Gingerbread Bites

A few days back I made Stir Fried Chicken with Basil which only used part of a can of coconut milk, and the rest of it had been sat in a tupperware tub in the fridge calling out for us to use it. I’d originally thought of making Nigella’s Spinach and Coconut Soup but my sweet tooth got the better of me.

This recipe comes from the Thug Kitchen website. I’d not heard of them until a recent trip to Saltaire where I saw their cookery book. Not the biggest fan of their style of writing, but this recipe really hit the spot.

Again it was a bit of a mess of conversion as I tried to turn US cup measurements into grams (especially when my digital scales kept getting stuck on fluid ounces…). Also, to my horror, halfway through baking I realised that “blackstrap molasses” are not the same as the granulated molasses I had in the cupboard, but I made a guess and the end result wasn’t bad at all.

Oh yes, and we had no mixed spice either so I had to improvise with some nutmeg and cloves. Mark’s not been complaining about the end product though.

Polpette

Another attempt to increase the quantity of vegetables in our diet, polpette are “vegetarian meatballs” – in this case roasted fennel, pine nuts and pumpkin seeds flavoured with garlic and chillies. The recipe comes from Jamie Oliver’s website.

This wasn’t quite the quick meal we’d hoped for, it taking 25 minutes to roast the vegetables before pounding into the breadcrumb mixture for the balls. But it was certainly easy, essentially just putting everything into the food processor before scooping balls of mixture onto a baking sheet.

The roasting time does give time to prepare a tomato sauce, which we deviated from a little through the use of roasted shallots, and garlic oil rather than yet another clove of garlic.

Stir Fried Beef with Broccoli and Mushroom

It’s a Nigel Slater week in this house – my three contributions to the Two Hungry Boys’ men this week all come from Real Fast Food. This one is great because it contains lots of veg which makes you feel almost healthy as you fry the beef in the thick gloopy sauce.

I dished this up with some egg noodles which were lurking at the back of the cupboard, and we followed it up with some more of Julia Child’s Queen of Sheba cake for dessert.

Queen of Sheba Cake

We’re hooked on watching Julia Child clips on YouTube, and as a chocaholic I couldn’t resist giving her Queen of Sheba cake a try. I found the recipe online, but it comes from Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Vol.1.

I’m not a fan of the American way of measuring everything out in cups – as a staunch European with a science degree, I want everything measured in grams. As such, it was a bit torturous converting volumes of flour into weights and so this cake is perhaps better described as being inspired by Julia Child because I probably made some horrible conversion errors. I also made the mistake of buying cheap chocolate which was a pain to melt.

On top of that, the bleached flour which Julia uses is banned in the EU… and when I did my online supermarket shop they had no cream of tartar so I had to make do with lemon juice which Google informs me is an acceptable substitute.

Whatever happened though, it worked. Took a bit longer in the oven than expected but came out looking and smelling amazing. It did sink a little bit as it cooled, and I couldn’t be bothered with the decorating which Julia does in her show… but it’s really good regardless. Reminds me a little of Nigella’s chocolate olive oil cake, but with more a meringue like texture.

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Caponata

A Sicilian vegetable stew (any rustic food containing any two of pine nuts, anchovies, raisins, sultanas, or lemon turns out to be Sicilian!) we had never had Caponata before. Consisting of diced, fried aubergines, to which shallots and chopped plum tomatoes are added, seasoning came from the addition of brined capers and a large dash of red wine vinegar.

Dressed in basil leaves and toasted pine nuts, this would admittedly be seen more as a well-presented appetiser by most people than a mid-week evening meal. We ate it, as recommended by the source of this recipe (BBC Good Food), scooped on to slices of garlic-rubbed, toasted ciabatta.

A light, very tasty meal.

Which left plenty of room for a slice of cake afterwards.

Chicken with Red Chilli, Yoghurt and Garlic

After a bigger than expected lunch at Altrincham Market, a lighter dinner was called for. This recipe comes from Nigel Slater’s Real Fast Food, a book which I bought a few months back but haven’t really cooked much from yet.

Making the paste was a bit of a trial for me – it requires a food processor and I never seem to be able to get them to work as expected. Although people keep telling me that a food processor is so much easier for things like cakes, I always get better results by hand. Today was no exception – bits of my sauce kept getting stuck in corners of the processor and it seemed to take forever to blend.

Once done though, the rest was pretty simple. Marinate the chicken thighs and then pop them under the grill. Meanwhile, grate some courgette and fry with mustard seeds before mixing with a bit of paprika and yoghurt. Not my favourite recipe from Mr Slater’s books, but certainly an acceptable dinner.

Stir Fried Chicken with Basil

It’s another Nigel Slater recipe tonight, and another visit to The 30-Minute Cook. This one’s incredibly easy again – fry the Thai green curry sauce, then add the chicken, followed by coconut milk, chilli and sugar. Finally add some basil before serving up with some rice.

You can easily cook this whole meal in about 15 minutes. I think I got the quantities a bit wrong – not enough sugar (and it was muscovado at that, not brown), too much coconut milk, and I excluded the nam pla (Thai fish sauce) because Mark doesn’t like it. But this is One Tasty Recipe. Definitely one for repeat meals!

Mushroom and Broccoli Stir Fry

The Two Hungry Boys have been trying to eat a little bit more healthily recently, so this recipe from Nigel Slater’s The 30-Minute Cook fits the bill nicely.

Fry some spring onions and garlic, add the broccoli and then the mushrooms before finishing off with some rice wine and soy sauce. Nigel recommends serving with pepper, and we also bulked it out with some egg noodles.

Whilst it was a nice meal and a healthy change, I think the carnivore in me wanted something more substantial. As I write this, Mark is at the corner shop getting us some sort of high calorie treat for dessert…

Courgette and Pancetta Tagliatelle

A quick and easy pasta dish courtesy of BBC Good Food.

Incredibly quick and easy, pancetta is fried until crispy, before a large grated courgette is heaped in. The courgette then substantially reduces in the pan before garlic is added, then creme fraiche, and finally the sauce is stirred into cooked pasta.

A very tasty, surprisingly light mid-week pasta dish.

Roast Cod with Upmarket Mushy Peas

As northerners through and through, we love mushy peas – they make or break a meal of fish and chips. Although it’s hard to imagine anything beating the peas from the Magpie Café in Whitby, we thought we’d give Nigella Lawson’s version a try. This recipe can be found in How to Eat: The Pleasures and Principles of Good Food.

The fish is really simple – dredge in salt, pepper and flour then sear on both sides and roast in the oven. It’s the peas that are the star – boil some garlic in water for 10 minutes, squeeze it out of its skin and put back in the water and cook with some peas. Then you blitz the cooked peas and garlic with some butter and creme fraiche.

It’s not mushy peas like you’d get from a traditional British chip shop, but they’re garlicky and wonderful.