Slow-cooked lamb with chickpeas

I had Abigail over last night for The Sensorites episodes 3-6 and so I flicked through several cookbooks and found this in my Islands of Greece cookbook, by Rebecca Seal, that I got from Alberto a couple of years ago. It’s tasty and easy to do, although it does take a while – at least three hours – but as I had the day off that was no problem. It’s also surprisingly tasty, given that the only spice in it is a little allspice. Once again, it’s another reddish-brown dish though – I really must try and blog something that’s a different colour!

I accompanied it with some spinach, wilted in butter, which worked well with the main dish.

Serves 4

2-3 tablespoons of olive oil
800g of stewing lamb in large pieces (the pieces I got from Sainsbury’s were stil on the bone, but that works well as the long cooking time means that it falls easily off the bone.)
2 onions, chopped
400g can of cooked chickpeas
1 tablespoon of tomato purée
120ml of red wine
2 x 400g cans of chopped tomatoes
½ a teaspoon of allspice
500ml of lamb stock
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 140.

In a large, flameproof casserole heat two tablespoons of the olive oil and brown the meat thoroughly, in batches if necessary. (I don’t have a flameproof casserole dish so I started it off in a large saucepan and then transferred to a lidded cassserole dish for the oven.)

Remove the meat from the pan, add a little more oil if required, reduce the heat, add the onions and cook for 10 minutes or so, until softened and lightly golden.

Whilst the onions are cooking, rub the chickpeas between your fingers to remove the skins.

Add the tomato purée to the pan and cook, stirring regularly, for two minutes. Then add the wine, bubbling it and using it to deglaze the pan.

After two minutes add the tomatoes, chickpeas, allspice, stock and browned meat to the pan and season well.

Pop the lid on and place in the oven. Cook for 2 – 2½ hours with the lid on, then remove the lid and cook for a further hour. This should reduce the liquid a bit and thicken the sauce.

Serve with seasonal greens (in this instance, wilted spinach) and either boiled new potatoes or crusty bread.

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Soutzoukakia – meatballs in tomato sauce with cinnamon and cumin

It’s another one from my new Rick Stein cookbook – I seem to be on a bit of a roll with that book at the moment. I love a meatball (no sniggering at the back there!) and so when I had Neil over for dinner, and some Victoria Wood goodness, on Saturday evening, it seemed like a good opportunity to give this recipe a go. I paired it with the same pilaf rice recipe that I had cooked on Friday, as the recipe said to serve it with rice, and that worked rather well.

I may have made the balls a bit bigger than the recipe intended as it said that the amount listed would make 20-24 balls, whereas I only managed 16, but that was fine – they all cooked through ok anyway. The recipe, apparently originally comes from Thessaloniki and the cinnamon and cumin do give the dish a different flavour from other meatball recipes I’ve tried.

Serves 4

For the meatballs:

500g of minced beef
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 egg, beaten
½ a teaspoon of ground cumin
½ a teaspoon of dried oregano
½ a teaspoon of salt
2 slices of stale white bread, soaked in red wine and squeezed dry
12 turns of black pepper
3 tablespoons of olive oil

For the tomato sauce:

1 onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
3 tablespoons of olive oil
1 cinnamon stick
1 teaspoon of ground cumin
150ml of red wine
1 tablespoon of tomato purée
500ml of passata
½ a teaspoon of salt
12 turns of black pepper

Mix all of the ingredients for the meatballs, except for the olive oil, together in a large bowl. Mix well until thoroughly combined and then shape into 20-24 rugby ball shaped meatballs.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan, over a medium-high heat, and fry the meatballs in batches if necessary, until golden all over. (you will need to turn them regularly to avoid sticking.)

Once cooked set the meatballs aside whilst you make the sauce.

In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over a medium heaty. Add the onions, garlic, cumin, sugar and cinnamon stick, and sweat the onions for 10 minutes or so, until soft.

Add the red wine, increase the heat to bring to the boil and then reduce the heat to medium again.

Add the tomato purée an passata, season with salt and pepper, and cook for 20 minutes or so, until thickened. (I find it helpful to pop a lid on as the passata does tend to splash a bit – you don’t want to be constantly wiping the hob and walls…)

Add the fried meatballs, cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes, until cooked through. Keep an eye on the sauce and add a little extra water or red wine if it starts to thicken too much.

Remove the cinnamon stick and serve!

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Kozani chicken with prunes, saffron and paprika served with pilaf rice

Douglas came over for dinner and various bits of cult TV on Friday evening, so I thought I’d give this little recipe a go. (Technically these recipes, as the pilaf rice is also from the same book.) Again, as with Thursday’s dinner it’s from the Rick Stein cookbook Long Weekends. It’s very easy to do and, considerably more flavoursome than I was expecting, given the minimal amount of spices that the recipe calls for. The pilaf rice accompaniment is really nice too. So much so that I also cooked it on Saturday night with a different recipe.

Serves 4

8 skinless chicken thighs (being greedy I used 6 for the two of us – 3 each!)
1 litre of water
A pinch of saffron
4 tablespoons of olive oil
3 red onions, finely sliced
1½ tablespoons of sweet paprika
20 pitted prunes
1 teaspoon of salt
6 turns of black pepper

For the pilaf rice:

Serves 4

60g of onion, finely chopped
30g of butter
350g of long-grain rice
600ml of chicken stock
1 teaspoon of salt
20g of pine nuts, toasted (optional)
20g of fat currants, or sultanas (optional)

Put the chicken thighs in a large saucepan with the water and the saffron. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and allow to poach for 10-15 minutes. Drain the chicken, but retain the water.

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan over a medium/low heat and sweat the onion until very soft, probably about 10 minutes.

Add the paprika and cook for 2 minutes. Then add the chicken thighs, the prunes and about 700ml of the cooking water. Season with salt and pepper and simmer for about 20 minutes, until the sauce has thickened and the chicken is heated through.

For the rice:

Heat the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat and gently fry the onion for 1-2 minutes. Then add the rice and stir well so that every grain is coated in the butter.

Add the stock and salt. Stir well to combine.

Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down, cover and simmer for about 15 minutes. About 5 minutes from the end of the cooking time, stir in the pine nuts and currant, if using.

Serve the chicken and prunes with the rice and covered with the thickened sauce. (I probably didn’t thicken the sauce quite as much as the recipe intended, but a bit more liquid worked well with the dish, especially with the rice.)

Delicious. The saffron imparts a subtle but noticeable flavour to the dish and the chicken is wonderfully tender.

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Poulet au permentier – a gruyère gratin of chicken with tomato and black olives

I had the lovely Abigail over for a spot of dinner and Doctor Who on Thursday evening and so I decided to give this recipe a go. It’s another one from the Rick Stein cookbook Long Weekends, that I got for my birthday. It’s a lovely recipe – tasty and easy to do. It requires shredded cooked chicken so, unless you happen to have some cooked chicken lying about, that does increase the cooking time a bit as you have to cook the chicken first. I just roasted 5 chicken thighs, so they were done in 40 minutes and I could just strip the meat off the bones once they’d cooled a little. Other than that it was all fairly straightforward.

I’m not the biggest fan of olives, either black or green, but they work well in this without being overpowering.

Serves 6

30g of butter
6 large banana shallots, peeled and halved
3 carrots, chopped
2 celery sticks, chopped (as ever, I used 1 fat leek instead.)
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
4 tablespoons of white wine
4 large ripe tomatoes, skinned and chopped
1 tablespoon of tomato purèe
350ml of chicken stock
600g of cooked chicken meatm shredded
16 black olives, halved
2 tablespoons of chopped parsley
50g of gruyère cheese

For the topping:
1.5 kg of floury potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
30g of butter
5 tablespoons of double cream
2 egg yolks
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Boil the potatoes for the topping in salted water until tender.

Heat the butter in a large saucepan, over a medium heat and sweat the shalllot halves, carrots, celery (leek) and garlic for 10-15 minutes, until soft.

Add the white wine and cook for 1 minute, then add the tomatoes, tomato purèe and chicken stock, and simmer for 10-15 minutes, until the sauce has thickened.

Add the cooked chicken, olives and chopped parsley and season with salt and pepper.

Drain the potatoes and mash them until smooth. Add the butter, cream, egg yolks and season well.

Pre-heat the oven to 180.

Place the filling in a large ovenproof disgh and top with the mashed potato.

Grate the gruyère over the top, and bake for 30-35 minutes, until bubbling and golden.



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Viennese Gulasch with spätzle

Sorry it has taken me a while to get ‘round to blogging this – life’s been a bit hectic over the last couple of weeks. I made this on Saturday 25th when my lovely friend Vanessa was down from London for the weekend and we had our friends William and Craig over for dinner. The recipe comes from the new Rick Stein cookbook I got for my birthday.

There was a slight issue in that the spätzle requires the use of a colander, and, unfortunately, I only realised, just as I was about to cook it, that the colander is broken. In the end I repurposed the batter as raspberry pancakes for breakfast the following morning. I’ll still detail the spätzle recipe here, but don’t be surprised that it doesn’t appear in the picture!

The Gulasch was delicious though, and suitably different in flavour from the other gulash recipes that I’ve done before to make it worth blogging. I’m sure that the spätzle would’ve been tasty too, if I’d managed to make it – the pancakes certainly were! As it was I accompanied the gulasch with some sautéed cavolo nero.

Serves 6

100g of lard
1.2kg of onions, peeled and chopped
4 cloves of garlic, grated
1 tablespoon of tomato purée
2 tablespoons of sweet paprika
1½ tablespoons of hot paprika
1 teaspoon of caraway seeds, crushed
2 teaspoons of cider vinegar
2 teaspoons of brown sugar
1½ teaspoons of salt
12 turns of black pepper
1 litre of water
1.5kg of shin of beef, cut into bite-sized pieces (Sainsbury’s didn’t have any shin of beef, but braising steak worked just as well)

For the spätzle

500g of plain flour
2 teaspoons of salt
4 eggs, beaten
250ml of milk
80g of butter
A few pinches of grated nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper

Heat the lard in a large saucepan over a medium heat and fry the onions fior 10 minutes or so, until a deep golden brown.

Add the garlic and cook for a further minute. Then add the tomato purée, hot and sweet paprika, caraway seeds, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper. Stir well to combine and cover with the water.

Bring to the boil then add the beef, turn down the heat and simmer for 2 hours. Check frequently, stirring every so often to prevent sticking and adding more water if necessary.

To make the spätzle: sift the flour and salt into a large bowl. Add the eggs and whisk them into the flour.

Still whisking, gradually add the milk until you have a thick batter. Cover and rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Once the batter has rested, bring a large, deep pan of salted water to the boil, then turn down to a simmer.

Rest a colander over the pan, ensuring that it is not touching the water.

Push the batter through the holes in the colander with a spatula. Cook for 2-3 minutes until all the noodles have risen to the surface. Drain well.

Heat the butter in a frying pan until foaming. Add the spätzle and fry until golden and coated in butter. Add the nutmeg and pepper, stir well and remove from the heat.

Serve the gulasch with the spätzle.



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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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