Month: November 2013

Something simple

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After a weekend of excess I fancied something fresh and healthy for lunch yesterday. After scouring the fridge and cupboards I decided to make an avocado and corn salad – it has a bit of a mexican twist to it.

It was lovely and really simple to make. I served it with my easy flat breads which I posted a while back.

Top tip – keep the avocado in the fridge for a bit before making this dish. Ripe avocado can be very mushy and you dont want guacamole.


1 ripe avocado – taken from the skin and diced
1 tin sweetcorn
1 red chilli – deseeded and finely chopped
Juice of one lime
Handful of fresh coriander – chopped
Half a small red onion / 2 spring onions – finely chopped
Salt and Pepper

To Serve

Natural yoghurt / Sour cream
Flat breads / Tortilla chips

Combine all the ingredients in a bowl and leave to stand for a while, to come to room temperature and for the flavours to mingle.

Top with yoghurt or sour cream and enjoy with flat breads or tortilla chips.

This salad goes great with chilli con carne or fajitas too, as well as a dish on its own. Try it – I promise you will love it!


avocado salad


Rod’s Bolognese

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This rich meaty sauce is a staple in Rod’s Kitchen. Once you have a good Bolognese sauce you can use it for so many recipes. Standard Spag Bol of course, a filling for a lasagne or cannelloni, or in a pasta bake or just eat it with salad and garlic bread!

My version uses some sneaky ways of getting extra veg into the sauce (for those fussy eaters!) and this also makes the meal go much, much further. This recipe makes approximately 7/8 servings, depending on how its being used. To make it go that little bit further, don’t dollop the meat sauce on top of your pasta, mix it through. This is more in keeping with the traditional Italian way and also means you will use less.

This recipe freezes brilliantly, just make sure its piping hot throughout when you reheat it.


Ingredients – Serves around 6-8

500g Lean Minced Beef
2 onions – Chopped finely
4 carrots – grated
300g Mushrooms – Grated (leave some in quarters if your family like them)
2 tins of chopped tomatoes
2 cloves garlic
2tsp dried oregano
1 beef stock cube
1tbsp Soy Sauce
1tbsp Worcester Sauce
1tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
2tbsp tomato puree
1tsp sugar
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

First of all, brown the mince well in some olive oil, you want it really brown, not grey, and set aside. Drain off most of the fat retaining a little to cook the vegetables in.

Add the vegetables and garlic to the pan and soften over a medium heat until its all soft and the moisture from the mushrooms has disappeared. This may take around 15 mins. Add the beef back to the vegetables and crumble over the stock cube.

Add the soy, balsamic, worcester sauce and tomato puree and cook out for a minute or so. Add the tins of tomatoes. Half fill one of the empty tins with water and add that too. Give it all a good stir, add the sugar and oregano and bring to a boil.

Once it boils, turn the heat down and cook for as long as you can. The longer the better. Sometimes I put it in the oven on 140 for 2 hours. However, on a weeknight, a good 20 mins will be enough.

Check for seasoning and serve with cooked pasta, sprinkled with some cheese if you like. If freezing, allow to cool completely before freezing.



Rod’s Award Winning* Christmas Cake

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*When I say award winning, it won the Christmas Bake off at work last year – I am extremely proud of this!

I love a good rich Christmas Cake. Fruity, Nutty, Boozy and covered in a good layer of marzipan and icing. Its the ultimate treat with a cup of tea or a cheeky brandy. This recipe looks extensive with all the ingredients but its very simple to put together. This is the perfect time to make your cake as it gives you a good few weeks to ‘feed’ it with Brandy or Rum (or if you are me, both) before the big day.

Top tip – You can use whatever fruit you want, but I tend to buy bags of mixed fruit and add to them. This year the cake contains Raisins, Sultanas, Cranberries and apricots. Delicious!

Christmas Cake ingredients.JPG


1kg mixed dried fruit
200g glacé cherries
200g glacé ginger
100g mixed peel
300ml brandy or rum
300g butter, at room temperature
200g dark brown muscavado sugar
1 lemon
4 eggs
300g plain flour
Pinch of salt
1 tsp ground ginger
1tsp mixed spice
2 tsp ground cinnamon
150g ground almonds
150g walnuts or almonds (or both), chopped

Preheat oven to 150 and grease and line a tin with a double layer of greaseproof

Put the dried fruit into a bowl and pour over 100ml of the alcohol while you start off the cake. Give it a good stir and leave aside. This will ensure the fruit is infused with the flavour of the rum/brandy and gives a nice moist finish.

Cream the butter and sugar together with a mixer until it pales and goes creamy, add the zest of the lemon and beat in the eggs one at a time.

Sift the flour and mix in the spices and ground almonds then add to the butter/sugar/egg mix, combine well then add the soaked fruit, cherries, ginger, mixed peel, nuts and the rest of the booze.

Spoon into the tin and bake for 2.5hours – test with a skewer to see if it comes out clean, if not give it another 20 mins and check again. While it bakes, your house will start to smell wonderfully festive!

When it comes out of the oven pour some rum/brandy over it and then leave it to cool in the tin.

Wrap the cake (it will be very heavy so be careful!) in a double layer of greasproof then foil and put into an a tin making sure you can get to the top of the cake.

Every week until Christmas, stab it with a cocktail stick all over and pour a couple of tablespoons of alcohol over it then rewrap.

The result with be moist, rich and pretty boozy! I usually cover it with marzipan and royal icing a few days before its needed, but it can be left un-iced if you wish.


Christmas Cake

Keema Curry

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I was trying to think what I could make with the abundance of minced beef I had hidden away in the freezer and wanted something different to the normal Shepherds Pie, Spag Bol or Chilli. Not that there’s anything wrong with these dishes, I just wanted something spicier, more fragrant and a bit different.

I’ve never had a Keema Curry before, therefore have no point of reference, so the purists among us may be absolutely horrified by my version, but Mr T, Little Miss T and I thouroughly enjoyed it. Whats more, it was on the table within 30 mins – pretty good going I thought!

Keema Curry

I used beef mince, but lamb mince would be lovely too. To make it spicier, add some chopped green chilli in towards the end for a real kick!

Ingredients – Serves 3-4 depending on accompaniments

Keema ingredients

500g Minced beef/lamb
1 large or 2 small onions – peeled and chopped
1 fat clove garlic – crushed
3cm piece of fresh ginger – chopped
Bunch of coriander – chopped roughly
3 tomatoes
About a cup of frozen peas
Juice of half a lime
1 tsp turmeric
2 tsp ground coriander
3 tsp ground cumin
1 tbsp garam masala
1tsp chilli powder
Half a small red onion – finely sliced
1 red chilli – finely chopped
Yoghurt and mango chutney to serve
Salt and pepper

Heat the oil in a pan and add the onion garlic and ginger, cook out for about 5-8 minutes until the onion is translucent and soft and starting to pick up some colour on the edges. Push the onion mix to the side and add the mince to the pan spreading it out and breaking it up evenly. Brown the mince well, you dont want it grey, really brown it. This will take about 5-8 mins again.

Meanwhile, halve one of the tomatoes and grate it, seeds inwards against a course grater – this will leave you with just the flesh and pulp – discard the skins. Chop the other tomatoes into wedges and put aside.

Add the spices to the meat and onions, stir well and add about half of the fresh coriander. Cook for a couple of minutes and then add the tomato pulp and wedges and the peas – stir well and season with plenty of salt and black pepper. Add the lime lime and a little water and leave to bubble away for a further 5 mins. Just before serving stir through the chopped red onion – this will give it a nice acidic bite.

Serve with rice and scatter with chopped red chilli and the remaining coriander, with mango chutney and plain yoghurt on the side.

Please try this, its so simple and cheap using store cupboard inredients and it tastes amazing.

Keema Curry 2

Mustard Chicken

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Hello readers!

On Monday it was my dad’s birthday (Happy Birthday again Dad!) and he came over for dinner. I decided to try out a recipe by Jamie Oliver for mustard chicken, from his 30 minute meals series. It looked easy and tasty – perfect for a Monday night after work.

This dish is very simple and quick to prepare, and I tweaked it slightly to our tastes, though I think I would like a little more sauce next time so I have amended quantities below. I didn’t make the other dishes in the recipe above, just the Chicken.

Ingredients – Serves 4

4 chicken breasts, skin on
4 tsp mustard powder
1 onion – finely sliced
1 leek – finely slices
About 2 tsp thyme leaves – picked (JO uses rosemary in his but I couldn’t get any!)
Salt and Pepper
Olive Oil
White wine – about a glass and a half
100ml double cream
1 tbsp wholegrain mustard

Bring a pan to a medium/high heat. Put the mustard powder, thyme leaves and some seasoning over the chicken, drizzle with oil and massage in until its all coated. Add a little oil to the pan and place the breasts skin side down – push them down with a spatula/tongs to ensure all the skin is touching the pan to give you a lovely crispy finish. Leave them like this for about 8 – 10 mins, until you can see the chicken turning white and opaque.

Push the chicken over to one side, and add the leeks and onion to the other side of the pan. Cook for another 5 mins, stirring the leek and onion mixture a little to avoid it catching.

Turn the chicken over to cook the other side and mix the leeks and onions through the pan, so all if it is cooking away nicely together. Add the wine and let is sizzle and reduce before adding the cream and mustard. Cook for a minute or so, check the chicken is cooked through, test for seasoning and then serve. I cut up the chicken breasts and put them on the plates, covered in the sauce. This recipe will make a looser sauce than the one in the picture below. I served it with buttery mash and steamed greens. Dad loved it. Thanks Jamie!


mustard chicken

Batch cooking

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Sometimes if I find myself with a day free I like to cook up a storm and fill up my freezer with goodies to help see us through the winter months.

On Sunday I set about making two brilliant one pot wonders as well as cooking a Pork Shoulder for dinner. The house smelled amazing after an hour or so! By the end of the day I had made;

6 portions of chicken casserole
6 portions of mediterranean vegetable stew
1.5 litres of chicken stock
Enough apple sauce to see us through at least 5 roast dinners (2 bramley apples, peeled,cored and chopped, heated with 1tsp of sugar and a strip of lemon zest until mushy)
My slow roast pork with crackling – it was delicious but there were no leftovers, meaning no pulled pork this week. Sad face.

Batch cooking is a great idea if, like me, you have busy weeks and not a lot of time to make dinner in the evenings. Its easy to double or even triple up on recipes and pop the extras in the freezer, ready to be reheated when you need it. Chicken casserole and my mediterranean vegetable stew are failsafes and regular dishes on my winter repetoire. Comforting, healthy and tasty. Perfect for the cold evenings that are now drawing in.

Chicken Casserole

chicken casserole ingredients

This is a great basic recipe which can be jazzed up with lots of different flavours. Try addng white wine before the stock and a swirl of cream or creme fraiche at the end and serving with buttered new potatoes. Adding bacon at the beginning to crisp up and cook the chicken in the fat is a great addition. Make up some dumplings to cook in it while reheating or just dig to with a big bowl of casserole scattered with fresh herbs and some buttered baguette.

Ingredients – 6 portions

8 pieces of bone-in chicken. I used thighs and drumsticks. You can use the bones from the chicken to make stock afterwards
4 carrots – chopped
2 onions – chopped
2 leeks – chopped
200g mushrooms – halved or quartered
800ml chicken stock (from a cube or homemade)
Dried or fresh herbs – about half a tbsp (I used dried rosemary and parsley, but thyme and tarragon work very well too)
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper

Heat some oil in a cast iron casserole pan or heavy saucepan with a lid. Add the chicken pieces and brown on all sides on a high heat. Remove from the pan and add the chopped vegetables with a pinch of salt. Cook them over a medium heat for about 10 minutes until starting to soften slightly, then add the chicken back in and cover with the stock. Add the herbs and bring to the boil, then turn the heat right down, cover with a lid and leave to blip away gently for about 2 hours. Test for seasoning then leave to cool, skim off any fat and then gently de bone each chicken piece, putting the meat into the pots you are going to freeze the casserole in. Keep the bones to make stock. (simply put them into a sauce pan with a halved onion and chopped carrot, cover with cold water and simmer for about 2 hours with a lid on) Cover the meat with the stock and vegetables and freeze or refrigerate.

Mediterranean Vegetable Stew

ratatouille ingredients

This is my version of a ratatouille, which I devised as a low calorie, vegetable packed dish to make me feel virtuous. Its a massive bonus that its delicious too! This stew can form the base of many dishes. Serve it with chicken and salad, add a can of kidney beans and some chilli powder to turn it into a lovely veggie chilli, use as a sauce for pasta, eat it on its own with crusty bread – the possibilities are endless.

Ingredients – 6 portions

1 Aubergine – chopped
3 red onions – chopped
4 peppers – mixed colours – chopped
2 courgettes – chopped
2 cloves garlic – crushed
1 red chilli, deseeded and halved lengthways
2 x tins chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp dried herbs such as oregano or basil
Olive oil
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Salt and Pepper

In a pan with a lid, heat the oil and add the onions, garlic and chilli. Cook for about 5 mins over a medium heat until softened. Add the rest of the vegetables with a pinch of salt and a splash of water, then cook for about 10 mins to soften everything up. Add the tomatoes, vinegar and add the herbs. Cover and cook for about 30 mins – 1 hour. Season and leave to cool before portioning up.