Things have been rather ‘hit and miss’ in my kitchen the last week or so…I am always trying new recipes for Menu Mistress, and I like to think that normally I have a good eye for ones that work, however recently I have had a few disasters. With hindsight, I can see that I’ve allowed my ‘good eye’ to be a little too indulgent, for example, the name of one of the failed recipes should have warned me that I was taking a risk, but when I heard its name, nostalgia got the better of me – ’Pork Basil Brush’. Yes, that really was its name! For those of you who are too young to remember or didn’t grow up in the UK, Basil Brush was a dapper little red fox, who was a popular children’s television character when I was growing up – I loved him and his ‘Boom Boom’ jokes, and ridiculous laugh! So, when I saw the name of the recipe I couldn’t resist. It appeared in an old cookbook, ‘The Good Food Guide Dinner Party Book’ which I managed to buy second hand after reading about it in one of my favourite books by Simon Hopkinson. Hopkinson recommended this seventies cookbook, as a ‘good read with some classic gems’ (although, I don’t think that he was necessarily eluding to this recipe!). Apparently ‘Pork Basil Brush’ appeared on the menu of a restaurant that actually acquired Basil Brush’s permission to name the dish after him – and had a paw marked certificate to prove it!… What a great nostalgic recipe, and if it had worked, what fun it would have been to share, but unfortunately, although edible and quick, it is definitely not a recipe that I could pass on to you. In the same vein, nor will I be passing on the ‘Cashew Nut Curry’ that I tried or the ‘Tuna Provençale’!…However, despite my recent recipe failures, I still have quite a few recipes up my sleeve, all tried and tasted and deemed good enough for Menu Mistress, so hopefully, you shouldn’t suffer from any frustrating failures in your kitchen!
This week I am, of course, steering away from serving fox(!)….Menu one is a delicious’ Lamb Kofta Curry’, this is in fact from the same Simon Hopkinson book, ‘Roast Chicken and Other Stories’, from which I got the idea to buy the seventies cookbook with the ‘Pork Basil Brush’! This Kofta Curry is a very delicious, mildly spiced dish with a creamy finish, the flavours have real depth. Admittedly, although a very straightforward recipe, it’s not the quickest meal for midweek, as you have to make the meatballs and fry them before adding them to a sauce, so you might prefer to make this at the weekend – but do try it, as it is very tasty. Menu two is a Lemon Chicken recipe, this is perfect for midweek, the lemon delicately flavours the chicken and is a perfect spring/summer recipe. Finally, Menu Three is a super simple pasta, ‘Penne with Courgettes, Mushrooms and Pine Nuts’, which I have been serving to my family for more years than I care to mention. It’s a ‘home grown’ recipe, one which I developed after being inspired by a pasta I tried in a restaurant – it’s not fancy, but is one of those easy midweek dishes, which is instantly gratifying.
Anyway have a wonderful week – my week is already looking up as I have finally got an appointment for a post lockdown haircut!…
Lamb Kofta Curry with Rice (Serves 4)
This Kofta Curry is taken from Simon Hopkinson’s wonderful cookbook, ‘Roast Chicken and Other Stories; Second Helpings’. It is an absolutely delicious, mildly spiced dish with a creamy finish, the flavours have real depth; don’t be alarmed by its slightly oily, separated look, as, as Hopkinson himself says, “this is a sure sign of its authenticity”. Admittedly, although a very straightforward recipe, it’s not the quickest meal for midweek, as you have to make the meatballs and fry them before adding them to a sauce, so you might prefer to make this at the weekend – but do try it, as it is very tasty! I like to serve this with white long grain rice, it is also good with some poppadoms and chutneys on the side!
4 onions, finely chopped (to save time I use a food processor for this!)
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
4 tablespoons vegetable oil
700g minced lamb
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
1 tablespoon cumin seeds
2 teaspoons ground turmeric
1 tablespoon garam masala
½ teaspoon chilli powder
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon fresh mint, chopped
1 egg, beaten
Flour (gluten free if required)
½ stick cinnamon
4 cardamom pods
4 ripe tomatoes, peeled and chopped
Juice of 1 lemon (or 2 limes)
12 fresh mint leaves, roughly chopped
400ml coconut milk
(To serve: rice, poppadoms and chutneys)
- Fry the onions and garlic in the oil until golden brown. Place on a plate to cool.
- Meanwhile, in small frying pan, dry roast the coriander and cumin seeds until fragrant (a couple of minutes), then grind in a pestle and mortar.
- Place the lamb in a bowl, adding the fried onions and mixing in the ground coriander and cumin, the turmeric, garam masala, chilli powder, pepper, salt, mint and egg. Form the mixture into walnut sized balls (koftas), roll in the flour and fry in the butter, in batches, until golden brown all over, remove to a plate.
- Add the cinnamon, cloves and cardamom pods to the pan, fry for a minute or so, then stir in the chopped tomatoes and top with the koftas. Cook gently for about 10 minutes until the tomatoes are softened and pulpy.
- Add the lemon or lime juice, roughly chopped mint leaves and the coconut milk, stir gently.
- Bring to a simmer and gently cook for 20-25 minutes until the sauce has thickened. Taste for salt.
- Serve on a bed of rice, with chutneys and poppadoms on the side.
Lemon Chicken & Creamy Garlic Mashed Potato (Serves 4)
This is a lovely light chicken dish, subtly flavoured with lemon. You can either use a jointed chicken or simply chicken thighs for this recipe. This chicken is delicious served on a bed of creamy garlic mashed potato, however you could, of course, serve it with a potato dish of your choice. The recipe, which I have slightly tweaked to make it an easier midweek option, is from the ‘Market Kitchen Cookbook’, a book which was published over 10 years ago, but still has a couple of my family’s favourites.
1 chicken jointed into 8 pieces or 8 chicken thighs
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon flour (gluten free if required)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
4 tablespoons Marsala wine (or sherry)
200ml chicken stock
1 lemon, juiced
1-2 tablespoons double cream
2 teaspoons fresh parsley, chopped
Sea salt and black pepper
Strips of lemon zest (for decoration – optional)
(Creamy Garlic Mashed Potato to serve – recipe below)
- Season the chicken generously with salt. Add the oil to a casserole and fry the chicken pieces until they are golden brown. Remove from the casserole and place on a plate while you make the sauce.
- Melt the butter in the casserole, then stir in the flour, allow to cook out a little then add the mustard. Pour in the marsala wine and allow the alcohol to evaporate before stirring in the stock, lemon juice and a good grinding of black pepper. Keep stirring until smooth.
- Bring the sauce to a gentle simmer and return the chicken pieces, skin side up, to the casserole (the pan should be wide and shallow enough so that the sauce does not cover the chicken). Cook, uncovered, in a preheated oven, 200’c fan, for 20-25 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce is thick.
- Remove the chicken from the casserole, add the cream and parsley to the sauce, and gently reheat.
- Serve the chicken, on a bed of creamy garlic mash (if using), sprinkled with the lemon zest with the sauce on the side. This dish is also good with ‘Fine Green Beans with Almonds’ (recipe here).
Creamy Garlic Mashed Potato (Serves 4)
In this recipe, I have simply added an extra garlic clove to my ‘Favourite’ Mashed Potato recipe, it complements the Lemon Chicken wonderfully.
1kg potatoes (floury, such as Maris Piper)
100ml full-fat milk
100ml double cream
3 garlic cloves, sliced
Sea salt and black pepper
- Peel the potatoes and cut into even sized chunks. Steam until completely cooked through.
- Put the milk, cream and garlic in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat.
- Mash the potatoes, adding the milk mixture a little at a time. Season well with salt and pepper.
Penne with Courgettes, Mushrooms & Pine Nuts (Serves 4)
This is a pasta recipe which I have been serving to my family for more years than I care to mention, it’s a ‘home grown’ recipe, one which I developed after being inspired by a pasta I tried in a restaurant. It’s not fancy, but it is one of those easy midweek dishes, which is instantly gratifying.
400g courgette, cut into batons
400g portobellini mushrooms (or large flat mushrooms), sliced
3 garlic cloves, sliced
4 tablespoons pine nuts
3 tablespoons olive oil
400g penne pasta
Sea salt and black pepper
4 heaped tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated, to serve
- In a dry frying pan, toast the pine nuts over a medium/high heat for a few minutes until golden. Remove and keep to one side.
- Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in the frying pan and fry the courgette batons over a medium heat until softened, but retaining some ‘bite’ (al dente). Remove and keep to one side.
- Add the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil to the pan, add the garlic slices and fry over a medium heat for about 30 seconds before adding the mushrooms. Cook for about 5 minutes until the mushrooms have released their juices and have softened but are still retaining their shape.
- Meanwhile cook the penne pasta according to the packet instructions until al dente.
- Finally, return the courgettes to the pan along with the pine nuts, stir to combine and reheat before adding the drained penne pasta. Give everything a good mix and season with salt and pepper.
- Serve with a very generous sprinkling of Parmesan cheese.