Sunday, 15 March 2009

Stilton and Pesto mushrooms: (Serves 2)

This is a very quick cheaty type way to do a nice little starter.

De- stalk and roast 8 medium sized mushrooms in the oven, in a roasting dish lined with olive oil a little garlic, and a splash of white wine.
Roast them for about 30 minutes at 180 degrees.
Meanwhile chop up some blue stilton cheese (about 50 g), mix in a small bowl with 3 tea spoons of pesto, and a splash of olive oil.

Take the mushrooms out of the oven, and using a teaspoon, squash the cheese and pesto mix into each mushroom. Place back in the oven for 5-10 minutes.

Done! Serve with a dot of fresh pesto. Looks and tastes great!

Thursday, 12 March 2009

Onion, Mustard & Ale Soup

Ingredients: (serves 4 approx)

4 large onions
1 tablespoon of coarse grain mustard
1 bottle of brown ale (I use Mann's but any will do such as Newcastle brown etc)
1 average sized spud
Knob of butter or alternative
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1/2 a pint of veg stock (I use swiss veg bouillion)
Salt and pepper to taste
50g of mature cheddar cheese to garnish


Peel the spud and chop into 4, put on the boil... then whilst this is boiling, melt the butter slowly in a large pan and cover with the olive oil, avoiding burning, add salt and pepper to taste.

Roughly chop the onions and put them into the melted butter and oil mixture.

Stir through, coating all the onions. Add the mustard and a couple of splashes of the ale and stir though coating the onions. Cook on a low-medium heat for about 10 mins, keeping stirring.

Then begin to add the rest of the ale bit by bit, and stir through. You may not need the whole bottle. I find about 2/3rds is enough and leaves you some to drink whilst you are slaving over a hot stove.. but it depends how thick you like your soup!

Once the spud is cooked through add this and stir in, add the stock.. again dependant on how thick you like your soup and stir. Leave all this to simmer for about 20 mins on a low heat with the lid on.

Then blitz the lot with a hand held blender.

Serve topped with a bit of grated cheddar, and salt and pepper to taste.

Saturday, 7 March 2009

What makes blogging worthwhile...

....when someone recognises what you're about and gives you some recognition for who you are and what you're on about right out of the blue.

This happened when the Three Legged Cat gave us a mention on their fantastically imaginative blog.

So hello to you from us and Bob!

PS we installed Bob's private entrance in the back door this week. The hilarity has been immense. How one small cat can get so confused about one small flap I'll never know. I never imagined myself pleading lovingly through a piece of plastic patiently persuading my little fella to come in out of the rain...I wouldn't mind but he seems to able to use it just fine when we're not around! Cats are fascinating....

Monday, 23 February 2009

Making it up as you go along...

Today I decided that I wanted to make something warming and hearty. A stew would be nice.. so in my usual way, I decided to just go for it & make one, deciding as I went along what I was going to do. I find these recipes (if you can call them that! ) are the ones I go back to again and again, this one being no different!

Again this doesn't take long to prepare, so no excuses that there isn't enough time! I got this ready to leave bubbling away in the pan in less time than it took to listen to my favourite album of the moment by Mr & Mrs, which contains just the 10 quality tracks.

So here goes...I don't have a name for it so it's going to be, "Spicy make it up as you go along Hotch-Potch Stew... "

Ingredients: (serves 4)

2 cloves of garlic
2 small fresh chillies
3 teaspoons of paprika
a large glass of red wine
1 tables spoon of olive oil
100g of green beans
1 tin of back eyed beans
1 tin of cannellini beans
1 yellow pepper
1 red pepper
1 large onion
1 carton of freshly chopped tomatoes
5 large potatoes peeled and cut into halves
2 tea spoons of veg stock
a few drops of Tabasco
1 desert spoon of butter or alternative
salt and pepper to taste


Heat a large casserole/sauce pan, and add the olive oil, paprika, Tabasco, half the red wine, and a pinch of salt and pepper. (dependant on your taste for spice, you can reduce the chilli amount or lose the Tabasco.. but I like it hot!)

Chop the garlic, chillies, onion and pepper, and add to the hot pan, coating in the oil and wine mixture. Put the lid on and cook for about 5 minutes on a medium heat.

Add the rest of the wine, the chopped tomatoes, and the beans (all 3 types). Stir all this through. Then add the potatoes, and fill with enough water to cover all the veg. Add the stock and stir thoroughly, then as the mixture begins to boil add the butter (this helps the sauce to thicken once reduced).

Turn the heat down to minimum, and then go and do something else exciting for about 1 hr 45 mins (although you may need to pop back for a quick stir).

This is one of those dishes that benefits from slower cooking. The longer and slower you simmer, the more the flavours begin to fuse. It has a short preparation time, and no effort to let it cook down nicely, just a little patience if you are hungry!

Once it has reduced down and the sauce thickened check the spuds are done (nothing worse than a hard spud.. but if you've left it long enough they will be nicely cooked!), and then enjoy with a nice warm crusty roll! (If your sauce is too thin add a little more butter, leave to cool then bring to the boil again).

Easy, hearty, made up in an instant, and not too fattening!

Jane x

Monday, 16 February 2009

Lemon & Poppy Seed Drizzle Cake

Neither of us are big cake eaters, or sweet stuff of any kind really. But we do not enjoy the odd bit of home-baked cake. Shop bought cake tastes....well that's the point really, often it doesn't taste of anything!

Lemon cake is perfect for me as it combines sweet and sharp. It's almost like not actually eating cake!

Anyway, this is an easy cake to make, it looks beautifully rustic, and is delicious in the afternoon with a nice cup of tea.


2 large eggs
125 ml vegetable/sunflower/extra virgin oil
175 g caster sugar
zest of 3 lemons
3 tablespoons poppy seeds
125 ml milk

250g self-raising flour

& for the top:

The juice of the 3 lemons
4 tablespoons sugar

(Soak the poppy seeds in the milk for at least an hour before you make the cake)


Pre-heat the oven to 180c

Beat the eggs, sugar, oil, lemon zest, milk & poppy seeds in a bowl

Add the flour & mix in to form a batter

Tip into a 2lb loaf tin (lined or greased & floured)

Bake for 40-50 mins (depending on your oven) on the middle shelf

While it's baking, mix the juice of the lemons with 4 tablespoons of sugar

Check the cake's done by poking with a skewer. As it's such a light coloured batter you'll pretty much know by the colour of the top. If it's burning, it's done!

Poke a skewer into the top of the cake in several places. Tip the lemon/sugar all over the top of the cake.

Leave for 20 mins and then tip out to cool



Ali :-)

Saturday, 14 February 2009

Easy Lentil Dhal/Soup

Lucy, this one's for you...

This is a very simple dish that can be transformed easily into something much more exciting.

I used to think cooking dhal would be an exact science but I learned from a friend it was an incredibly simple and basic dish that is easy to cook, nourishing & heartwarming, but could also be used as a base for curries. I make a big pot at the start of the week and take it to work for lunch. It's even better after a day or 2 as the spices have been really absorbed into the lentils.

To make the dhal I made today, I used 250g dry red lentils bought from our local supermarket, which to cook require a fast 10 minute boil in a pan of water (skimming off the foam that appears on top), followed by a 15 minute simmer. Make sure you don't let the pan boil dry & top up the water if necessary. (You can use tinned lentils or chick peas and just warm them up in a pan. But I prefer using dried, and it's cheaper!

If you want to make the cheapest and easiest dhal, just add a couple of teaspoons of curry powder* to the pan of cooked lentils, stir and Bob's your uncle!
If you like, add water (or stock for more flavour) to get your perfect consistency, depending on whether you want a bowl of soup or something you can eat with a fork. Season with salt & pepper.

You can, however, make it a little more exciting than that.

Whilst my lentils were cooking I fried a red onion, added 2 green chillies and a clove of garlic. I added this to the cooked lentils along with the curry powder & a teaspoon of paprika. (A couple of drops of Tabasco add a richer flavour too.) I do like my food spicy!

I can't honestly say there are many things I find more warming & satisfying on a winter's day than a bowl of dhal and a crusty roll.'s incredibly cheap, which is an extra bonus! Go on Lucy, give it a go :-)
Ali x

*At the moment I am using Hot Curry Powder, which contains Coriander, Turmeric, Cumin, Cardamom, Black Pepper, Star Anise, Cayenne Pepper, Garlic, Salt, Cloves & Bay Leaves - what a heavenly mix that is. To be honest I no longer faff about buying all these things separately as they more often than not end up going to waste. Obviously though, if you are a purist you will want to create your own curry spice mix, which is also good.


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