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.

Prawn Jalfrezi

A quick burst of heat for dinner on a cold winter’s day comes in the form of this prawn jalfrezi, the recipe for which is available online at the BBC Good Food website.

There were a few panics whilst making this – particularly when I realised we had no tinned tomatoes in the cupboard and I had to run to the corner shop on a particularly cold and windy night. The recipe also calls for you to cook the onions and spices, then add the chopped tomatoes and water and blitz with a hand blender. I tried to do this in the pan (heat turned off, obviously!) but the depth wasn’t sufficient to do without spattering so I had to decant everything to a pyrex jar, blitz it, and then put it back in the pan.

Also, the recipe called for one 400g tin of chopped tomatoes plus half a tin of water – I suspect the water wasn’t needed because our sauce was quite wet even after reducing down for a long time. The recipe said cook uncovered, but we took the lid off in an attempt to try and make things a bit thicker.

Despite that, the end result was really nice. Not a 100% authentic jalfrezi, but a nice and spicy sauce with a fresh taste.

Mexican Lasagne

It’s like lasagne, but with a twist. I’d been thinking of making this for quite some time but was always put off by the fact the recipe is for eight people… but I decided to give it and go and reheat the leftovers for lunches later in the week. This recipe comes from Nigella Lawson’s Kitchen.

It’s pretty simply to make. Onions, pepper, chilli and chopped tomatoes make the sauce (plus a good glob of ketchup), and these are interspersed with a mixture of sweetcorn, black beans and cheese. You build up layers of sauce, beans and tortilla and then bake the whole thing in the oven.

It’s surprisingly tasty – helped in no small part by the vast quantities of cheese. Not sure how well it will reheat – the end result was wetter than expected, but still very tasty.

Chicken Noodle Broth

More from Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries tonight. The description for this one sounds nicer than the end result I got though.

The premise is pretty simple and it’s a damn fast recipe to make. Bring the chicken broth to a simmer, add the cooked chicken and chopped mint and coriander. Squeeze in a lemon and throw in some cooked noodles and you’re done.

However, I couldn’t find a decent chicken broth so I used a decent chicken stock instead – end result was too watery. I also thought it looked a bit insubstantial so I threw in some extra noodles and some peas. End result tasted OK but it was just a bit odd… possibly because it was so watery the whole thing felt quite unsatisfying.

An extra large slice of Christmas cake followed to compensate.

Luxurious Chicken and Noodles

It’s been quite a while since we cooked anything from Nigel Slater – probably because we’ve been completely enamoured with Nigella since the launch of her new book. Tonight we went back to Nigel’s Appetite though – in particular his recipe for a luxurious and spicy noodle dish.

Like most recipes in appetite, there’s an element of ‘make it up as you go along’ and we were well ahead of him on this one since we’d switched the seafood for chicken. I also decided to make the spice paste by hand with lots of grating and chopping to avoid washing up the food processor. It was only after I’d gone through the hassle of this that I saw his comment “don’t even think of doing this without a food processor”. Oh well!

Quantities were also a bit all over the place – technically I should have used 200ml of coconut milk but since the tins come in double that volume, I used twice as much as I should. It was similar with spices – the quantities didn’t quite halve neatly so the end result was inspired by Nigel, rather than slavishly following the recipe.

End result was very nice though. Wetter than expected due to all that coconut milk, but a pleasant heat (I could have been bolder with the chillies) and a nice flavour.

Chicken Cosima

A slightly unusual name for this dish, but it makes sense – it comes from Simply Nigella and is the dish Nigella made for her daughter Cosima’s 21st birthday. Apparently it contains all the things Cosima likes best – and we can concur that she’s got good taste!

That said, I did muck up the quantities. The chicken thighs we’d bought had gone off so I had to go and buy more but the supermarket only had larger packs… the recipe in the book is to serve six, but although I halved the quantities I ended up using enough chicken for six people. Whoops.

Still, we ate it all. As I said before, Cosima has good taste.

Chicken Curry with Spinach

Whilst searching for inspiration for what to cook this week we discovered that Sainsbury’s has launched a new recipe site in conjunction with the Huffington Post. After having a browse around the new site (“Homemade By You“) I settled on this curry recipe.

We didn’t quite follow the recipe to the letter though. We’d run out of ground cumin so used some roughly chopped cumin seeds instead; due to the sizes of tins at the corner shop we had a higher proportion of tomatoes than intended; and since Sparky isn’t a huge fan of paneer we dropped it from the side dish and just fried up some shallots and spinach.

The end result worked well though and was really tasty. Not an “authentic” tasting curry (Nigel Slater’s quick chicken korma still wins that hands down) but we enjoyed it a lot. Plus the spinach, onions and tomatoes went a long way towards our five portions of fruit and veg!

Thai-Style Fishcakes

I’d had various attempts at making traditional, potato based fish cakes. They never ended well, either too soft and mushy or dry and brittle, the mashed potato element never seemed to work.

And then I had the idea of using mixed beans instead. While bulking out your quota of fruit and veg, they also add more structure (and taste!) to the cakes. They never fail.

The key is to drain the tinned pulses well, drying them off with kitchen paper too. These are food processed with a bunch of coriander, a chilli, one egg and some seasoning. The mush is rolled into balls (I used an ice-cream scoop) and coated in pano, although I’ve used polenta and couscous to achieve a crusty coating which have worked just as well.

Pop in the fridge for a while, then fry on either side.

Serve with a huge dollop of chilli dipping sauce.

Quesadilla

Something nice and easy tonight. the recipe for quesadillas comes from Nigella Express and really is very easy – it’s basically just a pan fried sandwich.

Ham and cheese go inside a tortilla along with chopped spring onion, jalapeño and coriander. Fry it in a griddle pan and you’re done. Serve with some salsa (we also put a pot of hummus on the side).

Quick Chicken Laksa

Another Nigel Slater recipe from the Guardian tonight. I made a few mistakes when making this one – first and foremost I forgot to put the turmeric in when making the spice paste. I added it later whilst the whole thing was simmering away and it seemed none the worse for it. Sparky was also glad that I didn’t turn the food processor yellow…

I also forgot to add the oil to the paste. Oh, and the supermarket substituted coconut milk for a cheaper version which was 50% water so I spent ages reducing it down. And I deseeded the chillies and then regretted it for not making it hotter.

But the end result still worked. Spicy, yet mellow and soothing.