Fish Pie

We’ve made fish pie before, but the last time was a recipe with mushrooms from How to Eat… this time it’s a recipe from Appetite by Nigel Slater. As ever from that book, it’s a rough guide to a basic fish pie with suggestions on how to customise it.

Nigel’s recipe is quite involved though, with mussels being cooked in wine and lots of transferring various liquids between pans so I went for a much simpler variation. I poached some fish in milk with a couple of bay leaves and put some potatoes on to boil for the mash. Then I melted some butter and added some plain flour and cooked the mixture for 5 or ten minutes in a pan before mixing in a glass of white wine. I then added the poaching liquid to the mixture, cooked a little bit longer and seasoned. The fish was then added back into the sauce and poured into a dish (well, silicon cake tray actually!) and then topped with mashed potatoes. About half an hour in the oven and it was done. Pretty damn tasty!

Chicken and Fennel Orzo

This one is a variation on a Simply Nigella recipe. The main recipe uses squid, but Sparky wasn’t too keen on that so we went with a suggestion from Alan Joseph who follows us on Instagram and substituted the squid for chicken.

I was a bit caught out with this recipe because it takes a long time to cook, but because I was just doing it for the two of us I managed to get away with a total prep and cooking time of about an hour. I didn’t have an ouzo to add either, so the flavours were maybe not quite as strong as they could have been.

End result was pretty nice, but didn’t blow us away. It was supposed to have some dill on top too, but when I opened the pack from Tesco it was in horrible condition (despite being well in date and bought the same day). An OK meal. In other news, burnt on orzo is a bugger to clean off a casserole dish.

Apple Pie and Custard

I was wondering what to cook for our usual weekend “sweet treat” and Mark said he had a craving for apple pie. I was somewhat surprised to find that straightforward apple pie recipes are missing from most of our recipe books! There’s a recipe for “double apple pie” in Nigella’s How To Be A Domestic Goddess but that looked a like little bit of hassle. There’s a recipe in Sue Lawrence’s Book of Baking but in the end we liked the look of the one in Appetite by Nigel Slater since it looked quite simple.

Actually though, it’s not an apple pie recipe. It’s a “hot fruit” pie and includes berries too. So, in the end we’ve had to improvise and I can hereby present you with the Two Hungry Boys Apple Pie recipe, as invented this afternoon!

The shortcrust pastry is made to Nigel Slater’s recipe – 180g of plain flour and 100g of fridge cold salted butter. Chop the butter into pieces and then rub them into the flour until you have something with the consistency of breadcrumbs. Then add a couple of tablespoons of very cold water and combine to form a dough. You may need a little bit more water, but it will only be a few drops at most. Roll into a ball, flatten a little, wrap in cling film and stick in the fridge for half an hour.

Meanwhile take 3 Bramley apples, peel and core them and chop into small bitesized pieces. Mix them with about 30g of sultanas and put them into your pie tin. Then mix three tablespoons of caster sugar with one half teaspoon of ground cinnamon and scatter the mixture over the fruit.

Take your pastry from the fridge and roll out so it’s just big enough to cover your pie dish. Stick a few knife cuts in the top and make sure it stays in place on top of the fruit by using a little bit of milk to stick it to the lip of the pie tin. You can also paint the top of the pie with milk and sprinkle with caster sugar so it goes nicely bronze in the oven.

Bake in the oven for 45 minutes and then enjoy! We also had some homemade custard on the side from a Nigel Slater recipe. Heat 400ml of full fat milk in a saucepan with half a teaspoon of vanilla extract. Just as it starts to come to the boil take it off the heat and leave to stand and cool a little. Meanwhile whisk 4 egg yolks and 4 tablespoons of caster sugar together. Pour the cooled milk into the egg and sugar mixture and mix well, then transfer to a pan and heat whilst stirring continuously and let it thicken. Don’t let it get too hot or it will curdle. When it’s the right consistency, transfer to a jug so it doesn’t carry on cooking.

End result was delicious and incredibly comforting!

The Tenderest Chicken

Another Nigella recipe tonight, coming from How to Eat. It’s one which requires a bit of prep though, since the chicken needs at least eight hours to sit in its marinade – we left ours for nearly 24 hours because it was in the cold, dark fridge.

The chicken is to sit in a mix of buttermilk, dijon mustard and soy sauce with a grating of garlic. Unfortunately our online shopping failed us and no buttermilk was delivered so we followed the tips on Nigella’s website for substitutes and used a 50:50 mixture of Greek yoghurt and whole milk.

The recommended accompaniment is “garlic potatoes” which I did (dice some potatoes, roll in garlic olive oil and roast) but was a bit disappointed that the end result wasn’t more garlicky. The chicken gets wiped clear of its marinade and then covered in a mix of olive oil and pepper before roasting in the oven. The buttermilk is supposed to keep it nice and moist and it seemed to do the job… but I’m not quite sure the recipe title is accurate. There must be chicken somewhere that is more tender?

On the side we had our usual favourite, broccoli pan fried with oyster sauce. We also followed this main with a big bowl of health (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and banana) and not-so healthy cream.

Date Steak

You can’t really go wrong with a nice bit of steak, and it’s a super quick meal to cook. In Nigella’s Kitchen you’ll find this recipe for “Date Steak” which is basically a pan fried steak with a home made BBQ style sauce.

The sauce uses quite a few ingredients but is very easy to make. Dark muscovado sugar, red wine vinegar, dijon mustard, soy sauce, redcurrant jelly and chopped ginger get put in a sauce pan, brought to the boil and simmered for five minutes. That’s it. You then fry the steaks and pour the sauce over. We did a jacket potato (slathered with butter) to accompany and a big pile of petit pois and green beans to help us get our dose of vegetables for the day.

As I said at the the beginning, it’s tough to go wrong with this one. I’ve made it and enjoyed it before but I think I got my balance of sauce ingredients a bit mixed up – it seemed a little bit too vinegary to me, but was still nice.

Ginger Cake

It’s been a while since we did any baking – the last real baking was Mark’s spectacular Christmas cake. Since Christmas we’ve been working our way through that cake and a mountain of other treats which seemed to accumulate in our cupboards over the festive season. They’re all gone now though, so I turned to my new copy of The Kitchen Diaries and in the January chapter there is a recipe for ginger cake.

It’s a pretty simple recipe – mostly because there’s no heavy beating of butter required. Dry ingredients get mixed in a bowl whilst the butter and various sugars and syrups are melted together in a pan to produce a gingery kind of toffee. You then mix the two together and add eggs and milk before sticking in the oven. Nigel says you can have this one warm, but if you’re having it cold it’s best to leave for a day to “mature”.

I’m not qualified to judge this one – Mark is the ginger cake superfan, and he gives it a thumbs up so it must be good!

Thai Green Vegetable Curry

It’s been a cold weekend here in the UK with our first substantial snowfall of the season overnight. We took a trip into town and were cold to the core when we got back so a spicy dinner seemed an appropriate way to get back to room temperature.

We’ve made curries from Nigel Slater’s recipes before with great success – I love his recipe for a quick korma, and we’ve followed his instructions for curry pastes before and they’ve been great. This time around we were following the guide he lays out in
Appetite.

We made the curry paste to his instructions (which are basically “put it all in a food processor and blitz it”), then fried the mushrooms, aubergine and squash. We added the paste to the vegetables and fried some more before adding chicken stock and coconut milk and left it to simmer for a bit.

End result was nice, but not as hot as I would have liked and perhaps a little bit, dare I say it, bland. On the plus side we made enough curry paste for another meal so I suspect that we’ll be making a chicken version of the same recipe before too long.

Sausage Casserole

It’s been bitterly cold this week, so after a long hard week of work we needed something hearty, warming and comforting. Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries has a great recipe in it’s January chapter which seemed to fit the bill.

It’s a pretty simple one too. Roughly chop some onion and fry it in olive oil in a deep casserole dish. Then add some finely sliced chopped onion, followed by pancetta. Nigel’s recipe actually uses salami instead of pancetta, but we had a small pack of the latter sat in the fridge. In a frying pan, start to cook some sausages – you’re not looking to cook them fully, just get some colour on their outsides. Then, add 500ml of tomato passata and 500ml of water to the casserole dish and bring it to the boil. Once it’s bubbling add some green lentils, the sausages and three bay leaves and leave to simmer for 30 minutes.

Once it’s done, add a grind of black pepper and that’s it. Dish it up into a couple of bowls and serve as we did with some buttered bread. I was a bit worried that it would taste fairly dull but it was actually really really nice and tasty. Healthy, no… but it was just the right thing for a cold January night.

Chicken Pie

Who doesn’t love a pie? After roasting a chicken on Sunday I was left with a sizeable portion of cooked chicken left over and a pie seemed like a good way of putting it to use. I’d also spotted that there was a chicken pie recipe tucked away in the pages of How To Eat, but not where you might expect it – it’s in the section of recipes for babies and children!

Maybe Mark and I have immature tastes, but a closer inspection reveals that this chapter of the book includes quite a number of nice looking recipes, but today we’re focussing on this pie. I took the easy option of using shop bought pastry – not because I can’t or am opposed to the effort which goes into making regular pastry, it’s just a case of laziness and trying to minimise the amount of washing up which is created.

So to make this one, melt a knob of butter and half a chicken stock cube in a saucepan. Add a tablespoon of flour (probably plain is best, but we were out and I used self raising which although an odd choice didn’t seem to have any adverse effect) and then 300ml of full fat milk before cooking for about 10 minutes. In another pan cook 120g of sweetcorn or peas or both (we went with sweetcorn), then add the drained vegetables to the sauce along with 200g of cooked chicken (we used 300g simply because that was what we had left over from Sunday). We also added a pinch of salt, a grind of black pepper and about half a nutmeg, grated.

This was all then dished up into a cake tin (because that was what came to hand and was about the right size!) and topped with a pastry lid which was finally brushed with milk. You may also spot that I had a bit of fun making a “2HB” logo for the lid! It took about 25 minutes in the oven at 190ºC, but I then covered it with tin foil and cooked for another 20 minutes or so whilst I cooked up some new potatoes and broccoli. I was going to serve this with peas, but it turned out we’d run out.

End result? Bloody marvellous. Creamy sauce, tasty chicken and hugely, hugely satisfying. The recipe is for 4 – 6 children, but it seemed perfect for two hungry adults!

Roast Chicken

We spent Christmas with family, so we don’t have to go through the process of cooking Christmas dinner. That said, sometimes we do get a craving for a nice roast and today was one of those days.

I’m not sure any chef has the rights to a recipe for roast chicken, but I took my cues from Nigella’s How To Eat, plus a tip from Mark’s mum to wrap it in tin foil for the first part of the cooking to keep it moist, then remove the foil for the last half hour so the skin crisps up.

I had a go at making gravy too, but it was a mixed result. We used the juices of the roasting pan (with a lemon squeezed in 20 minutes before serving… another Nigella tip), plus some chicken stock and vermouth. It made for a nice gravy but could have done with being thicker – I should have probably added some corn flour and heated it a bit.

To accompany I also did some roast potatoes – par boiled, then roasted in a bit of olive oil. They turned out really nice… although we probably made and ate enough for a family of four! I think they could have been a bit crispier if I’d dried them before putting them in the oven.

All in all tonight’s dinner was a tasty and hearty success. I deliberately bought a large chicken, and you’ll be seeing what we make with the leftovers later in the week.