Ultimate Macaroni Cheese

Macaroni cheese is pure comfort on a plate. A few of my British friends were surprised when I told them that mac and cheese is also really popular in the Caribbean. It is often served as one of the side dishes at West Indian parties, and it is common to get a slice of macaroni cheese when you buy a Jamaican takeaway.

My mother-in-law was first to teach me how to make this dish, but I have adapted it over the years and this is now the most asked for dish by my toddler. The three main components of this dish are macaroni, cheese sauce and cheese topping. I boil the macaroni so that it is just a little softer than al dente. I make my cheese sauce using two types of cheese: parmesan and cheddar. I also add a little grated onion and ground black pepper to enhance the flavours even more.

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Macaroni and Cheese Recipe

Serves: 4-8
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking/Baking Time: 40 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 270 g macaroni

Sauce:

  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 onion grated
  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 200 ml milk
  • 60 g grated parmesan cheese
  • 120 g grated cheddar
  • 0.5 tsp ground black pepper

Topping:

  • 60 g grated cheese

METHOD

  1. Cook the macaroni. Bring a large pan of water to the boil. Stir in the macaroni and cook for 15-16 minutes. Drain well.
  2. Pre-heat the oven to 180 °C fan (200 °C conventional oven).
  3. Make the cheese sauce. Heat the butter in a pan. When it is melted and hot lower the heat to medium and add the flour. Mix well for two minutes.
  4. Add the milk a little at a time at first to thin out the paste and make it more liquid. Then add the remaining milk a quarter at a time stirring continuously.
  5. Add in the onion, parmesan and cheddar and mix well.
  6. Remove from the heat and stir in the macaroni.
  7. Pour into a medium sized baking tin.
  8. Top with the remaining cheddar and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until the cheddar has melted and has started to golden.

NOTES

  • This can be made as a side dish.
  • It can also be served as a vegetarian main dish with a side salad and garlic bread.

Chicken Shawarma

My guilty pleasure would have to be a mixed kebab with garlic sauce accompanied by a mountain of chips and melted cheese – yum. During Lockdown 2.0 here in the UK, it’s definitely something I’ve been missing as my favourite kebab shop doesn’t do deliveries. I have however been making Middle Eastern-style chicken shawarmas, which has definitely appeased my kebab cravings. In this dish succulent chicken thigh fillets are marinated overnight in an aromatic blend of spices. They can then be grilled or cooked in a pan, before being sliced up and served with salad, your choice of flat bread and a garlicy yoghurt sauce. This is such a quick and easy three step recipe, but is so flavoursome that I’m sure we still won’t be frequenting the kebab shop once this pandemic is over.

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Chicken Shawarma Recipe

Serves: 4
Preparation Time: 5 minutes
Marinating Time: 2 hours to overnight
Cooking Time: 16 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 kg chicken thigh fillets
  • 2 tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp cayenne
  • 4 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1.5 tsp salt
  • 0.5 tsp pepper
  • 1-2 cardamom pods slightly crushed
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 4 tsp olive oil
  • juice half lemon

METHOD

  1. In a large bowl mix all the ingredients together ensuring that the chicken thighs are evenly coated with the marinade.
  2. Cook in the grill or on a grill pan/heavy bottomed frying pan on the hob using a medium high heat for 6-8 minutes each side until the fillets are nice and brown and the juices are clear. I use my Anolon Grill Pan for this, click here for more details.
  3. Slice the fillets, place the meat back in the pan on a high heat for 2 minutes whilst stirring. This will brown some of the edges of the chicken slices and will enhance the flavour.

NOTES

  • Serve with naan or roti (I know, this isn’t Middle Eastern but it works well with the shawarma), a mixed salad and yoghurt or garlic sauce.

Jamaican Brown Stew Chicken

Brown Stew Chicken is an inherent Jamaican classic. In this dish, seasoned chicken is first browned for flavour before being added to sautéed onions and garlic, and being stewed with carrots and sweet peppers. The flavour quartet of pimento berries, thyme, spring onion and scotch bonnet pepper, so quintessential of Jamaican cuisine, is what sets this dish apart from other chicken stews.

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Jamaican Brown Stew Chicken Recipe

Serves: 4-6
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Marinating Time: 3 hours to overnight
Cooking Time: 25 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 kg skinless chicken portions (legs or thighs or a mix of the two)
  • 2 tbsp garlic powder
  • 2 tbsp all purpose seasoning
  • 1 tbsp chicken seasoning
  • 0.5 tsp salt
  • 0.5 tsp ground black pepper
  • 3 sprigs fresh thyme roughly chopped
  • 5 tbsp light olive oil
  • 1 large onion chopped
  • 3 spring onions chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic minced
  • 1 sweet pepper deseeded and sliced
  • 2 carrots peeled and sliced
  • 1 tsp scotch bonnet pepper sauce
  • 3 pimento berries
  • 300 ml water
  • 1 tbsp butter

METHOD

  1. Place the chicken portions in a large bowl. Add the garlic powder, all purpose seasoning, chicken seasoning, salt, pepper and thyme and mix well. Cover with clingfilm and leave to marinate in the fridge for at least 3 hours, but overnight would be better.
  2. Heat 3 tablespoons of the olive oil in a large heavy bottomed frying pan using a high heat. Scrape the thyme from the chicken portions, but put the thyme aside for later. Fry the chicken in batches for around 3 minutes on each side until they are a nice deep brown colour. Place the browned off pieces in a plate and set aside whilst you brown of the next batch. I use my trusty 28 cm Anolon Sauté Pan for this as it has a big enough area to brown the chicken in larger batches and it is also deep enough to hold the gravy that this dish will produce. Click here for more details on the pan.
  3. Once all the chicken has been browned add two tablespoons of olive oil to the pan, don’t worry about any brown crust that has formed on the bottom of the pan from the frying, just scrape this and mix it into the oil. On a medium heat sauté the onions and spring onions until they are translucent.
  4. Add the garlic, sweet peppers, carrots, scotch bonnet sauce, pimento berries and thyme from the marinade and stir well before adding the chicken back to the pan.
  5. Add the water and the butter. Cover the pan and simmer for 25 minutes until the gravy has reduced.

NOTES

Filipino Beef Tapa

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Beef Tapa typically consists of pieces of lean beef marinated in a mixture of soy sauce, calamansi (a kumquat-mandarin orange hybrid fruit) juice, garlic and brown sugar, before being fried with onions. This dish is commonly eaten in the Philippines for breakfast along with garlic fried rice (sinangag) and fried egg (itlog). When all three are featured together in a meal it is known colloquially as “tapsilog”, a blend of the words “tapa”, “sinangag” and “itlog”. In my home we actually eat this as a dinner dish instead of breakfast.

The beef itself is tender a little tangy due to the calamansi in the marinade. It has that rich deep and savoury unami flavour from the soy sauce and the fried onions. Then there is the sweetness from the sugar which caramelises slightly in the frying process. It’s so tasty.

This dish is really easy to prepare, but needs a bit of organisation due to the long marinating time – marinating is a must! The calamansi juice for the marinade can also be difficult to obtain, so this can be substituted with lemon juice. I also include an additional step, which is to boil the marinated meat in water to tenderise it further, before frying. However, this is not a necessary step, I just prefer my meat to be a little more tender, also my fussy toddler is more likely to eat this dish if the meat is a little softer.


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Filipino Beef Tapa Recipe

Serves: 4

Preparation Time: 5 minutes

Marinating Time: 8 hours to overnight

Cooking Time: 30 – 35 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 750 g beef steak strips
  • 4 cloves garlic crushed or grated
  • 4 tbsp soft brown sugar
  • 15 ml calamansi juice (you can get this here) or juice of half a lemon
  • 120 ml reduced salt soy sauce
  • 1 and a half medium onions sliced
  • 450 ml water
  • 3 tbsp light olive oil or vegetable oil

METHOD

  1. Place the beef in a non-metallic bowl. Add the garlic, brown sugar and calamansi juice and mix well. Add in the soy sauce and mix well again. Cover with cling film and leave in the fridge for at least 8 hours or over night.
  2. Use a slotted spoon to drain the marinade from the meat.
  3. OPTIONAL: Place the meat in a tall frying pan or wok – I would recommend the Sky Light Wok Pan, it’s a versatile good quality wok, you can find out more about it here. Add the water and boil on a high heat until the water has evaporated. This takes around 20-25 minutes.
  4. Add 2 tablespoons of the oil to a clean pan. Add the onions and fry on a medium high heat until soft and translucent. Set onions aside.
  5. Add the remaining oil to the same pan and fry the beef on a medium high heat for 7-10 minutes. Stir in the fried onions.

NOTES

  • Serve with garlic fried rice, fried egg and slices of fresh tomato for the classic Filipino tapsilog.
  • Sautéed mushrooms also work really well as a side for this dish.

Lamb Kofta

Saturday night is fakeaway night in my household. We either make homemade pizza or homemade lamb kebab. These lamb koftas are succulent and so full of flavour. They are inspired by the Turkish Adanas you can get in the kebab shop.

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Lamb Kofta Recipe

Serves: 6

Preparation Time: 10 minutes

Cooking Time: 15 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 50 g fresh breadcrumbs
  • 30 ml lemon juice (the juice of approximately 1 lemon)
  • 500 g lean lamb mince
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic finely minced
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 1.5 tbsp dried coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 0.5 tsp ground sumac
  • 0.5 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 0.5 tsp salt
  • 0.5 tsp pepper

METHOD

  1. Pre-heat the grill or pre-heat oven to 180 °C fan (200 °C conventional oven).
  2. Place the breadcrumbs in a large bowl. Pour the lemon juice over and mix well.
  3. Add the remaining ingredients and use your hands to mix it all together.
  4. Divide the meat into 12 pieces. Use your hands to shape and roll each piece into a sausage shape, roughly 12 cm long and 3 cm in diameter. Insert each kofta onto a 20 cm metal skewer. I use KitchenCraft Flat BBQ Kebab Skewers, which you can find here. Flatten the koftas slightly.
  5. Place a wire rack on a baking tray and spread the skewers our on the rack. Cook in the oven for around 15-20 minutes, turning halfway, until brown and cooked through (be careful not to over cook these as they will become dry). Or cook in the grill for around 7 minutes each side.

NOTES

  • For the fresh breadcrumbs, toast approximately 2 slices of medium sliced bread. Break into pieces and add to a chopper. Blitz until really fine.
  • Serve with pitta or naan breads and a salad of shredded red cabbage and sliced tomatoes.
  • These koftas are also ideal for cooking on the barbecue.

Yorkshire Pudding

When it comes to British cuisine I always look forward to a roast dinner. As per tradition this was previously reserved to Sundays in our household. However, since covid-19 happened and we are now at home during the week, a mid-week roast is now our thing. And a traditional English roast would not be complete without Yorkshire puddings!

For my non-British readers, a Yorkshire Pudding is not actually a dessert, as the name suggests, but is traditionally a side dish originating in Yorkshire in the north of England. It is made from a batter of flour, eggs and milk, and is cooked in a muffin tin or ramekin with hot oil. As the batter cooks the sides rise and it becomes light, fluffy and slightly crisp on the outside. The higher the sides rise, the better. It can be served as a side dish for a roast dinner or it can be filled with a variety of fillings, a popular filling is sausages, mashed potato and gravy (yes, all three together).

This simple dish has 4 main ingredients, is so easy to make and is really delicious.


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Yorkshire Pudding Recipe

Serves: 4-6 (makes 4 large puddings or 12 mini puddings)
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 15-17 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 60 ml light olive oil or vegetable oil
  • 110 g plain flour
  • 140 ml whole milk
  • 1 large egg
  • pinch of salt and pepper to taste

METHOD

  1. Pre-heat oven to 220 °C fan (240 °C conventional).
  2. Add oil to your Yorkshire pudding tin or muffin tin as follows: 3tsp oil per hole for a 4 hole Yorkshire pudding tin, or 1 tsp per hole for a 12 hole muffin tin. Place the tin in the oven for 10 minutes to heat up the oil.
  3. In the meantime, add the flour, salt and pepper to a large bowl.
  4. Beat the egg then whisk in the milk.
  5. Slowly add the egg and milk mixture to the flour whilst whisking. Whisk until a smooth batter is formed. It should be around the consistency of pancake batter.
  6. Remove the Yorkshire pudding tin or muffin tin from the oven and pour the batter into the holes.
  7. Place the tin back into the oven and bake for 15-17 minutes until the sides of the puddings have risen and the puddings are nice and brown.

NOTES

  • Serve as a side dish with roast beef or roast chicken.
  • Stuff with mashed potatoes, sausages and gravy for an indulgent main dish.

Paprika Chicken with Sour Cream

This recipe came about after I had an excess of sour cream from baking cakes. I wanted to use the sour cream to make a savoury dish with chicken and after getting some inspiration online paprika chicken seemed like the ideal dish, and it was a hit with the family. Here’s my ad-hoc recipe.


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Paprika Chicken with Sour Cream

Serves: 4

Preparation Time: 1 – 24 hours

Cooking Time: 25 – 35 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 kg chicken thigh fillets cut into bite sized pieces
  • 2 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp smokey paprika
  • 2 tbsp light olive oil
  • 1.5 onion finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic crushed
  • pepper to taste
  • 1 tsp smokey paprika (additional to the above)
  • 236 ml chicken stock
  • 236 ml sour cream

METHOD

  1. Mix the chicken, garlic powder and the tablespoon of paprika and marinade for one hour (or overnight).
  2. Heat one tablespoon of the olive oil in a deep frying pan and on a high heat brown off the chicken pieces in batches for around 2 minutes per side. Set aside
  3. Add the remaining oil to the pan use a wooden spoon to scrape loose any brown bits from the bottom before adding in the onions. Sautee on a medium heat until the onions are soft and translucent, around 3-5 minutes.
  4. Add the crushed garlic, the teaspoon of paprika and the chicken, and mix well before adding in the chicken stock. Simmer for 20 minutes.
  5. Remove from the heat and drizzle the sour cream on top.

NOTES

  • Garnish with chopped spring onions.
  • Serve with rice or mashed potatoes.
  • For the chicken stock I use two chicken Oxo cubes dissolved in 236 ml of hot water.

Easy Cajun Shrimp and Sausage Bake

This recipe is inspired by the flavours of an amazing seafood boil I had when I visited Seattle. It was such a fun eating experience (you know it’s going to be fun when you’re offered a plastic bib before the food has come out). The table was covered in paper (to soak up the mess) and an array of deliciously spiced seafood was placed in the middle. Knives and forks and other table etiquette were out the window for this meal as we dug into the shelled crab, lobster and shrimps with our hands.

Seafood boil consists of an array of shelled fish (typically lobster, crab and prawns), andouille sausage, corn and potatoes boiled in a seasoned broth and further flavoured with butter. This is a simple three step recipe that produces the authentic flavour of a seafood boil using prawns.


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Easy Cajun Shrimp and Sausage Recipe

Serves: 4
Preparation Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 25 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 500 g raw king prawns shelled and deveined
  • 250 g smoked pork sausage
  • 500 g peeled potatoes cut into chunks
  • 2 cobs of corn (each one cut into eighths)
  • 4 cloves garlic minced
  • 0.5 tbsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 0.5 tsp black pepper
  • 0.5 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 0.5 tsp mustard powder
  • 0.25 tsp oregano
  • 0.25 tsp crushed pepper flakes
  • a pinch ground allspice (pimento)
  • juice of half a lemon
  • 3 tbsp butter melted

METHOD

  1. Preheat oven to 200 °C fan (220 °C conventional).
  2. Combine all the ingredients in a roasting tin and mix well.
  3. Cover with foil and bake for 25 minutes until the corn and potatoes are tender and the prawns are pink.

NOTES

  • For the sausage I used Matessons Original Smoked Pork sausage as I was unable to find andouille here in the UK.
  • To prepare the corn cut each cob into quarters and then cut each quarter in half along the cob.
  • Serve with salad and freshly baked baguette.

Crispy Garlic Prawns

This is a super simple recipe for Chinese style prawns in a sweet and tangy garlic sauce. It can be made in minutes – the prawns are first fried up in a light batter before being coated the garlic sauce. I normally make this with the intention of being main dish for dinner, but the prawns are so delicious that we keep dipping in for a taste and before we know it there’s not enough for a meal. So this may be better categorised as a starter.


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Crispy Garlic Prawns Recipe

Serves: 4
Preparation Time: 5-10 minutes
Cooking Time: 30 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 500 g raw peeled king prawns
  • 3 tsp cornflour
  • 2 tsp room temperature water
  • 2 tsp reduced salt soy sauce
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tsp sesame oil

for the sauce:

  • 2 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 5 tsp soy sauce
  • 2 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 0.5 tsp finely ground black pepper

METHOD

  1. Prepare the prawns by scoring along the outside of each prawn. This will cause the prawns to splay out when cooked and adds to the crispness.
  2. Mix the batter ingredients (cornflour, water, soy sauce, egg yolk and sesame oil) together and stir in the prawns.
  3. Shallow fry the prawns in vegetable oil on a high heat in a deep frying pan until they are pink. Do this in three to four batches. It should take the prawns around 4 minutes on each side to cook.
  4. Drain the prawns on a plate lined with two sheets of kitchen roll. Remove excess oil from the frying pan and wipe down.
  5. Mix the sauce ingredients (honey, vinegar, soy sauce, garlic, black pepper) together and add to the frying pan on a medium heat for around 2 minutes. Pour in the prawns and stir them through the sauce for a further 2 minutes.

NOTES

  • Serve with steamed basmati or jasmine rice, or over noodles.
  • If you’re a spice lover try adding a teaspoon of crushed dried chilli flakes to the sauce.
  • Toasted sesame seeds also make a perfect garnish for this dish.

Arroz Caldo

Arroz Caldo is a Filipino chicken and rice soup or rice porridge. In this dish the chicken is cooked with a sauteed onion, garlic and ginger base before adding in rice, fish sauce and chicken stock. When served the soup is garnished with a boiled egg, spring onion and crunchy toasted garlic. Additional fish sauce and calamansi (a type of citrus fruit that is a hybrid of a kumquat and an orange, native to the Philippines) are also normally at hand to bring the flavours out even more if desired.

In the Philippines this dish is typically eaten during the cooler rainy season days, sometimes as a breakfast dish. However, my mum makes this for my daughter and I when we’re feeling under the weather. It is the ultimate Filipino comfort food.

Some people make this with glutinous rice, but I use basmati rice. I’m not a huge fan of fish sauce so in my version I substitute this with oyster sauce. Calimansi is also difficult to find here in the UK, so I substitute this with lemon instead. For extra depth of flavour I marinade chicken thighs overnight in garlic powder and soy sauce, this gives the chicken a richer brown during the initial browning.


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Arroz Caldo Recipe

Serves: 4
Preparation Time: 15 minutes
Marinating Time: 30 minutes – 12 hours
Cooking Time: 45 minutes

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 kg skinless chicken thighs
  • 2 tbsp garlic powder
  • 1 tbsp reduced salt soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp light olive oil
  • 12 cloves garlic finely chopped
  • 1 medium onion finely chopped
  • 4 cloves garlic crushed
  • thumb sized piece of ginger finely chopped
  • 1.5 l chicken stock
  • 200 g basmati rice
  • 1tsp finely ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp oyster sauce
  • 2 stalks spring onion finely chopped for serving
  • lemon slices for serving
  • boiled eggs for serving
  • fish sauce or additional oyster sauce for serving

METHOD

  1. Marinade the chicken: Cut 2 slashes into each chicken thigh, add them all to a large bowl and combine with the garlic powder and soy sauce. Cover and leave in the fridge for at least half an hour or overnight.
  2. Toast the garlic: Add the oil and chopped garlic to a large saucepan. Put over a medium heat and stir as it all heats up. Cook garlic until golden brown. Pour into a metal sieve and place the sieve on a plate lined with kitchen roll to absorb the excess oil.
  3. In the same pan brown the chicken thighs in batches on a high heat for around 5 minutes per side. Then set aside.
  4. In the same pan fry onions on medium heat until soft. Add in the crushed garlic and the ginger and cook for a further 2 minutes.
  5. Add in a little stock and stir well to de-glaze the bottom of the pan. Then add remaining stock, rice and the chicken and stir well. Simmer for 25 mins.
  6. Serve in bowls topped with a boiled egg, spring onion and toasted garlic garnish and a slice of lemon.

NOTES

  • Yes, the fried garlic garnish is a bit of a faff (peeling garlic is so tedious), but it definitely makes this dish pop – the effort is so worth it.
  • Tip: when peeling the garlic slice off the hard end of the clove (where the cloves join together in the bulb) then place the clove under the handle of your knife. Press down firmly on the handle to very slightly crush the clove. This will loosen the skin and make it easier to peel off.