Tag Archives: dinner

Hasselback potatoes and salsa verde

I am a girl who loves me some carbs. Oh yes. Carbs in most formats float my boat but were I to only be allowed one type for the rest of my days, I’d go with bread. And I’d go so far as to say, that potatoes would be my least favourite – I only really like them in mashed form and to be honest, should this one carb totalitarian future I’m envisioning offer instant powdered mash instead of any real actual carbs, I’d probably be totally OK with that.

Is now a good time to announce my overwhelming love for processed cheese too?

However, I’ve been noticing recently a lot of people I stalk on social media posting pictures of some fancy looking potatoes and some googling informs me these are called Hasselback potatoes and they’re a Scandi thing and they look super pretty and super easy (I refer you to my earlier ‘powdered mash’ comment) so I figured, during Chocolate Saturday, I’d give them a go. Not with chocolate though, that’d be grim.

So the joy of hasselback potatoes is you get the crunchy skin of a baked potato, with the creamy inside of a mashed potato and the crispy edges of, well, crisps. And you slice and bake and baste once and they come out all buttery and yummy. I decided to pair this with a roast chicken and some salsa verde, mostly because I’ve been craving it. And some vegetables, because I do actually want to make it to 40. Which I’m still convinced is in 15 years and not two weeks.

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Hasselback potatoes are super simple. Preheat the oven to gas mark 6. I made 6 potatoes for two of us which was far too many – I reckon two per person, max, unless you’re starving in which case, you decide, I’m not your mother. The easiest way to prepare these is a tip from Nigella – put the potato into a wooden spoon and cut slices into it without going all the way to the bottom – you want it to fan out and by putting it in a wooden spoon, it stops you from slicing too deep. The slices should be as thin as possible – I averaged about 3mm but if you can go thinner, well done. And stop showing off. Once your potatoes are prepared, put butter (about 5g per potato) and oil into the roasting tray and put onto the heat – once it is smoking hot, add the potatoes, cut side down first and then turn over and sprinkle salt over them. Baste once and then put into the oven. They’ll take about 45-55 mins to cook (depending on the size of your potatoes). Once cooked, transfer to a warmed dish and serve. With more butter.

My salsa verde was a bit of a mish mash of herbs from my garden and fridge. And I didn’t have any mustard so I didn’t use that. But I’ve since bought some so I’ll see if it makes much of a difference. I liked this one but I love processed cheese so what do I know?

Salsa Verde 

  • 2 large handfuls of fresh parsley leaves
  • 2 large handfuls of fresh coriander (stalks and leaves)
  • 1 large handful of fresh mint (leaves only)
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 1 green chilli
  • 2 anchovy fillets
  • 2 tsp capers
  • Olive oil (about 3tbsp)
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Splash of red wine vinegar (which I also didn’t have, so used the vinegar from the capers)
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Peel and chop the garlic and chop the anchovies into tiny pieces and transfer with the capers to a large mortar and pestle. Bash together with a little sea salt until you have a paste.

Chop your herbs together finely and add to the anchovy/caper/garlic mix. Using a lot of elbow grease, pound this togethr until you have a paste and then add the liquids – and give it a stir. Season to taste. Mine was a little bitter so I added a little bit of demerara sugar which helped lift it.

Serve with hasselback potatoes and a roast chicken if you want to be just like me. I’d imagine it will also be delicious on other grilled meats.

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The meal that (may have) changed my life

A couple of weeks ago, I cooked dinner for some friends of my folks (I am actually the best daughter ever, despite what my parents would say). Earlier this year, I helped out these friends with some very top line research into a product they’re hoping to launch so it was great to put faces to email addresses. At this dinner, I was blindsided by an offer, that may actually change my life at some point in the future. But it’s too early to talk about that now, so instead, I’m going to talk about the meal I cooked for them.

My mum loves it when I cook Moroccan food so asked if I’d make a tagine. So I did. Rather than revisit my old favourite Christmas lamb, I decided to make a lemon, ginger and coriander chicken tagine so that it wasn’t so sweet-fruity as you’d get with dried apricots, it had a more subtle flavour from the lemons. I served it with a vegetable stew and roasted beetroot (I was trialling this in advance of last weekend’s supperclub) and some cous cous. Tagine recipe below. Wasn’t too keen on how it looked but the flavours came out really well – simple yet rounded. This recipe serves 6-8 people

The meal that may have changed my life

Lemon, ginger and coriander chicken tagine

  • 1.5KG of chicken, bone in, skin off (I used thighs and legs but you can use a whole chicken – I just find breast meat a little dry)
  • 1.5tsp paprika
  • 1tsp turmeric powder
  • 1tsp cumin seeds
  • 6 cloves of garlic
  • A large nub of ginger – I’d say two thumbs worth – finely minced
  • A big bunch of coriander (save some for garnish)
  • 1 onion, finely sliced
  • Zest of two lemons
  • 1 lemon finely sliced
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • A few strands of saffron in a small amount of water
  • 150ml of water
  • Oil, salt, pepper

Chop half the coriander, half the garlic and half the ginger finely and mix with a small amount of olive oil. Add the turmeric, paprika and cumin and rub into the chicken. Leave to marinade in the fridge for at least two hours (or preferably overnight).

Once you’re ready to cook (it takes about 45mins-1hr in total), take the chicken out of the fridge.

In a tagine (or large saucepan with a tight fitting lid), soften the onions and remaining garlic and ginger over a low heat with some oil. Stir in the lemon zest, then add the slices of lemon on top of this and then layer the chicken over the top of the lemon slices. Pour over the lemon juice, saffron water and water and bring to the boil. Turn down to a low simmer and put the lid on and leave to cook for 45 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes or so.

If it looks like the water is cooking off, add a little more but not too much more.

If you’ve cooked it in a tagine, simply season, sprinkle over some coriander and serve. Or do the same in a saucepan or move it to a serving dish. Entirely up to you. However you serve it, it tastes damn fine.

Cous Cous with mint and pomegranate seed roasted beetroot

My first attempt at a supperclub (of sorts)

I’ve always loved cooking for people – be it a gift of brownies or a jar of granola or a full on Christmas dinner, making and giving food is a true sign of love. I blame my mother entirely.

Over the last ten days, I’ve had two very significant meals – one that I arranged myself in order to kick start my positive 2015, and one that may actually change my life.  More on the former below, the latter will come when I can talk about it more!

In a nutshell, we moved to suburbia and felt a little like we’d retired. It’s so lovely and quiet but quite the shock from being in zone two to zone four. It’s taken us a while but I think we’re finally approaching a level of comfort with it and what’s been particularly nice is having people come and visit and stay with us, now we have the space. And it means we can do significant entertaining which is also nice. So we’ve hosted a lot of dinner parties and Sharknado fests and Avengers evenings in onesies and quiet cocktails do that ended at 4am (and weren’t actually that quiet – sorry neighbours) which have been awesome.

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However, for ages we’ve been toying with the idea of hosting an actual supperclub, one where we plan a menu (three courses and all from scratch) and budget it and cook it all to a timed fashion and where the wino matches wines from his shop. So back in January, to kick start my year with a few changes, we decided to invite a bunch of our nearest and dearest to partake in our food and booze and tell us what they thought. And to decide if this is something we want to do semi-regularly.

Firstly, I am super impressed with the established supperclub owners who do this monthly, weekly or more often than that. My feet STILL hurt from being on them all night long. I’m totally wiped out. I had a week of panic dreams in advance about the sorbet and people getting food poisoning and serving raw meat. But my god, it was fun.

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So the menu – what we’ve realised is most supperclubs have a theme, be it regional foods or comfort food or seasonal or something. So, I went with spice – I love spices in all courses, particularly puddings. I think people are scared of trying things they don’t know so stick to basic spices and herbs but it’s so fun to try new things and combinations. A few years ago, I came up with an idea for the Periodic Table of Herbs & Spices with my then client, Bart Ingredients. It’s a great way to understand what flavours work together and how to replace one spice with another if you don’t have something in your cupboard.

The menu was still being thrashed out at 9pm on Friday night whilst we were moving our dining table into our front living room but the final menu was this:

Starter

Fennel, chilli, honey roasted beetroot and garlic, thyme, sage roasted tomato tart with goat’s cheese, served with a fennel and blood orange salad and a savoury granola

Thanks to lovely Neil for this photo
Thanks to lovely Neil for this photo

I made the beetroot and tomatoes in advance and kept them in the fridge – made life on the day so much easier. The tomatoes particularly were great – I sliced the base of each tomato and put a sliver of garlic into it, then sprinkled fresh thyme, ripped up sage leaves, olive oil and salt and pepper on top of that, roasted in a low oven for about 45 minutes till they went all squishy.

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I spread the base of the tart with a combination of cream cheese and mint, layered finely sliced beetroot on top of that, piled the tomatoes on top of that and finished with slices of goat’s cheese and a twist of freshly ground black pepper. Then baked in the oven for 15 minutes, till the cheese got a nice golden colour.

Tarts pre cheese
Tarts pre cheese

The granola had been made a week prior to that as it keeps fresh for ages and was sprinkled over the fennel and blood orange salad before serving. For savoury granola, use egg white instead of honey or syrup to get it to stick together – makes for lovely clumps of granola. The granola was mildly spiced but I think it could have used more.

Main

Cumin and coriander crusted pork loin served with roasted garlic chickpea mash and chilli tenderstem broccoli.

The pescetarians got fennel crusted cod

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I marinaded the pork loins (which were pre-prepared by the butcher) in the roasted and ground cumin and coriander seeds, with a little bit of olive oil and a few finely minced cloves of garlic overnight then pan fried for a couple of minutes on each side, then roasted on a bed of apples until the core temperature reached 68-70C. Use a meat thermometer. I have learned that life is too short to soak your own chickpeas but it really helps with managing the budget. For a couple of quid, I made enough mash to serve everyone twice over. Roasted garlic is the best thing ever. We served the pork on the mash with a topping of quick fried coriander. Our guests raved about the broccoli – just blanched for a minute then heat some olive oil with chilli flakes, add the broccoli and pan fry for a few minutes.

Again, thanks Neil :-)   @neilejohnson
Again, thanks Neil 🙂 @neilejohnson

The fennel crusted cod was also marinaded overnight in fennel seeds, olive oil and black pepper then pan fried.

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Dessert

Gingerbread with cinnamon chocolate brownie bites and soil, served with pomegranate and blood orange sorbets and a orange cream 

Guess who? See more of his lovely pictures at Instagram @neilejohnson
Guess who? See more of his lovely pictures at Instagram @neilejohnson

I made two each of trays of gingerbread and brownies which was far too much but lucky I did as I had burnt corners on every tin! The gingerbread was Mary Berry’s recipe, my own brownie recipe (not the cow pat one) but removed the chillis and upped the amount of cinnamon. The sorbets could have been a nightmare – the pomegranate one was a delicious magazine recipe but so confusing. Basically, you need to whip egg whites to soft peaks, make a sugar syrup with cinnamon, leave it to cool, add the pomegranate juice then fold in the egg whites. But egg whites don’t fold into liquids and I don’t have an ice cream maker so after a LOT of panicking, the wino suggested I put the whole lightly frozen layered thing into a blender and blend it all together. So I did. He’s a clever fella. It did separate in the freezer, but I churned it every two hours (dedication) and it came out really well. I made the blood orange sorbet and the orange cream as back ups but because it was all so good, I served it all. And then brought out the burned bits of brownie and the remains of the sorbets and everything got eaten. Safe to say, dessert was the best course.

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Luckily a lot of this could be made in advance so the only actual cooking during the evening was the tart, the pork loin and the cod. But it did mean that I was cooking for a few days in advance, working out what to cook when and how to keep it best fresh.

All in all, I really enjoyed doing it – as you can see from the pictures, I really need to learn to plate up properly, so I’m going to focus on doing that better in the future. If you’re thinking about doing your own in the future, its worth considering having an extra pair of hands on the night because it’s a lot of hard work on your own. My wino was amazing though but I’d even consider one other person just to help washing up etc. I reckon if we do this again, it’ll be in a few months, to allow my feet to recover. Let me know in the comments if you want more info when we do our next Stories and Bon Bons Spice Saturday! Thank you to these beautiful people for being my first run guinea pigs and for the beautiful flowers that now fill my home (I sincerely hope you enjoyed it… and don’t have food poisioning!)

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Pretending fridge soup is roasted duck with cherry sauce

One of my favourite things to do apart from eat and cook and eat more is go away on holiday. And as we’re off on holiday tomorrow, I’ve been playing my favourite cooking game; what can I make for dinner tonight using only the contents of my fridge?

It’s a fun game to play and the rules are simple. Open your fridge, get out all the fresh veg, check the dates on things like cream or yoghurt or stock and get combining.

My available fridge ingredients were: Carrots, celery, broccoli, mushrooms, chicken stock, Greek yoghurt, fresh coriander and galangal. Coupled with the four slightly sprouty potatoes I found in the veg basket and garlic and onions, a broccoli, mushroom, coriander soup was born.

It’s a really boring soup but as I’ve got a husband down with killer man flu, it’s the perfect thing to shut him up make him feel better. And I can pretend I’m keeping to my slightly rubbish version of a bikini diet by eating soup. Given that my bikini diet has involved buying a shit load of kaftans and kimonos, I’m really not doing very well at being beach ready. Apart from the bit where you’re absolutely exhausted and the only thing that’s getting you through is the thought of being on a beach in less than 24 hours. That’s beach ready, right?

Whilst I’m chowing down on a bowlful of soup, I’m going to reminisce about the dinner I made this time last week and share that recipe with you.

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I’ve never cooked duck before. Not sure why, I like eating duck and I like ducks in the park, but had never made it at home. So with a free day, I decided to roast duck legs and make a cherry sauce. The roasting duck legs bit is fairly straightforward so I won’t pretend to know better than Nigella and simply share her recipe for roasted duck legs and potatoes that was on the Food Network site.

I’m totally sharing the recipe for the cherry sauce though, as I’ve honestly never made one this good before. Or cared enough about it to do things like strain the shallots out of it. I don’t know what’s happened to me, I’ve changed.

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So here’s the recipe, I reckon it’d go with all sorts of roasted poultry, I’m planning on trying it with goose at some point in the future.

Cherry sauce recipe – serves four

  • 2 x shallots finely diced
  • About 2cm of grated fresh galangal
  • 1 x small glass of red wine (about 200ml, I think but that could be a generous pour)
  • 250ml of chicken stock
  • A generous squeeze of runny honey
  • 1 tsp sherry vinegar
  • 225g cherries, halved – this is their weight with stones in, I forgot to weigh them after I stoned them (I blame the generous pour)
  • 1 tbsp cornflour mixed with 1 tbsp water
  • 20g butter
  • A splash of olive oil

NOTE: I got a crunchy skin on my duck legs by starting them off in a frying pan till the skin went crispy then moving them into a roasting tin with the potatoes and some of the duck fat. I then made the sauce in the same frying pan to get the duck flavours.

  • Over a low heat, warm the pan that you’d cooked the duck in, adding a little bit of olive oil if there isn’t much duck fat remaining
  • Add the shallots with a small pinch of salt (stops them browning, clever, huh?) and fry till the shallots soften
  • Add the red wine and let it come to the boil, after it comes to a boil, add the galangal and cook for about a minute after that
  • Add the chicken stock and bring to the boil – let this mix reduce a little but after about 3 mins cooking time, add the cornflour paste
  • Let this cook a little further, you’re looking for a glossy, thick finish
  • Once it’s got to the right consistency for you, add the red wine vinegar and the honey and stir in
  • Take off the heat and pour through a fine meshed sieve so that you remove all the bits of shallot and galangal and any bits that were in the stock
  • Return the liquor to the pan and once it’s warm again (but not boiling) add the halved cherries
  • Stir to warm them through, season then pour onto your duck and enjoy

Here’s the final dish – I wish I was eating that tonight instead of fridge soup!

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