Well it’s nearly Christmas so I’ve somewhat dropped the healthy Mediterranean diet and have reverted to traditional British food until the end of the year.

We had tree surgeons here today to take care of some dead trees and to remove some branches on the healthier ones. And they were hungry so I set to doing some easy baking. Everyone loves mince pies and sausage rolls and they’re simple to make when you have puff pastry in the fridge. I used a pack of quality sausages, removed the skins and simply shaped the sausage meat. Then I unrolled the pastry and rolled it round the meat.  Baked at around 220 degrees and voila!  Lovely warm sausage rolls to keep the hungriest tree surgeon in Birmingham happy.

Mince pies are so traditional at Christmas. Way back when mincemeat was first invented – probably 500 years ago – it actually contained meat. It also contained currants and other fruits but I’m not sure whether it was eaten as a savoury pie or a sweet one. Over the years I must have eaten hundreds, some with shortcrust pastry and some with puff pastry.  I love the flakiness of puff but only when they’re fresh because they do tend to go soft after a while, unless you heat them up again.

Either type of pie stays fresh for quite a while, but when I make them this long before Christmas I put them in the freezer.  In this case there weren’t many left after we’d all tucked in!

Mince pies are equally easy to make when you use magic pastry so we all enjoyed them when the tree removal was complete. The tree guys did an awesome job so we were very happy to reward them with these tasty treats.



Treats for the Carpet Cleaner!

Yesterday I had my local carpet cleaning guys round to spruce up the carpets and chairs. They did a great job so I wanted to reward them around lunchtime with a little Mediterannean-style snack.

Here’s something I cobbled together that works well with my low-carb diet but still makes a tasty mouthful. There’s a reasonable amount of fat because of the cheese, but personally I believe sugar does far more harm to the body than fat!

These little beauts take five minutes to put together, 10 minutes in the oven and you’re done. Made so simple because Sainsbury’s now do ready-sliced butternut squash slices – so, so handy!

You’ll need a pack of sliced butternut squash, or if that’s not available, just slice your own, but it’s a lot more fiddly!  They need to be quite thin, about 3mm preferably.  Take a jar of salsa – I use the cool variety but you can spice it up by using something hotter, or even add a chopped jalapeno. Then simply top with very thinly sliced cheese (I use strong cheddar). Or you can use grated cheese, or experiment with other cheeses, but I reckon you need one with a bit of flavour.

For bite-size, mini low-carb “pizzas” cut each squash slice into 6 squares and place on a baking sheet. Then add a small dollop of salsa and cover with a little cheese. I like to use enough cheese that it spreads out from the squash, leaving a lattice of cooked cheese around the edge.

Pop into the oven for about 8-10 minutes on 180 degrees. Leave for a minute or so before removing to a plate with a fish slice.

These are really delicious, but you could vary them by adding other delights such as crisp crumbled bacon or a little ham, a slice of pepperoni or absolutely anything that you could put on a pizza.

Of course, for a larger “pizza” that you can eat with a knife and fork, leave the squash slices whole and top to your heart’s content!

If you don’t like squash, then these work with slices of courgette, though you’ll get a slightly wetter “pizza”, albeit still delicious.

Well the carpet cleaners loved them!



Med-style Potato Salad

This is a potato salad that is totally different from the stuff you buy in a supermarket, full of mayonnaise and not particularly healthy.  If you like the fresh flavours delivered by a typical Mediterranean diet, then you’ll love this.

Scrub about 1/4 kg of new potatoes and cut into chunks. Cook in lightly salted water until tender.

Meanwhile heat a small amount of olive oil in a pan and gently fry a small sliced onion until soft. Add oregano and garlic to taste and fry gently for a further 2 minutes.

To the onion mixture add a good portion of skinned cherry tomatoes (pour boiling water over them in a bowl and leave for a minute until they’re easy to peel. Also add half a grilled and skinned red pepper, roughly chopped.

Simmer the mixture for about 10 minutes (you may need to add a little water or tomato juice of the cherry tomatoes don’t contain enough liquid.

Once everything is ready, mix it together and top with a few chopped olives.  Serve warm or cold.

This transforms barbequed meat, giving a lovely fresh taste and turning your event into a Mediterranean delight!

Med-style Roast Vegetables

In a way this isn’t that far removed from grilled vegetables, but it tastes completely different and at the moment is my very favourite everyday recipe.  Many thanks to my friend Brad who introduced me to this delicious way of serving mixed vegetables. Brad is a great cook, though by trade he’s a tree surgeon with his own company called

For this recipe you need a variety of vegetables and I include some that may not be used in a typical Mediterranean home. The ingredients will vary depending on the time of year as during the winter I would include more root vegetables.

But since it’s June as I write, I’ve been preparing my roast vegetables using new potatoes (preferably Jersey), sweet potatoes and carrots as the base. I preheat the oven to about 180 degrees and heat my roasting pan while I prepare the veggies.  Scrub them and cut into pieces about half an inch across.  Take a large mixing bowl and add some virgin olive oil, then toss the root vegetables in the oil before spreading out in the hot pan.

Roast these for around 10 minutes or so whilst you prepare the remaining vegetables.

You can choose any seasonal vegetables, but I include onion, mushrooms, courgettes, peppers of any colour and asparagus.  Again cut them into half inch pieces and toss them in olive oil.

Now I fry the second batch of vegetables for a few minutes to soften a little and just start to get a brown colour. Then add them into the pan with the root vegetables and season them all with salt and pepper. It’s best if there’s enough room to make a single layer so they brown nicely rather than steaming.

Leave in the oven a further 10 to 15 minutes, turning occasionally until everything is nicely browned.

These roast vegetables go beautifully with a nice steak, chicken or even sausages. Makes a healthy and filling meal.




Mediterranean Vegetable Platter

This !isn’t a recipe blog but more a collection of ideas for eating and living in a way that is reminiscent of the Mediterranean area. I’ve been reading just today that eating more healthy fats – eg olive oil – can actually help you lose weight.

One of the most simple but delicious meals that I have whenever we visit Spain is a vegetable platter. It’s really nice to have if you’ve been eating too much heavy food or been overdoing it with sugar or alcohol!

Often I make this simple dish in the UK, but I tend to add meat to make it into a more substantial meal – maybe a chicken breast or a salmon fillet.

All I do is take a selection of suitable vegetables and slice them about 1/4″ wide. I generally cut vegetables across, but something like courgettes can be cut at an angle to make each slice that much bigger. I use aubergine, onion (sliced a bit thinner), courgettes, mushrooms, peppers, whole asparagus and halved large tomates.

Place all the veggies into a large mixing bowl and add a glug of olive oil. Then mix it all together until all the vegetables are well covered in the oil. This seems to be a better method than dribbling oil over them, since it ensures they are lightly but well covered.

Now arrange the vegetables on a grill pan. I find that courgettes take the longest, so I give them a brief grilling before adding peppers and onions. After a few more minutes I add the rest of the vegetables and grill everything on both sides until golden.

I think the Spanish dribble more olive oil over the cooked veggies, but I’m not sure whether they coat them before grilling. I’ve tried to grill them without oil but they tend to dry out, so the method above works for me.

Serve nicely spaced on a platter and you could add a wedge of lemon.

It’s certainly not a complicated way to serve vegetables and only takes about 20 minutes to cook, but somehow this dish has the flavours and feel of the Med and of course it’s very healthy too.

I don’t know whether this type of dish would be served all over Spain but it’s certainly popular in the province of Alicante, where we holiday several times a year.