Pork meatballs

Enough for 4 people. I froze half of mine for a later meal.

  • 1 large slice of stale bread;Pork_meatballs
  • 1 large portobello mushroom;
  • 1 medium sized onion;
  • 1 clove garlic;
  • 1 small red chilli deseeded;
  • Small bunch of mixed herbs (eg parsley, rosemary & thyme);
  • 500g pork mince;
  • 1 tbsp tomato ketchup;
  • 3 ‘shakes’ of Worcester Sauce;
  • Black pepper;
  • 3 tsp tahini;
  • Oil;
  • Plain flour.

Finely chop the bread, mushroom, onion, garlic, chilli and herbs (I used my Cuisinart Mini-Processor).

Thoroughly mix the chopped ingredients with the pork in a large bowl. Mix in the ketchup, Worcester Sauce and black pepper.

In small bowl, gradually combine a small quantity of cold water with the tahini, until it becomes slightly runny. Thoroughly mix this into the pork mixture.

Using a plate of flour, take ping-pong ball sized piece of the mixture in your floured hands, and roll in the flour until ball shaped. Place on a flour tray. I made made 24 meatballs from this mixture.

Oil a baking sheet and place the balls on it, brushing or spraying them with more oil.

Bake at 200C (Gas Mark 6) for about 20 minutes, until they begin to brown.

I served twelve of my meatballs in a pasta bake, made with penne (3 ‘handfuls’ of dried penne (cooked)), 1 quantity of Tomato Sauce, topped with grated cheddar, and cooked in the oven for 20 minutes at 180C (Gas Mark 4). This will feed 2-3 people.


Spinach gnocchi


This recipe is based on the recipe for ‘Spinach and ricotta malfatti’ which appeared in the dumpling recipes in the Guardian’s Cook supplement on 22 February 2014. Enough for 2:

  • 500g fresh spinach, or 250g frozen, thawed
  • 1 large egg
  • 100g ricotta
  • 140g  plain flour (the recipe said 100g, but this left the mixture too wet), plus extra for rolling the gnocchi
  • 1/4 tsp grated nutmeg
  • 50g parmesan, grated
  • 30g unsalted butter melted
  • Black pepper

Cook the (fresh) spinach in a large pan with a lid for 5 minutes. Drain and leave until cool. Then squeeze out all the water, and chop very finely.

Beat the egg and the ricotta in a large bowl. Then mix in the flour, nutmeg, spinach and half the parmesan. Add black pepper to taste.

Form the mixture into balls the size of large marbles, by rolling small amounts of the mixture on a plate of flour. Chill for 30 minutes.

To cook, add the gnocchi, a dozen at a time, to a large pan of boiling water. Cook each batch for about 2 minutes after they have risen to the top. Lift them out with a slotted spoon and transfer them to the serving plates (in this case two), and cover to keep warm.

When all gnocchi are cooked, reheat in the microwave (1 minute on ‘high’ for each plate was sufficient).

Pour the butter over the gnocchi, sprinkle with parmesan and serve.

Meanwhile, melt the remaining butter in a small saucepan. Just before serving, spoon the butter over the cooked gnocchi, sprinkle with the remaining parmesan and serve at once.

Fish pie


Another recipe topped with mashed potato. I used equal amounts of cod, smoked haddock and salmon, having previously bought 250g of each in a 3 for £10 deal at Sainsburys, and made up three mixed ‘fish pie’ bags for the freezer.This would serve 2 or 3:

  • 250g mixed fish
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • Bechamel sauce made with 225ml of milk (infused with parsley, bay leaves, nutmeg, thyme, sliced onion, garlic and pepper corns) plus the liquid from cooking the fish, 25g butter and a heaped tbsp of flour (see Lasagne for details)
  • Small bunch of parsley (about six good sized stalks) chopped
  • 2 (largish) potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • 15g butter
  • freshly ground black pepper

Make the bechamel sauce. Mix in the chopped parsley.

Put the fish pieces in a microwaveable dish, squeeze over some lemon juice and black pepper. Cover and microwave on 750W for 2.45 minutes. Remove from the microwave, leave to stand for a minute, drain the liquid (and reserve) and separate the fish flakes using a knife and fork.

Mix the fish into the parsley sauce and pour into an ovenproof dish.

Make the mashed potato topping. Place the potatoes in a saucepan, cover with cold water, bring to the boil and simmer until tender. Drain, and return to the pan over a low heat to allow the potato to dry out. Mash with the butter, and season with pepper (and salt if required).

Cook in the oven (200C/Gas Mark 6) for about 25 minutes or until the topping is golden.


Breakfast pancakes with maple butter


I’ve created this recipe at the request of a family friend, currently living in LA (maybe she hasn’t been to enough ‘eat as much as you like’ breakfasts!). She asked me to blog about “some of those little pancakes with whipped butter and maple syrup”. If any more of you have requests please let me know and I’ll see what I can do.

I decided to combine the butter and the maple syrup into ‘whipped maple butter’.

This recipe will feed four at a pinch, but when I cooked them this morning, the two of us together ate about 2/3rds of the recipe (the rest will be frozen and revived in the microwave). I doubt that they will remain frozen very long, so I am just storing the remaining maple butter in the fridge.

  • 50g salted butter (cut into small cubes and slightly soften in the microwave (on ‘defrost’ for 45 seconds))
  • 100ml maple syrup
  • 150g plain flour
  • 2.5 tsp (generous) baking powder
  • 200g milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tbsp oil (and I also used extra oil to grease my griddle – it’s non-stick, but it’s old)

To make the butter, beat it well using an electric whisk. Carry on beating and gradually add the maple syrup until it’s fully incorporated into the butter (this is a bit like making mayonnaise, but much easier as it is less inclined to curdle). Transfer the whipped maple butter to a small dish (eg a ramekin dish).

Heat the griddle (at the maximum heat setting).

Sieve the flour and baking powder together into a mixing bowl (make sure the baking powder is well distributed). Beat the milk, egg and oil in a measuring jug. Pour almost all of the jug contents into the flour and beat together with an electric whisk (or you can use a hand blender in the large beaker (usually supplied with the hand blender) in which case you put all the ingredients into the beaker and press the button). The finished product should be a thick batter (rather like whipped cream (at the smooth stage) before it starts forming peaks). Add the remaining jug contents if necessary. Cook the pancakes as soon as possible as the baking powder is activated as soon as the liquid ingredients are added.

Using a table spoon, place rounds of batter on the hot griddle. Bubbles will start to appear – this is the time to flip the pancakes (using a palate knife or egg slice). They will be ready when both sides are a light golden golden colour (if the first side to be cooked looks pale then just flip it over once more).


Eat the hot pancakes (spread generously with the whipped maple butter) as soon as possible.


Mega-bakers fear problems with more salt reductions


The tasty looking loaf (right) is from: The Little Loaf

The UK’s mega-backers who produce all that tasteless spongy bread using the Chorleywood Method think that government imposed further salt cuts will pose problems for their manufacturing process.

Maybe it will, you need salt for added flavour (especially) if you are using cheap ingredients, and it seems that salt also serves to strengthen gluten (British wheat has less gluten than wheat produced in North America). However salt also decreases the fermentation activity of yeast, so less of it might make their bread-making even faster!

I have made very tasty bread containing nothing other than wholemeal/white flour (50/50), water, yeast, sugar and a bit of oil to ‘paint’ on the top of the loaf  to improve the crust. It tastes even better if you knead in a few seeds (sunflower, pumpkin and linseed), before leaving it to prove prior baking.

Homemade bread is much tastier a more satisfying that much of the bread you can buy in the shops. I’m not including ‘artisan bread’ in this ‘bad bread’ category, but then artisan bread if often quite expensive. You get what you pay for, but if you put in the same amount of effort yourself you can have inexpensive, tasty, satisfying bread.

In my opinion you don’t need a breadmaking machine. Yes, making decent bread is a long process, but it actually ties up very little of your time. You just need to be available to do the kneading and baking and the timing can be flexible depending on the ambient temperature during the proving process and the quantity of yeast used. There’s also very little more therapeutic than kneading dough!

I’ll be dealing with the bread-making process in a later post. Meanwhile here’s my daughter’s efforts with sourdough.