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.

16:41 | Posted by Nim Headland | Category ,

Lemon Curd and a shortcrust recipe

I had the kitchen all to myself all day today and had planned to make a big batch of lemon curd, and then have a bash at making fresh pasta for my dinner. Best laid plans and all that, it went out the window when 5 of us had scrambled eggs for breakfast, leaving me with just one lonely egg. What to do? Well, one jar of lemon curd was possible and what a joy it is. After my traumatic jam making experiment, I've decided that curds are as far as I'll go when it comes to preserving. Lemon curd is easy and super quick. I used Delia Smith's curd recipe, as I find her pretty reliable when it comes to basics. My rule of thumb tends to be to master Delia first, and then start experimenting. The recipe that I give here will make three 1lb jars but it's easy to adjust to make however much you like.

Grated zest and juice of 4 large lemons
4 large eggs
350g golden caster sugar (I used normal caster and it's fine, it'll just make your curd slightly neon as opposed to sunset yellow!)
225g unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into small chunks.
1 level dessert spoon cornflour

Begin by lightly whisking the eggs in a medium-sized saucepan, then add the rest of the ingredients and place the saucepan over a medium heat. Now whisk continuously using a balloon whisk until the mixture thickens – about 7-8 minutes. Next, lower the heat to its minimum setting and let the curd gently simmer for a further minute, continuing to whisk. After that, remove it from the heat. Now pour the lemon curd into the hot, sterilised jars, filling them as full as possible, cover straightaway with waxed discs, seal while it is still hot and label when it is cold. It will keep for several weeks, but it must be stored in a cool place.

Thanks Delia!

So, unable to make my pasta, I was kicking my heels a bit. Now, there is a curse on the woman of my family. We make dreadful pastry but fantastic bread. Apparently this is common, people are generally good at one or the other. My Mum swears it is a personality thing, and we tend to be hot-headed and fiesty. This sort of personality works for bread as it can take some bashing about. Pastry needs a cool head, cool hands, and a cool kitchen. I was feeling fairly benign today, and the kitchen was definitely chilly! So I had a go and I only went and broke the curse! Maybe it was beginners luck, maybe it's all thanks to Delia but the pastry was fab, light and crumbly. I made a few tarts to fill with my lemon curd, and a few traditional Alice-style jam ones while I was at it. You're not getting a picture of the finished product because I overfilled them and managed to sand-blast most of the little jam tarts to the tart tin... opps! They were tasty, just not very pretty!

Here's the great shortcrust recipe from How to Cook in case you fancy a go yourself.

110g plain flour, and extra for dusting.
Pinch of salt
25g softened lard
25g softened butter
A little cold water.

Begin by sifting the flour and pinch of salt into a large bowl, holding the sieve as high as possible, so that they get a really good airing before you begin. Now add the lard and the butter, cut into smallish lumps, then take a knife and begin to cut the fat into the flour. Go on doing this until it looks fairly evenly blended, then begin to rub the fat into the flour using your fingertips only and being as light as possible. As you gently rub the fat into the flour, lift it up high and let it fall back into the bowl, which again means that all the time air is being incorporated, but do this just long enough to make the mixture crumbly with a few odd lumps here and there.
Now sprinkle 1 tablespoon of water in, then, with a knife, start bringing the dough together, using the knife to make it cling (I needed 2 tablespoons of water here!). Then discard the knife and finally, bring it together with your fingertips. When enough liquid is added, the pastry should leave the bowl fairly clean, if his hasn't happened, then add a spot more water. Now place the pastry in a polythene bag (or cling film!) and leabe it in the fridge for 30 minutes to rest.
Note: This will make 175g finished weight of pastry, which will be enough to line a 18 or 20 cm flan or quiche tin.

Me again! Once you've done the above, you're free to do what you like with your pastry. If you fancy having a go at jam tarts and hopefully being more successful than me! You need to roll it out nice and thin, use a cup or cutter to cut out 12 circles before laying one in each hole of a 12-tart tin. Fill with a little bit of curd or jam, (really just a teaspoon is enough!) The bake for about 15-20 minutes in a preheated oven at 200oc.

PS: Let them cool for a good long while before sampling your wares, molten jam on the tongue is never a good idea.

13:27 | Posted by Nim Headland | Category

Banana Muffins

These muffins that are brilliant for breakfast on the go, or if you are suffering a bit after a heavy night! Banana really settles an upset tummy so are perfect for a hangover or if you have one of the nasty viruses that are doing the rounds at this time of year. They are very tasty, not too sweet and with a lovely moist, open texture. Mmm. They keep for about three days in a sealed container, but they will go a bit darker. Don't leave out the cinnamon, it makes these really special. They are great with coffee, and ideal for a guilt-free afternoon treat as they are relatively low in sugar and fat. Enjoy!

Makes 10 decent sized muffins.

200g self-raising flour
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of ground nutmeg
50g ground almonds
50g soft brown sugar
2 ripe bananas
2 eggs
2 tbsp vegetable oil, and a little more for greasing
125ml milk
3 tablespoons runny honey

Preheat the oven to 190oc, and mix together the sifted flour and cinnamon in a large bowl. Stir in the almonds, nutmeg and sugar.

Mash the bananas and mix in the eggs, oil, milk and honey, making a gooey paste before adding to the dry ingredients and mixing well.

Spoon the mix into paper muffin cases in a muffin tray, or an oiled silicon muffin tray. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the muffins are well risen and goldy-brown.

17:23 | Posted by Nim Headland | Category

Nigel Slater's Coq Au Riesling

Nigel Slater is by far my favourite food writer, and I think most people who read cookbooks for pleasure as well as for recipes would agree. His recipes are unpretentious, glorious and simple enough that anyone can have a stab and be pleased with the results. His writing is a delight; full of unrestrained, childlike glee for great food. I am currently cooking my way though Real Food, which is a wonderful book, a best seller and an award winner. The Guardian recommends that we buy Real Food for someone we love.

Real Food is written in sections as opposed to chapters or courses. You have Potatoes, Chicken, Sausages, Garlic, Bread, Cheese, Ice Cream and Chocolate. Nigel has picked his favourite foods and given us his best recipes for each, and they are fantastic. This recipe for Coq Au Riesling is becoming a firm favourite. The version I give here is slightly different from Nigel's, because I can't help but play with recipes and because Nigel's style of cooking invites you to experiment. So this is Coq Au Riesling to my taste, and I would encourage you to adapt to suit your own, that's the beauty of cooking like this. I found Nigel's cream-laden stew delicious, but slightly guilt-inducing so I have knocked 100ml of cream out. It is still very creamy! I substituted Nigel's suggested parsley with some dried tarragon, because it is so beautiful with chicken, wine and cream. I hate Rielsling, so mine was really Coq Au Sauvingnon Blanc, but that's just a matter of taste. Just use wine of a dryness that you'd be happy to drink. I also recommend only one piece of chicken per person, unless you have a really enormous appetite, (And I thought I did!) it is very filling. You might eat two smaller pieces if you serve it as Nigel does, with just a simple green salad, whereas if you go the whole hog (like I do!) and have potatoes and a veg, one piece really will be plenty.

This dish keeps beautifully in the fridge for a couple of days and is versatile, so by all means make it all and keep it for later in the week if you can't finish it. I did this, serving it firstly with saute potatoes and tenderstem broccoli and then again a few days later with Dauphinoise and buttered spinach. Yum.

Here is my version. If you want to make it by the book, double the chicken pieces, use a medium-dry wine instead of a dry one, add another 100ml of cream and replace the tarragon with 3 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley.

For 2:

50g butter
A tablespoon of olive oil
100g streaky bacon or pancetta, diced.
2 small to medium onions, peeled and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
2 joints of chicken on the bone
200g small brown mushrooms, halved or quartered
500ml dry white wine such as Sauvignon Blanc
200ml double cream
1/2 tbsp dried tarragon

Melt the butter in a heavy based casserole and pour in the oil. Put in the diced bacon or pancetta and let it colour a little, then add the onions and garlic. Leave to cook over a moderate heat until the onions have softened but not yet coloured. Scoop the bacon and onions out with a draining spoon, leaving behind the cooking juices, then add the chicken pieces. Let the brown lightly on all sides. A moderate heat is best for this, but be prepared to add a little more oil if the butter shows signs of browning.
Add the mushrooms and continue cooking for a few minutes, then return the bacon and onions to the pan. Turn up the heat, pour in the wine, bring quickly to the boil and then turn it down to a simmer. Let everything cook at a gentle bubble for twenty-five minutes, turning the chicken from time to time.
Lift the chicken out of the pan and pour in the cream. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper and stir in the tarragon. Continue cooking, at an enthusiastic bubble, until the cream starts to thicken slightly. Return the chicken pan. When the chicken is throughly hot and the sauce has the thickness of double cream, serve.