Irish Stew

It’s Sunday and it’s cold and wet so we’re hiding out at home keeping warm. That means we want a winter supper which will be warm, hearty and satisfying – and since we’re at home, it can be something that cooks slowly in the oven. We’ve gone back to How To Eat for this one; it’s full of recipes like this which take a bit longer to prepare and cook, but typically produce a great result.

This was a great opportunity to try out our new wide and shallow casserole dish. Whilst the pearl barley cooks in water, brown the lamb in the dish and then set aside. Next cook the carrot, onion and parsnip in the dish before putting the lamb back in with it and the pearly barley plus chopped herbs. Pour the stock over and top with sliced potatoes, pop a lid on and cook in the oven for 90 minutes. We popped it under the grill for the last 10 minutes to make sure the potatoes turned crispy on top.

Nigella uses a mix of veal and chicken stock, but we just used chicken. The end result was great – very tasty, a smooth and creamy liquor and exactly the sort of homely meal we were craving. The one downside was the bones from the lamb which we had to fish out whilst eating, but it was a small price to pay for such a delicious meal.

Raspberry and Lemon Cake

The weather has been absolutely vile this weekend, so after being blown around whilst visiting Live Like the Boy in Colne yesterday, today was a day for staying dry, staying warm, and a spot of home baking.

So turning to Simply Nigella we decided to give this Raspberry and Lemon Cake a try.

It’s actually incredibly easy to make, and we had most of the ingredients in anyway – frozen raspberries were all we had to get for this one. Making the cake and getting it in the oven took no time at all and although there were a couple of bowls to wash up there was very little mess.

The one thing which is unusual about this one is that as soon as it comes out of the oven, whilst hot you paint the top of it with lemon juice. The cake as a whole is lovely – the raspberry and lemon give it a nice tart contrast to the sweetness of the sponge.

We tried a slice when it was still warm (as recommended in the book) and a slice when cold (for scientific comparison, obviously).

Fish and Porcini Pie

We’ve had a lot of recipes from Simply Nigella recently, but today we went all the way back to her very first book – How To Eat. I love this book but it’s much harder to find recipes from it because of the way it lacks pictures. That said, every time we’ve chosen a recipe from here it’s been a winner.

In keeping with some other recipes from the book, it’s not the simplest of recipes – several pans and pots were involved, plus jugs and bowls and the whole kitchen felt like it needed demolishing and rebuilding at the end. The other issue with this book is that a lot of the recipes are for 4+ people, but this one scaled quite neatly for two.

End result was a complete winner – thick and creamy sauce, beautiful fish a crispy crust on top of fluffy mashed potatoes. It would probably work better for a larger quantity (our fish was spread thin and I struggled to get full coverage with the potato topping) but this is a rustic looking dish which doesn’t matter if it’s not the most beautiful looking dish.

Stem Ginger Cake

It’s Mark’s birthday this week so I asked him what sort of cake he’d like me to make. He immediately said this one which comes from Delia Smith’s book, Delia’s Cakes.

Quite a lot of ingredients go into this one, but it’s an all in one method so it’s really easy to make. Actually, the only bit which caused me problems was the icing – I made mine a bit too runny so it didn’t look to good on top and had a bit of a tendency to run down and the under the cake.

I had a bit of an incident getting it into the tin once finished. The icing had run underneath and glued the cake to the plate, so it broke up quite a bit when I was moving it. But I cunningly hid the damage and nobody was any the wiser. The birthday boy enjoyed his slice so all is good!

Thai Turkey Meatballs

Another recipe from Simply Nigella today. I felt like this one deviated from her traditional style, seeming to take quite a bit more effort than others I’m used to.

I had to make a few substitutions along the way. The biggest of these was that instead of sugar snap peas I used a mix of broccoli, asparagus and sugar snaps. Why? Because we had a substitution in the online shopping! I also forgot to add the salt to the meatballs. And I also screwed up following instructions which meant that this had ribbons of courgette in rather than chopped up pieces.

One final mix up – I halved the ingredients for the two of us, but because a 400g tin of coconut milk doesn’t halve nicely I made the full amount of liquid, making this a bit wetter than it should have been.

This one seems a lot of hassle though with lots of grating and mixing – but maybe that was just me being a bit clumsy. The end result was really good though – it got a thumbs up from official food taster Mark. Nice and spicy for a cold winter’s evening.

Chicken and Wild Rice

Mark is late home tonight, so I needed a dinner I could make and keep warm in the oven. This one from Simply Nigella seemed to fit the bill.

This recipe is for six people, but there are only two of us… but we do have big appetites. So things got scaled back a bit, but not enormously… I’d say I probably ended up making enough for four and then eating half of it myself. And I even had a slice of honey pie for dessert.

I couldn’t find wild rice in the store, so I had to make do with a mix of wild and basmati. Nigella says the wild doesn’t soak up as much liquid so I think the end result here was a bit drier than it should have been. Also the crunch of the coriander seeds came as a bit of a surprise when eating but, long story short, it’s delicious. Highly recommended. Let’s just hope Mark likes it when he finally gets home.

Honey Pie

Nigella has a neat little description of this dish in Simply Nigella – it’s technically a tart, but since it’s American you can use their name and call it a pie… but in reality, it’s just impossible to miss out on the opportunity to have a dish called “honey pie”.

Quite a lot of ingredients go into this but it’s surprisingly easy to make. The pastry comes first and it’s a ridiculously easy recipe – making it with olive oil makes it very easy to mix. You then put the pastry into the pie dish and leave it in the freezer for at least an hour.

The next bit is easy too – melt the butter and mix the other items into one after another. Then, when the pastry is frozen pour the contents of the pan into the pastry dish and pop in the oven for a little under an hour, turning half way through.

I was a bit concerned that it wasn’t cooking properly so I left it in the oven for a bit longer than recommended. The end result was a very dark top, but it hasn’t harmed the flavour. The pie has a very caramel like flavour, which may be a result of this dark top?

At any rate, this pie is amazing. Rich and sweet, plus the salty pastry and salt scattered over the top makes a really nice contrast to the sweetness. This, without a doubt, is my favourite dish from Simply Nigella so far!

Pasta alla Bruno

A few weeks back I cooked Chicken Cosima from Simply Nigella, a dish for Nigella’s daughter. Tonight it was her son’s turn as we tried the recipe for Pasta alla Bruno.

It’s a pretty simple dish – fry up some bacon, then add minced garlic, chopped cherry tomatoes and chilli flakes. After a little time on the hob, mix with some pasta and you’re ready to go. I upped the quantities of garlic, bacon and tomatoes to try and make it a bit more substantial for the two of us and it seemed to work.

This is a very easy dish but very satisfying. The bacon and chilli give it a really bold flavour and the pasta makes it satisfyingly filling. We were impressed with Chicken Cosima and we’re impressed by Pasta alla Bruno as well!

Pork Chops in a Creamy Mustard and Cider Sauce

My last recipe of the week comes from Nigella Express and is a recipe I’ve made a few times before starting the blog. It’s certainly express – bash the pork out a bit and fry in some garlic oil, then put it to one side and deglaze the pan with cider before adding some mustard and double cream. Done.

To accompany it, we fell back on our old faithful from Nigel Slater – pan friend broccoli in oyster sauce.

For dessert we had some of Nigella’s chocolate olive oil cake to finish off, which went spectacularly well with the left over double cream from the pork’s sauce.

Mushroom and Chorizo Gratin

Another attempt at a meal from Nigella Express, and also a lesson in reading recipes properly.

I thought that the potato and mushroom gratin would make a nice mid-week supper; something easy to put together, slam in the oven and then have a hearty and filling dish to round out the day. However, after taking the ingredients photo and getting underway I suddenly realised that this recipe was supposed to be a side dish to accompany Nigella’s “brandied bacony” chicken on the preceding page!

Suddenly concerned that this meal wouldn’t be filling enough, I had a rummage in the fridge and found a small unopened pack of diced chorizo. Sorted! So when it came time to frying up the mushrooms in butter and garlic oil, I also fried the chorizo at the same time.

Sensing that I was on a roll here, I also found a bag of grated cheddar cheese in the fridge and mixed a bit of that in too. 45 minutes later, I had a delicious and smokey potato dish. Completely unhealthy but certainly the tasty dinner I was hoping for.