Ok, I’m back to reality this week; our week in the Cotswolds was very special, and was generally a ‘foodie’ success! We stayed at two boutique hotels, one was an incredible experience whilst the other, was one that I’d rather not repeat(!) – you can read more about that on my new ‘Eating Out’ page!
More than anything, after months under ‘Covid lockdown’, I appreciated the change of scenery that our break offered. I have returned home inspired, with many recipe ideas and I am now back to trying and testing recipes in my kitchen; trying to emulate the flavours of the meals I had. Naturally the food that was cooked for me last week was done so by professional chefs, so many of the recipes were rather complicated and would demand too much preparation and cooking time for a weekday meal. I want to produce the flavours of these meals but without having to spend hours in the kitchen(!), so I have started searching through my many cookbooks for recipes which will use the same combination of ingredients thus have the same beautiful flavours, but which won’t require too much time to cook. Over the coming weeks I hope to share some of these new menu ideas with you!
This week’s first menu, Lamb chops & Parsley Butter, is extremely simple to cook. Last week Nick and I shared a beautiful rack of lamb which was served with a ‘summer, white wine jus and dauphinoise potatoes,’ it was admittedly delicious, but at home when we haven’t got the time to breadcrumb a rack of lamb, make a jus and dauphinoise potatoes, a simpler recipe such as these individual lamb chops served with a parsley butter are just as gratifying as a ‘posh’ rack, and are ready in minutes! The second menu, Sole with a Crab Stuffing, is inspired by a starter and a main course that we had at Foxhill Manor, all the flavours are combined into one dish. I found this dish by coincidence in J. Sheekey’s ‘Fish’ cookbook, it is a very impressive and seemingly complicated dish yet it is incredibly easy to cook and a great ‘Fish Friday’ treat! Finally as figs are in abundance at the moment, I have decided to use them for a wonderfully quick dessert, Marsala Fried Figs with Vanilla Mascarpone – these days we are able to buy figs throughout the year, so this delicious dessert is worth remembering all year round!
Lamb Chops & Parsley Butter served on a Bed of Watercress with New Potatoes (Serves 4)
Despite the simplicity of this recipe it has lots of flavour. The watercress is an excellent accompaniment to the lamb whilst the parsley butter, with its touch of lemon juice, enhances the flavours superbly. A real midweek treat! You won’t use all the butter but it is great to have in the freezer – ready to slice and add to steamed potatoes on any occasion. This recipe calls for curly parsley rather than flat leaf, simply as it adds a little more texture and has a milder flavour, but you can use either type.
400g new potatoes
8 lamb chops
A little olive oil
100g butter, softened and cubed
A bunch of curly parsley, chopped (see note above)
Juice of ½ lemon
200g watercress, trimmed
Sea salt and black pepper
- First make the parsley butter. Place the butter in a bowl with the chopped parsley, lemon juice and seasoning, mix well. Spoon on to a sheet of cling film and roll into a log shape, place in the freezer, wrapped in the clingfilm. Do not wash up the bowl that you used for mixing the butter – you can use it to season the steamed potatoes when serving!
- Steam the potatoes for 20 minutes or so until cooked.
- Meanwhile place the watercress on your plates.
- Season the lamb chops and brush with a little olive oil, fry on a griddle pan (or in a normal frying pan) for about 2½-3 minutes each side so that they are still pink in the middle. Place the chops on the plates, on top of the watercress.
- Now take your reserved ‘butter bowl’ and place the cooked potatoes in it, mix them around so that they get a good coating of the leftover butter, then place them on the plates.
- Finally cut four slices from the parsley butter and place on top of the chops.
Plaice with Crab and Olive Stuffing served with Sautéed Spinach and Steamed New Potatoes (Serves 4)
Plaice with Crab and Olive Stuffing
This is a very impressive, elegant dish yet unbelievably easy to cook – my favourite kind of dish! The crab stuffing is the star of this recipe, any unused stuffing is equally delicious spread on toast for lunch the next day or stirred through spaghetti as a sauce. I only use crab in my stuffing, but you could cut it with fresh bread crumbs, using half crab, half breadcrumbs – which will keep the cost of the dish down. I serve this with sautéed spinach with garlic (recipe below) and steamed new potatoes. This recipe is from the London restaurant, J. Sheekey, and can be found in their cookbook ‘Fish’.
4 skinned plaice fillets
50ml white wine
1 lemon, juiced
For the stuffing:
50g unsalted butter
1 shallot, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
½ red chilli, deseeded and chopped
200g white crab meat (or 100g crab meat and 100g fresh white breadcrumbs – see note above)
30g black Kalamata black olives, chopped
½ bunch parsley, chopped (and a little extra to serve)
1 lemon, zested (use lemon from above)
Sea salt and black pepper
- For the stuffing, heat the butter in a saucepan, add the shallot, garlic and chilli and cook for 2 minutes, then, if using breadcrumbs add these and cook for a further minute.
- Remove from heat and add the crab meat, olives, lemon zest and parsley – season and mix well – if it seems a little dry add a splash of olive oil.
- Lay the plaice fillets out flat and place some stuffing in the middle of each fillet, roll the fish up from the tail end.
- Place each rolled up fillet in a baking dish. Splash the olive oil, lemon juice and white wine over the fish and place in a preheated oven, 200’c, for 15 minutes.
- Sprinkle over the remaining parsley and serve with sautéed spinach and steamed new potatoes.
Sautéed Spinach with Garlic (Serves 4)
2 large bunches of baby spinach (washed) – about 400g
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
Sea salt and black pepper
- Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the garlic and sauté for about 1 minute until the garlic is beginning to brown.
- Add the spinach, turning it over to coat in the olive oil. Place a lid over the pan and cook for 1 minute. Remove the lid and stir. Return the lid and cook for a further minute.
- The spinach should now be wilted, add a drizzle of olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and serve.
Marsala Fried Figs with Vanilla Mascarpone (Serves 4)
This must be one of the quickest desserts – perfect for a midweek treat…(and it almost feels healthy as it’s fruit!!). Like Maderia wine, Marsala wine, once opened can be kept refrigerated for some months without deteriorating, it is great to have around as just a splash will often lift a simple sauce – try it!…
200g mascarpone cheese
2 tablespoons icing sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla paste
20g unsalted butter
8 ripe figs
1-2 teaspoons honey
4 tablespoons Marsala wine
30g sliced almonds, toasted in dry frying pan (optional)
- Place the mascarpone, sugar and vanilla paste in a bowl and use an electric beater to whip for 2 minutes until light and fluffy.
- Melt the butter in a frying pan, once foaming add the figs, rounded side down. Fry for 1 minute. Add the honey and turn the figs over, fry for another minute then pour over the Marsala, allow it to bubble for a minute or so until syrupy.
- Spoon the mascarpone into bowls and top with the figs and some of the sauce. To finish sprinkle with the toasted almonds.