Week Forty

I have been taking quite a lot of time out of my kitchen recently. In my last blog, I mentioned that I was having a short break in Wales, after months under ‘lockdown’, it certainly was a ‘breath of fresh air’, and gave us the perfect excuse to eat out! We visited the Pembrokeshire coast, an area which I had never been to before. Being forced by Covid to holiday in the UK was perhaps a blessing in disguise as it allowed us to appreciate this corner of the UK; I was blown away by the beauty of this coast – almost literally, as the awful May weather ensured we had our fair share of wind and rain! We stayed in a wonderful hotel in Narberth, The Grove (read the review here!).

In addition to our Pembrokeshire break, last weekend Nick and I visited Felix in York, so once again, I was away from my kitchen and eating out in restaurants – we are definitely embracing the reopening of the hospitality industry!

Not only is eating out again in restaurants enjoyable but also inspiring, and so I have returned to my kitchen this week refreshed and raring to go, although, admittedly, it does take me a few days to get back into the swing of things. For this reason, this week I thought I would share some particularly easy recipes which aren’t too demanding, to give you and me some kitchen respite, but naturally without losing out on the flavour front.

Menu One is a store cupboard fish cake recipe, it’s always good to have a can of sardines in your cupboard for this recipe!  Menu Two is ‘Pork Collar Steak with Gherkins’, this is a recipe that often shows up in my kitchen on those nights when I want something quick and comforting. I love this underrated, tasty cut of pork and in this recipe, it only needs 15 minutes from start to finish! Finally, Menu Three is a wonderfully simple recipe, ‘Spaghetti with Asparagus and Prosecco’, from Skye McAlpine’s cookbook ‘A Table in Venice’. As she herself says, cooking with prosecco always seems rather extravagant, but the delicacy and sweetness of Prosecco lends something extra special to the sauce. Mini bottles of Prosecco are perfect for this recipe, or of course, you could get a full bottle and enjoy the leftovers with your meal…perfect on a summer evening!

I’m also sharing a new ‘Music to Cook To’ playlist (here)…in comparison to my last playlist, it is rather retro, there’s even a Bee Gee’s track on it(!), but it is without doubt uplifting – perfect to cook-a-long to!…

Menu One

Pork Steak with Mustard & Gherkin Sauce (Serves 4)

Pork collar steak is a cut of meat which is often overlooked, it’s a shame as not only is it one of the cheaper cuts of meat but it is also very tasty. This recipe shows just how special it can be. I found the recipe in Daniel Galmiche’s ‘French Brasserie Cookbook’, it really is an inspiration; the sharpness of the gherkin and mustard in the sauce beautifully cuts the richness of the cream and pork. It is super quick to cook, all it needs is a good crisp salad and perhaps some ‘homemade chips’, or on a cold night, some creamy mash potato is great for mopping up the sauce! (recipes here).

2 tablespoons olive oil

4 pork collar steaks, about 150g each

30g butter

160ml double cream

2 teaspoons wholegrain mustard

4 tarragon sprigs, leaves roughly chopped

8 small gherkins (cornichons), halved and sliced into strips

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Warm the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the steaks and cook for 3-4 minutes on each side until golden brown, adding the butter when you turn them over. Remove from the pan and keep warm.
  2. Add 4 tablespoons of water to the pan, stirring to deglaze it. Bring this liquid to a simmer over a low heat and slowly stir in the cream and mustard, then add the gherkins and tarragon and season with salt and pepper.
  3. When the sauce is heated through, pour over the steaks and serve.

Menu Two

Store Cupboard Fishcakes (Serves 4)

These fishcakes are really tasty and all the better for using ingredients which most of have to hand. I particularly love them as they are totally gluten free – they are crumbed in cornmeal rather than breadcrumbs. They make the perfect supper with a leafy salad and perhaps an couple of cherry tomatoes. This recipe is from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s book ‘Light and Easy’ – which totally sums up this recipe!

500g cold, cooked potato

250g tinned sardine (or mackerel) fillets in oil, drained

250g spring onions, finely sliced (or 2 onions, finely chopped)

2 tablespoons capers, roughly chopped

2 eggs, lightly beaten

Rapeseed or sunflower oil

8 tablespoons fine cornmeal

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Mash the potatoes roughly.
  2. Put the tinned fish into a bowl and mash with a fork to break up a little. Add the onions, capers, mashed potato and season with black pepper.
  3. Stir in the beaten eggs, mixing well.
  4. Divide the mixture into 8. Roll each portion into a ball and then squash into a cake.
  5. Heat a thin film of oil over the base of a frying pan over a medium heat.
  6. Put the cornmeal in a bowl and season with salt and pepper. Carefully put a fishcake into the bowl and coat it with cornmeal then gently place in the frying pan. Cook for about 10 minutes turning once or twice until the cornmeal is crisp and golden and the cakes are piping hot through the middle. Repeat with the rest of the fishcakes – you will have to cook them in batches, adding more oil to the pan as needed.
  7. Serve straightaway with a good salad.

Menu Three

Linguine with Asparagus and Prosecco (Serves 4)

This is a wonderfully simple recipe from Skye McAlpine’s cookbook ‘A Table in Venice’. As she herself says, cooking with Prosecco always seems rather extravagant, but the delicacy of Prosecco definitely lends something extra special to the sauce. I also use Prosecco when I cook ‘Spaghetti Vongole’ (recipe here), as it gives the sauce a lightness (from the bubbles) and a subtle sweetness. You could, of course, use white wine instead of Prosecco, but do try it with Prosecco at some point. The mini bottles of Prosecco are perfect for this recipe, or of course you could get a full bottle and enjoy the remainder of the bottle with your meal!

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 small onion, chopped

400g asparagus, trimmed and cut into 3 cm lengths

100ml Prosecco

Handful of parsley, chopped

400g linguine (gluten free if required)

30g butter

30g parmesan cheese, grated

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat, then add the onion and a generous pinch of salt. Cook, stirring over a low-medium heat for 5-10 minutes until softened but not coloured.
  2. Add the asparagus and Prosecco, and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Cook, stirring, for about 5 minutes, until the Prosecco has evaporated and the asparagus is tender (if it is not quite cooked by the time that the liquid has evaporated add a splash of water and cook for a little longer). Finally stir in the parsley.
  4. Meanwhile cook the linguine according to the packet instructions, until al dente. Just before draining the pasta, scoop out about half a cup of cooking water and set to one side.
  5. Drain the pasta, toss it back into the pan and add a good splash of the reserved cooking water to ‘loosen’ it. Little by little stir in the butter. Finally add the asparagus mixture, give everything a good stir and serve topped with grated Parmesan cheese.

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