I have a confession to make, this week I am not cooking at all…at this very moment Nick and I are in the Cotswolds having a mini holiday in a beautiful boutique hotel! It’s not the Italian summer holiday that I was yearning for last week, but it is an extremely good alternative! We will be spending this week in two hotels, we have chosen them both for their reputation for being a ‘foodies’ heaven, so I am hoping that next week I will be able to share with you our food heaven experience! Let’s hope, as you read this, the sun is shining for us and that we are able to enjoy some walks in the Cotswolds countryside followed by a glass of champagne, and dinner al fresco – perhaps I’m expecting too much from our British weather?!…
Anyway, being the control freak that I am, I have prepared Menu Mistress for my absence, and have had this week’s menus ‘up my sleeve’ for some time. The first menu is very unusual but very delicious, I had never cooked cucumber before coming across this recipe in a magazine a few years ago, and it was a revelation. The cucumber in this dish, complimented by dill, makes a simple chicken breast truly memorable – it will make any week day dinner seem like a very special occasion, yet, like all of Menu Mistress’s recipes, it is not too time consuming to cook during the week when time is precious. I serve this dish with plain, unadorned, green fine beans and ‘Concetta’s Potatoes’; if you read my blog last week you may recognise the name of Concetta, who is our friend and the chef at the’ bagno’ which we visit annually in Italy, these potatoes are nicknamed after her as they are one of the recipes she shared with me many years ago. They are quite simply, sliced potatoes baked with garlic, rosemary and sage until crisp. The second menu is another special treat – sea bass. It is worth cooking this dish simply for the lemon potatoes – and indeed I will be adding the recipe to my ‘staple side dishes’ as they go beautifully with other fish recipes and also with simple roast chicken. The sea bass is cooked whole, it just needs 20-30 minutes in the oven, after which you’ll have a perfect summer dinner. Finally, I’m sharing another ‘no churn’ ice-cream recipe, it is flavoured with the taste of British summer, strawberries!
So, although I’m not cooking this week, there is no excuse for you not to cook….Enjoy!
Chicken Breasts with Cucumber, Dill and Mustard Served with ‘Concetta’s Potatoes’ and Fine Green Beans (Serves 4)
I must admit that I had not come across cucumber cooked in a sauce before finding this recipe in a magazine, but it was a revelation, you must try it! It really adds a special dimension to a simple chicken breast recipe. I like to serve it with fine green beans and with ‘Concetta’s Potatoes’, these are named after our Italian friend (and chef), who gave me the recipe many years ago; they are sliced baked potatoes with garlic, rosemary and sage, alternatively steamed new potatoes go very well with this dish.
40g unsalted butter
4 skinless chicken breasts
1 teaspoon flour (use gluten free flour if required)
100ml dry, white vermouth
600ml chicken stock
175g créme fraiche
2 teaspoons grain mustard
Juice of half a lemon
A small bunch dill, chopped
Sea salt and black pepper
- Melt 25g of butter in a frying pan. Lightly brown the chicken breasts, season and sprinkle over the flour, cook for a minute and then add the vermouth, reduce by two-thirds.
- Add the stock, bring to the boil, then turn down the heat to simmer gently. Cover and cook for about 30-40 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through
- Whilst the chicken is cooking, peel the cucumber, cut it in half and deseed, then cut into slices the thickness of a pound coin.
- Fry the cucumber slices in the remaining butter. Cook quickly until they are just tender – not floppy – and tinged with gold in places. Remove to a plate.
- Once the chicken is cooked, remove from the pan, keep warm. Boil the remaining liquid until it is reduced by half and starting to look slightly syrupy. Add the crème fraiche, mustard and half the lemon juice. Cook until the sauce has thickened to the consistency of single cream.
- Return the chicken to the pan along with the cucumber and the chopped dill. Taste to adjust the seasoning – perhaps a dash more of lemon juice or mustard.
- Serve with ‘Concetta’s potatoes’ or steamed new potatoes and green fine beans.
4 large potatoes – such as Maris Piper (roasting potatoes)
1 teaspoon dried rosemary
1 teaspoon dried sage
Sea salt and black pepper
2 cloves garlic, crushed
- Peel and slice the potatoes, and parboil in boiling water for 4 minutes.
- Place in a roasting tin, sprinkle over the rosemary, sage and garlic, season with salt and black pepper and drizzle over some olive oil – mix well.
- Place in a preheated oven, 200’c fan, for 35-40mins until crispy and well browned.
Baked Sea Bass with Lemon Potatoes and a Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette (Serves 4)
This is a lovely, simple recipe which I found in a cookbook, ‘Cook; A Year in the Kitchen with Britain’s Favourite Chefs’, just as it’s title indicates, it contains many different recipes from various chefs; this particular recipe is by Bill Granger and is one that I have cooked on numerous occasions. Cooking a whole fish can seem daunting – but believe me this recipe is particularly easy! It is worth cooking this dish simply for the lemon potatoes – they are delicious, I often make them on their own to serve with simple roast chicken or other fish recipes.
*You can see the video of this fish dish being made by clicking on this link to my Instagram Page
1 whole sea bass for 4 people
1 bunch of coriander
10 spring onions
1 teaspoon chilli flakes
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon sea salt
For the Lemon Potatoes:
1 kg new potatoes (waxy potatoes)
3 tablespooons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, crushed
125ml fish or chicken stock
60ml lemon juice
100g pitted black olives, sliced (optional)
1 small bunch parsley, chopped
Sea salt and black pepper
- For the lemon potatoes, cut the unpeeled potatoes into thick slices and place in a roasting tin. Add the olive oil, garlic, stock, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and toss to combine.
- Bake in a preheated oven, 200’c fan, for 30 minutes stirring every 10 minutes
- Meanwhile put the coriander, spring onions, chilli flakes, olive oil and salt in a processor and process to make a coarse paste.
- Make 3 slashes on each side of the fish and place on a baking tray. Spread the paste over the fish rubbing it into the slashes.
- After the potatoes have cooked for 30 minutes, lower the oven temperature to 180’c and place the fish in the oven on the shelf below the potatoes.
- Bake the fish (and continue baking the potatoes) for 20 minutes or until cooked through, 5 minutes before the end of cooking add the olives and the parsley to the potatoes.
- Serve immediately
Staple Side Dish – Salad with Lemon Vinaigrette
Make up a salad as desired and dress with this lemon vinaigrette (I particularly like a green salad with sliced fennel with this fish recipe):
3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
finely grated zest and juice of half unwaxed lemon
pinch of sugar
sea salt and black pepper
- Whisk all the ingredients together.
Strawberry ‘No Churn’ Ice-Cream
Another ice-cream recipe using condensed milk, so once again super easy – no ice-cream maker needed. By roasting the strawberries the flavour becomes more intense; I have tried making it without roasting the strawberries and believe me it definitely makes a difference, so it is worth the effort!
*You can see the video of this dessert being made by clicking on this link to my Instagram Page
1kg strawberries, hulled and sliced (plus extra to serve – optional)
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 can (397g) condensed milk
500ml double cream
- Put the strawberries on a baking try lined with greaseproof paper. Sprinkle over the sugar and toss to combine, spreading them out in one layer. Place in a preheated oven, 160’c fan. Roast for 45 minutes, then stir and cook for a further 15 minutes.
- Remove from the oven and place the strawberries in a processor to blend until smooth. Leave to cool completely.
- Add the condensed milk and vanilla extract to the cooled strawberry mixture, beat with a handheld electric beater to aerate for about a minute.
- Place the cream in another bowl and beat into stiff peaks.
- Add a dollop of cream to the strawberry mixture, fold through and continue to gently add the remaining cream to combine.
- Tip the strawberry mixture into a container (with a lid). To stop ice crystals forming, cover the mixture with a sheet of greaseproof paper before putting the lid on.
- Remove from the freezer 5-10 minutes before serving to soften.