Posted in cooking, Food, pizza

Pizza Saturdays!

Well I can’t believe its been over a month since I last posted! Time flies when you’re having fun…and writing a million wedding thank you cards.

So June was a busy old month, and I’ve put myself onto the Fast Diet to try and shed some of the post wedding podge in anticipation of our Honeymoon in September. I like the Fast Diet, it’s not for everyone but for me extreme dieting two days a week is much more palatable than restricting myself everyday. Plus it means I can have pizza!



It’s always a big night at Kitchen Gems when we make pizzas, I really really enjoy making them from scratch. My pizza base recipe and tomato sauce recipe both come from Jamie’s Italy

For the Dough:

Strong white flour, salt, yeast, sugar lukewarm water (what even classes as lukewarm? I have no idea – I went for something that felt neither warm nor cold if that helps)

I love making pizza dough, I like the science of the yeast changing the shape and size of the dough. Mix the yeast and sugar into the water and set it to one side for a couple of minutes. Then make a well in your dough and add the water and yeast, mixing with a fork until it all comes together. Jamie Oliver recommends doing this on a work surface but I think Mr Gem would hit the roof if I had pizza dough all over the kitchen – I do it in a glass bowl and it works fine for me.

Once the dough has come together its time to knead it. Flour a surface and off you go, really working the dough for a good ten minutes. You’ll know when its ready because it will become smooth and spring back when you prod it. Once done roll into a ball and flour it, then cover it with cling-film and set it to one side.


For the Tomato Sauce:

Garlic, fresh basil, canned tomatoes, salt and pepper

Chop the garlic and fry in a bit of oil, add the tomatoes and basil, salt and pepper and bring to a gentle simmer. You should squish the tomatoes a bit and let it cook for 20 mins or so.

Build your pizza! Roll the dough to the size you want and then smooth some tomato sauce over it, and start topping! When you are happy with your pizza stick them in the oven at about 250 degrees for around 10 minutes.


Best served with a glass of Prosecco and Saturday night TV!

Posted in cooking, Food, mexican food

Fish Tacos, Guacamole and Mango Salsa

I had my hen weekend in Edinburgh back in March – it was absolutely amazing, 12 of my favourite ladies on the planet stayed in an apartment, played highland games and had prosecco served to us by a very attractive butler in the buff – it was basically the weekend dreams were made of! On the Saturday night we went out for a meal to line our stomachs before the big night out and we ate at a fabulous Mexican restaurant on The Royal Mile called Pancho Villas – honestly it was fantastic, great atmosphere, jugs of margarita, plates and plates of tapas and excellent value – I can’t recommend it enough.

However, this isn’t a restaurant review blog – for starters I’d have to remember exactly what I had eaten and quite frankly after a couple of those margaritas there is no chance of that happening. What I do remember was the fish tacos. I’d never eaten fish tacos before that meal but I certainly wanted to try them again – so I made my own!

I had no idea where to start on this recipe – none of my recipe books had any suggestions and so I spent a bit of time searching the internet and came across this recipe on another blog – Host the Toast  – I used this as a starting point and went from there.

Fish Tacos, Guacamole and Mango Salsa 


For the fish you will need:

So using Host the Toasts (HtH) recipe as a guide I used cod fillets chopped into cm square chunks, a teaspoon each of paprika, cumin, oregano, brown sugar and chilli powder. I’m not proud of this next bit –  HtH used onion powder and garlic powder and I couldn’t find either in my local shop, so I read the back of the taco seasoning that came with the shells I bought and it had both of those ingredients in it so I added two tiny teaspoons of the premixed seasoning as well.

For the guacamole  you will need:

A ripe avocado (I had my chef moment here when my avocado was perfectly ripe and I managed to half it perfectly – normally I make a proper mess scraping around the stone), spring onion, red chilli, lime juice

For the mango salsa you will need: 

Ripe mango, more red chilli, a bit more spring onion and more lime juice 

Quick and easy to make:

This one took quite a bit of prep but the actual making of the dinner was simple. First of all cut the fish into smallish pieces – remove the skin. Mix all the spices in a bowl with a pinch of salt and the sugar and then add the fish – toss it in the spice mix until its thoroughly coated then set aside until you are ready to cook.


For the guacamole halve your avocado – here is a really professional photo of how it’s done…!

IMG_9095Remove the stone and squeeze the flesh from the skin into a bowl, add the spring onions, chilli and lime juice and mix, mashing the avocado down as you do. Its so satisfying!


Then prepare the mango salsa. I used about half the mango, chopped into small cubes, add to a bowl with the rest of the chilli, spring onion and another squeeze of lime juice. Set aside to let the flavours mix together.


When you a ready to cook – heat some oil in a pan and add the fish – I actually added some baby corn to mine but its personal taste and its definitely not needed. Cook for about 5-10 mins until the fish is cooked through.

Then build your tacos!I used pre-prepared shells – because who has time to do otherwise after a long day at work and a hungry husband. I put the fish on the bottom, followed by the mango and topped with guacamole. I didn’t even add any cheese – just kept it really simple and fresh with the mango and the guacamole.


The only thing I would change is next time I’d make my own spice mix from scratch! Mr Gem said the only thing he would change is he would have had more of them! Definitely a keeper!

Posted in cooking, filling food, Fish, Food, rice

Kedgeree – technically breakfast at dinner time!

Carbohydrates, particularly pasta and rice, have been my very good friend since I moved out of my parents home and started having to fend for myself – initially as a cheap way to fill up a poor student but then I grew to love the variety of shapes and sizes and textures – I swear pasta shells taste so much better than fusilli .

I tried so hard to ditch them in the run up to my wedding, but I’ve been more than making up for it since! I have been doing all I can to enjoy a carbfest without the side dish of guilt, so making little changes like swapping white rice for brown and to be honest you don’t really notice the difference!

Kedgeree is something I’ve never tried, certainly not in the true traditional sense as a breakfast, I’m a delicate sole (that was a genuine typo, but I do enjoy a good pun so it’s staying put) and smoked fish and curried rice in the morning is more than my stomach can handle.

As a quick midweek dinner after a long day at work though…lets give it a whirl!

Smoked Haddock Kedgeree 


You will need:

Smoked fish – I used haddock but I think any smoked white fish would work, rice, onions, green chilli, cardamom pods, curry powder, boiled eggs, lemon, butter and something green to have on the side if you like a variation in colour on your plate – otherwise it is very yellow.

So easy to make:

I followed the basic steps from this recipe on Guardian Food but reading around it does seem quite an intuitive process and really if you can cook rice and fish you don’t really need a recipe.

So cook the rice according to the instructions on the packet and leave to one side with the lid sealed on. In the meantime pop the fish in a shallow pan, skin side up covered with water, over a low heat and leave for 10 minutes. When its done, remove from the water and pop on kitchen towel to cool.


Melt the butter in a frying pan and add the onion, fry until soft and add the chilli, cook for a couple of minutes and then crush two cardamom pods and add to the onion and chilli along with a tablespoon of curry powder.


Flake the fish from the skin, and add the rice to the curried onions and mix well. Then stir through the fish and serve with two halves of boiled egg on top, a wedge of lemon to squeeze over and greens of your choice.


It was absolutely delicious – still not convinced about having it as a breakfast though.


Posted in comfort food, cooking, Food

Week 16 – Prawn and Chorizo Paella

It has to be said that new blog posts are a bit like buses on Kitchen Gems – nothing for weeks and then 2 come along at once!! However read it and weep because here is my second post of the evening! And its a goody so I’ll get right on it without any more preamble.

Prawn and Chorizo Paella

Perfect with a glass of wine!

Now I call this Paella but its more of a cross between a Paella and a Risotto because I can’t get the crispy bottom on my Paella as I don’t have the right pan…

I loosely followed a recipe from Good Food Websitebut essentially to make a good paella you need risotto or paella rice, stock, and anything to flavour it plus fish and meat. This was a great recipe though and the flavour was incredible.

I love the colours and flavours in Spanish cooking

To make the base of the paella fry the onion, garlic and chorizo over a low heat until the onions have softened. Then add the rice and stir thoroughly so the rice is coated with all the lovely flavours. Then add your stock – all in one go (which is so much easier than a risotto – no relentless stirring) and flavours and vegetables then simmer until the rice has soaked up most of the liquid and is cooked through. Just before serving add your cooked prawns just long enough for them to warm through – don’t leave them in too long or they go so hard and rubbery and not nice.

To serve squeeze a lemon wedge over the dish.

I love paella and risotto so I’m biased but I thought this recipe was simple to make, lovely to eat. Mr Gem really enjoyed this one as well so I think its a keeper!!

Posted in cooking, Food

Week 15: Butternut Squash Pasta Bake

So its been a busy couple of weeks at Kitchen Gems HQ – although now I come to think of it I can’t quite remember what I’ve been doing. However it’s no excuse and with the summer approaching I’d better become more strict with my regime. However I’m going to try to make it up by bashing out a couple of catch up blogs this evening. So I’ll start off with my butternut squash pasta bake!

Butternut Squash Pasta Bake

Plated up with extra bacon!
Plated up with extra bacon!

I am a creature of habit, it was one of the reasons I started this blog. Once I find a recipe I like I tend to keep it in my regular repertoire and sometimes I can be guilty of overkill. When I bought a butternut squash it was with the intention of cooking an old favourite – butternut squash risotto but thought I’d look for something new to mix it up a bit.

I came across the pasta bake recipe on the Woman and Home website – who rather handily have an article dedicated to the top 20 butternut squash recipes! Excellent.

As it was a midweek night I was happy to find an easy recipe which didn’t require much more from me than the usual battle of peeling and chopping a squash – if I didn’t like the flavour so much I honestly wouldn’t bother, it’s such an epic challenge to get into one!

First of all peel and chop the butternut squash into large chunks and peel and quarter the red onion(s). Pop the butternut squash in a roasting pan and drizzle with oil for 40 minutes, adding the onion halfway through. I didn’t use any sage as I didn’t have any but I’m told it goes very well with squash!

Whilst the veg is cooking cook and drain the pasta. Lift the veg out of the oven and mix with the pasta, pour the pasta and veg into an oven proof dish, top with breadcrumbs and Parmesan and pop in the oven for about 10 minutes. I served with salad and topped with crispy bacon. It was a delicious and easy to make so for me the perfect midweek dinner!

Looks delicious coming out of the oven!
Looks delicious coming out of the oven!


Posted in baking, comfort food, filling food, Food, Jamie Oliver

Week 11: Mother’s Day lunch…

Mother’s Day – a date that is emblazoned on our brains from a young age. You do NOT forget Mother’s Day. Father’s Day, you’d be forgiven for forgetting Father’s Day but not Mother’s Day.

This year it was our turn to go to Mr Gem’s family for Mother’s Day and he had the lovely idea that we should cook a meal for his mum, lovely hey? Except that by we he meant me with a bit of help from him!

However because I was cooking in a strange kitchen I didn’t take any photos – but what I can tell you is what I made and how it went down!

What you need to know about Mr Gem’s family is that the men don’t really like the type of food that I cook, i.e. Asian flavours, spice, chilli, garlic…so I had to really step outside my comfort zone to come up with a menu everybody would enjoy.

So – for starters I decided on South American Fishcakes. This was a recipe from Jamie Oliver’s website this was my little rebellion, little nods to the food that I like with strong citrus flavours. So easy to make but a little odd – you poach the fish in milk but then throw the milk away…which seems a little wasteful to me but for a special occasion I went with it. Once the fish is cooked you mix it and the mashed potatoes with all the other ingredients, divide it into balls, roll in flour and shape into patties. Simple! You’re supposed to deep fry the fishcakes but I didn’t have enough oil so i shallow fried them which meant that they stuck to the bottom of the pan a little but they tasted great – I’d make these again!

Mains. I didn’t want to make a roast, oh no that would be too easy. I decided on spare ribs, coleslaw and cornbread. Easy peasy. Except my ribs where so fatty that the fat ran out of the ribs into the sauce which didn’t thicken and I had to get Mr Gem’s mum to help me. Nevertheless the sauce was delicious – I adapted a recipe from Simon Rimmer’s recipe – cocoa cola ribs but used pork ribs rather than beef ribs. They were absolutely delicious. The cornbread was kind of stodgy but I love the flavour of it so would make it again. Mr Gem prepared the coleslaw and of course it was delicious!

Finally pudding – well for a Mother’s Day lunch I had to turn to the queen of puddings – Mary Berry. I went with a lemon tart. I’m still not great with pastry – in fact I’ve asked Mother Gem for a master class – she makes great pastry – although when I spoke to her about shrinkage when blind baking she sniffed ‘oh no – I don’t bother with blind baking, who has time?’ but in fairness she’s never produced a soggy bottomed pud! Anyway I digress, so I thought I’d go with a shop bought pastry (again) I think I’m done with shop bought, it always shrinks, as it did on this occasion. Pastry aside the lemon filling was delicious and light. I served it with strawberries and the flavours were fab!

But my opinion doesn’t count – the proof was in the eating and the opinion of the family, I think they liked it, the fishcakes all went, the tart all went, the ribs where a bit fatty and I think that put people off. All in all, not bad! I’m better with my spices I reckon – so next week I’ll be back to what I know!

Posted in beef, comfort food, cooking, filling food, Food, low calorie

Week 9 – Chilli Salad Bowls

So I begin this weeks post with a wistful sigh – I do not have a picture to share this week – you will have to be content with looking at an image I have shamefully stolen from the world wide web. I lost my phone in the back of a taxi over the weekend and haven’t seen it since. Luckily its insured but whilst I’m waiting for the cheque to clear I feel utterly bereft. Everyone keeps telling me ‘after a couple of days you’ll feel liberated’ but I genuinely believe that I’m not that enlightened as a person – I need my phone. Anyway, I did have some great pics of this weeks dinner but as I said we’ll just have to do without – next time I make it I’ll reblog this with my own pics!

Update 11/3/13 – I just plugged in my new phone and amazingly the chilli salad bowl photo’s had backed up so happily I can update today with my own pictures!

Chilli Salad Bowls


Mr Gem and I are on something of a health kick but I really wanted something tasty and not overly salad based. I’ve been watching a lot of The Hairy Dieters so when I was looking for a new recipe I went straight to BBC food to see if I could find something tasty but healthy. And I did – these healthy chilli salad bowls are a real treat – you can find the recipe here. I loved the idea that you make an edible chilli bowl and using a tortilla – such a simple idea!

The recipe was simple to make – preheat the oven and make a ball out of tin foil to mold your tortillas around. To cook the chilli add the mince, onion, and garlic over a medium heat until the meat browns, then add the spices and cook for a couple of minutes. Finally stir in the puree and sugar and stock and then leave to simmer over a low heat.


Whilst the chilli is simmering away mold your first tortilla over the tinfoil ball and cook in the oven until its slightly crispy and holds its shape. You need to keep an eye on it as they turn really quickly. In between cooking the tortillas prepare the salad in a large bowl, mixing it all together with the lime juice and set aside.


Once the tortillas are all cooked you can layer it all together. Add a layer of salad at the bottom of the tortilla ‘bowl’ then a layer of hot chilli, then top with a sprinkling of cheddar cheese and a dollop of half fat creme fraiche! These little dishes are absolutely delicious and really filling – I had just one and it was fine for a main meal – although Mr Gem had two but he’s a growing boy!

Health wise they are around 375 calories per bowl.

I would definitely recommend giving these a try – I just love the fact that you get to eat the bowl! I also think that they’d be good party food, if you made them with little tortillas they’d be great snacks for a party or movie night.