Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Roasted Pepper and Tomato Soup Recipe

On Monday I wrote about my busy morning of soup-making. After preparing my soups (and having some for lunch!) I first wrote about the celery and potato soup I made - the recipe for this can be found here:

Today I will continue by telling you about my recipe for the roasted pepper and tomato soup that I also made on Monday and enjoyed for my lunch yesterday. I only wanted to use up what I had in the house, so finished off the red and orange peppers I had left over following the BBQ my friends and I had at the weekend. I didn't actually have any fresh tomatoes, but had plenty of tins of plum tomatoes so I decided to try using those - and the soup turned out great. This soup was so straightforward to make but had lots of flavour!

Recipe - Roasted Pepper and Tomato Soup
Serves 4


Olive oil
1 red pepper
1 orange or yellow pepper
1 onion (I used a red onion)
2 x 400g tins of plum or chopped tomatoes
500ml chicken or vegetable stock
Salt and pepper for seasoning
Dollop of creme fraiche (optional)
A few roughly torn basil leaves (to garnish)

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C.
  • Chop the peppers into strips, ensuring the stalk and seeds have been removed first.
  • Peel and roughly chop the onion into chunks.
  • Place the onion and peppers into a roasting tin with a couple of glugs of olive oil and roast for 20-25 minutes. I love the smell of roasting veggies!
  • Once roasted, tip the vegetables into a large pan, add the 2 tins of tomatoes and 500ml of stock (I used chicken stock). Bring to the boil, then pop the lid on the pan and simmer for 20 minutes.
  • Blend the soup until completely smooth - I used a hand-held stick blender as I find this the easiest & most straightforward method. Season the soup to taste.
  • Serve with a little creme fraiche stirred through if desired, and a little torn basil to garnish.
I actually found this my favourite of the two soups, and have divided the leftovers (of both soups) into individual portions in tupperware boxes and frozen to re-heat in the microwave for future meals.

Lisa x

Monday, 27 May 2013

Celery and Potato Soup Recipe

My friends and I were determined to make the most of the sun this bank holiday and decided to throw a BBQ yesterday, while the sunshine lasted! A group of us all gathered at my friend Flo's house in sunny Surrey, each of us bringing some food which we had quickly negotiated in advance. I was in charge of bringing crisps, dips and veg sticks, (or the 'crudité' as my mum would say!).

I popped into Sainsbury's in the morning and bought some carrots, celery and red & orange peppers and took a big tupperware box full of veg as there were 18 mouths to feed. But I went a bit overboard with the amounts purchased and afterwards I realised I still had quite a lot left over... and when I have lots of veg I love to make soup! I'll have some for my lunch, then freeze the rest to eat in future (when I'm lazy and want something healthy but can't be bothered to prepare anything).

So I actually made a couple of batches of soup this morning with some of the leftover veg, the first being a celery and potato soup to use up the remainder of the celery. Very healthy and delicious!

Recipe - Celery and Potato Soup


Large knob of butter
1 leek, chopped
6 celery stalks, chopped
2 medium sized potatoes, peeled and chopped 
800ml chicken or vegetable stock (I used vegetable bouillon)
1 bay leaf
salt & pepper to season

  • Roughly chop the leek, celery and potatoes (they don't need to be perfect as they will be blended later). 
  • Melt the knob of butter in a large pan and add the chopped leek and celery. Cook on a medium heat until softened; about 5-10minutes.
  • Add the potatoes, stock and the bay leaf. Bring to the boil, and then reduce heat and simmer for 20-25 minutes. Keep the lid on the pan during this time.
  • Remember to remove the bay leaf before blending!
  • Remove the soup from the heat and blend it - I used a stick blender as I find this the most straightforward method. You can buy stick/hand blenders in Argos for about £10 and they are great for blending soups.
  • Reheat the soup for a few minutes if necessary and season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • I didn't have any croutons, and so garnished my soup with a few crispy bacon bits.
So this was the first soup I made and enjoyed for my lunch today. The second soup I cooked was a roasted pepper and tomato soup which I will be heating up for my lunch tomorrow! More on that to come...

Lisa x

Friday, 24 May 2013

Spinach, Leek and Feta Puff Pastry Tart Recipe

Earlier this week I made some asparagus and parmesan tarts (find the recipe here: and today I decided to use up the other half of my ready-rolled puff pastry to make another tart for my lunch - a spinach, leek and feta tart. Instead of following a recipe for this one, I used a bit of improvisation and (in my opinion!) the end result was actually very nice. I was a bit pressed for time, so instead of doing 2 separate tarts I made one big one with the remaining pastry and then cut it in half to share with my brother who is currently visiting. He's a bit of a fuss-pot with his veggies, so was surprised that he seemed so keen to try it, and he seemed to enjoy it as much as I did - shocker!

Recipe - Spinach, Leek and Feta Tarts
Serves 2


Olive oil 
150g frozen spinach
1 leek, thinly chopped
1 egg
Half a pack of ready-rolled puff pastry (I used half a pack of Sainsbury's 375g puff pastry)
60g feta, cut into cubes


  • Preheat the oven to 180°C.
  • Place the puff pastry onto a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Score a line into the pastry to make a thin border around the outside. 
  • Defrost the spinach and drain away any excess water. 
  • Pour a couple of glugs of olive oil into a non-stick frying pan. Add the leeks and spinach and cook on a medium heat until softened.
  • Remove the pan from the heat and mix in the beaten egg.
  • Pour the mixture onto the pastry and spread within the borders made previously.
  • Sprinkle over the cubes of feta.
  • Cook in the oven for 15-20 minutes, until the pastry has puffed up and is golden brown.
  • The finished result...

I then cut this in half and shared it with my brother, with a bit of extra salad on the side.

Lisa x

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Pippa Middleton's Spicy Bean-Stuffed Peppers

Despite all the negative reviews and critism Pippa Middleton has received for her book 'Celebrate' (described as 'a comprehensive seasonal guide to simple and creative entertaining'), when I saw it for sale in my local WHSmith for dirt cheap (around £5 if I remember correctly) I couldn't resist buying myself a copy - mostly out of curiosity.

In the introduction, Pippa writes that the book was designed to be a 'useful and practical journey into British-themed occasions and I hope it offers welcome inspiration and ideas', and actually I have been inspired by some of the ideas outlined in the book.  While I'll admit that a great chunk of the book is aimed at ideas for feeding and entertaining children (which is pretty irrelevant to me at this time of my life), many of the food and cocktail recipes have tempted me and I now feel motivated to do some entertaining this year! In fact, I'm currently in the process of planning an afternoon tea party for a friend's birthday using some of the ideas Pippa provides - including making mini fruit tarts, traditional scones and homemade cake stands!

But for now I want to tell you about a recipe I made last week. Admittedly, it's actually from the Autumn section of the book as an idea for food on Bonfire Night, but I don't care as I would eat this meal at any time of year!  The recipe is for stuffed peppers, filled with spicy beans. I'm trying to cut down on the amount of meat I eat, and this appealed to me as a great idea for a vegetarian meal for myself. I made this for my family for lunch - we had 2 pepper halves each and that was just the right portion size for me.

Recipe - Spicy Bean-Stuffed Peppers by Pippa Middleton
Serves 4 (or 8 as a side dish - one pepper half each)


4 large peppers (I used 2 red peppers, 1 orange pepper and 1 yellow pepper) 
1 tbsp olive oil 
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp tomato purée 
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1 celery stick, finely chopped
1 tin of red kidney beans in chilli sauce (or in water if you're not so keen on spicy food!)
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
small handful of chopped coriander
1 fresh red chilli, halved, deseeded & chopped (I didn't use this and it wasn't really missed!) 
salt & pepper to taste
50g Parmesan, grated (or swap for a vegetarian-friendly cheese if preferred)

  • Preheat the oven to 200°C.
  • Cut the peppers lengthways, remove the seeds & membrane.
  • Place peppers in a roasting tin, drizzle with a little olive oil and roast for 10-15 minutes.
  • Whilst the peppers are in the oven make the filling - Heat a tbsp of olive oil in a large non-stick frying pan. Add the chopped onions, garlic and cumin and cook until soft (about 5 minutes). Add the tomato purée, carrots and celery and fry for 2 minutes, then add the remaining ingredients (except the parmesan) and simmer for 15-20 minutes until the vegetables are soft and the juices have reduced.
  • Remove the peppers from the oven and fill each with the bean mixture. Cover them with foil and then pop them back in the oven for another 10-15 minutes.
  • Before serving sprinkle over some Parmesan (or other cheese).
  • I served my peppers with a pot of sour cream which went down well with the family!

   Et voilà...
Lisa x 

Monday, 20 May 2013

British Asparagus Season - Asparagus & Parmesan Tarts Recipe

It's currently the British asparagus season so I've been trying to make the most of it! I was first inspired whilst reading my April/May 2013 copy of 'Jamie' Magazine, which had a picture of a very tasty looking asparagus tart on the front and a feature called 'Spear of the Moment'.

One of the recipes was for a Asparagus and Pecorino tart which reminded me of a recipe I've had saved in my 'online recipe binder' on the BBC Good Food website for quite a long time - 'Asparagus and Parmesan Pastries'. I really fancied an asparagus tart for my lunch today, so decided to try this recipe over the Jamie Oliver one as I had all the ingredients needed already in my kitchen and it also looked a little more speedy & simple to make (I wasn't feeling particularly energetic this morning!)

I only needed to feed two people, so halved the recipe and it turned out well - they didn't take too long to prepare, and they were very straightforward to make. I'll definately be making them again.

Recipe: Asparagus and Parmesan Tarts
To serve 2


3 tbsp mascarpone
20g Parmesan, grated
a handful of finely chopped basil (I just roughly tore mine into small bits)
zest of ½ a small lemon
half a pack of ready-rolled puff pastry (I used Sainsbury's own 375g pack)
asparagus spears (I used 6 spears per tart)
½ tbsp olive oil

  • Heat the oven to 200°C. 
  • Mix the mascarpone and the grated parmesan, basil, lemon zest and season.
  • Cut the ready-rolled puff pastry in half to form the base of two tarts. Place on a baking tray lined with baking parchment. 
  • Score around the edges of each tart to make a thin border, then spread the mascarpone mixture within these borders.
  • Wash and trim the asparagus to the right length for each tart. Toss the spears in oil, then arrange on top of the puff pastry.
  • Bake the pastries for 20-25 minutes until golden.
  • Serve with salad if desired.

I adapted the original recipe to make 2 tarts - the recipe to serve 4 people can be found on the BBC Good Food website here: 

I recommend giving this recipe a try whilst British asparagus is still in season - until mid-June.

Lisa x

Tuesday, 14 May 2013

Jamie Oliver's Mince and Onions

Of all the Jamie Oliver recipe books I own (and I have many of them!), I think I love his Ministry of Food book the most. My friend (who refers to him as 'Saint Jamie'!) first introduced me to the book in 2010 and some of my all-time favourite dishes I make are from it. One of the recipes is for a 'Classic Mince and Onion Pie', which forms the basis of the meal I made for my family yesterday evening.

I actually had a whole load of new potatoes that needed finishing so instead of doing the pie, I decided to make the mince and onions and serve it with vegetables and the new potatoes that I roasted with garlic and rosemary. It worked out really well, and I suppose it was healthier than using a load of pastry to make it into a pie! So here is the Ministry of Food recipe I followed to make mince and onions...

Recipe: Jamie Oliver's Mince and Onions
Serves 4


olive oil
3 onions
2 carrots
2 sticks of celery
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves
500g beef mince
1 teaspoon English mustard
1 teaspoon Marmite
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
2 teaspoon flour, plus extra for dusting

beef stock cubes


1. Peel and roughly chop the onions, carrots and celery until fine (I whizzed mine in my Kenwoods mini-chopper, available here:
2. Remove rosemary leaves from their stalks and finely chop.
3. Add 2 glugs of olive oil to a large casserole-style pan and place on a high heat on the stove top. Add the chopped veggies, rosemary and the 2 bay leaves and cook until the vegetables are softened (remember to keep stirring whilst they cook to avoid burning/sticking to the pan)
4. Add the beef mince and cook until browned, before adding the mustard, Marmite, Worcestershire sauce and flour.
5. Make up 1 litre of beef stock using boiling water and the appropriate number of stock cubes (dependent on brand used) - I used 2 Knorr stock cubes. Add this to the pan and bring to the boil.
6. Turn down the heat and bring to a simmer for about an hour until the stock has reduced to form a lovely thick gravy that coats the mince. Jamie recommends keeping it covered whilst cooking, but I find that if I cover the mixture the gravy doesn't reduce and the mixture stays very liquidy. Therefore I like to leave it simmering uncovered, allowing for some of the liquid to evaporate to achieve a thicker consistency. Remember to give it a stir every so often.
7. Before serving remove the bay leaves and season with salt and pepper.

Whilst my mince was cooking I made my roasted new potatoes which was so simple. I halved each potato and popped them into a roasting pan with some olive oil, salt, pepper, rosemary and 1 garlic clove (minced with a garlic press). This went into the pre-heated oven at 200°C for about 45 minutes until the potatoes were golden. I completed the meal with some broccoli and peas.

Lisa x

Sunday, 12 May 2013

My Favourite Banana Muffin Recipe

For years I've owned a recipe book called 'Muffins - Fast and Fantastic' by Susan Reimer. I've had it so long I can't even remember where I bought it, but I'm glad I did - it's one of my favourite baking cookbooks and one of the only ones I own where I've tried pretty much all the recipes. Just flicking through the pages now, I think I've tried all but 2 - and the muffins I've made from this book have always turned out really tasty. The author is a Canadian cook who now lives in England, and so all the recipes have been adapted for the British kitchen (so no need for 'cup' measures!).

My favourite muffin recipes include double chocolate muffins (a classic!) and apple spiced muffins. But today I will share the latest tasty muffins I've made from the book - banana muffins. I also added some chopped walnuts to make them banana nut muffins, but this is an optional extra. I personally find that the walnuts add a lovely crunch to these moist muffins, plus they have great health benefits! The BBCGoodFood website reports:

'Their superior antioxidant content means walnuts are useful in the fight against cancer. They're also a good source of mono-unsaturated, heart-friendly fats, and studies show they help to lower the bad form of cholesterol (LDL). Finally, they're rich in omega-3, so they're a great alternative if you don't eat oily fish.'

In our household we always have bananas in the fruit bowl, and this is a great recipe for using up those bananas that are starting to turn black - well-ripened bananas provide the best flavour & texture.

Recipe - Banana Muffins / Banana Nut Muffins
Makes 11-12 muffins


280g plain flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
½ teaspoon salt
3 large ripe bananas
120g caster sugar
1 egg
85g margarine or butter, melted
60ml milk
60g walnuts, chopped (optional)


1. Preheat the oven to 190°C. Place 12 muffin cases into a muffin tin. 
2. In a bowl sift together the  dry ingredients (flour, baking powder, bicarbonate of soda and salt)
3. In another bowl mash the bananas with a potato masher. Add sugar, beaten egg, melted butter and milk. Stir well.
4. Pour the wet ingredients mixture into the dry ingredients. Stir until combined. Batter will be slightly lumpy, but no dry flour should be visible. If making banana nut muffins, add chopped walnuts at this point.
5. Fill muffin cases ¾ full and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until tops appear lightly browned and spring back when touched.


Post-baking (pre-eating!):

Another alternative is to substitute the chopped walnuts for 85g of plain or milk chocolate chips - for tasty banana choc chip muffins!

Lisa x

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