Rice with Chicken, Chorizo and Vegetables


If you have a large frying pan with a lid, there’s hardly any washing-up for this one.

Start by steeping a pinch of saffron in a pint and a half of hot vegetable or chicken stock.

Gently fry 2 onions, 2 sticks of celery and 2 cloves of garlic (all finely chopped) in some oil in a large frying pan.  After 3 – 4 minutes, add 2 finely sliced carrots, a red pepper (diced) and a handful of sliced mushrooms.  Soften gently for 5 minutes more.  Then scoop all of the vegetables out of the pan with a slotted spoon.

Add 200g sliced chorizo and 600g finely sliced chicken breast.  Fry on a medium heat until the chicken is starting to turn opaque.  Add a mugful of basmati rice, then the saffron/stock mix.  Stir well and make sure all of the rice is immersed.

Put the vegetables on top and then a handful of peas and/or broad beans.  DO NOT STIR.  Turn the heat to low and pop the lid on.  Set the timer for 10 minutes.  At the end of the ten minutes, give it all a good stir and a taste.  You might want to add some chillis, salt and pepper.  The rice probably won’t be ready, so add a little more water, check that the rice is not sticking to the bottom of the pan, then put the lid on again and cook for 5 – 10 minutes longer.

Now, sprinkle with parsley and serve.  If you want the children to eat it, call it jambalaya.  Nobody need ever know that it’s nothing of the sort.


Lime, Cardamom and Strawberry Fairy Cakes


If you, like my mum, don’t like to crunch into a big, black cardamom seed in your cake, you might prefer this recipe to the lemon and cardamom fairy cakes.  This cardamom-infused, zesty version is a step-up from my normal fairy cakes.

Firstly, zest a lime, and put the zest to one side.  Now, put the juice of a very juicy lime into a cup with the crushed seeds from seven cardamom pods.  Leave to sit and infuse for at least 15 minutes.

Now, use a electric beater to mix together 2 large eggs (which will probably weigh about 120g) with the same weight of self-raising flour, golden caster sugar and softened butter plus a teaspoon of baking powder, the lime zest and a scant tablespoon of yoghurt.  Through a tea-strainer, pour in the lime juice and cardamom and mix again until it’s like mousse.  Divide into 12 cupcake cases.

Bake at 180 degrees for 10 – 20 minutes until nicely golden, then leave to cool.

Now use the food processor to whizz together 100g soft butter,the juice of another lime and 250g icing sugar.

Use a very sharp knife to cut out a circle of sponge.  Pop a tiny tip of a teaspoonful of good lemon or lime curd into the bottom of the hole, top with a small spoonful of icing, then halve your circles into butterfly wings, decorate with strawberry slices and sprinkle with icing sugar.

Robineau’s Café


Darlington has so many lovely cafés for a town so small.  This is my second visit this week to Robineau’s Café in Cockerton – lucky girl!

Between the six of us, we’ve had the Salad of Air-dried Ham, Mozzarella & Figs,Pan Fried cutlets of Spring Lamb served with Pesto crushed new Potatoes, Peas and Sauce Vierge, Quiche Lorraine, Feta and Tomato Quiche, a Steakburger, children’s pasta, chips, and everything – absolutely everything – was just perfect.

And we bought some cakes and macaroons to eat at home, as you see.  They also have some delicious plats à emporter, such as fish pie, lasagne and chicken and tarragon cobbler.  It’s not cheap; it’s special.

A friendly, happy, efficient experience in old-fashioned serene-green surroundings.  Dare I say it?  I preferred it to Betty’s!





Prawn Curry with Missi Roti


Firstly, prepare your missi roti breads.  Due to stock limitations in our kitchen, it’s an altered version of the ‘Cinnamon Kitchen’ recipe.

Mix 150g gram flour and 100g self-raising flour with a tablespoon of grated ginger, a chopped red chilli, a chopped spring onion, a shallot, a tablespoon of chopped coriander, a teaspoon of salt, half a teaspoon of turmeric and a teaspoon of Nigella seeds.  Add a tablespoon of oil, then gradually drizzle in cold water (about 80-100ml) and stir with a spoon or your hand until it forms a non-sticky dough.  If it does turn sticky, add a little more flour.  It’ll be fine.  Cover with cling film and leave to rest.

Now, the curry.  Take a bunch of spring onions, 4 cloves of garlic, 3 chillis and half a teaspoon of salt and whoosh up in the processor until finely chopped.  Stop short of mush.

Fry this in lots of oil (medium heat) for a good 5 minutes, stirring all the time.  Add a teaspoon of freshly ground cumin, half a teaspoon of turmeric and 3 cardamom pods.  Cook low for a few seconds.  Add 2 tablespoons chopped tomatoes.  Cook for a minute.  Add 400g coconut milk and a cinnamon stick.  Squeeze in the juice of half a lime.  Taste and squeeze in the other half if you’re feeling zingy.  Now pop the lid on and simmer very low for 15-20 minutes.  Now back to your breads…

Cut the dough into four equal pieces and warm a non-stick pan to hot.  Roll out the 4 pieces, one piece at a time, sprinkling flour over your surfaces and your dough.  Dry fry on Side A for one minute.  Flip and dry fry on Side B.  Meanwhile, brush the top side with oil; turn over again and brush the other side with oil.  Flip again for a minute and you’re done.  I know that this sounds faffy, but by bread Number 3, you’ll have got it sussed.

Keep the bread warm in the oven while you finish your curry.  Throw in enough raw prawns for two people (I know that what laughingly counts for a prawn in Britain would be scoffed at everywhere else in the world, but anyway..).  Put a good couple of handfuls of chopped coriander on top.  Lid on for a couple of minutes.  Give it all a stir.  As soon as the prawns are cooked through, you can serve it with the missi roti, and if you have a dutiful friend, some freshly made onion bhajis (below).


Raspberry Pavlova


My mum makes the best pavlova in the world.  I asked her to send me a photo of the latest one for the blog and she sent me this.  I was a bit disappointed, even though it’s a great photo, saying that I would have loved a cross-sectional photo of one piece, showing the chewy meringue merging with the soft cream.  She said, “Hard luck!  We’ve eaten it already.”  Anyway, here’s the recipe:

4 egg whites
9oz caster sugar
1 rounded dessertspoon cornflour
Whisk egg whites until really stiff (turn upside down in bowl and it doesn’t move).
Add half of the sugar and whisk again until stiff.
Add the remainder of sugar and cornflour and whisk.
Cover the baking tin with either tin foil or baking parchment and arrange on the tin bringing it up at sides. Put in oven (temperature 150 degrees) for one hour, then switch off the oven, leaving the meringue in there for a further hour.  If you see it turning brown turn the oven down as all ovens vary in temperature.  Leave to cool completely.
Whisk double cream to soft peaks and put on top of pavlova and decorate with either raspberries, strawberries or mixture of fruits and a little grated chocolate.

C-L’s Onion Bhajis


Claire-Louise’s onion bhaji recipe:  Don’t they look delicious?
“5 heaped tbsp plain flour
4 tsp coriander leaf
1 tsp ginger
1 tsp hot chilli powder
1 tsp cumin
2 tsp garam masala
Pinch of salt and pepper
2 large onions

Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl.
Add the water slowly until it makes a thick paste (about half a cup of water).
Quarter the onions then thinly slice each piece.
Mix the onion in the bowl with the paste thoroughly.

Using a deep fryer (I use a wok with about a litre of oil in), place a large tbsp of the mixture and scrape it into the hot oil.
Fry each side for about 3 mins or until it looks a crispy golden brown.
Place on a plate with kitchen roll on, to soak away any excess oil.

Best eaten immediately, however you can also freeze them and bake them in the oven at a later date.”

Sicilian-style Meatballs


Never having been to Sicily, or even to a Sicilian restaurant, this is a bit of a silly name.  But if Sainsbury’s can get away with it, so can I.  By the way, this recipe makes enough meatballs for about eight people, so it’s a good eat-half-freeze-the-rest recipe.

Skoosh up a small onion with two cloves of garlic in a mini-processor.  Put into a bowl with a teaspoon of salt and a coffee spoon of thyme as well as 500g lean steak mince and 400g sausagemeat (I used the meat from Sainsbury’s Sicilian-style sausages, hence the silly title).  Add a sliced chilli if you want them spicy.  Mix it all up with your hands before forming into 20 – 30 small balls.

Now finely slice two onions and a clove of garlic.  Fry them in olive oil until soft, then add two tins of chopped tomatoes and a tin of water.  Put in two teaspoons of dried basil and a teaspoon of paprika and start to simmer.

Now fry your meatballs in oil in a separate frying pan, about eight at a time, adding each batch to the simmering tomatoes.  When they are all done, pop the lid on and simmer for 45-60 minutes.

Sprinkle with basil and serve with spaghetti.