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by Blondie

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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by Blondie

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 postĀ  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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by Blondie

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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by Blondie

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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by Blondie

Left-over Chicken

December 18, 2011 in Chicken, Mains

We’re rapidly approaching the season of left-over recipes and, being blonde, I’m doing mine before the turkey and/or gammon recipe onslaught … with chicken!

This is a recipe I adapted from one I got from my mother and it works a treat with leftover roast chicken – although you can use any leftover cooked chicken (I used some from my spatchcocked lemon & rosemary chicken this time) or you could even poach/steam a couple of chicken breast fillets to convert this into a non-left-over recipe!

It’s also a very adaptable recipe – this time I served it on rice, but I’ve often used it as a pie filling, using either bought puff pastry or (when I’m feeling domestic goddess-like) home-made pastry. In this case, just brush the pastry with egg & milk whisked together and bake in the oven at 220C for 30 mins.

Please note that the quantities I’ve given are very changeable depending on how much chicken you’re using – I had the equivalent of 2 chicken breast fillets left this time around.


cooked chicken, shredded into bite-sized pieced

1 large onion, finely chopped

1 punnet mushrooms, sliced

butter (I used about 3 Tblspns)

plain flour (I used about 3 Tblspns of this too)

milk, heated in the microwave (I used 500ml)

chicken stock powder (I used 2 tspns)

a dash or two of nutmeg

freshly ground salt & pepper

a shake or two of spice for chicken (optional)

2 handfuls of frozen peas

Melt the butter in a heavy-based pan then saute the onion until soft and transparent.

Add the flour and stir until it forms a roux – cook for a minute.

Combine the heated milk & chicken stock powder and slowly add to the roux, whisking constantly.

Stir over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the sauce thickens and starts to boil.

Add the mushrooms, nutmeg, salt & pepper, chicken pieces, chicken spice (if using) and peas and combine well (if you’re making a pie, transfer the mixture into your pie dish at this point).

Reduce the heat and simmer gently whilst the rice cooks, stirring regularly.

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by Blondie

Green chicken, mushroom & cashew curry

December 4, 2011 in Chicken, Mains

I’ve already ‘come out’ as an Indian in disguise as a blonde, so I make no apologies for posting another curry recipe here … although this is more Thai-style than Indian, so perhaps I should start looking deeper into my roots (my family history roots, not my blonde ones)!

This recipe is loosely based on one by Lynn Bedford-Hall, whose recipes are always successes (and delish), which I found in her aptly-titled book, ‘Scrumptious’.


1/2 cup raw cashew nuts, roasted (see how to roast your own just below the ingredient list)

2 Tblspns sunflower oil

2 tspns crushed fresh ginger (I use the bottled stuff, so much easier)

1 tspn ground cumin/jeera

2 stalks fresh lemon grass, just the white part with outer layer removed & bruised by pressing with the flat of a knife

1 punnet button mushrooms, sliced

2 – 3 Tblspns green curry paste (vary to suit your own taste if you’re not an Indian in disguise)

1 can coconut milk (or make your own – see how to do this below the recipe)

1/2 cup hot chicken stock

2 tspns soya sauce

1 Tblspn fish sauce (whatever you do, don’t smell this stuff unless you have a stomach of steel)!

1 bunch (5-6) spring onions, topped, tailed and chopped

500g chicken stir-fry (or fillets, cut into thin strips)

2 tspns cornflour

30ml water

3 Tblspns fresh coriander (dhania) chopped

To roast the cashews, preheat the oven to 175C. Spread the nuts in a single layer onto a baking tray and cook in the oven for 10-20 minutes, stirring often. Watch carefully and remove from the oven as soon as they’re almost the right colour, as they go from pine to blackwood in a matter of nanoseconds! Set aside until needed. (If you want the cashews for eating, drizzle about 1 tspn oil over the hot nuts and stir to coat before adding salt to taste, stirring well until they’re the way you like them).

Now for the curry …

Getting started ...

Heat the oil in a large pan over medium heat. Add the ginger, cumin, lemon grass and mushrooms then cook for a few minutes until the mushrooms soften.

Add the curry paste, stir well and cook for another 1-2 minutes before adding the cocounut milk, stock, soya sauce, stinky-fish sauce and spring onions.

Bring to the boil then add the chicken strips.

Reduce the heat and simmer uncovered until the chicken is cooked, about 10 minutes. Add the cashews and stir through.

Combine the cornflour and water and add to the curry, stirring well, until thickened to taste. Stir in the coriander.

Remove the stalks of lemon grass and serve with rice, sprinkled with extra cashews (if you’ve been able to resist eating them in the meantime)!


This useful tip came from a brilliant Asian cookbook, with recipes from every Asian country – the usual ones, but also places like Cambodia, Burma, Laos, Singapore & Korea etc.

Pour 2 cups of desiccated coconut into the cup of your blender. Add 2 1/2 cups of hot water then blend for 30 seconds.

Strain through a fine sieve – discard the coconut and the liquid is your coconut milk!