Archive for the ‘Recipes’ Category

Valentine’s Day: famine or feast?

February 15, 2014

Valentine’s Day is a bit like Xmas for some, one of those days we just don’t want to know about, whether we’re single, sad, lonely or in a long term relationship where the romance just ain’t what it used to be. The truth is Valentine’s Day isn’t for all of us. It also has a mixed history.

The original St Valentine is said to have defied the order of Emperor Claudius and married couples so men wouldn’t have to go to war, which greatly inconvenienced the emperor as there was a shortage of soldiers at the time. Keeping the Roman empire going has its expenses. Another version has it that Valentine refused to sacrifice to the pagan gods. With both stories he ended up in prison and was executed, leaving a note, signed: Your Valentine.

But before that there was the Feast of Lupercalia, February 13-14, where the ancient Romans had a good old time sacrificing goats, drinking and dancing naked in the hope of increasing their fertility. With the advent of Christianity, as was the way, the pagan festivals were taken over by the Christians, and Pope Gelasuis merged the Feast with St Valentine’s Day, which celebrated the matyrdom of the aforementioned St Valentine, to make the day less about lust and more about love.

During the Middle Ages it was believed that birds paired-bonded in mid-February, a romantic notion that attached itself to February 14. Our good friends Chaucer and Shakespeare did much to grow the romance of Valentine’s Day through their writing.

And then there was the infamous Valentine’s Day Massacre in 1929 where seven mob associates of Al Capone were gunned down during prohibition America.

One can agree that it’s a great day for flower sellers, chocolate makers, card manufacturers and restaurants. But for the rest of us it can be a day of deep disappointment, of feeling let down by your loved one, who just isn’t romantic, or not getting your hints. Like Christmas, it can make you feel worse about your partner, your relationship, your whole life! You’ll feel resentful because you want them to do something but if they don’t do it of their own accord all the flowers and chocolates in the world become utterly meaningless. So, don’t be disappointed – do something yourself, don’t wait for your partner to take the initiative. If you want something romantic to happen on the 14th February, then you do it!

So in my house, this year it’s been a day of success – new job for eldest daughter, passed driving theory for youngest, first day of half term pour moi and all round ‘life’s not too shabby’ for all of us. I decided we’d have a celebratory dinner, something low key, but where we chatted, laughed, enjoyed each other’s company and were happy in our bit of the world. I bought a couple of modest gifts for my household and prepared a lovely, but simple feast. Yes, there were bubbles, yes there was chocolate – but no flowers. And there was a meal to thrill the tastebuds and do easily for your next special occasion. Outside the world stormed and swirled but inside we feasted and then repaired to finish our season of Breaking Bad. We had a lovely evening and I might do the same next year.


Appetizers: Olives, Strawberries, Doritos and tasty chicken bits – oven warmed. Served with long cool glass of Bacardi and Coke. Yes, dear Ozzie mates, not Bundy, because over here it is one of those lesser known brands. Indeed, how can this be????

Main course: steak with onions, bacon and mushroom ‘sauce’, French potatoes and peas.

French potatoes – adjusted from a recipe I read somewhere recently. 400-500 g of Charlotte or New potatoes, lardoons/bacon, chives or spring onion green bits. Boil potatoes until tender. Set aside til cool. Heat large pan, using oil and butter mixed, brown the potatoes, add the lardons and cook through but keep soft, not crispy. Add greenery and serve warm, make sure you spoon the oil and butter liquid over the spuds

Steak: choose a cut you like – rump, sirloin. Saute onions in pan first to give more flavour to the steak – cook on high heat to sear the outside. Turn only once, otherwise tenderness is lost. Keep your eye on the time, especially if you’re going for medium-rare, as we prefer. Serve sauted onions, bacon and mushrooms over the steak.

Desert: tonight it was chocolates, and mint ice-cream.

Ah, me, it was easy, simple, cost effective and very-very lovely.

Be happy, feel the love. Enjoy half term. (Images from Private Collection)

October’s Recipe: Potato Top Yum-mince Pie

October 30, 2012

This is the epitome of easy – and it takes no time at all. This easily feeds 4-5 with generous servings. Excellent all year round, but especially in winter, great as left-overs too. Just an all round fabulous little feast, really: and economical too. Just don’t buy really cheap mince as too much will end up as fat to be drained away. A medium quality lean mince is best. If you want to extend the meal add more beans. Cheese needs to be medium-mature, not low fat as it won’t melt and colour well enough.



400-500 gram of beef mince

1 decent onion

2 tins of baked beans

1 tin of corn kernels

4-5 medium potatoes – cooked

shredded cheese – as much as you like


1. Boil potatoes for usual time – not over cooking as you need to slice when cooled and potatoes that are too soft are impossible to slice. Skins on is quite acceptable. Drain and cool – in the fridge if need to hurry things along.

2. Fry onions in oil til soft and brown – you know, when they smell good!

3. Add the mince, brown. Drain off any excess fat. Remove from heat.

4. Stir in tins of baked beans and corn. Make sure all ingredients are well mixed.

5. Decant to a glass or ceramic oven-dish – shape and size are immaterial but the surface area will determine how many potatoes and how much cheese you will need.

6. Slice potatoes and cover the mince mix, pressing slightly into the surface. Try to ensure there are no gaps.

7. Spread cheese over the top.

8. Cook in moderate oven 30-35 minutes or until cheese has melted and is a lovely golden sun colour.

Serve with peas and boiled potatoes, or salad.


(Images courtesy Private Collection)

Camembert Chicken for Cheats

July 21, 2012

This is based on an old recipe from a Women’s Weekly Dinner Party Cookbook. They use whole chickens and do complicated things with re-cooking and skin. This is the pared back version. Simple, easy and very delicious. Use as the main for a special meal or as a centre-piece for a larger spread.



600-800 grams of skinless chicken breasts

250 grams of Camembert

1-2 cloves of garlic

150-250 grams of slivered almonds (depends on desired level of crunchiness)

Soft white bread to make into crumbs – I use soft rolls – fresh is best

60 grams Butter  – approx, use more if needed


Tear rolls into crumbs, make sure almonds are crushed down to crumbs too. Add butter to pan and toss bread and almonds until nicely toasted. You may need more butter to ensure even toasting and no burning of the bread

Cut garlic into tiny slivers or use garlic press

Cut chicken into strips – not too thin or they will cook too quickly and be tough

Cut Camembert into cubes or slices, as you prefer



Using a glass or ceramic baking dish arrange the chicken across the dish, making sure there are no gaps between pieces

Sprinkle garlic across chicken – you may want to press it firmly into the chicken

Arrange Camembert across the top of chicken and garlic

Cover Camembert with toasted almond and bread crumb mixture – press down lightly



In pre-heated moderate over (200c) for 35-40 minutes. Keep your eye on the baking as you don’t want the crumb mixture to burn – ruins the taste of the whole thing! Note: the garlic taste can be very strong.

Serve with salad and new potatoes, or beans, carrots and baked potatoes. Tis a lovely meal no matter what time of the year. (Images from Private Collection)

Corn Fritters – for any and all celebration meals – Jubilee on

June 2, 2012

If there is one recipe that my family adores it’s this one. Absolutely de rigueur for any celebration or event at our house, corn fritters rule our waves. So in respect of the weekend celebrations for the old Queen (for any queen really) try this – easy, relatively quick and sure to please.



1 cup plain flour

2-3 eggs

½ cup of cream

½ cup milk

1 large tin of sweet corn kernels – drained

½ cup chopped spring onions – 2/3 bunch – more or less depending on your taste

½ cup grated cheddar cheese – vary the amount and the strength to suit taste – be wary of too much cheese, it can overwhelm the mix and stick during cooking

oil for cooking – I use sunflower



1. Sift flour into large bowl

In separate container (measuring jug is good here) mix together milk, cream and eggs so mix is runny and combined

Add mix to flour – beat in until smooth – consistency for pancakes, removing all flour lumps

Mix in spring onions, corn and cheese

Mix should be smooth and fluid, but not too runny otherwise it won’t form easy fritters in the pan – add a touch more flour if too runny, but only a bit at a time or mixture will end up too rubbery


2. Heat omelette pan, skillet, or similar, add 1-2 desert spoons of oil

Add mixture to pan – dropping desert spoon size dollops for each fritter

When uncooked side is bubbling slightly turn over, press slightly and cook until golden brown

You may need to re-sprinkle some oil during cooking – make sure pan heat remains constant or mix will burn

3. Drain on kitchen paper

Eat soon after cooking for maximum taste and enjoyment

Makes 30-40 depending on size of fritter


4. Serve as part of main meal or as pre-dinner appetiser

Honestly, your family will love these! (Images from private collection)

Recipe Time – Thai Chicken Curry

May 19, 2012

This recipe comes from my sister-in-law, as prepared and cooked by delightful daughters – eldest one when she was at home, now the baton resides with beloved baby girl. This is our Saturday night treat. A light style aromatic curry – good for those who thrive on flavour not heat.

All up it takes about an hour from start to finish.

Check out the power point for pictures of the process (PP done for GCSE Speaking & Listening presentation – you might find the facts slide interesting!)

Girl meets Curry


4 pieces of chicken breast (skinless)

100g Fine green beans

3-4 Boiled potatoes

2 Garlic cloves

Knob of ginger (small)

1 Onion

200ml Coconut milk / cream

½ Chicken stock cube

1 tsp of the following: Cayenne Pepper; Ground Coriander; Cumin; Paprika; Turmeric – mixed in 100 mls of warm water



1. Peel and chop potatoes – cook until tender but not falling apart

2. Top and tail beans – cook until tender

3. Mix spices and stock cube together in water, leave til later

4. Chop ginger, garlic and onion – fry till golden brown

5. Chop chicken – add to cooked ginger-garlic-onion mix. Saute until chicken is lightly browned all over – not too long as you want the chicken to be tender

6. Add mixed spices to pan, stir in, leave simmering slightly for 2 minutes

7. Add cooked and drained potatoes and beans to mix – stir through

8. Add coconut milk – possibly a smidgen bit more water to help the consistency of the mixture. Stir through thoroughly, leave to simmer for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally

9. Cook rice in your normal way, while curry is doing its simmering thing

Serve curry over rice. Serves 4 adults.


Lemon Jelly Cheese-cake

May 6, 2012

As opposed to the last extravagant, indulgent cheesecake recipe this one is almost diet-worthy! No, not really, it’s lovely and rich but with a zingy lemon flavour to ease over the smoothy rich cream-cheese effect. You’ll love this one too – it’s much easier and simpler to make. Recommended for dinner parties and extravagant lunches – families and friends.

My mum used to make this back in the day and my kids love this too. A general all round pleaser – perhaps not suited to kiddies’ parties but excellent for adult parties.


The Ingredients

2 packets of plain biscuits – a mix of shortbread and tea biscuits adds a bit of flavour to the crumb case

150 grams of melted butter for the case

2x 250g packets of cream cheese

1 tin of condensed milk

2-3 juicy lemons

lemon jelly + 150 mils of boiling water

The base

Blend or process biscuits until like fine breadcrumbs. Add butter and process until just combined – more butter is better than less, as is more mixture. Press mixture evenly over base and side of 20cm spring-form tin. Refrigerate for at least 30 mins



1. Make up Jelly with hot water. Grate rind of 2-3 lemons and add to jelly. Squeeze juice of the lemons and combine with jelly & rind – remove any escaped pips. Rind is cool, pips are not. Allow to cool a bit

2. Beat cream cheese until soft (leave cheese out of fridge for a while so its soft and easier to beat).

3. Whip chilled condensed milk until thicker – leave tin in fridge overnight for best chill effect

4. Pour condensed milk into cream cheese, mixing slowly as you combine. Add in the jelly mix – now cooler – and continue to beat gently until mixtures are all combined and a soft lemon colour – should taste sweet and tangy.

Chill for several hours – over night is best.

Serve – absolutely brill anytime of the day or night. Lovely with coffee or champagne – great mid-night snack. Enjoy.

(Pictures from personal collection)

Indulgences – Mars Bar Cheesecake

April 6, 2012

The first in an occasional series of much loved and reliable recipes from my international kitchen (meaning both international recipes and things that have been cooked across the world, little old internationalist moi).

Mars-bar Cheesecake

It’s best to make this the day before you intend to serve it. It takes about 45 minutes to prepare everything up to the refrigeration stage. It is rich and indulgent, a bit fussy to make but well worth the effort.


250g plain chocolate biscuits, although choc chips & nicer choc bix add to the mix;

150 g butter, melted + 20g butter, extra;

2 tablespoons brown sugar

300 ml thickened cream – essential, otherwise you’ll be beating forever

50g milk chocolate, chopped finely

5 teaspoons gelatine

60ml (½ cup) water

2x250g packs of cream cheese, softened

½ cup (110g) caster sugar

3x 60g Mars bars, chopped finely

1. Blend or process biscuits until like fine breadcrumbs. Add butter and process until just combined – more butter is better than less, as is more mixture. Press mixture evenly over base and side of 20cm spring-form tin. Refrigerate for at least 30 mins

2. Meanwhile, combine brown sugar, extra butter and 2 tablespoons of cream in a small saucepan, stir over low heat until sugar dissolves – to make butterscotch sauce

3. Combine the chocolate and 2 more tablespoons of cream in another small saucepan and stir over low heat until chocolate has melted – chocolate sauce

4. Sprinkle gelatine over the water in a small heat-proof jug; stand jug in small saucepan of simmering water. Stir until the gelatine dissolves – cool for 5 minutes

5. Beat cheese and caster sugar in a medium bowl with electric mixer until smooth. Beat the remaining cream in a small bowl with electric mixer until soft peaks form.

6. Bring it all together by stirring the slightly warm gelatine mix into the cheese mix, add chopped Mars bars, fold in the beaten cream

7. Pour half of the cheese, cream and Mars bar mixture into the chilled crumb case.

8. Drizzle half of the butterscotch and chocolate sauces over the mix and using a skewer or sharp knife swirl the mixtures through to create a marble effect.

Repeat the process with the remaining cheese mix and sauces. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours, until set. Preferably overnight.

Serve chilled. Do not make portions too big as this is a very rich dessert. It’s a great way to complete a fine meal for a special occasion. Enjoy!