Monthly Archives: November 2011

Mediterranean Inspired Chicken with Stuffed Peppers

Hello again


I wanted to do something quick for dinner tonight, given that I’ve been up since stupid-o’ clock and left to get the train at 6.30 this morning.  I was absolutely not in the mood to go to work today!  This wasn’t quite as quick as maybe intended, but it wasn’t onerous, and tasted nice and fresh – it’s actually pretty good for you!  The stuffed peppers are obviously also the quintessential “my veggie friend’s coming for dinner what do I cook?!” food, but I think they’re just as good as a side dish, provided that the peppers you use are quite small.


The chicken’s been in my freezer since I portioned a whole chicken a couple of weeks ago (thinking about maybe posting some kind of tutorial next time I do this).  I don’t often cook chicken breasts whole, as they have a propensity to dry out whilst you try and ensure that the middle’s cooked properly, but this seemed to work quite well.  The cous cous was very similar to this one, except that I used some ham stock out of my freezer tonight, which worked nicely with the other flavours.


I’ve bought Schwartz Cook Art herb and spice mixes quite a few times and have to admit to being quite a big fan (although they’re pretty expensive, so it’s only ever when they’re on offer that I get them!), particularly of the cocoa nib chilli mix.  Today I used the basil, sun-dried tomato and apple one, though clearly any herbs you’ve got would be more than adequate!


Love love

Gemma xx


Mediterranean Inspired Chicken

I'd almost go as far as to say that tonight's meal has verged on paying attention to the laws of presentation!

Skin-on Chicken breasts
Herbs to flavour the chicken
Whole sweet peppers, with ‘lids’ cut out and pith and seeds removed
Cooked Cous Cous
Sweet potato, peeled and diced
Tomato sauce – this was made really simply, by reducing a tin of chopped tomatoes with a few cloves of garlic, a splash of Worcester sauce and a glug of balsamic vinegar

  1. Place the peppers in a medium-hot oven, to start cooking.
  2. Peel back the skin of the chicken breasts and rub with herbs.  Replace the skin over the top.
  3. Remove the peppers from the oven, fill with cous cous, replace the ‘lids’ and return to the oven.
  4. Brush a griddle with a little olive oil and heat on the hob.  Once hot, place the breasts in, skin-side down.  Turn occasionally and cook until the chicken is no longer pink in the middle, and the skin is crispy.
  5. Microwave the sweet potato with a splash of water until soft.  Mash once cooked.  Add some freshly grated nutmeg if desired.
  6. Serve as soon as the chicken is cooked through, with the warmed tomato sauce, peppers and sweet potato.

Mussel Linguine

Greetings, lovelies.

It’s been a busy old weekend.  I went up to Oxford to visit what appeared to be the entire universe, and A Man went over to Brighton so much much money was spent and there was a great deal of eating out done.  Back to the grindstone now though, so naturally I had to update this instead of finishing tomorrow’s prep work for school 🙂

I’ve said before that A Man doesn’t like fish, so when he went out for a colleague’s leaving do last week, I took the opportunity to use the mussels I’d put in the freezer.  Mussels are sweet and a cheap way to eat seafood, so I love them.  Wrote this up at the time but for some reason I didn’t post it.  Don’t make the mistake I did and over-flour, otherwise the sauce will be incredibly thick!

Much love,

Gemma xx

Mussel Linguine

Served in my beautiful wanky crested Magdalen College bowl. I meant to look into getting college pudding basins while I was in Oxford, but it slipped my mind during all the busy-ness.

Linguine, fettuccine or other pasta
Cooked mussels (if, as I would have preferred, you have raw fresh mussels, clean and de-beard them, then steam in a little white wine and add the cooking broth to your sauce)
Red onion, diced small
Winter squash, diced small
Kale or Cavolo Nero stalks, chopped small
Fish stock (I just used a cube)

  1.  Boil the pasta until cooked.  Meanwhile, Fry the onion, squash and cabbage stalks in olive oil and a little butter until soft.
  2. Add some flour to the vegetables, to form a roux from the oil.
  3. Mix the fish stock with the milk and gradually add to the vegetables until a sauce forms.  It’s important to add it slowly to prevent lumps from forming.  Heat through until the sauce thickens.
  4. Add the peas and mussels just before the end of cooking, for just long enough to heat through to prevent overcooking.
  5. Drain the pasta and mix thoroughly with the sauce.  Serve with a nice glass of white wine (or if, like me, you’re home alone for the night, serve whilst wearing pyjamas, in a bowl to eat on the sofa accompanied by old Disney films).

Restaurant Review – The Mason’s Arms, Warminster

Decided that, as I like to write about food I might as well write about other people’s cooking too.  We went to the Mason’s Arms ( to treat my brother to a meal for his 21st birthday and it did not disappoint.  We moved into Warminster 2 1/2 months ago, and have been going to the pub around once a fortnight for its excellent meat raffle.  We ate there the first time we went in, having chosen it for no particular reason and were really chuffed to have another excuse to eat there.  To be honest, it’s all about the steak!  We were lucky enough a couple of weeks ago to win a free Black Rock in the aforementioned raffle – a nice little bonus considering we’d already planned to eat there yesterday.

The way they serve steak at the Mason’s Arms is a spectacle.  Your meat comes on a “Black Rock” – essentially a superheated lump of granite, designed to cook your steak to its desired done-ness at the table.  Instead of the broad-and-flat steak to which people are accustomed at ordinary pubs, you get what looks like a miniature roasting joint, to prevent it overcooking whilst you eat.

A Man and I both love super-rare beef, and to be honest this is the best way to eat it and ensure that it’s still hot when you do.  The rock stays unbelievably hot throughout your meal, allowing you to take your time over your food instead of wolfing it down (not that my brother seemed to understand that premise…) and to make sure that it’s cooked to perfection.  I particularly enjoyed the last few mouthfuls of my 8 oz ribeye, which had gone beautifully crispy on the bottom, but was still virtually untouched in the middle.  Perfect!

Of course, if you prefer the sacrilege of a well-done steak, it’s perfect for you too – just cut it up into tiny pieces as soon as it arrives and it’ll soon be just as cremated as you like 🙂

The steak is served up with fantastic chips, onion, mushroom and tomato.  Top tip – don’t copy A Man and place half a tomato on the Black Rock and straight into your mouth.  Tomatoes retain heat like a bitch.  Also (as we were discussing last night) don’t lick your plate.  That instant cooking you’ve seen of your steak?  Yeah, that’ll happen to your tongue too…

Quick shout-out for CJ Robbins ( too – the local butcher which supplies the Mason’s with their meat.  Fab local butcher’s which provides great meat.  We’ve won their breakfast pack in the raffle (free range eggs, delicious sausages and thick thick bacon) and I’ve bought some bits from there too – always had great service and great products.

In terms of drinks, there’s lots of traditional ales, some great “rough” ciders (I’m a particular fan of Bristol Port – a dark, almost orange cider which has a faint hint of vinegar about it.  Probably not selling it to you very well!) and we bought a rather nice bottle of Rioja last night.  Staff are lovely and the patrons are pretty friendly too (if somewhat older than we are 🙂 ).  The ladies’ loo contains all sorts of extra little bits like hand cream, hair spray and a hairdryer provided by Helen, which is a nice touch.  All in all, a pub which I anticipate spending a fair amount of time at as long as we’re living here.

Love love

Gemma xx

Savoury Crèpes with Winter Vegetables

I was on my way home from school today and realised I’d not taken anything out the freezer and had NO PLANS FOR MY TEA!  Tragic occurrence.  This recipe arose from my delving into the salad drawer to see which veg we had in (a veritable feast, as it happens, as I only went shopping on Wednesday) and wanting to do a veggie thing as we went out for a meal yesterday and all ate steak (more about that later).

I bought the cavolo nero on a whim as it was reduced to 25p and I’m pleased that I did.  It’s got a firm texture and full cabbage-y flavour which works well as a main vegetable.  I ought to have cooked it for longer, but other than that I’m very pleased with this meal 🙂

Love love

Gemma xx

Savoury Crèpes with Winter Veg

Turns out that A Man's significantly better than I am at taking photos of food.

Sliced leek
Winter squash, diced small
Cavolo nero or chard, stalks and leaves separated and diced small
Grated cheese (I used a mixture of cheddar and grana padano)

  1. Fry the leek, squash and cabbage stalks in olive oil and butter on a medium-low heat until soft.  Add the cabbage leaves and season to taste.
  2. Mix the eggs with the flour in a bowl and gradually add enough milk to make a reasonably thin batter.  I have no idea of the quantities I used – I recommend finding a proper recipe if you’d like to know!
  3. Add salt, pepper and herbs to the batter.  I added lots of dried rosemary and a little sage.  It’s worth pointing out that (if you’re anything like me) you might need a fair amount of seasoning to prevent yourself from anticipating a filling of lemon and sugar!
  4. Heat some olive oil in a frying pan and place some plates in a warm oven.  Ladle the batter into the pan a little at a time, swirl it round and cook the pancakes on both sides until all the batter is used.  Place each pancake on the warmed plate once cooked.
  5. Wrap each crèpe around some veg and cheese.  If you fancy something a bit more moist, make up cheese sauce in place of the grated cheese.
  6. A Man’s old housemate makes these by making the pancakes, stuffing them with ham and cheesy sauce and things and baking them in the oven until warm, similar to cannelloni.  It’s a good alternative to lasagne-style meals.

Sunday lunch with M and M – an experiment in Toffee Apple Soufflés

As people who have had recent contact with me will know, ever since we moved in we’ve been busy virtually every weekend, which has involved a lot of cooking Sunday lunch for family members.  This Sunday was the turn of my Grandad and Step-Nan (affectionately known as M and M for their initials).  Unfortunately I forgot to take a photo of the main course, but to be honest I did very little to make it – four duck breasts, fried skin-side down in a dry pan until the skin was brown and crispy (pouring away the fat as it renders out), browning the other sides and then whacked in the oven for a few minutes at 200 C.  I fried off some thinly sliced red onion in the pan and made a gravy with flour, duck stock from when I portioned the bird, port and plum jam.  Served up with new potatoes, whole chantenay carrots and steamed green beans.  M and M had brought some home made chicken liver paté and bread for starter, which was delicious but I really shouldn’t take credit for!

So lunch was somewhat of a simple affair, but the dessert was an experiment.  When A Man’s dad came to visit last week, he brought cooking apples and eggs from their chickens, so I thought pudding ought really to encompass both of these ingredients.  Hence adapting the Mango, Orange and Lemon Soufflé recipe from my Green and Black’s cookbook to make these soufflés, the toffee aspect developing from the lack of caster sugar in the cupboard and me deciding that it was more appropriate for the time of year to be making toffee apple flavour.  One I’ll be trying again (but hopefully serving up at a time when my step-nan isn’t engaged in playing with my new sewing machine!) and attempting to perfect…  We ended up with some spare, which were actually quite nice both cold and reheated.

Hugs etc.

Gemma xx

Toffee Apple Soufflés
Makes 8 individual soufflés

Please try to ignore the fact that this was a photo of one of my "spare" ones after it had gone cold and sunk. They did rise, I promise!

3 cooking apples, peeled, cored and diced small
1 1/2 oz / 40g unsalted butter
1 1/2 tablespoons flour
4 1/2 fl oz / 125ml milk
6 eggs, separated
1 1/2 oz /  40g dark brown soft sugar

  1. Place the apple in a microwaveable bowl with a little water and microwave on high for a couple of minutes until soft.  Mash with a fork and leave to cool.
  2. Melt the butter on a low heat on the hob.  Brush 8 ramekins with melted butter and place on a baking tray.
  3. Stir the flour into the remaining butter and beat until it has all been absorbed.  Return to a low heat until it starts to froth.
  4. Whisk the milk into the roux gradually and cook over a medium heat until thickened.  Remove from heat and cool.
  5. Beat the egg yolks into the milk one at a time and leave to cool completely.  Add the apple to the roux.
  6. Preheat the oven to 200 C / 400 F / Gas Mark 6.  Whisk the egg whites to the soft peak stage.  Gradually add the sugar and whisk until the meringue is firm.  Gently fold the meringue into the apple mixture.
  7. Fill the ramekins and bake for 8 – 10 minutes.  Do not open the oven door in this time.
  8. Carefully remove from oven and serve immediately (on plates!  The ramekins will be damned hot!) with clotted cream.
  9. Bask in the glory of having served soufflés for dessert.

Lamb Tagine with Jewelled Cous Cous

Good evening, lovelies.  I actually wrote this on Thursday night, but have only just got round to putting the photos on 🙂

A Man and I both had work today, so we had a freezer meal – lamb tagine which I made a few weeks ago.  I’ll try and remember what was in it!  I served it with cous cous, which I love!  It’s simple to cook, easy to flavour and delicious hot or cold (I made up a huge batch so that I could have it in my lunch box later in the week).  It’s just important to season it well – use a combination of a stock, along with some dried fruit and nuts or seeds to give it some different textures.  I bought a duck again during the week, portioned it and made stock, so used some duck stock for the cous cous, but chicken or vegetable stock is absolutely fine.  Had I not had a pan of delicious duck stock on the hob, I’d have used a chicken or veggie stock cube.

This isn’t technically a tagine, the name referring to the type of cooking pot used, which condenses the steam from the stew back into it.  However, it uses the same sort of techniques, and when it tastes this yummy, I don’t think it matters too much whether you used the right pot or not!  As the lamb is very sweet, I made the cous cous with lemon juice to give it enough of an acidic tang to cut through the stew.

Sumac and safflower are spices I hadn’t used until my mother-out-law brought us a load of spices back from a holiday in Turkey.  Safflower, though giving a very pretty yellow colour and strands to the cous cous (similarly to saffron) has virtually no taste, and is therefore used in this dish for purely aesthetic reasons.  Sumac, on the other hand, is quite pungent.  It has a sour, bitter, slightly salty citrus flavour and is definitely one I’ll be looking out for once we run out!

Much love,

Gemma xx

Lamb Tagine and Jewelled cous cous

Yet another beautifully out of focus image from the Gemma school of photography...

Lamb scrag and neck fillet
Tinned tomatoes and tomato purée
Cinnamon, mint and other Morrocan herbs and spices

Cous cous
Lemon zest and juice
Red Onion
Nuts (I had walnuts and hazelnuts left over from my Christmassy baking a couple of weeks ago)
Dried apricots
Dried mint

  1. Gently fry the onion in olive oil until soft, then add the lamb and brown.  Add the spices, and fry for a couple of minutes.
  2. Add the tinned tomatoes and purée and stir well.  Fill the empty tin with water and add this to the pan.
  3. Add the vegetables and dates, stir well and leave to simmer on a low heat for about 45 minutes.  If you prefer, this can be left in the oven on a low heat, adding more liquid as necessary.  The lamb should break down and become meltingly tender.  If you like big chunks of meat in your stew, then keep a close eye on it and take it off of the heat once the meat is cooked through.  However, what I particularly liked about this tagine was that the lamb had broken down and permeated its flavour throughout.  The scrag will have a bone in, so you may like to remove it and strip the meat from the bone back into the stew before serving.
  4. Roughly chop the nuts, and fry in a dry pan for a couple of minutes until toasted.  Add some olive oil and gently fry the sliced onion, lemon zest and apricot.  Add some sumac to the pan, fry for a couple of minutes and take off of the heat.
  5. Mix the safflower and mint to the cous cous in a bowl.  Mix the lemon juice with hot stock and pour over the cous cous.  Cover with a lid or plate to steam the cous cous.
  6. Leave the cous cous to cook for 5 – 10 minutes.  Stir to separate the grains and try a little to test whether it is cooked, replacing the lid if not, and adding more hot water if necessary.  Once cooked, stir in the onion and nut mix and serve with the tagine.

Eating Dog for Dinner

We had A Man’s dad and his wife round for lunch yesterday, and given that I was at work until 2, he cooked (again!  I’m getting really quite lazy!) the most fantastic roast pork.  His dad has pigs, and brought the joint with him – part of the pig called Dog which was slaughtered a few weeks ago.  I know a lot of people are squeamish about munching down something you knew when it was alive, but it’s really important not to detach yourself from where food (especially meat) actually comes from, and providing you originally planned to keep the animals for food it’s incredibly rewarding.  Here’s a picture of the fabulous roast pork with home-made apple sauce, excellent crispy roast potatoes and sweet potatoes, swede and carrot mash, cauliflower cheese, crackling and home-made gravy (yeah, I know – the ‘non-diet’ didn’t start until today!) and what I did with the leftovers.

One final word, in memory of a delicious pig.  Cheers Dog – you tasted good!


Gemma xx

This photo cannot convey how utterly perfect this roast was! I think A Man was pretty chuffed with himself, given that he insisted on taking the photo of his creation 🙂

Pork and Stuff

There’s a long running joke in my family that when A Man was at university, all he ever cooked himself was “Pork and stuff” – the ‘stuff’ originally consisting of a white sauce, and later coming to mean anything which happened to be served with pork.  This stew is today’s version which was the result of my slinging a whole load of leftovers into the slow cooker.

  1. Chop the roast pork into fairly large chunks and place in a slow cooker pot or oven-proof dish/pan with anything else which was left from roast dinner.  I put in the juices from the meat plate, gravy, apple sauce and cauli cheese.  I also added the carrot and celery from the stock.
  2. Mix in some stock of your choice.  I happened to have cooked up a couple of gammon shanks yesterday evening in order to have cold meat for sandwiches during the week instead of buying ham, which resulted in the most fantastic, concentrated ham stock the consistency of the jelly in a pork pie.  This was done in the same way as when I made soup a little while ago, and to the cooking water I had added peppercorns, carrot, celery and the peelings from the apples used to make the sauce for dinner.  I’ve frozen the rest for later use.
  3. Cook in the slow cooker on ‘high’ for 3 – 4 hours, or in the oven at a fairly low heat.  Obviously, you don’t have to worry too much as everything’s already cooked, but if you leave it for quite a while the meat becomes beautifully juicy and tender and falls apart as you eat it.
  4. When nearly ready to serve, stir and add some cornflour mixed with cold water if required, to thicken the gravy.  I served this stew with boiled new potatoes and some fairly elderly steamed cabbage which I found lurking in the fridge in need of being used up.

Unfortunately this is somewhat on the beige side. It tasted good, honest! Clearly I will never find employment taking photographs for those 'classy' restaurants that have pictures of the (invariably fried) food all over their menus...