A classic sauce that I first learnt to make at college but I still occasionally make to use with steak. Although it is also good with pan fried pork or lamb chops or a chicken breast. It is fairly rich so you really don’t need much of it; a little goes a long way.
Makes about 275ml (10fl oz).
2 tbsp olive oil
25g (1oz) butter
1 shallot, finely chopped
150g (5oz) button mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
120ml (4fl oz) brandy
150ml (1/4 pint) white wine
150ml (1/4 pint) beef stock
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
good pinch sugar
150ml (1/4 pint) double cream
1 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
squeeze of fresh lemon juice
salt and freshly ground black pepper
To make the sauce, heat a pan and add one of the tablespoons of the oil and the butter, then swirl until the butter has melted and is foaming. Tip in the shallot and mushrooms and sauté for 2-3 minutes until tender. Pour over the brandy, then use a match or tilt up the pan to catch the flame. It will flare up for about 5-10 seconds and then subside when the alcohol flame burns off. Add white wine and simmer until reduced by half.
Stir the stock into the pan with the Worcestershire sauce, sugar and cream. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes or until thickened and reduced to a sauce consistency which will coat the back of a wooden spoon, stirring occasionally. Stir in the parsley and lemon juice. Season to taste and use immediately or allow to cool down completely and store in a bowl covered with clingfilm in the fridge for up to 2 days. Reheat gently in a pan when needed.
Sun-dried Tomato Pesto
Makes about 400ml (14fl oz)
175g (6oz) semi-sun-dried tomatoes,
8 large fresh basil leaves
2 garlic cloves, peeled
200ml (7fl oz) olive or rapeseed oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Place the semi-sun-dried tomatoes in a food processor or blender with the basil leaves and garlic and pulse to finely chop. Switch the
machine back on and slowly pour in the oil through the feeder tube until the pesto has emulsified. Transfer to a bowl with a spatula
and season to taste. This can be made up to 3–4 days in advance and kept covered with clingfilm in the fridge. Use as required.
Thai Beef Stir Fry with Fragrant Rice
2ozs/ 50g cashew nuts
1 teaspoons toasted sesame oil
2 tablespoons rapeseed oil
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1 teaspoon finely grated fresh root ginger
1 mild red chilli, seeded & thinly sliced
1lb/ 450g sirloin steak cut into thin strips
2ozs courgette, trimmed and cut into sticks
20zs carrot, peeled and cut into sticks
1 yellow and 1 red pepper, seeded and sliced
4ozs /100g baby corn halved
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon sweet chilli sauce
2-3 tablespoons chopped fresh corriander
salt & freshly ground black pepper
Heat a frying pan over a medium heat. Toast the cashew nuts for 4-5 minutes. tossing the pan occasionally to prevent them from burning. Tip into a bowl and set aside.
Meanwhile, heat a wok until it is very hot. Add the rapeseed oil and swirl up the sides. Add the garlic, ginger & chilli and cook for just 30 seconds. Add the sirloin and stir fry for 2-3 minutes until well sealed and lightly coloured. Add the courgette, peppers, carrots and babycorn and stir fry for another 4-5 minutes or until the vegetables are tender but still crunchy.
Add the reserved toasted cashew nuts to the wok with the soy sauce, sweet chilli sauce and corriander, then toss briefly to combine. Season to taste and sprinkle over the remaining teaspoon of sesame oil.
To serve, arrange the rice on warmed serving plates and then spoon the beef stir fry on top.
Pan Fried Mackerel with Mash and Tomato Stew
Nowadays you’ll often hear people on radio and television talking about ‘good fats’ and ‘bad fats’, and they urge you to eat more oily fish for your intake of ‘good fats’. Well let me tell you that mackerel is one of the best examples of a good oily fish. As well as this important health factor, mackerel is also great value for money and has a lovely meaty texture.
4 mackerel fillets
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 Red onion, diced
1 clove garlic, crushed
6 vine tomatoes, cut into halves
Dash red wine vinegar
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon tomato puree
21 bunches basil
75 g / 3 oz grated Parmesan
1 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
1 cloves garlic
100 ml rapeseed oil
First make the pesto sauce by putting the basil, Parmesan, pine nuts and garlic in a blender. Chop up well and add seasoning. Add the olive oil and blend again, keep in jar or a squeeze bottle in the fridge.
Heat 1 tbsp of oil in a saucepan and add the onion and garlic and cook gently for 1-2 minutes. Add the tomatoes, vinegar, sugar and tomato puree. Stir well and season to taste. Let this sauce cook slowly until the mixture dries out a little, about 5 minutes should do it.
For the fish, score the flesh of the mackerel 3 times on each side and cook skin side down. Turn over and cook for a further 2 more minutes on the pan or place in a hot oven 180°C / Gas 4.
Place mash potato in centre of plate and spoon some stewed tomatoes beside it. Place fish on the mash and drizzle with pesto.
Croque Monsieur with Carrot and Beetroot Salad
This is a sophisticated toasted ham sandwich- very popular in France. The cheesy topping is what makes this sandwich extra tasty. Served alongside a carrot and beetroot salad this dish is ideal for a casual lunch.
4-6 slices of cooked ham
80g butter, at room temperature
8 slices of white bread
2 tablesp. plain flour
150g good quality hard cheese, grated
A little nutmeg
2 teasp. Dijon style mustard
1 carrot, grated
1 small cooked beetroot, grated
4 cocktail gherkins, cut into thin strips
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
4 radishes, cut into thin strips
1 teaspoon toasted sesame seeds
3 dessertsp. olive oil
1 dessertsp. lemon juice
Cooking time: 15 mins
Preheat the grill to medium-high. Line the grill tray with foil. Put the butter in a saucepan over a medium-low heat to melt it. Brush one side of each slice of bread liberally with melted butter and put under the grill butter-side uppermost until golden and crisp, then set aside.
Stir the flour into the remaining butter to make a paste, cook for a minute, then gradually whisk in the milk, a little at a time, until smooth. Simmer for a few minutes, until thickened, then take off the heat and stir in 60g cheese until melted. Grate in a little nutmeg, stir and season lightly.
Spread the untoasted sides of four slices of bread with mustard, then put the ham on top, followed by the cheese, and pop under the grill for a couple of minutes until the cheese has melted.
Top with the rest of the bread, with the toasted side uppermost, and push down, then put the sandwiches on to the grill tray and spoon on the bechamel sauce. Grill for about 5 minutes, until golden and bubbling. Serve immediately with the salad.
To make the salad: combine the carrot, beetroot, gherkins, onion and radishes in a bowl. In a separate bowl whisk together to olive oil, lemon juice and season with salt and black pepper. Stir this through the vegetables. Sprinkle over the toasted sesame seeds.
Ham Tacos with Tomato Salsa, Chunky Guacamole and Salad
Another great recipe for leftover ham- this is a twist on a family favourite. Pile your tacos high with guacamole, salsa, cheese and of course the ham to make these tacos nothing short of delicious.
400g leftover ham cut into strips
2 heads of baby gem lettuce, shredded
1 lime cut into 4 wedges
4 tablesp. grated cheese
8 taco shells
12 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
½ cucumber, cut into small cubes or a mixture of black and green olives, chopped
½ red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
½ red onion, finely chopped
1 tablesp. coriander leaves, chopped
1 tablesp. olive oil
Juice of ½ lime
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 ripe avocados, peeled and chopped
Juice of ½ lime
2 scallions, finely sliced
½ red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 tablesp. low fat natural yoghurt
Cooking time: 15 mins
To make the Tomato Salsa: Palace the tomatoes and cucumber in a bowl and toss with the rest of the ingredients. Taste for seasoning
To make the Chunky Guacamole: Then in another bowl mix the avocados, lime juice, scallions, chilli, garlic and yoghurt. Using a fork roughly mash everything together, season.
Heat the taco shells as per the packet instructions.
Bring everything to the table and let everyone help themselves.
If you don’t have taco shells handy, this also works great in a wrap (perfect for school lunches).