Category Archives: Main dishes

The Only Marinade You’ll Ever Need


The official start of summer in the US – Memorial Day – is upon us this weekend.  In the UK it’s a holiday weekend as well, though it’s a generic “bank” holiday…don’t exactly know the significance, but I’ll take the holiday nonetheless.  Plus kids are off school next week for half-term break.  Yeah!!!!


To kick-off the summer, I’m sharing with you my absolute favorite marinade.  It’s comprised of super fresh, Mediterranean flavors: lemon, olive oil and fresh herbs.  You can use it on chicken, beef, pork, shrimp, fish or veggies – pretty much anything.


I use about half of it to marinade and then use the other half as a sauce.  You can marinade for as little as an hour, or if you want more flavor (and have superior planning skills to me) then marinade in the refrigerator overnight.


Incorporate whatever fresh herbs might be growing like gangbusters in your garden this summer, or what looks particularly nice at the farmer’s market….or whatever bits and bobs you have in your refrigerator.


1 year ago:  Mini Roast Beef Sandwiches with Horseradish Mayo

The Only Marinade You’ll Ever Need (makes 1 cup)

Note:  You can use this marinade on chicken, pork, steaks, chops, prawns/shrimp, salmon, vegetables – pretty much anything.  I like to use half of it to marinade the aforementioned items and save the other half to serve alongside as a sauce.

1/4 cup (60 ml) lemon juice

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

1/2 teaspoon pepper

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 strips lemon zest

3 garlic cloves, minced then crushed with the side of a large knife (see picture above)

1/4 cup chopped parsley (about a handful)

1/4 cup chopped mixed herbs (about a handful – dill, basil, cilantro/coriander, tarragon, oregano…use whatever combo you like)

1/2 cup (120 ml) olive oil

In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice, red pepper flakes, pepper and salt.  Stir until salt has dissolved.  Add the lemon zest, garlic, parsley and herbs and stir.  Slowly add the olive oil in a stream, stirring continuously with a fork or whisk.  Pour over your poultry, meat, fish, seafood or vegetable of choice.  Let sit for at least an hour or overnight.  Grill to desired doneness (or if not grilling, can cook on the stovetop or in the oven).

Adapted from Epicurious


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Filed under Main dishes

Fast Vietnamese Caramelized Trout


I’m always leery to use terms like “fast” or “30-minute” or “easy” or “best ever”.  Oftentimes they’re tagged onto recipes which don’t live up to the hype and you’re left disappointed.  I’d rather just be told the truth.  Not every recipe has to be fast, but if one is sold to me as fast, I’ll usually make it when I’m in a hurry and then when it takes too long and I’m stressing out to get dinner on the table before having to run off to something else….argh!!  Don’t like that.


At my Asian cooking class a few months back we discussed favorite Asian dishes that we make at home.  My lovely friend Stacy was kind enough to email links to a bunch of delicious-sounding family-friendly, quick Asian meals. This Vietnamese Caramelized Trout not only appeared to be quick but the ingredient list had me hooked.


The original New York Times recipe calls for bluefish, but as that isn’t available in the UK (at least not at my local fish market), I found some delicious whole trout that the fishmonger filleted for me.  Since the trout is relatively thin, it cooks quickly, and indeed makes this a quick 30-minute meal.  The lemongrass, soy, brown sugar, ginger and fish sauce make a sweet, flavorful pan sauce.  The green onions added at the end lend color and a bit of oniony bite.


If you’re looking for a true 30-minute meal, give this one a go!

1 year ago:  Vanilla Cupcakes with Buttercream Frosting, Chimichurri with Steak

Vietnamese Caramelized Trout (serves 4)

Note: Lemongrass is found in many supermarkets, but if you don’t find it in your local store try an Asian food market.  Or substitute lemongrass with some strips of lime zest (use a vegetable peeler).  You don’t need to bruise the peel (as you have to bruise the lemongrass).

4 (6-ounce) skin-on trout filets (or substitute bluefish, mackerel or salmon) – thinner filets are best

1 tablespoon vegetable oil

1 stalk lemongrass (or use lime zest, see Note above)

1/3 cup (70 grams) brown sugar

2 tablespoons fish sauce

1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 teaspoon freshly grated ginger

1/2 teaspoon black pepper

2 spring onions/scallions, sliced

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro/coriander

Cooked rice, for serving

Brush fish all over with oil. Remove outer layer of lemongrass stalk and cut stalk into 2-inch lengths.  Using the butt of a kitchen knife, pound and bruise stalks all over.

Place lemongrass pieces, sugar, fish sauce, soy sauce, ginger and black pepper in a large skillet.  Bring to a simmer over medium-high heat, and reduce sauce for 1 to 2 minutes, until syrupy.

Place fish, skin side-down, in pan. Simmer, basting fish frequently with pan sauce, for 2 minutes; carefully turn fish and continue cooking until fish is just cooked through, 2 to 3 minutes longer.

Transfer fish to a serving plate and garnish with scallion, jalapeño and cilantro. Drizzle with additional sauce.  Serve over rice, if desired.

Adapted from The New York Times


Filed under Main dishes

Chicken Thighs with Fennel, Orange and Green Olives


I very rarely use my oven’s broiler.  Last time was most likely to brown the cheesy topping on French Onion Soup.  But a few weeks back I came across an article in the New York Times food section that made me give it a second thought.


It’s a great alternative to grilling.  You toss your meat and veg and any other ingredients in the pan and essentially have a one-dish dinner.  Another bonus is the time factor – it cooks relatively quickly (again, similar to grilling).


This broiler recipe starts with chicken thighs.  Many people shy away from thighs in favor of the more popular boneless skinless chicken breasts.  Though convenient, I’ve been going off them in favor of more flavorful parts such as thighs or legs or even using a whole roaster chicken.  Plus thighs are juicier than breasts.


Lots of bold flavors come into play in this recipe – salty green olives, fresh zesty oranges, the licorice taste of fennel and a bit of smoke and spice from paprika and red pepper.  The juices of the chicken and the water released from the onions, fennel and orange create a lovely sauce, which can be mopped up with crusty bread….or serve it over couscous.


So dust off the old broiler (ok, not literally, but you get what I mean) and discover an old kitchen tool that’s new again.


1 year ago: Sautéed Cabbage with Onions, Ginger and Coconut Milk

Chicken Thighs with Fennel, Orange and Green Olives (serves 4-6)

1 bulb fennel, cored and thinly sliced

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

2/3 cup pitted green olives, sliced in half

1 tablespoon minced garlic

2 teaspoons paprika

1/2 – 1 teaspoon red pepper flakes

3 tablespoons olive oil, separated

Salt and pepper

1 orange, cut into eighths, but not peeled

8 chicken thighs (bone-in, skin-on preferred), about 2 1/2 pounds or 1 kilogram

Heat the broiler (to high, if you have that option).

Combine the fennel, onion, olives, garlic, paprika, red pepper flakes and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a large bowl, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss gently.  Spread mixture in a medium roasting pan (e.g. 9 x 13 inch or 23 x 33 cm) and scatter orange sections on top.

Add the chicken and the remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil to the now-empty bowl, sprinkle with salt and pepper and toss to coat.  Place thighs on top of fennel mixture, skin-side down (if chicken has skin).

Place under broiler with pan about 4 inches (10 cm) from the heat source.  After 4 minutes of cooking, turn chicken skin-side up and rotate pan.  Continue broiling for another 3 minutes and then rotate pan again.  Continue broiling until the chicken is fully cooked, about 7-10 minutes more (rotating individual chicken thighs, if necessary, to ensure even cooking).  Chicken is fully cooked when juices run clear and/or temperature is 165º F (75º C) on an instant-read thermometer.

Serve with couscous or crusty bread.

Adapted from The New York Times


Filed under Main dishes

Eggplant Ricotta Penne Pasta


One of the things I like best about where we live is the plethora of neighborhood restaurants.  At the end of our block you’ll find Japanese, two Italian, Chinese, Korean BBQ, Thai, two pubs, Indian and Rock ‘n Rose (not sure how to describe this last one, but their tagline is “food, passion, glamour”).  No chains; all local, mostly family-run, unique places.


But our favorite is Cafe Mamma, one of the Italian restaurants.  Every time we walk in the door we’re greeted by a kiss on the cheek and a hearty “ciao” and made to feel like family.  The food is traditional Italian – like eating in mamma’s kitchen.


We’ve been regulars for nearly four years and yet I only tried their eggplant ricotta penne for the first time last week.  My daughter ordered it and it looked so good I snatched some off her plate (bad manners, I know).  It was delicious!  I was annoyed that I only discovered this dish now.


Plus we are moving back to the US in four months.  There will no longer be a Cafe Mamma at our corner…sniff, sniff.  I need to bring a little of it back with me (won’t be the first time…at Christmas I brought back limoncello I made at the restaurant with Jose, the owner).  So I set about re-creating the lovely eggplant ricotta pasta from last week.  Now I don’t think I got it as good as Cafe Mamma, but it’ll stand in when this favorite restaurant is no longer just down the block.


1 year ago:  Whole Wheat Pancakes, Tuna Nicoise Sandwiches

Eggplant Ricotta Penne Pasta (serves 6)

Note:  This is a nice, simple weeknight kind of pasta dish.  The eggplant and ricotta, quite mild flavors, are given a bit of oomph with the parmesan and basil.  However if you want to punch up the flavor even more, feel free to add olives or capers.

1 pound (450 grams) penne or rigatoni pasta

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 pounds (900 grams) eggplant, peeled and cut into 3/4″ cubes

1/2 teaspoon salt

4 garlic cloves, minced

1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes

28 ounces (800 grams) canned/tinned chopped tomatoes, undrained

1/2 cup (10 grams) chopped fresh basil, separated

1 cup (250 grams) ricotta

Freshly grated parmesan

Cook penne pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water until al dente (or however you prefer your pasta cooked), then drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the oil in a 12″ nonstick skillet over high heat until just smoking.  Add the eggplant and 1/2 teaspoon salt (skillet will be quite full, but it will cook down) and cook until lightly browned and softened, about 15 minutes, gently stirring every few minutes or so.

Stir in the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 15 seconds.  Stir in the tomatoes.  Bring to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.

In a large serving bowl, combine the cooked penne, eggplant/tomato sauce and half of the basil.  Add the ricotta in spoonfuls and gently stir, so that ricotta is incorporated slightly but there are still “blobs” of it visible.  Serve topped with the remaining fresh basil and grated parmesan.

Adapted from America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook

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Filed under Main dishes, Vegetarian

Chana Masala (Indian-style chickpeas)


This is one of those recipes I’m not quite sure how to categorize.  My daughter eats the entire batch in one sitting, so I’d think that qualifies as a main course.  However it also makes a great protein-packed snack as well as a side dish to grilled meat or fish.  All I know is that lately I can’t make enough of the stuff.  I cook up a batch, then turn around and it’s been consumed.


Many people are a bit skittish about Indian food.  “It’s too spicy” is a common complaint – and misconception.  There’s some Indian food that definitely has a kick, but you could say the same for most cuisines – Mexican (spicy salsa), southern U.S. (spicy wings), Spanish (spicy chorizo sausage) or Chinese (Sichuan spicy noodles).  This is a great intro for Indian cuisine newbies; a gateway food, if you will.


This is also a good gateway recipe for Indian food fanatics who only eat it at restaurants or do take-away/carry-out.  I’ll admit I fell into this category, though I do make a mean Chicken Tikka Masala which I’ve since learned falls more under the British cuisine umbrella rather than Indian, though we still love it.   This is a good intro to Indian cooking because it uses pretty basic ingredients.  The most exotic is the garam masala which you should be able to find in the spice aisle of most supermarkets (or I’ve included a make-your-own substitute at the bottom of the recipe).


So get out of your comfort zone and try something new this weekend.  It may be your first time making Chana Masala, but it certainly won’t be your last.

1 year ago:  Baked Shrimp Scampi, Roasted Carrots with Carrot-Top Pesto, Chocolate Bumpy Cake

Chana Masala (serves 1 as a main or 4 as a side)

Note:  This recipe can easily be double, tripled or quadrupled though you may have to slightly extend the cooking time.

2 tablespoons vegetable oil

1 large onion, chopped

2 tablespoons finely chopped garlic

2 tablespoons finely chopped ginger

1 tablespoon cumin seeds

1/2 cup (120 grams) chopped tomato, fresh or tinned

1 green chili, finely chopped (optional)

2 teaspoons garam masala (see garam masala substitute below)

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups cooked chickpeas (or one 14 ounce or 400 gram can/tin, strained and rinsed)

Chopped fresh cilantro/coriander (optional, for garnish)

Place the oil, onion, garlic and ginger in a non-stick skillet over medium-high heat and cook for 3 minutes.  Add the cumin seeds and cook for 1 minute.  Stir in the tomatoes, green chili, garam masala and salt.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and cook for 5 minutes, stirring regularly.

Add the chickpeas to the skillet and cook for 1 minute.  Turn the heat off, cover the pan with a lid and let it sit for a few minutes before serving.  Garnish with a sprinkle of cilantro/coriander or chopped green chili, if desired.  Serve plain or over rice.

Garam masala subsitute:  If you don’t have access to garam masala, you can make your own by combining the following spices:

2 teaspoon ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
2 teaspoon black pepper
3 teaspoon ground cumin
3 teaspoon ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cloves

Adapted from “Everyday Indian” by Bal Arneson 


Filed under Main dishes, Side Dishes, Vegetarian

Turkey Tettrazini and Turkey Noodle Soup


Happy Thanksgiving to all of my American readers (and those non-American readers who like an excuse to fix a delicious, gluttonous turkey feast).  Tomorrow is the big day:  turkeys will be roasted, potatoes mashed, cranberries simmered, and gravy whisked.  Then Friday comes and you’re faced with a stockpile of leftovers, particularly if you are anything like me and order a turkey that could feed a small village.  I do enjoy straight-up turkey leftovers – the meat, stuffing, mash, cranberry sauce and gravy.  But honestly, after one day of that – and still a lot of turkey leftover – I’m a bit over it.

So here are two ideas for what to do with all that turkey leftover from your Thanksgiving feast…or Christmas dinner (I haven’t forgotten the Brits!):

Grandma’s Turkey Noodle Soup – In my haste to make this, I forgot to take photos, so I apologize but you will have to envision it for yourself.  This soup is essentially chicken noodle soup but with turkey.  It’s one of those Grandma-type recipes….doesn’t need to be officially written down, rather just a series of general instructions – a little bit of this, a pinch of that.  Save your turkey carcass, put it in a large pot along with an onion cut into quarters, two carrots and two celery stalks chopped in 1-2″ pieces, handfuls of any herbs leftover from Thanksgiving cooking (thyme, sage, parsley, etc.), 5-10 peppercorns, and 2-3 bay leaves.  Add enough water so that carcass is covered and water nearly fills the pot.  Put on high heat until water is at a rolling boil then reduce heat and simmer for about 2-3 hours, until a few inches of water has evaporated and the liquid has good flavor.  Remove from heat, strain solids and pour stock into a large bowl.  Save the turkey meat (pick it off the carcass) and discard all other solids (bones, onion, carrots, etc).  Chop up one onion, two carrots and two celery stalks and saute in the large pot along with a bit of vegetable oil until softened slightly, about 5 minutes.  Pour stock into the pot along with diced/shredded turkey meat and gently simmer until vegetables are softened.  Season to taste with salt and pepper.  Add in noodles or rice, if desired.  Amazing!!

Turkey Tettrazini – Now this one I did properly.  There are pictures and a real recipe to follow.  This is delicious any time of year with chicken (or you can use turkey – just that turkey is quite difficult to find year-round in the UK).  Enjoy and have a safe, peaceful and happy Thanksgiving!!!


1 year ago:  Pear Ginger Toddies

Turkey Tettrazini (serves 4-6)

Note:  Use thicker egg noodles, if you can find them (I could only find the thinner type at my market when I did the photos, but prefer it with the thicker type).

2 tablespoons (30 grams) unsalted butter

10 ounces (300 grams) mushrooms, sliced thin

1 onion, minced


8 ounces (225 grams) egg noodles

2 cups (475 ml) chicken broth

1 cup (225 ml) half-and-half / single cream

1 cup (120 grams) frozen peas

1 1/2 cups (150 grams) shredded cooked turkey

1 tablespoon dry sherry

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Melt the butter in a 12″ skillet over medium heat.  Add the mushrooms, onion and 1/2 teaspoon salt.  Cook until the mushrooms are browned, about 15 minutes.  Transfer the mixture to a bowl.

Sprinkle the noodles into the skillet.  Pour the broth and cream over the noodles.  Cover and bring to a simmer.  Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to simmer, stirring occasionally, until the noodles are tender, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the peas, turkey, sherry, parsley and mushroom mixture and allow to heat through, about 1 minute.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Adapted from “America’s Test Kitchen Family Cookbook” 

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Filed under Holidays, Main dishes

Pulled Pork Sandwiches


When I started this blog I was pretty confident that I wouldn’t run out of recipe ideas and that the writing would flow (occasional writers block excluded).  But I was worried about the photography.  I used the camera for holidays, parties, kids being cute….mainly people pics; not food photography (unless involving chocolate being smeared across a face or a birthday cake).


Snapping shots of food for the blog was totally new to me and a bit scary.  But it’s been a year and I think I’m holding my own and slowly improving.


Yet I still find it annoying when amidst cooking, hands covered with ____ (insert whatever I’m working with at the time…flour, brown sugar, pork shoulder, etc.) I have to remember to stop, wash my hands, pick up my camera and take photos.  Must make sure nothing offensive ends up in the shot (dirty paper towel, scrubby sponge, half-full glass of water).  And now that it’s fall and the days are getting shorter I have to remember to time my cooking and photography while there’s still natural light available.


For this week’s Pulled Pork Sandwiches I was on my A-game.  Got my shots of the rub, the onions, the pork before going in the oven, pork coming out of the oven and the final shot – served up on a bun with coleslaw, pickles and hot sauce.  But somewhere between all that I completely forgot to shoot the shredding of the pork, which is a pretty important step.  It is called “pulled” pork after all.


It reminds me that life isn’t perfect, cooking isn’t perfect and not to take things too seriously.  Especially with a fun, southern-style recipe like this.  It’s my favorite when we have out-of-town guests (which has been a lot of late…between October and November we have overnight guests 35 days!!).  I make up a batch and it sits in the fridge all weekend for an easy meal or snack.  Plus any leftovers freeze beautifully.


Life might not be perfect, or cooking, but the taste of these pulled pork sandwiches is pretty close to perfection…complete set of photos or not.


1 year ago:  Blueberry Crumb Bars

Pulled Pork Sandwiches (makes about 16 sandwiches)

Note:  If pork shoulder in your region comes with a fat layer (crackling), as it does in the UK, the pork should weigh a bit more than indicated in the recipe (2.5-3 kg rather than 2-2.5 kg).  Remove all but a thin layer of the fat before proceeding with the recipe.  If you want to turn the fat layer into crackling – and who wouldn’t? – see “crackling” instructions at the end of the recipe.  Also, this recipe is a bit spicy (there’s cayenne pepper and red pepper flakes).  If you are concerned about it being too spicy, especially for kids, omit those spices and just use more hot sauce when you serve the sandwiches.  I love my pulled pork sandwiches with Sriracha sauce.

4-5.5 pounds (2–2.5 kilograms) boneless pork shoulder (see Note above)

Salt and pepper

4 tablespoons brown sugar

2 tablespoons paprika (smoked or sweet)

1 – 2 onions, quartered


2/3 cup (160 ml) cider vinegar

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

1 tablespoon whole-grain or spicy mustard

1 tablespoon honey

1 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon dried chilli (red pepper) flakes

1 teaspoon brown sugar

½ teaspoon ground pepper

½ teaspoon dry mustard

½ teaspoon garlic salt

1/8 – ¼  teaspoon cayenne pepper

Fresh buns/rolls, pickles, coleslaw and hot sauce – for serving

Preheat the oven to 425º F (220º C).   Line a medium roasting pan (e.g. 9 x 13 inch or 23 x 33 cm) with sheets of foil big enough to fold over the top of the pork.

Rub the pork with salt and pepper.  Combine the paprika and brown sugar in a small bowl and rub it all over the pork.

Place the pork in the pan.  Scatter the onions around the pork.  Put pan in the oven, uncovered, and cook for 30 minutes.  Take pan out of the oven, reduce heat to 250º F (125º C) and seal the pork in the foil.  Return to the oven and cook another 6-7 hours, until the internal temperature is 190º F (90º C) and the ends of the pork easily pull apart with a fork.

Remove pan from oven and let rest until cool enough to handle.  Increase heat to 350º F (175º C).

While pork is resting, prepare the sauce.  Combine all the ingredients (cider vinegar through cayenne pepper) and mix together well.

Transfer pork onto a cutting board.  Discard any fat or liquid from the roasting pan; discard the foil.  Shred pork with two forks or your fingers, discarding any fat or connective tissue.  Thinly slice the onions.  Place shredded pork and sliced onions back in the pan.  Stir in the sauce, season to taste with salt and pepper.  Place in oven, uncovered, and cook for 30 minutes until top layer is crispy.

Serve on warm rolls topped with coleslaw, sliced pickles /gherkins and hot sauce.  Pulled pork will keep in the refrigerator for about 3 days.  Can be kept frozen for up to 2 months.

Crackling instructions:  Score the fat with a heavy knife (utility knife works best or buy pork with a pre-scored rind).  Preheat oven to 425º F (220º C).  Place fat, scored-side up, on a sheet pan and roast for 40-50 minutes until rind is golden and crisp.  Cut into strips with a knife or kitchen scissors.

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November 5, 2015 · 10:39 am