Friday, 31 July 2009

Mixed Vegetable Semolina

Forget everything you think about semolina from school dinners. Forget! This is nice, tasty and healthy semolina, great as a quick meal. Seriously, you should try it.


  • 10g butter or 2 tbsp olive oil

  • 2 small mushrooms, thinly sliced

  • 1 leek, washed and thinly sliced

  • 1 small onion, finely chopped

  • 1 tsp fresh or dried sage

  • a couple of twists of freshly ground black pepper

  • 100g semolina

  • 250ml vegetable stock (or hot water and an oxo cube)



  1. Place the butter/oil in a pan with the mushrooms, leek and onion and fry on a medium heat for 5 minutes.

  2. Add the sage, pepper and semolina and mix well.

  3. Fry for a further 10 minutes or until the semolina starts to faintly smoke or go slightly toasty looking (it's difficult to go too far as it does cook slowly, but be careful not to forget about it and burn it).

  4. Add the stock and stir quickly.

  5. Simmer for 3 or 4 minutes, or until it starts to go thick.

  6. Serve while warm with a dollop of pickle or chutney (I used piccalilli in the photos).

  7. Be sure to soak the pan well in water: semolina can be stronger than concrete if you let it dry.

Serves 1. Easily multiplies up to 2 or more.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Spinach and Ricotta Pasta Stacks

Since I discovered how to make home-made pasta it's been an infrequent favourite of mine. This recipe started out as me wanting to make ravioli, but not wanting the hassle of constructing them. It turned out very nicely in the end and is relatively simple.


  • 400g cherry tomatoes, sliced into quarters

  • 250ml single cream

  • 250g ricotta

  • 1 tin of tinned spinach (about 300g)

  • a few gratings of nutmeg

  • salt and pepper to taste

  • 400g strong white flour (get '00' pasta flour if possible, but strong flour will do)

  • 4 large eggs

  • 2 tsp water



  1. Mix the tomatoes and cream in a pan and put on a low heat.

  2. Mix the ricotta and tinned spinach in a different pan and place on a low heat. Add salt and pepper to taste and a few gratings of nutmeg.

  3. Mix the flour, eggs and water in a bowl until a stiff dough forms (the dough setting on a bread maker is great for this).

  4. Put on a large pan of well salted water with a dash of oil on to boil to cook the pasta in.

  5. Carefully roll the dough out using a rolling pin or a pasta machine. (Make sure to use lots of flour so it doesn't stick.

  6. Whichever you use you will need to roll the pasta out fairly thickly initially, then dust it with flour, fold it over on itself and then roll it out again. Do this at least 4 times, getting thinner and thinner each time.

  7. If it starts too get too long (or wide) to manage cut it into separate pieces.

  8. Once you've got it about 2 to 3 mm thick cut it into even sized squares of 3 or 4 inches across and place in the boiling water.

  9. Cook for 8 to 10 minutes and then construct stacks of pasta in 4 bowls, alternating between pasta and a couple of teaspoons of the spinach and ricotta mix.

  10. Finally pour the tomato and cream mixture over the top of the pasta stacks at the end.

  11. Serve on it's own with freshly ground black pepper to garnish.

Serves 4.

Friday, 24 July 2009

Animal Bread Rolls

Bored of making circular bread rolls I decided to try some more interestingly shaped bread rolls. Looking in one of the recipe books I had, I found a suggestion of hedgehogs. I then asked my house-mates for ideas for the other animals.
Back row from left: Trilobite, Tortoise, Nautilus
Middle row from left:Hedgehog, Rat, Starfish
Front row from left: Snake, Squid


  • 550g strong white flour

  • 2 tsp quick action yeast

  • 2 tsp sugar

  • 40ml olive oil

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 315ml water

  • Sultanas or currants and some seeds for the eyes


Method for Dough:

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 220 degrees.

  2. Place the flour, yeast, sugar, olive oil, salt and water in a bread machine and set it to the dough setting. If you don't have a bread maker then mix it well and kneed with the palm of your hands for 5 minutes. Then leave it to rest in a warm place for 30 minutes. After this 30 minutes is up kneed it again for 5 minutes and return to the warm place for another 30 minutes. (Or get a bread maker!)

  3. Split into 8 equal sized pieces and make animals as suggested below.

  4. Place on a greased baking tray and gently brush the top with some water using a damp bit of kitchen towel or a pastry brush.

  5. Bake in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the crust is a nice golden colour.


  1. Roll the dough into a ball.

  2. Use a sharp knife to draw lines across the back, but leave one end clear for the face.

  3. Add two currents either side of the clear end for eyes.


  1. Remove two small (1/2 inch) lumps of dough and roll the remaining dough into a ball.

  2. Flatten the large ball and use the tip of a knife to pattern the back of the tortoise.

  3. Divide one of the small balls into five and stick four of these onto the corners of the tortoise using a dot of water. Roll the remaining one into a tail and place at the back.

  4. Place the other large ball on the opposite side to the tail and add two currents to complete the head.


  1. Roll the dough into a 'sausage' using the palms of your hands.

  2. Coil the 'sausage' around to get the spiral shell.

  3. Use scissors to cut the end of the spiral into many small tentacles. Don't worry if they stick together or if they aren't all the same size.

  4. Score around the base of the tentacles with a knife.


  1. Roll the dough into a ball which is slightly pointy at one end.

  2. Place a current as the nose and two more currents as the eyes at the pointy end.

  3. Use scissors to lightly cut the back of the dough all over, but in the same direction. This is the hedgehogs spikes.


  1. Remove a 1/2 inch ball of dough and roll into a 'sausage' using the palms of your hands.

  2. Make a ball out of the remaining dough and then shape it into a pointy egg shape to be the rat's body.

  3. Add the tail at the non-pointy end (using a bit of water to stick it).

  4. Place two currents as eyes and then another as the nose.


  1. Roll the dough into a ball and press carefully into a disk shape.

  2. Use scissors to place cuts which go about halfway to the center of the disk at 5 evenly spaced places along the edge of the disk.

  3. Carefully separate these 5 arms and tease the dough out into a point on each one.

  4. Place a current in the centre for the starfish's stomach.


  1. Use the palm of your hands to roll the dough into a 'sausage'.

  2. Pattern the skin of the snake using the tip of a sharp knife.

  3. Add a couple of seeds for eyes and place as an s-shape on the baking tray


  1. Split the dough into two equal parts.

  2. With one of the parts roll it into an even sized 'sausage' about 1/2 cm wide. Cut this sausage into 6 or 7 pieces. These will be the tentacles.

  3. Form the other half of the dough into a ball and add a couple of currents as eyes.

  4. Use water to stick the tentacles onto the head one at a time. Try to get the tentacles to be slightly woven together so they're not all just lying next to each other.

Makes 8 rolls.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Baked Camembert and Bread

Baking a camembert whole is something I'd often seen in restaurants but I'd never tried it myself. I decided to give it a go as it can't be too hard; turns out it wasn't difficult at all.


  • 300g strong white flour

  • 20g butter, at room temperature

  • 1 tsp salt

  • 160ml water

  • 1 tsp yeast

  • 1 whole camembert

  • 1 tsp olive oil

  • 1 tsp garlic puree (or a clove chopped in half)

  • freshly milled black pepper



  1. Mix the flour, butter, salt, water and yeast in a bread maker on the dough setting. If you don't have a bread maker then mix it well and kneed with the palm of your hands for 5 minutes. Then leave it to rest in a warm place for 20 minutes. After this 20 minutes is up kneed it again for 5 minutes and return to the warm place for another 20 minutes. Repeat this once again but this time leave it for 40 minutes. After all this you should have a nicely risen bowl of dough.

  2. Pre-heat the oven to 220 degrees.

  3. Place the camembert in an oven proof dish and rub the olive oil over the cheese and the dish.

  4. Rub the garlic puree or clove over the outside of the camembert and season the top with the black pepper.

  5. Roll out the dough into two long batons and place in the dish next to the camembert. Texture the top by gently pressing it with your finger tips.

  6. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes.

Serves 2.

Friday, 17 July 2009

Blue Cheese Burgers

I simply adore blue cheese and can think of nothing better to have on a burger.


  • 3 burgers

  • 3 burger buns, cut down the middle

  • 70g of blue cheese, sliced into 3 slices

  • 3 tsp of chutney or burger relish



  1. Place the burgers and burger buns (inner side up) on a baking tray and grill for 6 minutes, or half the cooking time for the burgers.

  2. Remove the burger buns, which should be nicely browned now and turn the burgers over.

  3. Return the burgers to the grill for another 6 minutes (or half of cooking time).

  4. While the burgers grill, place a tsp of chutney on the bottom of each burger bun.

  5. Once the 6 minutes is up, turn the burgers over and cover the top with the blue cheese.

  6. Grill for 2 minutes, or until the cheese starts to melt.

  7. Place burgers in buns and eat. Preferably with a cold beer.

Serves 1

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Jam Puff Roll

A speedy pudding which you can easily make ahead of time and pop in the oven when needed.


  • 1/2 sheet of pre-rolled puff pastry (about 180g)

  • 4 tbsp raspberry or strawberry jam

  • 150ml whipping or double cream



  1. Pre-heat the oven to 220 degrees.

  2. Cover the sheet of puff pastry with the jam. Spread it out evenly but leave 1cm clear around the edge.

  3. Using the edge of your finger, dip it in a cup of water and run it along the 1cm clear edge. When your finger feels dry dip it back in the cup of water so that the edge of the pastry is nicely damp.

  4. Roll up the pastry and place on a baking tray in the oven for 20 minutes, or until golden brown.

  5. While the pastry cooks in the oven, whip up the cream until it's nice and thick.

  6. Serve straight from the oven with cream on the side on the serving plates/bowls.

Serves 3 to 4.

Thursday, 9 July 2009

Tomato Gnocchi Bake

The first time I cooked gnocchi I boiled them for far too long and they went like sticky glue. The trick is to fish them out of the pan one by one when they float to the top of the water.


  • 1 onion, finely chopped

  • 1 tbsp olive oil

  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes

  • 1 pepper thinly sliced and core removed

  • 1 tsp dried chillis

  • 1 packet (about 500g) of gnocchi

  • pinch of salt

  • 1 tbsp olive oil

  • 30g cheddar cheese, finely grated



  1. Put on a large pan of clean water to boil for the gnocchi. It needs to be deep enough that you can tell the difference between floating and sinking gnocchi.

  2. Fry the onion in the oil for 5 minutes until it becomes soft.

  3. Add the tin of chopped tomatoes, the peppers and the chilli and simmer for 5 minutes.

  4. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees.

  5. Add the salt and olive oil to the pan of boiling water and then add the gnocchi.

  6. Let the gnocchi boil for a couple of minutes and then, using a slotted spoon, fish them off the surface as they rise to the top and place in an oven proof dish.

  7. Once you have all the gnocchi out of the pan, add the tomato sauce to the gnocchi and stir well.

  8. Top with grated cheese and bake in the oven for 20 minutes, or until the top is crisp.

Serves 2.

Tuesday, 7 July 2009

Blue Cheese Pastry Pizza

A quick and fancy looking new take on pizza.


  • 1 sheet of pre-rolled puff pastry

  • 2 tbsp coarse grain mustard

  • 4 spring onions, washed and trimmed

  • 200g blue cheese, e.g. stilton, sliced as thinly as possible (it doesn't matter if it crumbles to pieces)



  1. Pre-heat the oven to 220 degrees.

  2. Grease a large baking tray

  3. Roll out the sheet of puff pastry so that it's slightly thinner than how it comes.

  4. Cut about 1 cm off each edge using a knife and carefully place on the edge of the remaining puff pastry. This raised edge all around the edge will give a nice crisp crust to the pizza.

  5. Spread the mustard over the non raised area of the pastry.

  6. Use scissors to chop the spring onions and spread evenly over the mustard.

  7. Place the slices of blue cheese evenly over the mustard and spring onions.

  8. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes, serve while the cheese is still bubbling.

Serves 2 with just a green salad or 4 if you do some new potatoes with it.

Friday, 3 July 2009

Vegetable Thai-Style Noodle Stir Fry

A nice straight forward stir-fry with a good flavour. Feel free to change around the vegetables you use, just remember to add the one which needs cooking most (toughest stalks etc.) earliest.


  • 4 tbsp sunflower oil

  • 2 tbsp coriander powder

  • 2 tbsp cumin powder

  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper

  • 1 tsp mustard powder

  • 1/2 tsp salt

  • 2 pieces broccoli, cut into small florets

  • 2 courgettes, sliced and top and tail removed

  • 1 pepper, cut into thin strips, core discarded

  • 6 small mushrooms

  • 4 packets of 'straight to wok' ribbon noodles (or pre-cooked ribbon noodles)

  • 2 spring onions, sliced thinly



  1. Mix the oil, coriander, cumin, pepper, mustard and salt in a wok and start to heat.

  2. Add the broccoli and courgettes and stir well to get a good coating with the oil and spice mix.

  3. Stir-fry for 5 minutes, stirring every half minute or so to ensure even cooking.

  4. Add the mushrooms and peppers and stir-fry for a further 5 minutes.

  5. Add the noodles and stir-fry carefully for another 4 minutes so as to not break them.

  6. Mix in the spring onions and serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Wednesday, 1 July 2009

Cabbage and Tofu Soup

This is a lovely quick soup which goes very well as a starter. It's not nearly as bland as you would imagine.


  • 1 onion, finely chopped

  • 3 sticks of celery, finely sliced

  • 3 tbsp sunflower oil

  • half a cabbage, roughly sliced

  • 200g dried tofu sticks (available from Asian supermarkets)

  • 1000ml vegetable stock (or 3 oxo cubes in boiling water)



  1. Fry the onion and celery in the oil until they start to go soft. Use a big enough pan to put all the soup in.

  2. Add the cabbage, tofu and stock to the pan.

  3. Simmer for 10 minutes.

  4. Serve immediately.

Serves 6 as a starter.