Mushroom, Caramelised Onion and Gruyère Tart

I love love love puff pastry.

It’s so rich, and buttery and yummy the way it falls into little flakes. It’s completely impossible to eat without getting a little bit (or a lot) messy and it’s totally rewarding and even more satisfying when you’ve made it yourself.

There are loads of advocates of the shop-bought puff. Chefs who say that making your own isn’t necessary, that it’s too much bother. True, it takes a truly laborious degree of rolling, and turning, and waiting and incorporating a scarily big block of butter. But it’s totally worth it at the end.


I use puff pastry mostly in savoury rather than sweet recipes. So here it’s been turned into a really simple but very delicious tart.  I’m not very good at rolling out my pastry into a perfect rectangle, so always end up with a lot of offcuts. I ended up making a second smaller tart, into which I poured the remaining egg from the eggwash. That worked so well I’ve incorporated it into the recipe below.


You can also make cheese straws, palmiers, or even jam tarts from the pastry odds-and-ends. All so scrummy, but how could it not be, with homemade puff pastry? 🙂

Mushroom, Caramelised Onion, and Gruyère Tart

  • 400g puff pastry
  • 25g butter
  • 1 red onion, sliced finely
  • 1 dsp brown sugar.
  • 2 large handfuls mixed mushrooms
  • 20g dried porcini mushrooms
  • 1/2 tbsp garlic paste
  • salt and pepper
  • 50g Gruyère cheese, finely grated
  • 1 egg, lightly beaten
  • fresh parsley, chopped

Put the porcini mushrooms in a bowl of water to soak. Roll out the puff pastry. Lay out onto a baking tray, and cut into a neat rectangle. Score a border at least 1 cm from the edge. Prick all over the middle with a fork, and put into the fridge to chill.

Preheat the oven to 200˚C.

Melt the butter in a pan and add the onion. Cook until soft. Add the brown sugar, and mix in well until the onions are thoroughly coated. Add the oyster mushrooms, and cook until soft and glossy. Add the garlic paste, salt and pepper, taste and adjust further if needed.

Dry the porcini mushrooms, and cut into small pieces, then mix together with the rest of the mushrooms.

Sprinkle a little cheese over the centre of the puff pastry rectangle, then spread the mushroom mixture up to the edges. Pop into the oven and bake for around 15 minutes until risen and puffy, then gently pour into the tart the remaining egg, and sprinkle over with the remaining cheese. Bake a further 10-15 minutes until the pastry is golden-brown, and the egg is just set and lightly golden. Sprinkle over with a little fresh parsley and serve.


Winter Roasted Medley

Do you ever go shopping and come away with a heap of things but not the item you originally went to buy?

Yup, today, that was me. I went to Sainsburys intending to buy a loaf of bread, and came out with two bags bulging with veg. So this is my effort to use some of it up – throw it in a tin into the oven, and hey presto.

photo 1

With roasting, getting crispy edges is imperative, which can be difficult unless you spread everything out with plenty of space. Ideally, two tins would be perfect, but my flat oven only has one shelf, so in the end, I had to sacrifice some of the crispness (the idea of cooking everything indivdually crossed my mind but I don’t have that much time to spend on a fairly simple recipe).

Many souls on the internet have been raving about the joys of roasted broccoli. It’s nice, but I prefer it sauteed as retains a little crunch and texture, and the colour of the broccoli itself stays brighter.

Still, this works very well as a meal in its own right, maybe bulked out with some cooked shredded meat for extra protein. I think this dish probably works best in its Christmassy incarnation – as it is the perfect, perfect companion to a roasted hunk of meat.

photo 2-1

Winter Roasted Medley

  • 3 roasting potatoes, scrubbed and cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1/2 small butternut squash, peeled, de-seeded and cut into bite-size pieces
  • 1 small red onion, cut into wedges
  • handful of broccoli and cauliflower florets
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 200˚C. Parboil the potatoes in salted water until they are soft when you stab them with a fork. Drain throughly. In a roasting tin, toss the butternut squash with 1 tbsp oil, and roast for 15 minutes.Then add the onion, parboiled potatoes, broccoli and cauliflower, and toss together with another tbsp oil. Season well. Roast this for a further 25-30 minutes, tossing throughout until some of the edges brown and become lightly golden, and serve hot.

Roasted Vegetable Salad

It’s the perfect sort of healthy dish that bridges the gap between light summery food and comforting winter stodge. Roast up a tray of vegetables, and throw in a handful of fresh salady components. You can even roast a bit of meat together with your veg. Why not?

I used some homegrown courgettes which exuded water by the litre in the oven, so I had to keep taking the tin out and stand over the sink draining the excess water off. I read a tip on the internet that you can roast your vegetables sitting on a rack inside the roasting tin, so I’m tempted to try that next time so see if I can get a crisper finish.


Roasted Vegetable Salad

  • 2 small red onions, cut into wedges
  • 1/4 small butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cut into chunks
  • 2 colourful peppers, deseeded and cut into chunks
  • 1 small courgette, cut into chunks
  • 1/2 small aubergine, cut into chunks
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper
  • handful of fresh baby spinach
  • 5 cherry tomatoes

Preheat the oven to 220˚C. Toss the onions, butternut squash, peppers and courgette together in a large roasting tray with a drizzle of olive oil, and a generous seasoning of salt and pepper.  Roast for at least 30 minutes until softened, and starting to crisp. If eating immediately, toss the roasted veg with some fresh spinach leaves and some sliced cherry tomatoes. If saving for another day, then wait until the roasted veg is cold before amalgamating everything together.

Mix n Match Salad

Summer is the best time for salads, and I’ve been loving the simplest of them alongside cuts of roast meat, fishcakes and even solid slices of that English favourite – pork pie. The most important part of the salad is ensuring you use fresh, good quality tasty vegetables, and don’t forget the dressing! This salad is incredibly versatile because you can add almost anything you like to the mix, and it is guaranteed to taste fabulous.


Mix n Match Salad

You need:

  • 1-2 green leafy vegetables: baby spinach, lambs lettuce
  • 1 crunchy vegetable, shredded: beetroot, cucumber, carrot
  • 1 sweet addition: pomodorino tomatoes, melon
  • a serving of protein: cooked chicken, smoked mackerel,
  • a serving of carbohydrate: cooked baby potatoes, fresh crusty bread
  • a teaspoon of dressing

Toss all the ingredients together. Drizzle over the dressing and serve immediately.

See? Easy Peasy!

Saffron Risotto

Alternate title for this post: I MADE RISOTTO AND IT WORKED!

But that sounded a bit overexcited.

I love risotto, and it’s one of the dishes I always end up ordering in restaurants. I love the way the grains of rice clump together on your fork, and the smooth melting texture as it enters your mouth and clings to the palate. Yum.

Anyway, it was also one of the dishes I tried multiple times to make, and never succeeded. It was always crunchy and hard, and rather like eating raw rice – not pleasant at all. I couldn’t figure out what I’d been doing wrong at all – until I finally watched somebody else make it from scratch – and realised it had been staring me in the face all along. I simply hadn’t been cooking the rice enough. It’s really important in risotto to use hot stock, but I’d been lazy and not bothered.

Well, to finally have a gloopy (uncrunchy) risotto sitting invitingly on dishes waiting for Friday night supper is a joyous feeling.

Another note, risotto shouldn’t be quite as firm as it appears in the photo, but for some reason I was determined to mould them into mounds, and in retrospective shouldn’t have, because it is lovelier in its less solid form.


Saffron Risotto

Serves 3

  • A generous glug of olive oil
  • 2 shallots or 1 small onion, very finely chopped
  • 300g frozen/fresh prawns
  • small handful frozen peas
  • 300g risotto rice
  • salt and pepper
  • a glass of white wine
  • vegetable stock
  • 1 pinch of saffron strands
  • small bunch of finely chopped fresh basil
  • 1 tbsp butter

First add the olive oil to a pan, and heat up to a medium-high temperature. Sautee the shallots/onions until soft, then add the prawns and the frozen peas. Sautee a couple more minutes until cooked.

Then add the rice in one go, and sautee on a high heat, mixing well so it’s thoroughly coated in oil. You want to cook it properly at this point, or it stays horribly crunchy later on, and never gets creamy. Once you have cooked the hell out of the rice (but don’t overdo it), add the glass of wine, and enjoy the sizzle as it hits the pan. Add the saffron at this point and a sprinkling of salt.

Meanwhile you should have the stock bubbling away in a separate pan. It must be hot, but you can keep it at a gentle simmer. Add a ladleful to the risotto, and stir ferociously until the liquid is all gone, then keep repeating until the risotto rice is creamy, with just a little bit of bite left. At this point add the salt/pepper/fresh herbs. Then stir in the butter/grated parmesan and serve.

An Authentic Lasagne?

Trying to find genuine Italian dishes is like trying to catch fish with your bare hands. Slippery. Especially when you live in a country full of faux-Italian dishes, each vying with one another in their claims of genuine authenticity.

Lasagne is a case in point. It is found in supermarkets, school dinners, cafes and on restaurant menus absolutely everywhere.  It is a bastion of home-cooking. But what is the real deal supposed to be like?

Bah, I normally decry, and cook whatever suits my tastebuds best. But what if you’re cooking for a bona fide Italian? What do you do then? Throw the plateful of minced slop in front of them and see that look of barely-hidden horror in their eyes? No sirree.

So I abandoned my usual recipe, and decided to explore. Felicity Cloake has a recipe for her perfect lasagne in her “How to make perfect…” series. However, her rather dry looking result, coupled with the liberal use of hard-to-obtain ingredients meant that was out of the question. In the end, I made the lasagne recipe I got off BBC Food. The chef certainly had an Italian sounding name. Would that be a mark of true authenticity?

Well, I made a version as close to the recipe from BBC Food as I could. It was ok, crammed full of mozzarella and parmesan; I felt as though there was cheese coming out of my eyeballs. So I streamlined it down. I put a layer of bechamel between each pasta sheet instead of cheese. I replaced most of the meat in the ragu with lentils. And I saved a little parmesan and mozzarella for the very top, where it melted to form a lovely golden cheesy topping. And hey presto, it was delicious. And then, authenticity no longer mattered anymore.


  • olive oil
  • 2 onions
  • 2 carrots
  • 4 sticks of celery
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • handful of dried herbs
  • 500g lean mince
  • 400g cooked lentils, drained
  • a squirt of concentrated tomato puree
  • 800g chopped tomatoes
  • 400ml red wine
  • 450ml stock
  • butter
  • 2 dsp plain flour
  • milk
  • bay leaf
  • a pinch of grated nutmeg
  • fresh lasagne sheets
  • handful of mature cheddar, grated

Finely chop the onion, carrots, celery and garlic. Heat up a splash of oil in a big pan, and gently fry everything in the pan until soft. Throw in a sprinkling of rosemary.

Mix in the mince until almost completely cooked, then add the lentils.Bubble away until most of the liquid is gone. Then pour in the wine and cook it until the wine has evaporated. Stir in the chopped tomatoes, concentrated tomato puree, and the stock. Cook this gently on a simmer for 2 hours until most of the liquid is gone.

Make the bechamel by heating a small container of milk in a saucepan with a bay leaf until  boiling. Fish out the bay leaf and set the milk aside. In the saucepan melt a knob of butter, and whisk in 2 heaped spoonfuls of flour. Gently whisk in the milk little by little until you’ve got yourself a nice white sauce, and add the grated nutmeg. Pour a little sauce onto the bottom of an ovenproof dish. Cover with layers of fresh lasagne sheets. Then spoon a thin layer of ragu over this, followed by a layer of pasta sheets, then a layer of bechamel, then a layer of pasta sheets. Keep going until all the ragu is used up. You should have quite a lot of pasta layers. I had at least 4. For the final layer of pasta, cover the top with bechamel, sprinkle with grated cheese, and stick in the oven at 200˚C for 30 minutes until the top is golden and bubbling. Let it cool slightly, and cut into pieces.

For vegetarian friends I make the lasagne in exactly the same way, but increase the quantity of carrot, celery and lentils. You could use any hard cheese as long as it isn’t made with rennet. It’s just as delicious.


Omletteenies = mini omelettes, geddit?


I saw this recipe on the Blogilates website at the weekend, and they looked so good I just had to make them on Monday. They’re going to form my breakfasts for the rest of the week.

So easy and delicious!!

I adapted the recipe from the Blogilates recipe a little using the ingredients I had around, and also reducing the amount so I made 12 instead of 24.

Omletteenies (adapted from Blogilates)

Makes 12

  • 1 whole egg plus 1 and 1/4 cup egg whites (equivalent to 10 egg whites)
  • a handful of finely chopped up cherry tomatoes, avocado, baby spinach leaves, and a spring onion stalk

Preheat the oven to 200˚C. Line a bun tin with fairy cake cases. Whisk the egg and egg whites together. Pour a little egg just to cover the base of each case. Mix the veggies together, and put a spoonful into each case on top of the egg. Pour the rest of the egg on top of the veggies in each case, and pop into the oven until they are cooked through.