Destination Mexico on The Spice Trail

mexican month

This month’s Spice Trail is a little bit different. Instead of celebrating an individual spice, we are celebrating a specific cuisine, and that cuisine is Mexican.

Mexican cookery is well known for its big flavours and exciting use of fresh, vibrant ingredients and bold spices like chilli, cumin, cinnamon, cloves and allspice. The basic staple ingredients of this South American country might be beans, corn and peppers but the food of Mexico is as complex and varied as any of the world’s greatest cuisines. From our old favourite chilli con carne and the classic mole sauce to sensational street foods and hearty, slow-cooked soups and stews.

If you love Mexican food as much as I do, then this month’s challenge is the challenge for you. I wait with eager anticipation to see what delights you bring to our Mexican table.

Win a Gran Luchito gift set

gran luchito gift set

If the sheer joy of sharing your passion for Mexican food wasn’t enough to entice you, I also have a brilliant prize for this month’s winner from the generous folk at Gran Luchito, who happen to know a thing or two about authentic Mexican food.

Gran Luchito offer a taste of Oaxaca rarely tasted outside of Mexico, a smoky deep flavour from the back country hills of the Mixes. Their range includes a smoked chilli paste, a smoked chilli mayo and a smoked chilli honey. One lucky winner, chosen by a guest judge from Gran Luchito, will receive a gift set containing samples of each of these delicious products.

How to enter The Spice Trail

spice trail badge square

  • Display the The Spice Trail badge (above and also available here) on your recipe post, and link back to this challenge post.
  • Up to three recipe links accepted per blogger, so long as they each one has a Mexican theme and features at least one spice.
  • Feel free to link up recipe posts from your archive, but please add the information about this challenge to the post and The Spice Trail badge.
  • Send your recipe URL to me at vanesther-at-reescommunications-dot-co-dot-uk, including your own email address and the title of your recipe or post. The closing date this month is Monday 28 April 2014.
  • If you tweet your post, please mention #TheSpiceTrail and me @BangerMashChat in your tweet and I’ll retweet each one I see.
  • As entries come in, links to these will be added to the bottom of this page.
  • At the end of the month a guest judge will choose a winning recipe and the winner this month will receive a gift set from Gran Luchito.
  • The winner will be announced in a monthly round-up of all the entries.
  • Entries from bloggers all around the world are accepted, but unfortunately the prize can only be shipped to a UK address.
  • All entries will be added to The Spice Trail Pinterest Board.

I’m really looking forward to seeing your Mexican dishes. Any questions, please tweet or email me.

And thanks to everyone who entered March’s ginger challenge – I’ll be posting the recipe round-up and winner announcement very soon.

April’s entries

  1. Chicken Villa-jitas from Spurs Cook
  2. Easy Homemade Nacho Chips from Drizzling Delicacies
  3. Bean Enchiladas from My Kitchen Odyssey
  4. Sweet Potato, Zucchini and Olive Quesadillas from Green Gourmet Giraffe
  5. Home Made Red Enchiladas Sauce with Roasted Tomatoes from Home Cook Food
  6. Soy Chorizo and Vegetables Enchiladas from Home Cook Food
  7. 15 Beans Vegetarian Chili from Home Cook Food
  8. Holy Mole! from The Fig Tree
  9. Partridge with Chilli and Chocolate Sauce from Pebble Soup
  10. Guacomole with a Twist for the Umpteenth Time from Nasifriet
  11. Cheater Tlacoyos with Nopales (Cactus) from The Taste Space
  12. Mexican Spiced Chocolate Orange Cake from Cakes From Kim
  13. Chilli con Carne from Julie’s Family Kitchen

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The Spice Trail: your favourite cinnamon recipes

Cinnamon Collage

Used by the Ancient Greeks and Egyptians and mentioned several times in the Bible, our love of cinnamon dates back many centuries. And judging by the dishes entered into December’s celebration of cinnamon in The Spice Trail, it is clear this spice is as popular as ever.

So let’s see what culinary delights we have waiting for us on The Spice Trail this month, starting with some very tempting savoury dishes…

lamb meatballs

Spicy(ish) Lamb Meatballs from Mamacook

These warming meatballs from Heidi at Mamacook feature cinnamon, coriander and paprika and get an extra spicy kick from a touch of harissa and are sure to be a big hit with all the family. Although Heidi does suggest you might want to up the harissa if there won’t be any little ones joining you for dinner.

cinnamon butternut squash and chicken stew

Cinnamon Butternut Squash and Chicken Stew from Recipes From a Pantry

When this stew is cooking, Bintu from Recipe from a Pantry says it inspires a follow-your-nose-to-the-smell-and-bury-your-face-in-it moment and I totally believe her. This looks like my kind of temple food; a dish that tastes good and does you good. And you just know, one bowlful won’t be enough.

leftover turkey chilli

Leftover Turkey Chilli from Recipes From a Pantry

Perfect for these post-Christmas days, this turkey chilli (a second entry from Bintu at Recipes From a Pantry) is low on calories, tasty, easy and cheap as chips, using leftovers and store cupboard staples like chickpeas and beans. A wonderfully healthy winter warmer as an antidote to all that festive gluttony.

Beef-Rogan-Josh

Low Calorie Rogan Josh from London Unattached

This tempting Rogan Josh from Fiona at London Unattached is another timely recipe for those looking to cut down on a few calories in the New Year. Coming in at only 350 calories a portion, this curry would be perfect for a 5:2 diet fast day. Low on calories it might be, but it’s definitely big on flavour.

tagine

Jacki’s Moroccan Lamb Tagine from Jacki

Next up is this beautiful lamb tagine from Jacki, with whom you’ll often find me chatting on Twitter about food and Aga cookery. Jacki doesn’t blog herself but I was more than happy to feature her one-pot-wonder of a recipe here on Bangers & Mash.

slow roast lamb

Slow Roast Lamb with Chicory & Winter Vegetables from Bangers & Mash

We have another dish bringing together that perfect partnership of lamb and cinnamon, this time in the form of an Ottolenghi-inspired warm salad with slow roast shoulder of lamb accompanied by roast chicory, swede, carrot and parsnip. The deliciously sweet and sour dressing is created from honey, lemon, cinnamon and pomegranate molasses for a surprisingly sunny winter salad.

And now let us turn our attention to your sweet cinnamon creations…

Parsnip Cake

Low Sugar Parsnip Cake from Mamacook

I adore parsnip cake and it’s a great way to use up the surplus I often find results from veg boxes at this time of year. This recipe from Heidi at Mamacook looks like the perfect one to try out on my children, particularly as it’s fairly low in the sugar stakes and an excellent source of fibre too. Not quite one of your five-a-day perhaps, but not far off…

apple pancakes

Wholemeal Apple Pancakes from Mamacook

We often make drop scones on the Aga for breakfast but I think next time we might be giving these apple pancakes from Mamacook a whirl instead. Apple and cinnamon is of course a match made in heaven, and drizzled with a little honey I reckon these pancakes would be just perfect for a lazy Sunday brunch.

speculoos shortbread

Speculoos Shortbread from Blue Kitchen Bakes

I was thrilled when Jen from Blue Kitchen Bakes’ email dropped into my inbox with her recipe for Speculoos Shortbread, including how to make your own Speculoos spice mix from scratch. I have been addicted to Speculoos since picking up a jar of confiture de speculoos in France last summer, and I’m very pleased to now be able to make my own spice mix. And I think the first thing I’ll be baking with it is a big batch of this scrummy shortbread.

christmas-cake-trifle

Christmas Trifle from How to Cook Good Food

Christmas just isn’t Christmas for me without a good trifle. And this trifle from Laura at How to Cook Good Food looks like a very good trifle indeed, packed full of gorgeous fruits and spices in the form of dates, apricots, caramel clementines, vanilla and cinnamon. It is also an excellent way to use up leftover Christmas cake.

butternut squash muffins

Butternut Squash Muffins from Recipes From a Pantry

These pretty muffins from Bintu at Recipes From a Pantry are an absolute breeze to bake, and made even easier because you don’t have to peel the squash. Result! A lovely baked treat for breakfast or at teatime and an ideal way to sneak a little vegetable matter into little people.

Spinach-Mince-Pies

Mince Pies with Spinach Pastry from Veggie Desserts

I have only recently discovered Kate’s blog, Veggie Desserts, and I absolutely love it. Kate freely admits she is obsessed with using vegetables in her desserts, and the veggies aren’t hidden either but instead stand out, loud and proud. As in this sweet little mince pies with their pastry cases in an intriguing shade of green. Yes, the pastry features spinach. Not something that would ever have occurred to me, but certainly something I will be trying very soon.

choc orange brownie

Chocolate Brownies with a Hint of Orange & Cinnamon from Cook Eat Write

Just how temptingly moist and delicious do these brownies from Stacey at Cook Eat Write look? I just want to reach into the screen and grab one. Or two. Oh, go on then, I’ll take the lot…

cinnamon-raisin-focaccia-squares

Cinnamon Raisin Focaccia from The Lass in the Apron

Focaccia is one of my favourite breads but I’ve never made a sweet version before, and this recipe from Alexandra aka The Lass in the Apron makes me want to bake some. Right now. Sugar and spice and all things nice – in a bread. Just heavenly, I say.

festive fruit pies

Festive Fruit Pies from Utterly Scrummy

If you’re not keen on traditional mince pies, these dainty fruit pies from Michelle at Utterly Scrummy are the pies for you. Filled with apples, pears, plums and cranberries and spiced with cinnamon and vanilla, these are a much lighter take on the traditional mince pie but look just as delicious.

Christmas-Decs

Chocolate Gingerbread Christmas Decorations from Eat Your Veg

These edible decorations from Louisa at Eat Your Veg are incredibly cute and would be such a fun activity to do with the kids in the run up to Christmas. And I know just how much my little ones would appreciate the addition of chocolate to the gingerbread too. Sounds scrummy!

cranberry cinnamon swiss roll

Cranberry & Cinnamon Swiss Roll from Blue Kitchen Bakes

Surely nothing sings out Christmas more than cranberries, and this Swiss roll from Jen at Blue Kitchen Bakes provides a lovely lighter alternative to all the chocolate and richness at this time of year. And the sponge also features more of Jen’s Speculoos spice mix – wonderful!

snowflake tear and share iced buns

Snowflake Tear and Share Iced Buns from Bangers & Mash

Another festive bake up next, this time from me. Here’s my very easy to make tear and share iced buns, flavoured with a touch of cinnamon and lemon, shaped into a simple snowflake design, and sprinkled lovingly with a little confectioner’s glitter. A big hit this Christmas with my two daughters.

gingerbread cupcakes

Gingerbread Cupcakes with Golden Syrup Cinnamon Cream Cheese Frosting from The More Than Occasional Baker

Ros at The More Than Occasional Baker brings us these cute gingerbread cupcakes next. Decorated with pretty little Christmas decorations and topped with a yummy cream cheese frosting flavoured with golden syrup and cinnamon, these cakes are guaranteed to be a big hit with little people.

christmas cupcakes

Christmas Cupcakes from Caroline Makes

Next up we have some more lovely Christmas cupcakes, this time from Caroline at Caroline Makes, which she baked for her company’s annual employees’ children party. The cakes are beautifully simple, flavoured with brown sugar and cinnamon and topped with a simple buttercream.

spiced plum and apple eton mess

Spiced Plum & Apple Eton Mess from Bangers & Mash

I made this festive version of an Eton Mess for our family gathering on Boxing Day and it got an all round thumbs up as an alternative to the traditional trifle I’d usually make. The stewed plum and apple is gently flavoured with cinnamon and star anise, and swirled into whipped cream along with crunchy-but-slightly-chewy chunks of meringue.

cinnamon and date cake

Cinnamon and Date Cake from The More Than Occasional Baker

Ros from The More Than Occasional Baker is back with more festive baking – this time a tasty cinnamon and date cake which is extremely simple to make but is guaranteed to impress your guests. The dates give the cake a scrumptious sweet stickiness which, according to Ros, most importantly “does not taste like dates”!

christmas cinnamon shortbread2

Christmas Cinnamon Shortbread from Caroline Makes

Another entry from Caroline at Caroline Makes who brings us a batch of her Christmas cinnamon shortbread. These would make a perfect edible Christmas gift, and are particularly suitable for diabetics as they are very low in sugar.

chocolate cinnamon rolls

Chocolate Cinnamon Rolls from Caroline Makes

Yet more sweet treats from Caroline at Caroline Makes as she shares her third entry – chocolate cinnamon rolls. These lovely sticky, chocolately rolls would make a wonderfully luxurious breakfast or why not try them for a delicious dessert?

chewy oatmeal cran raisin pecan cookies

Chewy Oatmeal Cran-Raisin Pecan Cookies from Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary

Next we have some irresistible gluten-free cookies from Elizabeth over at Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary. She baked these beauties for her dance teacher who happens to be gluten intolerant and can never usually eat the cakes brought in to share at her weekly ballroom dance class. They also proved very popular with Elizabeth’s youngest who kept stealing them off the rack while they were cooling. I can see why!

Stollen-traybake

Spiced Stollen Tray Bake from How to Cook Good Food

I’ve wanted to make stollen for ages now, and with this next entry I think I might have discovered the perfect recipe to try. This spiced stollen tray bake comes from Laura at How to Cook Good Food. It’s a fantastic last-minute festive bake, much lighter than the traditional Christmas cake, and filled with marzipan and spices it just has Christmas written all over it.

Orange Shortbread

Orange and Cinnamon White Chocolate Shortbread from Chocolate Log Blog

Next we have another festive shortbread recipe, this time from the very creative Choclette at Chocolate Log Blog. She flavours her shortbread with orange, cinnamon and white chocolate for a fabulously zingy, spicy Christmassy treat, although I don’t think I’ll be waiting until next Christmas to give this recipe a whirl.

Poached-Pears

Poached Pears with White Chocolate Cream from My Golden Pear

Doesn’t this dessert look just divine? I always think poached pears are a very sophisticated sort of pudding, and this entry from Angela at My Golden Pear certainly looks the height of sophistication in my eyes. The pears are poached in red wine, sugar, cinnamon and vanilla and served with a brandy snap tuile filled with white chocolate cream. Dreamy.

gingerbread-bramble-and-lemon-trifle

Gingerbread, Bramble & Lemon Trifle from Vohn’s Vittles

I really can’t wait to try this trifle recipe from Vohn at Vohn’s Vittles which has homemade gingerbread soaked in brandy at the base – what a marvellous idea. It also features layers of bramble jelly, lemon curd and lashings of whipped cream. This definitely sounds like my kind of trifle.

mulled cider

Mulled Cider from Bangers & Mash

Last up is my recipe for mulled cider, which includes chilli and black peppercorns for a spicy kick. I’m not all that keen on mulled wine but in recent years have developed a real fondness for mulled cider – must be due to having lived in the West Country so long!

And the winner is…

So there you have it – a brilliant collection of sensational cinnamon recipes – sweet, savoury and festive. Thank you all so much for sharing in this month’s Spice Trail. But as ever there can only be one winner. With such a high standard of entries this month it was a tough call, but December’s winner is…

Spinach-Mince-Pies

Kate from Veggie Desserts for her amazing Mince Pies with Spinach Pastry, which I’m sure you’ll agree were such an imaginative and original entry.

Kate wins an amazing Tasting for Two voucher from the good people at Buyagift.

TASTE-XL

With this tasting experience, Kate and her chosen companion will get to discover a whole world of new tastes, textures and exciting flavour combinations. From sweet or savoury, great British grub or international cuisine, there’s a great selection for her to choose from – including refined afternoon teas, olive oil tasting, sushi making, cookery classes, brewery tours and wine tasting experiences. I can’t wait to hear what you go for, Kate!

So congratulations once again to Kate, and thank you to everyone who took part in The Spice Trail this month. Watch this space for news of January’s challenge.

Happy new year everyone and here’s to a super tasty 2014!

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February’s Recipes for Life challenge: what can you do with sausages, onions and tomatoes?

Take part in the Recipes for Life food bloggers challenge for your chance to see your recipe featured in a new charity cookbook!

I am thrilled to be launching a new challenge for food bloggers called Recipes for Life.

Each month I’ll be calling for your tasty, wholesome and easy-to-cook recipes that revolve around just three main ingredients. The best of these recipes will be included in a new charity cookbook to be published by SWALLOW later this year.

Kicking off the challenge in February, our first three ingredients are: sausages, onions and tomatoes. What tasty dish could you rustle up with those?

SWALLOW is an incredible charity based just down the road from me in Somerset, supporting adults with learning disabilities to lead more independent lives. It runs a wide range of programmes for its members, empowering them with the skills and experiences to live their lives to the full, from therapeutic art courses and drama groups to domestic and work-based training.

As part of its Fit for Life programme, SWALLOW runs cookery courses, helping members learn to prepare simple, inexpensive and nutritious meals. SWALLOW is looking for new recipes for its members to cook on the course, and ultimately to include in its cookbook, that don’t require a lengthy list of ingredients and aren’t incredibly complicated to make.

And so we’re calling on the food blogging community to help us create an exciting collection of cheap and easy recipes, based on readily available, everyday ingredients.

For February we’re looking for recipes that focus on sausages, onions and tomatoes. The sausages can be meat or vegetarian, and the tomatoes can be either the fresh or tinned variety. Any other accompanying ingredients need to be the kind of basic items you’d find in any fridge or store cupboard, such as flour, pasta, rice, milk, eggs and so on. Nothing too fancy like artichoke hearts, preserved lemons or balsamic vinegar please!

Recipes for Life: how to enter

  1. Display the Recipes for Life badge (shown above and below) on your recipe post, and link back to this challenge post.
  2. You may enter as many recipe links as you like, so long as they are based on the three main ingredients selected for this month and accompanied only by basic store cupboard items.
  3. Send your recipe URL to me at vanesther-at-reescommunications-dot-co-dot-uk, including your own email address and the title of your recipe or post. The closing date this month is Thursday 28 February 2013.
  4. If you tweet your post, please mention #recipesforlife, @BangerMashChat and @SWALLOWcharity in your tweet and we will retweet everyone we see.
  5. Feel free to republish old recipe posts, but please add the information about this challenge and the Recipes for Life badge.
  6. As entries come in, links to these will be added to this page and at the end of the month there will be a round-up of all entries received.
  7. SWALLOW staff and members will choose their favourite recipe at the end of each month, and the winner will receive a small prize.
  8. A selection of recipes entered each month will be featured in the SWALLOW cookbook to be published later this year, helping the charity to raise much needed funds for its ongoing work.

Here are my easy sausage meatballs, based on a recipe in Nigellisima, to get the ball rolling…

Sausage meatballs

Serves 4

8 large pork sausages
2 tbsp oil (olive or vegetable)
1 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tsp dried oregano
100ml chicken stock
2 x 400g chopped tomatoes
1 bay leaf
salt and pepper to taste

Slit the skins of the sausages and squeeze out the meat. Roll the sausagemeat into cherry-tomato-sized balls.

Heat the oil in heavy casserole and fry the meatballs until golden. You may need to fry in batches, depending on the size of your dish. Remove all the meatballs from the casserole and fry the onion for about five minutes until soft and golden. Add the garlic and oregano and fry for another minute before returning the meatballs to the pan.

Pour in the stock and the tomatoes, throw in the bay leaf, and give it all a gentle stir. Bring it to a simmer and leave to cook uncovered for 20 minutes, until the sauce has thickened a little and the meatballs have cooked through. Taste and add some salt and pepper if needed.

Serve with rice or pasta.

I can’t wait to see what dishes you come up with for Recipes for Life. Any questions, please tweet or email me.

February’s entries:

  1. Sausage Meat Sauce for Pasta Bakes or Sloppy Joes from Fuss Free Flavours
  2. Sausage Lasagne from Under The Blue Gum Tree
  3. Slow Cooker Turkey Sausages and Veg in the Red from On Top of Spaghetti
  4. Thrifty Sausage, Vegetable and Pearl Barley Hotpot from Utterly Scrummy Food for Families
  5. Sausage Casserole from The Good Stuff
  6. Sausage, Bean and Veggie Hotpot from Chez Foti
  7. Sausage & Onion Tarts from The Garden Deli
  8. Jumbo Mediterranean Sausage Pasty from The Crazy Kitchen
  9. Sausage Ragu from The Foodie Blog
  10. Quick and Easy Soba Noodles from Fun as a Gran
  11. Sausage and Pepper Pasta from JibberJabberUK
  12. Jacki’s Sausage, Chorizo & Chickpea stew from Jacki Harrison-Stanley

Herbs on Saturday – January Round Up

When I first guest-hosted the Herbs on Saturday blog challenge for Karen at Lavender & Lovage back in July, I found the experience such good fun, particularly discovering so many talented bloggers and a whole heap of tasty new recipes to try. But I was rather surprised at just how many entries were submitted; 30 in total. Putting off writing the round-up to the last-minute was a bit of a silly move. I vowed if I were ever to host Herbs on Saturday again, I’d compile the round-up as I went along to save myself from a last-minute panic.

Hosting Herbs on Saturday second time round has been a real blast and I’ve loved the steady flow of emails arriving in my inbox offering a diverse array of tasty and tempting dishes. But guess what? Yes, you’re right. I failed to learn my lesson and so last night I had another last-minute panic on my hands. This month Herbs on Saturday attracted a whopping  43 entries – you lot are incredible! And each and every one is a wonderfully delicious celebration of cooking with herbs.

Since we’ve got a lot to get through, and I have a slight tendency to waffle on a bit, I’ve decided to be extremely strict and limit myself to just three words to describe each entry. So let’s get this show on the road…

Nigel Slater’s Hangover Salad from London Busy Body

In three words: herby hangover heaven

Herbed Cheese and Bacon Souffles from Caroline Makes

In three words: romantic slimming starter

Cumin Spiced Chicken with a Puy Lentil and Chargrilled Courgette Salad from How to be a Gourmand

In three words: hearty healthy deliciousness

Mushroom, Onion and Thyme Focaccia
from Lancashire Food

In three words: tasty, tempting, satisfying

Swamp Juice from Tinned Tomatoes

In three words: nutritious, luxurious, delicious

In three words: nutritious, luxurious, delicious

Parsley and Almond Pesto from Chez Foti

In three words: quick, simple, scrummy

In three words: quick, simple, scrummy

Slow Roasted Pork Neck in Thyme, Rosemary & Bay with Mint Flatbreads from Bangers & Mash

In three words: sweet, tender, succulent

In three words: sweet, tender, succulent

Creamy Lemon Butter Beans from The Garden Deli

In three words: fresh zingy wholesomeness

In three words: fresh zingy wholesomeness

Roast Chicken with Bulgur Wheat Stuffing and Roast Butternut Squash from Food Eat Love

In three words: mellow, warming, homely

In three words: mellow, warming, homely

Bacon-Wrapped Salmon from Fab Food 4 All

In three words: speedy succulent supper

In three words: speedy succulent supper

A Really Useful Asian Broth with Awesome Add-Ins from Food to Glow

In three words: flavoursome Asian goodness

In three words: flavoursome Asian goodness

Rosemary and Thyme Chickpea Pancakes (Socca de Nice) from Food to Glow

In three words: easy gluten-free nuttiness

In three words: easy gluten-free nuttiness

Saltimbocca alla Romana from Rita Cooks Italian

In three words: divine Italian classic

Spicy Pork Stew with Sweet Potatoes and Beans from Farmersgirl Kitchen

In three words: sweet warming spiciness

In three words: sweet warming spiciness

Parsley Pesto from The Botanical Baker

In three words: easy, tasty, versatile

In three words: easy, tasty, versatile

Chicken, Sausage and Vegetable Hotpot
from Lavender & Lovage

In three words: seasonal healthy heartiness

In three words: seasonal healthy heartiness

Dukkah & Sun Dried Tomato Muffins
from Fuss Free Flavours

In three words: herby spicy deliciousness

In three words: herby spicy deliciousness

Fridge-Raid Smoked Salmon Spaghetti
from Crumbs and Corkscrews

In three words: tasty frugal simplicity

In three words: tasty frugal simplicity

Tiger Prawn Curry with Basmati Rice from
Lavender & Lovage

In three words: seriously - diet food?!

In three words: seriously – diet food?!

English Parsley, Walnut and Stilton Pesto
from Marmaduke Scarlet

In three words: fashionably green gorgeousness

In three words: fashionably green gorgeousness

Easy Shakshuka (Spiced North African Tomato and Eggs) from Food to  Glow

In three words: intense, aromatic, luxurious

In three words: intense, aromatic, luxurious

Carrot Ginger Lime Soup with Sweet Potato Hummus from The Taste Space

In three words: creamy, zingy, flavourful

In three words: creamy, zingy, flavourful

Butternut Risotto with Butternut Crisps from Chez Foti

In three words: warming comforting fabulousness

In three words: warming comforting fabulousness

Middle Eastern Chicken Salad with Hummus Dressing from Bangers & Mash

In three words: moist, succulent, nutty

In three words: moist, succulent, nutty

Chicken Breast Fillets with Sage from
My Little Italian Kitchen

In three words: classic Italian flavours

In three words: classic Italian flavours

5:2 Diet Minestrone Soup from Tinned Tomatoes

In three words: rich, tasty, slurpilicious!

In three words: rich, tasty, slurpilicious!

Rillettes de Canard from Blue Kitchen Bakes

In three words: tempting tender tastiness

In three words: tempting tender tastiness

Cauliflower & Pear Soup from Elizabeth’s Kitchen

In three words: clever flavour combinations

In three words: clever flavour combinations

Croustade de Canard (Duck Pie with Figs) from Delicieux

In three words: economical spicy warmth

In three words: economical spicy warmth

Roasted Mushrooms with Rosemary from Cherrapeno

In three words: easy, herby, garlicky

In three words: easy, herby, garlicky

Zero Effort Spicy Carrot Soup from Dinner with Crayons

In three words: quick whizz go!

In three words: quick whizz go!

Thyme, Black Garlic and Tomato Flatbreads from
Blue Kitchen Bakes

In three words: sweet mellow crunch

In three words: sweet mellow crunch

Bresaola Spirals from Leeks and Limoni

In three words: deliciously romantic temptations

In three words: deliciously romantic temptations

Shakshuka from Exploits of a Food Nut

In three words: herby flavour explosion

In three words: herby flavour explosion

Peashoot, Bacon & Ricotta Penne from Anne’s Kitchen

In three words: speedy frugal tastiness

In three words: speedy frugal tastiness

Nigella’s Chicken Tagine from Blue Kitchen Bakes

In three words: yummy Moroccan flavours

In three words: yummy Moroccan flavours

Kroppkakor – Swedish Style Dumplings from Delicieux

In three words: tasty meaty dumplings

In three words: tasty meaty dumplings

Belleau Minestrone from Belleau Kitchen

In three words: nourishing, hearty, satisfying

In three words: nourishing, hearty, satisfying

Sicilian Style Tuna with Salsa Verde from 8&Ruth

In three words: zingy, fresh, lemony

In three words: zingy, fresh, lemony

Smoked Mackerel Salad with Yoghurt, Horseradish & Dill Dressing from Recipe Junkie

In three words: fantastic flavoursome fish

In three words: fantastic flavoursome fish

Lemon Chicken with Cannellini Beans and Rosemary from Lavender & Lovage

In three words: cooking next week!

In three words: cooking next week!

Cheesy Chorizo Flatbreads from Blue Kitchen Bakes

In three words: easy cheesy breadilicious

In three words: easy cheesy breadilicious

Goats Cheese Souffles with Thyme from Maison Cupcake

In three words: step-by-step souffle guide

In three words: step-by-step souffle guide

Now how’s that for an impressive selection of recipes, providing a veritable wealth of culinary inspiration? I look forward to working my way through the list. I’m starting the 5:2 diet next week and will be trying out the Lemon Chicken with Cannellini Beans and Rosemary from Lavender and Lovage, and I’ve also got my eye on the Croustade de Canarde from Delicieux, as I have some duck breast in the freezer. Which dishes have caught your fancy?

“But who won the prize this month?” I hear you cry. Well, the lucky winner of Your Kitchen Garden: Month-by-Month, by the renowned gardening author Andi Clevely, is none other than Rachel from Marmaduke Scarlet for her fashionably green pesto made with English parsley, walnuts and Stilton. Karen’s mystery judge this month is a professional herb grower based in North Yorkshire, who we’ll call The Herb Lady.

The Herb Lady said: “It took me a long time to select the winner but I chose Marmaduke Scarlet’s pesto as it is so fresh and innovative and a good use of parsley, which is so often relegated to garnishes and sauces. Using walnuts instead of pine nuts makes this a thoroughly British pesto.”

Congratulations to Rachel and we hope you have lots of fun devising new ideas for your kitchen garden with inspiration from your new book!

Before I sign off, I’d just like to say a huge thank you to Karen at Lavender & Lovage for once again entrusting her Herbs on Saturday challenge to me. I’d love to host again some time – once I’ve fully recovered from compiling this round-up! And now I think I need a little lie down…

January Herbs on Saturday blog challenge – win a copy of ‘Your Kitchen Garden’

Well, here we are in 2013 already. How on earth did that happen? I know I say it every year but 2012 really did feel like it was over in a flash. I hope you enjoyed a delicious Christmas and had a wonderful time seeing in the new year. Ours was lovely. Christmas was a whirlwind of visits from family and friends, while we spent New Year’s Eve very quietly, enjoying steak and chips, good red wine and Jools Holland on the telly. Splendid.

I’m extremely pleased to be welcoming in the new year here on Bangers & Mash by hosting the Herbs on Saturday blog challenge for Karen at Lavender & Lovage.

I first hosted Herbs on Saturday back in July and thoroughly enjoyed the experience. The challenge is a fabulous way to share delicious recipes that celebrate cooking with herbs, and I was fortunate enough to meet so many new and talented food bloggers as a result of hosting it last time. I can’t wait to see what comes in this month, particularly after seeing the recipes submitted last month.

To take part in the challenge, simply submit any recipe using fresh or dried herbs by emailing me with the URL for your post. And they don’t only need to be recipes made on a Saturday. At the end of each month, a ‘special blogger’ will choose their favourite recipe from all the entries, and the winning blogger will receive a fantastic cookbook as their prize. The full entry guidelines are below.

January’s prize is Your Kitchen Garden: Month-by-Month by renowned gardening author Andi Clevely.

Highly practical and easy-to-use, with clear illustrations and seasonal charts, Andi Clevely’s book is invaluable for creating a  well-managed kitchen garden providing a plentiful supply of vegetables, fruit, salad crops, herbs and flowers throughout the year. Each chapter focuses on one calendar month, setting out the tasks to be done and featuring crops that will be ripe for harvesting.

Herbs on Saturday for January – guidelines on how to enter

  1. Send your recipe URL to me at vanesther-at-reescommunications-dot-co-dot-uk, including your own email address and the title of your recipe or post. The closing date is Thursday 31 January.
  2. Display the Herbs on Saturday badge (as shown above and below) on the relevant recipe post, with a link back to this post  and also to the challenge page over at Lavender & Lovage.
  3. Email me as many recipe links as you like, there is no limit and the recipes and posts can be from any day, not just Saturday!
  4. If you tweet your post, please mention #herbsonsaturday, @BangerMashChat and @KarenBurnsBooth in your tweet – I will retweet all that I see.
  5. The recipe can be one of your own or one you’ve seen elsewhere. You are welcome to republish old recipes/posts but please add the information about this challenge as listed above with the Herbs on Saturday badge.
  6. As entries come in, links to these will be added to this page and at the end of the month there will be a round-up of all entries received.
  7. A guest blogger will choose their favourite recipe at the end of the month, and the winner will receive a copy of Your Kitchen Garden: Month-by-Month.

If you have any questions, please feel free to drop me a line. I’m really looking forward to receiving your entries for Herbs on Saturday!

January’s entries:

  1. Nigel Slater’s Hangover Salad from London Busy Body
  2. Herbed Cheese and Bacon Souffles from Caroline Makes
  3. Cumin Spiced Chicken with a Puy Lentil and Chargrilled Courgette Salad from How to be a Gourmand
  4. Mushroom, Onion and Thyme Focaccia from Lancashire Food
  5. Swamp Juice from Tinned Tomatoes
  6. Parsley Pesto from Chez Foti
  7. Slow Roasted Pork Neck in Thyme, Rosemary & Bay with Mint Flatbreads from Bangers & Mash
  8. Creamy Lemon Butter Beans from The Garden Deli
  9. Roast Chicken with Bulgur Wheat Stuffing and Roast Butternut Squash from Food Eat Love
  10. Bacon-Wrapped Salmon from Fab Food 4 All
  11. A Really Useful Asian Broth with Awesome Add-Ins from Food to Glow
  12. Rosemary and Thyme Chickpea Pancakes (Socca de Nice) from Food to Glow
  13. Saltimbocca alla Romana from Rita Cooks Italian
  14. Spicy Pork Stew with Sweet Potatoes and Beans from Farmersgirl Kitchen
  15. Parsley Pesto from The Botanical Baker
  16. Chicken, Sausage and Vegetable Hotpot from Lavender & Lovage
  17. Dukkah & Sun Dried Tomato Muffins from Fuss Free Flavours
  18. Fridge-Raid Smoked Salmon Spaghetti from Crumbs and Corkscrews
  19. Tiger Prawn Curry with Basmati Rice from Lavender & Lovage
  20. English Parsley, Walnut and Stilton Pesto from Marmaduke Scarlet
  21. Easy Shakshuka (Spiced North African Tomato and Eggs) from Food to  Glow
  22. Carrot Ginger Lime Soup with Sweet Potato Hummus from The Taste Space
  23. Butternut Risotto with Butternut Crisps from Chez Foti
  24. Middle Eastern Chicken Salad with Hummus Dressing from Bangers & Mash
  25. Chicken Breast Fillets with Sage from My Little Italian Kitchen
  26. 5:2 Diet Minestrone Soup from Tinned Tomatoes
  27. Rillettes de Canard from Blue Kitchen Bakes
  28. Cauliflower & Pear Soup from Elizabeth’s Kitchen
  29. Croustade de Canard (Duck Pie with Figs) from Delicieux
  30. Roasted Mushrooms with Rosemary from Cherrapeno
  31. Zero Effort Spicy Carrot Soup from Dinner with Crayons
  32. Thyme, Black Garlic and Tomato Flatbreads from Blue Kitchen Bakes
  33. Bresaola Spirals from Leeks and Limoni
  34. Shakshuka from Exploits of a Food Nut
  35. Peashoot, Bacon & Ricotta Penne from Anne’s Kitchen
  36. Nigella’s Chicken Tagine from Blue Kitchen Bakes
  37. Kroppkakor – Swedish Style Dumplings from Delicieux
  38. Belleau Minestrone from Belleau Kitchen
  39. Sicilian Style Tuna with Salsa Verde from 8&Ruth
  40. Smoked Mackerel Salad with Yoghurt, Horseradish & Dill Dressing from Recipe Junkie
  41. Lemon Chicken with Cannellini Beans and Rosemary from Lavender & Lovage
  42. Cheesy Chorizo Flatbreads from Blue Kitchen Bakes
  43. Goats Cheese Souffles with Thyme from Maison Cupcake

Guests for dinner

I’ve had the honour of being asked to write guest posts for a number of other food blogs recently. So I thought you might like to see what I’ve been up to and to take a look around their excellent blogs at the same time.

At the end of October, the insanely talented Thinly Spread featured my Thyme for Soup guest post. I shared a car with Chris from Thinly Spread to get to the MAD Blog Awards in September, and I used those hours to pick her poor brain raw on anything and everything about blogging. If there’s anything you want to know about blogging, Chris is your woman!

I love Thinly Spread. It’s a lovely collection of delicious vegetarian recipes the whole family will love, ingenious arts and craft activities, as well as gardening projects and advice, all of which Chris posts when she’s not got her hands full with her four gorgeous children.

Last month my Simple Fish Pie was featured on a fabulous family food blog I’ve only recently discovered called The Good Stuff.

The Good Stuff is written by two dads, Matt and Corpy, who like me live in the wonderful West Country. The blog charts their cooking adventures with their young kids, which they describe as a “swap shop for new parents with a passion for good, healthy food” – the blog that is, not their kids!

And finally, my Cooking with the Kids post was one of the first to feature on the new Appliances Online blog, which aims to build a community of people interested in all things interior, crafty, family orientated, foodie and  fun. In this post I give some tips on how to involve your children in the kitchen so that you hopefully don’t lose your mind in the process, as cooking with children can sometimes be a rather stressful affair! Or is that just me and my kids?

So there you go. I’ll be back soon with a recipe on my own blog and in the meantime, if you’re on Facebook, perhaps you might want to head over to my new(ish) page for Bangers & Mash? See you soon!

What brunch dish will you bring to the Breakfast Club?

Breakfast Club: because breakfast should be more interesting than tea & toast or coffee & cereal.

During December, I am delighted to be hosting Breakfast Club, a bloggers challenge created by the very talented Helen at Fuss Free Flavours to encourage more creativity in the kitchen for that all important first meal of the day. I really hope you’ll join in the fun by entering a dish or two.

Let’s do brunch!

The theme for Breakfast Club this month is Brunch. According to Marge Simpson’s charming Casanova of a bowling instructor, the über smooth Jacques, brunch is…

…not quite breakfast, it’s not quite lunch, but it comes with a slice of cantaloupe at the end. You don’t get completely what you would at breakfast, but you get a good meal!

Brunch is my idea of a perfect breakfast. The kind of lazy breakfast you cook and eat at leisure on a relaxed Sunday, when you’re not in a rush to get to work or school. The kind of laid back breakfast you take your time over with a large pot of coffee and a selection of papers.

So no, not the kind of breakfast I get to eat all that often, but I always make sure I indulge when the opportunity presents itself. And a very good idea to have a stock of good brunch recipes up your sleeve for when it does.

It’s very easy to enter a brunch dish into this month’s Breakfast Club:

  • Email me with the URL for your brunch recipe blog post
  • Mention in your post you are entering your dish into Breakfast Club, include the logo above, and add links back to both this post and the Breakfast Club page at Fuss Free Flavours
  • Entries can be submitted to other events
  • You are welcome to enter old posts/recipes but they must be republished with the logo and links above
  • If you use Twitter please use #blogbreakfastclub and tweet your entry, and I’ll retweet everyone I see
  • The closing date is Friday 28 December 2012.

Hopefully, that all makes sense but if you do have any questions, please comment below. I can’t wait to see your entries!

Oh and before I forget, Helen at Fuss Free Flavours is always on the look out for new guest hosts for the Breakfast Club, and last month’s round up is here.

To get things started, I thought I’d give you my brunch recipe. I found it hard to choose which one as I have so many brunch favourites. I love pancakes and did think about entering these indulgent lemon and ricotta pancakes.

Or how about a more virtuous start to the day with some homemade granola?

But then I do also find it hard to resist a good fry up, but really – who needs a recipe for that? And so I’ve decided on…

The full English pizza

I know it sounds a little crazy. Or maybe a lot crazy. But this is a perfect and fun weekend brunch, particularly when you’ve had a few drinks the night before and need some stodge to sort you out. It’s essentially all the usual suspects you’d find in a cooked English breakfast but on top of a pizza. Gorgeous. And you probably won’t need to eat for the rest of the day.

I get up early to make the pizza dough. Then go back to bed for a bit with a cup of tea while the dough rises. But if that sounds to you like too much of a palaver, then ready-made pizza bases would make life a little easier.

Makes 4 pizzas

For the dough:

400g strong white bread flour
1 tsp salt
1 x 7g sachet fast action dried yeast
2 tbsp chopped fresh oregano
250ml luke warm water
1 tbsp olive oil

For the topping:

200g spinach
knob of butter
passata, about half a jar
4 pork sausages, grilled and sliced
4 rashers bacon, grilled and chopped
mozzarella, 2 x 250g balls
4 free range eggs

To make the pizza dough, put the flour, salt, dried yeast and oregano into a large mixing bowl and mix well.

Make a well in the middle and pour in the lukewarm water and oil. Gradually work the flour into the liquid, making a soft dough. If it’s too dry, add a drop more water. If it’s too sticky, add a little more flour.

Flour your surface before tipping the dough onto it. Knead the dough by stretching it away from you, then pulling back into a ball. Do this for five minutes or so, until the dough is smooth and elastic.

Return the dough to the mixing bowl, cover loosely with cling film and put in a warm place for about an hour, until the dough has doubled in size. This is when I retire back to bed for a while.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6 or use the middle of the top oven of an Aga.

Uncover the risen dough and punch it back down. Flour the surface again and divide the dough into four balls. Stretch or roll out each ball until you have a thin circle about 22cm across. Place the pizzas onto slightly oiled baking sheets.

Melt the butter in a frying pan. Add the spinach and cook gently until wilted.

Pour a couple of tablespoons of passata onto each pizza, smoothing out with the back of the spoon. Spread some spinach over each base (squeeze out any excess butter), followed by the pieces of sausage and bacon, and finish with torn pieces of mozzarella. Be careful not to overload the centre of the pizza, where you’ll be cooking your egg later.

Bake the pizzas in the oven for 15-20 minutes. Remove from the oven and carefully break an egg into the middle of each pizza. Return to the oven for 3 to 4 minutes until the white is just cooked but the yolk is still soft. Enjoy at your leisure!

December’s entries for Breakfast Club:

  1. Turkey, Cranberry & Stilton Christmas Brunch Muffins from Fuss Free Flavours
  2. Beet Greens & Red Pepper Frittata from On Top of Spaghetti
  3. White Chocolate &  Cranberry Christmas Cookies from Chez Foti
  4. Buck Rarebit from Credit Munched
  5. Courgette and Mushroom Omelette with Garlic and Parsley from Bangers & Mash
  6. Swiss Scrambled Eggs, Croissants and Shakes from Fabulicious Food
  7. Mushrooms on Rye Toast from The Garden Deli
  8. Minestrone Soup from Divine Foods Living
  9. Nduja Potato Cakes from Foodycat
  10. Christmas Breakfast Muffins from Elizabeth’s Kitchen
  11. Speculoos & Mascarpone Pancake Cake from Kavey Eats
  12. Lemon Poppy Seed Muffins from Mondomulia
  13. Brunch Quesadillas – Fab Food 4 All

Easy ratatouille

Along with my tasty chicken rice, this easy ratatouille is my go-to meal when I’m stocking the freezer with quick weekday meals for the kids.

Now that I’m working over in Wells four days a week, ratatouille appears regularly on my meal plans. It’s particularly good for those days when I’m not back home til late and my husband has little time to get the girls back from school and fed before taking them off out again to their various clubs and activities.

My girls have been eating ratatouille since they were very little, when I’d mash it up for them a bit. They still love it today, served either on its own with a hunk of bread to mop up the juices, with rice, pasta or a baked potato and sprinkled with cheese, or as a veggie accompaniment to sausages or chops.

This is one of those recipes you can play around with. If you’ve got herbs to hand, throw in some of those. If you don’t like cumin, leave that out. The quantities of aubergine, courgette and pepper vary each time I make it, but this should give you the general idea.

Easy ratatouille

Makes 8-10 servings

2tbsp olive oil
½tsp cumin seeds
1 large onion, peeled and chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
1 red bell pepper, deseeded and chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, deseeded and chopped
3 courgettes, chopped
2 aubergines, chopped
1 bay leaf
2 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 200ºC / gas mark 6.

Heat the oil in a large ovenproof casserole dish and fry the cumin seeds for a minute or so.

Add the onions and fry gently until golden, then add the garlic and fry for another minute before throwing in the red and yellow peppers.

Saute the peppers until they have slightly softened and then add the courgettes. Continue to saute for a couple of minutes and then add the aubergine. You may need to add a little more oil to the pan at this stage. Keep stirring the vegetables until they’ve started to colour, and then add the bay leaf, tomatoes and season to taste.

Put the lid on your pan and pop in the oven for 20-30 minutes. If it’s a little too liquid for your liking, remove the lid and cook for another 5 to 10 minutes. Leave to cool before dividing into freezer bags.

The MAD Blog Awards ‘Create’ Carnival

The finalists in this year’s MAD Blog Awards are a pretty creative bunch. Just take a look through the fabulous posts submitted for this latest MAD Blog Carnival and I defy you not to end up itching to try out some of these delicious dishes or crafty creations for yourself…

Creative Makes

Finally I have a use for all those boxfuls of manky old broken bits of crayon thanks to the wonderful Actually Mummy. Aren’t these crayon hearts clever? But Actually Mummy doesn’t stop there; she has lots of great ideas on how to do Valentine’s when you’ve got kids.

My daughter Jessie is a budding artist and I can’t wait to try out this Klimt-inspired project with her from Red Ted Art. Maggie’s step-by-step guide is so useful, giving you lots of great ideas to develop with your kids without being overly prescriptive.

Hama beads are a firm favourite in our house and I know my two girls will love the ideas over at Little Sheep Learning for some new things to create, particularly those Angry Birds! And I can’t believe I’d never thought of using ice-cube trays before for sorting out the beads. My kids nick my muffin trays, which can be quite infuriating come baking day!

Every child I know is fascinated by shadows and how they are made, which is why this Shadow Puppets post from Science Sparks is going to be popular with kids everywhere. Create clever shadows and some pretty puppets to boot.

Dorky Mum has the perfect craft activity for anyone with too much time on their hands: the champagne cork chair. Come on, you know you want to make one. You do, you really do. And as there will undoubtedly be quite a few corks popping at the MAD Awards ceremony at the end of the month, it’s the perfect time for all the finalists to give it a go. Just remember to bring your little Lego man with you!

Papier mache is a very messy affair. And so of course for children everywhere that equates with great fun. I look forward to trying out these papier-mache animals from Susan K Mann; just so long as I’m in that go-with-the-flow kind of mood, rather than my usual don’t-you-dare-drop-any-glitter-on-the-floor kind of mood of course…

Kitchen Creations

Ice cream making is a truly family affair in Geek Mummy’s house and this video recipe is sure to put a smile on your face. I love the appearance of the cat in the background towards the end. And it’s also lovely to know that other people’s kitchens are as messy as mine!

How about this for a quick and easy treat from Becky at Family Budgeting? With just three ingredients, this easy shortbread is definitely the kind of recipe that appeals to me!

I love the look of this egg-free lemon shortbread with lemon frosting from Transatlantic Blonde. Perfect for little (and large) spoon-lickers everywhere. And just how cute is Blondie Boy?

When Emma over at A Bavarian Sojourn was little, her mum had to trick her into eating gooseberries. Can’t understand that myself as I’ve always loved them. But now she’s living in Bavaria she’s discovered a new-found taste for them and is making up for lost time. And so here she presents her very English recipe for gooseberry crumble – yum!

And finally here’s the Bangers & Mash take on cooking with kids

So there you have it. If there isn’t an idea or two here that gets your creative juices flowing, well I’ll eat my hat. A paper hat festooned with sequins and glitter and feathers and googly eyes and Moshi stickers, naturally.

Destination Kefalonia for Pastitsio and Horiatiki Salad

It is the last in my Around the World in Six Suppers, and for the final mystery destination we leap from the virtual to the real world. Yes indeed! We said – hang the staycation! We need a proper holiday!

Overlooking Myrtos Beach, made famous by Captain Corelli’s Mandolin

I know. So much for our good intentions to stay at home this summer and save some money. Our resolve seemed to weaken as the British weather deteriorated. And when our good friend Mikey suggested we come see him and his family on the Greek island of Kefalonia it was too hard to resist, particularly since he is a winemaker and promised us lots of good wine too.

For the last week of the school holidays, we therefore found ourselves on this beautiful Ionian island, most commonly known as the setting for Captain Corelli’s Mandolin and home to a wonderful tradition of fine food that’s simple and unfussy.

Mikey first came to Kefalonia around five years ago to make wine for Gentilini, one of the largest vineyards on the island. He now lives here with his lovely wife Yvonne and their two gorgeous daughters.

Although we couldn’t really justify a trip abroad, I have to admit it is just what I needed. There’s something about soaking up properly hot sunshine and swimming in warm seas that allows me to truly relax and switch off. Kefalonia was absolutely perfect for this: never a cloud in sight, crystal-clear turquoise seas and temperatures rarely dipping below the mid-thirties. Every view was a picture postcard and as soon as we stepped off the plane, my family was grinning from ear to ear.

As we were only there a week, we weren’t tempted to try and do too much either. Mikey acted as the perfect guide to the island. Despite being insanely busy with the grape harvest and starting work at 6am each day, he succeeded in helping us find the best places to eat and drink.

From drinking mojitos on the beach at Megali Amos…

Drinking cocktails in the sea – life doesn’t get better than this

… and organising a fantastic Greek barbecue at the winery…

Petros, the barbecue king

No barbecue is complete without a sausage or two

… to a marvellous traditional meze overlooking the harbour at Kiani Atki…

The perfect spot to enjoy meze and watch the sunset with good friends at Kiani Atki in Argostoli

The octopus was simply sensational

… and devouring gyros at Ladokoola, Mikey’s favourite ‘chuck it all on the table’ restaurant.

They really do ‘chuck it on the table’ as Mikey described it

No surprise I came home a few pounds heavier!

But my favourite meal of the holiday was the one Mikey and Yvonne cooked us one evening at their home.

They invited us over for a very traditional meal of pastitsio, often talked of as Greece’s version of lasagne, served with horiatiki, the ubiquitous Greek salad. And of course, lots of good Greek wine, robola and rosé.

Mikey’s pastitsio and horiatiki salad

I’ve never eaten pastitsio before but it’s certainly a recipe I know I’ll be cooking again and again back at home. Our two girls gobbled theirs up without a peep while the grownups reminisced about the old days in Bristol.

The pastitsio recipe in the Kefalonian cookbook Mikey and Yvonne gave me as a gift calls for tagliatelle pasta but Mikey prefers to make his with penne, while Yvonne says she uses little macaroni. So it seems anything goes really; make use of whatever you happen to have in the cupboard. For an authentic pastitsio, you should use the local kefalotiri cheese but any hard sheep’s milk cheese should be fine, such as manchego.

According to Mikey, a proper horiatiki or Greek salad should be served at room temperature – not cold from the fridge – and made well in advance so that the salt has plenty of time to work its magic on the tomato and cucumber, extracting some of the water content and intensifying the flavours. It is served simply with good olive oil but no vinegar. And of course, you need plenty of really good black olives. Yvonne had made her own and they were like nothing I’d tasted before.

Yvonne’s homemade olives

Mikey prepared his horiatiki before taking us all down to the local beach for a wonderful evening swim as the sun began to set. If only we could always swim in the sea before supper…

Tossing up the horiatiki with plenty of salt and good olive oil

Horiatiki Salad

2 large beef tomatoes
½ cucumber
1 red onion
1 green pepper
large pinch of salt
handful of black olives
150g Feta cheese, cubed
large pinch of dried oregano
large glug of quality olive oil

Cut the tomatoes and cucumber into large chunks and throw into a large serving bowl. Slice the red onion and cut the pepper into thin strips, and add to the bowl. Sprinkle with a decent pinch of salt and mix it all really well. Add the olives, Feta and oregano and smother with a good peppery olive oil. Toss gently to make sure the oil covers everything well and leave for half an hour or so before serving.

Pastitsio. Note the large squeezy Marmite in the background, which we were under strict orders to bring over from Blighty.

Pastitsio

2tbsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
600g minced beef
100ml white wine
500ml tomato passata
1 tbsp tomato puree, dissolved in a little hot water
salt and pepper
pinch of cinnamon
pinch of nutmeg
600g penne or other small pasta
handful of kefalotiri or other hard sheep’s milk cheese, grated

For the Béchamel Sauce

1 litre milk
6tbsp plain flour
salt and pepper
nutmeg
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp butter

Preheat oven to 190°C/gas mark 5.

Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and sauté the onion until soft. Add the minced beef and cook until browned. Pour in the wine and cook off until the liquid has evaporated. Stir in the passata and puree and season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle in a little cinnamon and nutmeg. Taste and add more if required. Bring the sauce to the boil and gently simmer on a low heat until the sauce has thickened.

To make the béchamel sauce, pour the milk into a pan and heat gently. When the milk is warm, slowly add the flour, stirring constantly to prevent lumps. Season with salt and pepper and a little nutmeg. Once the sauce has thickened, stir in the egg and then the butter. Check the seasoning again and remove from the heat.

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the penne according to the packet instructions. Drain and rinse with warm water to prevent the pasta from sticking together.

Butter the bottom of a large ovenproof dish. Put half the pasta along the bottom of the dish and press down firmly. Pour the meat sauce over the pasta and smooth over. Cover with the rest of the pasta and again press down well. Pour the béchamel sauce over the top and sprinkle with the grated cheese.

Bake in the oven for around 40 minutes, until the top is golden and the cheese is bubbling. Leave to stand for quarter of an hour to let the béchamel sauce set slightly before serving with the horiatiki salad.

Kali orexi!