Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Chicken Masala


2 large chicken breasts, cut into chunks
3 cloves garlic, grated
2 green chilli, finely chopped (medium hot)
1 1/2" fresh ginger, peeled and grated
5 medium tomatoes, chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp curry leaves
1 bay leaf
1/2 cinnamon stick
1 black cardamom pod
3 green cardamom pods
1 tsp salt
2 tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp garam masala
Oil for frying

Heat 2 tbsp oil in a heavy based frying pan, add the curry leaves, bay leaf, cinnamon stick, black cardamom and green cardamon, stir fry for a few seconds.

Add the chopped onion, turn down the heat to medium and cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently until the onions are soft and light brown.

Add the chilli, ginger and garlic and cook for a further 2 minutes.  Stir in the turmeric and ground coriander.

Add the tomatoes and salt and cook over a medium heat until the tomatoes are pulpy.

Put in the chicken and stir to combine.  Add 1/2 pint water and bring up to the boil.

Simmer with a lid slightly off for 30 minutes.  Remove the lid and cook gently until thickened.

5 minutes before serving sprinkle over the garam masala.  Serve with basmati rice.

Friday, 26 November 2010

Beef and Ale Pie

Shin of beef is one of the less expensive cuts, one of the tastiest, and, if cooked slowly one of the most meltingly tender.  I like to keep the additional flavours simple and let the delicious beef flavour shine through.  You can also add some sliced or diced carrot at the same time as you add the onion, it will give the pie a lovely sweetness.

Buy the beef off the bone and cut it into large chunks before tossing in plain flour.  The flour coating will help thicken it to a wonderfully sticky gravy.

This recipe makes 1 large, 4 very generously sized individual pies or 6 smaller.


800g shin of beef
1 large onion, finely chopped
Half bottle of Guinness
Half pint of fresh beef stock,
1 1/2 tbsp plain flour
A little oil to brown the meat
Salt and pepper
Large pack of all butter puff pastry
1 egg, lightly beaten

Heat some oil over a moderate heat and brown the flour coated meat on both sides, a little at a time removing it to a bowl after each batch has browned.
When all the meat has been removed to the bowl, add the chopped onion and cook until soft.  Add the meat from the bowl back into the pan and stir together with the onions.

Add the ale and stock to the pan and bring up to the boil, turn down to a very low, barely bubbling heat and simmer for 1 1/2 - 2  hours, stirring occasionally.

Taste and season then leave to cool.

Pre-heat the oven to 210C

Roll out the pastry and cut shapes to cover your pie dishes (I used gratin dishes).  Add the meat to the pie dishes and cover with the pastry, leave a little over the edge to allow for shrinkage.  Brush each pie with beaten egg and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brown and risen.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Make Ahead For Christmas

The Stuffing

I try to make a different stuffing every year, this years (tried and tested with chicken) is a real winner.

The following recipe is for two batches.  I usally cook one batch in a loaf tin which is just the right shape to thinly slice for all those turkey, ham , turkey/ham  sandwiches.

I pre-cook the onion and oatmeal by frying in a little oil with 2 bay leaves, until the onion is soft and the oatmeal is toasted, it adds a bit of texture to the stuffing.  Remove the bay leaves after frying.

This quantity of stuffing is for 2 batches (1 batch is enough to stuff a 6 kg turkey).


1.5 kg good quality sausage meat
2 x 200g vacuum packed chestnuts, chopped
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp coarse oatmeal
10 dates, very finely chopped
Fresh herbs, about a handful, finely chopped (I used sage, thyme and parsley)
2 bay leaves
Freshly milled salt and pepper
A little olive oil

Fry the oatmeal, onion and bay leaves and leave to cool.

Add the oatmeal and onion to a large bowl with the rest of the stuffing ingredients.  Use your hands to mix all the ingredients together.  Take a small piece of the stuffing and fry it then taste and season to your liking.

Freeze in plastic containers or polythene bags until ready to use.

The stuffing can be kept in the freezer for 3 months.

Monday, 22 November 2010

Apple and Cinnamon Rolls

Made with mediterannean pastry which is light and crispy, flavoured with cinnamon these sweet delights would be a great alternative to mince pies.  Unlike filo, mediterannean pastry is very easy to work with and can also be filled with a savoury mixture.


5 sheets of fine mediterannean pastry (available from supermarkets)

For the filling

4 Granny Smith apples, peeled, cored and sliced
50g raisins
3 tbsp maple syrup
1 tsp ground cinnamon
25g butter

Icing sugar for dusting

Melt the butter and add the apples and raisins.  Cook for a couple of minutes then add the rest of the filling ingredients and cook until the apples are tender and caramelised.  Leave to cool.

Pre-heat the oven to 210C

Divide the mixture between the 5 pastry sheets and roll up to a spring roll shape.  Place on a baking tray and cook in the oven for 4-5 minutes until crisp and golden.  Sprinkle over a little icing sugar.

Serve hot with cream or ice-cream.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Skirlie with Bacon-Herby Potato Stacks

Skirlie (or pan-haggis as we used to call it) is a traditional Scottish dish usually made with oatmeal and onions fried in beef dripping or rendered bacon fat.  In this version, adapted from Nick Nairn's recipe I used porridge oats and chopped  streaky bacon which provided enough fat to cook the onions and oats.  The Herby potato stacks are also from nick Nairn's excellent book 'New Scottish Cookery'.  I used Thyme, Rosemary and Oregano from the garden but just use whatever herbs you have available.

I served this with steamed broccoli and fillet medallion griddled for 1.5 minutes each side and rested on a warm shelf for 5 minutes.

For the potato stacks

2 large potatoes, thinly sliced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
olive oil
fresh herbs, around 2 tbsp when chopped

In a large bowl mix together the potato slices, salt and pepper, fresh herbs and olive oil to coat.  Mix together with your hands to ensure an even coat of oil over the potatoes.

Stack the potatoes in 4 piles and place on an oiled baking tin.  Bake in a pre-heated oven 200C for 35 minutes until golden and tender.

For the Skirlie

125g smoked streaky bacon, roughly chopped
2 onions, finely chopped
125g porridge oats

Heat a frying pan over a moderate-high heat, add the bacon and fry until the bacon is starting to brown.  Add the onions and fry until softened.  If it seems a little dry add 1 tbsp oil then add the oats.  Stir well to combine then cook, stirring frequently until the oats are golden brown and nutty.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Spaghetti with Pesto Toasted Pine Nuts and Roasted Baby Fennel


Serves 4

5oog long spaghetti
Salt and pepper 
Olive oil
200g baby fennel

For the pesto

Handful pine kernels, plus extra to serve
3 garlic cloves
Good handful fresh Basil leaves
Small bunch watercress, leaves only
2 tbsp grated parmesan plus extra to serve
Olive oil 

Pre-heat the oven to 200C

Place the baby fennel in a small roasting tin, drizzle with olive oil and roast for 30-35 minutes until tender.

Put the Spaghetti on to cook in a pan of deep, heavily salted, boiling water.

Toast the pine nuts in a frying pan – keep a close eye on them and keep moving them around the pan until they are pale golden-brown.

Peel the garlic and crush it with a large pinch of sea salt using a pestle and mortar. Add the basil leaves and continue crushing with the pestle.

Add  the watercress leaves to the basil, continuing to crush until you have a bright green purée.

Add the toasted pine kernels, crush, then add the grated parmesan. Slowly mix in enough olive oil to give a good thick sauce.

When the spaghetti is cooked (about 9 minutes), drain lightly and tip back into the empty pan. Add the pesto and some black pepper then toss gently to mix. Serve with roasted fennel, extra parmesan and toasted pine kernels.

Thursday, 11 November 2010

Nutty Beefburger with Goats Cheese and Tomato

These substantial burgers are a great supper dish.  Add relish, salad etc or eat it just the way it is.  You won't need chips. 
You can replace the Almonds with chopped walnuts (also delicious)

Ingredients for 4 large burgers

400g lean minced beef
1 large onion, finely chopped
Breadcrumbs from a large slice of seeded bread
2 tsp English mustard
Salt and freshly ground pepper
50g toasted flaked almonds
1 egg, lightly beaten
4 large burger buns
Olive oil
4 medium tomatoes
4 slices goats cheese, (I used Somerset)

Place the minced beef, breadcrumbs, chopped onion, beaten egg and mustard in a large bowl, season generously with salt and pepper.

Bring the mixture together with a fork then add the almonds and mix in with your hands.  Shape the mixture into 4 equal rounds.  Refigerate for 15 minutes.

In a frying pan, heat a little olive oil over a medium heat, place the 4 burgers in the pan and cook for 4 minutes each side, turning them frequently.

Pre-heat the oven to 180C

Place the goats cheese on top of the burger followed by sliced tomato.

Bake in the oven for 5-6 minutes.  Toast the burger bun both sides, Place the burger on one half and drizzle with olive oil.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

Bakewell Tart


500g  sweet shortcrust pastry
3 tbsp icing sugar, plus extra for dusting175g butter, softened
175g caster sugar
4 free-range eggs
175g ground almonds
300g raspberry jam
40g flaked toasted almonds

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5.

Roll the pastry out onto a lightly dusted work surface to ¼"  thick.

Line a 23cm/9in, deep-sided tart tin with the pastry, pressing the pastry into the edges of the tin.  Prick the base all over with a fork.

Place the tart tin onto a baking tray, then bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until the pastry is crisp and pale golden-brown. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool slightly.

Beat the butter and sugar together in a bowl until pale and fluffy.

Break in the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, until all of the eggs have been fully incorporated into the mixture. 

Fold in the ground almonds until well combined.

When the pastry case has cooled, spread the raspberry jam in an even layer all over the bottom of the tart.

Spoon in the almond mixture and smooth the surface with a palette knife.

Dust the top of the tart with icing sugar, then sprinkle over the flaked almonds.

Return the tart to the oven and continue to cook for 25-30 minutes, or until the filling has risen and is cooked through and the surface is pale golden-brown.  The filling is cooked through when a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.

Remove the tart from the oven and set aside to cool slightly before serving.

Serve warm with whipped cream.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Winter warmer

The weather is atrocious, with the cold winds and persistent rain we could all do with a bit of comfort.   What is needed is a bowl of warming soup and I'm sure this one will hit the spot.  It's unbelieveably easy to make and tastes delicious.   Make lots it will keep in the fridge for a couple of days.  Snuggle up and enjoy.

Split Pea and Bacon Soup


200g yellow or green split peas
300g smoked streaky bacon, or a smoked bacon joint
400g carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
2 onions, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 litres water

Put all the ingredients (except the seasoning) in a large saucepan and bring to the boil, turn down the heat and simmer for an hour.

Remove from the heat, take out the bacon, (I like to put aside a few bits of the carrot too)  cool the soup slightly and blend until smooth.  Add water if it is too thick.

Add seasoning to taste and re-heat gently, chop up the bacon and carrot, add to the soup.

Serve in warm bowls with crusty bread or melted cheese on toast.

Friday, 5 November 2010

Bonfire Night Feast

Whether you celebrate with fireworks, sparklers or not at all this bonfire night feast will be an event all on it's own.

For those who attend an organised fireworks event the whole menu can be prepared in advance and the toffee apples made the night before. If you are eating before you go, save the toffee apples and chocolate bananas for your return.
Sticky Sausages
Rosemary Lamb Cutlets
Roasted Potato skins
Sweetcorn Fritters
Cherry Tomato and Courgette Chunks on Rosemary Skewers
Creme Fraiche and Yoghurt Mint Sauce
Toffee Apples with Coconut
Baked Chocolate Bananas

Serves 8

Sticky Sausages

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4

500g (at least 8) good quality sausages, Cumberland work very well
2 tbsp wholegrain mustard
2 tbsp clear honey
1 tbsp soy sauce

Mix together the mustard, honey and soy sauce.

Sear the sausages in a roasting tin over direct heat until just browned. Add the honey/mustard mixture to the tin and shake to coat the sausages.

Roast in the oven for 15 minutes, shake the tin to turn the sausages and cook for a further 10 minutes.

Lamb cutlets with Rosemary

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4

8 lamb cutlets
2 cloves garlic
3 sprigs Rosemary
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp olive oil
1 dessertspoon plain flour
150ml red wine
1 tsp redcurrant jelly
150ml lamb or vegetable stock

Fry the lamb cutlets in 1 tbsp olive oil, for 1 minute each side to seal. Set them aside in an ovenproof dish.

Add the remaining olive oil to the pan and add the garlic and Rosemary. Cook gently for 1 minute. Sprinkle over the flour and cook for a further minute.

Add the red wine, any juices from the cutlets and stock and simmer to reduce the sauce by half.

Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper and add the redcurrant jelly

Pour the sauce over the cutlets and roast in the oven for 15-20 minutes.

Roasted potato skins

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/ gas 6

4 large baking potatoes
olive oil to coat
Large pinch of coarse salt

Prick the potatoes and cook in the microwave for 16-20 minutes until tender.

Cut the potatoes into segments and scoop out 1/3 of the flesh, drizzle with olive oil. Roast in the oven for 15- 20 minutes until golden and crispy at the edges.

Serve sprinkled with coarse salt.

Sweetcorn Fritters

420g can creamed sweetcorn, drained
Vegetable oil for frying
2 spring onions, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
5 tbsp cornflour
2 tblsp very cold water
1 tsp cayenne pepper

Mix together the sweetcorn, onions, cornflour, water Cayenne and season generously.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan and cook spoonfuls of the mixture for 2-3 minutes each side until crisp and golden.

Drain on kitchen paper, season with black pepper and serve with a little dollop of creme fraiche and yoghurt mint sauce.

Creme Fraiche and Yoghurt Mint Sauce

1 small carton plain yoghurt
3 tbsp creme fraiche
1 1/2 tsp mint sauce
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Mix all the ingredients together, cover and store in the fridge until needed.

Cherry Tomato and Courgette chunks on Rosemary Skewers

3 courgettes, cut to 1 " chunks
24 cherry tomatoes
8 firm stalks of Rosemary
Salt and pepper
olive oil

Strip the leaves from the Rosemary stalks, leaving a few at the top for decoration

Place the tomatoes and courgette chunks in a large bowl. Drizzle with olive oil and add the Rosemary leaves. Leave to marinate for 30 minutes.

Thread the tomatoes and courgette chunks onto the Rosemary stalk, and grill for 5 minutes each side.

Season with salt and pepper just before serving.

Toffee Apples

Not a good recipe for the children to help with as the toffee reaches an extremely high temperature.

6 small eating apples
8 oz Demerara sugar
1 tsp lemon juice
2 tbsp golden syrup
1 oz unsalted butter
Dessicated coconut to sprinkle

Wash and dry the apples. Remove the stalk and push in a stick firmly to the top of each apple.

Place the sugar and 4 fl oz water in a saucepan. Stir over a low heat to dissolve the sugar. Add the lemon juice, syrup and butter and bring to the boil. Cook with out stirring for about 8-10 minutes. Test by putting a teaspoon of the mixture into a cup of cold water, it should harden immediately.

Remove the toffee from the heat and dip in one apple at a time to coat with the toffee. Sprinkle with dessicated coconut (or leave plain). Place the toffee apples on parchment paper and cool completely before wrapping in cellophane.

Baked Chocolate Bananas

Preheat the oven to 2000C/400F/ gas 6

1 banana per person + 2 squares of chocolate per banana.

Don't remove the banana skin.

Make a small cut at each end of the banana and place a square of chocolate into each cut. Wrap each banana in foil and bake in the oven for 5-10 minutes until the chocolate has melted.

Take care opening the foil, the banana will be very hot.

Serve in the foil with the banana split open and eat with a spoon.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

Broccoli and Red Pepper Tart


For the pastry

180g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
50g cold unsalted butter, cubed
50g white cooking fat
50g Parmesan, grated
2 tsp thyme, leaves only
1 free-range egg yolk
1 tsp chilled water (more if needed)

For the filling

3 free-range eggs, lightly beaten
150g broccoli, cut to small florets
1 red Pepper, de-seeded and sliced
250ml crème fraîche
150g Gruyère cheese
Freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
For the pastry, sieve the flour into a mixing bowl. Add the butter, cooking fat, Parmesan and thyme and rub into the flour until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
Add the egg yolk and the water and mix to form a firm dough. Wrap the dough in cling film and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.
On a floured surface, roll out the pastry to fit one large flan tin. Line the tin with the pastry and prick the base all over with a fork.  Place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes. 
Place all the filling ingredients, except 50g of the cheese, into a bowl and gently combine.  Brush the base of the pastry with the egg yolk and pour the mixture into the flan case, sprinkle on the remaining cheese and bake for 10-15 minutes until firm to touch.
Serve warm or cold with salad and coleslaw.

Tuesday, 2 November 2010

Creamy Mustard Ham and Chicken Pie

I made this pie at the weekend + 1 for the freezer, great pie, the second one almost didn't make it to the freezer. The perfect accompaniment is mashed potato, we also had roast carrots and fine beans.

This recipe would also be a great way to use up leftover ham and poultry at Christmas. As you will use precooked meats it will only need simmered for 5 minutes.

For the pastry

2oz white cooking fat, fridge cold
2oz block margarine, fridge cold
8oz plain flour
Good pinch of salt
1-2 tbsp cold water to mix

Cube the fats and add to the flour and salt. Rub in with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add the water a little at a time and bring together, using your hands. Wrap the dough in cling film and rest it in the fridge while you make the filling.

For the filling

400g smoked ham joint, roughly chopped
400g chicken breast, chopped into 1" pieces
5 shallots, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
2tbsp olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
1/2 pint milk
1 dessertspoon plain flour
2-3 tsp English mustard
2-3 tbsp Creme Fraiche

Heat a heavy based pan, over a moderate heat, add the olive oil. Saute the shallots until softened add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.

Gradually add the ham and chicken stirring continuously until it is just cooked. Add the flour and stir to combine, cook for 2 minutes.

Add the milk and stir well. Turn down the heat and simmer gently for 10-15 minutes until the meat is tender. Season with freshly ground pepper.

Add the mustard and stir in the cream. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary, (the ham will be quite salty).

Transfer to a pie dish and allow to cool.

Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/ gas5

Roll the pastry out on a lightly floured surface. Place over the pie filling , seal the edges, make a couple of cuts in the middle of the pie and brush with beaten egg.

Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until the top is golden brown.

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...