Posts Tagged ‘Rachel Allen’

After a couple of days of far too much sweetness we were in need of a boost of goodness! Luckily I had a batch of Roast Tomato Soup in the freezer so I decided to try and make a loaf of soda bread to go with it. James has made this a couple of times before and it has always turned out great so the pressure was on! Luckily although it looked a little wonky it tasted how I thought it should. As for the soup even Izzy managed to devour a bowl – and she doesn’t even like tomatoes! One thing I would change is to put the soup through a sieve as the tomatoes are not peeled or deseeded prior to going into the oven and I prefer tomato soup to be smooth.

When I first made this up last weekend I was not sure as the garlic came through a little too strong and bitter, however the taste was quite different today – must have settled down once it had sat and then been frozen.

I was sure the soda bread had been a failure but it tasted great and I am not a bread maker but this is super duper easy – no KitchenAid required!

I have discovered a tip for substituting for buttermilk as I find that sometimes I can get this in the supermarket and other times it is as scarce as hen’s teeth. Basically for each 120ml milk add a teaspoon of lemon juice. I have done this a few times now and seems to do the trick!

Roast Tomato Soup (courtesy of Rachel Allen – Home Cooking)


900g ripe tomatoes (about 8), halved

1 red onion, peeled and thickly sliced

6 large cloves of garlic, peeled

Leaves from 4 sprigs of thyme

1 tsp caster sugar

2 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar

Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

600ml chicken or vegetable stock

50ml double or regular cream

Basil leaves, to serve

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Arrange the tomato halves, cut side up, in a single layer on a baking tray and scatter over the onion, garlic, thyme and sugar. Drizzle over the olive oil and balsamic vinegar and season with salt and pepper.


Roast in the oven for 35-40 minutes or until softened. Once cooked, tip the entire contents of the baking tray, including any juices, into a blender. Add the stock and blend until smooth, then pour into a large saucepan. Alternatively, place the cooked tomatoes in the saucepan, pur in the stock and puree using a hand held blender. Bring the soup to the boil, add the cream, reduce the heat and simmer for a few minutes to heat through.

Ladle the soup into bowls and sprinkle with basil leaves.

Wholemeal Irish Soda Bread (courtesy of Rick Stein – Rick Stein’s Food Heroes)


275g stoneground wholemeal flour

275g plain white flour, plus a little extra for kneading

1 rounded tsp of bicarbonate of soda

1 tsp salt

450ml buttermilk

Preheat the oven to 230C.

Mix the dry ingredients together in a bowl. Make a well in the centre, pour in the buttermilk and mix together to make a soft but not too sticky dough. Add a little more buttermilk if the dough seems a bit dry.

Turn the mixture out on to a lightly floured surface and knead lightly and very briefly into a round. Flip the dough over and gently flatten it into a disc about 4cm thick. Lightly dust a large baking sheet with flour, place the dough on it and then, using a large knife cut a large cross in the top, almost all the way through the dough. Stab each quarter once in the centre with the point of the knife.

bake the loaf on the middle shelf of the oven for 15 minutes, then lower the oven temperature to 200C and bake for a further 20-25 minutes, until it sounds hollow when you tap the base. Remove from the oven and leave to cool before serving.



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You can’t beat a good bowl of Chilli con carne – it’s just flashed up mince really isn’t it? Jamie Oliver has a great recipe in his Ministry of Food book which includes celery and carrots so a great way to get some more veg into Izzy. The latest Rachel Allen book also has a recipe although with considerably fewer ingredients and although in my eyes it doesn’t quite match Jamie’s effort it is still a worthy contender. Matched with some well cooked rice (Rachel’s recipe to follow), a scoop of home made gucamole and a dollop of sour cream – a delicious family dinner!

Chilli con carne (courtesy of Rachel Allen – Home Cooking)


2 Tbsp olive oil

700g minced beef

1 large onion, peeled and roughly chopped

5 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed

2 red or yellow peppers, deseeded and roughly chopped

3 red or green chillies, deseeded (optional) and finely chopped (I left these out to make it child friendly)

2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes

1 Tbsp tomato puree

salt & freshly ground black pepper

1 x 400g tin of kidney beans, drained

2 tsp ground cumin

2 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp brown sugar

Pour the olive oil into a large casserole dish or saucepan (ovenproof and with a lid, if cooking in the oven) on a high heat. Working in batches, sear the meat quickly until well browned. Remove each batch with a slotted spoon and set aside (I actually skipped this process and chucked it all in together). Reduce the heat to medium, add the onion and garlic, cover with a lid and gently fry for 6-8 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft.

Return the meat to the casserole dish or pan and add the peppers, chillies, tomatoes, tomato puree and some salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, cover with the lid, reduce the heat and simmer for about 1 hour or until the meat is nice and tender and the sauce has thickened a little. Alternatively, cook in the oven, preheated to 150C for an hour.

When the meat is cooked, add the remaining ingredients and leave to simmer, uncovered, on a low-medium heat for a further 10 minutes. Check the seasoning and adjust if necessary.

Now I am always looking for a better way to cook rice – once again Jamie has a great method that involves a quick boil and then steaming however Rachel’s is a quick boil and then into the oven. The results are delicious – I did add a knob of butter as suggested and it was totally worth every calorie!

Rice (courtesy of Rachel A)


450g white rice, such as basmati

1 tsp salt

15g butter

Preheat the oven to 140C. Bring a large saucepan of water to the boil. Add the rice and salt, give the pan a stir, cover with a lid and boil for 4-5 minutes or until the rice is nearly cooked but still has a tiny bite.

Drain the rice and place in a serving dish. Stir in the butter, cover and put in the oven for at least 15 minutes. When ready to eat, fluff up the rice with a fork and serve.

It’s good, it’s really good!!

Finally, I made what must be my first ever gucamole and I have sworn never to buy pre-made again. A quick whirr of the blender, a squeeze of lime and some chopped tomatoes and spring onions – so much better. The down side is that Izzy definitely does not like the ‘green stuff’ and is partial to some regurgitation if it is snuck onto a spoonful….I think that is probably a pretty clear sign that she is not a fan of avocado!


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I am really trying to encourage Izzy to join me/us in the kitchen and to be honest not a lot of encouragement is needed. Often I start cooking and Izzy drags one of the dining room chairs up to the bench and she is straight up with her hands into anything and everything! Sure it can be a messier and more time consuming but I think that getting Izzy involved with the prep makes her more interested in actually eating the food. Plus it is a nice way to spend some family time at the end of the day.

This week we turned to one of my favourite domestic goddesses and her latest release – Rachel Allen’s ‘Home Cooking’. This is a fantastic book – jam  packed with loads of great family recipes. I just didn’t know where to start!! A definite recommendation for anyone out there in search of a great all-round cookbook that will never leave the kitchen counter!

We decided on Salmon fish fingers – very simple but it works beautifully!

Salmon Fish Fingers with a Tomato & Basil dip (courtesy of Rachel Allen – Home Cooking)


500g centre cut skinless salmon fillet

3 Tbsp plain flour

2 eggs

110g fresh white breadcrumbs

salt & freshly ground black pepper

25g butter (if shallow frying, I prefer to bake)

2 Tbsp olive oi

Lemon wedges, to serve

For the tomato & basil dip

275g tomatoes, roughly chopped

110ml creme fraiche (or half fat creme fraiche for the more calorie conscious!)

1 Tbsp finely shredded basil

Preheat the oven (if using) to 220C.

Cut the piece of salmon in half across the width and then cut each half into six equal sized fingers down the length. Sift the flour onto a plate or into a wide bowl, beat the eggs in another bowl, beat the eggs in another bowl and place the breadcrumbs in a third.  Season each with salt & pepper. First dust the salmon fingers in the flour, then dip them in the flour, then dip them in the beaten egg and finally in the breadcrumbs, to evenly coat.

Izzy working hard in the kitchen.

Izzy working hard in the kitchen.

Drizzle oil on a large baking sheet and arrange the fish fingers on the oiled sheet. Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes, turning halfway through cooking, until crisp, golden and cooked through.

Meanwhile, prepare the tomato dip. Blitz the chopped tomato in a blender or using a hand held blender until smooth. Push through a fine sieve into a small saucepan and simmer on a low heat for 4-5 minutes or until reduced and thickened. remove and leave to cool completely (very important as we didn’t have time to do this and ended up with a very loose dip) before stirring into the creme fraiche with the bail and a little salt & pepper.

Serve the salmon fish fingers with lemon wedges for people to squeeze over together with a bowl of the tomato and basil creme fraiche to dip into.

Who needs a wash and a haircut?!?!

Who needs a wash and a haircut?!?!

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Aunty Amy came to visit us on Saturday and to give Izzy her first lesson in modern Japanese culture. After Amy’s recent jaunt to Tokyo she bought back a stuffed toy for Izzy called Tortoro and the English version of the DVD movie – My neighbour Tortoro. It was so sweet watching the 2 of them sit on the sofa and watch the movie together – which is so typically Japanese – it even managed to hold her full attention for at least 30 mins! Thanks Aunty Amy!!

Having an extra person in the house is also a good reason to cook a yummy meal and with time to spare on a Saturday we decided to go all the way and make 3 courses. I suggested just 2 but as Amy pointed out – ‘there is always room for pudding’!

The first course was pretty simple – Bruschetta. No recipe to follow as is pretty simple. I sliced up some ciabatta and placed it on the griddle until it was brown and then turned over. In the meantime I chopped tomatoes and basil and mixed this with some red wine vinegar and a sprinkle of S & P. Once bread is nice and crisp then take off, rub both sides with a clove of garlic and drizzle with some good olive oil. I used some that I had flavoured a couple of weeks ago by just adding fresh basil and then leaving for a couple of weeks before decanting into a clean glass bottle. After the olive oil add the tomato & basil mix  and serve. Scrummy!!


The King was back in the kitchen for the main course – Pumpkin Risotto. Sorry if you are bored of Pumpkin but there will be more to come….the pumpkin season is such a small window that we have to make the most of it! As always it was fab – James has truly mastered this dish.

Pumpkin Risotto (courtesy of Gennaro Contaldo – Italian Year)


150ml olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, crushed, but left whole

1 celery stalk, finely chopped

1 sprig of rosemary

350g arborio rice

1 glass of white wine

1kg pumpkin (clean weight), cut into very small cubes

about 1.5 litres hot vegetable stock

50g butter

100g Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

Place the stock in a saucepan on a low heat and simmer gently.

In another saucepan, heat the olive oil and sweat the onion, garlic, celery and rosemary until the vegetables soften. Remove the garlic and discard.

Add the rice, stirring well and making sure each grain of rice is coated in the oil. Add the wine and allow it to evaporate, stirring all the time.

Add the pumpkin cubes, together with a ladleful of stock & stir. As the liquid evaporates, stir in another ladleful of stock. Continue to do this for 20 minutes. remove from the heat, stir in the butter and Parmesan. Serve immediately.

Classy dinner in front of the telly! Oh well it's Saturday and X Factor is on!!

Classy dinner in front of the telly! Oh well it's Saturday and X Factor is on!!


So for pudding we originally heading towards Banoffee Pie given that there were a couple of bananas in the bowl that only had about a day left in them. That was a great idea until I actually read the recipe and the base needs to go into the fridge overnight! Then there is the tin of condensed milk in the saucepan (in order to make the toffee) which my friend Tarns had a bad accident with so all signs were pointing away from the Banoffee Pie.

This week I received from my dear friends at Amazon (we better be friends with the amount I have spent with them over the years ;-)) the new Rachel Allen book – ‘Home Cooking’. For me Rachel Allen is running a very close 2nd to Jamie Oliver and ‘Home Cooking’ is my kind of book. Full of vibrant, fresh and delicious recipes that are aimed at, funnily enough, the home cook. A worthy addition to any cookbook collection!! So I flicked through my newest acquisition and came across a recipe for Rhubarb & Ginger Bread & Butter Pudding. Never made a B & B pudding before and I have 460g chopped rhubarb in the freezer (from our first PYO of the season) and the recipe calls for 450g….must be a sign! I didn’t have great expectations as I don’t really recall ever having B & B pudding although I am sure I must have at some stage but I do recall that my Dad is not a fan. However I think even Marty would like this one especially as it is made with rhubarb which is one of his favourites.  Amy was right…..there is always room for pudding!!

Rhubarb & Ginger Bread and Butter pudding (courtesy of Rachel Allen – Home Cooking)


450g rhubarb, cut into 1 cm slices

2 tsp finely grated root ginger

150g caster sugar

50g butter, softened

12 slices of white bread, crusts removed

350ml single or regular cream

350ml milk

2 tsp finely grated root ginger

4 eggs

pinch of salt

2 Tbsp granulated sugar

Icing sugar, for dusting

25cm square ovenproof dish or similar-sized dish

Scatter the rhubarb in a baking dish and sprinkle with the grated ginger and half the caster sugar. Toss together and then leave to sit for about 30 mins to soften a little.

Preheat the oven to 180C. Butter the bread and arrange four slices, buttered side down, in the ovenproof dish. Scatter over half of the prepared rhubarb and top  with four more slices of bread, again buttered side down. Repeat with the remaining rhubarb mixture and bread.

Place the cream, milk and grated ginger in a saucepan an bring just to the boil. While this is coming to the boil, whisk the eggs, salt and remaining caster sugar in a bowl. Continuing to whisk, pour the hot liquid into the egg mixture until well mixed. Slowly pour this custard over the bread and leave to soak for 10 minutes. Sprinkle the granulated sugar over the top (oops forgot to do this!).

Place the dish into a deep-sided baking tray and pour in enough boiling water to come half way up the sides (known as a bain-marie). Carefully place in the oven to bake for 45-50 minutes, or until it feels just set in the centre. Remove from the oven and serve warm with a light dusting of icing sugar (forgot this too!) and some softly whipped cream.


Straight out of the oven

This post would not be complete without mentioning the X Factor – for the first time I am hooked! My faves are Stacey (how can you not love her – so funny and beautiful voice) and Jamie (go the Fro!!), but those twins…gggrrrr……they are the most annoying act I have ever seen and they need to go….NOW!! Don’t vote John& Edward!!!

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I don’t know about you but the last few months have felt like nothing but doom and gloom. Almost everyone around me has suffered a loss or a bad situation. I have never known anything like it and I can honestly say I am looking forward to the end of 2009 and then start of a fresh and prosperous year for everyone! All this in the midst of a recession too – crappy!

With all this going on around us sometimes it feels like we have little control over our lives. However one thing we do have control over is what we put in our bodies. In these strange times I have found a real sense of peace in my kitchen. There is a great satisfaction in preparing a meal for loved ones, baking goodies for Izzy’s nursery or our offices or taking a slice of whatever is freshly baked over to our neighbour Sam. I must say I am not totally altruistic – I probably get more satisfaction cooking it than they do eating it.

Comfort food is perfect in these times however traditional comfort food can be stodgy and heavy in the stomach. My ultimate comfort food is mashed potato – love it love it love it! These days I don’t have it very often but James knows when it is needed, just as Mum did for many years!

Tonight we added some mashed potato and although it was not necessarily needed I did have a few potatoes starting to sprout and so needed to be used or they would be in the bin (which goes against my waste not, want not..). The rest of the dinner also consisted of what was in the fridge and cupboards (I am getting good at this!) and we will definitely be making this a Wright family favourite over winter. A perfect comfort food and with chicken and a simple tomato sauce!

I have only recently discovered Rachel Allen and I find that since she is a Mother herself her recipes are very family friendly. One of my work associates told me yesterday that he thinks she is the perfect woman as he imagines that after a night between the sheets she will not only get up and make the breakfast but also bake a cake! Each to their own I guess!

Chicken Casserole with Chorizo, Tomatoes and Beans (courtesy of Rachel’s Favourite Food at Home – Rachel Allen)


1 large chicken, cut into pieces (I used chicken breast as this is what I had in the freezer)

2 Tbsp olive oil

125g chorizo, cut into 8mm slices

2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes

5 cloves of garlic, peeled and left whole (I crushed – I love my garlic press and so it is always crushed in this house)

Salt, freshly ground black pepper and sugar

2 x 400g tins of pre-cooked beans, drained

Squeeze of lemon juice

Brown the chicken in a flameproof casserole with the 2 Tbsp of olive oil. Add the slices of chorizo, tomatoes & garlic. Season with salt, pepper and 1 or 2 good pinches of sugar. Bring up to the boil, cover with a lid and cook (on top of hob or in an oven preheated to 180C) for 30 minutes until the chicken is cooked.

Remove from the oven and add the drained beans and simmer for another 5 minutes. Season to taste, adding a squeeze of lemon juice if necessary.

Rachel recommends serving with orzo, boiled rice or pilaff rice. I found mashed potato works for me!

James and I made this up last night and then put it in the fridge so tonight it was just a case of heating it up – easy peasy!


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Tonight Izzy was lucky enough to have her 2 best buddies come over and join her for dinner. The 2 Isobel’s (aka Mackie & Wrighty) and Easton have been friends since birth and it is such a joy to watch them grow and interact together. Izzy is always so excited to see them both and there are cuddles and kisses all around. Check out this photo and you can see for yourself! Have you seen 3 cuter kids?!?

The 3 Musketeers - love, love, love them!!

The 3 Musketeers - love, love, love them!!

For dinner Meredith and I quickly put together Parmesan Chicken Goujons with mashed sweet potato and peas. This went down a treat and I stood at the bench tucking into the left over chicken dipped into tomato sauce. Scrummy!

Parmesan Chicken Goujons (courtesy of Rachel Allen – Rachel’s Favourite Food at Home)


600g boneless & skinless chicken

50g plain flour

Salt & pepper

2 eggs, beaten

100g breadcrumbs

50g parmesan cheese, finely grated

You can either cook on the hob or in the oven – I went for the oven.

Preheat oven to 200C.

Cut the chicken into goujons the size of a big finger. Place the flour in a mixing bowl or in a plastic bag with some salt & pepper. Place the beaten eggs in another bowl.  Mix the breadcrumbs and finely grated cheese together and place in a bowl or bag as well.

Toss the goujons in the seasoned flour, making sure they do not stick together, then remove. Shake off the excess flour and dip them in the beaten egg. Remove from the egg, letting the excess drip off, and toss into the breadcrumb and cheese mix. Shake off the excess and lay the goujons n a plate.

Drizzle the base of a preheated baking tray with oil (I didn’t use any oil at all) and lay the floured and seasoned goujons in a single layer. Bake in the oven for 12-18 minutes, turning the goujons over halfway through (forgot to do this!), or when golden on one side. When they are completely cooked , remove from the oven and serve.

A success I think!

A success I think!

This is such an easy recipe. I remember my Mum crumbing fish in the same way and once you have done it once you don’t need a recipe at all! It’s so quick – it takes minutes and has to be better for them than frozen chicken nuggets. Well, I hope so! Finished off with juicy slices of watermelon…..

Good girl Mackie!!

Good girl Mackie!!

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Looks like I am back on a roll and after finally doing some groceries I am prepared for an exciting week in the kitchen!

Tonight’s dinner certainly was delicious – and once again, easy!!

A frittata is such a versatile dinner and once you have made one and know the base ingredients you can chuck in whatever you have lying in the fridge.

I found this recipe from Rachel Allen and without a doubt I will be serving it again. Even Izzy devoured it so that is a good sign on the road to ‘family favourite’.

At this stage there is no chance that Izzy will even consider salad – ‘no green stuff Mummy’ – but I prepared a quick basic salad of red chard & lambs lettuce (from a bag of course!) and some of Sam’s (our lovely neighbour) tomatoes which were lovingly grown in his greenhouse. While we were in Scotland we drove past Moniack Castle (www.moniackcastle.co.uk) and stopped into the shop where we purchased some Wild Garlic sauce along with some jellies to be used with game meats. I mixed some of the garlic sauce with olive oil and used this to dress the salad. Worked really well.

Potato, Chorizo & Feta Frittata (courtesy of Rachel Allen – Favourite Food at Home)


250g potatoes, peeled and cubed into 1cm pieces

6 tbsp olive oil (I only used about half of this)

1 onion, peeled and sliced

8 eggs

100ml single cream

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp chopped fresh marjoram (I used Mint – have very rarely actually found Marjoram)

125g chorizo, sliced

125g feta cheese, crumbled

Preheat the oven to 180C. Place the potatoes in a saucepan, cover with boiling water and boil for 5 minutes, or until just cooked. Do not over-cook or they will go mushy. Drain and set aside.

Heat a 25cm ovenproof frying pan, add 3 Tbsp of olive oil and the sliced onion, cover with a saucepan lid and sweat over a gentle heat until soft and slightly golden. Set aside.

Whisk the eggs in a bowl, add the cream, 1 tsp salt and the marjoram. Stir in the sliced chorizo, the cooked onions and potatoes.

Heat 3 Tbsp of oilve oil in the frying pan. When it is hot, pour in the egg mixture and stir briefly to distribute the ingredients evenly. Top with the crumbled fet cheese. Place in the preheated oven and bake for 25-35 minutes or until set in the centre. Remove from the oven and allow too cool a little before sliding it onto a large serving plate. Serve warm or at room temperature.

For a vegetarian option you can leave out the chorizo. You can also substitute the potato with butternut squash.


P.S – Had a beetroot brownie today and I think it tasted better than yesterday! No ice cream or cream needed. Go figure!

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