Week One Recipes

Cooking has always been something I have enjoyed, I own over 150 cookbooks, some are well thumbed whilst others collect dust on the shelves, I can’t bear to get rid of any cookbook, just in case one day I might use it for that one obscure recipe; a ray of light on a rainy day!

When our lives changed radically at the end of March with the arrival of the unknown and lockdown, it was only natural that cooking would offer me a sense of control over the situation. I am the first to admit that I like routine and perhaps, yes, I am a little bit of a control freak(!), hence why the orderly fashion of a recipe is something that I find soothing. I am not one of those fortunate cooks who can throw something together by looking at the contents of their fridge, I need a recipe, a plan to work with, and then I organise my fridge around the recipe. I think that this orderly fashion complements lockdown – these days we can’t just pop out to the shops on a whim, as social distancing and the need to queue makes us think twice, so in fact it makes sense to plan ahead and be organised.

After a few of weeks in lockdown one of the resounding complaints I heard from my friends was that they were fed up with the continuous demand of cooking daily, the knowledge that they couldn’t escape to a local restaurant if they chose to, seemed to make the chore of cooking a greater burden. They were constantly having to think about the next meal and were slipping into the habit of churning out the same old family favourites, they were feeling uninspired, and most of all bored with their meals. When I admitted, rather proudly, that I had hardly duplicated the same meal in the last three weeks, they were naturally surprised. It seems that my controlling nature is suited to lockdown cooking, with more time on my hands I enjoy searching through my many cookbooks for new recipes, I get a great sense of satisfaction when I have a week of new menus in front of me (and only one shopping list). I never aimed to cook a different meal every day for almost eight weeks, it just happened purely because it gave me a sense of comfort over this most uncontrolled scenario which is effecting all of our lives.

A few friends have asked me to share some of the recipes I have been cooking, to help them out of their ‘rut’, thus the idea of this blog transpired. I don’t have the demands of a job or young children, so I do have the time to research new menus for the week. I thought that by sharing them perhaps I can make someone else’s life a little easier by giving them one less thing to think about. Lockdown or no lockdown, these recipes could offer your home cooking the make-over it needs.

The idea is to share two or three new recipes a week along with their shopping list, all you have to do is add the ingredients to your shopping trolley and follow the recipes. You can still cook a few of your family favourites but also inject some fresh flavours to your week with these recipes which I have tried and tested. For a couple of days of the week, the decision of what’s for dinner is made for you. This blog is essentially for people who love food but don’t have the time, energy or patience to trawl through cookbooks to find that winning recipe – that’s the job of Menu Mistress!

Menu One

Chargrilled Lemon & Thyme Chicken with Baby Roast Potatoes and a Green Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette (Serves 4)

The fresh flavours of this first dinner recipe are perfect for the season right now. It is important to marinate the chicken before cooking it as it really does improve the flavour – overnight would be the best option. On the day you’re eating it, start by cooking the baby roast potatoes and preparing the salad/dressing, then 10-15 minutes before the potatoes are ready, cook the meat. I prefer to cook the chicken on a griddle pan as it gives a lovely crispy, chargrill effect however if you don’t have one, a regular frying pan works. This dinner is courtesy of two of my favourite cookery book writers, Diana Henry and Delia Smith. The chicken is from Diana Henry’s ‘ Pure, Simple Cooking’, I have a few of her cookbooks so no doubt you will see her name cropping up again soon on this blog. The potatoes are a classic recipe from Delia Smith (a blast from the past!), a cookery writer who never disappoints!

At the beginning of lockdown I found it difficult to find chicken thighs at my butchers, but I discovered an abundance of them online from Fosse Meadows and from Coombe Farm Organic, I would recommend both of these websites for high quality meat – I tried both the chicken and duck (breast). Coombe Farm Organic meat is delivered frozen. To tell you the truth I was always a bit of a snob about freezing meat, assuming that it would impair the flavour, but during lockdown I have had to freeze it and it has not effected the flavour at all, so I will probably continue to keep a few cuts frozen in the future. I think that the most important factor is to buy it from a reputable source.

Chargrilled Chicken with Lemon and Thyme (serves 4)

8 boneless chicken thighs, skin on (if you buy from a butcher ask him to bone them for you)

60ml olive oil

chopped leaves from about 10 generous sprigs of thyme

sea salt and black pepper

juice of 1 lemon

lemon wedges to serve

  1. Flatten out the chicken thighs and make some slits on them. Rub with the olive oil and pat on the thyme leaves. Cover and leave to marinate in the fridge overnight or for a couple of hours.
  2. Heat a griddle pan (or a frying pan) until it is really hot. Season the chicken and put on the pan, skin side down. Let it sizzle for about 2 minutes then lower the temperature and continue to cook until the thighs are cooked through – turning half way through, so that both sides are well browned.
  3. Pour over the lemon juice and serve immediately with the baby roast potatoes and the green salad dressed with the lemon vinaigrette.

Baby Roast Potatoes with Garlic and Rosemary (serves 4-6)

900g unpeeled new potatoes washed and cut roughly into 1cm cubes

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary leaves, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

2 tablespoons of olive oil

sea salt and black pepper

  1. Preheat the oven 200’c fan. Put the olive oil in a roasting tin and place in the oven to heat up.
  2. Place the potatoes in a clean tea towel and dry them thoroughly.
  3. Remove tin from the oven and carefully slide the potatoes into the hot fat. Sprinkle over the garlic and rosemary then stir around.
  4. Cook in the oven for 30-40 minutes.
  5. Season with salt and pepper before serving.

Green Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette

Make up a salad as desired and dress with this lemon vinaigrette:

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

finely grated zest and juice of half unwaxed lemon

pinch of sugar

sea salt and black pepper

  1. Whisk all the ingredients together.

Menu Two

Crab and Sweetcorn Chowder with Oatmeal Bread (Serves 4)

I must admit to cooking this recipe more than once during lockdown, as not only is it a delicious family favourite but it is also super easy to cook and deceptively filling! A definite winner in my humble opinion. I suggest you serve it with some fresh crusty bread (and butter), as I am gluten free I can’t eat the bread so instead I make a gluten free oatmeal bread. Oatmeal bread is a revelation, even my husband, Nick, a true gluten glutton likes it and often tries to nab a slice with his chowder despite ‘his’ bread being on the table. It only takes 5 minutes to prepare then an hour in the oven. Serve it warm from the oven or toasted; I often slice it up and freeze it, so that it can be quickly toasted from frozen. Both these recipes are from Rachel Allen’s cookbook ‘Recipes from My Mother’ – as the name suggests, this is a book with lots of comforting recipes.

Crab and Sweetcorn Chowder (serves 4)

I used to buy the fresh crabmeat from my fishmonger but I have since discovered a fresh brand available in supermarkets called ‘Seafood & Eat it’ (great name!), which is very good, they sell it in 100g packs, one is pure white crab meat and the other is ‘fifty-fifty’ – half white, half brown, I find mixing these two packs gives the soup a fuller flavour. I actually use tinned, unsweetened corn for this recipe as opposed to frozen corn kernels, as I find that they have a softer texture and are sweeter, which I think works well with this particular recipe. I use fresh stock bought from the supermarket, ‘TRUEfoods’ chicken stock is very good if you can get it.

30g unsalted butter

200g onions, diced

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

300g potatoes, diced

600ml chicken stock (see note above)

200ml milk

200g sweetcorn kernels (see note above)

200g fresh crabmeat (I usually use 150g white/ 50g brown – see note above)

pinch of cayenne pepper

1 tablespoon of lemon juice

2 tablespoons of chopped parsley

2 teaspoons of chopped tarragon

50ml of double cream

sea salt and black pepper

  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan over a gentle heat, add the onions and garlic with the salt and pepper. Cover and allow to sweat until soft but not coloured.
  2. Add the potatoes and cook for a further 5-10 minutes stirring occasionally so that they don’t brown.
  3. Add the stock, sweetcorn and milk, bring to the boil then reduce the heat and simmer until the potatoes are cooked through and are just beginning to thicken the soup.
  4. Finally, add the crabmeat, cayenne pepper, lemon juice, chopped herbs and cream. Check the seasoning and bring back to a gentle simmer, to heat through.
  5. Serve with lots of bread or the oatmeal bread (recipe below)

Oatmeal Bread

425g rolled oats

A scant teaspoon of sea salt

2 teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda

2 tablespoons of mixed seeds

1 egg

500g natural yogurt

  1. Preheat oven to 200’c fan. Line a 900g/1Ib loaf tin with baking parchment.
  2. Mix together the oats, salt, bicarbonate of soda and mixed seeds.
  3. Whisk the egg into the yogurt. Pour this mixture into the dry ingredients and mix well.
  4. Scoop the dough into the tin and bake for 50 minutes.
  5. Turn out of the tin and bake the loaf for a further 10 minutes. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

Menu Three

Lamb Chops with Tarragon Green Beans and Shallot Chutney served with Buttered New Potatoes (Serves 4)

These lamb chops are cooked on a griddle pan, but you can use a regular frying pan. The tangy chutney complements the lamb beautifully; it really is a winning combination. This recipe is from Marcus Wareing’s book ‘Marcus at Home’, despite being a Michelin starred, super chef, his recipes in this book (as the name suggests), are mostly straightforward and of course tasty! I have replaced the minted green beans that he suggests with tarragon green beans (courtesy of ‘Leiths How to Cook’ book), as I think that they work better with the chutney, and are extremely easy to make!

Lamb Chops with Shallot Chutney (Serves 4)

8 lamb loin chops

olive oil

sea salt and black pepper

For The Shallot Chutney:

3 large echalion shallots, chopped

200ml malt vinegar, plus 1 tablespoon

50g capers

30g caster sugar

2 teaspoons nigella seeds(optional)

  1. To make the shallot chutney, put the shallots, 200ml vinegar, capers, caster sugar, nigella seeds (optional) and 75ml of water in a saucepan. Bring to the boil and reduce until there is no liquid remaining. Finally stir in the remaining 1 tablespoon of vinegar.
  2. Heat the griddle pan (or frying pan) until very hot. Brush the lamb chops with oil and season with salt and pepper. First place the chops in the pan on their fat-side, lean them against each other for support. Cook for 4-5 minutes until the fat renders and becomes crisp.
  3. Lay the chops on their sides and cook 3-5 minutes on each side, basting with the rendered fat. Remove and allow to rest for 5 minutes.
  4. Serve with the tarragon green beans, some buttered new potatoes and drizzle the shallot chutney over the top.

Tarragon Green Beans (serves 4)

250g fine green beans

10g butter

1/2 clove of garlic, crushed

2 tablespoons tarragon, chopped

sea salt and black pepper

  1. Top the beans, place in salted boiling water and cook for about 4 minutes until they are nearly tender but still have ‘bite’.
  2. Meanwhile melt the butter and fry the garlic until lightly golden.
  3. Add the drained beans to the butter and garlic, stir in the tarragon and season before serving.

5 thoughts on “Week One Recipes

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