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.

Steak Pie

Sometimes only a pie will do. After the success of chicken pie last week it seemed appropriate to give a steak pie a try, but a quick skim of our recipe books didn’t really turn up anything suitable. So this recipe is put together from two places. Firstly, it uses the “Steak & Kidney Pie” recipe from Nigella Lawson’s How to Eat, but because we were making it for two people we had to scale down the ingredients and as part of this we ditched the kidneys. But rather than making a pastry using self raising flour as Nigella does, we fell back on the good old reliable shortcrust recipe and technique we picked up from John Whaite.

It takes a while to make this one. You chop the celery, carrot, sage and onion finely and fry for a few minutes. Then the beef is tossed in flour, pepper and nutmeg and browned in a pan. The beef is then added to the vegetables along with some stout and beef stock in a casserole dish, then popped in the oven with a lid on at 150C for 2 hours.

In the meantime make and chill the pastry and line a dish (should be a pie dish but we used a cake tin!), then transfer the cooked steak into it, glaze the top with milk and bake in the oven at 190C for about half an hour.

The resulting pie looked spectacular and tasted great. The only grumble was that it was a bit bitter – I think this was because in scaling down the ingredients I’d not used as much beef stock as I should have and used too much stout. But this wasn’t enough to detract from what was a bloody marvellous pie!

Comforting Potato Supper

What a way to round out the week – this is a super simple recipe from Appetite by Nigel Slater which produces something outstanding. Once again the list of ingredients looks to short to result in anything interesting, but Nigel knows best.

It’s a bit fiddly to make, mind, because you have to pan fry the potatoes and onion first, then combine in a big dish with chopped pancetta, a few sage leaves and chicken stock… and then you have to wait an hour whilst it cooks in the oven.

The finished product is worth the wait though – tasty and satisfying, and although you’ve not added any cream it almost has a creamy quality. Really delicious.

Irish Stew

It’s Sunday and it’s cold and wet so we’re hiding out at home keeping warm. That means we want a winter supper which will be warm, hearty and satisfying – and since we’re at home, it can be something that cooks slowly in the oven. We’ve gone back to How To Eat for this one; it’s full of recipes like this which take a bit longer to prepare and cook, but typically produce a great result.

This was a great opportunity to try out our new wide and shallow casserole dish. Whilst the pearl barley cooks in water, brown the lamb in the dish and then set aside. Next cook the carrot, onion and parsnip in the dish before putting the lamb back in with it and the pearly barley plus chopped herbs. Pour the stock over and top with sliced potatoes, pop a lid on and cook in the oven for 90 minutes. We popped it under the grill for the last 10 minutes to make sure the potatoes turned crispy on top.

Nigella uses a mix of veal and chicken stock, but we just used chicken. The end result was great – very tasty, a smooth and creamy liquor and exactly the sort of homely meal we were craving. The one downside was the bones from the lamb which we had to fish out whilst eating, but it was a small price to pay for such a delicious meal.

Chicken and Vegetable Stew

I’ve been run down with a cold so something healthy and comforting was in order. Nigel Slater’s Appetite features this recipe for a stew and describes it so beautifully it would be hard not to try it out.

Other than browning the chicken and boiling the pearl barley for 20 minutes or so, it’s basically a one pot job. Leeks, parsnip, carrot, onion all get cooked a few minutes. Then throw in the browned chicken, the herbs (thyme, sage and bay) and cover with water. Top with some sliced potatoes before sticking it in the oven for 1.5 hours. After that time’s up, take the lid off and leave it in the oven for another 30 minutes so the potatoes on top go crispy.

A long time to cook but an absolutely delicious meal. Clearly it’s the herbs that make this one, so be generous!