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.

Turkey Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

Making a bundt cake recently reminded me of what a wonderful book Nigella Lawson’s Kitchen is, so I went rummaging through it for recipes which I’d still not tried and found this one. I was attracted to it because the picture in the book shows the meal simmering in a yellow casserole dish very similar to the one we own!

The recipe is in two parts – making the sauce is pretty simple because you just blitz some veg in a food processor and then gently fry it for a bit before adding a tin of plum tomatoes and some water and letting it simmer.The rest of the ingredients go to making the turkey meatballs which require very little effort. I’d forgotten how easy Nigella’s recipes can be!

You then gently place the meatballs into the liquid (they pretty much float on top) and let them cook whilst the sauce simmers. Mine took a bit longer than expected because I had halved quantities, but had to use the full amount of water to ensure there was enough liquid for the meatballs to float in. It reduced down to a really tasty tomato sauce, although the meatballs weren’t the most exciting things I’ve eaten. Some pasta on the side and this made for an easy and tasty supper – and relatively low fat with the turkey mince, too.

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.

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…

Pork and Lemon Polpettina

Another Nigel Slater recipe for this meal, this time coming from Real Fast Food. The meatballs themselves are pretty easy to put together. We used panko instead of regular breadcrumbs and mixed these with pork mince, lemon juice, grated parmesan and some chopped anchovies. Thyme and parsley are added for some extra flavour.

As recommended, we served this up with some pasta (tagliatelle) and some broccoli for vegetables. Nigel’s recipe uses 500g of pork mince but says that it’s sufficient for 4 people. I made the same amount (just because the supermarket didn’t have smaller packs of mince) for the two of us and it was certainly a big plate of food… the recipe is probably enough for 3 hungry adults.

Indian Spiced Shepherd’s Pie

It’s been a while since we cooked anything from Simply Nigella, and fancying some sort of mince and potato dish this recipe for Indian Spiced Shepherd’s pie looked like a good candidate. People seem to agree too, because the photos for this have had more likes than any of our photos before now!

The recipe takes a little while to put together. First you boil the sweet potato with some cardamom, peppercorns and pieces of lime peel. Meanwhile you blitz together onion, garlic, ginger, cumin seeds, cardamom seeds and coriander seeds to form a paste and fry this – supposedly with coconut oil but I just used butter and olive oil.

Next you add the turmeric, chilli flakes and garam massala before finally adding the lamb mince. When it’s all cooked add some red lentils, chopped tomatoes, Worcestershire sauce and water before seasoning and putting a lid on whilst it simmers for about 20 minutes.

You’re still not finished though! Now you have to mash the potatoes. Nigella is ambiguous about whether you should fish the lime/peppercorns/cardamom out. I did, or at least I removed as much as I could. To make the mash a bit easier to work with, Nigella suggests saving some of the potato cooking water and mixing it in as you mash.

Next you transfer the mince mixture to a your dish(es) and put the sweet potato mash on top, then bake it in the over for 15 – 25 minutes. It’s not supposed to go crispy on top, but mine did a little bit (possibly because I added some ridges with a fork) and was all the better for it.

Something magical happens with this dish. Before it went in the oven I thought it tasted a bit bland, but when it came out the flavours had deepened tremendously and the dish was a really tasty, interesting and satisfying dish.

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.

Spaghetti Bolognese

Happy Christmas folks! Part of my present from Mark this year was a fabulous signed copy of The Kitchen Diaries by Nigel Slater. If you’re not familiar with it, it’s basically a diary of what Nigel cooked for a year – it’s like a set of recipes for what’s in season, but more granular than that.

It may be December, but this recipe comes from the January section of the book. It’s a simple bolognese using nothing particularly unusual – carrots, garlic, onion, celery, pancetta, mince, bay leaf, chopped tomatoes and vegetable stock. It’s seasoned with salt, pepper and nutmeg.

What makes it different is the amount of time spent cooking… it simmers for a good hour (Nigel even suggest pushing that to 1 1/2 hours), and then adding some cream or full fat milk and simmering for another 20 minutes. The end result is sublime… far richer and smoother flavours than any other bolognese or ragu I’ve ever made.

If this first chapter of The Kitchen Diaries is anything to go by, we’re in for some tasty treats in 2016.

Thai Turkey Meatballs

Another recipe from Simply Nigella today. I felt like this one deviated from her traditional style, seeming to take quite a bit more effort than others I’m used to.

I had to make a few substitutions along the way. The biggest of these was that instead of sugar snap peas I used a mix of broccoli, asparagus and sugar snaps. Why? Because we had a substitution in the online shopping! I also forgot to add the salt to the meatballs. And I also screwed up following instructions which meant that this had ribbons of courgette in rather than chopped up pieces.

One final mix up – I halved the ingredients for the two of us, but because a 400g tin of coconut milk doesn’t halve nicely I made the full amount of liquid, making this a bit wetter than it should have been.

This one seems a lot of hassle though with lots of grating and mixing – but maybe that was just me being a bit clumsy. The end result was really good though – it got a thumbs up from official food taster Mark. Nice and spicy for a cold winter’s evening.

Slow Cooked Korean Beef and Rice Pot

After meeting Nigella last week and getting our copy of Simply Nigella signed, this is the first week in which we’ll be trying out some of the recipes from it. Since it’s Sunday and we’ve nowhere to be, one of the slow cook recipes from the book seemed like a good place to start.

This recipe scores extra points for using gochujang, the magical Korean chilli paste which we’ve used in other recipes from Nigella in the past. In fact, the very first post on our blog was for her Korean Keema which uses gochujang.

It’s incredibly easy this one. We don’t have a slow cooker, so we used a cast iron lidded pot in the oven. Everything goes in the pot, you mix it up and then leave it for about 2.5 hours. Just before the end you quickly cook some beansprouts and throw them into the pot for the last 10 minutes. Dinner is served!

We also had some thick buttered bread on the side for some extra carbs and calories; very useful for mopping up the juices!