Vegetable Risotto

1 finely diced onion

2 ribs of diced celery (optional)

1 diced carrot (optional)

2 cloves of garlic

400g arborio rice

1 small glass of wine (about 120ml)

1.5 litres stock (My favourite is Marigold Bouillion)

2 tablespoons butter


freshly grated parmesan, to taste

salt and pepper



This is a great base recipe and can be adapted to lots of different flavours. The carrot and celery is optional, but does up the vegetable quotient. I have added roasted veg, a blob of pesto, pancetta, frozen peas and sweetcorn, leftover roast chicken, prawns or even a poached egg. The combinations are endless. It’s also lovely just as is.


Firstly, boil your kettle. You will make the stock (either homemade or with a cube or boullion) and leave it simmering in a pot on the hob, beside your risotto pan.

Melt the butter and a teaspoon of oil in a large wide bottomed pan. Add the onion and garlic and cook over a medium low heat until gently softened.

Now turn the heat up a little and stir in the rice, letting it cook for a minute.

Now add the wine and cook for one to two minutes – the alcohol will cook off.  Next, turn the heat down a little and add the stock, ladle by ladle slowly stirring until each ladle is absorbed into the rice. You’ll want to let the rice gently break down and soften. This will take about 20-25 minutes.

The risotto will be ready when it is al dente and the stock has been absorbed – Note you may not need all the stock, this is about knowing by eye when you have used enough.

Now add the second spoon of butter and stir into the risotto. Serve with lots of grated parmesan.

Mushroom and vegetable risotto, with rocket

Leftover chicken and chorizo risotto

Roast mixed veg and pancetta

Simple pea and sweetcorn, with optional roast mushrooms!

Finely diced veg and pancetta – the ultimate fave in our house


Chicken with tarragon and sundried tomatoes



This is an old favourite of ours and one we ate all the time pre-children! It was fast to make coming in from work and yielded a speedy tasty bite (in front of an episode of the Sopranos, glass of wine in hand – how times have changed!) Be sure to marinate the chicken first though, so that you are ready to go.

The following feeds two generously:-


2-3 chicken breasts, sliced

2 tablespoons paprika

1-2 lemons juiced (depending on the yield, usually  one and half – enough for around 5 tablespoons)

2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon

2 cloves of garlic, minced

3 tablespoons creme fraiche

100g sundried tomatoes in oil, drained and chopped

salt and pepper

some reserved pasta water

200g pasta (tagliatelle or pappardelle are nice here; any will do!)

Mix the lemon juice, garlic paprika and tarragon in a (non metallic) bowl, then add in the chicken and some seasoning and mix well to coat. Cover and leave to marinate in the fridge for at least 1 hour (this can be done up to the day before.

When ready to cook, put your pasta on.  You will need to reserve some of the cooking water, I usually scoop out 200 mls towards the end of cooking (just shy of a cup) but rarely use it all. Don’t forget to do this before the pasta is drained! (this has happened)

Heat a spoon of oil in a large frying pan and add the chicken, reserving the marinade for later. Fry this off sealing it well. Because the meat is quite finely sliced, it won’t take long to cook through.

Now add the reserved marinade, plus a bit of the pasta water and stir to make a bit of a sauce, enough that will coat the pasta.

Follow by adding the tomatoes and creme fraiche and allow this to heat through, stirring gently to incorporate.

Now add the cooked drained pasta and mix gently to coat in the sauce and serve. 


Butternut Squash Bean Bake

This recipe is based on one from Ashley Rodriguez and her lovely book Date Night In, which is full of lovely decadent ideas. I have adapted it somewhat for a weekday night to serve squash and beans without using a tin of tomatoes! Full of autumn flavours and if you use the frozen squash, or even one that is in the bottom of your fridge, practically storecupboard friendly. While she goes all out with crispy shallot crumbs, I have included panko here, which is more doable on a weeknight, though the shallot crumbs are delectable. I’ve also tried it with rosemary which I love, so feel free to use either.

I do confess to having frozen squash and frozen diced onions for emergencies in my freezer – yes I am a heathen. But sometimes it may just be the difference in getting something on the table and not 🙂 This serves four very generously indeed!

500g butternut squash (I have used a bag of frozen squash with great success – it’s very handy and cuts out the chopping of a weekday)

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 tins of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed (butter beans work well too if that’s what you have)

150-200mls double cream (decadent I know!)

2 tblsp of fresh sage or rosemary, minced

a grating of nutmeg (if you have it)

50g cheddar, grated(plus optional extra tblsp for topping)

100g panko breadcrumbs, to top

salt and pepper to season

oil for cooking


Start by preheating your oven to 180 and roasting your cubes of squash on a parchment lined tray for 20 minutes – they don’t need to be totally cooked through, but not like bullets. Set aside and leave the oven on if you’ll be popping the casserole in again. Butter a casserole dish – a small lasagne sized one is perfect for this.


Then heat a spoon of oil in a large sauté pan and gently fry the onion until softened. Then add in the garlic and stir for a minute or two. Now add the beans and the herb of choice, followed by the squash and stir gently to combine. Stir in the cream (you want it to be quite creamy so it doesn’t dry out while baking) and bring to a gentle simmer for a few minutes.

Add the cheddar, season well and turn off the heat. Stir gently, before decanting into the prepared casserole dish. Top with the panko and some cheddar if you like and bake for 15-20 minutes in the oven until golden and bubbling.

Slow Cooker Swedish Style Meatballs

These are handy little fellas for a weekday arsenal. I make the double batch as listed below and freeze half. Then I can defrost the leftovers and reheat gently in the pan. A handy way to prep them is to make up the meatballs the day before, then hop them off the pan (two minutes literally) in the morning and leave them on all day. The recipe makes about 35 or so meatballs, large walnut sized, serving four. The original recipe is in BBC Good Food magazine, but I have adapted it a little here, in terms of quantity and the addition of dill plus the slow cooker option.

1 small onion chopped

150g breadcrumbs

400g lean pork mince

400g turkey mince

nutmeg, grated

1 tblsp of chopped flatleaf parsley

1 tblsp of chopped fresh dill

2 tblsp plain flour plus extra to dust the meatballs

2 tblsp butter

500ml beef stock (I used a knorr stock pot)

4 tblsp cream

oil for frying the meatballs

Begin by blitzing the pork, turkey, onion, breadcrumbs, herbs, nutmeg and salt and pepper in a food processor. Pulse until combined but not a paste! Roll into small meatballs (I like to do this on a large piece of parchment paper on my counter to minimise the raw meat spatter everywhere)

Dust with flour (if you are prepping in advance, leave the flour until just before you are browning them in the pan so they don’t get that weird pasty coating in the fridge)

Heat the oil and brown the meatballs in two batches, it will take only a few seconds in a hot pan – this is mostly all aesthetic plus it locks in a little flavour, otherwise they will look as grey as a Monday afternoon in February and entirely unappetising to eat. The first ones will be coloured up nicely by the time you make your way around the pan. Transfer them directly to your slow cooker pot.

Now melt the butter in the pan, adding the flour when it starts to foam, letting it cook for a minute or two.

Slowly add the stock, whisking all the time.

Let it bubble for a few minutes until it thickens, then add in the cream and stir.

Pour over the meatballs and set to low for six hours.

Serve with mash or pasta or rice is lovely too.


Chipotle Salmon Fishcakes

These little beauties came about from an ostensibly long list of ingredients – but bear with me! Most of them are storecupboard and then you really just need a pack of salmon darnes. I’ll even wager one of those packs of precooked hotsmoked salmon fillets  wouldn’t be the worst to use in a pinch either. The recipe will make about eight to ten  6 – 8cm cakes. The first time I made them we ate them in the small size with a dip and a beer, the second time I made them slightly larger with a salad for dinner. You can exchange the lime for lemon or use a mix of the two.  The recipe would feed approx three adults with sides.

2 salmon darnes (240-250g total)
1 shallot finely diced
a three finger pinch of dried chipotle chilli flakes
fresh basil and dill, finely chopped – a nice handful 😉
2 tblsp chopped capers
50g mayo
1 tsp lime zest
1 tblsp lime juice
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 heaped tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp smoked paprika
50g panko breadcrumbs and more for coating the cakes
1 egg
salt and pepper to taste
oil for frying

creme fraiche mixed with lime zest and chopped fresh basil to dip

Begin by preheating your oven to 180c and lining a small tin with foil and a slick of oil. Season the darnes and lay them on the foil. Roast in the oven until just cooked, then set aside to cool.

Meanwhile mix the egg, breadcrumbs, capers, garlic, fresh herbs, mayo, lime zest and juice, spices and dijon together with some seasoning in a bowl. Add the cooled salmon in flakes and mix until combined.

Now shape them into cakes, they can be stored covered in the fridge until ready to cook.

When you are ready to cook, heat a few spoon of oil in a large frying pan until medium hot (not mad not or the cakes will scorch) place the remaining panko breadcrumbs on a plate and briefly turn each cake in the crumbs, pressing gently, before adding to the pan – you may have to do this in batches.

They should take a few minutes each side depending on the thickness – you can press each cake down slightly if you like. Keep them warm in the oven while you cook the rest and then serve with the dip and a cold beer!


Slow Cooker Spaghetti Bolognese

So we did eventually get through January  but yet I can’t quite see the end of cold weather.  That does not seem fair, right?! Life is picking up pace and dinners are a little more, well dull and while it’s too difficult to heave oneself onto the saintly side of the table (well me anyway) during the week I am looking for simple and comforting, but not at the expense of time and labour. I know the title probably excited nobody, but bear with me. This gem yields stealthy reward for little or no early-in-the-day effort. All it asks is that you give it five minutes of your time and that glass of wine that you are NOT having till Friday right?! My kids love spag bol and this makes a nice big double portion -one for now, one for the freezer. Win win.

800g mince beef – I use the the 5% fat for this one (Aldi 380g packs of organic lean mince are spot on)
1 large onion, diced (Or cheat and use your eye to measure the same quantity of frozen diced onions!)
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
130g pack of diced pancetta
2 tblsp dried oregano
1 tblsp dried marjoram
1 tsp brown sugar
1 tblsp balsamic vinegar
1 x150g tin tomato puree

2 tins of  diced tomato
150ml red wine

salt and pepper to season

Panfry the pancetta in a small pan – briefly – it does not have to be cooked through. Mix remaining ingredients in the slow cooker and then add in the pancetta.

Set on low for 8 hours.

Serve with spaghetti and oodles of freshly grated parmesan.

Home made Hamburgers with Bacon Jam

We have been feasting on yummy bacon jam this week. On our burgers, on a fried egg, on an open goat cheese sandwich, on a spoon (hmm) It’s quite the friend to lots of things. The following recipe is dead easy and requires just a gentle eye and slow cooking and bubbling. The reward is great and it measures a decent jar, which keeps for about a week in the fridge, theoretically.  I’ve included a recipe for homemade hamburgers too, one of the ways of channelling said jam to your belly!

Homemade Bacon Jam

260g pancetta (basically two of the double packs from the supermarket)

1 large onion, diced

2 tsp liquid smoke (if you don’t have this you can use the smoked pancetta – it does add a lovely flavour)

2 tblsp dark brown sugar

3 tblsp maple syrup

3 tblsp cider vinegar

3 tblsp strong coffee

water, as needed throughout

In a heavy pot, begin by frying the pancetta until it begins to crisp, remove to a plate lined with kitchen paper. Add the onion and garlic and gently soften until they being to soften.

Add the bacon back in and all the other ingredients except the water. Cook up until the onions are very soft and simmer on a low head for 90 minutes or so, stirring every so often.

Check every 15 minutes or so and add a few tablespoons of water to loosen up the mixture, stirring it in again. It will smell gorgeous!

When it is rendered, glossy and jammy looking, let it cool and then decant into a food processor where you can pulse it a few times – I liked mine with a bit of texture but you can of course make it smoother if you like. Jam will keep in a clean jar for about a week in the fridge.


Homemade Hamburgers (makes 6)

600g mince beef

1 shallot, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 egg

30g breadcrumbs

1 tsp dijon mustard

1 tsp tomato puree

salt and pepper to season

I mix all the ingredients in a large bowl until well combined. Form into patties and chill, covered in the fridge until ready to cook.

Pan fry or grill until cooked through and serve in a bun (toasted or heated if that is your preference) Dill pickles are mandatory in this house, but the choice of toppings are endless.

Stoved Chicken

This really simple tasty comfort dish is the perfect winter supper solution. It’s almost store cupboard in terms of ingredients and takes care of itself. It gets the name from a scottish dish that uses potatoes and meat cooked slowly together on the stove-top, usually with dripping or butter.  Basically a stew! Whatever the term, it is just the thing for a sharp cold day like today.  The quantities I have given are somewhat approximate as you will need to base them around the casserole dish you use – I use a lasagne dish. what you will need is enough potatoes to cover the dish neatly in two layers.

1kg potatoes peeled and sliced thickly

2 onions diced

1 generous tblsp fresh rosemary finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

butter and oil

8 chicken thighs, skinless (I used boneless but you can use bone-in, which will take longer to cook)

130g pancetta

500ml hot stock

Preheat oven to 150c. Grease a casserole dish well with butter. Place one layer of sliced spuds in the bottom of the casserole dish. Sprinkle half the garlic, rosemary and diced onions on top and season well.

Now heat the frying pan with oil and a spoon of butter and brown the chicken and bacon well over a medium high heat. You are looking for flavour and colour here. Now place these in a single layer over the potatoes. Keep the butter/oil in the pan – you will need this later.

Sprinkle the remaining onion/rosemary/garlic over the chicken thighs.  Now layer the remaining potato slices on top and pour the hot stock over the potatoes and brush the butter/oil/bacon fat over them. Season and cover tightly with foil. Bake for 90 minutes to 2 hours – bone in thighs will require a longer cooking time. You will need to check that the spuds are cooked through.


Daube of Beef and allweek dinners


This is one of our family favourites and comes from Economy Gastronomy by Allegra McEvedy and Paul Merrett, as is evidenced from my well spattered and well thumbed copy, pictured above! This is a little gem of a book. There’s a section of the book devoted to recipes like this one; you devote a little bit of prep, let it cook over a long slow couple of hours, then hey presto you have the most delectable building blocks for a few more meals. It’s just perfect for winter days.

In the original recipe, tins of beef consommé are used, but I have also used extra beef stock cubes instead with equal success. I have made it using half the quantities which I find goes quite far in terms of feeding us, but if you are going to the trouble, I figure you may as well make it as listed and freeze some for another day when you are short on time.

10 shallots, peeled, left whole

350g lardons of bacon

15g thyme, washed, but left whole

5 cloves of garlic, minced

olive oil

1 bottle of red wine

2.5kg diced beef (not too small)

1 litre beef stock (made with stock cubes)

2 tins of beef consommé (about 800mls total)

Preheat your oven to 170C (fan 150C) and put a bit roasting tin to preheat on the hob on a medium heat. Cook the shallots garlic thyme and lardons gently in a few spoons of olive oil until the shallots are soft and the bacon is browning. Now pour in the wine, stirring all the sediment from the bottom of the tray and bring to  simmer. Let this reduce for 10 minutes or so. Gently lay the meat on top (there’s no need to brown it – yay! just season well with salt and pepper) Now pour over the hot stock and the consommé, if using, making sure that the meat is covered. Bring to a simmer and cover with foil, tightly, before putting in the oven for 2.5 to 3 hours. Check after 90 minutes or so to see if the meat it at the stage where it is giving way. If so, then remove the foil for the last half an hour of cooking so that the sauce reduces a little.

This is just lovely served with mash and greens, as the authors suggest. If you do want to freeze it, spread it out thinly on a baking tray to allow it cool quickly before freezing.



Some of this leftover beef is very easy to transform into a tasty pasta dish, I sometimes shake it up with sliced peppers too. Don’t leave the salsa out, this really makes the dish and it is ready in two minutes!


400g of the beef, above

700ml sauce, above

300ml sliced mushrooms

250g dried pasta (tagliatelle, or any wide pasta is good, but any in the cupboard will work!)

salt and pepper

olive oil


parmesan, grated

400g tomatoes, chopped

packet basil leaves, chopped

1 tblsp flatleaf parsley, chopped

1.5 tsp red wine vinegar


Put the beef, sauce and mushrooms into a wide pan and cook over a high heat on the hob for 30 minutes, stirring often and mashing the meat up with the back of your wooden spoon, letting nearly all the liquid disappear. While this is happening, get the pasta cooking and mix the tomatoes, herbs and vinegar together in a bowl and set aside for garnish.

Fold the drained pasta into the meat with a spoon of butter and the parmesan. Spoon the salsa on top and serve with more parmesan on the side. NOM!


Now, if you have not been persuaded to eat all of the above already, you can use the rest of the meat to make a third meal – Pasties! The original recipe calls for swede, carrots, allspice and peas, but I added a middle-eastern twist to mine for a change, but feel free to to add whatever is in your fridge.

300g of the meat reserved from the original recipe

40g butter

200g butternut squash, diced into 1cm

2 small carrots, diced small

1 red pepper, diced small

3/4 tsp sumac

3/4 tsp ground cumin

mint and coriander, about a tblsp each, chopped

500g shortcrust pastry

1 egg, beaten, to glaze

Preheat the oven to 200c or fan 180c. Take your pastry out of the fridge. Shred the leftover beef. Melt the butter in a large pan and gently sauté the vegetables with the spices, covering them with a lid, but stirring regularly. Add the cold meat and herbs, remove from the heat, taste and season if needed and allow to cool, chilling in the fridge while you can – this will make it easier to wrap in the pastry later.

Roll out the pastry on a lightly floured board, to prevent it sticking. cut out 4 x 20 cm circles and brush the edges with egg mix. Divide the meat mix in four and join the pastry together folding it gently in a half moon shape, crimping the edges together. Brush the pasties with egg and place on a baking tray, I find it handy to use a little bit of baking paper underneath to prevent it sticking. Bake for 30 minutes until piping hot and golden.

Spanish Style Pizza Chicken

This is a version of an old pinterest slow cooker recipe that I have been making for a good many years. It’s a handy slow cooker one that pleases the family and is a bit of a novelty both in terms of flavour and variety. The original used pepperoni and my riff uses chorizo with some smoked paprika but both are tasty. Parma ham and feta or cheddar might be another interesting combination. Regardless it’s a very quick midweek solution to that what-will-I-feed-them question. Here’s your arsenal:-

4-5 chicken fillets

2-3 slices of deli chorizo (or salami/pepperoni – see above) PER chicken breast

200ml hot veg or chicken stock

1 tblsp tomato puree

1 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp smoked paprika

3 tblsp sliced black olives

50g grated mozzarella

Place the chicken breasts in the slow cooker and season. Put two to three slices of chorizo on top of each breast.

Now mix the stock with the oregano, tomato puree and smoked paprika and pour over the chicken.

Sprinkle the olives on top. Put the lid on and cook on low for 5-6 hours. Half an hour from the end of cooking, sprinkle the mozzarella over the chicken, cover and cook for a further 30 minutes until the cheese has melted.


Serve with pasta or salad.