Blowing The Budget!

Not cost wise but if this blog is about balance then after this dish I am seriously overdrawn calorie wise!  Can I tip the balance back this week, yes!  Was it worth it? YES!!  After the cold week we’d had this was a well deserved bowl of warmth and comfort.

This is a dish I have seen promoted by Nigel Slater and Nigella Lawson.  Coq Au Reisling.  I am not a fan of its counterpart Coq au Vin, I’m just not a fan of “casseroled” chicken.  Coq au Vin was cooked for me by a well meaning (now ex) boyfriend, it was a particularly stressful period and he was trying to do something nice, out of politeness I had to eat it but from the first mouthful I knew this was going to be an endurance.  Casseroled chicken I usually find dry, I know it’s been cooked in liquid so how can it be dry but it is.  So trying out this recipe was a leap of faith, and probably why it has taken me so long to get round to it.

I love a get ahead dish and this is one that can be prepped in advance ready to be fired back up and on the table in 30 mins.

Coq Au RieslingIMG_0303

  • 50g Butter and a little light olive oil or groundnut oil
  • 85g Smoked pancetta
  • 1 Large onion, chopped
  • 2 Cloves garlic, chopped
  • 4 Chicken thighs, bone and skin still in/on
  • 200g Chestnut mushrooms, quartered
  • 500ml Riesling or other dry white wine
  • 300ml Double Cream
  • A good handful of chopped parsley

Melt the butter in a casserole dish suitable for hob use over a medium heat.

Add the diced pancetta and let it colour slightly.  Add the onions and garlic, turn down the heat slightly if necessary to stop the onions and garlic browning.  Cook for a few minutes then scoop it all out and set aside, leaving as much fat in the pan.

Add a splash of oil and turn the heat up.  The oil will help stop the butter browning, as will using unsalted butter.  Add the chicken thighs to the pan and brown on all sides.  Remove from the pan and set aside with the pancetta and onions.

Add the mushrooms to the pan and toss to coat in the butter, they will soak it up pretty quickly.  Keep tossing around to brown slightly and then pour in the wine.  As it bubbles scrape off the bottom of the pan to release all the tasty bits and add back the onions and pancetta.

If cooking straight away add back the chicken, reduce the heat to a slow simmer, cover and cook for 25 mins.  The top of the browned chicken skin should be poking out of the top of the sauce which will help stop it going flabby.

If cooking later allow the liquid to cool before adding back the chicken.  When ready to cook bring to a simmer and cook as above.

Before serving, lift out the chicken again and pour in the cream.  Taste the sauce and season with salt and pepper as required.  Let the sauce bubble away to thicken it up.  (This gave much more sauce than I thought needed for the two of us so I scooped some off, leaving behind the onions, pancetta etc. and have frozen it to use as a quick sauce another time.)  Stir in the parsley and add back the chicken to warm through and serve.

I served this with some crispy polenta wedges.  If the cream and butter in the chicken isn’t enough for you these wedges are loaded with cheese and butter!  But they are a worthwhile recipe to have in your repertoire.

Polenta Wedges – to serve 2IMG_0304

  • 50g Parmesan Cheese grated
  • 250ml Water
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 50g Polenta
  • 40g Butter + extra for frying
  • Olive oil or groundnut oil for frying


Bring the water to a boil in a saucepan with the salt and bay leaf, add the polenta and keep stirring.  Let it cook slowly for 5 mins, stirring frequently.  Polenta can be viscious stuff and will spit at you!

Remove the bay leaf and stir in the butter and parmesan cheese.

I line a loaf tin with cling film, pour in the polenta and leave it to set.  Any suitable container will do, you want the polenta about 15mm deep.

It needs at least 30 mins to set.  Turn it out onto a board, trim the edges if you want a neat look.  Cut the block in half and then into triangles.

Add a nob of butter and some oil to a frying pan, once hot fry the wedges for about 5 mins on each side until they are golden and crisp.

The Nutritional Bit

Okay this recipe will never feature on the cover of any healthy eating magazine!  It is packed with dairy products though and these are a great source of essential vitamins and minerals, including carbohydrates, protein, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, vitamins A, D, B12, riboflavin and niacin.




Dish Of The Month Challenge – January


IMG_0223A few years ago in another life, on another blog, I took part in a Nigel Slater dish of the month challenge.  The challenge was to cook a dish from each month from his Kitchen Diaries II book.  I made it as far as June.  Since then, and this also goes back a year or two, I was gifted, by my brother, Nigel Slater’s A year of good eating book, Kitchen Diaries III.  At the time I had a fairly good look though it, I hold my hands up I didn’t get round to actually reading it and certainly didn’t cook anything from it.  So, this year I am challenging myself to complete the dish of the month challenge, this time with The year of good eating book.


I nearly fell at the first fence when I realised I only had a day left of the month, and I realise this post will hit February.  Picking a January recipe was easy, the smoked mackerel and beetroot fishcakes were definitely one to be tried, not least because I had all the ingredients!  I’d bought the smoked mackerel with an idea to make a potato and egg salad for lunch one day and the beetroot for a kale and beet smoothie one morning.  Beetro

ot redeployed I’m now off the hook for the smoothie!!!  I didn’t have fresh horseradish so used a teaspoon of the creamed horseradish I had in the fridge.

I love fishcakes and have had probably as many misses as hits when making them in the search for the ultimate fishcake.  This version, definitely a hit!  A keeper!  I probably needed to dry out my grated beetroot a bit more as despite heeding the instructions to only briefly fold in the beetroot to avoid turning the mash pink, my mash was pretty pink.  And his advice not to move the fishcakes in the pan for the 6 minutes a side should be followed, I turned one too soon to my cost.

I’ve never had a pan big enough to produce enough fishcakes for us both at the same time so I alway

s brown them in the pan first then transfer to a baking tray, brown the rest and then heat them all through together in the oven.

There are various suggestions for sauces but as I was going off what I already had in I mixed some natural yogurt with some of the creamed horseradish.

As if being quick and easy to make and incredibly tasty isn’t enough reason to try these check out the benefits of beetroot and smoked mackerel!

The Nutrition Bit


  • Beetroot offers great support for the liver, so perfect to pack into our January diets if you’ve overindulged during the festive period!  The deep, purple pigment, betacyanin, helps to stimulate a process called “phase 2 detoxification” breaking down toxins more efficiently.  It can also help in the production of bile which can further help the removal of toxins, although be careful if you suffer from gallstones.
  • Supporting liver function also benefits our skin, if the liver is overburdened the skin is used as an alternative to eliminate toxins, aggravating conditions such as eczema.
  • Beetroot also has a beneficial effect on blood pressure.  It is high in natural nitrates which the body converts into nitric oxide, a powerful vasodilator which widens the blood vessels.
  • There is also a school of thought that it is an anti-cancer food, increasing the production of the body’s own cancer preventing chemical, glutathione-s-transferase protecting cells from damage.
  • It contains a compound, zeaxanthin which protects our fatty subcutaneous tissue from free radical damage helping to prevent the skin from becoming saggy and dull.
  • B Vitamins helping to improve nerve function.
  • Iron and antioxidants purifying the blood and improving oxygen uptake, good for anyone suffering with anemia.
  • Antioxidants – have you heard of the ORAC score? this is used to measure the total antioxidant power of foods.  Beetroot comes in at 840, higher than red peppers, oranges and carrots, but trumped by blueberries, strawberries and spinach.
  • Potassium – modern diets are throwing out our sodium/potassium balance leading to water retention and hardening of the blood vessels.  Tipping the balance in favour of potassium can have the opposite effect.


  • Mackerel is incredibly high in omega-3 fatty acids, these help the body to produce its own anti-inflammatory compounds making it great for arthritis, eczema and asthma sufferers.
  • Omega-3 fatty acids also have a positive effect on cholesterol and can protect blood vessel walls from damage.
  • reasearch has shown Omega-3 fatty acids can have the same effect as the anti-depressant Prozac by increasing serotonin.
  • There is some evidence eating foods rich in Omega-3 fatty acids three times a week can help with Alzheimer’s
  • it is high in vitamin D, vital for the body to utilise calcium and so it is good for the prevention of conditions such as osteoporosis.
  • Vitamin D has also been shown to play a role in mental and emotional functions, immune regulation, fat metabolism and protection against some cancers.  The main source of vitamin D is the conversion of cholesterol when our skin is exposed to sunlight.  A regular intake of oily fish during the winter months can therefore be very beneficial!
  • Also contains vitamins A, B-complex, C, E and K.  Calcium, potassium, selenium and magnesium helping to regulate metabolism and therefore blood sugar and cholesterol levels

Out With The Old

This isn’t a post about resolutions! Maybe about setting intentions, we’ll see.

Yesterday was a funny day, the last of the festive “break” before everyone returns to work.

I use the term break very loosely as for most it is far from that!  Hawking round relatives doing the duty visits, seemingly constantly in the kitchen, the never ending clutter sweep of the house, the list is endless, thankless and if you are lucky helpless.  If you are unlucky you have the helpful helper, that guest, visitor, friend, relative who insists on helping.  More realistically getting in the way!  Putting cups and plates in the wrong cupboard, turning your cutlery draw into chaos, insisting on washing up when you’d rather fill the dishwasher but instead, because they have already filled the sink with soapy suds, you have to get out the tea towel and spend the next 15 minutes drying and making small talk over the pots.  The dishwasher would have dealt with it all.

This year for me there is no work, no job to return to and as much as I used to hate that back to school feeling, the pit of the stomach dread, I have felt the void.  So maybe then, this year more than any is the year to make some changes, some conscious changes rather than the life changing dramatic ones brought over the last couple of years, the loss of a job, the loss of a father, late and surprising motherhood.  Positive, conscious changes that I am in control of, I am accountable for.  Nothing that needs hours of cutting and pasting for a vision or dream board, no drastic clear out that requires ordering a skip and ransacking the house.  Just little thoughts on how my priorities could change to make each day something to go to bed on with a happy reflection.  Weed out those irritating things I do, or more to the point don’t do that make me want to sack myself, like still being sat in pyjamas at 3pm.  The new mum excuse must have expired by now and although some days there is nothing wrong with just getting through, most days I probably could have made a better job of it.  Saying “No” a little bit more rather than spreading myself so thin I end up exhausted and resentful.

This is not going to be a “smug new mummy” blog on how I got my life sorted!  I do not think having one, or even two, babies suddenly means I can preach to anyone, or suddenly makes what I have to say interesting.  I am not the first woman to have a baby, my baby is not the only one in the world.  She might be my everything but that certainly doesn’t make her everyone’s everything.  There are no prizes for being the slummiest mummy nor the super mum.  Again balance, somehow finding the balance between still being in my PJ’s surrounded by two days of kitchen crap at 3pm and having the immaculate house, immaculate hair and make up, my body is a temple diet and fitness regime, picture perfect “I’ve got this” life.  I haven’t got this, I’ve never felt more out of control in my life, but at the same time felt like maybe some of that control is now, maybe within my grasp.

So here goes to 2018 and taking a bit of that control.  I’m 40 FFS, it’s time I took some control of my own life!

In the spirit of a clean sweep I offer a recipe to do away with the last of the festive food, poached and smoked salmon.

IMG_0009In between Christmas we had the step sons, wives and girlfriends over and in the spirit of making life easier for myself I ordered a side of salmon from Booths (I love Booths for Christmas food ordering) the salmon came dressed with smoked salmon, prawns and a dill mayonnaise.  It was lovely but huge and along with the ham etc. etc. also on offer there were leftovers.  A quick and easy tea was in order.  Years ago I saw a recipe for Jansson’s Temptation and was intrigued, a quick google showed it to be not quite what I thought, I am sure the version I saw had salmon in.  This is assembly, on pot cooking at it’s best.  Comfort Food.

  • I estimated there was enough salmon, smoked and poached, left for two generous portions.
  • Peeled and chopped a couple of potatoes each into matchsticks about 1-2 inches long.
  • Mix the salmon with the potatoes a tub of creme fraiche, seasoning (go easy on the salt depending on how much smoked salmon is in the mix) some chopped fresh dill would be nice as would some chopped capers.
  • A little milk if the mixture is too thick.
  • Gruyère cheese would be my choice to sprinkle on the top, I didn’t have any so a sprinkling of parmesan cheese made do.
  • Cover with foil and bake at 180 fan, or the equivalent, for 30 mins.
  • Remove the foil and sprinkle with breadcrumbs if you have any and bake for a further 10 mins or so to brown and crisp up the top.
  • A handful of salad leaves is all I served this with.

A very tasty what I suppose could be called supper dish.