Friday, 11 September 2020

Meatball Marinara

An unnamed high street food provider has a version of this on their menu. Meatball marinara: hot meatballs, tomato sauce and cheese stuffed into bread. Sounds messy and delicious yeah? Well, it is!

Here's a homemade version which was actually made from the leftover pasta and meatball dish I made the night before. Waste not want not! So you can use this exact recipe for a plate of pasta and meatballs if this doesn't take your fancy.

I've served this on a piece of thick sourdough which is robust enough to soak up the juices without falling apart, but any old bread will do if lightly toasted.

Meatball Marinara

Ingredients - feeds 4

For the tomato sauce
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
400g tin of tomatoes
1 tbsp Balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp dried oregano
A pinch of ground chilli
Salt and pepper


For the meatballs (to make 20-25)
500g good quality minced beef
2 cloves garlic, crushed
A handful of fresh basil, finely chopped
The zest of half a lemon
Salt and pepper
1 tbsp olive oil

Fresh spinach (optional)
4 thick slices of bread, lightly toasted
Grated Cheddar cheese

1 - To make the tomato sauce, heat up the oil in a pan. Add the onion and cook on a low heat for 10 minutes until softened. Add the garlic, cook for a further minute. Then add the tomatoes, Balsamic vinegar, oregano and chilli. Stir, bring to the boil then lower the heat and simmer for half an hour with the lid slightly off.
2 - When cooked and reduced, taste for seasoning then using a hand blender, blend to your desired consistency. Keep aside.
3 - For the meatballs, put all of the ingredients into a mixing bowl and using your hands, combine thoroughly. Using damp hands, form meatballs the size of a golf ball and put aside onto a seperate plate.
4 - In a large non-stick pan, heat up the oil. Add the meatballs and cook on a medium heat all over, stirring regularly until golden brown.
5 - Pour in the tomato sauce, cover and simmer on a low heat for 15 minutes.
6 - Heat up your grill to a high setting. Cover a grill tray with foil and place on your toasted bread. Put a layer of optional spinach onto the bread then using tongs, place 4-5 meatballs onto each slice. Pour on the tomato sauce, top with a handful of Cheddar cheese and then grill until golden and bubbling. 

Wednesday, 9 September 2020

Sweet Potato and Coconut Dahl


This is a bit of a mishmash of a traditional and much loved Indian Dahl with the coconut and lime of south Indian food. I used green lentils but you could use red or brown, even yellow split peas. Either way, you are left with a very delicious, spicy and creamy curry that needs flat breads to mop it up as opposed to rice.

Sweet Potato and Coconut Dahl

Ingredients - feeds 4

200g green lentils, cooked according to instructions (or used tinned)
One large sweet potato, peeled and cubed
3 tbsp groundnut or sunflower oil
1 onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp turmeric
1 tbsp ground coriander
1 tbsp garam masala
1 stick of cinnamon
1 tsp chilli powder
2 whole chillies
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tin of coconut milk
Salt and pepper
Juice of 1 lime
Chopped spinach and coriander

1 - Heat the oil on a large, deep non-stick pan. Add the cubed sweet potato and stir fry for 10-15 minutes until coloured and beginning to soften.
2 - Stir in the onion and garlic and cook for 5 minutes until beginning to colour and soften.
3 - Add the spices and chillies and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Tip in the tomatoes and coconut and season well with salt and freshly ground pepper.
4 - Stir in the cooked lentils and simmer for ten minutes until everything is warmed through and the sweet potato fully cooked. Add the juice of the lime and serve with flat breads, fresh spinach and coriander.

Monday, 26 February 2018

Smoky Jerusalem Artichoke and Ginger Soup

February is proving to be as miserable as it generally succeeds in being. Not only has this recession become a scary reality, we are also going through the coldest snap of weather we have seen in years. It's dark, cold and miserable and I for one cannot wait to see March in a couple of week’s time.

To add to this, it is also a poor month for edible produce. Aside from early forced rhubarb and winter staples such as potatoes, onions, leeks and swedes, British fruit and vegetable choices are few and far between.

The one light at the end of this tunnel of depression is a brilliant vegetable, the Jerusalem artichoke. Much like last week's discussion on chard, it is a misunderstood and under-used vegetable. The name doesn't help as it has absolutely no relation the globe artichoke you will be more familiar with. It is actually the root or tuber of a particular sunflower and if you have never seen one, think of a ginger root with cylindrical rings on the surface of their gnarly skin.

The taste is quite nutty with a bit of sweetness from their natural sugars depending on how old they are. Roasted, steamed, boiled or mashed, they are such a lovely addition to the plate. My favourite thing to do with a Jerusalem artichoke is to turn it into a soup; they blend perfectly to make for the silkiest of textures. The one downside to them are their famous wind-inducing properties due to their complex carbohydrates or inulin. This of course may be an added to bonus to fans of flatulence...

Smoky Jerusalem Artichoke and Ginger Soup
Serves 2

500g Jerusalem Artichokes, peeled and sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, sliced
1 thumb size of ginger, peeled and sliced
1 tbsp tomato purée
2 tsp smoked paprika
A pinch of cayenne pepper
750ml vegetable stock
2 tbsp natural yoghurt
Salt and pepper
Pumpkin seeds (optional) lightly toasted in a dry pan

1 - Heat the olive oil in a pan and add the Jerusalem artichokes, onion, garlic and ginger. Cook for around 5 minutes until beginning to soften.
2 - Add the tomato purée, smoked paprika and cayenne pepper and cook for 1 minute, stirring all of the time.
3 - Pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Simmer for 30 minutes until the Jerusalem artichokes are soft.
4 - Using a hand blender or food processor, blend the soup until smooth. Stir in the yoghurt and taste for seasoning. Serve with optional toasted pumpkin seeds and a sprinkling of paprika.

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, 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.





Meatball Marinara

An unnamed high street food provider has a version of this on their menu. Meatball marinara: hot meatballs, tomato sauce and cheese stuffed ...