Messicani with Spinach & Cheese Sauce

Here's the equation for you. 1 bag of spinach + 1 toddler = resistance. How to get said bag of spinach cooked and into toddler. Solution = get him to help with the cooking.

And so I came up with this pasta dish. Messicani pasta coated in a sliky cheese sauce, flecked with vibrant green spinach.

Cooper weighed the ingredients, grated the cheese, squeezed the water out of the spinach (once it had been doused in cold water) and stirred the sauce.

The result = "Mmmmmm, this very tasty mummy, we made it good!".


Richly Braised Lentils

Deeply flavoured slow braised puy lentils that can eaten on their own or added to other dishes.

Pot of braised lentils

These slow braised lentils were a real revelation. 

I usually use lentils to bulk out a dish, like a shepherd's pie or for a creamy finish in a tasty dal or a warming lentil soup when I use red lentils. This dish was so different. The lentils were the main dish. The star of the show.

Excuse my language but they were bloody delicious!

I served them with mash and peas, because with a rich, tasty gravy like that you need either mash or crusty bread to mop it up.

I urge you to print of this recipe, save it on Pinterest and share it with all your friends. It's that good!

 pin it for later

Richly Braised Lentils - slow braised lentils cooked with tomatoes, red wine and bay leaves. The best lentils you will ever taste. The perfect stew for a family casserole. #braisedlentils #lentils #slowcookedlentils #bestlentilrecipes #bestlentils #frenchlentils #puylentils #veganstews #vegancasserole #veganlentilrecipe

Alex Mackay

cover of Everybody Everyday by Alex Mackay

This recipe comes from Everybody Everyday by Alex Mackay.

Alex MackayI'd not heard of Alex Mackay before this cookbook landed on my doorstep.

Alex worked in kitchens when he left school at 16, but his career in food really started 15 years ago when Raymond Blanc asked him to run his cookery school, Le Manoir aux Quat'Saisons.

He is regularly on TV and spent a decade cooking at Norwich City Football Club with Delia Smith and will take over after her retirement this year.

This is his second cookbook. His first cookbook was called Cooking in Provence.

A New Cookbook Concept

With this cookbook he brings us something different. The concept for this book is knowing a few ingredients really well, making a dish with them and then adapting this into different recipes. There are six basic ingredients, six sauces and six slow-cooked meals and then all the variations of each.

126 recipes in total.

The recipe I decided to make was one of the basic ingredients, braised lentils. I doubled up the recipe and served my braised lentils with mashed potatoes and peas for a really comforting meal, but I could have used the lentils in the 6 following recipes:

  1. Stuffed Mushrooms in Puff Pastry, Creamy Porcini & Lentils
  2. Lentil Chilli with Roast Squash & Sweet & Sour Marmalade
  3. Lentil Moussaka
  4. Mackay's Lentil Pie
  5. Pasta & Vegetables with Lentil Bolognaise
  6. Lentil Fritters with Roast Beetroot & Hot Camembert Cream

inside cookbook Everybody Everyday by Alex Mackay

Alex has included a slideshow on his website showing each of these dishes and giving tips for cooking them with children, which I think is a nice touch.

I'm excited to try the Stuffed Mushrooms in Puff Pastry, Creamy Porcini & Lentils.

What an exciting meal that will be. I loved the braised lentils, but pairing them with the mushrooms in puff pastry, oh my!

I really do like the concept for this book. It is such a sensible idea, to have a few great recipes under your belt and then add them to other dishes, to make whole new dishes.

A great idea for new cooks and a great reminder to the rest of us to do more with our favourite recipes.

inside Everybody Everyday by Alex Mackay

Everybody Everyday by Alex Mackay

Everybody Everyday  by Alex Mackay

Vegetarian Recipe Count 28 out of 126 recipes  
Vegan Recipe Count 13 out of 126 recipes (leaving out the suggested addition of yoghurt or cheese)

Format: Hardback
Pages:  352
Publisher:  Bloomsbury Publishing
ISBN:  978-1408810934
Published:  10 May 2012
Size:  18.9 x 2.8 x 24.6 cm

lentils, braised lentils, slow cooked lentils, oven cooked lentils, lentil stew, french lentils, french lentil stew, lentil casserole, puy lentils, vegan stew, vegan casserole
British, vegan
Yield: 4
Author: Jacqueline Meldrum with kind permission

Pot of Richly Braised Lentils

Richly Braised Lentils

Slow braised lentils, cooked with tomatoes, wine and bay leaves for the most luxurious, rich gravy that explodes with flavour.
prep time: 10 Mcook time: 1 H & 40 Mtotal time: 1 H & 50 M


  • 2 medium onions, peeled and cut into 5mm dice
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
  • 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 700ml plus 2 tbsp water
  • 3 tbsp tomato puree
  • 375ml gutsy red wine, such as Cabernet Sauvignon
  • 250g puy or French lentils
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 2 bay leaves
  • a good grinding of salt and pepper
  • a generous pinch of sugar


How to cook Richly Braised Lentils

  1. Preheat your oven to 170c/150c fan/325f/gas mark 3.
  2. In a large ovenproof pan, saute the onions and garlic in the olive oil and 2 tbsp of water. Cook on medium with the lid on for 7-10 minutes until the onions are soft. Add a little more water if it starts to dry out.
  3. Add the tomato puree and turn the heat up to high.  Cook the mixture, stirring it constantly, for 2 minutes until the tomato puree is lightly browned. When it smells like sun-dried tomatoes, it's ready.
  4. Add the red wine and lentils. Bring to the boil and cook gently until the wine has reduced by half. 
  5. Add the tinned tomatoes, the bay leaves and the 700ml of water, bring to the boil and simmer for 5 minutes.
  6. Cover the pan and put it in the oven and braise the lentils for 30 minutes. Take off the lid and cook for another 30 minutes until the lentils are tender but still holding their shape. Stir it a couple of times during cooking.
  7. When the lentils are cooked, the liquid should be thick and just at the level of the lentils, if not cook for a little longer.
  8. Season to taste with salt, sugar and pepper. 
  9. Cover the pan and leave to sit for another 10 minutes to let the lentils to soak up the seasonings.
  10. Enjoy!


Make sure you use a large ovenproof dish for this with a lid.
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Created using The Recipes Generator


Extra Veg Vegan Shepherd's Pie

Extra Veg Vegan Shepherd's Pie

A comforting vegan version of shepherd's pie with extra vegetables. This is a traditional British dish of savoury mince and vegetables in rich gravy, topped with creamy mashed potatoes, then baked until crisp and golden.

Moist Chocolate After Eight Cake

I have to share the recipe for my After Eight Cake. I've made it twice now. The first cake was a trial run and the second cake I made for a Clandestine Cake Club meeting.

The first was the two layer cake you see above. A lovely, moist chocolate cake sandwiched together with peppermint buttercream, then topped with chocolate buttercream, sprinkles and After Eight mint creams.I skimped a bit and used a cheaper version of after eights, but nobody at work minded. It was eaten in record time as word got out that it was in the staffroom. Everyone loved it.

So, I made it again for cake club, but I wasn't paying attention and used different cake tins. I soon found out when I realised there was too much cake batter for my two lined tins. Rather than start again, I decided to go for it and ended up with a four layer cake (I baked them for less time). I was worried it might not be as moist as the first cake, but my fears were unfounded and once again it proved very popular.


Clandestine Cake Club Dundee #5

Our fifth meeting of the Clandestine Cake Club in Dundee took place rather swish surroundings. Instead of a pub or restaurant, this month we secretly met in the Hilton Hotel in Dundee. We were treated to the whole corporate package and very nice it was too. You really couldn't have a more luxurious meeting room, although I believe it was one of many.

The theme this month was 'Like a kid in a sweetie shop'. Now you would think, sweetie shop, there must be thousands of variations of sweetie to choose from and you would be right, but we were all women bakers this month, so nearly all of us went for the secret passion in our lives. Yes, you guessed it! Chocolate!

There was my after eight cake, two chocolate orange cakes, one white and one dark, a cola bottle cake (with a bit of help from Dr Pepper),  a chocolate lime cake with lime cream, a chocolate jazzie cake and one covered in traditional sweeties.

Here are a few cake shots to tempt you:


5:2 Diet - Plum & Apple Smoothie with Fizz (68 calories)

Yes, I have been using my Vitamix again. This time I counted the calories, so I could have a treat on the fast days of my 5:2 Diet.

I added a bit of fizz to my smoothie with some white grape Shloer (a non-alcoholic fizzy drink), but you could add some apple juice instead. If you really wanted a spot of luxury, you could turn this into a cocktail by replacing the Shloer with champagne.

Whichever way you make this smoothie, you are sure to enjoy it and benefit from adding extra portions of fruit and veg into your day.

If you aren't lucky enough to have a Vitamix, juice the carrot before adding it. Alternatively you could chop the carrot finely, grate it, or steam and mash it before adding it to your blender.


Spiced Moroccan Pâté

I bought some ciabatta for a light dinner. Then I had a moment. Graham is a vegan now. What the heck was I going to put on his ciabatta before I toasted it? We usually add some sort of cheese to our filling. Feta, halloumi, mozzarella........     

I put my thinking cap on and came up with this spiced pate. Of course, I made it in my Vitamix. Have I told you how much I love my new toy yet?

The final ciabatta, was toasted lightly and spread with a thick layer of pate, topped with a layer of puy lentils with sundried tomatoes, then topped with a layer of thinly sliced red onion that had been marinated in balsamic vinegar. Graham pronounced it yummy! Yes, that as descriptive as his critique gets, bless him.

I would have added some garlic to the pate, but hubby isn't keen on garlic. It tasted pretty good without it. It tastes fairly mild, then you get a kick from the chilli.


Cauliflower & Pea Pesto

I used to make my pesto in my mini chopper. Herbs, garlic, nuts, parmesan and olive oil.

It could handle it ok, but I decided to try something different with  my new toy and it was so much smoother and blended much quicker.

I was thinking about raw vegetables and all the nutrients that would be retained if I didn't cook them first. I settled on cauliflower and peas.

I was very happy with the results. A velvety smooth  and tasty pesto that coated pasta beautifully. And, more importantly, it met with approval from my two year old and my newly vegan husband. Of course, if you don't have a vegan in the house, feel free to add parmesan (veggie style of course).

print recipe

Cauliflower & Pea Pesto
A beautiful, velvety green pesto, packed with flavours and nutrients. Made in minutes.
  • ½ small cauliflower
  • 128g/1 cup frozen peas
  • 25g/1 cup fresh basil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 cup/240ml olive oil
  • a good grinding of black pepper
1. Cut your cauliflower into florets and peel your garlic.2. Pop all the ingredients in your blender and whizz until your pesto is velvety smooth. 3. Have a taste and check the seasoning.4. Serve over hot pasta. Spread on toasted bruschetta, panini or ciabatta and topped with salad or veg and feta or fresh milky mozzarella. Alternatively, add more olive oil and use as a salad dressing.notes: If you prefer a chunkier pesto, then stop blending once it reaches your desired thickness.You can also add some grated parmesan for extra flavour.
Total time:
Yield: Serves 4

Some more pesto for you to try:

I use the Optimum 9400 power blender. I was sent one for review and couldn't like without it now. I love it.

Scottish Food Bloggers Conference & Tips for Bloggers

The inaugural Scottish Food Bloggers Conference was held in Ayr on Saturday 1st September 2012. It was organised by Lisa Tennant on behalf of Taste Ayrshire, as part of Scottish Food Fortnight. The venue was Ayr Racecourse and the conference was held in the rather swish Princess Royal Suite, with stunning views across the racecourse.


Vegetable & Lentil Stew - 5:2 Diet = 242 calories

Sainsburys are doing a promotion for their So Organic range as part of the Soil Association's Organic September. They sent me some groceries and a challenge to create a dish using them. The weather has been a bit dreich here, so I decided to make a comforting and filling stew. From their organic range I used chestnut mushrooms, frozen peas and carrots.


A Great Foodie Weekend & A Winner

What an absolutely brilliant weekend I have had. I spent Thursday and Friday with Cooper, which was so nice, as he was staying with his grandparents from Sunday night until Wednesday night and I missed him like crazy.

On Friday night I headed off on the train to Ayr with  my friend Stuart aka Cakeyboi (one of my Clandestine Cakers). We had a few glasses of wine in the evening before retiring to our rather plush rooms. Then a leisurely breakfast the next morning before heading off to Ayr Racecourse, where the first every Scottish Food Bloggers Conference was being held. Our chums Janice from Farmersgirl Kitchen and Louise from Please Do Not Feed The Animals were there to keep us company too (more about that later in the week) and we made some rather nice new friends too. Also a big thanks to Scotty Brand for sponsoring me.

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