Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Lasagne from Jamie Oliver's Ministry of Food

(Serves 4-6)


For the Bolognese Sauce

2 rashers of streaky bacon
2 medium onions
2 cloves of garlic
2 carrots
2 sticks of celery
olive oil
2 heaped teaspoons dried oregano
500g good quality minced beef, pork, or (even better!) a mixture of the two [I used beef]
2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
a small bunch of fresh basil
50g Parmesan cheese [I don't like Parmesan, so I replaced this with Cheddar]

For the lasagne

250g dried egg lasagne sheets
1 x 500ml tub of creme fraiche
100g Parmesan cheese [again, I subbed this for Cheddar]
1 large ripe tomato

To make your Bolognese sauce

Finely slice your bacon [I find scissors good for this].
Peel & finely chop the onions, garlic, carrots and celery - don't worry about technique; just chop away.
Place a large casserole-type pan on a medium to high heat, add 2 lugs of olive oil, your sliced bacon and the oregano and cook and stir until the bacon is lightly golden.
Add the veg to the pan and stir every 30 seconds for around 7 minutes or until softened and lightly coloured.

Stir in the minced meat and the tinned tomatoes. Fill one of the empty tins with water and add to the pan [I only used half a tin of water, as I've made Jamie's Bolognese before and found it a little wet for my liking]. Stir in a good pinch of salt and pepper.
Pick the basil leaves and place in the fridge for later. Finely chop the basil stalks and stir into the pan [again, scissors are good for this].
Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer with a lid on for 45 minutes, stirring every now and again to stop it catching.

To finish the sauce

Preheat the oven to 190C / 375F / GM5. Remove the Bolognese sauce from the heat. Finely grate the Parmesan and stir a quarter of this into the sauce [I wasn't sure if he meant 1/4 of the 50g allocated for the sauce, or 1/4 of the whole amount of cheese - I went with the whole amount].
Tear and stir in any larger basil leaves, keeping the smaller ones aside for later. Have a taste of the sauce, and season with a little more salt and pepper if you think it needs it.
Boil some water in a kettle and pour it into a pan, then add all your lasagne sheets with a drizzle of olive oil and blanch (slightly soften) for 3 to 4 minutes.

Drain the sheets in a colander and carefully pat them dry with some kitchen paper to absorn any excess water.

To make your lasagne

Spoon a third of your Bolognese sauce into the bottom of an earthenware ovenproof dish. Follow with a layer of lasagne sheets. [Here, I encountered a problem. My sheets were stuck together! I don't know what I could have done to prevent this - rinse in cold water afterwards? Anyway, I managed to get round this by using a knife, very carefully, and splitting them apart. By the end it was too tricky. Luckily I had another packet of lasagne sheets so I used them for my last layer as there was no way this was working for me - see below!]

Dollop over a third of your creme fraiche and smooth it out to cover the lasagne sheets. Sprinkle with a good pinch of salt and pepper and another quarter of your grated Parmesan. Add another layer of lasagne, and repeat the layers twice more, finishing with a layer of creme fraiche and the remaining Parmesan.

Top with some slices of tomato, scatter over the small basil leaves and drizzle with olive oil.

Cover with foil, place in the preheated oven and bake for 20 minutes.
After that, remove the foil and cook for a further 35 minutes until the lasagne is bubbling and golden.
Serve on the table with a fresh green salad and let everyone help themselves.

When I was trying to work out how long to allow for making this, I somehow hadn't read the 45 minutes for the Bolognese sauce, and thought it would be ready in time for Louis to have some too. As it was, it took almost 3 hours including prep and cooking time. I am pleased to announce it was worth the wait! Definitely not one I can rustle up after a day at work, but if I have the time and in need of some lovely tasty comfort food then I will come back to it. The bonus is that Jack and I both have lunch for work tomorrow now, and Louis might be in luck too! If I'm feeling generous to myself I might even make a 'spare' one and freeze it for after I have the baby - oooh that would be a treat! Yet again, another successful recipe from 'Ministry of Food', seriously, nothing has turned out bad from it yet.

Tuesday, 5 May 2009

Harissa-Spiced Lamb Burgers with Sweet Potato Wedges

(Serves 4)


Heat the oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Toss the sweet potato wedges with 1 tbsp olive oil and some salt. Put on a baking tray in the oven and cook for 20-25 minutes until tender.

Mix together the lamb, onion and harissa and season really well. Form into 4 burgers. Griddle or grill for 4-5 minutes on each side until cooked through. Mix the cucumber into the yogurt and season.

Put the burgers into the buns on top of some rocket leaves. Put a dollop of the yogurt on each burger and serve the rest on the side with the sweet potato wedges.

Gosh, you wouldn't believe I make money from photography would you!? In my defense, as soon as I've cooked I just want to eat, so take a quick snap and gobble before it gets cold!

So, tonight's dinner was as above. I just happened to stumble upon the recipe as I was browsing the BBC Good Food Site and thought it looked like my cup of tea. I am a big harissa fan, so to find another use for it is fab.

I was surprised to find how easy the burgers were to make - it was literally a case of bunging in the lamb, the onion and harissa, mixing them all up, et voila. The smell of them cooking took me right back to my school days - lamb kofte on a Thursday. I do love lamb, it's my favourite meat for roasting, and chops... but I don't think I would choose to cook minced lamb in lump-form again like this, as it just reminds me too much of school dinners.

Don't get me wrong - the dinner was lovely, I don't think I'd do it again for myself. I'm 99% sure when Jack has his when he's in from work, he will l-o-v-e love it, Im just not a minced-lamb-in-lump-form fan, which I evidently forgot until the reminiscent aromas hit me.

I did, however, discover an absolutely delicious accompaniment to meals in the sweet potato wedges - I've never tried them like that before, and they went just perfectly with the cucumber and yoghurt dip. I will 100% be making them again, with the dip, and might even try a little harissa in with the youghurt.

Monday, 4 May 2009

Summer Couscous Salad

A while ago I was scouting for halloumi recipes - I always do the same thing with it, and a friend that lives in Cyprus gave me this recipe. I have made it a couple of times before, each time with great success. Jack is a bit of a meaty-man, but it's good enough for him for dinner without any meat accompaniments!

(Serves 4)

For the Dressing

1. Tip the couscous into a bowl, pour the boiling stock over and mix well with a fork. Cover with a plate and leave for 4 minutes. Meanwhile, tip all the dressing ingredients into a bowl and mix well. Fluff up the couscous with a fork, stir in the chickpeas and follow with half the dressing. Mix well and pile on to a large serving dish.

2. Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large frying pan and fry the courgette slices over a high heat for 2-3 minutes until dark golden brown. Lift out on to kitchen paper. Now put the tomatoes cut-side down into the pan, and cook for another couple of minutes until tinged brown on the underside. Top the couscous with the courgettes and then the tomatoes.

3. If the pan is dry, pour in a little more oil and heat it up, then add the halloumi strips and fry for 2-3 minutes, turning them over from time to time, until crisp and sizzled brown. Pile on top of the tomatoes, and drizzle with the remaining dressing. Serve as soon as possible.

I make it without chickpeas as I really don't like them. Humous is fine, chickpeas just ming! I think it stems back to when I was on a diet that chickpeas were 'unlimited' on, so I made a cake out of them. Errrrrrgh. It's still gorgeous without them, I don't feel I'm missing anything from the dish.

I have seen on the BBC site that people have left comments saying they have added harissa to the dressing, and have added green beans to the salad - I think both sound lovely and I will try them over the summer.

This dish is great as a salad for BBQs, or as a main course in it's own right. It even makes me wish I was working tomorrow so I could take the leftovers as a packed lunch... twisted right?! Be warned - it's VERY garlicy. VERY delicious too.

Saturday, 2 May 2009

Chocolate Croissants from Nigella Express

I saw Nigella Lawson making her Chocolate Croissants on her Nigella Express programme a while ago and thought they looked really easy, really yummy, and like a really lazy kind of recipe (my kind of recipe!) I don't have the Nigella Express book, but managed to find the recipe by the power of Google.

(Makes 12)


  • 1 (13-ounce) packet ready rolled butter puff pastry
  • 1 (100-gram) chocolate bar (milk or dark depending on taste)
  • 1 egg beaten


Preheat the oven to 425F/220C. Unfurl the sheet of pastry and then cut it into 6 squares.

Cut each square diagonally to give 2 triangles (they will appear quite small). Put the triangle with the wider part facing you and the point away from you.

Break off small pieces of chocolate (approx.1cm/half inch) to place about 2cm/3/4-inch up from the wide end nearest you.

Then carefully roll from that chocolate loaded end towards the point of the triangle.

You should now have something resembling a straight croissant, seal it slightly with your fingertips and curl it around into a crescent.

Place the chocolate croissants on a lined baking tray and paint with the beaten egg. Bake for 15 minutes until golden and puffy and exuberantly, if miniaturely, croissant-like.

I used (Green & Blacks) dark chocolate, which was a little bitter for the less developed taste-buds in my house. Yes they were very very easy - but not very very yummy. There seemed to be a lot of spare pastry at the ends where the chocolate hadn't got that far. I much prefer shop-bought chocolate croissants, and they're far cheaper too. I won't bother making these again. This is one instance where home baked is not best. 1/5.


Ok, it's 2 days later - the croissants have all gone. I might have lied when I said Louis didn't like them - he polished them off sharpish! For me they don't compare to shop-bought croissants. For Louis they were fine, he loved them, and they are probably better for him. Still not sure if that would sway me into making them again though!