Category Archives: Mains

Looking for Comfort Food? Quick, Over Here! Chicken, Butternut Squash and Feta Pie

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If I had my way, it would be Summer all year round. I love warm weather, summer dresses, ice cream and long evenings, barbecues, and brightly coloured nail polish on my toes. I wish I could banish cold weather, umbrellas,  wellies and especially snow shovels.

If I love Summer so much, what am I doing in Northern England, might you ask. Well, I shall let you know once I have worked out a plausible answer.

In the meantime, I shall offer you the first pie recipe of the season, because if I cannot change the weather, I can at least make it more bearable with a bit of comfort food.

You will need:

For the rough puff pastry:

500 g cold butter, diced

500 g flour

2 pinches salt

About 250 ml iced water

1 egg, beaten (for glazing)

For the filling:

1 small butternut squash, cubed

1 medium yellow onion, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

3 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp chopped dried sage

2 chicken breasts, diced

200 g feta

Method:

Make the pastry. In a large bowl (or directly on a work surface), make a well with the flour, and add the butter and salt in the middle. Rub the flour and butter together with your fingertips, until the texture is grainy with the odd flake of butter. Add the iced water gradually, mixing with your hands as you go, until it forms a cohesive dough. Knead a few times, then wrap in cling film and refrigerate for 20 min.

Roll the pastry out into a rectangle about 40cm x 20cm. Fold the top third down towards you, then fold the bottom third up on top of the rest. Give it a quarter turn then repeat the rolling and folding. Wrap in cling film again, and refrigerate for 20 min.

Repeat the rolling and folding as before, and refrigerate for 20 min again, still wrapped in cling film. The pastry is now ready to use, and will happily wait in the fridge for a few days. You will need half of it for this recipe, the other half will freeze for up to a month.

Make the filling. In a large sauté pan, heat up 2 tbsp olive oil. Gently fry the onion and garlic for about 1 min, add the sage and butternut squash, stir and cook for another 2 minutes. Add a splash of water, cover, and cook on a low heat for about 20 min or until tender (add a bit more water if it starts to stick). Season the mixture, then tip into a bowl and reserve.

In the same sauté pan, heat up the last of the oil, and gently fry the chicken until brown on all sides and cooked through (about 4 to 5 min). Mix with the cooked squash and leave to cool for a few minutes.

Preheat the oven to 200⁰C/ fan 190⁰/ Gas 6.

On a floured surface, roll out the pastry to the thickness of a pound coin, and to a size slightly larger than your dish (I use a 28 cm Ø round pie dish).

Crumble the feta over the bowl containing the filling, mix well, then tip into a large pie dish.

Wet the edge of the pie dish, cover with the rolled out pastry. Using a sharp knife, cut away the extra pastry along the edge of the dish. Press all around the rim with the prongs of a fork, then cut a small hole in the middle.

Brush all over with eggwash, then if you wish, thinly score the pastry with wavy lines made with a knife, taking care not to cut all the way through.

Bake for about 20 min, or until nice and golden brown.

 

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Filed under Bakes, Mains, Meat dishes, Pies

Saturday Night Pasta with Olives, Tomato and Chili

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Staying in this Saturday night? Lucky you: it is the perfect time to cook yourself some delicious, easy pasta, open a nice bottle of wine, and catch up on Ray Donovan or whatever else you are into at the moment. Don’t worry about the washing up, either: you only need 2 pans!

Have a lovely weekend!

You will need (for 2):

4 tbsp olive oil
2 anchovies in olive oil, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 small red chili, finely chopped
2 tbsp capers in brine, drained
About 10-12 mixed green and black olives, halved
250 g cherry tomatoes
250 g wholewheat fusilli

salt, pepper

Method:

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil, and cook the pasta according to the packet instructions.

Meanwhile, make the sauce. In a frying pan, heat up the olive oil over a medium heat, and add the anchovies and chili. Cook for 2 min, stirring, then add the garlic and cherry tomatoes. Cook for about 8 min, then add the olives and capers and leave to cook until the pasta is ready. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Drain the pasta and return to the pan, tip the sauce into the pan and combine. Serve with grated Parmesan, if you like.

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Filed under Mains, Pasta, Vegetables

Paprika Chicken with Peas and Lardons

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Here is a nice, tasty and easy way to jazz up the classic trinity of chicken, peas and potatoes. A real crowd-pleaser, this dish is ideal for a relaxed meal with friends.

You will need (for 4 people):
8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs
4 tbsp plain flour
4 tbsp rapeseed oil (or other cooking oil)
2 large onions
4 cloves garlic
2 tbsp paprika
800 g potatoes
2 tbsp red wine vinegar
1 tbsp tomato purée
A splash brandy (optional)
500 ml chicken stock

For the peas:
1 tbsp rapeseed oil
1 medium onion, chopped
200 g peas, fresh or frozen
80 g lardons
1 bay leaf
400 ml vegetable stock

Method:

Cut the chicken thighs into bite-sized chunks. Peel the onions and cut into wedges. Peel the potatoes and cut in 2 or 3 depending on size.

In a large, heavy based pan or casserole, heat up half of the oil. Flour the chicken, then fry in batches until nicely coloured on all sides. Reserve on a plate covered with kitchen paper.

Warm up the rest of the oil in the same pan, add the onion wedges and the peeled garlic cloves and cook gently for about 2 min. Add the paprika, then the potatoes and stir well. Add the tomato purée, leave to cook for a minute, then add the vinegar and brandy.

Put the chicken back in, add the stock and bring to the boil. Cover, and leave to simmer for about 15 min, then take the lid off and simmer for a few more minutes until the potatoes are tender and the sauce has thickened. Check the seasoning, and adjust if necessary.

Meanwhile, make the peas:

In a saucepan, heat up the oil, and gently fry the lardons and onions. When the onions have softened a bit, add the peas and stir.

Add the vegetable stock, bay leaf, and a bit of black pepper. Bring to the boil then turn the heat down and simmer for about 10 min. Using a fine sieve, drain any remaining stock out, and transfer to a warm serving dish.

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Filed under Mains, Meat dishes

What is 10 fl oz when it’s at home?

Well, it took me a few months of long, hard procrastination, but I have finally done it!

This blog now has a new page with conversion tables for weights, measurements and oven temperatures. I hope many of you find it useful!

I would like to thank Delia for kindly giving me the permission to use data from her website. Actually, she didn’t give me permission as such, mostly because I haven’t asked. But I figured it would be ok if I gave her the credit, which I did.

This amazing new page can be found here. Alternatively, follow the link at the top of the page.

 

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Filed under Bakes, Cakes, Desserts, Introduction, Mains, Uncategorized

The Next Best Thing To A Duvet Day: Velvety Mushroom and Chestnut Soup

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Winter is dragging on, my mood is as gloomy as the weather, and I feel like I am going to be cold forever.

I wish I could just burrow under the duvet and wait for the temperatures to start climbing again before venturing back out, but I can’t do that because I would most probably get sacked. Unfortunately, my job cannot be done from home, and it definitely cannot be done from under a duvet, so like most other people I have to suck it up, leave my bed and wrap up in a lot of layers in order to go to work. And it sucks.

Sadly, taking your duvet to work isn’t normally very practical either. So, what to do? What could make up for having to get out of bed?

In my opinion, the next best thing to a duvet is probably soup. It is warm, comforting and satisfying, and unlike a duvet you can take it to work to enjoy during your lunch break, without having to endure being stared at by your co-workers as if you have suddenly grown a second head. If you agree with me, then this recipe is definitely for you.

This mushroom and chestnut soup is very tasty and warming. The chestnut purée is optional, but the texture wouldn’t be as smooth and velvety without it. Use any mushrooms you want; if you are lucky enough to have access to wild mushrooms then don’t hesitate to use them. I usually go for a mixture of chestnut mushrooms and (rehydtated) dried porcini.

You will need (for 4 servings):

800 g mixed mushrooms (rehydrated weight if using dried mushrooms), quartered
1 onion, finely chopped
1 stick celery, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
30 g butter
3 tbsp olive oil
2 pinches dried thyme
3 tbsp brandy
1 litre hot chicken stock (or vegetable stock for a vegetarian version)
Salt, pepper
4 heaped tbsp unsweetened chestnut purée

Method:

In a large, heavy-bottomed pan, heat the oil and butter together on a medium heat. Add the onion, celery, garlic and thyme and cook until soft but not coloured (about 3 to 4 min).

Add the mushrooms and cook for about 5 min, then add the brandy and cook for 1 or 2 min to evaporate the alcohol. Add the stock, season, and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 25 min.

Transfer about 2/3 of the soup to a blender and blend until smooth. Pour it back into the pan with the rest of the soup, and stir in the chestnut purée. Check the seasoning.

Serve with plenty of crusty bread, and crème fraîche if you like.

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Filed under Mains, Soups, Starters, Vegetables, Vegetarian

Butternut Squash, Feta and Spinach Roast

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With all this windy, cold weather, I was in the mood for some nice comfort food tonight; a tender beef stew maybe, or simply sausages and mash. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to go the the butcher’s at the weekend, so I am having to rely mostly on vegeterian options this week.

I am, and forever will be, a committed carnivore, but I really enjoy a meat-free option every once in a while. Having no meat in the house usually forces me to step out of my comfort zone a little bit, and find interesting ways to cook vegetables.

This is one of my favourite meat-free dishes; it is quick enough to prepare on a weeknight after work, and it features feta which I adore. It is easy to substitute some of the ingredients depending on what you have available (parsnips, sweet potatoes or turnips work very well here too).

If you don’t fancy pumpkin seeds, try some toasted flaked almonds or cashew nuts instead.

You will need (for 2):

4 tbsp olive oil

1 tsp thyme

A few pinches chili flakes

1 butternut squash

2 large carrots

1 large onion

3 garlic cloves

2 handfuls spinach leaves

200 g feta

3 tbsp pumpkin seeds

Method:

Preheat your oven to 220ºC/ fan 200ºC / gas 7.

Peel the butternut squash, cut in half. Scoop out the seeds and membrane with a teaspoon, discard. Cut the flesh into cubes (roughly 2 cm). Peel the carrots and cut into thick slices.

Peel the onion and cut into rough 1 cm cubes. Peel and crush the garlic.

In a roasting dish, mix the squash, carrot, olive oil, thyme and chili. Use your hands to mix thoroughly so the veg is well covered with the oil and flavourings. Bake for 20-30 min or until tender.

Meanwhile, wash and drain the spinach. Chop the feta.

When the vegetables are cooked, add the feta, spinach and pumpkin seeds to the dish, mix briefly, and return to the oven for 5 min.

Serve with some crusty bread.

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Filed under Mains, Vegetables, Vegetarian

The Tart, the Party, and the Christmas Tree Dress (Caramelised Onions, Peppers and Chorizo Tart)

 Last weekend, I had a work Christmas party to go to. I know a lot of people would rather gouge their own eyes out rather than attend the work party, but this is not the case here. I am lucky enough to be working with great people who are really, really fun to be around. We all decided a few weeks ago that we would go out and make the most of the happy hour, then head back to our manager’s place for food and a lot more drinks. We also decided that we would be wearing Christmas-themed costumes… it sounds like a recipe for disaster, right?

Well, in any case it explains how I ended up going out in Newcastle on a Saturday night wearing a Christmas tree dress. Yes, that’s right, a Christmas tree dress. In my defence, it actually looks a lot better than it sounds. And after a few drinks I thought it was hilarious that I seemed to be leaving a trail of tinsel behind me everywhere I went… 

But anyway, the point of this post is the food, not my sparkly sartorial adventures. I needed to come up with the perfect recipe to bring along to the party. It had to be freezer-friendly, as I knew I wouldn’t have time to make it on the day; I wanted it to appeal to a wide audience, and be easy to transport. A savoury tart seemed like a good option, and after much deliberation I finally settled on a caramelised onions and peppers filling, and added chorizo for some extra flavour.

This tart went down a treat and it was eaten in no time at all. In fact I wish I had made two! Unfortunately, when the tart was served I was a bit tipsy busy, and didn’t get to take a picture. Sorry…

Don’t be put off by the anchovies in the ingredients list if you don’t like them; they are only there to balance out the sweetness of the peppers and onions, and you won’t be able to taste them (Mr Greedy Frog hates anchovies, so I didn’t tell him they featured in this recipe, and he happily ate up the produce of my test runs without noticing a thing…)

You will need (for 6-8 people):

For the pastry:

300 g plain flour
150 g butter
Pinch salt
cold water

For the filling:

4 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp tomato puree
2 anchovy fillets in olive oil
4 red onions
8 bell peppers (a mix of red and yellow looks best but green is fine too)
2 garlic cloves
1 tbsp dried oregano
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
150g chorizo
salt, pepper

Method:

Make the pastry. In a large bowl, add a pinch of salt and the butter to the flour. Work the flour into the butter between your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. Add enough cold water to bind, knead briefly then form into a ball (you can of course use a food processor instead if you prefer). Wrap in cling film then chill for 20 min.

Preheat the oven to 200C/ fan 180C/ gas 6.

Roll out the pastry to line a 28 cm, loose-bottom, fluted tart tin (re-form any leftover pastry into a ball and freeze for another time). Chill again for 10 min, then line with foil, add baking beans, and bake blind for 15 min. Remove the foil and beans, and return to the oven for 5 min. Reserve.

Make the filling. De-seed and slice the peppers, slice the onions, peel and crush the garlic.
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In a large frying pan with a lid, heat up the olive oil. Finely chop the anchovies, and fry for a minute or two until they start breaking down. Add the tomato puree, cool for 1 minute more.
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Add the onions, peppers and garlic, toss to coat, and fry gently for 2 to 3 min. After this time, add the balsamic vinegar and oregano, cover and turn the heat down to low. Cook gently, stirring every once in a while, until soft (about 10-15 min depending on the size of your pan). If you end up with cooking juices, cook uncovered for a further 2 min to dry out. Add salt and pepper to taste.
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Meanwhile, cut the chorizo into small pieces (about the size of chickpeas), and dry-fry in a non-stick frying pan until cooked (about 10 min). Set aside.

Assemble the tart: If serving straight away, scatter the pieces of chorizo evenly over the pastry case, and top with the onion and pepper filling. Bake for 15 min until piping hot. If you want to freeze it for later, cool all the elements separately then assemble when cold. Wrap in foil and cling film and freeze for up to a month. Bake from frozen at  200C/ fan 180C/ gas 6 for 30 min or until piping hot in the middle.

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Filed under Bakes, Buffet, Christmas, Mains, Savoury Tarts, Starters