Saturday, 29 January 2011

Tomato and Mushroom Linguine

There is a recipe for Pappardelle, Mushroom and Mozzarella on the Jamie Oliver iphone app. I made it a couple of times and since then it has morphed into this linguine dish which is a lot simpler. I've tried various different types of creme fraiche for this dish and have found the absolute best one is by Weight Watchers. Also, I've started using freshly grated parmesan in my cooking rather than the ready grated stuff in a bag and it adds so much more flavour that I'll be using it every time from now on. Here's what I used for this meal:

1 x garlic clove and 1 x onion
Olive oil, salt and pepper
Dried linguine for two
Pack of organic cherry tomatoes
Pack of chestnut mushrooms
Pot of Weight Watchers creme fraiche
Freshly grated parmesan cheese

Heat a frying pan with the olive oil (or some butter) and add the crushed garlic and chopped onion. After about five minutes add the chopped chestnut mushrooms and season. Slowly add some of the chopped cherry tomatoes. Then get your linguine into a pan of boiling water and cook according to instructions. Whilst the pasta is cooking add some creme fraiche to the mushroom and tomato mixture, stirring it in so it becomes a thick sauce. The creme fraiche can dry up the mixture too quickly before you get your pasta cooked hence why you just add a bit at a time. Once the pasta is cooked, drain, keeping a small amount of the water in the saucepan and put the linguine back in. Then pour everything from the frying pan into the saucepan, mixing the sauce into the pasta. Throw in the rest of your tomatoes if you've saved some and the parmesan cheese so it becomes part of the dish. Serve and enjoy. Very cold glass of white wine optional ;-)

Sunday, 23 January 2011

Rocket, Spinach, Tomato, Cucumber and Avacado Salad

I love this served with a hot fillet of peppered mackerel on top. Everything is sliced and thrown into a colander to be splashed and tossed with some balsamic dressing. Squeeze some lemon juice over the fish, place on top of the salad and you have a nice starter or light lunch.

Go Go Gadget Garlic Crusher

New addition to the utensil pot is this chrome garlic crusher. It's very handy for getting the garlic super fine and saves your fingers trying to chop the cloves into tiny pieces. It does tend to get some garlic lodged on the inside which you need a knife to scrape off but being dishwasher safe it soon comes clean.

Butternut Squash, Smoky Bacon and Spinach Risotto

Great flavours for a risotto which was made in the same way as the bacon, mushroom and pea version I described earlier in the month. The bacon for this one though was fried and made crispy before adding to the risotto and stirred through at the end. I served this with a mixed salad and parmesan cheese.

Thursday, 20 January 2011

'Working Nine Till Five' Veggie Curry

Firstly, I didn't take a picture of this delicious meal my husband made because I was too embarassed to display the size of the massive portions we were eating (an hour of gym/ Zumba makes you very hungry). Secondly, I've called it 'Working Nine Till Five' Veggie Curry because if I had more time I'd love to make a curry sauce from scratch.

We use this particular curry sauce as it reminds us of home and my mother in law's cooking which never fails to impress. Here's what we used for our veggie curry:

Chopped butternut squash
Chopped sweet potato
Baby sweetcorn
Sugar snap peas
Basmati rice

The veg is all chopped and boiled or steamed until al dente then poured into a saucepan with the curry sauce. The rice is boiled according to instructions and within 25 minutes you have a really tasty veggie curry which I guarantee you needs no meat whatsoever. As long as you're using thick veg like butternut squash you get a really hearty meal perfect for cold January nights.

Do you think 'hiya' is appropriate?

We've been watching Michel Roux's Service on BBC Two this week and the title of this blog was one of the best lines from teacher to trainee when greeting guests to a 5* resort. Whilst the concept of this programme is not exactly rocket science it does highlight an age old famously British trait; manners. Personally I like going to fancy restaurants where service is impeccable and all the front of house staff put on their Sunday best. I was at a marketing seminar a few years back where Paul Heathcote was talking about those 'magic moments' in restaurants where you recognise a special occasion. I experienced such a moment at Manchester's restaurant of the year 2010/2011 Rosso recently when the waiters came out singing happy birthday to me with a slice of chocolate cake complete with happy birthday written across the plate in chocolate sauce. It's such a small touch but makes a big impression. My brother works as Food and Beverage Manager at the award winning Rudding Park in Harrogate and from what I've heard the service there sounds spectacular. I'm just waiting for an invite now to go for a meal (hint hint) and see what it's all about....

New Sleepy Tea

Twinings' chamomile is usually the tea I drink before bedtime to get me in the psychological state of going to sleep. I'm not in love with the taste though so decided to try this Clipper organic sleep easy tea. With ingredients that include orange and cinammon I though this looked like a really nice alternative to chamomile which I'm pleased to say it is. So much so that the first few nights I had a couple of mugs of it before bedtime. I'm not convinced about it's sleep inducing effects just yet. With it being the first few weeks back in work after Christmas and an aggressive new exercise plan - I'm not exactly having trouble drifting off. This tea also contains valerian which is said to be a sleepy herb and it comes in unbleached bags which I like. Whether or not it works, it tastes nice and smells lush. I have another sleepy tea on my list to try which I'll be buying next week.

Monday, 17 January 2011

'Check Out His Lunchbox' Pesto

This is my first attempt at home made pesto. I had Delia's vegetarian cook book recipe in mind to try but when it came to it I decided it can't be that hard I'll make my own version. It was all a bit trial and error but I used:

Leaves from 1 x basil plant
Handful of freshly grated parmesan
Pinch of pine nuts
Slug of olive oil
Handful of spinach and rocket leaves
Handful of chopped cherry tomatoes
Salt and pepper

I put the basil leaves, parmesan and pine nuts into the blender together and whizzed it slowly adding some olive oil. Gradually I added the salad leaves and chopped tomatoes adding salt and pepper as I went. It took a while but eventually it all whizzed up into a sort of thin mayonnaise consistency. It tasted nice, maybe a bit too much of parmesan, but it passed the husband taste test so I mixed it into some cold pasta, spooned it into two lunch boxes and whacked it in the fridge for tomorrow's lunch.

Green Tea from Juyan's Tea House

New tea on the block is this loose green tea from Juyan's Tea House. I tried it after my colleague Simon ordered some online. It's the nicest green tea I've tasted and comes close to replacing my trusty old peppermint tea. Juyan's website is worth a look to read all the different names of the tea and see some of the prices.

Peter Pestle & Molly Mortar

This Jamie Oliver pestle and mortar was a Christmas present from my sister in law. I was very excited about giving it a bash tonight but after an hour of lifting weights in Body Pump my arms failed me! It looks the part in our kitchen though so I'll just admire it for now.

Sunday, 16 January 2011

Sunday: Day of Rest

After swimming thirty lengths this morning I was ravenous by the time we got to our lunch date with friends at 1pm. We went to The Bulls Head in Hale Barns which does a fantastic carvery for £7.25. I chose beef and turkey and after commenting on how nice the honey roast ham looked the chef gave me a small slice to try. Complete with stuffing, veg, roast and mashed potatoes and gravy, this was just what I needed. Especially when I found out we were staying to watch the Liverpool v Everton game (yawn). This part FORCED me to have chocolate fudge cake and ice cream for dessert ;-)

Saturday, 15 January 2011

Skinny Fish Pie

This is the skinny version of my fish pie. I have cooked it in the past with a cream and cheddar sauce poured over the fish before it goes in the oven but with it being January - and health kick time - I decided to just use lemon juice and seasoning on the fish.


1 x selection of fish. I used a ready chopped mix from Asda and a smoked peppered mackerel fillet
8 x small white potatoes for the mash topping
1 x handful spinach
1 x lemon
Butter, splash of milk and seasoning

Peel and chop the potatoes and boil in a saucepan. Meanwhile put the oven on a medium heat. Take a casserole dish and add the fish to the bottom in an even layer. Squeeze over the juice of half the lemon, add salt and pepper and gently move the fish around the bowl so it gets an even coverage. Then add a layer of spinach over the fish. Once the potatoes are cooked enough mash them mixing in butter to taste and a splash of milk. Spoon the mash over the spinach and place in the oven for approx 25 minutes. You should see the lemon juice sizzling when you spoon into the pie to serve it. Serve with peas, tenderstem broccoli or other seasonal greens.

Red lentil, chickpea & chilli soup

During a weekend away in Edinburgh last October we ate lunch at Henderson's vegetarian cafe. This place had been recommended to us by my colleague Jenny's sister who went to uni there. The food was amazing and inspired me to try cooking with lentils and chickpeas. I found this recipe on the BBC Good Food website and am pleased to say the results were delicious!


2 x tsp cumin seeds
1 x large pinch chilli flakes
1 x tbsp olive oil
1 x red onion, chopped
140g red split lentils
850ml vegetable stock
400g can tomatoes, whole or chopped
200g carton chickpeas
1 x small bunch coriander, roughly chopped

Heat a large saucepan and dry-fry the cumin seeds and chilli flakes for 1 min, or until they start to jump around the pan and release their aromas. Add the oil and onion and cook for 5 mins. Stir in the lentils, stock and tomatoes, then bring to the boil. Simmer for 15 mins until the lentils have softened.

Whizz the soup with a stick blender or in a food processor until it is a rough puree, pour back into the pan and add the chickpeas. Heat gently, season well and stir in the coriander. Serve with some Warburtons seeded batch bread and spread.

Risotto with bacon, pea, mushroom, courgette and tomato

My signature dish. As part of my degree studies I spent a year living in Berlin working as an English language assistant in a primary school in the former East. Most of the time I was on a very tight budget dividing my money between rent, travel, socialising and flights home. I chose to live on a very basic, cheap diet and most nights made risotto or spaghetti. The end result always seems so much more luxurious than you'd expect so its a great dish for little cash.


250g Arborio risotto rice (enough for 2 people)
1 x onion and 1 x clove garlic
1 x jug vegetable stock
1 x pack bacon
1 x pack mushrooms
1 x courgette
1 x pack vine cherry tomatoes
1 x handful frozen peas

The other ingredients you need are time and patience so its a nice meal to make for a Saturday night.

After heating a large saucepan with olive oil, add garlic and onion and stir while it softens. Add salt and pepper. At this point you can add some white wine or dry vermouth if desired. Next add the risotto rice and cover with the stock. This is where the the time and patience comes in as you need to keep stirring the rice while it absorbs the stock and keep repeating the process. Put the grill on to cook the bacon. Then after about twenty minutes of stock-and-stir add your veg saving a few chopped tomatoes for the end. Keep adding stock and stir the rice and veg all together. Keep and eye on the bacon whilst it's cooking. After about 35 minutes taste the rice and check it is soft and not too chalky. Add a slice of butter, stir in and take off the heat and add the saucepan lid. Leave for about 5 minutes. The butter will give the risotto it's thicker consistency. Taste and if happy whack it up to a higher heat then serve with a nice bistro salad splashed with balsamic. Mmmm.

Salmon sweet chilli stir fry

This is a great Friday night dinner. It's light and healthy, quick to make and has the kick of a Chinese take away without the cost. I also find it's a great way of using up any veg we have left over at the end of the week.


2 x organic salmon fillets
1 x pack of stir fried veg
1 x broccoli
1 x handful leftover veg including sugar snap peas and baby sweetcorn
1 x packet sweet chilli sauce from the chiller cabinet
1 x lemon

Squeeze lemon onto the salmon fillets and massage in some salt and pepper. Then lay the fish on a frying pan. Sometimes I grill the salmon but this time I wanted to add some of the sweet chilli sauce as it was cooking so used a frying pan. Get the wok nice and hot and throw in the broccoli as this takes longer to cook. When the salmon looks about half way done throw the rest of the veg into the wok and stir. Then add in the sweet chilli sauce saving a little bit for the salmon. Keep stirring until everything is cooked and then dish up and tuck in!