Archive for home cooking

Turkey Pie

Posted in Cooking, Dinner, Food, Home Cooked Food, recipe with tags , , , , , , on December 1, 2010 by helenphillips

Mention pie to the average American, and they will think Apple, Peanut, Pumpkin. Basically anything that can be (optionally) served with cream or ice-cream. Mention pie to the average Briton and they will think Steak & Kidney, Beef & Onion, Chicken & Mushroom. It’s not that we don’t have sweet pies too, it’s just the savoury kind takes precedence in our culinary culture.  I don’t think I’ve seen any savoury pies on sale since we moved here, though of course that doesn’t mean they don’t exist.

With Thanksgiving just last week, I have been left with the inevitable pile of leftover Turkey to try and use ‘creatively’. I find the downside of Turkey is no matter how juicy and moist it is when it’s served fresh, once it has been carved and refrigerated, it has a tendency to dry out. This is why I prefer to use the leftover meat in dishes with some sort of sauce or gravy. The last time I was faced with a similar mountain of Turkey, a pie was top of the list, and so it is again. Tonight we dine on Meat Pie & proper thick cut deep fried chips (not fries!). With malt vinegar.

As usual, I have just thrown in quantities of each ingredient that looks about right so the amounts are approximations. The filling can be used immediately, or prepared in advance.

Gives 4-6 portions.

  • 15 oz / 425g Shortcrust (or pie) pastry (I cheat and use ready made and rolled stuff)
  • 500g Cooked Turkey, cut into small chunks
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 medium onion (I used a red one today)
  • 16oz / 500g mushrooms
  • canned sweetcorn
  • 300 ml Stock (I used stock made from the Turkey carcass, you can substitute chicken or vegetable stock)
  • Tarragon, Thyme, Parsley
  • 1 tablespoon Cornflour / Cornstarch, dissolved in cold water
  • Seasoning
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten

Heat the olive oil in a non-stick pan, and then fry the vegetables until they have softened. Next add the herbs, and seasoning, followed by the stock. Bring to the boil, and then reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes, which should reduce the liquid by approximately half. Stir in the Turkey and then the cornflour & water.

Pre-heat the oven to 200°C / 400°F. Grease a deep pan, approx 9″ in diameter.  If necessary, roll the pastry into 2 equally sized pieces, and line the bottom and sides of the pan with one.

Fill the pastry with the prepared filling, and then use the 2nd piece of pastry, and press the 2 pieces together around the edges. Brush the surface with the egg.

Bake in the oven for approx 50 minutes, until the pastry surface is golden brown. Enjoy with vegetables and potato product of your choice.


Thanksgiving Feast

Posted in Cooking, Dinner, events, Food, Home Cooked Food, recipe with tags , , , , , on November 23, 2010 by helenphillips

So this Thursday is Thanksgiving, and as we have only been in the US for 7 months, it’s our first.

New England,  Autumn 1621 – the early settlers that had managed to survive the first harsh year (as a whole, they had arrived unprepared) gathered together for a celebration that was to consist of 3 days of eating, drinking, dancing and playing games. They were joined by their neighbours, the Wampanoag tribe, who had dropped by to see what all the shooting was about. However, Thanksgiving didn’t become an annual tradition until the 1780s, and became a national holiday in 1863. And now Thanksgiving is the day of the year (always the last Thursday in November) dedicated to eating copious amounts of food, and settling down to a game of football.

Thanksgiving is also a time for parades, the most famous (and largest) of which is the Macy’s Thanksgiving Parade in Manhattan. Here in Minneapolis, Friday sees the start of the annual Holidazzle celebration, which will continue every weekend through December.

The day after Thanksgiving is known as Black Friday. As gloomy as it sounds, it actually marks the start of the Christmas shopping season, and is famous for it’s sales madness (people have been know to be trampled in the rush to get to the bargains). One chain of stores has been advertising that they will open at 3am on Friday, but I am determined to stick to internet shopping.

Our Thanksgiving Day will be spent with just the two of us eating and drinking more than is usually sensible. Having done some research into traditional dishes (most of which seem to involve copious amounts of butter and/or cream), I think it’s safe to say that the most traditional part of our feast will be the Turkey and the Cranberry Sauce. The trimmings are mostly influenced by our own British Christmas favourites – for this year at least. So here’s what’s on the Menu –


The tomato soup recipe comes from Gordon Ramsay’s Secrets, and is the first of his recipes I ever tried. I remember being quite intimidated by the book back then, but excited by the beautiful and colourful images. Over time I have gained more confidence (and a roomier Kitchen), and the recipes don’t seem so daunting now. The soup has already been made, making life a tiny bit simpler on Thursday.


The Turkey will be roasted – I’m not inclined to try the other method that is traditional in the US, which is deep frying. As there are only 2 of us eating on the day, we bought the smallest crown / breast we could find, which is still around 5lbs. I expect to be making lots of use of leftover turkey recipes in the months to come.

The Cranberry Sauce will the same that I’ve made for the previous 2 Christmas dinners. This year, we’ll also have Lingonberry sauce. Lingonberries come from Sweden, where Eddie spent most of his working life before we moved to the US, so an extra sauce was his suggestion after spotting the berries in the supermarket.

The Chestnut Stuffing will be based on a recipe from Nigella Lawson’s Feast. Unfortunately I am currently having difficulty obtained canned puréed chestnuts, so some modification may be required!

The rest of the accompaniments will simply be roast potatoes (the American favourite seems to be creamy mashed), parsnips, savoy cabbage (this at least will be buttery), peas, and pigs in blankets. For those not familiar with the term, these are sausages wrapped in bacon, and the omission of these would cause great consternation.

Finally (possibly after a break, and a walk), dessert will be Crème Brulee (Aha! There will be a creamy dish). This will be the most challenging dish of the day for me, as it is my first attempt. If it’s a success, maybe I’ll even blog about it….

Happy Holidays!

Getting your 5-a-Day!

Posted in Cooking, Dinner, Food, Home Cooked Food, recipe with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 4, 2010 by helenphillips

Today was a day of a few missed photo opportunities. This morning, I braved the chill to return to work after a 2 week break. Not fun. After scraping the ice of the car, I finally pulled off. And then stopped. I had noticed the temperature on the dashboard display. Minus 6.5 °C. I can imagine in some other countries you will scoff at this, but it’s the coldest reading I have ever seen here. I whipped out the camera, only to get the frustrating ‘change the batteries’ message. I suspect the poor little thing was objecting to the cold. The drive to work was atmospheric, with the area around work submerged in a good old-fashioned pea-souper. This cleared through the day, and blue skies emerged.  Then at around 4.15, I noticed a glow in the reflection of the building opposite. It seemed that a beautiful sunset was developing behind us. Of course, I still didn’t have any batteries, so did my best to ignore it.  The weather predicts 2 more weeks of the ‘deep freeze’, so I’m not too disappointed. I’m sure I’ll get another chance soon!

My own obsession is to take a Photo A Day, but no-one can have failed to notice the general obsession to eat 5 portions of fruit & veg each day. In fact, some advice now has been modified to 7 portions a day. Generally I don’t do 2 badly at this – today’s count consists of a banana, rocket salad with cherry tomatoes, 2 satsumas, 1 strawberry yoghurt, and tonight’s dinner, which was Tagliatelle al Ragu, aka Spag Bol.  If I had children who didn’t eat veg, then this dish is perfect for ‘stealth vegetables’. As it is, I don’t have children, let alone fussy ones, but enjoy using vegetables to bulk out the meat sauce. My recipe has evolved over the years – it’s still based on the recipe I used as a student, but now I get more vegetables use. My version uses mushrooms, red pepper and aubergines, as well as onion, garlic and tinned tomatoes. This is basically what I do, giving around 4 good portions.

  • 250g minced beef
  • 100g diced pancetta
  • 1 onion (white or red), diced
  • 1/2 large aubergine, diced
  • 1 red pepper, sliced
  • 150g mushrooms
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tablespoon tomato puree
  • Lea & Perrins Worcestershire Sauce (a good glug, probably around a tablespoon)
  • Red or White Wine (again, a good glug! Maybe 3 or 4 tablespoons….)
  • 400g tinned tomatoes (preferably chopped)
  • Herbs & Seasoning

Dry fry the minced beef and pancetta in a non-stick pan until the beef is browned. Drain into a bowl through a colander to remove the fat.

Use the same pan to sauté the onion and aubergine for a couple of minutes, then add in the sliced pepper and sliced mushrooms.  Add the chopped or crushed garlic. Stir well, and cook for another few minutes until the vegetables start to soften. Stir in the tomato purée to coat the vegetables, then add in the L&P sauce, and then the wine (de-glaze the pan if necessary).  Bung in the meat, add the tinned tomatoes, refill the tin half-way with water to rinse, and then add to the pan. Bring to the boil, and use any seasoning or preferred herb (generally I use salt, pepper & basil).

Serve with Pasta of your choice – I prefer Tagliatelle or Penne – and top with grated Parmasan.

January 4th 2009 - Tagliatelle al Ragu

Chicken Fried Rice

Posted in Cooking, Dinner, Food, Home Cooked Food, recipe with tags , , , , , , , , , , on July 26, 2009 by helenphillips

This is a wonderful dish – it sounds bad (but isn’t) and tastes delicious. According to the Food Focus website, it’s 422 calories per portion, with 6g of fat, 64g of Carbs, and 26g of Protein – I wasn’t very strict about weighing stuff (maybe that’s part of the problem), but having gone back through the ingredients, I’d say it’s pretty close.

So, the ingredients (per person):

  • 1 chicken thigh (skin and bone removed if necessary, and chopped into small chunks)
  • 1/2 red pepper, chopped
  • 2 large spring onions, chopped
  • 50g mushrooms, sliced
  • 90g bean sprouts
  • Tablespoon of Soy Sauce (I use reduced salt)

The rest is easy.

Use the stock to cook the rice, adding more water if required. I find that 2 portions takes around 10 minutes, so adjust time accordingly.  Do this first to ensure that it’s ready in time – it doesn’t matter if it goes cold as it will be added to the rest of the dish later.

Brown the chicken pieces (I find that by using a non-stick pan there’s no need to use any oil). Next add the mushrooms, spring onions and red peppers. Fry until soft (around 10 minutes), giving it the occasional stir. Finally stir in the bean sprouts, rice and soy sauce. Cook for another 5 minutes until the remaining ingredients are warm right through, then serve.

Shovel down with spoons in the smug knowledge that it’s much better than the pizza you had last night.


Bacon & Lentil Soup with a bit of Spice

Posted in Cooking, Dinner, Food, Home Cooked Food, recipe with tags , , , , , , , , , on January 4, 2009 by helenphillips

It’s back to work tomorrow, and with the weather being so cold at the moment, it’s nice to have something warming for lunch.  Soups are always so simple to make, simple to refreeze, and suitable for reheating as required.

Lentils are high in fibre, meaning that you feel full up for longer. The bacon of course can be omitted, but gives an extra ‘smoky’ flavour to the soup.

Garam Masala is a mixture of spices that can be bought pre-mixed. However, if you have the ingredients at home, you can do it yourself.  However, there are many variations, as it is a regional recipe (which may make it easier to find the recipe most suitable to you).

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 rashers of bacon (you could use 4 of streaky bacon if you wish)
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 teaspoon cumin seeds (ground with mortar & pestle)
  • 1 teaspoon coriander seeds (ground with mortar & pestle)
  • 2 teaspoon garam masala
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon tomato puree
  • 240g red lentils
  • 800 ml chicken stock (I keep a supply of home made stock in the freezer)

Finely chop the onion and bacon. Add the olive oil to a pan, heat and then saute the onion and bacon over a medium heat for a few minutes until softened. Add the spices, and the tomato puree. Stir well, and cook for a further 2 minutes. Add the lentils, and the stock. Stir well, bring to the boil, and then simmer for around 20-25 minutes. Allow the mixture to cool, and then blend to a puree. If the texture is too thick, then some water can be added when reheated.

Christmas Dinner 2008

Posted in Baking, Chocolate, Cooking, dessert, Dinner, events, Food, Home Cooked Food, recipe with tags , , , , , , , on December 28, 2008 by helenphillips

Christmas Dinner this year was just the 2 of us. A Turkey would have been impractical, and neither of us are big fans. Goose was under consideration, but again deemed too big. So we had Gressingham Duck, cooked very simply using guidelines from Delia – roasted on a rack, with plenty of seasoning on the skin.

I retained some of the drained off fat, and used it to roast the potatoes, carrots and parsnips. In addition, there was the compulsory Sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, and red cabbage (boiled and then sauteed in butter, red vinegar and sugar). There was no worries about not getting our 5 a day! The gravy was made from a stock made from the duck giblets, some red wine and cranberries. And finally, on the side was the cranberry sauce that I prepared on Christmas Eve.  Unbelievably, we forgot to do the sausages wrapped in bacon, and so ended up having them for supper on Boxing Day!

For pudding we had chocolate Souffle – the recipe comes from The Green & Blacks Unwrapped cookbook, the source of so many of my favourite recipes. It’s a simple recipe, as long as you don’t open the oven door mid cooking, then it should successfully rise.  The quantities quoted are to serve 6, but I managed to get 4 portions out of half the quantities – so I guess it depends on the size of your ramekins!


  • 100g (4oz) dark chocolate (min 60% cocoa)
  • 60g (2.5 oz) cocoa powder
  • 8 egg whites
  • 60g (2.5 oz) caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 190ºC / 375ºF / Gas Mark 5.

Melt the chocolate and butter using a basin over a saucepan of simmering water.

Put the cocoa into a saucepan, along with 150ml of cold water. Whisk to blend well, and heat until it boils. Boil for 10 seconds, and then add to the mixing basin of melted chocolate.

Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Add the sugar, and whisk until the mixture is smooth and glossy.  Add a quarter of the egg white to the chocolate mix, and gently fold in until completely mixed. Fold in the rest of the egg white, keeping it gentle to keep air in the mixture.

Prepare the ramekins by brushing the insides with melted butter. Fill each ramekin to the rim, and level off.

Bake in the oven for 10-15 minutes.

You can also make a caramel sauce using caramel chocolate and thick cream, but I cheat and use Dulce De Leche Caramel Toffee from Merchant Gourmet.

Chocolate Mousse

Posted in Chocolate, Cooking, dessert, Home Cooked Food, recipe with tags , , , , , , , on December 24, 2008 by helenphillips

We had friends over for dinner last night, and needing little encouragement to use chocolate, I decided to make some chocolate mousse.

I took my inspiration (as always from the Green & Blacks Cookbook) but as none quite fitted my needs, I made my own adjustments.

My recipe uses a combination of dark and milk chocolate, giving a good dose of high quality chocolate without it being too bitter. The quantities serve 4:

  • 50g Dark Chocolate (at least 70% cocoa solids)
  • 50g Milk Chocolate (cooking)
  • 40g Unsalted Butter
  • 2 large eggs (separate the yolks from the whites)
  • 2 tablespoons caster sugar (I used my vanilla sugar)

Melt the chocolate and butter using a basin over a saucepan of simmering water.

In the meantime, whisk the eggs white until they form soft peaks. Add the sugar, and whisk until the mixture is smooth and glossy.

Remove the melted chocolate from the heat, and stir in the egg yolks until the mixture is smooth.

Add a spoonful of the egg white to the chocolate mix, and gently fold in until completely mixed. Fold in the rest of the egg white, keeping it gentle to keep air in the mixture. Once completely mixed in (so that there are no white spots), the mixture can be decanted into serving bowls. You can use 1 large one, or individual portions.