MTT: Loaded Potato Skins

 

As much as I really don’t approve of using food as an emotional crutch there is nothing that will give you a hug from the inside quite like a jacket potato, preferably with cheese and baked beans. I went through a whole winter of being unhappy about my career on the strength of the jacket potato van at the front of the office; I put on a couple of pounds (double cheese, double butter, oh yeah) but I had a perpetual warm feeling in my stomach.

 

 

I can’t even put my finger on the best thing about the humble jacket potato. The crispy skin? The salty, oozy butter? The melting cheese? The sweet tomato sauce? There are SO MANY good bits, too many to choose from.

There does appear to be a limit to how many potatoes can be eaten in one week, however. My record is 4 (5 if you count one with a tuna topping but I’m a beans n’ cheese gal), but I’m guessing 1 is probably a much healthier option. Plus if you overdo them there’s always the risk of jacket potato burnout. So to save my health I like to come up with different ways to warm my cockles.

 

 

These loaded skins are one of those ways. It’s a recipe I came up with in the middle of our chilly and rainy summer when I’d had one too many jacket potatoes and couldn’t look another baked bean in the eye. It’s crispy, cheesy and salty yet a bit lighter than your more traditional baked potato. I serve them with a quick homemade guacamole (1 mashed avocado, salt, pepper, lime, olive oil) and pretend they’re healthy: just ignore the mountain of soured cream.

 

 

5.0 from 2 reviews

Loaded Potato Skins
 
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The quantities below will serve one: just double, triple etc it for more people.
Author:
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Mexican
Serves: 1
Ingredients
  • 1 Baking Potato
  • 2 Rashers Smoked bacon
  • Good handful of cheese (approx 25g), I like Double Gloucester
  • Dessert spoon full sour cream
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil
  • Guacamole and soured cream, to serve
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat your oven to hot, about 230 degrees C.
  2. Cook the potatoes whole in the microwave until just cooked, about 4 minutes on each side.
  3. Take them out and slice them in half. When cooled slightly scoop out the insides and pop in a large bowl. Add to this 2 rashers of chopped fried bacon, the cheese, a dessert spoon ful of sour cream and salt and pepper.
  4. Meanwhile, brush the potato skins with Olive Oil and salt and place them curved-side up on to a baking tray to crisp up. Cook for about 7 minutes.
  5. Take the skins out the oven and turn over. Fill with the topping.
  6. Pop in the oven for another 7-10 minutes, until heated through and the cheese is melted.
  7. Dip liberally in guacamole and soured cream.

 

 

MTT: Authentic Spaghetti Carbonara

Spaghetti Carbonara

A couple of weeks ago I had one of those days. I took a trip to Nottingham, my first solo trip with two babies, for an appointment Elfie had with her specialists in the Genetics department at The Queens Medical Centre. The appointment was at 11am so I left our house in plenty of time at 8.30 but managed to be ten minutes late thanks to a detour back home to pick up my forgotten phone. It turned out that didn’t matter though as I had arrived at hospital a record-breaking 5 hours early; our appointment was at 4pm. OOPS. Initially I blamed this on putting the wrong appointment time in my diary, but no, it was there in black and white: 4pm. I guess this is where I blame my inbuilt fear of being late, otherwise I’d just have to blame plain old stupidity.

And so I had five hours to kill with two children in Nottingham. In the pouring rain. I sat by the front door of the hospital waiting for the rain to stop and feeding Elfie cucumber. In a flash of brilliance (a text suggestion from my mum) I called the appointment office to see if they could squeeze me in earlier. They could – 1.30pm! So I only had a couple of hours to kill, which I could do with lunch. Brilliant.

 

Pasta cooking

Thinking the rain wasn’t going to let up any time soon I decided to make a dash for the car park, which was a 4 minute stroll away. I reckoned if I put Elfie in the pram and Hux in the Baby Bjorn I could make it in 2. So we set off, and 30 seconds into our journey the rain turned from heavy to biblical. It was insane, like being in a shower. By the time I got to the car I was soaked through to my bra and my breast pads were so saturated that little gel crystals were falling out. Both kids were wringing wet and sobbing. I could have cried myself (OK, I did).

Frying off bacon

Back in the car I turned on the ignition, stripped us all and started hanging clothes strategically over warm blowers. After 15 minutes i realised that I wasn’t doing anything but steam up the car windows so I decided I’d have to put our damp clothes back on and buy some dry ones.

Having wasted so much time with my useless drying efforts there wasn’t time to head over to Outfit where I could have bought some things from TopShop, so I had to stop at Sainsburys instead, purchasing new outfits for all three of us (including the afore mentioned cringey babygros). Elfie got a fairly cute leopard print dress and I bought some blue linen shorts and a top in the sale as well as a new bra as mine was soaked. We got changed in the disabled toilet of the supermarket. Classy.

Eggs in a mug

We drove back to the hospital, Elfie eating a pack of Twiglets for her lunch. The appointment went really well, the consultants were delighted with Elfie’s progress and we found out she didn’t need an operation that was on the horizon, so we headed out to the car park happy. It was raining again  and yes, the same thing happened as we headed out to the car: the rain turned biblical as we were almost there. Luckily this time we were rescued by a kind woman with an umbrella who sheltered the children whilst I heaved all our crap into the car, they escaped unscathed but I was so wet I had to strip again and drove the 80 miles home in my underwear.

It’s these sorts of days that neccessitate stodge. Really good tasting stodge: I’m talking carbs, eggs, cheese. The type of food that will give you a big hug from the inside out and will warm you up when you’re cold to the core. This Cabonara is perfect for these days – it tastes amazing, is authentic (bar my choice of pasta) so you can pretend to be cultured with it and can be whipped up in 15 minutes. This recipe will make you forget about your crappy day and will leave you feeling happy, content and rubbing your belly. For me, it’s happiness in a saucepan.

Carbonara in progress

Spaghetti Carbonara

5.0 from 2 reviews

MTT: Authentic Spaghetti Cabonara
 
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All ingredients listed below are per person, making this recipe really easy to scale up or down.
Recipe type: Main
Serves: 1
Ingredients
  • Small handfull of spaghetti (I like to use linguine which is slightly flatter)
  • 25g finely grated parmesan cheese
  • 3 rashers smoked bacon
  • 1 egg
  • Salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Fill a pan with boiled salted water and cook your spaghetti as per packet instructions.
  2. Chop your bacon into small pieces and cook with a little olive oil in a large frying pan – I like to use my Garlic Oil for this.
  3. Beat your eggs and season in a separate bowl or mug.
  4. As soon as your pasta is cooked strain it, reserving a little bit of the cooking water.
  5. Turn the heat off the bacon and add the pasta to the frying pan.
  6. Add the egg and parmesan to the pan and mix together well. Add a tablespoon or so of the cooking water to the pan to create a bit of a sauce and serve.

 

MTT: The BEST Sticky Ribs

When I was pregnant with Hux I tried not to subscribe to the whole ‘eating for two’ thing. One, because it’s not true, and two, because when I was pregnant with Elfie I ate two Pret pastries a day and it took me a year to lose three stone of pastry weight.

Breastfeeding, however, is a whole other matter. Someone told me you burn an additional 500 calories a day when breastfeeding and my appetite will tell you that’s not far off. I am always hungry, always thirsty. I’m trying not to indulge in ‘bad’ calories bar one daily treat (usually one of those cinammon whirl cake things from Tesco’s bakery) and have loved tucking into lots of bread, pasta and potatoes, white carbs being previously avoided for their bloating properties. Somewhere else I’ve loved indulging is in the field of slow-cooked meats. Mmm.

These ribs are one of those such indulgences.

You know you’ve had a good meal when you have a sticky face and can’t pick your plate up because your hands are too filthy. You know, when you have to kind of use your wrists to grab a piece of kitchen roll to attempt to clean yourself up then give up and stick your face under the tap?

 

That’s what these ribs do to you. They are the sort of food you should probably eat with someone you know well (that lip smacking ain’t attractive) and you will wind up with sauce all over your chin (and in Will’s case, your trousers). These ribs are comfort food at its best.

The recipe originated from Masterchef Australia 2010 – which I fell completely in love with during my maternity leave with Elfie. The best of all the Masterchefs in my opinion.

I’ve left the original chili measures in though I tend to use half the amount of chili powder and omit the chili as I am a wimp.

By the way, if you serve these with fully loaded potato skins and sour cream your husband will let you have a lie-in the next morning.

5.0 from 1 reviews

MTT: The BEST Sticky Ribs
 
Don’t be put off by the epic list of ingredients: I found most of them in my spice draw.
Ingredients
  • 1.5kg pork spare ribs, quartered
  • 2 tbs Olive oil
  • Rub
  • 1 tbs brown sugar
  • 1 tbs salt
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp dried oregano leaves
  • ½ brown onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • Cooking marinade
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 250ml malt vinegar
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tsp hot English mustard powder
  • 2 tbs tomato sauce
  • 2 tbs Dijon mustard
  • 125ml bourbon
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 tomato, finely chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1 jalapeno chilli, finely chopped
  • 1 orange, peeled rind
Instructions
  1. Preheat oven to 180 C.
  2. Combine rub ingredients in a large bowl. Add ribs to the bowl, using your hands, rub the mixture into the meat to coat completely. Set aside in the fridge for 2-3 hours to marinate.
  3. Heat a frying pan over high heat. Drizzle olive oil onto ribs and toss to coat. Place ribs fat-side up and cook for 3-4 minutes each side or until sealed.
  4. Place cooking marinade ingredients and a tsp of salt in a saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to a simmer and cook for about 10-15 minutes until thickened slightly.
  5. Transfer ribs to a large, non-stick roasting pan and pour over hot marinade. Cover with foil and cook in the oven for 1½ hours or until falling off the bone, turning 3-4 times throughout.
  6. Serve ribs with kitchen roll.

 

MTT: Pulled Pork

Everyone goes mental for pulled pork, don’t they? Even my mum, with whom I had a 10 minute conversation about it ending with her asking why I named a dish after my dad (Paul…. she thought I was cooking Paul’s pork) loves it, despite not knowing what on earth it is. It’s one of those dishes that pops up on the Internet and always looks so mouthwateringly desirable that you need to have it in your mouth now, if not sooner.

And then you discover that it takes a million ingredients, a BBQ and about 48 hours to cook and it gets filed away in that mental folder reserved for foods that will only be consumed when someone else cooks them (see also: lobster, fois gras, aioli). Plus, all the recipes I discovered were American and I dont have the patience to translate that many ingredients out of cups and into mls and tablespoons.

No more!

When we last went on our big supermarket shop Will picked up a big hunk of meat for me to cook, as he likes to do. It’s normally lamb but this time he came home with 2 kg of pork shoulder. It was one of the cuts that specifically allows you to create monster crackling, which unfortunately you won’t get with this recipe, but in my opinion the melt in your mouth BBQ flavoured pork is a million times better. He wanted me to roast the joint for Sunday lunch but having had pulled pork on the brain for a little while I ignored his pleas, telling him the end result would be worth it. The joint I worked with was a shoulder, though I believe in the US it’s more traditional to use a leg or some kind of rump cut.

So I poked around in our pantry and managed to come up with all the ingredients needed to make a decent BBQ sauce and banged the joint in the oven for six hours. To complete my pulled pork experience I caramelised one red onion by cooking it on the hob with a knob of butter, a tbsp of caster sugar and shake of balsamic vinegar for 10 minutes, then threw this in the Breadmaker with the ingredients for white dough. When the dough was done I shaped it into rolls, proved it in the airing cupboard (middle-class housewife alert) and cooked in a hot oven for 12 minutes.

This pork in those rolls with coleslaw (couldn’t find a cabbage for love nor money so it was shamefully pre-made from Waitrose) and a side of chunky skin-on chips is heavenly. We also had it the next day in wraps with sour cream, avocado and cheese. Also divine.

The joint I bought promised 11-12 servings, but in our house it didn’t even last 48 hours.

5.0 from 2 reviews

MTT: Pulled Pork
 
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One of the brilliant bits about this recipe is that you can pretend you’re a mad scientist and just chuck all the ingredients in a big pan together. Really, you know that’s how it’s done. I’ve kept the ingredients as easy as possible so they should be in your storecupboard, and don’t worry if you have to omit one or two of them or find similar replacements (i.e. soy sauce for Worcestershire, syrup for honey).
Recipe type: Main
Serves: 8-10
Ingredients
  • 2kg pork shoulder
  • 2 onions, finely cubed
  • 150ml Jack Daniels
  • 100ml red wine vinegar
  • 100ml malt vinegar
  • 3tbsp ketchup
  • 4 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 5 tbsp tomato purée
  • 2 tbsp mustard
  • 1 tbsp Tabasco
  • 1tsp ground paprika
  • 1 tsp mustard powder
  • 150g sugar
  • 3 tbsp honey
  • 2tsp salt
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat the oven to 140 degrees C. In a very large oven-proof saucepan or casserole dish, add all the ingredients aside from the pork and mix together well.
  2. Submerge the pork in the liquid and seal the top of the dish with two layers of tin foil, as well as the lid if there is one.
  3. Cook for 5 hours, turning the pork every hour and a half or so to make sure it’s evenly covered in the sauce.
  4. Remove from the oven, take off the tin foil and lid and replace in the oven. Cook for one further hour. At this point I also removed the skin and fat of my joint as I wanted to include the taste of this in my sauce: if you are a bit healthier than me you can do this at the beginning before putting it in the oven for the first time.
  5. Remove from the oven and shred – you should be able to do this with a couple of forks. Drizzle the sauce over and serve.

MTT: Kale and Bacon Hash

Warning: this recipe will change your life.

Ok, it probably won’t, but it might make dinner time more fun a couple of times a month. A version of this appeared in Olive magazine about four years ago and I have never looked back; it’s one of Will’s favourite winter suppers and I love it because it means we get to eat a meal covered in ketchup. Plus, a fried egg for dinner? YES PLEASE.

The Kale season runs from September to February and you can buy it in bags ready chopped and washed from the supermarket. I’ve tried cooking it a few different ways but this is my absolute favourite. You’ll notice that my egg in the photograph is particularly well-done, as I am a dutiful pregnant person I fried both sides to make sure there was no raw yolk. Usually I like either a gooey poached egg or a fried one with a soft yolk.

These mini-roasties are just divine, and in my opinion are the best way to eat potatoes. Plus they take about half the time to cook which is a big bonus.

5.0 from 1 reviews

Kale and Bacon Hash
 
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Recipe type: Main
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • Half a bag of washed kale
  • 3 medium potatoes, peeled and chopped into 1cm cubes
  • 6 rashers of bacon
  • 2 eggs
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Start by tossing the cubed potatoes in approximately half a tablespoon of olive oil, season them and put in a pre-heated oven at 180 degrees C for around 30 minutes, or until golden and crispy.
  2. Meanwhile chop the bacon into small pieces (I use a pair of scissors for ease) and heat in a large saucepan in a little more oil on a medium heat.
  3. When the bacon is cooked add the kale and stir well. Put a lid on the saucepan to steam the kale for around 5 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, poach or fry your eggs.
  5. When the kale is cooked add the potato to the saucepan and stir well.
  6. Serve on a plate, topped with the egg. Add loads of ketchup and enjoy in front of the TV

 

 

MTT: Sausage Rolls with Apple

When I found myself with 250g of leftover pork mince and a pack of puff pastry in my fridge, I was not lost for ideas on what to cook. Gregg’s sausage rolls were a staple morning snack when I lived up north in Nottingham and I was also fairly partial to a sausage, bean and cheese melt until I noticed their effect on my thighs. Even now I don’t think there is much better than a crumbly, flaky savoury pastry. Preferably in a paper bag with grease marks.

But as I am now an adult who worries about things like cholesterol I try and stay away from sausage rolls and Pret’s divine cheese and bacon croissants. They taste out of this world but if you’re anything like me the guilt is not worth it.

Which is why I convince myself that home made, it’s surely better for you? And that lovely convenient puff pastry you buy in a nice roll, it’s not as bad as you think. And if you throw some fruit into your pastry concoction, well that’s one of your five a day. You’re practically a saint.

And lo, my easy peasy apple sausage rolls were born. Easy to make, good for you (maybe) and almost tastes as good as a sausage, bean and cheese melt.

5.0 from 1 reviews

Sausage rolls with apple
 
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Recipe type: Starter
Serves: 3
Ingredients
  • 250g pork mince
  • 1 pinch dried thyme (or 2 pinches freshly chopped)
  • 1 apple (I used cox’s), peeled, cored and grated
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 pack jus-rol puff pastry
  • Salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat the oven as per the pastry directions.
  2. Start by combining the pork mince, thyme, grated apple and egg in a bowl.
  3. Mix well – use your hands if you need to .
  4. Unroll the pastry and cut into thirds.
  5. Split the pork mixture into thirds and mould into sausages on the pastry thirds. Fold over and press together with a fork.
  6. Move on to an oiled tray and put in the oven for the time as dictated by the pastry directions, or until golden.