Monday, 30 July 2012

Chicken and kale broth

It's summer and I have a stinking rotten cold.  When I'm poorly I like my chicken and rice soup.  But I didn't have any rice or leeks today so improvised a chicken broth with what I had available.  I had pearl barley in the store cupboard, carrots in the fridge, chicken in the freezer and kale growing in the garden.  This can also be a veggie soup, just add beans of some sort instead of chicken.

Chicken and kale broth

50g pearl barley
2 carrots, grated
colander full of kale leaves, shredded
1 litre veg stock (or chicken stock if you have it)
100g cooked chicken

Put barley in a large pan and cover with cold water.  Bring to the boil then drain and rinse.
Put back in pan with veg stock and bring to the boil.
Simmer for about 20 mins

Add grated carrot and shredded kale to the pan and continue to simmer for 10 mins
Add chicken (or beans) to warm through.

Serve with crusty bread

Wednesday, 13 June 2012

Wild salmon

I'm lucky enough to get some wild river caught salmon through a family friend.  It comes to me already gutted and frozen but still whole.  It takes ages to defrost so I need to be organised when I want to cook it.  But even though I took it out on Friday morning and defrosted it overnight in the fridge, it still wasn't defrosted in time for cooking on Saturday night.  So it was Plan B for that night's evening meal!

So on Sunday I had 2 whole salmon each weighing about 1lb to cook.  I wrapped each one in foil and poached them in a roasting tin half filled with boiling water.  15 mins in a hot oven, switch off oven and then left in there to cool. Remove skin and bones.

So, what to do with all that lovely fish?

Mashed up on hot buttered toast for breakfast

Stirred through some risotto

Or how about some salmon pate? 

Mix 250g of flaked salmon with 2 tbsp of half fat creme fraiche, 1 tbsp of mayo, a good squeeze of lemon juice and season well.  Serve with melba toast.  Yummy!

Monday, 21 May 2012

Chicken Korma

Quickest korma I've ever made from scratch!  Recipe is for 1 portion

Chicken Korma

1 chicken breast, cut into cubes
1tsp oil
1 portion curry paste (straight from freezer)
about 100 ml water
2 tbsp coconut milk powder (or creamed coconut)
150ml natural yoghurt (or cream)

Fry chicken until browned and add curry paste and water.
Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 10 mins until chicken is cooked.
Stir in yoghurt and heat gently for 2 mins.

Serve with rice or naan.

Curry paste

This is the all purpose curry paste recipe I found.  All I know is that a lady called Geetha from London shared the recipe with a friend and it's been passed on and on.  I've included her original recipe but with my own tweaks.

Curry Paste

1kg onions, finely chopped
25ml oil (I used a large tablespoon of ghee)
6 cloves of garlic, crushed
4cm piece of ginger, finely chopped (I grated mine)
3-4 chillis (I used 2 tsp of dried crushed chillis)
1 tin chopped tomatoes
4 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp garam masala
1 tsp salt
250ml water
1/2 cup chopped fresh coriander (I used all the leaves on a growing pot)

Brown the onions in the oil/ghee until really brown (even bordering on burnt) It took about 20 mins to get to the above colour but could have been browner.

Add the garlic and ginger and fry for 2 mins.  (The fresh chillis should be added at this stage)

Add the dry spices and salt and carefully fry for 2 mins.  DO NOT BURN THE SPICES.

Add the tomatoes and water and bring to the boil.  Then simmer until you have a thick pulp.

Add the fresh coriander for the final minute of cooking.

The original recipe says now divide into portions and freeze.  The first time I made this I did that.  But I decided to get out my trusty stick blender and blitz it into a smooth paste.

Then divide into 12 portions and freeze.  I used a muffin tin.

Use 1 portion per person for each recipe straight from the freezer, no defrosting required.

Friday, 18 May 2012

Prawn bhuna

I recently discovered a recipe to make a basic curry paste that could be used to create many different types of curry.  It was developed by a busy working Indian mum so is pretty authentic.  You make a big batch and freeze it in small portions.  Perfect for me as I'm the only curry eater in the family.

Unfortunately I didn't take any pics while I was preparing it so I'll make a new batch over the weekend and post it.  Meanwhile here is the prawn bhuna recipe.

Prawn bhuna with home made naan

1 onion, finely sliced
4 tbsp of curry paste (home made or jar)
1 tsp crushed cardamon seeds
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp crushed fennel seeds
200g chopped tomatoes (half a tin)
about a cup of water

Gently fry onion in a little oil until soft. 
Add dry spices and fry for 2 mins without burning
Add curry paste then tomatoes and water.  If paste is from a jar check if it needs to be fried before adding tomatoes.
Simmer for 10 mins keeping an eye on the consistency.  It should be like a thick tomato gravy.

Add cooked prawns and stir through until warm.

Serve with naan, yoghurt, pineapples and mango chutney.

This could easily be made with chicken.  Add cubes of raw chicken to brown before the dry spices then continue.

Home made naan

I use a breadmaker but to make by hand just add wet ingredients to the dry ingredients and knead for 10 mins until smooth and elastic. Then leave to rest for 10 mins.

280 g  strong bread flour
100 ml warm water
4 tbsp natural yogurt
1 clove of garlic – crushed
1 tsp black onion / nigella / cumin seeds
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp salt
2 tsp honey
1 tsp melted butter
1 tsp yeast

Put wet ingredients in breadmaker and add the dry ingredients.  Use dough setting.

When done, remove and leave to rest for 10 mins.  Heat oven and put a baking tray in to heat up.

Divide in 4 and shape into teardrop shape.

Put on hot baking tray and bake for 10 mins until puffy and starting to colour.
Brush with melted ghee if you're not watching calories!
Serve with curry.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Split pea and lentil soup

It's the middle of May and I'm still making winter soups!!  This is one soup I don't blitz until smooth as I like to see the peas.  Grating veg into soups is great if you don't have a blender. 

Split pea and lentil soup

85g of dried split yellow peas, soaked over night in cold water
50g red lentils
2 onions
4 carrots
1.5l veg stock

Drain and rinse peas in cold water.
Add to pan and cover with cold water.
Bring to the boil and boil hard for 10 mins removing any scum that rises to the surface.

Grate carrots and onion and add to pan with lentils and veg stock
Bring back to the boil and simmer for 25 to 30 mins until peas are soft.

Tasty served with home made crusty bread :-)

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Mud Cake with chilli cherries

This is a slightly adapted recipe from a Marks and Spencer book called Chocolate.  It's hugely calorific and not cheap to make but utterly delicious!  There are quite a few stages so set aside plenty time to make it.

Mud Cake with chilli cherries

Mud cake

250g butter, chopped
200g dark chocolate, coarsely chopped
440g caster sugar
250ml milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
80ml whisky
225g plain flour
35g self raising flour
25g cocoa powder
2 eggs

1.  Grease and line a deep 22cm cake tin
2.  Combine butter, chocolate, sugar, milk, vanilla and whisky in a medium pan.  Stir over a low heat until smooth.  Transfer mixture to a large bowl and cool for 15 mins.
3.  Whisk in sifted flours and cocoa.  Then add eggs.
4.  Pour mixture into tin and bake for about 1 and a half hours.  I have an Aga baking oven but other oven temp should be 170C/150C fan assisted.

Meanwhile make chilli cherries.

Chilli cherries

500ml water
165g caster sugar
1 small red chilli, halved lengthwise
1 star anise
6 black peppercorns
10cm piece orange peel
300g frozen black cherries

Add all ingredients to pan except cherries and stir over a low heat until sugar dissolves.  Bring to boil and boil for 2 mins.  Add cherries and simmer 5 mins.  Remove from heat and leave to cool.  If syrup isn't thick enough for your liking, remove cherries and boil syrup for further 5 to 10 mins.  Return cherries to syrup.

Remove cake from oven and stand for 5 mins.  Turn out onto wire rack to cool.

Make the chocolate ganache.

Chocolate ganache

80ml cream
200g dark chocolate, coarsely chopped

Bring cream to boil in small pan and add chocolate.  Remove from heat and stir until smooth.

Spread cold cake with ganache and leave to set.

Serve with chilli cherries

The cake should be gooey and squidgy in the middle.  Yum!!

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Asparagus Soup

Oops, didn't mean to wait this long before updating.  The ladies lunch went well and raised just over £100 for Breakthrough Breast Cancer.  Thank you so much :-)

It was a lot of hard work, made even more difficult having a young pup around.  For this reason I'm delaying a full opening of the supper club until the summer when she'll be more trained.

Last night I picked up some reduced asparagus in the supermarket.  I wouldn't normally waste it in soup but it was slightly wilting and it wasn't English so perfect for making soup.

Asparagus Soup

2 bunches of asparagus
2 small onions
2 tsp ghee
2 tsp flour
750ml veg stock
250ml milk

Chop onion into dice and soften in the ghee for 10 mins.
Trim ends of asparagus and chop finely.  Add to pan and cook for 5 mins.
Add the flour and stir for 1 min
Add stock and milk and bring to the boil.
Simmer for 10 mins
Blitz until smooth and creamy.

I used ghee simply because I found a tin lurking in the back of my cupboard.  I use skimmed milk in everything but it still tastes creamy.  You could add some cream if you want a cream of asparagus soup. Would be nice sprinkled with chopped chives.

The cranberry gin and blueberry vodka were ready for drinking so I strained them through a jelly bag and filled 2 clean bottles.  Since they're pure alcohol and sugar there's no need for sterilisation.  The gin has already been gifted but the vodka is still up for grabs ;-)

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Spicy Carrot Soup

This is my version of a recipe from a book by Anjum Anand called "Eat right for your body type" where all the recipes are inspired by Ayurveda principles.  An interesting read and full of healthy but tasty recipes.

Spicy Carrot Soup

1 tsp sunflower oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 piece of ginger root (about 5cm), peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp ground cumin
300g carrots, diced
2 tbsp red lentils
3/4 litre of veg stock

Gently fry onion until soft then add garlic and ginger.
Stir for 1 min and add spices.
Stir for 30 secs.
Add carrots, lentils and stock.
Simmer until carrots are soft then blitz with a stick blender.

It has a gentle warming spicy taste rather than a fiery kick.  Enjoy!

Friday, 16 March 2012

Blueberry Vodka

Not tried this combination before so it's a bit of an experiment.  Same method as Cranberry Gin.  Hey, it's alcohol, fruit and sugar.  Not much can go wrong!!  Love the deep purple colour already.

Sunday, 4 March 2012

Cranberry Gin

I found a bag of cranberries at the bottom of my freezer and wondered what to do with them.  I've made strawberry gin and raspberry vodka in the past, so figured I'd have a go with the cranberries.  It can be drunk straight like sloe gin or a measure can be added to a glass of fizz to make a champagne cocktail.
Cranberry Gin

Put cranberries in a clean 1 litre jar (they filled it halfway)
Add enough sugar to fill in the gaps and cover by about 1 cm.
Pour in about 1 litre of gin and seal the jar.
Give it a good shake.

The above photo is the next day when the colour starts to leave the fruit and the sugar starts to dissolve

Day 2 shows there is still some sugar at the bottom of the jar but the colour is a lovely red now.  Give it a shake.

By day 3 the sugar is dissolved

Put the jar in a cupboard for a few weeks to let the cranberry flavour and colour develop.  It can be left for a while if you forget.  Then all you have to do is strain the mixture through some muslin into a clean bottle and enjoy!

Friday, 24 February 2012


I love risotto.  I make it once a week.  There's a myth that it's time consuming and faffy to make.  Maybe the proper way cheffy way is but I've developed a cheat's method that doesn't involve adding hot stock a ladle at a time and stirring constantly to get that starchy creamy effect.  My risotto starts off vegetarian to suit my veggie teen then I add or serve it with meat, fish or vegetables.

Risotto with Salmon

Red Onion Risotto with Aubergine

Chicken Risotto

Basic Risotto

1 large onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped finely
2tbsp olive oil
25g butter
150g arborio rice
2 tsp stock powder
1 glass of white wine (optional but nice)
large handful of peas and/or sweetcorn
full kettle of boiling water
150ml of cream
50g to 100g strong cheese, grated

Melt the butter and oil together in a non stick wok
Add the onion and gently soften for 5 mins
Add garlic and stir
Add rice and stir
Fry gently until the rice is well coated with oil/onion mixture and sizzling
Add wine if using
Stir until there is no liquid left.

Now here's the cheat's way.  Normally you would add a ladle full of stock at a time, stirring until it was absorbed.  Then repeat, repeat, repeat until the rice was soft.  I just add half a kettle of boiling water to the pan with the stock powder.  And stir.  Let it simmer for about 10 mins.

The pan is non stick so the rice shouldn't stick to the bottom but stir it regularly until most of the water is absorbed.  Taste the rice.  If it's still hard add more boiling water.

Add the peas/sweetcorn
Simmer until the water is absorbed and the rice is tender.
Add the cream and cheese.
Stir well and serve with your chosen meat/fish or just on its own.

Rosotto is meant to be sloppy but make sure most of the water is gone before adding the cream.  I've also used yoghurt, creme fraiche and Carnation milk(!) when I had no cream.  And you can use any kind of cheese you fancy.

I always make more than I need so I have leftovers!!  It reheats well with a little water added.  But I tried a new way with leftover risotto this week. 

Risotto Cakes

100g of leftover risotto
2 eggs
dried breadcrumbs

Add 1 beaten egg to the risotto and mix well
Shape into patties
Dip patties in the second beaten egg and then dip in breadcrumbs (very messy but fun!!)
Fry gently in a little oil until golden on both sides and hot

I'd love to have a go at making arancini which are risotto balls with a piece of cheese in the middle.  They're also dipped in egg and breadcrumbs but then deep fried.  At present I don't have a deep fryer but maybe one day.

Tuesday, 21 February 2012

Frog soup and more cake

It doesn't have real frogs in it, it's just very green!!!  We call it frog soup as my one of my sons remarked it looked like frogs! One of my favourite quick soups and is just as nice served as a cold soup in summer.  Honest!

Leek and Courgette Soup

I don't usually saute my vegetables before adding stock to make soup.  I've found over the years it doesn't make a difference to the finished taste and it saves on calories.  But this is one of the exceptions.

2 courgettes (diced)
1 large leek (sliced)
50g butter
1 litre vegetable stock

Gently saute the vegetables in the butter for 5 mins before adding the stock.
Bring to the boil and simmer for 10 mins.
Blitz until smooth.

Tropical Fruit Loaf

6oz butter
6oz sugar
6oz self raising flour
3 eggs
2oz glace ginger (chopped)
2 1/2oz dessicated coconut
2oz tinned pineapple, drained and chopped

Cream butter and sugar
Add eggs 1 at a time
Add flour
Fold in ginger, coconut and pineapple

Bake in a loaf tin 40-45 mins

The above recipe was created by my friend Sarah.  Her blog is Unbought Delicacies.

Years ago I read that you can take out 1oz/25g of sugar from cake recipes without it altering the outcome.  The cake in the photo had 5 oz of sugar and still tastes delicious :-)

Monday, 20 February 2012


Two recipes that used up some fruit and veg lying around.  The bananas were squishy and black.  The carrots and peppers were leftover crudities.  The banana loaf is an old handwritten recipe I've used for years.  Measurements are imperial, not metric. 

Banana and Cranberry loaf

6oz self raising flour (sifted)
5oz butter (softened)
4oz caster sugar
3 eggs (beaten)
2 or 3 ripe bananas (mashed)
2oz dried cranberries (or any dried fruit)

Cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy
Add eggs a little at a time, adding a spoonful of flour to prevent curdling
Add bananas and cranberries
Fold in flour
Pour into a greased loaf tin
Bake at 190C or baking oven for 40 mins until middle is firm (skewer test)
If it needs longer cover top with tin foil and bake for another 10 mins
Cool on a wire rack

I use paper liners from Lakeland, saves a lot of faffing with greasing tins and it looks nicer if you're giving it to someone

Carrot and Red Pepper Soup

Approx 3 carrots, 1 red pepper and 1/2 yellow pepper cut into sticks
Approx 25g red lentils
3/4 litre veg stock
1/2 tsp crushed chillies

Add everything to a pan and bring to the boil
Simmer until carrots are soft
Blitz until smooth
Serve with a dollop of yoghurt

Saturday, 18 February 2012

Fruit n Nut Porridge

Whoops, didn't realise I'd not posted since December but there is something very exciting happening here soon so stick with me ;-)

Fruit n Nut Porridge

I love porridge.  Cheap, quick to make and fills you up.  I'm not traditional and like to put fruit and stuff in mine.  So I made up a huge batch of oats, barley flakes, chopped hazelnuts, cranberries, apricot and date pieces, sunflower seeds, linseeds and dessicated coconut.  No sugar.

Add about 50g of the mix to approx 300ml of water/milk (I like more milk than water, but it's just your preference)  Bring gently to the boil and simmer for about 5 minutes.  Serve with a swirl of honey or agave nectar.

Soba noodles with prawns and broccoli

I recently discovered soba noodles.  Made from buckwheat which isn't a wheat, so great if you're wheat intolerant.  And they're a doddle to prepare.  Just pour boiling water over them and leave for about 5 mins.  Drain and they're ready to use.

The above dish isn't a recipe as such.  I just stir fried some sliced red peppers with some broccoli florets in a little sesame oil and soya sauce.  Then I added some cooked king prawns until they were warmed.  Serve over the cooked soba noodles.  Yummy!