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

Lockdown Chilli

Yep, we’re in bloody lockdown again and we’re all trying to limit how much we go out.

With this in mind, like last time I decided to have a look and use up food I already had at home. I first made this type of chilli years ago when I was a flat broke student. My Mum would sometimes send me home with a bag of tinned food. I came up with this version of chilli and it’s surprisingly flavoursome.

I know most people wouldn’t use corned beef in a chilli, but it works well. If you don’t want to use baked beans you can use whichever beans you like, just maybe add some vegetable stock to loosen up the mix. This is also a good dish to use up any vegetables that have been hanging around your fridge or freezer for a while.

It’s cold and miserable outside and while I’ll admit it’s not fine dining it’s quick, cheap and proper comfort food. This goes well with rice, or pasta, in a baked potato or with garlic bread.

Ingredients

340 Gram Tin of corned beef (cut into cubes)

500 Gram Carton of passata (or a tin of chopped tomatoes)

410 Gram Tin of baked beans

1 Tbsp Oil

1 Tbsp Tomato purée

1 Onion (chopped fairly finely)

1 Carrot (grated)

1 Red pepper (cut into 1 cm chunks)

1 Tsp salt

1 Tsp Ground cumin

1 Tsp Chilli powder

1 Tsp Ground coriander

3 cloves of garlic

Method

  1. Heat your oil in a large flat bottom pan. Fry the carrot, pepper, and onion over a medium heat until the the onion becomes translucent
  2. Add the garlic, spices, tomato puree and corned beef, and stir through the vegetables and cook for 5 minutes until the corned beef starts to break down.
  3. Stir in the passata, and baked beans, mixing well. Cook over a medium heat for a further 15 minutes. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking
  4. Serve with your favourite carbs. This keeps in the fridge for 3-4 days

Burrito Bowl Chicken

I love the flavours in a burrito bowl, and knocked this up one evening when I was craving some Tex Mex. You can adjust the chilli depending on how much heat you like.

This is full of great colours and flavours, and loads of protein. For vegetarians, this is also a super tasty meal without the chicken.

I topped this with some grated cheese, but it would also be fantastic topped with some avocado or sour cream (or all three if you’re straying into pure filth territory).

This is also a one pot dish, so less washing up is a win win.

Ingredients

Chicken thighs (8 small or 4 large)

1 Onion (sliced)

1 Red pepper (sliced)

400 Gram Tin of black beans

100 Gram Sweetcorn (I used frozen)

1 Tsp Smoked paprika

1 Tsp Chilli powder

1Tsp Cumin

1 Tsp Salt

2 Cloves of garlic (minced)

500ml Passata

300 Grams Rice (I like basmati)

Handful of chopped coriander (optional)

Method

  1. Heat a large flat bottomed pan (you will need one with a lid or that you can cover)
  2. Add the chicken thighs (skin side down first), cook until brown, turn and seal the other side
  3. Add the onion and peppers and cook for another 5-10 minutes
  4. Add the spices, garlic, corn and rice to the pan and stir well
  5. Add the passata and a little water, cover with a lid and simmer for 5-10 minutes
  6. Stir the mixture adding more water if it needs it (the rice should absorb all the liquid, so if the rice still isn’t cooked keep adding water (a little at a time, until its absorbed and the rice is cooked)
  7. Stir in the coriander if you’re using it (I know some people detest it, so please yourself). Serve in bowls with your favourite topping or just as it is

Blueberry and Walnut Soda Bread

Blueberry and Walnut Soda Bread

I love soda bread, it’s super adaptable and works well with sweet or savoury ingredients.

Just out of the oven, and delicious with butter

Like everyone else, I was glued to the Great British Bake Off when the contestants were making various types of soda bread. I hadn’t made soda bread since I made my version with dulse (dried seaweed), and I thought I’d try a sweet version.

Usually I would use dried fruit in a soda bread, but I didn’t have any. I had a look at what I did have, and this was how I came up with blueberry and walnut soda bread.

As before, if you don’t have buttermilk you can add lemon juice to ordinary milk and let it sit for a few minutes to achieve the same result. I also tossed the blueberries in the flour before mixing them in. Apparently this stops them sinking to the bottom.

This loaf will live quite happily in an airtight box for 2-3 days. If you still have any left, can I suggest toasting it, it’s amazing. I also toasted some and topped it with cheese and this was so delicious the I forgot to take photos.

Freshly toasted and slathered in butter, mmmmm

Ingredients

200 Grams Plain flour

200 Grams Wholemeal flour

25 Grams Butter

100 Grams Porridge oats

1 Tsp Bicarbonate of soda

100 Grams Fresh blueberries

50 Grams Walnuts

1 Tsp Salt

75 Grams Sugar

450ml Buttermilk

Method

  1. Rub butter into the porridge oats (you can use a food processor to do this, but really only takes a minute)
  2. Add your dry ingredients to the porridge oats (remember to dust the blueberries in the flour before adding them)
  3. Add the buttermilk to the bowl and mix lightly with a palette knife
  4. Turn your mix onto a floured surface and gently form it into a ball. Try not to handle it too much, it should be a fairly soft dough
  5. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with baking parchment. Cut a cross onto your loaf. You should cut down about one third of the depth of the dough
  6. Bake in an oven preheated to 180 degrees for 45-50 minutes (or until it sounds hollow when you tap it).

Spiced Plum Cake

Soft sweet plum topping with gentle spices.

Whenever possible I like to eat seasonally, it’s usually cheaper, and usually better for you, and better for the planet. Autumn has some great fruit and vegetables. One of my favourites are plums. Usually inexpensive and really versatile. I love this plum cake, no only because its relatively straight forward to make, but the cinnamon and cardamon add a whole other level of flavour. The addition of sour cream adds a tenderness to the sponge. This will also live quite happily in a cake tin for 3-4 days. I love it with whipped cream, but it’s also perfect comfort food served with custard.

Ingredients

300 Grams Plain flour

1, 1/2 Tsps Baking powder

1 Tsp Ground cinnamon

1/2 Tsp Ground cardamon

1 Tsp Salt

3 Eggs

100 Grams Butter

200 Grams Sugar

60 Grams Sour Cream

4-5 Plums

Ready for the oven

Methods

  1. Mix the flour, salt, spices and baking powder together
  2. In a separate bowl cream the eggs and sugar together with an electric whisk (hold back 2 tablespoons of sugar to top the plums with)
  3. Add the eggs and sour cream to the butter and sugar and whisk until light and fluffy
  4. Gradually whisk in the flour mixture until you have thick cake batter
  5. Grease a 9 inch spring firm cake tin, and pre-heat your oven to 180 degrees
  6. Transfer your cake batter to the cake tin and spread evenly.
  7. Cut the plums in half, remove the stone and cut each half into quarters
  8. Starting in the centre of the cake, arrange the slices of plum in a circle (or any type of pattern you like) and sprinkle with remaining sugar
  9. Bake for 35 mins, or until a skewer comes out clean when stuck in the cake

Mock Crab

It may not be pretty, but OMG it’s tasty.

I have no idea why this is called mock crab, as it isn’t remotely fishy. But, what it is, is a really quick and tasty filling for sandwiches, toasties, and maybe controversially baked potatoes.

My Mum made this mix of corned (chipped) beef, tomatoes and onion for slightly fancier lunches. I love her, but she wasn’t especially adventurous, this was one of the things she knew we all loved.

Someone told me that this was devised during World War II, because people had to rely on tinned food as there could be shortages of fresh food. However it came about, it’s really delicious.

Ingredients

340 Gram Tin of corned beef

1/2 Small onion (finely chopped)

2 Small tomatoes

2 Tbsps Mayonnaise (you can increase this if you want a creamier texture)

Method

  1. Remove the corned beef from the tin and either chop finely or mash with a fork
  2. Finely chop the onion, and chop the tomatoes into 1 cm chunks (you can makes the mix a bit chunkier if you prefer)
  3. Add the mayonnaise and mix well, before filling sandwiches or baked potatoes

Spicy Carrot Soup

I’m challenging myself to try and make better versions of stuff I haven’t been 100% happy with before, and use what’s in the house, (yes, I’m going stir crazy already).

I tried to make spicy carrot soups before and always thought the consistency was a bit weird. I think I have now cracked it. Adding a potato to the soup helps make it a much nicer creamier consistency. It’s still really healthy, and delicious served with big slabs of buttered soda bread (not as healthy given how much I enjoy butter).

Ingredients

1 Potato (cut into cubes)

4 Carrots (sliced)

1 Stalk of celery (chopped)

1 Onion (chopped)

1Tbsp Oil

1 Stock cube

1 Clove of garlic

1 Tsp Ground cumin

4-5 cm Piece of fresh ginger (grated), or 1 Tsp of ground ginger

1/2 Tsp Chilli powder (optional)

750 ml water

Salt & pepper

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a pot, and add the vegetables and dried spices, cook over a medium heat until the onion begin to turn clear
  2. Crumble in the stock cube and add the water. Bring the soup to a simmer and cook for 15-20 minutes, add the garlic and fresh ginger if you are using it
  3. Simmer for another 5 minutes, and check the seasoning
  4. Remove from the heat and allow to cool for 5 minutes before transferring to a blender, or do what I did and use a hand blender to blitz the soup until you have a smooth soup

Chicken with Pearl Barley and Mushrooms, with Chicken Crackling (naughty but nice)

Worth the effort

This takes a bit longer than my normal recipes, but since we’re all stuck at home, time is the one thing we all have plenty of.

In my bid to use up what’s been hanging around my cupboards I found some pearl barley. I was craving carbs and since selfish wingnuts have cleared the super market shelves of rice and pasta this made a nice change. It takes a bit longer to cook, but is worth the time.

I used chicken thighs with the bones left in, and removed the skin to make “chicken crackling” . I know this is probably not especially healthy but sometimes a little indulgence does no harm, it’s not like you’re going to eat it everyday. If you want to give it s miss, this still makes a really delicious and satisfying meal.

Chicken crackling, baked and crispy from the oven.

Ingredients

150 Grams Pearl barley

4 Large chicken thighs

10 Grams Dried mushrooms

100 Grams Fresh mushrooms

1 Onion

250 Grams Spring greens (you can use broccoli, spinach or any other green vegetables you like)

250 ml White wine

250 ml Chicken stock

Large sprig of rosemary (finely chopped)

2 Cloves of garlic (minced)

1 Tbsp Oil

Large knob of butter

Salt and pepper

Dried mushrooms add a ton of flavour

Method

  1. Soak the dried mushrooms in a small amount of warm water
  2. Heat the oil and butter in a pan
  3. Roughly chop the onions and mushrooms. Add to the pan and fry until soft. Remove from the pan and set to one side
  4. Remove the skin from the chicken, and set to one side
  5. Add the chicken thighs to the pan and seal on both sides
  6. Add the barley, dried mushrooms and the water they soaked in, wine and stock to the pan. Cover with a lid, bring to boil and simmer over s low heat for 30-40 minutes (check the cooking instructions on the packet of barley, and cook for the recommended time
  7. Trim the chicken skin and flatten on a baking sheet before sprinkle with salt. Place another baking tin on top of the chicken skin to keep it flat and bake in an oven pre-heated to 200 degrees for 20-30minutes, or until golden brown
  8. if using Spring greens, remove the stalks and roll up the leaves, cut these into 2cm strips
  9. After 30 minutes of cooking, check on the barley, adding more water if necessary
  10. Add the garlic, rosemary, and spring greens to the pan, cover again and cook for a further 10 minutes until the barley is tender and has a creamy consistency, and check the seasoning (a bit like a risotto)
  11. Serve chicken and barley with shards of the chicken crackling, you can also crumble it across the dish