Posted in cooking

The Prodigal Blogger

I really am so bad at this blogging thing. I’ve just struggled to find the time to write recently it tends to take up a lot of time planning a wedding! And to be fair I haven’t really been eating much interesting food, having to stand up in front of all your friends and family in a fabulous white dress tends to put the kibosh on delicious food, and sends you down a road of salad and reduced carbs, which I imagine is even less interesting to read about than it is to eat.

However – it’s now May, the deed is done, I am officially Mrs Gem, which is crazy – but we had an absolutely amazing day, celebrating with all our family and friends

Mr and Mrs Gem
Mr and Mrs Gem
So we had a minimoon in the Lake District where we ate some of the most incredible food which got me more inspired than I have been in a long while to start cooking again. One thing that we tried for the first time in the Lake District was fried Polenta and this is the inspiration for my first dish back on the blog.

Beef and Ricotta Burger with sun-dried tomato relish and beaded Polenta fries 


This meal was really inspired by the Polenta canapés we had on our Minimoon, they were served deep-fried with truffle mayonnaise. I wanted to create a Friday night dinner so nothing too posh, but still a bit of a treat after a long first week back at work after the wedding and minimoon.

Polenta Fries

You will need:

Ready made Polenta (or you can make it from scratch but for a Polenta virgin this was easy to use), 1 whisked egg, fine bread crumbs,

Dead easy to make:

Simply cut the Polenta into fries (as chunky or skinny as you like – I went chunky), dunk each fry in the egg and then coat with bread crumbs.


When they are all breaded, shallow fry in olive oil for 2-3 minutes on each side until they are golden brown and a bit crispy.


They are mega yummy! I did not attempt my own truffle mayo – but they are really really good dipped in Aioli.

Ricotta Burgers

You will need:

Minced beef, ricotta, spring onion, salt and pepper to taste

Again dead easy to make:

Mix the mince with the ricotta – you want roughly half the amount of ricotta as you have beef, and add the spring onions and salt and pepper.


Shape into generous burger patties and stick in the fridge until you are ready to use them.


To cook simply fry in a little olive oil for 6-8 minutes on both side. The ricotta goes a little bit caramelised and you get a fabulous, moist (apologies if that word makes you wince, I hate it too but its late and I can’t think of another word that means the same thing) burger.


Sun-dried Tomato Relish

You will need:

Sun-dried tomatoes, some form of wine vinegar – the recipe called for sherry vinegar but I didn’t have any so I used white wine vinegar and it tasted just fine, salt and pepper

Literally the most easy thing to make:

Chop the sun-dried tomatoes, mix with a bit of the oil from the tomato jar, add white wine vinegar and season to taste.


Serve on top of your burger

The recipe for the burgers and relish comes from Nigel Slater’s Eat – which is probably one of the favourite books on my cook book shelf at the moment. I love it because unlike some cookbooks you don’t need an ingredients list that’s as long as your arm, you don’t need to make a trip to a specialist supermarket and you don’t need to spend an awful lot of money. It’s all about simplicity, a few great ingredients, a few simple instructions that even Mr Gem could follow and a delicious end product – what more could you ask for?!

And that is it, a simple start to ease myself back in, but delicious all the same.


Posted in cooking

Lovely Lamb Souvlaki

I am still on the healthy eating track at the minute and exciting recipes are few and far between, so please excuse the lack of content – I’m sure no one really wants to read about grilled salmon and salad though do they?!

I must admit it’s very hard to stay healthy on a weekend when there is an abundance of opportunities to eat lovely food. For example just yesterday Mr Gem and I went wedding cake tasting! How is a girl supposed to count the calories when she is offered free cake? It was very good though, excited to taste the real thing in 11 weeks (eek!)

Anyway I have been trying where possible to avoid naughty treats by filling up on healthy but tasty meals, so this weeks recipe is my take on Lamb Souvlaki, Greek kebabs. I love Greek food, so much flavour and it just transports me to summer holidays! I hope you enjoy it.


To make this recipe you will need:
Diced lamb (stewing or leg steak), lemon juice, garlic, dried mint and oregano – simple!

I chopped the lamb steaks into 2cm strips and added into a bowl with the lemon juice, garlic and herbs, gave it a good mix to ensure the lamb was coated and then left it to marinate for an hour or so.


In the meantime I made up a greek salad using cherry tomatoes, lettuce, red onion, cucumber and feta cheese (reduced fat for me!) I made a dressing from olive oil and white wine vinegar and tossed though the salad and stuck it to one side. I always make salad slightly ahead of time, I hate fridge cold lettuce and tomato, I like it to come up to room temperature a bit.

Once the lamb was marinated I threaded it on skewers with some onions and mushrooms and popped under the grill for about 15 mins, turning and basting with the marinade every few minutes when I remembered.


We had these kebabs with flatbreads, hummus and tazatziki with the salad and they were absolutely delicious!! The meat was tender from the marinade and the lemon and herbs came through nicely. The salad and dips just finished it off nicely.


Calorie wise all in was around 600, but you could remove the flatbread to make it less if you wish, but sometimes, you need a bit of bread!

Happy cooking!!

Posted in cooking

A tasty chowder for a chilly evening

So far so good I’m in the first week of January and I have a NEW recipe to report on. (Technically the 2nd week of Jan but New Years Day doesn’t count and who has the energy on the 2nd to do anything?)

In anticipation of our upcoming nuptials Mr Gem and I are on a serious health kick, lots of fruit and veg, minimal pasta and bread etc. I spent most of Sunday rifling through recipe books trying to find adaptable tasty recipes when I came across this little beauty in Nigel Slater’s Eat which is a fabulous little recipe book of fast easy recipes.

Haddock Chowder

8 Jan 2014 005
To make this you will need:

Haddock (I used smoked and can highly recommend), Milk, Black Peppercorns, Bay leaves, Onions, Carrots, Swede (I replaced this with Parsnips as I had no swede), Potato, Mustard Seeds, Turmeric, Flour and Parsley to serve

8 Jan 2014 002

It could not be easier to make this dish. Simply cut the haddock in half and put in a sauce pan with the milk, bay leaves and black peppercorns and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat, cover with a pan lid and allow the residual heat to poach the fish and the milk infuse with the flavours.

Meanwhile finely chop the onions and fry in a little butter, chop the veg finely and add to the onions. Stir on the heat for 5 – 10 mins and then add the spices.

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Cook with the spices for another couple of minutes and then toss 2 tablespoons of flour and coat all of the veg with the flour.

Remove the fish from the milk and set aside. Strain the milk to catch the pepper and bay leave and then pour into the veg. Cook through until the milky sauce thickens to a rich thick consistency, add the fish back in to warm through.

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Ladle the chowder into serving bowls, add a few leaves of parsley and enjoy!

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The biggest surprise with this dish was the calories – I use a calorie tracker on my phone and this, despite its creaminess, came in at 567 calories, which I thought was really reasonable for the amount of food and how tasty it was – I stayed within my goal for the day and was utterly satisfied.

This is the sort of dinner that Mr Gem loves and its safe to say this is one that will be definitely on the menu at Kitchen Gems HQ again!



Posted in cooking

New Year, New Start (again!)

So – it turns out I’m not so hot on the remembering to blog every week – and since I’ve missed the last 60 odd weeks it seems like I’ll never catch up! But it is a new year and I’ve always enjoyed writing about my kitchen tales so I have decided to start again but with a few subtle changes because, change is good!

I’ve decided not to strictly adhere to cooking a new recipe a week, in a strange way it seemed to add pressure – having to come up with something new every week. There will still be recipes I’ve never tried before but I’ll also include some of our old favourites – just to mix things up a bit. Also it helps me feel like less of a failure when I get to the end of this year when I haven’t cooked 52 new recipes.

I thought I might also blog about interesting food places Mr Gem and I discover when we are out and about – not in the form of a restaurant review – I’m no Jay Rayner, but if we eat something awesome I’ll share a photo and a recommendation.

Also I may slip in a few small posts about our upcoming wedding – Mr Gem proposed last Christmas and now W Day is fast approaching. Excitingly we have all of the exciting food tasting and choosing bits still to do. Unsurprisingly food was a big part of the decision making process in booking the venue.

So I’ll sign off by wishing you all a happy new year. It’s going to be an exciting 2015 at Kitchen Gems HQ and I can’t wait to share it!


Posted in cooking

One Big Fat Catch Up! Week 41

Oh my goodness. It has been AGES. I’ve come to the conclusion that I have two lives, my winter life where I cook and blog and feel all cosy and domesticated and then there is my summer life which is a lovely whirlwind of weddings and birthdays, eating out and drinking – leaving little time for cooking and blogging.

I have been cooking though and experimenting with things I haven’t tried before. My aim tonight is a bit of a whistlestop tour of recipes I’ve attempted, some have been amazing, some have failed miserably. I may do this over two posts if my fingers get tired after 18 weeks off – I feel like an MP with the length of my summer break! Anyway, on we go.

I’m making an executive decision to skip past some of the more mundane dishes and go with the show stoppers – mundane could be pasta or meatballs – stuff that’s new but not too difficult to make.

First up we had some Grown Up Mocha cupcakes, made with real coffee and the most amazingly naughty mocha topping. Whilst in my summer break I had a bit of a special birthday and hit the big 3-0 – I wasn’t all that happy about it but I did get a really lovely baking book from Mr Gem, it’s called Baking Magic and is by a lady called Kate Shirazi – this recipe is from that book. Happily another blogger out there has already written out the recipe for me so have a look: Grown-up mocha cupcakes and thank you very much to Lola and Finn’s mum for saving me the job of typing it out.


The recipe is so simple – for the cakes mix the flour, sugar, cocoa, marg, baking powder eggs and coffee together until well mixed and light and fluffy, spoon the mixture into muffin cases and bake in the oven for 20 mins. Remove from the oven and allow to cool. While the cakes are cooling make the icing, which consists of butter, icing sugar, cocoa powder and instant coffee dissolved in water. Amazing. To be honest we were lucky to get any icing on the cake, I couldn’t stop eating it!

The cakes turned out light and fluffy and nicely balanced with the chocolate and the coffee. Yummy. I don’t make this recipe very often because it is completely dangerous for the waistline! 

In the same week as the cupcakes I also attempted a new recipe from Nigel Slater Kitchen Diaries:

Lamb Osso Busco with Giant Shells


Another surprisingly simple but delicious recipe, marred only by the fact I couldn’t find any Marsala wine in my local big green shop…however you can follow Madame Gourmands recipe who made a similar version and blogged about it here this is essentially a lovely casserole type dish made with onions, celery, carrots and lamb, served with buttery garlicky pasta. It was a bit different from what I normally cook, but so delicious I would definitely cook it again. Because I didn’t have any marsala I had to concoct a sauce from white wine and tomato puree, so probably didn’t really taste anything like the real thing – however still good, as soon as I get my hands on some marsala I’ll have another crack at it!

So far so good on the catch up but I have to say that one of my favourite new discoveries over the summer was another sweet bake. I don’t do much baking as I always get a bit cross when I can’t make my cakes look as pretty as I’d like. However, these cakes looked good and tasted amazing, enjoy…

Cherry Bakewell Cupcakes


These cakes are absolutely delicious – they taste exactly like a Cherry bakewell.

The recipe came out of my Good Housekeeping bakes and cakes book – I can’t find a recipe online exactly like the one I have used but there is a similar one on BBC Food the main difference between the two being that rather than use jam I used chopped up glace cherries. Making  the cake was pretty standard, all the cake ingredients well mixed together until light and fluffy, then stir in the cherries. Bake in the oven for about 20 minutes and then leave to cool. Then comes the icing. Mix a tablespoon of custard powder with boiled milk and stir until thickened, mix in with butter and icing sugar and leave to set a bit, then spread over your cakes – this is hands down one of the best cake toppings I ever tasted. Once you’ve iced your cakes top each one with half a glace cherry and leave to set. Yummy! 

And finally for this evening I’ll finish with a risotto, old favourite basic dish but with a twist I’ve never tried before.

Pea and Mint Risotto with Seared Scallops


Now that I have a house with a bit of outdoor space I have been trying to grow some bits for myself – I have lavender, parsley, basil and a mint plant now growing so wanted to use some mint in my cooking. I decided on a pea and mind risotto after finding a recipe in Delicious magazine It was a very simple recipe, simply make a standard white risotto base, then boil some peas and pop them in the blender with mint leaves and olive oil. Stir the puree into the risotto and serve with some seared scallops and parmesan cheese. This was a really delicious but light tea, perfect for summer!

I think this is where I should conclude my update for now, I have two or three more recipes to cover but I want to do them justice so they need their own post!

Happy cooking! 🙂





Posted in cooking

Week 23: Nutty Prawn and asparagus stir-fry

Its always a big moment when Mr Gem announces that he has just eaten one of his favourite new dishes. This dish created one of those moments…it was epic.

Regular readers will know I’m a big fan of Asian cooking. Most of the time its easy, quick and so tasty and mostly healthy. So those are my reasons for liking them – and what follows is the reason Mr Gem declared this one of his favourites!

Nutty Prawn and Asparagus Stir Fry


This recipe is from Ching’s Fast Food – but the recipe does not appear to be online so here it is:

200g asparagus, 1tbsp groundnut oil, 2 cloves garlic, 2.5 cm fresh ginger (or 2 tsp ginger paste) 150g cooked and shelled prawns, 1 tbsp shaosing rice wine (or dry sherry), 1 tbsp light soy sauce, 1 tsp rice vinegar, handful of roasted salted cashews, 1 tsp cornflour, 1 tbsp water.

Bring a saucepan of water to the boil and blanch the asparagus for a couple of minutes then drain and plunge into cold water. Put aside. Heat a wok over a high heat until it starts to smoke then add the oil. Add the ginger and stir-fry for a few seconds and add the asparagus and any other vegetables you might like. Stir-fry for 2 minutes then add the prawns.

Add the reice wine (or sherry), soy vinegar and cashew nuts. Mix the cornflour and water to a paste and then stir into the sauce, leave over the heat until the sauce thickens.

Serve over some sticky white rice.

The flavours are so authentic and delicious – I would definitely cook this again – I don’t think I’ll be able not to. So simple and tasty. Anyone could cook this dish.

Posted in cooking

Week 20 – Chicken, Leek and Parsley Pie

This blog is about the mishaps as well as the triumphs that happen in my kitchen. To be honest I thought there would be a lot more disasters than there have been, I’m sure it’s much more entertaining when it goes wrong. It’s certainly entertaining to watch Mr Gem swallow down my disasters and try to think of something to say about it that won’t hurt my feelings. This is exactly what happened in week 20.

Chicken, Leek and Parsley Pie

Chicken Leek and Parsley Pie
Chicken Leek and Parsley Pie


We had a bit of a frugal week at Kitchen Gems HQ and I had all the ingredients for this recipe except for the parsley. This is a recipe from my Nigel Slater Kitchen Diaries recipe book (another favourite) and it is so simple. There is a copy of the recipe here. It’s a really hearty dish perfect for a lazy Sunday afternoon.

I forgot to buy the puff pastry from the supermarket so had to make my own (yes – make my own) shortcrust pastry – and it was pretty good even if I do say so myself.

Proof that I made my pastry from scratch!
Proof that I made my pastry from scratch!

However…after cooking the chicken and poaching the leeks I was ready to put the dish together I realised that in our quick dash around the supermarket we had bought a huge bunch of coriander – not the parsley needed by the recipe. I don’t like coriander.

However, we had nothing else meal was all but ready to go in the oven so I thought – what’s the worst that could happen? I mixed the leek, chicken and coriander mixture into the sauce, popped it into an oven dish and applied homemade pastry top and shoved it in the oven.

30 minutes later it was ready.

Chicken Leek and Parsley Pie - served with sweet potato mash
Chicken Leek and Parsley Pie – served with sweet potato mash

The result was surprisingly ok. The coriander wasn’t overpowering and although the flavours didn’t quite sit together as they would if I’d used the parsley but it wasn’t the biggest disaster it could have been. The moral of the story is – even when you mess up it will probably still taste ok!