Cauliflower, leek and chorizo gratin with a parmesan crumb topping.

img_1281

So, this is my new blog. What do you think?

I thought what a better way to kick start it off but with a recipe that went out on last Friday for one of my regular shows I do for BBC Radio Leicester, “Food Friday” which I have done for a few years now. It’s on my friends show, that of course is the lovely Mr Ben Jackson. I love cooking on “Food Friday” as I love being able to help people think of ideas for the weekend. I normally do something seasonal, inexpensive, fridge raids/leftovers and family friendly recipes. You get the gist.

This dish is a simple recipe for a family of four all put together in one dish.It’s using seasonal ingredients at its best with a little something extra.

You could also have this as a side dish or starter in smaller sized dishes (how I have shown on the pictures). It’s a dish you really don’t need to be accurate with ingredients. You can play around with it a little, i.e if you don’t want to have the chorizo in it, its also great as that lovely parmesan crumb on top gives a special crunch. It would make a great dinner party dish that doesn’t have you slaving in the kitchen too.

It really is a super, simple supper that is inexpensive to make.

Click on this link to hear to me showing Ben and our listeners just how fabulous and easy it is to make.  

img_1282

Half way point!

Ingredients:

Depending on how big your dish is, this is based on serving 4 people in a 25cm gratin dish.

Gratin mix:

  •  1 whole head of cauliflower including using some of the leaves. Florets broken apart and sliced downwards to the stalks.
  • 1 leek sliced thinly
  • 1/2 chorizo ring ( approximately 100g ) chopped into smaller cubes
  • cheddar cheese grated, I used a mature British ( approximately 60-70g )
  • A sprig of thyme, if the leaves are quite large, chop them finely. My herbs are from my garden so I didn’t need to and just stripped off the leaves.
  • 300g carton of double cream ( you may not need to use it all, don’t cover the gratin mix with it )
  • 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • A few knobs of Unsalted butter
  • salt and cracked black pepper to season

Crumb topping:

  •  2 slices of bread ( a few days old ) I used wholemeal which gives more flavour
  • 2 spring onions chopped roughly
  • Salt and cracked black pepper to season
  • 2-3 tbsp Parmesan ( Parmigiana reggiano ) grated some in the crumb mix and some for on top

img_1283

At the finish, bubbling away nicely

 

Method:

  •  Preheat your oven to 180c fan.

 

  •  Blanch off your cauliflower until just starting to soften.

 

  • In the meantime, in a blender/processor blitz together the ingredients for your topping.

 

  • In your chosen dish place a layer of cauliflower at the bottom. Then layer up with your leeks, chorizo, garlic, cheese and thyme. Then finish with cauliflower again on top.

 

  • Pour over your double cream and place your knobs of butter on top. Pop in the oven for 15 mins until things are starting to bubble and brown. Take out and put your crumb topping on. Place back in the oven for another 10 mins.

 

  • When golden brown onto, serve with perhaps some crusty bread, a nice salad and a lovely red wine.

 

img_1284

Diving in!

 

img_1285

Wheres that red wine and crusty bread?

Herby chicken casserole with winter veg and pearl barley


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:




Ingredients:
–   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. 
Method:




  • 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.

Smoked mackerel and pea fishcakes with a green bean salsa

I actually did this recipe back in June this year for my column but I thought it would be perfect to share now as a nice meal change in-between all that Christmas shopping.

These fishcakes are a great alternative for a fish Friday supper. The green bean salsa gives it more of a lighter feel but will still fill you up. 

  So I wanted to show you how easy making fishcakes can be, as having no egg and breadcrumbs to this recipe, it takes less time.  Also this version is  healthier than the usual mashed potato used with butter and cream. 
 I have added the peas into the fishcakes as it’s a great way of getting vegetables  into your children’s diet.
  You can use other strong fish in this recipe but I prefer the mackerel and its great for budget shopping. 

   This dish will be a perfect, lighter alternative for you before all that meat is consumed over Christmas. 
    Oh and a little tip from me also…they are great eaten cold the day after. 


Smoked mackerel and pea fishcakes with a green bean salsa:



Ingredients:
Fishcakes
  • 2 tbsp of Rapeseed oil for frying
  • handful of plain flour to dust the fishcakes
  • 4 skinned Fresh Smoked mackerel fillets
  • 2 Spring onions chopped
  • 500g bag of Jersey Royal potatoes or any other New potatoes halved
  • A good Handful of petit pops defrosted and drained
  • fresh flat leaf parsley chopped 
  • A good squeeze of lemon
  • Salt and cracked black pepper to season 
Green bean salsa
  • Fine green beans blanched for 3 minutes and halved
  • 2 large tomatoes chopped roughly
  • 1 medium red onion diced finely
  • small handful of baby capers chopped
  • half a 180g tin of sweetcorn drained
  • Fresh flat leaf parsley chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste as above


Method:
  • Boil your potatoes until just starting to break/soften
  • Blanch your green beans for about 3 minutes as they still need a “bite” to them then place into ice cold water
  • When your potatoes are done crush them using a potato masher, leaving them still with chunks and add a little seasoning to them. 
  • Take a bowl, pop in your crushed potatoes, flake in your smoked mackerel but also leave chunky.
  • Add spring onions, peas, lemon and seasoning and mix together with your hands.
  • Start to form in your hand a ball like shape and flatten to form a fishcake. dust in flour and place on a plate.
  • Continue with the rest of the mixture.
*  If you aren’t using them all, you can freeze at this stage.
  • Once all formed, in a frying pan heat a little oil and start to fry. Turning every couple of minutes. Once golden brown after approximately 5-6 minutes, they will be done.
  • Place all fishcakes onto Kitchen paper to drain the oil.
*  Put all your salsa ingredients together in a bowl and serve.






Spicy Pork and pumpkin pie

So I’ve decided to post this recipe I did for my weekly column as it was a real winner on Halloween and there are still Pumpkins around. However you can still make it at any time, You could even substitute the Pumpkin for Butternut squash. 

  Here is what I wrote:-
Halloween is upon us so I wanted to show you a great dish that is hassle free for you if you are having a party. 
 Every Halloween when I have a party I want to be able to spend time with my guests and not be in the kitchen all day making fiddly buffet food.  I think sometimes one can feel a little pressured to be able to make an edible “Brain” or witches fingers. 
 So today I have done a recipe that still has a halloween theme by using pumpkin, its quick, simple and very tasty for your guests.
 I’ve used Pork mince in this as 1, its economical so will stretch further for any unexpected guests for you and 2, it goes really well against the Pumpkin however you could use Beef mince or lamb if you don’t eat Pork.
  Another point to make is that I was using leftover mashed potato from the day before, another time saver. 
  Serve this up in bowls to your guests and it will leave them spooked of how good it is.
Spicy pork and pumpkin pie:





Ingredients:
Pumpkin and potato mash:
  • Leftover Mashed potato, (enough to fit your dish you are using, there was about 4 potatoes worth left in mine) 
  • 1 small pumpkin chopped into chunks ( I bought mine from a local farm called Cattow’s Farm)
  • knob of butter
  • salt and pepper to season
  • 1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
Pork pie mixture:
  • 500g pork mince
  • 1-2 tbsp of rapeseed oil
  • 1 onion diced finely
  • 1/2 leek thinly sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • A thumbnail size of fresh ginger grated
  • 1-2 green chilli’s finely chopped 
  • 3 tbsp of mild curry powder or madras, whatever heat you like it.
  • 1/4 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 4 small chopped fresh tomatoes
  • Salt and cracked black pepper to season
  • handful of frozen spinach defrosted and drained
  • handful of frozen petit pois peas defrosted and drained
  • few sprigs of fresh chopped coriander to finish


Method:
–  Preheat oven to 180-200c depending if fan oven or not.
  • In boiling water, cook your pumpkin until soft. Mash with a hand potato masher, pop in your butter, nutmeg and seasoning then stir in the potato mash together. Leave aside.
  •   Fry off your onion for a couple of minutes until starting to soften.
      Add your leek and cook for a couple of minutes also. Add your garlic, chilli, ginger and curry powder and stir.
  •   Add in your pork mince and continue to cook until the pork mince is almost all cooked through. Pop in the tomatoes and cook for 2 minutes.
  • Add in your peas and spinach, stir, take off the heat and pop to one side.

  •   In an oven proof dish of your choice put in your Pork mixture, level off and sprinkle with fresh coriander.Top with your Pumpkin mash and place in the oven for 20-30 minutes or until crispy and brown on top.




Easy king prawn and egg fried rice

There is something I find quite comforting with a fried rice dish. In British takeaways or restaurants we tend to order it as a side dish but I find it a great supper in-itself. 
  I feel sometimes people are a little unsure and daren’t try to cook Chinese favourites at home but they really are easy to do.
   The key to a successful fried rice is to always make sure your rice is cooked and cooled down to cold before frying it in the wok, else hot rice to a hot pan just will stick together. My recipe is done from scratch or you could cook your rice the day before.
  I have used King Prawns but you could substitute to Chicken, turkey or Pork.
  This is a delicious meal that only takes 15 minutes to do, so is perfect when you need to get food on the table fast. Just don’t forget the chopsticks!

Easy king prawn and egg fried rice:


Ingredients:
  • 250g Long grain rice 
  • 2-3  tbsp Rapeseed oil ( can burn quickly, just be careful ) or use vegetable, or groundnut oil
  • 2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
  • A thumbnail size of fresh Ginger grated
  • 2 eggs 
  • 2-3 Spring onions chopped (save some for on top at the end)
  • a few leaves of green pak choi chopped 
  • tbsp of light soy sauce or superior light ( found in Chinese supermarkets. Mine was from Wang Fung Hong in Leicester )
  • tbsp of Oyster sauce ( Wang Fung Hong )
  • cracked black pepper to season


Method:
  • Cook rice to packet instructions. In a sieve or fine colander under cold water rinse the rice until all cold, not sticky and no water at all. Pop aside.
  •   Heat a little oil in your wok and once hot pop in your scrambled eggs, just folding in the wok until almost cooked, do not scramble vigorously.Then place aside in a bowl.
  •   Place some oil in your wok again and start to fry off some of your spring onions, pak choi, stir, then add in garlic and ginger for only about 30 seconds.
  •   Pop in your sauces to your veg, stirring, then add in your Rice, stir or toss all around the wok allowing the sauce to coat your rice. Add in your prawns and cook for a couple of minutes.
  •   Then stir in your cooked eggs from before, stir and add some pepper to season. 
–  Once all is perfectly hot, serve into bowls and place on some finely chopped spring onion.