Friday, 30 March 2012

Tilapia Tacos

I am still on a Mexican kick. I follow Skinny Taste and when I saw her recipe for Cilantro Lime Tilapia Tacos I knew I had to make them, especially with tilapia sat in the freezer. They were delicious, a little spicy but not too spicy.

I finish for the Easter Holidays today and I cannot wait for the break! I have loads of things planned for the holidays, not least gardening! I am going with my sister on Saturday to buy compost so that I can start planting seeds and then after Easter I am going, with my mum, on a tour of the garden centres to buy veg plants and flowers to go in the tubs. I am very excited! I can't wait to get back in the garden again, fingers crossed that the unusually balmy weather holds!

Tilapia Tacos (adapted from Skinny Taste)
(Serves 4)

4 tilapia fillets
1 tsp olive oil
1 small onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely minced
2 jalapeño peppers, chopped
300g diced tomatoes
half a tin sweetcorn
2 tbsp fresh cilantro, chopped
3 tbsp lime juice
salt and pepper to taste
8 5-inch white corn tortillas
150ml sour cream

Heat olive oil in a skillet. Sauté onion until translucent, then add garlic. Mix well.

Place tilapia on the skillet and cook until the flesh starts to flake. Add jalapeño peppers, tomatoes, sweetcorn, cilantro and lime juice. Sauté over medium-high heat for about 5 minutes, breaking up the fish with the spoon to get everything mixed well; season to taste with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile, heat tortillas in the microwave, about 7 second per tortilla. Serve a little over 1/4 cup of fish on each warmed tortillas with a tbsp sour cream.

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Chicken and Tarragon Pot Pies

I made this pie a little while ago, when I had some leftover roast chicken and it's been sat in my freezer. I was supposed to have it on Sunday but I went to see the Hunger Games instead, so had it on Monday. I wasn't all that impressed with the Hunger Games but I seem to be in the minority! Everyone else I've spoken to loved it! These are mostly 11 year old girls, I work in a school, but still! I found it very slow and lacking in action but as it was a 12A I think it was probably marketed at a younger age group.

This pie on the other hand was lovely. It was really flavourful and the puff pastry was great. I served it with sauteed white cabbage and courgettes.

Chicken and Tarragon Pot Pies (from Good Food Magazine January 2006)
(Serves 4)

400g cooked turkey or chicken, torn into chunks
100g chestnut mushrooms, quartered
100g frozen peas, defrosted
chicken stock, fresh, cube or concentrate made up to 300ml
1 onion, halved and sliced
2 sheets of fresh or frozen ready-rolled puff pastry , cut to fit 4 pie dishes
1 egg, beaten for glazing
a small bunch tarragon, leaves chopped
142ml pot of double cream

Heat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6.

Cook the onion and mushrooms in a little butter until soft, add the rest of the ingredients (except the pastry), bubble up and season.

Divide between 4 small ovenproof pie dishes, cover with a circle of puff and glaze. Bake for 20-25 minutes until puffed and golden.

Monday, 26 March 2012


I am having a bit of a Mexican food fiesta at the moment. As I get school dinners, I only want something small and light for dinner, and quesadillas fit the bill perfectly. I made two different sorts of quesadillas; Chorizo and Cheese, and Mango, Brie and Jalapeno. The idea for the chorizo and cheese ones comes from a friend and the Mango, Brie and Jalepeno is a recreation of a dish I've had at Cafe Pacifico. Both were absolutely delicious, although sadly some of the brie leaked out so I had a hard time cleaning the pan!

I made two types of quesadillas. The first were chorizo and cheddar (I would usually use Monteray Jack but couldn't find any).

The second were brie, mango and jalapeno quesidillas

No recipe is really needed here. I use Nigella's method for making them; I put the filling on half of the tortilla and then fold it in half to dry fry it until crispy and serve.

Friday, 23 March 2012

Wonton Noodle Soup

I have been wanting to make wonton noodle soup for ages but the effort and time involved in making my own wontons really put me off. I was shopping in Chinatown over the weekend and came across frozen ready-made wontons. Hurrah thought I, I can have my fix! And what a delicious fix it was. I also bought some vegetable stock cubes with tamarind in them and I love the citrusy flavour it brings to the soup.

Wonton Noodle Soup
(Serves 1)

400ml veg stock (mine had tamarind in it)
1/2 tsp crushed ginger
1/2 tsp crushed garlic
1 tbsp soy sauce
4 frozen wontons
enough ramen noodles for one person
half a head of spring greens, sliced
handful sugar snap peas
half a bag of baby spinach
1 Japanese fishcake, sliced

Bring the stock to a boil in a sauce pan and add in the ginger and garlic.

Add in the frozen wontons and cook for 4 mins, add in the noodles and fishcake and cook for a couple of minutes, add in the sugar snaps, spinach and greens and cook for two more mins.

Add in the soy sauce and serve.

And just because it's actually starting to feel like spring, here is a picture of some beautiful narcissus in my garden.

Wednesday, 21 March 2012

Florentine Pizza

Every year my mum has a fantastic crop of spinach and she always gives me some, I then blanch and freeze it. This is the last of the lot that I froze over the summer and I made it into this fantastic pizza. It is a Weightwatchers recipe but I added some cheese onto the top as what's a pizza without cheese?! The tomato bit, instead of being tomato sauce is tomato paste and actually this added a lovely sweetness to the pizza contrasting with the slightly bitter spinach and the egg on top finishes it off perfectly. I really cannot recommend this pizza highly enough it was fantastic!

Florentine Pizza (from Weightwatchers Cook Smart Easy Everyday)
(Serves 2)
(8 WW ProPoints per serving)

145g pizza packet dough
300g spinach, rinsed
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tbsp tomato puree
2 eggs
salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Make up the dough according to the packet instructions, dividing it to make 2 pizzas. Roll out to circles of approximately 20 cm diameter and place on a baking tray. Put in the oven for 2 mins so that the dough begins to rise.

Cook the spinach in a steamer for 3-4 mins until wilted. Drain well and , when cool enough to handle, squeeze out any excess water and chop roughly. Mix with garlic and season.

Spread the tomato puree over the pizza bases and top with the spinach, making a well in the middle. Bake for 5 mins then remove from the oven. Crack an egg into the middle of each pizza, so that it is contained within the spinach, bake for a further 8-10 mins until the bases are crispy.

Monday, 19 March 2012

Chinese Sausage with Barbecue Sauce, Noodles and Greens

Back in November I went on a tour of Chinatown with Divertimenti. After the tour we went back to the cookery school in Marylebone High Street and the chef who took us on the tour cooked us a range of dishes using the produce that she had picked up on our way round. This was one of the dishes that she cooked and it was delicious. I have tried Chinese sausage before and never really got on with it but the spiciness of the barbecue sauce seems to tone down the sweetness of the sausage. It is fantastic served with a side of kimchi.

I am going to enter this into Presto Pasta Nights this week hosted by Juli of Pictures Of All My Princesses. Check out her blog on Friday for the round up.

Chinese Sausage with Barbecue Sauce, Noodles and Greens
(Serves 1)

2 Chinese sausages, cut into inch long pieces
rice noodles for 1 person
1 tbsp Sa Cha Chinese barbecue sauce
greens or pak choi or kai lan or choi sum (something green and leafy)

Cook the noodles according to packet instructions (if you can read the packet), for these ones I boiled them for about 5 mins. Steam the greens in a steamer on top of the noodles for a couple of minutes.

Meanwhile fry the sausages in a little oil in a frying pan for a couple of minutes. Add the cooked noodles to the pan and the barbecue sauce. Cook for a couple of minutes until combined.

Put the greens in your serving dish and then top with the noodles and sausages. Serve.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Carrot and Ginger Soup

I managed to buy 5 pounds of carrots from the market the other day. He was using old weights and I could either have 2 pounds which didn't look enough or 5 which ended up being way too many, so I made soup! To cut down on cost I used stuff already in the house, so I used ground ginger rather than fresh ginger. I also, because my mathematical skills aren't great at the best of times, managed to add too much ginger to the soup! All I can say is that it's a good job I like ginger!!

I served it with a chorizo and cheese sandwich, yummy!

Carrot and Ginger Soup
(Serves 4)

1 medium onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
1 tbsp oil
700g carrots, chopped
1-2 tsp ground ginger
900ml vegetable stock
1 tbsp chopped parsley or coriander

Fry the onion and garlic in the oil for about 5 mins in a large saucepan, covered without browning.

Add the carrots and ginger. Cover and lightly fry got a further 10 mins, stirring occasionally.

Add the stock, bring to the boil, then simmer for 15 mins or until the carrots are tender.

Puree the soup and serve.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Daring Cooks March 2012: Braised Duck Legs

The March, 2012 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Carol, a/k/a Poisonive – and she challenged us all to learn the art of Braising! Carol focused on Michael Ruhlman’s technique and shared with us some of his expertise from his book “Ruhlman’s Twenty”.

Wow, this was melt in the mouth. The duck was literally falling off the bone when I tried to take it out from under the grill! I found the sauce a little sweet for me but the meat was awesome. I also added the onions and carrots back into the sauce as I hate to waste things! I served it with rice, broccoli and sugar snap peas.

Braised Duck Legs
(Serves 4)

4 duck legs
Kosher salt
1 tablespoon (15 ml) mild- or non-flavored oil, like canola
1 large onion, sliced
2 carrots, cute into 1 inch (2½ cm) pieces
4 garlic cloves, smash with the side of a knife
1 tablespoon (15ml) tomato paste
1 to 1 ½ cups (240 to 360 ml) white wine or chicken or vegetable stock – may need a little more
7 to 10 stems of thyme
1 to 1 ½ cups( 240 to 360 ml) of water
1 tablespoon (15 ml) oyster sauce or fish sauce
1 tablespoon (15 ml) sherry vinegar
Freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons (10 ml) (5 gm) cornstarch/corn flour dissolved in 1 tablespoon (15 ml) of water

1. Aggressively season duck legs with salt at least 1 hour before cooking or up to 2 days.

2. Preheat oven to 300°F/150°C/gas mark 2.

3. In a pot large enough to contain the legs (my pot wasn’t large enough to contain the legs so I sautéed in my enameled pot and transferred everything to a baking casserole), heat oil over medium high heat, add onion and sauté until the onion is translucent – about 3 to 4 minutes.

4. Add carrots, garlic, and tomato paste – cook for another 2 minutes.

5. Nestle the duck legs in the pan, add wine or stock, thyme and water until the liquid just covers the duck.

6. Cover and place in the oven to braise for 3 hours. It may sit in the liquid until ready to serve.

7. Remove the duck from the liquid – reserve liquid.

8. Heat broiler/grill and place duck legs underneath until skin is nice and crispy.

9. Strain the cooking liquid – reduce by a quarter and add oyster sauce and sherry vinegar – season with pepper.

10. Add cornstarch to thicken the sauce and serve with the duck.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Loaded Nachos and Ranchera Sauce

These nachos were so good! My sister has recently moved into a new flat and so I went to have dinner with her on Sunday night. We were due to have nachos and then vegetarian chilli, however, we were so full after the nachos that we could only manage a little of the chilli, which was, by the way excellent.

The idea for the nachos comes from a favourite Mexican Restaurant of mine in Covent Garden Cafe Pacifico. They do Nachos Ranchera as a starter and it is really good, so I thought I'd try and recreate it at home. The nachos are basically, corn tortilla chips, covered with refried beans, ranchera sauce, sweetcorn, cheese (I used a combination of mozzarella and cheddar as I couldn't find any Mexican cheese) baked in the oven for 10-15 mins, with a layer of guacamole, a layer of sour cream and then olives on top.

I think the original uses spring onions, but I forgot to pick any up, and doesn't have any sweetcorn, but they were delicious and ridiculously filling, I definitely felt like I was having a food baby that night!

I made the Ranchera sauce from scratch, from a recipe I found somewhere on the Internet but I am not sure where and the kick from the chillies really helped to even out the sweetness of the refried beans etc.

Ranchera Sauce

900g tomatoes
2 serrano chillies, chopped
3 tbsp oil
1 small onion, chopped
1 tbsp minced garlic

Preheat the oven to 200C. Roast the tomatoes on a baking sheet for 30-45 minutes, depending on the size of the tomatoes, until the skins are wrinkled and slightly charred.

Transfer to a food processor and process until smooth, then add the serrano chillies and continue to process. Set aside.

In a skillet, heat the oil over a medium heat. Add the onion and cook for about 5 mins, or until beginning to colour, add the garlic and cook a minute more.

Add the tomato-chilli puree and cook, stirring frequently, until a bit thickened, about 10 mins. Add salt to taste and cook for a few mins more.

Friday, 2 March 2012

Smoked Mackerel, Bean and Pea Spaghetti Frittata

I have lots of eggs that need using after buying way too many for pancakes last week. So one of the things I thought I'd make was frittata, it's a long time since I made one of these but boy am I glad I did, it was delicious! It lasted me for a couple of days with leftovers too and was really good with brown sauce!

I am going to try and enter this into Presto Pasta Nights, which is celebrating it's 5th birthday! However, I think I'm too late for this week but we shall see!

Smoked Mackerel, Bean and Pea Spaghetti Frittata
(Serves 2)

3 medium eggs
just under 1 portion of spaghetti
handful frozen peas
handful frozen broad beans
1 smoked mackerel fillet (I used peppered)
salt and pepper

First cook the spaghetti according to packet instructions, when you are 4 mins from the end of the cooking time, add the beans and peas to the pasta.

Meanwhile, whisk the eggs and flake the smoked mackerel into the eggs, and also add the spaghetti, beans and peas. Add salt and pepper.

Heat a frying pan with some oil and add the egg mixture to the pan. When the bottom side looks golden, about 5 mins, flip the frittata (this is easiest using a small plate to help) and cook the other side until golden, again about 5 mins. Serve.