Recipe: Fajita bowls with chipotle soured cream

I made these delicious fajita bowls (so much easier to eat than actual fajitas, and less bread) in the last lockdown before Christmas. I tried to make easy but delicious weeknight suppers so that I could continue to cook more elevated weekend dishes. Weirdly I found it really satisfying cooking weeknight suppers. I’m trying to keep it simple without it being boring and this fajita bowl fits that brief perfectly.

Feel free to play with the toppings. You could add salsa, pico de gallo, refried beans, pickled jalapeños, corn, you name it. I used what I had to hand! But I highly recommend the chipotle soured cream – it’s so good!

Fajita bowls with chipotle soured cream, serves 2

1 flour tortilla, cut into six triangles

2 tbsp salted butter

2 portions of rice, cooked according to the instructions on the packet

1 medium onion or large shallot, sliced thinly

1 pepper, sliced into thin strips

1 garlic clove, finely chopped

5 chicken thigh fillets, trimmed of fat and gnarly bits and cut into strips

olive oil for frying

3 tsp smoked paprika

3 tsp cumin

2 tsp onion granules

2 tsp garlic powder

salt and pepper

1 tsp lemon or lime juice

Toppings:

approx 4 tbsp grated cheese

1 tomato, chopped

1/2-1 avocado, cubed

a small bunch chopped coriander

200 ml soured cream

1-1 1/2 tsp chipotle paste

Start by adding the butter to a frying pan and place it on medium-low heat. Fry the tortilla bread until golden on both sides. Place on kitchen towel to drain and set aside.

Add a generous pouring of olive oil into the pan and turn the temperature up to medium. Fry the onion/shallots and peppers until soft and just starting to brown, while stirring occasionally, approx 5 minutes. Add the garlic and fry for another minute or so. Transfer to a bowl. Pour more oil into the pan and add half the chicken. Let it brown and cook for a few minutes, then add salt and pepper and half the spices. Transfer to the onion and pepper bowl and fry the remaining chicken in the same way.

Add all the chicken, peppers and onions to the pan and cook for a few more minutes to make sure the chicken is cooked through. Taste, adjust the seasoning and add the lemon or lime juice. Set aside.

Mix soured cream with chipotle paste in a bowl and add salt to taste.

Start building your bowl with warm rice in the bottom. Add the chicken, tomato, avocado, grated cheese, chipotle soured cream and coriander. Lastly add three fried tortilla triangles to each bowl.

Happy New Year!

I don’t think I have ever been so keen to see a year out the door as 2020. I think it’s safe to say it’s been a rough year for all of us and even worse for those affected by disease or loss. There is so much uncertainty at the moment but starting a new year feels promising. A year of vaccinations and strength so that we hopefully can resume some of our much missed activities later in the year.

Until then, I try to look back on 2020 with kindness and gratitude and making sure to remember the good times. Personally I’m still savouring my trip home to Sweden and the two and a half weeks of quality time I had with my parents after quarantining. It was the best way to see 2020 out and starting 2021, with them; my core family! As usual, we ate and drank really well and had a wonderful time. With some pictures from our party of three I wish you all a healthy and happy 2021!

As we find ourselves in another lockdown in the UK I will try to find time to finally write up the recipes from the last two lockdowns. I have cooked a lot while in Sweden too and want to share it all with you.

Thank you so much for your support! If you have any suggestions for future blog posts or recipes (other than my extensive back log), please let me know in the comments!

Recipe: My favourite lasagne

Fun fact; I didn’t think I liked lasagne when I was a child. My mamma never made it so my only reference was the school lasagne which was horrible. I’m sorry, but it was and I still wouldn’t eat it today. So imagine my fear when we were going away with the student body for a few days aged 11 or so and I was told one of the dinners would be lasagne.

One of the school dinner ladies was there cooking for us and the lasagne she put down on the table was absolutely delicious and miles away from the bulk made one we had at school. From then on I’ve loved the dish, but as I never learnt how to make it from my mamma, it took me a while to figure out my preferred version.

After a lot of trail and error I have come up with a recipe I am very happy with and quite proud of. In my trials I have learnt that I don’t like mine to acidic and I definitely want red wine in the sauce. The smell of a bolognese sauce cooking on the stove for a few hours is one of my favourite smells. It’s the mixture of the scents that does it for me; slight smokiness from the browned beef, a whiff of fat that makes everything taste better, and the warming scent of red wine bubbling away.

I’ve also learnt (the hard way) that you need a vat of béchamel. Like way more than you think you need. Oh, and lasagne sheets behave very differently. The best ones I’ve found are these from Barilla that cook quickly and don’t drink all the sauce.

So without much further ado, here is my beloved recipe. Let me know if you try it and what you think! Oh, and try this salad while you’re at it. It goes perfectly with pasta and adds a little freshness and tang to your lunch or supper!

My lasagne, serves 4

Bolognese sauce:

500 g beef mince, at least 12 % fat

2 tbsp soffritto (equal parts minced carrots, onions and celery)

2 tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper

1 bay leaf

1/2 bottle red wine (375 ml)

1 tbsp tomato paste

400 g chopped tomatoes

2 tsp herb d’Provence

Bechamel sauce:

4 tbsp butter

3 tbsp plain flour

1 l whole milk

grated nutmeg

salt and pepper

2 tsp lemon juice

1 handful grated mature cheese

1 parmesan rind

To assemble:

approx 12 lasagne sheets

1 handful grated mature cheese 

Add the olive oil to a large saucepan and fry the soffritto over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes. Add the beef mince fry until brown and a bit crispy in parts. Add salt and pepper. Pour in the red wine. Add the bay leaf and pour in the tomatoes and a little water. Add the tomato paste, give the pot a good stir and bring to the boil. Once boiling lower the heat to a gentle simmer, cover with a lid and let it gently simmer away for 11/2-2 hours. Stir occasionally and check that it’s not reducing too quickly. If so, lower the heat and add a little water. Once you have a thick and not too runny bolognese, adjust the seasoning and add the dried herbs. Leave on low heat while you make the béchamel sauce. 

Add the butter to a large saucepan. Add the flour and fry it while stirring with a whisk on medium heat for a minute or two. Add approx 200 ml milk and stir with a whisk until the mixture thickens. Add the parmesan rind, keep on a medium-low heat and repeat with the remaining milk. Don’t let it boil as it could split, and stir continuously with a whisk so it doesn’t burn at the bottom of the pan. Once thick and creamy add the grated cheese, grated nutmeg and lemon juice. Season well to taste and set aside. 

Pre-heat the oven to 200C fan. 

To start building the lasagne, pour a ladle of béchamel into an oven-proof dish aprox 25×20 cm and spread it out to cover the bottom of the dish. Place a layer or lasagne sheets on top to cover. Break sheets apart to find pieces to fit the dish if needed. Add another ladle of béchamel and spread it out. Add a third of the bolognese on top and spread it out. Add another layer of lasagne sheets, cover with béchamel and top with a third of the bolognese. Do one more layer. Top the last layer of lasagne sheets with béchamel and mix in a little of what’s left of the bolognese sauce, just to get a nice colour. Add the cheese and any remaining béchamel. 

Place the lasagne in the middle of the oven and cook for approx 30 minutes. Until browned and crispy on top and cooked through. Leave to cool for 5 minutes. Prepare a salad, cut up the lasagne and plate. 

Recipe: pasta alla vodka

This year we’ve eaten a lot of pasta. I think we needed it this year more than ever. To me, a nice pasta dish is really comforting, especially if it is of the creamy Roman kind, but it also helps that so many pasta dishes are easy and quick to make. It seems much needed from time to time, this year when we have spent so much more time in our kitchens.

Pasta alla vodka has become a firm favourite that we eat quite often, and the creamy tomato-y sauce with a hint of vodka is just the best when in need for a bowl of comfort. I use Bon Appetit’s recipe and like them I prefer to make it with a medium-sized rigatoni.

Obviously one can eat pasta any day of the week but I’ve found it especially nice to make it on Fridays to celebrate the end of the working week with a quick but lovely pasta dish and a glass of wine. It sets one up for the weekend ahead, even in a lockdown.

Pasta alla vodka with rigatoni, serves 4

Adapted from Bon Appetit’s recipe.

500 g medium-sized rigatoni

1 medium onion, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled

115 g Parmesan cheese, finely grated

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tube (127 g) double-concentrated tomato paste

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (can be omitted)

60 ml vodka

180 ml double cream

basil leaves for serving

Boil the pasta al dente according to the instructions on the packet. Pour the oil into a large saucepan and place on medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, just until onion is starting to brown around the edges, approx 5–7 minutes. Add tomato paste, and red pepper flakes if using, and stir until the paste evenly coats the onions. Continue to cook, stirring often, until the paste is deep red and starting to brown on bottom of pot, approx 5–7 minutes. Add the vodka to deglaze pan and stir to incorporate, scraping the bottom of pot. Reduce the heat to low. Using a heatproof glass measuring cup, scoop about 60 ml boiling water from the pasta pot, then add the cream to it and slowly pour it into the tomato paste while stirring. Remove from heat. Reserve about 150 ml of the pasta water and add the cooked rigatoni to the sauce. Add some of the pasta water to the pot and stir on low heat as the pasta continues to cook and the sauce thickens. Gradually add half of the Parmesan, stirring constantly to melt the cheese. You should have a smooth, glossy sauce that coats each piece of pasta. Season with salt and divide pasta among bowls. Top with remaining cheese, drizzle with olive oil and scatter basil on top.

Recipe: the best side salad!

I don’t say this lightly, but this is, in my opinion, the best side salad. It doesn’t look like much, but it’s got crunch, it’s creamy and tangy and covered with grated parmesan.

So far I’ve paired it with lasagne and shrimp rolls with skin-on oven fries; two dishes that I love but I felt some kind of freshness was needed and this is the only salad that has really worked so now it’s forever in my repertoire.

It’s quite simple really, just crunchy little gem lettuce leaves (you don’t even need to cut or shred them) slathered in a homemade ranch-ish dressing with herbs and covered in a scattering of grated parmesan and some more herbs to make it look a bit more exciting. That’s it! It will only take you mere minutes to make but it will complement so many dishes.

Creamy side salad with parmesan, serves 2

1 little gem lettuce, rinsed and patted dry

4 tbsp soured cream

1,5 tbsp mayonnaise

1/2 tsp dijon or English mustard

3 drops of tabasco

1 small bunch of parsley, finely chopped

1 small bunch of chives, finely chopped

salt and pepper

Topping:

approx 3 tbsp finely grated parmesan

some finely chopped chives

Cut the bottom off the lettuce and place the leaves whole in a bowl. In a smaller bowl, combine soured cream and mayonnaise. Add dijon, tabasco and herbs. Season to taste. Mix the lettuce with the dressing until every lettuce leaf has a thin coating of dressing. Transfer to a serving bowl or platter. Scatter with finely grated parmesan and some more chives.

Updated: Cider Chicken

The last time we had people over for dinner before lockdown this is what I made; an updated version of my ten year old recipe for cider chicken. It’s really fun to cook my old recipes and get reacquainted. with the familiar flavours. And this is a recipe I’m particular proud of. But, as with everything, there was a little room for improvement. The recipe below feels fresher and easier and is still as delicious as the original!

Cider chicken, serves 4

8-10 chicken thighs with the skin on

1 tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper

2-3 tsp herb de Provence

500 ml dry apple cider

1/2 stock cube

2 tsp dijon mustard

500 ml cream

bunch fresh parsley, chopped

Add the olive oil to a frying pan frying pan that you can use in the oven later (no plastic handles that could melt) and heat to medium-high. Brown the chicken all around until nice and golden. Season with salt, pepper and herbs. Pour cider into the pan until approx 2 cm place in the oven. Cook in 200C for 15-20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken and keep warm.

Add the remaining cider to the pan and place on high heat to reduce a little. Add the cream, mustard and stock cube. Let it thicken and adjust the seasoning and herbs. Place the chicken in a varm serving dish, pour over the sauce and scatter with chopped parsley.

Recipe: Ciabatta Sandwich with Tomato Cream Cheese and Prosciutto

I completely forgot to share with you my perfect sandwich that I invented on a lovely summer’s day in Norfolk.

As you know I make this tomato cream cheese and pair it with prosciutto or parma ham A LOT, and it just hit me that it would work really well in a sandwich too. But not on boring bread; it had to be a crunchy freshly baked ciabatta. And with the addition of crispy gem lettuce and cucumber slices it feels really fresh even on a hot day, but I could honestly eat this all year round; it’s THAT good.

So without much further ado, let me share with you how I make it! And if you’re not sure what type of ciabatta and tomatoes I mean I have provided links below.

Ciabatta sandwich with tomato cream cheese and prosciutto, serves 2

1 half ciabatta from the supermarket

80 g Philadelphia cream cheese

2 tbsp sunblush tomatoes in oil, finely chopped

salt and pepper

2 slices prosciutto

2 little gem lettuce leaves, washed in cold water and dried

6 cucumber slices

Bake the bread until golden (approx 10 minutes in 180C) and leave to cool. Cut in half and then in half again so you have four pieces, two bottoms and two uppers.

Mix the tomato and cream cheese together in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

On the two bottom halves, spread a generous layer of the tomato cream cheese. Add the lettuce leaves, then the prosciutto slices folded in half. Place the cucumber slices on top of the ham. Spread the upper halves with the tomato cream cheese and place on top like a sandwich. Tuck in!

My Favourite Autumn Recipes!

I had the good intention of writing an inspiring post each month, to highlight what’s in season and link to some recipes from my vast blog archives. I managed it for a few months but with COVID, trips to Norfolk, work and well, life in general I’m way behind. But instead of scrapping those posts altogether, I thought I would make them a quarterly instalments instead, as that’s hopefully more manageable. Let’s call it seasonal inspiration.

It’s now October and autumn is in full swing. So without much further ado I would like to present to you a few autumnal favourites. You will see mushroom recipes, stews and soups and pretty much all things autumnal. Happy cooking!

This starter with burrata, fried girolles, brown butter and dill is just phenomenal and a great dish for transitioning into autumn. (I know at least some of us are struggling to accept that summer is over…)

This spaghetti carbonara with girolles is another favourite this time of year. I love the combination of fried mushrooms and creamy pasta. So comforting and delicious!

If you fancy more of a project, why not make your own mushroom ravioli from scratch?! It’s as satisfying as it is delicious!

This toast is one of my autumnal favourites. You know those cold rainy days when you just need a hug in the shape of melted cheese?! This will make you feel better. The combination of earthy mushrooms + creamy brie + fragrant rosemary is amazing. Especially when topped on crispy butter-fried bread.

Another great autumnal dish is this pork fillet en croûte with a mushroom filling. Delicious and dinner party worthy!

Moving on to stews, this lamb stew with red wine, cream and mushrooms is one of my favourites to make because it’s so easy – yet so warming and lovely!

For a weeknight this quick chilli is easy and delightful, especially topped with grated cheese and soured cream. And maybe some cornbread on the side. Yum!

Autumn is also (finally!) the time for soups! Carrot and coriander soup has become a firm favourite since I moved to the UK. Before that I thought this would be a strange combination but it really works!

On a cold night nothing beats hot soup and melted cheese, and this broccoli soup with cheddar combines the two! It’s basically broccoli cheese made into a soup and I’m here for it!

I’m really into sweet potatoes at the moment and this soup with lemongrass is wonderful and totally vegan (if you use vegetable stock).

It wouldn’t be autumn without pumpkin and this roasted butternut squash with Persian pesto and feta is just to die for.

Last but not least, we obviously need to include apples. This is hands down the best apple cake there is! It has a nice crunchy top that makes it unusual but also utterly delicious. With a hint of cinnamon of course!

I also love this yoghurt pannacotta with soft baked apples and a hint of rosemary! The perfect autumn pudding!

There you are – a nice little selection of my favourite autumn recipes! Let me know if you try any of them and how you get on.

Recipe: Buttery Almond Biscuits (Bondkakor)

During lockdown I did a lot of baking. Like a lot a lot. Our 5pm tea time break was holy and I tried to make sure we had nice treats to enjoy each day.

It was a fun game of finding ingredients and trying to think of what to make with them. I made these particular biscuits when we were low on eggs. It felt so satisfactory to be able to make something delicious (and trust me when I say these biscuits are buttery and scrumptious!) even when you can’t get hold of something as basic as eggs.

But I urge you to make them even if you have plenty of eggs on hand, because they are so so good! I baked half in the Aga and half in a regular oven at a later time (the dough freezes really well!), and they were definitely best when baked in the Aga, so if you have or have access to one, don’t hesitate to make these!

Bondkakor (Buttery Almond Cookies), makes about 60

Translated from and adapted after Ica’s recipe.

30 g whole almonds

150 g plain flour

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

80 g caster sugar

1/2 tbsp golden syrup

1 tsp water

100 g butter

Chop the almonds roughly. Pour the flour and bicarb into a bowl and mix. Add sugar, syrup, almonds, water and butter. Work the ingredients into a dough. Shape into two rolls, each approx 3 cm in diamanter. Wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for a few hours to firm up. Pre-heat the oven to 200˚C. Cut the rolls into 5 mm thick slices and place on parchment paper covered baking trays. Bake in the middle of the oven for 5-7 minutes. Place on a wire rack to cool.

Recipe: Cheat’s carbonara

You know how it’s a complete no-no to have cream in your pasta carbonara?! Well, during lockdown I had to forgo my principles a little when I was short on eggs. The honesty box for eggs at the village farm was under high demand and sometimes you were unlucky and went without.

So I ended up adding a little cream to my egg yolks and parmesan and it was actually so much easier to make a carbonara that way. No holding of breath and giving a silent prayer that it would turn out ok. It just worked, so for us non-Italians I actually think this is the best way to learn how to make this dish. And then when you’re confident and can make it in your sleep, make it without the cream and experience the authentic version, because it’s pretty great. Yes, better than this version with cream. But when you’re low on eggs or tired one night after work, then this is my go-to!

Cheat’s carbonara, serves 2

Very similar to proper carbonara, but much easier to make!

1 large free-range egg yolks

40g Parmesan cheese, plus extra to serve

2-3 tbsp cream

150g good quality pancetta, diced

200g dried good quality spaghetti

1 clove of garlic

extra virgin olive oil

black pepper

a pinch of salt

Put the egg yolk into a bowl, finely grate in the Parmesan, season with pepper, then mix well with a fork and put to one side. Cook the spaghetti in a large pan of boiling salted water until al dente.

Fry the pancetta in a little oil over medium-high heat. Peel the garlic and crush it and add it to the pan for flavour – remove if it browns or when finished cooking. Reserve some cooking water and drain the pasta and add it to the pancetta pan. Toss well over the heat so it really soaks up all the flavour, then remove the pan from the heat. Transfer the pasta back to the spaghetti pan, season and add a splash of the cooking water, then pour in the egg mixture and the cream. Mix well (I like to use tongs to move the pasta around in the pan), adding more cooking water (if needed) until lovely and glossy. Serve with a grating of parmesan and extra pepper.