A Family Gathering – Garam Masala

Tonight all my children are coming home for dinner. We have my eldest daughter who like me is dairy intolerant and allergic to wheat, and she also has stomach issues, so although curry is the first choice when cooking for a large group we have decided to do a spicy tandoori chicken, no yogurt just oil and spices and a garam masala chicken made from my own mix of garam masala.

For the tandoori chicken we have cheated slightly and have purchased a spice rub from a local Leicester company…



We have marinaded the chicken overnight in a paste of spices, oil and balsamic vinegar. We will cook this in the oven for 20-25 minutes at 200 C.

Garam Masala Spice

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander

1 1/2 teaspoons ground cardamom

1 1/2 teaspoons ground black pepper

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg

I like to use a coffee grinder and grind all my spices up myself then I can adjust the recipe to suit our families taste. I then put it in an airtight container and use it when I want it.

Garam Masala Chicken

1 tbsp vegetable oil

4 (3 ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast chopped into small cubes (bite sized)

1 tin of chopped tomatoes

I onion chopped

1/4 cup of water or half a tin measured from tomato tin

2 tsp garam masala

Heat the olive oil in a large pan over medium-high heat. Place the chicken in the hot oil and cook until browned on one side, about 3 minutes. Flip the chicken and add the onions; cook another 2 minutes.

Add the tomatoes, some  salt, and water to the chicken; stir. Season with 1 1/2 teaspoon garam masala. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce heat to medium-low, cover, and simmer another 10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Stir the remaining 1/2 teaspoon garam masala through the mixture. Raise heat to medium and bring mixture to a boil. Cook until the chicken no longer pink in the center and the juices run clear, about 5 minutes more.

We’re serving ours with poppadums which we are frying at home, messy but worth it.

I am also serving rice laced with peas, sweet red pepper and fine green beans chopped into tiny pieces. If nothing else our family will be full and smelly by the end of the evening.

Enjoy the start of your weekend .


Comfort Baking – Dairy Free Scones

Ever had one of those weeks, you know good news followed by not so good news and you end up feeling yuck, well that’s exactly what my week has been like. So when I’m feeling a little bleugh I turn to baking.

Today my hankering is for scones. Now how, you may ask, can you make a scone with no dairy well read this way…

Dairy Free Scones


8oz self raising flour

pinch of salt

2oz dairy free marg

1oz caster sugar

5 fl oz water, can can substitute an egg if you like

Set the oven to 220 C

In a large bowl rub the marg into the flour and salt. Stir in the sugar. Then add just enough water to make a lovely elastic dough.

Dust a board or worktop with flour and roll out the dough to about 2 cm thickness, use a glass or cookie cutter to cut out your scones.

Bake in the oven for 12-15 minutes until just starting to brown nicely.

Take out of the oven and try not to eat them whilst they are hot enough to burn your fingers.

You can jazz the recipe up with dried fruit, maybe cranberries, sultanas, apricots. Make sure you make the dried fruit pieces small and mix them into the mixture before adding the water. Today I added a heaped teaspoon of cinnamon to my mix, the smell as they cook is awesome.

Week Til Pay Day Cheap and Cheerful – Graceys Chicken and Chips


So it’s that time of the month again, a week til payday and we’re eaking out the pennies. So what does the freezer contain today? Frozen chips and chicken thighs…hhhmmm…so how do we make this appealing?

Lots of people will not eat the dark meat from a chicken when they have a roast dinner however chicken thighs especially boneless ones are really versatile, they can be used in curries, moroccan chicken and even like tonight herbed and baked. My argument to those who will not eat the dark meat is if this was a chicken leg on a BBQ or at a picnic you’d tuck in so give it a try.

Graceys Chicken and Chips

This is the ultimate cheap, easy and effortless meal. Pop the oven on 200 C and start to prep your thighs. I like to cook boneless thighs as they take very little time, 40 mins max.

1 tbsp olive oil

1/4 tsp salt

1/4 tsp ground black pepper

2 small dried chillies

1 garlic clove

large pinch dried herbs

6 boneless chicken thighs

oven chips 

whatever veg takes your fancy, we had fine green beans tonight.

In the pestle and mortar grind all seasoning to a paste. Place chicken thighs on a baking tray and enough aluminum foil to make a pocket for the chicken. Put olive oil on foil and cover the thighs in the oil, then smear on the paste.


Put in the oven on a low shelf for 10 minutes, then pop heat up to 220 C, pop in your chips and cook for another 20 minutes. Five minutes before your oven time is up pop your veg on to steam, everything will be ready together perfectly then.

The chicken has a little bite so taylor it to your families taste, fresh herbs without the chilli make a refreshing change too.

Hangover Breakfast


After a lovely and long day yesterday at my Grandsons Birthday Party, the cakes went down a storm by the way, I came home last night starving. I tend to avoid eating at social gatherings unless I prepared the food myself because even if you ask what is in a dish it just takes a knife used for spreading butter to then be used to cut me some fruit and I end up with a huge allergic reaction. I have learned this from bitter experience.

So we came home, Hubby went to cook tea and I settled down to some lovely red wine. Unfortunately it went straight to my head, due to an empty tummy and today I have a severe red wine head hangover.

I decided to cure it with food so Toast with Scrambled Egg and Bright Veg was just the ticket. 

Toast with Scrambled Egg and Bright Veg


1 egg, with salt, freshly ground black pepper and dried mixed herbs

4 cherry tomatoes quartered

1 spring onion, chopped

I third of a sweet red pepper chopped finely

In a small greaseproof pan, a milk pan is perfect melt some non-dairy spread, again check the label to make sure it is suitable.

Add all the veg to the pan and sizzle for a couple of minutes, add the whisked egg and keep the contents of the pan moving until the egg cooked to your liking. I like my eggs quite dryish but some people like them sloppy. Butter (dairy free marg) toast, I spread brown sauce on my toast but you may like miso paste or ketchup, put egg on top of toast and devour….yummy.

It really does give you the boost you need after a night drinking.

Wow, My Gorgeous Grandson is 5

Ryley, my first born Grandchild, was 5 yesterday. It only seems 5 minutes since he was born. This was him a day old  and this him at Christmas with my other Grandson Cai.



I’ve spent the past two days baking cakes, a birthday cake and fairy cakes. So how do you make a dairy free Birthday cake, well you just replace the dairy with an alternative.

Dairy Free Birthday Cake

8oz vitalite, or another none dairy margarine, check packaging to ensure it is suitable for baking some have too much water added to bake with.

8oz caster sugar

4 eggs

teaspoon vanilla essence

8oz self raising flour

Pre heat the oven to 180 C.  Decide if you want one large cake or two smaller cakes to make a victoria sponge with jam in the centre. Line one or two baking tins with greaseproof paper.

In a large bowl with a wooden spoon beat marg and sugar together, you need to beat it until the colour changes from buttery yellow to a pale primrose yellow.

In a jug beat 4 eggs and the vanilla essence. Add this gradually to the butter and sugar mix, if you add it too quickly it will curdle.

The add a spoonful of flour at a time and gently fold it into the mix using a metal spoon. This will ensure all the lovely air you have incorporated in the mix will help the mix rise.

If two cakes cook for 20 minutes if one larger cake cook for 30 minutes. To check if the cake is cooked use a knife and place in the centre of the cake, if the knife comes out clean the cake is cooked through.

This is the cake I have made for Ryleys party tomorrow


It is iced with royal icing coloured with green food gel.Hopefully this Monster Cake is exactly what he wants.

No Meat Wednesday …Coz No-one Tells Me What and When to Eat ;)


From the recipes you have seen so far you may be thinking that our household is a little heavy on the meat consumption, however you’d be mistaken. We often have veggie meals tonight being a case in point. We are having pasta with homemade tomato sauce.

 It is a meal I really enjoy cooking because although the basic ingredients remain the same you can jazz it up with all sorts of things. Tonight I have jazzed ours up with 6 or 7 capers chopped quite small, but you might want to add chunky veg peppers, chunks of mushroom, aubergine or even a few peas.

My son was a bit of a devil when it came to veg in his pasta sauce so when he was smaller I added as many veg as I could and then whizzed the sauce up in the blender, he had no idea he was eating veg and I was happy because I was keeping him healthy. A word of warning though, sweet veg like carrots and peas not only change the colour of the sauce but also the flavour is often a little too much for most adults, oh and you really can’t hide mushrooms, that earthy taste just can not be disguised, believe me I’ve tried.

Pasta and Homemade Tomato Sauce

2 large onions chopped finely, as in the meatball recipe

1 glass of red wine, mine came from the freezer tonight as I tend to store left over wine frozen for easy use

2 tins of chopped tomatoes

Generous pinch of mixed herbs

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

2 to 3 cloves of garlic chopped finely

2 dried chillies chopped finely

10- 12 Olives chopped

Dessertspoon of tomato puree

Chop garlic, chilli and herbs and salt and pepper to the tomatoes and put to one side.

Put 2 dessertspoons of olive oil in a large saucepan. Start to heat the oil but add the onion as it is heating to ensure that the onions do not burn or brown.

When onions glossy and clear add wine and slowly simmer until the onions look like tiny purple gems. There should be very little liquid.

Add tomatoes, stir so the colour becomes a dark red when tomatoes and wine mix. Bring to a simmer and add the olives. Add tomato puree, this will help thicken the sauce.

At this point you can add any other ingredients that take your fancy. Simmer for a minimum of 30 minutes to ensure all the flavours are fully developed

Serve with a generous portion of pasta and garlic bread.

How To Stretch a Small Amount of Meat – Balsamic Glazed Beef with Udon Noodles

When my husband goes shopping by himself I can guarantee two things:-

1) He will only  buy meat or fish, no veggies, fruit or other staples

2) He will buy a portion of meat or fish that will only really feed one person two at a push.

So on Sunday morning when he removed some beef cubes from the freezer I spent 20 minutes trying to come up with an idea of how I would manage to stretch it to feed three people. We ended up having a roast chicken and the beef stayed in the fridge until yesterday, but still the problem remained. My only way to stretch it was to do a stir fry, add in the left over veggies from Sundays roast dinner and hope we were all full at the end.

So here is my Balsamic Glazed Beef with Udon Noodles


I used

1 small pack 250g of cubed beef, I use scissors and cut this into strips approx 1 inches, bite sized

4-5 dessertspoons of Balsamic Vinegar

3 dessertspoons of olive oil

A 2 inch sprig of fresh rosemary, snip the leaves very finely with scissors a lot less fiddley than using a knife

3 cloves of garlic finely chopped

2 small brown sugar cubes

2 1/2 wraps of udon noodles

1 onion chopped in to eighths, bite size pieces again

8-10 mini florets of broccoli

15 green beans trimmed and chopped into thirds

1 tbsp Vegetable oil

In a bowl add olive oil, balsamic vinegar, sugar rosemary, garlic and a good pinch of sea salt. Mix and add the beef. Mix and coat the beef in the glaze, leave in the fridge for about an hour, longer if you can.

Whilst the meat is marinading cook the udon noodles, they take about 4 minutes in boiling water. Drain them and put to one side


Heat the vegetable oil in a wok until sizzling hot, I usually check by dropping in a small piece of garlic. Add the beef and start to stir in the hot oil, as it is almost browned add the onion and continue stirring for a minute.

Add the veg and then put the noodles in the pan. They will stick together but as they heat in the pan use a fork to pull gently apart, toss and mix thoroughly with the beef and veg mix. When noodles piping hot serve.

Beef Stew – The Way to a Mans Heart

If you ask my kids what Birthday meal they want they will all say the same thing, Beef Stew. It is a  dish that I have adapted over the years, initially just a tomatoey beef stew, now I add chilli for a bit more warmth and depth. It is probably one of the simplest meals to make and can all be done in one pan.Image

It was the first meal I ever cooked my husband and I think it is at least one of the reasons he decided I was the girl to marry.

When choosing your beef don’t go for the leanest cut pick some with a little extra fat on it but try not to let fat run through the centre of one of your cubes or it will be chewy.

450 g – 1 kg of cubed beef, I find that the supermarket make the cubes a little large for one bit so cut them into smaller pieces maybe half an inch square.

5 large carrots

5 large onions

2 beef stock cubes

2 tins chopped tomatoes

3 small dried chillies chopped

2 tbsp seasoned flour, add a little of the chilli to the flour as well as a generous amount of salt and fresh ground black pepper

In a bowl put flour, seasoning and chilli, add the beef cubes and make sure they are evenly coated.

Slice the onions so they are thin half moons. Heat a 2 tbsp vegetable oil in a large saucepan or stew pot and add the onions, gently simmer until they start to become clear. Add a little more oil and then pour beef and flour into the pan. The flour will stick on the bottom, so stir and scrape until the beef is sealed, browned on the outside. The flour helps to thicken they gravy so you need it not to have it all stuck at the bottom.

When beef browned add the tomatoes and the stock cubes stir well. Bring to the boil and turn down to a simmer. When gently simmering add the carrots.

At this point you can either continue simmering on the stove top or you can put in the oven at 150 C for 30 minutes and then reduce the heat to about 120 C. The longer you cook this meal the better it will be. I would suggest a minimum of 4 hours simmering on the stove or in the oven.

It can be served with either a large loaf of fresh bread or mash potatoes.

Vegetables…Oops I Did It Again

So yesterday my Mother-in-Law turned 70, my Father-in-Law booked a table at a country pub for an evening meal for all the family. Now as I’ve mentioned before eating out when allergic to dairy is no mean feat.

There are a hundred ways dairy can be hidden in a dish from cream in the mayonnaise to butter on the vegetables. Last night I fell foul of the latter.

Initially we arrived and as I read down the Specials Board I realised there was not one dish that I could eat. I admit a little bit of panic set in but my Hubby said wait til the menu comes and then we’ll see what’s what.

I ended up choosing steak because although most restaurants cook with a little butter it is mainly burned off the steak before you get it and I can counter any reactions to the traces left with antihistamines. What I fell foul of was new potatoes and vegetables. They set a bowl down of each for the table to share. I took 4 small potatoes, a carrot, 4 mangetout, a couple of pieces of aubergine (egg plant) and a couple of pieces of courgette.Normally I would pile my plate with veg but I have fallen foul before of buttered veg so erred on the side of caution. As my hubby was the last to serve himself he noticed butter at the bottom of the potato dish. He warned me and I thought it’s only 4 small potatoes I’ll be fine I’ll just take an antihistamine when I get in.

Well I did just that. Unfortunately this morning I have a swollen tongue which fels like I have burned it on a hot drink, , sore hands and feet, my finger nails feel like someone has been trying to prise them off and my face stings.

SO I am currently tucked up in bed having had yet another antihistamine and feeling very sorry and cross. I am so glad I remembered to take an antihistamine when I got home or we could very well be in the hospital now. Why oh why do restaurants perfectly cook veg and them smother them in butter?

Once again I have been reminded that I need not to be so blase about how poorly dairy makes me and to speak up when eating out and explain that I am to have nothing containing dairy in my food. Needless to say I think I will be avoiding eating out for a while.

So Mum What’s in the Store Cupboard?

My daughter called the other day, she has just moved house and no longer has a freezer so is struggling when buying food to use it before it spoils. I tried to explain that she need a good stock of store cupboard basics and just buy fresh daily or every other day, then use the stock cupboard to jazz them up.

So what are store cupboard must haves?

They tend to be dry ingredients or tinned stuffs that can be used to create a basic meal or added to other fresh ingredients to make a great meal.

Herbs and Spices


I am very fortunate that my In-Laws have just returned from teaching in the Middle East so I have a store cupboard heaving with fragrant spices. You can get most herbs and spices from your local supermarket or even small community stores. Living in Leicester, in one of the most mutli-culturally diverse cities in the UK we have an amazing variety of small store holders who can supply us with just about exotic ingredient you can think of. And of course there is always the internet.



I always keep self-raising and plain flour, as well as cornflour. They can all be used for thickening sauces and gravies, and for whipping up a batch of fairy cakes to cheer up my grandsons.


I never buy a bottle of wine specifically for cooking. I do however always save one glass of wine from a bottle and put it into a container in the freezer, this means it is ready when I need it. If you do not have a freezer you can pop it in a pot for upto a week in the fridge before it will taint the flavour of a dish.

Stock Cubes

We like Knorr stock cubes in our household. I buy chicken, beef and vegetable.

ImageI think lamb is just as easily complimented with a mix of beef and chicken stock so do not see the point of buying lamb stock. I also sometimes make my own vegetable stock and keep it in small batches in the freezer to be used for soups.


Tomatoes both chopped and whole plum tomatoes as they can be added to loads of dishes to bulk them out.

Chick Peas, great for making homemade humus,  and for adding to salads or stews for veggies.

Red Kidney beans, in fact any kind of bean,  if you see them on offer in the supermarket get a few it’s amazing how much more filling a stew or soup is with extra beans added

Dried Ingredients


I tend to buy puy lentils for fancy dishes as they are slightly more expensive. For everyday use I buy a big bag of red lentils, these are great in soup.

Pasta and Rice

Buy the biggest bag you can and decant it into a usable sized pot with an air tight lid.


I usually have dried herbs in. However I have recently purchased a very small live rosemary bush from the supermarket. Instead of keeping it on the window ledge it has been planted in the garden and is thriving. I shall be investing in Parsley and some basil in the same way soon. Nothing beats the flavour of fresh herbs, especially in salads on in the dough of rolls and flat breads.


In the freezer I keep normal sliced bread and pitta breads. Pittas can be taken straight from the freezer and put under the grill or popped in the microwave for 30 seconds, brilliant for a fast snack.

My list isn’t extensive and I would love to hear what you consider to be essential to keep in the cupboard at all times.