Mrspao’s Butternut squash lasagne

Here’s another low carb recipe I put together. I’ve been wanting to try butternut squash lasagne for a while now. I spotted a pack and a plan came together. My neighbour had given me some fancy-looking goat’s cheese and since pao hates all cheese, I figured this would be a good way of using it. I used: 1 pack of butternut lasagne sheets 1 roll of goat’s cheese 1 pack of sausage meat (around 250g) – my sausage meat came with seasoning all included so I chose sausage with apricot and garlic in it as I thought the sweetness would counteract the sharpness of the goat’s cheese. (Note: I did also have a pot of butternut squash and sage sauce which I left somewhere so I had to make do without it) I used two smaller Le Creuset dishes as they are perfectly sized for two portions each. I often make lasagne in these because they aren’t so heavy 🙂 I buttered my dish to prevent sticking and laid my butternut at the bottom then followed it with meat then butternut then cheese layers. I was a bit flummoxed by my top layer as I had planned to use the missing sauce with goats cheese on top so had to come up with a plan B. I did put the goats cheese on the top but dotted butter around it just so it didn’t get too crisp. I may not do this step in future but it was nice anyway. This is how it turned out and it tasted great, too! I think I’d like to try butternut lasagne sheets again. No one seems to have come up with a short name for those? Buttsagne? Lasnut? My comfort chillax with my lasagne as Olivia brought me a shrew! It took 45 minutes to capture it and release it back into the night. She wasn’t impressed when I shut her out of the room whilst I was catching it!

Cauliflower pizza (low carb)

I’ve been working on lowering my carb intake lately so I’ve been experimenting with cauliflower and courgettes instead of rice and pasta. I was missing a bit of Friday night pizza so thought I’d give this pizza idea a go but adapted it for what I had in the fridge. The original recipe mixes the base with goats cheese but I wanted my cheesy hit on top. For the base: 250g cauliflower rice (you can make this yourself by pulsing raw cauliflower to a rice like texture) 2 medium eggs Pinch of salt Cook your cauliflower rice for approx 4-5 minutes. Pour into a fine mesh colander and use the back of a spoon to squash out the excess liquid. Mix in 2 eggs to form a loose dough. Spread this onto a baking parchment. I made a slight lip on the edge of the pizza base to contain the toppings. Bake at 220C until golden and firmed up. You could even grate a little parmesan into you base if you wish before baking it for a more cheesy hit. You then just need to go wild with your toppings and cook those for another 8-9 minutes. I used some leftover cumin gouda, asparagus tips and a few spoons of passata. Bonus Cat pic 🙂 Katerina is getting her winter coat through.

Savoury bread pudding

I had quite a collection of odds and ends of bread cluttering my freezer and I wanted a nice way to try and use them up. I like bread pudding and wanted to make something savoury this time. I found this recipe for a savoury sausage and cheddar bread pudding and wanted to make something similar. It makes a lovely brunch dish and I served it with a pepper sauce. You can make this the night before, then you can pop it in a cold oven and after an hour lazing in bed with your Sara Paretsky and a cuppa, you’ll have a great brunch ready.

1 small loaf stale bread or around 500g of bread odds and ends (I used a wholemeal seeded loaf)
1 medium onion
3-4 rashers of bacon, chopped
1 medium courgette, chopped
1 package of sausage meat (around 300-400g) – you can cut off the skins of sausages if you don’t have sausagemeat
Sprigs of rosemary
2 large handfuls of cheddar cheese
12 or so cherry tomatoes
2 cups milk
6 eggs
Butter for greasing casserole dish.
Salt and pepper (but if you decide to use some peppercorn sauce then leave this out)

Soften your onion in a frying pan with a little oil or butter. Add bacon and fry until crisp. Add chopped courgette to soften.

Add the sausage meat to the saucepan and fry until browned, breaking up large pieces to a crumble texture.

Cut up your loaf into small squares. Grease your casserole dish and layer with bread, cheese, tomatoes, sausage mix and then finishing up with a layer of bread.

Mix eggs and milk together and pour over the bread mixture. Sprinkle with cheese and put in the fridge for a few hours (overnight if you wish).

Put dish into a cold oven and set to 180C. It will be cooked after about an hour.

I serve it with a peppercorn sauce from a packet mix. It is reminiscent of the breakfasts I’ve had in the USA of sausage and biscuits so the pepper sauce is pretty nice.

Here is the lesser spotted photo of all three cats in the same room. We are making progress!

Bacon and roasted vegetable tart

I had some roasted vegetables left from dinner Friday and some pastry in the freezer so threw those together for a light lunch today.

1 packet ready-rolled shortcrust pastry
a couple of spoons of pasta sauce (I used some Dorot frozen tomato sauce I had in the freezer) but any jar or fresh sauce will do
1 packet pancetta
2 cups of roasted vegetables (I used heritage carrots, sweet potatoes, and shallots)
Fresh rosemary – a handful.
Balsamic vinegar

This was the simplest thing to make.
Preheat oven to 200C.

I unrolled the short-crust pastry onto a baking tray and smoothed on the the pasta sauce. I fried off the pancetta with the shallots and drain them onto a kitchen towel. I liberally sprinkled the pancetta, shallots and slices of sweet potato and carrot on the pastry with a sprinkling of fresh rosemary and put the whole lot in the oven for 20 minutes.

I drizzled over a couple of teaspoons of balsamic vinegar and served it up. You could put cheese on it – I had some cheddar which I would have used if pao wasn’t due to eat it but it was nice without. You could have probably put the pancetta straight on without cooking it but I prefer to make it less fatty.

In case you were feeling deprived of kittens. Here they are at 11 months.

Claude is such a big goofball now. Katerina is still very much a cuddler.

Get by with what you got cake

It has been a long time since I’ve baked anything and anyone who has been to our house knows the cupboards are stuffed the rafters with strange and unusual ingredients that we might have bought on a whim. I happened upon a Christmas cake kit complete with fruit, icing and marzipan in the cupboard which I’d bought just after Christmas when it was going for a song (99p in Waitrose for the interested) and it clicked that I’d just been thinking about buying a simnel cake for Easter.

I had bought such a beautiful simnel cake last year from Betty’s Tearoom in York which we rather enjoyed but it didn’t have the traditional balls of marzipan on to represent the apostles minus Judas on it. Don’t get me wrong, it was a very tasty cake.

pao commented that the little packet of marzipan in the box wasn’t going to be enough for the cake as there is marzipan in the middle and on the top of the cake. I used the tiny packet for the middle and made a mental note to buy some marzipan in the week but two large packets of ground almonds caught my eye and I looked up the recipe for marzipan to discover it was ridiculously easy to make with ingredients I already had so today I had a glorious free day to myself and set out to make marzipan.

I am so immensely grateful for my Kitchen Aid mixer my friends and family clubbed together to get me as it made short work of bringing the marzipan together.

It made a beautiful top for my cake.

I glued it on with some apricot jam my friend had given me and made my eleven balls. They are a bit larger than normal but I do like marzipan! I feel rather pleased as I had only used things I had at home already and only had to buy another pack of eggs. I still have to brown the top of my cake but I’ll do that at the weekend as I want to give the marzipan a chance to dry out a bit first.

Simon’s Girlfriend’s Grandmother’s Swedish Meatball Recipe


We sometimes have international students come to stay and last year we hosted a Swedish student called Simon and his girlfriend for a short while. We were talking about Christmas in Sweden and they said they ate meatballs with beer in. I was curious and asked for the recipe which they very kindly obtained for me and we tried it out and loved it. I’ve made some adaptations as I found frying batches of them a little cumbersome and the meatballs wouldn’t stay together. I also didn’t have any French mustard so subbed some French’s Classic yellow mustard instead.

100g breadcrumbs
200ml beer
500g beef mince
500g pork mince
mixed spice

Make your meatballs – around a tsp each in size and place them on baking sheet covered with baking parchment. Bake these for around 15 minutes until they are cooked through. Serve with mashed potatoes and vegetables of your choice. Swedes serve meatballs with lingonberry jam. Redcurrant jelly or cumberland sauce would work just as well.

An alternative is cooking these in a pepper sauce. I had a packet mix in the cupboard so made it up on the stove and put some partially cooked meatballs (cook for around 10 minutes in the oven as previously described) in a covered casserole with the sauce and cooked them in the oven for around 20 minutes.

Hot cross bun pudding

Happy Easter! It’s been a while but life has gotten in the way a bit but hopefully I’ll be back to normal service again.

I was having a very tiny little panic last night when I realised that I had no dessert for Easter lunch and knowing that the stores were closing later that evening and also feeling a little lazy about driving into town to collect some groceries, I thought I’d invent something and hence hot cross bun pudding was born. It is loosely based on this bread pudding recipe but I’ve given it an Easter twist. My pudding is a cross between hot cross buns and simnel cake as it has a marzipan middle which you can leave out if you don’t have any marzipan. I just happened to have some in the cupboard staring at me. Anyone who has ever visited me knows that my cupboards groan with strange and wonderful ingredients. I also have a big drawer full of bread crusts of all types and varieties in my freezer 🙂 I started my pudding last night as it gives the bread a good chance to break down and meld together with the milk and brandy and also for the dried fruit to swell up again.

500g bread, whatever you have to hand, if it is all dried up that’s even better
600ml-800ml milk
3 tbsp brandy
500g mixed fruit, I used raisins and currants
200g mixed peel
2 tbsp mixed spice (pumpkin pie spice also would work)
2 large eggs
140g light muscovado sugar, you can also used caster sugar
100g melted butter
1 pack of marzipan, around 500g

Soak the bread, fruit and peel with the milk and brandy overnight with the mixed spice. If your bread is not taking in the liquid very well, add a bit more milk or brandy. The next day you should have a squashy mushy fruity mix.

Butter a large casserole dish – a lasagna dish would be perfect.

Beat together your eggs and add to the mix with the muscovado sugar. Stir in your melted better. Spoon in roughly half of your pudding mix into the bottom of the dish. Cut your marzipan into slices and arrange on top of the bread pudding and then spoon the rest of the pudding mix on top. Sprinkle some sugar on the top of the pudding and put into the oven to bake for around 1-1.5 hours. If it looks like it is getting too brown, cover your pudding with some tin foil.

Moroccan chicken

I had some leftover chicken from a roast and wanted to do something other than another curry so I thought I’d do something Moroccan for a change as I have a pack of Ras El Hanout in my spice cupboard. It isn’t too spicy but warming and tasty but you can reduce to Ras el Hanout if you don’t want too much spice or stir in some sour cream to tone it down a little.

You can use fresh chicken – I’d probably use one or two chicken breasts. I’d probably put it in a slow cooker if I was using fresh chicken.


1 onion, sliced
2 tsp of ras al hanout seasoning
2 carrots, chopped in chunks
2 sticks celery
Handful of mushrooms (optional)
Handful of dried apricots
Sprinkling of raisins or currants
1 400g tin chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp tomato puree
300ml of chicken stock
Around 300-400g of leftover cooked chicken

Fry your onion until soft and add ras al hanout, carrots, celery, mushrooms, apricots and raisin/currants. Soften a little and then add your tinned tomatoes, tomato puree and chicken stock.

Simmer your sauce for around 20-30 minutes until your vegetables are soft. Dried fruit will have puffed up a bit and will be all juicy. Just before you are ready to eat, stir in your cooked chopped chicken to heat it up.

Serve with couscous or bulgar wheat.

Sirius says he’ll take his chicken whichever way he can.

Muesli bars


I had a box of muesli hanging around – just unloved, uneaten so I figured I needed to find a way of getting it eaten (although bird feed was tempting!) so I hit upon using it as a basis for flapjacks. It was also a good way of using up some other things that were hanging around.

3 cups of muesli
1/2 cup of plain flour
2-3 tbsps of linseeds (pumpkin or other types would be nice, too)
2-3 tbsps of mixed dried fruit/fruit and nut mix
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tbsp honey
60g margarine/butter
2 eggs, beaten.

Preheat oven to 160C. Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper.

Mix together muesli with plain flour. Add linseeds and dry fruit.

Melt together butter, honey and sugar – a quick zap in the microwave will do. Mix these together with dry mix and the eggs.

Bake for 25 minutes – don’t let them get too hard as they will harden as they cool.

Add a cup of tea/coffee and you have a perfect quick snack!

Unless you follow a gluten-free diet – here is a cute kitty instead!

Beef and pearl barley stew

400g stewing steak
2 large carrots
2 sticks of celery
1 onion, sliced
2 cloves of garlic
300-400g chestnut mushrooms, cut in half*
100g pearl barley
1 tbsp tomato puree
800ml beef stock – stock cubes made up are good
1 glass of red wine
Olive oil for frying.

I use a crock pot for this recipe – I make up my stew in the morning and leave it going all day. You could also do this in the oven on a low temperature for around 3-4 hours.

Fry the stewing steak a few pieces at time in some olive oil until they are all sealed and have a little brown crust on them.

Once all the pieces of steak are fried and placed in the crock pot, fry the onion in the same frying pan. Put the onions and garlic in the crock pot with the beef. Add a little stock to the frying pan and scrape the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon to release the juices from the beef and onions. Pour de-glazed pan juices into crock pot along with remainder of the beef stock, tomato puree, chopped celery, carrots, mushrooms, red wine and pearl barley.

Cook on high for at least 4-5 hours. If you put it on in the morning, you’ll have a lovely dinner to come home to.

If you like the sauce to be a little more thick, stir in a tablespoon of plain flour about a half an hour before serving.

Serve with fresh bread.

*Jeanne, feel free to leave these out 🙂