Italian Veggie Cottage Pie

A nice and easy vegetarian dinner here, and an interesting take on cottage pie from BBC Good Food.

Pretty simple to throw together – cook the diced aubergine first, then add the garlic, sun-dried tomatoes and some of their oil plus some oregano. Cook for a little bit then add the spinach and let it wilt down.

Add some flour and stir it in, then add some milk and grated cheese and bring to the boil. Let it bubble and reduce so that the sauce thickens, then transfer it all to a pie dish and cover with mashed potato and a bit more cheese. Warming, filling and tasty – plus a good wodge of vegetables!

Roast Chicken with Peppers and Chilli, plus fried potatoes

Some more Diana Henry goodness today. Seriously, her book – A Bird in the Hand – is a ridiculously great source of recipes. Go and buy it!

The ingredient list for this one is pretty short but creates a quick and tasty supper. She recommends serving with fried potato slices, which isn’t something I’ve ever made before and there is no specific guidance in the recipe. I gave it a go, and the end results tasted okay but were a bit wet and floppy rather than the crispiness I had expected. Still, tasted good so I’m not going to complain!

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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.

Roast vegetable tortilla recipe with a green olive twist

Our third meal from the Sainsbury’s Homemade by You website is this vegetable tortilla (or maybe frittata?). It’s another vegetable loaded meal with plenty of health, plus low fat protein in the form of many many eggs.

It’s really easy too – we’re basically cooking the vegetables and then pouring an eggy mixture over it. Then it cooks in the pan, before being finished off under the grill.

Lots of food. Lots of taste. The twist on this occasion is green olives which were nice but did seem a little out of place… we love olives enough not to complain though.

Spanish Supper with a Lancashire Twist

We’re trying another of Diana Henry’s recipes here from A Bird in the Hand. This is actually the very first recipe listed in the book, so I’m not sure why it’s taken us so long to cook it. Technically it’s a Spanish dish, but calls for morcilla – Spanish blood sausage – which we don’t have easy access to. However, we do live in the north west of England, close to Bury – home of Bury black pudding which makes an excellent (and regional!) substitute.

I was born and raised with black pudding and never thought anything of it, so it was a bit of a shock to me when I discovered that some people are squeamish about it. There was a local butcher (Thornley’s) in my home town of Chorley which was renowned for its black pudding. They had their own abattoir, and my School used to organise field trips there… but fortunately the place had closed by the time I reached that age!

When my sister got married, we had various nibbles before the main meal and one of them was a black pudding canape… I remember that they all vanished quickly because they were so tasty, and then some of the guests began to feel regret when they realised what they had eaten. They still enjoyed them though.

I finally converted Mark to black pudding with a stay at the fabulous Jesmond Dene House. Their breakfast came included black pudding and Mark had been so impressed with everything else we ate there, he gave it a go. I wouldn’t say that he’s as much of a fan of the stuff as I am, but he certainly has grown to like it.

Anyway, this recipe is pretty simple. Brown the chicken, then fry the black pudding. Take them out and fry the onion, and deglaze the pan with 200ml of dry sherry. Put the chicken and black pudding back inside, put a lid on and put the whole thing in the oven for 40 minutes. When it’s done, add a swirl of double cream and some toasted pine nuts. We also had some mashed potatoes on the side to help mop up all the creamy and meaty juices.

I liked this one a lot, but then I’m biased. Don’t let the black pudding put you off – it’s a cracking taste!

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.

Chicken with Potatoes and Spring Onions

Whether you call them spring onions or call them scallions, they feature heavily in this comforting recipe by Diana Henry, as published in A Bird in the Hand. It’s essentially a one pot recipe, although it follows Diana’s usual technique of sealing/browning the chicken first, setting it to one side, and then returning it later in the process.

My biggest worry in this recipe was the potatoes – there simply wasn’t that much liquid, and I wondered whether or not they would cook in such a shallow bath. Not to worry – they cooked beautifully, as did the chicken. The creme fraiche added at the end gives it a richness and creaminess, and the end result is a wonderfully soothing and comforting meal.

Lancashire Hot Pot

I was born and raised in Lancashire (in fact, a bit of family history shows one branch of the family has been in the Preston area since the mid 1700s), so traditional Lancashire Hot Pot is something I was raised on and it always holds a soft spot in my heart. When I used to come home from University it was one of the first dishes my mum would make for me.

With that in mind, I decided to make one and settled on this recipe from James Martin. However, when it came time to actually cook it I realised it would take forever since it’s supposed to simmer for a few hours before you even add the potatoes. Therefore, still craving the taste of my homeland, I decided to wing it.

The other oddity with the recipe as printed on the BBC Food website was that the quantities looked wrong. Simmering something in 100ml of water for 2 hours seems like a recipe for disaster, so I adjusted quantities accordingly. The end list of ingredients was as follows:

  • 450g diced lamb
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 beef stock cube
  • 1 onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 stick of celery
  • 1 tbsp chopped mint
  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • 500g potatoes
  • A few small pieces of butter

I browned the meat in a casserole dish with a bit of olive oil, then added the tomato puree, followed by about 500ml of beef stock made up using a stock cube. I brought this to the boil and simmered, covered, for about 30 minutes before adding the chopped carrot, onion and celery. This was all left to simmer, covered, for another 10-15 minutes before adding the chopped mint and the cornflour which had been mixed with a little water. Finally, slices of potato were put on top and the whole thing went into the oven, spotted with butter on top, for about 30 minutes. The oven was at 180ºC but I cranked it up a bit at the end to try and make the potatoes crispy.

The end result was super tasty and delicious. Maybe not wholly authentic (I don’t recall my mum using celery!) but very nice indeed!

The Tenderest Chicken

Another Nigella recipe tonight, coming from How to Eat. It’s one which requires a bit of prep though, since the chicken needs at least eight hours to sit in its marinade – we left ours for nearly 24 hours because it was in the cold, dark fridge.

The chicken is to sit in a mix of buttermilk, dijon mustard and soy sauce with a grating of garlic. Unfortunately our online shopping failed us and no buttermilk was delivered so we followed the tips on Nigella’s website for substitutes and used a 50:50 mixture of Greek yoghurt and whole milk.

The recommended accompaniment is “garlic potatoes” which I did (dice some potatoes, roll in garlic olive oil and roast) but was a bit disappointed that the end result wasn’t more garlicky. The chicken gets wiped clear of its marinade and then covered in a mix of olive oil and pepper before roasting in the oven. The buttermilk is supposed to keep it nice and moist and it seemed to do the job… but I’m not quite sure the recipe title is accurate. There must be chicken somewhere that is more tender?

On the side we had our usual favourite, broccoli pan fried with oyster sauce. We also followed this main with a big bowl of health (strawberries, raspberries, blueberries and banana) and not-so healthy cream.

Roast Chicken

We spent Christmas with family, so we don’t have to go through the process of cooking Christmas dinner. That said, sometimes we do get a craving for a nice roast and today was one of those days.

I’m not sure any chef has the rights to a recipe for roast chicken, but I took my cues from Nigella’s How To Eat, plus a tip from Mark’s mum to wrap it in tin foil for the first part of the cooking to keep it moist, then remove the foil for the last half hour so the skin crisps up.

I had a go at making gravy too, but it was a mixed result. We used the juices of the roasting pan (with a lemon squeezed in 20 minutes before serving… another Nigella tip), plus some chicken stock and vermouth. It made for a nice gravy but could have done with being thicker – I should have probably added some corn flour and heated it a bit.

To accompany I also did some roast potatoes – par boiled, then roasted in a bit of olive oil. They turned out really nice… although we probably made and ate enough for a family of four! I think they could have been a bit crispier if I’d dried them before putting them in the oven.

All in all tonight’s dinner was a tasty and hearty success. I deliberately bought a large chicken, and you’ll be seeing what we make with the leftovers later in the week.