January 2022

Happy New Year and a very warm welcome to 2022!…

For Menu Mistress a new year means a new style. I have been mulling over a change for some time now and I feel that the start of 2022 is the ideal time to introduce a few changes to the way I will be sharing recipes in the future.

It seems incredible that since starting this blog in June 2020 I have shared over two hundred recipes! I fear that in my enthusiasm to share, I have bombarded you with so many recipes that it’s difficult to keep up…. plus, I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I’m struggling to keep up myself! As you may know, Menu Mistress was born out of boredom during the first 2020 lockdown; when my normal routine was interrupted, I decided to create this website to share recipes from my favourite cookbooks. I must admit Menu Mistress has become a bit of a ‘monster’ in my life, but one which I love despite the time it demands. Now that the world is learning to live with Covid and my life has reverted to its normal routine, I’ve been ‘chasing my tail’ a little, so to continue enjoying Menu Mistress, I need to find a balance…

With the advent of 2022, my New Year’s resolution is all about balance! Therefore, I will be continuing to share recipes each month but the main blog will only be on the first Wednesday of the month. On the following alternate Tuesdays, I will post a ‘Tuesday Treat’ which will be in either the form of a sweet treat or a cocktail. Then on the third Wednesday of the month, I will be posting a ‘Blast from the Past’ recipe to remind you of a recipe that I have previously shared, which if you haven’t done so already, you must cook! In the meantime, I will continue to post restaurant reviews depending on when and where I have eaten!… So, please keep popping by to check out what I’m sharing and if you haven’t already done so, you really should sign up for my weekly emails which will remind you of my new posts (sign up via the link towards the bottom of this page).

Now, with my New Year’s resolution sorted, let’s start talking about this week’s recipes…

January can often feel like the longest month after the merriment of Christmas, however I think that you’ll cheer up with these new recipes on your agenda. I am constantly trying new recipes, many don’t make the grade for Menu Mistress, but when they do they always make me smile! The recipes that I’m sharing this week made a particular impression, I can honestly say that I glowed when I tasted them as there was little doubt that they were winning dishes. Menu One is ‘Spiced Venison Stew’, which uses the idea of mulled spices to create a wonderfully spiced, warming stew which has a subtle ‘kick’. It’s the sort of dish which will cheer you up on a cold, dreary January day! Menu Two is ‘Chicken Pot Parmentier’, I must admit it’s not the quickest of recipes, but the result will again cheer you up! It would make a perfect weekend meal, it’s an elegant yet comforting dish. The tasty chicken filling is topped with buttery mash – a French take on a ‘Shepherds Pie’, but dare I say it, better?!… Menu Three is an Ottolenghi recipe, ‘Gigli with chickpeas and Za’atar’, which is not only delicious but incredibly easy to cook – a boost to any midweek evening! Despite having a vegetarian base it is made with anchovies and chicken stock so has a very meaty, fulfilling flavour yet still manages to have a clean edge. If you can get hold ‘gigli’ pasta, do use these pasta shapes as they make the dish look particularly cheerful, but of course, any other pasta shape such as conchiglie can be substituted and will taste just as good. Although I’m cutting back on my blogs, I thought I’d give you four new savoury recipes each month, so this week I’m sharing four recipes instead of three! Menu Four is a vegetarian recipe which I think we all need after all the heavy and no doubt meaty food we’ve enjoyed over the festive period!… ‘Pomegranate-Cooked Lentils and Aubergines’ is a fantastic recipe that I recently discovered in the cookbook ‘Falastin’. As you may know from my previous blogs, my husband, Nick, is not a big fan of vegetarian food, but he was full of praise for this dish – so what better endorsement could there be?!…

A very Happy New Year to you all!… Here’s to cooking our way through 2022 with the recipes I’ll be sharing on Menu MistressI’ll be back next week with a Tuesday Treat!…

Menu One

Spiced Venison Stew (Serve 6)

This stew uses the idea of mulled wine and its spices to create a wonderfully warming stew which has a subtle spicy ‘kick’. It’s the sort of dish which will cheer you up on a cold, dreary winters day. The recipe is from Rosie Birkett’s cookbook, ‘The Joyful Cook’, which I thoroughly recommend! You could substitute the venison for beef shin, however venison’s rich flavour works particularly well with the robust spices in this stew. The amount of chilli paste depends on the make of paste you use and your taste buds, it is a matter of trial and error. I use ‘Gran Luchito’ chipotle chilli paste which can be found in supermarkets or online, I start with about ½ tablespoon and add more towards the end of cooking depending on my mood.

1kg venison shoulder cut into 2-3cm chunks (or you could use beef shin)

4 tablespoons plain flour (gluten-free if required)

1½ tablespoons olive oil

100g smoked pancetta lardons

1 onion, finely chopped

2 celery sticks, strings removed and sticks finely chopped

1 large carrot, finely chopped

1 bay leaf

2 sprigs of thyme

2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, chopped, plus extra to garnish

1 cinnamon stick

Pinch cumin seeds

1 star anise

½ -1 tablespoon chipotle chilli paste (see note above)

1 tablespoon tomato purée

400ml spicy red wine (Malbec or similar)

½ orange, juiced and zest grated

250ml beef stock

Sea salt and black pepper

For the pink pickled onions:

1 small red onion, thinly sliced

3 black peppercorns

1 clove

1 teaspoon caster sugar

½ teaspoon salt

4 tablespoons cider vinegar

  1. Dry the chunks of venison well with kitchen roll, then season the flour with salt and pepper and roll the meat in it.
  2. Heat the oil in a large casserole dish over a medium-high heat, add the pancetta and fry for 4-5minutes, until they are lightly coloured and starting to caramelise. Transfer to a plate with a slotted spoon and set aside. Now, working in batches brown the venison in the fat for a few minutes on each side. Add the brown meat to the pancetta.
  3. Add the vegetables, bay leaf, herbs, spices and chilli paste to the casserole dish. Stir well and cook over a low-medium heat for 10-15 minutes, adding a little extra oil if needed. Now stir in the tomato purée and cook for a minute then pour over the red wine and orange juice and add the zest, turn up the heat, stirring well to release any bits stuck to the bottom.
  4. Return the venison and pancetta to the casserole. Add the beef stock and bring to the boil. Cover with a lid and place in a preheated oven, 180’c fan, for 1½-2 hours, until the venison is meltingly tender and the sauce thick and rich. Taste for seasoning and adjust accordingly, adding more chilli paste if you fancy.
  5. Meanwhile make the pink pickled onions. Place the onion slices in a heatproof bowl, cover with boiling water and leave for 1 minute. Drain off the water, then add the spices, sugar, salt and cider vinegar to the bowl and stir to combine. When you are ready to serve, drain on some kitchen paper to get rid of the brine.
  6. Serve the venison topped with the pink pickled onions and some chopped parsley. This is great with my ‘Favourite Mashed Potato’ (recipe below).

Staple Side Dish’ – ‘Favourite’ Mashed Potato (Serves 4)

There are numerous recipes for mashed potato, and yes, I have tried many, but this one is probably my favourite. It actually doesn’t contain any butter, which makes me feel that it could be healthy, although admittedly it does contain double cream! Don’t be put off by the garlic, you really can’t taste it, it just enhances the flavour of the potato. I must admit I ‘cheat’ when it comes to mashing, I am fortunate to have an amazing kitchen appliance, a Thermomix, this is a serious piece of kitchen kit; I can actually steam my potatoes in it and then mash them in seconds. If you don’t have a Thermomix you can either mash by hand, however,  for an easier option I would recommend doing as Delia Smith suggests in her ‘Winter Cookbook’ – whisk them with an electric hand whisk. When whisking them you do have to be careful – make sure that the potatoes are absolutely cooked, otherwise they will go gluey. Start off with the speed slow to break up the potatoes and then increase to a high speed to quickly whip them until smooth – don’t do it for too long, as again, they will go gluey, which is not good!

1kg potatoes (floury, such as Maris Piper)

100ml full-fat milk

100ml double cream

2 cloves garlic, sliced

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Peel the potatoes and cut into even sized chunks. Steam until completely cooked through.
  2. Put the milk, cream and garlic in a small saucepan and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat.
  3. Mash the potatoes (see note above) adding the milk mixture a little at a time. Season well with salt and pepper.

Menu Two

Chicken Pot Parmentier (Serves 6)

This is an elegant yet comforting dish, I must admit that it’s not the quickest of recipes, but the result is definitely worth it! The tasty chicken filling is topped with buttery mash – a french take on a shepherds pie, but dare I say it, better?!…I have taken the recipe from David Leibovitz’s wonderful cookbook, ‘My Paris Kitchen’.

500g chicken breasts

1 litre chicken stock

3 carrots, peeled and diced

2 celery sticks, diced

8 shallots, peeled and halved

85g butter

60g plain flour (gluten-free if required)

1 clove garlic, crushed

2 tablespoons dry white wine

130g peas

2 tablespoons tarragon, finely chopped

2 tablespoons flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

1 teaspoon sea salt

½ teaspoon freshy ground black pepper

For the potato topping:

1.2kg potatoes (such as Maris Piper), peeled and cut into large chunks

85g butter, cubed at room temperature plus 2 tablespoons melted

1 teaspoon sea salt

3 large egg yolks

80ml double cream

Freshly ground black pepper

Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

  1. First of all cook the chicken breasts by dropping them into a pan of boiling water, turn off the heat and cover. Leave for about 15 minutes by which time they should be cooked through (if they are very large cut them in half). Allow to cool before cutting into bitesize chunks and set aside.
  2. To make the filling, heat the stock in a saucepan over a medium heat with the carrots, celery and shallots. Let it simmer for about 15 minutes until the vegetables are almost tender. Turn off the heat and set aside.
  3. Melt the butter in a large saucepan. Stir in the flour and cook, stirring constantly for 2 minutes. Whisk in a few ladlefuls of the warm stock into the flour mixture. Gradually add all the stock, including the vegetables, stirring as you go. Cook for about 10 minutes until the sauce has thickened. During the last minutes of cooking add the garlic and white wine.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the chunks of chicken, peas, tarragon, parsley, salt and pepper. Taste, adding more seasoning if necessary. Pour the mixture into a shallow baking dish (2.5/3litre) and set on a baking sheet.
  5. To make the potato topping, cook the potatoes until tender (either steam them or cook in a pan of boiling water). Drain, then mash with the cubed butter and salt. Let the mashed potatoes cool for about 5 minutes before stirring in the egg yolks. Finally stir in the cream, a generous amount of pepper and the nutmeg.
  6. Spread the mash over the chicken filling and dribble over the melted butter with a pastry brush. Bake in a preheated oven, 200’c fan, for 30 minutes until the potatoes are golden brown.

Menu Three

Gigli with Chickpeas and Za’atar (Serves 4)

This is a recipe from Ottolenghi’s cookbook, ‘Simple’, it is not only a delicious recipe but incredibly easy to cook – a boost to any midweek evening! Despite having a vegetarian base it is made with anchovies and chicken stock so has a very meaty, fulfilling flavour yet still manages to have a clean edge. If you can get hold ‘gigli’ pasta do use these pasta shapes as they do make the dish look particularly cheerful, but of course any other pasta shape such as conchiglie can be substituted and will taste just as good.

45ml olive oil, plus extra to serve

½ onion, finally chopped

2 garlic cloves, crushed

2 teaspoons ground cumin

10g thyme leaves, finely chopped

25g anchovy fillets in oil, drained and finely chopped (about 7)

Zest of half a lemon, plus 2 tablespoons of juice

2 x 400g tins of chickpeas, drained

1 teaspoon soft brown sugar

400ml chicken stock

200g gigli pasta or conchiglie or orecchiette (gluten-free if required)

50g baby spinach leaves

15g parsley, roughly chopped

1½ teaspoons za’atar

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Put the olive oil into a large sauté pan and place on a high heat. Add the onion, garlic, cumin, thyme, anchovies, lemon zest, ½ teaspoon of salt and a good grind of black pepper. Fry for 3-4 minutes, stirring often, until soft and golden.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium, then add the chickpeas and sugar and fry for 8 minutes, stirring occasionally until the chickpeas begin to brown and crisp up. Add the chicken stock and lemon juice and simmer for 6 minutes, until the sauce has reduced slightly. Remove from the heat and set aside.
  3. Meanwhile cook the pasta according to the packet instructions until al dente.
  4. Stir the spinach and parsley into the chickpeas – the residual heat should cook the spinach but if it doesn’t wilt put the pan back over a gentle heat. Stir the pasta into the chickpea mixture. Divide between four plates and sprinkle the za’atar on top and drizzle with a little olive oil.

Menu Four

Pomegranate-Cooked Lentils and Aubergines (Serves 4)

This is my new favourite vegetarian meal! I found it in the cookbook ‘Falastin’ by Sami Tamimi and Tara Wigley, which celebrates the food of Palastine. I adore Pomegranate Molasses as it adds such a wonderfully intense sweet and sour flavour to dishes but without being overpowering, in this recipe it really adds a little bit of magic! This dish is great served simply with rice or bread. The leftovers make a delicious lunch (I speak from experience!) – or as suggested in the cookbook you could have them for breakfast with a fried egg, I’m yet to try this but it sounds delicious!…

2 aubergines (500g), cut into 3cm dice

60ml olive oil, plus 1½ tablespoons extra to serve

150g green or brown lentils

4 cloves garlic, crushed

1 green chilli, deseeded and chopped

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1½ teapoons fennel seeds, roughly crushed in a pestle and mortar

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1 tablespoon cornflour

4 tablespoons (80g) pomegranate molasses

2 tablespoons lemon juice

1 tablespoon tahini

Salt and black pepper

Fried Onions:

About 400ml vegetable oil

2 large onions, thinly sliced

2 tablespoons cornflour

To Serve:

A handful of parsley, roughly chopped

40g pomegranate seeds

2 red chillies, thinly sliced

  1. In a large bowl mix the aubergines with 2 tablespoons olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt and a good grind of black pepper. Tip them on to a large parchment-lined baking tray (about 35x40cm), so that they are in a single layer. Roast in a preheated oven, 220’c fan, for 25 minutes, stirring once or twice throughout. Remove from the oven and set aside.
  2. Rinse the lentils and put them in a saucepan with 1 litre of water. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to medium and simmer for about 20-25 minutes until they are almost cooked. Drain the lentils, reserving 350ml of the cooking liquid.
  3. To fry the onions, pour enough vegetable oil into a large saute pan so that it rises 3cm up the sides of the pan. Mix the onions with the cornflour and then when the oil is hot, carefully fry the onions in batches – fry for about 6-7 minutes until they are golden brown, stirring to stop them sticking together. Remove each batch with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper and sprinkle with salt.
  4. Wipe clean the sauté pan and add the remaining 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Place over a medium heat and add the garlic and chilli. Fry for 2 minutes stirring, until the garlic is light golden brown. Add the cumin, fennel and coriander and stir continuously for 30 seconds. Stir in the cornflour for 1 minute, then add the lentils, the 350ml of reserved cooking liquid, ¾ teaspoon of salt and plenty of pepper. Bring to the boil and cook for 5-6 minutes stirring frequently until the liquid has thickened to the consistency of thick porridge. Finally, add the pomegranate molasses, lemon juice, tahini, all the aubergines and half of the fried onions. Stir through, then remove from the heat.
  5. Serve sprinkled with the remaining fried onions, the chopped parsley, pomegranate seeds and sliced chillies, finishing with a drizzle of olive oil and rice on the side.

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