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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Algerian Chicken Sautée

I had the lovely Douglas over on Saturday evening, for a spot of dinner and some old TV. (We watched 2 episodes of short-lived 60s espionage series The Corridor People, and one episode of a Jon Pertwee Doctor Who story) I found this recipe in a lovely little cookbook by John Leeson, the voice of K-9 from Doctor Who. The book, Dog’s Dinners, published by Fantom Publishing, contains lots of delicious recipes, well written and easy to follow, and often accompanied by wine recommendations from John too.

Serves 6

1 large chicken (I used a couple of chicken thighs each, as I was only cooking for two, and that seemed to work just fine.)
6fl oz of olive oil
A pinch of saffron
½ a teaspoon of cloves
1 teaspoon of cumin (the recipe doesn’t specify but I assume seeds, rather than ground cumin)
1 lemon
4 large onions, chopped
500g of ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped
2 large aubergines
2 red peppers, de-seeded and cut into strips
2 green peppers, de-seeded and cut into strips
3 cloves of garlic
2 teaspoons of plain flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
A small bunch of flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

Cut the aubergines into bite-sized pieces, lay out on a baking tray and sprinkle with salt to draw out the moisture. (This should take about half an hour)

In a pestle and mortar, crush the cumin, cloves, garlic and saffron to a paste.

In a large saucepan, or flameproof casserole dish, heat about a third of the olive oil and sweat the onions until translucent. Then add the chicken (or chicken pieces) and the juice of a lemon. Turn down the heat and leave to cook gently.

Pat the aubergine pieces dry with kitchen paper and then roll them in the flour.

In another saucepan, heat about a third of the oil and add the floured aubergine pieces, cooking them until lightly browned on all sides. Then add the sliced peppers, chopped tomatoes and the spice paste, along with the final third of the oil. Stir well to combine and then cover and cook very gently for about 10 minutes.

Add the vegetable mix to the chicken, stir and cook gently for an hour, until the sauce has thickened slightly and the chicken is cooked through.

Serve garnished with the chopped parsley.

Very tasty – well done K-9!


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Split pea and ham soup

On Monday I had Phil over for some dinner and Doctor Who (The Pirate Planet, in case you were wondering!) and I made a lovely marmalade glazed gammon and squash recipe that I’ve blogged about before:  The recipe involes boiling the gammon joint for about an hour and a half before roasting, and so this time I decided to retain the cooking liquid and use it to make soup with.

The gammon joint that I used was also sufficiently large to leave me with about 300g of cooked gammon left over to put in the soup.

This is a recipe of my own devising so the amounts are a bit approximate, but if you follow it you should end up with a lovely, thick, flavoursome soup.

Makes enough for about 3-4 large bowlfuls

1-2 tablespoons of olive oil
300g of split peas (these need to be soaked overnight before use, so the recipe needs a bit of planning)
800ml of stock (If you’ve not previously boiled a gammon joint then either ham or vegetable stock should be fine)
2 echalion shallots, peeled and finely sliced
1 leek, finely sliced
300g of cooked gammon, roughly cut into small pieces
Leaves from 1-2 sprigs of fresh thyme
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

The night before making the soup, soak the split peas in cold water overnight. Drain and rinse the following day, before making the soup.

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the sliced shallots and leek and fry over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes, until starting to soften.

Add the gammon pieces and quickly fry for a minute or so. Add the split pea and the stock. Stir well to combine. Season and add the thyme leaves.

Bring to the boil, and then turn the heat down and simmer for about an hour and a half, stirring regularly. You may need to add a little more stock, or water, so keep an eye on the liquid levels.

The peas will eventually break down to a thick liquid. You may want to give it a quick blast with a hand blender, just to further break down the peas – not too much though as you don’t want to break up the pieces of meat.

The end result is a nice, thick soup with satisfying chunks of gammon and occasional al dente pieces of split pea.


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Beef bourguignon

On Tuesday evening, in the absence of my usual visit from Fig, I decided to cook a casserole that would serve for both Tuesday evening and as something for me to re-heat on Wednesday evening after my late finish. Fortunately this lovely recipe turned up in the back pages of the new Radio Times so I decided to give it a go. It’s a Mary Berry recipe and I kept it mostly as is, although I did substitute diced red pepper for the mushrooms listed in the recipe. It worked well and the resultant dish, rich and tender after two hours cooking time, was delicious.

Serves 4

2 tablespoons of oil
900g of stewing or braising steak, diced
175g of smoked streaky bacon, cut into small pieces
1 large brown onion, peeled and thickly sliced
2 fat garlic cloves, crushed
450ml of red wine
40g of plain flour
4 tablespoons of brandy
600ml of beef stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme
175g of chestnut mushrooms (or, if like me you hate mushrooms, 1 red pepper, de-seeded and diced)
A knob of butter
12 small raw pickling onions (I couldn’t find these in Sainsbury’s, so I popped in 4 peeled whole shallots instead)
2 tablespoons of finely chopped fresh parsley (I completely forgot to add this! Ah well!)

Pre-heat the oven to 160.

In a small saucepan heat the wine over a medium heat and boil until reduced by half. Set aside.

In a large saucepan heat the oil over a high heat and brown the beef (in batches if necessary) until nicely browned all over. (the recipe says to do this in a flameproof casserole dish, but I prefer to do it in a saucepan and then transfer it into a casserole dish to go in the oven)

Remove the beef from the pan. Add the onion, garlic and bacon to the pan and fry until the bacon is starting to brown.

Sprinkle the flour over the onions and bacon and then pour over the reduced wine, brandy and half of the stock. Stir well to combine and cook until thickened. Bring to the boil.

Add the remaining stock, return the meat to the pan. Season well with salt and pepper and add the thyme. Bring to the boil, then cover with a lid and transfer to the oven. Cook for 1½ -2 hours.

After 1 hour, add the peeled pickling onions/shallots. (The original recipe says to fry the mushrooms and pickling onions in butter and then add them, together, after an hour)

Half an hour before the end of the cooking time, add the diced red pepper.

Once the cooking time is up serve immediately, sprinkled with chopped parsley.


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Crispy duck and cashew noodle stir-fry

Last night I was off over to Abigail’s at 9 for a spot of Doctor Who, so I needed something that could be cooked quickly and easily. I fancied a stir-fry and was in the mood for duck and so I pottered about on the BBC Food website until I found this tasty little recipe. It was extremely easy to do (in fact it almost seems redundant actually typing it up – it was so simple!) and the end result was full of flavour with the various fruit juices working well with the soy, chilli and duck.

There were no edamame beans that I could find in Sainsbury’s so instead I opted for half a red pepper, de-seeded and thinly sliced, and I also bunged in a couple of asparagus tips that I had which needed using up. I also used dried noodles rather than fresh, as that’s what I had to hand.

Serves 1

A dash groundnut oil
1 duck breast, cut into strips
¼ of a red onion, sliced
1 fresh red chilli, de-seeded and finely sliced
2 tablespoons of chopped cashews
1 orange, zest and juice only
1 lemon, zest and juice only
1 lime, zest and juice only
A splash of soy sauce
150g of fresh egg noodles
2 tablespoons of edamame beans
Heat the oil in a wok, add the duck strips and fry over a high heat for 5-6 minutes.

Add the onion and cook for a further 2-3 minutes.

Once the onions start to soften, add the chilli, cashews, fruit juices and zests, soy and edamame beans. (or pepper and asparagus!) Stir well to combine and cook for a further 2-3 minutes. (If using fresh noodles, also add them at this point. If, like me, you’re using dried noodles, then cook in boiling water as per the instructions on the packet.)



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Tile-maker’s stew

On Tuesday I had Fig over for a post-Christmas catch up and a resumption of our stagger through the zombie-infested post-apocalyptic wasteland of The Walking Dead. As I had Monday off I thought I’d take the opportunity to cook something that took a bit longer on the Monday and then re-heat it on Tuesday. Flicking through my books I found this recipe in Dinner by Domini Kemp and thought I’d try it. It’s easy to do and tasty, with a lovely peppery flavour, but it does take a couple of hours.

I served it with the paprika and onion roast potatoes, which I’ve blogged before, and black cabbage.

(I have noticed that a lot of the dishes that I blog are, essentially, a sort of reddy-brown. I must try and do things that are different colours!)

Serves 4-6

4 tablespoons of olive oil
1kg of braising steak, cut into bite-sized chunks
3 onions, peeled and sliced
4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
2 tablespoons of black peppercorns
2 teaspoons of ground black pepper
2 bay leaves
250ml of red wine (when reheating the following day I added about 50ml of extra wine)
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
1 tube of tomato purée
(I also added a handful of chopped fresh cherry tomatoes as well)

In a large saucepan heat the olive oil and brown the beef on all sides.

Season with plenty of salt and then add the onions, garlic and peppercorns and cook, over a medium heat, for a further 5-10 minutes, until the onions have softened.

Add the crushed pepper, red wine, tomatoes, bay leaves and tomato purée, Stir well to combine, then cover with a tight-fitting lid and cook very gently, over a low heat, for 2 hours or so, stirring every 20 minutes to avoid sticking. The sauce should be fairly thick, but you may want to add a little extra water if it looks like drying out too much.

Serve immediately.


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