Julie’s Ratatouille

Despite what the name suggests, this isn’t Julie’s recipe, but I’m dedicating it to her following the pressure she put me under to post it on this site. And it rhymes. Perhaps I should have called it Rata-Julie 😉
Serves 4-6
Ingredients
ratatouille

Leftovers can be blended for a delicious soup!

  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 courgettes, diced
  • 1 aubergine, diced
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • 3 tomatoes, diced or 12 cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1 teaspoon of rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon of thyme
  • 500g of passata
  • Sea salt & black pepper
Method
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 180C
  2. Drizzle a large, shallow oven-proof dish with the olive oil and add all of the chopped vegetables and tomatoes, ensuring that they’re evenly mixed. Toss to lightly coat in the oil.
  3. Sprinkle with the rosemary & thyme and season with salt and pepper. You can also use 2 teaspoons of mixed herbs or Herbes de Provence instead of the rosemary & thyme for a variation.
  4. Coat with the passata and mix well.
  5. Cover with tinfoil or a lid and place in the oven for 30 minutes.
  6. After 30 minutes, remove the foil/lid and stir. Return to the oven uncovered for a further 15 minutes. In my oven this cooking time results in a slightly al dente texture. Adjust as appropriate.

Ratatouille usually includes red, orange or yellow peppers, but the first time I made this, I had forgotten to buy them and I think it’s tasty enough without them. Add them if you disagree!

Homemade Crisps

These moreish crisps are not only healthier than a packet of Tayto, they’re about as fresh a snack as you’ll get.
Home made crisps

Sea salt and a bit of freshly ground black pepper make a delicious seasoning, but the options are limitless!

Makes 1 portion
Ingredients
  • 1 potato
  • 1 dessert spoon of olive oil
Method
  1. With a mandoline slicer, slice the potato into very thin slices from the long side of the spud to achieve larger crisps. Peeling is optional, but I prefer to simply wash, dry and slice.
  2. Place the slices in a bowl and add the olive oil. Separate and turn the slices to ensure that each slice is thinly coated in oil.
  3. Line a microwaveable plate with parchment or greaseproof paper and arrange the slices so that they don’t overlap.
  4. Microwave on full power for 2 minutes. Remove from oven, turn each crisp and return to microwave for another 2 minutes or until golden. (Times may vary depending on the power rating of your microwave oven)
  5. Remove from microwave and allow to stand on a cool surface for a couple of minutes to crisp up.

If you don’t have a mandoline, you can use a potato peeler or an extremely sharp knife to slice thin slivers. Some food processors have a slicer attachment, but I find they often don’t slice the potato thinly enough.

Chicken Achari

I normally try to keep things simpler than this recipe, but our favorite Indian restaurant stopped doing Achari a while ago and I can’t live without it! I found a nice recipe, made some modifications and it’s every bit as good as a restaurant curry.
Serves 4-6
achari

The spice mix isn’t just tasty, it’s colourful and aromatic, too.

Ingredients
  • 1lb (½kg) of chicken breast, diced
  • 2 tablespoons of natural yoghurt
  • ½ cup of vegetable oil or ghee
  • 1 Spanish onion
  • 1½” ginger, finely grated
  • 6 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 cup of tomato purée mixed with 1 cup of water
  • Salt
  • 1½ tsp of chilli powder
  • 1 tsp of turmeric
For the spice mix:
  • 6 whole dry red chillies
  • 1 tsp fenugreek seeds
  • 1 heaped tsp of onion seeds
  • 1 tsp of black mustard seeds
  • 1″ stick of cinnamon
  • 1½ tsp of fennel seeds
  • 3 cloves
Method
  1. In a freezer bag, place the chicken, yoghurt, salt (to taste) and ½ tsp of turmeric. Agitate to mix the ingredients and leave to one side.
  2. Meanwhile, heat a dry frying pan over a medium heat and add the spice mix ingredients. Heat for 7-8  minutes, stirring and mixing constantly to get a good even dry roast. Allow to cool and grind, but not too finely.
  3. Heat oil in a large wok or saucepan and add onions. Caramelise until brown.
  4. Add grated ginger and minced garlic and stir fry for a further 5 minutes. Add the spice mix  and half a teaspoon of turmeric and blend thoroughly.
  5. Add the chicken pieces and cook until white on all sides. Add the tomatoes, ½ tsp of turmeric, chilli powder and season with salt. Cook until the mixture begins to bubble.
  6. Add 2 cups of water, stir until boiling and then cover the pan. Cook on a slow boil until the chicken is cooked through.
  7. To increase the thickness of the sauce to your liking, remove the cover and cook until desired consistency is achieved. Ideally, the sauce should be about as thick as passata.
  8. Serve hot with turmeric rice and garlic and cheese naan.

This curry is not for the faint-hearted. Reduce the amount of chillies and reduce or omit the chilli powder if you don’t like the feeling of having a small incinerator in your mouth!

Johnny Wong’s Chicken Fried Rice

Chinese chef extraordinaire Johnny Wong taught me this restaurant-style dish which is surprisingly simple to make.
Serves 4-6
Ingredients
chicken_fried_rice

This will serve 4 adults as a main dish or 6 as a side.

  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 3 chicken breasts
  • 3 eggs, lightly whisked
  • A cupful of frozen petits pois
  • 3 cups of rice
  • 2 tablespoons of soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon of honey
Method
  1. Start by boiling the rice using your preferred method. My turmeric rice method (without adding the turmeric) works well.
  2. Meanwhile, heat one tablespoon of olive oil in a wok over a medium heat.
  3. Slice the chicken breast into goujon-sized pieces and add to the pan with the honey and one tablespoon of soy sauce. Stir-fry for 7-8 minutes until browned.
  4. Remove the chicken from the wok and wrap in kitchen foil.
  5. With the glaze still in the wok, add another tablespoon of oil and the chopped onions. Fry until browned and then add the peas. Stir fry for a further 3 minutes.
  6. Move the contents of the wok to one side and add the eggs.
  7. While the eggs are scrambling, tear the chicken into small bite-sized pieces. When the eggs have scrambled, combine them with the onions and peas.
  8. Add the final tablespoon of oil and stir in the chicken pieces and rice. Add the second tablespoon of soy sauce (or to taste).
  9. Fold and stir all ingredients thoroughly for 3 minutes.

This goes really well with takeaway-style curry sauce

Cajun Chicken

This is a slight twist on your average Cajun chicken, but a twist for the better in my opinion.
Delicious when cooled and used in a chicken salad or in a pitta pocket sandwich.

Delicious when cooled and used in a chicken salad or in a pitta pocket sandwich.

Serves 3-4
Ingredients
  •  1 tablespoon of paprika
  • ½ teaspoon of ground cumin
  • ½ teaspoon of sea salt
  • ½ teaspoon of sage
  • About a dozen peppercorns (or half a teaspoon of ground pepper)
  • ½ teaspoon of garlic salt or powder
  • ½ teaspoon curry powder
  • 3-4 chicken breast fillets (about ½kg)
  • Butter or olive oil, for frying
Method
  1. Crush and combine all of the seasoning with a mortar & pestle.
  2. Put the seasoning mix in a freezer or sandwich bag and add the chicken breasts. Shake until the chicken is evenly coated.
  3. Heat the butter (or oil) in a frying pan and cook the chicken at a medium heat for 6-7 minutes per side.

If you haven’t got a mortar & pestle, you can use ground pepper and fine salt and simply mix the ingredients in the bag.

Sausage & Tomato Casserole

Let’s face it, from toad in the hole to bangers & mash to coddle, sausage dishes are never what you’d call pretty, but often what they lack in appearance, they make up for in taste. This dish is a fine example of that. 
If your oven has a tendency to run hot, you can cover the dish with foil during cooking. Remember to remove it to ensure that the sausages brown.

If your oven has a tendency to run hot, you can cover the dish with foil during cooking. Remember to remove it to ensure that the sausages brown.

Serves 4
Ingredients
  • 2 red onions, finely chopped
  • 12 sausages
  • 2 tins of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tin of plum tomatoes
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 teaspoons of rosemary
  • 2 teaspoons of basil
  • Freshly ground sea salt & black pepper
  • Olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
Method
  1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
  2. Fry the red onion in 2 tablespoons of olive oil until golden brown.
  3. Meanwhile, pour the canned tomatoes into a shallow casserole dish. I cut the plum tomatoes in half with a scissors, but you can leave them whole if you prefer.
  4. Add the sausages, herbs, garlic, balsamic vinegar and fried red onions.
  5. Drizzle generously with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  6. Thoroughly combine all the ingredients and when ready for the oven, lift the sausages so that they are exposed at the surface.
  7. Cook for 30 minutes, remove, rotate the sausages which by now should be browned on one side and return to the oven for a further 30 minutes.
  8. Serve with pasta or garlic & cheese mash and steamed vegetables.

Superquinn sausages are by far the best sausages to use in this dish.

Garlic & Cheese Naan

Our local Indian restaurant is great – they do garlic and cheese naan for us even though they’re not on the menu. But when we’re cooking at home, the ready-made supermarket naan just don’t make the grade, so here’s a very simple recipe to make your own.
A perfect accompaniment to Andie's Lamb Bhuna with turmeric rice!

A perfect accompaniment to Andie’s Lamb Bhuna with turmeric rice!

 

Makes 8 small or 4 large
Ingredients
  • 225g of self-raising flour
  • 5g of fast-action bread yeast
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 tablespoons of natural or Greek yoghurt
  • 1 tablespoon of melted butter plus extra for brushing
  • 4 tablespoons of lukewarm milk
  • 70g of grated cheese
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic, crushed

 

Method
  1. Half-fill a large mixing bowl with boiling water and place a glass or cup containing the butter into it along with a cup containing the milk. This will do three things: melt the butter, warm the milk to lukewarm and heat the bowl.
  2. Meanwhile, lightly whisk the yoghurt. In a separate bowl, add the yeast and salt to the flour.
  3. Once the butter has melted and the milk is lukewarm, ditch the water and, while the bowl is still warm, combine all of the ingredients in it and mix to form a lump-free dough. Cover with oiled (or buttered) cling film and leave to prove for 25 minutes in a dark, warm place. Being a flatbread dough, it won’t rise in the same way as normal white bread dough.
  4. Mix the crushed garlic and cheese together.
  5. Turn the dough out on to a floured surface and knead for 5 minutes until smooth. Divide into 4 or 8 balls.
  6. With a rolling pin, roll each ball thinly, sprinkle half of each flattened dough ball with garlic and cheese, fold over and compress to encapsulate the filling.
  7. Glaze one side of the naan with melted (or softened) butter and heat under a hot, pre-heated grill until golden brown. Repeat for the other side.

You can vary the fillings and perhaps introduce some almonds or dried fruit.

Scones

You can’t beat a Devonshire cream tea but clotted cream can be hard to get. Whipped cream, however, is a worthy substitute.

Whip the cream to a smooth but stiff consistency and serve with your favourite jam

Whip the cream to a smooth but stiff consistency and serve with your favourite jam


Makes 6
Ingredients
  • 1½ cups of self raising flour
  • A pinch of salt
  • ¼ cup of sugar
  • 1 heaped tablespoon of margarine
  • ½ cup of milk or buttermilk
  • Whipped cream and jam, to serve
Method
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 220C (Fan 200C, Gas 8).
  2. Combine flour, salt and sugar in a bowl.
  3. Rub in the margarine until the mixture has a fine breadcrumb-like consistency.
  4. Add milk and blend to form a soft dough.
  5. Knead gently on a floured surface.
  6. Flatten the dough to about an inch thick and cut out scones with a pastry cutter.
  7. Place evenly spread on a floured baking tray and lightly glaze the tops of the scones with milk.
  8. Bake on a low shelf for 12 minutes (or until scones are golden brown) and serve with whipped cream and strawberry jam.

Like my popular banana bread recipe, I use a highball glass to measure and turned upside down, it makes a perfect cutter! (Just make sure it’s dry before you try cutting and if you find it’s sticking, dust the inside rim with flour.)

Magic Barbecue Sauce

Magic Sauce

This can be used as a marinade, but the richness really comes out when just used as a dip

I call this sauce ‘magic’ because, when used as dip, it transforms any barbecue meat – from chicken to pork to beef – into something amazing. Sweet with a nice little edge, I have been keeping this a secret for years, but it’s so moreish, it seems unfair not to share it…
Makes 2 jars
Ingredients
  • 1 jar of honey
  • 1 jar of plum jam
  • 4 tablespoons of dark soy sauce
  • 4 tablespoons of wine vinegar
  • 1 dessert spoon of tomato ketchup
  • 1 dessert spoon of mustard
  • 1 dessert spoon of Worcester sauce
  • A dash of lemon juice
  • 8-9 drops of Tabasco sauce
Method
  1. In a saucepan, heat (but don’t boil) the honey, jam, soy sauce and vinegar. Stir well.
  2. Meanwhile, blend the rest of the ingredients in a bowl until smooth.
  3. When the pan is on the brink of boiling, take 2 tablespoons of the mixture out, spoon into the bowl and blend well. Do this a further 3 times.
  4. Add the contents of the bowl to the saucepan (using a spatula to ensure that you get all of the mixture) and heat gently for 5 minutes, stirring frequently.
  5. Pour into jars, and cap immediately.

Plum jam is notoriously difficult to source (unless, like me, you grow your own plums and make your own jam), so blackberry, or almost any wild berry jam will suffice as a substitute. (Damson also works really well, but can be difficult to find too).

   

Brownie in a Mug

Quick, easy and really tasty – especially with a scoop of vanilla ice-cream.

Large coffee house-style mugs are ideal.

Large coffee-house-type mugs are ideal for this indulgent treat.


Ingredients
  • 2 tbsp flour
  • 2 tbsp sugar
  • 1 tbsp cocoa
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp water
  • A pinch of salt
  • ½ tsp vanilla essence
Method
  1. Place all of the ingredients in a large mug and whisk with a fork until smooth.
  2. Microwave on full power until the mixture has risen fully (usually around 2 minutes).
  3. Serve with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

This recipe requires a really large mug (see picture). If you haven’t got a mug large enough, you can reduce the ingredient quantities and the cooking time, or mix in a bowl and transfer to two normal sized mugs!