Tag Archives: Beef

Super-Seasonally Vegged-Up Cottage Pie!

There’s more than a chill in the air and finally it’s time to bring on the pies and stews. I love my winter food. As you’ll see from my last year’s Comfort Cottage Pie recipe normally I love nothing more than a super-meaty cottage pie with no more veggie additions than a little carrot and celery. However, my son Jacques (who’s now two and a half) is back on his Mission of Veggie Refusal and I’m back on my Mission of Veggie Disguise (a blog I wrote a few months ago getting kids to eat more veg). And this revised and super-seasonally vegged-up recipe has an umpteem of hidden veggies that will please even the most ardent of carnivores.

My basket of veggies freshly picked to make my Vegged-Up Cottage Pie, including carrots, parsnips, butternut, swiss chard, green beans and thyme

Interestingly the wee fella loves his fruit, particularly if he’s picked it himself which he often does, gorging himself on figs (his favourite), blackberries (second fave), plums, greengages and the odd pear from the garden. And he’ll happily eat a banana. And yet virtually all veggies are a complete no go these days, even his once beloved peas and sometimes low and behold even sweetcorn! He’ll happily watch and join in as I pick green beans and tommies, lift the carrots and parnsips, cut the brocolli or sweetcorn from the garden..but when it come to eating them, you’re having a laugh! It’s always a whiny ‘dont like’ coupled with a pushing away off the plate or even worse a full blown, increasingly more frequent, tantrum. I’m still lucky Francesca will eat pretty much all veggies put her way, admittedly not with great gusto (but then she doesn’t particularly like most foods!) and always under a certain amount of duress. But she does love her carrots, because horseys do.

My little veggie-refuser Grubster happily tucking into a fig

Jacque sagely eying up the veggies he’d just help to pick

This cottage pie is an out and out winner with them both and with us too, and provides us with a couple of very healthy and pleasing family dinners. Whenever I’m making these slow-to-cook meaty dinners I tend to double (or treble) up on quantities making at least enough for two family dinners, freezing half or keeping it in the fridge for later in the week. Halve the below ingredients list if you want to make enough for just one dinner.

Feel free to vary the veggies, use whatever’s seasonal or you have in. My weights are only what I so happened to have picked and are included for a guideline only, so please vary accordingly. I used swiss chard, carrots, french beans, celery and butternut squash in the meat sauce and parsnips and potatoes in the topping. The first parsnips of the year actually, and the first parsnips I’ve ever grown. Pretty impressive size I thought, Jacques and I were a bit surprised when we lifted them together! You could also use pumpkin, spinach, mushrooms, runner beans, swede, sweetcorn, peas, broccoli, cabbage, kale or peppers and probably loads of other veggies I can’t think of right now!

I also have a tendency to leave the skins on my carrots, parsnips and potatoes (and give them a jolly good scrub obviously!), but then mine are all organically home grown. It’s up to you.

Titchy carrots and whopper parsnips!

As an added meal enhancer try baking your kids their dinner in individual bowls, mine love eating theirs straight out of my gorgeous Oogaa bowls, which being silicone can handily be oven baked and microwaved.

This is also a recipe that can easily be adapted for weaning babies. Omit the Worcester Sauce and use baby stock cubes which are available at most big chemists, then whiz up the cooked beef and veggie sauce in a processor before piling on the topping.

The kids love their Cottage Pie baked in my individual Oogaa silicone bowls

Since my recipe is full of seasonal goodies I’m entering it into Fabulicious Food’s Simple and In Season challenge, this month hosted by Nazima at Franglais Kitchen

Super-Seasonally Vegged-Up Cottage Pie

Toddlers, Bigger Kids, Family Suppers, Just the Grown Ups too!

Enough for a family of four TWICE!:

For the Meat & Veggie Sauce:

a large onion

2 sticks of celery

2 carrots

300g of butternut or pumpkin

2 tablespoons of sunflower or olive oil

600g of good quality beef mince

1 tablespoon of plain flour

800ml of beef stock

1 heaped tablespoon of tomato puree

2 teaspoons of Worcester Sauce

3 large sprigs of thyme

3 bay leaves

black pepper

100g of french or runner beans, finely diced

200g of chard or spinach, separating any thick stems from the leafy parts and shredding separately

For the Topping:

850g of potatoes peeled or un-peeled, chopped into large chunks

500g of parsnips, peeled or un-peeled, chopped into large chunks

50g of butter

50ml of milk

2 teaspoons of creamed horseradish, optional

salt & pepper

Finely dice the onion, celery, carrots and butternut or pumpkin. I usually pulse these veggies in a food processor both for speed and to get them reasonably fine (and well hidden!).

Heat the oil in a very large saucepan and throw in the onion, celery, carrots and butternut or pumpkin. Cook over a medium heat for 10 minutes until soft, stirring regularly.

Turn up the heat and add the beef. Cook for about 5 minutes until browned.

Stir in the flour, quickly followed by the stock, tomato puree, worcester sauce, thyme, bay and a generous pinch of black pepper.

Now prepare the rest of your veggies, dicing them to an appropriate size for your kids i.e. the finer the dice the less likelihood of rejection!. Add them to the sauce. If you’re using swiss chard, include the diced stems at this stage but add the green leaves later (the same for spinach). Cover and leave to simmer for at least 30 minutes. If the sauce looks like it’s drying out, add a little water.

Meanwhile pre-heat your oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6, and make your potato & parsnip topping.

In a large pan of boiling water boil the potatoes and parsnips until soft. Drain and allow them to steam  and dry out for a few minutes. Mash with the butter, milk and horseradish.  Season to taste (go easy on the salt or none at all for littlies).

Once the sauce is cooked, stir in the spinach or chard leaves if using and  have a final taste check, adding a little more pepper and some salt if necessary (no salt for littlies and you shouldn’t need to add any anyway as there’s plenty in the stock).

Pour it into a large openproof dish (remembering to remove the bay leaves and thyme sprigs, which I usually don’t!) or smaller individual dishes.  Spoon on the mash. Shape your mash with the back of a fork as desired, I like a nice swirl!.

Bake in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes until golden on the top (and if it’s not you can alway pop it under the grill). Individual dishes will need substantially less time.

My other whoppers of veggie disguise are Kids Bolognese, Chicken, Veggie & Egg Fried Rice, Super-Vegged Up Chili, Kids 5-a-day Pasta Sauce and Sunday Dinner Leftover Cakes

And here’s the little monkey wolfing down his super-vegged up Cottage Pie! Result.

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Boeuf en Daube for The Care to Cook Recipe Challenge

What dish would you cook to welcome someone into your home? This is the question posed in the Care to Cook Recipe Challenge I’m entering, a competition held by Vanesther at one of my favourite family food blogs, Bangers & Mash Chat. The challenge raises awareness of the wonderful charity TACT who provide fostering and adoption services to help some of the most vulnerable children and young people in the UK. TACT have recently launched their own cook book Care to Cook with recipes donated by the charities adopters, supporters and staff. At only £3.00, with all proceeds directly benefiting adopted children and their new families, this has to be a steal!.

Living abroad and in a particularly nice place to kick back in (well we think so anyway!) we regularly have friends and family to stay at Chez Foti. With almost all of our guests coming from England, I always try to serve something classically French for at least the first dinner. A couple of weeks ago we had my brother in law Patrice and nephew James to stay for a week and I made Boeuf en Daube to welcome them to our home.

Our Pyrenean View

Beef in Daube recipe

Boeuf en Daube originating from Provence is a fabulously fragrant, hearty and gutsy braised beef dish slow cooked in the oven in red wine, lardons, chopped tomatoes, shallots, garlic, thyme and orange peel. Although similar in sound to a Boeuf Bourguinon it tastes pretty different due to the addition of tomatoes, preserved anchovies and orange peel and the slow baking in the oven rather than on a hob.

I used my first pulled carrots of the year to make this, possibly a little on the small side but I couldn’t resist. It goes without saying that the garlic, shallots, onion and herbs were all homegrown Chez Foti too.

The first carrots of the season!

The beef is great served at this time of year with roasted new potatoes (roasted whole in the oven with plenty of rosemary, lemon wedges, garlic, salt, black pepper and olive oil) and a simple braised or steamed seasonal green veggie (I served mine with braised chard). And a nice bottle of red obviously. By the way the beef is even more amazing served the next day or the day after that, so a great dish to be made in advance.

Enough for six grown up folk: 

1.2 kilos of beef shin or chuck, cut into a large 5 cm dice

salt & pepper

3 tablespoons of olive oil

200g of lardons or diced streaky bacon

a medium onion, diced

10 shallots, halved

5 cloves of garlic, very finely chopped

650ml of red wine, nothing too special

3 carrots, sliced

2 sticks of celery, sliced

a 400g can of chopped tomatoes

250ml of good quality beef stock

2 tinned or jarred anchovies (preserved in oil)

3 large strips/peelings of orange zest

4 large sprigs of fresh thyme

4 large sprigs of fresh parsley

3 bay leaves

Season the beef with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat the oil in a large heavy based casserole or Le Creuset (it must have a lid and be oven proof). Fry the beef on a high temperature until browned on all sides. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Now fry the lardons or bacon in the remainder of the fat. Once they’ve taken on a little colour remove from the pan with the slotted spoon and set aside with the beef.

Reduce the heat, and into the same pan and fat throw the onion and shallot halves. Stir at intervals but allow to gently saute for 8 to 10 minutes until softened. Add the garlic for a further couple of minutes before re-introducing the beef and lardons to the pan.

Pour over the wine and give everything a good stir. Bring to a simmer and allow to simmer reasonably vigorously for 30 minutes until the wine is considerably reduced.

Meanwhile prepare a bouquet garni of the herbs by tying together the thyme, parsley and bay leaves. Peel three strips of orange zest from a whole orange, each of roughly 6cm by 2cm.

Once reduced add to the beef the carrots, celery, chopped tomatoes, beef stock, anchovies, orange zest, bouquet garni and a generous grinding of black pepper.

Bring back to a simmer and take off the hob. Cover and place in a preheated to 160ºC oven for 2 hours, but giving everything a thorough stir at least a couple of times during the cooking process (add a little more stock or water if things start to look a little dry).

Here’s some other classic French dinners I’ve served to welcome our guests to Chez Foti: Coq au Vin, Boeuf Bourguinon, Moules Frites, Tartiflette, A Summary Chicken, Asparagus & Lemon Cassoulet


Super Vegged-Up Chilli

Toddlers & Young Children, Big Kids, Grown Ups.

I haven’t made a Chilli con Carne in ages and thought it was about time. I usually make mine with big chunks of braising beef marinaded in cumin, coriander, chilli and cinnamon following one of my favourite ever Leon recipes (The Best Chilli con Carne ever!). But this time I thought I’d go a bit more 80s retro and make something more suitable for the wee ones using good quality mince but with a super-vegging Chez Foti overthrow!. These days I seem unable to make too much without throwing in a barrage of veg, as you’ve probably noticed. As my son becomes increasingly fussy about eating his plain veggies I’m becoming increasingly cunning in my vegged up disguises! Ha, you will eat your 5-a-day my boy.

As for your choice of veggies, you can pretty much add anything you happen to have in, though I like to go with tradition on the carrots and pepper. I threw in some frozen chopped french beans (I’m trying to clear out the freezer before this year’s glut starts) and a couple of large handfuls of swiss chard from the garden. If cooking for kids go easy on the chilli. I use just ½ a teaspoon of hot chilli powder, though personally I’d like a little more heat so feel free to bump it up if you’re a chilli fiend.

Use good quality lean beef mince here, preferably some that you’ve seen the butcher mince in front of you. It really does make a difference.

This makes quite a vat of chilli, but keeps very well in the fridge for a few days or can be frozen. The first night we ate it with rice and the second in wraps with grated cheese, sour cream, lettuce, sliced tomatoes and avocados (again very 80s retro tex-mex, but nevertheless pretty darned tasty!).

Enough for 4 to 6 grown up folk, depending on greed!. Or two family dinners. 

3 tablespoons of sunflower oil

2 onions, diced

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

2 carrots, finely diced

a red pepper, diced

2 teaspoons of ground cumin

a heaped teaspoon of cinnamon

a pinch of salt

a large pinch of freshly ground black pepper

½ to 2 teaspoons of hot chilli powder (depending on who you’re cooking for!)

500g of good quality lean minced beef

2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes

2 teaspoons of cocoa powder

a handful of french beans or any other veg you so happen to have in

2 x 400g tins of kidney beans, drained and rinsed

a couple of very large handfuls of spinach or chard, finely shredded

Heat the sunflower oil in a large pan on a medium heat. Throw in the onions, garlic, carrots and pepper (or any other hard veg you want to use) and cook for about ten minutes, stirring regularly.

Stir in the cumin, cinnamon, chilli powder, salt & pepper and cook for a couple of minutes whilst continuously stirring. Add the beef and allow to brown, stirring every now and again.

Once the beef’s browned stir in the chopped tomatoes, cocoa powder and any softer veggies you’re using, in my case the french beans (but not the spinach or chard which is added later).

Cover and allow to gently bubble away on a very low heat for at least an hour adding a little water if it looks like it’s drying out. Now throw in the final ingredients of the kidney beans and spinach or chard and cook for a further 15 minutes.

Have a taste check and add more salt and pepper to suit (though no additional salt if making for littlies).

How about trying some of my other super vegged-up recipes? Kid’s Bolognese, Lou’s Chicken Fried Rice, Noodles with Pork & Veggies, Cream of Veggie Super Soup or my Chicken & Apricot Tagine

Ha, the boy happily eating his veggies!


Lou’s Blue Cheese Barbecue Burgers

….or my fat b*****d burgers as I usually call them in less polite company. I’ve been making these barbecue burgers for years and they always go down a storm. So incredibly quick and easy to put together yet worlds apart from any commercial burgers. And more importantly you know exactly what meat’s gone into them which is always a concern of mine. They can handily be made in advance and stored for a few days in the fridge, or even frozen.

My blue cheese of preference is definitely Gorgonzola as it has a nice little kick to it without being overbearing, and is perfectly creamy and a good melter.  For a slightly mellower flavour use Dolcelatte or Cambozola. Or for added kick go for Stilton or Roquefort.

The quality of the beef is crucial, use the best mince you can get hold of and preferably minced in front of you by a butcher.

Enough for four very large burgers!

a medium onion, finely sliced

2 tablespoons of sunflower oil

650g of very good quality lean beef mince

a teaspoon of salt

a teaspoon of coarsely ground black pepper

80g of blue cheese, divided into 4 equal cubes

4 large burger baps

Cook the onion in the oil for about 10 minutes until very soft, stirring regularly so the onions don’t catch and burn. Allow to cool.

Once cool mix the onions, beef, salt and pepper in a large bowl. This really is a job best done with your hands, unglamorously squelching everything together through your fingers.

Divide into four and shape each quarter into a patty shape. Press a cube of cheese into each and shape the beef around it so it’s buried and sealed within.

Place in the fridge until you’re ready to barbecue.

Cook over hot coals for about 4 minutes on each side. The meat should be a teeny weeny bit pink towards the middle and the cheese just oozing. Cook a minute or so more on each side for well done.

Serve in big floury baps with all the normal sauces and sides. Enjoy! You will.

How about trying my Pork & Veggie Kebabs on your barbie too? Or some of my other summery recipes, Chicken, Asparagus & Lemon Cassoulet or Asparagus, Lemon & Pea Risotto


Boeuf Bourguignon

Another French classic that along with Coq au Vin is my standard dinner when we have lots of people. Ever so easy to prepare and even better made in advance this is perfect for dinner parties, especially if like me you have littlies and are always short on time. In truth it’s one of my favourite dinners ever, meltingly tender beef that’s been braised for hours in an obscene amount of red wine with the added richness of oodles of bacon lardons, shallots, garlic and mushrooms. What’s not to like? Even our wee ones enjoy this super rich beef stew.

Boeuf bourguignon originates from the Burgundy region of France where it was traditionally made with a bottle or two of burgundy. I’ll probably be extradited from France for saying this but you really don’t need to use a particularly good bottle of wine, and indeed it would be a very expensive dish if you were to do so. I use the fabulous red plonk we get from our local market competitively priced at a euro a litre.

Whatever you do don’t hurry the cooking time, the beef should be gently braised for hours and literally melting.Try to start preparations a day in advance and marinade the beef overnight in the wine and herbs. I’m convinced it makes a huge difference.

Enough for 4 adults or a family of 4 with some lovely leftovers:

800g of beef shin or chuck, cut into a large 5cm dice

a litre of red wine

3 sprigs of thyme

3 bay leaves

salt & pepper

olive oil

a small onion, diced

4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

a large carrot, sliced

2 celery sticks, sliced

175g of lardons, or streaky bacon diced onto fine strips

250g of shallots, peeled and cut in two if large (left whole if small)

200g of whole button mushrooms

a little beef stock (optional)

Place the beef, herbs (the thyme sprigs left whole), a pinch of salt, a teaspoon of coarsely ground black pepper and the red wine in a large non-metalic bowl. Stir around a little, cover with cling film and leave to marinade in the fridge overnight.

The next day drain the beef retaining all the lovely wine marinade and herbs. Pat the beef dry on kitchen roll.

In a large casserole or saucepan (one that you have a lid for) heat two tablespoons of olive oil on a high temperature. When very hot fry the beef for a few minutes on all sides until browned. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Reduce the heat to low and into the same pan add the onion, garlic, carrot and celery. If there’s not much fat left after frying the beef add another tablespoon of olive oil. Stir regularly and cook over a lowish heat for 10 minutes until a little softened.

Return the beef to the pan along with the wine marinade and herbs. Bring to a simmer and allow to cook on a very gentle heat uncovered for an hour, until the wine has reduced by about a half.

Meanwhile in another large pan or saucepan fry the lardons or streaky bacon, there’s no need to add any additional fat. Fry for 5 minutes then add the shallots. Cook the shallots and lardons for a further 5 minutes before adding the mushrooms for a final 5 minutes.

Once the beef has been cooking for an hour stir in the lardons, shallots and mushrooms. Cover the pan and continue to simmer very gently on the lowest heat setting you have for another two hours. Taste along the way adding more salt and pepper as necessary. If the liquid appears to be evaporating too much add a little beef stock, but this may not be necessary. The Bourguignon is ready when the beef is meltingly tender and it’s so worth continuing to cook gently until you reach this point.

Remember to remove the bay leaves and thyme sprigs!

Great served with a pile of buttery mash, Boulangere or Dauphinoise Potatoes (recipe coming soon)

If you like this, how about my Coq au Vin, Braised Venison or Beef in Guinness recipes?


Lou’s Lasagne

Toddlers & Young Children, Grown Ups

Doesn’t everyone love lasagne? It’s certainly a favourite in the Foti household. This probably isn’t the most traditional of recipes as I make mine with oodles of oozy cheese sauce, and in so doing would probably be in a good deal of strife in Italy. Rather than just a bechamel I add strong cheddar or even a couple of tablespoons of grated Parmesan. If the truth be known I have a bit of a thing for cheese sauce. Top tip: try adding a teaspoon of english mustard to your cheese sauce, it really enhances the flavour.

I usually make separate lasagnes for the kids in my Oogaa bowls (being silicone they can amazingly be baked in the oven) and a larger one for the grown ups. The kids just love having their own dish. If you are baking individuals I would advise pre-cooking the dried lasagne for a few minutes before layering. You could obviously bake just the one large lasagne for the whole family, and no lasagne pre-cooking required.

Enough for a hungry family of four, with a few tasty leftovers:

For the cheese sauce:

50g of butter

40g of plain flour

500ml of full fat milk

a teaspoon of English mustard (optional)

80g of cheddar cheese, grated

pepper

½ quantity of bolognese sauce, either my Classic Bolognese or Kids Bolognese which works out at about 750g of made up bolognese

8 – 10 dried lasagne sheets

125g ball of Mozzarella, thinly sliced

a heaped tablespoon of grated Parmesan or Grana Padano

Pre-heat your oven to 180C.

Start with making your cheese sauce. Place the butter in a large saucepan and heat over a very gentle heat until melted. With the pan still on a little heat add the flour and stir quickly and vigorously with a wooden spoon or a balloon whisk until combined. Add a little milk and continue to stir or whisk vigorously, gradually add the milk in this way until you have incorporated it all. Don’t worry if you have a few lumps at this stage, they’ll eventually go. Continue to stir or whisk the sauce over a gentle heat until it is fully thickened and starting to simmer, this will take a few minutes. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the cheese, mustard (if using) and a pinch of ground pepper. You probably won’t need to add any salt as the cheese contains plenty.

Now you’re ready to construct. Choose your dishes and decide how many layers of pasta and sauces you need. If making small individual lasagnes for the kids I would suggest just two layers. If making in a deep dish then three. Either way start with a layer of bolognese on the base of your dish or dishes. Cover this with a single layer of lasagne, preferably pre-cooked for small individual dishes. Now pour on a generous layer of cheese sauce. Repeat this layering system once or twice more, finishing with the remainder of the cheese sauce on top.

Place the mozzarella slices evenly over the top or tops and sprinkle with the Parmesan.

Place in the pre-heated oven for 30 minutes for small individual lasagnes or 45 minutes for larger ones, until the cheese is bubbling and golden on the top. Check with a fork that the pasta is soft and cooked through (if not already pre-cooked).

Great served with a salad for grown up folk and a few steamed veggies for the wee ones.

Here’s some other favourite toddler and children recipes: Sunday Dinner Leftover Cakes, Kids Fish Pie, Chicken Fried Rice

And other pasta recipes: Pasta & Meatballs!, Roasted Veggie Lasagne, Sausage & Courgette Pasta Carbonara, Smoked Salmon & Broccoli Penne


Classic Bolognese

I feel a bit of a con blogging a recipe for bolognese sauce, as I’m pretty sure everyone can rustle up a simple spag bol. Nevertheless I’d like to share with you the recipe I invariably use after many years of bolognese making. I’ve experimented with adding pork mince, white wine, different veggies, chicken livers etc and whilst they’re all lovely in their own right this is very definitely my personal favourite and indeed the most traditional.

The key is in plenty of red wine, good quality low fat beef mince (ideally get your butcher to mince it in front of you so you know exactly what you’re getting), lardons or streaky bacon, good tinned tomatoes, and a very long slow simmering, at least two but preferably nearer three hours. It might take a long time to cook but the preparation is literally only minutes, especially if you happen to have a food processor to do all the chopping for you. Another top tip is to throw in any Parmesan cheese rinds you have lurking, it’s amazing how much flavour can come out of the rind with a long slow cooking. Never ever throw them away again!

I make mine in large quantities (at least double the ingredients below) so that I can make lasagnes too (recipe blog coming up) and store the rest in the freezer for lazy instant dinners.

My kids eat this with us, but I also make them a Kids Bolognese sauce sometimes minus the wine and lardons and packed full of lots of lovely veggies.

Enough to feed a family of 4 twice:

1 large onion

1 carrot

2 sticks of celery

3 tablespoons of olive oil

4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

600g of good quality low fat beef mince

180g of lardons or streaky bacon

320g of mushrooms, finely sliced

3 bay leaves

2 teaspoons of dried oregano

a large pinch of black pepper

a teaspoon of Worcester sauce

400ml of red wine

2 x 400g cans of good quality chopped tomatoes

parmesan rind (optional)

grated parmesan – to serve

Begin with very finely dicing the onions, celery and carrot. If you have a food processor use it, it’ll pulse up everything in a flash. I like my onions and veggies diced particularly small so they unidentifiably blend into the sauce.

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and throw in the onion, celery and carrot together with the finely chopped garlic. Cook on a gentle heat for 5 minutes stirring regularly so nothing catches. Turn the heat up and add the minced beef. You want the meat to caramelise slightly and be fully browned all over. Stir every few minutes.

Whilst the beef is browning fry the lardons or streaky bacon in a separate frying pan. You don’t need to add any additional fat. Mop up any excess water or fat from the bacon with kitchen roll as you go along, if there is any. Fry until slightly golden.

Once the beef is browned add the finely sliced mushrooms, cooked lardons, bay leaves, oregano, black pepper and Worcester sauce. Cook for a further couple of minutes stirring regularly. Pour in the red wine and bring to a gentle simmer.

Once most of the wine has evaporated add the chopped tomatoes and any Parmesan rinds you have lurking.

Bring back to a simmer, cover, and leave to gently bubble away on the lowest heat setting you have for two to three hours.

Serve with a generous grating of fresh Parmesan on the top on a bed of spaghetti or pasta of your choice.

Have you tried some of my other pasta dishes? How about Roasted Veggie Lasagne, Sausage & Courgette Pasta Carbonara, Pasta & Meatballs, Smoked Salmon & Broccoli Penne or Jamie’s Baked Pasta with Tomatoes & Mozzarella?


Beef in Guinness

This is about as winter warming and comforting as food can be, and just perfect for all the snowy weather we’re all getting at the minute! I made this last weekend when it was minus 9 outside and in the midst of a snow storm!. I didn’t actually set foot outside all day. We all tucked in and devoured it with fervour.

Strangely enough the first time I ever cooked beef in Guinness, or black beer, was in the semi tropics of Bolivia. Staying in a picturesque mountain side hut overlooking the Andies with my friend Enda we made the most of having our very own outdoor kitchen for a few days and cooked up some triumphs with great local produce from the village a steep 3km trek away. Not only did the village have fresh homemade pasta for sale (this is extremely rural South America, not Italy, we’re talking about!), but we managed to find some very novel in those parts black beer (and some pretty good local red plonk to boot too!). And as the beef looked particularly scraggy and distinctly unappetising I figured the best treatment for it was to stew it up for a few hours in the beer. And what a result, I remember it being the best meal we’d had in weeks. Admittedly not the best choice of dinner to be eating in 35 degrees of heat but nevertheless it tasted damned good at the time. Happy happy memories!

Our wonderful outdoor kitchen

The view from the upstairs sleep deck, that's the bottom of my sleeping bag!

Anyway, I digress! Here’s a considerably more refined recipe for Beef in Guinness cooked with winter veggies and pearl barley. I used some pumpkin in mine which melted beautifully into the gravy, but I’ve usually used swede or parsnips in the past, even some turnip, but more often than not a mixture of what I happen to have in. These root veggies hold their shape a good deal better than my pumpkin.

For a family of four:

800g of braising steak

2 tbsps of plain flour

salt & pepper

olive oil

1 large onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

2 carrots, sliced (a little thicker than a pound coin)

2 sticks of celery, sliced

500g of pumpkin/squash/swede/parsnips/turnips or a mix of a few of these. Peeled and cut into a 2 cm dice

2 tbsps of tomato puree

750ml of Guinness – equates to 1 and a half cans (some unfortunate person gets to finish the can!)

500ml of beef stock

4 bay leaves

4 sprigs of thyme

125g of pearl barley

Place the 2 tablespoons of flour in a large bowl and season with a little salt and pepper. Cut the beef into 3 to 4 cm chunks and roll around in the flour until evenly coated.

Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large casserole or saucepan and brown the beef off on a medium heat. Turn the meat every few minutes until all sides are browned. Once browned remove from the pan with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Into the same pan add the onion, garlic, carrots and celery. If there’s not much fat left from the beef add another tablespoon of olive oil. Continue to cook on a medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring everything regularly so nothing catches.

Add the browned beef to the pan along your chosen veggies and 2 tablespoons of tomato puree. Give everything a good stir then add the Guinness, beef stock, bay leaves and thyme. You can leave the thyme sprigs whole, and remove the empty stalks at the end of cooking just as you would the bay leaves (far less fiddly than removing the leaves I find). Last but not least stir in the pearl barley.

Bring to the boil and simmer very gently for 2 hours with the lid on. Stir periodically so as to ensure nothing catches on the bottom of the pan. The stew is ready when the beef is very very tender.

Serve with oodles of mash and the rest of the Guinness, or like myself a large glass of vin rouge.

Have you tried my other winter warming recipes? How about my Sausage & Bean Stew or Comfort Cottage Pie,


Pasta & Meatballs!

Everyone loves meatballs don’t they, veggies aside obviously? I really should make these more often as they’re such a savoured treat in our house and always put a smile on the dinner table faces. A perfect weekend family dinner. We had these last Saturday and they went down a storm with all of us, even Jacques managed to munch his way through THREE WHOLE meatballs (and he’s only 21 months old!). Totally delish.

The recipe I’ve always used for Meatballs is actually based on Nigella’s (from her Nigella Bites book) and to be honest you can’t really fault it! Wonderful half pork, half beef ever so slightly cheesy meatballs. All cooked and served in a lovely tomato sauce on a bed of pasta. Nigella makes her sauce with tomato passata, but as I rarely have it in I tend to make my own from a can of chopped tomatoes and a little tomato puree. I also like to add the merest touch of chilli to my tomato sauce, but feel free to omit if you don’t like the heat.

She also makes her own tagliatelle in the recipe. In my pre-children days I often used to make my own pasta, but I simply don’t have the same luxury of time these days and tend to use dried as a perfectly good substitute. But if you do have a little more time than me GO FOR IT, homemade pasta is unbeatable, and actually pretty simple when you’ve made it a few times.

I haven’t specified any weight for the dried pasta (spaghetti, tagliatelle or linguine all work particularly well) as I find pasta is such a variant and my family have particularly enormous appetites for it!. Just cook the same amount you would normally for yourselves for a bolognese or similar.

Makes about 14 small meatballs, and enough for a family of Four:

200g of good quality pork mince

200g of good quality beef mince

2 tbsps finely grated Parmesan or Grana Padano

1 egg

1 clove of garlic, finely chopped

1 heaped tsp of dried oregano

2 heaped tbsps of breadcrumbs

salt & pepper

For the Tomato Sauce:

olive oil

1 small onion, finely diced

2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1 tsp of dried oregano

the merest pinch of dried chilli flakes (optional)

a pinch of sugar

1 desert spoon of tomato puree

1 400g can of chopped tomatoes

200ml of water

100ml full fat milk

salt & pepper

and Pasta of your choice, fresh or dried spaghetti, tagliatelle or linguine

Start with making your meatballs. Simply add all the meatball ingredients to a large bowl and mix very thoroughly, the best way to do this is by hand squidging the mix through your hands and fingers (and if feels soooo lush!). Once well combined shape into smallish balls, by taking a little of the mixture and rolling it around in your hands a little. They should each be a smidgen bigger than a walnut. Aim for about 14 balls. Once made place on a layer of cling film on top of a plate or tray. Cover with another layer of cling film and place in the fridge until ready to cook.

Now for the sauce. In a large wide saucepan or casserole dish (that you have a lid for) add a generous glug of olive oil and heat. Add the diced onion and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes on a gentle heat, stirring regularly. Now add the chilli (if using) and oregano and cook for a moment or two more. Then add a pinch of sugar, tomato puree, chopped tomatoes and water. Bring to the boil and simmer gently for 15 minutes.

Take off the heat and whiz the sauce up, preferably with a stick blender straight into the saucepan. You could obviously use a food processor too but that creates too much washing up for me!. Taste the sauce and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper to suit. Now add the milk and stir well.

Place the sauce back on the heat and bring to a simmer again. Now it’s time to add the meatballs. Carefully drop them individually into the sauce. Don’t stir them at all at this point, you must wait until the meatballs have turned from pink to brown as you don’t want them to break up.

Cook for 20 minutes with the lid partially covering the pan. Towards the end of this time you can stir the meatballs a little to turn them over.

Whilst they’re cooking cook your pasta to packet instructions.

Have a final taste check of the sauce and serve the meatballs and sauce immediately on a bed of pasta with plenty of freshly grated Parmesan.


Kid’s Bolognese

I make a bolognese pasta sauce especially for my children throwing in a whole heap of veggies to bulk out the meat. Not only does this make your bolognese a good deal healthier for little tums, but also a good deal cheaper, making a little meat go a long way. It seems that however much other goodness you add the sauce still retains the lovely meaty bolognesy flavour which kids adore. And obviously it doesn’t have to be just for the wee ones, it really is very yummy for big people too!.

You really can throw in a huge variety of veggies to this. In addition to the onions and carrots I added about 300g of finely diced pumpkin, 75g of carrots, and 125g of french beans from my freezer. You could use mushrooms, parsnips, squash, swede, sweet potato, peas, spinach, sweetcorn, celery, peppers, aubergine…the list goes on!. I’ve even added potatoes and chick peas in the past, and both work extremely well. Be brave, chuck it in!.

Try to only use good quality mince, that’s preferably been minced by the butcher in front of you. I tend to add lots of fresh thyme to my bolognese as it grows in abundance here, but if you don’t have any to hand I wouldn’t go to the trouble and expense of buying it especially.

I tend to make the sauce in pretty large batches so I can freeze the leftovers in tupperware portions to bring out for a quick no brainer dinner when I’m short on time.

Enough for 10 to 12 little kids portions:

2 tbsps of olive oil

1 onion, diced

2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced

500g mixed veggies, cut into a small dice

400g good quality minced beef

2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes

1 dessertspoon of tomato puree

a few sprigs of thyme (optional)

2 bay leaves

1 tsp of worcester sauce

black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or casserole. Add the onions and garlic and cook for a few minutes until softened, stirring regularly.

Now add the veggies that you’ve selected. If you’re using peas, spinach, sweetcorn or any other easily cooked veggie leave out until nearer the end of the cooking process. Cook for about 5 minutes more, stirring regularly.

Add the minced beef and cook until browned.

Throw in the chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, bay leaves, thyme (if using), worcester sauce and a little freshly ground black pepper. Bring to the boil and simmer for one hour. If your using veggies that take less time to cook don’t forget to add them a few minutes before the end of the cooking time.

And it’s easy as that!. One large vat of healthy and delicious bolognese sauce to fill those little tums done!

Serve on the pasta of your children’s choice with a generous sprinkling of cheese….my kids love to do the ‘sprinkles’ themselves!

Like my bowls and spoons, they’re lovely aren’t they? They’re from Oogaa who design and sell fabulous and safe feeding products for babies and young children, in gorgeous and fun designs and colours. For more information check out the Oogaa website, www.oogaa.com.

Have you tried any of my other kids dinners? How about my Simple Chicken Stew, Pumpkin Mac ‘n Cheese, Fish & Chips, Cottage Pie , Kids Fish Pie , Kid’s 5-a-day pasta sauce or Salmon Fishcakes recipes?


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