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Slow Cooked Pulled Pork – in Zero Sugar Fizzy Orange

I had no idea how this would turn out.  I wanted to try in coke, but couldn’t get any.  I couldn’t get irn bru either, so zero sugar fizzy orange was all I could buy.  I wanted a fruity flavour, but without the excess sweetness that can come from using actual fruit or full sugar drinks.

Even getting meat at the moment is difficult, with the way the shop shelves are, so I count myself lucky to have bagged this beautiful piece of meat that sat alone and forlorn on the shelf.  I tend not to buy many joints of meat, as the price tends to be more than I’m willing to often pay to feed us all, but in this time of shortages, whatever is there, is what ends up in the shopping basket.  My fridge currently looks decidedly bare, which is unusual for me, as I always tend to have lots of fruit and veg in there, but I think I must be shopping at the wrong times these days.  I really must make an effort to be more adventurous about the times I try to get shopping, and with no online deliveries in the supermarkets, I’ve had to resort to a butcher delivery for the next few weeks.  Needs must.

It worked out great.  I cooked it on the low slow cooker setting overnight, for around 8-9 hours, and let it rest for half an hour.  I usually sear the meat before adding to the slow cooker, but this time, I just wanted to throw all the ingredients in and go to bed, as I was absolutely whacked.

I used a fairly large joint of meat, and wouldn’t use the high setting for this type of cooking, as I suspect it would toughen the meat somewhat.

I did soften the onions for a few minutes in pan, with a little butter, and mixed with a vegetable stock cube for a bit of salty flavouring.

About half a litre of zero sugar orange fizzy drink, and a little top of up of water and this was on the way.

When I got up in the morning, I simply transferred to a chopping board to rest, then sliced it so the boys could have pulled pork sandwiches for brekkie.  They were so hungry, I didn’t get any pictures of their sandwiches, but the meat was fabulous, not to salty, not fruity, and definitely not boring.

What unusual combinations, but oh so tasty.


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Chicken, Bacon and Beetroot Stir Fry

Chicken, Bacon and Beetroot Stirfry

Lesley S Smith
4 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 25 minutes
Total Time 35 minutes
Course Lunch
Servings 8


  • 10 Rashers Bacon
  • 2 Chicken Breasts Cut into strips.
  • 4 Eggs
  • 600 g Mixed Stir Fry Veg Beansprouts, pumpkin strips, shredded carrot, green leaf salad, mange tout.
  • 1 Onion Chopped.
  • 1 Jar Baxters Crinkle Cut Beetroot Chopped into smaller pieces. Wash, drain and dry the beetroot before adding to a stir fry.


  • Use your pieces of meat, chicken or bacon and lightly fry in a wok or thick bottomed pan until fully cooked.

  • Add eggs to the pan and let them cook similar to scrambled eggs, stirring in with the meat as it cooks.

  • Add an onion to the pan and let the mixture slowly cook for a few minutes on low.

  • Stir in your stir fry vegetables and either spray cooking oil, or add a couple of tablespoons of oil to make the stir fry.

  • Add the beetroot towards the end of cooking if you are happy with the pinky shade that your meal till take on from cooking for a few minutes.

  • I had split my stir fry into two lots. For the kids, I gently folded the beetroot in with their finished stir fry to keep it sharp, bright and pleasant to the eye.

  • For my own, I stirred in the beetroot and let it cook with the stir fry for a few more minutes to take on the beetroot taste. I am happy to say this is one recipe that I am going to make several variations of.


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How to Make Easy Spaghetti Carbonara – Cheaply – £2.50 – Feed up to 8 People

My special needs boy needs help with making meals, and one day, he’ll likely have to try and make his own, and on a budget.  For this, I kept the ingredients light, and it was to feed 7 people, although we could easily manage 8 small to medium bowls with these ingredients.  The price…..   We kept it low.  20p for Tesco 500g spaghetti, £1.99 for 2 jars of Carbonara sauce from the Co-op, which fabulously, actually has real bits of ham in it, and a creamy sauce.  It’s the best version I have used for this.

Count the milk and butter, and we are at around:

  • £2.50 to feed 8 the basic carbonara.
  • Plus garlic bread from Tesco Hearty Food Range at 32p each x 3 = Optional 96p for three baguettes.
  • Total £3.46 for Spaghetti Carbonara and Three Garlic Baguettes.

Easy Spaghetti Carbonara

Lesley Smith
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 15 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Course Mains, Pasta
Cuisine Italian


  • 500 g Spaghetti
  • 30 g Butter
  • 2 Jars Carbonara Sauce Co-op
  • 2 Teaspoons Salt
  • 200 ml Milk


  • Very simply, just bring the spaghetti and salt to the boil, and simmer until the right consistency for your palate. My boy likes it soft, and other like it al dente, so choose your favoured options by the instructions on the packet you buy.

  • Drain the pasta, rinse with boiling water and drain again.

  • Return the pasta to a pan and add the carbonara sauce. Heat and stir until thoroughly hot.

  • Add butter, stir, then add milk until your carbonara reaches your desired consistency.

  • Serve with garlic bread.


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Authentic Massaman Thai Curry Recipe from Chef Sanguan Parr at Nipa Thai

Songkran is the annual festival which takes place over three days during the traditional Thai New Year, this year falling on Friday 13 – Sunday 15 April 2018.  Throughout Thailand there are celebrations, festivities and plenty of food; all culminating in a momentous country-wide water fight!

In the run up to Songkran, Sanguan Parr, Head Chef at Nipa Thai in London, has shared her recipe for Massaman Gai (Yellow Thai Chicken Curry). A popular but classic recipe from the Southern region of Thailand, the curry is simple to make but guaranteed to impress – the perfect dish for your Songkran celebrations!

Recipe: Authentic Massaman Thai Curry

Author: Head Chef Sanguan Parr at Nipa Thai

Ingredients (to serve four):

  • 2 Chicken breasts
  • 600ml Coconut Milk
  • 2 tbsp Roasted Peanuts
  • 5 Small Onions; sliced
  • 4 Medium Potatoes; cubed
  • 3 tbsp Massaman Curry Paste
  • 2 tbsp Fish Sauce
  • 3 tbsp Palm Sugar
  • 3 tbsp Tamarind Juice
  • 3 Bay Leaves
  • 1 piece Roasted Cinnamon; 1cm long
  • 5 Roasted Cardamom Pods
  • 1 tbsp Vegetable Oil


Step 1: Cut the chicken into chunks, around 2 inches in length.

Step 2: In a wok, heat the vegetable oil, curry paste and 200ml of coconut milk. Keep stirring over a low heat until fragrant.

Step 3: Add the chicken to the wok, turning frequently so all the meat is covered in sauce.

Step 4: Pour in the remaining 400ml of coconut milk and simmer gently for 5 minutes.

Step 5: Add the cubed potatoes, roasted peanuts, onions, fish sauce, palm sugar, tamarind juice, bay leaves, cardamom and cinnamon. Keep over a low heat to simmer until all the ingredients are tender.

Step 6: Remove from the heat and serve with steamed white rice.

Throughout Songkran 2018, Nipa Thai will be offering its traditional menu. Nipa Thai is open from 5pm-10.30pm, Monday-Sunday.

Nipa Thai, Royal Lancaster London, Lancaster Terrace, London W2 2TY

Tel: 020 7551 6000 or

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Roasted Spiralised Carrot & Feta Salad

Now we’re past the most depressing day of the year, why not have a look at one of the recipes from Aldi, to brighten up the rest of the month.  In the past, I’ve never been much for spiralising, but it does look very good in pictures and on plates.  Happy January.


Roasted Spiralised Carrot & Feta Salad

Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 8 minutes
Total Time 18 minutes
Course Mains


  • 2 Courgettes washed and trimmed
  • 2 Carrots trimmed and peeled
  • 2 tbsp Olive Oil
  • 1 tbsp Balsamic Vinegar
  • Freshly ground Salt and Black Pepper
  • 100 g Feta Cheese crumbled
  • 50 g Walnut Pieces
  • 1 tbsp Fresh Parsley chopped


  • Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/Fan 180°C/425°/Gas Mark 6.

  • Spiralise the courgettes and carrots using the ‘thin spiral cone’.

  • Place in a bowl and add the oil, vinegar and seasoning and mix well.

  • Spread the vegetables onto a large (or 2 smaller) baking tray and roast for around 7-8 minutes, stirring a couple of times.

  • Meanwhile, toast the walnuts in a dry pan, stirring frequently to prevent burning, then tip onto a plate to cool.

  • Remove the vegetables from the oven and place in a serving bowl.

  • Sprinkle over the cheese, walnuts and finally the parsley.

  • Delicious served as a light lunch or as an accompaniment to grilled meats or fish.


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Thai Fishcakes with Chilli Dipping Sauce

Guest Recipe.  When it comes to healthy eating, home cooking is a great place to start. But when the reality of all that dicing, slicing, washing, chopping and prepping to make holier-than-thou fresh nutritious meals dawns, it’s easy to lose your way! Whether you’re going gluten-free, paleo, low-carb or FODMAP, the Very Lazy range of pre-chopped and ready-to-use essentials from chopped garlic, chillis and ginger to lemongrass paste and cooking concentrates will make it easy as pie (or pie’s much healthier cousin).

Thai Fishcakes with Chilli Dipping Sauce

Very Lazy
5 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 10 minutes
Total Time 20 minutes
Servings 4


  • 450 g skinless and boneless cod or haddock fillets roughly chopped

  • 1 teaspoon Very Lazy Chopped Ginger

  • 1 tablespoon Thai fish sauce

  • 1 teaspoon Very Lazy Lemongrass Paste

  • 1 teaspoon Very Lazy Garlic Paste

  • 2 tablespoons freshly chopped coriander

  • 1 teaspoon Very Lazy Chopped Red Chillies

  • 1 egg white

  • 2 spring onions thinly sliced

  • 1 tablespoon oil for frying


  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar

  • 1 teaspoon Very Lazy Chopped Red Chillies

  • finely grated zest and juice 1 lime

  • 2 teaspoons caster sugar


  • Place all the ingredients for the fishcakes in a food processor and blend to a smooth paste. Put the mixture in a bowl and stir in the spring onions. With slightly wet hands, shape the mixture into 12 patties.

  • In a small bowl, whisk all the ingredients for the dipping sauce, until the sugar has dissolved.

  • Heat the oil in a large frying pan and cook the fishcakes for 4-5 minutes each side until golden brown and cooked through.

  • Serve immediately with the dipping sauce.


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Chicken Dippers from Fresh Fillets

Making great chicken dippers at home is just so easy to do.  All it needs is a little flour, a couple of eggs, chicken fillets, or a few chicken breasts chopped up, and ending up with breadcrumbs or ruskoline to finish them off.

I haven’t added the actual method for this, as it’s pretty self-explanatory.  You can see it in the video, but simply crack the eggs, beat them, and dip the chicken first in the flour, then the egg and finally the crumb coating.

Cook how you prefer, either deep-fried, shallow fried, or oven baked, then sprinkle with chopped parsley.


[fbvideo link=”” width=”500″ height=”400″ onlyvideo=”1″]

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Budget Meals: Peas Pudding Recipe

A lot of us are watching the pennies right now, so making meals that are both healthy and filling can be challenging on a budget.  With few ingredients, and whatever is in your cupboard, adding things to split green peas is fairly simple.

This makes a fairly large batch, so unless your diners don’t eat large portions, halving the quantities might be a good idea.


Peas Pudding Recipe

Lesley Smith
Prep Time 15 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour 25 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 40 minutes
Course Mains
Servings 10


  • 250 g Green Split Peas Dried
  • 150 g Onion chopped.
  • 150 g Leek chopped.
  • 50 g Butter.
  • Water.
  • 3 Vegetable Stock Cubes.
  • Salt and Pepper.
  • Herbs of Your Choice.
  • 1 Crushed Clove of Garlic or 1 Cube of Frozen Garlic.
  • 200 g Bacon Turkey or Chicken Strips.


  • Put the green split peas into a fairly large pan, with around 1.5 litres of water. Bring to the boil and let simmer for around 40 minutes. You need to keep a close eye, as the water can boil off pretty quickly. You may need to top up the water levels.

  • Drain the green split peas, then pop them back into the pan, add all the other ingredients and adding 1.5 litres of water again. Mix well, and bring to the boil, letting this simmer until the water reduces by about two thirds. Be careful you don't leave this alone as it will burn quickly if you do. I added a good measure of salt and pepper at this stage. Some people add basil and thyme, and even rosemary, but I know my boys wouldn't eat that, so I leave it out.

  • Add your slushy peas mix to a baking tray, and let it set in the oven for around 25 minutes, at 180 degrees C. Your oven might take slightly less time, or more. It won't set firmly at all, but will be easy to cut when it's ready.

  • I cook my meat separately, and add it to the top of the peas pudding in the last five minutes, before removing from the oven. Some people add it when it first goes into the oven, and cook it as part of the dish.


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Home Made Burgers with Red & Orange Peppers

Making our own burgers is incredibly easy, and we then know what’s actually in them.  I don’t expect to have to mince slabs of meat, but I do like getting bags of mince, that I can use to make my own burgers, meatballs and more, as it’s just so easy to do, and saves me having to decide on different things when I’m shopping.

It takes very little time to actually throw some ingredients together, and it’s a bit of a no brainer to me.  Yes, the kids sometimes go to buy a sweetie and come back with a pack of sausages (yes, I know they’re strange) but I like to have choices when I’m using ingredients in my kitchen.  I used mince from The Lean Butcher, which is always fabulous, as it can come delivered straight to my door.

This is so simple and just thrown together with some mince and chopped veg.  It’s all fresh, it’s all ours, and I don’t have to worry what’s been added to it in the forming process.

I only had some peppers and onion left over from soup, so they were a perfect go together for these burgers.

Burger With Red and Orange Peppers

Burger With Red and Orange Peppers 5 Ora TowelsWe used our samples of the new Ora Stack to eat our burgers with, as they’re a perfect size.   They’re a super absorbent and ultra strong kitchen roll, that comes in a circular shape on a stack, which means it’s a one handed lift off, simply by using a thumb.

As they’re a one hand grab, I’ve found myself reaching for these before using my regular kitchen rolls, so mine disappeared pretty quickly.  I’ve not seen them in shops here yet, but I’ll be picking some up when I do.

There’s nothing worse than having to rip off a piece of kitchen roll with two hands, when one is covered in food while I’m cooking.  I found them very absorbent and one piece went a long way.

Burgers with Red and Orange Peppers Recipe

Burger With Red and Orange Peppers

Home Made Burgers with Red and Orange Peppers

Lesley Smith
4 from 1 vote
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Mains / Burgers
Cuisine British
Servings 5 -10


  • 800 g Lean Minced Beef.
  • 60 g Red Pepper chopped.
  • 60 g Orange Pepper chopped.
  • 50 g Onion finely chopped.
  • Half Teaspoon Salt.
  • Half Teaspoon Pepper.


  • Put your mince into a bowl, and then pour in the chopped vegetables.

  • Add in the salt and pepper.

  • I use my hands for best effect with this, as I find that a wooden spoon takes too long, and just doesn't allow the peppers and onion to be fully mixed with the mince. It takes a couple of minutes to thoroughly mix the food together until it is in a loosely bound state.

  • I use a cheap burger press I bought from Lakeland that makes burgers around 180g each, but before that, I used to make mine by hand, simply taking a dollop of the mixture and shaping it into a patty with my hands.

  • For smaller burgers, you could easily get around 10 from this mix, but I made 5 larger burgers.

  • Everyone had different requirements for how they like their burgers cooked, ie red in the middle, fully cooked, or almost burned black. I like mine well done, so gauge your own timings for cooking in a moderate oven for as long as you need to.













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Airfryer – Actifry Recipe – Scrambled Eggs with Cheese & Tomato

Actifry Scrambled Eggs 2 (1 of 1)

Actifry Scrambled Eggs with Cheese 1 (1 of 1)

Actifry Recipe - Scrambled Eggs with Cheese & Tomato

Lesley Smith
Prep Time 2 minutes
Total Time 2 minutes
Course Breakfast
Cuisine British


  • 4 Large Eggs.
  • 200 m Milk.
  • 50 g Grated Cheese.
  • 8 Cherry Tomatoes cut in half.
  • Salt and Pepper to Taste.
  • Oil Spray – I used the one cal buttery version.


  • Ensure the air fryer, and especially the paddle, has a light covering of oil spray. Add a very small amount of Rapeseed oil to the bottom of the pan if you wish, for cooking the eggs.

  • Ensure the paddle is correctly placed in the machine.

  • Ensure the lid is firmly closed during all cooking times.

  • Mix 4 eggs with 200ml milk in a jug, and lightly season with salt and pepper.

  • Pop your mixture into the air fryer and set the timer for 6 minutes.

  • When the timer is finished, open the lid and use a wooden scraper to take any egg mix from the sides of the bowl and put it back to the bottom. Add the tomatoes.

  • Set the timer for a further 3 minutes, then check your eggs. Your machine might need a little longer. When the eggs are fully cooked, your meal is ready.

  • Serve in a pre-warmed bowl, and sprinkle the grated cheese on top. Wait 30 seconds, then eat.


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Cheesy Meatball Muffins Recipe

This was much more successful than I ever could have imagined as far as the kids were concerned.  All you need is some mince and cheese, then pop them in the oven for a luxurious treat.  If you add in some more veg, I suspect these might be a good way to hide some nutritious veg if kids are happy meatball eaters.

This is very much suitable as a leftovers dish too.  Mushing up whatever you have would go well with this type of thing.  Just make sure it is thoroughly cooked before serving.

Meatball Muffins Sliced

Cheesy Meatball Muffins

Lesley Smith
Prep Time 10 minutes
Cook Time 20 minutes
Total Time 30 minutes
Course Main
Cuisine British
Servings 12


  • 500 g Mince
  • 100 g Onions Finely Chopped
  • Grated Cheese - Use whatever you have. I had about 300g Mozarella in the fridge so just divided it between the 12 muffin slots I had in my trays.


  • I used some cake release spray to line my muffin trays, but I suspect I didn't need to do that at all. Set your oven to around 160-180 Degrees, depending on which type of oven you have.

  • Simply put some mince on the bottom of each muffin well, and then pop in the cheese, and cover up with another layer of mince, pressing down slightly.

  • Bake in the oven until thoroughly cooked. Approximately around 20 minutes, but you all know your own ovens. I covered mine up with a layer of tin foil to prevent the tops from burning.

Meatball Muffins


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Expedia World on a plate – France

This was a very interesting challenge for me, given that until recently, we drove down to France on a yearly basis for our summer holidays.

Despite spending months in France, in total, I doubt that we’ve actually even tried anything that remotely resembles French cuisine.  In the past, I’ve always thought of frogs legs and yukky green things, and to be honest, never really gave it a chance.


Expedia challenged me to come up with a dish that was inspired by France, and as part of their world on a plate challenge.

They sent me some lovely French ingredients to work with, including duck confit, black truffe paste (I had no idea what to do with this.  It took a bit of work to figure something out), fleur de sel sea salt, dried Morel mushrooms, red fruit coulis, a cheese wedge of Beaufort, goose fat, cooked chestnuts, chestnut puree and Perard fish soup.

As much as I tried, I couldn’t persuade anyone in my house to consider trying the fish soup, which is a shame, but it will go to a good home where it will be enjoyed.



The challenge for me, was what to do with those ingredients.  They’re not anywhere near my usual staples for cooking, so it did take some thinking.

A chestnut gravy seemed like a good place to start, and that’s where I did go, and used the truffle paste as part of that, to enable those who like the taste to try it, and those who don’t, to leave it off their plate.

As an underground fungi, they’re more like a type of below ground mushroom, and pigs seemingly like them.  Finding that out, means that I could add it to my chestnut gravy as a taste booster, or even to soups.

I do have to say though, that at nearly £50 a jar, it’s not something that would be on my shopping list.  For that reason, part of me is actually hoping truffles don’t become a taste or flavour that we enjoy too much as a family.

To make our meal, I took the advice on the tin of Duck Parfait, to remove the duck and put it into a roasting dish for cooking.  After 20 minutes, it was lovely and crispy on the outside.  I’d rubbed the skins with the salt, which added an unusual flavour.

With the addition of some lovely vegetables and a Chestnut Gravy Sauce that I made up on the spot with our ingredients, the meal was actually lovely, and well appreciated by all.  These aren’t ingredients I would have chosen originally, but even I was impressed with how good this looked at the dinner table.

Chestnut Gravy Sauce for Turkey


Chestnut Sauce (Savoury) for Turkey

Lesley Smith
4 from 1 vote
Prep Time 5 minutes
Cook Time 5 minutes
Total Time 10 minutes
Course Accompaniment
Cuisine French
Servings 6 -8


  • 200 g Cooked Chestnuts.
  • 2 cms Chestnut Paste.
  • 1 Teaspoon Sea Salt.
  • 1 Clove Garlic chopped (optional).
  • 400 ml Unsweetened Almond Milk.
  • 1 Teaspoon Truffle Paste.


  • I've made the garlic optional, as the truffle paste is very garlicky. It depends how strong you like your gravy sauces.

  • Combine all in a blender and whizz until as combined as it can get to. Mine ended up with some tiny black dots in the sauce, which gave it a little character.

  • Heat in a pan until thoroughly hot. If it's a little too strong, add a little cream to dilute it.

  • As truffles can be an acquired taste, serve in a dish on the side, so that diners can choose how much to use.


Expedia provided or paid for all food in this post.  All views are my own.