Cucumber salad – Jamies 30 minute menus

I saw Jamie making this salad on tv as part of his Jamie’s 30-Minute Meals series and thought I’d give it a try. We were doing a barbecue, we usually do vegetable kebabs and have a basic salad with a barbecue but I fancied a change so I decided I’d make a variety of salads.  This was quite quick to make and looked pretty. When we came to eat it was very popular, I’d definitely make it again but I think I’d reduce the quantities of dressing, as there seemed to be a little too much dressing but I wouldn’t reduce the quantity of sesame oil as it wasn’t at all noticeable. (I’ve given Jamie’s quantities below for the dressing but adjust to your taste). Since I wasn’t using coriander leaves in any other dish I didn’t bother messing around with coriander stalks and haven’t included that step. The soy sauce in the dressing does make it most suitable as a side dish for any oriental  dishes but it can be used more widely. It would be a great salad to put into individual bowls as part of a Japanese meal.


  • 2cm piece of fresh ginger
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 lime
  • 1 cucumber
  • Small handful of fresh coriander
  • ½ a fresh red chilli


  1. Peel and grate 2cm of fresh ginger on to a serving platter and add 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, 3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and 1 teaspoon of sesame oil. Squeeze in the juice of 1 lime, then check the seasoning.
  2. Use a speed-peeler to peel the cucumber in long ribbons over the platter. Discard the watery core.
  3. Finely chop ½ a chilli and sprinkle over.
  4. Take to the table but don’t toss and dress until you’re ready to eat.

Spinach, Avocado and Bacon salad

It’s been ages since we made this salad, I can’t remember where I originally saw the recipe for this salad but at one time we made it quite often. It is very simple and very tasty.


  • 200g small spinach leaves
  • 2 avocados
  • 1 lemon
  • 200g bacon
  • 1 tsp mustard
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 3 tbsp olive oil


  1. Wash spinach leaves and dry in salad spinner, place in salad bowl
  2. Peel avocados and cut into pieces, toss in lemon juice (to stop discolouring) and place in salad bowl
  3. grill bacon until crispy, cut into pieces and place  in salad bowl
  4. Mix remaining ingredients and use to dress salad shortly before serving

Chicken Caesar Salad

The above photo really isn’t very good, in reality it looked much more appetising.

Chicken Caesar salad is a great favourite in our house. The croutons in particular appeal to the teens so they are a mandatory part of the dish but we all love anchovies as well. One of the great things about chicken ceasar salad is even though it’s pretty quick to make from scratch you can prepare the components the day before and assemble just before serving. Some of this is personal choice, we really like anchovies so will use a whole tin, other people may prefer just a taste.

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 4 Chicken breasts
  • Cos/Romain or iceberg lettuce
  • 4-6 chunky slices good quality white bread
  • sea salt
  • olive oil
  • 50g tin anchovies
  • Ceasar salad dressing (either home made or good commercial dressing)
  • parmesan cheese


  1. Cook the chicken in a griddle pan.
    Add a little olive oil to the pan turn heat up to high. Slice chicken to be about 6mm thick. Add chicken slices to pan when pan is hot. Cook one side until griddle lines form then turn over, again cook until griddle lines form then turn down to a lower heat until chicken is cooked through.  Check if it’s cooked by poking the tip of a sharp knife into the thickest part; there should be no sign of pink and juices will run clear.
  2. Make the Croutons.
    Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Tear the bread into big, ragged croutons or, if you prefer, cut with a bread knife. Spread over a large baking sheet or tray and sprinkle over 2 tbsp olive oil. Rub the oil into the bread and season with a little salt if you like (sea salt crystals are best for this). Bake for 8-10 mins, turning the croutons a few times during cooking so they brown evenly.
  3. Thinly slice parmesan
  4. Cut the lettuce into strips about 3-4cm wide, then wash a spin (size of lettuce is personal choice)
  5. Arrange lettuce either in one large bowl or on individual plates. Break up anchovies and place on top of lettuce, add dressing. Toss gently.  Place chicken on top, add croutons and parmesan and serve.

Chicken, Ham and Leek Pie – Hairy Bikers Perfect Pies

I know another Hairy Bikers pie recipe… but I thought it was time I tried a ‘proper’ pie recipe from their Perfect Pies cookbook The Hairy Bikers’ Perfect Pies: The Ultimate Pie Bible from the Kings of Pies. I also decided to treat myself to a proper pie dish as it is easier to get good results if you have the right equipment. My elder son is away this w/e and since he will only eat leeks under duress I thought I’d try this pie whilst he was away.

My pastry cracked as I rolled it out but when I read their notes on pastry I discovered that was because I’d used too much flour when rolling out. There was also slightly too much sauce (and as you can see some oozed out. I think the size of chunks of meat they recommend are too big but despite these minor comments the pie was lovely and I’ll definitely be made again. It looked to be far too much and at the start of dinner we felt their note that it served 5 – 6 assumed rather large appetites. But by the time 4 of us had seconds it proved accurate (see below).

A measure of how success this pie was is at the end of the meal my FIL ordered a copy of the book for himself!


  • 3 boneless, skinless chicken breast poached with a stock cube (see below)
  • 250 milliliter cooking liquor (see below)
  • 75 grams butter
  • 2 slender leeks, trimmed and sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 50 grams plain flour
  • 200 milliliters milk
  • 2-3 tablespoons white wine
  • 150 grams thickly craved ham cut into 2cm chunks
  • flaked sea salt
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • 350grams plain flour
  • plus extra for rolling
  • 200 grams cold butter, cut into cubes
  • 1 large egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
  • beaten egg, to glaze

Poach the chicken breast in a pan of 450 milliliter simmering water with a chicken stock cube for ten minutes, reserve 250 milliliters of cooking liquor. Melt 25 grams of the butter in a large non- stick saucepan over medium heat. Stir in the leeks and fry gently for 2 minutes, stirring occasionally until softened. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more, then tip everything into a bowl. Return the pan to the heat and add the remaining butter. Add the flour and cook for 30 seconds, stirring constantly. Add the milk, a little at a time, stirring well between each addition. Gradually add the cooking liquor and the wine, stirring until the sauce is smooth and thick. Season to taste, remove from the heat and add the cream. Pour into a bowl and cover with cling film.
Preheat the oven to 200°C/ Fan 180°C and put in a baking tray to heat. To make the pastry, put the flour and butter in a food processor and pulse until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. With the motor running, add the beaten egg and water and blend until the mixture comes together in a ball, reserve 280 grams of the pastry for the lid.  Roll out the pastry until about 3 mm thick and 4 cm larger than you dish, line the bottom of the pie dish pressing firmly.
Cut the breasts into 3 cm chunks and add the cooked sauce with the leeks and ham. Tip the filling into the pie dish and brush the rim with beaten egg.
Roll out the rest of the pastry, cover the pie, pressing the edges to seal, then trim and crimp. Make a small hole in the centre of the pie with a knife tip, brush the top with beaten egg. Bake on the tray in the centre of the oven for 35 minutes or until the pie is golden brown and the filling is piping hot.
Use a 23 cm round pie dish

Gingerbread Muffins – Muffins Fast and Fantastic

Blueberry muffins are on the left in the above photo and Gingerbread muffins on the right.

Although the Muffins Fast and Fantastic book by Susan Reimer is one of my most used cookbooks and a slim volume I still haven’t tried every muffin recipe. I had to make cakes for the scout tea tent at the local horse and country show and I wanted to fit in a skiff (row) down to Henley and back before I needed to leave for my turn in the tea tent. When I have to make cakes in a hurry it’s almost always muffins from this book. Muffins Fast and Fantastic

Initially I made 2 dozen blueberry muffins using the basic muffin mix and adding frozen blueberries. (the basic muffin recipe is here ) When they came out of the oven I remembered Jon is particularly fond of blueberry muffins, so I decided to keep some back and make some more muffins for the scout teas so I had a skim through to see what I haven’t tried before. Having successfully made a Mary Berry gingerbread traybake recently the gingerbread muffin recipe caught my eye so I made 2 dozen of those as well. The gingerbread muffins are delicious. Light in texture and a pleasant but not overwhelmingly gingery. I like a very gingery gingerbread as well but there are times you want something lighter. I’ll be making these again soon. Quantities below make 10 – 12.


  • 225g plain flour
  • 1.5 tsp baking powder
  • 0.5 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1.5 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 0.25 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 egg
  • 110 – 170g soft brown sugar
  • 2-3 tbsp black treacle
  • 180ml milk
  • 90ml vegetable oil (I often use olive oil but with lots of spice veg oil is fine)
  1. Prepare muffin tins. preheat oven to 200C (180C fan oven)
  2. Mix together flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and spices n a large bowl
  3. In a separate bowl beat the egg then mix in the sugar. Add treacle (warm slightly before)  and stir until blended. Add milk and oil and continue to stir briskly until well mixed.
  4. Pour all of the wet mixture into the dry and stir to combine. This requires more stiring than other muffin batters due to the stickly nature of the treacle. (The batter will appear thinner and smoother than usual muffin batters).
  5. Spoon into muffin cases. Bake for 20 – 25 mins until tops feel quite firm.

Grilled Cheese and Slaw – Nigella Express

Thought I’d give the Nigella Express cookbook another go and wanted something very easy for lunch. Basically this is a cheese toastie with quick coleslaw – I think it’s a bit of a cheat to fill two pages of a cookbook with this (unless it was a cookbook for beginners) when the recipe could be condensed into:
Make a cheese and tomato toastie and quick coleslaw
– use Chinese leaf instead of white cabbage and mix a little mango chutney into the mayo for your coleslaw.
– mix a little worcestershire sauce into some mayo and use in sandwiches instead of butter 

I was going to follow her instructions for the cheese toastie as I do have a griddle pan but decided weighing it all down and removing it all to check when it’s cooked was too much of a faff so I used my toasted sandwich maker instead.  The conclusion from our teen who is very fond of mango chutney was that it was too overwhelming in the slaw and he actually left his (my boys almost never leave food so he really wasn’t keen). Jon and I quite liked it but concluded 1 teaspoon of mango chutney rather than a tablespoon would be better. And what’s not to love about a cheese toastie 🙂

Nigella’s Sandwich Slaw


  • 1 red apple, cored and julienned or coarsely grated
  • 1 carrot, julienned or coarsely greated
  • 100 g Chinese leaf, finely shredded
  • 1/2 tsp caraway seeds
  • 1 tsp mango chutney
  • 1 tbsp mayonnaise
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • salt


  1. Toss together the vegetables & fruit.
  2. Mix caraway seeds with mango chutney, lemon, mayo and salt, and pour this over the veggies.
  3. Mix carefully, then serve.

Spinach and Feta Filo Pie – Hairy Bikers Perfect Pies

I rarely make pies; as I was growing up my mother would make pastry quite often and she’d always tell us our hands were too hot to make pastry. Whilst she was right; you need to keep pastry cool, it gave pastry making a mystique that put me off making it. I buy ready made pastry from the supermarket quite often but it is probably the single most frequently thrown away item in my fridge.

With the help of the Hairy Bikers Perfect Pies cookbook The Hairy Bikers’ Perfect Pies: The Ultimate Pie Bible from the Kings of PiesI intend to overcome my reluctance to make pies !

The first recipe I tried in their book was a very simple chicken with filo pastry pie. Since I still have ready made filo pastry in my fridge I decided to try their Spinach, Feat and filo pie. I’ve tried Jamie Oliver’s version in the past and know it’s not too difficult to make. This version was much better than Jamie’s. We added extra cucumber and tomatoe to the left over Greek salad from Thursday. The pie even met with enthusiastic approval from my elder son (who is a bit of a carnivore), he had seconds and said he’d be happy to have some cold in his packed lunch tomorrow.


  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, sliced and finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 450-475 grams spinach leaves, trimmed and shredded
  • 4 medium eggs
  • 500 grams ricotta, drained
  • 1/2 nutmeg
  • 2 teaspoons thyme leaves, roughly chopped
  • 400 grams feta cheese, drained
  • 2 tablespoons plain flour
  • freshly ground black pepper


  • 100 grams butter
  • 10 filo sheets,
  1. Heat the oil and gently fry the onions and garlic for 15 minutes, until soft but not coloured. Add shredded spinach leaves and cook over medium-high heat for 5-6 minutes. Tip spinach mixture into a sieve press down to remove moisture.
  2. Beat the eggs in a large bowl, stir in the ricotta, grate the nutmeg and add ground black pepper. Add the thyme and crumble the feta into the mixture. Add the flour and stir  Preheat oven to 200°C/ Fan 180°C.
  3. Melt the butter and brush a sheet of filo with the butter, top with a second sheet and brush with more butter repeat with the next 3 sheets. Line the baking tin with a little butter and line with the pastry stack, leaving excess over the sides.
  4. Mix the spinach mixture with the cheese mixture, tip into the dish and level the mixture with a spatula. Cover with the remaining five sheets of filo, repeating the buttering process, Use a round bladed knife to tuck the pastry down the sides and a little underneath to neatly enclose the filling.
  5. Score the top into portion sized squares, cutting only through 2-3 sheets. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with freshly ground black pepper
  6. Cook in a preheated oven for 45-50 minutes, until pastry is golden and filling is set. Cool for 15 minutes before serving.

Dish 20cm x 30cm, a lasagne dish is fine

Greek salad

I don’t need to look up a recipe to make a Greek salad but I thought it would be useful to post one up so I can direct my boys to it when I want them to make up a Greek salad for dinner.

These quantities make enough for 6 people (or 4 with leftovers for lunch the next day) and it takes about 10 minutes to make. We had this salad together with with a piece of pitta and humus each and some grilled halloumi cheese for dinner tonight.


  • 1 cucumber
  • 8 medium tomatoes
  • 2 medium red onions
  • 200g feta cheese
  • handful pitted black olives
  • 3 generous slugs of olive oil


  1. Slice or chunk cucumber and put in large salad bowl
  2. cut tomatoes in half, cut out the core then cut each half into 3 pieces and put into salad bowl with cucumber
  3. Peel red onions, cut in half then cut each half into thin slices and put into salad bowl
  4. Put three good slugs of olive oil over salad and toss
  5. Cut up feta cheese into cubes and put on top
  6. Cut or tear olives in half and put on top
  7. Toss salad gently to mix a bit more
  8. Serve

Chocolate Chip and Nut Cookie Mix in a Jar

My SIL gave me the above jar of cookie mix at christmas and it has taken me until now to make it up, if I’d known how delicious they were I’d have made it up immediately. These were perfect chewy cookies that were still good several days after (we forgot the last 3 in a tin or we wouldn’t have been able to check) so I made sure I got the recipe. The recipe and instructions have American measurements. I’ll come back to this post and add the UK measurements when I have a bit more time. Personally I prefer my ‘large walnut’ balls as it made 2 doz generous cookies, regular size ‘walnut’ balls would be usual UK biscuit size cookies. The mixture was packed in a 1 litre Ikea jar.


  • 1 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 c white sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 c brown sugar
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 c chopped nuts of your choice
  • 1-1/4 c rolled oats
  • 1/2 c chocolate chips
  • 1 (5.5 ounce) milk chocolate bar


  1. With wire whisk, mix flour, baking powder, and baking soda. Pour into jar and pack down level with heavy object. Mix oatmeal in a blender.
  2. Grate chocolate bar and mix into the oatmeal. Pack on top of flour in jar. Add white sugar and pack down. Add brown sugar and pack down.
  3. Layer chopped nuts on top of brown sugar. Finish layering jar with chocolate chips until even with the top.
  4. Attach a card with the following directions:
    Chocolate Chip and Nut Cookie Mix
    Preheat oven to 375. Spoon chocolate chips and nuts into small bowl, set aside. Spoon brown and white sugar into mixing bowl, add 1/2 cup margarine or butter, cream well. Add 1 egg and 1/2 teaspoon vanilla, mix well. Pour oatmeal and flour mixture from jar into bowl, add chocolate chips and nuts and mix thoroughly. Roll into walnut-sized balls, place on slightly greased cookie sheet two inches apart.
    Bake for 8-10 minutes. Makes: 2-3 dozen

Chicken and Tarragon Pie – Hairy Bikers Perfect Pies

I have to confess I didn’t own the Hairy Bikers Perfect Pies cookbook when I started this blog. Using my recipe books more has rekindled my interest in cooking so my cookbook collection has grown… Aidan is a big fan of the Hairy Bikers cookery programmes and we all like pies so when I saw this book on offer I succumbed The Hairy Bikers’ Perfect Pies: The Ultimate Pie Bible from the Kings of Pies.

I had a chicken and a pack of filo pastry to use up in the fridge so opted for Justine’s Chicken and Tarragon pie.  Using creme fraiche and filo pastry made this quick to make up, if you buy a ready roasted chicken it would be really quick to make. (I decided to boil my chicken and get some stock out of it as well.)

The conclusion was favourable, the filo pastry topping was very popular and the family felt the pie made a nice change. We agreed it didn’t compete with the Avoca cafe chicken and broccoli gratin but that takes more time to make so isn’t a weekday dinner option. I made this pie up in a pyrex casserole, I felt the filling could have done with more time to warm in the oven as it was not bubbling however the pastry was sufficiently browned  and would have over cooked. Since the filo pastry was so popular next time I will make it in a lasagne dish so the layer of filling will be half the depth and use a whole pack of filo pastry for the topping. I don’t have any pie dishes, maybe I need to get some.


  • Small knob of butter
  • 1 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 150ml white wine
  • 1 chicken stock cube
  • 1kg whole cooked chicken (you can buy a ready-roasted one from your butcher or use 550g cooked chicken meat instead)
  • 400ml crème fraiche
  • 2 tbsp fresh tarragon leaves, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • Flaked sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1.5 litre pie dish

For the filo topping

  • 40g butter, melted
  • 4 filo pastry sheets


  1. Melt the butter with the oil in a large frying pan over a low heat, then add the onion and the crushed garlic. Fry gently for 5–6 minutes until the onion is softened, but not coloured, stirring occasionally.
  2. Pour in the white wine, then crumble the stock cube into the pan and stir well until it dissolves. Simmer over a high heat, stirring constantly, until the liquid has reduced by half and thickened. Remove from the heat.
  3. Take the skin off the chicken, then strip the meat from the bones and tear it into bite-sized pieces. Place these in a large bowl. Add the onion and garlic mixture and spoon the crème fraiche on top. Scatter over the tarragon, sprinkle the flour on top and season with a good pinch of sea salt and plenty of freshly ground black pepper. Toss everything together until just combined, then spoon into your pie dish. Preheat the oven to 210°C/420°F/Gas Mark 6½.
  4. Now for the topping. Brush a sheet of filo pastry with melted butter and cut it into 6. Scrunch up each portion with your hands and place it on top of the filling. Repeat with the remaining sheets of filo until the filling is completely covered.
  5. Bake the pie in the centre of the oven for 30 minutes or until the filo pastry topping is crisp and golden brown and the filling is bubbling beautifully.