Week Thirty Two

I must admit that life has been rather quiet lately due to lockdown, so you won’t be surprised to hear that I haven’t got any exciting news to ‘write home about’! The days seem to be rolling into one; at the end of each day my ‘to do’ list  (I’m a great list maker!), is still as long as it was at the beginning of the day. Before Covid, I enjoyed studying Italian at the Italian Institute, I have been doing this for more years than I care to admit. Then, just over a year ago, when Felix started university, I decided to fill my empty nest by learning another language, French (as you do!). So when Covid started, and our daily life became emptier, I had dreams of using this ‘extra’ time to improve my fluency in both languages….hmmm?… Unfortunately, despite continuing classes via Zoom, I’ve failed to improve at all, as I have neglected to use my ‘lockdown’ time wisely! Instead, what I have been doing is ‘over concentrating’ on random things, for instance over the last two weeks I have been obsessed with rhubarb, yes, you read that correctly – rhubarb!…

With the season just beginning for ‘forced rhubarb’, and the fact that I love it, I have been madly cooking both savoury and sweet rhubarb dishes. So this week I thought I would share a very easy dinner dish with the aforementioned vegetable, ‘Medallions of Pork with a Rhubarb Salsa’. It makes sense that pork should go well with this vegetable, as it is quite ‘fruity’, and pork has an affinity with a lot of fruits such as apples and pears. In this dish, the rhubarb is gently stewed with just a touch of redcurrant sauce to sweeten it, whilst retaining its tartness; it is superb with the pork. Unfortunately, the photo that I have taken doesn’t do it justice – I really should have scattered a little parsley over it to give the photo some colour, but I was too keen to ‘tuck in’ to think about photography! But believe me, it really does deliver a flavoursome punch for such a quickly cooked meal. I have also been cooking some delicious desserts with rhubarb, but I will save those recipes to share for a Tuesday Treat!..

Continuing with today’s savoury themed recipes, Menu Two is a fish recipe, for ‘Hake with Bacon, Peas and Cider’ (you could substitute the Hake for another firm white fish), it is an easy dish that is cooked in one pan, just serve it simply with steamed new potatoes. I think it is one of those dishes which will appear on your weekday menu again and again! Finally, a vegetarian dish –  ‘Vegetarian Chilli’ from Rachel Allen’s cookbook ‘Entertaining for Friends’. I have been taking my New Year’s resolution (to eat and post more vegetarian recipes) very seriously, and for this recipe, I have, for the first time, cooked with soya mince, I must say I am surprised how good it is, it works particularly well in this Vegetable Chilli recipe, any meat lover will be incredibly impressed! The dish is bursting with flavours, I serve it with homemade guacamole, sour cream and tortilla chips – it’s a real crowd pleaser.

Have a great week cooking!…I hope I’m not the only one guilty of wasting my ‘lockdown’ time – I would love to know if you have been as guilty as me?!…

Don’t forget to visit Menu Mistress next week for my ‘Tuesday Treat’!

Menu One

Medallions of Pork with Rhubarb Salsa and Sautéed Spinach (Serves 4)

Rhubarb isn’t just for dessert, it works well with savoury dishes too, as it’s fruity, tart flavour really complements meat such as pork or duck. This dish is very good with Sautéed Spinach and Baby Roast Potatoes (recipes below).

2 pork tenderloins (trimmed of any fat and silverskin)

40g butter

For the Salsa:

225g rhubarb

60ml white wine

2 tablespoons redcurrant jelly

2 tablespoons crème fraiche

1 teaspoon sugar

A pinch of salt

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

  1. Cut the rhubarb  into small slices (about 1cm). Place in a saucepan with the white wine and gently cook until it becomes ‘mushy’ and tender. Purée until smooth – a stick blender is ideal for this or you can use a food processor.
  2. Melt the jelly in a saucepan, then add the rhubarb purée, crème fraîche, sugar, balsamic vinegar, salt and nutmeg.
  3. Meanwhile, cut the tenderloins, into 2cm slices. Melt the butter in a frying pan and fry the medallions over a medium to high heat for about 3-4 minutes on each side – you want them to still be a little pink.
  4. Serve the warm salsa over the pork medallions. Serve with Sautéed Spinach and Baby Roast Potatoes (recipes below).

Staple Side Dish – Sautéed Spinach with Garlic (Serves 4)

2 large bunches of baby spinach (washed) – about 400g

Olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, sliced

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the garlic and sauté for about 1 minute until the garlic is beginning to brown.
  2. Add the spinach, turning it over to coat in the olive oil. Place a lid over the pan and cook for 1 minute. Remove the lid and stir. Return the lid and cook for a further minute.
  3. The spinach should now be wilted, add a drizzle of olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and serve.

Staple Side Dish – Baby Roast Potatoes with Garlic and Rosemary (serves 4-6)

Baby Roast Potatoes with Garlic & Rosemary

900g unpeeled new potatoes washed and cut roughly into 1cm cubes

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, leaves chopped

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

2 tablespoons of olive oil

sea salt and black pepper

  1. Preheat the oven 200’c fan. Put the olive oil in a roasting tin and place in the oven to heat up.
  2. Place the potatoes in a clean tea towel and dry them thoroughly.
  3. Remove tin from the oven and carefully slide the potatoes into the hot fat. Sprinkle over the garlic and rosemary then stir around.
  4. Cook in the oven for 30-40 minutes.
  5. Season with salt and pepper before serving.

Menu Two

Hake with Bacon, Peas and Cider (Serves 4)

This recipe, from Nigella Lawson’s cookbook ‘At My Table’, is a wonderfully quick dish, all cooked in the same pan – ideal for a midweek meal. It is great simply served with some steamed new potatoes. I think it is one of those dishes which will appear on your weekly menu again and again! (You can easily substitute the hake for another firm white fish of you choice).

4 Hake fillets (or other white firm fish), skin on – about 200g each

Olive oil

130g streaky bacon, snipped into 1cm strips

400g frozen petits pois

500ml dry cider

Large bunch of parsley, finely chopped

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Heat a little olive oil in a pan (with a lid), fry the bacon until crisped and golden, then add the frozen peas, give them a good stir.
  2. Pour in the cider and bring to the boil, then turn it down to a simmer for about 5 minutes, until the peas are cooked. Add a little salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Add the fish, skin side down, to the pan and cover with a lid, allow to gently simmer for about 10 minutes until just cooked.
  4. Place each fillet on a plate. Stir most of the parsley through the peas and bacon in the pan (check the seasoning), then spoon it around the fish along with the lovely cidery juices. Sprinkle with the remaining parsley and serve – simply steamed new potatoes are delicious with this dish!

Menu Three

Vegetarian Chilli with Homemade Guacamole (Serves 4-6)

This Vegetarian Chilli recipe is from Rachel Allen’s cookbook, ‘Entertaining at Home’. The dish is bursting with flavours, I serve it with rice, homemade guacamole (recipe below), sour cream and tortilla chips – it’s a real crowd pleaser. It’s a good idea to serve a little Tabasco or Encona sauce on the side, for extra heat, to suit individual tastes. This recipe calls for soya mince, I used and would recommend ‘Vivera plant mince’, which you can buy in supermarkets, it is fresh and ready to use. Any meat lover will be incredibly impressed with this chilli – see if they can guess it’s vegetarian!!…

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ large onion, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 carrots, finely chopped

2 sticks of celery, finely chopped

1-2 red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

100g soya mince, ready to use weight (soaked, according to packet instructions if dried – see note above)

400g tin red kidney beans

400g tin chopped tomatoes

125ml vegetable stock (I use Marigold Swiss Bouillon)

75ml red wine

Sea salt and black pepper

Bunch of coriander, chopped to serve

To serve: rice, guacamole, sour cream and tortilla chips

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or casserole, add the onion, garlic, carrots and celery. Season with salt and pepper, and cook stirring occasionally for 20 minutes, until the vegetables are cooked and golden.
  2. Grind the coriander and cumin seeds in a mortar and pestle, then add to the pan along with the chopped chilli, cook for a further 5 minutes.
  3. Add all the remaining ingredients except the coriander. Cook over a medium heat, uncovered, for about 30 minutes until thickened.
  4. Scatter with the chopped coriander and serve with rice, homemade guacamole (recipe below), sour cream and tortilla chips.

Easy Guacamole

I’ve tried a few recipes for guacamole over the years, some have the addition of garlic and tomatoes, but I always return to this easy recipe from Sally Clarke – the flavours are simple so don’t overpower the avocado.

3 ripe avocados, peeled
Juice of 3 large limes
1-2 small chillies, very finely chopped
Salt
2 tbsp roughly chopped coriander leaves

  1. With a fork, mash the avocados in a bowl until almost smooth – a few lumps are fine.
  2. Stir in the lime juice and add the chillies and salt. Stir in the coriander and adjust to taste by adding more chillies, lime juice or salt.

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