Wednesday, 30 November 2011

Roasted Baby Courgettes with Cous-Cous and Apricot Topping

Another recipe inspired by Nigel Slater's Tender, but one that I think needs some modification to be perfect. He bakes the courgettes for only 25 minutes, but I found that was not nearly long enough, and more like 55 minutes was needed if baking from raw. I also found that the topping was nice but a certain piquancy was missing. These problems can be easily remedied by adapting a method I usually use for Provençal tomatoes: frying them in a very hot pan for 5 minutes and then drenching in balsamic vinegar before baking in the oven with the topping. I have yet to try it on this recipe but I'll suggest it here as I think it would be an improvement.


  • 8-10 baby courgettes, washed and halved lengthwise
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 100g cous-cous
  • half a white onion
  • one slice of bread
  • a small bunch of parsley
  • a handful of dried apricots
  • a handful of pistachio kernels, unsalted
  • 200g natural yoghurt
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Preheat the oven to 200 C. Fry the baby courgettes in olive oil, first round-side down, then cut-side down, for 1-2 minutes (depending on thickness) each side, using a griddle (nice char marks) or frying-pan (more even cooking). When golden and seared, place in them in a baking dish, cut side up.

Meanwhile, prepare the cous-cous according to its packet instructions: I cover in boiling water in a 2:1 ratio, add a bit of butter and some vegetable stock powder, stir once then cover with a plate for 10 minutes. Finely chop the onion and gently fry in olive oil for 3-4 minutes. Whiz the bread and parsley in a blender to make breadcrumbs. Roughly chop the apricots and pistachios, then combine with the cooked cous-cous and breadcrumbs, and onions. Season well and scatter over the singed courgettes, cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes.

Combine the yoghurt, white wine vinegar and olive oil, and serve the courgettes with this dressing to spoon over. (We had a little prosciutto on the side for protein.)

Tuesday, 29 November 2011

Winter Slaw with Rare Roast Lamb and Red Pepper Quinoa

Butchers here tend to offer a good selection of marinaded and prepared meats which are ready to roast, fry or bbq. We picked up a rolled loin of lamb with a layer of spices and a small amount of spiced stuffing. It was quite delicious - roasted for 50 minutes at 200 C until golden on the outside and still pink on the inside, then rested for 10 minutes before being sliced thinly. I took the opportunity of the umami flavours spicy, smoky meat  to make a light, crunchy slaw, based on the advice in Nigel Slater's Tender. Carbs came in the form of some seasoned quinoa stirred through with roast peppers left over from a previous meal.

  • one small carrot or half a large
  • one quarter of a white cabbage
  • a stick of celery, or a generous handful of its leaves
  • a small handful of flat-leaf parsley or dill
  • 4 tbsp natural yoghurt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • a generous handful of green pumpkin seeds

Peel the carrot but leave the end on, then grate it into long thin shreds. Finely shred the cabbage and thinly slice the celery (or its leaves). Finely chop the herbs. Combine the yoghurt, olive oil and lemon juice together, and season well, then stir through the vegetables. Toast the pumpkin seeds either in an oven at 200C for 5-6 minutes, or by dry-frying them over a medium heat in a non-stick frying pan. Serve the slaw with pumpkin seeds scattered over.

Thursday, 24 November 2011

Another Post-Deli Salad

Yet again we returned from our foraging at Swansea St Market, laden with goodies, tempted to throw them all into one giant bowl of goodness. So we did!


  • 1-2 slices of bread
  • 100g marinaded octopus, cut into bite-size pieces
  • 3-4 leaves of cos lettuce, sliced width-wise
  • two roasted peppers, torn into strips
  • a handful of olives, destoned
  • a handful of pumpkin seeds
  • 1 tsp dijon mustard
  • 1 tsp grain mustard
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp white wine vinegar

Set the oven to 200C. Cut the slices of bread into cubes and toss with olive oil and black pepper, then lay out in a baking tray and bake for 10-12 minutes, until golden and crispy. Dry-fry the pumpkin seeds, stirring occasionally, until they begin to pop, then remove from the heat. Whisk the dressing ingredients together and adjust to taste. Combine everything together in a big salad bowl and serve!

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Quick Thai Coconut Chicken

A quick one after a long day at work, again based on a tasty pre-marinaded meat available at our local butcher's. I'm pretty sure it was just a couple of chicken thighs, deboned, marinaded in garlic, chilli, coriander leaf and ginger for 24 hours. I cut them into bite-sized pieces, fried in a hot wok, then covered in 100ml of coconut milk and the juice of a lime, bubbled through and served over egg-fried rice, with a slightly more generous amount of peas than usual to make up for the lack of vegetables.

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Pork with Waldorf Topping

This is a dish my mum always makes, and I can't remember if it has a 'proper' name. However the topping for the pork is very similar to the ingredients to a Waldorf salad, minus the mayonnaise, so that's what I've named it here. We usually use pork chops, but I really don't know why, as the topping makes it hard to see where the meat, fat and bone are, and they take awhile to cook through. So I think this recipe is best with a long strip of pork loin, and the topping packed tightly around it - a bit like a roast, but with the stuffing on the outside. (Apologies for the poor photograph, I'll try to take a better one next time.)


  • 300g strip of pork loin or fillet
  • two slices of bread
  • 2 small eating apples
  • 3 sticks celery
  • 2 generous handfuls of walnut pieces
  • salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 190C. Lay the pork out in a baking dish, with a bare smear of vegetable oil underneath it to prevent it sticking. Whiz the bread in a blender to produce breadcrumbs. Dice, or core and finely slice the apples, Finely dice the celery and roughly chop the walnuts, if they are in large pieces. Combine the topping ingredients together, season well, drizzle with olive oil and toss thoroughly. Pack around the pork in the baking dish and roast for 25-35 minutes, until the pork is done to your liking and the topping is crisp.

Saturday, 12 November 2011

Sausages with Apple Rings (and photo)

Last time I blogged this, I neglected to include a photo - so here you are :) This time I made a potato-and-sweet-potato mash, and served it all simply with peas. Yum!

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Gnocchi, Asparagus, Tomatoes, Ricotta, and Pine Nuts

This meal needs a name! I call it... asparagus-fallback pasta! I make this all the time, just varying things a little each time. Tonight we use sun-dried instead of cherry tomatoes, gnocchi instead of fusilli, ricotta instead of creme fraiche, and top the lovely pasta-asparagus-loveliness with pine nuts and parmesan, and a good grating of black pepper. Just so simple, perfect for a quick meal after work. And ready almost as quickly as setting up Game of Thrones on the projector :)

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

One-layer Moussaka

Here's a yummy classic that I've been iterating for a few years, and now I finally feel like I know how to cook it quickly, easily, without using huge amounts of oil, and getting the flavours exactly right. I think back in the day I probably started with Delia's recipe and have been modifying since. My latest take is to make it in a shallow dish, since:
  1. Everyone loves the crispy lovely bits where the cheese melts and the aubergine skin crisps and YUM... so making it shallow means everyone gets more topping!
  2. The movers broke my deep lasagne dish and I haven't bought a new one yet.
I made enough for eight people, but here's a recipe for just four, i.e. a single dish. Serve with rice or potatoes, and some steamed vegetables, a Greek salad, or just some fluffy lettuce leaves.

  • 500g lamb mince, or diced lamb if you prefer
  • 1 white onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 1 tin of tomatoes
  • 2 tsp fresh thyme (or 1 of dried)
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 2 large or 3 medium aubergines (eggplants)
  • 100g sharp cheddar or parmesan
  • 1 slice of bread
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 eggs
  • 350 ml milk
  • two bay leaves

Preheat the oven to 200 C. Finely chop the onion and fry with the lamb in an oven-proof casserole dish over a moderate heat, adding a bare smear of oil to get the meat started. After five minutes, crush in the garlic, stir and cook for a further minute. Add the tomatoes, cinnamon and thyme, and a little hot water if the mixture looks dry. Cook for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, and adding water if necessary to stop it sticking. Taste and season if necessary.

Meanwhile, top the aubergines and cut them into 1cm-thick lengthwise slices. Using a silicone or pastry brush, coat lightly with olive oil and stack in a baking tray at an angle, so that each has air around it. Roast for 35-40 minutes, until tender but not falling apart.

Separate the eggs, putting the whites in a large bowl for whisking. Stir together the flour and oil in a pyrex jug, then add the egg yolks. Carefully add the milk, a little at a time, and stirring thoroughly between each addition. Drop in the bay leaves and microwave for four minutes, stopping every minute to stir thoroughly. Continue until thickened.

Whisk the whites (I use an electric whisk!) and combine gently with the cooled lamb mixture. To assemble the moussaka, put the cooked lamb sauce on the bottom of the shallow baking dish. Then add the aubergine slices, slotting them together and overlapping if necessary, then pour over the white sauce. Grate the cheese and whizz the bread into breadcrumbs, and sprinkle them over the top.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Fluffy Pancakes

This is a great way to start your Sunday, especially if you have nothing planned and just want to chill out and digest for the rest of the day! I used my take on Delia's recipe, although I didn't have any buttermilk, so I added a bit of crème fraîche and milk instead. And I poured the combined flour-and-milk-and yolk into the whites instead of the other way around - it actually worked a bit better. However I didn't remember to add the oil so you can see the pancakes were noticeably less conductive, and didn't brown as evenly as in my previous photo. Still totally yum in the Perth sunshine!

Saturday, 5 November 2011

Mushrooms, butter beans and pumpkin scone

Just a super-quick meal of fallbacks tonight: a punnet of mushrooms fried with two cloves of crushed garlic, a bag of broad beans, podded, boiled and dressed with mint, lime and olive oil, and Nigel's lovely pumpkin scone.

Iced Coffee

They make this amazing drink here called 'Coffee Chill', which is iced coffee in a carton. I could drink it by the gallon, if it weren't for the rather hefty sugar and fat content. Once I had a carton in my fridge for three weeks and it was still good at the end! Mmmmm. Preservatives...

Here's my home-made version, which I've been making for years, since it's so hard to get a decent iced coffee in the UK. Amusingly it took me quite a few tries to get the order of the steps right, but I blame that on not having had a cup of coffee before I began the process!


  • 2-3 tbsp excellent ground coffee
  • 100ml boiling water
  • 2 tbsp demerara ('raw') sugar (optional)
  • 100g ice
  • 100ml milk
  • 100ml cold water

Put the coffee in your cafetiere and cover with the hot water, and allow to stand for five minutes, then depress and strain into a glass. (Or, make ~100ml of coffee in an espresso maker.) Dissolve the sugar in the hot coffee. Add the ice and stir until the coffee is cold. If the ice completely melts, add a few more cubes. Add the milk, then top up with cold water, or milk, to taste.

Wednesday, 2 November 2011

Eggy Pizza

This is pretty much the same recipe as I've blogged before, but with slightly different toppings and the use of a pizza stone. The lovely SO also had the nice idea of making two shallow depressions in the other toppings, so that when you add the eggs, they do not flow all over the pizza. Unfortunately we broke one!  We tried one of the Australian mozzarellas, which are yellower and less 'fresh' than the mozarella I used to buy in the UK. It worked better on the pizza, whereas I always felt that using fresh UK mozarella was a bit of a waste, as it is so wonderful 'raw'. It takes about an hour to make the dough, at least if you want it to rise and taste nice, and another twenty minutes in the oven.


  • one pizza base
  • half a tin of tomato puree
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • a handful of ham or prosciutto
  • a handful of asparagus, tough parts snapped off
  • a handful of olives, pitted and halved
  • a tbsp of capers
  • a ~250g ball of mozzarella
  • two eggs

Roll out the pizza base, leaving a slightly thicker crust. Spoon on the tomato puree and smooth out over the crust. Sprinkle over the oregano and bake for 15 minutes, until the crust has slightly risen. Add the rest of the toppings, breaking the eggs over last. Bake again for 10 minutes, or until the eggs are done to your liking. (Hint: runny is sunny! :)

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Red Lentil and Sweet Potato Dhal

I really thought I had recorded this on here before, but I'm amazed to find that I've overlooked it! This is my fast dhal recipe - great as just a lunchtime snack with a bit of rice or bread, or a delicious protein component to any curry-type meal. The fried onion topping can be neglected if you're in a hurry, or replaced with baghar if you're feeling really authentic. I think I came up with this recipe independently, but it closely resembles Nigella Lawson's recipe. Convergent evolution or forgetful emulation? Either way it's delicious :) Like the aubergine curry I served it with, this serves four.


  • one large red sweet potato
  • 1 thumb fresh ginger, finely grated
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp ground turmeric
  • a pinch of chilli flakes
  • 250g red lentils
  • 300ml hot water
  • a small white onion, or half a large white onion

Peel the sweet potato and cut into 1cm dice. Fry in a little vegetable oil with the ginger for five minutes, stirring occasionally, to get a bit of caramelisation. Add the spices and lentils, and fry for a further minute. Pour in the hot water, cover and simmer for half an hour, until the lentils are cooked and the sweet potato has collapsed. You may need to stir and top up the water every so often; the end result should be deliciously thick and spoonable, rather than runny. Season with salt after the lentils are cooked - about 1tsp will be needed.

Meanwhile, peel the onion and finely slice into half-moons. Fry gently in a little vegetable oil for 10-15 minutes, stirring every few minutes, until completely caramelised and just beginning to blacken.
Stir the dhal briskly with a large wooden spoon, or mash roughly with a potato masher, until soft but not pureed. Serve topped with the fried onions.

Carrot Bhajis

I was a little worried about making these because the recipe did not call for any eggs, and many bhaji recipes asked for chickpea flour, while I only had plain flour. I look forward to trying with the right flour in future, but these turned out just fine.


  • two carrots
  • two spring onions
  • a handful of fresh coriander leaves
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • half a cup of plain flour
  • ½ tsp salt
  • a few tbsp water

Grate the carrots as diagonally as possible, to make long strips. Top, tail and shred the spring onions, again into long thin strips. Put in a large pyrex bowl and use your hands to mix with the ground coriander and flour. Add water a tbsp at a time, until the mixture begins to stick. Make small patties, about 5cm across and half a cm thick, using the palms of your hands. Fry in hot vegetable oil for 1-2 minutes each side, until golden brown, cooked through, and beginning to frazzle on the nice edgey bits. Great with sweet chilli sauce!

Hot and Sour Aubergine Curry

I came home from work with just an hour and a half before my regular telecon with my colleagues in Cambridge. I felt like making the absolute most of my time and really pushing my cooking to the limit. So I cooked rice, two vegan curries, a raita, and some carrot bhajis in just under an hour :) We had a relaxed twenty minutes to eat and enjoyed a lovely glass of the SO's delicious homebrew lager. And the curries were amazing!! This was particularly great, since I usually have trouble making aubergines interesting, but in this they were absolutely exquisite, soft and melting. I adapted the recipe from 2-3 different sources on the internet, melding them together to get the best of both worlds in terms of ease-of-cooking and taste. The heat contrasted the sourness and it was perfect with the plain white rice and sweet red lentils. The quantities here serve four; I made enough for two nights for two people.


  • two large aubergines (eggplants)
  • one small white onion or half a large white onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1/2 thumb of ginger
  • 1 generous tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 generous tsp coriander seeds
  • 1 tsp black mustard seeds
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes (or 1-2 tsp if you like it hot)
  • 1/2 tsp turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • half a tin of coconut milk
  • 2 tbsp pomegranate molasses, or 2tbsp tamarind (1 tbsp tamarind concentrate)
  • a generous handful of frozen peas

Preheat the oven to 200 C. Cut the aubergines into large-ish bitesize pieces, about 2cm on each side (they will shrink loads in the oven). Toss in vegetable oil and roast for 40 minutes, until singed at the edges and edibly soft, but not dry or overcooked. Meanwhile, finely chop the onion and gently fry for five minutes, then crush in the garlic and add the finely chopped ginger, and fry for a further three minutes. Pound the fennel and coriander seeds in a mortar and pestle (you can dry toast them first if you have time/pan space), then add them and the rest of the spices to the onions, frying again for a couple of minutes. Add in the cooked aubergine pieces, the coconut milk and pomegranate molasses, stir gently and bring to a simmer (you don't want to curdle the coconut milk). Add the peas and bring up to a simmer again. Cook for just a minute or two, until the peas are hot. Serve immediately, or cover and sit until needed.