Thursday, 28 May 2009

Beef and Mushroom Pies

Rainy weather makes you seek out something comforting for dinner.
For comfort food, there's nothing quite like home made pies. If you are not confident making pastry, buy ready made, it's almost as good.

You will need 8 x 340ml/12fl oz pie dishes, if making individual pies, or 1 large 2 litre pie dish.


1.5kg beef, diced
500g puff pastry
3tbsp plain flour
2tsp salt
25g parsley, chopped
300g small button mushrooms
1tbsp chopped Thyme
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
2 onions, sliced
400g carrots, roughly chopped
1 stick celery, chopped
250ml red wine
1 egg yolk, lightly beaten
freshly ground black pepper
1 1/2tsp paprika


Place the flour, salt, pepper and paprika, in a large polythene bag. Shake to mix. Add the diced beef, toss to cover with flour.

Place the beef in an ovenproof casserole dish. Add the tomatoes, garlic, celery, onions, carrots, red wine and Thyme. Stir to combine.

Cover and cook in a preheated oven at 180C/gas4 for1 1/2 hours, stirring occasionally.

Remove from the oven and add the mushrooms, cook for a further hour until the sauce has thickened and the meat is tender.

Remove from the oven, stir in the Parsley and leave to cool completely.

Preheat the oven to 200C/ gas6

Roll out the pastry on a floured surface, to 1/8 in thick. If you are making individual pies, use one of the dishes to measure, mark and cut out the pastry lids. For a large pie cut to size using the pie dish.

Fill the pie dishes with the meat mixture and place the pastry lids on top, pushing down the edges. Make a couple of cuts in the middle of each pie and brush with the egg yolk. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the pastry is golden.

Serve with boiled new potatoes and steamed broccoli.

Sunday, 24 May 2009

Bacon Cheese and Egg Pie

This is a great alternative to quiche and holds shape better if are packing it for a picnic. Eat it warm or cold for lunch or dinner with salad. It's a hearty dish fit for a big appetite.


400g shortcrust pastry
6 thin rashers of smoked bacon + 4 rashers smoked bacon, chopped
6 eggs
Freshly ground black pepper
250ml milk
2tsp mustard
1tbsp chopped Dill
40g mature cheddar
2tbsp chopped Chives

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 5


Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface until 1/8in thick. Line a 10in pie dish with the pastry and trim the edges.

Refrigerate for 30 minutes. Along with the rest of the pastry for the lid.

Prick the base of the pastry and bake for 7 minutes. This will keep the pastry crisp when you add the wet ingredients.

Place the eggs and milk in a bowl, whisk to combine. Add the chopped bacon, cheese, chives, dill, mustard and pepper, mix to combine.

Pour the mixture into the pastry case and top with the thinly sliced bacon.

Brush the edges of the pastry case with water. Roll out the remaining pastry to size and place on top, making sure the edges are pressed together and sealed. Cut 2 or 3 slits in the middle of the pie and brush it with beaten egg.

Bake for 35-45 minutes until the pie is set.

Friday, 22 May 2009

Something for the weekend

Lunch, dinner or barbecue, these lamb burgers are amazing. Not just healthy and tasty but also economical to make. Eat them with Pitta bread for lunch and for dinner with some roasted new potato wedges.

Spicy Lamb Burgers with Mint Raita and Tomato Red Onion and Rocket Salad
Served in warm Pitta bread

For the lamb burgers
Makes 8-10 burgers

1kg minced lamb
Breadcrumbs, made from 2 slices of brown bread
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped
3cm fresh ginger, grated
1tsp ground cumin
1tsp ground coriander
1/2tsp turmeric
1 egg, lightly beaten
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

To make the burgers

Place the lamb mince in a large bowl. Add the onion, garlic, ginger and chilli. Mix well.
Add the bread crumbs and spices. Season well.
Add the egg to bind the mixture together and shape into 8-10 burgers. Cover the burgers with cling film and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
Grill the burgers for 5-6 minutes each side

Mint Raita

250ml natural yoghurt
2tbsp mayonnaise
Large handful mint leaves, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Blend the yoghurt and mayonnaise together, add the chopped mint and season with salt and pepper.


1 Large red onion, thinly sliced
Large handful rocket leaves
4 large tomatoes, chopped
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Toss the rocket, tomatoes and red onion together.

Warm the pitta bread in the oven. Fill with lamb burger, salad and mint raita.

Serve with chips or potato wedges tossed in olive oil and roasted in the oven

The lamb burgers can be made the night before cooking and the flavour will improve.
Fry a small piece of the lamb burger mix, taste, and adjust the seasoning if necessary.
Make the raita earlier in the day to allow the flavour to develop.
If you don't have any fresh mint, the raita also works well with ready made, garden mint sauce.

Thursday, 21 May 2009

Make today eat tomorrow

Spiced Lentil Soup with Coconut


100g red lentils
15ml peanut oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1/2tsp chilli powder
1/2tsp grated root ginger
1/4tsp grated nutmeg
1 medium red pepper, deseeded and diced
1 medium green pepper deseeded and diced
300ml vegetable stock
570ml coconut milk
Salt and freshly ground pepper


Soak the lentils in hot water for 15 minutes and drain.
Heat the oil in a large heavy based pan and gently fry the onions and spices for 3-4 minutes.
Add the lentils and peppers and continue to fry, stirring, for 4-5 minutes.
Pour in the stock and bring to the boil, simmer gently, covered, for 10 minutes.
Stir in the coconut milk and continue to simmer, covered, for 35-40 minutes. Leave to cool for a few minutes.
Liquidize until completely smooth, season to taste and cool completely before refrigerating for next day. Reheat gently before serving.

Serve with brown, seeded bread, croutons.

Monday, 18 May 2009

Banana Loaf

Ever wondered what to do with those over ripe bananas? This is the perfect recipe to use them up. Eat it cold or warm with butter, or freeze it for a rainy day.


170g plain flour
75g butter
1 pinch salt
25g walnuts, chopped
4 ripe bananas, mashed
1tsp bicarbonate of soda
200g soft brown sugar
1tsp vanilla extract
1 egg beaten


Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4
Grease a 1lb loaf tin
mix the butter, sugar, egg, vanilla and mashed banana in a mixing bowl. Add the bicarbonate soda and salt and mix in the flour. Stir in the chopped walnuts
Pour into the tin and bake for 50 minutes-1 hour
Remove from the oven and cool.

Serve spread with butter

Wednesday, 13 May 2009

Salad Days

Don't spend the sunny weekends of Summer, slaving over a hot stove. Salads nowadays are a little more adventurous than simply lettuce, cucumber, tomatoes and a blob of coleslaw. Which some of us may remember from our younger days.
One platter salads to share make a fantastic, al fresco, family meal and can be prepared in advance or, with some salads, the night before and kept in containers, in the fridge, ready to assemble.

So lounge outside with something cool this Summer. Try some homemade lemonade (see my post about picnics for the recipe on 26 April 2009) and make sure you don't sizzle.

Spicy Moroccan Chickpea and Cous Cous Salad


400g cous cous, soaked in 1 pint of boiling water for 10 minutes, drained and cooled
1 aubergine, diced
3tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
1tbsp Harissa paste
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2tbsp Thyme, chopped
2tbsp raisins
6 ready to eat apricots, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
2tsp clear honey
1 tin chick peas

Cook the aubergine, Thyme and garlic in 1tbsp olive oil until softened, leave to cool
Make the dressing with 2tbsp olive oil, juice of 1 lemon, 1tbsp Harissa paste and 2tsp clear honey. Mix well and stir into the cous cous. Add the drained chickpeas, chopped apricots, raisins, diced aubergine and salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Stir well to mix. Pile onto a platter and serve with toasted pitta bread.

If you are having a barbecue serve this salad with lamb kebabs and stir some chopped mint into the salad

Quick Tuna and Bean Salad

2 cans tuna in sunflower oil, drained and flaked
1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed in cold water
4 Granny Smith apples, peeled and chopped
4 sticks celery, chopped
Juice of 1 lemon
5tbsp french dressing
4tbsp toasted pine nuts
To serve
leaves of 2 little gem lettuce
Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl and stir to combine. Arrange the lettuce on a platter
and spoon on the salad.

Serve with crispy garlic bread

Pasta Salad with Pesto and prawns

400g pasta shapes, cooked in salted water and drained
500g raw tiger prawns
2tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic
Juice of 1 lemon
50g black olives
2tbsp chopped Parsley

For the pesto:
50g Basil
30g pine nuts
30g Parmesan cheese
1 clove garlic
85ml olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

To make
Put the basil, pine nuts, Parmesan and garlic in a processor, season well and blend. With the motor still running, pour in the olive oil until pesto thickens.

Cook the prawns and the garlic in the olive oil until pink. Add the lemon juice and cook for 1 minute. Leave to cool.
Mix the pesto into the pasta, stir in the prawns and sprinkle Parsley and olives over the top.
Serve on a platter with sliced and toasted Ciabatta drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and wedges of lemon.

New Potato, Bacon, Avocado and Fennel salad with sunflower seeds

500g new potatoes, washed and boiled in salted water
400g smoked bacon, cut into fine strips and fried
2 large avocados, peeled, stoned and sliced
50g sunflower seeds
Juice of 1 lemon
3tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 bulbs fennel, very thinly sliced

Combine all the ingredients
Present on a platter and serve with crusty brown bread spread with butter.

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Seasonal Recipe of the Week

British lamb is in season and at it's most tender in May and June. Try this recipe for a fantastic mid-week dinner.

Grilled Spring Lamb Chops with Spring Onion Mash and Braised Red Cabbage

Serves 4

For the chops
8 lamb chops or cutlets
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2tsp dried Thyme
Grated zest of 2 lemons

Season the chops with salt and pepper and coat each side with Thyme and lemon zest.
Cook in a pre-heated grill for 12-15 minutes, turning halfway through cooking.

900g potatoes, peeled and diced
25g butter
1 bunch spring onions, finely chopped
1tbsp chopped Parsley
2fl oz warm milk
Salt and pepper

Boil the potatoes in salted water until tender. Drain and mash with milk and butter. Stir in the spring onions and Parsley and check the seasoning.

Braised red cabbage
1/2 red cabbage, shredded
1 tbsp olive oil
1/2 small onion, chopped
1/2 apple, chopped
1/2 small glass of red wine
2tbsp red wine vinegar
30g brown sugar
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil in a heavy based frying pan, add the cabbage and seasoning and fry for 2 minutes.
Add the wine, vinegar, nutmeg and brown sugar. Stir well for about 5 minutes.
Transfer to a microwavable dish and cook on high for 5 minutes.

Monday, 11 May 2009

Butternut Squash Soup

The vibrant orange colour of the flesh and the velvety smooth texture of Butternut Squash, make it one of the more appetising members of the Pumpkin family.

Try this smooth soup with the addition of toasted pumpkin seeds, for texture. It's a real treat for lunch or supper especially served with fresh herb bread, or olive, cheese and tomato flat bread.


1.5 litres vegetable stock
1 onion. chopped
1 leek, chopped
25g butter
1kg roughly chopped butternut squash
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A few sprigs of thyme
1tbsp chopped Parsley
25g pumpkin seeds, toasted


Gently cook the onion, leek and Thyme in the butter, until softened
Add the stock and Butternut squash, bring to the boil, season and simmer for 25 minutes
Cool a little, then blend until smooth.
Pass through a fine sieve and add the chopped Parsley
Add a little vegetable stock if it's too thick
Re-heat and serve with a few toasted pumpkin seeds

Herb Bread


40g softened butter
1tbsp chopped Chives
1tbsp chopped Parsley
1tbsp chopped Oregano or Thyme
1 clove garlic, crushed
1tbsp lemon juice
Black pepper
1 baguette, cut into 1in diagonal slices


Mix the butter, herbs, lemon juice and pepper
Spread the butter mixture on both sides of the bread and re-assemble the loaf
Bake in foil for 10 minutes
Open foil and bake for a further 5 minutes, to crisp
Serve hot with soup

Tomato Cheese and Olive Flat bread


7oz plain flour
2tbsp olive oil
Pinch salt
3-5 tbsp water
3tbsp passata
3tbsp sun dried tomatoes
1tbsp thinly sliced olives
25g finely grated cheddar cheese



Place oil, flour and salt in a bowl, add enough water to make a soft but not sticky dough
Knead lightly on a floured surface till smooth
Roll into a round about 1/4 in thick
Spread passata on the surface and add olives and sun dried tomatoes
Sprinkle over the cheese and bake for 10-15 minutes until golden brown
Serve warm with soup

Thursday, 7 May 2009

Make Today, Eat Tommorow

This is a good example of simple food achieving a great impact

Lemon Posset with Amaretti biscuits


1 pint double cream
Finely grated zest and juice of 2 lemons
150g caster sugar
3tbsp Brandy
100g Amaretti biscuits

Combine the cream, lemon zest and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a simmer.
Remove from the heat and leave to cool, stirring occasionally to prevent a skin forming.
When almost cool, stir in the lemon juice and brandy.
Arrange the Amaretti biscuits in a bowl or individual glasses and pour over the lemon cream.
Cover and leave overnight in the fridge.

Wednesday, 6 May 2009

Creamy Corn Pasta with Crunchy Crumb Topping

Serves 4


12oz Penne pasta (dry weight)
1oz unsalted butter
1 garlic clove, crushed
3 spring onions, chopped
1 large can sweet corn
5fl oz double cream
2fl oz natural yoghurt
1tbsp chopped Parsley
1tbsp chopped Chives
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 slices brown bread, baked in a moderate oven for 7-8 minutes till crisp
1tbsp Parmesan cheese


Cook the pasta in boiling salted water
Melt the butter, saute the onions and garlic for 2-3 minutes to soften
Pour in the cream, yoghurt, herbs and corn, simmer gently for a few minutes
Stir in the cooked pasta and season to taste
Break the baked bread into the bowl of a food processor or blender and blend to crumbs (not too fine)
Mix the crumbs with the parmesan
Place the pasta in an oven proof dish and sprinkle the topping over
Bake at 200C gas 6 for 5-6 minutes until golden.

Serve with a crunchy salad: iceberg lettuce, green peppers, cucumber and thinly sliced radish, dressed with a little drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Sunday, 3 May 2009

Lazy Sundays

Its bank holiday weekend, a time to relax, try something different for Sunday breakfast.

Pancakes, with savoury or fruity topping are a real treat and a change from 'The Fry Up' most people have on a Sunday.

Try this delicious recipe for breakfast pancakes and i'm sure you won't wait for the next bank holiday to have them again.

Breakfast Pancakes


175g plain flour
2tsp baking powder
1tbsp sugar
300ml buttermilk
1 egg
2tbsp sunflower oil


Mix together the dry ingredients
Whisk together the milk, egg and oil, and quickly beat into the flour
Heat a little oil in a large frying pan and spoon in about 2tbsp batter per pancake
Cook till bubbles form on top, about 2 minutes, turn, and cook for a further 1-2 minutes. Keep finished pancakes warm.

In the pancakes

Banana Pancakes: Add some mashed banana to the basic batter.
Cinnamon and Apple: Add some chopped apple and 1/2tsp cinnamon to the batter.

On the pancakes

Maple syrup and crispy bacon.
Cottage cheese or fromage frais with chopped fruit and berries.
Fried or poached eggs with grilled pancetta
Scrambled eggs with smoked salmon.
Raspberries with creme fraiche.


To give a richer flavour to pancakes and to prevent them sticking to the pan, stir in 1-2 tbsp melted butter or oil to the batter before cooking.

Cooked pancakes may be refrigerated for up 2 days . They also freeze well for up to 3 months, if separated by greaseproof paper. Thaw them overnight in the fridge. To reheat warm them in the oven.

Seafood Paella

Paella is the taste of Summer for me.  As soon as the sun is out so is the paella pan. I cooked this one on the hob, using two burners but i...