Monday, 30 January 2012

Blueberry Muffins

This recipe hails from the newest addition to my cookbook collection which arrived today, Make Bake Love by Lily Higgins. It has a wonderful collection of delicious baked treats and there are so many recipes I want to try in the coming weeks, so watch this space. The recipes are all pretty straight-forward and do not require 100 ingredients, I'm all for keeping it simple most days. Blueberry muffins are an all-time classic and perfect for breakfast, lunch boxes or to enjoy with your afternoon cup of tea! I just happened to buy some blueberries in M&S yesterday that were marked down and was very pleased when I came across this recipe in the book. These muffins are moist and bursting with flavour but not overly sweet.

Blueberry Muffins

Makes 12

225g plain flour
1 tbsp baking powder
75g Demerara sugar
1 egg
150ml milk
40ml sunflower oil
1 tsp vanilla extract
160g blueberries

Preheat the oven to 190oC/fan 170oC. Line a 12-hole muffin tin with muffin cases.

Sieve the flour and baking powder together in a bowl, then stir in the sugar.

Whisk the egg, milk, oil and vanilla together in a jug. Pour into the dry ingredients and mix gently. Fold in the blueberries.

Use an ice cream scoop or spoon to divide the batter evenly amongst the muffin cases. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until golden and risen. Remove the muffins from the tin and cool on a rack.

Tuesday, 17 January 2012

Chunky Sausage and Tomato Pasta

I've damaged the arch in my foot (again) after a session of Zumba yesterday. This is a result of not exercising in ages and I'm now unable to exercise, so frustrating! I can hardly walk and it's very painful when I do. Due to my injury I needed a meal that was quick to rustle up, so I opted for a favourite pasta recipe that I've not cooked in ages. It ticked all the boxes, quick, easy, comforting and really yummy!

Chunky Sausage and Tomato Pasta

Serves 4

1 tbsp olive oil
4 thick pork sausages, cut into bite-sized pieces
2 garlic cloves, crushed
200ml/7fl oz medium white wine
1 tbsp tomato purée
400g can chopped tomatoes
500g pack rigatoni or penne
Handful of basil leaves, torn, (optional)
Parmesan, to serve

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based pan (preferably not non-stick) and add the sausages. Fry for about 8 mins until golden and cooked through. Tip in the garlic and fry for 1 min. Pour in the white wine and boil until it has reduced by half.

Stir in the tomato purée and tomatoes, and season to taste. Simmer for 15 mins until the sauce is rich and thick.

While the sauce cooks, boil the pasta according to pack instructions and drain. Stir in the basil if using, and cooked pasta into the sauce, then serve in bowls with grated or shaved parmesan.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

Beef Stew with mustard and thyme dumplings

The weather has become very cold in the UK, with temperatures dropping to -3 Celsius some nights. Following on from my promise to try new recipes I decided to try out a new beef stew for our Sunday meal. This stew is the perfect comfort food that we crave for during this cold weather. I've never made my own dumplings and couldn't beleive how easy they were to make, they turned out great if I do say so myself. I served the stew with creamy mash and it was delicious.

Beef Stew and mustard and thyme dumplings

Serves 6

1.5kg braising or chuck steak
about 2 tbsp seasoned flour
2 tbsp olive oil
2 large onions, peeled and chopped
6 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
sea salt and black pepper
4 celery stalks, sliced
4 large leeks, cleaned and cut into short lengths
1 small swede, peeled and cut into cubes
1 small celeriac, peeled and cut into cubes
1 bottle of robust red wine
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
a bouquet garni of parsley, thyme, rosemary, bay and 2 strips of orange peel, tied together

For the dumplings:
110g self-raising flour
55g beef of vegetable suet
1 tbsp thyme leaves, chopped, or 2 tbsp chopped parsley
1 tbsp grain mustard or 1 tsp Colman's English mustard powder, or 2tp freshly grated horseradish

Preheat the oven to 150oC/Gas 2. Cut the beef into large cubes. Tip the flour into a Ziplock bag, add the meat, lock and shake to coat. Take out the meat, shaking off excess flour. Heat about 1 tbsp olive oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan and brown the meat in batches all over, removing it to a plate when browned and adding extra oil as needed.

Add the onions and garlic to the pan and sprinkle with a little salt. After a few minutes, as they begin to soften, add the celery, carrots, leeks, swede and celeriac, if using. Saute for a few minutes and then return the meat to the pan. Meanwhile, heat the red wine.

Add the tinned tomatoes to the pan and chop them down into the meat and veg. When the liquid is bubbling away merrily, add the wine to just cover. Once the pot has come up to the bubble again, tuck the bouquet garni down into the depths, add a circle of greaseproof paper (a cartouche) to just cover the stew and put the lid on. Transfer to the oven and cook for 2 hours or until the vegetables are tender but not reduced to mush.

Meanwhile, make the dumplings. Sift the flour into a large bowl and throw in the suet. Add the herbs, mustard or horseradish and seasoning, and mix with your hands or a spoon until the dough coheres but is not too wet and sticky. If it becomes too damp, scatter over a little more flour and roll the ball of dough gently. Flour your hands and pull small, walnut-sized pieces of dough from the ball, rolling them between your palms into balls.

About 20 minutes before the stew will be ready, uncover and sit the dumplings on top. Put the lid back on and return to the oven. After 20 minutes, check that the dumplings have swollen and are cooked through. Serve with mash or colcannon.

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Linguine Amatriciana

I've decided that this year I will be making more of an effort to make and try new recipes. It's so easy to stick with the same recipes week in week out and you end up getting bored of eating the same dishes. I came across this recipe on Nigella's site and after reading her review I had to make it. This recipe is from Anna Conte's cookbook, Cooking with Coco, which I plan on purchasing very soon after reading Nigella's review on it. In Nigella's words there isn't a recipe in this book she wouldn't want to try. I love Italian food and pasta has a regular presence in my cooking, which makes this book very appealing. This is a simple recipe but one that is really satisfying and delish! I didn't have any Bucatini pasta which is the type used in this recipe but I will be buying some on my next shopping trip to use next time.

Linguine Amatriciana

Serves 4-5

tbsp olive oil
350g unsmoked pancetta cubes
1 onion, very finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 dried chilli, seeded and finely chopped
100ml red wine
450g tin chopped tomatoes
400g linguine
6 tbsp grated mature pecorino
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano, to serve

Heat the oil in a frying pan large enough to contain the cooked pasta later and, when hot, throw in the pancetta and fry until crisp. Remove it to a plate with a fish slice.

Now add the onion to the pan, season with a pinch of salt and saute for 7-8 minutes, until soft. Add the garlic and chilli and cook for a further minute, stirring frequently. Splash with the wine and let it bubble away to reduce by half. Pour in the chopped tomatoes and cook on moderate heat for about 20-25 minutes.

Taste and add more salt if necessary and black pepper if you want, although the sauce is already quite hot due to the chilli.

Cook the linguine in plenty of salted water as usual.

Drain thoroughly.

Slide the pasta into the frying pan, add the pancetta, and shower with percorino. Stir-fry for about 2 minutes, turning the linguine over and over with 2 forks.

Serve straight from the pan, with Parmesan handed round.

Tuesday, 10 January 2012

Spring Chicken in Wintertime

This evening for dinner I decided to make Nigella's Spring Chicken from her cookbook Kitchen. Although this is titled "spring" chicken, it is perfect for this time of the year, a warming casserole is just what you crave at the end of a cold winters day. This casserole has an amazing depth of flavour and would work equally well served with new potatoes, rice, barley or other grains. Alternatively it could be served with a baquette or other crusty bread to mop up the juices. We thoroughly enjoyed this comforting dish and I plan to make it again soon.

Spring Chicken

Serves 4-6

1 tsp olive oil
140g pancetta cubes
12 chicken thighs (bone in with or without skin)
1 leek, cleaned, quartered lengthwise then finely sliced
1 stick celery, quartered lengthwise then finely sliced
3 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
2 tsp freeze-dried tarragon
1 tsp sea salt flakes or 1/2 tsp pouring salt
good grinding white pepper
1 x 500ml bottle dry cider
300g frozen petit pois
1 x 15ml tbsp Dijon mustard
2 Little Gem lettuces, suct into strips or roughly shredded
2 x 15ml tbsp chopped fresh tarragon

Heat the oil in a large, wide casserole that comes with a lid and add the pancetta cubes, cooking them until they begin to give off their juices and start to colour.

Add the chicken thighs (skin-side down if yours have skin), tossing the pancetta cubes on top of the meat (to stop the pancetta burning and to make space) as you put the poultry in the pan, and cook for about 5 minutes over a medium heat.

Turn the thighs over and tip in the prepared leek, celery and garlic. Season with the dried tarragon, salt and pepper, then stir everything around a bit, letting it cook for another 5 minutes.

Pour in the cider, then sprinkle in the frozen peas. Bring the pan to the boil then cover, turn down to a very gentle heat and cook for 40 minutes. Do check after 30, though, to see if the chicken is cooked through, and if you are using boneless thighs, then 20 minutes should do it.

Remove the lid, stir in the mustard, and then toss the shredded lettuce over the chicken, letting it wilt in the hot sauce for a couple of minutes.

Scatter the chopped tarragon over the casserole. Serve with new potatoes or rice.