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My New Toy

For a long time, I waffled between the desire to have a pressure cooker, and the terror of having one explode in my house. If you you think that is silly, recently a friend of mine was badly burnt by opening his pressure cooker while it was still pressurised. He’s made a full recovery, but not before a week of significant pain and some quite heartless jokes from his ever sympathetic friends.

As luck would have it, a Canadian company has devised an enhanced pressure-cooker-slow-cooker.  It’s my new favorite toy (although not by much, my new oven that doubles as a proving drawer and my purple KitchenAid stand mixer are still high in my affections).

Still, we’ve never eaten so many braised, stewed, steamed foods as we have since the Instant Pot arrived.  The best part?  I can now whip up chili using cheap cuts of meat (beef shin comes to mind!) in less than half an hour.  Here’s the recipe if you’re feeling peckish.


  • 500 grams of a cheap cut of beef (shin works fine for this!) – diced
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • splash of sunflower or similar oil.
  • Chili flakes to taste
  • 1 tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tin of beans (I like Heinz Fajita beans but use whatever is to hand!)
  • 2 chopped onions
  • 3 cloves of garlic, coarsely chopped.
  • [Optional] chopped celery
  • Fresh coriander and sour cream to garnish
  1. Set the Instant Pot to Saute and add the oil.
  2. In a bowl, combine cumin, cinnamon, and flour.  Toss the meat in mixture to coat.
  3. Tip coated meat into the hot oil to sear and brown. (It’ll tend to stick a bit, don’t worry about it.)
  4. Add the chili, tomatoes, onions, and celery if you are using.
  5. Add a little bit of water.
  6. Change to Meat/Stew setting. Change time to 25 – 35 minutes (depending on how small you’ve cut up the meat). Close lid.
  7. Once the time is up, use the quick release method to release the steam.
  8. Remove lid and add the beans, stir through.
  9. Spoon into a bowl with a generous topping of sour cream and coriander.

Serve with boiled rice or flour tortillas.


Spanish Chicken Stew-ish

As the weather closes in, there’s nothing more tempting than a bowl of stew.  Sadly, stew is one of the few things I simply cannot eat – love it but my tummy doesn’t.  My way around this is to make stew-ish.   I use a better cut of meat than you usually would with stews and so I don’t have to cook it as long.  That makes all the difference for me.   If you have no problem with stews, replace the chunks of chicken breast with thighs.

I like the reminder of holidays spent in Spain and Portugal so one of my favourite ingredients is a little bit of fresh chorizo sausage.  I remove the casing and divide each sausage into three pieces before adding.   To make this even quicker, I use canned beans.  You can replace these with rice, but I like the added fibre and variety of using beans.  Tonight I used two cans of beans: flagolet and adzuki beans.

Spanish Chicken Stewish:

For each person, you will need:

1 small can of beans

  • 1 chicken breast
  • 1 chorizo sausage
  • 1/2 can of stewed tomatos (I also added half a dozen quartered tomatoes because I had them and didn’t want them to go off)
  • 1 onion cut into 8ths
  • 1 can of water
  1. Put all of the ingredients in a slow cooker.  Mix well.  Cover and set on medium.
  2. Stir occasionally and add more water if needed.
  3. Cook for an hour then set to low.   Serve hot.

Jambon Chablisienne

Tonight, it’s cool and I’m in the mood for something very quick, very simple… and that comes under the heading of comfort food.

This is it.

For each person you will need 3 slices of thick-cut ham (get it cut at the deli counter and don’t use a smoked ham.)  Get the leanest you can find.   I used slices that were about .5 cm thick.

In a bowl, mix some tomato paste (just enough to pinken the cream) , creme fraiche, and splash of a decent Chablis wine.   Your taste may differ so adjust accordingly.

Roll up the slices of ham and place in a dish such that they are snug against each other.   This will ensure that the centre of the roll is open and that the sauce can flow in there too.

Pour the sauce over the ham to cover.   Top with shredded  strong matured Gruyère (I used a 14-month aged one that worked a treat).  Place in a hot oven until the cheese melts and browns.

Serve over plain white boiled rice.   You don’t need salt or butter in your rice as it will absorb that from the sauce (which has the fat and salt from the ham and cheese)

Caramelised Onion and Goat Cheese Quiche

This is good warm or cold, with a side salad.  You can make this more complicated if you wish by making your own pastry crust – I can’t be bothered today so I am using pre-packaged shortcrust pastry.

To make this extra pretty, I took the chive flowers I had growing in the garden and plucked them apart.   I sprinkled them on as the quiche came out of the oven.  They add a chive flavor, without the green bits 🙂

  • 1/2 pack of shortcrust pastry (you’ll want to roll it out such that it is very thin)
  • 2 large onions
  • 2 eggs
  • pancetta (optional – if you leave it out, substitute 1 tbsp olive oil or butter, you could also use some of the oil from those sundried tomatoes from a few weeks back.)
  • 75 g goat cheese
  1. Roll out your pastry.   Once it’s to the size you want, sprinkle with your choice of seasonings (I used paprika, cayenne pepper, celery salt, and a pinch of marjoram).   Roll again, just enough to press the seasonings into the pastry.
  2. Place pastry seasonings side up in a tart pan, and puncture with a fork.   Blind bake until golden.
  3. In a pan, fry up the pancetta until it renders some fat.   Add the thinly sliced onions and fry until caramelised.   Scatter onions and pancetta in the bottom of the pastry case.
  4. In a bowl, whisk up the eggs with a generous grinding of pepper.
  5. Pour over the onion and pancetta mix.    Crumble the goat cheese on top of this.
  6. Bake in a warm oven (175ish) until the egg mixture sets.
  7. Enjoy!

Fusion Pad Thai

I’m in the mood for Asian food tonight.   I was going to make proper pad thai, but I’m out of Tamarind paste.   So fusion it is 😉

I’m making my broth now:

  1. Bring it all to a boil in a litre or so of water (I’m cooking for just two people so that’s how much I used).  Let it simmer for 5-10 minutes (and allow to cool if you want to serve dinner in only a few hours. )
  2. Sieve the broth to remove the excess of spices and return to a boil.
  3. Quickly poach the vegetables that you want to use (I’ll be using dried mushrooms so I’ll poach those separately, a bit longer, than the julienned carrot and celery I also want).   Set the veg aside but keep the broth on the heat.
  4. Poach your noodles next.   If you are not adding meat, divide the noodles into servings and top with your veg.
  5. If you are serving it with meat (I’m using a smallish piece of sirloin I had in the freezer – wouldn’t be great as steak but will work a treat here.    I’ve had it thawing in a marinade of ginger, horseradish, rice vinegar, tomato paste, and oil most of the day), thinly slice the meat and add it to the broth.   If you wish, you can add some of the marinade to make the broth more intense.  Cook very briefly (it’s thinly sliced, so even poultry should be okay after a minute or two).
  6. Serve over the noodles and veg and share the broth between the bowls.   Finally, top with finely chopped fresh coriander and, if desired, peanuts.
I forgot to get a picture when I served it, but I’d made enough that I had leftovers for lunch yesterday and got a picture of that 😉

Cottage Pie

What North Americans call Shepherd’s Pie is what Brits call Cottage Pie.    Shepherd’s pie here is made with minced lamb.   Nothing wrong with that, but if I have mince lamb, it’s going into moussaka.

My mom’s been sending emails about how it’s 32C with high humidity in Montreal.   Here in Glasgow, it’s much cooler – and wetter.    It’s been pouring this morning.   There are even rumours of snow in the Highlands!   I love that about Scotland – one day I’m making light summer fare and eating in the garden, then next the mood turns to wintery meals.

So… tonight I’m making cottage pie.   Cottage pie is kid favourite – and a great excuse to sneak in some extra veg if you have kids, or a man, who aren’t keen on plant-based foods.  If you are in this situation you’ll like the Sneaky Veg Mince recipe I posted earlier.

If you are trying to cut back on calories or carbs, you can substitute half (or all) of the mash potatoes for mashed cauliflower.

Cottage pie is simply a three layer construction: mince, kernel corn, and mash.

For each person:

  • 75g lean minced beef per person (or double if you aren’t using the veg mince)
  • 75 g Sneaky Veg mince
  • 1/2 tbsp of tomato paste
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • garlic
  • a dash of Worcestershire sauce
  • a generous grind of pepper
  • a bell pepper (if you like them)
  • herbs and spices to taste (I’ll likely add cumin which I love, cayenne pepper, thyme, and some bay leaves).
  • 1 tsp of flour
In a pan, cook the mince and onion together until the meat has browned and the onion is translucent.  
Add everything else and take off the heat.   Pour in the bottom of an oven proof dish.   Cover with the corn (if you got frozen, thaw it in the microwave; if you got canned, rinse thoroughly).
Prepare  your mash.   I like to plan 1 good sized potato per person or 1 small potato+ 2* the volume of cauliflower.
Spread over the corn.    Sprinkle with a good paprika.
Bake at 180C for 35 minutes.   Serve immediately.

Fresh and tasty dinner

So Des has been away in London for a few days now.   He’ll be back tomorrow night, so this is my last chance to have the kind of dinners he doesn’t like.

I’m having an enormous salad.

It’s got:

  • Spinach
  • Tomatoes
  • An orange
  • Half a dozen strawberries
  • A handful of cooked and peeled prawns
  • And some fresh buffalo mozzarella.

The dressing is very simple too.   I skipped the mustard because I really just want to enjoy the flavours of the the various ingredients.  So all I’ve done is mix:

  • Strawberry balsamic vinegar (that I picked up recently and is just gorgeous!)
  • Vegetable bouillon powder (instead of salt)
  • Cracked black pepper
  • a drizzle of my finest Spanish olive oil.

It’s a perfect meal for one – in as much as I wouldn’t want to share 🙂