New recipe – Beefy melanzane parmigiana

20 Nov

Whenever I use mince I always get the best butchers mince I can. My pet hate is springy bits. This is so unctuous and slowly cooked. I split the dish in two to have one in the freezer. Continue reading

New recipe – Italian chicken bake

20 Nov

This was very simple to make and I served it with a green salad.

Serves 4

2 small or 1 large onion, chopped finely
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp dried oregano
3 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes or cherry tomatoes
1 tbsp sugar
little splash of sherry vinegar
500g chicken breast
125g ball mozzarella
2 good handfuls fresh breadcrumbs

Fry the onion and garlic in the oil until softened. Add the oregano, tomatoes and sugar, a little splash of vinegar and some salt and pepper, add the chicken then simmer for 20 mins until the sauce is really thick and chicken is cooked.

Remove the chicken from the pan and shred with 2 forks then return to the pan. Tip into an ovenproof dish.

Heat oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7. Tear over the mozzarella in chunks, then scatter over with the breadcrumbs with a bit more ground pepper. Bake for 20 mins until the chicken is piping hot through and the top is golden and bubbling.

To the dogs

11 Nov IMG_7369-1.JPG

This is a delayed blog post as I actually did this back in February. My first foray into racing and because I’ve heard that it’s a good night out, that’s why it made it onto my new list.
Being a social butterfly things need to be booked in the diary. So a date was set and we were venturing to the dogs at Belle Vue in Manchester with friends Alan and Cath. Continue reading

Desolate Western Fells

11 Nov IMG_7510-0.JPG

The weather gods have not been playing fair recently which is not good for a fair weather hiker.
But a better weather forecast in the west was perfect for ticking off a few fells. The fells in mind were Grike, Crag fell and Lank Rigg.

Continue reading

Ice skating – a tick off my fabulist

7 Nov IMG_7426-0.JPG

I love how my fabulist inspires people to get involved. This item was added by my friends two girls Erin and Niamh. It took nearly all year to organise but finally got round to it.
I hadn’t been ice skating since I was about 10 when I went on on a youth club outing. Continue reading

Wild mushroom, pancetta and potato gratin

6 Nov

This was utterly yummy, comfort food at its very best!

Serves 6 as a side or 4 as a main course.

6 garlic cloves
1 onion, halved
3 bay leaves
3 thyme sprigs, plus a sprinkle of leaves
600ml pot double cream
600ml whole milk
140g diced pancetta
25g butter, plus a knob
400g wild mushrooms, roughly chopped after cleaning
1¼kg medium potatoes (I used Maris Piper)
1 whole nutmeg
green salad, to serve

Put the garlic cloves, onion, bay leaves, thyme, double cream and milk in a pan. Bring slowly to the boil over a low heat, partially cover with a lid and cook for 20-30 mins until the onion is tender and the cream mixture slightly thickened. Turn off and leave everything to infuse for 1 hr.
Strain the cream mixture into a jug (or bowl) and discard the herbs. Put the garlic cloves and onion in a food processor or blender and whizz until smooth – add a drop of the cream if it helps. Stir the paste back into the rest of the cream and season with 2 tsp salt.
Put the pancetta in a cold frying pan and cook gently, over a low-medium heat so the fat melts into the pan, until the pancetta is really crispy. Lift out with a slotted spoon, add the butter and mushrooms and turn up the heat, frying the mushrooms, until golden and dry.
Leave the skins on the potatoes and slice as thinly as possible. Grease a large baking dish with a little more butter. Layer up the potato slices, scattering over some of the cooked pancetta, the mushrooms and a little freshly grated nutmeg and pepper as you go. Finish by slowly pouring over the cream so that it settles among all the layers, then scatter over a few more thyme leaves. Cover with foil.
Heat oven to 180C/160C fan/gas 4. Bake the gratin for 1 hr, then remove the foil and bake for 35-45 mins more until golden and crispy on top. Poke a knife in to check the potatoes are tender, then leave for 10-15 mins to settle, before serving with a salad, if you like.


Harissa roasted salmon with lemon chickpea couscous

3 Nov

I love salmon and recently have been experimenting with different ways to serve it. Light yet filling, this is going to be a staple supper.

Serves 2
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onions, halved and thinly sliced
1 large fennel bulb, halved and thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, chopped
1 tsp cumin seeds
zest 1 lemon
2 tsp harissa
2 tsp agave nectar or clear honey
2 x boneless fillets of salmon, skin removed
For the couscous
Salt and pepper
1 tsp harissa
20g currants
100g couscous
1 x 400g cans chickpeas, drained
juice 2 lemons, zest of 1
1 tbsp olive oil
A handful flat-leaf parsley, chopped
A handful of mint, chopped
lemon wedges, to serve

Heat oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6
Put the onions, fennel, garlic and cumin seeds and lemon zest into a roasting tray and drizzle the oil over and toss. Bake for 10 mins.
Stir the harissa with the agave or honey. Place the salmon fillet, skinned-side down, spread each fillet with the harissa mixture. Place onto of the vegetables and bake for 15 mins.
Remove from the oven and check that the fish is cooked all the way through; if not done to your liking, cook 5 mins more and check again.
To make the couscous, into a large bowl and add the harissa, currants and couscous. Meanwhile, put the chickpeas in a bowl with the lemon juice, oil and seasoning. Just before serving, pour 150ml boiling water over the couscous, stir well, then cover with a plate and leave to soak for 5 mins. Add the lemon zest, parsley and mint to the chickpeas and stir well, then toss through.
Place a pile of couscous on a plate and top with the salmon and veg.


Pulled firecracker brisket

3 Nov

This was amazing and certainly enough for leftovers after 7 hungry people had a go at it. I served it with charred sweetcorn salad, red coleslaw and crunchy sweet potato chips.

Serves 8

3 tbsp vegetable oil
2-2½ kg piece beef brisket, rolled (ask the butcher to do this for you)
2 red onions, chopped
1 tbsp sweet smoked paprika
1 tbsp English mustard powder
2 tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cayenne pepper or 1 tsp chilli flakes (omit if you want to reduce heat)
1½ tbsp treacle
50ml red wine vinegar, plus 2 tbsp
75g soft light brown sugar, plus 2 tbsp
3 garlic cloves, crushed
4-6 bay leaves
2-4 fat red chillies, pierced a few times with a small sharp knife
500ml carton passata
2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
soured cream, to serve


Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large, deep roasting tin (one that can go on the hob) or in your largest flameproof casserole dish. Season the beef well and sear in the tin until nicely browned all over. Lift out and put on a plate or board. Add another 1 tbsp oil and the onions to the tin and sweat for 8-10 mins until really soft. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, mix the paprika, mustard powder, cinnamon, cayenne or chilli, treacle, 2 tbsp vinegar, 2 tbsp sugar and the remaining oil. Brush all over the meat, reserving about 2 tbsp for later. Heat oven to 150C/130C fan/gas 2.
Add the garlic, bay leaves and chillies to the softened onions, stir around the pan for 1-2 mins, then pour in the passata, Worcestershire sauce, remaining vinegar and sugar. Season the sauce, give a good stir, then put the brisket on top. Wrap the tin tightly in a few sheets of foil, or cover with a lid, and bake for 6 hrs, turning once or twice during cooking, until really tender.
Uncover the dish, give the sauce around the meat a little stir and brush the remaining spice paste over the meat. Can be made a day ahead up to this point – cool then chill the meat and sauce; remove from the fridge and scoop off any fat from the sauce before reheating. Increase the temperature to 200C/180C fan/gas 6. Cook for a further 20 mins (or 40 mins from cold, covered for 20 mins) until the meat is dark and sticky. Remove from the oven, cover loosely with foil and leave to rest for 15 mins.
To serve, skim any fat off the surface of the sauce, shred the meat with 2 forks, discarding any butcher’s string as you go, and toss the meat through the sauce, discarding the chillies.


A few more Western Fells ticked off

19 Oct

I make no pretence of not being a fair weather walker. Been there and got the soggy t-shirt. So with an opportunity with the weather and time decided to do some of the western fells. Poor Stuart couldn’t make it as his work van had broken down and was running very late. So it was Ray, the beast and Gary who came to join us. Ray had only landed back from Holiday that morning so was in need of a fell fix.

Continue reading

My new fabulist

19 Oct

I was very lucky last Monday to do the final thing on my 40 at 40 list. Doing my list has been amazing, new experiences and challenges conquered. But whilst doing them, it got me thinking to other things that didn’t make it onto my list. Noting them down as they came into my mind or peoples suggestions. Continue reading


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