Monday, 30 May 2011

Meal Planning Mondays - 30th May 2011

Well here we are again - another Monday and another meal plan already!

Last week went pretty well meal-planning-wise and I managed to make everything on the list on the day I'd planned to make it, with the exception of the Cottage Pie which got scooted off the menu yesterday and on to today's in favour of a quick dinner of pasta with tomato sauce. I've already done a write-up about the Crustless Pizza that I made last Monday and I'll post about my two favourite meals from last week, the Spaghetti with 5-minute tomato sauce and the Lamb Biryani, later on this week.

So on to this week's plan...

Monday - Cottage Pie

Tuesday - Beefburgers and Salad

Wednesday - We're off to the Suffolk Show so will probably take a trip to Pizza Express on the way home

Thursday - Moroccan Fish Stew

Saturday - Ricotta and Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta

Sunday - Fish Pie

Feel free to share your meal plan by leaving a comment here or on Mrs M's blog, At Home with Mrs M.

Friday, 27 May 2011

Forever Nigella - Salad Days

I haven't been able to participate in the last couple of Forever Nigella challenges but when I saw the theme this month I was keen to take part. The theme for this month's Forever Nigella challenge is "Salad Days" and is being hosted by Dom at Belleau Kitchen. The weather is warming up (or at least it was until this weekend!) and salads are becoming more appealing so it was great to have the opportunity to try out one or two new recipes.

The first one that caught my was the Chinatown Chicken Salad, which is tucked away in Nigella's latest book, Kitchen, among a selection of recipes for using up leftover chicken. It's well worth cooking some chicken from scratch just for this recipe though. I really loved all of the different elements that made up this salad, in particular the crunchy tortilla chips and peanuts and the delicious gingery soy/lime dressing. All of the ingredients came together perfectly to make a delicious dish which was a complete meal in itself.

I had some tortilla chips and lettuce left over from the previous recipe so I decided to try out the Quick Chick Caesar Salad, also in Kitchen. This is a slightly speedier version of the classic Caesar Salad which replaces croutons with tortilla chips (although Nigella also suggests using cubes of garlicky roast potatoes, which sounds delicious). While it didn't quite have the wow factor of the Chinatown Chicken Salad it was nevertheless a really delicious filling tea. I've never made a proper Caesar Salad dressing before which, in this case, includes a raw egg, so I wasn't quite sure how it would turn out. It was lovely though, although next time I might use a little less lemon juice.

As before, one of the principle rules for participating in the Forever Nigella challenge is that we're not allowed to reproduce the recipes we use on our blog posts. The aim is encourage our readers to go out and buy Nigella's books and reap the benefits as we have. I really would recommend Kitchen to anyone - it's a great book containing some truly fantastic recipes.

Thursday, 26 May 2011

Crustless Pizza

I've been meaning to try out this recipe ever since I received Nigella's newest book, Kitchen, at Christmas. I think the simplicity of it appealed to me most, as is so often the case, and on that score it certainly didn't let me down. Taste-wise, though, it got a bit of a mixed reaction as I quite liked it but my other half wasn't so sure. Ultimately it's just like the squishy bit you often find in the middle of a yorkshire pudding, so quite plain and in need of help from other ingredients to add flavour and make it more interesting. I used regular cheddar but next time I think I'll use a really strong one. The chorizo, of course, adds it's own flavour, but as Nigella suggests you can add anything else that takes your fancy - ham or sweetcorn or maybe some sliced tomatoes.

So I didn't love it but I didn't hate it either. It was nice and filling (the whole thing served two of us, with a side salad, without us feeling like we were being greedy) and the overall lack of effort required to throw it together means that I'll almost certainly make it again.

If you try it I'd love to hear what you think.

Crustless Pizza
(adapted from Kitchen by Nigella Lawson)

1 egg
100g plain flour
sea salt flakes or pouring salt to taste
250ml full fat milk
butter for greasing
100g grated cheddar cheese
50g small chorizo or pepperoni slices (optional)

1 x round ovenproof pie dish, approx 20cm diameter

1) Preheat the oven to 200c/gas mark 6. Beat the egg with the flour, salt and milk to make a smooth batter.

2) Grease the pie dish then stir half the grated cheese into the batter, before pouring it into the dish.

3) Bake for 30 minutes. Take the dish out of the oven, sprinkle with the remaining cheese, and add the chorizo or pepperoni (if using) - or anything else - now, too. Return to the oven and cook for another 2 or 3 minutes.

4) Once the cheese top is melted and looks burnished gold on the crustless pizza, take it out of the oven and serve cut into slices.

Serves 2-4 depending on age and appetite.

Monday, 23 May 2011

Meal Planning Mondays - 23rd May 2011

I didn't manage to post my meal plan last week as life had conspired against me and I was still working through the preceding week's meal plan well into last week. I did manage to make almost everything I'd planned though, with the Chinatown Chicken Salad and the Tortellini with Courgette and Lemon being particular highlights. The rest of the week was very much unplanned and included a few too many meals of the pizza and takeaway variety.

Back to normal this week though and I've got several interesting things planned together with a couple of old favourites. Nigella's Crustless Pizza is on the list again as, up until today, I still hadn't made it. However, it is now safely in the oven as I write and I'll hopefully be able to report back later this week.

So here's my plan for this week...

Monday - Crustless Pizza & Salad

Tuesday - Curried Lamb Meatballs

Wednesday - Spaghetti with 5-minute Tomato Sauce

Friday - Lamb Biryani

Saturday - Breaded Fish & Chips

Sunday - Cottage Pie

If you'd like to share your menus for the week then feel free to add a comment below or add a link on Mrs M's website - At Home with Mrs M - the home of Meal Planning Mondays.

Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Tortellini with Courgette and Lemon

I can't believe I haven't posted about this recipe before considering how many times I've made it over the past few years. It's wonderfully simple and really quick to throw together, I mean really quick. The tortellini I used was cooked in 2 minutes, the same time as it takes to cook the courgette, garlic and lemon.

It sounds like a fairly healthy dish however the amount of butter used bumps up the calorie count a fair bit. 50 grams is a lot of butter (for me anyway) so I tend to use about half of that with no adverse effects on the dish.

Tortellini with Lemon and Courgette
(adapted from a recipe found in Delicious Magazine)

25g pine nuts
250g tortellini (I used Sainsbury's Goats Cheese and Pesto)
50g butter
1 large courgette, roughly grated
1 garlic clove, crushed or finely chopped
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
Small handful of basil leaves

1) Put a large pan of water on to boil. Gently toast the pine nuts in a hot, dry frying pan until golden. Remove from the pan and set aside.

2) Tip the tortellini into the boiling water and cook according to the instructions on the packet. Drain and set aside.

3) Melt the butter in a large frying pan and add the grated courgette and garlic. Cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes then stir in the lemon juice and cook for 30 seconds. Remove from the heat.

4) Add the cooked tortellini and mix well. Season to taste. Divide between two plates and scatter with the toasted pine nuts and basil leaves to serve.

Serves 2

Sunday, 15 May 2011

Lemon Creme Brulee

While searching for some interesting recipes I came across this recipe for Lemon Creme Brulee in Falling Cloudberries - a beautiful book by Tessa Kiros (as is her other book that I have - Apples for Jam). I love creme brulee and fancied an opportunity to dust off my blowtorch, however I have to admit that this recipe came a bit close to being a disaster as I had trouble with it every step of the way! Luckily it tasted fantastic (I loved the syrupy lemon hiding at the bottom) and I will definitely be giving myself another opportunity to fine-tune it.

To start with, when making the lemon syrup I don't think I left it long enough before I added the lemon segments and they dissolved to mush before the syrup had thickened enough. I nearly binned it and started again but it tasted great so I persevered with what I had.

Secondly, I cooked the custard for ages but it never quite thickened up as much as I would have liked. Even though it firmed up in the fridge a bit, the heat from the blowtorch turned it almost to liquid again (as you can see in the picture below). Next time I think I'll try baking it in the oven rather than cooking it on the hob (see the link below for an alternative recipe).

Finally, the first couple of attempts to create the brulee with the blowtorch were stressful to say the least as the sugar insisted on going from raw to black in seconds. The next day I did what I should have done at the start and searched on google for some precise instructions. I found a video that gave me all the information I needed and finally I got the result I wanted on the last pot. The suggestion to put the sugar on in two layers is a stroke of genius and that, together with being a bit less heavy handed with the blowtorch, gave me a perfect layer of crunchy caramelised sugar.

You can find the link to the video here.

Lemon Creme Brulee
(adapted from Falling Cloudberries by Tessa Kiros)

2 lemons
3 tablespoons caster sugar

500ml double cream
1 vanilla bean, split lengthways
8 egg yolks
125g/4 1/2oz caster sugar

Brulee Top
100g/3 1/2oz caster sugar

1) Finely grate the zest from one of the lemons and set aside. To fillet the lemons, cut the top and bottom from both of them. Sit the lemons on a board and, with a small sharp knife, cut downwards to remove the skin and pith. Remove the segments by slicing between the white pith. Remove any pips and discard the lemon "skeleton".

2) Put the 3 tablespoons of caster sugar in a small saucepan with 125ml/1/2 cup of water and the lemon zest. Bring to the boil and boil for a few minutes until the syrup thickens and becomes lightly golden. Add the lemon fillets and simmer for a few minutes more until thick and syrupy. Remove from the heat and leave to cool a little. Divide among six 185ml/3/4 cup ramekins and put in the fridge.

3) To make the custard, put the cream and vanilla bean in a heavy-based saucepan and bring to just below boiling point. Turn off the heat and leave to infuse for 30 minutes, then remove the vanilla bean, scraping the seeds into the cream with the point of a knife.

4) Whisk the egg yolks and sugar in a bowl for 2 minutes until thick and creamy. Whisk a ladleful of cream into the yolks. Then pour in all the cream, mixing it well, and return the whole lot to the pan, over the lowest possible heat. Whisk almost continuously to keep moving the heat around for about 10 minutes, or until you notice the custard thickening. It should make ribbons when you whisk. Take care not to let the custard get too hot or the eggs will split - if they do quickly take a hand-held mixer and puree on full power for a couple of minutes.

5) Pass the custard through a fine sieve into a cold bowl (I left out this part) and continue whisking to prevent the eggs cooking further. You can also hold the bowl in a sink filled with cold water while you whisk. When the custard is quite cooled, ladle it into the ramekins, not filling them too full and trying not to send the lemon syrup everywhere. When they are completely cool, cover with plastic wrap and put them in the fridge for a few hours before serving.

6) Sprinkle a thin layer of sugar over the surface of the custard so it is just covered. Put under a hot grill or use a kitchen blow torch to carefully melt the sugar without it burning. Leave to cool for a few minutes then repeat with another layer of sugar.

Serves 6

Monday, 9 May 2011

Meal Planning Mondays - 9th May 2011

Right then, here's my meal plan for the week. My menus have been a bit unexciting lately but I've included a couple of new recipes this week to spice things up a bit (Chinatown Chicken Salad and Crustless Pizza, both from Nigella Kitchen). The others are old favourites than I make on a regular basis, in particular the Courgette and Lemon Tortellini which I can't believe I haven't posted about yet.

As always I'd like to fit in some baking too but only time will tell whether I'll actually manage to fit it in!

Monday - Chicken with Boursin & Parma Ham, served with Jersey Royal potatoes and veg

Tuesday - Jacket potatoes & salad

Thursday - Chinatown Chicken Salad

Friday - Crustless Pizza & Salad

Saturday - Courgette & Lemon Tortellini

Sunday - Chicken Chow Mein

If you want some more ideas, check out Mrs M's blog, At Home with Mrs M, for some other meal-planning blog posts.

Tuesday, 3 May 2011

Creamy Bacon and Mushroom Pasta

I do like it when I come across a recipe that fits in with the title of my blog! If you happen to have a bit of cream to spare then this is just the thing if you want to rustle up something simple for tea. It's a lovely variation on the creamy, carbonara theme that I discovered in Rachel Allen's recent book, Home Cooking, a really good book full of great ideas for family-friendly meals. Salty bacon and mushrooms are fried and mixed with cream, gruyere and parmesan cheese to make deliciously flavoured pasta sauce which I'll definitely be making again.

Creamy Bacon and Mushroom Pasta Sauce
(adapted from Home Cooking by Rachel Allen)

1 tbsp olive oil
175g/6oz back bacon (about 6 rashers), chopped
250g/9oz button mushrooms
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
250ml/9 fl oz double or regular cream
75g/3oz gruyere cheese, grated
25g/1oz parmesan cheese, grated
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley
Squeeze of lemon juice

1) Pour the olive oil into a frying pan on a medium heat, add the bacon and fry for 3-4 minutes or until crisp and golden.

2) Meanwhile, blend the mushrooms in a food processor until finely chopped, or chop by hand. Add to the bacon and saute for a further 3-4 minutes or until softened. Season with a little salt and plenty of pepper

3) Reduce the heat, add the cream and simmer gently for 1-2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the Gruyere and Parmesan, followed by the parsley and lemon juice and check the seasoning. Pour the sauce over cooked pasta (I do about 100g per person), tossing together to coat evenly, and serve.

Serves 4