Month: October 2014

Week 56: Chilli Con Carne Meatballs

When I told my lover I was making this recipe a look of horror crossed his face and he said those immortal words “you’re not going to attempt it in 15 minutes are you?”

Yep, that’s right, I’m having another bash at something from Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals. And no, I was not going to attempt it in 15 minutes (but I would still use every single utensil I own, as are the rules).  I’ve been making the bulgur wheat part of this recipe for a while, as an alternative to rice with other chilli; without the lemon though as it makes it taste a bit like a Yankee Candle…

To make this for four you will need: 300g bulgur wheat, a preserved lemon, a cinnamon stick, 400g lean beef mince, garam masala, olive oil, 3 jarred red peppers, 4 spring onions, smoked paprika, 700g passata (I couldn’t find a 700g jar so I think I used 675g or something like that), bunch of coriander, 400g tin of kidney beans, cumin seeds, and fat free yoghurt and a lime to serve.

I won’t write down the meathod as written in the book, because I didn’t follow it and it came out fine. To start get your liquidiser out and add the jarred peppers, three of the spring onions, a heaped teaspoon of smoked paprika, the passata, half the coriander and some salt and pepper and blitz it until it’s a smooth paste.


Next, wash your hands and squash up the mince, salt, pepper, and a heaped teaspoon of garam masala. Next (and this seems to pie the important bit) wet your hands and divide the meat into 16 balls and rub them round into a ball shape and put them on a plate and put the kettle on.


Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a large frying pan and measure out 300g (a mug-full) of the bulgur wheat.  Add 2 mug-fulls of boiling water, a preserved lemon, a cinnamon stick and the the bulgur wheat to a medium pan (medium heat) and put the lid on. This needs to cook for about 15 minutes.


Add the meatballs to the hot frying pan one or two at a time, and toss-roll the around each time you add them which seems to make them rounder… which is strange… Let them brown for about 5 minutes, rolling quite often to keep them cooking evenly.   Heat another pan and pour in the sauce from the liquidiser (slosh the liquidiser jug around with some water and add this to the sauce).


Drain and rinse the kidney beans and add them to the frying pan with the meatballs with a pinch of cumin seeds and after a minute or so transfer the meatballs to the pan with the sauce with your trusty kitchen tongues – leave the kidney beans to cook for a bit longer before stirring them into the sauce too.


By now the bulgur wheat should be done (as in all the water has evaporated and you’re left with wheat, the cinnamon stick and the lemon), remove the cinnamon and then mash the lemon into the wheat.  Plate it up with a dollop of yoghurt, some coriander and the other spring onion chopped up decoratively.


It was very chilli-ish; the sauce was like a slightly hot tomato sauce – maybe it needed more paprika and longer to simmer. Maybe a bit more garam masala for the meatballs too? But the meatballs were a resounding success for the first time ever they were smooth and rounded and cooked like balls instead of lumps of knobbly meat. I might miss the coriander out next time too… Definitely one to make again, but not in 15 minutes!

Week 55: Rapid Ragu

I remember being a schoolboy back in the 90s and pasta sauces were becoming a thing.  My Mum (known as the poisoner), decided that we should have pasta with everything. Some nights it was with fish fingers (yep), some particularly terrible nights it was pasta and quorn escalopes (no sauce), and then she discovered Ragu.

I’ve been avoiding this recipe for the last year because to my poor scarred mind Ragu is slimey lukewarm tomatoish sauce over some slightly wet pasta. And to be honest, I would probably still be avoiding it if my lover hadn’t told me to make it. I still wasn’t everso keen on the idea until my lover said that Gino D’acampo was on the radio and said that you don’t need to eat Ragu with pasta, and it should be really meaty – so I was sold! Hurrah!

To make this for four you will need: garlic oil, 125g pancetta (cubed), 500g lamb mince, 75g caramelised onions, 80ml Marsala (I used some leftover white wine), 400g tin chopped tomatoes, 75g green lentils, and 50g grated Red Leicester cheese.  Nigella recommends using caramelised onions from a jar, but I couldn’t find it and had to make my own by finely chopping an onion and slowly frying it with butter and a bit of sugar.


I’m going to track down a jar of these onions before I make it again, and also see if the lentils come in a jar like capers – just to cut down on waste.


Firstly heat 2 tablespoons of garlic oil in a medium saucepan (with lid) and fry the pancetta until it starts to go crispy, then add the lamb (break it up as you stir it around while it browns)


Add the caramelised onions,  the Marsala, the tin of tomatoes, the lentils, and 125ml of water, then bring to the boil. Simmer for 20 minutes then serve with grated cheese.


It was really tasty – good thing too cos half went in the freezer – next time I make it I’ll simmer it for slightly longer or at a slightly higher temperature so there’s less juice, but all in all I’d say Nigella’s Rapid Ragu was a success. Hurrah!



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

nigella express

Week 54: Orecchiette with Brocolli and Anchovies

So that’s that then, I’ve cooked all three of the recipes in the “three pasta dishes with anchovies” section of the Cupboard Love book. I’m not sure if I cooked it for completeness (such a freaky collector – gotta have the set) or to see how it compared with the really similar (practical identical) Jamie Oliver recipe I made a few weeks back (Broccoli Pasta Chopped Garden Salad )

Probably both. Doubly whammies are hard to resist.

Once again I didn’t have any Orecchiette, so I used the last of the little pasta I used on week 48, but I’m determined to track some down – apparently it’s ideal for brocoli sauces.

To make this for two you will need: 200g orecchiette, unsalted butter, olive oil, 2 garlic cloves, dried crushed chilli, 1/4 nutmeg (I assume he means an actual nutmeg grated up, rather than the ground stuff I had in a jar), 4 sprigs of thyme (just the little leaves, not the stick bit), 1 kg of broccoli (I know. I’m assuming this is the uncut weight – I managed to get 600g off two heads and that was enough), 4 anchovy fillets, juice of half a lemon, and 50g Parmesan.


First up, cut the broccoli into small florets. I’m not sure how small they need to be, I reckon smaller than I did them. Chop the garlic, grate the nutmeg, and pluck the leaves off your thyme.  Gently heat a tablespoon of butter and a tablespoon of olive oil in a wide pan with a lid.  Start some salted water boiling for the pasta.

When the butter/oil is fizzing stir in the garlic, half a teaspoon of chilli flakes, the nutmeg (I substituted a quarter teaspoon of ground nutmeg, I chose this amount because I had no idea how big a nutmeg was), and thyme.


After minute add the anchovies and broccoli, then add 3 tablespoons of water and a little sea salt. Put the lid on the pan and cook on a low heat for 10 minutes.


Cook the pasta while the broccoli steams, drain it thoroughly and return it to the pan.  Stir in the broccoli mix, then add the lemon juice and freshly grated Parmesan (I forgot to say, while everything’s cooking grate the Parmesan) give it a stir and serve straight away.


It was really tasty, I think the anchovies and chillies gave it the edge and the nutmeg a real depth of flavour. I managed to slightly catch the broccoli on the pan, mostly because I was using the flamethrower-ring and it just didn’t go low enough to steam the broccoli – so next time I’ll know! Also, I think I need to cut up the broccoli into smaller bits next time, it might become more like a sauce.

Like a lot of other ‘soft’ recipes I’ve made this really needed something crunchy to go with it, but it wasn’t ‘one-texture-ish’ enough to make it bland… If that makes sense?  With the winter starting to make itself known, this is a simple but delicious comfort dish that only requires a truckload of broccoli and some kitchen cupboard staples! Yum!


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

cupboard love

Week 53: Hungarian Goulash

For the last year I’ve been trying to focus on speedy meals that don’t require me to be chained to the hob for hours on end, so in that spirit I spend three hours of last Sunday bubbling some stew.

The recipe in The Good Granny Cookbook says it serves six, but I reckon with a bit of veg and maybe an extra potato it could stretch to eight easily.  I halved the ingredients and it still served me and him two nights in row.

For six you will need: sunflower oil, 3 onions, 900g of chuck steak (I used casserole steak) 3 tablespoons of sweet Hungarian paprika (the book says to use a fresh tin of paprika, I just used normal smoked paprika) 2 tablespoons tomato purée, a garlic clove, a glass of red wine, a bouquet garni, 4 medium potatoes, 1 red pepper, and 200ml of sour cream. You can also add 2 teaspoons of caraway seeds, but I couldn’t find any.

Firstly, as always, peel and chop the onions, and cut the steak up into 3cm cubes. Get out a large pot that can go on the hob, and heat a tablespoon of sunflower oil in a frying pan.  When the oil had heated up brown the onions, and then chuck them into the pot. Then sprinkle the paprika into the pan and roll the beef around in it, keep stirring until the beef has been browned on all sides, then add to the pot.


If there is any paprika left add it to the pot, then throw in the garlic cube, tomato purée, the bouquet garni (mine came as a little teabag, which was exciting), the wine, a little salt, and enough hot water to cover the meat.


Bring to the boil – stirring well – then turn the heat down and simmer with the lid on for two hours. That’s right. Two hours.

After about an hour and three quarters, peel the potatoes and cut them into 1 inch cubes and boil them for 5 minutes. Drain and add to the pot, with 2tsp of caraway seeds if you’re using them. Simmer for another 20-30 minutes.


By this time you should have washed out the frying pan you did the meat in, so out it back on the hob, quite low with a bit for oil in, and while its heating up de-seed the pepper and cut it into thin strips.


Gently cook the peppers for a few minutes, then stir them into the goulash and serve with a dollop of sour cream.  And don’t forget the pick the bouquet garni out.


The first night we had it is was with a whole head of broccoli, and the second with noodles. I preferred it with the veg, but my lover preferred the noodles.


I didn’t want to risk freezing it because of the potatoes, so I left it in the pot on the hob overnight and it was fine. The meat was so tender it fell apart on the fork, and the flavour was really full and autumnal. It was absolutely perfect for a rainy October Sunday.

I’d imagine this would be a good meal to make in one of those slow cooker things, but I don’t have one. I’m definitely making this again, on a slow day…


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

good granny

Week 52: Shepherd’s Pie

Week 52! That’s a year! Actually a year and a bit but I think I missed a week or two somewhere along the line… But that’s some sort of blogaversary right?

I was going to cook something exciting and grandiose and frivolous and impressive… Lobster Thermador or sommat equally as flashy.  And then I needed to use some beans up, which usually means have a pie round at ours. So I decided to make a pie… A luxury pie magnificent enough to pay fitting tribute to a whole year of new recipes, maybe containing blackbirds. So I broached the idea of pie to my lover and his face lit up, he clasped his hands together and said “Oo yay Shepherd’s Pie!” And that was that. I’ll tackle the Blackbird Thermidor Luxury Pie another week.

There was only one book I could possibly reach for for a pie like this: The Good Granny Cookbook. Unfortunately the recipe was in the leftovers section so there was a certain amount of swapping and improvising as I’ve not really had leftovers since the great bread and butter pudding incident.

To make this for four you will need a large onion, about 450g of leftover lamb (I don’t imagine the size of meal that would yeald a pound of leftover lamb, unless you had a load of unexpected vegetarians for dinner), 2 carrots, a garlic clove, some olive oil, half a glass of red wine, tomato ketchup, Worcestershire sauce, leftover gravy (my sister can drink the stuff through a straw, so I don’t think I’ve ever seen leftover gravy), stock, 450g potatoes, 30g butter, and milk.

If you’re using actual left over meat you’ll need to cut off any gristle or fat and shove it in the food processor with the peeled and chopped onion and pulse it into a sort of course oniony mince. I bought ready minced mince, chopped the onion up really finely then sort mushed it all together… it was ok.


Finely dice the carrots and gently sauté them in a small pan with the garlic cube (crushed) and some of the olive oil.  Start the potatoes boiling.


Grease your pie dish and turn the oven on to 200c.  Brown the oniony mince in a large frying pan with some more olive oil.  Add the wine, a tablespoon of ketchup, 2 teaspoons of Worcestershire Sauce, the leftover gravy and ‘enough stock to stop the meat drying out’.  Like I said; leftover gravy isn’t a thing in my life, so I thought I’d make some instant. As I looked through the cupboards for some Bisto my lover said “this isn’t a gravy household” as he swished out to smoke… so I had to improvise and make gravy from cornflour and Jacobs Creek.


I bunged the carrots and garlic in with the meat, and simmered it for about 15 minutes. I mashed the potatoes with a small knob of butter and some milk.  It came out freakishly creamy which worried me because I thought it might somehow mix in with the gravy; but it was also good because I could pipe it if I ever found a Fanny Craddock recipe.  Pour the mince and sauce into the greased pie dish and then spread the mash over the top.  Bake for 20 minutes.



It wasn’t the special-est thing I ever made, but it was strangely satisfying – the first comfort meal of the autumn. I’ll definitely make it again, I probably won’t make the recipe exactly as written above, but everyone has their own version of shepherd’s pie, right? Pie and veg, perfect for a Sunday evening – and if you find yourself with a spare pound of lamb and a load of gravy; I could not recommend this recipe enough… Tuck in!




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

good granny