Weekend 27/28th July 2013

A really relaxing weekend, which was really needed after a long week. On Saturday we had to stay in to wait for a man from BT to install BT Infinity- only really being done to make sure we can get BT Sport from next week!!! Although being a Newcastle Utd supporter I probably will not want to be watching the football when the season starts up…..

For lunch we had a little bowl of pasta- tomatoey, garlicky and full of chilli, really yummy.

For dinner I made some Indian inspired dishes: a dal, a bean curry and some marinated plaice.

ImageThe bean curry was an amalgamation of 2 recipes: one for a chickpea curry and one for a red kidney bean curry. However, I realised that I had bought cannellini beans by mistake so adaptations had to be made….. Actually it was ok! Cannellini beans don’t hold their texture as well as red kidney beans and they did break down a little, but mixed with the dal the flavours worked really well.

I am not mentioning the fish….. marinated in some spices and lemon juice then fried, it all collapsed and looked rubbish 🐟🐟🐟🐟🐟🐟


On Sunday we had a lie in and then wandered along to Twickenham, trying Ruben’s Bakehouse for pizza.

ImageWe have bought bread, particularly sourdough bread, from Rubens many times as it is delicious, and such a good addition to the high street. We noticed that they have opened up a Pizza place next door so thought we’d give it a go. And how pleased we were! 2 pizzas down- spicy pepperoni and a fresh mozzarella, rocket and tomato. We were bursting as we ate way too much, but happy, happy, happy! We’ll be back on a very regular basis.

Despite feeling like we would never eat again somehow we managed to find room for a little roast loin of pork (rubbed with bashed fennel seeds, thyme and garlic), salad and some little potatoes. A fitting end to a foodie filled weekend. Happy weekend indeed!


Sat 20th – Fri 26th July 2013

When I first started writing this blog I was really good at making sure I got to it everyday. But over the past few weeks I have been easily distracted and it has fallen a bit behind…. so I am going to write up highlights from the past 10days bringing me up to date, then I will endeavour to get back on track! I am blaming the sunshine- making me drink wine and act all sleepy.

So, here goes….

Saturday 20th

After a busy, busy day at work I needed no excuse to ring for a takeaway, so dinner came from Minar in Hampton- our new favourite Indian takeaway by far. Absolutely delicious: Tandoori king prawns, dal, Bombay aloo and naan bread. Washed down with freezing cold beers.

Sunday 21st

I was at work today and got loads done, including shopping at the end. The car was boiling and the steering wheel actually was painful to hold on to! I was remembering back to the last time my little sis and her fiancĂ©e came down to visit and remembered making Moussaka together, so that’s what made it onto the table tonight. However, it was not a complete success- not enough aubergine and tons of sloppy sauce so it looked like a massive gloop on the plate, a tasty gloop, but gloop all the same……

Monday 22nd

Today we went to visit Colin’s parents as my lovely niece and nephew, Emily and Toby, were over from Geneva. My left arm is massively aching after an extended swing ball play with Toby- he is much better than me although he was very kind about it with me, and I got to dangle my little toes in the paddling pool. Emily had plans to make everyone a macaroni cheese for dinner- quite The little chef in the making I think!

For our dinner I made a chicken chasseur.

ImageHere’s the recipe:

Jo’s Chicken Chasseur- not authentic at all…

2 chicken breasts, cut into large chunks (or thighs, Colin doesn’t like them)

4 rashers of streaky bacon, cut into fine slivers

1 red onion, cut into chunks

2 garlic cloves, chopped

Handful of button mushrooms

2 sprigs of thyme

Large glass of white wine

1 tin chopped tomatoes

Handful of chopped parsley

  • Heat sautĂ© pan and add the bacon. Stir until the bacon is crispy and the fat is released. Add the chicken and brown on both sides.
  • Add the onion and garlic and stir for 10 mins.
  • Add the mushrooms and stir until lightly browned. Add the thyme.
  • Add the wine and bubble down by 1/3.
  • Add the tomatoes, turn the heat down and simmer for 30mins until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce reduced to a nice saucy consistency.

I hadn’t made this for absolutely ages- it may have been last made when I lived in Brussels- as Colin has gone off chicken recently. But empty plates at the end of the meal so all well.

Tuesday 23rd
My comfort food has been tomatoey pasta, and has been for many, many years now. This is a variation to get more veggies in- ratatouille pasta. Really simple: sauté onion, red pepper, courgette and aubergine, all cubed, in olive oil with a little garlic and salt until golden. Add chilli and chopped tomatoes and simmer until saucy- serve with wholemeal spaghetti. It is really lovely and you feel full yet virtuous afterwards!

Wednesday 24th

Late night at work so no dinner for me. Colin had bacon, beans on toast.

Thursday 25th

It is always a worry when Colin decides to cook something new. I have come to realise over the years that the problem lies in the actual reading of the recipe- odd for a man who spends his days in bookshops….

Tonight was a Chettinad Chicken, from the new Rick Stein book. Here’s the prep:


Imageall was going well- smells from the kitchen were good, but the problem became clear- tsp were muddled with tbsp (led to lots of spices…) and 1 litre used instead of 100ml (bit like soup). However, reduced down and a tin of tomatoes added made it ok- although my mouth may still be on fire….. next time Colin, read the recipe!!!

Friday 26th

Here we are at the end of the massive catch up! The week ended with kebab night, one of the favourite nights to be had!

ImagePhew, all this talk of food has made me hungry! I’d better go and make dinner!


Mon 15th – Fri 19th July 2013

I have actually had to work my 2 late nights at work this week- how horrendous!!! Usually a meeting or something falls on my late, but not this week, but good to get back into a normal routine.

On Monday night we had a very tasty, if a little boring, dinner of pork chops, potatoes and salad. I had got the pork chops from Middle Farm shop and they were massively chunky! I sprinkled them with fennel seeds and grilled them and they filled an empty yum nicely.

Tuesday became veggie night instead of Monday….

ImageAnd these not so little balls are made from courgette, onion and chickpea flour. We have them quite often and they only work if you get as much of the water squeezed out of the courgette- which is quite a work out at the end of a busy work day, but a good way to get the stress out!!! Here’s the recipe for the balls and sauce.

Spicy Courgette Balls in a Tomato and Coconut Sauce

For the balls:

3 small courgette, grated

1tsp salt

1 red chilli, chopped

1 large onion, grated

2cm ginger, grated

Handful chopped coriander

65g chickpea flour

Olive oil

For the sauce:

1 onion, chopped

2cm ginger, grated

1 clove garlic, grated

1 red chilli, chopped

Olive oil

1/4 tsp turmeric

1/4 tsp chilli powder

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

250 ml coconut cream

1tin chopped tomatoes

Handful chopped coriander

  • sprinkle the courgette with salt, leave for half an hour, then squeeze out as much water as possible
  • For the sauce: put the onion, ginger, garlic and chilli with 2 tbsp water into a blender and purĂ©e. Or you could mash them up in a pestle and mortar
  • heat some oil and add the turmeric, chilli, cumin and coriander. Add the onion purĂ©e and fry for 5mins. Add the coconut cream and stir for 5 mins. Add the tomatoes and coriander, stir and simmer until thick, about 20mins
  • put the courgette into a bowl with the other ball ingredients and mix well. Form into balls and fry in oil until browned all over on all sides (are there sides of a ball???)
  • serve all together

Thursday night was Pizza night.

ImageOne veggie one (bought), one pepperoni one (made with my own fair hands!). Washed down with good Italian red wine- happiness all round.

Weekend 13/14th July 2013

Sunny, sunny, happy days!😊😍😊


Today we headed south to the coast for a picnic on the beach. We went to a beach at Bishopstone, near Seaford, and it was really lovely- not very busy and lots of little boats bobbing around in the sea. We even stripped off and got in, well me only to the waist as I am a bit of a wimp…..

However, what should have been a little over an hours journey turned into over 4 as the M23 closed at Gatwick. A small detour into a petrol station ensured we had a car full of snacks as we zig-zagged across the country, weaving our way up to Twickenham. I needed this when I got in…

ImageThis pink prosecco was decorated with some pomegranate seeds and rose petals, and was fragrant and lovely. It accompanied a spaghetti bolognaise which was delicious, if I say so myself!

Yesterday we were also off work and were going to have a picnic in the garden but it was full of little people having a run around! So indoor picnic it was, and actually better than outside as no flies to contend with.

ImageThe little pastries at the front are some mini beef Wellington from ‘Cook’- I’d not tried them before and they were a winner, I’ll get them in for Christmas for definite.

For dinner we had some marinated quail:

ImageI sprinkled the quail with ras-al-hanout, lemon juice, garlic and coriander. I simply grilled them till crispy and served with some olive oil roasted potatoes and a green bean and broad bean salad. We haven’t had quail for a while which is a shame as we always enjoy them. Maybe they’ll make more of an appearance on our dinner table in the weeks ahead!

I wonder how long this heat will last- I am simply melting ☀✳☀


Thursday 11th July 2013

ImageA night in on my own (Colin hosting a book launch tonight) so this colourful dinner came to mind. It’s based on a recipe card from work and was very easy, very quick, and perfect for a hot evening after a long day at work. Here’s the recipe:

Piedmont-Style Stuffed Peppers

1 red pepper

Half tub fresh basil pesto

Handful of cherry tomatoes, preferably some yellow and red for colour

Drizzle of garlic flavoured oil

Salad leaves to serve

  • Preheat the oven to 200°
  • Cut the pepper in half and trim the stalk. Stuff with the pesto.
  • Cut he tomatoes in half and stuff into the peppers on top of the pesto. Drizzle with the oil and bake in the oven for 20mins until the peppers are softened and the juices of the tomatoes are flowing.
  • Eat while hot (peppers, not you!), with salad.

You could grate some parmesan or pecorino over at the end, or for the final couple of mins of cooking if you fancied it.

Last night I made a curry that we saw in the new Rick Stein book: a Potato and Pea Curry. The original version was quite dry and we like a saucy curry (!) so some minor adjustments were made. Here it is in construction:


This is my version of the recipe. Don’t be out off by the long list of ingredients- it is really worth it.

Potato and Pea Curry

For the Potatoes

3 large potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks

1 tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp turmeric

For the Sauce

1 tbsp vegetable oil

1/4tsp asafoetida

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, chopped

2cm piece ginger, grated

1 tsp chilli powder

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp amchur (dried mango powder)

1/2 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp salt

2 tins tomatoes

2 green Chilli, slit down the middle

100g frozen peas

1tsp garam masala

Fresh coriander to garnish

  • boil the potatoes until just tender, then drain.
  • heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the potatoes for 5mins until golden. Add the turmeric and fry for a further min.
  • for the sauce heat the oil and add the asafoetida. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and stir for 5 mins.
  • Add the chilli powder, cumin, coriander, amchur, turmeric and salt and fry for 1min.
  • add the tomatoes and green Chilli and simmer for 20mins. Add the potatoes and simmer for 10mins.
  • add the peas and garam masala and continue to simmer until the sauce is thickened and the peas are cooked through

This is not a recipe for poor Marie who thinks that peas are the food of the devil….. she would maybe add broad beans instead!?

On Tuesday Colin found out that he is not being made redundant after an assessment dente so we went out to celebrate. A relief all round and we can now think seriously about moving so I can have a bigger kitchen! Yippee!

Weekend 6/7th July 2013

The sun has got his hat on and unbelievably I have been able to enjoy him as I had a bonus weekend off! One of my managers had a little calamity which changed my rota considerably in my favour. So to celebrate I made a delicious Saturday lunch:

ImageThis beautiful seafood salad was fresh and vibrant. I sautéed the squid and prawns in garlic and chilli, with a splash of white wine and lemon juice. I had some multi coloured cherry tomatoes from the farmers market for the salad, alongside some radish, red onion and salad leaves. Delicious!

And the yumminess did not stop there! In the evening we wandered along to Hampton in the sunshine and had an Indian meal in Minar. We have had takeaway a few times from Minar so thought we would try it out it to sit in, and how pleased we were as it was absolutely great. The service was spot on, the dining room cool and comfy. But the star of the show is the food- fresh, gorgeously spiced, and not greasy in the slightest. Of course we chose too much food as we wanted to try as much s possible, so with massively full tums we sauntered home.  We will definitely be back, and may try their banquet night to try some different dishes to what we would naturally order.

Poor Colin is at work and not able to enjoy either the sunshine or the Wimbledon final. I know I should feel guilty, but how can I when the sun is shining and all is well in the world! But I have made sure he has been well fed when back from work. Sunday night I marinated a rib of beef in harissa spices for the afternoon, them roasted it over a high heat, charring it on the outside but staying a little pink in the middle- juicy and delicious. To accompany the spicy meat we had some little new potatoes and a carrot salad from Ottolenghi’s Plenty. A tasty end to my bonus weekend off!

Friday 5th July 2013

The past 2 days have been fishie-filled 🐟🐟🐟 , and very lovely too. Last night salmon was the fishie of choice, roasted in the oven and served with lentils.

ImageThe puy lentils were simply par-boiled, then sautĂ©ed with onion, celery and carrot. I just love lentils cooked like this- so simple, yet filling, tasty and good for you, could I ask for more! With the lentils I quickly charred some baby courgette, and of course some little olive oil roasted potatoes for Colin…..

The salmon was delicious- no fussing about here, just seasoned and quickly roasted in the oven for 15mins leaving it juicy and just cooked through. It’s funny to think that it is only a matter of months since Colin started eating salmon as we now eat it at least once a week it seems!

Tonight’s fishie of choice was sea bass: 🐟🐟🐟


This is a take on a Thai red curry. I simply added some red curry paste to a large pan and stirred over a medium heat until fragrant. To this I added a tin of chopped tomatoes and simmered for 5mins. At this point I added more chilli after tasting as the paste was not as hot as I like it! I then added a tin of coconut milk, a squeeze of lime juice and a tsp fish sauce, stirred all together and simmered for about 30mins until thick and reduced. To finish it off all it needed was another little squeeze of lime juice and a sprinkling of fresh coriander.

The sea bass fillets were simply seasoned and seared quickly over a high heat, making them crisp but still full of flavour! Really lovely for dinner, and any fish fillet would have worked really well.

Earlier this week we had some meatballs with pasta which was perfectly nice, and I worked a late night so went dinner free….

Monday 1st July 2013

Returning to work makes you tired! I can still not believe how much quicker time passes when you are off work compared to when you are at work, and this seems very unfair. Oh well…

What we needed was a nourishing start to the week so Lebanese Aubergine and Tomato appeared.

ImageThis recipe is based on one from a blog I follow www.johnnys-kitchen.blogspot.co.uk, but slightly adapted for our taste. It was really lovely, a big hit with Colin, and could turn even the meatiest eater into a veggie for the evening!

Here’s my version of the recipe:

Jo’s Lebanese Aubergine Bake

2 medium aubergines, sliced into 3 thick strips

Olive oil

1 medium onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, chopped

2 green Chilli, chopped

1tsp ground cumin

1tsp paprika

1tsp cayenne pepper

Small glass of white wine

2 tins chopped tomatoes

1 tin chickpeas

Fresh parsley, roughly chopped

Squeeze of lemon juice

  • Heat the oven to 200°
  • Heat some olive oil in a sautĂ© pan and fry the onions and garlic until soft. Add the chilli and the spices and stir for 5 mins.
  • Add the wine and reduce for 5 mins
  • Add the tins of tomatoes and reduce for 15mins. Stir in the chickpeas.
  • Pour the vegetables into a baking dish. Top with the slices of aubergine, drizzle over some olive oil and seasoning.
  • Bake in the oven for 45mins until the aubergine is golden and the sauce is thickened. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with parsley and a squeeze of lemon juice
  • Enjoy!

We had some olive oil baked chips and some salad on the side and enjoyed every mouthful.!


Saturday 30th June 2013

A relatively easy drive home in the sunshine via the Riverford Farm Shop. This is the farm shop of my dreams! It has everything you would want in a farm shop- the veg is organic, the meat counter is fresh and local, and the selection of grocery, cakes and bread is unrivalled. We filled the car up to the brim and drove back slowly!

One of the purchases was this wine, opened as a welcome home treat, poured into some new glasses acquired in Bude!

ImageThis wine was truly delicious, worth watching out for.

You will know how much we like our curries and spicy food, and this week has been relatively Spice free- so I set to work on changing this for dinner, using the new Rick Stein India book as inspiration.

ImageFirst up was a summer vegetable curry. Quite dry this is more of a sauté of summer veg in mustard seeds, cumin seeds and curry leaves. Alongside this I made a dal, and this is the recipe.

Tarka Dal (courtesy of Rick Stein, India)

200g chana dal

2 medium tomatoes, chopped

1 medium onion, chopped

4 green Chilli, slit open

2 cloves garlic, peeled

Small handful of curry leaves

1 tsp salt

1/2tsp turmeric


2tbsp vegetable oil

1 tsp black mustard seeds

2 shallots, chopped

4 dried red chilli, broken up

15 curry leaves

Handful fresh coriander, chopped

  • put the dal into a pan and cover with 4cm water. Add the remaining dal ingredients, bring to the boil, them simmer for 1 hours until soft.
  • mash up with a potato masher to break up, but do leave some rough texture in.
  • for the tarka, heat the oil in a frying pan and add the mustard seeds until they pop. Add the shallots, chilli and curry leaves and stir for 2-3 mins.
  • Spoon the tarka over the dal, sprinkle with coriander and serve.

I have tried alot of different dal recipes but I think this will become my favourite. I loved the texture and flavour, and it was lifted by this tarka added at the end. Delicious!

Actually the veggie curry and the dal would have been enough but we had bought some chicken Supremes from Riverford and had some Bangladeshi curry paste, so I rubbed the paste into the chicken and roasted at a high heat in the oven for 20mins.

ImageNo rice here, simply some flatbreads to soak up the juices. And there is a good leftover amount for my late night dinner once back to work!

Devon holiday: 22nd-29th June 2013

ImageThere are 7 years between me and my little sister Marie, so I was off to University as she became a grown up, and then we have lived at opposite ends of the country (or in different countries!) ever since. It is rare to find some time when we can all get together, but we did find it 2 years ago when it was Mam’s 60th- a County Mayo road trip that we will not forget, especially when sat nav tried to get us to drive across a river…. This year Mam had some holiday due and Marie’s fiancĂ©e was off on his motorbike (very dramatic scenery through France, Switzerland and Italy) so we made our plans to travel down to Devon: Appledore our destination!

Actually it turns out that Appledore is in our family history- firstly my Mam’s brother, Uncle Bill, had worked here in the 70’s when the dry dock was constructed, and my Dad’s family would travel here to release pigeons. But we were here to simply relax, eat and drink!

ImageI worked on the Saturday and drove down in the afternoon. The northerners drove down and we met for dinner at ‘The Beaver’- gorgeous view our over the estuary, nice food, and we luckily managed to escape before the decidedly dodgy entertainment….

The weather on Sunday was a little mixed, but we ventured out and had a lovely Sunday lunch at ‘The Quay’. Roast beef for Mam, pan fried hake for Marie, and roast chicken for me. Washed down with a cold, crisp rose- a good start to the hols. We hit the little crafty shops of Appledore and bought some fantastic items- the shops here are superb, and staffed by really enthusiastic people who seem to genuinely care about the crafts that they are selling. I am still quite jealous of a candle holder that Marie bought, despite having made some fab purchases of my own!

 I was on dinner duty and here’s the kitchen which is mine for the week:

ImageI decided to make a lasagne. It was interesting to hear from the other girls how they make a lasagne, and you quickly realise that we all make a slightly different variation: all tasty, some with bacon, some with mushrooms, some blue cheese, some parmesan. For tonight I have gone back to the standard lasagne I first made as a student- starting with a sofritto, beef mince, lots of fresh and tinned tomatoes, and a large glass of red wine (and a glass of prosecco went in to as it was going spare!). Baked in the oven slowly it came out very well, if I say so myself.



On Monday morning my body woke me up early ready to go to work!!! So I made best use of the time by getting up and making some strawberry and apple muffins (recipe on 18/19th May2013).

ImageWe had a great day out in Bude. A walk on the beach followed by a lovely lunch at ‘Life’s a Beach’: Mussels for me, Mackerel and blue potato salad for Mam and a juicy sausage and onion baguette fro Marie. We then hit the shops and spent a small fortune on, among other things, door knobs (an obsession from the northern girls!), foot stools, mini drawers, candle holders. We could have spent double the amount, but exercised restraint in the end.

For dinner I bought some lamb chops from a butcher in Bude as they are Mam’s favourite. I simply grilled them in the oven and served them with spicy smashed chickpeas and balsamic caramelised red onions, with some asparagus especially for Marie (she had had a weird dream with asparagus in it…)

ImageOn Tuesday we headed to the beach as the sun came out- heading slightly north to Croyde. What a lovely beach, a surfers paradise, a little piece of seaside paradise I think. And what a delight for lunch- ‘The Sandleigh Tearoom and Gardens’. This is a National Trust cafĂ© and the garden is beautiful, sitting amongst the flower and vegetable beds.

ImageImageThe top picture is Marie’s lunch- dressed crab salad. Mam also had crab in sandwiches. The fish was so fresh, well seasoned, and the bread and salad accompaniments were light and tasty. My lunch is the bottom picture- smoked trout with horseradish cream, and it was delicious. I had not realised how well the 2 ingredients would go together, a match made in heaven, and one that I will recreate once home.

For dinner I made some puff pastry tarts: one with spinach and feta, and one with red onion and goats cheese. Hit the spot nicely.

Wednesday was the last day of the girl’s together as Colin made the 6 hour train journey across to join us. Before he arrived we spent the day pottering in Instow and Bideford, before having a lovely cream tea in ‘Susie’s Tea Rooms’ in Appledore. A little more shopping was done in Appledore, revisiting some items we couldn’t make up our minds on Sunday! I then hopped in the car and picked Colin up from the tiny station in Barnstaple, from a train straight from the 80’s!

For dinner we walked along the harbour to the ‘Seagate’. Recently renovated the inside is crisp and clean.


ImageMam ordered the steak which came with some good looking fries and a peppercorn sauce in a groovy little jug. The mussels were for me and were in a Thai green sauce, and juicy, plump and very filling. Marie had some smoked Haddock on polenta, while Colin had some pan fried sea bass.

On Thursday morning we waved the northern girls off for their mammoth journey home and we headed to the beach in the sunshine! Back to Croyde in fact as Colin had never been there and I thought it may be his first opportunity this year for a float in the sea. We headed back to the tea rooms for a cream tea- a very superior cream tea I might add. The scones were light, the strawberry jam was soft set and tangy, the clotted cream delicious, and, as a great twist, a small pot of very ripe, sliced strawberries. I don’t know why I have not thought about using fresh strawberries before, it adds a different dimension which compliments the cream tea perfectly.

For dinner a spaghetti bolognaise. We have caught the sun and slept like babies.

A couple of years ago we had a holiday in north Devon and made a trip down to Padstow where we had a great lunch and floated in the sea on a lovely sunny day. So today we headed south in the car, despite the mist and rain!

We had fish and chips at Rick Stein’s fish and chip cafĂ©.

ImageColin had the Haddock and chips whereas I went for squid. It was lovely, but I have to say that it was a little chaotic, a bit over priced, and potentially over playing the brand. You could say the same about the whole of Padstow in fact. So we headed back, via the Padstow Farm Shop.

For dinner we had some chilli burgers we had visited the farm shop for – their speciality. They were quite tasty, not subtle, but did affect sleep as they burnt away through the night!

We are off home tomorrow, driving via south Devon to visit Riverford. How quick the week has gone, it’s flown over. I will now have to start the count down to our Tuscany trip in September!

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