11:00 | Posted by Nim Headland | Category

Luxurious Risotto

If you're planning on making the pasta recipe from my previous post, you'll have some mascarpone left over. There won't be enough for cheesecake, but you could do worse than stir it into a prawn and lemon risotto for a completely indulgent and elegant meal. This is seriously delicious, and might well become my go-to Friday night dinner party recipe for the summer when it's too unpredictable to barbecue. So, so good. I'd serve it with a Chenin Blanc and something fruity for pudding.

To serve 4, you'll need

2 generous knobs of butter
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
about 20 raw peeled prawns
One onion, finely chopped
a packet of arborio risotto rice
a glass of dry white wine
A litre of chicken or vegetable stock
40g frozen petit pois
two generous tbsp mascarpone
40g Parmesan
The zest and juice of one lemon
Two handfuls rocket leaves

Over a medium heat, melt one of the knobs of butter into a pan and add the garlic and prawns, cooking until the prawns turn pink and the garlic is fragrant. Once they're cooked, remove to a plate. Melt the other knob of butter in the pan, and gently fry the onion until translucent. Add the rice and stir to coat, before adding the glass of wine. Allow it to bubble up, and stir until the rice has absorbed the wine. You could add a teaspoon of dried italian herbs at this point. Add a ladleful of stock and stir until absorbed and continue to add stock until the rice is tender, about 18 mins. With the last ladleful of stock add the peas. Once the stock has been absorbed and the peas are cooked and bright green, you can turn down the heat and stir in the lemon juice and zest, the mascarpone, prawns and about half of the Parmesan. Stir well to melt the mascarpone and create the delicious creamy sauce. Serve to warm bowls and top with a sprinkle of rocket and some more Parmesan. Enjoy, it really is that good!

10:42 | Posted by Nim Headland | Category

Pasta for Spring

I know, I know, it's been ages. I've not really really cooked anything new or enlightening to blog about for a little while. Between-season cooking is uninspiring, and I am sad to admit that quick and functional after-work dishes are the order of the boring day at present. This dish is after-work friendly, untaxing and thankfully requiring little washing up, but it has propelled me into summery tastes and textures with it's zingy cheerfulness. It's a recipe that eases you into the new season gently, a bridge between a stew and a watermelon salad. The indulgent creaminess makes it a suitable candidate for cooler, unpredictable days but the lemon and green vegetables are pure summer.
The recipe is adapted from Good Food online, that brilliant resource for any slightly jaded cook. This is my tweaked version and there isn't much in it, but you can have a look at their original here:

For two, gather 250g of fettuccine
A smallish head of broccoli
75g frozen petit pois
Half a bag of baby spinach, or three chunks of frozen leaves.
75g mascarpone or cream cheese. Light philadelphia works fine if you want to lower the calories a bit. It's nearly bikini season after all!
Juice and zest of half a lemon
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
A good dose of freshly ground black pepper
About 30g of Parmasan
10 torn basil leaves

Firstly, put your pasta on to boil in a roomy pan of salted water. With 3 minutes left of cooking time, add the broccoli, frozen spinach (if using) and petit pois. Give fresh spinach about 30 seconds. Drain the pasta and veg, reserving a ladleful of cooking water.

Return to the pan, and over a low heat stir in the mascarpone, lemon zest and juice, most of the Parmasan, the basil and a splash of cooking water. Season with the nutmeg, a touch of salt and a few good grounds of pepper. Stir through, until the mascarpone has melted into a sauce and everything is hot. Serve with the remaining Parmasan. I bet it would be good with prawns...

10:46 | Posted by Nim Headland | Category

Toad in the Hole with Proper Onion Gravy

Toad in the hole is rarely done well, but when it is it is a joy. Proper comfort food. I've been fiddling with toad recipes for a good few years now, and have finally found the perfect one (for me). Nothing fancy, just classic toad that works every time. It's nearly Nigel Slater's recipe from Real Food, but not quite. The gravy to go with it is Nigel through and through.

For 4 you'll need:

125g plain flour (sifted)
150ml milk mixed with 150ml cold water
2 eggs
2 teaspoons English mustard
6 awesome pork sausages.
3 tablespoons lard

Wack your oven on full. Put the lard into a roomy dish or roasting tin and put that in the oven to get smoking hot. Whisk together your flour, eggs and milk and water mixture until smooth. You want it about the consistency of double cream. Rest the batter for 15 minutes and brown your sausages in a pan or under the grill. By now the fat in the roasting tin should be super hot, quickly pour in the batter (it will sizzle) and arrange the sausages in the batter, making sure they've got room around them to let the batter puff up. Put it back in the oven as fast as you can, and don't even think about peeking until it's had 25 minutes. In all it'll probably take 35 to 40, depending how hot your oven goes. Mine took 40 mins at 200oc.

Serve with peas and onion gravy - here's the recipe:

Nigel's Browned Onion and Madeira Gravy:

You'll need about 75g butter
2 large onions, peeled and very thinly sliced. One red and one white onion would look nice.
About a level tablespoon of flour
75ml Madeira, Marsala or red wine (I made mine with wine, it made the gravy a bit pink, but still delicious)
250ml stock
Worcestershire sauce
My only addition to this recipe was a tablespoon of balsamic vinegar, but feel free to leave it out.

Melt the butter in a pan, add the onions and cook over a low heat until really golden and soft. This takes ages, but is really worth it. Continue cooking, covered with a lid, until the onions are truly brown and soft enough to crush between your fingers.
Stir in a level tablespoon of flour and cook for a few minutes until it has lightly browned, then pour in the stock and alcohol. Add the balsamic if using and season with salt, pepper and a few shakes of Worcestershire sauce. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and allow the gravy to bubble gently for about 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.

14:10 | Posted by Nim Headland | Category , ,

Valentines Recipes

Here I am again!
Lets jump straight in shall we? Here's the recipes from the Valentines menu I cooked for Steviant. Three in one! It had to be tasty and a bit different to normal Valentines fayre. Steak and chocolate fondant is all very well, but feels a bit unimaginative. I wanted it to have a bit of a seasonal nod, hence the chicory and mussels, both at their best in February. Hopefully you will forgive my slight aberration from the seasonal with the strawberries, but they were only a garnish anyway. It's a nice menu I think, because none of the dishes require loads of stress. It's all cooked à la minute but won't keep you away from your guests for great long stretches, and these dishes are truly easy, but it feels like a special meal. If you do your prep early, you can really relax and enjoy the cooking as well as the company.

So to start I made a warm brie, chicory and bacon salad. This is a proper manly salad. I mean, how can you go wrong with those ingredients? It's super tasty and chicory is a lovely leaf that stands up to being served with warm ingredients and isn't overpowered by the other strong flavours here. They don't seem to compete, it just works well. It's a recipe from Good Food and I think it's a fab starter.

Ingredients: (Makes enough for a starter for 4)

2 heads of chicory. I used the white type because I thought the pink with the bacon would be a bit loud!
6 rashers streaky bacon
100g brie (chill it for 30 mins to make it easier to slice)
1-2 tbsp Cider vinegar
3 tbsp Olive Oil
S&P for seasoning.
Chives (optional)

Right, do your prep first. Wack the grill up and make your dressing. Whisk 1 tbsp Cider Vinegar with the olive oil, and taste it. It should taste almost a bit too vinegary, you will probably need the other tbsp but use your instinct. Season carefully, remembering to go easy on the salt because there's going to be bacon in this salad.

By now your grill should be up to heat, so pop the bacon under and leave to go really crispy. While this is happening you can prepare the chicory by separating the leaves. 3 or 5 big ones per person is about right, depending on appetites. Cut the brie into little bites.

When the bacon is properly crisp, let it cool down a bit and then use your hands to crumble it. Keep it warm.

When you're ready to eat, dress the chicory and bacon bits by popping them in a bowl and drizzling the dressing from a height a tablespoon at a time. Then get involved; dress the leaves with your hands by turning them over in the dressing and making sure each leaf is coated. Lay 3 or five chicory leaves onto each small plate and sprinkle over some of the crumbled bacon. Then dot some brie over and finish with finely chopped chives, if you like.

Rick Stein's moules marinières don't need any introduction. How can something with so few ingredients be this good?

Ingredients: (for 4)

1.75kg/4lb mussels
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 shallots, finely chopped
15g/½oz butter
a bouquet garni of parsley, thyme and bay leaves
100ml/3½fl oz dry white wine or cider
120ml/4fl oz double cream
handful of parsley leaves, coarsley chopped
crusty bread, to serve

And what to do, as written by the man himself.

Wash the mussels under plenty of cold, running water. Discard any open ones that won't close when lightly squeezed.
Pull out the tough, fibrous beards protruding from between the tightly closed shells and then knock off any barnacles with a large knife. Give the mussels another quick rinse to remove any little pieces of shell.

Soften the garlic and shallots in the butter with the bouquet garni, in a large pan big enough to take all the mussels - it should only be half full. (Note from me:you can prepare up to this point before you sit down for your starter, then finish the mussels just when you are ready to eat them.)

Add the mussels and wine or cider, turn up the heat, then cover and steam them open in their own juices for 3-4 minutes. Give the pan a good shake every now and then.

Remove the bouquet garni, add the cream and chopped parsley and remove from the heat.

Spoon into four large warmed bowls and serve with lots of crusty bread.

Delish. Remember finger bowls and a massive bowl in the middle of the table for shells. Oh and don't salt the mussels, they release just enough salt water during cooking to season the dish perfectly. How awesome is that? Taste for pepper though, you might want some.

For pudding I did a version of Mark Hix's frozen blueberries in a white chocolate sauce from one of the Ivy's menus. I've given the recipe for that here recently so go and have a look:

Frozen Blueberries in White Chocolate Sauce

The only difference here was that I used frozen blackcurrents as I've run out of blueberries. It was nice, they were sharp enough to cut through the sauce. I decorated these with pretty halved choccies that I got for my birthday.

So there you go. Simple! Enjoy. I won't leave it so long next time.

13:41 | Posted by Nim Headland | Category ,

Roasted Veg Lasagne

Now, how good looking is this?

This lasagne recipe is perfect for this time of year when you'll probably have a crowd of people to feed at some point. It'll save you from having to cater separately for the veggies, as it's so tasty and filling that meat-eaters won't feel hard done by at all. Serve with crusty bread, a big green salad and plenty of gutsy red wine for the perfect laid back gathering.
The key here I think is loads of different veggies for great texture and colour. I used yellow peppers, chunks of red onion, tomato, mushrooms and courgette, but aubergine and black olives would have been fab added to that lot too. An autumnal mix of squashes and root veggies would also be lovely. It's such a flexible recipe so experiment with your favourites.

Serves 6 generously.

For the veggies:
A selection of mediterranean veggies for roasting. There are no hard and fast rules for amounts here, but I can tell you that I used 2 peppers cut into chunks, one medium red onion cut into small wedges, a large double handful of halved cherry tomatoes, 12 sliced mushrooms and one courgette cut into rounds.
8 tablespoons olive oil (not extra virgin)
Salt and pepper

For the tomato sauce:
My tried and tested tom sauce works perfectly here.
2 tbsp olive oil
A medium white onion, finely chopped
A couple of fat cloves of garlic, very finely chopped
2 tins of Italian chopped tomatoes
A generous splash of balsamic vinegar (not your best one)
A handful of chopped fresh basil, about 15 leaves.
A pinch of sugar
Salt and pepper to taste

For the cheese sauce:
I started out making a plain white sauce here, but found it so bland that I ended up chucking in a handful of cheddar to help it stand up to the bossy flavours of the veggies. Much better.
85g butter
85g plain flour
700ml milk
25g cheddar cheese

To assemble:
300g pack fresh lasagne sheets
50g torn mozzarella
50g grated cheddar
a few halved cherry tomatoes and some basil leaves for decoration (optional)

Right then, here we go. First things first, preheat your oven to 200oc. Then get chopping your veggies, making sure they are all roughly the same size, large chunks work best. Chuck the chopped veggies into a large baking tray, in one layer if possible (if not, use two trays). Anoint generously with olive oil, a touch of salt and a good grind of pepper. Give the tray a good shake or mix with your hands, and pop it into the oven for about 25 minutes, until the veggies are lightly brown and gorgeous. Keep half an eye on then though!

While this is happening, you can get on with your sauces. Over a medium setting, heat a tablespoon or two of olive oil in a big saucepan, large enough to take both the tomato sauce and the roasted veggies. Chop the onion and garlic finely, and fry gently until softened and starting to change colour. Add the chopped tomatoes, balsamic, herbs and sugar and turn up the heat, letting it bubble enthusiastically before turning down to a simmer. Simmer for 15 minutes to allow to the sauce to reduce and the vinegar to cook out.

For the cheese sauce, melt the butter in a small pan, then stir in the flour to make sort of paste. Cook for two minutes before slowly beginning to whisk in the milk, a little at a time, making sure that all lumps are whisked out. Bring the sauce to the boil, stirring all the time and add the cheese. Turn down the heat and continue to cook, stirring, until the sauce thickens sufficiently to coat the back of a wooden spoon, before removing from the heat.

By now your veggies should be looking good, so take them out of the oven and give yourself a minute to get your breath back before launching into the fun part - assembly! Chuck the veggies into the tomato sauce, stir well and check the seasoning. Remove from the heat.

Get yourself a big serving dish (about 30cm x 20cm), and spoon a layer of veggies and tomato sauce into it. Top with a layer of lasagne, then drizzle over about a quarter of the cheese sauce. Repeat this layering until you've got 3 layers of pasta. To finish off, spoon the rest of the cheese sauce over the top of the final pasta layer and scatter over the mozzarella and cheddar cheeses before decorating with basil leaves and cherry tomatoes. Stand back and admire your work. This will sit for a couple of hours until you are ready for it, then you'll need to bake it for about 45 minutes in a preheated oven at 200oc.

11:44 | Posted by Nim Headland | Category

Spaghetti Aglio-Olio

I'm sure I'm not the only one budgeting hard ready for Christmas this year. Missing out on tasty food is the hardest thing for me when it comes to that very lean week before pay day (that and trying to rein in my exceedingly expensive food magazine habit). Therefore, I am always pleased to find recipes that cost pennies, but don't leave me feeling like I'm missing out. I'm sorry to say it, but beans on toast for a week can be a little depressing, not to mention anti-social!

This is a classic Italian recipe, made entirely from store cupboard ingredients, and it's still super tasty. Serve with a simple green salad to avoid rickets. You can make a huge batch of this for under a fiver, invite round some friends (ask them to bring the wine) and suddenly, it doesn't matter that you're a bit skint after all.

For two:

300g spaghetti
4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil (the best one you have in the house)
2 cloves of minced garlic
Dried chilli flakes, to taste
Fresh parsley or basil, finely chopped
Romano cheese, to serve (Romano is a cheaper version of Parmasan, but by all means use Parmasan if you have it in the house!)

Cook the spaghetti in lots of boiling, well salted water according to the packet instructions.

Heat a large pan on a medium heat and heat the oil, before adding the garlic, chilli flakes and salt and pepper. Saute for two minutes until the garlic is fragrant and starting to change colour.

Drain the pasta and chuck it in the garlic pan, add the chopped fresh herbs and stir really well until the pasta is coated in the gorgeously flavourful oil. Serve, with a generous sprinkling of cheese. Delish.

11:00 | Posted by Nim Headland | Category

Yorkshire Pudding

Yorkshire puddings are non-negotiable if you're having roast beef. I've shied away from making my own in the past, due to some less than satisfactory attempts at Toad-in-the-hole. However, we a have beautiful Chateaubriand, the best end of fillet, earmarked for our Christmas dinner. It is coming from the farm I can see from my bedroom window that produces the best beef I have ever eaten. So I figured home made yorkies are needed to sit alongside such a good piece of beef. I have started practicing early! My first attempt was pretty good, with only minimal sogginess. By Christmas I should have them off to a fine art. Next time, I will use Delia Smith's trick of not only heating the roasting tin in the oven beforehand, but having it over a medium hob when I pour in the batter, so he oil is shimmering hot, hopefully resulting in high-rise, perfectly crispy puds, with a softly giving interior. This trick is now included in my recipe.

To serve 6:

125g plain flour, with a generous pinch of salt added.
1 large egg
300ml (1/2 a pint) of milk
Vegetable oil or beef dripping for greasing

Sift the flour and salt into a large bowl, lifting your sieve high to give the flour lots of air. Make a well in the centre and add the egg and a little of the milk. Whisk in, taking a little of the flour from the sides to make a lump free paste. Then slowly add the rest of the milk, incorporating the rest of the flour. You're aiming for a smooth, completely lump free batter. You can leave your batter to rest if you like, but I don't think it's essential, so just leave it until you're ready to cook your puddings.

I'm supposing here that your oven will be on and turned up as you will probably be cooking your Sunday roasting joint, so once you have greased a 6 section muffin tray with oil or beef dripping, slide it into the hot oven and leave it for at least 10 minutes. Put the largest hob on at a medium-high heat and remove the tray from the oven to the hob. Allow the oil to become shimmeringly hot, before carefully pouring your batter into the sections of the muffin tray, the get it back into the oven as quickly as possible. They will take 15-20 minutes to cook, so a good time to put them in is as you are taking the roasting joint out of the oven to rest before serving.