Winter Warmer Pea & Ham Soup

Winter Warmer Pea & Ham Soup

As the leaves fall to the ground and the wind blows colder, we start to long for comfort; trading in nights spent stumbling around the pubs and clubs in an inebriated state for being snuggled under a blanket in front of the fire with a good book. The same applies with food. Goodbye delicate, artisan dishes and other tasty morsels intended to tantalise the palate, hello soups, stews pies and puddings.

This is a recipe I made on a whim last year to use up some leftover ham from a Christmas party. My flatmate loved it so much I decided to make it again to a slightly more exact recipe.

Serves 4

Ingredients: 

400g Garden peas (drained)

300g Petit pois (drained)

300ml Vegetable stock

250g Diced ham

1 Large red chilli  (finely chopped)

4 tbsp. Creme Frâiche

1 tbsp. Mint sauce

1 tsp. of Marjoram (dried)

1 tsp. of Sage (dried)

1/2 a tsp. of Thyme (dried)

Salt and pepper to taste

This can either be prepared in a slow cooker or a decent sized saucepan. I opted for the slow cooker this time around, because it shortens cooking time by around 10 minutes.

First, set your slow cooker or hob on relatively high, and add the peas, chopped chilli, mint sauce and the dried herbs. stir gently for 30 seconds before slowly adding in the stock, stirring all the time. When all the stock is in, leave to simmer for 10 minutes, stirring infrequently. If cooking on the hob, you may need to turn the heat down to ensure you don’t boil over.

After you have finished simmering the peas, stir in the creme frâiche. You will need either a food processor or a hand blender for this next part. I used a blender attachment in my food processor as I found it gave a smoother consistency, but using a hand bender will still yield delicious results. Transfer the mixture into a blender and blitz until smooth. Then transfer back to the pan/slow cooker and add the ham. Add salt and pepper to taste and simmer for a further 5-6 minutes.

Serve with a spoonful of creme frâiche stirred in and some crusty bread.

Chicken & Bacon Lasagne

Chicken & Bacon Lasagne

This is just something I decided to make the other week when my younger sister was around for dinner, she is not particularly fond of minced beef so i decided to do a twist on the classic lasagne.

Serves 4 

Ingredients 

3 chicken breasts

3 large rashers of smoked back bacon

1 tin chopped tomatoes

2 tbsp. Tomato puree

1 small red onion

bechamél sauce

lasagne sheets

dried parsley

2 tsp. dried basil

2 tbsp. garlic powder

25 g Parmigiano Reggiano

olive oil

 

Start off dicing your chicken and 2 and a half rashers of bacon, as well as thinly slicing your onion. While doing this, gently heat 1 tbsp of olive oil in a large frying pan. Then finely dice the remaining bacon before adding that to the pan. you want this bacon to be really crispy to top the lasagne at the end. when this bacon is cooked, remove from the pan and pat dry with kitchen towels. then add the remaining bacon and onions, frying just til the bacon starts to brown. while this is frying, add 1 tbsp. of garlic powder and around 1/2 a tbsp. to a bowl, before adding the diced chicken and mixing thoroughly.

when it is cooked take the bacon from the pan ad put to the side. then add another tbsp. of olive oil to the pan and slowly add the chicken, making sure not to overcrowd the pan. fry until golden brown, stirring occasionally to ensure it is cooked evenly. when the chicken is cooked, add the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, a tsp. of basil and the rest of the garlic, stirring thoroughly. then simmer for 5 minutes after adding the bacon and onions.

While this is simmering away, finely grate the parmesan to go on top of the lasagne, and preheat the oven to 175c/350f/Gas Mark 4. Then add a small amount of olive oil to an oven proof dish and rub it around  with kitchen paper to prevent sticking. Then add the chicken and bacon mixture to the dish until there is a relatively thin but even layer before topping with some bechamél sauce. I used shop bought to save time, but feel free to make your own.then layer with the lasagne sheets until the mixture is covered and repeat the process until the dish is almost full, then add a final layer of bechamél sauce before adding the parmesan. then sprinkle the remaining basil and the crispy bacon on top before adding to the oven for 25 minutes. Then, put under the grill for a further 5 just to get that nice bubbly cheese on top. let the lasagne rest for five minutes before serving. Best served with crusty homemade garlic bread and some fresh rocket dressed with a little basil vinaigrette.

Chilli Peanut Butter Chicken

Chilli Peanut Butter Chicken

This delicious dish has become one of my go to meals in the past few weeks, it is really tasty and filling, and is an absolute doddle to prepare. I recently decided to start going back to the gym and being a little more health conscious, and this great little protein booster is one of my favourite dishes that I have been making since.

Serves 2 

Ingredients

2 large chicken breasts, scored

200 g crunchy peanut butter

2 red chillies, deseeded and chopped finely

150 ml chicken stock

1 1/4 tbsp. dark soy sauce

1/2 tsp. garlic powder

1/2 tsp. sugar

Handful of chopped Spring Onions (Garnish)

Salt

Pepper

Sesame Oil

Firstly, preheat your oven to 200C/180C fan/350f/Gas Mark 6, then add around a tbsp. of sesame oil to a medium sized frying pan on a high heat. Rub a little salt and pepper into the scored chicken breasts before adding to the pan. Fry for no longer than 2 minutes on each side, This gives the chicken a nice golden colour and helps retain flavour, while scoring the chicken speeds up the cooking time. After frying, add the chicken to a small roasting tin and place in the oven for approximately 20 minutes.

While the chicken is in the oven, add the soy sauce, sugar, garlic powder and 1 1/2 chillies into a small saucepan on a low heat, stirring gently. do this until the sugar has dissiolved and the chillies are lightly caramelised, before adding the peanut butter. continue to stir gently and then start adding the stock. add slowly, all the while stirring with the peanut butter to create a thick sauce.

When the chicken is cooked, serve onto plates before pouring the peanut butter sauce over the top, garnishing with the remaining chillies and spring onions. There are many side dishes which complement this, I tend to serve it with brown rice and roasted sweet potato, However it works equally well with noodles (particularly Udon) and Butternut squash.

Easy Cheesy Daupinois Potatoes

Easy Cheesy Daupinois Potatoes

Ah the noble potato. Possibly the most versatile little tuber to ever appear on a menu, it is a common accompaniment to many meals around the globe, and rightly so: the possibilities are endless. But many people’s use of potatoes is very limited, which is a shame, because most people only, to quote Samwise Gamgee: “Boil ’em, mash ’em, stick ’em in a stew”. It is far easier to get frozen chips and roast potatoes, so many people don’t even consider making those themselves. So here is a recipe that takes around 30 minutes to prep and takes no longer in the oven than a tray of oven chips.

Serves 4 

Ingredients

6 large washed and peeled potatoes

125 g sharp cheddar cheese

25 g butter

1 tbsp. plain flour

1/4 tsp. garlic powder

200 ml milk

Salt

Black pepper

Firstly, halve your peeled and washed potatoes before adding to a large pan of boiling, salted water and put the lid on. Boil these for around 20 minutes while you prep your other ingredients. Finely grate all your cheese and place to the side. Then get a suitably sized oven proof dish and grease it thoroughly. Then, in a small saucepan, add your butter, flour and garlic powder before stirring vigorously on a medium heat, creating a nice roux. Add your milk and stir slowly for a minute. Then slowly start adding around 50 g of the cheddar, stirring the whole time. Add salt and pepper to taste.

By this time the potatoes should be ready. Drain them and add a small amount of cold water to the pan, before draining this too and setting them aside for a couple of minutes. This helps the potatoes cool slightly quicker. This would be a good time to preheat the oven to around 180c/350f. When they are sufficiently cooled, thinly slice them, before adding to the dish evenly. between every layer of potato, add a sprinkle of cheddar, ensuring you have at least 25 g left over for the top. Then add the cheese sauce over the top and add the last of the cheese. Place the Potato Dauphinois in the centre of the oven and cook for about 20 minutes, before whacking under the grill for 5 minutes to brown on top.

Leave to settle for 5 minutes before serving. This is a great accompaniment to many dishes, particularly roast lamb and chicken wrapped in bacon. A nice alternative is to substitute the potato for celeriac, and add a little paprika to the sauce.

Amaretto Iced Tea

Amaretto Iced Tea

With Summer just around the corner, its time to ditch the cups of tea while snuggled up on the sofa watching Netflix, and get outside in the sun, while cradling something a little more refreshing. Now, I know there will be a few of you who are reluctant to ditch your brew and biscuit, so I have provided this easy cocktail for all the tea lovers out there.

Serves 1

Ingredients:

300 ml of boiling water

1 black tea bag (around 6g if using loose leaf)

a small lemon

75 ml of Amaretto liqueur (Disaronno or similar)

3 tsp. of brown sugar

Plenty of ice

The first thing you need to do is get some ice on the go if you don’t have any ready made. Depending on the size of your ice cubes give them 2-3 hours at least.

So place your tea/teabag and the boiling water into your teapot and steep for around 10 minutes. Remember the ice will dilute it slightly so do not panic if it seems a little stronger than you would normally have it. Then remove the teabag or transfer the tea into another container if using loose leaf. Then add your sugar, stirring thoroughly. After this cut your lemon in half, squeezing the juice of one half into the tea.

To measure the Amaretto use a cocktail jigger, or if you don’t have one to hand a shot glass will do. Your average shot is 25 ml (35 ml in some countries) so if you use 3 it works out perfectly. So add 25 ml of Amaretto to the tea and leave to cool for about an hour. This lets the tea settle and also ensures all the ice does not melt immediately, leaving you with a weak watered down swill rather than the glorious refreshment it is supposed to be.

When the tea is sufficiently cooled, add your ice, the other 50 ml of Amaretto and a thick slice of lemon to garnish. Give it a good stir and enjoy in whatever outside space you possibly can.

Creamy Bacon and Red Onion Pasta

Creamy Bacon and Red Onion Pasta

This pasta dish is wonderfully creamy and indulgent, with 4 of my very favourite ingredients; bacon, garlic, cheese and a good splash of alcohol. The sauce, while no friend to your waistline is very versatile, and works equally well over some grilled chicken breasts with griddled asparagus.

Serves 4

Ingredients:

450g of pasta such as fusili or rigatoni

8 rashers of smoked back bacon, diced

1 large red onion, finely sliced

3 cloves of garlic, crushed

200ml of cream

100ml of chicken stock

100ml of white wine

50g grated Parmesan

15g of butter

1 tbsp. of plain flour

1 tsp. dried parsley

1 tsp. of sugar

Olive Oil

Black pepper

First of all, heat a medium sized frying pan with 1 tbsp. of olive oil, before adding the bacon. Gently fry for a minute before adding half the onion, stirring gently for another minute. at this point you want to turn the heat down a bit before adding a tsp. of sugar. This is just to very lightly caramelise the mixture. add some black pepper and stir occasionally. Meanwhile add the pasta to a large pan, a pinch of salt and a quick drizzle of olive oil. Then add boiling water until the pasta is covered and put on a medium heat. After this, take the bacon and onions off the heat and leave to one side.

Now onto the sauce. Firstly melt the butter in a medium saucepan before adding the garlic, 1 tbsp. of olive oil and a pinch of black pepper. stir vigorously for 30 seconds before adding the flour, again mixing vigorously to create a roux. then add the chicken stock, cream and the wine. For the best results, use a nice dry white wine, and remember, never use a wine you would not drink. lower the heat and stir gently for 2 minutes. Then, slowly add the parmesan and finally the parsley, stirring all the while.

The next thing you need to do is bring the bacon back on a high heat for a minute, adding the rest of the onions, which you want to retain a bit of bite. By this time the pasta should be cooked, so drain and put to the side. Then add the bacon and onions to the sauce and reduce down over a high heat. Then mix in with the pasta and serve. Add some black pepper and serve with some nice peppery rocket.

 

Hoi Sin Glazed Belly Pork

Hoi Sin Glazed Belly Pork

A great dish that is really easy to make and although it is not the quickest dish to make in the world, it is really worth the wait.

Serves 2

600g of Pork Belly

6 tbsp. of Hoi Sin Sauce

3 tbsp. of Clear Honey

3 tbsp. Dark Soy Sauce

1 tbsp. Rice Vinegar

1 tsp. Black Pepper

1/2 tsp. Five Spice

2.5cm (1 Inch) Piece of Ginger, finely grated

First of all, mix all your ingredients, except the pork, together in a large bowl. Then, if your butcher has not already done it for you, carefully cut your pork belly into 6 100g slices. After you have done this, place the pork into the bowl and gently massage the marinade into the meat for several minutes. Then cover the bowl with clingfilm and place it into the fridge to marinate.

Ideally, the pork should be marinated overnight, however if you are pushed for time. 2-3 hours will do. Get a good sized roasting tin and cover in tin foil. Preheat the oven to 160C/140C fan/Gas mark 3 and place the pork in the roasting tin, pouring the remainder of the marinade over the top. Add a small amount of water (around 50ml) before covering in tin foil and adding to the oven.

Roast for 2 hours, basting the pork in the marinade every 30 minutes. When the pork is nice and tender, remove the foil and turn the heat up to 200C/180C fan/gas mark 6. Remove the excess marinade and meat juices and transfer to a small pan, and stir frequently on a high  heat to reduce down. Pour half of the reduction back onto the meat before putting it back in the oven uncovered for 25 minutes. When the meat has finished cooking, transfer to a chopping board or large plate and leave to rest for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, add cooked egg noodles and edamame beans to the remainder of the reduction and stir through thoroughly, coating the noodles in the sauce before serving into bowls, then add the pork on top.

A great alternative to this recipe would be to add 1 tbsp. more honey and a chopped chilli, while replacing the belly pork with ribs and coating in sesame seeds for a great starter.