05 July 2011

Potato & Pepper bake with Halloumi

This dish is fantastic in so many ways... healthy but comforting, veggie but substantial... it's also really quick and easy to make, so perfect for a midweek supper.  Or you could serve it as an alternative side dish with roast chicken (minus the halloumi) if you needed something a bit heartier.
You will need...
1 large sweet potato
1 white or desiree potato
1 red pepper
1 yellow/orange pepper
1 red onion
5 garlic cloves
Olive Oil OR Garlic Oil (but don't use the garlic cloves)
120g Halloumi cheese
Black Pepper

The method...
*  Preheat the oven to 200'C.

*  Cut up the white potato and peppers into roughly 2.5cm chunks, and the sweet potato into chunks about double the size (as they cook quicker than regular potatoes.)  Cut the onion into wedges and put everything including unpeeled garlic cloves into a large roasting dish.

*  Grind plenty of black pepper over the veg and drizzle over 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil.  Mix it thoroughly and then put into the oven for 45 mins, turning once or twice whilst it's cooking.

*  Slice the halloumi as thinly as possible ready for strewing over the veg at the end.

*  Take the veg out of the oven and either switch on the grill or turn the oven up to full heat.  Drape the halloumi slices straight over the veg and pop back into the oven for 5 minutes until it is slightly browned.

*  Serve and enjoy!

Flavoured Oils

I love using Garlic Oil in cooking and have been using it a lot more recently... it gives a wonderful hum of garlic flavour to pan-fried meats or roast veggies.  But I find that you don't get your money's worth from the supermarket versions, so here is a really quick and easy way to make your own!

Garlic Oil
Peel a whole head of garlic and chop up each clove roughly.  Scrape into a large jar or air tight container and pour over 1 litre of Olive Oil.  Give it a shake, and leave to steep for 24 hours.  When ready, strain the oil back into its original bottle.
To be extra thrifty, save the leftover chopped garlic (I freeze it in small batches) and use it in future dinners!

Chilli Oil
As with the Garlic Oil, chop up your desired chillies... how many you decide on and what type of chilli's you use is a personal taste.  If it helps, in the past I have used 5 long red chillies (e.g the packets you generally find in the supermarket) but you could always try birds eye chillies, jalapeños, or even dare to use a couple of habenaro's!  A word of warning though - you may want to wear disposable gloves for the chopping, especially if you use chillies any stronger than long reds.  And wash hands thoroughly afterwards to ensure none of the chilli remains on your skin!
Either way, steep the chopped chillies in 1 litre of Olive Oil for 24 hours, and then strain into the original bottle.
Use cautiously!!

20 January 2010


These little beauties are so yummy and just thinking of their salty, gooey, spicy, crunchiness makes me want one this instant!
If you want something for dinner (or even a nice lunch) that is always really delicious but terribly easy to make, then these Quesadillas are a very good choice. There are loads of different ways to make them, different recipes have different ingrediants, what is traditional etc, but this lovely simple version is inspired by Nigella Express and never fails to please anyone I cook it for. I always try to remain calm and have only 1 or 1 and a half of these beauties and I ALWAYS serve it with only a lovely big green salad and a blob of salsa. There really isn't much need for anything else, though I suppose if you feel you need more, a flavoured rice and sour cream would work well too. I have also given only a rough guide for the filling as different people will always want more or less cheese, peppers etc.

Per Quesadilla, you will need....
1 Flour Tortilla wrap
2-3 slices of parma or dry cured ham
20g cheddar cheese (any strength you prefer - I take it extra strong!), grated
Half a spring onion, finely sliced
1-3 pieces of Jalapeño chillis from a jar
A sprinkling of chopped fresh coriander

You will also need either a lean, mean, grilling machine OR a griddle pan. If you are using a griddle pan, you will need a drop of oil to brush onto one side of each Quesadilla.

* Get all your ingredients chopped, sliced and grated, ready for a quick assembly.

* Warm however many tortillas you are using by zapping them in the microwave for 30seconds-1minute (depending on how many you have in there.)

* Arrange your wraps, so that the ham covers the most part of the tortilla, and then on just one half sprinkle over your cheese, onion, jalapeños and coriander. Then fold over the non cheesed half of the tortilla to make a half moon. This is now ready for cooking!

* In the hot grilling machine or griddle, carefully place the tortillas (oil side down first if you are using a griddle pan) and cook for either 2 minutes in the grilling machine or for 1 minute each side on the griddle pan.

* Carefully transfer them onto a board and cut into 3 triangles.

* Greedily eat.

08 January 2010

Lemon Cupcakes

One of the things I love most in the whole entire world are cupcakes. I even liked them before they were trendy - I know, shocking. This evening Mr Rudie and I fancied something sweet after the stonking great carbonara I cooked and these are some of his favourite (taken from the Hummingbird Bakery cook book) so I decided to bake them. Being a store-cupboard fanatic, I had everything to hand but the ingredients are simple enough if you need to pop to the corner shop to buy everything. I usually scoop out a bit of the cupcake before I ice them and dollop in a teaspoon of lemon curd but the teeny bit of lemon curd I had in the fridge looked decidedly wrong and sadly I have had to do without. But still really rather great anyway.

What you'll need....

For the cupcakes:

150g caster sugar
40g unsalted butter (at room temperature)
120g plain flour, sifted
1.5 teaspoons baking powder
1 egg (at room temperature)
125ml milk
2 tablespoons lemon zest

For the icing:
250g icing sugar, sifted
80g unsalted butter, softened
1 tablespoon lemon zest (plus extra for decorating)
A good squeeze of lemon juice
25ml milk


* In a freestanding mixer with a paddle attachment, or with an electric whisk, cream together the butter and sugar until well combined.

* Then add the flour, baking powder and lemon zest and beat on a medium speed until you have an even sandy paste.

* Gradually add the milk whilst continuing to beat the mixture, then add the egg and beat for a further couple of minutes.

* Spoon into the prepared muffin cases and cook in the preheated oven for 20-25 mins, checking after 17 mins. Bring out of the oven and allow to cool completely.

* To make the icing...
Put the icing sugar, soft butter, lemon zest and lemon juice into a freestanding mixer with paddle attachment (or use an electric whisk) and mix everything on a medium-slow speed until it is a thick creamy paste.  A bit at a time, add the milk and continue mixing until the milk is incorporated.  Now turn the speed up high and beat for 5 mins.  The longer you beat the icing, the lighter and fluffier it will be.

* Spoon a tablespoon of icing onto each cupcake and sprinkle with a little lemon zest.

Pasta alla Carbonara

There are so many variations of Carbonara and I have spent years making them with/without cream; with bacon or with ham; with parmesan or with cheddar...and the truth is they are all so bloody tasty. Not much else will really suffice when what you crave is a creamy, salty rich pasta dish. You probably know that the Italians do not use cream in their carbonara, and as I am making this for dinner tonight, I thought I would go the traditional way. I'll post one of my a bodge-job carbonara recipes another day.
I haven't specified any pasta types as really you can use pretty much whatever you want, though I do suggest using a long thin pasta such as linguine (my favourite), spaghetti or tagliatelle, as the sauce sticks to it far better. It's really important that the pasta is steaming hot when you add the egg mixture as it's the pasta's heat that gently cooks the egg, giving it a silky creamy texture.
Oh and by the way, this is really easy.

I can only apologise for my bad photography, but I do honestly blame the camera!

500g Pasta
300g Bacon, or Pancetta if you can get it
Olive Oil
4 Eggs
60g Parmesan plus lots more for sprinkling!
Black Pepper

* In a bowl beat the four eggs and add the finely grated parmesan with a good grinding of black pepper. Set to the side - this will be your sauce and you will need it to hand!

* Put your pasta on to cook according to the instructions, but to your boiling water add salt and a few drops of Olive Oil - yes really, it stops the pasta sticking together! You ideally want the pasta al dente so check a couple of minutes before the instructions tell you to... nothing is worse than soggy sad pasta!

* In a large pan (that the pasta will be able to fit into later) heat about a tablespoon of olive oil and add the bacon or pancetta. Cook this swiftly over a medium-high heat until the meat is slightly cripsy. Take off the heat.

* Just before you drain your pasta, dunk in a cup and take out a little of the liquid as you may need this for watering down the carbonara if it's too dry.

* Drain the pasta and immediately add it to the oily bacon, giving it all a good toss. Then quickly pour the cheese and egg mixture over the hot pasta and toss it carefully but hastily, making sure everything is covered. If it looks too dry, add a little splash of water and toss again.

* Serve with extra grated parmesan on the side and black pepper to hand.

Serves 4