Let’s Start Cooking!…
Welcome to Menu Mistress…
I love cookbooks and have an extensive collection! The idea of Menu Mistress is to share recipes from these books, that I have tried and tested. All you have to do is add the ingredients to your shopping list and follow the recipes, thus injecting some fresh flavours into your home cooking. This blog is essentially for people who love food but don’t have the time, energy or patience to find that winning recipe – that’s the job of Menu Mistress!…
(Recipes are updated every two weeks on a Wednesday, with an extra ‘Tuesday Treat’ on alternate weeks – sign up at the bottom of the page to receive a weekly reminder!)
Basque Burnt Cheesecake (with or without Liquorice Sauce!)
When I was working in St Johns Wood, London, over 20 years ago, I used to visit, almost daily, the local patisserie (now sadly gone), and order a slice of their baked cheesecake. It was the here that I discovered the incredible creamy nature of a proper, baked, cheesecake. Since then I have always had a soft spot for baked cheesecake, but since becoming gluten free I have found it difficult to find those without a crumbed, wheat base. So, when a girlfriend raved about Nigella Lawson’s Basque Burnt Cheesecake, I was very pleased to discover that it was baked without a crumb base so is totally gluten free. I have now baked it on a number of occasions – it is my new addiction! It is not only delicious but incredibly easy to make, admittedly it doesn’t look as good as a traditional baked cheesecake, but as we all know, looks can be deceiving! Nigella recommends a liquorice sauce to complement it, I have included the recipe here, but unless you’re an avid liquorice lover, I actually don’t think you need it – it really is perfect on its own. However, if you do make the liquorice sauce, do also try it over vanilla ice-cream!
Nigella likes this cheesecake served at room temperature, but I must admit that I rather like it straight from the fridge, but either way it is wonderfully smooth and creamy.
A couple of notes before cooking it – make sure that the ingredients are at room temperature as this will give a smoother texture. Also, the tin should have sides which are no deeper that 6cm, as you want the cheesecake to rise up (and burn!). Finally, don’t be too fussed if the lining of the tin looks a little messy, it’s supposed to be a rough and ready ‘look’!
600g full fat cream cheese, at room temperature
175g caster sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
300ml sour cream, at room temperature
¼ teaspoon fine sea salt
*20cm springform cake tin with sides no deeper than 6cm
- First of all you need to line your cake tin. This is simply a matter of taking two long pieces of baking parchment with enough length to fit into the tin with an overhang of 5-7cm. Press the first length down into the tin and then take the second piece and lay it across, perpendicularly, the first piece, so that the tin is completely lined. It will look messy and creased! I find that it helps to place something heavy in the tin to keep the paper in place until you need it.
- Using a mixer/processor, beat the cream cheese with the sugar until it is light and smooth – this should be done for quite some time – at least 3 minutes (if by chance you do mix it by hand it will need elbow grease and more time!).
- Beat in the eggs, one at a time, incorporating each one fully before adding the next. Then add the sour cream, continuing to beat the mixture to fully combine.
- Slow down the mixer to beat in the corn flour and finally beat in the salt.
- Before pouring the mixture into the cake tin, use a spatula to scrape the sides of the bowl and give the mixture a final stir. Pour into the tin (having removed whatever you have used to weigh down the lining!!) and rap the tin a few times on the work surface to get rid of any air bubbles.
- Place in an oven, 200’c fan, for 50 minutes, by which time it will have risen and be chestnut brown in places. It will, however, still seem undercooked and very ‘jiggly’ but do not be tempted to cook it for longer as it will set as it cools.
- Remove the tin to a rack and leave to cool. It will sink – it isn’t supposed to look pretty! After about 3 hours it will be cool enough to eat.
- Serve at room temperature or chilled from the fridge, as you prefer. To serve, unclip the sides and lift it up with the edges of the parchment. Place it on a plate with the parchment still around, peeling it back to cut into slices. If using, serve the liquorice sauce on the side (recipe below).
If you are a liquorice lover, this sauce from Nigella Lawson’s cookbook ‘Cook, Eat, Repeat’, is definitely a ‘must try’. It’s a good accompaniment to the Basque Burnt Cheesecake (above), but is also wonderful simply spooned over vanilla ice-cream! It will keep well in the fridge.
*You can get the liquorice pellets from good Italian delis or online at Amazon – I used Amarelli Spezzata.
15g hard pure Italian liquorice pellets
90g caster sugar
Pinch of fine sea salt (optional)
- Put the pellets in a small saucepan with 300ml water. Stir in the sugar. Place over a low heat until the liquorice has melted – giving it a stir now and again.
- Now turn up the heat and let it bubble away until it has reduced to about 150ml and is syrupy – this can take up to 20 minutes.
- Taste, adding a pinch of salt if you desire before serving.
Week Forty Three: Wednesday 21st July 2021
I’m hoping that that sun will be out in Suffolk this week as we are holidaying there!…We have booked an Airb&b cottage near to Framlingham, I have since discovered that this is Ed Sheeran’s home town – his song ‘Castle on the Hill’ was referring to Framlinghams’s very own castle! Anyway, apart from star spotting(!), I am looking forward to discovering yet another corner of the UK that I have never really visited. I have researched a few nearby gastro pubs (watch out for my reviews), but I will probably cook a couple of lunches and dinners so that we can relax and enjoy our rented cottage and its garden. Cooking in an ‘unknown’ kitchen, without ones trusted utensils, can be a challenge, plus I don’t want to spend too much time at the stove, so I have been thinking about a few menus which will require little effort. I thought that this week I would share these, as no doubt they will be useful for you to have, not only for cooking at home but also away!…
Menu One is ‘One Pot Summer Chicken’, all you have to do is brown the chicken pieces and cook them in a pot with some stock and lovely fresh vegetables – baby gem lettuces, asparagus and peas. It really doesn’t need much to accompany it, just a good glass of wine and hopefully some warm weather to enjoy it al fresco; although, some steamed new potatoes wouldn’t be a bad thing. Menu Two is ‘Mullet with a Mustard Crust’, this is simply a case of mixing the mustards and spreading them over fish, then baking them in the oven for about 20 minutes. Once again a good salad and steamed potatoes are a good accompaniment. Finally, not one but two recipes for this month’s ‘Blast from the Past’ recipe. I posted these last July, both recipes use Sauce Vierge, which is a no cook tomato and herb sauce. The sauce can be served with fish – in this case simply pan fried plaice or for an even simpler alternative and a vegetarian option, it is delicious served with spaghetti – ‘Spaghetti alla Sauce Vierge’!
Enjoy…See you next Tuesday for my ‘Tuesday Treat’!
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A little bit of housekeeping…
To find all the recipes from my blogs go to the Recipes page, where there is a link to print them off.
Oven Settings – All my recipes presume that you are cooking with a fan oven, increase the temperature by 20’c for conventional ovens without a fan.
‘Staple Side Dishes’ – when you see this beside a recipe, it indicates that I have previously published this side dish on Menu Mistress. I have re-published it so that you don’t have to trawl through my old recipe blogs to find it – Menu Mistress is about making your life in the kitchen easier!
Gluten Free – I am gluten free, so most of my recipes are gluten free, although I must stress that if you have an allergy please double check all ingredients. If flour is used you can substitute it with gluten free flour and likewise with other ingredients such as pasta or soy sauce, you can use gluten free options.
Most of the recipes on Menu Mistress are courtesy of the creativity of cookery book writers, old and new. The recipes are an ‘amuse-bouche’ for those available in the books. Please go to my Cookbooks page for more information.
One Pot Summer Chicken with Asparagus, Peas & Lettuce (Serves 4)
This is such an easy dinner dish, all you have to do is brown the chicken pieces and cook them in a pot with some stock and lovely fresh vegetables – baby gem lettuces, asparagus and peas. I particularly love the baby gem lettuces in this dish, they are one of my favourite summer vegetables; if you haven’t cooked them on their own before, you really should try them – see my recipe here! It really doesn’t need much to accompany it, just a good glass of wine although, some steamed new potatoes wouldn’t be a bad thing!
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 small chicken thighs, skin-on and bone-in
1 onion, chopped
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 baby gem lettuces, halved lengthways
400ml chicken or vegetable stock
3 thyme sprigs
160g fresh or frozen peas
2 tablespoons crème fraiche
Small bunch fresh parsley, chopped
Sea salt and black pepper
- First of all prepare your asparagus, snap off and discard the woody ends and if the tips are particularly large cut them in half lengthways. Keep to one side.
- Place a wide, large casserole dish with the oil over a high heat, add the chicken, skin side down, and cook on a high heat until the skin has browned. Remove and set aside.
- Add the onion and fry for 2 minutes, stirring. Add the garlic, stir, then add the lettuce halves, cut side down, for 30 seconds. Then flip them over and add the stock and thyme and bring everything to the boil.
- Lower the heat to just below boiling and cook for 15 minutes.
- Add the asparagus and peas and cook for a further 6-8 minutes until al dente.
- Check the chicken thighs are cooked through and lift out onto a plate.
- Stir in the crème fraiche and chopped parsley, season to taste.
- Return the chicken to the pan to serve at the table.
Mullet with a Mustard Crust (Serves 4)
Such a lovely way to cook this fish and so tasty! It is simply a case of mixing the mustards and spreading them over, then baking the fish in the oven for about 20 minutes. Serve with a good salad (use a Honey Mustard Vinaigrette – recipe below) and steamed potatoes.
4 Red Mullet, gutted and scaled
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
200g grainy mustard (such as Meaux)
- Make 3 incisions across the fish on each side.
- Mix the Dijon and grainy mustard together and spread quite thickly over the fish – you may not use all of the mustard mix.
- Lightly oil a large baking tray, place the fish on it and bake in the oven, 200’c fan, for 20 minutes.
- Serve at once with steamed potatoes and a good salad – I like to dress it with Honey Mustard Vinaigrette, recipe below.
Make up a salad as desired and dress with this honey-mustard vinaigrette:
1 teaspoon wholegrain mustard
4 tablespoons olive oil
Finely grated zest and juice of half an unwaxed lemon
1 teaspoon of honey
Sea salt and black pepper
- Whisk all the ingredients together.
‘Blast from the Past Recipes‘
I first posted the following two recipes last July, they are perfect summer dishes…if you haven’t already tried them, I urge you to now!!…
Fillet of Sole with Sauce Vierge (Serves 4)
Sauce Vierge is a French sauce generally made with tomatoes, olive oil, lemon juice and herbs, there are many variations but my favourite version is one I found in a cookbook by Nina Parker, ‘Nina’s St Tropez’. It balances the flavours of the vinegar and lemon juice perfectly with the herbs, and is an ideal accompaniment to a delicate fish like sole. It is also a great sauce for pasta – so keep any leftovers for lunch the next day (recipe below)! This fish dish should be kept simple so that the delicate flavour of the sole is not overpowered – so serve simply with fine green beans and steamed new potatoes.
2 large knobs of butter
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 clove of garlic, finely sliced
4 sole fillets
Juice of 1 lemon, plus one lemon quartered to serve
Sea salt and black pepper
For the Sauce Vierge:
2 spring onions, finely sliced
2 shallots, finely chopped
Bunch of fresh chives, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, chopped
3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
300g tomatoes, about 4 medium
4 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons caster sugar
Juice ½ lemon
60ml olive oil
Sea salt and black pepper
- Cut the tomatoes into quarters, deseed, discarding any liquid – pat them dry on kitchen roll, slice into strips, then finely dice, add to a bowl along with the other sauce ingredients, mix well and season to taste.
- To cook the sole, melt a knob of butter and 1 tablespoon of olive oil over a medium heat, add half the garlic. Reduce the heat to medium, add two of the fillets, skin side down, cook for 3-4 minutes.
- Just before turning the fish add half of the lemon juice. Carefully turn the fish over and cook for a further 1-2 minutes.
- Remove to a warmed plate whilst you cook the other 2 fillets in the same way.
- Serve immediately with the Sauce Vierge and the lemon wedges, fine green beans and steamed new potatoes.
Spaghetti with Sauce Vierge (Serves 4)
This is a perfect summer pasta dish, a delicious ‘no cook’ sauce for spaghetti with the added bonus of being vegetarian!
Sauce Vierge – recipe above
- Make up the sauce vierge – see recipe above.
- Cook the spaghetti according to the packet instructions until al dente.
- Drain the spaghetti and mix with the sauce vierge.
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