Week Thirty Three

Menu One

Five Marys Spiced Fillet of Beef with Caramelised Onion Sauce & Bay Leaf Baby Roast Potatoes (Serves 4)

This wonderful recipe for beef is one which I have taken from the ‘Five Marys Ranch Raised Cookbook’. I bought this book recently and have enjoyed reading it, not only for it’s wonderful meaty recipes, but also for the wonderful photos which take the reader on a tour of the authors Californian ranch. It all looks wonderfully idyllic, with the mountains in the background, cattle in the fields, lots of checked shirts and cowboy boots! This recipe uses a lovely ‘five spice’ mix to flavour the meat which is then simply cooked in the oven for about 30 minutes – you may notice that this is a slightly longer cooking time than my recipe for Beef Fillet & Port Sauce, this is because the beef is not seared beforehand, in order to avoid burning the garlic marinade. The Caramelised Onion & Red Wine sauce which accompanies the beef is the ‘icing on the cake‘, complementing the meat with its richness. I like to serve the beef with Bay Leaf Baby Roast Potatoes (recipe below); together they make a deliciously easy meal. You could also serve some greens or a salad on the side.

Five Marys Spice Rub

This is a wonderful spice rub to make and keep in your cupboard – it can be kept in a jar for up to 6 months. It is a good seasoning for steaks or chops, it will also give a kick to soups or stews and is wonderful sprinkled over eggs or avocado toast!…

3 tablespoons rock salt

2 tablespoons chilli flakes

1 tablespoon dried rosemary

1 tablespoon dried thyme

2 teaspoons salt flakes

¼ teaspoon garlic powder

¼ teaspoon ground black pepper

  1. Simply mix the ingredients together and store in an airtight jar!

Five Spice Roast Fillet of Beef with Caramelised Onion & Red Wine Sauce

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 cloves garlic, crushed

1 tablespoon M5 Spice Rub (recipe above)

2 teaspoons thyme leaves, chopped

2 x fillets of beef, 450g each – nice even pieces

For the sauce:

90 g butter

2 onions, sliced

480ml red wine

240ml beef stock

3 sprigs of thyme

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

2 teaspoons light brown sugar

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Combine the olive oil, garlic, spice rub and thyme. Rub it over the fillets of beef, cover and leave at room temperature for an hour or refrigerate if longer – bring to room temperature before cooking if refrigerated.
  2. Place the beef in a preheated oven, 180’c fan, for 25 -30 minutes for medium rare (a meat thermometer will read 55’c). Move to a plate to rest for about 15-30 minutes, loosely covered with foil.
  3. Meanwhile make the sauce. In a large pan melt 30g of butter, fry the onions with a big pinch of salt, until golden and caramelised  – about 15-20 minutes.
  4. Add the wine, stock and thyme, increase the heat and boil for about 10 minutes until the liquid is reduced by half.
  5. Stir in the balsamic vinegar and sugar, continue to cook for 1 minute longer.
  6. When ready to serve, remove the thyme sprigs from the sauce, reheat gently and add the remaining 60g butter – a little at a time to allow it to emulsify. Finally add any juices from the rested meat.
  7. Cut the beef into thick slices, serve topped with the warm sauce.

Roast New Potatoes with Bay Leaves (Serves 4-6)

You can never have enough recipes for potatoes!…so it was with great joy that I discovered this new, simple way of cooking new potatoes in Skye McAlpine’s cookbook, ‘A Table For Friends’. The bay leaves subtly flavour the little roasted potatoes, plus they look rather impressive tucked into each one! Skye says that you can eat the bay leaves, I did try them, but I must admit I wasn’t sold on that idea – but do try them yourself!

20 small new potatoes

20 bay leaves

4-5 tablespoons olive oil

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Make a lengthways slit across each potato and tuck a bay leaf into the slit. Arrange them in a roasting tin, allowing space between them, drizzle with the oil and season generously.
  2. Place in a preheated oven, 160’c fan, for about 1 hour or until they are golden brown and easily pierced.

Menu Two

Gnocchi with Chicken Sauce (Serves 4)

Just when I thought I had exhausted all the pasta sauces along came this wonderful recipe! The rich chicken sauce beautifully complements the gnocchi, however I also think that it would work very well with either pappardelle or tagliatelle. You could, of course, make your own gnocchi, but these days it’s possible to buy great quality gnocchi from the supermarket, including those that are gluten free.

I found this recipe in ‘Flavours of Sicily’ by Ursula Ferrigno, a book which concentrates on dishes that are from Sicily – if you have never visited this beautiful island, I urge you to put it on your bucket list, as it is ‘food heaven’!

500g potato gnocchi (gluten free if required)

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, chopped

50g pancetta, cubed

4 chicken thighs, boneless and skin-on, cut into bitesize pieces

100g green pitted olives

3 bay leaves

1 garlic clove, crushed

2 tablespoons tomato purée

125ml white wine

50g dried porcini mushrooms

100g chestnut mushrooms

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, chopped

150ml chicken stock

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

Sea salt and black pepper

Parmesan cheese, grated to serve

  1. Firstly soak the porcini in cold water for 10 minutes, drain reserving the soaking water.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan or casserole (which has a lid), add the onion and cook until golden.
  3. Add the pancetta, cook for another 5 minutes.
  4. Add the chicken and stir fry for 10 minutes, then add the rest of the ingredients except the parsley and parmesan cheese. Cook, covered for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally – if the mixture becomes a little dry add a splash of the reserved porcini soaking water.
  5. Just as the sauce is ready, cook the gnocchi in boiling water according to the cooking instructions – they should only need 2-3 minutes.
  6. Drain the gnocchi, add to the sauce and stir in the chopped parsley, checking the seasoning. Serve with parmesan cheese.

Menu Three

Chickpea and Spinach Curry (Serves 3-4)

This mildly spiced vegetarian curry makes a super easy supper, perfect midweek when time is of essence. Serve with steamed rice.

4 tablespoons olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

½ teaspoon turmeric

½ teaspoon ground allspice

1 teaspoon hot paprika

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

1 pinch chilli flakes

1 thumb sized piece ginger, peeled and chopped

4 garlic cloves, chopped

400g tin tomatoes

400g tinned chickpeas, including the chickpea water

A large bunch spinach

3 tablespoons coriander, chopped

  1. Toast the coriander and cumin seeds in a dry frying pan over a medium/high heat until fragrant – a couple of minutes. Put them in a mortar and pestle and grind to a fine powder before mixing in the other spices. Then mash in the chopped ginger to create a dry paste.
  2. Heat the oil in a pan, add the onion and garlic, gently sweat until softened.
  3. Add the spice mixture and cook for a minute or so, before adding the tomatoes, chickpeas and their chickpea water. Cook over a low heat until the sauce is thickened and the tomatoes have broken up  – around 25 minutes.
  4. Finally stir through the spinach until wilted, check the seasoning (perhaps add an extra sprinkling of chilli flakes). Serve topped with the chopped coriander and with rice.

Tuesday Treat

Rhubarb and Ginger Meringues (Serves 4)

If you have read my blog recently, you will know that I’ve been a little obsessed with rhubarb the last couple of weeks! I love the tart nature of this fruity vegetable, so as soon as the season for ‘forced rhubarb’ started in January I was keen to cook with it; this recipe for Rhubarb and Ginger Meringues has been a favourite of mine for some years now. These individual meringues are not the crunchy type, but are lovely, marshmallowy, soft meringues – you only cook them for 10-15 minutes. They do tend to crack a bit around the edges, so don’t be alarmed when they do, but this adds to their charm, and they still look impressive with the creamy rhubarb and ginger fool that sits in the middle of them. It really is a delicious dessert, the sharp rhubarb is perfectly balanced by the sweetness of the meringue. What’s more, it is the simplest of desserts – I found the recipe in Rachel Allen’s cookbook ‘Easy Meals’ – so enough said!…

2 large egg whites

125g caster sugar

For the rhubarb fool:

175g rhubarb, cut into 1cm lengths

75g caster sugar

1 teaspoon grated root ginger

125ml double cream, softly whipped

  1. Place the egg whites in a bowl and using a hand-held electric whisk, whisk until they form soft peaks. Gradually whisk in the caster sugar and continue to whisk until the meringue mixture is stiff and glossy.
  2. Spoon 4 large blobs of the mixture onto a baking tray lined with greaseproof paper. Using the back of a spoon create a well in the centre of each meringue (this is where the rhubarb fool will sit).
  3. Place the meringues in a preheated oven, 160’c fan, for 10-15 minutes until they are crisp on the outside but still marshmallowy in the middle. Remove from the oven and carefully lift them from the greaseproof paper to cool on a wire rack.
  4. Meanwhile make the rhubarb fool. Place the rhubarb, sugar and ginger in a saucepan with 25ml of water. Cook over a medium heat for 5-10 minutes until the rhubarb is stewed to a mush and the syrup has thickened. Allow to cool, then fold into the whipped cream.
  5. To serve, place the meringues onto individual plates and spoon a dollop of rhubarb fool over the top of each one.

Week Thirty Two

I must admit that life has been rather quiet lately due to lockdown, so you won’t be surprised to hear that I haven’t got any exciting news to ‘write home about’! The days seem to be rolling into one; at the end of each day my ‘to do’ list  (I’m a great list maker!), is still as long as it was at the beginning of the day. Before Covid, I enjoyed studying Italian at the Italian Institute, I have been doing this for more years than I care to admit. Then, just over a year ago, when Felix started university, I decided to fill my empty nest by learning another language, French (as you do!). So when Covid started, and our daily life became emptier, I had dreams of using this ‘extra’ time to improve my fluency in both languages….hmmm?… Unfortunately, despite continuing classes via Zoom, I’ve failed to improve at all, as I have neglected to use my ‘lockdown’ time wisely! Instead, what I have been doing is ‘over concentrating’ on random things, for instance over the last two weeks I have been obsessed with rhubarb, yes, you read that correctly – rhubarb!…

With the season just beginning for ‘forced rhubarb’, and the fact that I love it, I have been madly cooking both savoury and sweet rhubarb dishes. So this week I thought I would share a very easy dinner dish with the aforementioned vegetable, ‘Medallions of Pork with a Rhubarb Salsa’. It makes sense that pork should go well with this vegetable, as it is quite ‘fruity’, and pork has an affinity with a lot of fruits such as apples and pears. In this dish, the rhubarb is gently stewed with just a touch of redcurrant sauce to sweeten it, whilst retaining its tartness; it is superb with the pork. Unfortunately, the photo that I have taken doesn’t do it justice – I really should have scattered a little parsley over it to give the photo some colour, but I was too keen to ‘tuck in’ to think about photography! But believe me, it really does deliver a flavoursome punch for such a quickly cooked meal. I have also been cooking some delicious desserts with rhubarb, but I will save those recipes to share for a Tuesday Treat!..

Continuing with today’s savoury themed recipes, Menu Two is a fish recipe, for ‘Hake with Bacon, Peas and Cider’ (you could substitute the Hake for another firm white fish), it is an easy dish that is cooked in one pan, just serve it simply with steamed new potatoes. I think it is one of those dishes which will appear on your weekday menu again and again! Finally, a vegetarian dish –  ‘Vegetarian Chilli’ from Rachel Allen’s cookbook ‘Entertaining for Friends’. I have been taking my New Year’s resolution (to eat and post more vegetarian recipes) very seriously, and for this recipe, I have, for the first time, cooked with soya mince, I must say I am surprised how good it is, it works particularly well in this Vegetable Chilli recipe, any meat lover will be incredibly impressed! The dish is bursting with flavours, I serve it with homemade guacamole, sour cream and tortilla chips – it’s a real crowd pleaser.

Have a great week cooking!…I hope I’m not the only one guilty of wasting my ‘lockdown’ time – I would love to know if you have been as guilty as me?!…

Don’t forget to visit Menu Mistress next week for my ‘Tuesday Treat’!

Menu One

Medallions of Pork with Rhubarb Salsa and Sautéed Spinach (Serves 4)

Rhubarb isn’t just for dessert, it works well with savoury dishes too, as it’s fruity, tart flavour really complements meat such as pork or duck. This dish is very good with Sautéed Spinach and Baby Roast Potatoes (recipes below).

2 pork tenderloins (trimmed of any fat and silverskin)

40g butter

For the Salsa:

225g rhubarb

60ml white wine

2 tablespoons redcurrant jelly

2 tablespoons crème fraiche

1 teaspoon sugar

A pinch of salt

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

¼ teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg

  1. Cut the rhubarb  into small slices (about 1cm). Place in a saucepan with the white wine and gently cook until it becomes ‘mushy’ and tender. Purée until smooth – a stick blender is ideal for this or you can use a food processor.
  2. Melt the jelly in a saucepan, then add the rhubarb purée, crème fraîche, sugar, balsamic vinegar, salt and nutmeg.
  3. Meanwhile, cut the tenderloins, into 2cm slices. Melt the butter in a frying pan and fry the medallions over a medium to high heat for about 3-4 minutes on each side – you want them to still be a little pink.
  4. Serve the warm salsa over the pork medallions. Serve with Sautéed Spinach and Baby Roast Potatoes (recipes below).

Staple Side Dish – Sautéed Spinach with Garlic (Serves 4)

2 large bunches of baby spinach (washed) – about 400g

Olive oil

2 cloves of garlic, sliced

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a large frying pan. Add the garlic and sauté for about 1 minute until the garlic is beginning to brown.
  2. Add the spinach, turning it over to coat in the olive oil. Place a lid over the pan and cook for 1 minute. Remove the lid and stir. Return the lid and cook for a further minute.
  3. The spinach should now be wilted, add a drizzle of olive oil, season with salt and pepper, and serve.

Staple Side Dish – Baby Roast Potatoes with Garlic and Rosemary (serves 4-6)

Baby Roast Potatoes with Garlic & Rosemary

900g unpeeled new potatoes washed and cut roughly into 1cm cubes

2 tablespoons fresh rosemary, leaves chopped

2 cloves of garlic, chopped

2 tablespoons of olive oil

sea salt and black pepper

  1. Preheat the oven 200’c fan. Put the olive oil in a roasting tin and place in the oven to heat up.
  2. Place the potatoes in a clean tea towel and dry them thoroughly.
  3. Remove tin from the oven and carefully slide the potatoes into the hot fat. Sprinkle over the garlic and rosemary then stir around.
  4. Cook in the oven for 30-40 minutes.
  5. Season with salt and pepper before serving.

Menu Two

Hake with Bacon, Peas and Cider (Serves 4)

This recipe, from Nigella Lawson’s cookbook ‘At My Table’, is a wonderfully quick dish, all cooked in the same pan – ideal for a midweek meal. It is great simply served with some steamed new potatoes. I think it is one of those dishes which will appear on your weekly menu again and again! (You can easily substitute the hake for another firm white fish of you choice).

4 Hake fillets (or other white firm fish), skin on – about 200g each

Olive oil

130g streaky bacon, snipped into 1cm strips

400g frozen petits pois

500ml dry cider

Large bunch of parsley, finely chopped

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Heat a little olive oil in a pan (with a lid), fry the bacon until crisped and golden, then add the frozen peas, give them a good stir.
  2. Pour in the cider and bring to the boil, then turn it down to a simmer for about 5 minutes, until the peas are cooked. Add a little salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Add the fish, skin side down, to the pan and cover with a lid, allow to gently simmer for about 10 minutes until just cooked.
  4. Place each fillet on a plate. Stir most of the parsley through the peas and bacon in the pan (check the seasoning), then spoon it around the fish along with the lovely cidery juices. Sprinkle with the remaining parsley and serve – simply steamed new potatoes are delicious with this dish!

Menu Three

Vegetarian Chilli with Homemade Guacamole (Serves 4-6)

This Vegetarian Chilli recipe is from Rachel Allen’s cookbook, ‘Entertaining at Home’. The dish is bursting with flavours, I serve it with rice, homemade guacamole (recipe below), sour cream and tortilla chips – it’s a real crowd pleaser. It’s a good idea to serve a little Tabasco or Encona sauce on the side, for extra heat, to suit individual tastes. This recipe calls for soya mince, I used and would recommend ‘Vivera plant mince’, which you can buy in supermarkets, it is fresh and ready to use. Any meat lover will be incredibly impressed with this chilli – see if they can guess it’s vegetarian!!…

2 tablespoons olive oil

½ large onion, finely chopped

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

2 carrots, finely chopped

2 sticks of celery, finely chopped

1-2 red chillies, deseeded and finely chopped

1 teaspoon coriander seeds

1 teaspoon cumin seeds

100g soya mince, ready to use weight (soaked, according to packet instructions if dried – see note above)

400g tin red kidney beans

400g tin chopped tomatoes

125ml vegetable stock (I use Marigold Swiss Bouillon)

75ml red wine

Sea salt and black pepper

Bunch of coriander, chopped to serve

To serve: rice, guacamole, sour cream and tortilla chips

  1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan or casserole, add the onion, garlic, carrots and celery. Season with salt and pepper, and cook stirring occasionally for 20 minutes, until the vegetables are cooked and golden.
  2. Grind the coriander and cumin seeds in a mortar and pestle, then add to the pan along with the chopped chilli, cook for a further 5 minutes.
  3. Add all the remaining ingredients except the coriander. Cook over a medium heat, uncovered, for about 30 minutes until thickened.
  4. Scatter with the chopped coriander and serve with rice, homemade guacamole (recipe below), sour cream and tortilla chips.

Easy Guacamole

I’ve tried a few recipes for guacamole over the years, some have the addition of garlic and tomatoes, but I always return to this easy recipe from Sally Clarke – the flavours are simple so don’t overpower the avocado.

3 ripe avocados, peeled
Juice of 3 large limes
1-2 small chillies, very finely chopped
2 tbsp roughly chopped coriander leaves

  1. With a fork, mash the avocados in a bowl until almost smooth – a few lumps are fine.
  2. Stir in the lime juice and add the chillies and salt. Stir in the coriander and adjust to taste by adding more chillies, lime juice or salt.

Tuesday Treat

Chocolate Gourmandise (Gluten Free!)

(Serves 4)

I thought that this week, as it’s Valentine’s Day at the end of the week, that I would share a little ‘chocolate love’… ‘Chocolate Gourmandise’ is one of those desserts that everyone, yes, everyone loves! On first appearance it seems to be a little sponge in a cup, but when you dip your spoon into it, you get the wonderful surprise of a molten chocolate centre. What really will steal your heart, is that this recipe, is not only delicious but incredibly easy to make, and so, it is not only the perfect midweek family treat, but also the perfect dessert to end a dinner party (remember those?!..). It must be baked at the very last minute, but can be prepared several hours in advance. And the other good news is that, it works perfectly well with gluten free plain flour (I use Doves). This recipe is from a cookbook which I have had for over 20 years, ‘Patricia Wells at Home in the Provence’. Whilst there are other recipes in this book that I have enjoyed, it always naturally falls open onto the page for Chocolate Gourmandise (with all its cooking stains)!

Watch the video of this dessert being made here!

125g Plain chocolate, roughly chopped (I use Lindt Excellence 70% Cocoa Dark Chocolate)

125g butter

3 large eggs

150g caster sugar

35 g plain flour (gluten free if required – I use ‘Doves’)

Butter and flour for preparing the ramekins

(you will also need 4 small ramekins with 150ml capacity)

  1. Place the chocolate with the butter in a bowl over a pan of barely simmering water, stir until melted.
  2. In another bowl, whisk the eggs with the sugar and flour, mixing just to blend.
  3. Gradually whisk in the melted chocolate mixture.
  4. Leave the mixture to rest for an hour, to allow the flavours to mellow.
  5. Generously butter and flour the ramekins. Place on a baking sheet. Spoon the mixture into the ramekins.
  6. Bake in a preheated oven, 200’c fan, for 12-14 minutes, they should be still wobbly.
  7. Transfer the ramekins to sit on dessert plates and serve immediately.

Week Thirty One

We have survived the first month of 2021! I must admit that the month of January is when I allow myself to be my absolute laziest, it’s my hibernating month, so I need this new month of February to get me kickstarted!  Prior to the world of lockdown, January was also the month in which I would indulge myself with lots of outings to the cinema, as generally, it was the month with all the best film releases before the various annual award ceremonies. But, of course, this year I couldn’t even go out to the cinema, so I must admit that I have been even lazier than normal and I have been watching far too many films at home on my sofa (with chocolate!). I’ve been downloading a few of the Oscar nominated films such as ‘Mank’ and the ‘Chicago 7’, so have been getting my normal ‘cinema hit’, but I have also been binge watching boxsets (‘The Undoing’, ‘Bridgerton’ and the ‘Serpent’) and even re-watching some of my favourite movies such as last years ‘Little Women’ and the old classic ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’.

It was whilst recently re-watching one of my favourite ‘food themed’ films, ‘Julia and Julie’, that it hit me, why, during these uncertain covid times, Menu Mistress has been so good for me (and hopefully you!)…in the film, whilst making chocolate mousse, Julie says to her husband, “You know what I love about cooking? I love that after a day when nothing is sure…you can come home and absolutely know that if you add egg yolks to chocolate and sugar and milk, it will get thick. That’s such a comfort”. That is exactly how I feel about cooking good recipes, they allow me to have control in an uncertain world; despite all this Covid world upheaval, at the end of the day, I can cook something which I can enjoy. Hopefully, the recipes which I am sharing (all tried and tested in my kitchen) are also bringing some certainty to your everyday lives and inspiring you to cook more… which brings me to this week’s new recipes!…

This month it is, of course, Valentine’s Day, so I thought it would be a great excuse to share a perfect steak recipe, Peppercorn Steak with Aligot. This is a classic French bistrot recipe, the steak is an elegant treat whilst the addition of the Aligot makes it particularly comforting. All you need on the side is a classically dressed green salad.  Menu Two is Chicken Milanese, I must admit that if I asked both Nick and Felix what they would like me to cook for their Valentine’s treat, it would probably be this. In this recipe, chicken escalopes are breadcrumbed, pan fried and then served on a plate of spaghetti dressed with a rich tomato sauce – it has long been a family favourite (I’m also sharing a gluten free option for this recipe). Menu Three is Spicy Red Lentil Soup, this vegetarian soup is the perfect weekday meal on a cold February night, it’s spice will definitely warm you up!

Finally, not only do we have the excuse for a Valentine’s feast but also, with Shrove Tuesday on 17th February, we also have the perfect excuse for a Pancake feast…so this week, so that you can plan ahead, I thought I would also share my favourite foolproof pancake recipe, including a gluten free version that really does work! Plus there is a recipe for a delicious savoury pancake filling. I have to admit that I could just eat all my Shrove Tuesday pancakes simply with lemon and sugar, one after the other, after the other…but this savoury filling means that you can make a midweek supper completely out of pancakes – a main course and then a dessert with lemon and sugar ones!

Remember that I will be posting a ‘Tuesday Treat’ next Tuesday 10th February! The recipe I am planning to share will offer you the perfect end to your special Valentines meal…

Also, on MenuMusic, I’m posting a new Spotify playlist for you to cook along to. This new playlist is a modern mix of chilled tracks, which I hope you’ll enjoy…it’s perfect music to bake a cake to, on a lazy Sunday afternoon!

Menu One

Steak with Peppercorn Sauce and Aligot Potatoes (Serves 4)

This is a super simple way to take a steak dinner to an even higher level! The sauce is quickly cooked in the pan after frying the steaks. You could serve this simply with Homemade Oven Chips (recipe here) or for pure indulgence, serve French style, with Aligot potatoes, I also like a green salad with a little torn parsley on the side, dressed with a classic vinaigrette (both recipes below).

4 sirloin steaks (or a steak cut of your choice)

Salt and pepper

Olive oil

For the Sauce:

170ml brandy

370ml beef stock

250ml double cream

4-6 teaspoons whole black peppercorns, coarsely crushed

  1. Lightly brush the steaks with olive oil and sprinkle generously with salt and a little black pepper.
  2. Heat a frying pan until very hot. Place the steaks in the pan and cook for about 1½ minutes of each side for rare or a little longer depending on your taste. I also like to turn the steaks on their ‘fat’ edge, for 30 seconds to crisp it up.
  3. Remove the steaks to a plate to rest whilst you make the sauce.
  4. Add the brandy to the pan and let it simmer rapidly, scraping the bottom of the pan, when most of it has reduced (and lost its harsh alcohol smell), add the stock and simmer to reduce by half.
  5. Lower the heat. Add the cream, peppercorns and any juices from the resting steaks, stir, then simmer for about 2 minutes until it thickens (do not let it boil). Season with salt.
  6. Transfer the steaks to plates and spoon over the sauce.

Aligot (Serves 4)

Aligot is a traditional recipe of puréed potatoes with cheese from the South of France. Traditionally it is made with Tomme de Savoie, but this is very difficult to find in the UK, so in this recipe it is substituted with Emmental. Although not completely authentic it is absolutely delicious! You will often find Aligot served in good French bistrots with a simple steak and green salad, but it is equally good with a pork chop or sausages – a French take on ‘bangers and mash’! Aligot does require a bit of ‘elbow grease’ – the grating of cheese (my pet hate!) and beating it into the mash – but the end result makes it all worth it!

1 kg potatoes (such as Maris Piper)

400g Emmental cheese, grated

50g butter

100ml milk

1 garlic clove, crushed

150g Créme Fraîche

Whole nutmeg to be grated

Sea salt and black pepper

  1. Peel the potatoes and cut into even-sized chunks. Steam until completely cooked through.
  2. Heat the milk with the butter and garlic.
  3. Mash the potatoes with the milk and melted butter mixture.
  4. Return the pan with the mashed potatoes to the hob and over a low heat quickly mix in the cheese and cremé fraîche – this requires a bit of elbow grease, but as the cheese melts you will notice that the potato becomes wonderfully smooth.
  5. Finally season with a grating of nutmeg and salt and pepper.

Green Salad with a 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 Two

Chicken Milanese with Spaghetti & Tomato Sauce (Serves 4)

(with a Gluten Free Option)

This is one of our family favourites! It is a recipe I found years ago, on a ‘Jamie Oliver’ phone app, the app has since been deleted, but fortunately, I made a note of the recipe!… For a gluten free option I ‘bread’ the chicken pieces in ‘Mrs Crimble’s Gluten Free Ready to Use Breadcrumbs’ which you can buy in UK supermarkets; they are a very good alternative, in fact, the Chicken Milanese in the final photo above, is made with them!

2 – 3 chicken breasts

2 garlic cloves, sliced

1 small bunch of basil

½ bunch of parsley

400g tin chopped tomatoes

Plain flour for dusting (gluten free if required)

1-2 eggs

1 loaf of ciabatta

Olive oil

300g spaghetti (gluten free if required)

Sea salt and pepper

  1. Cut the crusts off of the ciabatta, tear the bread into the bowl of a food processor and process to bread crumbs adding a splash of olive oil and salt and pepper. Set aside.
  2. Pick the leaves from the herbs, put these to one side and chop the stalks.
  3. Fry the garlic slices in a little olive oil until lightly golden, add the chopped herb stalks, fry for 30 seconds before adding the chopped tomatoes. Reduce the heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
  4. For the chicken ‘Milanese’, Cut the chicken breasts into 3 lengthways, cover these slices with clingfilm and flatten to the thickness of £1 coin, by hitting with the base of a heavy saucepan (see the video of me doing this here!).
  5. Put a couple of tablespoons of flour on a plate and mix with some salt and pepper. Beat the egg(s) in a bowl big enough for dipping the chicken pieces in. Put the breadcrumbs in another bowl.
  6. Toss each chicken piece first in the flour, shaking off any excess, then dip them in the beaten egg and finally in the breadcrumbs, to coat completely.
  7. Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a frying pan and fry each breaded chicken piece until golden and cooked through.
  8. Meanwhile cook the spaghetti according to the packet instructions, until al dente.
  9. To serve: roughly chop the basil and parsley leaves and stir through the cooked spaghetti. Divide the spaghetti onto plates, add a dollop of the hot tomato sauce and top with the fried chicken pieces.

Menu Three

Spicy Red Lentil Soup (Serves 4)

This is a very warming soup, and quite spicy, I would add less chilli the first time you make it, as you can always add more chilli flakes at the end of cooking, it’s one of those recipes which you have to let your taste buds lead you!.. (Toasted Naan breads are good with this soup!)

200g split red lentils

1 medium onion, roughly chopped

A little groundnut oil

A small thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled and grated

3 cloves garlic, peeled

4 tomatoes, quartered

1 teaspoon black mustard seeds

1-2 small red chillies (less to taste – see note above)

1-2 teaspoons of dried chilli flakes (less to taste – see note above)

1 teaspoon ground turmeric

1 litre vegetable stock (I use ‘Marigold Swiss Vegetable Boullion’)

A small bunch of coriander leaves, chopped

Sea salt

  1. In a heavy based saucepan, gently fry the onion in the groundnut oil, until softened but not coloured.
  2. Add the mustard seeds and cook until the seeds start to pop a little.
  3. Add the lentils, ginger, garlic cloves, tomatoes, chopped and dried chillies and the ground turmeric, stir well before adding the stock and a pinch of salt.
  4. Bring to the boil, skim off any froth that appears on the surface. Lower the temperature, half cover the pan with a lid and simmer for 20 minutes or so until the lentils have softened and have started to fall apart.
  5. Add most of the chopped coriander (keep some back to serve). Place in a food processor and process until smooth, check the seasoning.
  6. Serve sprinkled with the remaining chopped coriander.

Menu Four

Basic Pancakes (and Chicken, Chilli and Basil Pancake Wraps)

All too often we tend to forget about pancakes and then the annual Shrove Tuesday/Pancake Day arrives and we go mad for them! They really deserve to be served up more often and the recipe for Chicken, Chilli and Basil Pancake Wraps (below), is a great way to make them into savoury supper dish at anytime of the year…followed by dessert of pancakes sprinkled with lemon and sugar!

Basic Pancakes (with Gluten)

110g plain flour

A pinch of salt

2 large eggs

200ml milk mixed together with 75ml water

2 tablespoons melted butter, plus extra for cooking the pancakes

  1. Sieve the flour and salt into a large bowl (hold the sieve up high to give the flour an ‘airing’).
  2. Make a well in the middle of the flour and break the eggs into it.
  3. Whisk the eggs into the flour, incorporating the bits from the sides.
  4. Start to add small quantities of the milk and water mixture gradually, until it has all been added and the batter is smooth.
  5. When you are ready to cook the pancakes add the 2 tablespoons of melted butter to the batter and stir well.
  6. Melt about a teaspoon of butter in a small frying pan. Swirl it around the pan and tip off any excess butter – the pan only needs a light coating.
  7. When the pan is really hot, turn down the heat to medium and add about 3 tablespoons of batter to the pan, tip it around from side to side so that the base is evenly coated. It should only take ½ -1 minute to cook, you will notice little bubbles rising under the surface. Use a palette knife (or if you’re feeling brave, toss it!) to turn the pancake over to cook the other side, then slide on to a plate, cover with foil to keep warm whilst you cook the next pancake.

(The first pancake is often ‘a tester’, so that you can determine how much batter your pan needs, so don’t be surprised if it isn’t perfect).

Basic Gluten Free Pancakes

100g gluten free plain flour (I use Doves)

A pinch of salt

2 large eggs

1½ teaspoons melted butter, plus extra for cooking the pancakes

240ml whole milk

60ml water

  1. Sieve the flour and salt into a large bowl (hold the sieve up high to give the flour an ‘airing’).
  2. Make a well in the middle of the flour and break the eggs into it and add the melted butter and about ¼ of the milk, whisk to combine to a thick mixture, incorporating all of the flour around the sides.
  3. Slowly whisk in the rest of the milk and the water, until the batter is smooth.
  4. Leave to sit for 20-30 minutes. Mix well again when you are ready to cook the pancakes.
  5. Melt about a teaspoon of butter in a small frying pan. Swirl it around the pan and tip off any excess butter – the pan only needs a light coating.
  6. When the pan is really hot, turn down the heat to medium and add about 3 tablespoons of batter to the pan, tip it around from side to side so that the base is evenly coated. It should only take ½ – 1 minute to cook. Use a palette knife (or if you’re feeling brave, toss it!) to turn the pancake over to cook the other side, then slide on to a plate, cover with foil to keep warm whilst you cook the next pancake.

(The first pancake is often ‘a tester’, so that you can determine how much batter your pan needs, so don’t be surprised if it isn’t perfect).

*It is important to give the batter a good mix just before using for each pancake as the flour tends to settle at the bottom.

Chicken, Chilli and Basil Pancake Wraps (Serves 4)

This is a great recipe for a savoury option on Shrove Tuesday, but don’t just save the recipe for ‘Pancake Day’, it really is delicious at anytime of the year! The stir-fry chicken needs to be cooked quickly so it is a good idea to have everything weighed out and prepared beside the stove, before cooking. By chargrilling the cooked pancakes you get a wonderful ‘charred flavour’!

For the Pancakes

Batter as above – either with or without gluten

1 level teaspoon vegetable stock powder (such as Marigold Swiss Vegetable Boullion)

Sesame oil for brushing

For the chicken
500g chicken breast fillets, cut into thin strips
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
20g red chillies, roughly chopped
A generous pinch of sea salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 tablespoons fish sauce
1 tablespoon soy sauce (gluten free if required)
1 tablespoon caster sugar
Large handful of basil leaves, torn

To serve
135g cucumber, cut into sticks
40g fresh coriander leaves
1 large red chilli, halved, deseeded and finely sliced lengthways
Lime wedges

  1. Whisk the stock powder into the pancake batter until dissolved, then make the pancakes following the method for the basic pancakes, above. Set aside while you make the filling.
  2. For the chicken: Pound the garlic, chillies and salt in a mortar to make a paste. Heat the oil in a frying pan, add the paste and stir-fry over a high heat for 30 seconds — be careful not to burn the garlic. Add the chicken strips and stir-fry for 2 min until just cooked through. Add the fish sauce, soy sauce and sugar, and stir-fry for a further 30 seconds then toss in the torn basil leaves. Set aside, keeping warm.
  3. Set a grill pan over a high heat. While the pan is heating, lightly brush one side of each pancake with sesame oil. Place a pancake in the pan, oiled-side down, and cook for 1 min, or until charred with stripes underneath. Flip and cook for 30 seconds more. Transfer to a plate and repeat with remaining pancakes.
  4. Place some of the chicken mixture on one half of a pancake. Top with some cucumber, coriander leaves, chilli and a squeeze of lime juice. Roll up and eat immediately.