Monthly Archives: March 2012

Leek and Potato Soup “Vichyssoise”


Having made a heap of ham stock the other day and having bought very cheap leeks and potatoes, last night’s dinner was a no-brainer.  It’s not an especially summery soup but if you fancy you can eat it cold as a vichyssoise if the weather’s just too nice to be eating warm soup.  We had it hot, but only due to the fact that I left it too late to cook and to cool.  I pretty much followed the recipe in the New Covent Garden Soup Book, a great little recipe book with lots of different soup inspirations; some (like this one) quite traditional, and others much more unusual.

You can easily make this dish by using vegetable stock or water, and vegan by skipping the dairy.

Love love

Gemma xx

Leek and Potato Soup

1 small onion
3 leeks, cleaned
2 medium floury potatoes
About 1 pint stock or water
2 waxy potatoes
Milk, cream or fromage frais

  1. Slice the onion and two of the leeks finely.  Gently fry on a low heat for around 10 minutes, until soft.
  2. Dice the floury potatoes and add to the leeks.  Fry for another 5-10 minutes or so until soft.
  3. Add the stock or water and bring to the boil for 5-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Remove from the heat and blend the soup.  At this point, taste the soup and season to taste with salt, pepper and herbs (chives are particularly good here).  Add more water if necessary (if serving the soup cold, it will probably need to be thinner than if you’re serving it warm).
  4. Slice the remaining leek and dice the waxy potatoes and stir through the soup.  Cook gently until the potato is cooked.
  5. If serving warm, stir through some milk, cream or fromage frais and serve immediately.  If serving cold, cool and add the dairy once cool.  Chill until needed.

Home Made Quiche

Morning everyone!

I’ve been a bit on the neglectful side recently, but I’ve still been cooking.  On Monday we had our first BBQ of the year (hooray!) as we’d already planned to have sausages for tea and it would have wasted the weather otherwise.  Nothing quite like a good quality meaty sausage in a bun with home made apple chutney!  On Tuesday, A Man was out for dinner.  As you may or may not know, my little brother is a fishmonger and in February he bought me a load of sprats which he proceeded to fillet and which have been sitting in my freezer ever since.  I simply grilled them for a couple of minutes and ate them with lots of salad, beetroot chutney (thank you A Man’s nan!) and horseradish sauce.  Yum!

Having been at work on Tuesday, I wandered round the store to check out the reduced items, went slightly mad and bought 3 gammon shanks.  As the weather’s been fantastic, I had been planning to make a quiche as it can be eaten hot or cold and is great with salad so I decided to make this for Wednesday’s dinner.  I cooked up the gammon exactly the same as when I made ham and lentil soup and stuck about 2 thirds of the cooked meat in the freezer.  I also made several pints of impressively gelatinous stock, which has been frozen.  If you don’t have gammon shanks (or can’t be bothered to cook them) then this recipe would work just as well with bacon lardons or thickly chopped ham.  Besides, you can stick whatever you like in the quiche – broccoli is one of my favourites.

Love love

Gemma xx

Gammon, leek and mushroom Quiche

A Man decided it was funny to pretend that he was having the entire quiche for his dinner. I know. Hilarious...


Washed and sliced leeks
Sliced mushrooms
Chopped gammon
Shortcrust pastry (made with 8oz flour and 2oz each of butter and drippings)
3 whole eggs and 3 egg yolks
Natural fromage frais (most quiche recipes use cream.  I use fromage frais because it’s much healthier and also makes the custard much firmer, which makes slices of quiche much easier to transport for picnics and lunchboxes)
Feta cheese
Salt, pepper and herbs of your choice

  1. Fry the leeks and mushrooms in a little olive oil on a low heat until starting to go soft.  Add the gammon.
  2. Roll the pastry into a 10-12 inch flan dish and blind back at 180OC/350OF/Gas mark 4 until starting to go crispy.
  3. Spoon the leek mix into the pastry case so that it is evenly distributed.
  4. Whisk the egg with around 4 dessert spoons of fromage frais.  Crumble in the feta and season with the salt, pepper and herbs.  Pour over the leek mix and stir slightly to distribute the leeks throughout the custard.
  5. Bake for around 20-30 minutes, until the custard has set and is browned on the top.
  6. Serve either warm or cold with salad, chutney and new potatoes.

Chicken and Chorizo Paella

Good evening

I’ve had a lovely day with A Man today.  The sun has been shining away and we mushed over to Frome this afternoon to complete a murder mystery trail given to me by a friend for my birthday.  I wanted to cook something summery for tea – there was no way I wanted a stew or something after this weather!  Paella isn’t something I cook very often, but it’s nice and simple as it pretty much cooks itself and there’s only one pan to wash up which is ideal!  If you have a ‘proper’ paella dish, it’s great to serve  it at the table and for people to dish up their own, but any type of wide, flat pan will do the trick.

If you like, you can use different meat, and really the rice should include some saffron but that’s not a spice I keep in the cupboard due to its expense, so I made do with just adding some extra paprika.  According to the packet, this much rice should serve 4 but if you have salad with it, it will stretch further.  Add some fresh parsley right at the end if you have some, too.

Love love

Gemma xx

Chicken and Chorizo Paella

Around 100g chorizo, diced
4 chicken thighs, boned and cut into bitesize pieces
1 onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 red pepper, sliced
Smoked paprika
300g paella rice
1 litre hot chicken stock
Cooked prawns, defrosted if frozen
Large handful frozen peas
Lemon juice

  1. Fry the chorizo in a dry pan on a medium-low heat so that the fat starts to run.  Fry the chicken with the sausage for a few minutes so that it starts to brown.
  2. Add the onions and garlic and stir well.  Fry for 2-3 minutes.  Add the pepper, paprika and rice and stir well to ensure all of the ingredients are well distributed.
  3. Pour the stock over the rice and turn down to a simmer.  Check the pan every few minutes to see how cooked the rice is and to ensure it isn’t sticking to the bottom of the pan.  The rice should be cooked once all of the liquid has been absorbed, but if it’s not quite done add a little more hot water to the pan.
  4. Just before serving, stir through the prawns and peas.  Take the pan off the heat – you just want them to be warm through rather than cooking them as such, and the residual heat of the rice should do this.
  5. Serve with a well dressed salad and lots of lemon juice over the rice.  The paella can be frozen, but it must be cooled quickly after cooking and defrosted thoroughly in the fridge for around 24 hours before reheating.

Karate and Roast Lamb

Hullo hullo

Yesterday I had a karate grading.  A friend was visiting and I had planned to make lunch, but as I wasn’t in the house A Man did it instead. I had bought a piece of leg of lamb from the supermarket which had been reduced and I’m very glad I did!  Roast lamb is not something we eat very often at all because usually it’s prohibitively expensive so it was nice to be able to have it for a change.

Although I had felt guilty about leaving my friend I’m pleased that I had.  I used to do karate when I was a teenager but gave it up when we went on our European tour during our gap year.  I started again in the new year and yesterday managed to re-grade directly from white belt to orange and back to where I left off.  Unfortunately, it’ll probably only get tougher from hereon in!  I keep having to remind myself that the pain and aching I’m feeling this morning is apparently good for me…

Much love

Gemma xx

Roast Leg of Lamb with Red Wine Gravy

1.5kg Leg of lamb
Fresh rosemary
Garlic cloves, sliced
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper
Potatoes for roasting
Red wine
Water from any vegetables
Gravy granules
1 dessert spoon redcurrant jelly or some kind of jam

  1. Cut small slits in the top of the meat and push sliced garlic and rosemary leaves into them.  Rub the meat with a little olive oil and season well.
  2. Parboil the potatoes for a few minutes, drain, and shake in the pan to fluff up the edges.
  3. Preheat the oven to 180OC/350OF/Gas mark 4 and roast the lamb and potatoes in a tray together for an hour and a quarter.  Take it out occasionally to baste the meat and turn the potatoes.  If the lamb isn’t particularly fatty, you may have to add a little more fat for the potatoes.
  4. Remove the lamb from the oven and cover it over to rest for at least 15 minutes.  Transfer the potatoes and most of the fat to another tray, put back in the oven and turn it up as high as it will go.  Cook the veg for dinner (we had carrots and asparagus), drain and leave somewhere warm until it is time to serve.
  5. Place the lamb pan on a medium hob (if it is quite big, you might need to use two hobs).  Stir flour into the fat to make a thick roux.  Gradually add a glass or two of red wine, stirring well to prevent lumps from forming.  Add the vegetable water until the gravy is the desired thickness.  Taste the gravy – it may need some ordinary gravy granules adding, depending on how flavoursome the meat drippings were.  Stir in a spoon full of redcurrant jelly.  If you don’t have any, jam will do – blackcurrant is particularly good for this sort of thing.  We used rhubarb and ginger jam.
  6. Serve the lamb thinly sliced with the veg, potatoes and gravy and some mint sauce (freshly chopped mint leaves, sugar, a little boiling water to dissolve the sugar and malt vinegar).

Turkey Chilli


I was intending to make beef chilli tonight, but forgot to take the mince out of the freezer before I went to school this morning.  I decided that, rather than defrost it in the microwave I’d just go to the supermarket and pick something up.  We haven’t eaten turkey for a while, and it’s particularly good for chilli.  It’s both cheaper and leaner than beef mince and makes a nice change, although beef mince would work perfectly here too.

I love smoked paprika, and always put loads in my chilli.  You can use your own favourite spices and the quantities given are only a guide – play with the ingredients.

Although you may be concerned about putting chocolate in a savoury dish, give it a go – it adds depth and doesn’t taste sweet at all.

Love love

Gemma xx

Turkey Chilli

I was shocked when A Man succeeded in eating that mountain of rice! But I suppose he had just been to kickboxing, so I'll let him off. Also, excuse the presentation - he'd already started eating when the photo was taken 🙂

1 red onion, diced
4-5 cloves garlic, chopped finely
Large handful of mushrooms, diced
2 carrots, diced
1 red chilli, chopped
4 spring onions, sliced
2-3 teaspoons chilli powder
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
3-4 teaspoons smoked paprika
Minced turkey (or beef)
1 tin kidney beans, drained
1 tin chopped tomatoes
1 teaspoon sugar
Salt and pepper
1 dessertspoon tomato purée
A couple of squares of dark chocolate

  1. Fry the onion and garlic in a little olive oil.  Add the mushrooms and carrot and cook for several minutes to soften.
  2. Add the chilli, spring onions and spices and fry for a couple of minutes.
  3. Add the turkey and fry until cooked, stirring frequently.  Once the meat is cooked, taste it to check the spice.  Adjust the spices if necessary.
  4. Stir in the kidney beans, tomatoes, sugar and tomato purée.  Season to taste.
  5. Cook for around 15-20 minutes to develop the flavours.  Just before serving, melt the chocolate into the sauce.
  6. Serve with boiled rice, sour cream and grated cheese.

Speedy Chilli Lemon Pasta


Having been at work today, I wanted to cook something really quick for tea.  I also wanted something veggie after the frankly obscene amount of meat we ate on Sunday, so decided to just throw some things at a pan and hope.  It turns out I hoped pretty well :o)

The veg I used just happened to be what was in the fridge looking a bit sad and elderly, but I’d happily buy it all specially to make this again.  I think what really cut this dish was the red pepper mill – like a salt or pepper grinder, but with red chilli pepper flakes instead of salt or peppercorns; it really pinged through the creamy richness of the sauce.  And it all cooked in the time it took to cook the pasta!

No photo I’m afraid – we were starving!

Much love

Gemma xx

Chilli Lemon Pasta

Pasta (it doesn’t really matter which type – I used penne, but I think linguine would work best)
Olive oil
1 red onion, chopped
1 yellow pepper, chopped
1/2 courgette, chopped into large chunks
1/2 head of chicory, thinly sliced
1/2 head of fennel, thinly sliced
Large handful of fresh coriander, leaves and stems roughly chopped
1 red chilli, sliced
Lemon juice (fresh for preference, but I used bottled)
Ground chilli flakes

  1. Put the pasta on to cook according to the instructions.
  2. Heat some olive oil and butter in a pan on a medium-high hob.  Add the onion and pepper and stir well.  Fry for a couple of minutes.
  3. Add the courgette.  Keep stirring well throughout to prevent the veg from burning.
  4. Add the chicory, fennel and coriander.  Cook for a couple of minutes (you want the fennel and chicory to stay fairly crunchy if possible).  Stir through the fresh chilli.
  5. Add some lemon juice.  I’m not sure how much I used, but taste the sauce to see if it’s lemony enough for you.  Season well with salt and ground chilli.  Taste constantly until it’s how you like it, adding more butter if you like.
  6. Drain the pasta and stir through the veg.  Adjust the sauce if necessary (it may seem a little flat now it has to compete with the pasta).  Serve immediately, with a salad if you like (although I didn’t bother).

A mother’s day feast!

I’ve been down to stay chez parents again this weekend, and as it was mother’s day today I cooked a meal for my (unfortunately poorly) mummy.  She had said a couple of weeks ago that she wanted to try my crispy lamb so that’s what I did, almost exactly as before, although I slow-cooked it in the week, poured about a pint of fat off of the top and froze the meat and broth separately so that there wouldn’t be too much prep involved today.

I was worried that there wouldn’t be enough to feed everyone, as my family is made up primarily of boys who like their food (a lot!) so I made a chinese-style soup served in tiny china bowls as a starter.  I must admit, I was bloody pleased with it and everyone commented on how nice it tasted 🙂  It’s good to make the stock the night before the soup, so it has a chance to set.  I had really wanted corn on the cob, but it’s out of season and the tinned stuff worked brilliantly.

Youngest brother was in charge of dessert and made an old-style steamed syrup sponge with custard.  It was beautifully light and melt in the mouth; the recipe came from a Good Housekeeping cookery book which had belonged to my mum’s mum and so it seemed fairly fitting to use it today.  Although sponge pudding is really quick and easy to make in the microwave, it’s worth taking a couple of hours to tie a muslin round the basin and steam it over the hob as the quality is much much better.

I hope all the mums reading this were suitably spoilt by their offspring today!

Love love

Gemma xx

Chinese Chicken and Sweetcorn Soup

Crappy phone-photo makes it look really unappetising, but I promise it was yummy! And probably really good for Mum as you're supposed to eat chicken soup when you're not feeling well, right?

1 small free-range chicken
Large tin of sweetcorn (try and get some that is just canned in water with no added salt or sugar)
Handful of spring onions
Soy sauce
Sesame oil
Chilli flakes

  1. Joint the chicken and remove the meat from the bones (see here for a tutorial on portioning poultry).  Chuck the bones and jumpy bits into a pan and cover over with cold water.  Bring the carcass to a boil then turn down to a low simmer to make a stock.  If possible, you want the stock to be quite gelatinous, so it needs to be cooked for quite a long time.  Cool the stock once it’s cooked.
  2. Cut the chicken into very thin strips and refrigerate until required.
  3. Remove the carcass from the stock.  Strip any cooked pieces of chicken from the bones back into the stock and cool completely (hopefully until the stock sets).  Discard the carcass.  You can keep the stock in the fridge for a day, or freeze it if you don’t plan to make the soup immediately.
  4. Chop the spring onions into small pieces (scissors work well) and stir through the stock.  Add the sweetcorn (you can add the water too, if it hasn’t had sugar and salt added), 2 tablespoons of soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of sesame oil and 2 teaspoons of chilli flakes.  Stir well.
  5. Mix around 3 heaped dessertspoons of cornflour with cold water.  Add this and the chicken to the cold stock.
  6. Just before serving the soup, heat everything through on a medium-low heat.  You should only need to cook it for a few minutes, until the strips of chicken have poached and are cooked all the way through.  Before serving, taste the broth and add more soy or chilli to taste.  Add more cornflour and water if the soup is not thick enough.