Category Archives: Recipe

Winning Recipe: Thrifty Smoked Haddock & Leek Tart

A quiche or a tart is quite often my go to when I’ve got a few ingredients which need using up. My husband is very fond of a bargain and often comes home with a bag full of heavily reduced items all of which need using asap. This thrifty Smoked Haddock & Leek Tart was created after one of his supermarket bargain hunting expeditions and was so delicious even my fussy 7 year old said it was yummy.

I call this a winning recipe, that’s because it won a pie competition on the Daisies & Pie blog – bagging me a night away with a friend in Birmingham!

Winning Recipe: Thrifty Smoked Haddock & Leek Tart

Thrifty Smoked Haddock & Leek Tart

Ingredients:

For the pastry –
225g plain flour
100g butter
2-3 tablespoons of cold water
Pinch of salt
– OR – (and no one will judge you) a sheet of ready rolled shortcrust pastry

For the filling –
1 large smoked haddock fillet (skin on)
1 pint of milk
10 peppercorns
1 bay leaf
2 leeks
1 knob of butter
2 heaped teaspoons of mild curry powder
2 medium eggs
100mls double cream
Salt & pepper

Method:
Make the pastry by rubbing the butter, flour and a pinch of salt together until it’s like breadcrumbs, then gradually add the cold water until it forms a firm dough. Bring the dough together on a floured surface and roll out until it’s about the thickness of a pound coin. Or just use a sheet of ready-made pastry – no one will judge you.

Grease a 20cm loose-bottomed tart tin and carefully lay in the pastry, taking care not to tear it. Roughly trim off the excess pastry, this can be tidied up properly later. Cover with a piece of greaseproof paper and top with baking beans or similar, you need to blind bake your pastry so you don’t get a soggy bottom. Pop into a pre-heated oven for 15 minutes at 200°. After 15 minutes, carefully lift off the greaseproof paper and (incredibly hot) baking beans, please be careful. Pop your pastry case back into the oven for a further 10 minutes. Then remove and set aside to cool.

Once cooled carefully trim the edges with a sharp knife. Doing it this way will give you a nice clean edge.

To make the filling put your milk, bay leaves and peppercorns into a saucepan. Lay in the smoked haddock fillet and slowly bring to the boil. Once the milk reaches boiling point turn the heat off and let it sit in the hot liquid for 10 minutes or so.

In the meantime, slice your leeks and cook them in the butter with a twist of salt and pepper. Once the leeks are soft and cooked through, stir in the curry powder and set aside.

Drain your haddock and discard the bay leaves and peppercorns. Carefully remove the skin (the skin holds it all together while it cooks so it doesn’t all fall apart, trust me it’s easier to keep the skin on until it’s cooked) and check the fish for bones. Try not to break the fish up too much while you do this.

To assemble the tart put a layer of leeks on the bottom, then the smoked haddock and then top with the rest of the leeks.

In a bowl whisk the eggs and cream together, season and carefully pour over the leeks and haddock. Bake in your pre-heated oven for 25-30 minutes at 200° keeping an eye on it. Your tart needs to be golden brown on top and cooked in the middle.

Serve with new potatoes and a salad. Can be eaten hot or cold. Delicious!

Winning Recipe: Thrifty Smoked Haddock & Leek Tart

Easy Recipe: Love Heart Jam Tarts

Jam tarts are most people’s introduction to baking. I remember standing on a stool in my Grandma’s kitchen watching her roll the pastry out, I’d help her cut out pastry rounds and I’d spoon jewel coloured jam into the tarts. Waiting for the jam tarts to cool once they’d come out of the oven was torture.

I still love jam tarts today. These days I usually bake them with my son; him stood on the stool, spooning jam and waiting impatiently. They’re one of the easiest things to bake and are ideal if you’re baking with kids or if you’re a novice wanting to take your first steps into baking.

Easy Recipe: Love Heart Jam Tarts

I’ve jazzed these simple tarts up for Valentine’s Day. The addition of a heart makes these jam tarts whimsically romantic. Of course your tarts will be perfectly delicious without the pastry heart, but if you can’t push the boat out a bit for Valentine’s Day, when can you?

Love Heart Jam Tarts

Ingredients (makes 12 -15 tarts)

4oz plain flour
2oz butter, cubed
A pinch of salt
2-3 tablespoons of cold water
-or- a packet of ready rolled shortcrust pastry

Half a jar of strawberry or raspberry jam
Milk or a beaten egg to brush your pastry with
Extra butter for greasing your baking tray

Method

Put the flour, salt and butter in a large mixing bowl. Using your fingers, rub the butter into the flour until it looks like breadcrumbs. Use a knife and stir in just enough cold water to bind the dough together. Do this gradually as you don’t want your pastry to be too wet. Once you’ve made the dough, cover the bowl and chill it in the fridge for 15 minutes or so before using.

Or if you’re using shop bought, ready rolled pastry, take it out of the fridge half an hour before you want to use it. 

Pre-heat your oven to gas mark 5 or 190°

Take your pastry and roll it out to the thickness of a pound coin. You can either roll it out on a floured surface, or between two pieces of baking parchment. I find the baking parchment method quicker and a lot less messy.

Grease your bun or muffin tin with butter and cut your pastry into rounds. Gently press each round into the tin and prick the bottom of each one with a fork. With the remainder of the pastry, cut out enough heart shapes to top each of your tarts.

Carefully put a spoon of jam in each tart. Do not over fill the tarts as the jam will bubble up and ruin your hard work.

On a separate baking sheet, place a piece of baking parchment and lay your heart shapes flat, brush them with a little milk or beaten egg and put your hearts and your tarts in the oven for 12-15 minutes.

Once cooked and your hearts are golden, remove from the oven and quickly but carefully place a heart on the top of each tart. Gently press it in place taking care not to touch the hot jam with your fingers. Leave to cool for a few minutes before removing the tarts from the tray and putting them on a wire rack to cool.

Easy Recipe: Love Heart Jam Tarts

As you can see, my jam tarts didn’t come our perfectly round this time; but a rustic, imperfect looking jam tart is still a delicious jam tart.

These jam tarts with a heart are a simple way to share the love this Valentine’s Day. Who will you bake with love for this year?

Easy Recipe: Love Heart Jam Tarts

Recipe: Fridge Blueberry Jam – perfect with pancakes!

With Shrove Tuesday on the horizon I’ve been busy in the kitchen making my annual pot of Fridge Blueberry Jam. I call it Fridge Blueberry Jam because it’s not quite a set jam and it’s not quite a fruit sauce or compote; it’s somewhere in between. It’s a simple recipe which doesn’t require any great skill, but the results are worth a bit of pot watching and stirring.

Recipe: Fridge Blueberry Jam - perfect with pancakes!

I only make this jam once a year, it’s really easy to throw together and I use frozen blueberries which make everything a little bit more economical. My recipe makes a big jar of jam, but I have to hide it because if I don’t it mysteriously disappears before Pancake Day. The Fridge Blueberry Jam is to my mind at least, the perfect accompaniment to pancakes. My favourite thing is to make American style blueberry pancakes and then spoon this runny, oozing jam over the top. Sometimes I might have some cream, sometimes I might have some syrup. Sometimes the blueberry jam is enough!

Fridge Blueberry Jam

Ingredients
500g blueberries (I used frozen but fresh is fine too)
250g preserving sugar
30mls water
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of half a lemon

Method
In a large pan ( a preserving one if you have one, don’t worry if not) over a medium heat; tip in all of your ingredients and stir until the sugar melts. Feel free to bash some of the blueberries about a bit with the back of a wooden spoon; this will help them release some juice.

Bring the blueberries up to a low rolling boil. It’s better to take this slow and steady than rush it and push it too far. At this stage put one or two clean jars in a low oven to sterilise them.

Keep an eye on your blueberry jam, keep stirring and after a while you should feel it start to thicken. Scoop any foamy scum off the top (this is just impurities from the fruit and the sugar, it’s not harmful at all) and discard.

Take a cold plate (if you put it in the fridge to chill, that’ll help) and put a dribble of the blueberry jam on. Leave it to cool and if it sets to the consistency you want, then your fridge jam is ready to be put in the jars. If not, keep stirring and testing the jam regularly.

Recipe: Fridge Blueberry Jam - perfect with pancakes!

When it’s ready, carefully remove your jars from the oven (they will be incredibly hot) and pour in your blueberry jam. We use a wide necked funnel for this, but filling a jug and pouring it into the jar works just as well. Work quickly and carefully and get the lids on your jars while everything is still hot.

Leave your jam to cool and them pop it in the fridge for when you need it. I’d take it out of the fridge an hour before you need it if you can. It just takes the chill off it.

Enjoy spooned over pancakes, or it’s excellent on crumpets!

If you enjoyed this fruity recipe, you might also like my recipe for Plum Jelly.

Recipe: Fridge Blueberry Jam - perfect with pancakes!

Recipe: Showstopping Turkish Delight Cake

Turkish Delight is one of those things people love or hate. I am firmly in the love camp. For me, it’s always had a hint of the exotic about it, those romantic Laurence of Arabia style adverts from the 80’s mean that this rose (or lemon) scented sweet is wonderfully evocative. What could be a more romantic tea-time treat than this showstopping Turkish Delight Cake?

I love Turkish Delight in all its forms; from the chocolate covered Fry’s version, to the sugar dusted boxes of these jellied fancies you get at Christmas. During my weekly shop I spotted a box of Turkish Delight thins from Morrison’s and I knew exactly what I’d do with them. My Turkish Delight Cake was born!

Recipe: Showstopping Turkish Delight Cake

It’s a stunning looking (and tasting) cake. It looks fancier and harder to bake than it really is. If you can bake a sponge cake and mix up some buttercream, then you’ve got all the skills needed to make this cake.

Showstopping Turkish Delight Cake

Ingredients:
8oz butter or margarine
8oz caster sugar
4 eggs (large)
8oz self raising flour
1.5 teaspoon baking powder
Zest of two lemons

For the buttercream:
250g icing sugar
250g butter (softened)
3 drops of Holy Llama Rose Extract Spice Drops
Red food colouring

To decorate:
Turkish Delight Thins (or similar)
Traditional Turkish Delight pieces

Method:

Pre-heat your oven to 180° and grease three 9 inch cake tins.

Cream your butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and using a hand mixer combine until the batter is smooth and airy.

Divide your cake batter equally between the three tins (I weigh my filled tins to make sure they’re roughly equal) and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until an inserted skewer comes out clean. Leave to stand for 5 minutes before turning on to a wire rack to cool.

While your sponge cakes are cooling, sift your icing sugar and beat together with the softened butter. Add your drops of rose extract, beating thoroughly and tasting as you go. You can always add more, but you can’t take it away!

Once you’re happy with the flavour, add a few drops of the red food colouring and mix well and add more colouring until you’re happy with the shade of pink you’ve got. Make sure your buttercream is well combined and smooth.

On a cake stand or cake board (or wherever your cake is going to sit) put a heaped teaspoon of butter cream in the middle and position your first sponge cake on top of that. This will anchor your cake in place and stop it sliding about.

Cover the top of that sponge layer with a thin spread of buttercream and put your second sponge on top of that. Repeat the process with the third sponge layer.

Now for the slightly time consuming bit; using a palette knife spread the rose buttercream around the sides of the cake. I found it easier to plaster on more buttercream than I needed and then smooth it off. It doesn’t have to be a perfect finish, but cover it as best you can, this is easier if your buttercream is soft. If if’s too hard, give it another beating.

Once the sides of the cake are covered, spread a thick-ish layer of buttercream on the top. I usually ripple the buttercream with the knife, but you can do a smooth finish if you’d prefer. Cut the Turkish Delight Thins in half into triangles and do the same with the Turkish Delight pieces, although they will look more like pyramids.

Arrange the Turkish Delight thins and pieces on top of the cake in whatever way you think looks good. I did haphazard rows of thins with the pieces dotted about.

Recipe: Showstopping Turkish Delight Cake

My Turkish Delight Cake is a real treat. It’s rich and sweet and absolutely packed with the traditional flavours of Turkish Delight; from the light lemon zested sponge, to the sweet rose scented buttercream – it’s a treat and a half for Turkish Delight fans!

If you enjoyed this recipe, you might also like my Romantic Rose Cupcakes.

Recipe: Showstopping Turkish Delight Cake

Recipe: Romantic Rose Cupcakes for Valentine’s Day

After 17 years of marriage, flamboyant romantic gestures on Valentine’s Day are a thing of the past. It’s not that we don’t do romance, it’s just that we’ve got different things to spend our money on. For many years now Valentine’s Day for us has been about homemade cards and smaller, more meaningful gifts. I usually bake something sweet to share with the boys, this year I’ve made some romantic rose cupcakes, and they’re sure to be a hit.

A little while ago, whilst browsing the reduced yellow stickered items in a deli, I found a bottle of Holy Llama Rose Extract Spice Drops. They were a bargain, so they ended up in my shopping basket and then in my baking cupboard at home. If you don’t have Holy Llama Rose Extract Spice Drops, substitute this with whatever rose extract you have.

Recipe: Romantic Rose Cupcakes for Valentine's Day

I’ve been a bit worried about trying out my Rose Extract. Rose is one of those flavours which if you use too much of, whatever you’ve made will end up tasting like Granny’s soap. If you go easy and add a little at a time, everything should turn out rosy.

Romantic Rose Cupcakes

Ingredients:
4oz butter or margarine
4oz caster sugar
2 eggs (large)
4oz self raising flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
5 drops of Holy Llama Rose Extract Spice Drops

For the buttercream:
250g icing sugar
250g butter (softened)
3 drops of Holy Llama Rose Extract Spice Drops
Red food colouring

Method:
Pre-heat your oven to 180° and put paper cases in a bun or a muffin tray.

Cream your butter and sugar in a large mixing bowl. Add the rest of the ingredients and using a hand mixer combine until the batter is smooth and airy. When you add your rose extract, taste the batter to check the levels of rose flavour. Remember, a fair amount of the rose flavour will bake out of the cupcakes, so bear this in mind. I opted for a not very rose flavoured sponge because I knew the buttercream would be where most of the flavour was.

Dollop a large dessert spoon of the cake batter in each case and bake in the oven for 20 minutes. Once cooked remove from the oven and leave cool on a rack.

While your cupcakes are cooling, sift your icing sugar and beat together with the softened butter. Add your drops of rose extract, beating thoroughly and tasting as you go. You can always add more, but you can’t take it away!

Once you’re happy with the flavour, add a few drops of the red food colouring and mix well and add more colouring until you’re happy with the shade of pink you’ve got. Make sure your buttercream is well combined and smooth.

Once your cupcakes are cool, put your rose flavoured buttercream in a piping bag with a star piping nozzle – I used a Wilton 2D nozzle. Starting in the middle of the cupcake, swirl your buttercream around until you’ve got a buttercream rose shape. If you’re not sure how to do it, watch this short video.

Recipe: Romantic Rose Cupcakes for Valentine's Day

Tip: Once you’ve finished decorating your rose cupcakes, you could pop them in the fridge for an hour so the buttercream firms up a little before serving.

These Romantic Rose Cupcakes are really pretty and very easy to bake. The icing is much easier that you’d think and you can also scrape off and re-do any which you’re not happy with. I’m no expert cake decorator, but with a little bit of practice and patience, you’ll be piping buttercream roses like a pro!

If you enjoyed this recipe, you might also like my tangy marmalade cupcakes.

Recipe: Romantic Rose Cupcakes for Valentine's Day

Casa Costello

Recipe: Easy, Cheaty Sausage Rolls

When it comes to throwing together a quick lunch or picnic; sandwiches and sausage rolls are always the order of the day. Being able to serve up a still warm, freshly baked batch of homemade sausage rolls will earn you the kind of domestic goddess style brownie points that a trip to Greggs simply cannot match.

I always keep the ingredients to make these sausage rolls in the freezer, so I can whip up a quick batch if I need to. If you can defrost the ingredients overnight before making your sausage rolls, then so much the better. These sausage rolls are really easy to put together. I admit that they are quite cheaty, but they are miles better than any shop bought sausage rolls.

Recipe: Easy, Cheaty Sausage Rolls

Easy, Cheaty Sausage Rolls

Ingredients:
1 packet of ready-made puff pastry
8 of your favourite sausages, or equivalent weight in sausage meat
100mls milk

Method:
Preheat your oven to 220° and grease a large baking sheet.

Unroll the puff pastry. You may need to use a rolling pin to roll it out a little thinner if that’s your preference. Cut the pastry with a knife into 8 equal parts which are long enough and wide enough to wrap around a sausage.

Squeeze the sausage meat out of the skin and place the sausage meat in the middle of each piece of pastry, discard the sausage skin.

With a brush, brush along one edge of the pastry and roll it into a sausage roll shape, using the moistened edge to seal it shut. It doesn’t really matter if the sausage meat is peeking out from the ends of the roll.

Once you have made all of your sausage rolls, score the top of each one. I used 3 or 4 slashes, and then brush them with milk.

Bake in the pre-heated oven for 20-25 minutes until golden brown. Leave to cool slightly before eating. I think they’re nicer warm, but they can be eaten cold and are perfect for a quick lunch or a picnic in the park.

If you’re catering for a party, you could cut your sausage rolls into smaller, bitesize pieces before baking. Make sure you reduce the cooking time slightly if you do this. You could also swap out the meat sausage for a good veggie sausage if you’re catering for vegetarians.

Recipe: Easy, Cheaty Sausage Rolls

Recipe: Crumbly Cranachan Shortbread with Whisky

Cranachan is a traditional Scottish pudding, usually made with whipped cream, whisky, honey and fresh raspberries, with toasted oatmeal soaked overnight in a little bit of whisky. Whilst my Cranachan Shortbread recipe isn’t faithful to the original, it is considerably inspired by this Caledonian classic.

This Cranachan Shortbread recipe is a beautifully short and crumbly whisky shortbread, dipped in chocolate and sprinkled with dried, crushed raspberries. It’s a biscuit and a half and a real Scottish inspired treat.

Recipe: Crumbly Cranachan Shortbread with Whisky

Dried raspberries are available, but hard to find. Unsuccessful, I ended up drying my own in a very low oven for many, many hours. I then crushed them in a pestle and mortar. I was pleasantly surprised with how they turned out, they didn’t smell especially powerful, but they certainly packed a flavour punch. They’d be great sprinkled on all kinds of cakes and desserts.

Cranachan Shortbread with whisky

Ingredients:
225g butter
130g caster sugar
350g plain flour
3 tablespoons of whisky
Caster sugar for sprinkling
100g milk chocolate
1 punnet of raspberries, dried

Recipe: Crumbly Cranachan Shortbread with Whisky

Method:
Pre-heat your oven to 180. You’ll need to have a couple of baking trays covered with greaseproof paper ready.

In a mixing bowl, thoroughly beat the butter and sugar together. Once fluffy, add the whisky and little by little add the plain flour. Mix with a wooden spoon as best you can. Try not to overwork it too much or the dough will go gluey.

I find the following method tidier and it stops you manhandling the dough too much. Once the shortbread dough is almost mixed, tip it out onto a large sheet of greaseproof paper; bring the dough together with your hands and then fold the paper in half with the mixture sandwiched in between.

With a rolling-pin, roll it out so it’s about 5mm thick and cut into rounds. I used a glass for this and carefully lifted each shortbread biscuit onto the baking tray. You should get around 18 shortbread biscuits out of the dough. Sprinkle a pinch of sugar over each round.

Bake in the pre-heated oven for 12-15 minutes. Keep an eye on the shortbread, they still need to be pale and not brown. Once they’re baked, remove from the oven and leave to cool on a rack.

Whilst the shortbread biscuits are cooling, melt the chocolate over a bain marie. Once melted, dip each shortbread into the chocolate and half coat it, put your biscuit back on the greaseproof paper and sprinkle the dried raspberries. Try to resist eating your shortbread until the chocolate has set.

Enjoy with a cup of tea or a wee dram if you’re so inclined! Sláinte!

Recipe: Crumbly Cranachan Shortbread with Whisky

If you’ve enjoyed this recipe, you might also like this Haggis, potato cake & poached egg stack.

Casa Costello

Sunshine Recipes: Traditional Greek Salad & Tzatziki

Last month I shared my recipe for Cretan Style Lamb Burger with Feta, it’s a really tasty and easy burger recipe for the summer months, and perfect for new season spring lamb. Alongside my lamb burger (and many, many other recipes) I often serve a traditional Greek Salad and a side of Tzatziki.

I tend to cook a lot of Mediterranean style food, it’s delicious, fairly healthy and my husband is half Armenian, so it’s good to recreate some of his favourites too. Greek salad is so easy to throw together and it’s one of our favourite salads, plus it tends to keep quite well – no wilted leftovers the next day!

Sunshine Recipes: Traditional Greek Salad & Tzatziki

These recipes are family favourites, created from memory every time. I’ve long since forgotten where the recipes originally game from but I know I’ve changed them slightly over time to match our taste buds.

Greek Salad Recipe

Ingredients (serves 4 as a side)
12 cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 small red onion, finely sliced
1/2 cucumber, halved and finely sliced
12 black olives, pitted
200g feta cheese, cubed
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Salt & pepper

Method:
The best thing you can do for this salad is find the ripest tomatoes. I have used cherry tomatoes, but if the ripest are something else, use the best tomatoes you can find.

Quarter your tomatoes, slice your cucumber and onion and cube your feta, put all of your ingredients into a serving dish, add the red wine vinegar, olive oil and seasoning and toss together before serving.

Taste and add more seasoning, herbs or vinegar if you feel it needs it.

Sunshine Recipes: Traditional Greek Salad & Tzatziki

Tzatziki Recipe

Ingredients:
250g Greek yoghurt (I use fat free)
1/2 cucumber, grated
1 clove of garlic, finely grated
1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
1/2 tablespoon of red wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon of sugar
Salt & pepper

Method:
Traditionally the skin and the seeds of the cucumber are removed for tzatziki, but I like the texture of it so I keep it in.

Grate your cucumber onto a clean tea-towel and sprinkle with some salt, leave it for ten minutes and then squeeze the excess water out.

Tip your cucumber into a bowl with your finely grated garlic, Greek yoghurt, olive oil and red wine vinegar and mix thoroughly. Taste the tzatziki and then add sugar, salt and pepper to taste.

It’s not usual to add sugar to tzatziki, but I think a little pinch gives it a slightly nicer flavour, but leave it out if you prefer.

Any leftovers of this Greek salad make a great lunch with some toasted pizza bread.

Sunshine Recipes: Traditional Greek Salad & Tzatziki

Recipe: Bifteki – Cretan Style Lamb Burger with Feta

They say that a Mediterranean diet is one of the healthiest ways of eating. It’s certainly a favourite of ours and in the summer months especially we love throwing together a salad, cranking up the barbecue and eating al fresco. The grey skies of Manchester are sadly no match for dining under the Cretan sun, but what is?

Thomas Cook Airlines have asked me to share my favourite holiday inspired recipe from anywhere around the world. I chose to share a lovely recipe inspired by the Greek Island of Crete – Bifteki –  a Cretan Style Lamb Burger with Feta.

In Crete their burgers are known as bifteki. They can be made from beef, pork or lamb and they’re usually stuffed with cheese – juicy Lucy style! Here’s my take on the traditional bifteki burger. It’s made with lamb and stuffed with feta, served with a fresh Greek salad and a generous helping of tzatziki. It’s so good!

Recipe: Bifteki - Cretan Style Lamb Burger with Feta

Cretan Style Lamb Burger with Feta

Ingredients (makes 4 burgers)
500g lamb mince
2 cloves of garlic, crushed or grated
1/2 a red onion, grated
75g stale breadcrumbs
An egg
1 tablespoon of fresh oregano, finely chopped
1 teaspoon of dried oregano
2 tablespoons of parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon of olive oil
1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar
200g feta cheese
Salt & pepper
4 burger buns

Method
Slice your feta cheese into 8 pieces, they’ll need to be flat rather than chunky. Put them to one side.

In a bowl tip all of the remaining burger ingredients and knead together. A bifteki has a firmer texture than a normal style burger, so get your hands in and work the meat. Once it is all combined, cover and put the mixture in the fridge for half an hour.

Divide the lamb into four equal parts and taking a slice of the feta, mould the lamb around it so the cheese is encased. Do this with all of your four burgers. Grill your burgers on the barbecue until cooked through.

Alternatively if you are cooking them in the oven, pre-heat your oven to 200°c and cook for ten minutes, then flip your burgers and cook for a further ten minutes. You might want to put your remaining feta slices on top of the burgers during the last few minutes in the oven.

Serve your lamb burger on a burger bun smeared with tzatziki and a pile of Greek salad. Delicious!

Recipe: Bifteki - Cretan Style Lamb Burger with Feta Copyright Jane Arschavir HodgePodgeDays

If you’re in need of some winter sun, you can find the best (and hottest) winter sun destinations from Thomas Cook Airlines.

Recipe: Bifteki - Cretan Style Lamb Burger with Feta

Recipe: Bifteki - Cretan Style Lamb Burger with Feta

Disclosure: I was invited to enter a recipe competition by Thomas Cook Airlines. I have been paid for my time. 

Recipe: Slow Cooker Vegetarian French Onion Soup

One of the things I miss as a vegetarian is the rich beefiness of French Onion Soup. It is in my opinion the king of soups and perfect for cold days when you’re craving a rich broth. I once lamented my French Onion Soup regrets to a wonderful chef who used to work at Greens, Simon Rimmer’s vegetarian restaurant in West Didsbury. The next day she’d whipped me up a batch of French Onion Soup which was entirely vegetarian. I was in awe.

She gave me a few top tips for making my own French Onion Soup at home, but she sadly passed away before I could share with her my triumphs. So my version of this recipe is for Shona, my old friend who I miss terribly.

Recipe: Slow Cooker Vegetarian French Onion Soup

This is vegetarian, but you could easily make it vegan by swapping the butter for a vegan spread or oil.

Slow Cooker Vegetarian French Onion Soup

Ingredients:
30g of butter
4 or 5 large white onions
3 cloves of garlic
2 tablespoons of plain flour
3 tablespoons of sherry
1 litre of vegetable stock made with Essential Cuisine liquid concentrate
2 tablespoons of mushroom ketchup
1 tablespoon of sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon of sugar
Half a tablespoon of tomato puree
2 bay leaves, fresh or dried
Salt & pepper
1 baguette
A handful of grated cheese, Gruyere is preferable but Cheddar is also fine.

Method:
Switch your slow cooker onto high and peel and slice your onions into rings. Add the butter and onions to the slow cooker and leave them to soften for an hour or so. You might prefer to do this stage in a frying pan, softening the onions gently. This would speed up the process if you can.

Once the onions are soft, add the crushed garlic and stir. Then add the plain flour, stir again and then add your sherry. Pour in a litre of vegetable stock and then add the mushroom ketchup, sherry vinegar, sugar, tomato puree, bay leaves and some salt and pepper. Cook on high for an hour or so, stirring occasionally.

Taste your soup and add more seasoning and sugar if it needs it. Turn your slow cooker down to low and it can happily sit for several hours. The longer you cook it, the richer and deeper the flavour.

When you’re ready to serve, slice your baguette up into rounds and grill on one side to your liking. Flip your sliced over and top with cheese, grill until it’s melted and bubbling. Ladle your soup into bowls and then float your cheesy baguette slice on top and enjoy.

Recipe: Slow Cooker Vegetarian French Onion Soup

French Onion Soup is such a delicious treat, rich and warming and all the better for being made with a good quality stock like Essential Cuisine. The range has been around for a long time and has won lots of awards for its ‘homemade’ taste.

There are four concentrated liquid stocks in the range – vegetable, beef, lamb and chicken. They’re bursting with flavour and just the thing for this soup which relies upon a good quality stock to bring it to life.

Recipe: Slow Cooker Vegetarian French Onion Soup

In collaboration with Essential Cuisine.