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Week 52: Christmas Desserts (not pudding)

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Since it is Christmas, there has been a lot of unhealthy (but very tasty) foods being eaten. We made (and ate) 3 different desserts, which I will describe here, and not a single Christmas Pudding in sight.

Waffles, cream and ganache
For breakfast on Christmas Day, we had waffles with fresh cream and ganache. This was accompanied by the traditional bucks fizz, only we made a red bucks fizz using sparkling rose and an orange and raspberry juice.

The next two desserts were larger which we shared when we went to visit friends and family.

Pear Syllabub. The pears were peeled and sliced and poached in a sweet dessert wine. The cake was a simple microwave sponge cake. The syllabub itself was creme fraiche, double cream, icing sugar, the wine from the poached pears, and the juice and zest of 1 lemon, all beaten together. We layered the sponge, pears and cream mixture in a bowl and put it in the fridge overnight.

The roulade recipe was from the Daily Mail 'Weekend' magazine but was similar to a recipe on Delia's website.

Week 51: Baked Squash with Orzo

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Orzo is a small pasta, roughly the same size and shape as a large grain of rice, which we first bought a few months ago when a local shop had some on special offer. It seems to be quite a fashionable pasta shape these days and has turned up in a few recipes, such as this one from the You Magazine.

The original recipe called for a round squash but we had a butternut so instead of slicing the top off, I cut in half but made sure there was a 'small' half to use as the lid and the larger half to fill with the cheese mixture.

The squash before it went in the oven

The cheese mixture was equal weights of creme fraiche and grated cheddar, with some nutmeg and white pepper mixed in. I put a few sage leaves on the filling, put the 'lid' on top, and baked at gas mark 5 for about 1½ hours.

Baked Squash

10 minutes before the end, I cooked the orzo. I scooped out the squash and filling (which wasn't easy because it was very hot) and served it with the orzo. The squash hadn't gone fully soft so I slightly mashed some of it with the spoon to give it a smoother texture. I chopped the sage leaves and stirred them in with the cheesy mixture when I served.

Week 50: Cheesy prawn gnocchi

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This weeks recipe was based on one from the Cottage Smallholder website. While the gnocchi were cooking, I washed and chopped a handful of watercress. After I drained the gnocchi, I put the creme fraiche in the pan and heated it through along with the watercress, a handful of grated cheese (because we had spare in the freezer), and a pinch of chilli flakes. I stirred the gnocchi into the sauce before pouring everything into a pan, ready to be grilled.

We had a packet of mozzarella which was nearly out of date so that got shredded and sprinkled on top before we added the breadcrumbs and parmesan. The pan then went under the grill to melt the cheese.

The meal was very quick to prepare and could easily be adapted to other ingredients, such as chicken instead of prawns, leek instead of the watercress (which was itself a replacement for the spinach in the original recipe).

Week 49: Fudge

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We have had a couple of goes at making fudge, following this recipe. Since we don't have a sugar thermometer, we have been using the 'soft ball' test, where you drop a small amount of the hot mixture into a bowl of water and check whether you get a soft ball of fudge (meaning it's ready), or a soft squishy mess (meaning it needs to cook for a bit longer).

We tried a few variations, adding maple syrup or ground+crystallised ginger. We might invest in a proper thermometer eventually but the recipe works well without one.

Week 48: Chicken chilli casserole with millet crust

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We followed the recipe from this website as closely as we could. We had all the ingredients apart from the chipotle in adobo sauce and celery. We used normal mature cheddar instead of monterey jack. The recipe suggests using a gluten free flour so since we were using millet, we used millet flour.

The cheesy millet topping was prepared by dry-frying 1 cupful of millet for about 5 minutes, then simmered in 3 cups of water until the millet is cooked and all the water has been absorbed. A cupful of grated cheddar was then stirred in.

The 'filling' was prepared by tossing chicken pieces in seasoned flour, then the chicken was fried in a small amount of oil. The chicken was removed and the vegetables (onion, pepper, celery) were fried, then the chilli and seasonings (garlic, herbs, cumin, lemon) were added. The remaining flour was added, along with a couple of cups of water, and the mixture was simmered until the sauce thickened.

To replace the celery, we decided to stick with the 'long and green' theme so added some courgette and leek. I had no idea what 'chipotle in adobo sauce' was so I looked it up. The smoked chillies are marinated in a spicy tomato sauce. I decided to use a pickled chilli which I chopped and mixed with a little tomato puree and some smoked paprika.

Our verdict: We liked it, especially the cheesy millet topping.

Week 47: Quinoa Laksa

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The recipe was based on a Vegetable and Quinoa Laksa recipe from the BBC Good Food website. We sliced and fried an onion, a pepper, some leek and courgette. We added some chicken too. The curry paste, milk and quinoa followed according to the recipe.

We now have 2 recipes using quinoa, both of which are worth trying again.

Week 46: Sushi

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We like sushi but had never made it ourselves until now. The strips of seaweed came from Japan but all the other ingredients were bought from a local supermarket.

To make sushi for 2, boil 150g of sushi rice until it becomes soft, then strain and rinse with cold water. When the rice has cooled, dissolve some sugar and a little salt in rice vinegar and mix into the rice. For the rolls we put a sheet of seaweed on some foil, put a thin layer of rice on the seaweed followed by a few strips of tuna, chicken, omelette or vegetable. We used the foil to help roll the seaweed.

Serve with soy sauce, wasabi or picked ginger.

Home made sushi

We don't have access to guaranteed fresh tuna to make sashimi-style sushi so we sliced and fried it first. Obviously the chicken was also cooked too. Different rolls had various combinations of vegetables, which included cucumber, yellow pepper and pickled chilli.

Home made sushi

Week 45: Onion Bhajis

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We bought some gram flour with the intention of trying some onion bhajis. We actually made gram flour pancakes first, basing it on a normal pancake batter recipe. We made a chicken korma filling by finely dicing and frying some vegetables then adding a packet of ready made curry (I know that's cheating but we usually buy that sort of thing if we see it cheap in the supermarket. They're handy to have in when you need to make something in a hurry).

We made the Onion Bhajis tonight. The batter was made using 2oz of gram flour, 2fl oz of water, a pinch of salt, a pinch of crushed chillies, a pinch of ground ginger, 2 crushed cloves of garlic, and a heaped teaspoon of curry powder. I chopped 2 small-ish onions, mixed them in the batter and shallow fried them, turning them over when they started to look cooked on one side.

Onion Bhajis, Naan bread, chicken and chick pea curry

The bhajis were served with a chicken and chick pea curry (based on this recipe but using tomatoes, red peppers and onions as the sauce base) , and home-made naan breads.

Week 44: Pumpkin Week

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On tuesday, someone in work gave me a spare pumpkin which was leftover from Halloween so this week I'll be trying various different pumpkin recipes.

Tuesday: Pumpkin and Sweet Potato Mash

Take equal weights of pumpkin and sweet potato. Dice and cook until soft (roast, boil or microwave). Mash and add seasoning (I added a few splashes of chilli sauce). We served it with Chicken and Chickpea Burgers, made using a similar recipe to the Turkey and Chickpea Burgers but without the herbs or cheese.

Thursday: Pumpkin and apple chutney

I followed the recipe from the BBC website, the only changes I made were to scale the quantities down slightly and to use a mixture of red and green tomatoes. The pumpkin I had was quite large and tough so it needed longer than the 45 minutes simmering time. I didn't get chance to bottle it tonight so I left the pan (lid on) overnight.

Friday: I brought the chutney back to the boil and bottled it. I was about to dice and freeze the remaining pumpkin but it had gone soft and mushy, which was a shame. I had used less than half of it.

Week 43: Sweet Potato, Tomato and Courgette bake

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This recipe came from an old issue of Slimming World magazine, from October 2008. We decided to follow it almost to the letter. The only changes we made were to use sweet potatoes instead of normal potatoes, ordinary tomatoes instead of plum tomatoes, grated cheddar instead of parmesan, and a mixture of fresh parsley and dried herbs instead of a handful of fresh herbs. The intention was to follow the recipe closely but now I list the substitutions, we did make more changes than I realised.


  • 2 sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced.
  • 2 tomatoes, sliced.
  • 1 small courgette, sliced.
  • 1 red onion, diced.
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped.
  • herbs.
  • salt and pepper.
  • A handful of grated cheese.
  • 2 medium eggs.
  • 150g quark.


Fry the onion and garlic until soft. Put the slices of sweet potato into a pan of boiling water, bring back to the boil then turn off the heat. Simmer for about 4 minutes then drain.

Beat the quark and eggs together, adding the onion, garlic, herbs, salt and pepper.

Layer half of the vegetables in an oven proof dish, then pour over half of the quark mixture. Place the rest of the vegetables on top, followed by the rest of the quark mixture. Finally sprinkle with the grated cheese.

Bake for about 30 minutes at gas mark 6.


The original recipe claimed it served 1 as a main course but we shared it as a side dish. Even then it was a large portion.

Some of the vegetables were still slightly firm so I next time I might cook the potatoes for slightly longer and possibly fry the courgette slices for a minute or two to soften those too.

Week 42: Green tomato risotto

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This was based on a recipe from the Cottage Smallholder website. It's a great way of using up unripe tomatoes. We made a few changes, such as a pinch of dried herbs and a sprig of fresh parsley to replace the 'savoury'.

Green tomato risotto with meatballs

The meatballs had turkey mince, grated cheese, breadcrumbs, finely diced chilli and seasoning.

Week 41: Tuna, Cheese and Leek Oat Bake

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Put 175g porridge oats, 200ml milk and 200ml of chicken stock in a pan and bring to a simmer. Add 100g of grated cheddar and stir in.

Thinly slice and fry 1 medium sized leek, 1 medium onion and 2 cloves of garlic. Stir into the cheesy porridge. Season if required. Mix in 1 tin of tuna (drained).

Pour into a non-stick baking tray and bake at gas mark 4 or 5 for about half an hour.

Tuna, Cheese and Leek Oat Bake

The recipe was made up as we went along but the end result was good. It was a bit sticky but adding some flour to the mix might help there. We were originally going to make a thick oat based stew but when the mixture became very thick we decided to bake it to see if it came out solid. As you can see from the photo, it did.

Week 40: Chicken and ratatouille pie with cheese and peanut pastry.

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This was inspired by a recipe in The Creative Vegetarian Cookbook. We made a few changes, such as adding chicken (which was in the fridge and needed eating) and using the vegetables we had available in the house.


For the pastry:

  • 60g butter
  • 120g self raising flour
  • 60g grated cheese
  • 60g ground up salted peanuts

For the filling:

  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 courgette
  • ½ leek
  • 3 medium tomatoes.
  • pinch of chilli
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 tsp chopped parsley
  • 2 chicken breasts

For the sauce:

  • 40g plain flour
  • 40g butter
  • 300ml milk


  1. Mix the pastry ingredients together.
  2. Chop the chicken and vegetables and gently fry until the chicken is cooked and the vegetables have softened.
  3. To make the white sauce, make a roux using the butter and flour and slowly add the milk to make a thick sauce.
  4. Mix the filling and sauce together and pour into an oven-proof dish.
  5. Roll out the pastry and cover the filling. Brush with some beaten egg.
  6. Bake for 30 minutes at gas mark 5.

Chicken and ratatouille pie

Chicken and ratatouille pie

Week 39: Turkey and Chickpea Meatloaf

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  • 340g turkey mince

  • 1 medium onion

  • 2 cloves garlic

  • 400g tin of chickpeas, drained

  • 1 small egg

  • generous teaspoon of marmite

  • pinch of dried herbs

  • pinch of dried chilli

  • 100g diced mozzarella


Finely chop the onion and garlic, and fry until soft. Mash the chick peas (or use a food processor). Mix all the ingredients together, apart from the cheese.

Put half of the mixture in a small loaf tin, then scatter a layer of diced mozzarella, followed by the rest of the mixture. Bake in the middle of the oven, gas mark 6, for about an hour.

Turkey and Chickpea Meatloaf

Week 38: Sweet potato brownie

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This recipe was based on another from Channel 4 which contained turkish delight. As usual we adjusted the recipe according to what we had in our kitchen.

Yesterday I roasted 500g of sweet potatoes for around 1 hour at gas mark 5, until the insides had gone soft and the skins had gone crispy. I scraped the insides out of the skins and put them in a tub in the fridge until we were ready to start the recipe.

The new ingredients were as follows:

  • 500g sweet potato

  • 15 quail eggs (equivalent to 3 medium eggs)

  • 140g light brown sugar

  • 60g dark muscavado sugar

  • 175g dark chocolate

  • 25g ground almonds and 75g ground peanuts

  • 2 tablespoons millet flour

  • 70g fat reduced cocoa powder

  • 1 tsp bicarbonate of soda

  • 1 tbsp vanilla extract

  • no turkish delight

The method was the same as the channel 4 version but we stirred the mixture instead of folding in the ingredients because the mixture was a bit too dry to start with.

Sweet potato brownie