Spring Vegetable Risotto with Feta

Spring Vegetable Risotto with Feta (2)

I don’t know about where you are, but here in Chester it’s been a glorious day – the sun has been shining, the birds have been singing. On coming home from work today, I noticed that my strawberry seeds have finally started to sprout (I was starting to worry I had dud seeds!) and as I sit here typing this I can hear the merry sound of a bumblebee buzzing outside the window. Spring is definitely here!

I always (sadly) get a bit excited when asparagus comes into season – the price plummets and suddenly a new realm of recipes can be made.

I make this particular risotto – using various combinations of veg – probably once a fortnight in spring and summer. It’s a great, tasty way of packing whichever vegetables you choose into your menu. I used asparagus, peas and spinach but you could swap in whatever you like.

Some people might have the misconception that risotto is a heavy, winter dish. This is not true in this case. Simply swap the butter for olive oil and reduce the amount of parmesan you add, and suddenly the risotto is very light and fresh.

This will serve 4 and will take around 45 minutes to make.

Spring Vegetable Risotto with Feta (1)

Spring Vegetable Risotto with Feta

2 tbsps olive oil

1 onion

300g risotto rice

1 small glass white wine

500ml vegetable stock

100g asparagus tips

200g frozen peas

100g spinach

10g grated parmesan

80g feta

1. Chop the onion and add to a large casserole dish with 1 tbsp of the olive oil. Cook gently for a couple of minutes, then stir in the risotto rice. Pour in the white wine and stir.

2. When the wine has mostly been absorbed by the rice, start adding the stock bit by bit, stirring all the time. When you have added all of the stock, the rice should be just slightly al dente – taste it, if it’s too al dente, add some more stock.

3. Roughly chop the asparagus, then add it along with the peas and spinach to the risotto. Stir well until the spinach has wilted, then turn off the heat. Drizzle over the remaining olive oil, sprinkle over the parmesan and put a lid on. Leave it for a couple of minutes.

4. Chop the feta into bitesize pieces, then stir into the risotto. Done!


Chicken Katsu Curry

Chicken Katsu Curry (2)

Wagamama serve a dish called Chicken Katsu Curry. I have never actually eaten it, but in theory it sounds wonderful. Crispy, breaded chicken with a flavourful curry sauce and fluffy rice.

As we are trying to save money, rather than head out to try this dish, I thought I’d make my own version at home. It was all guess work really, but it turned out well – hubby declared it ‘restaurant quality’, but he is the biggest fan of chicken in any sort of crispy coating so he is biased.

The chicken and curry sauce worked really well together. It’s not the sort of meal you could have every night, but for a hump day treat, why not give it a go?

Try this recipe, and if you’ve had the Wagamama version you’ll have to let me know if it’s at all similar 🙂

This will serve 2, and takes around 40 minutes to make.

Chicken Katsu Curry (1)

Chicken Katsu Curry

4 tbsps vegetable oil

1 onion

2 cloves garlic

1 tsp tumeric

1/2 tsp chilli powder

1 tsp garam masala

2 tsps curry powder

60g plain flour

400ml coconut milk

2 tbsps tomato puree

2 chicken breasts

2 eggs

100g panko breadcrumbs

250g cooked rice, to serve

1. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees.

2. Start by making the curry sauce. Chop the onion, and put in a large saucepan with 1 tbsp of the vegetable oil. Cook gently for 5 minutes, then add the chopped garlic and all of the spices. Stir well. Add 1 tbsp of the plain flour, stir, then add the coconut milk and tomato puree. Simmer for 10 minutes, stirring often. Season with salt if required.

3. For the chicken, place the breasts between a piece of clingfilm and bash with a rolling pin to squash a little. Take 3 dishes. Pour the remaining flour into the first, break the eggs into the second and beat them, pour the panko breadcrumbs into the third.

4. Heat the remaining oil in a frying pan. Coat the chicken breasts first in the flour, then the egg, then the breadcrumbs. Add to the hot oil and fry for 2-3 minutes on each side until golden. Transfer to a baking tray and cook in the oven for 15-20 minutes until cooked through.

5. To serve, slice the chicken and serve with the curry sauce poured over the top, and a pile of rice on the side. Enjoy it!

Beef Penang Curry

Beef Penang Curry (2)

(You can get cast iron oven safe individual dishes like mine here).

Fancy a smashing curry to warm the chilliest of cockles? This is the most warming, comforting Thai curry I have ever tasted, and I’m sure you’ll enjoy it as much as we did. It has the huge advantage of being ready in almost no time at all – using thin strips of good quality beef means that the curry doesn’t need slow cooking; in fact, this one is almost as fast as a stir fry!

The curry is essentially a mixture of all of my favourite spices, mixed together and mellowed with coconut milk. There is a little heat, but it is gentle rather than burning.

This would be best served with a veggie side dish – some spinach, simply wilted, would be perfect. It’s also important to make sure you have plenty of rice (Thai jasmine rice is best) to soak up the lovely, creamy sauce. Mmmm!

Try this if you’re a curry fan – I’m sure you’ll love it.

This takes 15 minutes to cook, and will serve 2-3.

Beef Penang Curry (1)

Beef Penang Curry

2 shallots

3 cloves garlic

1 red chilli

1 thumb sized piece of galangal

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp fish sauce

4 tbsps tomato puree

3 kaffir lime leaves

1 tsp paprika

1 tbsp ground cumin

1 tbsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground tumeric

1/2 tsp ground nutmeg

1/2 tsp ground cloves

1 tbsp ground nut oil

45og steak, sliced thinly

400ml coconut milk

1 lime

A few basil leaves

Thai jasmine rice, cooked, to serve

1. To make your curry paste, finely chop the shallots, garlic, chilli and galangal. Place into a bowl, and add the soy sauce, fish sauce, tomato puree, lime leaves, paprika, cumin, coriander, tumeric, nutmeg, cinnamon and cloves. Mix well to combine.

2. Heat the groundnut oil in a large saucepan. When it is hot, add the steak and brown for 1-2 minutes. Add the curry paste and mix together. Heat for another 2 minutes, stirring often.

3. Add the coconut milk and bring to a simmer. Ladle into bowls and squeeze over lime juice and tear over a few leaves of basil. Believe it or not, it’s ready!

Beef Penang Curry (3)

Vegetable Korma

Vegetable Korma (1)

If someone asks you to think of a korma, what do you think of? Do you think of a bright, vibrant curry? Or do you think of a sickly sweet, yellow curry with a claggy sauce and most likely some overcooked chicken pieces?

In my opinion, the korma has been the ‘go to’ curry for when curry houses need to sell something mild. It feels unloved. There is no reason a korma needs to be like this; it is defined as a dish originating in South Asia or Central Asia[1] consisting of meat and/or vegetables braised in a spiced sauce made with yogurt, cream, nut or seed paste. There is nothing in there to say it needs to have a dyed yellow sauce, or that says it needs to taste overwhelmingly of dessert.

This particular version makes vegetables the star of the show, and is in fact vegan (I used coconut milk rather than yoghurt or cream to make the sauce). It’s also so tasty you won’t believe it’s good for you. Make it when you’re craving a curry – trust me, you’ll love it and you’ll feel much better afterwards than if you got a takeaway.

This will take 30-40 minutes to make, and will serve 4.

Vegetable Korma (2)

Vegetable Korma

1 baking potato

3 tbsps vegetable oil

1/2 tsp mustard seeds

1 onion, finely chopped

2 tsps garam masala

1/2 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp ground coriander

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

3cm piece of ginger, finely chopped

1/2 green chilli, finely chopped

1 carrot, cut into 1cm pieces

300g dwarf beans, cut into 1 inch lengths

100g frozen peas

1 tin coconut milk

1. Bring a small pan of water to the boil. Peel the potato and chop into 1.5 cm chunks. Par boil for approximately 10 minutes.

2. In a large, high edged frying pan, heat the oil over a medium heat. Add the mustard seeds and onion; cook for 2 minutes, stirring often.

3. Add the ginger, garlic and chilli. Sizzle for about 30 seconds, then add the garam masala, cumin and coriander.

4. Add the carrot. Cook for a couple of minutes, then add the green beans. Cook for another couple of minutes, stirring often.

5. Tip in the peas. Mix well, and when the peas have defrosted, add the potato. Tip in the coconut milk, bring to a simmer and season with salt. Put a lid on and simmer for 4-5 minutes. Add a little water if it’s too thick.

6. Serve with a pile of fluffy rice. Delicious!

Vegetable Chilli

This is another recipe for when you’re craving something comforting and warm but don’t want to over indulge. I love meat chilli, but only when it’s slow- slow-cooked and melty. This chilli has just the same favours without the long cooking, is much better for you, and costs barely anything to put together a huge potful!

I don’t think chillies should be hot – I think they should contain lovely warm flavours without any real spice and so this is what I’ve done here. Feel free to add a few dried chilli flakes if you prefer some spice!

Of course, I topped mine with cheese and soured cream, and served it with white rice, but you could just as easily miss off those elements to make it seriously healthy and low in calories.

Give this a go – it’s packed full of smoky flavours and I guarantee you’ll love it.

This is another of my Cheap Eats recipes – make sure you check out the rest here if you haven’t already!

This will make enough to serve 6 – freeze any extra, or have it for lunch (it gets better the next day!) and will take 30 minutes to make.


Vegetable Chilli

1 tbsp olive oil

1 onion

2 cloves garlic

1 large bunch coriander

1 tsp dried cinnamon

1 tsp smoked paprika

2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes

1 x 400g tin chickpeas

1 x 400g tin borlotti beans

1 courgette

1 red pepper

200g white rice, cooked, per person to serve, plus cheddar cheese and soured cream to dollop on top

1. Finely chop your onion, garlic and the stalks of the coriander. Put in a large pan with the oil and cook over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes. Stir in the cinnamon and smoked paprika, then tip in the chopped tomatoes, chickpeas and borlotti beans.

2. Chop the courgette and add this to the pan too. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 10 minutes.

3. Finely chop the red pepper and coriander leaves and stir these into the chilli. Taste, and season with salt and pepper, and add more cinnamon and smoked paprika if it needs it too.

4. Serve on a pile of white rice, topped with grated cheese and soured cream. Yum!


Curried Rack of Lamb with Pilau Rice

This is a delicious twist on a Sunday roast and is the first in my series of Cheap Eats; simple, quick recipes where you can cook fresh, tasty food for up to four people, all for under £50 per week.

Rack of lamb is a lovely cut and always looks tasty. The fatty layer on top is perfect for rubbing in spices, and the lamb works beautifully well with the Indian spice mix.

I chose to serve this with pilau rice, and if you’ve never made your own then forget the sweet, multi-coloured stuff you’ll find in supermarkets – real pilau rice is fragrant, delicious and a dish in its own right.

Try it out – this looks so impressive!

This will serve 4 and take up to 40 minutes to make.


Curried Rack of Lamb with Pilau Rice

For the spice rub:

4 cardamon pods

1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp tumeric

1 tsp medium curry powder

1/4 tsp salt

1 tsp vegetable oil

For the pilau rice:

450g basmati rice

1 onion

15g butter

1 cinammon stick

4 cardamon pods

8 cloves

2 bay leaves

1 small pinch saffron


1 rack of lamb (approx 500g)

200ml natural yoghurt

1/2 cucumber

1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.

2. To make the spice rub, crush the cardamon pods in a pestle and mortar and remove the seeds. Discard the outside shell and keep the seeds in the mortar. Crush them as much as you can, then tip in the rest of the spices. Stir, and add the oil. Stir to create a paste, then rub this into the fatty side of your rack of lamb. Place in a roasting dish in the oven. Cook for 15-30 minutes, depending on the size of your lamb and how rare you like it (you can tell how well done it is by checking the sides, but remember the inside will always be rarer). Leave to rest for 5 minutes when it’s cooked.

3. To make your rice, chop the onion. Melt the butter in a saucepan and add the onion. Gently soften over a medium heat for 3-4 minutes, then add the spices, bay leaves and saffron. Stir, then add the rice. Coat the rice in the butter, then tip in 650ml water. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat, cover with a lid and cook for 10 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave to stand for 5 minutes.

4. Slice your cucumber and mix with the yoghurt and a pinch of salt in a bowl. You can serve this alongside your rack of lamb and rice. Enjoy!


Thai Fish Curry

Coriander and ginger are two of my favourite flavours, and so Thai food is one of my favourite cuisines.

This curry is one of my own making, so true Thai food masters will frown on it, but I love it. It’s sweet, spicy, salty and sour, and warms you up after a long, cold day.

I love cooking with fish, too, because it is so quick to cook and so this recipe is perfect when you want something packed full of flavour but quick and easy to make.

This curry will serve 4 (we’re having the leftovers for lunch tomorrow), but if you’re cooking for 4 you’ll need to double the amount of rice. This takes 20 minutes to cook.

Thai Fish Curry

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 inch piece of ginger, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

1 red chilli, chopped

Large bunch coriander

2 sticks lemongrass

2 x 400ml coconut milk

1 tbsp soy sauce

2 tbsps fish sauce

1 tbsp lime juice

1 tsp palm sugar

8 kaffir lime leaves

250g white fish, e.g. cod, chopped into bitesize chunks

200g sugar snap peas

10 basil leaves

250g thai rice, cooked

1. Put the sesame oil in a large saucepan and put on a medium heat. Add the ginger, garlic, chilli and chopped coriander stalks. Sizzle for 2 minutes, stirring often. Bash the lemongrass with a knife (don’t cut into slices, just bruise the flesh) and add to the pan.

2. Pour in the coconut mik, soy sauce, fish sauce, lime juice, palm sugar and kaffir lime leaves. Bring to a simmer.

3. Add the fish and simmer for 5 minutes, then add the sugar snap peas and simmer for another 2 minutes.

4. Finally, chop the coriander and basil leaves and stir in. Take off the heat. To serve, ladle the curry over bowls of rice, and enjoy!

Mushroom and Thyme Risotto

This is a classic and it’s perfect for a chilly Autumn evening.

I used Madeira instead of white wine in the initial stages of the recipe (mainly because I didn’t have any white wine in the house) and it worked really well with the earthiness of the mushrooms; it turned it into a much richer dish. Give it a go if you can.

You can use whatever mushrooms you can most easily get your hands on for this recipe. However, it’s tastiest if you use a variety of different types.

This takes 30 minutes and will serve 4.

Mushroom and Thyme Risotto

10g butter

3 tbsps olive oil

1 large onion

500g mushrooms

350g arborio rice

1 small glass Madeira

1 litre vegetable stock

1 small handful fresh thyme leaves

80g parmesan (or vegetarian alternative)

1. Chop the onion. Melt the butter in a large casserole dish over a medium heat, add 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and tip in the onion. Stir and sizzle for 2 minutes.

2. Roughly slice the mushrooms and add to the dish. Cook for 5 more minutes, until the mushrooms have reduced in size. Add the rice and stir well.

3. Pour in the Madeira, stir and allow to reduce down. Begin adding the stock, a little at a time, stirring until the rice has absorbed the stock before adding more. Continue until all of the stock has been used and the rice is plump and tender.

4. Stir in the thyme, then turn off the heat. Add the remaining olive oil and the parmesan to the risotto (don’t stir it) and put the lid on the dish. Leave for 5 minutes, then stir well and serve.

Autumn Vegetable Risotto

We’re trying to clear our kitchen cupboards at the moment, and mine are filled with all sorts. In particular, in looking through the cupboards, I came across 3 or 4 boxes of risotto rice and decided to use some of it up tonight.

Some people think of risotto as being unhealthy – probably because of the carbohydrate and creamy cheesiness. It doesn’t have to be unhealthy though, and this one certainly wasn’t. It was packed full of vegetables and made for a delicious end to the weekend.

You could use any vegetable you want to this risotto – just add at varying times of the cooking process depending on how long (or little) time they need.

This will serve 4-5 and takes about 40 minutes to make.

Autumn Vegetable Risotto

2 tbsps olive oil

1 onion

4 leeks

300g risotto rice

1 glass white wine

500ml vegetable stock

3 courgettes

30g parmesan (or vegetarian alternative)

Handful chopped parsley

1. Chop the onion and add to a casserole dish with half of the olive oil. Sweat over a medium heat for two minutes, the add the sliced leeks and cook for a further 2 minutes.

2. Add the risotto rice, stir for 1 minute then add the white wine. Let the wine simmer down.

3. Pour the stock in gradually, stirring often. This process will take around 25 minutes. Top up with water if necessary. The rice should be al dente but getting gloopy.

4. Chop the courgettes and add the the pan; stir well. Pour the remaining olive oil, grated parmesan and chopped parsley on top then put the lid on the pan, turn the heat off and leave for 5-10 minutes.

5. Take off the lid and stir well – the courgettes should have cooked in the residual heat from the pan. Serve topped with a little more grated parmesan.

Lamb and Spinach Whole Spice Curry

There is something about the end of Summer and early Autumn which makes me anticipate the seasons to come. We’re approaching a wonderful time of year now, with all of the beautiful fruits, berries and vegetables which come into season.

It was a sunny, warm day today but in the shade it was cool and the leaves have started falling from the trees. This makes me think of one thing – long, slow cooking.

This curry is based on a Madhur Jaffrey one, but I added spinach and juggled a few of the quantities to make it into a dish you can serve by itself (with rice and naan) without needing to make various side dishes. It’s fairly mild, and you can make it more or less so by changing the amount of cayenne pepper you use. If you’re going to put more in, wait until the end and do it by taste.

This will serve four and takes around 1 hour 30 minutes to make.

Lamb and Spinach Whole Spice Curry

4 tbsps vegetable oil

8 cardamom pods

2 cinnamon sticks

8 cloves

1 tsp cumin seeds

1 tsp fennel seeds

4 chopped white onions

3 chopped garlic cloves

600g boneless lamb – chopped into 1-2 inch pieces

500ml natural yoghurt

2 tbsps ground coriander

2 tsps ground ginger

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp salt

300g frozen spinach

Large handful coriander

Naan bread and boiled rice, to serve

1. Heat the oil over a medium high heat in a large casserole dish then add the cardamom pods, cinnamon sticks, cloves, cumin seeds and fennel seeds. Cook for 2 minutes, then tip in the onions and garlic.

2. Cook for around 5 minutes until the onion is starting to brown, then add the meat, yoghurt, ground coriander, ground ginger, cayenne pepper and salt. Stir well to combine.

3. Put the oven on at around 160 degrees, put the lid on the casserole dish and put in the oven for 1 hour 15 minutes.

4. Remove from the oven and put back on the hob on a medium heat. Stir in the frozen spinach and allow to cook through, then add the chopped coriander.