RECIPE: Basil Pesto

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If you want a quick, simple and tasty tea, then pasta served with green pesto is a great choice. Making your own pesto is simple and, in addition to serving with pasta dishes, you can use the pesto as an ingredient in many other recipes. Here is an easy recipe for basil pesto. 

Ingredients for Basil Pesto

  • 80g fresh basil
  • 50g pine nuts
  • 50g Parmesan cheese
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 150 ml olive oil

How to Make Basil Pesto

  1. Put a small pan over a medium heat on the pan and add the pine nuts.
  2. Cook for five minutes, shaking occasionally, to lightly toast the nuts. 
  3. Transfer the pine nuts to a food processor with all the other ingredients.
  4. Blitz to combine the ingredients.
  5. Your basil pesto is now ready to use with pasta or as an ingredient for another dish. 
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RECIPE: Leek and Potato Soup

leek soup

Soup is one of the easiest and cheapest soups to make and there are so many variations. One of my personal favourites is leek and potato soup. This creamy soup is ideal for any time of the year and can be used for a starter, a lunch or as a main meal when served with a generous chunk of fresh bread and butter. Here is an easy recipe for leek and potato soup that serves four to six people.

Ingredients for Leek and Potato Soup

  • 3 leeks, trimmed and sliced
  • 4 large white potatoes, peeled and diced
  • 1.2 litres/ 2 pints vegetable stock
  • 150 ml/ 5 fl. oz. double cream
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Chopped chives for serving

How to Make Leek and Potato Soup

  1. Heat the vegetable oil in a large saucepan over a medium heat.
  2. Add the leeks and potatoes and cook for five minutes or until they are beginning to soften.
  3. Add the vegetable stock and simmer for 20 minutes.
  4. Either use a hand blender to blend the mixture to the consistency of your choice or transfer to a food processor for blending before returning to the pan. 
  5. Put the soup on a low heat, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  6. Stir in most of the cream, retaining just a little for the top. 
  7. Cook for a further five minutes.
  8. Serve into soup bowls and decorate with a small swirl of cream and a sprinkle of chives. 

RECIPE: Cottage Pie

cot pie 6

British food is all about using simple ingredients from Britain to create tasty, filling dishes. The perfect example of a traditional British dish is cottage pie. This simple classic is a family favourite in homes across Britain as it is easy and cheap to make and hit with members of the family of all ages. If you are not familiar with a cottage pie, it consists of a base made with minced meat and rich gravy that is then topped with creamy mashed potatoes. This is usually served with seasonal vegetables. Here is an easy recipe for cottage pie for six people.

Ingredients for Cottage Pie

  • 800g minced beef
  • 1.5 kg potatoes
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 200g mushrooms, chopped
  • 25g butter
  • 50 ml milk
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 4 tbsp gravy granules
  • Salt and pepper

How to Make Cottage Pie

  1. Peel and chop the potatoes into large chunks and put into a large saucepan filled with water.
  2. Season the potatoes with a little salt and put the saucepan on a high heat on the hob for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are soft.
  3. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180C/ gas mark 4 and heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat.
  4. Add the minced beef to the pan and cook for 5-7 minutes until meat is beginning to brown. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking and make sure all the meat is browned.
  5. Add the chopped onions and mushrooms to the frying pan and cook for a further five minutes.
  6. Season the meat, onions, and mushrooms with salt and pepper.
  7. Pour enough boiling water over the meat to just cover it.
  8. Stir in the gravy granules and cook for ten minutes on a reduced heat.
  9. While the meat is cooking in the gravy, drain the potatoes and return to the pan.
  10. Put the saucepan on the hob over a low heat.
  11. Add the milk and butter and season with pepper. 
  12. Mash the potatoes thoroughly so there are no lumps. Using a fork to whisk the potatoes after mashing can help get rid of any remaining lumps. 
  13. Tip the mince and gravy mixture into a large ovenproof dish.
  14. Using a spoon, add the mashed potatoes to the top of the minced beef. Alternatively, use a piping bag to create a patterned topping.
  15. If you have spooned the mashed potatoes on, smooth them out using the back of a spoon and then run a fork along the top to create a pattern. This will help some parts to crisp a little in the oven.
  16. Transfer to the oven and cook for 15-minutes until the top is beginning to brown and the gravy is coming up the sides of the dish. 
  17. Serve with either seasonal vegetables or peas and pickles. 

 

RECIPE: Easy Tomato and Basil Pasta Sauce

tomato and basil sauce

Italian food is a favourite in my house and I enjoy cooking this cuisine because it consists of simple ingredients and flavours. Italian food is also usually really quick and easy to make and well-suited to those who are cooking on a budget. One of the easiest things to make is pasta in a tomato and basil sauce. This is something that you can also liven up by adding a vast range of ingredients to this basic dish. Making your own sauce for the pasta is simple and far more delicious than anything you can buy out of a jar. Here is an easy recipe for tomato and basil pasta sauce.

Ingredients for Tomato and Basil Pasta Sauce

  • 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • A handful of fresh basil, torn
  • Salt and pepper

How to Make Tomato and Basil Pasta Sauce

  1. Heat the oil in a pan over a medium heat.
  2. Add the crushed garlic and cook for one minute.
  3. Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, and sugar to the pan. 
  4. Increase the heat to bring the tomato sauce to the boil.
  5. Reduce the heat and simmer for five minutes.
  6. Add the torn basil and season with salt and black pepper.
  7. Cook for another two minutes and then stir into cooked, drained pasta.

 

RECIPE: Stuffed Mushrooms

stuffed mushrooms

Stuffed mushrooms is a dish that I sometimes make as a side dish with meat, as a starter, as the main course with salad and garlic bread, or in a large quantity to serve on my Boxing Day and Easter buffets. It is a budget and meat-free option that is quick and easy to make for people with a busy schedule. Everyone in my family loves this dish, so it is something I make on a regular basis for the kids. Here is an easy recipe for stuffed mushrooms that served six people for starters or four as a main course dish.

Ingredients for Stuffed Mushrooms

  • 1 kg button mushrooms
  • 2 slices of dry bread, crumbed (see tips)
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 5 cl brandy (about three capfuls)
  • 150 g soft cheese
  • 200g hard cheese, such as cheddar, grated
  • Salt and black pepper

How to Make Stuffed Mushrooms

  1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 4/ 180C.
  2. Remove the stalks from the mushrooms and place the mushroom tops in an ovenproof dish so the hollows left by the stalks are facing upwards.
  3. Finely chop approximately half of the mushroom stalks and add to a mixing bowl. 
  4. Add the soft cheese and the garlic to the mixing bowl and combine with a spoon. It is easier to combine the ingredients if you cook in a microwave on full heat for one minute as this softens the cheese.
  5. Add the breadcrumbs to the bowl along with the brandy and then season with salt and black pepper.
  6. Stir all the ingredients together.
  7. Add a heaped teaspoon of the mixture to each of the mushroom tops in the ovenproof dish.
  8. Sprinkle with the cheese and transfer to the oven.
  9. Cook for 15-20 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown.
  10. Serve with salad and garlic bread.

Tips

  • If you do not have any stale or dry bread, simply put two pieces of bread into the oven for a few minutes as this removes some of the moisture and makes the bread easier to crumb. 
  • If you prefer to eat garlic mushrooms with a sauce, then simply pour 150 ml of double cream over the mushrooms before adding to the oven. The cream will combine with the mushroom juices and also take on the flavour of the garlic, the seasoning, and the cheese as some of the mixture overflows from the mushroom tops. 

 

 

 

RECIPE: Mango Salsa

mango salsa

I love fruit but tend to use it as an ingredient rather than eating whole pieces of fruit. Mango is one of my favourites and I like to eat this in a mango salsa, which is a fruity, delicious, and zesty alternative to a traditional salsa. It is an amazingly simple recipe as there is no cooking involved. Here is an easy recipe for mango salsa. 

Ingredients for Mango Salsa

  • 2 mangos
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 1/2 red onion
  • 1 chilli
  • Juice of 1 lime
  • A small handful of fresh coriander
  • Salt

How to Make Mango Salsa

  1. Peel the mango and remove the stone before dicing into small pieces.
  2. Finely chop the onion.
  3. Deseed and finely chop the pepper and chilli.
  4. Add the mango, onion, pepper, and chilli in a mixing bowl and stir together.
  5. Pour over the lime juice and season with salt.
  6. Tear the coriander and sprinkle into the salsa before giving a final stir.

RECIPE: Celery and Apple Soup

celery soup

Soup is one of the easiest and cheapest meals to make and there are so many different varieties you can try. They are a great option for a light lunch and soup is something you can make in batches in advance so you have it ready to warm through when hunger strikes. This recipe for celery and apple soup is delicious and refreshing. Here is how to make celery and apple soup.

Ingredients for Celery and Apple Soup

  • 1 head of celery, chopped
  • 1 onion, sliced
  • 1 potato, peeled and diced
  • 1 cooking apple
  • 500ml vegetable stock
  • 250ml milk
  • 25g butter
  • Salt and pepper
  • Chopped chives

How to Make Celery and Apple Soup

  1. Heat the butter in a large pan over a medium heat.
  2. Add the potatoes, celery, and onion and cook for five minutes.
  3. Add the apple and the vegetable stock and turn up the heat to bring to the boil.
  4. Reduce the heat and simmer for 15 minutes.
  5. Either blend the ingredients using a hand blender or transfer to a food processor and blend before returning to the pan.
  6. Add the milk and stir through.
  7. Season with salt and pepper.
  8. Bring the soup back to the boil.
  9. Serve into soup bowls and sprinkle with chopped chives.