Huevos Rancheros meets Shakshuka, Wookey Hole & Cheddar Gorge

This weekend I am having a couple of days extra off to spend time with the family,  spend time in the kitchen cooking, enjoy some good food and update the blog. 1st stop was Wookey Hole to go ‘Witch Hunting’.

Wookey Hole cave was formed through erosion of the limestone hills by the River Axe. Before emerging at Wookey Hole the water enters underground streams and passes through other caves such as Swildon’s Hole and St Cuthbert’s Swallet. After resurging, the waters of the River Axe are used in a handmade paper mill, the oldest extant in Britain, which began operations circa 1610, although a corn grinding mill operated there as early as 1086.

wookey hole

Having finished the guided tour, had some food in ‘Captain Jack’s Restaurant’ and played ‘Pirate Island Adventure Golf’,  number one son let off some steam in the ‘Pirate of the River Axe’ whilst we decided what to do next!

The village of Cheddar and Cheddar Gorge is about 8 miles from Wookey Hole, and the region is famous for Cheese, one of my favourite artisan products. Both the ‘boss’ and I adore cheese with a passion, and are very lucky to have a fantastic cheese specialist nearby who supplies some amazing product, not available in the usual retail ‘chains’. If you have never tried cheese from an artisan supplier please do, you will be amazed at the difference in taste, texture and longevity if looked after carefully.

The land around the village of Cheddar has been at the centre of England’s dairy industry since at least the 15th Century with the earliest references to Cheddar Cheese dating from 1170.

Next stop was the ‘Cheddar Gorge Cheese Company’, the only producer of Cheddar Cheese in the village of Cheddar!


If you arrive before 15:30 you can see see the cheese being made, unfortunately we arrived after this time so could not spend time in the viewing gallery watching the process.  I was lucky enough to visit an Italian Cheese Factory in May this year as part of a cooking holiday and its more interesting than you might think.

In the shop you can taste sample’s of their products, and they even have mini cool boxes with ice bags, so you can buy the cheese with confidence if you have a long distance to travel home.

I ended up buying several different cheese’s, some artisan biscuits, chutney and their own special cheese straws, the two pictured above were completely different, the ‘Cave Aged’ having more texture and being quite crumbly, whilst the ‘Vintage’ was strong in flavour, but more creamy and close textured.


Huevos Rancheros meets Shakshuka!

Saturday was chill out day, reading cookery books, watching cooking programmes and not thinking about work. Lunchtime was fast approaching and an excuse to spend time in the kitchen. Thomasina Miers had appeared on ‘Saturday Cookbook’ on ITV in the morning and my mind drifted to Mexico, Tommi is famous for winning MasterChef in 2005 and subsequently opening her chain of Mexican Restaurants called ‘Wahaca‘.

I fancied a bit of experimenting, so turned to the Middle East for my spice inspiration, but basing the dish on Mexican influences.

Starting off with some new potatoes of the ‘Agata’ variety, they were quartered and put into a frying pan with some Olive Oil and butter, cooking slowly for around 10-15 minutes. Then, finely chopped onion was then added with a good sprinkle of dried Thyme,  an Orange Pepper, pith removed and cut into small dice, a teaspoon of Aleppo Chilli Flakes from Ottolenghi’s, which I find has some citrus notes and decent heat,  some Ras el Hanout spice mix, mine is from Steenbergs.

Cook for a further 10- 15 minutes to soften, then add a couple of fresh chopped tomato’s and season with sea salt and pepper, mine looked like this;


The next stage was to take a couple of Tortillas, on one drizzle some olive oil, place the other on top and move round to ‘spread’ the oil on both Tortillas. Then, place the Tortillas oil up and sprinkle with Dukkah, the oil helps the spice mix stick. I then put the spiced faces together and fried the Tortillas in a mix of oil and butter until they puffed up.

These can then go on a plate in a warm oven whilst you finish the dish, which just needs a fried egg and some chopped parsley to finish.


The fried Tortilla base with the Dukkah adds some crunchy texture to the final dish, the Aleppo Chilli and Ras Al Hanout a Middle Eastern theme, and it was really delicious.

The ‘boss’ was out when I cooked this, but I reserved some of the vegetable mixture and folded the Tortilla into a quarter, and it was devoured when she came home!

Thanks must go to Thomasina Miers, Yotam Ottenlenghi and Bethany Kehdy for the inspiration for this dish.


Middle Eastern Chicken on Flatbread with Fattoush

Another busy week this week  included William Curleys‘ Patissiere, awesome Massamam Curry at Chaophraya in Manchester, amazing Arnavut Cigeri (Albanian Style Lambs Liver) & Kaniyarik (Aubergine stuffed with mince meat, onions, peppers, tomatoes cooked in the oven and served with rice), at Meze in Darlington. Oh, and a couple of full english breakfasts!!

It’s me and the ‘Bosses’ 25th wedding anniversary this year, and to do something a bit different we are planning a trip to Padstow, to attend a two-day Indian course at Rick Stein’s Cookery School, watch this space for a review if we manage to make it.

Back to the kitchen and more middle eastern inspired food, this time chicken….



Every time I am in the kitchen I try to do something new or different (or both!), this time was the art of spatchcocking. Before dealing with the Chicken, I prepared a marinade.  A pot of Yeo organic Yogurt is put into a bowl with a good generous handful of chopped fresh Thyme, the same of coriander, 4 tablespoons of Harissa paste, a teaspoon of Sumac, a teaspoon of Coriander powder, 1/2 a teaspoon of Cumin. Add the grated zest of a Lemon, and its juice and mix together well. Set aside whilst we prepare the chicken.


Take your chicken and turn it over so that its Breast side is facing away from you and the open cavity is on the top. Take a sharp knife (Or kitchen scissors if you have them), and cut close to the bone that runs down the centre of the chicken. You should end up with a cut like above. Turn the Chicken over so you can finish the cut safely.

Next, place the Chicken with the open flesh face down on the chopping board with the breast side up. Put your hands on the body, pushing down to flatten and ‘break’ the spine firmly.


It should look like the picture above, I was a bit nervous about this process but its actually quite easy to do if you take it steady and be careful with the knife!

So that’s the Chicken and marinade sorted, you now need to cut through and ‘slash’ the Chicken in several places to let the marinade penetrate and impart its flavour.  Mine looked like this after the next element of butchery!!


The next stage is to place the Chicken on a roasting tray and smother it in the marinade, a lovely messy job but very satisfying. Make sure you massage the marinade into the cuts to make sure the flavours penetrate right into the meat.  I put mine in the fridge after this stage and left to rest for about 7 hours….


Next step is to prepare the Fattoush, a Middle Eastern Salad of toasted Bread, Tomatoes, Onions, Radishes, Dill, Parsley, Sumac, in fact loads of delicious flavours.  There are many different variations on this dish and the one I chose was a variation on the lovely Bethany Kehdy, and her new book ‘The Jewelled Kitchen’, its beautiful and one of my favourites at the moment.

It’s an exercise in ‘Mis en place’, a phrase used in professional kitchens meaning put in place or preparing everything ready for cooking or construction, in the ways of salads.


As an experiment, I changed some of the ingredients slightly, adding about 150 grams of mixed Red Quinoa, White Quinoa and Bulgur Wheat that had been boiled for 10 minutes and left to cool.  I made a dressing from thinly sliced Red Onion, 60ml of Rapeseed Oil, 4 table spoons of Sherry Vinegar, some Salt and Pepper and massaged it all together leaving it to marinade for 10-15 minutes.

My Fattoush looked like this when completed.


Prior to starting cooking, I had popped into Waitrose to pick up some bits and pieces (read wine!), and was considering what and how to serve the Chicken. Not being inclined to spend too much time on making bread I found some interesting looking Italian Flatbreads that were thicker than a Tortilla, and had some body and texture to them.  These were going to be the ‘blanket’ for the dish.


I came up with an idea to make them even more interesting, and it involved a 1/2 inch paint brush!!

I had some Ghee in the cupboard so took my trusty brush (that is really handy in the kitchen), and brushed each Bread with the Ghee all over.  I then sprinkled Dukkah and Za’atar over both, giving them a good covering as evenly as possible.

Prior to serving, the bread’s were put together with the clean side on the outside, and heated through in a frying pan for a couple of minutes before turning over and repeating on the other side.


The Chicken needs about 1 1/2 hours in the oven, I used a temperature of 170 degrees in our fan assisted beast. The smells coming from the kitchen invoked memories of wandering around  Jemaa el-Fnaa in Marrakesh, Morroco. The market square is famous for the food stalls that start cooking late afternoon and swamp the area with amazing aromas and exotic spices.


The Chicken was roughly divided and placed onto the warm Flatbread and served with the Salad. It was absolutely delicious and actually really simple to make. You can prep the Chicken in the Morning and leave to marinade. The Salad is mostly a construction exercise, the results will delight the palate.

Have a go yourself, I am pleased I did.

L8ers, till next time.


A Mixture – شكشوكة‎ or שקשוקה (Shakshouka)

I was not expecting to cook over the weekend, but the heat of Sunday evening and the lure of the kitchen got the better of me.

We have been having a clear out and re stock in the kitchen, herbs and spices from Steenbergs recently purchased have included Sumac, Za’atar, Dukkah, Turkish Oregano, Spearmint from Egypt so opening the herb and spice cupboard is like an unknown journey across the seven seas!

The boss had taken our son out on sunday, leaving me to relax in the quiet and finger through some recipe books whilst listening to some hedonistic holiday anthems. Titanium, Bom Bom and Loca People hit the walls and ceilings with vigour, whilst in my head I was in far off places, Egypt, Lebanon and Tunisia.
It was soon evening and what to eat….Shakshouka was the answer.
The word means mixture if you believe wikipedia, and mine was going to be a blend of a couple of recipes from two of my favourite chefs, you know who I am talking about.
We had some Toulouse sausages in the fridge, these were de-skinned and put into a bowl with copious quantities of Sumac, Oregano, Chilli flakes, Habanero sauce (just a few drops, hot hot hot!) mixed with a fork, and left to marinate for an hour or so.
After an hour, the meat mixture was rolled into small balls, dusted with flour and fried in olive oil for a couple of minutes to brown, then set aside on kitchen paper to drain.
Next, an onion was chopped and added to a frying pan with some olive oil and butter, cooking slowly for about 20 minutes. After 20 minutes, I added some Salt and Pepper, Za’atar, a pinch of Sumac, chopped Garlic, fresh Coriander seeds and Cumin seeds. Quantities are according to your taste, as sometimes I find recipes need more than stated but its your chance to experiment. Remember you cannot take out but you can always add more, so taste as you go if unsure…..
I thought we did not have any peppers in the house, but remembered that I had been given a jar of roasted peppers as part of a christmas present, they came to the rescue and having been roasted and de-skinned already were absolutely perfect. Chopped into approx. 1cm pieces they were added to the pan and cooked for about 5 minutes, stirring from time to time.
Next I added a tin of chopped tomatoes to the mixture, and a sprinkling of sugar to bring out the tomatoes sweetness and counteract the acidity. The mixture was left to simmer for about 30 minutes on a low heat, enabling the flavours to develop.
Next step was to added the pre-fried meat balls, and continue to simmer for about 20 minutes on a low heat, this ensure the meat was cooked through.
At this stage, put on the oven, and set to 160 deg (Fan oven), or 180 deg (Convection/Gas) and set aside to dishes big enough for one serving, or whatever takes your fancy.
Transfer the mixture to the two bowls, ensuring the meat balls are around the outside enabling an egg to be broken into the centre, and shrouded by the piquant tomato sauce. Then put into the oven and bake for about 20 minutes until the eggs are set, but yoke still runny.
My version of the Shakshuka was served with some nutty bread and tasted delicious. Small balls of meat that were full of garlic and punchy spices, mellowed by a slightly sweet but flavourful sauce with the egg adding both texture and richness.  To finish I sprinkled some Parsley and Sumac over the top which you can see in the picture at the top of the page.
So there we go, another trip to the Middle East and a journey well worth taking. I am not travelling so much this week so hoping to get back in the kitchen and experiment some more.
il-hanā’ wa ash-shifā (May you have your meal with gladness and health)