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Archive for February, 2010

Fish Pie

A few years back, I read somewhere that someone got meal inspirations, from looking at the selection of ready meals in a supermarket.  When I was doing my food shop last week, that’s exactly what I did too.  I passed the frozen food section and spotted a Weight Watchers Ocean Pie.  The description on the box reads: “Succulent pieces of white fish with carrots and broccoli in a creamy butter sauce, topped with mashed potato, crispy breadcrumbs and cheese topping”.

This had me drooling.  But I’ve been burned by the “reduced calorie” flame before.  I’m sure it’s purely psychological, but if I eat something that is supposed to be lower in fat or a “diet” version, it will be a matter of mere minutes before I’m reaching for a bag of crisps, to compensate for “depriving myself” of a decent meal.  I’d much prefer to make my own version, knowing I can have a balanced, yet hearty portion!

I omitted the breadcrumbs and carrots and added mushrooms & cauliflower to my version.  I didn’t look for the exact Weight Watchers recipe, but worked loosely around one I found on bbc good food (it really is my most used resource!)

Ingredients (Serves 4)

600g white fish (I used frozen haddock)

400g frozen broccoli and cauliflower

500g closed cup mushrooms, chopped

600ml milk (I used whole)

1 onion, quartered

2 bay leaves

100g butter

50g plain flour

5 large potatoes

50-100g cheddar (depends on preference, I used lots of mature cheddar mmmm)

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.

Put the frozen fish into an ovenproof dish, cover with the milk, and squeeze in the quartered onions and bay leaves.

Bake in the oven for 30 mins.

Peel, boil and mash your potatoes and set aside.

Fry the onions and boil the broccoli & cauliflower and set aside.

Once the fish is out of the oven, carefully take the fish out and keep aside on a plate.

Sieve the milk into a jug/bowl, and discard the onions and bay leaves.

Break the fish into bitesized chunks, and return to the oven proof dish.  Add the mushrooms, broccoli & cauliflower.

Make the sauce – Melt the butter in a pan, then add your flour.  Stir for one minute then turn off the heat.

Pour a little bit of the milk into the pan and stir until it has blended in with the flour. 

Repeat this process until all the milk is used up. Make sure you stir it well, it will turn into sauce eventually.

Turn the heat back on and bring to the boil.  Stir it at all times (or else it’ll stick to the bottom of the pan).  Cook for 5 mins.

Pour over the fish mix, season well, then mix it all together thoroughly, making sure the sauce coats everything.

Plop the mash totties on top of the fish mix, and spread out evenly with the back of a fork.  Do the sides first to make sure it seals properly (I didn’t do this very well and the sauce managed to peek through).

Cover with as much (or as little) grated cheese as you like, then place under the grill for 15-20 mins (or until golden and bubbly).

And there you have fish pie!

My mum said she would  good money for this in a restaurant.  Thats good enough praise for me!

P.S – Happy Birthday to my wonderful twin Irene! xxx

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When I use the word “gnocchi”, I use it loosely.  I dont even know if I can pronounce it properly!  The gnocchi I refer to today, is packaged stuff from a supermarket; not the “real” fresh stuff.  I’m sure there is a world of difference between the taste, and texture and I intend to try my hand at making gnocchi from scratch one day soon!  In the meantime though, this will do…

My mum isn’t a fan of this gnocchi, as she doesn’t like the heaviness of it, or the thick, chewy texture.  I think it’s one of those bland (but cheap and filling) ingredients, that allows you to experiment to brighten it up!  If I made gnocchi from scratch, I would use delicate flavourings, so as not to over power the taste of the gnocchi.  But when it’s packaged gnocchi, it gives me free reign to combine it with salty meats and cheesy, tomatoey, garlicky wonderment mmmmm….

So I went for this:

Gnocchi with tomatoes, oregano & basil, red pesto, tomato puree, shallots & garlic, chunks of gammon steak and broccoli, topped with mozzarella slices

You certainly couldn’t call this dish bland!  Here’s what I did:

Ingredients (Serves 2-3)

500g  gnocchi (I used this one only 79p!)

1 tin chopped tomatoes

2tbsp red pesto

1tbsp tomato puree

1tbsp dried basil

1tbs dried oregano

8 shallots, diced

3 cloves garlic, crushed

2 gammon steaks, cut into bitesized chunks

300g broccoli

12 mozzarella slices

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees

Fry the gammon in olive oil for a few mins, then add the shallots & garlic. 

Add the basil and oregano, then fry for a further 5 mins.

Meanwhile, boil the gnocchi and broccoli for 3-4 mins, then drain.

Add the gnocchi and broccoli to the gammon, shallots & garlic, then add the tomato puree, red pesto and tin of tomatoes.  Give it all a good stir and cook on a medium heat for 5-10 mins.

Transfer it all to an oven proof dish and top with the mozzarella slices.

Bake in the oven for 15 mins, or until the cheese is golden and bubbling.

Enjoy!

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Nutella Cheesecake

Even the title has me drooling… it’s one of the most delicious cakes I’ve ever tasted.  Although, I personally find it so rich, that I can only manage a small slice at a time.  I’ve seen others wolf down much larger slices though; always a good sign! 🙂

This is actually a no-bake recipe that I adapted from bbc good food, when I first started to try my hand in the kitchen.  I think that I will attempt a baked version in the future though, to give it a sturdier texture.  I made this for a work’s charity bake sale a few months ago, and it seemed to be very well received, even amongst a plethora of divine treats (I had no idea there were such good bakers in my office, bunch of dark horses!).

Ingredients:

250g digestives

100g butter, melted

1tsp vanilla essence

500g cream cheese (I used Asda’s own brand as it was 2 for £1.20!)

100g icing sugar

284ml double cream (I used Elmea)

400g Nutella Hazelnut Spread

Directions:

Crush the biscuits either in a bag with a rolling pin, or with a blender, until it forms a smooth crumbiness. 

Put the crumbs into a bowl and add the melted butter, mixing thoroughly.

Tip the mix into the cake tin (I used a 23cm springform) and press firmly to create an even layer.

Chill in the fridge for 1 hour to set.

Make the filling by putting the soft cheese, icing sugar and vanilla essence into a bowl.  Beat it with an electric mixer until it forms a smooth mixture. 

Tip the filling on top of the breadcrumb base and spread evenly.  Work from the edges inwards and try not to make any air bubbles. 

The last step is to put the nutella on it.  I put the nutella into a microwaveable dish to melt for a few seconds (to make it more spreadable, but not hot), then spread on top of the filling (and try not to eat it all in the process!)

Chill in the fridge for a few hours or, preferably, overnight.

Take it out of the fridge about 1 hour before serving.

Some people might want to let the filling set overnight before adding the nutella topping, but I’ve tried this and it didn’t make much difference.  I just put it all on at the same time and shove it in the fridge so it can all set together 🙂

Certainly not one for the dieters.  I wouldn’t even attempt to make a “low fat” version of this, it’s not worth the deprivation.  Go for a long walk and treat yourself to a slice! :p

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In my last post, I mentioned that I had to use up some leftover sweet potatoes. 

I was originally going to do some sweet potato croquettes, but I also had half a smoked sausage in the fridge, which I didn’t want to go to waste.  So I attempted to make my own little potato cakes 🙂 Even though they were leftover ingredients, I’d definitely go out of my way to buy ingredients in specifically for these.  They’re delicious!  The finely chopped chilli I added to the mix, gave it a wonderful kick!

I made 3 large potato cakes with this amount of mixture, but it can be easily adapted to make whatever amount (and size) you want.

3 sweet potatoes, boiled and mashed.

Half a Matteson’s smoked sausage, diced into lots of teeny chunks

1 red chilli, chopped finely

1 onion, diced

1 clove garlic, crushed

1 egg, beaten

50g breadcrumbs & 3tbsp paprika, mixed together in a bowl

I mixed all of these ingredients together in a bowl (apart from the egg and breadcrumb mix).  Maybe at this point next time, I will shove the mixture into the fridge to stiffen up a bit, as it was VERY messy and sloppy trying to form the cakes!  It looked like this (and yes, I did have a few forkfulls…)

I scooped a third of the mixture into my hand and formed a thick disc shape.  I used my free hand to spread the egg mix over the cake (very messy, but necessary), then plopped the cake into the breadcrumb mix and coated it thoroughly.  I then placed into a large tub, ready for freezing.

I repeated this process with the remaining mixture, then shoved them into the freezer until a few days later, when I brought them out for a midweek meal (accompanied by broccoli and cauliflower mmm). 

I put them into a preheated oven at 200 degrees for 20 mins. 

If you’d rather cook them straight away, you could pop them into the oven for about 12-15 mins at 200 degrees, but I would recommend frying them for a couple of minutes on each side instead. 

I’m glad I found something to do with the leftovers; they would have just ended up in the bin otherwise, and I’m not a fan of waste.

You can make these cakes with practically any leftover; I would love to hear any suggestions of other leftover “cakes”.  Enjoy!

P.S – My internet connection has been driving me up the wall of late, so I’m not able to post as frequently as I would like, OR getting to read all my favourite blogs.  I hope to get this fixed soon though! 🙂

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I rarely have pork.  Not that i dislike it, I just always seem to get chicken and beef instead; a shame really, as it lessens the frequency of producing dishes as scrumptious as this 🙂 I shall have to remember to add it to my shopping list from now on!

I was also glad to use the slow cooker again, as I don’t use it as often as I would like.  The tenderness of the meat when slow cooking is just amazing.  Great for using cheaper cuts of meat too; I would never buy a more expensive cut of meat just to put in the slow cooker; what a waste!

I invented this dish to use up some sweet potatoes and chorizo that I had left over.  I had a bit extra sweet potato left, which I turned into potato cakes (which I’ll post about next time).  This dish has quite a kick to it, which was great when I came home from a blisteringly cold day at work.  Even though there is already sweet potato in this dish, I would serve it with some buttery mash (I would serve everything with buttery mash if I could!), or some chunky, crusty bread to soak up all the delicious gravy!

Serves 4

4 Pork Steaks, sliced into  bite sized chunks (or 600g diced pork)

3 Sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed

100g Chorizo, cubed

2 onions

3 cloves garlic

3 tbsp Paprika (or less/more depending on personal taste)

1 red chilli, deseeded and chopped

800ml Ham Stock (2 cubes I would say)

Olive Oil, for frying

Fry the chorizo and pork chunks in oil until browned, then add to the slow cooker.

Fry the onions, garlic, and chilli in the same frying pan.  Stir in the paprika, and cook for about 5-10 mins, until the onions have become translucent.  Add to the slow cooker.

Add the sweet potato chunks to the slow cooker (I sautéed them beforehand, but this isn’t necessary, I wouldn’t again)

Pour your stock into the slow cooker and give everything a good stir.

Cook on Low for 6-8 hours.

It tastes better the next day, and would freeze well, apart from the sweet potato (turned a bit mushy, but was still delicious!)

It’s a very tasty dish, certainly worth a try! 🙂

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I’ve heard that chicken soup is good for “all that ails you”.  I can’t think of the reasoning behind it, but I couldn’t agree more!  Especially this recipe, of which I have reaped the benefits for as long as I can remember.  Another of my Mother’s amazing soup recipes mmm. 

I used to be terrified of touching raw meat, especially chicken.  It just made my skin crawl and I was always far too squeamish.  There have been many comedy moments, when I’ve attempted to wash a whole chicken, wearing full length rubber gloves (and still shrieking with terror) and I’ve been known to persuade other people to do it for me, with the promise of a lovely bowl of soup as a reward :p. Thankfully, however, I seem to have grown out of that phase!

This is the easiest soup I’ve ever made, because the preparation is so quick.  Heres what I do (serves 6 easily):

1 medium whole chicken

4 chicken stock cubes

1 large leek, chopped as fine or as chunky as you desire!

1 half cup barley (just a plain coffee mug, that’s plenty)

1 half cup white long grain rice

Wash the chicken (hopefully minus any traumatic episodes), put it in your soup pot. 

Fill with water until the chicken is covered. 

Add the stock cubes, leek, barley and rice, and season well!

Bring to a boil then simmer for 1 hour and 30mins.

Remove the chicken from the pot and stir the soup thoroughly, looking for any small bones that may have fallen off.

Cook for another 15 mins then serve, with pieces of chicken.

You could tear apart and put all the chicken pieces back into the soup, but we usually just keep it separate from the soup and add as much or as little chicken to our bowls upon serving.

This soup is so flavoursome and comforting.  It freezes amazingly too.  Perfect for breaking up a crap day at work, with a steaming hot bowl and some crusty, buttery bread! Mmmmm.  Enjoy! 🙂

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As a Xmas gift last year, I received a gift voucher for a Home Baking course at the Cookery School in Glasgow.  It was a whole day of baking sweet treats, which was great, but my favourite dish of the day was the chicken and chorizo risotto we were taught for our lunches!  I’m a savoury girl at heart, and I have made this many times since.  People always make out that risotto is a difficult thing to do, but I disagree.  As long as you keep stirring the rice whilst it absorbs the stock, you can’t go wrong!

The most important thing I was taught, was to prepare everything before I cook it.  Sounds like common sense, but there has been many a time I have over-browned onions, whilst frantically peeling/chopping other things.  So, for this dish I made sure everything was prepared before I started it, which made the rest of the cooking quite therapeutic actually!

Ingredients (Serves 2-3):

150g arborio rice

100g chorizo sausage, diced

2 chicken breasts, diced

1 onion diced (I also threw in a wee spare shallot)

300g chestnut mushrooms (I like alot of mushrooms)

1 red chilli, finely chopped

1 red pepper, diced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 litre chicken stock (you might not need all of this though)

50g cheese (goats cheese is delish, but I used mature cheddar for this)

Directions:

Fry the chicken and chorizo in olive oil until browned. 

Toss in the veg (as shown on the plate) and fry for 5-10 mins. 

Add the risotto rice and stir for 5 mins, getting them nicely toasted for the best flavour.

Pour in a ladlefull of your stock, then stir and let the risotto absorb it all.

Repeat until either the stock is finished or the risotto is al dente (usually after about 25-30 mins stirring).  It’s important to keep stirring, making sure the rice doesn’t stick to the pan.

Turn off the heat and add your grated cheese, stirring through.

The flavours in this dish are amazing, try it! 🙂

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