Tuesday, 8 December 2009


Pronounced 'kee-sa-de-yas' these have become a Friday night favourite. They are so quick and handy and it isn't that hard to keep the wherewithal to make them in the fridge and larder. They're the sort of dinner that everyone eats with their fingers and a napkin in dribs and drabs. I warn you - you'll have to keep them coming. It's hard to give a recipe as what you put in them depends on your taste; it would be like giving a recipe for a sandwich. Consider this more of a method. I've specified our favourite combination but I also make a ham and cheese one for the little man and have on occasion made them with chicken if that's what I have lying around (and of course you can do a vegetarian version). Make them as hot or as mild as you like.

Quesadillas (11)


Tortillas (at least 1.5 per person)
Spring onion, chopped
Red Jalapenos, chopped (for heat)

Quesadillas Quad

1. Lay your ingredients out on half the tortilla.

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2. Put a frying pan on over a medium heat.

3. Fold the empty side of the tortilla over the filled side and brush the outside of the bread with a little olive oil.

4. Place the tortilla, oiled side down, on the frying pan. (I can fit two tortillas in my pan but if you can't just do one at a time).

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5. Brush the other side of the tortilla with oil and flip over after a few minutes (you can peek at the underside to see if it's browned).

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6. Cut into three and serve.


You can make them by covering the whole tortilla with filling then placing another on the top and frying it unfolded but I find this way much easier to manage.
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Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Sauage, Apple & Potato Casserole

Sausage, Apple & Potato Casserole (1)

I invented this dish when I was on maternity leave before JT was born. I had four weeks leave and had planned loads of baking and cooking only to find that I couldn't stand on my feet for any length of time. So this was a way of preparing a hearty dinner without having to stand over a chopping board or hot stove for any length of time. The chopping is minimal (everything is in wedges) and I cook this in the oven, although you could do it on the hob to speed things up. Don't worry about precise quantities in this dish - you can adjust the quantities to suit your personal taste/requirements without doing any damage.

Serves 2

3 pork sausages
2 apples
5 potatoes (or as many as you want per person)
1 onion (red or white)
Hot chicken stock (about 300ml)
Handful of chopped rosemary
1 tblsp honey
2/3 tblsp olive oil

1. Pre-heat oven to 210oC

2. Cut the potatoes into wedges (I don't bother to peel them) and the sausages into bite-sized chunks.

3. Place in a casserole dish (I use a large rectangular one) and coat in a few tblsp of olive oil.

4. Put in the oven for 10 mins. During this time cut your onion into wedges.

5. After 10mins add the onion to the dish, toss to coat in the oil and return to the oven.

6. Chop the apples into wedges and after a further 10mins add them to the dish, again tossing everything around. Add the hot stock, pouring in just enough to come about half way up the dish. Add the chopped rosemary and return everything to the oven for 1/2 hr.

7. Finally drizzle a tablespoon of honey over the whole dish and return to the oven for 10mins. (I sometimes mash the apples roughly at this stage to thicken the sauce a bit).

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Thursday, 15 October 2009

Meaty Nachos

This is one of my favourite quick and easy suppers. It's become very popular with my two men so I always keep the wherewithal to make this in the cupboard and freezer. It's easily adapted to suit JT. I like to fire it up and add lots of heat but you don't have to and if you prefer you can keep things on the mild side. In fact, treat most of the ingredients as optional, that is except for the tortilla chips, mince, salsa and cheese. Think of this a bit like a pizza - the tortilla chips are the base, the mince and salsa the toppings and then finally the cheese. I assemble at the last minute but frequently fry the mince mixture ahead of time and let sit in the pan (although it only takes a few minutes to fry it anyway). Although I recommend that you eat this fresh if you're having it for your main meal, we nearly always have a little bit left over that I cover with cling film and put in the fridge for the next day - a quick blast in a hot oven will do the necessary re-heating.

Meaty Nachos Quad

I must add that my knowledge of nachos and mexican cooking is practically zilch. I know the general make-up of it and I enjoy eating it but I don't know the finer details and distinctions. In fact, I don't know if these count as nachos at all but that's what they look like to me!

Meaty Nachos
Serves 2 (plus a baby)

200g (approx) bag of Tortilla Chips
500g minced beef
1 onion
2 cloves of garlic*
1/2 tsp cumin*
1 tsp paprika*
1/2 tsp ground coriander*
1 tsp cayenne (you could substitute this with some chilli flakes or chopped jalapenos)*
Dash of worchester sauce*
Dash of soy sauce*
1 tblsp sweet chilli sauce*
1 jar salsa
Cheddar, grated to top the nachos

*You could simply replace all these with a sachet of mexican spice mix


1. Finely chop the onion and garlic then fry over a medium heat for a few minutes.

2. Add the mince and continue to fry until the mince is cooked. Note: At this point lift out some 'plain' mince mixture for any babies or young children and set aside.

3. Add the spices and then the sauces to the pan and continue to cook for another minute.

4. Pre-heat the grill to high.

5. Spread the bag of tortilla chips over a large platter. Don't forget to put a few chips on a plate(s) for any bab(ies). Spoon the plain mince mixture onto their chips now to give it time to soak into the chips and soften them a little.

6. Spoon the meat mixture over the top of the tortilla chips.

7. Using a teaspoon, dot the salsa as evenly as you can over the meat mixture.

8. Finally top with the cheese and grill for about a minute - keep an eye on it the chips can burn easily. Any babies dishes I simply top with a little grated cheese and don't bother melting it.

I use a fish slice to serve it on to plates but your hands would do just fine. It's really a tear and share sort of dish. Enjoy!

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Monday, 5 October 2009

Chocolate Cherry Cupcakes

Choc-Cherry Cupcakes (18)

This was the September Nigella Cookalong. I like taking part in the Nigella Cookalong because it pushes me to try some of her recipes that I wouldn't otherwise. And these were exactly one of those recipes. Cupcakes can be much-a-do about nothing and while I love decorating them actually eating them doesn't excite me all that much. But these were such a surprise. They're lovely and moist - almost fudgey. And since I used a red and black cherry conserve instead of the specified morello cherry jam (simply because I couldn't get it) ther're wasn't an overpowering sour cherry taste. To top it off they're so simple. This is a one-pan recipe. Everything gets melted in one saucepan then poured into paper cases. Such a simple but delicious crowd pleaser to have up your sleeve.

(For The Cupcakes)

125g soft unsalted butter
100g dark chocolate, broken into pieces
300g cherry conserve
150g caster sugar
pinch of salt
2 large eggs, beaten
150g self-raising flour
12-bun muffin tin and papers

For The Icing
100g dark chocolate
100ml double cream
12 natural-coloured glacé cherriesServing Size : Makes 12


1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC/gas mark 4.

2. Put the butter in a heavy-bottomed pan on the heat to melt. When nearly completely melted, stir in the chocolate. Leave for a moment to begin softening, then take the pan off the heat and stir with a wooden spoon until the butter and chocolate are smooth and melted. Now add the cherry jam, sugar, salt and eggs. Stir with a wooden spoon and when all is pretty well amalgamated stir in the flour.

3. Scrape and pour into the muffin papers in their tin and bake for 25 minutes. Cool in the pan on a rack for 10 minutes before turning out.

4. When the cupcakes are cool, break the chocolate for the icing into little pieces and add them to the cream in a saucepan. Bring to the boil, remove from the heat and then whisk – by hand or electrically – till thick and smooth. Ice the cupcakes, smoothing the tops with the back of a spoon, and stand a cherry in the centre of each.

Choc-Cherry Cupcakes (6)

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Sunday, 27 September 2009

September Daring Bakers: Vol-Au-Vents

Vol-Au-Vents (14)b

The September 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.

Puff pastry is in the ‘laminated dough” family, along with Danish dough and croissant dough. A laminated dough consists of a large block of butter (called the “beurrage”) that is enclosed in dough (called the “détrempe”). This dough/butter packet is called a “paton,” and is rolled and folded repeatedly (a process known as “turning”) to create the crisp, flaky, parallel layers you see when baked. Unlike Danish or croissant however, puff pastry dough contains no yeast in the détrempe, and relies solely aeration to achieve its high rise. The turning process creates hundreds of layers of butter and dough, with air trapped between each one. In the hot oven, water in the dough and the melting butter creates steam, which expands in the trapped air pockets, forcing the pastry to rise.

Vol-Au-Vents (4)

To be honest, I wasn't sure how I felt about this challenge. I was pleased that I was being pushed to make puff pastry and as a result would extend my skills but I wrestled with a filling. I wanted to do something sweet but couldn't get away from savoury ideas and finally settled on two fillings. One was a chicken,vegetable and cream cheese filling so that the vol-au-vents I made would become a complete meal for us and hopefully please JT. The second was caramelised red onion and creme fraiché to create a more elegant side dish or canapé.

I haven't included a detailed recipe or instructions for the puff pastry the reason being that I figure no-one is coming here looking for that level of expertise. I have given details of the fillings because perhaps you'll buy a block of puff pastry and make the vol-au-vent cases or even buy the pre-prepared cases to fill. If anyone wants details on making puff pastry I'll gladly email you the recipe.

I enjoyed the challenge of it but I'm not sure I'd do it again. The all-butter puff pastry you buy in the shops is a great substitute and, since the recipe requires a whole block of butter, it's not much more expensive.

Vol-Au-Vents (2)


Will fill SIX 3" Vol-Au-Vents


2 Chicken Breasts, chopped
2 Handfuls of Frozen Veg
3 tblsp Plain Flour
200ml Hot Chicken Stock
125g Cream Cheese
Small handful of fresh thyme


1. Fry the chicken in a little olive oil in a large frying pan until cooked.

2. Add the frozen veg to the pan and cook for a few minutes more.

3. Add the flour and toss everything to coat.

4. Reduce the heat to low and pour in the hot chicken stock. Continue to cook for a few mins stirring until the liquid thickens (add more hot water if necessary).

5. Add the cream cheese and stir to incorporate. Add the thyme and season to taste.

6. To plate up, spoon some mixture into each vol-au-vent.

Vol-au-Vents 2 (8)b


Will fill FOUR 3" Vol-Au-Vents

1 Red Onion
200g tub cremé fraiché (whole tub not required)
1 tbslp balsamic vinegar
1tsp soft brown sugar
1 tblsp butter


1. Halve and then slice the onion finely.

2. Sauté the onion in the butter in a frying pan with the lid on over a low heat until soft (about 5 mins).

3. Add the balsamic vinegar and brown sugar and stir. Continue to sauté with the lid on for a few mins more.

4. To plate up, put a tblsp of cremé fraiché into each vol-au-vent then top with the red onions.

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Monday, 21 September 2009

Bacon & Cheese Muffins

Cheese Bacon & Onion Muffins (20)b

These were yet another attempt to create little handy morsels for JT. And what winners there were (with everyone). They would be absolutely delicious with soup. And they're great for lunchboxes because a few seconds in the microwave softens and reheats them without much damage. I like them warm with butter. JT likes them with red sauce (which goes without saying for those who are familiar with JT's eating habits).

I made a full tray of 12 and stuck what was leftover in the freezer, then just reheated then from frozen in the microwave on medium setting. Enjoy!

Bacon & Cheese Muffin Quad

Cheese and Bacon Muffins


1 packet of bacon (6-8 rashers)
1 sm or 1/2 large white onion, chopped finely
250g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
125ml vegetable oil
150ml yoghurt
1 egg
80g cheddar


1. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 6/200oC and line a 12-hole muffin tin with paper cases.

2. Fry the bacon until starting to crisp. Remove from the pan, finely chop and set aside.

3. Fry the onion in the bacon grease over a low heat until softened. Set aside with the bacon.

4. In a large bowl mix together the flour, baking powder and salt.

5. In a jug mix together the yoghurt, egg, and vegetable oil.

6. Add the bacon, onion and cheese to the dry mixture and give it a good stir. Then pour in the contents of the jug and stir until just mixed - do not overmix!

7. Divide the mixture evenly between the paper cases and bake for 25-30mins. You can test with a toothpick if you like. Don't let them brown too much on the top - you don't want them to be crunchy, although if they are they're still lovely.

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Monday, 14 September 2009

Smashed Potaotes

Smashed Potatoes (6) edited

Elegant name isn't it? But that's literally what these are and the 'smashing' makes all the difference. It give the potatoes a crispy edge when finished. I've been trying to squeeze these in before all the baby potatoes disappear from the shelves. These are just perfect for now when the baby potatoes on the shelves aren't the quality of the first summer crop.

Smashed Potatoes (1)

This is more a method than an exact recipe as how much you make depends on how many you're feeding. I first came across this idea in a food magazine years ago. It was an article written by Jill Dupleix and I logged it in my mind but never got round to trying it out. Then another food blogger posted about this very method at the start of the summer. I gave it a go and we've been having these practically every Sunday since with our roast dinner. I tend to boil and prep them mid-morning and then pop them in the oven for 20mins when I come home from church (i.e. you could make them in advance up to roasting point if you're having guests then just finish off when they arrive).

Smashed Potatoes (3)

Make more of these than you think you'll need - I guarantee you they'll be eaten.

Smashed Potatoes


Baby Potatoes (do not peel)
Fresh Rosemary, chopped (you could replace this with thyme)
Oil (olive, vegetable or sometimes I use garlic oil for the flavour)


1. Par-boil the baby potoates until just tender - you don't want them mushy and they will be getting a while in the oven later. Drain.

2. Drizzle oil over a baking tray and spread with your hands. Place the potatoes on a single layer on the tray.

3. Using a potato masher, press on each potato to flatten. You don't want them flat as a pancake but you do want them to burst open and their flesh to start spreading.

4. Sprinkle salt and chopped rosemary over the potatoes and drizzle them with oil.

5. Roast in a hot oven (about 210oC though if your oven is at something close to that for the meat don't change it, just roast the potatoes for slightly longer/less) for about 20mins. I say 'about ' - when you see the edges starting to brown and crisp they're ready.

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