Hasselback Potatoes

hasselback potatoes

Sometimes called saddleback potatoes, this is kind of a cross between roast and baked potato. Something a little different for an ordinary midweek dinner. Plus it looks pretty.

Sorry about the rubbishness of the photo. You get the idea though.


Potatoes. However many you’d like. Big, small or medium. Medium-sized are the easiest to cut.
Olive oil

The Cooking

Heat the oven to about 210C/410F.

It’s up to you whether you peel the potatoes. I don’t, because the skin is where the goodness is, so says mums everywhere. Now cut the potato in slices, making sure you only slice about 3/4 of the way through. Handy hint: put the potato in a big spoon or ladle and the edges of the spoon will prevent the knife from slicing all the way through.

Pour over some oil and rub it all over the potatoes, trying to get some in the slices. The potato won’t fan very easily but don’t worry it will once cooked. Sprinkle over some salt. Put the potatoes into the oven and cook them for about 45 minutes. Halfway through give them a bit of a shake and a little more oil, which should now slip into the slices more easily.

That’s it! You could grate some cheese over it if you like, or sour cream, or whatever you like. I had mine with ham in parsley sauce. Very nice.


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.

Creamed Leeks

This is an extremely simple side dish which is a bit more interesting than the usual peas/carrots/potato combo we always seem to end up with in our house. You can even do it low-fat by using spray olive oil instead of butter and low-fat crème fraiche instead of cream. I prefer crème fraiche anyway, it’s more tangy.

Serves 3 or 4

1 leek.
3 tablespoons double cream/crème fraiche (low-fat if you like, it works just as well)
A knob of butter
Salt and pepper to taste

The Cooking

Slice the leek fairly finely (ie, not great big chunks). Someone asked me recently whether it’s okay to eat the green bits on leeks and I reckon they’re fine to eat right up into it separates into leaves. Wash the leek carefully because there’s often mud inside them.

Melt the knob of butter in a small frying pan (or a couple of sprays of olive oil if you’re being low-fat) on a medium heat. When it’s melted, chuck in the leaks and soften for about three minutes. Now add the cream/crème fraiche and let it bubble for a couple of minutes until it’s thickened a bit. Have a taste and add salt and pepper as you think it needs it. That’s it! Serve it up. Well easy!

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.

Pickled Onions

Pickled onions

Pickled onions! I’m making jars of pickled onions as Christmas gifts – they’re cheap to make, involve no actual cooking, and are always appreciated by those who like them (although of course you need to check that your intended recipient wouldn’t turn green at the thought of them). They need to be made now as they need time to mature, but once ready will keep for many months. You can use old jam jars for the rustic version, or do them nicely in kilner jars (as above). Giving them personal labels is a nice touch too.

The process takes a couple of days but you only need to be actually doing something for about an hour of that time.


Pickling onions or shallots.
Pickling vinegar (malt vinegar)
225g Sea Salt (not table salt)
2.8 litres/ 4 pints Water
Pickling spices. You can either just buy ready-selected pickling spices or you can put together a teaspoon each of mace, cinnamon, allspice berries, black peppercorns and 4 cloves and 1 chilli.

The Cooking

First, a note: don’t use copper or iron pans for this – the acid reacts with the metal which spoils the colour and flavour. Also, you need to sterilise your jars in order to avoid the pickles going mouldy. This is quite simple – wash them in hot soapy water and then dry them in the oven on a low heat.

Okay, to begin with you need to brine the onions. Heat the salt and water slowly until the salt has dissolved. Allow this to cool and meanwhile peel the onions. You can make them easier to peel by plunging the skin-on onions into boiling water for one minute (although to be honest, I didn’t bother. I just peeled them). Once cooled and peeled, prick the onions to allow the liquid to soak into them and put the onions in the cooled brine.

Put some kind of weight on top of the onions to make sure they’re all submerged in the brine – I used a plate with a mug full of water on top. Now you simply set it aside for a couple of days and go about your business.

After a couple of days, drain the onions and pat them dry. Pack them into your steralised jars and pour over the vinegar and sprinkle in a couple of teaspoons of the mixed pickling spices. That’s it! Ta dah!

After 4 weeks or so they should be mature enough to be edible, but you may want to wait a couple of months to be sure. Eat them yourself with some strong cheddar, or stick a bow on the jar and give them to your dad as a present. Dads love pickled onions.

Bean and Pepper Chilli

I make no apologies for two of the main ingredients in this dish coming from tins. Tinned beans and tomatoes are exactly what I want for a quick midweek meal. You could make it with fresh tomatoes and beans you’ve soaked overnight and be proud of yourself that you have, but I’ll be honest and say that I rarely do. It’s a very simple weeknight dish.

This is vegetarian (vegan, even) and takes about 20 minutes to prepare and cook, including the rice.

Serves 2 with leftovers for lunch the next day

1 tin tomatoes
1 tin mixed beans
1 red (bell) pepper
1 yellow (bell) pepper
Chilli – fresh, dried or powder, however much you want
1tbsp oil
Salt and pepper
Spices/herbs of your choosing

Rice – however much you like. I use about two-thirds of a mug’s worth of basmati for two people.

The Cooking

Cut the peppers in half and remove the stalks, seeds and white fibrous bits. Cut them up into reasonable sized pieces. Heat the oil and when it’s hot add the peppers and fry until they’re soft. Add the tins of tomatoes and beans and the chilli. If you want to add some other herbs or spices at this point, go ahead. You could add cumin, coriander, fenugreek, basil, thyme, basically whatever you’ve got lying around. Don’t go mad and add everything though, stick to one or two spices.

While the chilli is simmering, rinse the rice and bring it to the boil in salted water for however long the packet says to. With white basmati rice, I cook 2/3rds of a mug in 1 1/2 mugs of water for around 10 minutes (timing it from when the water comes to the boil), which usually works.

Serve it all together. It’s not fussy and grand, but it is a good healthy tasty supper.

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Roast Balsamic Tomatoes

roast tomatoes

Don’t they look lovely and juicy? They’re just ordinary supermarket tomatoes, but roasted with balsamic vinegar, garlic and thyme they’re transformed. It takes 5 minutes to put together, half an hour in the oven and they’re done.

Note: I’ve used thyme but oregano, marjoram or basil would also work well.

Serves 4 as a side dish

6 Tomatoes
Balsamic vinegar
1 large or 2 small cloves of garlic
Olive oil
Thyme – fresh if you have it, dried if not.

The Cooking

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F. Cut the tomatoes in half horizontally (around the equator) and pop them in the roasting dish, cut side up. Slice the garlic thinly and push the slices into the tomato pulp.

Splash over some balsamic vinegar and olive oil, shake the roasting tin so they’re all covered, and then sprinkle over the thyme and some salt and pepper, just enough to get a bit on each tomato half.

Put it in the oven for about 30 minutes, keeping an eye on it to make sure it’s not browning too quickly.

I served mine as a side-dish for home-made burgers and chips. Lovely.

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Puy Lentil Lasagne

puy lentil lasagna

This lasagna is definitely vegetarian and almost vegan, and you could easily make it vegan by replacing the milk with an alternative like soy milk or rice milk. I’m a committed meat-eater but this meal is lush – puy lentils have a lovely earthy flavour and keep their texture well.

The ingredients list isn’t prescriptive – if you’ve got leeks, or spring onions, or pretty much any vegetable lying around, chop them up and chuck them in. It all adds to the taste.

Serves 4 generously

2 carrots, chopped
1 onion, diced
100g mushrooms, chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped finely
1 tin chopped tomatoes
250g Puy lentils
A handful of sun-dried tomatoes, chopped (optional)
1 pint vegetable stock (I use Marigold vegan stock powder)
A couple of bay leaves
Lasagna sheets (make sure there’s no egg in the pasta if you’re doing it vegan). I use the no-pre-cook ones, so you don’t need to cook them at all beforehand.

1 pint milk
1 tablespoon cornflour
Salt & pepper

The Cooking

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large pan and tip in the onion, carrot and mushrooms. Cook on a medium heat until they start to turn soft. Add the garlic and lentils and cook for one more minute, and check out the lovely colours:

lasagna mix

Pour in the stock and tomatoes and the bay leaves. Bring up to the boil and simmer for around half an hour, stirring and tasting every now and again. Add salt and pepper if you think it needs it.

Set it aside to mellow out a bit. If you want to, you can stop at this point and freeze it for later use.

Pre-heat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas mark 4.

Now put the pint of milk in a pan on the hob on a medium heat. Mix the cornflour with a little bit of water and add it to the milk. Heat it all up slowly, stirring often, until it thickens. If you want to (and you’re not a vegan, obviously), you can add some grated cheese to this sauce. I don’t in order to keep it low-fat and feel virtuous. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Now lay out some sheets of lasagne on the bottom of your dish. The reason I put lasagne sheets as the first layer is that it makes it easier to lift out a slice whole from the cooked dish. Little tip for you there.

Ladle on about a third of the lentil and veg mixture, and spread it out to cover the base. Pour over about a third of the white sauce, and then do another layer of lasagne sheets. Repeat twice, finishing up with a layer of white sauce.

Non-vegans can add some grated cheese on top. Parmesan is nice. Cook in the oven for around half an hour, until it goes nice and brown on top. Bring to the table and dig in, it’s flipping lovely.

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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.