Archive for the 'Stews and bakes' Category

Sussex pie

March 26, 2010

Sussex pie – which I’ll admit I’d never heard of – is a variant of shepherd’s pie where the meat is bulked out with lentils, but this is a vegetarian all-lentil version. In our house we had shepherd’s pie on a regular basis to use up the lamb after a roast, as is traditional. And while I do enjoy good shepherd’s pie once in a while, in order to really spend a week eating all of the things I used to eat when I was younger, I would have had to have eaten a lot of meat, and that’s just not how I roll these days. So, a compromise. This is super cheap, filling, and also pretty good for you. It’s not the most photogenic meal, but when spring gives you thunder and lightning storms you can be glad you’ve got a pie in the oven.

A further bonus is that this pie uses a small amount of beer, so you will be obliged to finish the rest of the can/bottle, which gives you something to do while it’s in the oven.

Sussex pie  Serves 2

If you’re not vegetarian, feel free to add any leftover meat to the recipe.

1 tbsp olive oil or vegetable oil
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 sticks celery, finely sliced (too much, I’d say use 1 stick)
1 carrot, diced
1 sprig rosemary, finely chopped (I used a thyme sprig)
100g lentils (the basic green ones are good for this)
500ml vegetable stock
150ml beer (preferably bitter)
350g potatoes, peeled, boiled and mashed with a little milk and butter

Heat the oil in a large pan. If you have a casserole dish that goes in the oven and on the hob, use that. Gently fry the onion, garlic, celery, carrot and thyme or rosemary until soft, about 15 minutes. Add the lentils and stir to mix. Pour in the stock and beer and leave at a low simmer for about 30 minutes. The lentils should be done, but if they’re not, you can always add a little more water. Season.

Arrange the mashed potato over the lentil mixture, transferring everything to an oven-proof dish if you need to. It’s good to use a fork for this, so you get those little fork-tine marks that go all crusty. If your mashed potato is recently made and still hot, you can just put the whole lot under the grill to brown the potato and eat straight away, otherwise heat the oven fairly hot, about 220c, and put the pie in until the top turns brown – about 20 minutes.

From Tom Norrington-Davies’ ‘Just Like Mother Used To Make’.


Sausage, kale, beans

February 22, 2010

I know that title reads like one of those non-descriptive menu entries some chefs seem to be so fond of at the moment, but really, it pretty much is just sausage, kale, and beans. OK, a bit of chicken stock, a handful of herbs maybe, but that’s it. It will give you a sense of deep and satisfying frugality, particularly if you dug the sausages and stock out of the freezer, and the beans were hand-me-downs from Tom’s sister, who can’t get her husband to like them. Just so you know, I will happily give any unwanted beans a home. I like to think this is exactly what they would have wanted, all cosy and warm, nestled into the kale fronds.

I made quite a few changes to the original recipe, not because I thought I was improving it, but because I didn’t read it very carefully before I did my shopping. The beans should be flageolet, which are certainly among the prettiest of the beans, but I used one tin of pinto and one of borlotti (when tinned they’re almost indistinguishable from each other anyway).

I also used sage instead of rosemary, and I left out the cream. Then I felt like it was missing a certain something so I added a bit of parmesan. Cream would probably have been better, but it’s still one of the best ways I can think of of eating up your kale (‘the new blueberry’, according to Leon).

Finally, a warning: this supper may induce a soporific effect. That was clearly why I fell asleep during Synecdoche, New York and missed the ending. Certainly not because I couldn’t understand it and was bored, at all.

Sausage, kale, beans  Serves 3-4

1 packet sausages (should be 6, we had one missing, consumed in fry-up)
2 tins whichever beans your cupboard yields (or 200g dried beans, soaked and cooked)
1/2 large onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
800ml chicken stock
1 tbsp olive oil
1 heaped tbsp chopped rosemary (or sage)
small handful parsley, chopped
200g kale, chopped and any large stalks removed
75ml cream
parmesan for grating (optional)
salt and pepper

Slice the sausages into manageable chunks, about 4 to a sausage. Fry them in the olive oil until nicely browned.

Add the garlic and sage/rosemary, stir, and then turn down the heat and add the onion. Cook over a low heat with the lid on for about 15 minutes, until all is soft and tender. Add in the chicken stock, season and bring to a simmer, and cook for 20 minutes, with the lid on.

Add the kale (and cream, if using) and cook for 10 minutes with the lid on and a further 10 with the lid off. Check the seasoning and serve sprinkled with parsley, and parmesan if you like.

Adapted from Allegra McEvedy’s ‘Leon’.

Corn, bean and pumpkin stew

January 20, 2010

This week, our featured book is ‘The Greens Cook Book’. Greens is a legendary (in the US, at least) vegetarian restaurant in San Francisco and one of the first things I noticed about the book, published in 1987, is that it really has dated extremely well. OK, there is one chapter on timbales. But apart from that, it heavily features pasta, pizza, mexican flavours, imaginative soups; there’s a lot of advice on vegetarian menu planning and matching wine with vegetarian food, hinting at a time when vegetarianism was still new and exciting, but none of the recipes would look out of place if the book were to be published today. It makes you wonder why mushroom risotto and goat’s cheese salad are still the default vegetarian options at many restaurants over 20 years later.

I once visited Greens. I was in San Francisco for work, and so my visit was somewhat hampered by the awkwardness of dining alone, but I do remember walking a really long way and eating the most heavenly vegan chocolate cake. It definitely involved caramel, or coconut, or both, but either way it’s not in the book.

So, in the absence of chocolate caramel coconut cake, I present you with this stew. Not quite the same, but it is probably much better for you. It’s big and hearty and designed for eating from large bowls, a cross between a soup and a stew. It’s almost sweet, a little bit spicy, a hearteningly colourful slurp of warmth. The first time, I ate it with a generous scattering of coriander, but for lunch today I stirred in a spoonful of babaghanoush, on a whim, and that really worked. Smokiness is good here. Next time, I’m looking forward to crumbling over some goat’s cheese feta I have in the fridge.

Corn, bean and pumpkin stew  Serves 4-6

I made this with one chilli and added in a bit of merken, which is a smoky, spicey mix I picked up in Chile. If you want the heat to be a bit more pronounced, use more chillies and/or add in cayenne pepper with the spices.

1 tin pinto beans (other beans would be fine: black-eyed, kidney, black beans etc.)
1 tin chopped tomatoes
300g frozen sweetcorn, defrosted, or 1 tin sweetcorn (or 3 ears fresh corn)
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp oregano
1 cinnamon stick
3 cloves
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp salt
1 onion, roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tbsp paprika (I used regular, but I now think smoked would be good here)
500ml vegetable stock
1 winter squash, peeled and cut into 1 inch cubes (I have no idea what sort of squash mine was, but it weighed just over 1kg when peeled and deseeded)
1-2 chillies, seeded and finely chopped
coriander or parsley, for garnish

Toast the cumin seeds in a hot frying pan until they smell fragrant – watch to make sure they don’t burn. Add the oregano, stir for 5 seconds and transfer the spices to a spice grinder or pestle and mortar. Add the cloves and grind to a powder.

Heat the oil in a large saucepan and fry the onion over a high heat for 1 minute. Lower the heat, add the garlic, spices, paprika, cinnamon stick and salt. Here’s where you might want to add in your own choice of extra spices. Stir well to combine, then add 1/4 of the stock and cook until the onion is soft. Add the tomatoes and cook for 5 minutes. Then add the squash and most of the rest of the stock. Cook for 20-30 minutes, until the squash is softened but not quite done.

Add the corn, beans and fresh chillies, and thin with more stock if necessary. Cook until the squash is tender. Mine was already falling apart at this point, so I left it there. Check the seasonings and serve with your choice of garnish.

Adapted from Deborah Madison’s ‘The Greens Cook Book: Extraordinary Vegetarian Cuisine’.

Moroccan honey chicken

January 18, 2010

Do you know what, this book is brilliant. The tone takes a bit of getting used to – all breathless chit-chat and boys and late nights – but once I started thinking of her as a bit like Nigella’s debonair younger sister I settled into it. And I’m glad I did, because she knows her stuff, this Rosie Lovell. From the book this week we made: banana and buckwheat pancakes, muesli, rice cubes with dipping sauce, tofu with soy beans and mushrooms, carrot and sweetcorn fritters, onion and butterbean soup, tuscan bean stew with orzo pasta, smoked mackerel and broccoli bake, smoked mackerel pate, ebi chilli men, babaghanoush, chicken and mushroom korma, plus the moroccan chicken and two other tasty things I’m going to tell you about shortly. The only thing I didn’t like was the soup, which I thought combined sweetness and fishiness in a way that was not pleasant, but Tom liked it. I’m sad to move on, because this is a weighty book and when I was jotting down things I’d like to make from it, before I do my weekly meal plan (you should see it, it’s insanely detailed), I basically just copied out the contents list.

Back to – or rather onto – the chicken. I had to immerse myself in a lengthy and consoling food preparation session on Saturday to take my mind off the horrible hangover resulting from a cocktail party the night before. Of course, we decided to bring the ingredients for White Russians. If you ever see me with a White Russian in my hand feel free to stage an intervention – it’s for my own good.

This is perfect for such a scenario (I didn’t know I needed a recipe specific to a White Russian hangover, but now I have one). You basically poach a whole chicken with some aromatics, which takes a good hour and a half, so you can maybe have a little lie down while the smell of chicken and cloves wafts medicinally in the air about you. Then you have to leave the chicken to cool before you can strip it, which takes another hour or so. You need to make a tomato sauce, too, but that’s mainly simmering for an hour. See? You can take it at your own pace. The chicken stripping is oddly calming and, bonus, you get a whole pan of chicken stock for absolutely no effort whatsoever.

I served it with the afore-listed babaghanoush as a sort of smokey relish, along with his n’hers starch accompaniments of cranberry and toasted almond-scattered couscous and lemon and thyme roasted potatoes:

Moroccan honey chicken  Serves 3-4

Note: I roughly halved the original recipe, which serves 10. I cooked only one chicken instead of two, using half of the meat and saving the other half for salads and the next day’s chicken curry, and I just halved the sauce quantities. The ratio seemed about right.

For the chicken:
1 chicken, around 1.5 – 1.8 kg
2 bay leaves
2 tsp whole cloves
1 tsp peppercorns

For the sauce:
1 tbsp olive oil
2 onions, finely chopped
1 tsp ground cloves
1 cinnamon stick
1 red chilli
3 garlic cloves
2 cans chopped tomatoes
2-3 tbsp honey
black pepper

Fill your biggest pan with water and immerse the chicken, along with the bay leaves, cloves and peppercorns. Simmer for around an hour and a half, until the chicken is fully cooked and the flesh is starting to come easily away from the bones. Remove the chicken, keeping the stock, and leave to cool.

Meanwhile, start the sauce: heat the olive oil and fry the onions gently with the cloves, cinnamon and chilli. After a few minutes, peel, crush and add the garlic. Leave for a couple of minutes before adding the tomatoes. Cook, covered, over a low heat for around an hour. You can use a little of the chicken stock to loosen it to the required texture should it dry out. (The chicken stock also comes in handy for cooking the couscous, if that’s what you’re having on the side.)

When the chicken is cool enough to handle, strip all of the meat from the bones. Set aside half for other uses and tip half into the tomato sauce. Stir in the honey and season.

Adapted from Rosie Lovell’s ‘Spooning With Rosie’.

Smoked mackerel, broccoli and spinach bake

January 13, 2010

Restorative, I think, is the best word for this. It almost didn’t get made because, yesterday, I’d had the sort of day where I wanted to just give up and have toast for dinner. The sort of day where you feel like inanimate objects are forming malicious plots against you. You know the ones? I found myself shedding a little tear or two of self-pity on my way home because a car honked at me at the traffic lights, and not because I’m a wuss, but because it was the last straw. And, OK, because I’m a wuss.

Thank goodness I felt sorry for the broccoli looking so neglected and yellowing in the fridge drawer. I thought I’d better just at least boil it in a little water. And then I might as well cook the other vegetables too, and then all it needed was for a quick white sauce to come together, some parmesan to mix with the breadcrumbs that were already waiting in the breadbin, and suddenly we were sitting down to a big, steaming savoury comfort blanket of a dinner.

The title may make it sound a little earnest, but that’s the great thing about this dish: you can feel, with the dark green vegetables and the oily fish, that you’re doing something good and sensible for yourself, but it’s also rich and velvety enough to be satisfying and to not feel wrong, on a bleak January day. It’s a winner, all round.

Smoked mackerel, broccoli and spinach bake  Serves 3 generously, or 4 with bread/potatoes on the side

I should admit that the original title, smoked mackerel and chard bake with a crunchy top, is much more appealing than mine. But I didn’t have any chard, so I couldn’t exactly call it that. Instead of half broccoli and half chard, I used broccoli and spinach with a leek for good measure; it’s nice to have the greens, but I imagine this recipe would be quite forgiving of any vegetables you want to throw at it. The addition of lemon, mustard and nutmeg to the white sauce adds a lift of interest and stops this being too retro-bland.

400g chard or spinach (I used frozen leaf spinach)
400g broccoli (one average sized head)
1 leek (optional)
350-400ml chicken or vegetable stock
50g butter
60g plain flour
100ml semi-skimmed milk
juice of 1/2 lemon (1 tbsp)
1 dsp wholegrain mustard
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
black pepper
200g smoked mackerel (about 2 fillets)
100g breadcrumbs
100g mature manchego, parmesan or any strong, hard cheese (I actually used 75g because I balked at using so much of my parmesan in one dish)

Wash and chop the vegetables. If using the leek, slice it thickly and rinse thoroughly in a colander to get rid of any dirt lurking between the layers. If using chard or fresh spinach, wash and slice into ribbons. Separate the broccoli into small florets, chopping the stalk separately into 2cm chunks (you might need to peel the outer layer of stalk if it’s particularly big and thick).

Boil water to a depth of about 2cm in a large pan and cook the broccoli, leek and frozen spinach for 5-7 minutes with the lid on. If using chard or non-frozen spinach, add after the first few minutes of cooking the broccoli. The vegetables should be tender, but not too soft as they’re going into the oven later. Remove them with tongs (you want to keep the cooking water) and pile into a baking dish or casserole.

Preheat the oven to 150c. Have the stock ready for the white sauce. Melt the butter in a medium-sized pan over a medium heat. Whsen it has melted, add the flour and whisk together, stirring frequently for a few minutes to cook out the flour. At this point it should smell toasty and delicious, and also a bit like chicken nuggets (though that might just be me). Add the leftover vegetable cooking liquid and the stock, whisking to remove any lumps. Gradually add the milk, whisking, and continue to cook for 5 minutes. It should be creamy and thick enough to coat the vegetables but not stodgy. Add the lemon juice, mustard, nutmeg and pepper and check the balance of flavour. You shouldn’t need salt as the fish and cheese are pretty salty already, and even I thought that was enough.

Peel the skin off the mackerel and tear it into chunks over the vegetables. Pour over the white sauce and mix well. Grate the cheese and mix with the breadcrumbs. Scatter this over the top of the dish and bake in the oven for 35 minutes, or until the topping has darkened and crisped.

Adapted from Rosie Lovell’s ‘Spooning With Rosie’.

Lamb with prunes, chilli, coriander and spice mix & sweet potato puree

November 2, 2009

Tom’s parents were staying in Oxford for a couple of days last week, so there was a trip to Blenheim Palace and a bike ride along the beautifully autumn lit river on the loveliest October day I have ever seen, and a trip to a local gastropub (with a newly acquired Michelin star! Thank you Anne and Richard) and there was also, on the first evening, dinner at our flat. A flick through ‘A Year In My Kitchen’ reveals many sumptuous looking things with the potential to delight guests without looking to have tried too hard (which is what you want, of course), but we settled on the lamb with prunes, chilli, coriander and spice mix, served with the sweet potato puree as suggested. For dessert: well, Tom was eating it too so obviously it had to be the chocolate tart. No matter how often I pointed plaintively to the walnut and honey tart. Or the prune and armagnac tart. Not everyone likes nuts and dried fruit in their desserts as much as me, yes, I get it.

And it was a success! Well, Tom’s mum asked for the recipe, which is generally a good sign (and I’m getting to that soon). This is, essentially, a lamb stew, with the tender meat and brothy sauce you would want and expect from such a thing, but the eastern slant gives it an added heat and depth. I got back late and ravenous and drizzled on from my yoga class on Friday and heated up some leftovers which I chucked some chopped up spinach into and poured over couscous and very restorative it was too.

The sweet potato puree was, well, OK. I generally prefer my side orders to be a bit more structured and less smooth, but it’s my own fault for being such a slave to serving suggestions. And the tart? The tart was more of a baked chocolate mousse with firm edges (making something that needs at least 2 hours to chill as an after work dessert is a risky strategy). The leftovers went in the freezer, where, um, they didn’t last long after we discovered that frozen chocolate mousse with firm edges is very tasty.

And that’s it for AYIMK. Sometimes life does insist of getting in the way of my cooking and not all books get an equally fair hearing – unfortunately for this one, it was a busy week. A shame, because it really is beautifully designed – not one but three bookmark ribbons! In different colours! – and the toolbox concept made a lot of sense. I should add that there were other recipes tackled that I didn’t manage to write up here, some of which were particularly good: baked quinces with honey, cinnamon and vanilla which I still have in the fridge, an interesting take on houmous with yoghurt, mint and those roasted spices again; some less so, including a cauliflower and gorgonzola soup I didn’t like (but then I don’t like cauliflower or smooth soups) and a lentil, cumin and red pepper soup that was just OK.



Lamb with prunes, chilli, coriander and spice mix  Serves 6

1 boned medium leg of lamb (I had about 600g meat)
1 tbsp olive oil
large bunch of coriander, washed, leaves and stems separated and stems chopped
3 red onions, peeled and finely sliced
2-3cm piece ginger, peeled and finely chopped
1 tbsp tamarind water/tamarind paste (see notes from previous recipe)
3 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
2 red chillies, with seeds, finely chopped (I used one deseeded chilli for spice-sensitive souls)
2 tbsp roasted spice mix (see previous recipe)
1 litre good chicken stock (I didn’t have any so used vegetable)
2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
3-4 bay leaves
2 cinnamon sticks
100ml tamari or soy sauce
75ml maple syrup
200g prunes (without stones)
juice of 1-2 limes

Cut the lamb into approx. 5cm pieces, trimming away any fat. Season it generously with salt and pepper. Place a large, heavy-based saucepan over a medium heat and add the olive oil. When it is very hot, brown the lamb (in batches if necessary so it isn’t crowded). Turn the meat to colour all sides but don’t move it too much. When browned, remove with a slotted spoon and set aside on a plate.

Pour off any excess fat from the pan and lower the heat. Add the onions and stir for around 5 mins until softened. Add the ginger, tamarind, garlic, chilli/es, spice mix and chopped coriander roots (you can use the leaves as a garnish). Cook for around a further 5 mins. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Add the tomatoes, bay leaves and cinnamon and bring back to the boil if necessary.

Put the meat back in the pan, cover, and turn the heat down. Cook for around 45 mins. I’ve reduced the amound of stock called for in the original recipe as I found ours too soupy and took the lid off for the last half of the cooking time – you may need to do the same to reduce the sauce to your liking.

After the 45 mins is up, the meat should be almost tender. Add the tamari, maple syrup, prunes and lime juice. You will need to use your judgment to balance the flavours as you want them – you might need more or less tamari, maple syrup or lime to get the mix of salt and sweet. Stir well, turn up the heat slightly and cook for a further 30 mins. Before serving scatter coriander leaves over if you like, and serve with sweet potato puree and salad, or wilt some spinach into the sauce and serve with rice, couscous or potatoes.

Sweet potato puree with tamari, maple syrup and chilli  Serves 4

2 large sweet potatoes (about 750g)
1 small red chilli, halved, with seeds (I used a tiny pinch of cayenne pepper – see spice-sensitive, above)
small bunch of coriander, washed
50g butter
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp tamari or soy sauce
2 tbsp maple syrup

Peel the sweet potatoes and chop into rough chunks, then place in a saucepan with the chilli (if using). Cover with cold water, add a pinch of salt, and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 15 mins until very soft and drain.

Put the cooked sweet potatoes in a blender. Add the coriander (leaves and stems), butter, olive oil, tamari, maple syrup and cayenne (if using). Puree until very smooth. Taste and adjust the seasoning. You can gently reheat this if it cools down before you’re ready to serve.

Chocolate ‘tart’  Serves 10

butter, to grease
285g good quality dark chocolate, minimum 64% cocoa solids (Valhrona is suggested, but I’m not extremely rich so I used Divine)
565ml double cream
6 egg yolks
170g caster sugar

Preheat the oven to 130c. Butter a 25cm tart tin (my biggest tin was 23cm so I used that). Break up the chocolate into small pieces and place in a medium sized bowl over a saucepan of simmering water, making sure the bowl isn’t touching the water. Allow the chocolate to melt on its own, without stirring (I don’t know why, but I obeyed in case something awful happened if I stirred). Once melted, remove from the heat and slowly stir in the cream. Allow to cool slightly.

Put the egg yolks and caster sugar in a separate large bowl and whisk for 5 mins until the mixture is pale and looks to have doubled in volume. Slowly pour on the melted chocolate, stirring gently.

Place the buttered tin on a baking tray (this makes it easier to get in and out of the oven). Pour in the chocolate mixture and bake for 40 mins until lightly set but still wobbly in the middle. I may not have left mine for quite long enough (smaller tin = thicker mixture) so perhaps err on the side of less wobbly.

Carefully remove the tart from the oven and leave to cool. Once cool, chill in the fridge for 1-2 hours. The consistency should be almost like a set mousse. Ours was chilling for about an hour and was more mousse than set…but still tasted good, if you like extremely rich chocolatey things. Which I gather most people do.

Adapted from Skye Gyngell’s ‘A Year In My Kitchen’.