Week Seventeen

Those of you who read my blog regularly will know that when I’m cooking, I often like to play music – hence my MenuMusic page where, for fun, I share my playlists. In addition to music I like to listen to podcasts, unsurprisingly among my favourites are those with a focus on food! This week I’ve been catching up on some past episodes of ‘Table Manners’.

This podcast is hosted by a mother and daughter team who cook a meal for their celebrity guest; guests that I have particularly enjoyed listening to include George Alagiah, Jo Brand and Ellie Goulding. Over their dinner, guests talk about their food preferences, and most importantly what they would choose for their final meal before being cast off on a desert island. This concept of the ‘last supper’ is a popular theme; another podcast which I enjoy, ‘Desert Island Dishes’, poses the same question. It always intrigues me how the guests can easily answer the question, as when I imagine myself posed with that same question, I really struggle to make any definite decision – I have so many favourite dishes, and my preference for one in particular depends purely on my mood. For instance if I’m in the hot Italian sun, besides the sea, I would almost definitely choose a Spaghetti Vongole, but on another day, perhaps in the countryside when the weather is cold and grey, I would choose Venison with Celeriac Mash and Red Cabbage. Another deciding factor is whether I would be cooking the dish or whether I would be eating out in a restaurant. Decisions, decisions!

One of this week’s menus, Pork Chops with Pears & Crackling, would in fact be a dish which if…the weather was autumnal, like it is now, and I was cooking my ‘last supper’ at home, would be high on my shortlist! This week’s other two menus are also rather comforting. Menu Two is Cod with Lentils, the lentils really add a pleasing meaty flavour to this otherwise light fish dish. The leftover lentils are delicious served for lunch the next day, either as they are, as a hearty, thick soup or blended for a smoother consistency. Finally, a recipe which I will be also sharing on my MenuMistress@Uni page as everyone needs these ‘Emergency Chocolate Brownies’! This Brownie recipe is by Nigella Lawson it makes a small  portion for those days when you need a quick chocolate fix!…come to think of it, they would be great to stowaway with me on that desert island!..

Menu One

Pork Chops with Pears & Crackling Served with Mashed Potato and Tenderstem Broccoli (Serves 4)

This is one of our family’s favourites, a real ‘hug on a plate’ – a beautiful creamy dish. I found the recipe years ago in a magazine, the cutting is now rather dog-eared, as I’ve cooked it so many times! The crackling, which is made from the rind of the chops, is my personal addition to the recipe and one which, I must admit, is one of my more brilliant ideas(!); it is really worth making as it makes this dish extra special. I like to serve this with my ‘favourite’ mashed potato or, if I’m feeling a little lazy, jacket potatoes, and for some greenery I like tenderstem broccoli with lemon butter and almonds (all recipes are below).

1-2 tablespoons of olive oil

4 pork chops

4 bushy sprigs of thyme, leaves picked and chopped

2 medium pears

15g butter

200ml dry cider

150ml double cream

Sea salt and Black pepper

For the Crackling

1-2 tablespoons malt vinegar

Sea salt

  1. First of all make the crackling: cut off the rind from the chops. Score the rinds a couple of times. Pour boiling water over each piece, dry it, and sprinkle over the malt vinegar, rubbing it in, finally sprinkle with salt. Leave to one side for 30 minutes. After 30 minutes, place on a baking tray and cook in the oven, 200’c, for 30 minutes until crisp.
  2. Meanwhile, lightly oil the chops, sprinkle over the thyme and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Halve and core the pears, cut into large dice. Melt the butter in a frying pan and cook the diced pear until golden and slightly caramelised on each side. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  4. In the same pan brown the chops on each side over a moderate heat. When browned place on a baking tray and cook in the oven, 200’c, for 10 minutes.
  5. Meanwhile, deglaze the frying pan with the cider, stirring to dissolve any sticky residue that the chops have left behind. Boil and reduce the cider for 3-4 minutes.
  6. Add the cream, whisk lightly to mix in and allow to bubble down for a minute or so.
  7. Return the chops and the pears to the pan to reheat everything. Check the seasoning. Serve with the crackling, mashed potato or jacket potatoes and tenderstem broccoli (recipes below).

Click here to see the video of the crackling being made!

Favourite’ Mashed Potato (Serves 4)

There are numerous recipes for mashed potato, and yes, I have tried many, but this one is probably my favourite. It actually doesn’t contain any butter, which makes me feel that it could be healthy, although admittedly it does contain double cream! Don’t be put off by the garlic, you really can’t taste it, it just enhances the flavour of the potato. I must admit I ‘cheat’ when it comes to mashing, I am fortunate to have an amazing kitchen appliance, a Thermomix, this is a serious piece of kitchen kit; I can actually steam my potatoes in it and then mash them in seconds. If you don’t have a Thermomix you can either mash by hand, however,  for an easier option I would recommend doing as Delia Smith suggests in her ‘Winter Cookbook’ – whisk them with an electric hand whisk. When whisking them you do have to be careful – make sure that the potatoes are absolutely cooked, otherwise they will go gluey. Start off with the speed slow to break up the potatoes and then increase to a high speed to quickly whip them until smooth – don’t do it for too long, as again, they will go gluey, which is not good!

1kg potatoes (floury, such as Maris Piper)

100ml full-fat milk

100ml double cream

2 cloves garlic, sliced

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Peel the potatoes and cut into even sized chunks. Steam until completely cooked through.
  2. Put the milk, cream and garlic in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat.
  3. Mash the potatoes (see note above) adding the milk mixture a little at a time. Season well with salt and pepper.

Perfect Jacket Potatoes (Serves 4)

Perfect Jacket Potatoes

I find that by lightly oiling the potatoes with olive oil before baking them, really helps crisp up the skins.

4 large baking potatoes

Olive oil

Sea salt

Butter to serve

  1. Prick the skins of the potatoes lightly with a fork. Using a piece of kitchen roll lightly wipe them over with some olive oil and then sprinkle with salt.
  2. Place directly on the shelf of a preheated oven, 200’c, and cook for 1 hour to 1 hour 15 minutes, until the skins are crisp and the potato inside is deliciously fluffy!
  3. Serve with a knob of butter.

Tenderstem Broccoli with Lemon Butter and Almonds (Serves 4)

Tenderstem Broccoli with Lemon Butter & Almonds

This is a lovely fresh recipe which really takes tenderstem broccoli to another level.

200g Tenderstem Broccoli

20g unsalted butter

Juice of half a lemon

A generous handful of flaked almonds

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. First of all put the flaked almonds in a small, dry frying pan, place over a moderate heat, stirring, until the almonds are browned – toasted. Remove to a plate.
  2. Steam the tenderstem broccoli for about 4 minutes until just cooked.
  3. Melt the butter in  a small frying pan and add the lemon juice, stirring well.
  4. Add the tenderstem broccoli, stirring to give it a good coating of the butter mixture, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the reserved toasted almonds.

Menu Two

Cod with Braised Lentils and Prosciutto (Serves 4)

This is another recipe form J.Sheekey’s cookbook ‘Fish’ – it really is worth investing in this book as it has some great, easy recipes. The portion of lentils is very generous and you will probably have leftovers – which are great for lunch the next day as a soup – either as they are or if you want them smoother you could blend them. One of the reasons I love this recipe is that it gives me a good lunch the next day! In fact the lentil recipe is so good that I will be posting  it on my Side Dishes page, as they are great with other dishes, such as sausages.

4 slices of prosciutto

1 tablespoon sunflower oil

4 cod fillets, about 180g each

For the Lentils

250g puy lentils

40ml extra virgin olive oil

100g cubed pancetta

1 onion, finely diced

1 carrot, finely diced

1 leek, finely diced

2 cloves garlic, crushed

2 sprigs thyme, leaves picked and chopped

2 sprigs rosemary, leaves picked and chopped

1 litre chicken stock

30g unsalted butter

½ bunch of parsley, chopped

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. If you have time and remember, soak the lentils in cold water for an hour before you cook them. The recipe calls for this, but these days most puy lentils (I use ‘Merchant Gourmet’) don’t require soaking, but there is a theory that they are more digestible if soaked?!…
  2. Spread the prosciutto out on a baking tray and place in a preheated oven, 160’c, for about 20 minutes until crisp – keep an eye on them as you don’t want them to burn!
  3. Pour 20ml of the olive oil into a heavy bottomed saucepan and gently cook the cubed pancetta, onion, carrot, leek, celery, garlic, thyme and rosemary for 5 minutes.
  4. Add the lentils (drained if you soaked them), stir, then add the chicken stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for about 20 minutes until they are soft to toast – not too mushy. The consistency should be sauce like.
  5. Heat a frying pan with the sunflower oil. Season the cod and gently cook skin side down for 5 minutes. Turn over and cook for a further 4 minutes.
  6. To serve, reheat the lentils and gently stir in the butter and parsley, check the seasoning. Spoon the lentils onto plates, place the cod on top and garnish with the crispy prosciutto – delicious!!

Menu  Three

Emergency Chocolate Brownies (2 – 4 )

This is a brilliant recipe from Nigella Lawson – only she could have come up with the idea of ‘Emergency Brownies’ – the idea of a small batch for those days when you urgently need a chocolate fix!  This recipe makes 2 very generous brownies, so on a good day you’ll get 4!

This recipe is cooked in a foil appox. 18 x 11 x 5cm, so there is no need to line or grease it!

50g unsalted butter, softened

50g soft light brown sugar

1 tablespoon golden syrup (or maple syrup)

3 tablespoons plain flour, gluten free if required

3 tablespoons cocoa powder (I use Green&Blacks)

¼ teaspoon sea salt

1 large egg

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

50g walnut pieces (optional)

50g chocolate chips (plain or milk)

1 x foil tin approx. 18 x 11 x 5cm

  1. Put the butter, sugar and golden syrup into a small saucepan and gently heat, stirring, until the butter is melted and the sugar has dissolved. Remove from the heat.
  2. Mix together the flour, cocoa and salt, then beat into the butter mixture in the pan, until smooth.
  3. Whisk the egg with the vanilla and then stir it thoroughly into the pan mixture. Finally fold in the chocolate chips and walnut pieces (if using).
  4. Pour the mixture into the foil tin.
  5. Bake in a preheated oven, 170’c/ 150’c Fan, for 15-20 minutes until it is beginning to come away from the sides and the top has dried a little around the edges.
  6. Transfer to a wire rack in the tin and leave to cool for 20-30 minutes.

*Click here to see the video of this Brownie recipe!

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