Category Archives: recipes

Pulled Pork (Serves: 6/8 – Preparation time: +8hrs)

I’m back to cooking low and slow – as I’ve mentioned before it is a very simple way of cooking in terms of effort.  The key is to ensure that you have plenty of time to let the meat gently cook, it should not be rushed and don’t be tempted to turn up the heat to speed up the process.  By cooking the meat low and for a long period of time the meat will become beautifully tender and become infused by flavours of the herbs and spices.

The dry rub has a slight warmth to it from the combination of chillies used and cayenne pepper however it is not over powering. The smoked paprika and chipotle chilli flakes give the dry rub a wonderful aroma of barbecues and bonfires which adds to the overall flavour of the pork. If you don’t have smoked paprika in your spice cupboard at home I would strongly recommend getting some and giving it a try – it is great in soups, chilli con carne and hummus.

I cooked the pulled pork in my slow cooker on the lowest setting.  If you don’t have a slow cooker then cook it in a heavy casserole (with lid) and cook in the over at 120°C for 6-8 hours.

Serving suggestions:

  • serve as you would fajitas with homemade salsa, grated cheese, sour cream and guacamole.  If you are looking to be slightly healthier then replace the tortilla wraps with lettuce leaves; or
  • serve in brioche buns with barbecue sauce, coleslaw and chips.

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Chicken and mushroom pie (Serves: 4 -Preparation time: +1hr)

I suspect that you will be somewhat surprised to hear that the inspiration for this pie recipe was ‘Beef Wellington’- well to be more specific the mushroom duxelle and the pastry elements of it.  There is nothing complicated about this recipe, it is just simple ingredients cooked well and left to speak for themselves.

“Tender chicken in a silky mushroom sauce topped off with crunchy flaky pastry – comfort food at its best!”

The filling can be made up in advance kept in the fridge for 1-2 days until it is needed which makes it a fantastic option for mid-week entertaining or to have in reserve if life is particularly busy – if you are doing this then cover with the pastry just before putting in the oven otherwise the pastry may dry out in the fridge.

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Smoky roasted butternut squash soup (Serves: 4/6 – Preparation time: +1hr)

Pumpkins and squashes come in all manner of shapes and sizes and in my opinion they are one of the most versatile vegetables that you can cook with.  The good news is right now they are in season and fairly cheap to buy!  For today’s recipe I have decided to keep things simple and turn butternut squash into a wonderfully velvety soup which is perfect served in a mug for bonfire night or as a starter for a dinner party with crusty French bread on the side.

The vibrant orange colour of this soup is hugely inviting and has the effect of making you warmer simply by looking at it. However, it is the paprika in this recipe transforms this soup – turning it from the sweet delicate taste of the squash into a rich smoky flavour that makes you want to keep going back for more.

This is definitely a recipe to try this autumn/winter whilst butternut squash is in season and at its best.  The soup freezes well so can be made up in large quantities and squirrelled away until you need it.  Enjoy!

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Oxtail casserole (Serves: 4 – Preparation time: 3.5hrs)

As the dark evenings draw in and the temperature starts to drop off rich stews and casseroles come into their own.  The recipe below is a fine example of cooking ‘low and slow’ which results in the meat becoming mouth-wateringly tender and falls off the bone.

Whilst I was in France a couple of weeks ago with some of my school friends, a debate started over what is the difference between a stew and a casserole.  After a lengthy discussion and a bit of googling we learnt that stewing is done on the top of a cooker with heat being applied directly to the underneath of the pot; while casseroling takes place inside the oven with heat circulating all around the pot. In both cases the meat is cut up fairly small and cooked in a liquid (stock, wine, water, cider, etc).  So it transpires that I have been using the terminology wrongly for many years – whoops.

The recipe below is for oxtail casserole which uses Guinness as a substitute for tomatoes and stock on the basis that it has a lovely earthy and almost bitter flavour which combined with the red currant jelly becomes beautifully mellow.  Whilst I cooked this in a cast iron casserole dish this recipe would work really well in a slow cooker, however make sure that you cook it on a low setting for around 6-7 hours.

For presentation purposes I took the oxtail off the bone and served in a roasted squash, which looked lovely.  However I have a confession to make, after decanting the casserole into the squash is dawned on me that whilst pretty it was highly impractical, so I ended up tipping it back into the pot before serving and it saved me from one heck of a mess. In hindsight I should have served the oxtail on the bone (2 per person is about right) with wedges of roasted squash and green vegetables on the side.  As they say “you live and learn”…  Enjoy!

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Banana and date cupcakes (sugar-free and dairy-free). Preparation time: 30/40 minutes

My sister-in-law set me a challenge to develop a cake that is suitable for my nephew, Leo.  Leo is 8 months old and a truly happy baby who I am pleased to say seems to love his food!  My brother and sister-in-law are in the process of weaning Leo at the moment and are following the ‘baby led weaning‘ method.  Baby led weaning is a fairly new concept to me, but strikes me as a sensible way of introducing a baby to food.  Put simply baby led weaning is the where you give food to a baby and they feed themselves.  So far as I can tell one of the major advantages is that they eat what you eat (within reason) and subject to a couple of basic principles to ensure that your baby’s diet has a very limited amount of salt and sugar.

Now then back to the challenge, to develop a cake suitable for baby led weaning.  My sister-in-law asked me to create a cake that did not contain refined sugar.  My first thought was what about using honey, however after a bit of research it became clear that this would not be a suitable substitute on this occasion as the general consensus is not to introduce honey to a baby’s diet until they are a year old.  Not being a fan of sweeteners I set my mind to what I could use as an alternative.  My solution – dates and banana pureed in a little boiling water.  Using that as a sugar substitute I tired a couple of different recipes.  The first attempt resulted in a dense but very moist sponge more like a muffin.  The second attempt is the one I am going to share here as it produced a much lighter fluffier sponge that rose beautifully.  What I should point out it that I made cupcakes instead of a cake as it was a better portion size for a baby.  The other benefit of cooking them this is it means that you can freeze them individually and use them gradually rather than worry about them going stale.

I suspect that you are wondering what it tasted like – unsurprisingly it is nowhere near as sweet as a typical cake but as mentioned it has a lovely light texture.  I asked my family for their thoughts on the cupcake and the comments were as follows “Where’s the jam?” and “Any chance of some cream with this?”  I think these responses boil down partly to the fact that instinctively they expected something much sweeter and secondly that it is unlike me to serve a cake without icing.  So if you are making this for both adults and babies perhaps treat it a little like a scone for the adults and serve with a little jam and cream on the side so those of your family with a sweeter tooth can satisfy their cravings.  Enjoy!

Tip:  if you have bananas that are going black and you are thinking about throwing them away don’t!  Peel and freeze them as they will be perfect for this recipe as it works best with ripe bananas.

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Stuffed Portobello mushrooms (Serves: 2/4 – Preparation time: 25 mins)

The recipe below is a little gem as it can be prepped and ready to eat in just over 20 minutes and works well both as a main meal or starter.  It is packed full of veggies meaning that you are well on your way to meeting your “5-A-Day”.  I am not really the type of person to talk about ‘clean eating’ as I am of the view that if you make something from scratch more often than not it falls into that category – that being said, for those of you that are looking for a healthy option for supper this recipe is right up there!

There is no denying that this is a ‘rustic’ recipe – in other words the presentation lacks finesse.  However, the variety of vegetables used in this dish means that your plate is filled with vibrant colours making it draw the eye and entice the eater.  The flavours complement one another giving a delicate balance between sweet, salty and creamy. Ladies and Gents, if you like mushrooms then this is one to try as it is tasty no nonsense cooking. Enjoy!

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Moroccan spiced shoulder of lamb with apricots (Serves: 4 – Preparation time: 1.5hrs)

One-pot cooking is incredibly convenient for washing up purposes but also in terms of ease.  The idea with this style of cooking is that you can throw everything into a casserole dish, cover and leave to bubble away in the oven without needing to think about it until it is time to serve.    The added bonus with this particular dish is longer you leave it the more succulent and tender the lamb becomes.

As this dish cooks, the juices from both the apricots and lamb seep into the sweet potato mixture turning it into a stuffing that is infused with all the flavours of the dish.  I would recommend serving this meal with simple accompaniments for example fluffy couscous and steamed green vegetables so that you can relish the taste of the lamb.  This recipe would be a good alternative to a traditional Sunday roast, or would make a great centrepiece for a dinner party. Enjoy!

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Gluten free nectarine and almond summer pudding (Serves: 8 – Preparation Time: 1hr)

Summer is upon us and soft fruit is at its best and can be bought very cheaply.  Whilst I absolutely love a fruit salad served with a little Greek yogurt and honey, sometimes you need something a little bit more decadent…

This recipe below is a little gem and is very easy to make.  The longest part of the whole process is waiting for the cake to cook and cool.  So if time is tight I would suggest making the cake the day before and leaving to cool overnight.  Whilst I have suggested that you use nectarines and pomegranate seeds for the topping, many other fruits would work just as well.

Alternative topping ideas:

  • peaches and redcurrants
  • blueberries, strawberries and raspberries
  • apricots and redcurrants
  • mango and red chilli, lime juice and fresh mint

As the sponge is made using ground almonds it will mean that the cake once cooked will be quite dense and moist.  So don’t worry about the cake not rising, it isn’t meant to.  The mascarpone cream makes this pudding wonderfully rich and silky and fruit not only acts as the decoration but gives the just enough acidity to prevent this pudding becoming too sweet.  Enjoy!

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Summer tagliatelle (Serves: 4 -Preparation time: 10 minutes)

I have been playing around in the kitchen making fresh pasta over the last couple of weeks.  Making pasta can be hit or miss if you don’t get the consistency of the dough right, if the dough is too supple it will break up when it comes to rolling or will not hold its form when you cut it into tagliatelle or spaghetti. What you are looking for is a firm dough that is firm and elastic. As with many things practise makes perfect and once you get used to recognising when the dough has the right consistency it is very straightforward and fun to make.  I am going to share how to make fresh pasta in a separate blog in the upcoming weeks breaking it down into a helpful guide so that hopefully you can avoid making the same mistakes I did when I was learning.

The recipe below is very simple and can be prepared in a matter of minutes.  It is a vibrant dish due to the colour of the ingredients that you use.  The key to making this recipe shine is buy the best quality tomatoes and mozzarella that you can afford as this will take this dish from being good to great!  If you can get a combination of tomatoes preferably a combination of yellow and red that are ripe and packed full of flavour that would be ideal.  This is a great mid-week recipe to have on hand if you are having friends over, it is incredibly easy and packed full of the flavours of summertime.  Enjoy!

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Mushroom and ale risotto served in a roasted red pepper with rare steak strips (Serves: 4 – Preparation time: 1 hr)

I would describe the recipe below as quite manly as the ingredients that are used are hearty and somewhat earthy.   However I don’t think risotto is often associated as being a masculine meal but I hope that the chaps trying this recipe will be pleasantly surprised by this little number.  If you are looking for a recipe for date night then I would recommend giving this recipe a go.

For those of you that have not made a risotto before the most important thing to remember is not to rush.  A risotto works best when you cook it on a low heat adding the stock a little at a time allowing the rice to absorb the liquid before adding more.  It is important that whilst doing this you stir it regularly to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan.  Provided that you take your time you will end up with a beautifully creamy risotto – so make sure when you are cooking a risotto that you give yourself at least 20-30 minutes to make it!

The other thing I would say for those of you that are put off by this recipe because there are too many elements don’t be as there really are only 6 steps.  Here is the breakdown of what you need to do:

  1. Wash and put the red peppers in the oven – no need to remove the core and seeds at this point.
  2. Whilst the peppers are cooking prepare your risotto.  Once it is cooked – cover and leave to one side whilst you cook the steak and green vegetables.
  3. Boil or steam green vegetables.
  4. Heat frying pan and cook the steak.
  5. Whilst the steak is resting and the vegetables are draining the vegetables – core and seed the peppers.
  6. Cut the steak into strip and plate up.

It really is that straightforward I promise.  The only downside to this recipe is that there is a lot of washing up – sorry about that…

My final comment is that I tend to find the more charred the peppers the better the flavour, so don’t worry if the skin on the peppers is black – that is what you are aiming for.  Enjoy!

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