Eastern Spiced Meatballs with Fiery Tomato Soupy Sauce

Quite a long title for this recipe! This is the first recipe we’re trying from John Whaite’s new book, Perfect Plates in 5 Ingredients. The premise is simple – every recipe has just five ingredients. The only extras on top of that are salt, pepper, oil and butter.

I must confess, I wasn’t sure how this would work out. Five ingredients doesn’t seem like much, but then again we know Nigel Slater can produce amazing flavours from very little. So this recipe was our first test and I must say it was very well received. The other real joy about this recipe is just how easy it was.

To begin, vine tomatoes are quartered and sprinkled with a little salt. They are then roasted in a hot oven for about 15 minutes with a few red chillies. Meanwhile you make the meatballs from minced beef (which must have a reasonably high fat content), olive oil, cinnamon and allspice. These then roast in the oven as well for another 10 – 15 minutes.

Once that’s all cooked, you remove the stalks from the chillies and blitz them with the tomatoes and a little butter. Sauce done. That’s really all there is to it, and believe me this sauce is HOT! You don’t get a huge amount of sauce, but it really packs a punch and is very tasty.

Serve up the sauce with the meatballs – and we added a bit of pasta just for some extra carbohydrates. Our picture of the meal doesn’t really do it justice – it may not look pretty, but this is a super tasty meal and it looks like things bode well for this book…

Lemon Meringue Pie

This recipe is a coming together of many different things. There’s the recipe for sweet shortcrust pastry which I picked up from John Whaite’s Kitchen. There was the tupperware box of egg whites in the freezer. And there was Mark’s desire for lemon meringue pie.

The only thing missing was a recipe for the filling and the meringue itself, and The Guardian has one of their wonderful “How to Make the Perfect…” articles for this.

As a whole the recipe is fairly simple and light on cooking, but there are three very distinct phases. First up, you have to make your pastry. John Whaite taught me a technique which involves creaming the butter and sugar together first which works really well. The pastry gets blind baked with some baking beads for about 20 minutes, and then a further 10 uncovered.

The lemon curd filling is made to the instructions on the Guardian website. Very quick, very easy and very lemony! Once done, pour it into your pastry case which should be out of the oven by this point and leave it to cool. Once it’s set, it’s really quite firm.

Finally, make the meringue topping – again, we followed the Guardian instructions for this. Apart from the physical effort of whisking, this bit is really simple too. Then it’s into the oven for about 15 minutes and you’re done.

The end result was, if I do say so myself, brilliant. Crisp pastry, super lemony filling and a fluffy topping… delicious. There was one mistake I made though which was to not let the lemon curd cool completely before adding the meringue topping. As a result, moisture formed between the two layers and the finished tart “wept” a little bit, but not enough to spoil it.

Spiced Chicken Rice

We’re rounding out the working week with another recipe from the Sainsbury’s Homemade By You website. It’s another quick and easy recipe and takes next to no time to prepare.

Cut the chicken and fry in some oil, then add some chopped garlic and fry for a few more minutes before adding a teaspoon of turmeric and two teaspoons of garam masala. Next add some chopped leek and lettuce, plus some sultanas and chicken stock.

The recipe calls for it to be simmered with some frozen rice and frozen peas. We had the latter, but no frozen rice – we just boiled up some run-of-the-mill white rice and added that and it worked just fine.

End result was nice, but no particularly exciting. The spices added some flavour, but it wasn’t as satisfying as a true curry. It was a great mountain of food though and very filling.

Quick Fish and Fennel Stew

This is another quick and fairly healthy meal from the Sainsbury’s Homemade By You website. The recipe is for four people, but we made a batch for two people by excluding the cod fillets (it already has salmon and prawns in) and cutting down on the volume of stock slightly.

It’s an easy recipe – fry the onion, garlic and fennel. Then add the liquid – tomatoes, stock and saffron which has been soaking in water. Finally add the fish and prawns and simmer for a bit. Served with some toast, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and rubbed with raw garlic.

The end result was… OK. It was pleasant enough, but the meal looked more interesting than it actually tasted. As we ate it, the flavour (such that there was) grew on me, but Mark wasn’t impressed and ended up leaving most of his.

Teriyaki Salmon Noodles

This week I’m cooking a few recipes from the Sainsbury’s Homemade by You website, and this teriyaki salmon recipe comes from there. It’s a vague attempt to try and eat a bit more healthily this week.

The ingredient list is fairly straight forward, but it does rely on a couple of “prepared” ingredients which are out of the ordinary for us – a specific teriyaki and ginger stir fry sauce, plus a pre-prepared pack of stir fried vegetables.

It’s very easy to make – the salmon is pan fried, and most of the time taken to cook was actually just waiting to make sure this was properly cooked through. You then boil up some noodles, stir fry the vegetables and bung it all together, flaking the salmon first.

It’s quick to serve and satisfying, but the portions looked a bit on the small side for us; we actually had the recipe for 4 people between the two of us.

Tinned Salmon Bake with Fried Cabbage

This is another really easy recipe from Nigel Slater (well, two actually – the cabbage is technically a separate one).

Begin with some tinned red salmon – break it up with a fork and put in a small oven proof dish. Don’t mush it up too much! Then add some chopped spring onion and a healthy squeeze of lemon juice, plus about 120ml of tomato juice. Sprinkle some breadcrumbs over (we used panko) and a few little bits of butter to help it brown.

Whilst it bakes in the oven for about 25 minutes at 200C, chop up some cabbage and slice some garlic. Then fry the garlic in oil, and add the cabbage and stir fry for a couple of minutes.

Serve the whole lot up and enjoy. Lots of tasty salmon and healthy cabbage!

Pork Stroganov

My spell check says it’s strogranoff, but the recipe in Nigel Slater’s book says it’s “stroganov”. Either way, here’s how to make it.

Nigel uses beef tenderloin, but we used pork. Slice into pieces and roll them in paprika, salt and pepper. Fry them in a pan with some chopped onion and mushrooms. Then add a tablespoon of Dijon mustard and 100ml of sour cream.

Once again we went with mashed potato to accompany this – the potato is great for soaking up the sauce from the pork. This is another super fast and easy recipe which we can heartily recommend.

Chicken Marsala

This Nigel Slater recipe is almost two easy to deserve a write up.

Toss some flattened chicken breasts in flour and then pan fry in some butter and olive oil with a little salt and pepper. Take them out and keep warm whilst you add a small glass of marsala to the pan and reduce by about 50%. Then add some double cream, mix and pour over the chicken.

We served it up with some mashed potatoes and peas. Super fast and easy.

Pork and Lemon Polpettina

Another Nigel Slater recipe for this meal, this time coming from Real Fast Food. The meatballs themselves are pretty easy to put together. We used panko instead of regular breadcrumbs and mixed these with pork mince, lemon juice, grated parmesan and some chopped anchovies. Thyme and parsley are added for some extra flavour.

As recommended, we served this up with some pasta (tagliatelle) and some broccoli for vegetables. Nigel’s recipe uses 500g of pork mince but says that it’s sufficient for 4 people. I made the same amount (just because the supermarket didn’t have smaller packs of mince) for the two of us and it was certainly a big plate of food… the recipe is probably enough for 3 hungry adults.

Aubergine, Mushroom and Tomato Curry

Sometimes when you feel like you’ve overindulged, you need a big bowl full of healthy stuff to make you feel human again. This recipe from Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries ticked that box.

The first bit of work is to prepare a paste from the various aromatics and herbs. Cooking with shrimp paste was a new one for me – it’s smells very strong and you only need a small amount, but I was pleasantly surprised that in flavour it just gave a mellow base rather than being overpowering.

The paste then gets fried, and then the various vegetables get added. The whole thing finally simmers in some stock – we found it took quite a long time to reduce down to a reasonable consistency, much longer than the book suggested.

The curry this makes is very nice, but doesn’t have a very strong curry flavour. It’s more like a nicely spiced vegetable stew.