Chorizo and Sugar Snap Pea Giant Cous Cous


Chorizo and Sugar Snap Pea Giant Cous Cous (1)

I hope you were all able to enjoy a little sunshine over the weekend.

I’m trying (hubby isn’t aware of this yet) to turn our property into a smallholding. One day, he may come home to find that I’ve purchased a cow. I’m not at that stage yet, but I did spend my weekend tenderly looking after some plants I have grown from seed which I am hoping will reward me with bountiful veggies in a few months.

So, today, I went to the shop to buy ingredients for dinner and was loathe to spend all of that money on food. One red pepper for 79p?? It’s daylight robbery! Still, as I said, I have a couple of months to go before I can start harvesting any crops (providing I don’t accidentally kill all of the plants in the meantime) so I will have to suck it up for the time being.

As the weather has been beautiful today – stunning sunshine – I wanted something light and fairly salad like, so I decided on a cous cous dish. You can eat this hot or cold, though I prefer it hot, and is wonderful for lunch the next day.

This will serve 3-4 and will take no more than 30 minutes to make.

Chorizo and Sugar Snap Pea Giant Cous Cous (2)

Chorizo and Sugar Snap Pea Giant Cous Cous

1 tbsp olive oil

300g giant cous cous

150g chorizo

200g sugar snap peas

1 red pepper

1 small bunch spring onions

75g green olives

100g feta

1. Gently fry the cous cous in the oil in a large pan for a couple of minutes. Tip in 600ml water, and bring to the boil, stirring often. Cook until all of the water has been absorbed (approx 15 minutes), stirring so that it doesn’t stick. When the water has been absorbed, try the cous cous – if it’s still a bit crunchy, add a little more water.

2. Meanwhile, slice the chorizo and place in a frying pan over a medium heat. Fry until golden on both sides, then add the whole sugar snap peas and chopped red pepper. Cook for another 5 minutes.

3. Finely slice the spring onions, and chop the feta into chunks.

4. Finally, mix the cous cous, chorizo mix, spring onions, feta and olives together well. It’s ready!

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Smoked Salmon Fillets with Crushed New Potatoes and Mustard Cabbage


Smoked Salmon Fillets with Crushed New Potatooes and Mustard Cabbage (2)

Following on from my post yesterday, when I went on and on about Spring being here and the weather being wonderful, typically today is ice cold. It started off warm, which meant I did not wear appropriate clothing for the deep freeze which came later. Being a Brit is a great burden (so much weather to talk about…)!

Anyway, I wore little shoes with no socks to work, and so by the time I got home I was very cold. Good job, then, that I had this warming Nordic inspired recipe lined up.

Whilst I like sliced smoked salmon, smoked salmon fillets are a different kettle of fish entirely. They are unctuous and luxurious and taste as though you should be eating them with a glass of champagne (hubby did not take the hint and crack a bottle open when I told him this). I bought my smoked salmon fillets, but if you smoke your own then kudos to you.

I used white cabbage in this dish too. Lots of people don’t like cabbage, mainly because it is often overcooked and thrown on the side of the dish as an after thought. But, cook it properly and season it properly (and add double cream) and it will be delicious.

This will serve 2 with leftovers, and will take around 40 minutes to make.

Smoked Salmon Fillets with Crushed New Potatooes and Mustard Cabbage (1)

Smoked Salmon Fillets with Crushed New Potatoes and Mustard Cabbage

2 smoked salmon fillets

1 white cabbage

300ml vegetable stock

1 bay leaf

50ml double cream

2 tsps wholegrain mustard

500g baby new potatoes

1 small handful chives

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.

2. Thinly slice the white cabbage and add to a large saucepan. Add the stock and bay leaf, cover and simmer on a low heat for 20-25 minutes, until softened.

3. In another pan, boil some water and add the potatoes. Cook for 15 minutes or until softened.

4. Meanwhile, put the salmon fillets in the oven and bake for 10 minutes.

5. To finish the cabbage, stir in the cream and mustard and season to taste.

6. To finish the potatoes, crush gently with a potato masher (you still want big chunks of potato) and stir through the chopped chives.

7. To serve, ladle cabbage and plenty of the cooking broth into bowls, then top with the potatoes and salmon. Yum!

Pan Fried Duck Breast with White Bean Puree, Leeks, and Spring Onion and Prosecco Sauce


Pan Fried Duck Breast with White Bean Puree, Leeks and Spring Onion and Prosecco Sauce (2)

I’ve been giving myself a bit of a holiday from the blog lately. No particular reason – just lots of things going on!

I’ve still been cooking, but mainly using recipes I’ve already published to make things a bit speedier in the evenings, so I haven’t had anything new to share with you.

Tonight is different though. We’ve been watching Masterchef, which I love although whenever the poor amateurs have to go in a professional kitchen I get a bit panicky. Hubby and I used to play a game when we had time, based on a Masterchef challenge, where you can make any meal using just the ingredients already available in the kitchen. That was great fun.

This weekend, hubby was away most of the time and so I said I would make him something special for tea tonight. When I asked what he wanted, he said ‘your calling card’. This is the first challenge on Masterchef, and it’s supposed to be your signature dish. I don’t really have a signature dish, and I’d never made this one before, but I really enjoyed the process of putting together a more complex, time consuming dish than the ones I normally make.

I soaked the duck breasts in brine (made from salt, water and bay leaves) overnight before starting. I woud recommend you do this if you make the dish – it really helps the meat keep in the moisture.

This will take an hour (not counting the soaking time above) and will serve 2, with leftovers.

Pan Fried Duck Breast with White Bean Puree, Leeks and Spring Onion and Prosecco Sauce (1)

Pan Fried Duck Breast with White Bean Puree, Leeks, and Spring Onion and Prosecco Sauce

2 duck breasts

For the leeks:

4 rashers smoked bacon

2 leeks

10ml double cream

For the puree:

3 cloves garlic

10g butter

2 x 400g tins butter beans

10ml double cream

For the sauce:

20g butter

20g plain flour

6 spring onions

2 large glasses prosecco

1. For the duck breasts, first make your brine. You’ll need approx 20g salt, 200ml water and 4 bay leaves. Mix together in a bowl, then add your duck breasts. Make sure they’re completely covered in the liquid, then cover with cling film and leave in the fridge overnight.

2. For the puree, finely slice the garlic and add to a sauce pan with the butter. Cook gently for a minute, then add the butter beans and water from one tin, and just the butter beans from the other tin. Simmer gently until the beans are soft, then whizz with a food processor. Add the cream and a little water if it’s too thick, then season.

3. For the leeks, chop the bacon into small chunks and cook over a high heat until golden. Lower the heat and add the finely sliced leeks along with 50ml water. Simmer gently for 15 minutes, then add the cream and seasoning.

4. For the sauce, melt the butter in a saucepan and add the flour and spring onions. Take off the heat and stir in the prosecco a little at a time. Put back on the heat and bring up to the boil, stirring all the time. Turn off the heat, then season (you may want to add a little sugar if it’s too tart).

5. For the duck, remove from the brine and rinse under the tap. Dry the fat, then place fat side down in a cold pan. Turn on the heat and cook, fat side down, for 15 minutes. You may need to drain away some of the fat during the cooking. Flip the duck and cook on the meat side for 2 minutes, then remove from the pan and rest for no less than 5 minutes.

6. Done! Serve the sliced duck breast with the leeks and puree, and the sauce poured over the top. Enjoy with a glass of prosecco!

One Pan Balsamic Sausage and Peppers


One Pan Balsamic Sausage and Peppers (2)

I am part of a facebook group, Food Bloggers Central, where food bloggers come together to share ideas and tips. It’s masterminded by Nagi Maehashi from Recipe Tin Eats, a fab blog which not ony shares great recipes but also aims to help out other food bloggers too.

Anway, Nagi came up with the wonderful idea of a Blog Hop – where bloggers cook a recipe from another blogger’s site. Kevin from Kevin Is Cooking got me, and has already tried out my Swedish meatballs – head over to his site for a look.

I got Mila from Girl and the Kitchen. She is a wonderful chef, who shares beautifully cooked meals with instructions so descriptive and straightforward that anyone, seriously anyone, could make them no matter what their skill level.

It was a difficult decision choosing what to make, because there are so many tasty looking dishes on her blog. I chose one in the end which is true to my own blog – simple, and perfect for making at the end of a busy day. So, I went for her One Pan Balsamic Sausage and Peppers.

I didn’t deviate much from Mila’s recipe at all. The only changes I made were:

1. Here it is hard to find turkey sausage and so I went for a really good quality pork sausage. These worked well, and my number one hint for the dish would be to buy the best sausages you can afford – it will be worth it!

2. I roasted my sausages in the oven rather than cooking them on the hob first. This was simply because I wasn’t in much of a hurry and had the luxury of time to do so.

I’d implore you to try this one out – it is a rustic, comforting weeknight meal. This will serve 3-4 and will take no more than an hour to make.

One Pan Balsamic Sausage and Peppers (1)

One Pan Balsamic Sausage and Peppers

6 good quality pork sausages

2 tbsps olive oil

3 red peppers

2 onions

8 garlic cloves

1 small handful basil leaves

100ml balsamic vinegar

100ml water

1. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees.

2. Prick your sausages with a fork and place in a high-edged roasting dish. Drizzle with the olive oil, and roast in the oven for about 15 minutes, until starting to brown.

3. Chop your onions and peppers into bitesize pieces, and peel your garlic cloves (leave them whole). Add these to the dish along with the basil leaves, balsamic vinegar, water and a little salt and pepper. Shake the pan to distribute evenly, then cover with tin foil and put back in the oven for another 20 minutes.

4. At this point, check your sausages are cooked. If they’re not, put back in the oven for a few more minutes. If they are, dish it out and serve with a hunk of crusty bread. Yum!

Slow Roast Mutton


Beetroot and Tomato Soup

It was Mother’s Day on Sunday, and to celebrate my parents invited me, my siblings, the partners and the grandchildren around for a 3 course meal. There were 12 of us in total, and it was great for us all to be there together.

My parents are great cooks, and the food was delicious, so below is a guest post from my mum and dad! Enjoy.

Slow Roast Mutton

“We decided to invite all our family round for a Saturday lunch on the 14th of March. After mulling the recipe books we plumped for mutton and there were no regrets at all. One hour at Hartshorn’s butchers in Oswestry (that story’s for another day) resulted in a 10.5lb leg – we put the oven on at 08:30 and blasted it at 200 degrees (centigrade) for 30 mins and then dropped the temperature to 140 degrees. Potatoes, onion and garlic were placed under the meat at the time the temperature was dropped and it was cooked in the oven  at this low temperature for 7 hours.

Whilst the meat was cooking we popped down to the Stonehouse brewery (to have this gem on your doorstep is to die for) and had a couple of pints of Cambrian Gold – we met all of the children (and grandchildren there too).

Our starter was Hugh F-W’s bloody tomato soup (with beetroot) together with Spanish ham, rocket, parmesan and balsamic vinegar (shot of vodka in the soup optional) …….all twelve wolfed this down.

The main was complemented with purple sprouted broccoli and Alex’s homemade apple and mint jelly!!

Desert (sorry no photo) was Alex’s tiramisu which was sublime…….

We had a Tanners malbec with the main and Prosecco throughout…..”

Roast Potatoes

One Pot Sausage, Mushroom and Mozzarella Pasta


One Pot Sausage, Mushroom and Mozzarella Pasta (2)

What could be better, on a weeknight after a long day at work, than a meal which essentially cooks itself? After some brief browning of sausage meat, all the effort this meal involves is throwing it (or placing gently, whichever suits) all in a pan, putting a lid on and returning 15 minutes later for a comforting, oozy pasta dish.

Today, the weather has been the sort that makes me crave pasta. Although it was a comparatively warm start, it was raining buckets and I arrived at work sodden after my miserable 25 minute walk. By the time I left work, the weather couldn’t have been more different (but not in a good way) – it was clear and bright but with an icy, biting wind. Brrr!

So this meal was just what was needed – easy, tasty and like a nice warm hug.

You could easily make this dish vegetarian by swapping the sausages for porcini mushrooms, and using veg stock rather than chicken stock. You should also play around with the type of pasta you use; I went for caserecce which hubby described as “short bits of spaghetti making out”. It sucked the juice up nicely, which was the main thing. Use whatever type you like – be creative – use a shape you’d never heard of before!

This will serve 6 and takes 30 minutes to make.

One Pot Sausage, Mushroom and Mozzarella Pasta (1)

One Pot Sausage Pasta Bake

1 tbsp olive oil

4 good quality sausages

1 onion

250g chestnut mushrooms

2 garlic cloves

1 small glass red wine

2 x 400g tins whole plum/cherry tomatoes

600ml chicken stock

400g dried pasta

20g grated parmesan

150g mozzarella

1 handful basil leaves

1. Remove the casings from the sausage meat and put the meat in a large casserole dish with the olive oil. Cook over a medium heat until starting to brown, using a wooden spoon to break up the meat.

2. Add the chopped onion and sliced mushrooms, cook for a further 2 minutes then add the sliced garlic. Tip in the wine and allow to boil down for 2 minutes.

3. Stir in the tomatoes (and juice) and stock. Being to the boil, then add the pasta. Turn the heat down to low, put a lid on and cook for 10-15 minutes, until the pasta is just cooked.

4. Turn the heat off, stir through the grated parmesan and torn basil leaves, then tear up the mozzarella and dot over the top of the dish. Put the lid back on for 3-4 minutes until the mozzarella has melted. Enjoy!

One Pot Sausage, Mushroom and Mozzarella Pasta (3)

Smoky Pork and Black Bean Tacos


Smoky Pork and Black Bean Tacos (3)

I’m revisiting an old favourite tonight; beautiful, smoky tacos are just the treat we need on a hump day in a miserable, cold week in February.

I first published this recipe as my Sumptious Smoky Tacos, but firstly, I fancied them again tonight, and secondly, I thought it was about time the recipe got a little makeover.

These tacos have always been extremely popular, and when you taste them, you’ll see why. They have deep, smoky flavours associated with slow cooking but are ready in less than half an hour – what’s not to love?

You can serve the tacos with any mix of sides you like – pile them up! But I served mine with avocado and lettuce (for a bit of health) and soured cream and cheese (because I like them!).

If anyone has the knack of eating tacos with your hands, please let me know! I feel a bit ridiculous eating them with a knife and fork!

This will make enough for 8 tacos and takes 30 minutes max to make.

Smoky Pork and Black Bean Tacos (1)

Smoky Pork and Black Bean Tacos

1 tbsp olive oil

1 red onion

500g lean pork mince

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp ground cumin

2 tsps smoked paprika

380g tin black beans

500g passata

Small bunch chopped coriander

To serve:

1 avocado, peeled and sliced

1 iceburg lettuce, chopped

50g cheddar cheese, grated

50ml soured cream

8 taco shells

1. Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat and add the chopped red onion. Sizzle for 2 minutes, then add the pork. Cook until browned, then stir in the cumin, ground coriander and smoked paprika.

2. Stir in the passata and drained black beans, put a lid on your pan and simmer for 20 minutes.

3. Stir in your chopped coriander and season to taste.

4. To serve, arrange the avocado, lettuce, cheese, soured cream and pork on the table with the taco shells and let everyone help themselves!

Smoky Pork and Black Bean Tacos (2)

Sticky Ribs with Cauliflower Mash


Sticky Ribs with Cauliflower Mash (3)

This weekend has been heavenly. After a quiet Friday night in (we actually nipped out for a little while – to Morrisons. We know how to live) I visited my sisters yesterday to try on wedding/bridesmaids dresses. My big sister is getting married in July, in Kos where I honeymooned last year, and it was so exciting to try on the dresses and realise that it’s actually only 5 months (and 1 day) away! The dresses were all stunning and we can’t wait to wear them on the day.

After this, we nipped to their local – a brewery which serves its own delicious beer. Then it was back to Chester for a cosy evening next to the fire.

The plan today was for me to do a little gardening – I was given lots of gear for growing my own veg for my birthday, and I had hoped to get started with a little seed nursery. This didn’t happen, because the weather is disgusting and I couldn’t bear to be outside for more than a few minutes. I planted a bay tree though – this is progress at least.

So, rather than garden, we went out and bought ribs. What better comfort food on a cold, rainy Sunday than sticky, sweet, spicy ribs? So, I have spent today doing what I love – making a delicious, slow-cooked meal for our Sunday dinner.

Ribs are best when you take your time – you musn’t rush them. Give them plenty of time to marinate, cook them nice and slowly. You want them to be tender and full of flavour, and this won’t happen if you don’t give them the time they need.

I wanted the ribs with mashed potato – packed full of butter and cream. Hubby is on a health kick and vetoed this. After lots of umming and ahing, we decided on this – a compromise. I’d never made cauliflower mash before and didn’t know how it would turn out, but of course it will work – it is a well established fact now that cauliflower is a decent substitute for any carb (even pasta). It is the trending vegetable of the year.

Try this for your next Sunday dinner; it was a fantastic end to a calm, restful weekend.

This will serve 4-5 hungry people and will take up to 6 hours (including marinating time)

Sticky Ribs with Cauliflower Mash (2)

Sticky Ribs with Cauliflower Mash

Ribs:

1 – 1.5kg pork rack of ribs

4 tbsps oyster sauce

6 tbsps runny honey

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tsp dried chilli flakes

4 star anise

3 cloves garlic

2 bay leaves

2 tsp Chinese five spice

1 onion

Mash:

2 heads cauliflower

100ml milk

20g grated parmesan

1. To make your marinade, mix together the oyster sauce, runny honey and soy sauce. Add the star anise, chilli flakes and chopped garlic. Roughly chop your onion and spread evenly over a lare baking dish. Lay the ribs on top of this and drizzle over half of your marinade, sprinkle over half of the five spice, then turn over and repeat. Lay the bay leaves on top. Leave in the fridge for 3-4 hours.

2. Preheat the oven to 150 degrees. Put your ribs in the oven for 90 minutes, flipping the ribs every 10 minutes. After the 90 minutes, turn the heat up to 200 degrees and cook for a further 15 minutes (flip half way through). Keep an eye on it to make sure it doesn’t blacken too much. Remove from the oven.

3. To make your mash, boil a large pan of water. Cut the heads of cauliflower into florets and add to the pan. Cook over a high heat for 10 minutes until soft, then drain. Put the milk and parmesan in the pan with the cauliflower and put on a very low heat. Mash with either a masher or a hand blender. Season with salt and pepper, then remove from the heat.

4. To serve, put the rack of ribs on a large board. Pour over any excess sauce from the bottom of the baking tray, and leave for a couple of minutes for it to be sucked up. Chop up into individual ribs and serve a couple each with a dollop of mash. Dig in – use your fingers!

Sticky Ribs with Cauliflower Mash (1)

Chicken and Lentil Soup


Happy hump day everyone!

After pancake day yesterday, I’m sure you (like us) need an injection of health to counterbalance the over indulgence.

Chicken and Lentil Soup (1)

Now that lent has started, I can’t think of any ingredient in this soup that anyone will have wanted to give up (apart from meat perhaps?) so it’s a fairly safe bet.

This soup contains tonnes (not literally) of protein, and it uses my leftover lentils, so is packed full of vitamins, minerals and other good stuff too. It is truly an angelic recipe!

This will take you 20 minutes to make, and will serve 4.

Chicken and Lentil Soup (2)

Chicken and Lentil Soup

200g smoked bacon lardons

300g chicken breast, diced

600ml chicken stock

1 tsp ground coriander

400g leftover lentils

Natural yoghurt, to serve

1. Put the lardons in a large casserole dish. Cook over a high heat for 3-4 minutes until golden.

2. Sprinkle the coriander over the diced chicken breast, then add to the pan with the lardons. Cook for a further 3-4 minutes, stirring often.

3. Tip in the chicken stock and lentils and bring to the boil. Simmer for 10 minutes.

4. Blend about half of the soup with a hand blender – you still want the soup to be fairly chunky, but blending some of the lentils will thicken it.

5. Serve each bowl with a dollop of natural yoghurt in the centre. Enjoy!

Swedish Meatballs


Swedish Meatballs (2)

Believe it or not, I have never set foot in an Ikea. Despite this, I have still heard of famed Ikea meatballs. I decided to recreate them (if such a thing is possible, having not had them) as a Monday treat for my husband, with a creamy sauce and a side of frites.

Meatballs are very easy to put together. It seriously is just a case of mixing the meat and herbs (plus one or two little extras), frying and then making a simple cream sauce. I love the flavour of dill in these Swedish style meatballs – I love Swedish food fullstop. The dill is a perfect complement to the lamb and tastes very comforting.

I did actually make a very similar dish for my first ever blog post – however, I’m so embarrassed by the poor photography that I can’t bear to share the link! If you want to see it, you’re going to have to find it yourself!

This dish will serve 4-5 (with frites on the side) and takes 25 minutes to make.

Swedish Meatballs (1)

Swedish Meatballs

800g lamb mince

1 large bunch fresh dill

1 large bunch flat leaf parsley

60g breadcrumbs

1 egg

2 tbsps olive oil

1 onion

2 tbsps plain flour

1 small glass brandy

300ml water

50ml double cream

1. To make your meatballs, tip the mince into a large bowl. Add the egg, breadcrumbs, some salt and pepper, and half of the chopped parsley and dill. Mix together well with your fingertips. Add more breadcrumbs if the mixture is very sticky and wet.

2. Roll the meat into small balls, about the size of a golf ball. Heat the oil in a large saute pan and add the meat balls. Fry over a medium heat for 10-15 minutes, turning often, until golden brown.

3. Remove the meatballs from the frying pan and add the chopped onion. Stir in the flour, then pour in the brandy. Once all of the brandy is absorbed, gradually add the water a little at a time, stirring often. Then pour in the double cream and remaining parsley and dill. Return the meatballs to the pan and heat through – and you’re done!