Nigel Slater

Rabbit stew with wheat beer and tarragon

rabbit.jpg

Rabbit stew looks like dog food. No amount of herb garnish or photographic brilliance can make it look good. So instead I offer you a photo of my favourite ‘rabbit’ apron.

I don’t cook rabbit very often but when I do I always use this recipe which started out life as a Nigel Slater one. The ingredients remain roughly the same but I’ve tinkered with the cooking method, preferring a slow cook in the oven to one on the hob.

I only buy wild rabbit from my local farmer’s market but I have to admit I find cooking rabbit a real challenge.  Even decapitated the body is unmistakably a rabbit (visions of Watership Down dance in my head) and I’m too squeamish about this to joint the rabbit myself. If you’re pathetic like me I recommend asking your butcher to do this bit for you. I ask my husband and he does it willingly because this is one of his favourite meals.

This is not a difficult recipe to make but it does take a long time to cook and picking the meat off the bones at the end is a bit fiddly. Nigel, prefers to serve the meat on the bone but I like to concentrate on eating rather than worrying about choking. Some of the rabbit bones are tiny and troublesome.

If you’re not a huge fan of game (like me) then rabbit is a good one to try. It tastes rather like the dark meat from a really good free range turkey. The sauce in this recipe is amazingly rich with the tarragon adding an important note of freshness. We should probably eat more wild rabbit, they are plentiful and farmers see them as pests and shoot them to preserve their crops. Although there is no closed season for rabbit hunting a moral farmer* will not shoot while they are raising their young.

Ben likes his stew served in a giant Yorkshire pudding – unconventional, but delicious (but then again anything served in a Yorkshire pudding is usually good).

I have also used the meat as a ravioli filling with the sauce tossed through the pasta at the end before serving.

*such as Picks Organic Farm who sold me my rabbit back in March – it’s been in the freezer a while

Rabbit stew

Serves 2

  • 2 onions, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 1 whole rabbit, jointed into 6 portions
  • A thick slice of butter (about 1 cm thick)
  • The needles of 2 bushy springs of rosemary
  • 4 sprigs of thyme
  • 1 litre of wheat beer
  • 150ml of double cream (or less if you don’t like things too creamy – I just used a dash)
  • The leaves of 4 sprigs of tarragon, roughly chopped
  • Salt and pepper

In a heavy based casserole dish melt the butter over a medium heat and cook the onions until translucent. Remove the onions.

Season the rabbit pieces well with salt and pepper and brown in the pan for around 5 minutes on each side until you have a nice deep brown colour. Add the onions back in.

Add the rosemary, thyme and wheat beer to the pan and bring to the boil.

Put a lid on and cook in an 150oC oven for 3 – 4 hours until the rabbit meat is tender and comes away from the bone easily. The amount of time this will take will depend on the age and provenance of your rabbit. Wild rabbits will generally take longer than farmed (but will taste better).

Let the stew cool and then pick the meat from the bones. This is a finicky job. Discard the bones and put the meat to one side.

Then pass the liquid through a fine sieve, mushing up at the end with a spoon to get all the best onion juices, then add to the rabbit meat. Heat through again on the hob and then add the cream, then the tarragon and season with salt and pepper.

You can prepare this in advance but refrigerate before you add the cream and tarragon. Reheat in a 160oC oven for 30 minutes, then finish with cream and tarragon on the hob.

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Nigel Slater’s mushroom and spinach korma

mushroom and spinachh korma.jpg

Believe me this tastes better than it looks.

I’m rather enjoying being a temporary vegetarian and am not really missing meat and fish at all. I did waver slightly when my son was pushing the battered fish from his takeaway around his plate – my ‘just’ chips hadn’t really hit the spot and I was tempted to eat it all up for him. There was also a stab of jealousy over my husband’s sausages, Yorkshire pudding and gravy. I can just about put up with veggie sausages but vegetarian gravy just doesn’t compare with the meat version.

The hardest thing is eating out. Vegetarians get a rough deal here unless they dine at specifically vegetarian restaurants which is tricky to do when you are mainly friends with meat eaters.

All too often restaurants offer very limited options for vegetarians and the lack of originality is astounding. If you don’t like goats cheese (like me) then you’re pretty much stuffed – goat’s cheese tart being an almost permanent fixture on menus. You must like risotto or you’re in serious trouble. Soup is also popular as restaurants try to kill two birds with one stone by making the obligatory soup option also the vegetarian one. My sister (who lives in a family of vegetarians) jokes about the ubiquitous and bland ‘Mushroom Stroganoff’. She will not eat anywhere unless she can order a bowl of chips if the vegetarian option fails her.

I bought some mushrooms for dinner in the week without a plan. A google recipe search placed the before mentioned ‘Mushroom Stroganoff’ in pole position and I nearly made it for a laugh. But then my head was turned by this Nigel Slater korma from his fabulous ‘Real Food’ book.

It doesn’t sound very exciting (probably the fault of the word ‘korma’) and I wasn’t expecting much (except a disappointed, meat deprived husband). But  it was actually very delicious. The addition of roasted hazelnuts and sultanas is genius  (so do not be tempted to leave these out). Ben ate it very, very happily.

This is not a difficult dish to make once you have prepped and lined up all the ingredients (there are quite a few and they are all important, I’m learning this about vegetarian cookery – vegetables need a lot more help to make them taste ‘special’).

Unfortunately my permanently(?) vegetarian daughter does not like mushrooms. Eating out with her is going to be a nightmare!

Nigel Slater’s mushroom and spinach korma

Serves 2-4 (depending on appetite and how much rice you serve with it)

  • 50g of butter (I used ghee)
  • 2 medium onions, peeled, cut in half and finely sliced
  • 3 large cloves of garlic, peeled and thinly sliced
  • A thumb sized piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
  • 15 cardamom pods, husks removed and seeds crushed
  • ½ a teaspoon of turmeric
  • ½ a teaspoon of chilli powder (I used flakes)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 650g of assorted mushrooms, roughly chopped (I only had 500g which were a mixture of chestnut and some dried Chinese mushrooms which I found in the back of the cupboard and rehydrated in water first)
  • 50g of hazelnuts, toasted and shelled (I toasted mine in a 180oC oven for 10 minutes and then removed the shells by rolling between some kitchen roll)
  • 350g of leaf spinach (I used 6 cubes of frozen spinach as this was all I had)
  • 50g of sultanas (Nigel uses ‘golden’ ones but then he would)
  • 150g of thick natural yoghurt
  • 150g of crème fraiche
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped, fresh coriander leaves
  • Salt

Melt the butter (or ghee) in a deep pan (over a medium heat) and add the onions, garlic and ginger. Fry for about 5 minutes until golden (turn the heat down if the butter starts to burn).

Then add the spices and bay leaves and cooked for another 2-3 minutes until fragrant.

Add the mushrooms to the pot and cook for a few minutes until they soften.

Then add 225ml of water and the hazelnuts (I also added my frozen spinach here which I hadn’t bothered to defrost first and used slightly less water – because of the excess in the frozen spinach). Bring the water to a boil turn the heat down low and cook for 15 minutes with a lid on.

If you are using fresh spinach, wash the leaves and cook them (still wet) in a saucepan over a medium heat for a couple of minutes with a lid on (they will cook in their own steam). Drain, squeeze out the water and add to the mushrooms after they have finished simmering for 15 minutes.

Then add the sultanas and simmer for a couple of minutes.

Take the pan off the heat and add in the yoghurt and crème fraiche. Heat gently but don’t boil or the mixture will curdle.

Finally stir in the chopped coriander and season well with salt (I needed two large pinches).

I served the curry with rice but it would be amazing with homemade naan.

 

Nigel Slater’s new potato and smoked mackerel dauphinoise

smoked haddock and potato bake

As usual this blog has been neglected during the school summer holidays. Today however, I have a moment of calm as I mind the shop while my lovely sister looks after my children. This gives me the chance to quickly post this brilliant recipe from good old Nige.

As allotment holders we have a wonderful glut of ‘Charlotte’ new potatoes at the moment and so have declared this ‘Potato Week‘. This means that we eat potatoes every day (note: this is not the same as the ‘Potato Diet’ where you eat nothing but potatoes which is bonkers).

So I’ve been thumbing through my book collection trying to find new ways with waxy potatoes and found this recipe for ‘new potato and smoked mackerel dauphinoise’. I wasn’t too sure about the combination of oily fish and cream but trust me it really works.

If you like creamy things and smoked fish you will absolutely love this. It is also simple to make and smoked mackerel is easy to get hold of (I like Co-op’s the best even in preference to my fish mongers).

The dish is very rich so you will only need the simplest of accompaniments, perhaps some steamed spinach or a simple green salad.

PS. I am off to Belgium on holiday soon but will be back with a vengeance in September when the children have returned to school. I have been reading a lot of Elizabeth David over the holidays and am inspired.

Nigel Slater’s new potato and smoked mackerel dauphinoise

(From Nigel Slater’s ‘Real Food’)

Serves 2-4

  • 450g of waxy potatoes, scrapped clean (this is roughly 5 largish ones, I used Charlotte potatoes)
  • 225g of smoked mackerel fillets, skin removed (approximately 3 fillets)
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 300ml of double cream
  • 200ml of milk (the recipe calls for full-fat but I used semi-skimmed and this worked fine)
  • 1 tablespoon of wholegrain mustard
  • Salt and pepper

Preheat your oven to 190oC (fan).

Slice the potatoes lengthways about 3mm thick (the thickness of a pound coin) and put them in a shallow baking dish roughly 30cm in diameter.

Flake the mackerel into bite sized pieces and toss them gently with the potatoes making sure that the fish doesn’t break up too much. Tip the potatoes and fish into your dish, flatten down with your hands and tuck the bay leaves underneath the top layer.

Mix together the cream, milk and mustard and season with salt and pepper (not too much salt as the smoked mackerel is already very salty). Pour the mixture over the potatoes and fish and bake in the oven for one hour.

Serve straight away with simply cooked greens or a salad.

Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic and homemade baguettes

chicken with 40 cloves of garlic

In my small collection of recipe books there are at least four versions of ‘chicken with 40 cloves of garlic’ and I’ve always promised myself that if I ever have a bumper crop of garlic this would be the first thing I would cook.

Finally this year (after over 10 years of having an allotment) I have struck gold with my garlic and I feel as though I can spare 40 cloves for just one dish.

lovely garlic

My beautiful garlic.

But which recipe should I use? In the end I opted for the most straight forward sounding one – Alistair Little’s in Nigel Slater’s ‘Real Food’. When I found the original programme from 1998 where they cook this recipe and saw them serve it with nothing more than bread and wine, I knew I was onto a winner.

This dish is certainly delicious, but despite all the fuss (i.e. chefs falling over themselves to bring you ‘their’ version) it is basically roast chicken with garlicky gravy and some roasted garlic on the side. I do love this simplicity but the best bit for me was the bread accompaniment (see recipe below) and the smell filling our kitchen as the garlic and chicken were roasting.

Chicken with forty cloves of garlic

(based on Alistair Little’s in Nigel Slater’s ‘Real Food’ with some alterations)

Serves a family of four with leftovers for sandwiches and stock

  • A good quality free range chicken weighing about 2kg
  • A lemon
  • Salt and pepper
  • Some olive oil
  • 40 large cloves of young garlic (this is about 4 bulbs)
  • A sprig of fresh rosemary
  • A couple of bay leaves
  • 250g chicken stock

Preheat the oven to 240oC. Cut the lemon in half and put into the cavity of the chicken. Drizzle some olive oil over the outside of the chicken, season well with salt and pepper, and rub in with your hands. Bake in the oven for 25 minutes until golden brown.

Meanwhile, prepare the garlic. Break up the bulbs into cloves, you don’t need to peel but remove any really dry skin that comes off easily with your fingers. Take the chicken out of the oven, scatter the garlic, rosemary and bay leaves around it, lower the heat to 200oC and return to the oven for another hour.

chicken and garlic

When the chicken is cooked, tip out the lemon and remove it from the roasting tin onto a serving plate. Then use a slotted spoon to remove nearly all the garlic cloves and put those on the serving plate as well (save 3 or 4 in the tin to mash into the gravy).

Give everything left in the roasting tin a good mash with a fork (including the lemons). Then add the chicken stock and put over the hob stirring well with a wooden spoon to get all the bits off the bottom of the tin. Let it bubble away for a couple  of minutes until you have a light gravy. Strain into a serving jug and serve with the chicken.

NOTE: In my books very little is said about how exactly you go about serving/eating this dish. This is what we did and whilst it wasn’t very elegant it was a lot of fun. Carve big chunks of chicken, pour over the gravy, eat with roughly cut baguettes (see recipe below) spreading the garlic onto the bread and dipping it into the gravy. Get stuck in, use your fingers and don’t forget the wine.

chicken with 40 cloves of garlic the table

Ben’s baguettes

baguettes

This is a simplified version of the recipe handed out to my husband Ben when he attended the French Baking course at the School of Artisan Food. Ben has made these many times and in our view the simplifications don’t affect the finished product at all.

I bought the course as a present for his birthday and without meaning to be selfish it has turned out to be a present for the whole family. Food-wise there are few things better than fresh baguettes for breakfast – especially when they are made by someone else.

Makes 6 small baguettes (about 30cm length), or 4 larger ones (the same length but fatter)

  • 640g of strong bread flour
  • 415ml of water
  • 10g of salt
  • 6g of yeast

Mix all the dry ingredients together and then add the water and mix with your hands until it comes together.

Knead the dough for 10 minutes. Shape into a ball and place in a bowl covered with cling film for at least a couple of hours to rise but you can leave it for up to 4. It should come nearly to the top of a large mixing bowl.

bread rising

Knock back the dough with your hands, bring into a ball and divide into 4 or 6 equal portions, depending on the size you want.

Shape each portion into a sausage pulling out length-ways at first and then rolling to even out. Don’t worry if they look a bit rough.

Now you’ll need a tea towel which is impregnated with flour (Ben has one of these set aside for this purpose). Lay the tea towel over a high sided baking tray letting it hang over the sides. Put one baguette along one edge of the tray and then make a fold in the tea towel next to the baguette so that it comes up the side. Then lay the next baguette on the other side of the fold. Repeat this for the third and fourth baguettes. The purpose of this is to stop the baguettes touching each other and to avoid having to buy a special baguette tray. It’s a bit tricky to explain so here is a photo.

baguettes in the tin

Use the same technique for the others using another tray. Allow to prove for about an hour.

Transfer the baguettes to some thin baking trays scattered with a little flour or semolina to stop them sticking. I used two with three on each. This is quite a tricky process as the dough is quite floppy. Try not to knock out the air that has been created but don’t worry too much if the shape isn’t perfect.

Slash the tops diagonally across with a very sharp knife and bake at 250oC for 12-15 minutes (for the 6 smaller ones), or 20 mins (for 4).

Allow to cool a little (if you can wait that long) and serve.

NOTE: To reheat cook in the oven at 250oC for 3-5 minutes until crispy.

New York cheesecake

baked cheesecake

I’ve been using a Mary Berry recipe for baked vanilla cheesecake for years and I’ve always been perfectly happy with it. Last week though I decided on a whim to try Nigella’s New York version instead and my goodness it was so much better. The texture was smooth and creamy, it was not too sweet AND there were no cracks (probably due to the addition of cornflour).

In true Nigella style this is an expensive cheesecake to make (£11.46 based on my Tesco shop using branded items such as McVities and Philadelphia) but it’s huge and therefore ideal if you’re catering for a lot of people.

Nigella Lawson’s New York cheesecake
(from Nigel Slater’s ‘Real Food’)

Serves 12 generously

For the base

  • 250g of digestive biscuits, crushed to fine crumbs with a rolling pin or in a food processor (89p)
  • 150g of butter, melted (53p)
  • 3 tablespoons of caster sugar (5p)

For the filling

  • 2 tablespoons of cornflour (7p)
  • 225g of caster sugar (28p)
  • 750g of full fat soft cream cheese (£6.40)
  • 6 eggs, serparated (£1.25)
  • 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract (47p)
  • 150ml of double cream (60p)
  • 150ml of sour cream (60p)
  • ½ teaspoon of salt (2p)
  • The grated zest of 1 lemon (30p)

Butter the bottom and sides of a 24cm round, springform cake tin.

For the base, mix together the butter, sugar and biscuit crumbs and press firmly into the bottom of the tin. Chill for one hour.

For the filling, start by setting your oven to 170oC.

Mix together the sugar and cornflour. Beat in the cream cheese, egg yolks and vanilla extract by hand or with an electric mixer. Then slowly pour both the creams in, add the salt and lemon zest and beat some more.

In a separate bowl whisk the egg whites until stiff and then fold carefully into the cheese mixture using a metal spoon. Tip into the chilled base and bake for one hour and fifteen minutes (the recipe said for between one hour and one and a half hours so I went with the middle ground).

Turn off the heat (don’t open the door) and let the cake stand in the oven for two more hours.

Then open the door and let it stand for another hour.

Chill in the fridge and serve cold.

You can dust the top with icing sugar before serving if you like.

NOTE: This is lovely eaten just as it is but I served mine with a cheat’s raspberry coulis (basically a tin of raspberries in syrup whizzed up until smooth). I think it would also taste nice with any other fruit coulis, or a caramel or chocolate sauce.

Pork with cashew nuts, lime and mint

pork lime cashews

I was rather mean about Nigel Slater in a recent blog post and it’s been bothering me. Being horrible doesn’t sit well with me – I was just trying (and failing) to be clever and cutting like many journalists (forgetting that I am not clever, or indeed a journalist). So I’m sorry Nigel, as I constantly remind my children, how someone looks should never be important.

And my view that Nigel is a really good food writer was strengthened recently when I picked up his recipe book ‘Real Food’ in a charity shop. It was written 16 years ago and it’s brilliant. A no nonsense cookbook, full of straightforward recipes with big flavours – just the sort of food I like. It also includes several Nigella recipes (from the time before she was on the telly).

I’ve tried a few recipes but so far this ‘pork with cashews, lime and mint’ is my favourite. It’s punchy, refreshing and just perfect for a Sunday evening when you’ve drunk a little too much over the weekend. If you like powerful flavours and a feeling that you’ve in some way cleansed your body then you should definitely give this dish a go.

Nigel Slater’s pork with cashew nuts, lime and mint (in my own words)

Serves 2

  • 400g of pork fillet (trim off as much fat as possible, then cut into 1/2 inch thick medallions and cut these into thin strips)
  • 5 tablespoons of groundnut oil
  • 90g of cashew nuts (finely chopped with a knife or roughly crushed in a pestle and mortar)
  • 4 spring onions, finely chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • a 4cm knob of ginger, finely shredded
  • 4 small red chillies, finely chopped, (or I use 1 teaspoon of dried chilli flakes)
  • The zest and juice of 3 limes
  • 2 tablespoons of fish sauce
  • a handful of mint leaves, chopped
  • a handful of basil leaves, torn

Pour three tablespoons of oil into a really hot wok and stir fry the pork for three or four minutes, keeping the heat high and stirring from time to time so that it browns nicely. Tip the meat into a bowl along with any juices.

Return the wok to the heat and add the remaining oil. Add the spring onions, garlic, ginger and chillies and fry for a minute, stirring constantly so that they don’t stick or burn.

Then add the nuts and stir fry for another minute.

Add the meat back to the pan, along with any juices and stir in the lime zest and juice and fish sauce. Fry for a couple of minutes and then stir in the herbs.

Serve with plain rice.

Lamb and apricot tagine with couscous

Nigel Slater tagine without nigel

Over the last few weeks I’ve been experimenting with tagines. First I tried Lindsay Bareham’s lamb and apricot tagine. It looked beautiful and was quick to cook but tasted a bit insipid which was bizarre considering all the ingredients involved. I then tried a Nigel Slater recipe with the same name and I knew I’d found a winner. His version was slow cooked and absolutely packed with flavour.

Nigel Slater is a brilliant food writer but in my view he should never have been put on television. Is it just me who wants to drag him to the hairdressers? He’s also a little bit creepy. Like Nigel this dish is not a looker but don’t let that put you off because it tastes amazing.

It’s a bit tricky to source but don’t be tempted to miss out the preserved lemon – it cuts through the sweetness of the fruit and really lifts the whole dish.

Nigel Slater’s lamb and apricot tagine

Serves 4 generously

  • 1kg lamb shoulder, diced (to roughly 3 cm square) with as much fat trimmed off as possible
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons of ground turmeric
  • 1 tablespoon of sweet paprika
  • 1 teaspoon of hot paprika (I couldn’t find this and so I used cayenne pepper instead)
  • 3 onions, roughly chopped
  • 4 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 60g sultanas
  • 2 tablespoons of honey
  • 1 teaspoon of saffron
  • 750ml of chicken stock
  • 2 x 400g cans of chopped tomatoes
  • 350g apricots (I used just 250g because this is the size of the bag and this was plenty, I also roughly halved them)
  • A preserved lemon (I used ¼ of a jar of preserved lemon paste which they sell in the ingredients section of Tesco)
  • A large handful of coriander leaves
  • A small handful of mint leaves
  • Some oil
  • Salt and pepper for seasoning

In a bowl toss the diced lamb in half the ground spices, cover with cling film and leave in the fridge for at least four hours, although overnight is best.

Set your oven to 160oC fan.

First brown the lamb in batches in a frying pan with a little oil until it is nicely browned on all sides and set aside.

Then, in a heavy-based casserole dish with a lid, cook the onion, garlic and the remaining ground spices in a little oil over a medium heat until soft and slightly coloured.

Add the sultanas, honey, saffron, stock, tomatoes, apricots and meat to the pan. Bring to the boil, cover with a lid and cook in the preheated oven for 2 ½ hours.

If using a preserved lemon, cut it in half and discard the interior pulp. Finely chop the skin and stir in to the tagine. Alternatively, add the preserved lemon paste and give it a good stir.

I found that after 2 ½ hours the sauce was beautifully thick and did not need reducing. If yours does look a little thin then Nigel suggests removing the meat with a draining spoon and boiling the sauce over a high heat until it thickens up, before returning the meat to the pan.

Just before serving add the coriander and mint.

Serve on a bed of couscous (see below). It is also nice with rice.

Couscous

For 2-4

  • 200g couscous
  • A pinch of saffron
  • 450ml of hot chicken stock
  • The juice of half a lemon

Make up the stock and bring to the boil. Remove from the heat, add the saffron and the juice of half a lemon, then the couscous in a stream. Give it a quick stir, cover with cling film and leave for 15 minutes until all the liquid has been absorbed. Before serving fluff up the couscous with a fork.