Archive for August, 2010

Amongst the plethora of blogs nestled within my Google Reader RSS feed, there are plenty of vegetarian blogs.  Even blogs written by fellow carnivores seem to have Vegetarian themes, such as the lovely Wendy’s Meat Free Monday’s.  Apart from my soups, it dawned on me that I really struggle to prohibit meat from my meals. 

So when I found myself with some courgettes, spring onions & sweet potatoes that needed using up, I realised I had an opportunity to make… gulp… a vegetarian main meal.  I have absolutely no desire to become vegetarian, but it would be nice to know I don’t need to rely on meat to complete my meals.

Sadly, I’m still waiting for that lightbulb moment, as I sit here craving a quarter pounder cheeseburger meal from McDonalds. 

All is not lost, however.  The dish is lovely, but I’ll be keeping it as a side dish from now on!

I took inspiration from this recipe for potato & courgette casserole.  I would call my dish more of a gratin than a casserole though.  When I hear the word casserole, I automatically envision sausages or chunks of pork, with meaty gravy’s and such.  Lllarrrrrrrrrr.

Anyway, here’s what I did:



4 x sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into ½ inch slices

2 x courgettes, peeled and cut into ½ inch slices

1 x onion diced

5 x spring onions, chopped finely

1 x sachet cheese sauce (I used this one)

300ml x milk (I used whole)

1 x tsb dried parsley

50g x grated parmesan cheese

50ml x cream (optional, I only used it as I had some leftover)

Preheat your oven to 190 degrees.

I made the cheese sauce by mixing my sachet with the milk; I brought it to a boil then simmered for two mins, stirring continuously. 

Meanwhile, I also lightly fried my onion and spring onions, adding my parsley.


I layered my sweet potatoes till it covered the bottom of the dish.  I then added my courgettes and a layer of cheese sauce.


I topped with my onion mix.

Next I added more courgettes, the rest of my sweet potato, then the remaining cheese sauce & cream.

I topped the whole thing with 50g grated parmesan cheese, covered with foil then popped in the oven for 1 hour.

I removed the foil and let it bake for a further 15 mins, letting the top turn golden and bubbly mmmm.

I could tell mum wasn’t particularly impressed with this as a main dish.  “It’s nice, but it’s missing something”, she said.  I knew exactly what she meant… the dish is just crying out for an accompanying juicy pork chop/chicken breast.

I would definitely make this again, if I ever find myself with these leftover ingredients.  I’ll also be happy to experiment making gratins with whatever else I have to hand.


Read Full Post »

When we were younger, Irene and I used to spend alot of time at our friend Maggie’s house.  Her mum made the most amazing Paprika Chicken dish, and even back then (when I was a sulky teenager, with no interest in cooking), I knew I would want to recreate it myself one day. 

It’s been so long since I last had Maggie’s mum’s Chicken Paprika; I can hardly remember what it tasted like, but I do remember how amazing I thought it was.  So, after extensive research on the many “chicken paprika” dishes that google provides, I settled on a recipe from a contestant of the TV Show Come Dine With Me.  The recipe can be found here

I’ve made a few changes here and there.  I cooked mines on the hob, as opposed to the oven, and I served mines with cajun spiced sweet potato chips & sour cream, instead of pitta bread & rice (oh, and despite the presence in the photo, I didn’t use mustard!).

Ingredients (Serves 3-4)

3-4 x chicken breasts (I used 3 to feed 3, but theres plenty extra sauce for a 4th)

1 x red bell pepper, chopped

2 x onions, diced

2 tbsp x sweet paprika

2 tbsp x smoked paprika

6 x bay leaves

4 x cloves garlic, minced

250g x closed cup mushrooms, sliced

1 x tin tomatoes

300ml x boiled water with 1 chicken stock cube dissolved

4 x tbsp chicken seasoning

90g x plain flour

1 x tub sour cream dip (I used this one mmmm)

First I mixed the flour, chicken seasoning, salt & pepper into a bowl. 

I then coated each chicken breast in the mixture and browned it in the frying pan, with a little olive oil, for 5 mins or so. 

Once the chicken breasts were sealed, I put them in my mammoth pot, to wait patiently for the rest of the ingredients.

Next up, I fried the onions & mushrooms for 5-10 mins, then added the garlic and red pepper.

After frying for another few mins, I popped them into the pot with the chicken.

I added the tomatoes, stock, bay leaves and paprika to the pan, seasoned with salt & pepper, then gave it all a good stir.

I brought to the boil, then simmered for 45mins, letting the sauce reduce into a nice, thick consistency.

I served this with my sweet potato wedges and some sour cream dip (put on the table for anyone that wanted some).

This was sooooo good, the flavours are incredible.

As I said above, I only used 3 chicken breasts.  So I did what I always do with the remaining sauce…  froze it, then used as a pasta sauce!  Much better than any of the jar sauces, in my opinion!

Enjoy 🙂

Read Full Post »

A couple of posts ago, I was bemoaning the fact that there hasn’t been a summer to speak of in 2010. 

I may have been exaggerating, ever so slightly.

I am making this reluctant confession of my tendency to spout dramatic statements, purely because I want to tell you about a BBQ I went to.  It was in May and I distinctly remember sunshine and summeriness… 

Also – the weather yesterday was AMAZING!  I even have a touch of sunburn, along with a hangover from taking advantage of a beer garden in the sun…

Anyway, back to the post.  The BBQ was hosted by the lovely Maxine, and the selection of food was incredible!  Not least the home made burgers I took along (this is not the time for modesty; they were stunning).

Just because the weather is unpredictable, doesn’t mean these beauties can’t be enjoyed once again.  My mum made some the other week and fried them, and they were every bit as good! 

It was some years ago that I came across a recipe that called for stuffing the burgers with cheese.  Unfortunately, I can’t remember where I saw it; but to whoever invented this phenomenon… you deserve a knighthood at the very least.

I made 6 ridiculously large burgers out of these ingredients – I think they could easily make 8-10 fair sized ones.

1kg x beef mince (don’t get extra lean, you want a little fat to keep the burger juicy).

1/2 x onion, chopped finely (I didn’t chop it as finely as I should have in the picture above).

1 x handful of finely chopped fresh basil (for the Italian twist)

1 x egg, beaten

150g x mozzarella slices (I used these ones)

I put the ingredients in a bowl (minus the mozzarella), seasoned with plenty of salt & pepper, then mixed everything together with my hands.  Messy, but necessary.

I took a small handful of the mixture out, shaped it into a patty with my hands, then placed 2 slices of mozzarella cheese on top.

I formed another small patty, then placed on top of the mozzarella, pressing down on the edges to combine and seal the mozzarella inside the burger.  I repeated this for the rest of the burgers.

I put them in the fridge to set, until it was time to go to the BBQ (if you’re not partaking in some BBQ antics, please give it 30mins or so in the fridge to set before cooking).

Shove on the bbq and watch the oozy, cheesy goodness occur.  Turn frequently. 

These took about 20 mins because they were humungous! 

When mum made the smaller versions (she used 500g beef and got 4 burgers out of it), she fried them for about 5-7 mins on each side. 

Serve with your favourite relish and some salad if you please!

Unfortunately I was unable to get a picture of the finished product, sitting proud in it’s bun.  I was too hungry (and possibly intoxicated) to remember to take a photo, sorry!

So I will leave you with a photo of my favourite part of that day… meeting Maxine’s next door neighbours pug!  I wanted to steal him!

There is another recipe to come from this wonderful day.  Maxine’s daughter Celine’s Oreo Truffles!  I will post about it soon, they are almost tear inducingly good.

Do you have a favourite burger recipe?

Read Full Post »

Cream of Broccoli Soup

A few weeks ago, my colleague Kris emailed me; he asked if I’d like to do a soup trade with him once a week.  He would bring in soup for lunch one day a week and I would do the same.  You know how much I love my soups, therefore you wont be surprised that I immediately agreed!

So far, Kris has made Cock-A-Leekie soup, Spicy Tomato & Veg soup, then Squash & Parsnip soup.  To add to the collection, I have made Yellow Split Pea soup,  Leek & Potato soup and this marvellous Cream of Broccoli soup.  Kris said it’s been the nicest soup yet, and I’ve had so much good feedback from all who tasted it, so I thought I’d post it (If you want the recipes for the other soups I mentioned, please feel free to ask!).

I found the recipe and video instruction here on Videojug – I swear I’m getting addicted to that site!

Anyone who reads this blog regularly, knows that I can’t help but deviate from the original recipes…

My version consists of this:

3 medium heads of broccoli, cut into florets

3 x small onions, diced

2  x cloves of garlic, minced

3  x medium potatoes, cubed

1ltr x veg stock

250ml x single cream 

50ml x milk (I used whole)

1tsp x ground nutmeg

I didn’t bother with the toasted almonds; I don’t think the dish missed them at all!

I gently fried the onions, potatoes and garlic in some olive oil, for 10 mins.

I then added the broccoli, stock and cream.

After seasoning well with salt, pepper & nutmeg, I gave it all a good stir and simmered for 10 mins.

I used my hand blender to give it a smooth, creamy consistency.

I had some oatcakes and dairylea slices with this, as I didn’t imagine it would be very filling.  How wrong I was!  It’s deceptively filling, surprisingly rich (yet delicately flavoured) and deliciously creamy (ok enough of the M&S chat).

This was my first time using Nutmeg in a dish, and the subtle hint of it in the soup was really nice.  I’m a new fan of Nutmeg!  What other dishes do you like to use nutmeg in?  Do you do any soup/lunch trades with your colleagues?

Enjoy 🙂

Read Full Post »

There’s a terrible rumour going around.  One of those rumours that you’re scared to believe, incase it might not be true.

The rumour in question is this: It’s summer.

I can’t comment on the truthfulness of it, since I have yet to see it with my own eyes.  However, there does seem to be a hell of a lot of clues to back up this lurid accusation.  Everywhere I look, there are advertisements for BBQ kits and recipe’s for “light summer dining”. 

Maybe I just love my comfort food a bit too much, but when it’s pouring down outside and the wind is blowing a gale, “summer dining” is the last thing I want.

Each to their own on this one, but I can’t comprehend the logic when people say things like “you can’t have soup, it’s summer” or “It’s the middle of July, have a salad”.  My grumbling tummy can’t differentiate between the seasons; it knows what it wants and will stubbornly whine until it gets it.  Stodgy, comforting, tasty food. 

Like this luscious Italian Shepherd’s Pie, crafted by the ever flamboyant Gino D’Acampo.

I adapted mines slightly to accommodate what I had available, but I am sure the taste wasn’t compromised as a result.  Bellissimo (as Gino would say, I assume)!

Ingredients (Serves 4)

500g x lean beef mince

1 x onion, finely chopped

2 x courgettes, peeled and diced

250g x button mushrooms, chopped

1 x red bell pepper, diced

1 x yellow bell pepper, diced

1 x glass red wine

500g x tin chopped tomatoes

2 x tbsp dried basil

2 x tbsp dried oregano

700g sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped into chunks

30g x salted butter

50ml x milk (I used whole)

150g grated parmesan cheese

My mum made the sweet potato mash beforehand for me, by boiling them for 30 mins until soft, then mashing (combining the milk and 100g parmesan).  I find it easier to spread the mash over the mince mixture if it’s cooled.

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees.

First, I fried my onions, mushrooms and courgettes, for 10 mins until soft.

I added my red and yellow peppers, and fried for a further 5 mins.

Then I added the minced beef, separating the clumps of meat with my spoon.  I seasoned with salt & pepper and fried for 5 mins.

I added my glass of wine and stirred until the alcohol evaporated.  I then popped in the tin of tomatoes,  basil and oregano, then cooked uncovered for 30 mins (over a medium heat), stirring occasionally.

Spread the mixture evenly into an ovenproof dish (and try not to eat it all, it is smelling divine by this point!)

Top with the mashed sweet potato, sprinkle with the rest of the cheese and bake for 15-20 mins (or until the top looks crisp and golden).

Serve and enjoy! 🙂

Next time I do this, I’m going to throw in a couple of normal potatoes with the mash, as I think that would provide a more pliable consistency for spreading etc (it felt a wee bit thin on the top).

I opened a bottle of red wine for this recipe, and I don’t drink red wine (rose and white are a different matter altogether, however!).  So I put the rest of the wine into little tubs and have frozen them for the next time a recipe calls for it!

Are there any other Gino D’Acampo recipe’s you have tried?  Please share!

Read Full Post »