We’ve had Claudia Roden’s beautiful book Food from Spain on our bookshelves (not, note, in the kitchen) for a long time and we have hardly cooked anything from it. That changed last night when we made two dishes, both delicious and simple. Yes, some of the recipes in the book require rabbit or venison, but there are also gems like this that use cheap ingredients, are quick and easy. They both passed what I have previously called ‘the Frank Bath Alchemy test’ with flying colours.
I was lucky enough to meet Claudia Roden in 1997 when I was working for NPR and I am pleased to report that she was charming, gracious, and chatted to me for way longer than she needed to.
This is a simplified version of Claudia’s recipe. Fed 2 hungry boys and their dad.
- pack of 4 chicken thighs (I used fillets but this would be even better with skin-on unfilleted chicken)
- 1 onion
- half a big pack of smoked bacon lardons
- 2 fat cloves of garlic
- 500ml apple cider
- as many salad / waxy potatoes as you want, halved
- 2 handfuls of frozen peas
- salt, pepper, olive oil
Chop & gently fry the onion in a casserole dish until it starts to go soft, then add the lardons and then the chicken on a higher hear. Season well with salt & pepper. When the chicken is browning nicely, add the chopped garlic and continue to fry. Before the garlic can burn, add the cider, and the peas. We cooked the potatoes separately but I would suggest adding them to the pot now. Reduce heat to a simmer and put a lid on.
Cook for 30 min and serve on soup plates with crusty bread to mop up the sublime juice.
Tragically no photos of these, they all got eaten too quickly to snap. But once you’ve made your own hummous and flat breads you’ll never go back to shop-bought.
This is adapted from Jersualem by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi to make it quicker and easier with tinned chickpeas. It came as a revelation to me that it tastes better without oil.
- 400g tin of chickpeas
- About 150g of tahini
- Half a big lemon
- Ice cold water from the fridge
- A huge clove of garlic
Drain the chickpeas and put in a food processor. Chop and pound the garlic in a pestle & mortar and add to the chickpeas with the lemon juice. Do not add any salt if the chickpeas were in salted water. Add about half the amount of tahini compared with the amount of chickpeas. Whizz up and slowly add iced water until it becomes a smooth paste. Add more lemon juice or other flavourings to taste – smoked paprika and cumin are big favourites here but this is so simple and delicious it really doesn’t need anything else.
Adapted from the superb River Cottage Handbook No.3: Bread by Daniel Stevens.
- 200g plain flour
- 300g strong white bread flour
- 5g powdered yeast
- 10g fine salt
- 325ml semi-skimmed milk
- 1 tbsp olive oil
Put all the dry ingredients in a food mixer with a dough-hook attached. On a slow speed, add the oil and gradually add the milk. Knead for about 10 minutes and cover the bowl with clingfilm and leave in a warm place for about an hour or until it has doubled in size.
Knock the dough back and on a well-flowered worktop roll out shapes that are big enough to fit in your frying pan – any size will do, about 4mm thick. Heat a dry pan as hot as you can get it, open doors & windows to temporarily quieten the smoke alarms with a juicy bone.
When the pan is really hot, pop a rolled-out piece of dough in. It will start to bubble and when slightly charred onderneath, flip it over until cooked on both sides. (Daniel Stevens uses the stove and a grill for the tops but I found this too much bother, and indeed I was getting too hot!). Serve with the hummous you made above. This is a half-quantity from the original recipe but it still made about 10 small flatbreads, plenty to feed all 5 of us.
Adapted from a BBC Good Food recipe when I realised that most recipes in a certain ramen cookbook required 8 other things you had to make and about a month of spare time. Serves 4.
- 1 chicken stock cube
- a handful of frozen stir-fry veg, quickly fried
- 1 far garlic clove, thinly chopped
- 1 red chilli, thinly sliced
- a few good slugs of soy sauce
- a few shakes of Worcester sauce
- thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger root, thinly sliced – it’s always a ‘thumb-sized’ piece of ginger. Perhaps because ginger looks like thumbs.
- 1 teaspoon Chinese five spice
- pinch of chilli powder
- some sugar or sweetener, e.g. honey or agave nectar
- 2 packets of thick easy-cook ramen / udon noodles – the moist ones.
- 8 strips of pork belly
- 2 tsp sesame oil
- vegetable oil
- sesame seeds
- spring onion, chopped
- some baby spinach leaves
- a sheet of nori / dried seaweed
Rub the pork belly strips with Chinese 5 spice and set aside.
Quickly fry a few handfuls of frozen stir-fry veg in some vegetable oil and set aside.
Add some sesame oil to the pan and turn up the heat. Sear the pork belly strips until they are brown on each side and set aside. Pour off any excess fat.
In the same pan, with all the caramelised porky bits, combine the chicken stock cube, sauces, sweetener, 750ml hot water, garlic, ginger, fresh chilli, a pinch of chilli powder and a pinch more 5 spice. Bring to the boil and simmer for a while. Add more water if required. Add the noodles and veg.
Slice the pork belly in the opposite direction to the strips so each porky chunk has a strip of meat and fat and add to the pot. Simmer gently until pork and noodles are cooked, add the spinach and put the lid on until it has wilted.
Serve and garnish with sesame seeds, spring onion and shredded nori.
They may not have given away the recipe for the Dead Hippie burger sauce, but The Meatliquor Chronicles (Faber & Faber) is, I have to say, worth buying for one recipe alone: their Layover Chili. This is the only way I make chili now. And sorry, don’t even think about trying to make a veggie version of this, it just won’t work (and other fine veggie and vegan chili recipes are available.)
I’ve adapted this to suit my pocket and tastes and reduced the quantities. Serves about 3 with rice or in wraps with cheese, lettuce, sour cream, more ketchup and mustard. It’s also a delight with tortilla chips or actual chips (i.e. fries).
- 500g minced beef. My Sainsbury’s dumps packets of this that have reached their sell-by date cheap on a Saturday afternoon, I buy & freeze.
- 1 beef stock cube (I use Knorr).
- 1 finely-chopped white onion.
- 2 minced cloves of garlic.
- 1 tablespoon tomato puree
- 1 large can of Sainsbury’s Basics Lager. It’s 2% abv (steady now) and tastes like weak apple juice but it’s only about 50p a can and works brilliantly in this recipe.
- 1 tablespoon ground cumin.
- 1 tablespoon ground coriander.
- 1 teaspoon each of chilli flakes, cayenne pepper, smoked paprika.
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano.
- 1 tablespoon of pickled jalapeños, finely chopped – more to garnish.
- Large squirt of Heinz tomato ketchup – more to garnish.
- Large squirt of French’s American Mustard – more to garnish.
- Salt and pepper.
Fry the onions gently in some vegetable oil, add the garlic and remove when they start to brown. Fry the minced beef with the tomato puree until browned all over. Crumble in the beef stock cube and then deglaze with the beer. Add all of the other ingredients, stir, topping up with hot water if needed. This is a wet chili. Leave to simmer for at least an hour, preferably longer, adding water if it looks like it’s getting too dry. Serve with tortilla chips, wraps, fries, rice, cheese, sour cream, whatever. It is totally amazing.
This is my current default tomato-based pasta sauce. Feeds family of 5.
- 2 x cartons of passata (Sainsbury’s Basics will do – or chopped tinned tomatoes)
- handful of fresh basil, chopped
- 4 or 5 anchovies from a jar
- 3 fat cloves of garlic, chopped
- sprinkle of dried chilli flakes
- 500g bag of really good quality pasta
- half a vegetable stock cube
- heaped teaspoon of brown sugar
- dash of Worcestershire sauce
- dash of balsamic vinegar or red wine
- salt, pepper, olive oil
Fry the chillis, basil and anchovies in some olive oil for a couple of minutes until the anchovies melt. Add the garlic and cook briefly but do not allow the garlic to go brown. Add the passata and all the other ingredients except the stock cube and pasta. Bring to the boil and simmer for at least 30 minutes.
Fill a large pan with a lot of boiling water and add the stock cube and some salt. Cook the pasta according to the instructions. Use cheap ingredients for everything else, but the pasta must be the best you can possibly afford.
While the pasta is cooking, whizz up the sauce with a hand blender. This really does make a difference – you get a creamier sauce and the garlic and basil flavours permeate better.
When the pasta is cooked, make a half-assed attempt at draining it – you want the pasta to be wet. Add the poorly-drained pasta to the sauce. Serve with grated parmesan cheese and crusty bread. This really is quite delicious and a doddle to make.
(Not quite vegetarian, I know – but I guess you could omit the anchovies and Worcestershire sauce and try it with Henderson’s Relish instead?)
Posted in pasta
Tagged pasta, sauce
Tilly likes these so much we’ve added this to the menu in our Imaginary Café.
You will need:
- Some chicken thighs (or breasts, but thighs are cheaper and tastier. Cheaper and tastier in the Suppertime way.) – 1 per person.
- Some buttermilk – or and egg / milk mix.
- Spicy sauce of your choice, e.g. a Mexican chilli sauce.
- Some polenta or semolina
- Plenty of salt, freshly-ground pepper
- 1 tsp garlic powder / granules
- 1 tbsp smoked paprika
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
Bash the chicken flat with a rolling pin. Put it in a bowl for a while with the buttermilk and spicy sauce mix to marinade.
Meanwhile, in an old ice cream tub, mix all the dry ingredients, then put the lid on and shake like a Polaroid picture.
When you’re ready to cook, take the chicken out of the marinade bowl, add to the dry mix, coat and shake. Then shallow fry for about 10 minutes on each side until golden brown. Serve with veg or in a sandwich.
Cooking al fresco:
Posted in chicken
It’s old-fashioned but it’s wet & windy and this went down a treat tonight. Easy, warming, delicious. Would feed about 4 hungry adults – 1 adult and 2 children failed to eat half of this, the left-overs are a freezer treat to come.
- 1 medium or small chicken
- 1 bottle of full-bodied red wine
- 1 onion
- 3 miserable carrots, chopped chunkily
- a few manky bits of limp celery
- 1 chicken stock cube or stockpot
- some sprigs of thyme
- 3 bay leaves – if you have three leaves left
- a few chunks of celeriac (optional)
- 1 tablespoon brandy
- 2 tablespoons flour
- salt’n'pepa (push it)
- 100g lardons/pancetta/bacon
- 1 fat clove garlic
Put the oven on around 170C. In a casserole with a sploosh of olive oil fry the bacon chunks with the onion, carrots, celery, cleriac until soft. Remove them from the casserole and then brown the whole chicken (seasoned with salt’n'pepa mmm baby baby) all over. Remove the chicken and put the other ingredients back in the dish. Add the flour and stir as you gradually add the brandy, stock cube and the wine. A whole bottle. Do it. You will thank me.
When your mix is bubbling and getting a bit thick, chuck the chicken back in with the bay leaves and thyme. Cover and cook in the oven for an hour or two, turning the carcass twice during the process.
Remove the chicken and reduce the sauce on the hob for 10 minutes or so. Pull the chicken apart and serve with lashings of the rich red wine sauce, vegetables – and I made some small rosemary roast potatoes to go with this, which absorbed that delicious red wine sauce just beautfully.
Nigel Slater: you showed me what to do. You showed me what to do…
Posted in chicken
Quesadillas are so easy to make, I can’t believe we’ve never tried them before – especially since we have Mexican food every couple of weeks. We made potato and chorizo ones, but I’ll outline a couple of possible alternatives at the end.
This is a simplified version of a recipe in Mexican Food by Wahaca-founder Thomasina Miers. Feeds 4.
- 4 large, plain flour tortilla wraps
- 200g chorizo – whole not sliced
- 1 ball mozzarella cheese, torn into chunks
- 4 large handfuls of grated cheddar cheese
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1 clove garlic, chopped
- 500g potato
- fresh thyme
- olive oil, salt, pepper
Peel and cut the potato into 1cm cubes. Fry until soft, then set aside. In the same pan, fry the onion until soft, then add the garlic and cook for another couple of minutes. Cut the chorizo into chunks, put the potato back in with the thyme and fry for several minutes until everything combined and the potatoes have taken on a glorious reddish hue.
Spread a quarter of the mix on half a wrap, and add the cheese. Fold it over and squish down flat so you have a semi-circle. Brush with olive oil and cook on a hot griddle for a minute or two, flipping over and cooking both sides until the cheese melts. They will have pleasing scorch lines on them from the griddle and be slightly crisp and crunchy. Cut the half moon in to 3 or 4 wedges and serve – we had them with salsa, slaw and guacamole.
We also made a pescatarian version with prawns, smoked paprika and a dollop of pibil chilli sauce. Plenty of scope for veggie alternatives too – I’d like to try making them with squeaky cheese (aka halloumi).
No photos as they didn’t hang around long enough to snap. Delicious, quick & easy!
I was trying to make Nigella’s red cabbage from her Christmas book, but I didn’t have the right spices and I mistook pomegranate juice for cranberry – it worked rather well, certainly much sweeter than my usual winter red cabbage.
- 1 red cabbage
- 1 red onion
- 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
- tsp sea salt
- 2 eating apples
- 2 tbsp brown sugar
- 1 tsp mixed spice
- grated nutmeg
- tiny bit of ground cinnamon
- carton of cranberry juice drink
Cut the red onion into large, but quite thin, slices. In a thick-bottommed casserole or saucepan, fry the onion for 10 mins or so in the oil with the salt so they go soft but not brown. Add the diced apple, cook for a few more minutes. Add the spices, sugar and cabbage then cover with the cranberry juice drink and bring to the boil, then simmer, with the lid on, on a very low heat for a couple of hours – or put it in a very low oven.
This tastes better the longer you leave it. We had it with roast chicken and I froze the leftovers for Christmas day. Delicious!