10 of my favourite online recipes

I have recipes everywhere. In cookbooks, scribbled on pieces of paper, cut out from magazines and bookmarked online and then there’s the ones that just exist in my head. I subscribe to a ton of food blogs through Google Reader which I look over while I down my morning coffee. My favourite food blogs currently have to be:

- Joy The Baker - the mother of all baking food blogs
- The Pioneer Woman Cooks - delicious cowgirl food
- The Pink Whisk - previous runner-up of Great British Bake Off, step my step recipes and techniques
- Food Stories - makes food you really want to eat. Also has a separate sandwich rating blog
- Domestic Diva M.D - super entertaining with recipes too
- A Cozy Kitchen – awesome food photography and recipes

I’ve just been dribbling over the home pages of these whilst retrieving the links for you. Anyway, I find that subscribing to blogs is a great way of coming across yummy new recipes which you won’t find on websites like BBC food although they are great go to’s for recipes as well. Thanks to satellite television, I can also watch recipes being made at almost any hour of the day. And with the invention of Pinterest I can also be constantly looking at pictures of food. Frankly, it’s enough to make you fat.

Another great online tool is Delicious which is where I keep all my bookmarked recipes. You can tag links as you like and since they’re all stored on the web, you can access your bookmarks anywhere from any device. I have almost 500 recipe links saved and unlike a chef’s cookbook, all of the recipes are things I know I’ve seen and liked. Here are 10 of my favourite recipes which are available online and that I’ve previously bookmarked, cooked, eaten and LOVED then cooked, eaten and LOVED again!

1. Nigella’s Mexican Lasagne

A recent addition that’s already been made and enjoyed a few times! Absolutely scrumptious and innovative recipe which uses flour tortillas to create a Mexican lasagne. I adapt the recipe my adding beef mince before the canned tomatoes but the unadulterated recipe is great for vegetarians.

2. Joy The Baker’s Polenta

I’d never ever heard of adding milk to polenta until I’d seen this and now I always make it this way. Plus I love using American cup measures – so much easier.

3. Heston’s Ultimate Mashed Potato

There aren’t many Heston Blumenthal recipes you can make on a regular basis but here is one! I think I’ve mentioned this recipe at least twice on my blog already but it… is… goooooood! I don’t have a thermometer or a potato ricer (family take note, Christmas is coming :-)) but I can still make this easily. The amount of butter required is a little alarming, but one taste and you know it’s worth it.

4. Ottolenghi’s Vegetable Paella

Another vegetarian recipe which I’ve made meaty by adding fried chorizo in at the end! Great served with some olive bread and a platter of Manchego and Serrano ham.

5. BBC Good Food Chicken Cacciatore

A really quick and inexpensive midweek recipe of chicken in a tomato and mascarpone sauce. The simple sauce is tasty over pasta too.

6. Delia’s Dhal Curry

Super cheap, healthy and vegetarian (I haven’t added meat to this one!) recipe for a dhal curry. Mr B. even liked it despite the lack of meat which means it must be a good recipe. You can add a Nann bread on the side if you want to.

7. Antony Worrall-Thomspon Goat’s Cheese and Roasted Vegetable Terrine 

Unlike Antony I don’t thieve the cheese from my local Tesco to make this! A really nice make-ahead recipe which works well as a dinner-party starter. Looks pretty impressive when served as well.

8. Nigella’s Mustard Pork Chops 

Really easy and cheap midweek meal. I use honey mustard instead of wholegrain as I found that a bit too strong in taste. Goes really well with the gnocchi that Nigella recommends as well as some buttery spinach… which I recommend!

9. Joy The Baker’s Pull Apart Cinnamon Bread

I mean, just look at it! You’re in trouble of eating your laptop screen aren’t you? I’ve made it. It was amazing. When I went to bookmark it on a social media site, I saw that 2 million others had done so before me!

10. Lorraine Pascale’s Honeycomb

Simples. Tasty. Versatile. The recipe works every time.

Happy bookmarking and cooking.

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Pumpkin Soup topped with Bacon, Crème Fraîche and Toasted Seeds

Every Halloween I have to make something with pumpkin. I imagine I’m not the only one. It would be an absolute crime to buy a pumpkin for carving purposes and to throw away the insides! Well, not actually crime (as far as I know) but it would be very, very wasteful!

Last year I used mini pumpkins – munchkins – and stuffed risotto into them. This year I made pumpkin soup. Perfect for Halloween and also for any evening when you’re just too tired to chew! The pumpkin can be substituted with butternut squash if you’re not making this in October.

Utterly warming, soothing and delicious… it went down very well – and quickly!

Pumpkin Soup topped with Bacon, Crème Fraîche and Toasted Seeds
Serves 4

Ingredients
- 1kg pumpkin flesh (that’s about 1 medium or 2 smaller pumpkins)
- 7 tbsps olive oil
- 1 cinnamon stick
- ½ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
- 25g salted butter
- 1 large onion
- 500ml hot vegetable stock
- 6 tbsp crème fraîche plus extra for serving
- 160g smoked bacon lardons

Method
1. Preheat oven to 200°/Gas Mark 6/400° Fahrenheit. If you want to serve the soup inside a hollowed out pumpkin then cut the top off of it, scoop out the seeds and fibres from the middle and set aside the seeds for later. Using a knife and a spoon, scoop out the pumpkin flesh leaving around 1cm of flesh around the sides of the pumpkin.

2. Place the pumpkin onto a foiled baking tray and cover with 4 tbsps of olive oil. In a pestle and mortar, crush up the cinnamon stick as much as you can and scatter it across the pumpkin. Finally using a micro-grater grate the nutmeg onto the pumpkin as well. Season the pumpkin with salt and pepper and using your hands smoosh together all of the spices, seasoning and oil with the pumpkin. Roast in the oven for 35-40 minutes until tender and slightly browned.

3. When the pumpkin has been cooked take it out of the oven (leave the oven on though) and set aside, melt the butter in a large saucepan. Dice an onion and add to the saucepan. Fry for 10 minutes in the butter until soft. Add the pumpkin and then the stock and simmer everything together for 20 minutes.

4. Now it’s time to blend the soup! You can use a food processor or a hand blender. I used a hand blender with a small processing bowl and blitzed it in batches to get a smooth finish. Once processed, transfer to a smaller saucepan to warm through again. Add the crème fraîche and stir through, season to taste.

5. In a frying pan, add 1 tbsp of olive oil and fry the lardons until crispy. Scatter the pumpkin seeds onto a foiled baking tray, cover with a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and place in the oven for 7-10 minutes.

6. Serve the soup in individual bowls or inside the pumpkin you hollowed out earlier. Finish with a swirl of crème fraîche and a generous topping of seeds and bacon. I served my soup with some tiger bread as well, because as bread goes, with its crackled crust, this looks the spookiest for a Halloween soup! Then it’s just a matter of dipping, dunking and devouring!

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Butternut Squash and Ricotta stuffed Cannelloni topped with Chestnuts

Leaves on the ground. Check. Temptation to put the heating on. Check. Getting darker earlier. Check. Urgent need for comfort food. Check. Yep, it’s autumn.

As the nights draw in, I love filling my cupboards with pasta, chocolate and cans of soup whilst also making sure there’s plenty of red wine in the rack too. Oreo cookies washed down with Malbec is a great supper when it’s too cold to venture out for supplies! :-)

Seriously though, here’s a scrummy autumnal recipe that will hopefully make you feel all warm inside… and full as well!

Butternut Squash and Ricotta stuffed Cannelloni topped with Chestnuts 
Serves 2

Ingredients
- 1 butternut squash
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 tablespoon of thyme leaves picked
- 100g Ricotta cheese
- 2 large handfuls of finely grated Parmesan
- ¼ whole nutmeg, finely grated
- Cannelloni (8-10 tubes)
- 150ml white wine
- 150ml double cream
- 1 clove of garlic, crushed
- Packet of vac-packed Chestnuts

Method
1. Preheat oven to 200°/Gas Mark 6/400°F. Peel and dice the butternut squash. Put into a bowl with 2 tablespoons of olive oil and a tablespoon of picked thyme leaves. Season and mix well before turning out onto an oven tray. Roast for 35 minutes or until tender and golden. Remove from the oven and mash up with a potato masher.  Leave your oven on for baking the pasta later.

2. Mix together 100g of ricotta, 1 large handful of grated Parmesan and ¼ whole nutmeg grated in a bowl. Add the mashed butternut squash, mix everything really well and season to taste.

3. Now get the cannelloni and stuff it with the butternut squash mixture. I used a piping bag without a nozzle to do mine. If you haven’t got a piping bag you can do the old Jamie Oliver trick of using a large sandwich bag with one of the corners snipped off. Any leftover mix can be spread along the sides of your ovenproof dish.

4. To make a creamy sauce to top the pasta, mix the double cream, white wine and garlic together on a low heat. Heat until it has reduced by about half. Season and pour over the filled pasta. Finally scatter over the other handful of Parmesan along with a large handful of roughly chopped vac-packed chestnuts. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the pasta is cooked. Serve with some buttered spinach to compliment the sweetness of the pasta dish. Eat before finding yourself a duvet and hitting the sofa.

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How to… batch cook

Batch cooking is such a good thing to do. Nothing will give you a greater feeling of being smugly organised. You’ll be so glad you did it each time you feel ill/hungover/busy/just plain lazy (delete as appropriate). You’ll probably save money too – allowing you to justify at least one pair of new shoes. Here are some tips.

1. Just cook more

It’s not true that you need to put time aside to batch cook. Simply cook more of whatever you’re cooking for dinner providing that it will freeze well.

2. Get savvy with supermarket deals

If your supermarket is running a promotion, buy more, cook in bulk, and freeze the leftovers.

3. Be organised

Buy foil containers for batch cooking like these. They stack neatly in the freezer and you can label the lids – some meals can look very similar once frozen so labelling is a must! It’s a very satisfying feeling opening the freezer drawer and seeing a variety of stacked home-cooked meals all labelled nicely. Just me? Ooooookay.

4. Take inspiration from the supermarket

If you’re not sure what to cook, simply check out your supermarket’s ready meal aisle (you can do this online too!). These recipes from my blog are perfect for batch cooking:

Ratatouille
Shepherd’s Pie
Thai Green Curry
Luxury Mac and Cheese
Melanzane Parmigiana

Other dishes I batch cook are things like Lasagne and even Bolognese. It takes a while to cook a good Bolognese, so make batches and freeze and then all you have to do is cook some spaghetti to go with it.  Soups, stocks and sauces freeze well too

5. Stay safe!

Quite simply:

- Let the food cool before you freeze it
- Defrost it thoroughly before reheating
- Reheat until piping hot throughout
- Don’t refreeze again once defrosted or reheated
- Remember you have to be careful when reheating rice. For this reason I just don’t bother to batch cook any rice dishes

Finally, remember to take your meal out of the freezer in the morning! There’s nothing worse than sitting down at your desk and then suddenly shouting out ‘SHEPHERD’S PIE!’ across the office the moment you remember you haven’t defrosted it!

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Salmon en Croute with Pesto and Creamed Spinach

Q: What do you do if all your fridge contains is 1 salmon fillet, a sheet of puff pastry, a sad-looking, half-eaten jar of green pesto, some spinach and double cream?

A: In true ‘Ready Steady Cook’ style, take a few minutes to stare intently at the ingredients and then set about making Salmon en Croute with Pesto and Creamed Spinach!

This is the situation I found myself in on a recent Thursday before the ‘Friday big shop’ arrived. As usual on a Thursday the fridge was bare apart from a few leftover ingredients. Please excuse any vague cooking instructions as this was cooking off-the-cuff!

Salmon en Croute with Pesto and Creamed Spinach
Serves 1

Ingredients
- 1 salmon fillet
- 250g sheet of puff pastry
- Tablespoon of green pesto
- A few gratings of Parmesan
- A few gratings of lemon zest
- 100g spinach
- 15g butter
- Tablespoon of double cream
- 1 egg, beaten

Method
1. Roll out the pastry quite thin. Place the salmon in the middle. Season it well and spread the pesto on top. I also found some Parmesan and a lemon and so gave a grating of each of these onto the pesto for a bit of added flavour.

2. In a saucepan, heat the butter on a medium heat and when melted, add the spinach. When the spinach has wilted add the cream. Stir well until the spinach has cooked. Transfer to a bowl and put in the fridge to cool. Preheat the oven to 180°/350F/Gas Mark 4.

3. When the spinach has cooled, spoon it on top of the pesto. Assess how much of the pastry you need to wrap the salmon and trim off any excess. Wrap the salmon in the pastry and then turn it over onto a foiled tray so any folds you made are now on the underside.

4. Carefully score the top of the parcel with a criss-cross pattern and brush the salmon en croute with a beaten egg.

5. Bake in the oven for 30 minutes until nice and golden. Serve with whatever you like. My bare fridge contained a few cherry tomatoes so those were halved and mixed with balsamic and extra virgin olive oil and placed on the plate along with a few more spinach leaves.

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Food Miles: Cornwall

Ok, so only 300 miles travelled this time! In fact, we travel them a fair amount since we have family in Padstow. The to-do list when we visit is always the same:

- Pasty
- Ice Cream
- Rick Stein Fish and Chips
- Paul Ainsworth Number 6

We never fail to complete our to-do list… probably because we are quite dedicated to it! Within hours of arriving we were down at The Chough in Padstow for an award-winning traditional steak pasty hot from the oven. A complete meal in your hands.

We then completed our second self-assigned task of fish and chips from Rick Stein’s relatively new chippy. You may have to queue, but it’s really worth it. The calamari (if in season) is my favourite though you’ll find all the traditional cod and plaice in fluffy Steins batter (which you can buy and take home). Side orders of mushy peas, garlic mayo and bread and butter are a must. You can also down an Oyster while you wait. There are cheaper chippys in town, but I think this is worth the extra.

Just 24 hours later we had our table at Number 6 – which has been made even more popular since Paul Ainsworth’s appearances on The Great British Menu in the South West category for the past couple of years. The food always amazes, for both its taste and its fun presentation. We ordered a duck ragu starter (Paul told us it only took a week to make the ragu!), melt-in-your mouth pork belly and ‘A Taste of the Fairground’ for dessert – the winning Great British Menu dish from Paul’s first year in the competition. Plus we ordered his dessert from this year’s competition too – a chocolate cake with a golden caramac sauce and pistachio cake. Yummy doesn’t even cut it.

Other great places to eat in and around Padstow include Rojano’s – an Italian restaurant recently acquired by Paul Ainsworth, with a well-thought out menu and well-flavoured food. The Basement Café is a fab place for a huge doorstep bread sandwich at lunch and is just a waddle away from the Bin2 wine shop were you can sup on a glass of wine on the patio. Just a 20 minute drive down the coast from Padstow takes you to Watergate Bay, home to Jamie Oliver’s Fifteen Cornwall. With a beach view, it’s best to visit at lunchtime and enjoy some of the best Italian food I’ve had outside of Italy. We had starters of deep-fried courgette flowers stuffed with ricotta, mint and pea shoots along with an unusual but delicious risotto of peach, prosecco, mint and mozzarella. Followed by mains of pork ragu pasta and gnocchi we failed to make it to dessert :-(

Before leaving there was just enough time to squeeze in a Cornish cream tea (cream first and then the jam) and buy 12 pasties for our freezer. I think it’s safe to say that the cream tea has now earned its place on the ‘to-do list’ for our next visit. Dribble.

Banana and Nutella Cornish Pasty
Makes 2

A sweet Cornish Pasty using one of my favourites – Nutella!

Ingredients
- Plain flour for dusting
- 250g sheet puff pastry
- 2 bananas
- 2 tablespoons of Nutella
- 2 teaspoons demerara sugar
- 1 egg
To serve:
- Icing sugar
- Vanilla ice cream

Method
1. Preheat your oven to 180°/Gas Mark 4. Flour a work surface and your rolling pin. Divide the 250g sheet of puff pasty into two. Roll out each portion fairly thinly until you have a pastry which you can cut an 8″/20cm circle out of it. Find something to use as a template and cut a circle and then discard the extra pastry.

2. Fold the pastry circles in two to make a crease in the middle and lay back out. You only want to fill the top half of the circle so you can use this line as a guide. Dollop the Nutella equally between the top halves of the two circles of pastry. Spread it a little but it is important to leave a good border around the edge of the pastry to seal it later.

3. Cut the bananas into rounds and place on top of the Nutella. Be careful not to overfill – you may not be able to fit the whole banana into the pastry. Finish with a sprinkling of sugar.

4. Beat the egg into a small dish and using a pastry brush lightly brush it around the edge of the circle of pastry. Now fold the bottom half up and seal the edges well with your fingers.

5. Next comes the crimping of the pasty! It’s not easy but thankfully YouTube is here to help! Check out this clip or freestyle something to seal the pasty! You could always use a fork and press it along the semi circle.


6. Egg wash the top of the pasty and place into the oven for 30-35 minutes until golden. Allow to cook slightly before dusting with some icing sugar and serving with vanilla ice cream. Sticky, gooey and delicious!

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One

My blog is one today! The year has gone quickly, but it does when you’re busy having fun!

Travels

I’ve eaten a traditional chicken salad in Cambodia, Thai curries in Thailand, a Katz Deli Rueben sandwich in New York, clam chowders in San Francisco, a belly-busting buffet in Las Vegas, chain-drunk espressos in Milan, ate everything but putrefied shark in Iceland and refreshed myself with lemon granitas on the Almalfi Coast!


Aubergines

My first year of posting has exposed me as the aubergine fiend that I am. From my first ever post of ratatouille to risotto, pasta dishes and polenta, my favourite recipe has to be melanzane parmigana – the mother of all aubergine dishes.

Celebrations

Red Velvets baked for Valentine’s Day, American pancakes with bacon and maple syrup flipped for Shrove Tuesday, Coronation Chicken cooked for the Diamond Jubilee and canapés for all sorts of celebrations!

Readers

I didn’t expect many readers and compared to other blogs I haven’t got many at all! Though HELLO if you do read this from time to time and WOW to anyone who has actually made one of my recipes. BIG THANKS to my friend Sian who reads and cooks from my blog all the time. Even though it doesn’t always go to plan (thinking of the chocolate fudge aka “The Fudge that Failed”) and my recipes often contain cheese which gives Sian migraines!

…and Pasta Machines

I’m on my second, I’ll keep you updated…

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