Creamy harissa Tunisian chicken bake

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I only discovered harissa paste a few years ago, but boy am I glad I did, as it is must be one of the best things to keep in your store cupboard for when you need to throw in a bit of flavour to a bland piece of meat or fish.
Harissa paste is actually very simple to make yourself at home, but for convenience and ease, keeping a jar in for a week night when you need a quick fix is great. I love to add a few dollops of harissa to homemade meatballs to introduce a bit of a kick, but it also really helps to moisten the beef mince and create a nice juice that isn’t too greasy.
The great thing about this tray bake is that you can incorporate any ingredients you see fit. If there’s vegetables stuck in your fridge waiting to go out of date, throw them into the mix and with a pinch of pepper and herbs, a good few minutes in the oven will make them taste yumcious. Although I’ve used rice in this recipe, the dish tastes equally great with quinoa or gluten free cous cous.
Ingredients
• 3 tbsp harissa paste
• Quarter pot of dairy free yoghurt, such as Alpro soya
• 2 pieces chicken slashed
• Half sweet potato
• 1 red onion
• Basmati rice
• Coriander
• Salt & pepper

1) Mix 2tbsp of the harissa with the soya yoghurt. Slash the chicken breasts and marinate with the harissa.
2) Chop the sweet potato into wedges and slice the red onions into curves. Throw in another tbsp of harissa and mix well with olive oil.
3) Season well with salt and pepper and place on the tray.
4) Roast in the oven for 35 minutes until golden and soft.
5) Cook the basmati rice and sprinkle with coriander.

Warm Spring Salad

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Unlike many people who love summer time for sun, sea and holidays or winter for Christmas and mulled wine, my favourite time of the year is spring. I suppose a large part of that is due to fond memories of my birthday, which falls in March, walking round the countryside with my Nan and popping over to the fields to see the newborn little lambs, and of course Easter, which has always been a special family occasion for me very similar to Christmas but without all the expense and stress so often experienced during the festive season nowadays.

The first time that the sun appears and daffodils and tulips start re-appearing in the same place that I planted them when I was a nipper, I know spring has arrived and I’m ready for some traditional seasonal recipes such as lamb and leek and potato soup.

My warm spring-time salad is perfect for lunch following a walk round the lanes and fills you up just enough that you still have room for a delicious toasted Hot Cross Bun with lashings of butter afterwards.

Happy Easter everyone!

Ingredients

  • Courgette
  • Yellow pepper
  • Half a sweet potato finely sliced
  • Sprinkle of fresh or dried basil
  • Sliced apple
  • Sprinkle of fresh or dried sage
  • 3 spring onions chopped
  • Mixed salad
  • Pine nuts
  • Olive oil
  • Balsamic vinegar
  • Honey to drizzle at the end
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Heat some olive oil in a frying pan, toss in the sweet potato slices and fry until it starts to soften.
  2. Add the spring onions, pepper and courgette and fry for around 5-6 minutes on a low heat.
  3. Sprinkle the mix with the basil and sage and mix well.
  4. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Toss in some pine nuts and stir well into the vegetable juices until starting to brown.
  6. Introduce the apple slices to the mix and leave for one minute.
  7. Get the salad ready in a bowl and season with basil, pepper and a good drizzle of balsamic vinegar.
  8. Mix the vegetable mixture in with the salad and throw in a few more pine nuts on the top.
  9. Drizzle with a generous helping of honey and serve.

Sweet pork and mango stir fry

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If you’re anything like me and live on a gluten free diet, then I think it’s fair to say that one of the main things we miss is Chinese food. As much as I strongly agree that eating home cooked, wholesome food is beneficial to living a long and healthy life, we all sometimes need just a bite of deep fried, sweet and sour loveliness for a treat on a Saturday night whilst sat in front of the TV watching Ant & Dec’s Saturday Night Takeaway.

This chicken and mango stir fry is perfect for fulfilling your junk food cravings in a healthy way. Packed full of nutrients and vegetables, it can be prepared and whipped up in under half an hour, making it a yummylicious, easy recipe for weeknights or weekends. Just don’t forget the prawn crackers!

Ingredients

  • 2 pieces pork steak
  • 1 bunch spring onions
  • Small piece of ginger
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1 mango
  • 2 tsp sunflower oil
  • 2 tbsp GF Tamari sauce
  • Broccoli
  • 1 tbsp sweet chilli sauce (I use Sweet Mandarin sweet chilli dipping sauce)
  • A drizzle of honey
  • Basmati rice
  • Sprinkle dried chilli flakes if desired
  • Salt
  1. Chop 3-4 of the spring onions and peel and grate just a small piece of ginger about the size of a pea. Finely chop the garlic and peel the skin of the mango and slice it into squares.
  2. In a saucepan, boil the basmati rice in salted water according to pack instructions.
  3. Chop the pork steaks into strips and season with salt.
  4. Heat the sunflower oil in a large frying pan or wok and toss in the pork to brown for about 4-5 minutes.
  5. Add the spring onions, ginger and garlic and stir fry for 2 minutes.
  6. Add the broccoli and stir fry for another minute until softening.
  7. Add the mango and mix in with the vegetable mixture for 30 seconds.
  8. Add the soy sauce and throw in a dash of the chilli flakes. Drizzle the sweet chilli sauces over the mixture and stir well.
  9. Serve alongside the rice with a generous helping of prawn crackers.

Eggplant little shoes (stuffed aubergines)

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One of my favourite traditional Greek dishes to order in a taverna is ‘Melitzanes papoutsakia,’ otherwise known as eggplant little shoes. Like the majority of Greek dishes, this stuffed aubergine concoction combines simple ingredients that have been slow cooked and seasoned to bring out an array of beautiful flavours that taste fresh and fulfilling.

If you know the Greek way of life well then you probably know that food cooked in your typical taverna does not come out in half, or maybe even an hour’s time. As my Rhodian friends like to say, the way they do things on the Greek islands is ‘slowly slowly.’

Of course, here in fast paced Britain we are a bit more ‘quickly quickly’ and so I’ve adapted a few of the ingredients so that you can have your eggplant little shoes up and running in just over half an hour instead of two.

This dish is great for using up ingredients you already have in your fridge and although the aubergines are typically stuffed with lamb mince, other meat mince such as beef or turkey can be used for a more healthy option.

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 2 aubergines halved
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 250g lamb or beef mince
  • 2 tsp oregano
  • Red pepper
  • Half red chilli
  • Courgette chopped into small pieces

For the tomato sauce

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves crushed
  • 1 tsp each ground cinnamon, coriander and cumin
  • Salt and pepper to season
  • 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tsp sugar

 

  1. Heat oven to 200 degrees Celsius. Make the tomato sauce in a saucepan by heating the oil and frying the garlic for 2-3 minutes until soft.
  2. Add the spices and chilli and fry for 1 minute, stirring well.
  3. Pour in the tomatoes and sugar and allow to simmer for 20 minutes until thickened.
  4. Scoop out most of the flesh from the aubergines and lay them in a roasting tray. Drizzle with olive oil and a sprinkle of oregano and oven bake for 15 minutes until soft and going slightly golden. After 5 minutes of baking, add the pepper and courgette to the roasting tray
  5. For the stuffing, mix the mince with 2 tsp of oregano in another saucepan, season with salt and pepper and cook until golden brown.
  6. When the aubergines are ready, spoon the mince and tomato mixture inside. Sprinkle with more oregano and salt and pepper if needed and bake in the oven for another 5-10 minutes.
  7. Serve on its own or accompanied by spiced rice or a tzatziki side sauce. Yammas!

Butternut squash and parsnip cottage pie

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If you have ever had to go on an elimination diet in order to establish what foods you are reacting to, then you will know how hard it is. The prospect of having to cut out such staple ingredients as onion, garlic and potatoes takes a lot of getting used to, not to mention the difficulty of totally avoiding tea and coffee – I did warn my dietician I may actually murder someone if I couldn’t at least have my morning mug of tea.

Thankfully for me root vegetables were still allowed on the diet, which meant that my much loved sweet potato chips were still a hot favourite on my dinner plate most nights alongside honey roasted parsnips and carrots for a little sweet delight. Of course, not being able to eat carbohydrates such as potatoes, bread and pasta meant that I needed to find other ways to get my sources of energy and I can’t deny I ate a lot of roast dinners (made with gravy browning instead of gluten free stock cubes) in order to keep myself fuller for longer and generally satisfied.

Gluten Free Cottage Pie

I started the elimination diet at the beginning of Autumn and so the weather was starting to get colder and in turn, I was getting hungrier as everyone does in cool temperatures. One of my fave after work winter meals has always been Cottage Pie, an English dish traditionally made with beef mince, carrots, potato and of course, onion and maybe the odd stock cube for extra flavour.

Making a dish that usually consists of about 60% potato when you can’t eat them may seem like a bit of a crazy idea, but with the help of root vegetables I decided to have a crack at it and see what became of this unusual dish.

Swapping the potato for a butternut squash and parsnip mash, as well as incorporating chives instead of onion, I have to admit I really enjoyed this dinner after a cold day and I even managed to get four large portions out of it to freeze for days when I didn’t have time to cook.

Ingredients

  • 3 large parsnips
  • Butternut squash
  • A good handful of fresh chives
  • 2 carrots
  • Fresh thyme leaves
  • Beef mince
  • Cannellini beans
  • 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Olive oil or sunflower oil
  • Knob of butter
  • Splash of soya or rice milk for mash

 

1. Preheat oven to 190 degrees Celsius

2. Chop the butternut squash and parsnips into sizeable chunks about 2cm thick and place in a pan of salted water, bring to the boil and cook for 20 minutes.

3. For the filling, heat the oil in the pan and add the chives, carrot, thyme and fry for around five minutes until softened.

4. Add the mince to the pan and fry until golden brown.

5. Add the drained cannellini beans, chopped tomatoes and tomato puree and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a simmer and cook for around 5-10 minutes until thickened.

6. Season to taste with salt, pepper and sugar to sweeten the tomatoes. Add the butter and milk to the butternut squash and parsnips and mash together.

7. Spoon the mixture into a large ovenproof dish and spread the mash over the meat filling.

8. Transfer to the oven and cook for 20 minutes or until the topping is golden brown and the filling is cooked through.

9. Enjoy alongside a serving of mixed vegetables.

Greek inspired lamb breast in a red wine sauce with rosemary and garlic potatoes

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Without question, the Greeks know how to cook a good lamb dish. For my cousins wedding on the island of Rhodes in 2013, my good friend Nikos’ mamma cooked us up what must have been the best part of a whole lamb to celebrate the occasion. It had been slow cooked (even by Greek estimations it was slooow) for three whole days before being carefully transported to Flyers beach bar for all the guests to devour. Wow, the meat simply slid off the bone and without a doubt, I think I would rate it as the best food I have ever tasted in my whole entire life – and for a food lover such as myself that is quite a statement.

The thing that was so amazing about mamma’s dish, is that there were so few ingredients incorporated. Of course, I cannot tell you the recipe as I know full well that they don’t go outside of the family and I would have to be killed if I ever got hold of it. However, I do know that slow cooking makes even the cheapest cuts of meat taste divine, and that I would put my bets on the fact that mamma may have sneaked a little dribble of the old red wine in the casserole dish – which it has to mentioned was also cooked in the stone oven in the oldest house in the whole of Lindos.

This dish was made in my, shall we say, fairly newer electric oven, and slow cooked for nearly three and a half hours on a very low heat to soak up all of the juices and flavours of the Mediterranean. I served the meat alongside roasted garlic and rosemary potatoes, drizzled in the delicious Greek olive oil that I only ever get out for special dishes, as well as minted rice as I found this to be a very popular side dish in many tavernas.

Best part of all is, the olive oil and oregano had travelled all the way from Siana in the Rhodian mountains where Nikos’ Uncle George lives. George of course speaks not a word of English, but can remember my name as being Sophia and is generally in hysterics at everything going on as we try to communicate. If you ever visit Siana, George will no doubt be sat outside the little café playing backgammon and sipping on the lethal souma – whatever you do don’t tackle the mountainous roads back home after being persuaded to down a few with the Greeks. Yammas!

Ingredients

  • Lamb breast
  • 1 red pepper
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 onion chopped
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1 tsp garlic granules
  • 1 gluten free chicken stock cube
  • 300 ml red wine
  • Salt and pepper
  • New potatoes
  • 1 clove garlic
  • Rosemary
  • Fresh mint chopped
  • Rice (optional) sprinkled with mint and drizzled with olive oil from potato tray.
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 160 degrees Celsius.
  2. Heat some sunflower oil in a large frying pan and brown the lamb joint. Transfer to a casserole dish.
  3. Chop the red pepper and onion into chunks and transfer to a mixing bowl. Sprinkle over the dried oregano, garlic granules and the crumbled stock cube.
  4. Pour over the red wine, chopped tomatoes and season with salt and pepper before pouring over the lamb breast
  5. Cut the lemons in half and add them to the lamb and cook in the oven for around 3 and half hours until tender.
  6. Cut the new potatoes in half and bring to the boil for a couple of minutes.
  7. Drain the water and add the grated garlic clove, sprinkle with rosemary and drizzle with olive oil before giving them a good shake.
  8. Transfer the potatoes to the oven to cook for around half an hour until golden and crispy.
  9. If making rice, add some chopped, fresh mint at the end and drizzle the olive oil from the potato tray over the top to produce a succulent and refreshing side dish.

Chicken and bacon pasta in a creamy chilli sauce

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This is one of the quickest, easiest and most delicious dishes I have ever made. I have to admit it was actually my Mom who first whacked these ingredients together after searching through the fridge for some inspiration on what to cook that night for tea, and boy am I glad she told me about it.

This really is one of those dishes where you can pull out whatever is left over in the fridge, throw it into a frying pan and have a tasty dinner just 15 minutes later. It’s a great weeknight meal due to the fact it takes virtually no preparation and it can be adjusted to accommodate individual taste buds or dietary requirements. It’s even been served in my household when we’ve had guests come round unexpectedly with hungry tummies and they’ve all really loved it.

Mushrooms could be incorporated into the dish and if not making a dairy free version, then a sprinkling of parmesan wouldn’t go amiss. Serve alongside a crust of homemade garlic bread if you’re really hungry and you’ve got a delicious din dins for a busy school night.

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 2 pieces of chicken breasts/thighs
  • Half fresh red chilli/ chilli powder to taste
  • 2 red, yellow or orange peppers
  • 2 rashers of bacon
  • Half tub of single soya cream (or normal if not dairy free)
  • Red onion chopped into small pieces
  • Basil
  • Gluten free pasta shells or macaroni
  • Salt and pepper
  1. Heat some olive oil in a frying pan, add the bacon and cook until starting to go crispy
  2. Add the chopped onion and allow to fry for 5 minutes until softened
  3. Add the chicken and cook until golden
  4. Meanwhile cook the pasta according to pack instructions
  5. Add the chilli and pepper
  6. Add the soya cream and stir into the meat mixture
  7. Season with salt and pepper
  8. Drain the pasta and blend in with the sauce alongside a scattering of fresh or dried basil

Macaroni con Pomodori

I have to admit, there are days when I get home after a long day at work and all I would love to do is pull something out of the freezer and wack it into the oven, like most ‘normal’ eaters out there do on a daily basis. I love cooking, but there are some days when you’ve worked too hard and just feel like slobbing out rather than pottering around in the kitchen.

This recipe is ideal for those days when you want something quick and easy, as well as being perfect for the days when you look in your fridge and realise you really need to go food shopping. It’s a simple family meal using the essential ingredients you usually have in the house, and best of all it’s yumicious!

Traditionally, pomodori is made with macaroni and Heinz do a gluten free version in major supermarkets. However, to stick to the traditional ‘pulling out whatever you have in your cupboards’ routine, I opted for tube shaped gluten free pasta which in my opinion is just as tasty.

A major plus point is that the sauce is naturally gluten and dairy free and so no changes need to be made if cooking for ‘normal eaters.’ Alternatively, halve the ingredients listed to make for 1-2 people – I often freeze the sauce to use at a later date. Happy days!

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 large onion
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 small chilli or small 1 tsp chilli flakes to taste
  • 4 rashers smoked bacon cut into small chunks
  • 2 cans of tomatoes
  • 250g gluten free macaroni or whatever is in the cupboard
  • Grated cheese (I used Lactofree)
  • Sugar and salt
  • Mixed herbs to sprinkle in

1)    Heat some oil in a saucepan and fry the chopped onion, crushed garlic cloves and the bacon chunks. Leave to fry gently for 10 minutes.

2)    Add the tins of tomatoes with a teaspoon of sugar and half teaspoon of salt.

3)    Bring to the boil and leave to simmer for around 20 minutes.

4)    Cook the macaroni and take off the hob just before it becomes al dente, as the sauce will soften the pasta once in the oven.

5)    Once the sauce is cooked, pour half of the macaroni on the bottom of a baking dish and layer half of the sauce and grated cheese on top.

6)    Repeat this step again with the pasta, sauce and cheese.

7)    Put in the oven for about 15-20 minutes until crisp and melted.

Greek Mezze

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It is no secret that I absolutely adore Greece. I love the country, the people, the culture and most of all, the food. Having spent countless summers on the beautiful island of Rhodes making friends for life and mixing with the locals, I can’t deny that if I had to change nationalities, I would choose to be Greek.

The thing that I really admire about the Greeks is their passion for cooking as a way of bringing people together. If you ever visit the country, you will never be far from a family gathered around a table sharing a mezze, a variety of national or local dishes similar to Spanish tapas. Believe me, if you ever have the pleasure of joining a family for a mezze you will be overwhelmed by the variety of flavours and colours presented to you. Never be afraid to try out the local dishes, I was pleasantly surprised by what I have tasted on my travels that I would never have dreamed of eating before back in England – squid and mussels being some of them.

This week, my brother and his girlfriend had us all round for a Greek afternoon and I was told I needn’t worry about bringing my own food, as it would all be gluten, wheat and cow’s milk free. We had a beautiful selection of dishes to choose from, including chicken skewers, lamb and mint mini burgers, Greek salad with feta cheese, olives, bell stuffed peppers, rosemary and garlic roast potatoes, gluten free pitta bread with a red pepper hummus dip and homemade tzatziki, as well as beef stifado which had been slow cooked.

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My brother Nick cooking up a Greek feast

One of my favourite Greek dishes is Moussaka and I have to admit that it is the one thing I really miss being able to have when I am over in Greece, as unfortunately it does contain flour and milk which is off limits to me. However, with a few alterations, this national dish can be made at home with minimal effort, and quite frankly it is delicious even if I may say so myself.

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Here is a recipe I found in Greece in a cookbook and although there are many recipes out there which have been incorporated into fancier looking and more difficult dishes to make, when it comes to proper Greek cooking, simplicity is key.

Moussaka

Serves 4

  • 2 kilos of large aubergines
  • 1 kilo of mince
  • ½ cup of olive oil
  • 2 large onions
  • 5 ripe tomatoes skinned and finely chopped
  • ½ cup of dry white whine
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 teaspoon of oregano
  • Grated kefalotiri sheep/goats cheese (parmesan or dairy free cheese can be used instead)
  • 2-3 portions of white sauce or if dairy free, I use Free & Easy dairy free cheese sauce and follow the pack instructions

1)    Peel, wash and cut the aubergines into large thin slices and leave them to drain in salt.

2)    Brown the mince in the oil with the onion.

3)    Pour in the wine, tomatoes and season with salt, pepper and oregano

4)    Allow to boil until the moisture has been absorbed.

5)    Fry the aubergines and spread them in a large roasting tin and sprinkle with grated cheese.

6)    After the first layer, spread the mince on top and then add another layer of aubergines, then sprinkle again with the grated cheese.

7)    Pour on the white or dairy free sauce so that the surface of the moussaka is covered with a thick layer of sauce and finish with the cheese.

8)    Cook in the oven for around 30 – 40 minutes until cooked through and crisp.

Variations – Thin sliced potatoes can be incorporated into the dish and fried before adding to the layers for a more filling and thicker moussaka, or alternatively, the aubergines can be swapped with courgettes.

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A shot of Souma and you’ll be smashing the plates….Yammas!!

 

Chilli to warm your chessy

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Cold winter nights call for one thing, my dad’s homemade chilli. Nothing beats it after a long day and it is one of my fave dishes of all time. Whether it’s Bonfire Night, the weekend or just a rainy day, this spicy, hearty meal will fill your belly and warm you up good and proper.

I have used my dad’s recipe here and incorporated it to be gluten, wheat and dairy free. After years of practise and adjustments, I believe this is a chilli to beat off even Jamie Oliver’s.

This chilli includes 5 secret ingredients which create an even more flavoursome and creamy tasting dish. Serve alongside gluten free pitta breads or nachos with dips to create a Mexican inspired dish, perfect for sharing with friends.

Ingredients

  • 500g beef mince
  • Dairy free butter (I use Sainsbury’s Free From spread)
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 400g tin kidney beans
  • 400g baked beans (Heinz baked beans are gluten free or could use organic)
  • Large tin of sweetcorn
  • 1 onion
  • 3 sticks celery
  • 1 tbsp of gluten free  flour (I use Dove’s farm gluten free plain flour)
  • 1 tsp chilli powder to taste (I use Millstone’s as I find it the best)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp cooking salt
  • Half tube tomato puree
  • A good knob of butter

Secret 5 ingredients

  • 1 square of dark chocolate (I use the Kinnerton dairy free chocolate found in supermarkets)
  • Squirt of tomato ketchup
  • Squirt of brown sauce (Tiger Tiger do a gluten free variety which can be found in Sainsbury’s)
  • Drizzle of Worcester Sauce (Biona Organic do gluten free)
  • Kallo gluten free Beef stock cube to crumble in

1)    Melt a knob of butter in a frying pan with the garlic

2)    Chop the onion and celery and fry until tender

3)    Add the chilli powder and fry for 2 minutes

4)    Add meat and cook until brown

5)    Add the flour and stir in well

6)    Add the tin of tomatoes

7)    Add the kidney and baked beans

8)    Add the salt and stir in the tomato puree

9)    Pour into a baking dish and allow to cook in the oven for 45 minutes

10)  Take out and add the sweetcorn, allow to cook for another 5-10 minutes.

This dish can be served with rice or is yummy as a snack on a jacket potato with melted butter – Delicioso!