Wednesday, 29 July 2015

Pork Cheeks with Mushrooms in Rioja

Pork cheeks are an incredibly cheap cut of meat that do take a while to cook, but the results are absolutely wonderful. Slowly cooked, the meat will be tender and melt-in-the-mouth and they can be cooked in lots of different ways. 

Here I opted for Rioja and a selection of mushrooms which was really lovely. You can use any red wine but use a decent wine that you enjoy drinking and then have a glass with the meal. I served here with a jacket potato and kale.

The below is enough for two plus a little extra for the freezer or lunch.



Here's how:


  • 400g pork cheeks
  • 100g shallots
  • 150g celery sticks
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 150g mushrooms (mixed varieties)
  • 2 glasses of wine
  • 1 pint chicken stock
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 bay leaf


Firstly pop the oven on at 180. 

Peel and halve the shallots and add to a frying pan with the olive oil. Peel and crush the garlic and add to the shallots and then finely slice the celery and again add to the pan. This will be the base for your casserole. 

Slice the mushrooms and add to the pan with the shallots, celery and garlic and allow to cook for a couple of minutes, stirring every 30 seconds or so.

In the meantime place the flour into a bowl and season generously. Then pop the pork cheeks into the flour and turn around to ensure each part is coated with the flour.

Remove the shallot and mushroom mixture into a casserole dish, and set aside. And place the pork cheeks into the pan to brown. Once browned on all side, return the mushroom and shallot mixture to the pan and pour over 1 glass of Rioja. Allow to simmer down for two minutes then return to the casserole dish. Pour over the other glass of Rioja, the chicken stock, add the bay leaf and season once more.

Pot a lid onto the casserole dish or cover with foil and place into the oven for approximately 2.5-3 hours - checking every 30 minutes and giving a good stir.

Keep checking the meat, you know it's cooked well once it falls apart easily when touched with a fork.

Serve with your choice of accompaniments - enjoy!

Lemon Curd and Blueberry Muffins

These are a lovely baked treat of twelve muffins - you can use lemon curd or blueberry jam as I have here, but they work equally well with other jams too and are utterly delicious with a cup of tea.

They are a perfect distraction for children to make during the summer holidays too and a great introduction to baking. They are also very easy to make just needing a basic muffin recipe.



Here's how:

  • 150g caster sugar
  • 200g self raising flour
  • 1 egg
  • 75ml olive oil
  • 160ml milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 75g lemon curd
  • 75g blueberry jam
  • Handful of blueberries to decorate


Firstly pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees. Also line a muffin tin with twelve muffin cases.

Sieve the flour into a bowl and add 100g of the caster sugar.

In a separate bowl mix together the vanilla, olive oil, milk and egg and once combined slowly mix into the dry ingredients.

Once completely combined half fill each muffin case with some mixture. Now put a teaspoon of lemon curd into half of the muffin cases and a teaspoon of blueberry jam into the other six. Now finally top each muffin with more muffin mixture to cover the jam and lemon curd.

Place into the oven to cook for 12-15 minutes or until golden brown and nicely risen.

Remove from the oven and set aside.

With the remaining lemon curd, place into a ramekin or small bowl and place into the microwave for ten seconds or so to completely melt. Then using a pastry brush, brush the six lemon curd-filled muffins with the melted curd. Now scatter half of the remaining caster sugar.

Now repeat the process with the blueberry jam - melt in the microwave and brush over the remaining muffins and then scatter with sugar. Then use the blueberries to decorate. 

These will keep in a cake bow for two days but are best served warm with a cup of tea.

Garlic and Bay Ribeye Steak with Vegetable Fried Cauliflower Rice

I have been on a fat-fighting mission of late, still holding onto a good few extra pounds of baby weight and recently underwent a 30 day challenge of healthy eating Monday-Friday with treats (including alcohol) at the weekend only. This was a success and I shed 12lbs during this time - I still have a little way to go and with some of the meals I developed during this time, I need to keep up the healthy eating for at least Monday-Fridays for a few more months now to get down to my goal weight - some, such as this steak and 'rice' meal are so good that I would eat them whether dieting or not. 

This recipe is for 1 person - but obviously increase accordingly if cooking for more people. 

The fad for cauliflower rice was one that I admittedly scoffed at initially, but actually have found that by giving plenty of plenty to the cauliflower it is more than edible and in fact can be delicious in a variety of ways. Served here with a deliciously marinated and quick-fried ribeye steak, it feels like a luxury meal compared to usual diet fodder of soup or a salad. 'Fake' carbs such as cauliflower rice and courgette pasta have been my saviour during this diet. 

The below comes in at around 506 calories (via MyFitnessPal) and takes only 15 minutes to prepare and cook.



Here's how: 


  • 200g ribeye steak
  • 100g caulfower rice (can prepare this by grating the white part of a cauliflower with coarsely - or can buy ready made from the likes of Tesco)
  • 1 spring onion
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 1 red chilli
  • 50g mushrooms
  • Half a green pepper
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Paprika
  • 50g cherry tomatoes 
  • 1.5 tbsp olive oil


Firstly you need to marinate the steak. Into a bowl pour 1 tbsp of the olive oil, using the bare minimum, as here, will keep the calorie count down, but ensure the flavour is good. Add the bay leaves to the oil and add two of the garlic cloves - roughly chopped (no need to peel). Set aside in the kitchen - don't put back into the fridge.

If you need to prepare your 'rice' then use a box grater on the largest side to coarsely grate and set aside.Pour the remaining oil into a non-stick pan and place on a low heat.

At this point also place on a medium heat the griddle or pan for which you will cook the steak. Pop the cherry tomatoes in to griddle.

Finely chop the spring onion, garlic and chilli and add to the pan to flavour the oil. 

In the meantime finely chop the peppers and mushrooms too. Add the peppers to the pan and stir through. Once the peppers start to soften, this is time to pop the rice in to cook - and at the same time the steak will need to be popped into the other pan to cook also - before doing so I sprinkle on some salt and pepper onto each side of the steak for final seasoning.

I like my steak rare so I use a timer and cook a 200g steak like this for 1.5 minutes on a high but obviously cook to your own preference. While it's cooking, I add some further flavour to the cauliflower rice - a pinch each of salt and pepper and a good sprinkling of smoky paprika.

Once the steak is cooked to your liking, set aside to rest for three minutes off of the heat. 

Give the cauliflower rice a final stirring ensuring each piece is 'coated' in the flavoured oil and vegetable mixture and then dish up. Pop your steak on top and add the cherry tomatoes to the plate. Enjoy!



Saturday, 25 July 2015

Baby Bites Yoghurt and Paprika Grilled Chicken with Sweet Potato Crispies

This is a really lovely and simple dish and one that you can enjoy too - you can just ramp up the heat a little by adding fresh or dried chillies to your marinade.

Yoghurt marinade in any form is great for tenderising meat and works beautifully with chicken. The sweet potato crispies are like an oven baked chip and could be served with a little portion of dip such as tzatziki or tomato dipping sauce and make a brilliant finger food.

I served this with peas as they are Bridget's favourite despite taking a hell of a long time to eat them all individually! You could of course serve with whatever vegetable you have to hand.

I use 1 half of a chicken breast fillet but you could do the whole breast and use the remaining chicken for a lunchtime or dinner time meal the next day.

Also since introducing finger foods, I tend to do a little more than what I expect Bridget to eat - this is to account for the food she will inevitably just play with and explore and of course those bits that will christen the floor rather than Bridget's tummy. 



Here's how:
  • 1 half of chicken breast
  • 1 heaped tbsp natural yoghurt
  • 1/2 clove garlic
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • Pinch of black pepper
  • Squeeze of lemon (if no fresh lemons are available a Jif lemon would do it)
  • 1 small sweet potato
  • Handful of frozen peas
  • Drizzle of olive oil

Firstly make the yoghurt marinade by combining the yoghurt, paprika, pepper, oregano and lemon juice into a bowl and stirring through with the half of garlic clove crushed in too.

With the halved chicken fillet, make three slight incisions / slashes on each side with a sharp knife - this will help the marinade to permeate through the meat and keep it moist and tasty.

Place the chicken into the bowl with the marinade and using a tablespoon move the chicken around and turn over to ensure each part of the breast is coated. Pop into the fridget for 1 hour. (If you are short on time then reduce the marinating time, but try to leave for at least 20-30 minutes if possible)

Remove the chicken from the fridge and leave to bring down to room temperature and in the meantime boil the kettle and peel the sweet potato. Then slice the potato into thin discs, around the thickness of a £2 coin. Wash and then place into a small saucepan and top up with the boiling water and place onto a medium heat.

Cook for about 8 minutes then drain completely, return to the pan and place back on the heat for 5 seconds to rid the potato of any remaining water.

Now pop the potato discs into an oven proof dish, drizzle with olive oil, season with black pepper and place into the oven for 20-25 minutes until crisp.

Place some foil onto your grill to prevent too much mess and then place the chicken on top. Pop the grill onto the medium setting and allow to cook. You'll be able to see the chicken turning white to signal it's cooked through - but it shouldn't take more than fifteen minutes. You want the meat cooked through thoroughly with a slight char on the outside but want to avoid the meat becoming over done, chewy and dry.

After seven or eight minutes under the grill turn over to cook the other side and after the fifteen (will depend on size of meat), it should be cooked through. Test by cutting into the meat - there should be no pink or redness inside, and any juices should run clear.

Once satisfied the chicken is cooked through, cover with foil and allow to rest and cool for five minutes, and meanwhile place the peas on to cook.

Slice the chicken into manageable chunks or slices and pop onto the plate. Remove the sweet potato crispies and place onto a plate with some kitchen roll to remove any excess grease or oil then add to baby's plate. Drain the peas and dish up - and watch baby enjoy.

Baby Bites Ratatouille

This is a great summery dish for baby - and you can use whatever vegetables you have in stock too.

Bridget loves this one with some bread or crackers to dip in.

This makes enough for five or six portions and it freezes well too - just ensure to fully defrost and re-heat before serving to baby.



Here's how:
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 courgette
  • Half a baked butternut squash
  • 6 cherry tomatoes quartered
  • 1/2 yellow pepper
  • 1 tin of tomatoes or jar of passata
  • 1 tbsp fresh chopped basil
  • 1 tbsp fresh chopped parsley
  • Pinch black pepper
  • 1 tsp brown sugar
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

Very finely dice the onion and yellow pepper and crush the garlic and add to a saucepan with the olive oil and place on a low heat.

Quarter the cherry tomatoes, dice the courgette into manageable bite sized pieces for baby, and finely chop the basil and parsley. Dice the baked butternut squash too.

Once the onion, garlic and pepper has softened slightly add the brown sugar and allow to cook for a further two minutes.

Now add the courgette, butternut squash and cherry tomatoes and cook for five minutes, stirring with a wooden spoon.

Now add the tinned tomatoes or passata the black pepper and the fresh herbs, retaining a little of each for the very end.

Now cook for thirty to forty minutes and then remove from the heat and stir through the herbs. Portion up and if you are serving a portion right away, ensure it cools enough for baby.

Baby Bites Pesto Topped Salmon with Spaghetti and Vegetables

This is a smaller version of the Pesto Topped Salmon - scaled down for my ten month old which she really enjoys as finger foods - even the peas!

As your little one gets older, it makes much more sense for him or her to be having what you and your family are eating, where possible.

Aside from providing home made and nutritious meals this way, it will get them used to eating at the table at the same time during the weaning process.

I use the Walnut and Basil Pesto as only a pinch of salt is used in making the batch, however if you're keen to avoid any salt at all, then do make a batch minus the salt.

I use 1 fillet of salmon for Bridget, and use half the next day, but you could cut the fillet in half before cooking and pop into the freezer if you prefer.



Here's how:

  • 1 fillet of salmon
  • 1/2 tbsp Walnut and Basil Pesto
  • Few breadcrumbs
  • 20g wholemeal spaghetti
  • 25g green beans
  • 25g peas

Firstly place the oven onto 180 degrees and fill and boil the kettle.

Place the salmon into a small ovenproof dish and spread on the pesto. Scatter over the breadcrumbs and place into the oven to cook for 18 minutes or until cooked through.

Using the boiled water cook the pasta according to pack instructions and in a separate pot cook the green beans and peas.

Once both the pasta and the vegetables are cooked, remove from the heat and drain individually.

Place the pasta back into the pot and add a tiny drizzle of olive oil then pop onto baby's plate to cool a little. You can here add a drizzle more of the pesto - but this is optional.

Dish up the drained vegetables onto baby's plate too.

Remove salmon from the oven and dish up, cutting into bite-sized pieces suitable for being a finger food - allowing to cool for a few minutes before giving to baby.

Pesto Topped Salmon with Half and Half Green Pasta

This meal is absolutely delicious and perfect on hot summer evenings with a crisp glass of white. It works well for weaning tots too (minus the wine). It uses a good glug of the Walnut and Basil Pesto for both the salmon and through the half and half pasta.

On that, I use just 25g wholemeal spaghetti per person (less for little madam) and 50g courgette or courgette pasta. You can actually buy this ready made in Tesco now if you aren’t in possession of a spiralizer. You could also finely slice a courgette or use a vegetable peeler to make ribbons, then slice into spaghetti-like strands.

Here I’ve used peas and green beans to up the vegetable content as well as the courgette of course, but other vegetables could work just as well – experiment.

Although a little pesto is stirred through the pasta mix, I find it essential to flavour the oil and pan before cooking courgette, so made a base here with garlic, a leek and a couple of celery sticks – but if you’re in a hurry you could just use the pesto. The sauce base takes no time at all and can be prepared whilst the salmon’s in the oven.



Here’s how:


  • 2 salmon fillets
  • 3 tbsp Walnut and Basil Pesto
  • 1 tbsp breadcrumbs or crumbled cracker
  • 50g wholemeal spaghetti
  • 100g courgetti
  • 2 celery sticks
  • 1 leek
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 100g green beans
  • 100g peas
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Seasoning to taste (don’t use salt if preparing a weaning dish)

Firstly switch the oven on to 180 degrees and fill and boil the kettle.

Place the salmon fillets into an oven-proof dish. Spread 1 tablespoon of Walnut and Basil Pesto on top of each fillet. Scatter over some breadcrumbs and wait for the oven to warm up thoroughly. Then place inside the oven for 18 minutes or until cooked through and the breadcrumbs have gone golden brown.

Place the pasta on to cook, according to packet instructions and steam or boil the peas and green beans then drain and leave to one side.

Meanwhile peel and crush the garlic and add to a pan with the olive oil on a low heat to flavour the oil.

Very finely slice the leek and celery and add to the pan with the garlic and allow to soften.

Just before the salmon is cooked, add the courgetti to the pan with the garlic, leeks and celery and allow to cook through for 2-3 minutes.

Drain the pasta and add to the pan with the courgetti etc and stir through 1 tbsp of the pesto. Drain the peas and green beans and add to the pasta mix, stirring through.

Remove the salmon from the oven and allow to rest for 1 minute.

Dish up the pasta and place the salmon on top.