Cinnamon Rolls

If you’ve been following our instagram recently you’ll have spotted this little beauty. Not completely stuffed to bursting with all of the wonderful home-made treats provided by Mama Fats over the festive period – not to mention the mountains of chocolate we received on Christmas day – we thought we’d top it all off with some extra-special cinnamon rolls, especially for Bird’s Birthday! We’ve got a lot more confident with our bread making in the last year, and couldn’t have imagined attempting something like this at the turn of 2013. This is a really easy recipe though, and as long as you give the dough time to rise you’ll end up with beautifully fluffy rolls, a real treat! Even Fats’ little brother loves these, and he “doesn’t like cinnamon” (at least one of us must be adopted…).

For 12 cinnamon rolls, you’ll need:

  • 500g strong white flour
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 150g light brown sugar (we used light muscovado sugar)
  • 1½ tsp dried yeast
  • 175g butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
  • 200ml milk
  • 2 free-range eggs, plus one egg yolk, for glazing (in all the excitement we forgot to glaze ours!)
  • flavourless oil (e.g. sunflower, vegetable) for oiling
  • 1 orange, zest and juice (optional)
  • 1½ tsp ground cinnamon

Start by making the dough. Mix together the flour, 50g of the sugar, 75g of the softened butter, the salt and the yeast in a large bowl, making sure that the butter is well rubbed in. Add the milk and one of the eggs and combine with your hands – it will start off quite sticky and very messy, but should come together once the flour has been incorporated. Put the mixture onto a clean surface and knead for about 10 minutes, until the dough is nice and springy. Place in a bowl, cover and leave to rise until it has doubled in size – it should take about 1 1/2 hours, but this depends on how warm it is.

Cinnamon roll dough before rising
Cinnamon roll dough before rising
Cinnamon Roll Dough After Rising
Cinnamon Roll Dough After Rising (and a bit of prodding…)

To make the filling take the rest of the butter, sugar, cinnamon and optionally the orange zest, and combine together in a bowl with a fork to form a paste.

Once the dough has risen, oil a surface and tip the dough onto it. Roll out the dough into a rectangle so that it is at least 30 cm long in one dimension, and about the thickness of a pound coin (3-4 mm). Smear over the filling, ensuring that it reaches the sides of the dough that will form the ends of the roll.

Cinnamon Roll Dough Rolled Out

Cinnamon Roll Dough Covered in Filling

Now roll it up tightly – you’ll get a good roll if you ensure that the first roll is really tight. Slice this up into 12 rolls of even width, and place into a lined and oiled baking tray, leaving a small gap between each roll. Leave to prove until most of the gaps are filled in.

Cinnamon Roll Dough Rolled Up

This is what they look like before proving - make sure there are some gaps for them to expand into
This is what they look like before proving – make sure there are some gaps for them to expand into
After proving - almost good enough to eat already!
After proving – almost good enough to eat already!

Preheat an oven to 200ºC. Brush the rolls with the yolk of an egg, to get a nice glaze – we forgot this bit, but they still worked out alright! When the oven is up to temperature, put the rolls in and cook on 200ºC for 10 minutes, before turning the temperature down to 180ºC and cooking for a further 20 minutes. When they’re nicely golden on top, take them out and leave to stand on a cooling rack for a little while, but not too long – these are absolutely delicious when they’re warm! If you forgot to glaze yours like we did – or if you just want a bit of extra orangeyness – you can glaze again with a mixture of orange juice and melted butter once they come out of the oven.

Cinnamon Rolls Done

These won’t stick around for very long, especially if you’re surrounded by a sweet-toothed and hungry family! They’re really good reheated too, so you don’t have to eat them all at once…

Slow-Roast Pork Belly with Cider Gravy

Merry Christmas! We hope you’ve had a wonderful few days wherever you’ve spent it, we’ve been having a brilliant time stuffing our faces, playing board games, heading out for the odd walk and generally catching up with some lovely people. When you’re ready to face another indulgent meal we think this could be the perfect candidate, crispy slow-roasted pork belly served with celeriac mash, wilted kale, green beans and a rich cider gravy… delicious!

Remember when we made this pork adobo? We cut our piece of pork belly in half and chucked half in the freezer with a vague intention to roast it, and that’s exactly what we did! We served this on Bristmas (Bristol-Christmas) Eve – because we are visiting Fats’ family over Christmas we had our own special day to open presents that we couldn’t bring with us, including some brilliant wine from Bird’s parents – check it out on our Instagram. We’d never roasted pork belly before but after reading a few recipes online the general consensus was to stick it on a rack or some vegetables, put it in as hot as your oven will go and then turn down and slowly roast for hours until it practically falls apart but is topped with the most incredible crackling. To counteract the richness we served ours with some celeriac mash which is much lighter than using all potatoes, and some dark green vegetables, but we couldn’t resist making a gravy, it would have been a crime to waste everything left in the roasting dish!

Ingredients (serves 2)

  • A piece of pork belly, around 350g
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • Roughly chopped vegetables, we used carrots, onion and a parsnip but celery would be good too – use anything you have lying around
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 300ml dry cider
  • 1 small/medium baking potato, peeled and roughly cubed
  • 300-400g celeriac, peeled and roughly cubed
  • Milk
  • Butter
  • Salt and pepper
  • Shredded kale, around 100-150g
  • Green beans, around 100g
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • Boiling water – as much as you like to make the right consistency gravy

To start with you need to score the pork belly, to do this you need a really sharp knife so either make sure yours are sharp, use a craft knife (like a Stanley knife) or ask your butcher to do it. You can score either horizontally/vertically or cross-hatch like we did. Make sure you cut through the skin into the fatty part, but not too deep so you don’t cut into the meat. Preheat the oven to as hot as it will go (around 250°C). Pop the fennel seeds and sea salt into a pestle and mortar and crush together for a few seconds to break up the fennel seeds. Tip this onto the skin of the pork and rub in, making sure it gets into all of the score lines. Put the roughly chopped vegetables into a roasting dish, drizzle over the olive oil and place the pork on top, then pop in the oven when it’s come to temperature.

Pork Belly Before

After 10 minutes turn the oven right down to about 160-170°C. Our piece took around 2 hours from this point, you want the meat to be falling apart, so if you’re cooking for more people then add on some more time. The beauty of this is that it’s hard to overcook, it will stay beautifully moist as long as you don’t forget about it all day! Halfway through the cooking time (so after 1 hour for our piece) pour 200ml of the cider into the roasting dish. The vegetables should have started to caramelise so the cider will bubble around all of those bits and get all of the best flavour for your gravy! Don’t worry if you’re cooking this dish for children, all of the alcohol will burn off and just leave that gorgeous apple flavour.

Pork Belly Roasted

When your pork has about half an hour left you need to start cooking the celeriac and potato to make your mash, cube them, add to a large pan of cold water, bring to the boil and cook until soft. Once they are cooked drain them well and then it’s time to take the pork out of the oven! This is where things will get a little bit hectic – you need to make your mash and keep it warm, keep the pork warm, cook your green vegetables and make some gravy… but if we can handle a busy 10 minutes over the stove then so can you! Take the pork out of the oven, take a few seconds to marvel at its crispy beauty and then lift it off the bed of vegetables into a warm plate or a wooden board and cover loosely with foil. Make the gravy first, that way it can bubble away while you get on with everything else. Sprinkle the plain flour over the vegetables, and then using a fork squash the vegetables down with the flour which will soak up all of the lovely flavour. If your roasting dish is ok to use on the hob then you can make it all in the dish but ours wasn’t so we then tipped all of the squashed-vegetable mix into a pan. Place over a low heat and once it’s nice and toasty pour in the remaining 100ml of cider, let this reduce almost completely and then stir in enough boiling water to get it to a slightly thinner consistency than you would like. Turn the heat right down and let this bubble away happily.

Pork Belly Gravy

We cooked our kale by wilting it in a wok with a little water, butter, salt, pepper and grated nutmeg and some green beans simply boiled, drained and then coated in a tiny bit of butter. Mash up your celeriac and potato making sure to go easy on the milk and butter as celeriac is more watery than potato so you’ll end up with soup if you’re not careful! If it does end up wetter than you would like you can easily remedy it by placing the pan over a very low heat and mashing/stirring continuously until it’s dried out slightly. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

One hard-working hob!
One hard-working hob!

Plate up time! We warmed our plates in the oven for a minute while we finished off the gravy by straining it into a jug giving the vegetables an extra squash with a spoon in the sieve to get every bit of goodness out! Then just whack it all on a plate, you won’t have the agonising wait like we did while we took photos… tuck straight in! If you’ve got any cider left (we may or may not have bought a box) it’s lovely served with it. Ours may look like a fairly meagre portion but it’s so rich that you don’t need much, try this out for an alternative roast to impress your friends and family with!

Pork Belly Done

White Wine and Fennel Pot Roast Chicken

Roast chicken is a classic, and one that can’t easily be improved upon but we’ve found a way which means you still get a classic roast but with a bit of a twist, and the moistest chicken ever! This could make a lovely alternative Christmas dinner for a smaller family or a special dinner any weekend. The chicken sits on a bed of sliced fennel, onions and celery covered in white wine which you can then turn into a delicious sauce at the end. We used a small-medium chicken here so obviously adjust the cooking times if you’re using a bigger one – this recipe is forgiving, you can cook it for a little longer than you should and still have lovely chicken, with no hint of dryness. We served ours like a traditional roast dinner but this would work really well with mashed potato and vegetables or in the summer with bread and salad.

Ingredients

  • 1 free-range chicken
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 bulb of fennel, chopped into 1cm strips
  • 1 large onion, chopped into 1cm strips
  • 2-3 sticks of celery, chopped roughly
  • 1 large glass of white wine (about 200ml)
  • Salt and pepper to season

Chopped Fennel and Onions

Heat a large oven-proof casserole dish over a medium heat. Preheat the oven to 180C. Pour the oil into the casserole dish and when it’s hot add in the thyme. Then pop the chicken in, breast side down to start colouring the skin to encourage it to go nice and golden in the oven. You’ll have to tilt the chicken and move it around, we found that using your hands is the easiest way to do this, just watch out for hot oil! After about 5 minutes the skin on the breast should be lightly golden so take the chicken out and pop it back on it’s plastic tray while you put the vegetables in. Put all of the vegetables into the pot and stir over the heat for a few minutes until they start to cook, but you don’t want them to colour. Pour over the wine after this time and then put the chicken back on top, breast-side up this time. Season the chicken with salt and pepper and rub with a little extra olive oil if needed.

Chicken in pot

Put the dish in the oven, leave the lid off for around half an hour to help the skin crisp up, then put the lid on and leave for 1 hour. Check the fluid levels occasionally and top up with a bit of water if necessary, there should be around 2-3 inches of fluid in the bottom at all times. After the hour take the lid off and leave to brown for another 10-15 minutes and then take out of the oven.

Cooked chicken in pot

Put your chicken to rest on a board, loosely covered with foil, and then you can make a gravy out of the wine/stock if you wish, or you can just serve it as it is. It would be perfect left as it is for a light summer lunch with bread and salad… you could pop the sauce into a bowl for people to dip their bread into! We decided to thicken ours slightly as we were serving it in more of a traditional roast dinner style. To do this simply place about 1 tsp of butter in a small sauce pan, add 2 tsp of plain flour and a little of the stock, stir to make a paste. Then keep adding the stock slowly, making sure it’s completely incorporated before adding the next spoonful. Cook this for around 10 minutes to make sure the raw flour taste is completely gone. You can make it to whatever thickness you fancy, we wanted quite a thick sauce this time so didn’t add too much of the stock and then let it reduce well.

Finished pot roast chicken

And that’s it! Carve the chicken and serve with whatever you fancy. Here we have roasted potatoes, parsnips and carrots and some leeks and cabbage which were braised together in a little water and butter and of course some of the deliciously soft fennel, onions and celery. Even though this chicken was only supposed to feed 2-4 there was so much meat left on it, we boiled up the carcass to make soup which made at least 5-6 portions – you can’t get much better value than a chicken!

Beef and Ale Pie

This is a classic recipe – beef and ale are a perfect combination, and make for a wonderfully rich and delicious pie filling. We’re using shin of beef here, which can be a bit tough if you don’t cook it nice and slowly, but it’s absolutely packed with flavour. We had no worries about cooking it too fast as we stewed it over a whole weekend – about 12 hours altogether – in our slow cooker, but you don’t have to be that leisurely! It’s served with some deliciously mustardy leeks and lovely kale.

Ingredients for 2 people:

  • 250 g shin of beef (or any other diced cut of beef)
  • 500 ml dark ale
  • 100 ml beef stock (use a whole stock cube)
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 5 pickling onions
  • 2 large carrots
  • 2 sticks celery
  • 2 small turnips
  • 3-4 new potatoes/1 large potato
  • Pinch Sea Salt
  • 1/2 tsp Black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp dried rosemary
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 250 g puff pastry (we used shop-bought pastry that we keep in the freezer)
  • 1 large leek, finely sliced
  • 1 tsp butter
  • 1 tsp mustard
  • 100 g shredded kale
  • Seasoning

Pie Veg Chopped

This has to be one of the easiest recipes ever – to get the filling going, cover the beef in the flour, and then put all the ingredients up to the bay leaves into a large casserole dish (or better yet, a slow cooker), bring to the boil and then turn down to a very low heat for at least 3 hours – the longer the better! Stir it occasionally and make sure that it doesn’t reduce too much – you want it to be a silky consistency.

Silky Pie

Once the filling is cooked, you can optionally take out the meat and pull it apart, to ensure it is spread evenly throughout the pie.

Meat Pulled Apart

Roll out your pastry so that it will cover your pie dish – it should be about 1 cm thick. Brush around the edge of your pie dish with a bit of beaten egg to ensure the pastry sticks. Put your filling in the dish and lay the pastry over the top, trimming any excess and pressing around the edges with a fork to make sure it sticks down. Brush the pastry with egg for a nice golden colour – we mixed our egg wash with a bit of mustard, which was amazing! Make a hole in the middle of the pastry with a knife to let any steam out. Put this in the oven for about 20 minutes at about 180 ºC, or until the pastry is golden-brown.

Pie Before

Pie After

To cook the leeks, melt the butter in a saucepan and add the leeks. Once this has started to sweat down, add the mustard and continue to cook until they’re completely softened. Braise the kale along with a bit of seasoning.

Pie Done

If you’ve timed it right, everything should come together perfectly! Serve with a pint of good ale.

Last Minute Christmas Gift Guide

We didn’t write this post too early as we didn’t want to make things too easy for our families, but here is a round-up of gifts which we think would make a fellow foodie very happy! Some of the items we’ve linked to are out of stock now on the websites but there’s still plenty of time to nip to the shops to pick up a last-minute present. This post is intended to inspire, and we hope it helps bring some joy to a foodie you love. They range from stocking fillers to big gifts and hopefully there’s a little something in here for everyone.

Gift Collage

Under £10:

Spices – these are the perfect stocking filler, you can pick a couple up for about a fiver and they will make perfect little presents for a foodie to unwrap. We got some saffron last year which we’ve been having fun playing with – you can go for your favourite ingredient (like our current chipotle chilli obsession) or buy something that they wouldn’t treat themselves to! Rose petals would make an ideal gift for a keen baker or anyone who loves Middle Eastern/North African flavours, Chipotle chillis would be perfect for all of the heat lovers out there (Waitrose has a fantastic range of dried chilli varieties if you’re after something hard to come by!) and saffron always feels special. This brand of harissa is gorgeous, the rose really comes through but isn’t overpowering and it has a brilliantly balanced heat.

Cute apron – go for a classic navy and white (and look like our very own Fats!), a shabby chic style for a girly girl or an Edward Monkton for all round brilliance.

Nice bottle of wine – you can’t really go wrong with this, as long as you know they like wine! We can’t think of any wine drinker who wouldn’t like to receive a nice bottle. You don’t have to spend a fortune, there are plenty of lovely wines out there for under a tenner.

£10-£30:

Cute measuring cup set – any other Brits out there get thoroughly baffled by American recipes in cups? Be baffled no longer with a set of measuring cups, these ones are particularly cute or check out Anthropologie if you want to spend a bit more.

Cookbook – we are going to be putting together a little post on our favourite cookbooks that we own so we won’t blather on too much but they make a great gift that will be treasured for years (you know it’s a good’un when you turn the pages and they’re splattered with sauce and cake batter!). We don’t own either of these and have our beady little eyes on them.

Coffee/tea set/accessories – how about putting together your own hamper, we especially love Twinings, Pukka, Clipper and Illy, all of which can be picked up in supermarkets/local deli’s.

Cheeseboard with knives – know a cheese fiend? (Everyone should!). A beautiful cheeseboard with a set of knives would make a great gift. Go classic with a wooden set or grab a slate for the more modern of your loved ones! We’ve seen these sets in loads of supermarkets, hopefully there are still a few up for grabs.

Fancy olive oil/vinegar/dips – these make a great gift for any foodie, especially one with a love of Mediterranean food. Fats’ brother got us a lovely set of sauces/dips last year which we’re still using now! These ones are sadly sold out but hopefully it will spark some ideas.

Baking stone – we’re pretty desperate for one of these, having got into our bread baking in a fairly big way. This Jamie Oliver one would be a great gift but if you’ve got a bit more cash to splash check out this beauty from Anthropologie.

Over £30:

Coffee/tea club subscription – we know that Whittard do one but check out your local coffee/tea specialists as there are lots of small companies that are starting to provide this service and what could be nicer than a package of joy-in-a-mug being dropped through your door every month?

Bottle of whisky/fave drink – a bit of a predictable one but very appreciated nonetheless! Or if the person you’re buying for has a favourite drink maybe give them an expensive brand to try? Or how about a fancy liqueur for the budding cocktail artist that they would never normally treat themselves to? Bird has her eye on some sloe gin this year, although it probably wouldn’t compete with the stuff her grandparents used to make!

 Cookery course – this could be a brilliant present, and there is course out there to suit any type of foodie! Artisan bread making, wild food foraging, butchery, cocktail making, tea blending… the choice is endless!

Restaurant vouchers – Bird’s parents got us vouchers for The Olive Shed last Christmas and we finally got round to going in November. It was brilliant! There is something so indulgent about going out for a fab meal without having to worry about picking up the bill at the end! Choose your favourite restaurant for someone to try or just have a search for restaurants in their area that you think they would love.

Le Creuset – pretty much anything by Le Creuset will make you the best gift-giver this Christmas. You could go small – Bird is in love with their espresso mugs, go for some of the beautiful ombre colours in Rose and Coastal Blue for a girly vibe or stick to strong, traditional colour such as Volcanic, Satin Black and Teal for a cooler, more modern feel. For those wanting to splash out then you can’t go wrong with a classic casserole dish, a brilliantly heavy griddle pan or some roasting dishes. Just in case anyone is thinking of treating us with Le Creuset ever, all of our current gear is in Volcanic so we’d love it in that colour *nudge nudge*.

Gorgeous knives – we have completely fallen in love with these knives, the bands of copper are not only beautiful but you know this would cut like a dream. For those on more of a budget we have some James Martin knives which have served us extremely well. And for sharpening you can’t do better than a whetstone or an oilstone, we have one which was found in Bird’s garden shed (really!) but they’re available online from loads of places and nothing will sharpen your knives better.

Hamper of luxury ingredients – there are so many of these about but this one tops our lust list this year!

Hopefully that’s given you a few ideas for any last minute panics and if we’re too late for you then we’re sorry, hopefully we can get our act together better next year!

Indian Spiced Baked Salmon

We use jarred curry pastes all the time, they’re really convenient! They’re choc full of spices that you’d have a hard time keeping your kitchen stocked with. The only problem is that when you’re cooking for 2 there’s often quite a lot left over, so unless you want to keep eating the same thing over and over you have to get inventive! This recipe for salmon with Balti paste definitely falls into that category – what’s more, it’s easy and totally delicious. You can really use any kind of fish fillets and any kind of curry paste, the recipe is very flexible.

For 2 people, you’ll need:

  • 200 g new potatoes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp nigella (black onion) seeds
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tbsp curry paste (we used Patak’s Balti paste, which is medium-hot – you can use whatever you have!)
  • 2 tbsp natural yoghurt
  • 2 salmon fillets
  • 200 g baby leaf spinach

Start by halving your potatoes length-ways (so that they’re quite thin) and parboiling them placing in a pan of cold water and bringing to the boil, then simmering for 2-3 minutes. Bring the oven to temperature while you’re doing this – about 180 ºC should do it. Put your roasting dish into the oven to heat up. Once the potatoes have been parboiled, drain them and add the oil, mustard seeds, nigella seeds and the salt to the pan. Make sure the potatoes get a good coating, and one the roasting dish is nice and hot take it out of the oven and add the potatoes into it, savouring the satisfying sizzle! Put the dish back in the oven – the potatoes should take about 40-45 minutes to cook.

Not only are nigella seeds delicious, they make the humble potato look awesome
Not only are nigella seeds delicious, they make the humble potato look awesome

To prepare the salmon, mix together the curry paste and the yoghurt so that it forms a consistent light-coloured paste. Cover the salmon fillets in the paste in a bowl. About 15-20 minutes before the potatoes are ready to come out, move them aside in the roasting dish (or use a separate dish if you don’t have space) and put the salmon in. We had some particularly meaty fillets, but if yours are thinner they will probably take less time to cook.

Curry Salmon in Roasting Dish

Wilt the spinach in a pan on a low heat with some salt and pepper – it should only need about 5 minutes.

Curry Salmon Served

That’s all there is to it – this is a really simple meal and a great alternative to a standard curry. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did!

Pea and King Prawn Risotto

We know that it’s almost the middle of December and it’s pretty chilly around here. And we know that this is much more of a summer dish, but risotto is pretty comforting all year round and sometimes you don’t feel like a heavy dinner. Pea and prawns is a classic combination – we kept this light, it has no cheese in it and the peas and prawns are only added at the end so the risotto is subtly flavoured with white wine and lemon zest and then the burst of freshness comes from the chopped herbs at the end. You could stir in some crème fraiche or soft cheese at the end to add extra richness but we found that ours was creamy anyway just from the starchyness of the rice.

If you manage to serve this with a little more delicacy than we did then this could make a very elegant course for a dinner party. This recipe would make plenty for 4-6 people as a starter but like the pigs we are we ate the lot!

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion or 2 shallots, very finely chopped
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • 200g Arborio rice (or other risotto rice)
  • 1 glass of white wine
  • About 1.5l of weak chicken stock (we used 1 stock cube in total)
  • 3-4 pieces of lemon zest
  • Frozen peas, as many as you like – we used about 200-300g
  • Raw king prawns, either frozen and defrosted or fresh
  • Mixed soft herbs, we used mostly parsley with a little mint and dill, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper to season

Heat the oil and butter in a large frying pan/skillet. Add the finely chopped onion/shallot and the dried thyme and cook over a very low heat for around 10 minutes until completely translucent but not coloured. You’ll need to keep a fairly close eye on these and stir them regularly as you don’t want them to stick or colour. Stir in the rice after this time and cook in the butter for a minute or so, then pour in the white wine and add the lemon zest. Season lightly at this stage.

_MG_3953

Keep stirring until all of the wine has been absorbed and then start adding the stock, ladle by lade, stirring regularly and not adding the next ladle until the previous has been completely absorbed. This process will take about 30-40 minutes until the rice is cooked so after about 20 minutes tip the frozen peas into a bowl and cover with boiling water to defrost. Let them stand for a minute or so and then drain and add to the risotto.

_MG_3962

Taste the rice to check it is cooked but still with some bite and when you’re happy with it add the prawns, these should take around 2 minutes to turn beautifully pink, you don’t want to overcook them! When they’re ready stir in most of the chopped herbs and adjust the seasoning. Serve up and sprinkle with the remaining herbs and salad if you wish.

_MG_3965

Enjoy! We love making risotto, some people find it a faff but we find it very relaxing just taking the time and care over it, and you’re rewarded with such a lovely meal!

Rich and Creamy Lasagne

Lasagne is a bit deceptive – you think “Ah just a bit of meat sauce here, some cheese sauce there, bit of pasta, job done!” but it takes a bit of love and care to get a really good lasagne. And some days there really is nothing better than a really good lasagne! This one is a proper stick-to-the-ribs-er, a slowly reduced sauce made with a mixture of pork and beef mince, red wine and herbs, and a smooth cheese sauce with an extra cheesy layer on top! Bird made this while watching Lady & The Tramp… maybe it added a little Italian flair?

Ingredients for the meat sauce

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1-2 carrots, finely chopped
  • 1-2 sticks of celery, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 small sprig of rosemary, leaves finely chopped
  • 125g pork mince
  • 125g beef mince
  • 1 beef stock cube dissolved in 1 tbsp boiling water
  • 1 small glass of red wine
  • 1 carton/jar of passata
  • Salt and pepper to season

Ingredients for the white/cheese sauce

  • 1.5  tbsp butter
  • 1.5-2 tbsp plain flour
  • Around 1 pint of milk
  • Grated cheese, we used cheddar but parmesan would be lovely too – as much or as little as you like!

Other ingredients

  • Lasagne sheets
  • Salad to serve

To start make the meat sauce. Heat the oil in a large saucepan/wok and when hot add the onion, carrot and celery. Let these sweat down for around five minutes and then add the garlic and herbs.

Lasagne veg

Cook for a further 10 minutes until everything is softened but not coloured. Add in the meat, breaking it up a bit with your hands as you do so, and then the stock and the wine.

Lasagne sauce

Let the meat brown slightly, then tip in the passata, stir, season and leave to bubble on the lowest heat possible, stirring every 5 minutes or so. Ours took the best part of an hour to fully reduce, you want to be able to draw a wooden spoon through it and be able to see the bottom of the pan cleanly otherwise your lasagne will end up as a big sloppy mess!

To make the cheese sauce simply make a roux by melting the butter in a small saucepan – once melted throw in the flour and stir together to form a paste (the roux). Cook this for a few minutes over a low heat, stirring continuously and then start adding the milk. If you wanted to make this the fanciest, best lasagne you could ever dream of them you could heat your milk with a bay leaf studded to an onion with a clove and some peppercorns for extra flavour but it still tastes amazing without all of that faff. Keep slowly adding the milk making sure it’s completely combined before adding the next lot. Now cook over a low heat, stirring continuously until it has thickened, then switch the heat off. Now it’s time to add the cheese! We like to have the sauce in the layers not be too cheesy, so we only added a small handful to start with and stirred it in to melt.

Lasagne uncooked

Now you’re ready to layer. We started with meat sauce, then cheese sauce, then lasagne and so on finishing with an extra thick layer of cheese sauce! For the final bit of cheese sauce we stirred in a whole load more cheese and then grated some extra on top for a really golden-brown, cheesy topping. The lasagne will take about 45 minutes in the oven at 180C to become gorgeous and bubbly and golden.

Lasagne cooked

Take it out of the oven and let it stand for five minutes (the longest five minutes of your life!) and then serve with a salad and the rest of the red wine… delicious!

Lasagne served

Moroccan-style Spiced Vegetable Stew with Maneesh

We had originally planned to make this Moroccan-style roasted vegetable traybake and serve it with cous cous but Bird found herself with a bit of time on her hands. After a flick through Paul Hollywood’s “Bread” she decided to give Maneesh a go. Maneesh is a Middle Eastern flatbread topped with sesame seeds and herbs – basically a za’atar mixture which we’ve used previously with steak. Paul’s recipe can be found here.

The dough was really stretchy and sticky – very fun to work with!  We made half the amount in Paul’s book, he said his made 3 large maneesh but we managed to get 2 pretty huge breads out of half of the mixture. The vegetables were ridiculously simple – a mixture of bite-sized pieces of Mediterranean vegetables, roasted until slightly charred then smothered in chopped tomatoes, mixed with chickpeas and roasted for a further few minutes – often the simplest things are the best. This made a beautifully hearty dinner with enough vegetables left over for 2 lunches. It was lovely on it’s own but would be great with some meat, fish or cheese or could form one of many mezze courses to be enjoyed with friends!

Ingredients for 2 large maneesh

  • 250 g strong white flour
  • 5 g salt
  • 12 g caster sugar
  • 5 g instant yeast
  • 10 ml olive oil, plus extra for kneading and another 1bsp to make the za’atar paste
  • 180 ml tepid water
  • 2 heaped tbsp za’atar

You make this like a fairly standard bread dough. Mix together the flour, salt, sugar and yeast (adding the salt and yeast to opposite sides of the bowl at first), then add in 10 ml of olive oil and most of the water – you don’t need to bother rubbing in the olive oil like a regular loaf. Mix all of this together until you have a soft, smooth dough, adding the rest of the water slowly as needed. We used pretty much all of the water but you may not need to. Once it has come together tip onto an oiled surface and knead for 5-10 minutes until really soft and elastic. Place it in an oiled bowl and cover with cling film to rise, it needs to at least double in size – ours took just over an hour near a warm radiator.

Maneesh with za'atar

Once it’s risen tip it out onto an oiled surface again and knock back, fold it on itself and make sure all of the air is out. Once done split the dough into two. Roll each piece into a ball and then roll out with a rolling pin to form a large roughly circular shape. Put onto a baking sheet lined with oiled greaseproof paper. Now mix together the za’atar with enough oil to form a thick paste and smear onto the maneesh, leaving a small border around the edge. Pre-heat the oven to 210°C (Paul says 230 but we found this a bit hot) and leave the maneesh to rest for 20-30 minutes while the oven comes to temperature. When the oven is ready pop the bread in, we did ours one at a time as they cook best on the middle shelf. They take about 10-15 minutes to cook, when they’re golden-brown they’re ready! Leave to cool, turn the oven down to 180°C and start chopping your vegetables…

Cooked Maneesh

Ingredients for vegetable stew

  • A selection of chopped vegetables, we used 1 aubergine, 2 peppers, 2 courgettes, 1 large carrot, 1 red onion, all cut into bite-sized pieces with the carrots chopped slightly smaller as they take longer to cook
  • 1 tbsp ras el hanout
  • A pinch of sea salt
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp dried chilli flakes – optional
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tin of chickpeas, drained
  • 1-2 tsp pomegranate molasses – optional

Place all of the chopped vegetables in a large roasting dish and coat with the ras el hanout, sea salt, oil and chilli flakes (if using). Place in a preheated oven at 180°C. The whole dish will take about 1 hour to make, check on the vegetables every 15-20 minutes to move them around. After around 50 minutes they should be getting slightly charred and very soft so tip in the chopped tomatoes, chickpeas and the pomegranate molasses. Cook for a further 10 minutes and it’s ready!

Moroccan Vegetable Stew

We cut our maneesh in half, served the spicy vegetable stew on half and placed the other half on top for dipping. This was a real success and the maneesh made it feel a lot fancier than it was – give it a try!

Maneesh and vegetable stew

Chinese Steamed Fish

Chinese food has something of a bad rep in the UK, greasy Friday night takeaways being most people’s only experience of it. This is something completely different – a fresh, healthy and exciting recipe that is only distantly related to sweet & sour and chicken chow mein. The original recipe for the fish is a Ken Hom recipe, again something we found on the BBC food website! We’re putting our own twist on it by serving it with a big dollop of stir-fried veg with some cracking flavours.

For 2 people, you’ll need:

  • 2 fillets of white fish
  • 1/2 tsp sea salt
  • Small thumb-sized chunk of fresh ginger, chopped into thin strips
  • 1 pak choi & other mixed veg (we used another pak choi, cabbage, 1/2 courgette, 1 green pepper, 200 g babycorn & mangetout)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 150 g white rice
  • 1/2 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 1 tsp fish sauce
  • 1 1/2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 spring onions, finely sliced
  • 1/2 tbsp groundnut oil
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil (different from Ken’s recipe – we love the flavour but it’s strong!)

Start by putting two pans of water on to boil – one for the rice and one to put the steamer on. While these are coming to the boil, prepare the fish; dry it off with some kitchen paper, rub it with the sea salt and arrange it in the steamer, on top of a few leaves of pak choi, and sprinkle over the ginger. Don’t worry if the fillets overlap – ours was packed in there pretty tight.

We somehow wound up with rather more than 2 fillets!
We somehow wound up with rather more than 2 fillets!

Fish In Steamer With Ginger

Once the water boiling, put the rice in one pan and a couple of minutes later put the steamer on the other one – we found that the fish took about 10 minutes to cook, though this can vary depending on how densely packed it is in the steamer and how tight the steamer fits on the pan! When it’s done it should be opaque and flaky, but still lovely and moist.

While that’s all cooking, chop up the rest of your veg and make up a sauce with the oyster sauce, fish sauce and 1/2 tbsp of the light soy sauce. Heat the oil over a high heat in a wok and add the garlic, stirring for 10 seconds or so before you add the veg. After 30 seconds add the sauce, and mix together thoroughly so that everything is coated.

Stir-fry Veg

Stir Fry Action Shot

When everything is cooked, serve onto warm plates. Drizzle the remaining light and dark soy sauce over the fish, and sprinkle over the spring onions. Now for some excitement! Heat the groundnut and sesame oil in a frying pan over a high heat until smoking, and pour over the fish – you should get a satisfying sizzle.

Chinese Steamed Fish

That’s all there is to it. This dish has some great umami flavours, and is super fresh and healthy. We hope you enjoy it as much as we did!