Olive and Dukkah Pasta for the Secret Recipe Club

dukkah pasta (1024x713)

A few years ago I attended a cooking class about cooking with spices.   One of the things we made was pitta breads which we ate by dipping in oil and then dipping the oil covered pieces of bread into little bowls of dukkah which then stuck to the pitta bread.   It was the first time I had heard of and tasted dukkah and I loved it.

After that class I wanted to use dukkah at home.  As you couldn’t find it in the supermarket then, it meant I would have to make it myself.  At the time I didn’t have any children so I had much more time for making things completely from scratch.  I had good intentions and planned to make my own but somehow or other it got forgotten about.

Fast forward a few years and I still love to make things from scratch but I tend to opt for things that are quick and will definitely take the shortcut of buying a ready-made spice mix if it’s going to help me make something tasty.   After all, the alternative is probably to not make that tasty dish at all.  Luckily, it is now possible to find dukkah in some supermarkets so even if you can’t motivate yourself to research and make it yourself, you can still try this lovely pasta dish.

I found the recipe for the olive and dukkah pasta on the blog, Rachel Cotterill, which I was assigned to for this month’s Secret Recipe Club challenge.  Rachel is one of those people who seems to do everything: blogging, cooking, travelling, writing books, archery, even coppicing … and that’s not all.  As someone who can’t even find time to make her own dukkah, I was impressed!  Her blog is packed full of mainly healthy vegetarian recipes, and many of them, like this pasta dish, are vegan. Some of the recipes I was really tempted by were Armenian Spinach Puffs and Cheese and Onion Cookies.

The dukkah with the pasta is an unusual combination but it’s really tasty.  Normally I can’t resist topping my pasta with lots of cheese but it wouldn’t go with the dukkah so you end up with a much lighter and healthier dish too.   Well, now that I think about it, some crumbled feta or a similar cheese probably would be quite nice but I didn’t think about it at the time and didn’t miss the lack of cheese either.  I stuck fairly closely to the original recipe but used a green instead of red pepper and also added some garlic.

Ingredients – Serves 2

180g pasta

1 green pepper

15 (approx) baby plum tomatoes

1 garlic clove

60g olives

2 tbsp tomato puree

2 tbsp dukkah

Olive oil

How to Make Olive and Dukkah Pasta

1. Put the pasta on to boil.

2. In another large pan heat the oil and then add the green pepper.  Keep giving it a stir.   Add the tomatoes and garlic and cook for another minute.   Don’t cook for too long or the tomatoes will break down too much and it’s nice for them to keep their shape.

3. When the pasta is ready add it to the pan with the tomatoes and peppers, along with just a little of the cooking water.   Add the tomato puree, olives and dukkah and stir till it is all heated through.

dukkah pasta in pan

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


Cannellini Bean Dip

cannellini bean dip

Summer is definitely the time for dips and celery, for raw food and salads.   It’s not really the time for slow cooking.   But, however much I love salads, I don’t want to eat them every day.   I still love my slow cooker and still make and enjoy more wintery meals along with all the salads.

When I heard that this month’s Slow Cooker Challenge at Farmersgirl Kitchen was to make a summer meal I really had no ideas.   That’s just not the way I use my slow cooker. Luckily I had recently made a roasted carrot dip and although not made in the slow cooker, it made me think of dips.

I found a recipe for cannellini bean spread in Slow Cooking for Two by Cynthia Graubert, which rather appropriately I won from Janice in one of the earlier slow cooker challenges.  It was nice and simple and I had all the ingredients to make it straightaway which was another advantage.

We ate it with bread and vegetable sticks for lunch.   If you look at the list of ingredients, they look rather like those you would put into a soup and that is a bit how I felt as I was eating this.   It was the consistency of a dip, but because of the herbs and the stock, it tasted like a soup.   Just a bit more stock and it would be a really lovely soup.   So, although the recipe was a success, the taste was perhaps not as summery as I was hoping for and I suspect it will reappear on my table but in a different form next time.


400g tin cannellini beans

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1/4 tsp dried rosemary


Black pepper

120 ml chicken stock (or use vegetable for a vegetarian version)

How to Make Slow Cooked Cannellini Bean Dip

1. Drain and rinse the beans and put in the bottom of the slow cooker along with the garlic and rosemary. Pour over the stock.   Cook for 3 hours.

2. Remove everything from the slow cooker and transfer to a food processor.  Blend until smooth and add salt and pepper to taste.

3. Serve warm or cold with vegetables and bread.

slow cooker challenge




Sausage, Mushroom and Tomato Breakfast Casserole

breakfast casserole cooked

When I first started blogging and reading lots of other blogs, one of the things I kept coming across on US blogs was the ‘breakfast casserole’.   Now to me, a casserole is a type of stew that is cooked in the oven, not on the hob.   The recipes that were called breakfast casseroles were what I would probably call bakes, possibly crustless quiches or even frittatas.    They were not casseroles.

Like so many linguistic differences, it seemed odd at first, but over time I got used to it.   It began to sound normal.   When I read the words, ‘breakfast casserole’ now, I imagine a baked egg dish rather than a wet tomatoey stew.   I’ve even begun to imagine that everyone understands what a breakfast casserole is.   A couple of days ago I took an even bigger step and decided to make my own breakfast casserole.  And the biggest step of all? I’m even going to call it a breakfast casserole.

A perfect cooked breakfast should contain bacon or sausages, mushrooms, tomatoes, bread and of course, eggs.  So that is exactly what I have chosen to put into this casserole.  It’s basically a cooked breakfast but in a very different form to how we are used to it in the UK.  The only ingredient I probably wouldn’t add to my full English breakfast would be the basil, but please, don’t leave it out of this. Tomatoes and basil belong together and it definitely belongs in here.

So how do you eat your eggs for breakfast? Scrambled? Poached?  With soldiers? Sunny side up?   High in protein, eggs make a great filling breakfast and these days the majority of eggs sold in the UK  are stamped with the British Lion, showing that their production has met stringent safety and welfare standards.  This means it is far safer to eat British Lion Eggs than those without the stamp.  Have a look at the British Lion Eggs website for more information and also for egg recipes.  You can find everything from a simple omelette recipe to recipes for cakes and biscuits.

So, after my American experiment, will I be turning away from  bacon and eggs and choosing casseroles for breakfast in future?   Ok, I’ll tell you a secret.   I made this for dinner and we finished it for lunch the next day.   So what did we have for breakfast in between?   Cereal of course.  I love eggs and I loved this but I’m quite happy to eat it later in the day instead.

breakfast casserole slice

Ingredients – Serves 6

4 sausages

250g mushrooms, sliced

4 slices of bread, cubed

10 baby plum or cherry tomatoes, halved

6 eggs

100g cheese, grated

300ml milk

1 tbsp chopped fresh basil

Black pepper

How to Make Sausage, Mushroom and Tomato Breakfast Casserole

1. Chop the sausages up into a pan using a pair of scissors.   Cook until they are cooked through then remove and placed in the bottom of a greased glass or ceramic casserole dish.

2. Cook the mushrooms until they are just beginning to shrink a little. Drain them in a colander so that the liquid they release won’t make the casserole too wet.   Then add them to the casserole dish.  Put the tomatoes on top.

3.  In a large bowl beat the eggs with the milk.   Add the bread, the basil and the seasoning as well as about 2/3 of the cheese.   Pour this mixture on top of the casserole dish.  Top with the remainder of the cheese.

4. Bake in the oven at 180C for 45-60 minutes.

5. Serve with salad.

I am linking this to Cooking with Herbs at Lavender and Lovage as it contains basil.


Disclosure: This is a featured post.  However, the recipe and the views it contains are my own.

Quick Avocado and Cucumber Mint Salad

chicken avocado mint salsa

I couldn’t decide whether to call this a salad or a salsa.   In the end it had to be a salad. After all, it covered practically half my plate, more than the small piece of chicken next to it. Maybe if I’d chopped up the salad vegetables more daintily and served a bit less of it, it would have been a salsa.

Who cares?  It’s exactly the type of salad I want to eat right now.  It’s tasty from the mint and the dressing and the avocado helps to make it more filling too.  Ok, it’s a salad so not massively filling, but enough to stop you feeling like you have to have some bread, rice couscous or whatever your carb of choice is on the side.

I served it with griddled chicken but for a vegetarian alternative, griddled halloumi would be lovely, and possibly tofu, but I’m not personally a big fan of it (unless it’s served with lots of chilli and garlic) so I’ll leave that choice up to you.

Ingredients – Serves 2-6, depending on how much each person has

1/2 cucumber

1 avocado

2 tomatoes

1 red pepper

1/4 red onion

1 tbsp mint leaves

2 tbsp white wine vinegar

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Black pepper


How to Make Quick Avocado and Cucumber Mint Salad

1. Dice all the vegetables. Try to chop the avocado, tomato, cucumber and pepper so the pieces are a similar size.   Dice the onion much more finely and finely slice and chop the mint.

2. Put all the ingredients in a bowl with the olive oil and vinegar, plus a little salt and pepper. Then mix it all together.

I am linking this to the Weekend Social Party at Culinary Flavours.  As it makes a perfect side dish for a barbecue I am also linking it to 4 Seasons Food hosted by Eat your Veg and Delicieux. The theme is Al Fresco. It is also linked to Made with Love Mondays at Javelin Warrior’s Cookin w/Luv.
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Roasted Carrot Dip

roast carrot dip on celery

Do you ever get bored of houmous?  Then you have taramasalata or tsatziki for a change but somehow or other you end up back with houmous again.   Maybe it’s just me. Maybe other people are more adventurous with their dips.

Well, I normally love houmous.  I love to make it myself and vary the spices or herbs added to it.   But as much as I love it, I was becoming a little bored.  I was also becoming lazy and just buying it in the supermarket.   That was when I came across a recipe for a carrot dip on Foodbod.   Now, I already love carrot and tahini soup so why not a carrot dip? I knew I had to make it.

I blitzed the roasted vegetables first and it was tasty from the spices but quite sweet.   With just the right amount of lemon juice, tahini, salt and pepper, it lost that over-sweetness and became perfect for scooping up with crunchy sticks of celery.

A rival for houmous?   Well, an alternative certainly and possibly the stepping stone I need to go on to experiment with more vegetable dips.  So what should be next? Beetroot? Parsnip?  Sweet potato?


350g carrots, cut into large chunks

1 onion, peeled and quartered

4 cloves garlic with  the skins on

1/2 tsp cumin

1/2 tsp coriander

1/2 tsp paprika

1/2 tsp cayenne pepper

2 tbsp olive oil

1-2 tbsp tahini

Juice of 1 lemon


Black pepper

How to Make Roasted Carrot Dip

1. Put the carrots, onion and garlic cloves on a baking tray.   Add the spices and some oil and toss together.   Put in the oven for about 40 minutes at 180c.  Check the carrots are not still hard.  If so, return to the oven for a bit longer.  When the vegetables are ready, leave to cool before making the dip.

2. Put the vegetables in a food processor, squeezing the garlic cloves out of their skins, and blend until smooth.   Add the lemon juice, the tahini, the salt and pepper, a little at a time.  Keep blending and tasting until you get it how you like it.

3. Serve with vegetables as a dip.

I am linking this to Bookmarked Recipes, hosted by Tinned Tomatoes, and to The Spice Trail, hosted by Bangers and Mash. The spice this month is cumin.  I am also linking it to Made with Love Mondays at Javelin Warrior’s Cookin w/luv.

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Summer is the perfect time to make salads.   At the moment I am making salads almost every day.   Partly because it’s summer.   Partly to try and lose a little baby weight. I don’t like dieting and have never done it before, normally relying on exercise if I’ve ever felt a little lardy.   Food has to taste good and you have to enjoy eating it.   Luckily that’s not an issue with this salad.  If you’re looking for a tasty summer salad that’s also perfect as a side dish at bbqs and with grilled chicken or fish, then this recipe is it.

Fattoush is a middle Eastern salad flavoured with sumac, and normally uses croutons made of leftover pitta bread.  I didn’t have any leftover pitta bread but I did have some hot dog rolls left over from a bbq last weekend.  Now, hot dog rolls are definitely not a Middle Eastern bread but they do make very nice light crispy croutons.   Of course, if you want to make this salad, any bread will do.  I’m not expecting you to go out and buy hot dog rolls specially, but if you are having a bbq any time this summer…

I used Florette salad leaves, also leftover from the bbq.  I go through phases of liking plain iceberg lettuce that I wash and clean myself and then bagged salad leaves for a bit of variety.   I find that Florette is very good quality and stays fresh for quite a few days after buying it.  Of course, you can use whatever salad leaves you normally have in your fridge.

There is one thing you cannot change about this salad though, and that is the sumac.  If you leave it out, it will not be the same salad.   If you’ve never tried sumac just trust me, you need to get some, not just for this salad but for the one you make next, and after that, and throughout the summer.

Ingredients – Serves 4

2 handfuls of salad leaves ( I used Florette Classic Crispy), roughly chopped

2 tomatoes, diced

1/2 cucumber, diced

2 spring onions, finely sliced

1/2 green pepper, diced

1 tbsp mint leaves, finely sliced

1 clove of garlic, crushed

Juice of 1 lemon

3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp sumac


Black pepper

1 pita bread or bread of your choice e.g. hot dog roll to make the croutons

How to Make Fattoush

1. Make the croutons.  Tear the bread to make large croutons.  Put them on a baking tray and bake in the oven at 160C for 20 minutes.  Take them out of the oven and leave on the tray to cool.

2. Mix together and toss all the other salad ingredients.

3. Add the croutons just before serving as if they are in the salad too long they will go soggy.

I am linking this to Tasty Tuesdays at Honest Mum and also to #CookBlogShare at Super Golden Bakes.


Disclosure: This is a featured post but the recipe and the views it contains are my own.

Warm Roast Vegetable Salad with Feta and Sumac

roast veg feta sumac salad (1024x598)

I am prepared for you to disagree with me here,but sometimes there is just nothing nicer than a plate of slightly spicy warm roasted vegetables with a bit of feta cheese.  If you put this in front of me, that is exactly what I will think.   I will polish it off while wondering why I don’t roast vegetables more often.   I especially love the mushy texture of the aubergine, the slight crunch of the onions and the softness of the sweet potato with the slightly caramelised bits around the outside.   I love to eat it warm but it’s also good cold the next day for packed lunches or picnics.

Of course, if you gave me a good steak and chips I would also claim there was nothing nicer.   Or homemade barbecue ribs.  Or a good curry.   Or any number of my favourite things to make and eat.   The good thing about this roasted vegetable salad though, is that it is just so easy to make.   Just prepare the vegetables, toss them in a little oil and throw them in the oven.   Even if you’ve used a lot of oil, you still feel like you are having a healthy meal.  And if the vegetables and feta are not enough by themselves, they are just as delicious with a bit of crusty bread.

Ingredients – Serves 2

1 sweet potato

1/4 aubergine (eggplant)

1 courgette (zucchini)

1 red onion

100g feta

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes

1 tsp sumac

2 tbsp olive oil

How to Make Warm Roast Vegetable Salad with Feta and Sumac

1. Chop the vegetables and put them on a roasting tray.  Sprinkle with the oregano, sumac and chilli flakes.   Drizzle with olive oil.  Roast in the oven for 30 minutes.

2. Serve the roasted vegetables topped with the cubed feta and sprinkled with a little extra sumac.

I am linking this to Family Foodies, hosted by Eat your Veg and Bangers and Mash.  The theme is outdoor eating.  I am also linking to Made with Love Mondays at Javelin Warrior’s Cookin w/luv.

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Turkey Chilli

turkey chilli (1024x674)

A chilli can be a heavy meal.  You can use lots of oil in the cooking, fatty meat or almost all meat and hardly any vegetables.   You can then garnish it with a mountain of cheese. Sometimes that might be the type of chilli you crave and you should probably stop reading this now.   I don’t want to disappoint.

Sometimes however, instead of cheese, you have a mountain of coriander in the fridge as well as two shelves laden with vegetables.   You also have a craving for a meal with a hot chillli kick, but you want to make something easy and healthy to satisfy it.  On nights like those, this would be the perfect chilli.

I began making this chilli intending it to be a meal for two, but I threw in so many vegetables that in the end there were enough leftovers for two more meals.   As we have a habit of finishing everything I’ve made even when I plan to have leftovers, it definitely shows that this can go a long way.

I used diced turkey breast for this, but diced thighs would be lovely and would stay moister during the cooking.   You could of course use chicken instead but I am trying to cook with turkey more frequently since attending the #TalkingTurkey event earlier this year.   As turkey is even healthier as well as more economical than chicken, it makes sense to try and use it more often and in meals where previously I would have just used chicken without thinking.

Ingredients – serves 4

200g turkey, diced

1 onion, chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed

1 chilli pepper, finely sliced

Small knob of ginger, grated or finely diced

1/4 tsp paprika

1 bell pepper, diced

2 sticks of celery, diced

1 carrot, sliced

2 tomatoes, diced

400g tin kidney beans, drained and rinsed

Handful of chopped fresh coriander (cilantro)

How to Make Turkey Chilli

1. Heat  a little oil in a large saucepan.  Add the onion and cook gently until soft.   Add the ginger, chilli pepper, garlic and paprika.

2. Cook for another couple of minutes and then add the turkey, stir a couple of times so the pieces are sealed on all sides.

3. Add all the rest of the vegetables, including most of the coriander and cook gently for about 20 minutes until everything is cooked through.

4. Serve with rice and topped with the rest of the coriander.

As this is packed with coriander I am linking it to Lavender and Lovage’s Cooking with Herbs, hosted this month by Lancashire Food.  I am also linking to Extra Veg, hosted by Utterly Scrummy Food for Families and Fuss Free Flavours.



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.

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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.