Simple Supper 4

I’ve developed a series – wahey!  Simple Suppers.  But please don’t feel restricted – these ideas could also serve as lunch or brunch too.

Simple Supper

Simple Supper 2

Simple Supper 3

I goat’s cheese, if you didn’t already know!  And it goes very well with caramelised onions, like so.

P1060961Goat’s Cheese & Caramelised Onion Tortilla (for 1)

3 medium onions, peeled and sliced

1 tbsp oil

1 tortilla wrap

salt & fresh black pepper

1 slice goat’s cheese, chopped/crumbled

salad to serve

Heat the oil in a frying pan over a low-medium heat, add the sliced onions and cover the pan with a lid.  Allow the onions to soften, keeping covered with the lid to prevent the onions caramelising(burning!) too early – they need to be soft first.  Once softened, remove the lid, add a little salt and fresh black pepper, increase the heat to medium and stir the onions until they have caramelised.  So they will be browned/starting to look a little crispy.  Set the onions aside in a bowl.

With the heat turned off:  Place the tortilla in the hot pan, place the onions on top of the tortilla and sprinkle the goat’s cheese over the onions.  Cover the pan with the lid again and turn the heat to ‘low’ to allow the tortilla and goat’s cheese to heat.  Once the goat’s cheese is warm, fold the tortilla in half and slide onto a plate to serve with the salad.  Enjoy!
P1060960There’s wonderful melty goat’s cheese poking out of the tortilla, and you can just see dark, caramelised onions which are slightly sweet and very good for you  🙂

This makes for a hot, tasty, satisfying and quick meal with a good dose of vitamins and minerals all round.  The large amount of onions makes it a big fat tortilla to slice into.

What is your favourite simple supper?


Oh Dear…

…my friends, it’s been too, too long 😦

Life – namely work – has got in the way of blogging again.  Bleurgh!

First things first – Happy 2013 to you all! I hope the year is good for you.  I looked back at this post to reflect on how much I achieved in 2012 over the past year:

* Learn to sew – simple items, with a sewing-machine: Done but not done: I did some hand-sewing shown in this post and was so pleased with the results. Boosted my confidence.

* Have a plant-strong dietary intake: Big, fat success – yay! I love veggies more than ever and am eating far more.  Much more mindful of including them in my diet more frequently, and making them interesting to eat. Fruit – not so much.  I’ve never been a big fruit-lover, and that’s okay with me.

* Maintain the list of books I read each month: Done.

* Read the library I received for Christmas(2011): Not quite done. But much reading achieved.

* Keep taking photos: Ooo-er – this one’s dwindling… 😦

* Work: I remain in the same post and at long, long last it’s starting to feel good. It’s been hard.  I’ve learnt so much. But now there is positive feedback coming from outside of the Team and it’s great! I still love working with people with mental health needs – always have enjoyed it.

* Enjoy life and remain thankful to God: Always.

* Seize each day and opportunity to creat memories: Needs some work!

For 2013 I haven’t really identified any things to achieve.  Not really feeling inspired, which is not a good thing at all.  I keep having some thoughts about a bit of voluntary work but nothing grabs me. I’ve also started doing a bit of drawing and painting – I used to love this when I was little and haven’t done it for ages.  It’s quite nice to dabble.

The Slow Cooker came out today for a party – I’ve been craving beef for a few weeks now and decided to buy some diced stewing steak for a casserole.  I couldn’t decide whether to do a tomatoey-based casserole, which can be very tasty, or a traditional English beef casserole.  The second option won.

Beef Casserole & Dumplings(serves 5)

For the Casserole:

400g Stewing Steak, diced

1 heaped tbsp plain flour

1 tsp dried, mixed herbs

2 tbsp vegetable oil

3 medium onions, sliced

4 cloves garlic, chopped

1 large carrot, sliced

1 small swede, diced

1 Knorr beef Stock Pot

300ml boiling water

1 tbsp mustard

150g peas

For the Dumplings:

100g Atora vegetable suet

200g self-raising flour

1/2 tsp dried, mixed herbs

salt & pepper

10 tbsp cold water

Turn the Slow Cooker to low. In a plastic freezer bag mix the plain flour & 1 tsp mixed herbs, add a good grinding of fresh black pepper. Tip the diced steak into the bag and mix/smush it well to cover the beef with flour. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a non-stick frying pan on a low-medium heat, add the floured beef. Allow it to cook until browned, turn the beef and repeat. Remove to the slow cooker.

Heat the remaining 1 tbsp oil in the frying-pan and add the sliced onions. Cover and allow to sweat – stir occasionally to avoid colouring/burning. Once the onions are soft add the garlic, carrot, swede and a good grinding of fresh black pepper and stir. Cover and allow to heat. Place the beef Stock Pot in a jug and cover with the boiling water.  Stir thoroughly.  Mix in the mustard then pour the liquid over the vegetable mix and turn the heat up high. Once the vegetable and stock mix is boiling transfer to the Slow Cooker and mix well. Cover the Slow Cooker with the lid and leave for 5.5 hours. Add the peas to the casserole and stir well. Cover and leave for 1 hours.

To make the dumplings: Mix the suet, self-raising flour and mixed herbs in a mixing bowl. Add a little salt and plenty of fresh black pepper and stir. Add the cold water and mix with a fork – the mixture will be thick and a little sticky. Roll as many dumplings as you wish. Place on top of the beef casserole mix in the Slow Cooker. Turn the heat to high and leave for 1-2 hours depending on the size of the dumplings. I made 5 large dumplings and they took 2 hours to cook.

Serve and enjoy! 
On the block:

P1060980Freezer bag + flour:P1060981Brown the beef in the pan:P1060982Heat lots of lovely chopped veggies in the pan with stock:P1060987And transfer to the Slow Cooker:P1060988Look at those beauties – plopped on top of the hot casserole!P1060990And……done!P1060991This was a pleasure to tuck into. The herby dumplings were big, fat and fluffy and totally satisfying. The casserole was full of flavour – especially that wonderful swede. It has a strong flavour which some might not like, but I love it and it reminds me of a traditional stew or casserole. Another root vegetable to use might be parsnips. Both of these vegetables add mild sweetness to the flavour.

Confession: I don’t like boiled carrots! Why are they in the casserole?  Because they’re good for you! And thinly sliced, they lose their flavour and can be mashed in the gravy.  So I eat health without the taste of it – win!

The floured beef helps to thicken the casserole juices. Adding the herbs to the bag helps to distribute them throughout the dish.

I used the basic dumpling recipe found on the side of the Atora packet but doubled it.  The last few times I have made dumplings I have followed the recipe exactly and they turned out to be hard little lumps.  This is not how dumplings should be!  So this time I doubled the recipe and made 5 large dumplings – they turned out just great!  They rise and swell when they’re cooking.  The finished texture should be sort of spongy.

As with so many of my dishes the quantities of ingredients can be varied.  Adding plenty of vegetables makes the dish go much further.  Seasonings and vegetables can be altered to suit one’s taste.  I didn’t add potatoes as I was making the dumplings.  If I didn’t do the dumplings then I would add potato for carbohydrate.  Another option would be to serve with bread & butter – those were the days of heavy manual labour and people being able to get away with eating such food!

I’m going to try freezing the casserole and dumplings.  I don’t think frozen dumplings should be a problem but I’ll let you know.

Have you ever made dumplings?

Christmas Sauce

I hope everyone has had a peaceful Christmastime.  We’ve had a lovely time with the family, and I’ve been so thankful – for loved ones, for all that I have, for how blessed I am compared to those who are suffering, in pain, trying to cope with the weather and its consequences.  It’s so important to count our blessings.

For Christmas Dinner we indulged in…


Not jars, nor lids, but…


Cranberry Sauce – with Port.  I used this recipe from Nigella Lawson.  It can be found on her website, but I also have ‘Nigella Christmas’ and have used the recipe from the book for the last couple of years.  It’s great.  Simple to make.  Creates wonderful smells in the kitchen.  Beautiful festive colours.  Works out perfectly every time.  I always make double quantity so there’s plenty for everyone.  One adjustment I make:  I use Port rather than Cherry Brandy.  And it’s always necessary to taste the Port first… 😉

Plain ‘ole cranberries in plastic bags:

P1060863Washed and in the pan:

P1060869With sugar coating, Port and water:

P1060872P1060870All stirred up and bubbling away:

P1060875So easy and satisfying.  The additional step I take is to bottle the Sauce in heat-sterilised jars.  Wash jars and lids in hot, soapy water and rinse with hot water.  Stand the jars on a baking tray(jars upside down) and place in oven(approx 110*C) for 10 minutes.  Remove and pour the Sauce straight into the jars – everything is extremely hot, be very careful.  Place a waxed-paper disc on the Sauce and screw on the lid.  Stand to cool.  Label the jars – except I ran out of labels!  Everyone knew what was in the jars…  Because the jar is sterilised it will keep well if stored in a cool place – once opened keep in the fridge.

Cranberries are naturally very tart, hence the need for the sugar.  The Sauce remains tart, even with the sugar.  It is fruity, a slight taste of Port to it, with lovely fat cranberries.  So good.

Did you know…that fresh cranberries bounce?  They really do!

Christmas Salad

Oh dear….long time no blog  😦

It’s frightening that work can obliterate the creative spirit in me – it saps energy, enthusiasm and the desire to make things.  It’s insidious – just creeps up, slowly, slowly, and bam!  It seems the only time I feel remotely creative is when I’m on leave.  I’m now determined each year to have a week of leave in December – I love the Christmas season, I love making things at this time of year; and I love the cosiness of being at home, reflecting on the Christian meaning of Christmas, indulging in Christmas traditions.  Time off work during this season is a tradition to keep for me.

I’ve also not had a card-reader for my camera/laptop for a while.  I recently taught an aunt how to save photos to a Memory Card on her mobile phone, and then transfer those photos to her PC.  She did it!  You are never, ever too old to learn new things.  I don’t mean that in any derogatory sense – I love helping people to learn, helping people to have the confidence to do new things, to achieve things.  It’s great!

Anyway, I gave her my card-reader so she could continue her new practice, and ordered a new one for me.  Lo and behold a few days ago my Beloved declared ‘You don’t need a card-reader, you can insert the Memory Card straight into your laptop’.  Thanks for telling me one year into this laptop…  I know – I should read instructions.  I don’t.  But I’m delighted this is possible on my laptop – makes things SO much easier!

P1060840Today I wanted a big salad.  A hot Christmas Salad.  This does not contain traditional Christmas foods.  But the bright colours make me think it is festive.  The bold orange, dark green and bright green with dots of white are beautiful.  Bright lights for a cold winter day.


Does anyone use a Butternut Squash(BNS) within a few days of purchase?  Is it just me who keeps it on the side for weeks…?  I thought it would be great roasted for a salad.  And I am now converted to ‘not peeling a BNS’ before roasting it.  It’s a total nuisance to peel and chop.  But this way is easy.  I’ve seen others say it can be roasted in this way – I didn’t really believe them, I thought it would take forever to roast, I thought it would be tough and chewy.  Wrong on both counts.

P1060844Nip off the stalk at the top. Slice the BNS into four – mind your fingers!  Scrape/slice out the seeds.  Place on a roasting tray, sprinkle with salt and fresh black pepper, splodge with some oil and rub the oil over the flesh(don’t worry about the skin).  Roast in the oven – 180*C(fan) for 45 minutes.  The flesh needs to be tender to a knife.  Done!  So easy!

For the salad base I used spinach, avocado and walnuts.  A drizzle of balsamic.  Some chopped goat cheese – I used Gevrik.  Then chunks of hot BNS over the top.  Enjoy!

P1060847This was sweet and savoury, with the freshness of avocado, the earthiness of the walnuts, sweetness from the BNS, and tanginess from the Balsamic.  Satisfying. Tasty.  Hot and cold together.  The BNS is surprisingly fibrous – not really noticeable when it’s liquidised into soup – but certainly not tough.  Soft and yumptious  🙂

Is Salad in winter right..?

Autumn Vegetables

This is a recipe for the vegetable soup which we ate on Bonfire Night last year, with my sister and the family.  It’s thick, comforting and very tasty.  It’s great for a hearty meal, with crusty bread and some cheese.  It’s very nutritious.  And it will serve many – or freeze portions if desired.  Further discussion is below.

In the pot for Hearty Vegetable Soup(serves many!)

1 large onion, peeled and sliced

1 large leek, peeled, thoroughly washed and sliced

2 large carrots, peeled and sliced

1 medium swede, peeled and diced

1 large potato, peeled and diced

Chicken or vegetable stock – approx 500ml

Dried herbs – parsley, sage, thyme; or mixed herbs

Freshly ground black pepper

1 can chopped tomatoes

Optional – 1 can beans e.g. butter beans, haricot beans – drained and rinsed

Add the prepared vegetables to the pot, from the onion through to the potato.  Pour over sufficient stock to come level with the vegetables in the pot(this is usually approx 500ml).  Add plenty of fresh ground black pepper, and dried herbs to taste.  If using mixed herbs, use 1 teaspoon.  If using a mix use 1/2 teaspoon parsley, 1/4 teaspoon each of sage and thyme.  Mix through and bring the pot to the boil over a high heat, then reduce to a rapid simmer for approx 30 minutes until the vegetables are soft, and remove from the heat.

Add the can of tomatoes to the pot and whizz using a hand-blender, to achieve the desired consistency.  Add the rinsed beans and return to the heat – heat for 2-3 minutes over a moderate heat to allow the beans to heat.  Serve and enjoy!

I used several carrots which came from Dad’s garden – thanks Dad!  And small onions rather than one large.  The beauty of this soup is that any veg can be added – it would have been good with the addition of parsnip, peeled and sliced.  And veg can be omitted – especially for those with particular dislikes.  The potato adds thickness to the soup; and the canned tomatoes add a tanginess, and extra nutritional value.

As with most soups an extra flavour boost can be provided by sauteing the onions in a small amount of butter/oil before adding the rest of the veg to boil, etc.  It’s not essential to do this, and I didn’t on this occasion, but I think it provides a greater depth of flavour.

Use herbs which you like – dried mixed herbs are great for a balanced flavour but I had run out on this occasion, so used the mix I described.

I didn’t add the beans to this batch, but adding the beans increases the nutritional value of the soup, with protein and the extra vitamins and minerals found in beans.  The soup also becomes more substantial, and will satisfy for longer.  Beans add texture; and extra texture can be had by removing some of the veg before blending, and then  adding to the soup afterwards for chunkiness.

A good grinding of fresh black pepper is great on this soup, as it is full of warm flavours and the black pepper adds to that.

A bowl of the soup alone can be quite sufficient; but it can be extra special with a slice of cheese on toast, or cheesy French stick croutons on top; or simple fresh French stick with butter, and/or served with a strong Cheddar.

We’ve been making this soup for years in our family – it’s the one soup that my niece & nephew will eat.  That’s a great way to get veg into children!

Steaming hot soup for a cold Autumn day…

Fragrant Fish

Sometimes it’s so easy to become stuck in a rut with food and ideas for meals.  A new season in the year makes me want certain foods and they are welcomed with open arms.  Then as the season progresses and eventually draws to a close those food and meal ideas seem off.  Not so appealing at all.  Perhaps because of the changing temperatures or weather?  Perhaps because the same types of meals have been prepared over and over?

Recently I decided to have a go with fish.  My diet does not include much fish really, it should feature more.  Then again, smoked salmon is a frequent feature because I’m convinced it’s so good for dry skin and a healthy cardiovascular system.  I had some frozen haddock pieces and prepared them using an idea that I’ve often seen but never tasted or prepared.

Fish n Sauce(Serves 1)

1 white fish fillet, skinned(I used haddock)

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon capers, roughly chopped

Juice of 1/2 a lemon

Salt & fresh black pepper

Melt the butter in a frying pan over a medium heat.  Add the capers and cook for 1 minute, with a lid on the pan, stir to heat through thoroughly.

Add the fish fillet to the pan – top-side down – and fry in the butter for 3 minutes(lid on pan).  Grind over some black pepper, then flip the fish and fry the other side for approx 4 minutes.  Check the fish is cooked through before serving.  Squeeze the lemon juice into the pan, add a tiny amount of salt, and mix all of the juices and capers together.  Serve and enjoy!

Capers and fresh lemon.

Bubbling in the pan.

Served over a bed of buttered kale.

Fish with lemon is so good.  The capers have a fragrant flavour – it could almost be over-powering so I didn’t use too many capers to help the balance.  The whole sauce is lemony and buttery, none of the flavours overwhelm the delicate fish.  The splash of green is beautiful, healthful and feels very virtuous!  A wonderful hot meal, light and quick and easy to prepare.

I feel another fish dish coming soon…


A satisfying breakfast – fresh, fruity, special.  American pancakes with peaches and Greek yogurt.  American pancakes can be as stodgy or as light as you wish – the last time I featured them they were more heavy, with dark chocolate and served with banana.

Simple American Pancakes(Serves 1 – makes 3 pancakes)

50g plain flour

1 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp caster sugar

75ml milk

1tsp butter

Toppings of choice – peaches, Greek yogurt, maple syrup

Sieve the flour into a small mixing bowl.  Add the baking powder and caster sugar.  Pour in the milk and whisk until the batter is smooth with no flour-lumps.  In a hot frying pan, dab 3 dots of butter.  Melt and swirl around the pan.  Spoon the batter into the pan to make 3 pancakes.  Cover with a lid on a low-moderate heat.  Cook for approx 1 minute.  Tiny holes will appear in the batter and the very edges will start to look a little denser.  At this stage, flip the pancakes and cook for 1 minute.  Serve, add toppings and enjoy!

I used tinned peaches – no shame in those.  I also drizzled a little maple syrup over for sweetness.  This pancake mix is so easy.  I don’t know if it’s traditional, but I do know that it’s easy to make when the cupboards are nearly bare.  No eggs required 🙂  The Greek yogurt makes the plate seem decadent.  For true decadence, have peaches and cream instead.  I’m not keen on cream…

What is your decadence?