June 2022

June or should I say ‘Jubilee Month’, as of course, in the UK, we are starting the month with an extended weekend to celebrate the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee. The Queen will officially be the first British monarch to serve for seventy years – quite a feat. And of course, it gives us all the chance to have a few extra days off! This is particularly good for my family as it also happens to be my Dad’s Ninetieth birthday, which will be another feat that I shall be celebrating!

To celebrate the Jubilee, the street on which I live will be having a Street Party, it will be a relaxed affair with neighbours bringing along their own dishes to eat as a picnic at long tables along the road. Naturally, I have been thinking of a dish that I can bring along which is hands-off; one which will sit in a warm oven happily, whilst we enjoy a few aperitifs with neighbours before we all sit down. I have been thinking of serving ‘Lemon Chilli Chicken’, a recipe that I first shared back in 2020 and then again last month as a ‘Blast from the Past’ recipe, it’s as good straight from the oven as it is at room temperature and only needs a crisp green salad on the side (I really don’t want you to forget this recipe!). The other dish I’ve been contemplating is a recipe from Yotam Ottolenghi for ‘Roast Chicken with Saffron, Hazelnuts and Honey’ ; Felix particularly likes this dish so that may end up swinging the vote! Consequently, this Ottolenghi recipe is this month’s Menu One. It’s not only easy to make but looks stunning and has a delicate and exotic combination of flavours (rosewater, saffron and cinnamon), I like to serve it with rice and a simple salad. Menu Two, ‘Prawn and Mango Curry’, is another recipe that Felix favours, it’s a very mild curry made with coconut milk, I’ve found that it’s popular with adults and children alike. Menu Three, ‘Rigatoni with Artichoke and Pancetta’, is a lovely light pasta dish which is made with preserved artichokes so is both quick to prepare and cook. Finally, a vegetarian recipe, an old classic from Delia Smith and one which you can’t beat! ‘Vegetarian Moussaka’ is a lovely dish for the warmer summer evenings, which I’m hoping we’ll be enjoying in June…

Thinking about those warmer summer evenings, I’ve been feeling rather relaxed and have been listening to some smooth, chilled tracks in my kitchen… you can listen to ‘Music to Cook to…MenuMusic Nineteen’ here!

Menu One

Roast Chicken with Saffron, Hazelnuts and Honey (Serves 4)

This recipe is from Yotam Ottolenghi’s first book, ‘Ottolenghi: the Cookbook’. As he says himself, ‘it is so easy to make, yet looks stunning and has the most delicate and exotic combination of flavours (rosewater, saffron and cinnamon)’. It really is a winning dish and is one of my family favourites! You can either make it with a whole chicken or, as I prefer, with chicken thighs. Serve with rice or couscous.

1 large chicken divided into quarters or 8 chicken thighs

2 onions, roughly chopped

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

A generous pinch of saffron strands

Juice of 1 lemon

4 tablespoons cold water

2 teaspoons sea salt flakes

1 teaspoon black pepper

100g unskinned hazelnuts

70g honey

2 tablespoons rosewater

2 spring onions, roughly chopped

  1. In a large bowl mix the chicken pieces with the onions, olive oil, ginger, cinnamon, saffron, lemon juice, water, salt and pepper. Leave to marinate for at least an hour or overnight in the fridge.
  2. Spread the hazelnuts out on an oven tray and roast in a preheated oven, 190’c, for 10 minutes until lightly browned. Chop roughly and set aside.
  3. Transfer the chicken and marinade to a roasting tray. Arrange the chicken pieces skin-side up and put in the oven for 35 minutes.
  4. While the chicken is roasting mix the honey, rosewater and nuts together to make a rough paste.
  5. Remove the chicken from the oven and spoon a generous amount of the nut paste onto each piece and spread it to cover. Return to the oven for 5-10 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and the nuts are golden brown.
  6. Transfer the chicken to a serving dish and garnish with the chopped spring onions.

Menu Two

Prawn & Mango Curry (Serves 4)

This is a very mild curry made with coconut milk, I’ve found that it’s popular with adults and children alike.  It’s an extremely easy recipe from Angela Hartnett’s cookbook ‘A Taste of Home’. It is certainly home cooking at its best – it will be on the table in less than 30 minutes!

2 x 400ml cans of coconut milk

800g raw prawns, shelled and deveined (defrosted if frozen)

1 mango, flesh diced

1 tablespoon chopped coriander

2 tablespoons chopped Thai basil

For the curry paste:

2 red chillies, seeded, roughly chopped

Zest and juice of 1 lime

2 lemon grass stems, roughly chopped

1 tablespoon chopped ginger

4 garlic cloves, chopped

1 small onion, chopped

  1. Pour the coconut milk into a saucepan and boil until it is reduced by half.
  2. Put the curry paste ingredients into a blender and blitz until smooth.
  3. Add the paste and prawns to the pan of reduced coconut milk and bring to a simmer. Cook for 5 minutes until the prawns are cooked then add the mango, followed by the chopped coriander and Thai basil. Serve with rice.

Menu Three

Rigatoni with Artichokes and Pancetta (Serves 4)

This is a lovely light pasta dish. I use preserved artichokes, but you could of course use fresh globe artichokes, just prepare them and cook for 20 minutes in boiling water before using in the sauce.

400g rigatoni (gluten-free if required)

6 tablespoons olive oil

100g diced pancetta

½ onion, finely sliced

2 garlic cloves, finely sliced

½ teaspoon chilli flakes

300g artichokes in olive oil, drained and sliced into quarters (or fresh artichokes – see note above)

1 lemon grated and juiced

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

Parmesan cheese

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Heat a large frying pan with the olive oil. Add the pancetta and some salt and fry for 2 minutes. Add the onion, garlic and chilli flakes. Reduce the heat and cook for about 10 minutes.
  2. Add the artichokes and lemon zest and cook for a further 3 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile cook the pasta until al dente, according to the packet instructions.
  4. Add the drained pasta to the sauce, then toss through the lemon juice to taste – you may only need ½ of the lemon. Sprinkle over the chopped parsley, some Parmesan cheese, and a good grind of black pepper. Serve.

Menu Four

Vegetarian Moussaka with Ricotta Topping (Serves 4-6)

This is such a good vegetarian recipe! It’s from Delia Smith’s ‘Winter Collection’ cookbook. Yes, I know it’s June, but I think that this recipe is good whatever the season – I know from experience that it is perfect on a summers day with a crunchy green salad!… In the original recipe the aubergines are purged (salted) before cooking, I don’t do this as having read that these days due to the varieties of aubergines being less bitter there is no need, I am inclined to agree and of course, it saves time.

2 aubergines, chopped into 1 cm dice

275ml vegetable stock

50g Puy lentils

50g green lentils

4 tablespoons olive oil

2 onions, finely chopped

1 large red pepper, chopped into small dice

2 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed

400g tin chopped tomatoes, drained

200ml red wine

2 tablespoons tomato purée

1 level teaspoon ground cinnamon

2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Sea salt and black pepper

For the topping:

275ml whole milk

25g plain flour (gluten-free if required)

25g butter

¼ whole nutmeg, grated

250g Ricotta cheese

1 egg, beaten

25g Parmesan cheese

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Pour the stock into a saucepan together with the Puy lentils, bring to the boil and simmer with the lid on for 15 minutes before adding the green lentils. Cover again and cook for a further 15 minutes by which time most of the liquid should be absorbed and the lentils will be soft.
  2. Meanwhile heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan and fry the onions until they are soft and tinged brown, about 5 minutes. Then add the red pepper, cook until softened for 4 minutes or so. Next add the garlic, cook for a further minute then transfer to a plate.
  3. Now fry the aubergines in a further 2 tablespoons of olive oil (you may need a little more), turn up the heat and toss so that the aubergines get evenly cooked. When they are softened and browned add the drained tomatoes and the onion and pepper mixture.
  4. In a bowl mix the wine, tomato purée and cinnamon together, then pour it over the vegetables. Then add the lentils, chopped parsley. Season well and let everything simmer gently whilst you make the topping.
  5. For the topping, simply put the milk, flour, butter and nutmeg in a saucepan and whisk until it comes to simmering point and thickens into a smooth sauce. Remove for the heat and season with salt and pepper, let it cool a little before adding the Ricotta cheese, followed by the beaten egg.
  6. Transfer the vegetable mixture to a baking dish and spoon over the cheese sauce, using the back of a spoon to take it right up to the edges of the dish. Sprinkle over the Parmesan cheese and bake in a preheated oven, 180’c, for a hour.
  7. Remove from the oven and allow to rest for 15 minutes before serving.

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