Week Twenty Three

Menu One

‘My Favourite’ Shepherds Pie (Serves 4)

If you have grown up in the British Isles there is no doubt that you have eaten numerous variations of this traditional dish. Shepherds pie is the perfect winter comfort food and this recipe by Delia Smith is my all time favourite, the addition of the cheese and leeks, slightly caramelised on top of the mashed potato takes the dish to a higher level!…Serve simply with peas.

450g minced lamb

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 medium onions, chopped

75g swede, peeled and chopped

75g carrot, peeled and chopped

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon fresh thyme

1 tablespoon fresh parsley

1 tablespoon plain flour (gluten free if required)

275ml lamb stock

1 tablespoon tomato purée

Salt and black pepper

For the topping:

50g mature Cheddar, grated

2 medium leeks, cleaned and cut into 1cm slices

900g floury potatoes (such as Maris Piper or King Edward)

50g butter

Salt and black pepper

(You will need a buttered baking dish approx. 19cm square x 5cm deep)

  1. Gently heat the olive oil in a frying pan. Add the onions, fry for 5 minutes until slightly browned. Add the chopped carrot and swede and cook for a further 5 minutes. Remove all the vegetables to a plate.
  2. Now turn up the heat, and brown the meat, stirring to break it up.
  3. Add a good seasoning of salt and pepper, return the vegetables to the pan along with the cinnamon, thyme and parsley. Next stir in the flour and gradually add the lamb stock, stirring to incorporate. Finally stir in the tomato purée.
  4. Cover the pan with a lid and turn the heat to low, cook gently for about 30 minutes .
  5. While the meat is cooking, make the topping. Peel the potatoes and cut into even sized chunks, steam until they are completely tender.
  6. Drain the cooked potatoes and mash with the butter and some seasoning (you can use an electric hand whisk, on a low setting, to do this)
  7. When the meat is ready, spoon into a baking dish, level it out, then top, evenly, with the mashed potato. Sprinkle over the leek slices and finally with the cheese.
  8. Bake in a preheated oven, 200’c, for about 25 minutes, until the top is crusty and golden.

Menu Two

Salmon with Chilli Ginger Sauce (Serves 4)

This recipe is one which my sister recommended to me, she found it in a ‘Hairy Bikers’ cookbook some years ago. I must say that it is a fantastic recipe and it makes a great midweek treat as it is super easy; just remember to marinate the salmon for 30 minutes before cooking it. I like to serve it with Japanese Sticky Rice and Stir Fried Swiss (or Rainbow) Chard (recipe below).

4 salmon fillets, skin on (about120-150g each)

2 balls of stem ginger in syrup (and 2 tablespoons of the syrup)

3 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly slices

3 tbsp dark soy sauce

1 orange, juiced (and the grated zest of ½ an orange)

½ large red chilli, thinly sliced

Black pepper

  1. Slice the ginger balls thinly, then slice these into matchsticks.
  2. Place the ginger ‘matchsticks’ in a bowl, with 2 tablespoons of the stem ginger syrup, garlic, chilli, soy sauce, orange zest and juice; mix well. Add the salmon fillets to the bowl and cover with marinade, seasoning with lots of black pepper. Cover and chill for 30 minutes.
  3. Line a small baking tray with baking parchment. Remove the salmon from the marinade, wiping off any excess bits of marinade. Place them on the baking tray, skin side down. Season with more black pepper.
  4. Bake in a preheated oven, 200’c, for 12- 15 minutes depending on the thickness of your fillets.
  5. While the salmon is cooking prepare the sauce. Place the marinade ingredients in a small pan and bring to the boil, simmer for about 6 minutes until it has reduced and the garlic has softened – you want enough sauce to pour over the salmon but not swamp it!
  6. Remove the salmon from the oven, carefully lift them on to plates, lifting off the skin as you do so. Spoon over the hot sauce and serve with sticky Japanese rice and stir fried swiss (or rainbow) chard (recipe below).

Stir Fried Swiss (or Rainbow) Chard (Serves 4)

I must admit that I only started cooking this vegetable at home more recently; having enjoyed it in numerous restaurants over the years, I finally realised how very easy it is to cook!… I urge you try it!

1 bunch of fresh Swiss Chard

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 clove garlic, sliced

Pinch chilli flakes

¼ teaspoon whole coriander seeds

  1. First rinse out the leaves of the chard, cut away the stalks and cut these into 1inch pieces. Chop the leaves inch wide strips.
  2. Sauté the garlic, chilli and the coriander seeds in the olive oil for about 30 seconds, then add the swiss chard stalks, lower the heat and cover, cook for a bout 3-4 minutes.
  3. Add the chopped leaves and turn over in the hot oil, cover once again and cook for a further 3-4 minutes.
  4. Taste to check it is cooked – it should be al dente (still have some bite), cook for a little longer if needed. Check the seasoning and serve straightaway.

Menu Three

Chocolate Almond Torte

This is a delicious chocolate cake and the best news is, is that it’s completely gluten free! It has a slightly chewy texture if served straight from the fridge, which I rather like, whilst at room temperature it has a more fudgy consistency – either way it is divine! You could omit the brandy but I recommend you use it, as it does intensify the chocolate flavour.

200g plain chocolate (I use Lindt 70% cocoa plain chocolate)

200g unsalted butter, chilled and chopped

4 large eggs, separated

1½ tablespoons brandy (optional)

200g caster sugar

100g ground almonds

¼ teaspoon salt

Cocoa powder for dusting

Clotted cream or Crème Fraïche to serve (optional)

Strawberries or raspberries to serve (optional)

(You will need an 8 or 9 inch springform cake tin, buttered and the outside bottom and sides wrapped with foil to prevent leaking)

  1. Place the chocolate and butter in a medium heat proof bowl over a saucepan of bowling water (baine marie), making sure that the bottom does not have contact with the water, stir until melted. Set aside.
  2. Place the egg yolks and 100g of the sugar in a large bowl and whisk until pale and thick (about 1 minute), stir in the chocolate mixture, brandy, almonds and salt.
  3. Use an electric hand whisk to whisk the egg whites with the remaining 100g sugar until they form thick, shiny soft peaks.
  4. Using a spatula fold in one-third of the egg white mixture into the chocolate mixture, mix gently until well combined, then fold in the remaining egg whites in a further two additions.
  5. Pour the mixture into the prepared tin, smoothing over the top. Bake in a preheated oven, 180’c for 30-35minutes until an inserted skewer comes out with moist crumbs – the edges will be set but the middle will still be wobbly. Allow to cool on a wire rack and then refrigerate for at least 4 hours until completely set.
  6. Before serving sift over cocoa powder, serve chilled or at room temperature, with clotted cream or crème fraiche (it is also good with strawberries or raspberries).
  7. It will keep well in the refrigerator for up to 4 days and also freezes well!!

Amaretto Sour (Serves 1)

An Amaretto Sour

I discovered this cocktail recently. Amaretto is one of my sister’s favourite liqueurs, so for our recent ‘Zoom’ meet up during lockdown, I thought it would be fun to ‘share’ an amaretto cocktail. I researched a few cocktails(!) and this Amaretto Sour was the winner! So here’s to you ‘Auntie Amaretto’!

(The egg white is optional it just gives the cocktail the extra ‘frothy top’ and will make it a little extra creamy – I must admit that I am quite happy to have it without but a true bartender would probably disagree!…

3 tablespoons Amaretto

1 tablespoon bourbon whisky

2 tablespoons lemon juice

2 dashes angostura bitters

1 egg white (optional)

  1. Add the amaretto, bourbon, lemon juice, bitters and egg white (if using) to a cocktail shaker without ice. Shake for 15 seconds.
  2. Add the ice to the cocktail shaker. Shake again for 30 seconds.
  3. Serve in a chilled glass and enjoy!

Week Twenty Two

This week we were supposed to be going away to Yorkshire for a short break, but unfortunately due to the new lockdown it was cancelled. We had been planning on having a socially distanced reunion(!) with Felix in York, then we were going to stay in Wensleydale for four nights. I must admit I am rather gutted as I had been looking forward to discovering Wensleydale (and of course seeing Felix!), I had planned some walks, including one around the Aysgarth Falls, which are supposed to be beautiful, plus a visit to Harrogate. As always, when planning a visit, the first thing I research is places to eat, so it is no surprise that we had chosen to stay in a hotel renowned locally for its restaurant, in addition I had a ‘Wensleydale restaurant list’, which needed to be tried, tested and ‘tasted’!…I had been really excited about trying these Yorkshire restaurants with their local food menus (and sharing them with you!). Never mind, these Covid times will eventually pass and we will, I am sure, have the opportunity to visit Wensleydale in the future, and be able to try my restaurant list!
In the meantime, this week I thought I would share recipes which use some of the beautiful ingredients which I had hoped to see on the restaurant menus on my visit to the Yorkshire Dales…

Sheep farming has shaped the Dales for centuries, indeed one of the foods I was most looking forward to tasting was the Yorkshire lamb, so for Menu One, I am sharing a recipe  which celebrates the deliciousness of lamb. ‘Provençal Rack of Lamb with Crushed Peas’, is a dish that despite looking very elegant and sophisticated (it’s definitely suitable for a dinner party), is quick to cook, so is great for a midweek treat. Menu Two takes inspiration from the current gaming season; without doubt, we would have seen evidence of this, both driving around the Yorkshire Dales and on the restaurant menus, so I thought that I would share one of my favourite recipes for pheasant, ‘Roast Pheasant Breast with Whisky and Peppercorn Sauce’. If you have never cooked pheasant before, this is the perfect recipe to experiment with; often pheasant can be dry as it is easy to overcook, but I find that this recipe is foolproof, as by roasting the bird whole and then removing the breasts they don’t dry out. Finally, Menu Three, Roasted Raspberries – a dessert which admittedly has very little to do with Yorkshire, but is the perfect compliment to the previous two menus, with its pure simplicity and deliciousness!

All of this week’s recipes, in my opinion, are perfect not only for family dinners but also to serve to guests, and for this reason…dare I mention the word Christmas (?!), they are perfect to cook during the festive season, so make a note of them!

Have a great week and most of all enjoy cooking!

Menu One

Provençal Rack of Lamb with Crushed Peas (Serves 4)

This is really one of the best rack of lamb recipes I have come across. It is simple yet elegant and is quick to cook, so you could easily serve it as a mid-week treat. It is definitely special enough to serve to guests, in fact it has been a favourite dinner party dish of mine over the years. It’s ideal for dinner parties as you can prepare the majority of the recipe beforehand – the lamb once bread-crumbed will happily wait to be cooked when your guests arrive – it just needs about 15-20 minutes in the oven. For a quick option, this recipe is great with steamed new potatoes, but to make it extra special serve with Dauphinoise potatoes with Gruyére cheese, recipe below. I make Dauphinoise potatoes both with and without the Gruyére, I think this lamb dish suits the latter but if you prefer it without use my other recipe.

This recipe is from Raymond Blanc’s cookbook ‘Foolproof French Cookery’, a title which contains all my favourite words, particularly ‘foolproof’! I like to serve lamb on the pinker side, so if you prefer it more well done, cook it for a little longer. The recipe calls for fresh marjoram but this can be difficult to get so I often replace it with fresh sage, and because sage is slightly stronger in flavour I reduce it to one tablespoon instead of two (see recipe).

Ask your butcher to not only French trim the rack of lamb but also to remove the fat covering the meat, this may seem usual as the fat is normally kept to keep the lamb moist and for flavour, but in this recipe the breadcrumbs will protect the meat and give it flavour.

Gluten Free Note: Almost, all of my recipes on Menu Mistress are gluten free, or suggest substitute gluten free ingredients. Unfortunately this recipe uses breadcrumbs which cannot be substituted. If you avoid gluten but don’t have an allergy, thus can eat ‘gluten contaminated’ food, then you could eat this recipe – just scrape off the breadcrumb crust when serving the lamb, believe me it is still delicious with the crushed peas! However, if you do have an allergy to gluten unfortunately this recipe is not for you!

A Tip:  Breadcrumbs – If you don’t have stale bread at hand for the bread crumbs use a fresh ciabatta loaf , it’s texture is naturally drier so it actually will make great breadcrumbs even if it is fresh – just slice off the crusts.

For the Crushed Peas:

600g peas, thawed if frozen

85ml extra virgin olive oil

2 tablespoons finely chopped marjoram, or 1 tablespoon chopped sage (see note above)

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh mint

Juice ½ lemon

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the Provençal Breadcrumbs:

75g thickly cut stale white bread (or fresh ciabatta – see ‘tip’ above)

2 handfuls fresh flat leaf parsley, finely chopped

1 teaspoon thyme, finely chopped

1 teaspoon rosemary, finely chopped

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and black pepper

For the Lamb:

2 x  racks of lamb, French trimmed and trimmed of fat (see note above)

2 tablespoons olive oil

20g unsalted butter

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. First prepare the peas. Put them in a food processor and gently pulse to just crush them – you want them to retain a lot of texture, so be careful not to purée them! Transfer to a small saucepan, stir in the olive oil, chopped herbs and season with salt and pepper. Set aside.
  2. To make the breadcrumbs place the bread in the clean food processor and pulse to make coarse breadcrumbs. Transfer to a bowl, stir in the herbs, olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Season the racks of lamb with salt and pepper. Melt the butter with the oil in  frying pan and brown the meat for 3-4 minutes on each side. Transfer to a preheated oven, 190’c, for 10 minutes.
  4. Remove the lamb from the oven, brush over with the mustard – avoiding the bones and ends of the meat. Press in the Provençal breadcrumbs so that the meat is coated, apart from the two ends, (you can do this a few hours in advance).
  5. Return the lamb to the oven and cook for a further 15 – 20 minutes (if you have a meat thermometer it should register 65-70’c). Rest for 5 minutes before carving.
  6. Meanwhile finish cooking the peas. Cook the crushed peas over a medium heat with the lid on for 4 minutes. Stir in the lemon juice and check the seasoning.
  7. Serve the hot crushed peas on plates and top with the carved lamb cutlets.

Dauphinoise Potatoes with Gruyére Cheese (Serves 4 -6)

You may remember that I posted another recipe for Dauphinoise Potatoes a few weeks ago, that recipe was slightly simpler to make and not quite as rich (that’s if Dauphinoise Potatoes can be ‘less rich’!). This Dauphinoise Potato recipe is richer and more unctuous, it goes very well with the recipe, ‘Provençal Rack of Lamb with Crushed Peas’. I think you should try both recipes as there is a time and a place for either, depending on your mood!

I found this recipe in ‘At Home in the Provence’ by Patricia Wells, who in turn took if from renowned French chef Joël Roubuchon – so it comes well endorsed!

500ml whole milk

250ml double cream

125g grated Gruyere cheese

1 kg potatoes (such as Maris Piper), peeled and sliced very thinly

1 plump clove garlic, peeled and halved

45g unsalted butter, diced

Freshly grated nutmeg

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. In a large saucepan bring the milk to boiling point. Add the cream and three-quarters of the cheese. Stir to blend and melt the cheese. Season which salt, pepper and a grating of nutmeg. Add the potatoes and mix well with a wooden spoon. Cook over a low heat for about 20 minutes until the potatoes are soft.
  2. Rub a baking dish with the garlic. Transfer the potatoes and their liquid to the baking dish and sprinkle with the remaining cheese and the butter.
  3. Place in a preheated oven, 190’c, for about 1¼ hours.
  4. Serve immediately.

Menu Two

Roast Pheasant Breast with Whisky and Peppercorn Sauce (Serves 4)

If you have never cooked pheasant before, I urge you to cook this recipe, it is super easy. Pheasant meat can easily dry out during cooking, but by cooking bird whole and then removing the breasts, the meat remains juicy. I like to serve this with buttered savoy cabbage and roast potatoes (recipes below)

2 pheasants

1 onion cut into 4 wedges

Small bunch of thyme

40g butter, softened

800ml chicken stock

150ml whisky

300ml whipping cream

3 teaspoons finely chopped green peppercorns

1 tablespoon finely chopped flat leaf parsley

  1. Place the pheasants in a roasting tin large enough to have at least 4 cm between them. Stuff each cavity with a wedge of onion and a few sprigs of thyme. Smear the butter over the breasts and legs and season with salt and pepper.
  2. Roast in a preheated oven, 190’c, for 45 minutes, basting twice during cooking.
  3. While the pheasants are roasting,  pour the stock into a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Reduce by a third – you need about 500ml.
  4. Pour the whisky into a large frying pan, warm through and then carefully light with a match – flambé to allow the alcohol to burn off. Pour in the reduced stock, followed by the cream and leave the sauce to simmer gently until it is reduced and just thick enough to coat the back of a spoon. Finally stir in the chopped peppercorns and check the seasoning.
  5. Meanwhile when the pheasants are cooked, cover with foil and leave to rest for 10-15minutes.
  6. To remove the breasts from the bone, carefully run a sharp knife down one side of the breastbone and ease off the whole breast.
  7. Place each breast on a plate, sprinkle with the chopped parsley and pour over the whiskey and peppercorn sauce, and serve with buttered cabbage and roast potatoes. (as you will notice from the photo, I often place the legs on the plates too, more for decoration than for taste as there isn’t much meat on them).

Buttered Savoy Cabbage (Serves 4)

Such an easy and useful recipe to have…

1 Savoy cabbage, trimmed and finely sliced

25g unsalted butter

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Place the finely sliced cabbage in a saucepan of boiling water for 2 minutes to blanch it. If you are not using straightaway, immediately refresh with cold water and drain well.
  2. When you are ready to serve the cabbage, melt the butter in a large frying pan, add the drained cabbage and season well with salt and pepper. Toss over a medium heat for 1-2 minutes until the cabbage is just tender. Serve at once.

Perfect Roast Potatoes (Serves 4)

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, 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 Three

Roasted Raspberries with Vanilla Ice Cream (Serves 4)

You will thank me for this simple recipe!! It’s such an obvious idea, I wonder why I never thought of it until I saw the recipe in a magazine some years ago. Winter raspberries often lack flavour, but by roasting them you can intensify the flavour and produce a lovely warming treat at the same time!

400g raspberries

2 tablespoons caster sugar

A dusting of icing sugar (2-3 teaspoons)

4 scoops of vanilla ice-cream

  1. Put the raspberries in an ovenproof dish. Sprinkle over the caster sugar. Cook in a preheated oven, 200’c, for about 15 minutes until the juices have come out of the raspberries but they are still keeping their shape.
  2. Remove from the oven, either serve at the table in the oven proof dish or transfer to individual bowls – either way sprinkle with icing sugar before serving.
  3. Serve with vanilla ice-cream.

Week Twenty One

You may have noticed from reading my recent blogs, with their memories of my childhood Halloween and Guy Fawkes Nights, that I have been feeling rather nostalgic lately! Perhaps it’s a Covid thing – seeing students such as my own son, Felix, makes me appreciate how fortunate I was to be a student in a world free from Coronavirus. My teenage years unfolded in the 80’s and so recently, to feed my nostalgia I’ve been listening to some old 80’s soundtracks! During the last lockdown we, like a lot of people, entertained ourselves with quizzes, and I must admit one of my favourites was a light hearted one we did with my sister in which we had to guess the names of songs and artists, those from the 80’s drew on some very strong memories…for instance the opening of Wham’s ‘Club Tropicana’….the sound of a car arriving, the doors opening and the heeled footsteps walking into the party!!! Anyway, I’m digressing!!!…Food??!!…The fact is, along with my memories of the 80’s, I started thinking about my food experiences during this time, unfortunately the UK during this decade was still a little flavourless. However, it was around this time that I had my first proper cookbook, The Dairy Book of Family Cookery, I remember ordering this book from our milkman, at that time I was taking my O’level in Home Economics. I was thrilled with it, and I planned to make all the recipes(!), even at 15, although not a big eater, I loved the idea of cooking. Of course, I still have this book, and a few weeks ago I decided to look through it again to see if there was anything that I could cook today which would still be relevant. Unfortunately most of the recipes were rather dated, even though there were some traditional dishes which are still popular, the recipes which we use these days are far superior as there is a wider variety of ingredients available, for instance there is a recipe for ‘Beef Stroganoff’, but it omits the fresh dill, lemon juice and paprika(!), which are so important to the overall flavour of the dish. Anyway, I thought this week I would revisit some of the old 80’s favourites but using, of course, modern recipes. Menu One revisits the aforementioned ‘Beef Stroganoff’, but the recipe I’m sharing calls for the best ingredients (including dill, lemon and paprika!) to be quickly cooked to create a fast, flavoursome midweek treat. Menu Two is a ‘Lasagne,’ a real classic 80’s pasta dish, but this one is a far cry from the one in my old cookbook, instead it is a recipe from Michelin starred chef, Gordon Ramsay, and I must say it really is a winner.  Menu Three is Nigella Lawson’s take on the classic ‘Crumble’ recipe, ‘Crumbles in a Cup’, they are a fantastic innovation offering instant dessert kick; by keeping crumble topping in the freezer along with some quality frozen fruit, you can make up individual cups, or mugs  of crumble, as and when you need them!…It’s a great recipe for students, hence I’m also sharing it on my MenuMistress @Uni page!

Finally, a little extra treat to cheer you up over this new lockdown, the recipe for Hot Whiskey! With Lockdown we all need a little TLC, and this old Irish remedy for a cough and cold is the perfect winter warmer to snuggle down with, and it is a great way to lift ones spirits – even if you don’t have a cough or cold!…

Plus, of course I couldn’t serve up these 80’s themed menus without sharing a MenuMusic playlist of some of my favourite 80’s hits!….Perhaps you could use it to have your own 80’s music quiz during this new lockdown!…Click here to listen!

…Plus, there’s a new review on my Eating Out page – We enjoyed our ‘last supper out’ before lockdown at our new local restaurant, Yummy Cow, London SE24.

Menu One

Beef Stroganoff (Serves 4-6)

This recipe for Beef Stroganoff is very quick, it just requires the beef to be flash fried, therefore it is important to use good fillet steak. With the addition of soured cream, dill and lemon juice this simple recipe is extremely special! I like to serve it with white long grain rice and a green salad (recipe for classic vinaigrette below).

4 medium onions, 400g

6 tablespoons groundnut oil

700g fillet steak, cut into thin strips, about 1cm thick

80g butter

500g button or small mushrooms, thinly sliced

2 teaspoons paprika

300ml soured cream

1 lemon

Large bunch of dill, finely chopped

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Peel, half and thinly slice the onions.
  2. Heat 3 tablespoons of the groundnut oil in a frying pan. Pat the meat dry, season generously with salt and pepper. Add half the meat to the pan and stir-fry briskly for 30 seconds to brown and remove to one side. Repeat with the remaining oil and meat.
  3. Add half the butter to the pan and stir in the onions. Cook slowly until golden, sticky and softened. Tip on to a plate.
  4. Add the remaining butter to the pan and stir-fry the mushrooms with the paprika for about 4 minutes until dark and soft.
  5. Return the onions to the pan and add the soured cream. Warm through.
  6. Add the meat, return to simmer, season with salt and pepper and a good squeeze of lemon juice.
  7. Finely stir through the chopped dill.
  8. Serve with rice and a green salad.

Menu Two

Lasagne (Serves 4)

This, in my opinion, is the best recipe for lasagne, it has exactly the right balance of flavours and sauce – all too often lasagne can be too cheesy. It is a recipe by Gordon Ramsay which I found online many years ago. As I am gluten free I make it with gluten free lasagne sheets, my gluten loving husband, Nick, doesn’t even notice! This is great served with a simple green salad dressed with a classic vinaigrette (recipe below).

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 large carrot

1 half of a large onion

2 garlic cloves

1 bay leaf

2 pinches dried oregano

1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce

300g minced beef

1 tablespoon tomato purée

2 tablespoons red wine

1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes

50ml milk

6 ‘ready to bake’ lasagne sheets (gluten free if required)

Sea salt and black pepper

For the sauce:

25g unsalted butter

25g plain flour

300ml milk

Pinch ground nutmeg

60g cheddar cheese, grated

30g parmesan cheese, grated

A rectangular baking dish approx. 30cm x 20cm

  1. Peel and grate the carrot and onion. Crush the garlic cloves.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan, gently fry the carrot, onion and garlic adding the bay leaf, pinches of oregano, Worcestershire sauce, and salt and pepper.
  3. When the onion has softened make a well in the middle of the mixture and add the mince. Stir well to break up the meat.
  4. Add the tomato purée. Continue to cook until the meat is browned.
  5. Add the wine, cook off the alcohol before adding the tomatoes, simmer for 2-3 minutes
  6. Add the milk and remove from the heat – leave to one side whilst you make the sauce.
  7. To make the sauce, melt the butter in saucepan, add the flour, stirring with a wooden spoon to make a paste. Over a gentle heat gradually add a third of the milk, whisking to prevent lumps. Then whisk in the remaining milk, season with the pinch of nutmeg, salt and pepper, then cook for a further minute or so before adding the cheddar cheese, stir until smooth.
  8. Spoon half the meat into the baking dish place three of the pasta sheets on top – do not overlap them, then pour over half the cheese sauce. Repeat with another layer of meat, then pasta sheets and finally the remaining cheese sauce. Sprinkle over the parmesan cheese and a light seasoning of salt and pepper.
  9. Bake in a preheated oven, 200’c, for 20-25 minutes.
  10. Serve with a green salad dressed with a classic vinaigrette (recipe below)

Green Salad with a Classic Vinaigrette

Classic Vinaigrette

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

3 tablespoons olive oil

Sea salt and pepper

A salad of your choice

  1. Simply put all the ingredients in a bowl and whisk together (or place in a jar with a lid and shake vigorously)

Menu Three

‘Crumbles in a Cup’

This is a great idea that I have taken from Nigella Lawson’s cookbook, ‘Nigella Express’. The idea is to freeze the crumble topping and some summer berries, then at any given time you can quickly make up a ‘Berry Crumble in a Cup’! You just need to cook them from frozen for 15 minutes! I have changed the recipe slightly; I make my crumble topping with the addition of ground almonds as I think it improves the flavour. You can either make the crumbles in a cup/small mug or in a ramekin, the measurements of the ingredients will differ slightly depending on which you choose – see below

For the Crumble Topping

200g plain flour (gluten free if required)

125g butter, cold and cubed

50g caster sugar

50g ground almonds

50g soft brown sugar

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

  1. Place the flour and butter in a large mixing bowl and rub together with your fingers until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
  2. Add the caster sugar, ground almonds, soft brown sugar and ground cinnamon – stir to combine.
  3. Place in a freezer bag and freeze until needed for a ‘Crumble in a Cup’ – see below.

‘For a Crumble in a Cup’ (approx. 300ml capacity)

100g summer fruits (see note above)

1 teaspoon corn flour

2 teaspoons vanilla sugar (or regular sugar and a drop of vanilla essence)

75g frozen crumble topping

‘For a Crumble in a Ramekin’ (approx. 125ml capacity)

50g frozen summer fruits

½ teaspoon cornflour

1½ teaspoons of vanilla sugar (or regular sugar and a drop of vanilla essence)

30g frozen crumble topping

(To serve – ice cream or thick cream)

  1. Put the summer fruits in either the cup or ramekin, sprinkle with the cornflour and sugar – stir gently.
  2. Sprinkle the frozen crumble topping over the fruit (if desired you can add a little more topping)
  3. Bake in a preheated oven, 220’c; for the cups 20 minutes, and for the ramekins 15 minutes.
  4. Serve with a scoop of ice-cream or a dollop of thick cream.

A Lockdown Treat

Hot Whiskey (Serves 1)

With Lockdown we all need a little TLC, and this old Irish remedy for a cough and cold is the perfect winter warmer to snuggle down with, and it is a great way to lift ones spirits – even if you don’t have a cold!…

50ml Irish Whiskey

1 generous teaspoon of brown sugar

5 cloves

1 slice lemon

150ml boiling water

  1. Simply put the whiskey and sugar into a heatproof glass, add the lemon slice studded with the cloves. Pour over the boiling water, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Serve!

Week Twenty

‘Remember, Remember the 5th of November’… Yes, it’s that time of year! Once again, like Halloween, I’m not sure how many celebrations will be going ahead this year with Covid, but I do hope that I get to see some fireworks, as although these days I don’t necessarily go to fireworks displays, I must admit that I do love watching them from our upstairs windows – our local park always has a fantastic display!

When I was a child, Guy Fawkes Night used to be one of my favourite events of the year. In those days Halloween wasn’t such a celebrated occasion as it is these days, so the autumn event was definitely ‘Firework Night’. We lived in the countryside, and I remember that the week before November 5th we would search our local newspaper (there was no internet then!), for the announcements of local firework displays. On the evening of the 5th, before we went off to the chosen venue, my mum would put jacket potatoes in the oven, so that when we returned we could have jacket potatoes with sausages and baked beans – a real ‘bonfire night treat”! These memories have, naturally, got me thinking about food and the menus for this week…Menu One is ‘Chicken, Sausage and Apple Cider Stew’ a one pot recipe, a great combination of ingredients, perfect for a cold (and wet?) Bonfire Night. To be honest I don’t think it really needs any accompaniment but you could have some greens on the side if you want to be virtuous and, if you’re really hungry, a jacket potato! Continuing with the ‘Bonfire Night’ theme, Menu Two is a sausage tray bake, ‘Super Simple Sausages with Roasted Potato and Onion Wedges’, this is a great midweek ‘lazy dish’ as it is seriously easy. The key to this dish is to get really tasty sausages from your butcher. I normally serve it with some greens – usually tenderstem broccoli, but you could indulge yourself here and serve it with some baked beans – Heinz, of course! Finally, a little treat, something that we all need as the November evenings close in, ‘Proper Hot Chocolate,’ this really is the real deal, forget those mixes you get in a tin – even the ‘quality’ ones –  this recipe is one you will return to again and again!…

Enjoy!

…Plus, there’s a new review on my Eating Out page – last week we ate out, at our local restaurant, Franklins, London SE22. We have been eating at this restaurant since it first opened, around 20 years ago, so it must be doing something right!

Menu One

Chicken, Sausage and Apple Cider Stew (Serves 6)

This is a lovely, warming winter meal. It is also great reheated the next day for a quick lunch! You could serve this with potatoes, mashed or jackets, and some green beans.

8 chicken thighs, skinless & boneless, cut into large chunks

8 pork sausages

Olive oil

1 medium butternut squash, peeled and cut into chunks (about 700g)

1 large onion, chopped

20g sage leaves, chopped

2 teaspoons fennel seeds, lightly crushed

1 tablespoon plain flour (gluten free is required)

500ml dry cider

200ml chicken stock

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan/ casserole and brown the chicken pieces in batches, adding more oil if required.
  2. Set the chicken aside and brown the sausages in the same pan, and place aside with the chicken.
  3. If there is a lot of oil left in the pan, discard it, leaving about a tablespoon. Brown the butternut squash for about 2 minutes and set aside.
  4. Add a little more oil to the pan, add the onions and cook gently for about 5 minutes.
  5.  Add half the sage and all of the fennel seeds, cook for a further 2 minutes and then add the flour stirring, cook for a further minute or so then add the cider and stock, whisking to prevent lumps. Bring to the boil.
  6. Return the chicken, sausages and butternut squash to the pan and simmer for 15 minutes until everything is cooked through.
  7. Finally stir in the remaining sage, and check the seasoning. This stew is a meal in itself, however if you’re really hungry it would be good served with potatoes, mashed or jackets and some green beans.

Menu Two

Super Simple Sausages with Roasted Potato & Onion Wedges (Serves 4)

This is a great midweek supper, it’s more or less a matter of putting the ingredients in a roasting pan and leaving the oven to do its work!

900g large potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges

4 tablespoons olive oil

3 – 4 fresh rosemary sprigs

2 red onions, peeled and each cut into eight wedges

8 sausages

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Put the potatoes in a roasting tin drizzle over the olive oil and turn to coat, seasoning with salt and pepper. Place the rosemary on top. Place in a preheated oven, 200’c, for 20 minutes.
  2. Remove the roasting pan from the oven and add the onion wedges, toss with the potatoes so that they get a good coating of olive oil. Then put the sausages in between the potatoes and onions. Return to the oven for about 50 minutes to 1 hour.
  3. Serve with tenderstem broccoli or baked beans (Heinz!), and a dollop of tomato ketchup and mustard!

Menu Three

‘Proper’ Homemade Hot Chocolate (Serves 2)

This is seriously the best hot chocolate you will ever have – it is a ‘hug in a mug’!!…I warn you it is rich and indulgent, but hey, we all deserve a treat now and again. I would definitely serve it with a little whipped cream if you have some!

See the video of this Hot Chocolate being made here!

300ml full fat milk

125g plain chocolate (I use Lindt 70% cocoa dark chocolate)

3 teaspoons good quality cocoa (I use Green & Blacks)

Pinch of salt

2 – 3 drops vanilla extract

Whipped cream to serve (optional)

  • Put the milk in a saucepan and bring just to boiling point.
  • Remove from the heat and stir in all the ingredients until melted.
  • Return to the heat, whisk vigorously until it returns to a gentle simmer.
  • Pour into mugs and if using add a dollop of whipped cream!

Week Nineteen

This week is of course Halloween, I presume that with Covid it won’t be Halloween ‘as we know it’, as I can’t imagine ‘Trick or Treat’ around the houses will work, even masked up?  I will miss the sound of whispers and scuffles on my doorstep as the fancy dressed shyly summon the courage to ring the doorbell! Although, I must admit that almost every year I forget that the day of Halloween has arrived, so there is always a last minute rush to buy sweets for treats, and then more often than not, I end up with left overs which of course I ‘have’ to eat!…When I was growing up (all those many years ago!), ‘Trick or Treat’ was not as popular as it is these days, we definitely didn’t decorate our houses and our fancy dress costumes were simply old white sheets with eye holes! However, I can still remember the excitement of being allowed out after dark, with my friends, to knock on the doors of our neighbours and of the fun we had guessing which of our friends was under each sheet, as we all looked the same! Anyway, enough of nostalgia and let’s talk about this week’s menus which of course I am linking to the idea of Halloween…pumpkins, or to be more exact ‘butternut squash’…. 

This week’s first menu is Halloween Chicken with Butternut Squash Mash, a recipe by Nina Parker. The chicken is roasted with beetroot, it is a lovely autumnal dish. The colours, with the butternut squash mash, are very ‘Halloweenish’ – so it would be the perfect roast for you to make this week for your very own, at home, Halloween party! Menu Two is Butternut Squash Soup, this has to be the easiest soup recipe ever. There are no ‘bells or whistles’, it really is a very simple recipe; butternut squash is so flavoursome, you don’t need to mess around with it – sometimes simple is best! For this reason I am also sharing it on my MenuMistress @Uni page. Finally a very autumnal pudding, Apple Gingerjack, a lovely warming, slightly spiced, stewed apple pudding which just requires a dollop of cream – and the really good news is that it’s totally gluten free!

…Happy Halloween!

…Plus, there’s a new review on my Eating Out page – we recently enjoyed an incredible dinner at the fine dining restaurant, The Five Fields, Chelsea, SW3 …

Menu One

Halloween Chicken with Roast Beetroot & Butternut Squash Mash with Sage (Serves 4-6)

This is a delicious roast chicken recipe, the beetroot is cooked beneath the chicken and so becomes really tasty having soaked up the chicken juices. You must serve it with the butternut squash (recipe below), as its sweetness really compliments the earthy flavours of the beetroot, plus it makes the dish incredibly colourful! Despite its name, this roast chicken recipe is not just for Halloween, it is a winner throughout the colder months!

I found this recipe on Nina Parker’s website, she is the also the author of one of my favourite cookbooks, ‘Nina’s St Tropez’.

1 chicken, approx. 1.8kg

3 red onions, sliced

5 beetroot, cut into 6ths

20 garlic cloves, skins on, lightly smashed with the back of a knife

2  lemons, 1 quartered and the other juiced

Small bunch of sage

4 tablespoons olive oil

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Place a few of the smashed garlic cloves, the lemon quarters, and a few sage leaves in the cavity of the chicken.
  2. Put a little olive oil in a large roasting tin and place the chicken in the centre.
  3. Place the chopped beetroot, sliced red onions and the remaining garlic cloves around the chicken. Pour over the juice of the lemon, drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper – mix everything around to get a good coating.
  4. Place in a preheated oven, 190’c, for 25 minutes then turn over the chicken, and return to the oven for a further 25 minutes.
  5. Remove the tray from the oven, stir around the vegetables – remove any that are cooked and place to one side covered with foil. Turn the chicken back over to crisp up the skin, placing in the oven for a further 15 – 25 minutes by which time both, all of the vegetables and chicken should be cooked.
  6. Serve the chicken with the roast beetroot, onions and garlic and mashed butternut squash with sage (recipe below).

Butternut Squash Mash with Sage (Serves 4)

This is a recipe which I found in Leith’s cookbook ‘How to Cook’. Roasting the butternut squash instead of simply boiling it, makes all the difference – the flavour is much more intense. The browned butter (buerre noisette) gives the squash a delicious nutty flavour. This is a great recipe to remember as a side for other dishes!

1 large butternut squash (about 700-800g once peeled and cubed)

50g unsalted butter

A few sage leaves

  1. Peel, half and deseed the butternut squash, cut into 3 cm cubes and place in a bowl. Melt 10g of the butter and pour it over the squash, season with salt and pepper and mix well. Place in a roasting tin and roast in a preheated oven, 200’c, for about 45 minutes, until the squash is very tender – a knife should pass through very easily.
  2. Place the cooked squash in a food processor and blend until smooth.
  3. Meanwhile melt the remaining butter in a small saucepan. Cook over a moderate heat to a ‘buerre noisette’ – until it is a deep golden brown and gives off a slightly nutty aroma.
  4. Slice the sage leaves finely then add them, with the puréed squash, to the butter (buerre noisette). Adjust the seasoning and serve.

Menu Two

Simple Butternut Squash Soup (Serves 4)

This really is a straightforward recipe, no ‘bells or whistles’, it simply focuses on the lovely flavour of the butternut squash. You can use either vegetable stock (I use Marigold Swiss Vegetable Boullion Powder) or water. To serve stir through a spoonful of créme fraiche and sprinkle with some chilli flakes and, if you fancy, as I often do, some freshly chopped sage. This is great served with either fresh crusty bread or gluten free ‘Oat Bread’ (recipe below).

1 butternut squash, about 700g when peeled and cubed

2 banana shallots, chopped

2 large cloves garlic, chopped

25g unsalted butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

About 600ml vegetable stock or water (see note above)

Salt and pepper

To Serve:

Créme Frâiche

Chilli flakes

4 -6 sage leaves, finely chopped

  1. Peel, halve and deseed the butternut squash, cut into 3cm cubes.
  2. Melt the butter and olive oil in a large saucepan, add the onion and garlic. Cook gently until softened but not coloured.
  3. Add the butternut squash, stir and pour over enough stock or water to just cover the squash. Bring to the boil, then simmer for about 30 minutes until completely cooked  and very tender – a knife should pass through easily.
  4. To blend place in a food processor or use a hand blender (if you want a ‘looser’ soup add a little milk). Check the seasoning.
  5. Serve in bowls with a dollop of crème frâiche swirled through and a sprinkling of chilli flakes and freshly chopped sage.

Oatmeal Bread

425g rolled oats

A scant teaspoon of sea salt

2 teaspoons of bicarbonate of soda

2 tablespoons of mixed seeds

1 egg

500g natural yogurt

  1. Preheat oven to 200’c. Line a 900g/1Ib loaf tin with baking parchment.
  2. Mix together the oats, salt, bicarbonate of soda and mixed seeds.
  3. Whisk the egg into the yogurt. Pour this mixture into the dry ingredients and mix well.
  4. Scoop the dough into the tin and bake for 50 minutes.
  5. Turn out of the tin and bake the loaf for a further 10 minutes. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

Menu Three

Apple Gingerjack (Serves 6)

This is a great pudding that is from Nigella Lawson’s cookbook, ‘At My Table’. Being gluten free, I often find it difficult to find wheat free ‘cosy, cake- like’ puddings but this recipe uses oatmeal for the topping so is totally gluten free! It is best served warm or at room temperature rather than hot – I’ve even eaten the leftovers cold for breakfast – delicious!!

I like to serve this with either double cream or clotted cream, but of course custard would be good too!

For the base:

15g unsalted butter

2 tablespoons golden syrup

750g Bramley apples, peeled, cored and cut into 3cm chunks

For the topping:

200g Fine oatmeal (if required make sure it’s totally gluten free)

75g soft light brown sugar

4 teaspoons ground ginger, plus a extra ¼ teaspoon for sprinkling

½ teaspoon bicarbonate of soda

250ml full-fat milk

125g unsalted butter, soft, cut into cubes

1½ tablespoons demerara sugar

Double or clotted cream, or custard (to serve)

  1. Gently melt 15g butter in a large saucepan (in which the apples will fit – not too heaped up), once melted add the syrup, stir well and then add the apples. Cook over a high heat for about 5 minutes, stirring frequently , until the apples start to soften around the edges – have a fuzzy appearance. Pour into a pie dish.
  2. Meanwhile, mix the fine oatmeal, soft light brown sugar, 4 teaspoons of ginger and the bicarbonate of soda together, using your fingers to break up any lumps in the sugar.
  3. Using the same saucepan that you used to make the apple mixture, heat the milk and 125g butter together gently, until the butter is melted and the milk is almost at boiling point. Remove from the heat and, using a wooden spoon, stir in the oatmeal mixture beating until smooth – it will thicken a little.
  4. Pour the oatmeal mixture over the apples, spreading it out to cover them evenly.
  5. Mix the ¼ teaspoon of ginger with the demerara sugar and sprinkle over the top.
  6. Place in a preheated oven, 180’c, and bake for about 30 minutes until the apple is soft and the top has firmly set.
  7. Let it stand for about 30 minutes or more and serve warm at room temperature with double or clotted cream, or custard.