Category Archives: Recipe

Slow cooker minestrone soup

This hearty Italian soup is made with pasta and beans and finished with a generous sprinkling of parmesan.

Soup - minestrone

Serves 4, prep 30mins, cook at least 2 hours

  • 100g/3½oz smoked, dry-cured bacon lardons
  • 2 carrots, roughly chopped
  • 2 sticks celery, sliced
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 sprigs fresh rosemary, needles finely chopped
  • 1 tsp dried thyme
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 400g/14oz can chopped plum tomatoes
  • 1.2 litres/2 pints good-quality chicken stock
  • 400g/14oz can cannellini beans in water, rinsed and drained
  • 50g/1¾oz spaghetti, snapped into short lengths
  • 100g/3½ head baby leaf or spring greens, thickly shredded
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 25g/1oz parmesan, grated
  1. Put a large frying pan over a low heat, add the lardons and cook for 10 minutes until crisp, golden and the fat has run from the meat. Transfer onto a plate.
  2. Tip the carrots, celery and onion into the bacon fat and fry for two minutes before adding the garlic, herbs and tomato purée. Cook for one minute, then add the tomatoes and most of the stock. Bring to the boil. Carefully transfer the soup to a slow cooker, cover with the lid, then cook on high for four hours until the vegetables are tender.
  3. Stir the beans and pasta into the soup, adding the rest of the stock if it seems overly thick. Scatter the shredded greens over the top of the soup, then re-cover with the lid. Cook for 30 minutes until the pasta is tender. Stir in the greens, season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper, then serve in bowls with a drizzle of oil and plenty of parmesan.

Source: Jane Hornby

Crunchy Carrot and Seed Flapjacks

Great recovery food to follow exercise (carbs, fat and protein), but not so good for the dieters!   (183 kcal per serving)

Carrot and seed flapjacks IMG_3360 c

Prep time 10mins; cook 15mins; 20 servings.

  • 175g buttery-taste low-fat spread (or butter)
  • 150g demerara sugar
  • 3 tbsp golden syrup
  • 2 tbsp black treacle
  • 225g carrots, washed and coarsely grated
  • 350g porridge oats
  • 3 tbsp pumpkin seeds
  • 3 tbsp sunflower seeds

Pre-heat the oven to 200 C / 400 F / Gas 6.

In a large pan, melt the spread, sugar, syrup and treacle together, stirring until melted and smooth.

Remove from the heat and stir in the carrots, oats and seeds until thoroughly mixed.

Tip into a 30x20cm (12x8in) tin, press down well and bake in the centre of the oven for 15mins.

When lightly golden around the edges, remove from the oven.  While hot mark out 20 squares, then leave to cool.  When cold, remove from the tin and separate properly.

Store in an airtight container.  Suitable for freezing.


Veggie shepherd’s pie – a great winter warmer!

 IMG_3300 crp web

Serves 10, prep 30mins, cook 1hr 45mins.

  • 50g butter (or 50ml oil)
  • 2 onions, chopped
  • 4 carrots, diced
  • 1 head of celery, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 200g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp dried thyme
  • 500g pack dried lentils (Puy or green)
  • 100ml red wine (optional)
  • 1.7lt (3 pints) vegetable stock
  • 3tbsp tomato puree

For the topping

  • 2kg floury potatoes (e.g. king Edward)
  • 85g butter
  • 100 milk
  • 50g cheddar, grated

Heat the butter / oil in a pan over a medium heat.  Add the onions, carrots, celery and garlic, and gently fry for 15mins until the onions are soft and golden.  Turn up the heat, add the mushrooms, then cook for a further 4mins.  Pour  over the wine (if using) and stock – don’t season with salt at this stage.  Simmer for 40-50mins until the lentils are very soft.  Season to taste, remove from the heat and stir in the tomato puree.

Heat oven to 109C /170C fan / gas 5.  While the lentils are cooking, make the topping: Tip the potatoes into a pan of water and boil for approx. 15mins until tender.  Drain well, mash with the butter and milk, then season.

To assemble the shepherd’s pie, put the lentil mixture in a large ovenproof dish and top with the mash.  Scatter over the cheese and bake for 30mins until the topping is golden.

As a quicker alternative, use 3 tins of rinsed and drained green lentils – simmer them for just 10 mins after adding the stock.

Low calorie (450 kcal per serving); suitable for coeliacs; rich in iron, folate and fibre; suitable for freezing. 

Source: BBC GoodFood February 2013

Gluten-free baking

One in a hundred people suffers from a true allergy to dietary gluten, known as coeliac disease.  Many more find that they are intolerant to wheat and hence foods such as bread, doughs and cakes make them feel uncomfortable.

Following a gluten-free diet is the solution for both groups.  A wheat-free diet may be sufficient for coping with wheat intolerance but coeliacs will know that there are also other sources of gluten to be avoided.  Larger supermarkets stock ranges of ‘free from’ foods including bread, pasta, pizza, cakes, breakfast cereals, flours and ready made sauces.  When preparing meals from basic ingredients, it is not difficult to avoid wheat or gluten in many dishes, and to substitute other foods such as rice, potatoes and gluten-free oats.

Perhaps the two foods most missed by coeliacs and wheat avoiders are bread and cake.  I’ve tried to make basic gluten-free bread in my bread machine but without great success.  It seems that the dough needs to rise in a warm place in the conventional way and then be baked in an oven to get reasonable results.

I’ve had varying results with cakes.  Whilst a light Victoria sponge totally eludes me, rich fruit cakes and recipes using fresh fruit (such as banana) or grated vegetables (e.g. courgette) work well with gluten free flour such as Dove’s Farm.  These cakes do tend to dry out faster, however, than if they were made with wheat flour. 

If you fancy something very rich and chocolately, try the ultimate beetroot and chocolate cake.  This recipe will work with gluten free flour as the beetroot is very moist and, arguabley, you’ll be getting extra anto-oxidants with your portion of cake!

Recently, I’ve discovered a range of recipes which use some specific ingredients to counter the absence of gluten in producing moist and very tasty cakes.  Glycerine (liquid) keeps moisture in and xanthan gum (a form of powdered starch) binds the ingredients together to give a conventional cake texture.  Relatively small amounts of these ‘magic’ ingredients convert the usually dry gluten-free cake into a really moist delight, which is difficult to distinguish from a conventional wheat-based recipe.

The buttermilk breakfast muffin recipe is the first of these specifically gluten-free recipes to get the Russell-Price ‘tried and tested’ stamp of approval!