Tuesday, 29 December 2009

Just one more recipe........Parsnip Soup

I know. I need help. This is a Nigel recipe but from 'Tender, Vol 1' rather than The Kitchen Diaries. It is such a miserable, sleety night tonight, with a scything wind that chills to the bone, that we just had to have soup. Nigel reworks the classic Curried Parsnip Soup recipe by playing down the 'Indian' qualities, and going instead for chilli and mustard heat, softened with some cream at the end, and chunks of Gruyere cheese added at the last minute. We eschewed this (although will do it for lunch tomorrow with the leftovers), and instead made mounds of Gruyere toasted cheese sandwiches from some multiseed bread, to give us bulk and carbs. The nuttiness of the Gruyere works brilliantly with the soup. A lovely, lovely recipe, and we are as warm as ticks in a blanket. Thanks again, Nigel, you are a star. Of course, there is no official online presence for this recipe yet, but it alone is worth the cover price of this most beautiful book. No photo - the joy of parsnip soup is not in its appearance!

Monday, 28 December 2009

A Startling Orange Sorbet #193]

Well, here we are, the final recipe in the Challenge - for this year, at least. This has been waiting since the April section of the Diaries, I don't know why! Anyway, it seemed like a good idea to make it for New Year's Eve, as an antidote to all the richness in our food at this time of year. I spotted a small variation on the book's recipe in Nigel's Guardian column - the addition of Campari. Now, anyone who knows me also knows of my abiding and incurable addiction to Campari. Usually, at this time of year, I make a Campari and Orange Jelly, so this is just meant to be! Tasting the unfrozen sorbet mixture of fresh orange juice, the juice from a pink grapefruit, a little sugar syrup and Campari, it is all I can do stop myself from adding ice and chuffing it back right now. But it is safely in the freezer (except, I shall probably do a 'Nigella' and sneak into the kitchen in my dressing gown in the middle of the night to pinch spoonfuls out of the container) and I will let you know how it works as a sorbet after the meal - how could it fail??! Tasting note: heaven, as I knew it would be. What a great one to end the challenge on - simple, elegant, foolproof, just right for the time of year - kind of sums up The Kitchen Diaries, really

Favourites from The Challenge

With one more recipe to go (the Orange Sorbet from April, being made today and consumed on New Year's Eve), I thought I'd round up my favourites. There have been many. On reflecting on which have been my favourites, I realise that many of them have been consumed in the company of good friends, which might account for them staying in the memory:

the delicious roast pork with Madiera that we had with our lovely friends Jonathan and Jess - the blueberry and peach cobbler and the lime tart, and the brownies, were eaten with them too, and were delicious (not all on the same day, I might add!).

Or the roast goose and red cabbage, and the truly splendid pot-roast pheasant with celery and vermouth with our dear friends Gi and Winston and their adorable boys Elijah, Alexander and Nathaniel, who make cooking and eating together such a pleasure.

And not forgetting the great nights with my wild and wacky veggie pal Anu, where we enjoyed the aubergine curry and also the startling tomato curry.

But cooking with and for my lovely hubby, Tom, is a constant - a more appreciative audience I could never hope for. Some of the dishes we have enjoyed and greedily consumed: the hot mussel soup, the clams with sherry, the whole broad beans with dill (marvellous!), discovering that I actually liked partridge, hunting for red mullet, the magnificent whole steamed sea bass, bream with anchovy potatoes, any and all of Nigel's meatballs and patties - he is a master at them, particularly if they have Asian flavours. In fact, Nigel's Asian food is very, very good, and I will certainly be looking for those in his new book 'Tender' which I got for Christmas and is in the Challenge for 2010 (see future postings!)

Another thing that Nigel helped me with this year is baking. My oven broke in early January, and getting a new one made me realise that it wasn't me who was a useless baker all this time, but my old oven! Whilst great for roasts etc, it was way too hot for reliable baking. The new one has changed all that and, armed with Nigel's recipes, I have made some memorable cakes to share with friends and colleagues: the double ginger cake is a star recipe, and one I have repeated. The Marmalade cake too, as well as the pistachio cake, the flourless chocolate cake, and the pear cake, and apple cake, both made with a pound cake recipe with fruit piled on the top, were great. I also particularly enjoyed Nigel's apple shortcake, with the crumbliest pastry imaginable.

My personal favourite of all? It has to be the chicken and pancetta patties - minced chicken and pancetta, rosemary and garlic, formed into patties and fried, then braised in chicken stock. Heavenly - comfort food of the first order and to be consumed with the obligatory pile of creamy mash with something like spring greens or kale - dark, bitter greens to off-set the richness of the meat and spuds.

Post-script: I had forgotten about Nigel's slow roast pork belly, done almost in the style of Italian Porchetta. We did it again tonight (January 3 2010) at it was magnificent, served with braised red cabbage, pureed parsnip and braised carrots. Total yum, and another candidate for my favourite recipe?

Nigel, thanks for a brilliant year. You are a marvellous, intuitive cook, and Kitchen Diaries is a masterpiece, although 'Tender' looks to be even better! You are Jane Grigson and Elizabeth David rolled into one, and certainly the cookery writer of our times. It has been such fun, and you have made me a better cook, and forced me out of a comfortable rut of everyday cooking into a world of exciting new tastes, textures and techniques.

And thanks to all my followers, on the blog, with the Open University and also on Facebook. If you are AT ALL interested, I am carrying on the Challenge into 2010, but this time with 12 books, and a recipe from each book per month, making a total of 144 recipes. Quite a bit fewer than the 193 with Nigel, but enough all the same! I shall publish the list of books before the end of 2009, so watch out for them! Happy Cooking!

Friday, 25 December 2009

One recipe to go!

So, here we are, down to the final recipe in the Challenge, an orange sorbet from much earlier in the year, whcih we will make for New Year's Eve.

Many people have asked me what my favourite recipes have been, so I shall take some time over the next few days to put together a list of the absolute hits. There have been many.

And if any of you are at all interested, I shall publish a list of the 12 books I am going to cook from for the next challenge - I am going to make a recipe a month from 12 books - 144 in total, in the hope that my repertoire (and waistline) will expand even more!

Happy Christmas!

Marinated Artichoke and Feta Salad [#192]

I am getting so blase now - another liberty taken with a recipe. But, I ask you, when it has been -8C this week, who wants to eat a cold artichoke, mint and feta salad? So, I made up the recipe as per the book, chopping all quite small, and used it to make little triangular pastries with filo pastry. It was then delicious, and went down very well with our pre-Christmas dinner cocktail (a Ritz Fizz, since you ask - a teaspoon each of Blue Curacao, lemon juice, Amaretto di Saronno and then topped up with ice-cold Champagne - yummy!).

Wednesday, 23 December 2009

Squid with Lime and Thyme [#191]

Well, I took real liberties with this one, but as it is near the end, I think I am entitled! The original recipe calls for squid to be chargrilled then dressed with lime juice and thyme. Here's how I changed it:
  • used coriander leaf instead of thyme

  • used a misture of squid, prawns and scallops

  • quickly stir-fried in a stonkingly hot wok, rather than chargrilling, then tossed with lime and the chopped coriander

  • stirred through egg noodles that had been dressed with sesame oil and soy

So, a radically different version using Nigel's recipe as an interpretation and idea. Jolly nice, though. Next time, will add some chilli.

Only two recipes to go!

Sunday, 13 December 2009

Walnut and Candied Peel Tartlet [#190]

These are so dinky, and would be a good alternative to the Mince Pie at this time of year. Nigel's approach to lining tartlet tins is inspired - roll the ball of pastry into a cylinder with the same diameter as your tartlet tin holes, then, after chilling, slice thin discs off the roll and press into the tins. This saves rolling out and cutting, then transferring fragile circles of dough to the tins. The filling is like an Italian version of pecan pie - chopped walnuts, finely diced candied peel, crushed amaretti biscuits and some mixed spice, blended with golden syrup, melted butter and egg. The smell as these baked was divine - I shall report on the flavour after they have been consumed, shortly, with a dollop of whipped cream!

Saturday, 12 December 2009

The Challenge - 4 recipes to go!!!!

Can you believe it? Only four left to go, with 189 under the belt...literally. The remaining recipes?
  • Walnut and Candied Peel Tarts (being done tomorrow)
  • Squid with Lime and Thyme
  • Marinated Artichoke and Feta Salad
  • Orange Sorbet
I am sure we'll get these in easily in the remaining weeks left of the year - and for the challenge. I am planning on the orange sorbet on New Year's Eve, as an antidote to all the rich food we will inevitably consume over Christmas. The squid with lime will be for tea one night. The artichoke salad appeals less, as the temperature plummets to below zero, but we'll probably get it in for lunch one day. Watch this space for The Challenge 2010....should you be interested!

Roast Partridge [#189]

A classic treatment, this. Excellent partridges from the Wild Meat Company in Suffolk, seasoned with thyme, smeared with butter, and draped with good bacon, then blasted in a hot oven for 25 minutes. They emerged succulent and bronzed, and were served with a Madeira gravy and bread sauce. However, I wimped out at the last minute because I really can't cope with whole little birds on my plate, so Hubby made a pig of himself. I made do with baked beans. This challenge is all about cooking every recipe from Nigel's book, not eating them! They did taste good, though, so next time, I might treat myself to boned birds to help me over my squeamishness. We drank a very good German Pinot Noir to accompany them - it even went well with baked beans!

Friday, 11 December 2009

Sauteed Chicken with Spices, Fennel and Cream [#188]

This turned out like a mild korma, very nice, but not really what we were expecting! Also, the fennel got a bit lost, and was more of a texture than a flavour that contributed to the dish. OK, nice sauce, but nothing very special. Of course, we used WAAAAY less cream than Nigel suggested, about 40ml rather than the 300ml in the recipe. Nigel's arteries must be made of steel to tolerate that amount!!!

Wednesday, 9 December 2009

Baked Onions with Parmesan and Cream [#187]

We used a large Spanish onion for this dish, boiled whole for half-an-hour (it makes for a really great stock, by the way) which was then sliced and baked with cream and Parmesan. A delicious accompaniment to a good smoked Gammon steak from M&S with steamed potatoes and broccoli. Surprisingly nice, elegant little dish, this. We did, of course, scale the recipe down by reducing the quantity of cream to about 4 tablespoons - plenty enough!

Sunday, 29 November 2009

Lemon Ice-Cream Tart with Gingernut Crust [#186]

This was a delicious, refreshing dessert to have after an excellent roast chicken. It was creamy, yet sharp and lemony, with a great hot, gingery crust made from ginger oatmeal cookie crumbs mixed with chunks of preserved ginger. Dead easy to make too. I halved the recipe, though, as a pint of cream was too much, and this is still enough to feed six people, so we will indulge on another couple of occasions throughout the week - well, it is nearly Christmas! This would be worth making a few days in advance of a meal and keeping stashed away in the freezer for a great, simple pud, perhaps as an alternative for Christmas Pudding haters.

Christmas Cake [#185]

Okay, so I won't know what this cake tastes like until Christmas - although the raw mixture was mightly good. This made a deep, richly fruited cake that certainly smells fantastic. It is now tightly wrapped, ready to have brandy spooned over every week until it is consumed greedily. I don't intend to decorate it, leaving it as a perfectly plain, rich fruit cake - there is enough sweet over-indulgence at this time of year as it is.
Tasting notes: well, we had our first slices on Christmas Eve. After weekly feeding with cognac, the cake was exceedingly moist and totally delicious. The crumb insode is buttery and surprisingly light - not at all dark and treacly, like some Christmas Cakes. Another example of Nigel's excellent baking skills.

Saturday, 28 November 2009

Grilled Pork Chop with Vermouth and Fennel [#184]

Very nice way with a pork chop, marinated in rosemary, garlic and lemon juice and then (in my case) fried until still succulent and served with a pan gravy of vermouth and caramelised braised fennel. Nigel recommends grilling, but I felt I needed the sauce you get with a sauteeing. We drank a delicious Pinot Gris d'Alsace, not too sweet, with this and it set it off beautifully.


I can't believe I only have ten recipes left. I have, so far, cooked 183 recipes from Nigel's Kitchen Diaries throughout the whole of the year. I am going to hit several more this weekend - the Christmas cake, some pork chops with fennel, a lemon ice-cream dessert cake, so we will head into December, the final month, with just a handful to do. Part of me feels elated and relieved, the other part is already scouting round for ideas to do for next year.
  • should I do another complete book?
  • should I pick 12 books and make myself cook 10 recipes from them throughout the year?
  • or 12 books, and make myself cook from one book a month, again, perhaps 10 recipes, which seems reasonable
  • or should I stop being so stupid and get a life?
Comments please!

Pot Roast Pheasant with Celery and Sage [#183]

Firstly, sorry for the huge gap since the previous entry - busy, busy, busy, with a crook back and a trip up north to our friends in Lancaster. Still, while we were there, we cooked this delicious recipe. Surprisingly, no official online presence, so you know the mantra by now....go buy the book! Anyway, to give a taste of the recipe: we used FOUR pheasants (greedy), which are carefully browned in butter, then casseroled for an hour with chunks of celery, small potatoes, an onion, lots of garlic, sage leaves and......a bottle of white vermouth. The birds threw loads of wonderful juices, and emerged tender and succulent, which is a triumph for pheasant. Absolutely lovely all-in-one recipe, and great served with roasted roots and sprouting broccoli. We had a lot of pheasant left over, so we shredded it the next day and 'potted' it with melted butter flavoured with lemon zest and juice, mace, and generous salt and pepper. A few spoons of the left-over braising juices were added too. Packed into a bowl and chilled, it made the most amazing 'rillettes' to serve with hot toast. Great recipe all round, and our friends' 3 little boys couldn't get enough of it, with even the 8 month-old cheekily reaching over to his his brother's plate to grab a pheasant leg!

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Hot and Sticky Quail (or Chicken) [#182]

As mentioned before, I have an aversion to eating whole little birds - so I followed Nigel's suggestion and used chicken instead. I used organic chicken thighs marinated in the spiky dressing of cayenne pepper, grain mustard, loads of crushed garlic, lemon juice and some light soy sauce. They were cooked under a hot grill for about 20 minutes and then served with stir-fried egg noodles and shredded vegetables. Delicious supper - easy recipe, quick and gutsy, and one to do again.

Sunday, 15 November 2009

Roast Pork Loin with Onion and Marsala Gravy [#181]

Another lovely pork roast from Nigel - instead of the leg he suggests, I went for a boned loin. I also didn't make the gravy separately, as he suggested, but used the pork juices from the roasting tin and deglazed with the Marsala (and a little Madeira) and water. Lovely with a big dish of baked root vegetables and Delia's most wonderful Braised Red Cabbage - absolutely delicious, especially with an Italian Barbaresco to wash it down.

Christmas Puddings [#180]

Well, this recipe was a wee bit of a gamble as I have used the same Delia recipe for well over 15 years, but actually, Nigel's isn't that dissimilar. The biggest change I made was to use creamed unsalted butter instead of suet (as I do with Delia's recipe as well). This is to ensure that the veggies in the family can eat it, and I don't use so-called 'vegetarian' suet, as it contains hydrogenated fat - not nice. Usually, with Delia, I mix the puddings up and leave them overnight. This time, following Nigel, I left all the dried fruits to soak overnight with a mixture of brandy, rum and ginger wine. This morning, they were plump and glistening and ready to be mixed into the spicy cake mix. I made 7 puddings in total this year, and most of them are entering their final hour of steaming as I write. They smell gorgeous. I shall report on the taste on Christmas Day! Now, I just have to make Nigel's cake.......
Tasting note- superb. The only word to use. I am sure that macerating the fruits overnight in copious quantities of alcohol really contributed to the marvellous, friable, moist texture. Fresh citrus flavours, and deep fruitiness abounded! Thanks, again, Nigel (with help from Delia!) for another fabulous recipe

Wednesday, 11 November 2009

Celeriac and Walnut Remoulade [#179]

Nigel's recipe suggested using creme fraiche instead of the usual mayonnaise, which seemed a bit too rich and creamy to me, so I did half-and-half, using Hellmann's and half-fat creme fraiche instead. It needs a bit of poke, with Dijon and grain mustard, lemon juice and salt and pepper. It was very good, although next time I'll cut the celeriac even finer (I don't have a mandolin grater) to avoid having to chew QUITE so much! I served it with smokey applewood ham and lots of watercress for a healthy salad. We started with vegetable and barley broth to get some warmth into us!

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Duck Fat Potatoes with Garlic [#178]

What's not to like? Duck fat makes just the best roast potatoes, even better than goose fat, in my humble opinion. The garlic (and some thyme) introduces a nice twist to the usual recipe. However, I did change the cooking method here - rather than pan-frying for 40 minutes (splattery and messy) I cut into dice, par-boiled, drained, mussed in the pan, then crisply roasted them, with chopped garlic and thyme to season them. Lovely with roast lamb with rosemary, savoy cabbage and braised carrots. Mm-mmmm! (note that the online recipe here, from the Guardian, also included Pumpkin, which would be an excellent variation, I should think).

Coffee and Walnut Cake [#177]

As Nigel says, this is SOOOOO much better than a bought cake. Using his now familiar variation on a pound cake recipe (usually 175g each of buttter, sugar and flour with 3 eggs) these cakes from Nigel are always reliable. I made this in a loaf tin rather than as two round sponges, as in my memory, coffee and walnut cake with buttercream icing was always a loaf. I had planned on taking the remainder into work, but Hubby's face dropped, so it will be eaten during the week - I, of course, won't touch another slice.......... ;o) yeah, right!

Wednesday, 4 November 2009

Braised Lamb with Leeks and Haricot Beans [#176]

A lovely warming dish for a chilly November night. I left out the cream that the book's version of the recipe has (although, oddly, the online version doesn't have this addition) and used lamb leg and chump steaks rather than shanks or neck fillets. Lovely with fluffy mounds of creamy mash. Nice to get back to Nigel after a haitus, caused by a very busy week with Hubby hardly in during the evenings.

Monday, 26 October 2009

Cheese Bubble and Squeak [#175]

What a good idea, I thought. Why is cheesy bubble and squeak not better known? Because IT DOESN'T WORK, that's why! Sorry Nigel, after all your recent triumphs, this was a failure, and I think I know why. Firstly, your measurements were imprecise. 'One or two handfuls of cheese' added to leftover mash and cabbage, but no mention of how much of either. Secondly, mixing the cheese into cold leftovers (which IS the point of bubble and squeak after all) meant that, before the potato had time to warm up and be receptive to the melting cheese, it had split and gone all oily. We were left with a slick of cheesy, slimy potato in the pan, that seemed to ooze and suppurate a never ending quantity of oil from the cheese. Yuk! Here's the science bit. I think it needs to be made with the cheese mixed into HOT mashed potato, so it becomes an homogenised mass which can then fry and form a crisp outer, encasing the softly melting cheesy mash insde the crust. I feel churlish complaining at length, especially as there have been so few disasters in this otherwise tremendous book, but....Nigel, Nigel, you spoilt me tea! There is no online recipe which is just as well, and it was too awful looking to photograph, so here's a pretty bunny rabbit instead.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Nigel's Very Good Chocolate Brownie Recipe [#174]

And very good it was, indeed, although much more suited to being a 'dessert' brownie, given its extremely gooey nature. I've never made a brownie by the 'creaming fat and sugar' method before - all the other times, I melt the chocolate and butter together, and mix this, with the eggs, into the dry ingredients. So, this did make for a longer method, and a more 'cakey' mixture, but very good served warm with vanilla ice cream! I used Green and Black's Espresso Chocolate which gave a lovely subtle mocha flavour to the finished dish. Rich, decadent, divine - lovely for the dinner party to follow the pork.

Roast Pork with Grapes, Juniper and Vin Santo [#173]

Another one that went straight into the Top 10. We roasted a lovely free-range pork loin with good crackling, and the resultant sauce, made from the pan juices, roasted Italia grapes, garlic, juniper berries and a mixture of dry Madeira and Marsala (Vin Santo is just too expensive, sorry, Nige!) was totally delicious. We made this round at our lovely friends', Jonathan and Jess, and it was a perfect dinner party dish. We drank a delicious light, fruity Barbaresco with this, which matched the slightly sweet sauce and the succulent pork marvellously. This is a definite candidate to make again, and is special enough for Christmas, I think. Sorry, no pics taken so I have 'borrowed' one to give an idea of what it looked like. photo courtesy of tamarindandthyme.wordpress.com

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Pumpkin and Tomato Laksa [#172]

Well, folks, this shot into the Top 10 faster than the latest Vera Lynn release. Totally yummy - udon noodles, tender chunks of steamed butternut squash, chopped tomatoes and (my addition, this) some cooked prawns added at the last minute, all in a coconutty/chilli/lime leaf/lemongrass/garlic/ginger/minty broth. And can I just say a word here about Waitrose's 'Cook's Ingredients' frozen herbs - all of the aforementioned 'aromatics' and herbs come in handy little zip-lock frozen bags from the wonderful retailer, and this means you can whip up an authentic Thai taste quicker than you can say 'The King and I'. Do try this recipe as soon as you can. Heaven.

Monday, 19 October 2009

A Crisp Salad for a Cold Day [#171]

A sparky little salad, this, made for Hubby's lunch tomorrow. Using left over roast chicken from Sunday (in addition to a potato-topped pie and Cock-a-Leekie Soup), mixed with cucumber, tomatoes, carrot and salad leaves with a lime, sweet chilli, ginger and coriander dressing to toss through at the last moment. Can't find this online, but scarcely a recipe anyway, more of an idea

Friday, 16 October 2009

Baked Red Mullet with Pine Kernel Stuffing [#170]

"The fishmonger has Red Mullet!" came the cry from Hubby. In land-locked Oxford, this is a rare thing indeed, so all hands on deck to get this lined up for tonight. Hayman's in the Covered Market in Oxford (I've mentioned them before) did a marvellous job with a handsome big mullet, deboning it, yet leaving it whole and ready for the rich, Sicilian-inspired stuffing of garlic, shallot, sultanas, rosemary, capers, black olives, lemon zest, breadcrumbs and parsley - I know, sounds too much, but it was delicious, almost sweet and sour, and complemented the flaking flesh of the fish beautifully. Another surprise this, as I would not normally have gone for this recipe, but the flavours really worked. If the mullet cry goes up again, we would repeat this recipe, definitely.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Bean Shoot Salad with Coriander and Mint [#169]

This salad was super-quick to knock up with the remains of a packet of beanshoots from Saturday's stir-fry. Mixed with matchsticks of carrot, spring onion and cucumber, it was tossed with a dressing of soy, lime juice and sesame oil. I remembered the mint but forgot the coriander - doh! Still, Hubby says it was a very nice lunch, accompanied by strips of the Sticky Chicken Thighs left over from Saturday. No official online presence for this recipe, I'm afraid..........

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Ham and Butter Beans [#168]

The title of this recipe really doesn't do it justice - a lovely piece of unsmoked gammon, cooked in a rich tomato sauce spiked with hot smoked paprika and chorizo, with big fat Spanish butterbeans. Perfect for an Autumn evening with a mound of creamy mash and some bitter, bright green spring greens and savoy cabbage. I have been looking forward to this recipe for ages, and it really didn't disappoint. Loads of leftovers too. Another one for the Top 10 (there are about 25 recipes in the Top 10, by the way.........). I really can't believe that such a fine recipe hasn't appeared in Nigel's newspaper columns or on the BBC, so I can't give it here....but if you have the book, go and dig it out and turn to the October pages right away - you will want to cook this too!

Saturday, 10 October 2009

Hot, Sour Beanshoot Salad [#167]

This recipe had been put off time and again since we came across it in the May section, as honestly, raw beansprouts really don't appeal to me. However, Nigel suggested something similar to accompany the chicken (see previous post) so we took the plunge. As always, with me, I slipped in some variations. For a start, I quickly stir-fried the beansprouts and spring onion with some julienned carrot, and I also cooked some slim ramen noodles to give some carbs. Along with a handful of spinach and lots of cucumber, mint and coriander, this came together into a very nice salad/stir-fry hybrid. The dressing was a revelation - the sourness of lime juice, the salty lick of nam pla and the kick of red chilli went very well with the sweetness of the honey-glazed chicken. Low fat too, as hardly any oil, other than a teaspoon or so for the stir-fry. Nom-nom.

Sweet and Sticky Chicken Wings [#166]

...or skinless chicken thighs in my case, as I'm not hugely keen on the skin and bones of chicken wings. Lovely, sticky coating of lemon, honey, mustard and garlic, and the chicken cooked to a glossy umber succulence. Nigel suggested a salad of beanshoots and cucumber to follow, so we went back to the May section of the Diary for a very nice Hot, Sour Beanshoot Salad (see next entry). Washed down with Vintage Somerset Cider, this was a yummy Saturday supper! One tip if you cook this - you should fastidiously and copiously line the baking sheet with foil, or else you will be washing up for a week.

Friday, 9 October 2009

Haddock with Crumbs and Tarragon [#165]

.....except I didn't have any tarragon. Instead, I made breadcrumbs mixed with chopped chervil, lemon thyme and parsley. Nigel adds quite a lot of anchovy fillets to this mixture too, but I added just a little, which was then used to egg-and-breadcrumb some lovely fillets of line-caught haddock. Rather than fry them, as Nigel does, I sprayed the fish with some olive oil and baked them in the oven next to some home-made oven chips and a dish of vine tomatoes. The result was a lovely healthy variation on fish and chips, with bags of flavour from the herbed breadcrumbs. Nice, relaxed Friday night supper with a bottle of Bourgogne Chardonnay from M&S - very nice. I'm afraid I can't hunt down an official online presence for this recipe, but you get the picture - either that or go get the book!

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

Macaroni with Fontina and Mustard [#164]

Well, no Fontina sadly, so substituted it with Talleggio and grated Parmesan. The end result was a delicious, savoury macaroni cheese, just perfect for a 'dreich' night, as my old Mum and Dad would have said. Delicious contrast of the rich, bubbling sauce with the crisp freshness of the Pear, Fennel and Watercress Salad from the previous posting. Thanks for a great variation on Mac and Cheese, Nigel! Stop licking the screen.

Fennel, Watercress and Pear Salad [#163]

We had doubts about Nigel's suggestion of serving this salad with a dish of haddock, bacon and parsley, so served it, instead, with his Macaroni with Fontina and Mustard, a much more satisfactory combination. Dead simple salad of watercress topped with shaved Florence fennel (it HAS to be paper-thin) and thin slices of a delicious crisp Williams pear from Italy. The dressing was nice too - lime juice and olive oil, simply seasoned with salt and pepper. I think, next time, I might sprinkle over some toasted walnuts or similar for even more texture. Really nice salad, though, do try it!

Sunday, 4 October 2009

Poached Pears with Ice-cream and Chocolate Sauce [#162]

Some nice little early season English Conference Pears are currently poaching in a lemon and vanilla syrup, ready to be served with Haagen Dazs Praline Ice-cream (Nigel was very specific about the flavour) and a shot of inky chocolate sauce using 85% Lindt. This is a simple version of Poires Belle Helene but nothing wrong with that! The classics are the best. This will follow a wonderful braised brisket, based on a recipe from Tamasin Day-Lewis's new book Supper for a Song which has just been published and is full of very promising recipes. I do like her books - she is a bit wordy and flowery, but an excellent cook.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Pork Ribs with Honey and Anise [#161]

My other half has just said 'yum', which for him, is quite an emotional outburst. These have just gone into our top 10 of recipes cooked so far in this challenge - but a word of warning....you MUST cook them my way, not Nigel's!!! Nigel puts the delicious marinade/coating of oyster sauce (hoisin in my case), honey, chilli and garlic onto the raw ribs and then bakes them. As any of my Chinese readers will attest, this is anathema! My lovely friend, Gi, who makes the world's most delicious ribs, insists that you simmer them in water first for an hour. This renders some of the fat and tenderises the meat. It then soaks up the marinade much more readily, and cooks in the oven to a succulent tenderness. But, apart from that, top recipe Nigel, with sweet, lightly spiced flavours enhancing the meat to perfection. We served ours with a stir-fry of bitter kale and sweet red peppers, which were a lovely counterpoint to the pork. If you cook this recipe - and I strongly recommend that you do - you might think that 1.5 kilos of ribs is waaaay too much for two. Let me tell you, it isn't, and you will find yourself greedily wondering why you didn't double the recipe as you sink your teeth into your twelfth piece.

Friday, 2 October 2009

Pot-roast Pigeon with Luganega Sausage [#160]

One of the joys of the Aldeburgh Food Festival was that it was held during the season for a lot of game birds (no jokes about me being a game bird, please!). We were able to get hold of a couple of partridges, now safely in the freezer, and also some dinky woodpigeon breasts just right for this recipe. The Wild Meat Company in Suffolk has the most wonderful supplies, and prepares them for the cook beautifully. Procuring fresh bay leaves was more problematic, and I must offer apologies to the stand at the festival selling herb plants - one of your bushes is short a couple of leaves......sorry! The Luganega Sausage was also a wee bit problematic, not because they weren't available, but rather the sausage supplier at the festival had run out!! So, we went with Nigel's alternative of good chipolatas from the stall instead, Proctor's of Ipswich. This was a rich and tasty way of cooking pigeon, although I would shorten the cooking time if I do this again. Lovely with creamy mash and local Suffolk Kale, though, and a good bottle of Chianti. Sorry for the stock photo.

Roast Squash with Thyme [#159]

Nigel has this in the November section of the Diaries, but I got a beautiful medium Onion Squash in my organic box just before we went on our Suffolk jaunt, in the last week of September. So, we packed it and roasted it on our first night in the cottage - beautiful simple flavours and perfect, as Nigel suggests, with some good bangers. I also roasted a couple of tomatoes and some red pepper wedges, and the whole meal sang with sweet, smoky, Autumnal flavours, as well as looking glowingly beautiful on the plate

Radio Silence!

Apologies for the 'radio silence' on here of late - have just returned from a lovely week's break in sunny (yes, honestly!) Suffolk. We stayed in the Old Cookery School in Aldeburgh, until recently a genuine working cookery school run by the excellent Thane Prince. A wonderful Georgian building with a lovely kitchen, and surrounded by great food suppliers. The highlight of the trip was the Aldeburgh Food Festival last weekend, held in Snape Maltings - two days of great cookery demonstrations by Mark Hix, Fergus Henderson, Matthew Fort, Tom Parker Bowles and many more, plus brilliant local suppliers. All in blazing sun in the beautiful Suffolk countryside - such a treat, and why on earth do people go abroad, is all I can say! Anyway, also managed to squeeze in a couple of Nigel recipes, which will follow. Was going to do a third, the Roast Partridge, but the oven packed in, so they are now safely stashed in our freezer to do in the next week or so. Check out the Food Festival website and plan a visit in 2010 if you can make it!

Sunday, 20 September 2009

English Apple Cake [#158]

Nigel's by now familiar 'pound cake' recipe, made with equal quantities of butter, sugar and SR flour - in this case, 130g of each, 2 eggs, then topped with chunks of apple tossed in lemon and cinnamon, and then this is further topped with some white breadcrumbs mixed with demerara sugar. A lovely appley, spicy, crisp pudding is the result, served with a blob of softly whipped cream. I told you it had been a good 'Nigel' night - with the duck earlier, this made for a marvellous and indulgent meal to celebrate our wedding anniversary which has just passed (23 years - blimey!) and my birthday next week (23 years - blimey!). ;0) No official online presence for this recipe, which is such a shame - as we head into the English apple season, every household should make this at least once - so easy, delicious and heartwarming - go get the book!

Roast Duck with Pancetta and Potatoes [#157]

Nigel was on top form tonight with this recipe and the dessert that followed (see'English Apple Cake'). A lovely free-range duck from Waitrose, ccoked slowly with big chunks of potato, diced pancetta, onions, and scented with fresh bay leaves, thyme and - my addition - fresh sage. After a couple of hours, the potatoes were crisp with duck fat and infused with herbiness. The gravy was made with the pan juices and crusty bits, deglazed with Marsala. Just heavenly - succulent duck, crisp potatoes, and some sauteed courgettes, all accompanied by a marvellous Californian Pinot Noir from the Sonoma Coast, a sumptuous meal indeed. The left-over duck will be shredded and stir-fried tomorrow with spinach, mushrooms, red pepper and noodles, with a teriyaki glaze.

Friday, 18 September 2009

A Squid in the Fryer [#156]

Lovely fresh squid in the Covered Market today. I under-bought and was short of enough for us both, so supplemented this dish with some fresh king prawns too. I didn't cook this very well, as the squid rings (and prawns) were supposed to emerge crisp from a dousing in flour and a fast fry in a little oil. I think I over-crowded the pan as the fish came out soggy. Still, it tasted delicious - not at all rubbery, and tossing it in finely-chopped red chilli, garlic and coriander (with a spritz of lime too at the end) made the flavours sing. So I shall know next time to a) buy more squid and b) cook it in batches. Very nice with rice and stir-fried spinach and courgette with sesame oil. No online recipe, sorry - but then, it is scarcely a recipe in the book, either, more a narrative of a cooking method.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Blackberry and Apple Pie [#155]

Oddly, Nigel has this in the November section of the Diaries, when surely the blackberries are finished? No matter, we made it today, with the first of the English Bramleys, sharp and juicy, cooked to a puree first and then united with the berries. For the pastry (which went under AND over the filling), I went back to Nigel's wonderful Apple Shortcake recipe that we had in March, I think. Rich, buttery and very short, it makes for a wonderful tart - I'm sure there is a joke in there somewhere. A pudding like this calls for custard, naturally! Well, I am suffering dreadfully with a cold - feed a cold and starve a fever, they do say.

Lamb Shank with Mustard [#154]

This recipe had been hanging round since the February section of the Diaries, an example of Nigel's obsession with lamb. As it was a bright but chilly September day, it felt fine to revisit this and get it out of the way. Nice and simple braise, I added carrots, because I love their flavour done in a casserole. We didn't serve mash as suggested, because we didn't have suitable potatoes, but nice plain steamed ones with butter and chives were just as yummy. One shank was plenty for the two of us, so I have another one, with all the remaining braising juices, left over for shepherd's pie tomorrow - yippee! One point - Nigel suggests cooking for an hour and a half - I doubled this time, to be sure of the delicious melting softness and breakdown of connective tissues that make for a lovely finish - I would suggest you do the same too! Surprisingly, there is no official online recipe for this - sorry. Just think onions, garlic, rosemary, bay, carrots, stock and red wine, with mustard stirred in at the end, and you are there.

Thursday, 10 September 2009

Mozzarella with Grilled Fennel [#153]

Hmmm......how to describe this dish? "Meh", might the sound I'd make, followed by a yawn? The chargrilled fennel itself was very nice and I would have preferred this on its own with perhaps a balsamic vinaigrette to moisten it. The addition of mozzarella did nothing to the dish other than add protein, otherwise sitting like a lump of flaccid, tepid rubber atop the cooked veg. It doesn't matter how buffola your Mozzarella is, serving it slightly warm does nothing to flatter it. To be honest, we much preferred the Mushrooms with Tarragon and Mustard that we made again, and my own version of baked beans (a tin of cannellini beans baked in the oven with fresh tomato, oregano, chilli and garlic with a touch of sugar to sweeten). Still, you can't have everything, and this is one of just a small handful of Nigel's recipes that haven't worked for me.

Tuesday, 8 September 2009

Pan-fried Sausages with Cream and Mustard Mash [#152]

Phew! Racking the Nigel recipes up - this is the sixth in five days, and I only have 40 left to finish the challenge off. I was really late home from work tonight, a combination of having loads to do and also snarled-up traffic thanks to the combined efforts of Oxford's roadworks ("We're doing this for you" says the council - oh, ARE you now!) and the annual St. Giles' Fair which closes the city centre down. So, into the Co-op for some really nice red pepper and chilli outdoor-reared sausages (oh Mummy, look at those sausages gambolling in the field!), and Nigel's mustardy mash. Didn't use as much mustard OR cream as he does (half a pint of cream for mash for two!!!!) but it was very comforting with a big pile of runner beans. (I notice Nige's online recipe is more modest with the dairy and mustard - interesting...)

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Melon Sorbet [#151]

We had a very ripe Charentais melon sitting in the fridge that needed using up, so this sorbet was just the ticket. Again, I tinkered with the recipe. Instead of lemon juice, I used the rind and juice of a lime. Also, the flesh was so juicy when I blended it that I didn't add sugar syrup, but rather just a tablesoon of sugar, and sharpened it all with a little lime cordial. It froze happily in a plastic dish with some occasional stirring, and the result is one of the most startling tasting (and looking) things I've ever made - just fantastic after the rich pork dish earlier, and again the smells are divine. What a meal we've had, courtesy of Nigel. What a star, and I can't wait for his new programme later in the week on BBC 1.

Roast Pork Belly Sandwiches [#150]

Didn't make sandwiches! We had the marvellous burnished belly of pork with pan juices and roast potatoes. I have never been a fan of pork belly, worrying that it was too fatty - but after 2 and a half hours of slow roasting, the fat had virtually all but rendered. (Nigel only cooked his for an hour, which isn't really enough). The fragrant rub of very finely chopped fresh bay leaves and rosemary, with fennel seed and crushed garlic was pure Italy and the finished result tasted of that cuisine's classic porchetta. I picked the pork belly up for three quid in M&S so this is credit-crunchtastic gastronomy at its finest. Leftovers for a stir-fry tomorrow too. Drank a Louis Jadot Beaujolais Villages 2007 with it, picked up cheap from Waitrose, so feeling very virtuous. Again, the smells as this dish cooked were incredible. Tasting note: the leftover pork, cut into 'lardons' for want of a better term, made the most glorious stir-fry - sauteed until crisp and doused in hoisin sauce and soy, stirred through egg noodles with stir-fry pepper, courgettes and spring onions. Nom-nom!

Baked Mushrooms with Tarragon Mustard Butter [#149]

I used little portabellini mushrooms for this delicious dish - although I am afraid I radically trimmed the amount of butter and mustard - 50g of butter instead of the suggested 125g and 1 heaped teaspoon of Dijon mustard instead of....wait for it....2 tablespoons. Just excessive, sorry Nigel! Lovely served with crostini as a starter, and we have leftovers too. I imagine this would work as a sauce for pasta as well. This was the first in a triple bill of wonderful, fragrant Nigel dishes this evening - it is on nights like this that I am so glad I am doing this challenge - I wish all of you could have smelled my house today!