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.

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.

Chicken with Lemon, Anchovies and Rosemary

We’re back to Diana Henry’s fabulous A Bird in the Hand tonight. This book has been an absolute godsend; I don’t think there’s been a single “miss” from all the recipes we’ve cooked from it so far… and we were delighted to discover this week that she has a new book coming out (“Simple“)in a few days. If you’re curious, at the time of writing there’s a free Amazon Kindle sampler of the book.

By far the biggest question of the evening though is why Tesco feels the need to put a security tag on a £2.25 pack of chicken thighs? I set the alarm off when leaving the shop because I’d used a self service till… whoops!

It’s another easy one to cook, following a fairly regular pattern of Diana’s chicken recipes – brown the thighs first, set to one side and cook the vegetables. Then we add liquid (vermouth) and the chicken, and pop it in the oven (uncovered this time).

The end result was really tasty, but the plate was less interesting than planned because I’d intended to use potatoes as carb but we didn’t have any in, so I went with brown rice instead. I then decided to do some peas on the side, only to discover we were out of those as well. Time for another supermarket shop I think, but I need to watch out for those security tags this time.

Lemon and Asparagus Risotto

If you like asparagus, this is the recipe for you – it involves lots of the green stuff. This recipe is quite seasonal, coming from the May chapter of Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries. I was a bit wary – lemon and asparagus isn’t a combination I’ve ever tried before – but Nigel Slater has a proven track record in our house for choosing flavour combinations which work well together.

It’s pretty standard risotto making here – fry the onion in butter, add the rice followed by a glass of white wine or dry vermouth (we used the latter). Then slowly add the chicken stock a ladle at a time, adding the asparagus part way through. Now, I was lazy here and just poured it all in – didn’t seem to affect things negatively! You also need the zest and juice of two lemons at this stage.

Before serving, stir through some freshly ground black pepper and some parmesan and you’re done. The asparagus and lemon work really well together, producing a light and bright meal which is also comforting and satisfying. Thumbs up for Mr Slater!

Tarragon Chicken

Before we started this website, this was one of our “go to” recipes for a tasty dinner. Therefore it was quite a shock when a look back through these blog posts revealed that we’ve never made it in the 10 months that we’ve been blogging for. If you want to give this one a try, the recipe comes from Nigella Lawson’s Kitchen which is a truly excellent book.

Technique is pretty simple. Fry some chopped spring onions in garlic oil with some dried tarragon. Put the chicken breasts in and let them cook for about 10 minutes, then pour some dry vermouth over, clamp on a lid and let it simmer for 10 minutes or so. Once it’s cooked through, put the chicken to one side and add some double cream, pepper and chopped fresh tarragon to the juices. We served it with a mix of basmati and wild rice and (as recommended in the book) some green beans.

Mushroom and Chorizo Gratin

Another attempt at a meal from Nigella Express, and also a lesson in reading recipes properly.

I thought that the potato and mushroom gratin would make a nice mid-week supper; something easy to put together, slam in the oven and then have a hearty and filling dish to round out the day. However, after taking the ingredients photo and getting underway I suddenly realised that this recipe was supposed to be a side dish to accompany Nigella’s “brandied bacony” chicken on the preceding page!

Suddenly concerned that this meal wouldn’t be filling enough, I had a rummage in the fridge and found a small unopened pack of diced chorizo. Sorted! So when it came time to frying up the mushrooms in butter and garlic oil, I also fried the chorizo at the same time.

Sensing that I was on a roll here, I also found a bag of grated cheddar cheese in the fridge and mixed a bit of that in too. 45 minutes later, I had a delicious and smokey potato dish. Completely unhealthy but certainly the tasty dinner I was hoping for.

Smoked Cod and Cannellini Beans

Something super fast and easy for a Monday night, or at least that was the thinking. It was also an opportunity to use up a few bits and bobs from the fridge like an old bit of celery.

After cooking a meal from Nigella Express I realised I was a bit surprised that the total number of recipes we’ve cooked from that book since starting the website was actually quite low, so I started looking for recipes from the first chapter and that’s where this one comes from.

The whole thing is pretty simple from start to finish. Poach the fish with various herbs and spices, then take it out and cook the beans in the liquid. Mix it all up, add some herbs and serve. We also added some in-store bakery bread on the side for mopping up duty.

My overall impression was… meh. I thought it was a bit bland and boring, and in fact I didn’t even finish the whole thing. Sparky loved it though. It was a good job we had some cookies in for dessert so that I didn’t go hungry.

Cod with Broccoli and Chilli

After an over-indulgent weekend we needed something simple and low fat to help our bodies recover. This recipe comes from Nigellissima: Instant Italian Inspiration and we had it with a side of new potatoes.


The anchovies are what make it – they give the sauce a buttery flavour and really liven up what could otherwise be a dull dish. Low fat and fairly low calorie, but not low on flavour.

Salmon in Dill Butter

This recipe is so incredibly easy, it hardly even warrants an entry on the blog. Get some salmon and rub it in butter, chopped dill and pepper. Wrap in some tin foil with a splash of vermouth (recipe said white wine, but we didn’t have any open). Bake for 15 minutes in a hot oven. Done, and there’s hardly any washing up either.

The recipe may be brief, but you can find it in Real Fast Food from Nigel Slater.

Salmon, dill and butter. It doesn't get much easier than this.

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Cockle Spaghetti

This one is listed as a recipe from Nigellissima but you won’t find it in the book.

It’s actually supposed to be Squid Spaghetti, but when our online shopping delivery came they had substituted squid for cockles. I was going to reject it but then thought “what the hell, we’ll give it a go.”

The sauce itself is pretty easy to make – onion, garlic, tomatoes, chilli flakes and Vermouth.  Some extra chilli on top of what the recipe recommended gave it a bit of extra oomph in case the cockles didn’t work, but they did.

Tonight's squid pasta will be cockle pasta instead due to an online shopping substitution!

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I’m not saying this would be a regular addition to our menu, but it certainly made for a quick and easy tasty supper.

Spaghetti with cockles (instead of squid) in a tomato, chilli and vermouth sauce. A bit unusual, but not bad at all.

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