Mini pizza bites

I also made these to take along to John and Tom’s BBQ on Saturday. This recipe makes about 10 pizzas. I topped them as detailed here, but really you could pop anything on them – whatever you fancy.

For the dough:
200g of strong white bread flour
6g of dried yeast
5g of salt
2 tablespoons of olive oil
Warm water to mix – approx. 200ml

For the topping:
Sundried tomato purée
A ball of mozzarella, diced
10 slices of Italian salami
A sprinkle of finely grated Parmiggiano

Preheat the oven to 200. (I use a pizza stone to make pizzas, so I pre-heat the oven, and the stone, for about an hour before cooking the pizzas.)

Place the flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl and mix well. Make a well in the centre and add the olive oil, and then stir in the water, a bit at a time, to make a soft dough.

Once the dough has formed, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for a couple of minutes until smooth. Place it in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with cling-film and leave somewhere warm to rise for about half an hour.

Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto a floured surface and roll out until it’s about 4-5mm thick. Using a 2 inch pastry cutter, cut out rounds of dough. (This recipe should make about 10) Place them on a baking tray, or the pre-heated pizza stone.

Once you’ve cut out the dough rounds, top each one with a teaspoon of the tomato purée, then a cube of mozzarella, a slice of salami and finally a sprinkle of Parmiggiano.

Place in the oven and cook for 11 minutes.

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Polpettine di melanzane (aubergine patties)

On Saturday the lovely John and Tom had a delightful, sunny afternoon BBQ. I decided to take along a couple of snacks. I found this recipe in the book Cicchetti by Lindy Williams and Valentina Harris. It’s a lovely of book, full of tasty little Italian dishes, many of which are perfect for little snacks and party food.

These are very tasty and easy to make, although, as always with these things, the dipping in flour, egg and breadcrumbs is a messy business.

Makes 30 (approximately)

500g of aubergine
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped or crushed
3 tablespoons of finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
40g of fresh breadcrumbs
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
½ an egg
½ a teaspoon of ground cumin
A pinch of chilli flakes
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

To fry:
1-2 eggs, beaten
75g of plain flour
50g of fresh breadcrumbs
1 litre of sunflower oil

Preheat the oven to 180. Place the aubergines on a baking tray, drizzle with a little oil and bake in the oven for about 20-30 minutes, until squishy to the touch. Remove from the oven and leave to cool.

Peel the aubergines and squeeze out any excess moisture. (a surprising amount comes out – best do it over the sink!)

Cut the aubergine into chunks and transfer into a blender to chop into small pieces. (you don’t want it to become mush though, so be careful you don’t over-blend it.)

Transfer to a bowl and stir in the garlic, parsley, breadcrumbs, lemon juice and zest, the cumin, chilli and egg. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Take a teaspoon of the mixture and roll into a ball. Carry on until you have used up all the mixture.

Dip each ball in egg, then the flour, then the egg again, and then finally the breadcrumbs.

Heat the sunflower oil in a large saucepan until hot. Fry the patties in batches of 6 or so, so as not to overcrowd the pan, until golden. Place them on kitchen paper to drain.

Serve hot of cold, with lemon wedges for garnish if desired.

They seemed to go down well at the BBQ. Very tasty!

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Crispy rice balls

I also made these tasty, crispy little fellers to take along to Anthony and Sandy’s for The Three Doctors on Wednesday. The recipe comes from a booklet of Sabrina Ghayour recipes given away in bookshops to promote her book Feasts. It’s tasty and easy to do, although the cooked rice is a bit fiddly to manipulate – worth the effort though!

Makes 14

175g of basmati rice
1 tablespoon of table salt
¼ of a teaspoon of turmeric
100g of feta cheese, finely crumbled
15g of of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
½ a small onion, finely chopped
½ a tablespoon of dried chilli flakes
½ a tablespoon of dried mint
½ a teaspoon of cumin seeds
Sunflower oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Soak the rice for 20 minutes in lukewarm water mixed with the table salt. After 20 minutes rinse thoroughly in plenty of cold running water and then drain.

Pop the rice in a small saucepan and pour in enough water to cover the rice. Stir in the turmeric and a generous amount of salt, ensuring that the turmeric dissolves evenly. Bring the rice to a gentle simmer over a medium-low heat, cover with the lid and simmer for 25 minutes, until the rice is cooked through. Remove the pan from the heat and leave to cool with the lid on.

When the rice is cool transfer it to a bowl and use your hands to work the mixture into a mashed ball of rice.

Combine the feta, parsley, onion, dried chillies, mint and cumin seeds in a bowl and season well with salt and pepper. Divide the mixture evenly into 14 balls.

Likewise divide the rice into 14 portions. Roll each portion into a ball and then flatten each one into a disc.

Place a ball of the feta stuffing into the centre of each rice disc and then bring the rice together around the ball and pinch it tightly to seal the ball.

Refrigerate the balls for an hour.

Pour sufficient oil into a large, deep saucepan to the depth of about 5cm and heat over a medium heat.

Once the oil is hot enough gently slip the balls into the hot oil, only a few at a time, so as not to overcrowd the pan, and fry until crisp and golden all over. Remove from the heat with a slotted spoon and place on kitchen paper to drain.


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Spiced lamb borek

On Wednesday the lovely Anthony had a few of us over to watch The Three Doctors on the sparkly Season 10 BluRay Box Set. As I had the day off I decided to make a couple of snacks to take along. The first was these little borek, which I cobbled together myself based on a couple of other related recipes.

Makes 10

250g of lamb mince
½ a red onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of dried mint
½ a teaspoon of ground cumin
½ a teaspoon of ground turmeric
½ a teaspoon of ground coriander
½ a teaspoon of garlic granules
¼ of a teaspoon of cayenne pepper
¼ of a teaspoon of cinnamon
1 tablespoon of clear runny honey
1 tablespoon of pine nuts
1 tablespoon of raisins
3 sheets of filo pastry
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon of olive oil

In a large frying pan or saucepan heat the olive oil over a medium heat and fry the onion for three minutes or so, until starting to soften and colour.

Add the lamb mince and cook until browned all over, breaking up any lumps with a wooden spoon.

Once the lamb is cooked, add all of the herbs and spices and stir well to combine. Continue to cook for a further couple of minutes or so, until fragrant.

Add the honey, pine nuts and raisins, stir well to combine and then cook for a further minute.

Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Once the filling is cool enough to handle start to assemble the borek.

Preheat the oven to 200

Line a baking tray with a sheet of greaseproof paper and brush lightly with olive oil.

Take a sheet of filo pastry and lay it out on the work surface with the longest edge facing you. Cut the sheet into quarters.

Taking the first quarter, place two teaspoons of the mixture along the bottom edge of the pastry sheet and shape roughly into a sausage shape, leaving about 5mm of pastry clear at each end.

Gently roll the pastry up around the lamb mixture, tucking the ends of the pastry in. You might find it helpful to use a dab of beaten egg to seal the ends. Once you’ve completely rolled up the pastry brush the finished borek with egg to seal the edge and the ends.

Place the borek on the prepared baking tray.

Continue making borek until all of the lamb mixture is used up.

Give the borek a final brushing of egg and then place them in the oven and cook for 20 minutes, until crisp and golden.

Serve warm.

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Tomatoes stuffed with cheese and herbs

The other recipe from Mamushka that I liked the look of was this one, so I decided to cook it on Monday, to accompany my fish and salad.

Another tasty one – the saltiness of the cheese (I used feta) and the tart flavour of the dill worked really well together.

Serves 4

4 beef tomatoes
200g of Polish twarog or Syr (or just use feta)
2 tablespoons of chopped dill
1 tablespoon of chopped parsley
1 teaspoon of sunflower oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 180

Remove the tops from the tomatoes and hollow them out, removing the core but keeping the tomatoes intact.

Mix the cheese, herbs and seasoning together in a bowl, and then stuff each tomato with the mixture.

Lightly oil a baking sheet with the sunflower oil. Place the tomatoes on the sheet and place in the oven. Bake for 30-35 minutes until the tomatoes are soft and the cheese is golden.

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Potatoes with pork and shallots

Whilst flicking through cookbooks on Saturday, trying to decide what to cook (before I’d settled on Thai), I found a couple of ‘side dish’ recipes in the lovely book Mamushka by Olia Hercules that I fancied trying some other time. This first one I cooked for myself on Sunday evening as an accompaniment to a couple of roasted chicken thighs and a pomegranate, sumac and tomato salad.

This is tasty and easy to do and is a pleasantly different way of jazzing up boiled potatoes

Serves 2

400g of new potatoes, peeled and kept whole
100g of Salo or pancetta, sliced into lardons
100g of shallots, sliced
Sea salt flakes

Boil the potatoes in a saucepan of salted water for 45 minutes, or until cooked but not falling apart. (I used baby new potatoes, so this was quite a long cooking time as they were fairly small, but it was ok, they didn’t go mushy.)

While the potatoes are cooking place the lardons in a dry frying pan and cook over a medium heat until they start to release some fat.

Add the shallots to the pan and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10-15 minutes, until crispy.

Drain the potatoes and place on a serving dish, spoon over the lardons and shallots and sprinkle with sea salt flakes.

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Thai fishcakes

On Saturday evening Neil and I had his friend Adam over for dinner and so I decided to make a swathe of Thai food. For the starter I opted for some Thai fishcakes and a selection of tempura vegetables. I didn’t get the chance to photograph the tempura vegetables so I won’t bother blogging them. (it’s quite simple anyway – make some batter from flour, an egg and some iced water, dip vegetables into the batter to coat them, deep fry until golden! I used red pepper, aubergine slices, sugarsnap peas and spring onions. Tasty!) I went for a massaman curry with beef for the main as it’s one of Neil’s favourites.)

The recipe for the fishcakes comes from a lovely little book I’ve got called A Little Taste of Thailand,which is full of lovely, tasty recipes.

I used enough ingredients to make 6 fishcakes – two each. I fried each cake earlier in the day and the heated them up, and finished cooking them through, in the oven just before serving.

Makes 6

2 skinless and boneless firm white fish fillets (I used cod)
1 tablespoon of red curry paste
1 tablespoon of fish sauce
1 egg
1 lemongrass stalk, outer husk removed and very finely chopped
2 lime leaves, finely shredded
20g of snake beans, finely sliced (I used fine French green beans)

Roughly chop the fish fillets and place in a food processor and blend the fish until smooth.

Add the curry paste, fish sauce, lemongrass, lime leaves and egg and blend again until smooth. Place in a bowl and stir in the sliced green beans. Using wet hands, shape the paste into small, flat discs, roughly 2 inches across.

Heat about 5mm of vegetable oil in a large, non-stick frying pan. When hot, gently ease each cake into the hot oil. (I cooked three at a time so as not to overcrowd the pan.) Cook on each side for 2 minutes until golden. Remove from the hot oil and drain on kitchen paper.

Just before serving pre-heat the oven to 200. When the oven is hot, place the fishcakes on a lightly oiled baking try and cook in the oven for 8 minutes, until hot and cooked through.

Serve with sweet chilli dipping sauce.

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Easy Jambalaya

I fancied something quick and easy tonight after my late night at work, and I found this recipe on the BBC website and thought it looked tasty, so I decided to give it a go. It’s certainly full of flavour, with the smoked sausage and cayenne pepper. I think next time I might pop in a bit of tomato purée as well as the chopped tomatoes, just to thicken it up a bit more. Delicious though.
Serves 2

1 tablespoon of olive oil
2 chicken thigh fillets, cut into 1inch pieces
75g of smoked sausage (such as kobanos), sliced
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 celery stick, finely chopped (as ever, I substituted leek)
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 red pepper, thinly sliced
200g tin of chopped tomatoes
½ a teaspoon of cayenne pepper
150g of basmati rice
200ml of chicken stock
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
A handful fresh parsley, finely chopped (optional)

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan, with a tight-fitting lid, and fry the chicken and sausage for 3 minutes.

Add the onion and celery (leek), season well and fry for 5 minutes, or until starting to soften.

Add the garlic and pepper and cook for a further minute.

The add the tomatoes and cayenne pepper, stir well to combine, and cook for 2 minutes

Stir in the rice and then pour over the stock. Bring to the boil, put the lid on, turn the heat down as low as it will go and cook for 12 minutes.

Remove from the heat and leave the rice to stand for 12 minutes.

Take off the lid, fluff up the rice and serve immediately, garnished with the parsley, if using.

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Meatballs in red onion gravy with peas and mustard and leek mash

Last night for dinner I went a bit old school, with some tasty meatballs and mash. The weather was grey and overcast (flaming June!) and so something more warning than a salad seemed appropriate. Easy to do and satisfyingly tasty.

Serves 1 (1 hungry person!)

For the meatballs:

250g of beef mince
½ a red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon of freshly chopped parsley leaves
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon of olive oil for frying

For the mash:

1 medium baking potato, peeled and quartered
½ a leek, finely sliced
1/1½ teaspoons of English mustard
1-2 generous teaspoons of butter
1 teaspoon of butter for frying

For the gravy:

I have to confess, I usually use Sainsbury’s gravy granules for making gravy. It’s not a precise science – I just keep chucking them in until I get the desired consistency. (thick!)
½ a red onion, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of butter for frying
40ml of red wine
A generous dash of Worcestershire sauce
Freshly ground black pepper

80g of frozen petit pois
To make the meatballs place the beef mince, chopped onion, crushed garlic and chopped parsley, in a large bowl, season well with salt and pepper, and mix together. You need to really squeeze it all together quite vigorously in order to break down the structure of the mince and meld it all together.

Once everything is thoroughly mixed together shape the mixture into evenly-sized balls. (I managed to get 7 balls out of this much mixture.)

Place in the fridge for half an hour to chill.

In a large, non-stick sauce pan, heat the olive oil over a medium heat and add the meatballs. Cook for 10 minutes or so, turning regularly, until they are browned all over and staring to cook through.

Whilst the meatballs are browning, boil the potatoes and cook until tender.

Make the gravy by melting the butter in a small saucepan and frying the onions over a medium heat until they start to soften. Add the red wine and use it to deglaze the pan. Then add the gravy granules and water, stirring continually, and allow to bubble, without boiling, until a thick gravy forms. Add the Worcestershire sauce, stir well to combine and then season with a little salt and black pepper. Simmer over a medium-low heat, for a couple of minutes.

Once the gravy is nicely thickened add it to the saucepan with the meatballs. Add the peas, stir well to combine and then cover and simmer over a low heat until ready to serve.

Just before the potatoes are ready, heat some butter in a small frying pan and sautée the leeks, until starting to soften.

Drain the cooked potatoes and mash them. Once the mash is smooth, stir in the cooked leeks, extra butter and the mustard. Season and then stir well until the leeks and mustard and well distributed through the mash.

Serve the mustard and leek mash, with the meatballs, peas and gravy on the side. I also added some sautéed black cabbage.


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Slow-cooked pork with pumpkin

I had the lovely Phil over last night for some dinner and Doctor Who (the Sunmakers, fact fans!) and so I flicked through my cookbooks until I found this in Orchards in the Oasis by Josceline Dimbleby.

It’s rather tasty recipe with some lovely flavours and the slow cooking time does leave the meat very tender, and the sauce thick and tasty. I think I’ll add a bit more chilli powder next time though. Also, the recipe does include peanut butter, which I’m not very keen on, but once it’s mixed into the dish you can’t really taste it.

There’s not much pumpkin around at this time of year, so I used chunks of butternut squash instead.

Serves 4

2 large onions, peeled, quartered and thinly sliced
4 large garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
A walnut size piece of ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
750g of boneless pork, diced
3 level teaspoons of soft brown sugar
300g of peeled and de-seeded pumpkin, diced
2 tablespoons of groundnut oil
1 teaspoon of chilli powder
1 teaspoon of turmeric
300ml of water
2 tablespoons of dark soy
2 tablespoons of tamarind purée
1 rounded tablespoon of peanut butter
A large handful of f coriander leaves, roughly chopped

Pre-heat the oven to 150.

Sprinkle the sugar over the diced pork and leave to stand for 5 minutes or so.

In a large ovenproof casserole dish heat a tablespoon of the oil over a medium heat, add the pork and sugar and fry quickly until browned all over. Remove the meat from the pan and set aside.

Add the remaining oil to the pan and fry the onion for five minutes or so, until nicely browned. Add the garlic, ginger, chilli powder and turmeric, stir well to combine and cook for a further minute or so, until fragrant.

Return the meat to the pan and add the pumpkin pieces and stir well. (As squash is a bit less firm than pumpkin, I added it an hour into the cooking time, which worked well.)

Then add the water, soy sauce, tamarind purée and the peanut butter. Stir well to combine.

Pop the lid on the dish and pop it in the oven, on a low shelf, for 2-2½ hours, until the pork is very tender.

Once cooked, season as required, stir in the chopped coriander and serve.

Delicious. I served it with mashed potato and creamy cabbage. (see here for recipe: Creamy cabbage  )

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