Chicken and butternut squash tagine

Neil and I had Alberto over for dinner on Monday evening, and so I cooked this for Alberto and I (Neil was having pasta.) as I fancied something with a Moroccan influence. And, if I’m going to be honest, I had some butternut squash that needed using! Tasty, easy to do and full of flavour. As ever, I started it off in a large saucepan on the hob and then transferred it to a tagine in the oven.

Serves 2

4 chicken thighs, bone in and skin on
2 tablespoons of olive oil
100g of shallots, peeled
2 garlic cloves, sliced
4cm piece of ginger, grated
8 large, pitted green olives, halved
1 teaspoon of cumin seeds, lightly crushed
1 teaspoon of coriander seeds, lightly crushed
2 small cinnamon sticks
A large pinch of saffron threads
1 teaspoon of ground ginger
A pinch of crushed dried chilli
375g of peeled butternut squash, cut into chunks
500ml of chicken stock
1 rounded tablespoon of clear honey
2 tablespoons of roughly chopped coriander
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat oven to 180

Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan. Add the chicken, skin-side down, and cook for 3 minutes, turn and cook for a further 3 minutes until browned well all over.

Remove from the pan and set aside.

Lower heat slightly, add the whole shallots to the pan and cook until golden brown all over. Add the garlic and grated ginger and cook for 30 seconds. Then add all the spices and cooking for 1 minute more.

Add the butternut squash to the pan and stir to coat in the spices. Add the stock to the pan and bring to the boil. Then remove from the heat and transfer the contents of the pan to the tagine.

Arrange the chicken, skin side up, on top of the shallots and squash – at least half of the chicken should be submerged in the liquid. Drizzle the honey over the dish.

Pop the lid on the tagine and transfer to the oven. Cook for 35 minutes. After 35 minutes remove from the oven, add the halved olives to the tagine and stir in. Pop the lid back on, return the tagine to the oven and cook for a further 10 minutes.

Once cooked garnish with chopped coriander and serve with lemon couscous, and maybe some garlic flatbread.

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Pera Palas Pie

Neil and I had Martin over for dinner and boardgames on Saturday evening, and so I had a riffle through the new cookbook that Vanessa bought me down the other weekend. The book is called Orchards in the Oasis by Josceline Dimbleby. (wife of one of the Dimblebys – Jonathan I think.) It’s a lovely book, part recipe book, part travel memoir, with loads of dishes from the Middle East and beyond. She describes this dish as being ‘a sort of Turkish Shepherd’s Pie.’

It’s certainly a bit sloppier than the usual shepherd’s pie though, and so I’m afraid it looks a bit messy in the photos – difficult to serve up neatly – it was very tasty though.

I was a bit flummoxed by curd cheese initially, but ended up finding Quark in Sainsbury’s which worked well. I also added some grated mozzarella to the topping too.

Serves 6 (allegedly – the whole thing did the three of us quite nicely, with some sautéed black cabbage.)

1 large aubergine (350g approx)
Lemon juice
3 tablespoons of olive oil
30g of pine nut kernels
2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
500g of lamb mince
2 teaspoons of paprika
A good handful of dill, finely chopped
50g of plain flour
600ml of whole milk
250g of curd cheese
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Slice the aubergine into slices roughly 1cm thick. Place in a colander and sprinkle with lemon juice and sea salt and leave to drain for roughly half an hour.

Rinse the aubergine slices under cold running water to remove the salt and dry well with kitchen paper. Cut into small cubes.

Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in a large pan over a medium-high heat and fry the aubergine cubes until soft and browned. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Reserve 1 tablespoon of the pine nuts and then pop the rest into the pan and fry for a minute or two, until browned. Remove them from the pan and set them aside with the aubergines.

Add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil to the pan and add the lamb mince. Fry for a few minutes, breaking up any lumps with a wooden spoon. Cook until browned and any liquid has evaporated. Add the garlic and paprika and stir well to combine and then remove the pan from the heat.

Stir in the chopped dill and season well with salt and pepper. Add the meat mixture to a wide, shallow ovenproof dish.

Preheat the oven to 190

To make the topping, add the flour to a cold saucepan and stir in 2-3 tablespoons of the milk to make a smooth paste. Stir in the remaining milk and then heat the pan over a medium-high heat and bring to the boil, stirring constantly.

Let it bubble for 2-3 minutes, still stirring.

Remove from the heat and stir in the curd cheese, whisking until thoroughly blended into the sauce. Season with salt and pepper.

Stir the fried aubergines and pine nuts into the sauce and pour over the lamb in the dish.

Scatter the tablespoon of reserved pine nuts over the top. (I also added some grated mozzarella)

Bake in the over for 25-30 minutes or so, until the top is golden.

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Pork and leek pie with cider and wholegrain mustard

I made this for myself on Wednesday morning to have when I finished work late on Wednesday evening. It’s fairly straightforward and in one of my lovely little pie dishes, just the right size for one.

Serves 1

2 pork shoulder steaks, trimmed and diced
1 fat leek, trimmed and sliced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
½ a carrot, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 tablespoon of plain flour
300ml of dry cider
1-2 teaspoons of wholegrain mustard
Leaves from 2-3 sprigs of thyme
200g of ready rolled shortcrust pastry
A little milk for brushing

In a large, deep frying pan or saucepan, heat the olive oil over a medium heat. Add the diced pork and cook for 4-5 minutes, stirring frequently, until browned all over and cooked through.

Add the leek, garlic and carrot and cook for a further couple of minutes, until the leek is starting to soften.

Sprinkle over the flour, to absorb some of the juices, and stir well to combine. Cook for a further minute.

Slowly pour in the cider, stirring continually. Then stir in the mustard and add the thyme leaves. Stir well to combine, turn down the heat and simmer for 10 minutes or so. During this time, the sauce should thicken a bit. If it starts to thicken too much though, simply add a little more cider.

Whilst the filling is simmering, line a pie dish with pastry.

Once the filling is cooked, leave it to cool a little, say five minutes or so.

Pre-heat the oven to 200.

Place the filling in the pastry pie case, and then make a lid from the remaining pastry.

Brush the edges of the pie case with a little milk, place the lid on top and then use a fork to seal the edges. Make a couple of steam holes in the lid with the tip of a sharp knife and lightly brush the lid with some more milk.

Cook in the oven for 25 minutes or so, until golden.

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Apple cake

I also made this last Wednesday, to take into work for my tea. I love an apple cake – lovely and autumnal, with a hefty dose of cinnamon in there as well. It went down well with my team too!

I made it in a square cake tin and cut it into squares. I took most of it in to work but kept a few squares at home for me and Neil to enjoy.
225g of self-raising flour
1 teaspoon of baking powder
2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon of ground ginger
115g butter, diced and chilled, plus extra for greasing
115g light brown sugar
2 large eggs, beaten
1-2 tablespoons of ginger wine
225g of apple, peeled, cored and diced into small cubes (I favour a pink lady)
2 tablespoons of demerara sugar (optional)
Heat the oven to 180. Grease and line a square 20cm cake tin with baking parchment.

Mix the flour, baking powder, ground ginger and cinnamon together in a large bowl.

In a food mixer, cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.

Add the eggs, a bit at a time. Follow each addition of egg with some of the flour until both of each are used up. Stir in the ginger wine. The mixture should be fairly liquidy, but not too sloppy.

Stir in the diced apple and mix well to combine.

Pour the mixture into the prepared cake tin. Sprinkle over the demerara sugar and bake in the oven for 30-40 minutes or until golden and a knife inserted into the middle comes out clean.

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Thai fishcakes

I actually made these last Wednesday and completely forgot to blog them! Ooops! Anyway, here we are now. I found this recipe on the BBC website – it’s tasty and easy to do and the fishcakes are spicy full of flavours.

Makes 4 fishcakes

150g of skinless cod fillets, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
3cm piece of ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
1 stalk of lemongrass, outer leaves removed and white part roughly chopped
3 spring onions, finely chopped
1 red chilli, roughly chopped
A handful of fresh coriander roughly chopped
1 tablespoon of groundnut oil
2 teaspoons of fish sauce
Half a teaspoon of salt
Zest of 1 lime
1 teaspoon of sugar
1 egg lightly beaten
groundnut oil for frying

Place the garlic, ginger, lemongrass, spring onion, chilli, coriander and groundnut oil in a bowl. Using a hand blender pulse until everything is well chopped up.

Add the chunks of cod, fish sauce, salt, lime zest, sugar and egg and whizz with the hand blender until everything forms a smooth paste.

Using your hands, pick up the mixture and repeatedly throw it against the side of the bowl. Do this for 3-4 minutes . This action thickens and aerates the mixture.

Chill the mixture for 15 minutes.

Shape into small, evenly sized patties. This is a bit messy and the resulting patties can be a little bit sloppy when you slide them into the hot fat, so be careful.

Heat the oil over a medium-high heat in a medium sized frying pan and shallow fry for a few minutes on each side until golden and cooked through.

Drain on kitchen paper and serve hot, with sweet chilli dipping sauce.

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One-pot tagliatelle with bacon and peas

I fancied some quick and easy past last night and I had previously spotted this recipe on the Sainsbury website, so I decided to give it a try. I did make a couple of additions of my own too!

Serves 2

1 tablespoon of vegetable oil
200g of smoked streaky bacon, roughly chopped into postage-stamp sized pieces
1 large onion, thinly sliced
3-4 garlic cloves, crushed
300ml of semi-skimmed milk
600ml of chicken stock
250g of fresh or dried tagliatelle
½ a red pepper, de-seeded and sliced into thin strips
½ a teaspoon of dried chilli flakes
250g of frozen peas
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon of grated Parmiggiano

Heat the oil in a large saucepan, about 25cm across. Add the bacon pieces and fry over a high heat, stirring frequently, until crispy. Remove from the pan and set aside.

Add the pepper, onion and garlic to the bacon fat in the pan and cook for about 4 minutes over a medium heat to soften.

Pour in the milk, scraping the bottom of the pan to free any stuck-on bits.

Add the stock, chilli flakes and tagliatelle plus a pinch of salt and a couple of grinds of black pepper. Bring to the boil, stirring to push the pasta down into the liquid. (NB: if you are using fresh pasta rather than dried then it needs less cooking time, so simmer the liquid for a bit, and then add the pasta a bit later.)

Cook at a brisk simmer, stirring occasionally, for 12-15 minutes. The pasta will cook through until al dente, while the liquid reduces and forms a silky coating-consistency sauce.

Meanwhile, place the peas into a bowl and cover with boiling water to defrost.

Drain the peas, then stir into the pan with the lemon zest and juice, and the cooked bacon.

Heat through for 2 minutes.

Divide between two serving bowls and sprinkle over the Parmiggiano.

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Chocolate tiffin

I fancied doing some baking today. Initially I was considering shortbread, but decided upon some chocolate tiffin instead. It’s easy to do and very tasty – although with sugar, syrup and loads of chocolate, it’s not exactly healthy…


110g of butter
2 tablespoons of caster sugar
2 tablespoons of golden syrup
4 teaspoons of cocoa powder
225g of digestive biscuits, crushed
1 handful of raisins
1 handful of glacé cherries, quartered
400g of chocolate (half milk and half dark)

In a saucepan, melt the butter and sugar, and stir in the syrup and cocoa powder.

Add the biscuits, glacé cherries and raisins when melted. Stir well to combine.

Line a 20x30cm square tin with greasproof paper. Pour in the mixture and press down.

Melt the chocolate and pour over the mixture in the tin (The best way to melt the chocolate is to cut it into small chunks and place it in a plastic bowl held over a saucepan of boiling water. Stir until all the chocolate is melted. It’s a bit fiddly, but there’s less chance of burning the chocolate than if you use a microwave.)

Pop the tin into the fridge and leave for about 1 hour to set. To serve, cut into about 20 pieces.

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Tapas Feast (including, albondingas, chorizo in cider, fried aubergine slices, patatas bravas, serrano ham and fuet, friend pimientos and manchego montaditos)

Well, the Spanish theme continues (you can tell that Neil and I are missing our holiday, can’t you?) as on Friday we decided to have a tapas feast and made lots of little dishes accordingly. Some, like the albondingas, I’ve made before, others were new. I’ll detail the new ones here, and provide links to the ones I’ve blogged before

Chorizo in cider:

8 mini chorizo sausages

300ml of medium-dry cider

Heat a frying pan over a medium heat and add a little olive oil (about a tablespoon at most.)

Prick the chorizo with a fork, so that they don’t burst during cooking.

Fry them in the pan, until they begin to brown and release their distinctive orange oil. Add the cider and simmer, turning occasionally, until nearly all the cider is absorbed.

Serve immediately in the remaining cooking liquid.

Fried aubergine slices:

1 medium aubergine

Flour, for dusting

1 egg, beaten

Vegetable oil for cooking

Slice the aubergine into 5mm slices. Lay out on a chopping board and sprinkle heavily with sea salt. Leave to stand for 30 minutes. This will draw out the bitter juices.

After 30 minutes pat dry.

Heat the oil in a medium frying pan.

Dip each aubergine slice in the flour, then in the egg. Place each egg-dipped slice in the hot oil, and cook for 2 minutes each side, until golden brown.

Drain on kitchen paper and serve hot.

Manchego montaditos:

(I made 6 of these – 3 each, but basically you can scale the ingredients up or down to make as many as you like.)

6 slices of French bread (or some other fresh bread – the recipe says ‘country bread’)

6 slices of manchego cheese

12 sundried tomatoes

6 pitted black olives

Place 2 sundried tomatoes on each piece of bread. (you can toast the bread first if you like, but I didn’t bother as the bread was lovely and fresh.)

Place a slice on manchego on top of the tomatoes. Top with a black olive. You might want to use a cocktail stick to hold it all together

Fried pimientos:

Small, green padron peppers

1-2 tablespoons of olive oil


These are delicious, and so easy to do. You need to get a pack of little green padron peppers – certainly my local Sainsbury’s sells them, so hopefully they shouldn’t be too hard to find.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, over a medium-high heat. Add the peppers and cook, stirring continually, until slightly blackened and blistered.

Cover liberally with salt and serve. Delicious!


As per this recipe that I blogged the other day, only made with lamb mince rather than beef and pork.

Patatas bravas:

Again, as per the recipe I blogged the other day:

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Chicken and chorizo, with braised peas and serrano ham with eggs

On Thursday evening I had the lovely Phil over for dinner and Doctor Who and, still being in a Spanish frame of mind I decided to cook something else with a Spanish flavour. I opted for chicken and chorizo as the main part of the meal, and then had a search around to find something else to accompany it. I found the braised peas recipe online, accompanying a recipe for Spanish fried chicken wings. I decided to ditch the chicken wings, but the peas sounded tasty, so I combined them with my original recipe idea and the lemon, garlic and herb roast potatoes that I’ve cooked before.

The recipe for the peas required a frying pan with a tight-fitting lid to cook the eggs, which I do not have, and so I cooked them under the grill instead, and that seemed to work ok.

Oh, and in case you were interested we watched the Doctor Who story The Two Doctors, as that’s set in Spain!

Serves 2

For the chicken:

A drizzle of olive oil
2 chicken thighs per person
100g of chorizo, cut into 8 batons
1 red onion, peeled and cut into wedges
Zest and juice of 1 small lemon
Several sprigs of fresh thyme
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
100ml of chicken stock

For the peas:

4 tablespoons of olive oil
100g of banana shallots, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
450g of frozen peas
200ml of chicken stock
100g of Serrano ham, roughly torn into strips
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 eggs

For the potatoes:

See this recipe:


Pre-heat the oven to 200

Place the chicken thighs, chorizo batons, red onion wedges, thyme sprigs and lemon zest in a roasting tin. Stir well to combine, season well with salt and pepper and drizzle with olive oil. The add the lemon zest and chicken stock.

Place in the oven and roast for 40-45 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the skin is crispy and golden.

For the peas, heat the olive oil in a medium-sized frying pan.

Add the shallots and garlic and cook gently for five minutes until soft but not browned.

Stir in the peas and chicken stock and simmer gently for five minutes until the peas are tender and the liquid has reduced to leave them just moist.

Stir in the torn Serrano ham, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Break the eggs, spaced well apart, on top of the peas, season lightly with salt and freshly ground black pepper and cover the pan with a well-fitting lid.

Cook gently for five minutes, or so, until the eggs are set to your liking. As I say, having no saucepan lid, I transferred the frying pan to the grill to cook the eggs. That seemed to work ok.

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Chicken breast stuffed with chorizo, served with Patatas Bravas and Mashed Chickpeas

Still on a Spanish food kick and with Fig coming over last night for Doctor Who (Frontios, if yer interested!) I decided to try and replicate the dish that Neil and I had for our main course when we were out for Alberto’s birthday meal in Torremolinos last Thursday. The meal in question was the stuffed chicken breast, served with mashed chickpeas. The patatas bravas I added because we had them a lot in Spain too. And because they’re lovely!

It’s really several recipes in one meal – the chicken breast being the easiest of the three. I’ll detail the three main recipes here. I served the chicken breast on a bed of boiled peas and diced carrot and accompanied the whole thing with sautéed black cabbage and diced fuet. (cured Spanish sausage)

Serves 2

For the chicken:

1 chicken breast per person
1 x 50g baton of chorizo, skinned and cut into two even halves

For the patatas bravas:

450g of potatoes
2 tablespoons of olive oil
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 x 440g tins chopped tomatoes
2 red chillies
4 garlic cloves, crushed
Chopped parsley, to serve

For the mashed chickpeas:

500g pack of dried chickpeas (I actually used a 440g tin of chickpeas as that worked well and avoided all the soaking time.)
1 teaspoon of fennel seeds
1 small onion, peeled and sliced
1-2 red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped
1 teaspoon of thyme leaves
2 bay leaves
100ml of white wine
450ml of vegetable stock
Salt and pepper to taste
Extra virgin olive oil, to serve

If using dried chickpeas, soak them in cold water overnight, and then drain and rinse.

Pre-heat the oven to 220

To make the mashed chickpeas: In a large saucepan heat a little olive oil over a medium heat and gently fry the onion, until starting to colour. Add the chickpeas, fennel seeds, chilli, thyme, bay leaves, white wine and chicken stock, Stir well to combine and then season with salt and black pepper.

Bring to the boil, then leave to simmer for 45 minutes or so, until the chickpeas are tender but not mushy. Stir occasionally.

Remove the bay leaves. Using a hand blender, blitz the chickpeas, and any remaining cooking liquid, until smooth. (I left them a little rough, for texture.)

Serve with a generous drizzle of olive oil and some cracked black pepper on top.

To make the chicken: Using a sharp knife slice a long pouch in the thickest part of each chicken breast, wide enough to accommodate a chorizo baton. Slide one baton into each chicken breast.

Wrap each breast loosely in tin foil, dot with a small knob of butter and place in a baking tray.

Roast in the oven for 35-40 minutes, until cooked through.

To make the patatas bravas: Peel the potatoes and cut into 2.5cm.

Heat the olive oil in a large roasting tin until really hot. Pop the potatoes in the tin and shake them in the oil until covered.

Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Place in the hot oven for about ten minutes until they begin to turn golden-brown.

Add the tomatoes, chilli and crushed garlic and stir well to combine. (I also added a dash of red wine.)

Cook for a further 25-35 minutes until the potatoes are soft on the inside and crisp on the outside.

Serve garnished with chopped parsley.

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