Peas with bacon

peas with bacon

A simple side dish that takes 5 minutes to make, to be served with pretty much anything you like, because bacon goes really well with peas.


Peas, frozen or fresh
Cubed/chopped bacon or pancetta, about 1/3 of the amount of peas
1/2 an onion, chopped finely
Chicken stock

The Cooking

Ok, in a non-stick pan fry the bacon to whatever consistency you like it. Just cooked or nice and crispy, up to you. Once it’s as you like it, add the chopped onion and fry until soft but not coloured (about 2 minutes), then throw in the peas, give it a stir and pour in just enough chicken stock to moisten the whole thing. Cook for a couple of minutes and you’re done! This is excellent with a nice Sunday roast.


Roast Guinea Fowl stuffed with Sausagemeat

Roast guinea fowl

Here’s something a bit different to chicken but just as easy to cook. I’ve chosen to stuff it with sausagemeat because the juice and flavour from it enriches the guinea fowl and helps keep it moist. When you stuff a bird you have to adjust the cooking times to make sure that the stuffing cooks through but the meat doesn’t overcook, which can be a bit of a balancing act, but as long as you follow these general rules it’ll all turn out fine.

Serves 3/4 or 2 plus leftovers

1 guinea fowl (about 2.5lb/1.25kg)
Some butter

½ an onion, chopped finely
2oz/75g breadcrumbs
150g minced pork or sausagemeat
Handful of parsley (finely chopped)
Salt and pepper

The Cooking

Mix together all the stuffing ingredients (that is, everything that’s not the bird and the butter) until they’re well-mixed. Identify the neck and bum ends of the bird and at the neck end loosen the flap of skin from the breasts. Pack about 1/3 of the stuffing mixture inside and then secure the flap of skin back down with a couple of cocktail sticks. Put the rest of the stuffing up the bird’s rear end (fnarr fnarr etc).

Pre-heat your oven to 190C/375F/gas mark 5. Put the bird on a roasting tray, smear it with butter and cover it with aluminium foil. The rule is that you cook it for 20 minutes per 1lb (450g) plus 10 – 20 minutes extra so for a 2.5lb bird you’re going to cook it for about 1h 20 mins. Halfway through, smear the bird with some more butter to baste it again. For the final 15 minutes of cooking, take off the aluminium foil and increase the heat to 220C/425F/gas mark 7 to make the skin nice and brown and crispy. Take it out of the oven and let it rest for 20 minutes before serving. Very nice, and the stuffing is very juicy and the meat good and moist

Roast Squirrel

roast squirrel

Let’s not be squeamish about this – I cooked a squirrel. I didn’t shoot it myself, I bought it at the farmer’s market. And why not? It’s meat, just like rabbit and lamb and chicken is meat. It’s not a LOT of meat, squirrels being quite small, but it is surprisingly tasty. And not like you’d expect – I expected it to taste gamey or like rabbit but it actually tastes like a cross between turkey and lamb.

As it’s quite lean, I wrapped it in bacon and roasted it for half an hour. Because it was an experiment I didn’t make a big meal out of it, just cooked it on its own. It would probably have been nicer in a casserole slow-cooked for a couple of hours. However, like I say, it was tasty and I would eat it again. Certainly if we plunge into a hideous depression and can’t afford more usual meats, squirrel could earn a place at the table. If you do happen to see one for sale, pick it up and have a go.

Roast Pork Belly with Braised Puy lentils

Pork belly is so ridiculously easy I can’t believe I don’t do it more. Granted, there’s a lot of fat on it, but it’s really tasty fat – not the unpleasantly rubbery kind you can sometimes get on chops, but part soft, part crunchy really good stuff. And the fat bastes the meat as it’s cooking, making it sweet and tender and NOM.

The lentils are also simple and the mashed potatoes… well, you know how to make mashed potatoes.

Pork belly. However much you need to feed however many people you’re cooking for. Use the power of your eyes to judge when you buy it.

Puy lentils – about a cup’s worth for two people – multiply as necessary.
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
3 or 4 sage leaves
A little oil
About 1 pint of stock – meat, chicken or vegetable, it’s up to you. I used ham stock as that’s what I had in and it matched the pork.

The Cooking

First preheat the oven to about 170C/340F. Rub some salt on the skin of the pork, put it on a roasting tray and put it in the oven. Leave it for 2 and a half hours THAT’S IT. That is all you have to do. The meat will become tender and sweet and the skin will become lovely crackling. This is the world’s easiest cut of meat to cook, I swear.

About 40 minutes before the 2 and a half hours is up, roughly chop up the onion, garlic and sage leaves and heat up a splash of oil in a saucepan. Fry the onion until it’s just turning golden and then add the lentils and garlic. Fry for another couple of minutes and then add half the stock. Bring it up to the simmer and then just let it gently bubble away for half an hour, stirring occasionally. If it dries out, add more of the stock. Have a taste and if it needs salt and pepper, add it. Make sure it’s not too salty because pork is naturally salty anyway.

While the lentils are simmering, make the mashed potatoes if you’re having them.

Once the pork is done, take it out of the oven, let it relax for a few minutes and then cut it into hefty slices. Artfully arrange it on the lentils so it looks extra-nice and serve. Classy, tasty food.

Roast pork loin stuffed with pinenuts, lemon and sage and wrapped in parma ham

Pork loin

How posh does that look? And yet, it only took me 40 minutes to make and all cooks in the oven at the same time – no saucepans to wash up, nice and easy. Pork is quite lean so this is also low-fat. Positively good for you.

Pork, lemon and sage work well together with the pinenuts for texture and contrast. I made it with roasted parsnips, carrots and red onions because they all release sugars and are quite sweet when roasted and so counteract the sharpness of the lemon with the pork. The whole thing balances very well.

Serves 2

1 pork tenderloin
A handful of pinenuts
The grated zest of half an unwaxed lemon (make sure it is unwaxed, otherwise you’re eating wax. Who wants that?)
4 or 5 sage leaves
2 or 3 slices of parma ham or proscuitto

Veg for roasting. I recommend any of the following: parsnips, swede, red onions, red peppers, carrots, squash.

The Cooking

Pre-heat the oven to 190C/370F.

First do your prep – peel and slice the veg into appropriately-sized pieces according to how you want them. Put them in a roasting tray, sprinkle them with salt and drizzle with olive oil and give it a shake so they’re all evenly covered.

Grate the lemon rind, but make sure that you don’t also grate the pith (white bit) because that’s bitter. Put the pinenuts in a plastic bag and bash them with a heavy implement (a can of beans or a rolling pin will do). Chop the sage leaves finely. Mix these three ingredients together.

Slice the pork loin almost but not completely in half lengthwise and open it out butterfly-style. Put the stuffing mix in the middle of the opened-out loin and close it up again, encasing the stuffing.

Now lie the parma ham out flat on the chopping board, put the pork loin on top and roll the pork up in the ham. It’ll be thus:

pork loin in parma ham

Pop it onto the roasting tray and put everything in the oven. After 15 minutes, give the veg a shake and turn over the pork. After another 15 minutes, it should all be done.

Slice the pork into medalions to make it look pretty. Serve it up. Tasty.

Toad in the Hole

toad in the hole

Toad in the hole, for those that don’t know, is basically sausages in Yorkshire pudding batter. No toads involved. No one seems very sure where the name comes from – there is a theory that it originated from a pub game of the same name and while I don’t quite see the link, I hope it’s true. I’d like all my food to be named after pub games.

8 pork/beef or vegetarian sausages (get nice ones, you’ll thank yourself)
2 fresh eggs
125g plain (all-purpose) flour
150ml/5fl oz milk mixed with and 50ml water
1 tbsp mustard (I use dijon)
Salt and pepper
2 tablespoons lard (LARD!), dripping or oil.

The Cooking

To make the batter; whisk together eggs, flour, milk, water and mustard. Whisk it well so that it’s nice and smooth with no lumpy bits and it’s about the thickness of runny custard/cream of mushroom soup/double cream (pick a comparison you like). Season with salt and pepper. Set it aside to rest for at least half an hour. This is so that the flour absorbs the liquid properly and relaxes and the whole thing comes to room temperature.

Now get the oven nice and hot – 220C/450F/Gas mark 7. Put the sausages in the baking tray and stick them in the oven for 5 or 10 minutes without turning them over until the tops are brown. This means that you’ll have one brown side and one pale side.

Take the sausages out of the baking dish and set them aside. Put the lard into the baking tray and put it back in the oven. Wait 5 minutes or so until the fat is really, really hot and sizzling and then quickly remove from the oven and pour in the batter. It’ll sizzle pleasantly. Quickly pop the sausages in the batter, pale side up, and put it straight back into the hot oven.

Leave it for 25-30 minutes. Resist the temptation to open the oven door, the cold influx of air may make the batter collapse. After 25 minutes, it should be all puffed up and golden brown. Serve it immediately with some gravy and maybe some greens like peas or cabbage.

Rawr. Good, tasty food.

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Chicken in a Brick (with gravy)

chicken brick

I recently acquired this chicken brick (for free! I love freecyle). For those not in the know, a chicken brick is a clay pot into which you put a chicken and because of it’s shape and the fact that it’s a sealed environment, the chicken cooks lovely and moist. It takes longer than simply roasting a chicken on a roasting tray, but it’s worth it. Also, there’s no basting so you’re free to go off and do other things while it’s cooking.

Apparently you can also cook all sorts of other things in a chicken brick – lamb, soup, casseroles. And why not? It’s just a pot, after all. I’ll let you know how I get on with my experiements. But first, the roast chicken.

Serves 2 or 3, plus leftovers for sandwiches.

1 chicken (about 1.5kg)
An onion or a couple of shallots, peeled and quartered
A few carrots, peeled
A couple of stalks of celery
1 lemon, cut into quarters
4 bay leaves
A handful of fresh tarragon
150ml dry white wine
150ml water or chicken stock

The Cooking

First soak, the two halves of the chicken brick in water for about half an hour. This is important, it helps stop the pot cracking in the heat of the oven.

Then, do your prep:

prepper vegetables

Ignore the small sheep in the bobble hat there, he’s just trying to get in on the picture. He loves attention.

Pop the veg into the bottom of the brick. If you haven’t got all the veg or want to use different varieties, go ahead.

Put the lemon quarters, a couple of the bay leaves and the tarragon into the chicken cavity and then place it on top of the vegetables.

Pour over the wine and water or chicken stock (I just used water. I think roast chicken is chickeny enough). Season with salt and pepper and put the top of the brick and put it in a COLD oven.

Turn the oven on to 180/350/gas mark 5. Now, because you’re starting with a cold oven it’s going to take longer – about 2 to 2.5 hours. But because you’re not having to baste it every half an hour you can go and have a bath. Or to the pub. Or cook other things.

When it’s done, you get this:

cooked chicken

Set aside the veg and chicken and keep warm while you make the gravy.


Pour the juices from the brick into a saucepan. Have a smell, it’ll be lovely. Bring it up to a simmer and if you’re feeling cheffy, thicken it with a roux. If you’re not, simply mix a tablespoon of cornflour with a tablespoon of water and pour it into the gravy to thicken it. Simmer for a few more minutes and you’re done. Serve the chicken, veg and gravy, perhaps with a potato dish (perhaps boulangere potatoes).

Don’t forget to make chicken stock with the chicken carcass.

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Roast Carrots

roast carrots

People don’t roast carrots enough. And by “people”, I mean me. It’s so simple. Quarter the carrots, put on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and roast in a hot oven for 45 mins or so, shaking to move them about every now and again. They’re so sweet and sticky with their own sugar you could almost eat them for dessert.

If you want to add some herbs, thyme is particularly good. Just scatter it among the carrots.

Duck Egg Omelette

Duck eggs are in season at the moment and I snagged half a dozen at the farmer’s market yesterday. Duck eggs are larger than chicken eggs, the yolks are noticeably a brighter yellow and the whites are more viscous. I hadn’t ever cooked with duck eggs before, so an omelette sounded just the thing.

And indeed it was. I made it very plain, with a few shavings of parmasan (oh yes, I shave my parmasan). The richness of the duck eggs worked with the cheese very well, and although Mr B found it too rich and couldn’t finish his I’d definitely have them again.

Handy tip: I learned a while ago that omelettes do best if you don’t whisk them too much beforehand, just enough to mix them up a bit. It seems to work.

Now I’m going to make a chicken liver pate, then a roast chicken with parsnips, carrots and Yorkshire puddings. I’ve never made Yorkshire pudding before, so wish me luck.

A great food day

cooked breakfast

This is how the day began, with a full cooked breakfast. Alex had sausages and fried potatoes, I had mushrooms and grilled tomatoes. We both had bagels and scrambled eggs with parmasan and Heinz baked beans. It’s a good way to start a saturday.

Then there was the Saturday farmers market, where I found some deep red neck of mutton. That’s Irish Stew ready to go. Mutton’s becoming more fashionable lately, which explains its appearance at the farmers market. My nan, who was from Tipperary, used to make me Irish stew often when I was little. I wish she was still around so I could ask her how she made it. As it, I’ll have to work it out for myself.

And then, the highlight of my Saturday, the oysters from the fishmongers. And today, they were free. That’s oysters, the bestest food ever, for NO MONEY. The man before me had ordered a dozen and the fishmonger misunderstood him and opened two by accident. So he just gave them to me. TOO COOL.

Then, Mr B and I spent several important hours reading the saturday papers in the pub.

This evening, I made a roast chicken dinner. If I thought about it too much, a roast chicken dinner would intimidate me. As it was, I was a cookery dynamo and pulled together the main elements in half an hour.

I slathered the smallish chicken in olive oil, salt and pepper and put in it the oven at 200C and set the timer for an hour. I peeled the parsnips and parboiled them for 15 minutes, then put them in the oven with the chicken. I put an entire head of garlic in a little Le Crueset thing a friend got me for my birthday (you can see it in the photo below). I peeled potatoes and put them in a pan ready for later boiling.

When the oven timer had 20 mins left, I put the potatoes on to boil. Unsurprisingly, they boiled. When they were reasy I got the roasting garlic out of the oven, smushed it and then Mr B made an excellent mash, as he always does.

The parsnips needed moving around a couple of time. They were ready at the same time as the chicken.

roast chicken

Mr B made the gravy. I won’t even begin to describe how to make good gravy, because that’s entirely his area.

I boiled up some frozen peas. On the table it looked like this:

roast chicken dinner

A darling dinner for two on a Saturday. This photo doesn’t do it nearly enough justice.