Month: February 2014

Week 21: Aubergine, tomatoes, chickpeas

This is a dish that has completely exposed my lack of culinary knowledge.

In my mind I skipped into the kitchen to create a magical roast aubergine on a tomato-y, chickpea-y bed of loveliness.  Actually, it made a slightly spicy version of ratatouille; I had completely skimmed over the line “Like many dishes of its kind (ratatouille, for one)…” and kept the vision of the big meaty spatchcocked aubergine in my mind.

Somehow I held on to my mental image long after I cubed the aubergine… The recipe is another from Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstalls: Three Good Things on a Plate.  I was hoping it would be as tasty as Lentils, spinach, potato ( without stinking my house out.

To go with the 650-700g of aubergines (egg plants), the recipe calls for sunflower/rapeseed/olive oil, a cinnamon stick, 350g cherry tomatoes, pinch of chilli flakes, a tin of chickpeas (400g drained and rinsed), 2 garlic cloves and the finely grated zest of one lemon.  As usual, I completely forgot to buy basil or mint leaves.

One thing I didn’t notice when I started cooking this at 7pm was that in total this dish takes over an hour in the oven (200c/gas 6), plus another fifteen minutes cooling time.  My lover’s force ten hunger nearly caused a disturbance to passing aircraft, and I ended up lobbing biscuits at him for the last half hour of cooking.

To start off, heat the oil and then toss the seasoned ( salt and pepper) aubergine chunks into the oil with the cinnamon stick, and put it in the oven for 30 minutes.

Add the cherry tomatoes and chilli flakes, and roast for another 20 minutes.  Drain the chickpeas and chop the garlic up small and put it back in the oven for the final 10 minutes.


Grate the lemon zest and stir it in and leave to cool for 15 minutes.  I served on warm pittas but Hugh also recommends rice and green salad (which I also forgot to buy)

I can’t tell if it was the hanger talking, but halfway through his plate of aubergine-y ratatouille my lover turned to me and said “don’t make this again.”  A bit harsh I think… it was ok, I wasn’t crazy about it, but maybe with a nice steak or some chicken/duck and a peppery salad it would be lovely.  If I make it again it will either be for my mother  or if I ever do a hot buffet.  Sorry Hugh.


Hugh’s Three Good Things on a Plate by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (Bloomsbury 2012, ISBN 9781408828588)

Week 20: Lentils, Spinach, Potato

Three is the magic number, yes it is, it’s the magic number.  This is also Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall’s mantra for his latest book: “Hugh’s Three Good Things on a Plate”.  For my twentieth week of new recipes (although it’s my 22nd new recipe) I decided to use a new book, rather than cook something fancy from one of the books I’d already used; so I reached for Hugh!

three good things on a plate

The recipe uses lentils, vegetable stock, cooked potatoes, garlic, curry powder, spinach and a squeeze of lemon or lime juice, and as usual it provided a number of firsts for me.

The first first, I had never cooked more than 25g of lentils before in one go.  My second first, I had never wilted anything – other than a bunch of flowers in my life.  It’s all go here.

I got the lentils on and they soon broke down into what the book calls a “dhal”.  I didn’t know what one was before cooking this – but I’ve got my eye on a few others already!  I fried the potatoes, added the garlic and curry powder and then added these to the lentils.

Then before serving, I wilted the spinach in batches and added it to the rest and stirred it round with some lemon juice (the second time I made it I used lime and I think I preferred lemon)

Served on some wholemeal pittas (as usual I completely forgot to buy in any salad) it was delicious.  I never though I’d like a plate full of lentils, but I wolfed it down.


There is a sting in the tail though… it’s a really smelly dish to cook.  Casa-del-Crump is only a little apartment, and the whole place smelled of fried potatoes. I had to scrub everything down, febreze the soft furnishings and wash the towels to get rid of the smell.

Obviously it needs the crispiness of the fried potatoes, otherwise it would be like eating a strange leafy porridge, and suffer from “risotto syndrome”, which would be a shame.  Maybe I could sauté the potatoes instead, or use a different oil?  Until I’ve worked out a solution I’m not cooking it again, even though I really want to!

Hugh’s Three Good Things on a Plate by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall (Bloomsbury 2012, ISBN 9781408828588)


Sounds like a Friday night out on the town, but actually its just a normal night in my flat.  No keys were put in any bowls.

The other week I made Nadia G’s Spaghetti Alla Puttanesca (Spaghetti like a whore would make…lla-puttanesca/ ) which was lovely, a proper after-work dinner (especially if you’re a hooker I should imagine)

Then last week this happened: and I thought how interesting it would be to try another cooks recipe of the same dish.  So tonight I would like to introduce the first irregular New Recipe Night Recipe Fight.  I toyed with calling it the first Putta Fight, but I don’t think there are that many variations on Spaghetti alla Puttanesca, and you’d all get bored reading about spaghetti with olives, capers, tomato and anchovies; even if I dressed up specially.

So here we are with a different cooks take on Spaghetti like a whore would make.  Nigella’s “Slut’s spaghetti” from her Kitchen book (page 188).

The main difference (the only difference actually) is that Nigella uses a tin of tomatoes whereas Nadia uses cherry tomatoes, and Nigella uses pitted black olives where as Nadia G uses Kalamata Olives.  Nigella also gives the option of using picked red jalapenos instead of chilli flakes, but I didn’t have any.

The two recipes went together identically, if I was cooking for four I would prefer using the tinned tomatoes, but as its just me and the lover I had half a tin of tomatoes in the fridge for a couple of days.  Having said that, Nigella does say that the sauce can be made and kept for two days in the fridge/three months in the freezer; which might be my answer to slovenly after work cooking!

Pre-pitted olives from a jar are a boon.  I like the kalamata olives, but in my Sainsbury’s they only come whole from the deli and I have to pit them myself, which is a nuisance, and a non-putta activity…

A winner?  Tough one?  In a street fight I reckon Nadia G would win, because she’s very ghetto (and twenty years younger) but there’s something about the convenience of all of Nigella’s ingredients being in tins and jars that makes her version appeal to me more, as much as I like the whole cherry tomatoes.

Ultimately I’ll probably end up making a hybrid of the two, but one things for certain: next time I make it I shall definitely “serve in slatternly style, preferably with an untipped cigarette clamped between crimson painted lips”  Shkoff!

Kitchen, by Nigella Lawson (Chatto & Windus 2010, ISBN 9780701184605)

Week 19: Sri Lankan Chicken Curry

The full title of this recipe is “Really simple Sri Lankan chicken curry with coconut milk & cashew nut rice” which is far too long to fit in a tweet…

I’ve heard warnings that you shouldn’t try new recipes out on guests, but it worked fine when I made the Curry in a Hurry for a visitor ( I was maybe a bit bullish this time.  Silly boy.  This time I was cooking for two guests, and if truth be told I was secretly grateful that they got a bit drunk on the train.

Lorraine Pascale’s recipe uses cashew nuts, basmati rice, frozen peas and curry powder for the rice; and curry powder, garam masala,  cinnamon, ginger, chilli powder, vegetable oil, coconut milk, spring onions, garlic, coriander, and chicken breasts to cook the curry.  Because I was catering for guests I even bought the coriander.

It was all a bit of a panic making this, the first four steps were fine (even when one of my guests shouted “do I smell burning?” which she slightly could) but then the instructions turned over the page and I got pretty flustered.  For example, I completely missed Lorraine telling me to put oil into the pan after the spices had toasted which made the chicken get really really coated in the pretty burned spices and it looked really black.

The curry seemed to take forever to simmer down, and while I was waiting for it the rice over-cooked:

It was a lot pinker than has shown up on the picture, maybe Lorraine’s curry powder is yellower than mine?

Anyway, I plated the rice up while the chicken was finishing off and divvied the curry up between the four of us.  It didn’t look much like the picture in the book:

sri lankan curry 3

I think the darker yellow smudges are the curry sauce.  I reckon if I’d put the oil in when I should have (ever) the curry would be the pleasing brown in the book, even if the rice looks egg fried from the takeaway.  It’s not quite one of those “nailed it” meme’s, but not far off haha.

Taste-wise it was good, but it wasn’t well cooked.  I lucked out though, my guests and my lover kept drinking while I was cooking and said it was delicious.

Shortly after one of my guests ate a dog biscuit and fell asleep.  Later in bed my lover said “that beef was really nice, but don’t do the rice again”


Fast Fresh and Easy Food by Lorraine Pascale (Harper Collins 2012 ISBN: 978-0-00-793482-9)

Week 18: Spaghetti alla Puttanesca

Spaghetti like a whore would make; and I’m just the Putta to give it a whirl.

This recipe comes from the book to accompany my guilty pleasure cooking program on Food Network.  Nadia G’s Bitchin Kitchen.  Imagine my surprise when Santa bought me the book to go with series one this Christmas!

Bitchin Kitchen

I’ll admit, the first time I saw it I thought I was hallucinating and once I’d remembered I was sober I realised it was brilliant. However I found that none of my other friends had seen it, or weren’t fans.  The philistines.  I was overjoyed to see that the first recipe I ever saw was in the book (I can’t think why it wouldn’t be) and I chose to christen this new book with it.

The recipe uses Spaghetti (I use linguine) cherry tomatoes, anchovy fillets, capers, kalamata olives, garlic, olive oil, chilli flakes, brown sugar, salt and pepper.  I love how exact the recipe is, requiring 26 tomatoes.  All the ingredients are ones that are long lasting (except the tomatoes which last about nine minutes if you buy them from Sainsbury’s) and this is an ideal recipe for the end of the week before shopping day.

I would love to find kalamata olives sold ready pitted in jars, so I can sashay over to my cupboard and make it without having to remember to go to the deli counter – I’ll have to keep my eyes peeled, or maybe try it with black olives…?

Everything went in ok,  the tomatoes stewed into a nice light sauce.  I’d never bought/seen/cooked with capers before, and I was surprised how small they are, and how fiddly they were to chop.  I’ve worked out how to do it now though without loosing any fingers.  They get chucked in with the olives and before the pasta for the last 5 minutes.

The first time I made it it was a little too al dente; mostly because the timings are for spaghetti rather than linguine, but I made a note for next time.

puttanesca 3

It was lovely.  I thought it probably would be because I really like the Linguine with Sardines and Anchovies I made back in week 9 (…es-and-parsley – and still make most weeks) it was spicier and saltier than I thought, but that doesn’t make it bad.  It was also a great recipe to christen my tongs (which I bought after burning myself on the lamb lollipops) and it has spurred me to buy a mini sieve (because it just seems silly straining capers in a full sized one)

I will definitely try more recipes from this book, once I’ve finished gazing at the pictures of Hans.  Shkoff!!

Nadia G’s Bitchin Kitchen Cookbook, by Nadia Giosia (Skirt! 2009. ISBN 978-1-59921-441-2)


Well slap my face an call me Mme Tatin.

I’ve been hanging my head in shame for some weeks after christening my new skillet with some charred bits of apple (…-2-tarte-tatin/) torn between trying again and scraping molten sugar off my hob.  But then I was walking passed the fruit stall yesterday and saw apples and had to try again (also I only had a ten pound note and didn’t want to break it just for some garlic)

I think they’re called Pink Kiss or Pink Lady or something.  They were pink.  I was hoping they were nicer than Golden Delicious, which made my Tatin so much nastier last time.

After my last attempt I received loads of advice from friends about how to make a Tarte Tatin, but I ignored it all and tried again with the recipe in the Bake Off book – not through being pig-headed, I just wanted to check if the problem was me or the recipe.

One of the main problems with the last Tatin was that most of the caramel ran over the side of the pan, and the bit that was left turned black instantly.  To combat this, I took a third off the quantities in the recipe; and to ensure the butter covered the bottom of the pan I smeared it around until it was uniform – I didn’t want the sugar being directly against the pan straight away (which I know is pretty silly). It had seven apples, sixty grams of butter and 11o grams of caster sugar.

To stop it burning I kept the gas down as low as it would go (on my flamethrower hob) and kept my eye on it (unlike last time when I drank beer and gossiped with my mate)

Also, less spilled out this time – some still did, but not as much.  I’m not sure whether to further reduce the butter and sugar when I make it again?

I made the pastry exactly as I did last time, but next time I make it I’ll roll it out thicker.  One change I did make from last time is that I turned the oven down by another ten degrees – so it was in at 190c for 26 minutes.

It turned out in one piece and looked like a Tarte Tatin.  I am very happy with it.  Next time I’ll run a knife around the edges to get the crust out whole, but I think its definitely one for the next dinner party!

(Note emergency ice cream bought in case of failure)

I’m assuming you make it with other fruits in the same way?