May 2022

I’m smiling – yes it’s May, the month with not one but two bank holidays! I’m particularly looking forward to this first bank holiday weekend as we have a foodie get-away planned. We booked this stay over a year ago when we were in the depths of a lockdown; we figured that things must surely be better a year on and that the sun should be shining – perhaps we were being a little too optimistic?!… Anyway, having read many positive reviews about ‘The Newt’ in Somerset, we decided that a stay there was the treat we deserved. I’m hoping it will live up to my expectations as, as you may have noticed, I can be quite fussy, but hopefully I will return with a positive review for Menu Mistress!…In addition, at the end of May, we have our second bank holiday. And this year we have an extra day of holiday for the Queen’s Jubilee, together they have been added to the first weekend of June so that we will have a four day weekend!…. I guess that we’re all smiling now?!…

I figured with all this holiday time we’re getting, that you didn’t necessarily want to be spending hours in your kitchens cooking?!… So, this month’s recipes are nice and easy, in fact, the first recipe is from Gordon Ramsay’s cookbook ‘Ramsay in 10; Delicious Recipes Made in a Flash’, in which he claims all the recipes can be ready in 10 minutes! His ‘Chicken and Butternut Squash Curry’ makes a tasty, quick supper and is great served with flatbreads which are unbelievably easy to make – and work well with gluten-free flour! Menu Two is ‘Hake Stewed with Clams’, this is a wonderfully fresh-tasting dish that has a delicious combination of flavours – the addition of the pancetta gives it a subtle meaty flavour, plus it has a little bite from the chilli and smokiness from the paprika! Menu Three is ‘Pasta with Prawns, Courgette and Chilli’ from Diana Henry’s cookbook ‘Simple’ – the name of that cookbook is a clue to how easy this recipe is! Finally, Menu Four is ‘Baked Buckwheat Pasta with Cheese, Courgettes and Potato’; made with buckwheat pasta, this vegetarian dish is naturally gluten-free and full of flavour!

Have a great week, see you next week for my ‘Tuesday Treat’.

(Last week I was in Paris – check out my restaurant reviews here!)

Menu One

Chicken and Butternut Squash Curry with Speedy Flatbreads (Serves 4)

This is a recipe from Gordon Ramsay’s cookbook ‘Ramsay in 10; Delicious Recipes Made in a Flash, in which he claims all the recipes can be ready in 10 minutes! To be honest, I think that this recipe, due to the preparation of the vegetables, definitely pushes beyond those 10 minutes but it is still a very quick and easy recipe – a great midweek curry. It is best to prepare all the ingredients first so that they can be cooked quickly!

½ Butternut squash, preferably the neck end, peeled

Vegetable oil for frying

2½ tablespoons garam marsala

1 large red onion, peeled

1 red chilli

2.5cm piece of ginger, peeled

400-500g chicken breasts

50g frozen peas

250ml coconut milk

240g tinned chopped tomatoes

2 tablespoons chicken or vegetable stock

30g fresh spinach leaves

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Firstly prepare your vegetables: Coarsely grate the squash, the onion and the ginger – keeping them all separate. Chop the chilli.
  2. Dice the chicken breast into small cubes
  3. Heat a high-sided frying pan over a medium-high heat, add a drizzle of oil then add the grated squash, season with salt then stir in the garam marsala. Cook for 4-5 minutes.
  4. Add the grated onion, stir well and cook for a further 2 minutes.
  5. Add the chopped chilli and grated ginger, allow to cook for 2 minutes.
  6. Make a well in the middle of the pan and drizzle in a little more oil. Add the diced chicken, season with salt and toss to combine. Cook for 2 minutes and then add the peas and cook for a further minute.
  7. Add the tomatoes, coconut milk and stock, stir well and bring to the boil then allow to simmer for 4-5 minutes until the chicken is cooked.
  8. Stir in the spinach leaves and cook until they have wilted.
  9. Serve with rice and flatbreads (recipe below)

Speedy Flatbreads (with a Gluten-Free option) (Serves 4)

This is a fantastic recipe – a real revelation. These flatbreads are great as a side to a curry, but are equally good as a snack for lunch! They are super easy to make – the dough just needs 15 minutes to rest before cooking, so bear this in mind.

120g plain flour (gluten-free if required – I use Doves)

Pinch of salt

Glug of olive oil

120ml water (approx)

  1. Place the flour and salt in a bowl, add a glug of olive oil and then, stirring gradually enough water to form a dough (you probably won’t use all the water).
  2. Rest the dough for 15 minutes.
  3. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces, roll into small balls and then gently roll each ball out into thin flatbreads.
  4. Heat a frying pan over a high heat, sprinkle with salt and a drizzle of olive oil. Place each flatbread in the hot pan, one at a time, and cook for 1-2 minutes on each side until slightly charred.

Menu Two

Hake Stewed with Clams (Serves 4)

This wonderfully fresh-tasting dish has a great combination of flavours – the addition of the pancetta gives it a subtle meaty flavour, plus it has a little bite from the chilli and smokiness from the paprika! Serve in bowls with the tasty broth and with either steamed potatoes or rice. This recipe is taken from Neil Perry’s cookbook, ‘The Food I Love’.

4 x 200g pieces of skinless Hake fillet (or Cod, Turbot, Haddock, Snapper etc)

4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped

1 tablespoon of fresh ginger, chopped

½ teaspoon sea salt

½ tablespoon of fennel seeds, dry roasted in a frying pan

½ teaspoon smoky sweet paprika

½ teaspoon chilli flakes

Olive oil

1 red onion, finely sliced

75g diced smoked pancetta

250ml white wine

150g frozen peas

250ml chicken stock

600g clams, rinsed

60g unsalted butter

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

1 small handful of parsley, chopped

  1. Make a spice paste: place the garlic, ginger, fennel seeds and sea salt in a mortar and pestle and pound to form a rough paste. Add the paprika and chilli flakes and pound a little more. Set aside.
  2. Season the fish with a little sea salt. Heat a splash of olive oil in a deep frying pan (with a lid) or a casserole, when it is hot add the fish and sear it on both sides. Remove the fillets to a plate.
  3. Add a little more olive oil to the pan and add the onion and pancetta plus a little more salt, cook for 5 minutes until the onion is softened. Add the spice paste and cook for a further 2 minutes, then add the wine, cook out for 2 minutes.
  4. Add the peas, chicken stock and clams (ensuring all the clams are closed before cooking), bring to the boil then return the fish to the pan and lower the heat to a simmer. Cover and simmer gently for 8 minutes until the fish is cooked through and the clams have all opened (discard any which are still closed).
  5. Gently mix in the butter until melted. Give a good grind of fresh pepper and stir through the parsley. Check the seasoning.
  6. Divide the fish among four bowls, spoon over the juices and clams and serve immediately.

Menu Three

Pasta with Courgettes, Prawns & Chilli (Serves 4)

This is a recipe from Diana Henry’s cookbook ‘Simple’, so the title of the book tells you straightaway that this is a quick and easy recipe. It is also big on flavour! Henry uses trofie pasta, which looks and tastes wonderful with this sauce, but if you can’t get it or are gluten-free, any other short pasta shape, such as penne or casarecce works well. Make sure you cook the courgettes until they are lovely and golden to create as much flavour as possible. You can either use dill or basil, I prefer dill for this recipe.

300g trofie or any other short pasta shape such as penne, casarecce (gluten-free if required)

Salt and pepper

6 tablespoons olive oil

500g courgettes cut into little cubes

2 garlic cloves, crushed

300g raw king prawns, shelled and deveined

2 good pinches of chilli flakes

8 tablespoons dry white vermouth (or white wine)

1 lemon, juiced

2 tablespoons dill fronds (or torn basil leaves)

  1. Cook the pasta until al dente, according to the packet instructions.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan and quickly sauté the courgettes until they’re golden all over and quite soft. Add the garlic, prawns, chilli flakes and seasoning, cook for another minute over a fairly high heat tossing the prawns around. Splash in the vermouth and let it bubble away until almost nothing.
  3. Quickly drain the pasta and add to the frying pan along with the lemon juice (to taste) and either the dill or basil. Check the seasoning and add a final glug of olive oil. Serve immediately.

Menu Four

Baked Buckwheat Pasta with Cheese, Courgettes and Potato (Serves 4)

This is a delicious, quite unusual pasta recipe from one of my favourite cookbook writers, Antonio Carluccio. It is apparently based on a classic recipe from the Valtellina valley in Italy, where they traditionally make it with pizzoccheri, a sort of buckwheat tagliatelle. This is difficult to find in the UK so I substitute it for buckwheat penne. The good thing about buckwheat pasta is that it is naturally gluten-free and healthier than regular pasta. It gives the dish a slightly nutty flavour, however, you could substitute it for regular pasta if you prefer. The original recipe calls for Bitto or Fontina cheese, but, again, these can be difficult to find in the UK, so I use Emmental. The end result is a healthy, very tasty pasta dish!

300g buckwheat penne (see note above)

300g courgettes, trimmed and cubed

300g waxy potatoes (such as Charlotte), peeled and cubed

200g Fontina or Emmental cheese, cut into small cubes

60g unsalted butter

80g Parmesan cheese, freshly grated

2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

  1. Put the pasta, courgettes and potatoes into a large saucepan full of boiling, salted water, and cook until everything is tender (about 12 minutes).
  2. Drain well then mix the Fontina (or Emmental) cheese, 40g of the butter and 60g of the Parmesan. Put in a suitable ovenproof dish and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan. Bake in a preheated oven, 180’c fan, for 20 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the remaining butter in a pan with the sliced garlic and heat until foaming. Remove the baked pasta from the oven and spoon over the melted garlic butter and season with salt and pepper. Serve straight away.

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