Week Thirteen

This week has been rather hectic as I’ve been helping Felix to prepare to return to University; he leaves at the end of this week.  I have also been busy adding a new page to Menu Mistress – Menu Mistress @Uni! As the name suggests it will be a page for students, giving them some simple but homely recipe ideas. Last year, before Felix went off to Uni, I ordered a student cookbook for him, I was so disappointed when it arrived to see that every other recipe comprised of mince or beans in some form or another. I understand that ‘budget’ is the holy grail when you are a student, but really, there has to be some joy, how can you be expected to go from home cooked, family food to weeks of ‘budget beans’! Further research showed me that this recipe book was not alone in its advice for budget student ‘grub’, it was all a little depressing, it was as if by leaving home any taste you had for good food disappeared. So instead of giving him one of these ‘student food on a shoe string’ books, I compiled a file with some of the recipes we cooked at home, which I knew he would be able to cook and that would not break the bank, plus in some cases the leftovers could be frozen for meals in the future – very ‘on budget’! Anyway, I decided a few weeks ago (as always a little spontaneously!), that it would be a nice idea to share these ‘Uni recipes’ on Menu Mistress. In most cases I will also be sharing these recipes on my main recipe page but I will tweak them to suit student life on Menu Mistress @Uni. So, please pass on this new page to any students you know!

The idea of student budgeting must be rubbing off on me, as this week ‘Menu Two’ uses the leftovers of my first menu! The first menu is one which is extremely popular in my household, a firm family favourite – Tarragon Pot Roast Chicken. Yes, another pot roast chicken recipe – I know, I only gave you one last week with figs, but this one is very different, I promise! And, as I have said before, I do love pot roasting chicken, as once in the oven it just looks after itself, it is less fatty and messy to cook than a traditional roast, plus the juices caught in the bottom of the pot create a lovely sauce. So it really is an ideal dinner menu anytime.

Menu Two is a Chicken and Leek Risotto which, as I mentioned earlier, uses up any leftover chicken from yesterday’s pot roast! Finally, a little childish treat for you – Chocolate Crispy Cakes!  I was thinking of making a batch for Felix to take back to Uni as a ‘home from home’ treat, and I thought that they would also be a great treat for you, plus they are a great recipe to ‘kick start’ Menu Mistress @Uni! I think everyone has a fondness for these little cakes which are often served at children’s birthday parties, indeed, I picked up this recipe when Felix was just a toddler. They really shouldn’t be reserved only for children –  everyone deserves these! I use 70% cocoa dark chocolate, so in fact they are more popular with adults than children – I have even been known to serve them up in tiny cases as petit fours after a dinner party!

Tarragon Pot Roast Chicken with Garlic Green Beans (Serves 4)

This is probably one of my all-time favourite chicken recipes – have I sold it to you?!… Seriously, it is very good and is super easy; the sauce is created from the delicious juices which are caught under the chicken in the pot. Tarragon and chicken are, of course, a classic combination, so you honestly can’t go wrong with this recipe! I serve it with Garlic Green Beans, which are amazing – try them – and also with either Concetta’s Potatoes or Roast Potatoes (recipes below).

2 tablespoons chopped tarragon

1 garlic clove, crushed

50g unsalted butter, softened

1 x 1.6-1.8 kg chicken

2 teaspoons oil

150ml chicken stock

30ml white wine

1 tablespoon plain flour (gluten free if required)

1 heaped tablespoon tarragon leaves, roughly chopped

150ml double cream

  1. Mix together half the butter with the 2 tablespoons of chopped tarragon and the garlic. Season with salt and pepper and place inside the cavity of the chicken, then tie the legs together.
  2. Heat the remaining butter and the oil in a large casserole dish, and brown the chicken all over.
  3. Add the wine and chicken stock. Cover the casserole and place in a preheated oven, 200’c fan, for 1 hour 20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked.
  4. Remove the chicken to rest in a warm place, making sure that you drain any juices from it back into the pan.
  5. Skim a tablespoon of the surface fat from the cooking liquid and put it in a small bowl. Skim off any remaining fat and discard.
  6. Add the flour to the reserved fat and mix to a smooth paste.
  7. Whisk the paste into the cooking liquid over a moderate heat until the sauce boils and thickens.
  8. Strain the sauce into a clean saucepan and add the heaped tablespoon of chopped tarragon leaves, simmer for 2 minutes and then add the cream, reheating without boiling. Season with salt and pepper.
  9. Carve the chicken, serve with the sauce spooned over and with Garlic Green Beans, Concetta’s potatoes or Roast potatoes (recipes below).

Garlic Green Beans (Serves 4)

Garlic Green Beans

This is a delicious recipe for beans, and despite the amount of garlic the recipe calls for, the flavour is not overpowering. I found this recipe in David Lebovitz’s cookbook ‘My Paris Kitchen’, I love French cooking, so this is a favourite book of mine, not only for the recipes but for the Parisian tales he shares. The recipe in French is Haricot Verts au Beurre d’Escargot (beans with snail butter!), apparently it refers to the butter mixed with copious amounts of garlic which normally dress the popular French dish of snails!

450g green beans

55g unsalted butter

3 tablespoons crushed garlic

30g flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

1 teaspoon sea salt

Black pepper

Half a lemon

  1. Cook the beans for about 4 minutes in boiling water until just tender.
  2. Melt the butter in a small frying pan, add the garlic, cook for a few minutes until it just begins to brown. Stir in the parsley, salt and a few grinds of black pepper.
  3. Add the beans to the pan, stir so that they are beautifully covered in this delicious ‘snail butter’, and squeeze over a few drops of lemon juice to taste.

A Staple Side Dish – Concetta’s Potatoes (Serves 4)

Concetta’s Potatoes

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

Olive oil

  1. Peel and slice the potatoes, and parboil in boiling water for 4 minutes.
  2. 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.
  3. Place in a preheated oven, 200’c fan, for 35-40 minutes until crispy and well browned.

A Staple Side Dish – Perfect Roast Potatoes (Serves 4)

Perfect Roast Potatoes

Everybody has their favourite roast potato recipe, I must admit, that having tried various recipes I have always returned to the one I found years ago in Delia Smith’s ‘Winter Collection Cookbook’ – you can’t beat it in my opinion. I use either olive oil or goose fat (I buy it in jars), depending on my mood. The olive oil gives a lighter, cleaner taste, whereas the goose fat has a richer flavour – both crisp up the potatoes equally well.

1.8kg Maris Piper or other floury, roasting potatoes

110g olive oil or goose fat (see note above)

Sea salt

  1. Put the oil/fat in the roasting tin and place in the oven, 190’c fan, on the highest shelf so that the oil preheats whilst you prepare the potatoes.
  2. Peel the potatoes and cut into evenly sized pieces.
  3. Place the potatoes in a saucepan, cover with boiling water and add the salt. Simmer for 10 minutes until the outer edge of the potatoes is fluffy – test with the points of a fork.
  4. Drain the potatoes well and return to the saucepan. Place a lid over the pan and shake it vigorously. By shaking the potatoes in the saucepan in this way the cooked edges will become floury and fluffy – perfect for crisping up in the oven.
  5. Remove the roasting tin from the oven and place the potatoes in the hot fat – careful as the oil may spit! Baste them well and return to the oven for about 40 minutes until they are golden brown and crisped.
  6. Sprinkle with salt and serve straightaway – do not allow them to sit around otherwise they will loose their crunch (if they are cooked before you are ready, turn off the oven and leave them inside – but with caution, they don’t like to wait!)

 Leek and Chicken Risotto (Serves 4-6)

This is a fantastic recipe for using up leftover chicken. It is a lovely unctuous, satisfying supper dish. The recipe originally called for twice as much cheese but I really think that it overpowered the flavours of the dish so I have halved the amount and suggested that you sprinkle over more cheese at the table. As I like this risotto to be more substantial, I have doubled the amount of chicken the recipe originally called for –  but feel free to reduce or increase the amount to taste (and depending on the amount of leftover chicken you have!). This recipe is taken from Rachel Allen’s cookbook ‘Recipes From My Mother’, as the name suggests it contains lots of homely recipes.

1.5 litres chicken stock

25g unsalted butter

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium leek, chopped

500g risotto rice, such as Carnaroli or Arborio

75ml dry white wine

40g Parmesan Cheese, finely grated plus more to serve (see note above)

2-3 generous handfuls of leftover roast chicken, chopped (see note above)

Juice of ½ lemon, or to taste

2 tablespoons of parsley

1-2 teaspoons chopped thyme

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Pour the stock into a saucepan and bring to the boil, then turn down the heat to keep it at a gentle simmer.
  2. Meanwhile melt the butter and oil in a large pan – I like to use a deep frying/sauté pan. Add the leeks and season with salt and pepper, cover and sweat gently until soft (about 5 minutes).
  3. Add the rice, stirring to coat it in the oil. Then add the wine, turn up the heat and let it bubble to evaporate (about 2 minutes).
  4. Lower the heat and now add a ladle of the hot stock, stirring continuously until it has evaporated. Continue to add ladle after ladle in the same manner until the rice is cooked and it has a creamy consistency. It should take around 16-18 minutes.
  5. When you are happy with the texture (the rice should be al dente, retaining a little bite), stir in the cheese, chicken, parsley, thyme and some lemon juice to taste. Check the seasoning and serve with more cheese sprinkled over according to your individual tastes.

Chocolate Crispy Cakes

Chocolate Crispy Cakes – The Adult Version!

An all-time favourite in my house, these were the staple children’s birthday party food when my son, Felix, was a toddler, they really shouldn’t be reserved only for children – everyone deserves these! I make mine with Lindt 70% cocoa chocolate, which gives them a more adult flavour, they are certainly not a childish treat – I have been known to serve mini ones as petit fours after dinner parties!

50g unsalted butter

4 tablespoons golden syrup

100g dark chocolate (I use Lindt Excellence 70% Cocoa Dark Chocolate)

75g cornflakes

  1. Gently melt the butter, syrup and chocolate in a bowl suspended over a pan of barely simmering water (a bain marie).
  2. Stir in the cornflakes.
  3. Spoon the mixture into cupcake cases (or smaller ones to make petit fours!), or if you don’t have cases, just spoon large spoonfuls onto a buttered baking tray, and place in the fridge until set.

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