Steve Osborn’s Corned Beef Hash

[tweetmeme source= “catherineosborn” only_single=false]When the cold wet weather started in early October, I suddenly found the need for comfort food. There wasn’t a lot in the fridge apart from the usual halves of peppers and remainders of salad, but there were several cold potatoes left over from the day before which I combined with a standard tin of corned beef as follows to make corned beef hash:

Line a wok or frying pan with a dash of cooking oil (not too much as the corned beef has plenty of fat) and some chopped onions and celery. Cook gently until the onions and celery change texture and start to smell delicious.

Mash the corned beef and a similar amount of cold potato with a fork, tip into the wok or pan, and set it cooking on a medium-low heat.

Rinse any salad bits, especially mushrooms and variously coloured peppers, and cut them into 2 and 3 inch strips. Add to the wok or pan, along with a can of baked beans and any dregs of wine that may be lying around.

When cooked, turn half onto a dinner plate, and add your choice of sauce. Brown sauce is delicious with the corned beef, but tomato sauce is good for the prostate. Have both if you like!

Save the other half, when cool, in the fridge for tomorrow. On my second day, I ate it with a fried egg on top – that certainly adds to the comfort.


1. Make sure you replace the tin of corned beef.

2. Always have some cold potatoes in the fridge.

3. If you have to watch your fat intake, buy lean corned beef at the deli counter. Typically it has 1/5 the fat content of cheap tinned corned beef.

4. If you still think your meal is too big, share it with the dog.

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Guest Blog – Brian Wimsett (4)

[tweetmeme source= “catherineosborn” only_single=false]Cook Well Alone: Part 4 – VEGETABLE CURRY

If you have a local Indian or Ghurkha shop then try and get a packet of Shan vegetable curry mix otherwise get a suitable curry powder.

If you have a sensitive stomach, get some red onions; otherwise, ordinary ones will do. Remove the skin, slice and then put in a frying pan to cook. Either use oil or margarine but not too much. Whilst they are softening cook some chopped potatoes, carrots, parsnips, broccoli and any other vegetable you fancy as detailed above (if the potatoes are put at the bottom with the carrots on top you can cook them together). Tip all the vegetables onto the softened onions and then sprinkle a level dessert spoonful (or more if you like) of curry powder over the mix and then add some water and stir. As it thickens you can add some more water if you like and then when everything is hot tip onto a plate and eat.

[tweetmeme source= “catherineosborn” only_single=false]If you don’t want it to be vegetarian but still fairly quick you can add a small tin of pilchards or any other cooked item when adding the curry powder.

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Guest Blog – Brian Wimsett (3)

[tweetmeme source= “catherineosborn” only_single=false]Cook Well Alone: Part 3 – Meat


The best part of the chicken to microwave is the thigh. Chicken must either be fresh or thoroughly thawed. Put a couple of chicken thighs, skin side up, in a microwave dish just big enough to take them and cover and cook for 3 minutes. Turn them over and look to see if they are cooked. If there is any sign of blood then cook them skin side down for another 30 seconds and then check again and cook further if there are still signs of blood. When cooked remove the skin and discard. If you prefer to leave the skins on it’s probably a good idea to fry them for a couple of minutes after they are microwaved.


The best way to cook sausages is with a George Foreman type grill. After cooking, if you are careful, the grill can be wiped clean whilst hot with a folded up kitchen towel wiping the residue to the front. Grilling or frying is equally good but messier.

[tweetmeme source= “catherineosborn” only_single=false]OTHER ITEMS can be cooked in the mini oven as written on the packet. For instance, frozen breaded fish can take about 30 minutes and whilst this is cooking you can prepare the vegetables and start cooking after about 20 minutes so it all arrives together.

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Guest Blog – Brian Wimsett (2)

Cook Well Alone: Part 2 – VEGETABLES

[tweetmeme source= “catherineosborn” only_single=false]The best way to cook vegetables is with a microwave and to experiment with the time, taking care not to overcook them. Gradually increase the time if the vegetables are not cooked but remember the cooking continues for a short while after you take them out of the microwave. All the times below are based on an 850W microwave and assume you are using a smallish microwave dish with a cover on which has a vent in.

Potatoes: A jacket potato generally takes between 3 to 5 minutes to cook dependant upon size. Remember to prick the potato as it will explode if you don’t. After cooking cut the potato in half and then pierce liberally with a knife blade before applying some marge or butter. If you are using the mini oven and want a crisper potato par cook the potato and then put it in the oven.

If you don’t want a jacket potato then cut the potato unpeeled into chunks and cook for 3 or 4 minutes. If you want to mash the potatoes it is worth peeling them first and cooking bit longer.

Carrots are easy and don’t really need peeling. Remove the top and then either cut into 3mm slices across or cut the carrot into 3 and slice lengthways a couple of times. Cook the carrots in a microwave dish for about 3 ½ minutes with no added water and then test with a knife. If the carrots are ‘al dente’ they are ready for the plate but if still hard try another 30 seconds.

Peas: Frozen is the best option and cooked in the microwave. It is very easy to overcook peas so for one portion try 3 minutes first and if not cooked do another 30 seconds.

Parsnips are underrated. Again don’t bother to peel but remove the top and then cut as the carrots. Microwave for about 90 seconds and then cook them in a frying pan with a little marge or butter for a few minutes.

Corn on the cob: Put one in a microwave dish, add a little water and cook for about 5 ½ minutes. After removing spread a little marge or butter over the corn and put it on the plate.

Swede: The best idea is cut it into small chunks and then microwave for about 5 minutes or so. If tender then either mash or put into a blender with some marge or butter and make a mash. If mashing peel the swede first.

[tweetmeme source= “catherineosborn” only_single=false]Broccoli: Not really suited for the microwave but 45 seconds should be ok.

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Steve Osborn’s Sausages and Peppers and Things!

[tweetmeme source= “catherineosborn” only_single=false]The other day, I needed to tidy the fridge before another trip to the supermarket. I had four best quality pork sausages and three vegetarian sausages, all uncooked, a few halves of peppers and odd bits of salad. I had no idea where to look in the cookery books and it was getting late, so I had to improvise. Here’s what happened:

Put all the sausages in a frying pan with just a dash of olive oil for the veggie ones as the pork ones will supply a lot of fat. Set them cooking on a medium-low heat.

Rinsed and cut the red and green peppers and cut them into 2 and 3 inch strips. Cut up and added some tomatoes and mushrooms that were reaching their ‘use by’ date. Added all this to half a can of baked beans in a wok, again with a little olive oil that coincidentally finished the bottle.

By this time the sausages were half cooked (6 minutes in) so I transferred them to the wok, again on a medium-low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon for another 6 minutes.

Turned the wok onto a dinner plate, added a generous helping of brown sauce over the whole gorgeous-looking mess, and ate it. It was delicious! For temperature, texture and taste it was perfect.

I thought I’d invented a new recipe but when I sought a name for it on Google I discovered that it’s popular for barbecues and in American diners, often stuffed into a burger and prefaced by the word ‘Monster.’ What is clear is that, like patatas asadas, you can add anything – onions, garlic, pasta and so on – and half of the pleasure is in seeing all the various colours of peppers on your plate. Happy fridge-rummaging!

[tweetmeme source= “catherineosborn” only_single=false]By the way, I only ate four sausages, two pork and two veggie, and ate the other three stuffed into a wholemeal roll with the remaining beans, all cold, for a snack lunch next day. It’s almost as good cold!

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Guest Blog – Brian Wimsett

Cook Well Alone: Part One – Preparation!

[tweetmeme source= “catherineosborn” only_single=false]One good thing about cooking for yourself is that you can eat what you like and it’s not difficult to prepare an appetising meal. If you are new to cooking the information below may be helpful.

It’s worth buying a mini oven, preferably fan assisted. Lidl’s occasionally stock them, they cost about £25 and are fan-assisted with a grill. Being fan-assisted and small, the oven doesn’t need the same warming up time as ordinary ovens and they are ideal for one person.

Think about having two microwave ovens as you can cook two lots of vegetables at the same time and the food, if you start the mini oven first, will also be ready at the same time. If you like gravy, this can be prepared and poured over the meal but generally adding a little marge or butter to the vegetables when cooked is the best.

Get yourself a tray and whilst the cooking is going on put a plate on the tray. There is no real need to warm the plate as the micro waved food is still cooking when you tip it out and if you get the timing right it should all be ready at the same time. Just wait 3 or 4 minutes before you start to eat it.

[tweetmeme source= “catherineosborn” only_single=false]We’ll be publishing more blogs from Brian over the coming weeks with lots of tips on how to cook vegetables, meat, fish and curry on a small scale.

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Oz on Elderberry Wine

Elderberry Wine

[tweetmeme source= “catherineosborn” only_single=false]As with sloe gin, I advise singles, when making things from elderberries, to find a friend who can recognize the trees that bear them, this time the Sambucus or elder trees. They give fruit from high summer onwards and well into late autumn. Gather as many of the elderberries as you both require according to the following recipe. For every 1,350g (3lbs) of elderberries you will need 1,350g (3lbs) of sugar, 4.55l (8 pints) water, 1 teaspoon citric acid, and ½ teaspoon wine yeast.

Rinse the berries gently in a colander under the cold tap, and strip them from the stalks with a table fork into a plastic bowl or bucket. (Incidentally, that’s a really fascinating thing to do.) Crush the berries, add half of the boiling water and allow to cool. Dissolve the sugar in the other half of boiling water, strain the berries through a sieve onto the water/sugar liquid and add the citric acid and yeast. Leave to ferment for seven days, strain again through a sieve or piece of muslin into a demijohn and seal with an airlock. Store somewhere warm and dark until fermentation ceases (ie bubbling stops), rack (pour) the wine into a clean demijohn or jar of suitable size, taking care not to transfer the sediment, and store somewhere cool and dark for a few more months, again with an airlock. Rack again until all bubbling has stopped, leave for a further six months, then pour into, and cork, the bottles.

Elderberry wine is never ready to drink by the first Christmas, but is usually fine by the second one. One of my grandmothers kept a bottle from the 1940 season and produced it for us on my 21st birthday in 1961. It was still delicious, partly because she had wired the cork onto the bottle so as to make it bubbly. It’s not recommended as over the years there were continual explosions in her cupboard under the stairs as another bottle became over-gassed.

I’m not getting involved here in the great debate over the use of Campden tablets in wine-making. [tweetmeme source= “catherineosborn” only_single=false]They’re certainly useful for disinfecting equipment in between uses, and for dealing with tap water in highly chlorinated areas, but there is some controversy about the levels of sulphites in the finished wine. Suffice it to say for now that perfectly good wine can be made without the tablets.  As usual, you can see the debates on Google.

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Oz on Raspberry Mojitos

[tweetmeme source= “catherineosborn” only_single=false]The other day, I drank my first ever raspberry mojito. It was lovely! After the third glass I summoned up the courage to ask for the recipe, which was happily given, but the author requested anonymity. Here’s what she said:

Crush 8 fresh raspberries and a handful of fresh mint leaves together with 2 teaspoons of white sugar in the bottom of a tall drinks glass. Top the glass up to ¾ full with ice cubes. Add 2 ounces of white rum and some lime juice, and top the glass up with lemonade or soda water. Stir well, garnish with more raspberries and mint, or other greenery, and serve at once.

I’m including this recipe here for two reasons; firstly, as an anaesthetic to help deal with this ongoing hot and humid weather; secondly, as a way of dealing with the enormous weight of raspberries that I expect to grow this year. It was always too much for two of us, so certainly too much for one. It’s much easier to drink them!

PS. One way to make drinks thoroughly irresistible is to invert the rim of the glass onto a layer of salt, so that is the first taste that the drinker encounters. Evil!

Update from Catherine:

After some experimentation, we discovered a couple of things:

  1. Freshly picked raspberries are full of insects, a particular problem if you are vegetarian like me, but not pleasant for carnivores either!  To get round this, soak the raspberries in a bowl of water.  My brother suggests overnight but we couldn’t wait that long and were skimming the insects off after 10 minutes or so.  As long as the fruit isn’t too ripe, you should be able to pick off any remaining insects by hand.
  2. In a slightly more sophisticated version of this recipe, we pushed the raspberries through a sieve to make a lovely seed-free puree.  This made for a delicious red cocktail.
  3. You can add all kinds of fruit to mojitos, see this variation on another favourite blog of mine…

Obligatory small print:
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Egg Mayonnaise Banjos

[tweetmeme source= “catherineosborn” only_single=false]Much as I love eggs, I think the extras make this sandwich special.


1. Your favourite bread.  Mine is Sainbury’s Taste the Difference Multi-Seeded Loaf and they do a small one!

2. Large free range egg(s):

  • For 1 round, 1 egg
  • For 2 rounds, 2 eggs
  • For 4 rounds, 3 eggs

3. Mayonnaise

4. Green salad leaves, I use American land cress and rocket grown from seed but you will find plenty of choice in the salad aisle too.

5. Chives – 1 long chive per round.

6. Black pepper and salt to taste.

7. Butter/spread.


1. Boil the eggs until well done or almost done if you prefer.  For eggs close to their ‘best before’ date, bring to the boil and boil for a further 5 minutes.  Fresher eggs may take longer – if you start to peel them and they look runny inside, put them back on to boil for a few minutes – it won’t matter what they look like as they’re going to be mashed.  Peel the eggs and allow them to cool while you’re doing the other stuff (don’t put them in the fridge as a little warmth adds to the yumminess).

2. While the eggs are cooling, cut your bread and spread it with butter or spread.

3. Mash the eggs with a fork and add mayonnaise until the eggs take on a spreadable texture.

4. Cut the chive(s) into small (1/4″) pieces with a pair of scissors, straight into the egg mixture and mix them in. 

5. Add black pepper and salt to taste.

6. Spread the egg mixture onto one slice of bread, add the green leaves and another slice of bread completes your sandwich.

Add to DeliciousAdd to DiggAdd to FaceBookAdd to Google BookmarkAdd to RedditAdd to StumbleUponAdd to TechnoratiAdd to Twitter[tweetmeme source= “catherineosborn” only_single=false]

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Steve Osborn’s 5-Minute Microwave Porridge

Place a small handful of currants, raisins or sultanas and two level teaspoons of brown sugar, syrup or black treacle in the bottom of a wide shallow cereal bowl.

Cover with two heaped tablespoons of porridge oats and add sufficient milk, or milk and water, to just absorb the oats, but don’t flood them.

Cook in the microwave for 5 minutes on Medium-Low and allow to stand for 1 minute when cooked.

Before eating, stir thoroughly so that the melted fruit and sugar combine with the porridge to form a smooth brown goo.

If, and only if, you’re not planning to drive or use machinery, add whisky to taste. (I’m indebted to my lovely kid sister for this tip).

Hint: When my wife died, I mislaid her instructions for microwave porridge, and from memory cooked one heaped tablespoon for 3 minutes, which was fine, but only half the quantity. The point being that I DIDN’T EVEN NOTICE! So, if you can get used to half rations it’s a neat way of losing a few pounds. Sadly, I’ve now found the original instructions.

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