I like to eat


I like to eat. At home, in restaurants, pubs and cafes, with family, with friends, on my own. I like to eat and, fortunately, I also like to cook. In my BLOG you will find full recipes and short suggestions for flavours that work together. You will also find my shortcuts because, however much anybody might like to cook, there are always days when you just want something quick and easy. So, you may find recipes that will keep you happily occupied with preparation for a couple of hours, but you will also find recipes that are made just by going to the freezer and taking out some ready-prepared ingredients bought from the supermarket. I consider both methods to be “proper cooking”. If you don’t then we will have to agree to differ and you will find plenty of other BLOGs to read!

Summer Wellie

Here’s another storecupboard-and-fridge-raider easy meal. This is one I serve cold during the warmer summer months, when I’ve often got some cooked new potatoes hanging around and there’s always a pack of ready-rolled puff pastry in the freezer. You will need:-
1 pack ready-rolled puff pastry
Half a dozen cooked new potatoes
1 small tin mixed vegetables
180g pack cooked shredded gammon
2 slices ham
Seasoning to taste
1 beaten egg to glaze

  • Check the directions on your pack of pastry and heat your oven accordingly
  • Chop your potatoes into rough dice and put them in a large bowl
  • Drain your mixed vegetables and add them to the bowl along with the shredded gammon. Mix everything together thoroughly, taste and season
  • Lay your pastry flat on a board then lay your slices of ham onto it as you would the pancakes in a Beef Wellington
  • Pile the vegetable and meat mixture on top of the ham and shape it so that the whole mix resembles a very big sausage
  • Draw up and seal the sides and ends of the pastry to form a cylinder shape, using the beaten egg to help make the joins firm and prevent leakage
  • Roll the whole thing over onto a baking sheet, so that the joins are on the base
  • Give the pastry a thorough coating of the remaining beaten egg, bake it in the pre-heated oven and leave it to cool down before serving

It’s very easy to come up with your own variations of the filling for this, so it’s a sort of “anything you like” Wellie, and if you’ve got some fresh chives around they give it a real lift, and it can be served to guests as well as family without any feelings of shame!

Smoked Haddock Risotto

Yes, more smoked haddock! But it’s very good, and it’s a no-fuss recipe, so give it a try. You will need:-
1 leek, thinly sliced
750ml stock
375g smoked haddock, cut into bite-size chunks
100g baby spinach leaves
250g risotto rice
Olive oil, for frying
Black pepper, for seasoning
An ovenproof pot with a lid

  • First, heat your oven to Gas Mark 6 or equivalent
  • Gently fry the leek in the olive oil for 4 or 5 minutes until it is tender
  • Add the rice and continue to cook for a further 2 minutes, making sure it all gets thoroughly coated in the oil
  • Add the stock and bring the mixture to the boil
  • Let it simmer for 5 minutes then place the chunks of fish on top
  • Cover the pot and bake the risotto in the oven for 20 minutes
  • Check that the rice is tender then stir in the spinach and season with black pepper
  • Put the lid back on the pot and return it to the oven for 3 minutes to allow the spinach to soften
  • Make sure everyone’s at the table ready to eat – it doesn’t like to be kept waiting

Smoked Haddock loves Bombay Potatoes

I am a big fan of Kedgeree and it was thinking about that dish that made me wonder whether the combination of Smoked Haddock and Bombay Potatoes would be a successful one. I tried, after all it’s not much trouble to wrap some fish in foil and let it cook through while some pre-cooked Bombay Potatoes heat up in the same oven. The result? I think it works very well and, if you find that you’re looking for a bit of extra texture in your meal, just add some Onion Bhajis.

Short Ribs

TV Chefs have been promoting Short Ribs (beef) as an alternative to the usual pork ribs for quite some time but I’d never found them in any of my local butcher outlets until earlier this summer, when some appeared on the counter at our local Farm Shop in Nash. I bought some and tried them out and was very pleased with the result. All I did was to put them in a deep roasting tin, slather them with my favourite ready-made BBQ sauce and cook them very slowly in a low oven (1 hour at Gas 4 followed by 5 hours at Gas 1). At the end of cooking the meat was falling off the bones and absolutely delicious.

Butter Chicken Salad

I know they’re a firm favourite with the public in general but the idea of a Coronation Chicken sandwich does absolutely nothing for my tastebuds, so imagine my surprise when I found that cold Butter Chicken served with a salad is a wonderful light meal for a summer evening! I deliberately cook double quantities when making Butter Chicken now, just so that I can have a portion in the freezer ready to go. I make my curry with Chicken Thigh Fillets, they’re more tasty than Breasts, I think.

Saved by a Bag of Salmon

On Summer Sundays, if we wake up and find that the weather is good, we’re inclined to jump into the car and go exploring and worry about what to have for dinner when we get back. More and more of the freezer’s contents can be cooked without the need for defrosting, so we can usually have something interesting without too much trouble. Here’s what we did yesterday. To serve 2 You will need:

  • A bag of frozen Salmon fillets from your supermarket (ours are 300g)
  • 100g prawns, cooked, shells removed
  • A tin of Lobster Bisque (Baxters has great texture, but it’s your choice)
  • Potato Croquettes (I find 3 each works, but it depends how hungry you are!)

Heat your oven to Gas Mark 6. Loosely wrap the frozen fish fillets in foil, with a little oil or a knob of butter, and place them on a shallow roasting tray. Put the potato croquettes onto the same tray and cook everything in the oven for 30 minutes, turning the tray around halfway through cooking. 20 minutes into the cooking time, tip the lobster bisque into a saucepan and heat it very gently on the hob. When it’s very nearly time to dish up tip the prawns into the bisque so that they can warm through. I recommend you serve this in shallow bowls rather than on flat plates – you don’t want to waste all that lovely bisque!

Bacon Roly Poly

Here’s a blast from the past for anybody looking for a winter warmer! You will need a steamer, but if necessary you can improvise that with a large saucepan and a colander, and the patience to wait for it to cook, but the result is well worth it.

225g plain flour
100g shredded suet
Water, to mix
8 to 10 bacon rashers
1 onion, chopped finely
1 pork or beef stock cube, crushed

  • Mix the flour with the shredded suet and add enough water to form a soft dough
  • Trim any excess fat from the bacon rashers
  • Roll the pastry into a rough oblong then lay the bacon rashers all over it
  • Scatter the chopped onions on top of the bacon, then sprinkle the crushed stock cube on top
  • Roll the pastry lengthways into a tube, as you would a swiss roll
  • Wrap the rolled pudding in foil, sealing it very carefully, and steam it for two-and-a-half hours

I serve this with some greens and carrots, but some more ambitious types tell me they like it with mash!

Sausage Danish

I am very grateful to Nigel Slater for demonstrating this recipe on one of his TV shows. It provides a quick and easy, but nonetheless impressive, snack for unexpected guests as well as a perfect picnic dish or light(ish) lunch. You will need:-

A 375g sheet of ready-made butter puff pastry
400g sausages
2tsp fennel seeds
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
1 egg, beaten
Flour, for rolling out the pastry

  • Preheat your oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6
  • Lightly flour a work surface and roll out the pastry to 30x20cm/ 12×8″
  • Remove the skins from the sausages and spread the meat over the pastry, leaving a small border around the edges
  • Season the meat with salt and freshly-ground black pepper and sprinkle on the fennel seeds
  • Brush the edges of the pastry with a little beaten egg
  • With a long side facing you, roll both of the short sides of the pastry in towards the centre brushing the pastry with beaten egg as you go
  • Cut the roll into finger-thick slices and lay these on a baking tray, brushing them with any remaining beaten egg
  • Bake for 15 minutes or until golden

Now try, if you can, to resist the temptation to start eating these before they have had a couple of minutes to cool down a bit!


Chinese Flavours One-pot Style

The long, slow cooking of this dish takes away the heat of the chilli so that you get a comforting, spicy dish rather than a hot one. This quantity of meat, together with rice/noodles and vegetables, will serve 4 people. I usually use skirt or shin, both of which give great, cut-with-a-spoon, results. You will need:-

3 – 4 tbsp groundnut or vegetable oil, for frying
Thumb-size piece of ginger, peeled and finely grated
Bunch of spring onions, cleaned and sliced
1 small red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
1kg braising beef, cut into large chunks
2 tbsp flour
1 tsp five-spice powder
2 whole star anise
2 tsp sugar (preferably muscovado)
3 tbsp Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
500ml beef stock (from a cube is fine)
3 tbsp dark soy sauce

  • Heat your oven to 150C, Gas 2
  • Heat 2 tbsp of the oil in a flameproof casserole. Gently fry the ginger, spring onions and chilli for about 3 minutes until soft, then remove them from the casserole and set them aside
  • Toss the beef in the flour, add a little more oil to the casserole and brown the meat. You will need to do this in batches so as to keep the meet browning, rather than braising
  • Bash the star anise with something heavy. You need to crack the outer shell to release the flavour, but not to crush them
  • Put all of the beef back into the casserole. Add the five-spice powder and star anise and tip the ginger, spring onion and chilli mixture in too. Add the sugar, and stir everything together until combined
  • Turn the heat up higher then add the wine or sherry to deglaze the casserole, scraping up any meaty bits which have stuck to the bottom
  • Pour in the stock and soy sauce, bring the whole lot to a simmer, cover tightly and transfer to the oven to cook for 2 to 2½ hours, stirring occasionally

Remove the star anise before serving or, if you can’t find them, warn people! This dish keeps well in the freezer. I usually cook the full quantity and freeze half to provide a quick meal when we’ve been out for the day.