Recipes and Reviews

What's for dinner...


Whilst Deb has been out getting some shifts in, I've been doing some serious DIY but also providing Deb with a good old plate of grub when she gets back for a couple of hours break. Now Deb has said a couple of times recently that she doesn't know what to do for dinner as I spoil her with lots of nummy stuff. In my defence I was a chef for decade or so for my first career. So, two birds one stone, I thought I'd blog some of my recipes and number them as I went on throughout the year so if she says "what do you want for dinner" I can just say "how about a #3 with #52 for pud" simples :-)

Hopefully what the list will consist of will be a selection of tasty treats that have evolved around the thought process of; cheap to make, tasty, not too labour intensive, minimal equipment usage, not too much washing up, and being cooked offline where possible (cooking on the wood burner, BBQ, fire pit, in fact any way that means using less purchased fuel) oh and did I mention cheap - probably no more than £1 per portion, £1.50 or so for the meal, so don't expect ribs of beef or any fish more expensive than mackerel. Its not going to be too scientific, I won't include exact quantities. In fact you really only need to worry about precise weights and measures with bakery and patisserie goods. As seasons progress there may be regular foraging forays as well which will be included and  should get the store cupboard topped up with a few jams and chutneys.

If you like any of the recipes enough to roll up your sleeves and have a go I'd love to know about it. Send me a picture and I'll post it up :-)

Recipe one follows on the next post, I've kept the intro separate so I can try and label the recipes as a new tab on the blog.


Belly pork and Stuffing - mainly off line

I'm sure mum made something similar to this once or twice when we were kids. Belly pork was a good cheap meal then, now, like so many thrifty cuts of meat it's all gone a bit trendy (read over priced!) but you can't ignore it's versatility or flavour. No one likes tough pork so this is a slow cook recipe.

Apart from twenty-ish minutes in a hot oven (why not bake some scones at the same time) everything can be cooked off line and a lot of it is better for it. One of the almost byproducts of the cooking method is a tasty cooking liquor that makes a very easy but top-end restaurant quality sauce as an alterative to gravy. (In fact the sauce was a regular on the menu of a country house hotel I used to work in when I was a teenager.)

First the a list of roughly what you will need:

Belly pork or boneless chop (whatever is better quality/value)
Stock cube
Bramley apple (or what ever is lying around getting wrinkly)
Stale bread (crust is good)
A banger or two (leftover cooked ones are fine)
A few wallnuts
A few dates
Chilli jam if you want
Splash of calvados or brandy if you haven't drunk it all
Sugar, salt and pepper

Now what to do with it all:

Stuffing first then. Dice half an onion, rip up the stale crust of bread, chop up the sausage, and chuck it all in a mini food processor with the nuts, dates and chilli jam. Give it a good blitz until it looks a bit like crumble topping. It will be a bit dry so put it in a bowl and add water a table spoon at a time until it all comes together. A bit of salt and pepper and you're done. I cheated today because I've got loads to do and hate washing up so I've used aluminium trays like takeaway ones to build the dish up in. 

 Next the pork. Trim any rind off but keep the fat. In a heavy based pan (I use cast iron on top of the stove) seal the pork, no need for extra oil. Once it's browned off, cover with water add a stock cube put the lid on and forget about it for an hour or so until very tender.

When the pork is just about done go back to your stuffing tray and add thin slices of bramley apple, about quarter of an apple per serving, all over the top. Before the apple starts to go brown put the pork strips or chop on top. Skim some of the fat off the pork cooking stock and drizzle it over the exposed apple. Once your layered pork tray is done it can be covered and kept until about half an hour before you want to eat (mine was done by 8.00 this morning).

Back to the sauce.  Dice the rest of the apple nice and small, chuck it in with the stock with a little salt and pepper a touch of sugar to balance the apple acidity and just a touch of booze (calvados for dinner party, brandy for yourself or even a bit of dry sherry left over from Christmas). Let the sauce tick over on the stove until reduced to about a wine glass full, bramley apples should have held their shape, eaters will be mushy but still taste good. Add about the same quantity of double cream and slightly reduce. Take it off the stove until needed.

Nearly there, cook the pork trays in a hot oven 200+ deg C for about half hour until nice and crispy on top.

Deb tucking in! 

To finish, just warm the sauce up stirring in a nice healthy knob of butter.

As you can see, this is quite a rich dish so I've served it with quick and easy stove top ratatouille, no spuds needed in my opinion.


Toad in the hole, bubble and squeak and beans - part off line

Wow what can be more British than that lineup?  Read on for crispy foolproof yorkie recipe, a simple 'bubble and squeak is not just for Christmas' and how to make budget beans taste better than the super brands. 

First the list of roughly what you need:

Plain flour
Value beans

Now what to do with it all:

Nice and easy this one. Firstly peel and chop the spuds and get them on the stove. Cut up the greens (spring greens, kale savoy cabbage any will do as long as its nice and green) and slice up the onion, set both aside. 

Next, the foolproof yorkies. As its baking you will need to measure out the three ingredients. Luckily this is a recipe by volume not weight so its a sinch. Use an egg per portion and crack them to into a mug or glass. Take a mental note of where it comes up to the side and transfer to a mixing bowl. Using the same glass/mug measure plain flour to the same level that the egg was. Add to the eggs in the bowl and measure the same quantity of milk/water (50/50). Give this a good old beating with a whisk for a minute. Add a pinch of salt and pepper and its done. Its the same for Yorkshire puddings for your Sunday roast, just equal quantities by volume of flour, eggs and liquid. 

Put the bangers in a tray (non stick or glass seems best, but I managed it with a couple of take away trays that I bought for painting). Add a splash of oil and a clove of garlic, I like a sprig of thyme as well. Get this nice and hot in the oven before pouring over the batter mix (minus the thyme if you used). It will take about 25 minutes to cook but keep an eye on it and adjust the heat accordingly. 

Back to the spuds that should nearly be cooked, chuck the cabbage in and give it a gentle stir and put back on the heat. In a large frying pan fry the onions. The spuds/cabbage are now ready. Drain, and return it to the pan over a low heat for a few minutes to dry out a bit. As soon as it is dryer add to the frying pan with the onions and give it a good fry up. 

Lastly the beans. In my opinion the only real difference between the super brands and budge version is that the quantity of tomato sauce in the cheapies is greater so when they are heated and served they end up running all over the plate. So just drain some of the tomato sauce off and heat them up slowly with a small knob of butter and a generous crunch of fresh pepper. 

That's it, by the time the beans are warm the bubble and squeak should be browning off and the toad in the hole should have risen and be crispy on the outside but still nice and soft at the bottom. Finding the chewy roast garlic clove is a real bonus, I bet next time you make it there will be a few more hidden in there. 


I have tried to make this a simple way to learn how to make a good curry - as good as you will get in most restaurants and takeaways. The idea is that you can remember the steps and not have to refer back to a specific recipe ever again. 

So the first step to every curry I make is 'Red Stuff'


Equipment - either soup blitzer and tall jug or mini processor or big processor or manual tabletop mincer or knife and board - in that order of preference for me. Pan, spoon small knife

No need for a board yet, cut like most of the rest of the world do; using a small knife in your dominant hand sharp bit pointing towards you with the food between sharp bit and thumb (no scrubbing to get garlic and onion smells out of the board!)

1. Cut up an onion into blitzing jug, follow with -

2. Four cloves of garlic, peeled and cut

3. An inch or so of ginger, peeled and cut

4. Those fresh tomatoes that are going squidgey (3ish) in the back of the fridge

5. Top the jug up to about three quarters of the food height with cold water

6. Blitz til smoothish and looks like something a fit person may call breakfast before they power walk to the office.

7. Chuck it in a pan, bung it on top of the stove

8. Drool at the fresh smell as it warms up

9. When it is about half what it was, you have made enough red stuff for two or three portions :-)

Next - changing red stuff to brown stuff


Brown stuff is different every time depending on the type of curry you are making. Don't let lots of ingredients put you off, build up and experiment. Start off with the most basic - just curry powder.

1. Warm up a pan

2. Add a drop of oil

3. Plop in a knob of butter and warm until starting to foam - don't rush it

4. Add curry powder. Either follow the tin or about a teaspoon per person and one for the pot (or was that Darjeeling?)

5. Once the curry powder has fried for a minute add some red stuff (half a mug full should be enough) and salt to taste.

6. Let the flavours get to know each other for a while (on gawd, I've gone all Nigella) and you're done - you now have brown stuff :-)

The curry I am making whilst writing this just has different brown stuff. Instead of just curry powder I will fry off the following NOTE MY SPOONS ARE CURRY SPOONS, ABOUT THE SAME SIZE AS AN OLD COFFEE SPOON

A spoon of yellow mustard seeds, two spoons of turmeric, a spoon of curry powder, a spoon of cumin, a spoon of garam marsala a spoon of coriander seeds and three green cardamon pods (smashed up with a pestle and mortar), no chili as I put a fresh one in my red stuff and a few dry curry leaves a bit later.

Next - changing red stuff to brown stuff to curry

OK Changing red stuff to brown stuff to curry

What kind of curry to do. I'm doing vegi. Its not that I've gone all ethical and all 'poor little bunny rabbits', we ran out of meat a week ago so its either vegi or  hotdog and pickled onion curry?) - one thing's for sure I'm never going to admit to my vegi sister in-law that I actually prefer home made curry to be vegi - no, no way.

Right steps one

Chicken - brown the chicken, take it out of the pan, start making brown stuff

Lamb - brown the lamb, take it out of the pan.... See a pattern here?

Pork - brown the.... I'm sure you get it by now!

Vegi is a bit more involved, cut your chosen veg (I prefer a bit of a theme) having the hardest smallest and softest largest. E.G. a piece of spud needs to be smaller than a piece of courgette unless you want to cook everything individually first (boring!) or end up with spud in courgette sauce!

1. Colour all your veg in turn and store on a plate

2. Add a bit more oil if needed and foam a knob of butter

3. Gently fry all the spices, the mustard seeds may pop a bit

4. Add some red stuff and slowly cook into brown stuff

5. Brown stuff is too thick unless you want a dry curry and your meat/veg cooks very quickly. Like chicken breast (it will be nearly cooked from browning it), prawns, mushroom etc. If you are cooking anything else you will need to add water. Cooking lamb and beef will need the brown stuff as watery as the red stuff was at the beginning and, ideally a few hours slow cooking.

6. Cook with a lid on to start with and once the meat/veg starts to soften take the lid off to reduce any liquid or add a bit more if needed.

And that's it, simples....

I like to have a theme to the veg; Mediterranean, Root veg etc 

It looks a lot more chopped up - you can see the dish of  'RED STUFF' in the background

Frying the veg - the other pan is the Bombay potato 

RED STUFF added to spices to make BROWN STUFF

Ready for dishing - how many pans can you fit on your stove?

So you know the basic procedure; fry what you've got, take it out, fry the spices, add red stuff (turns into brown stuff) add water and put your veg/meat back in. Watch the rugby, have a beer.

Now the keen eyed my have recognised in my photos that the spuds are not in the vegi pan and the vegi pan has some white lumps on top.

Bombay potatoes - fry spuds, put on a plate, fry a spoon of black onion seeds, a spoon of mustard seeds, two spoons turmeric and salt/pepper. Add some red stuff and cook to brown stuff add water and spuds and cook slowly, once cooked and the liquid absorbed add a chopped fresh tomato and let it sit with a lid on.

White lumps - Now as if home made curry and Bombay potatoes isn't impressive enough how about home made Indian cheese!!

No seriously, you're going to make paneer! I had put it off for years, assuming it was going to be very technical. Since first making it I had decided to keep my little secret but it is the season for sharing :-)


First the hard bit - the equipment you will need is

Square of muslin (its cheap, please no tights or socks!)
Large circular cutter, egg frying ring or off cut of a drain pipe.
Glass of water

And the easy bit the ingredients


That's it, this really is as easy as making hot chocolate, and quicker.

1. Boil milk
2. As it starts to boils add lemon juice
3. Lower the heat and stir for a minute or two
4. Strain through muslin and put it in the ring
5 weigh down with the glass of water
By the time its cooled down it will have set in to a puck shape and be solid enough to fry!

Amazing :-)

Full Fat will produce more cheese

Don't make it if you've got a hangover

Ready to strain

It can be a bit sticky, but will soon solidify

All ready for frying

Next - 'I want a korma!'

I want a #1 korma

Well I don't but somebody will! or at least something identifiable from a takeaway menu, so a couple of variations on the basic theme I'm going to assume for ease of writing that all main curry dishes are now chicken. So korma -

1. Seal the chicken and put it on a plate

2. Not much in the way of spices in this "curry" but I'd suggest, a touch of cumin, half spoon curry powder, touch of gara masala, touch of fenugreek (well you have got to have enough in it to at least call it a curry) two spoons of turmeric. Add a little salt, good couple of spoonfuls white sugar, and a tablespoon each of ground almonds and coconut (don't worry if they're a bit out of date, I doubt you will have much of it, stick to the proper curry) Fry this nice and slowly (no browning) in oil and a bit more butter than is healthy.

3. Add some red stuff and cook it into brown stuff.

4. Now the really healthy bit, rather than water, thin down with double cream (add a bit of creme fraiche if available) and bung the chicken back in.

Cook on a low heat and stir regularly. It won't need more than a few minutes and catches easily (the only thing worse than a korma is a speckled korma)

I'm not a fan of the English restaurant type korma, to me its like chicken in custard. If you fancy making it a little more authentic only use a little cream, get the rest of the sauce by firstly marinading the chicken in yogurt with some turmeric and spices and braise the whole lot slowly. It may look a little watery to start with but tastes better.

I want a #2 Dhansak

Hot and spicy, sweet and sour - my favorite!

1. Seal the chicken and put it on a plate

2. Fry some spices, I'd suggest - curry powder, cumin, ground coriander, dried chili, mustard seeds, a couple of spoons of turmeric, some salt and a couple of spoons of sugar

3. Add some red stuff and cook for a while

A Dhansak has a couple of key ingredients that separate it from the rest, dhal and pineapple

4. Boil a handful of red lentils in water until tender (lentils and yellow split peas mixed are better but take longer to cook)

5. Using the equipment that you made red stuff with, blitz a small can of pineapple, or a few rings from a bigger tin and keep the rest for homemade pizza :-)

6. Put the chicken back in the brown stuff, add the pineapple, more water if needed and then the cooked and drained lentils.

7. Adjust the seasoning to your taste. You can use a splash of lemon juice or vinegar to increase the acidity, I prefer tamarind soaked in a little hot water and strained through a tea strainer using the liquid sparingly as it can be quite bitter.

Job done...

Now from here on don't worry too much about which spices you use, start to experiment and use the ones you like, I don't feel that it has to conform to a particular recipe and there is no chance of remembering what quantity of ten different spices goes in your favorite five curries so just remember the theme. It will at the very least be better than out of a jar.

Korma - mild, sweet, coconut and almond

Dhansak - hot/sweet/sour, pineapple, lentils

Ceylon - hot rich curry stew, lemon, coconut, lots of crushed black pepper

Satay - medium, basic curry with chunky peanut butter

Jalfreze - medium/hot, basic curry but add onion peppers and chili to chicken when frying at the beginning keep it chunky

Dupiaza - means double onion (or two types of onion, one fried and one boiled or poached) chunks of onion poached then fried with the chicken (about the same volume of meat and onion)

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