Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Fresh sweetcorn soup with tortillas a la Nigella

Yum. I can't think of anything better than this for a quick healthy supper in the middle of the week, and so frugal too! This soup is my version of the inimitable Nigella's sweetcorn chowder from Express. I do borrow from (or lean heavily upon) the original, but...dare I say it...think this recipe is nicer! Mind you, it isn't quite so express... But what brain food!

  • 1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and grated
  • 2 celery stalks, peeled of the long fibrous threads, and very finely diced
  • 2 heads of sweetcorn
  • Veg stock
  • Splash milk or cream
  • Cheese tortillas
  • Mature English cheddar
  • Heat a tablespoon of oil in a wide-based saucepan with the onion, carrot and celery. Sweat the veg for 10 minutes until they are very soft but not coloured.
  • Meanwhile, cut the sweetcorn kernels off the cobs (in a large bowl, hold the corn cob at a low angle and cut down through the base of the kernels with a sharp serrated knife).
  • Add the sweetcorn to the vegetables, stir well, and pour over hot vegetable stock to cover by about 1cm.
  • Bring the soup to a gentle boil, then turn the heat down to a good simmer and leave to cook for 20 minutes while you unwind a bit and think about which bubble bath to use tonight.
  • Once the sweetcorn is nice and tender, take the pan off the heat and leave for 10 mins for the temperature to drop a bit.
  • Preheat the oven to 200C/390F.
  • After 10 minutes, arrange a handful of tortilla chips per person on a baking tray, grate over as much of the cheese as you want, and pop in the oven. Cook for about 5 minutes - you will smell when they are ready.
  • Meanwhile, remove a couple of spoonfuls of sweetcorn kernels from the pan, then tip all the rest into a blender. Blend to a smoothish soup (take out the central lid or your blender will explode like mine did once...) then return to the pan with the reserved vegetables.
  • Reheat the soup gently for a few minutes. Add a splash of milk or cream if you think it needs it. It should be sweet and vegetabley. Serve in wide bowls with the cheesy tortillas on top and relax in front of a Nigella DVD.

Monday, 8 March 2010

Sausage and leek pie

Sometimes you just need pastry.

As I was moaning to my culinary compatriots at earlier, I was struck by a bubble of PhD blues today, a chronic condition suffered by masochistic folks who put themselves through an extra 4 years of university than is entirely necessary... In my experience there are 3 successful ways to pull yourself out of this malaise: prayer (probably most effective!), long walks (the healthy option), and cooking (not always the healthy option). I went for cooking today, prayer will come tomorrow morning...

  • 240g plain flour
  • 120g butter
  • 3-5 tablespoons iced water
  • 6 good beef sausages, skins removed and broken into small lumps
  • 3-4 small leeks, rinsed well and finely sliced
  • 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • Zest 1/2 lemon
  • Good bunch flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • Cut the butter into small lumps, mix through the flour and freeze them together for 10 minutes.
  • After 10 minutes tip the whole lot into a food processor and blitz to rubble, then add tablespoonfuls of icy water, pulsing, until the pastry comes together.
  • Turn out and knead briefly, then divide into 2 disks, wrap them in cling and leave to rest in the fridge for 20 minutes.
  • Preheat the oven to 200C/390F.
  • Cook the onion, leek and sausage together in a large frying pan until the veg are softened and the meat cooked and getting slightly crispy. Pepper well and set aside.
  • Mix the egg with the parsley, lemon zest and Parmesan.
  • Using one disk of pastry, line a 20cm pie plate or low sided cake tin, leaving a little overhang of pastry.
  • Tumble in the leek and sausage mixture, spreading it evenly in the pasty base, then pour over the egg mix.
  • Roll out the second pastry disk to form a lid, and attach it to the overhang of the base using a little cold water. Cut off the excess pastry and crimp all round the edges to seal the lid. Made a hole in the centre of the pie with a fork to release trapped steam.
  • Sit the pie plate or cake tin on a baking tray and cook in the middle of the oven for 30 minutes until golden.
  • Let sit for 10 minutes before eating.

Thursday, 4 March 2010

A tray of veg in the oven...

We love roasted vegetables, they are a very regular fallback, and a most enjoyable one, in our house. They can be delicious just as they are, or with some halloumi cheese sliced on top, or with sausages... Or use them to accompany a plain meal of chicken... And so flexible, the wonderful thing about these veg is that you can add all kinds of wonderful flavours to them too.

In the context of this blog, roasted vegetables are also the ultimate frugal solution. Just use whatever you have left in the fridge!

  • Small butternut squash
  • 2 red onions
  • large punnet cherry tomatoes
  • Good sprig rosemary, needles separated from the stem
  • 2 fat garlic cloves
  • Medium red chilli
  • Pasta for 2
  • 1 ball mozzarella
  • Preheat the oven to 190C/370F.
  • Peel the butternut squash, scoop out the seeds with an icecream scoop (really, it is the BEST tool for the job),, and cut it into rough 1/2" dice.
  • Tumble into a roasting tin and drizzle over some olive oil. Give it a good stir to coat, then roast for 15-20 minutes until softening and slightly charred at the edges.
  • Add the tomatoes and onions, peeled and cut into wedges, to the tray.
  • Very finely chop the rosemary, garlic, and chilli, and scatter over the veg. Add a little more oil and stir again, then pop back into the oven for another 15 minutes.
  • Cook the pasta, keep it a little under al dente as it will continue to cook when mixed with the hot vegetables.
  • Once the veg are softened but not overly charred, tip in the drained pasta and stir everything together. Tear or slice in the mozzarella and add a good grinding of fresh black pepper.
  • Let it sit for a couple of minutes for the mozzarella to begin to soften and oooooooze beguilingly, then serve straight from the tray.

Friday, 26 February 2010

Weeknight fish and chips

My goodness it has been a corker of a week, I am shattered. So tired, in fact, that I have just woosed out of doing the food shop, despite a distinct lack of essentials in the kitchen such as eggs, milk, and musli!

Well, this is a lovely recipe for such a tired night - suitably easy, appropriately delicious. Hugh FW calls it 'roast fish fillets with roast potatoes'. But that seems a little clinical to me, so I'm going with weeknight fish and chips.

  • A good handful of new potatoes per person, cut in half if large
  • 2-3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 fat fish fillets per person - choose a sustainable variety if you can, I used farmed halibut (avoid wild like the plague), the recipe suggests gurnard, bream, pollock or mackerel.
  • A few bay leaves
  • 1 unwaxed lemon
  • Sea salt and fresh black pepper
  • Parboil the potatoes until just tender to the point of a sharp knife.
  • Put the oil in a baking dish and pop in the oven. Preheat the oven to 200C/Gas 6.
  • When the oil is smoking hot, tip in the tatties and give them a good stir. Bake the potatoes in the hot oven for 20 minutes.
  • After 20 mins give the potatoes a stir, then make a space in the middle for the fish. Add the fish to the tin, then tuck the bay leaves in around the fillets and finely grate over some lemon zest, and season.
  • Return to the oven for 10-15 minutes, depending on the fish, or until the fillets flake easily at the point of a knife. Serve at once with sea salt and lemon wedges.

Monday, 15 February 2010

Lemon and sultana wholemeal drop scones

These wholemeal drop scones make a very substantial breakfast, and are super-quick to whip up in the morning. Next time I'm tempted to replace half the flour with plain self-raising rather than wholemeal, to make them a little lighter. But as they are they are delicious, and would also be good at teatime or after a swim.

  • 250g wholemeal self-raising (or plain wholemeal flour with 2 teaspoons baking powder)
  • Pinch baking powder
  • Pinch sea salt
  • 25g caster sugar
  • 2 medium eggs
  • 275ml milk
  • Grated zest 1 lemon
  • 50g butter, melted
  • Sultanas
  • Sift the flour, bp and salt into a large bowl and stir in the sugar. Make a well in the centre.
  • Break in both the eggs, add about half the milk and start whisking. Add more milk as you go until you have a thick, smooth batter. This is very easy, and you may not need all the milk.
  • Grate in the lemon zest and leave the batter to sit for a bit if you can.
  • Melt the butter and whisk it into the batter. I always use my pancake pan for this, and then wipe out the excess with some kitchen paper leaving a beautifully prepared cooking surface.
  • Dollop heaped desert-spoon-fulls onto your hot pan or griddle, and sprinkle on a few sultanas. NB - I found each pancake spread a lot so leave plenty of room for flipping.
  • After about a minute, when small bubbles start to appear, flip the pancakes over with a spatchula or pallet knife and cook the other side until the pancakes are springy to the touch and no longer oozing batter.
  • Transfer to a waiting plate, cover with kitchen paper to keep them soft and warm, and carry on with the rest of the batter.
  • HF-W recommends serving these with sugar and cinnamon, or fresh fruit jam. But I'm afraid Dr K and I inhabit a more vulgar household, and we ate them with golden and maple syrup respectively.

Saturday, 13 February 2010

Tag for tea

Well this won't be a new one to any reader, but in the spirit of frugality it had to crop up at some point. The delicious Tagliatelle from the Venetian Ghetto, featured in How to Eat, has become one of the Domestic Goddess' most popular recipes...and it isn't even her's! You can find the original in the inimitable Claudia Roden's The Book of Jewish Food: an odyssey from Samarkand and Vilna to the present day (London 1999) - if you don't have this book, pleeeeease buy it. It makes such a fantastic read, the telling of the Jewish migrations through the evolution of their food, that even if you don't have a religious or ethnic affinity with the subject matter you will be seduced by descriptions of spices, celebrations, and spirituality.

Here is how I do it for an easy Friday night supper for 2.

Preheat the oven to 200C/390F. In a small roasting tin, sprinkle 3 or 4 chicken thighs (bone in, skin on) with sea salt and rub on some olive oil. Roast them for about 40 minutes until the skin is golden and crispy and the meat very tender.
Meanwhile soak a handful of sultanas in hot water, lightly toast 1/4 cup pinenuts in a dry frying pan, and very finely chop the needles of a hearty sprig of rosemary.
Boil a big pan of salted water for the pasta.
When the chicken is ready, remove the thighs to a board and leave to rest for a minute. Add your tagliatelle nests to the water to cook (make sure they stay al dente!).
Pour the chicken roasting juices (yes all of them) into a small saucepan. Add the rosemary, pinenuts, and drained sultanas, and heat the sauce to bubbling for a few minutes. Taste, and add a little concentrated chicken stock if you think it needs more flavour. Take all the chicken meat off the bones and chop up, including the skin. Add to the sauce.
When the pasta is ready, or maybe slightly before, drain it, and quickly toss it back into the same hot pan with the sauce. Lift and stir until every sweet, chewy thread is coated.
Eat with a little more sea salt and plenty of fresh black pepper. Delicioso.

Thursday, 11 February 2010

Hugh's Carrot Cake

Well, my version of it anyway, which doesn't deviate too much from the original, just enough to reflect different tastes and what I keep in the larder on any given day.

This is the beautiful recipe from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall's lovely River Cottage Everyday ( GB 2009, p. 376). I was drawn to it by the idea of piercing the hot cake and trickling over warm honey by way of a glaze, much as you would with lemon drizzle. And it really does work, the cake is light and moist and could fool you into thinking it was a healthy snack for breakfast (don't let it seduce you, cake is not sufficient for breakfast time whatever it may be whispering to you in dulcet honeyed (sic.) tones)...

To make the original, use 4 medium eggs instead of 3 large, replace the flour and oats with 300g wholemeal self-raising flour, leave out the baking powder, and increase the honey to 150g.

  • 3 large organic free-range eggs
  • 150g golden caster sugar
  • 300ml sunflower oil
  • 250g self-raising flour
  • 50g porridge oats
  • 1/2 teaspoon good sea salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon each bicarb and baking powder
  • 3-4 large carrots (350g total) scrubbed and grated
  • 100g runny honey
  • Grease a 23cm tin and line the bottom with paper.
  • Pre-heat the oven to 180C/Gas 4.
  • Beat the eggs and sugar together really well (I used a processor) until thick and pale. Add the oil and beat for another minute or two.
  • Add the flour, oats, raising agents and salt and give another whirr to combine (or fold if making by hand).
  • Finely, gently fold through the grated carrot.
  • Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin, smoothing the top, and bake for 45-50 minutes until the cake feels springy to the touch, and a skewer comes out of the centre of the cake clean.
  • Put the tin to one side whilst you gently warm the honey in a saucepan over a medium heat.
  • Stab the cake all over with the skewer and pour over the honey in a thin trickle, making sure to cover the whole surface of the cake.
  • Leave to cool slightly before diving in. Please note, this cake will not last long...

Friday, 29 January 2010

One month later..

Oh dear, I'm so sorry, I confess it... I am a bad blogger (BAD). In my defence, I have, in the last month, gone back to full time education (PhD ARGH!) AND started a new job... Plus I'm trying to kick start the year with a big exercise push. So, please be gracious with me, I have every good intention!

And actually I have been thinking of you. I have been cooking lots of lovely frugal food, making notes and everything...

In an effort to be a better blogger I may try the more freestyle approach, less long recipes and more hurried comments on the lovely food coming out of the kitchen next door... And in that vein see below for tonight's supper - salmon with lemon gnocchi - super rapido and fairly frugal. I'll be back soon, I promise.

This is so yummy and quick, perfect to sustain you after a hard working week.

  • Put a large saucepan of water on to boil for the gnocchi.
  • Heat a good knob of unsalted butter with a little olive oil in a saute pan, and add a peeled and squashed garlic clove.
  • Once the butter is foaming add your salmon fillets and cook on all sides.
  • Once the salmon is seared, grate over the zest of half a lemon and add a good slosh of white wine. Quickly bung a lid on the pan and let the salmon cook in the liquid for a couple of minutes.
  • Cook the gnocchi.
  • Remove the salmon from the pan into some tin foil, loosely crimped into a bag, and put to one side to keep warm.
  • Remove the garlic from the syrupy wine juices in the saute pan, and add a lovely splosh of cream. Stir calmly together and taste. Season (well) with salt, and add some more lemon zest and a couple of squeezes of juice until it tastes how you want it.
  • Drain the gnocchi and stir them into the cream. Serve with the salmon fillets and greens, with plenty of black pepper.

Friday, 1 January 2010

Pea, broad bean and feta salad

After the excesses of the celebratory season, some good green fun is probably in order.  For the last few days, although I remain unable to resist the lure of the Christmas Rocky Road tin, I have been craving fresher flavours.

This is a lovely salad, even better the day after (the afternoon after the night before in this case) with a packet of crisps and a pint of water.  A good way to start the new year!

  • 1/2 packet baby spinach/2 heads baby cos, leaves roughly torn
  • 2 red onions
  • 4 tablespoons caster sugar
  • 2 tablespoons good olive oil
  • 75ml balsamic vinegar (use red wine vinegar if you don't have balsamic)
  • 1 cup frozen broad beans
  • 1 cup frozen petit pois
  • Good olive oil
  • Juice 1/2 lemon
  • Packet feta cheese, cubed
  • Heat the oven to 180C/350F.
  • Peel the red onions and slice into 3mm rings.  Lay flat in an oven dish and sprinkle with the sugar.  Season with salt and pepper.  Pour on the vinegar and olive oil, give everything a stir, and pop into the oven.  
  • Roast the peppers for 30 minutes, stirring half way through.  Once done they should be sticky and soft, sour and sweet.
  • Cook the broad beans in boiling water following the packet guidelines.
  • Cook the frozen peas.  Whilst they come to the boil and simmer, squeeze the beans out of their skins.
  • Mix the peas and beans in a bowl with the lemon juice and olive oil to taste.  Stir together with your hands and leave to cool in the dressing, absorbing the flavours. 
  • Once the peas and beans are no longer very hot, add the cubed feta.
  • Just before eating, arrange the salad leaves in a bowl, top with the peas, beans and feta, and lastly with the red onion rings.