The wind is just starting to calm down. Earlier it was howling around the outside of the house and the wind has a bitter chill to it. The weather is a little confusing somewhat at the moment as Spring is trying its best to break through. There’s even blossom on the trees already. Unless we are just left with bare branches from this storm!
Days like today need a bowl of comfort food for dinner and back in October last year I created this recipe that is perfect for today. I actually came up with it for my regular slot on BBC Radio Leicester for using up leftover Pumpkins but you could easily substitute it for Butternut squash. You will be able to knock this recipe up within 15 minutes. So stay warm and cozy away from Storm Gareth and I can guarantee you will be back for seconds.
- 2-3 tbsp rapeseed oil or oil of your choice
- 150g orzo pasta
- 1/4 medium sized pumpkin chopped into 1inch sized pieces
- 1 large red onion or 2 small red onions diced
- 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
- 2 slices of smoked bacon sliced
- A good sprig of fresh sage finely chopped
- 1/4 chicken gel stock pot
- 100 ml water roughly
- Handful of rocket chopped
- 50 g feta cheese crumbled
- handful of fresh flat leaf parsley chopped
- Preheat oven to 200 c fan. Place the pumpkin into a baking tray and drizzle with rapeseed oil. Cook for roughly 15 minutes or until starting to soften and sorting to brown around then edges.
- In a saucepan in water cook the Orzo to cooking instructions ( normally 10-15 mins)
- Then in a frying pan fry off in rapeseed oil the onion for about 2-3 minutes, then add the garlic, stir and cook for a further minute or two.
- Add in your bacon and fry off until cooked and browned around the edges.
- By this time the pumpkin will be done so add to the frying pan the pumpkin and stir. Cook for a further minute. Add in your orzo pasta.
- Then add in your sage, chicken stock and water, stir and cook for a further 2-3 minutes.
- Add in your feta, stir and then add in your rocket and parsley and you are ready to serve.
Even with how many recipes I develop on a day to day basis, it still begins to amaze me when a dish turns out fantastically especially when you were just using the odd thing up in your cupboards and fridge.
It was last month on a Sunday and I said to my partner I was going to do a bit of a fridge/cupboard raid for dinner. I called it a chasseur at the time just because it was cooked in red wine but I’ve decided to call it a casserole as it was cooked the same way.
This recipe blew my mind with how the red wine tasted in it. The wine I use isn’t too expensive but one of which we love in our house. A South African Stellenbosch.
Earlier on in the day we had been to our local garden centre to actually look for another blueberry plant to help with pollination. We did get one. However when we first turned up, they had these huge King cabbages for sale at only 40p! As you can see by the picture below, it had these vivid green and purple tones that were just mesmerising. I knew it would taste nice and would stretch to lots of meals for us.
This was the sort of meal that for an occasion, date night maybe or a Sunday that you are fed up of the same roast, this a great alternative and so easy to cook. It somehow feels a little extra special but still comforting and warming at its best.
- 3 chicken breasts ( Or 1 per person )
- 4-5 chestnut mushrooms sliced
- 1 onion diced
- 1-2 tbsp of rapeseed oil
- a knob of unsalted butter
- 2 garlic cloves finely chopped
- 2 carrots peeled and chopped/sliced however you like
- 1 large leek sliced
- 1/2 celery stick chopped
- 3/4 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
- a sprig of thyme
- a good handful of chervil, if you can’t get use a little parsley and tarragon
- 250ml red wine ( I used a South African Stellenbosch )
- 1 tbsp tomato puree, may need to use a little more
- Chicken stock, Use a 1/4 gel pot or homemade. You need enough to create a lovely sauce. I used about 300ml of water. Add more if need be.
- salt and cracked black pepper to season
- 6/7 medium sized potatoes, I use marfona Peeled and chopped into squares
- A handful of rosemary
- 3-4 garlic cloves crushed
- Plain flour for dusting
- sea salt and cracked black pepper to season
- 1-2 tbsp of rapeseed oil
- Preheat your oven to 190c
- In a heavy bottomed casserole dish, seal off the chicken breasts in some rapeseed oil.
- Take out your chicken once starting to colour and pop aside. Then in the same pan add a little more oil and a knob of unsalted butter and fry off your onions until starting to soften.
- Add in your carrots and celery and stir. Then add all other ingredients . Pop the lid on and place in the oven for about 45 mins-hour.
- In the mean time you can prepare and cook your potatoes. Blanch the potatoes in boiling water for 3-4 mins.
- Drain and sprinkle your flour over the potatoes coating them.
- Place a baking/roasting tray in the oven with a little rapeseed oil in it. Once hot pop the potatoes onto it ( it should sizzle ) with the herbs and garlic and place in the oven for about 15 minutes or when crispy, golden brown.
- Once the casserole and potatoes are done. Best way to cook this cabbage is boil your water first and then once rapidly boiling plunge into the hot water. It will only need about 4-5 minutes cooking maximum and will stay vivid green.
- Once the cabbage is cooked, serve all together and enjoy.
A couple of weeks back, we had the first fluttering of snow this year and temperatures dropped to actually what it should be in January now… 0 degrees. Hurrah! Finally!
My woolies came out and winter is finally here! I do love winter. I do! I love the snow. Also, putting on those oversized coats that you always say you are going to fit into, snuggling in a huge knitted scarf and wearing a pom pom hat. But simply taking yourself out for a crisp, cold winter’s walk and trying to catch what birds and wildlife you can spot. How lovely?
Here is a photo I took on that Sunday of a beautiful wintery scene in Leicestershire:
We stopped at a lovely area we know where you can just sit and watch the birds feeding. We were thrilled to see a great spotted woodpecker, he was a grand little thing. Neither of us were quick enough to take a picture! We also saw a Jay which was beautiful with his flash of bright blue on him.
But thats just me, I love that. More to the point, the food that you can pair with all this winter bliss is wonderful.
In this weather I crave for hearty stews and soups. Don’t we all surely? Dunking that crusty bread in there is food heaven. But do we all feel they are complicated to make? Or time consuming without a slow cooker?
Well, I thought I would show you a very simple way of doing a casserole. I did it after that winter outing but actually came up with the recipe last year and forgot to write about it! I also shared this recipe with my readers of my weekly column in the Leicester Mercury.
Not all stews and casseroles take forever. With this recipe it’s all in the prep, then into the oven and it does all the work for you, so you can sit back with a large glass of wine in front of the fire.
This is simple, affordable food that will blow the cold socks off your friends and family.
I actually created another recipe from the last bits of veg and juice that were left so I will post that shortly too for you too.
Herby Chicken casserole with winter veg and pearl barley:
– 1 tbsp Rapeseed oil
- Chicken thighs (1-2 per person)
- 1 onion diced
- 1 garlic clove finely chopped
- 1 stick of celery sliced
- 2 carrots diced into chunks ( Veg all the same size )
- 1 large parsnip diced into chunks
- 1/4 Swede diced into chunks
– 1/2 tin of chopped tomatoes
- Chicken stock ( 1 gel pot ) to roughly 1 litre of water
- A tied mixture of herbs of Sage, rosemary, thyme, lemon thyme and bayleaf
- salt and cracked black pepper to season
- a good splash of dry white wine
- a handful of pearl barley
- 1 leek sliced
- 3-4 chestnut mushrooms sliced
- If you want to thicken the sauce slightly at the end, add in a tbsp of chicken gravy granules.
- Cook the pearl barley to packet instructions, drain and set aside to pop in later.
* Preheat oven to 190c.
- Fry off your Chicken thighs just to colour. Pop onto a plate aside. Then in the same fat, fry off your onion, carrots, parsnip, swede and celery for a couple of minutes just to coat.
- Add your garlic into the casserole pot, stir and add the chicken back in with the tomatoes, wine, stock and herbs. Cover with a lid and place in the oven for 30-40 minutes depending on how many you are feeding for.
- After 30-40 minutes check on the Casserole to see if veg is cooking well or may need a little water etc.
- At this same point add in your leeks, mushrooms and pearl barley Pop back into the oven for 10 minutes.
- After 10 minutes if you would like your sauce thicker, add in 1 tbsp of chicken gravy granules.Pop back in the oven for 5 minutes.
* After this point, check if it needs seasoning and then you are ready to serve. I served mine with Mustard mashed potato by adding dijon mustard to how you would normally do your mash.
Nowadays we use mince in our shepherds pies, however back in Victorian times they would always use up their leftover roast meat as a frugal way of living. It must have been some treat back then as it still has a certain endurance about it every time I eat it. The same with a cottage pie also, which if some of you aren’t aware, that is used with beef mince or in this case would have been leftover from your roast the previous day.
I love doing this and creating different recipes with the leftover meat than just putting it cold into a sandwich for lunch the next day.
This way definitely gives more flavour I feel to the dish, a deeper earthier taste. Plus it brings a coarse texture that can be more appealing to others also. Plus it’s less fatty.
This meat was taken from just a fore leg of Lamb, a bit like a large shank that I managed to buy and I got two huge parts of the leg for only £8! Down from £21! What a bargain!
So you see my readers, not always is a roast an expensive dinner, it’s looking for that bargain first and it’s also what you manage to get out of it.
(Using leftover Roast Lamb)
Ingredients: (Serves 4 approximately )
- Roughly 6 floury potatoes such as Maris piper, wilma or marfona peeled and cut into even size chunks.
- 100 ml double cream
- a good size knob of unsalted butter
- Salt and pepper to season
- 1 tbsp rapeseed oil
- approximately 400g leftover Roast Lamb meat coarsely chopped
- 1 large onion diced
- 1/2 leek sliced thinly
- 1 carrot finely diced
- 1/2 celery stick finely chopped
- 1 clove of garlic finely chopped
- a small sprig of thyme
- Any gravy/juices/stock saved from the joint, use for a sauce
- 1 tbsp tomato puree
- a good splash of red wine such as a cabernet sauvignon/merlot or Cotes du Rhone
- a few splashes of Worcester sauce
- a few grinds of cracked black pepper
- Salt if needed or if too strong tasting, use a pinch of caster sugar to even out.
* Boil potatoes in a pan of boiling water until tender. Drain and mash the potatoes adding the ingredients to it. Set aside.
- In a hot frying pan pop in your rapeseed oil and fry off your onion for about 2-3 minutes. Then add your celery and carrot and fry off for another minute.
- Add in your leeks to the mixture, fry of for a further minute and then add in your garlic and thyme.
- Add your chopped meat, gravy/juices,tomato puree, Worcester sauce, wine, pepper stir and leave to simmer for 20 minutes.
- Taste as you go along and you can add more wine or water as you wish if it becomes dry.
- When the mixture is reduced down to a gravy like sauce and the meat is tender again pop into a pie dish, top with your mash and roughen the mash with a fork.
- Then place into the oven for another 20 minutes or when the topping is golden brown and bubbling at the edges.
* Serve on its own or with some green vegetables and a glass of red.