Thai Green Fish Curry

This recipe comes from Nigel Slater’s The 30 Minute Cook, a book which has yielded many successful recipes – but I can’t recommend this particular dish.

I think the first mistake was my choice of fish – plaice – which just sort of dissolved into the sauce as it cooked. The end result felt like we were just eating sauce with nothing in it.

The other problem was the creamed coconut which gave the whole dish a really gritty feel. Maybe I used an inferior brand of creamed coconut (I’ve no frame of reference). Maybe it’s because I skipped the step to strain the liquid through a muslin cloth… but to be honest if you have to do that then this is getting away from the kind of convenience I expect from a 30 minute meal.

On top of all that, my sauce split. Sad face.

Mushroom, pesto and cream lasagne

This great big plate of vegetarian delight comes from Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries.

It’s something of a cooking marathon his – I think that beginning to end took about 2 hours. That’s because you have to cook the mushrooms and onions, plus you have to make the pesto, and in our case we also had to make béchamel sauce. None of these tasks are particularly strenuous, but together they add to the time and coordination required.

Once you’ve got everything ready, alternating layers of pasta and mushroom filling are put into a dish, and then topped out with the pesto and finally the béchamel. It takes about 40 minutes in oven at the end, so this clearly isn’t a quick thing to throw together but the end result is a really nice take on lasagne and despite being vegetarian it completely satisfied us two omnivores.

A friend of ours managed to cut down the prep time by using ready made pesto and béchamel sauce which still produced something tasty – you can check out the evidence on his Instagram here.

Bangers with Mustard Mash

Some comfort food here from Nigel Slater’s Kitchen Diaries.

It’s going a bit far to call this a recipe really – you basically just cook the sausages as expected and make some mashed potato. The trick is adding the cream and mustard to the mash which gives it a richer and more interesting flavour – plus the wholegrain mustard adds a little bit of extra texture as well.

There’s not much can go wrong here. We served it up with some peas for a hearty and warming supper.

Potatoes and Peppers

Time for a veggie option, this time coming from Nigel Slater writing for the Guardian. The ingredient list is nice and simple – potatoes, peppers, garlic and chicken stock.

Cut the peppers into big strips first and fry them so they soften a little. Then fry the sliced potatoes so that they brown a little, throw in the garlic and the chicken stock with the peppers and let the whole thing simmer and reduce. You end up with beautifully soft potatoes and a tangy garlicky sauce – this is comfort food at its best.

Haddock in Anchovy & Tarragon Breadcrumbs

It’s not all that long since we had our posh fish finger sandwich from Booths, and this is a variation on that theme. Some nice pieces of haddock in breadcrumbs, but Nigel Slater’s Appetite provides the twist.

The breadcrumbs are made from panko (Nigel uses fresh bread, but we had panko in the cupboard) and is given some extra flavour in the form of tarragon and anchovies. Dip the fish in flour first, then beaten egg, and finally the breadcrumb mixture before frying in a pan.

The anchovy is the star here – it adds a really nice salty tang to the breadcrumbs and makes this much more interesting than everyday breaded fish. My one criticism would be that the anchovy is so flavoursome, the tarragon ends up being somewhat lost.

Mushy peas on the side because, why not?

Chicken with Garlic, Tarragon and Cream

This meal is from Nigel Slater’s Appetite, the book which gives you lots of ideas for recipes rather than spelling lots of them out in detail. The book contains a sections on chicken and meat, and that’s where the inspiration for this comes from.

The basic idea is fairly easy – it’s some skin-on bone-on chicken thighs slow cooked in butter. This has the benefit of giving them a really nice and crispy texture, but following the advice on the following pages the burnt on bits of flavour in the pan can be turned into a creamy tarragon sauce to accompany things.

Unfortunately for me, something went wrong – maybe I overcooked the sauce; maybe I used too much vermouth; maybe there were too many burnt on bits… but it ended up coming out quite bitter. To top things off, I’d decided to serve this with polenta but mistakenly grabbed a bag of fine, rather than course, polenta – resulting in something resembling cheesy (we always add parmesan to polenta) wallpaper paste. Not the most appetising thing!

To be fair, it didn’t taste awful… it just wasn’t quite what I’d been hoping for.

Mushroom Pappardelle

This was a quick, throw together easy supper found in the September chapter of Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries. It’s really easy to make. You just fry the mushrooms in some butter and olive oil and once they’ve browned add some chopped garlic and parsley. Finally you add some cooked pappardelle and sprinkle the parmesan in, warm it all through and serve.

End result was… meh. I wasn’t overly impressed. I thought that there was too much pasta and not enough of everything else. Mark seemed to like it, but afterwards it just felt like I’d eaten a massive pile of carbs (well, I suppose I had!).

Eton Mess (ish)

OK, this isn’t strictly an Eton Mess but it’s certainly inspired by that dish. The recipe was a Nigel Slater one we found via the BBC on one of those days when you want dessert but want to try and be healthy… so a fruit pudding seemed like a great idea!

We took the easy route and used shop bought meringues. Whip up some double cream, then crumble the meringues into it. Add the berries (we used blackberries and raspberries as suggested) and some shelled pistachios and fold it all together.

The end result is then served up with some ice cream and provides a really satisfying combination of flavours – sweet from the meringue, tart from the berries, smooth with the cream and crunchy with the nuts. A really delicious treat.

Apricot and Orange Sponge Cake

It’s been a while since I made a cake, so I had a crack at this one from Nigel Slater’s Appetite. The main recipe is actually for a lemon cake, but the variations suggested that orange could be used instead, and I love an orange cake.

Nigel describes this cake as incredibly easy, but I’m afraid I don’t agree. It’s easy, yes – if you’re using a food processor. By hand? Not so much. First up you have to cream the butter and sugar until “white and fluffy” – this takes a really, really long time by hand. I also found Nigel’s technique to be misleading – the next step described is to zest and juice the fruit… but he actually expected you to NOT add them to the bowl at this point. I realised too late, and because I’d used an orange rather than a lemon I had quite a lot of juice… this began to dissolve the sugar so I was going to lose all the air I had worked so hard to incorporate.

I decided to add an extra bit of raising agent in the form of a teaspoon of bicarbonate. I chose this over baking powder because I believe the latter includes bicarb and acid – but with all the acidic orange juice in the mixture, I decided that would be enough.

Nigel also says you need to chop some apricots until almost like a paste – again, that’s an easy task for a machine but not by hand. Fortunately I have a mezzaluna (this one, in fact) which made things easier than they may have otherwise been.

Once I was done with all that hassle and stress it went into the oven and actually rose really nicely. It sank a little in the middle afterwards, and a bit of the butter separated out in the middle making it look a bit greasy but – all things considered – it’s a bloody nice cake. We had some warm on the first night with raspberries and a blob of skyr, and then some more the next day after keeping it in the fridge. I think it was better for being in the fridge, and Mark prefers his with Greek yoghurt rather than skyr.

If you’ve got a food processor, try this one out. If not, give it a go anyway but make sure you read the entire recipe through before you begin and be prepared for some hard work!

Chicken Casserole with Cannelini Beans and Mashed Potatoes

This meal requires some advance prep – the chicken has to sit in its marinade for several hours, ideally overnight. So this one went into the fridge the day before; the chicken sits in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, herbs de Provence, plus a couple of peeled cloves of garlic and some bay leaves.

The next day, you take the chicken out and brown in it in a pan, then transfer to a casserole dish. Next, fry the chopped leek in the same oil, and then add the rest of the marinade and some water and bring it to the boil. Add the drained cannelini beans and the hot liquid to the casserole dish, put a lid on and stick it in the oven.

This recipe is from Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries, and he recommends putting it in the oven for 2 hours. However, he also makes this for a bigger number of people so I used less water and put it in the oven for an hour.

The end result was… nice. Not amazing, but no bad. It actually smelled much more flavoursome than it actually tasted. This is possible because I used chicken thighs rather than a jointed chicken, and I was probably a bit stingy with my seasoning. It may also be that I didn’t leave it in the oven long enough, so the liquid wasn’t reduced down enough.

Mashed potato on the side is a work of genius though – it really helps with mopping up all the juices.