Sunday, 22 May 2011

Lamb stew

Lamb Stew

This lamb stew is the ultimate in comfort foods for me and not just in the heart of winter... a good stew is welcomed any of the 365 days of the year. Served up with mashed or baby potatoes or just with a lovely fresh crusty loaf this has gotta be tried, tasted and loved! In this recipe i use lamb breast as ive found it to be one of the tastiest cuts of meat i have ever used and one of the cheapest... it is so underrated due to it being quite fatty but like its pork equivalent pork belly, when slowly cooked, the flavours it gives is absolutely beautiful. However i know not everyone will go for the lamb breast so feel free to use lamb stewing steak but dont knock the lamb breast until you have tried it. Your local butcher will sort you out with it.

Serves 4-6:
3 lamb breasts
4 carrots
4 parsnips
2 onions
3 sticks of celery
4-6 cloves of garlic
3/4 bottle of red wine
300ml of chicken or beef stock
2 tablespoons of crushed spices (cumin seeds, fennel seeds, caraway seeds)
A tied bunch of herbs (rosemary, mint & thyme)
2 bay leaves
Plain flour
1 packet of Oxtail soup


  1. Chop up the onion and garlic and sweat off in a large pot with some butter. In the meantime peel and chop the carrots and parsnips and chop the celery. Add to the sweated onion and garlic.
  2. Rub the lamb breasts on both sides with the crushed spices and a little olive oil then cut them up into bite sized pieces. Toss the pieces in some flour and seal in a hot frying pan, this will take a few batches. 
  3. Add the sealed lamb pieces to the vegetables in the pot and add in the wine and top up with the stock. Give it all a good stir around and add in the tied bunch of herbs and the bay leaves.
  4. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat right down to a light simmer for an hour and a half.
  5. Pour the packet Oxtail soup into a mixing bowl and add a cup and a half of water and whisk until smooth but quite thick and add to the stew. Stir it well in and season the whole thing with sea salt and black pepper.
  6. Continue to simmer for another hour and a half, stirring occasionally to prevent it from catching.
  7. Remove the bunch of herbs and the 2 bay leaves. It is ready to serve with either potatoes or fresh crusty bread. If you can cook this the day before you need it all the better... it always tastes better the next day!

Friday, 20 May 2011

Fish Pie

Fish Pie
I made this fish pie a wee while ago when my brother and his family was down visiting. It really went down a treat. The hint of chilli in it really gives it a lovely heat. This is quite an easy recipe so even if you don’t consider yourself a great cook I’m sure you will find this easy and very affective!

Calories 2714
678 pp for 4
452 pp for 6
Serves 4-6:
1kg floury potatoes
1 large carrot
2 sticks of celery
1 lemon
Half a red chilli
300g of salmon fillets skinned and boned
300g of smoked haddock or coley skinned and boned
100 g or uncooked prawns de-shelled and de-veined
For the sauce:
600ml milk
2 tablespoons of cornflour
2 tablespoons of chopped chives
1 tablespoon of wholegrain mustard
1-2 chicken/vegetable stock cube crumbled
50g of low fat cheese grated

  1. Place your peeled potatoes into a saucepan and just cover with cold water, add a pinch of sea salt. Place saucepan on hob and turn on to high heat and bring to the boil. Turn heat down to medium for 10-15 mins. Check with a fork, if the fork stabs through easily they are done, if not leave for a few more mins until it does. Drain into a colander in sink and let stand for a few mins. Place back into saucepan and cover with a clean tea towel.

           2.      Cut up the fish into bite sized chunks and mix them up with the prawns in a suitable sized        
                 oven dish.

           3.      Coarsely grate the carrot and celery and finely grate the chilli and the rind of the lemon. 
                 Sprinkle all this over the top of the fish and roughly toss with your hands.

  1. Mix a little drop of milk with the corn flour to make a paste. Put remaining milk into a saucepan and heat gently. When warm add in the paste and stir, add in the chives, the cheese and crumble in the stock cube(s). Turn up the temperature until it is fine and hot and add in the mustard, lower the heat again. Simmer until it is the consistency of double cream.

           5.      Pour this over the top of the fish/veg and then mash up the potatoes nice and creamy with                              
                 some butter and milk and cover the top of the pie with it.

           6.      Pop the pie into a preheated oven at 200c for 20 mins or until the top has turned golden.

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Growing in mid-May


Mid-May and the garden is really taking shape, the strawberries look like they are going to give a bumper crop with loads of berries showing already and the flowers are still coming.

In the salad bed we have harvested all the radishes with more sown, also have been picking away at the spinach, rocket and little gem lettuces which have been gorgeous in lunchtime salads.

We also planted out our sunflowers and god love them they have taken a battering in the strong winds of late, losing 2 but the rest survived and have planted out the only 2 surplus we had in place of the broken 2.

I also planted out the sweetcorn just straight into the ground in their homemade newspaper pots. This was so the roots system wasn't disturbed during planting, the newspaper will breakdown in the soil. The courgette plants have gone out now too that the risk of frost have passed, i had a good few surplus plants over so in keeping with 'crop share' i gave them to family, friends and neighbours!! 

Elsewhere the spuds are doing well and the red cabbage, cauliflower and parsnips are thriving, however i had to re-sow my carrots as first time round they got scorched in that hot spell we had. It is all about trial and error after all!!!

In the greenhouse the tomatoes and the cucumbers are coming on strong and have gotten their first watering of organic comfry liquid feed... it stinks, i mean really stinks but sure so does our tonics when you think of it!!
My father used to say about tonic/medicine 'the more vile it is, the better for you'!

So thats how the garden is at moment... still to be planted out is my celery, celeriac, peppers and chillies. That will be in the next few weeks, probably the start of June. 

Wednesday, 11 May 2011

Crop Share... make the pledge!!!

Crop share – Show you care

Make the pledge at the bottom

Hi folks, I want to share an idea I’ve had. It is a very simple and basic idea I’ve had that doesn’t involve very much time or effort. It is called ‘Crop share-show you care’. It is basically a way of bringing people together through cooking or growing… or both.

From my own personal experience since I have started growing my own fruit and vegetables I have found that sometimes I have been left with surplus supplies, anything from seeds, seedlings, young plants and crops and I have tried my very best not to throw anything out. So the best way of dealing with these surplus crops was to give them away to family, friends and neighbours. In doing this I have encouraged a lot of people to start to grow their own, I have basically spread the growing bug! For those of you who grow your own you will I’m sure always sow more seeds than you want plants so therefore you will have spare seedlings over that in many cases get thrown onto the compost heap… well instead of that why not make a call or send a text or pop over to a neighbour and offer them a few seedlings that could maybe be planted into a container or window box and they can see for themselves just how easy growing your own really is!!! I got inspired to start myself from this very motion, a local lady gave me a few surplus courgette plants that I just shoved into a patio container, and I well and truly caught the growing bug! Also if you have bought a tray of young plants from your local garden store and planted out what you need and have some over, again give them away. Even if it is just 1 or 2 cabbage plants for example, surely that is better that chucking them out.

I have also found that this is a great way to get to know the neighbours too. How many of us don’t know our own neighbours apart from maybe the odd wave or a muttered ‘hello’. I know that not everyone wants to be given surplus plants and may have no interest in the whole fresh produce idea but it won’t hurt to ask! Let’s get back to basics people, back to getting to know people and making conversations and just doing something kind… because you can.

The same goes for crops, I know last year we had surplus vegetables going spare every week but yet not enough to even consider selling, so I gave them to friends, family and neighbours. I have also been on the receiving end of this too, apples and plums from my neighbour next door and spare veg plants that I didn’t have. It is a great way of trying new things. I also found that by giving a small bag of veg or herbs or some seedlings or surplus eggs away that I would get a knock on the door a few days or a few weeks later and as a thank you would be handed a fresh rhubarb tart of a homemade loaf etc which really shows the gratitude of a small kind gesture. Or have gotten a call or a text to say how the young seedling or half packet of seeds that I 
gave away was giving out a good crop.

This idea also works with cooking, you could be baking buns or scones etc, why not put on a few spare and give them to a neighbour or friend that you know likes them. Or even a spare pot of homemade jam. Your ‘crop’ to share can really be anything you like. In a world that was and in some cases still is overrun with greed and money, why not do a selfless good deed, whether it be once a day, once a week or even once a year…. Once is better than never. So go on… spread the bug!!!

Ok, so if you like this idea what I want you to do as make the pledge, all you have to do is type 2 little words… ‘I’m in’ that’s it, just make that pledge right now to yourself and to the world. You can leave the pledge here with your name or on the Facebook page at

Monday, 9 May 2011

Breaded Chicken Salad

Breaded Chicken Salad

I just made this salad today as part of me trying to eat a little more healthy. Our salad bed is producing plenty of fresh rocket, spinach, little gem lettuce and radish so it is as good as an excuse as any to have some lovely, tasty salads.

Serves 2:
2 chicken legs skin on
2 slices of fresh (nice) bread
A handful of rocket leaves
A handful of spinach leaves
1 little gem lettuce
Half a pepper diced
1 carrot ribboned 
2 spring onions sliced 
A few mint leaves shredded
A few shavings of Parmesan
2 eggs
Flour for coating
Ground paprika
Half a litre of vegetable oil

Olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
A tablespoon of creme fraiche
2 anchovies
A quarter a clove of garlic
A good pinch of grated Parmesan 


  1. Preheat the oven to 200c. Place the chicken legs into a oven proof dish along with the bread cut into cubes and drizzle with a little olive oil season with salt and pepper. The bread will soak up the lovely juices. 45 mins in the oven should see them done.
  2. For the dressing mash the garlic and anchovies in a mortar and pestle then scrape into a bowl and whisk in the creme fraiche, grated Parmesan, lemon juice and olive oil (about 3 times the amount of lemon juice). Season to taste.
  3. Wash all the leaves and dry them in a salad spinner and place in a bowl along with the spring onion, mint leaves shredded, diced pepper and ribboned carrot and toss around.
  4. When the chicken is cooked pull it apart of the bone in strips/chunks. If some of the croutons are not crispy place them back in the oven until they are.
  5. To make the breaded chicken, pour about an inch depth of vegetable oil into a large saucepan and bring to a shimmering heat. in 3 seperate dishes put flour, whisked egg and breadcrumb. Sprinkle the chicken pieces with ground paprika then coat in the flour, then dip in whisked egg then into the breadcrumbs and into the hot oil (carefully) you could do a few at a time. turn over after a min when golden then remove after another min. Repeat for remaining pieces of chicken.
  6. Combine the salad, chicken and croutons on a plate or bowl and serve with a few shavings of Parmesan and the dressing to taste.

Thursday, 5 May 2011

Hatching Chicks

Last night saw the start of some of the eggs cracking from the inside out which was quite exciting as this is the first time doing anything like this... new life is always a good thing!

Then this evening mother hen went out to get some fresh water i had placed out for her and this gave us an opportunity for a few pictures however only 3 have hatched out so far but hopefully more will come, if not well its not the end of the world. There is always next time!

So this is Britney, Whitney and Shakira... only messing the wont be named as they'll be heading off to new homes when old enough!

Monday, 2 May 2011

Lovely Lasagne!


This is a lasagne from scratch; I even make my own pasta sheets these days but feel free to buy the sauces in the shops. However if you have the time, try this recipe out full… you wont regret it!

Serves 4-6:
500g of minced beef
2 rashers of smoked streaky bacon
1 large onion
2 sticks of celery
2 carrots
2 cloves of garlic
1 heaped tablespoon of dried/fresh oregano
2 tins chopped, peeled tomatoes
150g Parmesan cheese
1x500ml tub of low fat crème fraiche
250g dried lasagne sheets
Sea salt & black pepper
Olive oil


1.      Finely chop up the bacon. Finely chop the onion, celery, carrots and garlic and set aside.

  1. Place a large pan on a high heat and add a good splash of olive oil, bacon and the oregano, fry until the bacon is colouring slightly. Add in the chopped onion, celery, carrots and garlic and stir around every minute for about 7-8 mins. Add in the mince with the tinned tomatoes and fill one tin with water ad pour it in also. Season well, bring to the boil then turn down heat and simmer with lid on for around 45mins.

  1. Preheat oven to 190ºc. Remove the sauce from the heat and grate in about a quarter of the Parmesan and stir it in. have a quick taste and season a little more if required.

  1. In an ovenproof dish spoon a layer of your sauce in, about a third of it. Place a single layer of pasta sheets and spread a third of the crème fraiche, season and grate another quarter of the Parmesan over.

  1. Repeat step 4 another 2 times finishing with a grater layer of Parmesan on top.

  1. Cover with foil and bung into the oven for about 20 mins. Remove the foil and cook for a further 30-40 mins until golden and bubbling.

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