Asparagus and Lemon Risotto

asparagus risotto (1024x697)

I love asparagus but because it’s only in season for a short time, I almost forget to buy and use it before the season is over.  When I do buy it, I often just serve it as a plain vegetable side dish.   It’s a shame because there are so many lovely things you can do with it – wrap it in bacon or parma ham, serve it as a crudite for homemade dips or add it to seasonal salads or soups.  It’s also lovely in stir fries and of course in risotto, which is what this post is all about.

Risotto is a real comfort food but is a dish I love to eat throughout the year. I often make it with mushrooms and I find it really tasty with green vegetables like peas or this asparagus. I admit that I’m a bit lazy, I don’t stir the risotto constantly, I busy around the kitchen doing all sorts of other things at the same time, just giving an occasional stir.   If only I could just stand there stirring, I think it would be quite therapeutic, although clearing away all the toys strewn across the kitchen and living room can also be therapeutic in its own way and at least I then don’t need to do it after dinner.

Ingredients – Serves 2

200g risotto rice

1 onion, finely diced

1 clove garlic, crushed

1/2 tsp dried thyme

Up to 1 ltr Vegetable stock

150g asparagus, ends removed and cut into bite-sized pieces

60g parmesan cheese (or a vegetarian hard cheese substitute)


Black pepper

1 lemon

How to Make Asparagus Risotto

1.  In a saucepan cook the onions gently in a little oil until soft.  Add the crushed garlic and thyme and stir in.  After a minute, add the rice.  Stir that in too.

2. Start adding the stock.  Keep adding a little bit more and stirring until it is absorbed.  If, like me, you can’t stand by the stove, just be more generous each time you add extra stock.

3. When the risotto is nearly ready, stir in the asparagus so it can cook for about 3-5 minutes.

4. Take the risotto off the heat, stir in the cheese.  Season with salt and pepper and squeeze in some of the lemon juice. For a really lemony flavour, grate some of the zest and stir that in too.

I am linking this to Simple and in Season, hosted by Ren Behan, to Eat Your Greens, hosted by Allotment 2 Kitchen and Made with Love Mondays at Javelin Warrior’s Cookin w/luv.

simple in seasoneat your greens logoMadeWLuvMondays

Lamb Rogan Josh for the Uniform Foodies App

lamb rogan josh (1024x593)

I don’t need to tell you that I love curries.   I make curries at home from scratch.   I have supermarket curries in the freezer for when there really is no time to cook and I am also very familiar with my local Indian takeaway, just like many other people in the UK.

Although I sometimes take the easy option, the best curries are without doubt the homemade ones.   A takeaway curry can be oily and heavy and is almost certainly not good for you.   A homemade curry is probably one of the healthiest dishes you can eat, as well as being super tasty and filling.  You don’t need to use expensive cuts of meat so it’s also an economical choice.

It should be no surprise that Indian curries were found to be the top food choice for fire fighters and those in the armed forces in a survey carried out by the dating website, Uniform Dating.   Fish and chips was the top choice for police officers and doctors, while nurses preferred salads.

Today Uniform Dating is launching the Uniform Foodies app, which will feature 20 healthy, hearty and affordable recipes developed by the Michelin Star chef Michael Caines.

Along with a number of other food bloggers, I have also developed a recipe for the app (and am hoping to get a chance to cook it alongside Michael Caines!).  I chose to make a lamb rogan josh as it is a well-known dish and one of the most popular curries at many curry houses.  It’s healthy, full of flavour and perfect for a soldier, a firefighter or anyone not in uniform too!   Like me.  Or you.

To find out more follow @UniformFoodies on Twitter or download the app here from itunes.

uniform foodies

Ingredients for Lamb Rogan Josh – Serves 2

2 tbsp vegetable oil

8 Black pepper corns

3 cardamom pods

3 cloves

1 cinnamon stick

2 bay leaves

1 onion, finely chopped

400g diced shoulder or leg of lamb

1 tsp ground coriander

1/2 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp chilli powder

1/2 tsp paprika

1 tsp garam masala

1/4 tsp turmeric

5 cloves garlic

3cm piece of root ginger

2 tomatoes

2 tbsp yoghurt

2 tbsp coriander leaf

How to Make Lamb Rogan Josh

1. Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the whole spices – black pepper corns, cardamom pods, cloves, cinnamon stick and bay leaves.  Cook for about a minute.  It should become very fragrant.

2. Add the onion to the pan with the spices and cook over a low heat  for about 10 minutes.

3. Add the diced lamb to the pan and turn up the heat a little.  Keep giving the lamb a stir and cook until it is sealed on all sides.

4.Put the ginger and garlic in a food processor with a splash of water and blend until smooth.  Or, pound to a paste in a pestle and mortar.

5. Add the ginger/garlic paste and the powdered spices to the pan with the lamb.  Stir in.

6. Finely dice the tomatoes or put them in the food processor and blend. Then add them to the saucepan. Simmer for 20 minutes.  Give an occasional stir.  If the pan becomes dry, add a splash of water.

7. Stir in the yoghurt. Then let it simmer very gently for another 10 minutes.

8. Serve with rice or Indian bread and garnished with the chopped coriander leaf.  Remove the cinnamon stick when serving.

Disclosure: The recipe is my own and was developed as part of the #UniformFoodies blogger challenge.  I received a voucher to cover the cost of ingredients involved in developing it.

Peanut Butter Nutella Cookies for the Secret Recipe Club

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I made peanut butter cookies for the first time just a few weeks ago.   They were a revelation. I loved them.  I thought I would never need to try any more peanut butter cookie recipes because I’d found the best and wouldn’t want to risk making an inferior batch.  But at that point I hadn’t thought about combining peanut butter with Nutella.   How about peanut butter and Nutella cookies? Well, after seeing these on Jenny’s Cookbook there was no way I was going to just move on without having a go at them.

Jenny’s Cookbook was my Secret Recipe Club assignment this month.  Like me, Jenny has 2 children and began her blog as a way of keeping track of all her recipes. and she has a very extensive and varied collection.   I was tempted by so many of her dishes including Chicken Marinades, Slow Cooker Tangy Pulled Pork and Moroccan Quinoa with Chickpeas and Raisins.   In the end I chose the Peanut Butter and Nutella Cookies because I just couldn’t resist the idea of peanut butter and Nutella together.

The cookies were every bit as good as I had imagined.   Chewy around the edges and still soft in the middle  They kept well too.   Well they kept well for 48 hours.   I don’t know how they would have been after that but as the last one disappeared they were showing no signs of becoming any less yummy.

I converted the recipe from cups to grams and also used a higher ratio of Nutella to peanut butter than in the original recipe.

Ingredients – Makes about 14

1 egg

150g peanut butter (I used crunchy unsweetened peanut butter)

150g Nutella

50g caster sugar

55g soft brown sugar

30g porridge oats

How to Make Peanut Butter Nutella Cookies

1. Put all the ingredients in a bowl and stir with a spoon to get a sticky cookie dough.

2. Roll spoonfuls of the mixture between your palms and then place them at least 5cm apart on a baking tray lined with baking parchment.

3. Bake the cookies in the oven for 10-12 minutes at 180C

4. Leave to cool for a couple of minutes on the baking trays and then transfer them to a wire rack.

To see what other Secret Recipe Club participants have made, click on the link below:

Indonesian Pork Tenderloin

Indonesian pork (1024x696)

With this recipe for Indonesian pork tenderloin I’m going back to some of my favourite flavours.  I’ll admit that I don’t know much about Indonesian food but I love peanut sauces. I love marinades.  And of course I love chillies, ginger, coriander and garlic.  Although I’m doing a lot more baking at the moment, it’s recipes like this that I really love to cook and love to eat.   After mixing up the marinade I could have happily stood there eating it, before I’d even put the pork in.   Luckily I knew I’d get to eat it again as a sauce.

I wanted this to be a light meal as I’ve started to think about (dream) of wearing my pre-pregnancy clothes again.  With that in mind I served the pork alongside a simple salad with a zingy lime and ginger dressing.  I guarantee that there is nothing more certain than this salad to make you feel healthy.   Of course, if you’re not dreaming of pulling on your skinny jeans again, you could always serve a little rice with it too.  Or some bread.

The recipe is adapted from

Ingredients – serves 3-4

1 pork tenderloin

5 dried apricots, minced with a knife

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

1/2 tsp ground coriander

30ml soy sauce

100ml orange juice

2 tbsp rice wine vinegar

2 tbsp peanut butter

Juice of 1 lime

1\2 tsp crushed chilli flakes

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

2 tbsp coriander leaf, chopped

How to Make Indonesian Pork Tenderloin

1. Combine all the ingredients in a bowl.  Whisk with a fork until everything is well combined.   Put in a plastic food bag or in a bowl with the pork to marinate.

2. Leave to marinate for at least 30 minutes, preferably overnight.  I left mine for 5 hours.

3. Heat a little oil in an ovenproof pan.  Take the pork out of the marinade and seal it on all sides in the pan and then put it in the oven at 200C for about 15-20 minutes until the pork is cooked through.  Take it out of the oven and leave to rest for 10 minutes before slicing.

4. Pour the marinade from the bag into a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce a little so you have a thick sauce for the pork.

Salad Ingredients

3 carrots, grated

3 spring onions, sliced

10cm piece cucumber, thinly sliced

2 tomatoes, sliced

Handful mange touts

Handful fresh coriander leaf, chopped

2cm piece of root ginger, grated

Juice of 1 lime

1 chilli pepper, finely sliced

Handful of dry roasted peanuts (optional)

How to Make the Salad

1. Toss all the ingredients together.  Scatter a few peanuts on top.

Tomato and Coriander Soup

tomato coriander soup (1024x713) Why is it that now summer has arrived I keep making soup?  I couldn’t tell you.  What I can tell you is that this soup is really delicious, even on a warm day.  It’s also a great way of using up some of those giant bunches of fresh herbs that are so much better value than the small packs.   Some people might object to eating coriander in every meal for 4 days straight but luckily none of those people live with me.

This soup is adapted from my basic tomato soup recipe that I make quite regularly. Although I normally use individual spices when cooking rather than curry powder, this time I didn’t want it to be a strongly spiced tomato soup.  The curry powder just gives it a mild curry flavour that goes really well with the coriander.  Of course, there’s nothing to stop you adding more.

Most recipes are there to be adapted and you can easily vary this soup by using different herbs instead of coriander and missing out or substituting the curry powder altogether. You could even just stick with the plain tomato soup that this was adapted from, although even that has a little basil in.

Ingredients – Serves 2-4

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

400g tin tomatoes

Large handful of fresh coriander (cilantro), chopped

1/2 tsp curry powder

1/4 tsp bicarbonate of soda

300ml milk

How to Make Tomato and Coriander Soup

1. Cook the onion in a little oil.   When soft add the curry powder, garlic and the tin of tomatoes.   Add a little water if the tomatoes are too thick.  Simmer for 10 minutes.

2. Add the coriander and using a stick blender, blend the soup.

3. Mix a tbsp of milk with the bicarbonate of soda.   Pour it onto the soup, followed by the rest of the milk.

4. Simmer for 5 minutes, keep stirring.  There will be quite a few bubbles but they will have disappeared after 5 minutes.

5. Serve with your choice of bread.

I am linking this to Cooking with Herbs at Lavender and Lovage as well as No Croutons Required, hosted by Tinned Tomatoes and Lisa’s Kitchen.   I am also linking to Elizabeth’s Kitchen’s No Waste Food Challenge, hosted this month by Utterly Scrummy Food for Families.

Cooking-with-Herbsno-waste-food- NEWNo Croutons Required

Pizza Soup

pizza soup in pan (700x579)

Sometimes you come across an idea or a recipe and you just know you have to make it.   That was how I felt when I saw Pizza in a Bowl Soup on Jane’s Adventures in Dinner.   Pizza has to be a favourite comfort food and soup is just so warming and healthy when homemade.   The great thing about this soup is that it really does have the flavours of pizza in it.

This recipe also combines two of my favourite easy weekend lunches – homemade soup and cheese melted on toast.   What I hadn’t done before was have them together.  I did adapt the recipe to our tastes.   I used chorizo instead of salami and didn’t put any wine or stock in the soup – there was a  lot of flavour in there already so I didn’t feel it was necessary.  What I did add was a dash of balsamic vinegar.   If you wanted you could also easily make this into a vegetarian soup by leaving out the chorizo and possibly adding a pinch of smoked paprika to get that same smoky flavour.

If only I’d had a bit more time to try and get a good picture.   It was one of those manic lunchtimes where my daughter was screaming and only wanted me, and taking just a few minutes to get a decent picture was just not going to happen.   It may not look great, but trust me, it’s worth making.

pizza soup bowl 2 (700x548)

Ingredients – Serves 2

10cm piece of chorizo

1 yellow pepper, diced

5 mushrooms, sliced

1 clove garlic, crushed

1/2 red onion, diced

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

400g tin chopped tomatoes

1 tsp dried oregano

Pinch of black pepper

1/2 tsp chilli flakes

Handful of chopped fresh basil

2 slices of bread

Grated mozzarella

How to Make Pizza Soup

1. Put a little olive oil in a sauce pan and cook the chorizo until it starts to crisp up and release more oil.

2. Add the chopped pepper, onion, mushrooms and garlic.  Cook for a few minutes until they soften and then add the balsamic vinegar, herbs and chopped tomatoes.   Fill the can 2/3 full of water again and pour the water on top.   Bring to the boil and then simmer for 10 minutes.

3. Take off the heat and stir in the fresh basil and black pepper.

4. Toast the bread and top with the mozzarella cheese.    Put the bread on top of the soup and put the soup bowls under the grill for a couple of minutes until the cheese has melted and is bubbling.

5. Serve immediately.

I am linking this to Brilliant Blog Posts at Honest Mum.

brilliant blog posts

Carrot and Ginger Soup with Marmite Croutons

carrot ginger soup (1024x595)

I often think carrot soup can be difficult to get right.  What it needs is something spicy, sour, bitter or salty to offset the sweetness of the carrots. Otherwise I feel like I’ve had enough after just a few spoonfuls.  I’ve had bad carrot soup but I’ve also had soups I’ve wanted to make again straightaway such as this carrot and tahini one.

Even so, when I picked carrot and ginger soup for this month’s Random Recipes I didn’t want to make it.   I waited.   There are always a few recipes I plan to make each month but never get around to.   This month I though it would be the carrot soup.  Then along came National Vegetarian Week from 19-25 May, which made carrot soup so much harder to avoid.   In the end, I gave in and made the soup.

Like so many of these decisions, it turned out to be the right one.  I love ginger and ginger does go so well with carrot.   It was supposed to serve 4 but it only served me, twice. What I also loved about this was the discovery of the Marmite croutons.  They were strongly flavoured, crispy and salty – a perfect match for the carrot.  In fact, it was probably those Marmite croutons that made me love the soup so much in the end.

The recipe was from Eat for Health, edited by Gina Steer.  The theme for Random Recipes was Spring Clean i.e. to choose a book we rarely use and give it a chance to survive before possibly saying goodbye to it.  In this case I think I’d like to give this book a few more chances.

Ingredients – Serves 2-4

450g carrots, chopped

1 onion, finely sliced

1 clove garlic, crushed or finely diced

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1 knob of fresh ginger (about 2cm), finely diced or grated

700ml vegetable stock

4 slices of bread

1/4 tsp yeast extract (I used Marmite)

1 tbsp lemon juice

Black pepper

How to Make Carrot and Ginger Soup

1. Make the croutons first.   Dissolves the yeast extract in about 2 tbsp hot water.  Cut the bread into squares.  Drizzle the liquid over the bread.   Put the croutons on an oiled baking tray.   Bake in the oven at 180C for 15-20 minutes.

2. Put a little oil in a saucepan and cook the onions, garlic and root ginger until they are soft.

3. Then add the ground ginger.   Stir for a minute and then add the carrots and the stock.   Bring to the boil then lower to a simmer for about 15 -20 minutes.

4. Blend the soup until smooth and then stir in the lemon juice.   Season with black pepper and a little salt if necessary.

I am also linking to Souper Sundays at Kahakai Kitchen.

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Oaty Banana and Raisin Bites

oaty banana and raisin bites (600x419) I wasn’t sure what to call these.   Are they cereal bars, cookies or biscuits?  Well, bars usually have a more regular shape, biscuits are more crunchy, and cookies are more like cookies.  So, I’ve gone with ‘bites’ in the end.   It describes them perfectly – small chewy clusters of oats, held together with sticky banana and raisins and then baked in the oven.

I don’t really need to write any more because that is exactly what these small sweet treats are.   They have just three ingredients: banana, oats and raisins and are incredibly easy to make.   In fact they are the perfect snack to bake with young children.   My two-year old loved mashing up the banana, stirring in the oats and then…

…trying to eat the raisins.  She also helped spoon the mixture onto the baking tray.   The only thing she didn’t help with was eating them afterwards.   I enjoyed eating them all instead.

You could make lots of variations of these.   Any dried fruit would work instead of the raisins, and personally I’d love to add some chocolate chips next time.  As they are, they have no added sugar and only a little fat from the greased baking tray so they make an ideal naturally sweet but healthy snack for toddlers, young children and anyone else who may be around.

Ingredients – Makes about 10 small bites

1 large very ripe or overripe banana

60g fine oats

30g raisins

How to Make Oaty Banana and Raisin Bites

1. Put the banana in a bowl and mash it up.

2. Stir in the oats and raisins.

3. Grease a baking tray and place teaspoons of the mixture on the baking tray.    Press down slightly.

4. Bake in the oven at 180C for about 10 minutes.

5. Let them cool for a few minutes on the baking tray and then transfer them to a wire rack to cool completely.

As the ingredients in these are very economical and they are a great way of using up bananas that are about to go off, I am linking them to the following food challenges:

No Waste Food Challenge, run by Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diaries and hosted this month by Farmersgirl kitchenCredit Crunch Munch, organised by Fab Food 4 All and Fuss Free Flavours, hosted this month by Gingey BitesFamily Foodies, hosted by Bangers and Mash and Eat your Veg. The theme is cheap and cheerful. Bake of the Week at Casa Costello. Made with Love Mondays at Javelin Warrior’s Cooking w/luv.

no-waste-food- NEWCredit-Crunch-Munchfamily-foodiesBake-of-the-weekMadeWLuvMondays


90p Eggless Chocolate Cake

chocolate cake £1 2 (600x373)

Recently many food bloggers have been taking part in the live below the line challenge, attempting to feed themselves and their families for £1 a day per person for 5 days in order to raise awareness of the millions of people around the world who do live in poverty.

Luckily I’ve never had to cope with real hardship.  I’m not extravagant and I don’t spend a lot of money on food, but neither do I scrimp and save.   If I fancy splashing out on expensive ingredients for dinner, I do, but only occasionally and most of the food I feature here is everyday food.

When it comes to cakes, they can be expensive to buy and it is definitely a lot more economical to make a cake than to buy one.   The basic ingredients of flour and sugar can be bought very cheaply, especially if you are willing to use the supermarkets’ own brands, which I often do.  So, when I saw that the We Should Cocoa Challenge for this month was to make a chocolate cake costing one pound or less, I decided to give it  a go.

As I felt eggs would be the most expensive part of a typical cake, I searched for an egg-free chocolate cake recipe and found the recipe for this one on BBC Good Food.  I admit I was sceptical about whether the recipe I’d found would work.  Using lots of water in a cake just seemed a bit wierd, but I decided to trust the reviews.  After all, I’m not an expert baker anyway.

It is actually a good cake, not too sweet, with a light, moist and crumbly texture and I would happily make it again.   When I worked out the costings, it came in at just 90p. I’ve mentioned before that I like cake much more than I like icing and you can see I haven’t decorated it, but if I had, I would probably have struggled to keep it under the £1 mark, unless I’d just dusted it with icing sugar. I could also have sliced it in half horizontally and used the extra 10p on a layer of jam.

Ingredients – Serves 10-12

85g butter – 26p

2 tbsp golden syrup – 7p

1 tbsp vanilla extract - 14p

300g self-raising flour – 11p

25g cocoa powder – 29p

1tsp bicarbonate of soda – 3p

How to Make Eggless Chocolate Cake

1. Put the butter, golden syrup and vanilla in a heatproof jug.  Pour in 300ml of water and stir until the butter has melted and the syrup has dissolved.

2. Put the flour,cocoa powder and bicarbonate of soda into another bowl and pour in the liquid mixture. Stir until it is smooth and there are no dry bits left.

3. Pour the mixture into a 20cm greased cake tin.

4. Bake in the oven at 160C (140C fan) for 45-55 minutes.

5. Let the cake cool in the tin for a few minutes and then turn it out onto a wire rack.

chocolate cake £1 (600x449)


We Should Cocoa is hosted by Choclette at Chocolate Log Blog. I am also linking to Bake of the week at Casa Costello.



Slow Cooker Chinese Chicken Stew with Stir Fried Vegetables

slow cooker chinese chicken (500x318) This slow cooker Chinese chicken dish could be stir fried instead.   I decided to make it in the slow cooker as I wanted all the flavours to have time to develop and to really soak into the chicken to give it lots of taste.    Of course, I could have just marinated the chicken in the sauce ingredients to achieve a similar effect, but I wanted to see what it would be like done this way.

The result is definitely more of a stew than a stir fry, but because the vegetables are just stir fried at the end they keep their crunch and crispness and that’s one of the things I always like about Chinese cooking.  You can see the mange touts are a lovely bright green colour rather than the dull green they would have gone if they had been cooked in the slow cooker, even if they had just been put in near the end.

Ingredients for the Slow Cooker

2 chicken breasts, sliced

1 tbsp soy sauce

1 tbsp rice wine

1 tsp sesame oil

1/2 tsp Chinese five spice

1 chilli pepper, finely sliced

Ingredients for the Stir Fry

250g mushrooms, sliced

Handful of mangetouts

1/2 small onion, sliced

A little oil

How to Make Slow Cooker Chinese Chicken Stew with Stir Fried Vegetables

1. Put the chicken in the slow cooker and mix together all the other ingredients and stir to make sure the chicken is well-coated in the sauce.   Add drop of water so there is enough liquid to just cover the chicken. Cook for 4 hours.

2. Just before you are going to serve the meal begin the stir fry.    Heat some oil and then fry the mushrooms for a minute.   Add the mangetouts.  Cook for another minute then add to the contents of the slow cooker.   Stir to combine and then serve with rice.

I am linking this to the Slow Cooker Challenge, hosted by Janice at Farmersgirl Kitchen. I am also linking to Made with Love Mondays at Javelin Warrior’s Cookin w/luv.

slow cooker challengeMadeWLuvMondays