Tag Archives: comfortfood

Apple breakfast pancakes (Serves: 3/4 – Preparation time: 30 minutes)

If you are having friends over for brunch, or if you are looking for something simple to cook with your kids for breakfast that is simple and tasty then this is a great little recipe!  Cooking pancakes should be straightforward and fun – if a little messy…

These pancakes are very similar to drop scones, they should be relatively small, about 10 cm in diameter making them very quick to cook.  I would highly recommend using a non-stick frying pan that has been lightly oiled when making this recipe.  If you use too much oil the pancakes will simply absorb the oil as they cook.  My tip for oiling the pan is to pour a little vegetable oil onto a piece of kitchen towel and then grease the pan all over, rather than pouring the oil directly into the pan.  Also it is always worth doing a small tester pancake to make sure that you pan is hot enough before starting to cooking the pancakes in batches.

The ‘filling’ of the pancakes is a classic combination of apple and cinnamon.  As they cook your kitchen will be filled with the a lovely fragrance that I always associate with autumn and crumbles.  The syrup adds a sweet and sharp element to the dish that makes the pancakes particularly moreish as they soak up the juices.  These pancakes are best served straight from the pan – if left too long they will start to dry out.

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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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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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Moussaka (Serves: 4 – Preparation time: 1 hour)

Aubergine is a fairly underrated vegetable which I think is a little unfair. When cooked well it is absolutely delicious and is a fairly meaty vegetable which is great if you are looking for something to bulk up a meal.

As with many things, preparation key to making this vegetable shine. For aubergine this means cutting the vegetable as required by a recipe, place on some kitchen paper or a tea towel, sprinkle over some salt, cover and leave for 10 minutes to draw the moisture out of the vegetable. If you are using the aubergine as a layer in a dish for example as it is used in the moussaka recipe below then there this one further step that I would highly recommend – lightly oil each side of the aubergine, place under a hot grill and cook for 4-5 minutes on each side which will soften the aubergine and give it a slightly smoky taste – adding to the overall flavour of the dish.

I like to think of moussaka as a healthier version of a lasagne as aubergine replaces the pasta sheets and in this recipe the crème fraiche replaces the béchamel sauce.  I would avoid using low fat crème fraiche for this recipe as it has a tendency to split and go watery.  If you can’t get crème fraiche and don’t want to make a béchamel sauce then use cream cheese instead.

I would suggest serving this recipe with a green salad as this moussaka recipe is packed full of flavour and it would be a shame to overpower it. So don’t over complicate it – a rocket or watercress salad with a little French dressing is the ideal accompaniment to this dish.   Enjoy!

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Pork with apples and mushrooms served in a mustard sauce (Serves: 4 – Preparation time: 40 minutes)

It has been a miserable week in the UK weather-wise with public transport grinding to a halt in London yesterday morning after some dramatic thunderstorms. As a consequence I have been eating comfort food to get through this dreadful weather and am praying that summer is just around the corner…

The recipe below is for pork with apples and mushrooms served in a mustard sauce, is both comforting and affordable.  The flavour combinations are fairly traditional and are a nice balance of sweet, sharp and creamy.  This is a straightforward recipe and does take too long to prepare which makes it very achievable to make when you get home after work – to put it into context it takes roughly the same amount of time to make as it does to peel and boil potatoes.  If you don’t like pork then I would recommend substituting it with chicken thighs – just brown off the chicken in a separate pan before adding to the mixture in accordance with the recipe below.

In terms of what to serve with this recipe I would go for new or mashed potatoes and whatever green veg is currently in season preferably one with a slight crunch like sugar snap peas or green beans).  This recipe is definitely worth a try.  Enjoy!

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Chilli beef

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Is it wrong that I wish the weather at the moment was a little colder?  With the clocks having gone back almost a month ago I feel somewhat cheated that the weather hasn’t turned and started to get cooler.  London is decidedly grey at the moment giving the sense that winter is on its way but yet it is still warm outside which is mildly disconcerting.  I can’t wait until we start getting the frosty mornings with the brilliant clear blue skies that justify you making comfort food.

Perhaps it was wishful thinking when I got the stewing beef out of the freezer at the weekend with the view to making something both hearty and warming.  Well the balmy weather has certainly not deterred my plans for the stewing beef and last night I made Chilli Beef.  I suppose in reality Chilli Beef is really a play on Chilli Con Carne but in a stew format.  The combination of the spices and the tomatoes in this recipe create a wonderfully rich sauce.  For me though it is the smoked paprika in this recipe that makes this Chilli Beef something special as it adds a real depth of flavour that makes you want to go back for seconds.

This recipe can be made in advance and reheated when you need it which makes it a good option for when you have friends coming around for supper during the week.  I would recommend serving the Chilli Beef with something simple like boiled rice and a green vegetable of your choice.  Bon appétit!

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Chilli Beef

Ingredients:

400 g stewing beef
salt and pepper
2 onions sliced finely
3 garlic cloves roughly chopped
1 heaped tbsp plain flour
1 tbsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp paprika
1 tsp cayenne pepper
½ tsp cumin
¼ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp thyme
1 tsp hot chilli powder
1 beef stock cube
Water to deglaze the pan
½ a fresh chilli chopped finely
1 tin of tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato purée
1 to 2 tbsp of honey to sweeten
1 tin of kidney beans (400g)

Steps:

  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C (Fan)
  1. Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl, add the beef to the mixture and stir until the beef is well coated.
  1. Heat some oil in a heavy bottomed pan on a high heat. Add the beef and any remaining dry mix to the pan stirring from time to time until the beef has browned off.
  1. Turn the heat down and add the onions and garlic to the pan. Continue to cook until the onions have softened stirring as required.
  2. Whilst the onions are cooking, dissolve the beef stock cube in a little boiling water and use the liquid to deglaze the pan. It is best to use a wooden spoon to do this so that you do not scratch the bottom of your pan.
  1. Next add the tomatoes, fresh chilli, tomato purée and honey to the pan and stir well.
  1. Cover the pan with the lid and place in the oven and cook for 40 minutes before adding the kidney beans. Return the pan to the oven and cook for a further 1hr 20mins.

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Spiced apple cake

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This has been a weekend of cooking with seasonal food.  Today’s seasonal ingredient was apple, more specifically Russet apples.  I was very fortunate to be given a huge bag of Russets by a friend when I went to visit her at her family’s farm outside of London and I have been slowly using them up over the course of the last couple of weeks.   Russet apples are good to cook with as they tend to hold their form which is great if you bake them in a cake and have a wonderful tangy flavour.

This afternoon I used some of the apples to make a spiced apple cake.  I used a combination of fresh and dried spices to make this cake, simply because I have fresh ginger in my fridge at the moment however using all dried spices in the recipe would be fine and if you can’t get your hands on Russets, then use any other variety of tangy eating apple to make this cake.

This cake is great for afternoon tea, however I would also say that it would also make a fantastic pudding served with some cream or crème fraiche.  This cake has a lovely warmth from the spices, but the overriding flavour comes from the tanginess of the apples.  This recipe is well worth a try -enjoy!

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Spiced Apple cake

Ingredients:

  • 3 Russet apples (peeled, cored and sliced)
  • Juice of ½ a lime
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 1” fresh ginger (peeled and finely grated) (If using dried ginger use 1 tsp)
  • 150g soft margarine
  • 100g caster sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 175g plain flour
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • ½ tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 1 or 2 tbsp milk
  • Icing sugar for dusting

Steps:

  1. Preheat your oven to 170C Fan.
  2. Line the base of a 20cm cake tin with baking paper.
  3. Spoon the honey into the cake tin and spread around the base of the tin.

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  1. Prepare the apples then place in a bowl with the lime and ginger and mix together gently.
  2. Place the apples carefully in the base of the tin in a decorative fashion.
  3. Prepare the cake batter using the ‘all in one’ method. Place the margarine, sugar, eggs, flour and spices in a bowl.  Using an electric whisk beat the mixture together until you have a smooth thick batter with a consistency of clotted cream (use the milk to loosen the batter as needed).
  4. Pour the batter into the cake tin and level it out gently using the back of a spoon.
  5. Place the cake in the oven and bake for 35-45 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the centre of the cake.
  6. Once cooked, remove the cake from the tin and place on a wire rack to cool.
  7. Just before you serve the cake sift over a little icing sugar.

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Banana and chocolate loaf

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I am not a huge fan of very ripe bananas so when I found myself with several fairly black looking bananas I had to think of something to do with them.  Fortunately one of my colleagues happened to mention fairly recently that their favourite cake is banana loaf so my decision was easy.

First up I should say that banana and chocolate loaf is definitely a cake and not a bread – it is a fairly dense cake and goes extremely well with a cup of tea.  This is the type of cake that doesn’t like to be rushed in the oven, don’t be over anxious and open the door regularly as you will cause the cake to sink and it won’t change the cooking time.  So my advice is be patient, put your feet up read a book and wait for your cake to be ready!

Banana and chocolate loaf

Ingredients :

  • 6oz bananas (peeled and mashed)
  • 4oz soft margarine
  • 6oz caster sugar
  • 8oz plain flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 2 eggs
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1tbsp rum
  • 1 heaped tbsp crème fraiche
  • 4oz plain chocolate (broken into small pieces)

Steps:

  1.  Preheat oven to 150C (fan).  Grease and line a loaf tin.
  2. Cream the soft margarine and sugar together in a bowl using an electric whisk.
  3. Slowly beat in the eggs (add a little flour if the mixture looks as if it might curdle).
  4. Whisk in the flour, salt and baking powder.
  5. Then add the mashed banana, crème fraiche, chocolate and rum and mix well.
  6. Pour the cake batter into the loaf tin.  Place in the oven and cook for 50-60 minutes or until a skewer comes out of the cake clean.
  7. Leave the cake to cool before serving.

Stuffed chicken breast wrapped in streaky bacon

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I think time must have started speeding up as I have no idea where the weeks let alone the days nor hours…   I am very much back in London mode, where you try to fit in as much as possible during the day.  Whilst it couldn’t be any more different to SW France, I am glad to be back and I’m thoroughly enjoying being able to catch up with my friends throughout the week and heading off to go sailing or do something a little bit different at the weekends.   (If you are missing my tales of SW France, check out Mumsy’s blog http://molleslifeinswfrance.wordpress.com/author/mollesquercy/ for French life from a less food orientated perspective!)

Between all the madness I have been able to keep playing in the kitchen and have been making a few different things including a fish pie parcel (that I was really pleased with and I hope to share the recipe over the course of the next week) and two gluten free lemon drizzle cakes.  The gluten free cakes have caused me a little bit of dismay, I am used to my cakes being fairly light and delicate and the gluten free cakes were definitely not that!  Truth be told the first attempt at making the cake was definitely the best, I used almonds in the place of the flour and it tasted OK despite the cake itself feeling like a lead weight that crumbled everywhere.  The second attempt was, umm let’s say interesting, it is the first time in years that I have actually followed a recipe for a cake because it suggested using a combination ground almonds and mashed potato.  Yup, you read it right, mashed potato.  In fairness to the mashed potato, I think it did make the texture of the cake more like a sponge, but the taste, well that had a lot to be desired!  However, I shall persevere and try and find a gluten free recipe that both looks and tastes good.

One meal that I have repeated a couple of times over the last couple of weeks has been stuffed chicken breast wrapped in streaky bacon.  The joy with this recipe is that you can prepare it the day before if you think you are going to be short of time and then simply throw it in the oven and cook it as soon as you get home and 40 minutes later you have a delicious meal on the table.  The chicken is stuffed with Boursin Cheese which along with wrapping the chicken in streaky bacon keeps the chicken breast beautifully moist.  The only fiddly bit in making this meal is wrapping the chicken breast in the streaky bacon, but once you’ve found the technique it couldn’t be easier!  This is definitely a recipe worth trying!

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Stuffed chicken breast wrapped in streaky bacon

Ingredients: (Serves 4)

  • 4 chicken breasts
  • 12-16 slices of streaky bacon (smoked)
  • 1 Boursin cheese
  • olive oil
  • seasoning

Steps:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C fan.
  2. Remove any sinew from the chicken breasts then, using a sharp knife create a ‘pocket’ in the chicken breast that you are going to stuff the cheese. (I find the easiest way to do this is to work from the ‘fattest’ side of the chicken breast and work carefully inwards, making sure that the cut runs almost the full length of the chicken breast so that you can pack in as much cheese as possible).
  3. Once you have made the ‘pocket cuts’ in the chicken breast, taking a good wedge of the Boursin cheese stuff  the breasts, packing it in firmly, make sure that you press down on the breast to close the ‘pocket’.
  4. Next lay 3-4 slices of the streaky bacon out on top of a chopping board so that they create a rectangle for the chicken breast to be wrapped in.  Place the chicken breast towards one side of the rectangle and then roll up in the bacon, wrapping it as tightly as possible.
  5. Place the chicken breasts on a baking tray, season with black pepper, drizzle over a little olive oil.
  6. Place in the oven and cook for 35-40 minutes.  Serve on a bed of sweet potato mash or couscous with the vegetables of your choice.  Enjoy!

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