Tuesday, 2 June 2015

You can never please fussy eaters, but at least I tried... Cod with Black Olives and Tomatoes

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I so lurrrrvvvvvee fish. But, chez Lola and Finn, I am the only one who does. It means that fish is usually only cooked as a special treat for me if Phill is working away. It's a little thing that says, "Yes, you are without the person who keeps you on the straight and narrow, but here is some sea bream to make you feel a little better about it all. Open some wine, it'll all be cool." 
But sometimes you need to dispense with a situation in which means that you please everyone but yourself, and make clear to all those doubters the fact that fish is good for you, and judicious choices of fish based on sustainability, coupled with some pretty damn fine ingredients are all you need to create something simple and delicious. That was the line I used to convince the fishyphobes around me with varying degrees of success. Lola and Finn were willing participants and Phill, well, if he didn't like it, he would probably make himself cheese on toast.
The simplicity of this dish, which I adapted from my little 'GoodFood 101 Mediterranean Dishes' is ideal for a weeknight where it seems that everything is going on around you like a vortex. Brownies, football, kids' homework, dirty PE kits, those year 8 books that it looks as though I won't get round to marking AGAIN can all be happening whilst this wonderful dish is created by just basically assembling it and leaving it a little while. The rest of your life might be a complete shambles but at least dinner is quite good.
The verdict? Well, Lola and Finn actually ate quite a bit of this, and whilst it might not rival the mighty chicken nugget in culinary awesomeness, there weren't as many moans as I anticipated. Phill? Well after dissecting it all with the meticulousness of a brain surgeon, because he was on the hunt for the inevitable bone which he ALWAYS finds, he ate some of it but the old adage is seemingly true: You can't please all the people all of the time. But don't let him put you off; his sandwich filling of choice when I first met him was peanut butter and cheese. It is possible that I am not dealing with a gourmand here...
Fish with Black Olives and Tomatoes, adapted from 'GoodFood 101 Mediterranean Dishes or from here
Serves Lola, Finn, Mum and Dad and 1 other
175g black olives in oil, stones removed
1 large onion, roughly chopped
1/2 red chilli, deseeded, or 1/4 tsp chilli powder (optional - I used a half a red chilli)
1 tbsp. tomato puree
1/2 tsp dried oregano
400g can chopped tomatoes (Buy the best chopped tomatoes you can - I buy the San Manzano ones or chopped cherry tomatoes if you can get them).
4 boneless white fish fillets such as Icelandic cod or hoki, each weighing about 175g/6oz (I used cod)
chopped parsley
lemon wedges
Preheat the oven to fan 180C/conventional 200C/gas 6.
Heat 1 tbsp of the oil from the olives in an ovenproof pan. Tip in the onion and stir well, leave to cook for a minute or two and then give it another good stir. Add the tomatoes and some salt and pepper. Bring to the boil, then add the olives.
Put the fish, skin side down, onto the sauce and drizzle over a splash more oil from the olive jar. Bake, uncovered, for 15 minutes until the fish is cooked. Check the seasoning once again. Sprinkle with chopped parsley and serve straight from the pan, with lemon wedges for squeezing over. To accompany this, I roasted some small potatoes in olive oil and seasoning.

Thursday, 28 May 2015

A Tale of Two Kormas - Creamy Chicken Korma

Whilst we all know that the quickest way to a man's heart is a six inch knife through the chest; the other, less gruesome way is through his stomach. In fact, the wooing of Phill involved, amongst other things, some carefully selected and cooked meals - lasagne, beef stroganoff, croissant bread and butter pudding, all of which I don't believe I have ever blogged about and maybe, right there, lies a series of themed posts for Valentine's Day. Anyway, one night, very early in our fledgling relationship, he told me that a) he likes cooking and b) he cooks a mean korma. The description he then gave was quite mouth watering: you have to start the day before because it is such a complex process, it involves rendering a pound on onions down to almost nothing, yadda yadda yadda...
Nearly 13 years on, I am yet to taste this korma.
He mentions it every so often, usually when I am making curry and he comes wandering into the kitchen, enticed by the heady smells of herbs and spices, gets a spoon out the drawer, tastes the sauce I am cooking and gives the 'quality control' verdict, but he has never got round to making me his korma, which has taken on mythical proportions since it was first mentioned all those years ago. He does cook on occasions - he once made steak pizzeola, which tasted absolutely lush but my enthusiasm was dampened a little when I realised he had used every plate, dish and bowl in the kitchen to create his masterpiece and I was in charge of washing up...  But he can cook, but never the dish I thought he might cook...
Which brings me to this korma. This is from Neven Maguire's 'Food from the Sun'. He is an Irish chef who I discovered whilst on maternity leave, watching the 'GoodFood' channel in the afternoon, drifting in and out of consciousness whilst I had a plus 9lb baby writhing inside me who kept waking me up,,,(thank you Finn). I remember that I liked his kitchen and I liked the dishes he created, so I bought his book and have cooked from it here and here.
He calls this an authentic korma - to be honest I wouldn't know. What I do know is that it is pretty easy, does not involve a pound of onions and I did not have to start the day before. In fact, start to finish it took about an hour. It's a very comforting dish and Lola and Finn really like it, despite the touch of latent heat it exudes, just when you think it is only going to give flavour. I might use it as a lever to try and get Phill to make a korma...
Creamy Chicken Korma - adapted from 'Food from the Sun' by Neven Maguire
Serves Lola, Finn, Mum, Dad and one other
2 tbsp vegetable oil
2 onions, finely chopped (I used three - I like an oniony curry)
2 garlic cloves, crushed
2 tsp finely grated root ginger
1 green chilli, seeded and chopped finely 
1 tsp garam masala
1 tsp ground turmeric
1/4 tsp chilli powder
400g can chopped tomatoes
1 tsp tomato puree
4 boneless skinless chicken breasts
150ml double cream (or to taste - you might need more, depending on how far down you have reduced the sauce)
2 tbsp chopped fresh coriander
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Heat the oil in a pan and fry the onions and garlic until for about 10 minutes until golden brown. Stir in the ginger and green chilli, and cook for 1 minute, stirring.
Add the garam masala to the pan with the turmeric, chilli powder and a pinch of salt and cook for another minute, stirring. Add the tomatoes, tomato puree and bring to the boil stirring continuously.
Add four tablespoons of water, (actually - I added about 150ml of water and a chicken stock cube at this point) stir well to combine, then reduce the heat and simmer for 10 - 15 minutes until the sauce is well reduced.
Cut the chicken into 2.5cm (1in) cubes and then add to the reduced down sauce. Slowly bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and simmer gently for about 10 - 15 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through and completely tender.
Stir in the cream and simmer gently for another few minutes until well combined. Season to taste.
View on Instagram here
To serve, arrange the basmati rice and chicken korma on warmed plates and scatter over the coriander.

Tuesday, 26 May 2015

Bank Holiday, Some Lindeman Wine and a Roast, Spanish Style! - Pot Roast Spanish Chicken #capturethesunshine

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I didn't really rate bank holidays when I was younger; they became increasingly more appealing when as a student I could work them and get double time to keep myself in weird clothing and Victorian literature, but that was where their allure ended. Until now, that is. Bank Holidays are a little gift which says to you - yes, here is a day off to do what you want with, and the proceeding week is only a four day week so blink and it is Friday again. If only every week started with a Bank Holiday...
But, alas, Bank Holidays are all too few and far between and for that reason they must be made the most of, whether it is simply doing nothing because you can, going out and doing something completely different, or inviting a few people around, opening a bottle of wine and cooking something really tasty that fills the house with mouth watering smells. Which is why this weekend I cooked Pot Roast Spanish Chicken, accompanied by Lindeman's 95 Sauvignon Blanc, and filled the house with the chatter of people catching up with the gossip, the clatter of forks and spoons, and the clinking of glasses to toast what was a day of good mood and good food.

I adapted this recipe from my recently acquired 'Ginger Pig' Farmhouse cookbook which is full of alsorts of amazing recipes that I cannot wait to try. I cut down the chilli heat of the dish to factor in the fact that there were children around, so the sauce as a result gave a lazy warmth which went well with both the wine and the children. Because of my love of garlic, I mushed the slow cooked cloves of garlic into the winey, chickeny sauce to create something really rather unctuous and full flavoured.
I served this with roasties and lots of bon homie. Now, what to cook next Bank Holiday???
Pot Roasted Spanish Chicken, adapted from 'Ginger Pig Farmhouse Cookbook' by Tim Wilson and Fran Warde.
Feeds Lola, Finn, Mum, Dad x 2 (8 people)
3kg (6lb 8oz) good-quality chicken
1 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp sweet paprika
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the bed of vegetables
3 onions, peeled and cut into quarters
3 carrots, peeled and cut into quarters
3 large tomatoes, cut into quarters
2 red chillies, cut into quarters (I used one chilli and scraped the seeds out)
2 heads of garlic, cut in half horizontally (I used only one, but it was truly HUGE!!)
3 red peppers, deseeded and cut into chunks
2 bay leaves
2 sprigs of thyme
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
400ml (14fl oz) Lindeman's Sauvignon Blanc wine
300g (10½oz) black olives, stoned (I decided, reluctantly, to leave them out...)
Parsley, for scattering over
Preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F/gas mark 4.

Put all the ingredients for the bed of vegetables into a large lidded casserole dish.(I actually used a large roasting tin which I then covered tightly with foil to create the steam).
Mix well.

Rub the chicken all over with the olive oil. Sprinkle with the paprika and seasoning and rub these into the chicken too.
Place the chicken in the dish on top of the vegetables and cover with a tight-fitting lid. (I refer you to how I cooked mine above.

Place in the oven for 1½ hours, then remove the lid and cook for a further 20 minutes to crisp up the skin. At this point I removed the chicken to a separate place to rest, whilst I reduced the sauce in the bottom of the roasting tin on top of the hob. Then, as described above, I squeezed the soft garlic out of its skin and mashed it into the sauce.

Serve the pot roast chicken immediately with rice or pasta....or roast potatoes and a glass or two of Lindeman's Sauvignon Blanc!


Saturday, 23 May 2015

A (not so) Lonely Dinner for One - Hake Bilbaina

I suppose I should be sad when my better half goes away....and I am, honestly. He makes me cups of tea and usually makes me happy, so I do miss him when he is off galavanting at 'conferences'. But, you have to make the best of a bad lot and the way I do it is by eating the thing I love the most but can't really justify cooking when I have three 'fishyphobes' in the house - fish. Any fish. I am not fussy; just grateful.

So, on this auspicious occasion I give the kids what they really want (chicken nuggets and chips - yes, I am sorry, I am a poor mother...) and I prepare the recipe that I have picked out as soon as I know that Phill is going away. This time it was Cod Bilbaina from the lovely, love 'Modern Spanish Cooking' by Eddie and Sam Hart. As hake was on offer, and in my mind a little more Spanish, I went for that over cod and whilst I am sure it tastes equally as good with cod, the piquant sauce went really well with the more robust tasting hake. What's more, it was a cinch to make. If my brood ate more fish, then my life would be so much easier...
Cod (or Hake) Bilbiana, adapted from 'Modern Spanish Cooking' by Sam and Eddie Hart
The quantities below serve four - I halved it and had the leftovers the next day.

4 hake fillets – evenly sized and about 4 cm thick
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and pepper

For the tomato sauce

12 small plum tomatoes or cherry tomatoes
4 cloves of garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
2 bay leaves
2 tbsp sherry (Fino or Manzanilla)
2 tbsp sherry vinegar


Pre heat the oven to 180 °C / 350 °F / Gas mark 4.
First make the sauce. Place a large frying pan over a medium heat and add the olive oil. Cut the tomatoes in half (lengthways), peel and thinly slice the garlic and place in the pan with the bay leaves. Cook for 3-4 minutes until just soft.
Add the sherry and sherry vinegar, season and allow to bubble for 2 minutes until reduced. Set aside but keep warm.
Heat a large, ovenproof frying pan over a medium heat and add the olive oil. Put the hake in the pan, skin side down, and fry for 4 minutes to crisp the skin.

Remove from the heat and place the pan in the oven for a further 4 minutes until the hake is just cooked through.
Serve the fish immediately with the warm tomato sauce.

Wednesday, 20 May 2015

Resisting the lure of the Curry House: Chicken Lahori

Friday night is curry night. And Friday night is THE night of the week that I am utterly banjaxed and grateful that the day after is Saturday and I can choose to do absolutely zilch (yeh right, I start the washing and clear all the crap I have been unable to shift all week because I have been a) taking an interest in my children b) generally distracted and c) marking something or other) and for some reason Friday night feels like a take away night. It's like a reward for getting to the end of another week without telling someone to stick it where the sun doesn't shine. This week, I evidently wasn't knackered enough to tell Phill to find the menu for the Indian takeaway; I volunteered to cook one. I had the ingredients, I could have wine whilst I was doing it, Finn's football on the Saturday was a later kick off.... why shouldn't I?  And I am glad I did because this recipe is, frankly, glorious. Punchy spice with a languid kick of chilli right at the finish, it was made for the bottle of Riesling that I had opened and half consumed by the time I actually got round to serving this.
A Google search consisting of 'Atul Kochhar, curry and chicken' threw up the frankly amazing Chicken Lahori. It was very easy to make, low maintenance and after half an hour or so cooking away whilst I was rounding up washing and threatening my kids with violence if they didn't get their uniforms off THIS MINUTE, this was ready to be served. It filled the kitchen with the heady smells that I normally associate with Phill bringing in a Friday takeaway. Thank God it's Friday and for once, I cooked it all myself...
Chicken Lahori adapted from the recipe by Atul Kochhar in the Daily Telegraph
Serves 4 in the original recipe: I approximately halved the ingredients below to create a hearty meal for two.
5 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 black cardamom pods
4 green cardamom pods  
1 teaspoon cumin seeds
2 bay leaves
3 onions, chopped
1 tablespoon ginger-garlic paste*
3 tomatoes, chopped
2 teaspoons red chilli powder
2 tablespoons ground coriander
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
4 green chillies, chopped
800g chicken thighs, skinless and
boneless cut into small pieces
2 tablespoons plain yoghurt (You can add more if you find this too spicy for your palate)
400ml chicken stock or water (I used chicken stock)
2 tablespoons finely chopped coriander
1 teaspoon garam masala
*Ginger-garlic paste: Blend equal quantities of peeled garlic and fresh ginger with 10 per cent of their total weight in water, using a blender or mini food processor. Store in a sealed container in the fridge. If you want to keep this for longer than a few days, add 5 per cent vegetable oil and 2 per cent lemon juice when you blend. Or you can freeze this in ice-cube trays.
Heat the oil in a wok and sauté the whole spices with the bay leaves until they crackle. Add the onions and sauté until lightly browned. Add the ginger-garlic paste and sauté for a minute, stirring well, then add the ground spices (except the garam masala) and the green chillies and tomatoes. Cook for 5–8 minutes or until the tomatoes soften.
Add the chicken pieces with the yogurt, stock and salt to taste, and mix in well. Simmer gently for 20-25 minutes until the chicken is cooked. If the sauce is too thick, add more stock. I found that after the recommended cooking time the sauce was still a bit loose for my taste, so I increased the temperature and reduced the sauce further.

Stir in the chopped coriander leaves and garam masala, then serve.


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