Category Archives: quick & easy

Asian salmon salad (serves: 2 – cooking time: 15 mins)

I think it is fair to say that summer is on its way and about time too!  I am pleased to report that I am writing this blog from the comfort of my garden table with my new puppy ‘Oscar’ dozing at my feet…  Bliss!

Last weekend, with the weather being so glorious, there was a definite need for fresh and healthy food.  I really enjoy Asian style salads as they are fragrant and crunchy.   I often vary how I serve the salmon when I cook it in this way, for example if I am looking to eat something more substantial then I replace the salad with egg noodles and serve with pak choi  or  I add it to a stir fry using the juices of from the fish to form the sauce.

This recipe is good irrespective of whether you serve it hot or cold and takes very little time to prepare.  If you are looking for a recipe that can be made in advance to be served at a summer lunch party then this is a great little option.  Or if you are having a barbecue and are looking to cater for the non meat-eaters – again this recipe comes into its own as the salmon is cooked in tin foil and can be cooked alongside the meat (just remember that the cooking time will vary depending on the heat of your barbecue).  Enjoy.

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Mackerel salad (serves 1 – preparation time 10 mins)

Last Easter my brothers and I met up in Yorkshire for a weekend of walking, eating and sampling one or two of the local drinks…  Unbeknownst to my brothers I decided that we needed to balance out the gluttony of the weekend with a healthy meal.  Now, for those of you that know my brothers you will appreciate that a mackerel salad would not be their first choice, so much so that when I first told them that mackerel salad was on the menu for Sunday lunch they quickly suggested a walk to the pub for a pre-lunch beer, which then led to another and another … it is safe to say that the mackerel salad did not happen that day.

However the following day there was no escaping the Mackerel salad as I prepared it before the boys were up.  I suppose you are wondering why I persisted with the Mackerel salad, well first up despite the boys protests I was pretty sure they would like it.  Secondly, I wanted to see if it was enough of a meal to stop them feeling hungry.  The good news is that the boys were both pleasantly surprised and full, thanks to this protein rich salad.  Win!

The recipe below, serves one person, but can easily be multiplied to cater for more.  As with any salad you can chop and change the ingredients according to what you have available.  If you are entertaining / hosting a dinner party then I would suggest serving as a starter and reducing the quantities by half.  If however you are having friends over for lunch then adapt the recipe to cater of the right number of people and present on a large platter so that people may help themselves.

Alternatively if you are looking for a packed lunch ideas, this salad can be made up the night before and stored in a Tupperware. My only advice if you do this: (1) do not quarter the boiled egg until you are ready to eat; and (2) keep the vinaigrette separate in a little jar to prevent the salad going soggy overnight.

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Mackerel salad 
Serves: 1
Preparation time: 10 mins

Ingredients:

Salad:

  • 1 smoked mackerel fillet
  • 1 egg
  • 1 handful of mixed salad leavesDSC_0461.JPG
  • ¼ avocado (diced into cubes)
  • 5-6 cherry tomatoes (halved)
  • 1 small piece of carrot (peeled and cut into strips using a potato peeler)
  • 1 small piece of cucumber (peeled and cut into strips using a potato peeler)
  • 1 small piece of red pepper (thinly sliced)
  • 5 black olives (stoned and halved)
  • 2 slices of stale baguette
  • Olive oil

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  • Juice of 1/2 a lemon
  • Olive oil
  • 1tsp fresh dill (chopped)
  • salt and pepper

Note: the quantities for the vinaigrette will be enough for 4 people.

Steps:

  1. First prepare your croutons: slice the stale baguette into cubes, place in a baking tray and drizzle over a little olive oil (roughly 1 tablespoon) – make sure that each side of the bread has a little oil on it. Place in a preheated oven on at 190°C and bake for roughly 7- 10 minutes or until golden brown.
  2. Next prepare the soft boiled egg: place an egg in a saucepan with a little salt and cover the egg with boiling water. Boil the egg on a medium heat for 6 minutes, then pour away the boiling water and fill the saucepan with cold, set to one side and leave to cool for a couple of minutes.
  3. Whilst the egg and croutons are cooking prepare your salad: place the salad leaves on a plate to form a base, add the carrot, cucumber, red pepper, cherry tomatoes, avocado and olives.
  4. Remove the skin from the smoked mackerel and place on top of the salad and scatter over the croutons.
  5. Prepare your vinaigrette: pour the lemon juice into a jam-jar, add an equal amount of olive oil, the dill and salt and pepper. Shake well.
  6. Finally peel your egg and carefully cut into quarters (the yolk will be runny) add it to the salad, before pouring over a little of the dressing. Serve immediately. Enjoy!

Lemon posset with lemon and pistachio shortbread

Today’s recipe is for a super easy pudding!  Both parts to this recipe take less than 10 minutes to prepare.  If you are a fan of lemon you are going to enjoy this pudding.  So what is a posset? Well put simply – it is a velvety creamy rich pudding made using just three ingredients and is genuinely something anybody could make!

Shortbread makes the perfect accompaniment to this pudding.  Again for those of you that lack confidence in the kitchen shortbread is very simple to prepare, provided that you have a set of scales, a large bowl and a baking tray.  I find that making it by hand is just as quick as using a food processor just with less washing up!  If you are having friends over for a cup of tea or coffee and want to be able to offer them something to nibble on – this shortbread is a goer as it can be prepared, cooked and on the table in 30 minutes.

If you don’t have pistachios, don’t fret – either leave them out, or, if you have some other nuts or dried fruit available use that instead.  I am a firm believer in making use of what you have!

I hope that you give this recipe a try and enjoy it as much as I did.

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Pâtés

Ladies and Gentlemen I am back!  Each Friday going forward I am going to endeavour to post some new recipe ideas for you.  So watch this space!

Today I have whipped up three different pâtés any one of which would make a great little starter if you have friends popping over, or as a light lunch with some salad or other nibbly bits. The first pâté was mackerel pâté which is a personal favourite of mine.  Mackerel pâté takes a matter of minutes to make and is scrummy served on fresh bread, melba toast or even that 70s throw back a vol-au-vent.

Second up is a vegetarian option, roasted red pepper and olive pâté which requires a food processor to blend the cream cheese and red pepper together.  This pâté is wonderfully light (a result of blitzing the cream cheese in the food processor) and the red pepper gives it a slightly piquant but sweet flavour.  If you are tempted to blend all the ingredients together I wish to warn you that the olives will give the pâté somewhat grainy texture.

Last but by no means least duck and orange pâté, it involves a bit more effort to make but is a good contrast to the other two pâtés.  To make this pâté perfectly smooth after putting it through the food processor you will need to pass it through a sieve.  If you do not mind having a slightly course pâté than I would suggest that you skip this part of the recipe…

Enjoy!

 

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Minestrone soup

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I should really call this recipe ‘Fridge Soup’ as it came about as a consequence there being a lot of fresh vegetables in my fridge that needed using.  In reality it is a take on Minestrone, a thick vegetable soup.

I don’t believe there is a right or wrong way to make a soup so long as you use a good stock, it is largely a case of seeing what you’ve got and working with it. Soups can be smooth or chunky, cold or hot and can be really versatile.

For a while I couldn’t bring myself to eat blended soup, this was largely as a result of my grandmother who religiously ate soup that contained lambs liver along with various vegetables that she would have lying around. Now, I am a fan of liver (pan fried with onions and bacon), however when cooked to oblivion in a soup which is then puréed is another thing. I am pleased to say I got over my aversion to blended soup a number of years ago and love a velvety pumpkin soup or roasted tomato soup that have been blitzed.

So why make this soup? Well, it uses scraps up, you can change the ingredients according to what you have in your fridge/pantry and it will provide you with a hearty bowl of soup at the end. I don’t normally added tinned tomatoes to a soup but I really feel it adds a great base flavour to this chunky soup.

My one tip for this soup, try and avoid cutting the veggies into big pieces as it will impact the cooking time. You want the vegetables to be diced so that they are roughly 1cm cubes. If they end up bigger then 1cm  it isn’t a problem just add the pasta to the pan about 5-10 mins after you’ve added the tomatoes and stock and cook the soup for a little longer. Enjoy!

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Minestrone soup (serves 4)

Ingredients:

1 carrot (diced)
1 courgette (core removed and diced)
5 mushrooms (diced)
1 red pepper (deseeded and diced)
1 onion (diced)
1 handful of smoked lardons
1 tin of tomatoes
1tsp teaspoon of sage
1tsp of thyme
1 chicken stock cube
600ml water
2 small handfuls macaroni pasta
seasoning

Steps:

1. Start by preparing all of your vegetables.
2. Heat some oil in a heavy bottomed pan on a low temperature, add the onions and cook slowly until they start to soften.
3. Next add the lardons, cook for a couple of minutes stirring occasionally before adding the rest of the fresh vegetables.
4. Allow the vegetables to sweat for around 5-10 minutes.
5. Finally add the herbs, stock cube, tinned tomatoes, and pasta.  Season well, turn the heat up to a medium temperature and leave to bubble away for 15-20 minutes stirring occasionally and adding more water as needed.

 

Stilton and fig tart

photo 3I have an abundance of Stilton in my fridge leftover from my brother’s wedding and I have been trying to think up things to make with it. Tonight having seen that figs were on sale in the local supermarket I decided to make a very simple tart. It is a fantastic option for a midweek supper especially if you are having one or two friends over as it takes a matter of minutes to prepare and you can happily chat away whilst it is cooking in the oven.

Whilst I enjoyed it as a main meal with a simple salad, this would make a great starter which you could make into individual portions just by cutting the pastry up into small squares and then following the same steps. This is definitely worth giving a go. A simple and very tasty supper!

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Stilton and fig tart (serves 4)

Ingredients:

– 1 packet of pre-rolled puff pastry
– 100-150g Stilton (cut into small cubes)
– 3 figs (sliced into roughly eighths)
– 1 handful of lardons or bacon bits
– 1-2 tsp honey
– 3-4 sprigs of parsley (chopped)
– 2 tbsp milk
– Olive oil
– Seasoning

Steps:

1. Preheat the oven to 200C.

2. On a high heat fry off the lardons for a couple of minutes. Set to one side and allow to cool slightly.

3. Lay the pastry out on a piece of baking paper on a shallow baking tray, fold over roughly 1cm of the pastry all around the edges to create a lip.

4. Taking a pastry brush, brush a little of the milk all over the pastry.

5. Scatter the stilton and lardons over the pastry then place the pieces of fig evenly over it.

6. Season with pepper and drizzle over a little olive oil before placing in the oven a baking for 20-25 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown.

7. Remove from the oven, drizzle over some honey and scatter over the chopped parsley.

8. Serve warm with a salad. Enjoy.

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Prawns and steamed samphire

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I am back in France at the moment at my parent’s house and it is bliss, not only has the weather been magnificent but a lot of fruit and vegetables are in season at the moment which means every meal has been a delight!  I think lunchtime is my favourite meal as it always starts off with a little melon served with some of our home reared cured ham, followed by a huge salad a cheese board that is to be envied and to finish apricots picked straight from the tree. Food does not get much better than that!

As it is the perfect weather for a BBQ yesterday morning I headed to the market to see what I could find to cook for supper.  I ended up coming back with various bits and bobs but the two things that I was most pleased about were the prawns and samphire which I was going to use to make a very simple starter. For those of you who have not come across samphire before it is a sea vegetable that grows abundantly on shorelines.  It has a crisp texture and a delicate salty yet slightly buttery flavour which means it works beautifully with seafood.

The idea of this starter is to let the prawns and the samphire do all the talking and to keep it very simple.  Provided your BBQ is hot and ready to cook on this starter takes roughly 10 minutes to make and there is really nothing to it all you need is a few skewers and a little tin foil.

BBQ prawns with steamed samphire (serves 3)

Ingredients:

350g raw prawns
150g samphire
a knob of butter
3 wedges of lemon (to serve)

Steps:

(1) Wash the samphire and then place on a sheet of tin foil with the butter, create a parcel out of the tin foil and set to one side until you are ready to place it on the BBQ.

(2) Wash your prawns then place them on to a wooden skewer (2-3 prawns on each skewer).  Note: always soak wooden skewers in water for about an hour to stop them burning when you place them on the BBQ.

(3) Once your BBQ is hot enough to cook on, place your tin foil parcel on the BBQ and let it cook for 5 minutes before you place the prawn skewers on the BBQ, cook on each side for about 3 minutes or until the prawns have turned pink.

(4)  As soon as your prawns are cooked, serve the prawns and samphire with a wedge of lemon.  Enjoy!

Chilli beef burgers

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A few years ago I dropped in on Jones and her parents in Shropshire and I was treated to Papa Jones’ chilli beef burgers and they were pretty special.  Last week I thought I would see if I could recreate them, given that we had an abundance of burger buns in the freezer.

Making burgers is incredibly straight forward and can be made and cooked within 15 minutes, so a perfect option if you are looking for a simple supper.  You can ‘jazz up’ your burger by adding Stilton and tomato relish which is my preference, or you could go for a combination of, cheese slices, fresh tomato, bacon, mustard, lettuce, etc. The options are endless…

With BBQ season coming up quick and fast these burgers are a great option and can be made up well in advance and will keep in the fridge if covered in cling film for a couple of days.   This is definitely a recipe to try.  Enjoy!

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Chili Beef Burgers (makes 6)

Ingredients :

  • 400g minced beef
  • ½ red onion (diced)
  • 2 garlic cloves (diced)
  • 1 birds eye chilli (finely chopped)
  • 1 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp mixed herbs
  • 1 egg
  • seasoning

Steps :

  1. Place all the ingredients in a bowl and mix together well (it is much better done with your hands).
  2. Shape the mixture into 6 equal sized balls.
  3. Heat a little oil in a heavy based frying pan.  Place the meat balls in the pan, using either your hand or a spatula to flatten out your burgers, till they are roughly ¾ of an inch thick.
  4. Cook your burgers for roughly 3-5 minutes on each side.
  5. Serve, in a burger bun with a side salad.

Tip:  If you are going to serve your burger with cheese, just before removing the burger from the pan place the cheese on top of your burgers so that it melts slightly.

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Bruschetta snacks

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Jones (my housemate) and I have had a tough week and were feeling somewhat jaded this morning.  There was only one way to make us feel better –food.  Unfortunately for us that meant a joyous trip to the supermarket on a Saturday morning before we could tuck in.

Fancying something a little bit healthy, we settled on the idea of bruschetta, mostly because it can be put together in a matter of minutes and it looks and tastes good!  In the end we made four different types: a classic tomato, a pea and broad bean, goat’s cheese and beetroot and avocado, red pepper and mozzarella.

These bruschetta are perfect for a light lunch, starter or even a canapé.  Don’t be afraid to change the ingredients depending on what you have available and what is in season.  The only thing I would strongly advise is make sure that you season the toppings well and make sure you always taste as you go along.

 

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Avocado, Red Pepper and Mozzarella Bruschetta

Ingredients:

  • 4 slices of sourdough bread
  • ½ an avocado
  • 1/3 of a red pepper
  • ½ a mozzarella ball
  • 4-5 green olives
  • 1 tbsp of fresh chopped chives
  • Seasoning
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1-2 tbsp balsamic glaze

Steps:

  1. Dice the avocado, red pepper, mozzarella and olives.
  2. Place in a bowl with the chives and stir.
  3. Season well, add balsamic glaze and olive oil (make sure you taste at this point adding more of the balsamic glaze and olive oil as needed).
  4. Toast the sourdough lightly.
  5. Place your mixture on top of the bruschetta.  Drizzle over a little olive oil before serving.

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Classic Tomato Bruschetta

Ingredients:

  • 4 slices of sourdough bread
  • Handful of mixed cherry tomatoes
  • 4 black olives
  • 1tbsp of finely diced chopped red onion
  • 5/6 basil leaves (chopped finely)
  • Seasoning
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1-2 tbsp lemon juice

Steps:

  1.  Finely chop the cherry tomatoes, olives. (If the tomatoes give off a lot of juice then pour away some of the excess)
  2. Place in a bowl along with the red, basil.
  3. Season well , add the lemon juice and olive oil (make sure you taste at this point adding more of the lemon juice and olive oil as needed).
  4. Toast the sourdough lightly.
  5. Place your tomato mixture on top of the bruschetta.  Drizzle over a little olive oil before serving.

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Pea and Broad Bean Bruschetta

Ingredients:

  • 4 slices of sourdough bread
  • 1 handful of broad beans (frozen are fine)
  • 1 handful of peas (frozen are fine)
  • 5/6 mint leaves
  • Seasoning
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1-2 tbsp lemon juice

Steps:

  1. Place your broad beans in a pan and cook according to the instructions.  Once they are cooked peel the broad beans (it is worth the effort.)
  2. In a separate pan cook your peas, once cooked place in a bowl together with the broad beans and mash using the back of a fork.
  3. Season well, add the mint, lemon juice and olive oil (make sure you taste at this point adding more of the lemon juice and olive oil as needed).
  4. Toast the sourdough lightly.
  5. Place your mixture on top of the bruschetta.  Drizzle over a little olive oil before serving.

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Beetroot and Goat’s Cheese Bruschetta

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 cooked and peeled beetroot
  • 2” goat’s cheese log
  • Seasoning
  • 1-2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1-2 tbsp balsamic glaze

Steps:

  1. Dice the beetroot and goat’s cheese.
  2. Place in a bowl and mix together.
  3. Season well, add balsamic glaze and olive oil (make sure you taste at this point adding more of the balsamic glaze and olive oil as needed).
  4. Toast the sourdough lightly.
  5. Place your mixture on top of the bruschetta.  Drizzle over a little olive oil before serving.


 

Salmon fillet served with a rice salad and mango and avocado salsa

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I have been trying out a couple of new ideas for fresh and healthy suppers whilst the weather has been so hot.  During the summer months I normally resort to green salads with bread and cheese or cured meats as they are so easy to make.  However, as a friend of mine was coming over to celebrate her recent engagement I wanted to cook something a little bit more impressive than just a salad…

At the moment the markets around me are full of ripe mangoes and avocados so I thought I would buy some and make a sweet and tangy salsa.  Provided you have a food processor this salsa can be made in a matter of minutes.  If you don’t have a food processor then dice the ingredients to make a slightly chunkier version of the salsa that will be equally as delicious.

For the rice salad, I used leftover rice that I had cooked for supper the previous day and then added a combination of vegetables that are all in season at the moment which meant the salad was packed full of flavour and different textures.  The salad was incredibly fresh and complimented the delicacy of the salmon.

Whilst I enjoyed the combination of the rice salad, salsa and fish I would recommend trying the salsa with grilled chicken and/or tortilla chips and the rice salad would be a good and slightly different side dish at a picnic or BBQ so it worthwhile giving a go.

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Mango and Avocado Salsa

Ingredients:

  • ½ a red onion
  • 1 avocado (peeled and stoned)
  • 1 ripe mango (peeled and stoned)
  • ½ -1 chilli (depending on how spicy you want it)
  • 1 small handful of fresh coriander (finely chopped)
  • juice of 1 lime
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • seasoning

Steps:

  1.  Place the red onion and chilli in a food processer and blitz until they are finely chopped.
  2. Then add the avocado, mango, coriander and blitz in the food processor till smooth.
  3. Pour the mixture out of the food processor into a bowl and stir in the lime juice, lemon juice and coriander season as necessary then decant into another bowl for serving.

Note:  If the salsa is kept covered it will keep in the fridge for a few days.

 

Rice Salad (serves 2-3)

Ingredients:

  • 150g pre-cooked basmati rice
  • 4-5 cherry tomatoes (finely diced)
  • 3-4 radishes (finely diced)
  • 2” cucumber (finely diced)
  • 1 avocado (finely diced)
  • 2tbsp fresh coriander (chopped)
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • ½ tbsp olive oil
  • Seasoning

Steps:

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl, season well and serve.

 

Salmon Fillet (Serves 2)

Ingredients:

  • 2 salmon fillets
  •  paprika
  • 2tbsp olive oil
  • Seasoning

Steps:

  1. Place olive oil in a frying pan and heat on a medium temperature.
  2. Add the salmon fillets (skin side down)
  3. Season the salmon and sprinkle over a little paprika.
  4. Cover the frying pan with a lid, turn the temperature down slightly and cook for 7-10 minutes (or until the salmon is cooked).  Serve on a bed of rice salad with a little of the salsa on top.  Enjoy!