November 2022

I am a planner. I’m happiest when I have a plan, big or small. Perhaps, that is why I’m so content in my kitchen where you can find me following the plan of a recipe – by my own admission I’m not a creator of recipes but I am extremely good at spotting a top-notch recipe when I see it; which is, of course, great for you! However, just recently one of these recipes was so good that it upset my plans for Menu Mistress. I write up my new recipe posts at least 6 weeks in advance; I have it all mapped out, all under control – ‘planned’. So when the other day I discovered the aforementioned recipe, I was in a bit of a quandary. No, it couldn’t wait until January, it was made for November! That, of course, has meant I have had to change my ‘post’ plan at the last minute, which as you can imagine is something that is quite out of character for me. However, I hope that you’ll agree that sometimes a change ‘out of the blue’ can be good – delicious even! So, this month ‘Marmalade-Roasted Chicken Legs & Squash’, a recipe from the fabulous chef of London’s ‘Sessions Arts Club’ (review here!) and author of the cookbook ‘One’, has made it onto November’s menus!…

Drum roll please for this month’s menus!…

Menu One, ‘Rolled Pork with Cider’, is a recipe that simply sums up the spirit of November – cider and apples how can one resist? I found this recipe in Donna Hay’s cookbook ‘Seasons’ and as with a lot of her recipes, it’s super easy to make. Menu Two is ‘Baked Sausages, Leeks, Apples & Cider’, this is a fantastic midweek supper dish from Diana Henry’s cookbook ‘Pure Simple Cooking’, it’s perfect on a winter’s evening! Menu Three is the celebrated ‘Marmalade-Roasted Chicken Legs & Squash’; I think I’ve already sold you this dish! And finally, Menu Four is a vegetarian pasta dish, ‘Pasta & Lentils’ is a wonderful wintery pasta dish which will please vegetarians and meat lovers alike. Enjoy!

Menu One

Cider Roasted Pork Shoulder (Serves 4)

This is a recipe that simply cries to be eaten on a cold day! Pork, cider and apples how can one resist?! I found this recipe in Donna Hay’s cookbook ‘Seasons’, and as with a lot of her recipes, it’s super easy to make. This really is a recipe you need to make a note of…

1.8kg pork shoulder, tied and skin scored

Sea salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

6 red onions, peeled and halved

250ml apple juice

750ml dry cider

75g brown sugar

4 fresh bay leaves

4 sprigs thyme

  1. Rub the skin of the pork with the salt.
  2. Place the oil and onions in a deep baking dish, top with the pork and roast a preheated oven, 220’c fan, for 30 minutes.
  3. Place the apple juice, cider and sugar in a bowl and whisk to combine. Add the apple mixture, bay leaves and thyme to the pork (do not pour it over the skin of the pork as you want this to crisp up), cover with foil. Reduce the oven temperature to 180’c and roast for a further 2 hours.
  4. Remove the foil, increase the heat to 200’c and roast for a further 30 minutes or until the skin is gold and crispy.
  5. Remove the pork and set aside. Place the baking dish over a medium heat and cook the juices for 10 minutes or until thick and syrupy.
  6. Serve the pork with the juices and onions. Roast potatoes and ‘Tenderstem Broccoli with Lemon & Almonds’ are good accompaniments (recipes below)

‘Staple Side Dish’ – Tenderstem Broccoli with Lemon Butter and Almonds (Serves 4)

This is a lovely fresh recipe which really takes tenderstem broccoli to another level.

200g Tenderstem Broccoli

20g unsalted butter

Juice of half a lemon

A generous handful of flaked almonds

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. First of all put the flaked almonds in a small, dry frying pan, place over a moderate heat, stirring, until the almonds are browned – toasted. Remove to a plate.
  2. Steam the tenderstem broccoli for about 4 minutes until just cooked.
  3. Melt the butter in  a small frying pan and add the lemon juice, stirring well.
  4. Add the tenderstem broccoli, stirring to give it a good coating of the butter mixture, season with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the reserved toasted almonds.

Staple Side Dish – Perfect Roast Potatoes

Everybody has their favourite roast potato recipe. I must admit that having tried various recipes, I have always returned to the one I found years ago in Delia Smith’s ‘Winter Collection Cookbook’ – you can’t beat it in my opinion. I use either olive oil or goose fat (I buy it in jars), depending on my mood. The olive oil gives a lighter, cleaner taste, whereas the goose fat has a richer flavour – both crisp up the potatoes equally well.

1.8kg Maris Piper or other floury, roasting potatoes

110g olive oil or goose fat (see note above)

Sea salt

  1. Place the fat in the roasting tin and place in the oven, 190’c fan, on the highest shelf so that the oil preheats whilst you prepare the potatoes.
  2. Peel the potatoes and cut into evenly sized pieces.
  3. Place the potatoes in a saucepan, cover with boiling water and add the salt. Simmer for 10 minutes until the outer edge of the potatoes is fluffy – test with the points of a fork.
  4. Drain the potatoes well and return to the saucepan. Place a lid over the pan and shake it vigorously. By shaking the potatoes in the saucepan in this way the cooked edges will become floury and fluffy – perfect for crisping up in the oven.
  5. Remove the roasting tin from the oven and place the potatoes in the hot fat – careful as the oil may spit! Baste them well and return to the oven for about 40 minutes until they are golden brown and crisped.
  6. Sprinkle with salt and serve straightaway – do not allow them to sit around otherwise they will loose their crunch (if they are cooked before you are ready, turn off the oven and leave them inside – but with caution, they don’t like to wait!)

Menu Two

Baked Sausages with Leeks, Apples & Cider (Serves 4)

This is a fantastic midweek supper dish from Diana Henry’s cookbook ‘Pure Simple Cooking’, it’s perfect on a winter’s evening, but I’ve been known to serve it in all weathers!.. Serve with mashed potatoes (recipe below!)

3 leeks, washed and chopped into 1-inch lengths

2 apples, halved, cored and cut into wedges

8 good quality pork sausages (gluten-free if required)

3 tablespoons olive oil

Sea salt and black pepper

30g salted butter, cut into small cubes

280ml cider

2 tablespoons coarse-grain mustard

  1. Put the leeks and apples into an oveproof dish and arrange the sausages in a single layer on top. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper, and toss everything around. Dot with the butter and pour in the cider. Bake in a preheated oven, 190’c, for 50-60 minutes.
  2. About 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time, spread the mustard over the sausages and any sticking-out apple pieces, and return to the oven.
  3. Serve with mashed potatoes (‘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 Three

Marmalade-Roasted Chicken Legs & Squash (Serves 4)

Every cold, blustery day needs this recipe! It’s comfort food at its best, the chicken meat becomes sticky and unctuous, and teamed with the soft, slightly sweet roasted butternut squash it is simply perfect. I found this recipe in Florence Knight’s cookbook ‘One’, it’s become a family favourite!

800g Butternut squash

2 teaspoons coriander seeds

½ teaspoon dried chilli flakes

2 tablespoons chicken stock (or water)

100g Muscovado sugar (plus a sprinkle)

4 chicken legs, skin on

2 tablespoons thick-cut marmalade

1 tablespoon tomato ketchup

2 teaspoons sunflower oil

2 garlic cloves

Sea salt and black pepper

Olive oil

Natural yogurt to serve

  1. First of all, prepare the butternut squash by cutting it in half, peeling it, removing the seeds, and cutting it into even-sized slices – roughly the thickness of a pound coin. Place them in a roasting tray with the coriander seeds, dried chilli flakes, chicken stock, a good pinch of salt and black pepper, a glug of olive oil and a sprinkle of the sugar.
  2. In a separate roasting tray, rub the chicken legs with the rest of the sugar, the marmalade, ketchup and sunflower oil. Bash the garlic cloves with the flat of your knife, remove the skin and fold through the sticky chicken along with a pinch of salt and pepper.
  3. Place both roasting tins in a preheated oven, 200’c fan. Glaze the chicken every 10 minutes. After 30-40 minutes remove the chicken, cover with foil and leave to rest whilst the butternut squash finishes cooking for about another five minutes.
  4. Once the butternut squash is cooked through and caramelised, scoop a third of it into a bowl, add a splash of olive oil and use a fork to roughly mash it. Fold it back through the remaining caramelised pieces.
  5. Spoon portions of the butternut squash onto plates, topping each with a sticky chicken leg and a spoonful of tart, natural yoghurt.

Menu Four

Pasta & Lentils (Serves 4-5)

This is a delicious vegetarian pasta with a wonderful fulfilling flavour; it will be loved by vegetarians and meat lovers alike!…

300g pasta shells (gluten-free if required)

300g Puy lentils

2 level tablespoons Marigold Swiss bouillon powder

1 onion, peeled and cut in half

6 fresh sage leaves

2 sprigs rosemary

4 ripe tomatoes, 350-400g, peeled

20g parsley, stalks removed

2 cloves garlic, peeled

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt

To Serve:

Extra virgin olive oil

Freshly grated pecorino romano (or parmesan)

  1. Put the lentils in a sieve and rinse them under cold water, picking out any gritty bits. Place in a saucepan, cover with cold water, bring to the boil, boiling for 5 minutes, then drain, reserving the cooking liquid and rinse them.
  2. Put 3 litres of hot water, including the reserved cooking liquid from the lentils, in a saucepan and mix in the Marigold Swiss bouillon powder. Add the onion, sage leaves, rosemary sprigs and 1 level tablespoon of salt.
  3. Add the lentils to the pan, cover and bring to the boil, stirring once or twice. Let the lentils cook for about 20 minutes until just tender.
  4. Add the pasta shells to the saucepan and cook with the lentils for a further 10-11 minutes – until the pasta it just al dente (check the packet instructions for cooking time).
  5. Meanwhile, squeeze the seeds out from the tomatoes. Chop the tomatoes together with the garlic and parsley, to form a coarse mixture. Spoon the mixture into a large frying pan, pour in the 4 tablespoons of olive oil and heat gently for 5 minutes.
  6. When the pasta is nearly cooked drain the pasta and lentils, pick out the onions, sage and rosemary. Add the pasta and lentils to the frying pan and stir-fry with the parsley mixture over a medium-high heat for 3-4 minutes turning the mixture over and over.
  7. Serve in pasta bowls, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with the cheese.

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