Main Courses

Chicken with Mushrooms and Soured Cream

I did this for friends who were coming to supper. The original plan was to have fish but their son, Ali (you know who you are!) doesn’t eat fish so our planned meal had to be quickly revised. I found this recipe and just wasn’t sure about the soy sauce and sherry thing going on – I couldn’t imagine how it was all going to taste. Persuaded by John and the fact that we had all the ingredients, I went ahead, somewhat apprehensively. Imagine my delight when it turned out simply wonderfully. My only problem that evening was that I hadn’t cooked enough – we all wanted seconds. Never one to be accused of small portions, the following recipe will feed four hungry people. Try it, love it and add it to your autumn and winter favourites list!

 Serves 4

 What you need…

 1 large baking dish (mine is 30cm x 20cm x 7cm deep)

1 kg chicken thighs

2 teaspoons paprika

Splash rapeseed oil

Sea salt and black pepper

1 large onion, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

3 tablespoons plain flour

500ml hot chicken stock (I dissolved 2 Knorr stock pots into 500ml water)

300g brown mushrooms, cleaned and sliced

150g wild mushrooms, rinsed

5 teaspoons sweet sherry

4 teaspoons soy sauce

125ml soured cream

 What to do…

Preheat oven to 170°c / 325°f/ gas 3.

Lightly butter (going off the word ‘grease’) your baking dish.

Sprinkle the paprika evenly over the chicken thighs.

Heat the oil in a large, deep-sided frying pan and fry the chicken on both sides until lightly browned. Using a slotted spoon, remove to the baking dish, fitting them in together snugly in a single layer. Season lightly.

To the frying pan juices, add the onion and garlic and sauté lightly. Tip in the flour and mix it in evenly. Slowly add the hot stock, stirring continuously. When thickened, remove from the heat and then add the mushrooms, sherry and soy sauce. Add the soured cream slowly (to avoid curdling).

Pour over the chicken and bake, uncovered, for 90 minutes or until the sauce is a lovely, thick and bronzed. It’s quite simply gorgeous!

Serving suggestion…

Chicken with mushrooms and soured cream goes really well with boiled, seasoned basmati and wild rice

 Inspired by…

Lynn Bedford Hall, New Creative Cuisine and Helen, who introduced me to this old but fabulous book.

 How easy…

Really, really easy with the added benefit that you can clear up the cooking pots whist it does it’s thing in the oven – very relaxed cooking for superb results.

Steak au Poivre

A classic I know but, oh how wonderful and totally indulgent – a real treat. I don’t eat steak much and have a growing concern about the amount of hormones pumped into livestock, so when we do occasionally have fillet (2 or 3 times a year, I feel the need to stress) we bypass the supermarket and visit butchers whose meat we know to be as happy and healthy as possible. The sensation as this fabulous meat alights your tongue – ahhh, worth a celebration all by itself!

Serves 4

What you need…

4 gorgeous fillet steaks, about 4cms thick

2 tablespoons whole black peppercorns

Splash of olive oil

2 shallots, finely chopped

1 clove garlic, crushed

Beef stock made from 1 stockpot (I use Knorr) dissolved into 400ml boiling water

1 tablespoon brandy/cognac

150ml soured cream

Salt for seasoning

What to do…

Prepare your steaks waaaaaay ahead of time if you want to optimise the flavours and textures. Start by crushing your peppercorns. You can use a pestle and mortar to do this or put them between 2 A4-sized pieces of cling film (on a board) and bash them with either a rolling pin or meat tenderiser).

Fillet doesn’t need tenderising. Instead, put a teaspoon of olive oil onto one side of each steak, spreading it evening over and then, using the heel of your hand, massage the steak – it needs no more than this. Then sprinkle over the crushed peppercorns, pressing them into the meat, saving just 2 teaspoons for use in the sauce. Flip the steaks over and repeat the process on the other side. Cover the steaks with cling film and set aside for several hours.

When you are ready to cook the steaks, get the sauce in order! Using a medium-sized saucepan, pour in your oil and add the shallots and garlic. Cook on a medium heat for a couple of minutes until they begin to brown. Add the beef stock and saved peppercorns. Add the brandy/cognac and continue simmering until the sauce is reduced by half – 4 – 5 minutes.

Remove the sauce from the heat and let it cool for 5 minutes. Then, gradually add the soured cream, stirring continuously – if you add too much, too fast it will curdle so take your time. Once it’s all in, check the taste and season with salt; then put the sauce back on a low heat, whilst you cook the steaks.

For the steaks, take a heavy frying pan and pop it onto a very high heat. Dry fry them (remember, you’ve already rubbed oil into them) quickly for about 1 minute on each side, then lower the heat and cook them how you want them – rare, medium rare, well done etc. Lots of recipes quote timings on this but I’ve found that with steaks this thick, it’s easier to take a sharp knife and cut into the middle of the steaks whilst they are in the frying pan and just check them out!

When they are about there, spoon any cooking juices into the sauce and then serve these mouthwatering steaks immediately with their delicious sauce.

Serving Suggestion…

We like Steak au Poivre with mushrooms that have been cleaned and sliced and then fried in a combination of butter, truffle oil and salt. Potato Dauphinoise works spectacularly well with the peppercorn sauce and the wilted spinach is the token healthy green on the plate! Just yum, yum, yum!

Inspired by…

Well, Delia is partly responsible, as is saveur.com, the online version of the New York Times and my take on all of that…but also our local butcher, who explained to me how to treat the fillet steak with respect: massage only!

How easy…

It’s really very easy. The key is in having the time to do it in a relaxed fashion, which lets face it, is the only way – this meat is expensive and deserves time and respect to properly enjoy the well-earned results. Just find an excuse to indulge!

 

 

Scrumptious Seafood Pasta

Seafood with loadsa garlic in a rich tomatoey sauce with a distinctive fishy edge provided by lovely anchovies – a really wonderful autumn treat

Serves 4

What you need…

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 teaspoons garlic, chopped

1 teaspoon red chilli, chopped

A handful basil, shredded

3-4 anchovies

4 tomatoes, roughly chopped

1 big glass white wine

Salt and black pepper

150-200g salmon fillet, cut into 2cm squares

A handful of each of the following cooked seafood (scallops, clams, prawns, squid, mussels)

180g raw prawns

Pasta shapes of your choice

What to do…

In a large saucepan, heat salted water to boiling point (for the pasta, in a little while).

In another saucepan, gently heat the oil with the garlic, chilli and anchovies and bring slowly to the boil, mashing up the anchovies as they heat up. Turn down to a low heat and add the tomatoes. When softened, season and then tip in the white wine, bring to the boil and simmer to cook off the alcohol.

At this point, pop your pasta into the boiling water – I use dried gluten-free (lighter on the digestive system) – it normally takes about 12 minutes to cook through.

Add the salmon fillet to your herbs and tomatoes and when cooked, chuck in the seafood and raw prawns. Cook on a gentle heat until the raw prawns have turned pink, the seafood is warm and, in the other pan, the pasta is cooked. Throw in the basil, stirring into the sauce so it’s evenly dispersed.

Drain the pasta and add to the sauce. Mix the whole lot together and add more seasoning if necessary. Serve your lovely, garlicky-fragrant comfort scrumptious seafood pasta straight way and enjoy. It’s not a dish to eat quietly – a noisy family or slightly riotous friends are ideal.

Tip…

The quantities of seafood and salmon are vague because a lot has to do with personal taste – you may prefer more fish and less seafood or vice versa. Alternatively, you may not like mussels (my husband doesn’t) so the quantity of those needs to be reduced. Basically, pop in what you’re going to love eating!

I keep a selection of frozen chopped herbs in my freezer – Cooks Ingredients from Waitrose – makes cooking soooo easy: a shake of fresh herbs from the foil bag rather than teaspoons of this and that! In this recipe, the garlic, chilli and basil all come from those lovely foil bags!

Inspired by…

I kinda made this one up, but can promise you that it’s lovely.

How easy…

Simples!

Monkfish Roasted with Parma Ham and Sun-Dried Tomatoes

A lovely dish that is easy to make, very easy on the eye and great tasting.

Serves 4

What you need…

1 small jar of sun-dried tomatoes in oil

2 large handfuls of fresh basil

Olive oil

16-20 slices of Parma ham

4 x 200g/7oz monkfish tail fillets, trimmed

Sea salt and black pepper

Balsamic vinegar and rocket (optional, to serve)

What to do…

Pre-heat oven to 200c/400f/gas 6. Place sun-dried tomatoes and half their flavoursome preserving oil in a food processor with all the basil and blend until smooth. While blending, add the remaining preserving oil to the paste until it’s nice and spreadable.

Take four A4-sized pieces of greaseproof paper. Rub some olive oil over each piece and lay about 4 slices of Parma ham snugly next to each other, on each piece of paper. Divide your paste into 4, smearing each quarter evenly over the ham. Then, place your monkfish fillets at one end, season, and, using the greaseproof paper as an aid to wrap the monkfish firmly in the Parma ham, fold and roll up. Slide the Parma ham-wrapped monkfish off the greaseproof paper onto an oiled baking tray (with sides as liquid will escape during cooking and make a right mess of the oven – been there, done that!). Roast for 15-20 minutes.

To serve your monkfish roasted with Parma ham and sun-dried tomatoes, either slice up or serve each portion whole, ideally with really buttery mashed potato. Garnish with drizzled balsamic vinegar over the fish and scattered rocket over the whole plate.

It’s quick, gorgeous and looks like it’s taken hours of slaving. Ideal for a dinner party as it can be prepared in advance, kept covered and refrigerated until you are ready to pop it in the oven; or for a family supper when you fancy something a little different.

Inspired by…

Jamie Oliver

How Easy…

Very easy and hardly any clearing up!

Haggis with Scallops, Caramelised Pear and Beurre Blanc Sauce

Yes, I know it sounds revolting and I was met with considerable apprehension when I announced that I was serving this up. But after the first tentative mouthful, it was proclaimed as really tasty and a culinary success! Haggis, let’s face it, gets bad PR but honestly, this is a really rich, lovely winter dish. Written up here as a starter, it can also be served as a main course, adding green vegetables (steamed leek and cabbage) and potato (Dauphinoise would work well). So, give it a go and be happily surprised!

Serves 4

What you need…

1 x 450g good quality Haggis (I used Simon Howie’s Haggis Company).

Splash of olive oil

12 good sized scallops, hand-dived if you can spare the pennies

Sea salt and black pepper

for the beurre blanc sauce

2 shallots, finely chopped

20ml white wine vinegar

40ml white wine

40ml water

75g butter, cut into small chunks

Sea salt and black pepper

for the caramelised pears

50g butter

2 tablespoons soft dark brown sugar

3 pears, unpeeled, cored and chopped into 1 cm pieces

What to do…

To cook your haggis, follow the instructions that it comes with. In my case, it was simply to wrap the haggis, skin and clips intact, in foil and pop in a saucepan of water, bringing it to the boil before gently simmering it for 45 minutes.

For the sauce, pop the shallots, vinegar, white wine and water into a saucepan and cook on a moderate heat until the liquid is halved. Remove from the heat and add the butter chunks one at a time, using a balloon whisk to ensure that each chunk is fully blended in before adding the next. Once it is all added, season with salt and pepper and return to the hob, keeping it warm on a low heat.

For the caramelised pears, heat the butter and sugar in a small saucepan on a moderate heat until they are both melted, stirring regularly. Tip in the chopped pears and gently stir them in, ensuring they are all evenly coated with butter. Reduce the heat and just leave them in the pan for 15 minutes, stirring occasionally. They will finish up golden and delicious.

Finally, about five minutes before you are ready to serve, splash a little oil in a frying pan and when it’s hot, chuck in your scallops. Fry them for two minutes on each side until they are golden brown. Season.

To serve your haggis with scallops, caramelised pear and beurre blanc sauce, simply provide each person with one generous slice of haggis in the centre of the plate, topping it with the seared scallops, scatter the pears around the side and drizzle the beurre blanc over the pears.

The vinegar and wine in the beurre blanc sauce provide a gently, slightly sharp contrast to the richness of the haggis and the sweetness of the pear provides a perfect foil to the meat’s depth of flavour. It really works beautifully – simply delicious!

Inspired by…

Loch Fyne Restaurants currently have a version of this on their menus. I hope my interpretation does it justice!

How Easy…

Not difficult but loads of pots and pans, especially if it’s being served with accompaniments for a main course.

Whilst the haggis is cooking, you have plenty of time to make the beurre blanc and then the caramelised pears, just keeping both of them warm until you are ready to serve.

Lovely, Comforting Lasagne

Sooooo lovely and comforting, both to make and to eat – this is such a lovely family supper dish

Serves 6

What you need…

Ovenproof dish (mine is 20cm x 30cm)

Splash of olive oil

1 kg minced beef

500g minced lamb

150g mozzarella, torn up

A handful of fresh sage leaves

Lasagne sheets, fresh or dried (enough to cover your ovenproof dish three times)

for the tomato sauce

Splash of olive oil

2 cloves garlic, crushed

3-4 sprigs fresh rosemary

3 bay leaves

2 x 400g tins of chopped Italian tomatoes

2 tablespoons tomato puree

for the white sauce

1 litre milk

Pinch nutmeg

½ onion, peeled and sliced

Small handful black peppercorns

80g butter

60g plain flour, sieved

120g – 150g grated fresh Parmesan

Sea salt & black pepper

What to do…

Heat a large, deep frying pan with a splash of olive oil. Slowly fry the garlic until lightly coloured, then add the rosemary, bay leaves, tomatoes and tomato puree. Cook gently for 45 minutes with the lid on.

Add the meat to your tomato mixture and simmer for 20 minutes, creating a tomato and meat ragu.

Meanwhile, put the milk, nutmeg, onion and black peppercorns into a medium sized saucepan and bring gently to the boil. Melt the butter in a third saucepan (large) and tip in the flour. Mix well to form the beginning of a roux sauce (it will look like a glossy ball). Gradually add the flavoured milk – one ladle at a time and through a sieve (you don’t want all the peppercorns and onions in there), stirring it well until you have a thick, smooth white sauce. Bring to the boil and simmer for a couple of minutes, then take off the heat and add Parmesan and seasoning.

Remove the rosemary and bay leaves from the tomato and meat ragu.

Preheat the oven to 180c / 350 f / gas 4 and butter a large baking dish.

Cover the bottom of the dish with lasagne sheets. Then cover with a thin layer of your ragu. Then cover with a thin layer of the white sauce. Repeat with a further two sets of layers – pasta, ragu and white sauce – ending with white sauce. Scatter over the torn mozzarella and sage leaves.

Bake in the oven for 45 minutes, until golden. Remove from the oven and let your lovely, comforting lasagne settle for maybe 10 minutes. Serve with a fabulous, robust bottle of Italian wine.

Inspired by…

Jamie Oliver

How easy…

It is easy but does take time: you need to be in the right mood. Choose your music, open a nice bottle of red and enjoy the process. The cooking smells are wonderful and definitely contribute to the enjoyment of this dish. There are however loads of pans to wash up but….it’s worth it! I wash them whilst the lasagne is in the oven so that when I sit down, I’m totally relaxed.

 

Roast Breast of Duck with Plum and Apple Tarte Tatin

A fabulous Autumnal treat that looks and tastes so sumptuous and actually isn’t that difficult to make. Whoever you make it for will be very appreciative! It’s rich and ever so slightly decadent!

Serves 4

What you need…

1 tartlet tin, with 4 8cm holes, greased

1 9-cm cookie cutter

200g ready-made puff pastry (unless you’re on Bake Off, who has the time to make it?!)

2 apples, peeled, cored and roughly chopped

2 plums, stoned and roughly chopped

5 little knobs of butter

4 dessertspoons of honey

30g shallots, chopped

250ml port

500ml chicken/game stock (made from a stock pot and water)

4 duck breasts, similarly sized

225g spinach

Sea salt and black pepper

What to do…

Preheat the oven to 200°c / 400°f / gas 6.

Score the skin on the duck breasts in a crisscross pattern and season well. Put aside for the moment.

Making the jus/sauce: melt the first knob of butter in a saucepan and add the shallots, cooking for five minutes on a low heat. Add the port and stock and reduce until the sauce coats the back of the spoon – about 15 minutes. Set to one side – it doesn’t have to be boiling hot to serve but you may want to reheat just before serving to make sure it’s still runny rather than starting to set.

Making your tarte tatins: in your tartlet tin, place a knob of butter in the centre of each ‘mould’ and pour over one dessertspoon honey over each one. Mix together the apple and plums and then take a handful of the mixed fruit, piling it on top of the honey and butter.

Roll out the pastry to a thickness of 5mm and, using your cookie cutter, cut out four 9cm circles and place over the top of the fruit, tucking the sides in so that you have four upside down tarts. Pop in the oven for 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, take a heavy frying pan, turn the hob heat up to a medium high heat and cook the duck breast, skin side down, in the dry pan for about nine minutes, then turn the breast over and cook for a further six minutes. Keep an eye on it – it can scorch quite easily (as evidenced in my photogograph!)

Towards the end of the duck cooking time, wilt the spinach in a pot with just a couple of spoonfuls of water and little salt for two minutes.

To serve, place a mound of spinach on each plate and top with one tarte tatin, removed from the tin and served fruit side up. Put the duck on the plate and drizzle the jus/sauce around the plate.

Delicious doesn’t cover it! This recipe for Roast Breast of Duck with Plum and Apple Tarte Tatin is a rich, lovely treat, ideal for dinner party. Halve the ingredients and make a sumptuous romantic dinner for two.

Tips…

You’ll have some pastry left over – you could always re-roll it and create another few fruit tatins but for use as desserts or perhaps a couple of Apple Roses (see my other recipes).

I use Waitrose Cooks’ Ingredients frozen chopped shallots – quick and saves all that crying!

Inspired by…

Julian Owen-Mold

How easy…

It’s really easy providing the duck breasts are the same size and therefore cook evenly during the same time. It’s quite smelly and the hob will be a mess at the end, but it’s worth it and surely, if you’ve done the cooking, someone else should clear up!

 

Baked Glazed Gammon

 

For many years now, we have reserved the baked gammon for Christmas Eve. When the present-wrapping is all done and all the preparation is finished for the big day, it’s time to sit down for hot gammon sandwiches in squishy, chunky fresh bread, washed down with a glass of fizz. The aroma of this wonderful dish cooking in its final stages is something I will always associate with Christmas but we do sneak it in a couple of other times throughout the year. The spirit of Christmas should be with us all year around, after all!

Serves 8 with left overs

What you need…

1 x unsmoked gammon joint, weighing about 4 kg

1 carrot, cut in half

1 onion, cut in half at root

1 celery stick

1 bay leaf

10 peppercorns

for the glaze

8 tablespoons good quality marmalade

2 tablespoons wholegrain mustard

2 tablespoons black treacle

A handful of cloves

What to do…

Soak the gammon overnight if you’re having it for lunch or all day if you are having it in the evening. Discard the soaking water before starting.

Put the gammon in a large saucepan, cover with water and add the carrot, onion, celery, bay leaf and peppercorns. Bring to the boil, cover and then turn down the heat to a low simmer for 2¾.

Pre heat the oven to 180°c / 350f / gas 4

When the gammon is cooked, remove from the cooking water and set aside to drain.

Make the glaze by mixing all of the ingredients (except the cloves) together in a bowl.

Cut the rind off the gammon, leaving a thin layer of fat. Score the fat diagonally in a criss-cross pattern and then stud with cloves all over. Put the gammon in a roasting tin, brush/spoon over the glaze and bake for about 30 minutes until sticky and golden. The smell will make you swoon! Serve your Baked Glazed Gammon with warm gorgeous doorstep bread and salted butter. Yummy!

Inspired by…

Lisa Faulkner

How easy…

The easiest baked gammon recipe I have tried and soooooo delicious!

 

 

Broccoli, Anchovy and Garlic Pasta

We love pasta in our house as the number of recipes evidence! This one is a lovely, light and fresh dish with the vitamins of broccoli and the tangy edge provided by the garlic and anchovy. Freshly grated Parmesan cheese finishes it off perfectly! Really yummy!

Serves 4

What you need…

2 heads of broccoli

4 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped

12-16 anchovy fillets, depending on your taste – I love them!

2 hot chillies, de-seeded and chopped

3 tablespoons olive oil

Dried pasta (see tip)

Sea Salt and black pepper

Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

What to do…

Chop the broccoli into florets, halving them if they are big ones.

Take a big saucepan and bring to the boil salted water. Add the pasta and cook following the instructions on the packet (mine normally takes about 12 minutes).

Whilst the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large frying pan or wok to a medium heat, adding the garlic, anchovies and chillis, smashing up the anchovies as they warm up. Keep the oil warm but not spitting.

Four minutes before the pasta is finished cooking, add the broccoli florets to the pasta water.

Drain the pasta and broccoli and add them to them to the other pan, tossing them in the oil. Season to taste and serve with a generous your broccoli, anchovy and garlic pasta with a sprinkling of Parmesan. Quite simply delicious!

Tip…

I tend to use gluten-free pasta, simply because it doesn’t weigh down my digestive system like the normal option. Eating pasta with gluten makes me feel uncomfortably full and also very tired at the end of the meal – capable of doing nothing but collapsing in front of the TV. Gluten-free definitely suits me better.

Inspired by…

Jamie Oliver

How easy….

Ever so! Great lunch or quick supper

Chicken Breasts and Sun-Dried Tomatoes with Tarragon and Paprika Sauce

One of my favourite supper dishes to share with family and friends, it’s easy to prepare, light and really flavoursome

Serves 4

What you need…

5-6 skinless chicken breasts

8 tablespoons lemon juice

2 rounded teaspoons paprika

2 large garlic cloves, chopped

1 tablespoons fresh tarragon, chopped

Knob of butter

12-14 sun-dried tomatoes

300ml double cream

Salt

Chilli powder

Bunch of rocket leaves to garnish

What to do…

Put lemon juice, paprika, garlic and tarragon in a bowl, mix together.

Slice chicken and add to mixture. Leave to marinate for 30 minutes at least.

Melt butter in a large, deep frying pan/wok.

Add chicken mixture and cook gently for 8-10 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Meanwhile, slice the sundried tomatoes in half.

Using a slotted spoon, remove the chicken from pan and set aside.

Bubble pan juices fiercely for two minutes, reducing slightly.

Remove from heat and slowly stir in the double cream.

Bring the mixture back to the boil and boil for 2-3 minutes or until it has thickened slightly.

Season with salt and chilli. Return chicken to pan and add in sundried tomatoes and warm through.

Serve chicken breasts and sun-dried tomatoes with tarragon and paprika sauce with rocket scattered over. It goes really well with some garlicky pasta on the side or garlic-fried green vegetables such as shredded cabbage and leek. Lovely!

Inspired by…

Josceline Dimbleby, The Almost Vegetarian Cookbook

How Easy…

One of the few main courses that I can produce whilst chatting to visiting friends – I normally have to focus completely on the cooking!