Food. Travel. Recipes.

Tuesday, 22 November 2011

How to: homemade pesto (with wholewheat fusilli served with parma ham and sun dried tomato wrapped chicken breast)

So, another edition of my attempts of a 'how to' post , this isn't me trying to sound like an expert, just my tried and tested methods that I'd like to share. I've been wanting to make my own pesto for so long and it is a simple method and I'm sure people reading who have made it themselves would agree. Although saying that, for most people (myself include) grabbing a tin of pesto is much easier just making your own is more satisfying!


Makes enough for a pasta dish for 3 people.

100ml olive oil
1 packet pine nuts, roughly 50g
1 pack of fresh basil
80g Parmesan cheese, grated (basically a good handful)
Lemon juice, 1 tablespoon
1 clove garlic, peeled and crushed

The simplest way is to literally chuck everything into a food processor and whizz to desired consistency.

I did it in stages however, processing the drier ingredients first. So put the oil into the processor with the pine nuts and whizz.

Then add the basil leaves, parmesan, lemon juice and crushed garlic clove with a drizzle of olive oil over the top. Whizz up these ingredients and hey presto, you're done!

I served this with parma ham and sun dried tomato wrapped chicken breast. I'm slightly obsessed with sun dried tomatoes at the moment and how gorgeous they taste, all oily, bursting with flavour and it just reminds me of Italy!

If you want to try this as well, you will need the following ingredients:

Serves 3

A packet of mini chicken breast fillets
A jar of sun dried tomatoes (enough for the chicken and some to nibble on!)
A packet of parma ham
Olive oil

Lay a slice of parma ham on a chopping board. Place the mini chicken breast in the middle with one or two sun dried tomatoes on the top, then wrap up with the parma ham!

Arrange on a baking tray and pop in the oven at 200C for 35-40 minutes.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Nibbles for friends! Recipe: Lemon mint and paprika griddled chicken

The other night I had a few friends over, something I love doing and a reason I can't wait to get my own place, I just love cooking and entertaining. My lovely friend Christine also came over a few hours before and helped me with the cooking. We warmed up some very yummy mulled wine to drink whilst preparing the food and chatted a lot!

I thought I would just make a small ish spread but I was hoping that it was something that would appeal to most of my friends.

I served -

Halloumi pan fried with parsley, garlic oil and lime juice.

Oven cooked halloumi with tin roasted red peppers

Loaded potato skins - cheese and onion and cheese and bacon.

Breadsticks and a selection of dips and olives. (All shop bought, to save time!)

Garlic pittas with lemon mint and paprika griddled chicken.

Chocolate dense cake.

The recipes for these nibbles will be posted on here at a later date (and the majority are courtesy of Nigella Lawson's cookbooks!) but for the meantime I'm going to share the chicken recipe. This may seem like a slightly strange concoction of ingredients for a marinade and it was quite accidental (a case of me chucking way too much mint into the mix really!) but it actually turned out rather well! The paprika was another element added as I did want the chicken to have a kick to it, however I think the overall result was that the mint cooled the paprika down and the chicken came out quite mild!

Serves 4-6 (it really varies to how much people want to eat and if it doesn't all get eaten, it makes great leftovers!)

4 chicken breasts
3 tablespoons olive oil
Generous sprinkling of dried mint
1 tablespoon lemon juice
A light sprinkling of paprika

Chop up the chicken into bite-sized pieces and put into a large bowl.

Add all of the marinade ingredients and mix well.

Leave to marinade in the juices for as long as you're able to leave it!

Get a griddle pan on hot (it won't need any extra oil since the chicken is coated in quite a bit of oil already). Empty the bowl of chicken into the pan and pan fry until golden and brown.

Serve with pittas and dips for friends!

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Redcurrant and mint lamb steaks served with honey roasted sweet potato and parsnips and green beans

This was a Sunday dinner meal for me and my family. We usually have the traditional British meal of meat, potatoes and vegetables on a Sunday evening however I'm not that traditional so I did change it up slightly (but not that much, as I do love the homely meals!) I made a sauce for the lamb which was taken from a Nigella Lawson cookbook called Kitchen, which I've mentioned before. I have to say that the sauce was absolutely delicious, it made the meat so succulent and the taste of the redcurrant made it very sweet but rich at the same time with the other ingredients. I served it with honey roasted sweet potato and parsnip wedges and then green beans with sesame seeds, crunchy sea salt and black pepper.

Serves 3 people


For the sauce (Nigella Lawson - Kitchen):

1 tablespoon garlic oil
Juice of 1 clementine/satsuma
1 tablespoon redcurrant jelly
dash Worcestershire sauce
dash red wine vinegar/sherry vinegar
Salt and Pepper
Small bunch of fresh mint, finely chopped. (Or dried mint, which I used ... cos I'm lazy...)

4 lamb steaks

2 large sweet potatoes, sliced into wedges
1 parsnip, sliced into wedges
1 red onion, roughly chopped
1 tablespoon of squeezy honey

Half a pack of green beans (enough for 3)
A good sprinkling of sesame seeds
Crunchy sea salt
Black Pepper

Preheat the oven to 200C.

First, start off with the vegetables as they will take the longest. Chop the parsnips and sweet potato into wedge type shapes, add the chopped red onion, drizzle with olive oil and pop in the oven for around 40 minutes.

Then prepare the sauce for the lamb. In a plastic jug, add the clementine/satsuma juice, redcurrant jelly, Worcestershire sauce, vinegar, salt and pepper and whisk well.

Around 20 minutes before the vegetables are done, start on the lamb. I used a griddled pan to fry the lamb steaks, not healthy at all! However, I do find that doing it that way doesn't make the lamb shrink, like it does in the oven, and I just prefer this method of cooking it. So I get the pan hot and put a little bit of oil in there, place the steaks in and stick the lid on. I find that the heat contained inside the pan with the lid on helps the lamb to get juicier and to cook quickly (at least that's my reasoning!)

Keep checking the lamb at intervals and once one side looks cooked, turn over. These should take around 10-15 minutes to cook. Once they are cooked to your preference, take out and put on a warm plate and cover tightly with foil. The meat needs some time to rest!

At this point, around 5-10 minutes before the veggies are completely done, pull them out of the oven and drizzle with honey. Then pop back in for the remaining time.

Then in the same pan you cooked the lamb in, use it to make the sauce. Keep all of the fat, oil and the crispy bits from when you cooked the lamb in the pan, get the heat going again and pour the sauce mixture into it. Turn it down to a simmer, and let it cook until slightly thicker.

Whilst the sauce is sizzling away and the veggies are almost done, cook the green beans. When cooked, drain and add the sesame seeds, crunchy sea salt and black pepper.

Now to finish up. For about 2 minutes, add the lamb steaks to the pan where the sauce is cooking. It gets the steaks all juicy and infused with the sauce flavours and warms them up. Then serve them up onto a warm plate, add the veggies and green beans. Then drizzle the rest of the sauce over the steaks.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Chorizo salad with a lemony rosemary dressing

This a lunchbox salad, something I prepared the night before (so I had time) with some of my favourite ingredients. Obviously Chorizo isn't the healthiest ingredient to accompany a salad but sometimes you have a to spruce up those green leaves and it honestly has the best flavour (well that's my argument...), sometimes an occasional naughty few slices of Chorizo are just what's needed in a few recipes! I thought I would also add a lemon rosemary flavoured dressing, I had used rosemary in another recipe earlier in the week and it just has the most amazing fragrant smell that I had to find something else to put it in! The lemon and rosemary, along with the Chorizo went well together and all of flavours were so sharp and tasty!

Serves 1 for lunch!

A couple of handfuls of spinach (enough to fill the lunchbox you're using)
A good handful of cherry tomatoes (around about 8!)
1/4 cucumber, chopped
1/4 of a chorizo roundel, chopped into fairly thin slices

A few generous shavings of parmesan cheese
A teaspoon of rosemary leaves (the 'leaves' actually look like pine needles)
A tablespoon of lemon juice
A tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

Mix all of the salad ingredients with the chorizo in a bowl.

In another bowl, prepare the dressing. Then add to the main bowl of salad leaves. Dress well and spoon into a lunchbox! Easy peasy!

Thursday, 10 November 2011

Pasta Puttanesca (à la Sophie Dahl)

This is a great, easy pasta dish. Just to pre warn, if you don't like fish, then this is not for you! The dish contains anchovies, which I think give a lovely salty taste and it just kind of makes me think I'm in Italy, having dinner in a lovely seaside town, eating delicious fishy tomato chilli pasta. This (as the title may give away!) is from Sophie Dahl's Miss Dahl's Voluptous Delights, a book I have mentioned numerous times (mainly for the amazing banana bread!). The recipes in the book are so fresh and for the majority of the time, healthy as well. Of course, this is a pasta dish, so it's not terribly nutritious but it's a great tasting sauce and really spruces up some plain penne!

Serves 2 people (but just double up these portions for family sized!)


200g of penne (I used rigatoni but any kind of pasta should work!)
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
1 fresh red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
400g tin of chopped tomatoes, drained
4 anchovy fillets
1/2 teaspoon of soft brown sugar
150g black olives, pitted
2 large tablespoons of fresh chopped parsley (I used dried to sprinkle over the top which still gave a lovely fragrant taste. Fresh would however be better here in my opinion!)

Ok, this recipe is in 2 easy steps!

Step 1, is the saucy sauce! In a pan, heat the olive oil and fry the garlic and chilli until mildly browned.

Add the tin of chopped tomatoes.

Sophie recommends using a pestle and mortar here to grind the anchovies, which would be the most sensible choice. I just used the back of a fork and squished them in their tin, then added them to the tomato sauce mix.

Let the sauce simmer for a further 20 minutes. Add the sugar.

Step 2, cook the pasta as directed in some salted water. Once the pasta is cooked and drained, add it to the tomato sauce with a spoonful of the salty pasta water. Add the black olives and coat the pasta well with the sauce.

Serve with a generous grating of parmesan and parsley. Buon appetito!

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Egg white omelette with vegetables, pine nuts and ricotta cheese

This is just one of those simple recipes that can be played around with and modified to include whatever foods you are fancying at the time. I made this quick meal when I had just got back from the gym and had some egg whites left from baking earlier that day. I thought it would be healthier to make an egg white omelette! However, I did fail on the 'healthy' side of this meal with adding ricotta cheese!

Serves 1 hungry person!


Olive oil
3 mushrooms, sliced
1/4 courgette, sliced
7 cherry tomatoes, sliced
1 small red chilli, deeseeded and finely sliced
2 egg whites
A knob of butter
A generous handful of pine nuts
1 dessert spoonful of ricotta cheese
Salt and Pepper
A sprinkling of thyme

First start by heating up a non-stick frying pan with a little olive oil. Chuck in the sliced mushrooms and courgettes and fry for a couple of minutes until starting to brown. Add the sliced cherry tomatoes and the finely sliced chilli and stir together for a few more minutes. Once cooked, dish up onto a plate.

Then in the same pan, keep the heat on low and add a knob of butter. Once the butter has melted, add the egg mixture (either the egg whites or 2 normal eggs) With a flat edged wooden spoon, go around the outside of the mixture to ease it away from the edge of the pan. I tend to move the pan as well to allow the egg mixture to go over to the sides and cook quicker.

Once the omelette looks cooked enough, add the vegetables back to the pan on top of one side of the omelette. Then add any other toppings you would like! I added pine nuts and some ricotta cheese, as I thought the ricotta would be a nice cooling element against the chilli.

Season and finish with a sprinkling of herbs (I chose thyme as think it goes nicely with everything at the moment!)

Jamie's Great Britain

Jamie Oliver, it's fair to say, is my favourite chef. There are so many chefs that I love to watch and love the recipes they do but Jamie Oliver as a whole almost seems like (in a really cheesy way) trying to change the world with his love for food! I absolutely love his travelling cookery programmes, especially Jamie's America. The cookbook for that series is my favourite cookbook, there are so many innovative and different recipes, meals that look difficult but are actually not that hard to prepare, it also has a ton of recipes which are healthy, involve lots of vegetables and just put a spin on a plain and ordinary meal! I used to make a lot of meals from this cookbook when I first started writing my blog, and you can check a couple of them out here, if you're interested.

However, what I wanted to talk about in this post was his new programme, Jamie's Great Britain! He's spent most of his food journey on television travelling around the world but now he's back to Britain to see the best of what restaurants, chefs and different parts of the country have to offer. I absolutely love that in this programme about "British" food, he's acknowledged the huge diversity of cultures in Britain and that it isn't just, as much as I hate to say it like this, white British that have contributed to our food history but people from all different backgrounds, races and cultures. For example, in the latest episode he made what looked like the most amazing lamb shank dish which was inspired by Persian cooks.

What I'm trying to say is, this is a great show and a great watch. Some of the recipes do seem quite difficult but I think with a bit of time and patience would turn out brilliantly. These are a couple of my favourites that I've seen that I'd love to try -

Guinness Lamb Shanks

Kate and Will's Wedding Pie

Here is a little clip from Youtube with Jamie talking about the show -

Tuesday, 1 November 2011

Halloween baking! Recipe: Popcorn Chocolate Brains!

So as everyone knows, this past weekend was Halloween! I went to a fancy dress party at my friend's Maz and Carl's house for a fabulous party with some super yummy snacks. I met up at their house earlier in the day to bake with Maz, I didn't really help her do anything as she'd been on a cooking spree all day making some really tasty looking snacks! I helped her decorate some cakes but she had made quite a few creations of her own.

Here are some photos of the snacks at the party (made by Maz!) (please excuse the camera taking skills in this post!):

I also attempted a snack of my own - popcorn chocolate brains - as named by Maz! This was inspired by this recipe on Sorted Food, a youtube food channel that makes most recipes seem like they'll take 2 minutes and be super easy! (But in reality they don't!) Obviously Halloween has been and gone, however these are still a fun, yummy snack to create for a themed party or just a chilled out night watching a movie!

So I used the above recipe, however, I did not put them in the fridge when I had finished making them. They tasted ok but not as crisp as they would have done if they had been in the fridge.

This recipe will make a generous amount of fudgey popcorn clusters!


Microwaveable sweet popcorn/raw popping corn, 150g
Shot of oil
1 tin of condensed milk, 397g
Dark chocolate chips, 400g - around 4 bags
Knob of butter, 25g
Icing sugar, 100g

For decoration (optional) -

Orange sugar strands
Handful of white chocolate chips
Dusting of icing sugar
Pinch of all spice

Orange chocolate buttons, 100g (1 bag) - I bought these on a whim and they taste like Terry's chocolate orange and are amazing. I recommend buying just to have a naughty snack! I just decorated the plate with these which gave a Halloween esque feel!

Empty the condensed milk into a saucepan with the chocolate drops and butter.

Either heat the oil up in another pan (make sure you have a lid) and add the popcorn. Shakeand stir the popcorn kernels so they are all coated in the oil and then put on the lid and continue to heat, shaking occasionally, once the corn starts popping, keep shaking the pan so none of it stays in the same place and burns. Or, alternatively, microwave approximately two bags of sweet popcorn - it should have more or less the same effect!

Beat the icing sugar into the fudge mixture until smooth.

Use as much or as little of the fudge and popcorn as desired, and mix the two together to create a concoct similar to the one below!

Arrange the fudgey popcorn balls on a baking tray and compress with a spoon/your fingers until it makes a tight ball.

Sprinkle over decoration of your choice, if desired.

Allow to set, then skewer each ball with a stick.