Lemony Salmon with Cherry Tomato Couscous

Since getting back from our holidays, we’ve hardly eaten healthy food. Things weren’t helped when a dinner I was due to cook a couple of days ago went horribly wrong and we ended up eating frozen pizza instead. So today it’s time to get back on track with a recipe from Nigella’s Kitchen.

Nigella herself says this recipe can seem complicated. There are lots of bowls involved (one for the salmon and its coating, one for the couscous and its seasonings, one for the cherry tomatoes in garlic oil and one for the chopped onions and lemon juice. But once you get to grips with that, it’s actually really simple and you only need one pan to cook the salmon in.

Thai-Style Fishcakes

I’d had various attempts at making traditional, potato based fish cakes. They never ended well, either too soft and mushy or dry and brittle, the mashed potato element never seemed to work.

And then I had the idea of using mixed beans instead. While bulking out your quota of fruit and veg, they also add more structure (and taste!) to the cakes. They never fail.

The key is to drain the tinned pulses well, drying them off with kitchen paper too. These are food processed with a bunch of coriander, a chilli, one egg and some seasoning. The mush is rolled into balls (I used an ice-cream scoop) and coated in pano, although I’ve used polenta and couscous to achieve a crusty coating which have worked just as well.

Pop in the fridge for a while, then fry on either side.

Serve with a huge dollop of chilli dipping sauce.

Green Aubergine Curry with Indian Flatbreads

Nigel Slater is fast becoming our “go-to” celebrity chef – his recipes are usually straight forward and always delicious, and besides, Nigella Lawson’s new recipe book doesn’t come out for a few more months yet. 

This vegetarian recipe comes from his column for the Guardian, and managed to have a hot, authentic curry taste and yet very few ingredients (and pleasingly, without the use of curry powder or shop-bought curry paste). The heat comes from minced root ginger, calmed by coconut milk, and made oh-so fresh with a heap of coriander and mint leaves.

The recipe also called for home-made flat breads, and we obliged. Using a 50:50 mixof wholemeal and plain flour, salt and water, they took just minutes to make. It was particularly cool to watch them inflate as they cooked on a hot frying pan. Next time you make curry you MUST make flat breads instead of serving rice. 

Maybe do both.

Blondies

For those of you who keep a close eye on Instagram, you may have spotted that we’ve been seeing the sights of Vienna and Berlin recently. There’s a tradition in my office that people who go on holiday bring back a treat for everyone else in the office but high temperatures made it difficult to transport anything and Schönefeld airport offered slim pickings… so to make up for it, I decided to bake something instead.

The recipe for blondies in Nigella Lawson’s Kitchen book is a favourite of mine, and before we moved to Manchester it was a regular request from co-workers in my old office (in fact, I had to leave them with the recipe before relocating).

The recipe is incredibly easy – cream together the butter and sugar, then add the condensed milk followed by the oats, bicarb and flour. These are then followed by an egg and finally lots (and lots) of dark chocolate chips. It takes just over half an hour in the oven and emerges wobbly and gooey – over the course of several hours it cools and solidifies, leaving you with an utterly decadent and delicious treat which knocks the socks off most chocolate brownies or flapjacks.

Baked Cod with Mashed Potatoes

Sunday afternoon and the rain is lashing down outside, so we’re having a simple and consoling dinner. Once again the inspiration comes from Nigel Slater’s Appetite – the great thing about this book is it points you in the direction of something tasty but the exact detail of how you get there is up to you.

So today we had some cod baked in the oven with butter, salt and pepper served up with some mashed potato. As usual we left the skins on the potatoes for a bit of extra fibre. We served it up with some broccoli but in the absence of oyster sauce we fried the broccoli in a mixture of soy sauce, rice wine and sliced garlic.

It’s not a fancy dinner, and the ingredients are deceptively simple, but the end result is worth it. The mash is consoling, the cod really tastes of cod because it’s not overwhelmed with other flavours, and broccoli with soy sauce is just the best on any day of the week.

Spaghetti Bolognese

So, let’s just get this out of the way: this isn’t technically Spaghetti Bolognese. The Italien Classic is built over a base of carrot and onion (called a soffritto) whereas this is essentially spaghetti with minced beef in tomato sauce. I’m glad we got that out of the way.

The sauce was part of a Jamie Oliver recipe, a base for griddled polenta, chicken, mushrooms and asparagus. Dried porcini mushrooms are hydrated in boiled water and liquidised with whole tomatoes, basil and garlic. We substituted dried chilli flakes for the half fresh chilli pepper recommended by Jamie. 

Although a glug of red wine was added to the pan, we resisted the urge to add any Britalien touches like a splash of Worcestershire sauce. The result was fine, but in spite of the Earthy porcini element of the sauce it was lacking depth. I guess, because it wasn’t built over a soffritto. But remember, this isn’t actually Spag Bol! 

Raspberries, Meringue and Custard

Something sweet now. I’d spotted a recipe for custard in Nigel Slater’s Appetite but I knew there was also a recipe in Nigella’s How To Eat. In the end, I went with Nigella’s recipe (volumes slightly reduced though) and used her recipe for meringues so that the egg whites had a purpose.

It was a close call – the custard nearly curdled (well, it did a little bit actually) but otherwise all went well. I then used a suggestion from Nigel Slater’s book to make a trifle style Eton mess – custard, raspberries and meringue. Absolutely delicious – and delightfully we have plenty of raspberries and meringue left over for tomorrow…

Smoked Mackerel and Potatoes

It’s been quiet on the blog for the last few days because Sparky and I have been on holiday, spending a few days in Vienna and then a few more in Berlin. Lovely as it was, it’s nice to be back home and this is the first thing I’ve cooked since our return.

Inspiration for this meal comes from Nigel Slater’s Appetite. It’s a recipe for a potato dish to serve as a side for six people; we scaled it down slightly and added smoked mackerel (as Nigel suggests) but left in the garlic and potato skins (which he doesn’t).

The end result was not healthy. Highly calorific but utterly delicious – it’s hard to believe that so much flavour comes from so few ingredients. Hugely satisfying… but as the next post on this blog will show, it didn’t stop us from having some dessert.

Chicken Drumsticks with Rice and Broccoli

I recently treated myself to Appetite by Nigel Slater. The purpose was two-fold – to extend our collection of cookery books but also because the book is less about recipes and more about your approach to cooking and learning to improvise. With that in mind, I present you with this dish – inspired by a recipe of Nigel’s in the book, but adapted – mostly because it was Sunday afternoon, the main supermarket was closed and I had to make do with what I could find in the corner shop…

So we have a load of chicken drumsticks, browned in butter and olive oil. They were cooked on the hob for about 45 minutes with some pepper, garlic and herbs de Provence. Meanwhile I cooked up some plain white rice and also pan fried some broccoli. Normally we’d use oyster sauce with broccoli, but the bottle in the fridge had been there quite some time and was smelling suspicious so I cooked it in soy sauce with some chopped garlic instead. The whole thing was served with a sauce made by deglazing the pot the chicken cooked in with some dry vermouth and lemon juice.

End result? Pretty good actually – chicken melts off the bone, the skin is crispy and the broccoli tastes great. This probably the first think I’ve cooked without religiously following a recipe in many, many years. Expect more.

Quesadilla

Something nice and easy tonight. the recipe for quesadillas comes from Nigella Express and really is very easy – it’s basically just a pan fried sandwich.

Ham and cheese go inside a tortilla along with chopped spring onion, jalapeño and coriander. Fry it in a griddle pan and you’re done. Serve with some salsa (we also put a pot of hummus on the side).