Wednesday, 24 February 2016

Feta Salad with Pumpkin Seeds, Pistachios & Mustard

I often ponder whether a recipe for a salad is justified, but when I think how often we resort to the same old style of lettuce, tomato and cucumber (not that I shun this) - a little variation or input of other ideas should always be encouraged.

Soft, salty feta is a welcome addition to any dish for me and with the inclusion of warm, crunchy, nutty pumpkin seeds and a grainy mustard dressing - you've got something aptly suited to side any meal, however that being said split in two this would suffice for a healthy main along with addition of grilled chicken strips.

What went in mine? (serves 4 as a side, 2 as a main)

The salad
1 200g bag mixed salad leaves
150g soft feta cheese (link to my favourite)
75g pumpkin seeds
50g pistachio kernels
2-3 vine ripened tomatoes

The dressing
2tbsp olive oil
2tsps wholegrain mustard
1tbsp lemon juice
1tsp maple syrup (or half a teaspoon sugar dissolved in a splash of hot water)

What to do...?

1. Place a frying pan (with no oil) on to the hob and turn on high. When hot, add the pumpkin seeds and the pistachio kernels and turn down to a medium heat. Give everything a shake/toss/stir/shuffle every 30 seconds to ensure nothing burns. These only need maybe 2-3minutes until they're done, when the pumpkin seeds start crackling and the air fills with a warm, nutty odour - you're not far off.

2. Mix all the dressing ingredients in a bowl.

3. Arrange salad leaves, slice your tomatoes and outline the centre green with a ruby red circle and crumble up the soft feta and scatter. Using a spoon, sprinkle the seeds and kernels over the salad.

4. Finish off drizzling with the sweet, sharp, grainy dressing.

Happy cooking,
The CC x


Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Maple, Chantenay & Brussels

Christmas is that time of year for friends and family, to gather, laugh, spread joy and often indulge in foods completely absent from your stock throughout the rest of the year. It comes alongside the annual family bicker, following a glass of wine too many and grandparents snoring serenely on the sofa – even if the latter is a distant but fond memory held close to your hearts. For some however, it also means Brussels sprouts. This little monster of a cabbage is often feared on the plates of many and if, like me, it is insisted upon you to have at least one on your plate at Christmas dinner – then you’ll be only too familiar with plotting various ways in which to avoid eating even that lonesome one huddled between your roast potatoes.

After 29 years I may have come across a way, by no means new, of cooking these - which I could get very much used to. Roasting with sweet, sticky maple with aromatic orange & thyme lift these viridescent globes to new levels. Their vibrant colour and shape contrast wondrously with the short, stumpy sweet orange of the chantenay carrots and the caramels forged through the process of roasting – add a delightful candied relish.


500 grams of chantenay carrots
250 grams of brussels sprouts
zest & juice of one orange
2 tablespoons of maple syrup
2 heaped teaspoons of fresh thyme (leaves pulled off the stalks)
50g salted butter
Salt & pepper to taste (I like to use sea salt flakes and cracked black pepper)

What to do...
  1. Preheat oven to 180oC
  2. No prior prepping is required for the carrots. Just pop them in a large pan with salted water, bring to the boil and simmer for 5 to 7 minutes until they start to soften. Chantenay sizes vary, so if you have the baby ones – these will need around the 5 minute mark and if you have the slightly larger and thicker ones, these will need closer to the 7 minute mark. Do not over boil as we don’t want orange mulch.
  3. In the meantime, top and tail the brussels.
  4. Strain the carrots and return to the saucepan. Add the brussels, butter, maple syrup, fresh thyme and lots of cracked black pepper & salt to taste.
  5. Tumble these, now glossed, orange and green jewels into a roasting pan and place in the oven for 30 minutes until and golden.

Enjoy this sweetly soft side with roast game or poultry.

Happy cooking,
The CC x

Wednesday, 11 February 2015

Pork and Cider

There’s something so satisfying about the making, cooking, smelling and indeed eating of a warming winter stew – concocted of rich meats and braised root vegetables, but this is a dish that takes a somewhat autumnal approach to the great British classic. While, of course, perfectly suited for winter too, and indeed any season you may wish, the delicate flavours of the pork and smoked sausage intertwined with the textures of mushroom, amidst a rich, mascarpone sauce– make this dish a true delight for a cooling evening.

What went in mine…? (Serves 4-6)

600g Pork Shoulder Steaks (cut into 1inch chunks)
2 x Smoked Cured Pork Sausage (slice into chunks) - available in most supermarkets
300g Close Cup Mushrooms (quartered)
1 x Red Onion (roughly chopped)
2 x Cloves Garlic (crushed)
1 Pint Dry Cider
2 Chicken Stock Pots or Stock Cubes (plus 400ml of water)
2 x Heaped Tsps. Herbes de Provence
2 x Tbsps. Dijon Mustard
2 x Tbsps. Corn Flour (mixed to a paste with some water)
1 x Tbsp. Mascarpone Cheese - thinned into a paste with a little milk (plus extra for serving, no milk)
Salt & Pepper to taste
Knob of Butter
Olive Oil
Fresh Chives (optional, but finely chop for serving)

How I did it…?
If you're using the oven...pre-heat to 180oC.

1. In a bowl add the pork and mustard, mixing until the meat is well coated, pour in the cider – then cover and place in the fridge for an hour or two (that bit is optional, and can even be done the night before!). if you don’t have time to soak the meat, just mix in the mustard and hold off adding the cider until later – there’s no point adding it to just wash off the mustard coating if you’re not going to let it marinate.

If your casserole dish is suitable for hob use as well as oven use, then you can use that – there’s no need to dirty two pans.

2. Heat some olive oil on high in your casserole dish (or frying pan) and fry the pork meat (in batches if necessary) until brown. The temperature will need to be high so that the pork browns and doesn't boil, we want to seal it quickly and lock in that moisture. As each batch browns, put the chunks in a bowl and set aside. Do the same with the smoked sausage, set aside.

3. Add the butter to your pan, and then fry the mushrooms until cooked and slightly brown – now add the onion, herbs and garlic, turning the heat down and cooking until soft. Add the pork and sausage into the onion and mushrooms, drown with the pint of cider and cook on high for 10mins (uncovered).

4. Place everything into an oven proof casserole pot, add the stock cubes, or stock pots, and top up with the boiling water. Cover and place in the hot oven, for 30mins and then turn it down to 140oC and cook for 2 ½ hours. Stirring once or twice throughout this time.

4. If you did all these steps in a frying pan you’ll then need to add them to something with a lid, and if it’s not oven proof - this can also be cooked on the hob on the smallest heat possible for a similar time…ensuring to stir it more frequently to prevent burning at the base.

5. Once the time is up and your meat is tender, while still piping hot – slowly add the corn flour paste and stir continuously until the sauce thickens to your desired thickness. If you want it thicker, make up some more corn flour paste and repeat the above. Remember, sauces thickened with corn flour will thicken only when the fluid is hot enough and will continue to thicken as the temperature increases, so make sure the sauce is fresh off the heat/out the oven and you only add a little at a time. If you've let it cool, heat it back up before thickening, to avoid over-adding the corn flour and ending up with a congealed wobble.

6. Now add the mascarpone and continue to stir until the cheese is fully dissolved into the sauce. If your sauce over thickens, add some more water.

Serve as you wish, and even though not pictured – a showering of chopped fresh chives doesn't go a miss and a gentle spooning of mascarpone.

Happy cooking,

TheCC xx

Tuesday, 27 January 2015

Butter Bean & Belly Bacon Casserole

Given enough time, nothing can beat the tastes and textures of home stewed beans – even when cheating and taking them straight from the tin. Slow cooked with smoky meat and aromatically flavoured tomato sauce…this is a dish great served with a crusty roll and butter alone. Adding sausages, or tender shredded pork or chicken, can make this casserole a more substantial meal - so add to your heart’s desire. 

What went in mine…? (Serves 4-6 as a main meal, half quantities to use as a side dish)

500g Pork Belly Slices (about 5 slices)
12 x Rashers of Smoky Streaky Bacon
1 x Tbsp. Herbes de Provence
1 x Red Onion (finely chopped)
1 x Knorr Chicken Stock Pot (most are now gluten free)
2 x Tins Chopped Tomatoes
3 x Tbsps. Tomato Purée
2 x Tins Butter Beans
4 x Bay Leaves
1 x Tsp. Smoked Paprika
1 x Tbsp. Brown Sugar (more or less to taste, regular sugar is fine too)
Knob of butter for each serving (optional)
A little olive oil
Salt & Black Pepper to taste

How to do it…?

1. Cut the pork belly and smoked streaky bacon into chunks (something like as pictured).

2. Heat a little olive oil in a casserole pan and add the meat, frying until it begins to brown. Turn the heat down and add the onions and Herbes de Provence, cooking until they become soft.

3. Add the smoked paprika, tinned tomatoes and stock cube, mix well and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down to a gentle simmer, add the bay leaves and cook for 1 hour (covered).

4. After 1hr add the tomato purée and sugar, mix well and season to taste with the salt a pepper. When you've got the flavour you want, add the butter beans, stirring well and then leave to simmer (covered) for a further hour.

5. Once the hour is up, check the taste. If it’s too sharp – add some more sugar, if it’s too runny – add some more tomato purée, if it’s too sweet – add a little extra paprika or some chilli powder.

6. This bit is totally optional, but highly recommended - when ready to dish-up stir in a knob of butter into each serving (or about 50g in total for the above quantities if serving it all). This gives it a rich, creamy texture and taste.

Eat is an additional side to meat and veg, or serve with creamy, chive mashed potato, or even hot crusty bread and butter.

Happy cooking,

The CC :) xx 

Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Fruity Ground-Beef Stir-Fry

As with so many recipes, in so many kitchens, that come into existence after a good rummage through the fridge, freezers and cupboards - this stir fry was no exception. Brilliantly easy, as it is vibrantly colourful, and even better if part prepared the day before. The addition of chutney, sultanas and chili give it a sweet tang and a kick that could just leave you unable to resist dipping back into the pot for a little more.

What went in mine...? (Serves 3-4, with rice or noodles)

500g Beef Mince
4 x Tsps. Onion Chutney (any kind is fine)
20g Sultansas soaked in 2 Tbsps of rice wine (optional, but if using do it a couple of hours before prepping the meat mix)
1 x Tsp Ground White Pepper
1 x Red Chili (finely chopped)
2 x Cloves Garlic (crushed)
1 x Packet (approx. 125g) of Baby Corn (cut in half lengthways)
1 x Packet (approx. 200g) of Tended Stem Brocolli (cut into manageable bite-size pieces)
3 x Tbsps. Soy Sauce (I use gluten free, but normal is the same)
150g Closed Cup Mushrooms (sliced) - replace with 100g or less of shiitake mushrooms for more oriental flavours
150ml Boiling Water
1 Tbsp Olive Oil (or your chosen stiryrfy oil)

Feel free to add more chili and soya sauce if it suits your taste...

What did I do...?

1. If you have time for preparation (preferably the day before but if not even an hour before will help), mix the beef mince, chutney, ground white pepper and sultanas plus juices from soaking (if using). Mould into a ball and wrap in cling-film and store in the fridge. If you don't have time, just mix it all together and move onto the next step.

2. In a wok, heat the oil and add the mince mixture - crumbling it through your fingers as you add it to the searing oil. Fry on a high heat, while continuing to break it up with your cooking tool - until it has formed into tiny clumps of browned meat. Add the soy sauce, garlic and chili, turn the heat down and cook for a couple of minutes.

4. Add the corn, broccoli and water and simmer until the broccoli begins to tender slightly - now add the mushrooms and cook until they're soft, stirring occasionally so all the veg is cooked to your liking.

5. Season to taste and served with boiled rice or noodles.

Happy cooking,

The CC :) xx

Wednesday, 14 January 2015

Hungarian - 'Leczo' - Style Soup with Beans

With our immune systems working overtime to beat back the winter frost, what more could one want than the medley of vitamin filled vegetables and tender smoked, spiced sausages in this Hungarian styled paprika soup. This is a dish I've indulged in many times during my trips to Poland, and round at friends’ houses, and my version is branded with it's traditional Hungarian origin, but confusingly labelled 'Leczo' (the Polish translation) - only to be further modified with the addition of hearty beans. Served with sour cream and fresh crusty bread - this is a dish I could devour endless amounts of.

What went in mine…?

Now I did cheat here, using tinned ingredients in some instances – but what’s cooking if we can’t enjoy at least a few of the easier things in life.

Tip: Break up the plum tomatoes by squeezing them in your hand as you add them to the pan (it’s a little messy, but strangely desirable at the same time).

2 x Tins Whole Plum Tomatoes
1 x Tin Kidney Beans (drained)
1 x Tin Baked Beans (plus sauce)
500ml Boiling Water
2 x Courgettes (roughly chopped)
2 x Large Sweet Red Peppers (roughly cubed)
1 x Medium White Onion (finely chopped)
3 x Cloves Garlic (crushed)
200g Smoked Sausage (roughly chopped)
1 x Chicken Stock cube (I use the Knorr Stock Pots – which are now gluten free!)
1 x Tsp. Smoked Paprika
2 x Tsps. Sweet Paprika
1 x Tsp. Hot Paprika or Chilli Powder (optional depending on your pallet for spice)
2 x Tsps. Sugar
Olive Oil
Salt & Pepper to taste
Sour Cream to serve (optional)

How I did it...?

1. In a frying pan brown the sausage in a little oil on a high heat, until the outside of each piece is sealed and nicely brown. Turn the heat down and sweat the chopped onion and garlic until translucent. Add this to a large, deep pan (that has a lid) – keeping as much of the oil/fat out as possible.

2. To the cooked sausage, onion and garlic add all of the other ingredients (except the kidney beans, baked beans and sour cream), breaking up the plum tomatoes into much smaller pieces (you could use chopped) Bring to the boil on a high heat, stirring occasionally and then leave to simmer on lower heat for 30 mins.

3. After 30 mins, stir well and add the drained kidney beans (no need to rinse) and the baked beans. Give this a good mix and then simmer for another 45 mins.

4. Season to taste, adding any more of the paprikas or chilli powder if you desire.

5. Serve piping hot, with a dollop of sour cream on top and a dusting of smoked paprika.

Happy cooking,

The CC :) xx

Wednesday, 17 September 2014

Curried Tuna, Bean & Lime Salad

Simplicity is the key to some suppers, and this one follows suit just perfectly. With ingredients derived from jars and tins, atop a crisp base of fresh greens – it’s a quick and easy solution to fill a hungry belly, while maintaining both health and the resistance to the urge of grabbing a handy ready meal.

Delightfully textured and brilliantly balanced...

What went in mine…? 

1 Tin of Tuna – drained (I like to use the one in Spring Water)
1 Tin Butter Beans – drained
1Tsp Dijon Mustard
½ Tsp Curry Powder
2Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Tbsp Black Olives (roughly chopped)
1 Tbsp Capers (or caperberries, roughly chopped)
Juice of ¼ of a Lime (extra wedges for serving)
Salt & Pepper
Lettuce Leaves (Iceberg & Lambs Leaf work well, Radicchio too) 

How to do it…? 

1. Add the drained tuna and beans into a bowl and mix with the curry powder. Add the olive oil and mustard and stir well until all the beans are coated with this spiced tuna ‘paste’, finally – stir in the capers or chopped caperberries and juice from the quater of lime. Season with salt & pepper to taste, adding more mustard or curry powder if desired. 

2. Arrange your chosen salad leaves into a shallow bowl, with a drizzle of oil and lime if you like, and scatter the curried tuna-bean mix over the top. 

3. Sprinkle with the chopped olives and serve with a wedge of lime and some crusty whole-seed bread.

Happy cooking,

TheCC :) xx

Friday, 12 September 2014

Beetroot & Goats Cheese Pecan Salad

Versions, not too dissimilar to this, are circling cookbooks, magazines and blogs across the country (and indeed probably many more), but it was in fact only when I heard from a good friend that they had a warm, roasted version of this, that I actually got inspired to try it at home. As it turned out I had pretty much all I needed at home, to make a melodic salad of deep purple beetroot and snow-white goats cheese, crowned with nutty jewels and zesty lemon.

This recipe preaches simplicity…and requires no stove or oven time, using ready cooked (but not sliced or pickled) fresh beetroot, and the manual labour lays only in the slicing and the making of it all to look pretty. It is a rewarding salad to accompany your meal, when you have little time to dedicate to that much yearned supper.

What went in mine…?

1 Pack of Beetroot (shop bought, whole and ready cooked) – by all means cook your own!
200g Soft Goats Cheese (the one that comes as a log works well) or Feta Cheese
50g Pecan Nuts
2Tbsps Pumpkin Seeds
Juice of ½ a Lemon
2Tbsps Olive Oil
Salt & Cracked Black Pepper
1 Tbsp Fresh Chopped Parsely

What to do…?

Cut the beetroot into thick slices or small wedges and lay out on your presentation platter. I think this dish is better served on something flat, as opposed to a bowl (so the top layer isn’t left dry), but with a lip to stop the juices dripping off. Cover with a very light grinding, or sprinkling, of salt and some fresh cracked black pepper.

In a frying pan (or in a baking tray – if your oven is on) dry fry/roast (with no oil) the pecans until they whiten slightly (about 5mins), being particularly cautious that they don’t burn. Let these cool a bit on a chopping board and then roughly chop them.

Evenly scatter by crumbling (or tearing), the cheese over the seasoned beetroot. Distribute the pecans over this growing sensuous mound and then crown with a shower of lemon juice and olive oil and a sprinkling of pumpkin seeds and parsley.

Happy cooking,

TheCC :) x

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Linguine with Pork Steaks & a Silky Cream Sauce

When I comes to pasta, it’s more the love of the sauce I have, than for the actual carbohydrate itself, but saying that – whatever shape or form it comes in, it is always a welcome addition to even the simplest of sauces. I was put off by it as it always left me very bloated, and I just couldn’t enjoy the meal, but on discovering the cause of this upset was in fact gluten – gluten free pasta has become a welcome staple in my diet. My new obsession now lies in discovering which funky pasta shapes have made it onto the ‘free-from’ shelf, and face the disappointment of those that are far in the distance (on the shelf they actually belong on).

Sometimes, however, the simplicity of the squashed-spaghetti-like Linguine is all it takes for the foundation of a filling meal and to generate the perfect base to this creamy, zing-filled mushroom and tomato sauce. Although I came up with this dish based on the fact I had pork steaks that required eating, they can be easily emitted or even replaced with chicken.

What went in mine…? (Serves 2, with lots of sauce)

150g Linguine Pasta (follow packet for quantities) - I used Gluten Free
2 Pork Steaks (fat on for flavour)
200g Cherry Tomatoes (left whole)
200g Button Mushrooms (halved)
1 (200g) Smoked Pork Sausage (halved lengthways and sliced into chunks)
150g Parmesan Cheese (freshly grated)
300ml Double Cream
Salt & Pepper
Olive Oil
25g Salted Butter

How to do it…?

Fry the pork steaks in some olive oil until cooked through. A tip is to cook these on a very high heat so they sear very quickly and even begin to charcoal, instead of cooking slowly (almost boiling the meat into an anaemic state). However, if you don’t like the charcoal look (or taste), just cook until golden brown, on a slightly lower heat.

Remove the steaks from the pan and add the sausage, mushrooms and the butter, turning down the heat so the mushrooms cook nicely in the pork juices and become soft. This is the point to put on the salted water to boil for the pasta. As the mushrooms soften and smoky fats seep from the sausage, add the whole cherry tomatoes and cook through until these firm globes begin to break up and soften. Lightly season, remove from the heat and add the cream – stirring well. Return to a low heat and leave to simmer until the sauce reduces and begins to thicken.

Add the linguine to the boiling water and cooked according to the packet (normally varies between 8 – 12 minutes).
The sauce should be nice and thick, but if it’s too thick, or you want to bulk it up a bit – just add some of the pasta water. 5mins before the pasta is ready, stir in 100g of the grated parmesan and add the pork steaks to the sauce so they can heat through, alongside any juices that came out while they were out of the pan. This is point you season to taste, you can add some dried oregano here too - for extra flavour.

When it’s ready; strain the pasta, and toss through with a few good grinds of black pepper and some olive oil. Serve up with the steaks and cover with the sauce and an extra shaving or two of parmesan cheese.

Happy cooking,

The CC :) x