Thursday, 29 January 2009

Vegetarian Shepherd's Pie

I guess you could call this more of a 'gardeners' pie' as naturally there is no lamb in it, either way given this was a random idea thrown together after work, its definitely as rich, filling and hearty as any meaty version and as delicious too.

Red lentils braised in red wine and tomatoes, topped with buttery mashed potatoes and grated cheese, and baked until bubbling and golden. I used plenty of carrots and even a little cabbage in the mash (I always seem to have leftover cabbage in my veg box) so as well as the lentils, this makes for virtuous eating in fitting with January Healthy Eating (surely we can stop that soon?)

This is a really basic recipe, perfect for varying with what you feel like, just googling this I found recipes using sweet potato mash, goats cheese topping and beans instead of lentils, so feel free to experiment. The only word of warning is to make sure you pack plenty of flavour into the lentil sauce as anyone who's cooked lentils and/or beans before knows, they do taste good, they just need a little extra care and attention to get there.

This is perfect cook ahead food to serve to large groups of people. You could even make double and freeze half, great for chucking in the oven after a busy day. Leftovers make perfect packed lunches too.


Serves 4 (with leftovers!)

2 onions, peeled and finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and diced
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 bay leaves
200g red lentils
250ml red wine
1 can chopped tomatoes
1tsp stock powder (or ½ stock cube)
900g floury potatoes, peeled and cut into 5cm chunks
50g butter
200ml milk
100g strong cheddar, grated

  • Heat a large casserole and add 2tbsp oil, fry onions and carrots gently for 5mins, add the garlic and bay leaves and fry for a few mins more.
  • Tip in the lentils and stir well to coat in the oily, oniony juices.
  • Pour in the red wine and allow it to bubble aways for about 3mins.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes, fill the can with water to rinse it out and add this too.
  • Add enough extra water so that lentils are covered in about 2cm water.
  • Bring to the boil and simmer for 20-30mins until the lentils are cooked, top up with water if necessary, you want a fairly liquid sauce.
  • Once the lentils are cooked , check the seasoning and add salt and pepper.
  • Meanwhile boil the potatoes in plenty of boiling salted water until very soft, drain well and either push through a potato ricer or mash with a masher.
  • Heat the milk and butter in a small saucepan and pour over the potatoes, add plenty of seasoning and beat until smooth with a wooden spoon.
  • Spoon the lentil mixture into a large baking dish, top with the mashed potato.
  • Sprinkle over the grated cheese and bake at 200C for 20mins until bubbling and golden.

Tuesday, 27 January 2009

Bacon and Parsnip Pasta

I've been thinking of using parsnip with pasta for a while, but just hadn't come up with the right way of doing it, then I came across this Jamie Oliver recipe and I earmarked it for the weekend.

I personally think he's got the proportions a bit wrong, too much bacon and not enough parsnip, plus I think it was a little too oily, but that might just be my generous hand with the butter.

Either way, I definitely think I'm onto a winner and I love this way of cooking parsnips in long thin strips, I actually think it could work quite well in some sort of carbonara or with creme fraiche and pine nuts.

Definitely something to add to the (growing) parsnip repertoire.

For the recipe, click here.

Saturday, 24 January 2009

Baked Eggs

I love, love, love eggs and the weekends are quickly becoming all about my eggy treat in the morning. Paired with buttery potato bread toast and a special coffee (made in the stove top espresso maker with Monmouth Coffee), isn't this what weekends are made for?

Generally, I always defer to scrambled eggs, but recently we've been experimenting with a new and delicious variation - baked eggs. In its simplest form, an egg cracked into a ramekin (or heat proof cup in our case) topped with a generous spoonful of cream, some seasoning and final sprinkling of grated cheese and then baked until the white is firm and the yolk golden and liquid.

Haha, yes it does seem so simple, but I am yet to crack the perfect timing, first you take it out and the white is still liquid so you pop it back in and things look promising... but before you know it, the yolk is hard, given the propensity of eggs to firm up a lot once removed from the heat especially in its snug little ramekin.

Hugh inspired me a few weeks ago with this tarted up recipe using garlic and thyme, so we gave it a go and not too much of a disaster, we managed to retain the runny centre , now I see that as with boiled eggs, you have to be very careful with timing, waiting patiently by the oven until they look set, but with a wobble in the centre.

See Hugh's recipe here.

Friday, 23 January 2009

Courgette and Bulghar Wheat Salad

Lovely nutty bulghar wheat with plenty of mint and coriander - the base for a classic tabbouleh. This time I used courgette, cut into small pieces and fried until golden along with a decent hit of chilli for a full flavoured salad that improves with age, making leftovers perfect for lunch. I also made a simple tahini sauce to drizzle over that is perfect with roasted vegetables too.

We had it as part of the mezze spread, but it would be good with haloumi, lamb or chicken. Of course, you can always use couscous if you don't fancy/have bulghar wheat.

Serves 4 as a side dish

200g bulghar wheat (approx 1cup)
2 medium courgettes (approx 300g)
1 small bunch coriander, chopped
1 small bunch mint chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 chilli finely chopped
6 spring onions, sliced
juice ½ lemon
3tbsp olive oil

  • Cover the bulghar wheat with 500ml water (add a little vegetable stock for flavour), cover and simmer for about 5mins until all the water is absorbed, then turn off the heat and leave for 10mins.
  • Meanwhile, cut the courgettes into 4 lengthways and slice out the fibrous central bit, and slice into thin crescents.
  • Heat a pan and fry the courgettes in 1tbsp sunflower oil until golden, season well and add a squeeze of lemon juice.
  • Once the bulghar wheat is cooked, combine in a bowl with the rest of the ingredients.
  • Serve on a large plate with the tahini sauce drizzled over
Tahini Sauce

1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp lemon juice
2tbsp tahini
2 tbsp yoghurt
2 tbsp water

Mix the ingredients together well, adding a little more water if necessary to loosen the mixture. Read more...

Wednesday, 21 January 2009

Hummus with crispy lamb and pine nuts

This recipe from The Moro Cookbook jumped out at me straight away, hummus with crispy lamb and pine nuts. Its simple enough, make some hummus and spread onto a plate. Then fry some lamb mince with a touch of cinnamon until golden and crispy, throw in some pine nuts and tumble it onto the hummus.

Delicious. This was gobbled up in record time.


Serves 4 as a starter with plenty of bread for dipping

1 portion of hummus
1 onion, finely chopped
2tbsp olive oil
½tsp cinnamon
150g lamb mince
To serve:
1 small handful parsley, chopped

  • Spread the hummus onto a large plate.
  • Meanwhile cook the onion in the olive oil over a low heat for 10mins until golden and crispy, add the cinnamon and transfer to a bowl.
  • Turn the heat up high and add the lamb, break the mince up into small pieces as you go and fry until golden and crispy, add the onions, pine nuts and fry for a few mintues more until the pine nuts begin to toast.
  • Tumble onto your plate and sprinkle with the parsley and a little paprika.

Monday, 19 January 2009

Carrot and Cumin Salad

I wasn't convinced by this recipe at first, as you probably know, I like my carrots raw or at the very least roasted. Like I said, this salad where they are boiled and then dressed in a fragrant cumin seed dressing did not convince me straight away.

Whilst I wasn't blown away, its definitely tasty and something new to do with carrots. It also worked really well with the other dishes of the mezze. I reckon it would go well with grilled fish or chicken too.

serves 4 as a side salad

500g carrots, peeled
1tsp cumin seeds
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1tbsp lemon juice
1tbsp olive oil
pinch sugar
1 small bunch coriander, chopped

  • Boil the carrots until tender, drain and leave to cool slightly.
  • Meanwhile, toast the cumin seeds in a dry pan until you can smell the cumin.
  • Transfer to a bowl with the lemon juice, sugar, garlic and olive oil. Mix well and season.
  • Once cool, slice the carrots thinly and toss with the dressing and coriander.
  • Serve at room temperature.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Broad Bean Dip

I got the Moro cookbook as a late birthday present and as is always the way, I have leafed through it several times but not actually cooked from it yet. I decided to persevere, as its always good to try new recipes, but also as everyone seems to love the book (I spotted it in a picture in the Leon cookbook, which is definitely a good thing in my book ).

I think part of the reason why I've not rushed into cooking things from this book is the recipes are 'a heavy blend of Arabic and Hispanic dishes that offer warm spices and fiery sauces' -definitely out of my comfort zone.. Think Spanish tapas meets Morocco, meets Turkey meets Lebanon...

Anyway with friends coming over for pre-partying dinner, I decided to bite the bullet and create a Moro mezze feast. First up is this broad bean dip (more recipes to follow), blended with lots of mint for a perfectly summery dip. As its (unfortunately) winter, I used tinned broad beans, but I have a feeling fresh broad beans would make this heavenly, I also imagine frozen broad beans would be better than tinned, but I couldn't get any.

What follows is my version of the recipe.

Broad Bean Dip

300g broad beans

  • If using frozen, tip into a bowl, pour over boiling water, leave to sit for 5mins and drain throughly
  • If using fresh, 300g is the podded weight and they should be boiled for about 5mins until soft, remove the skins to reveal the bright green flesh.
  • or just drain a can of tinned beans.
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 lemon
1tbsp yoghurt
1 tbsp olive oil
1 small bunch mint, chopped.

Add all the ingredients to a food processor (except the lemon) and blend until smooth, now add a squeeze of lemon juice and some seasoning until it tastes good. Think fresh and zingy flavours. Read more...

Thursday, 15 January 2009

Swede Chips

We're really into winter now, every week we continue to get more and more root vegetables. Whilst I've had great success roasting parsnips and carrots, I'm still not sure what to do when faced with a swede, of course you can always throw it into soup or stew and grated, it makes a great addition to slaw. I've tried making mash, but I wasn't so convinced although its definitely marked as something to try again.

These swede chips however, did work. Swede wedges roasted with plenty of seasoning and a bit of garlic until golden and crispy, then a little cheese grated over. Perfect, try them in place of potato chips for a vegetable hit.

See recipe here.


Tuesday, 13 January 2009

Beef, Mushroom and Guinness Stew

Another gem utilising my slow cooker. Inspired by this article by Nigel Slater we used cheap chunks of braising steak slow cooked with mushrooms, plenty of sweet onions and carrots and Guinness, to counteract the slight bitterness of the Guinness, I added a couple of tablespoons of prune jam that I had in the fridge, any other fruit jelly or sauce would work well, such as apple sauce, to give a rich and round flavoured stew.

Of course something this warming, with copious amounts of gravy cries out for a mash of some kind. As it is so rich, I'm thinking some kind of root mash would work well or colcannon. We had swede chips with ours, sweet and crispy they worked perfectly with the stew.


Serves 4

750kg stewing beef, cut into chunks
5tbsp flour
2 onions, finely chopped
2 carrots, finely chopped
2 cloves garlics, finely sliced
250g mushrooms, sliced in half
1 sprig thyme
1 can Guinness
150ml water
2tbsp redcurrant jelly or apple sauce
1 small bunch chopped parsley to serve

  • Heat a large casserole on the hob.
  • Meanwhile sprinkle the flour over the beef with plenty of seasoning, turn the beef and make sure its well covered.
  • Add a little oil to the pan and fry the beef in batches until brown all over. Remove and set aside.
  • Add a little more oil and fry the onions and carrots over a low heat for about 10mins. Add a splash of water to the pan and scrape the bottom to lift of any sediment.
  • Add the thyme, bay leaves, mushrooms and beef to the casserole with the Guinness and water.
  • Cover and cook in the oven at 170C for 2 hours until the beef in meltingly soft.
  • Stir in the apple sauce and season to taste.
  • Serve sprinkled with parsley.


Sunday, 11 January 2009

Steak with Colcannon Mash and Creamy mushroom Sauce

Yes, this was as outrageous as it sounds, not exactly in keeping with January healthy eating. but sometimes when its cold outside, you need something fortifying and creamy. All is not lost, there must be a good 2 portions of veg in the colcannon and mushroom sauce!

I've already written about steak, so has Jamie Oliver, it goes without saying that you need to start with good quality meat (preferably organic). Really, with something this simple and good, its all about starting with the right ingredients, proper butter, decent potatoes... I really think you can taste the difference with organic potatoes. I've given lots of variations on mash here, and the colcannon recipe is here, if you don't fancy a creamy mushroom sauce, you could try this port and mushroom sauce instead.

Creamy Mushroom Sauce


Serves 4

250g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
squeeze lemon juice
1tsp grain mustard
1 small tub creme fraiche

  • Heat a frying pan and tip in the mushrooms. I always dry fry mushrooms for a while first as they tend to eat up oil. Fry until beginning to brown.
  • Add a knob of butter along with garlic and continue to fry until the mushrooms are cooked through.
  • Add the mustard, lemon juice and creme fraiche. Warm through and season generously with lots of black pepper and a little salt.

Friday, 9 January 2009

Simple Egg Fried Rice

A simple recipe, perfect for using up leftovers and shoehorning in extra vegetables.This recipe works best with cold rice, so next time you cook rice, cook a bit more for the next day! (Although we use freshly cooked rice as often as not). Top with whatever interesting bits and bobs you have, toasted cashew nuts, coriander, sliced spring onions, extra chilli...

Oh, and a little tip. I normally buy a massive chunk of ginger, grate it all up and freeze in ice cubes to use for stirfrys and curries.

Serves 4


3tbsp sunflower oil
1 red chilli, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 thumb sized piece of ginger, grated

Optional: approx 300g cooked and shredded chicken or ham

Approx 500g vegetables, cut into similar sized pieces, e.g.
*carrots, sliced or cut into batons
*peppers or courgettes, sliced into strips
*mushrooms, sliced

350g cooked rice
4-6 eggs, whisked and seasoned
2tbsp soy sauce

To serve:
100g cashew nuts or peanuts, toasted and chopped
1 small bunch coriander or spring onions, chopped
sweet chilli sauce

  • You need a really large wok to cook this all at once, if you don't have one, try making it in 2 batches.
  • Make sure all your vegetables are prepared before you start cooking.
  • Heat a wok until its as smoking and as hot as possible. If you're using nuts, you can toast them in the pan whilst it warms up, but make sure they don't burn!
  • Add the sunflower oil, allow to heat up for a few minutes then throw in the garlic, chilli and ginger, stirring furiously, you don't want them to burn.
  • Now add the vegetables and cook for 3-5mins until beginning to brown.
  • Throw in the meat in using a stir for a few more minutes.
  • Now tip in your rice and continue to fry for another minute or so.
  • Make a well in the centre and tip in the eggs, keep stirring and frying until the eggs are completely cooked.
  • Finish with a splash of soy sauce.


Wednesday, 7 January 2009

Slow Cooked Lamb, Sweet Potato and Lentil Curry

The picture doesn't really do this justice, it was the inaugural outing of our slow cooker and it did us proud! Amazing tender lamb in a rich sauce of lentils and sweet potato served alongside rice and peas.

I just browned the meat and chucked it into the slow cooker with the rest of the ingredients and left it to do its magic overnight, how easy is that? Now I'm planning all manner of slow cooked warming winter treats. Being a bit of a cheapskate and also trying to eat a bit more healthily, I bulked the meat out a lot with sweet potato and lentils. I definitely think adding as much veg as possible and maybe some beans or lentils is the way forward.

What follows is a recipe for cooking it on the hob. As with all curries this improves with age, be very caeful with the ctoch bonnet as it is violently hot. The idea of adding it to the dish whole is to get all the flavour with only a little heat. Be careful though, once the pepper 'bust', the curry will get VERY hot!


Serves 4

600g trimmed shoulder of lamb, cut into chunks
sunflower oil
1 chilli, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves garlic, sliced
3 bay leaves
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp curry powder
1 tsp ground allspice
½ tsp ground nutmeg
3tbsp malt vinegar
2 sweet potatoes, pelled and cut into chunks
100g red lentils
1 scotch bonnet chilli
1 can chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp dark brown sugar

  • Heat a large casserole and add 2tbsp oil, fry the lamb in batches until browned on all sides and remove.
  • Add a little more oil to the pan and cook the onions until brown and caramelised, add the garlic, chilli, bay leaves, cinnamon and spices and stir well. Splash in the vinegar and scrape the bottom to lift off the sediment.
  • Return the lamb to the pot with the sweet potato and lentils and stir to coat in the spicy sauce.
  • Add the chopped tomatoes, fill the empty can with water and add that too along with the scotch bonnet.
  • Cover the casserole with a lid and cook in the oven at 170C until meltingly tender.


Monday, 5 January 2009

Recipe Search


Friday, 2 January 2009

January Recipes

I don't know about you, but I feel like I over indulged just a little at Christmas and am in need of food to make me feel a bit perkier again. Not a diet, not even a detox, just trying to cut back on the coffee, alcohol and cake that all too easily becomes a permanent fixture, and trying to do more of the good stuff, sleeping, drinking lots, eating more vegetables. With everyone around me falling ill, it seems a good time to nourish myself a little.

With the cold bleak days and not much to look forward to, I certainly don't want to punish myself, just eat tasty food that makes me fell a bit more virtuo, below are some of the recipes I plan on cooking this month, all brimming with healthy stuff and all completely delicious.


Perfect for lunchboxes, bulk things up with brown rice or pulses.
Winter coleslaw: an old favourite, finely slice or grate any vegetables you have.
Brown Rice Salad: a must try - completely addictive
Cous cous: try this version with Smoked Mackerel for a dose of essential fatty acids.
Roast Parsnip Salad: my new favourite, delicious hot or cold.

Warming and comforting - you can't go wrong really. I like mine with a bit of texture, at the moment I like to add a can of beans to bulk things up and stop me eating lots of bread too!
Bacon and Cabbage
Easy butternut Squash
Split Pea Soup - a favourite!
Cauliflower and Cannellini