Catalan Fish Casserole


This dish was a bit of an experiment but I’m delighted with how it turned out …

I have mild excema and in an attempt to improve it I went to see a nutritionist last year as recommended by Mary B.  Her name is Gaye Godkin and she is excellent, I’m not so excellent though – I followed her recommendations (which really were not difficult) for some time but I’ve slipped back into my old ways of late so I must start eating more sensibly again!

She recently posted this recipe on her Facebook page – though with no instructions or measurements just basically ‘made a sauce with x y z then added a bit of this and that’.  It looked lovely though and I fancied something light – obviously I added some wine and bread to my meal, not very light or healthy but they did compliment the dish perfectly 🙂

I gave it a go – below is what I used, it was very easy, and really really tasty. I didn’t use chickpeas on this occasion – Colin had a bad experience with them recently and he’s not over it yet, but I might slip them in next time!

It was my first time using fennel (I had to google how to chop and prepare it… the shame).  I wasn’t sure about it, I’m not normally mad on aniseed so I only used about 1/3 of a bulb, but there was not a strong flavour from it in the final dish so I’d definitely add more the next time!  The guy in front of me in the supermarket queue got very excited when he saw it, told me how much he loves fennel and that he would often eat it raw. I’m not quite there yet….


  • 1 – 1.5 Tin Tomatoes
  • Tomato Puree
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • 1 stock cube (I used chicken but I guess veg or fish would be better!)
  • 1/2 Fennel Bulb chopped
  • 2 Carrots chopped
  • 2 small onions (or 1 large) chopped
  • 1 celery stalk chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves chopped or crushed – my crusher wouldn’t work 😦
  • Coriander
  • Parsley
  • Chorizo/Salami/Seranno ham – a few slices
  • 10-12 raw shelled tiger prawns
  • 1 fillet cod – cut into bite sized pieces
  • 1 fillet salmon – cut into bite sized pieces or any fish you have
  • 1 tin butter beans (or 1/2 tin butter beans 1/2 tin of chick peas)
  • sweet paprika
  1. Saute the onion and add the carrot, fennel, 2 cloves of garlic and celery – fry for another few minutes
  2. Add the tin of tomatoes and about 300-400ml of stock (depending on how thick you want the sauce), 2 tsps of tomato puree and 1/2 tsp of sugar
  3. Simmer until veg is cooked then blend to a smooth sauce.
  4. Fry off the chorizo or whatever you are using and add it in with the butter beans and/or chick peas, let it simmer for another few minutes before adding the fish and prawns along with the last clove of garlic, parsley, corriander and fennel leaves plus some sweet paprika (I forgot to add this!).  Simmer for another 5-10 minutes or until fish is cooked.

Mary’s Bolognese Sauce

It was my Mam’s birthday on 28th September so I took the trip back to Dublin for the occasion.

We had a lovely dinner out with the family, followed by a mini-pub crawl which included crashing my friend Michaela’s hen party, leading to an unfortunately unsuccessful search for a stripper and topped off by a birthday Jaegar-bomb bought by Eddie.

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Anyway, a good night was had by all, and after a walk on Sandymount strand to let Toby stretch his little dog legs and try to seduce some lady dogs (also unsuccessful) all traces of hangovers disappeared.  I made dinner on Sunday evening and in return, on Monday Mam kindly agreed to show me how to make lasagne.

Basically she makes a massive amount of Bolognese Sauce and uses half of it for the lasagne.  I mentioned before that there is alot of guess work in her cooking, including a certain amount of boiling over, forgetting about things etc etc, and yet somehow it all tastes delicious. It’s not fair.

That is why the below is a bit vague… but here it goes. I also include a photo from her old recipe books where the original recipe can be found, but this has of course been altered over the years…

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  • 2 Carrot
  • 1 Onion
  • 3 Celery
  • 2 Garlic
  • Bacon/salami
  • Oregano
  • 5 Tin Tomato
  • Dash of Red wine
  • Tomato Puree
  • 800kg Mince

This made about 4 servings of Bolognese and 1 large lasagna – it is currently frozen so I’ll let you know how it tastes when it’s been cooked!

  1. Chop the carrot, onion, celery and garlic and gently saute with the bacon for a few minutes.
  2. Add the tins of tomatoes, salt and pepper and simmer gently until the veg is tender.  Add 1/2 teaspoon of sugar per tin of tomatoes
  3. Blend the sauce (or if you prefer, blend 1/2 the sauce so that it is still a bit chunky) using a hand blender.  Keep some aside to use in other dishes instead of plain tinned tomatoes if you have enough, I guess you can freeze it too!


4. Meanwhile, fry the mince with some tomato puree and add to the sauce along with the red wine, salt and pepper.


5. Simmer very gently for about an hour, don’t stir! Taste the sauce as you go and if necessary add a veg stock cube for extra flavour  (this is what I’m talking about with the vagueness….)

My first attempt was ok.

It’s hard to get good quality mince in Belgium, it’s usually pure beef (so no fat = not much flavour) or a mixture of beef and pork, so I’m sure with a good quality mince it would make the difference.

Also I think I added too many tins of tomatoes – I had extra sauce (about 400ml which I froze for future), and when I tasted the sauce before adding the last tin there was a lovely flavour, especially from the chorizo, but that seemed to get last in the end dish.  I will play around with it the next time and let you know what happens!

My finished product (I have to get better at taking photos of food, this looks a bit sad).

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Moroccan Lamb Tagine

My first Tagine!!!

Albeit made in a saucepan.  Another one that would work better in a Le Creuset pot (Santa…..) or indeed an actual tagine.

It was so tasty that I have already bought some more lamb and stuck it in the freezer for the next time.

This is from Brenda Costigan’s book – 100 Favourite Recipes

Lamb and dry marinade

  • 800-900g bite-sized chunks of lean lamb cut from the soulder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1-2 teasponns grated fresh ginger
  • 1/2 teaspoon paprika
  • 1medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, chopped
  • 1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh coriander
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper


  • 3-4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic chopped
  • 300ml vegetable stock
  • 1 x 400g tinned tomatoes
  • 1 tablespoon tomato puree
  • 1-2 thin strips of orange peel, no white pith
  • 50g ready to eat apricots
  • 50g ready to eat prunes (stoneless)

To serve

  • 75g whole blanched almonds
  • 1-2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

Couscous Pilaf

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 small onion chopped
  • 1 clove garlic chopped
  • 225g couscous
  • salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 300ml chicken or veg stock
  1. Put the lamb pieces into a bowl.  In a separate bowl, combine all the dry marinade ingredients and mix well.  Stir the marinade into the lamb, coating well.  Cover and leave for at least 30 minutes, preferably longer (up to 3 hours).  If keeping overnight, put in the fridge.
  2. To make the sauce, heat the olive oil in a frying pan and fry the onion and garlic for 1-3 minutes, until soft.  Lift out and transfer to a saucepan or casserole
  3. Fry the lamb (including the dry marinade) in small batches until the meat is lightly browned, then transfer to the saucepan.  Add all the remaining sauce ingredients to the saucepan and bring to the boil.
  4. Cover with a lid and simmer gently for about 1 hour, or until the lamb is tender, reducing the heat if necessary.
  5. Before serving, discard the orange peel.  Fry the almonds until golden in a little olive oil , drain and stir into the stew along with the fresh mint.  Serve with cooked basmati rice or couscous pilaf.

To make the Couscous Pilaf

  1. Heat the oil in a saucepan.  Add the onion and garlic and cook for 1-2 minutes, until soft.  Add the couscous, stir through and then pour in the stock.  Season with salt and pepper.
  2. Cover with a lid and cook gently for another few minutes, stirring occasionally, until heated through, ten take off the heat and leave, covered, until the couscous swells.
  3. After about 5 minutes or so it should be ready to serve.  Fluff up with a fork to break up any clumps.


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Chilli Con Carne

Another great one pot dish…

And another one that tastes better the day after.  I made this 2 years in a row for our annual Ardennes January trip and so far, nobody has come down with food poisoning = result.

It’s the only chilli I’ve ever made, our kitchen cupboard consists of a few tins of chilli flavoured beans that Colin continues to buy and never use (ok he used them once, I’ll be in trouble if I don’t admit that), but to be honest I don’t even know how to use them.

And this recipe is ridiculously easy to make – I have discovered that once you make the effort to buy all the fancy herbs and spices then it’s so easy to make tons of different dishes.

2 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
1kg/2¼lb lean beef mince – (I’ve just seen the Hairy Bikers use 1/2 mince 1/2 chopped beef to give it a ‘luxurious’ texture, might try that next time!!!)
250ml/9fl oz red wine
2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
3 tbsp tomato purée
2 red chillies, thinly sliced, or 3-4 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 stick cinnamon
good shake of Worcestershire sauce
1 beef stock cube
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 x 400g can red kidney beans, rinsed and drained
1 large bunch coriander leaves, roughly chopped
wedges of lime, to serve

  1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan with a lid and fry the onion and garlic until softened. Increase the heat and add the mince, cooking quickly until browned and breaking down any chunks of meat with a wooden spoon.
  2. Pour in the red wine and boil for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Stir in the tinned tomatoes, tomato purée, fresh chilli or chilli flakes, cumin, coriander, cinnamon, and Worcestershire sauce and crumble in the stock cube.
  4. Season well with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bring to a simmer, cover with a lid and cook over a gentle heat for about 50 minutes to 1 hour, stirring occasionally until the mixture is rich and thickened.
  5. Add the kidney beans and fresh coriander. Cook for a further ten minutes, uncovered, before removing from the heat, adding any extra seasoning if necessary.
  6. I usually serve with baked potatoes – easiest thing to do for a large group but you could also include with rice, guacamole, sour cream and a big green salad.
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Beef Bourguignon with redcurrant and rosemary

So this is a little more in keeping with the theme of the blog…

It was sent to me by Mary B – I will copy and paste her words below – they have some extra advice! However I know that she made it for her own version of Come Dine with Me.  I don’t think it won but I know it definitely got high marks.

I’ve made it a couple of times, once in Gill’s Le Creuset pot and once in a regular pot (after Gill moved back to Ireland).  It definitely benefits from the heavier pot – and like most of these dishes it’s even nicer the second day.

Serves 4
pre heat oven to 150 C
Gas Mark 3

1 Kg diced beef
2 tablesp plain flour seasoned gererously with salt and pepper
250 ml of red wine (Burgundy) or whatever plonk…. u have ….
1 large onion fincely diced
1 Tablsp of Olive oil
150 grams of lardons of bacon –  Streaky rashers
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs of rosemary
3 sprigs thyme
1 ttsp tomatoe puree
1 420 grm of tomatoes
1 tablespoon redcurrant jelly  (this is the added extra which makes it nicer)
300 ml beef stock (NICE STOCK CUBE)
baby button mushrooms  150 grm
pearl onions
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper.

The great thing about this recipe is that it gets better after a day or two so make it in advance for stress-free entertaining.  It will also freeze well. Better to add the mushrooms and pearl onions after you have defrosted it and when you are reheating It should be ready to eat in 30 mins…


Toss the meat in lightly seasoned flour.  Fry in small batches until brown, transferring to a large place.  De-glaze the pan by adding the red wine and allowing it to come to the boil, stirring the bottom of the pan to release any crusty bits on the bottom: we want these as they are full of flavour.

In a large saucepan or ovenproof casserole dish, cook the onion in olive oil until soft and translucent, then add the bacon lardons and garlic.  Continue to cook until the bacon picks up a little colour.  Add the browned meat, along with the de-glazed pan juices, half the herbs, (these dont need to be chopped just throw them in), the tomatoe puree, tinned tomatoes, the redcurrant jelly and enough beef stock to cover the meat by 4 cm.  Bring to simmering point, season well and either bake in the oven or continue to simmer on a very low heat for on hour.  Remove from the oven, discard the herbs, add the mushrooms and perl onions along with the remaining chopped herbs and cook for a further 30 minutes.  Taste to ensure the meat is tender and seasoning is correct.

I cook in advance up to cook in oven and leave to cool and put in fridge.  On the evening of serving add the mushrooms and cook for 1/2 hour.

Enjoy and serve with creamed spuds ….. saute the chopped scallions or spring onions in butter and add to potatoes and heat milk and add it too.  Do this just before serving, I let the spuds dry out too much ….. too much wine.

Talk soon,

Love Mom


I have no photos of the dish, or her Come Dine with me Experience – so here she is making a snow angel: