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‘Dinner Menu’ Category

  1. Enchilada sauce take 2

    February 23, 2014 by Lisa

    I don’t always follow my own recipes and do a lot of ad hoc cooking, so last night I did chicken enchiladas, and loved the sauce so much, I want to try to repeat it. Not sure if it was the quality of the peppers, or simply the simplicity of the recipe. You can find the original recipe here, but I like this one much better:

    4 Ramiro (large long red) Peppers
    1 tblsp Ground Cumin
    1 cup Chicken stock + some reserved chicken grease from cooking the chicken thighs as per the previous recipe
    2 tablespoons flour mixed in water to make a paste

    Slice the peppers and remove the seeds and tops. Roast in a 200C oven until fragrant and slightly blistered. Remove and let cool. Put the peppers in a blender with the rest of the ingredients. Blend well. Pour into a largish saucepan and simmer for about 10 minutes until slightly thickened.

    If you like your sauce hotter, roast a few red chilis with the peppers and add them too.

  2. Fast day Cocido de Gambas & brown Mexican rice

    July 1, 2013 by Lisa

    Fast days can be a challenge, but when you have a hearty meal like this to look forward to, it becomes much easier. And at less than 300 calories, it makes it even easier still.

    Cocido de Gambas (82 calories per serving – serves 4)

    • 800 ml liter vegetable broth (it’s easy to make from scratch, so don’t bother with a stock cube)
    • 200g pointed cabbage
    • 2 medium carrots
    • 50g white mushrooms
    • 100g large King Prawns
    • 1 fresh red chili pepper, sliced
    • Juice of half a lemon
    • salt and pepper to taste

    Slice the cabbage into large slices, the carrots into large chunks and the mushrooms in half. Cook the carrots, mushrooms and cabbage until tender, add the red pepper and prawns and cook until the prawns are red. Squeeze the lemon and add salt and pepper.

    Brown Mexican Rice (212 calories per serving, serves 4)

    • 200g Wholegrain brown rice
    • 1 liter boiling water, with one chicken stock cube
    • 2 teaspoons tomato puree
    • half a medium onion, chopped
    • 1 teaspoon olive oil
    • Salt and pepper to taste

    Heat the oil in a frying pan and add the onion and cook until soft. Add the rice and cook for a minute or so. Add the tomato puree and stock. Cover and cook until tender, adding additional water if needed. It should take about 25-35 minutes.

  3. Carne Asada

    October 29, 2012 by Lisa

    This was my dad’s favourite dish, and it’s become a family favourite now as well. Carne Asada uses skirt steak, a quite magical bit of meat that you may have to buy from a butcher as it’s not generally sold in the packaged meats sections of the supermarket.

    Cut from the lower plate on top of the ribs, skirt is one of the cheapest and most flavourful cuts of beef, ‘though certainly not the most tender so Carne Asada is a perfect way to make the most of it. It’s a great recipe for parties (of dedicated carnivores) as you can easily feed 4 people for not much more than £5.


    • A cut of skirt steak (1 kilo for 4 people, depending on the accompaniments)
    • 4 or more fresh red or jalepeno chilis
    • 1/4 cup olive oil
    • Juice of 2 or 3 limes
    • 1/4 cup vinegar
    • a good handful of fresh chopped or 3 tablespoons of dried oregano
    • Salt and pepper to taste

    Place the steak in a large casserole or lasagna pan, cover with the marinade and leave for 2 to 6 hours.

    Carne Asada is best and most traditional on the barbeque and even in the winter is well worth dragging it out from the shed. Otherwise, fry it in a grill pan. It’s important that it’s served rare, as overcooking will make it tough. You can tell it’s rare by giving it a little push with the side of a fork or your finger – it will still be soft and slightly “wobbly”.

    Slice the meat in long thin pieces across the grain and serve with flour torillas, guacamole, pico de gallo, mexican rice and beans. Serve cheese enchiladas as well t o make it go further.

  4. Red Beans and Rice

    September 11, 2012 by Lisa

    We haven’t added a new dish to our daily repertoire in ages, but this one is definitely on the list!

    Red Beans and Rice is possibly Louisiana’s most famous dish after gumbo and was traditionally a Monday meal, using the bones from the Sunday ham as its base. My version doesn’t use the ham bone or hock as they’re not that easy to get here so somewhat lacks the smokey taste. I also can’t abide green peppers so use sweet red peppers instead. And finally, an authentic dish also features Andouille sausage but there’s no chance of getting that in England! Nevertheless, it’s full of flavour, easy to make and cheap as chips.


    • 4 pork shoulder steaks
    • 2 cans kidney beans
    • 6 cups water
    • 1 chopped sweet red Romano chili pepper (the large ones)
    • 1 cup finely chopped celery
    • Half a large onion, finely chopped
    • 3 cloves garlic – minced
    • 1 tsp dried oregano
    • 1 tsp dried chili flake
    • Salt and pepper to taste

    Brown the steaks in a little oil in a large pot, add the chopped vegetables, herbs and water and bring to a boil. reduce to a simmer, cover and cook for 1 and a half to 2 hours until the meat is very tender and can be shredded easily.

    Drain the beans and add to the pot and cook another 45 minutes. The liquid should be quite thick rather than brothy, so you may need to keep the lid off or even raise the heat to get the water to reduce.

    Serve over white rice! Corn bread is the perfect accompaniment but we also like to eat it with white corn tortillas because we’re like that.

    And just to prove what an inspiration this dish is, a poem from my friend Louise:

    Victor Hernández Cruz, Red Beans

    Next to white rice
    it looks like coral
    sitting next to snow

    Hills of starch
    The burnt sienna
    of irony
    Azusenas being chased by
    the terra cotta feathers
    of a rooster
    There is a lava flow
    through the smoking
    white mounds

    India red
    spills on ivory

    Ochre cannon balls
    next to blanc pebbles

    Red beans and milk
    make burgundy wine

    Violet pouring
    from the eggshell
    tinge of the plate.


  5. Lime and Coriander Fishcakes

    January 31, 2012 by Lisa

    These fishcakes use cod, but could just as easily be made with any sort of fish. My daughter wasn’t keen on my last batch of salmon fishcakes, so will probably stick with white fish from now on.

    Serve with horseradish mayonnaise and Chili Jeli. Makes about 10 fishcakes.


    • 2 cod fillets
    • 2 cups mashed potato
    • 1 large carrot, cubed
    • 2 shallots, chopped
    • vegetable oil for frying
    • 1 cup chopped fresh coriander
    • 1 lime and its zest
    • 1 cup milk
    • 1/2 cup white wine
    • 2 eggs, beaten
    • 4 slices bread, crumbed (or 2 cups oatmeal for a crunchy, gluten-free alternative)
    • salt and pepper to taste

    Horseradish mayonnaise

    • 1 large heaped tsp horseradish
    • 6 large heaped tsp mayonnaise
    • 1/4 cup chopped coriander
    • 1 tablespoon lime juice
    • Freshly ground pepper to taste

    If you’re not using leftover mash, make the mash and cool. Crumb the bread in a blender until finely ground.

    In a skillet, fry the shallot until soft and transparent. Add the cod fillets, carrot, milk and white wine and bring to a low boil over medium heat. Cover and simmer until the fish flakes easily with a fork. The carrots won’t be cooked, so remove the fish to a plate, flake and let cool and continue to simmer until the carrots are tender. Drain off the liquid.

    Using a fork, gently combine the fish, mash, coriander, carrots, shallots, lime juice and zest and add salt and pepper to taste. Chill for 45 minutes to an hour.

    Form the chilled mixture into patties, dip in egg and then coat with bread crumbs or oatmeal and fry in a centimeter or two of medium hot oil until golden brown (3-4 minutes each side). Serve on a bed of rocket or baby leaf lettuces with the Chili Jeli and Horseradish Mayonnaise.



  6. Panfried Salmon with Samphire and Beurre Blanc

    January 22, 2012 by Lisa

    Samphire grows abundantly around the salt marshes of the eastern English coast. In the late summer, it’s not uncommon to see householders offering bunches of samphire for free or on the honour system on the roadsides. It looks much like what we called “iceplant” in California, though much smaller, is quite salty and tastes like the seaside. Samphire can be eaten fresh, boiled or steamed.

    This is a very sophisticated meal that is perfectly set off by the samphire, but your heart will not thank you for it!


    • 2 salmon fillets without skins
    • 2 handfuls of fresh samphire
    • Boiled baby new potatoes, lightly crushed

    For the Beurre Blanc:

    • 1 cup (235ml) dry white wine
    • 1/2 cup (120ml) white wine vinegar
    • 1 shallot chopped finely
    • 1/2 cube (that’s a UK cube or 125 grams/4.5 oz) of unsalted butter, cold and cubed
    • White peppercorns
    • Salt and fresh ground pepper

    The method for making the beurre blanc is via Jamie Oliver and is dead clever. It means that the sauce can be made slightly in advance.

    Add the wine, wine vinegar, peppercorns and chopped shallots to a small saucepan and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook until the liquid has reduced to about 3 tablespoons.

    Fill a thermos flask with boiling water to warm it, pour it out, and then sieve the wine mixture into the flask. Add the cold butter cubes, close the flask and shake it vigorously until your can’t hear sloshing anymore. If, when time to serve it’s too thick, add a scant amount of boiling water and shake to loosen it up.

    Pan fry the salmon fillets and place on top of crushed baby new potatoes.

    Wash the samphire thoroughly in cold water and remove any dried stems. Steam for a couple of minutes then place it on top of the salmon fillets. Pour the beurre blanc over the lot of it.

    After dinner, go for a run to loosen up those arteries.

  7. Pork Tamales

    May 16, 2011 by Lisa

    Tamales are a traditional Mexican dish that takes some effort to make, but are so worth it! Because of this, these days they’re mostly served at special occasions, like Christmas Eve or parties.

    I’ve made a couple of different fillings for this now, and I actually prefer the fresh pepper version to the more traditional dried pepper version which I find a bit bitter. The red sauce can be used for enchiladas as well. You can get the corn husks, and masa at or the Cool Chile Company in the UK. Makes about 30 tamales. You can freeze the extras. Allow 2-3 per person, keeping in mind that some people won’t stop at 3!

    Pork filling

    • Large pork Shoulder roast (700g or so)
    • 1 medium onion, quartered
    • 2 cloves garlic, crushed

    Remove the fat from the roast and cut into pieces. Add garlic and onion, cover with about a liter and a half of water and bring to the boil, then lower heat to simmer and cook for 2-3 hours or until the pork is very tender. Remove from heat, shred the meat and set aside. Reserve the broth and cool (you can skim off the fat once it’s cooled.)

    Fresh Pepper Red Chili Sauce

    • 4 large Romano peppers
    • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
    • 3 cloves, crushed
    • 3 peppercorns, crushed
    • 4 or so hot peppers, to taste. The mild red ones are my preference, but go as hot as you like.
    • 1 cup broth from bullion (vegetable or chicken)
    • 2 tablespoons flour
    • 2 tablespoons shortening

    Slice the peppers in half and remove the seeds and stems. Wash hands after touching them and keep your hands away from eyes and other sensitive “bits”! Roast the red and hot peppers in a hot oven until just blistered. Place the peppers, garlic, salt, cumin, cloves, peppercorns and broth in a blender and blend until smooth. Melt the shortening in a large saucepan and stir in the flour until smooth. Starin the pepper mixture into the flour misxture and cook for 5-10 minutes until the sauce is thickened. Add the shredded pork to the sauce and set aside while you prepare the masa.

    Tamale Dough
    The directions are on the corn masa packaging, but in case they’re not:

    • 4 cups masa flour
    • 4 cups reserved lukewarm pork broth
    • 2 teaspoons baking powder
    • 1 teaspoon salt
    • 1 1/3 cups lard or shortening

    Combine the corn meal, baking powder and salt in a large bowl and add the broth, mixing well with hands. In a small bowl, beat the shortening until fluffy and add it to the masa mixture and beat until the dough is a bit spongey.

    Assembling the Tamales
    Soak about 30 dried corns husks in warm water for 30 minutes and rinse. Hold a husk with the pointed end facing down and spread a large spoon full of dough (about 2 tablespoons) in the centre of the husk (each husk should be 8 inches long and 6 inches wide at the top. If husks are small, overlap 2 small ones to form one. If it is large, tear a strip from the side). Place about 1 tablespoon meat and sauce mixture in the middle of the masa and fold in sides of husk and fold up the bottom. You can fold down the top or leave them open.

    Place the tamales in a very deep stockpot with 2 inches of water and a steamer basket in the bottom. Make sure the basket is raised an inch or two above the water (I used two steamers on top of each other) as you don’t want the water to splash onto the tamales. Make sure the pot doesn’t boil dry. If the tamales are open at the top, make sure the open top of the husk is facing upward. Cover with a wet cloth and steam for about an hour and a half or until the husk separates easily from the corn meal.

    Serve the tamales with the husk removed and remaining sauce poured over the top.

  8. Cornershop Tom Kha

    April 25, 2011 by Lisa

    I call this Cornershop Tom Kha because it uses ingredients I can easily get at my local cornershop. Well, except the fresh chicken breast, actually, but I usually have that anyway. Oh and the fish sauce…

    • 2 skinless chicken breasts cut into bite-sized pieces
    • 1 can coconut milk
    • 1 cup chicken broth (fresh or from bullion)
    • 10 or so slices of fresh ginger root
    • 2 or 3 fresh hot red peppers or a couple teaspoons of chopped jarred red peppers
    • Kaffir lime leaves (not really necessary, but nice if it’s around)
    • 1 lime
    • Fresh button mushrooms
    • 5 or 6 peppercorns
    • 2 tablespoons fish sauce
    • Fresh coriander

    Heat the coconut milk, broth, ginger, lime leaves (or some lime zest), juice of half the lime, red peppers and the peppercorns just to the boil then turn down to simmer. Add the chicken pieces and mushrooms (baby corn is good here too) and cook until the chicken is cooked through. Remove from heat, add the fish sauce and the rest of the lime juice and serve. Top with fresh coriander leaves and serve with rice. Easy, fast, delicious and you’d never know there were no authentic ingredients in there. Or not many…

    (By the way, this version is much better than the previous one.)

  9. Borsch(t)

    December 2, 2008 by Lisa

    I was looking for a recipe for a borsch similar to what I had at the very lovely Troikka in Helsinki some months ago. This, sadly, isn’t it. Nice, but not right. Part of the problem is that I couldn’t find fresh beetroot, only vacuum-packed, precooked. I also think that it would be nice if the vegetables were pureed prior to adding back the cubed beetroot.


    • 1 kilo stewing beef
    • 1 carrot, chopped
    • 1 stalk celery, chopped
    • 2 liters water


    • 2 carrots, julienned
    • 1 small head cabbage, sliced thinly
    • 8 small cooked beetroots, cubed
    • 1/3 red onion
    • 250gm tomato paste
    • juice of half a lemon
    • 2 tablespoons flour
    • salt, pepper
    • fresh dill
    • soured cream

    For the stock, cover the beef in water, add a bit of salt and bring to the boil. Skim off the scum that forms and reduce to a simmer. Add the carrot and celery and cook for at least an hour and a half. I actually cooked it for nearly three. When it’s done, put the meat aside and strain the stock.

    Add the cabbage and cook for 15 minutes. Add the julienned carrots and onion and cook an additional 15 minutes. Add the cubed beetroot, tomato paste and lemon juice and cook another 15 minutes. Mix the flour with a little water and stir into the soup. Finally add the meat back to the soup and cook until thickened.

    Add salt and pepper to taste, serve with dill and soured cream.

  10. Ragu alla Bolognese

    November 11, 2006 by Lisa

    This is my take on the classic ragu of Bologna. Pretty close to the original, with the exception of veal and giblets and other meaty things that make it even more incredibly rich than this recipe using cream.


    • 500grams minced beef
    • 2 carrots, chopped
    • 1 shallot, chopped
    • 45 grams pancetta, cubed
    • wineglass of red or white wine
    • 1/2 to 3/4 cup milk or cream
    • salt and ground pepper
    • 1 cup chicken broth
    • half a tube of double concentrate tomato paste
    • olive oil

    Brown the pancetta in the olive oil for a couple of minutes, then add the carrots and shallots and cook until limp. Add minced beef and brown. mix together tomato paste, broth and wine and add to the browned beef. Add salt and pepper to taste (a couple of turns of the pepper grinder and a few shakes of salt). Cover and simmer for half an hour or so. Add the milk or cream a little at a time, stir and simmer uncovered a bit longer, maybe 15 minutes or so.

    Serve with penne, or preferably, fresh tagliatelle.