Wednesday, 25 February 2009



I have come home from tour and ingested so many chicken nugget happy meals that I am practically crying out for some vegetarian options (sorry dad). So after what felt like three days waiting in line at Tesco (god help me, but every little does indeed help) I had a sack full of vegetables and only a vague idea of what to do with them. So this was born.

Melanzana Parmigiana (sorry Italy)

1 Aubergine cut into slices lengthways
2 tins chopped tomatoes
1 packet of peas and runner beans
1 bag of spinach
3 cloves of garlic
1 onion
1 red pepper cut into strips
a pinch or two each of chilli powder and ground nutmeg
dried oregano (not too much as it can be quite over-powering)
as much parmesan as possible (apparently this kind of culinary instruction leads to obsession)
olive oil
Jamie Oliver also recommends mozzarella and breadcrumbs fried in oil with oregano for a topping

- Brush the aubergine slices with olive oil and fry them in a griddle pan until they are charred with black stripes on both sides. This doesn't take long at all and gives a nice smoky flavour. When they are done (its easier to do this in batches) leave them aside on a piece of kitchen towel.
- throw the red pepper onto the griddle pan and drizzle with a bit of olive oil and let it blister and soften for a couple of minutes on a high heat.
- Make a tomato sauce by frying onion and garlic in olive oil until translucent then sprinkle over some chilli powder (real chillies chopped finely if you have any), nutmeg and dried oregano. Add the tinned tomatoes and a half a tin each of water to sluice out any remaining sauce clinging to the sides of the can.
- let this sauce reduce a bit and then add the green veg and leave it to cook for about 10 minutes throwing the spinach in at the end so that it wilts but doesn't get too soggy. When the sauce is ready take it off the heat.
- spread a thinnish layer of sauce in the bottom of a ceramic, oven-ready dish. Cover that with a layer of aubergine slices, a layer of torn basil leaves and a layer of grated parmesan. Cover this with another layer of sauce and repeat until the aubergines are used up, at which point I finished with a top layer of peppers, basil and lots more cheese. This is where Jamie Oliver's additions would be a nice touch but budget dictates this kitchen and I left it at that.
- bake in the oven for 25/30 minutes at 180c.
-Any leftovers are great on toast the next day, by which time I had regained normal appetite and carbs were necessary one more.

supper for one for two


No spaghetti, no parmesan, and no eggs so sadly no opportunity to make newfound and now beloved recipe for carbonara sauce. I have only just learnt how to make one of my most favourite meals/hangover cures and you cannot imagine my disappointment with the fridge for not providing the necessary ingredients to practise it.
This didn't really make up for it but was enjoyable despite two thirds of it being inhaled by the one who said he didn't want any...

-Put some pasta on according to the instructions on the packet - this is not an exercise in perfect timing skills.
-Fry some chopped bacon and when done, throw in an onion and a couple of cloves of garlic to fry in the fat plus a little extra butter.
-When the onions are soft add 1 chopped leek and fry for a while until it turns translucent. -Throw in a handful of leftover roast chicken, some chopped parsley, salt and pepper and about half a cup of frozen peas.
-Pour in some chicken stock - as much as you want depending on how soupy you'd like it to be (at this point my head was pretty soupy too) and simmer for about 10/12 minutes or until things have thickened a bit.
- pour in a bit of cream and add the pasta to the soup/sauce. scatter some more parsley on top.
parmesan would be nice. Carbonara sauce would also be nice.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

snow event curry


For some reason, blizzard conditions (or 'snow event' as the media has it) do not incline you towards the idea of curry. The wrong kind of heat, perhaps. Stew, soup and dumplings are what you want when the snow falls; toasted teacakes and crumpets and large mugs of hot chcolate with cream and marshmallows (especially if you happen to be 13).

However, curry, or rather kedgeree, was the only idea I could think of that would dispose of the smoked haddock fillet sitting accusingly in the fridge. Never mind the shrieks of the resident man, 'what on earth are you thinking of, kedgeree in a snowstorm? You must be mad,' or the fabulous flakes drifting down outside while mini avalanches slid off the magnolia tree, I got out the haddock and put it into some boiling water. It instantly became the only hot thing in the house and another reason for not cooking kedgeree in arctic weather immediately occurred to me - the necessity of opening a window to let out the pong of cooking fish.

this is my own version which does not conform to any known recipe, but is absolutely delicious
feeds 4-5

350g smoked haddock, or any other smoked fish, or indeed any fish at all
olive oil
1 large onion, finely chopped
3-4 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped
8oz rice
all or any of the following: the seeds of 6 cardamom pods, turmeric, cumin seeds, curry leaves, curry powder, in quantities you feel happy with
1 large ripe tomato, chopped
handful of frozen prawns (opt)
handful of parsley, chopped
2 hard boiled eggs (opt), sliced

Heat a pan of water (roughly a pint and half) to boiling point and add the fish. Cook for 7-10mins and drain, reserving the cooking water.
In a large pan, heat the oil and add the chopped onion and fry for a few minutes til translucent. Add the garlic cloves and fry for a further couple of minutes. Add the rice and stir round until it is coated in oil. Add the spices and stir. Add the tomato and then pour in about two ladlefuls of the cooking water and stir round while it bubbles. Keep on adding the water at intervals until the mixture becomes thicker and creamier looking, and the rice is cooked. Add the flaked cooked fish, the prawns and half the parsley and cook for a further 5-10minutes or until all the liquid has all been absorbed. Pile the kedgeree on a large flat dish, decorate with the boiled egg slices and the rest of the parsley and serve.

Sunday, 1 February 2009

meat party


In times of financial stress, one turns to sausages and mince to feed the brains and bodies of those who remain members of the working classes. If there were any butchers left in this country, you could also turn to cheap cuts of beef - bavette, onglet, popes nose etc but that's just fanciful if you live near a large supermarket that's sucked the life blood out of your high street... (try Hardiesmill for traditionally butchered cheap cuts of happy Aberdeen Angus; life sustaining nosh will arrive in the post for minimum financial outlay).
But back in supermarketland, two for one packets of mince means you can cook one and stick one in the freezer for when you're even broker (or if especially organised, cook two dishes and freeze one of them for when you're even broker and too depressed to cook as well).
Stuck for something to do one day (or rather, waiting for the novel to reassert itself as a going proposition, rather than an ill-chosen collection of words badly arranged), I tried this recipe for minced pork (you can use lamb mince too). The finished result looks pretty unprepossessing, but it tastes fantastic and has the additional advantage of using up old bits of veg left lying around in the fridge.

stir-fried pork
serves 2-3

300g minced pork
broccoli, spring greens or finely chopped cabbage, as much as you fancy (or can find lying around)3-4 spring onions
3-4 cloves of garlic, peeled and finley chopped
2 hot red chillis (deseeded and finely chopped)
olive oil
one lime
1 tbs Thai fish sauce
1 tsp sugar
large handful of coriander leaves, roughly chopped

Blanch the greens for one minute in boiling water. Drain and set aside. Heat the oil in a shallow pan until really hot and cook the onions and chilli until soft but not coloured. Add the minced pork and cook til its brown and beginning to go crispy. Add the greens and stir around. In a bowl, mix the juice of the lime with the fish sauce and the sugar. Pour into the hot pan of mince so that it sizzles and deglazes the pan. Season and stir in the coriander and serve in small bowls

shepherds pie

If you have a packet of mince, a few spuds, a carrot or two and a bottle of Lea & Perrins sauce, you have a Shepherds pie, one of the cheapest, best and most comforting meals it's possible to produce. It's a dish that turns up in novels (one of Jilly Cooper's heroines cooks vats of the stuff for a coming-of-age party, looses her beau in the process but gains the love of her life) plays a background role in political intrigue (cf Jeffrey Archer) and is the subject of an ongoing often heated debate over the inclusion of carrots or tomatoes...

This version uses carrots

Shepherds pie
feeds 4-5

4-5 potatoes, chopped into chunks (I don't bother to peel them as the skin goes deliciously crispy in the oven), boiled and mashed and set aside for the topping
500g mince (lamb or beef)
olive oil
1 large onion
3-4 cloves of garlic
3-4 largeish carrots, sliced into rounds
lea and perrins sauce
red wine (opt)
water or stock
handful chopped parsley

Preheat the oven to 180c. Heat the oil in a large pan and fry the mince til it's begining to brown. Add the onions and fry until turning soft. Add the garlic and cook for a further couple of minutes. Add the carrots stir around and cook for a few more minutes. Sprinkle in a little flour and stir til amalgamated. Shake in as much or as little lea and perrins sauce as you like, stirring, and then add a dash of red wine (if using) and enough water to make a rich thick sauce, not too runny. Season with salt and pepper and stir in the chopped parsley.
Decant the meat mixture into an oven-proof casserole dish, spread on the mashed potato and put in the oven and cook for 40 minutes or so, or until the top is brown and bubbling. Serve with peas.

Sausage and cider casserole

The best sausages in the world were called Vigor sausages, after the butcher who produced them. We had them as children and I have never come across a better sausage since, though the chipolatas you get at Robinsons, the butchers in Stockbridge in Hampshire, run them a very close second. Sausages have now become depressingly gourmet, full of fancy foreign items when all you really want is plain pork. This casserole was made from Debbie and Andrews pork, sage and apple sausages because I had a left over tin of cider to use up and I thought it'd go well with the otherwise rather off-putting apple taste of the sausages.

Sausage and cider casserole
serves 2-3

1 pack of 6 sage and apple sausages
1 onion, chopped
2-3 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
handful of fresh sage leaves, roughly chopped
1 tin of cider 440ml

Preheat the oven to 180c. Heat some oil in an oven-proof pan and brown the sausages over a low heat. Add the chopped onion and fry til soft and translucent. Add the garlic and fry for a further couple of minutes. Add the sage leaves and cook for a minute or so. Add the cider and stir while it bubbles and foams. When things have quietened down a bit and the sauce has turned a rich smooth brown (add water if it's too thick), stir in the cream (a couple of tablespoons is probably enough) and put the casserole in the oven. Cook for 30-40mins until brown and bubbling. Serve with mash potato