Lamb with Lemon and Mint

This Nigel Slater recipe comes from the Kitchen Diaries and is remarkably quick and simple. Mix a bit of olive oil with some lemon zest and chopped mint, then pan fry some lamb steaks in it. Then put the lamb to one side on a warm plate and deglaze the pan with some lemon juice.

This is accompanied with some boiled potatoes – the idea is that you cook them until they’re soft, and then when eating you can squash them with your fork to mop up the meat and lemon juices. We also threw some peas on the side because you can never get enough vegetables in your diet!

Simple and speedy, a tasty way to round out a long weekend.

Asparagus, Lemon and Parmesan Pasta

A super quick and easy recipe here from our old reliable Nigel Slater’s The 30 Minute Cook.

Super easy recipe – boil some water and add the asparagus which has been chopped into short pieces. COok for a couple of minutes and then remove from the water. Add the pasta to the water (we used conchigle). Next fry up some sliced garlic in butter, and then add the asparagus and cook for a few minutes. Add some lemon juice.

Once everything’s cooked, assemble – strain the pasta and mix with the asparagus and garlic, plus plenty of parmesan. Season with salt and pepper and you’re done. Simple and tasty -not the most exciting meal in the world, but a great result for very little effort.

Bird Pie

We had enjoyed a roast chicken at the weekend and were left with a mountain of cooked chicken which needed to be put to good use. Following on from the strawberry tart, pastry was looking popular this week so we turned to Diana Henry’s A Bird in the Hand for a recipe for chicken pie.

Firstly I’ll confess – I was going to make some rough puff pastry, but couldn’t be bothered in the end. We had some frozen shortcrust in the freezer so I ended up using that instead – but it’s OK because Diana herself confessed on Instagram that she uses shop-bought too!

You make a sauce from butter and flour to begin, then add some capers, parsley and mustard (supposedly Dijon but we used wholegrain because that was what we had in). Separately you saute some leeks and add them, along with the chicken, some lemon juice and creme fraiche and heat the whole thing through.

Then it’s just a matter of assembly. Diana just did a pastry top, but Mark was hungry so we did a pastry base as well – no blind baking, just rolled it out into the pie tin and then added the filling followed by a lid (make sure to cut slits in the lid for steam to escape). Before popping it in the oven, I painted a bit of milk over the top.

This pie was, frankly, amazing. The flavour was out of this world; easily one of the best chicken pies I have ever eaten. This recipe is HUGELY recommended. 10/10. Five stars.

Strawberry Tart

I’m going to take credit for this recipe and claim it as my own, but the truth is that it’s simply cobbled together from a few other bits and pieces. Firstly there’s the pastry, which is just sweet shortcrust pastry. You could buy this from a shop, but I used the technique which John Whaite teaches at his cookery school. I made the pastry, chilled it, rolled it out, put it into the tin and then chilled it some more. I then blind baked it using baking beans to prevent it from puffing up.

The second part is creme pattisiere – there are lots of recipes for this out there, and again I used the technique I picked up from John Whaite but his recipe is very similar to the one you’ll find in Nigella’s books. The creme pat was made whilst the pastry chilled and was then left to cool. Put it on a plate covered with cling film to avoid a skin forming.

Once chilled, the creme pat was transferred to the pastry and filled it. Then I added the sliced strawberries and glazed the whole thing with a little bit of apricot jam and water which I’d mixed and heated on the hob. The resulting tart just sits in the fridge. It’s both fresh and light, but also satisfying because of the creaminess of the filling.

Chicken with Potatoes and Spring Onions

Whether you call them spring onions or call them scallions, they feature heavily in this comforting recipe by Diana Henry, as published in A Bird in the Hand. It’s essentially a one pot recipe, although it follows Diana’s usual technique of sealing/browning the chicken first, setting it to one side, and then returning it later in the process.

My biggest worry in this recipe was the potatoes – there simply wasn’t that much liquid, and I wondered whether or not they would cook in such a shallow bath. Not to worry – they cooked beautifully, as did the chicken. The creme fraiche added at the end gives it a richness and creaminess, and the end result is a wonderfully soothing and comforting meal.

Lemon and Asparagus Risotto

If you like asparagus, this is the recipe for you – it involves lots of the green stuff. This recipe is quite seasonal, coming from the May chapter of Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries. I was a bit wary – lemon and asparagus isn’t a combination I’ve ever tried before – but Nigel Slater has a proven track record in our house for choosing flavour combinations which work well together.

It’s pretty standard risotto making here – fry the onion in butter, add the rice followed by a glass of white wine or dry vermouth (we used the latter). Then slowly add the chicken stock a ladle at a time, adding the asparagus part way through. Now, I was lazy here and just poured it all in – didn’t seem to affect things negatively! You also need the zest and juice of two lemons at this stage.

Before serving, stir through some freshly ground black pepper and some parmesan and you’re done. The asparagus and lemon work really well together, producing a light and bright meal which is also comforting and satisfying. Thumbs up for Mr Slater!

Sausage with Apples and Sauerkraut

I was late home from work, so whilst this recipe took 40 minutes in the oven it was still very welcome because of the virtually effortless preparation. You can find the recipe for this in John Whaite’s Perfect Plates in 5 Ingredients.

Preparation is so simple it’s almost unbelievable. Put the sausages in a casserole dish with a little olive oil. Throw in some quartered apples (not peeled or cored) and onion, then bung a few sprigs of thyme on top. The whole thing then goes in the oven for about 30 – 40 minutes.

Once it’s done, top with a bit of sauerkraut and that’s it.

The taste combination is really great – apple and sausage always works well in my book. The sauerkraut gives a really nice contrast to the sweetness of the apple and onion too. Thumbs up from this hungry boy!

Chicken Forestiere

Back to Diana Henry’s A Bird in the Hand tonight, but it was a meal which nearly didn’t happen. This recipe calls for chicken thighs, skin on and bone in. I had a pack in the fridge and they were well within their use-by-date… but I had noticed that the fridge had an odd aroma to it. When I came to pull the chicken out, I noticed it looked a slightly odd, slightly yellowish colour and that was when I realised… the pack wasn’t airtight. With the seal broken, the chicken had spoiled.

So I flung on a pair of shoes and dashed to corner shop – no chicken thighs for sale, so I grabbed a couple of chicken breasts instead. And a bottle of wine. And some iced buns. Damn you, lack of self control!

The recipe takes a little while to put together, but it’s certainly not hard. Start by soaking some dried mushrooms in boiled water. The chicken is browned first and then set to one side. You then deglaze the pan with sherry, fry the chopped onions and add the onions and their liquid, some chicken stock and some chopped carrots. Let the whole thing simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.

Now add the chicken back to the pot and simmer for another 20 minutes. As it gets close to the end, fry up some button mushrooms and then add them to the pot along with some double cream and leave to simmer for another 10 minutes but this time with the cover off.

The end result is really, really unctuous and tasty. Plus it’s full of vegetables so you can claim it’s healthy!

Indian Spiced Cod

It’s been a while since we cooked anything from Simply Nigella, so we dusted the book off the shelf and decided to give this recipe a go. It’s a pretty quick and easy to put together – just right for a warm evening after work.

The recipe is very easy. The spices all get mixed together with some yohurt, lime juice and lime zest. Nigella uses coconut yoghurt (that’s the dairy substitute, not coconut flavoured regular yoghurt!) but says you can use Greek instead. I used Greek because we had some in the fridge. Nigella also suggests cutting back on the lime if you use Greek yoghurt… I missed that particular instruction and used the full amount, and it ended up with a very strong lime flavour which was a bit much for me but marked loved it.

You then thickly coat your cod with the sauce and bake in the oven at 200 Celsius for 15 minutes… and that’s it! Done! I did a side of mashed potato and peas to go with this. Maybe not in keeping with the Indian flavours, but it went well enough for my liking.

Smoked Haddock with Braised Chorizo and Leeks

Tonight we’re trying another one of John Whaite’s Perfect Plates in 5 Ingredients. Those five ingredients for tonight’s dinner are chorizo, leek, chicken stock, smoked haddock and capers.

It’s a one pot meal and is very easy to make. Fry the chorizo for a few minutes, then add the chopped leeks and fry a little bit more. Pour in the stock, then put the whole thing in the oven (covered with a lid) for about 40 minutes. Remove the lid, sit the cod on top and cook for another 10 to 15 minutes. Once it’s done, flake the fish into the pan and serve up with a few capers scattered over.

We added some of Mark’s homemade sourdough on the side (for “mopping up” duty) and also finished off some of the bulgur wheat salad he’d made for yesterday’s dinner. This meal of Mr Whaite’s didn’t need any accompaniment though – it was incredibly tasty and the taste far surpassed the amount of effort which went into making it. Good call, Mr Whaite.