Bolognese Pasta Bake

Bit of a shame really to make something so basic on my 1 year anniversary of starting this blog and ironically it wasn’t even from one of my many recipe books but I needed to use ingredients in the fridge before going away. This is a good option if family members need to eat at different times in the evening as it keeps warm better in the casserole. We didn’t have any butternut squash to use but we agreed it would have been nice with roasted butternut squash in as well.


  • 500g minced beef
  • 1 large or 2 medium onions chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic
  • 2 sticks celery chopped small
  • 2-3 carrots chopped small
  • 1 400g tin chopped tomatoes or 400g fresh tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 beef stock cube made up to 250 ml stock
  • 250ml red wine
  • chopped herbs, I used sage, thyme
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 200-250g spiral pasta
  • 1 pack mozarella
  • 40g grated parmesan


  1. Brown mince in frying pan then transfer to large saucepan using slotted spoon
  2. Drain off most of the fat then fry onions for 4 mins
  3. Add celery and carrots ad fry for another 5 mins
  4. Add crushed garlic and fry for a minute, then add onions and garlic to saucepan
  5. Add tomatoes, beef stock, wine, herbs and pinch cinnamon to saucepan and heat slowly
  6. Cook pasta in large pan of boiling water for specified time then drain
  7. Preheat oven to 180C
  8. Mix bolognese sauce and pasta and place in casserole
  9. Top with torn up mozarella, then grate parmesan on top
  10. Bake in oven for 20-30 minutes

Lasagne – Jamies Dinners

Jon cooked Jamie’s recipe for Simple Baked Lasagne from Jamie’s Dinners, my phone was running out of charge and the flash wasn’t working, the lasagne was nicely browned and not as dark as it looks in this picture. According to Jamie this serves 6, even with three teen boys 6 of us didn’t finish this, we had at least 2 more servings.

Jamie uses a creme fraiche mixture rather than a bechamel sauce, it works well I still prefer a bechamel sauce but would definitely use his creme fraiche mixture if I was short of time. He also uses a mixture of beef and pork which is very nice but I think I prefer a rich beef bolognese sauce. The other significant difference is the addition of roasted butternut squash layers which I would also do again.


  • 4 rashers pancetta or smoked bacon, finely sliced
  • a pinch of cinnamon
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 handfuls of mixed fresh herbs (sage, oregano, parsley, rosemary, thyme)
  • olive oil
  • 400gr/14oz shin of beef or stewing beef, minced coarsely
  • 200gr/7oz pork belly, skin removed, minced
  • 2 x 400gr tins of good quality plum tomatoes
  • 2 glasses of red wine or water
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 butternut squash, baked, deseeded and roughly chopped
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds, bashed
  • 1 dried red chilli, bashed
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 400gr/14oz fresh lasagne sheets
  • 400gr/14oz mozzarella, torn up

For the White Sauce

  • 1 x 500ml tub of creme fraiche
  • 3 anchovies, finely chopped
  • 2 handfuls of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • optional – a little milk


  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas 4.
  2. Slowly fry the pancetta and cinnamon until golden, then add the onion, carrot, garlic and herbs and about 4 tablespoons of olive oil.  Mix together, then add the beef and pork.  Cook for about 5 minutes, then add the tinned tomatoes and the wine or water.  Add the bay leaves and bring to the boil.
  3. Then either place in the preheated oven for 2 hours or simmer on the hob over a gentle heat for around an hour and a half.
  4. Rub your butternut squash slices with olive oil, and sprinkle with salt, pepper and the bashed-up coriander seeds and chilli.  Place on a baking tray and roast in the oven for the last 45 minutes of cooking the sauce.
  5. When the sauce is done, season to taste and put to one side.
  6. Mix together your creme fraiche, anchovies, and a handful of Parmesan, and season with salt and pepper.  You may need to loosen the mixture with a little milk.
  7. Turn the oven to 200C/400F/gas 6.
  8. To assemble the lasagne, rub an earthenware lasagne dish with olive oil, lay some sheets of lasagne over the bottom and drape them over the sides.
  9. Add a layer of meat, a little white sauce and a sprinkling of Parmesan.
  10. Break the butternut squash into pieces and use this as one layer, then repeat the layers, finishing with a layer of pasta covered in white sauce.
  11. Tear over the mozzarella and sprinkle with some extra Parmesan.  Cook in the preheated oven for 30-35 minutes.

Chocolate Brownies – The Great British Book of Baking

My sister-in-law Rachel makes the best chocolate brownies ever and after I’d put the tin with these chocolate brownies from the The Great British Book of Baking into the oven Jon came across the note I’d made of the quantities of ingredients she uses for her recipe. Too late for this bake but I did use her recommendation of dark chocolate Bournville rather than the high cocoa french dark chocolate I usually use for baking. I haven’t used this recipe book much, it has an excellent range of nice looking bakes which I must try out. These brownies were nice, much better than shop bought and they have nice gooey texture but Rachel’s have the gooey texture with a lovely chocolatey crust contrast.


  • 225g unsalted butter, diced
  • 100g dark chocolate, broken up
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 4 large, free range eggs
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
  • 50g plain flour
  • 50g cocoa powder
  • a pinch of salt
  • 75g walnut pieces
  • icing sugar for dusting (optional)


  1. Preheat oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4
  2. Put the butter ad chocolate into a small heavy based pan. Set over the lowest possible heat and leave to melt gently, stirring frequently until smooth but not hot. Remove pan from the heat and leave to one side until needed.
  3. Grease and line a 20cm square tin
  4. Put the sugar, eggs, vanilla essence into a large mixing bowl and mix thoroughly with wire whisk or wooden spoon
  5. Whisk in the cooled chocolate mixture, sift flour, cocoa and salt into bowl and mix well. Stir in nuts.
  6. Transfer mixture to tin and spread evenly. Bang tin on a work surface to expel any air bubbles
  7. Bake in the oven for about 25mins, until a skewer inserted into the centre of the mixture comes out with moist crumbs.
  8. Stand the tin on a wire cooling rack and leave to cool completely, it will continue to cook in the tin as it cools.
  9. Cut into 16 squares and dust with icing sugar just before serving.

Pistachio and Orange Shortbread – Jo Wheatley A Passion for Baking

I felt the need for biscuits the morning and now I’m baking more often, McVities just don’t hit the mark. I had another browse through Jo Wheatley’s A Passion for Baking and whilst very tempted by her custard creams however I don’t have any custard powder so I decided to make her Pistachio and Orange Shortbread hearts instead.

These are not even close to instant gratification biscuits, there are two sessions of chilling dough in the fridge which to be honest is a bit of a pain when I just wanted to take a short break from my desk to mix up some biscuits and I ended up leaving my youngest to take them out of the oven whilst I went to a meeting.  The double chilling would be fine if you’re pottering around doing not a lot in an evening or if you plan a baking sessions with strict timings.

There was a lovely orange scent as I rolled out the dough. Elder son liked them well enough to eat several but wouldn’t chose them if I asked what he wanted me to bake, younger son was more taken with them but he has a more sophisticated palate and an interest in baking. These would be a very nice addition to a sophisticated afternoon tea but I wouldn’t make them for children’s/teen’s tea.


  • 60g unsalted pistachios, shelled
  • 225g unsalted butter, softened
  • 100g caster sugar, plus extra for sprinkling
  • 225g plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 60g semolina
  • zest of 1 orange, finely grated


  1. Whizz the pistachios in a food processor and tip into a bowl. Add the butter, caster sugar, flour and semolina, and using your fingers rub the butter into the dry ingredients. Add the grated orange zest and work until the mixture comes together.
  2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead very gently until smooth. Shape the dough into a ball, flatten into a disc, wrap in cling film and chill in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  3. Lightly dust the work surface with flour and roll the dough out to a thickness of about 4mm. Using heart-shaped cutters, stamp out cookies and arrange on lined baking trays. Gather any dough off cuts into a ball and re-roll to make more cookies. Chill for a further 30 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile preheat the oven 170°C/325°F/ Gas Mark 3. Bake the cookies on the middle shelf of the oven for about 15–18 minutes or until pale golden. Remove from oven, sprinkle with caster sugar then transfer to wire racks to cool.

Salmon fillet wrapped in prosciutto with herby lentils – Jamie Oliver The Return of the Naked Chef

I think I’ve mentioned before I like Jamie Oliver’s style of cooking. I tried a couple of his recipe books before seeing him on television and for some reason I didn’t see him on tv for many years, not even in the Sainburys ads (recently I found out the mother of one of Conor’s school friends also liked his recipes so signed him to Sainsburys). Unlike Nigella he thinks about the vegetables and making them an integral part of the meal. I got his book The Return of the Naked Chef years ago and cooked a few things from it although I still have a number of recipes to try. From memory everything has been enjoyable but this is the recipe that we liked so much we can make it without the cookbook now. The prosciutto keeps the salmon moist and its salty taste complements the taste of the salmon and cuts through the oiliness of the fish beautifully, (it looks better if you leave a bit of the salmon exposed top and bottom of the prosciutto). I could eat the herby lentils and spinach quite happily as a meal on its own and sometimes do when the rest of the family are eating shepherds pie as I hate mashed potato. The yogurt seems like an odd addition on dinner but it absolutely works here.

The quantities here serve 4 (adults), and it takes about 1/2 hour to cook. Whilst our boys are great at trying different food getting them to like lentils and spinach has a way to go yet, so if you’re doing this as a family meal you may want to halve the spinach and lentils quantities and include some other vegetables. You don’t really need extra carbohydrates in this meal but if you have people with large appetites a small baked potato or plain boiled rice works well.


175g/6oz lentils
  • 4 x 225g/8oz salmon fillets, skinned and pin-boned
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 slices of prosciutto
  • olive oil
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 large handfuls of spinach, chopped
  • 2 good handfuls of mixed herbs (flat leaf parsley, basil, mint), chopped
  • 200ml/7fl oz natural yoghurt


  1. Preheat oven to 220c/425f/Gas 7
  2. Put the lentils into a pan, cover with water, bring to the boil and simmer until tender.
  3. Season the salmon fillets with a little pepper before wrapping them in the prosciutto slices. Leave some of the flesh exposed.
  4. Drizzle with olive oil and roast in the oven for around 10 minutes until the prosciutto is golden. Feel free to cook the salmon for less time if you prefer your salmon pinker.
  5. Drain away most of the water from the lentils, and season carefully with salt, pepper, lemon juice and 4 good lugs of olive oil.
  6. Just before serving, stir the herbs and spinach into the lentils on a high heat, until wilted. 
Place onto plates with the salmon and finish with a drizzle of lightly seasoned yoghurt.

Italian Liver – The Dairy Food of Family Cooking

I feel like I’m rediscovered an old friend as I browse through The Dairy Book of Home Cookery picking out old favourite recipes and making them again. Jon loves liver but I didn’t like it as a child so this dish was a compromise. We stopped making it when the boys came along as it wasn’t really small child friendly but decided it was time to retry them. Semi-successful, eldest son decided he didn’t really like it, youngest was happy to eat it. I served this with rice, cabbage & bacon and green beans.


  • 350g/12oz lambs liver
  • 25g/1oz flour
  • salt and freshly ground pepper
  • 40g/1.5oz butter
  • 450g/1lb onions skinned and thinly sliced
  • 150ml/0.25 pt beef or lamb stock
  • 300ml/0.5 pt milk
  • 30ml/2 level tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 garlic clove skinned and finely chopped
  • 0.25ml/0.25 tsp mixed herbs
  • 30ml/2 tbsp double cream
  • chopped fresh parsley


  1. Cut the liver into small pieces and coat in seasoned flour
  2. Melt the butter in a frying pan and add the liver, brown on all sides then remove from the pan and set aside
  3. In the butter remaining in the pan fry the onions slowly until tender. Gradually stir in the stock, milk, tomato puree, garlic and herbs. Bring the sauce to the boil stirring continuously
  4. Add the liver to the sauce. Cover pan and cook gently for 10-15 minutes until the liver is tender. Adjust seasoning to taste.
  5. Place liver and sauce on a hot serving plate. Trickle the cream over the sauce and sprinkle with chopped parsley.

Chilli Pies – Hairy Bikers Perfect Pies

I’d rather liked the picture of these chilli pies in the The Hairy Bikers’ Perfect Pies cookbook, when it mentioned they are good hot or cold I wondered whether they might be suitable for packed lunches.

The chilli is easy to make and you could use any chilli recipe. The addition of a little polenta was a good idea to absorb some of the sauce. Instructions were nice and straightforward. I made the chilli and pastry one day and rolled out the pastry and made the pies the next. The pastry was a bit fiddly and a tendency to tear so I was a bit mean with the filling and had quite a bit left. I suspect practice would make it much easier to handle. I was pleased with how my little pie bundles looked before they went into the oven.

I will definitely be making these again, and would probably increase the quantity of pastry until I get better at handling it. They were delicious both hot and cold and I think they stay together well enough to be put into a lunch box.


  • 500g lean minced beef
  • 1 onion finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1 heaped tsp smoked paprika
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 100ml red wine
  • 300ml of beef stock
  • 40g pickled green Jalapeños, sliced
  • 2 tbsp quick cook polenta
  • 3 tbsp roughly chopped fresh coriander
  • salt
  • pepper
For the pastry
  • 100g plain flour
  • 200g quick cook polenta
  • 150g cold butter, cut into cubes
  • 75ml just boiled water
  • 50g Parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • 1 egg beaten.


  1. Heat the sunflower oil in a large pan and fry the onion for 5 minutes, adding the garlic for the final minute. add the mince to the pan, breaking up any big chunks with a wooden spoon. Fry over a medium heat for 5 mins stirring regularly.
  2. Sprinkle with Paprika and cook for a further minute.
  3. Tip the tomatoes, red wine, stock and Jalapeños to the pan, stir well, season with salt and pepper, bring to the boil and simmer for 25minutes, add 2 tablespoons of polenta and stir until the mix thickens. Remove from the heat and add the chopped coriander. Leave to cool.
  4. To make the pastry, put the flour and polenta in a large bowl, rub in the butter until the mix resembles breadcrumbs
  5. Add the just boiled water and mix with a wooden spoon until the mix comes together, leave to cool for a few minutes then wrap the mix in cling film and place in the fridge for an hour.
  6. Remove from the fridge and knead in the Parmesan
  7. Pre heat your oven to 200 degrees c.
  8. Divide the dough into 8 balls, then on a well floured worktop roll each ball out into a 16cm round.
  9. Divide the filling between the 8 discs, leaving a 2cm gap around the edge of each disc.
  10. Now brush the exposed edge of the discs with the beaten egg and carefully bring the edges up to cover the filling, pinch together to make a small parcel.
  11. Brush the completed parcels with beaten egg.
  12. Place the pies on some baking paper and cook in the oven for 25 minutes until golden brown.

Farmhouse Sultana Cake – Dairy Book of Family Cooking

Back when the The Dairy Book of Home Cookery was one of my only cookbooks I used to bake this cake a lot. Then we got a bit bored so I stopped making it and wIth newer more interesting cookbooks I didn’t go back to it. However it occurred to me it would make a good cake to put in lunch boxes. I realised when making it that it’s also a good cake for winter as it only uses one egg. (The chickens are already down to 3 eggs a day and that will reduce further as the days get shorter so I’ll need to adjust what I bake to reduce the numbers of eggs I use). It’s a very slightly worthy cake with it’s wholemeal flour, but that helps make it a very pleasant low guilt treat with a cup of tea and it keeps for a few days. I put crushed up sugar cubes on top because I had some in the cupboard (no idea why, I must have had a plan at the time) but you really don’t need them. I also used to make it in a round tin. Square is easier to cut for lunch boxes, I think it looks nicer as a round cake.


  • 225g/8oz plain flour
  • 10ml/ 2 tsps mixed spice
  • 5ml/1tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 225g/8oz wholemeal flour
  • 175g/6oz butter
  • 225g/8oz soft brown sugar
  • 225g/8oz sultanas
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • About 300ml/0.5 pt milk
  • 10 sugar cubes (optional)


  1. Preheat the oven to 170C/Gas mark 3.
  2. Grease and base-line either a 20cm/8in square or a 23cm/9in round cake tin.
  3. Sift the plain flour, mixed spice and bi-carb of soda into a large mixing bowl. Add the wholemeal flour and stir to mix.
  4. Rub in the butter until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs and stir in the sugar and sultanas.
  5. Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add the egg and the milk. Beat gently until well mixed and of a soft dropping consistency.
  6. Turn into the prepared tin.
  7. Roughly crush the sugar cubes and scatter over the cake.
  8. Bake in the oven for about 1hr 40mins until cooked (a cake skewer should come out clean). Turn out and cool on a wire rack.

Sultana Malt Loaf – Mary Berry’s Baking Bible

Malt loaf is a favourite after school snack with my boys and it’s low sugar/fat content makes it popular with Jon. However I’ve never made it before, in fact it had never occurred to me to make it before I came across it in Mary Berry’s Baking Bible. Mary says this is better after a couple of days. I’ve hidden one of the loaves so we can try as when Aidan came home from school 1/3 a loaf went. It is nicer than commercial malt loaf, not as squidgy and the sultana’s sank to the bottom which was a disappointment. I think this might be the first time I’ve used a Mary Berry recipe that didn’t work perfectly for me. I must find out why they sank, usually it’s because the fruit isn’t quite dry but mine was and I tossed it in the flour before adding the liquid ingredients.

It took me a while to get around to buying 1 lb loaf tins and although the quantities make 2 x 1lb loaves I wasn’t convinced a 2lb loaf would be squidgy enough by the time it had baked through. It also took me ages to find malt extract and because I didn’t make malt loaves straight after I found it I can no longer remember where I bought it. Malt extract used to be sold as a dietary supplement for children so you should definitely be able to buy it in health stores if you can’t find it in your local supermarket.


  • 225g/8oz plain flour
  • 1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 225g/8oz Sultanas
  • 50g/2 oz demerara sugar
  • 175g/6oz malt extract
  • 1 tbsp black treacle
  • 2 large eggs
  • 150 ml/5 floz cold black tea


  1. Preheat the oven to 150C/Gas Mark 2. Grease/line two 450g/1 lb loaf tins
  2. Gently hear the sugar, malt extract and black treacle together and put aside to cool.
  3. Measure flour, bicarb of soda and baking powder into a bowl and stir in the sultanas.
  4. pour sugar/malt mix onto the dry ingredients along with cold tea and beaten eggs and beat together until smooth.
  5. Pour into the prepared tins (see below). It is a rather pale and very runny mixture and easy to get between the tin and the liner.
  6. Bake in preheated oven for about 1 hour or until well risen and firm to the touch.
  7. Leave in tin for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack

Toad in the Hole & Onion Gravy – Darina Allen’s Ballymaloe Cookery Course

I think I’ve mentioned before that Darina Allen’s Ballymaloe Cookery Course is now my reference book for any standard recipes, it used to be Delia’s Complete Cookery Course which is still a useful book but Darina Allen seems to be more comprehensive for the sorts of things I cook. I used Darina’s basic yorkshire pudding recipe. I’m sure her recipe is the same as everyone else’s but her instructions were good. This is traditionally served with onion gravy which I decided I’d like to try. I’ve never made it before. I looked in a Jamie Oliver book and he had a recipe that sounded nice but was a bit elaborate and needed all red onions. Darina had a simple recipe which took quite a while to cook but was very little effort. It tasted lovely, and my boys had second helpings although wasn’t very gravy like. I realised why I hadn’t been able to find a photo of onion gravy – I was going to say it looks less than appetising in the photo, but frankly it looks disgusting in my photo, it didn’t look great on the plate but it wasn’t anything like as offputting as it looks in that photo. I suspect I needed to cook the onions for longer than I did.

Ingredients for Yorkshire Pudding

  • 110g/4oz plain flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 300ml/0.5 pt milk
  • 10g/0.5oz butter, melted
  • olive oil oil or pure beef dripping for greasing tins (I used duck fat as I had some in the fridge)

Instructions for Yorkshire Pudding

  1. Sieve the flour into a bowl, make a well in the middle and drop in the eggs
  2. Using a small whisk or wooden spoon, stir continuously, gradually drawing in flour from the sides adding half the milk in a steady stream at the same time. When all the flour has been mixed in whisk in the remainder of the milk and melted butter.
  3. Allow to stand for 1 hour.

Ingredients for Onion Gravy

  • 8 onions, about 900g/2lb weight thinly sliced
  • 2 tbsps water
  • 600ml/1pt beef stock

Instructions for Onion Gravy

  1. Put the sliced onions into a pan with the water and cook very slowly, stirring every now and then. The sugar from the onions will slowly caramelise and become brown and sweet tasting. This process can take up to an hour.
  2. Add the stock and simmer for a further 15-20 minutes.

Ingredients for Toad in the Hole

  • Yorkshire Pudding batter
  • 2-3 sausages per person (depends on size of sausage and appetite)

Instructions for Toad in the Hole

  1. Pre-heat oven 180C
  2. Put sausages onto heavy based non-stick baking tray.
  3. Cook in oven for 15minutes
  4. Add extra fat if necessary to ensure base of pan coated in fat.
  5. Place back in oven for 5 minutes to ensure fat hot
  6. Pur batter over sausages and ensure tray completely covered
  7. Place back in oven for 25-30 minutes until batter puffed up.