Halloumi Bake

Healthy food can still be rich and unctuous. This makes a great week night dinner or you can assemble and bake the following day.

Packed with flavour and protein, this makes a deeply satisfying meal. I love it served with salad and crusty bread.

Ingredients

200 Grams Halloumi (allow the halloumi to come to room temperature before using)

340 Gram Tin of Chick peas

400ml Passata

150 Grams Mushrooms (roughly chopped)

1 Onion (roughly chopped)

1 Courgette (roughly chopped)

Large sprig of thyme

Olive oil

Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees (Celsius)
  2. Add oil to a large pan over a medium heat, add onion, courgettes and mushrooms, and thyme and cook for 5 minutes, stirring until the vegetables start to soften.
  3. Add the chick peas and passata, and simmer for a another 5-10 minutes before transfering to an oven proof dish
  4. Slice the halloumi into 1cm think slices and brush or spray with a little oil
  5. Top the vegetable mix with the halloumi and bake for 25-30 mins or until the cheese had turn a rich golden brown.

Fake Away Orange Chicken

On the days when I’m not in the mood for cooking I enjoy a good Chinese take away.

This can be expensive, and not especially healthy. One of the dishes I enjoy is orange chicken. Sometimes it can be overly sweet and the chicken is deep fried, making it high in calories.

My version is a bit healthier, but still delicious. It’s perfect for a week night dinner if you want something a bit different and is pretty quick to make. I don’t like this dish too sweet (I think there is enough sweetness from the orange), but if you prefer you can add a tablespoon of honey to the sauce if you have a sweet tooth.

Ingredients

500 Grams Chicken breast (cut into bite sized pieces)

2 Oranges (finely grated zest and juice)

250 ml Chicken stock

1 Tbsp Rice wine or cider vinegar

1 Tbsp Garlic (finely chopped)

1 Tbsp Ginger (finely chopped, or 1 Tsp of ground ginger if you don’t have any fresh)

1 Tsp Salt

1 Tbsp Oil

1 – 2 Tbsps Cornflower (mixed with a small amount of water until its a smooth thick liquid)

Seseme seeds and finely sliced scallions/spring onions (optional) to garnish

Method

  1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan and add the chicken. Cook for 5-10 minutes until nearly cooked
  2. Remove the chicken from the pan and add the garlic and ginger, cooking for 1-2 minutes
  3. Add the stock, salt orange juice and zest and the chicken to the pan and simmer
  4. When the liquid has reduced by about a third, add your cornflour mix to the pan stir well.
  5. Simmer for a further 5 minutes until the sauce has thickened
  6. Garnish with toasted sesame seeds and thinly sliced spring onion and serve with rice or noodles

Chicken and Gnocchi Traybake

On cold days you want eat something wholesome and delicious with very little effort, and this is perfect. Roast chicken veggies and potato dumplings mmm.

What’s even better is that everything is cooked in the same tray, so you have fewer dishes to wash.

I use shop bought gnocchi, as most of us don’t have time to make them. This helps make this a really easy dish, that just needs to be assembled and then the oven does the work.

Ingredients

8 Small or 4 large chicken thighs

1 Leek (cut into chunks)

1 Red pepper (cut into chunks)

100 Grams Spinach

1 Tsp Smoked paprika

1 Tbsp Olive oil

1 Tbsp White wine or cider vinegar (I promise you won’t taste vinegar, but it will help bring out the flavours)

500 Grams Bag of Gnocchi

Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 200 degrees (Celsius)
  2. Sprinkle the olive oil on the base of a large roasting tray
  3. Place the chicken, Leeks, peppers and gnocchi in the tray and sprinkle with smoked paprika, salt and pepper
  4. Bake for 30 minutes, and remove from the oven. Sprinkle the vinegar over vegetables and add the spinach and mix through the contents of the tray
  5. Bake for a another 15 minutes and the serve. Double check that the chicken is cooked (the juices should run clear, cook for longer if they aren’t)

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

Herb Crusted Hake

Fish is something most of us don’t eat enough of, mainly because we think it’s complicated.

I was lucky enough to attend a fish masterclass at Belfast Cookery School a couple of years ago (I would definitely recommend it for anyone who is a little intimidated by fish) and this is one of my favourite dishes I learned how to make and I love it.

This is super easy and quick enough for a mid week family dinner, but is tasty enough to impress guests if you’re cooking for friends.

I used hake, but any firm white fish will do. One of my kitchen hacks I bore people with is to make and keep a big bag of breadcrumbs in the freezer, as breadcrumbs can be used in so many dishes.

If you want to switch up the flavours you can try different herbs, or try adding a little lemon zest or finely chopped chillies if you enjoy a little bit of heat. This is also a great dish to get kids cooking.

Serves 2

Ingredients

250 Grams Hake (I used steaks, but fillets work too)

50 Grams Breadcrumbs (thaw them first if you are using frozen ones)

25 Grams Parmesan cheese (finely grated)

2 Tbsp Herbs (I used parsley and coriander, but use the herbs you like)

2-3 Tbsp Oil (a neutral oil like rapeseed is good)

Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees (Celsius), take your fish out of the fridge (like meat, fish is best when it is not introduced to heat while its still “fridge cold”), try to let it come up to room temperature. Run your finger along the fish and remove any bones you find (if you’re using a fish monger, you can ask them to do this)
  2. In a bowl, add your breadcrumbs, herbs and parmesan, gradually add the oil and combine until the breadcrumbs are lightly coated but not greasy (different types of bread will absorb different amounts of oil). Taste a small amount and add salt and pepper if you feel it needs it.
  3. Place your fish on baking parchment in a baking try and pat the breadcrumbs on top. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the breadcrumbs are brown and toasted. If you’re cooking a particularly thick piece of fish you make need to give it a little longer but be careful not to over cook

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

Sichuan Pork and Green Beans

I have to give a shout out to my friend Nuala for turning me into this, and I love it.

If you haven’t used Sichuan pepper before you can by it ready ground in most big supermarkets. You can also buy packets of the whole peppercorns, and are reddish black in colour. While there is some heat, they are also really aromatic and work nicely in lots of other recipes.

This makes a great mid week dinner and is ideal for anyone following a low carb diet. If you’re not then enjoy this with rice or noodles. I used frozen greens to save time.

Ingredients

250 Grams Minced pork

500 Grams Green beans blanched on boiling water

Thumb sized piece of ginger (grated)

2 Cloves of garlic (finely chopped)

2 Scallions/spring onions (finely chopped)

1 Red chilli pepper (finely chopped)

2 Tbsp Soy sauce

1 Tbsp Sesame oil

1 Tsp Ground Sichuan pepper

Method

  1. Blanch the green beans in boiling water and drain
  2. Fry the minced pork in a large frying pan or wok until no longer pink
  3. Add the rest of the ingredients and cook for a further 5 minutes. If the mix starts to catch in the pan you can add a little water to stop this

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

Red Pepper and Chorizo Gnocchi

The Summer has pretty much been a wash out, (when I made this I was watching torrential rain battering my window). So comfort food was the order of the day. Chorizo makes anything taste good, add some gnocchi and cream and you have a little bowl of heaven.

Bursting with flavour

Ingredients

500 Grams Gnocchi (I use shop bought)

75 Grams Chorizo (finely sliced)

1 Onion (thinly sliced)

1 Large red pepper (cut into 2cm cubes)

50 Grams Sun dried tomatoes (finely chopped)

2 Tbsp Olive oil (I sometimes like to use the oil that the sun dried tomatoes comes in, as it has loads of flavour)

1 Tbsp Tomato puree

125 ml Double cream

Salt and pepper

Method

  1. Heat 1 table spoon of oil in a large pan, and fry the chorizo, red pepper and onion until soft, remove from the pan and set to one side
  2. Add the rest of the oil to the pan to heat, add then and the gnocchi, and brown gently all over.
  3. Stir in the tomato puree and cook for another 1-2 minutes, add the sun dried tomatoes and the chorizo and peppers and onion you removed from the pan earlier
  4. Add the cream and stir well ensuring everything is well coated, check if you think it needs salt or pepper. Cook for another 2-3 minutes to reduce the cream if necessary

Pork Chops with Sauerkraut

I know this recipe might divide opinion and I’ll admit sauerkraut isn’t something I normally buy. I ended up with a monster sized pack of it from my vegetable box delivery as a substitution.

I asked round family and friends if there was anyone who was a sauerkraut lover, and couldn’t find a taker. One of them come back to me to explain that I should try to do something with it, as sauerkraut along with other fermented foods like kimchi are amazingly good for your gut health and we should all be eating more of these.

The only recipe I could think of was one I tasted about a million years when I lived in Germany. Kathy, the love lady I worked for made this dish for me once. It might sound a bit strange, and I know sauerkraut and pineapple aren’t two ingredients you would naturally think of together, but give it a chance. When they’re teamed up with pork chops, it works kind of like sweet and sour pork. The sauerkraut also helps make the pork really tender. This makes a great uncomplicated mid week dinner.

Ready for the oven

Ingredients

4 Pork chops

500 Grams Sauerkraut (drained)

350 Grams Can of pineapple rings

Method

  1. Place pork chops in an oven proof baking dish
  2. Cover with the drained sauerkraut, and top with the pineapple rings
  3. Cover with foil and bake in an oven pre-heated to 200 degrees for 20 minutes. Remove the foil and bake for a further 20 minutes