Nutmeg

Nigella’s Chicken Shawarma

Chicken Shwarma 2

I’ve avoided  posting this recipe because I didn’t want you to think I was some sort of crazed Nigella fan/stalker such is the large number of her recipes on this blog.

However, this has become such a ‘go to’ recipe when I have to feed lots of people for a buffet type spread (and so many people have asked me for the recipe) that I’ve finally caved in.

This is a wonderfully simple recipe and whilst you do need a well stocked spice cupboard there’s nothing really specialist involved. It also makes good use of chicken thighs which still remain economical even if you buy them from a quality butcher (which I always do).

I cut the chicken into thin slices which makes it go along way and serve either with rice (easy) or homemade flat breads (a bit more effort). As an accompaniment Nigella mixes up a tahini and garlic flavoured yoghurt bejewelled with pomegranate seeds but I don’t bother with this.

Nigella’s Chicken Shawarma

Serves 6 (or more if you’re serving as part of a buffet with other dishes)

  • 12 skinless and boneless chicken thighs (I like to remove as much of the visible fat as possible)
  • The grated zest and juice of two lemons
  • 100 ml of regular olive oil
  • 4 fat or 6 smaller garlic cloves grated
  • 2 dried or fresh bay leaves
  • 2 teaspoons of paprika
  • 2 teaspoons of ground cumin
  • 2 teaspoons of sea salt flakes
  • 1 teaspoons of ground coriander
  • 1 teaspoon of dried chilli flakes
  • ¼ a teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • ¼ a teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg

Take a large bowl, tupperware or freezer bag, tip in the chicken thighs and add all the other ingredients.

Squish everything about (hands are best for this) until the chicken is well covered with all the marinade ingredients.

Cover and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or up to 1 day.

When you are ready to cook heat your oven to 200oC fan and take the chicken out of the fridge to come up to room temperature.

Spread the chicken thighs out on to a large baking tray – you may need two because you don’t want them to overlap.

Bake for 30 minutes until golden and slightly crispy on top. I like to turn mine halfway through for an even colour. Sometimes they need slightly longer than 30 minutes.

Take the chicken out of the oven and leave to rest for 5 minutes covered with foil.

Slice the cooked thighs thinly with a sharp knife and place in a sharing bowl for everyone to help themselves.

Beef tagine

beeftagine2

I’m a bit late to the game on the ras el hanout front. This ingredient has always seemed a bit too ‘Yotam Ottolenghi’ for me (meaning that it can’t be found easily in suburban Nottingham). But Tesco now stock it in their own brand spice range – a sure sign that it has entered the realms of commonplace.

Anyway, my sister gave me a little bag of it to try recently and so I set about finding a recipe.

Ras el hanout is a North African spice mix which translates as ‘head of the shop’ – as in the best spices the shop keeper has to offer. I have no idea exactly what was in my little unmarked bag, but according to Wikipedia, cardamom, cumin, cloves, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, allspice, dried ginger, chili peppers, coriander seed, peppercorn and paprika are all commonly used.

I’m not sure why this recipe (a bastardised version of one of Jamie Oliver’s*) uses additional cinnamon, cumin, paprika and ginger if the ras el hanout is likely to include these already. Purists would probably insist of making up their own spice mix from scratch in any case, as with garam masala, curry powder, jerk seasoning, five spice and the like.

All I can say is that the final dish was delicious and very easy (if time consuming) to make.

When I was frying off the beef my son asked me if I was making mince pies. I can see why he said this because the cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg in the spice mix does make it smell very Christmassy. I’m being a complete Grinch about Christmas at the moment so this is probably about as festive as my recipes on this blog will get this year.

*the original recipe can’t be trusted in any case. The comments section on Jamie’s website bought my attention to the fact that he uses teaspoons of spices in the TV series but tablespoons on the web.

Beef tangine

Serves 4-6

  • 1kg lean stewing steak cut into large (approx. 2.5 cm sq) chunks

For the marinade

  • 1 tablespoon of ras el hanout
  • 2 teaspoons of ground or whole cumin
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon of paprika
  • 1 teaspoon of salt

To cook

  • A little oil
  • 1 onion roughly chopped
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tin of chickpeas
  • A knorr vegetable stock pot (or equivalent vegetable stock cube)
  • 1 ½ cans of water
  • 100g of dried apricots cut into quarters

To serve

  • Toasted flaked almonds
  • A good handful of fresh coriander, chopped
  • Couscous (recipe here)

Place the beef in a bowl with all the marinade ingredients and mix them in with a wooden spoon or massage them in with your hands. Cover and place in the fridge for 12-24 hours.

When you are ready to cook, heat a little oil in a frying pan over a high heat and brown the meat all over. It is worth taking the time to make sure you get a really good dark brown colour on both sides as this helps with the final flavour. You will probably need to do this in a couple of batches depending on the size of your frying pan.

Fry off the onion in the same pan until brown.

Place the beef and onion in a lidded casserole dish along with the can of tomatoes, apricots, chickpeas and stock pot/cube. Cover with 1 and a half tins of water (using the tin from either the tomatoes or chickpeas to measure). Bring the mixture to the boil on the hob and then cover.

Place in an oven preheated to 180oC for 1 hour.

Then reduce the temperature to 150oc and cook for a further 2 hours or until the meat is tender.

Make sure to check the pot at regular intervals (about every 30 mins) to give it a little stir and add a little extra water if the sauce is becoming too dry.

Just before serving mix in a good handful of chopped, fresh coriander.

Serve over a steaming bowl of cous cous or rice and garnish with more coriander and lightly toasted flaked almonds.


PS. If, unlike me, you are feeling the yuletide spirit then you may like to try one of my Christmas recipes from previous years.

Bread sauce
Easy chocolate biscuits (decorated for Christmas)
Homemade mincemeat
Christmas fudge
Mincemeat filo cigars and no nonsense mincemeat tart
Christmas pudding
Prawn cocktail

Pumpkin pie

pumpkin pie with pumpkin 2
I’m a total Grinch when it comes to Halloween. I will carve a pumpkin (if pushed) but I was bought up to believe that ‘trick or treating’ is evil and the rest of the hype (a whole aisle of flammable costumes in Tesco for example) just makes me want to find a dark hole to climb into.

We do grow pumpkins because they are easy to grow at a time when not much else is happening on the allotment, but this year they were small and not great for carving. The upside was that they tasted amazing – the flesh was sweet and fresh, almost melon-like. My children happily gobbled it up raw.

With these delicious insides I decided to try making a pumpkin pie. I never liked it as a child but I thought I’d give it another go. So I googled for a recipe and this is an amalgamation of those that used ingredients I already had in my cupboard.

I stole the idea of a biscuit base from Good Food online (because I’m rubbish at pastry). Most recipes seemed to use evaporated milk but I only had condensed, so I found one that used that instead. The result was a pumpkin pie that was perfectly edible – rather like an egg custard tart with pizazz. Ben said it tasted Christmassy (that will be the cloves) so I might freeze some of the pumpkin puree and make this over Christmas.

Anyway, I know that I’ve missed the boat in posting this recipe now that Halloween (and Bonfire Night for that matter) have passed, but I wanted to record what I did ready for next year.

Pumpkin pie

At least 12 servings

For the crust

  • 200g digestive biscuits (approx. 13 biscuits), crushed (or you can use ginger biscuits)
  • 50g butter, melted

For the filling

  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger
  • 1/4 teaspoon of ground cloves (or you could use nutmeg if you dislike cloves)
  • 1 teaspoon of salt
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 425g pumpkin puree (see below if you don’t already have this to hand)
  • 397g can sweetened condensed milk

To make the pumpkin puree, first cut a medium pumpkin (or two small ones) into large wedges and remove the seeds with a spoon but don’t peel. Put the wedges into a large baking tray, cover with foil and roast in the oven for 1 hour at 180oC (the pumpkin flesh should be soft and you can test this with a skewer, if it goes through with no resistance then it’s done). Leave to cool and then scoop out the flesh from the skin and puree in a food processor. This will probably make more than the quantity required for this recipe.

For the base, smash up the biscuits either with a rolling pin in a plastic bag (my preferred method), or in a food processor.

Add the melted butter and mix until well combined. Tip into a 23cm, loose-bottomed tart tin. Use the back of a spoon to spread the mixture evenly over the base and up the sides of the tin. Put in the fridge and chill for at least half an hour.

Preheat your oven to 17oC.

Mix all the ingredients for the filling together until smooth.

Remove the crust from the fridge and place on a baking tray in the middle of the oven. Pull out the shelf and carefully fill with the pumpkin mixture, pouring it right to the top. Try not to slosh the filling over the sides as you push the shelf back in.

Bake for 40 minutes until set.

Cool in the tin to room temperature then chill completely in the fridge.

Serve cold.

Pumpkins sinister

pumpkin pie slice

Fiskekaker (Norwegian fish cakes)

Norwegian fish cakes

It may seem perverse to come back from holiday and attempt to recreate dishes that you didn’t even try whilst there, but that is exactly what I’ve done this week. I saw these fishcakes for sale in Bergen, and I really wanted to try them, but I didn’t because my penny pinching reflexes kicked in and I couldn’t bear to part with £££s for them.

On another note, I’ve been lusting after newly published cookbooks recently, but for before-said miserly tendencies I’ve made a resolution to revisit cookbooks that I currently own but never use instead. So I was reading Elisabeth Luard’s ‘European Peasant Cookery’ (which is a great hulk of a book, which I put on my birthday list 7 years ago, received and then promptly ignored) and one of the first recipes in the book was for Norwegian fish cakes, or fiskekaker. This tweaked my interest having been in Norway recently and I decided to try making them.

I wish I had tried the authentic version to compare them with, but what I can say is that mine (or rather Elisabeth’s) were delicious in a subtle, comforting way – almost like nursery food. I make fish cakes a lot but these are refreshingly simple with fish being the star of the show. Unsurprisingly my children loved them and I think they will become a regular feature on our weekly menu.

Fiskekaker (Norwegian fish cakes)

From Elisabeth Luard’s ‘European Peasant Cookery’

Makes about 12

  • 500g of filleted white fish (haddock or cod will do but make sure it’s as fresh as possible)
  • 1 small cooked potato, mashed, or 1 tablespoon of flour
  • 6 tablespoons of single cream or full cream milk
  • 1/2 a teaspoon of freshly grated nutmeg
  • 1/2 a teaspoon of sea salt
  • A good grinding of white pepper
  • Butter for frying

Skin the fish and remove any pin bones. Roughly chop the fish flesh and pound this either with a pestle and mortar (hard work but traditional) or finely mince in a food processor. Stir in the potato, cream and seasoning. Beat until you have a smooth doughy mixture.

Melt a good dollop of butter in a frying pan and heat to medium.

Using a dessert spoon dipped in water, scoop out a spoonful of the fish mixture and add it to the pan. Press it down with the back of the spoon. Alternatively shape into small cakes with wet hands. Continue until the pan is full. Brown on one side before flipping over to cook the other, about 5 minutes on each side. Keep warm in a low oven while you cook the others.

I served mine with dill butter, a beetroot salad and rice. More traditional would be to eat them just for themselves or with boiled potatoes.

Good hot porridge

porridge
You may find this post both patronising and hypercritical if you read the one I wrote a while back criticising Jamie Oliver for including a fish finger sandwich in his recipe book. But I’m posting this recipe because my daughter Elizabeth loves porridge and I would like my way of cooking it to be written down so that she can make it the same way when she’s a big girl. And remember, you don’t have to fork out £20 to read this blog.

Porridge is often classed as poor food because it’s cheap. I ate it for two meals a day when I was a skint graduate desperate to live in London with an unemployed boyfriend to support and too much pride to go running to the bank of mum and dad. But even then I really didn’t mind eating so much porridge because, just like my daughter, I LOVE it.

And now that money is not a huge issue but time is, porridge has become a real luxury for me. Most weekdays breakfast is a small bowl of muesli or a slice of toast eaten standing up whilst doing several other things, but when I can find time to make porridge I’m always pleased that I did. Here’s how I do it.

Porridge

Serves 2

  • 100g whole rolled jumbo oats
  • 450ml water
  • a pinch of salt
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 tablespoon of semi-skimmed milk
  • A little freshly grated nutmeg or cinnamon

Start the process the night before (remembering this is the trickiest bit). Measure the oats into a saucepan and soak in 450ml of cold water. Cover with a lid and leave overnight. This part is essential for a lovely creamy texture even though you are just using water.

In the morning put the pan on a high heat until it just starts to bubble. Turn the heat down to medium and cook for about 3-5 minutes, stirring continuously so that it doesn’t stick. If you think the porridge is a little thick for your liking then you can just add a bit more water.

Spoon into bowls and pour over 1 tablespoon of milk and add a drizzle of honey and some grated nutmeg. If you’re feeling really luxurious then you can use cream instead of milk which is delicious and an occasional weekend treat.

NOTE: Providing you don’t use cream this is great diet food. It really fills you up and is only 256 calories per serving (oats 185 calories, honey 64 calories, milk 7 calories).

Porridge and Elizabeth 1

Elizabeth enjoying her morning porridge.