it does.

Add the tomatoes, passata, garlic, herbs and cinnamon to the pan and simmer for 6=7 minutes until thickened.  Mix with the pasta and tip into a baking dish.

In a bowl, mix the yoghurt, cheese and beaten eggs.  You can add a little ground black pepper if you like.

Tip the chesy mix over the top of the pasta/mince, smooth over but don't mix it in, it needs to be a separate layer on top.

Pop in a hot oven for 15 minutes until the topping is risen, bubbly and golden brown.

Serve to hungry people:

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Curry in a...

..complete lack of hurry.

I love my slowcooker, and would recommend anyone who doesn't have one to run their ass to their nearest electrical retailer and pick one up, especially now that we're in the grip of autumn and hurtling towards winter.

This chicken curry is probably about as authentically Indian as the 'Indian Elephant' my daughter made out of a milk carton the other week, but it is tasty-good and brilliant for those nights when you're busy all day and just want something warm and slightly indulgent that you can eat five minutes after stumbling through the door.  Packets of heat and eat rice for such emergency moments are a storecupboard staple.

Chicken thighs stand up so much better to slowcooking than chicken breasts (in my not so humble opinion).  They're also cheaper and contain more iron.  You can substitute out any veg you don't like, and likewise add in some you do, or add halved baby new potatoes and dispense with rice altogether.

Serves 4 adults generously, or 2 adults and 2 snarflings with leftovers for worky lunches.  Scale down, or cook a batch and freeze some in portions, if you're feeding fewer.

Mango chicken curry

Approx 8 large chicken thigh fillets, skinless and boneless
2-3 peppers of any colour
half a punnet of baby closed cup mushrooms, rinsed
half a jar of Pataks Korma curry paste
Large can (approx 800g) mango puree/pulp*
sachet / 1/4 standard block creamed coconut
teaspoon each of mustard seeds and black onion seeds, not essential if you don't have them.

Snip the thighs into about 4 pieces each, using kitchen scissors.  Roughly chop the peppers.

Throw all ingredients into a slowcooker and cook on low for 7-8 hours.  Serve with rice, naan bread, or whatever you fancy.

Yes,the curry paste in a jar is a bit cheaty, but when you're trying to feed two children breakfast, pack a lunch, fill in school trip permission slips and find a clean polo shirt, you don't always want to be blending 14 different types of spice.  Just sayin'.

* Sainsbury's does an own-brand of this in an 822g can.  I've also bought Indian-branded cans of the same size in Asda, or check Indian grocers.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Just Dhaling.

I stumbled upon this recipe a while back, whilst looking for something to do with a butternut squash that had been furkling about in my root veg box for far too long.  I fell in love with it instantly - it's warming, comforting, tasty and filling and also good for you.  Only mad people could fail to love it.

Butternut Squash Dhal at Mostly Eating

I prefer to amp up the spices a bit, blending a teaspoon each of cumin, mustard seeds, turmeric and mild curry powder with half a teaspoon of nigella (black onion) seeds and the called-for ginger.  I also pop in a small cinnamon stick and two star anise whilst the lentils are cooking.  Just fish them out before you eat!  Don't pay stupid supermarket prices for things like star anise and cinnamon, though, track down an Indian grocer and buy a big bagful for about a pound.  You can also get the other spices in bulk but only if you're going to use them, or they'll go stale.

I make a massive pan of this which is portioned up and chilled/frozen.  It's a quick, filling tea for the snarflings, and a nice lunch on a cold day for me and the smaller snarfling, who has loved this dish pretty much from weaning onwards!

Today's includes a half tin of drained chickpeas left over from last night's tea, and the added texture is lovely.  I'm just about to cook some mixed veg and warm some through for the snarflings' tea.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011


It's one of the banes of my life that my husband won't eat tuna pasta.  Tuna pasta is bloody lovely, plus it's cheap, filling and full of protein and carbs and general good stuff.

Bloody husband!

I amdetermined to feed it to the snarflings though, so tonight's dinner effort was something of a convertadinner - tuna pasta for them, pasta bake with creamy tomato sauce and bacon for us.  This is how I did it!

Make 1 quantity basic tomato sauce, and cook a pack of pasta.

When the sauce is thick and bubbling, turn off the heat and add 1/2 a tub of creme fraiche.  

Hive off 4 serving spoons of the cooked pasta into a bowl.  Add 1 tin of drained tuna chunks* and 1/2 a tin of drained chickpeas.  Put the rest in a tub in the fridge for future adventures - I'm making dhal tomorrow so my lonely chickpeas will be happy to be squished into that.  Add enough of the creamy tomatoey sauce to coat.  Pop into bowls, sprinkle with grated cheese, serve to ravening snarflings.

Now, onto the grownup dinner.

Snip 6 rashers of good quality smoked bacon into strips, and fry in a little olive oil until crisp.  Refresh the pasta with some boiling water from the kettle, shake dry, and tip into an oven dish.  Mix in the bacon and the rest of the creamy sauce.  Top with grated cheese and bake for 15 minutes in a hot oven until the cheese is golden.  This is more than enough for two, you will have leftovers, which can be frozen or portioned up for lunch the following day.  I send the husbeast off to work with leftovers in a tupperware box, because that's just the kind of amazing, nurturing wife I am.

* - Tuna tip - I like a bargain but not at the expense of the environment. Sainsbury's basics tuna chunks in brine, also their regular own brand tinned tuna, is fished by pole and line instead of trawling, which is less harmful to the environment and other marine life, is dolphin friendly, and it's only 45p a tin!

Basic Tomato Sauce

This gets used so much in my cooking that it seemed sensible to tell you how I make it!  It's not rocket science, but it is tasty.

Basic Tomato Sauce

1 onion, finely sliced or chopped
1 carton or tin of chopped tomatoes
1 carton passata
some dried herbs - roughly a teaspoon
some garlic - 2 crushed cloves, a tsp of ready chopped/paste or tsp of granules
2 heaped tbsp tomato puree
olive oil

Heat a splash of olive oil in a pan, chuck in the onions and cook over a medium heat until soft and caramel brown.

Add everything else.  Stir.

Simmer for 15 minutes until thick.

See, I *told* you it wasn't rocket science!  Cartons of Sainsbury's Basics or Aldi's tomatoes are cheap and perfectly serviceable for this sauce.

Monday, 7 November 2011

Nicer Chicken Nuggets

The snarflings have just happily polished off four of these each, accompanied by some mixed veg.

The recipe makes 20-25 depending how big you make them.  Make a batch and freeze half, flat on greasproof paper on top of a tray in the freezer until solid, then tipped into a labelled bag, so they don't all stick together.  Cook from frozen for an easy tea another night, just add 8-10 minutes to the cooking time.

Chicken, apple and parsnip nuggets

1 pack of chicken thigh fillets (skinless and boneless) - approx 5 thighs.
1 small apple
1 medium parsnip
some dried herbs
1 clove garlic
3-4 slices wholemeal bread (depending on size, I used 3 slices of farmhouse and just got away with it)
2 eggs
a splash of milk

In a food processor, whizz the bread into crumbs, pop into a bowl and set aside.

Snip the thighs into 3-4 pieces each with kitchen scissors and put into the food processor.  Peel, core and chop the apple.  Peel the parsnip, cut into quarters and trim out any woody core.  Chop into smallish dice.  Add the apple and parsnip to the food processor, and drop in the garlic clove and herbs (about a teaspoon will do, or you can use fresh herbs if you have some hanging around).

Process the mixture until it's not quite a puree but there aren't any large chunks of anything visible.  You might have to scrape down the sides and poke it about with a spatula a couple of times.

Whisk the eggs with a splash of milk in a bowl.  Taking a small lump of chicken mixture, shape it into a ball then press flat into a nugget.  Dip it in the egg then toss around in the breadcrumbs, then lay onto a tray.  repeat until all the mixture is used.

You can briefly fry these in olive oil before popping in the oven, or you can oven bake them from raw.  If baking from raw (I do this) spritz them with some olive oil spray or Frylight or similar.  If you dont have this, drizzle very lightly with oil.  Bake for approx 15 minutes at about 180 degrees until golden and firm.  Serve with whatever you fancy!