What I'm cooking and eating

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Galettes au sarrasin (buckwheat pancakes)

Buckwheat pancakes are what you get for your main course in a French creperie - usually filled with things like grated Emmenthal, ham and a fried egg (galette complete). I absolutely adore them, and although I have just discovered that we have a creperie called Brick Box in Brixton market, I have never been there. We did go to a creperie in Lille last weekend, though.

I have long wanted to try making my own, and even bought some buckwheat flour when I was in France in May, but somehow never got round to it. I find making pancakes difficult, and never do except on Shrove Tuesday. But I decided it was feeble not to use the flour I'd bought, and we had a friend staying, so I gritted my teeth and googled for recipes. This one was the easiest and simplest of them all. I adapted it for 3 people, as follows:

200 g buckwheat flour (you can buy this at Wholefoods Market, I believe, and maybe even in Sainsbury's or Waitrose)
1/2 teaspoonful salt
500 ml cold water
1 egg

Whisk all this together and let it stand for up to 2 hours (frankly, I only let it stand 10 minutes). You think at first that it's going to be far too thin, but it isn't. I suspect that my vegan friends could leave the egg out without too many problems.

Heat a large frying-pan and grease it very lightly. Pour a ladleful of batter and juggle the pan so it covers the whole surface. Let it cook until it's nearly set on the top, then flip it over with a spatula to cook the other side. The smoke alarm will probably go off, but don't let that worry you! Put the galette on a plate or something in a low oven to keep warm, and repeat until all the batter is used up. I made 3 pancakes that were probably slightly thicker than is ideal, but they were very good.

I didn't dare try the traditional filling with an egg, plus it would have taken too long for the 3 of us, so instead I fried up some lardons, then added some vegetables and tomato sauce left over from the previous evening's meal. Smeared this mixture over the pancakes, added some goats' cheese, and folded them in half, then served with a very simple lettuce-cucumber-tomato salad. Delicious!

Monday, 14 November 2011


I don't believe I've ever posted my pizza recipe - it may have been on my web page, come to think of it, but I don't think I've posted it here. Although I do buy pizza sometimes, I really like a home-made one.

250 g bread mix - in an ideal world something like Wright's sundried tomato and parmesan bread mix, although I didn't see that in Waitrose today so have settled for their oat and linseed one, to which I have added a teaspoonful of mixed herbs and a few chopped, sundried tomatoes.

1 onion, chopped
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
A little olive oil
Sloosh of tomato paste
1 tin chopped tomatoes

Toppings, as liked: sliced red onions, chopped chillis, sweetcorn, sliced tomatoes, sliced mushrooms, pepperoni, ham..... and don't forget sliced or grated Mozzarella.

Make the bread up according to the instructions on the packet, and allow to rise (I use a bread maker on the "dough" setting). Meanwhile, start the onion in the microwave, or fry in the olive oil until golden. Add the crushed garlic and tomato paste and stir well, then add the tin of tomatoes. Season to taste - I like my pizzas fairly spicy so added some chilli/garlic salt as well as herbs and pepper. Bring to the boil, and allow to simmer for up to an hour to reduce.

When the dough is well-risen, knead it again, then roll it out to a square or circle or whatever is easiest. Place on a pizza stone or baking tray or one of those things with holes in it. Spread the tomato sauce on the top, then add your choice of toppings. Cook in a fairly hot oven for about 30-40 minutes.

Sunday, 30 October 2011

Lemon Marmalade

Our jam cupboard was looking like Old Mother Hubbard's, so I have had a jam-making session. And we are rather low on marmalade, and my daughter has run out, so, following up on a conversation with her, I decided to try making lemon marmalade. You can't make proper marmalade at this time of year, of course, as the Seville oranges aren't available, and 3-fruit (sweet orange, lemon and grapefruit) can be fearfully over-sweet and tasteless. The only alternative is to buy a tin of Ma Made and make it up from that, which is one step up from buying it, but.....

So I made lemon marmalade, like this:

3-4 lemons. Weigh them, and take an equal amount of sugar, and an approximately equal amount of water. My lemons weighed 570 g, so I took that amount of sugar, and 600 ml water.

Put the whole lemons and water into a pressure cooker, bring up to high pressure and cook for 20 minutes. Allow pressure to reduce at room temperature. Fish out the lemons with a slotted spoon and let them cool. When cool enough to handle, chop them up such that the peel is in marmalade-sized chunks (I found slicing them lengthwise then crosswards worked best. Remove any pips.

Return the chopped lemons into the water, and add the sugar. Heat gently until the sugar has dissolved, then bring to a vigorous boil and cook, stirring continuously, for 5-10 minutes until it gels. Let sit for 10 minutes, then pour into hot, sterile jars, and cover.

Sunday, 16 October 2011

Mushrooms and Stilton on toast

We ended up eating lunch at Pizza Express today with family and friends, so didn't want a big dinner. But we wanted a little something, so I made Portabello mushrooms on toast with Stilton:

All you do is peel a large mushroom per person and spray it with oil; microwave for about 1 minute (for 2 mushrooms), then put Stilton (or other cheese, but I like Stilton) on top of the gills and put under the grill until it melts. Serve on buttered toast!

Easy, quick and delicious!

Friday, 14 October 2011

I am neglectful!

I haven't updated this in a million years, but I haven't been cooking all that much that is different, to be honest! For instance, these will be our main meals next week:

Friday (tonight):
Roast butternut squash, couscous, feta cheese and cherry tomato sauce

Sausages, mash, baked beans, leeks (Husband's Saturday-night must-have!)

Bought pie, new potatoes, sprouts, peas.

Fish pie, cabbage or sprouts.

Veggie chilli with rice & grated cheese

Either left-over fish pie or Chinese take-away

As Tuesday

Probably oven fish and chips with battered calamari rings, a green vegetable and mayonnaise!

Looks remarkably unenterprising, but there are only so many meals in the week!

Tuesday, 13 September 2011

Pasta e fagioli revisited

This version was much nicer!

1/2 cup beans (I used black-eyed peas, as I had a packet open)
1 onion
1 large clove garlic
Sloosh tomato paste
1 leek
1 courgette
1/2 punnet mushrooms
Any other veg you have that want using (I used 1/2 head broccoli)
1 chilli pepper (optional)
1 tin tomatoes
c 400-450 ml vegetable stock (Knorr stock-pot)
100 g chunky pasta (I used those nice shells whose name I can never spell)
To serve: Parmesan cheese

At breakfast-time on the morning you wish to eat this, put the beans to soak in cold water. That evening, rinse them and cook them for 15 minutes in a pressure cooker, or as long as it takes in a conventional saucepan (at least 30 minutes, quite probably longer if the beans are older). Drain, and reserve. Put some olive oil into the pan (save washing up!) and add the chopped onions and garlic. Fry for a few minutes, then add the tomato paste. Stir well. Now add the rest of the vegetables, again, all chopped, and stir. Lastly, add the tin of tomatoes and the stock. Let simmer for about 5-10 minutes, then add the pasta and continue to boil gently until it's cooked. Serve in soup bowls with grated Parmesan.

This was much nicer than the slow-cooked version! Plenty to do the 2 of us twice.

Sunday, 4 September 2011

Cheese Spread

Oh dear, is it really almost a month since I last posted? Going back to work is not good for my cooking - I tend to do what is quick and easy, rather than be adventurous I did try to make a cross between risotto and ratatouille in the slow cooker, but it was a Dismal Failure the first time, and mushy the second - I ended up having to add some beans to it to give it some texture!

Anyway, I am also making sandwiches 3 days a week (if I get around to it!), and this recipe is good for using up those odds and ends of cheese that have gone rather hard in the fridge.

30g butter
1 small or 1/2 large onion
2 small or 1 large tomatoes
1 clove garlic
1 egg
About 200g cheese of various kinds - grate that which is grateable, and chop or slice the Brie-types.
Seasoning to taste (Worcester sauce really works, if you're not vegetarian so can use it Failing that, try a dash of soya sauce in addition to the usual)

Chop onion and garlic and cook for 3 minutes in the microwave (if you don't use microwaves, skip this, and cook it in the butter very gently for about 20-25 minutes, unil soft). Add to saucepan with melted butter and peeled and chopped tomatoes. Cook gently until done, then add the cheese and let it melt. Finally add the egg and seasoning and stir until all is mixed together, the cheese is melted and the egg is cooked. Will keep for a week or so in the fridge, but keep it covered.

Monday, 8 August 2011

Lazy Mediterranean pilaff

This is a recipe I have been making for at least 25 years! It is normally made with chicken and in a conventional oven, but I had some thawed-out pork chops, so....

Serves 2

1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1/2 green pepper, chopped
1/2 punnet mushrooms, sliced
About 6 sun-dried tomatoes, chopped
12 olives (ideally fresh and black but I had to use bottled stuffed green, which weren't too bad).
1/2 cup - 125 ml - Basmati rice
About 350 ml stock (chicken if you're using chicken, vegetable if not; if you're my mother you'll probably use beef or something home-made!)
2 pork chops

Sear the chops in a little olive oil. Deglaze the pan with the stock. Put everything else in the slow cooker, stir well, put the chops on the top and pour the stock over. Turn on the slow cooker and let it cook while you're at work.

Tuesday, 26 July 2011

Swiss Breakfast

AKA Bircher Muesli. This is very like what we used to have at school; much nicer, in my opinion, than the cereal-type mueslis one can get these days.

Equal quantities (probably about 1/2 cup each) porridge oats OR muesli base, milk, orange or multi-vitamin juice, natural yoghurt.
1 apple, peeled and grated
Other fruit, fresh (ideally) or dried. I used a peach, an apricot and some strawberries. You can use frozen fruit, too, if you like - frozen rasps are good. If you want to use bananas, add them at the last minute or they'll go slimy. In the winter, sultanas or dried cranberries are very good. It needn't be the same twice!

Mix everything together, stirring well so that the apple doesn't discolour. Leave in fridge overnight. Will keep 2-3 days. Serves 3-4 people.

Friday, 22 July 2011

Pasta e fagioli

This is my take on what I understand to be one of those Italian peasant dishes that you basically make the way you like! It would be a lot quicker to use tinned beans, but might be a bit soggy.

1/2 cup each blackeyed peas and cannellini beans (or a 400g tin cannellini beans)
100 g small pasta (I used coquillettes)
1 400-g tin tomatoes
2 small or 1 large onions
2-3 cloves garlic
1/2 punnet chestnut mushrooms
1 medium courgette
Large sloosh tomato paste
About 300 ml red wine (I had some that had been open too long)
About 300 ml vegetable stock (Knorr Stockpot)
Seasoning to taste (I used herbs, Season-all, chilli salt, black pepper and a little soya sauce)

If using dried beans, soak them overnight, then cook in fresh water for about 30-40 minutes, or until tender.

Meanwhile, peel and chop the onion and start it in the microwave. Put a little olive oil and/or butter in a saucepan and add the crushed garlic and mushrooms; stir and allow to cook gently for several minutes. Now add the onions and tomato paste, then the vegetable stock (to mix in the Stockpot). Put all this into a slow cooker, together with the rest of the ingredients. Stir well, and leave to cook until supper time!

It was good, but the pasta slightly went to nothing. It might be better to be cooked on top of the stove, very gently, or in the oven. If you don't have as much wine to spare as I did, just use water, but it might want grated cheese on it. However, the combination of beans and pasta means that it is a complete protein as is.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

Stuffed peppers

So easy it couldn't be easier!

1 packet risotto mix (I used Ainsley Harriott Asparagus & Leek as they were on special offer in Lidl a few weeks ago, and I always like Ainsley Harriott products as they are less salty than many/most prepared foods)
2-3 sweet peppers.
A little Parmesan cheese, shaved.

Prepare the risotto mixture as directed on the packet. Or you could make double quantities of risotto when you are making it and keep some specially.

Cut the top off the peppers and remove the insides. Put the risotto inside the peppers - if you have 3 peppers and only 2 of you, cut the smallest pepper in half lengthwise. Top with shaved parmesan, and put the "lids" of the peppers back on. Bake in a moderately hot oven for about an hour.

I served this with baked butternut squash, which I topped with rashers of bacon for the last 15 minutes of cooking time.

Thursday, 14 July 2011

Courgette Crumble

Another old friend! Serves 2, but can, of course, be scaled up as necessary.

1 medium or 2 small courgettes (zucchini, if you're American!)
A little butter and/or cooking oil
1 clove garlic, crushed
2 eggs
60 g strong cheese, grated
1/2 cup uncooked white rice
2 slices wholegrain bread

Cook the rice the way you usually do. Meanwhile, slice the courgettes very thinly, and sauté with the oil, butter and garlic until soft. Mix with the cooked rice, the eggs, 1/2 the grated cheese and salt and pepper to taste. Make a topping with the bread and the rest of the cheese, reduced to crumbs in a food processor. Place in an oven-proof dish and top with the breadcrumb-and-cheese mixture. Bake in a moderate oven for about 30 minutes.

Friday, 24 June 2011

Pasta with more bits!

I think this technique of slow-frying (I can't think what else to call it!) is seriously brilliant; I do wish I'd discovered it long since. I've never cared for cabbage when it has been sautéed, always finding it too bitter, too raw-tasting, and have always steamed or microwaved it. But done this way, it was superb! I can see myself cooking more and more vegetables in this way, although I'm not too sure one could cook broccoli like this?

1 packet Lardons
1/2 sweetheart cabbage
1 large onion
Chunk of fresh goats' or similar soft cheese
100 g pasta

Put the lardons in a large saucepan or lidded frying-pan and heat gently until they start to render. Add the chopped onion and cabbage, and stir thoroughly. Cover, and cook over a gentle heat for 10-15 minutes, stirring regularly. Then lower the heat as low as it will go and let it sit and finish cooking for another 10-15 minutes. Meanwhile, cook the pasta as per usual, and then mix into the bacon and cabbage mix. Stir in the goats' cheese, if using (or you could add some grated Parmesan afterwards, or leave it out), and adjust the seasoning.

Thursday, 23 June 2011

Tomato tart

This is adapted from David Lebovitz' recipe, and if you use bought, ready-rolled pastry it simply couldn't be easier!

1 packet pre-made pastry (I used pre-rolled puff, but you could use shortcrust if you prefer. Or you could make your own, but only if you are good at making pastry, which I'm not!)
1 quantity pesto.
1-2 really large and good quality tomatoes
1/2 roll goats' cheese (Lidl's Petit Chebra is perfect)

Grease a 9" tart tin, and cut the pastry to fit. Keep the trimmings - they can live to fight another day. Spead the pesto on to the pastry base, then slice the tomatoes and cover the pesto with the tomato slices. Put a slice of goats' cheese on the top of the tomatoes.

Bake in a hot oven - Mark 7, 220 C - for 30 minutes.

Tuesday, 21 June 2011


1 quantity basil leaves (I grab a pot of growing basil from the supermarket and give it a serious haircut!)
2 large cloves garlic
2 tbs nuts (pine nuts are traditional, but expensive; use any unsalted nuts. I have been known to use salted cashews in a pinch!)
2 tbs olive oil

Put this all in a food processor and whizz until it's as smooth as you can get it!

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Pasta and bits

Food this month has been a lot of experimenting, ever since I came back from France with one of those cookery magazines that you pick up in the supermarket. This one was all about using fresh cheeses on seasonal vegetables - lots of fresh goats' cheese, but also ordinary cream cheese, or even fromage blanc.

I've always made a "sauce" to go with pasta, and, of course, often have baked it in the oven as some variation on macaroni cheese. It's been a revelation to discover you don't actually have to make a specific sauce - you can just sauté, or I suppose even steam, your vegetables, add some fresh cheese, and you're laughing!

One of my favourites was based on a recipe in the magazine which called for you to stuff canneloni or similar with a mixture of fresh goats' cheese and chopped mint, and serve this on a bed of aubergine, which you have diced very small and cooked in a frying-pan with a lid for about 20 minutes with garlic, salt and pepper. This is a lovely way of cooking aubergine, which I had thought I didn't really like all that much - okay for a "filler" in a vegetable stew, but not so nice on its own. But this is lovely:

1 aubergine (size depending on how many people you want it to feed - 1/2 small one is fine for 2 people, I find), diced.
1 tbs olive oil (and it will ask for more, but don't let it be greedy!)
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed
salt and pepper

Put everything into a frying-pan or wok that has a lid, and fry gently for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Now lower the heat as low as it will go, cover, and let it cook in its own steam for a further 10 minutes. Serve with pasta and fresh cheese of some kind (cream cheese, fresh goats' cheese, Boursin, ricotta, cottage cheese, even Paneer might be nice) which you have stirred through and heated gently. Chopped fresh herbs add greatly to this, too.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Fruit Cake

I don't know why Americans don't like fruit cake - this is delicious, moist, relatively low in fat, and keeps for ages! The nuts are optional, if you don't care for them, simply omit them.

120 g stoned prunes
500 g mixed cake fruit (DON'T buy the supermarket "Value" varieties - this is where it really does pay to buy the slightly more expensive kind. My mother buys the "Finest" range; I, meaner, buy the intermediate one)
3 eggs
150 g sugar
250 g self-raising flour
Pinch salt
Tsp mixed spice
Optional: 200g pack chopped nuts
Optional: Blanched whole almonds

Cover the prunes with water, bring to the boil, leave to cool. It makes the cake moister if you cover the fruit with tea (or perhaps lager or dark beer) and allow it to soak for 6 hours or so, but you don't have to do this. I added some spice to the tea, or you could use that Indian spiced tea.

Cream the prunes, sugar, eggs, and 3 tbs of the soaking liquid in a food processor. Transfer to a large bowl and fold in the sifted flour and then the dried fruit and nuts if using. Transfer to a greased 7" (18 cm) (cake tin and cover the top with almonds in a pretty pattern. Or not. Sprinkle with Demerara sugar.

Bake in a low oven (250 F, 125 C, Mark 1) for 2 1/2 hours.

Tuesday, 24 May 2011

Lentil Salad

3/4 cup (190 ml) Puy or other small green lentils
1 stock cube, tsp stock powder or gel pot
About 1/3-1/2 cucumber
1 bunch spring onions
125 g (roughly) Feta or similar cheese
2 tbs olive oil
1 tbs Balsamic vinegar

Cook the lentils in plenty of water with the stock added. They will take about 30-35 minutes. Drain, then stir in the chopped cucumber, spring onions and cheese. Add the oil and vinegar. Stir well and leave to cool before serving.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Summer rice salad

This is adapted from a Rose Elliott recipe.

1 cup Basmati rice (250 ml)
500 ml boiling water
Pinch salt

4 large tomatoes (best quality, please; ideally vine-ripened)
2 medium-sized avocadoes
1 large or 2 small bunches locally-grown asparagus

2 tbs olive oil
2-3 tbs lemon juice
Dried garlic.

Put the rice in a large pan with the pinch of salt and the boiling water. Bring back to the boil, then reduce the flame to the merest candle, as low as possible, and leave undisturbed for 15 minutes (45 if you are using brown rice, which is excellent in this salad).

Meanwhile, stand the tomatoes in boiling water for 1 minute, then refresh, so that the skins slip off easily. Chop. Peel and chop the avocados, and sprinkle with at least 1 tbs of the lemon juice, to avert discolouration. Steam the asparagus, and then chop.

When the rice is cooked, let stand for 5 minutes to absorb any surplus water, then sprinkle with the garlic (the original recipe calls for you to crush a clove of garlic into it, which I usually do, but thought it would overwhelm the asparagus. Nevertheless, it does need a touch), salt and pepper, then stir in the oil and the rest of the lemon juice. Then stir in the vegetables and mix thoroughly. Allow to cool before serving.

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Mum's Trout

My mother may be 83, but she is still a marvellous cook, and this is one of her specialities, so I hope I do it right. These are her instructions:

1 trout
Butter, salt, pepper, lemon-juice

Butter the tinfoil and add salt, pepper, and lemon juice. Put the trout down on it, and add more butter, salt, pepper and lemon juice to it. Fold the foil so it encloses the tail section of the trout, but don't close it up so that the steam can escape. Bake for about 20 minutes at 180 C (in a fan oven) - that's 200 C in an ordinary one, mark 6. Open the foil to allow the steam to escape while it cools.

To serve cold, she removes the skin, and sometimes the spine as well ("But it never looks so tidy!") and covers it with sliced cucumber so the joins don't show. With little rolls of smoked salmon on the side, and perhaps some prawns as well (you'll be lucky, in this household - I don't eat prawns!). And lots of different kinds of salads.

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Texas Caviare

I haven't abandoned this blog; it's just that I have been very dull about food this month, mostly because we are between holidays and the plainer the better! However, I have a family dinner tomorrow, and am making salad, and since some of my friends list had no idea what Texas caviare was, I thought I would post my recipe. Obviously, if you google, you'll see everybody else's take on it, and mine is a bit of a synthesis thereof!

3/4 cup (I do use American cups for things like beans; it's about 190 ml in a measuring jug) dried black-eye peas
1/2 small red onion
1 chilli pepper
1 yellow or red pepper
1 punnet cherry tomatoes
1 small tin sweetcorn (or an equivalent amount of frozen sweetcorn that you have microwaved)
3 tbs bought salad dressing - Italian dressing is the classic, but I only had honey mustard in a bottle, so used that!

Soak the peas overnight. Next day, rinse thoroughly and cook in plenty of water, boiling fairly hard, for about 30 minutes - they may need more if you have had the packet for awhile, so taste after 30 minutes and then see. If they are cooked, drain, rinse, and allow to cool.

Chop the onion and peppers and halve the tomatoes. Drain the sweetcorn. Mix everything together and let sit overnight for the flavours to mingle.

Saturday, 7 May 2011

Pasta with asparagus, Parmesan and pine nuts

This was inspired by our recent holiday in Italy, Austria and Germany, where every restaurant offered a wide range of dishes containing asparagus! And most also offered wild garlic soup, too!

Serves 2:

100 g pasta (I used tagliatelle, but whatever!)
1/2 tbs olive oil
Small piece butter
1 tbs pine nuts
60 g Parmesan cheese, grated
1 bunch locally-grown asparagus

Cook the pasta as directed on the packet, and steam the asparagus (on top of the pasta, if you like, but I used a microwave steamer). Meanwhile, put the butter and oil into another saucepan, and when heated, add the pine nuts and toast gently for a few moments. Drain the pasta, and stir into this mixture, then stir in the Parmesan. Serve in bowls with the steamed asparagus on top.

Friday, 15 April 2011

More variations - Farmyard Macaroni

The French call toasted goats' cheese "Hot Goat", so I thought of calling this "Macaroni goat", but with the addition of the bacon, it turned into a farmyard medley! Serves 2.

100 g macaroni or similar pasta
1 packet (180 g) lardons
1 large leek
1-2 tomatoes
330 ml goats' milk
1 tbs plain flour
1 small goats' cheese (Le Petit Chebra, from Lidl)

Cook the macaroni according to the instructions on the packet. Meanwhile, cook the bacon in a saucepan (no need to add fat), then add the chopped leek and a couple of spoonsful of water, cover, and leave to cook in its own steam for a few minutes. Whisk the flour into the milk, together with some mustard or pepper (no need to add salt), then pour this mix on to the leeks/bacon, and bring to the boil, stirring all the time. Add the cooked pasta, and transfer to an oven-proof dish. Topped with sliced tomato and slices of goats' cheese, and bake in a moderately hot oven for about 30-45 minutes (it's pretty forgiving).

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Lentil Curry

I hadn't been planning on having curry tonight, but my day was upset by a failure of UPS to deliver - was unable to get to the supermarket! So two vegan meals two days running (last night was a vegetable stew served with Tesco's quinoa/bulghur mix with tahini dressing stirred through).

2 tbs olive oil
2 tsp hot curry powder
1/2 tsp each garam marsala, turmeric and asafoetida
1 large onion
1 apple
1 banana
1 green pepper
1 courgette
1 carrot
1 tin tomatoes
About 3/4 cup red lentils (dhal)
350 ml vegetable stock
1 tbs coconut milk powder
1 tbs each sultanas and dried cranberries

Fry the spices in the olive oil for a minute or two, then add the fresh fruit and vegetables which you have previously chopped into small pieces. Stir well, and allow to cook until they almost burn, at which point add the rest of the ingredients. Season to taste - if it lacks umami, add a bit of soya sauce - and allow to simmer for an hour or so. Serve with rice, and natural yoghurt if liked (but obvs it's not vegan unless you use soya yoghurt!).

Friday, 8 April 2011

Variations on a theme

I thought this would be nice, but it was even nicer than I thought it was going to be!
Serves 2

1 small leek
1 small head cauliflower
2 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
2 "skinless, boneless" coley fillets
250 ml milk
2 tsp plain flour
1/4 tsp mustard powder
Salt and pepper to taste
About 30 g grated Cheddar cheese
100 g tagliatelli or other pasta

Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet. Separate the cauliflower head into florets and steam. Chop the leek, and cook in about 1/2 tbs olive oil (I added 2 tbs water from the pasta when it was hot). Thaw the fish until you can dice it, and chop the hard-boiled eggs. Whisk the flour, milk, mustard, salt and pepper together, and pour on to the leeks. Bring to the boil, stirring all the time. Add the fish and allow to cook for a minute or two. Then add the eggs and the drained pasta, and the cauliflower if there's room. If not, put the cauliflower into an ovenproof dish, and pour the rest of it over it. Stir well to mix. Top with grated cheese and bake in a moderately hot oven for 30 minutes.

Thursday, 7 April 2011


When you haven't got what you need, you need to make do with what you have! This is probably not risotto as Italians know it, but it is good!
Serves 4.

A little butter
1 large onion
1/2 pack chestnut mushrooms
1/2 small butternut squash
1 cupful arborio rice
Dregs of a bottle of red wine (about 1/2 glass, I think)
Roughly 1 litre chicken or vegetable stock
1 packet Feta cheese

Chop the vegetables and cook in the butter for a few minutes. Add the rice and stir until everything is well mixed. Add the red wine and stir, then add all the stock, bring to the boil and simmer gently for 20 minutes. Then stir, and if it's still rather liquidy, reset timer for a further 10 minutes. Meanwhile, chop up the Feta. Once the liquid is all absorbed, stir again, and stir in the Feta cheese.

Friday, 1 April 2011

Etta's Seafood Restaurant, "Brixton Village"

I clearly fail as a food blogger, as I so seldom have my camera with me.

The Swan Whisperer was taking me out for dinner to celebrate our wedding anniversary, and after much discussion and wandering round, we ended up at Etta's Seafood Restaurant in what is now poncily called Brixton Village, but always used to be Granville Arcade. The Arcades stay open late on Thursday, Friday and Saturday evenings, and there is no shortage of choice about what to eat. We could have had Japanese curry, or Thai, or several kinds of Italian, or general foodie-English, or vegetarian.... but in the end we chose fish. Most places appeared to charge between £7.00 and £10.00 for main courses, and this was no exception.

We were warmly welcomed - even though it is a fine Friday evening, the arcades were very quiet; I suppose Brixton just isn't used to eating there on a Friday night yet, as they've only recently started late night opening any time other than Thursdays. The café isn't licensed, but does operate a BYO policy, although as we hadn't known where we were going to eat we were unable to take advantage of this. So I drank fizzy water, and the Swan Whisperer had what was called tropical fruit juice but he said he thought was squash. Starters were £4.95 each - I ordered crab fitters and he ordered calamari rings, but as we had said we were going to mix and match, they came all on one plate, with mayonnaise and sweet chilli sauce for dipping. The batter was absolutely gorgeous - really light and crisp and delicious and seriously fattening.

I then opted for plain fish and chips, which were equally good - I did manage to leave some of the batter, which I thought was incredibly self-controlled of me, and the chips were lovely, thick cut, delicious. I couldn't eat them all, alas. The plate was garnished with what I always think of as West-Indian style salad - shredded lettuce, grated carrot and slices of cucumber (I think I have seen it at too many Church buffets, which is why I think of it as West-Indian style). And rather more coriander than I like - I don't exactly dislike it, I just find it rather overpowers everything else.

The SW ordered a mixed seafood linguine, which looked lovely if you like mussels and prawns and crab claws. I don't eat prawns, and only quite like mussels. The SW was quite convinced he had never had them before, but I'm sure he has. Anyway, he enjoyed it and cleaned his plate, although he was nearly as messy as The Boy by the time he was done.

All this came to about £30 for the two of us, with excellent and friendly service.

And on the way home we stopped off at the new ice-cream parlour in Market Row, which does a scoop of ice-cream for £1.75 with a cone for an extra 25p. And a topping, if you like. I had rum'n'raisin, and the SW had mint choc chip, both with caramel sauce. Very, very nice.... I do like rum'n'raisin!

Lentil Pie

This is a very old friend - an adaptation of a Rose Elliottrecipe.

1/2 cup red lentils (125 ml by volume)
1 onion, peeled and chopped
300 ml water or (preferably) vegetable stock
1 tbs lemon juice
1/2 tsp Marmite or 2 tsp soya sauce
1/2 pack mushrooms, sliced
2 large tomatoes, peeled and sliced
2 slices wholemeal bread
60 g cheese
(optional) 1 tbs sesame seeds

Cook the lentils and the onions in the stock for 20 minutes, or until tender. Meanwhile put the sliced mushrooms and tomatoes in the bottom of an oven-proof casserole, and sprinkle with salt and pepper, and perhaps some herbes de provence. Whizz the bread and cheese together until breadcrumbed, and stir in the sesame seeds, if using.

When the lentils are cooked whizz with the lemon juice and Marmite/soya sauce, and any other seasonings you fancy. Pour this mixture over the top of the tomato/mushroom mixture, and top with the breadcrumbs/cheese. Bake in a moderate oven for about 40 minutes.

Serve with salad or a green vegetable or two, according to taste.

Tuesday, 29 March 2011

Tahini dressing

This is a lovely way of adding flavour and protein to a vegan dish; my thanks to Heidi of 101 Cookbooks, whose recipe I have adapted:

2 tbs tahini (Sesame seed paste, rather like a sesame seed version of peanut butter; you can get it in the World Foods section of Sainsbury's, and occasionally in Tesco's)
2 tbs lemon juice
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 tbs boiling water

Shake everything together until it goes more-or-less solid. Is wonderful stirred through, say, bulghur wheat and chickpeas.

You could also make a similar dressing with peanut butter; Heidi suggests using rice vinegar instead of lemon juice with this - also very good, but quite different!

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Leek and broccoli barley bake

This is normally a variation on macaroni cheese; however, as I had cooked pearl barley from the lemon-barley water I'd made earlier, I thought I would see whether using barley instead of pasta would work - and it did! This variation also had mushrooms and tomatoes!

1/2 cup (125 ml) pearl barley, uncooked.
1 litre water
c 20 g butter
1/2 pack button mushrooms, sliced
1 leek, chopped
1/2 head broccoli, divided into florets and the stem chopped
2 tomatoes, thinly sliced
250 ml milk
1.5 tsp plain flour
(Allegedly) 60 g grated cheese (Cheddar and/or Emmenthal - but I think I used rather more than that, and it may even have been as much as 60g of each!)

Cook the barley in plenty of water, which you might then use to make lemon barley water. Or not. In either event, put the barley in an oven-proof dish.

Meanwhile, steam the broccoli, and cook the mushrooms and leeks in the butter. Whisk the flour and milk together with seasoning (salt, pepper and 1/4 tsp dry mustard will do), and pour on to the mushrooms/leeks. Stirring constantly, bring to the boil and allow to thicken. Turn off the heat and add half the cheese. Put the broccoli in with the barley and pour the sauce on the top. Stir until thoroughly mixed. Top with the sliced tomatoes and the rest of the grated cheese.

Bake in a moderately hot oven for 45 minutes.

Wednesday, 23 March 2011

Lemon Barley Water

This is lovely when you are not very well. Actually, it's lovely even when you are well, but I do try not to have drinks with calories in them (other than alcohol and maybe fruit juice) when I am well!

1/2 cup pearl barley
1 litre water
Generous pinch salt
3 large unwaxed lemons
100 g sugar
Another litre or so of water or ice!

Put the barley, water and salt into a saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer for about 40 minutes, until the barley is cooked. Drain, and put the barley to one side to use in something else.

Using a potato peeler or lemon zester, peel the lemons, being careful not to get any of the pith. Put the peel and the sugar into a plastic jug, then bring the barley water back to the boil and pour over it. Stir to dissolve the sugar, and leave to steep for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, squeeze the lemons.

Strain the barley water into the lemon juice, then top up with ice-cold water (or ice) to make about 1.5-2 litres. Serve as cold as you can (stir before serving if it's sat for a bit).

Saturday, 12 March 2011

Spicy tomato soup with noodles

1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
1 red pepper
1 large bag tomatoes (1 kg, probably)
1 chilli pepper
A bit of butternut squash, if you have any spare
1-2 litres boiling water
1 Knorr Vegetable Stock pot
Seasoning, including a little chilli sauce, if liked.
1 tbs olive oil

For the noodles:
1 cup flour (I like gram flour)
1 egg
Enough water to make a stiff dough

Chop onion and garlic, put in large pan with oil. Cook gently for 5 minutes, then add the rest of the vegetables, also chopped (the tomatoes can be cut into 1/4s). Allow to cook for about 10 minutes until everything is soft and the tomatoes have shed their juices. Now add the water and stock, and seasoning. Run through a blender.

Bring back to the boil. Make the noodles by mixing the ingredients together, then passing them through a potato ricer. If you put too much water in, which is what I did, it goes all clumpy and doesn't make separate noodles, but still tastes good! You could, of course, use a packet of instant noodles and throw away the flavour sachet which is what I often do!

Bring back to boil, and simmer for about 3-4 minutes. Keeps well in fridge.

Friday, 11 March 2011

Baked falafel

I love falafel, and they are incredibly easy to make. I don't deep fry, though.

1/2 cup chickpeas, soaked overnight in cold water
1 tbs gram flour (chickpea flour)
A large bunch of parsley or coriander
1-2 cloves garlic
Seasoning (spicy Moroccan style is good).
A little oil for cooking

Rinse the chickpeas and put in bowl of a food processor, along with flour, parsley, garlic and seasoning. Blitz until it is like fine breadcrumbs. Form into patties - 1 large, 2 small, 4 titchy, whatever.... and then bake on a greased baking tray for about 30 minutes at mark 6, turning once. Serve with hummus and salad.

Thursday, 10 March 2011

Ash Wednesday stew

It's delicious at any time of year, but I call it Ash Wednesday stew as it is a good one to make when you don't want to eat animal products, and it will sit in the slow cooker until after the Ash Wednesday service!

1 tin aduki beans
1 clove garlic
1 onion
1 chilli pepper
1 sweet red or yellow pepper
2 sweet potatoes
1 leek
A cube of frozen ginger, or a piece of grated/chopped ginger root
500 ml vegetable stock

To serve: 1 tbs peanut butter; 1 tbs roasted peanuts or cashew nuts.

Put all the ingredients in the slow cooker and forget about them; when ready to eat, stir in the peanut butter, and sprinkle each bowlful with roasted peanuts or cashew nuts.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Gram flour pancakes

These were rather nice! You can make them vegan by replacing the egg with 1 tbs of oil.

c 1 cup gram flour (chick pea flour)
c 1.5 cups water
1 egg

Mix to a pancake-batter-like consistency, and cook as you would ordinary pancakes. They are nicest with something savoury - I served them with chilli beans with chopped frankfurters in them.

Saturday, 5 March 2011

Chicken Casserole

Really fancied this last week!

1 packet chicken pieces (thighs or breast fillets, up to you)
1 large onion
1-2 cloves garlic, if liked
2 large carrots
1 leek
1 tbs cooking oil
1 tbs plain flour
1/2 litre chicken stock (I used Knorr Stock Pot)

Mix the seasoning with the flour, and toss the chicken pieces in it (I just put the flour on a plate and vaguely stir the chicken around in it.

Heat up the oil in a casserole dish and add the floury chicken, stirring a bit so it doesn't stick, while you chop up and add all the other vegetables. Lastly, add the stock, bring to the boil, and put in a moderately hot oven (Mark 5, 190 C) for about 45 minutes. Serve with a starchy carbohydrate and a green vegetable (we had rice and cabbage).

Wednesday, 2 March 2011

Leek and fish casserole

This was our St David's Day meal, adapted from this recipe some years ago now!

2 frozen coley fillets (or other white fish, as liked)
2 large leeks
500 g baby new potatoes
1 small pot creme fraiche (ideally 1/2-fat, but Lidl doesn't sell 1/2 fat creme fraiche, so....)
1 tbs olive oil
Seasoning to taste

Thaw the fish just enough to be able to cut it into small pieces. Trim and chop the leeks, and cook them in the olive oil for a few minutes, then add a little water and reduce the heat so they simmer in more or less steam for about 5 minutes. Meanwhile, steam or boil the new potatoes until they are cooked.

Put the potatoes, fish and cream into the pan with the leeks, and bring to the boil, stirring well, and simmer for a minute or two until the fish is cooked - this really doesn't take long. Serve in soup bowls as it's a bit liquid!

I appear to have stopped keeping my food diary again - which is okay, as long as I don't start snacking and eating between meals. Which so far I haven't been.

Sunday, 27 February 2011

Cabbage, chickpea and bacon soup

This is practically a stew!

1 packet lardons
1 large onion
1 clove garlic
2 potatoes
2/3 small white cabbage
1 tin chickpeas
2 pints water
1 thingy Knorr vegetable Stock Pot
1 Parmesan rind
A little grated Parmesan to garnish

Put lardons in casserole and cook gently until fat runs. Now add chopped onion and garlic, and stir well. Add the potatoes cut into 1-2 cm cubes (don't peel them unless the skin is seriously manky), the cabbage and the chickpeas. Stir again, then add the stock, water, seasoning and Parmesan rind. Bring to boil and simmer for about 10 minutes.

This was based on a recipe in 101 Cookbooks, but I adapt it to suit my needs every time!

Friday, 25 February 2011


Well, I don't know what else to call it! It wasn't quite a couscous, or a tagine, but it was sort-of influenced by that. Above all, it was quick, which is what I wanted (it would have been something quite different if the feta cheese hadn't gone off, so I had to quickly come up with a Plan B!)

1 packet lardons
1 medium onion
2 cloves garlic
1 tin tomatoes
1 tin chickpeas, drained and rinsed (or 250 g pre-cooked chickpeas)d
1 small sloosh harissa paste
1 large sloosh tomato paste
1 medium courgette
Chunk of butternut squash
1/2 cup couscous
250 ml boiling water
1 tsp Moroccan seasoning
1 tsp Ras-el-Hanout seasoning

Chop onions and garlic and cook in microwave for 3 minutes. While this is happening, reduce courgette and squash to bite-sized chunks and put in a covered, microwave-proof dish. Put couscous and ras-el-hanout into a jug, and pour on 250 ml boiling water.

Cook the lardons in a saucepan until they just start to colour, then add the onions and garlic, stirring well, then the harissa and tomato pastes. Stir well, then add the tin of tomatoes and the drained, rinsed chickpeas. Bring to the boil and add the Moroccan seasoning. Put the squash and courgette into the microwave for 5-6 minutes, until cooked.

Serve by putting the couscous in first, then the courgettes and squash, and top the lot with the tomato-chickpeas-lardons mixture.

Food Diary for Thursday 24 February

Morning: Tea

Mid-morning: Banana, coffee (had bad indigestion and not very hungry)

Mid-afternoon (we had to go to a funeral and didn't get in until nearly 3:00 pm!): Egg, bacon, tomato, mushroom, beans and 1 slice of toast.

Later; 1 slice bread wand cheese

Supper: "Not-tagine"; fruit compote and natural yoghurt.

Thursday, 24 February 2011

Liver and Bacon casserole

Husband adores liver. I'm not just so fond of it, but I can eat it. This was lovely with lots of vegetables. At least, the bits that weren't liver were lovely.... the bits that were, were, well, so-so!

2 rashers back bacon, chopped
A chunk (didn't weigh it) of pig's liver (from my brother's pigs, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 large onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped or crushed
1/2 pack button mushrooms
1 tin tomatoes
Squoosh of tomato puree
1/3 bottle red wine

Spray olive oil all over the inside of a casserole dish. Start the onion and garlic in the microwave. Put bacon and liver into the casserole, and fry, stirring constantly, until looking cooked. Add the rest of the ingredients, and season well. Bring to the boil and then put in a moderate oven for about 15-20 minutes, until all the vegetables are ready.

With hindsight, I should probably have tossed the liver in seasoned flour, which would have thickened the gravy, but it was, nevertheless, very good (especially if you didn't have much of the liver!).

Food Diary for Tuesday 22 and Wednesday 23 February

Tuesday 22

Sparrowfart: Tea

At skating: Banana, coffee

Breakfast: Cheese spread and tomato sandwich

Lunch: Fried egg and portabello mushroom in cheese-and-onion topped bap; salad; the end of the lemon tart.

Afternoon: Large mug tea

Later: Toasted bagel, 1/2 butter, 1/2 cream cheese.

Supper: Tortellini with cherry tomato and pesto sauce; fruit compote and natural yoghurt.

Wednesday 23

Was in rather a bad mood for much of the day, and I can't remember whether I had an afternoon snack or not. I don't think I did, as I had lunch rather late.

Breakfast: Tea, toasted bagel spread with butter; piece of Gouda

Lunch: The end of the salad, the end of the chicken and noodle soup.

Supper: Lamb dhansak from take-away.

Tuesday, 22 February 2011

Chinese-style chicken and noodle soup

Serves several!

1 packet straight-to-wok noodles (or use dried)
1 packet stir-fry vegetable mix. Or make your own, but I tend to buy as I like beansprouts and the various mixes have about the right amount.
2 large cloves garlic
1 chilli pepper
1 piece root ginger, or use those frozen grated chunks
1 tsp (15 ml) stir-fry oil or use your usual cooking oil
1 packet pre-cooked chicken pieces (plain or Chinese-style, if available)
1.5 litres chicken stock (I used a Knorr Stock-pot in 1.5 litres water)
1 tbs (15 ml) Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
1 tbs each dark and light soya sauces
Chinese 5-spice mix and/or other Chinese seasoning

Chop the chilli and garlic. Put the stir-fry oil in a wok, and stir-fry all the vegetables for a minute or two. Add the noodles, seasoning and the boiling stock, and bring back to the boil. If using dried noodles, allow to simmer for 2-3 minutes, otherwise it's ready to serve. Place a few pieces of cooked chicken in the bottom of a large soup mug or bowl, add noodles/vegetables and stock.

I do it that way because it keeps the chicken fresher. You could, of course, use raw chicken and stir-fry it before you add the veg, and I very often do if making a main meal stir-fry but this way is quicker for lunch!

Food Diary for Monday 21 February 2011

Breakfast: Tea, Boursin, carrot and swede sandwich (sounds vile, but actually very nice

Lunch: Chinese chicken and noodle soup; piece of Gouda; slice Barm brack and butter; moar soup....

Snack: Cinnamon and raisin bagel with cream cheese

Supper: As on Sunday, except courgettes instead of butternut squash.

Monday, 21 February 2011

Lemon Tart

This was an adaptation of David Lebovitz' whole lemon bars, and I used an adaptation of his French tart dough for the pastry base. Thank you, David!

For the pastry base:

120 g wholemeal flour (or a little more)
90 g butter
3 tbs (45 ml) water
1 tbs (15 ml) olive or other cooking oil
1 tbs sugar

Put all ingredients except the flour into a bowl, and heat in the microwave until the butter has melted and the water is boiling. You can also heat it in an oven pre-heated to Mark 7 (210 C) for 15 minutes instead. Now add flour and stir quickly until it forms a dough. Using the spoon or a spatula, press this into a 9-inch (22.5 cm) cake or pie tin. Smooth out, prick with fork, and bake in aforesaid hot oven for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile prepare the filling:

1 whole unwaxed lemon, cut into pieces
Juice of 2 more lemons
45 g melted butter
3 eggs
200 g sugar
4 tsp cornflour (not sure what this weighs - I was cursing David all over the place, but then I found my measuring spoons. It would measure 20 ml).

Put everything in your food processor and blitz until the whole lemon is chopped and the mixture is smooth.

Pour into the hot pie-crust; lower the heat to Mark 2 (150 C) and bake for 25 minutes, until the mixture is set. Dust with icing sugar if liked, but as you see from the picture, I didn't!

Food Diary for Sunday 20 February 2011

Early Tea

Breakfast: Coffee, 2 slices toasted home-made bread, spread 1/2 slice each with home-made raspberry jam, honey, peanut butter, and cream cheese and Marmite.

Lunch: Chinese-style chicken and noodle soup. Fresh pineapple.

Snack: A banana, some grapes, piece of Gouda.

Supper: Liver and bacon casserole with mashed potato, mashed swede and carrots, cabbage, leek and butternut squash; glass red wine; lemon tart (as in today's recipe).

Later: 1 Toffifee, mug of Tilleul

Sunday, 20 February 2011

Huevos Ranchos Tostados

This is probably totally inauthentic, but it's my take on what you are served if you order this in Giraffe! Serves 2.

2 tortilla wraps
1 quantity Chilli beans (or use a tin of!)
A little grated cheese
2 eggs, fried or poached
1 quantity fresh salsa, or your preferred type.

Heat the tortilla wraps in the microwave, spread with hot chilli beans, sprinkle with grated cheese. Top with an egg and fresh salsa. I believe the Giraffe version has either spicy sausage or a big mushroom (depending on whether you order the veggie version or not), and you can certainly add those, if you like, but they aren't really necessary. And if you use chilli beans out of a tin and salsa out of a jar, it's really quick. I prefer the home-made versions, though.

Food diary for Saturday 19 February 2011

Various cups of tea and coffee in the morning - I know I had two cups of coffee, in a greedy sort of way.

Breakfast: 2 slices fresh home-made bread, spread 1/2 slice each with chicken liver paté, blackberry jelly (Bonne Maman!), home-made marmelade and butter.

Lunch: Bacon and avocado sandwich on wholegrain bread. Banana.

Supper: 2 sausages from my brother's pigs, baked beans, leeks, mashed potato; home-made lemon tart.

Saturday, 19 February 2011

Fresh tomato and avocado salsa

I'm sure this isn't at all authentic, but I like it! Serves 2-3.

3 tomatoes
1 ripe avocado
1 small red onion
1 chilli pepper
2 tbs lime juice, or 1 tbs each lemon and lime, as preferred.

Put the tomatoes in a bowl and cover with boiling water. Leave for a maximum of 2 minutes, then refresh in cold water. The skins will now slip off easily. Chop the tomatoes, avocado, chilli and onion as finely as you can, and mix in a large bowl with the lime juice, and salt and pepper as liked. This can be eaten at once, of course, but is actually nicer if you make it in the morning to have at supper.

Thursday, 17 February 2011

Chilli Beans

This is a bit of an experiment. I will use these in another recipe, which I shall, of course, post here.

3 tbs dried kidney beans
1 large onion
Several cloves garlic, if liked
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 chilli pepper, if you have any
Hot or sweet chilli sauce, to taste

Soak the beans for six hours, drain and rinse. Cover with cold water, bring to the boil and boil hard for at least 10 minutes. Lower the heat and simmer until they are tender. Drain and rinse.

Meanwhile, chop the onion and garlic and either soften in a little olive oil, or cook in the microwave or a few minutes. Transfer to a saucepan and add the tomatoes and chilli, and finally the beans. Bring to the boil and cook gently until most of the liquid has evaporated; stir from time to time and don't let it burn if you can possibly avoid it!

Wednesday, 16 February 2011

Cherry tomato and pesto sauce

This is so quick and easy; serve with pasta. I pour it over Lidl's tortellini for a quick and cheap supper.

1 punnet cherry tomatoes
1-2 cloves garlic
1 tbs pine nuts
As much fresh basil as you like
About 60 g Parmesan
1 tbs olive oil
1 tbs Balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste

Put the oil in a saucepan and gently toast the pine nuts until they begin to brown. Remove them with a slotted spoon, and add the crushed garlic, the tomatoes which you have pierced with a knife as you put them in, and the balsamic vinegar. Cover and cook for about 5 minutes until the juices run and the tomatoes look cooked - give the pan a little shake from time to time and don't have the flame too high. Now mash the tomatoes with a potato masher (sounds weird, but it works!) until they are all juice and not much substance (you could use a blender, but no need). Add the pine nuts, chopped basil and grated Parmesan, and just heat through again gently until the cheese melts.

MUST get back into keeping my food diary!

Tuesday, 15 February 2011

Braised pig heart

My brother had just butchered a pig, and I was lucky enough to be given the heart (among other bits!). So what better to eat on Valentine's Day?

The only trouble was, when I went to the fridge, there were no mushrooms, no courgettes, no aubergine, no butternut squash, no leeks and the sweet peppers had gone bad! So I was left to improvise with what I did have. And it was good!

1 pig's heart, cut into small pieces. I removed the big artery from the top.
1 red and 1 white onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
3 carrots, peeled and chopped
1 chilli pepper, chopped
1 small tin sweetcorn
A similar amount of frozen peas
1/4 cup (60 ml) red lentils
1/2 cup (120 ml) pearl barley
1/2 bottle (325 ml, but I didn't really measure!) red wine
1 tbs cooking oil (I used stir fry oil, as it's seasoned)
1 Knorr beef stock pot (they don't seem to do pork!)
Seasoning included salt, pepper, chilli pepper, paprika, Worcestershire sauce.

I cooked the onions in the oil, and browned the hearts, then added everything else, brought it to the boil and put it in the oven on gas mark 3 for about 3-3 1/2 hours. Served with a green vegetable (Brussels Sprouts in this case).

Sunday, 13 February 2011


1 packet smoked haddock (ideally sustainably-caught)
2 eggs
1 onion
125 ml uncooked basmati rice
1 tbs olive oil
A little turmeric, garam marsala, asafoetida and curry powder (the latter optional)
Quite a lot of parsley or coriander

Cook the haddock according to the instructions on the packet (mine suggested oven-cooking for 15 minutes). Hard boil the eggs, and remove the shells. Cook the onion and spices in the cooking oil (if you want to start the onion in the microwave, this will shorten the cooking process considerably!), then add the rice and 250 ml boiling water. Bring back to the boil, stir, then cover and lower the heat to the merest candle-flame for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, flake the haddock and remove any skin and obvious bones. Chop the hard-boiled eggs and the parsley. Mix all this together and put it back in the oven to keep warm until the rice is cooked. Mix the rice/onion/spice mixture with the fish mixture.

Can be cooled and reheated if and when necessary.

I have not abandoned this blog! My brother-in-law has been staying, and we ate slow-cooker risotto and veggie barley chilli, and I haven't been keeping my food diary. He has now gone home, sadly, and normal service will be resumed!

Monday, 7 February 2011

Lemon curd

4 medium unwaxed lemons
450 g sugar
4 eggs
120 g butter

Grate the lemon zest and squeeze the lemons. Place everything in a large bowl over a pan of simmering water,and cook until it coats the spoon and drips off in two drips. Pot up. Keep in fridge.

I didn't keep my food diary yesterday, not quite sure why, but supper was kedgeree with stir-fried vegetables (recipe for kedgeree to follow), followed by tinned peaches and natural yoghurt.

Sunday, 6 February 2011

Cauliflower cheese

Everybody has their own version of this, but this is mine:

1 small cauliflower, split into florets
2 hard-boiled eggs
1 heaped tsp plain flour
250 ml milk
(Optional) About 1 tbs cooking oil or, preferably, 20g butter
60 g cheese (or maybe a little more), grated
200 g frozen sweetcorn
1-2 tomatoes, thinly sliced (if liked!)

Steam the cauliflower until it is cooked as you like it (I do prefer it well done!). Put in oven-proof dish with shelled hard-boiled eggs.

Whisk the flour into the milk with salt, pepper, and a little dry mustard powder; some people like a pinch of nutmeg in this. If using fat, heat it gently in a saucepan, and pour on the milk mixture. Stir continuously until it comes to the boil and thickens. Turn off the heat and add the sweetcorn and half the grated cheese. Pour over the cauliflower mixture.

If you have time or energy, top this with mashed potatoes, but in any case the sliced tomatoes (if using) and the rest of the grated cheese go on the top. Or you could make a "crumble top" with a couple of slices of wholemeal bread whizzed in a food processor with the cheese, and maybe a tablespoonful of sesame seeds stirred in. Putting mashed potatoes on the top does make it a one-dish meal, though; you will need some form of carbohydrate to go with it, whatever.

Food diary for Saturday 5 February

Early tea
2 slices home-made bread with lemon curd, peanut butter, honey and butter. Coffee.

Bacon and avocado sandwich. Mini-lolly.

Tea; slice bread and Nutella; orange; Babybel.

Sausages, mashed potato, leeks, baked beans; natural yoghurt with a teaspoonful of Nutella (it was, after all, World Nutella Day!).

Saturday, 5 February 2011

Vegetarian barley chilli

Pearl barley is really low GI, so a very good carbohydrate. Plus we have too much right now, as a certain husband misunderstood "PB" on the shopping list (which was meant to be peanut butter).

1/2 cup black-eyed beans (125 ml measure)
1/2 cup kidney beans
1/2 cup pearl barley
1 onion
Several cloves of garlic
1 aubergine
1-2 courgettes
1 chilli pepper
1 tin of tomatoes
Such other vegetables as you may have that want using: sweet pepper, mushrooms, leeks, butternut squash, carrots, swede.... vary it!
Glass red wine, if available
About 500 ml total liquid, including wine; vegetable stock cube or Stock Pot.
Seasoning, including lots of chilli pepper and/or sauce.

Soak beans for at least 6 hours, then change their water, put in a saucepan and boil HARD for at least 10 minutes (red kidney beans contain a toxin and will give you food poisoning unless this is done. Of course, if in doubt or you forget, use a tin, but fresh-cooked are nicer; OR you could do this in advance & freeze the beans). Drain and rinse, and then add to a large casserole dish with the chopped vegetables (peeled where necessary), barley, liquids and seasoning. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about an hour. Or you could transfer it to a slow cooker at this stage. Serve with grated cheese.

I defy even the most carnivorous of omnivores to miss the meat out of that one!

Food diary for Friday 4 February

Stupid o'clock: Tea, mini-banana
At skating: Coffee, another mini-banana
Breakfast: Egg and sausage McMuffin (talk about guilty pleasures, but I was waiting for the bank to open), orange juice.
Lunch: Vegetarian barley chilli with cheese.
Snack: Egg mayonnaise sandwich
Supper: Fish and chips, leeks; peaches with natural yoghurt.
Midnight feast: Crust with hummus; slice Edam.

Slow cooker risotto

This was a bit of an experiment. I love risotto and serve it frequently, but it's a pain to cook - takes ages and needs frequent attention. So I decided to see if this way, where it can be forgotten about after the first 10 minutes or so. It was super, but I think next time I'll use 450 or even 400 ml stock rather than the 500 ml I actually did use, as it was a touch on the liquid side.

1/2 packet dried mushrooms (10g)
400-500 ml boiling water
c 1/2 tbs olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
1-2 cloves of garlic, also chopped
1/3 large butternut squash, peeled and diced
200g mushrooms, sliced
125 ml aborio or other risotto rice
125 ml white wine
Seasoning to taste - I used thyme and rosemary as well as salt and pepper
1 stock cube or Knorr Stock Pot, either vegetable or chicken
60 g grated Parmesan

Pour the boiling water over the dried mushrooms and allow to stand for about an hour. Put the olive oil into a saucepan and add the vegetables. Allow to cook, stirring frequently, for several minutes. Then add the rice and seasoning, stir vigorously and add the wine. Bring to the boil and simmer for 5-6 minutes, stirring frequently.

Strain the mushrooms from the water in which they have been soaking, chop them and add to the risotto mix. Add the stock to the mushroom water and bring to the boil.

Transfer everything to the slow cooker and leave for at least 3 hours. Stir, then stir in the grated Parmesan.

Food Diary for Thursday 3 February

First thing: Tea
Breakfast: 1 slice toast with egg; 1 slice spread 1/2 with lemon curd, 1/2 with marmalade. Coffee.
Lunch: Veggie barley chilli; 1/2 diet frozen yoghurt with tinned peaches and a scrap of creme fraiche.
Snack: Slice bread and hummus; tiny piece of Camembert
Supper: Cauliflower and egg in corn and cheese sauce; 3-orange mash (that's just sweet potato, swede and carrots boiled and mashed together); Tesco's finest steamed pudding with a little creme fraiche.

Thursday, 3 February 2011

Salmon with stir-fried vegetables and noodles

2 frozen salmon fillets
1 pack stir-fry vegetables with beanshoots
2 cloves garlic or 1 brick frozen garlic
Either a bit of root ginger, chopped, or 1 brick frozen ginger
2 plaques Chinese noodles (or a pack of fresh straight-to-wok ones)
1 tbs sherry (should be rice wine, but I don't have any)
1 tbs each dark and light soya sauce
1 tbs chilli sauce
Chinese 5-spice seasoning (or whatever)
1.5 tbs stir-fry oil

Put the fish into a frying pan with 1/2 tbs stir-fry oil. Allow to cook gently. If using dried noodles, cook as recommended on the packet - usually about 3 minutes in boiling water. Mix the sherry or rice wine, soya sauces and chilli sauce, and the 5-spice powder or whatever other seasoning you are using.

While the fish is cooking, heat the rest of the stir-fry oil in a wok, and cook the vegetables, garlic and ginger (you could add a chopped chilli pepper in there, too, only I forgot). When all but cooked, add the sauce mix, and bring to the boil. If using straight-to-wok noodles, add these now. Otherwise drain the ones you are using. You can either mix them in, or put them straight on to plates, topped with the vegetable mix and a salmon fillet.

Food diary for Wednesday 2 February

Stupid o'clock: Tea
At skating: Banana, coffee
Forgot to have any breakfast!
Lunch: Slice Gouda, slice toast with goats' cheese, packet Satay noodles
Snack: Slice barm brack with Cheddar cheese
Supper: Veggie barley chilli; tinned peaches and natural yoghurt.
Middle-of-the-night snack attack: Boursin sandwich with multiseed bread.

Wednesday, 2 February 2011

Garlic mushrooms and tomatoes

(you don't have to add the tomatoes if you're a tomato hater!)

A spritz of olive oil
A smear of butter (5 g or less!)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
c 100 mushrooms, wiped and sliced
2 tomatoes, quartered
A little salt and pepper
A few drops Tabasco

Put butter and oil in saucepan - you really don't need a lot, and I don't know why mushrooms are infinitely nicer when cooked in butter, but they are! Add all the ingredients, cover, and cook gently for 5-10 minutes.

Food diary for 1 February 2011

Early: Tea
At skating: Banana, coffee
Breakfast: Bought BLT sandwich, slice barm brack and butter
Lunch: Broccoli & Stilton soup, bought mini-pizza (reduced for quick sale to 30p!) and tomato.
Supper: Slow-cooked risotto; caramel-baked bananas with 1 tsp creme fraiche.

Tuesday, 1 February 2011

Broccoli and Stilton Soup

My soups are infinitely variable, but I fancied a classic this time! This makes several helpings - 6 or 7, probably - but will keep in the fridge.

2 medium onions
2 cloves garlic
1.5 heads broccoli
2 litres water
1 Knorr Stock Pot (vegetable or chicken, whichever you prefer)
100 g Stilton
1 small tin sweetcorn (optional)
100 g cooked rice (optional)

Cut up the onions, garlic and broccoli into fairly small pieces; put in large saucepan with water and stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 10 minutes.

Run this through a blender, then return to saucepan and add the Stilton. Check the seasoning and adjust if necessary.

I like my soups with bits in, so usually add a small tin of sweetcorn, and as I had some cooked rice in the freezer, I added that, too.

Food diary for Monday 31 January

Early: Tea

Breakfast: Peanut butter, Marmite and tomato sandwich; coffee.

Lunch: Broccoli and Stilton soup; bought cheesy mash* with an egg; garlic mushrooms and tomatoes (which were too salty!).

Supper: 2 glasses red wine (oops!); bought Shepherd's pie and peas (Tesco's Finest Meal Deal); raspberry cheesecake pots, also Tesco's, reduced for quick sale.

* I bought the shepherd's pie as it was reduced for quick sale; then bought a Meal Deal and put the main course in the freezer, then realised the cheesy mash would have gone better with it than with the shepherd's pie, so went back and bought another meal deal with peas this time - so we have two meal deal main courses in the freezer, some puds to eat later this week and another bottle of wine! All good stuff....

Monday, 31 January 2011


Equal weights - no more than 500g - of fruit and granulated sugar. This time of year, frozen fruit is the cheapest option - strawberries, raspberries, fruit of the forest, whatever.
2 tbs liquid pectin

Put everything in a very large saucepan. If frozen fruit is being used, let it sit and thaw a bit. Wash a couple of jam jars, rinse, and put in a very low oven (on warm) to dry and sterilise. Put a plate in the deep freeze.

Heat fruit and sugar very gently, stirring all the time. When the sugar has melted, turn up the heat and bring to the boil. Boil vigorously for about 5-6 minutes until it starts to thicken and set. Drip a couple of drops on the cold plate to see whether it's set, and if it has, turn off the heat. Pot and cover.

Food diary for Sunday 30 January

Early Tea

Breakfast: 1 slice toast spread 1/2 slice Blackberry jelly (bought), 1/2 slice butter; coffee.

After Church: Slice Edam cheese; more coffee

Broccoli and Stilton soup; cheese and pickle sandwich. Mini-lolly.

Supper: Salmon with stir-fried vegetables and noodles; Tesco's Finest blueberry almond tart; glass white wine.

Red bush tea.

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Home made bread

One of life's minor pleasures is waking up on a Saturday morning to the smell of bread baking! But the way I make it is almost cheating:

370 ml water
1/2 pack (500g) Lidl's bread mix

Put water into the inner container of a bread maker, add bread mix. Programme machine as appropriate. Set delay to the time you want to wake up in the morning. Switch it on.

Jam tomorrow!

Meanwhile, food diary for Saturday:

Early: Tea

Breakfast (rather late!): 1/2 slice home-made bread with butter; 1/2 slice with home-made raspberry jam.


Lunch: Bacon, avocado and tomato sandwich on wholemeal bread; mini-lolly.

Tea: 1 crumpet with butter, 1 with goats' cheese. Citrus tea.

Supper: Sausages, mashed potatoes, baked beans, leeks; Lidl caramel panna cotta.

Later: Tilleul menthe infusion, slice Edam

Later still (should have gone to sleep earlier!): 2 slices Tesco barm brack and butter.

2 litres water. No exercise.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Spicy sausage pasta bake

I had such a cold that I really fancied something spicy and oniony for supper, and there were some mini-sausages from Lidl that wanted eating, so....

1/2 pack Lidl mini sausages
1 leek
1 large onion
1-2 cloves garlic
1 chilli pepper
1/2 head broccoli
1 tin tomatoes
1 tsp flour
1 tbs cooking oil (I used Tesco stir-fry oil)
100 g pasta (I used tricolour wheels, which I happened to have in the cupboard, but whatevs....)
Seasoning, including a little chilli sauce
About 60 g (well, probably rather more than that, but that's what it's meant to be!) grated Cheddar cheese.

Cook the sausages under the grill, then chop into small pieces. Cook the pasta and steam the broccoli. Chop leek, onion, garlic and chilli, and put in saucepan with cooking oil, allow to cook for awhile, stirring frequently and watch that it doesn't burn.

Put the flour, tomatoes and seasoning in a blender goblet and work until smooth. Pour on to the vegetables and bring to the boil, stirring all the time. Now mix in up to 1/2 the cheese, the pasta and the broccoli, and pour into an oven-proof dish. Sprinkle with remaining cheese, and then bake at Mark 5 for 30 minutes.

In hindsight, it might have been better to have cooked the broccoli separately and served it as a vegetable, but it was a lot easier to just shove it all in together so I could watch skating while it cooked!

Friday's food diary:

Early: Tea

Breakfast: Egg and tomato sandwich with wholemeal bread. Slice Edam.

Lunch: Glass multivitamin juice; toasted ham and cheese sandwich with pickle and a scrap of butter. 1/2 portion frozen yoghurt.

Snack: "Pickers" while cooking supper; 1 slice wholemeal bread and goats' cheese.

Supper: Spicy sausage pasta bake; Lidl caramel panna cotta; small Calvados

Later: Tilleul infusion.

Friday, 28 January 2011

Fish Pie

I make fish pie differently every time I make it, which isn't often enough. Last night's was very delicious and went like this:

1 sachet parsley sauce mix
300 ml semi-skimmed milk
2 skinless and boneless coley fillets
Frozen peas and broad beans (didn't measure, but just a "nice amount")
Left-over mashed potato (probably 1 serving!)
1 tin cannellini beans, drained and rinsed
A little Cheddar cheese, grated

Make up parsley sauce according to the instructions on the packet. Add the frozen vegetables and the fish, which you have allowed to thaw just enough to be able to cut into cubes. Bring back to the boil. Season - just salt and pepper, it doesn't want much more, and place in oven-proof dish.

Purée the cannellini beans in a food processor, then mix with the mashed potatoes. This lowers the overall GI of the dish and makes it more sustaining. Spread this mix on top of the fish, sprinkle with grated cheese, if liked, and cook at Mark 5 for about 30 minutes. Serve with a green vegetable.

Food diary for Thursday 27 January:

Early: Earl Grey tea, no milk or sugar.

Breakfast: 2 slices toast with peanut butter, banana and just a sprinkle of sugar. Slice Edam.

Lunch: Cornish Pasty with baked beans; 1/2 "diet" frozen yoghurt (delicious, and Lidl hasn't had them for simply ages - but the helpings are huge!).

Snack: Wholemeal crust with soft cheese

Supper: Fish pie and Brussels sprouts; profiteroles (tub of, from Lidl).

Later: Red bush tea.

A little over 1 litre water. No exercise except for popping round Lidl.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Coldy Wednesday

Yesterday I had a rotten cold and spent the day curled up on the sofa in pyjamas; still sniffy and blowy today, but feeling a great deal better. So yesterday was all about comfort food (and the European championships, of course!).

On waking: Tea

Breakfast: Grapefruit. Bread and cheese. Slice Edam.

Lunch: Instant noodles with an egg and tinned peas (total and utter comfort food!); smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwich.

Snack: Mini-lolly; a few nuts; slice of cheese.

Supper: Chicken and cashew nuts with rice (from take-away); stewed apple and blackberry with natural yoghurt.

Only about 1 litre water. No exercise.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Great chieftain of the whatsit.

So yesterday was Burn's Night, with its traditional offering of Haggis. Which we duly ate and enjoyed.

So, from my food diary:

06:30 Tea (Earl Grey, black, no sugar)

07:30 Banana, coffee (black, no sugar)

09:30 Satsuma, 3 lychees, some grapes, 1 slice bread with goats' cheese

12:45 1 slice wholemeal toast with scrambled eggs and smoked salmon; 1 slice wholemeal toast spread 1/2 cheese spread, 1/2 marmalade.

20:30 The aforementioned haggis, with all the trimmings (mashed potato, "bashed neeps", which is basically mashed swede) and leeks. Single malt whisky. Fresh mango.

23:00 Tilleul menthe infusion.

Not quite 2 litres water.

1 hours' ice skating, including 30 minute lesson.

And now I have a filthy cold and feel rotten!

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

A new blog

Years ago, when my daughter was leaving home, I made a collection of our family's favourite recipes which I printed out for her to take with her. Many of them, and some additions and expansions, were posted here. I haven't updated this page for some time, and it's probably time it turned into a blog.

Plus, to help manage my weight, I need to keep a food journal, and plan on posting that here, too, to aid accountability!

So for my first recipe, the delicious butternut squash with bulghur wheat and quinoa stuffing we had last night. I didn't actually stuff the squash because it had a bad bit on it, so I had to use the solid neck that didn't have a hollow in it!

Serves 2, as do most of my recipes unless otherwise stated:

Neck of a large butternut squash, halved (you could use a whole small squash, halve and deseed it).
1-2 large onions, peeled and chopped
1/2 cup (125 ml) Tesco's quinoa/bulghur wheat mix (or 1/4 cup of each)
1/4 cup (c 68 ml) pine nuts
100 g feta cheese, crumbled
A little cooking oil - I used Tesco's stir-fry oil.

Oil a baking tray and place the squash cut-side down in it; put in oven at gas mark 5 for about 30-40 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the pine nuts in a little more oil, stirring frequently, until browned, and then set aside. Put the chopped onions in the saucepan that the nuts were in, and cook for 10 minutes on a gentle heat, again stirring frequently. Now add the bulghur wheat and quinoa, and 250 ml boiling water, bring back to the boil, cover, reduce heat to the merest candle flame and simmer for 15 minutes or until all the water has been absorbed. When it has, stir in the pine nuts and the crumbled feta, and gently heat through again. Serve either in, or beside, the cooked squash, as appropriate.