Cockle Spaghetti

This one is listed as a recipe from Nigellissima but you won’t find it in the book.

It’s actually supposed to be Squid Spaghetti, but when our online shopping delivery came they had substituted squid for cockles. I was going to reject it but then thought “what the hell, we’ll give it a go.”

The sauce itself is pretty easy to make – onion, garlic, tomatoes, chilli flakes and Vermouth.  Some extra chilli on top of what the recipe recommended gave it a bit of extra oomph in case the cockles didn’t work, but they did.

Tonight's squid pasta will be cockle pasta instead due to an online shopping substitution!

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I’m not saying this would be a regular addition to our menu, but it certainly made for a quick and easy tasty supper.

Spaghetti with cockles (instead of squid) in a tomato, chilli and vermouth sauce. A bit unusual, but not bad at all.

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Sausage and Lentil Casserole

Many of our recipe books have a variant of sausage with lentils: it’s a filling dish and goes down especially well with crusty bed, a pot of dijon and an ice cold beer, though we had a glass of white wine (with a splash making it into the pan).

A One Pot Wonder tonight courtesy of Lindsey Bareham: sausage and lentil stew.

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This one is from Lindsey Bareham’s One Pot Wonders and has the distinction of a pinch of dried chilli flakes which adds just a hum of heat.

Finished lentil and sausage stew, went down well with a dollop of Dijon mustard.

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Marzipan and Custard Biscuits

A sudden sweet craving satisfied in 15-20 minutes.

Cream 130g of golden caster sugar with 130g of unsalted butter and 80g of marzipan. Mix in one egg, and half a teaspoon of vanilla essence.

A last minute idea for almond, marzipan and custard biscuits.

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Sift in 190g of self raising flour and 50g of custard powder. Form balls from tablespoons of the mixture and space over two greased trays. Top with flaked almonds and pat down slightly into fat biscuit shapes.

Bake for 10-15 minutes.

Almond-custard-marzipan biscuits. Awesome.

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Makes about 16 biscuits.

Chicken and Porcini

A while back I bought a copy of How To Eat: The Pleasures and Principles of Good Food for the sake of completeness of our Nigella Lawson bookshelf. It’s very unlike her other books though – no pictures, and the focus is more on cooking things “the right way” rather than a quick way.

As such, the book has languished on the shelf for some time. But it does feature a chapter of recipes for one or two people, so tonight I used one of these – making it the first real meal we’ve cooked from the book.

We're making chicken with morels… but couldn't find morels so it's chicken and porcini tonight!

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We couldn’t track down any morels but used dried porcini mushrooms instead which worked really well. The chicken thighs were also supposed to have skin, but there was substitution in our online shop so we ended up with a healthier version through no effort on our behalf.

Served up with some mash and new potatoes, this recipe was a definite winner. The sauce was so creamy and tasty. I know we were supposed to use morels but we didn’t care – this was a delicious dinner.

Conclusion: How to Eat contains no pictures but don’t be put off – it contains some wonderful recipes.

Croissants

Two Hungry Boys have been watching an awful lot of Julia Child on Youtube recently. They don’t make them like that any more: tarte tatins fail, cooking utensils spill over counter tops, glasses fall from her head narrowly missing bubbling saucepans (when she can find where she last put her glasses in the first place) but, all in one unedited thirty minute take, she always manages to remember a trick to save the dish and teach you a valuable lesson about how to actually cook. Her programs aren’t about lifestyle or foodporn like most of today’s tv cookery, but an attempt to educate us in basic French cooking. We find her all the more endearing knowing that she swore like a sailor and had a filthy sense of humour.

A Sunday ritual of ours is a mocha pot of coffee with shop bought croissants, so we thought we would try to make our own following a recipe in Julia’s show The French Chef, in which she demonstrated how to cook the recipes in her book Mastering the Art of French Cooking.

Basically a cross between flaky pastry and bread, there a very few ingredients.

The starting point for an epic journey ending with fresh, Sunday morning croissants.

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You combine a frothy yeast-salt-sugar-water mix with the flour and a little milk to make a sticky dough, then chill before rolling out into a rectangle.

The butter (which must be cold, but beaten with a rolling pin so that it is soft) is then spread over the centre, before the sides of the dough are gathered up to make a dough-butter parcel.

The process is then a process of rolling, folding, and chilling the dough. You do two folds, chill in the fridge for a couple of hours, then two more folds – chilling ensures that the butter stays in layers rather than melting into the dough.

The finished cut out and formed croissants should be allowed a final proving to double in size before baking, but these just wouldn’t rise. Maybe there was a draught in the kitchen, or the dough was overworked, but after an hour and a half nothing was happening. So into the oven they went.

Hours (and hours!) later … Croissants and hot coffee, following a recipe by #juliachild #thefrenchchef

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The finished croissants were rich, buttery and had a flake to them, but had too close a texture to be a true croissant. No less delicious with a blob of jam.

Spiced Lamb Meatballs in Tomato Sauce with Hummus

A fantastic lunch out meant that we wanted something light but still satisfying for supper. We’d spent a significant part of the day browsing cookery books and, inspired by the photographs in Hummus Bros. Levantine Kitchen: Delicious, Healthy Recipes Inspired by the Ancient Mediterranean I decided to make spiced lamb in tomato sauce with hummus.

I adapted a recipe from Food Network, which threatened to use just about every spice in the kitchen.

This looks like a lot of ingredients, but it will make two small plates of Moroccan meatballs.

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The finished result was exactly as hoped for: delicious, just filling enough, and making for an exceptionally pretty small plate. I served it scattered with slivered almonds, sumac, chopped mint, and with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Small plate of Moroccan spiced lamb meatballs in tomato sauce with hummus, slivered almonds, mint and oil.

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Toad in the Hole

As a small boy I grew up with a love of Yorkshire pudding. It was always my job to mix the batter on Sundays, not realising that this was a clever way for my mother to keep me busy and out of her way while she prepared the roast.

Toad-in-the-hole then is great comfort food: filling with both calories and nostalgia at the same time.

The mission for Wednesday evening: make toad in the hole, with peas and onion gravy.

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To make the batter I followed the method I grew up with: pour flour into a mixing jug up to about the 400 ml mark, drop in three eggs, beat with a fork until combined, then keep adding milk until the mixture makes smooth ribbons when dropped from the fork.

Meanwhile, fry sausages with finely sliced onion in a heavy based pan (I used herby Lincolnshire sausages) until browned all over. Then remove the sausages, slice on the bias into coins, add a generous plug of vegetable oil to the pan and heat on high until just starting the smoke.

Quickly pour in the batter, scatter over the sausage pieces pressing down a little, then transfer to a hot oven until risen and golden.

Toad in the hole – half for tonight, half for tomorrow.

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I then used the reserved fried onions to make an onion gravy. If I was to do this again I’d probably some herbs (maybe rosemary) into the batter before placing in the oven.

This was delicious, but particularly nice as cold left-overs the next day.

Chorizo and Chickpea Stew

I like this recipe because it uses things which you can store for long periods of time (except perhaps for the chorizo itself, but even that keeps longer than fresh meat). The bulgur wheat smells amazing whilst it cooks in the water with the cinnamon and bay leaves.

This recipe comes from one of my favourite recipe books, Kitchen by Nigella Lawson, but you can actually find the recipe on her website for free!

Tonight we'll be having a chorizo and chickpea stew.

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Cooking with sherry is always an excuse to take an extra swig from the bottle. Chef’s perk.

A one pot recipe from Kitchen by @nigellalawson — it's chorizo and chickpea stew with bulgur wheat.

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Pesto Chicken Stew with Parmesan Dumplings

This recipe by BBC Good Food is quick and easy to prepare (it’s essentially a one-pot) but takes a while to cook: up to 1.5 hrs simmering on the hob followed by thirty minutes in the oven to cook the dumplings. I cooked it for just under an hour on the hob and it was no less tender and unctuous for it.

We substituted dry vermouth for the glass of white wine, and the supermarket was out of fresh basil.

Italian chicken and pesto stew with parmesan dumplings from @bbcgoodfood.

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The finished dish was something special, and worth the wait: the stew itself was delicious, the molten pesto bridging the gap between the creamy leeks and the sharp sun dried tomatoes, while the dumplings were light and golden, with soft fluffy insides and crisp tops.

Clafoutis

Clafoutis is a French dessert of flan baked with cherries and spiked with kirsch. Not having any kirsch, we had to substitute brandy. We also had the dilemma of whether to leave the cherry stones in or remove them: apparently leaving them allows them to release the same amaretto-like flavours during baking that you get from almonds and apricot stones. Fearing a trip to A&E, we decided that stone-out was safest.

The recipe comes from Paul Hollywood’s ‘Clafoutis Monique’ in his book How to Bake. His recipe involves making a thin batter from two egg yolks, 300 ml of milk and 75g each of flour and sugar, before folding in the whipped egg whites.

You eat the clafoutis still warm (not hot!), which we did to be authentic. I’m not sure how authentic the accompanying cup of English Breakfast tea was.