Lamb and beetroot burgers with feta

This Delicious beetroot, lamb and feta recipe is the first in a short series of posts using beetroot. It is part of a campaign by Love beetroot to change the way we look at beetroot and see what a versatile ingredient it really is. On Friday morning I took delivery of this beautifully packaged box of beetroot. Continue reading


Ottolenghi’s sweetcorn polenta

I saw this recipe on this years Masterchef. It really stuck in my head but it wasn’t until getting back from Italy a few weeks back that I searched out the recipe. We ate so much delicious meat out there (in particular delicious wild boar ragus and the best proscuitto I’ve eaten) that towards the end of our holiday we started to crave fish and vegetarian food. This was one of the first dishes I cooked on our return to the UK. It didn’t disappoint, a truly delicious vegetarian dish as we have come to expect from Ottolenghi. I adapted the recipe to use frozen corn as we couldn’t find any fresh. It was delicious anyway, definitely one to make again. Oh and the polenta is feta and sweetcorn blended in to a ‘polenta’. Much nicer than ordinary polenta which I am not a fan of. Such a delicious balance of salty (feta) and sweet (the corn). You can find he original recipe here. Below is my adapted sweetcorn polenta recipe. I haven’t included the recipe for the aubergine sauce served with it as it is exactly as described by Ottolengi in his original recipe.

Sweetcorn polenta

Serves 2

400g frozen sweetcorn


10g butter

100g feta, crumbled

Pinch of salt

freshly ground black pepper

  • Place the sweetcorn in a small saucepan and add just enough water to cover it.
  • Add half the butter and simmer over a low heat for 5 minutes or until the corn is cooked.
  • Use a slotted spoon to transfer the sweetcorn to a food processor. Blitz for a few minutes to break up the kernels as much as possible. If the mixture seems too dry add some of the cooking water.
  • Return the corn paste to the saucepan (now drained of the remaining cooking water).
  • Cook (stirring frequently) until the mixture thickens and resembles mashed potato.
  • Add the remaining butter, feta and season with salt and pepper.
  • Stir to combine and cook for two minutes.

Irish soda bread

As much as I enjoy making yeasted bread, sometimes I just don’t have the time to wait three hours for a loaf. This is where I find soda bread comes in as it can be ready in under an hour. I’ve tried a few recipes but never found one I’ve loved and wanted to repeat. That was until this weekend. This recipe will be repeated in my kitchen very soon. The recipe is from this month’s Sainsbury’s magazine and is from Richard Corrigan. I had to adapted the recipe slightly as it was a last minute decision on sunday morning to bake bread for lunch and I had to use what was in the fridge/cupboards. I substituted the treacle/honey for golden syrup and as we had no buttermilk in I used half semi-skimmed milk and half low fat natural yogurt. I love the flavour of the bread and the texture from the seeds, oats and mix of half plain/half wholemeal flour. This makes quiet a big loaf so for just the two of us I will be halving the recipe next time.

Irish soda bread

250g plain flour
10g salt
15g bicarbonate of soda
250g wholemeal flour
150g jumbo oat flakes
1 tbsp clear honey
1 tbsp black treacle
500ml buttermilk
1 tbsp mixed seeds (optional)

  • Heat the oven to 390F/200C (fan 180)/gas mark 6. Line a baking sheet with baking parchment or grease and line a large loaf tin.
  • Mix all the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Make a well in the centre, then pour in the honey, treacle and buttermilk, working everything together lightly with your hands until you have a loose, wet dough.
  • With floured hands, shape the dough into a round and lift it onto the lined baking sheet or into the tin. Use a knife to mark a cross in the top (there’s no need to do this if you are using a tin). Scatter with seeds if using.
  • Put into the oven and bake for around 45 minutes, or until the loaf sounds hollow when tapped on the base.
  • Transfer to a wire rack, drape a slightly damp cloth over the top and leave to cool.

Aubergine polpette recipe

I’ve no desire to be vegetarian but we do try to eat less meat, especially red meat. I cook meat free dishes several times a week and I am always on the look out for delicious vegetarian dishes. I saw this recipe on an episode of Catherine’s Italian kitchen on the good food channel some time ago. In this show Catherine Fulvio (an Irish cook) travels around Sicily learning about the food culture and cooking traditional dishes. I really enjoyed the episodes that I watched and after cooking this recipe I’m inspired to try some more of her recipes. Some might think that a mixture of breadcrumbs, cheese and aubergine is no substitute for meatballs but I don’t think that’s the idea. These polpetti are delicious in their own right, I loved the flavour combination of the cheese, aubergine and the herbs together. The aubergine was cooked to perfection and these little polpette were a wonderful soft texture.  I know I’ll make real meatballs again but I also know I’ll be making these again too (and possibly more often).  For the tomato sauce I  used some of this sauce that I told you about the other day but  you can also find Catherine’s recipe here.

Aubergine polpette served with spaghetti and tomato sauce
Serves 2

For the aubergine polpette
1 large aubergine
2 cloves of garlic
100g bread crumbs
50g parmesan or pecorino
1 egg yolk
1tsp chopped mint
1tsp dried oregano
Pinch of grated nutmeg

  • preheat the oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Cut the aubergines in half, drizzle over some olive oil and sprinkle with salt and black pepper. Place on a baking tray (cut side up) and roast for 25-30 minutes. Remove from the oven and leave to cool slightly.
  • Scoop out the flesh of the aubergines, place in a sieve and press gently to squeeze out the excess liquid.
  • In a mixing bowl, mash the garlic and aubergine together (I blitzed mine together in a food processor). Return the aubergine/garlic mixture to the bowl (if you used a food processor) then stir in the breadcrumbs, cheese, egg yolk, mint, oregano and nutmeg. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Take a little of the mixture and roll into a small ball. Heat a little olive oil in a large frying pan and fry the patty until golden. Taste to make sure you have the seasoning correct. If not, add more salt and pepper to the remaining aubergine mixture.
  • Shape the aubergine mixture into golf ball-sized ‘meatballs’ and fry in batches until golden, turning from time to time and taking care not to crowd the pan. Place on kitchen paper to drain.
  • Pour off any excess oil from the frying pan, lower the heat and add tomato sauce (enough for 2). When it is hot, add the polpette and simmer gently for 10-15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in a large pan of boiling salted water. Drain well and serve with the polpette and tomato sauce.

I’m submitting this blog post to Presto pasta nights, this month hosted by Tandy of Lavender & Lime. I can’t believe I’ve not entered before that amount of pasta I cook and blog.


Ham hock in cider recipe

We had a rare, weekend with no plans last week. The weather on saturday was gorgeous, so after a lazy start to the morning we took a walk in to town. We came home with a ham hock from the butchers and a dressed crab from the fishmongers along with a few bits of veg. Saturday evening I used the crab to make a crab linguine and set about preparing the ham hock for sunday lunch. I found a delicious sounding recipe using ham hocks in Nigella’s latest book Kitchen, in which she devotes 11 pages to it. There is the base recipe for ham hock in cider, a recipe for leeks in white sauce to serve along side it and lots of information and recipe ideas for the leftovers. These include using the stock to make a cidery pea soup, using any leftover ham and leeks to make pies or pasties and a ham hock and soya bean (or broad bean) salad. I love the fact that she has a whole chapter on cooking meat on the bone (and mostly the cheaper cuts) where the emphasis is on effortless, slow cooking and really making the most of the meat you buy.This recipe is a perfect example, the ham needs soaking overnight and then all the ingredients are combined and cooked on the hob for 2 hours whilst you’re free to read the sunday paper (or recipe books if you’re anything like me).

The ham hock we bought cost only £2.30 and produced easily enough meat for the two of us for sunday lunch. I served it with a leek and potato mash and some carrots. We both enjoyed our somewhat frugal sunday lunch. The meat was tender, falling easily off the bone and had bags of flavour.

The stock left over from cooking the ham was put to good use following Nigella’s recipe for cidery pea soup producing 4 good-sized portions. The soup is too simple to even require a true recipe. Sunday afternoon, once the stock was cooled, I strained the stock in to a large container and left it in the fridge overnight. The following lunch time I removed the stock from the fridge (to satisfyingly find a jellified stock), scraped the fatty layer off the top and heated the remaining stock on the hob. Added a 900g pack of frozen peas and boiled until the peas were cooked (approximately 5 minutes). I then blitzed the soup, seasoned to taste and served. Nigella also adds the juice of a lime but since we didn’t have one in I didn’t bother. The soup was full of flavour, with subtle hints of ham & cider coming through, not sure how we’ll go back to this pea soup made with vegetable of chicken stock cubes!

Ham hocks in cider
Serves 6 (we only used 1 ham hock and I halved all the other ingredients and it comfortably served 2)

2 ham hocks (just over 1.5kg each – didn’t weigh mine so I can’t tell you how this compared to Nigella’s recommendation)
1 litre dry cider
2 sticks celery, halved
2 carrots, peeled and cut into 2 or 3
4 small onions, halved, skin left on
stalks from fat bunch flat-leaf parsley
1 x 15ml tbsp black peppercorns
1 x 15ml tbsp fennel seeds
3 cloves
1 x 15ml tbsp dark muscovado sugar

  • Soak the hocks overnight in cold water in a cool place, to de-salt them. Alternatively just under an hour before you plan to cook them, put the hocks in a pan, cover with cold water, bring to the boil, drain and then proceed normally with the next step.
  • Drain and rinse the hocks, then put them in to a pan with all the other ingredients, add cold water to cover the hocks, and bring to the boil.
  • Simmer the hocks for about 2 hours, partially covered with a lid, by which time the meat should be tender and coming away from the bone. Take the hocks out of the stock and let them cool a little on a carving board before you slice or chunk up the meat, discarding fat, skin, cartilage and bones. Leave the stock to cool in the pan while you eat.

Chocolate and vanilla marble cake

This is a simple recipe for a delicious, moist cake that not only tastes good but looks impressive and far more complicated than it is. The vanilla and chocolate flavours come through strong and work well together. The recipe is from Gorgeous cakes by Annie Bell and I have included it below.

I made a few adaptations to this recipe as I needed to bake something at short notice so I had to find a recipe that used what I had in the house (admittedly I have a well stocked baking cupboard including lots of flours, sugars etc).

  • Firstly the caster sugar I had in was not golden.
  • I didn’t have any chocolate chips in so I omitted them.
  • The type of milk was not specified so maybe it’s not important but I used what we had (1%).
  • I never buy self-raising flour instead I follow the directions on the baking powder label which said 3 tsp to every 225g flour.
  • Since I only had a 100g bar of dark chocolate, I was unable to ice the cake.

Even with all these changes the cake was still delicious.

I made a few adaptations to the method too.

Firstly, I melted my chocolate in the microwave, here’s how:

  • Put the pieces of chocolate in a microwave proof bowl.
  • Microwave at 50% power for 30 seconds, stir, repeat until the chocolate is almost all melted.
  • At this point take the bowl out of the microwave and continue to stir as the residual heat should melt the last of the chocolate.

I used a silicone bundt tin and I did not bother to butter it and you do not need to use a knife to loosen the cake from the tin at the end. If you use a silicone bundt tin you will need to place it on a baking tray to bake.

Using a skewer I swirled together a bit the two different types of mixture before baking.

I found that at 30 minutes my skewer was not coming out clean but the cake was getting a bit too dark so I cover the top of the tin with foil and put the cake back in the oven. I continued to check with a skew until the cake was ready.

Marble Cake

100g dark chocolate, broken in to pieces
110g unsalted butter, diced
150g golden caster sugar
2 medium eggs
75mls milk
200g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
25g dark chocolate chips
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

40g white chocolate, broken into pieces
40g dark chocolate, broken into pieces

  • Preheat the oven to 170C fan/190C/gas 5 and butter a 23 cm ring mould.
  • Place the dark chocolate in a bowl set over a pan with a little simmering water in it and gently melt, leave to cool.
  • Cream the butter and sugar together. Beat in the eggs one at a time, then the milk. Don’t worry if the mixture appears curdled at this point; it will cream again in the next stage.
  • Sift together the flour and baking powder and gradually whisk them into the mixture.
  • Remove half the mixture to another bowl and stir in the cooled, melted chocolate and chocolate chips.  Stir the vanilla into the other half.
  • Drop alternate dessert spoons of the mixture into the prepared tin – you should have two layers. Smooth the surface with a spoon and bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden and risen, and a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  • Remove from the oven. Run a knife around the inner and outer edges of the tin, turn the cake out on to a wire rack to cool.
  • If the cake has risen unevenly, trim the bottom a little to even it out.
  • To ice the cake, melt the white and dark chocolate separately in bowls set over simmering water. Using a teaspoon, drizzle first the white chocolate and then the dark chocolate over the cake.
  • Leave the chocolate to set for a couple of hours.
  • The cake will be good for several days, very crumbly to begin with, but it will firm up on the second day.

Spiced apple chutney

Back in October a family member gave me a box full of cooking apples. In previous years I have stewed them all (and made the odd apple crumble) and stored them in my freezer. This year I wanted to do something a bit different so I searched the internet and found a recipe on the BBC for spiced apple chutney. I had to do a last minute search of the internet for alternative spices as the original recipe used mixed spice (but all I found in my cupboard was allspice). Chutney is very easy to make, the only down sides were the strong smell of vinegar when it cooks and the 2-3 months wait to try the results. We managed to wait 2 months to open our first jar. We’ve been enjoying its delicious sweet, tangy flavour with cheese and biscuits and also cooked meats in the days between christmas and new year.

Spiced apple chutney
Adapted from BBC recipe

225g onions, chopped
900g apples, cored and chopped
110g sultanas, raisins or chopped dates
1 tsp ground ginger
2tsp allspice
1 cinnamon stick
2 bay leafs
15g salt
340g granulated sugar
425ml malt vinegar

  • Put all the ingredients into a preserving pan. Slowly bring to the boil until the sugar has dissolved.
  • Simmer for 1½-2 hours, stirring from time to time to stop the chutney sticking to the pan.
  • When it is very thick and you can draw a wooden spoon across the base of the pan so that it leaves a channel behind it that does not immediately fill with liquid, the chutney is ready.
  • Remove the bay leaves and cinnamon stick.
  • Turn into sterilised jars, seal and cool.
  • Store in a cool, dark cupboard for two to three months before eating.

Sterillising jars
From Times online

  • Wash jars well in hot soapy water.
  • Turn upside down on a clean tea towel to drain.
  • Preheat the oven to 170C/gas 3.
  • Place the jars on a baking sheet and place in the oven for 10 minutes.

Turkey and white bean chilli

This dish has become a bit of an autumn/winter favorite in our house. It’s a slightly healthier take on a chilli con carne (which don’t get me wrong still has its place on our dinner table). I saw the recipe on an episode of Giada at home on the food network last winter, cooked it, photographed it, loved it, never blogged it! Why? I wasn’t happy with the photo/lack of time, I’m not quiet sure. Then the colder nights started to draw in and my cooking style changed and I remembered this dish and searched the internet to find the recipe. I’m still not happy with this photo I took lat week but then I remembered the whole reason I started this blog. Not to publish stunning food photos (although that would be nice) but as a way to save the recipes I want to cook again so they’re easy to find. This chilli is packed with flavour and heat, it freezes well and is a delicious, filling meal when served with ever rice or a jacket potato.

Turkey and white bean chilli

Based on this recipe from Giada De Laurentiis, Food network.

Serves 4-6

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1kg minced turkey
1 teaspoon salt, plus more for seasoning
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon fennel seeds
1 tablespoon dried oregano
2 teaspoons chili powder
3 tablespoons flour
2 (400g cans) cannellini or other white beans, rinsed and drained
11/2 cups frozen sweetcorn, thawed
4 cups low-sodium chicken stock
1/4 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
Freshly ground black pepper for seasoning
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley

  • In a large heavy-bottomed saucepan, heat the oil over medium-high heat.
  • Add the onion and cook until translucent, about 5 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.
  • Add the turkey, 1 teaspoon salt, cumin, fennel seeds, oregano, and chili powder. Cook, stirring frequently, until the chicken is cooked through, about 8 minutes.
  • Stir the flour into the turkey mixture.
  • Add the beans, sweetcorn and chicken stock.
  • Bring the mixture to a simmer, scraping up the brown bits that cling to the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon.
  • Simmer for 55-60 minutes until the liquid has reduced by about half and the chili has thickened.
  • Add the red pepper flakes and simmer for another 10 minutes.
  • Season with salt and pepper, to taste.
  • Ladle the chili into serving bowls. Sprinkle with the Parmesan cheese and chopped parsley.


Bill’s basics review

I must confess to being a big fan of Bill Granger. I love his simple, laid back way of cooking and presenting. In this cookbook he presents over 100 recipes that are his favorite, classics (think coq au vin, spaghetti carbonara, fish and chips and ‘fried’ chicken) which he has worked his magic on, not only simplifying but also putting his spin on them to modernise them. Examples include fish and chips, where the fish is coated in bread crumbs and shallow fried (instead of battered and deep-fried), coq au vin which can be made in less than one hour and ‘fried’ chicken which is oven baked yet he says still has all the flavour of southern fried chicken (this recipe is next on my list to try, so I can not confirm this).

Of course there is a chapter on his trademark breakfasts as well as baking, soups, meat, seafood, chicken, vegetables, rice, pasta and bread, salads and desserts. The recipes all appear simple and straight forward, the photographs are stunning and Bill’s passion for food and good home cooking is evident throughout.

So far I have tried Bills coq au vin, which he cooked on Saturday kitchen (and is also in this months Sainsbury’s magazine) and the recipe can be found here.  The recipe was straight forward to cook and tasted delicious (it reminded me of this dish from his last book feed me now). I also cooked his fish and chips with tartare sauce recipe. The fish had a subtle hint of paprika which I really enjoyed and the chips were deliciously crisp on the outside and fluffy in the middle.

Fish and chips
Serves 4

75g plain flour
1/2 tsp paprika
1tsp ground cumin
2 eggs, lightly beaten
80g fresh breadcrumbs
500g firm white fish fillets, cut into fat strips
2 tbsp olive oil, plus extra just in case
25g butter, plus extra just in case

    To serve

    Oven-baked chips
    Tartare sauce
    Lemon wedges
    Chopped flat leaf parsley

        • Mix the flour, paprika and cumin with sea salt and ground black pepper in a bowl. Season the breadcrumbs well with sea salt and black pepper and put in another bowl. Put the eggs in a third bowl.
        • Dip each piece of fish in the flour, then the egg, then in the breadcrumbs.
        • Heat the olive oil and butter in a large non-stick frying pan over medium-high heat. Cook the fish strips, in batches, for about 2 minutes on each side until lightly golden, adding a little more butter and oil to the pan if needed.
        • Serve with oven-baked chips, tartare sauce, lemon wedges and a scattering of parsley.

          Oven-baked chips

          1.25kg potatoes, scrubbed but not peeled
          3 tsp olive oil

              • Preheat the oven to 230C/gas mark 8 and put a couple of baking trays in the oven for 20 minutes to heat up. Cut the potatoes into chips, dry with a clean tea towel, toss with the oil and sprinkle with sea salt.
              • Put the chips on baking paper on top of the hot baking trays and bake for 30 minutes, turning once, or until golden.

                Tartare sauce
                serves 4

                4tbsp mayonnaise
                2 gherkins, finely chopped
                2tsp tiny salted capers, rinsed and chopped
                1tbsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
                1tsp snipped chives
                Lemon juice to taste

                    • Stir together all the ingredients.

                      Thank you to Quadrille publishing for sending me a review copy of Bills basics.

                      Polenta bread – Fresh from the oven, September challenge

                      This months Fresh from the oven challenge was hosted by Becky from Fraxknits. She chose polenta bread from Bread by Christine Ingram and Jennie Shapter.

                      It’s been a while since I took part in a Fresh from the oven challenge. I was a bit unsure about this challenge but knew I need to get back to participating regularly so I baked it anyway. I was reluctant because I have tried polenta recently and I didn’t enjoy it. I’ve also tried baking with it and didn’t enjoy the flavour it gave to the cake. There was also the time demands of three rises! However I am pleased to report that I really enjoyed this months challenge and the bread was delicious, flavourful and it had a fantastic texture. I certainly know how I’ll be using up the rest of my pollenta. I didn’t include pine nuts in my bread as we had none in on the day I found time to fit in all the rising stages, i still included the melted butter though. The only negative, it only lasted 2 days! I’ll have to bake two loaves next time!

                      Polenta Bread Recipe

                      50g polenta
                      300ml lukewarm water
                      15g fresh yeast or 5g dried active yeast
                      1/2 tsp clear honey
                      225g white bread flour
                      25g butter
                      3 tbsp pine nuts
                      1 and 1/2 tsp salt

                      For the topping:

                      1 egg yolk
                      1 tbsp water
                      pine nuts for sprinkling

                      Makes 1 loaf

                      • Lightly grease a baking sheet. Mix the polenta and 250ml of the water together in a pan and slowly bring to the boil, stirring continuously with a large wooden spoon. Reduce the heat and simmer for 2-3 minutes, stirring occasionally. Set aside to cool for 10 minutes, or until just warm.
                      • In a small bowl, mix the yeast with the remaining water and honey until creamy/frothy (depending on the yeast being fresh/dry). Sift 115g of the flour into a larger bowl. Gradually beat in the yeast mixture, then gradually stir in the polenta mixture to combine. Turn out on to a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes until smooth and elastic.
                      • Cover the bowl with lightly oiled cling film and leave the dough to rise in a warm place for 2 hours or until it has doubled in bulk.
                      • Melt the butter in a small pan add the pine nuts and cook over a medium heat, stirring, until the pale and golden. Set aside to cool.
                      • Add the remaining flour and salt to the polenta dough and mix to a soft dough. Knead in the pine nuts cooked in butter (and the butter). Turn out on to a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 minutes until smooth and elastic.
                      • Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with lightly oiled cling film and leave to rise in a warm place for about 1 hour or until doubled in bulk.
                      • Knock back (punch down) and turn the dough out on to a lightly floured surface. Cut the dough into two equal pieces and roll each piece into a fat sausage about 38 cm/15 inches long. Plait (braid) together the two pieces and place on the baking sheet. Cover with lightly oiled cling film and leave in a warm place for 45 minutes. Pre-heat the oven to 200 C/ 400 F/ Gas Mark 6.
                      • Mix the egg yolk and water and brush over the loaf. Sprinkle with the pine nuts and bake for 30 minutes or until golden and sounding hollow when tapped on the base. Cool on a wire rack.