Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Thai Chicken Noodle Soup

What nicer way to recover from getting soaked in the pouring rain outside than a lovely bowl of chicken soup.
In my opinion, chicken soup cures everything….. a flu,… a broken heart, ….a hangover, and its especially good in warming you up after a miserable day out there.
I decided to make a Thai Chicken Vegetable Noodle Soup with leftover uncooked chicken thighs in the fridge. It’s relatively simple to make, just need a few fresh vegetables, some limes, and some Asian store cupboard staples like coconut milk (light- of course), fish sauce and lime leaves.
This soup is would be a great starter for an Asian inspired dinner party, but also equally fantastic as a one pot supper.

For me it’s a case of throwing on the jam-jams and chunky socks, put on a roaring fire, and slurp (the only way to eat noodle soup) the soup propped in front of the fire whilst watching something soppy like ‘The Notebook’!!!!!

Serves 4


·         4 chicken thighs (skinned)
·         500ml of chicken stock
·         1 can of light coconut milk
·         1 red chilli, deseeded and diced
·         1 lemongrass stalk, bruised and chopped
·         1 thumb size ginger piece, peeled and diced
·         2 garlic cloves, minced
·         2 kaffir lime leaves (dried is fine)
·         2 tsp of fish sauce
·         3 crushed peppercorns
·         Juice of a lime
·         5-6 mangtout, sliced
·         1 carrot, sliced with vegetable peeler
·         5-6 mushrooms sliced
·         4-5 baby corns, sliced
·         4 spring onions, chopped
·         100g of straight to wok thin rice noodles
·         4 tbsp of chopped coriander
·         Extra fish sauce and limes to add as per individual tastes


1.       Add chopped garlic, ginger, chili, lemongrass to a pan with a little oil and sauté for a min.
2.       Add the chicken thighs (skinned) and brown.
3.       Add the lime leaves and crushed peppercorns, stock and coconut milk.
4.       Bring to the boil, and then reduce to a simmer.
5.       Simmer for 10 minutes.
6.       Remove the chicken and slice off the bone, then return the slices to the pan. (discard the bones)
7.       Add the mushrooms, carrots, corn and mangtout and cook for 2-3 minutes.
8.       Add the fish sauce and lime juice, spring onions and the noodles;  stir to combine.
9.       Cook for a further minute.
10.   Scatter with coriander and its ready for serving.

Serve with extra fish sauce and lime juice if preferred and slurp away till your heart’s content!!!!

Tip: Make this vegetarian by using vegetable stock and tofu!!! I’ve heard vegetarian fish sauce does exist, but very difficult to locate, when in doubt substitute for soy sauce.

Low Fat tip: Leave out the coconut milk and chicken and add prawns instead.

Monday, April 23, 2012

Caramelised Red Onion, Fig & Mozzarella Tarts with Rocket & Parma Ham Salad

Hands up who loves ready-made puff pastry sheets!!! Oh my god, it’s a total life saver! I love it as there is an endless list of sweet and savoury treats that can be made in less than 30 minutes!!!
I know a lot of people out there frown on using ready-made pastry, but being realistic I’d much prefer using my time for something else, such as eating!!!! Life’s way too short if you ask me to fret over pastry making.
Don’t get me wrong, hats off to anyone who does make their own pastry and enjoy it, I’m not one of those people though. Most supermarkets do frozen sheets and blocks of ready-made pastry that are more than adequate for home cooking. I’ve noticed recently that Tesco do a ‘light’ puff pastry, though I’ve not compromised with it yet.
If you’re really in a tizzy and can’t wait for the hour or so for the pastry to defrost, supermarkets have gone the extra step again, and have chilled ready-made pastry in their fridges, meaning you’ve never been so close to those (practically) home-made sweet and savoury tarts!!!!

I think pastry is a fantastic go-to staple when making things like mini tarts for elegant dinner parties. I made just such tarts the other day. My rule is, if using ready made puff pastry, I must use best quality ingredients then for every thing I use with it. Ok I fib a little, I cheated a little further by using store bought caramelised red onions, but in my defence they were a high quality brand. This actually just goes to show how easy these tarts are, there are simply no excuses.

(Tip: These didn’t turn out totally amazing, although they tasted so great, I over-filled them with every ingredient, so they collapsed a little. I’m still coming to terms with the ‘less is more concept’ so below is my scaled-back version)

So here they are my Caramelised Red Onion, Fig & Mozzarella Tarts with Rocket & Parma Ham Salad

Serves 6, as a starter


·         1 sheet of puff pastry, defrosted
·         ½ a ball of good quality buffalo mozerella cheese, divided into 6
·         3 tsp of good quality store-bought caramelised onions
·         3 figs, cut into quarters
·         Rocket to serve
·         6 sliced of parma ham
·         Honey, to drizzle
·         Balsamic syrup, to drizzle


1.       Preheat oven to 200 degrees
2.       Lay out the sheet and using a round pastry cutter, cut into 6 round circles, cut through an inner circle around the circles just a cm inside the edge. (this ensures they rise)
3.       Place the 6 circles on baking paper on a baking tray
4.       Place ½ tsp of the onions in the centre of circle
5.       Top with 2 quarters of figs each and a piece of mozerella
6.       Bake for 25 minutes in the oven.
7.       To serve scatter a plate with rocket and parma ham, place each tart in the centre and drizzle with balsamic syrup and honey.

Saturday, April 21, 2012

Gooey Raspberry Brownies

'Happy birthday to me, happy birthday to me, happy birthday deeeeear.....Serena's Medium Rare....Happy birthday to me'

What better way to celebrate one year of food blogging than to make some totally awesome chocolate brownies and share them with all my buddies!!!!!

I don't normally indulge in confectionery baking, but I thought this would be a special occasion. I do love marrying chocolate with other ingredients such as berries and other fruit.....and liquor, which is why I decided to make raspberry chocolate brownies. They are completely sinful, but sure, what the heck!!!


  • 300g golden caster sugar
  • 225g butter
  • 225g  good quality chocolate
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 75g of self rising flour
  • 1 punnet of fresh raspberries
  • Icing sugar, for dusting
  • 4 medium eggs

  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees.
  2. Get saucepan and fill up to 1 quarter with water and simmer.
  3. Put chocolate and butter in a bowl and over the water to melt. (Do not let the water touch the bottom of the bowl.
  4. Beat the eggs and add into a bowl with the sugar.
  5. Whisk with electric whisk until light and fluffy (2 mins)
  6. Add the vanilla to the chocolate and stir the mixture
  7. Allow the chocolate to cool slightly and gently pour into the eggs.
  8. Whisk again for a minute.
  9. Sift the flour into the chocolate egg mixture and fold in with a metal spoon to combine
  10. Finally gently (so the raspberries stay whole), fold in the raspberries to the mixture.
  11. Line a 11x4 rectangular baking tin with baking paper.
  12. Add the mixture and tap the tin twice on the counter top to settle the mixture
  13. Bake for 22-25 minutes.
  14. Make sure there's still a wobble in the cake when taking it from the oven (nothing worse that dried out brownies)
  15. Let the brownie cake cool in the tin.
  16. Cut with cold, and the brownie should still have a softness in the middle.
  17. Serve with a scoop of ice cream and extra raspberries.

If you serving these brownies as a dinner party dessert, make the brownies ahead and after cutting them before serving, put the cut brownies in the microwave for 60 seconds to heat up.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Easy Aromatic Chicken Tagine

For those of you who know me, I'm a big fan of middle eastern/african/asian food! The aromatics and tastes are quite like no other cuisines. Back in Sept my Lamb Tagine was selected by Kerrygold and Rachel Allen for Rachel's Kerrygold Community E-recipe book. To say I was chuffed was a huge understatement!!!!!

Today I've recreated the tagine recipe, substituting the lamb for chicken and adding chickpeas also.

Serves 6

  • 10-12 chicken thighs, on the bone
  • 2 tbsp ground cumin
  • 2 tbsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 1 tbsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp of maldon sea salt
  • 1 tbsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground Cinnamon
  • 4 minced garlic cloves
  • one diced onion
  • 4 carrots thickly sliced on diagonal
  • 4 tbsp of apricots
  • 2 tbsp runny honey
  • 1 tin of rinsed chickpeas
  • 100g cous cous
  • 2 lemons
  • 500mls of chicken stock with 4 strands of saffron mixed into it.
  • Generous handful chopped Corriander
  • 1 tsp of olive oil
  • 1 250g tub Greek yogurt (to serve)
  • 4 mini pitta breads (to serve)
  • lemon wedges (to serve)


1. Combine all the spices, garlic and onion and rub into the meat
2. Leave to marinate, preferably overnight, although an hour should be sufficient.
2. In a lidded oven proof casserole dish, add olive oil on a medium heat.
3. Brown the meat, in batches if necessary.
4. Add all the meat back into the casserole dish, adding the carrots, stock with saffron and salt and pepper.
5. Bring up to the boil and put lid on the dish and put in a preheated oven for 1.5 hours at 180 degrees.
6. Meanwhile, put cous cous in a bowl, add butter, rind of lemon, season with salt and pepper and pour over 150 mls of boiling water and cover for ten mins.
7. Fluff with a fork, adding half the chopped coriander.
8. Put apricots in a jug of boiling water and leave for 5-10 mins for them to rehydrate a little and get nice and juicy, then cut in half. Remove the casserole dish from the oven.
9. Add the tin of chickpeas and allow for them to heat through
10. Add the apricots and runny honey.
11. Return the dish (uncovered) to the oven for a final 10 mins to brown.
12. Put the pittas in the oven to warm through.
13. Remove the dish from the oven and present to the table in the dish adding the chopped coriander.
14. Put the cous cous, yogurt and pittas in bowls on the table and let your guests help themselves, Moroccan style! Enjoy.

To download the E-recipe Book for free click

Monday, April 16, 2012

Rib Eye A La Romana

This steak dish was inspired by my recent trip to Rome and I had a lovely dish in a restaurant of beef strips and tomato sauce, so I’m trying to recreate the same flavours with a rib eye steak. I’m calling this dish Rib eye a la Romana, but it’s basically Rib-eye Steak with a Roast Cherry Tomato sauce.

I’ve decided to slow roast a pile of cherry tomatoes, as the slow roasting intensifies the flavours of the tomatoes. I sprinkled over sugar too, that really sweetens them. These roast tomatoes are perfect in sandwiches, pasta, salads etc.

I made this recipe for a big family dinner the other night and included green beans, mushrooms and roast baby potatoes as sides. The only fault I was told was that I didn’t make enough. Not a bad complaint I would think, though a couple of extra spuds wouldn’t have gone astray apparently. But all in all great crowd pleaser. Waiting for the sun to come out again so we can try this on the BBQ.

Anyways, back to the actual star of the show. The quality of beef is paramount. Get it direct from butcher and get nice big rib eyes. Though, of course you may use fillets or sirloins also. I just happen to think the rib eyes are juicy and tender cuts. The second most important step is to marinade the steaks for at the very least 2 hours.

This is where my favourite kinda cooking comes into play. I wasn’t working from a recipe, just from looking at what was in the store cupboard and adding a pinch of this and a dash of that. That goodness for my memory…

Serves 6


·         6 steaks (ribeye is best)

Steak Marinade

·         2 cloves of garlic
·         ½  a white onion
·         1 tbsp of ground black pepper
·         Juice of 1 lemon
·         3 tbsp of  good red wine
·         3 tbsp of olive oil
·         1 tbsp of balsamic vinegar
·         2 tsp of dried oregano
·         1 tsp of chilli flakes
·         Leaves from 4 sprigs of thyme

Roast Cherry Tomatoes

·         20 cherry tomatoes
·         4 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
·         Olive oil spray
·         1 tsp of fine salt
·         1 tsp of caster sugar
·         1 tbp ground black pepper

Roast Thyme, Lemon and Garlic Baby Potatoes

·         Bag of baby potatoes
·         4 cloves of garlic, unpeeled
·         Olive oil spray
·         2 lemons, quartered
·         Leaves from 3 sprigs of thyme

Roast Tomato & Garlic Sauce

·         2 tomatoes, diced
·         10 halves of roast cherry tomatoes
·         1 tbsp of tomato puree
·         1 white onion, diced
·         Garlic squeezed from 4 roast cloves with tomatoes
·         3 tbsp of red wine
·         4 tbsp of olive oil
·         ½ a red chilli, deseeded and diced
·         Juice of half a lemon
·         5 basil leaves, shredded


1.       Firstly, combine all the ingredients for the steak marinade in a mini blender and blitz/or chop by hand.
2.       Put the steaks in a large freezer bag and add the marinade.
3.       Squelch (this, is of course the technical term) around the marinade in the bag with the meat.
4.       Put the bag in the fridge for 3hours (on a plate in case of accidental dripping)
5.       Take the meat out of fridge 30 minutes before cooking (golden rule)

6.       Preheat oven on 140 degrees
7.       Half the cherry tomatoes and place them on a lined baking dish with the garlic cloves.
8.       Sprinkle over the sugar,salt and spray the oil.
9.       Slow roast for 2 hours

10.   To prepare the thyme, lemon and garlic potatoes, simple line a roasting tin.
11.   Throw in the garlic, halved lemons and potatoes and thyme.
12.   Season well and spray with olive oil
13.   Roast in the oven for 1 hour and squeeze the lemons over them before serving.

14.   For the tomato sauce, fry off the onion, garlic, chilli and tomatoes in olive oil.
15.   When the tomatoes have softened add the puree, wine, and lemon juice.
16.   Reduce to an intense sauce and add the 4 tbsp of oil and halved roast tomatoes. (loosen with water if sauce is too thick)
17.   Add the freshly shredded basil leaves and your sauce is ready.

18.   To cook the steaks, get a grill pan roasting hot.
19.   Place the steaks on the grill pan, and turn after 4-5 minutes ( I like medium-rare).
20.   Cook for a further 4 minutes and remove and rest for 6-9 minutes.(Resting your meat is another Golden Rule)

21.   To plate up, place the rested steak in centre of plate and adorn with the tomato sauce and top with remaining roast cherry tomatoes and more basil. Serve your sides separately.

(Tip: this is a great meal for a dinner party as the potatoes can be prepared well in advance, the sides take minutes to cook, the beef marinade is also prepped in advance and the sauce can be cooked earlier and just warmed up and add the cherry tomatoes and basil)

(Tip: Cherry tomatoes can be kept in airtight container for a few days)

Thursday, April 12, 2012

Low Fat Tangy Tapenade

Tapenade is a relatively new love of mine. Whizzed up olives, anchovies and capers!! Who knew?!

In some really nice restaurants tapenade is often served with the butter and the bread basket, all very fancy shmancy. It’s always so darn tasty that I decided to research what ingredient makes the tapenade. The tapenade I talk of does have a large quantity of oil, so I’m determined to make a low fat version that doesn’t compromise on taste. According to Weight Watchers, olives in brine are ‘point free’ as are capers. These are the main ingredients to a tapenade so we are already off to a good start. I think the fat content comes down to the quantity of oil used, so this will be a ‘chunkier’ tapenade, rather than a ‘spread’!!!

Do not be alarmed regarding the anchovies listed in the ingredients. These are vital, do not leave them out. Most people say,‘urgghhh….anchovies!!!’, but to be honest they will melt into the tapenade and if you were not told they were an ingredient upon tasting then you probably wouldn’t have noticed they were there at all. Most people like a good Caesar salad dressing, and there are always anchovies in that. If it helps close you eyes and block your nose when adding them, but people!!!!!!!, seriously!!!! Do not leave them out!

Olives are extremely healthy, for hair and skin, as well as known for reducing the risk of heart disease, which is great news for us, as the tapenade is a really tasty dip. Anchovies are also high omega acids, which are great for all round health.  If you use thin bread sticks or carrot sticks, then it’s not a completely sinful snack. It’s a great recipe for a drinks party or just as a snack on movie night. Why not serve it alongside my low fat hummus and low fat chips. Perfect treats for girls’ night in.


·         1 Jar Olives (stoned), in brine not oil.
·         Thyme leaves from 3-4 sprigs
·         Flat leaf parsley, 3 tbsp
·         Capers, in brine, 50g (drained)
·         6 Anchovies, in brine or blotch first if in oil.
·         Lemon juice of 1 lemon
·         ½ Garlic clove, minced.
·         2 tbsp of olive oil


1.       Pulse everything together in a mini food processor no more than 2-3 times. You want a textured consistency, not a smooth finish.
2.       I would leave the seasoning to the end and stir in by hand according to taste. Black pepper will definitely be a requirement, but be cautious with the salt as olives and anchovies are naturally high in salt.
3.       This should keep in an airtight jar in the fridge for a week.

Tip: There are also great ideas to not only use this tapenade as a dip, but use it as an ingredient. Here are my faves:

1.       Use as a stir-in sauce for pasta.
2.       Spread on crostini and top with mozzarella
3.       Make an incision in a chicken breast and stuff with tapenade, then wrap in parma ham
4.       Spread the inside on a Portobello mushroom with the tapenade, top with mozzarella and sundried tomatoes and bake in the oven.
5.       Top a piece of cod/coley/haddock with tapenade and bake in the oven.
6.       Simply add to mayo or dressings for salads.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Rome: A Culinary Weekend Treat

Rome…A wonderful getaway for some history, good food and wine!!

Just back from spending Easter weekend in Rome, still  recovering from the wine, cocktails and lemoncello, not to mention the carb feast of a weekend.

We arrived quite late on Friday night and decided to take up my parents’ recommendation of a restaurant not far from our hotel on Via Nazionale. Relatively easy to find Elettra on Via  Principe Amedeo, was definitely worth a seek-out. The staff are falling over you nearly with their friendliness and greeted us with complementary prosecco whilst we mulled over the menu.
I had made a decision to myself to try food I hadn’t tried before and but with all my favourites on the menu, it proved a difficult decision. For starters here I had a classic bresola, rocket and parmesan dish, with Alan going for his favourite, Parma ham & melon; another classic. Both dishes would be a doddle to prepare at home for a dinner party when under pressure. It’s just a quick assembly job, and like this restaurant, provide a rustic basket with crusty ciabatta and good olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
I will definitely try to recreate my main course as an impressive dinner party dish…Turbot with Artichokes and Cherry Tomatoes…Divine. I imagine pulling this dish off would be mainly down to having excellent quality ingredients as there was nothing else to the dish. The turbot, perfectly cooked, was beautifully succulent, sweet cherry tomatoes and artichokes with just the right amount of zing! The perfect balance for a truly authentic Italian fish dish.
Alan went for a classic Saltimbocca al Romana, which was Veal, Sage and Parma ham with a marsala reduction.  It was just simple but also pure class. I think I will try this one with either chicken or pork, as veal is not an everyday staple of ours, but I think chicken will work quiet well and a great crowd pleaser. Only one night down and I’ve already 2 great mains to try to create at home Serena Medium Rare style.

Day 2 involved a very fast train (my ears popped going through tunnels), to Pompeii. It would have been the highlight of the trip if only for the constant torrential downpour we got from the moment we stepped off the train. Nonetheless we just grinned and bared it, got our guide and did a 2.5 hour tour. It was utterly incredible and a ‘must’ for anyone in the neighbourhood, or who has a day to spare in Rome.

Both my brother-in-law and my sister recommended we dine and drink across the river in the Trastevere area. So we asked our hotel receptionist to recommend somewhere and they said Sabatini in Piazza di Santa Maria in Trastevere. They said it was famous! So we agreed it had to be tried. Wow!! All I can say is wowzers! It was a fantastic culinary experience and urge anyone visiting Rome to eat there.

Alan had a exquisite cold seafood platter to start, which was quite a pricy €14 so I decided to just get something small like soup and share his starter. I decided on the fish soup in a last minute panic when ordering, not looking at the menu price. What was served to me was truly heaven in a bowl. The soup, had a tomato base, but had baby octopus, squid, mussels, hake and jumbo kind prawn. The soup also had two slices of what must have been once stale ciabatta bread, transformed into a flavour soaking sponge. Great idea actually!!! Gonna give that a go in a soup recipe. This soup was so filling in fact I was very worried I would not be able for my seafood risotto main. Then when I licked my plate clean, I laughed at the thought of me not being able to finish a meal!!! The seafood risotto was mainly shrimp and mussels in a tomato base again and the risotto rice had a bite to it, it wasn’t very mushy like the risottos you might get here at home. Alan’s Salmon Penne was a very rich affair, but the plate wasn’t piled too high, so it left a taste of ‘more’ with it. The salmon was minced which was interesting. I think I’d have preferred it whole, but that’s just me being greedy.
We decided we were too stuffed for two desserts, though the atmosphere looking out of the Piazza we were sitting under our gas heater, we said we’d have coffees and share an ice-cream. When the bill arrived, I nearly died, my soup was €22!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! Who orders soup costing €22?????!!!!!!!!
Just as well it was amazing, I was rather ashamed I hadn’t seen the price beforehand!!!!

The final evening for dinner we went back to Trastevere, and after much searching for a restaurant, we found an authentic enough one that didn’t look like a total tourist trap. We have to queue (It was Easter Sunday after all)

We had the Parma ham and melon and deep fried baby squid and deep fried courgette flowers. I’d seen Jamie Oliver do the flowers on TV and was eagar to try them. They were really lovely, but I can only imagine the calories!!!! The main course was beef strips in a tomato sauce, delicious and simple served with a large steamed artichoke on the side; and this I imagine will be a doddle to recreate at home. This restaurant wasn’t as tasty as the night before, but felt equally as authentic and half the price!!!

During the day time we flitted between cafes stopping for yummy bruschetta’s, pizzas, more squid, marinated aubergine slices, spaghetti vongoli, and gelaterias for glorious Italian ice-creams, pistachio being my favourite flavour I decide, after yet another ‘cono’!

I’ll be paying for this gluttonous trip I imagine for some time to come on the cross trainer. Was it worth it though!!.........Every single bite!!!!

Top 5 highlights (in no particular order)

·         Ice-cream in Trevi
·         Pompeii, although wetter than wet, was unbelievable
·         Coliseum – a must!!!
·         The infamous fish soup in Sabatini’s
·         The view of Rome from the Cupola in the Vatican (though the journey up is not for the claustrophobic, as I learnt the hard way)

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