Simple Beef Stew

Beat the cold weather by cozying up to a bowl of this hearty beef stew. Rich, warm, delicious and simple to make. With a horrible cold spell forecast this week I will be making this using the slow cooker –  prepare  in the evening, leave in the fridge overnight, take out first thing the next morning(to take the chill out of it) and after half an hour or so put it in the slow cooker on Medium for 6-8 hours. Job done, dinner made, the feeling of freedom is wonderful and you can pat yourself on the back for being totally ahead of the game! No matter what time anyone comes in that evening they can have a piping hot dinner – sometimes I add in a few boiled potatoes at the end of the cooking time to make a complete meal of it plus they soak up some of the juices and go all soft and yummy!

PS: The instructions below are for a slow cooker however to cook in a conventional oven, just increase the amount of stock to 800ml and cook at 160°C / 350°F  for 2½ to 3 hours or until the meat is tender.

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Lamb Tagine

This lamb tagine is full of delicious rich flavours from the combination of succulent, sweet lamb, spices and fruit. It is so simple and is a great dish if you are having friends over as it has a richer, more exotic flavour than your normal beef stew. The dish originates from Morocco where it would be cooked slowly in a traditional ceramic or clay dish called a tagine. I am currently bonding big-time with my Slow Cooker – it buys me so much time and freedom and I cannot recommend it enough. This dish is one of my favourites done in the Slow Cooker (Crockpot) – the recipe is the same whether it is cooked in the oven or in the Slow Cooker so instructions for both are below.  The only hassle can be dicing the lamb but it is so worth it!

(recipe is adapted from one in the Avoca Cookbook No.2) Continue reading

Slow January!

 

Happy New Year to you all – this is my first post of 2018 as I am doing ‘slow’ January and easing myself into the new year. January is always such a long depressing month after all the sparkle, fun and wonderful overindulgence in December! And to make it worse everywhere you look there are articles or programmes about diets and punishing exercise regimes to make it even harder! January should be about nurturing and looking after yourself – eating real food, moving a bit more, getting some proper sleep, perhaps planning a holiday but overall being good to yourself. Think of it as your launchpad for  the year. Continue reading

Turkey & Leek pie

 

This pie is a must-have at Christmas in our house. Over the years we have developed a tradition whereby we have Christmas dinner No.1 which is the traditional turkey, ham, potatoes roasted in goose fat, stuffing, veg, pigs in blankets and gravy, on St Stephens Day we have Christmas dinner No. 2  which is more or less the same with freshly cooked roast potatoes and different veg  which I enjoy even more than dinner on Christmas Day! ) and then we have Christmas dinner No.3 which is the Turkey Pie. My adult children now insist that we stick to this routine and no matter what they have on they all manage to be here for these 3 dinners ! It is a nice way to extend Christmas to be honest and for us all to have dinner together. The pie in particular is a really nice change and a great way to use up leftover cooked meat – any mixture of turkey and / or ham can be used and of course this pie can be made anytime with cooked chicken. Happy Christmas to you all and happy cooking in 2018! x

 

Serves 4-6

Approx. 30 minutes prep & 45 minutes in the oven

Ingredients

50g butter plus extra for greasing
1 onion sliced
1 large leek, trimmed & sliced
250g button mushrooms, sliced
1 tablespoon plain flour
250ml chicken stock
100ml cream
1 bay leaf
3 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
900g cooked turkey cut into chunks(or mixture of ham, turkey or chicken)
200/225g ready rolled puff pastry
1 egg lightly beaten
Salt & freshly ground black pepper

 

How to make it!

  • Preheat oven to 190C/375F/Gas 5
  • Heat the butter in a sauté pan
  • Add the onion, garlic, leek and mushrooms and sauté for 2-3 minutes until softened but not coloured
  • Stir in the flour and cook for 2 minutes, stirring continuously
  • Gradually pour the stock into the pan followed by the cream, stirring until smooth after each addition
  • Add the bay leaf, bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes until thickened, stirring occasionally
  • Stir in the parsley, season to taste and set aside to cool.
  • Cover the sauce with a buttered circle of non-stick parchment paper to prevent a skin forming
  • Place the cooked turkey / meat in a 1.75L (3 pint) pie dish and ladle over the sauce
  • Stir gently to combine.
  • Roll out the pastry to a thickness of 0.5cm/¼cm on a lightly floured surface to fit the top of the pie dish making sure that it is large enough to hang over the edges like a ‘blanket’.
  • Place the pastry lid on top of the pie, trimming it down to fit and brush around the edges with a little water to help it stick, then press down along the sides to seal.
  • Cut a small slit in the pastry lid to allow the steam to escape
  • Cut out a few decorative pastry leaves to put in the centre of the pastry lid.(optional)
  • Brush with the beaten egg and bake for 45 minutes or until the pastry is nicely puffed up and golden brown.

Serve with some creamy mashed potato and enjoy!

Leek, potato & spinach soup with chorizo

This is what you and your family need right now on these cold, wintery days. Warm, nutritious and comforting and really easy to make. Adding spinach to the soup has two purposes – it adds nutrients and it also gives the soup a lovely green colour. The fried chorizo cubes lift this ordinary soup into something special –  I adore chorizo but you could also use fried bacon pieces or if you want to make it fully vegetarian or vegan just leave these out and use water or vegetable stock instead of the chicken stock.

Preparation: 15 minutes. Cooking Time: 30/40 minutes

Ingredients

4 large leeks
2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced
1 medium onion, chopped small
50g butter
850ml chicken stock (or water for vegetarian / vegan option)
150ml milk
Couple of handfuls of baby spinach leaves (washed and trimmed of any tough stalks)
Chorizo – cut into cubes (or bacon pieces if you prefer – leave out for vegetarian / vegan option)

How to make it:

  • Trim off the tops and roots of the leeks, discarding the tough outer layer
  • Prepare the leeks by splitting them in half lengthways and slice them up quite finely, then rinse and drain them
  • In a large thick-based saucepan melt the butter on a low heat then add the leeks, potatoes and onion, stirring them with a wooden spoon so they get a nice coating of butter
  • Season with salt & pepper
  • Cover and let the vegetables sweat over a very low heat for about 10/15 minutes – key a very close eye on them so they don’t burn or stick to the bottom (this has happened to me in the past I have to admit!)
  • Add the stock and bring to a simmer, put the lid back on and simmer gently for approx. 20 minutes until the vegetables are soft.
  • Add the milk and the spinach leaves and simmer for a further 5 minutes.
  • Liquidise the soup using a blender.

To serve:

Heat the chorizo in a dry non-stick pan for 2/3 minutes (it won’t need any oil as it will release it’s own) until it is nice and crispy to serve. Enjoy!

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Casserole Roast Chicken

Roast chicken with roast potatoes, stuffing and gravy is without doubt one of the most popular dinners in our house. Cooking roast chicken used to freak me out a bit, I don’t know why but I always thought of it as a complicated dinner. Then I came across this simple and foolproof one-pot method which absolutely rocks. I discovered it when I was in Ballymaloe House (on a 2-day course which I was so lucky to win as a prize!) a few years ago. So no roasting tray, racks, cooking bags etc – it just cooks in the one pot in which all the juices collect and from which you can make your gravy.  So no need to fear cooking roast chicken any more – if you haven’t done it before give this a try and you won’t look back.   Continue reading

Halloumi salad with avocado salsa

This  isn’t technically a recipe as it really just a matter of combining the ingredients. No cooking skills required and no need to stick rigidly to the quantities specified as any combination of these ingredients will result in a delicious end result. How good is that! And, as if that wasn’t enough, it’s made in minutes, i.e. real ‘fast food’. Halloumi is unlike any other cheese as it holds its shape and doesn’t melt when heated. It has a delicious salty flavour and it makes for a very quick, healthy and filling snack or lunch  – it has a reasonable shelf life so it is great to have it on standby in the fridge for those days when you are starving or short of time or both (happens regularly to me). It goes very well also with fresh beetroot which you can get in vacuum packs and which is another great standby to have in the fridge as it lasts for weeks in the fridge.

Serves 2 for lunch or 4 as a starter

Time to prepare: approx. 10/15 mins.

Ingredients

Avocado Salsa

1 ripe avocado
2/3 tomatoes
1 fresh lime
Fresh coriander leaves chopped

Halloumi Cheese (1 packet)

To serve: Salad leaves & dressing

How to make it:

  • Cut the tomatoes* into halves and then into quarters. Remove the seeds and chop the flesh into small pieces. *If you have time remove the skin by placing the tomatoes into boiling water for approx. 30 secs at which stage the skin will just peel off.
  • Cut the avocado in half, remove the skin and the stone and cut the flesh into cubes.
  • Place the tomato, avocado and coriander in a small bowl, add a good squeeze of lime and toss gently.
  • Cut the halloumi into slices and heat a non-stick pan (no oil needed).
  • Place the cheese slices onto the hot pan and fry until a nice golden colour on each side.
  • Put the salad together by placing some dressed salad leaves on a plate.
  • Place the avocado salsa in the centre and arrange the warm cheese slices around it.
  • Bon appétit!

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