Saturday 29 March 2014

Bacon, Tomato and Walnut Pasta Recipe

Today's recipe is for a quick, easy to prepare and healthy pasta dish, made a little richer by the inclusion of smoked bacon. This makes an excellent lunch or light supper, but can also be served as a starter.

Bacon, Tomato and Walnut Pasta

Serves: 4
Bacon, Tomato and Walnut Pasta: A light lunch or supper dish of pasta dressed with tomatoes, smoked bacon and garlic cooked in butter and served with fresh basil.


350g (12 oz) penne pasta (or pasta spirals)
8 plum tomatoes, halved
4 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp light muscovado sugar
50g (2 oz) butter
110g (4 oz) smoked bacon bits
50g (2 oz) walnuts, coarsely chopped
50g (2 oz) fresh white breadcrumbs
1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
2 tbsp basil leaves, chopped
salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste


Bring a pan of salted water to a boil. add the pasta and cook for between 10 and 12 minutes, or as directed on the packet. Drain in a colander.

In the meantime, place the tomato halves on a grill pan with the cut side uppermost. Brush with 2 tbsp olive oil then sprinkle over the sugar and season with salt and black pepper. Place under a hot grill (broiler) and cook for about 6 minutes or until the tomatoes begin to char. Remover from under the grill and set aside to keep warm until the pasta is cooked.

Heat half the butter in a frying pan and add the bacon pieces. Cook over medium heat for about 6 minutes, until they begin to crisp then remove from the pan.

Add the remaining butter to the pan and tip in the walnuts, breadcrumbs and garlic. Cook over medium heat until the breadcrumbs turn a golden brown. Take the pan off the heat and stir in the basil and bacon pieces then season to taste with salt (if needed) and black pepper.

Pour the remaining oil over the pasta and stir in the bacon, tomato halves and the walnut mixture.

Serve immediately.

Wednesday 26 March 2014

Tsoureki (Sweet Greek Easter Bread) Recipe

Tsoureki is a sweet, Greek, Easter bread that, traditionally, was baked to end the Lenten fast. It is often eaten for breakfast, accompanied by cheese. The traditional way of preparing is by plaiting and inserting red-dyed eggs at either end before baking, though it can also be shaped into an Easter crown.

Tsoureki (Sweet Greek Easter Bread)

Serves: 12
Tsoureki (Sweet Greek Easter Bread): A classic rich ans sweet bread from Greece that is traditionally used to break the lenten feast. Shown decorated with whole eggs for Easter,


500ml (2 cups) milk
2 x 7.5g (1/4 oz) sachets of active, dried, yeast
950 to 1050g (8 to 9 cups) white bread flour
350g (1 3/4 cups) sugar
125g (1 cup) ground almonds
1 tsp salt
finely-grated zest of 1 orange
1 tbsp ground mahlepi (mahlab cherry pits)
1 tsp ground mastic (optional)
50g (1/4 cup) butter, melted
5 eggs, well beaten
fresh eggs, dyed red with food colouring (optional)
1 egg yolk
2 tbsp milk
65g slivered almonds


Warm the milk to blood heat then pour into a bowl and stir in the yeast along with 100g (1 cup, scant) of the flour and 50g (1/4 cup) of the sugar. Cover with clingfilm (plastic wrap) or a damp cloth and set aside to prove for 60 minutes.

Sift 850g (7 cups) of the remaining flour into a bowl and mix in the ground almonds, salt, remaining sugar, orange zest, mahlepi and mastic. Form a well in the centre and pour in the yeast mixture, along with the melted butter and eggs. Working from the outside inwards, bring the flour into the wet ingredients, stirring the mixture with your fingertips until a dough begins to form.

Turn the dough onto a floured work surface and begin kneading and adding more flour, as needed, until the dough is smooth and elastic and no longer sticks to your hands (about 12 minutes). Shape the resultant dough into a ball, place in an olied bowl (turn to coat) then cover with clingfilm (plastic wrap) or a damp cloth and set aside in a warm, draft-free, spot to rise until doubled in volume (about 80 minutes).

After this time knock back (punch down) the dough then divide into six equal-sized pieces. Take three of the pieces and roll into ropes about 5cm (2 in) in diameter and 30cm (12 in) long. Lay the three elongated pieces next to each other and pinch together at one end. Braid the strips at the other end then pinch the ends together to seal. Transfer to a parchmntn paper lined baking tray and, of desired, nestle a red-dyed egg at either end of the braid. Repeat with the remaining dough pieces to make a second loaf.

Cover loosely, then set aside to raise in a warm place for about 80 minutes, or until doubled in volume.

Beat the egg yolk with 2 tbsp milk and use this mixture to glaze the tops of the loaves. Scatter over the slivered almonds, then transfer to an oven pre-heated to 180ºC (360ºF), setting the loaves on a low shelf.

Bake for about 40 minutes, until golden brown (but check after about 20 minutes to ensure the loaves are not colouring too quickly --- if they are drape kitchen foil over the top and continue baking) and the loaves hound hollow when tapped on the base.

Transfer to a wire rack and allow to cool before slicing and serving.

For hundreds more Easter recipes, why not visit the Celtnet Easter recipes and history of Easter pages? If you would like to learn more about Greek cuisine, visit the Celtnet Greek recipes and cookery pages.

Monday 24 March 2014

Strawberry Sponge Puddings Recipe

Here is a modern twist on the classic British sponge pudding dessert. Instead of being steamed (as is usual) these puddings are baked, meaning that you can prepare them in less than 30 minutes, from scratch!

Strawberry Sponge Puddings

Serves: 4
Strawberry Sponge Puddings: Today's recipe is for individual sponge desserts, each baked on a bed of strawberry jam, so that the jam flows down the sides of the sponges when they are inverted to be served.


100g (1/2 cup) butter, diced and softened
250g (1 cup) strawberry jam (jelly)
100g (1/2 cup) caster sugar
2 egg, beaten
1 tbsp milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
100g (1 cup, less 1 tbsp) self-raising flour, sifted
pouring consistency custard, to serve


Grease four 125ml (1/2 cup) pudding basins with butter, then divide the jam between them.

Cream together the butter and sugar in a mixing bowl until pale and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating thoroughly to combine after each addition. Now stir in the milk and vanilla extract.

Add the flour, a tablespoon at a time, folding into the egg mixture. Once all the flour has been incorporated, spoon the batter into the prepared pudding basins and level the surfaces with the back of a spoon.

Sit the pudding basins on a baking tray and transfer to the centre of an oven pre-heated to 180ºC (350ºF), and bake for about 18 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the centre of each pudding emerges cleanly.

Turn the puddings out onto warmed plate and serve accompanied by custard.

For a chocolate version, substitute 6 tbsp cocoa powder and 1/4 tsp baking powder for 6 tbsp of the flour and use cherry or plum jam instead of the strawberry jam.

If you liked this recipe for a baked sponge dessert, you can find recipes for hundreds more desserts at the Celtnet Dessert recipe and dishes pages.

Friday 21 March 2014

Beef and Bean Casserole Recipe

Though spring may officially have arrived, the cold and damp of winter still lingers. To cheer you up, in anticipation of spring, proper's, arrival today's recipe is for a hearty and warming casserole dish.

Beef and Bean Casserole

Serves: 4–6
Beef and Bean Casserole: A hearty and warming one-pot dish of beef and mixed fresh beans cooked slowly in a red wine, stock and tomato base.


25g (1 oz) butter
2 tbsp olive oil
350g (120z) shallots, peeled
900g (2 lbs) braising steak, cut into 3cm (1 in) cubes
2 tbsp plain flour
2 tsp mixed dried herbs
225ml (1 cup, scant) red wine
300ml (1 1/4 cups) beef stock
350g (12 oz) runner beans, tripped and cut diagonally into thick pieces
225g (8 oz) French (green) beans
450g (1 lb) large tomatoes, blanched, peeled and coarsely chopped


Combine the butter and oil in a large, lidded, flameproof casserole. When the mix is hot add the shallots and reduce the heat to medium. Cook, stirring constantly, until the shallots are lightly browned all over (about 6 minutes).

Remove the shallots from the casserole with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the beef in batches, frying until lightly browned and then removing with a slotted spoon. Set the beef aside as you fry the next batch.

When all the meat has been fried, return to the casserole then scatter over the plain flour and the dried herbs. Pour over the wine and stock and bring the mixture to a boil, stirring all the while.

Take the casserole off the heat and stir in the shallots (along with any of their juices). Now add the runner beans, French beans and tomatoes (along with any juice). Mix well to combine then place the casserole back on the heat and bring to a boil.

Cover with a sheet of greaseproof (waxed) paper and the lid, then transfer to an oven pre-heated to 180ºC (350ºF) and cook for about 200 minutes, or until the meat is tender and the vegetables are cooked through.

Remove the lid and the paper covering from the casserole. Serve immediately accompanied by crusty bread and/or mashed potatoes.

Wednesday 19 March 2014

Potato and Tomato Calzone Recipe

A calzone is effectively an Italian pasty made from a pizza dough with a filling. The filling can include just about anything you fancy, but this version is vegetarian.

However, you can use meat (particularly leftovers) and fish in this dish along with the other filling ingredients if you desire. The addition of a few sautéed wild mushrooms in the vegetarian version also help lift the taste if you would like a richer version.

Potato and Tomato Calzone

Serves: 4
Potato and Tomato Calzone: a pasty made with pizza dough that has a vegetarian potato, tomato and cheese filling.


For the Dough:

450g (1 lb) white bread flour
1 tsp active, dried, yeast
300ml (1 1/4 cups) vegetable stock
1 tbsp clear honey
1 tsp caraway seeds
milk, to glaze

For the Filling:

1 tbsp vegetable oil
225g (8 oz) waxy potatoes, diced
1 onion, halved and sliced thinly
2 garlic cloves, crushed
40g (1 1/2 oz) sun-dried tomatoes
2 tbsp fresh basil, shredded
2 tbsp tomato purée
2 celery sticks, thinly sliced
50g (2 oz) mozzarella cheese, grated


For the dough, sift the flour into a large mixing bowl, scatter over the yeast and stir in with a fork. Form a well in the centre of the mixture then stir in the vegetable stock, honey and caraway seeds. Bring the flour from the edge of the bowl to the centre, mixing to form a dough.

Turn this dough out onto a lightly-floured work surface and knead well for about 8 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Shape the dough into a ball then set in a lightly-oiled mixing bowl. Cover with clingfilm (plastic wrap) and set aside in a warm place to rise for about 60 minutes, or until doubled in volume.

Whilst the dough is rising, prepare the filling. Heat the oil in a frying pan then mix in the potatoes, onion, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes and celery. Cook for about 4 minutes, stirring constantly, then mix in the tomato purée and basil. Continue cooking for 1 minute more.

Once the dough has risen, knock it back then divide into four pieces. Roll these out on a floured work surface so that each one forms an 18cm (7 in) diameter circle. Allow the filling mixture to cool slightly, then divide equally between the dough circles (set the dough on one half of each circle only).

Sprinkle the cheese over the top of the filling, then brush the edges of the dough with milk and fold one half of the dough over the other half to form semi-circles. Press the edges with the tines of a fork to seal, then transfer each calzone to a non-stick baking tray. Brush the tops with milk, then transfer to an oven pre-heated to 220ºC (425ºF).

Bake for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown and well risen. Serve hot.

For hundreds more Italian recipes, why not visit the Celtnet Recipes from Italy pages. Alternatively, see the Celtnet pizza recipes pages for pizza and pizza crust recipes of all types.

Monday 17 March 2014

Guinness Brownies and Shamrock Shakes for St Patrick's Day

Happy St Patrick's day to all my readers!! As today is the Irish (or should that be Welsh?) saint's feast day, I have two special recipes for you, both themed for St Paddy's day.

The first is a rich chocolate brownie made from that most Irish of drinks, Guinness, but decorated with green sugar crystals. The second is a green milkshake in both an adult and kid-friendly version.

Guinness Brownies

Serves: 16
Guinness Brownies: Rich chocolate and guinness brownies topped with a guinness and chocolate frosting and decorated with green sugar crystals for St Patrick's Day


For the Cake:

4 eggs
150g (3/4 cup) granulated sugar
225g (8 oz) dark chocolate (at least 60% cocoa solids), chopped
115g (4 oz) white chocolate, chopped
6 tbsp unsalted butter
90g (3/4 cup) plain flour
90g (3/4 cup) cocoa powder
300ml (1 1/4 cups) Guinness (or other Irish stout)

For the Icing:

120g dark chocolate
2 tbsp Guinness
60g butter
120g icing sugar, sifted
1 tbsp cream
green sugar crystals, to decorate


Beat together the eggs and sugar until pale and creamy.

Combine the dark chocolate, white chocolate and butter in a saucepan. Melt gently over medium heat, stirring constantly until smooth.

Take off the heat, allow to cool slightly then beat in the egg and sugar mixture. Sift the flour and cocoa into a bowl, then beat into the chocolate mixture.

Finally whisk in the Guinness.

Turn the resultant batter into a greased and lined 20cm (8 in) square baking pan. Level the surface, then transfer to an oven pre-heated to 190ºC (375ºF). Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the cake is firm and a skewer inserted into the centre emerges cleanly.

Remove from the oven, allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes then turn out onto a wire rack.

Once the cakes have cooled, prepare the icing (frosting). Heat together the chocolate and Guinness in a bain-marie (double boiler) set over just barely simmering water. Beat in the butter until melted and add the cream. Take off the heat and allow to cool slightly before beating in the icing sugar (you should end up with a just spreadable icing, if too stiff add a little more cream). Spread this liberally over the top of the brownies.

Allow the icing to harden slightly before dusting with the green sugar crystals, then allow to harden completely before slicing into squares and serving.

Shamrock Shake

Serves: 1
Shamrock Shake: Green ice cream milk shake made with mint syrup for children or with creme de menthe for adults. Especially for St Patrick's day


2 scoops vanilla ice cream, or pistachio ice cream
250ml (1 cup) semi-skimmed milk
3 tbsp menthe vert (green mint syrup) or green crème de menthe if making an adult version
a few drops of green food colouring (if needed)
sprig of mint, to garnish


Combine all the ingredients (except the mint sprig) in a blender. Process on high for 20 seconds, then pour into a chilled highball or large margarita glass.

Garnish with a sprig of mint and serve.

If desired, the shakes can be garnished with chocolate sauce before serving.

For more information about St Patrick and his feast day, and many more St Patrick's day recipes, why not visit the Celtnet St Patrick's day information and recipes pages?

For many more traditional Irish recipes, why not visit the Celtnet Ireland history and Irish recipes pages?

Saturday 15 March 2014

Mini Grasshopper Cheesecakes Recipe

With St Patrick's Day only a couple of days away, today I'm presenting a classic green cake to serve on St Paddy's day.

These mini cheesecakes are great for kids and make a wonderful tea-time treat at any time of year.

Mini Grasshopper Cheesecakes

Serves: 20
Mini Grasshopper Cheesecakes: Classic mini green cheesecakes with green frosting on a mint cookie base: ideal for St Patrick's day.


20 chocolate and mint cookies (the kind with a green mint layer in the centre)
500g (16 oz) cream cheese
250g (1 1/4 cups) granulated sugar
40g (1/3 cup) cocoa powder
2 tbsp plain flour
3 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/4 tsp mint extract
1/4 tsp chocolate extract
250ml sour cream

For the Topping:

3 drops green food colouring
250ml sour cream
2 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract


Line the wells of muffin tins with paper cupcake cases and sit a mint cookie in the base of each.

Combine the cream cheese, sugar, cocoa powder and plain flour in a bowl, then beat thoroughly to combine. Add the eggs, one at a tome, beating thoroughly to combine after each addition.

Stir in the sour cream and extracts then divide the mixture between the cupcake liners. Transfer to an oven pre-heated to 160ºC (325ºF) and bake for about 20 minutes, or until the filling mixture no longer wobbles when shaken (it will still appear soft).

Allow to cool in the tins for 10 minutes.

As the cakes are cooling, prepare the topping. Mix together all the topping ingredients then spoon a portion onto each cake (whilst the cakes are still warm). Allow to cool completely in the tins, then transfer to the refrigerator to chill slightly before serving.

If making for St Patrick's day, garnish with green sprinkles, green sugar crystals and/or candy shamrocks.

For a history of St Patrick and St Patrick's Day, and even more St Patrick's day recipes, why not visit the Celtnet St Patrick's day history and recipes page?

Wednesday 12 March 2014

Sweet and Sour Chicken Recipe

Today's recipe is for a classic and simple to prepare oriental-style sweet and sour dish.

Chicken is undoubtedly one of the perfect meats to marry with a sweet and sour sauce and the use of bell pepper and carrot in this dish also makes it very pretty.

Sweet and Sour Chicken

Serves: 4-6
Sweet and Sour Chicken: Classic simple to make stir-fry of chicken and vegetables in a light sweet and sour sauce. This makes a great, tasty and easy to prepare family supper dish.


500g lean chicken, cubed
5 tbsp groundnut oil
1/2 tsp garlic, minced
1/2 tsp fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 green bell pepper, chopped roughly
1 onion, chopped roughly
1 carrot, finely sliced
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp spring onion leaves, sliced into thin rounds

For the Marinade:

2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tsp Shaoxing rice wine (or dry sherry)
pinch of ground white pepper
1/2 tsp sea salt
dash of sesame oil

For the Sauce:

8 tbsp rice vinegar
4 tbsp sugar
2 tbsp light soy sauce
6 tbsp tomato ketchup


Lightly whisk the marinade ingredients in a bowl. Add the chicken, toss to coat and set aside to marinate for 20 minutes.

In the meantime, prepare the sauce. Heat the vinegar in a saucepan, stir in the sugar until dissolved then whisk in the light soy sauce and tomato ketchup. Take off the heat and set aside.

Place your wok over high heat. When hot add 3 tbsp of the oil and use to stir-fry the chicken (and its marinade) until it begins to turn a golden brown. Remove from the heat and set aside.

Wipe your wok clean, add the remaining oil and when hot use to cook the garlic and ginger for about 30 seconds, or until fragrant. Add the vegetables and stir-fry for 2 minutes.

Now return the chicken to the wok and cook for about 60 seconds, or until thoroughly heated through and cooked.

Pour over the sauce mixture along with the sesame oil. Stir in the spring onions and serve immediately accompanied by plain white rice.

Monday 10 March 2014

Smoked Trout Risotto Recipe

Sometimes you want something that is hearty and filling, but which is also just a little lighter than other meals. For this situation I think risotto is perfect.

This makes a really tasty risotto and the combination of smoked trout and chervil is ideal. This can serve four as a main course or six to eight people as a starter.

There is also something deeply soothing in making a risotto... maybe because it takes care and a little attention to make it. Not that it's hard, you just have to keep your attention on the dish as you prepare it... an excellent way of getting rid of the day's stresses and worries.

Also as it takes little more than half an hour to prepare this is a quick and easy supper dish.

Smoked Trout Risotto

Serves: 4
Smoked Trout Risotto: An easy to prepare but tasty rice and fish dish that works well as a starter or as a light supper or midday meal. Risotto is perfect as a dish any time, and a great antidote to a stressful day.


2 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely chopped
400g (2 1/2 cups) risotto rice (arborio is good)
150ml (2/3 cup) dry white wine
1.2l (5 cups) hot fish stock
3 tbsp crème fraîche (or sour cream)
3 tbsp freshly-grated grano padano cheese
350g (120z) smoked trout, coarsely chopped
4 tbsp fresh chervil, chopped
salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste
grated grano padano cheese, grated
fresh chervil sprigs, to garnish


Heat the oil in a large, heavy, pan. Add the onion and fry gently over low heat for about 5 minutes, or until soft and translucent (do not allow the onion to colour).

Add the rice to the pan and stir to coat each grain in the oil. Continue cooking over low heat, stirring constantly, for about 3 minutes or until the rice grains are translucent.

Now pour the white wine into the pan and cook, stirring constantly, for about 2 to 3 minutes, or until all the wine has been absorbed by the rice.

With the pan over medium heat, add the hot fish stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring constantly until the liquid has been absorbed. At this point add another ladleful of the hot stock.

Continue adding stock and cooking until absorbed until all the stock has been added to the pan. During this cooking stage adjust the heat as needed to maintain the risotto just bubbling merrily (do not allow to boil).

As the rice cooks the risotto will thicken. Typically all the stock will have been added in about 20 minutes and the rice will be tender. The risotto should thicken to a velvety texture.

When the last of the stock has been absorbed take the pan off the heat and stir in the crème fraîche (or sour cream) along with the 3 tbsp grated cheese. Now stir in 3/4 of the trout and all the chopped chervil.

Season to taste with salt and plenty of freshly-ground black pepper. Stir well to combine, cover the pot and set aside to stand for 2 minutes.

Divide the risotto between four warmed serving plates. Top with the remaining smoked trout then garnish with fresh chervil sprigs and a sprinkling of grated grano padano cheese (offer more cheese separately).

Serve immediately.

Tuesday 4 March 2014

Stir-fried Chicken with Thai Basil Recipe

I know that I have been offline for a while now, and I've missed a couple of milestone dates in terms of recipes, but I have been dealing with a bunch of personal things. Those are slowly getting sorted, so from today I will be slowly adding more recipes to this blog.

Here is a Thai inspired dish that gives you a healthy stir-fry dish in less than 10 minutes, but which still retains the traditional Thai combination of sour, sweet, salty and umami flavours in combination with the heat of chilli and black pepper. The use of aniseed-flavoured Thai basil in this dish really gives it an unusual flavour dimension.

Stir-fried Chicken with Thai Basil

Serves: 6
Stir-fried Chicken with Thai Basil: A classic Thai-inspired stir-fry dish of chicken and red bell pepper in a chilli, fish sauce and lime juice base finished with Thai basil. Very quick to make, this is a great week-night family dish.


2 tbsp garlic-infused olive oil
4 skinless, boneless, chicken breast fillets
2 red bell peppers
1 small bunch of Thai basil
1 red finger chilli, sliced into rings
1 tsp fish sauce
1 tbsp lime juice
pinch of brown sugar


Slice the chicken into strips. Halve and core the bell peppers, then slice each piece into strips.

Heat the oil in a wok or skillet, add the chicken, bell pepper strips and chilli and stir-fry over high heat for about 3 minutes, or until the chicken is just cooked through.

Add the fish sauce, lime juice and sugar and toss the ingredients to coat in the sauce then season to taste with salt and black pepper.

Roughly tear up the Thai basil leaves, add to the chicken mixture and briefly toss to combine.

Serve immediately, accompanied by rice or noodles.

For traditional Thai recipes, why not visit the Celtnet Thailand and Thai recipes pages?
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