Vegetables are gently sautéed then combined with red wine, beef broth and herbs in which beef short ribs are slowly braised until meltingly tender; served to friends on Friday, it was the perfect meal for a winter’s night. On Sunday, a day during football season when we typically crash in front of TV all day, I made an easy second meal be re-heating the leftover meat and sauce and serving it over wide pappardelle noodles. Ty it!

Braised Beef Short-Ribs

Braised Beef Short-Ribs

Braised Beef Short-Ribs, serves 4 with leftovers 

This is a simpler version of a recipe from Ina Garten, otherwise known as The Barefoot Contessa. You will need:

• Beef short ribs, cut “English-style”, 2 per person plus 4 extra

• Olive oil

• Onion, Vidalia, 1 large, peeled & chopped

• Carrots, 2 large, peeled and chopped

• Celery, 4 large ribs, sliced crosswise

• Leeks, 2 large, white part only, sliced crosswise (optional)

• Garlic, 3-4 cloves, peeled & chopped

• Tomato paste, 2 heaped tablespoons

• Full-bodied red wine (I used Cabernet Sauvignon), 2 cups

• Fresh rosemary, 1-2 sprigs

• Fresh thyme, 3-4 sprigs

• Beef Broth (I used Imagine Brand), 6 cups

If using meat from the fridge, let it sit out for about an hour beforehand.

Pre-heat oven to 400F.

Pat the ribs dry, season with salt and pepper and place them in a single layer on a rimmed baking sheet; roast for 15 minutes in the oven then set aside.

Turn the oven down to 300F.

While the meat is roasting, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large Dutch oven or other ovenproof pot that can hold all of the ribs. Add the onion, carrot & celery (and leeks if using them) and cook over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 20 minutes (do not allow to brown). Time spent here helps develop the flavour of the dish.

Add the garlic and cook for another minute or two.

Raise the heat; stir in the tomato paste to combine then pour in the wine; keep at a brisk simmer for 10 minutes until the wine has reduced and thickened.

If you have kitchen string, tie together sprigs of fresh rosemary and thyme or simply add sprigs of each herb to the pot. I give rough quantities because sometimes rosemary sprigs are large, woody and pungent and sometimes less so; use your best judgement.

Add the ribs to the pot in a single layer (you may have to put them in upright) and add 4 cups or more of beef broth, enough to just cover the meat. Place the lid on the pot and place the pot into the pre-heated oven for 3 hours or until the meat is just starting to fall off the bones.

Allow the leftover meat and sauce to cool completely then store separately, covered, in the fridge for up to 3 days.

Beef in a Red Wine Sauce over Noodles

Beef in a Red Wine Sauce over Noodles

Beef in a Red Wine Sauce over Noodles

Simple and delicious; if anything it tastes even better second time around. You will need:

• Leftover cooked beef short ribs, 4

• Leftover sauce (I had 4 cups)

• Pappardelle noodles (or pasta of your choice), enough for two

Remove the bones and discard any rough cartilage from the ribs then shred the meat.

Heat up the leftover sauce in a pot, add the beef and simmer gently over medium-low heat for 5-10 minutes until heated through (if it cooks for much longer it may start to dry out).

Meantime, cook pasta in a large pot in rapidly boiling salted water as per the instructions on the package – my noodles were cooked in 6 minutes.

Drain the pasta and add it to the meat sauce off the heat, cover and let sit for about 3-5 minutes to allow the flavours to meld. It’s delicious as is but you could also grate over some fresh Parmigiano Reggiano. If you have an extra bottle of red wine it would be perfect served alongside. Enjoy!

Something slightly different today: two recipes each made using up half of a leftover rotisserie chicken. I love having these types of leftovers and while it may seem a bit extravagant to buy, say, two rotisserie chickens instead of one think of all the extra meals you can make out of it. And if you prefer to roast your own, why not cook two birds together at the same time instead of just one?  It’s about the same amount of work.

A better chicken noole soup

A better chicken noole soup

A Better Chicken Noodle Soup

This is a hearty and dare I say healthy and satisfying meal – and so much better than anything out of a can. You could use any vegetables you have on hand; I used onion, carrot, leeks and mushrooms that were firstly gently sauteed then simmered with wide noodles in a tasty broth. You will need:

• Olive oil

• Vidalia sweet onion, ½ large, peeled & chopped

• Fresh Thyme, 2 -3 sprigs or 1 tablespoon dried

• Large carrot, 1, peeled and sliced on the diagonal

• Leeks, white part only, 2, sliced crosswise

• Crimini mushrooms, peeled & thinly sliced, 3-4

• Chicken broth, 4 cups

• Pappardelle noodles, 4 nests

• Leftover cooked chicken, white & dark meat (from ½ bird)

• Green Peas (I used Green Giant Sweetlets)

Heat about 2 tablespoons of oil in a large pot then add the chopped onion, salt and pepper and the leaves from 2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme if you have it on hand, if not use a tablespoon of dried (preferably organic*) and cook gently over low heat for about ten minutes.

Add the carrot, leek and mushrooms and continue to cook for about another 10 minutes.

Add the broth and bring to a boil; add the noodles and continue to cook at a rolling boil for the length of time suggested for the pasta (6 minutes for the pappardelle noodles I used).

Reduce the heat slightly, add in the chicken meat, roughly shredded, and a handful of frozen peas and simmer for 2-3 minutes until the chicken is heated through.

Ladle into bowls and enjoy.

* Organic herbs are initially a bit expensive to buy but the taste is so much better that it’s worth it, especially during winter when fresh herbs are not so readily available.

Vegan option: Use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth and substitute canned chick peas for the leftover chicken and you have an equally delicious meal in minutes.

BBQ Chicken Quesadillas

BBQ Chicken Quesadillas

BBQ Chicken Quesadillas

A different sort of sandwich – chicken meat is combined with sautéed onion and barbecue sauce then layered instead flour tortillas with grated Monterey Jack cheese. The barbecue sauce adds a wonderful depth of flavour without you having to spend hours building it yourself.

And to make it easier to serve, I’ve filled each tortilla and cut it in half rather than laying one on top of the other and cutting into quarters which is more traditional but more of a mess. You will need:

• Vidalia sweet onion, ½ large, peeled and chopped

• Olive oil

• Leftover cooked chicken, white and dark meat (from ½ bird)

• Barbecue sauce (I used Bullseye Original)

• Monterey Jack cheese with jalapeños

Pre-heat the oven to 350F.

Note: If you are using leftover chicken from the fridge, allow it to come up to room temperature for about half an hour before you make the sandwiches.

In a skillet, heat a tablespoon of oil then gently sauté the onion for about ten minutes, being careful not to brown. Put the cooked onion into a bowl.

Add the shredded chicken meat and about 2-3 tablespoons of good quality barbecue sauce and mix together gently.

Lay two large flour tortillas on a non-stick baking sheet and lightly brush each one with olive oil; turn the tortillas oil side down on the sheet.

Spoon half of the onion/chicken mixture onto half of each tortilla, top with a generous handful of grated cheese, fold over the tortilla.

Place into the oven for about 15 minutes or until the tortillas are crisp and the cheese is bubbly and melted. Let sit for a minute or two before cutting in half with a very sharp knife or a pizza cutter.

Meltingly tender braised lamb pairs beautifully with a side of potato-tomato-onion gratin; all you need are some gently steamed green beans or peas and dinner is ready. I’m serving these dishes as part of my New Year’s Eve dinner this year, omitting the cheese in the “gratin” and also making a slow-cooked white bean stew with kale for our vegan friends. Leftover lamb is turned into an easy Rogan Josh, a mildly spiced curry that’s perfect for a cold winter’s eve.

Braised Shoulder of Lamb in Vermouth

Braised Shoulder of Lamb in Vermouth

Braised Shoulder of Lamb in Vermouth

This “recipe” came about by accident as so many do when I had no braising liquid on hand other than water. It was delicious and I’ve been making it this way ever since. The slight sweetness of the vermouth complements the meat and partners well with peppercorns and bay leaves. Vermouth keeps in the fridge for months at a time and is perfect for when a cup or two of white wine is called for in a recipe. You will need:

• Shoulder of lamb, 4lbs

• Olive oil

• White vermouth, 2 cups (Noilly Pratt if you can find it, or Martini brand)

• Black peppercorns

• Bay leaves

Pre-heat oven to 350F.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large skillet and brown the lamb well on all sides; transfer to a Dutch oven or roasting pan just large enough to hold it.  Pour in the vermouth and add a tablespoon of black peppercorns and 2 large bay leaves. Cover and bake for 3 hours or longer until the meat is soft to the touch and fully cooked.

Carefully remove the lamb to a chopping board and remove the string. The meat will be so tender at this point that you can almost shred it to serve it.

Remove as much fat as possible from the juices left in the pot and ladle over the lamb.

Cover and refrigerate leftover lamb for up to 3 days.

Potato-Tomato-Onion Gratin

Potato-Tomato-Onion Gratin

Potato-Tomato-Onion Gratin

Tomatoes, onion and garlic add flavour to this potato dish; cheese is optional (I did not use it when I made it). It is adapted from a recipe for Tortino di Patate (Potato Gratin) from a lovely little cookbook called Rustic Italian Cooking by Kathleen Sloan. You will need:

• Extra virgin olive oil

• Yukon Gold potatoes, 4 lbs

• Sweet VIdalia onions, 2

• Grape tomatoes, 1 pint

• Garlic cloves, 3

• Dried oregano, 1 tablespoon

• Pecorino-Romano cheese, freshly grated, 1 cup (optional)

Firstly a bit of prep: peel the potatoes then slice thinly crosswise; peel and thinly slice the onions, halve or quarter the grape tomatoes, peel and finely chop the garlic.

In a large mixing bowl, add 2 tablespoons of olive oil, the potatoes, onions, tomatoes, garlic and oregano, 1 teaspoon of sea salt and ½ teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper. Add in half a cup of Pecorino Romano if using. Use your very clean hands to combine well.

Transfer the potato mixture to a baking dish, drizzle lightly with olive oil and sprinkle with the remaining Pecorino Romano if using.

Cover dish with foil, bake for 45 minutes. Remove foil and continue to bake for another 15 minutes or until the potatoes are tender. Let stand a few minutes before serving.

Leftover gratin is delicious as a filling in an omelet or quiche, or add it to the Lamb Rogan Josh (see below).

Lamb Rogan Josh

Lamb Rogan Josh

Lamb Rogan Josh

Depending on your source this is either a dish of Persian or Indian origin of curried meat in a rich, aromatic, tomato-based sauce. You will need:

• Olive oil

• Onion, peeled and chopped

• Rogan Josh sauce, 1 can (I used Patak’s brand)

• Leftover lamb, about 1 lb

• Leftover Potato-Tomato Gratin (optional)

• Cooked white rice

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet or shallow pot and sauté the onion gently until golden (not brown), about 10 minutes.

Then simply pour in the Rogan Josh sauce, add the lamb (and about a cup of potato-tomato “gratin” if using), ¼ cup of water and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and simmer gently, uncovered, for about 15 minutes to allow the meat to heat through and the flavours to meld.

Serve hot over cooked white rice; basmati is traditional but regular converted white rice is good too.

Crispy chicken is nestled among spicy sausage, potatoes and onions in a delicious one-pot meal. Leftover chicken is then combined with colourful peppers and pineapple in a red-curry sauce in a beautiful presentation of colours and mingling of flavours. Either dish can be made as mild or spicy as you want. Try them!

Pan-Roasted Chicken w. Sausages & Potatoes

Pan-Roasted Chicken w. Sausages & Potatoes

Pan-Roasted Chicken w. Sausages & Potatoes

You will need:

• Olive oil

• Skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs, 12 large

• Smoked Paprika

• Spicy sausages, 6

• Yukon gold potatoes, 2 lbs

• Red onions, 2

Pre-heat the oven to 425F.

Pour a tablespoon of olive oil into a large roasting pan then add the chicken. Sprinkle a generous amount of smoked paprika over each piece then season with sea-salt and freshly ground black pepper. Using your clean hands, gently toss the chicken pieces so they are coated in oil and seasonings then set in the pan skin side up.

Cut the sausages into thirds and scatter them among the chicken.

Cut the potatoes into quarters or smaller (no need to peel them) and scatter them among the chicken and sausages.

Peel and chop the red onions and scatter them on top of the meat and potatoes. Again using your clean hands, lightly toss all the ingredients together then lay them out in a single layer as far as possible leaving the chicken skin side-up.

Place in a pre-heated oven and bake, uncovered, for up to an hour or until the chicken is crispy and brown and the potatoes and sausages are cooked. The onions will have melted down into a sauce.

Serve with a simple vegetable such as green peas.

Separate the chicken from the rest of the leftovers and set aside, covered, in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. Set aside the leftover sausage, potato & onion mixture, covered, and refrigerate for up to 2 days.

The leftover sausage, potato and onion mixture is great heated up alongside fried eggs, or as a filling for an omelet or quiche.

Thai-style Red-curried Chicken w. Peppers & Pineapple

Thai-style Red-curried Chicken w. Peppers & Pineapple

Thai-style Red-curried Chicken w. Peppers & Pineapple

You will need:

• Vegetable oil

• Thai red-curry paste (I used Thai Kitchen brand)

• Coconut milk, 1 can (I used Thai Kitchen brand), not Light

• Low-sodium Chicken broth (I used Campbell’s brand)

• Brown sugar

• Fish sauce (I used Thai Kitchen Premium brand)

• Canned pineapple chunks (I used Dole brand), 14oz can

• Red bell pepper, 1

• Green bell pepper, 1

• Leftover chicken, skin and bones removed (I had 4 pieces left)

• Fresh basil

• Cooked rice or rice noodles (to serve)

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add a heaped tablespoon of red curry paste (or more if you like it spicier) and stir for about one minute. Add the coconut milk and ½ cup of chicken broth and bring to a simmer, stirring to combine. Stir in 1 tablespoon of brown sugar and 1 tablespoon of fish sauce until well blended.

Drain the can of pineapple chunks but reserve the juice along with about a third of the fruit and set aside (this would be delicious served cold over vanilla-bean ice cream). Stir the remainder of the pineapple chunks into the red curry sauce along with the chopped red and green peppers.

Stir in the leftover chicken meat and simmer for about 5 minutes or until the peppers have softened slightly and the chicken is heated through.

Remove from the heat then stir in fresh basil leaves. Serve by ladling over cooked rice or rice noodles.

Variations:

Substitute 1lb of raw shrimp for the chicken or make it vegan by using vegetable broth instead of chicken broth and substituting alb of extra firm tofu for the chicken.

A truly authentic gumbo starts with a roux made by slowly cooking equal parts of flour and oil together for nearly 30 minutes until it darkens to the colour of strong coffee. Mine is not an authentic gumbo in that sense, perhaps if I’m honest because I didn’t want to add an extra half hour to the process but mainly because I don’t eat wheat. In other respects, this is the real thing: it contains what Cajuns describe as the Holy Trinity of vegetables – onions, celery and green peppers as well as tomatoes, sausage and okra to which I’ve also added wild shrimp. It may technically resemble more of a stew but it is a delicious and relatively simple meal to make. Try it!

Shrimp & Sausage Gumbo

Shrimp & Sausage Gumbo

Shrimp & Sausage Gumbo

You will need:

• Andouille sausage, kielbassa or other spicy sausage, 1lb

• Olive oil

• Low sodium chicken broth, 6 cups

• Diced tomatoes, 1 x 28oz can, with their juice

• Bay leaves, 3 large

• Onions, 2 (I used cooking onions)

• Celery, 4 ribs

• Green peppers, 1 large or 2 small

• Okra, 1lb (I used frozen, 2 x 250g packages)

• Cayenne pepper

• Large shrimp (I used wild shrimp), 2lbs

For my dish I used so-called spicy sausages that I got from my butcher, not being able to find the Andouille sausage and judging the kielbassa to be a bit boring frankly but the choice is yours.

Heat a splash of olive oil a large skillet over medium heat then add the sausages and cook them, turning occasionally, until almost cooked through.  (If using kielbassa sausage just slice it thickly and set aside.) Allow them to cool slightly then slice on the diagonal; set aside.

Put the chicken broth, diced tomatoes with their juice and the bay leaves in a large pot, bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes (don’t be tempted to skip this stage as the broth reduces and the flavour intensifies.)

Meantime, prep. the vegetables: peel and finely chop the onions, chop the celery then de-seed and finely chop the pepper(s) – you should end up with roughly equal amounts of each vegetable.

In a large skillet, heat about 2 tablespoons of olive oil over low to medium heat then add the chopped vegetables.  Cook for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally until the vegetables have softened (do not allow to brown).  Add a ¼ teaspoon (or more if you prefer) of cayenne pepper, some sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and continue to cook for a few more minutes.

Add the cooked vegetables, the okra and the sliced sausages to the pot of tomato mixture and simmer over medium heat, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes until the broth has reduced slightly. I like to leave the okra mostly whole but I cut some pieces in half with scissors to help thicken the broth.

Add shrimp and continue to cook for another few minutes until opaque.

Serve by ladling into large bowls. I like to serve my gumbo either with white rice (that I cook with chicken broth) or with freshly baked cornbread on the side. Enjoy!

Paella with Chicken, Sausage & Shrimp

Paella with Chicken, Sausage & Shrimp

Paella with Chicken, Sausage & Shrimp

If you don’t already own it, buy yourself a copy of Jeffrey Steingarten’s wonderful book The Man Who Ate Everything; it’s hilarious as well as informative.  In it he describes how authentic paella is made. This is about as far from the real thing as possible while calling itself “paella” but the point here is to create a simple, satisfying meal that captures the spirit of the original.

It is a case where the second meal looks very much like the first so I recommend making it two days later, i.e. if you made gumbo on Monday, serve the paella on Wednesday – leftovers will keep, covered, in the refrigerator for that length of time. You will need:

• Chicken thighs, skinless, boneless, 2-3

• Olive oil

• Leftover shrimp & sausage gumbo

• Rice, white, converted

Firstly, heat the oil in a skillet and brown the chicken pieces well on all sides over medium-high heat then set aside. When slightly cooled, cut into bite-sized pieces.

Remove shrimp from the leftover gumbo and set aside.

Measure the leftovers just so you know how much rice to add; I had 4 cups of leftovers, including sausage and vegetables and used 1 cup of rice.  If, say, you only had 2 cups of leftovers, I’d suggest using half a cup of rice and so on.

Bring the gumbo to the boil on the stove, add the chicken then pour in the rice, stir to combine then let simmer, uncovered, for about twenty minutes until the liquid is virtually all absorbed.

Tuck the shrimp into the rice and continue to cook for another few minutes without raising the heat until the shrimp are heated through.

Ladle into bowls, top with freshly chopped parsley (optional); add hot sauce to taste.

Our American friends are celebrating Thanksgiving today and, according to reports, fully 88% of them will be celebrating the day by eating turkey. For us it’s a day to hunker down in front of the television watching the Dallas football game (Go Cowboys!) and eating delicious leftovers from a turkey I cooked yesterday. It is honestly one of my favourite meals of the year and, best part, is that all the hard work’s been done the day before.

Day-after Turkey Dinner with Bubble & Squeak

Day-after Turkey Dinner with Bubble & Squeak

Day-after Turkey Dinner with Bubble & Squeak

This is the easiest dinner you’ll ever make: creamy, buttery mashed potatoes are sautéed with baby Brussels sprouts then served alongside sliced turkey breast, re-heated dressing and gravy with cranberry sauce on the side. If you don’t like sprouts, any combination of vegetables will work as long as at least half is potatoes. You will need:

• Leftover, cold, mashed potatoes

• Leftover, cold, cooked Brussels sprouts

• Butter

• Olive oil

How you make your mashed potatoes will affect the taste of the bubble & squeak – I make mine using Yukon Gold potatoes cooked in salted water then drained and mashed with lots of butter and a splash of half-and-half.  Leave the leftovers to cool then refrigerate, covered, overnight.

The Brussels sprouts are simply steamed until they are just tender and still holding their colour; leftovers are allowed to cool then refrigerated, covered, overnight. Next day, cut them into quarters or halves.

In a large skillet over medium-high heat, melt about a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of olive oil; add the mashed potatoes and press down into the pan to flatten. Add the Brussels sprouts and stir to combine.

Let the vegetables cook for about ten minutes, turning occasionally, until they start to get brown and crisp.

Day-after Turkey Dinner with Bubble & Squeak

Day-after Turkey Dinner with Bubble & Squeak

Of course how brown and crispy you make them is up to you; in this photo they are just beginning to develop their lovely crust. Enjoy!

White Chili with Turkey

I had actually never made white chill before and after reading through various fairly complicated recipes came up with this easy version. When you think you can’t face another round of turkey and vegetables, try this flavourful but simple meal.

White Chili with Turkey

White Chili with Turkey

You will need:

• Canned white beans, 3 x 19oz cans (I used white kidney beans)

• Chicken broth, low-sodium, 6 cups

• Bay leaf

• Sweet Vidalia onion, peeled and finely chopped

• Jalapeño pepper(s), de-seeded and chopped

• Garlic cloves, 3-4, finely chopped

• Ground cumin, 1 tablespoon

• Ground coriander, 1 tablespoon

• Leftover turkey (I used breast meat), shredded, 4 cups

• Fresh cilantro

• Fresh lime

Rinse and drain the beans then pour them into a large pot; add the chicken broth and bay leaf, bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Meantime, in a skillet, heat about a tablespoon of olive oil then add the chopped onion and cook gently for about 10-15 minutes or until it starts to soften, do not allow to brown.

Add the chopped jalapeño (I used one but if you like it really spicy, add more) and the chopped garlic and cook for another minute.

Add the cumin and stir to combine, cook for 1 minute. Add the coriander and stir to combine then cook for another minute.

Add the onion/pepper mixture to the beans, stir well, and continue to simmer for about 10 minutes to allow the flavours to develop.

Remove the pot from the heat and let the beans cool down just a little. Using an immersion blender, carefully puree half of the beans then return the pot to the heat.

Add in the shredded turkey and continue to cook for about 15 minutes more, stirring occasionally, until the meat is fully heated through.

Ladle into bowls, squeeze in some fresh lime juice and garnish with fresh cilantro.  Enjoy!

The best black bean soup recipe I’ve tried – and with what’s left it’s easy to create a second meal using black beans as a topping along with melted cheese and green onions in twice-baked potatoes.

The soup is a hearty meal in itself and will satisfy both the meat lovers in your life and vegetarians alike. Chipotle chill powder adds a lovely smoky heat but don’t be put off from making this if you don’t like spicy foods, just reduce the amount you use.

Spicy, Painted, Black-Bean Soup

Spicy, Painted, Black-Bean Soup

Spicy, Painted, Black-Bean Soup

You will need:

• Chicken broth, 30% sodium reduced, 6 cups

• Bay leaf, 1 large

• Black beans, 3 x 19oz cans, drained & rinsed

• Olive oil

• Sweet Vidalia onion

• Garlic, 3-4 cloves

• Chipotle Chili Powder, ½ to 1 teaspoon

• Ground Cumin, 1 teaspoon

• Coriander, 1 teaspoon

• Dried oregano, 1 teaspoon

• Red wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon

• Crushed tomatoes, half of a 28oz can

• Sugar

Garnish

• Plain Greek yogurt

• Avocado

• Green onions (scallions)

• Grape tomatoes

• Fresh lime

This is an easy soup to put together if you just do a bit of prep. beforehand: drain and rinse the black beans, peel and finely chop the onion and garlic; set out the containers of dried spices and red wine vinegar along with ½ teaspoon, teaspoon and tablespoon measures.

Pour the chicken broth into a large pot set over medium-high heat; add the bay leaf and the black beans. Bring to a boil then reduce the heat and simmer for 30 minutes, uncovered (the soup will have thickened). After 30 minutes, remove the bay leaf.

Meantime, heat about a tablespoon of oil in a large skillet and cook the onion gently for 10 minutes but do not allow to brown. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or two.

Then add each spice in turn, stirring each time to combine and continue to cook over low-to-medium heat until the onion mixture has softened completely.

Pour in the red wine vinegar to deglaze the skillet then stir in the crushed tomato (reserve the other half for use later) and a pinch of sugar. Add the onion/spice mixture to the beans, stir to combine then cook for about another ten minutes or so to allow the flavours to meld.

Make an easy salsa by combining chopped avocado, chopped green onions (scallions) and chopped grape tomatoes in roughly equal amounts then season to taste with sea-salt and a generous amount of freshly-squeezed lime juice.

Remove the soup from the heat and when it has cooled slightly, carefully puree half of it using an immersion blender (or, if you prefer a smoother texture continue pureeing the soup). Re-heat and serve.

Ladle the soup into bowls and garnish with Greek yogurt (use chopsticks if you have them to swirl it into a pattern) and top with avocado salsa. Some corn bread on the side and a beer or two would complete the meal. Enjoy!

Twice-Baked Potatoes

Twice-Baked Potatoes

Twice-Baked Potatoes with Black Beans

After it sits, the black bean soup gets thicker and looks and tastes more like chill so it is perfect alongside stuffed, baked potatoes on a cold winter’s night. You will need:

• Baking potatoes, one per person

• Butter

• Shredded cheese (I used a tex-mex combination)

• Green onions (scallions), chopped

• Leftover black bean soup

Pre-heat the oven to 400F.

Rinse and dry the potatoes, pierce the skin a few times with the tip of a sharp knife and place in the pre-heated oven. Bake for about an hour or until squeezing them gently on the sides reveals they are soft.

Remove the potatoes from the oven but leave the heat on.

Make cuts in each potato lengthwise then carefully squeeze the sides to open up the cut and push up some of the potato. Using a spoon, carefully remove as much potato as you can and put it into a large bowl.

When all the potato flesh is in the bowl, add butter, salt and pepper, grated cheese and chopped green onions (scallions) to taste.  An exact recipe is not necessary here but do taste as you go along – once it tastes the way you want, you’re done.

Now carefully refill each potato skin with the mashed potato mixture, top with grated cheese and return to the oven for about 20 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling and the potato is piping hot.

Meantime, heat up the soup in a pot on the stove.

I usually place a potato on each plate then pour over the soup and top it with extra shredded cheese and/or chopped onions; it tastes great but is not quite as pretty to look at. Alternatively, as in the photo, you could set the potato on top of the soup and garnish with extra toppings.

Braise lamb shanks and make two delicious meals in one: a unique free-form version of Shepherd’s Pie – and a tomato-rich Barley Risotto with Lamb.

For even better results, braise the lamb a day or two ahead – it tastes better and allows you to reduce the amount of fat in the dish. Having done that, don’t skimp on the butter and half-and-half for the potatoes – they are the perfect partner for the tomatoey lamb and spinach.

Braised Lamb Shanks

Braised Lamb Shanks

Braised Lamb Shanks, serves 4 with leftovers

Don’t be put off by the seemingly long list of ingredients – once assembled, it is relatively easy to put this dish together, place it in the oven and basically forget about it. You will need:

• Lamb shanks, 6 (I used frozen), thawed

• Olive oil

• Sweet Vidalia Onion, 1 large, peeled & chopped

• Garlic cloves, 3-4 large, peeled and sliced

• Baby carrots, a good handful

• Fresh Rosemary, 1-2 sprigs

• Vermouth or dry white wine, 1 ½ cups

• Beef broth, 1 ½ cups

• Crushed tomatoes, 1 (28oz) can

• Red wine vinegar, 1 tablespoon

• Worcestershire Sauce, 2 tablespoons

• Brown sugar, 1 heaped tablespoon

Pre-heat the oven to 350F.

Season the lamb with sea-salt and freshly ground black pepper. Heat about 2 tablespoons of oil in a large Dutch oven over medium-high heat then brown three of the shanks well on all sides; set aside. Brown the remainder of the shanks well on all sides then set them aside.

Reduce the heat to medium, add the onion, season well with salt and pepper then cook for about 5 minutes taking care not to burn. Add the sliced garlic and baby carrots and continue to cook for another 5 minutes, stirring to prevent the vegetables from browning. Add the rosemary; if the sprigs you buy are large, use one, if smaller, use two.

Turn up the heat, add the vermouth and allow to boil for 2 minutes. (Just as an aside, I keep vermouth on hand and use it whenever a recipe calls for white wine; it keeps for months in the ‘fridge.)

Add the beef broth, crushed tomatoes (whole or diced tomatoes won’t work as well), red wine vinegar, Worcestershire sauce and brown sugar; stir to combine then bring to a boil.

Return the shanks to the pot, arranging them so the wider ends are fully submerged and the lid will fit. Place the pot in the pre-heated oven and braise for up to 3 hours or until the lamb is tender and the meat is just starting to come away from the bones.

Can be made-ahead: allow to cool, uncovered, then store in the refrigerator for up to 3 days, covered. Skim off any fat that has collected before heating through.

About an hour before serving, half-fill a large pan with salted cold water and about 2lbs of Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and cut into same-sized pieces. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat slightly and cook for about 20 minutes or until tender when pierced with the tip of a knife. Drain then put back into the same pan.

Add a big knob of salted butter (or several if you prefer!) and a generous splash of half-and-half (purists will warm the cream first) and roughly mash the potatoes – there shouldn’t be lump’s but it doesn’t need to be super smooth either. Cover and keep warm.

At the last moment, heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat then add a container of pre-washed baby spinach; stir to coat with oil.  It’s ready when it’s wilted slightly but still bright green, about 2 minutes.

Serve the meal by layering firstly a spoonful of the mashed potatoes then a spoonful of spinach and finally one lamb shank, pushing it into the vegetables to help it stand upright with the bone sticking up. Spoon over pan juices and serve immediately. Garnish with fresh rosemary.

Reserve the sauce and remaining 2 shanks separately; allow to cool, uncovered, then refrigerate, covered, overnight.

Barley Risotto with Lamb in a Rich Tomato Sauce

Barley Risotto with Lamb in a Rich Tomato Sauce

Barley Risotto with Lamb in a Rich Tomato Sauce

This is probably the ultimate comfort food: incredibly smooth and rich tasting, easily good enough to serve to company but you may prefer to eat it all on your own! Best part is that there’s NO stirring and stirring until it’s done; it’s virtually foolproof. You will need:

• Pan juices & vegetables (from leftovers)

• Beef broth

• Lamb shanks, 2, (from leftovers)

• Pearl barley, 1 cup

Measure the amount of leftover juices and vegetables and add enough beef broth, if necessary, to make up 4 cups; pour into a large saucepan.

Take the meat off the shanks, discarding any excess fat; tear apart with your clean hands into chunks and add to the pot; stir to combine.

Turn the heat to high under the pot until the sauce starts to boil then add the pearl barley; stir to combine.

Reduce the heat to medium-low, enough to maintain a steady simmer, cover and cook for about 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. All of the juices should be absorbed but the barley should still be slightly firm to the tooth, or al dente as the Italians say. (Keep a small pan of beef broth heated up on the stove and stir in a small amount if you think the risotto is too thick.)

Ladle the risotto into bowls and garnish with a sprig of fresh rosemary. Enjoy!

In my last post, I shared a recipe for Stove-Top Pot Roast and a suggestion for how leftovers could be turned into the filling for individual meat pies. Here, I’m sharing a variation of the recipe to demonstrate its versatility, taking a weekday meal and turning it into a dish that’s elegant enough to serve to company. Simply make the pot-roast ahead of time, let it sit in the refrigerator overnight or for up to 3 days while the flavours intensify, add sautéed mushrooms and a pastry topping and dinner is ready.

Make-Ahead Braised Beef and Mushrooms

Make-Ahead Braised Beef and Mushrooms

Make-Ahead Braised Beef and Mushrooms

You will need:

• Stove-Top Pot Roast (follow recipe below), large vegetables removed

• Butter

• All-purpose flour

• Olive oil

• Crimini mushrooms, 1lb, sliced

• Fresh thyme

• Frozen Puff pastry, thawed

• Egg, 1, lightly beaten

Pre-heat oven to 400F.

Skim any fat that has come to the surface of the pot roast and with your clean hands, remove any excess fat or gristle on the meat and tear it into bite-sized pieces. Return the meat to the pot, place the pot over medium-high heat and bring to a boil.

Meantime, make a paste by combining one ounce of butter with a heaped tablespoon of flour and gradually add it to the bubbling broth, stirring until it thickens slightly. Reduce the heat and let the meat and gravy simmer gently on the stove.

Heat a couple of glugs of oil in a large skillet, add the mushrooms and cook over medium-high heat. Add freshly ground black pepper and the leaves from 2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme and continue to cook until the mushrooms start to caramelize, about 10 minutes. Add a knob of butter and swirl the pan to coat the mushrooms. Carefully add the mushrooms to the meat and gravy in the pot and stir to combine.

Unroll the puff pastry onto a lightly floured board – each sheet will serve four. Don’t worry about rolling it out (if you’re like me and don’t bake you may not even own a rolling pin) but do trim the pastry with a sharp knife to make a “perfect” square. Using the same sharp knife, make diagonal cuts to create four pastry triangles from each sheet.

Lightly grease a baking sheet(s), place the pastry triangles on top and brush with the beaten egg. Bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown and puffed. Use the time the pastry is baking to cook vegetables, for example cauliflower and green beans.

Ladle the meat and mushroom mixture onto dinner plates, top with the pastry triangles, serve vegetables alongside and garnish with sprigs of thyme. A glass or two of the same red wine you used to cook the pot roast would be perfect alongside.

This originally started as an easier and dare I say it healthier way of making beef stew.  Firstly, because I dislike what’s sold as “stewing” beef which is often tough and tasteless and secondly – and if I’m honest perhaps more importantly, because it’s a lot less work.  

Chuck or blade roast is gently simmered with root vegetables, red wine and herbs and the meat is cut up once it’s cooked – no individually browning little cubes of meat.

Alongside, I make a lighter version of scalloped potatoes using chicken broth in place of milk or cream. It’s an easy meal for a weeknight but also elegant enough to serve for company. 

Stove-Top Pot Roast

Stove-Top Pot Roast

Stove-Top Pot Roast

You will need:

• Olive oil

• Chuck or Blade roast, 5lbs

• Sweet Vidalia onion, 1 large, peeled & chopped

• Garlic, 3 large cloves, peeled & sliced

• Carrots, 3 large, peeled & cut into pieces

• Parsnips, 3 large, peeled & cut into pieces

• Fresh rosemary

• Fresh thyme

• Dry red wine, 1 cup (or an extra cup of broth)

• Beef broth, 2 cups

• Butter

• All-purpose flour

I used (and recommend using) an oval Le Creuset pot that is slightly larger than the roast.  Of course you can use a large saucepan but you may need to slightly increase the cooking time.

Heat a tablespoon or two of oil in the pot and brown the meat well on all sides then set aside (this is sooo much easier than browning stewing meat).

Add the chopped onions and garlic and sauté gently until they start to soften (don’t allow to burn), about 10 minutes. Add the carrots and parsnips, toss to combine and cook for another 5 minutes. Add a sprig or two of rosemary (if they are large, just use one) and 3-4 sprigs of fresh thyme; if you have kitchen string, you can tie the herbs into bundles making it easier to fish them out later.

Turn up the heat, add in the red wine and cook for about 2 minutes to thicken slightly. Add in the beef broth. Return the meat to the pot, bring back to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently, covered, for about 90 minutes or until the meat is tender and the vegetables are cooked but still holding their shape.

Remove what’s left of the stalks of rosemary and thyme and throw them away. Remove the meat to a chopping board and slice thickly then arrange on a serving platter. Remove the vegetables with a slotted spoon and arrange them on the same platter. Turn up the heat under the broth left in the pot. Make a paste combining an ounce of butter with a large tablespoon of flour then add it to the pot. Stir and continue to cook for a few minutes until the broth has thickened slightly.  Pour some of the gravy over the meat & vegetables and reserve the remainder.

Set aside leftover meat and gravy (not the vegetables) until cool then cover and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

A Lighter Version of Scalloped Potatoes

A Lighter Version of Scalloped Potatoes

A Lighter Version of Scalloped Potatoes

You will need:

• Yukon Gold potatoes, 6 large

• Chicken Broth (I used Campbell’s)

• Butter

• Fresh thyme

Wash but don’t peel the potatoes then slice them thinly; you can use a mandolin but it’s also easy enough to just use a sharp knife.

Place the potatoes in an ovenproof dish in overlapping slices (you’ll end up with about three layers in a 9×13 dish), season with salt and pepper, sprinkle over the leaves from 1-2 sprigs of thyme, pour over about a cup of chicken broth, enough to come halfway up the sides of the dish, dot with butter then cover with foil and bake in the oven for 30 minutes. Carefully remove the foil and continue to bake for another 5-10 minutes or so or until the top is golden. Serve immediately.

Individual Beef & Mushroom Pot Pies

Individual Beef & Mushroom Pot Pies

Individual Beef & Mushroom Pot Pies (2)

You will need:

• Leftover meat and gravy, 2 cups or more

• Olive oil

• Crimini or baby portabella mushrooms, 8oz

• Fresh thyme

• Butter

• All purpose flour

• Frozen puff pastry, thawed overnight in the refrigerator

• Egg, 1, lightly beaten

Pre-heat oven to 400F

Wipe (don’t wash) then thinly slice the mushrooms. Heat a tablespoon of oil in a large skillet over high heat then add the mushroom slices; season with freshly ground black pepper and the leaves from 2-3 sprigs of fresh thyme. Cook for about 10 minutes or until all the moisture has been absorbed and the mushrooms are starting to caramelize. Add a knob of butter, swirl it around in the skillet to coat the mushrooms then remove from the heat.

While the mushrooms are cooking, tear or cut the meat into small pieces, removing any fat or gristle. Re-heat the leftover meat and sauce in a pan. Add the sautéed mushroom mixture and stir together; this now becomes the filling for your pies. Leave the filling over low heat while you make the pastry toppings.

Lay each sheet of pastry on a surface that’s lightly dusted with flour (I used my granite counter-top). Place the ovenproof bowl on the pastry upside down and cut around it, leaving about a half inch of extra pastry. Repeat. (I used both slices of pastry).

Ladle the beef and mushroom filling into each bowl then top with the puff pastry, pressing the pastry around the rims to seal, then brush with beaten egg. Score a vent in the top of each pie then set the bowls on a baking sheet. Place in the oven and cook for about 30 minutes or until the pastry is golden brown and the juices are bubbling. Let sit for a few minutes before serving.