Thursday, 24 July 2008

Quick Chilli

I was never much of a fan of chilli when I was younger, it is probably due to the beans or the horrid packet mixes that were available years ago. I have made my own chilli several times over the years and have had success with most of them, unless I was too heavy with the chilli peppers!
Sometimes I have used minced beef, others used diced steak and each was delicious in it's own way.
My eldest children are away on holiday to Turkey and I had a notion for chilli yesterday, but as I was pushed for time I decided to go down the express way with Nigella's quick chilli. I don't add beans as my OH and DD#3 are not keen, but this is a quick and satisfying dish that can be put together with minimal effort.

150g chorizo sausage - I could only get the sliced one and it was fine.
500g minced beef
500g jar of chunky vegetable pasta sauce - I used onion and garlic instead.
390g can of mixed spicy beans
60 ml sweet chilli sauce - I could only get sharwoods dipping sauce
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp ground coriander
3 cardamom pods, bruised
1/4 tsp dried chilli flakes ** only used these as I did not add the spicy beans**

In a heavy based pan heat the chorizo till it starts to crisp and release it's oil.
Add the mince and brown, breaking up so there are no large clumps.
Add spices, chilli sauce and pasta sauce, bring to the boil and lower to a simmer for around 20 minutes.
Can be served with a nice dollop of soured cream and freshly chopped coriander if you like.
I like to make fresh tortillas when I have a bit more time.

Saturday, 19 July 2008


I have been tagged twice recently by two lovely ladies I have met through the site Recipezaar.

Raquel over at Kitchen Mysteries and Julie of Tulips Kitchen have both tagged me with the 6 random things about me tag.

Here goes the tag:

1. I love working with children and from a young age (around 8 or 9) I decided I wanted to be a nursery nurse when I was older. I did it and was a nanny too. I still work with children today.

2. I sang in a choir for charity in the Usher Hall, Edinburgh and the Caird Hall, Dundee 2 years running. This was a Christmas concert to raise funds for a children's cancer charity. It was lovely to learn all the parts, including the descants to some traditional carols. I have not done this for a long time, but am hoping to do it again this year.

3. I have been gradually going grey since I was younger, but recently I decided to embrace the grey and stop colouring my hair. It took just over a year, and much to my DD's dismay her Mum has grey hair at the front.

4. I love crafting, but don't get the time to do much at the moment.

5. I have 3 cats - Kandy, Suki and Scratchy - Itchy went walkabout, never to return!

6. I am the worlds worst clothes shopper. I hate shopping and will walk around admiring things but never buy them.

What you do now:
Write 6 Random things about yourself.
Link to the person who tagged you.
Post the rules on the blog.
Tag six people at the end of your post and let each person know they have been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.
Let the tagger know when your entry is done.

Who to tag is the hard one if you are reading this and want to have a go feel free. Most of the people I would tag have been done and I know some people aren't keen on them so take the offer if you want to.

Thursday, 17 July 2008


When I was a child I hated meatballs, Yuk, just the thought of what I was given brings back the taste and smell of those horrible tinned things, I am sitting here wrinkling my nose at the thought!
I was never given tinned food very often thankfully, as my Mum is a great cook and baker.
Years ago a good friend of mine would come for tea and we took it in turns to cook, he was an artist with a keen interest in cooking and had just been assisting Nick Nairn on his first or second tv show doing the prep. He made me spaghetti and meatballs, wow, I realised that I did not hate meatballs after all.
I never had them much after that as I thought it was a lot of guddling about to make them, but over the years I have either got it down to a fine art or I am just a more confident cook.
I made some yesterday and have learned through time that it is always best to make double the amount that I need. There was a whole new world of things to do with meatballs ahead of me!

I don't follow a recipe as such, but have picked the things I liked from a range of good recipes.

Tomato Sauce

1 onion finely chopped and softened in olive oil, add 3 tins of chopped tomatoes,( I fill each tin to a 1/4 with water and swirl to clean out all the juice) a generous squirt of tomato puree, some herbs - Italian blend, or a mix that you like, garlic powder, salt, pepper, sugar and once the sauce and meatballs are cooked a dash of balsamic vinegar. This must be cooked for at least an hour, bubbling away at the back of the cooker. If you have a parmesan rind lurking in your fridge, chuck that in too as it adds a wonderful flavour to the sauce - don't forget to take it out before serving.


In a bowl I put some garlic powder, dried oregano, thyme, basil and parsley. Salt, pepper and parmesan. I used just minced beef this time, but sometimes I use half beef half pork. One recipe I used years ago - and lost, used a slice of bread soaked in milk in the meatball mix. Just squeeze out most of the milk before adding it to the meat and herbs and mix well with your hands.

Form into meatballs - I like wee ones just now, but go with whatever you like and brown them in batches in a heavy pan with olive oil. Add to the bubbling tomato sauce and leave for as long as you can resist.
They will taste even better the next day if you can leave them that long!

Today we will be having either subs or pizza with the leftovers.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Moonblush Tomatoes

I love tomatoes, ever since I was a child and was given the task of nipping out the side shoots on our plants in the greenhouse, although I was not keen on the smell left on my hand I knew that soon I would be rewarded with a juicy, ripe red tomato sprinkled with a little salt, Oh the delight when you tasted the sweet flesh of a tomato just taken from the vine.
Sometimes when we travelled to see relatives my Dad would drive through Lanark, where they grew wonderful tomatoes and we would get a brown paper bag full of them to take with us, some would be eaten and the rest would be given to my Aunt.
Now the supermarkets are laden with many different types of tomato, but few taste as good as home grown, even the ones classed as vine ripened are sometimes tasteless. We have a good greengrocer in a town nearby and when I was outside the shop last week they had the most wonderful selection of tomatoes outside, they had orange, beef, plum, cherry ,cherry plum and juicy fat Scottish ones. I bought some scotch and orange and was not disappointed. The beef ones were the most unusual shape, all grooved and bumpy, not perfect, thank goodness the EU have not spotted them or they would be relegated to a tin somewhere.
I used the vine cherry tomatoes I got at the market to make these moonblush tomatoes from Nigella Express. The name itself is beautiful and the recipe, well instructions are simplicity itself.

Moonblush Tomatoes

500g or 24 on the vine cherry tomatoes
1 tsp salt or 2 tsp maldon salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp dried thyme
2 tbs olive oil

Heat oven to highest setting for at least 20 minutes.
Slice the tomatoes in half and place cut side up in an oven proof dish.
sprinkle evenly with salt, sugar, herbs and oil.
Place in oven and immediately turn the oven off.
Leave for at least 12 hours, Or overnight - hence the name moonblush.
Simple, tasty tomatoes for you to use in salads, sauces pizza, or whatever you fancy.

Thursday, 10 July 2008

Market Stall Bargains

When I lived in the north west of England there was a market on somewhere each day of the week. I loved it and with 2 young children to feed on benefits I had to make the most of the little we had and markets were great for getting fruit and veg at a low price.

Where I live now there was no such thing as a market till a few years ago when a nearby town held one each Thursday. There were loads of stalls with everything you could imagine, but sadly over the years the stalls have dwindled to around 20.

I don't often get the chance to go, but when I am off work I like to get some bargains and today was no exception.

I spent £7 at a fruit and veg stall and got 7lb of steak mince for £10 ( which I vacuum packed and stuck in the freezer).

As I am trying to have a healthy diet I made a curry using some mushrooms, potatoes, spinach and fresh tomato. My base was slow cooked onions, garlic and ginger, cooked in a small amount of stock - as per slimming world hints and tips!
I added some tomato puree, spices and a tin of tomatoes along with the veg - not the fresh toms and spinach as they would be added nearer the end.
I like the swiss boullion stock and added some to the pan, but as it is a bit salty I did not add any more salt. I left it bubbling away till the potatoes were tender, popped in the spinach and tomato and left for a few minutes.

I made a couple of roti to go with it thanks to you tube!

Although this was a bit of an experiment it was ok, and there is some left for tomorrows lunch. As you get to know ingredients it lets you be a bit more adventurous, so never feel bound by the constraints of a recipe, after all it's not written in stone.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Planned or unplanned the food was still good!

Money is tight for most people at the moment with the credit crunch, Gordon Brown telling us we waste too much food - some people are moaning about it, but he is not saying something that isn't true. (I am not politically minded and think whoever we have a PM will make decisions we do not like.)

I, like most people who work in low-medium paid jobs, have always had to be creative with my finances. One thing I suppose had been good about that is the ability to make a meal out of anything when needs must. I always look for bargains, but one area I could do with improving is the planning of meals for the week. I am off work now for the summer (unpaid) so this is going to be my task - to get in the habit of planning as many of the family meals as possible.

Sorry for the poor quality picture, but DD#2 was famished and was fed up with Mum taking pictures of her tea.

Saying that, yesterday when I went to the local express supermarket, they had some lean minced beef going cheap and instead of making the usual meatballs. burgers, or bolognese, I added some herbs and spices to the beef: onion powder, garlic powder, chilli powder, cumin, coriander, thyme, oregano and a finely chopped fresh red chilli.

I mushed it about for a bit and wrapped it onto some skewers, chilled them and then popped them under the grill.

I had some salad leaves from the garden, a couple of lovely tomatoes and a dip made with v.low fat creme freche with finely chopped pineapple mint, it was delicious, but as I never measured anything will probably never taste the same again.

Sunday, 6 July 2008

Lifestyle Choices

We hear so much in the media today about what to eat, what not to eat, how much exercise we need to take weekly, the best way to do things how to save money and more often than not we are bombarded with adverts for things to spend our hard earned money on.

I have always lived a simple life, and I have always tried my best to make the most of the things I have. My parents brought me up to look after and treasure things that are important to me and not just to throw something out because it may not be the "in " thing anymore.

I have been trying to make some healthier life choices this year and have lost over 30lbs and have been trying to fit some regular exercise into my life. I still have a long way to go, but it will be worth it. I like to follow (well, most of the time!)the slimming world eating plan. So hopefully all the food pictures will be from tasty things I have made from the plan. This is one I made a while ago and it was really tasty, you would never know you were on a health kick.

Slimming world Green Day Cannelloni

225 g spinach
150 g pot Quark
150 g pot low fat cottage cheese
3 garlic cloves
zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
6 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
1 tablespoon parsley, chopped
1 egg yolk
12 cannelloni tubes
500 g passata
1 tablespoon artificial sweetener
2 tablespoons chives, chopped
1 tablespoon parmesan cheese, grated

Preheat oven to 200c/400f/Gas6.

Blanch spinach in boiling water for 30 seconds, drain and place in a bowl.

Mix together the quark and cottage cheese.

Crush 1 clove of garlic and stir into the mixture with the lemon zest 1/2 the basil, the parsley and the egg yolk. Add the mixture to the spinach, season to taste and combine. Spoon mixture into tubes and place in an oven-proof dish.

Crush the remaining garlic and mix with the passata, sweetener and remaining herbs. Season to taste. Pour over the pasta, sprinkle with the parmesan and bake for 20 minutes until bubbling.

Garnish with fresh basil leaves and serve with a salad.