Sage and Mushroom Gnocchi

Whenever I see a recipe in John Whaite’s Perfect Plates in 5 Ingredients, I struggle to reconcile the idea that so few ingredients will yield an impressive meal – but every single time we’ve used the book he’s proven me wrong and this meal is no exception.

So basically you cook some onions and mushrooms, then add some sage followed by some white wine (although we used vermouth) and reduce. Meanwhile you fry up some gnocchi – they go nice and crispy on the outside, it’s a technique Nigella uses to create a sort of mock roast potato.

When you’re done, throw it all together and serve. You can also fry some sage leaves and add them for a bit of extra crunch. It’s quite carb heavy this meal but it’s tasty and easy to throw together.

Carrots with Lime and Thyme and Salmon

This recipe is another of the ones you’ll find in John Whaite’s Perfect Plates in 5 Ingredients. The five ingredients are really simple – carrots, onion, fresh thyme, a lime and some salmon fillets (plus the usual seasonings and oil).

It takes quite a while to cook because the carrots need to roast in the oven for an hour before you add the salmon on top and cook for a further 15 minutes. We also did some new potatoes to serve this up with. To be honest, I thik my carrots could have used a little longer in the oven but that’s probably because I used regular carrots rather than baby carrots as John suggests.

End result was very tasty – the lime and thyme combination works really well with the carrots. Also the whole dish basically just uses one roasting tray so there’s very little washing up afterwards.

Chicken, Leek and Cider Pie

You may have noticed that we’ve been enjoying a few pies of late, and when our love of pastry called this time we turned to John Whaite’s Perfect Plates in 5 Ingredients. It’s been a while since we cooked anything from this one, but this recipe was a perfect one to get us back on track.

This recipe takes quite a while though, and that’s even with shop bought puff pastry! First you have to cook the chunks of chicken, then set them to one side. Next you cook the leeks slowly in butter (about 20 minutes), and then return the chicken to the pan and add the cider which then simmers for about 40 minutes… a bit less for us though because I left the heat too high!

Next you have to let the filling cool a little before mixing in some creme fraiche and assembling your pie. John goes for individual pies with pastry lids – we just made a single giant pie and, as ever, made sure the pastry was all the way around and not just on top. A pastry lid alone is not enough!

The end result was utterly delicious. There’s a nice combination of sweet (from the caramelised leeks and cider) and tart/savoury (from the creme fraiche).

Whilst I probably prefer Diana Henry’s bird pie, this is much easier because it doesn’t require you to roast a chicken in advance. It’s not a quick recipe, but it requires a lot less forward planning… especially because the ingredient list is so straightforward.

Puttanesca Style Haddock Stew

The official name of this recipe is “puttanesca style monkfish stew” but the supermarket didn’t have any monkfish and we ended up going with haddock instead. It’s another recipe from John Whaite’s Perfect Plates in Five Ingredients. As such, it’s another pretty straightforward recipe – although I think using anchovy stuffed olives is a bit of a cheat to get down to the give ingredient minimum; I’m pretty sure you could use separate olives and anchovies to make this.

The first bit is really easy – just bash together chopped garlic, chopped chilli and stuffed olives in a mortar and pestle. Then fry the resulting paste until it becomes aromatic and add the chopped tomatoes. Bring it to the boil, turn down to a simmer and sit the fish on top. Cover the pan with a lid and leave it for about 10 minutes.

To serve, I added some plain cous cous on the side for a bit of carb. For such a simply recipe it makes a good puttanesca sauce with a great flavour.

Secret Ingredient Chocolate Fudge Cake

Well, this is a strange one. The recipe comes from John Whaite’s Perfect Plates in 5 Ingredients, and whilst it looks like a run of the mill chocolate cake, one of these five ingredients is definitely not like the others. Yes folks, this cake really does include a tin of condensed tomato soup.

It would be fair to say I was very suspicious when making this, and the smell of tomatoes whilst making the mixture was much stronger than I had imagined – although I did use a bit too much soup (the tin we bought was bigger than the quantity required and I only spotted just before the last drops went in!). Once the cake batter is made it goes into two sandwich tins and bakes in the oven for about half an hour – and out comes chocolate cake! Quite an attractive looking one, too.

Meanwhile you make some chocolate icing/ganache from a mixture of water, cocoa, butter and muscovado sugar. I found that the quantities in the recipe produced about 25% more than I needed. However, I did find icing the cake to be quite tricky because both my sponges were quite domed, and when I assembled the cake the top sponge broke up a little bit – the icing ended up being more of a glue to hold the whole thing together.

The resulting cake is really nice, really rich and really fudgey. I’m not sure whether that’s due to the tomato soup, or if it’s the massive (and I do mean massive) quantities of sugar and cocoa used in the cake. Are they there in their own right, or to mask the flavour of tomatoes? I’ve no idea, but the cake will be demolished by us two I can assure you of that.

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!

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.

Four Hour Pasta Sauce

A recipe for tomato sauce doesn’t sound too exciting, but this one comes from John Whaite’s Perfect Plates in Five Ingredients. Because the pasta is one of those five ingredients, this seems like an incredibly simple recipe! The only caveat is that it takes a long time – four hours!

Skin the plum tomatoes, roughly chop them and sprinkle with a little salt. Fry some chopped red onion and garlic. Add the peeled tomatoes which have been roughly chopped, along with some seasoning, a healthy glug of red wine (John suggests Malbec and we didn’t see any reason to disagree!). Stick the whole thing in the oven with a lid on it and leave to cook for 4 hours.

When it comes out, it doesn’t look too much like pasta sauce but stirring it quickly changes things – the tomatoes fall apart and you suddenly have a rich pasta sauce. We served it with tagliatelle and a little pan friend pancetta, and there was enough sauce to freeze half for a future date. We also found a slug of balsamic vinegar pepped things up.

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…