January 2023

I’ve been feeling rather nostalgic lately. The start of the new year has brought memories from the past, plus with my son, Felix, recently flying the nest I’ve been overwhelmed by sentimental feelings; a mix of hope for the future yet also a longing for the past – where did my toddler go?!… Hence my kitchen has been filled with memories. I’ve been cooking up some old dishes (in a very modern way!) to the sounds of my childhood; a seventies soundtrack – a bit of Bowie with a taste of Abba thrown in! What better way to welcome in January than with some old classic dishes…

Menu One is ‘Coq au Riesling’, the classic of the classic dishes; a creamy take on ‘Coq au Vin’. A dish that not only exudes nostalgia but also comfort with its winey, creamy sauce. I favour Nigel Slaters’ recipe from his cookbook ‘Real Food’, the flavours are perfectly balanced and it’s relatively quick and easy to make. It deserves to be served with some smooth mashed potatoes, but it’s pretty good with just a green salad if you’re feeling virtuous! Menu Two is another chicken dish ‘Baked Chicken and Chorizo’. It’s a recipe which my friend introduced me to, it’s her ‘old classic’ family recipe, one which is good enough to be served to both family and friends; it’s been known to turn up on her ‘dinner-party table’. It’s been appearing on our supper table lately so I thought that it was time to share it with you! Menu Three is ‘Spiced Sausage Ragu’, another classic but with a modern spicy punch – a good recipe on a cold, winter’s day. Finally, Menu Four is perhaps the ultimate vegetarian classic, ‘Macaroni Cheese with Cherry Tomatoes’. I remember my mum making macaroni cheese back in the seventies, I wasn’t keen on it in those days as according to my fussy, childish taste buds it was too cheesy – perhaps if my mum had followed this recipe with cherry tomatoes I would have been asking for seconds (although in her defence, cherry tomatoes weren’t a thing you could easily find on the shelves of a seventies grocery shop!). Not only is this a fabulous version of macaroni cheese due to the sweet addition of roasted tomatoes but it’s hassle-free; instead of making a cheese sauce from scratch it calls for mascarpone cheese simply combined with Emmental cheese – so easy!…

So with these recipes shared the only thing I must do is wish you all “A Very Happy New Year”!!…

(If, like me, you’re feeling nostalgic, you’ll love my new playlist!… Click here to listen to ‘Music to Cook to…Menu Music Twenty Two’)

Menu One

Coq au Riesling (Serves 4)

This is the classic of classic dishes; a creamy take on ‘Coq au Vin’. A dish that not only exudes nostalgia but also comfort with its winey, creamy sauce. This particular recipe is from Nigel Slater’s cookbook ‘Real Food’, I’ve slightly adapted it to serve four. The flavours are perfectly balanced and it’s relatively quick and easy to make. It deserves to be served with some smooth mashed potatoes, but it’s pretty good with just a crisp green salad if you’re feeling virtuous!

50g butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

150g pancetta or streaky bacon, diced

2 onions, chopped

4 cloves of garlic, chopped

8 chicken thighs

250g chestnut mushrooms, halved or quartered

500ml medium-dry wine, such as Reisling

250ml double cream

3 tablespoons chopped parsley

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Melt the butter in a casserole and add the olive oil. Fry the diced pancetta (or streaky bacon), when it’s browned add the onions and garlic. Leave to cook over a moderate heat until the onions have softened but not coloured, then scoop everything out of the pan with a slotted spoon and keep to one side.
  2. Add the chicken thighs to the casserole, let them brown well on all sides, add more oil if needed. Remove from the pan and keep to one side.
  3. Add the mushrooms to the pan and cook for a few minutes, then return the pancetta, onions, garlic and chicken thighs. Turn up the heat, pour in the wine and bring quickly to the boil and then reduce to a simmer. Cook gently for 25 minutes, turning the chicken from time to time.
  4. Lift out the chicken from the pan and pour in the cream. Continue to cook until the cream starts to thicken slightly. Season with salt and black pepper and stir in the parsley.
  5. Return the chicken to the pan and reheat before serving.

Menu Two

Chorizo and Chilli Chicken (Serves 4)

This is a recipe which my friend introduced me to, it’s her ‘old classic’ family recipe, one which is good enough to be served to both family and friends; it’s been known to turn up on her ‘dinner-party table’…

8 chicken thighs

1 tablespoon olive oil

225g chorizo, sliced (about thickness of a pound coin)

400g tinned tomatoes

2 tablespoons tomato paste

½ teaspoon chilli flakes

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

2 red onions, cut into wedges

2 red peppers, roughly diced

2 handfuls whole black olives

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Season the chicken thighs with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and fry the chicken, skin-side down until browned, then turn over and quickly brown the underside. Remove from the pan and place in a roasting tin.
  2. Add the chorizo slices to the frying pan, fry for about 5 minutes before adding the tinned tomatoes along with the tomato paste, chilli flakes, Worcestershire sauce and onion wedges. Season with salt and pepper, stir and bring to the boil.
  3. Pour over the chicken and gently mix, making sure that the chicken thighs are left skin-side up. Bake in a preheated oven, 200’c fan, for 15 minutes.
  4. Remove from the oven and gently stir through the diced red peppers and black olives, then return to the oven for a further 15 minutes.
  5. Finally, stir through the parsley before serving.

Menu Three

Spiced Sausage Ragu with Rigatoni (Serves 4)

You can never have enough sausage ragu recipes, this variation has a subtle spicy kick. It’s great on a cold winters evening!

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, finely chopped

2 large cloves garlic, crushed

¼ teaspoon chilli flakes (or more to taste)

2 rosemary sprigs, leaves finely chopped

2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes

1 tablespoon brown sugar

6 pork sausages (gluten free if required)

150ml whole milk

1 lemon, zested

350g rigatoni pasta (gluten free if required)

½ bunch parsley, chopped

Sea salt and black pepper

Grated parmesan to serve

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of the oil in a pan over a medium heat. Fry the onion with a pinch of salt for about 8 minutes. Add the garlic, chilli and rosemary, then cook for a further minute. Add the tomatoes and sugar and simmer for 20 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile remove the casings from the sausages and mash up the meat. Heat the remaining oil in a frying pan and fry the sausage meat, breaking it up with a wooden spoon, for about 8 minutes until browned.
  3. Add the sausage to the sauce together with the lemon zest and milk, and season with salt and pepper. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile cook the pasta until al dente, according to the packet instructions.
  5. Toss the drained pasta through the sauce. Scatter over the parsley and serve sprinkled with parmesan.

Menu Four

Macaroni Cheese with Cherry Tomatoes (Serves 4)

I remember my mum making macaroni cheese back in the seventies, I wasn’t keen on it in those days as according to my fussy, childish taste buds it was too cheesy – perhaps if my mum had followed this recipe with cherry tomatoes I would have been asking for seconds (although in her defence, cherry tomatoes weren’t a thing you could easily find on the shelves of a seventies grocery shop!). Not only is this a fabulous version of macaroni cheese due to the sweet addition of roasted tomatoes but it’s hassle-free; instead of making a cheese sauce from scratch it calls for mascarpone cheese simply combined with Emmental cheese – so easy!…

250g cherry tomatoes

1 tablespoon olive oil

350g macaroni (gluten free if required)

250g mascarpone cheese

300g Emmental cheese, coarsely grated

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Place the cherry tomatoes in a 2 litre ovenproof dish. Drizzle over the olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast in a preheated oven, 200’c fan, for 15 minutes until the tomatoes have softened and the skins have slightly split.
  2. Meanwhile cook the macaroni until al dente, according to the packet instructions.
  3. In a bowl, combine the mascarpone, emmental and mustard, stirring until evenly blended.
  4. Drain the pasta and stir in the cheese mixture, then gently fold in the tomatoes and season with salt and pepper. Tip the mixture into the ovenproof dish used for the tomatoes. Bake in the preheated oven, 200’c fan, for 25-30 minutes until golden brown and bubbling. Allow to stand for a few minutes before serving.

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