Friday, January 25, 2013

Healthy Cod, Chorizo & Chickpea Ragu

I’m a huge fan of fish, and it’s nearly always the item on a menu that I’ll choose when I’m dining out. Its delicious, low fat, and extremely nutritious; what’s not to like?! These are my three key requirements now that I’m eating for two. I’m told that fish is one of the most nutritious sources of protein to help baby’s brain grow……all the more reason to pack more fish into the diet for the last 10 weeks.

I often see versions of cod and bean ragu on menus in restaurants; which nearly always choose given the chance. I always say ‘I must try this at home’; but I never have…until now. My version is very Spanish/Portuguese inspired; with saffron and chorizo used to give a deep smoky flavour to the broth. The fennel will add a punchy aniseed bite to the dish, and the chickpeas will give comforting warmth; much needed on rainy days such as today. The star of the show is the cod, which holds its own surprisingly well amongst all the strong flavours.  This indeed is a flavourful, low fat winter warmer.

This dish can be treated as a wonderful one pot wonder, left just as it is. Alternatively you could bulk it up with baby potatoes, crusty bread to soak up the broth; or as I’m doing this time round, healthy wholegrain rice.  This dish would be quite an impressive bistro style meal if you are having friends over for a casual dinner.

Serves 2


·         2 portions of cod
·         ½ bulb of fennel
·         1 tsp of fennel seeds, crushed
·         1 tsp of smoked paprika
·         Salt/pepper
·         Glass of dry white wine
·         1 lemon, zested and juiced
·         1 small tin of chickpeas, rinsed
·         4 inch size piece of chorizo, sliced thinly
·         1 garlic clove, crushed
·         ½ red onion, sliced thinly
·         250g cherry tomatoes, halved
·         1 tsp of tomato puree
·         1 handful of chopped flat leaf parsley
·         Olive oil

Optional serving suggestions:
·         Crushy bread loaf, sliced
·         New baby potatoes
·         Rice
·         Green Beans
·         Extra lemon wedges


1.       Using a large deep frying pan, fry off the garlic, onion, half the crushed fennel seeds, and chorizo on a medium heat, in a little olive oil.
2.       Add the tomatoes, tomato puree and paprika  and sliced fennel and continue to fry off
3.       Add the wine and allow to bubble, then reduce to a simmer.(add some water if mixture too thick)
4.       Place the cod, skin side down in the pan and cover the pan with a lid, to create steam.
5.       Finally, season with salt, pepper and lemon zest and juice, when the cod is 95% cooked.
6.       Add the chickpeas to warm through and to soak up all the wonderful flavours.
7.       Add the second half of fennel seeds to give the dish a refreshing lift right at the end, along with the chopped herbs.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Harissa & Marmalade Sticky Chicken Wings

When I was recently organizing a casual dinner party for some people I hadn't cooked for before I was faced with the prospect of cooking something that everyone would like. I knew anything to do with seafood, salads, and cheese was out!!!! I was cooking a lamb for main and I didn't want the dinner party to be a total meat feast either. I thought to myself, 'whats more of a crowd pleaser than chicken wings?!!'

EVERYONE loves chicken wings!! Dilemma averted. There was a moroccan theme to the dinner party, so I came up with  Harissa chicken wings! The harissa paste has just the right amount of smoke and heat to give the wings a real kick. But I felt the wings lack that sticky, messy consistency. So last night I made the wings for dinner for myself and my husband, and added some orange marmalade to the marinade. I must say it worked a treat! Napkins and bowl of water of the ready. For me a sign of good chicken wings is sticky fingers that are licked clean.!!!! You could say Finger Licking Good!!!

This recipe of completely simply to make, nothing fussy about it at all; with the end result looking so impressive your diners will think you've been slow cooking and basting for hours.

I teamed the wings with cous cous and a yogurt dressings to be a winning main course, but of course you can leave these out and serve the wings solo, though they are screaming for a cooling sauce accompaniement.

So here it is:

Harissa & Marmalade Wings with Apricot Cous Cous and a Herby Yogurt Dressing


The Wings

  • Chicken wings (4-5 per person)
  • 2 tbsp of cumin seeds
  • 3 tbsp of coarse sea salt
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • 2 tsp of harissa paste
  • 3 tbsp of honey
  • 2 tbsp of orange marmalade
  • 2 crushed cloves of garlic
  • Salt/pepper
The Cous Cous
  • 200g of cous cous
  • 300 ml of boiled water, with saffron strands (saffron optional)
  • 5 tbsp of chopped dried apricots
  • 5 tbsp of toasted flaked almonds
  • Handful of fresh mint, flat leave parsley, & coriander
  • 2 tbp of olive oil
  • Salt/pepper
  • Juice of half a lemon
The Herby Yogurt Dressing
  • 125ml low fat natural yogurt
  • Handful of fresh mint, flat leave parsley, & coriander
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Salt/pepper


The Wings
  1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees
  2. Line a baking tray with kitchen paper
  3. Lay the chicken wings out in a single layer
  4. Coat the wings with the cumin seeds and sea salt
  5. Bake in the oven for 40 minutes
  6. To make the marinade, combine the remaining wing ingredients and stir the mixture well.
  7. Pour over the chicken after the 40 minutes has lapsed.
  8. Ensure all the wings are covered and bake for a further 30 minutes.
  9. Return to the oven once or twice to turn the wings and baste them with the escaped marinade.
The Cous Cous
  1. Put the cous cous in a bowl and pour in the oil and salt/pepper
  2. Mix with a fork
  3. Pour over the boiled water infused with saffron
  4. Cover the bowl with cling film or a plate
  5. Leave for ten minutes until all the water's absorbed.
  6. Fluff up the cous cous with a fork (not a spoon)
  7. Add the chopped apricots, herbs, lemon juice and almonds.
  8. Stir to mix together well.
  9. To serve spoon the cous cous on a wooden board and leave a whole in the centre for the wings. (very Jamie Oliver of me!)
Herby Yogurt Dressing
  1. Add all the ingredients into a bowl and stir well to combine.
To Plate Up
  1. Place the cous cous on the wooden board
  2. Place the chicken wings in a pile in the middle of the board
  3. Drizzle with the yogurt dressing liberally and have a small bowl of the remaining dressing for individual use.
  4. Scatter lemon wedges and leftover chopped herbs
  5. Lots of napkins, and a bowl of warm bowl are necessary to keep the fingers clean.

Saturday, January 12, 2013

My Posh Grilled Cheese

Grilled cheese is the ultimate comfort food. There just something about gooey, oozy cheese on toast that is so satisfying. This recipe below is barely a recipe, more an idea shared, to jazz up the concept of grilled cheese on toast.

If you want to impress your girlfriends with a quick and easy lunch that has undertones of a Parisan bistro, then look no further than this little gem of a recipe.  May I add that you could easily make a little dinner party starter out of this dish. Just swap the wholemeal brown bread for some crostini.


  • 4 Slices of goats cheese
  • 2 slices of wholemeal brown bread (We love McCambridges here in Ireland)
  • 1 tsp of basil pesto
  • Handful of bistro-style lettcuce (Every supermarket does this)
  • 4 sun dried tomatoes
  • 4 walnuts halves, crumbled
  • Honey to drizzle 
  • Balsamic syrup to drizzle


  1. Preheat the grill, and spread the pesto over the bread.
  2. Place 2 slices of cheese over each slice of bread
  3. Grill until the cheese is starting to bubble and the bread is getting nicely toasted
  4. Place the lettuce on a plate and scatter with the sundried tomatoes
  5. Place the 2 slices of grilled cheese over the lettuce
  6. Scatter the plate with the walnuts
  7. Drizzle with the honey and balsamic syrup

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Nuts About Seedy Fig Flapjacks - The Low Fat Flapjack!

Folllowing the most generous gift of figs from my wonderful work colleague Noreen, I set about trying to figure out what to cook this evening with them that would keep well enough for me to bring into work tomorrow to share with her as a thank you for her generosity.

Being January, myself and all the other girls in the office are on a new year health kick! Fridays we usually allow ourselves 'Friday Treats'; but  it being only the second week back to work after Christmas everyone is still trying to keep the healthy diet New Years resolutions.  So I decided to try out a healthy flapjack recipe instead.

If you look down through the ingredients below the only naughty ingredient is the butter, but it is a reduced fat spread. I also chose honey instead of the traditional golden syrup, and the rest of the ingredients speak for themselves. They are packed with proteins, fiber and brain-building, energy boosting properties. Great for a breakfast on the run, a healthy snack for the kiddies, or like for us at work,  to get over the mid-morning slump!!!


  • 150g reduced fat butter
  • 2 tbsp of orange juice
  • 50g honey (I love Boyne Valley Honey)
  • 1 mashed ripe banana
  • 200g rolled oats
  • 30g pumpkin seeds
  • 30g of sunflower seeds
  • 30g of sesame seeds
  • 100g of chopped dried apricots
  • 50g of chopped walnuts
  • 4 figs, sliced thinly
  • Extra honey to drizzle


  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees
  2. In a saucepan, melt the butter, and add the honey, juice and mashed banana.
  3. Stir well to combine fully.
  4. Line a baking tray with baking paper.
  5. Add all the remaining ingredients to the liquid and mix well until thoroughly combined.
  6. Spread the mixture out over the lined tray and top with the fig slices
  7. Drizzle with some extra honey and bake in the oven for 25-28 minutes.
  8. Allow to cool in the tray.
  9. Cut once completely cooled.
  10. Store in airtight container. The flapjacks will keep for up to 5 days this way.
These flapjacks have less calories than traditional flapjacks, omitting sugar and golden syrup, making them lighter in texture and in taste; but also a whole lot lighter in calories.............. we we can eat more so  I say!!!!!

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