Thursday, 22 February 2007

Harissa-spiced chicken with bulghar

First of all, an explanation for my absence. The whole family have been hit by a rather unpleasant virus which left us unable to face food if you catch my drift.... We are just coming out the other side, and to be honest, I'm still not feeling like cooking anything too rich or fancy.

This recipe is from March's Good Food Magazine. I don't usually buy foodie mags but thought I'd give a couple a whirl to get some more inspiration. I think I may think about getting a subscription to one eventually, once I find the one that fits my "groove"!

It was the bulghar wheat in this that made me decide to try it out. My mum is from the Middle East, so pulses and grains are a staple ingredient in all their food. When I was growing up she didn't have access to these sort of ingredients so for a long time I didn't get the chance to eat her wonderful Middle Eastern cooking. Nowadays bulghar wheat, black lentils and chick peas are found virtually anywhere....

Ingredients (serves 4):
1 tbsp harissa paste
4 skinless chicken breasts
1 tbsp oil
1 onion, sliced
2 tbsp pine nuts
A handful of ready to eat apricots
300g/10 oz bulghar wheat
600ml/ 1 pt hot chicken stock
Handful of coriander leaves, chopped

Rub the harissa paste over the chicken.
Heat the oil in a deep non stick pan then fry the chicken for about 3 mins on each side until golden. Remove and set aside
Add the onions and fry gently for 5 mins. Tip in the pine nuts and continue cooking for another few mins until toasted.
Tip in the apricots, bulghar and stock and cover. Cook for about 10 mins until the stock is almost disolved
Return the chicken to the pan re-cover and cook for 5 mins on a low heat until the liqued has been absorbed and the chicken is cooked through.
Fluff up the bulghar with a fork and scatter with the coriander to serve

My chicken pieces needed a bit longer to cook through (after the last week, I didn't want to chance anything!). I added a clove of garlic and some middle eastern spices but it would have been just as nice without. I'll be making this again as everyone devoured it!


Thursday, 15 February 2007

Tagliatelle with spinach, mascarpone and parmesan

Today was manic so I had planned a nice, simple meal which was just as well as I was exhausted - Baby had kept us up last night with vomiting antics..... Hope it wasn't my cooking that had poisoned her.....

This recipe is taken from Jamie's Dinners - in his blurb accompanying this recipe he talks about how it is really suited to toddlers who will happily eat the spinach in this form but reject it in other dishes. I wasn't convinced but thought I'd give it a whirl - once again Jamie's right - Toddler was actually picking off pieces of spinach to eat seperately!!!! Very cute! Baby wasn't so impressed, but she's not been herself.

Unfortunately I didn't have any parmesan left - Husband threw the knuckle out the other night grrrrrr. It was lovely without but would have been really good with it, so I'll be making it again very soon.

Ingredients (serves 4):
455g/1lb tagliatelle or spaghetti
olive oil
2 tsp butter
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
1/2 a nutmeg, freshly grated
400g/14oz fresh spinach, washed thoroughly and finely sliced
120ml/4 fl oz double cream
150g/5 oz mascarpone cheese
2 handfuls of freshly grated parmesan cheese

Cook the pasta in a large pan of salted water.
At the same time, in a large frying pan or wok, heat the butter, a drizzle of olive oil, the garlic and the nutmeg. When the butter melts, add the spinach and cook for about 5 mins until it has wilted. Season with salt and pepper to taste, then add the cream, mascarpone and a small ladle of the cooking water from the pasta. Bring to a simmer and check the seasoning.
Drain the pasta, reserving some of the cooking water then stir it into the spinach sauce. Add the parmesan and stir through. Add the reserved cooking water if needed to loosen the pasta. Check the seasoning and serve.


Wednesday, 14 February 2007

Minky's easy peasy fandabbydosy chocolate cake

This is a recipe gleaned from one of the girls on Damsels. After Husband surprised me with several wonderful Valentine's gifts, including a set of cake tins from Emma Bridgewater it would have been rude not to bake a cake! And what better way to a man's heart than with a chocolate cake....

185g butter
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp baking powder
1.5 cups sugar
2 cups plain flour
1 cup cool tap water
3 eggs
2/3 (two thirds) cup Cocoa

Put all ingredients in a bowl (room temp butter cut up into cubes). Mix to combine on low speed. Increase speed to max and mix for 3 mins or until the colour changes (goes slightly lighter). It might look curdled but this doesn't matter.Bake in a moderate oven (170 fan, 180 reg) 1.5 hours in a large tin or 1/2 an hour in 2 sandwich tins (greased and lined).

My Kenwood mixer is currently in storage so I hand mixed this. I started by creaming the butter and sugar together and then threw the rest of the ingredients in and stirred like crazy! It was the best chocolate cake I've had in ages and I will be making this again and again....


Tuesday, 13 February 2007

Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic

I was meant to be cooking a recipe from Nigel Slater's "Real Food" tonight but popped in to Waitrose on the way home and picked up the latest copy of "Food Illustrated" (only because it was free to me as a John Lewis card holder!). I flicked through it whilst waiting in the queue and came across this recipe - we've all been suffering with malingering colds recently and as garlic is such a good immune system booster I thought I'd give it a bash. Shame about the after effects of so much garlic, especially as it's Valentine's Day tomorrow.....

8 chicken joints (thighs, drumsticks or breasts)
2 red onions, sliced into wedges
2 red peppers, deseeded and sliced
2 bulbs of garlic, unpeeled but divided into individual cloves
1 lemon, cut into wedges
3 sprigs of fresh thyme, leaves only
4 tbsp olive oil
150 ml dry white wine

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees
Place the chicken pieces in a large roasting dish. Scatter the onions, peppers, garlic, lemon wedges and thyme. Drizzle over half the oil and season. Cover with foil and bake in the oven for 30 mins
Remove the foil and return to the oven for a further 30 mins
Pour the wine into the pan, trying not to wet the chicken skin and drizzle the skin with the remaining oil. Cook for a further 15 mins.

We served this with couscous and there isn't a morsel left! I'll be doing this regularly...


Monday, 12 February 2007

Tasty Fish Bake

This fish pie is from Jamie's Dinners and whilst this only the second time I've cooked it I'm already recommending it to people to make! It really is simple and hardly takes any time to cook. It tastes divine - something about the sauteed fennel with the cream is hard to beat. I prepared this whilst Toddler was at creche this afternoon - I parboiled the potatoes, sauteed the fennel and onions and scaled the fish. That meant that half an hour before we ate I just assembled it and popped it in the oven. It was a great distraction while I was waiting to hear from an estate agent - luckily the news was good and we had an offer accepted on a house! Soon I'll have a PROPER kitchen to cook in! We celebrated with a bottle of bubbly to wash down the bake, but a beer or cool, crisp glass of white would suffice.

400g potatoes, scrubbed and finely sliced
4 tbsp olive oil
1 clove of garlic, peeled and chopped
1 onion, peeled and sliced (I used one small brown onion and one small red onion)
1 bulb of fennel, trimmed and sliced
1 tsp fennel seeds
4 medium trout fillets, pinboned
285ml/half pint of single cream
2 handfuls of freshly grated Parmesan
2 anchovy fillets
2 handfuls of fresh breadcrumbs
2 lemons, halved

Preheat oven to 200 degrees
Parboil the potatoes for a few minutes until softened and drain.
Place a 20cm casserole dish on a low heat and add the oil, garlic, onion, fennel and fennel seeds. Cook slowly for 10 mins with the lid on, stirring every so often.
Take the pan off the heat. Lay your trout fillets skin-side up over the onion and fennel
Mix together the cream, parmesan and anchovies, season and pour over the fish
Toss the potato slices in a little olive oil, slat and pepper and layer over the fish.
Place in the oven (uncovered) for 20 mins, sprinkling with the breadcrumbs and a little grated paremesan 5 mins before the end.
Serve with lemon halves


Sunday, 11 February 2007

Sumo wrestler's soup

Husband cooked tonight - what an angel! I used the free time to go shopping but all my purchases were far from glam....

Before you worry, this isn't at all fattening - it's the quantities that the sumo wrestlers eat that contributes to their build, not the ingredients! So Husband wasn't insulting me when he chose to make it.

This is a great "throw it all in" dish and we vary what we throw in depending on what we can get our hands on. We're very lucky that we live just down the road from the London branch of Wing Yip and popped there yesterday morning to stock up with oriental supplies. It's an amazing place - part cash and carry, part Asian supermarket. If they don't stock it it's not authentic! As it's Chinese New Year next week we managed to buy some special red bean and gultinous rice "cakes" which are divine. I'm going back later this week to stock up.

Chicken stock
Prawns or diced chicken
1 daikon or mouli, shaved lengthwise and cut into fine shreds (we only do thick shreds here!)
1 large potato cut into large chunks
1-2 cakes deep fried or plain tofu, cubed
10-12 shitake mushrooms, sliced
2 medium onions, sliced (we used red onions tonight)
1 savoy cabbage, shredded (we used pak choi tonight)
150ml soy sauce
125ml mirin
8 baby corn cut into 1cm chunks
Udon noodles

Parboil the daikon/mouli and potato in lightly salted water then drain
Put the chicken meat/prawns, tofu, mushrooms, onions, cabbage, corn and stock into a large pan and add the soy sauce. Simmer until the chicken and veg are cooked then add the daikon and potato with the mirin and 1/2 tsp salt. Add the noodles if using. Cook for a few more minutes then serve.


Saturday, 10 February 2007

Sausage cassoulet

A couple of weeks ago a post on Damsels asked about recipes from Jamie Oliver's "Jamie's Kitchen". I'm a bit of a JO fan and have all his books but when I picked my copy up to answer the query realised I haven't ever cooked anything from it! I have a bit of a "thing" about cookery books - Husband calls it an addiction, I call it "passion". I love reading them, I love flicking through them and I love cooking from them. But I have so many that I don't always pick new recipes out as I veer towards old favourites. So I set myself the challenge to pick a recipe from the book and here it is.

Ingredients (to serve 8):
2 handfuls of dried porcini mushrooms, broken up
8 thick slices of dry cured streaky bacon (I used cubetti pancetta)
A large bunch of mixed fresh herbs - thyme, rosemary and sage
2 red onions, peeled and roughly chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 large carrot, peeled and roughly chopped
1/2 celery heart, finely chopped
1/2 bottle of red wine
3 400g tins of peeled plum tomatoes
2 400g tins of borlotti or cannellini beans (I used 1 tin of cannellini and 1 tin of chick peas)
8 large sausages or 24 chipolatas
1 large stale loaf, crusts removed

Preheat the oven to 220
Cover the porcini mushrooms with 450ml/1 pint of boiling water and anllow to soak until soft.
Heat a large casserole or roasting tray on the hob. Slice the bacon across into strips and fry in olive oil until crisp and golden. Add the onions, garlic, carrot, celery, bay leaves and the bunch of herbs tied together to the pan. Drain the porcini, reserving the soaking liquid, and add them to the pan. Fry gently for 5 mins. Add the red wine and simmer until the liquid has reduced by half.
Add the tomatoes to the pan, breaking them up. Then add the porcini liqour and the beans. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 mins
Lay your sausages on top.
Break the bread up into coarse, chunky breadcrumbs and toss with the thyme, a little salt and olive oil and sprinkle on top of the sausages.
Place in the oven for about an hour.

I served this with couscous but you could try mash. This was devoured by everyone and if you use good quality sausages is pretty healthy as the beans lower the GI and there are plenty of veg in there too. I will be making this quite a lot as although it needed preparatoin it left me a good hour free after making it to tidy up/play with the kids/surf the web!


Spiced apple muffins

I seemed to have hit the ground running but all good things come to an end... So it is with a somewhat red face that I admit that for the last couple of days I've barely cooked. On Thursday (the incredibly snowy day!) Toddler was really ill - I was called to pick him up from the childminder as he'd been so sick. I didn't think I could leave him alone while I cooked supper so he had toast and we made do. Yesterday I was shattered after both Toddler and Baby had been restless overnight so we had spaghetti with meatballs that I'd prepared on Thursday after they'd gone to bed. Not the most healthy or nutritious meal but comfort food is often the only way.

Today we had a rather quiet day - Baby had been up on and off last night with a horrible cough and so I thought I'd make some muffins this afternoon. Actually, I had meant to make a chocolate cake but didn't have enough butter! Food shop tomorrow though. These are divine - muffins are so easy so give them a whirl!

250g plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 and a half tsp mixed spice
100g of golden granulated sugar
1 egg
5 fl oz/150 ml milk
170g finely chopped apple (peeled and cored)
85g butter, melted
80g raisins

Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Prepare muffin tins

In a large bowl sift together the flour, baking powder, salt and mixed spice. Stir in the sugar.
Beat the egg and add the milk followed by the apple and melted butter
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until just combined. Because the apple releases its juices whilst cooking it's quite a dry batter.
Spoon into tins and bake for 20-25 mins (I have a fan oven and baked at 190 for 18 mins).

The original recipe had a topping of 3 tbsp soft brown sugar and 2 oz of chopped walnuts that you sprinkle on top before baking. As Toddler is on a nut free diet, I didn't add this although he's point blank refused to taste them so far and at the rate I'm eating them he won't get a chance tomorrow!!!


Wednesday, 7 February 2007

Tray baked salmon

Today I did remember to take the salmon out - I love salmon and need to make sure I get my weekly dose of Omega 3s. The toddler and the baby seem to share my love of if though the toddler didn't touch it today (he's ill....).

This is a Jamie Oliver recipe that I'd not tried before - there are a few tweaks here and there and I won't use all the anchovies next time as it was far too salty for me.... But a great "throw it together" meal and easily varied to suit the seasons.

4 salmon fillets
1 pack of green beans
20 cherry tomatoes
1 bulb of fennel
2 handfuls of pitted black olives
1 lemon
12 anchovy fillets

Heat a roasting tin in the oven set to the highest temp.
Blanche the green beans and fennel until tender. Drain. Toss them in a bowl with the tomatoes, olives and a couple of glugs of olive oil.
Pat the salmon fillets dry then squeeze the lemon over both sides. Pour a little olive oil over.
Remove the roasting tin from the oven. Lay the salmon fillets at one end
Pour the bean mix into the other end. Lay the anchovy fillet over the beans.
Put in the oven for 10 mins.

As I say, I think 6 anchovy fillets would be sufficient. I served this with some plain boiled baby new potatoes.

Tuesday, 6 February 2007

Last minute sausage casserole

I've had a busy day today and realised at 4pm whilst in town that I hadn't taken the salmon fillets out of the freezer. So I popped to good old Marks and Spencer "Simply Food" and the only non ready meal item I could find for inspiration were their sausages.....

Sausage casserole was a regular player in my mum's menu. She has so many different ways - red wine, white wine, mustardy, onion-y. So I took my inspiration from her (and from the contents of my fridge!) and created this casserole:

1 packet of good quality sausages
1 red onion, chopped
1 white onion, sliced
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1 large leek finely sliced
1 large stick of celery, chopped
70g cubetti pancetta
1 tbsp plain flour
white wine
stock (I use Marigold vegetable bouillon powder)

Turn the oven on to 170
Take a shallow, heavy bottomed casserole dish and heat a tbsp of olive oil. Add the sausages and brown. Remove from pan
Saute the onions and celery for 2-3 minutes then add the pancetta and garlic. Cook for a further 3 minutes then add the leek.
Stir in the flour, making sure it's evenly distributed through the dish.
Pour in a glass of wine and stir to deglaze the pan. Bring to a simmer and bubble for 1 minute. Add the stock - enough to almost cover the sausages.
Cover and put in the oven for 25-30 mins minimum.

I served this with rice and some peas. I usually stir through some creme fraiche at the end but forgot even though I'd picked it up in M&S!!!! Still, we're enjoying it now, served with our naughty chocolate puddings now the children are sleeping....

Monday, 5 February 2007

Blueberry muffins

OK, so not really a "meal" as such and not that healthy (well, the ones I made weren't though there are lots of ways you CAN make muffins healthy) but I was feeding the baby her daily dose of vitamin C I realised we had a glut of blueberries that were about to escape from the fridge. So I made some blueberry muffins. The way I see it, it helps bring Mr Shamu a wee bit closer to his 5 a day.....

I bought this book about 6 years ago when muffins were only just becoming popular over here. My mum is a great cook but she hates baking so all my baking skills are self taught. This book was a great introduction to baking as you really can't go wrong with muffins. There are so many great combinations, but this is a real classic.

280g plain flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
95g golden granulated sugar
1 egg
240ml milk
85g butter melted
140g blueberries

Preheat the oven to 200
Sift the flour, baking powder and salt together and stir in the sugar
Beat the egg then stir in the milk followed by the butter
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry and stir until combined. The batter will be lumpy but no dry flour should be visible.
Gently fold in the berries, taking care not to crush
Spoon into muffin cases. Bake for 20 mins for large muffins and 13-15 mins for mini muffins.

They were delicious and I'll be popping a couple into the toddler's lunchbox tomorrow - I wonder if he'll enjoy them.....

Sunday, 4 February 2007


No, I'm not going to reinvent the wheel or teach your grandmother to suck eggs, but thought I'd raise the issue of what goes in yours? Watching Heston Blumenthal on BBC2 last year when he interviewed people on what makes a good bolognese/bolognaise got me thinking that there are so many variations on the theme.... For a start, there's the different spelling (Italian v French) and then there are the other debates - milk or no milk, carrots or not, red wine, which herbs etc.
I was taught my recipe by an Italian so I think it's pretty authentic! Basically, I use onions, garlic, carrots and celery in the base and then throw in a packet of cubetti pancetta. I raise the heat and add the meat to brown then add a big glug of red wine and a bottle of sugocasa. I tend to add a sprinkle of sugar and some tomato puree and the herbs and simmer for 30 mins with the lid on and then at least another 30 mins with the lid off. If I have a knuckle of parmesan knocking about I'll pop that in and if there are few unloved mushrooms in the bottom of the fridge they find their way in too!
I think the pasta makes a big difference too - I always add a bit of salt to the water as well as some sunflower oil (this stops it sticking). Add a generous knob of butter to the pan and return the drained pasta to the pan, stirring it to coat the pasta shapes in the melted butter. Stir in the sauce and serve with a hunk of parmesan. YUM!
So, how do you do yours?

Saturday, 3 February 2007

Chicken pesto rice

Chicken Pesto rice

4 chicken thighs
1 onion finely chopped
4oz sliced mushrooms
6oz long grain or basmati rice
1/2 jar green pesto
1pt chicken stock

Method: Pre-heat oven to 200C/gas mark 6

Brown the chicken in a pan

In a baking dish put the rice (uncooked), onion and mushrooms and mix up. Place chicken on top. Add the pesto to the chicken stock and pour over.

Cook in the oven uncovered for 1 hour and it's done.

The food and drink forum on Damsels is a great place for me to get inspiration for my weekly menus. We all share our weekly menu plans too. This recipe was on a thread asking for quick chicken recipes and it is certainly quick and easy. It was really tasty too, and I served it with steamed mange tout and babycorn. Everyone enjoyed it (well the baby has cut her second tooth today so she wasn't that interested in eating anything...)

I really like risottos but with two children it isn't really practical to stand in front of the stove ladeling in your stock so baked risottos are definitely a winner. I will have to dig out some more baked risotto recipes soon!

Friday, 2 February 2007

Pork with leek and apricots

Pork fillet with leeks, apricots, currants and pinenuts
Serves 4 - large portions
750g pork fillet, cut into large chunks
1 cup dried apricots
500g leeks, washed and sliced
150ml white wine
1-2 tbsp butter1 tbsp currants
1 tsp cumin1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground ginger1
2 tbsp pinenuts

Preheat oven to 180C.
Spread three quarters of the leeks in a casserole dish.
Put three quarters of the apricots in a pan with the white wine, Slowly bring to boil, and simmer for 2 minutes. Pour evenly over the leeks in the casserole dish.
Place the pork chunks on top of the leek/apricot mixture.
Bake in uncovered casserole dish for an hour, turning the meat once.
Melt the butter in a pan, and fry the remaining apricots that have been cut into strips, until golden brown. Add the pinenuts and currants. Then add the remaining leeks, stir and toss until just cooked. Add the spices and heat through. Keep warm.
Take the casserole out of the oven, and remove the pork to a plate. Puree the remaining leek and apricot mixture from the bottom of the casserole dish in a food processor/liquidiser etc. Return the pureed sauce to the casserole, and arrange the cooked pork on the top. As a final layer, place the fried apricot/leek/pinenut mixture over the top.
Return to the oven for another 10-15 minutes.
The dish can be served with rice or couscous.

Well, I stole this from a friend's blog but I think the timings need tweaking a bit. I found the pork had dried out too much and there wasn't much "sauce" so next time will only put the meat in the oven for 40 mins for the first stage. And I'll add a bit more wine and a bit of stock.
That said, both children and my husband wolfed it down so even if it was a bit on the dry side it still tasted good!