Advent Calendar 9: Goulash

My mum makes phenomenal goulash. When I was growing up, on a sunday evening, we would gather as a family in the lounge to watch some silly tv, chat about our day and eat a simple meal. We were a busy family (my brother plays sports, my mum was a teacher…) so there usually wasn’t time for a traditional roast dinner. We often had delicious jacket potatoes with varied toppings and left overs. However if more time was available, mum would whip up a delicious rich beefy goulash, let it cook for a couple of hours, and serve it with boiled potatoes and sour cream. Yum.

This recipe of hungarian origin is easy to throw together. Like all good beef stews, it’s a  little bit of chopping, and a whole lot of leaving it alone to bubble and brew for a couple of hours. I know I’ve put several beef stews in this advent calendar, but these warming, hearty dishes are perfect for the winter season. They’re great crowd pleasers and show stoppers for impromptu entertaining, perfect meals to fit other tasks like card writing and gift wrapping around, and for a little bit of effort you get a lot a reward. They’re also exactly what I’m eating right now, and they make me think of spending time with family, and therefore christmas.


400g stewing beef (I used shin)
2 onions
2 peppers (one green, one red if you have them)
Handful of flour
2tbsp tomato purée
2tbsp paprika
1 tin chopped tomatoes
75ml wine (red or white work)
300ml beef stock
Salt and pepper

Chop up the beef into one inch cubes.

In a large pan, brown the meat. Remove it from the pan and add the chopped vegetables.

Soften the veg for about five minutes or until the onions are sweated. Add the flour, purée, wine, paprika and seasoning and stir through to make a loose paste.

Put the meat back, then add the tomatoes and stock. Give the stew a good stir to combine all the ingredients.

If your pot is ovenproof, pop the lid on and bake in the oven at 180c for 1 1/2-2 hours. Otherwise, you can cook the whole dish on the hob, covered, for the same amount of time, removing the lid for the final 20-30 minutes to allow the sauce to thicken.

Serve will mountains of fluffy mash, sour cream, and sprinkles of paprika.

I’ll add photos of this delicious redder-than-red stew asap. I hope you’ll give it a go!

Natasha x


Advent Calendar 8: Stoverij

Hasn’t the weather turned super chilly of late? All I want to eat is warming soups and stews and live under a duvet. Alas, I have to, you know, work and such, so this ideal is not feasible 24-7, but eat least when I have the time I can whip up something warming and delicious.

Stoverij is a belgian comfort and/or drunk food that is well loved. It’s traditionally served with chips, which makes it probably the best stew in the world. It’s also full of rich beef, beer and chocolate. Does it get any better?


  • 1 carrot
  • 1 leek
  • 1 small onion
  • 400g stewing beef, cut into inch cubes
  • handful of plain flour
  • knob of butter
  • salt and pepper
  • 1 tbsp dried thyme
  • 1tbsp brown sugar
  • 500ml ale
  • Beef stock cube
  • 25g dark chocolate

Heat some oil in a pan, and brown the beef in 2-4 batches. Try not to over-crowd the pan, or the beef will stew rather than brown off nicely.


Chop the veg into small pieces and fry off in the butter for approximately five minutes, or until soft.

Sprinkle over the flour, sugar, seasonings and herbs. Deglaze the pan with a glut of the beer and stir the ingredients through.

Crumble in the stock cube, add the rest of the beer and return the meat to the pan. Stir through, then cover and lower the temperature pretty much as low as it will go. Cook for 2 hours until the meat is soft and the sauce thick. If your sauce isn’t thick enough, remove the lid, raise the heat and give it a good blast for 10-30 minutes.

Finish with the chocolate, stirring it into the sauce to melt it down. This will leave you with a rich, cocoa scented stew. Serve with chips if you want to go full Belgian, or mash and vegetables.


I love this stew- it is pure and indulgent comfort food. It goes great with any veg (particularly my candied carrots) and potatoes, and the silky, rich gravy is addictive. If you haven’t, for any reason, access to beer, you can replace it with stock, cider or wine, though this will affect the flavour/authenticity.

Stay warm, kittens!


Advent Calendar 6 and 7: Christmas Chutney and Cranberry-Red Onion Marmalade

It doesn’t get much more festive than Cranberries. They’re in season over the festive period, they’re santa-suit red and they taste phenomenal with meats and cheeses- staples in many a Christmas feast. They also have a very high pectin count, meaning they make excellent additions to preserves, helping them to set beautifully.

Cranberry sauce is great and all, but we can do better at SWB this year. Plus, a good chutney or savoury marmalade is a fabulous addition to any cheeseboard or buffet. Here are two of my Christmastime favourites I’m making up for my own Christmas dinner, plus extra for gifts.

Christmas Chutney

This recipe is childsplay to throw together and packs a great flavour punch. It goes great with sharp cheeses or meats in sandwiches, and can be made, start to finish, in under 45 minutes., including any chopping.

  • 400g cranberries
  • 400g cherry tomatoes (you can use regular tomatoes, just chop them up first)
  • 1 medium red onion
  • 1/2tsp ground black pepper
  • 1/2tsp ground ginger
  • 1/2tsp ground allspice
  • Pinch of salt
  • 200g light muscovado sugar
  • 100ml cider vinegar

Chop the onion into rough slices.

Pop the cranberries, onion and tomatoes into a saucepan over a low heat, and heat for 10 minutes, until the berries start to pop.

Add all the remaining ingredients and stir to combine and dissolve the sugar.

Simmer the chutney for 15-25 minutes until the chutney is combined and pulpy.

Pot into sterilised jars, or store in the fridge.

IMG_6848Next up is a delicious red onion marmalade with the festive twist. If you don’t want to use the cranberries, use an extra 400g of onions instead for a true red onion marmalade.

Cranberry and Red Onion Marmalade

  • 500g red onions
  • Juice of an orange
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • 1/2 tsp ground gunger
  • 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp ground coriander
  • 200g dark muscovado sugar
  • 150ml ruby port
  • 100ml cider vinegar
  • 400g cranberries

In a glug of oil, fry the onions off until translucent.

Add the orange juice, port, vinegar, sugar and all the spices. Stir through to combine and dissolve the sugar.

Simmer the mixture gently for 35-40 minutes. The mixture should be nice and syrupy by this point.

Chuck in the cranberries and turn up the heat a little. Cook for a further 15-20 minutes, until all the berries have popped and the mixture is nice and thick.

Pot into sterilised jars and store in the fridge.




Advent Calendar 2: Beef and Apple Slowcooker Stew

This recipe is a simple winter warmer that anyone who is old enough to operate a frying pan and use a kitchen knife can make. And if you fall into the younger brackets of that age group, I think you should make it. Here’s why.

Christmas is the time of year that children have oodles of time on their hands, and weary students trundle home for a break from their studies. It’s the time of year that parents break the bank to spoil their loved ones, and also pick back up the full time care of their children, no questions asked. To have one of their own offer to take over the cooking, even for just one meal, would be a huge help to them and greatly appreciated.

All you will need to make this delicious and hearty stew (beyond the ingredients) is a frying pan, a knife and a slow cooker, or an ovenproof lidded saucepan. The measurements below are for a slow cooked meal. If you don’t have access to a slow cooker, reduce the cooking time to two hours, and add at least an extra litre of water.

Beef and Apple Stew

  • 400g stewing beef (shin is excellent in this dish, but any tougher cut will work fine)
  • 1 onion
  • 3 large carrots
  • 1 eating apple
  • ½ tbsp mixed herbs or a bouquet garni
  • 2 stock cubes (beef or vegetable)
  • 500ml cider
  • 1tbsp cornflour

If your beef isn’t already in bitesize chunks, cut it up. Then, brown it in a frying pan, taking care not to overcrowd the pan. You want nice caramel colouration on all sides of the pieces. Once browned, pop the cooked beef into the pot of your slow cooker.



Core the apple, and chop it and the other veg into bite size pieces. Add them to the pot and mix them into the beef pieces.

Sprinkle over the herbs, crumble in the stock cubes and add plenty of salt and pepper.

Pour over the cider and mix the ingredients together. This may seem like a rather small amount of liquid, but so long as the liquid is about half as deep as the whole mixture, you should be fine.

Pop the lid on the slow cooker and turn it on to ‘high’. Cook for 3 hours.


Mix the cornflour with a drizzle of water until a paste is formed. Add this to your stew and mix through thoroughly. Recover the pot and cook for a further two hours. (It bears mentioning that this would be very early to add a thickener like cornflour in most recipes, but in slowcooking so little moisture is lost that its fine to add the flour now. It won’t thicken the sauce too much- it’ll just help it become more gravy-like.)

Serve with mashed potatoes, braised leeks and any other veg you fancy.

This recipe is pretty flexible- it would work very well with pork or rose veal, and you can replace the cider with beer or water if you like. You can also feel free to add other vegetables, or reduce the beef and up the veg content.

The final product, after barely half an hour of actual labour, is aromatic and flavoursome. The cider gives tart fruitiness, while the beef makes it intensely savoury and satisfying. The apple will likely melt away to thicken the gravy, leave the inoffensive peel to blend in with the other veg. If you want to be pedantic and peel your apples, then do, but it really isnt necesscary.

So there you have it- an incredibly easy and tasty meal to warm your cockles this winter.


My Chilli con Carne

I love Texmex food- I think you’d be hard pushed to find anyone who doesn’t at least like the stuff. Comforting rice or corn, filling, delicious meat, rich tomatoey sauces and warming spice; Tex Mex is the real deal, and great comfort food. I love how hearty and filling it is, yet how light and summery those same flavours can be.

I hated spicy food growing up, and I was the fussiest eater known to man. I started growing out of it, weirdly, when I got my first rats. I’d buy vegetables for them and think, hey, if it’s good enough for them… and once the first hurdle was passed my attitude changed. When it came to new foods I figured, hey, if I don’t like it, I won’t eat any more of it. I’m sure glad I became more adventurous, even if I did miss years of delicious veggies and tasty spicy meals. My mum did most of the cooking when I was a kid, but both my parents could cook a really hearty chilli, usually out of a repurposed Spag Bol. I love my bolognese too much to change it, except into a lasagne, so these days when I cook my super tasty and aromatic chilli, it’s from scratch and to purpose.

I’m pretty sure quote unquote “traditional” chilli doesn’t have red kidney beans in it, but mine does. My parents’ always did, and I love the buttery, nutty texture of the beans. It probably also doesn’t have fresh carrots, or peppers, but again, my ‘family’ recipe always had carrots in from the bolognese sauce, and I love the colour and flavour the fresh peppers bring to the dish. Also, you know, vegetables. They’re kinda good for you and stuff. Looking at the recipe below, there are loads of ingredients, yes, but this is really a simple dish to make, promise.

Chilli Con Carne

  • 2 medium onions
  • 4 medium carrots
  • 2 peppers (green and red, or red and yellow… two different ones!)
  • Splash of olive oil
  • 500g minced beef
  • 1-2tsp chilli powder
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • A smidge of cayenne pepper- no more than a 1/4 tsp
  • 1 1/2 tsp oregano
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 tin/400g chopped tomatoes
  • 2 beef stock cubes dissolved in 1 1/2 mugs of boiling water (approximately 300ml), or the same of strong beef stock
  • 1 tin/400g kidney beans

Chop your onions and get them sweating in the oil over the medium to high heat.

Next chop your carrots into half moons, adding to the pan as you go.

Finally chop up your peppers and add them to the mix. Sweat the vegetables off together for about 5-7 minutes, making sure they don’t catch.

Measure out your spices- use your favourite chilli powder, and go as hot as you dare. This is also a good time to put the kettle on. Add the spices to the pan and stir them through the vegetables over the heat to warm them.

Add your meat and with the spoon break it up, turning it through the vegetables as it browns. Add a pinch of salt and a couple of pepper.

Dissolve the stock in the water. Add the tomatoes to the pan and rinse the tin out with a splash of stock. Add this to the pan, followed by the rest of the stock. Stir through.

Let the mixture simmer for 20-30 minutes, checking it and stirring it every 10-15 minutes to ensure it doesn’t catch. Taste and adjust the seasoning (chilli, salt and pepper) to taste.

When the mixture is nearly reduced enough, drain and rinse your beans and stir them into the sauce. Cook for a further 5-10 minutes.

Serve with rice or a jacket potato, plenty of cheese and sour cream.


This Chilli is so rich and flavoursome and comforting I can eat it cold in sandwiches. It’s also a great filling for quesadillas and stuffed peppers, and scrummy on nachos. It’s such a joy to make because it’s so easy- all the stages of prep fit in to one another so perfectly and it doesn’t take too long to thicken and finish. This is a great recipe for students, newbie cooks, those feeding hungry kids and teens and even for a single career-girl in her mid twenties like me- extra portions freeze perfectly. This recipe yields a good five portions, seven more modest ones, so it’s a lovely thing to throw together for friends for a chilled out tea together. Like I said earlier in the post, I think the bright spice flavours make this lovely for summer (whether on the jacket or in lettuce wraps!) yet warm and cosy for winter (with lots of rice or potatoes). Of course, it’s easy to customise too- you can swap the beef out for turkey mince or Quorn mince for a start. If you love garlic, feel free to add some minced cloves in with the onions, and you can replace the dried chilli powder for two fresh chillies, or add both for a really potent mix.



Turkey in Creamy Sage and Leek sauce.

I like to eat simple, tasty food. If it reheats well, all the better, as batch cooking is the way to go. I also like eating Turkey a lot, if you hadn’t noticed. This recipe is something I make all the time with little fuss. It’s simple enough for a midweek meal, ‘dressy’ enough to serve to your in laws or guests, and so darn delicious my mother requested it for her Birthday dinner.

If you were here in December and liked the Boxing Day Pie recipe, you’ll like this dish. If the pie was the short martini, then this recipe is the long highball. They’re very similar in their make up, which is no accident. I wanted to enjoy the same delicious flavours from the pie, but in a quicker, easier way. I also don’t keep crisps in the house as the matter of course, so a recipe I could pull together from things I *do* keep in the house on a regular basis was a plus.

Turkey in Creamy Sage and Leek sauce

  • 400g-500g turkey breast meat
  • 2-3 leeks
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 healthy bunch fresh sage
  • 2 stock cubes
  • knob of butter
  • 300ml creme fraiche or double cream
  • 1 huge glass of white wine
  • salt and pepper

IMG_4522If your turkey isn’t already cooked (and this is a great recipe to use up cooked meat), brown the pieces in your pan to seal them for a few minutes then set aside.

Finely chop your leeks (all of the white part, and as much of the green top as you like) and onion and sweat them off in the butter over a medium heat.

Roughly chop your sage, stalks too if you like, and add to the pot. Stir them through the other vegetables quickly.

Now add everything else (wine, creme fraiche, turkey, crumbled stock cubes and a pinch of salt and generous twists of pepper) and stir to combine over the heat.

Let the delicious mixture cook for 15-20 minutes, or until the mixture is a little reduced and yellowed, and the turkey is cooked through. Taste, and adjust the seasoning if needed.

Serve with mashed potatoes and seasonal vegetables.


This recipe is child’s play, and from prep to finish, including the accompaniments, shouldn’t take more than 50 minutes. This much meat makes four generous portions of mixture, and it reheats well. You may need to add a drop of water when reheating it to loosen off the sauce again. It’s so flavoursome and delicious, the sauce will complement any vegetable, so it’s great for getting fussy eaters (*cough* me *cough) to eat their greens.

Of course, this recipe would work with any white meat, and a clove or to of garlic sweated with the onions wouldn’t hurt, if you are that way inclined. You can also substitute the wine for mead or cider if you are short of adult grape juice.

However you eat it, enjoy it!


BEDA: 5 tips for a stress-free feast

Happy Easter!

Today being Easter Sunday, many of us will be sitting down to a mighty meal with our loved ones. Those who are merely guests, spare a thought for the chef today, and any day where they have to cook for more than a couple of hungry folks.

In truth, a roast dinner is not a difficult meal to cook. There are no special techniques that need to be employed- a novice could cook a truly spectacular roast if they followed a few simple steps. I grew up with a fantastic cook (my mum), and feel I learnt from the best, so it’s only fair that I spread the joy on this day of celebration.

The tips herein apply to any big meal really, but particularly roast dinners, and more so the large kind.


1: Itinerary

This can be done days in advance, as soon as you know what you want to be eating. Firstly, find out how long you need to cook your meat for, at what temperature. On a supermarket joint, this will be on the packet, but consult your butcher, or check online. For example, whole turkeys and/or crowns needs to be cooked in foil for 90 minutes, plus 20 minutes per kilo, with the first 30 minutes at 220c, then the rest at 180c, and the foil removed for the last 30 minutes.

Secondly, work out how long your side dishes take to cook- at least one hour for roast potatoes, plus a ten minute parboil, plus peeling and chopping, for example.

When you know when you intend to be eating, you can literally plan your day like a calendar entry- meat goes in at this time, gets turned down at this time, potatoes on at another time etc etc until finally- food up time! A little while spent being organised, plus a timer, will mean you get to spend more time enjoying your day rather than stressing in the kitchen.


2: Prep Work

One: ensure your meat is going to be defrosted and at roughly room temperature in time for its date with the oven. This will, in the first case, prevent food poisoning, and in the latter, help the meat to cook better, and be more tender.

Two: There is nothing to stop you laying out all your pots and pans or prepping your root veg and boiling water up to twelve hours in advance. Stored in the water in their pots on the hob they won’t brown or dry out. Greens like cabbage or broccoli can be ready chopped and stored airtight in the fridge for the same.


3: Oven sharing and rest time

This comes a little in to the first point on this list, but it important to know that most meat joints can happily rest for at least an hour before eating, and it is actually better to let them do this for overall tenderness. Really large joints or whole big birds will still be warm after several hours. Just pull it out of the oven, wrap it in a clean tea towel or foil and leave it alone before carving.

This also means that if, like me, you only have one oven, you can still prepare big meals with ease. It comes down to the scheduling from the first tip- in that hour or so your meat is resting, you can likely cook all the side dishes in the now vacant oven. A lot of people despair of huge roasts, or try to cram things in to their ovens, affecting cooking time and quality. It isn’t necessary, I promise.


4: Delegate

This one is the hard one for me as a) I find it very difficult to ask for help, b) I can be a perfectionist and c) I want my guests to enjoy themselves entirely. This is all also the reason I have an entire kitchen of washing up to do today- learn from my fail.

Even if it just getting someone to lay the table for you, or get the drinks, try to dish out some tasks to lighten the load. It will actually give the meal a more communal, friendly feel, and kids love to be involved in this sort of thing. I have fond memories of me and my brother in our old kitchen with my mum, us prepping the veg while she orchestrated the whole shebang.

You could even ask each of your guests to bring a side dish. Think about it.


5: Try to relax

As afore mentioned, roast dinners aren’t that difficult. It’s a task in organisation and time keeping rather than chef-ing- you just bung stuff in the oven for the correct amount of time and hey presto, an excellent dinner will appear. If you follow the above tips, you should find all sorts of bits of time you can sit down with a glass of something soothing, waiting for the next timer. I think this is vitally important.

Also applicable to this point is to make what you want to make and have done with it. Meat, potatoes an a couple of veg? You’re sorted. If you are like me, and generally cater to adults, remember they are adults, and therefore responsible for their own feeding. If someone doesn’t like something, fine- they don’t have to eat it. You needn’t cook an alternative just for them- you are doing more than enough. That being said, do make a dish for your veggie/vegan/pescatarian pals if the main doesn’t suit them. This can come under delegation- ask them if they wouldn’t mind bringing something they’d like to eat as their main, in place of a bottle of wine or whatever.
If you follow these tips, and failing any natural disasters or power cuts, your big meal will be a breeze.

Good luck!