Asparagus, Pea and Pesto Lasagne

The other half is going to visit family tomorrow so I wanted to make him something nice for our last evening together before Christmas; however, at this time of year, isn’t everyone manically busy? All I can think about is wrapping paper, waking at night in a blind panic about presents I haven’t bought. So, I needed something extremely quick.

He loves lasagne, and so I decided to make one. When I thought through what makes a lasagne time consuming, I realised it’s the prep before it goes in the oven. Even in my Veggie Butternut Squash Lasagne the veg needs roasting in the oven first.

With this lasagne, the filling simply gets mixed together; you layer it up and top it with goats’ cheese then throw it in the oven. What could be easier? Not much of a looker but boy is it tasty!

Asparagus, Pea and Pesto Lasagne

250g fresh lasagne sheets

1 onion

150g asparagus spears

100g frozen peas

140g green pesto

400g half fat creme fraiche

300g goats’ cheese

1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.

2. Finely chop the onion and cut the asparagus into inch pieces. Mix together the onion, asparagus, peas (bash them up so that they’re not stuck together), pesto and creme fraiche in a large bowl.

3. In a large oven proof dish, layer lasagne, asparagus mix, lasagne, asparagus mix, lasagne. Spread the goats’ cheese over the top layer of lasagne.

4. Pop in the oven for 20-25 minutes and it’s done!


Ginger Mince Pies

This is my first sweet recipe on this blog, but seeing as it’s Christmas I wanted to share this lovely little mince pie recipe.

I got the marzipan topping idea from a Mary Berry Christmas programme – I tried it out for the first time today and it’s brilliant; the marzipan goes wonderfully crunchy when it’s baked in the oven.

I love ginger too, it’s one of my favourite spices and candied stem ginger is just the best thing to snack on. I had the idea to use ginger conserve as well as mincemeat in the mince pies and it worked really well. Try it out – these are delicious, rustic and gooey.

This makes around 12 mince pies and will take about 40 minutes.

Ginger Mince Pies

500g shortcrust pastry (it’s better if you make your own, but shop bought will work well too)

400g mincemeat

150g ginger conserve

100g white marzipan (approx)

1. Pre heat the oven to 180 degrees.

2. Roll out your pastry to approx 5mm thick. Depending on the size of your bun tray, pick a round pastry cutter (you will want to ensure that the pastry completely fills each individual section).

3. Cut out your rounds of pastry and fill the bun tray. Press the pastry down to make sure there are no gaps underneath.

4. Fill each pastry case with 1-2 tsps mincemeat. Top with 1/2 tsp ginger conserve and a pinch of grated marzipan.

5. Bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until the pastry is cooked through. Merry Christmas!

Pancetta, Mushroom and Spelt Broth

In the run up to Christmas, I always like to try to eat fairly healthily during the week (beetroot and fried egg burger aside). There’s always so much eating and drinking going on at the weekends that I like to make sure we get at least some vitamins and minerals throughout the week. The serious comfort eating starts anew in January!

You’d be correct if you pointed out that this particular recipe isn’t packed that full of veg – however, swapping a stodgy carbohydrate such as pasta or bread with spelt adds a boost of health to the dish.

If you haven’t eaten spelt before, it’s a seriously underrated little grain which works beautifully in a broth such as this. It holds its own with the deep, earthy flavours of mushroom and pancetta and adds just a little bite to an otherwise fairly liquid broth – think pearl barley.

This recipe is ready in 30 minutes and will serve at least 4.

Pancetta, Mushroom and Spelt Broth

200g pancetta, cubed

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2 bay leaves

1 small glass white wine

1 litre vegetable stock

5 or 6 dried porcini

2 tomatoes, chopped

150g button mushrooms, sliced

250g ready to eat spelt

1 small handful parsley

Parmesan, to serve

1. Put the pancetta in a large casserole dish over a medium heat, cook until golden.

2. Add the onion, bay leaves and garlic, sizzle for two minutes then pour in the white wine. Bring to the boil then add the stock.

3. Add the porcini and tomatoes, put the lid on the dish and simmer for 10 minutes.

4. Add the mushrooms and spelt, put the lid back on and cook for another 6-7 minutes. Season with a little salt and plenty of black pepper.

5. Take off the heat, stir in the chopped parsley and serve each bowl topped with a generous grating of parmesan.

Thai Noodle Soup

There’s something about winter which makes me crave Thai food – the punchy flavours just make you think of sunshine.

I’ve put a couple of noodle soups with prawns on the blog already (Tom Kha Soup, Noodle Soup), but this one is particularly easy, fragrant and fresh.

The addition of tumeric makes the soup particularly bright and adds a distinctive, earthy flavour.

This particular soup is more similar to the Tom Kha Soup of the two I’ve previously cooked, but I’ve really stripped it back to make it seriously easy and quick to make.

This will serve 3-4 and takes 15 minutes to make.

Thai Noodle Soup

1 tbsp sesame oil

1 inch piece ginger

3 cloves garlic

1 green chilli

2 sticks lemongrass

1 handful coriander

1 tsp tumeric

1 litre vegetable stock

400ml coconut milk

300g rice noodles

250g raw prawns

2 pak choi

1 tbsp fish sauce

1. Finey slice the ginger, garlic, chilli and coriander stalks and add to a large pan with the sesame oil and bruised lemongrass. Put on a medium heat for a couple of minutes until it starts to sizzle and becomes fragrant, then add the tumeric.

2. Stir in the stock and coconut milk; bring to a simmer.

3. Add the noodles and prawns.

4. When the prawns have turned pink, chop the pak choi and coriander leaves and add to the pan. Add fish sauce to taste and you’re done!

Beef Burger with Beetroot and Fried Egg

It’s my 100th post and so I wanted to make something tasty and special to commemorate the occasion. So, I asked the other half what he would like if he could have anything in the world and this was his suggestion – a burger mimicking one he had in Australia when he was a child. The decision was confirmed when my mum gave me half a dozen freshly laid eggs from her hens.

Who doesn’t love a burger? And making your own is so much better than buying them ready made, because you can monitor what goes into them, the quality of the meat you use and the amount of seasoning you add. I like mine really simple – just mince, salt and pepper. Use high quality mince and make sure you don’t opt for lean mince – the fat will help your burger stay together without needing to add anything else. This will keep your burger deliciously moist.

According to the other half, this combination of beetroot, egg and soured cream is a topping often found in Australia and it works fantastically well. The pickled beetroot adds the sharpness you need, and this is balanced by the egg and the cream. Give it a go!

This recipe will make 4 burgers, and takes 20 minutes to make.

Beef Burger with Beetroot and Fried Egg

2 tbsps olive oil

500g beef mince

4 eggs

40g sliced pickled beetroot

40ml soured cream

1 little gem lettuce, sliced

4 brioche burger buns

1. Tip the mince into a bowl, add salt and pepper and get your hands in there – mix well and squeeze the mince together, then split into 4 evenly sized balls. Squash them into burger shapes.

2. To cook the burgers, drizzle them with half the olive oil. Put a griddle pan on a high heat, and add the burgers. Cook for approx 5 minutes on each side, until cooked to your liking.

3. Meanwhile, cut your brioche buns in half and put under the grill for 5 minutes.

4. Fry your eggs in the remaining olive oil, until cooked as you like them.

5. To compile your burgers, spread soured cream over the bottom of the bun, add the lettuce and then the burger. Top this with the egg and beetroot. Best enjoyed with a cold beer!

Pan Fried Sea Bass with Lentils

This is a healthy, nourishing dish for that time of year when most people are coming down with a cold, and the rest are desperately trying to dodge germs to avoid being ill for a Christmas party, or Christmas day.

The cold outside doesn’t help matters – it makes me crave a nice battered fish with some crispy chips. But that’s not going to help pump our bodies full of vitamins to stave off the illness.

So, I’ve chosen a lovely fillet of sea bass (one of my favourite fish), simply pan fried and on a bed of tasty, nourishing lentils. Easy, quick and guaranteed to boost those white blood cells (I promise – it’s a scientific fact).

This will serve 2 and take 30 minutes to make.

Pan Fried Sea Bass with Lentils

2 tbsps olive oil

1 carrot

1 onion

2 x 400g tins puy lentils

2 sprigs fresh rosemary

1 tsp sherry vinegar

200g spinach

2 sea bass fillets

Natural yoghurt, to serve

1. Dice the onion and carrot, then add to a large pan with half of the olive oil. Cook over a medium heat for 3 minutes, then add the lentils (including the liquid), chopped rosemary and vinegar. Put a lid on and simmer for 20 minutes.

2. Add the spinach to the lentils and allow to wilt. Turn the heat down to low and season.

3. Season the sea bass with salt and pepper. Pour the remaining oil into a frying pan and put on a medium-high heat. When the oil is sizzling, add the sea bass skin side down and cook for 4 minutes (depending on size). Flip over and cook for another 30 seconds.

4. To serve, ladle a portion of lentils into each bowl, then add the fish. Top with a small dollop of natural yoghurt.

Chorizo and Pea Pearl Barley Risotto

This isn’t technically a risotto at all; it’s made with lovely pearl barley (I had some left in the cupboard from my Pearl Barley, Vegetable and Bacon Broth) which makes it comforting, light and less labour intensive than a normal risotto.

You already know I love the flavour combination of chorizo and pea (Chorizo and Pea Pilaf, Creamy Chorizo and Pea Gnocchi) and they work just as well as always in this tasty recipe. Mixed with parsley and just a little crumbling of feta (instead of the parmesan you’d normally have on a risotto) it’s a winner.

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

Chorizo and Pea Pearl Barley Risotto

225g chorizo ring

1 onion

1 clove of garlic

350g pearl barley

400g tin chopped tomatoes

1 litre chicken stock

250g frozen peas

1 handful chopped parsley

10g feta

1. Slice the chorizo and put in a large pan over a medium heat. Cook until golden and crisp, then remove from the pan.

2. Chop the onion and garlic and add to the pan. Sizzle for 30 seconds, then add the pearl barley. Stir to coat it in the chorizo oil, then tip in the chopped tomatoes and chicken stock. Bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer for 25 minutes, until the liquid is mostly absorbed.

3. Throw in the peas, heat for another 2-3 minutes until the peas have cooked through, then season with salt and pepper.

4. Stir in the chopped parsley and the chorizo. To serve, top each bowl with a little crumbled feta.

Smoked Salmon, Roasted Beetroot and Watercress Smörgåsbord

I wasn’t going to call this dish a smörgåsbord, because it’s not exactly the right definition, but it is a sharing platter with plenty of Scandinavian flavours so I hope I can get away with it.

This is so simple, barely any cooking is required (any use of the oven is just for warming things up, apart from the beetroot which needs roasting) and it’s really just a case of compiling the ingredients.

You could add or remove various ingredients to this – if you had any gherkins they would go well on the side, as would a dollop of horseradish sauce or some pickled fish. Use your imagination!

I love the fact you can put this in the middle of the table and let everyone help themselves; just make sure you get to go first!

This will serve 2-3 and is ready in 30 minutes.

Smoked Salmon, Roasted Beetroot and Watercress Smörgåsbord

2 tbsps olive oil

500g raw beetroot

2 smoked salmon fillets (I used lightly smoked which meant they needed cooking, if you’re using fully smoked you don’t need to cook them).

1 loaf rye bread

100g watercress

40g soured cream

1 handful dill

1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees. Drizzle half of the olive oil over the beetroot in a roasting dish (trimmed and cut into wedges; no need to peel it) and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put in the oven for 30 minutes.

2. When the beetroot has been in for 15 minutes, put the salmon in an oven proof dish and drizzle with the rest of the olive oil. Put in the oven for the remaining cooking time.

3. 5 minutes before the end of the cooking time, put the loaf of bread in the oven.

4. Chop the dill and mix with the soured cream in a small bowl.

5. To serve, load all of the ingredients onto a large board or tray, and let everyone tuck in.

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!

Vegetable Chow Mein

This is a seriously simple little stir fry dish.

I’m not a fan of those sauces you can buy in supermarkets with stir fry kits – they tend to be (although there are exceptions) claggy, thick and very sweet – think about those hoisin or sweet chilli sauces. If you make a stir fry like this, it takes no more time and tastes fresh, light and vibrant.

This dish is vegetarian but you could easily throw in some prawns or chicken breast before the mushrooms if you fancy a kick of protein (and aren’t vegetarian…).

This takes 10 minutes to make and serves 4 (the leftovers make excellent lunches).

Vegetable Chow Mein

2 tbsps sesame oil

1 inch piece of ginger, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

200g mangetout

200g mushrooms, sliced

400g fresh egg noodles

2 tbsps dark soy sauce

1 tsp sherry vinegar

1 small pinch of sugar

4 spring onions, sliced

50g beansprouts

1 pak choi, chopped

Small handful peanuts, to serve

1. Heat the sesame oil in a wok over a medium high heat and stir fry the ginger and garlic for 30 seconds.

2. Add the mange tout and mushrooms, stir fry for another 2 minutes.

3. Add the noodles, soy sauce, sherry vinegar and sugar. Stir fry for 2-3 minutes until the noodles have loosened.

4. Stir in the spring onions, beansprouts and pak choi. Cook for a further minute and it’s done. Top each bowl with a sprinkling of peanuts.