Monthly Archives: February 2012

I’ll be back soon!

Hey there

Just a quick one to say that I won’t be blogging for a couple of weeks as it’s go go go for me.  Exams, graduation, holiday, birthday meals, American exchange students, more birthdays.  The list seems to just keep going.  It won’t be much longer until I’m clogging the internet with more recipes people don’t really want to read though 😉

Much love

Gemma xx


Roast Beef with Garlic Mushroom Stuffing

Happy Sunday, everybody

A Man and I are going on holiday next week (hooray!!!) and so made quite a specific shopping list before buying food yesterday to make sure we didn’t have loads left in the fridge.  We decided we’d have a roast today, and I could make soup tomorrow, my intention being to make stock from the bones.  Somehow we came back with a boneless rump of beef.  Not quite sure how, but never mind!

You won’t get a beautiful, easy-to-carve joint after stuffing it like this unless you’re a wizard at butchers’ knots and have a much longer joint that we did (ours was a tiny 2-ounce piece, but that suits us fine) but you should get one that’s lovely and moist and flavoursome.  The advantage we did have by having a little joint was that it doesn’t take long to cook, and you can chuck your potatoes in with the meat right at the beginning.  I forgot to take a photo until half-way through the meal, so close your eyes and visualise roast beef and stuffing.

The stuffing would be lovely as part of a vegetarian meal (obviously without the parma ham and lamb dripping!) stuffed in peppers or courgettes.  Yum yum yum!

Love love

Gemma xx

Roast Beef with Garlic Mushroom Stuffing

Top Rump Joint
1 onion, diced
Closed cup mushrooms, diced
2 fat cloves garlic, crushed
Fresh Thyme
2 rashers bacon or parma ham, diced
Breadcrumbs, made from 2 slices of bread
2 eggs, beaten
Fresh black pepper
2 onions, sliced in half
Small carrots
Sugarsnap peas
Yorkshire pudding batter
1 beef stock cube
1 dessertspoon tomato purée
Plain flour

  1. Fry the onion, mushrooms and garlic on a low heat until soft.  I used lamb dripping from the crispy lamb the other day, but any fat would be fine.
  2. Stir through the bacon, thyme and breadcrumbs and season to taste.  You probably won’t need much salt because of the bacon.
  3. Remove the stuffing from the heat and stir through the eggs until it forms a kind of soft dough.
  4. If your meat is wrapped around with string or elastic, remove it (mine had an elastic net around it, which I kept whole to put back around the meat after stuffing).  Make a cut along the grain of the meat to around 2 thirds of the way through.  Make another cut at rights angles to the first to around 2 thirds of the way through.  Repeat this as many times as possible and open out the meat into a single long strip.  Spread stuffing over the inside of the meat, then roll up again.  Tie string around the joint, or re-wrap with elastic to keep it in shape.
  5. Preheat the oven as hot as it will go.  Place the onion halves on a roasting tin, with the meat on top.  If the joint is very lean, spread some fat over the top (again, I used lamb dripping).
  6. Take a pan of cold water and set on a medium-high heat.  Add the potatoes and swede to par-boil (I never bother to peel my roasties any more, but you can if you like).  Once the water has come to the boil, leave it on the heat for 4 minutes.  Drain the veg (keep hold of the water for gravy later on) and place in the roasting tin around the joint.  Put it in the oven for 15 minutes at the high temperature, then turn it down to 190OC/375OF/Gas mark 5 for 15 minutes per pound for rare meat.  Add another 15 minutes to the total cooking time for medium, or half an hour for well done meat.  Baste the meat and veg a couple of times throughout cooking.  Don’t be scared to take it out early if it looks ready – meat cooks at different speeds not only based on its weight, but its shape too.  It’ll keep warm out of the oven under tin foil.
  7. If your carrots are nice and young, you don’t need to worry about peeling them.  Simply boil them whole for 10-15 minutes, or until al dente.  I cooked them until nearly done immediately after par-boiling the potatoes and swede (in the same water), then removed and cooled them.  I then steamed them with the sugarsnaps to heat them through around 5 minutes before serving.
  8. Once your meat is cooked, remove from the oven and cover with tin foil to rest for 15 – 20 minutes.  This way, it will be more tender when served.  Transfer your roasted veg into a serving dish and replace in the oven to keep warm.
  9. Heat a little fat from the roasting tin in a yorkshire pudding tray until sizzling, then add your batter.  Cook until puffed up (around 20 minutes).
  10. Pour out all except 2 tablespoons of the fat from the roasting tray, leaving the meat juices and the onion halves.  Mix the stock cube and tomato purée with the veg water.
  11. Place the roasting tin on a medium hob.  Squash the onions down and add some flour a tablespoon at a time, stirring well until the fat has been absorbed.  Gradually add the beef stock a little at a time, stirring well after each until you have a gravy of the desired volume and thickness.  You can add a little red wine to the gravy if desired.
  12. Carve the beef as thinly as possible and serve with the stuffing, roast and steamed veg, yorkshire puddings and lots of gravy.

Prawny Thing

Morning morning

A Man’s mum and auntie came to visit on Friday and as I’d had an exam in the morning I didn’t much feel like cooking, so we just got a ‘takeaway’ from the supermarket.  Yesterday, however, we made up for it by cooking Prawny Thing.  A friend of my parents goes round for dinner and wine every Saturday night and Prawny Thing (yes, that is the dish’s official name) is something my mum cooks for them all the time.  It’s fresh-tasting and luxurious without being too onerous to make, and is her friend’s favourite.  It’s never quite the same, but the main ingredients are prawns, creme fraiche, lemon, chilli and ginger.  After that, it’s quite readily adaptable.

I’m fairly amazed we’ve not had this for dinner since we moved in six months ago (shock!) but A Man’s interpretation of it last night more than made up for it.  Yum!

Love love

Gemma xx

Prawny Thing

King prawns, raw or cooked and defrosted if frozen
1 red onion, diced small
Root ginger, peeled and grated on a microplane
1 or 2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 red chilli, sliced finely
Lemon zest and juice
Courgette, chopped
Sugarsnap peas or mange tout
Creme fraiche
White wine or cider
New potatoes or tagliatelle  to serve

  1. Fry the onion, ginger and garlic on a low heat in butter or olive oil until the onion begins to soften.  Add the chilli, lemon zest and courgette.
  2. Once the courgette has started to soften, stir in the creme fraiche.  We ended up using a whole tub (it was only a very small tub and was low fat!) but use enough to have a reasonable amount of sauce.
  3. Stir through lemon juice and wine or cider to taste.  We used the juice of half a big lemon and a small wine glass of cider.  Reduce the sauce slightly.
  4. Stir through the sugarsnaps and prawns to heat through.  If you are using cooked prawns, only have them on the heat long enough to warm through, so they stay nice and big and juicy.  If your prawns are raw, cook them for just long enough that they’re pink all the way through.
  5. Serve with new potatoes or tagliatelle.

Sausage and Chestnut Tarts


It’s finally pay day tomorrow!  Thank goodness for that!  But, for this evening, I was still restricted to what was in the freezer.  As it turns out, it made a fairly cohesive meal and was so quick and simple to put together (just what I needed after a day of boring boring revision).

This was by no means perfect.  The tarts were a little on the dry side.  That could have been remedied by adding some kind of pizza-esque tomato sauce, or (what would have been my preference) more cheese.  Something like raclette or emmental would have been perfect, but all I had was an old piece of grana padano so I had to make do with that.  Far from ideal, but it did the job.

A little version of these tarts would be great as a starter, and obviously the filling/topping is infinitely variable, depending on your particular tastes/occasion/budget etc.  For the time being, this did me nicely.

Much love

Gemma xx

Sausage and Chestnut Tarts

Ready-made puff pastry
1 good quality sausage per diner
Cooked chestnuts, crumbled slightly
1 onion, very thinly sliced
1 tomato, sliced
Fresh thyme leaves
Olive oil

Mixed salad to serve

  1. Roll the pastry out to a rectangle and cut one square per diner.  Around 1cm in from the edge, score a square in the pastry.  Bake the pastry squares for around 5 minutes to start them puffing up.
  2. Cut each sausage into  about 6 pieces.  Remove the pastry from the oven and push down the central square.  Layer the onion, tomato, chestnuts, thyme and sausage in the pastry cases, season and top with some cheese and olive oil.
  3. Bake until the pastry has risen and turned golden brown, the sausage has cooked through and the cheese has melted.  Serve with a well dressed mixed salad.

Sweet Potato and Chick Pea Baked Falafel

Happy Wednesday, everyone

I’ve been eating rather a lot of meat recently – an occurrence which would have been fairly novel a few months ago.  Whilst at university, I was almost vegetarian, eating meat around once or twice a week (or often not at all).  However, A Man is rather fond of his animal-based products, and as such my consumption has increased exponentially.  I try to buy high-welfare meat where possible and perhaps one day, when I’m earning real money, I’ll be able to afford to follow in the footsteps of Jenny Lau (author of the excellent meatinabox blog) and order from meat specialists.  For the time being, the supermarket will have to do.  I do, however, enjoy eating vegetarian dishes and try to cook them on a semi-regular basis, hence tonight’s dinner.

Originally, I had planned to make a chickpea curry, but have made loads of curries recently and am somewhat bored of them, so had this idea instead.  I think of falafel as being the vegetarian answer to meatballs, and I love the stuff.  This recipe is nothing like authentic, but I like to think that my spin on the basic idea has been successful.  You can add what you like to the dough in terms of flavourings.  This time I went for a curry theme, but before I’ve used herbs, roasted red pepper and other bits and pieces I happened to have in the kitchen at the time; experiment!  They’re full of protein, and incredibly filling so a great alternative to have with your dinner.

Much love

Gemma xx

Sweet Potato and Chick Pea Baked Falafel

Another meal dished up on a side plate to trick myself into thinking I was having more dinner than I was. I needn't have worried - the falafel's so filling, I'm stuffed!

4 sweet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1 can chickpeas, drained
1 dessertspoon tahini (sesame paste)
1 tablespoon curry powder
2 tsp cumin
2 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp onion powder
2 tsp baking powder
4 – 6 heaped tablespoons wholewheat flour

Tomato sauce and cous cous to serve

  1. Place the sweet potato in a microwaveable bowl with a drop of water, and microwave until soft.
  2. Mash the sweet potato and chickpeas until fairly smooth (it doesn’t matter too much if you have a few lumps here and there).
  3. Add the tahini, spices and baking powder and stir really well to thoroughly combine.  Mix in the flour one spoonful at a time.  You should end up with a thick, very sticky dough/batter.  It is easier to work with if you chill it before handling.
  4. Divide the dough into around 16 pieces, and roll into balls with your hands.  Place on a baking tray and bake at 180OC/350OF/Gas mark 4 until crispy on the outside and hot on the inside.  I think mine were in for around 20 minutes.
  5. Serve with cous cous and a tomato sauce.  I made my cous cous with vegetable stock and fried onion, sunflower seeds, stem ginger and sharon fruit.  To make the tomato sauce, I fried some onion, diced swede, garlic and chilli, added a tin of chopped tomatoes and some tomato purée, reduced and seasoned.

Crispy Chinese-style Breast of Lamb

Hello hello hello

As I mentioned the other day, money is scarce this week, and as part of our budget food shop last weekend I picked up 300g of lamb breast for 69p.  I’d not cooked breast of lamb before, but have had experience of attempting to eat a rolled breast roast which clearly hadn’t gone very well.  Beside the fact that we really didn’t have enough for a roast, I wanted to do something different with it and I do declare this meal to be one of the favourite things I’ve cooked in a very long time!  I’d even go so far as to hazard it being restaurant quality *blows own trumpet*  It’s time-consuming, in the fact that the meat needs low slow cooking, and there are several elements to the dish, but the whole thing can be prepared in advance and the final cook through only takes 5 minutes, which is perfect if you don’t quite know when your other half will be home from work.

You end up straining a huge amount of fat off of this dish, but don’t despair – anything you strain off isn’t going into you!  If possible, the best thing to do would probably be to braise the lamb the day before cooking the stir-fry, refrigerate the broth and simply spoon off the solidified fat from the top the following day.  However, I did it all in one afternoon, so it’s perfectly fine to do so.  To counteract the richness of the lamb, you need to keep the stir fried veg as simple as possible, with no sauce and a sliced chilli to cut through the meat and its sauce.  I highly recommend trying this dish out.  I worked it out as costing about £1 for 2 portions, though even if the lamb and asparagus I used had been full price it would only have come to around £2 altogether.  Definitely worth a shot, even if it doesn’t go 100% to plan!

Much love

Gemma xx

Crispy Chinese-style Breast of Lamb with Stir Fried Vegetables

This was one of the most perfect dinners I've cooked in a long while. Perfect balance of flavours, perfectly cooked, perfect portion size. And of course I'll never be able to replicate it...

300g lamb breast
Chinese 5 spice
1 Clove Garlic
Dried Galangal (or root ginger if you can’t find galangal)
1 tsp Brown Sugar
1 tablespoon Soy Sauce
1 tablespoon Sake
1 tablespoon Tomato Purée
1 Chicken Stock Cube
1 onion, sliced
2 dessert spoons Honey

For the Stir Fry
1 onion
1 yellow pepper
1/2 courgette
4 asparagus spears
1 red chilli
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
Noodles or rice to serve

  1. Score the skin of the lamb and rub generously with 5 spice powder.  Slice the ginger and galangal finely and push into the scores, all over the meat.  Mix together the sugar, soy sauce and sake and sit the lamb in it to marinade, overnight if possible.
  2. Placed the onion in the bottom of a casserole dish and lay the lamb on top.  Dissolve the stock cube in the marinade, and add the tomato purée.  Pour this over the lamb, with enough hot water to cover the meat.  Cover and cook at 180OC/350OF/Gas mark 4 for around 3 hours.
  3. Remove from the oven, remove the lamb from the broth and leave to cool separately.  If possible, refrigerate the broth until the fat rises to the top and sets.  Remove as much of the fat as possible, and place the broth in a small pan with the honey.
  4. Pull the lamb apart with your fingers, discarding any bones and place the shreds in a cold, dry frying pan.
  5. Chop the onion, pepper, courgette and asparagus and place in a cold lidded wok with the sesame oil.  Stir well to completely coat the veg.  Slice the chilli very finely and add to the veg, removing the seeds.
  6. Once you are ready to serve, warm through the lamb cooking broth on a low heat.  Stir-fry the veg, placing the lid on at intervals to steam it.  Heat the lamb first on a high heat, and then on a medium-low heat, until all of the fat has rendered from the meat.  The lamb will go crispy quite quickly, so keep a close eye on it as well as continuing to stir the veg and the broth.
  7. Remove the lamb shreds from the fat and drain well.  Dish up the rice or noodles, topped with the veg, followed by the lamb and drizzle the broth over the top of the lamb.  Delicious!

Anniversary Venison Stew

Greetings, individuals

It’s A Man and my 6 year-anniversary today.  At least, the anniversary of when we started seeing one another.  The one we celebrate ‘properly’ is in July, and marks both when we met and got engaged (and, after next year, our wedding day).  We had no plans and have had a lazy day reading, punctuated by spaghetti on toast and a somewhat more adventurous venison stew for dinner.

We bought the venison when it was on offer a few weeks ago and stuck it in the freezer.  The recipe is loosely based on one in the Ballymaloe Cookery Course book, except for being heavily based around what we had in the cupboards.  According to Ms Allen, as venison is a lean meat it benefits from being ‘larded and barded’; the former referring to the meat being cooked with the fat of another cut and the latter to the meat being wrapped around with some fatty meat (often bacon).  As I had been intending to cook this dish, I reserved the fat and bones leftover from Friday’s Oxtail stew as there was still plenty of cooking left in them (the bones intended to add to the flavour of the stock).  However, unsmoked bacon or lardons are what is recommended in the book.  Mine also includes chestnuts, which were recommended by my mum.  Any cooked chestnuts would be fine for this – roast your own if you like.  Mine were ready-roasted and frozen, defrosted before use.

Much love

Gemma xx

Venison Stew

They might look like baby onions, but I promise they were chestnuts! In hindsight, perhaps bowls would have been a better idea for this one!

300g diced venison
1 small glass red wine
(optional) 2 – 3 tablespoons whisky (I used some raspberry whisky I’ve had on the go, but plain would do)
Fresh thyme stalks
1 medium onion, sliced
2 tablespoons olive oil

Bacon/Lardons/other fatty meat
Seasoned flour
Carrots, chopped
2 cloves garlic, sliced
Beef stock
100g cooked chestnuts

  1. Mix the wine, whisky, herbs, onions and oil in a bowl and add the venison.  Marinade for several hours, preferably at least overnight.
  2. Fry the lardons in a medium-hot pan, until the fat begins to run and the meat to brown.  Place the meat in a slow-cooker bowl or oven-proof dish.
  3. Remove the venison from the marinade and coat in seasoned flour.  Fry in the bacon fat until it has started to brown.  Add to the slow-cooker pot.
  4. Remove the onions from the marinade and fry with the carrots and garlic in the bacon fat until the onion has started to soften.  Add to the slow cooker pot.
  5. Deglaze the pan with the remaining marinade.  Pour into the slow-cooker pot.  Warm enough beef stock to cover the venison and add to the pot.  Stir everything well and cook on ‘low’ for around 4 hours (or in the oven on a low heat).
  6. Add the chestnuts to the pot near the end of cooking to heat through thoroughly.  Serve the stew with swede and onion mash and steamed vegetables (we had asparagus again).  The gravy is quite thin, but incredibly flavoursome – mix it with the mash to mop it all up.