Tuesday, 21 April 2015

The Missus' Pesto Pasta

The missus' repertoire consists of just four lonely little dishes all of which are very tasty. I am willing to squeeze them in to a corner of my blog so here is the first. I will add others if she ventures back into the kitchen again this year...


  • 1 tbsp Olive oil
  • 6 rashers Bacon with all the fat cut off
  • 1 small Onion, roughly chopped
  • 5 large Closed cup mushrooms (or 10 button mushrooms),  peeled and roughly chopped
  • 200 - 250ml Créme Fraîche
  • 2 tbsp Semi-skimmed milk
  • 3 whacking great teaspoons of Green pesto
  • Freshly cooked pasta (enough to make you happy) - fresh is best so see my recipe on the right
  • 1 tbsp grated or flaked Parmesan Cheese + more for the table


Fry or grill the bacon in a heavy frying pan or wok. Cut into small strips and set aside.

Sautée the onions and mushrooms until slightly browned and then add the bacon. Mix together for one minute then remove from heat. Quickly mix in the pesto and créme fraîche and return to the heat. Stir in the hot pasta, adding a little milk to thin out the sauce and finish by stirring in the Parmesan cheese.

The Missus' Pesto Pasta

Serve with garlic bread and wine...

Monday, 20 April 2015

Vegan Macaroni Bake

I made this bake for my sister as she is a vegan and incredibly difficult to cook for. Vegetarian meals, no problem, easy to knock up something nice and tasty but vegan... This dish is very easy to make and is actually good enough to make even when you are not forced into it. If you are cooking for vegans remember to get egg free pasta though.


  • 200g dried Macaroni
  • 100g Broccoli florets
  • 1 small Onion, peeled and chopped
  • 50ml Olive oil, plus 1 tbsp
  • 50g Plain flour
  • 500ml Organic or Calcium Rice Dream
  • 2 tbsp Sun-dried tomato paste
  • 1 tbsp Wholegrain mustard or 1 tsp of Mustard powder
  • Juice of a lemon
  • 100g Sweetcorn
  • 10g Fresh basil, torn
  • 50g Bread torn into small chunks
  • 12 Cherry tomatoes, halved


Preheat the oven to 220°C or 200°C for a fan oven.

Cook the dried macaroni as instructed on the pack adding the broccoli florets for the last four or five minutes of cooking. Drain and put to one side.

Sautee the onion in a large pan for about five minutes or until it just begins to colour. Add the flour and mix with the onions. Allow to gently sizzle for a couple of minutes before then adding a quarter of the Rice Dream. Stir it in making sure there are no lumps as well as making sure any errant flour has been incorporated.

Slowly add the rest of the Rice Dream while stirring then bring the mixture to the boil. Simmer gently for five minutes.  

Stir in the tomato paste, mustard, lemon juice, basil and sweetcorn. Add the cooked pasta and broccoli. Season to taste then put it all into an oven-proof bowl.

Coat the bread with the remaining olive oil, scatter over the macaroni along with the tomatoes, then bake for about 40 minutes until bubbling and browned.

(about the recipe - this one is from the Rice Dream website)

Sunday, 19 April 2015

Sweet and Sour Balti Chicken

You need to be a little careful with this one as you can quite easily ramp up the heat level without realising it! Not a problem for me as my taste buds were incinerated years ago, however, the missus likes not to have her 'face blown off' as she puts it! No pleasing some people...


3 tbsp Tomato Paste
2 tbsp Greek yogurt
1 1/2 tsp Garam Masala
1 tsp Chilli powder
1 Garlic clove
2 tbsp Mango Chutney
1 tsp Salt
4 tbsp Rapeseed (Canola) oil
450g Chicken breasts cut into pieces
100ml Water
2 fresh green Chillies (sliced thinly)
2 tbsp Coriander/Cilantro (chopped)
2 tbsp Single (light) cream


Blend the tomato paste, yogurt, garam masala, chilli powder, garlic, mango chutney and salt in a medium bowl or food processor. 

Heat the oil in a wok or other suitable frying pan and then add the mixture that you have just made. Bring it gently to the boil then simmer for two minutes stirring occasionally. Add the chicken to the bowl where you made the mixture to pick up any left over sauce then add it to the pan. Stir so that the chicken is well coated.

Stir for a couple of minuted then add the water. Continue cooking the chicken for five to seven minutes or until the chicken is tender. 

Lastly, add the cream, chillies and coriander and cook for a further two minutes or until the chicken is cooked through.

(about the recipe: this is the most common recipe I like to cook from 'The Balti Cookbook' by Shehzad Husain)

Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Pasta Dough

Making your own fresh pasta gives you a win on so many levels. Not only does freshly made pasta taste infinitely superior to dried, and even vacuum packed 'fresh', pasta but it is considerably lighter too. You don't get that heavy feeling in the stomach that makes you want to go for a nap! The other positive is that it is a therapeutic calming experience. Maybe I am just odd but I enjoy the kneading experience! The key to making your own pasta is to have many attempts at it as each time it will take less time and produce a better result. Before you know it you will be an artisan pasta maker!


  • Pasta flour (preferably)/00 plain flour - you need as much as you need.
  • 2 eggs

This should give you approximately 350g of pasta

My flour of choice


There is a wealth of information about making pasta on the internet. I am sure everyone has an opinion and that there is a multitude of old school Italian pasta makers spinning in their collective graves over some of the methods suggested.

I do it this way...

Put 115g of flour in a bowl and make a well in the middle. Crack two eggs into the well and whisk them with a fork until the yolk and white are combined. Once combined start to draw in some of the flour from the edge into the egg mix. Carry on mixing until that flour is incorporated then draw a little more in. Repeat this process until all the flower is mixed in. 

Now assess the mixture; if it is still very wet add a little more flour (maybe a tablespoon at a time) and mix it in until you feel that you have a mixture that you can start to manipulate with your hands without getting into a sticky mess! Now abandon the fork and bowl turning the mixture out onto a clean work surface,  Add a little more flour (I put the flour on the work surface and then sit the top and bottom of the dough mixture in it so that it is lightly covered) and then fold the top over on itself with a squashing slight stretching motion. Rotate 90° and fold the top over again.. repeat until that addition of flour is incorporated. Then add more flour. Repeat the folding/rotating action with extra flour until the dough has achieved a very smooth texture. There should be no lumps, bits or lose flour.  It should not really feel sticky at all now. 

Smooth as a baby's bottom as they say...

This could take ten or fifteen minutes and take quite a lot more flour. You can't be particularly specific on the amount of flour as it is all about the size of  the eggs and the absorbency of the type of flour you have. A lot of recipes state that you will be able to put your thumb into the mixture then withdraw it without there being any dough stuck to your hand. You tend to know when it is ready though as it will look right. It's all about getting experienced in making the dough.

Now you have dough ready to make pasta noodles or sheets. 

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

Chicken and Chorizo Paella

This is a good recipe to have in hand for if you are not sure when you need to serve up. 45 minutes in the steamer is the aim but another ten or twenty minutes doesn't seem to make a difference. For this recipe I like to use chicken thighs as they have a stronger taste but chicken breasts work equally well.


  • 1 tbsp Rapeseed (Canola) Oil
  • 1 Onion, chopped
  • 1 Garlic Clove, crushed
  • 4 Chicken thighs, skinned and chopped into bite sized pieces
  • 225g of Arboreal or Paella Rice
  • 1/2 tsp of ground Turmeric
  • 600ml of Chicken stock made with 2 stock cubes
  • 100g of baby button Mushrooms
  • 100g of Chorizo, sliced
  • 200g of Roasted red peppers/Pimientos
  • 50g of frozen Peas
  • 1/2 tsp of dried Oregano
  • A pinch (3 - 4 strands) of Saffron
  • Black Pepper
  • 1 Lemon, cut into wedges
  • 2 tbsp of chopped flat leaf/Italian Parsley


Heat the oil in a large shallow pan/wok then add the onion, garlic and chicken. Sauté gently for four or five minutes. Stir in the uncooked rice and saffron.
Some ingredients

Add the stock and bring to a simmer.

Add all the remaining ingredients except the parsley and lemon wedges then return to the simmer.
Pretty much everything is in the pan now
Transfer the contents to a steamer rice bowl (I find there is much more than will fit in a rice bowl so I use individual oval baking dishes as well). 

Distributed into bowls

Steam for 45 - 60 minutes at which point all the free liquid should have been absorbed by the rice.
Steaming away nicely

Transfer to a serving bowl and fluff up.

Artistically arrange parsley and lemon wedges on top and serve.


Thursday, 9 April 2015

Spicy Red and Black Bean Soup

This has got to be one of  the easiest dishes to make. It is, effectively, chuck everything in a pan and simmer for a bit. You can miss ingredients out and add other ones as the need takes you. It will all taste good. It's a fine warming dish for if you are feeling the cold and is also one of my standard lunch meals.


  • 1 tbsp Rapeseed oil
  • 1 large onion
  • A couple of carrots, sliced
  • 2 Cloves of garlic, minced
  • 750ml of Chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 Small tin of sweetcorn
  • 1 Tin of Red kidney beans
  • 1 Tin of Black eyed beans
  • 2 Tins of chopped tomatoes
  • A couple of chillies (optional)


Sautee the onion and carrots for five minutes, add the garlic and chillies and sautee for a couple more minutes.

Add the other ingredients and bring to a simmer. At this point you can either simmer it on the hob for two hours or put it in the slow cooker for four hours High/eight hours on Low.

Nothing too it!

(Notes about the recipe - this is another common one you see all over the place, I have it in the Woman's Weekly Spanish Cookbook but there are many variations on the internet)

Spicy Red and Black Bean Soup artistically presented

Slow Cooked Mexican Pulled Pork

There is something truely quite amazing about pulled pork. Given half the chance you could just eat and eat and eat it! My mouth is watering just thinking about it! Then, on top of that, add a good hit of spices and it becomes truely fantastic! You might have got the feeling I quite like this dish...


  • 4 tbsp Chilli powder
  • 1 tbsp Salt
  • 1 tbsp Brown sugar
  • 2 tsps ground Cumin
  • 1 tsp Cayenne
  • 1 tsp ground Oregano
  • 1 tsp Garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • Scant pinch of ground Cloves
  • 1.5kg Boneless pork shoulder
  • 1 large Onion


Not a great deal to this recipe. Mix all the dry ingredients together making sure you bash up the cloves while you are at it. Do not omit the salt to be healthy as you will take a substantial hit on flavour!

Untie the joint if necessary and cut off the fat. Roll/toss/rub the meat into the spice mix so that it is evenly coated and then leave in the fridge overnight. 

Using a large pan or wok, fry the meat so that it is sealed.

Slice a large onion and lay the slices on the base of the slow cooker pot. Put the meat on top and cook for ages! I usually give it about 18 hours on low but you could probably get away with 8 hours (depends on the size of joint). 

Ready for cooking

When it has finished there will be a lot of liquid in the base of the pot. I strain this off and keep to one side. 

Hack the meat to pieces using a couple of forks and stir to combine the onions. Add some of the reserved liquid back to the meat and onion mixture. The amount you add is up to your taste. I don't like it too wet so only add a little.

Try to resist eating it as is and serve with wedges, tortillas or pretty much whatever you fancy. If there is a lot left it goes well in a chilli con carne.

Mmmnnn Pork...

Slow Cooker Braised Beef

This is another simple dish that you just throw in the slow cooker in the morning, it slowly cooks to perfection through out the day, leaving you very little to do when it's time for dinner. 


  • 4 Braising steaks (about 200g/7oz each)
  • 3 tbsp Rapeseed oil (canola oil)
  • 1 Medium onion, halved and cut into wedges
  • 1 Garlic clove, crushed
  • 500ml/18fl oz Beef stock made with 1 beef stock cube, or 500ml/18fl oz fresh beef stock
  • 1 tbsp Tomato purée
  • 1 tbsp Chopped fresh thyme, or ½ tsp dried thyme
  • 1 Bay leaf
  • 1 tsp Cornflour
  • 1 tbsp Wholegrain Mustard
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Trim off any bits of fat that you don't like the look of, season with salt and pepper, then shallow fry the steaks in 1 tbsp of the oil until they are sealed. Transfer the steaks to your slow cooker.

Add the remaining oil to your pan and gently fry the onions until they begin to soften (about five minutes). Stir in the garlic and cook for a further minute. Add the remaining ingredients except the cornflower and bring to a simmer. As soon as the temperature of the liquid has reached simmer you can pour it over your steaks that are happily waiting in the slow cooker. 

Cook on High for four hours or Low for eight hours. 

Just prior to serving time mix the cornflour with a small amount of cold water to make a paste. Leave the steaks in the slow cooker and pour the rest of the contents into a wide pan/wok. Stir in the cornflour paste and then stir at a quite rapid boil until the gravy/stock has reduced and thickened to a consistency that you are happy with. 

Adjust the seasoning then serve. I like to serve the steak in gravy with wedges but the missus likes mash. Each to their own...

Tip: If your slow cooker has a ceramic lid you will retain most of the moisture whilst cooking. If it has a glass lid you get more water loss so best to check half way through that it is not drying out.

Note: Whenever cooking vegetables in the slow cooker you should briefly bring the temperature of the mixture up to almost boiling. This destroys (denatures) the enzymes in the vegetables that would normally destroy your vitamins during low temperature cooking. Less appropriate in this recipe as you have already sauteed the onions but still worth remembering.

(About the recipe - this is an adaptation of the Hairy Bikers recipe taken from the BBC Food website)

Braised beef - picture taken from the BBC Food website

Chicken in Mango Salsa

This recipe is so easy yet so tasty. Pretty healthy too. You can used frozen or tinned mango but fresh is by far the best. Although a lot more messy! 

Cook the chicken and mix the rest - how hard can it be!


  • 4 Chicken breasts
  • 120g Spinach
  • 1 medium Red onion, finely chopped 
  • 1 medium Mango, finely chopped
  • 1tbsp fresh Mint leaves, chopped
  • 3tbsp grated Parmesan cheese
  • 3tbsp Sweet chilli sauce


    Cook the chicken as you see fit. I like to bash it so it is quite flat then cook it on the griddle for ten to twenty minutes depending on how thick it is. The missus has a thing about uncooked chicken so I make sure it is piping hot by using a temperature probe (I would go for greater than 75°C in the middle) for the less fussy of you just make sure it is not pink. You can shallow fry or put the chicken under the grill if you wish but I think the griddle pan gives the best artistic effect with the griddle lines. 

    Combine the rest of the ingredients and add some salt and pepper to taste. 

    Serve the chicken with a pile of salsa on top. Very nice.

    Tip: Mix any salsa that is left with some cold cooked pasta to make a very tasty lunch! 

    (About the recipe: This is quite a common recipe which I have seen on the Tesco Recipe site and also in the Australian Woman's Weekly series of cookbooks)