Monday, 5 June 2017

Slow roast paper wrapped leg of lamb

We love a leg of lamb. Lots of meat, packed full of flavour and value for money, it is the perfect roast for the Sunday dinner table. A great way of cooking it is to seal it in paper before roasting slowly. The paper seals in all of the juices meaning that flavour is high and you lose none of that essential gravy making stuff. It's also fuss free, something that you can prepare in advance and then leave to cook whilst you prepare the veg and puddings whilst having a cheeky slurp.

Slow roast paper wrapped leg of lamb

Feeds 4-6

2-3kg leg of lamb
1 sprig of rosemary
3 cloves garlic
Juice of 1 lemon
4 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper

1 - Pre-heat the oven to 150C/GM3. With a sharp knife, skewer the leg all over to form small holes.
2 - Put the rosemary leaves and garlic into a pestle and mortar with a good pinch of salt. Bash it about to break up the leaves then squeeze in the lemon juice and stir together with the olive oil and a good grinding of pepper.
3 - In a baking tray, lay over a large piece of baking paper. Cross it over with another piece the same length. Put the halved and squeezed lemon pieces onto the paper then place on the lamb leg. Pour over the marinade then rub in thoroughly all over.
4 - Wrap around the paper before wrapping around another large piece to ensure that it is thoroughly wrapped. Tie roughly with string then leave to marinade for an hour or so.
5 - Place into the oven and cook for 3 hours. Once cooked, remove and allow to rest in the paper for 30 minutes. Remove the paper, carve and serve with your choice of vegetables, spooning over the delicious juices. Or to make a more substantial gravy, place the roasting tray over a hob, pour in a glass of red wine and bring to the boil before stirring in a nob of butter.

Tuesday, 16 May 2017

Pear, Honey and Almond Cake

We really are a nation of wasters in the United Kingdom, especially when it comes to fruit.

Fruit of course doesn't last too long and our first instinct when an apple or a banana gets a bit bruised and soft is to throw it away. But please stop! There are so many great things you can do; apple and pear puree, mashed banana for a simple banana cake, smoothies, mixed fruit pulps to fold into porridge and muesli for a start.

One of my favourite things to do is make a cake and pears are just right when they seem too delicate to the touch and the skin comes away just by pushing it. Combine them with almond and honey and things just get better.

Think twice before throwing away your bruised and soft fruit; the internet is packed with ways to save you money and of course, everybody loves a good cake.

Pear, Honey and Almond Cake

4 ripe pears, cored and cut into thick slices.
2 tbsp caster sugar
4 tbsp honey
120g margarine or soft butter
2 eggs
120g sugar
60g self-raising flour
60g ground almonds

1 - Pre-heat the oven to 180C/GM4. Butter a shallow pie dish or a loose bottomed cake tin.
2 - Heat up the sugar gently in a non-stick frying pan and add the pears. Cook gently until golden, turning once. Pour in the honey, shake and remove from the heat. Put the pears and syrup in the bottom of the pie dish or cake tin.
3 - In a large mixing bowl, whisk the butter and sugar until fluffy. Fold in the eggs one by one then gently fold in the flour and almonds.
4 - Tip over the pears and spread evenly. Cook in the middle of the oven for 30-35 minutes until golden brown.
5 - Tip up onto a plate and serve just warm.




Tuesday, 9 May 2017

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.


Sunday, 30 April 2017

Orange, Walnut and Honey Cake

Memories of Cyprus come flooding back again with just one mouthful of this simple, yet utterly delicious cake. Sweet and sticky from honey, zesty and fruity from whole oranges, it will meet the approval of any sweet-toothed pudding lover.

You can make this recipe using the ingredients below in a traditional springform 8" cake tin, but I made mine into individual cakes using cylinder ramekins, ideal for dinner parties.

Orange, Walnut and Honey Cake
Makes 1 medium cake or 8 individual ramekins

2 whole oranges
100g caster sugary
100g honey
200g soft butter or margarine
3 eggs
100g self raising flour
100g ground almonds
50g walnuts, crushed into small pieces

1 - Pre-heat the oven to 180C/GM4. Butter and line an 8" springform cake tin or 8 individual ramekins.
2 - Wash and quarter the oranges and remove any pips. Place into a blender and blitz into a puree.
3 - In a large mixing bowl, cream the butter, sugar and honey. Whisk in the eggs one by one then fold in the flour and almonds. Finally, fold in the walnuts and orange purée.
4 - Fill the cake tin or ramekins then place in the centre of the oven and cook for 35-40 minutes or until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
5 - While the cake is cooking, place the juice of one orange and 50g honey into a saucepan and bring to the simmer. Remove from the heat and set aside. When the cake is cooked, skewer it a few times then drizzle over the orange honey syrup. Put aside to cool.
6 - Serve with Greek yoghurt, crumbled walnuts and honey.


Tuesday, 25 April 2017

Turkey Kofta with Greek Cous Cous Salad

I've just returned from the beautiful island of Cyprus with the usual holiday blues. What better way to banish those blues than with a plate of food that reminds you of the simple beauty of Greek/Cypriot food?

Kofta, in it's more simple turn, is a type of meatball combined with spices and usually served with flatbreads, yoghurt-based dips and salad and consist of any ground meat. These use turkey but feel free to use your meat of choice.

Utterly delicious, family friendly food that is so easy to make - what is there to not like about the food of this nation? Give it a go.

Turkey Kofta with Greek Cous Cous Salad
Feeds 4

500g minced turkey
3 spring onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp each of ground cumin, coriander and paprika
A pinch of ground cinnamon and chilli
A handful of fresh chives, basil, mint and oregano or one or two of these fresh herbs if and when available

For the salad
200g dried cous cous
1 red pepper, sliced
Cherry tomatoes, halved
A handful of fresh spinach, chopped
A few good black olives
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
Fresh basil

1 - To make the koftas, combine all of the ingredients thoroughly in a large mixing bowl. Form palm sized balls then roll into a slightly elongated shape like in the diagram. You can slide these onto sticks and BBQ or in my case, simply form the shapes. They should make around 10-12. Put aside to rest in the fridge for an hour or two.
2 - To make the cous cous, pour into a large bowl then stir in boiling water that just covers. Cover with clingfilm and leave for 10 minutes.
3 - Remove the clingfilm then fluff up with a fork. Once cool, stir in all of the ingredients until thoroughly combined. Taste for seasoning.
4 - Heat up a large frying pan, griddle pan or grill and cook the kofta, turning regularly until cooked through and golden brown. Squeeze in some lemon juice just as they are finishing to deglaze the pan and add more flavour.
5 - Serve the cous cous in bowls with 2-3 kofta each, a scattering of torn fresh basil and some fresh lemon.





Tuesday, 18 April 2017

Fish, Potato and Samphire Stew

A lovely, citrusy Spanish style fish stew. Delicious with a glass of chilled white wine or a cold beer. Change the fish if you prefer oily fish such as salmon or trout, use clams instead of mussels and if you can't get any samphire, stir in chopped spinach right at the end.

Fish, Potato and Samphire Stew
Serves 4

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
A pinch of saffron
A pinch of dried chilli flakes
2 tspn sweet smoked paprika
4 large potatoes, peeled and sliced into 1" thick slices
1 large red pepper, deseeded and sliced
1 lemon, sliced
600ml vegetable or chicken stock
3 skinned fillets of white fish such as haddock, sliced into large chunks
2 large handfuls of fresh mussels, cleaned and de-bearded.
1 large handful of samphire
Salt and pepper

1 - Heat the olive oil in a large pan. Add the onion, garlic, saffron, chilli and paprika. Soften without colouring.
2 - Add the potatoes and pepper. Pour over enough stock to just cover then place in the lemon slices. Cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until the potato is just beginning to soften.
3 - Add the fish and simmer for a further 5 minutes. Then add the mussels and samphire, cover and cook for 5 minutes.
4 - Remove the lid and taste for seasoning. Serve in large bowls with a scattering of fresh parsley.

Monday, 10 April 2017

Gluten Free Coffee and Walnut Cake

And so the gluten free challenge continues. This challenge entailed trying to make one of my favourite ever cakes without it having a dry, sandy texture, which baking with rice flour based gluten free flour can often do. I've cooked this cake many time before and I'm heavily indebted to Nigel Slater from Kitchen Diaries, a recipe I've tweaked once or twice but not to this extent.

The kind people at Hillfarm Rapeseed Oil recently sent me a bottle of their golden, cold pressed extra virgin rapeseed oil. I'm not sure if they will be surprised to hear that I used a glug of their oil in a cake rather than a savoury dish, but oils are often used to add moistness to bakes and in this instance, it made perfect sense. Not only did it moisten, it also added a touch of its golden colour and a slight nutty taste to complement the walnuts. It has been a fabulously versatile oil that I've used mainly for pan roasts.

This recipe and quantities can be made with normal flour and the oil can be replaced with olive, vegetable or sunflower oil.

Gluten Free Coffee and Walnut Cake

200g salted butter
200g Demerara sugar
3 large eggs
200g gluten free self-raising flour
100ml Hillfarm rapeseed oil

2 tsp coffee granules
75g walnut halves

For the butter cream:
150g butter or margarine
300g icing sugar
2 tsp coffee granules
Walnut halves

1 - Pre-heat the oven to 180C/gm4. Grease and line a 20cm loose bottomed cake tin.
2 - Cream the butter and sugar until soft and light. You can go manual and beat with a wooden spoon or use an electric mixer.
3 - Crack in the eggs one by one and thoroughly combine. Then, gently fold in the flour.
4 - Put the walnuts into a bag and whack with a rolling pin until broken up, the fold into the cake mixture.
5 - Dissolve the coffee granules in a tsp of boiling water and along with the oil, gently fold in. Pour into the cake tin, place onto a baking tray and bake on the middle shelf of the oven for 35-40 minutes. Test with a skewer to see if it is cooked (if it is still uncooked in the centre, cake will stick to the skewer.) Remove and cool on a wire rack.
6 - To make the butter cream, best the butter or margarine until light and fluffy the. Bat in the icing sugar 50g at a time. Dissolve the coffee in a tsp of boiling water and fold in.
7 - Remove the cake from the tin. Using a sharp knife, cut approximately across the middle. Spread half of the butter cream into the centre and place on the top part of the cake. Spread the remaining butter cream on top and decorate with walnut halves.



Tuesday, 4 April 2017

Slow Cooker Asian Pork and Aubergine

This is an incredibly simple slow cook stew that celebrates the great flavours of south east Asia: hot, sweet, salty and sour.

Use a cheap cut of pork such as the shoulder or steaks from the leg and the meat will just fall apart at the touch of the fork. The aubergine, vast in number at the start of the stew, absorbs and melts into the sauce making it rich and velvety.

I can't really sell it enough - just make it and enjoy it with plain rice and perhaps a baked sweet potato. It will be a good decision.

(This recipe is for a slow cooker but can be replicated for cooking in an oven set to GM2/150C.)
Sunflower or vegetable oil
1kg pork shoulder, cut into large chunks
2 aubergines, cut into chunks
1 tbsp demerera sugar
2 star anise
1 cinnamon stick
1 tbsp tamarind paste mixed with a little hot water
1 large onion, chopped
A large pinch of dried chilli flakes
1 thumb size of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
2 tbsp fish or soy sauce
Water
Fresh limes
Fresh coriander

1 - Pre-heat your slow cooker.
2 - Heat up a tbsp oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Add the pork and quickly brown all over. Remove to a plate.
3 - Add the aubergine and quickly brown all over. Return the pork and stir in the sugar. Cook, stirring all of the time, to caramelise the sugar. Tip into your slow cooker.
4 - Heat up another tbsp oil and add the onions, ginger, chilli, star anise and cinnamon. Cook until softened then add to the pork and aubergine.
5 - Pour in 200ml water, the tamarind and the fish sauce. Cook on the medium setting for 5-6 hours until the pork is meltingly tender. Stir in a handful of chopped fresh coriander.
6 - Time to tweek with the flavours. Squeeze in the juice of one lime and taste. You want the right balance of salty, sweet, hot and sour. Adjust the quantities of fish/soy sauce, sugar, chilli and lime to your tastes.
7 - Serve with plain boiled rice, fresh coriander and wedges of fresh lime.

Monday, 3 April 2017

Coriander Crusted Seabass with Fennel and Lentil Salsa

This is a bit of a mix up of influences, using Asian style seasoning on the fish coupled with a south American salsa which contains lentils. Fish and a hot and sour salsa go so well together, as does crunchy fennel. The no-fuss salad is simply fennel, thinly sliced and tossed with lime juice and seasoning.

The whole plate of food is what you would consider super healthy which, once tasted, will prove to any doubters that well prepared, healthy food can be packed with amazing flavour and texture. Experiment with the fish; replace the seabass with a firm fish such as red mullet, snapper, salmon or trout.

Coriander Crusted Seabass with Fennel and Salsa
Serves 2

Two fillets of sea bass, scaled and deboned
2 tbsp coriander seeds
Salt and pepper
1 fennel bulb, thinly sliced
A handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
1 lime
2 tbsp olive oil

For the salsa
100g brown lentils, cooked according to the instructions and cooled
200g cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 red onion, finely diced
A handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
1 red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
1 lime
A splash of olive oil
Salt and pepper

1 - Crush the coriander seeds in a pestle and mortar. Mix in with a little salt and pepper. Slice the skin of the fish at intervals which will help it to crisp up. Rub in the coriander and put aside.
2 - Put the thinly sliced fennel into a mixing bowl, season and squeeze over the lime. Put aside.
3 - To make the salsa, put all of the ingredients into a mixing bowl and combine. Put aside for 5 minutes whilst you cook the fish.
4 - Heat up the oil in a non-stick frying pan. Add the fish skin side down and leave for 2-3 minutes until crisp and golden. Flip over and cook for another 2 minutes.
5 - To serve, place a pile of salsa onto a plate alongside the fennel salad. Place the fish onto the salsa along with a wedge of fresh lime.

Thursday, 30 March 2017

Moroccan Beef Cous Cous

A very quick, delicious and healthy meal for the whole family. I used lean minced beef to keep the cost down but the meat can be substituted with lean cuts of beef, chicken or pork. Half an hour from start to finish, this is an absolute must for any busy family looking for something speedy and balanced to feed hungry mouths.

Moroccan Beef Cous Cous
Feeds 4

1 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and diced
1 red pepper, diced
100g green beans cut into small pieces
1 tsp each of ground cumin, paprika, coriander
1 clove of garlic, chopped
A pinch of chilli powder
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 beef stock cube
1 tbsp honey
250ml water

200g cous cous
A couple of handfuls of fresh spinach, chopped
Cherry tomatoes, halved
A handful of fresh coriander, chopped
1 fresh lemon
Salt and pepper

1 - Put the cous cous into a bowl. Pour over boiling water until just covered. Cover with clingfilm and leave for 10 minutes.
2 - In a wok or large frying pan, heat up the oil. Add the onion, carrot, pepper and green beans. Cook for 10 minutes until beginning to soften.
2 - Add the spices and garlic and cook for a couple of minutes, stirring.
3 - Add the tomato puree, crumbled stock cube, honey and the water. Bring to the simmer, cover and cook gently for 15 minutes.
4 - Taste for seasoning. Fluff up the cous cous with a form then stir into the meat mixture with the spinach, cherry tomatoes and fresh coriander. Squeeze in half of the lemon and cut the other half into wedges.
5 - Serve with the lemon and some more fresh coriander scattered over.

Tuesday, 21 March 2017

Asian Beef, Savoy and Peanut Salad

Salads shouldn't be boring and this one is anything but. Asian flavours of sour, hot, sweet and salty combine with raw veg and beef in a 15 minute start to finish super meal.

Too healthy for you or lacking in carbs? Toss in some brown rice and/or quinoa to bulk it up. Lovely stuff.

Asian style Beef, Savoy and Peanut Salad
Serves 2-3

1 Savoy cabbage
4 carrots, grated
A handful of fresh coriander
Salt and pepper
2 sirloin steaks

For the dressing
1 crushed clove of garlic
Juice of 2 limes
1 tbsp fish sauce
1 tsp honey

A handful of peanuts

1 - Thinly slice a whole Savoy cabbage and combine in a large mixing bowl with grated carrots and lots of coriander.
2 - Heat up a griddle pan. Season your steaks then sear on each side to your desired redness. Set aside to rest whilst you make the dressing.
3 - Mix together the dressing ingredients and then mix thoroughly in with the salad. Set aside for 5 minutes.
4 - In a hot pan, toast the peanuts then remove and either bash in a pestle and mortar or roughly chop.
5 - Thinly slice the beef, mix in with the salad and top with the peanuts. Serve with fresh pieces of lime.

Monday, 13 March 2017

Spring Lamb with Thyme, Lemon and Garlic


Last night it was back down to earth with the remnants of the week’s leftover vegetables and our favourite, 'bubble and squeak'. A few spring lamb chops left to soak in thyme, garlic and lemon are the perfect lip smacking accompaniment. It has everything that easy, no fuss cooking should have and the key to making the most of a simple yet special thing.

Spring Lamb with Thyme, Lemon and Garlic
Feeds 3

6 lamb loin chops

For the marinade
2 cloves of garlic
10 sprigs of thyme, leaves stripped
Juice of 1 lemon
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper

For the 'bubble and squeak'
Any leftover vegetables such as potatoes, carrots and cabbage.
Salt and pepper

1 - To make the marinade, crush the garlic and thyme in a pestle and mortar or a food processor with a good grinding of salt and pepper until you have a green sludge. Mix in the lemon juice and olive oil.
2 - Put the chops into a bowl and pour over the marinade. Rub in and leave to sit for at least 1 hour.
3 - Heat up a frying pan until smoking, or heat up a grill to its highest setting. Cook the lamb chops without moving for 2 minutes each side until char-grilled but still pink inside. Leave to rest for 2 minutes.
4 - To make the bubble and squeak, simply mash all of your leftovers together with seasoning and form into little 'cakes'. Pan fry until crisp and golden.
4 - Serve with bubble and squeak or boiled potatoes and a simple salad, ensuring that you drizzle over the pan juices.

Friday, 10 March 2017

Cod, Caper and Olive Potato Cakes


Fish cakes and tartare sauce have to be a favourite tea time food in our house. Tartare sauce - that sharp, acidic mayonnaise 'with bits in' (as my daughter says) - is the perfect accompaniment to a delicious crispy fish cake.

I've mentioned this in a previous post, but getting the little ones involved in something like a fish cake is an excellent way of experimenting with food and actually getting them to eat something different. It is also a great excuse to get out my favourite kitchen gadget, my £1 potato ricer.

Cod, Caper and Olive Potato Cakes
Makes 6 large cakes

Fillets of 1 large cod
Milk
Water
1 onion
1 lemon
2 bay leaves
4 large floury potatoes
1 handful of capers, rinsed and finely chopped
1 handful of black olives, preferably those salty Greek olives, stoned and finely chopped
4 small gherkins, finely chopped
50g butter
A handful of fresh chives, finely chopped
Salt and pepper
Plain flour
Breadcrumbs
2 eggs, beaten
Olive oil

1 - Place the potatoes in a large pan and cover with cold water. Bring to the boil then cook until they are cooked through. Leave to cool slightly, then peel and either mash into a bowl or use a potato ricer adding the butter.
2 - Place the cod fillets into a large shallow pan. Cover with roughly half milk, half water, a slice of lemon, a slice of onion, the bay leaves and some seasoning. Bring to the boil then simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and allow to cool. Gently break the cod fillets into the potato, ensuring all bones and skin are removed.
3 - Stir in the capers, olives, gherkins, fresh herbs, a squeeze of lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste. Be gentle on the salt as the olives have plenty.
4 - Put the beaten eggs in a bowl, some seasoned plain flour on one plate and the breadcrumbs on another. Add enough olive oil to a non-stick pan to allow shallow frying and heat up.
5 - Shape the mixture into 'cakes' using floured hands. Dip them first into the flour, then the egg, then the breadcrumbs and fry gently for approximately 7 minutes each side until golden and crisp. Place onto kitchen towel to absorb some oil, then serve with a simple green salad, tartare sauce or simply fresh lemon wedges.

Tuesday, 7 March 2017

Griddled Pineapple with Coconut, Lime and Rum Syllabub

It may not quite be the perfect weather at the moment for wheeling out the BBQ but it won't be long before the smell of cheap burnt sausages are invading every garden up and down the UK.

A griddled or barbecued pineapple is amazing as a dessert after you've packed back a week's supply of meat cooked by a can wielding uncle or dad. The ridges of the BBQ give it a caramelised edge and the heat makes this beautiful fruit even more fresh and juicy.

I serve mine with a syllabub, an ancient English dessert of cream and alcohol, with rum, coconut and lime added to give it that Caribbean twist.

Make it in advance, put it in little glasses in the fridge, whack the slices of pineapple on the BBQ and it makes for a very impressive and stress-free dessert. Equally, the pineapple can be cooked on a non-stick griddle pan.

Griddled Pineapple with Coconut, Lime and Rum Syllabub
Feeds 4

1 whole pineapple, skinned
2 tbsp sugar
1 sprig of fresh mint

For the syllabub
300ml double cream
2 tbsp soft brown sugar
Juice of 1 lime
2 tbsp rum
2 tbsp grated coconut and the milk (if you are using fresh)

1 - To make the syllabub, mix the sugar, lime and rum in a bowl and set aside.
2 - In a large bowl, whip the cream to soft peaks. Pour in the sugar, lime, rum, coconut and milk and quickly whisk in. Tip into small glasses and put into the fridge.
3 - Heat up a griddle pan or BBQ. Slice the flesh from the pineapple away from the core and then cut these into small segments. Place onto the griddle or BBQ and cook on each side for 2-3 minutes until slightly charred.
4 - Whilst the pineapple is cooking, grind the mint up with the sugar in a pestle and mortar.
5 - To serve, place the glasses onto plates and grate on dark chocolate. Stack the pineapple up alongside, sprinkle on some mint sugar and serve.

Wednesday, 1 March 2017

Breakfast Rhubarb Cranachan

Scottish cranachan is one of those quick fix creamy desserts that are a doddle to knock up when time is short.

Traditionally made with whipped cream, honey, toasted oats and fresh raspberries, it's a bit like an Eton Mess which is neither here nor there but utterly delicious.

This is a healthier version which uses seasonal rhubarb stewed in a little honey and omits the whisky, meaning it can be eaten for breakfast. If you want to use it as a dessert, add a drop of decent single malt whisky if desired.

Toast the oats in advance, combine a pro-biotic yoghurt with Greek yoghurt, flavour with a little vanilla extract or if you are feeling posh, a whole vanilla pod and sweeten with honey. It's a great way to start the day even if you are going to upset the traditionalists.

Breakfast Rhubarb Cranachan
Feeds 2-3 people

150g rolled Scottish oats
6 sticks of rhubarb, cut into pieces and stewed in a little honey until soft, cooled
250g natural yoghurt
250g Greek yoghurt
50g honey
1 tsp vanilla extract or seeds of 1 vanilla pod

1 - Put the oats into a dry frying pan. Heat up and cook until beginning to toast. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.
2 - In a mixing bowl, combine the yoghurts, honey and vanilla. Mix in a couple of handfuls of rolled oats and stewed rhubarb.
3 - Place a tablespoon of stewed rhubarb into each of your serving glasses. Top with the yoghurt mixture then top with a little more rhubarb, toasted oats and honey.

Thursday, 23 February 2017

Low Fat Chicken Tikka Masala

A very unauthentic curry that apparently was invented on these shores to suit the British palate, Chicken Tikka Masala has fast become the most popular takeaway in the UK.

My family tend to keep away from takeaways and make our own. They really can be simple to make and in this case, are often more healthy as you are in control of the salt and fat content.

Rather than cream, this uses yoghurt but aside from that, it is absolutely packed with flavour and misses none of the extra fat. For the spices you can use one of those ready-mixed tikka spices but it's just as easy to do it from scratch. Give your taste buds and your stomach a favour and try it now!



Low Fat Chicken Tikka Masala
Feeds 4

Ingredients
Marinade
4 chicken breasts, sliced into mouth sized chunks
100ml low fat yoghurt
Juice of 1 lime
1 tsp each of ground paprika, ground coriander, ground ginger, turmeric, ground cumin and fennel seeds (grind them in a pestle and mortar if you prefer)
Salt and pepper

1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 onion
6 cloves of garlic
A thumb sized piece of fresh ginger
1 fresh red chilli
1 tsp of garam masala, ground coriander and ground cumin
Half tsp of ground cinnamon
5 tbsp tomato puree
150ml low fat yoghurt
Salt and pepper

1 - In a large bowl, mix together the yoghurt, lime juice, spices and seasoning then marinade the chicken in it for a few hours.
2 - Finely chop the onion, garlic, chilli and ginger (or blitz in a food processor). Heat up the oil in pan and add. Cook for 10 minutes until starting to colour. Add the spices and cook for 1 minute.
3 - Stir in the tomato puree followed by the yoghurt. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until slightly reduced. If it looks too dry, add a splash of water. Taste for seasoning.
4 - While that is cooking, place your marinaded chicken on a piece of tin foil and cook under a hot grill until cooked and slightly charred.
5 - Stir into the curry sauce and taste for seasoning. Serve with rice, a scattering of fresh coriander and wedges of lime.


Wednesday, 15 February 2017

Mini Raspberry and Almond Puddings

A beautiful, delicate sponge cake, perfect for making in advance for your family treat or a dinner party. You can of course bung the whole mixture into a spring form cake tin and make a full on cake for slicing and serving with tea.

Serve with double cream, Greek yoghurt or good old custard.






Mini Raspberry and Almond Puddings
Makes 6 mini puddings, or 1 whole cake (in a 22cm spring form cake tin)

150g butter or margarine
150g caster sugar
2 large eggs
50g ground almonds
100g self raising flour
Finely grated zest of one orange
A splash of milk
A small punnet of fresh raspberries

1 - Pre-heat the oven to 180C/GM4. Grease 6 mini ramekins and dust with ground almonds. If you are making a full cake, grease and line.
2 - In a large mixing bowl, beat the butter and sugar together until pale and fluffy. Stir in the eggs one by one until thoroughly mixed.
3 - Tip in the ground almonds and flour and fold together.
4 - Finally, fold in the zest of orange, a splash of milk and the raspberries.
5 - Using a tablespoon, fill each ramekin about three quarters full until evenly shared. Tap each ramekin until the air is out and they are flat on the top. Place on the middle shelf and cook for 30-35 minutes or until slightly browned and a skewer inserted comes out clean.
6 - Allow to cool slightly before serving. Dust with icing sugar.

Monday, 6 February 2017

Fajita Seasoning

As a family, we love Mexican fajitas: easy to make, delicious and healthy, they are a popular and tasty quick tea option up and down the country.

The only problem that I find is that the commercial fajita seasonings aren't too good. They are either too salty, too hot, too smokey and too expensive. So here's probably the quickest and most simple recipe I've ever produced on here and one that you must try. It will save you money and also make for a more authentic and tasty seasoning for your chicken.

Experiment with heat and smokiness; if you like it hot, add a splash of chilli sauce whilst mixing together. If you like it smokey, use smoked paprika instead. If you like it smokey and hot, add both!



Fajita seasoning
Enough for an average family of 4 (4 chicken breasts)

1 - In a bowl, mix together 1 tsp each of ground cumin, paprika, ground coriander and dried oregano. Mix in quarter of a teaspoon of ground cinnamon, a crushed garlic clove and season with a little salt and pepper.
2 - Squeeze in the juice of a lime and a tbsp of groundnut or olive oil. Add a few splashes of your favourite chilli sauce at this stage if you like it hot.
3 - Pour over thinly sliced chicken and leave to marinade for an hour or two.
4 - Cook as normal in a hot, non-stick drying pan with sliced peppers and onion.

NOTE - You can make a lot of this seasoning and put into an airtight container to save you mixing every time. When you need to use, simply stir two tablespoons of it together with the wet ingredients. Easy!

Thursday, 2 February 2017

Tomatoless Beef and Squash Curry

I've a friend who has certain food allergies with one of them oddly being the tomato. He has to be the only person I know that can't eat this fruit which is evident in everything from soups to casseroles.

I've a great recipe which uses yoghurt as the main base for the sauce, a twist on a Rogan Josh, but even that uses tomato paste to colour and flavour. Thinking along the same lines, the curry I ended up with uses a rich paste of onion, garlic, chilli and ginger, lots of Indian spice and tamarind pulp, a sweet and sour fruit available in good Asian stores and one heavily used in Keralan food in south India.

The verdict? For something so simple and easy to make, it was delicious; hot, pungent, spicy and slightly sweet, the tomato wasn't missed one bit and it completely took me by surprise, becoming one of the best curries I've ever made. Try it this weekend; it will put smiles on faces, even ones with certain food allergies.

Tomatoless Beef and Squash Curry

Feeds 4

2 onions, peeled
1 thumb size of ginger, peeled
6 cloves garlic, peeled
1 red chilli, deseeded
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tsp turmeric
2 bay leaves
600g stewing beef cut into large chunks
1 small butternut squash, peeled, seeded and sliced thin
200ml tamarind water (use concentrated tamarind paste)
Water
Salt and pepper

1 - Pre-heat the oven to 160C/GM3. Put the onions, ginger, garlic and chilli into a blender. Blend to a paste.
2 - Heat up the oil in a flame-proof casserole dish. Add the paste and cook for 5-10 minutes until it begins to colour. Stir in the spices and cook for a further minute.
3 - Stir in the beef and thoroughly combine with the spiced paste. Cook for 5 minutes until the beef browns.
4 - Add the tamarind water and a little more water to just cover. Bring to the boil then place into the oven and cook for 2 hours. Check on the hour to ensure it isn't cooking dry; you may need to add a drop or two of water. Add the squash at this point too. The finished product should have a light gravy rather than be watery. Continue to cook if it is too watery.
4 - Remove the bay leaves and taste for seasoning. Serve with plain boiled basmati rice, chutney, fresh mint and/or coriander and Indian breads.

Wednesday, 1 February 2017

Spiced Pickled Beetroot


Beetroot are an acquired taste. Boiled to submission, they can retain all of the character of a Saturday night singing contest. However, roasted slowly to tease out the sugars makes for a unique vegetable that sits perfectly alongside your Sunday roast or simply diced and tossed into a cold pasta or rice salad.

They are probably more used to the pickling treatment in this country. This process can demolish the beet's subtle flavours but when you have more beetroot than you can juggle with, sometimes the pickling jars are the only option. I've devised a simple spiced version with a balanced flavour of sweet and sour. Placed in between two doorsteps of bread with a hunk of strong Cheddar cheese, it helps to make arguably one of the best sandwiches in the world.

Spiced Pickled Beetroot
Makes approximately 4 large jars

8 whole beetroot
Olive oil
500ml malt vinegar
200g caster sugar
4 whole chillies
4 bay leaves
1 tbsp coriander seeds
1 tsp whole cloves
1 tsp whole black peppercorns
1 tsp salt
4 large picking jars

1 - Pre-heat the oven to 180C/GM4. Clean the beetroot and place into a square of foil. Drizzle with a little olive oil, wrap thoroughly then place onto the middle shelf and bake for 2 hours. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.
2 - Sterilise your jars by placing into a warm oven for 10 minutes. Allow to cool.
3 - To make the pickling liquor, place the vinegar, sugar, chillies and spices into a large pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 minutes then remove from the heat.
3 - Peel the skin from the beetroot. Slice thickly then place equally into the jars. Pour over the spiced pickling liquor and share out the chillies and spices. Seal and put into a cool dark place for at least 2 weeks to allow the flavours to develop before eating.

Monday, 30 January 2017

A beautiful, dense cake, sweet and sticky from honey and fresh pears. Just perfect for these cold, damp winter days.


Pear, Honey and Almond Cake

100g sugar
200g butter or margarine
3 eggs
1tsp almond extract
100g honey
100g self raising flour
200g ground almonds
4 very ripe, soft pears, puréed or finely chopped

1 - Pre-heat the oven to 200C/GM4. Grease and line a 22cm springform cake time.

2 - In a large mixing bowl, whisk the sugar and eggs until light and fluffy.
3 - Break in the eggs one at a time, whisking thoroughly for each one.
4 - Stir in the honey and almond extract then tip in the flour and ground almonds. Fold together until thoroughly combined.
5 - Finally, fold in the pear purée and any juice.
6 - Tip into the baking tin, smooth off and place on the middle shelf. Bake for 40-50 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. You may need to put some foil over the top at the half hour mark to stop it from burning.
7 - Serve slightly warm with a good cuppa, perhaps with a splash of creme fraiche or double cream.

Sunday, 29 January 2017

Huevos Rancheros (Mexican Ranch Eggs)

I can remember reading about this recipe years back in Rick Stein's Food Heroes; it's pretty much been a staple breakfast or brunch in our house ever since, especially on a lazy Sunday morning, perhaps nursing last night's boozy head.

Stemming from Mexican cuisine, the combination of hot chilli, sweet tomatoes, cheesy mashed beans and crispy eggs served on warm tortillas addresses the most serious of hangovers as well as hungry stomachs. We love it!

I've evolved Rick's recipe with the addition of a pinch of cumin and cocoa powder to the beans, two ingredients that are used extensively in South America and for me, a serious flavour kick that makes them more appealing to suspicious eyes when they spot the brown sludge on their breakfast plate.

Still not convinced? All I can say is, try it and see. It's a serious contender for best breakfast in the world!

Huevos Rancheros
Serves 4

Tomato Sauce
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
A good pinch of dried chilli flakes or 1 finely chopped red chilli
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper

Refried Beans
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove of garlic, crushed
A good pinch of dried chilli flakes or 1 finely chopped red chilli
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp cocoa powder
1 tin of either kidney beans or pinto beans
100g grated Cheddar cheese
Salt and pepper

Eggs
Soft ready made tortillas, wrapped in foil and warmed in an oven

1 - To make the tomato sauce, heat up the oil in a pan and add the onion, chilli and garlic. Soften for 5 minutes then add the tomatoes and vinegar. Bring to the boil then simmer for 10 minutes until reduced. Taste for seasoning.
2 - To make the refried beans, heat up the oil in a pan and add the onion, chilli and garlic. Soften for 5 minutes then stir in the cumin and cocoa. Tip in the beans still in their water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes then, with a fork, crush the beans. Stir in the cheese then taste for seasoning.
3 - Fry the eggs to your liking but I like mine crispy at the bottom and still soft in the middle.
4 - To serve, fold 1 or 2 tortillas onto a plate. Add 1 or 2 tbsp of tomato sauce then 1 or 2 tbsp of refried beans. Place 1 or 2 crisp fried eggs on the top. Serve with good coffee.

Friday, 27 January 2017

Courgette Pakora

If you are like me and adore Indian food, you might understand the one issue that I have with it.

When entering an Indian restaurant I'm usually hungry on the verge of cannibalism. I scan the starters and mentally choose everything on there, before settling for one with a mound of popadoms and a pickle tray. I then proceed to eat it too fast that the next thing I know, I'm picking over the main course.

The point I'm trying to make is that I love Indian starters: samosa, pakora, bhaji, aloo chaat, Seekh kebab. You name them, I devour them. So much so that I would actually prefer to just have a table full of them and nothing else.

So this week I turned my hand to transforming a few courgettes into pakora, that little bundle of Indian spiced batter and vegetable that crisps to perfection and pops perfectly into a hungry gob. They could not be easier to make and the best thing about it is you can make a table full of them with ease using a variety of vegetables. Everything from onion, courgette, aubergine and carrot works. Just remember to get out as much water as you can before frying to ensure crispiness.

Courgette Pakora

Makes lots

3 courgettes, grated
100g chick pea flour
Half tsp baking powder
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tsp turmeric
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp chilli powder
Salt and pepper
Fresh coriander, chopped
Vegetable oil

1 - Put the grated courgette into a tea towel and squeeze thoroughly to get as much water out as possible.
2 - In a bowl, tip in the flour, spices and seasoning. Whisk in enough water to form a paste the consistency of double cream and coats the back of a spoon; not too thick, not too thin. Stir in the courgette and fresh coriander.
3 - Heat up a deep frying pan with vegetable oil. Test a pakora out by dropping in a small teaspoon if the batter. If it immediately begins to fry and turns golden in a minute, the oil is hot enough. Taste for seasoning.
4 - Fry heaped teaspoons in batches, draining on kitchen paper. Serve with fresh coriander and an accompaniment of yoghurt, pickles and/or chutney.

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Chocolate and Orange Mousse


In my humble repertoire of food entertaining, it seems that nothing pleases guests more than a good old chocolate mousse. And that has to be a major plus for the busy home cook. Simple to make and utterly delicious, a mousse never draws complaint.

The other plus is that it is a pleasant thing to eat for both children and adults and if my daughter is anything to go by, it is also a lot of fun to make. All elements of fun cooking with children are here, from smashing or cracking of eggs, to whipping up so that it sits over your head without giving you an egg white hat, to dripping messily into serving glasses and finally the ubiquitous licking of the bowl.

A couple of hours in the fridge and a dream dessert is ready and your little ones can claim glory. Try experimenting with flavours, adding grated orange or lemon, a spoonful of ground almonds, broken biscuit or toasted hazelnuts. Serve with or without cream.

Chocolate and Orange Mousse

Makes 4-5 glasses

200g 70% proof chocolate
50g butter
4 eggs
25g sugar
Zest of 1 orange

1 – Place the chocolate and butter into an ovenproof bowl and place into a pre-heated medium oven for 5 minutes to melt. Remove and mix thoroughly. Set aside to cool slightly.
2 – Crack the eggs and separate the whites and yolks into mixing bowls. Add the sugar to the yolks and beat with a whisk until frothy and paler.
3 – Whisk the egg whites until it will sit over your head without falling out.
4 – Grate the orange zest into the chocolate and butter mixture then mix in the sugar and egg yolk mixture. Quickly fold in a large spoonful of the egg whites then gently fold in the remaining until thoroughly mixed in.
5 – Drip spoonfuls of the mixture into serving glasses then put into the fridge for 1-2 hours until set.

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

Chermoula (Moroccan Marinade)

This is a very easy to make but stunning marinade or paste for use with chicken, pork and fish. Used extensively in North Africa in countries such as Morocco or Tunisia, it's a cheeky blend of spices, lemons, chilli, garlic and fresh coriander and adds a punch of flavour to pretty much any grilled or pan-fried meats. You can even try it with hardy roast vegetables such as squash, beetroot and potatoes.

I like to use mine with fresh tuna, seared perfectly on the BBQ or a griddle pan and served with bulgar wheat, cous cous or quinoa. Toss in a few pomegranate seeds and things become even more exciting. Try it.

Chermoula 

4 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp each of ground cumin and paprika
1 tsp ground cinnamon
Juice and zest of one lemon
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Either 1 fresh deseeded chilli finely chopped or 1 tsp ground chilli
A couple of handfuls of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
Salt and pepper

1 - Combine all of the ingredients thoroughly in a mixing bowl. Taste for seasoning.
2 - Add your choice of meat and leave to marinade for a few hours. Cook as normal.

Monday, 23 January 2017

Toad in the Hole

Toad in the hole. It's a recipe that most Brits have all eaten but probably have no idea where the name comes from. Don't ask me - I haven't got a clue.

If I had to guess, I would suggest that the image of a sausage poking its head out of crisped batter probably resembles a toad sticking its head out of a hole. After a few beers that is. Like I say, who cares? It is delicious, warming and comforting and that is what's important here.

Toad in the hole is a recipe I want to see in more restaurants at this time of the year, alongside shepherds' pie, steak and kidney pudding and chicken and leek pie. I've no ideas why more chefs are reluctant to put such fabulous food on their menus but it probably comes down to the image. Comforting British food such as these dishes seems so appropriate during the colder months and of course we make the best comfort food in the world, don't we?

This is a simple family favourite that is ace for those cold midweek nights when the soul and tummy need cheering up. Serve with mash, greens and lots of onion gravy.

Toad in the Hole
Feeds 4

250g plain flour
A pinch of salt and pepper
3 eggs, beaten
500ml milk
3 tbsp sunflower oil
500g quality sausages

1 - Pre-heat the oven to 220C/GM7.
2 - Put the oil into a roasting tin and place into the oven. When the oil is hot, add the sausages and bake for 5 minutes, turning every now and again until beginning to brown.
3 - Put the flour, salt and pepper into a large bowl. Make a well and add the beaten eggs. Begin to whisk in the milk until the batter has the consistency of double cream.
4 - Remove the roasting tin from the oven then pour the batter in and over the sausages. Place back onto a high shelf and bake for 30-40 minutes until the batter is risen, golden and crunchy.

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Chestnut and Honey Bread


Chestnuts are one of the best free nuts, with their versatile sweetness just bursting with flavour and awaiting a multitude of dishes. Roasting a few and eating warm with a little salt and pepper is good enough, but a simple pot roast using a game bird such as pheasant, grouse or partridge with a few roasted chestnuts thrown in is simply amazing. Boil chestnuts, whiz in a blender and you have a nutty purée that is perfect for cakes and scones or even an ice cream.

I made bread with a handful of them over the weekend, and the warmth and smell that the bread gave off made you feel happy that the winter is upon us. Some good honey sweetened the bread without overpowering it.

Chestnut and Honey Bread


500g strong bread flour
200g chestnuts, cooked and peeled
1 tsp salt
1 heaped tsp ready active yeast
150ml honey
300ml warm water

1 – Tip the flour into a large bowl. Crumble in the chestnuts and mix together with the salt and yeast.
2 – Mix the honey and water together. Make a well in the flour and begin to gradually pour the water and honey on, mixing all of the time with your other hand.
3 – When the mixture comes together, tip out onto a floured surface and begin to knead by pulling the furthest edge towards you with your fingers then pushing with the palm of your hand.
4 – Repeat this until the dough becomes smooth and an impression of your hand when pushed in springs straight back out. Place back into the bowl, sprinkle on some flour and place in a warm place for 1 hour or until it has doubled in size.
5 – Preheat the oven to 220C/GM8.
6 – Gently knead the dough until you have pushed the air out then place onto a floured backing tray. Cover and leave for another hour until it has doubled in size.
7 – Gently place onto the middle shelf of your oven and bake for 10 minutes. Turn the temperature down to 200C/GM6 and cook for a further 20-30 minutes or until it makes a ‘hollow’ sound when tapped. Leave cool on a wire tray.

Friday, 20 January 2017

Harissa Sauce

We've recently been turning to ways of transforming otherwise bland leftover food into something amazing. In our fridge there are always airtight containers with last night’s rice, pasta, cooked vegetables, fish or meat in. Waste not want not is the mantra.

A great way of making, say, a load of cooked vegetables and cooked pasta taste good is to whack it all into a casserole dish, cover it in a good tomato sauce (hopefully one that you have made and stored in the freezer) top with a cheese sauce and cook until golden and bubbling. Or take your rice and combine with leftover chicken, lemons, cardamon and cinnamon and bake in foil for a lovely quick 'leftover pilaf'.

I like to make sauces such as salsa verdé or 'green sauce', a strong, piquant sauce made from store cupboard ingredients that transform the blandest of meals into a thing of pleasure and beauty. A close second to that is harissa, a fiery North African sauce of red pepper and chilli that is so easy to make yourself and again, transforms the boring into the beautiful. Try it with fish or white meats, rice and salad. Make the most of your own little store in your kitchen and soon you will be a master of the leftovers.

Harissa Sauce

2 red peppers
1 large or 2 small red chillies, deseeded
1 garlic clove, peeled
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp paprika (smoked or unsmoked)
Juice of 1 lemon
3 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper

1 - If you have a gas hob, light 2 rings and place the peppers straight onto the flame. Using tongs, turn regularly until the skin is black all over. Pop into plastic food bags, seal and leave to cool. If you don't have a gas hob, rub in a little olive oil and roast in a hot oven until collapsed. Again, place into the food bags, seal and allow to cool.
2 - Once cooled, peel off the skin and discard the stalks and seeds. Pop into a food processor along with the chillies and garlic.
3 - Put the coriander seeds and cumin seeds into a dry frying pan and pan roast for 2 minutes until fragrant. Bash in a pestle and mortar or put into a couple of food bags and bash them with a rolling pin. Add to the food processor along with the paprika and lemon juice. Blend until smooth. Taste for seasoning.
4 - Pour into an airtight jar and top with the olive oil. This will keep for a couple of weeks in a fridge.

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

The Perfect Dumpling

What is a dumpling? In simple terms, it is an essential addition to any stew, casserole or soup, especially in the winter. It's a fluffy, stodgy thing of beauty floating on top of whatever food you have knocked up and for me, it makes me feel happy with the world and more importantly, 'full as a gun'!

Once people - and that includes my own kids - understand what it is that's invading their soup or stew, it's all down to the eating and once you've sunk your spoon or knife into one, things make lots of sense.

Dumplings of course are nothing new and the Asians have been mastering silky smooth dumplings for a lot longer than we have. Whereas the Asian dumpling is a thing of beauty, a smooth and perfectly formed mouthful, the northern dumpling is it's big cousin. And I prefer that version. Experiment with the basic recipe by adding a good grating of strong cheddar cheese, mustard powder and herbs such as fresh thyme.

They aren't difficult to make but when I posted this photo on Instagram recently, some people commented on how they have tried and failed to make the perfect dumpling. So here you go, the failsafe formula that I've been using for years.

Dumplings (for stews, casseroles or soups)
Makes about 6 large dumplings

300g self-raising flour
150g butter, margarine or suet
Salt and pepper
Water

1 - In a large bowl, tip in the flour and a grating of salt and pepper.
2 - Add the butter, margarine or suet. If the latter, just mix in with a spoon but if it's the former, mix together with your fingertips to form large breadcrumbs.
3 - Add 2-3 tablespoons of water and mix together. Keep adding tablespoons of water until it just comes together to form a dough, not too sticky, not too dry.
4 - Half an hour before your stew or soup is ready, add large tablespoons of the dough. If you are cooking on the hob, put on the lid and cook for 25-30 minutes. If in the oven, you have the option of keeping the lid off to form crispy dumplings. Perfect.

Monday, 16 January 2017

Roast Pumpkin, Chick Pea and Garlic Soup with Golden Salt and Pepper Pumpkin Seeds


This soup entails sticking everything onto a baking tray, roasting it for half an hour in a hot oven, tipping it into a blender with a little stock or water then puréeing it into a soup. Can anybody tell me that this is difficult? If you think so, please give it a go.

Roast Pumpkin, Chick Pea and Garlic Soup with Golden Salt and Pepper Pumpkin Seeds

Feeds 4

1 small to medium pumpkin or butternut squash, cut into large chunks with seeds removed and kept aside
1 whole onion, peeled
1 bulb of garlic, broken and cloves left whole
1 tsp ground cumin and/or caraway seeds
1 tin of chick peas
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
750ml vegetable stock

1 - Pre-heat your oven to GM6/200C.
2 - Place all of the vegetables on a baking tray. Scatter with the mixed spice, a little salt and pepper and olive oil and mix thoroughly. Roast on a high shelf for 30-40 minutes until golden.
3 - In the meantime, scatter the seeds onto another baking tray with salt and pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Toss together then place on the middle shelf of the oven. Cook until golden.
4 - When the vegetables have cooked, cut the pumpkin skin off and place the flesh into a blender along with the onion and the garlic cloves, squeezed straight out of their skins. Pour in the stock and chick peas then blitz to a fine purée. Taste for seasoning.
5 - Pour into bowls and serve with a scattering of delicious, nutty golden pumpkin seeds.

Thursday, 12 January 2017

Northumbrian Leek Pudding


Here is my version of a true classic, which has a leek's mild onion flavour lifted somewhat with the addition of cheese, mustard and cream. I bake mine rather than steam them. Nothing wrong with steaming; it will give you a spongier and more melting sensation, but I prefer the crustiness that baking brings out. Also, 2 hours steaming or 30 minutes baking? Let your stomach answer that one for you. Serve it with a beef and ale stew, Newcastle Brown Ale of course. The food of champions. Champion man!




Northumbrian leek pudding
To serve two

100g self raising flour
50g shredded suet (beef or vegetable)
one large or two small leeks
50g butter
100ml double cream
50g strong cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon English mustard powder
salt and pepper

1 - Pre-heat oven to 180C, GM4 and butter two individual ovenproof pudding moulds.
2 - Mix the flour and suet with a pinch of salt and pepper. Combine with enough water to make a stiff paste.
3 - Slice the leeks length ways, wash thoroughly and finely shred.
4 - Soften the leeks in butter until just coloured. Stir in the cream, grated cheese and mustard powder and combine, ensuring a sloppy mixture.
5 - Roll out the pastry to approximately 1cm thick and divide into two. Line the pudding moulds and trim the excess pastry. Roll back out again and cut out two `lids' for the puddings.
6 - Pile the leek mixture into the puddings until ¾ full and top with the pastry discs. Dab the edges with water and seal. Place on a baking sheet and bake for 25-30 minutes until crisp and golden.