Thursday, 31 December 2015

Great New Years Eve Nibbles

I'm currently trying to think of a menu for tonight so I thought I'd share with you some ideas I was having.

First plan, pakoras.  These are great because I can cook them earlier then reheat them when I'm ready (much better than hot fat when prosecco might have been involved and smells much better.)

The only downside is what to go with them?  Have a sit down meal with dhal and chicken tikka or go for a full on nibble fest?  Well scroll down for some more suggestions but in the meantime, let's continue with the appetisers.

Monday, 28 December 2015

Leftovers pie

We all end up cooking too much on Christmas Day.  In a lot of ways I wished when I saw my groaning table I'd joined up with Spare Chair Sunday but I know that a lot of you are looking for something to use up those Christmas goodies.

I've not tried this with other stuffings but I'm sure anything meaty would work.  Sometimes I include the cooked butternut squash, sometimes I don't.  Sometimes I include other vegetables like peas or you could include left over vegetables too.

Tuesday, 22 December 2015

Green Bean and Crayfish Pasta

I love including a vegetable into pasta or rice dishes.  Rather than going for something wacky like cauliflower rice, which, let's face it, doesn't taste like rice, why not bulk out your starches with a vegetable?  I often put peas into rice and this pasta dish is no exception.  The quantity of pasta is quite small but that's because I've used green beans to bulk it out.

Of course your tastebuds aren't fooled that the green beans are really pasta (but why would you want them to when green beans taste so great?)  What it does is make the plate look like a big portion while only using 50g of dried pasta.  Result!

Sunday, 20 December 2015

Top tips for Christmas Dinner Preparation

Save your sanity!  My Christmas lunch this year is only for three but I've catered for up to ten before without issues.  It is simple, it doesn't have to lead to you tearing your hair out.

Prepare as much in advance as possible...

Saturday, 19 December 2015

Goats Cheese and Pepper Frittata

I've said before that Frittatas are great for just using stuff up that's in your fridge but I wanted to make one which was a little bit more special, perhaps as a vegetarian Christmas lunch option.  You might even have the ingredients in your fridge already (or even if you don't you could adapt it) making it great for those "oh, son, you've brought home your new girlfriend for Christmas and you didn't tell me she was vegetarian" moments!

This makes one individual frittata.  As I cooked this in a small baking tin with reasonably high sides, the cooking time was surprisingly long.  If you have a shallower baking dish, the cooking time is likely to be shorter, possibly only 15 minutes even if you scaled up the recipe so just keep an eye on it.

Friday, 18 December 2015

My Favourite Christmas Films

I will be spending Christmas afternoon on my own this year.  Don't panic readers, I'm fine about it and planning a Christmas movie marathon to keep me going and away from (too many) mince pies.

Hmm... mince pies....

Tuesday, 15 December 2015

Vegetable Bake

This delicious vegetable bake is flavoured with anchovies which might sound strange.  If you think you don't like the umami rich deliciousness of anchovies, it is worth giving this a go.  It just gives the whole dish a fantastic salty, savoury "seasoning" which would be sorely missed otherwise.

This is great as a light main course or could be a vegetable side dish, perhaps for grilled fish.

Monday, 14 December 2015

My favourite breakfasts

Breakfasts are the first meal of the day and I have to admit I almost never reach for a bowl of cereal.  Why?  Well not all cereals are created equal but sadly far too many are full of sugar, simple carbohydrates and not much else.  I like something which makes me feel good from the inside out.  I can't confess that this means it's always healthy but at least it always tastes great.

Monday, 7 December 2015

Christmas Present ideas for Foodies

Ok, well these are the great presents for me.  Here is a collection of things I've liked receiving over the years, like or would love!  Some of them may spark an idea, some are just boringly practical but also some of the best presents I've received.

An olive wood board.  One of my sisters bought me one for Christmas a few years ago and it's featured heavily in my blog since just like on this mulled grape juice picture above.  It's just lovely as a cheeseboard or just looks lovely as an extra mat for your table.  It's all wiggly and rustic and nice.

Sunday, 6 December 2015

Cheese Straws

We're approaching party season.  Did you know how easy it is to make cheese straws?  Well these are totally irresistible.

Friday, 4 December 2015

Tomato and Goats Cheese Tart

This is a really simple tart with only four ingredients.  It would be great as a main course vegetarian dish or a starter.  The creamy, mild goats cheese complements the tomatoes so well.  I urge you to try it!

Sunday, 29 November 2015

Steak with Bearnaise Sauce

The first time I had bearnaise sauce, I was an exchange student just outside Paris.  Glamorous though that sounds, the bearnaise was straight out of a bottle.  It was a few years later before I tasted the proper stuff.  For good reason, it's not commonly on a menu.  Imagine making an egg thickened sauce in a busy service kitchen.  Let's face it, even for the most experienced cook, it can go wrong.  With everyone else's food waiting, it's a massive risk...

Steak with Bearnaise Sauce

But this is where I'm going to make the crazy suggestion, making an egg thickened sauce like hollandaise or bearnaise sauce for one makes perfect sense.  The great thing with this recipe is the steak rests while the sauce is being cooked.

So I'm sure many of you would think "no, it's not for me" but genuinely, the flavour is amazing and I've put in a few tips to make it easier to cook for one.

I had such a hard week this week so this was the ultimate "well done to me".

Tuesday, 24 November 2015

I want to change the world

I found this photo on the internet recently and posted it on one of my social media pages.

The outpouring of grief after the Paris attacks, I have to admit passed me by.  Not because I was unfeeling but because I was reeling from shock.  It's only now, nearly two weeks later, I feel floored by it.

Friday, 20 November 2015


I love tempura, it's not healthy, it's not good for you (all that frying) but after a morning run, what could be better for Friday?  Let's make it Fry-day this week!  This can either be a great fish dish or vegan depending on your preferences.  Both are great.


Sunday, 15 November 2015

Shallot Tarte Tatin

Traditional Tarte Tatin contains apples but the combination of the caramelisation with the puff pastry is something which can apply to lots of different dishes and shallots are a lovely way of bringing this together in a savoury way.

Shallot tarte tatin

This could be a great vegetarian (or vegan) Christmas lunch or a lovely starter.  It's a piece of cake to make and is fine (even better) served warm rather than hot.

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Smoky Sausage Stew

I was inspired by a windy day outside.   This would be the ultimate "been outside playing in the snow" recipe actually...  I almost can't wait for the really bad weather to come...

Monday, 9 November 2015

Gluten Free Peanut Butter Cookies

Peanut butter cookies, what could be better with a glass of cold milk?

For those of you who have been reading for a while, you will be aware my son has a nut allergy.  Surprisingly (for me) as he only has an allergy for brazil nuts, his specialist has recommended we get him to eat other nuts as much as possible in the home, particularly peanuts while continuing to say when we're out and about "no nuts".  This is because it's an easier message to convey to a kitchen and sadly, even some people who work in food for a living can't tell a brazil nut from a cashew!  No, sadly, the allergy specialist had experienced this, I'm really not kidding.  The theory is that by regularly exposing him to peanuts, it's less likely that he will then acquire a serious allergy to peanuts as well.

Anyway, I've been struggling recently to get him to eat peanuts so made him some peanut butter cookies.  I mean who can resist a cookie?  Exactly.  He also LOVED them which was great.

This made far too many for us, even though I ate 3 (did I tell you they taste great?)  So next time I might try freezing some of the dough.  I'll update you with how that goes.

Saturday, 7 November 2015

Jewelled Quinoa Salad

I had another pomegranate in my shopping this week.  There is something I love about their combination of sweet and bitter which is lovely in a savoury salad.  Little ruby jewels nestled with all of the other ingredients.  The dried cranberries take it straight into festive territory so this might be quite special for a pot luck or buffet meal with cold meats if you are a meat eater.

Jewelled quinoa salad

You can either serve this with warm quinoa or allow the quinoa to cool (or rinse under a tap) and then use.  Would be a great lunch box dish to make your colleagues go "ooooh!"

As I'm sure all vegans know, quinoa is a complete protein source meaning that if you are choosing to cut down on meat, it's a great food to eat without missing out on essential nutrients.

Friday, 6 November 2015

Roast Vegetable Pasta

I am a meat eater but I am welcome to eating vegetarian and vegan food.  In my book, it's just tasty food.  I think everyone should be open to eating something a bit different and a bit less meat.

This is also handily 3 of your 5 a day.  More than half!  But most of all, it's delicious.  The pepper goes really sweet, the tomato adds a slight amount of sauciness, the courgette absorbs the flavours, the roasted garlic is stunning, the herbs... You won't miss the meat.

Although this is one of my longer cooking time recipes, it's a sling it in the oven job.  Great if you're a parent because you could put this in the oven and with only one stir, have it ready by the time you've got your little darlings in bed.

80g might seem an odd amount to suggest but the quantities aren't vital and the reason why is that 80g is considered by the UK government to constitute 1 of your 5 a day.  Recent research indicates that 7 a day may be more healthful and today I actually managed 7!  I had raspberries and blueberries on my breakfast bowl in the morning.  I had a tomato salad and some grapes as part of my lunch and then this for my evening meal.

If you like a more substantial portion, just have more pasta.

Sunday, 1 November 2015

Steamed Hake with a Thai Style Prawn broth

Hake isn't a fish we use much in the UK.  It is part of the same family as cod and haddock but it is delicious and so light.  There is something about Thai food which doesn't crowd out mild flavours but lets them sing and enhances their delicacy in balance.  Or at least that's what I think!

This is steamed hake with a well flavoured Thai style broth.  Delicious to make you feel good from the inside out.

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Mulled Apple Juice

Christmas.  Like it or loathe it, it's not far away.  In my house, Christmas presents are being bought, house is getting sorted, old toys no longer played with are being smuggled out of the house... I'm joking.  He'd see me a mile off and I'd never get away with it but I try.

But upcoming is the season of over indulgence, too much alcohol, food, partying and for many, a busy work period too.  Time to look after yourself.

I experimented last year with mulled grape juice and thought I'd see if something would work with apple juice and you know, it does.  It's a great way for drivers and non drinkers to feel like you've made an effort.

If you kept this warm, the spices would only infuse for longer which would be no bad thing.

Sunday, 25 October 2015

Autumn Bircher Muesli

I posted a very fruity Bircher muesli back in May but the seasons have moved on and berries are not so plentiful in the shops.  My Braeburn apple tree is laden with fruit begging to be picked and eaten.  This year has been a fantastic year for apples and there is something about autumn which just makes me crave the flavours of cinnamon.

Perhaps not quite as healthy as my previous version but certainly seasonal.  Nothing makes you feel better than eating fruit within minutes of picking it.

Saturday, 24 October 2015

Friday, 23 October 2015

Vegetable Biriyani

I had a day off this week and so went to one of my favourite thrift second hand shops.  I know, it's a bit sad having a favourite shop for this kind of thing but this has all kinds of furniture and bric a brac. When you're a food blogger, however much you tell yourself you don't need any more props, there is part of you that uses the blog as an excuse because you love kitchen stuff.  Oh yes (and I have a small kitchen.  I may need to rationalise although I also have the unhappy habit of being clumsy so a dish doesn't always last long.)

The reason I digress into my obsession with baking dishes is I came across a small oven proof dish with a lid and it got me thinking.  I had always wanted to cook a proper biriyani in the dum method where you seal the lid with a simple flour and water dough.  I once had such a dish in Leicester town centre with melt in the mouth mutton but I also wanted to try it as a vegan dish.

And do you know what?  I have no idea as to the authenticity of this, I made this dish to my taste and I loved it.  I hope you love it too.  The saffron is a pricey addition but does add more to the flavour than you'd imagine but no problem if you miss it out.

The curry made double the amount of sauce I could fit into my pot, if you have a larger pot you could use more or freeze the other half to use for a delicious mid week biriyani or as a simple chickpea curry as part of a thali.  The recipe is also easy to double for two, just cook more rice.

Apologies for the presentation of this, it tasted and smelled great, I wanted to get straight to eating.

Thursday, 22 October 2015

Quick noodle salad for a work lunch

This is not so much a recipe as an assembly but it tastes great, it's filling and depending on the noodles you use, can be gluten free or vegan.  You want to use a firm noodle for this, nothing too mushy.

Wednesday, 21 October 2015

Apple, walnut and chestnut stuffing

I love a bit of chestnut stuffing, it was a glorious Christmas treat when I was little but a tin of chestnut puree makes it so much easier to make this lovely autumnal or winter treat.  I would happily (and did) eat this as a dish on it's own but it's equally great as a side dish with roast chicken or turkey and fantastic cold in sandwiches.  This forms quite a loose stuffing but a very tasty one.

chestnut stuffing

This is easily doubled or even quadrupled if cooking for more people but just be wary that the cooking time will lengthen if you cook more in a larger dish.

Sunday, 11 October 2015

Simple Apple Tart

This simple apple tart was inspired by my laden apple tree in my garden and a roll of puff pastry in my fridge.  I love this kind of recipe as it was an absolute doddle to make and looks and tastes like more than the sum of it's parts.

I cooked this in an oven with Sunday lunch to maximise the use of the oven space to keep things a bit more thrifty.

Saturday, 10 October 2015

Savoury Goats Cheesecake

Cheesecake?  Savoury?!  I remember hearing the concept of "cheesecake" when I was about 10.  It wasn't common in the UK before the late 80s or 90s to have cheesecake and the only ones you could find in the shops were from a cake mix packet with some blackcurrant compote on top.  I remember thinking it very odd to have cheese in a cake (as my mental image was of a block of cheddar) and shouldn't cheese be savoury?

Well this version is savoury and it would make a delicious main meal for a vegetarian guest or possibly a starter.  Don't underestimate this though as it is very filling with all of the lovely goats cheese inside but definitely a success.  Even my 5 year old proclaimed this a winning recipe!

I've suggested this may be for 2 but if you are very hungry it might be a single person portion (although be warned it is rich), alternatively, keep half in the fridge for a lovely lunch the next day.

Goats cheesecake

Thursday, 8 October 2015

Fig and Goats Cheese Tart

A friend of mine kindly brought me a jar of delicious beetroot chutney to say thank you for cooking him dinner.  Sadly for him, he got what can best be described as "Mum food" and then I make this for myself instead.  Hardly fair.  Sorry mate.

Anyway, this is super quick, using ready rolled puff pastry, this is in the oven in 5 minutes and cooked in 12.  Fantastic when you've had a busy day.

Wednesday, 7 October 2015

Don't forget to enjoy food!

I try to eat reasonably healthily but I am not ruled by it.  My ethos, as the name of my blog would suggest is that food is enjoyable, food is lovely and I cook for people I care about (including me).  So often though, especially when people are trying to be healthy or trying to lose weight, people lose sight of this.  So, on this Wednesday morning, I thought I'd try and help you fall back in love with food!

Friday, 2 October 2015

Sea bass with Crayfish

Sea bass and sea bream are my absolute favourite fish.  When I first started working, nearly every Saturday I would go to the fishmonger in my local market and buy a sea bass or sea bream.  It was a wonderfully indulgent treat on my meagre salary at the time.  I would bake it and have it simply with vegetables, sometimes some salsa verde or a butter sauce but ultimately just enjoy the fish.

Nowadays, sadly I don't live near a good fishmonger and sometimes sea bass and sea bream can be hard to find in good condition but today, some lovely looking sea bass fillets caught my eye.  A pack of prepared crayfish also went into my basket and an idea was born.

I have been fantastically lucky with the green beans in my garden this year.  Despite an inauspicious start, the beautiful autumn sunshine we have been enjoying has lead to a bumper crop and the flavour has been amazing.  I had never noticed the slight hint of bitterness in a green bean until seconds of my beautifully sweet beans, devoid of bitterness were being fought over last weekend by me and my 5 year old son.  That is a good sign.  Anyway, green beans are a fantastic foil for fish fillet but you could always make it even more substantial with some slices of cooked waxy potatoes.

Thursday, 1 October 2015

Courgette and Pepper Tian

I love a good tian.  It's a lovely late summer or early autumn dish.  This is a fantastic vegetarian meal for one or a great side dish.

Wednesday, 30 September 2015

Quinoa and Fig Salad

I love quinoa.  I know that's so uncool nowadays but it does taste great, it's a great source of protein and a great foil for a nice vinaigrette.

Sunday, 27 September 2015

Salami Quesadillas

Quesadillas are the frittata or bubble and squeak of the Mexican world.  Use up what you have and delight in the results.  They are a great way to have something decent, filling and avoiding food waste.  These are mildly spiced, only from the salami so if you like your food hotter, have some salsa on the side for dipping.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Grape and Parma Ham Salad

This is a delicious light salad, fantastic for a starter / appetiser, side dish or light, fresh and delicious main meal.  It looks and tastes delicious with fantastic balance of sour and sweet from the grapes and balsamic vinegar.  Delicious, healthy and great if you are gluten free.

Monday, 21 September 2015

Basa with Tomato Dressing

I bought a basa fillet for my lunch on Friday and I was inspired to cook it in the most simple way possible.  My herbs in the garden are still at their verdant best and the tomatoes in the greenhouse still managing to produce the occasional (but delicious and sweet) fruit.

Tuesday, 15 September 2015

Chopped Salad with Sticky Glazed Pork Belly

A delicious chopped salad with glazed pork belly.  Fantastic both hot and cold, in fact, it's worth making a little extra as I did to have the leftovers in a salad the next day (wait for jealous looks from your colleagues).

Saturday, 12 September 2015

How to fit in exercise as a busy parent

As many people reading this blog will know, nearly 4 years ago I didn't exercise at all.  I tell a lie, my only exercise, which is significant, was pushing my toddler in his push chair, mostly thinking "please have a nap!"  I was busy, recently having returned to the workplace, I had a blog, Mamacook all about kids food.  Life was just work, son, more son and everything surrounding my son.

Gradually over those years I've taken myself from someone who would baulk at the idea of getting sweaty to someone who is almost in tears that I can "only" run three miles at the moment due to injury.  Injury is another story however, (physio pending) but despite this I keep exercising and now, working 4 days a week in a much more demanding job which often results in me travelling for meetings, I still fit in 4-6 exercise sessions a week.  So here I am to convince you that you can too.  Try for 3 times a week to start with, a time commitment of only 90 minutes or less than 1% of your week.  Some tips will work better if your child is in school or preschool or if you work part time but I promise you that something will help even if you have no childcare and no support.

Friday, 11 September 2015

A week of healthy lunches

We forget sometimes when the kids go back to school that it's not only kids who deserve a decent lunch.

Lunch is the meal of the day where it's easy to buy a floppy sandwich (at great expense) or end up with a less than nutritional meal.  Last time I bought a lunch from my work canteen, the choice was 100% brown or beige, not a green vegetable to be seen.  I'm not sure about you but that's not just unhealthy, it's uninspiring!

Lunch is not just about sustenance either.  Lunch is a break from the working day (even if you eat at your desk).  It's a change, it's something different to do for a while.  Even if you don't take a proper break, a proper lunch can make it into a proper break.

Now look at these 5 meals and tell me you're not inspired?

The box is a simple £1 lunchbox from poundland.  I hadn't noticed until looking back at my week how little meat there is and no wheat.  This isn't deliberate, it's just what I like to eat, a lot of fruit, a lot of vegetables, not masses of starchy foods, some fish and occasional meat.  Sums it all up really!

I've not listed these as individual recipes on my blog because, apart from the Frittata, it's really only assembly which is great if you're a bit bleary eyed in the morning and the frittata is so great as a leftover that my suggestion is you make it for your tea one day and then have leftovers for lunch.

Saturday, 5 September 2015

Provencal style sandwich

This is inspired by a pan bagnat which is a sandwich filled with layers of beautiful ingredients similar to a nicoise salad.

I however, have made it my own so purists, look away, this is not a pan bagnat but it is a sandwich filled with delicious ingredients.

Wednesday, 2 September 2015

Goats Cheese and Courgette Tian

This is the time of year when courgettes (zucchini) and tomatoes are at their best but at the same time it's easy to get that "glut" feeling.  This was an attempt at a very different type of dish with the most seasonal of ingredient and, do you know what?  It was a delicious delight.  In fact, it was so lovely, I'm going to make it again this week.

You need nothing more than some crusty bread to make this into a meal as it sops up the lovely juices but it could also be a rich side dish.

Vegetable Tian

Saturday, 29 August 2015

What does 5 a day mean?

"5 a day" has been the advice given to UK consumers for over 10 years; that is, for optimum health you should eat a minimum of 5 different fruits and vegetables a day.

This came from world health organisation advice that we should eat 400g of non starchy fruits and vegetables daily, this is because insufficient intake of fruit and vegetables causes deaths.  Yes, you read that right.  If a drug was this effective, it would be the new wonder potion and people would pay a fortune for it.

Different governments have interpreted this differently but in the UK the government broke this down into five 80g portions.

But this is the thing; it is a minimum not a target and sadly it's not worked.

Tuesday, 25 August 2015

Cherry Ripple Ice Cream with Chocolate and Cherry Sauce

I'm sat writing this at the weekend as the sun has just gone behind a cloud.  Although the sun has been glorious, the strong wind is a taste of things to come.  Mid way through tomorrow, temperatures will have plunged along with most peoples desire for ice cream; but I will soldier on!  After all if Haagan Dazs can make a fortune from people buying ice cream all year round, I will assume people may still be eating it as the weather cools.  Just imagine in winter, warm chocolate brownies with cherry ice cream and chocolate cherry sauce... are you thinking my way yet?  Oh yes!

This was inspired by Black Forest Gateau, that 1970s creation of chocolate sponge, cream and cherries.  I have to admit I loved it when I had it as a child in the 80s and 90s and would still happily eat it now but baking a sponge cake for one feels like a bit too much effort on a lazy weekend day so I made ice cream instead.

I would suggest serving this with some extra fresh cherries if you have any, unfortunately due to bad planning I had none when I came to photograph it.  Obviously the sauce is optional but it is delicious and very easy to make.  I would suggest keeping excess sauce for later and I wanted to see if it went too thick (as it could easily serve 2) but I ate it all.  It was blooming lovely!

The amount here is a bit better sized than my mocha ice cream which, although delicious, felt like I was eating it for weeks.  You could easily double the mix though and it might be nice to make two different flavours, a conventional raspberry ripple might be nice or try my coffee and chocolate ice cream.

Monday, 24 August 2015

So your child is starting school?

It seems like yesterday my son started school but amazingly nearly a year has passed.  My son attends a huge but fantastic primary school of nearly 600 children but the change and growth in him has been amazing.

I thought I'd share some top tips with nervous parents approaching this for the first time.

Sunday, 23 August 2015

Goats Cheese Stuffed Chicken

This used to be an almost weekly dish in my household but due to not eating as much meat recently I've not eaten it as often but when I was thinking about alternative Sunday Lunches for one, this seemed ideal.

Having it again was a delight, I will have to make it more often!

Friday, 21 August 2015

Broad Bean and Soy Salad

This is an inspired and super healthy lunch containing two of your five a day.  This drew jealous stares from colleagues as well.

Wednesday, 19 August 2015

Assiette of Tomatoes

Tomatoes are lovely at this time of year, the perfect combination of sweetness, a touch of acidity with the perfume of summer.

My home grown tomatoes are finally at their fragrant best.  Resisting the urge to just eat them as they are or with the merest drizzle of olive oil and vinegar (delicious though that is), I decided to get a bit poncy.  Sorry, but I love tomatoes so much I decided to make myself an assiette of some of the most delicious ways to eat them.