I have decided to share a recipe that helps to use up one ingredient that has a tendency to be leftover after Christmas – mincemeat. The recipe below is super easy and can be eaten either hot for pudding with a little cream, or is great served cold as a topping for porridge in the morning for breakfast.
The inspiration for this dish came after a visit to East Sussex to see some of my friends who swear by a bowl porridge for breakfast, topped with fresh apple, yogurt, seeds, nuts and honey before a days hunting, shooting or fishing. Not being one for porridge normally, I am well and truly converted and the recipe below is my take on their porridge toppings.
The simplicity of this recipe makes it an absolute gem, it takes a matter of minutes to prepare, the key really to this recipe is about how well you core the apple as you want to create a cavity that is large enough to pack all of the mincemeat in. As the apple cooks it becomes beautifully soft and infuses with the spices and flavours of the mincemeat.
This is definitely a recipe to try and is absolutely fantastic on these chilly winter days. Enjoy!
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!
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.
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!
Lately I have been finding that I am pushed for time in the evenings, as a result I have been resorting to meals that can be prepped and on the table in 20 minutes without too much fuss. The recipe below fits the bill perfectly as in the time that it takes to steam the rice the rest of the dish can be cooked.
This ‘sticky beef’ recipe uses dates to make sauce, giving it a wonderfully sweet caramelised flavour. The spice and warmth from the chilli helps cut through the sweetness of the dish, however if you find it too sugary for your palette then add 1 tbsp of light soy sauce to the dish at the end.
By stir-frying the vegetables quickly they will retain a slight crunch which contrasts the smoothness of the sauce and tenderness steak. Don’t feel that you have to use beef to make this recipe, it would work just as well with pork or chicken thighs cut into thin strips and cooked in a little oil before adding it to the sauce. Enjoy!
I work a ten minute walk away from Borough Market in London which means on a good day I am able to head over there during my lunch break. I tend to amble through the market seeing what is in season, chatting to the stall holders about their produce and what they recommend doing with it. Bliss!
On my last visit I ended up buying some goat’s curd (soft cheese) from Ellie’s Dairy with the idea of making spinach and goat’s curd tarts. The curd had a delicate flavour and unlike other goats cheese I can safely say then you couldn’t taste the goat. Instead it had subtle zesty notes that lingered on the palette. If you can’t find goat’s curd then substitute with ricotta or another soft cheese of your choosing.
One of my concerns when making the tart was whether the moisture in the spinach would cause it to have a ‘soggy’ bottom – however this was not the case. So long as you squeeze as much liquid as you can out of the spinach after wilting it you should end up with a crisp pastry.
The tart can be served hot or cold which means it is ideal if you need to prepare something in advance or are simply looking for lunchbox ideas. Enjoy!
I have many fond childhood memories of summer holidays spent in Italy visiting my Aunt and Uncle. Many hours would be spent searching for the tortoises in my uncle’s vegetable patch between the most delicious al fresco lunches and suppers. I think it was during these visits that I first encountered the delights of Italian cured meats and of course Gorgonzola. Every day platters cheese, freshly sliced salami, Parma ham and Coppa would be piled on a long trestle table along with bowls filled with slices of melon, tomato salads, bread and other delicious bits and bobs and we would eat to our heart’s content.
This salad recipe is a nod to those summer days in Italy. For those of you that are less familiar with Coppa it is a type of salami made using the part of the loin of pork that is taken near the neck which is cured and marinated in red wine a garlic. It is traditionally served raw, cut into thin slices though it can also be used as bacon in recipes. You can find Coppa in most Italian delicatessens, however, if you aren’t able to find it then I would substitute with Serrano Ham.
This recipe is a lovely balance of flavours and textures which for me evokes the tastes of summer and is definitely one to try. The recipe makes enough for 1 person, so multiply the ingredients as required. Enjoy!
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!
I visited Jordan a few months ago and have been hugely influenced by the food that I ate whilst I was out there. The style of eating is typically mezze with lots of little plates not dissimilar to tapas, which are often served with delicious salads that are dressed with pomegranate molasses and olive oil which both tantalises the palate and is refreshing all at once. I would highly recommend trying to get your hands on some pomegranate molasses if you can to give it a try, the flavour is both sharp and sweet – which really enhances any salad, especially if you also add a few pomegranate seeds, chopped coriander and crumble over some feta.
The lamb burger recipe below is the perfect accompaniment to this type of salad. The burger has quite a delicate flavour with just a hint of mint. The recipe below can easily stretch to 6 burgers or will make 4 large burgers. They are a great option for a barbecue, or if the weather isn’t playing ball work just as well in a griddle pan and on the plus side they are very quick to make.
I would recommend serving these burgers with hummus (see below for a quick and easy recipe that takes no more than a couple of minutes to prepare), a few toasted pittas and a salad. Enjoy!
Quiche is a very handy recipe to be able to fall back on if you have friends coming for lunch and don’t want to worry about timings, as it can be served hot or cold and is always delicious. They also are a good option for vegetarians as you can pack them with lots of yummy vegetables and cheeses.
I think a lot of people avoid making quiches as they don’t want to bother with the faff of making and rolling pastry. Well my solution to that is buy ready-made pastry to save you the hassle. My parents who live out in France always use pre-rolled puff pastry which works incredibly well and you don’t have to blind bake it – reducing the preparation time to 30 minutes.
Personally I find the process of making pastry relatively therapeutic especially when you do it by hand. But I also fully appreciate that it is not for everyone so just do what works for you whether it be making the pastry in a food processor, by hand or simply buying it pre-made.
This quiche recipe is perfect for this time of year with the asparagus being in season. It is a nice light option for lunch served with a big green salad – ideal for these warm summer days that we are starting to get. Enjoy!