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Herby, easy, tasty, vegetarian turkey stuffing

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I wasn’t working today so had lovely time in kitchen getting ahead for Christmas. I put on a beef pot roast this morning in the slow cooker – Marks and Spencer has half-price beef joints and legs of lamb at the moment.

I also put on vegetarian chilli for various non-red meat eaters who will be here over Christmas – it freezes very well. You can see this chilli on the blog under ‘Main courses’.

And then I made the stuffing. I always make it a bit before Christmas and freeze it. It’s a godsend on Christmas week when so much is happening. This recipe is inspired by the one in Darina Allen’s ‘A Simply Delicious Christmas’. I still put stuffing into the turkey. It keeps it nice and moist – the stuffing must be completely cold before you stuff the bird.

Smoked salmon was half-price in SuperValu so I bought two sides, cut each into three and froze them. I will use them in a pasta sauce with cream and lemon for a quick dinner – or as substitutes for vegetarians.

I made double the quantity of stuffing that I give here. I divided the stuffing in two: to one half I added a little flour and an egg and mixed it thoroughly. Then I made it into small patties and put them on greaseproof paper on a tin and open froze them. Tomorrow I will put them in polythene bags. I will use these for the vegetarians when I am making meatballs. I also had a bit of salmon and mashed potato left over from last night; and made and froze fish cakes for the vegetarians.

Ingredients for herby stuffing (for a 10-12lb bird)

  • 170g butter
  • 340g chopped onions
  • 800g fresh, white breadcrumbs
  • 55g chopped, curly parsley
  • Thyme leaves stripped from the twigs (about 1/2 a cup of stripped leaves).

How I do it

Cook the 340g onions in the 170g butter gently for about 10 minutes – the mixture will be quite sloppy. When it has cooled slightly, stir in the 55g parsley and half-cup of thyme leaves.

Stir in the 400g breadcrumbs - you may need to move the mixture to a large mixing bowl. Also add a little salt and pepper.

Mix all together well with a wooden spoon.

Put into plastic bags (squeezing all the air out) or put into plastic food boxes and freeze.


Written by SOKNH

December 17, 2009 at 18:46

Posted in Christmas, Recipes, Stuffing

Multi-purpose tomato sauce for the freezer

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Great standby over the holidays

Vegetarian, vegan

Makes 4-5 litres of thickish tomato sauce for pasta, pizza, chicken or wherever your imagination takes you.

Tomato sauce - takes about 30 minutes to get this into the pot. Then you have the basis for about 12 x 4 dinners.

I find this tomato sauce indispensible and I always have it in the freezer. First, you do need to cook it for at least 2 hours. But then you have enough sauce to form the basis of about 12 meals for 4 people (that’s 48 meals!). Frezze it in small quantities in plastic bags, plastic boxes or even glass jars with lids – then it’s easy to defrost. I use organic ingredients for this – I reckon it is still cheap because you get such a lot of sauce.  A food processor is really useful here – especially if you prefer to chop whole tinned tomatoes instead of the ready chopped ones. I use this sauce:

  • For a quick dinner of spaghetti with tomato sauce and parmesan cheese;
  • To pour over chicken breast fillets and bake for 45 minutes (serve with couscous);
  • And most of all as a topping for my homemade pizza (or you could use it over a shop-bought base).


  • 500g peeled onions, chopped
  • 150g peeled carrots, chopped
  • 2-3 stalks celery, chopped
  • 8 x 400g can chopped tomatoes (or whole tinned tomatoes, chopped)
  • Handful of fresh parsley, chopped
  • One bay leaf
  • A few sticks of fresh thyme
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp crushed chilli
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 glass of red wine or a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar

The print version of how I cook this sauce is below the photos. Enjoy!

How I do it

  1. Cover the base of a really large casserole type pan with olive oil and heat slowly (there is no other fat in this recipe). I use a Le Creuset pot that I got as a wedding present (and that’s well over 20 years!).
  2. While the oil is heating, peel the 500g onions and cut in quarters. Chop finely. and add to oil in pot and cook slowly for about 10 minutes stirring.
  3. Peel and chop the 150g carrots.
  4. Add the 2-3 stalks of celery to the food processor and pulse – you don’t want a mush.
  5. The carrots and celery should look like this when chopped.
  6. Stir the carrots and celery into the onions and cook for another few minutes.
  7. Add the tinned, chopped tomatoes.
  8. Stir the tomatoes into the vegetable mixture.
  9. Fill one of the cans one third with water. Use this water to rinse out each can passing from one can to the other – okay this is optional!
  10. Chop a large handful of parsley, including stalks.
  11. Add the parsley, bay leaf and fresh thyme to sauce – stir it in.
  12. Add about a teaspoon of dried basil to the sauce.
  13. Add a teaspoon of salt to the sauce.
  14. Add a good grinding of pepper.
  15. Add 1/4 teaspoon of crushed chillies.
  16. Add a teaspoon of sugar – this offsets the acidity of the tomatoes.
  17. Add a glass of red wine or a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar.
  18. Cook on a very low heat with the lid off for 2-3 hours stirring occasionally.

Written by SOKNH

December 9, 2009 at 11:57

Posted in Recipes, Sauces

Christmas cake: step-by-step in pictures

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Step-by-step Christmas cake

I have made many different types of Christmas cake but this is the most reliable. I made three cakes yesterday and this is how I did it.

It is a fairly simple recipe and contains no mixed peel or cherries because most of my family don’t like them. However, there is lots of grated orange and lemon zest and some marmalade (without peel – I promise I’m not sneaking it in!).
This amount is for a 20cm square tin or a 23cm round tin. I usually use a sqare tin because it makes the cake easier to cut.  The fruit needs to be soaked overnight, so the cake needs to be done over two days.

Christmas cake.

Cook cake until it is light golden brown on top and all the mixture is set. If you put in a cake tester or skewer it should come out without sticking.

I’ll do the icing in a few weeks.

You will need:

  • A 20cm square or 23cm round tin
  • Greaseproof paper
  • Tinfoil
  • An electric beater – handheld or standalone.

In theory you could cream the butter and sugar by hand but I’ve never done it. It is the creaming of the butter and sugar until it is light and fluffy that stops the fruit from sinking. I use a Kenwood chef for this.


  • 770g sultanas
  • 300g raisins
  • 180g currants
  • 150ml brandy or sherry
  • 225g butter at room temperature (or 10 seconds in microwave)
  • 195g Light golden brown sugar
  • Finely grated zest of 2 medium oranges
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon (preferably unwaxed)
  • 4 large freerange eggs
  • 3 tablespoons of orange marmalade with no peel
  • 350g plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon of mixed spice
  • ¼ teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • ¼ teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg
  • A pinch of salt


  • Put the sultanas, raisins and currants in a large bowl. Stir in the brandy or sherry and cover. Leave overnight.

  • Preheat your oven to 150C/gas mark 2 (text only version of instructions below). Please note, at low temperatures ovens vary considerably. So make sure your cake is light golden brown and skewer comes out clean before you remove it from the oven.

Christmas cake

Line the tin with a double layer of brown paper and then with greaseproof paper so that the papers comes up about 8cm above the rim of your tin.

Christmas cake

Put greaseproof paper over the brown paper.

Christmas cake

Cream the butter and sugar in a standalone mixer or with an electric beater until light and fluffy. This will take 4-5 minutes.

Use an electric mixer to beat butter and sugar until they are light and fluffy.

Beat in the orange and lemon rind.

Christmas cake

While the mixer is running, crack an egg into a cup and add it to the mixture. When it is well mixed in, add the other eggs one at a time in the same way.

Christmas cake

Beat in the marmalade.

If you have used an electric mixer it probably won't be big enough for the next step, so move mixture to a large mixing bowl. Gently fold in fruit, flour and spices – about a quarter at a time.

Christmas cake.

Put the mixture into the tin.

Christmas cake

Smooth mixture down with the back of a spoon making sure to fill all the corners. If the paper is flopping down crease it back towards the cake - it will stop the cake burning.

Christmas cake.

Cook cake until it is light golden brown on top and all the mixture is set (don't unwrap until cold). If you put in a cake tester or skewer it should come out without sticking. Wrap cake in tin in foil and leave until completely cold. Remove all paper, then rewrap in fresh foil and clinfilm. Store in plastic bag, cake tin or plastic box.

  1. Line the tin with a double layer of brown paper and then with greaseproof paper so that the papers comes up about 8cm above the rim of your tin.
  2. Cream the butter and sugar in a standalone mixer or with an electric beater until light and fluffy. This will take 4-5 minutes.
  3. Beat in the orange and lemon rind.
  4. While the mixer is running, crack one of the eggs into a cup and add it to the mixture. When it is well mixed in add the other eggs one a time in the same way.
  5. Beat in the marmalade.
  6. After this there is no more beating but the ingredients are gently folded in. Your mixer bowl will probably not be large enough for the next step, so transfer mixture to a large mixing bowl.
  7. Weigh out the flour. To it add the mixed spice, cinnamon and grated nutmeg.
  8. With a large spoon, fold in about 1/4 of the flour and spices, together with the fruit, into the cake mixture. Repeat until all is mixed in.
  9. Bake for 3-31/2 hours until a cake tester comes out clean and without sticking. The cake should be light golden brown and all of the mixture on top should be set.
  10. Wrap the cake in the tin with tinfoil – tricky with a hot tin, but the idea is to keep the steam in until the cake is cold.
  11. When the cake is completely cold, remove all the papers and foil and rewrap in a double thickness of tinfoil, then clingfilm and then put it inside a plastic bag or in a cake tin or plastic food box.

Written by SOKNH

November 23, 2009 at 13:10

Budget, tasty, vegetarian burgers and pilaff

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Spicy lentil burgers and Brown rice pilaff

Just replace butter with oil for vegans.

While this might sound a bit sandals and puritanism it’s actually a family favourite. The burgers are very well flavoured and the rice is cooked with a little butter, stock and thyme and is a nice moist accompaniment to the burgers. If you like, you could also serve steamed vegetables. If I have any veg suitable in I do, but otherwise I don’t bother.

Linda Carucci has successfully convinced me that it is worth removing the green germ you find inside garlic from this time of the year on. There's something quite satsifying about it anyway.

Linda Carucci has successfully convinced me that it is worth removing the green germ you find inside garlic from this time of the year on. There's something quite satsifying about it anyway.

The burgers are adapted from ‘Spicy and delicious’ by Priya Wickramasinghe; and the Brown rice pilaff from, ‘Cooking school secrets for real world cooks’ a rather bossy, but extremely useful, cookbook by Linda Carucci.

This meal is also extremely cheap. Again the ingredients list might look a bit lengthy, but most of them are spices.
Before you start, you need to know that the lentils must be soaked in an equal volume of cold water for at least four hours (or overnight).
Start the rice pilaff first and while it is cooking you can make the burgers.

Brown rice pilaff


  • 2 tbsp butter (or 2tbsp for vegans)
  • 1 standard sized onion, finely chopped
  • ¼ cup pine nuts
  • 1 cup brown rice
  • 3 fresh thyme sprigs (I have often used dried thyme instead)
  • 2 cups vegetable stock made from good powder or cube (I like Marigold boullion or Kallo organic)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ tsp salt crystals (I like Maldon)
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • ¼ cup dried raisins or currants

How I do it

  1. Chop the onion very finely in a food processor or with a knife
  2. Cook it gently in butter until it is getting soft
  3. Add the pine nuts and cook slowly for another few minutes
  4. Turn up the heat to high and stir in the brown rice. Toast the rice for about 60 seconds stirring all the time.
  5. Add the rest of the ingredients and bring to the boil.
  6. Cover with a lid and cook gently for 40 minutes until rice is tender.

Spicy lentil burgers (makes about 12)



  • 1tsp coriander
  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground cloves
  • ¼ tsp ground cardamoms

Other ingredients

  • 1 cup red lentils
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • ½ tsp tomato puree
  • salt and pepper

How I do it

  1. Soak lentils in water for at least 4 hours (but not more than 24)
  2. Drain lentils in sieve or colander
  3. Grind lentils about 3 tablespoons at a time in a liquidiser, or all in one go in a food processor
  4. Add chopped onion and rest of ingredients (including spices) to mixture and grind again
  5. Heat ½ inch of flavourless oil (like sunflower) in a frying pan
  6. Drop tablespoonfuls of lentil mixture into a hot frying pan, flattening them into a burger shape. Cook on one side for about two minutes and then turn and cook other side. They should be golden brown. You will need to cook them in two or three batches.
  7. Drain on kitchen paper. You can keep them in a low oven for up to an hour before serving.

Written by SOKNH

September 16, 2009 at 18:51

Posted in 1, Main courses, Recipes

Vegetarian (vegan) chilli – and it’s low fat too

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Serves eight-10

Easy, cheap and low-fat – great crowd pleaser.

You will need a large casserole pot – I use an oval one that is 12″ long by 9″ across and 41/2″ deep.

Don’t let the long least of ingredients put you off trying this – most of them are spices. This takes about a half-hour to prepare and then you have a really delicious (and cheap) meal for a crowd. I usually serve it with salad, tacos and guacamole. Sometimes I also serve bread, brown rice or baked potatoes.


  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 500g onions, chopped finely (I use organic)
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • Peppers, carrots, mushrooms (500g total weight), chopped very small – I use the food processor
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1/2 tsp hot chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • two tins tomatoes, chopped (2 x 400g)
  • two tins kidney beans (2 x 400g – including water)
  • 6 tbsp red wine
  • 4 tbsp tomato puree
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 120g bulghar (essential! – this is sometimes called cracked wheat)
  • vegetable stock cube dissolved in 1 pint water, or Marigold bouillon powder. Also add the liquid from the kidney bean cans.
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Pinch of sugar

How I do it

  • Cook onions in the olive oil at low heat for 15 minutes.
  • Add garlic and cook for another couple of minutes.
  • Turn heat up high and add spices. Cook for minute or two stirring to avoid burning.
  • Add veg and stir to coat in spices and oil.
  • Add rest of the ingredients.
  • Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer on very low heat with lid off for about 50 minutes.

Written by SOKNH

September 7, 2009 at 15:57

Posted in Main courses, Recipes

Large iced coffee cake (with frosting) – fairly easy

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I make this regularly by request and  it is pretty easy, especially if you have a food processor. It is a really useful cake to have in your repertoire and especially good as a birthday cake.

I usually use a 23cm bundt tin – the with with the hole in the middle – but an ordinary round 20cm tin will work just as well. The bundt tin is good because the cake cooks the whole way through more quickly – and it looks nice when it’s iced.
You can use also use this quantity below to fill two loaf tins of 23cm x 11cm x 7cm (9″ x 4″ x 3″ approx.); or halve it and just make one loaf tin.

Coffee cake - good for a birthday treat

Coffee cake - good for a birthday treat

Ingredients (cake)

  • 250g self-raising flour (2 cups)
  • 250g butter (at room temperature) (21/4 sticks)
  • 250g caster sugar (1 cup)
  • 5 eggs
  • 4 tablespoons instant coffee (dissolved in 1 tablespoon of boiling water, then cooled)

Icing/filling (frosting)

  • 250g icing sugar (confectioner’s sugar – sieved) (2 cups)
  • 100g butter (at room temperature) (3/4 stick)
  • 2 tablespoon instant coffee (dissolved in 1 teaspoon of boiling water, then cooled)

The one in the picture was one and a half times the usual quantities and a 20cm square tin.

How I do it

Pre-heat oven to 180°C/350°F/Gas 5

  1. If you are using a bundt tin, carefully grease it with soft butter and then shake flour over it so that there is a very thin dusting of flour over all the tin. I usually do the flour bit in the garden because it is inclined to go everywhere.
  2. If I am using loaf tins, I use those disposable grease-proof liners. Or if you use a square tin, you will need to butter and dust it with flour too.
  3. Put the butter and sugar in the food processor and whizz until they are well mixed (one-two minutes).
  4. Add all the rest of the ingredients and whizz for just long enough to mix them (30 seconds-1 minute).
  5. Scrape the mixture into prepared tin and bake for 40 minutes in bundt tin (other tins make take longer).


Put all the ingredients in the food processor and blend. Keep at room temperature until you are ready to ice the cakes.

Putting it all together

  1. When you think cake is ready, take it out of the oven and test the centre with a skwer or something similar – it should come away clean with no mixture sticking to it.
  2. Remove the cake and leave to cool in the tin for about 10 minutes. Use a knife to go carefully around the edges and then upend the cake on to a cooling rack.
  3. When the cake has cooled a little more, split it in half horizontally.
  4. When it is completely cold, spread half the icing over one half of the cake. Place the other half on top and decorate with the remaining icing. If you are in the humour you could pipe some rosettes on top.


Written by SOKNH

August 26, 2009 at 18:47

Posted in 1, Desserts, Recipes

Easy, speedy, tasty – Cannelloni with spinach and mascarpone

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Serves 4 (and two lunches the next day)

This Jamie Oliver inspired dinner is so easy and delicious that we have it about once a fortnight. Everything except the fresh spinach can be on hand in your store cupboards. Jamie uses tagliatelle but we prefer the more substantial stuffed pasta.


Canelloni spinachIMG_0111

You can buy stuffed cannelloni like this in most supermarkets.

  • 2 x 350g packets spinach and cheese stuffed cannelloni (most supermarkets have this).
  • 1 tbsp olive oil.
  • 1 tbsp butter.
  • ½ a grated whole nutmeg (ready ground nutmeg will not be nearly as nice).
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed with a little salt.
  • 2 x 260g fresh spinach (yes it’s a lot!). If it’s not baby spinach you will need to trim the leaves off the stalks. Wash spinach and chop it up fairly small. If you like, save time and buy washed baby spinach – when I use this I often don’t even chop it up.
  • 1 x 250g tub mascarpone cheese.
  • 125g block parmesan, freshly grated (coarsely grated is fine).

How I do it

  1. Have some water boiling in a largish saucepan.
  2. Gently heat a very large skillet or Le Creuset type casserole (you will be adding pasta to it later) and add the oil and butter to it.
  3. Add the crushed garlic and grated nutmeg to the oil and cook gently.
  4. Meanwhile put the pasta in the boiling water and follow packet instructions (it only takes a couple of minutes).
  5. After the garlic and nutmeg have been cooking for a few minutes add the washed, chopped spinach and stir it around. Put a lid on your skillet for a minute or two if you have one and you want to speed it up.
  6. When the spinach is cooked down, stir in the mascarpone and swish it around until it is melted.
  7. Stir in the parmesan.
  8. Add the pasta and a ladleful of the pasta water and mix it altogether.
  9. Serve immediately.

Note: I usually have some of this this heated up the next day for lunch and it’s delicious.

Written by SOKNH

August 24, 2009 at 17:55

Posted in Main courses, Recipes