Let’s Start Cooking!…

(All Recipes have Gluten-Free Options)

Welcome to Menu Mistress…

I love cookbooks and have an extensive collection! The idea of Menu Mistress is to share recipes from these books, that I have tried and tested. All you have to do is add the ingredients to your shopping list and follow the recipes, thus injecting some fresh flavours into your home cooking. This blog is essentially for people who love food but don’t have the time, energy or patience to find that winning recipe – that’s the job of Menu Mistress!…

(Recipes are updated every week – sign up at the bottom of this page to receive a weekly reminder!)

Tuesday Treat

Italian Old Fashioned (Serves 1)

Seeing as I’m gearing up for a short break in Italy, I thought I should share this cocktail! When I mentioned this recipe to a friend recently, he asked what was Italian about it, he had a point as neither Cointreau or brandy are particularly ‘Italian’. However, I first tasted this cocktail at an Italian restaurant and they made it with Italian brandy, hence its name but you can of course make it with any brandy; the smoother the better. The classic ‘Old Fashioned’ (recipe here) is a favourite of mine but this version with brandy instead of bourbon and a good shot of Cointreau is hot on its heels…

40ml brandy

20ml Cointreau

A couple of dashes of Angostura bitters

Orange peel to garnish

Ice cubes

  1. Place the brandy, Cointreau and angostura bitters in a glass.  Hold the orange peel over the glass and squeeze it ‘to express the oils’ and then drop it into the glass, give everything a stir.
  2. Add a few ice cubes and stir again and serve.

(Due to my travels in Italy, Menu Mistress will be taking a break next week, we will be back Wednesday 5th April!…)

‘Blast From the Past Recipe’

Pasta alla Puttanesca (Serves 4)

For this month’s ‘Blast From the Past’, I thought I’d revisit a classic Italian pasta recipe. Pasta alla Puttanesca is not only delicious but incredibly simple to make. There are various versions of this pasta sauce, but I particularly like this one from Gennaro Contaldo; it is a lovely thick sauce with just the right amount salt from the anchovies. It ‘s another recipe which I’ve taken from one of my favourite cookbooks, ‘Cook: A Year in the Kitchen with Britain’s Favourite Chefs’, which has numerous recipes from different chefsincluding Gennaro Contaldo.

6 tablespoons olive oil

4 cloves garlic, peeled, left whole and crushed with the flat blade of a knife

1 small red chilli, finely chopped

6 anchovy fillets

35 black olives, stoned and sliced in half

2 tablespoon capers

300g tinned chopped tomatoes

1 teaspoon dried oregano

A large handful parsley, chopped

400g linguine or spaghetti (gluten free if required)

Salt to taste

  1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan, add the garlic, chilli and anchovy fillets. Fry until the anchovies have melted and the garlic is golden brown.
  2. Add the olives and capers, stir-fry for a minute. Then add the tomatoes, oregano and parsley.
  3. Lower the heat, cover with a lid and simmer gently for 20 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile cook the pasta according to the packet instructions, until al dente.
  5. Drain the pasta and add to the sauce, stir well so that the pasta absorbs the flavours of the sauce – if you feel that the sauce is too dry add a tablespoon or two of hot pasta water.
  6. Serve immediately.

Tuesday Treat

Chocolate & Amaretto Cake

This is no ordinary chocolate cake, it’s particularly indulgent; heaven for chocoholics! It is, needless to say, absolutely delicious – it has a fudgy consistency with Amaretti and chunks of chocolate running through it. The recipe is from Florence Knight’s cookbook ‘One’. Although it’s easy to make, it does require some time as it’s actually baked twice, but believe me it’s worth the wait… you’ll need a dollop of crème fraiche on the side to cut it’s richness!

270g dark chocolate, plus 100g

240g butter

290g Muscovado sugar

5 tablespoons water

5 eggs

115g Amaretti biscuits (gluten-free if required)

A pinch of salt

75ml Amaretto liqueur

Cocoa powder, to dust

Crème Fraiche to serve

*A 23cm round cake tin buttered and base lined with greaseproof paper

  1. Break up 270g of the chocolate and melt together with the butter in a heatproof bowl over a pan of barely simmering water.
  2. Meanwhile pour the sugar and water into a small pan over a low heat. Dissolve the sugar and bring the mixture to the boil for a couple of minutes.
  3. Remove the chocolate and butter from the heat and pour in the sugar syrup. Give it a good stir and leave to one side to cool for 10-15 minutes (you don’t want it so hot that it scrambles the eggs).
  4. While the mixture is cooling, separate the eggs and bash the Amaretti biscuits.
  5. Once the mixture has cooled, pour in the egg yolks, adding a pinch of salt and stir to combine.
  6. Whip the egg whites until they hold soft peaks. Carefully fold them through the chocolate mixture.
  7. Pour half of the batter into the prepared tin and bake in a preheated oven, 180’c fan, for 30 minutes. Leave the remaining half of the batter in the bowl, cover with cling film and keep in the fridge until needed.
  8. While the cake is baking pour the Amaretto over the crushed Amaretti and leave them to soften and absorb the liqueur. Smash up the 100g of chocolate into chunks and set aside.
  9. Remove the cake from the oven and allow to cool in the tin for 10 minutes.
  10. Scatter the Amaretti and chocolate chunks over the cooled base and spoon over the remaining cake batter. Place back in the oven for 20-30 minutes until a cocktail stick or knife tip comes out almost clean (there will be some melted chocolate over it). Remove from the oven and leave to cool in the tin.
  11. When the cake is completely cool, dust with cocoa powder, slice and serve with crème fraiche.

March 2023

I am, by my own admission a chatterbox, so it’s not surprising that I enjoy writing these little ‘intros’ to each month’s chosen recipes, however sometimes, despite my chattiness, words escape me. This month is one of those times, I’m struggling to find a conversational way to introduce March! At a loss, I’ve been looking back at what I wrote last March (and the one before that), and it seems the subject of ‘Spring’ is a favourite theme! That’s probably because, like most of us, I’m desperate to shrug off the winter. I usually have a couple of trips on the horizon – giving me hope that there is light at the end of the ‘winter’ tunnel! In fact this March I’m looking forward to my annual getaway with my Italian group – I may have mentioned before that I’ve been learning Italian for more years than I care to mention (taking one step forward, two steps back with the grammar!). I adore the Italian language, culture and of course the food, and I feel fortunate that I’m able to study with a fantastic group of friends who I would never have met if it had not been for our enthusiasm to speak Italian. Anyway, every year our lovely teacher organises a trip to one of Italy’s wonderful cities, this year it’s Padua (or Padova if you’re in Italy!). I’m looking forward to being immersed in Italian – we aren’t allowed to speak English for the whole week! So for me, spring means Italy and all its wonderful food; hence with its advent, this March I thought that I should share at least one classic Italian recipe! And on that note, I have just realised that I’ve managed to chat again and have written my intro for this month’s recipes!…

March’s recipes have some bright flavours for those lighter evenings we’re all looking forward to. Menu One is ‘Chicken with Sweet Tomatoes’, this recipe is from Jamie Oliver’s cookbook, ‘Jamie’s Dinners’, which came out in 2004; I have cooked this dish on many occasions since then. Although it may not be an authentic Italian recipe, I’m sure that Oliver took inspiration from Italy for this dish, it’s simply chicken legs slow-cooked on a bed of tomatoes with handfuls of basil and garlic – delicious! Menu Two is ‘Baked in a Bag Fillet of Fish, Peas & Leeks’. You could use any white fish fillet such as cod or haddock, either way, it’s a wonderfully fresh-tasting dish and is very easy to make! Finally, Menu Three is that classic Italian recipe that I was alluding to, ‘Aubergine Parmigiana’. With the wonderful mix of tomato, parmesan, mozzarella and aubergine, the flavours of this dish will brighten any day! Buon Appetito!

See you next week for my ‘Tuesday Treat’!…

(With spring in the air, I’ve been cooking along to ‘Music to Cook to…Menu Music Twenty Three’, this is a mix of soft rock and pop which I find strangely uplifting considering that some of the lyrics are a little ‘depressing’ – it’s perfect for a spring re-awakening!…)

Click here to go straight to this weeks Recipes

Music to Cook to….what I’ve been listening to in my kitchen!….Click on this link to listen to my playlists (listen without judgement – it’s just a bit of fun!)

Any feedback or recipe ideas? Leave your comments at the very bottom of this page… or feel free to contact me personally here!…

Have you made one of the recipes from Menu Mistress?…Why not take a photo and share it on Instagram, please mention @menumistress or tag menumistress!

A little bit of housekeeping…

To find all the recipes from my blogs go to the Recipes page, where there is a link to print them off. 

Oven Settings – All my recipes presume that you are cooking with a fan oven, increase the temperature by 20’c for conventional ovens without a fan.

‘Staple Side Dishes’ – when you see this beside a recipe, it indicates that I have previously published this side dish on Menu Mistress. I have re-published it so that you don’t have to trawl through my old recipe blogs to find it – Menu Mistress is about making your life in the kitchen easier!

Gluten-Free – I am gluten-free, so all of my recipes have gluten-free options, although I must stress that if you have an allergy please double check all ingredients. If flour is used you can substitute it with gluten-free flour (I use Dove’s Free From range) and likewise with other ingredients such as pasta or soy sauce, you can use gluten free options.

Most of the recipes on Menu Mistress are courtesy of the creativity of cookery book writers, old and new. The recipes are an ‘amuse-bouche’ for those available in the books. Please go to my Cookbooks page for more information.

Menu One

Chicken with Sweet Tomatoes (Serves 4)

This recipe is from Jamie Oliver’s cookbook, ‘Jamies’s Dinners’, which came out in 2004 and I have cooked it on many occasions since then. Although it may not be an authentic Italian recipe, I’m sure that Oliver took inspiration from Italy for this dish, it’s simply chicken legs slow-cooked on a bed of tomatoes with handfuls of basil and garlic. The skin of the chicken ends up beautifully crispy whilst the meat literally falls off the bone, meanwhile the slow roasted tomatoes create a fabulous broth – it’s all delicious! I like to add some new potatoes to the pot for or you could add cannellini beans instead – either way it makes a great ‘one-pot supper’!

4 chicken legs

A big bunch of fresh basil, leaves picked, stalks finely chopped

2 big handfuls of red and yellow cherry tomatoes, halved and ripe plum tomatoes, quartered

1 whole bulb of garlic, broken up into cloves, unpeeled

1 fresh red chilli, finely chopped

Olive oil

2 handfuls of new potatoes halved or 1 x 400g tin of cannellini beans, drained (optional – see above)

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Season the chicken pieces and put them in a casserole in on single layer. Add the basil leaves and chopped stalks, then the tomatoes. Scatter over the garlic cloves and the chopped chilli and drizzle with some olive oil (at this point you can also add the new potatoes or cannellini beans if you are using). Mix everything around, tucking the tomatoes under the chicken. Make sure that the chicken legs are skin side up.
  2. Place in a preheated oven, 180’c fan, for 1½ hours, turning the tomatoes halfway through, until the chicken skin is crisp and golden.
  3. Serve, making sure you squeeze the soft roasted garlic out of the skins!

Menu Two

Baked in a Bag’ Fillet of Fish, Peas & Leeks (Serves 4)

You could use any white fish fillet such as cod or haddock for this recipe, either way, it’s a wonderfully fresh-tasting dish and is very easy to make!

4 x white fish fillets such as haddock or cod, 150g each

60g butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

8 baby leeks, trimmed and thinly sliced

150g peas, defrosted if frozen

8 tablespoons white wine

4 teaspoons fresh dill, chopped

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Cut out 4 squares of kitchen foil, big enough to hold the fish and vegtables.
  2. Melt the butter with the olive oil in a pan over a medium heat. Add the leeks and peas and fry gently, covered by a lid, for 10 minutes.
  3. Add the wine and dill, season to taste and simmer until the liquid has evaporated.
  4. Put a quarter of the vegetables in the middle of each piece of foil. Top with a piece of fish and season. Fold over to make a loose but tightly sealed parcel.
  5. Put the parcels on a baking sheet and bake in a preheated oven, 170’c fan, for 25 minutes.
  6. Open the parcels carefully onto serving plates.

Menu Three

Aubergine Parmigiana (Serves 4)

With the wonderful mix of tomato, parmesan, mozzarella and aubergine, the flavours of this dish will brighten any day! Simply serve with a well-dressed green salad. I like to fry half of the aubergine slices and blanch the other half, in this way the parmigiana isn’t too oily yet still very tasty. Simply leave out the breadcrumbs for a gluten free option.

1kg aubergines (about four large ones)

2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for frying

3 garlic cloves, crushed

800g tinned tomatoes

150ml red wine

Pinch of sugar

½ teaspoon dried oregano

200g mozzarella, thinly sliced

100g Parmesan cheese, grated

50g dried breadcrumbs (optional)

Handful of basil leaves

Sea salt and black pepper

* A rectangular baking dish approx. 30cm x 20cm

  1. Heat the 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a pan over a medium-high heat and add the garlic. Fry for a minute before adding the tomatoes and wine. Bring to the boil, stirring and mashing the tomatoes. Add a pinch of sugar, a little seasoning and the oregano, reduce the heat and simmer for 40 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  2. Meanwhile cut the aubergines, lengthways, into thin slices (about 5mm).
  3. Pour enough oil into a frying pan to coat the bottom well and put over a medium-high heat. Fry half the aubergine slices until golden brown on both sides, working in batches and removing to drain well on kitchen roll.
  4. Put a large pan of water on to boil. When boiling add the other half of the aubergine slices and blanch for 2 minutes. Remove and drain on kitchen roll – it is important to dry them well.
  5. To assemble the parmigiana, spread a thin layer of tomato sauce over the bottom of a baking dish, followed by a layer of the fried aubergines (packing them tightly), then half of the mozzarella slices, quarter of the parmesan cheese and seasoning. For the next two layers use the blanched aubergine slices, followed by a thin layer of tomato sauce, a generous sprinkling of parmesan and seasoning (no mozzarella). Finally, for the fourth layer use the remaining fried aubergine slices, the tomato sauce, and the mozzarella slices. At this point if using breadcrumbs mix them with the remaining parmesan cheese and a little olive oil and sprinkle over the top (if not using breadcrumbs simply sprinkle over the parmesan).
  6. Bake in a preheated oven, 180’c fan, for about 30 minutes until browned and bubbling. Allow to cool slightly and sprinkle over with torn basil leaves before serving.

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40 thoughts on “Home

  1. We just made the butternut squash soup and it’s absolutely delicious! And so easy to make. It will brighten up our meals in the weeks to come. Thank you so much!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Such a good idea – just the thing when I’m lacking inspiration! Sauce Vierge was a lifesaver on a midweek evening and also did the Halibut with Bacon and Peas for a birthday dinner. Had never cooked with star anise before making the chicken with chickpeas – overall, a helpful reminder of some classics and introduction to new favourites.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Just cooked the Chicken with Lemon sauce Tanya! It was quite a simple dish but quite delicious.

    All three recipes this week look knockout.

    Keep on keeping it real!


    Liked by 1 person

  4. Lovely recipes, really enjoyed the potatoes with sage and thyme (I used fresh from the garden rather than dried) always great to have a different potato recipe. Thank you xx

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you! Yes, different potato recipes are always great to have aren’t they – glad you enjoyed this one! Another delicious tip for potatoes is to make the parsley and lemon butter from this weeks lamb chop recipe, keep it in the freezer and slice it off as needed to dress steamed potatoes 🙂


  5. Have just enjoyed the lemon chilli chicken tonight- absolutely delicious…I have a feeling that this could become a family favourite! Next on the agenda is spaghetti sauce vierge!

    Liked by 1 person

  6. I made the Chargrilled chicken last night and I was not disappointed especially with the lemon vinaigrette dressing and Baby Roast Potatoes with Garlic and Rosemary, delicious. Can’t wait to get make my next dish.

    Liked by 2 people

  7. I made the Prawn Stir fry last night and wasn’t disappointed it was easy to make with lovely flavours especially with the cucumber salad. Will definitely make it again.
    I am now looking forward making the Chargrilled chicken. Well done Menu Mistress for bringing us these lovely menus.


  8. I’m really enjoying menu mistress and the variety of the recipes. I’ve already cooked the Chargrilled Chicken and I’m looking forward to making the Prawn Stir fry this week. Thank you for sharing these menus, I’m looking forward to following others in the future.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. …just had chicken thigh recipe for dinner…delicious- swapped salad tonight for tender stem broccoli 😊


  10. These look delicious 😋
    Looking forward to the chicken pie.. all for my son
    Could we have a fish recipe next please?!


  11. Oh yes please, looking forward to the chicken pie!
    Love the look of the first menu so will try that one first.


      1. We have enjoyed both the chilli chicken thighs and the stir fry prawns. Both were a huge hit with my boys. Thank you for all the help you are giving us, it takes a lot of stress out of thinking what to cook this week. Best wishes Diana xx

        Liked by 1 person

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