Wednesday, 9 January 2013

Mussels with Cider and Chorizo

Happy 2013 to everyone! I hope the year is treating you all well so far, I don’t think my feet have touched the ground but it’s rather fantastic. Charley’s Little Kitchen has officially launched! Children’s cookery parties, workshops, one off classes and more, take a look at the website for more information

Other than that I went to the kitchen place today to finalise my design so that is becoming very real and there’s a possibility the builders could be in next week. As I was that way anyway I went into the lovely fishmongers down past hove lagoon aptly named Fish where mussels were only £3 a kilo…I couldn’t resist! So this evening, to celebrate over 1500 visitors to my new site (I’m rather overwhelmed by the response) we ate far too many mussels with cider and chorizo. Delish! And it only takes ten minutes to cook, just the right time to bake a part baked baguette to dunk in! Mussels are extremely cheap and tasty and are in season from October to March.

Two of us devoured this with crusty bread and salad, but my stomach is still groaning 4 hours later, so I’d say you could comfortable feed three.


1kg Mussels
4 banana shallots
1 clove garlic
100g chorizo sausage (not sliced)
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Handful  flat leaf parsley
Approx. 350ml dry cider

Wash and de-beard your mussels.

Dice your chorizo into rougly 1cm2. Finely chop the garlic and shallots. Heat a glug of olive oil in a deep sided frying pan and when hot add the chorizo. Fry on high until crisping up at the sides and the orange coloured oils are released from the meat before turning the heat to low and adding the garlic and shallots.

Cook until the shallots are turning translucent, this will only take a couple of minutes, keep everything moving to ensure the garlic and shallots do not burn.

Add the mussels, oregano and enough cider to fill the pan by about 2/3. Put the lid on and cook on high for 4-7 minutes, until the shells have opened. Remove the mussels with a slotted spoon and bubble the liquid until it has reduced by about half. Pour over the mussels, sprinkle with parsley and serve with crusty bread.

Friday, 28 December 2012

Leftovers Turkey and Leek Pie

This year I cooked my very first turkey. I was cooking for 7 and following advice from my mother bought a turkey that fed 8-10. Now, I probably should have realised that following advice from my mother would entail in rather large portions, but I did not realise how big turkeys are! Even after some pretty hefty platefuls I still had enough to feed a small army so my quest this week is to use it up. I should note at this point I cooked this on 21st and froze it whilst I went away for Christmas, as such I didn’t have any cooked veg leftover but if I did I’d have thrown them in at the same time as the turkey all chopped up. I had some fine beans left from our fake Christmas (which were an entirely unnecessary purchase as I already had far too much food and therefore didn’t even get cooked) so I used them up in this along with 3 leftover baby courgettes. You could use any number of other vegetables in this; carrots, green peppers, sprouts, cabbage, parsnips whatever you’ve got available really. Add the harder veg just after the leeks and the softer veg near the end and you’ll be grand. I also cooked this in goose fat for that added touch of decadence and it’s actually far healthier than many of the other fats.


Leftover turkey *
500g leeks
250g mushrooms
250g extra fine beans
200g bacon lardons **
1 onion
2 garlic cloves
2-3 sprigs thyme
Sprig fresh rosemary
1 teaspoon dried sage
½ teaspoon dried oregano
2 heaped tablespoons flour
1 litre chicken/veg/turkey stock***
About 100 ml double cream
300g puff pastry ****
1 egg, beaten

*use whatever you have left and add more veg if necessary to bulk it up. I used about 700g
**if you have cooked a ham/gammon then you can use that instead of these
***I actually used half chicken soup and half vegetable stock
****you can get this already rolled to make this super easy!

Dice the onions and garlic, finely chop the leeks and beans and halve or quarter the mushrooms depending on size. Shred or pull apart the turkey into chunks.

Heat a small glug of oil/knob of butter/blob of goose fat (delete as applicable) on high and add the lardons. Cook until the fat on the bacon is melting, moving occasionally to ensure they don’t burn or stick, and turn the heat down. Once starting to brown add the onions, leeks and garlic.

Cook with the lid on, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes, until the mixture is about a third of its original volume. 

Add the mushrooms and beans and continue to cook for another five minutes or so.Whilst this is cooking take out your pastry and roll out to about ½ cm. Add turkey, herbs and mustard and mix to ensure everything is moist before adding the flour and mixing again.

Once the flour is incorporated slowly add the stock and turn the heat up. Add the cream, bring it to the boil and then turn off the heat and taste for seasoning, adding salt and pepper as you see fit.

Using a slotted spoon fill your pie dish with the filling, keeping the excess liquid to serve with pie, cover with pastry and cut off any excess. You can add an extra strip around the edge, pinching it to the dish if you have enough leftover. 

Cut a cross in the middle of the pastry to allow steam to escape (you can also slash it across diagonally if you prefer), glaze with a beaten egg and cook in a hot oven (200-220 C) until golden and crisp.

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Very Exciting News and Mulled Wine to Celebrate

There have been some very exciting happenings here in Charley’s Kitchen recently. Firstly, I am very proud to announce that Charley’s Kitchen will soon be opening its doors to the public, well the young public at least. Charley’s Little Kitchen will be running a cookery course for 7-11 year olds through February half term.  I’ll be posting more details about this as events unfold and the website is currently under construction, but its full steam ahead and I am so excited! Secondly, I am busy discussing my kitchen overhaul with my builder which means soon enough I will have a workable kitchen again thus enabling me to update the blog more regularly again (which I know you have all been anxiously waiting for!)

With all the good news a little celebratory tipple seemed only appropriate, and as the festive period is well and truly upon us mulled wine seemed like the right choice. Just making this makes the house smell of whimsy! I have adapted a recipe from Delia Smith, you can adjust the amount of honey and sugar according to taste.

1 orange
1 lemon
½ stick cinnamon
Handful of cloves
4-6 tablespoons honey or brown sugar
Level teaspoon ground ginger (or a little knob of fresh)
Bottle red wine
750ml water

Halve the orange and stud it with cloves. Slice the lemon and the rest of the orange.  Place all the ingredients in a large pan over a medium heat. Heat until its starts to bubble and then turn the heat to low so it does not boil (otherwise you’ll boil off all the alcohol). Taste after about 20 minutes and add more sugar if it is too bitter. The flavour of this just gets better the longer you heat it, just make sure it does not boil!  

Monday, 26 November 2012

Chow Mein (with prawns and vegetables)

Asian cuisine in this country has come leaps and bounds since I was young. Now we can order any number of delicious dishes from an endless list of exotic countries, and yet sometimes all you want is a good old fashioned Chinese. Since I have been cooking I have been on the quest of recreating those flavours back at home (and without all the colours and chemicals!). Although I’m still to perfect a sweet and sour, I think I have finally cracked the chow mein and would you believe, a pinch of white pepper is my secret ingredient!

I think the key to authenticity in this dish is to use the appropriate noodles. Despite their ease of use the straight to wok noodles just aren’t right for this dish and even the fresh ones from the fridge in the supermarket are not perfect. I get mine from a little Chinese supermarket, if you aren’t sure of which ones to get just ask the shopkeeper, they are usually really helpful and great to get tips off!

I had a handful of prawns that needed using but this dish works just as well with thinly sliced chicken or beef or leave them out all together for a vegetarian dish. If using chicken add it in just after the onions and garlic (after they have been in for about 30 seconds) or if using beef add it in just after the veg. Any number of vegetables will work well in this and I would ideally have added bean sprouts and spring onions too.


Packet of Dried Noodles
Pak Choi
½ white onion
½ carrot
Handful mushrooms
Handful of prawns/chicken/beef (or none)
1 clove garlic
1-2 tablespoons sesame oil
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 tablespoon dark soy sauce
Pinch of white pepper

This whole dish takes around 10 minutes to cook so its important that everything is prepped and ready to go as soon as you start.

Roughly chop the onion and garlic. Slice the carrot thinly; I use a peeler for this pressing down very hard to get a fairly thick ribbon. Halve or quarter the mushrooms depending on size.Shred the base of the pak choi and keep the leafy bits full. 

Cook the noodles according to their packet instructions.

Whilst they are cooking put the wok on high and add the sesame oil (if you think you need a bit more oil use a flavourless one such a groundnut), when hot add the onion and garlic. Moving constantly, cook for a minute or two until just turning translucent before adding the prawns. Check on the noodles, if they are already cooked drain and plunge into cold water to stop them cooking.

Still moving continuously, cook for another minute or so until the prawns are just starting to turn pink then add the vegetables. KEEP IT MOVING. Add the light and dark soy sauces and the pak choi leaves.  

Drain the noodles and add them to the pan. Keep mixing to cover the noodles in sauce and mix in with vegetables. Cook until the noodles are heated through and the leaves have wilted. Add a pinch of white pepper, taste, and add some sesame oil/soy sauce as necessary.

Friday, 16 November 2012

Asian Chicken and Noodles

Doesn't sound very interesting I know, but I wasn't sure what else to call it. Bit of a shame its got a slightly dull name really as I think I might have outdone myself on this one. Not just for the taste but because it is so beautifully simple and hands off. There is about 15 minutes of hands on work in this recipe, and that includes the veg and noodles.

I also had a lovely excuse to use this beautiful smoked elephant garlic I picked up at my old Turkish shop today. 

Have I ever told you about the Turkish shop? I’m not sure. Well, it’s one of the few things I really miss about living on Lewes road. Far more preferable than shopping at the supermarket and it has such a great range of stock. It’s also open really late which was just fantastic for my midnight cooking urges! Oh well, I really can’t complain with the sea on my doorstep. Anyway, I digress. Although I have used smoked garlic in this you can happily substitute it for just your run of the mill un-smoked normal sized garlic (and you won’t then make your whole house and hands smell of bonfire!)

I have said this before about Asian cooking and I’ll say it again. Although the list of ingredients may seem long, and for a new explorer into Asian cuisine rather expensive, it is well worth the investment. Not only will things like a bottle of shaosing rice wine last you blooming ages, these are also the ingredients that create a truly authentic taste.



3 tablespoons dark soy sauce
3 large dollops of honey
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1 star anise
1 tablespoon Shaosing rice wine
1 tablespoon sesame oil
½ 5cm stick cinnamon
½ teaspoon ground ginger
Pinch white pepper

1 white onion
A handful of mushrooms (1-2 per person)
Chicken thighs/drumsticks/pieces of bone-in chicken with skin on


1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon flavourless oil
Bunch asparagus
Pak choi
1 clove smoked elephant garlic


1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon flavourless oil
1 packet noodles*
Soy sauce
White pepper

*I used dried but you could use straight to wok, however I find them somewhat lacking. The fresh ones you get in the supermarket fridges however are fantastic, if a bit pricey!

Preheat the oven to 180

Slice the onion and place in an oven-proof dish big enough for your chicken pieces but not much bigger (I use, as per usual, my trusty cast iron casserole, but a small/deep roasting dish or a pyrex would be fine.) Place the chicken on top (skin side up) and pour/sprinkle over all the marinade ingredients.

Put in the oven.

About 45 minutes later (depends on the size of your chicken pieces and the speed of your oven, but about 15 minutes before they are ready). Chop the mushrooms in half and throw in with the chicken.

Put the kettle on.

When the kettle has boiled, pour over the noodles (in a pan) and heat.

Chop the asparagus, separate the leaves of the pak choi (or chop if using mature leaves) and roughly chop the garlic. Put 1 tablespoon sesame oil and 1 tablespoon flavourless oil in a hot wok, after a minute or so add the garlic, moving constantly, then the asparagus. 

Stir fry (i.e. continuously move) for a few minutes before adding the pak choi and checking on the noodles. Once the pak choi ends have wilted, continue to cook for a minute or two before removing the veg from the wok.

Drain the noodles and heat your final 2 tablespoons of oils (in the same wok as before) before stir frying the noodles for a few minutes, adding a splash of two of soy sauce and white pepper.

Take the chicken out the oven and serve!

Wednesday, 14 November 2012

Baked Vegetable Pilaf

I don’t know about you but rice and I have always had a somewhat turbulent relationship. For such a seemingly simple food it is surprisingly hard to get right. Boiling it (even very closely timed and watched and drained) just seems to create a wet mess and it seems very easy to just create a stodgy lump rather than light and fluffy grains. I find when making plain white rice the absorption method works best (2:1 water:rice, bring to boil, turn down and tightly fitting lid for 10 minutes) but even this can go wrong, if you want fail safe rice that can be a meal on its own, a pilaf is just perfect!

I originally got a recipe for pilaf from the Leon cookbook (one of my absolute favourites and continually gives me inspiration, well recommended as a foodie Christmas pressie!) but it’s a dish that lends itself to whatever you have available. Any number of herb combinations work, I have used oregano and rosemary whilst cooking and then mint and parsley to top in this one but bay leaves, sage, thyme, coriander, basil (and many more) also work delightfully and instead of lemon juice you could use lime or even just coarse sea salt sprinkled over. Adding fresh tomatoes at the end of this dish is yet another optional part but added to the fresh herbs at the end just lift it delightfully. I imagine other raw veg would work well too, maybe chopped cucumber or peppers. Even the veg (other than the onion) can be mixed up, try peppers and tomatoes cooked with bay leaves and topped with fresh basil for a more Italian twist.


1 mug rice*
1 onion
Small courgette
1 carrot
1 clove garlic
4 cherry tomatoes
½ teaspoon dried oregano
Sprinkling dried sage
small handful fresh mint
small handful fresh parsley
½ lemon (for juice)
500ml-1lt stock** 

*this should make enough for 3-4 people, depending on how big your mug is
**I used chicken because I prefer the flavour but use vegetable stock to make this completely meat free

I always use my cast iron casserole for pilaf but any heavy pan that can go on the hob and in the oven (with a lid) is fine.

Preheat the oven to about 180. Dice the onion, garlic, carrot and courgette (make the courgette pieces slightly larger than the carrots). In a glug of olive oil sweat the onion and garlic for a few minutes until starting to turn translucent and then add the carrot.

Continue to cook on a medium heat for a few more minutes, moving it all around to ensure nothing catches, until the onion is translucent. Then add the courgette and rice giving it all a good mix to ensure all the rice is coated with olive oil.

Cover with stock, put the lid on and put it in the oven.

After about 20 minutes quickly check whether it needs any more liquid or not (give it a mix as there is often liquid hiding at the bottom), top up if necessary and return to the oven for another 15-20 minutes. This will keep its heat for about half an hour if undisturbed (i.e. covered) out of the oven.

When ready to serve, chop up the fresh herbs and tomatoes and sprinkle over the top of the dish before squeezing the lemon over the rice and serve in its cooking dish. 

Tuesday, 13 November 2012

Balsamic Glazed Oven Baked Lamb Steaks

It seems my last few posts (yes, I know the last one was quite a long time ago now) have started with apologies, and following suit I must once again apologise for failing miserably to keep up with this bad boy recently. I can blame many things (moving, new flat having a kitchen that makes me genuinely angry, new job etc.  but really, I just haven’t been very inventive in the kitchen recently. Well, hopefully that is all going to change. I am now settled in the new flat (though there is still so much to do, is adulthood really just a never ending to do list?!), I'm nearly 100% decided on the new kitchen design and I have finally been inspired again!

I'm not sure if I have mentioned but I joined a lovely scheme called foodie pen pals recently. Each month I send and receive a parcel of food related goodies to another blogger/blog reader (if you are interested have a look here). I'm supposed to have written blog posts about each month’s parcel but due to my own disorganisation and late arrivals I haven’t been very good about this either but I shall put a stop to that too! Before it’s too late, I’ll tell you a little about my October parcel. It was a box of dark chocolate deliciousness from Lucy (you can read her blog here) and I can’t thank her enough! 

She’s also reminded me how good the 'raw choc' range of healthy treats is. For anybody with any allergy issues these are like heaven! Little chunks of rich chocolaty goodness that are milk/gluten/sugar free and you only need a small amount to satisfy that sweet craving. I haven’t tucked into everything yet  but my treats cupboard is well and truly happy, thank you so much Lucy!

So, back to the recipe in question. This is a fairly hands off dish and with veg and meat cooked in one pot, it also makes for easy washing up. I served it with an oven baked vegetable pilaf (recipe to follow) though if you double up on the veg (or perhaps just adding a beetroot or two, I think they would work wonderfully in this) you can cut the carbs altogether.


2 lamb steaks
2 tomatoes
2 carrots
2 large/4 small red onions
5 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons honey
1 clove garlic
1-2 sprigs rosemary
1 teaspoon dried orgeno
Small handful mint
Small handful parsley
Extra virgin olive oil

Preheat the oven to 180, Roughly chop the carrots and onions.

Place in an ovenproof dish with a good glug of oil, 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, the oregano and some salt and pepper. Put this in the oven.

Make the marinade with the rest of the ingredients and pour over the lamb (for optimum results do this the night before).

After about 30 minutes (when the carrots and onions are starting to turn) add the tomatoes (cut in half and skin side down). To really bring out the flavour of the tomatoes (and this is a must if your tomatoes aren't perfectly ripe) sprinkle a small pinch of brown sugar over each half.

Put back in the oven and once the tomatoes are blackening on top (after about another 20 minutes) add the lamb steaks and cook for a further 10-15 minutes (depending how large the steaks are and how pink you like them).