Spaghetti Bolognese

Happy Christmas folks! Part of my present from Mark this year was a fabulous signed copy of The Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s basically a diary of what Nigel cooked for a year – it’s like a set of recipes for what’s in season, but more granular than that.

It may be December, but this recipe comes from the January section of the book. It’s a simple bolognese using nothing particularly unusual – carrots, garlic, onion, celery, pancetta, mince, bay leaf, chopped tomatoes and vegetable stock. It’s seasoned with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

What makes it different is the amount of time spent cooking… it simmers for a good hour (Nigel even suggest pushing that to 1 1/2 hours), and then adding some cream or full fat milk and simmering for another 20 minutes. The end result is sublime… far richer and smoother flavours than any other bolognese or ragu I’ve ever made.

If this first chapter of The Kitchen Diaries is anything to go by, we’re in for some tasty treats in 2016.

Tarragon Chicken

Before we started this website, this was one of our “go to” recipes for a tasty dinner. Therefore it was quite a shock when a look back through these blog posts revealed that we’ve never made it in the 10 months that we’ve been blogging for. If you want to give this one a try, the recipe comes from Nigella Lawson’s Kitchen which is a truly excellent book.

Technique is pretty simple. Fry some chopped spring onions in garlic oil with some dried tarragon. Put the chicken breasts in and let them cook for about 10 minutes, then pour some dry vermouth over, clamp on a lid and let it simmer for 10 minutes or so. Once it’s cooked through, put the chicken to one side and add some double cream, pepper and chopped fresh tarragon to the juices. We served it with a mix of basmati and wild rice and (as recommended in the book) some green beans.

30 Minute Paella

After the messy, complicated and ultimately disappointing tofu ramen the other night, I was regretting having chosen another recipe from Homemade By You, but they’ve redeemed themselves. We’ve always been huge fans of paella, so their promise of a 30 minute version was very appealing.

This recipe is super easy to make. Fry the chorizo, then put in a bowl. Fry the onion, then the pepper (keeping the lid on the pan so that they ‘sweat’) before adding paella rice, chicken stock and saffron. Simmer for a bit with the lid off, then a bit more with the lid on. Add the seafood and chorizo and cook a bit more, then add some frozen peas and cook for a bit longer. Squeeze over some lemon and you’re done.

OK, so it’s not a truly authentic version but it definitely has all the right flavours and made for a very satisfying dinner. The Homemade By You website is back in our good books.

Shiitake Mushroom and Tofu Ramen

We’re avid fans of Ryen Lung and his adorable corgi Gatsby on YouTube, and Ryen has recently posted videos where he cooks ramen dishes. So this inspired us to try this ramen recipe from the Homemade By You website. Unfortunately, I wish I hadn’t bothered.

The recipe begins well and all good stuff is going into this – mirin, soy sauce, chilli, garlic, ginger, kombu, peppercorns… but the amount of hassle and faff involved was incredibly frustrating. Cook this and set to one side. Now cook these other things. Now strain them. Now cook something else… marinade something else… it seemed to take forever and use almost every pot, pan and utensil in the kitchen.

On top of that I had some… incidents like my soba noodles not being properly immersed in the water so their tips didn’t cook, and my mushrooms turning out weirdly chewy. It was also a bit galling to use lovely porcini mushrooms and then have t o throw them away. On top of all that, I found the tofu a bit bland (first time I’ve cooked with it, actually).

So not an overwhelming success. But it looked pretty, and the broth itself was very very tasty. We won’t be cooking this one again though…

Luxurious Chicken and Noodles

It’s been quite a while since we cooked anything from Nigel Slater – probably because we’ve been completely enamoured with Nigella since the launch of her new book. Tonight we went back to Nigel’s Appetite though – in particular his recipe for a luxurious and spicy noodle dish.

Like most recipes in appetite, there’s an element of ‘make it up as you go along’ and we were well ahead of him on this one since we’d switched the seafood for chicken. I also decided to make the spice paste by hand with lots of grating and chopping to avoid washing up the food processor. It was only after I’d gone through the hassle of this that I saw his comment “don’t even think of doing this without a food processor”. Oh well!

Quantities were also a bit all over the place – technically I should have used 200ml of coconut milk but since the tins come in double that volume, I used twice as much as I should. It was similar with spices – the quantities didn’t quite halve neatly so the end result was inspired by Nigel, rather than slavishly following the recipe.

End result was very nice though. Wetter than expected due to all that coconut milk, but a pleasant heat (I could have been bolder with the chillies) and a nice flavour.

Lamb with Redcurrant and Mint plus Rapid Rostini

It’s been a bit of a frantic few days, and we had an evening where we needed to come home, eat fast and then go out again. If we didn’t manage that then we wouldn’t get chance to eat until later. It was a case of Kitchen to the rescue, since this recipe (well, two recipes really) takes next to no time.

The rapid rostini part is stupendously easy. Fry some gnocchi in a little garlic oil so they go crispy on the outside like little roast potatoes. They’re tasty too.

The lamb is simple enough to cook too – fry it in the pan, then take out and wrap in tin foil whilst you deglaze the pan with the juice of a clementine (we just used a regular orange) plus Worcestershire sauce, redcurrant jelly and red wine vinegar. Serve with some chopped mint over the top and a bit of salad on the side.

Quick to cook, and quick to eat as well.

Chocolate and Walnut Layer Cake

This week’s bake comes from a book we don’t use very often, Paul Hollywood’s How to Bake. It’s described as a chocoholic’s dream, and it certainly is… but it was a pain to make.

The cake is made first and isn’t too complicated, but after it’s baked you then need to leave it to cool before slicing into three layers. Mine could have done with rising a bit more which made the slicing a bit precarious.

You then make the icing and use it to ‘glue’ the layers back together before topping with some more icing. Given that I was making a stew and cobbler topping at the same time (see previous post!) I’d had enough at this point and so I skipped the final steps of grating chocolate over and dusting with icing sugar.

End result is very nice, but very very rich. We actually nearly made ourselves sick by cutting thick slices and then trying to finish them – the brandy in the icing doesn’t help!

Spiced Lamb Stew with a Cobbler Topping

I made hard work for myself on Sunday. I decided to make this and (as you’ll see in the next post) a cake. But what I hadn’t realised was that both recipes were really in two parts… so it was like making four different things in one day.

This recipe comes from Simply Nigella and is listed as two recipes, one after another. First comes the stew which after some prep takes a few hours in the oven, then comes the cobbler.

I dropped some ingredients from the cobbler to keep things simple but had a few issues with quantities. The recipe in the book is for eight, so not everything divided down neatly for the two of us. But I managed to make it work and got everything looking reasonable.

The end result was really nice – the star anise and cinnamon give this a warming feeling, but the aniseed was very subtle and not overpowering as I had feared. The dish was a bit drier than I think it should have been, and the cobbler didn’t go as golden as I wanted but it still tasted very nice.

Aubergine Moussaka

This recipe isn’t moussaka as you probably know it. Rather than the Greek “kinda like lasagne but with aubergine instead of pasta”, this is more like an aubergine stew. Apparently it’s a Lebanese dish, but all I know if that it comes from How To Eat.

The main recipe uses baby aubergines, but I just used a couple of regular ones. The quantities weren’t quite right – I halved pretty much everything but ended up using about the full amount of aubergine. That’s one of the problems in How to Eat – it’s not always clear how many people the dish is supposed to serve.

End result was really tasty. Apparently the pomegranate molasses are optional, but the meal definitely benefits from them and I can’t imagine it would be as nice without. I sent Mark out in the pouring rain to get some fresh bread to go with this and he came back with an nice freshly baked bit of sourdough which went down nicely with this.

Onion Tart

I’ve been enjoying finding recipes in How To Eat and this one for onion tart had caught my eye. It takes a little while to make, but I figured that by using ready made shortcrust pastry that would save me a little bit of time.

The longest part of the process is caramelising the onions. Unfortunately mine did catch a little bit on the pan, but not enough to cause problems. The bigger issue was that my pastry shrunk a little bit, which combined with the fact that our supermarket delivery had dropped off extra large instead of just large eggs meant that we couldn’t accommodate all of the custard (eggs, egg yolk, creme fraiche).

But it didn’t really matter in the end – it tasted great!