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Take-5 … March – Steak with Halloumi Potato Bake

March 21, 2012 in Mains, Take-5

Last month I decided to set myself a monthly challenge to post a recipe using only 5 ingredients (not counting ‘everyday’ kitchen ingredients).

With today being a public holiday and ‘taking it easy’ being on my to-do list, it was the perfect day to do my Take-5 Challenge for March. Rummaging through my fridge & freezer I found a smallish rump steak, a piece of halloumi cheese and a punnet of mushrooms, which I thought could be used together somehow. Adding a few potatoes and an onion brought me to the prescribed 5 ingredients, to which I added some ‘everyday’ ingredients – garlic, chilli, black pepper & olive oil. The result was a really tasty meal that took no effort to make (and didn’t require a trip to the shops).

You could adapt this recipe by adding/removing any number of ingredients … I’m tempted to try adding cooked chippolata sausages next time, to make this a one-dish-meal.


Rump steak (1 per person)

3 medium potatoes, peeled & cut into 1-inch cubes

1 large onion, halved then each half cut into 6 rough slices

1/2 punnet button mushrooms, quartered

5 cloves garlic, sliced

2 red chillies, seeded & sliced

olive oil

freshly-ground black pepper

About 150g halloumi cheese, sliced fairly thinly (I also cut a bit into cubes, which I fried & had on my salad – halloumi overload)!

Preheat the oven to 200C.

Toss the potato cubes, onion slices, mushrooms, garlic & chilli together in an ovenproof dish with a couple of glugs of olive oil and a generous grinding of black pepper then cook in the preheated oven for about 45 minutes, or until the potatoes are cooked (mixing them again once or twice whilst cooking).

Turn on the grill & top the potato mixture with slices of halloumi – pop under the grill for 5 – 10 minutes, or until the cheese is soft and browned.

Whilst grilling, cook the steak. I fried a few extra cubes of halloumi at the same time – these were delicious, but I should probably have left them out with the amount of halloumi I’d put onto the potatoes (and I will NOT be standing on the scale for at least a week)!

Serve immediately.


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Potato & Vegetable Bake

March 7, 2012 in Veggies

I’m NOT a vegetarian!

In fact, I’m a very bad example to my sons when it comes to eating *mumble* portions of vegetables per day.

But every now and again my body demands its annual quota of vegetables and I know better than to disobey my body’s demands!

This is a really easy and delicious dish, which can be served with salad and/or crusty bread as a main course, or as an all-in-one side dish with whatever meat you’ve cooked. It’s also highly adaptable – you can use whatever combination of vegetables you want, so feel free to ignore the veggies I’ve used & swap them with whatever takes your fancy (except for the potatoes, which are non-negotiable).

Red & white onion with garlic, all sliced & waiting ...

POTATO & VEGETABLE BAKE – Serves 4 as a main, or 6 as a side dish

3 large potatoes, peeled, par-boiled & thinly sliced

15ml butter & 5ml olive oil

1 red onion, halved and sliced

1 white onion, halved & sliced

3 large cloves garlic, sliced

1 punnet mushrooms, sliced

1 green pepper, seeded & diced

2 tspns sliced bottled jalapenos (optional)

5ml dried thyme

200g fresh baby spinach leaves

2 – 3 rounds of feta cheese, diced

125ml cream & 125ml milk (or 250ml cream)

4 eggs

1 tspn Dijon mustard

freshly ground salt & pepper to taste

Preheat your oven to 180C and grease a medium-sized ovenproof dish.

Heat the butter & oil in a deep frying pan and gently saute the onions, garlic, green pepper & mushrooms until slightly softened,

Stir in the jalapenos & thyme.

Veggies being sauted

Mix the eggs, milk, cream, Dijon mustard & seasoning.

Line the dish with some of the potato slices, then some of the onion mixture, then some spinach and some of the feta.

Repeat these layers, ending with what’s left of the onion mixture.

Layering in progress ...

Pour over the egg & milk mixture and bake for 1 hour.

Bon Appetit! :)





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Meat-free Monday – Summery Gazpacho

February 26, 2012 in Mains, Veggies

It’s been too hot to even think of cooking this weekend … that’s my excuse, and I’m sticking to it! :)

I adapted this recipe from one I copied yonks ago from one of the many diet-books I’ve owned over the years. It’s absolutely delicious, with no hint of being a ‘diet’ recipe. It’s also a perfect light & refreshing meal for a baking-hot meat-free Monday.


Finely chop the following ingredients & toss them all into a large glass bowl (I always use my 2 litre Pyrex jug, which is the ideal size):

2 large tomatoes, peeled & seeded

6 – 8 celery fingers

5 inches cucumber, seeded

1 green pepper, seeded

120g spring onions

1 large clove garlic

The finely-chopped veggies, waiting for the liquids to be added!

To the chopped vegetables, add the following:

1 litre tomato juice

2 Tblspns white wine vinegar

2 Tblspns olive oil

2 Tblspns chopped parsley

1 tspn salt

1/2 tspn freshly-ground black pepper

1 tspn Worcestershire sauce

Combine everything, cover with clingwrap and refrigerate overnight.

Serve cold.

Chilled gazpacho - refreshing & healthy!



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Slow-cooked Lamb Shanks

February 11, 2012 in Mains

The temperature has suddenly dropped after weeks of intense heat and it’s been cool, misty & rainy since I woke up early this morning. My Younger Teen is home from boarding school for the whole weekend, which is a real treat for both of us … one of the things he looks forward to most about our weekends together is his mom’s cooking (which his mom tends to avoid when she’s not in mom-mode)!

I spotted some succulent meaty lamb shanks in the supermarket earlier this week & immediately bought 2 of them, not knowing that the weekend would provide ideal weather for this kind of comfort food. For once, Murphy wasn’t anywhere to be seen!

This recipe is adapted from one in Jamie Oliver’s first recipe book, ‘The Naked Chef’ – you can easily double these quantities for 4 people.


2 lamb shanks

freshly ground salt & black pepper

1/2 tspn whole coriander seeds

1/2 tspn Robertsons crushed chillies

1/2 Tblspn finely chopped fresh rosemary

1/2 tspn dried marjoram

1/2 Tblspn flour

2 Tblspns olive oil

Preheat the oven to 170C.

Season the shanks with the ground salt & pepper.

Crush the coriander and chilli together in a pestle & mortar then mix in the rosemary & marjoram – rub this mixture all over the shanks then dust them with the flour.

Heat the oil in a large heavy-bottomed casserole dish. Brown the shanks all over then remove from the pan & set aside.

Add the following to the remaining oil in the pan and cook until softened:

1 large onion, quartered & thinly sliced

1 carrot, quartered & thinly sliced

4 stalks of celery, thinly sliced

1 red pepper, seeded & diced

10 whole cloves garlic, peeled

pinch of salt

Once the veggies are softened, add 1 Tblspn balsamic vinegar & allow it to reduce slightly before adding 100ml white wine – cook for another minute or two then add the following:

6 whole anchovy fillets (you won’t taste these, but they will enhance the lamb flavour)

1 tin whole cherry tomatoes with their juice

100ml water

Bring to the boil then return the shanks to the mixture, put the lid onto the casserole dish and cook in the preheated oven for 90 minutes – then remove the lid, check the liquid levels and cook for another 30 – 45 minutes without the lid.

Serve on a bed of creamy mashed potato.

Tip: any leftover sauce will go wonderfully with fettuicine (or almost any kind of pasta)! :)

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Take-5 … February – creamy peppered mushrooms on toast

February 2, 2012 in Take-5, Veggies

Reading Sue’s comments about Masterchef in her latest post reminded me of some of the programmes I really used to enjoy way back when I was still married & could afford DSTV (OK, so it was my ex who could – and still can – afford DSTV, but that’s a minor detail)!

One of the most inspirational programmes for me was ‘Ready, Steady, Cook’ – I was regularly awe-struck at the masterpieces the chefs could create in less than half an hour with only a limited number of ingredients.

This got me thinking (along with the fact that, although it’s only the 2nd of the month, various factors have conspired to make it the financial 20th of the month for me) and I thought it might be fun to set myself a monthly challenge called ‘Take-5′, where I post a recipe using only 5 ingredients (and, if it’s around the 20th of the month, these must be ingredients I don’t have to buy).

I realised it wouldn’t be realistic to count ‘everyday’ ingredients that everyone has in their kitchen, so my personal challenge allows me (or you, if you’d like to take up the challenge too, sometime) to exclude these ingredients, for example: oil & butter etc; seasonings, including herbs & spices; flour; stock, wine (and other liquids, unless they’re ‘unusual’ & have to be specially bought); ginger, garlic, curry paste/powder etc; bread/rolls/roti/pita/tortillas etc … this isn’t a closed list, but you get the general idea.

If you’d like to give this challenge a try, please let me know in a comment so I know to come and see what you’ve achieved … and please also include a link to this post  of mine, in case anyone else is keen to give it a bash.

My first “Take-5 Challenge” recipe is creamy peppered mushrooms on toast. This is not only a perfect Meat-free Monday recipe (please ignore the fact that I’ve posted this on a Thursday – thank the Pope it’s not Monday!!), but it’s also great as a light supper for two, or a filling meal for one. But be warned: fewer ingredients does NOT mean fewer calories (just in case any of you were thinking of suing me for your increased waistline or cholesterol levels)!!


My 5 Ingredients:

1 punnet (250g) button mushrooms, sliced

a few spring onions, sliced (I used the last 8 in my fridge)

1 onion, chopped

1 tspn Robertsons Peppercorn paste (see pic below)

2 1/2 Tblspns sour cream (you could use normal cream, but I already had an open half-used tub in my fridge)

Other ‘non-counted’ ingredients:

1/2 Tblspn olive oil

25g butter (plus another 1 Tblspn softened butter for later)

1 tspn chopped garlic

ground salt to taste

a liberal dash of ground nutmeg

2 sliced buttered toast

Before I get to the method, I want to rave about the relatively-new Robertsons paste range – I’m completely hooked on the mixed peppercorn one, spreading it onto steaks before frying, mixing it into coatings for fish, combining it with softened butter for baked potatoes etc … ok, I’m sure I’ve convinced you that I quite like this paste!

Moving on …

Heat the oil and butter in a large frying pan over medium heat.

Add the garlic, peppercorn paste, mushrooms, spring onion and onion – cook for a few minutes, stirring until softened.

Stir in the cream and salt – cook for another few minutes until the cream has reduced and thickened.

Remove from the heat. Stir in the nutmeg and softened butter – when this has melted and the mixture looks nice and glossy, serve on slices of buttered toast.

Finally – and this is the most important part of this recipe … don’t even THINK of having your cholesterol checked for at least 7 days after eating this (rather just relax and wallow in the wonderful comfort-food experience that’s a so-much-nicer side effect of this recipe)!!


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Fettucine with Creamy Mushroom & Sun-dried Tomato Sauce

January 28, 2012 in Mains

I tend to avoid tagliatelle, finding that it sits too heavily in my stomach – perhaps if I ate smaller portions this wouldn’t be a problem, but I’m ignoring that option.Fettucine, on the other hand, is my new favourite pasta, being broad enough to take a decent coating of whatever sauce you’re using, yet narrow enough to avoid that over-full heaviness after the meal.

This recipe is based on one from Lynne Bedford-Hall’s ‘Nice ‘n Easy Cookbook’. It’s a doddle to make and really delicious.


1 medium onion, chopped

2 leeks, sliced

2 tspns crushed garlic

(You can pop these three ingredients into one bowl together, as you’re going to use them all at the same time).

1 punnet (250g) button mushrooms, sliced

1 yellow pepper, seeded & diced

40g sun-dried tomatoes, drained and thinly sliced

1 sprig fresh rosemary

(These four ingredients can go together in another bowl, as you’re going to add them all at once).

1 Tblspn tomato paste

60ml red wine

250ml hot beef stock

1/2 tspn salt

1 tspn sugar

(Mix these five ingredients together in a bowl or jug)

60ml sour cream (this only gets added at the end, so keep it to one side)

Heat 2 Tblspns each of sunflower oil and olive oil in a pan.

Add the onion, leeks and garlic and cook until golden-brown.

Add the mushrooms, yellow pepper, tomatoes and rosemary, tossing until glistening, then add the tomato paste, wine, stock, salt and sugar.

Cover and simmer over very low heat for about 15 minutes, until the tomatoes have softened and most of the liquid has been absorbed.

Meanwhile, cook and drain the fettucine.

Remove the sprig of rosemary from the sauce, stir in the sour cream and simmer uncovered for a few minutes to thicken.

Serve the fettucine topped with the sauce.


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Smoked salmon gateau with dilly sauce

January 22, 2012 in Fish, Starters

January is almost over and I haven’t posted once this year … probably because, being in post-Christmas diet mode, I haven’t really cooked anything blog-worthy this year!

A friend and I take turns hosting each other every month or so for a meal, with the sole requirement being that the host has to cook something she’s never made before.

This was HER idea! She’s still in her 20’s and unmarried, so most recipes fall within the criteria. I, on the other hand, have reached that, er, ‘mature’ stage of life where I’ve generally tried most of the recipes I ever want to try – and would quite happily never cook again!

But friendship won the inner battle and I grudgingly agreed to feed her occasionally – but I did NOT agree to the whole ‘unchartered waters’ thing! As far as I’m concerned, if she hasn’t eaten it before, it’s a new recipe!

I’ve made this recipe more than a few times before, but always as a full-sized gateau – using normal-sized crepes and cutting it into wedges like a cake for serving. This time, I used one of those cute single-egg mini frying pans to make the crepes. Half a gateau was just the perfect serving as a starter … pity we decided to try having a whole one each, because they were too rich for either of us to clear our plate!

Despite it’s impressive appearance and long to-do list, this is really dead easy to make – with the added bonus of being prepared the day before serving.



1/2 cup cake flour

pinch of salt

2 eggs

1 tspn oil

180ml milk

Sift flour and salt into a bowl. Add the eggs, oil and 30ml of the milk. Beat until smooth.

Beat in the remaining 150ml milk and refrigerate for 30 mins.

Pour a thin layer of the batter into a non-stick frying pan, brown on one side and turn out onto a plate.

Repeat with the rest of the batter. Allow the crepes to cool.


250g smooth cottage cheese

1 Tblspn horseradish sauce

1 Tblspn honey

1 1/2 tspns crushed garlic

1 Tblspn lemon juice

salt & pepper to taste

200g smoked salmon (or trout, if you prefer) fillets, roughly chopped

Mix all of the ingredients (except the smoked salmon/trout) together until well-blended.

Dilly Sauce: (this makes a lot of sauce, but I couldn’t reduce it because of the egg)!

1 egg

2 Tblspns white vinegar

1 Tblspn Dijon mustard

250ml olive (or sunflower) oil – I used half of each kind, for economical reasons!

2 Tblspns honey

250ml plain yoghurt

5ml dill tips

salt and black pepper to taste

Beat the eggs, vinegar and mustard with an electric mixer.

With the beaters still running, slowly add the oil, beating constantly.

Add the honey, yoghurt, dill and seasoning and mix well.

Assembling the gateau:

Place 2 crepes alongside each other on a serving platter and spread with the filling then top with some of the chopped smoked salmon and cover with the next 2 crepes.

Repeat the process until you’ve used up all of the crepes(or the filling or salmon, whichever happens first) – end with a crepe as your top layer.

Refrigerate until ready to serve – then,using a sharp knife, cut each gataeu in half.

Pour some of the dilly sauce onto the serving plates and place half a gateau into the middle of the plate, drizzling with some more of the sauce.

Garnish with a sprig of fresh dill or fennel.

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Hearty Eggs in a Nest

December 28, 2011 in Snacks

My teenage sons are avid sleepers, a habit which gives me a few hours every morning to get chores done & to have uninterrupted laptop-time.

It also means that I generally only have to feed them twice a day – today they only stumbled sleepily from their rooms at noon, looking for breakfast! Instead of the usual cereal and toast, I made a firm favourite of theirs, Hearty Eggs in a Nest, which should keep them satisfied for a couple of hours!


(I haven’t given quantities, as it depends on how many people you’re serving)

Buttered toast – 1-2 pieces per person

Diced ham – about 2 slices per piece of toast

Grated cheese – I used Cheddar

Eggs – 1 per slice of toast

Pinch of salt

Freshly-ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 180C and spray an oven tray with non-stick spray.

Place the buttered toast onto the tray and share the ham and cheese evenly between the slices, trying to cover as much of the toast’s surface as possible.

Separate the eggs, keeping the yolks separate from one another (I keep them in their half-shells until needed).

Beat the egg whites with a pinch of salt, until soft peaks form, then divide between the slices of toast, spreading gently with the back of a spoon.

Carefully make an indentation in the top of each one and slide an egg yolk into each indentation.

Top with a grinding of black pepper and bake in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until the yolk is set according to your own taste.

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Sweet & Sour Crispy Pork

December 22, 2011 in Mains

It’s been swelteringly hot in Sleepy Hollow this week – yesterday afternoon the temperature was 39.5C … so naturally I decided that this would be the perfect day to play squash and then, seeing as I hadn’t managed to kill myself completely on the court, I cooked a meal that required standing over a bubbling deep-fryer!

There’s no prize for guessing my natural hair colour!

But the meal was yummy (although a salad would’ve been a wiser option under the circumstances).

I used bits & pieces from 3 different recipes and then adapted those bits & pieces to fit in with what I had in my kitchen. I wasn’t entirely happy with the batter, which resembled wallpaper paste – then I noticed that, on one of the recipes I was referring to, it gave the authentic Chinese name for the dish, which is Gwoo Lo Yook … and I decided that the author is dyslexic and the real pronounciation should be Glue Yo Look!! Having said this, the batter did work out in the end, but feel free to use a different batter recipe if you like.

I know this looks like a long list of ingredients, but many of them are repeated for different parts of the recipe – and it’s really not difficult to make!


500g pork fillet (I used pork neck steaks, which are much cheaper), cubed

1 Tblspn soya sauce

1 Tblspn sherry

1/2 tspn salt

1/4 tspn pepper

1/4 tspn Chinese five-spice powder

Mix the pork with the above ingredients in a bowl and leave in the fridge whilst making the batter (I left mine for a few hours).

1 cup plain flour

3/4 cup warm water

1 Tblspn peanut oil

1 egg white

Beat the flour and warm water together until smooth then stir in the oil and leave to stand for 30 minutes.

Beat the egg white until stiff then fold into the batter (aka wallpaper glue).

Put the marinated pork pieces into the batter and stir to coat well then deep-fry the pork in batches. When golden, drain on kitchen paper and set aside (no need to keep them warm, you’re going to re-fry them again later).

1 Tblspn soya sauce

1 Tblspn sherry

3 Tblspns tomato sauce

2 Tblspns white vinegar

1 tin pineapple pieces (and the juice)

3/4 cup water

Combine the above ingredients (just the pineapple juice, you’ll use the pieces in a minute).

3 Tblspns peanut oil

1 tspn crushed garlic

1/2 tspn grated fresh ginger

1 large onion, peeled, halved and sliced

400g button mushrooms, sliced

1 bunch spring onions, sliced

1/2 cup frozen peas

1 Tblspn cornflour mixed with 1 Tblspn water

Heat the oil in a large pan, add the garlic, ginger, onion, mushrooms and spring onions and fry for a few minutes until slightly softened.

Add the combined sauce mixture, bring to the boil and then stir in the cornflour mixture, stirring constantly until the sauce thickens. Keep over low heat, stirring occasionally whilst you re-fry the pork in batches, just for a few seconds.

Stir the peas and pineapple pieces into the sauce, cook for a few minutes to heat through.

Add the crispy pork, stir to coat and serve immediately.


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For rumtumtigger – Gingerbread House

December 19, 2011 in Baking, Christmas

rumtumtigger recently posted a recipe for gingerbread people and said she’s always dreamed of making a gingerbread house. A few years ago (OK, so having just checked the photo properties, I admit it was more than a few years ago … 2004, to be precise) I made a gingerbread house for my sons (who were, at that stage, still sweet & relatively-obedient non-teens).

After making this one, I swore I’d never make another!

The next Christmas, my brother decided to visit from Australia and, having missed the ‘one-and-only’, insisted that I make another gingerbread house for him to see.

I’ve now officially made TWO lifetimes’ worth of gingerbread houses and shouldn’t be expected to do this again for at least another 200 years!!!

I used the recipe and templates in the Australian Women’s Weekely ‘The Christmas Book’ (which has an abundance of wonderful recipes and creative ideas for Christmas). Despite rumtumtigger’s apprehensions, this is a pretty quick one to make, with the gingerbread being made only one day before assembling.

Three hints for making a gingerbread house:

  1. Glaze the cooked gingerbread pieces about 5 minutes after taking them out of the oven (combine 1 Tblspn castor sugar, 2 Tblspns water and 1/2 tspn gelatine in a small pan & stir over low heat until sugar & gelatine dissolve – don’t boil);
  2. “Glue” the house together with Royal Icing (see below) – this icing is also used to stick decorations to the house; and
  3. Don’t expect your whole amazing creation to be eaten … sadly, much of it ends up in the bin a week later!!


2 egg whites

4 cups icing sugar (more or less), sifted

1/2 tspn lemon juice

Beat egg whites in a small bowl with an electric mixer until just frothy then gradually beat in enough sifted icing sugar to form very stiff peaks, then stir in the lemon juice.

Cover the suface of the icing with a damp cloth to prevent it drying out whilst working.

If the icing is too thick, add more egg white, 1 teaspoonful at a time, until it’s the right texture.