Spanish style baked brunch eggs

Feast your eyes on this satisfying brunch idea. Long gone are the days of fried breakfasts and soggy cereal so treat yourself to this spicy dish and kick-start your day!

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Ingredients- serves 2
1 tsp vegetable oil
1 small onion- finely diced
1/2 red chilli- finely chopped
Pinch of paprika
400g tinned chopped tomatoes
150g chorizo
 2 handfuls of baby spinach- shredded
2 large eggs
Salt and pepper

1. Before you get started preheat the oven to 180c/ 160 fan. Heat the vegetable oil over a medium heat and cook the onion and chilli until softened. Add a good pinch of paprika (I like smoked paprika) and continue to cook for a further minute.

2. Fry the chorizo in a separate small pan over a medium/ high heat and fry until golden and crisp. You could also add the chorizo to the onion and cook off together if you prefer.

3. Add the tomatoes to the onion and chilli and simmer for a few minutes. Shred the spinach and add to the pan. Remember spinach wilts quickly so do add more as you go if you like. Season to taste.

4. Divide the sauce into two small over proof dishes and use a spoon to create a well in the middle of each of them. Crack one egg into each dish and pop into the oven for around 15 minutes depending on how you like your eggs done.

5. Serve with a fresh toasted bread and dig in! Sourdough bread is delicious with this dish to dip.

Brunch is served! Try this and you’ll never look back!

 

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An Indian summer… feast

Read on for an Indian feast fit for a king! After a summer full of meat laden BBQ’s it’s time to rediscover seasonal vegetables and to get creative.

Paneer, chickpea and spinach curry: This has become a firm favourite in our household and makes use of the tastiest vegetables around. Paneer is a firm, mild Indian cheese and can be used as a meat substitute so give it a go!

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Serves 4:
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 tsp black mustard seeds
Few curry leaves (optional)
1 small onion finely sliced
1 tsp ginger grated or pureed
1 tsp garlic grated or pureed
1/2 tsp turmeric
2 tsp mild curry powder
2 tsp chilli powder
1/2 tsp garam masala
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
2 green or red chillies
400g tin of chickpeas- rinsed and drained
Pack of paneer approx. 200g
Small bag of baby spinach- washed

1. Firstly heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat and add the mustard seeds and curry leaves. Heat the pan until the mustard seeds begin to become fragrant, pop and sizzle. Reduce the heat to low, add the onion and cook until golden.

2. Now it’s time to make the paste- that’s right, homemade paste, none of this ready made stuff! This is so simple so combine the ginger puree, garlic puree, turmeric, curry powder, chilli powder and a little water. You are after a thick, rich paste so gradually add the water- you will only need a tablespoon or two. If you fancy paneer with an extra layer of flavour you can reserve a little of the paste and coat the paneer in this.

3. Add the paste to the onion in the pan and cook for a couple of minutes. I then add in the fresh chillies (you can use milder chilies if you prefer or pierce the chillies if you want to release a bit more flavour). Add the chickpeas and stir gently so they get a delicious coating of the paste.

4. Add in the tomatoes and simmer on a low heat whilst you prepare the paneer. This is the perfect time to cut the paneer into 2cm cubes and to fry off in a frying pan so they turn golden on all sides. If you have reserved some of the curry paste this is the time to mix with the paneer before frying off.

5. Simmer the sauce for 20 minutes and then add in the spinach. Continue to simmer until the curry sauce is thick and rich. Just before it’s ready sprinkle over the garam masala and stir in. Serve in warmed bowls with chapatis alongside.

 

Green chilli pickle: This is not for the faint hearted but if you are not a fan of heat then you can choose milder chillies. I make use of my local market and stock up on green finger chillies which you can pick up cheaply. This pickle lasts well and I store mine in a Kilner jar in the fridge so it is on hand for when a curry calls so it is worth making a jar of it at a time. Asafoetida is relatively easy to find these days so I would recommend trying to get hold of this.

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Makes a jar:
30 serrano chillies or approx. 50 green finger chillies
2 tbsp whole yellow mustard seeds
1 tsp fenugreek seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp salt
1 tsp asafoetida
1 tsp medium or hot chilli powder
1 tsp ground turmeric
Juice of one lemon
5 tbsp of vegetable oil

1. First you need to get going with the preparation for the pickling spice mix. The mustard, fennel and fenugreek seeds one spice at a time and dry roast in a small pan until fragrant. Each spice should take around 30 seconds to roast; put them aside to cool down.

2. Grind the spices so they are coarse and add the salt, asafoetida, chilli powder and turmeric to the mixture.

3. Next up wash and pat dry the chillies of your choice before chopping into 2mm pieces. If you want to reduce the heat level in the pickle then you can remove some or all of the chilli seeds as you go.

4. The pickle needs to be kept in air tight jar (I use Kilner jars which have a proper seal) and make sure the jar is properly sterilised. Now it’s time to mix the pickling spices, chillies, lemon juice and oil together and give a good old stir before putting into the jar. I then push the chilli mixture down a bit with the back of a spoon to level it out a bit and you can then top it up with extra oil if needed in order to create a protective layer if you find the chillies have absorbed some of it. That’s all there’s to it!

The pickle can be used straightaway however I like to leave it for at least a day to develop the flavour- if you resist! The longer the pickle is kept, the punchier it will get!

 

Homemade chapatis: With a bit of effort you can enjoy authentic chapatis which will rival those from even the best Indian restaurant! These are also freezable and I would suggest interleaving each bread with a cling film sheet so they don’t stick together.

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Makes 8 chapatis:
450g wholemeal plain flour
250ml cold water

1. Put 200g of the flour to one side to help with the shaping of the chapatis and place the remaining flour in a deep bowl.

2. Add the cold water gradually to the flour and be sure to knead as you combine the two until you have a soft dough. As rule of thumb, the longer you knead the chapati dough, the softer it will be resulting in a tastier chapati.

3. Lightly flour the work surface and divid the chapati dough into 8 pieces. Shape each piece of dough into a ball.

4. Take each ball of dough one at a time and flatten slightly before rolling it out to achieve a disc of approximately 15cm in diameter. Remember to use some of the leftover flour as you go to keeo the dough from sticking to the surface.

5. Heat a griddle pan to a medium/ high heat and cook each chapati for around 30 seconds until the chapati begins to bubble up and turn golden. Serve on the side of your favourite curry!

 

Onion bhajis:These bhajis are quick and easy to cook. Once you have mastered the basic recipe the ingredients can be tweaked so try experimenting with other vegetables. It is important to make sure you use chickpea flour as this gives a lighter, crisper bhaji.One of my personal favourites is a Brussel sprout bhaji which will convert even the fussiest of eaters!

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Makes approx. 8-10
2 red onions- 1 sliced and 1 finely diced
100g gram (chickpea) flour
1/2 baking powder
2 tsp chilli powder
1 dried red chilli finely snipped
1/2 tsp cumin
Vegetable oil to fry

1. Sift the flour and baking powder into a large bowl to ensure there are no little lumps. Add the chilli powder, dried chilli, cumin and a pinch of salt.

2. Add 150ml of cold water to the mixture to create a thick, smooth batter. I gradually add the last 20- 30mls of water to make sure the right amount is added. To the batter, add the onion and stir well to ensure the onion is well coated.

3. Now this is the bit where you need you wits about you! Heat enough vegetable oil in a large pan so that it is 3- 4cm deep and bring it up to a medium/ high heat. When you think the oil is hot enough drop a slice of onion in it to double check- if the onion sinks and then comes back up to the surface then it is ready. Add heaped tablespoons of the onion mixture to the oil and fry until golden. Don’t overcrowd the pan when frying- I usually do 2 at a time. When the bhajis are golden, carefully remove them with a slotted spoon and blot onto kitchen paper.

The bhajis are best served warm and fresh however they can also be gently reheated- that’s if you havent already demolished them all!

So there you have it, an Indian feast and not a takeaway menu in sight!

Autumnal sausage and bean stew

There’s a distinctive chill in the air so this recipe is a perfect autumnal warmer. I have used a good quality beef sausage as a bit of a change but you could easily swap it for pork sausages if you prefer. I have used beef sausages from Chiphall Farm who use Woodland Jersey herd meat so check them out http://www.chiphallfarmshop.co.uk to support excellent Hampshire producers.

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Ingredients- serves 4
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion finely sliced
2 garlic cloves crushed
3 celery sticks finely sliced
1 tbsp tomato puree
100ml red wine
300ml beef stock (vegetable stock if using pork sausages)
400ml tinned tomatoes
400g tinned butter beans and 400g tinned cannellini beans drained and rinsed
3 sprigs of fresh thyme
2 bay leaves
Pinch of caster sugar
Salt and pepper to season

1. Preheat the oven to 190c/ 170 fan and leave to warm up whilst you get started with the rest. Heat the oil in a heavy based casserole pan over a medium heat and brown the sausages until they are golden all over; this should take about 10 minutes to get a good colour on them. When they are ready, set them aside to keep warm.

2. I then add the onion to gently fry off in the residual sausage fat as this adds an extra layer of flavour. If you find that a lot of fat has come out of the sausages you can drain some of this off if you lilke. A higher quality sausage usually produces less fat so that’s worth remembering. When the onions are nearly ready, add the garlic and celery and cook for 1- 2 minutes.

3. Squeeze in a tablespoon of tomato puree and cook this off well for another couple of minutes. Add in the red wine and simmer this to reduce it by half to cook off the booze. If using pork sausages you may also like to try using white wine for a lighter flavour to balance the pork.

4. Add the stock, tomatoes, bay leaves, thyme, pinch of caster sugar and season well. Bring it back up to a gentle simmer for a few minutes before adding the beans and sausages to the pan. Cover the pan and cook in the oven for an hour. The stew will have thickened and a rich, comforting meal will be your reward. Serve in warmed bowls with some bread on the side to soak up the juice.

Autumnal sausage and bean stew- a perfect meal for the changing season!

 

An English Foodie in Paris

So the OH and I hopped onto the Eurostar this week and before we knew it were in sunny Paris which was the perfect city for some foodie adventures. In this post I will give you a run down of some of the highlights of the trip followed by some very special French inspired recipes. We set out and gave ourselves some foodie challenges to complete whilst we were there so with this in mind off we went in search of some traditional dishes.

My first challenge came in La Patache in the form of steak ‘a point’ (very rare by Enlgish standards). This intimate, candlelit restaurant is fantastic for fully fledged carnivores but think twice before taking any vegetarian friends for dinner there! Each table is set with a steak knife which gives the game away as to what is on the menu. You won’t find this gem in the guide books so make a note!

I pushed the boat out with a mixed grill consisting of succulent pork belly, a golden poussin and fillet steak. I have never tasted steak like it! The meat melted away and before I knew it I had managed to demolish it, much to the disappointment of my dinner partner (don’t worry, he did have a small bite!). If you want to experience the Canal St Martin area like a local then this bar is the perfect choice. It is a popular choice for people to meet and while away the evening whilst tucking into irresistible platters and terrines.

In our week away La Patache became a firm favourite and we revisited the bar next door on our last night to eat our weight in charcuterie and fromage. A range of local speciality cheeses and meats was served alongside guinea fowl terrine, fresh bread, cournichons and pickled samphire (note to self: I must make this). This was a platter I didn’t want to finish- I wonder if I could invent a never ending meal?!

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So after my foray into and triumph with rare steak it was my OH’s turn to test his tastebuds at La Marmite in Pigalle. For those who aren’t familiar with andouillette which is a ‘very special’ (the words of the waiter!) type of sausage originating from Lyon. Andouillette is unlike any other sausage you have had before so don’t go thinking that this would be perfect to serve with a pile of mashed potato! It’s a chitterling sausage with a unique aroma and taste… I’ll say no more… perhaps have a Google! It certainly was an experience! This was definitely a time where I ordered more sensibly compared to OH and I happily tucked into duck confit which I will certainly be recreating!

Apart from probably gaining a dress size after eating a range of local foods we headed out to explore the food markets in Bastille, Rue de Mouffetard and Marche des Entrants Rouges. If you only have time to visit one of the markets then make it Bastille and immerse yourself in the world of fresh produce alongside the locals. It also happens to be the biggest market in the city so it’s a perfect place to stop off in between the sightseeing- it’s hungry work after all!There is no other way to describe the markets other than heavenly, although I do get very excited by these things in life! Feast your eyes on these….

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An array of fragrant, sweet artichokes- perfect for stuffing with a good cheese and ham!wpid-wp-1408896938414.jpeg

A huge selection of juicy tomatoes- listen up UK supermarkets and follow suitwpid-wp-1408896926996.jpeg
wpid-wp-1408896682779.jpegAn abundance of delicate seafood.
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 New season Mirabelle plums ripe for the picking. wpid-wp-1408896842533.jpegAnd last but not least, moreish macaroons. Do as we did and play a game of guess the flavour to test your tastebuds!

This market trawling is thirsty work so it may be handy to know of some good, solid bars to have a light refreshment or two. We found that beers can be relatively pricey in Paris however with some research (and sometimes luck) you can stumble across bars with good deals in happy hour (although this was never confined to just the one hour!) and enjoy a spot of people watching. We found The Wall (a Pink Floyd reference)and The River Pub in the Latin Quarter and would recommend them for a stripped back feel. We also stumbled across a Scottish pub, The Pure Malt, and thought it would be rude not to support a fellow Brit! If you’re a fan of whiskies then this is one for you! We discovered that Parisian bars often refer to their house lagers as ‘cheap beer’ but be warned that they will rarely advertise the strength of it so it is always worth checking although the obligatory bar snacks which are on offer free do go some way to soak it up!

So there we have it, my foodie adventures are over until next time. Next up: Brussels…..

Fromage, fromage, fromage!

Whilst I put the finishing touches to my roundup of my recent trip to Paris I thought I would get you in the mood with a twist on a classic baked camembert. One for the cheese lovers out there! This is ideal for a Bank Holiday lunch or as a starter.

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Ingredients- serves 2
30g unsalted butter
50ml olive oil
Drizzle of runny honey
3 sprigs of thyme
2 bulbs of garlic
A 200- 250g wheel of Camembert

1. Preheat the oven to 200c/ 180 fan and grab a small roasting tray. Add all of the butter, oil and honey to the tin along with the sprigs of fresh thyme.

2. Carefully cut the end off each garlic bulb and place cut side down into the tin. This needs to bake for around 30 minutes until the garlic starts to soften.

3. When the garlic is ready, cross the top of the cheese wheel with a knife and pop it into the tray. I find that a standard wheel of Camembert takes around 15-20 minutes but do check. Be careful not to make the crosses too deep otherwise the cheese will start to spill over and catch in the tin. I like to baste the cheese with the sweet, sticky juices around the cheese to add an extra something.

4. When the cheese has melted, serve with warmed fresh bread. Offer a bulb of roasted garlic to each person and liberally slather this on the bread before dunking in the Camembert.

Camembert with roasted garlic and thyme- the diet can wait!

 

 

 

 

Mini muffin tin frittatas

This light lunch recipe could not be easier and is perfect for lunch at home or at work. It’s time to spice up your lunch box and be the envy of your colleagues with these mini frittatas! An ideal recipe to involve the kids so they can show off their creations with their friends.

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Ingredients- makes 6 frittatas
6 large free range eggs
60ml milk
Salt and pepper to season
Large handful of shredded spinach
60g feta cheese diced
A large roasted red pepper thinly sliced

1. Heat the oven to 180c/ 160 fan/ gas mark 4. Take a large bowl and crack the eggs into it. Be careful of any wayward shell! Lightly beat the eggs and add the milk before seasoning well.

2. Now the possibilities and combinations of frittata fillings are endless so let’s start with a simple yet delicious idea. To the egg add the spinach (make sure it’s well washed), feta cheese and the roasted red pepper. I always have a jar of roasted red peppers handy as they are just as good in most recipes as freshly roasted peppers. For all you meat lovers you could add some diced chorizo which has been sauteed and then cooled.

3. Lightly oil a standard muffin tin with vegetable oil and pour in the egg mixture. The frittatas will rise when cooking so remember to leave space between the mixture and top of the tin. Place carefully into the oven and cook for 20 minutes until the egg has set. Gently remove the frittatas from the tin and enjoy!

The frittatas are best served straight from the oven however if you want to take them for lunch, leave them out to fully cool before storing them in the fridge overnight.

Some other combinations for you to try:
Chorizo, red pepper and cheese.
Sundried tomato, mozzarella and basil.
Spinach and goat’s cheese.
Ham and mature cheddar.
Spinach, cheese and salami.
Asparagus and parma ham.

Get creative and let me know what your favourite fillings are.

Runner bean and chorizo summer time stew

Whilst the sun is still high in the sky and the garden continues to offer up seasonal treats, have a go at this summer stew. It’s a delicate combination of sweet, succulent runner beans with a paprika kick from the chorizo which balances the flavours perfectly.

I have been lucky enough to be given some beautiful runner beans by a green fingered friend so it’s time to do the humble runner beans justice! We have also grown tomatoes in the garden this year so I have also used these for this recipe.

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Ingredients- serves 2 as a main or 4 as a side dish
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 medium onion finely chopped
1 large clove of garlic finely chopped
1 cooking chorizo (about 4 inches long)
150g cherry tomatoes
1/2pt water or stock
250g runner beans

1. Heat a glug of vegetable oil over a medium heat and add the finely chopped onion along with diced chorizo. Cook until the onion softens and the chorizo begins to turn golden.

2. Add the garlic and fry until fragrant- this will only take a couple of minutes. Be careful not to burn the garlic as this will make the dish bitter. Add the halved cherry tomatoes and cook until they start to give up their beautiful juices. Try and use the best cherry tomatoes you can find, the more perfumed and sweet the better!

3. Pop in the water or stock if you prefer and bring to a gentle simmer.

4. Now for the stars of the show: the runner beans. Runner beans can often have strings which will need removing before cooking. Top tip: run a potato peeler down the sides of each bean for a speedy way to prepare them. When you have done this the beans need to be cut on the diagonal into long strips.

5. Add the runner beans into the pan of simmering tomatoes and cook until the beans are tender. This should take around 30 minutes but do check them occasionally- the bigger the beans are, the longer they will need.

6. Serve the stew in warmed bowls. I like to crisp up some extra cooking chorizo and sprinkle this over the stew for added texture and because I love the stuff! You may like to offer some fresh bread alongside so you can mop up the deliciously spicy juices.

Runner bean and chorizo stew- a perfect warmer for an autumnal day!

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