Slow Cooked Ragu

Rich and unctuous with pasta.

I’m not vegetarian, but I do think if you’re going to kill animal you should make use of all of it, (I still have trouble with some offal, but I try). I have used shin for this recipe. Usually I would use beef shin, but I was lucky enough to be given some venison shin by friends who hunt (just in case you think the shin the photo looks different from what you’re using). Beef shin is relatively inexpensive compared to other cuts of meat, and benefits from long slow cooking when it literally just falls of the bone.

The meat should be easy to shred with a fork

If you haven’t had it before, it reminds me of oxtail. Its unctuous and tasty and makes great stews and casseroles. This version is fantastic with pasta, but is equally great with mashed potatoes or as a pie filling.

Browned before cooking within the sauce

I’ve used red wine in this sauce because I had some left, but if you don’t have any or prefer not to use alcohol you can swap this for beef or vegetable stock.

Thick and packed full of flavour.

This is what I used to call a “weekend recipe” or slow food meaning its not a quick recipe, but it is fairly simple (since many of us are working from home at the minute, you can make recipes like this, cooking away while you work). I used an oven to cook this, but if you have a slow cooker this recipe is perfect.

Ingredients

1Kg Beef Shin

2 Large carrots (Cut into 1cm chunks)

2 Stalks of celery (Cut into 1cm chunks)

1 Large onion (Cut into 1cm chunks)

2 Bay leaves (Optional)

1/2 Bottle of red wine or 750 ml beef or vegetable stock

2 Tbsp Tomato puree

400ml Can of Passata or chopped tomatoes

1 Tbsp Oil

1 Large knob of butter

Salt and Pepper

Method

  1. Heat the oil and put in a large oven proof pan (with a lid), and brown the shin on all sides, before setting to one side
  2. In the same pan, add the chopped vegetables cook until soft, add the tomato puree and bay leaves and cook for a further 5 minutes before adding the wine
  3. Allow the wine to cook until the alcohol has burned off (basically so it doesn’t sting your nose when you breath it in is the best way I can describe it). Preheat your oven to 160 degrees (celsius)
  4. Add the passata, and place the meat back in the pan. Cover with a lid and cook for 2 .5 hours
  5. After 2.5 hours remove the dish from the over and lift the shin meat out. On a separate plate you should be able to shred the meat from the bone with a fork
  6. Add the shredded meat back into the sauce and stir well. Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste
  7. Serve with pasta, or mashed potatoes

Rowallane Gardens

The National Trust has some amazing properties around Northern Ireland. Rowallane is just outside Saintfield village (about 20 mins outside Belfast).

Rowallane consists of a beautiful old house (I forgot to take photos), stable block, walled garden, toilets and café, established gardens and woodlands.

Spring is an amazing time to visit, as everything is in full bloom, including the amazing blue Himalayan poppies. The gardens and woodlands are pretty fabulous at anytime, and with the easing of Covid restrictions a full calendar of events will hopefully be back on soon.

The gardens are popular with dog walkers and families, and are generally accessible for anyone with mobility issues. Kids will love the woodlands with plenty of trees to climb and a meadow to run crazy in.

The Elvis Sandwich!

Friends of mine told me about this, they had visited Graceland and ate this in a local café, who swore that these were one of the King’s favourite dishes. I don’t know how much truth there is in this, but I like to imagine Elvis eating these in a white jumpsuit.

A fried Banana and peanut butter sandwich is a pretty scrummy combination, but on occasion I’ve also tried swapping out the peanut butter for chocolate spread which is also delicious.

This isn’t the healthiest sandwich, but is a nice treat occasionally if you fancy something quick and tasty.

Ingredients

2 Slices of white bread

1 Banana (Mashed)

1-2 Tbsp Peanut butter

1/2 Tbsp Oil

1 Tbsp Melted butter (If you’re vegan you can substitute this with coconut oil)

Method

  1. Heat the oil and butter in a frying pan over a medium heat
  2. Spread the mashed banana on one slice of bread, and spread peanut butter on the other before sandwiching together
  3. Place the sandwich in the pan, and gently push down with a spatula, Cook for 2-3 minutes until sandwich has browned, before gently turning the sandwich to brown on the other side
  4. Enjoy immediately. Thank you very much!

Sweet Potato and Spinach Curry

I love a good curry, and this is a really tasty and satisfying curry that can be enjoyed by vegans and meat lovers alike.

Coconut milk adds a lovely creaminess to this and I serve with rice or flat bread, to make it even better sweet potatoes and spinach are full of flavour and vitamins. I top this with some toasted cashew nuts for some extra crunch and protein, but it will still be delicious without them.

It’s also quick enough to be a great midweek meal and is packed full of lovely spices without being hot (unless you love chillies, in which case add as many as you like).

Ingredients

500 Grams Orange sweet potatoes (cut into 3-4 cm chucks, I leave the skins but peel if you prefer)

250 Grams Spinach (you can use frozen spinach if this is what you have)

2 Onions (roughly chopped)

1 Red chilli (cut in half, and seeds removed, add more if you like a hot curry)

3 Cloves of garlic (peeled)

Thumb sized piece of ginger (peeled and roughly chopped)

1 Tbsp Oil

1 Tsp Ground Cumin

1 Tsp Ground Tumeric

1 Tsp Ground Coriander

1 Tsp Salt

Juice of 1 lime, or half a lemon

400 ml Tin of coconut milk

400 ml water

2 Tbsp Fresh coriander (chopped, optional)

2-3 Tbsp Cashew nuts (toasted, optional)

Method

  1. In a food processor, add your onions, chilli, garlic and ginger, and blitz until it makes a smooth(ish) paste
  2. Heat the oil in a large pan and add the paste you just blitzed in the food processor, and cook for 5-10 minutes
  3. Add the spices to the pot and cook for another 5 minutes before adding the sweet potatoes, coconut milk and water. Cook for another 10 minutes (or until the chunks of sweet potato are soft)
  4. Add the lime juice, and spinach and cover until the spinach has wilted. When the spinach has wilted check the seasoning, adding salt if needed, and sprinkle with copped coriander, cook uncovered for another 5-10 minutes if you prefer a thicker curry
  5. If you’re adding cashew nuts, toast them in a dry pan for 2 minutes (it will make them even more delicious)

ANZAC Biscuits

I love learning about new recipes from other people and hearing about their food traditions. One of my bosses Amanda, is Australian, and she mentioned these as being a real institution back in OZ. The recipe she shared was from BBC Good Food, and these are scrummy.

The name comes from Australian and New Zealand Army Corp, and legend has it people originally made these to send with care packages to soldiers during the first world war because the ingredients didn’t spoil easily. Other people claim they were never sent in care packages, but were sold at bake sales etc. to raise funds for returning veterans. They’re now baked to commemorate ANZAC day on 25 April each year.

How long you cook these for will depend on the type of biscuit you want (chewy or crisp). I’ve also seen recipes that include ground ginger, and I think this would make a cracking addition. One of my work mates tried drizzling chocolate over hers, which would also be scrummy (thanks for the suggestion Tina). Which ever version you try they will taste pretty amazing and are easy to make from ingredients you might already have. They will live quite happily in an airtight tin for 4-5 days.

Ingredients

100 Grams Plain Flour

100 Grams Butter

100 Grams Caster Sugar

85 Grams Porridge Oats

85 Grams Desiccated Coconut

1 Tbsp Golden Syrup

1 Tsp Bicarbonate of Soda

Method

  1. Heat your oven to 180 degrees, and line a cookie sheet with baking parchment
  2. Add the flour, sugar, oats and coconut to a bowl and mix well before making a well in the centre
  3. In a separate bowl, add the butter and golden syrup and melt in a microwave (I usually do 30 seconds at a time)
  4. In a cup add the bicarbonate of soda and stir in 2 tablespoons of boiling water, before stirring into the melted butter
  5. Stir the melted butter into the dry mix and stir until fully incorporated
  6. Scoop dessertspoonful’s of the mix onto the baking sheet, leaving gaps of 2-3 cm between each biscuit, as they will spread
  7. Cook in your preheated oven for 10 mins for a chewy biscuit, or 15 mins or longer if you want a more crispy biscuit

Creamy Meatballs with Mushrooms

One of the numerous things I’m missing in lockdown is a cheeky visit to a well known Swedish furniture super store. This includes spending twice what I meant to and eating my own weight in meatballs.

You can freeze the meat balls (before they have been added to the sauce), and these make a really handy mid week meal. They can be added to a tomato sauce with pasta or in a meatball sub.

This creamy version is great for anyone following a keto or low carb diet. It’s also great with mashed potatoes or pasta for anyone who anyone who is isn’t reducing their carb intake.

Ingredients

For the meatballs

500 Grams Minced beef

250 Grams Minced pork

1 Egg (beaten)

1 Tsp Salt

1 Tsp Black pepper

1 Tsp Garlic granules, or 2 cloves of garlic (finely chopped)

For the sauce

250 Grams Mushrooms (sliced)

1 Tbsp Oil

250 ml Beef stock

250 ml Double cream

1 Tbsp Chopped parsley (optional)

Baked meatballs

Method

  1. Add all the ingredients for the meatballs to a large bowl and mix well with your hands to make sure the ingredients are well combined.
  2. Make meatballs slightly smaller than a golf ball and place in an oven proof dish. When all the mix has been used to make the meatballs, refrigerate for at least an hour to set
  3. Preheat your oven to 180 degree and bake the meatballs for 25 minutes
  4. To make the sauce, heat the oil in a large frying pan and add the mushrooms stirring occasionally until soft.
  5. Add the beef stock and cream to the mushrooms and alow to simmer over a medium heat for 5-10 minutes or until the sauce has started to thicken.
  6. Add the cooked meatballs to the sauce, and simmer for s further five minutes. Sprinkle with parsley and then serve

Chorizo and Butter Bean Hash

This is a great dish at anytime of day, I like it at weekends when you’ve slept a little bit later and maybe need a little bit of help with a hangover (basically brunch).  Quick, satisfying and easy to make, its also ideal as mid week dinner.

If you’re vegetarian, you can swap out  the chorizo for a teaspoon of smoked paprika for the same flavour.

Serves 2

Ingredients

50 Grams Chorizo (thinly sliced) or 1 Tbsp of smoked paprika

400 Grams Tin of butter beans (drained)

1 Small onion or 4-5 scallions/spring onions (finely sliced)

1 Red pepper

200 Grams Cherry tomatoes (chopped)

4 Eggs

Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Heat a large frying pan with a lid, add the chorizo until it starts to release it’s oil, remove from the pan and set to one side
  2. Add the vegetables to the pan and cook until soft. Add the butter beans to the pan and crush gently with the back of a spoon
  3. Add the chorizo back to the pan and stir well.
  4. Make four wells in the mix and crack an egg into each well
  5. Cover the pan with a lid and turn off the heat. Allow to sit for 5 minutes until the egg whites are cooked

Onion Seed Oat Cakes

I love oat cakes and these are incredibly easy to make. I have flavoured these with onion seeds because I think they taste great with cheese. Cumin or fennel seeds also work really well if you fancy changing things up, or just leave plain if you prefer.

Ingredients

1/2 Tsp salt

150 Grams Porridge oats

1 Tsp Onion (Nigella) seeds

20 Grams Butter

125ml Boiling water

Plain flour for rolling out

Method

  1. Add the porridge oats to a food processor and whiz until the oats are finer, then pour into a bowl with the onion seeds and salt
  2. Add the butter to hot water stir until it has melted
  3. Add the hot water and butter to the oats and mix well. Allow to stand for 5 minutes
  4. Preheat you oven to 160 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment
  5. Flour your work surface and roll the oat mix out until it’s 0.5cm thick. Use a cookie cutter to cut out oat cakes to the desired size. Reform and roll out again to use up any remaining mix
  6. Bake for 20-25 minutes and cool on a wire wrack. Keep in airtight box for 3-4 days

“Super Food” Salad

People still argue about if super foods actually exist. Regardless of this, everything in this salad is good for you, and tastes delicious.

It’s packed full of protein, flavour and different tastes and texture. I enjoy this with hummus, (so ideal for vegans and vegetarians). It’s also great in wraps with holoumi or as a side dish with grilled chicken or fish.

Ingredients

For the salad

50 Grams Endamame beans (I used frozen ones that I thawed)

100 Grams Quinoa (dried weight), cook as instructed on the packet

50 Grams Almonds (toasted and chopped)

2 handfuls Rocket/Arugula (or other peppery salad leaf)

1 large Carrot (grated)

1 Red pepper (cut in into 1cm chuncks)

400 Gram Tin of cannellini beans (use what ever type of beans you like, just drain them first)

2 Tbsp Pumpkin seeds

1 Large avocado (chopped)

Juice of one lime

For the dressing

2 Tbsp Olive oil

Zest and juice of 2 limes

2 Tbsp Corriander (chopped, you can use other herbs like mint or parsley if prefer)

Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Cook the quinoa as instructed on the packet and allow to cool
  2. In a dry frying pan, toast the almonds and allow to cool before chopping (you don’t need to do this but it really does help improve the flavour)
  3. Chop the avocado and cover with the juice of one of the limes to prevent it from discolouring
  4. Add all the salad ingredients (except the rocket) to a bowl and mix well
  5. Add the dressing and check the seasoning, mix in the rocket just before serving

Mini Egg Rocky Road Bars

You can make an almost infinite variety of rocky road bars. The key thing is include lots of different textures.

I used mini eggs because they are basically my crack cocaine. My other more recent addiction is Bishoff biscuits. I’ve used these here, but you can use any type of crunchy biscuit or cookie you prefer.

Ingredients

400 Grams Chocolate (I used half milk and half dark chocolate, but use what you prefer)

125 Grams Bishoff biscuits

100 Grams Marshmallows

250 Grams Mini Eggs

3 Tbsp Golden Syrup

50 Grams Butter

Method

  1. Break the chocolate in to chunks, and add to a microwave proof bowl along with the butter and golden syrup. Microwave for 30 seconds at a time until the butter and chocolate have melted
  2. Place the biscuits in a freezer bag any bash with a rolling pin (if you don’t have one a tin can will do). The biscuits should be be broken into bits but not too small or all crumbs. Put the broken biscuits in a large bowl
  3. Add half the mini eggs to the freezer bag and bash these too. Add to the broken biscuits and add the Marshmallows
  4. Pour two thirds of the chocolate mix into the bowl and stir until combined. Line a 12cm X 18cm dish with baking paper and transfer the rock road mix into it. Spread evenly.
  5. Cover the rocky road mix with the chocolate you held back. I use a wet palate knife to smooth the top (an ordinary knife is fine if you don’t have one, as rocky roads are bumpy)
  6. Sprinkle the remaining half of the crushed mini eggs and refrigerate for a minimum 1-2 hours before cutting into slices