Pappardelle with Butternut Squash and Blue Cheese

Pappardelle-with-Squash-and-Blue-Cheese-(4391)

What a long recipe title this is! The story behind this is simple enough though, with some simple steps. It goes like this:

Step 1: Buy Nigella Book.

Step 2: Read every page intently and stick post-its to every page.

Step 3: After careful consideration choose 1 recipe…yes…just one. O-N-E I said!

Step 4: Run to the market & fill your bag with veggies for…what…20 recipes???

In the end one recipe made it through, and it’s amazing. In my view, you really cannot avoid using blue cheese, but since it’s not my recipe I can tell you that Nigella suggests some substitutions (Cheshire or Wensleydale cheese for those in the UK, or maybe some ricotta salata if you’re in the Mediterranean). Instead of butternut squash you can easily use pumpkin. So here’s the recipe with my variations. Go on…invite 4 friends for lunch and try this out. They will love it and so will you. You need:

  • 1 large butternut squash (or 800g cubed pumpkin)
  • 1 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons mild olive oil (not extra virgin)
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons red wine or red vermouth
  • 125 ml water
  • 1-2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • pinch of salt
  • 2 tablespoons dried sage
  • 100g pine nuts
  • 500g fresh pappardelle (tagliatelle will also do nicely here)
  • 125g blue cheese
  1. Peel and cut the butternut squash or pumpkin into approximately 2cm cubes. Gently fry the chopped onion in the olive oil (into a pan that is big enough to hold both the sauce and the pasta in the final stage of cooking). Add the paprika when the onion turns golden in colour.
  2. Add the butternut (or pumpkin) cubes and butter into the pan and stir well. When the butternut squash is completely covered with the onion and butter add the wine (or vermouth), water and red wine vinegar. Let the ingredients bubble for a minute or so, put the lid on the pan, turn the heat down and simmer for about 25 minutes or until the butternut squash is soft but not falling apart. Add the dried sage during the last few minutes.
  3. In the meantime cook the pasta as per packet instructions and lightly toast the pine nuts. Tip the nuts in a container and let them cool. Don’t be a klutz like me and burn the pine nuts! Keep an eye on them at all times.
  4. Check the sauce to see if the squash is tender. If not let it simmer for another few minutes. Add a pinch of salt for extra seasoning but not too much. When pasta is cooked add this to the sauce and mix thoroughly.
  5. Serve either in one big serving dish or in 4 individual portions. Crumble in the blue cheese and sprinkle the pine nuts.

    Enjoy it – you will want more!

    Rob x

Beef Stew

Beef-Casserole-(4387)

J tells me that I tend to panic whenever I have friends over for lunch or dinner no matter how easy the meal was to prepare. This is perfectly true. (Yes..I am aware of it and I am really working on it.) So I never cook anything complicated to begin with. This is even more true when I have people over mainly because my Surrey flat is very small and the kitchen is tiny. I am not complaining because I’ve seen tinier kitchens than this! But I think I might have just picked up on something that my mother did. She too has a little kitchen but she makes these fantastic dishes and can whip up a meal in a jiffy with a small number of ingredients. (I really have a lovely mum!) She’s really keen on one pot suppers and I can understand why. They are easy to prepare, comforting, especially on a cold winter’s day and you can potter about the house doing your thing while they do their thing and cook.

So the following is my take on my mum’s recipe. It comes in handy when I want that comfy warm feeling of her cooking. This will easily serve 6.

Just a note before going ahead with the recipe. Sometimes I serve this with mashed potatoes but other times I don’t bother too much and add diced ones in the pot. J prefers the mash so I usually do what I’m told..*ehem*. I know that the list of ingredients is long but please bear with me. For this Beef Casserole you need:

  • 750g diced beef (in bite-sized chunks)
  • 3 tablespoons plain flour
  • Pepper, to taste
  • 3 tablespoons regular olive oil (not extra virgin)
  • 1 leek, chopped
  • 1 large onion, or 2 small ones, chopped
  • 2-3 garlic cloves, crushed or finely chopped
  • 8 large mushrooms, quartered
  • 2 carrots, diced
  • 1 cup red wine
  • 1-2 bay leaves
  • 1 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 litre beef stock (or enough to cover ingredients)
  • 1 heaped tablespoon tomato paste or tomato concentrate
  • 1 tablespoon sugar (I prefer the dark brown kind but it’s really up to you)
  • 2-3 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
  1. Preheat your oven to 180°C. Toss the beef in flour and season with some pepper. Then brown the beef well on all sides in an oven proof pan. Remove the meat from the pan to a separate container until needed later.
  2. Gently fry the chopped leek, onion, garlic, celery, carrots and mushrooms in the same pan you seared the beef for around 5 mins, adding the wine slowly to scrape the meat juices from the bottom of the pan. Place the beef in the pot again.
  3. Add the bay leaves, thyme, tomato paste, stock and sugar and stir. Finally add the Worcestershire sauce and give everything a good mix. Cover and put the pan into the preheated oven for around 1 and a half hours.

    Serve with mashed potatoes. Enjoy!

    Rob x

Triple Chocolate Cookies

Nigella's-Chocolate-Cookies-(4379)

I should have included these babies right before Valentine’s Day, but believe me when I say that these cookies will taste great any time during the year. I have been wanting to try them for ages, as with all of the recipes in this blog, but this is totally special. It is adapted from Nigella’s Totally Chocolate Chocolate Chip Cookies (click here for the Nigella’s recipe and here to watch her make them).

Now you really don’t need an electric mixer. They turn out great even if you mix everything by hand. I totally omitted the salt and in truth you can even leave out the bicarbonate of soda and use baking powder instead but I included it anyway. Also my adaptation calls for only (ehem..cough) 200g of chocolate, which is approximately 2 bars of chocolate broken up into chunks. (Do this by placing the chocolate into a sealed plastic bag and bashing them with a rolling pin.) That is more than you really need, so if you want to put in less you can. But hey a chocoholic like me won’t settle for less!

Makes around 12. For the cookies you need:

  • 125g dark chocolate, melted and slightly cooled
  • 150g plain flour
  • 30g cocoa, sieved
  • 1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
  • 125g butter, softened
  • 75g light brown sugar
  • 50g caster sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 egg
  • Two 100g bars of milk chocolate broken into chunks
  1. Preheat the oven to 170°C. Put the flour, cocoa and bicarbonate of soda in a large bowl.
  2. In a separate container cream the butter with the brown and caster sugars. Add the melted chocolate and mix. In this same bowl add the vanilla extract and beat in the egg.
  3. Take the dry ingredients and tip them in with the wet ingredients. Stir the chocolate chunks in with the final mixture.
  4. Using an ice-cream scoop (I find this easier) and a knife to level the mixture, spoon it onto a lined baking sheet. Make sure to leave a good gap in between scoops because they will grow (in fact, they will be huge).  You can also freeze half the cookies for later if you want to. Cook for 18 minutes. Leave to cool for a while and then move them onto a cooling rack.

    My favourite so far! Enjoy!

    Rob x

Mouclade

Mouclade-(4381)

Since Valentine’s Day came on a Monday this year, I thought it would be nice to celebrate a whole Valentine’s Weekend instead. It was also a good excuse for cooking something different every day and for testing some recipes.

The whole story behind Mouclade (in other words, Mussels with Cream) began on our first trip to the Lake District. On our last day we came across a beautiful hotel called The Queen’s Head and decided to stop there for lunch. I ordered the mussels; J had the fish pie. I was already in love with the place but when I saw (and later tasted) this big 800g pot of loveliness, I was in Food Heaven. Therefore it was only logical to head back there (excuse the pun) on our second trip and this time both of us ordered the mussels again. We were not disappointed – they tasted even better!

So until we go back once more for a third helping, I found four gorgeous recipes: two by Nigella, one by Lorraine Pascale and another by James Tanner. The following is my interpretation. I’m very pleased with the result. For two 500g portions you need:

  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • knob of butter
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • ¼ teaspoon curry (optional but worth trying)
  • 375 ml white wine (preferably not too dry)
  • 1 kg mussels
  • 150 ml double cream (single would also be fine)
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 tablespoon parsley (optional)
  1. Clean the mussels in some cold water to remove grit and beard, and discard any which are open and do not close when you knock on them gently.
  2. Chop the onion finely and gently fry in some butter. When it turns translucent add the garlic and curry.
  3. Add the wine (I used a Chardonnay). When the liquid has reached boiling point add the mussels and shake very gently to distribute them evenly around the pan. Cover the pan and let simmer for 3 – 5 minutes.
  4. Once they are open add some salt, pepper and all the cream. Shake gently again, sprinkle some parsley and serve with crusty bread. Remember to remove those mussels which have not opened and put a bowl on the table for discarded shells.

    Simply divine. Enjoy!

    Rob x

Apricot and Date Loaf

Apricot-&-Date-Loaf-(4354)

A few weeks ago I bought a packet of dried apricots for a lamb tagine recipe I wanted to try. I never got round to it, no matter how many times I included it in my New Year resolutions (which proved to me that these don’t work). Since I did not want the apricots to remain in my pantry forever I preferred to use them in another recipe rather than letting them go bad or worse – eating them as is! So without further rambling (as is often the case with me) here is a really yummy cake for you to try. This makes 1 loaf.

  • 150g plain flour
  • 70g wholemeal flour
  • 85g light brown sugar (you can use granulated white if you like)
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • the zest of 1 orange
  • 65g dried apricots, chopped
  • 50g dried pitted dates, chopped
  • 175ml milk
  • 1 large egg
  • 30g butter, melted

Place a rack in the centre of the oven and preheat at 190°C (375 F). Grease a loaf tin with butter and some flour or use baking paper.

In a large bowl combine plain and wholemeal flours, baking powder, orange zest and the dried fruits.

In a smaller bowl beat the milk with the eggs and the melted butter. Pour this over mixture of dry ingredients and mix everything together until just moistened.

Place batter into your greased loaf tin for around 40 mins. (Always test by inserting a knife or a skewer. If this comes out clean then your cake is done.) Leave to cool for 10 mins and remove the cake from the tin.

Enjoy!

Rob x

Lemon Muffins

Maltese Lemons (6893)

Sometimes inspiration comes at the strangest of moments and the strangest of places. The story goes like this: I was on a flight to Malta. I don’t need to tell you what plane food tastes like. I wasn’t really hungry anyway but I had to have something, so I ate some of the bread and lemon cake wrapped up in plastic. I thought it was going to taste like it, but believe it or not…*ta da* it was good!

I can’t help it. When I think of lemons I think of summer. They are so refreshing and go with almost everything, but together with honey they are also very handy during the winter months, for the sniffles! I wish I had thought of baking with lemons earlier – they would have made the cold gloomy days in Surrey so much better!

So what follows is my adaptation of a recipe I found this week and tried today. I love it and hope you do too. For 9-12 muffins you need:

  • 250g plain flour
  • 50g plus 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • the zest & juice of 1 lemon
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 150ml milk

Grease/line with paper a muffin tin and preheat oven to 190°C (375 F).

In a large bowl combine flour, 50g sugar, baking powder, lemon zest and salt. (If you’re using coarse salt make sure to grind it to distribute flavour better.)

In another bowl beat the rest of the sugar, egg, oil, milk and lemon juice.

Combine both mixtures until all is just moistened. (Don’t over beat.)

Spoon the batter into the greased muffin tins and bake for around 20 mins. (Make sure they turn a little golden in colour, especially if you’re lining tin with paper.) Cool completely on a wire rack or serve warm with some ice cream. Why not?!

Enjoy!

Rob x

Roast Chicken

Roast-Chicken-(4648)

I don’t know whether you watched the movie Chicken Run. If you did then you would know the story, but if you didn’t (and have no interest in doing so) it’s about a chicken who is obsessed with escaping from a farm. Hopefully not all chickens are unhappy in their chicken runs; if this was so we wouldn’t have our lovely roasts for the weekends!

I’ve always loved chicken. I find it to be so versatile. I discovered the joys of preparing a roast with it when I got Nigella Express from J. I’ve never made it before that but when I did, it became one of my favourites. Depending on the size it could make an ideal meal for two, or if sliced it could be stretched even further.

You have two options: either to roast the chicken by itself (reserving another pan for the potatoes and veggies), or to assemble everything in one pan. I opt for the second option, just because I found a great enamelled cast iron pan where the meat and everything else fits nice and snug. But it’s totally up to you.

To get that chicken moist from the inside and tasty from the outside I would suggest inserting an onion or some garlic and either one lemon (halved) or an orange in the cavity. Then rub some melted butter (around two tablespoons) on top or some olive oil, rosemary and salt & pepper to taste. I usually leave it at that. (However the next time I cook this I’ll try to remember to cover the bird with some bacon slices.) If you’re adding the vegetables I would put some water or stock at the bottom, not too much, just enough to make sure that nothing burns at the bottom of your pan.

The cooking time depends of course on your oven. Mine’s got a bit of a temperament – I don’t know why. And remember that chicken has to be cooked properly until the juices run clear. To be sure I always check by cutting it between a leg and a thigh bone. The trick to a great roast chicken is the dimensions of the roasting pan that you choose to cook it in. If the pan is too big you’ll end up burning your dinner. Alas..I’ve learnt this the hard way!

For a different take on a roast try Nigella’s Chicken and Chorizo with potatoes.

Enjoy!

Rob x

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