Beef Stroganoff

I feel so 1970’s. All I need now is a prawn cocktail appetiser and a black forest gateau and I’ll have the chicest dinner party in Surbiton. Surfing the interwebs (not so 1970’s, after all), I find I am supposed to serve it with wide buttered noodles rather than the rice I have planned, oh well.

I’ve used a Beef Stroganoff recipe from Good Housekeeping here and I chose it because it has no paprika in it, which is a seemingly contentious issue  if the viewers of Masterchef Australia are to be believed. Anyway, correct or not, I don’t want paprika in my stroganoff.  This is a quick and easy recipe, but I would suggest having all your ingredients to hand before you start. To serve 2:

  • 350g rump steak, in pieces 5cm or so long, sliced as thinly as possible.
  • 20g unsalted butter
  • half an onion, thinly sliced
  • 150g sliced button mushrooms
  • 20 ml brandy
  • 1/2 tsp dijon mustard
  • 100ml creme fraiche
  • 50 ml double cream
  • 1 tbsp chopped flat leaf parsley

In a heavy based pan, melt down the butter over a low heat and put in the onions and a pinch of salt. Cook the onions for ten or so minutes, stirring occasionally, until they are soft and golden. Add your sliced mushrooms and cook them with the onions for a few minutes until they are softened too. Remove from the pan and turn up the heat slightly. Add your steak to the pan, and brown quickly, and then add your brandy and cook until the sauce starts to reduce and the alcohol is cooked away.

Return the onions and mushrooms to the pan and turn the heat right back down again. Add the mustard, the cream and the creme fraiche and stir in, cooking until the sauce is hot and then stir through the chopped parsley. Get it while it’s hot.

Comfort Food. Chicken with sage, white wine & cream sauce.

It has not been the weekend I was expecting. I got in at 4am on Saturday morning after a long night of curry and carousing, to find Mr Greedy puffy and hot, coughing in his sleep with red swollen eye sockets. Because I was quite drunk and very tired I simply collapsed into bed and allowed him to deal with Greedyboy when he woke up at 5.30. Yes, I am that considerate. But you can’t look after a kid when you’re still drunk and looking after a kid whilst you’re just ill is perfectly possible. Trufax. I know this because I have had to do it on countless occasions. All the same, poor Mr Greedy.

As a result of this, neither were up to doing much the next day, and neither of us really wanted the birthday dinner that we had booked for the same evening, although I do think, to Mr Greedy’s eternal credit, he still would have taken me had I really wanted to go. No; dinner called for comfort, soothing and demanded to be eaten on the sofa, watching ‘Men Who Stare At Goats’,  followed by a very early night. I feel I was taking a bit of a risk, making a rich sauce to go with the chicken, given our tender states, but it worked well.

To serve 2:

  • 4 chicken thighs, skin on
  • olive oil
  • 4 large sage leaves
  • small glass white wine
  • small pot of double cream
  • salt and pepper

In a heavy based pan, heat the oil over a medium-high flame and put in the chicken thighs, skin side down. Put the sage leaves on top top the chicken pieces. Leave the chicken where it is for at least 5 minutes, until the skin has had a chance to brown and crispen – if you start moving it around before this point, not only will the skin tear and stick, but it is unlikely to brown properly, leaving you with limp greasy skin, and that will not do at all. When you are satisfied the skin is browned and crispy, you turn the chicken pieces over in the pan, the sage leaves should fall to the bottom, and put the lid on. Turn down the heat a smidge and cook the chicken for 10-15 minutes, until the bottom of the chicken is brown, and when pierced with a knife the juices run clear. If your thighs are big and meaty, bank on at least 20.

Remove the chicken to a warm plate or serving dish and drain off the majority of the fat that will be left in the pan, reserving the sage leaves. Pour in your wine and deglaze the pan with it, scraping up all the chickeny bits with it and let it bubble away for a couple of minutes until it begins to reduce. Now pour in your cream, and stir well. The cream will reduce quickly, so do keep an eye on it. Season with salt and pepper, and when you have a nice thick sauce, put your chicken back in and heat it back through with the sauce for a moment or two. And serve, with a green veg and whatever carb you’ve got to hand.

Seafood Pancakes

It’s not often inspiration strikes me at 5.30pm in Sainsburies. Normally to face the trauma of a supermarket shop after a full day at work, I need to recover with wine and a pizza. For I hate supermarkets. But sometimes, the supermarket gods send a message so strong about dinner, that one needs to give in. Having a special deal on shell on scallops is one of those messages, in my view..

This is not the healthiest dinner you’re ever going to get – seafood sautéed in garlic butter, cooked in a cream and white wine sauce is not for those who follow the cult of weightwatchers, but served with salad and only ever now and then, is hardly going to kill you. Probably not much worse than that supermarket pizza, anyway.

  • Packet of supermarket crepes. Look, you might well have some in your freezer left over from pancake day. I’m not that good at the moment.
  • 500g of seafood. I used squid, scallops and prawns but one of those packets of frozen mixed will be ok
  • 3 cloves garlic, very finely chopped
  • 15g fresh parsley, very finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp butter
  • medium carton double cream
  • large glass of white wine
  • salt and pepper
  • 30g parmesan grated

Preheat your oven to gas 6. First make the filling for your pancakes – melt half the butter in a large frying pan, add your butter and heat until bubbling, then add your parsley and your garlic, and seasoning and cook over a medium heat for a few minutes – long enough to soften the garlic but please be careful you don’t brown it.

Add your seafood and sauté over a high heat until cooked through. If cooking from fresh this will be a matter of a few moments. Again, be careful. No one wants overcooked seafood. Allow to cool for a few moments and then fill probably 4 pancakes, and leave them in an ovenproof dish while you make the sauce.

Take the remainder of the butter and melt it in a saucepan. Then, add your glass of wine and cook over a medium heat until it has reduced by about half. Add the cream, and cook again until the cream has reduced by around the same volume. Pour over the pancakes and cover with parmesan cheese. put it in the oven, and cook for a matter of 15 minutes or so, just to heat everything through together and make sure the parmesan has melted. Serve with salad.

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.

Creamy, Spicy Sausage Pasta

Comfort food at its best. Not only is this completely delicious, but aside from crumbling a few sausages into a frying pan by hand, there is no work aside from occasional stirring. Within about 15 minutes you have a perfectly lovely heartwarming (and bellywarming) dish and you won’t really even notice you’ve done it. I know it says spicy in the title. Its not hot though, just has a tiny kick to balance the cream. This was inspired by a Nigel Slater dish, once upon a time, but its been so long since I’ve looked at the recipe I can’t honestly say its the same thing anymore. Also, as I don’t weigh or measure anything for this recipe, is fair to say you could tweak a little without anyone really noticing. So, to serve 3 very greedy people:

sausage pasta

  • around 400g good quality pasta – shapes – radioatore, fusilli, or conchiglie. Mine was fusilli.
  • about 500g very best pork sausages. Really the best you can get. This will be rubbish without decent sausages. FREE RANGE pork please.
  • glass of dry white wine
  • small pot of double cream
  • scant tsp of chilli flakes
  • tbsp dijon mustard
  • small handful of basil leaves, torn.

I am assuming that your pasta will be taking 10-12 minutes to cook, so put your pasta on. Put a large frying pan on over a medium heat and just start squeezing the pork out of the sausages into the pan, crumbling it roughly whith your hands as you do. You don’t need to be too precious about this, put be prepared to break up big chunks with a wooden spoon or something. If they’re good sausages, they shouldn’t release too much water, but there likely will be some, so you might want to drain any liquid from the pan as you go if the sausage appears to be steaming rather than browning. When the crumbled sausage is brown in parts, pour in your wine, and bring to the boil. Simmer for a few minutes while you stir the pasta, and probably get yourself another glass of wine, or poke your head round the kitchen door to watch Eastenders. Anyway, after a few minutes of that, stir in your chilli flakes and then your cream. Turn the heat down a touch but not too much and let it bubble away, stirring regularly. Stir in your mustard. I reckon your pasta will be done about now, so, drain it (but don’t drain it until bone dry, a tiny splosh of pasta water is good in any sauce). Chuck the torn basil leaves into the sauce, closely followed by the cooked pasta and give it a very thorough stir. Scoff.