Friday, 10 March 2017

British pie week: Pork, cider and apple pie!

Apparently it is 'British Pie Week' which is as good an excuse as any to try out a new pie recipe!
I am so used to making a beef or chicken pies, but had never tried using pork. 
So this is a very simple method with a classic flavour combination 'Pork and Apple'. It is delicious and worth a try if those flavours appeal to you! I cooked it in a Le Creuset casserole dish on the hob, then cooked slowly in the oven for 4 hours. However it would work just as well in a slow cooker.

The ingredients are  flexible, I used celery, parsnips and carrots as that is what I happened to have to hand. But I think any root veg would work well. Also regarding herbs, I bought sage especially to use with this, as I know it goes particularly well with Pork. However I added a handful of parsley as well at the end, as it adds a freshness to the dish. Sage and parsley isn't a known flavour combo, but it worked in this case! So that option is your choice.

Ingredients - to feed 2-4:

500g diced pork shoulder. You can buy pre cut, or buy shoulder steaks and dice yourself.
1 stick of celery 
2 large carrots
1 large onion 
1 large parsnip.
100ml dry cider 
300ml vegetable stock (pork or chicken is also fine)
2 eating apples
A little plain flour 
Sage leaves (chopped)
A handful of fresh parsley (chopped)
Ready roll puff pastry - absolutely no need to make your own! 
1 egg beaten to glaze the pastry.


Firstly prep your veg. Peel the carrots, parsnip and roughly chop. I tend to cut them into 1 inch pieces. However if you prefer finely chopped veg go for it. I know my children prefer it when the veg is hidden!Then finely chop your onion and celery.

Heat approx 1 tbsp of olive oil in a casserole dish on the hob and pre heat your oven to 140 (fan). 160 (non fan).

Whilst the oil is getting nice and hot, lightly coat your pork pieces in plain flour. Season well. 
I usually do this in a bowl, but it works well in a sandwich bag if you want to reduce mess! 

Brown the pork in two batches in the hot oil. Turn frequently, you want the edges of the pork to brown nicely, all the slightly burnt bits just add flavour to the stew. Once nicely browned take out of the dish and set aside until later.

Now add the onion to the casserole dish, fry gently until translucent and caramelised. Add a little extra oil if needed. 

Return the browned pork to the casserole dish and mix with the onions and add half the sage. Slowly pour in the cider stirring continuously to make a roux. It should be thick and bubbling. Slowly add the stock, stirring continuously until you have a nice gravy like consistency.

Add the veg. Bring the stew to the boil on the hob and then gently simmer to reduce.

Now peel your apples, chop and add to the dish. I always leave this until last, as otherwise the apples tend to go brown. Add to the stew, stir a final time, turn your hob off and place the casserole dish in the oven.

You need to cook slowly in the oven until the pork is meltingly tender. This usually takes 3-4 hours. Basically the longer you leave it the better. After 2 hours, check on the stew. Give it a good stir, taste and add more seasoning/herbs if necessary. Then leave another hour or so. 

About 30 mins before you are ready to eat, spoon the stew into a pie dish. 
Then top the dish with the pastry. 

* If you haven't done this before, I always cover the rim of the pie dish with a thin strip of pastry, before topping the pie with a rectangle slightly overlapping the dish.
 I 'glue' this rectangular top to the rim using beaten egg. Then firm the edges down using a fork. Then I make air holes by pricking the top all over with a fork. Lastly I brush the pastry with egg and pop into the oven at 160 fan (180 no fan).


Sunday, 20 November 2016

A minimum effort Sunday lunch. 'Pot Roasted Lamb'

A Sunday Roast is sacred in our house. It doesn't matter how busy our day is, we always fit in a Sunday Roast. So many of my friends cannot believe we manage a family Sunday roast every week; but honestly if you follow these steps and cook it regularly, for practise makes perfect, it is totally achievable and the highlight to my week.

With our children's social lives and activities dominating the weekend, I find myself increasingly slow cooking the meat. Lamb is a great meat to cook slowly and without much intervention, as I can't always guarantee I will be at home to bast and turn over the meat. 
With this recipe, you really can leave on low in the oven for a good 3-6 hours with wonderful results. 

I know if I am cooking this pot roast recipe, as long as I have done my prep (as below) there is no need for us to be home until an hour before we are due to eat. Merely to put the potatoes in the oven, make the gravy and put the veg on to boil.

Now my early Sunday morning routine is to hide in the kitchen, turn the radio on and peel spuds and prep vegetables. I find it more of a sanctuary than a chore. All whilst the rest of the family watch TV in their pjs. 

But once my prep is done, I know I can comfortably manage cooking a roast dinner, with minimum effort.

The guide below is for a 1-1.5kg half leg or half shoulder of lamb on the bone.
Which should comfortably feed a family of 2 adults and 2 children. Or an extra 1 or 2 as we often have! 
The veg you choose to serve it with is totally up to you. 

Steps for a fuss free roast:

Preparation: 10-15 mins

1. As early as you can, peel your spuds and place in a saucepan of salted water and par boil. 
I was once told by a friend who makes excellent spuds to par boil them to the point where they look over boiled. The potatoes should be starting to break up - honestly yes try it! 
Once par boiled to perfection, drain (save the water as I use some in the gravy) Leave the potatoes in a colander until you are ready to roast them. You can even leave them over night. Tried and tested I promise! 

2. Now peel and prep your veg. I steam my veg. So I peel whatever veg we are having and put it in the steamer ready, complete with water in the bottom to stop the veg from drying out. 
If you are having parsnips, peel and chop but place in the fridge until you are ready to roast them. 

Meat: do this part approx 3-7 hours before you need to eat. 10-15 mins.

3. Season your meat liberally and set aside. Now peel and chop some root vegetables - onions, carrots and parsnips and leave to one side.

In a casserole dish (or any dish with a lid, including a slow cooker) heat oil on the hob until very hot. Using tongs, put the lamb in the dish and turn around often to brown it and seal it. When the lamb is looking nice and brown all over add the root vegetables to the dish as well as some fresh rosemary (goes without saying). The vegetables add a lovely flavour to the meat as they caramelise in the oven, plus make the gravy taste absolutely delicious. 
Now you need some liquid to keep the lamb beautifully moist. I personally add red wine - which adds a richness.  I use approx 1 glass to 1kg of meat. But vegetable stock or lamb stock is fine. 100ml to 1kg meat.
Cover the dish and place in the oven in 140 degrees C (fan). Leave for 3-4 hours minimum. 
I have left for up to 7 hours and it is absolutely the better for it. 

* If cooking for longer than 3-4 hours without being able to check it, lower the oven temp to 100 degrees whilst you are out for peace of mind.

* If you have time set the table in advance, or better still get someone to do it for you. It stops people dumping their things on the kitchen table when you get home. (Can you tell I live in an all male house?!) 

You are now free to go out for the day! 

4. Once home and approx 1 hour before you plan to eat, remove the lamb from the oven and leave to rest in the casserole dish. 

Final steps before serving: 1 hour

5. Time to put the spuds in the oven: Now make sure your oven is super high 220 C. Put the fat of your choice into your roasting dish - I use olive oil and am very happy with the results. Although I know some swear by goose fat or veg oil/lard. Whatever your pref. 
Heat the dish in the oven until super hot. Place your previously par boiled potatoes in the dish. The fat should be sizzling and spitting when you do this. Place potatoes into the oven. Make sure you leave them for a good 20 mins before turning them over. This seals them and prevents them breaking up. Thus ensuring fluffy middles and crispy outers! 

6. Put your vegetables on to boil. Set a timer for this. Nothing worse than over cooked veg.

7. Time to prepare your gravy: 
The excess liquid in your casserole dish will now be a beautifully intensely flavoured jus at this point, which can be used on its own if you only need a little gravy with your meal. 
However if you like to 'go large' on the gravy like my family here is how to make it go further:

  • Carefully remove any excess liquid from your casserole dish of lamb. Add to a saucepan.
  • Add 2 desserts spoonful of plain flour to the liquid. Place the saucepan over a low heat and stir into the liquid to make a roux.

  • Once you have a nice smooth roux. SLOWLY add some of the saved potato water. Not too much. Just until the gravy has a nice thick consistency. Add a drop of gravy browning if you have it. otherwise a drop of red wine adds colour and flavour. 
  • Turn off the heat and set aside for later.
  • Once your veg is cooked and you are ready to serve. Add some left over vegetable water to your thick gravy, until the gravy is the perfect consistency. 
  • Taste and season to taste.
8. Time to carve the meat- which should actually just fall off the bone! Carve the meat into a dish on top of the root vegetables cooked with it. It all adds to the flavour.

9. Serve and enjoy! 

Wednesday, 19 October 2016

Banana and Berry Loaf Cake

This cake is delicious. Sweet, moist and slightly tart. It is so moorish and not sickly sweet.
It is definitely best served straight from the oven, slightly warm dusted with icing sugar.
It does keep for a couple of days, but can go a bit soggy.
If you know you have guests coming round this is perfect. It can be demolished in one go and everyone gets to eat it at its best.

I am quite a frugal cook. I don't tend to go out and buy ingredients specifically to bake things. I like to use up what I have, or make use of old bananas. We grow berries in the garden and am fortunate enough to be given a good supply by friends and relatives. I get so many over the summer I actually have an entire drawer in the freezer dedicated to blueberries, raspberries, blackcurrants and blackberries. So this is my go to cake if I want to use up some fruit.

For a standard 2 lb loaf cake tin.

2 overly ripe bananas mashed
175g caster sugar
225g self raising flour
100g baking margarine e.g. stork. (or softened unsalted butter).
1 tsp baking powder
2 free range eggs
Approx 100g Berries. You can use a mix of berries or stick to one kind. Blueberries are particularly great. Add them frozen if possible. It saves them breaking up when you mix. Or just add carefully.


1. Preheat your oven to 180C/Fan 160C.
2. Line your baking tin.
3. Measure all ingredients (apart from fruit) into a large mixing bowl and mix well. I use an electric hand whisk. But by hand is fine.
4. When all nicely mixed, gently stir in your fruit.
5. Add the mix to your prepared tin and bake on the middle shelf of your oven for 1 hour. Oven times vary. You may need 5-10 mins more. But if your skewer comes out clean it is cooked.
6. Remove from oven and leave to cool.
7. Best served warm from the oven lightly dusted with icing sugar.

Tuesday, 18 October 2016

Sticky Steamed Honey, Soy and Ginger Salmon

We love Salmon in our house. Sometimes I love to cook it simply with lemon and salt and pepper. But other times I love a sweet and sticky oriental style marinade. I think the flavours go so well with this recipe and I always have the ingredients at home if I need to make it in a hurry.

I love this method of cooking it. Steaming really is minimum effort as promised. You bung it in the oven all wrapped up in foil and the salmon steams nicely inside. The flavours are so delicate and aromatic and it smells delicious. It only needs 20 mins to cook, which is plenty of time to get the veg on, lay the table and get any last minute jobs done before eating.

I particularly like the fact that you don't need to worry about it when it is in the oven. I always used to pan fry it, but it means you are constantly turning over or stirring. Steaming in foil also means less washing up. Lift the salmon out of the foil onto plates at the end. Throw away the foil and the dish should be completely clean underneath! 

Recipe (for 2 people)

2 salmon fillets 
light soy sauce
chopped ginger (I buy frozen)
chopped garlic
chopped chilli * optional
a wedge of lemon
fresh coriander or parsley to serve
salt and pepper

*A sprinkle of toasted sesame seeds on the top works a treat


Pre heat your oven to 180 degrees (fan)
Line an oven proof dish with foil - overlap the dish so there is enough to cover the salmon to cook as well.
Place the salmon on the foil in the dish. 
Add a dash of soy sauce and honey. I use a pastry brush to disperse evenly. But a spoon is fine.
Sprinkle in the chopped ginger, garlic and chilli. I haven't specified qty as it really is to your personal taste.
Season well and squeeze with lemon. Sprinkle with half the required herbs. Save the rest for serving.
Scrunch the foil over the salmon making a tight package in order for the salmon to steam.

Place in the oven for approx 15-20 mins. 
If you like the top of your salmon to be nicely browned and caramelised. Open up the foil for the last 5 mins of cooking and turn up the oven. 

Serve with crunchy veg, or stir fried veg.

This is a seriously tasty, easy meal. I try to reduce the amount of carbs I eat in the evenings. As then I feel less guilty if I have a nibble of chocolate after dinner. 
So this is a perfect healthy mid week meal if you are also trying to reduce carbs.
If you need carbs or are serving it to your children, rice goes very well with it too. 

Wednesday, 27 July 2016

My quick and easy 'Nasi Goreng'

I love this quick and easy 20 minute meal. It is so fresh and tasty and great comfort food.
I highly recommend it if you love Asian flavours, it requires very little skill but tastes so authentic and flavoursome. You simply put the rice on to boil, then whilst it is cooking you can prepare the rest. I cooked it last night and it really was ready in 20 mins I promise.

I often use tiger prawns, or chicken, but it could just as easily be vegetarian. The more variety of vegetables the better. It is a great way of using up fridge leftovers. I often make this when I have a roast chicken in the fridge to use up. Or half a cabbage, 1 carrot and half a broccoli. The variations are endless.

(For 2 people)

150g basmati rice
300g cooked king prawns (optional) or chicken is great.
1 clove of garlic chopped
1 inch of fresh ginger chopped (I keep ginger in the freezer)
Red chilli chopped (I use 2, but use as much or as little as you like)
1 small onion chopped. Or 3/5 spring onions work just as well and add good colour.
Stir fry veg for 2 people. You can use a bag of stir fry veg ready chopped. Or see what is in the fridge. Peas, green beans, baby corn, cabbage shredded, carrots finely chopped, pak choi, mushrooms, broccoli... it all works well.
1 egg (beaten)
Light soy sauce (approx 2 tbsp)
tsp runny honey
Fresh coriander to finish.


Rinse your uncooked rice in a sieve with cold water. Then add to a sauce pan and cover with salted hot water. I add enough water to cover the rice with double the volume. Stir once with a fork. Bring to the boil. Then turn off the heat and leave the rice to steam with the lid on. I find it is the fluffiest this way. Or cook the rice as you prefer! I think everyone has their own tried and tested way.

Beat an egg into a small jug, season well and leave for later.

Heat a Wok or large frying pan. Add approx a tbsp oil (sesame is best but any type will do)
Add the ginger, garlic and chilli and fry for a minute until softened and beginning to brown. Add the prawns and/or chicken (if raw), followed by the veg. If not add the cooked prawns at the same time as the veg. Add a generous swig of light soy sauce followed by the honey.
Stir for 2-3 mins until nicely browning at the edges but not for too long but you want your veg nice and crunchy.

Now your rice should be perfectly cooked. Add to the frying pan and stir so that all the veg is evenly incorporated.

Crank the heat up and add the beaten egg stirring quickly.

Sprinkle with a little fresh coriander and serve.


* Tip. If you have some, sprinkle in some sesame seeds. They work really well and add to the texture.

Thursday, 16 June 2016

A traditional Flapjack

This is such a quick and simple recipe, very minimum effort and also low cost. Perfect for a bake sale, which is good timing as my son has one at his school tomorrow!

Everyone loves flapjack and you can adulterate them as you wish. I have left these plain (which is sometimes best) but feel free to throw in some chocolate chips, raisins, nuts, seeds or drizzle chocolate one them!

If you search for flapjacks online, the choice is endless. They all have the same ingredients, but some have more butter, less sugar, more golden syrup etc...

I have tried lots of recipes. Some are too hard, others too sweet and others fall apart. But this was my favourite. So I thought I would post a recipe of what I consider to be a very traditional flapjack.
They are rich, crumbly, soft and chewy, which is exactly how a flapjack should be!

You can cook them for the full 25 mins and they will have a nice crunch too. Or reduce cooking time slightly if you prefer them softer.


To fit a oblong tin 23cm by 30cm (makes approx 20-24)

450g Rolled Porridge Oats
3 tbsp Golden Syrup
225g Demerara Sugar
225g Unsalted Butter

To fit a 20 cm square tin: (makes 12-16)

350g Rolled Porridge Oats
2 tbsp Golden Sugar
125  Demerara Sugar
125g Unsalted Butter

Method: (This all takes about 10 minutes!)

Pre heat your oven to 160c (fan)
Line your tin with baking parchment.

Weigh out the butter and sugar into a large saucepan. 

Add the golden syrup and cook over a low heat, stirring frequently until the butter has melted and the sugar dissolved.
Take off the heat and stir in the oats.
Scrap into the prepared tin.

Flatten with a wooden spoon/spatula making sure it is nice and evenly distributed.

Bake in your oven for approx 25 mins until they are a lovely golden brown. Let them cool in the tin before cutting into squares.


Tuesday, 14 June 2016

Rhubarb and Ginger Biscuit Crumble Cake

I love Rhubarb and now is the season for it. We have a great patch of Rhubarb growing in the garden and if you have never grown it before I highly recommend it. It seems to get better each year with low maintenance!

I often make a Rhubarb crumble, but fancied trying something different. I have tried 'apple crumble cakes' so thought I would try a Rhubarb one.

I was really pleased with the end result of this and it is particularly delicious served warm from the oven as a pudding. But just as nice served cold with a cup of tea.

You can omit the Ginger from the crumble topping if not your cup of tea, but the flavour is subtle but complimentary to the Rhubarb. So I recommend giving it a try. Another variation that I have tried and tested is Rhubarb and Strawberry. The flavours work beautifully together and the colour of the Strawberries makes the cake look appealing too.


To fit a 2lb loaf tin or 8 inch round tin.

3 sticks of Rhubarb
3 Free Range Eggs
225g Self Raising Flour
110g Caster Sugar
110g Light Brown Sugar
225g soft unsalted butter or stork margarine
1/2 tsp baking powder

Ginger biscuit crumble topping:

100g plain flour
50g soft brown sugar
50g unsalted butter
1 heaped tsp ground ginger


Preheat your oven to 160 C (fan) 180 (non fan) and line your tin.

Firstly prepare your crumble topping. Weigh the ingredients into a bowl and slowly, with your fingers, rub together until it resembles breadcrumbs.

Next chop your rhubarb into large chunks, not too small about 3-5cm a piece is perfect.
Set aside in a bowl for later.

Now for your all in one sponge:

Weigh the flour and sieve into a nice roomy mixing bowl followed by the baking powder.
Then weigh the sugar and butter and add to the bowl. Finally crack in the eggs. Use an electric whisk (or an old fashioned wooden spoon) to combine.

Add the sponge mixture to your prepared tin.

Slowly place the rhubarb evenly on top of the sponge (in case you were wondering, there is no need to stew it first - tried and tested!).

Lastly sprinkle the crumble topping evenly until all of the rhubarb is covered.

Place in the the oven for 50 mins to an hour. The cake should be nicely risen and golden brown and crunchy on top.

Enjoy! I love the sweet crunchy biscuity topping combined with the sharp Rhubarb. This is my flavour heaven.