Tagliata for Two

We’re revisiting a classic tonight, Nigella’s Italian themed Nigellissima – it’s the book which first got me into cooking properly and not just buying quiche and frozen pizza from the supermarket every week! This dinner is actually composed of two recipes from that book, but tagliata for two is the “main event”.

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The meal is pretty straightforward to make. You oil some steak and then fry it, then transfer to a marinade of olive oil, red wine vinegar, chilli flakes and oregano. Then you remove the steak and thinly slice it, and put some chopped cherry tomatoes (I accidentally used plum) in the marinade and serve it up.

For a bit of something extra on the side, I also used Nigella’s recipe for mushrooms in garlic – nice and easy and a bit of extra vegetable on the side.

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The resulting meal was nice but nothing to write home about. Trying to combine all the various elements, time got a little bit away from me and I ended up serving a fairly cold dish. Mostly my fault, but it didn’t help the end result. Nothing wrong here, just nothing all that exciting.

Meatballs with Sweet Potatoes and Couscous

When is a one pot not a one pot? Probably when it also requires multiple bowls, as is the case for this recipe from One Pot Wonders. Don’t get me wrong, this is a nice recipe and we really enjoyed it, but there’s a certain level of hassle involved which I wasn’t expecting given which book it came from.

It’s important to follow the steps in sequence, which begin with preparing the couscous. I thought this was too early, but some of the couscous is then used in the meatballs (a breadcrumb substitute I guess). With preparing the couscous and the meatballs plus the vegetable preparation and the roasting tray, I felt that the title of one pot wasn’t really deserved here. Hell, it’s not even a pot, it’s a roasting dish.

Such quibbles aside though, the washing up that was generated was easy to clean and the meal went down well. I was a bit worried that the couscous would be stone cold but it retained enough heat and absorbed some more from the rest of the dish.

Beef with Vegetables & Noodles

Another recipe from Our Korean Kitchen here, and another success story! I was quite apprehensive of this because there’s a significant amount of preparation required – from making an egg dish, boiling noodles, grating vegetables, marinating beef…

…but the whole thing comes together wonderfully! Lots of different flavours and textures which all work really well together. We were supposed to use sweet potato glass noodles but couldn’t track any down and just went with udon noodles instead because we had some in the cupboard. Accident or not, they worked really well!

Steak Pie

Sometimes only a pie will do. After the success of chicken pie last week it seemed appropriate to give a steak pie a try, but a quick skim of our recipe books didn’t really turn up anything suitable. So this recipe is put together from two places. Firstly, it uses the “Steak & Kidney Pie” recipe from Nigella Lawson’s How to Eat, but because we were making it for two people we had to scale down the ingredients and as part of this we ditched the kidneys. But rather than making a pastry using self raising flour as Nigella does, we fell back on the good old reliable shortcrust recipe and technique we picked up from John Whaite.

It takes a while to make this one. You chop the celery, carrot, sage and onion finely and fry for a few minutes. Then the beef is tossed in flour, pepper and nutmeg and browned in a pan. The beef is then added to the vegetables along with some stout and beef stock in a casserole dish, then popped in the oven with a lid on at 150C for 2 hours.

In the meantime make and chill the pastry and line a dish (should be a pie dish but we used a cake tin!), then transfer the cooked steak into it, glaze the top with milk and bake in the oven at 190C for about half an hour.

The resulting pie looked spectacular and tasted great. The only grumble was that it was a bit bitter – I think this was because in scaling down the ingredients I’d not used as much beef stock as I should have and used too much stout. But this wasn’t enough to detract from what was a bloody marvellous pie!

Spicy Beef and Vegetable Stew (yuk gaejang)

Another Korean recipe tonight from Jordan Bourke and Rejina Pyo’s great book Our Korean Kitchen. We bought a great big bag of gochugaru red pepper powder and we’re damn well going to use it!

This isn’t a meal you cook in a hurry – there’s two hours of simmering involved, so there’s some planning required. We couldn’t lay our hands on brisket as suggested, but the casserole steak we ended up with seemed to work OK. Once again, the gochugaru is the star adding a flavour which is quite unlike anything in western cuisine and utterly delicious. That said, after two hour of simmering I was also hoping for something a bit more unctuous. This meal was really nice, but I didn’t think it was quite worth all the time it took!

Japanese Style Hamburgers (wafū hanbāgā)

It took me a while to realise that the Japanese name for this dish, handbāgā, is just a Japanese way of writing “hamburger”. This recipe is another one from Kimiko Barber’s Cook Japanese at Home.

I’ve got to admit though, the technique described wasn’t especially clear. It explained that the important thing was the mixing process, but then the only guidance given was to do it as if making pastry. Fortunately I’ve made pastry, but that seemed a very weak description of a process which is essential to the success of the meal.

The burgers are assembled and then steamed, but my upset really came when trying to turn them. The burgers completely fell apart. On top of that the accompanying red sauce which the recipe comes with turned out to be thin and runny. To add insult to injury the broccoli and cauliflower I’d bought to serve this with had gone mouldy.

Burgers tasted OK, but for the hassle involved and the mess that was created trying to make them, I think I’d put this recipe down as a miss.

Niku Jaga

We’ve cooked Niku Jaga before but this recipe is from our latest book purchase – Kimiko Barber’s Cook Japanese at Home. That said, she also wrote the book the previous version came from…

We took the lazy route with this one, using dashinimoto to make some instant dashi stock, rather than making our own from konbu and bonito flakes. It didn’t seem to suffer for it.

I was actually a bit greedy with this meal. Mark is away, so the big slab of steak I bought ended up being consumed by me and me alone! Ribeye works really well in this, coming out really tasty and tender. The potatoes also dissolve a little into the sauce which makes it delicious and thick.

I enjoyed niku jaga last time I made it, and I enjoyed it even more so this time. Not sure if it’s because the recipe has been refined, or if I am getting better at following instructions, or if it was just a better piece of beef! Whatever, I’m one very content boy right now.

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…

Cottage Pie

This is another one of the recipes tucked away in the “children” section of Nigella’s How To Eat but which, as an adult, I would most happily eat.

Although it’s notionally a pie the assembly is a bit different. Chop the carrots, onions and celery and soften them in a pan. Add the chopped onion and then sliced mushrooms. When cooked, add the beef mince and when it’s cooked add a good slosh of marsala, another of Worcestershire sauce (or soy sauce) and a small tin of chopped tomatoes, pop a lid on it and simmer for about half an hour.

Once it’s done, top with mashed potato and put under the grill to crisp the top, then serve up. It’s a wonderfully filling and homely meal. I also added a few frozen peas whilst it simmered – partly to increase the vegetable count but also because the moisture from them helped stop the filling from burning to the pan as it simmered.

The end result was lovely and calming. Could have used a bit of salt and pepper – that probably wouldn’t have been an issue if I’d used soy sauce instead of Worcestershire, but I like the tang which comes from the latter.

Date Steak

You can’t really go wrong with a nice bit of steak, and it’s a super quick meal to cook. In Nigella’s Kitchen you’ll find this recipe for “Date Steak” which is basically a pan fried steak with a home made BBQ style sauce.

The sauce uses quite a few ingredients but is very easy to make. Dark muscovado sugar, red wine vinegar, dijon mustard, soy sauce, redcurrant jelly and chopped ginger get put in a sauce pan, brought to the boil and simmered for five minutes. That’s it. You then fry the steaks and pour the sauce over. We did a jacket potato (slathered with butter) to accompany and a big pile of petit pois and green beans to help us get our dose of vegetables for the day.

As I said at the the beginning, it’s tough to go wrong with this one. I’ve made it and enjoyed it before but I think I got my balance of sauce ingredients a bit mixed up – it seemed a little bit too vinegary to me, but was still nice.