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!

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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!

Mushroom and Brocolli Gnocchi Bake


Mushroom and Brocolli Gnocchi Bake (2)

I haven’t had gnocchi for what feels like years. It’s probably only a matter of weeks, but when you’ve got a gnocchi addiction it can really mess up your sense of time. So, I had to remedy this today and made this simple yet delicious gnocchi bake.

I adore tenderstem brocolli and was delighted when I found a pack on offer (I know, I’m really sad). Although normal brocolli is great too, tenderstem is perfect for a week night meal because it cooks so quickly. You can throw it into any dish (within reason) without needing to pre-cook it.

Mushrooms and bacon are classic pairings for brocolli, so they go wonderfully together in this dish. The deep, earthy flavours compliment the gnocchi beautifully. I topped my bake with a little sprinkling of Cheshire cheese – this is a hard, mild, crumbly cheese (if you can’t get Cheshire cheese then any cheese which fits this description will do the job) which just adds another level of taste, plus if a dish doesn’t have cheese it’s not worth having!

Putting the bake under the grill for a few minutes adds a lovely additional extra texture. You have to give this one a go!

This will serve 4 and takes 30 minutes.

Mushroom and Brocolli Gnocchi Bake (3)

Mushroom and Brocolli Gnocchi Bake

200g smoked bacon lardons

300g chestnut mushrooms

200g tenderstem brocolli

1 small glass white wine

200g half fat creme fraiche

500g gnocchi

50g cheshire cheese

1. Preheat your grill to max.

2. Brown the lardons in a frying pan over a high heat. Add the sliced mushrooms and chopped brocolli – cook for 5-7 minutes, stirring now and again, until the mushrooms have reduced in size a little.

3. Add the wine – let it bubble down a little, then add the creme fraiche, gnocchi and 100ml water. Bring to a simmer and cook until the gnocchi is squidgy to the touch.

4. Season with salt and pepper, pour into an oven proof dish and evenly crumble over the Cheshire cheese. Cook under the grill until the cheese is melted and starting to bubble. Enjoy!

Mushroom and Brocolli Gnocchi Bake (1)

Bacon, Leek and Walnut Tart


Bacon, Leek and Walnut Tart (2)

This is the unashamed winter version of my spring tart – the same base with some lovely, warm, winter flavours to top it with.

I’ve mentioned in a previous post that it’s my birthday soon (on Monday), and in my opinion the celebrations should start today. Only one day left at work before a lovely long weekend – what better time to celebrate with a delicious cheesy, pastry based tart with the beautiful flavours of bacon, leek, walnuts and gorgonzola (and a glass of wine).

The tart is extremely easy to make. Although slightly more difficult to make than my spring tart, due to the frying of the bacon and leeks, it’s still desperately straightforward and if you’re someone who is a bit scared of using pastry, this is an excellent place to start.

The tart was given the accolade “scrumptious” by my husband, so must be good.

This will take you no more than 45 minutes to make, and will serve 4 with a side salad.

Bacon, Leek and Walnut Tart (1)

Bacon, Leek and Walnut Tart

375g ready rolled puff pastry

200g bacon lardons

1 large leek

200g soft cheese

1 egg

1 handful walnut halves

20g gorgonzola

1. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees.

2. Fry the bacon lardons over a medium heat until golden. Finely slice the leeks and add them to the fryng pan; fry for another 3-4 minutes.

3. Unroll the pastry, lay on a baking tray and score all the way around the edge, 1 inch from the sides (don’t cut all the way through). Beat the egg in a bowl and brush a little around the outside edges.

4. Spread the soft cheese evenly over the inside scored rectangle of the pastry. Grind some black pepper over the top, then evenly layer on the bacon and leek mix. Sprinkle over the walnuts, and dot the gorgonzola over.

5. Bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until the sides are golden and puffed up.

Cauliflower, Pancetta and Mushroom Bake


Cauliflower, Pancetta and Mushroom Bake (2)

Ever fancy comfort food, but not heavy carbs? Pasta is always my go-to when I want a warm, filling meal at the end of a long, cold day, but I decided to try this – a non-carb version of a macaroni cheese, to see if it could really be just as comforting.

It was!

The mixture of a rich cheese sauce with salty pancetta, earthy mushrooms and soft cauliflower really worked. You could easily make it veggie by ommitting the pancetta and swapping the parmesan, but I loved it like this. If you did want to leave the pancetta out, I’d advise using a couple of porcini mushrooms too to add the depth of flavour.

Cauliflower, for some reason, has become really popular recently as a carb replacement (e.g. cauliflower rice) and I don’t want to jump on the bandwagon, but really, in a meal like this, I can see why!

This took just less than an hour to cook, and will serve 3-4 with a side salad.

Cauliflower, Pancetta and Mushroom Bake (1)

Cauliflower, Pancetta and Mushroom Bake

1 cauliflower

1 onion

200g cubed pancetta

200g button mushrooms

20g butter

20g flour

1 pint semi-skimmed milk

150g cheddar cheese, grated

20g parmesan, grated

1. Preheat the oven to 220 degrees.

2. Chop the cauliflower into florets and add to a pan of salted, boiling water. Cook for approximately 10 minutes until soft, then drain and leave to one side.

3. Put a frying pan on a medium heat. Add the pancetta and sizzle until starting to crisp, then add the chopped onion and halved mushrooms. Cook for around 5 minutes, then take off the heat.

4. In another saucepan, melt the butter over a medium heat then stir in the flour. Cook for 2 minutes, then remove from the heat and gradually whisk in all of the milk. Put back on the heat and cook, whisking all the time, until it thickens. Remove from the heat again, stir in the grated cheddar and season with salt and pepper.

5. Take an oven proof dish and pile in the cauliflower. Drain any liquid from the pancetta and mushroom mix, then add the mixture to the dish. Pour over the cheese sauce, sprinkle over the parmesan and bake in the oven for 20 minutes until golden.