Nutritious, economical food.

September 2, 2013

Baba Ganoush

Fruit VegetablesI went into town today to the much depleted ‘Monday’ market (it’s there again on Tuesday, Thursday and Saturdays as far as I am aware!) with a view to buying some vegetables.

I’d a mind to make some ratatouille because I already had a huge courgette. This had come to me in the form of a marrow, but the skin was till tender – so I thought it’d do for ratatouille.

All of the vegetables were at a good price; even the aubergines – 4 for £1.

I had enough for my planned dish with just one aubergine, so I decided to make baba ganoush.


  • 3 medium aubergines
  • half onion (roughly chopped)
  • 5 cloves garlic (4 whole, 1 crushed)
  • sesame seeds
  • oil and seasonings
  • You also need a food processor.

1) Brush the aubergines with oil, cut them in half lengthways and bake/roast for about half an hour, until the skin starts to shrivel a bit. I also scored the skin on each of the halves – this helped later.

2) Add four whole garlic cloves to the same tray as the aubergines. No need to peel these.

3) Cook the onions and crushed garlic clove in a little oil until very tender.

4) Turn the heat up on the onions and add a good tablespoon (to taste) of sesame seeds and stir well until lightly browned (onions and seeds).

By now the vegetables should be well roasted. Remove them from the oven.

5) Carefully remove the black skin from the aubergine (remember these are HOT) and place all of the cooked flesh (not the skin) into the food processor along with the onion/garlic/sesame seed mixture.

6) Scrape the inside of the black skin to remove all usable flesh and add this to the food processor too.

7) Squeeze the now soft contents of the four garlic cloves into the food processor too.

8) Whiz/blitz/process the lot to a paste.

9) Season to taste

Enjoy 🙂


April 14, 2013

Iberian White Bean Stew.

Filed under: Meat,Vegetables — David Sugden @ 6:52 pm
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picture of finished dish

This may might not be an ‘authentic’ Iberian White Bean Stew, but I was in Iberia, I used white beans and other authentic ingredients – so I called it what it was!

Sharon and I spent Easter in Spain. We have use of a one-bedroom apartment in Torreblanca Del Sol, so quite a bit of our grub was home made (self catered).

One of the really nice things about Spain (and France to a certain degree) is the availability of bottled vegetables (and scrumptious unevenly shaped, very tasty fresh vegetables). I’m not fussed for most tinned, bottled, frozen or generally buggered about with vegetables but bottled beans are a fabulous addition to any soup or stew. Tinned ones are OK too but once the tin is open – it’s open, whereas a bottle can be resealed and put back in the fridge for an other day. We had this twice during the week we were there 🙂

View from aprtment windowThe Spanish, like most European countries, have a fine tradition of dried meat sausages – Chorizo to name just one. We chose a popular, less spicy sausage to use with the stew, and a variety of vegetables. We also used Tomate Frito.

First of all, I chopped up an onion (diced) and fried it, along with some crushed garlic and some chunks (diced) of sausage. About five minutes, nice and steady. While that was cooking, I had diced some potato (one large) and chopped some celery (two stalks) – I now added these and turned the heat up a little. Cooked for another 3-4 minutes.

I then added about a tablespoon of water and let the ingredients steam until dry again, before adding half a chopped (diced) courgette and half a chopped (diced) red pepper. The water brings off any residue that has stuck to the pan and adds some necessary moisture. Mix well, then add a pack of Tomate Frito, half a bottle of white butter beans, bring back to the boil and simmer for about half an hour.

The seasoning for the stew was haphazard, because there wasn’t much in the cupboard to play with. It got salt and black pepper, some oregano and a little cumin – but that was that.

We ate it with some small wraps and a bottle of beer (or two).

One note on Tomate Frito – it tasted a bit like Heinz Tomato Soup – so beware when tasting for seasoning 😉

February 25, 2013

Turkey and Ham

Filed under: Info,Meat,Poultry,Uncategorized — David Sugden @ 10:59 am
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Large jar of NutellaI went up to the butchers the other day and they had a special offer on ‘Turkey Wings’ – @50p each.

50p EACH. (Turkey wings are HUGE).

I thought that that was a real bargain so I bought three.

Also, just before Christmas I’d stripped the meat off of a Ham Shank and froze it raw (I’d just wanted the bone to flavour some brisket I was cooking at that time) and now thought that the ham meat and turkey, cooked together, would make a tasty meal or two.

It did better than that …

I put the wings on to boil with two carrots, an onion, a leek (I had no celery and neither had the local Aldi or the local co-op), some peppercorns and parsley, and after about 20 minutes simmering, I added the de-frosted ham. A further two hours or so simmering and they were cooked.

Now was the fun bit.

I separated the stock from the cooked meat and set that aside to cool overnight. As the meat cooled, I started to strip all of the skin and fat from it, leaving lean, meaty chunks of turkey and ham. I chopped these into a size suitable for pies etc. before covering them with a little of the stock. These too were set aside overnight to cool (by ‘cool’ I mean ‘go very very cold’).

By the following morning, all of the fat had risen to the top of the stock and solidified (as much as poultry fat will ever solidify) and the stock had partially jellified.

I scooped all of the fat into a pan – there was a fair bit of it – and put the pan on heat and simmered it for about 20 minutes. This simmering (rendering) removed any of the stock remaining on/in the fat and left me with a pure turkey/ham fat, which I then used to cook that afternoon’s family meal Yorkshire puddings and roast potatoes in. MMmmm, tasty.

After reducing it for half an hour (bringing to the boil and then simmering) the stock itself was used to make the velouté sauce required to bind the meats together for use in pies etc. It was also used to add body to the gravy made from that afternoon’s ‘joint’ juices.

The £1.50 worth of turkey and £2.50 worth of ham shank meat eventually made 12 portions of turkey and ham pie filling. Even with the cost of additional ingredients and gas, I reckon that that’s a really tasty bargain.

August 1, 2012

Clafoutis aux cerises

Filed under: How to,Pastry,Recipe,Vegetarian — David Sugden @ 3:08 pm
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Last month Sharon and I visited a language school in France. One of the social events we attended was a cook-in à la française. The dish I was asked to prepare was Clafoutis.

Clafoutis is one of France’s classic desserts and the recipes I’d seen before had seemed unwieldy (and French).

The one we were given to work with here, although written in French, was both easy to make and ultimately successful. So today, I re-worked it to fit our needs and our tummies and came up with this, which was another great success:

  • 250 grammes (7oz) – Cherries
  • 1 Egg
  • 170ml cold Milk
  • 50 grammes (2oz) – Sugar (castor might be best)
  • 20 grammes (3/4oz) – Flour (three quarters of an ounce)
  • 10 grammes (3/8oz) – Butter (three eighths of an ounce)
  • pinch Salt

The figures in brackets are the measurements I used and it turned out ok.

Purists say you should leave the cherry pits in – the original recipe said to remove them – so you choose, I left them in both times, no worries.

Set the oven at 170°c (fan) 190°c (non-fan)

  • melt the butter (I did it in the microwave, but in a dish over a pan of warm water would do)
  • sift the flour, salt and half the sugar into a mixing bowl
  • beat the egg and add it to the milk
  • add the liquid and the melted butter to the flour mix and beat well (like you would a Yorkshire Pudding batter)

Now arrange the cherries in your lightly buttered dish(es) and then add the batter. It should cover the fruit easily.

Bake for 30-40 minutes (mine took 30 minutes in a fan oven) making sure it doesn’t brown too much. Now sprinkle the other half of the sugar across the top and put back in the oven for another 15-20 minutes (mine took 15). The resulting Clafoutis should be nice and caramelised but not burnt.

Turn the oven off and leave to cool.

When the dish is cooled sufficiently, it can be turned out and served.

March 17, 2012

Thai Chicken

Filed under: Poultry,Recipe,Uncategorized — David Sugden @ 5:36 pm
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Picture shows lots of red chillies drying after being washed.There could be a few Thai people who dispute my way of preparing and cooking this – but the recipe works for me.

Whenever I visit my local butcher and buy chicken breasts, I always remove the fillets before use. The breasts are just too big otherwise. However, for this recipe, you might want to use the breast as well as the fillets. I tend to take the fillet and open it out by cutting along its length to make a pocket first and then opening up. You could also prepare nice thin slices of raw breast meat to provide the same size and texture needed for my Thai Chicken tapas.

Makes enough for 2-4 tapas portions.

– Use between 3 and 6 chicken fillets or 1-2 breasts, sliced.


  • You need some salt and pepper.
  • some plain yoghurt (about a cup full).
  • some crushed garlic and ginger (about a teaspoon full of each).
  • some chilli (if using fresh, use half a chilli – or 1/4 t’sp powder).
  • and some honey. I had some maple syrup, so used that. About a tablespoon full.
  • Some ground coriander and cumin too if you have them.
  • Splash of lime or lemon juice.

Mix all the above together and add your flattened chicken pieces to the mixture. Cover and store overnight (or all day).


Nothing can be simpler.

Warm your griddle pan and brush with oil. When very hot, add the chicken one piece at a time, shaking off any surplus marinade first. Cook for about 2-3 minutes on each side and serve topped with chopped fresh coriander (if you have it).

February 25, 2012

Stuffed Peppers

Filed under: Recipe,Rice,Vegan,Vegetables,Vegetarian — David Sugden @ 10:48 am
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***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** ***** *****

One of the dishes I recently mentioned (in last week’s Tapas post) was stuffed peppers.

For this dish, I first needed some Braised Rice and making this was the most time consuming part of the preparation.

Picture of bread and beer


  • 1/2 (half) a peeled carrot,
  • 1/2 (half) a peeled onion,
  • 1/2 (half) a good stick of celery,
  • 1 Knorr vegetable stock cube, made up to a pint with boiling water
  • 1 clove garlic,
  • 1 cup of Carmargue rice,
  • Chilli oil,
  • seasonings.

First of all, I chopped the vegetables into the smallest possible dice (fine brunoise) and crushed the garlic. I put about a tablespoon of chilli oil into a pan and added the chopped vegetables. We grow our own chillies here for making chilli oil, so we always have a ready supply – if you have none, use any type you like.

Gently cook the vegetables and garlic for about a minute before adding the rice. Do not try to ‘fry’ any of this, you are just cooking gently in oil at this stage – NOT frying. Stir well. I’ve said that you need a cup of rice, but really – I didn’t weigh it or measure it, I’m hopeless with quantities at home, but that amount is about right.

Once the rice has all been covered with oil and you can see that it has begun to change colour (slightly off white), begin to add the hot stock. Add about half a pint at this stage and continue to stir well. Turn the heat down and partially cover the pan with a lid – leave for about five or six minutes before returning to add a little more stock and stirring well. At this stage, you can add some salt and pepper and maybe (I did) some mixed herbs.

After another five or six minutes, you can add the rest of the stock and if necessary, some water to complete the cooking. When the rice is cooked you can break a piece between your teeth with no resistance (i.e. no hard bits) – but make sure it isn’t soggy.

Now, this is the same (similar) method for Risotto – and technically, braised rice should be long grain rice and cooked in the oven (i.e. add all the stock, cover the pan and place in the oven for about 15-20 minutes) but I was using a mid grain rice and needed to know when it was ready – not after 🙂

By the way – this made far too much rice for the small peppers I was using. There is easily enough to feed two or three hungry adults!

Preparing the Pepper (capsicum)

It is quite important to buy the right kind of pepper if you wish your stuffed pepper to stand up on the plate (I wasn’t bothered and used small pointed yellow peppers). These peppers would fall over: these would not.

Carefully remove the top of the pepper. The lid.

If you cut gently around the pepper, just cutting through the flesh, you should be able to remove the stem with quite a lot of the seeds inside. Even if you don’t, you will still need to remove all of the seeds and all of the pith – the white semi-flesh that clings to the ribs which hold the pepper together. It is this pith that tastes bitter – so do please remove it. Try not to – DO NOT – cut a hole in the pepper 🙂

Some purists also like to remove the cellophane-like skin of the pepper but that’s up to you.

Fill the now empty pepper with your braised rice, place the lid back on top and set aside until you’re ready to bake. Bake for about 20-30 minutes until the rice has warmed through and the pepper has started to change colour slightly.

Serve with lots of crispy bread and lashings of beer 🙂

February 19, 2012


There’s something really nice and relaxing about lots of small portions of really colourful, tasty food. You can get the opportunity to eat like this when you ‘do’ a Chinese buffet or when a group of you all get different dishes at the Indian, but the king of small tasty dishes of food has to be tapas.

We think of tapas as a Spanish tradition, but for me it’s as much a way of preparing and serving food as a national dish. We used to put tapas on the menu at college from about Easter onwards. This gave us the opportunity to plan dishes around the student assessment needs as well as to begin using up things still in the freezer from Christmas.

I often prepare tapas at home and last night was no different (except for the number of dishes prepared).

Most of the dishes were prepared in my mind as I walked around Aldi on Friday.

The small yellow finger peppers looked good so I thought that they would be nice stuffed with braised Carmargue rice (1). Their sweet cherry tomatoes looked delightful too, so I saw them being brushed with a little garlic oil and Malden sea salt and roasted (2). Other cherry tomatoes would form part of a Feta, cucumber, tomato and bacon salad (3). I bought yoghurt, garlic and ginger to marinade the three chicken fillets I’d taken from my freezer at home (4). I bought a pack of Aldi bacon lardons to go with (3) above and to add texture the the stuffed, baked potato with cream cheese that I planned (5). They also had some tender (imported, sorry) asparagus stems which would be served with toasted pine nuts (6). So there was enough choice there already, but I knew that we also had a bit of home made cole slaw in the fridge at home (7), some cooked pasta, which just needed a spicy tomato sauce to become penne arabiatta (8) and (finally) a few left over pierogis (9).

Because there were just the two of us, I prepared everything to be on the table at the same time and so required to think about how I used the stove and the oven in a way that allowed this to happen – but otherwise I would have prepared just a couple of dishes at a time, bringing each to the table for sharing at different times in the meal.

I had planned to cook soft fruit omelettes for dessert – but we were too full ;-(

February 14, 2012


Filed under: Uncategorized,Vegan,Vegetables,Vegetarian — David Sugden @ 6:38 pm
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Chips, or ‘fries’ to those of you in the United States, often get a bad press.

In most cases that bad press is justified, given the levels of obesity across the western world. Many types of chip sold commercially are huge (over-) providers of fat in our diets.  However, they needn’t be all that bad for you if prepared and cooked well – “everything in moderation– [Socrates or Aristotle – who knows!]

So, what are chips? A … Fingers of potato cooked in fat.

Given that answer, let’s discard those thin sticks of hot salty mush you get in fast food joints like McD’d and Burger K, which are pale imitations of the real chip.

“The look and the taste of what we eat now are frequently deceiving — by design.”

There is so much information and misinformation about fast food fries that I’m not intending to go there – I can’t prove what I believe to be true, so I’ll just leave it.

The French have several terms for different types of chip-shaped deep fried potato:

  • Pommes paillestraw potatoes, cut very thinly and deep fried (mainly garnish)
  • Pommes allumettesmatchstick potatoes. These most closely resemble the McD ‘fries’.
  • Pommes fritNormal chips. Cut slightly smaller than your little finger.
  • Pommes pont neufFat chips. Cut about 50% thicker than normal chips.

I talk about the latter two types below, only distinguishing between them by size.

Freshly prepared and cooked chips can be delightfully tasty and fairly nutritious. The nutrition comes from the potato: The flavour comes from a) – the potato itself and b) – the fat it is cooked in (the cooking medium).

I prefer white potatoes (as opposed to red) for making chips, Maris Piper and King Edwards do a good job, mainly because they soften quite easily during cooking (which reds tend not to do). A neutrally flavoured vegetable oil should be OK to cook your chips in, something like rapeseed or sunflower oil. Some fish and chip shops still use beef dripping to cook their food in, which for me, is THE BEST flavour and THE BEST cooking medium. However, there are health issues involved in the use of all fats and oils, so you must choose this for yourself.

For beef dripping – flavour and flavour.
Against beef dripping – deteriorates quickly, saturated fat is more bad for you than unsaturated fat (mainly oils).
For vegetable oil – cheaper, easier to find, lasts longer.
Against vegetable oil – smells linger longer, not as tasty.

I haven’t cooked chips at home for almost 20 years now. That’s mainly a health decision; chips are SO tasty that I’d eat them all the time if I could. I save myself for the odd time I fancy chips while I’m out. What’s more, I rarely eat fish and chips these days, so when I do they are a real treat. I rarely have rice with the food I buy in restaurants (and therefore choose chips, unless I know that they are going to be awful) because a) – the rice is invariably poorly cooked or b) – it’s an Uncle Ben’s type (I don’t like pre-fluffed, buggered about with food). The exceptions to this are reputable Asian restaurants.

When I taught students to cook chips (and when I cooked them at home) the potato had to be washed, peeled and eyed. Then, you need to cut the potato into slices and then the slices into strips (posts, fingers, lengths – whatever). Students would first have to trim the potato into a rectangular block – see the video below (although I think this guy’s Pont Neuf ‘result’ is a little thin – try for 3/4″):

Now wash the cut potato again to remove any excess starch. Dry them well – remember that water and hot fat don’t mix well.


The fat needs to be about 175-180°c to start with. If your chips are thinner, you can probably go as high as 185-190°c – the idea at this stage is to cook the potato in the fat without browning it too much. Carefully drop the dry potato into the hot fat and cook for about 8-10 minutes or until the potato feels cooked, but not (too) brown. Remove the chips and drain well. You could re-dry them on kitchen paper at this stage. You have now ‘blanched’ the chips.


Now, your fat needs to be around the 200-210°c at this stage. You need some clean kitchen paper set aside ready to dry the finished chips on and a warm service plate. Drop the previously blanched chips into the hot fat (do not overfill) for about 1-2 minutes, until golden brown and crisp. Carefully remove from the fat (remember this fat is HOT – be very careful) and shake onto the prepared kitchen paper. Now (if you want and if your doctor allows) sprinkle with salt and serve.


Readings (I think the cooking temperatures on this are too low!)

January 24, 2012

Yorkshire Puddings

Filed under: How to,Recipe,Vegetarian — David Sugden @ 6:45 pm
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There really is no secret to Yorkshire Puddings – you just have to have been born in Yorkshire! Actually that’s not true, but as a Yorkshireman I can say it as if I mean it 🙂

I suspect that every region of Yorkshire has their own preferred way of preparing Yorkshires and you’ll find that every pudding cooked around the world will have some similarity to one of those preferred ways.

Both of my grandparents made really tasty puddings, but whereas Lucy’s were thick bottomed and quite substantial, Martha’s were light and crisp with huge holes to capture the delicious gravy.

Both of them used roasting tins to cook their puddings in and if you were my dad or my grandad to got a huge slice – about half the pudding, as a starter topped with gravy. Children got a portion of the other half, shared with mum (more often not shared with mum!) while the grandma (my mum’s mum did this the most) got another one cooking, along with some small ones as we ate.

We were filled up with puddings for starters, then presented with a bit of meat and loads of vegetables for mains and for anyone who had space after jelly and or trifle – more Yorkshires topped with golden syrup. Eh happy days.

Anyway – I too developed the skills of cooking puddings like Martha.

There are three secrets. Before adding your batter (recipe isn’t a secret):

  • 1) Make sure your oven is hot (220°C+)
  • 2) Make sure your tin is hot – damned hot – ‘smokin
  • Remove the tin, add your oil* and place back in the oven
  • 3) Make sure your oil* gets hot – almost ‘smokin’

Now quickly add your batter. Trial and error will tell you how much to put into a roasting tray but I usually go for a thinish covering. With bun tins (use the deeper ‘muffin’ tins if you can) you need to 2/5ths fill then – just less than half full.

Put them straight back in the oven and turn the tray after about 10 minutes. Do keep your eye on them though. They should take about 15-20 minutes to rise, to set and cook.

The Batter

Having working in catering for years, I’ve come across a lot of recipes. This one is based on a little secret an ex-student taught me, see if you can tell what ‘the secret’ is.

  • half a pint mixed milk and water – half and half. (Full fat, semi-skimmed, it doesn’t matter) [1/4 litre]
  • quarter level t’spoon salt
  • 2 large eggs (or 3 small)
  • Flour

Notice I haven’t stipulated how much flour. I can’t remember weighing mine and it’s so long since I taught students that I can’t remember that either (I’ll have a look later and add a suggested amount). I simple add flour to the milk/water mixture and whisk until it’s slightly thicker than double cream. Then I add the eggs and beat the lot together – the resulting mix is the consistency of single cream.

The Flour

Use plain flour. You’ll probably need around 6oz. (150gr.) However, contrary to all the science and all the ‘holier than thou’ T.V. chefs, also add about a tablespoon full of self raising flour. Not too much or it will kill your pudds – but that little bit, about 10%, makes the world of difference.

*The Oil

I just use sunflower oil.

Olive oil is a bit too richly flavoured and burns easily.

However, if you have it – use beef dripping. It makes the tastiest Yorkshires you’ve ever eaten.  A word of warning though, if you’re using fat from your joint (pork, lamb, beef – whatever [but NOT chicken]) be careful not to let any ‘jus’ get in the pudding tray. It will make the pudds stick like skin to a custard.


January 14, 2012

Penne a la Carbonara

Filed under: How to,Meat,Pasta,Recipe,Vegetarian — David Sugden @ 6:55 pm
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I rarely eat pasta dishes when we’re out. That’s because it’s so simple to make at home. Boil a bit of pasta, add a bit of sauce – bang, you’re done! Yet restaurants seem to make such a song and dance about it.

Last night we had Penne Carbonara. Simples!


Buy some pasta, buy some ham (about 125g) and cut it into small strips, buy some double cream. You also need a little mustard and one egg. (You could use crispy fried bacon instead of ham – or for a meat free dish, use mushrooms)


Cook some pasta (like I said, we had the nib shaped ‘Penne’).

Bring the double cream to the boil (I used a 350ml tub*) and simmer for about as long as it takes the pasta to cook (you could start both off at the same time).

*keep a little bit of cream back – about a tablespoon full. This is called a liaison

Add 1 egg yolk to the little bit of cream you kept back – mix well.

– When the pasta is cooked, drain it well.
– Remove the cream from the heat – add the ham and stir
– add the liaison to the cream (you could add a little mustard at this stage if you liked – a little tarragon would also be tasty, but not necessary)
– Mix the pasta and the creamy, eggy ham together
– Serve.

I’ve had the above in France and they tend not to add the liaison – instead, they sit an egg yolk in the middle of your dish – ready for you to mix in yourself. I’ve even had this egg yolk served up sat in its half shell, still in the middle of my meal!

A quick, simple but slightly more expensive dish – but very tasty.

Picture credit: Click picture to see original.

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