Monthly Archives: October 2011

Winter couscous salad

Over the summer I went to Greece for my holidays, Saturday’s meal was inspired from some of the delicious meals I’d had during my week in Halkidiki.

I appreciate that a salad in late October could be viewed as a strange idea, if  this is your thought, then  fair enough, but belive me there are so many ways of creating a winter salad and lettuce doesn’t have to play any part.

Last night I had a couscous salad something that I don’t usually have, I had recently found quinoa and enjoyed this in salads so I thought I’d give couscous another chance. Couscous is quite a plain food, but that can also be what makes it great to work with, it can be a great base for creating an exciting and tasty meal. this post is merely to highlight its variety to anyone wondering what to do with the packet they have in the cupboard. My salad took a total of 40 mins to create, and 30mins of this was taken by simply roasting my pepper.

Oxford’s Sainsburys at Heyford Hill has been undergoing a huge re-furb, so with my vague meal plan in my head and a new layout to explore I headed down to do my weekly shop. The layout of the new Sainsburys was very different from before, I’m sure I’ll get used to it in time!  I liked the counters at the back, they looked neat and clean, in a very Sainsburys sort of way! They included a Delicatessen counter, Create your own Pizza counter, a Fishmonger and a Butchers. I made great use of the Deli counter for my additions to my salad.


  • 100g Couscous – 50g pp
  • Chicken stock – to soak the couscous
  • Cotwswold Gold Oil– smoked variety
  • Hot peppadaw pepper stuffed with cream cheese – Sainsburys deli small pot (small pot to serve 2)
  • Green and black olives with feta – Sainsburys deli (small pot to serve2)
  • Sunblush tomatoes – Sainsburys deli (small pot to serve 2)
  • Chunk of cucumber
  • 1 Orange
  • 1 Heaped tbsp Plain Yoghurt
  • 1 Orange Pepper – to roast 
  • Salt and Pepper

A friend of mine has requested that I add more photos, so this is for her! Although the photo was taken after I had started my dinner, so it doesn’t really have the presentation impact that it should have, but you’ll get the idea… even a salad can be warming in Autumn colours!

To start
Pre heat the oven to 150C
I chopped up my orange pepper, discarded the seeds, then added to a baking tray with a drizzle of vegetable oil and balsamic vinegar. I put this in the oven for approximately 30mins.

I cubed a small amount of cucumber (3″ in length) and roughly chopped my orange, I added this to a small glass bowl with a pinch of Maldon sea salt and a heaped spoonful of plain yoghurt, then mixed and added equal portions to the plates.

I split the peppadaw pepper pot between the plates and did the same to my olive and feta mix, I halved my olives to avoid the inevitable fork/olive battle. (Where the olive pings off your plate!)

5 minutes before the peppers came out of the oven,  I added my boiling chicken stock to the couscous, as instructed on the side of the packet, and left to soak for the remaining 5 minutes.

Once the couscous and peppers were ready I added the peppers to the couscous, with the use of some tongs, to minimise the oil from the baking tray.

It was at this point I added what I would call the ‘magic’ to this dish: A drizzle of Cotswold Gold smoked oil to the couscous and peppers. I had a choice of Garlic, Chilli or Smoked and I was very impressed with how well the Smoked oil complimented the salad.

I added the couscous mix to the plates and scattered the sunblush tomatoes on top with a good grinding of black pepper.


Beetroot Salad, orange, goats cheese, mint & toasted hazelnuts

I made this dish for a Saturday evening, it was so easy to make, provided you have the 75mins to spare for cooking your beetroot through.
For me the best nights to have time are most definitely at weekend!
I found this recipe in the Sunday Times ‘STYLE’ magazine, 9th October 2011, pages: 64,65,66,67.
There was a 4 page article on Lorraine Pascale from: BBC2’s ‘Home Cooking Made Easy’ along with various tasty looking recipes.

I chose to try out the salad for my Saturday night. Why!? Some of you may ask. My view was that it sounded healthy after what seemed like a not so healthy week, one way or another.

Roasted Beetroot salad with orange, goats cheese, mint & toasted hazelnuts

The salad
4 beetroot unpeeled
125g mixed leaves
handful mint leaves
2 oranges peeled and segmented
400g of goats cheese or mozzarella
50g hazelnuts roughly chopped

4tbsp balsamic vinegar
3 tbsp runny honey
dollop of english mustard
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper

The Oven:
Heat the oven to 220C
Wrap the beetroot in foil and bake for 60min – 75mins
Once ready peel the beetroot and cut into wedges

Make the dressing – This could be done in advance!
Mix the vinegar, honey, mustard and olive oil, season with salt and pepper to taste.

Mix up the salad leaves and mint into a bowl.
Plate up the leaves up then add the orange segments and beetroot to the plate.
Top off with the goats cheese slices and sprinkle with the hazelnuts.

My other half decided he fancied mozzarella instead of goats cheese which I am assured went down just as well, if not better (of course)! Whatever your preference on cheese is, give this one a go, the dressing really makes it so get it right and you’ll be onto a winner.

Blood Red Beetroot soup

This blood-red soup could be great if you are thinking of entertaining friends this Halloween.
Equally it could be good if you are looking for a healthy option to feed children during the half term / Halloween period!
Sell it to them as if it’s blood…
I’ve made this for this weeks lunches, as I had plenty of beetroot in the house!

Beetroot Soup – Serves approximately 4 people

500g of raw beetroot
1 carrot
1 onion
1 clove garlic
1 medium potato
750g Vegetable Stock
1 tbsp Olive Oil

Finely chop your onion, carrot and crush your garlic.
Add your oil to a large saucepan, once it’s hot add the carrot, onion and garlic. Fry until the onion has softened.

Skin and roughly chop your beetroot.
Chop your medium potato into cubes, and add the beetroot and potato to the pan.
Pour in the vegetable stock and bring to the boil.
Simmer for 40 mins until the potato and beetroot are soft enough.

Blend the ingredients in a food processor and serve hot.
Alternatively pour the soup into a container and store in the fridge, until you take it into work and heat it up in your microwave.

To spice things up I would suggest adding a dollop of horseradish, this can be done right at the end instead of adding cream like you do with some soups.


Stuffed squash

1 small squash
A small handful of asparagus
1 Onion
1/2 hot rainbow chilli
1/2 can of kidney beans
Splash of red wine
Goats cheese 3 slices for the top


In search for some inspiration for my Sunday dinner this weekend, I wandered around the covered market, looking at the fruit and veg stall, for something to catch my eye. There was a crate of small squashes, all un-named yet in a variety of colours. I picked a small yellow dumpy squash which on later googling looked like a sweet lightning squash.

Cooking Instructions:
Pre heat your oven to 180C
This should be left in the oven for 1hr 30mins so work backwards from here!

Take the top off your chosen squash, make sure you take enough off to create a lid, like you would for a jack-o-lantern. Take a spoon and remove the seeds from the inside, leaving a space for your filling to go.

Chop the base from the asparagus, to discard the rough ends.
Chop the asparagus into 1″ long pieces, finely chop the onion and the 1/2 chilli.
Add these into a bowl with the 1/2 can kidney beans and mix.
Add a hearty splash of red wine. (not the cooking variety but not your malbec!)
Leave to marinade for a short while.

Spoon in the marinated mix into your squash this will overflow, but just keep going!
Then balance your lid onto the top for a cover and place into your preheated oven for 1hr 30mins.
After 30mins pop some tinfoil over the dish and return to the oven for 1 hr.

Out of the oven and onto the plate:

Once your squash is out of the oven test the squash with a fork, the fork should go through the squash easily,
yet it won’t be too squishy.
Plate up your squash and remove the squash lid and place it on the side of your plate, this way you can taste your squash for what it is, without all the stuffing.
Now place your goats cheese slices on the top of the main part of your squash and season.
When you cut into your squash the red wine should pour out, so choose your plate wisely!
This made for a lovely October dish and is a good competitor to the meaty Sunday roast!

October Fish Pie

Fish Pie is ideal for any evening, especially a chilly one! This dish can be done in advance, although I would suggest earlier in the day if you have bought fresh fish.

1/2 a nutmeg grated
1 Salmon Steak (ideal for one)
1 Haddock portion (ideal for one)
1/2 white onion
1 garlic clove
1/2 a cup of frozen prawns
1/2 a cup of peas
1 tbsp of capers
1/2 a hot rainbow chilli finely chopped
White wine vinegar (a few splashes)
Homemade white sauce
Potatoes for the topping 6/7 new potatoes should do it.

Buy good fish:
I bought my fish from my chosen fishmonger, The Covered Market in Oxford, somewhere I always go at the weekend.
I got the fish skinned as I was feeling lazy, and knew that I didn’t want the skin in my pie.

I made my white sauce first,to make sure I was happy with its consistency:

For your white sauce:
Add 1 heaped tbsp of plain flour with a large knob of butter,
Melt the butter in the microwave or hob (if you have a good non stick pan)
Pour in multiple splashes of milk and (whisk/ mix) until you get the texture that you want your sauce to be.

Then I moved on to the fish mix:

The Fish Mix: Chop the fish into bite size potions and coat them in the grated nutmeg.
Fry your onion in a non stick frying pan and allow it to soften and add your garlic in.
Lower the heat on your pan and add the chopped fish, peas, capers and frozen prawns.
Add a splash of white wine vinegar, and allow the fish to soak up the juices. Don’t cook the fish through, (this will happen in the oven later.)
In another frying pan fry up your chopped hot rainbow chilli.

Meanwhile… Boil hot water and add your potatoes, leave for about 20 mins until soft, drain and mash
with a drop of oil or knob of butter.
Pour in the white sauce to your fish mix and stir together, coating all the ingredients.
Then add your chilli and stir again, this way you won’t have a hot mouthful all at once!

Pour: Into an oven proof dish (for 2/3 people)

Add: The mashed potato to the top, as roughly or as neatly as you like.
Pre heat the oven to 180C and put the pie in for approximately 30 mins
Plate up when ready, with or without vegetables.

Pour: A glass of wine and enjoy!
( I had :New Zealands: Prestige Parcaels, Sauvignon Blanc 2010 Marlborough, from Majestic Wine Warehouse)

Mackerel with caponata

Usually while watching Something for the Weekend, I am inspired to make something they have shown on the program that same evening. The other weekend I didn’t have the luxury somehow and I had to delay my cooking of this dish until Tuesday.

The preparation time was fast enough that you don’t have to save it until the weekend. Think of this like a posh salad with fish you could rep the caponata and sauce the day before.

1.For the caponata, heat the olive oil in a pan and fry the onions, fennel, aubergine and celery for seven minutes. Add the tomato purée and fry for another two minutes.
2.Remove the mixture from the heat and place in a bowl. Add the capers, raisins, pine nuts, pepper, salt and freshly ground black pepper. Mix together until well combined.
3.Rub the mackerel with oil and place skin-side down in a hot frying pan. Fry over a medium heat for 2-3 minutes on each side. Remove and set aside to drain on kitchen paper.
4.For the sauce, place all the ingredients in a pan. Stir over a low heat until warmed through.
5.To serve, divide the caponata between four plates. Place a piece of mackerel on each and cover with the sauce.

For the caponata
2 tbsp olive oil
1 red onion, finely chopped
1 onion, finely chopped
1 fennel bulb, chopped
1 aubergine, chopped
2 celery stalks, sliced
1 tbsp tomato purée
50g/2oz capers
50g/2oz raisins, soaked in 50ml/2fl oz red wine vinegar and drained
25g/1oz pine nuts, toasted
½ red pepper, finely chopped
salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the mackerel
4 x mackerel fillets
2 tbsp vegetable oil

For the sauce
100ml/3½fl oz light soy sauce
2 oranges, juiced and zested
150ml/5 fl oz runny honey
1 red chilli, finely chopped

Making sure that your frying pan is hot before placing the mackerel in, is essential for a crispy skin, I know some people aren’t keen on fish skin but it is good for you. In my opinion a crisp skin is better than a slimy skin!
I had forgotten to buy red wine vinegar so just used a glug of (non expensive) red wine which worked well with the raisins.

If you can ask your fishmonger to de-bone or filet your fish then it will save you more time!

Atomic Dinner

Last Wednesday I met up with friends and headed down to Atomic Pizza. I was happy to have eventually got a table booked at the second Atomic restaurant, that I’d already heard so much about on twitter and through others.

This was a great night,despite how it started off!  I’d accidentally booked Atomic Burger (the original Atomic!) as a friend said to me: #Atomicfail!
James and his team managed to fit us in only half an hour later than our unbooked table, so to pass the time we had a drink in Cafe Baba’s just down the road!

The atmosphere:
When we arrived at our newly allocated time, we sat with the life-size Simpsons, ready to be taken to our table.
The restaurant itself is filled with toys and icons from your childhood! You can literally
just sit at your table and stare around the rooms reminiscing! If that’s not enough there
is a projector running various 80s and beyond cartoons (in mute) while you eat!

The menu:
The menu is vast, with a wide array of pizzas, toppings, burgers, and all things American! The pizza names are excellently named, anything from Padington Bear to He-man! They are flexible with amending your pizza, as one of our party requested an alternative base, (point proved)
they also offer gluten free pizzas if required!

The food:

Hell Boy (v) “Hot Sauce, refried beans, jalapenos, red onion, mozzarella and a tomato base Phew! ring of hell fire anyone”

Wow this was tasty! Apparently the hot sauce is the weakest thing they add to their Godzilla Pizza, do it if
you dare I’d say! Mine was plenty hot enough for me, and it stayed flavoursome too.

Atomic Burger Pizza (v)  Yep that’s right a Pizza Burger. Choose Beef, Chicken or Veggie Burger and it is encased inbetween two margherita pizzas, served with lettuce, tomato and a side of fries

For the indecisive!? Only kidding… This arrived as it is described, however our table thought the pizza on top should have been turned up the other way around, so that you could really get your hands around it and treat it like a burger. My friend chose the chicken which came as a breast.
He said next time he’d try for the Beef.

He- Man BBQ pulled pork, white onion, mozzarella and a BBQ base

As a personal choice, a tomato base was opted for here. Apparently a great combination. The sweetness of the BBQ pulled pork worked well, it was felt that the BBQ base was possibly for those of you that have a sweeter tooth when it comes to your pizzas.

To drink well it had to be Peroni x 2 and a Great Shake!

We had a great night in Atomic Pizzas: the staff were friendly, the service was speedy, and the prices were reasonable, under £10 per pizza.
It would be great to see some fish toppings available, as a pescetarian I find this is a great alternative instead of having the vegetarian options, (of which there were plenty!) Maybe something to think of in any new menu additions?
All pizzas were eaten in full with only the ocassional crust left on the plate. Thanks to the Atomic team!