Week Fifty

I can’t believe that we’re already approaching the end of October…and of course, that means that we will soon be celebrating both Halloween and Guy Fawkes Night! It only seems like yesterday that I was posting recipes with last year’s celebrations in mind. In comparison to last year, this year we should be able to celebrate in a more ‘normal’ fashion and at least children should be able to ‘trick or treat’ (reminder to myself  – ‘get some sweets in the house!’). We can even have friends around to our houses, so with this in mind, I thought that I would post some recipes which not only have flavours to suit the festivities but are ideal for sharing with both friends and family…

Menu One is ‘Whole Butter Chicken with Sweet Potatoes & Red Onion’, I think that the bright orange colour of this roast makes it perfect for a celebratory Halloween dinner, although it would be good at any time of the year. The subtly tandoori spiced chicken is cooked on a bed of sweet potatoes, cherry tomatoes and onions; at the end of cooking you are left with a wonderfully sweet tomato sauce – it’s delicious! In my mind, Guy Fawkes Night deserves sausages (it’s a campfire thing!), so Menu Two is ‘Sausages with Grapes’, it’s a wonderfully simple yet an incredibly tasty dish from Skye McAlpine’s cookbook ‘ A Table for Friends’. It helps to buy the best sausages you can, but the sweetness of the roasted grapes makes it a winning dish and a real crowd-pleaser, it is great served with traditional mashed potato or with, as McAlpine suggests, ‘Fennel & Parmesan Purée’. This week it’s also time for a ‘Blast from the Past’ recipe, so for Menu Three, I’m sharing one of the first recipes I ever shared, ‘Tarragon Chicken Pie’; it’s a delicious pie, perfect for ‘family-style’ dinners. Finally, a celebratory cocktail – with its blood-red colour a Cosmopolitan is perfect for a Halloween evening at home!…

Even if you’re not celebrating the festivities, I hope that these recipes make it on to your shopping list over the next week or so …Enjoy!…

(Don’t forget to check out my ‘Eating Out’ page, I’ve been enjoying a mix of restaurants recently…)

Menu One

Whole Butter Chicken with Sweet Potatoes & Red Onion (Serves 4)

Here a subtly tandoori spiced chicken is cooked on a bed of sweet potatoes, cherry tomatoes and onions, and at the end of cooking, you are left with a wonderfully sweet tomato sauce. It is a great family dinner dish from Rukmini Iyer’s cookbook ‘The Roasting Tin Around the World’, in which all the recipes are simply cooked in one dish – minimum effort, maximum flavour!…

1 x 1.5kg chicken

50g butter

1 cinnamon stick

5 green cardamom pods, bashed

5 cloves

10cm ginger, grated

4 cloves garlic, crushed

3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into large 5cm chunks

2 red onions, quartered

500g cherry tomatoes with their vines

1 lime, zest and juice

2 teaspoons smoked paprika

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

2 teaspoons ground cumin

4 heaped tablespoons natural yogurt

1 tablespoon sunflower or olive oil

1 teaspoon sea salt flakes

150ml double cream

To Serve: lime juice, sea salt flakes and fresh coriander, roughly chopped.

  1. Place the butter, cinnamon stick, cardamom pods, cloves, half of the grated ginger and garlic into a large roasting tin. Put it in a preheated oven, 180’c fan, for 3-5 minutes to let the butter melt and the spices toast.
  2. Remove the tin from the oven and add the sweet potatoes, red onions and cherry tomatoes (with their vines) and place the chicken on the top.
  3. Mix together the lime zest and juice and the smoked paprika, turmeric, cumin, yogurt, oil, salt and the remaining ginger and garlic. Slather this mixture over the chicken and return the tin to the oven, cook for 1 hour and 15 minutes.
  4. Take the tin from the oven, remove the vines and squash down the tomatoes with a wooden spoon. Stir in the double cream, then return it to the oven for a further 10 minutes until the chicken is cooked through.
  5. Taste the sauce and adjust the flavours with salt and lime juice as needed. Allow to rest for 10 minutes before serving, scattered with the chopped coriander.

Menu Two

Sausages with Grapes (Serves 4) – with Fennel & Parmesan Purée

Kids and adults alike will love this dish, it’s a real crowd-pleaser. I have taken the recipe from Skye McAlpine’s cookbook ‘A Table for Friends’, she, in turn, took it from one of her favourite cookbooks…so it is one of those recipes that has done the rounds, and for good reason!…It is a dish that deserves the best pork sausages you can find and really needs little else, although some mashed potato (recipe here) would be good, or as McAlpine suggests, Fennel and Parmesan Purée (recipe below).

1 tablespoon olive oil

8 pork sausages

500g red grapes

240ml white wine

1 teaspoon cornflower

  1. Heat the oil in a deep frying pan or casserole over a low heat and add the sausages. Cook, turning occasionally until they are browned all over.
  2. Snip the grapes into small bunches, add these to the sausages, then pour in the wine.
  3. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to low and simmer gently, uncovered, for 15-20 minutes until the sausages are cooked through and the wine has evaporated by half. Remove the sausages and grapes to a serving dish with a slotted spoon, leaving behind the cooking juices.
  4. To make the sauce, mix the cornflour with a tablespoon of cooking liquid in a small bowl, then add this to the juices in the pan. Bring to the boil, stirring, and simmer for 2 minutes until thickened. Serve with the sausages and sweet grapes.

Fennel and Parmesan Purée (Serves 4-6)

This is a good way of serving fennel during the colder months, it’s a comfort food recipe a little like mashed potato, only less stodgy and more ‘elegant’. It’s very simple to make; once the fennel is cooked you just have to whizz it in a food processor!…

2 litres of vegetable stock

5 medium fennel bulbs, quartered and leafy fronds reserved

50g butter

1 tablespoon double cream

70g Parmesan cheese, grated plus extra shavings to serve

Sea salt flakes and black pepper

  1. Place the stock in a large saucepan and bring to the boil, add the quartered fennel bulbs, cook at a gentle simmer for about 20 minutes until the fennel is tender.
  2. Drain the fennel then place in food processor /blender and blitz until smooth.
  3. Stir in the butter, cream and grated Parmesan, adding salt and pepper to taste.
  4. Serve with the reserved leafy fennel fronds and a few shavings of Parmesan scattered over.

‘Blast From The Past’ Recipe

Tarragon Chicken Pie (Serves 4)

This is an absolute favourite in our house and one which Felix insists that I cook when he is back from university! It is a recipe that I picked up from a magazine years ago and have tweaked over the years.

I’m gluten free, so unfortunately these days I can’t eat the pastry, but the filling is a treat in itself. I usually serve this with buttered new potatoes. I use ‘Jus Rol, Ready Rolled Puff Pastry’, they have started to make a gluten free puff pastry, I haven’t tried it, but I have heard mixed reviews so for the moment I will continue to be an unselfish ‘head cook’ and stick to the normal pastry that both Nick and Felix love! I prefer to use fresh chicken stock, but you could use a stock cube.

320g pack of ready rolled puff pastry (see note above)

1 tablespoon olive oil

15g butter

3 spring onions, chopped

1 shallot, chopped

75g diced pancetta

500g chicken breast, cut into bite size cubes

225ml chicken stock (see note above)

250g frozen peas

8-10 sprigs of tarragon

3 slices of Prosciutto ham, each slice rolled and cut into 2cm pieces/ribbons

2 tablespoons of double cream

Sea salt and black pepper

1 egg yolk mixed with 1 tablespoon of milk (for a glaze)

  1. First of all, take the pastry out of the fridge as it needs at least 20 minutes to come to room temperature. Preheat the oven 200’c fan.
  2. Heat the oil and butter in a large frying pan, add the spring onions, shallots and pancetta, fry for 2-3 minutes.
  3. Add the chicken, season with salt and pepper and fry for another 5 minutes.
  4. Pour in the chicken stock and peas, bring to a simmer, and add the chopped leaves of 6-7 of the sprigs of tarragon. Cook for 5 minutes until the peas are tender.
  5. Stir in the prosciutto and the cream, pour into a pie dish. Sprinkle over the chopped leaves of the remaining tarragon.
  6. For the pastry top, gently lay out the pastry. Cut it into a circular shape to top the pie dish. I find that by cutting strips of the remaining pastry, pressing them around the rim of the pie dish and then topping with the pastry top, helps the pastry rise – see photo. I also cut out a few leaves for decoration, but obviously, this doesn’t affect the flavour so if you’re in a hurry I’d leave this out! Lightly score the pastry with a criss-cross pattern to help it rise and make sure you cut out a deep cross in the centre to allow the steam to escape during cooking. Brush over with the egg and milk glaze.
  7. Place in the preheated oven, bake for 25-30 minutes.
  8. Serve with new potatoes.

And a Little Treat…

A Cosmopolitan Cocktail (Serves 1)

2 tablespoons vodka

2 tablespoons 100% pure cranberry juice (unsweetened!)

1 tablespoon Cointreau

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon sugar syrup

1 lime wedge (plus a lime wheel to garnish if desired)

  1. Place the vodka, cranberry juice, Cointreau, lemon juice, and syrup in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake 15 seconds until cold. Strain into a martini glass.
  2. Squeeze with the lime wedge and serve, garnished with a lime wheel.

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