Mrs. Jackson Cooks

Life through food

Lamb stew with garlic bread crust

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I found this in my cook in boots cookbook by Ravinder Bhogal. I had previously ignored it because of the garlic bread crust and I wasn’t eating bread. However, my problems with yeast and bread seemed to have cleared up so I’m eating it again, and so glad to be able to eat anything again.

This was delicious, healthy, hearty and very simple to make. It does need a couple of hours so it’s probably not a midweek thing, although you could make the stew the day before and just finish off in the oven on the day.

It has 560 calories per serving, depending on how much you want. The recipe says 6 servings, however, I don’t know if it was because we were hungry (we hadn’t eaten much all day) or we’re just greedy pigs, but we ate most of it and there’s probably only enough for 1-2 more portions so for 3-4 people. The calories are based on it being for 3 people.

Even so, even if you’re watching the calories, this is a good one. Lots of protein, some comfort carbs, plenty of vege and no extra sneaky things to up the calories for no reason. You could just make the stew and serve with potatoes or have a mashed potato crust instead if you prefer.

It’s also very cheap and the stew itself is freezable, so it’s a great family friendly meal.

Lamb stew with garlic bread crust

Serves 4

  • 500g diced stewing lamb
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 2 tsp oil
  • 1 leek, cut into thick rounds
  • 3 celery sticks, cut into chunks
  • 1 turnip, cut into 8ths
  • 1 large chilli, cut into rounds
  • 100g pearl barley
  • 500ml chicken or lamb stock (plus extra water)
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary or 1 tsp dried
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 garlic bread baguette (or make your own)
  1. Heat 1 tsp of oil in a casserole dish (that’s flameproof, or use a saucepan)
  2. Toss the lamb in the flour and discard the excess flour.
  3. Fry the lamb in the oil on a high heat until browned on all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
  4. Turn the heat down to medium, add the remaining oil if needed and fry the leek, turnip and celery until softened and starting to brown – about 10 minutes.
  5. Return the lamb to the pan along with the pearl barley, bay leaves, rosemary and chicken stock.
  6. Stir well, bring to the boil and then simmer gently, covered, for about 1 hour, or until the lamb is tender. Check occasionally and top up with water as needed.
  7. About 15 minutes before the stew is cooked, preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.
  8. Prepare the garlic bread baguette.
  9. When the stew is cooked, top with sliced garlic bread baguette to form a crust and bake in the oven for about 20 minutes or until the bread is cooked and crispy.
  10. Serve immediately and enjoy ūüôā
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Hangover cures: peanut butter cup brownies

This is the problem with idly browsing recipes when you’re hungry and hungover.¬† You end up making things like this.¬† They are delicious though…and definitely helped the hangover!¬† It didn’t take too long either, and was quite simple.¬†¬† I made my brownies from scratch, and didn’t use a packet of brownie mix like the recipe said because a) I don’t buy things like that and b) brownies are easy.¬† I used Ravinder Bhogal’s double chocolate brownie recipe – and it worked a treat.

The only thing is now I have a storage box full of cupcakes that I know that if I eat, I’ll put on a stone!¬† They’re probably better made for a party or bbq or something where you can fob them off on other people to avoid eating the lot.

The original recipe suggested using peanut butter drops – but as I had no idea what they were, let alone had any in the cupboard, I toasted and chopped up some peanuts.¬† I added half to the brownie mix and the other half I sprinkled on top with the chocolate drops.¬† If you don’t have chocolate drops, use sprinkles or chocolate shavings instead.¬† I thought this worked quite well.

The original recipe is here

And Ravinder’s brownie recipe comes from her Cook in Boots book which I’m constantly raving about, which you can get here

Peanut butter cup brownies

Makes 20 cupcakes

  • 225g unsalted butter
  • 225g dark chocolate (use at leat 70% cocoa solids)
  • 4 eggs
  • 300g sugar
  • zest of 1 orange
  • 2 tbsp orange juice (about half the orange depending on how juicy it is)
  • 2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 150g plain flour
  • 1tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 100g white chocolate chips (or shavings)
  • 100g toasted, chopped peanuts (unsalted)
  • 4 heaped tbsp crunchy peanut butter
  • 50g milk chocolate drops
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees celsius.  Line a 2 cupcake tins with papers (or the same one twice).
  2. Melt the butter and chocolate together in a bowl over boiling water.  Set aside.
  3. Whisk the eggs in a large bowl.  Then add the sugar, zest and juice of the orange, and vanilla extract and beat well.
  4. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in another bowl and then add this to the egg & sugar mix.  Fold in carefully.
  5. Then add the melted chocolate, mixing again, before chucking in the white chocolate drops and half the peanuts.  Give one last stir.
  6. Using tablespoons, drop some of the mixture into the cupcake papers until it’s just under the top of the paper – I found that 2 tablespoons did it.
  7. Cook for about 13-15 minutes (I found 14 minutes was perfect actually) until it’s cooked on top but a skewer still comes out gooey from the middle.
  8. Leave to cool for about 15 minutes or until the middles sink – if you’ve cooked them right they should do this or tap them with the back of a teaspoon if they’re reluctant.¬† I accidentally overcooked some of mine, so I scooped out a tiny bit of cake from the middle¬†with a teaspoon.
  9. Heat the peanut butter in the microwave for 45 seconds and then stir.  Place 1 tsp of the peanut butter in the top of  each cupcake.  It should spread easily to look like icing.  Top with a few nuts and milk chocolate drops.
  10. Leave to completely cool in the tin or on wire racks.
  11. Scoff with a glass of milk and feel the hangover receed.
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A tapas mash up

In memory of my holiday in Ibiza and because I’m struggling to return to normality after such a fabulous holiday, I made tapas.¬† Which is ironic, because we never got to eat tapas when we were there!¬† Also, it wasn’t entirely authentic Spanish – there was some Italian thrown in there too – but the idea of small plates – that remained.

We had paprikan pork, patatas bravas with chorizo, paprikan squid and potatoes, asparagus and proscuitto frittata, and stuffed roasted peppers.  After all that, we were stuffed!

Making a tapas meal was a bit stressful because it’s essentially making 5 dishes instead of one, but I do like a challenge.¬† It’s good if you’re having an informal dinner party too, although we weren’t.¬† It was just me and hubby.

You could replace the pork with chicken in the paprikan pork, and you could turn the frittata into a tortilla by adding pre-cooked, cubed potatoes.  But as 2 dishes already had potatoes, I made it a frittata.  The roasted peppers are very simple, and were so delicious.  They would be great as a starter to a more formal dinner party.

The recipes came from these pages:

And these books:

For the squid and potatoes – Cook in boots

For the stuffed peppers – Italy’s 500 best ever recipes

Of course – I adapted them!¬† So here’s what I made.

Paprikan pork

Serves 2 as a tapas dish

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 100g pork fillet
  • 100g mushrooms, finely sliced
  • 2 tbsp paprika
  • 100ml chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp creme fraiche
  • salt & pepper
  1. Heat the oil in a pan and saute the onion until softened.  Then add the pork and mushrooms and fry until browned on all sides.
  2. Add the paprika, stir well to combine, then pour in the stock.  Bring to a simmer, and turn the heat down low and allow to slowly reduce.
  3. When you have quite a thick dark sauce (after about 25 minutes), add the creme fraiche, salt & pepper, and mix well.
  4. Tip into a bowl and put in a warmed oven to keep warm.
  5. Eat with hunks of ciabatta or baguette.

Patatas bravas with chorizo

Serves 4 as tapas

  • 500g new or salad potatoes halved or quartered into even sized pieces
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced
  • 2 red chilli finely chopped
  • 1 tin of tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 1 tbsp cayenne pepper
  • salt & pepper
  • 50g chorizo, finely sliced
  1. Boil the potatoes for about 10 minutes, or until cooked.  Drain and set aside
  2. Heat the oil in a saucepan or high sided frying pan, and saute the onion with the garlic and chilli until browned.
  3. Then add the paprika and cayenne pepper.  Mix well and cook for another 30 seconds.
  4. Add the tomatoes, breaking them up with the spatula.
  5. Bring to a simmer, then turn down low and allow to reduce slowly, for about 30 minutes.
  6. When the sauce is nearly ready, heat a pan and add the chorizo.¬† Allow it to gently release it’s juices.
  7. Then add the potato to the chorizo and fry until both turn a bit crispy.
  8. Tip into a bowl and top with the tomato sauce.
  9. Keep warm until ready to serve – eat with hunks of bread and olives.

Stuffed roasted peppers

Serves 2 as a starter or tapas

  • 2 red peppers
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • salt & pepper
  • 4 king prawns, deshelled
  • 2 tbsp pesto
  1. Heat the oven to 22o degrees celsius.
  2. Halve the peppers, keeping the stalks but removing the pith and seeds.  Wash and pat dry.
  3. Place them skin side down on a baking tray.
  4. Put the slivers of garlic in each of the halves of peppers
  5. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt & peppers
  6. Roast for about 30-40 minutes, or until softened.
  7. Remove from the oven and add a prawn to each pepper topped with a dollop of pesto.
  8. Return to the oven for a further 5 minutes, until the prawns are cooked.
  9. Keep warm until ready to serve

Asparagus and proscuitto frittata

Serves 4 as a tapas or starter

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • 8 asparagaus spears (about)
  • 3 slices of proscuitto ham
  • 6 eggs, beaten together with some salt & pepper
  • 30g parmesan cheese, grated
  1. Snap the ends off the asparagus.  Cut of the tips and set aside.  Finely chop the stalks.
  2. Preheat the grill on a high setting.
  3. Heat the oil in a flat wide frying pan.  Saute the onion and chopped asparaugs stalks for about 10 minutes on a medium heat until browned.
  4. Tear the ham into pieces and drop into the pan.¬† Stir through and make sure it’s spread evenly over the pan.
  5. Pour in the beaten egg, lifting the pan to ensure the egg covers the whole pan.
  6. Drop the asparagus heads into the egg, all over the pan.
  7. Then sprinkle over the parmesan cheese.
  8. Cook the frittata until browned underneath, and then transfer to the grill to cook the top until browned and crispy in patches.
  9. Cut into 8ths or quarters and serve.

Paprikan squid and potatoes

Serves 2 as  tapas

  • 1 large baking potato, cut into chunks
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 20g butter
  • 1 whole head of garlic, skin on
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 squid, tentacles removed, cleaned and cut into rings (if you buy frozen from the Chinese supermarket, they come pre-cleaned and de-tentacled – you just defrost and chop).
  • 1 lemon, zested and juice of
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • handful of chopped fresh parsley
  • salt & pepper
  1. Par boil the potatoes for about 6 minutes, or until starting to soften.  Drain.
  2. Heat the oil and butter in a saucepan.  When the butter is foaming add the garlic bulb and bay leaves, followed by the potaotes.  Fry on a medium heat until the potatoes are cooked and are looking browned.
  3. When the potatoes are nearly done, heat a griddle pan until smoking, brush the squid with oil, season with salt and pepper and toss in the griddle pan.¬† Cook for about a minute until cooked and chargrilled in patches – but not for longer or it’ll go rubbery.
  4. Remove the potatoes from the oil with a slotted spoon and place in a warmed bowl.  Top with the squid. Remove the garlic and bay leaves from the oil.  Add the zest and lemon juice, paprika and parsley to the oil, and season well.  Fry for a minute or two and then tip over the potatoes and squid and serve.
  5. Enjoy!

Cheats pizza

I love this pizza. I found the original idea by Ravinder Bhogal (of course!) in Grazia magazine. I’ve made the original recipe, which is delicious and no doubt, I’ll post that sometime too, but this one took the idea of that recipe but is completely different.

And the reasons I love this pizza is I can eat it! Most pizzas I daren’t eat for fear they will make me ill – I seem to have some kind of bread/dough intolerance. But it doesn’t apply to flatbreads, which is what this recipe uses. And it’s super quick and something you can do when you get home starving and have to eat immediately! Ravinder suggests this is a midnight munchies kind of thing, but as I like to sleep at night and not eat, I honestly wouldn’t know. If you’re of the persuasion that cheese gives you nightmares then I wouldn’t recommend it!

And the other great thing about this recipe idea is you can basically put anything that happens to be lurking in the fridge on it. Just make sure it’s ‘dry’ (i.e. not oily or in sauce or something). This one is a Spanish take on ham and pineapple. It’s chorizo and pineapple with sweetcorn. And I know sounds disgusting and the picture isn’t brilliant (I used orange cheese so that didn’t help!) but trust me, it’s delicious.

And this recipe isn’t vegetarian but it could be – just take the same idea and leave out the meat. It’s also healthier than normal pizzas, has less calories and as you’re making it yourself, you can determine how calorific your toppings are. This one isn’t super healthy, that’s the chorizo for you, but it’s not that bad either.

Cheat’s pizza

Serves 1 (or in my husband’s case 1/2 a person)

  • 1 large wrap or flatbread.
  • 3 tbsp passata or pesto sauce
  • 1 onion finely sliced
  • 40g chorizo finely sliced (on the diagonal – tastes better, trust me!)
  • 1 red chilli finely chopped
  • 2 slices tinned pineapple cut into chunks, or a handful of pineapple chunks, dried
  • 50g tinned sweetcorn, well drained
  • 60g grated cheddar cheese or finely sliced mozzarella
  1. Preheat the grill to high.
  2. Heat a large frying pan and toast the wrap on either side until it starts to brown (but not burn)
  3. Remove from the pan and add the chorizo, onion and chilli to the pan (dry) and cook until the onion softens and the chorizo releases it’s oils. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  4. Smear one side of the wrap with the passata or pesto (my preference is passata)
  5. Scatter the onions and chorizo over the passata, followed by the pineapple and sweetcorn
  6. Place the wrap under the grill on a flat-ish baking tray for about 2-3 minutes until the edges of the wrap start to brown.
  7. Sprinkle over the cheese and return to the grill until melted and golden.
  8. Serve immediately and eat with your fingers!
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East meets west: meatballs in peperonata with sweet potato cakes

I must apologise, I have deserted you…if not physically, then definitely mentally.¬† I have been galavanting around the country for work and pleasure and haven’t actually written a post in weeks!¬†¬† I’ve been posting blogs I wrote a while a go, in January, when I was too broke to do anything other than cook.¬† And to be honest, if I posted every time I cooked something, it would get a bit much!¬† So I store them up for the busy times when I can’t write a regular post.¬†¬† Sneaky I know, but the secret’s out.

But I’m back, I promise…well sort of.¬† Still doing a fair bit of galavanting but not quite as much as before.¬† There might be the odd back up post, but I will be writing more regularly.

This was one of those meals where you start off with an idea about something and then it evolves during the course of cooking as you look in the fridge and cupboards to see what’s there.¬† Hence the randomness, or as chefs like to call it – fusion. It worked pretty well actually, I think.¬† It was tasty and filled my belly very satisfactorily.¬†¬† Mr Jackson seemed happy too, so smiles all round.¬† As to it’s diet-friendly ness or vegetarian credentials….or even it’s cheapness, or quickness not so much.¬† Althouth, it’s not expensive really either.¬† But it’s worth it if you’re a carnivore who’s not on a diet and has got a few pennies to their name.

Now, I already wrote about the sweet potato cakes Рyou can find it here  The only difference was, I used red chillis this time.

And as for the meatballs, well hubby was very lovely and went shopping for food and bought some ready made meatballs, so I didn’t even make those properly.¬† They aren’t hard to make though and if you want to I’m sure google will spit out several different recipes for you to try.

So, peperonata.¬† It’s a tomato and pepper sauce that’s from Italy and is gorgeous.¬† So simple to make.¬† Takes a bit of time, but it’s worth it.¬† And all I did was make the potato cakes as usual, and when the mixture was in the fridge I started the peperonata and grilled the meatballs.¬† Then when the peperonata was nearly done, I chucked in the grilled meatballs, mixed it all up, and poured it over the potato cakes.

Peperonata sauce

Serves 3

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 garlic clove minced
  • 1 red chilli finely chopped (de seed if you don’t want too spicy)
  • 2 red peppers, deseeded and sliced
  • 1 tin of tomatoes
  • salt & pepper
  1. Heat the oil in a frying pan, on  a low heat.  Add the garlic and chilli and fry until the oil becomes infused.
  2. Add the pepper strips and fry gently until they soften.
  3. Then add the tomatoes, breaking them up with the spatula.  Cook for about 40-50 minutes on a very low heat to release all the sweetness from the peppers and reduce the tomatoes to a sauce.
  4. Taste, and add seasoning.¬† You may also want to add some chilli flakes.¬† Alternatively, if you’re a mild kind of person leave out the chilli and add in some fresh basil and coriander just before the tomatoes.
  5. Add the grilled or baked meatballs and serve with potato cakes for some multicultural yumminess.
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When the cupboards are bare: lemon, garlic & chilli spaghetti

Now, I must confess, my cupboards aren’t remotely bare, but I wanted a super quick lunch and this did the trick. However, if you have run out of everything pretty much, this is the perfect dinner. Surprisingly, it tastes really good. When I made it the first time I was expecting it to be a bit boring but it’s not at all.

This is a Ravinder Bhogal recipe, from Cook in Boots and it lives up to all the expectations I have of her recipes. She suggests buying the best angel hair spaghetti you can find. I have made it with fresh angel hair spaghetti and to be honest it didn’t taste much better than with normal spaghetti from aldi so I wouldn’t get too worked up which spaghetti you use.

This time I added an onion and some Parmesan. You can do it with or without, although if the cupboards really are bare, you might not have an option! But if this recipe proves anything is that even if you think you have nothing to eat, you can make good food from virtually nothing!

Plus, it’s diet friendly, good for the time restricted, and the vegetarians (even vegans if you leave off the parmesan).

Lemon, garlic and chilli spaghetti

Serves 2

  • 150-200g spagetti
  • 50ml extra virgin olive oil (good oil is pretty much essential)
  • 1 small red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped
  • zest and juice of half a lemon
  • 50g parmesan cheese, grated
  1. Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions. Drain and set aside
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a pan on a low heat. Add the onion, garlic and chilli. When the oil has absorbed the flavours of the garlic and chilli, add the lemon zest and juice.
  3. Then add the pasta and mix well to coat in the mixture. Season to taste
  4. Pile into bowls and top with parmesan cheese.
  5. Enjoy with a nice glass of white wine to forget how bare your cupboards are!
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Nasi Goreng with prawns

I’ve run out of clever (or what I think are clever anyway) titles for this blog, so it is what it is. But don’t think that my lack of imagination here, suggests that Nasi Goreng is boring or unimaginative. To be perfectly honest, it’s just fabulous. No other word describes it better. I’ve no idea if this recipe is authentic, as I got it off the wonderful Ravinder Bhogal and have never been to Indonesia so have no real knowledge on the subject. But regardless, it’s extremely tasty and well worth trying.

It’s a tad ‘faffy’. Probably wouldn’t come under the heading of ‘simple’ or ‘for those without kitchen gadgets’. But you could probably make it a lot simpler and lose the kitchen gadgets, if you’re able to find something like Indonesian shrimp sauce or Nasi Goreng paste or something along those lines – this would avoid you making your own that this recipe relies upon. With pre-made paste/sauce this recipe is a doddle.

Nasi Goreng is essentially the Indonesian version of special fried rice. But tastes infinitely better and much less greasy than the version you get from the local takeaway. It’s a great way of using leftover boiled rice, and is also good when you’re a bit skint and haven’t got much in the cupboards. I have substituted, at different times, pretty much everything in this recipe, bar the rice and the paste. And once you buy some shrimp paste from the chinese supermarket – it lasts forever in the fridge so it’s something you’ll have hanging around when there’s not much else in there!

This recipe is also pretty healthy, low in calories and full of the good fats and nutrients, and your antioxidants – and using sesame oil, as I did, makes it even healthier than it might be. If you’re feeling vege – whether that’s part-time, full-time or occasionally, just leave out the prawns.

You can, of course, substitute prawns for pretty much any other meat – white fish chunks, squid rings, chicken, beef, pork, whatever really. I wouldn’t go with sausage or bacon – that might be confusing your continents a bit too much!

I buy my prawns in bulk at the chinese supermarket. You can get big bags of frozen raw (i.e. grey not pink) king prawns for a fraction of the price you would anywhere else. They’re good quality too. My fishmonger sells the same ones but at double the price! I buy about 4 bags and stick them in my freezer. Then, if there’s no other meat or eggs or anything, there’s pretty much always prawns available. You can buy the cooked ones too at the supermarket but if you cook with these they go rubbery because they’re cooked twice, so unless you’re making salad, raw prawns are usually better.

The fried egg on top isn’t essential but it’s a lovely addition and it’s actually what Thais (and I’m assuming Indonesian’s too!) do when they’re skint, to make a meal go further and get some protein.

Nasi Goreng with prawns

Serves 2

  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 2 red chillis, roughly chopped (de seed if you don’t want too spicy)
  • 1/2 tbsp shrimp paste (I actually prefer the chinese prawn noodle paste to the Indonesian shrimp paste in this!)
  • 1 tsp oil (sesame, chilli, sunflower etc)
  • 1 tbsp sesame (or groundnut) oil
  • 50g green beens, chopped into 1inch pieces
  • 50g baby sweetcorn, cut in half
  • 3 spring onions, chopped into short lengths (I didn’t use these – but you can add pretty much any kind of vege here – carrots, peppers, brocolli, mange tout, bok choi – whatever you have in the fridge)
  • 12 (ish) raw king prawns
  • 150g boiled plain rice
  • 1 egg, beaten plus 2 for frying
  • handful of beansprouts (again, leave out or substitute if you don’t have)
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  1. If you don’t have your rice already boiled, start by doing this – it can be cooking whilst you do everything else.
  2. Blitz the onion, garlic, chillis, shrimp paste and 1tsp of oil in a food processor to make a rough paste. If using the proper Indonesian shrimp paste it will turn out looking grey-ish. If using the chinese prawn noodle paste, it will come out looking orange.
  3. Heat the sesame oil in a wok or large saucepan or frying pan with high sides. When it’s hot, add the paste you’ve just made and cook out until it turns a crimson colour. It takes about 8-10 minutes. Don’t fret, it will turn properly crimson/burgundy in colour regardless of the paste you use.
  4. When it’s cooked, turn the heat down slightly to prevent it burning and add the harder vegetables (green beans, sweetcorns, carrot etc) and fry for a minute or two to soften. Then add the prawns and fry just until they start to turn pink.
  5. Next add the rice, stir well to coat in the paste and then push the mixture to one side of the pan and pour in the beaten egg to the other side. Allow it to set slightly, like an omlette, then mix up to scramble and push into the rice. Mix everything well.
  6. Then add the soft veges like spring onions, bok choi or beansprouts. Mix well again and remove from the heat.
  7. In a separate frying pan, heat some oil and fry the remaining eggs sunny side up, or cooked but with the yolks still runny. Remove from the heat.
  8. Squeeze the lime juice over the rice, serve into warmed bowls and top with an egg.
  9. Eat and savour its fabulousness.
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bargain yumminess: potato cakes with sausages in a tamarind sauce

I have to say, I totally love this recipe. It’s another Ravinder Bhogal one from her book Cook in Boots and I’ve made it many times. I hadn’t made it in a while though, until yesterday, because I’d run out of tamarind. Ravinder’s recipe is just the potato cakes with the tamarind and chickpea sauce. You can really add anything to them to make a full meal. I use sausages because they’re cheap and cheerful. But fish works well too, especially white fish. Grilled chicken or pork chops would be nice as well.

And, with the exception of deep frying the potato cakes – these are pretty healthy. There are ways of making it healthier. Frying in groundnut or sesame oil is much healthier than sunflower or vegetable oil. And I always drain them on kitchen towel to soak up the excess oil. But they do need to be fried and not baked to get the lovely crisp outsides. But don’t wind yourself up too much about the frying – these are still healthy in spite of it, and a little fat never did anyone any harm. These are also vegetarian and vegan (if done the Ravinder way, and also without the sausages!).

Do not be worried by the tamarind either. It’s a totally wonderful ingredient, really delicious, very aesthetically pleasing when cooked, looks very interesting when in pod form on the tree, and is very easy to manage. The simplest way to use it is to get pre-made tamarind concentrate. However, this is expensive and doesn’t last long. The cheaper and more effective way to do it is to get the tamarind blocks, break off a chunk, soak it in hot water for 15-20 minutes, and then push it through a seive to make the concentrate. I reserve the water it was soaking in too, as it adds to the flavour. You chuck away whatever doesn’t go through the seive.

You can use normal potatoes for the potato cakes – as Ravinder says, this is the more usual option. However, I love her choice of the sweet potatoes. They look wonderful and taste beautiful with the tamarind sauce. But if you don’t have sweet potatoes, just use normal ones.

This is not a quick recipe, so don’t make this when you’re really hungry and want to eat fast. It’s a good one for the weekend, or if you have some time. And it’s definitely worth the effort too.

Potato cakes in tamarind sauce with sausages and brocolli

Serves 2

  • 4 pork sausages (I used pork and apple)

For the potato cakes:

  • 2 medium sweet potatoes (or normal ones) peeled and chopped into small chunks
  • 1/2 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • a small knob of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 green chilli, finely chopped (de seed if you don’t want too spicy)
  • 1 tsp coriander seeds, toasted and ground
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds, toasted and ground
  • salt & pepper
  • 2-3 tbsp plain flour (Ravinder uses 1tbsp gram flour)
  • 1 egg (Ravinder uses breadcrumbs instead)
  • 1 tbsp lime juice
  • handful of chopped fresh coriander (I omitted as I’ve run out)
  • 20-30ml groundnut or sesame oil

For the tamarind sauce:

  • 1 tbsp oil (I used olive)
  • 1/2 red onion, sliced
  • 1 cinnamon stick ground (or 1tbsp ground cinnamon)
  • 4 cardamom pods – seeds only – bashed
  • salt
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1.5 tbsp tamarind concentrate
  • 50ml water (or reserved tamarind water)
  • 1/2 tin of chickpeas
  • handful of chopped fresh coriander (I omitted)

For the Indian spiced brocolli:

  • 100g brocolli florets
  • 1 tbsp oil (I used sesame)
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • salt
  1. First of all, prepare the potato cakes. Steam the potato chunks until soft and cooked. You can also boil, but steaming is nicer.
  2. Meanwhile, put the onion, garlic, ginger, chilli and spices in a large bowl. When the potato is cooked, add it to the bowl and mash together.
  3. Next add the egg and the flour (I add enough flour so they aren’t too sticky) and beat both into the potato mix until well combined. Leave in the fridge for 30 minutes to firm up.
  4. Whilst that’s doing, pre-heat the grill for the sausages and steam the brocolli. Again you can boil, but steaming is nicer. Steam until cooked. Also, if using the tamarind blocks, soften some of it in hot water at this point.
  5. After the potato mix has been in the fridge for about 15 minutes, place the sausages under the grill and cook on all sides. Don’t forget to prick them or they’ll explode. Make your tamarind concentrate now too, if using the tamarind block.
  6. Next, make your tamarind sauce. Heat the oil in a small-ish saucepan or high frying pan. Add the onion with a little salt and fry on a high heat until part cooked. Then add the spices and continue cooking until they become fragrant. This usually takes a couple of minutes.
  7. Then add the tomato puree, tamarind concentrate and water. Bring to the boil, reduce to a simmer and add the chickpeas. Continue simmering until the chickpeas are well coated and the tamarind sauce is shimmering. Set aside until needed.
  8. Now make the potato cakes. Add the lime juice and coriander to the mix. Heat the oil in a large frying pan (you want the oil to be a good 2cm/nearly 1inch deep in the pan). When it’s very hot, using your hands, form patties with the mixture. I usually use about 1.5-2 tbsp of the mix to make the patties. Drop into the oil and fry on a high heat on each side until browned and crispy. Turn out on to kitchen paper and place at the bottom of the grill to keep warm.
  9. When all the potato cakes are made, remove all the oil from the pan, except for about 1tbsp of it. Add the mustard seeds for the broccoli to the pan and when they start to pop add the chilli and cumin powders. Mix well in the pan with the oil to make a kind of paste and then remove from the heat. Toss the broccoli in the mix to coat in the spices.
  10. And serve! Put 2 potato cakes on a plate, followed by the sausages. Put the brocolli on the side and spoon the tamarind sauce over the potato cakes. And enjoy – maybe with a nice cold glass of white wine too!

On a noodle trip

I have a small obsession with noodles.¬† I think they are amazing.¬† They are so quick and easy to cook and always taste great (providing you don’t glue them together!).¬† I’m not fussed – rice, egg, wholeweat – I’ll eat them all.¬† If you’re hungry and want to eat quickly they are just perfect.

So here are a couple of noodle recipes I made this week.¬† The first one, was so quick to make and we were so hungry, I didn’t have time to take a photo – before I knew it the plates were empty!¬† But I do have a photo for the second one.

They’re also quite cheap and good things to have in your cupboard for when you’ve run out of food.¬† So they make excellent food for when you’re skint.

The first recipe is vegetarian, although, with the egg it’s not vegan, but you could just leave that out.¬† The great thing about this recipe is the colours of the vegetables, and somehow, don’t ask me how, Ravinder Bhogal manages to combine seemingly unlikely things like mild curry powder and sweet chilli sauce, into something delicious.¬† Of course, its a Ravinder recipe – who else?!¬† The second recipe I made with lamb although the original recipe was for beef and you could just as easily do it with fish or chicken too.

In the first recipe, I suggest some vegetables, but really you could substitute them for anything Рthe more different colours the better really.  Baby sweetcorn, corgettes, all make good options.  Just go with whats in your fridge.

Vege noodle stir fry with cashews

Serves 2

2 bricks of egg noodles (about 100g)

1 tbsp oil (I used chilli oil)

handful of cashew nuts

1 onion, finely sliced

1 carrot, julienned (finely sliced into batons)

1 red pepper, finely sliced

handful of green beans chopped in half

handful of sugar snap peas

Green leaf (like bok choi) roughly chopped

2 eggs, beaten

1 inch knob of ginger peeled & grated

2 red chillis finely chopped (de seed if you don’t want too spicy)

1 tsp mild madras curry powder

2 tbsp light soy sauce

1 tbsp thai sweet chilli sauce

juice of 1/2 a lime

  1. Cook the noodles according to packet instructions until part done Рnormally boiling water for 2-3 minutes.  Drain and set aside.
  2. Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan until hot, and add the cashew nuts.  Then add the onion, fry for a minute until softened but not browned, then add carrots and any other hard vege (broccoli for instance), followed by softer vege like the peppers and beans (corgettes, sweetcorn etc), followed by the vege that need a light cooking such as the green leaf, mange tout or sugar snap peas.
  3. When all the vege has been added and has started to cook, push it up to one side of the pan and add the beaten eggs.  Let them set slightly before messing up and combining with the vege.
  4. Add the ginger, curry powder and chillis, followed by the noodles and mix well.
  5. Add the soy & chilli sauces and mix again.
  6. Turn off the heat and squeeze over the lime
  7. Serve immediately and feel your hunger deliciously slip away.

This next recipe is slightly more technical, but not much really. It requires marinading first, so it’s not as fast as the first, but once the meat is marinaded, it takes minutes to cook and the marinade makes the meat really tender.

I didn’t have any shop bought teryaki sauce, so I made my own from a recipe out of the Wagamama cook book.¬† It’s really quite simple and doesn’t take long to do.¬† This recipe (and the sauce) require sake or sherry.¬† It’s not the kind of thing you’d just have hanging around but it’s great to get a cheap bottle from a supermarket for cooking.¬† It lasts ages because you dont’ use much at a time and it’s very handy for Italian as well as Japanese or Chinese cooking.¬† I normally use a dry pale sherry as a sake substitute and a medium dry sherry for Italian cooking.

Teryaki Lamb stir fry

Serves 2

175g lean lamb steak, de boned and any excess fat removed.

2 bricks of egg noodles (about 100g)

1 tbsp oil

1 onion finely chopped

2 red chillis, finely chopped (de seed if you don’t want too spicy – or leave out all together)

handful of oyster or other chinese mushrooms, rehydrated and torn up

300g chestnut mushrooms (or button or closed cup)

handful of sugar snap peas or mange tout

For the marinade

55-60ml teryaki sauce

1 tbsp sake or dry sherry

2 tsp dark soy sauce

For the teryaki sauce (if not shop bought) – makes 55-60ml

60g caster sugar (or granulated is fine)

2 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp sake or dry sherry

1 tsp dark soy sauce.

  1. To make the teryaki sauce, combine the sugar and light soy sauce in a small saucepan over a low heat until the sugar is disolved, continue stiring for a further 5 minutes until the sauce has thickened (but isn’t too caramelised).¬† Remove from the heat and add the sake and dark soy, and mix to combine well.¬† Set aside.¬† The sauce will continue to thicken a bit after this, so err on the side of slightly too runny rather than slightly too thick when making it.¬† And don’t leave it when it’s cooking, or it might burn.
  2. To make the marinade, combine the cooled teryaki sauce with the sake and dark soy (essentially giving it more flavour than the teryaki sauce on its own) and add the meat to it.  Cover and place in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.
  3. When the meat is marinaded, cook the noodles until partially done, according to manufacturers instructions, normally boil in water for 2-3 minutes.  Drain and set aside.
  4. Heat the oil in a wok or large frying pan, add the onion and fry on a medium heat until browned.  Add the chillis, and stir well.   Then add the mushrooms and fry until the chestnut mushrooms have browned and al the mushrooms have released some juices.
  5. Remove the meat from the marinade and reserve the marinade.  Chop up the meat (or you can fry as a whole steak and slice after cooking) and add to the vegetables.  Fry until browned on all sides.
  6. Then add the sugarsnap peas or mange tout and the noodles.  Stir well, then add the marinade.  Stir again to mix well.
  7. Turn off the heat and serve immediately with a nice cold beer.
  8. Do your lady and the tramp impression whilst gobbling it all up!

Pasta fabulousness

I have to say, this is one of my favourite recipes to make when I’ve had a bad day at work, or I’m feeling a bit miserable.¬† It’s the perfect pick me up.¬† The original recipe is Ravinder Bhogal’s (who else’s?!) from Cook in Boots but I’ve altered it, mostly because I can’t be bothered to turn the oven on and roast garlic for half an hour first!

But I’m sure if you could be bothered it would be delicious.¬† Basically, roast a whole bulb of garlic in its shell for 30 minutes in a hot oven and then squeeze the goo from the roasted garlic into the mixture just before you add the creme fraiche.

But even without it its totally fabulous.¬† Probably due to the bacon and the mushrooms.¬† It’s all that umami you see.¬† Its this weird substance scientists in Japan discovered in certain foods.¬† It enhances flavour and brings out your endorphins.¬† And mushrooms have it.¬† Along with marmite, bacon, beef broth, MSG etc.¬† And garlic is great too.¬† I know, it makes your breath smell, but really it tastes fabulous in food and boosts your immune system when you’re feeling ill (or even when you’re not).

Anyway, if you want to know more about umami, here’s the wikipedia page

And if you don’t care about umami but want to cook this delicious dish, then here’s the recipe.

Bacon and mushroom creamy pasta

Serves 2

150g pasta shapes (your choice!)

1 tbsp olive oil

1 onion finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic finely chopped (and yes you do want to keep this in if you’re roasting garlic – the original recipe has both)

100g pancetta or streaky bacon (or whatever bacon you have), chopped

200g chestnut mushrooms (or whatever you can find – button or closed up are good too), chopped

2 tbsp low fat creme fraiche


grated parmesan to serve

  1. Boil the pasta according to the packet instructions and to how you like it.  Drain and reserve
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a pan, and fry the onion, garlic and bacon together on a medium-high heat until browned and crispy.
  3. Add the mushrooms to the pan and continue frying until golden brown
  4. Turn down the heat to low, add the creme fraiche along with a generous helping of pepper (no need for salt as bacon is salty).  Stir until the creme fraiche is well combined with the bacon and mushroom mix.
  5. Add the pasta to the pan and stir well to coat in the mixture.
  6. Take off the heat and serve with parmesan cheese sprinkled over the top.
  7. Eat immediately and feel your worries slip away
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