Friday, 27 May 2011

Thai-style Chicken Meatballs with Sweet Chilli Dipping Sauce

Do you ever have something to eat where you think "I could go on eating this until I burst?".  Well, these wonderful meatballs were just like that.  I found them on the BBC Good Food site so the simplest thing is to link to their recipe.  We served them with a bowl of coconut rice noodles with asparagus and courgette.  We will most definitely make this again.  It was such a pleasant way to wind down at the end of the day - select a lettuce leaf, add a meatball, stuff with some coriander leaves, sprinkle with lime juice, roll up, dunk in sweet chilli sauce, repeat.  Excellent.  This would be an easy, relaxed way to feed friends - bung it all on a platter and let people help themselves.  Just make plenty!

Sunday, 22 May 2011

Strawberry and Blueberry Trifle

Ah, trifle!  For me the single most important rule of a trifle is - NO JELLY!  Yuk.  But everything else, well, what can one say about Madeira sponge sandwiched with redcurrant jelly, then drenched in sherry, a layer of pureed and chopped strawberries with some just-poached blueberries folded through, then a proper vanilla egg custard (or Bird's, I don't mind!) and a billowy layer of softly-whipped cream, topped with finely-grated chocolate.  You want a bowl, don't you?  Right now.  Then another one......I'm not stopping you.

Italian Potroast Brisket

Or Stracotto di Manzo, to give it the full Italian glory.  This is never going to win prizes for looks, but it tastes wonderful, and leftovers make the best ragu for pasta the next day.  This takes the cheap and lean cut of rolled brisket and turns it into a melting, tender treat.  Simply brown a boned, rolled joint of brisket in a couple of tablespoons of olive oil and a knob of butter - do this gently, on all sides, until well-coloured.  Add a large chopped onion, and 4 or 5 chopped celery stalks, along with a couple of sliced carrots and 3 cloves of garlic - I used a whole head of 'wet' garlic.  Add a jar of passata or a tin of good tomatoes, pureed in a blender, along with half a bottle of good Italian red wine - if you wouldn't drink it, please don't cook with it!  A couple of bayleaves and some sprigs of thyme, along with some salt and pepper, and there you have it.  Cover the casserole tightly and braise in a lowish oven (130C fan) for three to four hours.  Carve and serve with the sauce, which I like to blend beforehand.  For the ragu, simply shred or chop the meat and mix with remaining sauce, reheat and stir through chunky rigatoni pasta.  It also makes a great lasagne.

Friday, 20 May 2011

Asparagus with Pancetta and Parmesan

photo courtesy of Nigel Slater/Jonathan Lovekin
We have an abundance - perhaps a superabundance - of asparagus in the house, after Hubby came home from the local pick-your-own with armfuls of the stuff AND more was delivered in the Riverford veg box today.  Just as well we love it, but it does challenge me to come up with new ways of eating it.  This is a lovely, simple recipe from Nigel and his 'Tender' volume 1.  Simply boil some stalks of asparagus until just cooked.  Place in a bundle on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Meanwhile, saute about 70g cubed pancetta in a knob of butter until crisp and golden and tip the contents of the pan, including the rendered fat, over the asparagus.  Don't skip this, it is only a dessertspoon, but gives a lovely savoury depth to the dish.  Sprinkle over some grated parmesan and bake in a hot oven for 10 minutes.  Alongside it, I browned a (small!) dish of macaroni cheese, made pokey and perky with good Glastonbury cheddar, lots of mustard and some cayenne pepper.  Not a low-fat dinner, but lovely Spring comfort food, all the same.

Thursday, 19 May 2011

Pork Burgers with Thyme and Lemon

OK, it's not easy to make minced pork look sexy, but believe me, these little mouthfuls taste scrummy!  This was a blend of two recipes I've cooked from Nigel - the ingredients (more or less) for his Pork and Lemon Polpettine, and the cooking method for his Chicken Patties.  This recipe was made so much easier by the use of a mini chopper (pause for 'Carry On' style jokes....) which made light work of 4 spring onions and an entire head of 'wet' garlic - actually very mild.  It then minced 70g of pancetta.  All of this was added to 500g of pork mince with a good teaspoon of fresh thyme leaves and the grated zest of a lemon.  Add salt and pepper - be generous, and mix well until all combined.  Your hands are the best utensil for this.  Form into little patties or burgers - this amount will make 12 to 16 of them, enough for 4 (I froze half).  Saute them for a few minutes until browned, put into a dish and pour over about 200mls of veg stock, and bake at 180C for 15 minutes to finish cooking.  This keeps them moist and juicy.  Add a little fresh lemon juice to the baking juices, and serve with tagliatelle or new potatoes, and lots of spring greens.  Yum!

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Rhubarb Pie

A pie stands or falls (literally) on its pastry crust, and this, if I may say so, is a very good one.  Actually, it is a Nigel Slater recipe, and I first used it in his Apple Shortcrust Pie.  For a 7inch pie dish, you need 100g each of butter and caster sugar, 175g plain flour and an egg yolk mixed with a couple of teaspoons cold water - keep the egg white.  I blitz the sugar and butter in a food processor, then add the flour.  Pulse until crumbly (you might need to scrape down the sides of the processor) and add the egg yolk and water.  Pulse again to mix, tip out onto a sheet of cling film and knead LIGHTLY and briefly into a dough.  Flatten, cover and rest in the fridge for at least an hour.  Cut in half, roll out one piece into a disc between sheets of clingfilm and line the pie dish.  Fill generously with your chosen fruit - in this case, lots of finely sliced rhubarb mixed with sugar and a tablespoon of cornflour - and then top with the remaining pastry, rolled out.  Brush the edges with lightly beaten egg white first to seal the two edges.  Now brush the surface with more egg white, sprinkle with a teaspoon of granulated sugar, and bake at 170C (fan) for 40 minutes.  If it browns too much cover loosely with foil.  Simple, crumbly and delicious.

Baked New Potatoes and Kohlrabi

Sorry for the news black-out, folks, I have been enjoying myself in sunny Dorset for a week, making the most of the local seafood restaurants and enjoying some of the best fish I've ever eaten - proper wild sea bass, spanking fresh mackerel and the most wonderful hand-dived scallops from Lyme Bay.  Anyway, back to land-locked Oxford.  The veg box had been delivered and I was immediately greeted with the strange 'Sputnik' vegetable, kohlrabi.  A Facebook chat with my chum, Austen, about turnips (as you do) gave me the idea to use the kohlrabi.  Simply halve some new potatoes (don't use Jersey Royals for this, they are too nice!) and chop your peeled kohlrabi into similar dimensions.  Toss the pieces in a tablespoon of olive oil and some chopped garlic and season well.  Put a couple of sprigs of thyme in a parchment-lined roating tin, and add the veg.  Bake at 180C for half-an-hour.  Now, pour over about 30 g or so of butter and return to the oven for a final 15 minutes - this adds a delicious rich nuttiness to the dish.  Sprinkle with fresh parsley (I forgot!) and eat straight away.  Any leftovers can be made into a Spanish egg tortilla.  This is adapted from Riverford's 'butter baked turnips and potatoes'.

Friday, 6 May 2011

Chickpea, Chorizo and Spinach with Poached Eggs

Inspired by a recipe from the wonderful Mark Hix, this is a simple, yet full-on flavoured dish for a quick supper.  You saute a sliced onion in a tablespoon of olive oil, with about 120g of chopped chorizo - let the onion soften and the sausage render its smoky paprika oil.  Add a clove of garlic, crushed, and half a teaspoon each of ground cumin and coriander, along with a pinch of cinnamon.  Tip in a tin of drained chickpeas (I use the dead cheap but brilliant East End brand) and add 200ml of water.  Allow to simmer for 10 minutes to amalgamate the flavours and reduce the liquid a bit.  Now throw in about 100g of rinsed baby spinach leaves and allow to wilt.  Finish with a tablespoon of chopped coriander leaf, and serve with a poached egg per person.  With crusty bread to mop up the oily juices, this is ample for 2 people.

Pasta with Tomato, Mascarpone , Asparagus and Basil

Okay, so you could make this sauce by gently simmering onions, garlic, tomatoes and mascarpone until smooth and tender - or you could go to Marks and Sparks and pick up a tub of their ready-made, which is really very good.  Guess which I did?  Anyway, once you have your said sauce, tart it up a bit with some fresh pesto and basil leaves stirred through, along with a couple of tablespoons of grated parmesan.  Towards the end of the pasta cooking time (I used shells as they hold the sauce nicely) throw in some asparagus, cut on the diagonal into pieces.  When all cooked, drain the pasta and asparagus, mix with the sauce, add more parmesan and tuck in.  Scrummy, and you'd never guess the sauce was ready-made.  Ooops!

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

One-pot Salmon with Roasted Asparagus and New Potatoes

picture courtesy of
Could dinner have been any yummier or simpler?  I found this on the BBC Good Food site, which is a very reliable pitstop when I run out of ideas.  Over 110 people have rated this a 5-star dish and they weren't wrong.  I can do no better than link straight to the recipe and pinch their picture.   A couple of changes (of course!): I used some lovely fillets of hot-smoked salmon and popped them on top of the roasted veg for just three minutes to gently warm through in the oven.  And rather than balsamic at the end, I drizzled over some fresh pesto, which was a gentler finish - sometimes I find balsamic vinegar a bit harsh....unless you've shelled out an arm, leg and kidney for the good stuff from Modena.  Anyway, do make this - I know I will again.

Monday, 2 May 2011

Nigella's Chocolate Chip Muffins

ANOTHER cake sale at work tomorrow, so I knocked up a batch of these in no time at all - we pinched 2 to take on a picnic in the lovely spring sunshine.  Commercially-made chocolate muffins are always such a disappointment - overly-sweet and unpleasantly chewy with a 'clarty' texture in the mouth.  These, however, are light and moist and not too sweet (admittedly, I cut the quantity of sugar down to 125g).  I also used a mixture of white and milk choc chunks (Waitrose Essential Cook's range do brilliant ones).  This recipe also has the advantage of using oil instead of butter, so not quite as naughty as they might otherwise be.  Here is Nigella's recipe:

250g plain flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon bicarbonate soda
2 tablespoons best quality cocoa
175g caster sugar (I used 125g)
150g chocolate chips (plus more for sprinkling later)
250ml milk
90ml vegetable oil (I used sunflower)
1 large egg
1 teaspoon real vanilla extract
Here’s How:
1. Preheat the oven to 200C (180C fan) and fill a 12-bun muffin tray with paper cases.
2. Weigh out the dry ingredients into a large bowl. Pour all the liquid ingredients into a measuring jug
3. Mix both together – it will be a runny batter - then spoon into waiting muffin cases. - note: don't over-mix at this stage, better to have the batter a bit lumpy than to beat it, which makes the muffins heavy
4. Sprinkle more chocolate chips on top then cook for 20 minutes or until the muffins are risen and springy.

Sunday, 1 May 2011

Swiss Chard and Parmesan Tart

This is adapted from a recipe in Raymond Blanc's new book 'Kitchen Secrets' - a treasure trove of (mostly) accessible recipes from the great chef.  His original recipe used just the chard stalks and Comte cheese.  I decided to use the chopped leaves as well, and substituted Parmesan and some Cheddar.  It was still very delicious!  Dead simple too.  Line a loose-bottomed metal flan tin with shortcrust.  No need to pre-bake.  Sweat the finely chopped stems and leaves of a bunch of chard in a good knob of butter until tender and place in the base of the pastry case.  Sprinkle a couple of ounces each of grated Parmesan and Cheddar (or other cheese of choice) over.  Now, whisk 3 eggs and about 80ml of double cream (or just milk) together, season well and add lots of freshly grated nutmeg.  Pour over the cheese and chard, sprinkle a little more Parmesan over, and bake on a pre-heated baking sheet for around 30 minutes (at 170C fan) until the pastry is crisp and golden and the tart has puffed up and browned.  Allow to cool for about 5 minutes.  Lovely.  Will eat the rest on a picnic tomorrow.