Thursday, September 27

My Mum's Beef & Heinz Tomato Soup Stew

This is a regression to childhood for me. Usually cooked midweek and then dipped into on regular occassion for a quick winter lunch or a hearty warming supper - it improves after a few days in the fridge. Pretty much a one pot wonder, you would not believe the amount of flavour you get from tinned must be Heniz though, no cheap 'value' or god forbid....packet soups please. Will feed 6 to 8:

Diced braising steak - 800g
Heinz tomato soup - 3x 400ml tins
1 large onion, roughly chopped
2 parsnips, 4 carrots, 1 small swede - peeled and cut into large chunks
2 large potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
1 bay leaf
1 sprig of rosemary
100g beef suet
200g self raising flour

Fry the beef in a little oil until coloured all over. Remove the meat from the pan with a slotted spoon, then fry the onion in the same pan until lightly golden. Chuck the meat and onion into a large oven dish or a slow cooker bowl and cover with 2 tins of the soup and the herbs. Bring gently to the boil on the hob, cover, then transfer to the oven (150c) or the slow cooker and simmer for an hour or so until the meat is beginning to soften but is in no way tender. Add all the veg and the last tin of soup along with a generous seasoning of salt and black pepper. Put back in the oven or slow cooker for another hour and a half or so until all the veg have become very soft - al dente veg doesn't work in this dish. If the stew needs more cooking then so be cannot rush a stew. If you feel the need to stir the stew during cooking, take care as you don't want to break up the veg or meat chunks.

To make the dumplings, mix the flour, suet, a pinch of salt and a little water to make a slightly sticky dough. Pinch bits off the dough (about the size of a gobstopper) and place on the top of the stew for the last half hour of cooking.  You will know when they are cooked as they will have doubled in size.

Remember to eat this dish like a child. Only a fork is required and mash the veg and meat into the soupy sauce before devouring. Bib is optional.

Saturday, September 22

Sobrasada Toasts, Rosemary Roasted Green Beans & Vine Tomatoes

Have you ever seen that bit in Gavin & Stacey where Brin is full of wonderment over a glass of Bailey Irish Cream at Christmas? "Just when you think it can't get any better, they go and make a mint version!"

Well I had one of those moments when I discovered a Chorizo sausage from Trealy Farm.......wait for it......that you can spread on toast........holy shit!  Why has this not been in my life earlier. If this has existed is Spain for decades, why has no-one discovered it and shared the secret. How did no-one spot the potential of this product earlier? No wonder Spain is in financial crisis, they certainly wouldn't make it on the Apprentice!

I will be playing around with this ingredient for a while to come but just so I could try it, I decided to cook an 'on toast' recipe. Mostly so that the unctuous paprika spiked fat would seep into the toast during cooking and not be lost. Sobrasada on toast needs no garnish, but I had some vine tomatoes and green beans in the fridge so decided to make it into a meal. 

How did it taste? James Swift of Trealy Farm ( - you are a pork genius. Do something crazy with your black pudding next - Morcilla Marmite?

I'm not going to detail the recipe as it is so easy. Just spread some sobrasada on good bread and bake in the oven at 210c until crisp - about 20 mins. I tossed the beans and tomatoes in some excellent olive oil with a crushed clove of garlic, a sprig of rosemary and some maldon salt. Add the veg to the oven tray 10 mins or so before the end of cooking. 

Friday, September 21

An Collection of Unusual Cheese Board Accompaniments

No recipe this week, just a showcase of some exciting new finds from the Abergavenny Food festival last weekend. Brindisa ( is one of my favourite suppliers of predominately Spanish goods and I dropped quite a bit of money on their stand this year. 

Firstly a tomato jelly. Crystal clear, I can only imagine that they have made a tomato consomm√© out of fantastically ripe tomatoes, sweetened it a little, then set it to a firm jelly. Fantastic flavour, stunning colour and just sweet enough to be a great substitute to the more ubiquitous quince cheese or membrillo.

They also had a great pressed fig and almond terrine. I have seen this before but not bought any. Almost savoury but toffee like, with the fantastic addition of crunchy almonds.

Bored of Jacobs crackers and Carrs water biscuits? Try these Torta de Aciete olive oil crackers. Rich, flaky and not unlike really crisp puff pastry.

Oh and the cheese - not Brindisa this one. A Neal's Yard 'Finn' ( - A clean, slightly lemony tasting, soft cows milk cheese. Absolutely stunning and a bargain at £2 for a half. 

It should be said that I have no affiliation with these suppliers even though it may sound like a sales pitch! Sometimes you just have to let the World know when you find an outstanding product

Thursday, September 20

Orange & Vanilla Shortbread

This is my rather superior shortbread recipe and one I felt worth blogging about. We have this on at the pub with a chocolate mousse recipe from Mark Hix - simple but bloody tasty. This makes a lot of dough and a lot of mini shortbread biscuits - maybe 30 odd, but the dough will keep for a week or two in the fridge. You can of course play with the flavouring ingredients, try cardamon or rosewater.

Cold unsalted butter - 350g, cubed
Plain flour - 400g
Corn Flour - 50g
Semolina - 50g
Sugar - 100g plus more for sprinkling
Zest of 4 unwaxed oranges, finely grated
Seeds from 1 vanilla pod

Bung everything in the food processor and blitz until a dough starts to form. Transfer to a bowl and mix well - it will be very soft. Lay a long sheet of cling-film out on the bench and spread the dough evenly along one long edge. Roll the dough up in the cling-film and twist each end to make a sausage shape of dough 5cm in diameter. Make sure there are no air bubbles and the cling-film is tight. Chill until hard.

Heat the oven to 160c. Unwrap the cling-film and cut the dough into 1cm discs. Lay out on a baking sheet and then press a fork into the top of each to make a pattern. Sprinkle with caster sugar and bake for 15 to 20 mins until golden. Carefully transfer to a wire rack to cool and dust with more sugar. They will not crisp up until cooled, so don't panic if they seem very soft straight from the oven.

Monday, September 10

Eccles Cakes with Mrs Kirkham's Lancashire Cheese

An absolute British classic, I ate this recently at Sam's deli in Bath ( and very nice it was too. Paired with a nice artisan cheese like Mrs Kirkham's (, this would make a great alternative to a cheese board at the end of a meal. The recipe makes 8 small cakes but you can make more and freeze them before cooking for future use.

Pastry Ingredients:
Butter - 125g
Plain Flour - 125g
Salt - a good pinch
Egg wash
Demerara sugar - to dust

Filling Ingredients:
300g mix of golden raisins, sultanas and standard raisins
50g Mixed peel
Zest of 1 orange
Demerara sugar - 75g
Cinnamon - 1 tsp
Nutmeg - a good grating

First make the pastry - a sort of rough puff. Mix the butter roughly into the flour along with the salt leaving some lumps. Add a little water until you achieve a sticky pastry. Wrap in cling film and chill until hard. Unwrap and on a well floured board, roll out to a 5mm thick rectangle. Fold the bottom third of the dough in, then fold the top third of the dough down so the edges of the folded dough meet. Then, fold this rectangle in half the opposite way - left to right - so that the edges touch. Roll out again and repeat, then wrap and chill again.

Now make the filling. Melt the butter and sugar and cook until a sort of caramel is achieved. Add the orange zest and spices and cook for another minute or so. Add the fruit, mix well then chill. 

Roll out your pastry again to the thickness of a penny and using a 12cm cutter, cut out as many circles as you can get. You can ball up the dough offcuts once and re-roll to get more circles cut. Holding the pastry in the palm of one hand, fill with a tbsp of fruit filling then bring the edges of the pastry up to seal the filling inside. Use a little water to moisten the edges to make them stick. Flip the cake over on a greased baking sheet so the join is underneath. Repeat for the other eccles cakes. 

Slash the tops of the cakes twice so they open up during cooking (see the photo), egg wash, dust with demerara and bake at 200c for 20 mins of so until golden. Allow to cool on a wire rack and serve warm with a big wedge of cheese.

Saturday, September 8

Jeera (Cumin) Rice

A north Indian rice dish and a welcome variation on pilau, jerra is the indian name for cumin.   Ridiculously easy to make and more than the sum of it’s parts. Yeah, there is a lot of butter in this, but that is what makes it tasty and it’s only a tbsp or so per serving - so get over it.

200g basmati rice
6 tbsp ghee or melted butter
1 onion, very finely diced
2 tsp cumin seeds
2 fat cloves garlic, finely chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Wash and cook the basmati as per the instructions on the packet. In a frying pan, heat the ghee and fry the onion until golden brown. Add the cumin and garlic and fry for a further 2 mins until fragrant. Add the basmati rice and mix until thoroughly coated with the onion and butter mix. Season to taste and serve immediately.

Indian Dhal

An Indian staple that gets a bad reputation as it is usually dull and tasteless gloop. My version is well spiced and uses of three types of lentil to give colour and texture. The green lentils will hold their shape, while the red and yellow ones will cook down to thicken the dhal. Serve as a side dish to dry meat curries and use as a sauce to moisten rice.

100g channa dhal (yellow lentils)
100g red split lentils
50g green lentils
4 tbsp ghee or melted butter
1 tbsp fresh ginger, grated
3 fat cloves garlic, crushed
1 ½ tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp turmeric
1 stick of cassia bark (cinnamon)
1 dried red chilli
500ml chicken or vegetable stock
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 tbsp black mustard seeds
20 curry leaves
salt and freshly ground black pepper
small handful fresh coriander leaves, chopped

Put the lentils in a sieve and wash thoroughly. In a saucepan with a lid, heat 2 tbsp of the ghee and fry the garlic, ginger and cumin for 1 min until the garlic starts to brown

Add the turmeric and the cassia bark, tip in the red and yellow lentils, add the stock and bring to the boil. Split the chilli down the middle and add to the pan, cover and simmer for 40 mins until the lentils begin to break down.  

Add the green lentils and cook for a further 20 mins until the green lentils are cooked through but intact and the red and yellow lentils have completely disintegrated. Add more water as you go if it starts getting too thick – it should remain thick-soup like.

Before serving the dhal, heat the remaining ghee or butter in a separate pan and fry the onion until deep golden brown. Add the mustard seeds and curry leaves and fry until the leaves are crispy and the mustard seeds pop like crazy – you may need to cover the pan. Add the onion mixture to the dhal and mix well seasoning to taste with the salt and pepper. Sprinkle with coriander and serve.

I once ate dhal served from a miniature bucket handed around the table which was rather cool/tasteless depending on your point of view. Maybe a bowl on the table for everyone to help themselves is a better serving option?

Green Beans with Cumin, Garlic & Tomato

A fresh tasting veggie side dish, not slathered in the usual curry house thick creamy sauce. It only takes a few minutes to prepare and cook and would go well with a number of dishes, indian or otherwise.

3 tbsp ghee or melted butter
2 fat cloves of garlic, chopped
1 tsp cumin seeds
200g fine green beans, stalks removed, halved and blanched for 2 mins
½ tsp turmeric
2 large tomatoes, skinned, seeded and diced
salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the ghee or butter in a frying pan and add the garlic and cumin seeds. Stir fry for 1 min then add the beans and stir fry for a further 2 mins. Add the turmeric and tomato and cook until the tomatoes just start to break up. Season to taste and serve immediately.

Sunday, September 2

Huevos Rancheros

If, like me, you wake to one of those mornings when you stumble out of bed after a heavy night on the sauce, blurrily survey the carnage that was once your house then try to steady yourself to cook some breakfast as your stomach churns like a cement mixer. Try this Mexican version of a full English. It really is a hangover cure on a plate. Grease, spice, protein and carbs......get in my belly! For two:

Eggs - 4
Corn Tortilla - 2
Chorizo sausages - 4 (I use the Brindisa Brand)
Tinned black beans (Turtle beans) - 1/2 can
Tinned chopped tomatoes - 1 can
Smoked paprika - 1 tsp
Chilli powder - 1 tsp
Garlic - 1 clove, chopped
Onion - 1 small, finely chopped
Cumin seeds - 1/2 tsp
Red wine or Sherry Vinegar - 1 tbsp
Sugar - 1 tbsp
Olive oil
Lancashire Cheese - 50g, grated

Heat your oven to 190c and cook the sausages on a tray. Gently fry the onion and garlic in a little olive oil until soft. Chuck in the chilli, paprika and cumin seeds and fry for another minute or so. In with the tomatoes, sugar, vinegar and a seasoning of salt and pepper. Gently simmer for 10 minutes then add the black beans to heat through.

Fry the tortilla in more olive oil until golden and crisp then drain. Fry the eggs in the same pan. Plate up with a crisp tortilla on the bottom, tomato sauce, eggs, chorizo then the cheese. Drizzle with the chorizo oil and demolish with copious amounts of strong coffee. Feeling better?