Week Fourteen

In comparison to last week, this week has been very quiet;  Felix has returned to Uni and it is just Nick and I at home – I must admit it feels a little flat! So we have been taking ourselves out to dinner for a couple of nights – I will be posting the reviews on my ‘Eating Out’ page. I have, of course, still been cooking, and thinking of new recipes for Menu Mistress, the first menu this week was inspired by the meal I had at the Wild Rabbit in August – you may remember that Nick and I had a short break in the Cotswolds, and that we were both very impressed by this restaurant owned by the Daylsford Estate in Kingham. When we visited, I enjoyed Turbot with Braised Lettuce and Peas. I loved the fresh flavours of this dish, so on my return started to search my cookbooks for a recipe which would emulate the flavours but be easy to prepare and cook during the week…I am happy to say I found a recipe which I think is a complete success, Halibut with Creamed Peas and Bacon, watch out the Wild Rabbit! This week’s second menu, Chicken with Mushrooms, Chickpeas and Tarragon Oil, is a perfect weekday supper, particularly as the evenings start to draw in, with its ‘comfort food’ flavours all cooked in one pan! For a vegetarian option, the mushroom and chickpea stew is delicious cooked without the chicken and served with the tarragon oil. Finally, I’m sharing an easy Bolognese sauce, a recipe which will also be a great addition to my new Menu Mistress @Uni page. This Bolognese sauce is one of two that I cook at home, it is the less elegant of the two, yet is very tasty, with homely, satisfying flavours – a great midweek treat! It is a recipe that I have taken and slightly tweaked, from Jamie Oliver’s ‘Happy Days with the Naked Chef’, one of his older books and one in which he looks very young, thus it makes me feel very old to own an original copy! The other Bolognese sauce that I cook is with cream so is slightly richer – I shall be sharing this one in the future!…

Menu One

Halibut with Creamed Peas & Bacon (Serves 4)

This recipe is good enough to serve at a dinner party but easy enough to serve midweek as a family meal – a winner whatever the situation! It’s from J. Sheekey’s brilliant cookbook, ‘Fish’. You could substitute the halibut for another firm fleshed white fish, such as haddock. Try to get pea shoots as they give more flavour, but if they aren’t available you can use baby gem lettuce. I would serve this dish simply with steamed new potatoes.

4 x 180g halibut fillets, skinned (or another firm fleshed white fish – ask your fishmonger)

200g peas

60g unsalted butter

1 shallot, finely chopped

50g smoked bacon, diced

50ml vegetable stock

120ml double cream

3 spring onions sliced

A handful of pea shoots (or baby gem lettuce), roughly chopped

1 lemon, cut into wedges (to serve)

A little olive oil

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Place the peas in a pan on boiling water and cook for about 4 minutes. Drain and set aside.
  2. Melt 20g of butter and gently soften the shallot with the bacon, without colouring.
  3. Add the vegetable stock and simmer until it is reduced by three quarters.
  4. Add the cream, season with salt and pepper and simmer to reduce by half.
  5. Add the peas, spring onions and pea shoots (or lettuce), and continue to simmer until the sauce is just thick enough to coat the peas. Add the remaining butter, check seasoning. Set aside and keep warm.
  6. Heat the a little olive oil in a frying pan. Season the halibut and gently cook for 5 minutes then turn over and cook for a further 4 minutes.
  7. To serve, spoon the pea sauce on plates and top with the halibut fillets. Garnish with lemon wedges and serve with steamed new potatoes.

Menu Two

Chicken with Mushrooms, Chickpeas & Tarragon Oil (Serves 4)

This simple recipe is cooked in one pan, the chickpea ‘stew’ is cooked under the chicken thighs so catches all of  their beautiful juices. I found this recipe in Nina Parker’s cookbook ‘Nina St Tropez’, a favourite book of mine. The tarragon oil it also a great dressing for salads, particularly with chicken and avocado.

For a Vegetarian Option, cook the
Chickpea and Mushroom Stew without the chicken thighs – it is delicious served with the Tarragon Oil

3 tablespoons olive oil

8 chicken thighs, skin on and bone in

3 shallots, thinly sliced

400g tinned chickpeas, drained and rinsed

400g chestnut mushrooms, halved or quartered depending on size

2 star anise

3 cloves garlic, sliced

Bunch of fresh thyme, leaves picked

For the Tarragon Oil

¾ teaspoon chopped garlic

6 tablespoons fresh tarragon leaves, chopped

12 tablespoons olive oil

6 teaspoons cider vinegar

6 teaspoons lemon juice

¾ teaspoon sugar

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan or casserole dish (with a lid). Season the chicken thighs and place in the hot pan, skin side down. Cook for about 6 minutes until golden.
  2. Remove from the pan and add the shallots, stir and cook for a minute or two, then add the mushrooms cook for another 2-3 minutes.
  3. Now add the chickpeas and the star anise, stir well before finally adding the garlic and thyme, stir again.
  4. Return the chicken to the pan, skin side up, on top of the chickpea mixture. Cover with a lid, turn down the heat to barely simmering and cook for 15 minutes.
  5. Remove the lid, and continue to cook for another 5-10 minutes until any liquid has been absorbed by the chickpeas and mushroom mixture. Check the thighs are cooked (make a cut on the underside of the thigh beside the bone to check).
  6. Meanwhile make the tarragon oil by pounding the garlic with a little salt in a mortar and pestle, then add the remaining ingredients, mixing well.
  7. Remove the star anise from the chicken and chickpeas, and  serve with tarragon oil.

Menu Three

‘Everyday’ Bolognese Sauce with Spaghetti (Serves 4-6)

This is one of two Bolognese Sauces that I cook at home; it is the slightly less elegant of the two yet is very tasty, with homely, satisfying flavours – a great midweek treat! It is from Jamie Oliver’s ‘Happy Days with the Naked Chef’ (one of his original cookbooks – he looks incredibly young in the photos!), I have slightly tweaked it over the years. I serve it with spaghetti but you could serve it with other pasta shapes.

150g cubed pancetta

Small bunch of basil, leaves picked, and stalks chopped

Olive oil

1 onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, chopped

450g minced beef

1 wineglass red wine

1 level teaspoon dried oregano

400g tin of tomatoes

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

200g tomato purée

450g spaghetti

Sea salt and black pepper

Parmesan cheese, grated, to serve

  1. In a large pan/ casserole dish that can go in the oven, fry the pancetta in a little olive oil until lightly golden.
  2. Add the onion, garlic and chopped basil stalks (not the leaves), and fry for a further 3 minutes, until softened.
  3. Add the minced beef, continue to cook for a further 2-3 minutes before adding the wine and reduce slightly.
  4. Add the oregano, both the tinned tomatoes and tomato purée, and the balsamic vinegar. Season well.
  5. Now cover with a lid (or with foil), and place in a preheated oven, 180’c. Cook for an hour and a quarter.
  6. Just before the end of the cooking time, cook your spaghetti according to the instructions on the packet, until al dente.
  7. Serve the sauce stirred through the spaghetti with the basil leaves, torn, sprinkled over and some grated parmesan cheese.

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