Thursday, November 5, 2009

Bonfire Night and Meat and Potato Pie

An American arriving in England on November 5th could be forgiven for thinking the Brits had taken leave of their senses. For on that night, throughout the realm, bonfires blaze, effigies are burned, and fireworks illuminate the night sky. And this has been happening every year since 1605. We do this to celebrate a foiled terrorist attack which would have blown up the Houses of Parliament, killing our King and his government.

On November 4th 1605, Robert Catesby and twelve other conspirators planted 36 barrels of gunpowder in the cellars of the Palace of Westminster. A fellow collaborator, Guy Fawkes, was left behind to light the fuse when King James I and his government entered the Houses of Parliament the following day.

Somehow the King discovered the plot, and in the early hours of November 5th, Fawkes was caught red handed and imprisoned in the Tower of London. His fellow conspirators were quickly rounded up, and all were later tried, convicted, and executed (they were hung, drawn and quartered), for the crime of high treason.

When the public learned of the thwarted plot, they lit bonfires to celebrate the King’s safety, and the event has been commemorated ever since.

Because of the Gunpowder Plot, the reigning monarch only enters the Houses of Parliament once a year, at the State Opening of Parliament. And prior to this event, the cellars of the Palace of Westminster are still searched by the palace guards.

I have many fond memories of Bonfire Night.

"Remember, remember, the fifth of November.
Its gunpowder plot,
We never forgot."

So went the rhyme my friends and I sang in childhood, usually in an effort to raise money for fireworks. The other tried and trusted way of obtaining firework money was to make a “guy” ― which usually consisted of some old clothing belonging to one of our dads, stuffed with newspaper. This dummy represented Guy Fawkes, who we would then wheel around in an old pram asking, “Penny for the guy.” Later we burned the guy on our bonfire, which was made from wood, old furniture, and any other combustible material we could find. The bonfire was always situated on some waste ground in our neighborhood.

It wasn’t until the actual night of November 5th that adults would become involved in the proceedings, with dads setting off fireworks and supervising the bonfire, and moms making all sorts of goodies to eat. My mother always made a big meat and potato pie, parkin, (a sweet, sticky cake), and treacle toffee, (a dark caramel candy), or plot toffee as we kids called it. And when the fireworks were gone, and the bonfire had died down, we would bake potatoes in the fire’s embers.

Bonfire Night was a real community affair and went on the length and breadth of Britain. Nowadays, for safety’s sake, the trend is more towards organized firework displays, and, sad to say, the event is rapidly loosing its appeal.

Now, whenever I make meat and potato pie, while the pie bakes, the rich aromas still evoke fond memories of my childhood and the wonderful Bonfire Nights we all shared.

Below is my mum’s recipe for meat and potato pie, although, unlike me, she did make her own pastry. If you make it, try to imagine a land ablaze with bonfires and a sky alight with fireworks, smell the wood smoke and the gunpowder and, "Remember, remember, the fifth of November."

Meat and Potato Pie

1 lb. stew beef
¼ cup all-purpose flour, seasoned with cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cups beef broth/stock
1 large onion, divided, half chopped into big chunks, the other half just chopped
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 bay leaves

1 rutabaga peeled and cut into bite-size chunks
4 carrots, sliced
4 large potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-size chunks
1 refrigerated pie crust (or make your own if you prefer)
1 egg, beaten
1 tablespoon corn starch
2 tablespoons cold water

  • Put flour in a Ziplock bag, season with cracked pepper, add the beef stew meat and toss until coated.
  • In a large soup pot, or Dutch oven heat olive oil over a medium-high heat. Add the flour coated beef to the pan, season with more black pepper, and sauté until lightly browned. Add the large chunks of onion (reserve the smaller pieces to go in with the veggies) and sauté for a further minute or so. Add the beef broth/stock to the pan, and bring to boil. Add Worcestershire sauce, bay leaves then reduce heat and simmer covered for 1 hour.
  • After 1 hour, throw all remaining veggies into the pan. Return to boil, reduce heat, and simmer covered for about 30 minutes.
  • Using a slotted spoon transfer meat and veggies to a pie dish. Get all the meat out but you will have some veggies left over, you can serve these as a side dish to the pie. Allow filling to cool for about 20 minutes before topping with the pie crust. Meanwhile pre-heat oven to 400°F.
  • Add crust to pie, brush with beaten egg, cut a couple of slits in the top to allow steam to escape, and bake for 35-40 minutes or until crust is golden brown.
  • About 15 minutes before pie is ready re-heat stock and vegetables. For a thicker gravy mix 1 tablespoon of cornstarch with a little water and add to stock. Serve the veggies and gravy with the pie.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Cajun Chicken Burger

This has been another favorite grilling recipe this summer, these burgers have a lovely mild curry flavor.

Cajun Chicken Burgers

1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon ground coriander
1 tablespoon paprika
Black pepper, to taste
2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
3 slices bacon, cut in half
2 slices Swiss cheese
2 Kaiser rolls
1 avocado, peeled, pitted, and sliced.
2 handfuls of mixed greens
  • Pre-heat BBQ to low
  • On a small plate mix together cumin, coriander, paprika, and black pepper.
  • Brush a piece of heavy-duty foil with a little olive oil. Cover chicken with plastic wrap and beat with a meat mallet or rolling pin until slightly flattened. Brush chicken with olive oil, and dip in the spice mix until coated, then place on foil.
  • Take another piece of foil, fold up the edges to make a small baking tray and add the bacon.
  • Put chicken and bacon on grill and cook for about 15 – 20 minutes, (grills vary so cook to desired doneness), bacon should be cooked until crisp.
  • Place cheese slices on top of chicken until cheese begins to melt. Toast buns at the same time.
  • Spread buns with mayo and top with the cheesy chicken and bacon. You can also add the salad greens and avocado to the buns if you like, but I prefer my salad on the side.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Caesar Salad with Chicken and Bacon

Do you ever have one of those weeks? - I know you have - where if something can go wrong, it will. First of all the vacuum cleaner started making the most bloody awful noise, then the fridge gasped its last and gave up the ghost. So, then you’re waiting for the third thing to go wrong, because we all know these things happen in threes, right? In our case the third thing was the chainsaw, so then we heaved a sigh of relief because at least one of the cars didn’t conk out. Suffice it to say that the local Lowes store did very nicely indeedy out of us.

Anyway, enough of that! I know I’ve been very lackadaisical (isn’t that a lovely word?) over the past few months, but I do have a couple of recipes I want to share with you before I wave the summer goodbye. Not that I’m sorry to see the back of it – as you all know, I hate the hot, humid weather. Now that it’s turned cooler I will be seeking out the heat of the kitchen, and curling up with my computer while we get down to some good old comfort foods.

But before that, a farewell to summer. The first recipe is a Caesar Salad with chicken and bacon. This has been my absolute favorite salad this summer, and I’m sure it will be making a few encores over the winter. The second, which I’ll post tomorrow, is a Cajun Chicken Burger, it’s a BBC Good Food recipe that I adapted to cook on the BBQ.

Caesar Salad with Chicken and Bacon


For the croutons
½ a French baguette torn into bite size pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil
A sprinkle of sea salt, to taste. (I know I never use salt but I do here).
For the rest

3 slices of bacon, cut in half.

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts, cut into bite size chunks
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 romaine lettuce, torn into large pieces

For the dressing

½ cup Parmesan cheese, shredded + 2 tablespoons for topping
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
6 tablespoons mayonnaise
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Black pepper to taste

  • Pre-heat BBQ grill to low.
  • In a medium bowl mix bread chunks with olive oil.
  • Take a large piece of heavy-duty aluminum foil and turn up the edges to form a small baking tray. Brush with a little olive oil, place bread on foil, crust side up, in a single layer. Sprinkle with sea salt and set aside.
  • Make another small baking tray from foil and add the bacon.
  • Cook croutons and bacon on BBQ for approximately 20 minutes, or until both are crispy. Turn bacon and croutons halfway through cooking. Remove both from grill and allow to cool, drain bacon on paper towel.
  • Meanwhile, (back at the range), heat olive oil in a large skillet over a medium-high heat and add chicken. Sauté until no longer pink, reduce heat to medium and continue to cook for a further 5 or 6 minutes until golden brown. Add garlic and sauté for a further minute. Remove chicken and garlic to a plate and allow to cool.
  • While everything cools, wash, dry, and tear lettuce and add to a salad bowl.
  • Also prepare dressing. In a small bowl, mix mayo, white wine vinegar, garlic, black pepper, and Parmesan. It should look about the consistency of yogurt, if it’s a bit thick, add a few drops of water.
  • Top lettuce with half the chicken pieces, half the croutons, and crumble over half of the bacon. Toss with ¾ of the dressing. Scatter the remaining chicken and croutons on top, crumble over the bacon, drizzle with the rest of the dressing, top with 2 tablespoons of shredded Parmesan, and serve. YUM!

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Lemon Chicken Chow Mein Salad

I’m sorry to have caused concern and consternation, amazingly, the way things have been going this year, I have not been ill, just busy with other things. My good friend Vicki (see Victoria’s comment on the last post), called me the other day and told me I needed to get back blogging as you guys were missing me. I’ve missed y’all, too, so thanks for the kick up the bum, Vicki. :-)Anyway, we have a long weekend coming up, and I have nothing planned, so I’ll be visiting with you real soon.

In the meantime, I'll leave you all with this scrummy salad recipe, and hope you all have a fabulous weekend.

Lemon Chicken Chow Mein Salad


2 chicken breasts
Juice from ½ a lemon
Black pepper, to taste
A drizzle of olive oil
1/2 a package (about 3 ounces) chow mein noodles
A handful of sugar snap peas, (about 4 ounces) halved lengthways
½ yellow (red or orange) pepper, thinly sliced
A handful of beansprouts
A couple of sprigs of fresh basil, leaves removed and torn

Salad Dressing

3 tablespoons olive oil
Zest and juice of ½ a lemon
2 tablespoons mayonnaise
  • Pre-heat BBQ grill to low.
  • Brush a large piece of heavy-duty foil with olive oil. Place chicken on foil, drizzle with the juice from ½ a lemon, and add a couple of grinds of black pepper. Seal foil loosely around chicken.
  • Place chicken on BBQ and cook to desired doneness. Remove from foil a few minutes before end of cooking time and brown a little on the bars.
  • Meanwhile, cook chow mein noodles according to package directions, transfer noodles to a colander, rinse under cold water and allow to drain.
  • While noodles drain, prepare the dressing. In a small bowl mix all ingredients together and whisk lightly with a fork.
  • Divide noodles between 2 bowls, throw in the sugar snap peas, peppers, bean sprouts and basil. Pour a little of the dressing into each bowl and toss lightly to coat.
  • Slice the chicken breasts and arrange on top of the salad. Drizzle with remaining dressing and serve.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

Potato Salad

I haven’t been around much this past couple of weeks, largely due to being glued to the tennis at Wimbledon. Needless to say, the token Brit, Andy Murray, got knocked out in the semi-finals. (Sob!) It’s something like 72 years since a British man won the singles at Wimbledon. And the last British woman to win was Virginia Wade back in 1977, which incidentally was also the year of the queen’s silver jubilee. Anyway, better luck next year, Andy.

Also, I want to thank Pam at for kindly allowing me to use her recipe for Portabella Burgers in my recent article about a mushroom farm. If you’re interested you can find the article and Pam’s recipe here:

This recipe for potato salad features baby red potatoes from our garden, which were absolutely delish – still are in fact, as we haven’t used them all yet. Tragically the plants did die, but we were able to harvest a decent amount of new potatoes before they finally popped their clogs. Fortunately, however, our robust russets are robust and thriving, so many more spuds to come.

Potato Salad


2 lbs. red potatoes, unpeeled
1 rib celery, sliced
¼ of a red onion, sliced
3 hard-boiled eggs, sliced
¼ cup plain yogurt
¼ cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Black pepper, to taste
Dash of paprika
  • Cut potatoes into halves or quarters depending on size, place in a saucepan and bring to boil over a high heat. Reduce heat to medium-high and boil gently for 10 – 15 minutes until potatoes are slightly tender. Don’t overcook or you’ll end up with mashed potato salad. Boil eggs while potatoes cook.
  • Allow eggs to cool in cold water. Drain potatoes, and leave to cool for 10 – 15 minutes.
  • In a small bowl mix together yogurt, mayonnaise, vinegar, mustard, and black pepper.
  • Put potatoes in a salad bowl with the celery, onions, and eggs. Add the dressing and toss gently to coat. Cover and chill in the refrigerator until ready to serve.
  • Before serving sprinkle with a little paprika.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Amalfi-Style Shrimp

Many moons ago, I had a fabulous vacation not too far from the Amalfi area of Italy, staying in a lovely place called Sorento. While there I had the opportunity to visit many historic places such as Pompeii, Herculaneum, Monte Casino, and even revisited one of my favorite cities, Rome, for a weekend. I also went to the top of the still active volcano, Vesuvius, and to the island of Capri, so I have many happy memories of this region.

On a less happy note, it’s been sweltering here this week, we’ve been melting in 100°F temperatures, which were further compounded by high humidity. Even at night, temps have been in the low 80’s so it’s been thoroughly unpleasant.

Anyway, it's no use moaning, 'cos I can't do a damn thing about it. Today’s recipe is another one from good old Auntie Beeb and another winner. As usual I changed it up a bit, the recipe said to marinate the shrimp for 1 hour, but I thought that was too long as I felt the mint would completely dominate the flavor of the shrimp, so I only did them for 10 minutes. Personally, I thought that was just right, but by all means marinate them for longer if you like.

I highly recommend this dish, the shrimp were finger-licking good. Also, they only took 5 minutes to cook on the grill, so poor old Mick didn’t have to spend too long sweating over a hot BBQ. Try these, you’ll be glad you did.

Amalfi-Style Shrimp


2 tablespoons olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2-3 sprigs of mint, (about 15 leaves) finely chopped
Black pepper, to taste
25-30 large uncooked shrimp
¼ cup Italian breadcrumbs


  • Peel shrimp, but leave tails on.
  • In a medium bowl combine the olive oil, garlic, mint, and black pepper, add the shrimp and toss to coat. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator for 10 minutes.
  • Pre-heat BBQ to low.
  • Thread 5-6 shrimp onto skewers, (I used metal ones, but if you use bamboo you’ll need to soak them in water for a few minutes).
  • Place the breadcrumbs on a plate then press the skewered shrimp into the crumbs.
  • Brush a piece of heavy-duty foil with olive oil. Place the skewers on the foil and grill for about 2 minutes a side, until shrimp have turned pink, and breadcrumbs are golden.
    Serve with lemon wedges.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Parmesan Chicken

It’s 95°F here today, and as humid and sweaty as an old sock, despite this we are still being battered by severe thunderstorms on a regular basis. Last week we had a particularly bad one with straight-line winds that brought down one of our persimmon trees.

We had a really nice grouping of three of these trees, when they were all in leaf they looked like one magnificent tree. These trees have had an unfortunate year; one was struck by lightning and will have to be cut down – now this.

The remaining one looks totally forlorn without his chums. But on a brighter note, we have had a bit of a tree planting frenzy this spring, and have put in 14 new trees. Admittedly, they are not much more than twigs right now, but one-day. :-)

Anyway, on with the food. We have finally had some luck with some salad greens. Yay! We’ve tried growing lettuce and spinach before with very little success. The weather here in Oklahoma changes from warm to baking hot so rapidly that the plants always bolted before we had a chance to eat them. This year Mick planted some mesclun greens which did very well indeedy, in fact, they grew back almost as fast as we could pick them. Mesclun mixes vary, ours was made up of arugula and dinky little spinach leaves. Although they kept us in salads during the spring, that avenue of pleasure is now closed, as they too have bolted in the heat. Oh hum!

To this mix of salad greens, I added a few baby Swiss rainbow chard leaves from our garden, some chopped tomato, a drizzle of olive oil and red wine vinegar, a dash of cracked pepper, feta cheese. You can also add a few toasted slivered almonds for a little extra crunch. I served this salad with the Parmesan chicken. This chicken is light but full of flavor. We cooked it on the BBQ, but you could do it in the oven at 350F, for about 10-15 minutes.

Parmesan Chicken


1/3 cup Italian breadcrumbs
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, shredded
Cracked black pepper, to taste
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 skinless, boneless chicken breasts


  • Pre-heat grill to low, or oven to 350F
  • Mix Italian breadcrumbs, Parmesan cheese, and a dash of cracked black pepper on a plate.
  • Beat egg in a shallow bowl.
  • Slice chicken in half into 2 flat pieces.
  • Dip chicken in egg, then into parmesan/breadcrumb mix.
  • Place chicken in an ovenproof dish, or if grilling, on a double sheet of heavy-duty foil, greased with olive oil. Grill or bake for 10 – 15 minutes.

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Wild Cod in a Tomato, Pepper and Olive Sauce

I’ve been having a bit of a break from writing, and catching up on some gardening (yay!), and housework (yuk!), both of which needed some attention after all my recent bouts of illness. But I still found plenty of time for dossing around (English slang for idling about) enjoying a glass or two of wine on the porch in the evenings, reading, doing crosswords, watching some telly, and of course, cooking.

I usually get my gardening and flower planting done much earlier than this, but the weather this spring has been pretty dire. Lots of storms, rain of biblical proportions, and the odd tornado scare thrown in for good measure. Not that I mind gardening in the rain, if the Brits allowed a little rain to stop them they would never garden. :-) Mick’s veggie garden is coming along great, if you’re interested you can check out his blog here:

This week, however, has been largely hot and sunny, though we did have one day that was really cloudy and cool, thus a perfect gardening day for me. I loathe laboring in the heat. This type of weather always reminds me of summer days in England, endless gray skies, with the ever-present threat of rain.

Anyway, enough of my drivel, let’s get on with the recipe. As many of you know, I am often bemoaning the fact that I can’t get any decent fresh fish here, and my experiences with frozen fish have not been very good. Anyway, the last time I went to Sam’s Club, I picked up a bag of frozen wild cod that turned out to be surprisingly good. They had a number of other varieties of fish by the same producer, so I will definitely be checking those out next time I go there.

Wild Cod in a Tomato, Pepper and Olive Sauce


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion, chopped
½ green pepper, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 14-ounce can whole tomatoes (I used my tomato gloop, recipe here: As the gloop already contains peppers and onions I didn’t need to add them, but I did throw in a few chopped spring onions).
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Black pepper
3-4 wild cod fillets
2 tablespoons feta cheese, crumbled
2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, chopped


  • Pre-heat oven to 400°F

  • Heat oil in a large skillet over a medium heat, add onions and green pepper and sauté until onion is translucent. Stir in tomatoes, (break them up a little with the spoon), tomato paste, olives, oregano, and black pepper. Reduce heat and simmer uncovered for about 5 minutes.

  • Brush an 11 x 7-inch baking dish with a little olive oil and add cod fillets to dish. Spoon the tomato mixture over the fish and bake for 15 – 20 minutes or until fish flakes easily.

  • To serve, sprinkle with feta cheese and chopped parsley.

Sunday, May 24, 2009

Pasta Bolognese Bake with Garlic Bread

A few weeks back I mentioned that I had written an article about a local botanical garden for Oklahoma Living Magazine. If you’re interested you can find it here:

And whilst I’m on the subject of writing, last week, I got my entries back from the Oklahoma Writer’s Federation contest. I won a big fat zero this year, not even so much as a measly honorable mention. Oh hum. On the plus side, I did get some excellent marks from the judges and some very favorable comments, but I guess others just did better. Oh well, you can’t win them all, and there’s always next year.

And continuing the literary theme, a couple of friends from my writer’s group were recently bemoaning the fact that though they like lasagna, they find it a fiddle to make. I told them I had a much easier pasta bake recipe, personally I prefer it to lasagna, and any leftovers freeze beautifully. So this one’s for you Sharon and Margaret.

If you like you can leave out the baking stage and use this as a pasta sauce. Omit the cheeses, and just sprinkle the finished dish with a little shredded Parmesan.

Pasta Bolognese Bake with Garlic Bread
Serves 4


8 ounces penne pasta
½ tablespoon butter
1 lb. ground sirloin
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 – 3 teaspoons chili powder
1 14½ ounce can whole tomatoes (I used my tomato gloop, you can find that recipe here:
3 tablespoons tomato paste
A couple of dashes of Tabasco sauce
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1 level teaspoon sugar
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste
4 ounces mushrooms, sliced
1 cups mozzarella cheese, shredded (divided)
½ cup sharp cheddar, shredded

Note: Seasonings, spices, and herb quantities are all guesstimates, I just tinker around until it’s how I like it.

Easy Peasy Garlic Bread


½ a French loaf, cut in half lengthwise
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped – use less if you want, but I like garlic bread that tastes of garlic
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, + about 2 teaspoons butter.

Directions for pasta bake:
  • Cook pasta for about 5 minutes, drain and set aside.
  • Melt butter in a deep-sided skillet, over a medium-high heat, add ground beef and saute until browned.
  • Reduce heat to medium, add onion, and sauté for about 2 minutes. Add garlic and chili powder and sauté for a further minute.
  • Add canned tomatoes, and break tomatoes in half, bring to a gentle boil. Stir in tomato paste.
  • Add Tabasco, Worcestershire sauces, oregano, black pepper, and sugar, reduce heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
  • Meanwhile pre-heat oven to 350F
  • Spoon a layer of about a 1/3 of the sauce into an 11x7-inch baking dish and top with ¾ of the mozzarella.
  • Stir pasta and mushrooms into remaining sauce, and transfer to baking dish. Top with remaining cheeses and bake for about 20 - 25 minutes, until cheese is bubbly.
While pasta bakes prepare garlic bread.
  • Spread each half of French loaf with approximately 2 teaspoons butter, and place on a baking sheet covered with foil for easy clean up.
  • Melt 4 tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan over a medium heat. Add garlic, and sauté for 1 minute.
  • Spoon garlic butter evenly over bread, and set aside.
  • When pasta is out of the oven, heat broiler to high.
  • Place garlic bread under broiler for 2-3 minutes until bread is golden brown. Keep a close eye on it, as it’s easy to burn it.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Mediterranean Potatoes

Thanks to everyone for all your commiserations and good wishes after my recent illness. You are all so kind, and tolerant of my erratic posting and commenting. I’m afraid I’m still playing catch-up as I had an interview to do, and an assignment to write last week for Oklahoma Living. My editor had extended my deadline because of my recent bout of flu, but it was still a bit of a push to get it done in time. Sometimes the writing just refuses to flow. This piece was about a local mushroom farm – a fascinating place to visit – but tricky to write about.

Until I started doing research for this article, I had no idea what a complex process growing mushrooms is. If you’re interested you can take a short video tour of a mushroom farm here:
The site also has lots of information about mushrooms, and some great recipes.

I did include a recipe for portabella burgers with the artcle, but this one was courtesy of Pam at: Thanks so much for allowing me to use your recipe, Pam, you’re a brick.

Today’s recipe, however, contains no mushrooms. It’s based on a recipe I saw in the BBC Good Food newsletter for Spanish Potatoes, I changed it up a bit and called it Mediterranean Potatoes. These were super, the leftovers were also good cold, so you could serve them as a potato salad during the summer.

Mediterranean Potatoes


2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 tablespoons tomato paste
1 tablespoon paprika
A few dashes of hot sauce, Franks or Tabasco
2 lbs. russet potatoes, cut into chunks
1 bulb (head) of garlic, leave skin on but top and tail each clove.
Cracked black pepper, to taste
Juice of ½ a lemon
A handful of chopped parsley


  • Put potatoes in a medium sized saucepan, cover with water and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium high and par-boil for 4 –5 minutes or until potatoes are very slightly softened. Drain and allow to cool.
  • Pre-heat oven to 375°F
  • When potatoes are cool, mix olive oil, tomato paste, paprika, and hot sauce in a large bowl, add potatoes and stir to coat.
  • Add a tablespoon of vegetable oil to a roasting pan and heat in oven. When oil is hot carefully add potatoes and garlic cloves to pan, and season with cracked pepper.
  • Roast for about 40 minutes, turning half way through cooking, or until potatoes are crispy on the outside. Sprinkle over the lemon juice and roast for a further 5 minutes.
  • Transfer potatoes to a warm serving dish, sprinkle with parsley and serve.

Thursday, May 7, 2009

Vegetable Samosas

The wanderer returns. I think I’m going to have to stop saying, I’m back, as every time I do that something else goes wrong. By now, I’m sure you all must think that I’m a complete hypochondriac. The truth is, ordinarily I am not a sick person, but these past few months it just seems to have been one thing after another. (Sigh!) The latest ailment was the flu, and it was a bad one. Anyway, I’m not going to bore you with the details, suffice it to say, I’m okay now, and hopefully will stay that way for a while.

I now have a lot of catching up to do on both the work and the blog fronts. I’ve really missed everyone, but I will be visiting with y’all over the next day or two.

This is another recipe inspired by Jason at
we obviously share the same love of Indian cuisine. I love veggie samosas, and I have tried making them before using frozen filo pastry. They were a disaster, they just fell to pieces. Jason had the ingenious idea of making samosas using egg roll wrappers, I tried his method and they worked beautifully. I did use my own recipe for the filling though. Also, I have to confess that I deep-fried them in the traditional Indian way, naughty – but ever so nice. Next time I will try baking them, honest. ;-)

Vegetable Samosas

Makes about 10 – 12 samosas


1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion finely chopped
3 – 4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 teaspoons red curry powder
1 teaspoon ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
2 Russet potatoes, finely diced
1 carrot, finely diced
1 cup frozen peas
½ cup vegetable/or chicken stock
1 package egg roll wraps
Sufficient vegetable oil for deep frying

  • Heat oil in a large skillet over a medium heat, add onion and sauté until translucent. Add garlic and sauté for a further minute.
  • Stir in all spices and sauté for another minute.
  • Add potatoes, carrots, and peas and stir until coated.
  • Add stock, and bring to boil. Reduce heat and simmer covered for about 30 minutes until veggies are tender and liquid has almost evaporated.
  • Allow mixture to cool, and place in refrigerator until cold.
  • Place a tablespoon of the mixture in half of the wrap, dampen edges of wrap with water and fold into a triangle. When folding the triangle leave a little extra pastry at the edges to fold over and seal the triangle.
  • In a deep fat fryer or wok heat vegetable oil to 400F, deep-fry samosas in pairs until golden brown, about 3 – 4 minutes.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Welsh Rarebit or Rabbit

There is some controversy as to whether this dish should be called Welsh Rarebit or Rabbit. It’s generally supposed that the term Rabbit came first, and Rarebit was a later corruption of the word. In the Welsh language it is called Caws Pobi, which means roasted cheese, so no clues there.

The term Rabbit seems to make more sense, as according to Wikipedia: "It may be an ironic name coined in the days when the Welsh were notoriously poor. Only better-off people could afford butcher's meat, and while in England rabbit was the poor man's meat, in Wales the poor man's meat was cheese."

There is a long tradition of cheese making in Britain, and British cheeses are amongst the best in the world, small wonder then that cheese appears in so many of our recipes. We have been toasting, baking, grilling, and roasting cheese since time immemorial but, as with most classic British dishes, the secret lies in the ingredients.

Welsh Rabbit is a simple dish, Americans would call it, grilled cheese, but it is anything but grilled cheese. What lifts this recipe out of the ordinary is the use of good quality ingredients, or the best you can find. Trust me you’ll notice the difference.

This recipe is taken from Brian Turner’s Favourite British Recipes. My hubby, being an engineer, calls this Rev A, as the first time I made it I didn’t read the instructions properly (so what's new?), hence the need for revision. :-) The recipe said to refrigerate the cheese sauce overnight – whoops -but I was ready to rock and roll. The first version, slapped on the toast right out of the pan was goood, but Rev A knocked it out the water. So here we go.

Welsh Rabbit - Rev. A


¼ cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon beer or ale. It's best to use a British beer such as Bass ale, Newcastle Brown, or even Guiness. I used Newcastle Brown, (or Nuclear Brown as it is affectionately known). You may think that a bit extravagant when only using 1 tbsp. but use Budweiser, or any other home grown, at your peril. At a pinch you could use a good micro-brew, but why spoil the ship for a ha'porth of tar?

1 teaspoon English mustard – I used Coleman’s English, but if you can’t get that use a good Dijon – anything but that yellow paste mustard.

8 ounces mature cheddar, shredded. If you can get an English cheddar do, but the best I could come up with here is Cracker Barrel Extra Sharp Cheddar, or a New York Cabot would work.

A dash of Worcestershire sauce

2 egg yolks, lightly beaten

4 thick slices of bread (in England we call these doorstops), from an unsliced loaf. The best I could come up with was a sourdough loaf, and that worked out pretty good, but use bread that doesn’t come pre-sliced.

  • Heat cream in a medium saucepan over a medium heat until tiny bubbles form on surface. Stir in ale and heat again.
  • Remove pan from heat and stir in mustard, Worcestershire sauce, and cheese. Return pan to burner on a low heat, and stir constantly until cheese melts.
  • Remove pan from heat again and stir in eggs until fully combined.
  • Pour into a bowl, and allow mix to cool. Refrigerate until following day.
  • Place 4 thick slices of bread on a baking sheet and toast (one side only) under a hot broiler. Spread cheese mixture on untoasted side of bread, and return to broiler until cheese is golden brown.

Variations: You can add a poached egg on top of the cheese, this is known as a Buck Rabbit.

Or for a little more pep, spread the bread with a little HP brown (or A1 steak) sauce before adding the cheese.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Creamy Leek and Spinach Pasta

I’m back! At long last.

Thanks for asking about the article Paula, and yes it is you at: who won the giveaway, just in case there was any doubt.

My latest story for Oklahoma Living Magazine is about a local botanical garden, which seemed to have me thwarted at every turn. Not only did I have a stinking cold, but the weather conspired against me as well. Every time I arranged an interview and a visit to the gardens there would be a thunderstorm, or a snowstorm, or freezing conditions, and it would have to be postponed. I had a few hairy moments when I thought this story would never get written, but this time I just snuck in under the wire.

I’m still doing well with my quit smoking campaign; it’s been just over 5 weeks now. Yay! I won’t say I don’t miss the ciggies, because I still do. Though I do now go for quite long periods without thinking about them. The worst times are still when I am writing under pressure for a deadline, then I could absolutely murder one. I was as grumpy as hell this past weekend, so I kicked Mick, and shouted at the cats. :-) Oh well, nobody said it was going to be easy.

Anyway enough of my rambling, on with the recipe. The inspiration for this recipe was good old Auntie Beeb again, but I’ve made so many changes that I’m claiming it as my own. The good thing about this recipe, besides its tasting divine, is it’s ready in less than 30 minutes. For a vegetarian meal, just omit the bacon stage.

Note on cleaning leeks. Leeks can have a bit of a gritty texture, but if you prepare them this way that won’t happen. Top and tail your leeks - just use the white and pale green flesh - then slice them down the middle length ways, but don't cut them right through, then rinse them under running water for a minute or two and they'll be great.

Creamy Leek and Spinach Pasta


4 slices of bacon, chopped into small pieces
8 ounces penne pasta
1 tablespoon butter
1 teaspoon olive oil
2 large leeks, thoroughly cleaned, and sliced
Black pepper, to taste
3 garlic cloves
8 sun dried tomatoes, sliced
¾ cup heavy cream
½ cup sour cream
1 tablespoon ground mustard
½ cup feta cheese, diced, or if using pre-crumbled use the large pieces + 2 tablespoons to serve
A couple of handfuls of spinach leaves, about 2 cups - ish.


  • In a large skillet over a medium high heat, cook bacon until crisp. Remove from pan, drain on paper towels, and set aside. Drain bacon fat from skillet, but don’t wipe pan.
  • Set a saucepan of water to boil to cook penne pasta. Cook on a rolling boil for about 7- 8 minutes until al-dente.
  • While pasta cooks, over a medium heat, add butter and olive oil to skillet and sauté leeks for 3 minutes. Season liberally with black pepper. Add sun-dried tomatoes and sauté for a further 2 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for another minute.
  • Drain pasta.
  • Add cream, sour cream, and ground mustard to leek mixture and stir to combine. Stir in feta cheese. Heat until cheese begins to melt.
  • Add pasta to skillet and stir to combine. Add spinach and toss until wilted.
  • Transfer to warm plates, top with additional feta and bacon, and serve immediately.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

I'm late, I'm late, for a very important date!

My profound apologies to everyone for the delay in posting the winner of my blogiversary give-away. I thought I was going to escape flu season unscathed this year, but it wasn't to be. The past few days I have been pretty ill with a miserable cold, still am really. :-( I also have a rapidly approaching deadline for my next assignment for Oklahoma Living Magazine, unfortunately there are no sick days in this job.

Anyway, without further ado, (pause for a drum roll), the winner is PAULA! Many congrats to you. If you e-mail your address to I'll get that in the snail mail ASAP.

Meanwhile a big thank you to all of you who read this blog - despite my erratic posting and commenting - I appreciate each and every one of you. Cheers!

Toodle pip for now. I'll be back with another recipe, sooon!

Thursday, March 26, 2009

It's my Blogiversary

It’s late, but I simply had to post today as it is Range Warfare’s first birthday. Can you believe it? Doesn’t time fly when you’re having fun? As a big thank you to all you folks who take the time and trouble to visit my humble abode I’m giving away a hardback copy of Ina Garten’s book, barefoot contessa at home.

I wish I could give everyone a gift, but when you’re a poor and struggling writer like moi that’s just not financially viable. One day I’ll write that best seller and we'll all have some fun. :-)

Anyone who leaves a comment on my blog between now and midnight on Monday (Oklahoma time), will be eligible to enter. All names will go into a hat, and Mick, (or one of the cats) will select a winner. I’ll post the name of the winner on Tuesday. Bonne chance mes amis.

And without further ado:

Pork Tenderloin Stuffed with Feta Cheese, Leeks, and Garlic. (And don't forget the bacon).


1 pork tenderloin – sorry, I’m not sure how much this weighed, I’m guessing about 1½ lbs. prior to cooking
½ a leek, cleaned and thinly sliced
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 tablespoons feta cheese
3-4 bacon slices
1 tablespoon vegetable oil


  • Pre-heat oven to 450F
  • Slit the pork down the center, but don’t cut right through. Spread leeks, garlic, and feta evenly over the meat, but not right up to the edges. Fold the meat up and tie into a parcel using kitchen twine. Season generously with black pepper, then wrap the bacon slices around the pork.
  • Brush a baking dish with vegetable oil, put meat in dish and roast for about 15 minutes.
  • Reduce heat to 375F and cook for a further 20-30 minutes, possibly longer depending on size of pork loin. Don't worry if you think you've overdone it - the bacon keeps it nice and moist.
  • Allow to rest for 10 minutes or so before carving.

That’s the meat I’m talking about there. And while it rests, what the hell, pour yourself a glass of wine or whatever else floats your boat, and put your feet up for a few mins. You all deserve it. And, Cheers, Bottoms up! but make mine a large one. ;-)

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Lamb Curry

Jason at has been making a few Indian dishes lately, and it reminded me that I haven’t made a single curry this winter, a situation which needed to be rectified immediately.

We Brits have had a love affair with Indian cuisine ever since India was the jewel in the crown of the British Empire. It has even been claimed that fish and chips is no longer our national dish, having been replaced by Chicken Tikka Masala, I’m not so sure about that, but it’s definitely a close second. If you’re interested you can find the recipe for it here:

If further proof is needed of the wonderful quality of curries to be had in Britain, it is provided by my Indian boss at one of the places I worked in California. He told me the best curry he had ever eaten was in England, at a place called Bradford in West Yorkshire! It just so happens that my hubby Mick was born there – though he claims no Indian ancestry. :-)

Unfortunately, many people assume that all Indian curries are too hot to handle, this is not so. Most of them are made from a subtle blend of spices that go together to create fabulous flavors that titillate the palate, rather than overpower it. Sure, you can create really hot, spicy curries if you like; it’s all a matter of personal taste. I like hot curries, Mick not so much, so this one is quite mild, but in no way tame. This recipe is kind of an amalgamation of several curry recipes, and I have to say, I thought this was one of the best curries I have ever made, hubby certainly concurred.

As many of you already know, I have great difficulty in obtaining lamb (amongst other things), around these parts. But last year, just before Thanksgiving, we did manage to persuade a local butcher to procure us a leg of lamb, which he chopped into joints and chops for us. At the time we were packing it away in the freezer, Mick looked at the skinny part of the leg, (it was larger than a lamb shank, but not as big as joint) and said he didn’t know what I would do with that. I, on the other hand, immediately earmarked it for a lamb curry, and this is what happened to it.

Lamb Curry


Don’t let the cast of characters put you off making this, most of them are spices.

2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large lamb shank, or a couple of smaller ones, whatever you use it should have bone in for more flavor. Make some deep slices in the lamb to enable the meat to better infuse the spices.
1 large onion sliced
4 cloves garlic
2 teaspoons garam masala
3 teaspoons red curry powder
1 tablespoon cumin seeds, crushed with a mortar and pestle, or 1 teaspoon ground cumin
¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Fresh ground black pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon coriander seeds, crushed with a mortar and pestle, or 1 teaspoon ground coriander. These seeds came from some cilantro that I grew last year.

½ cup chicken stock/broth
1 large can whole tomatoes. I used a 3-cup container of my tomato gloop, which I make every summer from homegrown tomatoes, onions, bell peppers, and herbs, and which I always use in place of canned tomatoes. That recipe is
½ cup tomato paste
½ cup plain fat-free yogurt
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
3 - 4 cups potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
½ cup raisins


  • Heat oil in a large saucepan or Dutch oven over a medium high heat. Add lamb to pan and keep turning meat until evenly browned. Remove lamb from pan and set aside.
  • Reduce heat to medium, and sauté onions until translucent, add garlic and sauté for a further minute. Stir in all spices except crushed coriander seeds.
  • Return lamb to pan, stir in crushed coriander seeds. and turn meat in spices to coat. Add a splash of chicken stock if mixture is too dry, and cook for a couple more minutes.
  • Add canned tomatoes, (or tomato gloop) and chicken stock, bring to boil, then reduce heat to simmer. Simmer covered for 1½ hours.
  • In a small bowl, mix together yogurt, tomato paste, and a dash of Worcestershire sauce, stir into the pan, along with potatoes and raisins, and simmer for a further 45 minutes.
  • Transfer to a warm serving dish and serve with hot Basmati rice. I had intended to make some naan bread, but left it too late, so I heated some flour tortillas which served as chapatis for scooping up all the delicious sauce.

BTW, Like all stews, curry leftovers taste even better the following day.

Sunday, March 15, 2009

Sausage and Veggie Hash

It’s now day 15 since I quit smoking, and I am still smoke free. Yay! I can’t say I’m out of the woods yet though. There are still times when I could murder a ciggie, especially after a meal, and I still find it hard to remain focused when I’m writing, but It is getting easier. On the plus side, food tastes so much better now, I don’t get as breathless, and I’m sure my gums are healing better, as my teeth don’t feel as sensitive as they did. Anyway, I’ll find out whether it’s done any good when I see the periodontist in early April.

So, on with the show.

This recipe is loosely based on one I saw on the Beeb,
Theirs used leftover veggies, which this doesn’t; I also added a few ingredients which weren’t in the original. I used some Spinach and Asiago Chicken Sausage that I had picked up at Sam’s Club and stuck in the freezer, they were delish, but you could use whatever sausage you like.

Sausage and Veggie Hash


2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
5 Spinach and Asiago Chicken Sausages
3-4 potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 tablespoon butter
1 leek, white and pale green parts only, thoroughly cleaned and sliced
1 small onion, coarsely chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 – 3 teaspoons Dijon mustard
Black pepper, to taste
½ -1 cup sharp cheddar, depending on your serving preference.

  • Put potatoes in a pan of water, bring to boil, reduce heat to medium-high and parboil for about 3-5 minutes until potatoes are very slightly softened. Drain, set aside and allow to cool.
  • Heat 1 tbsp. of oil in a large skillet over a medium heat, add sausage and cook for about ten minutes until nicely browned. Cut sausages into chunks and keep warm in the oven on a low temp.
  • Clean skillet, then heat another tablespoon of oil over a medium-high heat, add potatoes and sauté until golden brown. Remove from pan and keep them warm in the oven.
  • Wipe skillet clean with paper towel, then melt butter over a medium heat. Add onion to pan and saute for 2 minutes, add leeks and saute for a further 2 minutes, finally add garlic and saute 1 minute. Stir mustard into the mix and season with fresh ground black pepper.
  • Return sausages and potatoes to pan, and toss gently with onion etc. Remove pan from heat, sprinkle on half the cheese and stir to combine.
  • Transfer mixture to a warm serving dish, you can serve at this point, which looks like the first photo and uses less cheese. Or you can top with remaining cheese and put dish under a hot broiler for 1-2 minutes until cheese melts. Either way it’s yummy.

Saturday, March 7, 2009

Beef Stew

Once again, the weather here has been all over the place. Last weekend, we had a high of 25°F (-4C), with snow, and bitterly cold north winds. Saturday, we were eating beef stew, and Sunday, roast chicken with all the trimmings. The past few days our temps have been in the 70’s and 80’s and we’re considering rolling out the BBQ.

Weather aside, this has been a horrendous week for me as I am trying to quit smoking. As of this moment it has been 6 days, 16 hours and 39 minutes since my last cigarette, and believe me, I have suffered through every waking moment. %-(

I have been thinking of quitting for some time, but the recent problems with my gums gave me the kick up the arse I needed. The dentist told me my gums would have more chance of healing if I quit smoking. But the real clincher was, he told me if they didn’t heal I would need surgery for bone grafts on three of my teeth. Needless to say, that scared the shit out of me, and gave me the impetus to do something about it.

This week, I have found it very difficult to do any writing, I just can’t do it without a cigarette smoldering in the ashtray. I find myself unable to concentrate, and end up wandering listlessly around the house, gazing out of the window, or fiddling with pens and pencils, or crushing a piece of silly putty to a gloopy mess. Nothing satisfies though, as there is something missing from my life. It’s not that I’m craving nicotine, because this patch is feeding me a regular dose of that, but I am craving the simple pleasure of smoking.

I do so agree with Mark Twain’s sentiments,
"...when they used to tell me I would shorten my life ten years by smoking, they little knew the devotee they were wasting their puerile words upon -- they little knew how trivial and valueless I would regard a decade that had no smoking in it!"

But that’s because I’m an addict. Addictions, however, can be broken, and I am determined to do the best I can to break mine. Wish me luck.

BTW, I should mention, that I am back on solid food again. The only things I have to avoid are crisps/chips, hard fruit such as apples, and uncooked veggies like carrots.

Anyway, enough of my driveling on, time for some beef stew. In this recipe you can pretty much use whatever veggies you have hanging around the fridge.

Beef Stew


1 lb. beef stew meat
¼ cup all-purpose flour, seasoned with cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cups beef broth/stock
1 large onion, divided, half chopped into big chunks, the other half just chopped
½ a rutabaga peeled and cut into chunks
3 carrots, sliced
1 green pepper, deseeded and cut into chunks
4 potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
1 leek, white and pale green parts (thoroughly cleaned) and sliced
1 parsnip, peeled and sliced

  • Put flour in a Ziplock bag, season with cracked pepper, add the beef stew meat and toss until coated.
  • In a large soup pot, or Dutch oven heat olive oil over a medium-high heat. Add the flour coated beef to the pan, season with more black pepper, and sauté until lightly browned. Add the large chunks of onion and sauté for a further minute or so. Add the beef broth/stock to the pan, bring to boil, then reduce heat and simmer covered for 1 hour.
  • After 1 hour, throw all remaining veggies into the pan. If more liquid is required add another cup of broth, or just a cup of water will do. Return to boil, reduce heat, and simmer covered for about 40-45 minutes until all veggies are tender and stew has thickened.
  • About half way through this period of cooking check seasoning and adjust if required, toss in a bit of paprika if you like.

Serve with crusty bread. I, of course, couldn’t resist adding a few dumplings during the final 25 minutes of cooking. :-)

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Pancake Tuesday on Sunday!

Actually, I did make these pancakes (crepes) on Shrove Tuesday, (February 24th, Mardi Gras here), but I’m such a slacker that I am only just getting around to posting about them.

Shrove Tuesday is so called in England because it used to be a day of confession and forgiveness, or shriving, prior to Lent, a forty-day period of fasting which began the following day on Ash Wednesday. Shrove Tuesday is also synonymous with pancakes. In earlier times eggs and dairy products were forbidden during the Lenten fast, and pancakes were the perfect way for housewives to use up these ingredients.

In England, many celebrations are held on this day, but perhaps the most famous is the Pancake Day Race held at Olney in Buckinghamshire, an annual tradition since 1445. Legend has it that a woman cooking pancakes heard the church bells summoning her to confession. She ran to the church still clad in her apron and carrying her frying pan, thus starting a custom which continues to this day.

The rules of the race require the contestants, all women, to wear traditional housewifely garb of dress or skirt, apron, and hat or scarf. They must also toss their pancakes at the start and finish of the 415-yard dash. The winner receives a kiss and a blessing, "The peace of the Lord be always with you," from the vicar of the parish.

In 1950, the race became a transatlantic affair when the townspeople of Liberal, Kansas, became involved. After seeing press photographs of the race, Liberal challenged Olney to a contest. Ever since the two towns have competed annually.

I remember cooking pancakes for Mick, in the first year of our marriage ― and it almost became our last. Far from being able to toss my pancakes, I struggled to turn them over at all, and they fell to pieces when I tried to remove them from the pan. Despite assurances from Mick that they tasted great, I became more and more frustrated with my efforts. To make matters worse, I had to watch hungrily while he ate one after another of my pathetic offerings. I was so angry I could have cheerfully whacked him with the frying pan.

In the end, Mick saved the day. He sat me down with a glass of wine, and cooked dinner for me ― not pancakes, I hasten to add. Things have move on a pace since those early days, I now wonder why I found it so difficult. Oh hum!



½ cup all-purpose flour, sifted
Pinch of salt
2 eggs
1 cup milk mixed with ¼ cup water
1/2 stick butter

To serve:

Superfine or confectioner’s sugar
1 lemon, chopped into wedges

  • Sift the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl. Make a well in the center of the flour break the eggs into it and whisk. Gradually add milk and water mixture, and whisk until the batter is smooth.
  • Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Add 2 tablespoons of melted butter to the batter and whisk it in. Use remaining butter to grease a 10-inch sauté pan before you make each pancake.
  • Get pan really hot, reduce heat to medium. Using a pastry brush smear a little butter around base of pan. Add ¾ of a soup ladle (approx. 8 tablespoons) of batter to pan. Tilt pan around to get the base evenly coated with batter.
  • After about 1 minute or so lift the edge of the pancake with a spatula, it should be a golden brown. Flip the pancake over with a spatula and cook the other side for about 20 seconds.
  • Slide pancake out of the pan onto a plate. Sprinkle with freshly squeezed lemon juice and fine sugar, roll the pancake up and serve immediately.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Ham, Leek, and Pasta Bake and an Award

This is just going to be a quickie post today as I have an award to give out. Hurray!

Many thanks to Cheryl over at:

Cheryl cooks up some fabulous recipes, as well as giving us weekly money saving tips, and allowing us an insight into the life of her pampered pooch, Martha Anne. If you’ve never visited her, I suggest you get your arse over there right away, if not sooner.

The rules for this award are:

1. Put the logo on your blog or post.
2. Nominate at least 10 (like Cheryl, I am doing 5) blogs which show great Attitude and/or Gratitude!
3. Be sure to link to your nominees within your post.
4. Let them know that they have received this award by commenting on their blog.
5. Share the love and link to this post and to the person from whom you received your award.

Pause for a drum roll, the lucky winners are:

Beth at I have been following Beth’s blog since she first started blogging. She’s a lovely lass and a great cook.

Jan at Jan loves Greek food, but also likes to put a new spin on many classic British dishes.

Sara at: Sara creates some wonderful dishes, and her presentation always looks so professional.

Lynda at: I have only just discovered Lynda’s blog, and it turns out we live quite close by each other. She has only been blogging for a few months, but she already has lots of tasty treats on her site.

Jo at This isn’t a cooking blog, which is perhaps as well as Jo is on a diet at the moment. But her blog isn’t all about dieting, Jo is one busy lady, and is lucky enough to live in one of the most beautiful areas of England, the Lake District.

Check them all out, you’ll be glad you did.

Okay dokey, without further ado, I’ll get on with the recipe. The picture doesn’t do this dish justice as it was really rather yummy, and a great way to use up leftover ham.

Ham, Leek, and Pasta Bake


8 ounces penne pasta
2 - 3 leeks, white and pale green parts only, sliced
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
2 tablespoon butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups of leftover ham, diced.
1 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon ground mustard
Black pepper, to taste
1 cup sharp cheddar, shredded
½ cup Italian style breadcrumbs

Note. Leeks have a bit of a gritty texture, but if you prepare them this way that won’t happen. Top and tail your leeks - just use the white and pale green flesh - then slice them down the middle length ways, but don't cut them right through, then rinse them under running water for a minute or two and they'll be great.

  • Pre-heat oven to 350°F
  • Add pasta to a large pot of boiling water, reduce heat to medium high, boil gently for 5 minutes, drain and set aside.
  • Meanwhile, back at the ranch, sorry I couldn't resist. Put stock in a medium saucepan and bring to a gentle boil, reduce heat to simmer and add the leeks. Simmer for about 3-4 minutes until leeks are tender. Drain and reserve stock in a jug.
  • Mix leeks and ham together in a 9 x 11 inch baking dish and season with fresh cracked pepper.
  • In same pan, melt butter over a medium heat. Remove pan from heat, stir in flour and mix to a smooth paste. Return pan to heat, and gradually add stock, stirring continuously. Add mustard, cream, and half the cheese, stir until thickened.
  • Add pasta to the sauce. Pour mixture over ham and leeks, top with remaining cheese, and the breadcrumbs, and bake for 30 – 40 minutes.

P.S. For those of you following the ongoing saga of my dental dilemma, on Wednesday, I progressed from the liquid diet onto a soft foods diet. Yay! Incidentally, my first meal was poached eggs, with soft bread and butter. I’ve never been so pleased to see a poached egg in my life. But it’s back to the dentist on Tuesday for yet more tooth grinding. (Sigh)

Sunday, February 15, 2009

Apple Crumble with Custard Sauce

I made this pudding (dessert) a few weeks ago, but as I am only eating soups at the mo, I thought I’d post it now. As you have all probably realized by now, I eat very little sweet stuff, which is perhaps as well considering my present dental predicament, but apple crumble (I also love this made with rhubarb) is one of my favorite puds, surpassed only by jam roly poly. In England, both these puddings would be called "nursery food," as only children, and adults who have never grown up, enjoy them. :-)

I have included a recipe for custard sauce, which I have made before, but on this occasion I cheated and used a pack of Bird’s instant custard. The homemade stuff is much better, although I do like Bird’s custard powder, if I can get hold of it. You can also serve it with fresh cream or vanilla ice cream if you prefer.

Apple Crumble


3-4 apples, I used Granny Smith’s
1 tablespoon sugar
Juice of ½ a lemon
1½ cups all-purpose flour
¾ cup sugar, I used ½ a cup as I don’t like it too sweet
¾ cup butter, softened

  • Pre-heat oven to 400°F.
  • Grease a 9 x 11-inch baking dish with butter. Peel, halve, core apples and cut into wedges. As each apple is cut up, layer in baking dish and sprinkle with a little lemon juice to prevent browning. Sprinkle 1 tablespoon of sugar over apples, you can also add 1 teaspoon of cinnamon at this stage, if you like the stuff.
  • In a large bowl, mix together flour and sugar, then rub in butter using tips of fingers until mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  • Add crumble mixture to dish, and bake for 30 – 40 minutes, until top is golden brown.

Custard Sauce


2 cups milk
3 eggs
3 teaspoons cornstarch
2 tablespoons sugar
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

  • In a medium bowl, mix cornstarch with a little water to form a smooth paste. Add eggs, 4 tablespoon of the milk, and whisk together until smooth.
  • Put remaining milk in a medium saucepan and heat to just below boiling point. Pour hot milk into bowl with egg, cornstarch, milk mixture, and whisk together.
  • Return custard to pan and heat gently over a medium low heat, whisking constantly until thickened. Stir in vanilla extract.

Serve hot over apple crumble.

Look what my Sweetie Pie got me for Valentine's Day.

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Dental Dilemma

Well folks, it’s been fun and games around here these past few weeks. To say I’ve been having a few problems with my teeth would be putting it mildly. Although it’s not so much the teeth that are the problem as the gums. Apparently, when you get to my age it’s not tooth decay you need to worry about, but rotting gums.

It’s my own fault, since moving to the US I’ve been very erratic about dental visits, back in England, I used to go religiously every six months. But here it’s just so bloody expensive, even when you have insurance. Hell, you need to re-mortgage the house just to get your teeth cleaned. Mind you, sad to say, I hear things have gone much the same way in England. What’s the National health Service coming to, I wonder?

Anyway, when I began experiencing some discomfort in an area of my gums, I thought, uh oh this feels expensive. But I did go and get it checked out – even though I did have to wait five weeks for an appointment. They took a whole bunch of x-rays, and scared me to death by telling me I definitely had something going on back there, but they didn’t know what. Of course, in my mind it had to be cancer of the jaw, at the very least. They also said I had lost quite a bit of bone around my teeth, so they were referring me to a periodontist. Needless to say, the nearest one was 50 miles away in Joplin, Missouri. (Sigh!)

To cut a long story short, it turns out my bite was out of line and needed correcting, and I had gum disease which was causing the bone loss. This resulted in spending four (yes, 4 hours!) in the chair on Tuesday, having my teeth sandblasted, sorry, deep cleaned and ground back into place. By the time I staggered from the office, my jaw felt like I had gone ten rounds with Mohammed Ali.

But it gets worse, she put all this packing around my gums, and put me on a liquid diet for a week, and soft foods for a week after that. "What about my blog?" I wailed, "my readers don’t want to look at a can of Ensure." It was to no avail, so I told Mick to get extra wine in, and resigned myself to my predicament. ;-)

Fortunately for me I have lots of tomato and basil soup in the freezer, thanks to Cheryl’s lovely recipe, and you can find more yummies here It’s also a good thing that it’s winter, and I can still make soups, and pop them in the blender.

But if any of you have any recipes that require zero chewing for this week, and little chewing for next week, I’d be much obliged if you’d pass them along.

I’ll be back later with something I prepared earlier, in those halcyon P.D. – Pre-dentist days.


Sunday, February 1, 2009

Cheese Board and Onion Tart

This was another recipe from good old Auntie Beeb. It’s supposed to be a way to use up left over cheeses from the festive season, but I ask you, who ever has any left over cheese? I know we don’t. And while we’re on the subject of cheese, I must tell you about some delicious English cheese I got from Sam’s Club, in Joplin, Missouri. It was Wensleydale cheese, layered with Stilton, and what a fantastic combination it was. I have to say, this was the best cheese I’ve tasted since the last time I went back to England.

Anyway, on with the recipe. I have dispensed with the pastry making instructions, because as you all know, pastry and me don’t get along, but by all means make your own if you’re that way inclined.

I also made a few other changes, I thought two eggs was a bit on the stingey side, so I used four. I also chucked in a few chives for good measure. The recipe also called for the pastry to be cooked before adding the eggs, but whenever I make quiche I just bung everything in the pie, and stick it in the oven, so that’s what I did here. The oven temp also seemed a bit low at 320F, so I upped it to 375F, the edges of the crust did get a bit well done, but what the hell, it still tasted great. Hubby said he’d let me make this again. He’s just too kind. :-)

Cheese Board and Onion Tart


1 Pillsbury dough pie crust
2 onions, sliced into rings
1 tablespoon olive oil
4 eggs
1 cup heavy cream
3 ounces each, Stilton, Brie, Sharp Cheddar
Black pepper, to taste
1 tablespoon chives, chopped

  • Roll out crust and place in a pie dish, trim any excess pastry from edges.
  • Pre-heat oven to 375F
  • Heat oil in a large skillet over a medium heat, add onions and cook until golden, approx. 10 minutes.
  • In a large bowl beat eggs and cream, season with black pepper, and stir in the chives.
  • Chop the soft cheeses into small pieces, and shred the cheddar.
  • Scatter the cheeses in the pastry case, top with the onions, and pour in the egg mix. Bake for 35 – 40 minutes until set and golden brown.

Allow to cool for 10 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Szechuan Beef and Broccoli Stir-Fry

Another big freeze has hit the mid-west. The freezing rain began yesterday afternoon, continued into the night, and started again this afternoon. As of now, it is not as bad as last winter’s ice storm when we lost several trees, and other trees suffered a lot of damage. Today’s high was 21°F (-6°C), with a forecasted low of 13°F (-11°C). There is also snow forecast for tonight, which on top of all this ice will be treacherous.

We Brits are often accused of being obsessed with the weather, and it’s true, but that’s because the weather in Britain is awful most of the time. Oklahomans are equally obsessed with the weather, but that’s because we seem to suffer such extremes of it. Baking hot and humid in the summer, and perishingly cold in winter, with tornadoes an ever present threat in spring and fall.

Also, Oklahoma seems to grind to a halt in snow or icy conditions, as they don't bother gritting/salting or plowing the road. Well, not round here they don't. And to make matters worse, the power seems to go out at the drop of a hat, though that hasn’t happened yet. Fingers crossed.

Anyway, I’ll type faster, just in case. So what’s the recipe for today, Jan?
Hubby’s company gave him a box of steaks as part of his Christmas bonus, and to be honest, neither of us are huge fans of steak. Most of them will be chopped up and included in other recipes, such as this one.

Breaking News - In the time it's taken me to type this, it's begun snowing, very heavily. Brrr.

Szechuan Beef and Broccoli Stir-Fry


2 steaks, cut into thin strips
2 tablespoons olive oil, divided
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped, divided
1 broccoli crown, cut into florets
1 onion, sliced
1 tablespoon water
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1 beefsteak tomato, cut into wedges
½ cup Szechuan sauce
¼ cup water

  • In a wok or large skillet, heat 1 tablespoon of oil over a medium-high heat. Add steak and half of the garlic, and stir-fry for 5 minutes. Remove beef and garlic from the pan, and keep warm.
  • In same wok/skillet, heat remaining oil over a medium heat. Add onion and stir-fry for 1 minute. Add garlic, stir-fry 1 minute. Add broccoli, 1 tablespoon of water and 1 tablespoon of soy sauce. Cover pan with foil and cook for two minutes.
  • Add Szechuan sauce, ¼ of a cup of water, tomato wedges stir-fry for 2 minutes. Return beef to pan and stir-fry for a further minute.
Serve over Basmati rice.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

London Particular

Once again, apologies for not posting in eons, I will get my act together one of these days. :-)
Last week I was interviewed by Pam at So, on the off chance that any of you might want to know more about the reluctant cook, you will find the interview on my other blog here:

Lately, I’ve been reading a lot of posts about all the high-tech kitchen gadgetry other food bloggers have received at Christmas, and thought I would share my latest gadget... batteries or electricity required, this baby is powered solely by elbow grease.

Anyway, without further ado, on with the recipe. You’ve probably gathered by now that we had ham at New Year – don’t worry it’s not still hanging around. I made this a couple of weeks ago, but am only now getting round to posting it, damned shirker that I am. In Victorian London, this soup was known as London Particular as its name derives from the thick fogs, known as pea-soupers, that were around at the time..

Pea and Ham Soup


1 ham bone with a decent amount of meat still on it
1 large onion chopped, divided
4 cups of chicken broth/stock
3 cups water
Cracked black pepper, to taste
2 bay leaves
1 lb. dried split peas, rinsed and drained
3 carrots, sliced
A handful of chopped parsley

  • Place first four ingredients in a large saucepan or soup kettle (use half of the onion), and bring to boil. Add bay leaves and season with pepper, reduce heat, and simmer covered for 1 hour.
  • Remove ham bone from pot, allow to cool, and shred meat from it. Retain all stock in pan.
  • Re-heat stock to boiling, add split peas and remaining onion to the pan. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 30 minutes.
  • Add carrots, parsley, and return ham meat to pan. Adjust seasoning if required, and simmer, covered, for a further 30 minutes.

Serve immediately with warm crusty bread.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Roasted Roots

I’m busy , busy again, this time getting my contest entries ready for the Oklahoma Writer’s Federation annual writing contest. It’s been really difficult to get myself kick-started after a long lay off due to the cat bite, and then Christmas and New Year getting in the way. It’s an up-hill struggle, but I am now editing and revising some old material, and trying to write a new short story. Wish me luck.

Today’s recipe is another one from good old Auntie Beeb at I am really into their recipes at the moment, and receive a weekly newsletter from them. I did change it up a little bit, but not too much.

This recipe was in their Christmas edition, and the roots are supposed to be cooked in goose fat. I didn’t have a goose, so I just used vegetable oil, and they turned out great. The best thing about this recipe is all your veggies cook in the same pan, and you know how much I like easy. I served these alongside some leftover ham from New year’s Day.

I always love roast potatoes, but I really loved the roasted parsnips. Parsnips have been a sadly neglected vegetable at my table, but no more, they also add an excellent flavor to soups and stews. The recipe also called for celeriac root which I didn’t have, so I substituted rutabaga. I would have used some homegrown kholrabi, but we’d eaten it all. Note to Mick, we need to grow more of them next year.

Roasted Roots


4 medium sized russet potatoes, peeled and chopped into large chunks.
1 small, or ½ a large rutabaga, peeled and chopped into large chunks
2 large carrots, scraped clean, and chopped into large chunks
2 parsnips, peeled and chopped into large chunks
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
Fresh ground pepper to taste


  • Pre-heat oven to 375°F
  • Put all veggies into a large pan of cold water and bring to boil. Reduce heat to medium high and boil gently for about 5 minutes, or until veggies just begin to soften slightly.
  • Drain into a colander, and allow to cool for about 10 minutes.
  • Sprinkle veggies with flour and black pepper and toss well to coat.
  • Heat vegetable oil in a roasting pan. Add veggies to pan and toss to coat with oil.
    Roast until crisp golden brown, approx. 45 minutes, turning them half way through cooking.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

Ham, Leek and Potato Pie

I had a lovely New Year, I hope you did too. And, for once, I didn’t have a raging all day hangover, so cooking dinner was a breeze. I made roast ham, nothing very interesting or novel about that, even if it was delish and paired perfectly with my garden vegetable bake, which you can find here:

The ham leftovers, however, proved to be much more interesting, especially this Ham, Leek and Potato Pie, which I came across here:

I only made one or two slight adjustments to the recipe, and I’ve translated from metric/centigrade for my American friends.

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but hubby has a penchant for pies, and this one was definitely love at first bite. I’m pretty sure it will be making a return appearance to our dinner table in the not too distant future. Trust me, you’re gonna love this one, it’s sublime.

Ham, Leek, and Potato Pie


2 tablespoons butter
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 leeks, finely sliced
2 large potatoes, cut into small cubes
2 tablespoons all purpose flour
1 cup ham stock/broth, or use chicken
Black pepper, to taste
½ cup heavy cream
2 teaspoons ground mustard
2 cups cooked ham, diced
1 sheet of frozen puff pastry, thawed
1 egg, beaten or milk to glaze

  • Melt butter in a large skillet over a medium/low heat, add onion and leeks and sauté for 5 minutes. Add potatoes, cover pan and cook for a further 5 minutes.
  • Add flour to skillet, and gradually add stock, season with pepper, and stir constantly until slightly thickened.
  • Remove pan from heat and stir in cream, mustard, and ham. Allow mix to cool for 10-15 minutes before spooning into a baking dish. While mixture cools, heat oven to 400°F.
  • Roll out pastry, brush edges of dish with beaten egg or milk. Slap the pastry on the dish, press down edges, trim any excess. Brush pastry with beaten egg or milk, and cut 2 slits in the top to allow steam to escape.
  • Bung pie in oven for approx. 30 minutes until crust has risen and is golden brown.

Serve with seasonal veggies. We had buttered, peppered cabbage, it was absolutely scrummy.