Thursday, 5 November 2015

Cheat's Mac and Cheese

I made this a few weeks ago with a large tub of cheese sauce from Tesco.  This tub is about half as big again as the regular sized tubs you get in other supermarkets so if you buy one of those you will either need to thin it out a bit more, or make three serves not four.  It was so easy to put together that I had to share it with you all!

For four sensible portions I used :

300 g dried pasta
1 large tub of Tesco cheese sauce
6 rashers of bacon
About half a cup of milk
About a cup of grated cheese (I used a mix of cheddar and parmesan)
Salt and pepper to taste
Two handfuls of cherry tomatoes sliced
About half a cup of fresh breadcrumbs

Cook the pasta according to the directions.

While the pasta is cooking add the cheese sauce to a large basin and whisk in the milk to thin out the sauce a little.  Add half of the grated cheeses and season to taste with a little salt and pepper.

Cook the bacon and cut into strips/rough dice.

Drain the pasta well and return to the pan, add the cheese sauce and bacon and combine all together.  Turn out into a baking dish, top with the tomato slices and then scatter over the breadcrumbs, finally scatter the last of the cheese over the top.

Bake in a hot oven for 25 – 30 minutes.  I cooked mine at 200oC (400oF/gas mark 6).  

This freezes very well (without the tomato slices) so it’s worth making a double batch for a quick after-work meal.

Tuesday, 20 October 2015

Thick Country Vegetable Soup

It’s been growing increasingly autumnal here so I thought I’d treat us to a good thick vegetable soup.  I managed to pick up some nice soup mix from Sainsbury’s recently (a mixture of dried peas, lentils, beans and barley) which made a good hearty soup.

It’s difficult to give exact quantities, because much depends on appetite and how many serves you want.  Similarly, the actual ingredients can be varied to your own personal taste.  I bought as many different kinds of root vegetables as I could lay my hands on at the time!

For three or four serves I used :

1 medium leek
½ a medium swede (rutabaga)
1 large carrot
2 small turnips
2 ribs of celery
½ large celeriac (celery root)
1 large parsnip
100 g soup mix
Vegetable (or chicken) stock
Seasoning to taste

If you are going to use the soup mix, you will need to give it an overnight soak.  Then simply drain and cook according to the instructions.  Mine needed a good 10 minute boil and then 40 minutes rapid cooking.  I started cooking it while I prepared the root vegetables.

Halve the leek and then cut the halves into slices.  Peel and dice the swede, carrot, turnips, celeriac and parsnip.  Chop the celery ribs into rough pieces.

When the soup mix has had the required cooking time add the prepared vegetables to the pan and top up with boiling water if necessary.  Add the stock cube/pot/powder to the water and stir, season to taste with salt and pepper.  Cook the vegetables gently for 30 minutes or so (depending on size), until cooked through.

This was good on the first day, even better on the second.  Sadly, there wasn’t a third day!

Friday, 7 August 2015

Cheesy Sage and Onion Stuffed Chicken Breasts

This recipe came about because I had some leftover sage and onion stuffing that I wanted to use up, and was inspired by Delia’s lovely recipe for vegetarian sausage rolls. 

For two people

2/3 slices of stale bread
½ small onion, or a shallot
½ tsp dried sage
Salt and pepper to taste
1 or 2 tb grated cheese (a mix of strong cheddar and parmesan is very good)

2 chicken breasts
4 slices of parma ham/prosciutto

To make the stuffing simply pop the first four items into a small blender/mini chopper and process.  Add to a bowl with the grated cheese and mix together.

Lay the slices of parma ham/prosciutto out on a chopping board, butterfly the chicken breasts and place in the middle of the slices of ham/prosciutto.  Add half of the stuffing mix to each breast fillet, fold up and wrap in the ham.  Pop into an oven proof dish, season with black pepper and a drizzle of olive oil.  Cook at 180oC (350oF / gas mark 4) for 30 to 35 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.


The link to Delia’s recipe for vegetarian sausage rolls is :

Boozy Braised Steak and Onions with Mustard and Horseradish

 This is another variation on a theme, steak and ale pie filling with a little twist.  The addition of cherry tomatoes gives it a summer twist and practically makes it a salad!  The weather here has turned unseasonably autumnal and I was looking for something comforting to cheer us up!

For two people :

1 pieces of braising steak
2 small or one large onion/s
1 clove of garlic
1tb flour
1tsp English mustard powder *
1tsp creamed horseradish
2 anchovies
1tsp Worcestershire sauce
Bottle of ale of your choice – we like the Wychwood range
7/8 cherry tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste

Mix the mustard powder with the flour and season with salt and pepper, use to coat the two pieces of steak.

Peel and halve the onions, cut into half-moon slices, peel and chop the garlic and chop the anchovies.

Arrange half the onion slices on the bottom of an oven proof dish, sprinkle with a little of the surplus flour and mustard mixture, add the steaks and then the rest of the onion slices and another sprinkle of surplus flour mixture.  Season with salt and pepper to taste, scatter the chopped garlic into the dish along with the chopped anchovies and dot with horseradish.  Pour over the ale and give everything a gentle stir.

Cook at 170oC (325oF / gas mark 3) for three and a half hours.  Add a teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce and stir, then add the cherry tomatoes and pop back into the oven for a final half an hour cooking.

*if you can’t get mustard powder simply add 1tsp made English mustard to the casserole with the horseradish.

Thursday, 5 March 2015

Venetian Baked Cod

I had Cooking TV on a few days ago as I was pottering around catching up on some light household chores and caught part of an episode of Jamie Oliver Does Venice.  He showed a particular fish dish as it came out of the oven in a restaurant and I was instantly entranced by the simplicity of the dish.  I love fish and I love Italian food, so this was perfect for me.

My approximation of the dish is as follows :

For two people :

Two nice fillets of fish (I used Cod, but you could use snapper, haddock, sea bass etc)
Sliced baby potatoes, par-boiled (quantity depends on the size of them, and your appetite)
A generous handful of halved cherry tomatoes
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 small bunch of flatleaf parsley also finely chopped
About 1 cup of fish stock – use a Knorr stock pot if you can find them
Extra Virgin Olive Oil to drizzle
Salt and pepper to taste
Juice of 1 lemon to serve

Wash and pat dry the fish fillets and arrange in an ovenproof dish.
Add the sliced potatoes and halved cherry tomatoes around the fish and then scatter the garlic and parsley over everything.  Pour in the stock so that it comes about half-way up the side of the dish.  Drizzle with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

You need to cook the dish until the potatoes and fish are cooked through.  I cooked mine at 180oC (350oF/gas mark 4) for 40 minutes.

Spritz with lemon juice to serve.

You could stay within the Venetian theme and serve with a radicchio salad alongside, but I saw fresh samphire and looked no further!

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Oatmeal Dog Biscuits

Holly’s grumbling tummy problems are continuing and in desperation I’ve had to withdraw all commercial dog treats from her diet.  I made her a batch of sweet potato and oatmeal biscuits which she loved and were unbelievably simple to put together. 

I’ve made a few variations on them: honey and cinnamon; tummy bones with fennel, parsley and mint; and nightie night bones with chamomile tea.  She loves them and sits in the kitchen patiently waiting for them to cool ....... and by patiently I mean barking almost incessantly! 

These biscuits have no preservatives in them so they need to be kept in the fridge.  I find a 1lb oatmeal batch makes about 32 bones so I freeze most of them and defrost a handful every few days to keep them fresh.  The actual number of treats you make will depend on how thick or thin you roll out the dough, and the size of your cutter.  I have used a giant bone cutter to make big thick bones as a kind of home-made dental cleaning treat.

The basic recipe is :
1lb porridge oats
8 fl oz water

Options inclusions are:
8 oz carrot/butternut squash/sweet potato
4oz honey and 2tsp cinnamon
1tsp each parsley, fennel, mint
Chamomile tea in place of water

To make veggie bones simply peel and dice the carrot/squash/sweet potato, cut into chunks and pop in a blender with most of the water.  Blitz to a puree and add to the oatmeal, using the reserved water to rinse out the blender and then add that to the oatmeal (waste not want not!).

For the herb bones, grind the fennel seeds in a mortar and pestle and add with the dry herbs to the oatmeal and mix well, then add the water.

For the honey and cinnamon bones, I added the honey to boiling water and then allowed it to cool, add the cinnamon to the oatmeal and stir in before adding the liquid.

Kneed to form a ball of dough, adding a drop or so of water if necessary.

Roll out to your desired thickness and cut shapes.

I bake mine at 150oC (300oF / gas mark 2) for approximately 20 minutes each side.  Actual cooking time will vary depending on the size and thickness of the treats, they need to be cooked until they are hard.  The giant bones were cooked for 30 minutes each side, brought out to cool for 15 minutes and then put back into the cooling oven to bake hard.

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Golden Turkey and Country Vegetable Soup

The beauty of cooking a giant turkey for Christmas is all the lovely leftovers you can look forward to in the weeks ahead!

We’re enjoying a lovely cold wintery spell here at the moment, we even had a brief fall of snow this morning ...... blink-and-you-missed-it brief, but snow nonetheless!  Perfect conditions for a spot of kitchen pottering and soup making.

This is one of those quick to cook soups, not a long slow cooking stew, gratification comes quickly!

For three serves I used :

1 small leek
2 small potatoes
2 baby turnips
1 large carrot
2 corn cobs
Appx 1 cup leftover cooked turkey (or chicken)
1  pint of chicken stock
1sachet of Philadelphia creamy peppercorn cooking sauce

Peel and dice the vegetables and sweat gently with a big knob of butter for 10 minutes or so.

Favourite cheats!
Add the chicken stock, the chunks of turkey/chicken and season with salt and pepper – go easy on the pepper because there’s pepper in the Philly sauce.

Simmer gently for 20 minutes and then add the Philly cooking sauce.  Bring back to a simmer and cook for a further 5 minutes for thereabouts.

Best served with good crusty bread on the side, on a bitterly cold day!