Traditional Welsh cawl

Cawl is a traditional Welsh stew that could not be simpler to make so give it a go. It is made with whatever meat (or meats) and seasonal vegetables were available so there is room for experimentation! The lamb could also be substituted with beef or a ham joint if you prefer. This is a perfect opportunity to try crumbly Caerphilly cheese if you have not had it before so dig in!

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Ingredients- serves 4
450g lamb casserole steak
25g pearl barley
2 sliced carrots
1 onion sliced
1/2 chopped swede
1 leeks in chunks
400g potatoes in chunks
Sprigs of thyme
2 bay leaves
5 black peppercorns

1. Trim the meat and cut into large chunks. Add to large heavy based pan, top up with plenty of water and bring to a boil. As the meat comes to the boil you will see residue that needs to be skimmed off the top.

2. Next in goes the barley, carrot, onion and swede; bring back to the boil and add a pinch of salt. Bundle together the thyme and bay leaves and drop these in alongside the peppercorns and simmer for 2 hours.

3. When the stew has been simmering for a couple of hours pop in the potatoes and simmer for 20 minutes followed by the leeks which need to be cooked for 5- 10 minutes until tender.  Serve in deep, warmed bowls with a good hunk of Caerphilly cheese and fresh bread.

Simple, warming and authentic!

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Asian spicy braised pork belly

Who can resist the tenderness of pork belly, the umami flavour of Asian ingredients and the punch of chilli in a recipe? Certainly not me! This sticky braised pork belly takes inspiration from Asia to give a straightforward meal idea that everyone can achieve.

This recipe cannot necessarily be pinned down to one specific Asian cuisine but I have mixed and matched my favourite ingredients to give the perfect balance of flavour. I have used gochujang which is a spicy paste made from fermented soya beans. You can buy this online at http://www.souschef.co.uk or find it at your local Asian supermarkets if you have one.

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Ingredients- serves 2-3 
300g lean pork belly
2 tablespoons oil
1 tablespoon sugar
3 tablespoons sake or shaoxing wine
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
1 tablespoon gochujang (Korean chilli paste)
450ml water

1.To begin, cut the pork belly into inch sized pieces. Bring a pan of water to the boil and blanch the pork belly chunks for 2 minutes to draw out any impurities before removing from the pan with a slotted spoon and setting aside.

2. Heat a wok over a low to medium heat and add in the oil and sugar. Cook until the sugar is melting before adding the pork chunks. Cook until the pork is beginning to turn golden- remember to brown off on each side of the pork chunks for an even colour and flavour.

3. At this stage, lower the temperature of the wok back to low and add in both kinds of soy sauce, the sake or shaoxing wine (whichever you are using) and water. Cover the wok with a lid and simmer the pork for approximately 1 hour 30 minutes to 1 hour 45 minutes until the pork belly is meltingly tender. Remember to check the pork from time to time during the cooking process and add a splash more water if it starting to stick to the pan or becoming too dry. If, at the end of the cooking, you have excess sauce then simply remove the lid of the wok, increase the heat slightly and reduce so it ends up being a glossy, sticky glaze over the pork and that’s all there is to it! Serve with rice and Asian greens if you like and dig in!

Asian inspired sticky braised pork belly- a recipe you will come back to time and time again!

 

 

Italian sausage, chard and pine nut spaghetti

Italian sausages are not just your usual sausage! They are packed with fennel and seasoning and you can often find chilli versions which are equally delicious. They can be cooked whole or, as I have done in this recipe, the sausage meat can be removed and cooked separately. I have paired the sausage with chard which is in plentiful supply all year round. It can be substituted for spinach or cavolo nero if you like but I love the way the slight bitterness of the leaves balance with the rich sausage. When it comes to pasta, you really do get what you pay for. I absolutely love Garofalo’s long spaghetti which you can find here. Each strand is half a metre long so grab a fork and get twirling!

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Ingredients- serves 2
200g spaghetti
1 red onion- chopped
2 garlic cloves
1 tsp chilli flakes (optional)
4 Italian sausages- meat removed from the skin
400g passata
200g chard
Handful of pine nuts- lightly toasted in a dry pan

1. Start by bringing a pan of water to the boil. To prepare the chard you need to remove the stalks and keep the leaves separately as they both need slightly different cooking times. Roughly chop the stems and blanch for 1-2 minutes and blanch the leaves for 3-4 minutes; drain well and set aside. When the leaves are slightly cooled, roughly chop. Bring another pan of water to the boil and cook the spaghetti according to instructions.

2. Take a frying pan and add a glug of oil over a medium heat. Add the onion and garlic along with the chilli flakes (if using) and cook for a couple of minutes. Meanwhile, use the sausage meat which has been removed from the skins to form little balls. I make mine about the size of a hazelnut so you get lots of little bites throughout the pasta. Add the sausage balls into the frying pan with the onion and garlic and frying until golden.

3. Add the passata into the pan and bring to a simmer. The sauce is designed to give the spaghetti a light coating and by the time it has simmered it really does reduce down so don’t be alarmed if it seems a lot for two people. Add the drained chard stems and leaves and cook for a further 5 minutes. When ready, tip the cooked spaghetti into the pan and toss so each strand of pasta is coated in the sauce. Serve in warmed bowls with the toasted pine nuts sprinkled over and a good grating of parmesan to finish.

Italian sausage, chard and pine nut spaghetti- a celebration of Italian flavours!

Kale, spinach and cheese filo pie

If you think of a filo pie, it is likely that you think of those belonging to Greek cuisine. Well this is my take on the traditional spanakopita! Spanakopita usually includes spinach and feta but I have given it a twist to include kale and halloumi as well to make it even more scrumptious. I have used readymade filo pastry to make this even quicker and easier to make and to serve four people a pie tin which is 22cm in diameter is perfect. The pie also keeps well in the fridge for a day or two and the leftovers are great for a simple lunch.

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Ingredients- serves 4
1 pack of ready made filo pastry
Glug of vegetable oil
4 spring onions- chopped
2 garlic cloves- crushed
200g kale- washed and roughly chopped
200g spinach- washed
1 tsp dried dill (or 1 tbsp fresh dill)
100g feta
100g halloumi- grated
1 egg- beaten
Pepper
60g unsalted butter

1. Start by preheating the oven to 200c/ 180 fan or according to the instructions on the pastry packet as it can differ from brand to brand. Make the pie filling by wilting the spinach- you can do this by pouring a kettle of hot water over it into a colander before then squeezing out the excess water; set aside. Take a large frying pan and heat a glug of oil over a medium heat. Add the garlic and spring onions and cook for a minute before adding the kale; cook until the kale is wilted and keep it moving so the garlic and onion does not catch. For the last minute or two of cooking, add in the drained spinach and dill. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

2. When the filling is cool enough, crumble through the feta and grated halloumi. Beat one egg and stir through the spinach mixture and season with pepper. You should not need to use extra salt as the feta and halloumi will provide this seasoning for you.

3. Now to assemble the pie! Gently melt the butter in a small pan over a low heat and dig out a pastry brush from the depths of your kitchen drawer! Brush a light coating of melted butter in the empty pie tin before adding a sheet of filo. Filo is delicate so be careful when lining the tin. Brush the filo with more butter before adding the next sheet. Line the tin so each sheet of filo is put in at a different angle. Repeat so you have about 5 layers of filo on the base of the tin before adding the cooled pie filling. Make sure it is evenly distributed and press lightly with a back of a spoon to flatten.

4. Gather the edges of the filo sheets and fold in the centre of the pie tin. Brush with more butter. I then took a couple of extra sheets and ripped and scrunches them up and popped them on top of the pie before, you guessed it, brushing with more butter. To stop the filo from curling lightly sprinkle it with water before baking in the oven for 30-35 minutes until golden and hot. Serve with a simple side salad, sautéed potatoes or a liberal helping of cooling tzatsiki.

Kale, spinach and cheese filo pie- my take on spanakopita which is fit for a king!

 

Five a day roasted vegetable sauce

Every now and again I get a fancy for vegetables and lots of them! This roasted vegetable sauce is perfect for ensuring your family get their five a day and is great with gnocchi and pasta or even with cous cous. I chose to use baby courgettes and baby aubergine alongside pepper and onion to give vibrant colour and a balance between sweet and savoury. Feta was made to be paired with such flavours so a liberal sprinkling of this over your finished dish really lifts the flavours. The sauce should be chunky with a light tomato coating- I used Cirio Tuscan chopped tomatoes which have the perfect ratio of sauce to tomato chunks. You can find them at http://www.cirio1856.co.uk.

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Ingredients- serves 4
4 garlic cloves- kept whole
1 large red onion- peeled and cut into small wedges
1 red and 1 yellow bell pepper- chopped
Handful of baby courgettes- chopped
Handful of baby aubergine- chopped
Handful of black olives- optional
Olive oil
Salt and pepper
Chilli flakes
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
Fresh basil

1.Preheat the oven to 180c/ 160 fan ready for the veggies. Take a large roasting tin and place all the chopped vegetables into it including the whole garlic cloves. Drizzle with a good amount of olive oil and season. I used smoked sea salt which is fabulous with roasted vegetables. Roast for around 15 minutes until everything is tender- test with a knife, if it goes into the vegetables easily then it’s ready!

2. Take a large frying pan and add a small glug of oil over a medium heat. Rescue the garlic cloves from the vegetable tray and squeeze out the tender and wonderfully fragrant garlic. I then fried off the garlic with a touch of chilli flakes (or as much as you dare!) for a minute or two before scattering the vegetables into the pan. The chilli should enhance the flavours rather than drowning them out. Pour in the tinned tomatoes and cook for around 10 minutes on a simmer so the tomato brings the sauce together and the flavours develop even more. Finish with a liberal sprinkling of freshly torn basil leaves and away you go! Serve with gnocchi or pasta and feta over the top if you like. Mozzarella would also be delicious. Any leftovers can be easily reheated or blitzed into a smooth sauce or soup for the freezer.

Chunky roasted vegetable sauce- get your five a day in the most effortless way!