Archive for the ‘winter warmer’ Category

Shepherd’s Pie, baked beans and ketchup – Oh my God!  Could food get any more comforting?!

I remember as a child I would mix it all together so that every spoonful was a mashed-potatoey, mince-meaty, ketchup-tangy mouthful.

And then came the correction; it’s only Shepherd’s Pie if made with real shepherds – or at least minced lamb!  If made with beef mince it is a Cottage Pie.  Either name, I loved it as much as a child as I do to this day (however as I’m all grown up now, I only mix it up into a potatoey, meaty, ketchupy mouthful at home!)

But even though I make it in the same way that both my Mum and Granny taught me, I recently stumbled across a recipe by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall that makes a very decadent shepherd’s pie.

delicious, comforting, familiar, easy to make, and above all, thrifty

The premise is that it uses up your left-over Sunday roast.  And that for me is great as I’m not one to have reheated day old roast lamb.  I can’t make up my mind whether it is the smell or the gelatinous texture that puts me off so this is a brilliant way of exploiting your leftovers.

Hugh’s Shepherd’s Pie

Ingredients

  • About 1Kg of leftover roast lamb
  • Olive oil
  • Onions
  • Any leftover gravy or lamb juices
  • Small glass of red wine
  • 2 tbsp tomato ketchup
  • 2 tbsp Worcester sauce
  • Mashed potatoes made up to cover the dish
  • Seasoning

Method

1st: Heat the olive oil in a saucepan big enough to accommodate all the ingredients.  Coarsely chop the meat and brown in the hot olive oil – this will render out any excess fat and make the meat crispy around the edges.  Remove onto a plate.

2nd: Sweat the onions (I used a leek that was hidden at the back of my fridge and bunged in diced carrot for good measure!) make sure to scrape any meaty bits off the bottom of the pan whilst turning the onions.

3rd: Once the onions are translucent return the meat to the pan and add the red wine, Worcester sauce and ketchup.  Mix in the left over gravy and season to taste.  Simmer gently for a few minutes and if the mixture looks too dry add a little water.  Simmer gently for 20-30mins.

4th: Have a final taste for seasoning and adjust as necessary – add more ketchup, wine, salt/pepper to taste.  Again add a little water to slacken the mixture if you feel it needs it.

5th: Put the mixture into a casserole dish and cover the meat completely with your mashed potatoes.  (I wanted to use up the left over roast potatoes too so I chopped these up into small dice as I want them to retain some shape.  As you can see from the photo I covered half in mashed potato and the other half in diced small potatoes.)  Bake at 200˚C for 30-40mins until the mash is lightly browned on top and the sauce if bubbling around the edges.

Recipe taken and adapted from http://www.channel4.com/4food/recipes/chefs/hugh-fearnley-whittingstall/hugh-s-mum-s-shepherd-s-pie-recipe

As a meal it ticks all the boxes – delicious, comforting, familiar, easy to make, and above all, thrifty.  With spring warmth having finally kick started but chilly evenings this is the sort of food you want to eat for supper.

This makes a delicious mid-week supper.  If you have left-over lamb that you do not know how to use up I urge you to give it a try – it may seem lengthy but to be honest there really is nothing to it as it is either simmering on your hob or baking in the oven – you are not slaving stove-top for 1hour.  I preferred the diced roast potatoes on-top to the traditional mash and this would take out a whole stage of the process, alternatively using instant mash may also be an option.  What I wouldn’t recommend is that you purposefully roast some lamb to create this as the whole point of this dish is to use up left-over meat so as not to be wasteful.

This recipe should serve 4-6 people but if you need to serve a large number of people you could always add some veg on the side or add minced lamb to make the dish go further.

 

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One of my all time favourite restaurant dishes is fillet steak with garlic prawns – served rare! But whenever I order this some diners will always question the whole meat and seafood combo and whether it really works.

So what is Surf and Turf?

Surf and Turf or more commonly ‘Surf ‘n’ Turf’ or better still, ‘Beef ‘n’ Reef’ (Australian); is a restaurant term that refers to a dish incorporating both a portion of meat and a portion of seafood.  The term appears to have originated along the East Coast of the United States during the 60’s.  The “Surf” in the title clearly refers to seafood – usually lobster – but it can be any other type of crustacean.  “Turf” is any type of grass-fed land animal but usually refers to beef in the form of steak.

The steak part is usually grilled with dark brown grill marks clearly showing its proximity to fire!  The seafood is usually boiled, baked or grilled to retain its contrasting purity in both texture and colour.

Whereas sceptics might argue their dislike because of the decadence of the dish with its extravagant ingredients (traditionally fillet mignon and lobster) others will defend the complementary pairings where one item works almost as a seasoning; a vehicle to carry flavour e.g. frying salmon fillets in bacon fat is about boosting flavour, wrapping the salmon in bacon is about insulating the fish from the intense heat of the grill and stopping them from sticking to the pan whilst also continuously basting them in salty, smoky fat that renders out of the bacon!

Here are some of my Surf ‘n’ Turf home favourites:

Salmon wrapped in streaky bacon, Lamb shanks with Anchovy and red wine, Spaghetti with Prawn and Chorizo

Salmon with streaky bacon is very simple to make.  One piece of Salmon fillet per person, wrapped in streaky bacon (OR use lardons should you be cooking with larger pieces of salmon).  Please don’t skip making the mushy peas which add a grassy ‘turf-like’ note to the dish.

The lamb shanks must be cooked for a long time to become fall-off-the-bone tender.  Unless using a pressure cooker or a slow cooker, cook in the oven at a low heat for 2 hrs+.  Do yourself a favour – if entertaining with this do not bother telling anyone about the anchovy in the dish as people have an immediate prejudice against these salty fish.  They dissolve into the red wine meaty juices and add a saltiness that you just cannot get with salt and no one will know that they are there!

Spaghetti with prawns and chorizo is just a pasta version of a stylish restaurant starter: Scallops and prawns / black pudding.

By adding the pasta you can make the prawns go further; the chorizo renders out its smoky, paprika fat which coats the spaghetti.  Substituting the prawns for scallops could make this a more decadent alternative.

So if you you’re a surf ‘n’ turf cynic why not give one of these combos a go?  You never know – you may even make some discoveries of your own…

With the uphill month of January hitting people’s pockets hard and everyone trying to stick to their new year’s resolutions of which generally losing weight is a major focus, the home cook is being challenged to provide food that is flavoursome but light and easy on the wallet.  A bowl of hot soup can usually tick all the boxes.

Soup is the epitome of thrift.

Think about it – you need a greater quantity – add more water; too watery and you can add a handful of rice/pasta/lentils to bulk it out.  You can use cheaper cuts of meat to add flavour and any back of the fridge vegetables that are on the turn and have become slimy can make a star appearance in your soup.  The possibilities are endless.  All you need to remember is that at the heart of any good soup is a good stock.

If however, like me, you are getting bored of the usual soup combinations, I must recommend my sister-in-law’s roasted garlic and butternut squash soup.  The roasted garlic turning into a sweet puree to the already sweet, orange flesh of the squash.

Roasted Garlic and Butternut Squash Soup

butternut1Peel and deseed a butternut squash.  Cut it into chunks of similar size and place onto a baking sheet.  Break a head of garlic and add around 5 medium sized cloves in their papery wrappers.  Deseed and chop a red chilli.  Cover in olive oil and mix well.  Place into a moderate oven for approx 40mins.

Whilst waiting prepare your stock of choice (approx double your rice quantity).  If making this for vegetarians make sure to use a vegetable stock but I usually use a chicken stock for extra flavour.

When you take the tray out of the oven, release the garlic cloves butternut2from their skins.  Put the roast veg and garlic into a blender with half of your prepared stock.  Alternatively you can use a stick blender.  Add more stock to slacken the soup.  Once you are happy with the consistency, and different people prefer it in different ways, you are ready to serve.  A bowl of this soup and some crusty bread for dunking, makes this dish a great light lunch and a convincing supper.

Eventually you get to eat most of the soup and there is that little bit left in a small bowl in the fridge – not enough to make a decent bowlful or you don’t fancy soup again for the third time that week!  So now is your chance to convert the soup into a flavoursome stock for a delicious butternut squash risotto.

Butternut Squash Risotto

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1st: First thin the soup with water and place into a saucepan to be heated through.

2nd: Heat a good knob of butter with some olive oil.

3rd: Chop an onion and add to a pan of foaming butter and soften until translucent.  Add your risotto rice (Arborio) and cook through for 5mins.  Add a splosh of sherry or vermouth to the pan and boil off the alcohol.

4th: Now, ladle the stock into the rice pan a ladle at a time, allowing the rice to absorb the stock before adding the next ladleful.  Stir well and continue this process until the rice is cooked through – you may not need to use all the stock – if more is needed add warm water.  Leave to stand for 3mins.

5th: Serve with a grating of parmesan cheese and a ribbon of extra virgin olive oil.

Who would have thought that from one humble butternut squash (£1) and store cupboard ingredients, you can create a duo of delicious dishes, where both in the soup and the risotto the squash is the star of the show.

Delicious, flavoursome, thrifty.

Autumn finally decided to creep out from behind the shade of the beach umbrellas and tiptoe into the limelight of falling leaves and cooler, darker evenings.

The duvet finally came out.

Over the past week the temperatures have dropped; especially noticeable at night time and early morning.  Autumn has made a proper appearance and it doesn’t feel as if it’s going anywhere in a rush.

So what does this mean in terms of the kitchen and the food we eat?  If we are trying to eat seasonal it means that there are some great opportunities to be had with game at this time of year.  Venison steaks with blackcurrants and blackberries is absolutely delicious as is the one pot dish of duck magret with cannellini beans.

But I’m not after something that will be a quick flash in the pan; on these cooler, darker evenings nothing calls out to me as much as a hearty venison stew.

The great thing about a stew is that it’s a chance for you to experiment with cheaper cuts of meat that are packed full of flavour that you might not be accustomed to using, however they will generally need longer, slower cooking on the hob or in the oven.  If you’re not pushed for time putting a stew together can be very liberating as there are no measures or rules you must adhere to – it’s go with the flow time.

Venison Stew

This is what I do but is by no means a recipe that you need to follow – most of the ingredients are optional and you can substitute them for those you prefer.

I use diced venison dredged in seasoned flour and coloured in the pan.  Then fry onions in the meaty juices at the bottom of the pan (you may need to add more butter).  Deglaze the pan with red wine or port and then add the diced venison back into the pan.  Add potatoes and top with either or a combination of the three: water/beef stock/tinned tomatoes.  Chop mushrooms into quarters and add to the pot.  Make sure to season well, add oregano and bay leaves and chilli flakes for added warmth.  Chop a couple of carrots lengthways and place into the pot.  Bring to the boil on the hob and then put into a low oven 160˚C for 2 hours.  After two hours fish out the carrots and add green beans.  Let the beans cook in the residual heat of the stew.

Cook’s treat: sprinkle sea-salt and drizzle olive oil over the carrots and have as a sneaky treat before serving everyone else!

But the best thing about a stew is that with whatever is leftover you could always turn it into a pie the following day.

Venison Pie

Either use shop bought pastry or make your own shortcrust pastry.

Line a tart tin and bake blind in the oven.  Remove your baking beads/pulses and egg wash the base – baking for a further few minutes until golden.  The reason for this being that the egg wash will prevent your pie from having a soggy bottom.  No one likes a soggy bottom!

Chop the potatoes into smaller pieces and add as much leftover stew as you dare.  Then top the pie with either a full cover (make sure to leave some vent holes for the steam to escape) or create a simple lattice pattern over the top.  If the idea of having to make a pie is scaring you, a pasty might be easier but I would use ready-rolled, shop bought puff pastry for this.

If however, the thought of having to eat the same again is putting you off giving this a go remember that stews freeze very well.  I would fish out the beans and potatoes before freezing and probably serve this with fresh veg and mash next time!

Perfect for Bonfire’s Night to be eaten outside watching the fireworks…

We leave Winter behind and step into Spring but sadly even though the temperatures have gone up the weather does not really seam to be reflecting this yet.  So with the dreary weather hanging over us I still have penchant for comfort food.

So what does comfort food really mean to me?  If I were to really breakdown my thoughts on this I would have to say that comfort food for me is anything that can be eaten with spoon or fork in hand, whilst in PJ’s, sat on the sofa.  Every mouthful should have me nodding in approval with the occasional, “Mmmmm…” And when I finish what’s on my plate, belly full to burst, I should be thinking; “Would one more mouthful be just right?”

So what dish can honestly provide me with all these thoughts and emotions on a plate?  piePIE!

Pie, yes, pie.  This can be savoury or sweet, filled, cobbler-style or two crust.  By crust I not only mean pastry but anything that can be used to encase the filling, such as oats, potato slices or mash.

So which crust will ultimately provide the ultimate comfort?  Mashed potato does it for me.  In the Recipes section of my blog can be found my delicious Steak and Ale Pie.  So what other pies can be delicious topped with mash?  One of my easy to make pies is a simple fish pie.

jamie-oliver

As Jamie Oliver himself says:

“The whole fish pie thing is one of the most homely, comforting and moreish dinners I can think of.”

And I couldn’t agree more.

Fish Pie

First of all – this does not need expensive cuts of fish, just make sure there are no bones.  Supermarkets now stock trays with different fish cuts specifically made for fish pies.  Also check your local fishmongers as they may have special offers too.

For the mash:

1st: Preheat the oven to 230°C.  Peel and boil 5 large potatoes.  Boil for 10mins.  Add 2 eggs and boil for 8mins.

2nd: Drain the potatoes and set aside.  Peel the eggs under cold running water.  Set aside.

3rd: Wilt 200g of spinach by rinsing the spinach and adding these moist leaves to a hot pan.  Once the spinach has wilted drain and squeeze out any excess water.  Set aside.

For the cream filling:

4th: In a saucepan, sauté a medium onion and add a small pot (254ml) of double cream.  If you want to use a large pot of double cream or half double half single feel free to.  Bring the cream to the boil.

5th: Remove from the heat and add 200g of Cheddar cheese, the juice of a lemon and a teaspoon of mustard.

Assemble the pie:

6th: Add approximately 500g of different fish cuts to your pie dish (if making individual pies then share this out equally) I tend to use salmon fillet, cod fillet and prawns.

7th: Spread the spinach equally throughout the dish.  Pour the cream sauce over.  Sprinkle with parsley.  Quarter the boiled eggs and add to the dish.

8th: Mash the potatoes with olive oil, salt and pepper and a rasp of nutmeg.  Try to cover the creamy fish base.  Don’t be too neat and if it does not cover everything better as this will provide areas for the sauce to bubble through the mash! (Optional extra: beat an egg and wash the top of the mash for a crispy finish).

9th: Place in the oven for 25-30 mins until the potatoes are golden.

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Enjoy!

“You got paid early in December ready for Christmas, so you are currently skint. Your New Year diet regime has now slipped and you are hoovering up food like there’s no tomorrow.” New Year’s resolutions start flying out the window and all those gym clothes you bought are a constant reminder of how little exercise you are actually doing! Using the following formula:

\frac{[W + D-d] T^Q}{M N_a}

where: Weather, debt, Time since Christmas, time since failing our new year’s resolutions (Q), low Motivational levels and the feeling of a Need to take action (D is undefined) scientists have predicted that the most depressing day of 2013 will be Monday 21st January .

So with five days to go until we apparently become depressed about life, the economy, the weather and complain about all and sundry – becoming a veritable Victor Meldrew – how prepared are you to face the year that is still at large?

Food Enhancement

There are many things that alter our moods that we have no control over but the one thing that we can rescue and take charge of is the food we eat. What you eat and when you eat has a big impact on how we feel.

lentils3

Choosing foods that have a lower glycemic index will help fill you up and sustain your energy levels for longer as they help your blood sugars stay stable. I have previously mentioned the health benefits of porridge in “Oat to a Good Start”. Other food items that have a low glycemic index are pulses and lentils.

“Lentils giving us a double whammy of health benefits and prosperity for the new year!”

Lentils are in the top six auspicious foods providing the consumer with luck and providence for the year ahead. In Italy it is customary to eat sausages and green lentils just after midnight as you see in the New Year. So with health and good fortune in mind I present you with my two favourite lentil dishes:

Pan Fried Salmon and Lentils:

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1st: Chop a medium onion and slowly fry in a saucepan.

2nd: Add your Puy Lentils and slick in the oily onion mixture.

3rd: Add 3 times the amount of water to lentils and add a stock cube. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 25mins.

4th: Once the lentils have cooked for approx 20mins, put the salmon fillet onto a very hot skillet. Cook on its presentation side for approx 5mins and then flip it onto its skin side for a further 4mins. If you are cooking any greens to go with make sure these are ready to go once the salmon is cooked.

5th: Plate up!

Not only are the lentils great here but the salmon high in Omega-3 and the asparagus rich in antioxidants and nutrients makes this a power-meal.

Lentils and Sausages:lentils6

1st: Prepare the lentils as in the recipe above.

2nd: Cook your sausages on a low heat for around 15mins turning throughout they cooking until the colour all around.

3rd: Once the sausages are ready remove them from the pan and add a splosh of red wine / port to deglaze the pan. Crush some garlic into this and stir. Scrape the sticky bits at the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon and reduce until the ‘red gravy’ is slightly thicker.

4th: Plate up! Pour the juices over the sausages and lentils. Sprinkle with some fresh parsely.

Lentils love pork – my Gran used to make lentils with chopped chorizo pork sausage and I normally pick a herby variety however, the ones in the photo above are a venison and merlot variety.

So with a plate of lentils on my lap to warm me this winter’s night I wish you health and happiness for the year to come. Don’t leave it to fate – break the Blue Monday curse.

Enjoy…

“I’m no good at chatting up and always get rebuffed,

Enough to drive a man to drink, I don’t do no washing up”

But you will always find me in the kitchen at parties!

And that is exactly where I spent most of my Saturday.  Not just at the party but throughout the day as I prepared, cooked and presented the tasty food that I was to serve at my festive banquet.

Festive Banquetphoto 4

  • Christmas Cocktail: Pointsettia
  • Savoury Pesto Palmiers
  • Spiced Nuts
  • Cranberry and Soy Glazed cocktail sausages
  • Pigs in blankets
  • Savoury cheese twists (aka Just the blankets!)
  • Chocolate peanut butter cups
  • Cheese board with Chilli Jam
  • Charcuterie: jamón, salami, chorizo
  • Crudités and Humous
  • Olives
  • Chocolate reindeer

As with all my parties, if my guests wish to bring things to add to the table then fantastic.  The following were brought by others:

  • Chicken croquetas
  • Tuna Croquetas
  • Nigella’s Christmas Cookies

When I woke up on Saturday morning (after Friday’s hair of the dog beer that then became 5 pints and a kebab!) I thought it best to make a start with menial tasks until I was fully awake and alert to go about measuring and weighing ingredients.

Knife in hand and with several foil platters at my disposal I went about chopping the vegetable crudités and arranging them onto platters; putting the charcuterie onto platters.  Covering the platters with cling film and into the fridge.  Job done.

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°Next job…

Chocolate peanut butter cups.

Ingredients:

  • 200g smooth peanut butter
  • 50g soft butter
  • 200g icing sugar
  • 50g soft dark brown sugarphoto 1

1st: Put all the ingredients into a food mixer and blend together until you have the consistency of coarse sand.

2nd: Then squidge a teaspoonful of this mixture into small petit four cases.  I find it easier to roll the mixture into a ball before pressing it in.  Approx 50 of these can be made.

  • 200g milk chocolate
  • 100g dark chocolate

I didn’t use milk chocolate as I don’t normally use it for cooking so I just used 300g of dark chocolate.

3rd: Melt the chocolate by whatever method you prefer and top each of the peanut butter cups with enough chocolate to cover them.

4th: Sprinkle with any decoration that takes your fancy.  I opted for green and red sugar strands (confetitos).  What can I say?  As camp as Christmas!

I put these peanut butter cups into the fridge to help set the chocolate and to get them out of the way.

The following recipes are in a previous blog titled “Nigella is for life not just for Christmas!”  click on the link to take you to these recipes.

Spiced Nuts

Cranberry and Soy Glazed cocktail sausages

I made both the spiced nuts and the cocktail sausages in advance and then put them into sealed foil containers ready to be warmed up in the evening.

A couple of hours before lift off, I made the Pigs in Blankets and Pesto Palmiers.

Savoury Pesto Palmierspesto palmiers

1st: Unroll the puff pastry onto a floured surface.

2nd: Spread the pastry with pesto from a jar.

3rd: Grate parmesan cheese to cover the pesto.

4th: Hold one end of the pastry and fold into the centre.  Repeat with the opposite side.  Fold in half and cut into thin strips.

5th: Place cut side up onto a baking sheet.  Bake at 220ºC for 15mins or until golden.

Pigs in Blankets & Just the Blankets

photo 5

1st: In a bowl put 375g Self Raising Flour, a heaped teaspoon of salt and 20g of grated Red Leicester.

2nd: In a measuring jug add 125ml of Whole Milk, 3 tablespoons of vegetable oil and an egg.  Mix together and pour the wet ingredients into the dry.

3rd: Once combined into a ball, roll out the pastry onto a floured surface.

4th: Cut the pastry into small rectangles.

5th: Roll each cocktail sausage into the blanket.  For the veggie option just leave out the sausage to create a pastry cheese twist.

6th: Egg wash each blanket and bake in the oven at 220ºC for 15mins or until golden.

As my guests arrived I started baking both the palmiers and pigs in blankets, whilst warming the spiced nuts and the cocktail sausages at the same time.

I will say one thing though: the poinsettia cocktail (1 bottle cava, 500ml of cranberry juice and 125ml of cointreau of which there were 5 bottles of cava!) was also in the kitchen.

Hence spending most of my time in the kitchen at parties!

From welcome cocktail and savoury nibbles to a sweet little something at the end, I hope I’ve been able to give you lots of ideas on how to throw a Christmas Party where your guests are impressed by your food & drink and want to be invited again next year!

Here’s to another great year in food.

Merry Christmas Everyone

Gastrorob