Category Archives: Easy

Orzo with Bacon and Mushrooms

250g orzo pasta

500ml chicken stock

Garlic oil

125g bacon lardons

150g baby button mushrooms

1/2 bag spinach

– Heat a little garlic oil in a large lidded pan.

– Add the lardons and mushrooms and a little salt and pepper. Cook for 3 minutes.

– And the orzo, stir until mixed evenly and cook for a minute.

– Add the chicken stock, bring to a boil then turn down the heat, add the spinach and put the lid on.

– Simmer for 15 minutes, until all of the liquid has been absorbed, stirring occasionally so it doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan.

– Turn off the heat, add a knob of butter, stir and leave to rest for 5 minutes.

– Serve with Parmesan or a poached egg on top.

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Filed under Easy, Mains

Easy Christmas Dinner

This is going to be an odd year for many. May be you’re going to be tackling a smaller Christmas Dinner for the first time. May be you’ve decided to go all out now you don’t have to trek round to Auntie Sue’s because it’s “what you always do”! May be you’ve never cooked more than a fried egg but think this is your time to shine!

Whatever your situation, I thought it may be timely to do a little example of how to do a low effort Christmas Dinner as guidance for those that need it. Remember, Christmas Dinner is just a roast dinner but with cranberry sauce and crackers! Don’t let the weight of expectations get you down, this can be as simple or as complicated a meal as you want to make it!

You can look at the Christmas tag for some older recipes and round ups that are more comprehensive but I wanted to highlight some really simple recipes here. Whether you’re on your own or just a smaller family gathering this should hit the spot!

Canapés

We like to have nibbles to tide us over from noon to 3pm when we have our Dinner. If you want to keep it super simple just grab some party food from the freezer section. These days they almost all cook at 180°C for around 15 minutes. Any leftovers are also great for grazing at!

Starter

In my family the Prawn Cocktail is king. (Well, for me it is, mum does try to do fancy smoked salmon thingies!) This is not only traditional but super simple. Finely sliced iceberg lettuce, prawns, cocktail sauce (Iceland’s is my favourite!) and a twist of lemon on top to look fancy. Less than 5 minutes and you’re done!

The Roast

Turkey is, of course, traditional and if you want to keep it super simple I recommend a frozen Turkey crown. They’re about £10 and you can pick one up in almost any supermarket.

However, a large roast chicken will also do very nicely! I love to do a one pot chicken dish where you simply get a Really Big Pot, put in new potatoes in the base, add your chicken (put some herbs, garlic and half a lemon in the cavity), and scatter with bacon lardons. Drizzle with a little olive oil and cook according to the time on the packet (or 25 minutes per lb + 20 minutes in 180°C oven) Add a cup of frozen peas 30 minutes before the end. This also works well in a slow cooker on high for 3 hours if you need the space in the oven or even if you don’t have an oven! You can find the more detailed recipe here.

A roast dinner is all about timing. If you figure out your timings then it’s plain sailing. You can prep all of your veg in advance, even the night before, so all you have to do on the day is put dishes in the oven on time or you can get the roast in and then do your veg prep. I have a post outlining some of the timings for veg here.

For example:

2 hours before: Roast In

45 minutes before: parsnips in (I like them crispy.)

30 minutes before: leeks in cream sauce, stuffing balls & pigs in blankets in

25 minutes before: Brussels sprouts and carrots in steamer on the hob. Check the sprouts after 15 minutes by poking with a sharp knife. They should be soft but not soggy.

Serving Time: Remove the chicken from the pot and place on a serving board. Use a slotted spoon to remove the potatoes and peas and bacon. You can make gravy with the juices. I explain how here.

Pudding

Christmas pudding is traditional, easily available from the supermarket, and I hate it. So I have a couple of other seasonal options that you can make the day before:

Clementine Syllabub

Cranberry Fool

Leftovers

If you’re on your own do not let this stop you from having a full roast! The leftovers are the best bit! From this dinner I will be able to make sandwiches, soup, risotto and may be a few other dishes as takes my fancy! I basically won’t have to cook again for the next week, which is exactly how I like it!

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Filed under Canapés, Christmas, Desserts, Easy, Mains, Sides, Slow Cooker, Starters

Simple mushroom soup

25g butter

250g closed cup mushrooms, sliced

1 clove garlic, crushed

1/4 tsp salt

Pepper to taste

200ml white wine

400ml vegetable stock

100ml double cream

– Melt the butter in a medium sized pan. Add a small splash of olive oil to stop it catching.

– Add the mushrooms, garlic, salt and pepper. Cook until soft and browned.

– Add the white wine and vegetable stock.

– Blend with a stick blender until your desired level of smooth. (I like bits in my soup but if you want a totally smooth soup you’ll need to decant into a liquidiser and blend in that then resume cooking.)

– Bring the soup to a boil then turn down to a simmer.

– Add the cream and heat gently until the edges are bubbling.

– Serve hot with bread and butter.

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Filed under Basic, Easy, Gluten Free, quick, Starters

Japanese Simmered Pumpkin (Kabocha no nimono)

1/2 Japanese pumpkin (kabocha)

3 tbsp sugar

1/2 tsp salt

2 tbsp mirin

1 tbsp soy sauce

– Deseed the pumpkin and roughly peel (leave some bits of peel there). Chop into large chunks.

– Place skin side down in a large pan and just cover with water. Bring to a boil.

– Add the sugar and salt and simmer on a low heat until the liquid is half reduced.

– Add the mirin and soy sauce and continue to simmer until the liquid is reduced in half again.

– Either serve warm or leave to cool completely.

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Filed under Dairy Free, Easy, Japanese, Mains, Sides

Japanese Egg Salad Sandwich

From time to time I find myself craving the food I had in Japan. Sometimes it’s the simplest of things, like this Japanese egg salad sandwich. Because even though you’d think there isn’t much wiggle room in how to make egg salad you’d be amazed what a difference a few little tweaks make. I think the biggest difference is that the egg is mashed, not chopped and the mayonnaise must by kewpie for a truly authentic taste. The pinch of salt adds that little je ne sais quoi that makes this run of the mill sandwich spectacularly moreish!

For one sandwich:

2 hard boiled eggs

2tbsp kewpie Japanese mayonnaise

Pinch of salt

Soft salted butter

Two slices white bread

– Put the eggs, mayonnaise and salt in a bowl and mash with a fork until there are no large chunks. You could even use a food processor to get it even smoother (some conbini do) but I prefer a little texture.

– Spread the bread with butter and add the egg mix. This should be a well filled sandwich! (Though factors such as egg size and bread size will affect it, you may find this makes two less well filed sandwiches if using smaller bread.)

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Filed under Basic, Easy, Japanese, quick

Japanese Potato Salad

You will need Japanese Kewpie mayonnaise for this to taste right but it’s easy to get hold of, either a local Asian supermarket or Amazon will sort you out! I would also advise the chunkiest ham you can get, either go for trimmings or bake a ham joint and use some in this.

2 large floury potatoes

1/2 small tin Sweetcorn, drained

100g ham, chopped

1/2 medium carrot, julienned

1” cucumber, very finely sliced

6 tbsp kewpie mayonnaise

Pinch of salt

– Peel and chop up your potatoes and boil in a large pan of salted water for 20 minutes. Drain and return to the pan, let them air dry for 5 minutes.

– Mash the potatoes until smooth.

– Add your other ingredients and give a good stir through. Eyeball it, if you feel you want different proportions go for it! Alter it to your taste.

– Voila! It’s a Japanese Potato salad!

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Filed under Easy, Japanese, Sides

Childhood Risotto

Thus named because this is the risotto that we had throughout my childhood in the week following a roast chicken dinner as a good way to use up leftovers… it still is!

Serves 4

3 tbsp olive oil
25g butter
2 cloves garlic, crushed
250g arborio rice
150ml white wine

700ml hot chicken stock (make it from the roast chicken carcass if possible)

Leftover cooked chicken (I use the two thighs)

~8 mushrooms, quartered

1 cup frozen peas

100g cold water prawns

1tbsp lemon juice
small knob of butter

– Heat the oven to gas mark 4/180°C.
– Melt the butter, with the olive oil, in a large, deep casserole dish with a lid until just bubbling and foaming.
– Add the garlic and cook on a medium heat for 1 minute.
– Add the rice and cook for about 1 minute, stiring well.
– Add the wine and cook, stiring until the liquid is absorbed.
– Add the hot chicken stock and stir.

– Add the clocked chicken, frozen peas, mushrooms and prawns and give a good stir.

– Add the lemon juice and stir.
– Put the lid on and put the casserole dish and out it in the oven for 35 minutes.

– Remove from the oven give it a good stir and check the rice is to your taste, if it is too al dente (hard) then put it back in for another 5 minutes.

– Add the knob of butter and leave to sit for 5 minutes to melt before storing through and serving.

When I was little I would add soy sauce to it but as I grew older I would add Parmesan and creme fraiche, follow your own taste buds

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Filed under Easy, Gluten Free, Mains

Chocolate Fudge Cake

Sometimes you need cake. Chocolate Cake. Special Cake. And sometimes you need two Very Special Mini Chocolate Cakes! 

One for you, one for a friend… Or something! Mini cake is always a good idea, right? 

Basic Cake Mix:

180g self raising flour

1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

1 pinch salt

40g cocoa powder

125g caster sugar

2 eggs

150ml olive oil

150ml milk

2 tbsp golden syrup

– Heat the oven to gas mark 4 and grease and line your chosen cake tins. 

– Sift the flour, bicarbonate, salt and cocoa into a large mixing bowl. 

– Mix the sugar and wet ingredients together in a large jug. 

– Stir the wet I to the dry and mix well until thoroughly combined. 

– Divide between your chosen cake tins. 

– Bake! 4″ tins should take around 25-30 minutes, 8″ sandwich tins around 30-40 minutes and if you want to bake it all as one huge cake (23cm springform) then you’re looking at about an hour. Check regularly and test to ale sure a skewer comes out clean before removing from the oven. 

Chocolate Fudge Icing: 

50g butter

200g icing sugar

45g cocoa powder

4 tablespoons milk

– Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. 

– Sift in the icing sugar and cocoa powder. 

– Add the milk and mix well until smooth. 

– Leave to cool and thicken before spreading on the cakes or pour over as a glaze. 

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Filed under Cakes, Easy

Cinnamon Scone Cake

This Cinnamon Scone Cake was actually the first of the Giant Scone Cakes. I had the idea of a cinnamon flavoured scone smothered in clotted cream and honey and I couldn’t rest until it had been created!



450g self raising flour

a pinch of salt

1/2 tsp baking powder

100g butter, softened

1 1/2 tbsp caster sugar

1 tbsp ground cinnamon

Just under 300ml milk with 1 tbsp lemon juice added* (or 300ml buttermilk)

2 tbsp brown sugar + 1 tsp cinnamon

50g icing sugar + cold water

– Heat the oven to gas mark 5 /180C and line a baking tray. 

– In a large mixing bowl mix the flour, salt and baking powder. 

– Rub the butter into the flour mix until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs. 

– Add the sugar and cinnamon and stir lightly. 

-Mix in the milk quickly and thoroughly but be careful not to over mix the dough. 

– Trn the dough out onto the baking tray and use floured hands to shape into a round. 

– Slice though the dough to to the number of sections you want. 

– Brush the top with a little milk and a sprinkle of brown sugar and cinnamon. 

– Bake for ~30 minutes until the sugar on top is caramelised and the scone cooked through. 

– Mix the icing sugar with just a little water then drizzle over the top. 

– Serve with clotted cream and honey. Plain butter is also delicious! 

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Filed under Cakes, Easy, quick, Teatime Treats

Korma Paste

This was one of the tastiest things I’ve cooked all year! I was so proud of how it turned out. My kitchen smelt amazing having been full of spices! I usually have a jar of supermarket curry paste tucked away for emergencies but I was feeling creative and I knew I could do better. 

It was actually a doddle to whip up and it gave me enough for two separate curries. Needless to say, the second portion wasn’t hanging around for long!


For the Korma paste:

2 tsp garlic purée 

1 tbsp ginger paste

½ teaspoon cayenne pepper

1 teaspoon garam masala

½ teaspoon sea salt

2 tablespoons oil

1 tablespoon tomato puree

2 fresh green chillies

3 tablespoons coconut powder

1 tsp dried coriander leaf

2 tsp ground coriander

2 tablespoons flaked almonds

2 teaspoons cumin seeds

For the Sauce:

2 chicken breasts, sliced

1 x 400g can coconut milk

1 tbsp corn flour slaked with a little water

– First you want to heat a large, heavy frying pan and lightly toast the flaked almonds and cumin seeds over a medium high heat until fragrant. 

– Then put all of the ingredients for the paste into a food processor/blender and pulse until you have a smooth paste. 

– To serve 4 add half of the paste to the large frying pan and heat on a medium high heat. 

– Add the chicken breasts and stir well. 

– Add the coconut milk and simmer on a low heat for 15minutes. 

– To thicken your sauce add the cornflour and stir well until thickened. Then remove from the heat. 

– Serve as a main meal or as part of a larger feast! (My Cumin Roasted Cauliflower and Red Lentil Daal go brilliantly with it.)

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