Salmon & Fennel Tray Bake

Simple one tray dish – requires very little preparation, not demanding with a lovely result – to sum up what you can do with these main two ingredients – Salmon & Fennel.

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Preheat oven to 200 °C fan, leave the baking tray in the oven.

Wash and lightly scrub 500g new potatoes, halve them and add into a pot of boiling water, add 2 smaller (or 1 large) fennel bulbs, that you sliced into smaller wedges. Let gently simmer for about 5 min. Drain the veggies, and place them onto the hot tray. Mix them with a handful chopped parsley leaves, season with salt and freshly ground black pepper, drizzle well with olive oil, stir or toss again to make sure all is nicely covered in oil, then return into the oven and let roast till all is just about done, pretty golden.

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While your veggies are baking, prepare the salmon fillets – you will need fillets with their skin on, which you will score about 1 cm into the meat. Season the fillets and then stuff in more freshly chopped parsley and mint leaves into the scores.

Prepare a smaller handful of grated Parmesan cheese, which you sprinkle onto the nearly baked vegetables, and give them another stir, so they get covered in the cheese as well. Sprinkle with zest of 1 lemon. Place the fish fillets on top of the veg, drizzle with a little olive oil again, then return to the oven and let roast for another 15 min till the fish is well done.

Serve sprinkled with chopped fennel fronds, or more chopped parsley and mint, with lemon wedges at the side.

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We loved this meal very much, the recipe was passed on me by our good friend, who used the original recipe by Jamie Oliver – it was really lovely, done fast, and enjoyed by the whole family! Wink.



Red Rice Salad

When looking for something heartier than just salad of greens, go for a mixture of those with rice for example, add some prawn jewels and you are where you want to be.

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Red rice looks particularly pretty on a plate, in  my opinion, and having higher nutritional value than white rice, while being high in fibre, it makes a very good choice.

Red rice cooks a bit longer than the white rice, usually up to 30 mins, but keeps its very pleasant nutty flavour which definitely is an advantage for this light meal.

Start cooking the rice first, prepare other ingredients meanwhile. Count your rice portions up to 70 g rice per person. Bring a large pan of water to boil, add the rice, pinch of salt and keep on a lower heat, simmering for 25 – 30 mins.

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Heat a large pan with a spoon of olive oil,  add 200 g peeled pre – cooked king prawns,  and stir fry them with two smaller chopped peppers ( I used red and orange to add warm colours). Do not overcook the peppers, you want them warm and only lightly fried, add radishes sliced alongside, and as the last add some sugar snaps. Stir all well and take off the heat.

Snap young cress (micro / baby cress) to top the salad.

Drain the rice and place in the salad bowl. While still hot, drizzle with Vietnamese dipping sauce and stir lightly. Add the prawn & green mixture into the bowl, stir lightly again, and give the salad one more sauce drizzle. Sprinkle generously with the young cress.

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Serve while warm, but naturally, it can be enjoyed as a cold salad, too.



Udon Noodles With Shiro Shimeji Mushrooms

From time to time it is good to look back and review one’s work, or just simply look behind and enjoy the view, both of which I did with my Shiro Shimeji Mushroom images that I took some two and a half years ago. I still keep the simple recipe and thought this could be good for a simple Friday idea.

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You need Udon noodles that you prepare as instructed on their packaging, or if you’re using the ready made ones as I did, just keep them unpacked aside and add them to your stir fry once the mushroom mixture is nearly ready. I usually use the packet with two portions of 150 g each (300 g packaging with 2 separate 150 g pouches).


Prepare your ingredients ahead, so you have them by hand and only toss them into the pan as the mushrooms start cooking.

You’ll need 2 – 3 spring onions, sliced, 2 crushed garlic cloves, 3 tbsp dark soy sauce, 2 tbsp Worcester sauce, 1 tbsp sesame oil, a handful of fresh coriander leaves, chopped, and 2 tsp sesame seeds.

As an option, you can also make about 50 ml mixture of cornflour and water. This would make the noodles a little stickier and moist.


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On a hot pan with 2 tbsp of olive oil + 2 tbsp sesame oil, add 150 g  mushrooms  – rinsed and only root part chopped off, no need to cut or slice them further, they’re not big in size and they separate nicely while being cooked. Plus, they look interesting in your plate just as they are. This amount is enough for two good sized portions.

When the mushrooms are warmed up through, add the cornflour mixture, stir well, then add the sauces, onions and garlic. The mushrooms don’t take very long to cook, stir fry them up to 5 mins and when they start looking golden, add the noodles, stir well again till the noodles separate well and are all covered with the sauces completely.

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Take off the heat, serve hot – sprinkle sesame seeds and coriander leaves all over.

Enjoy your Friday! Wink.







Spinach & Feta Filo Pasties

The memory of our summer holidays in Bulgaria is mostly of the warm, friendly and playful waves of the Black Sea and the overwhelming scent of roses, which became beautifully heavy especially in the balmy evenings.

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I also remember lots of green sites around, stray dogs and donkey-pulled carts on the roads. And if you were brave enough you could take a picture standing next to a trained brown bear. Mind you, this all was before and very shortly after revolution, when I was just a school girl.

Besides those, it is a memory of a charming mountain chair- lift ride, or visiting old ruins by the sea with the most wonderful views where the romantic stone steps lead you down to the seashore, and of course the unforgettable gardens with large colourful flowerbeds of so many roses smelling sweet and vibrant it could almost make you go lightheaded.

Then it is the tastes and flavours, where chubritza (summer savory, herb) comes as the most powerful of them to me. We enjoyed tomato, cucumber & feta salads, spicy meatballs or kebabs, cool yoghurt & dill dips, sweet halva, Turkish delight and small doughnuts that you could buy on the beach, alongside with the small deep-fried fish, which my father liked as a random afternoon snack a lot and ate them whole with their tiny heads and fins.

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I remember one particular white stall that sold feta cheese filo pastries that I loved hot or cold, and found comparable ones sold only while living in Romania. Delicious is not enough to say.

Looking for recipes that would help me to create something similar, I found an idea which I fancied a lot – adding spinach, red onion and pine nuts with mint.

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To make these parcels, use a whole packet of fresh young spinach leaves (cca 250 g), place them in a colander that stands in a kitchen sink, pour boiling water over them which will make them welt fast, let drain.

Sweat finely chopped medium red onion on a knob of butter in a deep pan. Take off the heat. Add the feta cheese, I used about 400 g finely finger crumbled (that amount for 12 filo sheets). Stir well, add 2 beaten eggs, spinach, each a good handful of roughly chopped pine nuts (dry pan roasted nuts) and fresh mint leaves, stir again. Season with a bit of freshly ground black pepper. I don’t add salt as the cheese is quite salty itself.

You need to spread all the filo pastry sheets carefully. Use every three for the individual parcels, handling them very gently, while keeping the rest covered with a damp kitchen tea towel.

Melt 50 – 100 g butter and use a pastry brush to spread the butter over the filo sheets to stick them nicely together, as well as brush the coats of the parcels – I created triangular pasties, each containing 2 tbsp of the cheese mixture. I cut the the three sheets in the middle so can I make two large triangles of them. You can also make rectangular shapes if you prefer.

Roast the pasties in pre-heated oven at 180 °C / fan 160 °C / gas 4 for about 30 mins, or until the pastry turns golden and crisp. Once done, take the pasties out of the oven and brush them lightly with water.

Serve with a green salad and youghurt mint sauce. We liked them with a good punchy mix of baby and micro leaves of wild rocket, watercress, red chard, radish and nasturtium.

Couscous With Butternut Squash

It has been a sort of a rule for us that Saturdays always called for a little simpler cooking, in order to give us less time spent in the kitchen and more time outdoors.

The Couscous & Butternut Squash is an ideal meal for that reason, it is so quick – and so nice!

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Peel and scrape the seeds out of the butternut squash ( I usually use half a plant for one meal), dice it into cubes (1x1cm approx), place on a baking tray, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with a bit of sea salt and smoked paprika. Cover with kitchen tin foil and roast in a preheated oven (200 ºC / 180 ºC fan ) for about 30 minute till soft.

Prepare couscous according to the packaging instructions, use a 100g couscous, with 150ml boiling hot liquid. I usually use vegetable stock with it. But you can always do with just hot water. I also add a knob of butter in the end and stir it lightly in, couscous tastes milder with it. This takes just a few minutes. Fluff your couscous with a fork, try not using spoons, it would stick the grains together, and that may make them look and feel mushy.

Heat up 2 tbsp olive oil in a deeper pan, then stir fry a small finely diced onion, three chopped sundried tomatoes and two small red and orange peppers till golden (I usually buy a package of these peppers, they’re very sweet and juicy, each of them just between 5 – 10 cm large, see the photo above).  Stir in couscous and gently fold in the squash cubes.

Serve warm, with freshly chopped mint leaves and add chopped roast pine nuts for an even better taste. We love it.

Chicken & Sausage Leftover Makeover

Sometimes I think I could apply for a “leftover makeover” degree if such a thing existed. On one hand, you can think it’s not proper meals, on the other, who dictates how exactly the ingredients were meant to be used?

Adding to that, it is also a good thing to teach my boys not to be wasteful, rather on quite contrary be a bit creative and inventive.

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Like these Chicken & Sausage Creamy Linguine – a recipe which I didn’t really test as many times as the other usual recipes. I just made it, liked it a lot, and thought it to be a good idea to share for all the above mentioned reasons. I will also not use exact measures, simply because you never know what & how much there will be left in your fridge. The main rule is to use the leftover ingredients well combined, and you surely will end up with a great brand new meal.

These linguine take very little effort to prepare! They’re an ideal way to go with your Sunday roast chicken, which, as we know, is wonderful when freshly made, but not so amazing the next day – yet still good enough to be used for something else.

Follow the packaging instructions to cook your pasta, and while that is being done, you’ll have a plenty of time to get the meat mixture and the cream sauce ready.

In a large sauce pan, on few tablespoons of olive oil, shortly stir fry some roughly chopped spring onions with one handful of fresh thyme. Add cubes of pancetta, and the sausage meat. Stir fry well for a few minutes until crisp golden. Then add your chicken meat – you need to have that pre – prepared, meaning, take any nice good meat from the bones, and cut into smaller pieces before, and add that into the meat pan. Chicken meat is already done, so it is enough to stir fry the mixture now for just as long as all is properly hot through.

For the sauce you will need leftover single cream (I had more that 150ml), add that into a large pan with 50g grated hard cheese (I used pecorino romano) and 1 – 2 crushed garlic cloves. Stir well till the cheese dissolves completely, season to your taste with salt and freshly – ground black pepper.

Remove pasta from the heat once done, saving half a cup of the cooking water aside. Add linguine into the cream sauce, pour in some of the saved water, stirring all well, and by the thickness of the sauce add some more of the water. Stir in the meat mixture, adding some more fresh thyme leaves if you like. Serve straight away piping hot, topped with a little more grated cheese.

This recipe is really easy, takes no time and most definitely will transform your leftover ingredients into a lovely new dish!

Tarragon Chicken Soup

Beautiful combination of chicken, tarragon and lemon makes this soup a simple delight, its main ingredients being a sort of invitation to its refreshing and light spring or summer tones. This works very well especially when having quite enough of those heavier comfort stews of the late winter eves. This soup is to wake you up and set you off for more of those brighter days!

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I tried and adapted the original recipe, which was published in “Homemade Soups”, my treasured soup recipe book by Grace Mulligan & Dilwen Philips, for The Women’s Institute, 2012.

To make it, heat 25g butter in a saucepan, add 1 finely chopped onion, sweat for 5 mins, let it soften, but do not brown it. Add 2 tbsp plain flour, stir well & constantly while letting cook for another minute. Add 1 l  chicken stock, gradually, while taking care of blending the flour well by constant stirring. Add finely grated zest and juice of 1/2 lemon, let simmer for 10 mins. Here I also added 1 tbsp of concentrated chicken stock to enhance the flavour.

Add 300g cooked, cubed chicken breast, and 1 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon, let simmer for another 5 mins. After that, remove the soup from the heat, let cool for a while, and stir in double cream – anywhere from 50 – 150ml. I tried the full amount of 150ml as suggested by the original recipe, but found less cream more pleasant for us. Reheat the soup, season with salt and white pepper to your liking.

Use some of the lemon zest and tarragon leaves, or even edible flowers (e.g. viola) as mentioned in the original recipe, to garnish and serve.