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)
- 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.
- Chop the onion finely and gently fry in some butter. When it turns translucent add the garlic and curry.
- 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.
- 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!
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.
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?!
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.
Everyone knows I’m a huge Nigella fan. No news there. One of the very few things I don’t agree with her on is bread machines. My hubby J bought us one last year and I love it. I use it almost every day and it’s perfect for both sweet and savoury kinds. I haven’t looked back since.
I am trying a new dough recipe now. It’s one for rolls or baps that I’m going to use for this evening’s dinner. (For anyone who’s asking, it’s home-made burgers.) What’s curious is that this recipe calls for 1 egg. I’ve never used eggs for bread doughs before and I’m wondering how it will turn out. We’ll see…