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.

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.

Braised Cod with Seasoned Soy

We’re having another stab at a Korean meal here, with another one from Jordan Bourke and Rejina Pyo’s Our Korean Kitchen.

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This is a really nice meal for putting together quickly. The first thing to do is create your sauce – a mixture of sake, soy, honey, gochugaru powder, chilli and garlic. The fish then sits in this whilst you get on and boil some new potatoes. Part way through cooking, add the mushrooms and fish to the potatoes (balanced on top) and add the sauce too. The fish cooks quickly, and then you’re ready to serve.

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The recipe recommends serving this with some rice, but the potatoes were more than enough carbohydrate for one meal. Because the potatoes are well cooked, you can mash them up with your fork as you eat and thereby ensure you mop up all the rich sauce which is the heart of this meal.

Pasta with chicken, pancetta and peas

We had roast chicken recently (no photos, sorry!) which once again left us with some cooked chicken leftovers. As ever, we turned to the fabulous book A Bird in the Hand by Diana Henry. We’ve cooked quite a few of her leftover recipes and they’ve always served us well (I’ll never forget that bird pie – awesome!).

This recipe really couldn’t be much easier. We’re cooking pancetta, onion and peas, then adding some chicken, lemon zest and double cream. Some chopped mint goes in near the end to flavour the cream, and then it gets served up with some pasta (we used fusilli – nothing fancy).

You can’t really go wrong here. It’s a winning mix of ingredients, and cooked chicken always tastes better the next day. We scoffed the lot and sat feeling very contented with ourselves afterwards.

Chicken and Broccoli Stir Fry with Coconut

The next few recipes we cooked came from the Sainsbury’s Homemade by You website. Sainsbury’s have been running a campaign called “Little Twists”, encouraging people to be a little bit more adventurous with their cooking, and this recipe is part of that.

It’s a pretty simple dish and quick to make – it’s a chicken and vegetable stir fry like any other, but the different comes at the end when you toss some toasted desiccated coconut into the dish. It’s a simple thing, but it does add a nice bit of flavour and an interesting texture too. I liked it, and so did Mark.

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.

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.

The Ultimate Fish Finger Sandwiches

Growing up in the north west of England, I didn’t realise how unique Booths is. For those who don’t know, it’s a chain of supermarkets but they don’t spread much outside of Lancashire – they have a couple of outposts in Cheshire but that’s as far south as they go, and they go no further north than the Lake District.

But Booths is amazing… it’s a high quality supermarket with an emphasis on locally produced food. Think Waitrose (or Whole Foods for the Americans) but with a local twist. Regrettably we’re not close to any of their stores (there is only one in Manchester and it’s quite a way from us), but that doesn’t stop us looking at the recipes on their website and we decided to give this one for “the ultimate fish finger sandwiches” a go.

It’s incredibly easy to put this together. Cut some white fish into pieces and dip them in flour, followed by beaten egg, and finally a mixture of breadcrumbs made from bread, parsley and lemon zest. Fry them in a pan and then serve up on sandwiches assembled from thick cut white bread (buttered, obviously) with some watercress and sliced radish. Tartare sauce is optional, except in our house where it’s mandatory.

Not only did this look good, it tasted great too. Proper comfort food, but without the usual level of guilt!

Pork Bolognese

Looking for a slightly different source of recipes this week, I wound up on the Waitrose website and found this recipe for pork bolognese. Apart from the pork mince, we had everything in the cupboard already so it seemed like an easy option.

An in truth, it is. Chop the onion and carrot and fry them with the pork mince. Once cooked, add the chopped tomatoes, then refill the container with water and add that too. Also add a couple of tablespoons of tomato puree, some oregano and a chicken stock cube. Then you can leave the whole thing to simmer for 15 – 20 minutes and get on and cook some pasta.

The recipe says this is for two people, but I think that may be a typo and it’s actually for four. It calls for 500g of pork mince, which seems a lot, but also for 500g of pasta which makes for a monster of a meal. I actually dialled the pasta back to just 200g and it was still a really substantial meal.

Taste wise? It was OK. Not terrible, not bad, but not spectacular.