Week Thirty Three

Yes!…March!!…at last there is almost the taste of spring in the air! March’s arrival has put a ‘spring’ into my step, things are definitely looking up – with the opportunity to meet up with more than one friend soon and perhaps even a picnic…and later in May the chance to eat out in a restaurant!! Although spring doesn’t officially arrive until 20th March, I‘m already appreciating the lighter evenings and longer days – indeed the advantage of lockdown is that we do have an appreciation for the little things in life!

The March air is also livening up my kitchen, and to reflect my upbeat mood, I’ve even started playing a little ‘country and western’ music!…Yes, one of my guilty pleasures is listening to this rather ‘uncool’ music from time to time – I blame my mother, as growing up it was very much part of my childhood – along with a large dose of Elvis Presely!..But I must admit, a bit of ‘country’ does raise your spirits – I dare you to try not to sing along! It was actually a cookbook that encouraged me to revisit my ‘country and western’ playlist; ‘Five Marys Ranch Raised‘ is a book which I bought recently, it is written by an American author who lives on a Californian ranch. The photos are wonderful, they not only show the delicious recipes but also take you on a tour of ranch life – it all looks incredibly beautiful, with the mountains in the background, cattle in the fields, lots of checked shirts and cowboy boots…so when cooking a few of the recipes, it was only natural to pair it with some fitting music!… One of the recipes that I came across was for a fillet of beef seasoned with a flavoursome spice mix, served with caramelised onion sauce. This week I am sharing this delicious beef dish served with another new recipe that I have discovered, Roast New Potatoes with Bay Leaves – you can never have enough recipes for potatoes! These roast potatoes, from Skye McAlpine’s cookbook ‘A Table For Friends’, are subtly flavoured with bay leaves, and what’s more, you don’t even need to peel them – just stick them in the oven and leave them to roast themselves – a perfect midweek side dish. Menu Two is Chicken Gnocchi, I’m really excited about this dish, as I’m always searching for new ‘Italian’ style dishes, and just when I thought I’d exhausted all the sauce combinations, along comes this gem for gnocchi. The combination of chicken with olives and porcini, creates a full flavoured recipe and one that is particularly comforting. I didn’t make my own gnocchi, but you could of course, however, these days it’s possible to buy great quality gnocchi from the supermarket, making this dish an easy midweek option. Menu Three is my vegetarian offering, this week it’s a delicious, mildly spiced Chickpea & Spinach Curry – a seriously quick supper, mostly made from store cupboard ingredients.

Finally, of course, I couldn’t not share my guilty pleasure with you – check out my ‘Country Music to Cook To’ playlist here!….What is your guilty pleasure?!…

Enjoy the first week of March…see you next Tuesday for a ‘Tuesday Treat’!

Menu One

Five Marys Spiced Fillet of Beef with Caramelised Onion Sauce & Bay Leaf Baby Roast Potatoes (Serves 4)

This wonderful recipe for beef is one which I have taken from the ‘Five Marys Ranch Raised Cookbook’. I bought this book recently and have enjoyed reading it, not only for it’s wonderful meaty recipes, but also for the wonderful photos which take the reader on a tour of the authors Californian ranch. It all looks wonderfully idyllic, with the mountains in the background, cattle in the fields, lots of checked shirts and cowboy boots! This recipe uses a lovely ‘five spice’ mix to flavour the meat which is then simply cooked in the oven for about 30 minutes – you may notice that this is a slightly longer cooking time than my recipe for Beef Fillet & Port Sauce, this is because the beef is not seared beforehand, in order to avoid burning the garlic marinade. The Caramelised Onion & Red Wine sauce which accompanies the beef is the ‘icing on the cake‘, complementing the meat with its richness. I like to serve the beef with Bay Leaf Baby Roast Potatoes (recipe below); together they make a deliciously easy meal. You could also serve some greens or a salad on the side.

Five Marys Spice Rub

This is a wonderful spice rub to make and keep in your cupboard – it can be kept in a jar for up to 6 months. It is a good seasoning for steaks or chops, it will also give a kick to soups or stews and is wonderful sprinkled over eggs or avocado toast!…

3 tablespoons rock salt

2 tablespoons chilli flakes

1 tablespoon dried rosemary

1 tablespoon dried thyme

2 teaspoons salt flakes

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

  1. Simply mix the ingredients together and store in an airtight jar!

Five Spice Roast Fillet of Beef with Caramelised Onion & Red Wine Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tablespoon M5 Spice Rub (recipe above)

2 teaspoons thyme leaves, chopped

2 x fillets of beef, 450g each – nice even pieces

For the sauce:

90 g butter

2 onions, sliced

480ml red wine

240ml beef stock

3 sprigs of thyme

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons light brown sugar

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Combine the olive oil, garlic, spice rub and thyme. Rub it over the fillets of beef, cover and leave at room temperature for an hour or refrigerate if longer – bring to room temperature before cooking if refrigerated.
  2. Place the beef in a preheated oven, 180’c fan, for 25 -30 minutes for medium rare (a meat thermometer will read 55’c). Move to a plate to rest for about 15-30 minutes, loosely covered with foil.
  3. Meanwhile make the sauce. In a large pan melt 30g of butter, fry the onions with a big pinch of salt, until golden and caramelised  – about 15-20 minutes.
  4. Add the wine, stock and thyme, increase the heat and boil for about 10 minutes until the liquid is reduced by half.
  5. Stir in the balsamic vinegar and sugar, continue to cook for 1 minute longer.
  6. When ready to serve, remove the thyme sprigs from the sauce, reheat gently and add the remaining 60g butter – a little at a time to allow it to emulsify. Finally add any juices from the rested meat.
  7. Cut the beef into thick slices, serve topped with the warm sauce.

Roast New Potatoes with Bay Leaves (Serves 4-6)

You can never have enough recipes for potatoes!…so it was with great joy that I discovered this new, simple way of cooking new potatoes in Skye McAlpine’s cookbook, ‘A Table For Friends’. The bay leaves subtly flavour the little roasted potatoes, plus they look rather impressive tucked into each one! Skye says that you can eat the bay leaves, I did try them, but I must admit I wasn’t sold on that idea – but do try them yourself!

20 small new potatoes

20 bay leaves

4-5 tablespoons olive oil

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Make a lengthways slit across each potato and tuck a bay leaf into the slit. Arrange them in a roasting tin, allowing space between them, drizzle with the oil and season generously.
  2. Place in a preheated oven, 160’c fan, for about 1 hour or until they are golden brown and easily pierced.

Menu Two

Gnocchi with Chicken Sauce (Serves 4)

Just when I thought I had exhausted all the pasta sauces along came this wonderful recipe! The rich chicken sauce beautifully complements the gnocchi, however I also think that it would work very well with either pappardelle or tagliatelle. You could, of course, make your own gnocchi, but these days it’s possible to buy great quality gnocchi from the supermarket, including those that are gluten free.

I found this recipe in ‘Flavours of Sicily’ by Ursula Ferrigno, a book which concentrates on Sicilian dishes – if you have never visited this beautiful island, I urge you to put it on your bucket list, you will be in ‘food heaven’!

500g potato gnocchi (gluten free if required)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, chopped

50g pancetta, cubed

4 chicken thighs, boneless and skin-on, cut into bitesize pieces

100g green pitted olives

3 bay leaves

1 garlic clove, crushed

2 tablespoons tomato purée

125ml white wine

50g dried porcini mushrooms

100g chestnut mushrooms, halved if large.

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped

150ml chicken stock

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

Sea salt and black pepper

Parmesan cheese, grated to serve

  1. Firstly soak the porcini in cold water for 10 minutes, drain reserving the soaking water.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan or casserole (which has a lid), add the onion and cook until golden.
  3. Add the pancetta, cook for another 5 minutes.
  4. Add the chicken and stir fry for 10 minutes, then add the rest of the ingredients except the parsley and parmesan cheese. Simmer, covered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally – if the mixture becomes a little dry add a splash of the reserved porcini soaking water.
  5. Just as the sauce is ready, cook the gnocchi in boiling water according to the cooking instructions – they should only need 2-3 minutes.
  6. Drain the gnocchi, add to the sauce and stir in the chopped parsley, checking the seasoning. Serve with parmesan cheese.

Menu Three

Chickpea and Spinach Curry (Serves 3-4)

This mildly spiced vegetarian curry makes a super easy supper, perfect midweek when time is of essence. Serve with steamed rice.

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

½ teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon ground allspice

1 teaspoon hot paprika

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

1 pinch chilli flakes

1 thumb sized piece ginger, peeled and chopped

4 garlic cloves, chopped

400g tin tomatoes

400g tinned chickpeas, including the chickpea water

A large bunch spinach

3 tablespoons coriander, chopped

  1. Toast the coriander and cumin seeds in a dry frying pan over a medium/high heat until fragrant – a couple of minutes. Put them in a mortar and pestle and grind to a fine powder before mixing in the other spices. Then mash in the chopped ginger to create a dry paste.
  2. Heat the oil in a pan, add the onion and garlic, gently sweat until softened.
  3. Add the spice mixture and cook for a minute or so, before adding the tomatoes, chickpeas and their chickpea water. Cook over a low heat until the sauce is thickened and the tomatoes have broken up  – around 25 minutes.
  4. Finally stir through the spinach until wilted, check the seasoning (perhaps add an extra sprinkling of chilli flakes). Serve topped with the chopped coriander and with rice.

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