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.