Monthly Archives: October 2011

Pumpkin risotto

A Man cooked my tea for me tonight.  He had the day off work, whereas I was both working and doing school work for tomorrow, so I appreciated not having to do it!  He also carved the pumpkin which is sitting in our living room.  We’ve had no trick or treaters, which is just as well given that I had bought no provisions for such an occasion 🙂 Anywho, I hope everyone’s been enjoying hallowe’en as much as I enjoyed my seasonal dinner!  This can easily be made veggie, if you use vegetable stock instead of chicken.


Gemma xx

Pumpkin Risotto
Arborio Rice
1 small pumpkin
1 small red onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic
1 courgette, sliced
1 green pepper, sliced
Sage (fresh for preference, but A Man used dried)
Safflower (for colour)
White wine (optional, though it really brings out the flavour of the dish)
Hot chicken stock (made in the same way as the duck stock, though pre-made chicken or vegetable stock will do the trick)
Frozen peas

  1. Dice your pumpkin, or scoop out the flesh if you plan to carve it.  This results in a less chunky risotto, but still works well.
  2. Fry the onion in butter and olive oil with the crushed garlic.  Add the pumpkin, courgette and pepper, sage and safflower.  Fry until starting to soften.
  3. Add the rice and stir to coat in butter and turn the heat down low.  Gradually add in stock and white wine, stirring occasionally.

    Undoubtedly looking pretty pleased with himself behind the camera.

  4. Test the rice after each time it has absorbed the liquid.  I haven’t given any amounts, as it’s difficult to know how much was used.  Once cooked, the rice should be soft, but still slightly al dente.  If you run out of wine and stock, hot water does the trick at a pinch.
  5. Add a handful of frozen peas and cook until just heated through.  Serve the risotto with parmesan, if you have any.  We didn’t, but salt and pepper was just as good 🙂

Steaming in the pan on the table. Although not a paella, it amounts to essentially the same thing, so the wide, flat paella dish did just the trick.


Colourful Fish Pie

I don’t get to eat fish very often.  It’s one of my favourite things, but A Man isn’t keen so most of the time I have to go without.  However, I can’t stop myself from browsing the wet fish counter at work at the end of the day, snapping up anything that’s been heavily reduced and the visit of a friend who likes fish gave me essentially no choice but to make this.  I used a mix of fish and prawns, all of which were in my freezer and probably came to about £3 all told.  If I’d been picking fish up especially for this recipe, I’d have got some nice smoked haddock as well.  One of the less appetising aspects of a fish pie is its tendency towards the beige.  To remedy this slightly, I’ve used beautiful orange sweet potatoes for the topping and thrown some frozen peas into the filling, both of which added to the flavour too – it was delicious!  You don’t have to use the wine or cream – I just happened to have some left over which I decided to add.


Gemma xx

Colourful Fish Pie

6 small sweet potatoes
2 whole gurnard
2 handfuls cooked prawns
100g smoked salmon
3 pouting fillets
1 small piece tuna loin
1 onion, peeled and studded with cloves
Fresh parsley
1 small glass white wine
Dash of double cream
1 egg, lightly beaten
Salt and Pepper to taste

  1. Pierce the skins of the sweet potatoes several times and cook whole in the microwave for around 10 minutes.
  2. Place the gurnard in a pan with the onion and parsley and add just enough milk to cover the fish.  Poach gently until the fish is just cooked.  Remove the fish and leave to cool.
  3. Cut the remaining fish into large-ish pieces and place in the pie dish with a large handful of frozen peas and the prawns.  Flake the gurnard in once cool.  You don’t get much meat on a gurnard, but poaching it in the milk helps to flavour the sauce well.
  4. Remove the skins of the potatoes and mash with a little butter.
  5. Remove the onion from the milk and discard the cloves.  Dice the onion and fry for a couple of minutes in butter.  Add flour to make a thick roux and gradually add the poaching milk to avoid lumps.  Cook through until you have a thick sauce, adding some cornflour mixed with cold water if necessary to thicken.  Season to taste and add the egg, cream and wine if desired.
  6. Pour the sauce over the fish and mix well to distribute everything evenly.  Top with the mash, ensuring there are some fluffy areas to crisp up nicely.  Grate some fresh nutmeg over the mash if desired.
  7. Cook in a preheated oven at 180OC/350OF/gas mark 4 for 40 minutes, or until the sauce is piping hot and the mash nicely browned.
  8. Serve with steamed broccoli.

    My sauce erred on the side of thin, but tasted really good. I'd also do some more mash next time, but overall very happy 🙂

Steak and Mushroom pie

Fancied doing something a bit different for tea last night, and A Man’s mum was here to stay, so I decided to make a steak and mushroom pie.  Forgot to take a photo of the finished product though 😦  It was served with roasted onion squash, whole boiled carrots, burnt mashed potatoes (yup, we managed to burn the mash!) and gravy.  Next time I’ll add a lot less mustard (this had two teaspoons of wholegrain), but the experimental pastry was excellent – crumbly and melt in the mouth!

Love love

Gemma xx

Steak and Mushroom Pie

Shortcrust pastry (see below)
Braising Steak
1 red onion
3 large flat mushrooms (although any type of mushrooms would be suitable)
Pinch of sugar

  1. Shortcrust pastry needs 1/2 the fat to flour ratio.  Usually I would use 8oz / 225g Plain flour, 2oz / 55g Butter and 2oz / 55g Lard.  Rub the fat into the flour and add enough cold water to form into a dough.  Place in the fridge until needed.  This time, I decided to experiment by using the rendered animal fat (a combination of pork, beef, lamb, bacon and duck fat) in my fridge in place of the lard.
  2. Cut the braising steak into very small slices.  I cut mine straight from frozen (as there is less resistance this way) into slices about 2mm thick.
  3. Slice the onion and mushroom and fry in a little olive oil until soft and sweet.  Add the mustard, salt and pepper to taste and a little sugar.
  4. Add the steak to the onion and mushroom and brown slightly.  Sprinkle lots of flour over the mixture, a little at a time, to make a thick roux.
  5. Add enough stock (I used the rest of my duck stock and the duck, plum and port gravy out of the freezer) to make a nice thick gravy, and simmer gently for 15 minutes or so.  If you’re not cooking the pie immediately, leave this to cool.
  6. Divide the pastry in half and cover the bottom of the pie dish.  If you want, you can blind bake this but I didn’t bother.  Add your filling, roll out the remaining pastry and place on top, pressing the edges of the pastry together.  Put in the fridge if not cooking immediately.
  7. Brush with a beaten egg, and cook in a preheated oven at 180OC/350OF/gas mark 4 until the filling is piping hot and the pastry is golden brown.

Celeriac Dauphinoise

You may have seen these strange knobbly roots in the supermarket recently.  It’s in season at the moment, and one of my favourite winter veg, because it’s quite light compared to some others.  I’ve used it in place of potatoes in this gratin, and it takes the place of the ‘meat’ part of this vegetarian dish.  It tastes like a cross between mild celery and swede.  This is very easy to do, and very easy to scale up as well (we ate the whole thing between the two of us, but you would need smaller portions if eating as a side dish rather than the main element).  It works just as well with other root veg too (and of course, potatoes).  Add other herbs, garlic and cheese to taste.

Love love

Gemma xx

Celeriac Dauphinoise

1 small bulb celeriac
1 small red onion
Dried thyme
Freshly ground black pepper
Double cream
Grated cheese (optional)


  1. Peel the celeriac and slice as thinly as possible.  Slice the onion very thinly as well.
  2. Layer the celeriac and onion in a small casserole dish and sprinkle thyme, salt and pepper between the layers.
  3. Mix the cream with some milk to thin slightly.  Pour very slowly into the casserole dish so that it seeps between the layers.
  4. Grate cheese over the top, if desired.
  5. Bake at 180OC /350OF / Gas mark 4.  I baked mine for 30 – 45 minutes because I like it still to be quite crunchy, but leave for longer if you want the vegetable to soften.
  6. Serve as a side dish or with roasted vegetables and gravy.  A Man did roasted red pepper, onion squash and cabbage.

I really need to get better at this photo taking thing. It was far more appetising than this makes it look, honest!

Duck Soup

No, I’m not talking about the 1930s Marx Brothers film, but rather the soup I’ve made out of the duck carcass from last weekend.  Very simple process, and it made the kitchen smell like spring rolls 🙂  It doesn’t actually have any meat in it other than the stock, but a decent stock can change a soup from mediocre to full-bodied and delicious.  If you wanted to do a vegetarian/vegan version then a vegetable stock would suffice, or a chicken stock if you don’t have a handy duck carcass lying around.  I served it with some pretty successful experimental rolls.

Gemma xx

Duck Soup

For the Stock:

1 duck carcass, including giblets if you have them (but minus liver)




Large bunch of fresh tarragon


  1. Place all your ingredients in a pan and cover with cold water.  You can also add any other odds and ends you fancy at this point – different herbs and veg etc.  I’ve been putting all my veg peelings into the stock bag, and have also added the peelings from the soup veg.  I also put in some fat from a steak which I cooked the other day, as I figured I might as well do something with it!  A small word of warning – cabbage and broccoli etc aren’t very good for stock as they tend to overpower everything else.

    Yup, it looks exactly how a pan full of stuff no one wanted to eat ought to look.

  2. Bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer for several hours for everything to leach its flavours into the cooking water.  Go back to it every now and again and top up the water if it’s looking low.  If (like me!) you put in too much water, leave the lid off to reduce the liquid slightly.  I ended up decanting it into my slow cooker, as I figured it would probably be a bit more energy efficient that way.
  3. Once it has been going for a few hours and looks like a gloppy pan full of brown liquid, strain it into a clean pan or bowl.  Leave the liquid to cool and put it in the fridge until required.  You can throw away all the stuff if you like, but I like to pick through mine for any salvageable meat and veg and add this to the soup or mash it all into a paste to thicken the stock and add more flavour.
  4. Once cooled, if your stock-making has been a runaway success, it should have turned gelatinous, and any fat will have floated to the top and set (especially if it’s been in the fridge).  You can skim the fat off to make your dinner slightly healthier.  If the stock is still quite watery, try reducing it on top of the stove before use, otherwise it won’t be particularly flavoursome.

For the Soup:


Small Swede

1/2 Squash (usually I would use butternut, but seasonal Onion Squash are currently on offer, so I’ve used that instead)

Sweet Pepper


Ground coriander, paprika, cinnamon, salt

Olive oil

  1. Chop up your veg and place in a pan with the spices.  Leave the chilli whole.  I also don’t bother de-seeding or peeling the squash, but you can do if you want.  Drizzle with olive oil, and mix it around to get a good distribution off all the yumminess.
  2. Roast at 180OC / 350OF / Gas Mark 4 for around 30 minutes, or until everything is nice and browned on the edges and soft in the middle.  This can be done in advance of making the soup (I roasted everything at the same time as making the stock and then put the veg in the fridge once cooled).

    It may look burnt in places, but I like to think of it as caramelised 🙂

  3. Put all the veg except the chilli into a saucepan and add enough stock to cover.  Warm through and then blend with a hand blender until smooth.  Add more stock as required until the desired consistency is achieved (I like mine thick and substantial), and season with salt, pepper and the roasted chilli to taste – I added about half to mine.
  4. WARNING!  Don’t do what I did and leave it to warm up on the hob without a lid on and wander off.  Cue a very embarrassed Gemma, A Man being quite amused and a kitchen covered in soup (including all the dishes I’d just washed up)  😦
  5. The experimental rolls were made by adding some roasted red pepper and tiny cubes of halloumi to an ordinary white bread recipe, and baking on the pizza stone.  I’d definitely do it again, though maybe cook them a bit longer next time.

My freezer inventory

A Man and I went shopping earlier.  I always have this problem with food shopping, in that I can never quite marry up what I’ve already got at home with what I want to cook this week, and which other things I need to buy to achieve the latter goal.  Part of the problem (although I don’t really see it as such) is that I work in a supermarket, meaning I’m not only in the shop all the time, but I also get discount and get the opportunity to constantly browse the reduced sections, so a lot of the stuff in there is only in the freezer in the first place because it didn’t cost much.

I decided to write a list of what’s in my freezer, and it turns out that I’ve essentially been hoarding food.  Some of it I am planning to use during the week (in which case, I’m not quite sure how we managed to spend quite as much as we did today, particularly given that we bought no meat…) so you may well get to have a look at what happens to the poor stuff which has been squashed haphazardly into freezer bags and somehow managed to find a space amongst all the other rubbish that’s in there…

I’ve taken my duck carcass out to make stock this evening, so soup is on the cards for tomorrow.  As for the rest of the week, the plan includes a beef and mushroom pie and some kind of fish risotto or pie.

Love love

Gemma xx

Meat and Fish

Duck liver
6 Pork and Glastonbury Ale Sausages
Braising Steak
Cooked Prawns
Cooked Mussels
Smoked Salmon
Pouting Fillets
2 whole Gurnard
Large-ish joint of Salmon


1 portion Pork Goulash
Fish Cake mix
2 portions Lentil and Bacon Soup
2 portions Veggie Curry
2 portions Lamb Tagine
Duck, port and plum gravy


1 packet of Salami and Chianti filled pasta
Ice Lollies
Fish Fingers
Loaf of bread
6 Crumpets

Christmas Cake

Fruit cake lasts for AGES and home-made Christmas cake has so much more body than the stuff you can buy.  If you’d prefer not to use alcohol then this is fine, but they won’t last for anywhere near as long.  I started mine on 9th October, and hopefully by the time Christmas comes round it will have matured into something beautiful.  Not sure yet how I’ll decorate it – I’ll probably post when it’s finished.  UPDATE – The cakes (both the big one and all the mini ones) have now been decorated, somewhat unconventionally…

Gemma xx

Christmas Cake
Adapted from Levi Roots’ Caribbean Christmas Cake, Caribbean Food Made Easy

Mine sunk a little in the middle, but I'm not too worried about it - I'll try to cover it up when decorating!

Roughly Chopped Dried Fruit:
5 oz (140g) Prunes
4 oz (110g) Dates
2 oz (55g) Glacé Cherries
3 oz (85g) Dried Figs
13 ½ oz (380g) Mixed Dried Fruit
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
½ pint (300ml) Dark rum plus extra for soaking

Wet Ingredients:
9 oz (250g) Softened Butter
7 oz (200g) Dark brown soft Sugar
4 free-range eggs

Double Sifted Dry Ingredients:
9 oz (250g) Self-raising Flour
1 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Ground Ginger
1 tsp Ground Cinnamon
1 tsp Mixed Spice

Roughly Chopped Nuts:
2 oz (55g) Blanched Almonds
1 oz (30g) Hazelnuts
1 oz (30g) Walnuts

  1. Mix the dried fruit and rum in a bowl with a lid, and soak for at least 24 hours, and up to a week.  Stir occasionally throughout the soaking process.
  2. Preheat the oven to 160OC/325OF/gas mark 3.  Line a deep 7 inch/18cm round tin with a double thickness of greaseproof paper.
  3. Cream together the butter and sugar.  Add the eggs one at a time.  Beat in the dry ingredients.
  4. Add the nuts, fruit and soaking liquor.  Add a couple of spoons of rum if the mixture is very thick.
  5. Spoon into the tin and bake for around 2 hours.  Cover with foil if necessary.  Cake is cooked when a skewer inserted into the centre comes out clean.
  6. While the cake is warm, poke it full of holes with a skewer and spoon over 4 spoons of rum.  Wrap in foil and store somewhere cool and dry.
  7. Check the cake once a week, and continue to feed with rum.  Turn it occasionally, to ensure even distribution of alcohol.  Decorate close to Christmas.

I had a little too much batter for my cake tin, so also made some mini cakes in silicone muffin cases.