Tag Archives: mains

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

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

“Sweet Chick” Chorizo Stew

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Every night, I race from work to nursery, where I pick up my Little Greedy Tadpole (19 months). Then I race home from nursery. Then I race around the kitchen trying to prepare dinner as fast as I can (no wonder I am exhausted…).

Dinner on a weeknight therefore needs to be quick, nutritious, grown-up enough for me and Mr Greedy Frog to enjoy, but also suitable for our little one. This recipe is a good example of something that works, and it features some of my go-to ingredients: sweet potatoes and chickpeas (hence the rather daft title).

I tend to rely heavily on tins of pulses; they are very quick to cook and can be used to bulk out pretty much any meal. I also try and have some sort of root vegetables in the house at all times, as they tend to keep rather well. Finally, I always have some onions and garlic, because a life without them is just not worth living!

The ingredients in this recipe can be modified at will, depending on what needs using up in your fridge or cupboard; potatoes, mushrooms, leeks, butter beans or any other vegetables or pulses could be added, it also tastes lovely with some feta added in at the last minute, and the stock can be replaced with a tin of chopped tomatoes and a bit of hot water. In fact, pretty much anything goes!

I make some sort of variation of this about once a week, and I don’t think I have ever made the same combination twice. I would love to hear from anyone trying this with different ingredients, as I am always looking for new ideas, so please pass on any suggestions!

You will need (for 3 portions):

2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, roughly chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
100 g chorizo, diced (if feeding a toddler, make sure you don’t serve them any of the chorizo as it is a bit hard to chew for little teeth, although they will enjoy the taste it gives the stew)
1 large sweet potato, peeled and diced
3 handfuls basmati rice
500 ml hot vegetable stock
1 x 400 g tin chickpeas, drained
2 bay leaves
Paprika
Salt, Pepper
Grated parmesan, to serve

Method:

Heat up the olive oil on a medium heat in a large, deep pan with a lid. Fry the onion and garlic for about a minute, then add the chorizo, sweet potato and rice. Stir well for a few seconds.

Add enough stock to just cover, sprinkle with a bit of paprika, salt and pepper, add the bay leaf and chickpeas, and cover with the lid. Leave to cook for about 10-12 min, stirring once or twice, until the rice and sweet potato are cooked through and tender. Check the seasoning, then serve and sprinkle with a bit of parmesan.

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Filed under Mains, Vegetables

Cold Weather: 0, Greedy Frog: 1! Slow-cooked Beef and Dumplings

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I came back from visiting my family in France with, among other goodies, a new, huge, heavy cast-iron pan. I had been coveting one such pan for a very long time, but the price tag meant that I couldn’t afford one; not unless I defaulted on my mortgage payments, that is. My amazing parents, however, decided to buy one for me as an early Christmas present (have I mentioned they are amazing?), and it is fair to say that I have rarely been as excited as I was when I opened the box.

I know some of you might think that I am pretty pathetic, getting all excited over a pan like this, but I don’t care what you think, because I’VE GOT A NEW PAN!!!!

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Well, that’s the gloating neatly out of the way now, so let’s talk a bit about the recipe…

This dish is delicious, a mixture of meltingly tender beef, tasty veg and gravy, and light, fluffy dumplings… It is the ultimate antidote to cold, dark evenings. I like to make a big batch of this on a Sunday, and keep some back for the Monday night; I find it incredibly comforting when it starts getting dark on a Monday afternoon, and with the whole working week still ahead of me, to know that there is a lovely warming meal waiting for me at home that just needs re-heating…

This stew will freeze beautifully (without the dumplings), and any leftover sauce works really well with pasta, especially if you cook the pasta in it. Oh, and it is also very cheap to make!

The dumplings recipe is Jane Grigson’s, from “English Food” (one of the first cookbooks I bought after moving to England, I was very intrigued by the notion of a whole book about English food…).

You will need:

For the stew:

1 kg beef shin, diced
3 tbsp olive oil
20g butter
2 onions
3 carrots
2 celery sticks
1 leek
4 cloves garlic
250g chestnut mushrooms
10g dried wild mushrooms (I used chanterelles)
1 handful plain flour
salt
pepper
1 tsp dried oregano
25cl red wine
1 tbsp tomato puree
500 ml beef stock
200 ml hot water

For the dumplings:

125g plain flour
1 tsp baking powder
Pinch salt
60g shredded suet (vegetable suet is fine)
Water
1 tbsp chopped herbs of your choice (I used thyme)

Method:

Rehydrate the dried mushrooms in a bowl of hot, freshly boiled water.

Chop the onions, carrots, celery and leek. Quarter the mushrooms. Crush and peel the garlic.
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Season the flour generously with salt, pepper and the oregano. Toss the meat in the flour until evenly covered.

Heat up the olive oil and butter in a large, heavy-based lidded pan. Shake any excess flour off the meat, and add to the pan; turn regularly until brown all over.

Add the onions, garlic, carrots, celery and leek, and cook gently for about 5 minutes, stirring regularly. Add the tomato puree and cook it out, stirring, for 1 minute.

Add the wine, and scrape the bottom of the pan to make sure all the tasty bits are incorporated in the gravy. Bring to the boil, then add the stock, the rehydrated mushrooms with their water, and top up with hot water if needed (the liquid needs to cover the meat almost completely.

Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down to the minimum setting, put the lid on, and leave to simmer gently for about 4 hrs, stirring every so often.

30 min before you are ready to serve, make the dumplings. Mix the flour, salt, baking powder and suet in a bowl. Mix with enough water to form a slightly sticky dough. Flour your hands and form into dumplings; I usually make 6 large ones but you could make up to 12 smaller ones.

Check the seasoning of the beef gravy, and add your dumplings to the pan, making sure there is plently of liquid there as they need to be poached. Put the lid back on and cook for another 10 to 20 min, depending on the size of the dumplings. Serve with hot, buttery mash.

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Filed under Mains, Meat dishes

Quick Sausage Pasta for Two

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Last night, Mr GreedyFrog was away, so I was cooking dinner just for me and my Little Greedy Tadpole.

Like a lot of toddlers, she adores pasta, so this sort of dish is always a winner with her. And it is also pretty popular with adults: it is full of flavour, healthy, and will be on the table in about 20 min.

You will need:

300 g wholewheat pasta (I used penne)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, crushed
3 good quality sausages
1 x 400 g tin chopped tomatoes
1 tsp finely chopped lemon zest
1 small bunch parsley, chopped
Salt, pepper

Method:

Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions.

Meanwhile, heat up the oil in a medium size pan. Gently fry the onion for about 2 min.

With a sharp knife, cut open the sausage casings, and squeeze out the sausages. Break up the sausagemeat into small balls, and add to the onion along with the garlic. Cook until brown on all sides.
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Add the lemon zest and the tomatoes, stir and bring to the boil. Turn the heat down, season and simmer for about 10 min. Add the chopped parsley, and serve with the drained pasta.

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Filed under Mains, Meat dishes, Pasta

Steak and Mushroom Pie

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It is a truth universally acknowledged that as the autumn rain and chilly winds make their appearance, one starts yearning for hearty, warming, comforting dishes.
This pie is one such dish, and it is very easy to prepare. You can make it in a large pie dish, or 6 individual ones. Unless we have guests, I usually make it in individual dishes and freeze four (unglazed) portions for another day (make sure you wrap them well before freezing, then defrost in the fridge for 24h before glazing and baking as below).

You will need (for 1 large pie, or 6 individual ones):

For the pastry:
200 g plain flour
100 g butter
Salt
1 egg, lightly beaten, for glazing

For the filling:

Handful dried mushrooms (about 30 g dry weight)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 large onion, chopped
450 g stewing steak, cubed
3 tbsp flour
250 ml hot beef stock
Salt
Pepper
200 g fresh mushrooms, quartered
2 tbsp dried thyme, or 2 sprigs fresh
2 tsp cornflour

Method:

Rehydrate the dried mushrooms in hot, freshly boiled water. Reserve.

Put the flour in a bowl, season generously. Toss the meat in the flour until well covered.

In a large pan, heat up the olive oil. Shake any excess flour off the meat, and add to the pan. Cook for a few minutes until brown on all sides.
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Add the onion, then the fresh mushrooms. Drain the rehydrated mushrooms and add to the pan.

Add the stock, thyme and some seasoning. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer, covered, for about 1h30.image

Meanwhile, make the pastry. In a large bowl, add the salt and 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 use a food processor instead if you prefer). Wrap in cling film then chill.

When the filling is ready, preheat the oven to 200 C/ fan 190 C/ gas 6.
Mix the cornflour with a few spoonfuls of cold water, and add to the filling. Stir, then leave to thicken for about a minute. Take off the heat.

Roll out the pastry to about 5 mm thickness (roughly the thickness of a beer mat). Invert your pie dish, or individual dishes, over the pastry and cut pastry lids to shape with a sharp knife. Roll any trimmings into a ball, and freeze for another time.

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Transfer the filling to the dish. With a brush, wet the rim of your pie dish(es), and carefully place the prepared pastry on top. Press down all around the edge with a fork to seal.

Bake for about 10 to 15 min for individual pies, 15 to 20 min for a large one, or until nice and golden.

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Filed under Bakes, Mains, Meat dishes

Salmon and Asparagus Tart

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I have a thing for savoury tarts; to me they represent comfort food at its best, and conjure up a lot of happy childhood memories. I remember being at my grandmother’s and helping her prepare Quiche Lorraine. I would watch it take on a golden colour through the oven glass, the minutes ticking by very slowly, the smell gradually amplifying until it filled the kitchen; the excitement was almost untenable.

And if my mother announced that she was making a Salmon Tourte, or, delight of delights, Onion Tart for dinner, I would litterally be the happiest little girl on the planet. The mere thought of biting into the buttery, crumbly pastry, and tasting the flavourful fillings had me skipping about excitedly. When, after what felt like hours, the tart finally came out of the oven, and I received my slice, I would invariably burn my mouth in my juvenile haste. And it was worth it every time.

I am now older, and a little bit wiser, and if I still burn my mouth from time to time, I have stopped skipping about. Well, most of the time anyway.

But there is another reason why I love savoury tarts: there is almost no limit to the amount of recipes you can come up with. This one here isn’t a recipe from my childhood: green asparagus isn’t very common in France, and its white cousin doen’t really lend itself to this sort of dish. I came up with it quite simply because I like the combination of asparagus and smoked salmon, and they were both on special offer. 

This tart is unbelievably easy to make, and it doubles up as a stunning centerpiece. Have it on its own as a starter, or serve alongside a salad or buttered greens for a main meal. Go easy on the salt in the egg and cream mix, as the smoked salmon is already rather salty. If you are watching your fat intake, half-fat cream works fine here.

You will need:

For the pastry:
300 g plain flour
150 g butter
Pinch salt

For the filling:
1 bunch green asparagus
3 slices smoked salmon
3 eggs
200 ml double cream
200 ml crème fraîche
Salt
Pepper
Groung nutmeg

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.
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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.

Snap off the woody ends of the asparagus, and cook in salted boiling water for about 5 min until tender enough to eat, but not too soft. Drain and reserve.

Cut the smoked salmon into small pieces and distribute evenly over the pastry case.

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Top with the asparagus, arranging them on the tart like the spokes of a wheel.

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In a large jug, lightly beat the eggs, add the double cream and crème fraîche and mix well. Season with salt, pepper and a pinch of nutmeg. Pour the egg and cream mix delicately over the pastry case. Bake for about 20 min, or until golden all over and just set.

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