Lazy dinner

I do get some nights where I really can’t be bothered to cook much, and when I’m on my own I’m not that fussed about eating at all. This is why I do so much prep – if it’s mostly done I have zero excuse to go to Waitrose/ pop to the takeaway/ just eat cheese and biscuits.

Last night my planning paid off as I had a dinner ready in under half an hour with, more importantly, less than 5 minutes effort on my part.

2 halves of roasted aubergine,  topped with a tub of beef ragu (last of a freezer batch from months ago) and a little grated cheddar, baked in the oven. Plus I put some left over par-cooked sweet potato cubes on the tray to roast at the same time. Bang in oven – ignore for 20 mins. Eat 🙂

Can I help you?

Want to eat better?
Challenged by dietary restrictions?
Want to lose some weight and gain energy?
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Want to take charge of your kitchen and feel like a domestic goddess?!  🙂

This is for busy people who want more variety in their diet, without resorting to expensive ready meals and takeaways, and people managing dietary restrictions who want to regain their love of food.

I want to give you the key skills to take apart any recipe and adapt to your requirements and budget. Let’s take the stress and frustration out of dinner times and make it a pleasure.

Unlike Diet Chef and Weight Watchers, this is not calorie-counting. It’s also not a prescribed eating plan – although I can help you put that together if you want it.

This is about cooking Real Food, and giving you the confidence to do it for yourself.

You can do better than a takeaway!

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Well, if I say so myself the latest batch of meat and spinach muffins were a resounding success. This time I used frozen leaf spinach instead of the frozen chopped, which I found really messy when trying to squeeze out the water, and the finished texture is much less dense.

The pork version had Chinese 5 Spice added (just a teaspoon full) and it gave a tasty, but subtle, flavour – will be quite happy eating a couple of these for breakie.

The lamb version had garam masala and cayenne pepper, and chopped raisins. I went a bit heavy handed with the spice but the 50:50 lamb:spinach ratio seemed to handle it quite well. Those will do nicely for snacks with chutney 🙂

Ox cheek bourguignon recipe

I was asked for the bourguignon recipe I mentioned last week, so here it is! I use ox cheek instead of shin beef, and only a large glass-worth of wine so you can use something semi-decent. To keep the cost down I’ve used onion instead of shallots and stock cube stock instead of shop brought fresh stock, and omitted the mushrooms because I don’t like them included 🙂

Serves 4, very generously (Could even say 4 adults and 2 munchkins, with plenty of veg on the side)


  • 1 tblsp duck fat, or fat of choice
  • 90g Smoked bacon lardons
  • 1kg Ox cheek, trimmed but left whole
  • 1 x Onion, diced
  • 2 x Carrot, cut lengthways then cut into 3 chunks
  • 2 x celery stick, cut into 3
  • 1tsp dried Thyme
  • 2 cloves garlic, smashed
  • 1 tblsp Tomato puree concentrate
  • 250ml Red Wine (tradition says Burgundy/ Pinot Noir, but anything medium-bodied that you can actually drink will be fine)
  • 200ml Beef stock (if using Oxo, use half a cube dissolved in 200ml boiling water)
  • 2 x Bay leaf


Preheat oven @ 150°C (130°F, Gas Mark 2)

Heat the duck fat in a large, lidded casserole and fry the bacon lardons until starting to crisp and the lovely bacon-fat has rendered. Remove from the pot with a slotted spoon and set aside – I find the upturned casserole lid handy here. Saves on washing up 🙂

Season the ox cheeks well with S+P, and fry for about 5 mins on each side. We’re looking for a nice, dark brown crust so you may need to do these one at a time to prevent overcrowding, dependant on the size of your pot. Remove from pan and set aside with the lardons.

Add the onion, carrots, garlic and celery to the pot with the dried thyme and stir well to coat in the oil.

Sauté for a few minutes until the onions are translucent and the raw garlic smell has subsided. Stir in the tomato puree and allow it to cook out. Turn up the heat and add the red wine, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon or silicon spatula to deglaze the sucs. Allow the alcohol to burn off. Hint: when you sniff the pan it won’t singe your eyebrows 😉

Now return the meats to the pot, tucking a couple of bay leaves in with the ox cheeks. It may look a bit snug to start with but it will shrink a little during cooking. Carefully pour over the beef stock. You don’t need to cover the meat in water; this is braising, not stewing.

Apply the lid and put on the bottom shelf of the oven. Set timer for 2½ hrs (150 minutes). After about an hour take off the lid and turn the meat over in the braising liquid.

After 2½ hours the meat should be tender and the sauce thickened slightly. If you’re makng this ahead, now would be a good time to let it cool before portioning into suitable containers and freezing. This would also keep in the fridge for a couple of days. As with all such dishes, it tastes best reheated the next day.

Remove the lid and put the casserole on the hob. Bring to the boil then turn down to a simmer, uncovered, for 15-20mins. If you are reheating this after freezing and thawing, please ensure it’s fully heated through before serving.  When you come to serve, break the meat into large chunks using a wooden spoon or spatula. A sprinkling of chopped, fresh parsley would be pretty but not essential.

Leftovers: I took half of the meat out (avoiding the veggies) after braising in the oven and still just firm enough to hold together, and froze with a few ladles of the sauce to serve another day as a chilli. However, as the meat is 

über-tender after being reduced in the pot for 15-20mins, it would lend itself well to being stirred enthusiastically and turned into a ragu (meat sauce). 

Another egg muffin recipe

I’ve had made a few attempts at savoury egg muffins, and had mixed results.

First time they were tasty enough but unfortunately the muffin tray just ended up in the bin – coconut flour sticks like dried Weetabix to a breakfast bowl.

Last time I used silicon muffin liners and was much more successful (probably as there was no coconut flour this time) but the recipe called for 3 big bags of frozen spinach, which seemed to take ages to thaw and squeeze all the water out, and I ended up eating them all week which got a bit boring.

This time I’m going to split the batch and do half with pork and the other half with lamb.

This week’s menu – 02 May 2014

Only part of this week is a proper menu, while Hubby’s home, and after that I’m batch cooking to refill my freezer so dinner will most likely be created from whatever I’ve managed to construct that day but, fail to plan and we plan to fail!

  • Lamb Curry w/ roast cauliflower and crunchy kale
  • Ox cheek chilli in lettuce cups w/ baked plantain and toppings
  • Ragu topped aubergine
  • Fish and sweet potato curry
  • West African Chicken
  • Turkey & Cranberry meatballs

Meals for one

Next week I’m home alone, so I’ll be cooking for just the one Cave Person.

Shouldn’t be a problem as I can just freeze any extras, but it will give me a chance to try out some new recipes and I can take as long as I like over it! (well, until I get too hungry and just eat whatever’s there)

Got a fair amount of odds and ends in the fridge and freezer so will get creative with those before hitting the shops. Let’s see how long I can hold out!  I tried this a while back and it did shake up the old routine 🙂

Why kale is the Chuck Norris of all veg

On a mission to eat more, nutrient-dense veggies I put kale on the menu this week but forgot that it doesn’t wilt down, like spinach, so got the bigger bag [price break 😉 ]  at Tesco. Problem is, I just can not get rid of it.

Seriously, I’ve put huge portions of it into dinner 3 times already this week and the bag is just not shrinking – in fact, I’m pretty sure it’s grown!

I’ve put aside enough to go with an Indian meal at the weekend, but I can’t face seeing it on my plate again today so thought I’d try out making crisps with it.

Using a NomNomPaleo recipe as a guide, I dried off about 100g chopped kale (that’s all that would fit on one of my baking trays – so no idea how big her oven is if she can do half a kilo at a time!), drizzled over melted ghee (about 2 tsp) and tumbled the lot onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Baked @ 180c for 10 mins, turned tray around and gave it another 5 mins. While it was still hot I seasoned with ground braai spice (mix of sale, coriander, garlic and chilli). Next time I would put more on the tray – it needs to be in a single layer but, as I use a fan-assisted setting on my oven, it would still get good and crispy even if there wasn’t clear space between the leaves. 

Crunchy-Yummy 🙂