Saturday, 31 May 2008

Pea Shoots and Smoked Pancetta Soup

I shamelessly acknowledge that I got the inspiration for this from The Frolicking Foodie. Until I read that post I had never heard of pea shoots, so when I saw them in Marks and Spencer yesterday I had to buy them to make the soup.

I have made a few changes (as you do!), such as using lovely Italian Pancetta instead of bacon and using a chicken stock as I had some, and didn’t have ham stock. I was also a bit concerned that the ham might overwhelm the taste of the pea shoots.


2 Tbsp olive oil
4 shallots, diced
1 medium potato, diced
120g Smoked Italian pancetta***
1 pint chicken stock


Fry the shallots in the oil for about 5 minutes until soft, but not brown.
Add the pancetta and potatoes and continue to fry for another 5 minutes.
Add the stock, bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes until the potatoes are soft.

Leave to cool a little, add the pea shoots then blend.

As frolicking foodie noted, they do try to fight their way up out of the soup, but I kept pushing them down with the hand blender (known in my family as the "feersum enjin").

Perhaps I should explain the reason for this:

Younger son and daughter in law gave me a hand blender as a housewarming present some years ago. When I was asked what I had been given, on a couple of occasions (obviously suffering from early alzheimers) I said it was an um.... And so it was christened an "Um". Later I had to buy another one, which was rather more powerful, so I christened it the "FeersUM Enjin".

Fans of Iain M Banks will understand the allusion, the rest of you will just have to scratch your heads and say "She's at it again!"


*** I think that 60g would be enough of the pancetta, and would also be inclined to try unsmoked. I would love to hear how anyone else got on with this recipe.

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Risotto with Peas

This is one of my favourite risottos, as it is so easy and uses very readily available ingredients.

Daughter telephoned me for the recipe this week, so I shall share it with you.

Basically all risottos are the more or less the same, and it is worth trying out variations on the theme.

Serves 4


1 litre chicken or vegetable stock
85g / 3oz butter
3 shallots, chopped finely
115g / 4oz pancetta diced (or bacon bits)
280g /10oz Arborio rice
150ml / ¼ pint dry white wine
225g / 8 oz fresh peas
Salt and pepper
Parmesan cheese to garnish

Pour the stock into a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer gently.

Melt 55g / 2oz of the butter in another large, heavy-based saucepan. Add the shallots and pancetta and cook over a low heat, stirring occasionally until the shallots are softened.

Add the rice and cook, stirring constantly, for 2-3 minutes, until all the grains are thoroughly coated and glistening.

Pour in the wine and cook, stirring constantly, until it has almost completely evaporated.

Add a ladleful of hot stock and cook, stirring constantly, until all the stock has been absorbed. Continue cooking and adding the stock, a ladleful at a time, for about 20 minutes.

Add the peas, then continue adding the stock, a ladleful at a time, for about a further 10 minutes, or until the rice is tender and the liquid has been absorbed*.

Stir in the remaining butter and season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer the risotto to a warmed serving dish, garnish with Parmesan and serve immediately.

* I often find that it takes longer than 10 minutes for all the rice to be absorbed

Wednesday, 14 May 2008

Liver and Onions

Yesterday, on my way home from my physiotherapy, I called in at the big garden centre. Amongst other things, I bought 2 slices of lambs liver. I don't remember the last time I had that - and the butcher said that it is not always available.

So tonight, that was what was on the menu - no liver and bacon (as I had no bacon!), so just liver and onions. This is a very easy recipe.

First, toss the liver in seasoned flour.

While potatoes were boiling, I added a sliced onion to a reasonably large frying pan with olive oil and fried it for about 10 minutes.

Greens need to be cooked for an appropriate time to suit.

I remembered to turn the potatoes down (!)

After 4 minutes, I pulled the onions to the outside of the pan and added the liver, cooking it for about 3 minutes on each side.

Just before the potatoes were ready, I removed the liver and placed it and the onions on a heated plate.

At that point I added some red wine to the frying pan and raised the heat to leave it to reduce and thicken.

Serve all on a heated plate.

I use microwave plate warmers, which are the best thing since sliced bread. I bought them from Lakeland limited, but don't know if they are still available.

Wednesday, 7 May 2008


Last night I removed a single serving of cooked mince from the freezer ready for me to heat it through for my meal tonight. (I have posted several recipes for mince, the latest being on May 1st.)

With the mince, I shall serve organic potatoes and carrots, together with steamed white sprouting broccoli and a chopped leek.

White sprouting broccoli does not really look just like purple sprouting broccoli only white. In fact it is a bulkier plant and has more leaves on it as well as a more defined head. I prepare it by chopping off the end of the stem and then cutting it across in the same way as I would with spring greens. You eat the leaves as well as the flower.

The organic potatoes are reaching the end of their time, but still cook fine after peeling and removing a few "bits". I think the addition of chopped carrot gives a better flavour to the potato.

However, I have cheated today and ordered some Jersey Royal potatoes as they are so good and last for such a short time.

In fact, I think that I might just cook the Jersey Royals with some greens and never mind the meat tomorrow.

Tuesday, 6 May 2008

Creamy Spinach Soup


2 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, chopped
440g/16oz spinach
2 large or 3 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped to half inch cubes
600ml/20fl oz double cream
or 600ml/20fl oz semi skimmed milk
1200ml/42fl oz hot water
2 vegetable stock cube
4 garlic clove,
crushedtoasted bread, to serve


1. In a saucepan heat the oil and add the chopped onion, garlic and potato for five minutes to soften.
2. Add the spinach, hot water, vegetable stock cube and garlic and bring to the boil.
3. Cook for 20 minutes.
4. Blend the soup, together with most of the cream or milk, with a hand-held blender and serve with fresh brown bread.
5. Add a swirl of cream to each bowl.

Later: I found this soup too creamy, so I have postedd my usual spinach soup recipe.

Sunday, 4 May 2008

Macaroni Cheese

This is comfort food.


1 mug short cut macaroni
2 oz butter
2 oz flour
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1 pint milk
1/2 lb cheddar cheese, grated

a handful of lardons, fried, then drained of fat on kitchen roll
1 onion, fried in butter, drained on kitchen roll


Bring a pan of water with a little salt and little oil to the boil, then add the macaroni and boil for 10 minutes (or till al dente).

Drain and place in a casserole dish.

For the sauce:

Melt the butter in a heavy based pan, then stir in the mustard and flour.
Keep stirring until all the flour is taken up by the melted butter.

Take pan off the heat and add a pint of milk, by adding a little at a time and stirring all the time so that it does not go 'lumpy' Do this slowly and carefully until the mixture is liquid, then you can add the rest of the milk more quickly. To rescue "lumps", remove pan from the heat and whisk thoroughly.

Bring to the boil slowly stirring all the time until the sauce thickens.

Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese until it has melted.

Add to the macaroni in the casserole dish.

If you like, you can then add the extra ingredients and stir them in with a fork.

Sprinkle some more grated Cheddar over the top (or alternatively a mixture of grated cheddar and breadcrumbs for a crispier top.)

Place in the oven at 180Celcius or until mixture is bubbling and cheese topping is browning.

I should have said that this probably serves 2 hungry young people, but it does 4 meals for me!

Saturday, 3 May 2008

Left - Over Mince

Today, I was still rather tired and sore, so I looked at what was left in the fridge.

1 serving of mince, onions and baked beans ( beanz meanz fartz).

1 serving of mashed potato, carrot and turnip (Swede).

Easy Peasy.

Put the mince mixture into a pan on top of the stove, brought it to the boil then lowered the heat to keep it bubbling.

Heated a plate in the microwave (using rubber - or something like it -warmer)

Then heated freezer container of veg in microwave for about 3 mins till hot.

Served the lot onto hot plate.

This is as easy as Dr and Mrs Jobbing Doctor's Pizza

Thursday, 1 May 2008


Today I was so tired after what I had got up to this morning that I wanted a really easy, soothing meal tonight.

I had taken a pack of (about 1 lb) mince from the freezer yesterday, and so I looked in the fridge. I found 2 onions, 1 rather small turnip (Swede), a few carrots, and no potatoes. Fortunately there were still some potatoes left from my visit to the (not organic) farm shop.

So I peeled and chopped two onions and added them to the pan with the mince.

I browned the mince and onions in the little fat from the meat, then thickened it.

To thicken, I used 2 teaspoons of cornflour and 1 teaspoon Bisto, draked with a little water and made up to a mugful, added to the mince and brought to the boil, stirring all the time.

After that I turned the heat down and left it to cook for about two hours.

Normally I would have added mushrooms, but I didn't have any and I didn't have the energy to go and get any.

Meantime I chopped up the vegetables remaining in my fridge.

1 very small turnip (Swede), 2 "dirty" carrots and some potatoes.

Cooked the vegetables, mashed them and served.

Tomorrow I shall have left-over mince and left-over vegetables and shall update this post.