Greek Sharer with Courgette Fritters


Greek Sharer with Courgette Fritters (2)

What could be better, after a tiring Tuesday, than a meal you can basically put on a platter and eat? (Sure, with this meal there is a small amount of cooking – but this is so easy it barely counts). I love this sort of meal – see my Swedish Smorgasbord or my Greek Salad. They are perfect for Tuesday nights – not only are they seriously easy, but they are fun – sharing is fun, so lighten what could otherwise be a dreary night of the week.

You may notice some similarities between this and my Greek Salad. That is because they are both inspired by our honeymoon in Greece last year. When we were on Kos, we did a bus trip of the whole island. As part of this trip, we stopped for lunch at a restaurant high up a cliff which overlooked a tiny, beautiful cove. It was so peaceful. The friendly waiters brought us a 3 course lunch – bread and olives, then courgette fritters and tzatziki, followed by chicken skewered kebabs. It was a wonderful lunch, with a cool breeze coming off the ocean and the warm sun beating down on us. This is the sort of memory you need in the middle of February.

So, it is no surprise that today, when we woke again to frost and I can hear the rain beating against the window now, that we would want a meal to remind us of that delicious lunch on that beautiful island.

The fritters are the star of the show here – mix and match the additional bits as much as you like. I would advise you make the tzatziki too; they work so well together – but other than this, change the type of bread if you like, make your own hummus if you have the time, add some meat…whatever you like!

This’ll serve 4, and takes 15 minutes.

Greek Sharer with Courgette Fritters (1)

Greek Sharer with Courgette Fritters

2 courgettes

4 tbsps plain flour

10g grated parmesan

2 tbsp olive oil

300ml Greek yoghurt

1/2 cucumber

2 cloves garlic

4 pitta

250g hummus

A handful of green and black olives

10g feta, chopped

1. Put the pitta in the oven at 130 degrees to warm through for 10 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, grate the courgette. Squeeze the grated courgette to get rid of the excess water (it’s good to do this in a tea towel), then put in a large bowl with the parmesan and flour. Mix well.

3. Heat the oil in a frying pan over a high heat. Split the mixture into 6, then roll each bit and squash like a burger. Pop into the frying pan and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side, until golden brown and crisp. Remove from the pan and leave to rest on a piece of kitchen paper.

4. For the tzatziki, grate the cucumber and chop the garlic. Mix with the yoghurt and season with salt.

5. To serve, chop the pitta and add to your serving dish/board with the hummus, olives, feta, tzatziki and courgette fritters. Let everyone dig in!

Greek Sharer with Courgette Fritters (3)

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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)

Beetroot and Thyme Fusili


Beetroot and Thyme Fusili (1)

It’s been one of those days – long and busy. All I wanted for dinner tonight was something quick, comforting and carby.

Hubby is eating out tonight, so I thought I would treat myself and pick my favourite things and somehow combine them into a meal. So – beetroot, feta and pasta it was. I was quite worried about how this would turn out. Not so much the flavour – how could this combination not taste good – more the look. And as you can see, it is pink! I think there’s a kind of vibrant beauty to it though.

I was so pleased when I tasted this. It is lovely – there is sweetness from the beetroot, creaminess from the creme fraiche, saltiness from the feta and the wonderful aromatic thyme too. If you try one of my recipes, make it this one!

And don’t worry – hubby won’t miss out – I’ve made enough for lunch tomorrow!

I used pre-cooked beetroot in this, but if you aren’t in need of such instant gratification as I was, you could roast your own fresh beetroot before starting the recipe.

This will take 10 minutes and will serve 4.

Beetroot and Thyme Fusili (2)

Beetroot and Thyme Fusili

500g fresh fusili (or equivalent dried)

1 tbsp olive oil

1 onion

250g pre-cooked beetroot

1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped

200ml creme fraiche

feta, to serve

1. Cook the pasta according to packet instructions.

2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large saute pan over a medium heat then add the chopped onion. Sizzle for 2 minutes then add the chopped beetroot along with any juice from the beetroot. Cook for a further 2 minutes, then add the thyme and creme fraice.

3. Simmer for another 2 minutes, stirring often, then season. Drain your pasta and add to the saute pan along with 3 tbsps of the pasta water. Mix well.

4. To serve, top each bowl with a little crumbled feta and tuck in!

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!

Leftover Lentils


Leftover Lentils

This is not a particularly pretty photo – and for that I apologise – but it’s still a recipe I had to share with you.

This is a dish we often have as an accompaniment to meat or fish. At the weekend, my parents came to visit and we had these lentils served with lamb cutlets marinated with cumin and ground coriander. Hence – leftover lentils.

We used the leftovers in our dinner tonight – chicken and lentil soup – (which explains the need for me to share the recipe with you) but you could use them in all manner of recipes. They would be delicious, cold, on their own as a light lunch.

They’re also extremely nutritious – being lentils, they are packed full of good things and the veggies bring lots of vitamins and minerals to the table too. Get making them, then get inventive – let me know what you serve them with!

These will take approximately 30 minutes to make and will make approximately 6 servings. They will keep in the fridge for a few days, and freeze well too.

Leftover Lentils

1 tbsp olive oil

1 onion

1 leek

2 sticks celery

1 carrot

1 small glass white wine

500ml water

750g pre-soaked ready to eat puy lentils

1 bay leaf

1 sprig rosemary

1. Chop the onion and add to a large casserole dish with the olive oil. Cook over a medium heat for 2 minutes, then add the chopped leek, celery and carrot. Cook for a further 6-7 minutes, until the vegetables are starting to soften.

2. Pour in the white wine, allow to reduce, then add the water and lentils.

3. Bring to the boil, add the bay leaf and rosemary then simmer for 15-20 minutes (keep an eye on it and stir often) until the vegetables are cooked through. Taste and season with salt and pepper. Done!

Mediterranean Vegetable and Goats Cheese Pancakes


Mediterranean Vegetables and Goats Cheese Pancakes (2)

Happy Pancake Day everyone! What are you giving up for lent?

I’ve never been particularly good at giving things up for lent. My philosophy regarding food is everything in moderation, and so giving up chocolate, biscuits or wine would be against everything I stand for unfortunately.

I thought about giving up Netflix – but then how would we spend our hungover Sundays? Giving up pavement rage would never work either (I don’t drive, so my commuter rage is focussed on people who walk slowly and cars that don’t stop to let me cross the road), because there are too many anger inducing sights every morning.

So, I’m making a promise to myself – I will post on the blog at least 6 times a week throughout lent. If you notice me slacking, shout at me!

Anyway, back to pancake day. I decided that seeing as pancakes are so delicious you have to eat more than one, why not fill them with something healthy? These savoury pancakes filled with fresh Mediterranean veggies and lovely, melty goats cheese have enough healthy ingredients to counterbalance the fact you want to eat eight of them (don’t quote me on that).

This recipe will make 6 pancakes, and will take approximately 20 minutes.

Mediterranean Vegetables and Goats Cheese Pancakes (1)

Mediterranean Vegetable and Goats Cheese Pancakes

1 mug plain flour

1 mug milk

1 large egg

4 tbsps olive oil

1 red onion

1 large courgette

1 red pepper

1 handful green olives, halved

40g goats cheese

1. Pour the flour, milk and egg into a bowl and whisk together until smooth. Leave to one side.

2. Chop the onion and add to a pan with 1 tbsp of the olive oil. Cook over a medium heat for 3-4 minutes, then add the chopped courgette, red pepper and olives. Cook for a further 10 minutes, stirring often, until the veggies are soft.

3. Heat the rest of the oil in a frying pan over a high heat. When the oil is hot, add a ladleful of the pancake batter and move the pan around to form an even layer over the base. Cook for 2-3 minutes until golden underneath, then flip and cook for another 1-2 minutes. Remove from the pan, add another ladleful of batter and repeat until you have made all of your pancakes. You may need to add more oil.

4. To serve, pile a spoonful of the veg into the centre of each pancake, crumble over some goats cheese and roll up. 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!

Chicken, Chorizo and Butter Bean Stew


Chicken, Chorizo and Butter Bean Stew (1)

Chicken and chorizo is a fantastic combination – I don’t know anyone who doesn’t like it. To celebrate the swiftly approaching weekend, I decided to treat my husband to this – one of his favourite dishes.

Hubby loves chorizo. When I buy and slice up a chorizo ring, I always give him the raw ends attached to the string to chew on. Typing does make it sound a little as though he is a dog, but I promise he is human.

This is a really warming stew; the broth is flavoured almost entirely by the chorizo – so make sure you buy a fairly decent one, if you can afford it. The spinach and chopped tomatoes add a nice bit of health, and the butter beans make it very hearty. We had a nice loaf of ciabatta on the side of our stew, but you don’t really need it – we used it simply for its juice mopping capabilities.

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

Chicken, Chorizo and Butter Bean Stew (2)

Chicken, Chorizo and Butter Bean Stew

250g chorizo ring

6 skinless, boneless chicken thighs

200g button mushrooms

1 small  glass red wine

400g tin chopped tomatoes

2 x 400g tins butter beans

100g spinach

1. Slice the chorizo and add put in a large casserole dish over a high heat. Cook for 2-3 minutes, then add the whole chicken thighs. Cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring often, until the chicken is browned.

2. Add the sliced mushrooms, then tip in the red wine. Let it boil down, then add the chopped tomatoes. Fill the chopped tomato tin with water, and add this too. Put a lid on the dish, turn down the heat to low, and simmer for 20 minutes.

3. Add the drained butter beans and cook with the lid off for a further 5 minutes. Turn the heat off, stir through the spinach, and when it’s wilted, you’re done!

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)

Chef’s Table


Ever since this little restaurant opened, the question on everyone’s lips when discussing where to eat has been ‘have you been to Chef’s Table yet?’. Whispers from friends of friends who had been there seemed too be good to be true. A new menu every night? Fresh, seasonal food? Michelin star level cookery?

So, for my birthday meal, it was only right that we go and try out this mythical place. Could it really be as good as the rumours?

Yes. This was fantastic.

The restaurant itself is very small with, as you may have guessed by the name, the kitchen openly visible in one corner. Despite being on show like this, the chefs were never flustered nor did they command your attention. They just quietly worked away and created some of the most beautiful food I’ve ever seen.

There was a large party of 16 eating and, with it being a small restaurant, they took up most of the room. Despite this, the waiting staff were not flustered and looked after us really well. They were friendly, polite and cheerful.

My scallop starter
My scallop starter

Back to the food. This was amazing – I wish I could think of a better adjective. I started with scallops, which were served with pineapple, carrot, crab and ginger beer. Sounds like a strange combination? Well, it made my taste buds sing! I mentioned when we were there that if I could only eat one meal for the rest of my life, that would be it. Of course, I’d changed my mind by the time the main course arrived. My husband started with a duck slider – he was worried before it arrived that it would be too big for a starter but of course the chef judged the size perfectly. It came with some beautiful duck under a glass filled with smoke, which looked beautiful when it arrived.

Hubby's lamb with candy floss cloud
Hubby’s lamb with candy floss cloud

Next up, mains. I had chicken, which was the softest melt-in-the-mouth chicken ever. It was served with jerusalem artichoke and had a fantastic smoky, sweet flavour. My husband went for lamb which was served with another talking point – mint sauce candy floss. This looked beautiful, and tasted incredible – salty and sharp.

By the time we’d eaten this, we were full – but the dessert menu is so tempting we couldn’t help but have one between us. In fact, the dessert menu looks so delicious that we couldn’t actually decide between the three listed. We asked the waitress, who recommended ‘lemon’. It turned out to be a fantastic recommendation – the dessert was wonderful – lemon meringue, mousse and sorbet, all beautifully made and presented.

Our lemon pud
Our lemon pud

We had a bottle of prosecco to drink through our meal – reasonably priced too. The menu is also fairly priced – around £6 – £8ish for a starter and £16-£18ish for a main. For what you get, this is an excellent price. They also do a cheaper menu at lunchtime.

To sum up – this was a fabulous meal and I can’t wait to go back. If you want to go you’d better book now, because understandably it books up well in advance – particularly at the weekends.

Chef’s Table can be found on Music Hall Passage by the Catherdral in Chester city centre.