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 comfort food, cooking, filling food, Food, Jamie Oliver, stew

Week 8 – Beef in Black Sheep Pie

Last year I took Mr Gem to the beautiful village of Masham in North Yorkshire for his birthday and we did a tour of the Black Sheep Brewery whilst we were there. I’m not really a big beer drinker, I don’t mind the odd one but as a general rule I’m more of a gin girl but even I found the tour incredibly interesting, I even enjoyed a half pint of Golden Sheep Ale which went down surprisingly well after all that talk of beer!

Beef in Black Sheep Pie


I’ve wanted to cook beef in beer pie for a while now, I had one bookmarked in Jamie’s Great Britain, but a proper pie needs time and attention and cold, miserable weather so that you can really appreciate how comforting a good pie is, luckily Sunday was a quiet, cold and miserable day and I got to make my pie!

The recipe for this pie can be found in Jamie’s Great Britain and here. In true Jamie style the ingredient list is pretty long but for the pie filling its worth it. I’ll be honest and admit for the second time in two weeks I used shop bought pastry, but for good reason, because Mr Gem wanted a puff pastry topping rather than shortcrust and frankly, life is too short to make puff pastry.

The recipe takes around 3 hours to make from start to finish but its worth it, plus the house gets all warm and cosy and smells amazing. Mr Gem was slightly perturbed when I started cooking tea straight after we’d cleaned up after lunch but I love a Sunday spent in the kitchen!

The first stage of the cooking is to brown the beef and onion in the herbs and a bit of oil and butter, once the beef is browned add the beer, tomato puree and stock and flour and then simmer for an hour. I used a bottle of Riggwelter from the Black Sheep Brewery – its a really dark beer that I could never drink but in a stew it has a really deep flavour which goes perfectly with the beef stock.


After the first hour of cooking is done stir in the barley and simmer for another hour (honestly this recipe is more about the waiting than actually cooking – I watched an entire Harry Potter film whilst this cooked!)

Once the second hour is done stir in the mustard, Worcestershire sauce and cheese – go easy on the mustard though, I was a bit heavy handed and it was a touch overpowering. Give the dish a good stir and then ladle into your pie dish and top with the pastry. Give the pastry a brush over with milk or egg and whack the whole dish in the oven for another hour or so.


Once the pastry is golden brown serve with green veggies – you wouldn’t need any potato with this because the pastry and barley make it pretty stodgy. It was absolutely amazing, stodgy, warm, comforting, filling…I literally ate half a plate full and was stuffed.


Perfect comfort food for a cold and dreary Sunday.

Posted in cooking, Food, Jamie Oliver

Week 19 & 20 Piri Piri Chicken and Ginger, Chilli and Soy Steamed Cod

So I’m working hard at getting back up to date with this little blog so I’m going to pair together week 19 and 20 in the interests of keeping a log of what I’ve been cooking. I’ve also just noticed that I’ve been given an award by a lovely follower which I need to pass on so I think I’m going to do week 19 & 20 tonight then 21 and the award blog tomorrow then we’re all up to date!

Week 19 – Piri Piri Chicken

On Week 19 I decided that I wanted to make something with chicken. I know a lot of people don’t really like chicken particularly chicken breast and find it quite boring, but I do. In fact I like chicken breast more that I do the leg or thigh meat – I really dislike meat on the bone. It drives Mr Gem potty but I just can’t have it. So in order to keep Mr Gem happy with the ‘bland’ cuts of meat I try to find really flavoursome recipes to use. And in Week 19 I did.

Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Menus has some really tasty recipes in there (they never take 30 minutes but hey a good dinner is a good dinner!) and its in this book where I found the recipe for Piri Piri Chicken – and happily its available online so I don’t have to type it out. The only change to the recipe was that I used strips of chicken breast rather than thigh meat. The meal was really simple to make, the ease of whizzing up raw ingredients for the sauce in the blender and pouring it over chargrilled peppers and chicken breast was amazing. The simply whack it in the oven for about 15 – 20 minutes until sizzling through. Delicious! I served this with a little rice and a lot of salad.

This is the sort of food that you would make if you were having friends over on a Friday night, tasty enough to impress them but not so difficult that you need to spend more than an hour preparing. I’d definitely make this again, although it was a tad spicy for my taste, I think next time I’d reduce the amount of chilli I added to the sauce, I love a bit of spice but if it starts taking away from the flavour of the dish then I think it’s too much, but aside from that I’d recommend this recipe to anyone!

Week 20 – Ginger, Chilli and Soy-Steamed Cod

I’m a massive fan of asian food, and I’m really enjoying learning to cook this way – however I have a real lack of equipment, aside from a wok, so when I came across this recipe I almost passed it by since I don’t have a bamboo steamer but I really fancied it so came up with what I thought was an ingenious way of steaming my fish, but we’ll get to that later. I chopped all the ingredients and mixed the sauce, coated the cod in the sauce and left it to marinade for a while whilst I prepared all my vegetables for the stir fry (I’m going through a bit of a healthy phase and not really eating too many carbs so I’m trying lots of different accompaniments to meat and fish, this week was stir fried green veg, Mr Gem got a bonus portion of rice (I can’t make him suffer for my waistline!)

Now to the steaming, I have two woks – so in the cheaper wok I poured boiling water, placed a metal pan stand in the water and then stood a casserole dish on the pan stand. Then I added the fish to the casserole dish and put the other wok upside down over the bottom wok, forming a seal and therefore creating the perfect steamer for my cod. It took a little longer than I’d thought it would but the fish was so soft and flavoursome it was worth the wait.

So that concludes my epic posting session for the evening. I will be back tomorrow evening for a final catch up and then hopefully I will have learned my lesson!

Happy cooking!

Posted in Jamie Oliver, stew, sweet and sour

Week 12 Part 2 – Roast Chicken and Sticky Pork Stew

So as well as a LOT of baking this week I did manage to rustle up a couple of new savoury dishes. One of which I stupidly forgot to take a photo of so you’ll just have to imagine how amazing it looked.

Nigel Slater’s Roast Chicken

As I’ve already hinted at I’ve never really made a roast dinner on my own, because it’s just the two of us it seems a bit wasteful making an entire roast dinner but we really fancied one this week and just used the leftovers for lunches. So I had to consult a recipe book on the chicken as I literally didn’t know what to do with it! So Mr Slater came to the rescue advising me to rub the skin with a garlic butter and some tarragon and I sat the chicken in a little bit of water and stock so I could baste it throughout the cooking. I roasted a couple of onions in the pan with the chicken so that I would have the base of an onion gravy at the end. The chicken went into the oven for an hour and a bit on 180 degrees, whilst that was cooking I peeled some sweet potatoes and put them on to boil – I’d decided I fancied sweet potato mash rather than potato mash because its healthier and so tasty! The other vegetables I used were cauliflower, broccoli and honey roast carrots. I par boiled whole baby carrots until I could just sink a knife into them, then coated them in honey and roasted in the oven for about 20 minutes.

The chicken came out lovely – the skin was crispy and garlicky and the meat was cooked just right, the sweet potato mash and honey carrots created a nice sweetness to go with the cauliflower, broccoli and onion gravy. I was so excited about my first chicken dinner that I forgot to take a photo but it was so good!

Sticky Pork Stew

I’m always looking for new things to cook – earlier on in the year I bought some pork for the first time in ages, I made a recipe for sweet and sour pork, which I blogged about in Week 3 and since then I’ve been buying it a lot more regularly. But a girl can’t live on sweet and sour pork along so I’ve been trying to find new pork recipes. I got the bones of the sticky pork recipe from a Jamie Oliver recipe but typically I didn’t read the recipe properly and didn’t realise it took 2 1/2 hours to cook – on a school night that’s just not achievable so I modified it!

I used pork, red peppers, leeks, red wine, red wine vinegar, apricots and put them all in a casserole dish, with a bit of water to cover the meat. It went in the oven for an hour or so on 180 degrees. After an hour I checked it and it smelled fantastic, but the sauce was a bit runny so I mixed up a tablespoon of cornflour and water and added it to the dish, it went back in the oven for 10 minutes whilst I rehydrated some cous cous. This was a really warming casserole but with a twist – the apricots added a real sweetness to the dish that you don’t get with a traditional casserole.

Mr Gem thought it was good but was disappointed not to have the butternut squash mash I’d promised! Regular readers of my blog may remember I bought a butternut squash last week but so far I haven’t attempted to cook it. It is currently sitting in my vegetable rack goading me at my lack of inspiration. The fact is I didn’t want to waste the brand new ingredient on something as bland as mash, but so far I haven’t been able to do anything with it. However this week the squash is for the chop…watch this space!

Happy cooking!

Posted in aubergine, baking, cupcakes, Jamie Oliver, spinach, strawberries, sweet potato chips, trout

Week 10 – Strawberry Cupcakes, Aubergine Parmigiana and Spicy Trout Fillets

Well… Week 10 is going to be a bumper post with 3 new recipes tried – and more importantly 2 new foods that I’ve never tried before.
First of all though apologies that this post is late – I usually write them on a Sunday but to be completely frank I was far to hungover yesterday to even consider writing about food. As a result I also ate some terrible things and I’m not at all hopeful about this weeks weigh in…anyway I digress.
This week I was faced with the challenge of what to do with trout fillets, a vegetable that I have never liked and therefore never cooked with and a bit of Sunday baking – so let’s jump straight in with the baking, because lets face it, cakes always go down well, whereas aubergine may not!
Strawberry Cupcakes:
A few weeks ago I made the mistake of freezing some fresh strawberries, thinking that they would last longer – however when I defrosted some to have with yoghurt for a healthy breakfast they were awful, really mushy and a bit slimy in texture – so the rest of the punnet stayed in the freezer until I could find something to do with them.
I recently treated myself to a new cookery book – Cakes, Bakes and Cupcakes (other booksellers are available!) and it is amazing – you know you’ve got a good cookbook when you could eat almost everything in it, anyway I found  recipe for strawberry cupcakes in my new book so decided to give it a whirl. I couldn’t find a link to this online so here is the recipe (or at least the ingredients – the method is just how I did it)

200g Fresh Strawberries
200g Caster Sugar
150g Unsalted Butte
3 eggs
200g self raising flours 1/2 tsp baking powder
50 ml Butter milk (I used coconut milk as I didn’t have buttermilk)
Put the strawberries and 50g sugar in a bowl, sealed with cling film and place the bowl over a pan of simmering water.
Then make the cakes up mixing the the remaining ingredients together. Separate into cake cases and bake in the oven at 190 degrees for 20 minutes. Meanwhile the strawberries should be melting into a syrup with the sugar.
When the cakes come out of the oven, prick them with a cocktail stick and then drizzle the syrup over them so it soaks through. When the cakes have fully cooled, top them with a butter cream topping – I added some strawberry syrup to my frosting to make it a bit flavoured and give it a bit of colour.
The cakes were so delicious I will definitely be making these again although I may try a few other recipes out of my book first! 
The only thing I would change is the fact that I slipped a bit when adding the syrup to the butter cream and when I tried to ice them it went a bit flat…but I’ll know for next time. Definitely a treat for a birthday party – or just a Sunday!

Aubergine Parmigiana:
In last weeks post I mentioned that I had bought an aubergine from the supermarket and was a bit concerned that I neither like aubergine nor know what to do with one… luckily for me, my good friend Amy read my post and suggested I try Aubergine Parmigiana as an easy dish for an aubergine virgin. 
I had a quick look through my books and found a recipe in Jamie’s Itay – there is a similar version here. I really enjoyed the process of making this recipe not only because I was using an ingredient I have never used before but the griddling of the aubergine until it was charred felt very Mediterranean and a bit cheffy! 
It’s a really simple meal to make, all you need to do is griddle the aubergines until they are charred on both sides, layer it up in an oven dish with the tomato sauce and Parmesan, top with breadcrumbs and bake in the oven, I also popped a few slices of sliced fresh mozzarella on the top whilst it baked. 

I have to admit when I sat down to eat it I was a bit dubious about whether I would like it – but after the first forkful I was converted. The aubergine was lovely and the whole meal was delicious and really filling – so thank you to Amy for the recommendation, I will definitely be making this again – its the perfect midweek meal and so satisfying. 
Mr Gem really enjoyed this meal, you can tell when he really enjoys it as he doesn’t say a great deal whilst he’s eating it! 
Spiced Trout with Sweet Potato Chips:
My final new dish for this week was spiced trout, this was another random ingredient chosen under the slight haze of a hungover visit to the supermarket.
I have never cooked or eaten trout before so I wasn’t quite sure what to do with it, I didn’t really want to put it in a stew or a pie or anything as I wanted to actually taste the flavour of the trout. 
I found the recipe on BBC Good Food and whilst it looked simple it looked very tasty – plus it included sweet potato chips, I love sweet potato – I think I’d rather have sweet potato than normal potato most of the time.
To cook the trout I mixed flour with Cajun spices and then coated the fish in the spiced flour. Then I chopped sweet potatoes into chips, coated in olive oil and baked in the oven for 30 minutes until they were just getting a little charred on the edges. When the chips were almost done I fried the trout in hot oil whilst I steamed some spinach. 
The trout was lovely, really crispy skin and with just a hint of the spices which went well with the sweet chips. Mr Gem is a big big fan of crispy skin so he was particularly happy with this meal. 
I’d definitely cook trout again, I quite like trying different fish – especially since we’re often told not to have too much cod and salmon due to over fishing and trout is a really nice flavoured fish. 

Anyway – that’s all for Week 10 – see you in Week 11!