Salad

Nigella’s crispy cornflake chicken

cornflake chicken

I’m really enjoying ‘Simply Nigella’. I am a sad case but I look forward (with great anticipation) to my Monday night escape into her wonderful world of liquorice treasure boxes, giant walk in pantries and pretty pink tableware.

But the best bit for me is that she makes food that I actually want to eat.

Now I’m a huge fan of Carluccio’s Chicken Milanese (if you haven’t come across this it’s basically a giant middle-class chicken nugget), so when I saw Nigella make crunchy chicken cutlets (that looked very similar) I knew I had to give them a go.

First my daughter played guinea pig and I used the cornflakes as a coating for chicken without the mustard/cinnamon/garlic seasoning. She loved it. Then I followed the recipe almost to the book (but with a little less mustard) and fed it to my husband. He declared it ‘surprisingly delicious’. He was surprised because in his eyes Nigella is a crazed mad woman and he can’t get past the programme’s introduction before he has to leave the room.

The mustard and cinnamon tasted amazing and I’m going to use that idea again even if I do opt for proper breadcrumbs. There’s something gratifying about turning old bits of bread into breadcrumbs for dishes like this, but in our house of hungry gannets bread is rarely leftover any more so this makes a good (and cheap) alternative. Shop bought panko breadcrumbs are so expensive.

PS. I’ve also made Nigella’s fish tacos (8/10).

Nigella’s crispy cornflake chicken

If you want the real recipe go to http://www.nigella.com/recipes/view/crunchy-chicken-cutlets or ask Santa to bring you the book (Santa it’s only £12 in Tesco!)

  • 2 chicken breast fillets battered out with a rolling pin to about 1cm thickness
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of Dijon mustard
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg
  • 75 grams cornflakes
  • 1 teaspoon of paprika
  • a pinch of cayenne pepper
  • a big pinch of salt
  • Oil for frying (Nigella uses 2 tablespoons but I needed more)

Crack an egg into a shallow dish that you can fit both the chicken breasts in and whisk in the mustard, cinnamon and garlic. Add the chicken breasts and spoon over the mix. Leave to marinade while you prepare the coating.

Put the cornflakes into a bowl and crush them by hand with your fingers until they look like coarse bread crumbs, you don’t want dust. Add the salt, paprika and cayenne.

Take the chicken breasts out of the egg mixture one by one and toss them in the cornflakes until they are really well coated on both sides. Set aside.

Heat the oil in a frying pan and when medium hot, fry for 3 minutes on the first side, then turn them over carefully and give them another 3 minutes. By this time the chicken should be cooked through but do check.

Serve with salad.

Advertisements

Roasted beetroot with cumin, lime and mint dressing

beetroot salad

We have beetroot coming out of our ears. This is great news, but after using it in all our best-loved beetroot dishes (borscht, Russian salad, my husband’s legendary pink risotto) we are running out of ideas. So this week I’ve been experimenting with dressings for cold, roasted beetroot so that we can have it on its own for lunch, or on the side with any old meal.

So far this is my favourite. The flavours of cumin and lime are fantastic with the sweet beetroot.

Roasted beetroot with a cumin, lime and mint dressing

  • 4 large beetroot

Dressing

  • 1/2 a teaspoon of cumin seeds (don’t be tempted to cheat and use powdered cumin – it’s just not the same)
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh lime juice
  • 3/4 tablespoon of honey
  • 2 tablespoons of good quality olive oil
  • Sea salt
  • A table spoon of fresh mint leaves, chopped

For the roast beetroot, first cut off the leaves and trim the root, then scrub to remove as much dirt as possible.

Place in a baking tin, cover tightly with foil, and bake in an oven heated to 160oC for 1 1/2 to 2 hours. The beetroot is cooked when a skewer goes all the way through without resistance. Leave to cool and then slip the beetroots out of their skins and chop into small chunks or thin slices.

For the dressing, first dry fry the cumin seeds in a small frying pan, without oil, over a high heat for about 30 seconds until brown and fragrant. Crush in a pestle and mortar with a good pinch of coarse sea salt.

Add this mix to the other ingredients in a small bowl and whisk together. Spoon over the roasted beetroot and serve.

NOTE: This beetroot salad goes really well with brown rice and flaked hot smoked salmon.

Russian salad

russian-salad 3

The jury’s out when it comes to the ‘Russianness’ of this salad. Some say that it’s actually Italian and should be called ‘insalata russa’. All I can say in its defence is that I ate it a lot when travelling across Russia. It was a staple in railway buffet cars and one star hotels where I suspect it was made with tinned vegetables but I still found it tasty enough to attempt to recreate the dish at home.

This salad wouldn’t be considered a looker (unless you’re a three year old girl with a Disney Princess/colour pink obsession) but it is still delicious considering how easy it is to put together (although perhaps this is just because anything smothered in mayonnaise tastes good).

It’s also a great way to disguise lots of vegetables (although my four year old son, who prefers blue, is rather suspicious of the colour).

Russian salad

Serves two (as a hearty starter, or as a main course with bread on the side)

  • 1 medium beetroot, cooked (see below) or pickled
  • 2 medium waxy potatoes, I used Charlotte potatoes
  • 50g of fresh or frozen peas
  • 50g of carrots
  • 50g of green beans
  • 1 pickled gherkin
  • 2 hard boiled eggs (or, I like to use one pickled beetroot egg – see my post Things in jars – pickling and pesto – and one hard boiled)
  • 2 heaped tablespoons of mayonnaise
  • Some chopped fresh dill (if this is easily available, don’t use dried)

If your beetroot is raw then roast it in the oven (whole with the skin on) in a baking dish covered with foil at 160oC for one hour. Leave to cool then top and tail, peel off the skin and chop into small cubes. If you’re using pickled beetroot then just drain and chop into small cubes.

Peel and chop the potatoes into quarters then boil for 5-7 minutes until tender. Drain, leave to cool and chop into small cubes.

Chop the carrots into small cubes, slice the beans thinly then blanch all of these with the peas in boiling water for one minute. Drain and plunge into cold water to stop the cooking process, drain again and set aside.

Chop the gherkins into small cubes.

Cook the eggs in a pan of boiling water for 8 minutes. Cool in a pan of cold water, peel off the shell and chop into quarters.

To assemble, mix all the prepared ingredients together with the mayonnaise (leaving some of the chopped egg as a garnish) and put into small bowls or glasses. Garnish with the chopped egg and fresh dill.

If you want to work the presentation a little, then mix everything except the beetroot together and spoon two thirds of the mix into glasses. Then spoon over two thirds of the beetroot. Finally mix the beetroot with the remaining potato mixture and spoon this on top. You will then have distinctive, white, red and pink layers which I think looks a little more pleasing than all pink.

Broad bean salad

broad bean and bacon salad

When I was a child my list of worst nightmare foods would have included, liver, mushrooms, black pudding and melted cheese. At the top of the list though would have been broad beans. I have terrible memories of chewing through tough leathery skins to reveal that disgusting chalky texture and for years I didn’t dare touch them.

But then we started to grow broad beans on our allotment (because they’re notoriously easy to grow and we were a bit rubbish) and this was the recipe that completely converted me. Trust Delia to get it right but having said that anything mixed with crispy bacon is usually nice. Now I can’t wait for the first broad beans of the season.

This salad is best with really fresh young broad beans. I’ve learnt that when the broad beans get old and tough you have to take the time to remove the white outer layer of skin and even then it’s best to turn them into broad bean hummus (if you want a recipe for this see my post).

Delia Smith’s broad bean salad

Serves 2

  • 700g of broad beans (shelled), or thereabouts
  • 2 rashers of lean, smoked bacon (without the rind), finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon of fresh chopped herbs (I use marjoram and parsley)
  • 4 spring onions

For the dressing

  • 1 small garlic clove, chopped and crushed
  • 1 teaspoon of English mustard powder
  • 1 dessertspoon of lemon juice
  • 1 dessertspoon of white wine vinegar
  • 1 level teaspoon of crushed rock salt
  • Freshly milled black pepper to taste
  • 4 dessertspoons of flavourless oil (like groundnut or sunflower oil)

First fry the bacon until it’s really crisp and set aside.

Make the dressing by placing all the ingredients in a jam jar and shaking until well amalgamated.

Next cook the broad beans in boiling water until tender. The time this takes will depend on how young and fresh they are (I usually find that they are done once they float to the surface of the water and this tends to be somewhere between 1 and 3 minutes).

If you’re making this later in the broad bean season then it’s best to pop the inside out of the white layer of skin which tends to be thick and chewy when the beans are older.

Drain thoroughly and toss them in the dressing while they are still warm. Stir in the bacon and spring onion and serve.

I like to serve with some cucumber and salad leaves. If you’re feeling particularly lavish then a poached egg on top works brilliantly.

Japanese style salad dressing with sesame

geishas

So I’m back from Japan and have spent the last week in a jet lagged haze barely able to put two words together let alone cook a decent meal.
And I’ve been slightly demoralised in the kitchen having been spoilt by Japanese cuisine which for me is absolute food heaven.

The high end of Japanese dining is not really accessible to clueless westerners who can only speak two words of Japanese (arigatou gozaimasu/thank you very much) especially ones with two young children in tow, but fast food in Japan is often very good quality and not at all expensive. There are plenty of Japanese food outlets where you can get a decent bowl of udon noodles or beef over rice and feed a family of four for around £10.

And even when you come across Japanese versions of international dishes they just seem to do it so much better – the fast food chain Mos Burger is a good example. I hate McDonald’s and Burger King but the burgers and chips in Mos Burger are absolute perfection. We also tried some unusual combinations that just shouldn’t work but were delicious, such as deep fried shrimps with beef curry sauce (first with rice, and then bizarrely inside a doughnut!!!).

Anyway, this week in an attempt to inject some Japanese flavours in my lazy (what time is it?) cooking I’ve attempted to recreate a sesame salad dressing that often came with set menu side salads in Japan. My next step is to get a bit more adventurous and so I have just ordered a couple of Japanese cookbooks from Amazon. My dream is to learn to make my own udon noodles and authentic yakitori but in the meantime here’s my simple Japanese style salad dressing recipe.

Japanese style salad dressing with sesame

Enough for a large simple lunchtime salad for one person made with lettuce, cucumber and carrot

  • 2 teaspoons of mirin
  • 2 teaspoons of rice vinegar
  • 2 teaspoons of light soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon of sesame oil
  • 1 heaped teaspoon mayonnaise

Put all of the above ingredients into a jam jar and shake vigorously. Pour over your salad.

noodles (2)

Simple udon noodles for lunch – I will learn to make these.

Thai marinated steak

thai steak and rice

I’ve been eating lots of very basic food in January – baked potatoes with cheese, home-made wedges with a fried egg on top, dhal (as in my last post) – that sort of thing. There’s not been much meat involved which is fine but I can’t keep it up for any extended period and it’s not long before I crave a giant juicy steak.

This is a perfect recipe for a spicy, meaty, Friday-night feast. I wouldn’t use cuts like sirloin or rib-eye (which in my view are best simply cooked with no sauce or marinade to hide their delicate flavour), but it works tremendously well with rump steak which is cheaper and a little less flavoursome. Do still try to buy decent rump steak from your butcher if you can, or the best that the supermarket has to offer.

Served with salad I wondered whether this recipe might be good if you’re cutting out carbohydrates, only then I realised that the dressing has 2 teaspoons of sugar in it (which of course is the most evil carb of all, or so I’ve been reminded almost every-day this year). Perhaps though you could use some sugar substitute which I’m sure they sell in Holland and Barrett.

This dish also works well as a dinner party starter. Steak is really difficult to cook for a larger group (unless you have multiple griddle pans) but with this recipe one large steak, cut thinly, can stretch to serve up to 8 people as a starter or as one of a number of dishes in a banquet.

Thai marinated steak over rice or salad

Serves 2 as a main course or 4-8 as a sharing starter

  • A large piece of best rump steak (enough for two as a main course)

Marinade

  • 3 cloves of garlic
  • A small bunch of coriander stalks
  • ½ teaspoon of freshly ground black pepper
  • 2-3 tablespoons of oil

Dressing

  • 2 tablespoons of fish sauce
  • 2 tablespoons of lime juice
  • 1 tablespoon of soy sauce
  • 1 fresh red chilli, or 1 teaspoon of dried chilli flakes
  • 2 teaspoons of soft brown sugar

Combine the marinade ingredients in a mini chopper or food processor and blend well. You can also do this in a pestle and mortar. Spread the mixture over the steak and leave to marinade in the fridge for a few hours.

When you are ready to cook the steak, remove as much of the marinade from the steak as you can while you heat a griddle or frying pan over a high heat. You will not need to add any additional oil if you are using a griddle but if you are using a frying pan then add a tablespoon of oil to the pan before adding the steak.

Cook the steak for about 3-4 minutes on either side. Keep the heat really high and don’t move the steak around the pan during cooking and turn just once.

Remove the steak from the pan, cover with foil and leave to rest while you make the dressing.

Mix all the dressing ingredients together and stir well.

With rice

If you are serving with rice then cut the steak up into thin strips, place over the cooked rice (to cook see my post Nice Rice) and spoon over the dressing. Add some chopped coriander (and extra chilli if you like) to garnish.

With salad
Make a salad using one small soft leaf lettuce, ½ a cucumber (chopped into small chunks), a handful of cherry tomatoes (halved) and 4 spring onions (chopped). Slice the steak thinly and place over the prepared salad. Spoon over the dressing and add some chopped coriander (and extra chilli if you like) to garnish.

Great, great grandma Marguerite’s French dressing

It’s always useful to have a good salad dressing recipe to hand. My grandmother gave me this classic recipe which was handed down to her by her French grandma. It is very straight forward and tastes good on a simple green salad (especially if the healthy green leaves are accompanied by a nice juicy steak). You can also use it as a dressing for a rice or pasta salad.

French dressing

Enough for one large salad

  • 1 ½ tablespoons of white wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon lemon juice
  • 5 tablespoons of groundnut, sunflower or other flavourless oil
  • ½ teaspoon of sugar
  • ½ teaspoon of Dijon mustard
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

Put all the ingredients into a jam jar and shake well until combined.

You can also add chopped herbs from the garden.

This dressing keeps well for a week or so in the fridge.