I am on a bit of a mission to increase our intake of pulses – they are cheap, filling and with a little magic can be quite delicious. I love them (now) but one of my children isn’t mad about them so inevitably I have a bee in my bonnet to think of delicious ways to serve them up. To be fair I didn’t really like pulses much when younger and would pick them out of a cassoulet or chilli and line them up around my plate. It was always disappointing then to be asked to finish them, at this point cold and without anything more palatable to help them on their way.
This is a delicious combo then, leeks and beans to please me and crispy skinned chicken to please us all. Don’t panic that four thighs aren’t enough, this is surprisingly filling and you can always serve another green veg or perhaps a crusty baguette and salad alongside.
The leeks, flageolet and rosemary work particularly well together and this makes a great side dish to roast lamb. Pop it into an ovenproof dish, top with breadcrumbs and finish in the oven until crispy above and bubbling beneath.
Roast chicken with leeks, flageolet beans and rosemary
You can of course use dried flageolet, just remember to soak and cook them according to pack instructions prior to using them below.
4 chicken thighs
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 large or two medium leeks
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 sprig rosemary, leaves finely chopped to yield around 1 teaspoon
1 tin (400g) flageolet beans, drained and rinsed
250ml chicken stock
2-3 tablespoons double cream
Chopped chives or parsley (optional)
Heat the oven to 200, put half a tablespoon of the oil into a roasting tin, turn the chicken in the oil, season with salt and cook for half an hour. Heat the remaining oil in a large frying pan and cook the leek gently, without colouring, until soft. Add the garlic and rosemary, cook for a minute or two then add the beans, stock and cream. Simmer for about 10 minutes until a little reduced then check for seasoning. After its 30 minutes remove the chicken from the oven, add the leek mixture to the pan without getting sauce on the now crispy skin and return to the oven for a final 5-10 minutes until gently bubbling and gold skinned. Scatter over the chives or parsley if you are using them. Serves 4.
Well this is a proper treat and even better supremely easy to make with only 5 ingredients! That combination of tangy apples bathed in caramel sauce with a crispy, flaky pastry base, just fabulous. Whilst there are many recipes out there for Tarte Tatin, this one is so simple and delicious that I rarely deviate. It works like a dream and there is never any left over. By the way if you are a fan of salted caramel puddings just up the pinch of salt in the ingredients to about 1/2 a teaspoon and voila you will have Salted Caramel Tarte Tatin.
A frying pan with an oven proof or removable handle is ideal but if you don’t have one just cook the apples in a regular frying pan and then transfer to a baking tin before topping with pastry and putting in the oven. I use a 20cm le creuset that I have had for ever and these amounts work a treat and we easily finish it between the four of us. I have also used a 30cm saute pan (also le creuset) which make a great big tarte but I did need a little help turning the pan over on to the waiting plate.
I tend to use a pack of ready rolled puff pastry for this. With a bit of careful cutting out (and patching for the second) I can get two circles of pastry out of one roll so either make another tarte tatin, freeze it or make the Onion Tarte Tatin with Blue Cheese (February 2014)…. just saying.
4 large eating apples, Braeburn are ideal, peeled, cored and quartered
50g caster sugar
1 pack ready rolled puff pastry (usually around 375g)
Pinch of salt (see introduction)
Preheat the oven to 200. Unroll the pastry and measure out a circle using the top of the pan. Melt the butter with the sugar and add the apples along with a pinch of salt. Cook for around 20-30 minutes until the apples are tender but not collapsing. As it bubbles a caramel will form. Turn the apples a couple of times for even cooking. Remove from the heat, ensure all the pieces are round side down then extremely carefully place the circle of pastry over the apples and tuck the edges between the side of the pan and the apples. Put in the oven for 20 minutes or until the pastry is golden and puffed up. Take the pan out remembering of course that the handle will be hot and let it sit for a couple of minutes to settle. Using a plate with a lip so you don’t lose all the sauce, invert this over the pan and quickly turn both so that the tarte ends up on the plate pastry side down, apple side up. Adjust any apples that have slipped out of place and serve with cream. I divide this into quarters for the four of us but reckon I could eat half without much trouble….
I made this recently to put out before lunch when friends came over and it was gone in minutes. Served with a garlicky courgette dip it was just the ticket with some pre lunch drinks and kept the children more than happy. As luck would have it this takes minutes to make and as such is something I regularly turn to. Although I love making all kinds of bread and make a loaf of white or sourdough weekly, this is a great one to have up your sleeve when the clock is ticking and there is no time for proving and rising.
Whilst I might not have buttermilk in the fridge at all times, I always have yogurt to hand. This, let down with a bit of milk, works a treat in place of buttermilk and means a loaf of this moreish bread is never more than about half an hour away. My daughter adores olives and chilli so can polish off half of this loaf without thinking and it takes the sting out of the veggie soup or salad that often accompanies it.
Essentially a riff on my seedy soda bread, April 2013, I add some punchy flavours to this one. The chilli is up to you but I think it works a treat with the olives and thyme. There is a thyme plant outside the kitchen that manages to soldier on whatever the weather so along with some store cupboard olives this one is always a contender for lunch or supper. Or serve as I did at the weekend with a dip, a herby labneh perhaps or hummus and you will have happy faces all round.
Olive, thyme and chilli soda bread
I make this with a mix of wholemeal and regular white flour but you can go with all white if you prefer or if that is what you have. Buttermilk sometimes comes in 284ml tubs for some reason so just make this up to 300ml with milk. If you are using yogurt, use 200ml and make it up to 300ml with milk.
150g wholemeal flour, plus a bit extra
150g plain flour
1 teaspoon fine salt
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 teaspoons soft brown sugar
300ml tub buttermilk (or yogurt, see introduction)
50g olives, I like a mix of green and black, chopped up a bit
1 teaspoon thyme, leaves only
1/2 teaspoon chilli (omit this if you like)
Preheat the oven to 200. Put the flours, salt, bicarb, sugar, olives, thyme and chilli in a large bowl and mix. Add the buttermilk and give it a good mix together. Sprinkle some wholemeal flour on a baking sheet, make the dough into a ball, put on the tin, sprinkle a little more flour over and cut a cross in the top with a sharp knife. Bake for 30-35 minutes until crusty, golden brown and sounds hollow when you tap the bottom.
I feel jelly has been a fairly regular presence throughout my life. From children’s parties that frankly weren’t a party if there wasn’t jelly along with the Midget Gems and cocktail sausages (although ideally not in the same mouthful…) to the somewhat more sophisticated Prosecco or Pimms jellies around now. Although the jelly itself hasn’t really changed over the years I now eat it with a spoon rather than applying it directly to my face as I may have done…
Funny how something so simple still draws the oohs and aahs when brought to the table and goes down equally well with children and grown ups. Quick to make, cheap and easily zhuzzed up with summer fruits this is real a star to have up your sleeve for entertaining as the warm weather arrives particularly as it has to be made ahead to time.
I often try new flavour ideas for jelly – it is after all simply a liquid and the requisite amount of gelatine – and this is our current favourite. I’ve made this twice over half term and both times have been left with an empty plate. On the first occasion I served it with rhubarb fool, rhubarb and elderflower being extremely good friends; the second time with a few strawberries on top which had macerated for half an hour in a spoonful of sugar (as in the pictures here).
When the weather really warms up you can dispense with the gelatine and pour the apple/elderflower mix direct into ice lollies moulds for super refreshing ice pops.
Elderflower and Apple Jelly
I choose to use apple juice and add elderflower cordial as that way I get the balance of flavour I like but you could probably use a combined apple and elderflower juice if you prefer. There is a recipe for elderflower cordial here, (June 2016).
850 ml apple juice (the one I buy comes in 1 litre bottles so I just drink 150ml)
150ml elderflower cordial
Juice of half a lemon
11 sheets of gelatine (I use Costa and it always works a treat)
Put approximately 300ml of apple juice in a pan and heat gently but don’t let it boil. Put the rest into a jug and mix with the elderflower cordial. Meanwhile soak the gelatine in a bowl of cold water. When the apple juice is hot add the squeezed out gelatine, mix well until it has melted then add to the cold apple and elderflower, stir and pour into a 1 litre jelly mould. Let it cool then put in the fridge until set, overnight is best. Sit the mould in hot water for a minute or two and then turn out. Serves 6 easily or more with something else alongside.
A few of you may recognise this as one of my earliest recipes on these pages. So long ago in fact that it doesn’t even have a photograph. Although I cook my recipes over and over again this is the first time I’ve duplicated one here. The reason being I felt it lacked fanfare originally and is such a reliable and delicious lunch or supper that I thought it deserved a shout out, as they say. Also and somewhat inevitably, I have tinkered with it adding potatoes to the original to make it a complete one pan meal.
It is this sort of dish that I find an absolute Godsend on weekdays when I’m frazzled and need to think of (yet another) family supper that is quick, easy, undemanding, not too expensive and above all delicious – clean plates after all are what we want to see. This ticks all those boxes, cooked in one pan which you can bring to the table, incorporates potatoes, meat and veg along with a super easy spice addition by way of the harissa. I refer you here to a comment I made about the original which still stands – “Crisp skinned chicken sliding off the bone in a spicy red jacket with crunchy greens to give verdant vigour!”
Chicken with Harissa and Broccolini
If you like things a little spicier feel free to add more harissa and if you want it a little saucier, add a glug of white wine with the final teaspoon of harissa.
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 chicken thighs, bone in and skin on
8 waxy potatoes, halved
5 teaspoons harissa paste
1 pack tenderstem broccolini
Chopped parsley (optional)
Preheat the oven to 190. Put the potatoes and oil in a large baking pan and turn to coat. Put half a teaspoon of harissa under the skin of each thigh and squidge a bit to spread. Put the chicken in with the potatoes, season and roast 30 minutes. Towards the end of this cooking time blanch the broccolini in boiling water for 1 minute and drain. Remove the chicken from the oven, stir the last teaspoon of harissa into the cooking juices and then fit the broccoli in and around the chicken and potatoes (put some of the chicken on the potatoes if that helps). Return to the oven for 10 minutes. Season, sprinkle with parsley if you like and serve, this is enough for 2 adults and 2 children but you can multiply it at will.
We have had masses of building work done over the summer, hence my silence on these pages. Some days I had a kitchen to use, other days not so much. Once the Aga was decommissioned I moved onto a two ring gas hob (no oven) and once that was a goner it was braais or picnics. There have certainly been some stressful moments and I have deposited more money in the swear box than I care to think about. My poor husband and children have had to put up with a lot of unusual suppers from a rather mad-eyed cook but it was worth it and we now have a fabulous new kitchen.
The thing about being put on the spot kit wise is that it really focuses the mind. If all the gadgetry has been boxed up (or just covered in dust) and there is only a pan to hand then one must make do. One such recipe that came into play was this pasta with bacon, garlic, chilli and parsley. Comprising of store cupboard and garden ingredients this can be reliably whipped up with the minimum of equipment, time or energy. On one occasion I also added a pile of halved cherry tomatoes because I had some that needed using up. It is certainly just as good without and I wouldn’t use tasteless winter (or jetset) tomatoes for the sake of it.
I highly recommend making this whether you are enjoying building works or not – it is cheap, very cheerful and everyone, particularly the children love it – what could be better (apart from a new kitchen).
Pasta with bacon, garlic, chilli and parsley
As with many of my recipes this is open to interpretation – if you adore bacon then add more; if your children can’t bear chilli then leave it out. The parsley is very much an ingredient here rather than merely a garnish but if the green stuff horrifies your little ones……
6 good fat rashers of smoked streaky bacon
2 large cloves of garlic
1/4 teaspoon dried chilli flakes
1/2 bunch parsley
300g pasta of your choice
Get your pasta cooking in a large pan of generously salted water. Put a tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan and snip (I find scissors easiest here) the bacon into it. Cook until just turning crispy then add the garlic and chilli, stir it around over a gentle heat ensuring the garlic doesn’t brown. When the pasta is done, drain it retaining a little of the cooking water. Tumble the pasta into the frying pan and mix well with the bacon, garlic and chilli adding a splash or two of cooking water to keep the whole thing quite slippery. Chop the parsley over the top, season well and serve with parmesan if you like. This amount is enough for two adults and two children.
Last weekend I fell in the river. I was keen to clear a bit of it that had got rather clogged up with logs, twigs and sticks after the last flood and had set out, pole in hand, to sort it. I was leaning right over the river against an old tree stump in order to get the pole into the middle of all this debris when there was an almighty creak followed by a splash. It seems this particular stump had long ago relinquished its hold on life, was entirely hollow and both it and I fell right into the river. It was very cold. I had been accompanied on this mission by Tom who, uncharacteristically for a Springer, doesn’t like water and was now pacing the riverbank anxiously presumably wondering what I was doing. So, I was soaking to the waist and my boots were full of water but as I couldn’t get any wetter I decided I might as well carry on clearing the river and in fact it was much easier now that I was well and truly in. Climbing out I found myself on nose level with swathes of wild garlic which is abundant along the bank and decided that is what we would have for supper.
Each year we are spoilt with this particular foragers’ treat and I have made all manner of things with it, Wild Garlic Pesto (May 2013) and Wild Garlic Focaccia (May 2014) to name two. I add it to salads, cautiously though it is pretty potent, and chuck into pasta dishes letting it wilt in the residual heat. This years leaves have been around for a couple of weeks but it is only in the last few days that the white flowers have emerged.
We often make pizzas on a Saturday evening so I decided to see how much wild garlic we could get onto those. My dough is a simple version of my white bread but with a good slosh of olive oil. It is a dream to work with and cooks to a suitably crisp crust. I decided to make my Fresh Herb Sauce (July 2013) with half parsley and half wild garlic which resulted in a pungent fabulously green number to drizzle over some of the pizzas when they emerged from the oven but you could just as happily use the Wild Garlic Pesto. We strewed the pizzas with torn wild garlic leaves rather as I often use rocket and in fact rocket came into play when the wild garlic I picked had all gone and I couldn’t persuade anyone into the pouring rain to get more.
Pizzas are a personal thing and us such my family put different ingredients on each one – we usually start with a tomato sauce, the same one as used in my Meatloaf recipe (November 2015). My son keeps his simple with cheese and salami, my daughter will add olives, capers and garlic to hers and my husband and I tend to add a good amount of chilli, mozzarella and lots of greenery when the pizzas emerge blistered and bubbling from the oven. A trickle of good olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt bring the whole together and I can’t recommend these enough. They are a world away from wodgy doughy shop bought pizzas and, I tell myself, must be better for us….
Wild Garlic Pizza
The following makes four pizzas which are just the right size for us, two adults and two children but you could happily double the recipe. Remember you need to allow time for the proving but unlike normal bread, the doesn’t really need a second rise.
250g strong white flour
5g quick yeast
5g fine salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
100-150 ml luke warm water
Toppings of your choice, see above, but probably to include tomato sauce, mozzarella or cheddar, salami or pepperoni, olives, chilli flakes, capers etc
Mix the flour, yeast, salt, oil and 100 ml of water in a large bowl, you may need some more of the water but probably not all of it. Once it comes together in a dough knead it for 10 minutes by hand or in a stand mixer. When this is a smooth ball, put a little oil into the bowl to stop the dough sticking and leave in a warm place for an hour or so until doubled in size. Preheat your oven to 220 and put in a couple of baking sheets to heat up. Divide the dough into four and roll out thinly but not too thinly or you will struggle to get them from your work surface onto the baking tray. If you are worried about his roll them out on baking parchment and they can cook on this. Don’t use greaseproof paper as the pizzas will stick to this, you will never get them off and will have to eat the greaseproof paper along with the pizza, I found this out the hard way. Add whatever toppings you have decided on but don’t go mad, if they are too heavy or wet you won’t get a crisp bottom. Carefully take a hot baking sheet out of the oven, sprinkle with semolina if you have some or flour, put your pizza onto this and bake for 8-10 minutes or until cooked, bubbling and blistered. When it is done I thoroughly recommend torn wild garlic if you can get some or rocket strewn on top or the wild garlic fresh herb sauce. Each pizza serves 1.
This is a winner. A little girl (aged 3) recently came to stay and when it came to teatime she wasn’t in the mood for any nonsense. I was fairly confident she would like this as my children adore it, even my son who is absolutely not the first to request pasta, ever.
When the time came to serve though, I realised I had forgotten the vagaries of young children and must admit, felt a brief tremor of nerves. Hurrah, it was a huge success and she polished off three helpings much to the panic of my daughter who was eyeing the reducing seconds in the pan with alarm.
So offer this with confidence and not only to children, I make no secret of loving it and am often to be caught sneaking a spoonful or two from the pan before it disappears.
Orzo with Bacon, Tomato and Cream Sauce
Orzo is a rice shaped pasta we have a particular fondness for but use any small shape you like. I keep those little rectangular packs of pancetta in the fridge and along with some small packs of passata in the larder this becomes an almost store cupboard supper.
1 teaspoon olive oil
100g pancetta, pack sizes vary and a little more won’t hurt if that is what you have
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
2 tablespoons cream
A few sprigs of parsley, chopped
Cook the orzo according to the packet instructions, probably around 11 minutes. Meanwhile put the pancetta into a large frying pan with a teaspoon of olive oil and cook until well coloured and crispy in places. Add the garlic and cook for a minute before adding the passata, stir and cook for a few minutes before adding the cream. Drain the pasta retaining a little of the cooking water. Put the pasta into the sauce, stir until combined adding a little of the cooking water if you need it to loosen the sauce. Grate over some parmesan, add the chopped parsley and serve with more parmesan to hand. Serves two adults or three children.
We are in the midst of that horror that is house buying. The house selling seems to be a dream but the purchase is causing unknown stress and as such I am in need of great comfort. What could be more reassuring and bolstering than risotto. Cosy, creamy and requiring very little effort to eat, sofa food if ever there was. As it oozes gently across your plate you just know it is going to make you feel better. That, and the bar of chocolate to follow….
For this I have chosen smoked haddock because I find it an old fashioned, nostalgic ingredient which in itself brings me comfort. Purists may recoil at the hint of yellow coming from this fish and by all means use undyed if you prefer. The haddock I purchased did, clearly, have a belt of sunshine yellow about it but as it was good quality I wasn’t going to let it bother me. Indeed I rather like the jolly jauntiness of yellow and it certainly makes this uplifting to look at along with its green chive freckles.
Parmesan I know is not traditional with fish risottos but I do think cheese goes rather well with smoked fish so personally, I am all for a good grating but I leave that up to you. One final suggestion I make is a poached egg. The golden yolk breaking over the risotto is a fabulous addition and would make this go further should you wish to feed more souls in need of comfort, or otherwise.
Smoked Haddock Risotto with Chives
I am not keen on fish stock unless I have just made it so tend to use chicken or vegetable, either works fine. That I can use stock cubes if necessary makes this a superb store cupboard supper as smoked haddock is happily stored in the freezer and the chives can be growing in a pot or your garden. Onions, lemons and arborio rice I always have in the larder. Finally, you will have to stand and stir this for around 20 minutes but the beauty of being trapped stove side is that you are unable to help anyone find their homework, walk the dog, hang the washing out……
1 tablespoon butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 onion finely chopped
200g arborio rice
1 wineglass dry white wine
500/600ml stock (see introduction)
Juice of half a lemon
Chives, about 10g, finely chopped
250g smoked haddock, cut into pieces
Salt and pepper
Make your stock if using cubes or heat it up if is already liquid, either way keep it hot by or on the hob. Melt the butter and oil in a large pan and cook the onion for 5 to 10 minutes until soft but not coloured and then add the rice. Give it a good stir to ensure all the grains are well coated. Add the wine and stir until it has been absorbed by the rice. Then add the stock a ladleful at a time, stirring continuously until each addition is absorbed. Towards the end of this process you should taste a grain of rice as different brands vary but I suspect it will take around 20 minutes. When it is nearly done add the fish and your final slosh of stock and continue stirring. Finally add the lemon juice and taste for salt at this point as you may not need much depending on the saltiness of your fish but add lots of pepper and most of the chives. Stir and leave it to stand for 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle with the last of the chives and serve. Enough for 2.
I was asked recently for more supper recipes, easy, quick, everyday numbers to resolve that daily dilemma, what are we going to eat tonight? Several ideas came to mind but this is the one I was cooking that night for supper and in itself presented me with a problem. Could I actually offer this up as a recipe? As you will see it contains very few ingredients and furthermore part of it is from a recipe I created last year, the Herby Ricotta with Pickled Cucumber (September 2014). Surely no one needs the suggestion of salmon for supper but maybe the pickled cucumber is a bit of a departure? Indeed the crunchy, sweet and sour elements of this go splendidly with the rich, oily salmon, quite a partnership. Anyway I dithered for a bit before realising how mad I sound. Get ahold of yourself I said. This is not a dilemma, choosing names for your children, deciding which house to buy, what career to pursue – these could all be considered dilemmas but not whether this can be justified as a recipe or not.
That it is unbelievably quick and easy is hardly a problem; nor that it requires a shopping list you could probably fit on a stamp; most crucially it is extremely good and of course, good for you. If you aren’t a carbo phobe it goes perfectly with glorious, fudgy Jersey royals and a big green salad, heavy on the fresh mint, would also be just the ticket, a fab supper.
Salmon with Pickled Cucumber
I made extra of this last week and had it cold for my lunch the next day. I ate it with a salad but couldn’t help thinking it would also make a stellar filling for a sandwich.
2 salmon fillets
1 teaspoon olive oil
A couple of chives, finely chopped
Half a cucumber
1 tablespoon caster sugar
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Put the sugar and vinegar into a shallow bowl with a pinch of salt and leave to dissolve. Using a vegetable peeler, take long slices of cucumber avoiding the watery seeds in the middle and add to the bowl. Leave for half an hour, stirring occasionally, for the cucumber to “pickle”. Meanwhile brush the salmon fillets with the oil on both sides and put skin side down in a hot pan. Leave for 5 minutes before turning and cooking on the other side for a further 5 minutes – this should be just right but cook a little longer if you prefer or your fillets are huge. Sprinkle with the chives and serve with the pickled cucumber. Enough for 2 but easily doubled, tripled….