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Carrot and Herb ‘Tabbouleh’

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As the sunshine becomes more and more frequent, food choices generally sway towards healthy, fresh salads and light vegetable dishes.

I’ve been experimenting with salads and have found that they don’t always have to be lettuce, tomato and cucumber! Not that there is anything wrong with that, but every day it can get boring very quickly!

With loads of vitamins, great crunch and earthy sweetness, carrot is a brilliant vegetable. I actually prefer carrot raw to cooked. With this in mind I’ve created this recipe, which is quickly becoming my favourite lunch.

Tabbouleh is a middle eastern salad that makes use of beautiful fresh herbs and bulghar wheat. In my version, I’ve replaced the wheat with carrot to bring some freshness and crunch to it. I got the idea from Maria Elia who I saw cooking something similar on a Sunday morning cookery show.

Ingredients – Serves 4

4 large or 6 smaller carrots – around 500g – topped and tailed and blitzed in a food processor until tiny
2 bunches of parsley – finely chopped
1 bunch of mint – leaves picked and finely chopped
3 spring onions – finely chopped
1 pepper – finely diced
1 apple – finely diced

Dressing

Juice of one lemon
2 tbsp white wine vinegar
1 tbsp honey
1 tsp ground cumin
2 tbsp olive oil
Salt

Mix the vegetables together.

Whisk the dressing ingredients together in a bowl and test for seasoning. It should be slightly tart, slightly sweet and fragrant from the cumin.

Mix the salad and dressing together. Done!

I served this as a side to some smoked mackerel which was a fabulous combination. It also works well with any grilled meat or fish, or indeed, on its own as a lunch or light supper.

Feel free to add any other vegetables, seeds, nuts etc to this.

Enjoy!

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Butternut Squash Ravioli with Sage Butter

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This is what went down in our house 2 weekends ago…

Pasta machine

Yes that’s right. I made pasta. And not just any pasta. Ravioli. My first attempt.

To say it was ambitious is an understatement, but my word, did it work well?!

The trick with ravioli is getting the pasta really thin. You just keep going with the pasta machine, rolling, folding, rolling again until its silky smooth and beautifully thin. Go on, give it a go!

Ingredients – serves 2 as main or 4 as a starter

200g ’00’ flour
2 eggs – lightly beaten
1 Butternut Squash
4 cloves garlic
1 bunch fresh sage leaves – half finely chopped, half left intact
50- 100g parmesan cheese (to taste) – finely grated
Grated Nutmeg – half tsp
50g butter
Olive oil
Salt and pepper

Method

Tip the flour onto the work surface, sprinkle over a little salt and make a well in the centre. Add the eggs and start to incorporate them into the flour, working from the centre outwards until it all comes together. Knead it together well for around 5-10 minutes, wrap in cling film and place into the fridge before rolling.

To make the filling, cut the squash in half lengthways, scrape out the seeds, place 2 cloves of garlic into the hole left in each and drizzle with oil and season well. Place into a hot oven – around 190 for 30-40 mins, until the squash is completely soft and the garlic lightly browned.

Scrape the flesh of the squash into a bowl, with the garlic, and mash well with a fork. Add the sage and nutmeg. Start to mix in the parmesan, tasting as you go. You may not want the full 100g in there, so do keep tasting it.

Let this cool while you roll the pasta.

Ensure your machine is well clamped to your bench (or dining table in my case!) start rolling the pasta out on its widest setting, fold it and roll again. Do this 3 times on setting 1 and then twice on each setting right down to the last one. You will be left with smooth silky pasta sheets. Make sure you have 2 that are roughly the same size.

Lay one pasta sheet onto the surface and place spoonfuls of the filling onto the pasta, leaving a good 2 inches between each pile. Using your fingers, dab water around each pile of squash and then lay the next sheet over the top. Smooth the pasta round the filling, pushing out any air bubbles as you go. Trim each ravioli to your desired shape and leave, covered by a tea towel until you are ready to cook them.

Bring a large pan of water to a rolling boil. Meanwhile melt the butter in a pan and add the whole sage leaves. Cook this gently for around 3 minutes, then leave off the heat. Drop the ravioli into the water. After around 4 minutes they will be cooked. Using a slotted spoon remove the ravioli and add to the pan of sage butter, swirling them around to coat.

Serve with more grated parmesan.

Try it. Its so worth the effort!

Butternut Ravioli

Ravioli

Cod with Chorizo and Butter Bean Stew

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This is another one of those recipes that you will make again and again. Its ideal for both midweek suppers or dinner with friends, its delicious and very simple.

The Chorizo and Butter Bean Stew can be eaten on its own with some crusty bread, but I find the combination of moist, meaty cod and this spicy rich stew works really well. Feel free to experiment, it would also go really well with chicken or some grilled haloumi. As you can see, I served mine with some steamed purple sprouting broccoli.

I’ve listed the amount of chorizo as ‘to taste’ mainly because some people don’t love it as much as I do! I used a whole pack of cooking chorizo, but you can use as much or as little as you like.

Top Tip – Cooking fish doesn’t have to be scary. Its true that its very easy to overcook, but its also very easy to cook it well. Treat it with some love and attention and it will love you back! Give it a little poke. It will feel firm to the touch and begin to flake at the edges. If it’s overcooked it will be rubbery.

Ingredients – Serves 2

1 large or 2 small cod fillets (if using one, cut it in half)
Chorizo – to taste (I used soft, cooking chorizo sausages and cut each into bite size chunks)
1 tin butter beans
1 red onion – chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
1 red pepper – chopped
1 tin tomatoes
1 bunch fresh parsley – chopped, including stalks
1 tablespoon smoked paprika
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper

Method

Heat some oil in a pan and add the onion, garlic and pepper. Sauté them for a few minutes until slightly softened. Add the chorizo and cook for another 5-10 minutes. Add the tins of beans and tomatoes, smoked paprika and most of the parsley and simmer for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat a frying pan over a high heat. Oil and season the fish and place into the pan. It will sizzle, that’s what you want, because this gives it a lovely caramelised finish. After about 4-5 minutes, turn it over. For the piece of cod in my photo, I cooked it around 4 mins on each side. How long you cook the fish depends on the size and type of fish. Then leave it to rest for about 2-3 mins.

Serve the cod placed on top of the stew, scatter with the rest of the parsley and enjoy!

Cod and Chorizo Stew

Easter Recipes

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Hello readers! Everyone I’ve seen today is in a great mood. Not sure if that’s due to the weather or the fact that its a long Bank Holiday weekend! For me its definitely a combination of the two, I love the sun and I love Bank Holidays! Mr T and I have plans to see family and maybe a spot of day time pub garden drinking in the sun…after the gym of course!

Over the next few days I’m going to be trying out some Easter recipes including a simnel cake and a butterflied leg of lamb with minty salsa verde – yum!

What are you cooking? I’d love to hear some of your recipes and plans for the long weekend!

Happy Easter! xx

Totally impressive beef

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Have you ever wished you had that one recipe that will wow at a dinner party? Something so impressive, people will want to BE you?!

Well, look no further. You have found it!

Mr T and I saw this beef being cooked on a Saturday morning cookery show and we were desperate to try it. As it uses fillet of beef – notoriously the most expensive cut – we knew it wasn’t something we could just throw together one weeknight, so we saved it for a special occasion.

People are always terrified of overcooking beef, especially fillet. It is horrible when cooked well done, tough, grey – a complete waste! The following cookery method will ensure your beef is always beautifully rare in the middle, but you are able to get everything else ready in the meantime, with no chance of over cooking it. I promise!

Ingredients

1 beef fillet – size dependant on how many people you are feeding
Salt
Pepper
A sprig of rosemary – finely chopped
Oil for searing
Heatproof cling film (I have done it with normal too but would recommend heatproof!)

Method

First of all, preheat your oven to 60C/140F/Gas ¼ and stick a frying pan on a high heat and add a tablespoon of oil, heating until its shimmering.

Sear the beef all over until its well coloured on all sides. This stage shouldn’t take too long, a few minutes maximum. Set the beef aside to cool down.

Cut the cling film into a large enough piece to wrap the beef in. Sprinkle it will the salt, pepper and chopped rosemary, before wrapping the cooled fillet well.

Place in a roasting dish and bung it into the oven for 40mins.

Now, make your accompaniments, have a bath, a few cups of tea or glasses of wine – the choice is yours!

After the roasting time is up, remove the beef from the oven and take off the cling film, reserving any juices that escape. Heat up the frying pan with some oil again and sear VERY quickly all over for no more than 20-30 seconds.

There is no need to rest the meat, you will see it is very soft. Carve into at least 2cm slices and serve.

We served ours with horseradish mash, creamed leeks, tenderstem broccoli and wilted spinach. Drizzle over some of the cooking juices at the end, there’s no need for a sauce but a red wine jus would work well.

Your guests will be blown away. Enjoy!

Beef

Pulled Pork Part 2

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After waxing lyrical about the wonders of slow cookery, I thought it only fair to add another variation on the wildly popular Pulled Pork recipe I shared with you a few months ago.

This is something you can chuck together really quickly and will make you a hero at home! So far, I haven’t met anyone who doesn’t like Pulled Pork (aside from non-pork/meat eaters) and I don’t think I want to!

Top tip / Cheat – you don’t need to make the sauce. Of course, I would rather you did, but if you want, just use some from a bottle – you will need around 2 cups in total!

Ingredients

1 pork shoulder, skin removed
2 large onions sliced
BBQ Sauce

Sauce (Optional recipe!)

Approx 150ml ketchup
Approx 4 – 5 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Approx 2 tbsp smoked paprika
Approx 1 tbsp worcester sauce
Approx 4 – 6 tbsp dark brown sugar

Method

To make the sauce, put all the ingredients into a pan and bring it to the boil. You may need to add some water at this point. Keep tasting and adding more sugar, paprika or vinegar as needed. You want it to be a thick gloopy sauce and all the flavours to mingle together. I boiled it for about 10 mins in total – adding a little water now and then.

Put the shoulder of pork into the slow cooker top of the sliced onions, cover with half of the bbq sauce and leave on low all day.

When you get in, drain most of the liquid and shred the pork. Put back in the slow cooker with another cup of sauce and heat through.

Done. Yep. Honest. It really is that simple!

Slow cooker pulled pork

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Chilli

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I recently bought a slow cooker and it has pretty much changed my life. We all lead busy lives, and often, the excuse for not cooking is lack of time. Well, a slow cooker will change that.

I love nothing more than coming in from work and knowing that dinner has pretty much cooked itself and all I need to do is add a few bits and eat it. I’ve been experimenting with various recipes but this is one that has been requested by a Rods Kitchen fan!

We eat this as a sort-of-soup, with a variety of toppings, but it also works really well with rice, in a burrito type thing, with crusty bread or just eaten straight from the pan.

In order to make your life easier there is a little prep the night before, but nothing more strenuous than chopping, mixing and placing in the fridge. To be honest, you don’t even need to do that it just means less time needed in the rush before work!

Ingredients – feeds 4-8 depending on how you serve it

1 pork shoulder, skin and visible fat removed cut into chunks (I used a small one – around 800g)
1 tbsp Smoked Paprika
1 tbsp Ground Cumin
1 tbsp Ground Coriander
½ tbsp Hot Chilli Powder (or more if you are brave!)
1tsp salt
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 tin kidney beans
2 red onions – chopped
2 peppers – chopped
200g mushrooms – chopped
1 large bunch fresh coriander – chopped – stalks included
Olive oil

Method

The night before, place the pork and all the dry spices into a bowl/tub, toss about and place into the fridge.
In the morning, place the pork and spices into the slow cooker with the tomatoes. Mix about and cook on low all day (8-10 hours or so).

When you get home, or around 10 mins before serving, sauté the vegetables in a little oil until softened. Add to the slow cooker and mix well, breaking up the meat as you go – it will be falling apart by this point. Add the kidney beans and coriander and leave to heat through, turning the slow cooker up to high to ensure it heats through. You could always transfer it to a pan and heat on the hob if your cooker doesn’t go high enough.

It’s really simple and very rewarding. We like to eat ours topped with cheese, avocado salad, chopped coriander and spring onions and sour cream / crème fraiche / greek yoghurt – when we do this, I add half a can of warm water to the pot with the kidney beans, giving it a soupy consistency. It also works really well with rice and all the usual accompaniments.

Enjoy!

Slow Cooker Pulled Pork Chilli

Topped with our favourites!
Topped with our favourites!