Main Courses

Chicken, Mozzarella and Pesto Filo Parcels

I saw Tom Daley do these on TV and thought that they looked so very tasty as well as being so very easy and they are exactly that! An ideal gift of a lunch or supper (you do feel like you’re opening a present when you cut into them), these are really lovely and much more filling than I had thought. We did also think ‘ideal student food’ – one for you, Maddie!

Serves 4

What you need…

1 x baking sheet, lined with reusable baking parchment

2 tablespoons olive oil

A large handful basil leaves, finely chopped

2 teaspoons pine nuts

450g skinless, boneless chicken breast, chopped into bite-sized pieces

8 sundried tomatoes, roughly chopped

250g mozzarella, chopped

8 rectangular sheets filo pastry, cut in half to make 16 squares

50g butter, melted

Sea salt and black pepper

What you do…

Preheat your oven to 200°c / 400°f / gas 6. Pop in your baking sheet to warm up whilst you make the parcels.

To create a pesto, put the oil, basil and pine nuts in mini chopper if you have one and whizz until smooth. If you don’t have a mini chopper, just chop the basil and nuts as finely as you can and then mix them with the oil.

Put the chicken, tomatoes and mozzarella into a bowl and add the pesto. Season liberally and stir everything together.

Take 4 squares of filo pastry and lay them one on top of another, but turning each one a little to the right to create a star outline once all four are on top of one another.

Divide the mixture evenly between the four pastry ‘stars’ piling it up in the middle of each.

Brush a little melted butter in a fat circle around the mixture and then scrunch each ‘star’ together to create 4 large moneybag shapes. Brush each parcel all over (except the base) with butter – this will help the pastry stick together and will also turn it a gorgeous golden brown when cooked.

Pop the parcels onto your preheated baking tray and bake them in the oven for about 25 minutes until golden.

There’s quite a bit of theatre to serving them: they look amazing and then when you cut into them for ‘the big reveal’ the delightful crunch of the buttery filo pastry gives way to the really very yummy contents inside!

Chick, Mozz & Pesto Filo Parcels Open w

Serving suggestion…

Green vegetables or a salad of tomatoes, mozzarella, basil and avocado, drizzled with a olive oil, balsamic vinegar and Dijon mustard dressing (which is what we did together with some fresh, warm, chunky bread – delish!)

Inspired by…

Olympic diver and now chef, Tom Daley

How easy…

Fabulously easy and very attractive on the eye as well as the palette!

 

 

Smoked Haddock with Mustard Sauce

Wow! So easy and soooooo good. the rich, opulent but tangy sauce absolutely makes this dish and the fish is light and really flavoursome. So easy, no mess, such a wonderful mid-week treat – we’ll be having this again…and again!!!! But be warned: too much sauce is not good for you!!!! Thanks Martin (bro) for sharing this one!

Serves 4

What you need…

4 smoked haddock fillets, around 250g each

Splashes of rapeseed oil

8 garlic cloves, unpeeled

Handful of thyme sprigs

1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped

100ml cider

2 tablespoons cider vinegar

30ml double cream

100g unsalted butter, chunked

2 teaspoons wholegrain mustard

Sea salt and black pepper

4 large handfuls of samphire, to serve

What to do…

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

First prep your fish fillets. For each haddock fillet, rip a large sheet of foil and rub over a little rapeseed oil. Pop the fish into the middle and drizzle over a little more oil. On top, place some thyme sprigs and two garlic cloves and then liberally season with black pepper. Bring the sides of the foil together, scrunching them to create a sealed parcel.

Tip your shallot, cider and cider vinegar into a saucepan and bring to the boil. Simmer rapidly until the liquid has reduced right down – practically to nothing.

About when the liquid has reduced by half, pop the fish parcels into the oven and cook for 10 minutes.

Whilst the fish is cooking, return to the sauce. Once its reduced to practically nothing, stir in the cream and then, over a low heat, whisk in the butter, one chunk at a time. Once it’s all incorporated, stir in the mustard, season the sauce with sea salt and black pepper, taste (wow!) and adjust the seasoning if necessary. Keep warm.

In another saucepan, bring unsalted water to boil, pop the samphire into a steamer and steam over the water for just 2 minutes.

Lift your haddock fillets from their parcels onto warmed plates and pour over the cooking juices (very yummy). Plonk or arrange the samphire to the side of the fish and then pour over a little sauce, pouring the rest into a serving jug to be placed in the middle of the table and fought over!!!!! Enjoy – I promise you will!

Note…

We’re a bit of a saucy family(!) – Sunday roast for instance requires over a litre of gravy for just four us! Hence, when I looked at this recipe, I doubled the sauce….then I saw how much butter went into it – wow: heart attack stuff! That said, most of the sauce disappeared! The recipe above is for the original quantities not the Cindy version!

Serving Suggestion…

I used samphire but Nathan serves his with sea spinach. We also had parmentier potatoes (oven-roasted chunked red potatoes swirled in olive oil, dried rosemary, chopped garlic and sea salt).

Inspired by…

My bro! He recommended the dish. He did mention something about the amount of butter…..anyway, damned fine recommendation Martin….who in turn was inspired by Nathan Outlaw.

How easy…

Really easy and such a star of a recipe.

 

Monkfish Fillets with Mushroom and Bacon Sauce

I tried this one simply because I couldn’t imagine how the sauce would go with the fish but it goes REALLY well. A rich and tasty sauce that doesn’t detract from the subtleties of the monkfish – quite delightful, really quick and easy, ideal as a special supper.

Serves 6

What you need…

1 x baking tray, liberally buttered

6 x 150g monkfish fillets, skinned and trimmed

Sea salt and black pepper

3 tablespoons plain flour

2 tablespoons rapeseed oil

A knob of butter

6 rashers of smoked streaky bacon, chopped

1 onion, finely chopped

200g button mushrooms, cleaned and halved

200ml full fat crème fraiche

Juice of ½ a lemon

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

3 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

What to do…

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

Tip the flour into a plastic carrier bag, season liberally and then toss in the monkfish fillets, ensuring that they are covered in the seasoned flour. Shake of the excess.

In a large saucepan over a high heat, add the oil and butter and once the butter is foaming, add in the fillets and fry for 3 minutes, turning once and ensuring that the fish is sealed and lightly golden. Transfer them onto your baking tray, pouring over any buttery juices from the pan. Roast in the oven for 8-10 minutes and until the fish has turned white and is cooked through.

Meanwhile, wipe out your saucepan with kitchen paper and then add the bacon, dry-frying over a high heat until crispy. Use a slotted spoon to remove the bacon to a plate. Tip the onion into the pan and fry for 3 minutes. Then pop the lid on, reduce the heat to moderate and cook for 5 minutes until soft. Remove the lid, whack up the heat to high and add the mushrooms, frying for a few minutes until golden.

Add in the crème fraiche, lemon juice and mustard together with half of the bacon and parsley. Bring to the boil and cook for a few minutes until the sauce has reduced and thickened slightly. Season to taste.

Slice each of the fillets into three and arrange on a plate. Spoon over the yummy sauce and garnish with the reserved bacon and parsley. Super supper!

Inspired by…

Mary Berry

How easy…

Really easy, really quick and then really lovely on the eye and the palate.

 

 

 

 

Chicken Wrapped in Parma Ham with Creamy Herb Sauce

I’m really getting into these sauces that are so easy but intensely flavoured, simply as a result of a few ingredients that have been reduced. This dish is quick, easy and in my book, sensational. It could just as easily grace a dinner-party table as the supper that it was created for. Make it once and it definitely won’t be the last time – buonissimo!

Serves 4

What you need…

I bulb garlic

3 tablespoons olive oil

800ml hot water from the kettle

2 chicken stock pots (I use Knorr)

12 slices Parma ham

4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts

Sea salt and black pepper

400ml double cream

1 large handful fresh parsley, finely chopped

1 large handful fresh basil, finely chopped

What to do…

Preheat your oven to 180°c / 350°f / gas 4.

Place the whole garlic bulb in a square of foil with 1 tablespoon of the oil. Wrap it up securely and pop it in the oven for 30 minutes.

Using a balloon whisk, dissolve the stock pots into the hot water to create 800ml chicken stock.

Lay 3 Parma ham slices beside each other, slightly overlapping. Season one of the chicken breasts and place in the middle of the ham. Fold the slices over the chicken to create an evenly wrapped parcel. Repeat for each of the remaining chicken breasts.

Heat the remaining oil in a frying pan and cook the chicken parcels for 2 – 3 minutes on each side. Transfer to an ovenproof dish and cook for a further 15 minutes. Remove from the oven and rest (the chicken, not you!)

Meanwhile, in a saucepan reduce the chicken stock by half, add the cream and then squeeze out the garlic from each clove, also adding it to the stock. Reduce the sauce by half again and then strain into a jug. Stir through the chopped herbs and serve over your yummy chicken breasts. Quick, easy and absolutely delicious!

Tip…

The two reductions take between 10 and 15 minutes each.

Inspired by…

Gino D’Acampo

How easy…

Really easy

 

 

Scrumptious Christmas Stuffing

I made this for the first time last year, but it was for our actual Christmas lunch and I figured it would be a bit pointless blogging it after the effect. But so very, very luscious was this stuffing that I vowed to blog it this year. Duly, I made the stuffing last week, freezing all but a single portion which I figured I’d cook with Sunday lunch so that I could photograph it. All good planning but then I forgot about my little portion of stuffing and burnt the edges – no way was I going to photograph that so you’ve got this image instead: not remotely relevant I know! Back to the recipe: I know it works because I did it last year and I would urge you to take the time to give it a go: make this stuffing and you’ll never buy the packet stuff again – it’s sooooo very yummy: juicy and succulent inside; crispy on the outside; delicious throughout! And, like I said, you can freeze it raw and just defrost it Christmas morning! Merry Christmas! (from the beach!!!)

What you need…

50g stale bread, roughly chunked

2 large onions, peeled and quartered

200g vac-packed chestnuts

1 kg shoulder of pork, trimmed and chunked

A large handful of sage, leaves picked

3 rashers of smoked streaky bacon, roughly chopped

Sea salt and black pepper

1 whole nutmeg, freshly grated

Zest of ½ lemon

Zest of ¼ orange

What to do…

If you’re preparing the stuffing to cook the same day, preheat your oven to 190°c / 375°f / gas 5.

Tip the bread into your food processor (with the blade fitted) and whizz to create breadcrumbs. Tip them out of the food processor and into a large mixing bowl.

Tip the onions into your food processor and whizz until finely chopped. Add them to the bowl.

Tip the chestnuts into the food processor and whizz into little chunks. You guessed it: add them to the bowl.

Into your food processor now add the pork, sage, bacon and season well with the salt and pepper. Add in the nutmeg as well as the lemon and orange zest and pulse the whole lot until you have some chunky stuffing and some mushy – it doesn’t take long.

Tip the pork mixture into the bowl with the other ingredients. With your hands, scrunch the whole lot together to make sure that all the ingredients are well mixed.

Divide into 2: half for inside your bird and the other half to be cooked in an oven-to-tableware baking dish. Wodge the stuffing firmly into the dish and then pop in the oven to cook for 50 minutes or so until bubbling and crispy.

Inspired by…

Jamie Oliver

How easy…

A festive whizz I’d say!!!

 

Venison and Cranberry Casserole with Red Wine and Chocolate

Rich, festive and indulgent – what a fabulous casserole this is – the venison, so tasty, is cooked so that it falls off the fork, melting in the mouth; and the sweet cranberries provide a perfect foil to the meat, with no hint of their original tartness. The last minute addition of dark chocolate gives the sauce a glossy finish and that little something extra! Enjoy – it’s wholesome and indulgent all at the same time!

Serves 6 – 8

What you need…

250g rindless smoked back bacon, chopped

3 tablespoons plain flour

Sea salt and black pepper

1.5kg lean venison, diced

2 – 3 tablespoons rapeseed oil

16 whole baby onions

3 fat garlic cloves, chopped

250g button mushrooms, cleaned

1 bay leaf and 1 small bunch parsley, tied together

1 x bottle robust red wine

225g cranberries

2 tablespoons soft light brown sugar

300ml beef gravy

50g dark chocolate (70%+ cocoa solids)

What to do…

Start the day before you want to enjoy your casserole. In a large saucepan, dry-fry the bacon over a moderate heat until crispy. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside on kitchen paper. Tip the flour into a plastic bag, season well and then throw in the venison, tossing the bag around so that the all the venison gets covered in the seasoned flour.

Into the saucepan, heat half the rapeseed oil and cook the venison in batches until browned, adding more rapeseed oil as required. Using your slotted spoon, remove the venison as it browns and set aside.

Tip the onions and garlic into the pan, stirring and cook for 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally for a further 5 minutes.

Return the venison and bacon to the pan and add the herbs and red wine. Slowly bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 1 hour. Leave to cool, then pop in the fridge overnight.

The next day, add the cranberries, sugar and gravy, season and mix well. Partially cover and simmer for about 40 minutes or until the cranberries are soft. Break up the chocolate and stir in until it’s all melted and evenly distributed. Taste your casserole – you may need to add a little more sugar to counter the tartness of the cranberries.

Serve this lovely rich, festive and heartwarming casserole with buttery mashed potato and some greenery!

Inspired by…

Woman and Home magazine

How easy…

Not difficult, but quite time consuming on day one. Absolutely worth it though and I like the fact that you get all the messy and ‘arduous’ stuff done the day before you’re going to enjoy this lovely casserole.

 

 

Risotto with Scallops and Black Pudding

There’s something about the happy marriage of scallops and black pudding: just yummy! And in this risotto, they are really scrumptious: the earthy black pudding and the sweet scallops mixed in with the rich, creamy risotto – ooooh, just lovely!

Serves 4

What you need…

750ml hot water from the kettle

2 fish stockpots (I use Knorr)

25g butter

1 shallot, chopped

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 leek, washed and diced

250g Arborio risotto rice

50ml dry white wine

1 dollop mascarpone

50g Parmesan, freshly grated

4 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

Sea salt and black pepper, to taste

1 tablespoon rapeseed oil

12 slices black pudding

12 scallops (out of shells)

What to do…

Use a balloon whisk to dissolve the fish stockpots into the hot water to create your fish stock.

Melt the butter in a large saucepan and sweat the shallot, garlic and leek without colouring.

Turn the heat down and add the rice, stirring to coat in the butter. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes. Then start to add the stock, one ladle at a time, waiting for each ladleful to be absorbed before adding any more – this should take 15 – 20 minutes. The rice should be cooked but still retain some ‘bite’. Add in the mascarpone and Parmesan together with the parsley and seasoning. Taste and adjust the cheese content and season to suit.

Meanwhile, in a frying pan, heat the oil and when it starts to smoke, add the black pudding, cooking it for 3 minutes before turning over and adding the scallops to the pan. Cook for 2 minutes, turning the scallops once.

Serve your delicious risotto with your lovely scallops and black pudding and just enjoy the sheer yumminess that is this combination!

Inspired by…

James Martin

How easy…

Very easy and very relaxing to make as long as you have the time that the arborio needs to get to that lovely oozy, delectable state!

 

Sole Véronique

Such a lovely yet understatedly light and elegant dish that features a wonderfully decadent sauce that is intensely flavoured to the point that you really want to lick the plate clean! The sauce somehow however does not overpower the fish, but complements it perfectly, as do the subtle addition of grapes that work curiously well – absolutely lovely and extremely quick and easy!

What you need…

700g Lemon or Dover Sole fillets, skinned and trimmed

Sea salt and black pepper

400ml boiling water from the kettle

1 fish stockpot (I use Knorr)

100ml dry white wine

300ml double cream

1 egg yolk

40 seedless white grapes, halved

What to do…

In a jug, dissolve your fish stockpot into the hot water, using a balloon whisk to ease the process.

Season the fish and roll the fillets up quite tightly (this gives them a great texture as they can be quite thin). Put them into a wide saucepan, pour over the hot stock and wine. Pop on the lid and poach the fillets for 4 minutes. Use a slotted spoon to remove the fish from the liquid and transfer into a warmed baking dish. Cover with foil and set aside.

Returning to your fishy stock, turn the heat up to high and boil without the lid until the liquid has reduced to just 5 tablespoons (it is this process that increases the intensity of flavour). This can take 10-15 minutes – just wander off to do other things, but keep checking.

Add 1 tablespoon of the double cream to the egg yolk and set aside.

Remove the fishy stock from the heat and gently pour in the remaining cream, stirring as you do so. Return to the heat and again reduce the liquid – to about two thirds of the original volume – and until is has thickened to coat the back of a spoon.

Preheat your grill to high.

Mix the egg yolk and tablespoon of cream in a bain-marie (heatproof bowl in a steamer over a pan of simmering water) and use your balloon whisk again to beat until the mixture is frothy and thickened.

Pour the egg mixture into the sauce, stir in and then add the grapes.

Pour the sauce over the fish fillets and pop under the grill, cooking until the sauce glazes slightly – maybe 3 minutes.

Serve with a green vegetable (we had broccoli that had been boiled and then mixed in with hot olive oil, chopped garlic and chopped anchovies – the whole dish was absolutely gorgeous and the rich intensity of the sauce is truly a wonderful thing!

Inspired by…

The book, ‘Who put the Beef in Wellington’, the author of which borrowed the recipe from Mark Sargeant, who in turn was inspired by the dish’s original creator, August Escoffier; who, in 1903 whilst leading the kitchen at the Ritz, had the foresight to name this dish after a then popular comedic opera that was the big thing in London, Véronique! The original uses vermouth rather than white wine, but I didn’t have any!

How easy…

Very easy and absolutely worth every second!

Duck and Cherry Pie

The ‘ménage a trois’ that is duck, port and cherries is truly a harmonious one! The rich, tender, dark duck meat combined with the sweetness of the fruit is simply delicious and the thyme-infused pastry is light and crisp – a fabulous Autumnal or Winter supper treat that will bring cheer to the table, whatever the weather is throwing at you. Dive in!

Serves 6

What you need…

1 x 1.6 litre pie dish, lightly buttered

6 duck legs

600ml boiling water from the kettle

1½ chicken stock pots (I use Knorr)

25g butter

1 large onion, peeled and roughly chopped

1 carrot, peeled and roughly chunked

1 celery stick, roughly sliced

3 tablespoons plain flour

200ml port

1 bay leaf

6 thyme sprigs, leaves picked

400g tin cherries in light syrup, drained

1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar

1 happy egg, beaten (to glaze pastry lid)

for the pastry

400g plain flour, plus extra for dusting

200g unsalted butter, chilled and cubed

1 happy egg

2 tablespoons cold water

1 tablespoon thyme leaves

What to do…

Preheat your oven to 180°c / 350° / gas 4.

Put the duck legs on a wire rack in a roasting tray. Roast for 1½ hours. Remove from the oven and set aside to cool.

Meanwhile, make the delish filling. First, make your stock by combining the boiling water with the stockpot using a balloon whisk to easily dissolve.

In your food processor, finely chop the onion, carrot and celery.

In a large frying pan, melt the butter and gently cook the onion, carrot and celery, covered, for about 15 minutes, until soft.

Remove the lid, increase the heat to high, tip in the flour and cook for 1 minute, stirring like mad. Pour in the port and stock and chuck in the herbs. Bring to the boil and then simmer for 30 minutes to reduce.

Take off the heat, stir in the cherries and balsamic vinegar and set aside to cool.

When the duck is cool, remove the skin and roughly break up the meat. Wipe out your food processor bowl with kitchen roll to make sure there are no raw vegetable remnants clinging to the sides and then fit the blade and chop the duck so it’s quite fine but still in distinguishable pieces. I did this in three batches. Stir the duck into the sauce. Allow to cool for 30 minutes. Alternatively, if you’re preparing ahead, stick the filling in the fridge until you’re ready to assemble the pie – overnight works really well.

To make the pastry, pulse the flour and butter in your clean food processor until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.

Use a small balloon whisk to beat together the egg and water and then tip into the processor with the thyme leaves. Pulse again until the pastry comes together. Tip out onto a lightly floured surface and shape into a disc. Wrap in cling film and pop into the fridge for 30 minutes.

Preheat your oven to 220°c / 425°f / gas 7 and pop in a baking sheet.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out two-thirds of the pastry and line your pie dish, leaving the excess overhanging.

Roll out the remaining pastry and cut into 1 cm strips long enough to cover the pie dish.

Brush the pie rim with beaten egg. Tip in the filling.

Lay the pastry strips across the filling in a lattice pattern, gently pressing them on the pie rim to stick. Trim the excess pastry from the edge of the pie and brush egg over the pastry lattice to glaze.

Pop into the oven onto the baking sheet for 20 minutes and then reduce the heat to 200°c / 400°f / gas 6 for a further 25 minutes until golden brown and piping hot. Dive in and enjoy this lovely pie!

Inspired by…

Good Housekeeping magazine

How easy…

Really easy and you can go off and do other things whilst the filling is going through its various cooking stages. The pastry topping takes a little time and you have to concentrate – look at mine: I was Skyping Maddie at the time and the latticework isn’t quite what it should be!!!!! I love the fact that you can prepare the filling the day before so if you’ve got friends coming around, you have very little to do for this splendid supper on the evening when you’re socialising.

Hunter’s Chicken

A real homely, rustic Italian-inspired casserole, this is perfect for these lovely crisp Autumnal days. Hearty and flavoursome, the dish really benefits from the addition of anchovies, which just add a real depth of flavour rather than anything fishy and there is something gloriously comforting about the aroma of garlic filling the kitchen as this recipe for Hunter’s Chicken cooks itself: a regular in our house.

What you need…

2kg chicken thigh fillets

Sea salt and black pepper

8 bay leaves

4 sprigs of rosemary

4 fat garlic cloves, chopped

¾ bottle Chianti red wine

Plain flour, for dusting

Rapeseed oil

6 anchovy fillets, roughly chopped

A handful of pitted black olives

2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes

What to do…

The evening before you want to eat it, tip the rosemary, bay leaves, 2 cloves of the garlic, chicken and Chianti into a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper, cover and pop into the fridge over night, allowing the flavours to develop.

Preheat your oven to 180C / 350F / gas 4. Use a slotted spoon to remove the chicken from the marinade. Set the marinade aside and then pat dry the chicken pieces on kitchen paper.

In a carrier bag, chuck in flour, salt and pepper and then the chicken thighs. Twist the top of the carrier bag tight and shake the contents, ensuring that flour and seasoning dust all of each of the chicken pieces.

Heat a big frying pan, add a splash of oil and fry the chicken pieces until browned lightly all over. Put into an ovenproof casserole together with the rosemary and bay leaves from the marinade and set side.

Using the same frying pan, add another splash of oil and gently fry the remaining garlic cloves with the anchovies until the garlic is just turning golden and the anchovies are starting to break up. Add the tomatoes, olives and marinade. Bring to the boil and transfer to your casserole dish, submerging the chicken pieces in this lovely sauce.

Cover with a double thickness of foil or a lid and pop in the oven for 1 hour.

Serve with some form of greenery and perhaps potato. We however, like great doorstops of fresh, warm bread to mop up the delicious sauce. Oh, and don’t forget more Chianti to accompany this fine rustic dish! Very yummy.

Inspired by…

Jamie Oliver

How easy…

Really easy and absolutely delicious,