Thursday, 19 November 2015


You've got to love Hugh. He is definitely the Crumpet-Eating Woman's Thinker (to paraphrase Frank Muir)*
He is a good cook with appealing recipes but he is also a very powerful lobbyist- whether he is having a Fish Fight or exhorting us to Grow our Own.
His latest crusade is one dear to my heart, as he is taking on the horrendous amount of waste- food, clothes, recyclables- in the UK and trying to change practice.

 His website www.waronwaste asks for reader's top tips for reducing food waste. Well, I don't know where to start.

I thought perhaps this week I would just look at an ordinary week's cooking- and how each meal led to another via its leftovers. Perhaps by coincidence ( and certainly not by design) I've ended up featuring some leftover classics.

So, this week, I made a Spaghetti Bolognaise on Sunday (along with many of you no doubt) - and had leftover meat sauce, also leftover tinned tomatoes. I also bought more fruit and veg than usual- as the fruit/veg bowl was looking bare.
So I made some fruity puds, some salads and some potato dishes (some to eat and some to freeze).
Many of these dishes generated others from their leftovers (eg. the spag bol).

Here was the menu: Tabbouleh (using up leftover tomato sauce) with a Quiche, Chilli Chips
(using up leftover meat sauce) Date and Orange Bread and Butter pudding, Caramel Clementine Upside Down Cake and Potato Boulangere (half of which could be frozen but I used the leftovers for Bubble and Squeak)

Here are the recipes:

Firstly, to make a good tomato sauce I recommend this recipe (Tomato Butter).

Soften some onion and garlic in a saucepan, add a carton of chopped tomatoes, a teaspoon each of red wine vinegar and sugar, a pinch each of salt and pepper and simmer away for 15 minutes or so. Just before serving, stir in a knob of butter. The butter emulsifies and enrichens the sauce in an instant.
Tomato butter sauce
 It is simple and quick but has a lovely glossy look and a rich flavour. I use it to coat Stuffed Cabbage Leaves
Stuffed Cabbage Leaves
Image for Aubergine Cannelloni
Aubergine Canneloni
or poured over Aubergine Canneloni, but today I only had a couple of spoonfuls left over so used it to pep up a Tabbouleh salad.

2-3 tbsp tomato butter sauce
1 cup couscous
 1 tbsp sultanas
chopped spring onion, red or yellow peppers, whatever you have to use up
1 tbsp chopped mint and parsley
2 cups hot vegetable stock
seasoning/olive oil

Pour the hot stock over the couscous in a large bowl. Cover and allow the grains to soak up the liquid.
Mix in the tomato sauce, vegetables, sultanas and herbs.
Taste and adjust seasoning, adding a swirl of olive oil just before serving.


The tabbouleh accompanied a Quiche. I made this one from some pieces of ham from the fridge- but Quiche is one of my go-to-recipes when I need a meal but don't have many ingredients- favourite fillings are mushroom, spinach, chard, salmon, watercress, bacon and combinations thereof.

Quiche Lorraine

At its simplest- you need a pastry case (pre-cooked or baked blind)- filled with 125g cheese, 3-4 eggs depending on the size of your pastry case, ditto 200-300 ml milk and whatever you use as your filling.
Arrange the filling on the pastry base, sprinkle on the cheese, mix the eggs with the milk and season well. Pour carefully over the filling and bake at 170 degrees for 20-30 minutes until risen and golden.

Next day I turned my attention to the leftover Spag Bol sauce.
I have two favourite ways to use this up- if I only have a few tablespoons, then I make a frittata:


But if I have a bit more, then I add a tin of kidney beans in chili sauce, a little more chili for kick and pour the whole lot over a bowl of chips. Not really a recipe- but I do love to eat it!

Chili chips

The best recipe of the week though, for me, was the Potato Boulangere.

1kg of potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
300ml of vegetable stock made from 2 heaped tsp Marmite dissolved in boiling water
40g garlic butter
salt, pepper and a scattering of fresh thyme or rosemary
a handful of flavoursome grated cheese to top
1, Preheat the oven to 180 degrees
2. Butter a gratin dish (I use garlic butter)
3. Layer up potatoes, onions, salt and pepper and herbs, finishing with potato.
Layer up potatoes and onions

Pour on stock and dot with butter

4. Pour on the stock, pressing the vegs down into it
5. Dot with the rest of the garlic butter
6. Bake for 30 minutes until starting to crisp
7. Top with the cheese and cook for a further 20 minutes until golden and tender
Image for Marmite Potatoes Boulangere
Potatoes Boulangere
It's like a Dauphinoise, but without all the cream- as the potatoes are cooked in stock with onions.

Dear reader, let me tell you - it was scrumptious.

Better still, the next day, the leftovers made little Bubble and Squeak cakes- mashed with leftover spinach and peas, coated in flour and fried in vegetable oil.

Bubble and Squeak

Now for a few puddings.

You can't get a more classic leftover dish than good old Bread and Butter pudding. I gave this one a different flavour by adding some grated orange zest and chopped dates, along with the sultanas (which I soaked in a teaspoon of leftover Pimms from the drinks cabinet).


4 pieces of stale bread, buttered and most of the crusts cut off
1 egg
300 ml milk
1 tbsp sultanas and 3-4 chopped dates
grated zest of 1 orange
1 tsp Pimms or rum
2 sachets of vanilla sugar (30g)
nutmeg to grate over

1. Soak the fruit in the booze for an hour or so.
2. Butter a pudding dish and then layer in the bread ( cut into triangles), fruit, orange zest and vanilla sugar
3. Whisk the egg and milk together and pour over the bread.
4. Lay a saucer over the top and press the mixture for an hour or so with a heavy tin.
5. Dust the top with grated nutmeg.
6. Place the pudding dish in a bain marie of hot water and cook in the oven at 160 degrees for 20 -30 minutes until risen and golden.

Date and Orange Bread and Butter Pud

And finally- if you missed it in The Guardian this week- and there was an awful (and I mean awful) lot of other things going on- here is my Caramel Clementine Upside Down Cake- which I like to make around Christmas time when I have fruit to use up, as well as almond biscotti and breadcrumbs.

Caramel clementine upside-down cake

This is quite simply the best cake I’ve ever made! It’s good to eat at any time, but the flavours of clementines and almonds make it a lovely Christmassy dish; I served it as a lighter alternative to Xmas pud last year. It is dairy-free too.
LeftoverLiz, via GuardianWitness

Caramel clementine upside-down cake
 LeftoverLiz’s caramel clementine upside-down cake: ‘a lighter alternative to Xmas pud... It is dairy-free too’. Photograph: LeftoverLiz/GuardianWitness

Serves 8
For the caramel
3 tbsp caster sugar
100ml water
For the cake
5 clementines, all 5 zested, 3 of them juiced, 2 peeled and sliced into rings
150g caster sugar
50g ground almonds
50g biscotti, blitzed to crumbs in a food processor
50g soft white breadcrumbs
2 tsp baking powder
4 eggs, beaten
175ml sunflower oil
1 Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4, then grease and line a 20cm cake tin with baking paper.
2 Make the caramel by putting the sugar and water into a small saucepan, then bring to the boil and cook until golden. Pour into the bottom of the lined tin. Lay rings of the sliced clementines in the caramel.
3 Mix together the sugar, ground almonds, biscuits, breadcrumbs and baking powder in a bowl.
4 In a separate bowl, whisk the beaten eggs, oil, zest and juice together. Combine all the ingredients well and pour over the clementine slices into the tin. Bake for 45-50 minutes, until a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Allow to cool completely before turning out.

Image result for joan bakewell young
Holders of the Title
*Frank Muir once described Joan Bakewell as 'The Thinking Man's Crumpet', then Melvyn Bragg was christened the 'Thinking Woman's Crumpet', and there have been many holders of the crown since- the latest being Benedict Cumberbatch.

Image result for melvyn bragg youngImage result for benedict cumberbatch

Me? I like my crumpet toasted with butter and Marmite.

The Blogging Woman's Crumpet

Thursday, 29 October 2015

Ready Steady Cook!

Do you remember this TV programme? It was hugely popular in the Nineties and Noughties and launched the career of many a TV chef.
People used to hold 'Ready Steady Cook' dinner parties too- where the guests brought bags of random ingredients for the host to rustle up into something fab.

I caught an episode of this programme again recently- as it is still going strong - and it got me thinking about a revival. After all, it is pretty much what this blog is about- using up ingredients from your cupboard and fridge in a tasty way.
So, for this month's post I want to take a selection of ingredients- and make two suggestions as to how they could be used. Firstly, the obvious choice and secondly something a little more unexpected.

Let's take these ingredients by way of an example and an introduction:

Tuna, eggs, anchovies, olives, potatoes and bread.

First lot of ingredients

To me, that immediately cries out 'Salade Nicoise'.

Salade Nicoise
But no.... I'm going to make fish cakes instead.


200g cold mashed potato
1 tin tuna*
2 slices stale bread, soaked in water and then squeezed dry
1 egg
1 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tbsp lemon juice
3-4 anchovies, snipped up small
8 green olives, chopped roughly
salt and pepper
50g toasted breadcrumbs

Mix all the ingredients well (keeping back the breadcrumbs for coating) together in a bowl.

Mix it all up
 Shape with wet hands into patties and coat with the remaining breadcrumbs,
Shape into patties and coat with breadcrumbs
 Place on a lightly oiled baking tray and bake at 160 degrees for 15-20 minutes until golden.

Bake until golden

Mediterranean Fish Cakes
*NB: This recipe works just as well with any tinned fish- sardines, crab or salmon for example.

But does tuna, anchovies, olives, garlic and onions make you begin to think of pasta?

next bag of ingredients

Just add  some rich tomato sauce for a delicious pasta dish.

Add tomato sauce and hey presto....

Spaghetti Marinara

But for me however it says - Pissaladiere- a famous onion tart from Nice.

Gently slow cook the onions and garlic in a little olive oil until golden and meltingly soft. Spread these over either a  prepared pizza base or a puff pastry rectangle.
Criss cross with anchovies and dot with olives (you can add or leave the tuna as you wish)
Bake until the edges are golden and the pastry or dough is cooked underneath.

Pissaladiere ready for the oven

Pissaladiere ready to eat!
Now, how about celery, apple,walnuts and grapes?

Bag 3
Are you thinking Waldorf Salad?

Waldorf Salad
A classic dish of chopped celery and walnuts with crisp green apple, grapes and mayonnaise- made immortal of course by Fawlty Towers.

Image result for waldorf salad fawlty towers images

Well, how about making a Waldorf Soup instead. (Thanks to Hugh F-W for the idea).

Gently cook some onions, 1/2 tsp minced garlic, 4-5 sticks of celery ( chopped), 1 potato (diced) and 1 apple ( peeled and chopped) in some light vegetable oil. Add 500 ml chicken or vegetable stock and simmer until tender.
Blitz to a puree and adjust seasoning to taste.
Garnish with some finely chopped walnuts, grapes and apple dressed with some cream.

Waldorf Soup

Hugh serves his chilled- but in homage to another great comedy hero I am serving mine piping hot Arnold -Rimmer-Gazpacho style.
This recipe works well with celeriac too- just substitute it for the celery and potato.

Now a packet of peanuts might not be very inspirational. It might make you think of making a satay sauce or a Pad Thai.
Pad Thai

However, I took my lead from Ina Garten (who else?) and made Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars and I can't tell you how successful they were!

125g unsalted butter
175g sugar
1 egg
250 g peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla essence
375g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
pinch salt
200ml jam (fig or raspberry are good choices)
150g roasted peanuts, chopped

1. Preheat the oven to 160 degrees
2. Cream together the butter and sugar, then mix in the vanilla essence , egg and peanut butter and beat with an electric mixer for 2 minutes

Cream the butter, sugar, eggs etc with an electric mixer
 3.Sift in the flour, baking powder and salt and mix until combined
4.Grease and line a baking tray or gratin dish and spread 2/3 of the dough along the bottom

Spread two thirds of the dough over the base of the lined dish
5. Spread the jam evenly over the dough
6. Drop blobs of the remaining dough randomly over the top

Spread with jam and the remaining dough in blobs
7. Sprinkle with the chopped peanuts and bake for 45 minutes until golden on top and cooked underneath.
Golden from the oven

Peanut butter and jelly Bars

And finally, taking a pot of creme fraiche and some bacon

- are you thinking of a Pasta Carbonara?:

Gennaro's classic spaghetti carbonara
Pasta Carbonara
(This is Jamie Oliver's pic- not mine)
Pasta is cooked in lots of boiling salted water, drained and then creme fraiche, an egg yolk and crispy bacon are stirred through with a little of the cooking liquor to make it silky.

Well instead, I thought of a Flammekueche- an open tart from Alsace made with onions, creme fraiche and bacon and baked in the oven.

Spread a thin pastry base with creme fraiche and onions (cooked as for the Pissaladiere above or you can use tinned for a shortcut as in the bag of ingredients). Dot with thin matchsticks of bacon and bake at 200 degrees until the pastry is golden round the edges and cooked underneath. The lardons and cream should be beginning to 'catch'.

(I sometimes make a really speedy version of this using sandwich thins as flatbreads too).

Flammekueche Flatbreads

Whether you're a red tomato or a yellow pepper- I hope you've enjoyed the choice of recipes in this month's blog.

Now it's your turn - get.....
Image result for ready steady cook images

Saturday, 3 October 2015

Rhubarb! Rhubarb!

Roobarb and Custard- remember them?

I'm carrying on this month's 'garden produce' theme with a rhubarb special this week- as my allotment friend was kind enough to give me a big bagful.

In addition to the usual crumble- not to be sniffed at of course as it's always a favourite- I'm making a rhubarb relish to go with savoury dishes, a rhubarb clafoutis and a rhubarb and plum tatin, along with any other ideas which occur to me along the way.

So - I need two pans of stewed rhubarb- one sweet, one not so sweet.

First- stew your rhubarb!

The first is sweetened with a little golden syrup, flavoured with some mixed spice- and not a lot else. This will make the crumble.

(Crumble mix- 3 parts flour to 1 part each sugar and butter, add some flavours with cinnamon or ginger or change the texture with some rolled oats or crushed biscuits- blitz and off you go!)

Good old rhubarb crumble

I don't add any water, as the rhubarb produces lots of lovely syrup itself. If you have too much liquid, save it in a jug in the fridge and add it to different fresh fruit ( here grapes and plums) for a crumble variation later in the week.

Give some fresh fruit a rhubarb kick

The rhubarb relish goes as follows:

250g rhubarb
handful of sultanas and/or chopped dates
1 chopped onion
125 ml  white wine vinegar
1/2 tsp each salt and ground ginger

Boil in a saucepan until thick and chutney-like. Taste and adjust salt/vinegar levels.

This is just meant to be kept for a week or thereabouts so I haven't poured it into sterilised jars etc etc. Instead it sits happily in a container in the fridge- until I used it :

Firstly- to accompany grilled mackerel

Grilled mackerel with rhubarb relish

Secondly- to go with a sausage baguette and salad

Sausage sandwich with relish

And finally, a spoonful stirred into an onion and red wine sauce to go with sausage and mash.

Rhubarb and Onion Gravy

(Brown one chopped onion, pour in a cupful of red wine and boil to reduce. Add some gravy granules to thicken ( or stock, followed by a little more reducing), season, add the rhubarb to sweeten the sauce and hey presto!)

Now for the Tatin.

Take an ovenproof frying pan and melt 2 tbsp sugar in a tablespoon of water to make a caramel.

Melt sugar in water

Lay your fruit, cut side down into the caramel- I used plums and filled in the spaces with rhubarb.

Carefully start laying in your fruit
Tuck a circle of puff pastry over the top.

Cover with puff pastry
Bake in a hot oven until the pastry is risen and golden and the fruit juices are starting to bubble around the edges ( about 20 minutes).

Ready to come out of the oven
Carefully remove from the oven (don't burn your hands on the frying pan handle). Allow to cool a little before turning out onto a serving plate.

Rhubarb and Plum Tatin

Finally-the clafoutis. (A sort of sweet fruity Yorkshire pudding).

Mix together 60 g of flour, 1 tsp of ground ginger and 100g of icing sugar.
Beat 3 eggs with 100ml of milk and 100ml of cream.Add it to the dry ingredients and beat to a smooth batter.
Creamy batter

Part-cook the rhubarb with a squeeze of golden syrup- until it is just al dente.(A matter of minutes).

Lightly oil a pudding dish and spread the rhubarb over the base.

Pour on the batter mix and bake in a moderate oven (180 degrees) until risen and golden.

Clafoutis straight out of the oven- it does sink a bit later on..

Dust with icing sugar before serving- and have with ice cream.

Rhubarb Clafoutis