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Macaroons

No, not those fancy French ones, but traditional, light and melt-in-the-mouth ones. They started disappearing from the cooling rack and didn’t last very long in the cake tin as they were very moreish.

Macaroons – makes at least 16 biscuits

  • 2 large egg whites
  • 8 blanched almonds
  • 100g ground almonds
  • 175g caster sugar
  • 25g ground rice, or semolina
  • almond extract (optional)

Pre-heat the oven to 150°C / 130°Fan / Gas 2.

Line two baking trays with parchment.

Halve the blanched almonds and dip into the egg whites. Set these aside.

Whisk the egg whites until they form soft peaks. Gently fold in the ground almonds, sugar, ground rice or semolina, and a few drops of almond essence if using.

Spoon teaspoon amounts onto the prepared baking sheets. Make circles but don’t flatten too much. Place the reserved almond halves onto the centre of each macaroon.

Bake for 20-25 minutes and until a pale, golden brown. Leave to cool for a few minutes on the trays before lifting off with a palate knife and finishing on wire racks.

(Original recipe from Mary Berry’s Baking Bible, BBC Books)

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We’ve had a spell of nice weather in Dublin so we’re barbecuing everything! We served these sweet potatoes with some marinated chicken but they would be lovely with anything, or even pretty good on their own.

Sweet Potatoes on the Barbecue – serves 4

  • 4 medium sweet potatoes
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp sweet smoked parika
  • 120g Cheddar cheese, grated
  • 4 generous tbsp of sour cream
  • a small bunch of chives

Get your barbecue going.

Rub the potatoes with a little olive oil, then season with salt and black pepper and wrap each one in tinfoil.

Put the potatoes onto the grill and cook for 45-50 minutes, turning them now and then, until soft.

Unwrap the foil slightly and cut the potatoes down the middle. Sprinle each one with a little sea salt and about ½ tsp smoked paprika, then divide the cheese between them. Set them back on the barbecue, still on the foil, and close the lid on the barbecue for a few minutes or until the cheese has melted.

Take the potatoes off the barbecue, top with the sour cream, and snip the chives over the top.

(Original recipe from Outdoor Cooking by Tom Kerridge, Bloomsbury Absolute, 2021.)

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The local asparagus is still available and we can’t resist a bargain. So here’s another version of this classic dish.

Wine Suggestion: Domaine Bellevue Touraine Sauvignon Blanc with this today. The grassy freshness and zesty lemon flavours cutting through the richness from the butter and parmesan and bringing out the lovely aspargus flavours even more.

Asparagus Risotto – serves 4

  • 1 bunch of asparagus, about 200g
  • 800ml vegetable stock
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 25g butter
  • 2 small onion, fineldy chopped
  • 175g risotto rice
  • 100ml white wine or vermouth
  • 25g Parmesan, finely grated

Snap the woody ends off the asparagus and put into a saucepan with the vegetable stock. Put on a low heat and bring to a gently simmer.

Cut the tips off the asparagus spears and add to the simmering stock for 1 minute, then scoop out with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Cut the rest of the asparagus into slim rounds.

Heat the oil and half the butter in a heavy, wide pan. Gently cook the onions until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the finely chopped asparagus stalks and cook for a couple of minutes.

Add the rice and stir for a few minutes until it becomes semi-transparent and is nicely coated with the butter.

Stir in the wine or vermouth and allow to evaporate, then turn the heat down to a gentle simmer. Begin adding the stock, one ladle at a time, stirring continuously after each addition until it is absorbed. This will take about 15 minutes.

Start tasting the rice, it should be tender with a little bite. Stir in the blanched asparagus tips and cook for 1 or 2 minutes more. Remove the pan from the heat and top with the butter and most of the Parmesan. Season well, then cover and leave aside for a few minutes.

Stir well to incorporate the butter and Parmesan, then serve with the rest of the Parmesan to sprinkle over.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

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This is simplicity itself but tastes just like the season.

Wine Suggestion: Pick a good, top-notch, dry Sauvignon Blanc to match this dish like the André Dezat Sancerre which is flinty, grassy-fresh and has great concentration and power despite being super balanced and effortless.

Gnocchi with asparagus, edamame & Parmesan – serves 4

  • 500g pack of gnocchi
  • good extra virgin olive oil
  • 500g asparagus, snap off the woody part of the stems, then cut into 5cm pieces
  • 150g frozen edamame beans
  • 1 tbsp chopped chives
  • 1 lemon, for squeezing over at the end
  • 60g Parmesan, grated

Bring a large pot of salty water to the boil, then add the gnocchi and cook according the pack instructions. It’s done when if floats to the top. Drain and refresh under cold running water.

Heat a large fraying pan over a medium-high heat, then drizzle with oil, and when hot, add the asparagus with a pinch of sea salt. Fry for a few minutes or until the pieces are starting to char but are still crisp. Remove from the pan and put into a warmed dish.

Add the frozen edamame beans to pan with a splash of water and a pinch of sea salt. Cook for 2 minutes, then scoop ot and add to the asparagus.

Drizzle some more oil into the pan and warm over a medium-high heat, then add the gnocchi. Fry until golden and crispy. Don’t be tempted to turn them too quickly or they will stick. Remove from the pan and into a large dish.

Combine the gnocchi with the asparagus, edamame, and chives. Squeeze over some lemon juice to taste and drizzle with olive oil, then season with sea salt and black pepper. Scatter over the Parmesan to serve.

(Original recipe from Family by Hetty McKinnon, Prestel, 2019)

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This couldn’t be easier and it’s perfect for a Friday night. We used the curry paste from this recipe but you can use a good quality shop-bought version either. Serve with sticky rice and salad.

Wine Suggestion: we often turn to aromatic wines for Thai food and for this dish was no different as we chose the Korrell Slice of Paradise Riesling. A dry Riesling from the Nahe in Germany this is the youthful cuvée from the more regal Paradies vineyard Martin Korrell makes. Standing up to the earthy and rich peanuts and cutting through the rich coconut milk this is always a joy to drink, let alone pair with food. Light and refreshing, and yet powerful enough to work with meat and complex flavours – we love the versatility this lends.

Panang Beef Balls – serves 4

  • 500g beef mince
  • 60g plain flour
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oi
  • 2 tbsp red curry paste
  • 400ml coconut milk
  • 1 ½ tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tbsp crunchy peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 2 tbsp chopped basil or mint, to garnish

Roll the beef mince into small round balls, about 2.5 cm.

Roll the balls in flour and dust of the excess.

Heat the oil in a wok and fry the meatballs until brown, keep tilting the pan so they brown evenly. Remove and set aside on kitchen paper.

Add the curry paste to the wok and stir-fry for a few minutes over a low heat.

Stir in the coconut milk, the fish sauce, peanut butter and sugar. Taste the sauce and add extra fish sauce or sugar if needed.

Put the beef balls back into the sauce and simmer for 5 minutes or until cooked through. Garnish with chopped basil.

(Original recipe from Thai Cooking Class by Sami Anuntra Miller & Patricia Lake.)

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This is one of those recipes that we spotted in the paper and realised we had all the ingredients. It’s yummy – perfect for mid-week lunches.

Spiced carrot soup – serves 4

  • 1 medium onion, roughly chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 clove of garlic, thinly sliced
  • ½ tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • a large pinch of chilli flakes
  • 750g carrots, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 litre hot vegetable stock
  • 100g red lentils
  • 2 bay leaves
  • fresh mint and parsley, to serve

Warm the olive oil in a deep saucepan over a medium heat, then add the onion. Cook for a couple of minutes, then add the garlic and continue cooking for 5-7 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft but not coloured.

Add the cumin, ground coriander and chilli flakes, then add the carrots and cook for another 5 minutes.

Add the hot stock to the saucepan, then add the lentils, a little salt and the bay leaves.

Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer, partially covered with a lid, for 25-30 minutes or until the carrots and lentils are soft.

Whizz the soup in a blender or with a stick blender until you have a thick purée.

Season to taste and garnish with the fresh herbs.

(Original recipe by Nigel Slater in The Guardian, 25 Apr 2021)

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Quite unusual in flavour and a slightly different method. The bitter Seville oranges make a good contrast to the sweet spice and are balanced by a slightly reduced sugar ratio.

Seville orange, vanilla & cardamom marmalade – makes about 5 jars

  • 1.2kg Seville oranges (approx 8)
  • 10 cardamom pods, seeded
  • 1 vanilla pod, split
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 850g preserving sugar

Halve one of the oranges and finely slice, removing pips as you go, then put into a large saucepan. Peel and finely chop the flesh of the remaining oranges (reserve the skin from three) and carefully remove and discard any pips. Add the chopped flesh and juice to the pan.

Trim any excess pith from the reserved orange skin, then finely chop into thin strips. Add this to the pan with the cardamom seeds and 400ml water. Also add the vanilla seeds and throw in the empty pod.

Boil for 10 mins until the skins are softening, then add the lemon juice and sugar, stirring constantly. Once the sugar has dissolved, simmer on low for 30-35 mins. Turn up the heat and boil to set for about 10-15 mins. The boiling point of jam is 105C but if you don’t have a jam thermometer, try the ‘wrinkle test’ and spoon some marmalade onto a freezer-cold saucer and leave for a minute. If it wrinkles when you poke it and has a fine skin on top, it’s ready. Pour the marmalade into sterilized jars, and store for up to a year.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

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The trick, as with all gratin’s, is to slice the vegetables really thinly. Invest in a mandolin, or use your food processor’s slicing blade, and you’ll get even slices that will cook at the same time. This dish has a lovely festive feel to it and would be great as a side dish for roast chicken (or turkey) or a rich casserole. We served just as it was with some steamed broccoli which was good too. 

There was no cheese in the original recipe so feel free to leave it out. We’re still working our way through the cheese mountain in the fridge. 

Creamy vegetable gratin with chestnuts and cranberries – serves 4 as a main, 6 as a side

  • 400g potatoes
  • 300g parsnips
  • 300g celeriac
  • 425ml double cream
  • 140ml sour cream
  • 85ml full-fat milk
  • 2 cloves of garlic, very finely sliced
  • leaves from 2 sprigs of thyme
  • butter, to grease the dish
  • 50g dried cranberries
  • 100g cooked chestnuts, sliced
  • a large handful of grated Parmesan
  • a large handful of grated Cheddar/Gruyere

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.

Slice the potatoes, parsnips and celeriac very finely, use a mandolin if you have one. 

In a large saucepan, mix the creams and milk together, then bring to just under the boil. Add the sliced veg, garlic and thyme and cook gently for 5 minutes. 

Season generously and spoon half the vegetables into a buttered gratin dish. Sprinkle the cranberries and chestnuts on top and half of the cheese, then add another layer of vegetables and the rest of the cheese over the top. 

Bake for 1 hour or until completely tender. You may need to cover with foil after 45 minutes to stop it browning too much. 

(Original recipe from Food from Plenty by Diana Henry, Mitchell Beazley, 2010.)

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With a few days left before the New Year… when we, like many others are happy to change pace for a bit. For us that means lots of exercise, early nights and healthier food to eat. We don’t go on a diet but after all the excess of Christmas it’s just what we’re craving. All of this means that we have just a few days to get through all the delicious cheese in the fridge. Feel free to play around with the cheeses, we used Cooleeney from Tipperary, but Taleggio or Brie would work too.

Cooleeney & tarragon cauliflower cheese – serves 4 (easily doubled)

  • 50g butter
  • 50g plain flour
  • 500ml full fat milk
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 150g cheddar, grated
  • 50g Parmesan or similar, finely grated
  • 75g Cooleeney (or Taleggio or Brie), sliced
  • 5g tarragon, leaves picked, half chopped, half left whole
  • 1 cauliflower, broken into florets

Heat the oven to 220C/200Cfan/gas 7.

Melt the butter in a heavy-based pan, then stir in the flour to make a paste. Cook for a few minutes, then gradually add the milk, stirring the whole time, until you have a smooth sauce. Season.

Add the bay leaf, cheddar, Parmesan, half the taleggio and the whole tarragon leaves. Heat gently, stirring continuously, for 6 to 8 minutes or until the cheeses have melted and the sauce thickened. Remove from the heat and leave to infuse.

Cook the cauliflower in a steamer for 8 to 10 minutes or until just tender. Put the cauliflower into a baking dish. Add the chopped tarragon to the sauce and pour over the cauliflower.

Dot with the remaining taleggio and bake for 20-25 minutes until golden.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

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Shepherds Pie

If you’ve got left-over roast lamb and gravy, then this is the dish for you. Rich, delicious, comforting, and better than the regular mince version if you ask us. Based on a recipe from the Ballymaloe Cookery School in Shanagarry, County Cork.

Wine Suggestion: This works with a vibrant Syrah or Shiraz. A juicy fruity core, fine tannins, and hints of pepper spice are what you’re looking for. We went for the Killikanoon Killermans Run Shiraz from the Clare Valley in Australia – full bodied but no heaviness. The Clare Valley often surprises us with how fresh and European it is despite the proximity to the equator … lots of flavour and tannins and yet delicate, with a refreshing finish.

Ballymaloe Shepherd’s Pie – serves 6

  • 25g butter
  • 110g onion, chopped
  • 25g flour
  • 450ml stock and leftover gravy (top up whatever gravy you have to with stock to get 450ml in total)
  • 1 tsp tomato purée
  • 2 tsp chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tsp thyme leaves
  • 450g cooked lamb, chopped very finely

FOR THE MASH:

  • 900g unpeeled mashing potatoes e.g. Kerr’s Pinks
  • a splash or two of full-cream milk (or cream if you happen to have some)
  • 50g butter

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.

To make the filling, melt the butter in a saucepan, then add the onion and cover with a piece of greased paper. Cook gently for 5 minutes. Remove the paper and stir in the flour, then cook until lightly browned. Add the stock and gravy and bring to the boil. Add the tomato purée, parsley, thyme, and season well. Simmer for 5 minutes. Stir the chopped lamb into the sauce and bring to the boil. Taste and correct the seasoning, then scrape the mixture into a large dish.

Put the potatoes into a large saucepan, cover with cold water and season with plenty of salt. Cover with a lid and bring to the boil, then simmer for about 15 minutes. Strain off two-thirds of the water, cover again with the lid, then steam over a low heat until cooked. Peel off the skins and mash while hot. Beat in the butter and some salt and pepper. Now add a few splashes of milk or cream until you have a nice consistency for spreading over the lamb.

Cover the lamb mixture with the potatoes and score the top with a fork.

Bake in the hot oven for about 30 minutes or until browned and bubbling and serve with seasonal veg. It has to be peas with pie for us.

(Original recipe from Darina Allen’s Ballymaloe Cookery Course, Kyle Cathie Limited, 2001.)

 

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Gujerati-style Cabbage with Carrots

We made this Madhur Jaffrey dish in an attempt to jazz up some leftover lamb curry from the freezer, and what a success it was! Really light and flavoursome, we ate huge platefuls. A new, absolute favourite that we’re determined to do again soon and often.

Gujerati-style cabbage with carrots – serves 4 to 6

  • 350g green cabbage, cored and finely shredded (we used spring greens)
  • 350g carrots, coarsely grated
  • ½ a hot green chilli, finely chopped
  • 4 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tbsp black mustard seeds
  • 1 dried hot red chilli
  • 1¼ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • 4 heaped tbsp chopped coriander
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice

Heat the oil in a wide, deep pot over a medium-high heat.

Add the mustard seeds, they will start popping after a few seconds, then add the red chilli and stir for a few seconds. Stir in the cabbage, carrots and green chilli. Reduce the heat to medium and stir for about 30 seconds, then add the salt, sugar and coriander. Cook for another 5 minutes or until the vegetables are just cooked, then stir in the lemon juice.

(Original recipe from Indian Cooking by Madhur Jaffrey, Barron’s Educational Series, Inc., 2002.)

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Risotto Primavera

This risotto isn’t laden with cheese and butter like so many other recipes and so a good option for a weeknight and full of Spring flavours. We left out the chives and rocket as we didn’t have them but we’ve kept them in the recipe as they would make nice additions.

Wine Suggestion: this was delightful with a young white Muscadet from Domaine de la Chauviniere, but we can see it working with youthful Sauvignon Blanc or Grüner Veltliner as well.

Risotto Primavera – serves 4 (easily halved)

  • 350g asparagus, snap of the woody ends and cut into 5cm lengths on the diagonal
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 bunch scallions, sliced
  • 175g frozen peas
  • 250g frozen broad beans
  • 2 tbsp shredded basil
  • 2 tbsp snipped chives
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped mint
  • finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 1.7 litres vegetable stock (we used Marigold vegetable bouillon)
  • 4 shallots, finely chopped
  • 3 fat garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 300g carnaroli or arborio rice
  • 150ml dry white wine
  • 25g Parmesan, grated
  • 25g rocket leaves, to garnish

Heat half the oil in a large, deep frying pan. Stir-fry the asparagus over a medium-high heat for about 4 minutes or until browned all over. Add the scallions and fry for another minute or two until browned. Remove these with a slotted spoon, season with pepper, and set aside.

Cook the peas and broad beans in separate pans of boiling water for a few minutes, then drain. Pop the broad beans out of their skins and set both aside.

Mix the basil, chives, mint and lemon zest together in a small bowl and season with pepper.

Pour the stock into a saucepan and keep over a very low heat.

Pour the rest of the oil into the pan that you used to cook the asparagus. Add the shallots and garlic and fry for 3-4 minutes or until soft and slightly browned. Stir in the rice and cook for a minute or two over a medium-high heat or until it starts to sizzle.

Add the wine and stir until it has been absorbed. Now start gradually adding the stock, a ladleful at a time, stirring until absorbed before adding more. Keep adding stock for about 20 minutes or until the rice is al dente. Season with pepper.

Remove the pan from the heat. Add an extra ladle of stock, then scatter over the vegetables, some pepper, half the herb & lemon mixture and half the cheese. Cover with a lid and leave to rest for a few minutes. Gently stir to combine, then serve in warmed bowls some rocket and the rest of the herbs and cheese sprinkled over.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

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Nigel's Bolognese

We love cookbooks that divide recipes up by the month of year. You can pick them off the shelf and get some instant inspiration that suits the weather conditions and what’s available. This is how we came to make this spaghetti bolognese, from Nigel Slater’s original Kitchen Diaries, on a cold night in January. We don’t usually add mushrooms to our Bolognese but they were really good here. Serve with some sort of long pasta (or penne if that’s what you’ve got) and loads of Parmesan.

Wine suggestion: we really enjoyed Michele Biancardi’s Ponteviro Primitivo from Puglia with this: wonderfully fresh and with a herbal spice as opposed to jam which appeals to our tastes.

A really good spaghetti Bolognese – serves 4

  • 50g butter
  • 70g cubed pancetta
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 2 fat garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 carrot, finely chopped
  • 2 celery stalks, finely chopped
  • 2 large flat mushrooms (about 100g), finely chopped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 400g beef mince
  • 200ml passata
  • 200ml red wine
  • 200ml stock
  • a nutmeg
  • 200ml full-cream milk or cream
  • spaghetti or tagliatelle (to serve)
  • grated Parmesan (to serve)

Melt the butter in a heavy-based pan, then stir in the pancetta and cook for about 5 minutes. Add the onion and garlic and cook for a few minutes to soften, then add the carrots and celery and continue to cook. When they have softened a bit, add the mushrooms, tuck in the bay leaves and cook for 10 minutes over a medium heat, stirring now and then.

Turn the heat up and add the meat, breaking it up with a wooden spoon. Leave to cook for 3-4 minutes until the bottom starts to brown, the stir again and leave to colour.

When the meat is well browned, add the tomatoes, red wine, stock, a grating of the nutmeg and some salt and black pepper. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down to a bare bubble. Partially cover with a lid and leave to cook for 60-90 minutes, stirring now and then. Add a bit of extra liquid if it looks dry at any point.

Gradually add the milk/cream, then continue to cook for another 20 minutes. Season to taste and serve with the pasta and Parmesan.

(Original recipe from

 

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Lamb Steaks, preserved lemon, coriander & garlic with a Coriander, lime & garlic rice

Really nice flavours in this simple lamb dish and absolutely delicious rice. We’ve been experimenting with Sabrina Ghayour’s book, Feasts, and it has yet to disappoint. The coriander, lime and garlic rice is one of our favourite recipes from the book and could sit alongside so many dishes. This time we served our leftover rice with some roasted white fish.

Wine Suggestion: We find Tempranillo very often goes best with dishes containing preserved lemons and this is no different. With the lamb and coriander in the mix our choice is an aged (8 years old), elegant style of Rioja, the Finca Valpiedra Reserva which was supple and comlex but without any heaviness. If you prefer Ribera del Duero then the higher altitude Pesquera Reserva would be spectacular.

White wines quite often clash with the concentrated citrus notes, so if you feel like white our suggestion would be Semillon which both emphasises this character and compliments it.

Pan-fried Lamb Steaks, Preserved Lemon, Coriander & Garlic – serves 4-6

  • 6-8 thin cut lamb leg steaks

FOR THE MARINADE:

  • 4 fat garlic cloves, bashed and thinly sliced
  • 30g of fresh coriander, finely chopped
  • 6 preserved lemons, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp coarse black pepper
  • 4-5 tbsp olive oil

Put the garlic, coriander, preserved lemons and black pepper into a small bowl and season with a little salt. Add the oil and stir to mix.

Put the lamb steaks into a large food bag and pour in the marinade. Seal the bag and rub the marinade all over the lamb with your hands. Marinate at room temperature for at least 20 minutes (or for up to a few hours in the fridge).

Heat a large frying pan over a medium-heat. When hot, add the lamb and fry for a few minutes on each side or until they have taken on a good colour. Leave to rest for a few minutes before serving with the rice.

Coriander, Lime & Garlic Rice – serves 4 to 6

  • 50g of fresh coriander, roughly chopped
  • 6 fat garlic cloves, crushed
  • 6 large lime leaves, cut into strips
  • finely grated zest and juice of 1 lime
  • 750ml cold water
  • 2 heaped tsp coriander seeds
  • 2 heaped tsp mustard seeds
  • olive oil
  • 500g basmati rice
  • 75g unsalted butter

Blitz the fresh coriander, garlic, lime leaves and lime zest and juice together in a blender with 250ml of the water. Stir in the remaining water once blended.

Heat a large frying pan over a medium-high heat, then toast the coriander seeds and mustard seeds for a minute or until they start to brown and you can smell their aroma. Drizzle a little olive oil into the pan, then stir in the rice, stirring to coat it in the oil and spices.

Add the butter and wait until it has melted before pouring in the herb liquid. Season well with sea salt flakes, stir and cover with a lid. Simmer for 20-25 minutes or until the liquid has been absorbed. Fluff the rice with a fork before serving.

(Original recipes from Feasts by Sabrina Ghayour, Mitchell Beazley, 2017.)

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Spaghetti Arrabbiata

Spaghetti Arrabbiata

We cook this in the middle of the week when energy is low and we don’t have time to shop. Never disappoints.

Wine Suggestion: a medium bodied Italian red, like the San Lorenzo Rosso Conero which is made from Montepulciano in the Marche (as opposed to Abruzzo). Structured and earthy but with a joyous pure fruit; it gives us energy like this dish.

Spaghetti Arrabbiata – serves 2

  • 2 cloves of garlic, sliced
  • ½ – 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 150g spaghetti
  • a handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Heat 2 tbsp of olive oil in a pan and cook the garlic over a gently heat for a few minutes. Add the chilli flakes and cook for another minute before adding the tomatoes and sugar. Simmer for 20 minutes until thickened. Cook the spaghetti then drain and toss with the sauce. Sprinkle over the parsley to serve.

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Lemon & Pistachio Chicken

Diana Henry is one of our favourite food writers and we can’t recommend her book of chicken recipes, A Bird in the Hand, highly enough. This lemon & pistachio chicken from that book is nothing short of delicious. She cooks this every year, and we think we may too.

Wine Suggestion: There’s a richness to this dish that demands an equal wine like Zind Humbrecht’s Pinot Gris Calcaire from Alsace that had an excellent balance of depth, fruit, freshness and texture.

Lemon & Pistachio Chicken – serves 6

  • 2 shallots, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • leaves from 2 sprigs of thyme
  • 70g unsalted butter
  • 120g shelled pistachio nuts
  • 40g white breadcrumbs, plus extra if needed
  • finely grated zest and juice of 2 unwaxed lemons
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • good pinch of caster sugar
  • handful of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
  • 6 large skin-on boneless chicken breasts
  • 2 tbsp white balsamic vinegar
  • 300ml chicken stock

Put the shallots, garlic & half the thyme into a pan with 50g of the butter and a pinch of salt. Cook over a low heat for 5 minutes, then tip into a large bowl.

Chop the pistachio nuts or blend in a food processor until coarsely chopped. Add the breadcrumbs and nuts to the shallot mixture. Add the lemon zest and juice, oil, sugar and parsley. Season well and stir to make a stiff, coarse paste. If the mixture is too dry add a little more oil and it too wet a few extra breadcrumbs.

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F/gas mark 6.

Put the point of a sharp knife into the thicker end of each chicken breast and cut a cavity that runs along the length. Season the chicken inside the pocket, then use a teaspoon to fill the hole with the stuffing. Squeeze the sides together to close the incision as much as possible. Season the chicken on the outside, drizzle with a little olive oil and put into a roasting tin. Bake for 20-25 minutes.

When the chicken is cooked remove the chicken from the tin and skim off the fat from the juices. Put the roasting tin over a medium heat and splash in the white balsamic vinegar and stock. Bring to a rolling boil and reduced until slightly thickened. Add the rest of the butter and thyme and serve poured over the chicken.

(Original recipe from A Bird in the Hand by Diana Henry, Mitchell Beazley, 2015.)

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Ginger & Miso Soup

Pumpkins are everywhere and the evenings have got dark and chilly. This delicious soup by Melissa Hemsley looks like sunshine and tastes warm and comforting. Don’t omit the topping as it really brings the soup to life.

Ginger miso sunshine soup – serves 6

  • 1 tbsp coconut oil or ghee
  • 2 large onions, roughly chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, roughly chopped
  • 5cm piece of ginger, chopped
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 4 large carrots, chopped into 1.5cm cubes
  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and chopped into 2cm cubes
  • 1.5 litres stock or bone broth or water – we used Marigold Bouillon powder
  • 2 tbsp miso
  • juice of 1 lemon

CHIVE TOPPING

  • 1 fresh red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 4 tbsp chives, chopped
  • 4 tbsp sunflower seeds
  • 4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

Melt the oil in a large, wide saucepan. Add the onions and cook over a medium heat for 4 minutes, then add the garlic, ginger and turmeric and cook for another minute.

Add the carrots & squash, followed by the stock. Bring to a simmer, then cover with a lid and cook for 15-18 minutes until the vegetables are tender.

Meanwhile, mix all the ingredients for the topping in a small bowl. Add the miso and lemon juice to another bowl and add a few tablespoons of the hot liquid from the soup and stir or whisk until you have a smooth paste.

Remove the soup from the heat and stir in the miso paste. Blend the soup until smooth and season to taste. Serve with the chive topping.

(Original recipe from Eat Happy by Melissa Hemsley, Ebury Press, 2018.)

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Smoked Haddock & Spinach Tart

We love tarts made on a puff pastry sheet, they always give the impression you’ve made more effort than you have. Smoked haddock and spinach is a super combination.

Wine Suggestion: The Languedoc produces some great white wines, as well as many red, and the best of them have a salinity, freshness and stoniness along with joyful fruit. Our choice tonight was the Les Terrasses de la Negly, a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Muscat Petits Grains and Muscat d’Alexandria. Lively citrus and crisp apple flavours along with the saltiness that complimented the haddock and Spinach.

Smoked Haddock & Spinach Tart – serves 4

  • 250g smoked haddock
  • 200g spinach
  • 5 tbsp double cream
  • 50g gruyère, grated
  • 1 large egg, beaten
  • 1 sheet of ready-rolled puff pastry
  • watercress salad to serve

Fill a frying pan with cold water and heat until boiling. Lower in the haddock, cover with a lid, then turn off the heat and leave for 10 minutes.

Put the spinach into a colander and pour over a kettle of boiling water to wilt it. Wait until cool enough to handle, then squeeze out the excess water with your hands. Chop the spinach.

Heat the oven to 200C/Fan 180/Gas 6.

Whisk the cream, cheese, and egg in a bowl. Flake in the smoked haddock (remove any skin and bones) and stir in the spinach. Season with salt and black pepper.

Unroll the pastry and score a 2cm border around the edge. Put onto a baking sheet and prick insider the border. Bake for 10 minutes. Gently push down the pillowy middle with the back of a large spoon. Spoon over the fish mixture then return to the oven for 10-15 minutes or until golden. Serve with a watercress salad.

(Original recipe by Janine Ratcliffe in BBC Olive Magazine, July 2013.)

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Chicken skewers with oregano

Tastes like Summer! Use chicken thigh fillets if you can rather than chicken breasts as they don’t dry out as easily. Serve with baked potatoes and salads for an easy barbecue for friends.

Wine Suggestion: We’ve found that a little known, but classic combination of Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay from Cheverny in the Loire is the perfect match for this. We want to try this with some Greek white’s too being inspired by the dried oregano.

Chicken skewers with oregano – serves 4

  • 8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs
  • 1 red pepper, cut into squares
  • 1 green pepper, cut into squares

FOR THE MARINADE:

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp sweet smoked paprika
  • ½ tsp cinnamon

Cut the chicken thighs into 4, trimming off any larger bits of fat.

For the marinade, whisk the olive oil, lemon zest and juice and the honey in a bowl until the honey is dissolved. Add the oregano, paprika, cinnamon and plenty of seasoning. Add the chicken and stir to coat. Cover and leave in the fridge for at least 3 hours or ideally overnight.

Remove the chicken from the fridge 30 minutes before you want to cook. Thread the chicken pieces onto skewers, alternating with the pepper pieces.

Heat the barbecue until very hot, then grill the skewers for 15 to 20 minutes or until cooked through. Baste with the leftover marinade as they cook. Serve with a few lemon wedges if you like.

(Original recipe from The Hairy Bikers’ Mediterranean Adventure by Si King & Dave Myers, Seven Dials, 2017.)

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Chicken & Morel Pie

We were so happy when we found a little jar of dried morels, until we got to the counter and realised they cost €25. We almost put them back only we had our hearts set on cooking this pie for dinner. We think they were worth it, but we’ll be better prepared for a shock at the till next time. It turns out morels are far from easy to come by and must be hand foraged and hence the princely sum. The fresh ones can be used for this dish too (though good luck finding them!) but you miss out on the nice mushroom stock from soaking the dried ones. If you see either sort and you’re feeling flush, we recommend trying them.

Wine Suggestion: We think this goes well with earthier reds like Pinot Noir or Nebbiolo especially if they have a little age and development.

Chicken, morel mushroom & asparagus one-pan pie – serves 4 to 5

  • 30g dried morels (or 100g fresh morels thoroughly cleaned)
  • 200ml chicken stock (you only need this if you have fresh morels)
  • 50g butter
  • 2 shallots, finely sliced
  • 3 thyme sprigs, leaves picked
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 tbsp plain flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 100ml dry sherry or white wine
  • 200ml crème fraîche
  • 6 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into large chunks
  • bunch of asparagus, snap off and discard the woody ends, then cut into 4cm pieces
  • half a pack of tarragon, leaves roughly chopped
  • 375g block of puff pastry (preferably all-butter)
  • 1 egg, beaten, to glaze

If you are using dried mushrooms put them into a bowl and cover with boiling water, then leave to soak for 10 minutes. Remove the mushrooms from the liquid and cut in half (keep the liquid and make it up to 200ml with some more water if necessary). You can set a couple of the nicest looking morels aside to decorate the top of the pie if you like.

Heat half the butter in a frying pan and fry the morels for 3-4 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside. Heat the rest of the butter and cook the shallots gently in the pan with the thyme and bay. When the shallots have softened, stir in the flour and cook for a minute or until a paste forms.

Pour in the sherry or wine and sizzle, then stir in the mushroom liquid (leave any grit in the bowl) or chicken stock, followed by the crème fraîche. Season well and bring to a gentle simmer. Add the chicken and poach in the sauce for 10 minutes or until just cooked through. Remove and discard the bay leaves, stir in the asparagus, tarragon and fried morels, then remove from the heat and transfer into a pie dish.

Heat the oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 8.

Roll the pastry out onto a floured surface to the thickness of a euro coin, then cut to fit the dish, and drape it over the pie mixture (a rolling pin helps with this). Liberally brush with egg, season the pastry with flaky sea salt, and arrange the reserved morels on top. Bake for 20 minutes or until the pastry is puffed up and golden brown. Leave to rest for 5 minutes before serving.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

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