Friday, 30 April 2010

Miss P's Fish Pie

Tonight we had a Fish Pie, made by my own recipe.
I use these handy fresh "fish pie mix" packs from the fish section of the supermarket. They are basically an equal mix of chopped salmon, cod and smoked haddock. You can buy the fish individually if you wish, but this just makes life easier after a day at work!
This served the two of us generously with one portion of leftovers for Toby. It could feed 4 if you added a bit of extra fish or a side dish.
This is 100% my own recipe. I used to make a white sauce for the base of this dish, which worked well, but after once realising we had no flour to make the sauce I had to improvise with some creme fraiche and white wine. Now I've discovered this short cut I'll never bother with making a white sauce again!

So here's the deal:

Place the fish pieces in an ovenproof dish. Add one handful of frozen peas and/or one handful of frozen sweetcorn. Add 2 heaped tbsp creme fraiche, a generous splash of white wine, and some chopped fresh parsley and tarragon (approx 1 tbsp of each). Season. Stir to combine.

Top with mashed potato (made with 4 medium sized potatoes, cooked and mashed with butter, milk and salt and pepper). At this point it's up to you whether or not you top it with grated cheese. Some people are uncomfortabe with the combination of fish and cheese but we like it!

Cook in the oven for 20-25 minutes. Check that the fish is cooked through (it should be opaque and just starting to flake but not be too firm). Serve with some fresh green beans .... and perhaps a nice chilled white wine. Fish on a Friday. Perfect.

Miss P's Top Tip: You could easily dress this up for a dinner party or special occasion, by adding some prawns or mussels, and lightly boiled eggs. Eggs may sound an unlikely addition but it is traditional in a classic fish pie!

Wednesday, 28 April 2010

Linguine Puttanesca

Another successful recipe from Tana Ramsay's Homemade cookbook. This will definitely be a new staple in my repertoire - I really recommend you try it. It tastes so authentic, mediterranean and is perfect for summer.
"Puttanesca" or "whores' pasta" orginated in Naples, and was a favoured dish of the night, shall we say! This was because it can be rustled up quickly and cheaply from ingredients that would be found in any italian storecupboard. Well, I say those ladies must have had good taste 'cos this sauce is delicious! Oh and if you've never had linguine, it's basically halfway between spaghetti and tagliatelle. Spaghetti will work just as well, or penne is also good with this.
Here's the recipe that serves 4, I halved it easily for 2 of us. You'll need:
4 tbsp olive oil
2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
1 large red onion,peeled and finely chopped
1 red chilli,deseeded and finely chopped
8 anchovies from a tin,finely chopped
100g pitted black olives,halved
3 tbsp capers,rinsed and drained
250g cherry tomatoes,halved
400g dried linguine
1 handful fresh basil leaves
salt and pepper

1. Heat the oil in large frying pan and fry the garlic, onion and chilli for about 5 minutes, until softened. Stir in the anchovies and cook gently for 1-2 minutes until the anchvies dissolve.
2. Add the olives, capers and tomatoes and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes until the tomatoes have softened.
3. Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to packet instructions. Drain well. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
4. Add the pasta to the sauce and mix thoroughly. Sprinkle in the basil leaves and serve into warm pasta bowls.

Sunday, 25 April 2010

Easy Blueberry Tart

I have to say I'm developing a slight addiction to cookbooks. Especially buying them online at Amazon, as you hardly notice you're doing it! Anyway, this week saw a new addition to my cookbook family land on my doorstep, Tana Ramsay's "Homemade". This is a beautifully illustrated book with recipes that really make you want to get cooking. And, unlike some of my more aspirational cookbooks ("Indian Food Made Easy"- you didn't make it that easy!), Tana has created recipes for real people and real families.

This Easy Blueberry Tart is the first recipe I have tried from the book, and I was very pleased with the results! It was quick and simple, yet felt like a really special Sunday dessert. Looking forward to trying more of Tana's recipes this week, so keep watching this space..

You will need:

plain flour for dusting
375g pack shortcrust pastry
300g blueberries (I used frozen)
1 tbsp golden caster sugar
200g mascarpone cheese
finely grated zest of 1 lemon
juice of 1/2 the lemon
1-2 tbs icing sugar, plus extra for dusting

Pre-heat oven to 200'C/Gas 6.
Line a large baking tray with baking parchment.
Prepare the cheese base: beat the mascarpone with the lemon zest and juice, and add icing suagr to taste. Keep in the fridge until required later.

Using a lightly floured rolling pin, roll out the pastry until its approx 1/2 cm thick. Use a small dinner plate or the base of a cake tin to cut out a circle approx 23cm in diameter. Put onto the baking sheet, prick over all the edges with a fork, and pinch around the edges with your thumb and forefinger. Chill the pastry base in the fridge for 10-15 minutes.

Meanwhile, put the blueberries into a pan with the caster sugar, and place on a low heat. You want to cook them for about 5 minutes - long enough to gloss the fruit with the sugar,and soften them slightly without making them go gloopy. Take off the heat to leave to cool completely.

Put the pastry into the oven for 15 minutes, until golden.
Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely.

Once the base is completely cool, spread the cheese mix evenly over it. Spoon the blueberries on top. Dust with icing sugar and serve.

Leek and Fennel Roast Chicken

Today's Sunday lunch was a Rachel Allen recipe for Leek and Fennel Roast Chicken. This is essentially a one-pot, stick-it-all-in-the-oven meal, that gives the satisfaction of a roast without all the hassle. It's also a much lighter option for the spring/summer months.
The original recipe serves 4. I have halved the ingredients here to serve two, but you can easily double them again if you have more people to feed!


You will need:
1/2 a fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced
1 small leek, trimmed, halved lengthways, cleaned and cut into 2cm slices
4 chicken thighs, bone in and skin on
6 garlic cloves, skin on
8 small new potatoes, scrubbed clean
2 tarragon sprigs
approx 1 tbsp olive oil
Pre-heat oven to 200'c/Gas 6.
Miss P's Top Tip: Although not stated in the recipe, I would recommend par-boiling the potatoes first for 5 minutes before continuing. This ensures they cook in time with the rest of the dish. There's nothing worse than a hard undercooked potato! Drain, leave to cool, then follow the rest of the recipe as below:
Put all of the ingredients into a large bowl.

Pour over the oil, and toss together until everything is well coated. Add another splash of oil if required. Transfer it all to a roasting tin or dish. Season with salt and pepper.

Rachel's recipe says to roast in the oven for 25-30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through and the skin crispy. I must say however, this took almost an hour in my oven. This might just be my rubbish oven but its worth mentioning as you'll need to make sure the chicken is cooked all the way through. If the vegetables are starting to burn, cover the dish with foil to protect them.

Serve with a crisp green salad, and pour over all the delicious garlicky juices from the bottom of the dish.

Saturday, 24 April 2010

Ready Meal Moules!

A simple dinner for us tonight. My new find is these pre-cooked packs of mussels from the fish section of the supermarket. These came in a garlic and white wine sauce. I love moules mariniere but, as of yet, haven't been brave enough to try cooking live mussels myself! These packs are great-you just empty the contents into a saucepan and re-heat. And they honestly taste (almost) as good as any fresh ones I've had.
Serve them with french fries and/or baguette to mop up all the yummy juices, and pretend you're sitting by a sunny harbour in the south of France!

Thursday, 22 April 2010

Tortellini and Vegetable Soup

Last night's dinner was one of my most-used fallback recipes, a Tortellini and Vegetable Soup. I found this in my Good Food magazine about a year ago, and still use it now. It's great for a quick meal after work, or as a standby meal on the last day before your weekly shop (as in our case!), as you can adapt it to use whatever leftover veggies you have lying around. Packets of tortellini are cheap, keep for a long time, and you can choose any flavour you fancy. I normally use spinach and ricotta. What more can you ask for?

This recipe serves 4-or 2 with leftovers for lunch the next day :
Finely chop 1 large onion and 1 garlic clove, and roughly chop 2 carrots. Heat 1tbsp olive oil in a large saucepan and add the onion, carrot and garlic. Soften for 5 minutes.
Add 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes and 1 litre vegetable stock (made with a cube), and simmer for 5 minutes. Add any fresh herbs if you have them (in the picture below I have used oregano).
Add 200g frozen green beans (or a mixture of beans and peas) and simmer for 5 minutes more.
Once the veg is tender, stir in a packet of tortellini pasta and cook for 2 minutes more.

Serve ladled into bowls. Sprinkle with basil and grated cheddar, or parmesan if you have it.

Miss P's Top Tips : this is also nice with 1 tbsp pesto stirred through,
if you don't have any fresh basil.
It's also great with frozen peas and sweetcorn. For a more italian feel,
you could try tinned artichokes, olives, sundried tomatoes and rocket.

Wednesday, 21 April 2010

Nigella's cut out biscuits

Today Miss P is coming to you from my friend Beth's kitchen! Toby and I had a lovely morning making biscuits with her and two of her beautiful boys, Henry and Hugo. Beth has a lovely big kitchen that can fit in an old pine table, a sofa and a fireplace, and opens out onto her garden. A perfect place to hang out and let the boys run wild!

We used a classic Nigella biscuit recipe. I've simplified it here, but you can find the full recipe in her book Feast. She also makes an icing, but I think that would have just been too messy for us to handle this morning! You'll need:

90g unsalted butter
100g caster sugar
1 large egg
1/2 tsp real vanilla extract
200g plain flour
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt (optional)

To make the dough, cream together the butter and sugar until soft and fluffy. Add the egg and vanilla and stir thoroughly. In a seperate bowl, mix the flour with the baking powder and salt.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet and stir to combine. Use your hands to press and form into a ball of dough. Flatten into a flat circle shape, wrap in cling film an put in the fridge for an hour to firm up. Pre-heat oven to 180'C/Gas 4.

Roll out your dough to 1/2 cm thickness and have fun cutting into shapes.

Lay out onto a greased baking tray (leaving room inbetween as they'll spread). Cook for 8-10 minutes or, as our dear Nigella says "until tinged a pronounced golden around the edges".

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Veggie Patch-Stage One!

Last year we grew a few tomatoes in our garden ( I say "we", most of the credit goes to Tim). In our sad little way, we found it quite exciting! So we thought we'd go a bit further this year and start a little veg patch. Unfortunately we now have a much smaller garden than our last house, but there's still room to squeeze one in. We've had to do it in the front garden as it gets the most sun, so the whole street will be able to see how we get on...and if it all goes horribly wrong!

Tim and Toby spent Sunday afternoon digging and setting up the frame for the veggie bed. Then he raked the soil and laid down the compost. Now I'm just waiting for him start planting the seeds! We're (hopefully) going to have carrots, red onion, cabbage, sweetcorn, courgettes and cucumber. Stay tuned..

Monday, 19 April 2010

Sunny Sunday Lunch

So nice to enjoy our lunch outside in this lovely weather. Hope it stays like this all summer now (wishful thinking, I know!)
We had steak mince burgers, chunky sweet potato chips, stuffed roasted peppers, salad, and olives. Didn't get the barbecue out though, still feels a bit early for that!
To make my sweet potato chips:

Preheat oven to 220'C. Wash 2 medium sized sweet potatoes Leave the skins on. Cut into chunky wedges/chips. Lay out on a baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Cook in the oven for 1 hour, turning halfway through.

Sunday, 18 April 2010

Going Greek in Wales

This week we spent a lovely few days in Aberysywyth, Wales. There is some stunning scenery and coastline in this area, but unfortunately it seemed to be lacking in decent fish restaurants (unless you count fish and chips!) So for Tim's birthday meal we went to a cosy little greek restaurant called The Olive Branch. All the food was homemade and was definitely the real deal. I've been inspired to try more Greek recipes at home, so I'll keep you posted on how that goes!

For starters we had a dip called Melintzanosalata served with homemade bread. The dip is made with pureed roasted aubergine, garlic, oregano and olive oil. We also had some deep fried pastry sticks filled with feta, spring onions and coriander. I must try making this dip, it was gorgeous!
Main course was chicken in a tomato and ouzo sauce for Tim, and I had king prawns cooked in garlic and white wine, with rice and salad. My prawns were fat and juicy, just how I like them!

For dessert we had traditional baklava, which consists of layers of filo pastry,chopped nuts, honey and syrup, topped with crushed pistachios. I first had these in Turkey and since then have found it hard to find a decent authentic version.These were perfect. And very sweet!

Much to Tim's embarassment, the waiters used these candles that I gave them, turned off all the lights and everyone in the restaurant sang Happy Birthday.
I've never seen him go so red!

Afterwards we enjoyed a drink in a nearby wine bar. Tim had a local welsh ale and I chose my favourite cocktail, a Cosmopolitan. A cliche perhaps but a goodie. As the Sex And The City Girls said: "Delicious! Why did we stop drinking these?" "Because everybody else started".

Monday, 12 April 2010

Tasty Tarte Tatin

This is one of those desserts that I always thought was difficult to make, but it honestly isn't.

And once you've got the basic method, you can use other fruits such as pears, plums or peaches. For an extra dimension you can play around with spices such as ginger, cinnamon, star anise or cardomon. Give it a try!
For this, I use frozen ready rolled pastry. Tarte tatin can be made with puff or shortcrust. I think shortcrust pastry is the traditional option, and it's what I have used this time as I had some in the freezer, but having tried both I would recommend using puff.
So you need to take your pastry out earlier in the day as it takes a few hours to defrost.

Now pre-heat your oven to 200'C, Gas 6.
Peel 4 Granny Smith apples (keeping the nice round shape of the apple) and cut into quarters. Remove any bits of core. Put the apple pieces to one side.

Place 125g caster sugar and 100ml water into an ovenproof frying pan and place over a medium heat. Stir until sugar dissolves. Do not stir once the liquid starts to bubble or it will crystallise! Increase the heat and boil for 5 minutes until it starts to caramelise round the edges.

Once the syrup has turned a golden colour, add 25g butter and swirl it through.

Remove pan from heat. Place the apples, cut side facing up, in a nice pattern in the pan. Try and cover as many of the gaps as you can.

Place the pan back over a medium heat and cook for 10 mintues to slightly caramelise the apples. At this stage you can sprinkle over some cinnamon, if you like.
Get your pastry out of the pack and unroll. Make sure it is big enough to cover the pan-if not, roll out slightly.
Remove pan from heat. Place the pastry circle on top of the apples. Tuck the pastry, as well as you can, in around the edges of the apples (as pictured below). Brush with milk, then prick all over with a fork.

Bake in the oven for 25 minutes, until the pastry is turning a lovely golden brown.
Remove the tart from the oven. Leave the pan to rest for a minute or two. You can use this time to brace yourself for the tricky bit: that's right, you need to flip this pan over onto a plate. Sorry, that's just how it is. Blame the French. Put the plate upside down over the pastry, one hand on top of the plate (the other holding the pan!) and flip in one confident movement. Try not to think about the hot caramel that might scold you.
Now do a little Tarte Tatin boogie. You did it!

Sunday, 11 April 2010

Miss P's famous roasties

When making roasties, the most important thing is to par-boil them (after peeling and chopping) for 5 minutes, drain, then give them a really good shake in the pan to rough them up. All the scruffy edges are the bits that catch the oil and turn crispy, so it really is the best way to get crispy roasties.
I just cook mine in olive oil- no goose fat or dripping. I don't think it's necessary. Just make sure the oil is hot when you put the potatoes on the oven tray (heat 2 tbsp olive oil on the tray whilst the potatoes are boiling). Sprinkle with sea salt and pepper, some chopped fresh rosemary, add two whole garlic cloves and put in the oven for 45 minutes, turning halfway through. I could eat them everyday!

Humble beginnings..

Sunday Brunch- possibly my favourite meal

So nice to have a day off with my boys today. Just the three of us, no plans, and time to enjoy each other's company. Thought I'd treat them to a brunch of scrambled eggs and bacon, with orange juice and proper coffee (just juice for Toby of course!)
I learnt how to make the best scrambled eggs from a cafe/restaurant I used to work in called Same Same But Different in Bath. They really do a great breakfast.
The secret is a generous knob of butter melted slowly in a frying pan, to start.
In a bowl, whisk two eggs per person. Add a splash of milk and some salt and pepper.
Pour this into the pan and gently whisk the surface of the mixture. This will get air into the eggs, giving you a light and fluffy result.
Now continuously stir the eggs, gently, until they start to become more solid but are still soft and slightly runny. This will literally only take about 2 minutes.

The key to making sure the eggs stay soft, is to take them off the heat when they're almost finsished cooking, as they will continue cooking in the residual heat. Otherwise you'll end up with firm, over cooked eggs that are more like an omelette! Then I like mine with crispy bacon, toast, and an extra sprinkling of black pepper.

Saturday Night Fajitas

On a Saturday night, why not try these quick and filling fajitas instead of your usual takeaway. They're great for sharing and take so little time and effort.

Start by turing the oven on to a medium heat (you will just need the oven warm to heat the tortilla wraps).
Slice two chicken breasts (to serve two people). Heat 1tbsp vegetable oil in a frying pan or wok, and fry the chicken, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes until opaque.
Wrap your tortillas in foil and put in the oven to warm up.
Add one sliced onion and some sliced peppers. I actually use the bags of frozen mixed peppers, as they save prep time and cost less than the price of one fresh pepper! Ususally I favour fresh but in this case it just isn't worth it. Also at this stage you need to sprinkle in 2 tsp paprika, 1 tsp cayenne pepper and 1/2 tsp chilli powder. We like spice but are quite wimpish, so you can always add more if you prefer it hot.
Stir everything together and cook for 2 minutes more, so the vegetables still retain a crunch.
Meanwhile, prepare your other fillings so that you can build the fajitas as you go along. We have salad, grated cheese, and salsa. I usually make a fresh guacomole but my avocadoes weren't ripe! I'll have to give you that recipe another time..
Gather around, grab a couple of cold beers and tuck in!

So easy even Tim can do it!

I like to serve them on my coffee table, as we can sit around on floor cushions and share in front of some crappy Saturday night telly -in this case, Harry Potter!


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...