Sausage rolls and scotch eggs

Sausage rolls and scotch eggs

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Chorizo and Chickpea Soup (and what really goes into sausages!)

When I'm attempting to eat a bit healthier, I usually crave beans of some description. Like most people, my experience of beans as a child came covered in a sweet sauce and out of a can. The more I've cooked, the more beans I've tried, the more I like them. They are fantastically filling and don't take much flavour to make them really good to eat.

I will never forget the first time I saw a program about sausages and what they actually consist of. For those of a delicate persuasion, who wish to remain in denial, I will keep that information to myself but it certainly had an impact on the amount of sausages I ate but also on the quality of sausages I bought when I did have them. Walking past them in supermarkets now and glancing down at the grey, cheap ones makes my stomach churn. Yet it's these ones that seem the most popular. In case you are interested and I think, personally, think It's important we know what we are eating and especially, what we are feeding our children, here is a great, informative link: What Sausage Is Made Of
Don't even get me started on hotdogs! Which consist of very little pork and what 'meat' they do contain is mostly mechanically retrieved or blasted off with water. Need I say more?

Knowing all of this has never and will never stop me loving Chorizo. The wonderful thing about it is you don't need much, which suits me perfectly when I want flavour and meat but attempting to keep fat low. This recipe satisfies the healthy eater in me but also the meat lover and I was really pleasantly surprised. I will definitely be making this again and again.

Saturday, 7 March 2015

Grahams Guacamole

I hate avocados! 
Or I should make that hated avocados. I last tried them when my son was young and I wanted him to taste a wide variety of foods. I remember tasting one and spitting it out thinking it tasted like grass! I did, however, go on to make a Gillian McKeith pudding (during my oober healthy years), consisting of avocados, dates and lemon. 

I hate tomatoes! 
I have always hated tomatoes. Yet for many years I have wanted to like them. I can handle them cooked, I like them in curries, tomato sauce, soup etc but I still cannot bare them raw.

Knowing all of this information, my boyfriend insists on making me guacamole. It was early days in our relationship and I worried I wouldn't be able to control my gag reflex sufficiently to disguise my sheer hatred of such a concoction. I don't remember watching him make that first batch but I have since seen him make many a batch and have even made one myself and I confess, I love it. 
I don't know if it's the combination of all the ingredients but some kind of magic happened. I ate the first lot with trepidation but surprise. The second lot was from genuine enjoyment and the third was pure love, I genuinely loved it.

I have tried avocado in other recipes since and I must say, I genuinely enjoy them now but I don't know what happened in that time.  All I an say is don't ever just rule out a food because you tried it once and didn't like it.

On making this myself for the first time last week, I had taken for granted how hard it is to mash avocados. Much to my boyfriends horror ( I suspect, as he was in Scotland at the time), I resorted to a potato masher. Go for it! Don't let anyone make you feel like you're less than awesome for doing so.

I love to use tortilla crisps for this, or breadsticks. Graham uses no-salt crisps.

Grahams Guacamole

2 Ripe Avocados
2 Garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 Tomato, deseeded and chopped
1 Chilli, deseeded and copped
Juice of 1 Limes
1 handful of Coriander, chopped


Half the avocados and remove the stone. Scoop out the flesh of the avocados with a spoon and put in a bowl. Mash with a fork or a potato masher. You want some texture, not a puree.

Add the tomato, chilli, coriander, garlic and lime juice. stir well and taste. Add more lime juice as desired.

Lemon and Lime Tart

This little tart is a definite family favourite. Not a big deal you might think but it is extremely difficult to get my family to agree to anything, much less a food. I'm yet to find anyone who doesn't love this tart and I genuinely struggle to believe that anyone could dislike it. 
There are little tweaks that can be fine-tuned to suit people. I, personally, love the filling to be particularly sour but the balance of sugar has to be right. I like to use a mixture of lemons and limes but either can be used. The zest also gives it a lovely, speckled appearance and colour.

I hate making my own pastry. It's one of the few cooking tasks that I resent. Yet, I can't deny that it does taste significantly better than shop bought, it's incomparable. I think the issue is for me that there are so many things that can go wrong with pastry. It takes a long time and it's not like you know after 5 minutes that it's gone wrong somewhere. Not until you put it in the oven and you see it gradually shrinking away or bits dropping off or you realise you forgot to line it as you see the base rise up, as I did on this one. I promised to share my failings too!

Which recipe I use greatly depends on how much lemon/lime juice I have. It is fine to use a lemon curd recipe, it is the same consistency you're aiming for anyway, as long as you have the right amount of fluid. If the proportion of fluid to butter etc is wrong, it won't set properly.

I tend to use Jamie Olivers' recipe for pastry because I've had a fair amount of success with it and I've had no more success with any other recipe.  I suddenly realised when I checked on it that I'd forgotten to line it and fill it with baking beans an it was puffing up in the oven. I quickly opened the door, pricked the base and this saved it enough to make us usable still.

I have been cooking for 10 years now and I have probably made pastry more than 100 times but I still find it tricky, yet I can make souffle without an issue. My passion is that everyone can cook. It's just about someone taking the time to say, 'hey, I stated somewhere too and it's just about taking it one step at a time'. 


Wednesday, 4 March 2015

Swedish Meatballs and Janssons Temptation


I have a very good friend who is Swedish. I don't get to see her very often, not as often as we'd like but it's always such a treat when we do. I finally had an opportunity to see her and she invited me round for dinner. Given that I had a free Saturday, I offered to cook and take it round to her.

 I love Jamie Olivers book: Jamie Does......... I saw this recipe years ago and thought how good it would be to do it and even better that I could do it for my friend. Now there's one major risk with cooking food  from a particular country for someone from that country and that is..... disappointing them! 

As I layered up all the ingredients for Janssons Temptation and smothered all that fantastic grated potato, onion and anchovies, I could do it was going to be good. It smelled heavenly as it cooked and I was thrilled when I took it out of the oven. It was golden and crisp on the top but it looked silky and comforting too.

The meatballs themselves weren't that much difference, apart from the herbs. Adding dill to something other than fish is unusual but I love unusual. The sauce was more unusual still, with tangy lemon, contrasting with the sweetness of the Cranberry sauce and then cream. I was thoroughly intrigued!

So, how did it all go down? She really enjoyed it and was very surprised that I'd made all that for her. The Janssons Temptation tasted as heavenly as it looked and I would happily make that at any time as a side dish for meat or fish but to be honest, I could happily eat it on it's own with a spoon. 
The meatballs were meaty, obviously but the combination or pork and beef mince worked well, keeping them moist too. The dill was actually lovely and the balance of the sauce actually worked well. I doubled up so I have a few portions left in the freezer, that makes me very happy.

Monday, 2 March 2015

Friends Friday

No-Salt Bread, Leek and Potato Soup & Hot or Cold Chocolate

Fridays get-togethers used to be a regular occurrence at my house. My friends would all come round and I would make something nice to eat. At the time this started, I was self-employed and kept Fridays free. My cousin and one friend were stay-at-home mums and my other friend didn't work on Fridays, perfect! Since i started work in September, it is very rare that we are all free at the same time but half-term gave me a rare opportunity to cook, a lot!

Soup is an easy choice. it's quick, it's nutritious and you can even usually get the kids to eat it too. Leek and potato is my daughters favourite and I never tire of chopping all those beautiful, healthy ingredients, cook them slowly, blitz and have something that not only tastes amazing but soothes your soul. Made all the better with some fresh, arm, buttered bread to dip in it. 

I like to use butter for this soup. In most, oil is fine but when you're sweating vegetables, butter seems to bring out more sweetness and richness. Sweating the vegetables is important in most soups. Don't be tempted to skip or reduce this part, it really does make a difference.
This is the first time I've tried making bread without salt in it but for my boyfriends sake, I thought i'd give it a go. In most things, I don't miss the salt and you soon find ways to flavour things without needing it. I missed it in the bread and then I only had unsalted butter to spread on it. Yet there was still something exceptionally good about having fresh bread. It was thoroughly enjoyed by everyone else.

As for the hot or cold chocolate, my friends were told to bring their favourite chocolate bars or box of miniature chocolates. When we were ready for dessert, I offered them it hot or cold. Cold meant it would be whizzed up with some ice cream to make a milkshake. It seems to be a very fashionable thing lately to make almost anything into a milkshake and I confess to really enjoying them. 

Hot meant deep fried! Now, before you screw your face up or dismiss the idea instantly, please read on. I have never tried it before and I had no idea what I would make of it. It was, of course, born from the Scottish delicacy of deep-fried Mars Bars but, me being me, it seemed a bit easy and predictable. All the adults opted for hot and we sampled deep fried Toblerone, Snickers (My choice, I love anything nutty), Double Decker, Aero and Creme Egg.
What can I say to tempt you into trying it? Imagine your favourite chocolate bar, covered in a light, crispy batter, molten and gooey in the middle, with a contrasting scoop of cold, creamy ice cream and if you're feeling a little fancy, a generous dusting of icing sugar. It is the most intense sensation with so many textures and temperatures going on in your mouth. Yes, it is a one-way ticket to Diabetes but I urge you to keep this for a special treat.

Leek and Potato Soup

30g butter
2 large or 4 small leeks
2 onions finely sliced
3 medium potatoes diced (I don't peel them)
800ml good quality vegetable stock
500ml of whole milk
salt & pepper
Parsley (Optional)


Slice the leeks finely and give them a really good rinse.

Melt the butter in a large pan. Add the onion, leeks, potatoes, a pinch of salt and plenty of pepper, put the lid on and allow to sweat for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. 

Add the stock and milk and heat through for 5 minutes. 

Add the parsley, if using and blend with a stick or in a blender. Test for seasoning and warm before serving.