Christmas mushroom and chestnut pies

Christmas mushroom chestnut pie

Here is another winner based on a recipe from Sainsbury’s magazine.  An absolutely delicious pie that looks all Christmassy and is full of flavour and texture.  The puff-pastry is bought ready-rolled and it is easy to make little pastry decorations to go on top using a knife – they add a real homely touch.  You will see that the recipe includes soy sauce, which I find brilliant for adding richness to veggie lasagne and veggie bolognaise sauce too.

The pie takes about 35 mins to prepare and 35 mins to cook.  If you want to make it ahead you can freeze it then defrost it thoroughly in the fridge and remove it 30 mins before baking.

mushroom chestnut pie

We ate the pie with parsnips and carrots gremolata and kale (gremolata is a rub of lemon zest, garlic and parsley that you add to veg after it has been roasted – it is a great way to liven it up – click here for the recipe

For lots of other straightforward tried and tested Christmas recipes check out this link and for a great chestnut chocolate cream biscuit recipe click here

Here we go! –

Christmas mushroom and chestnut pies (serves 4)


Big glug olive oil

2 leeks, chopped

1 red onion, chopped

250g mushrooms, chopped

2 tbsp. soy sauce

1 tbsp. tomato puree/ketchup

1 tbsp. chopped fresh sage

Good sprinkling dried mixed herbs

1 1/2 tsp English mustard

240g tin cooked, peeled chestnuts, each one cut in to 6

1 tbsp cornflour

2 veg stock cubes

375g pack ready-rolled puff pastry

1 medium egg, beaten

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees/gas mark 6.  Take the puff pastry out of the fridge to warm up.  Heat the oil in a large pan and add the leeks, onion, mushrooms, soy sauce and tomato puree/ketchup.  Saute for approx. 15 mins, stirring regularly, then stir in the herbs, mustard and chestnuts.

Meanwhile put the cornflour and stock powder in to a mixing jug, stir in 400ml cold water and mix well.  Gradually pour the stock mixture in to the leek and mushroom mixture, mixing well with a spoon.  Simmer for a further 8-10 mins, until thickened.  Pour the mixture in to a casserole dish.

Unroll the puff pastry and use a rolling pin to make it bigger than the casserole dish, including some extra for decorative pastry (easy to make I promise!)  Place on top of the casserole dish and crimp the edges with a fork.  Cut out festive shapes (e.g. holly/Christmas tree) from the remaining pastry and place on top.  Use the beaten egg to secure them on to the pie and to cover the rest of the pastry.

Bake for 35-40 mins until golden.  Serve with roast veg.

Recipe adapted from Sainsbury’s magazine

My feta and green veg summer lasagne

feta veg lasagne

Well I am back from camping and eating chips, battered fish and chocolate and so am craving fresh veg..! This lasagne is really, really lovely and packed with green veg and creamy feta cheese. The mint and lemon zest give it an unmistakably summery flavour (I am using lemon zest lots at the moment with pasta and green veg) and it is topped with asparagus, which is in season at the moment. If you want to save time and effort then buy shop-bought white sauce for the topping.

As this recipe is quite rich it should be eaten with a simple green or tomato salad. It makes about 8 portions so I normally freeze half of it for later. If any of the veg and feta sauce is left it goes equally well with other types of pasta e.g. penne, or a baked jacket or sweet potato. Allow about 45 mins preparation and 50 mins cooking time.

For my alternative tomato sauce based veggie lasagne recipe (15 years in the perfecting!) click here:

Ingredients for feta and green veg summer lasagne

3 cloves crushed garlic
Half a 30g tin anvhovies, chopped
Load of asparagus, tips left intact and rest chopped
4 spring onions, chopped
Few handfuls peas
Few handfuls spinach
300ml single cream
Bunch of fresh mint, chopped
Grated zest of 1/2 a lemon
2 blocks of feta
Bit of veg stock if necessary (I used Veg oxo cubes in boiled water)
Lasagne sheets

For the white sauce (or just use shop-bought white sauce)
Knob butter
tbsp plain flour
Handful grated cheddar cheese/parmesan

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6/190 degrees.

Fry the garlic, anchovies, asparagus (leaving tips aside) and spring onions in oil for a few minutes then add the peas and spinach and continue frying for a few minutes. Add the cream, mint, lemon zest and feta and continue cooking/stirring for a few minutes. Add a little veg stock if you think it needs more liquid. Add salt (not much as feta is naturally salty) and pepper.

To make the white sauce for the topping, melt the butter in a saucepan on a low heat then add the flour until it is like a thick paste. Slowly and gradually add the milk until it has a creamy sauce like consistency. Lightly season with salt and pepper. Alternatively just use shop-bought white sauce.

Put half of the veg and feta mixture in a large oven proof dish, cover with lasagne sheets, then put in the second half of the mixture and the rest of the lasagne sheets. Top with the white sauce, a sprinkling of parmesan or grated cheddar and the asparagus tips. Cook the lasagne for approx 50 mins, until the topping is golden brown and a knife slides easily in.

Butterbean salad (10 mins)

butterbean salad

I love tinned beans because they are so cheap, easy and versatile.  This really healthy salad contains tinned butterbeans with kale, carrots and the beautiful, mellow anniseed flavour of caraway seeds.  It is based on a recipe by Aaron Craze, one of Jamie Oliver’s former employees.  Caraway seeds are the latest in my *exciting ingredients* category – they add an unusual, interesting dimenson to food.  They work particularly well with cabbage, meat and cheese apparently.  I ate this salad with some trout on top but I reckon it would also go brilliantly with sausages (chopped up and mixed in perhaps) or goats cheese.

butterbean salad

Watch out soon for an onion and gruyere tart with caraway pastry recipe – my first attempt at homemade pastry.  If it actually works..!  Here is the recipe for the butterbean salad, which serves four if you are adding extra ingredients or as a side dish, or two as a main dish.


2 tins butterbeans

2 – 3 carrots, finely chopped

3 handfuls kale

1 clove garlic, crushed

Fresh coriander, chopped

Red wine vinegar

Salt and pepper

Fry the butterbeans with the carrots, kale, garlic and most of the coriander in some olive oil for approx 5 minutes.  Toss the mixture with a splash of  red wine vinegar, more olive oil and salt and pepper to taste.  Top with some fresh coriander leaves.

Mexican breakfast with homemade tortilla chips (35 mins)

mexican breakfast homemade tortilla chips

This is my take on ‘huevos rancheros’ or Mexican breakfast, traditionally eaten on rural Mexican farms.  It makes a good hangover cure or a balanced family meal.  The tortilla chips are made from wholemeal tortillas, and give the meal a bit of crunch and fun, as you can put the breakfast on top and then eat it with your hands!  If you love meat, some pre-cooked chopped sausages could be added at the same time as the tomatoes.

Also worth a mention is a new discovery, celery salt (available from supermarkets), which is now one of my *exciting ingredients*.  I discovered it at my mum’s as she uses it lots.  It gives a depth of flavour to all sorts of meals, such as stews, soups, tomato sauces, cauliflower cheese and even to sprinkle over veg/meat before roasting/grilling it.  Here I used it to top the tortilla chips and it worked brilliantly.  For further exciting ingredient ideas check out the category on the right of the blog!

mexican breakfast homemade tortilla chips

Ingredients (serves 4)

For the Mexican breakfast

2 red peppers, chopped

1 large red onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed/finely chopped

Pinch dried mixed herbs

Pinch ground chilli (to taste – ignore if your kids will hate it)

2 cans chopped tomatoes

Pinch of celery salt and pepper

Heaped tbsp tomato puree

4 eggs

For the tortilla chips

2 0r 3 tortillas


Small pinch celery salt

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees/gas mark 6.

Cook the peppers, onion, garlic and herbs in some oil until tender, aprox 10 – 15 mins.  Meanwhile, cover each tortilla in oil on both sides then cut each one in to 8 pieces.  Arrange them on to a non-stick baking tray (don’t worry if they overlap a bit) and sprinkle over a little celery salt (remember this is salt so only a little!).  Cook in the oven until brown at the edges.  They will crisp up as they cool.  Set aside.

Add the chilli to the peppers, onion and garlic and cook for one further minute, then add the tomatoes, celery salt, pepper and tomato puree.  Cook for a further 5 mins.  Transfer the mixture to a casserole dish.  Carefully crack over 4 eggs.  Put under the grill until the eggs are cooked but the yoke is still a little runny (don’t worry if you overdo them).  Serve with the tortilla chips.

My posh mushrooms on toast (in 15 mins)

posh mushrooms on toast

This is a delicious treat to have for breakfast or brunch at the weekend, especially if you have guests and want to impress them!  It is best served with some toasted granary bread but any bread will do.  If you want to avoid cream then just sprinkle a veg stock cube in to the mushrooms instead.  Or if you’re feeling particularly indulgent, top with an oozy poached egg.

This dish contains fennel seeds, which are one of my *exciting ingredients*, as they add an unusual flavour when sprinkled over veg or fish when you are cooking, or in fish pie.

Ingredients (serves 4)

Standard size tub mushrooms, chopped

Clove garlic, crushed or finely chopped

Handful of parsley, chopped or 1/2 tsp dried herbs

Sprinkle of fennel seeds

Tub of small double cream

Fry the garlic, fennel seeds and the mushrooms in some oil or butter/marge until tender.  Add the parsley/dried herbs and cream and continue frying until heated through.  Serve on top of toast.

My posh macaroni cheese (30 mins prep/5 mins grilling)

Okay, this recipe contains crisps so maybe posh is the wrong word.  And I made it with fusilli rather than macaroni…  But it doesn’t matter.  It contains some extra ingredients that really liven up the flavour and texture, such as ready salted crisps, anchovies, red onions, hard boiled eggs and cherry tomatoes on top.  It’s super easy to make and is a balanced meal.


Red onions are one of my *exciting ingredients* as I think they do a great job of adding crunch, colour and sweetness to certain dishes, such as tuna pasta bake or potato dauphinoise as well as this recipe.

If you’re not a fan of anchovies (also one of my *exciting ingredients*), don’t be scared of using them torn up as a seasoning instead of whole and hairy.  They add a salty richness rather than fishiness, and also go well in potato dauphinoise as well as tomato based sauces.  Honestly!

Serves 6.


500g pasta

1 large red onion, chopped

5 savoy cabbage leaves, chopped

4 eggs

A very large knob of butter

1 – 2 tbsp plain flour

200g cheddar cheese

As much milk as you need

5 anchovies, chopped

Salt and pepper

2 packets of crushed ready salted crisps

8 cherry tomatoes, cut in half

First cook the pasta according to the pack instructions.  About 5 minutes before it is cooked, add the chopped onions and savoy cabbage to the saucepan.  Drain.  Hard boil the eggs seperately in boiling water for about 8 minutes and cut each egg in to 12 pieces.

To make the cheese sauce, melt the butter in the saucepan then add the flour so it becomes a soft paste.  Very gradually add milk until it becomes fairly thick, well combined and easy to stir.  Add 3/4 of the cheese, and a little more milk if necessary.  Add the anchovies and salt and pepper.

Add the cheese sauce and egg to the pasta, onion and cabbage mixture and stir well.  Put it in to a casserole dish, top it with the remaining cheese and crushed crisps and finally the cherry tomato halves.  Grill the top until it is golden brown and the tomatoes have softened.  Eat!

My veggie lasagne (50 mins prep/50 mins cooking) and the versatility of soy sauce

This lasagne recipe has been evolving for about 15 years.  It started off pretty bland but I think it’s nearly perfected.  The *exciting ingredients* of porcini mushrooms and soy sauce give it a richness that has even fooled meat eaters in to thinking it is not vegetarian…although obviously you could swap the veggie mince for the real stuff if you prefer.  You will need a large pan to make the sauce.  If you have any sauce left over then it goes well with pasta or a jacket potato.  Hope you like it!  My boyfriend reckons it tastes best the following day.  Serves 4 – 6 depending on appetite.



3 tablespoons of olive oil (or enough to keep the veg from cooking and not sticking to the pan)

3 cloves of chopped/crushed garlic

Teaspoon of dried mixed herbs

200g veggie mince

40g dried porcini mushrooms, soaked according to pack instructions and finely chopped

1 red pepper, finely chopped

1 carrot, finely chopped

1 courgette, finely chopped

1 onion, finely chopped

2 tins of chopped tomatoes

Half a tube of tomato puree

2 tablespoons of soy sauce (and possibly more, according to taste!)

2 veggie stock cubes to crumble in

Salt and pepper

(Optional – a big glug of red wine, added at same point as chopped tomatoes)

Very large knob of butter

1 1/2 tablespoons of plain flour

Approx 300ml milk, more if necessary

180g cheddar cheese, grated

Lasagne sheets (enough for 2 layers)

Preheat the oven to gas mark 6 / 190 degrees.  Put the olive oil in a pan and add the crushed garlic and herbs.  Cook for 30 seconds then add the pepper, carrots and veggie mince for a few minutes.  Add the (soaked) mushrooms, onion and courgette, stirring until the vegetables are all starting to soften but still slightly tender (approx 10 – 15 mins, you may need to add more olive oil).  Add the chopped tomatoes, soy sauce, tomato puree and crumbled veggie stock cubes and simmer for another 10 minutes.  Add some water if necessary, or red wine if you prefer, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Meanwhile make the cheese sauce.  Melt the butter in a saucepan and then add the flour, stirring constantly, so the mixture is thick but not sticking together.  Very gradually add the milk, until the sauce is thick, well combined and easy to stir.  Add 2/3 of the cheese.  Season with a little salt and pepper.

Put half of the vegetable sauce in the bottom of an ovenproof dish and top with the lasagne sheets.  Carefully pour on half of the cheese sauce, so it completely and evenly covers the lasagne sheets.  Pour the remaining half of the vegetable sauce on top, then the remaining lasagne sheets, then the remaining cheese sauce.  Finally top with the grated cheese.

Cook the lasagne for approx 50 mins, until the topping is golden brown and a knife slides very easily in to the lasagne.

Serve with salad.

Soy sauce (an *exciting ingredient*)

Soy sauce does not just work well in oriental style dishes.  It’s great for adding to tomato based sauces/dishes to give the flavour more depth, especially in the absence of meat!

Snazzy, effortless fish tray bake recipe plus anchovies as seasoning


(Photo from

This lovely recipe is from Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals ( cookbook. It’s so easy, it really is a case of getting everything together, cutting some of it up, and chucking it all in a roasting tray. It’s a good one to cook for friends as it looks a bit snazzy and they always seem to like it and want the recipe! You could experiment with lots of different veg and herbs in a fish tray bake (although some veg need a little cooking before putting in the tray), but I would recommend always using the lemon, chilli, anchovies and garlic as basic flavours. I serve the fish tray bake with some roast or mashed potato. Here is my slightly tweaked version of the recipe:

Ingredients (serves 4)

4 x 150g salmon fillets, skin on, scaled and pin-boned

Bunch of asparagus

1 lemon

1 fresh red chilli

Small bunch of fresh basil

1 x 30g tin of anchovies in oil

4 cloves of garlic

12 cherry tomatoes


Preheat the oven to gas mark 5 / 190 degrees. Lay the salmon fillets in a large roasting tray. Snap off the woody ends of the asparagus, then add the spears to the tray with a good pinch of salt and pepper. Quarter a lemon and add it to the tray. Finely chop the chilli and add to the tray with the basil leaves. Drizzle over the oil from the tin of anchovies and tear in 4 of the fillets. Crush in 4 unpeeled cloves of garlic and drizzle over some olive oil. Add the cherry tomatoes. Arrange everything nicely in the tray, so the lemons are facing up and the salmon is skin side up. Cook for approximately 20 – 25 minutes until the salmon is cooked through and it’s all oozing with flavour.

The book

Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals is a great cookbook, partly because for each ‘meal’ it has a main, side dishes and dessert, so it gives you ideas of what work well together. However, the title is a bit misleading, as I haven’t made anything in it in less than an hour… If you are not a Jamie hater, you can watch the fish tray bake episode of 30 Minute Meals here:

I will blog some more favourite recipes from 30 Minute Meals in the future!

Anchovies (*an exciting ingredient*) as seasoning

It wasn’t until I cooked the above recipe that I realised anchovies weren’t just funny hairy little fish but could be used as a rich, salty seasoning.  They also work well cut up and added to tomato based sauces and dishes like potato dauphinoise.

Two omelette recipes plus omelettes for weaning babies/kids

Tonight I cooked a red pepper, onion and potato omelette and it turned out okay!  If a little bland.  So maybe they’re not that difficult.

Thanks Katherine Rose for the top tip about ‘calling it a frittata and embracing (i.e. finishing it off in) the oven’!  Makes it possible just to chuck the egg in and leave it to cook evenly by itself.  Check out this gorgeous and interesting frittata recipe recommended by Katherine:


(Photo from

I’m looking forward to trying it.  I’ve previously made and would recommend the tortilla in Jamie Oliver’s 30 Minute Meals book (possibly my favourite cookery book).  He uses fennel seeds (*an exciting ingredient*) which add an unusual flavour:

More about fennel seeds in a future blog!

Omelettes for weaning babies (and bigger children)

I’ve found omelettes are great for weaning babies who are ready for some texture and enjoy finger food, as you can cut the omelette in to strips and leave them to it.   Babies and older kids seem to like the creaminess of the omelette, which means you can sneak in loads of healthy stuff (such as veg and pumpkin seeds)! My son Freddy devoured a smoked mackerel and spring onion omelette.

Tomato, anchovy and porcini sauce recipe plus the joys of roast avocado

Dinner (10 mins prep, 20 mins cooking)

For dinner I made the sauce from this recipe – red mullet with tomato, anchovy and porcini sauce – from the Two Greedy Italians Eat Italy cookbook (, based on the fantastic BBC TV series.  Red mullet is very expensive though so I replaced it with haddock, which I baked for about 20 minutes at gas mark 5.  I served the sauce on top of the haddock, with mashed potato.  The sauce is simple to make, and gorgeous.  Porcini mushrooms (*an exciting ingredient*) come dried and are great for adding a smoky richness to dishes (especially in tomato sauces and creamy sauces).


The joys of roast avocado…

Yes, you can roast avocado!  And it’s suprisingly delicious.  Especially nice as part of a salad.  Check it out in this Jamie Oliver mad dog salad recipe –  It’s from his (underrated?) Jamie’s America book –