Week Thirty

It doesn’t seem possible that Christmas was almost a month ago, indeed, by New Year’s Eve I was feeling rather stuffed and I was looking forward to some lighter meals in January. It seemed a good idea, at that time, to start eating some lighter meals, but without sounding too depressing(!), I was forgetting how I hate these ‘dog days’ of January, the cold, the damp and the grey. I must admit that January is my least favourite month of the year, even if it does signify new beginnings, and so now, halfway through the month, I am feeling in desperate need for some indulgent comfort food …and a cocktail (I’ve never been good at ‘dry January’!!)...

So, this week I’ve changed my original menu plan for Menu Mistress and I have decided to share a particularly comforting roast chicken recipe. Menu One, ‘Rotisserie Roast Chicken’, is a rather special recipe from Rick Stein, it takes its inspiration from the French ‘fast food’ chicken which you often find in local French markets and ‘boucheries’. I am sure that many of you will have savoured this delicious chicken on your visits to France particularly around Paris; the chickens are slowly roasted on an outdoor rotisserie with sliced potatoes underneath to catch all the delicious roasting juices, heaven – perfect comfort food for January! Menu Two is another comforting dish and it continues to fulfil my New Year’s resolution to share at least one vegetarian recipe every time I share new recipes. ‘Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie with Goats Cheese Mash’, is very delicious, it is a vegetarian dish which I have been making for years, so even if you are a meat lover like me, I urge you to make this! Menu Three is a pasta dish which is super quick and easy – hence I’m also putting it on my MenuMistress@Uni pages – it’s the perfect midweek supper dish; Puttanesca Pasta. There are various versions of this pasta sauce, but I particularly like this one from Gennaro Contaldo; it is a lovely thick sauce with just the right amount salt from the anchovies.

Finally, I’m sharing a cocktail recipe. What better way to chase away the January blues than with a Martini?!…If you live in or are visiting London, I can recommend the best place to visit for the quintessential Martini experience (after lockdown!) – Dukes Hotel, Mayfair. It has a wonderful, sophisticated cocktail bar, reassuringly old-fashioned, where it serves the finest Martinis, prepared tableside on a rosewood trolley; they only use organic lemons from Amalfi for their lemon twist! It really is an elegant experience and the perfect excuse to dress up! Unfortunately, until lockdown ends and the world of bars reopens, we can only enjoy this gem at home, so I’m sharing a Martini based on the classic recipe from Dukes… Enjoy!

Have a good week and remember to visit Menu Mistress next Tuesday for my ‘Tuesday Treat’!

Also… go to my ‘Eating Out’ page for my latest restaurant review, it will, unfortunately, be my last for some time, as with continuing lockdown rules it seems unlikely that restaurants will be opening soon. My latest review is for ‘Meltons’, York, where we enjoyed a superb meal before Christmas.

Menu One

Rotisserie-Style Roast Chicken with Beetroot & Mint Salad

This is a rather special roast chicken recipe from Rick Stein’s cookbook ‘Secret France’, it takes its inspiration from the French ‘fast food’ chicken which you often find in local French markets and ‘boucheries’. I am sure that many of you will have savoured this delicious chicken on your visits to France particularly around Paris; the chickens are slowly roasted on an outdoor rotisserie with sliced potatoes underneath to catch all the delicious roasting juices, heaven! In this recipe the chicken is similarly roasted on a bed of sliced potatoes at a low temperature for 2-2½ hours, although this may seem a long time it comes out incredibly succulent. It’s a very handsfree recipe, so can easily be made midweek, it just needs a good green salad and is also great with a beetroot and mint salad (recipe below).

1 free range chicken (about 1.7kg)

½ lemon

1 clove garlic, bashed

700g potatoes (such as Maris Piper), peeled and cut into 2cm thick slices

2 tablespoons olive oil

For the Spice Rub:

2 teaspoons paprika

Good pinch of cayenne

1 teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon dried thyme

40g butter, softened

  1. First of all make the spice rub by mixing all the spices and seasoning together and blending with the butter.
  2. Put the lemon half and the garlic inside the cavity of the chicken and tie up the legs.
  3. Rub the spiced butter all over the chicken.
  4. Place the sliced potatoes in a roasting tin, drizzle over the olive oil, place the chicken in the middle of the roasting tin on top of the potatoes.
  5. Roast in a preheated oven, 130’c fan, for around 2½ hours. Baste the chicken and potatoes a few times during the cooking time.
  6. Rest the chicken for about 10 minutes before carving, whilst it is resting, if I want the potatoes a little crispier, I often crank up the oven to 200’c and return them to the oven .
  7. Serve the carved chicken with the potatoes and pan juices spooned over. It is delicious with a simple green salad with a classic vinaigrette (recipe here) and a beetroot salad (recipe below).

Beetroot and Mint Salad (Serves 4)

This is my new favourite salad, it is particularly good during the winter months with its jewel like colours (especially if you manage to get hold of a mix of coloured beetroot). It is incredibly easy to make and will happily sit in the fridge for a day or two. I came across this recipe recently in Sky McAlpine’s brilliant new cookbook, ‘A Table For Friends’, which I would definitely recommend.

2 teaspoons caster sugar

2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

Juice of one lemon

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

500g cooked beetroots, finely sliced (a mix of colours if available)

A small bunch of mint leaves

Sea salt flakes

  1. Whisk the sugar, vinegar, lemon juice and olive oil with a generous pinch of salt.
  2. Put the beetroot in a bowl. Roughly chop half of the bunch of mint and add to the beetroot and pour over the dressing, gently stir and leave in the fridge to marinate for at least an hour to intensify the flavours.
  3. To serve: bring to room temperature then arrange the beetroot on a plate with the remaining mint scattered over and drizzled with some of the marinade.

Menu Two

Vegetarian Shepherd’s Pie with Goats’ Cheese Mash (Serves 4)

As you may be aware, I am a complete meat lover, so when I say that this recipe could convert me to vegetarianism, you’ll know it’s extremely good!…I found this recipe many years ago in Delia Smith’s ‘How to Cook: Book Three’, I have made it on numerous occasions since then. It is quite a straightforward recipe but you must remember to pre-soak the black eyed beans the night before cooking it. The vegetables need to be chopped small so it is a good idea to use a food processor – and it saves a lot of time! I like to serve this with a green salad with a classic vinaigrette dressing (recipe here).

110g dried black-eyed beans, pre-soaked and drained

75g green split peas (no need to soak), rinsed

75g green lentils (no need to soak), rinsed

725ml boiling water

50g peeled carrots

50g peeled swede

50g peeled celeriac

1 large onion, peeled

1 small green pepper, deseeded

50g butter, plus a little extra for greasing

1 heaped tablespoon chopped mixed fresh herbs (sage, rosemary, thyme and parsley)

¼ teaspoon ground mace

¼ teaspoon cayenne pepper

Salt and black pepper

For the topping:

110g soft goats’ cheese

700g potatoes (such as Maris Piper), peeled

225g tomatoes, peeled and thinly sliced

50g butter

2 tablespoons milk

25g Pecorino cheese, grated

Sea salt and black pepper

(A round baking dish, roughly 23cm diameter and 5cm deep, buttered)

  1. First put the drained beans in a saucepan with the split peas and lentils. Add the boiling water and some salt. Cover and simmer gently for 50-60 minutes until they have absorbed the water and are soft. Remove from the heat and mash them just a little with a fork.
  2. Meanwhile cook the potatoes.
  3. Whilst the potatoes are cooking, roughly chop the vegetables before placing in a food processor and chopping small.
  4. Melt the butter in a large frying pan over a medium heat, add the vegetables and cook gently for 10-15 minutes until they are softened and tinged gold at the edges.
  5. Add the vegetable mixture to the lightly mashed pulses, along with the herbs, spices and salt and pepper to taste. Spoon this mixture into the buttered baking dish.
  6. Arrange the slices of tomato over this mixture.
  7. Mash the cooked potato with the butter, milk and goats cheese and season with salt and pepper (you can use an electric hand held whisk to do this). Spread the potato over the top of the ingredients in the dish.
  8. Finally sprinkle over the Pecorino and bake the pie in a preheated oven, 190’c fan, for 20-25 minutes, until the top is lightly browned.

Menu Three

Pasta alla Puttanesca (Serves 4)

There are various versions of this pasta sauce, but I particularly like this one from Gennaro Contaldo; it is a lovely thick sauce with just the right amount salt from the anchovies. It is another recipe which I have taken from one of my favourite cookbooks, ‘Cook: A Year in the Kitchen with Britain’s Favourite Chefs’, which has numerous recipes from different chefs, including Gennaro Contaldo.

6 tablespoons olive oil

4 cloves garlic, peeled, left whole and crushed with the flat blade of a knife

1 small red chilli, finely chopped

6 anchovy fillets

35 black olives, stoned and sliced in half

2 tablespoon capers

300g tinned chopped tomatoes

1 teaspoon dried oregano

A large handful parsley, chopped

400g linguine or spaghetti (gluten free if required)

Salt to taste

  1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan, add the garlic, chilli and anchovy fillets. Fry until the anchovies have melted and the garlic is golden brown.
  2. Add the olives and capers, stir-fry for a minute. Then add the tomatoes, oregano and parsley.
  3. Lower the heat, cover with a lid and simmer gently for 20 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile cook the pasta according to the packet instructions, until al dente.
  5. Drain the pasta and add to the sauce, stir well so that the pasta absorbs the flavours of the sauce – if you feel that the sauce is too dry add a tablespoon or two of hot pasta water.
  6. Serve immediately.

And a Little Treat…

A Classic Martini (Serves 1)

A Classic Martini

I am partial to a Martini, one of my favourite places to have one in London is Dukes Hotel, Mayfair. It has a wonderful, sophisticated cocktail bar, reassuringly old-fashioned, where it serves the finest Martinis, prepared tableside on a rosewood trolley; they only use organic lemons from Amalfi for their lemon twist! The recipe I am sharing is based on their classic Martini. I like vodka Martinis with a twist of lemon, but in this recipe you can always substitute the vodka for gin and the lemon for an olive!

Before you start making a Martini, make sure you put, not only your vodka (or gin) in the freezer, but also your glasses, as you want this cocktail to be chilled to perfection.

1 frozen martini glass
100ml vodka or gin (frozen – see note above)
5ml (1 teaspoon) Dry vermouth
1 large twist of lemon peel from an unwaxed lemon

  1. Put the Dry Vermouth into the frozen glass
  2. Top the glass up with the vodka (or gin).
  3. Squeeze the lemon twist over the glass to extract the fragrant oils.
  4. Finally, swirl the Martini with the lemon twist and drop it into the glass.
  5. Enjoy!

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