Wednesday, 1 December 2010


Great for a cold winter evening - real comfort food! And yet, it's low in fat - bonus :-)

Makes: 3-4 servings
Takes: 10 minutes + 1 1/2 hours cooking time


1 tsp olive oil
400g lean stewing steak, cubed
1 large onion
1 clove of garlic
1 1/2 tbsp paprika
1 green or red pepper
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 beef stock cube
1 tbsp cornflour
salt and pepper

  1. Heat the oil in a large, non-stick saucepan and add the meat. Cook until the meat has all sealed and browned.
  2. Thinly slice the onion and crush the garlic then add to the pan and fry for 3 minutes, until softened. Add the paprika and stir well.
  3. Remove the seeds and pith from the pepper and chop, then add to the pan with the tomatoes and tomato puree. Mix the stock cube with 425ml (15 fl oz) very hot water and pour into the pan.
  4. Bring the goulash to the boil then reduce the heat, cover the pan and simmer for 1 1/2 hours, till the meat is very tender. Add a little extra hot water if the mixture looks too dry towards the end of the cooking time.
  5. Blend the cornflour with 3 tbsp cold water then add to the goulash with salt and pepper. Stir until the sauce thickens then cook for a further 2 minutes.
This is lovely served with boiled or mashed potatoes, or plain boiled rice. You could also top each serving with a spoonful of low fat plain yogurt if you wish. Spare portions freeze well, too.

Monday, 1 November 2010

Bacon and leek risotto

Very easy - after the initial cooking, just pop it in the oven! It's very tasty, and low in fat too.

Makes: 2 servings
Takes: 15 minutes + 1 hour cooking time


1 tsp olive oil
1 large leek
1 clove garlic
4 rashers bacon
2 or 3 mushrooms
7 oz (uncooked weight) risotto rice
1 tsp dried thyme
1 chicken or vegetable stock cube

  1. Preheat the oven to 150oC.
  2. Trim and finely slice the leek. Peel and chop the garlic. Heat the oil in a large non-stick saucepan and fry the leek and garlic for a few minutes till softened, then transfer to a plate.
  3. Trim all the fat from the bacon and cut into small pieces. Slice the mushrooms. Cook bacon and mushrooms in the saucepan till browned (you shouldn't need any extra oil).
  4. Return the leek and garlic to the pan and add the rice, stirring well. Make 1 1/2 pints of stock using the stock cube and boiling water, and add to the pan with the thyme.
  5. Bring to the boil, stirring well, then transfer to a large ovenproof dish and cover with foil. Bake for an hour. Check towards the end of this time and remove the foil if the risotto looks too wet, or add a little extra boiling water if necessary.
Great as it is, or as an accompaniment to a main meal. I often cook a chicken breast while the risotto is cooking then shred the chicken and add to the risotto before serving (the photo above shows the risotto with chicken added). You can also make this a vegetarian dish by using Quorn rashers and ensuring that the stock cube is vegetable rather than chicken.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Chicken parcels

The basic idea behind this recipe is that the chicken cooks in its own steam so is very tender and juicy, and the flavourings both infuse the chicken itself and mix with the juices to make a small amount of sauce. The photo shows Thai green curry chicken but the flavour combinations are endless - see the notes below. Great for serving up everyone's favourites while catering to different tastes!

Makes: As many servings as you wish, just use a chicken breast per person
Takes: 5 minutes + 30 minutes cooking time


1 chicken breast
Any flavourings you wish, see below

  1. Preheat the oven to 200oC/fan oven 180oC.
  2. Cut a piece of foil about 12" square and lightly oil or butter the centre of it. Place the chicken breast onto the foil and add the other ingredients.
  3. Bring the edges of the foil together and scrunch to seal, trapping air inside the parcel to allow the chicken to steam. Place the parcel into a roasting tin and cook for 30 minutes.
  4. Transfer the parcel to a plate, add potatoes or rice and vegetables, and allow each diner to open his or her own parcel - being careful of the steam! The juices that collect can be poured over the chicken and rice or potatoes as a sauce.
There are so many variations on this theme. A really simple flavour would be lemon juice and fresh herbs - sprinkle a tablespoon or so of lemon juice over the chicken then add some chopped parsley, for example. The photo above shows Thai green curry chicken, which I made by spreading the chicken breast with Thai green curry paste then adding 2 tablespoons of coconut milk and some chopped coriander. You can use a little tomato puree and some grated cheese for 'pizza' chicken, or try butter, finely chopped garlic and sliced mushrooms. Or keep it very simple by adding a little chicken stock to each parcel.

Just one word of warning - you may need to allow longer if cooking several of these at once. Check by carefully opening one of the parcels and sticking a sharp knife into the thickest part of the breast to check that the inside is no longer pink and the juices are clear.

You can also cook fillets of fish this way, though they would only need about 20 minutes in the oven.

Wednesday, 20 October 2010

Yorkshire puddings

Great with a Sunday roast - a big favourite in our house!

Makes: 12 puddings
Takes: 5 minutes + 20 minutes cooking time


2 1/2 oz plain flour
pinch of salt
1 egg
3 fl oz milk
2 fl oz water

  1. Preheat the oven to 220oC.
  2. Sift the flour and salt into a mixing bowl and make a 'well' in the centre.
  3. Break the egg into the well and start mixing it with a whisk, gradually incorporating some of the flour.
  4. As the mixture gets thick, pour in a little milk and water and continue to mix, bringing in more of the flour and adding more liquid alternately till all the ingredients are combined.
  5. Lightly oil a 12-cup cake tin (I use spray oil) and put into the oven to get it hot. Ladle batter into each cup and cook for 20-25 minutes, till well-risen and golden brown.
If you prefer, you can cook one large Yorkshire pudding - allow at least half an hour to cook. Or you can make toad-in-the-hole by frying or grilling some sausages to brown them, placing them in the bottom of the hot tin and pouring the batter over before cooking. Or cut the sausages into small pieces, place a piece in each cup of the cake tin and add batter for mini toads!

Friday, 8 October 2010

Cheat's carbonara

Very easy, and much lower in fat than the traditional creamy version. Use turkey rashers if you want to reduce the fat further, or Quorn to make it vegetarian - or add extra vegetables if you wish. I add mushrooms but you can skip them if you prefer. Tastes good with or without the works!

Makes: as many portions as you want, just increase the quantities accordingly
Takes: 15 minutes

Ingredients (per person)

1 serving of spaghetti
spray oil
2 rashers bacon
a few button or closed cup mushrooms (optional)
50g extra low-fat cream cheese (such as Philadelphia)
freshly ground black pepper

  1. Cook the spaghetti according to the instructions on the packet. Drain, reserving some of the cooking liquid.
  2. Spritz a non-stick pan with spray oil and heat. Trim the fat from the bacon and cut it into small pieces, then trim and slice the mushrooms. Fry both over a medium heat till golden brown.
  3. Stir in the cream cheese and add a little of the cooking liquid to thin the sauce - you want a coating consistency.
  4. Add the spaghetti to the pan and toss to coat with the sauce. Season to taste.
If you want to add any other vegetables, cut them into bite-sized pieces and fry gently in spray oil till softened, then add to the pan at the end of step 2.

Saturday, 4 September 2010

Baked Alaska

Disclaimer: The method described below has not been fully tested, but is our improvement of the recipe we were originally given, as some steps didn't quite work for us - we're confident this way WILL work, but if you'd rather wait till we've tried it properly - at which point I'll remove this disclaimer - go ahead :-) The photo shows what we made by following the original recipe.

Makes: 4-6 servings
Takes: 10 minutes + 5 minutes cooking time


a Madeira cake
2 tbsp orange juice
1 tbsp strawberry or raspberry jam
4-6 slices of vanilla ice cream from a block (not soft scoop)
4 large egg whites
8 oz (225g) caster sugar

  1. Turn the Madeira cake onto its side then slice in half horizontally. Drizzle a tbsp orange juice over each piece and spread one of them with the jam.
  2. Arrange the slices of ice cream to cover one half of the cake and top with the other piece. Place onto an ovenproof plate and freeze until ready to cook.
  3. Preheat the oven to 200oC/Gas Mark 6.
  4. Whisk the egg whites in a clean bowl until they form stiff peaks. Whisk in the caster sugar then remove the cake from the freezer and spread the meringue over.
  5. Bake for about 5 minutes, until the meringue topping turns golden brown. Serve at once.
You can use rum or brandy instead of orange juice for a grown-up version! You can also omit the jam and use raspberry ripple ice cream.

Rocky road

Very like tiffin but with the classic rocky road combination of chocolate, biscuit and marshmallow.

Makes: 18-24 pieces
Takes: 20 minutes + at least 2 hours chilling time


4 1/2 oz (125g) unsalted butter
10 1/2 oz (300g) good quality dark chocolate
3 tbsp golden syrup
7 1/4 oz (200g) rich tea biscuits
4 oz (100g) mini marshmallows

  1. Grease and line an 8x10 inch oblong tin.
  2. Put the butter into a large, heavy-based saucepan. Break the chocolate into pieces and add to the pan with the syrup. Melt over a gentle heat and stir well.
  3. Scoop out about 4 1/2 fl oz (125ml) of the chocolate mixture and set aside in a bowl. Leave the rest to cool slightly in the pan.
  4. Meanwhile, put the biscuits into a plastic freezer bag and crush them roughly with a rolling pin - some should be crushed into crumbs, but make sure you leave some as larger pieces too.
  5. Fold the biscuits into the chocolate in the pan then add the marshmallows. Tip into the prepared tin and smooth the top with a wet spatula.
  6. Pour over the reserved chocolate and smooth again with a wet spatula. Refrigerate for at least two hours, or overnight.
  7. Cut into 24 pieces. Keep in an airtight container in the fridge.
You can add dried fruit, glace cherries, chopped nuts etc to vary the recipe if you wish!

Yogurt cake

This makes a lovely, moist, light sponge with a fairly subtle but delicious flavour which is easy to vary by choosing a different flavour of yogurt.

Makes: 12 slices
Takes: 15 minutes + 50-60 minutes cooking time


8 oz (225g) self-raising flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
6 oz (175g) caster sugar
3 1/2 oz (100g) butter or margarine
2 medium eggs
a 200g pot of Mullerlite yogurt in your chosen flavour

  1. Preheat the oven to 180oC/160oC (fan oven)/Gas Mark 4 and grease and line an 8x10 inch oblong baking tin.
  2. Sift the flour and baking powder into a large mixing bowl and add all the other ingredients. Use an electric hand mixer on a slow speed to combine then turn it up to high to beat to a smooth batter.
  3. Pour into the tin and bake for 50-60 minutes, until it feels firm to the touch and a skewer inserted into the middle comes out clean. Cool on a wire rack then slice into 12 fingers.
A particular favourite in our household is to use toffee yogurt, as the flavour seems to come through more strongly. Raspberry and cranberry gives a nice subtle hint of fruit; or try lemon and lime with the grated zest of a lemon and/or lime added. Chocolate gives a very subtle flavour so enhance it with some vanilla essence and 1 tbsp cocoa, sifted with the flour at step 2. Vanilla makes a nice, simple sponge! Any of the above (and probably other flavours I haven't tried) are very good served with custard as a dessert.

Vegetable curry

It's difficult to post a recipe for this one, as it's very much a 'throw what you've got into the pan' type thing with no fixed quantities! It's lovely, though - the vegetables pretty much cook down into mush, but they all add their own bit of flavour and it's much nicer than the baby food it resembles... (If you really want some quantities to get started then see the notes at the end.)

Makes: Depends how much of each ingredient you use
Takes: 10 minutes + 30-40 minutes cooking time


Sweet potato(es)
Tinned tomatoes
Tinned coconut milk
Vegetable stock cube
Salt and pepper
Curry powder to taste
Fresh spinach

  1. Peel the sweet potato(es) and potato(es) and cut them into approximate 2-inch chunks. Cut the cauliflower into florets of a similar size. Peel and top and tail the carrots, cut in half lengthways then chop into thick slices.
  2. Put all the vegetables in a large saucepan with the tinned tomatoes and coconut milk. Make up a pint of stock with the stock cube and boiling water and add to the pan, then season and add the curry powder.
  3. Stir well and bring the curry to the boil. Turn the heat down and simmer for 30 minutes or so, until the vegetables are cooked and starting to break up to form a thick sauce. Stir every now and then during this time and add a bit more boiling water if the curry looks too dry.
  4. Rinse the spinach leaves then stir them into the curry till they start to wilt. Serve with rice.
As a very rough guide, you can use 1 large sweet potato, a couple of medium potatoes, 1 small cauliflower, 3 carrots and 1 tin each of tomatoes and coconut milk with 1 pint of stock and a couple of handfuls of spinach. I'd use about 2 tbsp curry powder with that lot. But as you can see, it's a very flexible recipe!

Saturday, 31 July 2010

Linguine with prawns and lemon

Lovely fresh flavours, ideal for summer. The chilli isn't at all strong but adds a little interest.

Makes: 2 generous servings
Takes: 15 minutes


200g linguine
about 12 cherry tomatoes
1 clove garlic
1/2 red chilli
1 lemon
3 tbsp olive oil
175g king prawns (cooked)

  1. Cook the linguine in boiling water according to the instructions on the packet.
  2. Halve the tomatoes and place into a small bowl. Sprinkle with a little salt.
  3. Peel and chop the garlic. Remove the seeds of the chilli and chop it finely. Crush the garlic and chilli with a pestle and mortar then add to the tomatoes.
  4. Finely grate the zest of the lemon and squeeze the juice, then add zest and juice to the tomatoes with the olive oil. Add the prawns and stir well.
  5. Drain the pasta then return to the pan with the prawn mixture. Warm through gently over a low heat.

Bran loaf

It looks fairly revolting in its uncooked form and I don't recommend eating any raw mixture, but it turns out well once cooked and is extremely easy to make. Very good buttered.

Makes: 1 loaf (approximately 12 servings)
Takes: 5 minutes + 1 1/2 hours cooking time


1 mug self-raising flour
1 mug bran cereal (All Bran or equivalent)
1 mug dried fruit (currants, sultanas or mixed fruit)
1/2 mug soft brown sugar
1 mug milk

  1. Sift the flour into a small bowl and set aside. Place all the other ingredients into a large bowl, stir then leave to stand for about an hour.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 160oC and grease and line a loaf tin.
  3. Add the flour to the large bowl and stir well to combine. Pour into the tin and bake for about an hour and a half, until a skewer comes out clean.
  4. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes then transfer to a wire rack.

Sunday, 25 July 2010

Watermelon, ginger and lime juice

Very refreshing, and the ginger gives it a bit of a kick. A bit fiddly though, so ideally multiply up the quantities and make a batch to share. (In that case I'd only use 1 lime for every 2 servings, you should still get enough of the lime flavour.) Alternatively, add vodka to help it to go further!

Makes: 1 serving
Takes: 10 minutes


1 wedge of watermelon (about 1/8 of a watermelon)
1 lime
1 piece of stem ginger from a jar of ginger in syrup
1 tsp syrup from the jar of ginger
Vodka (optional)

  1. Remove the rind and seeds of the melon and cut into chunks. Grate the zest and squeeze the juice of the lime. Cut the stem ginger into two or three pieces.
  2. Place the melon, lime zest and juice, ginger and syrup into a blender, blend until liquid, then press through a sieve. Add vodka if you wish.

Thursday, 1 July 2010


Proper, traditional, still lemonade. You might want to adjust the proportions to suit your taste - this makes quite a 'zingy' drink, so I'd add extra water if making it for children. It does need to be drunk while fresh as the pith will make it taste bitter if you keep it too long.

Makes: 1 generous glass
Takes: 5 minutes


1 lemon
1/2 pint water
1 tbsp caster sugar (or more to taste)

  1. Cut the lemon into quarters (no need to peel it or remove the pips!) and put into a blender with the water and sugar. Blitz for about 10 seconds.
  2. Set a sieve over a large bowl or jug and pour the lemonade through the sieve. Press down on the pulp with the back of a spoon to squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Taste and add more sugar if necessary.
Obviously it's easy to increase the quantities to make more servings!

Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Lamb Provencal

A lovely fresh tomato and courgette sauce that works well with lamb but would also go with chicken or beef if you prefer! Ingredients here are for one portion but it's easy to increase quantities to make more servings. Allow a bit more preparation time if making more than one portion though.

Makes: 1 portion
Takes: 10 minutes plus 20 minutes cooking time


2 fresh tomatoes
1 clove of garlic
2 spring onions or 1/2 a small leek
1 courgette
3 tbsp dry white wine
a few basil leaves
4 1/2 oz/125g lean lamb steak
salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1. Use a sharp knife to score small crosses in the base of the tomatoes. Place in a bowl and pour boiling water over. Remove after 30 seconds and slip off the skins, then quarter, remove the cores, and chop the flesh.
  2. Crush the garlic and chop the spring onions or leek and the courgette. Place all these in a pan with the tomatoes and add the wine and seasoning. Cook until it starts sizzling then reduce the heat, cover and simmer gently until the vegetables have softened.
  3. Season the lamb and grill or griddle for about 5 minutes each side until cooked to your taste. Tear the basil into pieces and stir into the sauce then serve the lamb with the sauce spooned over.
Good with a few chips or a jacket potato. It does make plenty of sauce so you may not need a vegetable to go with it, but green beans go well.

Summer berry muffins

Use any fresh berries - stick to one variety or mix several together. (The photo shows a blueberry muffin.)

Makes: 12 muffins, 24 cupcakes, or a number of mini muffins!
Takes: 10 minutes plus 20 minutes cooking time


6 oz/175g berries, such as blueberries, raspberries, strawberries, redcurrants, cherries...
10 oz/300g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
5 oz/150g caster sugar
3 1/2 fl oz/100 ml plain yogurt
4 fl oz/125 ml milk
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla essence
4 1/2 oz/125g butter or margarine


  1. Preheat the oven to 200oC/180oC (fan oven)/Gas Mark 6. Line the muffin or cupcake tin of your choice with paper cases.

  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder and caster sugar into a large bowl. If using cherries, halve them and remove the stones; if using larger berries (eg strawberries), cut them into pieces the size of blueberries. Fold the fruit into the flour mixture.

  3. In a separate bowl, mix together the yogurt, milk, egg (beaten) and vanilla. Melt the butter and stir into the other wet ingredients.

  4. Pour the yogurt mixture into the dry ingredients and quickly mix until just combined. Spoon into the paper cases then bake for about 20 minutes, until risen and golden.

  5. Cool in the tin for a few minutes then transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
You can if you like reserve some of the fruit and add a berry or two to the top of each muffin before baking. Another option is to make a simple cream cheese frosting - swirl this on top of each muffin and add a berry or two to decorate.


For Black Forest muffins, use 9 oz self-raising flour and add 1 oz cocoa powder. The fruit should of course be cherries! You could add some chocolate chunks to the mixture too. Chocolate frosting and a cherry to decorate each muffin would finish these off beautifully!

Mini cinnamon rolls

A lovely treat, best eaten while still warm and very fresh.

Makes: 8
Takes: 15 minutes plus 15 minutes cooking time


4 oz (110g) self-raising flour plus a little extra for rolling
1/2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp butter or margarine
zest of 1/2 lemon
4 tbsp milk
1/2 oz (15g) soft brown sugar
3/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp golden syrup

  1. Preheat the oven to 220oC/200oC (fan oven)/Gas Mark 7 and line a baking sheet with non-stick baking parchment.
  2. Sieve the flour and baking pwder into a large mixing bowl. Rub in 1 tablespoon of the butter with your fingertips.
  3. Finely grate the lemon zest and stir into the flour. Gradually mix in the milk to form a soft dough - you may not need all of the milk. Gently knead the dough until smooth.
  4. Flour your work surface and a rolling pin. Roll out the dough to a rectangle 18 x 14 cm (7 x 5 1/2 inches).
  5. Spread the dough with butter, leaving a 1 cm (1/2 inch) border clear along one long side. Mix together the sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over the buttered dough.
  6. Brush the border with water and roll the dough from the opposite long side up to the moistened border, pressing it gently to seal. Cut into 8 slices with a very sharp knife.
  7. Arrange the slices onto the prepared baking sheet, leaving space between each one. Bake for 12-15 minutes until light golden brown.
  8. As soon as the rolls have come out of the oven, warm the syrup until thin and runny (this only takes a few seconds in the microwave). Spoon a little syrup over each bun.
These are a bit fiddly to make, but worth the effort. The rolls can be frozen without the syrup so one option is to increase the quantities and freeze for a future occasion.

Rice pudding

Real comfort food :-) This recipe gives a lovely nutmeggy caramelised skin on top (which you can always remove if you must...)

Makes: 4 servings
Takes: 5 minutes plus 2 hours cooking time


4 oz pudding rice
1 pint milk
1 3/4 oz caster sugar
1 oz butter
ground nutmeg

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160oC/150oC (fan oven)/Gas Mark 3 and grease a 2-pint pie dish.
  2. Put the rice, milk and sugar into the pie dish and stir well. Dot the top with butter and bake for 1 hour.
  3. Stir with a fork, sprinkle with nutmeg and return to the oven for a further hour.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Banana bread

Very easy and absolutely delicious - ideal for lunchboxes, picnics, afternoon tea, evening snacks, breakfast, midnight feasts...

Makes: 12 slices
Takes: 10 minutes plus 1 hour cooking time


4 very ripe bananas
2 3/4 oz butter or margarine
7 oz brown sugar
1 egg
1 tbsp vanilla essence
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
pinch of salt
8 oz plain flour

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180oC (fan oven) and grease and line a 2lb loaf tin.
  2. Mash the bananas to a pulp with the butter (softened if necessary). Mix in the sugar, the egg (beaten), and the vanilla essence.
  3. Sift in the bicarbonate of soda, salt and flour and mix everything together thoroughly. Pour into the prepared tin.
  4. Bake for about an hour, until a skewer inserted into the middle of the loaf comes out clean. If the top starts to look too brown before the centre is cooked, cover loosely with some foil.
  5. Cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire cooling rack. It's easier to remove the lining paper after the loaf has cooled down. Allow to cool completely before slicing.
Freezes well, either as a complete loaf or as individual slices. Pop a frozen slice into a packed lunch and it will have defrosted by lunchtime!

Wednesday, 26 May 2010


This is the pancake recipe that works best of all those I've tried :-)

Makes: 12-14 pancakes
Takes: 10 minutes + 10 minutes cooking time


4 oz plain flour
a pinch of salt
2 large or 3 small eggs
7 fl oz milk
3 fl oz water
2 tbsp butter

  1. Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl then make a well in the centre. Break the eggs into the well and mix the milk and water together in a jug.
  2. Start to whisk the eggs, gradually incorporating the flour. Add the milk and water gradually at the same time. Once all the flour has been mixed in and all the milk and water added, whisk well till the batter has the consistency of thin cream.
  3. The batter doesn't need to stand but you can cover it and put it aside now if you wish, while you eat your main course for example. Just stir well before using.
  4. When ready to cook the pancakes, melt the butter in a non-stick frying pan and pour into the batter, stirring well. Use a spatula to gently scrape as much of the butter out of the pan as possible.
  5. Get the pan really hot then lower the heat to medium. Spoon in a ladleful of batter and tilt the pan to coat the base evenly and thinly. It should be ready when the top has dried out and the bottom is golden - you can turn or flip it to lightly brown the other side too if you wish.
  6. If you want to keep the finished pancakes warm while you cook the rest of the batch, put a plate over a pan of simmering water and cover with foil. Add each pancake to the plate as it is cooked. (In our family we eat them as they're ready, taking it in turns!)
Serve as desired - with sugar and lemon juice, jam, honey, golden syrup, maple syrup, chocolate spread, chocolate sauce, ice cream, fruit compote.... The possibilities are endless!

Apple and sultana muffins

Delicious as muffins or cupcakes :-)

Makes: 12 muffins or 24 cupcakes.
Takes: 15 minutes + 15 minutes cooking time


2 3/4 oz (75g) butter or margarine
3 1/2 oz (100g) caster sugar
1 egg
2 tsp vanilla essence
200g jar apple sauce
1 large dessert apple
1 3/4 oz (50g) sultanas
7 oz (200g) self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon

  1. Preheat the oven to 170oC (fan oven)/190oC/Gas Mark 5 and line muffin or cupcake tins with paper cases.
  2. Cream together the butter and sugar in a large bowl then mix in the egg and the vanilla essence. Stir in the apple sauce and mix thoroughly.
  3. Peel and core the apple and dice finely. Add to the mixture with the sultanas and stir well.
  4. Sift together the flour, baking powder and cinnamon into a separate bowl then tip into the apple mixture and quickly stir till just combined.
  5. Spoon into the paper cases and bake for 12-15 minutes, until risen, golden-brown and firm to the touch. Cool on a wire rack.
The cakes keep well in a tin for a few days, or can be frozen.

Carrot cake muffins

One word - YUM! With or without the cream cheese frosting, these are so delicious :-)

Makes: 12 muffins or 24 cupcakes
Takes: 10 minutes + 20-25 minutes cooking time


9oz (250g) plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 egg
3 1/2 fl oz (100 ml) water
1 tbsp runny honey
3 1/2 oz (100g) soft brown sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
10 1/2 oz (300g) peeled, topped and tailed carrots
4 tbsp corn oil (I use light olive oil)

For the icing (optional)

1 3/4 oz (50g) light cream cheese
3 1/2 oz (100g) icing sugar
1/2 tsp orange or lemon juice

  1. Preheat the oven to 180oC (fan oven)/190oC/Gas Mark 5 and line muffin tins or cupcake tins with paper cases.
  2. Sift together the flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda, salt and cinnamon into a bowl.
  3. In a separate, large, bowl, beat the egg then mix in the water, honey, sugar and vanilla. Grate the carrot and stir into the mixture.
  4. Add the oil to the carrot mixture and stir well. Tip the dry ingredients into the bowl and quickly mix to just combine. (The mixture should still be lumpy and don't worry about occasional streaks of flour.)
  5. Spoon into the paper cases and bake for 20-25 minutes, until firm and springy. Cool in a wire rack.
  6. If icing, allow the cakes to cool completely first. Mix the cheese, icing sugar and juice together thoroughly and spread a little over the top of each muffin.
They will keep well in a tin for a few days, or can be frozen without the icing.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

Pesto chicken

I use my nut-free pesto for this but you can of course use the usual kind, bought or homemade.

Makes: 2 servings
Takes: 20 minutes


2 boneless chicken breasts, skin on
2 tbsp pesto
salt and pepper
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp milk


  1. Loosen the skin of the chicken with your fingers, making sure it stays attached along one side. Spread 1/2 tablespoon pesto over each chicken breast, pull the skin back over to cover, then season.

  2. Heat the oil in a frying pan over a high heat then place the chicken into the pan skin side down. Fry for about 3 minutes until the skin is crisp.

  3. Turn the chicken over, reduce the heat, then cover the pan and cook for about 10 minutes until cooked through. Remove from the pan and keep warm.

  4. Add the other tablespoon of pesto to the pan with the milk, mix with the juices and heat till bubbling. Season to taste. Serve the chicken with the pesto sauce poured over.
Notes: Great served with new potatoes roasted with sprigs of rosemary, and with a green vegetable such as spinach, green beans or broccoli.
You could get away with using a bit less oil if you have a good non-stick pan, but you do need to use a little to get the skin to crisp.

Nut-free Pesto

My nut allergy counts out pesto, so I was thrilled to find a recipe that doesn't use nuts! And without the nuts and with no added cheese, it's lower in fat than the standard version, too :-)

Makes: A jar full
Takes: 5 minutes


1 can white beans (eg cannellini or haricot) - about 200g
1 clove garlic or 1 tsp garlic puree
60g fresh basil leaves (see notes below)
1/2 tsp salt
100 ml olive oil
black pepper

  1. Drain and rinse the beans and put into a food processor with all the other ingredients.
  2. Process until smooth, decant into a jar and store in the fridge.
Notes: I have no idea how much basil weighs 60g. I buy a pot of 'growing basil' from the supermarket and use all the leaves from that (and a bit of stalk usually goes in too!) and that seems to work fine.
This keeps in the fridge for a few days. Try not to push it to the back of the fridge and forget about it though as it goes a strange colour after a couple of weeks or so...

Saturday, 8 May 2010

Two meals in one: Salmon fried rice

Use the leftovers from the Mediterranean-style roasted salmon and add a few more ingredients to make this dish.


1/2 red pepper
100g baby sweetcorn
100g sugar snap peas
1 tsp olive oil
1 sachet Thai basil and lemon stir-fry sauce
basmati and wild rice (left over from previous day)
50g pak choi or mixed stir-fry leaves
1 salmon fillet (left over from previous day)
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp coriander
juice of 1 lime

  1. Cut the pepper, baby sweetcorn and sugar snap peas into bite-sized pieces. Heat the oil and fry the vegetables for 2 minutes.
  2. Add the stir-fry sauce and rice and mix thoroughly then heat for 4 minutes. Stir through the pak choi or stir-fry leaves, flaked salmon and soy sauce, and cook for a further 2 minutes.
  3. Stir in the coriander and squeeze over the lime juice just before serving.
You can also add a sliced spring onion and/or a few unsalted peanuts at step 3.

Two meals in one: Mediterranean-style roasted salmon

Make this one night and use the leftovers with a few added ingredients to make the next day's meal!

Makes: 2 servings
Takes: 5 minutes plus 15 minutes cooking time


few sprigs each of basil, mint and parsley
zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2 tbsp olive oil
3 salmon fillets
250g cherry tomatoes on the vine
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
225g basmati and wild rice

  1. Pre-heat oven to 220oC. Mix the chopped herbs with the lemon zest and 1 tbsp of the olive oil then toss the salmon fillets in the mixture. Place into a roasting tin.
  2. Put the tomatoes into the tin and drizzle with the balsamic vinegar and the remaining 1/2 tbsp olive oil. Roast the salmon and tomatoes for 15 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, cook the rice. When rice and salmon are ready, serve two-thirds of the rice with the tomatoes and two of the salmon fillets, drizzling with the juices from the pan.
  4. Cool the remaining rice under cold running water. Refrigerate with the cooled salmon fillet.
Very nice as it is, but I'd recommend adding some green vegetables on the side too.

Tuesday, 27 April 2010

Banana, honey and oat smoothie

Smooth, creamy and filling :-)

Makes: 1 serving
Takes: 1 minute


1 ripe banana
1 heaped tbsp oats
1 tsp honey
some milk

  1. Peel the banana and break it into 3 or 4 pieces. Put it into a blender with the oats and honey and add some milk. Blend until smooth.
  2. Er.... That's it!
Sorry I can't be more specific about the quantity of milk, I basically just pour it in till it looks about right, but it must be about a cupful. You can use any kind of milk (full-fat or lower-fat cow's milk, soya milk, rice milk, almond milk, etc) - my own preference is for skimmed. A bit more milk will make a slightly thinner smoothie; the way I make it, it turns out the thickness of a McDonald's milkshake!

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Aromatic Chicken Curry

This is a full-flavoured curry with a rich sauce, delicious with rice and naan bread :-) (Chipped plate optional!)

Makes: 2 servings
Takes: 15 minutes preparation + 30 minutes cooking time


1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion
1 garlic clove
3cm piece of fresh ginger root
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp chilli powder
1/4 tsp garam masala
2 ripe tomatoes
2 medium boneless, skinless chicken breasts
150ml (1/4 pint) chicken stock
2 tbsp half-fat creme fraiche
salt and freshly ground black pepper

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Finely chop the onion and crush the garlic, add to the pan and cook for 5 minutes until softened.
  2. Finely grate the ginger and add to the pan with the spices, cooking for a further minute.
  3. Chop the tomatoes and cut the chicken into bite-sized pieces. Add tomatoes and chicken to the pan with the chicken stock and bring to the boil.
  4. Turn the heat down to medium and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the sauce is thick and rich.
  5. Turn off the heat and stir in the creme fraiche, adding salt and pepper to taste.
The sauce can be frozen at the end of step 4. Reheat then add the creme fraiche to serve.
It's easy to increase the quantities (especially if wanting to freeze part of the sauce) but allow extra cooking time.
You can use garlic puree, ginger puree and a couple of tinned tomatoes if preferred.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Keralan-style Prawn Curry

I couldn't find any curry leaves so I just missed them out. I was wary of making the curry too hot so I also used just one chilli and removed the seeds, but that did make a mild sauce so if you like hot curries then you may want to use two chillis and include the seeds. It is more of a fragrant, tasty curry than a burn-your-mouth hot curry though!

Makes: 4 servings
Takes: 40 minutes (including cooking time)


2 tbsp mild olive oil
150g shallots
3 cloves garlic or 3 tsp garlic puree
20g fresh root ginger or ginger puree
1-2 fresh green chillis
1 tsp turmeric
small bunch fresh coriander
About 30 curry leaves
200ml vegetable stock
400ml tin of coconut milk
200g green beans
300g large raw peeled prawns

  1. Peel and slice the shallots and fry them in 1 tbsp of the oil till softened but not coloured. Peel and slice the garlic and peel and chop the ginger (if not using purees). Slice the chillis, removing the seeds if desired. Remove the leaves from the coriander and set aside for now.
  2. Put the shallots, garlic, ginger, chillis, turmeric and coriander stalks into a blender and blitz to a coarse paste.
  3. Heat the remaining oil in a large pan and fry the curry leaves for 1 minute (if using). Add the curry paste and cook for 3 minutes then add the stock and coconut milk. Simmer for about 15 minutes.
  4. Trim the green beans and cut into short pieces. Add to the sauce and cook for 5 minutes, then add the prawns and cook for a further 3-4 minutes, until cooked through. Season and stir in the coriander leaves before serving.
You can make the sauce in advance then bring back to simmering point and add the beans and prawns when ready to eat.
You could also use fillets of white fish, such as cod, instead of the prawns.

Friday, 5 March 2010

Ginger Tiramisu

I love tiramisu but can't cope with caffeine in the evening - not if I want to sleep, anyway! This version is caffeine-free and full of flavour :-)

Makes: 6-8 servings
Takes: 20 minutes + 2 hours chilling time


3 balls ginger from a jar of stem ginger in syrup
4 tbsp syrup from the same jar
250g mascarpone
300 ml double cream
6 tbsp sweet sherry
3 tbsp orange juice
200g gingernut biscuits (approx)

  1. Cut the ginger into small cubes and set aside.
  2. Beat together the ginger syrup and mascarpone until smooth. Whip the cream till it forms soft peaks then fold into the mascarpone.
  3. Mix together the sherry and orange juice in a shallow bowl.
  4. Spread one-third of the mascarpone mixture in the bottom of a serving dish. Dip the biscuits into the sherry and orange juice for a few seconds (not too long or they will be soggy) then arrange a layer on top of the mascarpone, breaking the biscuits into pieces to fill in any gaps.
  5. Scatter one-third of the chopped ginger over the biscuits then repeat the layers of mascarpone, dipped biscuits and chopped ginger. (You may not need all the biscuits.)
  6. Spread the remaining mascarpone over the top and sprinkle over the rest of the ginger pieces. Cover with cling film and refrigerate for at least 2 hours so the flavours have a chance to develop.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Chinese Steamed Chicken

The chicken is so moist and tender and succulent cooked this way! (Sorry about the poor photo - I'll update it when I make this again. And I will make this again!)

Makes: 2 servings
Takes: 10 minutes + 10 minutes cooking time


2 chicken breasts (skinless and boneless)
2 tbsp light soy sauce
4 tsp dry sherry
2 pak choi (Chinese cabbage) or 100g Chinese leaf
a couple of generous pinches of Chinese five spice powder
1 tsp sesame oil
2 spring onions
salt and black pepper

  1. Using a sharp knife, cut into the chicken breasts twice on each side. Put into a polythene bag with the soy sauce and sherry, seal the top, shake well and set aside for at least 5 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile, set some water to boil in a saucepan and place a steamer basket on top.
  3. Halve the pak choi or shred the Chinese leaf. Place into a shallow heatproof bowl that is small ennough to fit into the steamer. Season lightly.
  4. Place the chicken breasts on top and pour over the marinade. Sprinkle over the five spice powder and sesame oil. Top with long, thin strips of spring onion.
  5. Put the plate into the steamer and cover. Steam for 10 minutes, till the chicken is cooked through.
Serve with rice and steamed or lightly boiled vegetables.


We didn't have any light soy sauce, so I used dark. It didn't seem to matter too much.
We didn't have any dry sherry, so I used cream sherry. It didn't seem to matter too much.
We didn't have any pak choi or Chinese leaf, so I used Choi Sum. I found it very bitter but The Doctor liked it.
I didn't feel the need to add extra salt, as the soy sauce is quite salty in itself. It didn't seem to matter too much.
I don't like spring onion, so I missed it out. It didn't seem to matter too much.
We didn't have a bowl that would fit into the steamer, so I lined it with the Choi Sum and was very careful how I poured on the marinade. We lost some of the juices in dishing up but it didn't seem to matter too much.
This appears to be a very forgiving recipe :-)

Tuna Pasta Bake

At its best served hot, but also good cold as a snack or for a packed lunch :-)

Makes: 2 servings
Takes: 15 minutes + 40 minutes cooking time


spray oil
3 1/2 oz dried pasta (I use spirali)
3 1/2 oz broccoli
185g tin of tuna (canned in brine or water)
2 eggs
1/4 pint skimmed milk
black pepper
herbs (eg parsley) if desired
1 1/2 oz mature Cheddar cheese (I use the reduced fat version)

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 190oC/Gas Mark 5 and spritz an ovenproof dish with oil.
  2. Cook the pasta shapes in boiling water for 10 minutes. Meanwhile, cut or break the broccoli into florets and add these to the pasta for the last 3-4 minutes of cooking time.
  3. Drain the pasta and broccoli and return to the saucepan. Drain and flake the tuna and mix with the pasta and broccoli then tip into the ovenproof dish.
  4. Beat together the eggs and milk and season with black pepper (if using tuna in brine you won't need any additional salt). You could also add some fresh or dried herbs. Pour over the pasta mixture.
  5. Grate the cheese and sprinkle over the top then bake for 35-40 minutes, till set and golden on top.
Good served with a side salad of your choice!

Saturday, 6 February 2010

Monkfish, Ciabatta and Pancetta, on Rosemary Skewers

Oh yum, oh yum!! It is a bit pricey (though you do make the monkfish go a long way), but see the notes at the end for ideas on how to do a lower-cost version.

Makes: 2 servings
Takes: 10 minutes + 20 minutes cooking time


about 8 oz (225g) trimmed monkfish tail
1 ciabatta roll
a few sprigs of rosemary (about 6 or 7, each 6 inches or so in length)
1/2 tsp garlic paste or 1/2 clove garlic
extra virgin olive oil
black pepper
6 or 7 rashers of pancetta
balsamic vinegar

  1. Preheat the oven to 220oC/200oC fan/Gas Mark 7.
  2. Cut the monkfish into about 12 pieces of roughly equal size. Remove the ciabatta crust and tear the bread into the same number of pieces - they should be roughly the same size as the fish.
  3. Keep the top inch or so of each rosemary stalk intact, and remove the leaves from the rest by running finger and thumb down the length of the stalk.
  4. Put the rosemary leaves and garlic into a pestle and mortar and bash them together then add 2 tablespoons of olive oil.
  5. Put the fish and bread into a bowl, add the rosemary oil and toss together.
  6. Cut the bottom of the first rosemary stalk at an angle to create a sharp point. Thread on a piece of monkfish followed by a piece of ciabatta and repeat. Each stalk should hold two pieces each of fish and bread.
  7. Do the same with the other stalks until all the monkfish and ciabatta has been used up.
  8. Wrap a piece of pancetta loosely around each skewer, tucking it between the pieces of monkfish and ciabatta. Place on a roasting tray then season with black pepper and sprinkle over any remaining oil from the bowl.
  9. Bake for about 20 minutes, till the bread is crisp and golden and the fish cooked through.
  10. Drizzle with a little balsamic vinegar, a little extra olive oil and any juices from the tray to serve.
Lovely as they are for a starter, or with a salad for a light meal, or with chips or potato wedges as a main course.

For a cheaper version, use any meaty white fish instead of the monkfish, and smoked streaky bacon instead of the pancetta.

Thursday, 4 February 2010


A lovely rich traditional gingerbread :-)

Makes: 12 slices
Takes: 10 minutes + 1 1/2 hours cooking time


4 oz (100g) butter or margarine
6 oz (175g) black treacle
2 oz (50g) golden syrup
2 oz (50g) brown sugar
1/4 pint (150ml) milk
2 eggs
8 oz (225g) plain flour
1 rounded tsp mixed spice
1 level tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 level tsp ground ginger

  1. Preheat the oven to 130oC (fan)/150oC/Gas Mark 2 and grease and line a 7" square tin.
  2. Warm together the butter, treacle, syrup and sugar till melted, then add the milk and allow to cool.
  3. Beat the eggs and blend with the cooled mixture.
  4. Sift the dry ingredients into a large bowl then gently fold in the cooled treacle mixture.
  5. Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 1 1/4 - 1 1/2 hours, till a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  6. Cool on a wire rack before slicing.
Keeps for a few days in an airtight container. You can also freeze individual slices and thaw them as required.