Archive for the 'Lunches' Category

the cupboard was bare: pasta bake

June 5, 2008

Besides tending the garden, I’ve been doing a fair amount of reading in recent weeks, including chef autobiographies as well as the usual cookery books. One of the autobiographies I thoroughly enjoyed and found difficult to put down was White Slave. In this book, Marco Pierre White describes a party where everyone is hungry but the host’s cupboards are bare. He volunteers to cook and in the kitchen he finds some onions, pasta, tomato puree, garlic and bacon, and serves up an amazing pasta dish inspired by the way his mother used to make it.

I remember a similar evening when I was a student – no party, but the same empty cupboard scenario. Back in the early nineties, my weekly food budget was about £10. In my shopping basket there would usually be a carton of milk, some rashers of bacon, a piece of meat, onions, carrots, potatoes and either some cheese or eggs, but never both. At the end of one particular week, I’d eaten all the interesting stuff and was left with an onion, a tiny piece of cheese and a limp carrot. One of my housemates rose to the challenge of cooking me dinner using those seemingly limited ingredients, together with whatever we could find in our store cupboards.

Using my leftovers she cooked the tastiest dinner I’d had all week. Carrot salad with a dressing to start, followed by a grilled pasta bake. I’ve tried to recreate the pasta dish here.

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back to soup: leek and potato

May 7, 2008

mrB had a wisdom tooth out this morning, bless him. He’s not feeling so good and looks a bit like Popeye. Despite the glorious weather, we’re back on soups because mrB is not allowed to eat solid food for a few days. Luckily, we’ve got plenty of vegetables in our veggie box. So it’s leek and potato for lunch and swede soup for dinner.

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cornish pasties: or are they?

April 28, 2008

There is much debate about how to make a traditional cornish pasty. Should the filling be raw or pre-cooked? Should the crimp be on the top or the side? And there is even debate about the origin of the pasty. A recipe from Devon found in a book dated 1510 pips Cornwall’s oldest pasty recipe by over 200 years, according to an article I came across in the Independent.

One thing is for sure though: if you don’t live anywhere near Devon or Cornwall, a homemade pasty beats a shop-bought pasty every time. The filling of a pasty I sampled recently consisted mainly of mashed potato, tiny traces of meat and the odd stripe of carrot. Not a bit like the real thing, which usually contains small pieces of steak, onion, potato and swede.

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comfort food: bake in the oven crinkle-cut chips

April 18, 2008

I woke up with a stinking cold this morning. And it’s been making me feel miserable I can tell you. There’s only one thing that’s going to make me feel better. Crinkle-cut chips.

Preparing chips using a crinkle cutter increases surface area, which means the chips will absorb more oil when they cook. Not very healthy, but then you do end up with crunchier chips which is good because that’s how I like them. Crunchy on the outside, soft in the middle, served with a dash of cider vinegar and a sprinkle of sea salt.

If you’re feeling adventurous, you can bake your chips with thin slices of garlic and fresh thyme leaves.

What do you eat when you’re feeling under the weather?

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7 ideas for savoury tarts

April 9, 2008

Back in November, I went on a cookery course at a farmhouse on the other side of Bury St Edmunds, not all that far from where I live.  Part of the course was devoted to pastry making. I remember on that day we made small tarts for lunch followed by a quick demo of making dressings for salads; I think the tarts were almost ready to come out of the oven.

One of the great things about the cookery course was sitting down together, sampling all the things we’d created, and talking about how we’d got on with making the recipes. The conversation naturally steered towards fantasising about all the possible flavour combinations you can use in a tart.

We came up with delights such as:

  • slow-roasted tomato, pesto and parmesan tart
  • goat’s cheese and caramelised onion tart
  • ham, mushroom and gruyère tart
  • ham, cheddar and spring onion tart

Over the last week, I’ve dreamed up some vegetarian combinations and thought about what to serve with the tarts:

  • goat’s cheese, roasted red pepper and thyme tart, served with mesclun (as shown at the top of this post)
  • cheddar, onion, potato and rosemary tart, served with parsnip crisps


  • mushroom, stilton and sage tart, served with purple-sprouting broccoli


Making lots of small tarts is a good way of using up all those leftover bits of cheese or other bits and bobs that are kicking around the fridge because you need only a small amount of any particular component.

What combinations would you use in your tarts?

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on clippings: chickpea patties

April 3, 2008

I have a large envelope stuffed full of recipes that I’ve cut out of magazines over the years. Every now and again, I sift through my collection looking for inspiration on what to cook. Some dishes regularly make appearances at our kitchen table while others get put away for another time.

This particular dish was inspired by a glossy recipe card, sent to me in the post. As it was developed by a company that makes dairy products, the original list of ingredients contained yoghurt. But as I’d already had yoghurt in yesterday’s roast pork wrap, I gave that a miss. However, if you find your patties don’t hold together so well when you’re shaping them, try adding a tablespoon of thick, plain yoghurt to help bind the ingredients.

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what to do with leftover roast scraps: roast pork wrap

April 2, 2008


Since we moved to East Anglia, we eat a lot more roast pork and sausages. The free-draining sandy soils of the region are ideal for rearing pigs outdoors. At the weekend, we regularly pass farms where you can see the pigs basking in the sunshine and rooting about in the earth. Come back at dusk, and most of them are tucked up in their pens for the night.

Pondering on what to do with some roast pork leftovers, I quickly settled on a wrap, all the while munching on a spare piece of crunchy crackling I found under the foil that was covering the meat. The instructions for making this wrap are more of a guide than a recipe as there are no precise measurements. You can use whatever you have to hand in your kitchen.

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the queen’s pizza: margherita

March 10, 2008


With the sun streaming in through the patio doors, my thoughts turned away from hearty stews and casseroles to lighter, more summery* dishes like pizza. My ideal pizza has a thin crispy base, topped with juicy mozzarella and as much tomato sauce as I can get away with.

For the tomato sauce, I’d planned on whizzing up a tin of tomatoes and then adding a little salt and pepper. Quick and easy it may be, but the end result is a little lumpy. After a quick flick through Jamie at Home, I stumbled upon a tomato sauce recipe that is infused with basil and garlic, pressed through a sieve and reduced to a smooth liquid. It really is a joy to spread and well worth the extra effort.

* By the time I’d eaten the pizza, the weather had turned and flurries of snowflakes were coming down. So much for spring!

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