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.

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!).

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.

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.

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!

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.

Chicken, Watercress and Orange Salad

So we had a load of leftover cooked chicken from the roast we did at the weekend, and this recipe from the March chapter of Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries offers a good way to use it up.

A dressing is made of wholegrain mustard, olive oil and red wine vinegar. Meanwhile, some pumpkin seeds are splattered with soy sauce and toasted under the grill, and some almonds are toasted in a pan. We were supposed to use whole skinned almonds but the store was out so I used flaked almonds instead. The last ingredient is orange which is peeled and sliced, and any escaping juices are added to the dressing.

Finally, you take a big pile of water cress and add the chicken, dressing, orange and nuts. I also added some couscous on the side for a little bit of carb.

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!

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.