Saturday, 1 December 2012

Carrot, Lentil and Orange Soup

A soup that takes 30 minutes from slicing to serving. Fresh and vibrant with the addition of paprika and just a hint of chilli, the orange adds an unusual but welcome zesty kick.

Carrot, Lentil and Orange Soup
Feeds 4

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
4 carrots, peeled and grated
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 tsp paprika
A pinch of ground chilli
4 large handfuls of red lentils
750ml vegetable stock (fresh or from cube)
Juice squeezed from an orange
Salt and pepper

1 - Heat the oil in a pan. Add the onion and carrot and cook slowly for 10 minutes without colouring.
2 - Add the tomato puree and spices and stir through, cooking for 2 minutes.
3 - Add the lentils and stock, bring to the simmer and cook for 15 minutes.
4 - Blend to your preference (I prefer a bit of texture). Squeeze in the orange juice, taste for seasoning and serve.

Saturday, 10 November 2012

Gluten Free Spanish Sausage,Pepper and Chick Peas

My wife has recently been diagnosed as gluten intolerant which has made us think closely about what we eat. So out has gone excess bread and pasta, in more fruit, veg and lentils.

I have to say, I've embraced the new way of life and my waist is happier for it too. I feel less bloated and more energetic. But there are some classic ingredients that traditionally have wheat in that are missed, sausages being one of them.

Thankfully I have an amazing butcher, Gordon's of East Boldon, who today sorted us out with some pork and paprika sausages. Meaty and stuffed with flavour, it makes me wonder why manufacturers have to add wheat in the first place; it simply is not missed.

These sausages went straight into a classic Spanish chick pea type casserole, warm and comforting from chilli and smoked paprika. With or without crusty bread - gluten free bread of course - this is a winner any time of year with a gutsy bottle of red wine, but particularly good when the nights are darker and colder.

Gluten Free Spanish Sausage,Pepper and Chick Peas
Feeds 4

1 tbsp olive oil
8 quality pork sausages, gluten free if possible
1 onion, thinly sliced
1 red and green pepper, roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 tsp ground chilli
1 tbsp smoked paprika
500ml tomato passata
1 tin of chick peas, drained
A little water
Salt and pepper
Fresh basil or parsley

1 - Heat the olive oil in a large non-stick sided pan and add the sausages. Quickly brown all over then remove and set aside.
2 - Add the onions and pepper and cook for 5 minutes until beginning to soften.
3 - Add the garlic and spices and cook for 2 minutes, stirring.
4 - Return the sausages and any juices along with the passata and chick peas. Bring the the simmer and add a little water. Cover and simmer gently for 20 minutes.
5 - Taste for seasoning then serve I generously with fresh torn basil or chopped parsley.

Sunday, 26 August 2012

Chocolate, Coffee and Almond Truffle Cake

Do you want a dessert that is incredibly easy to make? Impressive enough to serve at a dinner party? Unbelievably delicious? And packed full of calories?

Okay, I'm not exactly selling it with that last sentence. But this dessert qualifies for each and every one of them, including the last, and is all the more delicious for it. It takes hardly any time to make, no cooking, can be made in advance and served to eager guests to end the dinner in style. Just remember to go for a run the next day...



Chocolate, Coffee and Almond Truffle Cake
Serves 8-10

300g 70%-80% chocolate
700ml double cream
100ml milk
4 tsp instant coffee or a measure of espresso
50g caster sugar (double the quantity if you prefer your chocolate less bitter)
100g blanched almonds, toasted and roughly chopped

1 - Prepare a 20" spring-form cake tin by lightly oiling it and lining it with cling film.
2 - Heat up the milk then stir in the coffee and sugar.
3 - Break up the chocolate and place in a bowl over a pan of hot water (bain marie). Heat gently until melted.
4 - Whip the cream until it just begins to thicken and slightly stiffen.
5 - Fold the melted chocolate into the double cream followed by the milk until thoroughly combined.
6 - Tip the almonds into the cake tin to cover the base. Spoon over the chocolate and cream then gently tap onto a work surface to remove any air bubbles.
7 - Place into a fridge for a couple of hours. When ready to serve, simply invert onto a plate and remove the cling film. Serve with a spoon of Greek yoghurt and a drizzle of honey. The cake will keep, covered in a fridge, for 3 days.

Tuesday, 14 August 2012

Cod and Lentil Masala

In these days of watching what I eat, I'm turning more to low fat proteins and using less oil in my cooking.

The most important aspect to me as a food lover and cook is to ensure that the food never lacks in flavour. So far so good, especially with this flavour packed curry; a myriad of flavours from sweet tomato, nutty cumin and the aniseed of fennel seed which pairs so well with fish.

I've used chunky cod in this curry (or masala, which basically means a mixture of spices). Cod holds its shape well but any firm fish will do. Look for ling, pollack, whiting or even salmon and trout. Enjoy, health and food lovers.

Cod and Lentil Masala
Serves 4

1 red onion
A thumb size piece of ginger
5 garlic cloves
1 tbsp groundnut or vegetable oil
1 tsp each of fennel seeds, ground cumin, ground coriander, chilli powder, turmeric, garam masala
1 tbsp tomato purée
500g tomato pasata
100g brown lentils, cooked
300g cod, cut into large chunks
Salt and pepper to taste

1 - Either finely chop the onion, garlic and ginger or blitz in a food processor to form a paste.
2 - Heat up the oil in a non stick pan and add the paste. Cook, stirring, until it begins to caramelise.
3 - Add the spices and cook for 2 minutes. Add the tomato purée and cook for 1 minute. Finally, add the pasata and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes until reduced and thickened.
4 - Add the fish and lentils. Simmer for 5-10 minutes or until the fish is cooked through. Taste for seasoning, you may want more chilli. It should be sweet, spicy and aromatic.


Tuesday, 10 July 2012

Smokey Root and Chorizo Hash



A lovely brunch, lunch or supper combines meaty Spanish chorizo, sweet peppers and lovely, crisp root vegetables or simply potatoes.

This is a great meal to knock up for the morning after feel, when the senses need reviving, when punchy smoked paprika and chilli can knock you back into shape. Served with a fried egg, it takes some beating any time of day.

Ensure that you look up a decent chorizo and quality smoked paprika. My friends at Lola España were in touch recently and sent me those very items.  Lola España are Spanish food and kitchenware importers based in Salford Quays and have been selling to trade nationwide for over 11 years and last month they launched a website - a one stop shop for all your Spanish culinary needs - to bring an authentic taste of Spain to the UK public. On the website you will also find a blog, recipe resource and hints and tips to allow you to get the best out of our products.

Give this recipe a go and make sure that you order your favourite Spanish ingredients from Lola España where you can ensure quality.


Feeds 2 to 3

2 tbsp olive oil
3 fat chorizo sausages, sliced
2 parsnips, peeled and cut into 2cm cubes
2 large carrots, peeled and cut into 2cm cubes
2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 2cm cubes
1 onion, sliced
2 red peppers, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
1 tsps sweet smoked paprika
A pinch of chilli flakes
Salt and pepper


1 - Place the parsnip, carrot and potato in a pan. Cover with water, bring to the boil and simmer for 10 minutes or until tender. Drain and set aside to steam.
2 - In a large frying pan or wok, heat up the oil and then add the chorizo. Quickly stir fry until golden and some oil has been released. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside on kitchen paper.
3 -  Add the onions and pepper. Stir fry until softened and beginning to colour. Stir the garlic through then remove with a slotted spoon and set aside on kitchen paper.
4 - Add the drained root vegetables and cook until golden and as crisp as you can get them. Return the onion and chorizo along with the paprika and chilli and combine thoroughly. Taste for seasoning.
5 - Serve in bowls with an optional fried egg on the top, optional squirt of tomato ketchup and crusty bread.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

Salmon and Mint Cous Cous

This is a lovely, simple summer salad that takes little time to knock up so that you can enjoy the sun - when it decides to appear.

If you aren't a fish fan, replace with sliced ham, cooked chicken, anything really. Add some toasted almonds to give flavour and crunch.

Salmon and Mint Cous Cous
Serves 4

250g Cous Cous
250ml boiling water
Cherry tomatoes, halved
Half a cucumber, peeled and diced
6 spring onions
2 fillets of cooked salmon
1 clove of garlic, crushed
3 tbsp olive oil
2 lemons, squeezed
A handful of parsley and mint each, chopped
Salt and pepper

1 - Put the Cous Cous into a large mixing bowl, pour on the hot water and cover. Leave for 5 minutes then fluff up with a fork.
2 - To make the dressing, mix together the garlic, lemon juice, olive oil and seasoning.
3 - Stir the chopped veg, fish and dressing together. Finally, stir in the fresh herbs and serve with crusty bread or toasted pitta bread and more wedges of lemon.

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Lamb, Potato and Spinach Curry

This is a really simple and delicious curry that can either be done in a slow cooker or left in a low oven. Packed with flavour, it's the kind of curry that makes you wonder why you bother with a take away.

Make sure that you buy some decent lamb from your butcher (I use Gordons in East Boldon); they will recommend a good cut for slow braising. This uses lamb steaks from the leg but lamb shoulder cut into large chunks will be just as good. You want the lamb to melt in your mouth and these cuts are suited to long, slow cooking.

This one uses two whole dried chillies meaning it is stinging hot. Replace the dried chillis with a teaspoon of chilli powder and adjust the heat towards the end depending on taste.

Lamb, Potato and Spinach Curry
Serves 4

2 tbsp sunflower or vegetable oil
2 onions, peeled
6 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 thumb size of ginger, peeled
750g lamb shoulder or leg steaks, cut into large chunks
4 whole cloves
4 whole cardamon pods
1 whole cinnamon stick
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tsp each of chilli powder, ground coriander, cumin and turmeric
2 tbsp tomato puree
1 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
250ml water
2 large potatoes, peeled and cubed
3 large handfuls of spinach
Fresh coriander
Salt and pepper

1 - If making in a slow cooker, switch it on to its low setting. If cooking in an oven, pre-heat to 140C/GM1.
2 - Either finely chop the onion, garlic and ginger or blitz in a food processor. Heat the oil in a non-stick pan and cook for 10 minutes until starting to colour. Tip into a casserole dish or slow cooker.
3 - Add a tablespoon of oil to the pan and quickly seal the lamb all over. Tip into the casserole dish or slow cooker.
4 - Add the spices to the hot pan and cook, stirring, for 1 minute until fragrant. Ensure that they do not burn. Add the tomatoes, puree and water and bring to the boil. Add to the casserole dish or slow cooker.
5 - If using a slow cooker, cook for 6-8 hours on the low setting or according to the manufacturer's instructions. If cooking in an over, place onto the middle shelf and cook for 3 hours. Check each hour to ensure that it has not cooked dry.
6 - With one hour's cooking time left, stir in the cubed potatoes. If using a slow cooker, make it 2 hours before the end of cooking. Or if you prefer, pre-boil the potatoes and simply stir them in at the end.
7 - Stir in the spinach and a handful of roughly chopped fresh coriander. Taste for seasoning and serve with rice, breads, yoghurt and chutney.



Monday, 13 February 2012

Black Pudding and Bacon Risotto

A lovely parcel arrived for me last week; a whole box full of black and white puddings.

It's a delivery I can safely say has never happened to me before but after sampling some of Clonakilty's black pudding in a risotto today, it is one of the finest. It is simply the best black pudding I have ever tasted, and I've tasted a lot.

Clonakilty have been famous in Ireland for over 100 years. Based in West Cork, they have been producing top quality bacon and sausages to the good people of Ireland for long enough to know what top quality is. They are Ireland's leading black pudding manufacturers and take my word for it, you can tell why.

Rather than serve it with a traditional breakfast, I thought a good use would be to crumble some into a good risotto. I can remember some years back eating a paella in Valencia which used their version of the black pudding, morcilla, and it was amazing. So that's where the idea came from.

The resulting risotto is rich and fulfilling and although the Irish will probably question my use of their fine product in an Italian staple, all I can say is, try it and see! Thanks Clonakilty.


Black Pudding and Bacon Risotto

Serves 4

2 tbsp olive oil
4 rashers of smoked bacon, roughly chopped
1 onion, finely diced
1 clove of garlic, sliced
400g Arbario rice
1 litre hot vegetable or chicken stock
6 thick slices black pudding
100g Parmesan cheese, grated
Salt and pepper

1 - Heat the olive oil in a large deep-sided non-stick pan. Add the bacon and fry until crisp and golden. Remove with a slotted spoon and keep aside on kitchen towel.
2 - Add the onion and garlic to the oil and cook until softened. Stir in the rice then add a couple of ladles of the stock. Bring to the simmer and cook, stirring regularly. Once the stock has almost cooked out, add another couple of ladles of stock.
3 - Continue in this fashion until the rice is cooked through with a slight bite to it. Stir in the cooked bacon and half of the Parmesan cheese and taste for seasoning. Keep warm with a lid on.
4 - Add a little oil to a frying pan and fry the slices of black pudding for 2-3 minutes each side. Crumble some of it into the risotto.
5 - Serve the risotto with more black pudding and Parmesan sprinkled on top.

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Very healthy banana and walnut cake

Okay, okay, I know that the word 'cake' and healthy should never be associated with each other. It's like no alcohol beer - it just doesn't seem right.

However, after a whole month of excess and the need for cake in our staffroom, here is the solution. It's the easiest cake in the world. Just bung it all in the food processor, blitz, pour into a baking tin and bake.

It's sweet, it's moist, it's fruity and sticky. It's a cake with hardly any fat or added excess sugar. So it's still a cake, just a bit easier on the gut. Honest. Oh, and it's a great way to use up those black bananas we always throw away.

4 very ripe bananas
200g self raising flour
50g oats
2 eggs
1 tsp mixed spice
1 tbsp olive or vegetable oil
50g walnuts
6 tbsp runny honey
A handful of sunflower seeds

1 - Preheat the oven to 180C/GM4.
2 - Put all of the ingredients into a food processor and blitz.
3 - Pour into a greased loaf tin. I use the silicone baking equipment; no need to grease and easier to get out. Sprinkle with sunflower seeds and bake in the centre of the oven for 45-50 minutes.
4 - Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

Monday, 2 January 2012

Broccoli, Stilton and Potato Soup

The new year brings all kinds of promises in the guise of resolutions as we moan about our swollen, festive food and booze attacked bodies. Me included.

One promise I am making this year is to - no surprises here - get slimmer. Soups are a great way to fill you up with the right things without piling on the pounds and they are so easy to make.

Broccoli and Stilton are a classic combo in a soup. Don't add too much Stilton, just enough to give it a cheesy bite and the addition of potato helps thicken. Eating plenty of broccoli is also a great way to start the year with a healthy kick.

2 tbsp olive oil
1 large head of broccoli, roughly chopped
2 large floury potatoes, peeled and diced
1 onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, sliced
1 litre of vegetable stock
100g Stilton cheese, crumbled
Salt and pepper

1 - Heat up the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the vegetables and sweat in a low heat for 10 minutes until softened.
2 - Add the stock and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes until the potato and broccoli have softened.
3 - Crumble in the cheese then blend until smooth using a hand blender or food processor. Taste for seasoning. Serve with additional Stilton crumbled on top.