I Need a Little Thyme – Boulangere Potatoes

Farmers Market day today. I picked up some steak and needed something to do with it that wasn’t chips. Don’t get me wrong, I love chips and I adore chips with my steak but I’ve had a lot of fast food and meals out over the past week for various reasons and I needed something a bit more homely and a bit healthier.In my view this is nicest with a tiny little bit of thyme scattered through it, but my usually reliable herbage supplier at the market had everything but today. If making this to go with lamb, I’d suggest a teaspoon of very finely chopped rosemary instead.

This is an easy dish, and apart from chopping, isn’t a great deal of work. If you have a food processor with a slicing blade then this is obviously a non issue. If you have a sharp knife then it’s ten minutes work and if you have money to burn, you can buy presliced Maris Pipers in Marks and Sparks these days. Just a thought.

  • 750g floury white potatoes such as King Edward or Maris Pipers, thinly sliced
  • one large onion, finely sliced
  • 150 ml hot stock. Chicken or veg is best. Lamb or beef is alright.
  • olive oil
  • butter
  • salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to Gas 4/ In a frying pan over a medium heat, slowly sweat off your onion in a tablespoon or so of olive oil. When it is softened and golden, turn off the heat. In a shallow baking dish, maybe like a lasagne dish, put a layer of sliced potato. Season with a little salt and pepper, a little of the herbs if you are using them, and a third of the onions. Keep layering the ingredients in turn until you have used up all of the onions and potatoes. Pour the stock over the potatoes and dot some butter over the potatoes. I have probably used about 20g of butter.

Cover the dish with foil and put in the oven for 60 minutes. Remove the foil and cook for another 20- 30 minutes.Scoff.

Dinner Out: Joy Raj, Clifton Village, Bristol

Y’all know I’m not a professional food writer (No, really?). Nobody pays for my dinner, no one even buys me a drink actually, for writing this stuff. And I’m sure you realise this, when reading some of my reviews which may have been less than flattering. The ones I can’t pick any holes in? They’re just really good – there is no bias. It’s also worth considering that I do drink – and when I go to a curry house, I sometimes drink more than one beer. I just like to think I’m reviewing in context, anyway.

joyrajpickletray

So on Friday night, the opportunity for a curry presented itself, somewhere new. In CliftonVillage there is  some stiff competition in terms of curry houses ( I can think of maybe 4 within a 5 minute walk) and loads of other places to eat, Joy Raj doesn’t particularly stand out for me in the street. But, Greedy Companion girl insisted and down we went. And we went downstairs, were greeted and sat down immediately. The tables we really wanted were booked out (always a fairly good sign that people would bother to book for a high street curry house in Bristol) and they were fairly busy so I don’t think our spot was the good, but it was lit well and comfortable. The decor wasn’t stunning.. by any means, but it was clean and bright.We had pickles and poppodoms to start – the pickles were delicious, and I am fairly picky about pickles . So far so tasty. When ordering our the rest of our food I got into a conversation with our charming waiter about one of my obsessions, the tandoor. Would I like to go into the kitchen and watch them cook in it? Would I? You don’t need to ask me a question like that twice. So I waited until the chef was ready and I tottered in. I know I don’t get out too much, but wow, it made my night! I think the kitchen staff were a bit bemused as I stuck my head down and started taking photographs of the oven, but you know, simple things for simple minds..  The other bonus, as an inveterate nosy parker who is always trying to stick her head through the kitchen door, is that its always nice to see that your food is being freshly prepared (it was) and that everything is nice and clean (it was) and that people working in the kitchen at the very least, appear happy, and clean (they did). This may seem like some fairly basic criteria to people who aren’t always poking their nose about but believe me, not all is as you’d hope in some of the least obvious places. And to avoid getting sued by anyone in particular, I’m going to stop it there.

joyrajtandoorichef

So, I went and sat back down and our food arrived very shortly after. I had lamb saag (the best dish out of the three mains), greedy companion girl had a lamb dansak and greedy companion boy had a tandoori mixed grill. We also had garlic naan, mushroom rice and saag bhaji. It was all lovely, with beautiful fresh flavours. The naan was particularly delicious, light and fluffy and without any dry or burnt spots – seemingly so hard to acheive in some places. Oh naan, how do I love thee? All very trad curry house of course, and nothing surprising, but theres really nothing up with that on a friday night after a beer or two.

joyrajmainslambsaagjoyrag

With all our chatting, eating and drinking, we must have been in there a long time and I think we were the last to leave. Staff were extremely welcoming and we never got any feeling like they were waiting for us to get lost so the could clean up and go home. In fact, apart from a small incident with an unpleasant drunk (hazard of a friday night curry), which got cleared up very tidily, the atmosphere was lovely all through. In short, it was a great curry, a great night and a great place to go.

Joy Raj, Clifton

Costolettini d’Abbacino Fritte -Parmesan Baby Lamb Chops

I need to get my camera fixed. I’ve cooked some delicious meals lately, but a combination of iPhone photography, shaky hands and no natural daylight, means the photos look pretty bad. I’m sorry. And I’m sorry if anyone was expecting Mexican food in this post. I feel about as Mexican as.. a Russian at the moment, so please bear with me.

lambchopscooked

Well, I tried to stay away from the breadcrumbs, honest I did. But Mr Greedy loves this dish (its in his top 3, at least) and asked for it especially, so how could I refuse? However, what we are talking about is essentially meat coated in cheese and breadcrumbs and then fried, so I’m not going to say, oh this is really healthy. When you describe it like that, you’re not doing this dish, from Rome, much justice, it is really delish. I just try and only serve it with nice green veg.

Serves 2

  • 4 lamb cutlets
  • 4 slices of white bread, made into crumbs
  • 100g parmesan cheese, finely grated
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 50ml vegetable oil
  • salt & pepper
  • lemon wedges, to garnish

A couple of hours in advance if you can, take the chops out of the fridge and with a rolling pin, the side of a cleaver or a meat tenderiser, carefully bash flatten them out until they are roughly a centimetre thick. Press each side of the chop into the parmesan cheese, dip it into the egg until completely coated and then drop it into the breadcrumbs, turning it round until it is coated all over. Now, leave on a wire rack or something like it for a couple of hours so the breadcrumbs have a chance to dry out a bit.

lambchopsprecooked

When ready to cook, pour the oil into a large frying pan (hopefully one in which you can fit all four cutlets) and put on a medium heat. When the oil is hot, carefully place in the chops, cook for around 5 minutes on one side until the chops are golden brown, and then turn over and cook for about 3 minutes on the other. If you can’t fit them all in, then put the cooked chops on a serving dish or plate in a very low oven.Season with salt, and drain on kitchen paper. Serve with the lemon wedges.

lambchops

And, oh my, don’t forget to thank me!

Baked Squash Stuffed with Spicy Sausage & Vegetables

stuffedbakedsquash

A far less delicate stuffing today. After my acorn squash with maple syrup disaster dinner last week, I knew I hadn’t finished with the squash family. I don’t know what this squash is called, actually, but it cost about £2 in Waitrose. When it came to the stuffing, I didn’t know if I wanted gingery, zingy and green or creamy, soft and meaty. When in doubt, I say, choose cream. So this is a slightly more complex take on my spicy sausage pasta from the other week. It has onion, celery and garlic as a base though, to give it some depth, and mushrooms, courgettes and pine nuts to give it some body. There is no pasta in it, I figure the squash will do pasta’s job. I used a pork and apple sausage which suited this dish really nicely. Serves 2 very hungry people, completely by itself.

  • 1 winter squash, acorn, butternut or whatever looks good
  • 1 packet good quality sausages
  • olive oil
  • 100g mushrooms, sliced
  • 100g courgette, sliced
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 stick celery, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 100g pinenuts
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1 glass dry white wine
  • 150ml double cream
  • Handful of basil and flatleaf parsley, finely chopped, roughly equal quantities.

stuffedbakedsquashwhole

Preheat your oven to gas 6. Firstly, cut your squash in half. As you can probably see from the pics, mine was a rather squashed squash, so I had the remarkably clever idea of cutting horizontally rather than vertically through the squash. Now honestly, this did aid me in persuading the squash to lie still in the pan, put it was hard work. The squash was fairly hard, and it was too much to cut through in one slice, like it would have been if I cut the other way. So if you decide to do this, you’ll need a short, very sharp knife and a steady hand. Anyway, I think I did an ok job. Remove the seeds and stringy stuff from the inside of the squash and put the halves in a shallow roasting tin, cover with foil and cook for 30-45 minutes until almost soft right through.

stuffedbakedsquashunfilled

In the meantime, put a couple of tablespoons of oil in a large frying pan and add the celery, garlic and onion and salt and pepper. Cook over a low heat until they are softened and golden. In another pan, without oil this time, place it over a low heat and crumble the sausages into it, breaking up any big lumps with a wooden spoon. When it is browned, turn off the heat. In the celery and onion mixture, add your mushrooms and courgettes and turn the heat up slightly. Stirring, fry these until softened, and add your sausage. Stir again, add your glass of wine and simmer for a few minutes. Add the cream, chilli and mustard and cook down until the sauce has cooked down – a matter of minutes or so. Remove from the heat, and stir in the herbs and pinenuts. Check the seasoning. Divide the sausage mixture into the squash cavities and return to the oven.

stuffedbakedsquashuncooked

Cook for a further 30 minutes until the squash is cooked through completely and the whole dish is slightly browned on top. Scoff.

Stuffed Mussels

I cannot say these are quick to make. If you are only of the throw it in the pan and stir about school of cookery, you might find these to be frustrating or bothersome. I am only warning you to ensure that you don’t become unhappy half way through, give it all up and have to serve cheese on toast for tea. You might also think about doing the first parts of the recipe earlier in the day if you want to. However, if you do decide to make these, you will be rewarded by elegant, garlicky, scoop-with-a-spoon satisfying dinner. If you are organised enough, best served with shoestring fries, but a great salad would almost be as good. Serves 2-3 greedies as a main. Converted from John Burton Race’s French Leave.

stuffed mussels

Part 1:

  • 1 kilo mussels
  • 375 ml white wine
  • knob of butter
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 carrot, roughly chopped
  • 1 stick of celery, roughly chopped
  • 1 small onion, roughly chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, roughly chopped
  • 1 sprig of thyme, roughly chopped
  • 2 sprigs of flatleaf parsley, roughly chopped

Clean your mussels. This involves nothing more technical than, using a small sharp knife, pulling away the beard – or that stringy stuff that attaches itself to the mussel and tapping any open mussels firmly. If they close, you can keep them, if they don’t close within a few seconds you have to throw them away. I reckon we lost about 10% this way, which is about average .

musselscookingstock

In a large, lidded pan, melt your butter over a low heat and then tip in your herbs and vegetables, salt & pepper and stir gently for a few minutes. Once the veg are just beginning to soften, pour in the wine and turn the heat up and cover with a lid to bring the wine to a vigorous simmer. Chuck in the mussels and put the lid back on. It will take around 5 minutes to steam them all open. Drain, and when slightly cooled, pull open the mussel shells and separate the mussel flesh out from the shell. Place each mussel in one half of the mussel shell and discard the other half.

Part 2:

  • 50g white breadcrumbs
  • 50ml dry white wine
  • 60g ground almonds
  • 125g butter, room temperature
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 2 large sprigs flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
  • salt and pepper

Either in a large bowl, with a wooden spoon, or with the mixer attachment of a food processor, cream the butter until soft and fluffy. Pour the wine over the breadcrumbs and leave to soak for a few moments. Add the garlic to the butter and beat until thoroughly combined and then add your soaked breadcrumbs and ground almonds. Then add your parsley. Beat again until completely mixed.

If you are ready to eat now, turn on your grill to it’s highest setting. Otherwise, you can refrigerate the stuffed mussels after this stage until you are ready to eat. With a teaspoon, get a little bit of the mixture, and stuff it into the shell containing the mussel, smoothing it over as you go. Once all the shells are filled, put the baking tray under the hot grill, and cook for maybe five minutes until the mixture is brown and bubbling. Scoff