Month: November 2013

Week 10: Vegetable Cutlets

I love burger night.  I actually love it.

However, I am aware that some of my friends would rather remain vegetarian than sample the delights of the usual beef burger I make… Not to worry: Cupboard Love to the rescue!

In all my years I have never eaten a veggie burger, so I was interested to see how it would taste.

I think the main problem was that my carrot was too big:

It sounds like a silly problem, but I’m pretty sure it made the mixture too wet.

It made them a bit too floppy, which made smothering them in polenta pretty difficult.  And they were still pretty floppy after they were cooked…

veg cutlets

I tried my best with them, but ultimately they weren’t very nice so won’t be something I make again.

Cupboard Love by Tom Norrington-Davies (Hodder & Stoughton 2005 ISBN 0 340 83525 5)

Week 9: Linguine with Sardines, Anchovies and Parsley

Don’t laugh:  My Lover is scared of fish.  No, really.

As a result, I have never cooked a piece of fish that wasn’t either: covered in batter or breadcrumbs, and shaped like a finger.

He’ll eat fish, but it can’t look like fish – i.e. it shouldn’t really have bones, can’t have skin and mustn’t have a head… which sort of narrows it down.

I found this recipe in the Cupboard Love book, I think the bit that attracted me was that the fish gets cut up really small, and then mashed… No way that bad boy’s going to look like a fish.

To feed two people you will need: 200g Linguine or Spaghetti, 1 garlic clove, 3 anchovy fillets, half a teaspoon of crushed chilli (I use chilli flakes – it might be the same), the juice of half a lemon, 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil, 1 tin of sardines in olive oil, salt and pepper, parsley to finish (I did this once, then never again – its messy)

Step one, finely chop the garlic clove and the anchovy fillets – you don’t have to de-bone the fillets because they’ll dissolve in the lemon juice, but I get the ones that poke out.  Once chopped put them in a bowl with the chilli, lemon juice and olive oil, and leave it for about half an hour.

After about twenty minutes boil your pasta water and drain the sardines.  Cook the pasta as directed on the packet, as soon as the pasta is in the pan put the sardines in the bowl and mush it up with a fork.  It should now look slightly like cat food:

Yum.  Drain the pasta, then stir the ‘sauce’ in with the pasta in the pan, season with salt and pepper, and serve with.

sardines linguine

It was really easy to make, and it’s very, very tasty.  I’d never had sardines or anchovy before, so I wasn’t totally sure what to expect – but I’m really glad I took the dive and gave it a go.

It takes about five minutes to cut everything up – and then about half an hour to infuse, with the pasta cooking  in 10 minutes . A perfect  dinner for after work.  I’ve made it two more times and not made any alterations to the recipe.

Try it tonight!

Cupboard Love by Tom Norrington-Davies (Hodder & Stoughton 2005 ISBN 0 340 83525 5)

Week 8: (Chicken) Curry in a Hurry

At last!  I plucked up the courage to delve into Nigella.  So to speak.

nigella express

I’ve had the book for ages, and I remember it being on TV a couple of years’ ago, and we joked how we never had any stale croissants left in the cupboard, and should we try to caramelise them after a night out we’d probably burn the house down (Caramel Croissant Pudding, page 23) – and all these years later, I probably still would.

I’d made a tuna-beany salad from it years’ ago, and it was really nice; but never made anything hot.

Until now.

I’ll admit, it was a bit of a special occasion – my friend was coming to stay and she says I can’t cook… so like a mature adult (that I am), I used Nigella as a weapon.  Biff, take that for can’t cook!

I think I was always put off making the hot recipes by the received horror of tracking down the ingredients for a Nigella recipe.  I’ve sat through many a boxing day dinner listening to a family friend’s story about getting the last star anise in the whole of Nottinghamshire, dishing out black eyes in the process – especially to do something festive with it on Nigella’s say so.  I must say, it wasn’t as hard as I thought it would be.  I’m lucky there is a good Thai Supermarket down the street, and the butcher is a whizz with chicken; however I had a bit of trouble with the soya beans.

I wasn’t sure what a soya bean was, and I wasn’t entirely sure where to get them from – so I went to a health food shop.  They had dried ones, which I would have to boil and simmer for hours but no fresh.  Then I went to Whole Foods in Kensington, and they had the dried ones, but the shopboy said they had no fresh or frozen.  They had frozen edamame beans (which google said were the same thing), but only in massive bags.

Yay for Brook Green Tesco’s though, they sold frozen soya beans in bags small enough for my tiny little ice compartment, my Nigella ingredients finding mission over for this week.  I reckon you can get hold of Green Thai Curry Paste and Nam Pla fish sauce in most larger supermarkets, but if you live near an ‘oriental supermarket’ you’d be better off going there.

I “accidentally” went to the pub and got a little ginny before making this the first time, and I had to substitute a beef stock cube for the required chicken one, but it was lovely.  Genuinely lovely.  There was an awkward moment where it looked like a pan full of sick, but the water boiled down to a nice thick sauce and we didn’t have to order pizza.

I have made this a few times now, but still not made it with the quantities below – I have found that half quantities will serve 4 easily, and it freezes well .

To serve 6 you will need: wok oil, 3 tablespoons finely chopped spring onions (although I usually leave them pretty chunky out of laziness) 3 or 4 tablespoons of Green Thai Curry Paste, 1 kg chicken thigh fillets (When I make half the quantity I use two breasts) 1 can of coconut milk, chicken stock (250ml of boiling water with enough stock for 500ml), 1 tablespoon fish sauce (nam pla), 185g frozen peas, 200g frozen soya beans, 150g frozen fine beans (I use fresh ones) and 3 tablespoons of fresh chopped coriander, which I always forget.

Heat the 2tbs of wok oil in a large lidded saucepan (although I’ve made this a load of times and can’t work out which bit I’m supposed to put the lid on for) and throw in the spring onions, cook them for a couple of minutes and add the curry paste.

Put the chicken in with the onions, and cook for about 2 minutes stirring continuously.  Then add the coconut milk, stock, fish sauce, frozen peas and soya beans.  Simmer for 10 minutes then add the frozen fine beans.  If you use fresh ones like me add them after about 5 minutes so they’re not tough.  It will look just like this:

Cook for another 3 to 5 minutes and serve.  Nigella recommends serving with rice or noodles – I’ve not tried with noodles but its delicious on a baked potato.

Curry Hurry

Bravo Nigella – I’m not scared anymore!

Nigella Express, by Nigella Lawson (Chatto & Windus 2007 ISBN 9780701181840)

When does using up leftovers go to far?

Hello.  I’m still alive.

That wasn’t a dig, just a statement.  I would have posted the bits I was going to post sooner than now, but the laptop is kept all the way over there and the cookery books are only over there… I’ve been analogue for a week through pure laziness.

For this post I would like to ask when the urge to use up leftovers goes too far.  The example I would like to use is the bread and butter pudding I made the other week.

I must have brought my Sainsbury’s tiger loaf during the wrong faze of the moon or something.  I got about 2 slices off it for my lover’s lunch on the Tuesday, and when I went to cut it for Wednesday’s lunch it was a tad tough.  He text to say he’d cut his gum on the crust, and that the bread was jolly hard and I should buy new bread.

Yep, he uses ‘jolly’ in text messages.

So I looked at my 3/4 tiger loaf and decided it was far too much to throw away, and I’d get judged by the Yummies at the park if I lobbed it at the ducks (white bread makes ducks sink in West London)… So I decided the only way to use up the bread would be to make Bread & Butter Pudding with it.


I think it might have been a false economy.  Firstly, I panicked at the thought of whisking everything together by hand – and ran down to Argos and bought a whisk.  It’s not a very good whisk, and it makes a funny smell above speed 3.  Of course, then I had to go out and buy 300ml of double cream, a pint of whole milk and 6 eggs.

I spent £20.00 so as not to waste about £1.10 of bread…

It was ok, I’d never had Bread&Butter Pudding before, and this recipe from the Hairy Bikers Mum’s Know Best book was nice with the cinnamon (which I got everywhere), but I think next time I’ll just throw the bread away (or feed the ducks).  I also need a better dish – the one I found was too tall and narrow and the middle of the custard didn’t set so it was a bit soupy in the middle.

I might start making a different ‘new-old school pudding’ each month, because I’ve never really made pudding before.

Mmmm spotted dick.

Week 7: Mushroom, Feta and Tomato Baked Peppers

There’s a turn of phrase that you might get bored of reading on here.  That phrase is: I’ve never cooked with __enter name of common foodstuff here__. Cue gasp and y’all shriek “What never?  What have you been eating for the last 31 years?  Gruel?!?”

I have eaten loads of things at other people’s houses and in restaurants and stuff, just not gone to the shop and bought them to use in delicious meals…

This meal marks me losing my feta-ginity, and also the first time I’d ever cooked a sundried tomato.  No one warned me that feta comes wet, so I squirted feta juice all over the kitchen, and my shoes, and got it in my hair.

To make this (to serve two) you will need 4 sun-dried tomato pieces (in oil, drained well), 2 tsp sunflower oil, 175g chestnut mushrooms (wiped and diced) 20g blanched hazelnuts, 1 garlic clove, 50g dry white breadcrumbs, parsley, 1 tsp dried chilli flakes, 100g feta or soft goats cheese (drained) and 2 smallish peppers (red or yellow).  The book recommends to serve with a mixed salad – which I forgot to buy.

To make, turn your oven to 220c (200c fan) /gas 7, and cut the peppers in half from top to bottom – remove the seeds and membrane.

Heat the oil in a frying pan and stir-fry the mushrooms for 4 minutes, add the roughly chopped hazelnuts and fry for another minute until the nuts are lightly toasted and remove from the heat.

Stir in the tomatoes, garlic, breadcrumbs, parsley and chilli flakes until thoroughly combined.  Break up the feta and toss them around with the rest of the stuffing.  Stuff into both halves of each pepper and put on a foil-lined roasting tin (stuffing side up).

A quirk of the recipe was that to stop the filling burning, you have to make a little cover for each pepper from tin foil – this would be fine but the fan in my oven seems to have been swapped for the fan from an industrial leaf blower, and the little foil hats kept blowing across my kitchen when I put them in.

I skewered them with cocktail sticks, but I think this affected how quickly  they cooked, because the second time I made them they were blacker.

Bake for 35 minutes until tender – remove the foil hats for the last 10 minutes.

stuffed peppers

They turned out much better than the photo!  Also, they were surprisingly spicy considering they only had a teaspoon of chilli flakes between 4 half peppers.

When you go out shopping for this recipe, don’t get peppers that are too big, or they’ll be half full.

The book says that one portion (two half peppers) is 401 calories – obviously this will be different for everyone, unless they have the exact same brand of cheese and identical peppers.  I thought I might be left hungry after eating this, but I wasn’t.  I’ve already made this a second time and one of my friends has requested this for a dinner party when I get a table.

I would definitely recommend the book, although, all the recipes are for different numbers of people, which is a bit of a nuisance when just cooking for the two of us!

Hairy Dieters

The Hairy Dieters by Dave Myers and Si King (Weidenfield & Nicholson/Orion 2012 ISBN: 978 0 297 86905 4)

Week 6: Toad in the Hole

I would just like to say that before I made Toad in the Hole for the sixth New Recipe Night, I had never eaten it before and didn’t know what it should look like.  Like most Beano reading children of the 80s, I had heard of it – I had just assumed it was made with actual toad.

The idea for making it wasn’t mine – my Lover decided he wanted something more traditional after choking back the gorgonzola pasta in week five.  I had to dig deep into my stock of cookery books to find a recipe for Toad in the Hole – and I found one in Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall’s “Good Granny Cookbook”

good granny

I’ve moved house with this book so many times, and I couldn’t remember for the life of me when or where I’d bought it… it just seems to be a book that appeared from nowhere.  Like the title suggests, it’s a book of traditional meals that every schoolboy (now in his 60s) grew up eating in pre-spaghetti Britain.  Many of the meals even I had not eaten since primary school!

Now I’ve christened the book I think I should make a few more.

The first thing I learned about Toad in the Hole is that it does not contain toads.  I’d imagine the die hard foodie could source sausages made from toads, but I just got good quality pork ones from the butchers.  I halved the recipe and just followed the instructions as written.

To make for 4 you will need: 8 sausages, 2 tablespoons of oil (sunflower/vegetable oil) 125g plain flour, 3 whole eggs and 1 egg white, 300ml milk, and salt and pepper.

Like with pancakes you need to make the batter mix about half an hour before you need it.  Put the flour, eggs and milk into a bowl and whisk – get lots of bubbles into it, then season and whisk a bit more.

Turn the oven on to 220c (200 fan) and put the oil into a baking tin – obviously not a loose bottomed one – I use one of those enameled tins that I butter up the sides.  Put the tin of oil on a tray and put it into the oven – and make sure your oven shelves are set so there is space for the Toad in the Hole to rise.

The only criticism I have is that one of the key instructions is a little vague.  It says “Add the sausages and cook for a few minutes or more until the fat runs and they are lightly browned.” I’m not a good enough cook to realise that this means to make sure the sausages are pretty well cooked – which in my case was about 20 minutes.

To speed things up I start the sausages up in a frying pan and then put them in the oil in the oven for about 10 minutes until the sausage juice starts to run.  Then pour the batter in and put back in the oven for 20 minutes.


Serve before it deflates!

My first ever Toad in the Hole came out surprisingly well.  I made it a second time with Merguez Sausages – but it was much nicer with traditional British Butcher’s Bangers.

I will make it again, but before I do I want to get a non stick pan – because while my pie tin is about the right size for two portions; it’s such a fight to get the hole off that it sinks by the time it reaches the plate.


Served with a blob of Sainsbury’s ketchup.  Yum!

Good Granny Cookbook by Jane Fearnley-Whittingstall (Short Books 2007 ISBN 978 1 906021 10 8)

Week 5: Penne with Gorgonzola and Walnuts

Week 5!

After the success of Burger Night I thought I’d try another pasta dish, so out came the Cupboard Love book again.  I love a bit of stinky French Cheese, so I was hoping for beautiful things from this dish.

Maybe I didn’t get the right Gorgonzola, but it just didn’t taste how I thought it would – it was very rich but just lacked any real flavour (other than the sage) but I think it would be good with a big chunk of meat…

pasta gorgonzola

The recipe says that I can “up the ante tastewise… by adding a sprig of thyme or a scant grating of nutmeg”.  If I try making it again I might try that, and less/no sage – but I don’t know if I’ll make it again.

Cupboard Love by Tom Norrington-Davies (Hodder & Stoughton 2005 ISBN 0 340 83525 5)

Week 4. Burger Night!

Who here hasn’t tossed a burger?

I must have flipped a million of them while I worked at McDonalds, but I’d never made my own.  I was having a lazy week, and while I spent the week planning to cook something else for New Recipe Night I opted for a basic, no-nonsense hamburger recipe from the Cupboard Love book.

It’s very simple.  It’s beef mince.  I went to my local butcher for some good quality mince and got stuck in and was so impressed by the burgers – I have introduced ‘burger night’ into most weeks.

burger night

To make four burgers you will need 500g of beef mince, half a teaspoon of salt and a pinch of black pepper.  Nothing else.

Combine the mince with the salt and pepper, and form in to burgers about 2mm thick.  Heat a heavy based frying pan/griddle and put the burgers on when it is searing hot.  Cook each side for about 6 minutes which leaves them a little pink in the middle – which is just perfect.

The hardest bit off this recipe is timing the oven chips and toasting the bun so everything is ready to serve at once.

I used normal white flowery baps from Sainsbury’s, lightly toasted on the cut side, oven chips (Tom Norrington-Davies recommends oven chips, although he provides a recipe if you absolutely must make your own; however I prefer Aunt Bessie’s) a slice of mature cheese from Sainsbury’s (I go for the Taw  Valley strength 4, or normal strength 5 cheddar) and some Scandinavian mustard that I picked up at the Scandi Kitchen (but French’s squirty mustard would do too).

It’s really filling and a firm favourite over the last few weeks.  Just a word about the meat you use though – I get mine from the butcher who minces it from a bit of meat while you wait (so as not to have a load of mince sat around) and when it fries there is no splatter and it has a really deep beefy flavour.  The other week I got caught out by the butcher having half day closing on Thursday and had to get the mince from the supermarket and the burgers shrank because of all the water added and as the water left the meat it splattered all over my kitchen, and didn’t taste very nice.  If you can, go to the butcher – the price is more or less the same and it’s much much tastier.

Sure burgers aren’t healthy in the classic sense of the word, but these are much better for you than buying ready made ones, or from a takeaway, so give it a go and add Burger Night to your week!


Cupboard Love by Tom Norrington-Davies (Hodder & Stoughton 2005 ISBN 0 340 83525 5)

cupboard love

Week 3. Chilli Con Carne

What to cook for week three following the success of the Spanish Bake?  Chilli of course!

For years I have been using the Coleman’s Spice mixes for Chilli, even going as far as having my mum post some out to Finland when I lived in Helsinki. This annoyed Royal Mail, my mum, and my best friend who said “don’t use a packet, Chilli’s easy, you just use…” and then reeled off a list of spices so long she had to pause for breath.

Well now I’ve made a chilli with ingredients, courtesy of the Hairy Bikers:

Hairy Bikers 1

This time, the first book they brought out:  The Hairy Bikers’ Family Cookbook, Mums know best!

I’ve got a confession.  I have owned this book for ever and had never cooked from it… I’d used it to lean on when sewing a patch into my jeans to keep it flat, so my copy has pin pricks all over the back.

It takes ages to cut everything up, and maybe I had the heat up too high, so I had to add more water part way through – so maybe I didn’t have wet enough veg?

I had never cooked with chilli peppers before, and as a baptism of fire the recipe calls for bird’s eye chillies which are the hottest my local Sainsbury’s sell.  I’m not sure if I’d want to make it with hotter ones, I get hiccups for ages after eating hot food – much to the amusement of my Lover.

Chilli Con Carne

It was really nice, I added a new spice to add to the cupboard (Cumin – never used that before) and although the recipe said it was for two, it seemed to make enough for three large-ish portions, so I froze the spare and we had it on baked potatoes.  It came out better the second time I made it.

I’ll make this a lot more during the winter – it’s warming and comforting.

The Hairy Bikers’ Family Cookbook Mums Know Best (by Si King & Dave Myres Weidenfeld & Nicolson ISBN: 978 0 29786 026 6)

Week 2. Spanish-Style Chicken Bake

In a fat moment I bought the Hairy Dieters book.

I don’t know why, I was stopping at my parents’ and my dad’s a fussy eater and won’t eat spicy food, so I couldn’t make any of the recipes while I was there.  So it went into a book box.

Hairy Dieters

My cousin recommended that I try this recipe, she said it was one of her regulars, so after a few trips gathering ingredients and braving the butcher’s shop (and asking the hot butcher if he’d mind boning my thighs.  We both blushed), I gave it a go.

I had to do a spot of maths to halve the recipe (to serve two) because I wasn’t sure if I’d be OK reheating the chicken.  Because of this I used one red onion instead of half a red and half a normal onion. I think I also used the whole pepper rather than have half sitting around my tiny fridge.

It takes an hour in the oven, so if you’re not usually home until seven it may be best to make this at the weekend.  I’d never had to spoon hot juices back over food I’ve been cooking, and I was a bit apprehensive that I was going to pour it all over my wrist. Also my Cath Kidston oven gloves aren’t actually heatproof.

spanish style chicken

It was nice, and as it contains potatoes and veg you don’t need to make any other things to go with it.  The book says its only 370 calories per portion – which I guess varies slightly depending on the size of your thighs…

I’ve not made it since, but I will – it just takes a lot of ingredients and time to make.  The chicken was lovely from the butcher’s, but I’m not sure how it would taste with supermarket chicken (probably the same)

The Hairy Dieters by Dave Myers and Si King (Weidenfield & Nicholson/Orion 2012 ISBN: 978 0 297 86905 4)