Moules Frites

This dish brings back very fond childhood memories of summer holidays to France with my family.

I remember us frequenting the food markets of Bezier, picking up beautiful fresh vegetables, meat and fish.

To this day, I believe it is one of only three dishes that I can recall my father cooking. The other two were unsupervised efforts, whereby he set fire to a wooden spoon whilst making spaghetti and managing to weld a pizza to the oven by not removing the polystyrene underlay. I clearly do not inherit by father’s cooking genes!
smiley_wink (Update : I spoke with my Mum on Skype last night, and was reminded that the chips were always fetched from the campsite takeaway! I did think that was a culinary step too far for Dad!)

This is a very easy dish to make and pretty much foolproof.

The Pernod is optional, but in my opinion, a must, as it gives a wonderful but subtle aniseed flavour. If you need to have Pernod, a handful of tarragon would also work very well.

I like a little chilli after kick after, but you can leave out if you wish.

Serve the mussels with plenty of crusty bread to mop up the broth and a good handful of crispy chips. Enjoy with a glass of white wine!

Moules Frites : Enjoy with a Glass of White Wine

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Chicken Kiev, Oven Chips and Crunchy Vegetables

I have very fond memories of Chicken Kiev from my childhood.

I remember my mother sewing up chicken breasts with needle and thread for dinner parties. Not being much cop at sewing, nor having the patience required to thread a needle - I can assure you, my recipe is a lot less faff! This recipe involves wrapping flattened chicken around a large ball of cold
herby butter. The shape and the butter filling is held inside by freezing the breasts prior to bread crumbing and cooking.

Every time I cut into a chicken Kiev, the sense of anticipation whether the garlic butter will ooze out is almost unbearable.

Fresh, light, zingy and tasty - a wonderful through-back to an 1970’s favourite.

I served this with
oven chips and some very lightly cooked julienned seasonal vegetables.

Chicken Kiev : Close Up

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Easy Oven Chips

Chips are a wonderful accompaniment to many meals.

This variation uses Dunn’s River Everyday Seasoning. The rub really lifts the chip flavour, giving a great hint of piquant.

The Maris Piper, as you would expect is a great chip potato, waxy enough to hold shape but floury and fluffy in texture.

Why spend extra money on prepared oven chips, when this recipe is just about as easy.

Originally served with
Chicken Kiev.

Easy Oven Chips : Moules Frites

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How to make Sourbread Breadcrumbs

Breadcrumbs are required for so many recipes, whether coating fish or chicken or as a topping to pasta. It is a good idea to store your left over stale bread, and make into breadcrumb when you have enough ends to make it worthwhile. You can store old bread ends in the freezer, and pull them out when ready to turn into crumb. No need to defrost the bread - simply roughly chop, and follow the instructions.

Why throw away bread again?

I like the slight sour note that the sour bread provides, but any decent bread will provide similar results.

Sourbread Breadcrumbs : Blitz in a Food Processor

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Seared Scallop and Prawn Stir Fry

An incredibly quick and very tasty mid week dinner idea. I had just come in from the gym, and needed to rustle up a quick meal for the household.

As with any stir fry, preparation is the key to making this dish work. Make sure that you tackle the dish by cooking the noodles, chopping the vegetables, make the dressing and cleaning and preparing the shell fish. By the time the noodles are cooked, you should be ready to get cooking.

Cooking the dish is very simple, keep stirring, keep the heat high and follow the method listed.

I seared the scallops and prawns in a separate frying pan, so that I could control the heat and cook the shellfish with appropriate care!

A super delicious Asian inspired seafood treat!

You will love it!

Scallop and Prawn Stir Fry : Close Up

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Herby Butter

Herb butter is a store cupboard essential.

Pull the butter out of the freezer and slice of a little and add to boiled new potatoes or other seasonal vegetables. The herbs and lemon will really lift the vegetables to a whole new dimension.

I use the herb butter for my
garlic bread, as well as my stuffing for chicken Kiev.

It takes minutes to make and stores for months in the freezer.

Try it at home today!

Herb Butter : Pull from the Freezer when Needed

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Mini Bitter Chocolate Dolce De Leche Tart

As the weather is a little ropey for the weekend, I thought I would use my “cake time” to try something new.

I had some dolce de leche left over from making a batch of Millionaire Shortbread for a friends child’s birthday party. I had a browse around the internet to find some ideas, and stumbled over various chocolate tarts. Dolce de Leche is easy to get hold of these days - and so much easier than spending four hours watching a can of condensed milk simmer ;-p

I checked in the cupboard and had some 90% dark Belgian chocolate. Game on, time to get baking! The shortcrust pastry is the same recipe I always use, just with added cocoa powder.

I have to say, the tart is pretty awesome - but very very bitter and chocolaty. The strength of the chocolate makes these more suitable for eating as little cubes, whilst drinking an Americano as opposed to sitting down and eating half as desert! If you make this recipe, aim for 70% chocolate content.

I will make them again, and will blog my views on the revised recipe!

I served them with a little raspberry coulis - which really helped enhance the tart.

Chocolate Dolce Tart : Side Shot

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Quick Raspberry Coulis

I needed to make a quick coulis to cut through the overwhelming richness and bitterness from the
Mini Bitter Chocolate Dolce De Leche Tarts.

I had a tray of raspberries in the fridge, so raspberry coulis it will be! This technique works very well for other summer berries or a mix of your favourites.

This is easy to make in advance, and in my opinion, tastes superior served cold.

Cheap, easy and healthy compared to a shop bought alternative.

Raspberry Coulis : With Tart”></a></span><span style=

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Omega Seed Sourbread Batch

I have made sour bread once before on this blog. My sister-in-law-to-be originally introduced me to sour bread - Christmas, two years ago, giving me a wonderful present of a selection of flours, a proving basket and the most important thing of all - a sour bread starter.

All, was well and for over a year I improved my sour bread technique and enjoyed the rewards.

Alas, a five week trip away was too much for my Keith, the name of the starter in our extended family. He turned rather black and foul smelling - so - he had to go

As a result I am working with a 3 month old starter. Compared to the first couple of batches, Keith2 is really hitting his strides - the second prove is now taking about four hours - compared to eight previously.

The sour flavour is also developing, and I am now producing consistent and light, sour bread.

I will definitely begin to experiment with some more enriched doughs, now the starter has stabilised.

Sour bread dough is different to yeast dough, in that it is wetter and stickier to work with. You can tell when the dough is ready by doing the “window pane” test. When you can pinch a piece of dough between two hands and it is almost translucent - i.e you could read a newspaper through it - then it is done. This is definitely a two hand and slap on the surface sort of dough!

Go on give it a go !! - Chiswick has some fantastic natural yeasts floating out there!!!

If you live in West London and would like some starter - please get in touch.

Omega Seed Sourbread : Ploughmans”></a></span><span style=

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Malaysian Duck Rendang

My brother lives in Malaysia with his wife and 1 year old daughter. We were lucky enough to go and visit him in Kuala Lumpar for a couple of weeks last year - part of a longer tour from Dubai across to New Zealand, back through Australia, flutter on the Melbourne Cup and then off to Borneo, Cambodia and finally Malaysia. One hell of a trip, as you could imagine, and an immense and overwhelming culinary influence. I was lucky enough to attend a number of cooking schools whilst travelling. Alas, I was recovering from breaking my spine, and so I missed some of the world centres of skydiving *sob*

Malaysian food is funny, in that it is not as hot nor as fragrant as Thai food and also significantly harder to come by in Malaysia. My culinary experience of Malaysia leans toward eating amazing Indian and Thai food more than notable Malay dishes. I embraced eating with my fingers and loved the banana leaves, acting as plates, and then served with a meat of your choice, several dahls, pickles and sauces. Simply delicious.

The other meal to note, is the Tom Yam Steamboat - a truly incredible way of sitting down with family and chowing over old times. You order an assortment of live and fresh seafood, and you proceed to eat fondue style! Fantastic! The meal culminates in the table poaching their own eggs in the left over broth. A really wonderful experience.

I have recreated Steamboat at home several times, and apart from the live shrimp, reckon I can produce a pretty authentic replica!

Anyways, the one authentic Malay dish that I do recall enjoying whilst in KL, and again in Langkawi was the Duck Rendang. Rendang is a form of storing meat, by using the coconut oil as a preserve. I got this recipe from my brother, and I have to say - it packs great flavour and keeps making you come back to the pan for a little more, well after you have finished!

I had duck breasts in the freezer, so I used these as opposed to duck legs which would be more suitable! However, with the way they rendered down, and only got warmed through in the sauce, the skin remained salty and crispy, and the meat very moist, - so a throughly adequate alternative

You must serve this with the
salad, otherwise I think the meal loses the balance and feels too heavy for Asian food. We were served this dish with Papaya, but alas, I could not get hold of one in Chiswick. Nevertheless, the mango works very well.

Not a quick recipe - but certainly pretty easy - one worth pursuing on a wet weekend ;-p.

Malaysian Flowers”></a></span><span style=

Flowers of Malaysia

Petronas Towers”></a></span><span style=

Petronas Towers

Duck Rendag : Close Up ”></a></span><span style=

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Spicy Mango and Hot Nut Rice Salad

This was a quick and experimental packed lunch idea.

I mixed a little toasted sesame oil through some steamed rice, with half a red Chinese lettuce and mixed in the leftover
Lightly Pickled Mango Salad with Hot Nuts. All Asian inspired ingredients, and as you would expect, all the flavours work together. I added a little more mint, basil and coriander to keep the dish light and fresh.

The result was delicious, Asian flavours, but with a crunch from the scattered peanuts, bean sprouts and crisp leaves.

A cheap, healthy and delicious packed lunch! I have already been asked to make this again!

Spicy Mango Rice Salad : Close Up”></a></span><span style=

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Lightly Pickled Mango Salad with Hot Nuts

I admit, this is really a Thai dish. However, as I was rambling on about in the Duck Rendang blog, a lot of Malaysian food that you eat out is a fusion of Indian, Vietnamese and Thai.

Monkey”></a></span><span style=

Don’t take a photo of me! (Monkey in Langkawi)

Both times I ordered
Duck Rendang it was served with a spicy pickled papaya salad along with several chutneys. Alas, I could not get hold of a papaya, so I gave it a go with mango. I have to say it worked very well, although next time, I would look for a firmer, less ripe mango - mainly for ease - the sweeter mango was nice against the chilli and lime! I would definitely consider giving making a lime chutney a bash in the near future as an accompaniment.

The dressing is a pretty standard Thai salad dressing, incorporating tangy, sweet and sour. It works so well against the fresh herbs and mango - how can you go wrong???!!!

I had leftover, so I turned this into a delicious lunch with almost no effort. It went down very well.

Originally served with
Duck Rendang.

Mango Salad : Delicious”></a></span><span style=

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Tuna Sweetcorn Pasta Salad

I love tuna and sweetcorn pasta. There is something so wholesome and tasty about the combination. I like to funk the recipe up with spring onion and hot red chilli.

It takes such little effort to make, tastes fresh, zingy and delicious, and one can will serve 2 people for two lunches. What is not too like?

If you are looking for variety on this recipe, then may I suggest apple and celery as alternative additions.

Make sure to keep the pasta al dente - otherwise it will not survive in the fridge very well after a day.

Season well - nothing worse than bland pasta salad!

I add the mayonnaise to the serving plate and mix through - when I am ready to eat the pasta salad - otherwise I find it can go a little gloopy and less appetising! After all this is meant to be a quick and easy lunch solution!

The pasta salad is really good without the mayo anyways

Tuna Pasta Salad : Close Up 2

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Vietnamese Pulled Pork and Prawn Pho

If there is one dish that reminds me of my travels abroad and love of discovering new food, then this is the dish.

I think it is the fusion of traditional French cooking coupled with the balanced use of Vietnamese spices, citrus and herbs that I adore so much.

Traditionally, this would be made using beef bones - but I could not get any from the butchers on the day I wanted to make this. Fortunately, I had a batch of roast chicken bone stock in the freezer and so went with this. (Left over carcass from a roast chicken, halved and simmered with onion, star anise, thyme, peppercorns for 4 hours). As it happened, I think it was probably for the best, as the pulled pork and tiger prawns would have been over shadowed with a heavier base.

The depth of flavour, clarity of the broth and amazing roller coaster ride of hot, sweet, salty and sour that hits yours tastebuds made this an instant hit in the CookBakeSmile household.

Give it a go, and substitute the pulled pork with fish, more prawns, poached chicken / pork in the broth, if you do not have the time or inclination to spend so long in the kitchen. The Pho broth is very easy to make in its own right.

Vietnamese Pho : Close Up

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Oven Cooked Pulled Pork

I have never tasted, let alone tried to make pulled pork before!

Whether this has an authentic taste, I really cannot say! What I can say is that it tastes darn good! :-p I basically looked across the net for inspiration and then developed my own recipe. Almost all the recipes I looked at were based on Dr Pepper or a Cola base - so I followed suit
smiley_smile The dry rub seems to be one of those family secret affairs - where people only allude to a couple of the flavours.

Almost every recipe also called for shop bought BBQ sauce to be added to the pulled pork for the last hour of cooking. Personally, I could not see the point of going to the effort of developing all this flavour and then masking it - so this step was omitted.

The final results were delicious. The pork has a fantastic depth of flavour, is moist, tender and out of this world delicious. Considering this was neither slow cooked nor seen a BBQ, the outer bark of the pork was fantastically crispy, tangy and extremely tasty.

As a first attempt, as you can tell, I am very pleased. Roll on the BBQ season.

Pulled Pork : Serve in Baps

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Boozy Easter Cake

Since Christmas, I have had a number of request to make another boozy fruit cake.

Easter seemed to be an appropriate event to make a cake for.

The cake is light, but packed full of moist plump fruit. The recipe is based off Delia’s fruitcake, however, it uses significantly more spice and booze!

I fed the cake twice a day for two weeks with a combination of Brandy, Rum, Amaretto and Armagnac. I really think you should not drive after eating this cake!

This cake is most certainly not for the drop zone!

Boozy Easter Cake

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Lazy Leftover Chilli Nachos!

I love leftovers, and I love coming up with three or four different ways to serve the same meal.

The chilli is extremely hot, but works really well with the cooling and soothing sour cream.

This is very easy and quick to make, no longer than 20 minutes. It was ideal, pulling the
chilli from the freezer and making such a simple and light meal after a full blown Easter lunch!

The flour tortilla crisp up brilliantly in the oven, and do not have all the extra salt that packet bought varieties contain.

Nachos : On the Plate

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Quick Guacamole

This a a quick and delicious accompaniment to
Chilli Con Carnie or Hamburgers for instance! Also a wonderful way to use up old avocado and tomatoes!

Dice all the vegetables, mix in the creme fraiche and top with chilli. Job done!

Originally served with
Lazy Leftover Chilli Nachos.

Guacamole : Catch Up

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Crab and Scallop Stuffed Ravioli with Spicy Prawn Bisque

I was watching Masterchef last week and they were making stuffed ravioli for the quarter final. It reminded me of this dish I made for a future boss and his wife a couple of years ago. The beauty of the dish is that it can all be made in advance at your convenience. Cook the ravioli when ready to serve, and warm the bisque through - not hard

Being a Bank Holiday weekend and what with the weather being cold and not inviting to jump, I had extra time to play in the kitchen. This is not a particularly difficult dish to make, although it is made significantly easier by having a pasta machine and a ravioli cutter. The stuffing has a fantastic fresh flavour from the crab and tarragon. You will need a pasta cutter, but a rolling pin will suffice for the pasta.

The spicy prawn bisque is amazing, a wonderful voyage of flavours. The prawn bisque with the brandy adds depth and the star anise wows the tastebuds. When you bite into the ravioli, a wonderful sea fresh taste is received followed by the aniseed.

Only homemade pasta will do for this dish. It cooks in under 2 minutes, keeping the scallop slices tender and delicious.

Crab and Scallop Ravioli : Close Up

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How to Make Pasta

Pasta is so delicious when you take the time to make it fresh.

Unlike bread, it is ready in 20-30 minutes.

Whether to make lasagne, spaghetti or ravioli, for instance, the extra oomph in flavour from homemade pasta never fails to impress guests.

Do stick with the fork method I describe. I tried a couple of times and failed, as I had no patience. The reward in using this method, is that you keep your hands clean!

Investing in a pasta machine really is imperative in order to achieve the best results.

After a couple of attempts, this is really quite easy. At the beginning, however, a second pair of hands is advisable when using the pasta machine!

How to Make Pasta : Pasta Shaped as Ravioli

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Succulent Sticky Pork Ribs with Spicy Smoked Potato Wedges and Fresh Salad with Mustard Dressing

Once in a while it is great to get your fingers sticky and eat your meat off the bone with your hands. In posher establishments, you may expect a lemon dipping bath - but round my house kitchen towel will suffice!

After much experimentation with various concoctions, this is my version of Sticky Pork Ribs.

The brining of the pork ribs really helps to keep the meat moist and succulent. The marinade, as you would expect with my cooking, is fiery, sweet and oh so sticky

These are quick to make and will definitely become a household favourite. Pork ribs are cheap to buy from the butcher, making this an economical meal. If you do not have ketchup manis and special mountain sauce, try a tablespoon of black treacle, a teaspoon of Worcestershire sauce and a tablespoon of soy as a substitute.

I served the ribs with a tangy fresh salad dressed and mustard dressing,
jerked sweetcorn, coleslaw and some spicy smokey potato wedges. It was greatly appreciated having come home famished after hour flying in the indoor wind tunnel for an hour!

Succulent Sticky Pork : Side On

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Spicy Smokey Potato Wedges

Potato wedges are quick and easy to make.

With the smokey paprika and spicy cayenne, the potato wedges are delicious.

The wedges can be served along side most dishes or can be made as a delicious snack. They are great to dip into mayonnaise or topped with diced red onion and satay sauce *Yum*.

Why buy frozen or ready made chips? These are the real deal !

The potato wedges were originally served with
Succulent Sticky Pork Ribs.

Spicy Smokey Potato Wedges

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Spicy Thai Minced Pork

Being Thai New Year, Songkran, it seems only appropriate to recreate another of my favourite dishes.

This is a very typical Bangkok style, Spicy Thai Minced Pork. I have fond memories of eating this numerous times across Thailand. Once in a while it would be so hot only a beer could quench the burn! As with many chilli hot dishes, the more you eat the more you want to have more!

It is a perfect balance of hot, sour, sweet and salty.

It really does take minutes to make. Once you have prepped /the vegetables, it is really just a super quick stir fry.
(There is no reason why you could not use a food processor to finely diced the ingredients first).

The pork freezes exceptionally well, and can be reheated in the microwave.

Being a celebration, I served the pork in lettuce wraps. Keeping it finger food, I also made
Spring Rolls and Sesame Prawn Toast.

A great festive celebration and a taste-bud extravaganza.

Spicy Thai Minced Pork : Thai Banquet

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Pork and Prawn Spring Rolls

Spring rolls are easy to make, if you have a spare hour to two. Once you get into the swing of rolling the filling, it can become quite enjoyable - honest!

At £3 a pop for 6 from the supermarket, these infinitely more tasty and delicious spring rolls are a complete bargain! It also good to know you have used top quality ingredients and no MSG.

I like my spring rolls meaty but at the same time zingy - so I incorporate Kaffir Lime Leaf alongside the chilli and lemongrass.

The spring roll wrappers are easy to come by these days (definitely nor worth making!!!) - I have noticed Waitrose and Sainsbury’s occasionally sell them. I prefer to get them from
Thai Smile.

I hope you make these and enjoy Happy

Originally served with
Spicy Thai Minced Pork.

Pork and Prawn Spring Rolls : Enjoy

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Sesame Prawn Toast

Sesame Prawn Toast are simple to make - if you can make toast you can almost certainly make these!

If you are averse to frying, then place the Sesame Seed topped toast on a lined baking tray and cook for 25 minutes in the oven at gas mark 6.

It is staggering to think of the cost that the supermarkets charge for these delights. I use half a pack of peeled Tiger prawns for the toast, and the remainder goes to the Spring Rolls. (I generally make the two Chinese sides together, so that I only have to clean up once, and rid the house of fried oil smells!). This means for weeks to come, we can pull out a few nibbles from the freezer and chuck in the oven when we get peckish!

Do not buy the small jars of sesame seeds - you will spend a fortune. Instead, pick up a large packet from
Holland and Barrett or other seed and grain health stores.

This recipe requires no cornstarch or MSG, the egg white provides all the binding agent that you will need.

Delicious with a sweet Thai chilli dipping sauce.

Originally served with
Spicy Thai Minced Pork.

Sesame Prawn Toast : Close Up of Toast

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Peri Peri Chicken with a Fresh Salad

I have visited Portugal a number of times, mainly on unsuccessful skydiving trips. Who would have thought that having Europe’s largest on-shore wind farm nearby would indicate winds would stop play on a daily basis?! As a result, we have stumbled through the back roads of smalls towns such as Alvor, eating at local restaurants that catch the eye. Many times, if we were not eating the catch of the day, then we would opt for the National Dish - Peri Peri chicken.

The marinade is a fiery red colour, and is almost as hot to taste. Unfortunately, I could not get hold of the correct chillies to make this authentically, so was forced to substitute some scotch bonnets and red thai chillies to give a hot fruity taste. The peri peri chilli pepper is a little hotter than a red thai chilli and has a more punchy flavour.

The basis of most peri peri recipes is red pepper, chilli, oil, paprika and citrus. A number of people that I asked about the recipe came up with an assortment of family-secret additional flavours. The one that most stood out to me was a glass of whisky.

I have searched on the internet, and there seems to be numerous schools of thought on the use of whisky. Some flame the whisky when making the marinade, and others blitz all the ingredients together.

For this attempt, I chose to keep the marinade raw.

This recipe is ideal for a BBQ - the smoky flavour would really help to lift the dish and make it authentic. However, cooking on a Monday evening - the oven is far more convenient. I cooked the chicken on low for 45 minutes and then gave it a blast under the grill to caramelise the top.

The chicken was delicious and moist, the marinade hot and spicy and the meal a great success - bringing back fond memories of warm evenings in the Med.

Peri Peri Chicken Salad and Chips

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Oven Baked Southern Style Chips

Quick and easy chips.

I won’t pretend they are healthy - but as chips go - they are real potato, soft and fluffy in the middle, and crunchy on the outside.

The punch of spices makes them incredibly more-ish!

A perfect accompaniment to many many dishes. Originally served with
Peri Peri Chicken.

Certainly cheaper and better than the shop bought, frozen equivalents.

Oven Baked Chips : Close Up

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Soy and Honey Chicken Kebabas on a Spicy Raw Vegetable Salad

Coming home late on a Sunday Evening, there was no desire to prepare a Sunday Roast.

Instead, I used this always reliable fall back. The salad is raw and very quick to make.

The marinade takes a couple of minutes to make. The chicken is succulent and has a great caramelised and chilli hot flavour - tempered by the honey and lemon.

If you have no time, skip marinading the chicken, and grill immediately.

The same ingredients can be quickly fried in the wok as an alternative.

A healthy and cheap Chinese main, suitable as a quick evening meal.

Soy and Honey Chicken : Another close up

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Tomato and Chorizo Fusilli Pasta

Preparing for a weekend away skydiving.

The one thing that is disappointing about our home dropzone is the outrageous cost of sandwiches, tea and coffee. As such, I decided I would make lunch for the two days.
(I also made a large greek salad - and the two dishes together were very satisfying).

A quick trip along the High Road and I had all I needed. (Chorizo and a can of tomatoes!).

This is an easy recipe, wholesome, warming and tasty - all in all - ideal for standing around a windy airport.

The pasta survived admirably in the tupperware for the two days. In all honesty, it tasted better the second day.

Tomato and Chorizo Pasta : Lunch Ready!

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Seared Tuna Nicoise Salad

The weather was warm on Friday and what with a demand for fish for dinner, from the household - this absolutely hit the brief.

I love the zingy tasty dressing, the wonderful pick’ n’mix from the salad and the gorgeous just cooked and firm Tuna fillet.

I worked in Paris for three years, and the Nicoise was frequently served with canned haricot verte. They add a unique nutty flavour and bizarrely a crunchy texture and I think add something to the salad.

This is one of those dishes that you eat and each mouthful is unique but very very satisfying.

I cannot express how much you should cook this dish!

Tuna Niscoise

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Dropzone Coffee Frosted Walnut and Coffee Sponge

So, at last a decent weather weekend and we are off to the Dropzone.

My second passion, after cooking, is falling through the sky with style

Nothing in this recipe is difficult - just take your time and follow it. Each stage of whisking is important!!

CookBakeSmile Flying Headown over Sibson

Me flailing around!

This cake is wonderful, sweet and bitter. A perfect pick me up during the middle of the day.

A delight with a decent Americano!
Not something we are likely to get at UK Parachuting Sibson

Coffee Walnut Cake

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Greek Salad

An amazingly tasty and easy lunch to cook.

With the Greek Kalamata Olives and Feta Cheese, this salad knocks your socks off.
(Sorry to sound Jamie’esque)!!

This salad is a wholesome and healthy lunch or a perfect side for Lamb Koftas etc!

Greek Salad : Close Up

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Creamy Penne Pasta with Pancetta and Romaine Lettuce Salad

When I popped into
Wyndham House Butchers last week, Rod gave me a packet of Faella Penne Pasta. I have to say the pasta is extremely good - it went down extremely well with last night’s unexpected guests. I will definitely be picking up another packet in the near future.

I asked the butcher for the end piece of Pancetta - it was excellent. Great flavour, lots of meat and crisped up extremely well. Each lardon was like an explosion of salty goodness in your mouth!

This dish is ridiculously easy to make, from start to finish it can be made it 20-25 minutes.

The combination of cream, garlic, herbs and Parmesan always pack a punch in the flavour department. A classic and super tasty Italian meal ideal for a midweek dinner.

Penne Pasta : Creamy Paste Penne

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Asian Inspired Prawn and Rice Noodle Salad

Quick, easy and tasty lunches have become a regular feature from the kitchen.

With no desire to eat additive filled, mayonnaise dripping shop bought sandwiches, it has become an evening ritual to make the next day’s lunch.

This Asian Inspired salad can be prepared in under ten minutes, and is extremely versatile, using whatever is in the fridge.

The dressing can be tweaked to your balance. It is the old classic of sweet, sour, spicy and salty. Play with the ratios of each for your preferred balance.

This will work equally well with left-over roast chicken for instance.

Asian Inspired Salad

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Authentic Jerk Chicken with Peas and Rice

I have been lucky enough to have travelled to Jamaica several times.

The first trip was especially poignant, walking down the main strip in Negril at night. I was blown away by the smell of the various Jerk Chicken Vendors that lined the street. At night, the oil drum barbecues are lit and family secret marinades are liberally applied to chicken, pork, sweetcorn - you name it. Many evenings, we would avoid the beach restaurants and have snapper or chicken served on rice in newspaper. Truly delicious.

After many years of experimenting with Jerk marinades, this is the closest I can get to the real deal. Scotch Bonnet chillies really cannot be substituted, as they provide a fruitiness through the marinade that cannot be matched by other chilli varieties.

I like to pick a whole chicken for this dish and butcher it myself. This way I can make a chicken stock with the carcass, which is ideal for rice and peas.

There really is no substitute for the BBQ, however, you can get pretty close with patience from your oven.

Serve with Rice and Peas, Coleslaw, Jerked Sweetcorn.
(The rice is a hearty dish in its own right, so you don’t need to go crazy on sides!).

Jerk Chicken : Jerk Chicken Rice and Peas

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Peas and Rice

Peas and rice is the traditional side served with Jerk Chicken. In Jamaica, peas refer to beans.

If you cannot get the Caribbean mixed beans, kidney beans will work equally well.

The garden peas are not traditional, but give the rice a nice crunch.

A hearty and warming dish, with a subtle spiced fragrance and flavour.

If you wish to make this vegetarian, then substitute the chicken stock with vegetable stock.

Originally served with
Authentic Jerk Chicken.

Beans and Rice

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Oh Dear Lord that's Flippin' Hot Chilli Con Carne

Do not under estimate how hot this chilli con carne is. I can eat most levels of spice, but even this had me on my knees!!! Served with coriander and lime rice, sour cream and chives, lime segments, Manchego cheese and some dry fried tortilla, the heat was just about tamed.

Beef shin is the ideal cut for this slow cooked recipe. The shin will retain its shape but melt in the mouth.

The Chipotle add a wonderful smokey fragrance, which at first seemed overpowering, but as the chilli cooks, mellow and rounds out the flavour.

The Habaneros and Ancho provide the heat and fruitiness. Similar to scotch bonnets but a good deal hotter!

Ideally, make the chilli a day before you wish to eat it, so that the flavours can deepen and develop.

WARNING : Wash your hands very carefully after preparing the chillies.

I tried the chilli half way through cooking and all I could say was “Oh Dear Lord *cough* *wheeze* *cough*”. It reminded me of this little gem -
A Texas Chilli Eating Contest.

Chilli Con Carne : Tortilla of Doom CloseUp!

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Breaded Chicken with a Herby Tomato Sauce and Garlic Bread

The tomato sauce is extremely versatile. It is the same sauce that I use for my pizzas.

Now that spring is here, my Marjoram and Oregano are growing great guns. You can substitute dried if you wish. The general rule of thumb is 3 : 1 fresh to dry.

If I recall correctly, I saw this recipe, or very similar on ITV by Gina D’Acampo. The mozzarella reinforces the pizza flavours of the dish.

Mid week, this meal can be made from start to finish in 25 minutes. Start with the tomato sauce, and everything will be ready at the same time
(The garlic bread will take 30 minutes).

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Tangy Fresh Garlic Bread

Garlic bread works well with so many Italian dishes as a great accompaniment.

Penne pasta to Lasagne, it never fails to add a great crunch and zing!

Can also be frozen, uncooked and cooked through from frozen
(takes 45 minutes).

So much better than takeaway or shop bought equivalents. The parsley and lemon are the key!

Originally served with
Breaded Chicken and a Herby Tomato Sauce.

Garlic Bread : As an Accompaniment

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Individual Pecan Pies

Once in a while it is nice to eat something sweet and gooey.

I do not have much of a sweet tooth, and despite all the cakes and biscuits that come out of the kitchen, it is uncommon for me to partake.

Pecan pie, and my Mother’s Sachertorte (
must get that recipe from her) are the rare exceptions that make me want to indulge.

This is a simple recipe - the shortcrust takes a couple of minutes to make maximum in the food processor. It tastes significantly better than the shop bought equivalent. It is also very easy to work with easily being able to achieve a thin and short pastry.

These were so good, I accidentally ate the last one between the hours of 2am and 6am. (
I really should eat more after a mega gym sessions!)

Pecan Pie : Cross Section

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Coriander and Lime Rice

A delicious cooling, sticky and fragrant rice. Ideal for hot curries or fish based mains.

Originally served with
Chinese Steamed Sea Bream.

Coriander and Lime Rice

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Chinese Steamed Sea Bream

Sea Bream is a great fish, very similar in taste to sea bass, but at a fraction of the cost. A large bream will easily serve two and costs about £7.

Steaming the fish keeps it moist and the flavour very delicate. The skin is crisped up at the end with very hot oil, and then drizzled over with soy sauce and slithers of ginger.

A really wonderful way to cook sea bream or other firm white fish such as bass. I served this with prawn toast and
Coriander and Lime Rice.
This is frequently served as the star dish in a Chinese New Year dinner. A great sharing plate !!! Enjoy

Chinese Sea Bream : Close Up

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Dark Jamaican Ginger Cake packed with Rum Raisins

Ever since a small child, I have loved Dark Jamaican Ginger Cake. I adore the heat coming from the ginger and the moistness from the rum soaked raisins and dark molasses.

Once you have tried this cake, I can promise you - the £1 specials sold in the shops will never set foot past your front door again.
*Horrible, tasteless, stodgy excuses that they are!*

This is a
must try cake, it is really easy to make, and you probably have the ingredients in the larder already.

Dark Jamaican Cake : Time for a slice

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Lamb Koftas, Mint Yoghurt Dressing, Tomato Salsa and Flatbreads

I love making these flatbread. Now the weather is warmer, it is so much easier to make and prove bread dough. These flatbread are so simple to make, stolen from the River Cottage, I think. Either way, there is no going back to stale pitta bread from the supermarkets.

I have experimented with almond flour, cumin, fresh coriander - every time a delicious puffy tasty flatbread.

The koftas, as you would expect with me, pack a punch in chilli. However, the parsley really helps to keep things balanced. Don’t worry though, the yoghurt dressing is so fresh and refreshing with the cucumber and mint - you will want more chilli than you add in!

This really does not take long to make - the flatbread dough will happily freeze and can be pulled out when required.

Kofta in flatbread

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Flatbread are simple to make and taste delicious. The dough can be frozen and used when required. (It defrosts in seconds from the microwave).

Add cumin, coriander or almond flour to add more distinctive flavours.

Originally served with
Lamb Koftas.

Lamb Kofta : Flatbread : Keep warm in a teatowel

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Tomato Salsa

A lovely zingy, spicy tomato salsa. Tastes great as a side to most summery dishes!

Originally served with the
Lamb Koftas.

Tomato Salsa

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Leftover Chicken and Prawn Tom Yum

Was feeling a little inspired today and wanted to make an authentic Tom Yum. My parents have lived in Thailand for many years, and I like to think that my recipes are pretty close to the real thing. I was lucky enough to help make a Fish Tom Yum on the beach in Hau Hin as a treat for being a regular!

With access to a good Asian greengrocers, such as
Thai Smile, or even a decent supermarket these days, the main stumbling blocks to these recipes have been removed. Sainsbury’s in Chiswick stocks fresh Tamarind, decent Thai Chillies and Kaffir Lime Leaves. The lemongrass, lime leaves, galangal, Thai basil and tamarind freeze really well - I keep them in a freezer bag and pull out when needed (can be prepared frozen with a sharp knife).

There are many ways to make Tom Yum broth, I like to base mine on lemongrass, fish sauce and galangal. This recipe is
HOT - unless you like the real deal I strongly advise you to half the amount of chilli. I had rivers of sweat running down my face - just like when I visit Thailand!

The broth will serve 4, and you can pretty much add what you like. I had some frozen Tiger prawns in the freezer, and used half a roast chicken breast from the weekend roast.

Tom Yum : Finished Dish (Side View)

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