Crisp pork and beef pie with onions, red pepper and oregano (Kima bougatsa)

Yesterday, as is usually the way on Wednesdays, I had the morning off and Alberto and I were both finishing work at 8pm, so it was the perfect opportunity to spend the morning cooking this pie, which is also from the new Rick Stein cookbook I got for my birthday. Apparently the recipe is from Thessaloniki and is usually made with sheep’s milk butter, but ordinary butter will do just as well. Judging from the description in the recipe it looks like the sort of pie that is normally cut up into squares for snacks, however it worked just as well as a main course for two. The brittle nature of the filo pastry did mean that it was a bit messy to serve though and doesn’t look that neat on the plate, as you can see from the picture below. Tasty though!

I increased the amount of meat used, in order to bulk it up a bit, and I added ½ a green pepper, as well as the red, for a touch of variety.

Serves 2 (or 12 as party food/snacks)

4 tablespoons of olive oil
4 medium onions, chopped
1 red pepper, finely chopped
½ a green pepper, finely chopped
150g of pork mince (I used 250g)
150g of beef mince (again, I used 250g)
2 tablespoons of tomato purée
½ a teaspoon of dried chilli flakes
2 teaspoons of dried oregano
200ml of chicken stock
½ a teaspoon of salt
Freshly ground black pepper (about 10 turns)
10-12 large sheets of filo pastry (depends how big your dish is – mine was about 30cm square and 3cm deep)
100g of butter, melted

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, over a medium heat, and gently fry the onion and pepper for about 10 minutes or so, until soft.

Add the pork and beef, breaking up any lumps with a wooden spoon, and continue to fry for a further 10 minutes or so, stirring frequently, until evenly browned.

Add the chilli flakes, oregano, tomato purée and stock, and season with salt and pepper. Stir well to combine and then continue to cook, for about a further 10 minutes, until most of the liquid has evaporated.

Remove from the heat and set aside to cook.

Pre-heat the oven to 190.

Lay a sheet of filo pastry over the base of your chosen pie dish. Brush with butter. Repeat with a further 5 sheets, brushing each sheet with butter after laying it in the dish. (The sheets I was using were slightly longer than they were wide, so I alternated the direction of each sheet so as to get good coverage up the sides of the dish.

Spread the cooled filling over the filo, then lay another sheet of filo pastry over the top. Brush it with butter and then continue laying sheets over the top, buttering each sheet, until you have used them all up. Finish by buttering the top.

Bake in the oven for 25-30 minutes until crisp and golden.

Allowing it to cool slightly before serving might make it a bit easier to serve, but hey – it had been a long day at work and Alberto and I were hungry! (If you were using it as snacks for a party, rather than a main meal, then allow it to cool a little and then cut into 12 even squares.)

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Fennel and sausage ragu with tagliatelle

On Tuesday evening, with Fig on holiday and thus unavailable, I had the lovely Phil Dukes over for dinner and Doctor Who. (we opted for the The Androids of Tara, which follows on from The Stones of Blood, which we watched last time.) This gave me the opportunity to select a recipe from the other new cook book that I got for my birthday – Rick Stein’s Long Weekends, which Vanessa and Matt got for me. There are loads of lovely recipes in there, but this one caught my eye. It looked tasty, full of flavours and fairly quick and easy to do, as well as being filling enough to serve all three of us. (Alberto was working late, so I’d promised him dinner for when he got home.)

I was slightly hampered by the fact that Sainsbury’s only sell sausagemeat at Christmas (daft – you might want to make Scotch Eggs, or sausage pie at any time of year!) but I got some pork sausages, skinned them and that worked fine.

The recipe gives instructions and ingredients for making your own fresh tagliatelle, however, I didn’t have the time or the inclination (or a pasta machine) to make it fresh, so I opted for fresh tagliatelle from Sainsbury’s.

Serves 4

400g of coarse pork sausagemeat
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 large garlic clove, grated
2 sticks of celery, chopped (or 1 fat leek)
¾ of a teaspoon of fennel seeds, roughly ground (I left the seeds whole, and that was fine)
½ a teaspoon of chilli flakes
A sprig of fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of salt
Freshly ground black pepper (about 10—12 turns of the grinder)
150ml of dry white wine
150ml of double cream
150ml of chicken stock
50g of grated Parmiggianno or Parmesan to serve
Sufficient fresh tagliatelle for four
In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over a medium heat and then add the sausagemeat, breaking it up as you fry it, with a wooden spoon. Fry over a medium heat, stirring regularly, for 10 minutes or so, until nicely browned and cooked through.

Add the onions, fennel seeds, chilli flakes, rosemary and salt and pepper and stir well to combine, and cook for 10 minutes or so, until the onion has started to soften.

Pour in the wine, using it to deglaze the bottom of the pan, and cook for a few minutes until the wine is reduced by half.

Then add the cream and chicken stock. Stir well. Pop a lid on the pan and simmer the mixture gently for half an hour, stirring occasionally.

Cook the tagliatelle as per the instructions on the packet. Once cooked, drain.

Once the creamy mixture is cooked and the sauce has thickened, add the cooked tagliatelle and combine well.

Serve immediately, sprinkled with the Parmiggianio


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Lamb shanks braised in porter with fresh thyme

I got a new cookbook from Alberto for my birthday – The Beer and Food Companion, by Stephen Beaumont, which contains both recipes, some of which involve cooking with beer, and recommendations for beers that go well with certain recipes. It’s a lovely book, full of information and so lovely pics of tasty food. I said I’d cook something from it tonight so flicked through and found this. I love a lamb shank and the two hour+ cooking time means that the meat is lovely and tender. I’m not a fan of porter as a drink, but when used in this recipe, in combination with the beef stock, onions and garlic, and the long cooking time, gives a lovely richness to the resultant sauce.

Serves 4

2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 lamb shank per person
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons of minced garlic
225g of onions, chopped
150g of carrot, finely chopped
150g of celery, chopped (as ever, I substituted leek)
150g of tomatoes, seeded and finely chopped
180ml of porter
2 bay leaves
300ml of beef stock
1 teaspoon of salt
1 tablespoon of fresh thyme, minced

In a large, heat the olive oil over a medium heat. Season the shanks with salt and pepper and fry in the pan until brown on all sides. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add the onion, carrot and celery (leek) to the pan and sauté for 3-4 minutes, until the onion is translucent.

Add the tomato and garlic and stir well. Use the porter to deglaze the bottom of the pan, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any stuck meat. Then add the beef stock, bay leaves, salt and thyme and stir well to combine.

Return the shanks to the pan and bring to the boil.

Once boiling reduce the heat to a low simmer, cover and cook for 2-2½ hours until the lamb is tender and the sauce slightly thickened. Add more stock or beer if the liquid level seems to be getting too low.

Delicious. I served this with mash and sautéed black cabbage. We accompanied it, as per the book’s recommendation, with a rich, malty ale.

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Bacon, cheese and leek pie

On Tuesday evening I had the lovely Fig over for dinner and zombies. As it’s National Pie Week I decided that a pie was the order of the day. The recipe for this pie popped up on my Facebook feed. It’s a Lidl recipe, and, as Alberto is a Lidl store manager, I decided that it was appropriate to give it a go. (I made a pie big enough for three, but Alberto wanted to cook for himself so he’s going to have his slice for lunch instead.)

The recipe is easy to follow and the end result is tasty. I even had enough pastry left over to decorate the top with pasty letters – F, A and N for Fig, Alberto and Neil.

Serves 3

500g of ready-made shortcrust pastry
650g of potatoes, peeled and quartered
400g of bacon, cut into small strips. (I used 300g of bacon and 100g of smoked pancetta lardons)
2 leeks, chopped
100g of butter
150g of strong cheddar, grated
1 tablespoon of plain flour
400ml of milk
Salt and black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 200

Roll out the pastry and line the bottom of a 23cm pie dish, leaving a little overhanging the edges.

Line the pastry with greaseproof paper and a layer of baking beads, then bake in the oven for 10 minutes. Once done, remove the baking beads and greaseproof paper and allow the pastry case to cool a little.

Whilst the pastry case is cooking, cook the potatoes in boiling water until tender. Once cooked, drain, season well and then mash, adding plenty of butter so that the mash is creamy. Set aside.

In a frying pan heat some oil and fry the bacon for 5 minutes or so, until crispy. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Pour out any excess oil from the pan, add a little butter and then fry the leeks over a medium heat until softened. Add the flour and mix to form a paste. Then gradually add the mix, stirring continuously until smooth and well combined.

Season well with salt and black pepper, and then simmer until the sauce thickens. The add the grated cheese and stir until it melts. Return the bacon to the pan and stir well to combine.

To make the pie spread the mash potato across the pastry base and then pour the cheese and bacon filling over the top.

Top with a pastry lid, crimping it around the edges to seal it, and brush with milk or beaten egg.

Bake in the oven for 30 minutes, until golden and cooked through.


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Sausage and ale casserole

Last night I had the lovely Phil Dukes over for a spot of dinner and Doctor Who. We chose the Doctor Who story The Stones of Blood, so it was quite appropriate that I chose a sausage recipe. Not sausage sandwiches though. I found it by footling about on the BBC website. It’s a tasty recipe and certainly one that I’ll cook again. As ever I omitted the suggested two sticks of celery, and instead of using sliced carrots I used whole baby Chanteney carrots. I also added more Worcester sauce than just the dash stipulated by the recipe as the flavour gives a lovely depth to the sauce.

Serves 4

2-3 good pork, or Cumberland, sausages per person, depending how hungry you re

1 tablespoon of sunflower oil
2 medium onions, chopped
3 medium carrots, peeled and thickly sliced
500ml of India pale ale
½ a beef stock cube
2 tablespoons of tomato purée
2 tablespoon light muscovado sugar
2 bay leaves
A splash Worcestershire sauce (I used more like a tablespoon)
2 medium leeks, trimmed and cut into 2cm slices
1 tablespoon of cornflour
1 teaspoon of flaked sea salt, plus extra to season
Freshly ground black pepper
2 tablespoons of fresh parsley, chopped, to garnish

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and fry the sausages over a medium heat for 8-10 minutes, turning regularly until nicely browned all over. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add the onions, leek and carrots to the frying pan and cook over a medium-high heat, stirring regularly, for five minutes or until beginning to soften and lightly colour.

Return the sausages to the pan and stir well.

Pour the ale and 150ml of water into the saucepan and crumble the stock cube over the top.

Stir in the tomato purée, sugar, bay leaves and Worcestershire sauce. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat, cover, and simmer gently for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Uncover and cook for a further five minutes, stirring occasionally. Mix the cornflour with a tablespoon of cold water until smooth. Stir into the casserole and cook for 2-3 minutes, stirring regularly until the sauce has thickened.

Remove the pan from the heat, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the chopped parsley.


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Nikujaga (simmered beef and potatoes)

On Saturday evening I fancied some sort of stir-fry so I had a flick through a couple of my cookbooks for Oriental recipes, and found this in the book Tokyo Cult Recipes. It looked interesting and tasty and so I thought I’d give it a go. As the only vegetables it contains are onions and potatoes, I decided to do a little vegetable stir-fry to accompany it and so stir-fried some broccoli, sugarsnap peas, spring onions, chillies, ginger and red and green peppers, with tonkasu sauce, as a side. I then decided to get more ambitious, and in my wander around town, also picked up thai fishcakes, some seaweed, some sesame prawn toast, and some chicken gyoza – a veritable feast!

The only recipe I’m going to detail here though is the Nikujaga, as the vegetable stir-fry was really simple and the other items were all bought-ready made.

Serves 4

1 brown onion
5 large potatoes, or 10 small ones (I use 10 baby new potatoes)
2 tablespoons of sesame oil
200g of sliced beef (The recipe doesn’t specify a cut of beef. I used tender beef escalopes from Sainsbuy’s)
360ml of dashi
2½ tablespoons of soy sauce
2½ tablespoons of mirin
2½ tablespoons of sake
2 tablespoons of demerara sugar (I only used 1 tablespoon – 2 seemed too sweet)
1 tablespoon of toasted sesame seeds

Cut the onion into 2cm slices on the diagonal.

Peel the potatoes and cut them into quarters. (or in half for small ones. The ones I used were so small I actually left some of them whole!)

Heat the sesame oil in a large saucepan. Add the meat, slice by slice, so that the slices do not stick together and sauté for 1 minute. Add the potatoes and onion and sauté for another minute.

Add the dashi and season with the soy sauce, mirin, sake and sugar. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to medium, cover the pan and simmer for 10 minutes.

Remove the lid and simmer for another 15 minutes to reduce the liquid, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking.

Once the liquid has reduced by one third remove from the heat and serve, sprinkle with sesame seeds.p1060913


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Salt pork with lentils

On Thursday night Alberto and I had our friend Neil over for a spot of dinner. I wanted to do something new and, as I had the day off I decided to cook something that took a bit longer than was normally possible. Unfortunately my plans were slightly set back by by the fact that, apparently, we had an undiscovered leak, which resulted in two (rather sexy) plumbers, turning up for over 6 hours in an attempt to find it. As a result we ended up not having dinner until nearly 9pm. Still, the end result was tasty, which is all that matters in the end.

A couple of the ingredients proved a touch difficult. It called for a small salt pork knuckle and some juniper berries. The salt pork knuckle was tricky, but a helpful local butcher suggested a bacon knuckle. The only ones they had were quite large so I ended up cutting it in half and once the cooking was done I cut some of the meat from the bone and served it with the main dish. I couldn’t find any juniper berries at all so sadly it went without. I did consider putting a slug of gin in the dish, but in the end I decided against it.

Serves 4-6

1kg of belly pork, cut into thick slices
1 small salt pork knuckle
1 large carrot, cut into chunks
200g of swede, peeled and cut into chunks (I omitted this, as the saucepan I have was too full already)
100g of leek, white part only, cut into thick slices
1 parsnip, cut into chunks
1 onion, studded with four cloves
1 garlic clove
1 bouquet garni sachet
2 bay leaves
6 juniper berries
350g of puy lentils
2 tablespoons of fresh chopped parsley

Put the pork in a large saucepan, with all the ingredients except for the lentils and parsley. Stir well and then add enough water to just cover the ingredients, Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat, cover and and leave to simmer gently, for 1 and a ¼ hours, stirring occasionally.

Pop the lentils in a sieve and rinse under cold water. Add to the pan, stir well to combine, replace the lid and simmer for a further 45 minutes, until the pork and lentils are tender.

Drain the contents of the saucepan into a colander, discarding the liquid. Discard the onion and bay leaves and then return the contents of the colander to the saucepan, season the pork with black pepper, then stir in the parsley.




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Lamb in black bean sauce

On Saturday evening I fancied a quick stir-fry and decided to make one with lamb mince, rather than chunks of meat. I cobbled it together myself, rather than following an existing recipe, but it came out rather well. It was certainly tasty, although the flavour of the lamb was stronger than the flavour of the black bean sauce.

Serves 1

250g of lamb mince
1 tablespoon of groundnut oil
1 small red onion, peeled and sliced
2 spring onions, finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
1 red chilli, de-seeded and sliced
½ a red pepper, de-seeded and thinly sliced
½ a green pepper, de-seeded and thinly sliced
5-6 heads of tenderstem broccoli, trimmed
8-10 strips of carrot
2-3 tablespoons of black bean sauce

Heat the oil in a large wok over a medium heat. Add the red onion, chilli and garlic and stir fry for a couple of minutes, until the onion is just starting to soften.

Add the lamb mince and fry for 4-5 minutes until browned all over, breaking up any lumps with a wooden spoon.

Add the broccoli and sliced peppers and then stir in the black bean sauce. Stir fry over a medium heat for 5 minutes or so, until the vegetables are tender and the sauce has thickened.

Finally add the spring onions and strips of carrot, sliced from a carrot using a potato peeler.

Cook for a further 2 minutes, then serve immediately.


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Chicken and chilli chocolate stew

On Tuesday evening I had Fig over for more zombie-goodness. The weather was cold and wet so I wanted something warming and tasty and so I flicked around on the internet until I found a chicken and chilli recipe that I augmented by adding a few extra bits and pieces. This is the result. It came out rather well, if I do say so myself. (although Fig said it too, so it’s not all self-praise!) I served it with sweetcorn rice.

Serves 2

1 tablespoon of olive oil
15g of butter
2 chicken thighs per person
1 pack of smoked pancetta lardons
2 leeks, finely sliced
6 thick spring onions, sliced
1 red pepper, de-seeded and sliced
1 green pepper, de-seeded and sliced
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 teaspoons of chilli powder (1 medium, 1 hot)
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
1 teaspoon of paprika
1 tablespoon of tomato purée
150ml of red wine
400ml of hot chicken stock
400g can of chopped tomatoes
25g of dark chocolate, roughly chopped
A handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped

For the rice:

I tablespoon of olive oil
150 of risotto rice
500ml of chicken stock
1 x 225g tin of sweetcorn, drained
A handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped


Heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan over a medium heat.

Season the chicken, add to the casserole and cook for about 5 minutes, turning once, until golden. Remove and set aside.

Add the pancetta lardons, leeks and onions to the saucepan and cook for 5 minutes.

Then add the garlic and cook for a further 30 seconds or so.

Pour in the wine, then turn up the heat a little and bubble 2 minutes.

Pour in the stock, tomatoes and tomato purée. Then add the chopped chilli, chilli powder, paprika, cumin and chopped chocolate. Stir well to combine and to melt the chocolate.

Return the chicken to the saucepan. Add the chopped red and green pepper and then cover and cook for 40 minutes or so, until the sauce is full-flavoured, and slightly thickened and the chicken is cooked through.

Whilst the stew is bubbling, cook the rice.

In a medium saucepan, heat the olive oil over a medium heat. Add the rice and quickly stir for a minute or so, so that the grains are well coated in the hot oil.

Gradually add the chicken stock, stirring as you go to loosen any grains that have stuck to the bottom of the pan.

Reduce the heat, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally, for 15 minutes or so. (Keep an eye on the liquid levels – you may need to top up. You don’t want all the liquid to be absorbed before the rice is cooked through, I had some white wine to hand and added a dash as required.)

After 15 minutes, add the sweetcorn and cook for a further 5-10 minutes, until the rice is cooked and creamy, and the liquid absorbed.

Before serving, stir in the chopped coriander.

Serve the stew with the rice, sprinkled with more chopped coriander.

Delicious. The chocolate gives a real richness and depth to the flavour of the stew, and the rice is lovely and creamy.


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Chilli and lemongrass pork with fried rice

On Friday evening I fancied a quick and tasty stir fry, with plenty of lemongrass and ginger flavours. I found this recipe on the BBC website and decided to give it a go. I kept it more or less exactly as is, (apart from scaling it down a bit for just me) but I added some diced red and green pepper to the stir-fry as it felt a bit ‘veg light’. (And I had some in the fridge that needed using up!)

The end result is a tasty, and rather spicy, stir fry, with lots of lovely strong flavours.

Serves 4

2 lemongrass stalks, finely chopped
1 red chilli, seeds removed and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of Thai fish sauce
350g of pork, cut into bite-sized chunks
1 tablespoon of sunflower oil
1 tablespoon of curry powder
100ml of chicken stock
1 tablespoon of caster sugar

For the fried rice:

1 tablespoon of sunflower oil
2 garlic cloves, finely grated
1 red chilli, seeds removed and finely chopped
1” of fresh root ginger, peeled and finely grated
1 bunch of spring onions, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons of sesame oil
2 tablespoons of soy sauce
150g of frozen peas
300g of cooked basmati rice
2 large eggs, beaten

Combine the lemongrass, chilli, garlic and fish sauce in a bowl and mix.

Put the pork in another bowl, add half the lemongrass mix and reserve the rest. Cover and place in the fridge to marinate for at least 20 minutes.

Heat the oil in a wok or a large frying pan over a high heat. Add the reserved lemongrass mixture and curry powder, stir well to combine and stir-fry for about 1 minute until fragrant.

Add the marinated pork pieces and stir-fry for 4–5 minutes until the pieces are nicely browned all over.

Pour in the chicken stock and stir in the sugar. Simmer, over a medium heat for 4-5 minutes or so, until the stock has reduced and you are left with a thick sauce.

Whilst the sauce is thickening, prepare the rice. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and add the garlic, chilli and ginger. Stir fry for a minute or so and then add the spring onions, and stir through the sesame oil and soy sauce. The add the peas and stir well to combines.

Once everything is well mixed, add the rice to the pan and mix well. Fry the rice over a medium heat for a minute or so.

Then, make a well in the centre and pour in the egg. Allow it to set briefly, then working quickly stir the egg and incorporate into the rice and vegetables until everything is well combined. Cook for 2 minutes.

Serve immediately


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