Jo’s Multi-Purpose Tomato Olive Sauce (4)

photo - Jo's Multi-Purpose Tomato and Olive Sauce

Totally versatile sauce – good with chicken, pork, lamb chops, steak and zucchini ‘pasta’ (pictured here)

1 tbsp. olive oil, seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 large onion – chopped

1 large garlic clove – grated

2 cups chopped tomatoes (Pomi brand)

1 tbsp. double concentrate tomato puree (Cento brand)

1 cup veg. broth/stock

1/2 cup black olives – pitted and cut into quarters

good pinch herbes de Provence

Heat oil in skillet/frying pan and when sizzling add onion and cook for a few minutes then add garlic.

When a little browned, add the rest of the ingredients, bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes.




Thai Chicken Soup (4)

photo - Thai Chicken Soup

This tastes really authentic. Don’t be put off by ingredients, this is an easy recipe to make. It is definitely worth making a visit to a local Asian store to get the real ingredients – really fresh lemongrass, galangal (member of the ginger family – I bought it pre-sliced and frozen), Kaffir Lime Leaves, Palm Sugar and a Thai fish sauce. If you don’t have an Asian store near you, I think you could make substitutions – lemongrass from a tube, fresh ginger, maybe some lime zest, brown sugar and ordinary fish sauce.  The lemongrass, galangal and kaffir lime leaves were used to infuse the soup liquid. To get the best flavor from the lemongrass – take the long stalk and bend it in several places then take the handle of a knife and bash the bulb until it splits open. Then place the whole lemongrass in a pan (I curled it around the inside of the pan and made sure it was submerged in the liquid).

1 cup lite coconut milk (Thai Kitchen brand)

3 cups chicken broth/stock

6 slices of galangal – cut into strips

2 stems of lemongrass – treated as above

5 Kaffir lime leaves (Thai Kitchen brand)

3 tbsp. Thai fish sauce

1 tbsp. Palm Sugar

Juice of 1 lime

1 tsp. roasted red chili paste (Thai Kitchen brand)

8 oz. chicken breast – cut into smaller than bite size pieces

1 tbsp. cilantro – finely chopped

Put coconut milk, chicken stock, lemongrass, galangal and kaffir lime leaves in a largish pan. Bring to a boil, then simmer for 10 minutes. Let cool, then remove the lemongrass, galangal and kaffir lime leaves and discard. Mix Thai fish sauce and palm sugar together in a small bowl. Mix roasted lime juice and red chili paste together in a separate small bowl. Add chicken to coconut milk mixture then pour in the contents of both small bowls. Bring the soup to a boil then simmer for 10 minutes or so until chicken is cooked. Sprinkle cilantro on soup and serve.



Vegetable and Bean Soup (4)

photo - vegetable soup with kale

Dull, wet day so made soup. This is a hearty soup – almost a vegetable stew – and stuffed full of goodness – celery, carrots, tomatoes, cannellini beans and kale (if you don’t like kale, try spinach).

1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 onion – chopped

1 large clove of garlic – finely chopped or grated

3 sticks of celery – finely sliced

2 largish carrots – finely sliced

1 cup of chopped tomatoes

1 can of cannellini beans

4 cups of veg. broth/stock

2 handfuls of chopped kale

Heat oil in cast iron casserole dish and when sizzling add onion and let it brown a bit, then add garlic.

After a few minutes, add the rest of the ingredients.

Bring to a boil, then simmer for 30 minutes with the lid on.


Leeks Vinaigrette (4 as appetizer)

photo - Leeks Vinaigrette

When I worked in France we were given lunch vouchers to be used at participating local restaurants. I was constantly surprised by the type and quality of the food provided – a 3 course meal – for very little money. Often the appetizers/starters were like this recipe – simple, cheap and tasty. And Leeks Vinaigrette is quick to make too.

Take 3 leeks and top, tail, take off outer leaves and slice thinly.

Pop into boiling water and cook for only a couple of minutes (just about the same time as it takes to make the vinaigrette). Drain and let cool.

For vinaigrette – take 1 teasp. Dijon mustard and add 1 tbsp. red wine vinegar. Stir together till smooth. Add 3 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper and stir or whisk until emulsified (better still place in screw top jar and shake).


Poulet aux Olives Verts (4)

photo - poulet aux olives

Vacationing in France one year I was all set to order the special of the day, Poulet aux Olives Verts (Chicken with Green Olives) and had even glimpsed it going by my table to a lucky customer. When it came to me ordering it was all sold out and I haven’t seen anything comparable since. I just had to recreate it and used chicken thighs (bone in and skin on) and green olives. Chicken thighs have a deeper flavor and I seared the skin until it was well-browned before putting it in the casserole dish. Get the best good chicken broth you can as it does make a difference. Serve with mashed potatoes or a baked potato to soak  up the sauce and as a vegetable French green beans are good – they are finer.

1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil seasoned with freshly ground black pepper

1 onion – chopped

2 cloves of garlic – finely chopped or grated

4 chicken thighs

4 oz. green olives without pits/pips – halved (I used big green olives)

1 cup chicken broth/stock

Heat oil in a cast iron casserole dish and when sizzling add onion and let soften for a couple of minutes then add the garlic.

Cook for a further few minutes until onion starts to go brown.

Remove onions and garlic from casserole dish and set aside on a plate.

Place chicken thighs in casserole dish and sear on both sides making sure the skin is nicely browned.

Add olives and broth, bring to boil, then simmer for 20 minutes with a lid on.




Jo’s Chili (4)

photo - Jo's Chili

To make this recipe you can take the all home-made approach or the quicker, short-cut route – depending on whether you want to make or buy the guacamole and salsa. A friend mentioned that when she made ground beef recipes she substituted half of the beef for ground turkey to make her dishes healthier and I have tried it here. Instead of using the traditional addition of tomatoes to the meat I replaced them with salsa.

This chili is presented  quite differently too – I lay a bed of chopped romaine lettuce on the bottom of the serving platter and surround it by corn chips lightly sprinkled with cayenne pepper. Then I place the guacamole in the middle of the lettuce and surround it with the hot chili. The result is a dish that has crunch and crisp along with chunky and soft.

1 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, seasoned with salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 medium onion – chopped

2 cloves of garlic – finely chopped

1 tsp. cumin

1 tsp. garam masala

1 pound ground/minced beef

1 can black beans

1/2 cup tomato sauce

1 piece of chipotle pepper (from can of chipotle peppers in Adobo sauce) – chopped

4 tsp. of the Adobo sauce from the can

Heat oil in a skillet/frying pan.

Add onion and cook until just turning brown.

Add garlic and cook for a few minutes, then add spices and cook until you can smell them.

Add ground beef and cook till just browned.

Add black beans, tomato sauce, chipotle pepper and Adobo Sauce

Bring to boil, then simmer for 20 minutes.


Fennel, Orange and Hearts of Palm Salad with Orange Vinaigrette (2)

photo - Fennel, Orange and Hearts of Palm Salad

A lovely salad with a sweetness and some crunch. The vinaigrette has honey and mustard in it as well as orange juice. Perfect light lunch or good to take to work.

2 x oranges – cut into segments

Small head of fennel – cut into smallish pieces

2 x hearts of palm – sliced

1 slice of red onion – cut into small pieces

Place all ingredients in a salad bowl and pour vinaigrette over salad.

For the vinaigrette, place juice of one orange, 1 tsp. honey, 2 tsp. Dijon mustard, 2 tbsp. extra virgin olive oil, salt and freshly ground black pepper in a bowl and whisk with a fork