article-1131711-033BAEF3000005DC-819_468x286This is a perfect soup for midweek when you are in need of something comforting, satisfying and full of goodness. The recipe makes plenty, so stick the leftovers in the freezer, divided into individual portions, then defrost on the day you know you’ll need an instant meal.

Preparation time: 20 minutes

Cooking time: 30 minutes

Serves: 6-8


2 tbsp olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

200g/7oz smoked bacon, cut into thin strips

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

2 carrots, peeled and finely diced

2 stalks of celery, thinly sliced

1 courgette, finely diced

Quarter of a savoy cabbage, finely sliced

400g/14oz tin borlotti, cannellini or mixed beans, drained

400g/14oz tin chopped tomatoes

1 tbsp tomato puree

1 litre/35floz/4 ¾ cups chicken stock

100g/3½oz small pasta shapes

6 tbsp good quality green pesto

Parmesan shavings to serve


Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan and saute the onion, bacon, garlic, carrot and celery for about 15 minutes, until the vegetables are softened but not coloured.


Add the courgette, cabbage, tinned beans, chopped tomatoes, tomato puree, chicken stock and pasta.  Bring to the simmer. Cook for 15 minutes and then season with salt and pepper.
Serve into bowls and finish by adding a spoonful of pesto in the centre of each one, and shave over some parmesan cheese and serve.



For a vegetarian version of this soup – the smoked bacon can be left out all together and vegetable stock used instead of chicken stock. You could add a pinch of smoked paprika when cooking the soup to give the smokiness the bacon was providing.

photography: Gareth Morgans 

super shepherds pie

Super Shepherds PieSHEPHERDSPIE


The addition of lots of tasty vegetables and some tinned beans gives a stack of hidden goodness and a super delicious twist to this classic one-pot supper.


Serves 4-6




1 tbsp sunflower oil

1 large leek, diced

2 carrots, grated

4-500g minced lamb

2 tablespoons tomato puree

2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce

1 bay leaf

500ml beef stock

400g tin haricot or cannellini beans, drained

200g broccoli, cut into small pieces

900g mixed weight of peeled potatoes, parsnip and sweet potatoes (the quantity of each is up to you)

50g butter

up to 3 tablespoons milk 



Heat the oil in a large saucepan and gently cook the leeks and carrot for a few minutes. Increase the heat and add the lamb. Cook until browned, tipping out any excess fat. Stir in the tomato puree, Worcester sauce, bay leaf, stock, and beans. Stir well and bring to a simmer.


Cover with a lid and cook for 20 minutes. Remove the lid, stir in the broccoli and then cook with the lid off for a further 20-25 minutes until the sauce has thickened.


Meanwhile, cut the root vegetables into chunks, removing the tough core from the parsnip, and cutting the potatoes slightly smaller than the other vegetables (they usually take a little longer to cook than the others). Place in a pan of boiling water and cook for about 10-15 minutes, until tender. Drain, and mash with the butter and milk.


Pre-heat the oven to 180C/160C fan ovens/gas 4.


Place the shepherds pie filling in an ovenproof dish, top with the mash and bake for 20-25 minutes, if cooking straight away. If chilling in the fridge, add a further 10 minutes to the cooking time.


Extremely Simple Beef and Ale Casserole

I can’t bear this cold weather again. I keep thinking we are heading for some warmer day’s but yet again – today is a chilly one. I have just raided the freezer and seen I have some stewing beef needing to be used, so tonight we will be having my failsafe casserole for dinner. It’s from my In the Mood for Food book, under the Comfort food chapter – and that’s exactly what it is. A hug in the form of a casserole.


The best thing about this casserole is that there is virtually nothing to do. Fry a few onions, add the rest of the casserole ingredients and let it cook while you get on with your jobs, or simply do absolutely nothing! The only bit of effort required is to throw together the fluffy dumplings. Tuck into the casserole either just as it is or with some buttery cabbage or curly kale.

takes 2 hours to cook

in the mood for a drink? a pale ale is ideal

serves four

for the casserole
2 tablespoons sunflower or vegetable oil
2 large onions, thickly sliced
750g braising steak, cut into 2–3cm cubes
3 tablespoons plain flour
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 sticks of celery, sliced
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
2 tablespoons demerara sugar
2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons Worcestershire sauce
2 tablespoons tomato purée
500ml ale

for the dumplings

75g self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
75g fresh white breadcrumbs
75g butter, cubed
1 tbsp hot horseradish sauce
2 teaspoons thyme leaves
1 egg, lightly beaten
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 160ºC/fan 140ºC/gas 2–3.

Heat the oil in a large casserole and add the onion. Cook until they are starting to colour.

Toss the beef in the flour and season well with salt and pepper. This can either be done in a bowl or, to make the job really easy, toss together in a large freezer bag. Add to the casserole with all of the remaining casserole ingredients. Stir to mix everything together, and then bring to the boil. Cover with a lid and place in the oven for 11/2 hours.

When the casserole is close to the end of the cooking time, you can make the dumplings. Place the flour, breadcrumbs and butter in a food processor and blitz to a crumb consistency. Add the horseradish, thyme, egg and seasoning. Briefly blitz until the mixture forms a fairly moist dough. Using floured hands, shape the dough into eight balls.

After 11/2 hours, remove the casserole from the oven and sit the dumplings on top of the meat. Sprinkle their tops with a few flakes of salt and return the casserole to the oven for a further 30 minutes, without the lid this time.

Serve the casserole just as it is or with some lovely buttery cabbage or curly kale.


You don’t have to make the dumplings to go with the casserole, mash or baked potatoes are a great accompaniment. Alternatively, if you want to transform the casserole into a pie, bake for 11/2 hours, transfer to a pie dish and top with ready-rolled puff or shortcrust pastry. Brush with a little milk or egg yolk and bake at 200ºC/fan 180ºC/gas 6 for 25 to 30 minutes until golden.

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