Sage and Mushroom Gnocchi

Whenever I see a recipe in John Whaite’s Perfect Plates in 5 Ingredients, I struggle to reconcile the idea that so few ingredients will yield an impressive meal – but every single time we’ve used the book he’s proven me wrong and this meal is no exception.

So basically you cook some onions and mushrooms, then add some sage followed by some white wine (although we used vermouth) and reduce. Meanwhile you fry up some gnocchi – they go nice and crispy on the outside, it’s a technique Nigella uses to create a sort of mock roast potato.

When you’re done, throw it all together and serve. You can also fry some sage leaves and add them for a bit of extra crunch. It’s quite carb heavy this meal but it’s tasty and easy to throw together.

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.

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.

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.

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!).

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!

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!

Jjampong (Spicy Seafood Noodle Soup)

It’s another Korean recipe tonight from Our Korean Kitchen, and another chance to try out cooking with gochugaru powder. Despite being a seafood dish, there’s quite a lot of meat in here in the form of two pork loin steaks. Technically it’s supposed to include some shell-on mussels, but because we were cooking for two instead of four, I just bought a pack of mixed seafood from the supermarket rather than buying lots of different things.

Cooking is surprisingly easy and – apart from the noodles themselves – this is a one pot meal which doesn’t generate much washing up. Fry the powder first, then add the pork and carrot and fry some more. Now add the onion, garlic, grated ginger and mushrooms for a bit more frying, before finally adding some light soy sauce, fish stock and the seafood. Let it bubble and then serve with the noodles.

The most striking thing about this dish is the bright red colour of the sauce. It’s delicious and spicy but not overwhelming; we continue to be impressed with Korean cuisine (or at least our attempts at it!).

Chicken Forestiere

Back to Diana Henry’s A Bird in the Hand tonight, but it was a meal which nearly didn’t happen. This recipe calls for chicken thighs, skin on and bone in. I had a pack in the fridge and they were well within their use-by-date… but I had noticed that the fridge had an odd aroma to it. When I came to pull the chicken out, I noticed it looked a slightly odd, slightly yellowish colour and that was when I realised… the pack wasn’t airtight. With the seal broken, the chicken had spoiled.

So I flung on a pair of shoes and dashed to corner shop – no chicken thighs for sale, so I grabbed a couple of chicken breasts instead. And a bottle of wine. And some iced buns. Damn you, lack of self control!

The recipe takes a little while to put together, but it’s certainly not hard. Start by soaking some dried mushrooms in boiled water. The chicken is browned first and then set to one side. You then deglaze the pan with sherry, fry the chopped onions and add the onions and their liquid, some chicken stock and some chopped carrots. Let the whole thing simmer, covered, for 10 minutes.

Now add the chicken back to the pot and simmer for another 20 minutes. As it gets close to the end, fry up some button mushrooms and then add them to the pot along with some double cream and leave to simmer for another 10 minutes but this time with the cover off.

The end result is really, really unctuous and tasty. Plus it’s full of vegetables so you can claim it’s healthy!

Thai Green Vegetable Curry

It’s been a cold weekend here in the UK with our first substantial snowfall of the season overnight. We took a trip into town and were cold to the core when we got back so a spicy dinner seemed an appropriate way to get back to room temperature.

We’ve made curries from Nigel Slater’s recipes before with great success – I love his recipe for a quick korma, and we’ve followed his instructions for curry pastes before and they’ve been great. This time around we were following the guide he lays out in
Appetite.

We made the curry paste to his instructions (which are basically “put it all in a food processor and blitz it”), then fried the mushrooms, aubergine and squash. We added the paste to the vegetables and fried some more before adding chicken stock and coconut milk and left it to simmer for a bit.

End result was nice, but not as hot as I would have liked and perhaps a little bit, dare I say it, bland. On the plus side we made enough curry paste for another meal so I suspect that we’ll be making a chicken version of the same recipe before too long.