Three-pea duck stir-fry

I was popping out yesterday evening for a couple of pints with my friend Neil, so I opted for a quick stir-fry before going out – tasty but quick to do. The duck needs to be marinated for about an hour or so but as long as you plan in advance it’s not a problem.

Serves 4

450g of skinless, boneless duck breast.
3 tablespoons of groundnut oil
6 large spring onions, white and green parts separated and diagonally sliced into 2cm pieces
1 teaspoon of freshly chopped ginger
175g of sugarsnap peas
115g of mangetout, sliced in half diagonally
140g of shelled peas
1 red pepper, de-seeded and thinly sliced
3 tablespoons of whole almonds, halved lengthways (I left these out as I don’t like them)
55g of beansprouts
Noodles to serve

For the marinade:

1 tablespoon of light brown sugar
3 tablespoons of warm water
1-2 fresh chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
1 tablespoon of soy sauce
1 teaspoon of fish sauce
3 tablespoons of lime juice

Combine the marinade ingredients in a bowl, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Slice the duck into bite sized pieces, add to the marinade and leave to stand for at least 30 minutes.

Heat a wok over a high heat and add the groundnut oil. Stir fry the white spring pieces and ginger for a few seconds. Add the duck and the marinade and stir-fry for about 5 minutes.

When the liquid has reduced slightly add the various types of peas and sliced red pepper and stir-fry for a 3-4 minutes.

Add the almonds, beansprouts and green spring onions and stir-fry for a further minute.

Serve over cooked noodles.



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Pork and kale pasta bake

On Wednesday I was working until 8pm and had the lovely Phil over for dinner and Doctor Who in the evening. (In the end we watched Victoria Wood, for obvious reasons!😦 ) and so I cobbled together this rather tasty little recipe in the morning before I started work. I just chucked in various different thing and it seemed to come out ok! I accidentally picked up a larger pack of pork mince than I thought that I had so the dish ended up rather meatier than I expected – seemed to work though

Serves 4

2 tablespoons of olive oil (plus a little extra for frying the aubergine slices)
750g of pork mince
1 large leek, thickly sliced
1 red onion, diced
2 red chillies, deseeded and sliced
Zest of half a lemon
2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
1 red pepper, deseeded and thickly sliced
1 orange pepper, deseeded and thickly sliced
1 medium courgette – ½ sliced and ½ grated
150g of curly leaf kale
300g of fresh fusilli pasta
5 thick slices of aubergine (after slicing, sprinkle with salt to draw out the bitterness. Leave for 10 minutes, then wipe clean before frying)
1 ball of mozzarella, drained and sliced into 8 slices
2 tablespoons of freshly parsley, chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the cheese sauce:

1 teaspoon of butter
1 teaspoon of plain flour
150ml of double cream
100ml of milk
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon of paprika
110g of mature cheddar, grated

Pre-heat the oven to 200

In a large frying pan heat the olive oil and gently fry the garlic and onion until starting to soften. Then add the pork mind and stir well until browned, breaking up any lumps with a wooden spoon.

Once the mince is browned, add the chillies, leek, sliced courgette and sliced peppers. Cook over a medium heat for 5 minutes or so, stirring frequently.

Add the parsley, lemon zest and grated courgette, season well with salt and pepper and then stir in the kale. Cook for a further 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Whilst this is cooking, cook the pasta in boiling water according to the cooking instructions. Once cooked drain and set aside.

Once the pork and vegetables are cooked, stir in the pasta and then, once well combined, set aside.

Make the cheese sauce – melt the butter and stir in the plain flour to make a roux. Cook the roux for a couple of minutes before stirring in the cream and milk. Heat over a medium heat, whisking constantly, until the sauce starts to thicken. When the sauce is thickening, stir in the paprika and mustard and then stir in the grated cheese, whisking thoroughly until melted.

Once the sauce is ready pour it over the pork, vegetable and pasta mix, stirring well to combine.

Lightly fry the aubergine slices in a little olive oil, until just starting to brown.

Transfer half of the mixture into a large ceramic ovenproof dish and place four of the sliced of mozzarella on top. Then cover with the remaining half of the mixture. Place the fried slices of aubergine on top and then the final four slices of mozzarella.

Grate a little more cheese over the top and then bake in the oven for 25 minutes, until bubbling and golden.

Very tasty, if I do say so myself



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Cauliflower cheese deluxe

I made this for myself on Wednesday evening. I have to confess that ‘delux’ is bigging it up a bit – it was largely an exercise in using up things that I had in the fridge. Still, it was tasty though! I’d bought a cauliflower earlier in the week for a recipe but I hadn’t used even half of it so still had plenty left to form a core for this dish. I’ve always added a few extras to cauliflower cheese anyway – usually bacon and red onion, but this time I chucked in loads of other things as well. I bunged in some leek, red onion, red pepper, sprouts and sautéed, kale as well as various bits of meat. The recipe is a bit hit and miss and therefore not very precise, but the end result was tasty. Make it up as you go along!

Serves 1-2, depends how hungry you are!

1 cauliflower, cut into florets and the stems trimmed
1 leek, sliced
1 red onion, sliced
1 red pepper, de-seeded and diced
4 Brussels’s sprouts
3-4 rashers of bacon sliced
1-2 handfuls of kale, sautéed with garlic and lemon zest
40-50g of Spanish cured sausage, sliced (it’s not chorizo, but something else – the label says ‘Espetec’. Alberto always brings me a couple back from Spain whenever he goes. They’re delicious but not flavoured with paprika, like chorizo is.)

For the sauce:

1½ teaspoons of butter
1½ teaspoons of plain flour
200ml of milk
50ml of double cream
125g of mature cheddar, grated, plus a bit extra to sprinkle over the top.
1-2 teaspoons of wholegrain mustard
1 teaspoon of paprika

Pre-heat the oven to 200

Cook the cauliflower in boiling water for 10 minutes or so, until tender. Drain and place in an oven-proof dish. Cook the sliced sprouts in boiling water for 2-3 minutes until tender, drain and add to the

In a frying pan heat some garlic butter, along with a little olive oil, and sauté the kale, with lemon zest and freshly ground black pepper, for 2-3 minutes, until starting to crisp. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon, allowing most of the oil to drain off, and sprinkle over the cauliflower.

Wipe the pan clean, add a little fresh oil and return to the heat. Fry the bacon and cured sausage until crisp and then add to the cauliflower dish. Return the pan to the heat and fry the leek, red onion and red pepper, cooking for 3-4 minutes until starting to soften. Drain and add to the dish.

Mix all of the ingredients together well.

To make the sauce melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat and then add the flour. Stir quickly with a wooden spoon until the butter and flour are well combined into a roux. Gradually add the liquid, milk first and then the cream, stirring constantly to stir in the roux and leave you with a smooth sauce. Heat, whisking constantly as the sauce thickens. Add the mustard and paprika, stirring to ensure that they are well mixed through.

Add the grated cheese and stir until all of the cheese has melted.

Pour the sauce over the ingredients in the dish, grate a little more cheese over the top and then bake in the oven for 15-20 minutes until bubbling and golden.




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Azerbaijani chicken with prunes and walnuts, served with Armenian roasted vegetables

I had the lovely Abigail over for dinner and Doctor Who (Delta and the Bannermen, for those interested in such things.:) ) on Thursday evening, and so I decided to cook these two recipes from the cookbook that she kindly gave me for my birthday, Mamushka, by Olia Hercules. Billed as ‘recipes from Ukraine and beyond’, it’s a delightful book, full of interesting, tasty looking recipes, accompanied by tempting photographs.

The recipe for the roast chicken actually recommended the roasted vegetable recipe as an accompaniment, so who am I to argue.

I used a small chicken to serve two of us, but it could easily have served three, and in fact I stripped the remaining meat from the bones today and used it to make the filling for a pie.

For the chicken:

2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 small chicken (or a larger chicken to serve more.)
1 tablespoon of ground sumac
100g of pitted prunes, finely chopped
Grated rind and juice of one lemon
200g of walnuts, toasted and roughly chopped
1 small red onion, grated
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 200.

Rub the olive oil all over the chicken and then sprinkle over the ground sumac and a little sea salt.

Mix the prunes with the lemon rind, juice, walnuts and onion and then stuff the mixture into the chicken cavity.

Roast for an hour and 20 minutes until cooked through, basting in its own juices a couple of times during cooking.

For the Armenian Vegetables:

150g cabbage, sliced into three wedges, keeping the core intact
1 carrot, peeled and thickly sliced
1 courgette, thickly sliced
2 celery sticks, thickly sliced (I hate celery so I substituted leek, as per)
1 small onion, quartered
200g of cauliflower stalks and florets, chopped
1 red pepper, deseeded and roughly chopped
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 beef tomato, thickly sliced
1 tablespoon of chopped dill
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Feta to crumble over

Preheat the oven to 200

Place all of the vegetables, except the tomato, in a large roasting tin.
Pour over the oil and season well with salt and pepper. Mix everything well together and ensure that the vegetables are all well coated in oil.

Roast in the oven for 30 minutes until the vegetables are starting to char around the edges.

Arrange the tomato slices on top and put back in the oven for another 15 minutes.

Sprinkle with chopped dill and crumbled feta before serving.



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Lime Cordial

The lovely Vanessa was down to visit for the weekend and, kindly, brought my birthday present with her, part of which was a fascinating looking book called The Spirits by Richard Godwin, ‘A guide to modern cocktails’. Flicking through the book I looked up the cocktail The Gimlet as it is a particular favourite of mine. In the description of the cocktail the author gives a recipe and instructions for making you own lime cordial. So I thought I’d give it a go! It’s easy to do and surprisingly effective. (And, needless to say, I did make myself a gimlet with it afterwards!)

Zest and juice of 4 limes
200g of golden caster sugar
100ml of water
1 teaspoon of coriander seeds
2-3 green cardamom pods (optional)
1 teaspoon of lemon salt

Place the lime zest, water, coriander seeds and cardamom pods in a saucepan. Heat slowly until it starts to boil.

When it bubbles remove it from the heat and add the sugar, stirring until it is fully dissolved.

Strain into a non-metallic bowl. Add a teaspoon of the lemon salt and stir until dissolved.

Finally add the juice of four limes and stir well. Viola! Lime cordial!



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Battered pork balls

I wanted to make something like sweet and sour pork balls to accompany the duck stir-fry that I made for dinner last night. I cobbled this recipe together myself but it seemed to work rather well – I’d certainly make them again.

Makes 6 balls

For the balls:

340g of pork mince
4 spring onions, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
A pinch of ground white pepper
½ an egg, beaten, to bind

For the batter:

140g of plain flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
A pinch of salt
Water to bind
Vegetable oil for frying
Flour for dusting

Place the mince in a large bowl, add the chopped onion, crushed garlic and white pepper and mix well with your hands until all is well combined. Mix in the egg to bind it all together and then shape into six even-sized balls.

Pop the balls in the fridge to rest whilst you make the batter.

Place the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl. Make a well in the centre and slowly add the water, whisking constantly until you get a smooth batter.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large saucepan, over a medium heat. To test whether the oil is ready, drop a cube of bread in – if the oil foams around the bread and the bread turns golden then the oil is ready.

Take each balls, dust lightly with flour and then dip in the batter. Once the ball is evenly coated, gently slide it into the hot oil. It should take 8-10 minutes to cook each ball through and they should be crispy and golden when done.

Remove from the hot oil with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Serve with sweet chilli dipping sauce.



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Teriyaki duck with pineapple and pak choi stir-fry

Yesterday evening I had the lovely Phil Dukes over for dinner and Doctor Who. (We watched The-American-TV-Movie-with-the-Pertwee-logo-and-the-really-camp-Master. Great fun, not seen it for ages!)

This is a two part recipe. I fancied making some battered pork and spring onion balls and so searched for a suitable stir fry recipe to accompany them. I found this recipe on the BBC website and it sounded tasty so I thought that I’d give it a go. I was concerned, with the sugar caramelising the vegetables, and the sweetness of the pineapple that the whole dish would be too sweet but the richness of the duck meat and the savoury flavour of the teriyaki sauce mitigated against this and made for delicious balance.
I’ll detail the recipe for the pork balls in the next post.

Serves 2

For the marinade:
2 duck breasts
6 tablespoons of teriyaki sauce
2 tablespoons of dark soy sauce
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
2 teaspoons of grated ginger
1 small bunch of coriander, chopped
2 tablespoons of honey

For the stir-fry:
2 tablespoons of sesame oil
2 peppers, one red, one green, de-seeded and thickly sliced
½ teaspoon of finely chopped fresh red chilli
1 teaspoon of ginger, chopped
2 banana shallots, finely sliced
1 heaped tablespoon of demerara sugar
Jice of one lime
1 small pineapple, cut into chunks (or, as I opted for, a tin of pineapple chunks)
2 heads pak choi, trimmed but with leaves left whole
Coriander stalks, chopped, to garnish

Combine all the marinade ingredients and marinate the duck breasts in the liquid for at least one hour.

Remove the duck breasts and place in a hot frying pan, skin side down, for 10 minutes. Turn the duck over and fry for a further five minutes. (Now, I knew from bitter experience that this sort of activity would fill the kitchen with smoke and set off the fire alarms, disturbing the neighbours, within five minutes, so I preheated the oven to 200, crisped up the skin side of each duck breast in a hot frying pan, and then transferred them to a roasting dish, and roasted them in the oven for fifteen minutes! After fifteen minutes I poured half of the reserved marinade over the duck breasts and cooked them in the oven for a further 3-4 minutes.)

Remove the pan from the heat, pour remaining marinade over the duck and allow to rest in the pan.

Heat the sesame oil in a pan, add the peppers and cook for 2-3 minutes. Then add the chilli, ginger, and shallots and cook on a high heat for two more minutes.

Reduce the heat and add the sugar and lime juice. Once caramelised, add the pineapple and leave to cook for five minutes.

Add the pak choi and stir until cooked.

Put the vegetables on the serving plates and top each portion with a duck breast. Pour over the juices and garnish with the coriander stalks.



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Garlic and rosemary roasted lamb with creamed lentils

I fancied cooking something bloggable tonight, mostly, I have to confess, so I would have a blog entry on the 29th of February. I couldn’t work out what I fancied and then I remembered that Alberto had really liked some puy lentils that he’d had when we were out for Vanessa’s birthday the other week and so that gave me to focus on. I found this recipe on the BBC website and it looked like an easy and tasty one.

It came out rather well although I decided to roast the lamb chops in the oven, along with the garlic and rosemary, rather than cooking them in a griddle pan as the original recipe suggested. I prefer them like that, although I did brown them in the griddle pan before transferring them to the oven, and I feel that a recipe that calls itself ‘garlic and rosemary roasted lamb’ ought to actually feature some roasting!

Serves 2

For the lentils:
150g ofz Puy lentils
55g of butter
1 large brown onion, finely sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
150ml of double cream
100g of parmesan shavings
Juice of ½ a lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the lamb:
1 tablespoon of olive oil
4 lamb chops
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
6 fat garlic cloves, sliced in half
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary, cut in half

Pre-heat the oven to 200.

Bring a saucepan of salted water to the boil and add the lentils. Simmer for 15 minutes, or until tender, but still slightly al dente, drain and place into a bowl.

Brown the chops in a griddle pan with a little olive oil and the garlic cloves and rosemary. Once browned all over transfer to a roasting dish and cook in the oven to 10-15 minutes until cooked how you like them.

Meanwhile, heat the butter in a saucepan and gently fry the onion for five minutes until soft but not coloured. Add the garlic and fry for another minute.

Stir in the double cream and simmer for 3-4 minutes, or until the sauce thickens slightly. Add the parmesan and lemon juice and stir well to combine. Add the lentils to the pan and stir until the lentils are well coated and the cheese has melted. Season with freshly ground salt and black pepper and keep warm until required.

Once the chops are cooked, divide the cream lentils between two serving plates and top with the lamb chops, garlic and rosemary.

I served this with wasabi mash and steamed broccoli.

Very tasty and the flavour of the puy lentils is nicely different from the more usual red, green and yellow lentils. Definitely one to make again.


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Focaccia classica al rosmarino (Rosemary focaccia)

I had the day off on Thursday and fancied making some bread and decided to try making focaccia as I had never made it before,. So I thought I’d give it a go. It turned out rather well, although the rosemary was a little more charred in real life that it was in the picture in the cookbook! The recipe is a great one and the end result is certainly tasty, and rather moreish due to both its crispiness and its saltiness. It also came out nicely fluffy inside. Definitely one to cook again. The recipe comes from Gino D’Acampo’s brilliant book, Italian Home Baking.

500g of strong white bread flour
7g of fast-acting dried yeast
6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
300ml (or so) of warm water
2 teaspoons of fine salt
1 tablespoon of sea salt
2 tablespoons of fresh rosemary leaves

Sift the flour into a large bowl and stir in the yeast. Make a well in the middle and pour in three tablespoons of the olive oil, along with the water. Add the fine salt and, with a wooden spoon mix together until the ingredients are well combined into a soft dough.

Transfer to a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes or so until the dough is soft, smooth and elastic.

Fold the edges of the dough underneath to form a smooth, sounded top. Brush with a little olive oil and place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with cling film and leave to rise in a warm place, away from draughts, for one hour.

Place the risen dough on an oiled baking tray and flatten out into an oval shape, about 3cm thick. Make indentations in the surface of the dough with your fingertips. Brush with a little oil and cover with cling film . Leave to rise in a warm place, away from draughts, for 40 minutes or so.

Pre-heat the oven to 220.

Once the dough has risen, gently press your fingertips into the dough to make more indentations. Tuck the rosemary leaves into the surface, sprinkle with sea salt and drizzle the remaining 3 tablespoons of olive oil over the top.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 20 minutes, until golden. Once cooked cool on a wire rack to that the underside stays crisp.


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Ale-braised shin of beef with walnut dumplings and sautéed kale

On Tuesday evening I had, as usual, the lovely Figgy over for dinner and Doctor Who, (Although actually we started season two of The Walking Dead) and, as the weather was fairly cold and grotty, I fancied some sort of stew. As I had the day off I could cook something that took a little bit longer than normal. I found this recipe in the Great British Bake Off Winter Cookbook and thought it looked delicious. I was particularly drawn to the walnut dumplings, which sounded interesting. I thought I’d also attempt some sautéed kale, which was inspired by the sautéed black cabbage that Matt had had when we were out at the pub on Saturday evening – I wasn’t sure of the recipe so that was a bit trial and error but it turned out ok.

Serves 6 (obviously I scaled it down for just the two of us, but it was still filling and I had enough left over to make an individual little pie that I shall have for dinner this evening.)

25g plain flour
1.2kg of beef shin, diced
3-4 tablespoons of olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
2 celery sticks, finely chopped (I, as ever, substituted leek for The Devil’s (Watery) Vegetable)
150g of chestnut mushrooms (As I dislike these too I diced a red pepper and used that instead. I was originally thinking of substituting cooked chestnuts, but Sainsbury’s didn’t have any.)
5 garlic cloves, crushed
A small bunch of thyme
2 large fresh bay leaves
450ml of brown ale
300ml of beef stock
2 tablespoons of Worcestershire sauce
1 large knob of butter
15 shallots, peel and thickly sliced
Salt and black pepper

For the dumplings:
80g of self-raising flour
20g of finely ground walnuts (I used a pestle and mortar so mine were still a bit chunky, but that just made the texture of the dumplings nicer.)
¼ of a teaspoon of salt
50g of shredded suet
A handful of parsley, finely chopped. (I left this out, largely due to forgetting to buy any!)
2-3 tablespoons of water

For the sautéed kale:

As much kale as you think will feed however many people you’re feeding. I get ready chopped kale from Sainsbury’s and certainly it being shredded before cooking helps it cook more quickly.
Zest of one unwaxed lemon
A large knob of butter
A large knob of garlic butter
A few good grinds of black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 160.

Season the flour with salt and pepper and use it to coat the beef.

Heat two tablespoons of oil in a large flameproof casserole (If you have one – I did all of this in a very large saucepan and then transferred it to a casserole dish for the oven) and fry the beef, in batches, if necessary, until browned all over.

Remove the beef from the dish and set aside. Heat some more oil in the dish and gently fry the onion, celery (leek) and carrot for about 10 minutes, until softened. Then add the mushrooms (red pepper/chestnuts/whatever) and cook for a further couple of minutes. Add the garlic and fry for one more minute, stirring well to ensure that everything is well combined.

Return the beef to the pot, along with the thyme and bay leaves. Pour in the ale and stock and add the Worcestershire sauce. Bring to the boil and then cover and place in the oven.

Cook for 2½-3 hours, until the meat is tender and falling apart.

Near the end of the cooking time, mix together the flour, walnuts, suet and parsley in a bowl. Mix well and add enough water to bind into a soft dough. (I only used two tablespoons of water – the resulting dumplings were nice but a little dry – 2½ -3 might’ve been better.)

Shape into balls and set aside.

Heat a knob of butter in a frying pan and gently fry the shallots until golden. (the recipe implies keeping them whole, but I found that they worked better when thickly sliced.)

Stir the shallots into the casserole, then pop the dumplings on top of the stew and return, uncovered, to the oven for a further 20 minutes, during which time the dumplings should fluff up and cook through.

To cook the kale, heat the butter and garlic butter in a frying pan (use the same one as you cooked the shallots in for extra flavour) over a medium heat. Add the kale, lemon zest and black pepper and cook for 2-3 minutes, until cooked through and tasty.

The stew is delicious and the dumplings have a lovely nutty flavour that works well with the rich stew and the tender meat. Lovely.



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