Lamb and Leek stir-fry

Last Tuesday (it has taken me over a week to write this one up! Sorry about that!) I had the lovely Fig over for our usual Tuesday dinner and Doctor Who session, although this time we watched 80s classic Gremlins instead, and I found this recipe in my Big Book of Wok and Stir-Fry cookbook. It’s a tasty one but it does have a couple of minor issues. For example the ingredients list mentions ‘Basic Chinese Stock’, but the instructions refer to Spicy Beef Stock. Also the suggested cooking time means that the leeks are pretty much raw. I gave them a few minutes longer and that softened them up a bit but they were still very chewy.

Serves 2

350g of lamb neck fillet
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 teaspoons of soy sauce
2 teaspoons of Chinese rice wine
½ a teaspoon of sugar
¼ of a teaspoon of salt
½ a teaspoon of cornflour
2 tablespoons of basic Chinese stock
2 tablespoons of groundnut oil
3 leeks, sliced into 4cm pieces
1 tablespoon of chicken stock (I used 3-4 tablespoons as 1 just didn’t seem sufficient.)
A pinch of white pepper

Slice the lamb, diagonally into bite-sized pieces. Flatten with the back of a knife and place in a bowl along with the garlic, soy sauce, rice wine, sugar and salt, stir well to combine and leave to stand for an hour at room temperature.

Mix the cornflour and Chinese stock into a paste.

Heat a wok over a high heat and add a tablespoons of the oil. Add the lamb pieces and stir-fry for 1 minute, then season to taste with the pepper.

Add the cornflour paste and stir-fry for a further 2 minutes. Remove from the wok, set aside and keepo warm.

Wipe the wok clean with kitchen paper. Return the wok to a high heat and add the remaining oil. Add the leeks and chicken stock and stir-fry for 2 minutes, until just cooked, and still bright green and crisp. (I found that the leeks were still too tough after just 2 minutes, so I cooked them for nearer 5. Just use your judgement.)

Return the lamb to the wok and fry for a further minute.

Serve immediately with boiled rice.

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Caramelised pork belly with spring onion mash

I made this on Saturday evening as I had some ‘special offer’ pork belly slices that needed using up. I flicked through several cookbooks looking for pork belly recipes, but although I found a couple of interesting ones, this recipe eventually came from the BBC website. It was ok, but I’m not sure I’ll be rushing to cook it again, as there were a couple of issues, which I shall elaborate on as we go. The accompanying spring onion mash was delicious though as I’ll definitely do that again!

Serves 4

For the pork belly:

75ml of vegetable oil
800g of pork belly, cut into 2” x 1” squares
3” piece fresh ginger, peeled and julienned
125ml of rice wine
6 tablesoons of light soy sauce
250g of palm sugar this seemed like an awful lot. I used considerably less so the end result probably wasn’t as caramelised as it should’ve been
4 star anise
150ml of hot chicken stock

For the spring onion mash:

600g of baking potatoes suitable for mashing, peeled and cut into chunks
150g of butter
8 saffron strands, soaked in 1 teaspoon of milk
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 spring onions, trimmed, finely chopped

Cook the squares of pork belly in a pan of boiling water for five minutes, then drain, pat dry with kitchen paper and set aside to cool.

Heat the vegetable oil in a large frying pan over a medium to high heat. Add the squares of boiled pork belly, skin-side down, (in batches if necessary.) and fry for 6-8 minutes, or until crisp and golden-brown. (Issue 1: This was a bit of a nightmare – the pork chunks made the hot fat spit so much that it went everywhere, and as a result it was painful to stand too near.)

Turn the pork belly squares over and fry for a further 3-4 minutes, until crisp. Remove from the pan using a slotted spoon and set aside to drain on kitchen paper. (Repeat the process with the remaining batches of pork belly.)

Bring all of the remaining ingredients to the boil in a large wok. When the mixture is boiling, add the fried pork belly and reduce the heat until the mixture is simmering.

Continue to simmer the mixture for 45-50 minutes, (Issue 2: I found that this was far too long and the sauce was suitably thick and glossy after only 20 or so minutes. Just use your judgement.) Adding a little of extra chicken stock to the pan, as necessary, if the mixture starts to dry out.

To make the mash:

Boil the potatoes in a pan of salted water for 15-20 minutes, or until tender.

Drain well, then mash until smooth.

Stir the butter and saffron-infused milk into the mashed potatoes until well combined. Then season, to taste, with salt and freshly ground black pepper, and the stir in the spring onions.

To serve, spoon a portion of the spring onion mash into the centre of each serving plate. Place a few squares of pork belly on top of each serving, then spoon over the sauce.

I served this with lemon and chilli char-grilled broccoli.

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Poulet vallée d’auge

I had Abigail over for some dinner and Doctor Who on Wednesday evening and I fancied something French, so I flicked through my cookbook The Food of France and came across this recipe. Like a lot of French food it contains both cream and booze, which is definitely a winner!

I accompanied it with cheesy mash and sautéed spring greens.

Serves 4

1 medium chicken, jointed (I used bone-in chicken thighs for just the two of us, not least because it’s easier than jointing a chicken!)
2 dessert apples
1 tablespoon of lemon juice
60g of butter
½ an onion, finely chopped
½ a celery stalk, finely chopped (as ever I opted for leek)
1 tablespoon of plain flour
80ml of brandy or Calvados
375ml of chicken stock
80ml of crème fraîche

Joint the chicken into eight pieces.

Peel and core the apples, Finely chop half of one apple and cut the rest into twelve wedges. Toss the apple in the lemon juice.

Heat half the butter in a large saucepan, the add the chicken pieces, skin-side down, and cook until golden.

Turn the pieces over and cook for a further 5 minutes. Remove the chicken pieces from the pan, set aside and pour away the fat.

Heat another tablespoon of butter in the same pan and add the onion, celery (leek) and chopped apple, and fry over a medium heat for 5 minutes or so, without browning.

Remove from the heat, sprinkle over the flour and stir it in. Add the brandy and then return the pan to the heat. Gradually stir in the chicken stock.

Bring to the boil, return the chicken to the pan, cover and simmer gently for 20 minutes or so, until the chicken is cooked through.

Meanwhile heat the remaining butter in a frying pan and fry the apple wedges over a medium heat until golden. Remove from the pan and keep warm.

Remove the chicken from the pan and keep warm. Skim the excess fat from the cooking liquid. Add the crème fraîche, bring to the boil and boil for 3-4 minutes, until the sauce is thick enough to lightly cover the back of a spoon.

Season well. Serve the chicken with the apple wedges and with the sauce poured over.


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Poussin Georgian style

I had the lovely David over last night for a spot of dinner and Doctor Who (We watched Knock Knock and Oxygen.) and I fancied cooking some poussin, so I flicked around until I found this recipe. I’ve adapted it a bit – Sainsbury’s didn’t have sour cherries, so I used dried cranberries instead, and rather than walnuts, I used toasted pine nuts.

The recipe says to use 200g of pearl barley for the stuffing, but that was waaaay too much to stuff two poussin. I’d’ve said about 100g would be enough! I also rubbed the skin of the bird with half a teaspoon of cayenne pepper mixed with butter, which is an idea from another recipe – it works well though.

I served this with lemon potatoes and sautéed kale and spinach.

2 poussin
80g of butter
½ a teaspoon of cayenne pepper
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the stuffing:

200g of pearl barley
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 banana shallot, finely chopped
100g of dried, plump sour cherries
100g of toasted walnuts, chopped (or pine nuts)
3 tablespoons of fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons of pomegranate molasses
Juice and finely grated zest of ½ a lemon
150ml of dry white wine
100ml of pomegranate juice

Cook the pearl barley in a pan of boiling water for about 20 minutes, until soft. Drain and set aside.

Preheat the oven to 180.

Rinse the poussin under cold running water and pat dry thoroughly.

To prepare the stuffing, heat the olive oil in a heavy frying pan and cook the shallot and sour cherries for a few minutes until the cherries are plump and juicy.

Add the cooked pearl barley and continue cooking for 2-3 minutes.

Add the toasted walnuts, parsley, pomegranate molasses and lemon juice and zest. Stir well and leave to cool.

Once the stuffing has cooled, use it to stuff the cavities of the two poussin, dividing it evenly between the two.

Mix the cayenne pepper with the butter and smear it liberally over the skin of both birds, then grind some sea salt and black pepper over the skin.

Place the birds in a large roasting tray and add the wine and pomegranate juice. Roast for 35-40 minutes, until cooked through, basting at regular intervals.

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Pork with sweet and sour onion sauce

Last night Neil and I were off to the pub so I fancied something quick and easy to cook beforehand. I found this recipe when I was looking for Thursday evening’s meatballs recipe and thought it looked tasty so I gave it a go. It worked well and was easy to do, although the end result was a little watery as I didn’t reduce the cider vinegar quite enough, Other than that it was good. I upped the vegetable content a bit by adding some sliced red pepper and some sugar-snap peas.

Serves 4

600g pork fillet, cut into 4cm-thick slices
2 tablespoons of freshly ground coarse black pepper
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 large red onion, halved and sliced
150ml of cider vinegar
75ml of maple syrup
A small bunchof parsley, chopped


Sprinkle the sliced meat on all sides with the black pepper and some salt.

Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large wok. Sear the meat on both sides until nicely browned.

Remove from the wok and set aside.

Add the remaining oil and the onion to the wok. (along with any other vegetables you might be using.)

Cook for 5 mins, then pour in the vinegar and bubble to reduce for 1 minute or so.

Stir in the maple syrup, then return the pork to the pan and cook for 5 minutes or so, until the pork is cooked through and the sauce has thickened.

Serve the pork and sauce on a bed of rice and garnished with chopped parsley. (I forgot the parsley, which is why there’s none in the picture!)

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Lemon & fennel pork meatballs


On Thursday evening Neil and I decided to watch a film so I said I’d cook some dinner. I footled around on the internet looking for pork based recipes and found this one on the Good Food website. Both Neil and I love a meatball so I decided to go for it and the end result was very tasty. I served it with a mash made of ordinary potatoes and sweet potatoes, with some added Greek yoghurt for a little extra creaminess, and some garlic bread. Tasty.

Serves 2

2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
2 x 400g cans of chopped tomatoes
1 lemon, zested and cut into wedges
500g of pork mince
2 teaspoons of fennel seeds (I found it helpful to lightly crush them in a pestle and mortar before using.)
250g of kale
25g of pine nuts, toasted


In a medium saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon of the oil over a medium heat. Add the onion and garlic and cook for 5 minutes or so, until the onion starts to soften and colour.

Add the tomatoes, along with a splash of water, increase the heat a little and allow to bubble for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the lemon zest, mince, fennel seeds and a good pinch of seasoning. Mix well, then shape into walnut-sized balls.

Heat the remaining oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat.

Add the meatballs and brown for 5 minutes, moving constantly to avoid sticking.

Then add the tomato sauce to the pan. Simmer for 10 minutes over a medium heat.

Add the kale, stir in well, cover with a lid and cook for 5 mins more until the kale is wilted.

Season to taste, then scatter over the pine nuts and serve with the lemon wedges and some mash.

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Sticky honey, mustard and lemon chicken with sweet potato wedges

On Tuesday evening I had the lovely Fig over for a spot of post-Pride dinner and Doctor Who. (We opted for Mysterious Planet fact fans!) I flicked around on the BBC website and found two different recipes that I cobbled together to make this, rather tasty, dinner.

Serves 2

For the chicken:

2 bone-in chicken thighs per person
1 tablespoons of black peppercorns
Juice of 2 lemons
1½ tablespoons of runny honey
1 large teaspoon of wholegrain mustard
2 garlic cloves, crushed
Sea salt, to taste
2 preserved lemons, quartered

For the sweet potato wedges:

2 teaspoons of garlic powder
1½ teaspoons of paprika
A large pinch salt
2 large sweet potatoes, cut into wedges
2 tablespoons of olive oil

Pre-heat the oven to 200

Roughly crush the peppercorns in a pestle and mortar, then place in a large bowl with the lemon juice, crushed garlic, honey and mustard and mix well.

Place the chicken thighs in a roasting dish, nestle the quartered preserved lemons around the thighs amd then pour the honey, mustard and lemon juice mixture over and leave to marinate for about half an hour or so.

Once you have cut the sweet potatoes into wedges, mix together the garlic powder, paprika, salt and olive oil in a large bowl. Add the wedges and mix well until all of the wedges are coated in the oil and spice mix.

Lay the coated wedges out on a baking tray.

Pop the chicken in the oven and roast for 45 minutes or so, turning once during cooking to ensure that they are nicely sticky, until cooked through and golden.

Roast the wedges in the oven for 30 minutes or so, until cooked through and tender.

Serve the chicken with a little of the cooking liquid drizzled over.

I served this with a rocket salad and harissa-marinated asparagus.

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Pollo a la cerveza – Chicken in beer

Last night Neil and I had Alberto over for the final two episodes of the recent series of RuPaul’s Drag Race (yes, I know, I know, we’re a bit behind! Still, we were pleased with who won!) and so I flicked around and found this recipe, in a lovely little Spanish cookbook, called, incidentally The Little Spanish Cookbook.

It’s a tasty recipe and went down well with the boys, I enhanced it by adding a fair amount of sliced chorizo. It says to marinate overnight, I wasn’t able to do that, but I did marinate it for at least 4 hours, which seemed to work well.

Serves 4

350ml bottle of beer, preferably Spanish beer
1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon of sweet paprika
2 brown onions, diced
2 fat garlic cloves, crushed
1.5kg of chicken, cut into pieces (I used 2 chicken thighs per person and that worked well.)
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 green pepper, diced
1 red pepper, diced
70g of chorizo, sliced
440g tin of chopped tomatoes

Combine the beer, mustard, paprika, a pinch of salt, half of the onion and half of the garlic in a bowl. Add the chicken pieces and mix well to ensure that the chicken pieces are well coated.

Cover and marinate in the fridge for as long as possible, preferably overnight.

Preheat the oven to 180.

In a large, flame-proof casserole dish (or a large saucepan if you don’t have a flame-proof casserole dish.) heat the olive oil over a medium heat. Add the chorizo and fry until starting to become crisp, then add the remaining onion and garlic and both types of diced pepper and cook gently, for 10 minutes or so, until softened.

Stir in the chicken pieces and the marinade. Add the tomatoes, stir well to ensure that everything is well combined and then season with salt and pepper.

Cover and bake in the oven for 60 minutes, until the chicken is tender. (I took the covering foil off after 30 minutes.)

I served it with wasabi mash and sautéed black cabbage.

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Roasted lamb shanks with lemon potatoes

On Sunday evening I made this tasty dish for Neil and I in lieu of a full roast. It comes from the Gino D’Acampo cookbook Buonissimo and is originally for a slow-roasted lamb shoulder, but the shanks were on special offer in Sainsbury’s and I love a good lamb shank, so I adapted.

The original recipe serves 4 with a 1.5kg lamb shoulder. I just used two shanks – one each, and so scaled down the cooking time, and number of potatoes accordingly. I still did waaaaay too many potatoes though.

1 lamb shank per person
1.5kg of waxy potatoes, peeled and cut into 4/5cm chunks
10 garlic cloves, unpeeled
1 tablespoon of dried oregano
2 tablespoons of fresh marjoram leaves
2 tablespoons of fresh rosemary leaves, stripped from the stalks
3 bay leaves
5 tablespoons of olive oil
Juice of 2 large lemons
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 190

Place the meat, potatoes, and galic in a large ovenproof casserole dish or roasting dish.

Sprinkle all the herbs over and then pour in the olive oil, lemon juice and 100ml of water.

Season well with salt and pepper, mix well together, nestling the potatoes around the shanks. Cover with a lid or foil.

Bake in the middle of the oven for 2 hours (3 hours for the original, large shoulder. I found that 2 was fine for these shanks though.) I removed the foil for the last 45 minutes of cooking, just to lightly brown the potatoes.

Allow to rest for 5 minutes before serving.


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Ploughman’s cheese and pickle tart

I saw this recipe in the Radio Times the other week and thought I’d give it a go on Friday afternoon. It’s easy to do and very tasty. (a good, strong cheddar is essential.) It makes a nice snacky alternative to the more usual quiche.

350g of shortcrust pastry
1 tablespoon of paprika
Plain flour for dusting
4 large eggs
150ml of milk
200g of Branston pickle (small chunks version)
250g of mature cheddar, grated

Roll out the pastry a little, sprinkle over the paprika and then knead for a couple of minutes, until the paprika is incorporated into the pastry.

Set the pastry aside in the fridge to chill for 15 minutes or so.

Pre-heat the oven to 180.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the pastry out to a thickness of about 5mm, and large enough to line a quiche or flan tin.

Line the tin with the pastry and roughly trim the excess off from the edge.

Prick the pastry a few times with a fork – this will prevent it from rising whilst baking. Then line the pastry with greaseproof paper and fill the dish with baking beads.

Bake in the oven for 20 minutes, then remove from the oven and take out the baking beads and greaseproof paper. Return to the oven for a further 10 minutes.

Whilst this is cooking whisk the eggs together with the milk and season well with salt and black pepper.

Once the pastry shell is out of the oven spread a layer of the Branston pickle evenly over the base of the shell. Then sprinkle the grated cheese over the pickle, again, ensuring that all of th pickle is evenly covered/

Pour the egg and milk mixture over the cheese and then place the tart in the oven. Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the filling is golden and just set.


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