Perfect scrambled eggs on toast

The humble egg. Such a versatile ingredient, and perhaps one of my favourites, alongside the potato for that very reason. 
And, who can resist eggs in the morning? I know, now you have that song in your head right?
In my house, its eggs for breakfast every weekend without fail, soft boiled being Kieren’s preferred choice. But for me, scrambled eggs are the perfect breakfast treat and seem to encourage me to get out of bed.
Inspired by the Hairy Bikers, this recipe is great as you don’t need to add cream to create that lovely, rich thick texture that makes scrambled eggs so special, which essentially means it’s less calorific. Instead you’ll need 1 tbsp of butter and good arm for stirring.

6 medium eggs
1 tbsp Butter
2 tbsp freshly chopped chives
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 slices bread (your preference)
Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium-low heat. Meanwhile, whisk the eggs in a bowl with the chives and salt and pepper. Once the butter has melted tip in the eggs and begin stirring slowly. Stir almost continuously until the eggs have thickened but are still moist.
The eggs will continue to cook for a minute or so once you have removed them from the heat, so if in doubt take them off the heat a little earlier. They should only take about 3 minutes in total.  
Serve with toasted bread, a sprinkling of chives, ground black pepper and a glass of freshly squeezed orange juice.
Serves:                                  2
Preparation Time:                5 minutes
Cooking Time:                      5 minutes


Minted lamb kebabs with a Greek style salad

Friday is upon us at last. And today I have a treat in-store for you, a little Greek feast that can be on the table in just 15 minutes. You’ll have everyone thinking you have slaved away for at least an hour.

I don’t know about you, but I’m getting bored of this drizzly gloomy weather already, holidays and sunshine seem such a distant memory. So I’m all about bringing some colour back to your table with this fresh and delicious Greek meal.

The crisp salad and tangy, slightly salty feta work wonderfully with fresh tomatoes and black olives. Combined in a pitta with the spiced lamb, a scattering of pomegranate and a drizzle of mint yoghurt, it’s heaven on a plate.

This meal is ideal for serving big numbers as you can prepare it all ahead of time, just double your ingredients per couple attending. Pile your kebabs on a large board with the pitta breads and yoghurt dip, scatter with pomegranate and garnish with a bunch of fresh mint – it’s a real show piece. Serve with a shot of Ouzo for a real Greek dinner party feel. Just make sure your guests don’t get carried away and smash all your plates!
for the Lamb Kebabs                                                      for the Greek Salad
300g diced lamb                                                             2 baby gem lettuces, roughly chopped
200g natural yoghurt                                                      Handful of cherry tomatoes halved
1 large red onion, chopped into chunks                         Handful of black kalamata olives
1 tbsp cumin                                                                    ½ red onion, finely sliced
2 tbsp mint sauce                                                            200g block of feta cheese, diced
2 tbsp fresh pomegranate                                              8 fresh mint leaves
4 pitta breads
Combine the lamb pieces with the cumin and 100g of yoghurt, place in the fridge and allow to marinate for 20 minutes. Meanwhile add the mint sauce to the remaining yoghurt, stir well and divide into 2 ramekins place this in the fridge along with the lamb.
Make your kebabs by threading the onion and lamb onto 4 skewers, alternating the lamb and onion pieces (this may be a little messy with the yoghurt, so get stuck in). Place the kebabs on a grilling tray and grill for 5 minutes on each side.
Place the lettuce in a large bowl, cover with tomatoes, olives, onion, feta and sprinkle over the mint leaves. Lightly toast the pitta breads, cut in half and assemble on a board with the yoghurt and mint dip. Place the kebabs in the middle and cover with fresh pomegranate seeds (arils).

Serves:                                  2
Preparation Time:                5 minutes
Cooking Time:                     10 minutes

Minced Beef Pie

Pastry is definitely my one weakness; I just adore the buttery, soft flakiness of it. Okay, so it’s probably not my only weakness, but you have to admit it’s pretty hard to beat.
I had planned to make a cottage pie last week, but the urge to have pastry seemed to have got the better of me, so here we are with a recipe for minced beef pie. This really takes me back to my childhood; I had a friend whose mum used to make these wonderful minced beef and onion pies, amongst other tasty things. This pie is so simple to make, yet so delicious and comforting.
There is a distinct joy that comes with watching your pie puff up while the pasty browns. Now, I know for some (the pie perfectionists out there) nothing less than a perfect looking pie will do. But, when the pie mix sprits out of my pie and drips down the side of the dish I think it looks even more appetising. What is it they say on the Lurpack advert…?
 ‘Be proud of your puffed up pie’.

400g lean beef mince
1 sheet of short crust pastry
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp dried mixed herbs
2 garlic cloves chopped
500ml beef stock
500ml passata
1 can chopped tomatoes
2 onions roughly chopped
3 large carrots roughly chopped
2 sticks of celery roughly chopped
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1 tsp Marmite
Handful of fresh parsley roughly chopped
2 egg yolks beaten
Handful frozen peas
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oil in a large pan over a medium heat, add the onion and cook for 5 minutes until softened. Add the garlic, carrots, celery and herbs, cook for a further 10 minutes.
At this point it is wise to remove your pastry from the fridge; it will be easier to work with if it’s not too cold. However do not allow the pastry to get warm; it will become gummy (useless).
Coat the beef pieces in flour, ensuring they are fully coated. Place in a casserole dish with the oil and fry over a medium heat for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Once the vegetables have begun to soften, add the beef and fry until browned (at this point you can add a good glug of red wine if you like). Add the stock, passata and chopped tomatoes. Give it all a good stir before adding the Worcestershire sauce, Marmite, salt and pepper.
Transfer your mixture to a pie dish and cover with the sheet of pastry. By all means create a design for the top with your scraps of pastry. Separate 2 egg yolks and whisk in a small bowl, brush onto the pastry. Cook in the oven at 180⁰C for 35-40 minutes. Serve with peas and a sprinkling of freshly chopped parsley.
Serves:                                  4
Preparation Time:               15 minutes
Cooking Time:                     35 minutes


What is black garlic?

I can’t help it, but I seem to have this unstoppable urge to add garlic to almost everything I cook. I love everything about it, its pungent taste; the way it turns slightly golden when fried and produces an almost heady smell. Garlic has this magnificent way of making any other food spring to life and dance in your mouth.
Aside from the fact that it has various medicinal purposes and health benefits, it’s undoubtedly a key ingredient in many types of cuisine all around the world, with China and India being the biggest producers of this pungent little beauty. But, perhaps that most common place it can be found is in Mediterranean cooking. So, when I stumbled upon black garlic in the supermarket I just had to buy it, of course I had no idea what I was going to do with it, but that’s all part of the fun of discovering a new ingredient, the novelty kind of takes over.
Black garlic is nothing more than white garlic that has been through an aging process, leaving the cloves with a black jelly like consistency and a mellow balsamic taste. The aging process seems to reduce the strong smell and almost sweeten the cloves. There is something quite wonderful about the little pods of inky black deliciousness.
A couple of cloves tossed in some butter in a pan; with some blanched green beans and a chopped red onion are really quite something. Cook until the onion has softened, perfect served with red meat. Or, a couple of cloves thrown into a stew or soup add a real hearty but subtle garlicky undertone.
Have you tried black garlic? Share your recipe ideas…


Steak with whisky & peppercorn sauce

Call him a typical man if you will, but ask my boyfriend what he wants for dinner and he’ll say steak every time. Pick the right cut of steak, at its most fresh and you can’t go far wrong.

I often opt for a steak that has been aged for twenty one days, rib eye, rump and sirloin can all be beautifully tender and flavoursome. I’m not mad about fillet steak; in fact, I’d go as far as saying I think it’s over-rated. Personally I find the marbled, fatter cuts much more flavoursome. But, this really is a case of personal preference, much like everything with steak, the cut, how you cook it and what you serve it with; all of which makes having steak at home the best choice. And, when cooking steak for others it is easy to prepare, but equally as easy to get wrong. After all, one mans heavenly rare steak, could in fact be another mans hellish supper.
A well done steak might as well go in the bin as far as I am concerned. Give me a succulent, well rested rare or medium rare steak and I’ll be happy as a sandboy. For me, there are just a few fundamental rules that, if followed, will give you the perfect steak every time.

ROOM TEMPERATURE Take your steak out of the fridge at least twenty minutes before cooking, allowing it to come to room temperature.  This will ensure that the steak cooks evenly, in less time (in the centre)

THE RIGHT HEAT Heat a heavy based pan before you add your steak. The right heat is really important, too hot and you’ll burn the steak, too cool and you’ll end up with a stewed steak

LET IT REST When you remove your steak from the pan it will carry on cooking, so rest the meat for 10 minutes before serving, this also allows the fibres to relax and juices to flow evenly through the meat.  Never cut into the meat to check if it’s done (it will dry out)

RARE                     – 2-3 minutes on each side
MEDIUM RARE      – 4 minutes on each side
MEDIUM WELL      – 6 minutes on each side
So, for my steak with whisky and peppercorn sauce I selected a couple of twenty one day aged rump steaks.
In a small saucepan, heat 300ml of beef stock and 1 tbsp of freshly cracked black peppercorns over a medium heat, allow to simmer (stirring frequently) until it has reduced by a third. Add 60ml of whisky and 240ml of double cream continue to simmer until it has reduced by a third again. Do not boil.
Meanwhile heat 1 tbsp of olive oil and a good knob of butter in a heavy based pan, add the steaks and sprinkle with sea salt and black pepper. Cook for the desired time (as indicated above). I cooked mine for 4 minutes on each side until perfectly cooked on the outside and pink and succulent in the middle. Only turn the steaks once during the cooking process. Remove from the pan, wrap in foil and set aside to rest.
Add 1 chopped red onion to the pan with the steak juices and fry until soft (about 6 minutes). Transfer your steak to a plate (pour over the juices that will have formed in the tin foil), top with the cooked onions and a sprinkle of freshly chopped parsley; add a large handful of fresh watercress. Pour the peppercorn sauce into small ramekins, crack a little pepper over the top and serve with a large glass of red wine.
What’s your beef?

Beef & Red Wine Stew

There’s a chill in the air, the leaves are falling and my appetite is crying out for stew. This hearty dish is just great for a cold night. Shut the front door, kick of your shoes and find your slippers.
It takes very little time to prepare, and then it’s into the oven for 2-3 hours while you pour yourself a glass of full bodied red wine and find a good film to get stuck into. The chunky root vegetables really give this stew a hearty feel and the slow cooking (and red wine) transforms the stewing steak so that it melts in your mouth. Slow cooking the meat keeps it flavourful and tender, I am lead to believe that stewing steak generally comes from the top shoulder of the animal, which is why it is tough meat and best cooked in a stew slowly.
Serve the stew with really fresh crusty bread and lashings of butter, or that healthier margarine stuff if you prefer.  Although, I recently read an article in which the health benefits of eating margarine over butter where questioned. Anyway, health benefits aside, I prefer real butter.

450g stewing steak
4 tbsp flour
2 tbsp olive oil
2 bay leaves
1 tbsp marjoram
1 tbsp dried mixed herbs
500ml beef stock
500ml red wine (something you’d drink)
5 shallots roughly chopped
3 large carrots roughly chopped
2 parsnips roughly chopped
1 large potato roughly chopped
Can chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
Handful of pearl barley
Handful of fresh parsley roughly chopped
Handful frozen peas
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Coat the beef pieces in flour, ensuring they are fully coated. Place in a casserole dish with the oil and fry over a medium heat for 10 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Using the same pan, add the potato, shallots, carrots, parsnips, herbs and bay leaves, fry for 5-7 minutes. Return the beef to the pan then add the red wine, stock and chopped tomatoes. Cover and place in a preheated oven (200⁰C) for 2-3 hours.
When the stew has about 20 minutes remaining add the pearl barley, parsley and frozen peas. Stir through the balsamic vinegar and Worcestershire sauce and season to taste. Continue cooking for 20 minutes. Serve in a deep bowl with crusty bread.
Serves:                                  4
Preparation Time:              15 minutes
Cooking Time:                    2-3 hours


The Hairy Dieters – How to love food and loose weight

Okay, so I have never been on a diet in my life and have no intention of beginning one now, luckily I don’t need to. However, having picked up the Hairy Bikers latest cookbook I was instantly impressed. The Hairy Dieters is a delicious array of tasty looking food that is supposedly healthy… surely there has to be a catch? But, no, having road tested the first recipe my guests and I were delighted with outcome.

When I initially picked up the book and had a flick through I was surprised with how many recipes I thought I’d like to cook. Let’s be honest. Normally when you buy a cookbook you probably make about three things in the entire book, but I knew this one would be different.
I suppose it stands to reason that every recipe would still be full of flavour; Dave and Si have a profound love of good food and would not sacrifice the taste for the slimmer waistline. So their approach is to create recipes with the least amount of calories possible whilst not compromising on taste. Each recipe has been reviewed by a nutritionist to clarify the calorie count. The highest calorie count in the entire book comes in at 472, with most, if not all others ranging between 200 – 300 calories per recipe.

For the first meal I decided to try Cajun spiced chicken with potato wedges and chive dip with only 284 calories per portion it was surprisingly tasty and satisfying. The chive dip made with low-fat natural yoghurt was superb, just as tasty as a sour cream and chive dip, but at a fraction of the calories. Who said tasty had to mean sacrificing the foods you love? It’s a good idea to remember that for the foods you love there is generally a healthy counterpart. And, the Hairy Bikers prove this with their healthy versions pies and curries. Yes, I said pies and curries!
The book is well written and structured, with chapters for breakfast, brunch, a whole array of evening meals and deserts as well as tasty lunch box staples. Dave and Si give inspiring tips throughout the book on how to stay on track with your diet. Their own personal journey is inspiration in itself. I couldn’t believe how much weight they had lost between them, a gallant effort, resulting in the pair being over six stone lighter between them, and looking much better for it, if still a little hairy.
I purchased my copy of The Hairy Dieters through The Book People for just £5 (normally retails at £14.99) and I can honestly say it’s the best fiver I have spent in ages. I know the book is widely available in book stores and on Amazon. I would have paid full price for the book, but what a steal at a fiver. 


Red Pepper Pasta

Who doesn’t love a great big bowl of pasta? Great for a meat free Monday. The sauce can be made in batches and frozen for a quick weekday fix, it will also keep for up to a week in the fridge. The sauce is so packed with delicious healthiness; just go easy on the parmesan! You can add chicken or prawns to this pasta if you wish, but I think it’s just as good without. 

350g fusili pasta
3 red peppers roughly chopped      
200g vine cherry tomatoes
2 small red onions roughly chopped
Large handful of basil
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Can chopped tomatoes
Grated parmesan 
Salt and pepper
Add the peppers, onions, basil, oil, balsamic vinegar, chopped tomatoes, salt and pepper to a blender and blend into a sauce (or until roughly chopped, depending on your preference).
Meanwhile roast the vine tomatoes and cook the pasta in slightly salted water, drain and return to the pan.
Add the sauce and heat through. Transfer to a large bowl, top with the roasted vine tomatoes, and a large handful of rocket. Serve immediately with grated parmesan.
Serves:                            4
Preparation time:          5 minutes
Cooking time:               15 minutes


Cheeky Cosmo

It was my Birthday a couple of weeks ago, so I decided to host one of my pre-night out cocktail parties. I am kind of renowned (amongst my friends) for my cocktails, so seeing as they enjoy them so much I thought it was about time to share them with you all.

They are so fun to make, you’ll just love getting stuck in, and with only 4 ingredients they couldn’t be simpler to make. So, if you feel like impressing your buddies make sure this is your cocktail of choice.
Obviously you can use the vodka of your choice, I just happen to like Smirnoff best, but don’t forget the ice; these cocktails need to be served cold.
This really is one of my favourite ways to have a night in with friends. Cosmopolitans can be a little costly, so I normally save them for a special occasion.

Happy Birthday Me!


Chicken & Cashew Curry

A play on Malaysian and Singaporean flavours, this simple gentle curry is made creamy with the addition of blended cashew nuts, which impart a lovely sweet flavour without being too rich.  

I have recently been on a mission to find a really good authentic curry recipe. Having checked out nearly every Indian and Asian cookery book in my local library I have been successful in my efforts. The praise is for Bill Granger, the author of Bill’s Everyday Asian. This book is the next thing on my shopping list. You can find it here.
Bill Granger is a self taught cook who grew up in Australia, he has written several cookery books and owns seven restaurants, one in London, three in Sydney, three in Japan where he currently lives. I am so pleased to have discovered a new chef, especially one whose forte is Asian food and i look forward to delving further into Bill’s books and recipes.  
I made a few small variations to this recipe; I added 2 finger chillies as I like spicy food and roasted the cashews myself.

For Bill Granger’s Recipe click here!