Champ and Chilli Pie

It can still get cold, so comfort food is still on the menu. This is a variation on a Shepherd’s pie, I started making this a couple of years ago to use up some leftovers.

If you’re one of those organised people who plans meals for the week then you can make the champ and the chilli for separate meals in advance and just assemble before you bake it

There’s a decent amount of vegetables in this chilli but you could also swap it for an entirely vegetarian chilli if you’re not a meat eater

Ingredients

For the champ

1kg Potatoes

250 ml Milk

5-6 Scallions/spring onions (finely chopped)

Salt

For the chilli

400 Grams Minced beef

1 Onion (chopped into 1cm chunks)

100 Grams Mushrooms (chopped chopped into 1cm chunks)

50 Grams Sweetcorn

2 Stalks of celery (chopped into 1 cm chunks)

1 Red Pepper (chopped into 1 cm chunks)

1 Tbsp Tomato puree

1 Tsp Cumin

1 Tsp Chilli flakes (increase this if you like a hotter chilli)

400ml Passata

400 Gram Can of black beans or kidney beans

Coriander (optional, but I usually add a couple of tablespoons of fresh chopped coriander)

75 Grams Grated Cheese (I used mature Cheddar)

Method

  1. Peel the potatoes and chop into equal sized cubes before boiling in salted water until soft and then mash thoroughly
  2. While the potatoes are cooking add the milk and scallions/spring onions into a small pot and simmer over a very gentle heat
  3. Stir the milk and scallions into the mashed potatoes and mix well, check if it needs more salt.
  4. For the chilli, heat a large high sided frying pan and add the mince and allow to brown
  5. Add the tomato puree, spices and sliced vegetables and beans and cook for 5 minutes
  6. Add the passata and simmer for a further 10 – 15 minutes until the vegetables are soft and the chilli has thickened
  7. Transfer the chilli to a large oven proof dish and then top with the champ mix
  8. Spread the champ across the chilli with a fork, so that the top has a rough texture (this will help give a lovely crunch once its baked). Sprinkle with grated cheese
  9. Cook in an oven pre-heated to 200 degrees (Celsius) for 30 minutes

Tayto Sandwich The official taste of a Belfast childhood. It has to be Nutty Crust bread, real butter and Tayto crisps. Perfection in simplicity.

Ottolenghi’s Cauliflower Cake

I love Yotam Ottolenghi’s recipes, he does some amazing things with vegetables. He’s able to avoid the usual criticisms of vegetarian food, that it can be a bit rabbit foody and uninteresting.

While a lot of people are vegetarian for health reasons, there are times you still want something rich, unctuous and indulgent.

I’ve filed this under Pure Filth due to the amount of cheese involved. The original recipe calls for just Parmesan cheese. I didn’t have enough, so I used half strong Cheddar. This recipe would probably still work well as a way to use up cheese you have hanging about the fridge. The original recipe recommends that it should be served cold or room temperature (I’ve also eaten it hot, as I couldn’t wait on it cooling and it was yummy). I used a mix of nigella (onion seeds) and sesame seeds on the outside, but you could swap out this for just sesame seeds (I think using just nigella seeds would be too much)

Line the bottom of the cake tin and then coat the sides with nigella and sesame seeds

Ingredients

1 Cauliflower

2 red onions

1 Tbsp Olive oil

7 Eggs

1/2 Tsp Rosemary (optional)

15 Grams Basil

120 Grams Plain flour

1/2 Tsp Baking powder

1/2 Tsp Turmeric

Salt and pepper

Melted butter (for greasing)

1 Tbsp Nigella (onion) seeds

1 Tbsp Sesame Seeds

75 Grams Parmesan (grated)

75 Grams Cheddar cheese (grated)

Method

  1. Break the cauliflower into florets and simmer in hot water until soft (but not mushy), drain well and allow to cool
  2. Peel the onions, slice half the first onion into 1/2 cm thick rings and set to one side. Coarsely chop the remaining onions.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and fry the onions over a medium heat for 10 minutes, allow to cool
  4. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees (Celsius), and line the base of a 24cm x 24cm spring form cake tin with baking parchment. Brush the sides of the tin with melted butter and sprinkle with the nigella and sesame seeds
  5. Transfer the cooked onions to a large bowl, add the eggs, herbs, and turmeric and whisk in the flour and baking powder
  6. Stir in the cheese, and then add the cauliflower and mix until the cauliflower is coated in the batter (be careful not to break up the florets, as you want to keep some texture)
  7. Add the batter to your prepared cake tin, making sure you spread it to the edges. Top with the onion circles you set aside earlier and bake for 45 minutes

Potato Latkes

Food is one of the best ways to nurture people but also remember those who we loved.

We are in the middle of the Jewish holiday of Hanukah. I’m not Jewish, but my much loved sister in law Bobra Fyne was. She was great at describing the customs surrounding the holiday and was a brilliant story teller (she was one of my favourite people in the world).

She also shared my family’s love of carbs and was an amazing cook, and so I made these as a way to remember her.

Squeeze your grated potatoes in a clean tea towel to remove as much liquid as possible

This is a simple recipe from Claudia Roden’s The Book of Jewish Food. While grating the potato is a bit of a faff the results are delicious served the traditional accompaniments of sour cream or apple sauce. Similar to a potato rosti, they can be served as an appetiser or side dish.

Ingredients

1kg Potatoes

2 Eggs

1 Tsp Salt

Oil for frying

Method

  1. Peel and grate the potatoes, rinse in cold water to remove the starch.
  2. Drain in a colander. Depending on the type of potatoes you use, you might need to put the grated potatoes in a clean tea towel and squeeze out the excess liquid. Transfer to a large bowl
  3. Lightly beat the eggs with the salt and add to the potatoes. Mix until combined
  4. In a large pan, add just enough oil to cover the base and heat over a medium heat
  5. Add a tablespoon of the potato mixture to the pan at a time and flatten slightly so they cook evenly, (they should be thin enough to make sure you don’t have raw potato in the middle)
  6. When brown, turn with a spatula and cook until brown on he other side
  7. Drain on kitchen paper and serve while hot

Pierogis (Polish Dumplings)

Potato and cheese pierogi

I visited Krakow recently, and loved everything about the place. What I really fell in love with were pierogis, served in pretty much every restaurant.

Our food guide told us the it’s really common in Polish homes for members of the family to get together and make huge batches of pierogis, especially at certain times of year, like Christmas.

This weekend I got together with my Krakow travel companions to drink maybe more than we should and make pierogis.

A few cocktails while cooking with friends. If you’re entertaining family over the holidays I would recommend this as a great way to get everyone involved and keep them entertained.

Pierogis are fairly easy to make and we worked in a kind of production line which made it even easier. I would definitely recommend getting your friends together and giving communal cooking a go. By the time you chat, laugh and have a few drinks you can make loads of them. I didn’t have a recipe for these so we used the BBC Good Food recipe and the dumplings tasted exactly like what he had in Poland.

Pierogis freeze well, double up on the recipe and you can pull them out of the freezer for a quick week night dinner. You can also make a sweet version by simply replacing the filling with raw blueberries and serve topped with sour cream.

Blueberry pierogis with sour cream

Ingredients

For the dough

250 Grams Self Raising Flour (sifted)

1 Tsp Salt

3 Tbsp. Vegetable oil

250-300ml Warm Water

For the filling

250 Grams Mashed potatoes (this is a great way to use up left overs, make sure the mashed potatoes are cold before using)

50 Grams Butter

1 Onion (finely chopped)

250 Grams Cottage Cheese

Method

  1. Add the flour and salt to a bowl, add the oil and then gradually add water and mix until you have a soft dough. Gather into a ball, knead for 5 minutes, wrap in cling film. Chill for 30 minutes
  2. While the dough is resting, melt the butter in a frying pan and cook the onions over a medium heat for 10-15 minutes until they are golden brown
  3. Mix the potatoes and cottage cheese together and stir in two thirds of the fried onions. Mix until thoroughly combined
  4. Roll the dough out as thinly as possible (nobody wants a thick doughy dumpling). Use a cookie cutter or class to cut 4-5 cm circles
  5. Put a teaspoon of the filling in the centre of the circle and lightly wet the edges of of circle. Fold over to create a half moon and press the edges closed tightly
  6. Heat a large pot of water to just before boiling, add the pierogi, about 6-7 at a time (depending on the size of your pot, just be careful not to overcrowd the pot)
  7. When the pierogi start to float, lift out with a slotted spoon and drain in a colander. Keep cooking the pierogi until all the dumplings are cooked.
  8. Serve on a large plate, and sprinkle the remaining fried onions over the top

Michael’s Easy Cannelini Bean Soup

My brother made this soup for me and I loved it.  He only gave me the recipe on condition of a name check, so thanks Michael.

This is proper comfort food, and while the recipe is Vegan friendly it’s a really hearty stick to your ribs meal in a bowl.

I’m not vegetarian, so I topped the soup with some bacon I had left.  But in fairness it’s equally delicious with out it.

Serves 2-3

Ingredients

400 Gram Tin of cannelini beans

2 Stalks of celery (fine chopped)

2 Carrots (grated)

1 Onion (finely chopped)

1 Vegetable stock cube (or tablespoon of buillion powder)

2 Cloves of garlic (crushed or very finely chopped)

1 Tbsp Oil

500 ml Boiling water

Method

  1. Add the oil to a deep sauce pan and heat over a medium heat
  2. Add the onion and fry gently for 5 minutes until the onion softens but doesn’t colour
  3. Then add the carrot and celery and cook gently for an other 10 minutes
  4. Stir in the garlic and beans (including half the water they came in), crumble in the stock cube, add the boiling water and stir well.  Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper if you feel it needs it
  5. Simmer for 10-15 minutes until the the vegetables are soft and then serve with crusty bread

Jollof Rice and Chicken

There are countless versions of Jollof Rice and Chicken across Africa and the Caribbean. The are many reasons why it’s so popular, it’s quick and easy to make, it’s a one pot dish that can feed a family cheaply, and most importantly it’s really delicious.

I mean, tender chicken and really well flavoured rice with vegetables, where could you go wrong. This is also a great dish for using up odd bits of vegetables you have in the fridge

Serves 4

Ingredients

4 Large chicken thighs or 8 small ones (I use the ones with the bone in, as I think it keeps the chicken tender)

1 Tbsp Oil

2 Red peppers (cut into 1-2cm pieces)

1 Onion (cut into 1-2cm pieces)

1Tbsp Tomato puree

400 Gram Tin of chopped tomatoes

1 Red chilli pepper (finely chopped) or 1 tsp chilli powder

1 Tsp Smoked paprika

3 x Cloves of garlic (finely chopped)

Thumb sized piece of ginger (grated, I always keep ginger in the freezer. It stops it going to waste and it’s easier to grate)

250 ml Vegetable/chicken stock (I used a stock cube to make it)

325 Gram Long grain rice, dry weight (I use basmati, but other types are fine)

2 Tbsp Chopped coriander (optional)

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large flat bottom pan. When hot, add the chicken thighs and seal on both sides
  2. Add the vegetables and tomato puree to the pan and cook for 5 minutes
  3. Add the remaining ingredients to the pan and cover with a lid. Bring to the boil and then reduce to a gentle simmer for 15-20 minutes, adding more water if the rice dries out before it’s cooked
  4. Check the chicken is cooked through and the rice is soft
  5. Sprinkle with chopped coriander and serve

Carnitas (Mexican Pulled Pork)

Everyone loves Mexican food, and while I make no claims that someone from Mexico would say this is just like their Mum would make, I think it tastes amazing. If you like pulled pork but never thought of trying it at home, you should give this a go. It really is simplicity itself, all you need is time, so perfect for the weekend when you kick back or get on with other things while the oven does all the work for you.

I love this in tacos but you can add it to burritos or sandwiches. While this does take some time, it’s a simple recipe and is ideal to feed a group of people cheaply. I used pork shoulder which is inexpensive and really benefits from being marinated and cooked long and slow.

Delicious in wraps too.

Ingredients

1 Kg Pork shoulder

100 ml Orange juice (I used the juice of 2 oranges)

1 Tbsp Tomato puree

1 Tsp Oregano

1 Tsp Chilli powder

2 Tsp Smoked paprika

1 Tsp Ground Cumin

1 Tsp Ground Coriander

1 Tsp Minced Garlic

Method

  1. Cut your pork into 4 chunks
  2. In a sealable freezer bag add all the other ingredients and squish together to make sure they are well mixed
  3. Add the pork to the bag and seal, rub the bag to make sure the marinade covers the pork and then put in the fridge. If you can marinade this for 24 hours this is ideal. If you don’t have that sort of time try to marinade for least an hour
  4. Pre-heat your oven to 160 degrees (Celsius). Put your pork and the marinade in an oven proof dish with a lid and place in the oven for 3.5 hours.
  5. Remove from the oven and shred the meat with two forks and mix in with the cooking juices for super tasty pulled pork

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

Cheese and Broccoli Soup

Serve with chunky croutons for some crunch

I don’t make soup that often (some soups are a little dull).

Anything with cheese in it gets my vote, and this is rich and satisfying.

Ideal for anyone following a low carb diet, this is also delicious with crusty bread.  I made this with vegetable stock so it’s suitable for vegetarians but you can use chicken stock if you prefer.

You’ll need cream cheese and a stronger flavoured cheese.  I used a mix of mature cheddar and parmigiana, blue cheese works really well too, but use what you have.

This rich creamy soup is even tastier topped with crunchy croutons, or crispy bacon (if you’re not vegetarian)

Ingredients

1 Large head of broccoli (roughly chopped)

1 Small onion, or 3-4 spring onions/scallions (chopped)

1 Tbsp Oil

750 ml Vegetable stock (I used a stock cube)

200 Grams Cream cheese

50 Grams Strong flavour cheese (grated)

Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large pot, and add the onion. Fry over a medium heat until soft but don’t brown
  2. Add the broccoli and vegetable stock. Cover with a lid and simmer for 10 minutes or until the broccoli is soft
  3. Add the cream cheese and stir until it has melted. Using a blender or hand held blender, blitz until the the soup it is smooth (how smooth you make it is up to you)
  4. Return the soup to the pot and add the stronger flavoured cheese. Heat for a further 5 minutes and stir well to make sure all the cheese has melted. Check the seasoning and add salt and pepper if needed