Mediterranean Tomato Soup

Mediterranean Tomato Soup

 

This is a thick tomato soup made with plum tomatoes and chopped basil leaves to give it an Italian flavour. The bowls of soup are sprinkled with mozzarella cheese and garnished with extra basil leaves. Just serve with lovely, fresh crusty bread.

 

Mediterranean Tomato Soup
Prepares: 4 servings
 
  • Preparation time: 30 minutes
  • Cooking time: 35 minutes

  • Ingredients
  • 450g (1 lb) plum tomatoes (6–8)
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • 1 carrot, sliced
  • strip of lemon rind
  • 1 bay leaf
  • salt and ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp fresh basil leaves, chopped, plus extra for garnishing
  • 600ml (20 fl oz) good vegetable or chicken stock (2½ cups)
  • 28g (1 oz) butter (2 tbsp, or ¼ stick)
  • 28g (1 oz) flour (1 tbsp)
  • 85g (3 oz) mozzarella cheese, grated/shredded (¾ cup)

  • To serve
  • fresh crusty bread

  • Equipment
  • a blender or liquidiser


  1. Method
  2. Cut the tomatoes in half and, using a teaspoon, scoop out the seeds.

  3. Put the tomatoes, onion and carrot into a large pan along with the lemon rind, bay leaf, seasoning and basil.

  4. Pour in the stock and bring to the boil. Then reduce the heat, cover the pan, and let it simmer for 30 minutes.

  5. Leave to cool for 5 minutes and then liquidise.

  6. In a clean pan, melt the butter and then stir in the flour. Let it cook over a low heat for 2 minutes.

  7. Now, slowly, pour in the liquidised mixture, stirring constantly until blended. Bring to the boil then reduce the heat and let it simmer for a further 2 minutes.

  8. Divide between four soup bowls and sprinkle the cheese in the centre of the soup. Serve immediately garnished with the reserved basil leaves and crusty bread.

  9. Tip
  10. To make it easier to grate/shred mozzarella cheese, pop it in the freezer for 30 minutes first.

 

Spaghetti Bolognese

Spaghetti Bolognese

 

What can I say? Spaghetti Bolognese is a real family favourite. And quick and easy to prepare!

 

Spaghetti Bolognese
Prepares: 4 servings
 
  • Preparation time: 25 minutes
  • Cooking time: 40 minutes

  • Ingredients
  • For the Bolognese
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 450g (1 lb) minced/ground beef
  • 2 tbsp tomato purée
  • 275ml (10 fl oz) beef stock (1¼ cups)
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes (½ x 28 oz can diced tomatoes)
  • 1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 115g (4 oz) button mushrooms, sliced (1½ cups) (optional)

  • For the spaghetti
  • 225g (8 oz) spaghetti (filling the hole of a pasta server with spaghetti is a single portion)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • a little olive oil

  • To serve
  • Parmesan

  • Equipment
  • large frying pan/skillet or sauté pan
  • a large pan for the spaghetti


  1. Method
  2. Heat the oil in the pan and cook the onion over a low heat for 10 minutes until golden. Add the garlic and cook for a further minute.

  3. Increase the heat to medium, add the beef, and brown for about 5 minutes. Break up any clumps with a wooden spoon.

  4. Stir in the stock and tomato purée and bring to the boil.

  5. Add the tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce, mushrooms, if using, and season. Give it a good stir and then reduce the heat and simmer for 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  6. Meanwhile, bring a large pan of water to the boil. Add salt and dash of olive oil, then ease the spaghetti into the pan.

  7. Reduce the heat a little and cook the spaghetti for the length of time according to the directions on the packet. (Can recommend DeCecco brand.)

  8. Drain through a large colander, reserving 120ml (4 fl oz) (½ cup) of the cooking water and then return to the pan with the spaghetti. Add the sauce and toss well.

  9. Spoon into bowls and top with little slivers of Parmesan.

  10. Note
  11. A Caesar salad makes a good starter. And garlic bread to serve with the Spaghetti Bolognese.

 

Steak Béarnaise

Steak Béarnaise

 

I love cooking steak in the summer and it is always good to have a selection of different sauces to choose from so the meal can be a little different each time.

This traditional French Béarnaise Sauce is so lovely and creamy and a perfect match with a simply cooked good steak.

 

Steak Béarnaise
Prepares: 4 servings
 
  • Preparation time: 20 minutes
  • Standing time: 2 minutes
  • Cooking time: About 10 minutes

  • Ingredients
  • For the steaks
  • 14g (½ oz) butter (1 tbsp)
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • salt and ground black pepper
  • 4 x 170g (6 oz) steaks, (rib eye, sirloin or other good quality steak)

  • For the Béarnaise Sauce
  • 4 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1 shallot, chopped
  • 2 egg yolks, large (U.K.)/extra large (N.A.)
  • 115g (4 oz) butter, cut into small pieces (½ cup, or 1 stick)
  • 2 tsp chopped fresh tarragon

  • To serve
  • fries and peas


  1. Method
  2. For the steaks
  3. Heat a large frying pan/skillet and add the butter and oil.

  4. Season the steaks then add to the pan. Cook over a medium heat for 2 minutes each side for medium rare, 3 minutes for medium, 5–6 minutes for well done. Or BBQ. Transfer to a hot plate, cover and let the steak rest for a couple of minutes.

  5. For the Béarnaise Sauce
  6. While the steak is cooking, put the vinegar and shallot in a small pan and bring to the boil. Lower the heat and simmer to reduce to about 1 tablespoon. This will only take a minute or two. Strain and leave to cool for a few minutes.

  7. In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks with some seasoning. Whisk in the vinegar and 1 tablespoon of warm water. Place the bowl over a pan of just simmering water and add the butter, a knob at a time, stirring until each knob has melted before adding the next. Continue stirring until the sauce is shiny and thick. (The sauce will remain quite thin for a few minutes and then start to thicken very quickly.) Once it has thickened, stir in the chopped tarragon.

  8. To serve
  9. Spoon the sauce alongside the steaks and serve with fries and peas.

Updated: June 26, 2017

Quick Minestrone

Quick Minestrone

 

This quick minestrone is made up of a selection of vegetables cooked with cannelloni beans and small pieces of spaghetti. It makes for a satisfying lunch accompanied with crusty rolls.

 

Quick Minestrone
Prepares: 8–10 servings
 
  • Preparation time: 20–25 minutes
  • Cooking time: 25 minutes

  • Ingredients
  • 4 small carrots
  • 2 celery sticks
  • 1 onion
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 x 400g tin (½ x 796ml/28 fl oz can) chopped tomatoes/diced tomatoes
  • 1.8 litres (3 pints) good chicken stock (7½ cups)
  • 85g (3 oz) spaghetti
  • 400g tin (540ml/19 fl oz can) cannellini beans/white kidney beans, drained and rinsed
  • 140g (5 oz) frozen peas (1 cup)
  • fresh basil to garnish


  1. Method
  2. Peel the vegetables and dice into small pieces, about 0.5cm (¼ inch). Heat the oil in a large pan, add the vegetables and stir to coat with the oil. Cook, uncovered, over a medium–low heat until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  3. Then stir in the tomatoes and stock, and bring up to a simmer. Break the spaghetti into small pieces and add to the pan. Simmer for 10 minutes.

  4. Finally, add the beans and peas, and simmer for a further 5 minutes.

  5. Serve garnished with basil leaves and accompany with crusty bread or rolls.

Updated May 21, 2017

Shepherd’s Pie

Shepherd's Pie

 

The first reference to a shepherd’s pie appeared in the late 1800s and since then there has been a debate as to whether it should contain lamb or beef. I’ve grown up with the idea that a shepherd’s pie is made with lamb, and cottage pie with beef. Regardless, the traditional recipe can be quite bland so here I have added some extra seasonings to liven it up.

 

Shepherd's Pie
Prepares: 4 servings
 
  • Preparation time: 35 minutes
  • Cooking time: 1 hour 15 minutes

  • Ingredients
  • 2 tbsp oil
  • 450g (1 lb) lamb mince/lamb ground
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 celery stick, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 tbsp ground coriander
  • ½ tsp chilli powder
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1 tbsp tomato purée
  • 450ml (15 fl oz) lamb stock (beef can be used as a substitute) (2 cups)
  • 800g (1 lb 12 oz) potatoes, cut into large chunks (5–6 medium)
  • 40g (1½ oz) butter (3 tbsp)

  • Serve with Chantenay/baby carrots and any other seasonal vegetables.

  • Equipment
  • Sauté pan
  • Ovenproof dish


  1. Method
  2. Heat 1 tablespoon of the oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the meat and brown, about 5 minutes. Remove and set aside.

  3. Add remaining oil and, over a low heat, gently cook the onion and celery for 10 minutes until softened. Add garlic and cook for 1 minute. Stir in the spices, flour and tomato purée and cook for 2 minutes.

  4. Gradually stir in the stock, then return the lamb to the pan. Season, bring back to the boil, then simmer for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally.

  5. Meanwhile, bring a large pan of lightly salted water to the boil and cook the potatoes for 20 minutes until tender. Drain and leave to steam dry for two minutes.

  6. Preheat grill to medium. Mash the potatoes with the butter and season to taste. Tip the lamb mixture into the ovenproof dish and top with the potato. Grill until the potato is turning golden (about 10 minutes).

Updated: March 16, 2017

Angie’s Lasagna

Angie's Lasagna

 

This is a lasagna recipe that I stumbled across many years ago and that has always been a great family favourite. The dish has three layers of pasta, a meaty tomato sauce, and mozzarella cheese, topped with Parmesan.

 

Angie's Lasagna
Prepares: 8 servings
 
  • Preparation time: 40 minutes
  • Cooking time: 1 hour 10 minutes
  • Standing time: 10 minutes

  • Ingredients
  • 9 lasagne sheets (De Cecco, is my favourite brand)
  • 450g/1 lb mince beef/ground beef
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 2 × 400g cans/1 × 28 fl oz can chopped/diced tomatoes
  • 156ml/5½ fl oz can tomato paste
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • salt and pepper
  • 450g/1 lb mozzarella cheese, grated*
  • 25g/1 oz Parmesan cheese, grated

  • * In the U.K. the prepackaged grated mozzarella cheese contains only cheese and anti-caking ingredients. In Canada it has a lot more additives, so I buy the block mozzarella and grate it myself. Just pop it in the freezer for ten minutes before grating to firm it up.

  • To serve
  • A Caesar salad can be served as an accompaniment.

  • Equipment
  • Deep sided frying pan/skillet or sauté pan
  • A 4 litre (32.5 x 22.5 x 5 cm/13 x 9 x 2 inch) ovenproof dish


  1. Method
  2. Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.

  3. Over a medium heat, brown the meat in the pan, about 5 minutes. Add the onion and garlic to the pan and cook for a further 5 minutes.

  4. Stir in the tomatoes, tomato paste, oregano and season. Fill the tomato paste can with water and stir into the mixture. Simmer for 20 minutes.

  5. Many brands of lasagne pasta require no pre-cooking but I have found they benefit from cooking for a short time anyway. A baked lasagne using uncooked pasta isn’t as moist. De Cecco needs to be pre-cooked.

  6. So bring a large pan of water to the boil and add a glug of olive oil. Drop 5 of the lasagne sheets into the water one at a time (they need to be cooked in two batches or they will stick together while cooking) and boil for 4 minutes. Remove the sheets with a pair of tongs and rinse under a cold tap. Lay the individual sheets on a clean tea-towel. Repeat with the remaining four sheets.

  7. Spread a thin layer of the meat sauce in the bottom of the lasagne pan. Layer 3 lasagne noodles, a third of the remaining meat sauce and a third of the mozzarella cheese. Repeat twice more. Sprinkle the top with the Parmesan cheese.

  8. Bake, covered with foil, in the oven for 30 minutes. Remove the foil and cook for a further 10 minutes. Then let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

 

Spicy Pork Meatballs

Spicy Pork Meatballs

 

Meatballs are always a favourite and these spicy pork meatballs are cooked in a chilli tomato sauce.

 

Spicy Pork Meatballs
Prepares: 4 servings
 
  • Preparation time: About 1 hour
  • Standing time: 30 minutes
  • Cooking time: 30 minutes

  • Equipment
  • A large lidded sauté pan

  • Ingredients
  • 450g/1 lb minced pork/ground pork
  • 75g/3 oz fresh white breadcrumbs
  • 1 egg, medium (U.K.)/large (N.A.), beaten
  • 1 lemon, zest only
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 tbsp fresh sage, chopped
  • 2 pinches crushed dried chillies
  • ½ tbsp oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 × 400g/½ × 28 fl oz can whole tomatoes
  • 1 organic stock cube/1 tsp chicken bouillon mixed in 300ml/10 fl oz hot water
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • Salt and pepper

  • To serve
  • 200g/7 oz spaghetti (my favourite is the De Cecco range)
  • Half a small Savoy cabbage or other green leafed vegetable, finely shredded. (Savoy cabbage in Canada can be very pale and so I prefer to use something like kale. The dark green colour works well with the spaghetti although it does sound an unusual combination.)


  1. Method
  2. In a large bowl mix together the pork, breadcrumbs, beaten egg, lemon zest, finely chopped onion, half the garlic and half the sage, a pinch of the crushed chillies and plenty of seasoning. Once everything has been well combined, shape into 30 meatballs. Refrigerate for 30 minutes to firm up.

  3. Heat a little oil in a frying pan and add the meatballs in batches to brown. Remove.

  4. Add a little more oil to the pan and add the chopped onion and cook gently for 5 minutes until softened. Add the remaining garlic and sage, and cook for a further 2 minutes. Stir in the chopped tomatoes, tomato purée, stock, sugar, a pinch of crushed chillies, and season. Bring to the boil then turn down to a simmer for 10 minutes to reduce the sauce a little. Return the meatballs to the pan and simmer, covered for 30 minutes.

  5. Meanwhile, cook the spaghetti in plenty of salted boiling water with a splash of olive oil, adding the cabbage or other green vegetable for the last 4 minutes of cooking. Drain.

  6. Serve the spaghetti alongside the meatballs and sauce.

 

Pork in a Tomato Sauce

Pork in Tomato Sauce

 

A blend of sweetness and tartness added to a tomato base makes a very tasty sauce for this pork dish. It is easy to prepare and is cooked in one pan. Just add sautéed courgettes.

 

Pork in a Tomato Sauce
Prepares: 4 servings
 
  • Preparation time: About 30 minutes
  • Cooking time: 30 minutes

  • Ingredients
  • 4 boneless pork chops or tenderloin cut into four portions
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and chopped
  • 600g/l lb 4 oz baby potatoes
  • 2 tbsp muscovado or dark brown sugar
  • 2 tbsp redcurrant jelly
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • ½ pint/300ml tomato passata*
  • sprigs of thyme, optional

  • *As an alternative to passata, chopped/diced tomatoes can be used

  • To serve
  • Accompany with sautéed courgettes/zucchini

  • Equipment
  • A large, deep sided, frying pan with lid.


  1. Method
  2. Heat the oil in the pan over a medium heat. Brown the pork for 2–3 minutes on each side and then set aside.

  3. Turn the heat down to low and add the onions to the pan and cook for about 5 minutes. They just need to be softened, not browned.

  4. Add the potatoes to the pan and stir to coat them (add more oil if necessary). Turn the heat to a medium-low and cook for 3 minutes.

  5. Stir in the sugar, jelly, vinegar and passata, add the pork and a few sprigs of thyme, if using.

  6. Cover and simmer for 25–30 minutes until the potatoes are cooked through.

  7. For courgettes/zucchini
  8. Cut into rounds and toss in a little virgin oil. Sauté for about 3 minutes turning frequently.