Sunday, 1 November 2009

Tomato and Aubergine Bake

This weekend we went to Stevenage market which includes a brilliantly cheap fruit and veg stall selling bowls of fruit and veg for £1 each. We got a nice selection - 3 mangoes for £1, a bowl of red bell peppers and 3 large aubergines for a quid!

So, I got home and looked up some recipes - the best one (and the one which I had most of the ingredients for) was Delia Smith's baked aubergine with tomatoes. I had to substitute tinned for real tomatoes.


  • 3 aubergines, chopped into ~1.5 cm cubes
  • Salt
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp all spice
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes (400 g)
  • 2 slices of stale bread - for breadcrumbs
  • 1 tablespoon cheese - cheddar, grated
  • 1 good nob butter
The first step is to slice up the aubergines, sprinkle with salt and leave to drain off for about an hour. After this, make sure they are nice and dry using some kitchen towel.

Preheat oven to 190C.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan - I had to use a wok as there was too much aubergine for one pan.

Fry the aubergines until light golden coloured, then add the onions. Fry for a few minutes more until the onions soften.

Add the garlic, parsley and spices, then stir fry for another minute or two. Stir in the tinned tomatoes and bring to a gentle simmer for 5 minutes.

Transfer to a baking dish. Now, make some bread crumbs by blending the stale slices of bread in a food processor until fine. Add the grated cheese and pulse again, plus a bit of salt and pepper. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the top of the aubergines along with a couple of nobs of butter.

Bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until brown. Serve with some lamb!

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Sunday, 4 October 2009

Chicken and Lentil Curry

  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 1 tsp black onion seeds
  • 1 tsp fenugreek
  • 2 dried red chillies
  • 2 tbsp hot curry paste - e.g Madras
  • 1 onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 250 g lentils
  • 1.5 pints chicken/ vegetable stock
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1.4 kg chicken thighs and drumsticks
  • 2 "lumps" frozen spinach

Rinse the lentils in a sieve.

Dry fry the spices then add the chopped onion, garlic, curry paste and olive oil. Fry for a further couple of minutes until the onions are soft.

Add the lentils and mix well to coat in all the spices. Add the stock, bay leaves, tomatoes and tomato puree. Bring to a gentle simmer, cover and leave for 5 minutes.

Add the chicken thighs and drumsticks to the pan, hopefully covering them with stock. Simmer for 20 minutes.

Add the frozen spinach and cook for a further 20 minutes. Stir occasionally. When it is ready, the sauce should be fairly thick and the chicken cooked through and tender.

Serve with rice and yoghurt.

Sorry, no pictures with this one! I am not sure where the digital camera is at the moment!!

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Thursday, 21 May 2009

Fresh Trout from Rutland Water

Today we had quite a treat for tea. My father-in-law to be (is that a proper term, or have I just made it up?) went trout fishing at Rutland Water, which is not too far from where we live. This is the spot: He called in to see us on the way back home and dropped off a couple of lovely trout, freshly caught and gutted. You don't get fish much fresher than this, less than a day out of the water.

Beautiful! Lets check out his face...

It was already gutted so I filled the insides with herbs - a mixture of parsley, chives and a little bit of fresh rosemary. Couple of cloves of garlic and a nob of butter went in there as well.

Some olive oil and a bit of salt and pepper went on the outside of the fish, then wrapped up tightly in foil. The trout was baked in the oven at 200 C for 20 minutes, turning over half way through.

Here it is cooked. Now, I need to learn how to "carve" a fish and debone it as I made a bit of a bodge job of this one.

I just opened it up down the middle and pulled the spine and bones out.

It seemed to work ok, although there were a few smaller bones remaining afterwards.

Served with some ratatouille, this was a delicious simple meal.

You could tell this was a really fresh fish, it almost melted when eating, and the flavour was a lot more intense than any shop-bought trout that I have eaten. I might have to take up fishing...

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Thursday, 7 May 2009

Chicken Liver and Red Wine Pate

I have started buying a lot more offal these days, mainly because it is cheap and tasty, but also because it is full of goodness (high in iron and protein, low fat and lots of other essential vitamins and minerals).

Admittedly, liver is not the most appetising food to look at. Here is 400 g of chicken livers:

I was therefore pleasantly surprised to find that pate is surprisingly easy to make at home. I had never really considered making pate before, but when flicking through Delia's Complete Cookery Course, I was taken by this recipe. A bit of research on the net and I came up with this version:


  • 400 g chicken livers
  • 100 g butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • ~10 chives, chopped
  • Sprig of thyme
  • 150 ml red wine
  • Salt and pepper
Rinse the livers under a tap and pat dry with kitchen towel. Chop off any white sinewy looking bits.

Heat a large frying pan and melt half of the butter. Add the garlic.

When the butter starts to foam, add the chicken livers. Keep stirring and turning them over for 4 minutes.
Add the wine and herbs, bring to the boil then reduce to a gentle simmer for a further 4 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat. Leave to rest for 10-15 minutes, then blend in a food processor until smooth.

Now, remove the blade from the food processor and pour the pate into a suitable dish or bowl. (Note - make sure you do take the blade out, unless like me you wish to splash hot pate all over your kitchen and self).

Melt the remaining butter in a microwave or over a low heat. Pour over the pate - this will form a sort of crust to preserve your pate. Of course, if you aren't planning on keeping it for too long, then don't bother with the butter on top!

Leave to set uncovered in the fridge for at least 2 hours, and preferably overnight.

The result is a little runnier than shop-bought pate, but it was pretty satisfying. I didn't much fancy eating the butter layer on top so just scraped it away!

Serve on toast, crackers, or with some vegetable sticks to dip!

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Monday, 4 May 2009


I have not had much time for bogging lately, work and wedding planning seem to take up most of our free time and although I have been cooking, there has been no time to write about it. We are due to get married in June so only a few weeks left. Just about everything is organised - the venue is to be Tregenna Castle, St. Ives in Cornwall. It is a fantastic setting and we just hope it will be a sunny day in order to make the most of the amazing sea views.

We have sorted out the menu after going for a tasting at the hotel with both sets of parents, and it is sounding very nice! This is what we have selected:

Smoked Seafood & Citrus Mousse
Enclosed In Woodcured Salmon Served With
A Cornish White Crabmeat & Fresh Dill Aioli


Slow Braised Shank Of Lamb With
A Rosemary & Redcurrant Sauce Served With Roast Potatoes & Seasonal Vegetables


Dark Chocolate & Raspberry Tart
Served With Chantilly Cream
The vegetarian option doesn't sound too bad either, although I must admit that we haven't tried it ourselves.

Beef Steak Tomato &
Mozzarella Salad With Basil Oil


Asparagus & Red Onion Risotto With
Cornish Goats Cheese & Parmesan Shavings

And, of course, there is wine as well:

White Wine

Cape Promise Winemakers Selection
Unoaked Chenin Blanc (2008) South Africa
“Refreshing ripe melon & citrus fruit
with a lively clean finish”


Red Wine

Cape Promise Winemakers Selection
Cabernet Sauvignon Merlot (2008) South Africa
“Plum & rich casis flavours – soft & smooth”


Champagne to toast

Duc de Roucher Brut
“Lively white blossom aromas with
harmonious fruit & soft acidity

The evening buffet is going to be slightly less gourmet and will consist of bacon rolls with brown sauce or ketchup, and traditional Cornish pasties. You just can't have a wedding in Cornwall without having a proper pasty (helps somewhat with soaking up the booze later in the evening!).

We have also booked the honeymoon now; after two days of extreme relaxation in Dubai (at the hottest time of year I might add), we are off to New Zealand to hire a campervan and drive all around both the North and South islands! This is the bit that I am most looking forward to!

But for now, we just have to finalize the all-important wedding disco music (suggestions welcomed in the comments section below - anything that will get people on the dancefloor), print out menus and the order of service, collect suits and turn up on the day (the bride has a fair bit more to do, involving hair, nails, dress, tanning, and various other important bits).

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Tuesday, 14 April 2009

Chilli and Honey Peanuts

This is a pretty quick and easy recipe, resulting in a healthy snack with a kick.


  • 300 g peanuts
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp chilli powder (hot!)
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • Salt and pepper
In a roasting dish, mix the peanuts, olive oil and honey. Ensure that all the nuts are well coated. Sprinkle the spices, salt and pepper over the nuts and then mix well again.

Roast in the oven at 200 C for about 20-30 minutes.

Leave to cool then store in an airtight container and snack on when you are peckish.

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Monday, 13 April 2009

Moroccan Roasted Shoulder of Lamb

This is a bit of a spicy twist on the classic lamb Easter roast dinner. Mint is a classic British accompaniment to lamb, and the addition of the Moroccan herbs and spices makes a wonderfully warming Easter roast.


  • 1 shoulder of lamb (I used one which was about 750 g and this was enough for 4 people)
  • 1 bunch fresh mint
  • 1 bunch fresh coriander
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 red onion
  • 2 teaspoons dried coriander seeds, ground
  • 1 teaspoon dried cumin seeds, ground
  • 1 teaspoon smoked paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 dried red chillies (add more or less depending on how hot you like it)
  • ~1 teaspoon olive oil
  • Fresh ginger - about the size of your thumb
  • 1 glass white wine
  • ~1 kg potatoes
  • Vegetables to serve - I used peas and carrots - keep the cooking water for use in the gravy
Peel the garlic, ginger and onions and then place in a food processor with the fresh mint and coriander, and the dried spices. Pulse until you get a smooth paste.

Add the olive oil, just a little is needed to loosen up the spice and herb paste. Blend again until it is well mixed in.

Remove the lamb from the fridge and allow it to warm up to room temperature. Using a small sharp knife, make incisions all over the joint. Smear the herb and spice paste all over the lamb, making sure to get your hands dirty and push it well into all the incisions. This will ensure that the meat is really well flavoured.

Place the meat in a large roasting tin and surround with the potatoes. I have used new potatoes here as is spring time. Coat the potatoes in a little olive oil. Cook in a hot (220 C) oven for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 150 C. For a 750 g joint like the one I used, it took 45 minutes at 150 C to cook rare, another 20 minutes for medium rare. Adjust the timings depending on your own oven, size of your meat and whether you like it rare or medium.

When cooked, remove the lamb from the roasting tin and leave to rest for 10 minutes or so, whilst you prepare the gravy. Put the potatoes into a warmed serving dish.

The roasting tin will be coated with lots of spicy flavours and herbs, so this can be used to make an intensely flavoured gravy.

Place the roasting tin on a hot hob, add the glass of wine and ~150 ml stock or cooking water from your drained vegetables. Scrape off all the burnt goodness from the bottom of the roasting tin and then bring to a fast boil to reduce to a thick gravy.

Carve the meat. I scraped off most of the herb and spice mix at this stage, although you can leave it on if you wish. It gives a kind of spicy mint sauce effect.

Serve with some vegetables, potatoes and gravy.

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Sunday, 29 March 2009

Use a Sprat to Catch a Mackerel

Or a sprout...

If you are wondering what on earth I am talking about, I am not surprised! It is an old saying that to catch a mackerel, you need to use a small fish as bait. The moral being that:

"If you use a sprat to catch a mackerel, you make a small expenditure or take a small risk in the hope of a much greater gain."
Right, back to the point of this post - sprats! Or sprattus sprattus to give them their full name. They were on special offer in Tesco fish counter this week for £3 a kilo! There are not many fish available as cheaply as that, so I snapped up 300 g for under £1.

To cook them, no gutting or filleting is needed as they can be eaten whole. Rinse under cold water, pat dry then coat them with seasoned flour.

Heat some oil in a large frying pan or if you have a chip pan, that would be ideal. I used light olive oil to fry them in.

Fry the sprats in batches for about 2-3 minutes each maximum until golden brown.

Remove from the oil carefully using a slotted spoon and then place on some kitchen towel to remove some more of the oil. Keep them warm in the oven whilst you cook the remaining batches, then serve with salad and lemon to squeeze over them.

As my fiancee seemed to baulk at none too happy at the idea of eating fishes with eyes and bones, I ended up eating the whole 300 g myself! I was rather full afterwards, but a very tasty meal nonetheless.

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Tuesday, 10 March 2009

Salmon and Spinach Fish Cakes

  • 450 g salmon, no skin, cut into chunks
  • 300 g potatoes, peeled, boiled and mashed with butter
  • 100 g spinach - blanched and drained well
  • Salt and pepper
  • Grated rind of 1 lemon
  • Cottage cheese or creme fraiche to serve
I found some cheap salmon in Tesco the other day, they are fillets but small scraps and ends. Not particularly attractive to look at, but nice and cheap, and perfect for fishcakes.

Blanche the spinach, either in hot water or very quickly in the microwave. Squeeze well to remove any water (too much water will make the cakes soggy).

Place the mash, spinach, lemon rind, salmon and salt and pepper into a food processor (like my Magimix 4200). Pulse the mixer to blend it all together. Do NOT over-blend as you will end up with mush. It is better to have chunky bits of fish still visible.

Shape into fish cakes - the mixture should be enough for 4-6 cakes. Dust lightly with flour.

Heat a large heavy frying pan to medium heat, then add a little oil. Fry the fish cakes for 4-5 minutes each side, turning once only. Don't fiddle about with them too much otherwise you will end up breaking them before they are cooked.

That's it! Serve with some mushy peas for a chip-shop style meal, and a nice dollop of creme fraiche or smooth cottage cheese.

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Sunday, 8 March 2009

Cauliflower Cheese

The perfect accompaniment to many a roast dinner, this is a hearty and comforting dish (possibly because of all the cheese!). The cheese sauce has been described before, in this recipe for broccoli and blue cheese pasta.

1 cauliflower
100 g cheddar
Salt and pepper
25 g butter
25 g flour
~1 pint milk
1 tsp English mustard powder

Have an admiring look at your cauliflower. It is not a sickly looking piece of broccoli, but a flowering member of the cabbage family in its own right. According to the "ever-reliable" Wikipedia...
Cauliflower is low in fat, high in dietary fiber, folate, water and vitamin C, possessing a very high nutritional density. As a member of the brassica family, cauliflower shares with broccoli and cabbage several phytochemicals which are beneficial to human health, including sulforaphane, an anti-cancer compound released when cauliflower is chopped or chewed.

Remove the leafy part. These are actually edible, but I haven't eaten them before and I expect they are a bit tough.
Chop into florets and steam/ par boil in a pan. I usually steam vegetables if possible, as there is less water involved, so less chance of losing the vitamins from the veg into the water. About 5-7 minutes steaming is enough for a cauliflower, depending on how big you chop it.
Now prepare a cheese sauce, not forgetting the secrets to making a good cheese sauce. Melt the butter in a pan on a low heat.

Add the flour and stir well.

Add a little bit of the milk, then mix well until the consistency as smooth. Keep doing this, adding a little bit of milk and mixing until all the milk is added.

Still using a very low heat, bring the sauce just up to the boil and remove from the heat.

Now it is time to liven up the sauce a little with the addition of cheese, salt and pepper and some English mustard powder (I love the iconic design of the Colman's mustard tin - I am sure it has remained unchanged since it was established in 1814!). Add half of the grated cheese to the sauce, a teaspoon of mustard powder and salt and pepper to taste.

Place the cooked cauliflower in a baking dish, cover with the cheese sauce and then the remaining grated cheese. Sprinkle on a bit more salt and pepper.

Bake in the oven at 180C for about 20-30 minutes, until you get a nice golden crust on the top.

Serve at once.

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