Lemony courgette tagliatelle with a crunchy breadcrumb topping

Serves 3 gluttons

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Tonnes of tagliatelle, pappardelle, linguine (by this stage in the game, everyone knows how much they like)

4 medium courgettes

1.5 tsp table salt

1 (or 1 and a half if you like spice) red chilli, deseeded and chopped

1 lemon (zest and juice)

2 garlic cloves, chopped or crushed

100g butter

4 slices of crusty white bread (or sourdough, or a couple of rolls)

Olive oil

Tonnes of parmesan, grated, to serve

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  1. To make the pasta, we followed Nigel Slater’s recipe on the Guardian, which is here: Nige’s home-made pasta recipe . However, and I’m quite amazed by our gluttony here, but we did 1.5 times this recipe – which should have served 6, but, um, 3 of us ate it all up pretty bloody quickly. This pasta recipe will also obviously work with pasta that hasn’t been home-made (it IS worth it, but it does take a couple of hours, if you’re moving quite slowly and drinking quite a lot of wine at the same time especially) but in any case, get egg pasta – so much tastier. This is Seil, making the pasta
  2.  IMG_6940
  3. 40 mins before the pasta is ready, grate 4 courgettes on the large-holes of the grater into a sieve, pour 1.5 tsp table salt over and mix it up, then leave to drain over a large bowl. Every 5-10 minutes, squeeze the courgette out with a large spoon then mix to make sure it drains evenly.
  4. After 25-30 mins of the courgette draining, melt the (generous) amount of butter in a large frying pan, then add the grated courgette and spread out so that it cooks evenly.
  5. After 10 mins of cooking, add the chilli, garlic and lemon zest, stir well then add the lemon juice. Season well with pepper but be careful with the salt as some will remain from the draining process.
  6. Start cooking the pasta. When it’s cooked, drain it reserving a couple of ladlefuls of cooking water.
  7. While it cooks, whizz the bread into coarse breadcrumbs. Then, in another frying pan, heat a few tbsp olive oil (don’t be shy) on a medium-high heat. Add the breadcrumbs, and fry in the oil until golden brown then remove from the pan and put on kitchen roll.
  8. When the pasta is cooked, put the courgette mix in with a tbsp or two of cooking water, a small knob of butter and toss well with a noodle spoon if you have it – it’s quite hard to dissipate but persevere…
  9. Serve with the crispy breadcrumbs on top, then parmesan.

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NB: we didn’t quite finish the pasta on round one, so (a little drunk by this point), mixed any leftover with an egg, some grated cheddar cheese, rolled it into little nests, then fried it in some melted butter and it was the best drunk snack/pasta pudding ever.

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Lamb ragu with yoghurt topping

Somehow, I managed to lose the photo of this great dinner party dish and had completely forgotten about it ANYWAY thanks to my brilliant friend Hattie (of https://www.instagram.com/thetwohatties/ and this book Hattie’s book among other things) I have remembered it, because brilliantly she just asked me for the recipe, then said actually come and join the dinner party tonight and eat it with us, which is a brilliant turn of events.
lamb
Serves 5-6
1kg lamb shoulder, boned and diced
2 onions finely chopped
4 garlic cloves
Carrot and celery – maybe one or two sticks of each
2 bay leaves
1 cinnamon sticks
1/2 tsp sea salt (minimum)
1 tsp herbes de provence
1 tsp/50 grinds black pepper
1 tsp chilli flakes
a large glass of red wine
1 litre chicken or veg stock
2 tins chopped tomatoes
1 tsp sugar SORRY or honey or something
400g orzo pasta/any squiggly pasta if you can’t get it
most of a big pot of Greek yoghurt
Coriander
zest of a lemon (optional)
1. Heat a frying pan to super hot with plenty of olive oil, and season the lamb with salt and pepper then fry off the lamb in batches until browned on all sides. Don’t do it all at once or you’ll just stew the lamb and it won’t crisp – the browning is important because that’s where a lot of flavour comes in.
2. Then put some more olive oil into a big casserole dish, add the lamb, then the onions, carrot and celery and cook for another five minutes, stirring so that everything cooks evenly.
3. Add the garlic, cinnamon sticks, chilli flakes, black pepper, sea salt and herbes de provence and then cook for another minute or two.
4. Add the wine, and bubble down for a couple of minutes to cook off the alcohol, then add the chopped toms and half the stock and the honey. Bubble for 1.5 hours until the meat is super tender. Check it after half an hour,stir, then again 30 mins later and if it needs the other half of the stock, add it in then.
5. Heat the oven to 1800C. Take out the bay leaves and cinnamon sticks, check the seasoning and add more salt if you need, then add the orzo. Stir well and cook it in the oven for 20 minutes. Then take the casserole out of the oven and turn it up to 200C. Spread the Greek yoghurt on top, and bake for 10 minutes.
6. Chop the coriander and sprinkle it on top, then zest the lemon and sprinkle that on too – it adds a lovely freshness. I have actually now thought of adding some lemon zest after removing the bay leaves and cinnamon sticks, before adding the orzo… but having not tested it, I leave that up to you. Serve with a big green salad, maybe some green beans too if you’re feeling up to it.
UPDATE:. Hattie tried adding the lemon zest along with the pasta/orzo and it worked REALLY well so definitely do that.

Cauliflower mash topped pie

Monday night, really blimming chilly, needed a warming restorative meal BUT still healthy. So I made a mash out of leeks and cauliflower which tasted amazingly like bechamel sauce. Some kind of weird alchemy – I don’t know – but it was delicious, and basically made a gorgeous pie, just out of vegetables and a tiny bit of butter and cheese. Tiny.

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Ingredients

1 aubergine, chopped into chunks

4 small courgettes/3 large courgettes chopped into chunks

2 red onions, chopped

2 red peppers, deseeded and chopped

1 green pepper, deseeded and chopped

2 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes

1 tbsp herbes de Provence/mixed herbs

3 cloves garlic, minced

2 tbsp tomato paste

1 tsp brown sugar

Olive oil, sea salt and black pepper

For the topping:

2 leeks

2 small cauliflower/1 large cauliflower

25g butter

200ml water

100-200g parmesan/manchego (either/or, or whatever melting cheese you have in)

Method

  1. Heat a large casserole/massive pan on a low heat, with a large glug of olive oil. When hot, add the onions and turn up to a medium heat. When they start to soften, add the sliced/chopped red and green peppers, and stir well. After about 10 minutes, the peppers should be soft.
  2. Add the courgettes and aubergines. Stir well, and add another glug of olive oil if it seems to be sticking. Turn the heat up if you have the time and the inclination to stay stirring it.
  3. After 4-5 minutes, add the garlic cloves and tomato paste. Cook for another few minutes, stirring and tossing the veg so that everything cooks at the same time.
  4. Add the chopped tomatoes, stir well, and leave to reduce and cook through, as the courgettes and aubergines will still need at least 15 mins cooking. Add the brown sugar (chopped tomatoes always need a tiny bit of sugar, as they have a slight bitterness) or a bit of honey if you want to avoid sugar, plus the Herbes de Provence.
  5. Meanwhile, chop the leeks into slim slices (take off the outer layer first), wash them, then put in a pan with the cauliflower cut into small florets. Add a large dash of olive oil, 25g butter, and 200ml boiling water. Put the lid on, and steam for 15 minutes. If all the water has gone, add another large dash/50ml and steam for another 5-10mins. You want the cauliflower and leeks to be falling apart and really well done.
  6. When they are done, blitz them in a food processor with grated fresh nutmeg, generous amounts of sea salt and pepper, and a bit more butter if you wish. Blitz in batches so that it gets really smooth and pureed. I did mine in my nutribullet but as it was quite hot, I was a tiny bit concerned it would blow up – it was steaming more than I would have liked…
  7. Turn the oven on to 200C.
  8. When the ratatouille has cooked down, and is delicious, spread it into a large pie dish. Spread the ‘mash’ over the top, sprinkle the manchego/parmesan/cheddar/whatever hard melting cheese you have in, then put in the oven for 20 mins. Serve with green salad. GREAT for leftovers. IMG_6617

Vietnamese lemongrass beef and noodles

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This recipe went down extremely well but I would say, make it first for two people because it’s very easy but there are loads of stages and by the time we sat down it was past 9. I think that’s fine, some people don’t…

Serves 6

FOR THE DIPPING SAUCE (nuoc cham)

I’d normally make double this so that I can drink it later – it’s that good

60ml fish sauce

60ml rice vinegar

1 tbsp brown sugar

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 red birdseye chilli, finely chopped

2 tbsp lime juice

 

FOR THE BEEF

4 tbsp fish sauce

2 tbsp brown sugar

800g minced beef (don’t get the low-fat/lean version)

Groundnut oil, for cooking

4 lemongrass stems, sliced lengthways into quarters

6 spring onions, white parts sliced (green parts discarded)

1 small onion, chopped

600g water chestnuts, drained and rinsed

FOR THE SALAD

300g dried rice vermicelli noodles

250g beansprouts

1 cucumber, cut into sticks

1 handful mint, leaves torn off stems

1 handful coriander, leaves torn off stems

150g iceberg lettuce, chopped

TO SERVE

150g peanuts

Fried shallots (available in Chinese supermarkets)

4 spring onions, finely sliced

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  1. First, make the dipping sauce. Mix the rice wine vinegar in a small pan with the fish sauce, sugar and 100ml water in a small pan over medium heat and stir to combine. Heat the mixture to just below boiling, then take it off the heat. Add the chilli and garlic. When you’re about to serve and it’s cool, add the lime juice.
  2. Then, in a bowl, combine the fish sauce, sugar, a pinch of sea salt and loads of freshly ground pepper. Mix it well then add the beef and mix again so that beef is as coated as possible. Cover and marinate in the fridge for at least 30 mins.
  3. Cook the vermicelli noodles as per the pack instructions and set aside tossed in a bit of sesame oil so that they don’t stick together, and cover with a damp tea towel until you need them.
  4. Heat a large splash of groundnut oil in a wok ideally, or a massive frying pan. Add the onion and lemongrass and cook over a medium heat, until the onion is soft and the lemongrass smells amazing. Then add the garlic and cook that for a minute. Whack up the heat, add the marinated beef, then stir fry, stirring well and breaking up the beef as you go, for 3-4 minutes until it’s all browned. Then take the beef mixture out of the pan, set aside, then immediately add a bit more groundnut oil, put the water chestnuts into the pan and fry them on a high heat for a few minutes, then season them with some Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. When cooked, toss together with the beef mixture.
  5. Chop the cucumber into little sticks, rip the mint leaves off the stems, and chop the iceberg lettuce into chunks or strips, as you wish.
  6. Put the peanuts into a pan on a medium heat, and cook them for a few minutes shaking the pan regularly until they are browned. They turn very quickly so be careful – don’t leave them alone. When toasted, chop them roughly. They’ll go crispy as they cool.
  7. Don’t clean the pan! When you’re ready to serve, make a salad base of the iceberg lettuce, some beansprouts, the cucumber sticks and some of the mint. Then heat up the pan again, put some more groundnut oil in, heat to high, add the beef and water chestnut mixture, fry it up for a minute, then add the noodles, fry them up, mix it all together then put on top of the salad mixture. Douse it in the dipping sauce, then top with the remaining torn mint leaves, toasted chopped peanuts, fried shallots and sliced spring onion.

 

 

Chicken, mushroom and tarragon pie

1 onion

1 large leek

200g pancetta cubes

2 large garlic cloves, crushed/minced

400g mushrooms (a chestnut and small button mix is good), chopped to the size of the smaller button mushrooms

1 chicken stock pot (these Knorr ones http://bit.ly/1P5ZFX9)

200ml double cream

The leaves from 6 sprigs of fresh tarragon, chopped

Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Jus-rol puff pastry in a roll

Olive oil

1 egg

  1. Fry the onion and 1 massive leek in lots of olive oil until soft. Then push them to the side of the pan and add the pancetta cubes.
  2. Add the garlic, and cook for two mins stirring regularly.
  3. Add the mushrooms and stir through. When they’re beginning to turn golden brown, take the mix out of the pan and set aside. Don’t worry if you miss a few bits. If you have a massive pan, just leave it in, but even my cast iron Le Creuset couldn’t take it all.. you don’t want it too squished or the chicken won’t cook.
  4. Put the chicken in the pan and cook until it’s just cooked and no longer pink in the middle (test one of the biggest chunks), then add the leek and mushroom mixture back in.
  5. Mix the stock jelly pot with 400ml boiling water then pour half of that in and bubble it down for a few minutes.
  6. Add the tarragon, 150ml of the double cream and bubble down again for 4-5 mins, stirring regularly. Add a LOT of freshly ground black pepper, it’ll need it. Taste, and add a pinch of Maldon sea salt, more if needs be. If it’s too rich, adjust with more stock, or just thin it with some hot water. If it’s not rich enough, add more cream. IMG_6090.JPG
  7. Preheat the oven to 200C.
  8. Roll out your puff pastry until it’s the thickness of a £1 coin. Any thinner and it won’t puff properly and that would be very sad.
  9. Put a black pie bird/pie funnel/egg cup in the centre of the pie, then lay out the puff pastry on top making sure that it goes over the side of all the edges. I like to leave the excess on, because it’s delicious to pick at.
  10. If you want, cut out some letters, leaves etc with any leftover pastry. I wrote YOLO and RAHA (the initials of everyone present-  Ru, Abi, Andreas and me, Harriet) because I was a bit drunk and thought it was funny.
  11. Put the pie in the oven for 18-20 mins until golden and puffed.
  12. Serve with sweet potato mash with a bit of butter and mustard, and green beans.IMG_6124IMG_6125IMG_6127

Christmas leftovers pie

I was at home for Christmas at my parents in the Lakes, which is the most gorgeous place to spend any time. Family, fire, dogs, and a fridge filled with amazing food. There are also 3 kitchens – not because of greed, but because my parents run weddings at their house which is a National Trust property, and do all the catering themselves. My Dad has a utilitarian kitchen for the savoury food (which has an incredible walk-in chill room), my Mum’s is the sort of thing you’d see in House and Garden (aga and all), from where she does the canapes and puddings. Both kitchens are obviously jampacked with amazing ingredients.

In my Dad’s kitchen, to the untrained eye would be pans and pans of slightly suspect looking jellies and liquids in varying shades of brown. I know them to be carefully tended stocks from the bones of various different animals, most of which will have been reared in the Lake District and sold either by Lake District Farmers, or from Booths (the Waitrose of the north). Either way, the quality of the meat is phenomenal, and my Dad spends days, weeks, months, even years cultivating the most beautiful big pots of stock.

That means that when it comes to throwing together a leftovers pie (which is so, so much more delicious than Christmas dinner itself I think), I have pick of the stocks. I understand that not everyone has this; and I certainly don’t have it in my London flat (I mean – the bath is half the length of a normal one; there is absolutely no way I have a chill room). However, one of the greatest lessons that I’ve learnt is that stock is a continuous process. Every time you have a chicken, boil up your old chicken stock and put the new chicken bones into it, with fresh carrots, bay leaves, onions… whatever veg you have around, plus enough water to just cover it. If you can cut the bones so that you need to add less water, it’ll be even richer and more delicious. Sometimes I even just drink a mug of it. Very good for the skin, apparently. Do the same with lamb, or beef. Every single time you have a bone, boil it up again and add the bones and it will turn into the most beautiful unctuous rich delicious stock which will make every meal better, and every gravy into something magical. I’m not just using every adjective I can find – it really is that good (and easy to make something normal taste incredible).

In lieu of my having remembered to take a picture, here is a Christmassy picture. It’s Tamara Ecclestone’s Christmas card and it is glorious and hilarious in equal measure. I think she may have actually set up a fake chalet in her 57-room house just for this picture. (Sent to my Editor at The Times, not me…)

So the first thing I did, before assembling the pie, was to cut the goose carcass down into manageable size bits of bone. I put it in a pan, covered it with water,  a few carrots, onions, bay leaves, some fennel fronds I think…. Basically whatever I could find. I brought it to the boil then took it out which made it much easier to pick all the remaining goose meat off the bones (with washing up gloves on so I didn’t burn my fingers) and put it aside for the pie. I then put the goose bones back into the stock, added some chicken stock I found and let it all simmer away for a few hours before straining it through a fine stock sieve (something like this http://bit.ly/204zraY).

We had goose on Christmas Day, so what I found in the kitchen was the following:

A goose carcass, still with a good 3-400g of goose left on the bone

4 chicken breasts, sliced into slivers or cubes, as you wish – I like slivers

2 fennel bulbs (chop off the fennel’s bottom, and the top legs, then chop into halves, quarters then 8ths)

Some leftover roast carrots and parsnips

Puff pastry (in a 500g block like this http://www.jusrol.co.uk/products/puff-pastry-block/)

A large amount of stock

Leftover gravy

Onions, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

Leftover raw bacon, if you have it

Leftover pigs in blankets

A generous pour of double cream. Probably about 100ml but do as you wish

A large bag of leftover brussels sprouts

Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Some nutmeg, freshly ground from the nut of the meg if possible

And this is what I did with it

  1. In a big pan, in lots of olive oil, fry up the fennel pieces on a medium heat, stirring regularly until they are translucent and starting to look like softened onions.
  2. When they’re nearly done, add the onions and do the same – soften them until translucent. If you have any bacon lying around, add that now for extra flavour (chopped up into little pieces), fry until the fat is going golden brown.
  3. When THEY are nearly done, add the chopped chicken, turn up the heat a bit to medium-high and stir through the fennel/onion/oil mix, tossing and stirring regularly for a few minutes until they are just cooked. When cooked, they will be white all the way through – no raw pink middle. After about 4-5 mins of cooking and stirring, take a larger piece out and check it. Turn the oven onto 200C.
  4. When you think the chicken is just done, or nearly done, crush the garlic into the pan and making sure that you stir it pretty much constantly, cook the garlic in with the fennel and onion until it smells deliciously garlicky and is going ever so slightly golden but no further.
  5. If you are drinking white wine, put a large splash of it in now. Stir stir stir, and let it bubble and reduce a bit. Not too much – just a minute or so.
  6. Add the goose meat and stir well until it’s fully heated through. Add the pigs in blankets too, either chopped up or whole, as you wish…
  7. Add a few ladles of the MAGIC STOCK so that the mix looks nicely juicy (strain the rest of it, leave it to cool, skim off the fat then cool the rest of it and throw away the fat). Then add a bit more, add in the leftover roast carrots and parsnips (any earlier and they’ll turn to mush) an enormous splash of double cream (I’d use 50-100ml probably) and bubble down on a medium heat for a couple of minutes to cook and reduce a bit.
  8. While it’s reducing, sprinkle some plain flour out onto a flat surface, chop the pastry block in half and roll it out so that it’s slightly thinner than a pound coin, picking it up off the surface or board every roll and flipping it, with more flour if you need to stop it sticking. If you don’t have a rolling pin, use a wine bottle.
  9. Find an egg cup.
  10. Check the mix – does it look nicely liquid, creamy and thick and delicious? Add an enormous pinch of maldon sea salt, lots of freshly ground pepper, some freshly grated nutmeg (or from a jar if you must). Taste it. If it’s not quite right, it probably needs more sea salt.
  11. Of course I expect you to be gloriously tipsy by now, because sober pies are pants, and cooking’s so much  more fun with wine, especially if you’re doing something like this which is more about the assembly than bothering to weigh anything.
  12. Put the egg cup (or a pie funnel if you have it) in the middle of the pie dish. Put the mix around it.
  13. Carefully place the rolled out puff pastry over the pie. The funnel is there to let steam escape, so cut a hole in the pastry so that the pie funnel will poke out in the middle – otherwise the pastry will get soggy and floppy in the middle and not rise up like you hope it will.
  14. Put it in the preheated oven for 20-30 mins, checking after 20 but NO EARLIER or your pastry will be flat and sad. You want it to be puffed and golden.
  15. 10 mins before the pie was cooked I cut the bottoms of the sprouts off, cut them in half (raymond blanc said to me DO NOT CRISS CROSS THEM ‘ARRIET, YOU ‘AVE BETTER ZINGS TO DO LIKE DRINK WINE WIZ YOUR FAMILEE) and then heated some oil to very hot in a big frying pan, fried them up, then added some butter and fried some more, then added some Maldon sea salt at the end and they were delicious. I may have also made mashed potato, that feels like something I probably would have done…
  16. When the pie is puffed up and golden, take it out and serve it in the middle of the table. Delicious. Serve it with redcurrant jelly too.

Easy Sri Lankan chicken curry

I made this on Wednesday night for a dinner party after work. I did something which I never normally do (but will now ALWAYS do), which is do loads of prep the night before. I had seen a recipe in the Sunday Times Mag for an Easy Sri Lankan Chicken Curry which looked delicious. It didn’t only sound delicious, it was super tasty – the (very discerning) guests have already asked for the recipe which is an excellent sign.

The ingredients list for the roasted curry powder is LONG. But it’s worth it, and then you’ll have them for next time. Also this is the bit you can do in advance the night before. Just plan ahead, ideally go to a great corner shop/vegetable shop (easier if you live in London) or massive supermarket where they’ll be about a quid each.

The only slightly strange thing about the recipe was that it involved almost no liquid, yet the picture looks juicy and saucy. As I didn’t want a dry curry, we were slightly liberal with the amounts (added loads more than suggested – see my annotated italic notes below). I also served it with wild rice (from M&S, which my Mum always gives me when I go home to the Lakes, in my ‘back to school’ Red Cross parcels) rather than steamed white rice because then it actually tastes of something, plus is good (ish) for you. Recipe is below the curry – it’s really very easy not to eff up rice, I promise – just follow my Dad’s rules as below.

Easy Sri Lankan chicken curry

This is a basic Sri Lankan curry. You can buy Sri Lankan roasted curry powder online or make it yourself. The harder spices will take longer to toast than the more delicate ones.

Serves 3-4

For the roasted curry powder
½ tbsp uncooked rice
A 2.5cm piece of cinnamon stick
2 cardamom pods, seeds removed
½ tsp black peppercorns
2 cloves
1 tbsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp cumin seeds
¼ tsp fenugreek seeds
½ tsp black mustard seeds
2 tbsp coriander seeds
½ tsp turmeric powder
A 5cm piece of pandan leaf (optional)
1 curry leaf
For the curry
1kg jointed chicken
1 tsp red chilli powder
1½ tbsp coconut (or cider) vinegar
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, chopped
4 cloves of garlic, sliced
A knob of ginger, chopped
A sprig of curry leaves
A 5cm stalk of lemon grass
3 cardamom pods
3 cloves
A 2.5cm piece of cinnamon stick
25ml coconut milk
1 tbsp black mustard seeds

To make the roasted curry powder, toast the rice, cinnamon, cardamom seeds, peppercorns and cloves in a large dry frying pan for 30 seconds, stirring often. Add the fennel and cumin seeds, then toast for another 15 seconds. Add the remaining spices and toast until lightly browned and aromatic. Remove from the heat, cool and grind until smooth in a coffee grinder or mini processor. You may need to remove the cinnamon stick if it is too hard. (Nutribullets are REALLY good for whizzing up spices with the two-prong whizzer- including the cinnamon stick)

In a large bowl, marinate the chicken pieces in 3 tbsp roasted curry powder, the chilli powder and 1 tbsp of the vinegar for at least 1 hour and up to 24 hours.

Heat the oil in a large pan. Add the onion, garlic, ginger, curry leaves, lemon grass, cardamom, cloves and cinnamon stick. Fry until the onions are golden.Add the marinated chicken and fry until brown all over. Add 2 tbsp water to the bowl that contained the chicken, then add the liquid to the pan with the chicken. Add loads more water at this point – probably about half a pint, if not a bit more… Cover and cook on a medium heat for 20 minutes.

Stir in the coconut milk (loads more than they said – I added about 3/4 of a tin), season with salt, then bring to the boil. Reduce the heat, cover and simmer for 20 minutes. Grind the mustard seeds with the remaining vinegar and add to the pan. Cook for a further 2 minutes. Serve with steamed rice.

HOW NOT TO MESS UP RICE

I always use wild rice (M&S is best)

  1. Chop up an onion into small pieces. Boil a massive kettle of water at the same time.
  2. Rinse the rice in a sieve to remove the starch. I always used to skip this stage for laziness but honestly, it is worth it. Shake it to dry as much as possible.
  3. Heat a large saucepan and put an enormous, long glug of olive oil in it. Heat it, add the onion, soften the onion gently until it’s translucent and yellow but not brown around the edges (if it goes brown, the pan is too hot)
  4. Add the rice to the onion, stir it around well so that it mixes with the onion and the oil. Keep stirring, over a medium heat – don’t let it stick. In a couple of minutes, it will start to sizzle.
  5. When it starts sizzling, pour in the boiling water. I aim for 1:2 (one third water in the pan, two thirds water). Sometimes, I put a bit more water in and it’s delicious and sticky. Sometimes I put a bit less in, and it’s more textured and al dente. Both are tasty. Make sure the heat under the pan is such that the water is just bubbling. Add an enormous, over-generous pinch of sea salt (Maldon is best) then give it a big stir, then bugger off and leave it alone.
  6. Put a pinger on for 15 minutes. It’ll take 18 mins probably, but check that it’s ok for water after 15.
  7. It shouldn’t need to be strained – the rice should have eaten all the water, and it should be perfect. Give it a big stir and serve.

Pancake party

Every year, it is Pancake Day. Every half year, there therefore needs to be a practice pancake party so as not to lose one’s touch. Seil and I are co-chefs. We used to be co-hosts, back in our flat-sharing days, but these days the numbers of Pancake Day attendees are so high (the largest was 15. That is a LOT of pancakes) that we’ve had to outsource the hosting elsewhere. That, and Seil’s ceilings aren’t high enough, and I don’t have enough chairs for all the pancake-hungry bottoms.

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So this year, we borrowed Alice and Chris’ house. That’s Seil, in Alice and Chris’ excellent house with its brilliant massive table but very low ceilings. Not quite high enough for good tossing, but we gave it a damn good go.

What we do on Pancake Day, is do lots of preparation the night before. I was on onion caramelising patrol,  Seil was making pancake batter and cooking apples (for the deconstructed apple crumble pancakes), I was roasting tiny little potato cubes (for tartiflette pancakes… TARTICREPES!!!!!) and making jars full of salted caramel.

The menu looked like this:

TARTICREPE: Lardons with crispy onions/reblochon/creme fraiche/mini roasted potatoes, rocket

THE CLASSIC – Cheddar cheese, ham, mushrooms and eggs

THE POSHER CLASSIC Spinach, blue cheese and caramelised red onions with creme fraiche

Sweet toppings station

Lemons and sugar

Salted caramel, apple and crumble; ice cream and cream

Banana and nutella

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THE PANCAKE RECIPE

A cup of flour, a cup of milk, and an egg. Multiply by loads, depending on how many people are coming. Roughly speaking, that’ll make about 8 pancakes. If you want to be slightly more precise, go with 50g plain flour, 1 egg and 150ml semi-skimmed milk. I also like to melt butter and put that in the batter for extra special crepes – also helps to stop them sticking to the pan. Whisk the egg and the milk gently into the flour (make a well in the middle to pour it into), then whisk it up until smooth and there are no lumps. You can then put it in a glass bottle and keep it in the fridge overnight and it makes it easier to pour out the next day too. Or, just in a big bowl and get the ladle ready.

We always make loads and loads and loads – 3 per person – before they get there, so that they’re all in a big stack but crucially EVER so slightly undercooked on one side so that when it’s time, can melt a bit of butter, pop them back in the pan and then melt cheese on them or whatever we so decide.

The classic: pancake in pan, grated cheddar on the bottom, then some chopped cooked honey-roast ham, some wilted spinach, then separate an egg, put the white in a well in the middle of the grated cheese heap and let that cook, then put the egg yolk in the middle, fold the pancake up in a square around it, then flip it over and cook the sunny side. The yolk almost always bursts but it’s completely delicious.

The posh classic: any variation on blue cheese on the bottom, then a bit of creme fraiche to help the cheese melt, then either some crispy lardons or wilted spinach or mushrooms cooked up in butter with garlic, or parma ham…

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Thanks to Ru, for his lovely pancake rolling skillz.

The tarticrepe: cut loads of peeled potatoes into tiny little cubes, parboil them in a big pan of rolling boiling water, then roast them in the oven at 200C for about 30 minutes until they are golden and crispy. They’ll need to be tossed regularly as they’re only little. Then in the pancake: roasted potatoes, crispy lardons, softened onions, a dollop of creme fraiche and some rocket lettuce to slightly balance out the heaviness of the rest of it. Delish.

The apple crumble: Stew some apples (no sugar needed), cook a tray of crumble separately (I can’t share mine because it’s my Mum’s and I’ve signed a non-disclosure agreement but I bet Nigella’s is good: 100g plain flour, 1/2 tsp baking powder, 50 g cold butter in small cubes, and 3 tbsp demerera sugar, all mixed up together). I serve it with Nigella’s salted caramel too which is fantastically easy and SO impressive. I mean, I don’t want to make a massive deal out of this but the deconstructed apple crumble pancake is possible the best creation I  have ever, ever come up with. Pancake, apple, toasted crumble, all wrapped up, then topped with salted caramel sauce and a big dollop of ice cream or creme fraiche (slightly cuts through the sweetness…)

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This year’s Pancake attendees: going around the table left to right starting on the left with beardy Duncan in a white shirt, then Ru, Max, Abi, Gaby, Liv, ME standing up, Lizzie, Will, Seil standing up with a pan in her hand, Sarah Li, Kieran, then Chris all on his own at the front. It’s very weirdly bad quality. Probably because of all the wine.

Tartiflette

I went skiing a few weeks ago in Tignes with a bunch of friends and my old flatmate Seil and I were in charge of cooking. We did some absolute feasts but the one that went down an absolute treat was tartiflette.

This is the ski crew in our chalet:

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(L-R we’ve got Kieran, Micky, Tom, Lizzie, then Seil who is hiding behind Will)

And this is me skiing uphill

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This is the tartiflette we made which now that I look at the picture, looks rather odd, but I can assure you that it was absolutely superb.

So last night we made tartiflette again with all the people from the ski trip, because that’s what you do on lovely hot summer nights – sit inside eating hot cheese and potatoes. Reblochon, it turns out, is quite hard to track down,  but Waitrose will order it in for you and you can pick it up from your local branch. I’m sure all the other supermarkets would do that too… apart from Tesco, who would almost certainly NEVER do that because they don’t care enough.

We consulted Felicity Cloake’s How to make the perfect… first, and she said don’t put mustard in because it will overpower the cheese so we took her advice, and it was cracking. The measurements here are quite loose because really, it doesn’t need to be precise. With the rough measurements below we served 8 quite small portions – but it’s so rich that it’s best to do that with a massive pimped up salad too, otherwise you’ll be in a cheese coma. A cheese coma looks like this:

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Recipe:

Loads of potatoes, peeled (probably 1-1.5kg)

3 reblochon wheels (or 5-6 of the half wheels that they sell in supermarkets normally)

2 packets of bacon (10 rashers in each)

Loads of butter (half a pack, probably)

2 x 300ml pots of creme fraiche

A garlic clove

2 white onions

Large splash of white wine

An enormous green mixed salad. We pimped ours with toasted seeds, walnuts and a dressing of mustard, olive oil, lemon juice and agave syrup.

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  1. Fry up the onions in some olive oil, gently over a low-medium heat, until they are softened. Add a large splash of white wine – a good long glug, probably about half a glass or a small nutella-glass-ish-size-full. Bubble that down till it’s all nearly gone.

  2. Chop the bacon into little lardons, then in a separate pan, fry it up in olive oil until crispy, then add it into the onion pan. Don’t wash the bacon pan up yet as you can use it for the potatoes. Preheat the oven to 200C.

  3. Chop the potatoes into cubes of about 1.5cm x 1.5cm. Bring a large pan of water to the boil, add lots of salt to it, then add the cubed potatoes. Parboil them for about 8-10 minutes; they should be just cooked.

  4. Then drain the potatoes in a colander. Add a massive nob of butter to the bacon pan, melt it down then add the potatoes and toss them around in the butter then leave them sizzling away in the pan so that they form a delicious crispy crust – about 3-4 minutes, then you can start tossing them around, adding more butter if you think it needs it (which it almost certainly does), leaving them to form crusts then tossing again etc… until they’re all brown and crispy and look like tasty little roasties.

  5. Add the creme fraiche to the bacon and onion mixture, stir it in, season it with some freshly grated nutmeg, maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bubble it down a bit so that all the flavours seep into each other and it thickens a bit.

  6. It’s very important to drink lots of wine before, during and after your tartiflette supper because otherwise the cheese will solidify in your tummy, so make sure you’re a well-doused chef.

  7. Cut the cheese in half horizontally then into half-moon shapes. At one point, Seil and I thought we’d have a restaurant called ‘Foods that are shaped like the moon’ (crepes, eggs, cheese wheels) but it hasn’t happened yet. Still hopeful, though.

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  1. Peel the garlic clove, cut it in half then rub it all over the sides and base of your baking dish. I’d use one like this because it looks so lovely on the table, but do use any large baking dish that you have. Metal, enamel, ceramic – they all work very well.

  2. Stir the cream mix into the potatoes. You’re now ready to assemble…

  3. Put half the potato and cream mixture in the bottom of the dish. Then spread out the reblochons with the rind side up, saving half of the cheese to go on the top of the dish.

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  1. Put the rest of the potato and cream mix into the dish, then top with the remaining reblochon, skin side up so that it goes deliciously crispy.

  2. Put it in the preheated oven, set the timer for 20 minutes and have some more wine.

  3. Check it after 20 mins, it might need to be turned round and put in again for another 10 minutes until it’s really golden and crisped up. Serve immediately with salad with a nice tangy dressing on it to cut through the cheese, and of course bucketloads of wine.

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(Clockwise starting with the big face in the bottom left that’s Lizzie, me, Andreas, Micky, Will, Seil, Tom and part of Kieran. Sorry for the blurriness – maybe a little too much wine after all)

Ultimate pasta bake (for a Sunday afternoon)

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This was a store cupboard creation, and I suggest that you empty your store cupboard/fridge/freezer into a similar pasta bake for a wintry Sunday afternoon, invite some friends around and tell them to bring red wine. Get Cranium or Articulate ready and you’ve got yourself an afternoon sorted.

Half a ring of chorizo/some bacon/6 or more slices of pancetta

1 pack of fusilli pasta

2 aubergines

About 100g parmesan, or however much you have

1 pack of cheddar cheese – mild or mature, as you wish

An old roll or piece of bread, to make breadcrumbs

Peas (I forgot to add them, but I’m sure you’ll remember)

1 onion, or a red onion (chopped roughly into small pieces)

2 garlic cloves, chopped or crushed

1 x 500g carton of tomato passata, or a couple of tins of chopped tomatoes

Fresh herbs – rosemary would be delicious, or basil

  1. Preheat the oven to 220C.

  2. Chop the pancetta, bacon, chorizo or a mix of all three. Parma ham would also do the trick for a nice meaty base – it crisps up well when fried. Fry them up in a lot of olive oil until the chorizo is releasing its lovely fatty red oils and the bacon is starting to crisp. Then remove from the pan (leaving the oil in the pan) to a plate/bowl/hand of your sous-chef.

  3. Put the chopped onion into the bacon pan and add a bit more oil if needs be. I’m a big fan of olive oil. Do NOT darken my door with vegetable oil.

  4. Cook it until soft and translucent, then add the garlic, and cook for a bit longer on a very gentle heat so that it doesn’t burn.

  5. Return the chorizo etc to the pan with the onions, stir them all together then add the peas if you fancy, and then the tomato passata or chopped tomatoes, whichever you have to hand. Whack the heat up until it starts to boil then turn down gently so that it’s a hard simmer/gentle boil.

  6. Pour some caster sugar into the palm of your hand – a tbsp or two will do the trick – then add that. Always add some sugar to tinned tomatoes, it removes that bitterness. Put two enormous pinches of Maldon sea salt in, lots of freshly ground pepper (about 40 turns of pepper for 6 people is a good measure). Add in a generous sprinkling of Herbes de Provence or mixed herbs or whatever green oregano/basil-type herbs you have in your cupboard – 1 generous tbsp in total. If you have fresh herbs, add some chopped up/torn up bits now – 1 couple of tbsps in total, you don’t want to overwhelm everything else.

  7. Bubble, bubble, bubble. Maybe turn it down a bit to a gentle simmer if it looks like it’s starting to thicken.

  8. Slice the aubergines lengthways, spray them with oil (it’s good to have an oil sprayer for situations like this when there’s no need to drench them in pouring oil) and sprinkle some Maldon sea salt over them, cayenne too if you fancy a bit of jhujz-ing up (HOW DO YOU SPELL JHOOZJH?), then flip them over and do the same again. Put some greaseproof paper on a baking tray, spread the aubergine slices over them and then put them in the oven for 15 mins then flip them over for another 5 mins until squidgy and crispy and a bit brown.

  9. Put the pasta water on to boil, put a lot of salt in, then start cooking your pasta. While it’s cooking, zizz up the bread roll with the parmesan and some rosemary if you have it, until it’s in small breadcrumbs. Grate the entire pack of cheddar.

  10. Probably turn the tomato sauce off now. When the pasta’s nearly done (it’ll cook more in the oven), pour out the water leaving a tiny bit of cooking water in a jug on the side just in case. Add the tomato sauce to the pasta (if it looks dry, add a few spoonfuls of cooking water) then spread half the tomatoey pasta into a lasagne/pie dish. Sprinkle a couple of generous handfuls of cheddar cheese onto this, then spread out the rest of the pasta on top. An extra cheesy layer!

  11. Lay the aubergine slices over the top of the pasta, making a sort of lid. Generously spread the breadcrumbs and parmesan over the top. Then put the rest of the cheddar on top of that. This is the magic bit, so don’t be shy.

  12. Put it in the oven for 20 mins at 180-200C depending on the power of your oven and whether or not it has a fan in it (if it has a fan, go a bit lower, if it doesn’t, go a bit higher), until the cheese is bubbling and melted and there’s a crispy golden top.

DEVOUR IT.

Slow roasted Turkish lamb leg or shoulder with pomegranates

This is an amalgamation of lots of slow roasted lamb recipes and I THINK I’ve made it perfect… I love it because it’s cheap (leg or shoulder), supermarket meat is fine, and you can whack it in the oven on a hangover when you’ve got people over for Sunday lunch and then spend the next four hours in the bath, or watching Friends reruns until you feel ready to receive company. I prefer this to a normal Sunday roast because a couscous dish to accompany is much lighter than a pile of roast potatoes and yorkshire puddings.

An important aside. If this all feels like a little bit too much and you’ve woken up with nothing in the fridge apart from the lamb (in which case, well done for planning ahead), all you really need to do for a tasty dish is pour a couple of glasses of red or white wine into the bottom of the tray, stab the lamb a few times then stick some slices of garlic into the holes, cover the tray tightly with foil and stick it in the oven at 160C for four hours. Uncover it for the last half hour and job’s a good ‘un.

THE RECIPE:

Serves 6

5 tbsp pomegranate molasses

1 tsp ground cumin

Juice of 1 lemon

4 garlic cloves (pressed through a garlic crusher)

A red onion

1 leg or shoulder of lamb, about 1.6kg

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C.

  2. Put the lamb in a big roasting tray. Pierce it all over, making deep slits. Push the crushed garlic into the slits. Mix together the lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, cumin and a good big glug of olive oil, then pour that over the lamb, making sure some goes into the slits too if possible. If you have time, marinate it, but as it’s roasting for four hours anyway, pffft to that if you don’t have time.

  3. Pour a glassful of red or white wine into the bottom of the tray, or some stock if you’d rather not open a bottle of wine just yet. Chop up the red onion into big wedges and chuck that into the bottom of the tray too. Maybe two onions, if you’re feeling generous. And some whole cloves of garlic… the more flavourmakers the better, really – this is not a precious recipe – follow your instincts and add more or less when you feel…

  4. Make a big snug foil tent over the top of the lamb. Put it in the oven and immediately reduce the heat to 160C/gas mark 3. Cook it for four hours minimum, basting with the juices every 45 mins or hour. If the juices dry out, add more stock or wine. Take the foil off for the last half hour to give the lamb some colour, but be careful that the juices don’t then burn.

  5. To serve, use two forks to shred the lamb, on a big plate. Scatter over pomegranate seeds and chopped coriander or mint. Serve with the couscous salad below, the sumacky yoghurt below, and if you’re particularly hungry, some warmed flatbreads which can also be dipped into the sumacky yoghurt, or make some aubergine dip/hummous.

Accompany it with: Couscous with apricots, sultanas and toasted flaked almonds

700ml chicken stock

350g couscous

Zest of one lemon

75g toasted flaked almonds

75g dried apricots, chopped up

75g sultanas

Small bunch of coriander, chopped

  1. Make the stock with boiling water. Pour in the couscous, sultanas and chopped apricots. Cover the pan, remove from the heat and leave for 5 minutes, fluffing with a fork after the first couple of minutes, and again after 4 minutes.

  2. Stir in some good quality olive oil, the chopped coriander and the toasted flaked almonds and season with lots of Maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

And on the side: Sumacky yoghurt

Crush two small/one massive garlic cloves into a bowl. Add a tablespoon of sumac, a long lug of olive oil, the juice of half a lemon and more sea salt than you think you need. Then add in about two thirds of a pot of Greek yoghurt, or the green Yeo valley natural one. It won’t work with set yoghurt, it has to be runny. Don’t get low-fat because we know now that good fats are good for us. Taste the yoghurt and generally you’ll need to add a bit more sumac – don’t be shy. Once you’ve got the hang of this yoghurt dip you’ll start doing it with everything – roasted vegetables, chicken traybakes, poached eggs on toast…..

Delicious chicken and aubergine tray bake with preserved lemons

Chicken and aubergine tagine traybake. Photographed by Dan Jones

A few Fridays ago (when it was still 2014), I had a dinner party for lots of fellow wine hags and made Annie Bell’s chicken and aubergine tagine traybake from her completely excellent Low-Carb-Revolution book. The aubergines go all gooey and soak up the syrupy lemony chickeny juices. I cannot for the life of me remember what I exactly served it with,  but I presume that in the interests of carb avoidance and middle-class grain worship, it was probably quinoa. I’d even go so far as to say it was probably quinoa mixed up with lemon juice, chopped coriander, lots of Maldon sea salt and some very good quality olive oil (which, by the way, every kitchen should have for drizzling. Ask Santa for some next Christmas in your stocking). As this is made with chicken legs and thighs, it’s pretty cheap to make. Hopefully you have a nice market or veg shop who will sell aubergines at a normal price, not sodding Tesco who sells them for about a pound a piece. Then again, aubergines are the meat of the vegetarian world so….

THE RECIPE

Serves 6

1½ tsp ground ginger

1½ tsp paprika

½ tsp ground cumin

About 20 saffron filaments, ground

Extra virgin olive oil

6 free-range chicken thighs

6 free-range chicken drumsticks

3 aubergines, cut into 1-2cm thick slices, ends discarded

Sea salt and black pepper

3 red onions, peeled, halved and sliced

100g preserved lemons, thinly sliced if baby or chopped if large, seeds discarded

Coarsely chopped coriander, to serve

1 Blend the spices with 3 tbsp olive oil in a small bowl and brush all over the chicken pieces to coat them, placing them in a large bowl as you go. Cover with clingfilm and chill for at least 1 hour, but preferably several.

2 Preheat the oven to 210C/Gas 7. Place a ridged, cast-iron griddle over a medium heat. You will need to cook the aubergine slices in batches. Brush one side of as many slices as will fit on the griddle with olive oil, season and grill for 2-3 minutes until striped with gold. Brush the top side, turn and grill. They should still appear underdone, as they will cook further in the oven. Remove to a plate. Season the chicken pieces on both sides and grill for 1-2 minutes on either side to colour – again, you will need to do this in batches. Toss the onions in a bowl with 2 tbsp olive oil.

3 Arrange the aubergines, onions and preserved lemons in a couple of roasting dishes (about 25 x 38cm), and nestle the chicken pieces between them, thighs skin-side up. Drizzle over a little more oil and roast for 35-40 minutes, turning the vegetables halfway through with a spatula, leaving the chicken pieces uppermost. The vegetables should be golden and sitting in syrupy juices. Scatter with coriander and serve.

Crispy potato leaves

I tried these at Christmas – they’re a recipe in The Times mag, by Donna Hay. Australians and Kiwis (I am half kiwi) have brilliant food magazines and recipe books. Or, I’ve been brainwashed by my Mum to believe that they do. Whatever happens, these were very impressive and delicious. I didn’t bother with the duck fat in the original recipe, I drizzled olive oil all over them instead and it worked very well, and presumably made a slightly lighter dish. They’d go fantastically well with any meat dish and look very impressive – until you take them out of the dish, so definitely do them in a beautiful baking tray which can be put directly onto the table.

CRISPY LEAF POTATOES 

Crispy leaf potatoes with oregano salt. Photographed by Anson Smart

They’re so beautiful! You can upscale/downscale them as you wish, but the starting point is as follows:

5.5kg large starchy potatoes, peeled
Olive oil to drizzle/spray over
Large quantities of Maldon sea salt/fleur de sel
1 tsp cracked black pepper
Handful of oregano leaves

1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Any higher and the edges will burn before the potatoes are cooked.

2. The original recipe says to trim the edges of each potato to make large rectangles (which I did), and slice thinly on a mandolin (which I did not. I used a food processor because I had neither the time nor the inclination to slice 5.5kg of potatoes by hand).

3. Put your potato slices in a large bowl and pour a load of olive oil, freshly ground black pepper and sea salt over them and mix well together. It’s always best to get stuck in there with your hands because they’re better than any kitchen tools.

4. Working in batches, arrange the potatoes upright from one side to the other in a 37x24cm baking tray (obviously if you’re halving the recipe you’ll need a smaller tray. Basically, use whatever size of tray you have and add potatoes until it’s full, then stop. Potatoes are hardly expensive if you end up throwing a couple of fervently sliced ones away).

5. Roast for 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the potatoes are tender, golden and crisp. I started checking them after about 45 minutes because it sounded like such a ludicrously long cooking time and I’m glad I did because otherwise they’d be burnt. I happen to love burnt food, but most people rightly do not.