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Salsa Verde

There is something amazing about Salsa Verde. Perhaps it’s the versatility of it; it really does go with everything from meat and fish to vegetables and potatoes. The perfect accompliment to a summer barbecue. It’s a recipe that packs a punch, so if you appreciate strong bold flavours, you’ll fall in love with it for sure.

Salsa Verde translates simply to ‘Green Sauce’. There are literally millions of versions out there, Italian, French, Spanish, Mexican. You name it, almost every country appears to have their own version incorporating different herbs and cold raw ingredients. The recipe below is my perfect balance of flavours.

A small amount of this Salsa Verde will totally transform any dinner into something truly remarkable. It keeps well in the fridge and even gets better with time. That’s if you have any left; it was so popular with my barbecue guests I had none left to save. Much to my disappointment.

You can keep it refrigerated for about a week and a half, or you could freeze it. Pop it into ice-cube trays and use them to jazz up pasta dishes and soups.

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Spicy Vegetable Rice with Prawns

I figured that if it’s good enough for Jamie Oliver and his 15 minute meals, it’s good enough for Miss Friday’s midweek meals. I’m talking about Uncle Ben’s Express Rice; I had a pouch of his Wholegrain Tomato and Basil Rice with Quinoa lurking in the back of my cupboard, which was the inspiration behind tonight’s dinner. Of course I had to pimp it up a little.

I’m a huge fan of short cuts, and I make no bones about it either – especially during the week when time is tight, or for those evenings where you’d rather not be slaving over the hot stove all night. Yes, even I have days like that.

So, using what I could find in my fridge (a few random left over vegetables) and store cupboard (herbs and spices) I created a speedy midweek meal that also happens to be wonderfully healthy. I had some jumbo king prawns to use so I decided to make this delicious spicy rice dish. It reminded me of a jambalaya, now I realise the ingredients are quite different, but you’ll appreciate what I mean from the picture.

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Spicy Vegetable Rice with Prawns
 
Author: 
Recipe type: Dinner
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Ingredients
  • Uncle Ben’s Express Tomato and Basil Wholegrain Rice
  • 225g cooked jumbo king prawns
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red pepper, small dice
  • 1 red onion, small dice
  • 1 courgette, small dice
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Knorr herb infusion stock pot
  • 600g chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • ¼ tsp spicy smoked paprika
  • ¼ tsp dried chilli flakes
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the chopped vegetables and garlic, cook for about 10 minutes stirring until the vegetables have softened. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  2. Then add the chopped tomatoes, stock pot, and vinegar, allow to cook for a further 2 minutes before adding the sugar, paprika and chilli flakes.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the rice in the microwave and add it to the pan, mix well to incorporate all of the vegetables.
  4. Finally, add the jumbo king prawns and simmer for 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

 

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Donna Hay’s Classic Spaghetti & Meatballs

Spaghetti and meatballs have got to be the ultimate comfort food. I love them, the boyfriend on the other hand has never been convinced – that was until he tried this recipe. I’ve tried plenty of recipes before, but never have I found one as good as this. It’s a Donna Hay recipe, she uses a combination of pork and beef mince which is definitely the secret. The bold fragrant aroma of sage and fresh basil work beautifully in unison in this dish – a real palate pleaser. The sauce is so fresh tasting, I’ve made it twice now and both times it was delicious. This recipe simply wouldn’t be complete though without a large glass of read wine.

I urge you to try this recipe, it makes a large batch (far too many meatballs for two, about 30 if I remember rightly) which is great as they freeze so well in batches ready for a speedy week-night supper when you are in a hurry; the sauce also freezes well.

Given all the changes to my blog recently I’ve been cooking from recipes and books for a while, rather than being adventurous myself, it saves time and produces a fool proof delicious meal every time, so I bring you this one from the wonderful Donna Hay.

All that is about to change though as I embark on what is likely to be a labour intensive festive cooking extravaganza, meaning I’ll be putting my creative culinary skills to the test. I’m helping out at my cousin’s Christmas open day (he owns a Butchers and Delicatessen) and has asked me to provide an array of festive baked goods for people to sample and order ahead of Christmas. I guess that means I’ll have a busy December lined up, I’ll be sick of the sight of mince pies. It also means I’ve been running about like a headless chicken in search of hamper baskets, cellophane and various other wrapping items at a reasonable price.

Donna Hay Meatballs

Click here for Donna Hay’s Classic Meatballs recipe!

 

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3 Minute Beef Noodles

I’m certain I’m not the only one who often has leftover roast beef knocking about in the fridge from Sunday. There are only so many roast beef sandwiches one can eat – and nine times out of ten the meat ends up in the bin. I can’t stand throwing food away, so last week I decided to reinvent my leftovers into these delicious 3 minute beef noodles.
Considering they really only take 3 minutes to cook they are packed with pungent Asian flavours that are truly delicious. The recipe is just perfect for a Monday (or indeed a Tuesday following Bank Holiday) when you can’t be bothered to slave away cooking dinner.

Ingredients:

  • 1 nest medium egg noodles
  • 2-3 slices leftover rare roast beef
  • 2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
  • 1 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 tbsp runny honey
  • 1 tbsp freshly chopped coriander

Cooking Directions:

  1. Add the nest of noodles to boiling water and cook for 3 minutes, or according to the packet instructions. Meanwhile mix together the sweet chilli, soy, vinegar and honey in a bowl.
  2. Drain the noodles and add the beef. Return the noodles to the saucepan and add the sauce mixture, heat over a medium heat, stirring to combine for a further 30 seconds. Top with the chopped coriander and serve.
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English Muffins with Hot Oak Smoked Salmon and Poached Egg



Breakfast is always a carnival in my house, at weekends anyway. There’s always plenty choice, from bacon and eggs, to tea and toast – we start the day the right way – with full bellies. From the moment I open my eyes in the morning I’m ready to eat and love creating a bustle in the kitchen at this time of day.

When Richard’s kids are here for the weekend they love soft boiled eggs with soldiers and bacon sandwiches. Max likes Rich to make him pizza toast, with basil – yes, he is quite particular about it. If there is no basil he doesn’t want it. I love that they enjoy their food so it’s no fuss to get different pots and pans out for everyone.

If we are not having breakfast in our kitchen we pop across the road to the local cafe – they serve up huge breakfasts, the kind you need with a fuzzy head. The liver and bacon breakfast is my fav with a huge mug of tea.

I found some hot oak smoked salmon lurking about in the fridge the other morning so I decided to have it for breakfast. This one couldn’t be simpler. Toast and butter an English muffin, top with the salmon and a poached egg, sprinkle with chopped parsley and tuck in.

It’s the simple things in life that make me happiest, sitting down at the kitchen counter on a sunny morning with a delicious treat for breakfast and a deadly silence in the house because everyone else is sleeping, utter bliss.

I’d love to hear your favourite breakfast recipes, am I missing out on the best breakfast?
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Hasselback Potatoes – the best way to cook spuds



I adore hasselback potatoes, there is something quite fun about the look of them, plus they are super tasty. 

I first discovered the hasselback potato about two years ago, a Nigella recipe I believe. I thought they were wonderful, light and fluffy on the inside and a skin that gets so crispy and delicious – just like a baked potato. They are perfect served with steak, they make a nice change from chips and I guess they are a little healthier too. I believe these little fanned spuds are named so after a Swedish Restaurant ‘Hasselbacken’ in Stockholm, where they were first served.
Don’t they just look wonderful?
Ingredients:
2 tbsp olive oil
Knob of butter
Medium sized Maris Piper potatoes (as many or as little as you like)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Freshly chopped rosemary
Freshly chopped thyme
Method:
Pre-heat the oven to 200°CWash and dry the potatoes.
Pop each potato onto a slightly curved wooden spoon, using a sharp knife cut through the potato every few millimetres, making sure not to cut all the way down and through the potato. The wooden spoon will prevent that from happening, the knife cannot cut any further then the upward-facing curves of the spoon. 
Place the potatoes into an oven proof dish and drizzle with some olive oil and a little butter if you like. Season well with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and add a generous sprinkling of freshly chopped rosemary and thyme.
Put the pan into the oven and bake the potatoes for 40 minutes, giving them a shake after about 20 minutes. The little potato fans will pop open during cooking. 

These are great served with meat or fish, or as a snack with some sour cream and chives.
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Steak with Gruyere and Chive Croquette Potatoes, Red Cabbage and a Mustard Sauce with Shiitake Mushrooms



This recipe is my entry for the Maille Culinary Challenge. I was invited to participate in the challenge to create a mouth-watering recipe including at least one Maille product. They were kind enough to send me two of their delicious products free of charge and I was able to pick from a rather extensive list including many delicious ingredients. Rather than just including one of the ingredients, I decided to use both; I figured this would ensure I really thought hard about a recipe with different components. I quite often create recipes with one star piece, either the meat or fish and the sides will be fairly simple – such is my style of cooking. However, seeing as this was a culinary challenge it was only right that I challenged myself and created a dish where each element bought something special to the recipe. I chose the following ingredients:
The red cabbage worked beautifully with the balsamic glaze; it brought an intense sweetness to the dish that truly was delicious, whilst the mustard has a woody earthy flavour that compliments the shitake mushrooms wonderfully.
Fingers crossed my recipe goes down well. The first prize for the Maille Culinary Challenge is a “Food Lover London Tour” worth £390, and two runners up will receive a luxury Maille Gift Box with accessories valued at £150. Yes please!


Serves 4

Ingredients
* Half a red cabbage, finely sliced
* Half a red onion, finely sliced
* 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
6 tbsp butter
2 tbsp water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 large potatoes
2 tbsp chives, snipped
90g Gruyere cheese, grated
Pinch white pepper
100g plain flour
1 egg, lightly beaten
50g golden breadcrumbs (preferably not fresh)
1 litre of vegetable oil
100g fresh shiitake mushrooms
200ml double cream
4 Sirloin Steaks
Method
Start by finely slicing the red cabbage and red onion. Place in a saucepan with 2 tbsp of butter, the garlic, balsamic glaze and water; season with salt and pepper and cook on a medium heat for about 50 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so.
Meanwhile, peel and chop the potatoes, boil for 25-30 minutes, until soft. Remove from the heat and drain well, return the potatoes to the pan. Add 2 tbsp butter, chives, cheese, white pepper and a splash of cream, roughly mash. Don’t worry if they are a little lumpy, a bit of texture works well in the croquettes. Allow the mashed potato to cool slightly.
Whilst the mash is cooling, line up three bowls, fill one with the flour, one with the egg and a tbsp of water and the other with the bread crumbs. Take a small amount of the mashed potato in your hands and roll into a small ball, slightly smaller than a golf ball, roll in the flour, shaking off any excess. Then roll the ball in the egg and finally the bread crumbs. Place aside and repeat until you have used all of the mash, set these aside while you prepare the sauce.
Heat the vegetable oil in a medium saucepan. Slice the shiitake mushrooms, place in a pan with the remaining butter and season, fry on a medium heat for 5 minutes, once softened add the mustard and cream; heat through while you cook the steak and fry the croquettes as below.
Season the steak and fry in a little oil for the desired length of time, depending on how you like your steak cooked. I had fairly thick Sirloin that I like rare, so I fried for about 3-4 minutes on each side. Once cooked, set the steak aside and allow to rest. This is very important as it lets the fibres in the meat relax and allows the juices to flow, meaning you’ll end up with a much tastier steak.
Fry the croquettes in batches for about 30 seconds, they will brown very quickly. Remove from the oil and place on kitchen towel to drain off any excess oil.

Slice and serve the steak, topped with the mustard sauce and some snipped chives, three croquettes and some red cabbage.
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Halloumi Salad

This vibrant salad is bursting with flavours; the peppery salad leaves and red onion are delicious with the cool herby yoghurt and salty halloumi. I’m going to be honest, I quite often find salads the most boring thing to eat, but a well thought out salad with balanced flavours is actually quite a delicious little dinner.
I’m trying my hardest to be good at the moment, and failing quite miserably for the most part. You may or may not have seen my previous post on indulgent chocolate buttons. I’m constantly torn between my love of food and not wanting to be fat, a battle I fear I’ll always face. But, when I am disciplined enough to be healthy, I feel quite chuffed with myself, especially when a healthy dinner turns out to be so tasty. So, if you are like me and practically turn your nose up at the thought of having a salad for dinner, just give this a go, it’s truly delicious.
It’s hard to beat grilled halloumi, but if you’re not a fan feta would work well too; essentially, it’s the salty element of this salad that I love the most. Even my meat eating carnivore of a boyfriend was happy to have a supper without meat, for once! This dish would make a wonderful side for a BBQ too now that we are coming into Spring.
  
* 250g Halloumi
* 100g Watercress, spinach and rocket salad
* 225g vine tomatoes
* 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
* 50g croutons (either bought or homemade)
* 150g low fat natural yoghurt
* Handful chopped basil
* Handful chopped dill
Preheat the oven to 160⁰C.
Mix the chopped basil and dill into the yoghurt and set aside.
Remove the tomatoes from the vine, cut in half and place on a baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast the tomatoes for about 10-15 minutes.
Meanwhile, assemble the salad; place the salad leaves, red onion and croutons in a large salad bowl, top with the roasted tomatoes and yoghurt dressing.

Place a griddle over the heat and add the halloumi and fry for about 4-5 minutes on each side ensure both sides are lightly browned. Pop the halloumi on top of the salad and serve immediately. 
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Paprika Chicken – Hairy Biker’s Style

 
 
In keeping with my healthy theme for January, I thought I’d call upon the help of my old friends the Hairy Bikers and one of their recipes that’s become such a go-to in my kitchen. This recipe is great because it’s not only healthy, it’s cheap and super quick to prepare when you find yourself in the midweek rush. Grab yourself some chicken drumsticks and thighs (skin on) from the supermarket, or even a whole chicken that you can joint yourself if you are okay with that, this is usually an even cheaper way of cooking a recipe like this and is perfect for a family meal. I often buy a whole chicken and have Richard joint it when we have his children at weekends as we love making a delicious chicken tikka masala, it works out great value for money. The kids can’t get enough; I think it’s the sweet red onions and the fact that I purée the sauce until it’s smooth and thick.
Whatever I’m cooking I like to have leftovers for my lunches at work, so I often make more than I need, and this recipe is perfect for that, it keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days. The recipe suggests using a blend of sweet and hot paprika, but if you’ve only one kind, such as smoked that’s fine, you will still get that rich red, beautiful paprika hit that that is oh so good with the sweet vibrant red peppers. The bright sunny colours in this dish remind me of the Mediterranean, perfect for warming your heart and belly on a winter’s night. And, you’ll certainly not feel as if you’re having a healthy meal when cooking up this gorgeous stew, the sweetness and spice work wonderfully together and you can still have a small fluffy mound of mashed potato to mop up the rich tomato paprika sauce; just go easy on the butter!

Click here for the Hairy Bikers Paprika Chicken Recipe!


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Smoked Haddock Fishcake with Soft Poached Egg & Green Beans

With the festive season well and truly upon us, I am growing increasingly excited about my Christmas dinner and all the other delicious food I’ll undoubtedly consume over the next week or so. Indeed, there could be no better time for a foodie than Christmas and I can’t wait to get stuck into my festive menu. This year I’ll be making curried parsnip soup, turkey with all the trimmings and a panettone bread and butter pudding. That said, the week leading up to the big day has inspired me to try and be a little healthier, so I opted for a homemade fishcake, with my favourite yellow fish, dyed smoked haddock. If you are not ordinarily a fan of fish, I urge you to try it smoked; it boasts a whole different flavour.   

This recipe is certainly a gathering of some of my favourite ingredients, and there is nothing better than the wonderful liquid gold of a softly poached egg spilling out onto your crispy delicious fishcake with a generous pile of steamed green beans. This dish can be prepared ahead (the day before) and is certainly an attractive one, which I think makes it perfect for a dinner party.

Serves 4

8 large potatoes, such as desiree
2 dyed, smoked haddock fillets
400ml milk
3 tbsp freshly chopped chives
1 finely chopped green chilli
Pinch of nutmeg
200g fine green beans, trimmed
6 eggs
2 slices of slightly stale bread
1 lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the over to 180⁰C

Break two eggs into a flat dish and whisk. Place the bread in a blender and blend until you have crumbs, place the breadcrumbs into another flat dish and set the two dishes aside.

Boil and mash the potatoes, adding a splash of milk and a pinch of salt and pepper, set aside while you poach the fish.

Pour the milk into a large pan; add the fish, nutmeg and half of the chives, season well. Allow the fish to poach gently in the milk for about 5-6 minutes. Remove the fish from the pan and flake onto the mashed potatoes with the chilli and zest from the lemon, mix well to combine. At this point add two tablespoons of the hot milk from the pan and the rest of the chives.

Allow the mashed potato mix to cool enough to handle then shape into fishcakes, dip each fishcake into the egg mixture and then into the breadcrumbs. Once you have completed all of the fishcakes heat a little oil in a frying pan and brown them on each side. Transfer the fishcakes to the oven and cook for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, steam the green beans and poach the eggs.

Serve each fishcake topped with a poached egg and sprinkled with chives. Add the green beans and a wedge of lemon for squeezing.