Friday, 28 August 2015

Linguine with Fresh Tomato and Mozzarella Sauce

Using fresh rather than cooked tomatoes brings a lightness to a pasta dish, which seems appropriate in these dying days of summer. The freshness of the tomatoes and torn basil, accompanied by some serious olive oil and generosity of seasoning, makes this a tasty lunch or light supper.


  • 5-6 ripe tomatoes
  • 1/2 a clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • Good quality extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Handful of fresh basil leaves, torn
  • 100g Mozzarella cheese, cut into 1cm cubes
  • (Optional) 100g bacon lardons
  • 300g dried linguine
Serves 3 - 4


  • Peel the tomatoes by scoring a cross in the bottom of each tomato, then covering with boiling water. After 5 minutes, drain the water and replace with cold water. Peel the tomatoes, remove the seeds and chop finely (try to avoid too much liquid in the mixture by scraping out the seeds as much as you can). Place the chopped tomatoes into a bowl
  • Add 2 - 3 good slugs of good quality extra virgin olive oil to the tomatoes, then add the garlic and season well with salt and pepper. Stir to combine, then leave the flavours to mix for at least 30 minutes
  • Cook 300g of dried linguine in well-salted, boiling water according to the instructions on the packet.
  • (Optional) In the meantime, add a tablespoon of oil to a frying pan, heat until moderately hot and fry the bacon lardons until crispy and golden, then drain on kitchen paper and keep warm in a low oven
  • Drain the linguine when cooked and set to one side. Add the tomato mixture to the warm pan and heat through gently for 2-3 minutes. Add the linguine to the pan and mix well to combine
  • Transfer the linguine in warmed dishes. Top each dish with cubes of mozzarella, bacon lardons (optional) and torn basil leaves. Serve immediately

Linguine with Fresh Tomato and Mozzarella Sauce

(including crispy bacon lardons)

Thursday, 27 August 2015

Jam Tarts

I wondered whether or not to write up a post for something as humble and simple as a jam tart but we made the jam and we made the pastry, so I thought it was worth sharing. Of course jam tarts can be made with ready-made pastry and jam and to be honest, I don't think my children would have noticed any difference! However, as an exercise in family harmony, this worked well.

The children loved picking the strawberries (we went to Bellis Brothers in Wrexham), so much so that I ended up spending many of the following evenings frantically washing, hulling, chopping and freezing (for smoothies) and making copious vats of jam. I was instructed to make "enough to last us until next summer, Mummy!". At the rate they hoover up jam, I'm not sure that's been possible!

The one batch of jam that my husband made didn't set properly, and I found that this was perfect for jam tarts, also for drizzling over yoghurts or adding to porridge or rice pudding.

I used the recipe for jam from the back of the Silver Spoon jam sugar packet, and adapted the recipe for the sweet tart pastry from the Good Housekeeping Cookery Book.


Strawberry Jam
  • 900g strawberries, washed
  • 1kg jam sugar (I used Silver Spoon and followed the recipe on the back of the packet)
  • A knob of butter
Makes approx. 1.5kg jam

  • 225g plain flour
  • A pinch of salt
  • 150g fridge-cold butter, cut into pieces
  • 2 tbsp caster sugar
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 3 tbsp cold water
Makes approx. 15 jam tarts


To make the jam:
  • Wash and sterilise 6 jam jars and their lids by placing them into an oven at Gas Mark 3 (170 degrees C) for 20 minutes. Leave for 10 minutes, then they are ready to be filled
  • Hull the strawberries, and blend to a puree (I used a stick blender), or mash with a potato masher
  • Place the strawberries into a heavy-based saucepan and add the entire packet of jam sugar
  • Begin to heat the mixture gently, stirring continuously with a wooden spoon until the sugar is dissolved completely
  • Add a knob of butter and increase the heat, continuing to stir the mixture, until the jam reaches a rolling boil, the bubbles rise and cannot be stirred down with a spoon
  • Start timing and boil for 4 minutes only, whilst continuing to stir (the steam gets very hot so be careful)
  • Remove from the heat, then pour or ladle into the sterilised jars. Screw the lids on tightly and leave overnight to cool completely.

To make the pastry:
  • Sift the flour and salt into a food processor, then add the cubed butter. Switch the food processor on, and run until the mixture resembles fine breadcrumbs. Add the sugar and pulse to mix
  • Tip the pastry mixture into a large bowl
  • Mix the egg yolk with 3 tbsp cold water, then add to the dry ingredients and mix with a round-bladed knife to a dough
  • Knead gently until just smooth. Wrap the pastry in clingfilm them leave to rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.
  • If you find that the pastry is a little crumbly when you come to roll it out, pour a little sunflower or vegetable oil into the palms of your hands and rub together. knead the pastry again gently, to incorporate the oil into the dough

To make the jam tarts:
  • Remove the pastry from the fridge. Break off around 1/3 of the dough and place the rest under a damp towel. Lightly oil the surfaces of a cupcake tin
  • Lightly flour a surface and rolling pin, and roll out the pastry to a thickness of approx. 3-4mm
  • Using a crinkle cutter, radius approx. 80mm, cut rounds of pastry and press into the cupcake tin
  • Add 1-2 tsp of jam to each tart - do not overfill as the jam will boil up during baking
  • Bake the tarts in a preheated oven at 180 degrees fan for approx. 15-20 minutes, until the pastry is golden
  • Remove from the oven and leave to rest in the tin for 5 minutes, before turning out onto a wire rack to cool completely
Jam Tarts

Tuesday, 12 May 2015

Roast Asparagus with Sweet Pepper and Chorizo

I think asparagus is one of my favourite vegetables of all, and buy it as often as I can when it comes into season. We have wonderful local asparagus at Church Farm and Hawarden Estate.

Asparagus works well when it is cooked for a very small amount of time, so that it retains its crunch and vibrancy. I start to panic when I buy it, but don't get the chance to cook it so it sits in the fridge for a few days.

In this recipe, I've roasted it with wonderful sweet pointed peppers, complemented with the smokiness of chorizo sausage. The oil is released from the chorizo into the baking tray, and can be mopped up with potatoes, bread or pasta. The dish is incredibly easy to make, and would work well just on its own, or as a side with some grilled meat.



  • 250g asparagus
  • 1 sweet pointed red pepper
  • Approx. 10 thin slices of chorizo, sliced on the diagonal
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • Some really good quality extra virgin olive oil
Serve 2 as a side, or 1 greedy asparagus lover


  • Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees fan
  • Wash the asparagus and trim the woody bases
  • Cut around the stalk of the sweet pepper, then pull out the stalk and seeds. Slice into thin rounds, on the diagonal
  • Lay the asparagus in a baking tray. Scatter over the slices of pepper, then tuck the chorizo slices in between.
  • Season with salt and pepper and pour over 2-3 generous glugs of best quality extra virgin olive oil
Tuck the chorizo slices between the pepper and the asparagus

  • Put the baking dish into the oven and roast for 8-10 minutes, until the chorizo is beginning to crisp up and the peppers have charred and softened
  • Remove from the oven and serve immediately
Roast asparagus with sweet pepper and chorizo

Sunday, 3 May 2015

Garlic and Rosemary Roasted New Potatoes

This accompaniment is very easy with practically no effort involved! You can use any waxy potato.


  • 3-5 new potatoes per person
  • 3-4 cloves of garlic
  • 2-3 sprigs of rosemary, cut into 3cm lengths
  • 3-4 big glugs of olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
Serves 4-6



  • Pre-heat the oven to 190 degrees
  • Wash and scrub the potatoes, and cut the larger ones in half (mine tend to be 3-4 cm across)
  • Using the flat of a cleaver or a rolling pin, bash the cloves of garlic once to break, but leave in the skin
  • Bash the rosemary springs to bruise them slightly
  • Add the potatoes, garlic and rosemary to a roasting dish and season generously with salt and ground black pepper (it doesn't matter if the potatoes are not all in a single layer). Pour over 3-4 big glugs of olive oil and stir to mix.
  • Roast the potatoes for 20-25 minutes depending on the size. Stir them periodically to brown evenly
Halfway through cooking, turn the potatoes
  • When the potatoes are cooked through, remove from the heat and serve immediately
Garlic and Rosemary Roasted New Potatoes

Slow-Cooker Chick Peas with Tomato and Chorizo

These chick peas were supposed to be part of a vegetable curry, but like most grand plans on this training year, fell by the wayside. This dish is a "chuck it all in and turn it on" type of meal, save for soaking and boiling the chick peas first. If you can't be bothered with that, then just buy a couple of tins and reduce the amount of cooking time (I'm guessing a couple of hours in the slow cooker would be enough).

I bought a tiny slow cooker from Lakeland Limited with some birthday vouchers, which is the perfect size for one meal and which I cooked this dish in. It could easily be done on the hob or in the oven as an alternative.


  • A very large handful of dried chick peas (I think this was about 600-700g when reconstituted)
  • 10 - 12 slices of chorizo
  • 6 ripe tomatoes (they must be ripe!)
  • 1 tablespoon of tomato puree
  • 2 shallots
  • 3-4 big glugs of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp Knorr chicken powder (optional)
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 tsp dried mixed herbs (rosemary, oregano, thyme, marjoram)
  • Salt and pepper
  • Fresh basil leaves to garnish
Serves 4-6 as an accompaniment


  • Soak the chick peas over night, then drain, place in a pan and cover with water. Bring to a rolling boil and boil for 15 minutes
  • Peel the shallots and slice into thin rings
  • Score a cross in the bottom of each tomato and cover with boiling water, then leave for 5-10 minutes. Remove the tomatoes from the water, peel off the skin and dice the tomatoes
  • Add the chick peas, shallots, chorizo, mixed herbs, chicken powder, tomatoes, tomato puree, bay leaf, mixed herbs and 3 large glugs of olive oil to the slow cooker. Season generously with salt and ground black pepper and mix thoroughly
  • Switch the slow cooker onto high and cook for 4-5 hours, stirring occasionally

  • Remove from the heat, drizzle over some fresh olive oil, garnish with fresh basil leaves and serve immediately

Slow-Cooker Chick Peas with Tomato and Chorizo