Monthly Archives: January 2013

Saturday 19th January 2013

Saturday night is curry night! And, more often then not these days it’s Veggie curry night, and I thought it would be good to try some new variations and maybe find some new favourites. So….


From left to right we have Aubergine & Onion, 4 lentil dal, Cauliflower & Tomato, Potato Bondas and some wholewheat chapattis.  They were all good, and the aubergine and potato will definately be served up again.  The aubergine was, in fact, a revelation- it didn’t look particularly lovely but was so spicy and tasty that we finished the lot.  Here’s the recipes for the 2 veggie superstars.

Aubergine & Onion

Adapted from “Tasting India” by Christine Manfield

1 tbsp vegetable oil (although we used walnut oil)

1 small onion, sliced into half moons

1 clove garlic, chopped

1 green chilli, sliced

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1/4 tsp turmeric

1 small aubergine, chopped into small bitesize chunks

1 tsp garam masala

  • heat the oil and fry the onion until soft.  Add the garlic and chilli and cook for 2 mins.
  • add the cumin seeds, coriander and turmeric and mix together.  Add the aubergine and mix together until the aubergine is coated in the spicy onion mixture.
  • add some water- up to about half way up the aubergine.  Not too much as you can always add a little more if it starts to look a bit dry.
  • stir through the garam masala.
  • cook for 20 mins until the aubergine is soft and brown.  I did this in the over, covered in foil, as the oven was already on.

I would really recommend you try this as it was lovely, despite not looking particularly yummy!  It goes so well with the chapatti.

Potato Bondas

Adapted from “World Food Cafe” by Chris & Carolyn Caldicott

4 medium potatoes, cooked and mashed

1 tbsp vegetable oil

1/2 tsp salt

2 tsp desiccated coconut

3 green chillis, chopped

1in piece fresh ginger, chopped

1 tsp sesame seeds

1 tsp garam masala

juice of 1/2 lime

coriander leaves, chopped

3 tbsp gram flour (chickpea flour, or you could use plain flour)

pinch salt

1/2 tsp turmeric

1 tsp chilli powder

  • mix all the ingredients from the flour down together, adding some water a little bit at a time until you make a thick batter.
  • mix all the rest of the ingredients together well and mould into small balls.
  • heat some oil in a frying pan.  Dip the balls in the batter and fry on all sides until nicely browned.
  • transfer to a baking sheet and finish in a hot oven for 15 mins.  This guarantees they are hot all the way through and get crispy on the outside without using too much oil

Colin really liked these and they did not last long on the plate!

We both enjoy having these small plates where you can try a little of several different flavours.  This, however, is not the same case when we order a takeaway- habit I guess!

Here’s to a restful and yummy weeks holiday in the French Thomas household.

Friday 18th January 2013


Today is the first day of my 9 day holiday and I have been greeted with a very pretty picture of snow outside our window! I am so pleased I do not have to attempt to drive down to Horsham in this weather.  Luckily we have lots of food and wine so all is good and we can snuggle up warm and happy.

The last couple of days have been quiet on the food front due to me coming home late- firstly because my car broke down with a flat tire just outside Lewes in the freezing cold and I had to wait for the recovery man to come out, and secondly a late shift at work.  However, Colin came to the rescue with a good, hot chilli, which saved the day and was absolutely what the doctor ordered!  As a thank you the nibble tin has been topped up!



Tonight I made a new take on a shepherds pie, a variation on a Sophie Conran recipe which was lovely (although Colin was not as keen as he would have preferred mince in the pie rather that the stewing steak).  The filling of the pie was stewing steak, onions, carrots, juniper berries, thyme, rosemary, a bottle of Belgian beer and some beef stock.  This was simmered down until the meat was cooked and the sauce thick, then put into a pie dish and topped with masked potato and sweet potato.  I would definately make it again but use minced beef instead- I really liked the topping which both looked and tasted great with the orangeness of the sweet potato.  We served this with some peas (sorry Marie!) and runner beans and a lovely bottle of Valpolicella.  Poor Colin has to work tomorrow but then we are off for a week and I can’t wait!!!

On Thursday it was Barbara’s birthday so Happy Birthday and we raise a glass of wine to you!  Enjoy the sunshine (we are all jealous…).


Monday 14th January 2013


On Monday night it was Colin’s turn to make dinner as I was back home late after interviewing all day.  He decided on making a Thai Green Chicken Curry as we’ve not had one for ages and he’s made some brilliant ones in the past.  Tonight,unfortunately, was not a vintage effort!  A misunderstanding with the recipe meant the entire pot of thai paste went into the sauce making it super, super hot!  

I am writing this on Tuesday night and it was my turn to make a disaster!  I made a lovely pasta sauce with some chorizo, garlic and tomatoes- nice and thick and juicy.  However, the pasta would just not cook at all and was very chewy.  I managed to chew my way through, but Colin only managed to eat the sauce…..  Luckily ice cream in the freezer has taken the hunger away! 

I’m hoping for better luck tomorrow as it’s Colin’s world famous chilli!


Sunday 13th January 2013

Lunch for Colin!!!



A well-deserved day off today where the batteries were recharged.  For lunch some bought in fishcakes and chips with some mushy peas, followed by a film in the afternoon- lovely day.

I remembered I had a beef fillet in the freezer so I thought I’d make a take on an Italian tagliata this evening.  I seared the seasoned fillet on the griddle pan until nicely charred, before putting in a hot oven for 45 mins.  I actually wish I had cooked it for a bit less as it was definately cooked through, not quite the charred outside and juicy inside I was hoping for.  Saying that it was very tasty and the leftovers made a very good lunch today.  With the beef we had some home made oven chips, tossed at the last minute with some salt and  some merguez spices.  The veggie side was some broccoli, lightly blanched and then sauteed in a little olive oil, sliced garlic and red chilli.  It all worked together very well, drizzled with the juices from the beef.


It’s not often I make a dessert but this recipe from one of my favourite cooks, Diana Henry, caught my eye- and is a little nod to the in-laws enjoying themselves in Tenerife this January!

ImageSherry Cheesecake


  • 90g crushed digestive biscuits
  • 20g roasted, crushed hazelnuts
  • 20g unsalted butter


  • 750g mascarpone/ cream cheese
  • 115g icing sugar
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 vanilla pod, scraped of seeds
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 50ml sherry (a pedro ximenez was used here and was lovely)
  • zest of 1 lemon

Combine the base ingredients and press into a 7″ cake tin.  Chill in the fridge for 30 mins.

Preheat oven to 170.

Put the mascarpone in a food processor and whizz until smooth.  Add the rest of the ingredients, except the lemon, and blend well.  Stir in the lemon zest.

Pour the filling over the base and bake in the oven for 40 mins until just set.  Cool, and leave in the fridge for 2 hours to set before serving.

Serve sprinkled with some more chopped hazelnuts and a glass of the sherry!




Saturday 12th January 2013

After a 6 day stretch at work I needed something really yummy, and potentially a bit posh (!) to perk me up- and keep me awake for the evening.  At Middle Farm Shop I bought 2 partridges so adapted a recipe we do with quail- it’s quite funny as Colin has gone off chicken but really enjoys the more gamey little birds, especially when crispy and tasty.



The partridge were simply roasted in a hot oven for 40 mins with a scattering of salt, pepper, olive oil and fresh thyme.  I basted them from time to time as they can go a bit dry- but not these little lovelies- juicy and crispy at the same time!

The partridge is sitting on top a latkes, adapted slightly from the Ottolenghi ‘Jerusalem’ book.

3 large floury potatoes

1 medium parsnip

1 tbsp cornflour

1 egg white

handful of chopped chives or thyme

olive oil

  • grate the potatoes and parsnip (I do this in the food processor- lazy…), then squeeze out as much of the moisture as possible.  Wrap in a clean tea towel to absorb the residual water.
  • in a large bowl mix the grated veg, cornflour, egg white, herbs and a little salt.  
  • heat some olive oil in a large frying pan.  Take a handful of the potato mixture and press into an almost burger shape.  Fry on both sides until golden.
  • Place on a baking sheet and cook in the oven for about 15 mins until crisp and cooked through.



Enjoyed with a good bottle of Barolo, some crunchy salad (red and white chicory, radish and celery) and a lovely husband- who finished his plate.


Friday 11th January 2013

Just in after a late night at work- I am seriously fed up of driving having been all over the south of England this week!  So, no dinner tonight as in too late.  But I did have a very large piece of cake at work today, made for one of my managers last day.

Yesterday was a much better day as I discovered a fantastic farm shop.  It’s called Middle Farm, near Lewes and is on a working farm.  The selection of meats, veg and yummy delights was fantastic and I came away with a box of happiness.  We will be eating quite a few of my finds in the days to come!

So last night we started with some of the sausages I bought- 2 kinds: pork with cracked black pepper, and pork with leek.  I briefly cooked them in the oven until half cooked through then placed them on top of a bed of leeks, red onion, chopped flat leaf parsley and some sprigs of thyme.  This I cooked in the oven for 15 mins until the veg was softened and the sausages browned.  I had meant to make a sauce to go with this by mixing soured cream with strong mustard, but I forgot to buy the soured cream so it was served sauce-less!  No worse for it actually!


At lunch time I had some goats cheese that had been rolled in hot red chillis (bought from Middle Farm) with a salad.  I am just so sad that I can not visit that farm shop every week!

Tuesday 8th January 2013

One of my NY resolutions this year is to eat more veggie, so tonight it was Moroccan Veggie Parcels.  I’ve made these alot of times before: they are a bit like spicy veggie pasties with puff pastry, but sometimes they have soggy bottoms (oh no!) so tonight it was more like an open tart.  Here’s the Moroccan veggie mixture before it went into its pastry blanket-


Here’s the recipe:

1 red onion

handful of cooked, cubed sweet potato

1 small aubergine, chopped

1 small courgette, chopped

1/2 tin chickpeas

1 small bag of spinach

small handful of almonds, roughly chopped

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp cayenne powder

1/2 tbsp runny honey

chopped fresh coriander

pack ready rolled puff pastry (lazy, but it is a school night!)

  • saute the onion, sweet potato, aubergine and courgette in olive oil till nicely browned.  
  • add the chickpeas and the spinach and stir through.
  • stir in the almonds, spices and honey and take off the heat to cook slightly.
  • with the pastry you can either lay it out flat and use it as a tart base, or cut into 4 smaller pieces.
  • if making a tart simply spread the mixture on top of the pastry, folding the edges a little over the mixture, leaving it open in the centre.
  • if making parcels hold the pastry in the palm of your hand and place the mixture on the pastry.  Fold up the pastry, sealing the veggies, and shape into a ball shape.
  • Cook either way in the oven until the pastry is browned- about 20 mins.

This is a really lovely supper or lunch and the Moroccan spicing really perks up the veggies.  We eat it often with new potatoes, but last night we made some potatoes wedges in the over with olive oil, tossed in some salt at the end.  Salad for me- I’m on a diet (of sorts….)

Tonight I am back late as I went to meeting in Crowborough and had a horrible drive back- excuses, excuses, excuses- and Colin not back yet as trains delayed, so it’s a takeaway curry!  Secretly pleased I have to admit so feet up, G&T and await some tandoori king prawns.

Sunday 6th January 2013


I was supposed to be making Chicken Kievs, or what I like to call ‘like a Kiev’ (lots of herbs and butter but not loads of garlic) but saw that I had some good bacon in the fridge that needed using up so I made a stuffed chicken thing instead!

I mixed a bit of salted butter with some chopped sage and parsley.  I placed this in a chicken breast and wrapped it up with some smoked back bacon- this was the Duchy Cherrywood Smoked Bacon which is delicious.  I baked it in the oven for 20 mins.  With it we had some crispy salad with celery and radish in it and some new potatoes.  Really nice, marking the end of Christmas proper.

I’m writing this on Monday night and it’s been a long day at work- and due to loads of sickness it’s going to be a very long week.  I do feel quite righteous though as I did manage to get to the gym tonight, so the glass of wine I am having feels well earned!  Tonight we have had a very satisfying dinner of meatballs (bought in I have to admit…), spaghetti and a tomatoey, chilli sauce.  It was quite scary when cooking as I poured some wine into the saute pan after I had cooked out some garlic and chilli in olive oil and it caught and was burning!  Smoke alarms went off and flat full of saucy aromas but it did have a good effect as sauce yummy!  However, I will not be flambeing in my kitchen again in a hurry!

Saturday 5th January 2013: Kebab Night

I bit off a little more than I could chew when I decided I would make flatbreads- from scratch!- after work.  It started out good as I left work on time, but then decided to pop into Kingston on the way home to do some shopping.  I finally got back home after 6 and finally got around to kneading my dough at 7pm!  This meant, inevitably, that shortcuts were made, rising times halved, and the flatbreads became more like crispbreads,  However, they were tasty crispbreads, but I think in future I’ll stick to buying flatbreads or use pitta bread unless it’s my day off when I’ll actually plan time in to do the job properly!

The flatbreads were to go with spicy kebabs which is a Saturday night favourite.  I make the kebabs with lamb mince and spices and squidge into small sausage shapes.  I used to use a variety of spices- cumin, coriander, cinnamon, chilli- but found a fantastic Ras-al-Hanout blend when I was shopping in Wholefoods in Kensington, and I now use this each time.  The blend is perfect, a little hot, lots of cinnamon which goes so well with the lamb, and has pretty rose petals and spice galore.  I doubt I could make a blend this good- or it would take forever and cost a fortune trying!  I bake the kebabs in a hot oven for 15 mins until browned but still juicy.

Alongside the flatbreads and kebabs we always have a little harrisa paste to spice it up further, a little greek yoghurt mixed with a chopped mint and parsley to cool it down, some crispy salad leaves  and a red onion and tomato salad.  I did sprinkle some pomegranate seeds onto the tomato salad which gave a great sweet/sour burst which worked perfectly with the kebabs.  A really yummy dinner and one we will probably have many, many more times in 2013.

Thursday 3rd January 2013: Curry Night

Yesterday and today have been a tale of 2 curries! Last night was Colin’s curry night and he made 2 veggie curries- it is his New Years Resolution to cook much more often so this was his first offering of 2013.
The 1st curry was a roasted veggie stew, with cauliflower, courgettes, carrots, onions and tomatoes. The 2nd was a spicy dal. As you can see Colin was stressed while cooking but it was a triumph, and I am so happy that there are leftovers for my late night at work on Friday!

Tonight was my turn and I made a Keralan Fish Curry. Here’s the recipe:
For 2 hungry people!
1 tsp mustard seeds
1/2 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 green chilli
handful curry leaves
1 in piece ginger, grated
2 small onions, chopped
1 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp turmeric
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1/2 tin coconut milk
400g cod, haddock or monkfish, cut into chunks
1 tbsp lemon juice
coriander leaves

  • heat a little vegetable oil in a large pan and fry the mustard seeds, fenugreek seeds, chilli, curry leaves and ginger for 2 mins.
  • add the onions to the pan and fry for 10 mins.
  • add the chilli powder, turmeric, tomatoes and coconut milk, season and simmer for 30 mins till nice and thick.
  • add the chunks of fish and poach in the yummy sauce until cooked- about 10 mins.
  • sprinkle with lemon juice and chopped coriander.

Here’s how it looked…. (but it tasted much, much better!)


Tomorrow no new nice dinner as working late (got yummy leftovers)- but good plans for the weekend!

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