Week Twenty One

You may have noticed from reading my recent blogs, with their memories of my childhood Halloween and Guy Fawkes Nights, that I have been feeling rather nostalgic lately! Perhaps it’s a Covid thing – seeing students such as my own son, Felix, makes me appreciate how fortunate I was to be a student in a world free from Coronavirus. My teenage years unfolded in the 80’s and so recently, to feed my nostalgia I’ve been listening to some old 80’s soundtracks! During the last lockdown we, like a lot of people, entertained ourselves with quizzes, and I must admit one of my favourites was a light hearted one we did with my sister in which we had to guess the names of songs and artists, those from the 80’s drew on some very strong memories…for instance the opening of Wham’s ‘Club Tropicana’….the sound of a car arriving, the doors opening and the heeled footsteps walking into the party!!! Anyway, I’m digressing!!!…Food??!!…The fact is, along with my memories of the 80’s, I started thinking about my food experiences during this time, unfortunately the UK during this decade was still a little flavourless. However, it was around this time that I had my first proper cookbook, The Dairy Book of Family Cookery, I remember ordering this book from our milkman, at that time I was taking my O’level in Home Economics. I was thrilled with it, and I planned to make all the recipes(!), even at 15, although not a big eater, I loved the idea of cooking. Of course, I still have this book, and a few weeks ago I decided to look through it again to see if there was anything that I could cook today which would still be relevant. Unfortunately most of the recipes were rather dated, even though there were some traditional dishes which are still popular, the recipes which we use these days are far superior as there is a wider variety of ingredients available, for instance there is a recipe for ‘Beef Stroganoff’, but it omits the fresh dill, lemon juice and paprika(!), which are so important to the overall flavour of the dish. Anyway, I thought this week I would revisit some of the old 80’s favourites but using, of course, modern recipes. Menu One revisits the aforementioned ‘Beef Stroganoff’, but the recipe I’m sharing calls for the best ingredients (including dill, lemon and paprika!) to be quickly cooked to create a fast, flavoursome midweek treat. Menu Two is a ‘Lasagne,’ a real classic 80’s pasta dish, but this one is a far cry from the one in my old cookbook, instead it is a recipe from Michelin starred chef, Gordon Ramsay, and I must say it really is a winner.  Menu Three is Nigella Lawson’s take on the classic ‘Crumble’ recipe, ‘Crumbles in a Cup’, they are a fantastic innovation offering instant dessert kick; by keeping crumble topping in the freezer along with some quality frozen fruit, you can make up individual cups, or mugs  of crumble, as and when you need them!…It’s a great recipe for students, hence I’m also sharing it on my MenuMistress @Uni page!

Finally, a little extra treat to cheer you up over this new lockdown, the recipe for Hot Whiskey! With Lockdown we all need a little TLC, and this old Irish remedy for a cough and cold is the perfect winter warmer to snuggle down with, and it is a great way to lift ones spirits – even if you don’t have a cough or cold!…

Plus, of course I couldn’t serve up these 80’s themed menus without sharing a MenuMusic playlist of some of my favourite 80’s hits!….Perhaps you could use it to have your own 80’s music quiz during this new lockdown!…Click here to listen!

…Plus, there’s a new review on my Eating Out page – We enjoyed our ‘last supper out’ before lockdown at our new local restaurant, Yummy Cow, London SE24.

Menu One

Beef Stroganoff (Serves 4-6)

This recipe for Beef Stroganoff is very quick, it just requires the beef to be flash fried, therefore it is important to use good fillet steak. With the addition of soured cream, dill and lemon juice this simple recipe is extremely special! I like to serve it with white long grain rice and a green salad (recipe for classic vinaigrette below).

4 medium onions, 400g

6 tablespoons groundnut oil

700g fillet steak, cut into thin strips, about 1cm thick

80g butter

500g button or small mushrooms, thinly sliced

2 teaspoons paprika

300ml soured cream

1 lemon

Large bunch of dill, finely chopped

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Peel, half and thinly slice the onions.
  2. Heat 3 tablespoons of the groundnut oil in a frying pan. Pat the meat dry, season generously with salt and pepper. Add half the meat to the pan and stir-fry briskly for 30 seconds to brown and remove to one side. Repeat with the remaining oil and meat.
  3. Add half the butter to the pan and stir in the onions. Cook slowly until golden, sticky and softened. Tip on to a plate.
  4. Add the remaining butter to the pan and stir-fry the mushrooms with the paprika for about 4 minutes until dark and soft.
  5. Return the onions to the pan and add the soured cream. Warm through.
  6. Add the meat, return to simmer, season with salt and pepper and a good squeeze of lemon juice.
  7. Finely stir through the chopped dill.
  8. Serve with rice and a green salad.

Menu Two

Lasagne (Serves 4)

This, in my opinion, is the best recipe for lasagne, it has exactly the right balance of flavours and sauce – all too often lasagne can be too cheesy. It is a recipe by Gordon Ramsay which I found online many years ago. As I am gluten free I make it with gluten free lasagne sheets, my gluten loving husband, Nick, doesn’t even notice! This is great served with a simple green salad dressed with a classic vinaigrette (recipe below).

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large carrot

1 half of a large onion

2 garlic cloves

1 bay leaf

2 pinches dried oregano

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

300g minced beef

1 tablespoon tomato purée

2 tablespoons red wine

1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes

50ml milk

6 ‘ready to bake’ lasagne sheets (gluten free if required)

Sea salt and black pepper

For the sauce:

25g unsalted butter

25g plain flour

300ml milk

Pinch ground nutmeg

60g cheddar cheese, grated

30g parmesan cheese, grated

A rectangular baking dish approx. 30cm x 20cm

  1. Peel and grate the carrot and onion. Crush the garlic cloves.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, gently fry the carrot, onion and garlic adding the bay leaf, pinches of oregano, Worcestershire sauce, and salt and pepper.
  3. When the onion has softened make a well in the middle of the mixture and add the mince. Stir well to break up the meat.
  4. Add the tomato purée. Continue to cook until the meat is browned.
  5. Add the wine, cook off the alcohol before adding the tomatoes, simmer for 2-3 minutes
  6. Add the milk and remove from the heat – leave to one side whilst you make the sauce.
  7. To make the sauce, melt the butter in saucepan, add the flour, stirring with a wooden spoon to make a paste. Over a gentle heat gradually add a third of the milk, whisking to prevent lumps. Then whisk in the remaining milk, season with the pinch of nutmeg, salt and pepper, then cook for a further minute or so before adding the cheddar cheese, stir until smooth.
  8. Spoon half the meat into the baking dish place three of the pasta sheets on top – do not overlap them, then pour over half the cheese sauce. Repeat with another layer of meat, then pasta sheets and finally the remaining cheese sauce. Sprinkle over the parmesan cheese and a light seasoning of salt and pepper.
  9. Bake in a preheated oven, 200’c, for 20-25 minutes.
  10. Serve with a green salad dressed with a classic vinaigrette (recipe below)

Green Salad with a Classic Vinaigrette

Classic Vinaigrette

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

3 tablespoons olive oil

Sea salt and pepper

A salad of your choice

  1. Simply put all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk together (or place in a jar with a lid and shake vigorously)

Menu Three

‘Crumbles in a Cup’

This is a great idea that I have taken from Nigella Lawson’s cookbook, ‘Nigella Express’. The idea is to freeze the crumble topping and some summer berries, then at any given time you can quickly make up a ‘Berry Crumble in a Cup’! You just need to cook them from frozen for 15 minutes! I have changed the recipe slightly; I make my crumble topping with the addition of ground almonds as I think it improves the flavour. You can either make the crumbles in a cup/small mug or in a ramekin, the measurements of the ingredients will differ slightly depending on which you choose – see below

For the Crumble Topping

200g plain flour (gluten free if required)

125g butter, cold and cubed

50g caster sugar

50g ground almonds

50g soft brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  1. Place the flour and butter in a large mixing bowl and rub together with your fingers until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  2. Add the caster sugar, ground almonds, soft brown sugar and ground cinnamon – stir to combine.
  3. Place in a freezer bag and freeze until needed for a ‘Crumble in a Cup’ – see below.

‘For a Crumble in a Cup’ (approx. 300ml capacity)

100g summer fruits (see note above)

1 teaspoon corn flour

2 teaspoons vanilla sugar (or regular sugar and a drop of vanilla essence)

75g frozen crumble topping

‘For a Crumble in a Ramekin’ (approx. 125ml capacity)

50g frozen summer fruits

½ teaspoon cornflour

1½ teaspoons of vanilla sugar (or regular sugar and a drop of vanilla essence)

30g frozen crumble topping

(To serve – ice cream or thick cream)

  1. Put the summer fruits in either the cup or ramekin, sprinkle with the cornflour and sugar – stir gently.
  2. Sprinkle the frozen crumble topping over the fruit (if desired you can add a little more topping)
  3. Bake in a preheated oven, 220’c; for the cups 20 minutes, and for the ramekins 15 minutes.
  4. Serve with a scoop of ice-cream or a dollop of thick cream.

A Lockdown Treat

Hot Whiskey (Serves 1)

With Lockdown we all need a little TLC, and this old Irish remedy for a cough and cold is the perfect winter warmer to snuggle down with, and it is a great way to lift ones spirits – even if you don’t have a cold!…

50ml Irish Whiskey

1 generous teaspoon of brown sugar

5 cloves

1 slice lemon

150ml boiling water

  1. Simply put the whiskey and sugar into a heatproof glass, add the lemon slice studded with the cloves. Pour over the boiling water, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Serve!

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