Nigel Slater's Kitchen Diaries is both an entertaining read and a fabulous cookery book. Join me as I journey through the year cooking along with him...
Do buy the book from Amazon or your local book store. It's not just the recipes, its the gentle writing style and the importance of food provenance which strike a chord with me.

Wednesday, 29 January 2014

Week 4 - Herb Butter for Chops and Pheasant Pot Roast

The first outing from The Kitchen Diaries tonight is not so much a recipe as putting a few bits together. Excellent - my sort of cooking.

We're on p24, and Mr S is making a herb butter to put on grilled chops.  It involves mashing together butter, blue cheese, dijon mustard, cream and thyme, then making into pats (they turn out quite large) and putting in the fridge until you're ready for them.

I cooked pork chop in the oven on a bed of sliced potatoes and onions then slipped a pat on the top of the cooked pork chop and let it melt for a couple of minutes in the oven.

Very tasty and I could use any herbs I have around too.

On to the main event of the evening - I haven't eaten pheasant before so this was rather exciting.  I bought a brace of pheasant from the farmers' market a week or two back, and popped them in the freezer.

I got one out for this recipe on p25, which works on the principle of cooking the pheasant in it's own juices in a pot with a tight fitting lid.  I had the bright idea of using a roasting bag, into which I put the browned pheasant, celery, garlic, sliced potatoes, sage and the magic ingredient of vermouth.

The pheasant took longer to cook than Mr S thought (I assume that like chicken and turkey, the juices should not run pink when the flesh is pierced) - perhaps my pheasants are bigger than his.  The taste of the meat was superb - the leg more so than the breast, as it was more moist.  Perhaps it could have been served pink after all.

However, the vermouth stock/gravy with celery I did not take to at all - and the leftovers were picked out and heated through in a beef stock the next day, which was far taster to my mouth.

Saturday, 25 January 2014

Week 3 - Spaghetti Bolognese and Mackerel with spiced breadcrumbs

With Mr S on p21 this week, and I'm making a slow cooked Bolognese.  Anything which includes a great slug of wine is likely to be a winner, and this is no exception.

By the time I'd fried up chopped pancetta, carrots, celery, onion, garlic and mushroom, the kitchen was smelling divine, then the mince went in the pan to brown, and finally the wine, passata, stock and bay leaves. Cover. Cook for ages on the hob.  The dish is finished off with full fat milk stirred in, and served with spaghetti and parmesan.

My word, this is good.  Again, a sizeable portion - it's so rich and meaty that it's no problem cutting down on the portion size.

Mr S is very keen on mackerel - and at just £1.50 or so for a fresh fish which is two portions (which the fishmonger kindly filleted for me), so am I.

We join him on p24, where we put the mackerel fillets in a dish, then cover with a mixture of fried up thinly sliced onion rings, parsley, garlic, breadcrumbs and paprika then the dish baked in a moderate oven.  Give the fish a squeeze of lemon, and you're done.

Very tasty indeed - although next time, I'd take the skin off the underside of the fillets before putting them in the dish.

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Week 2 - Onion Soup and Cheesy Smothered Potatoes

I'm joining Mr S this week on p16 for a bowl of soup.  I don't appreciate soup enough - if there is one thing that I have in abundance, it is vegetables from the allotment.

I can't think of one time of the year when there is not a soup that I can make - yet rather than a delicious and nutricious soup, I tend to have something-on-toast instead for lunch.  Hmm.

Having said that, the one thing I do not have at this time of the year is onions, and the one thing that onion soup calls for is - well - onions.

So I bought a big bag.  Of course, when I scrutinised the recipe properly I found that a couple of potions of onion soup do not require an entire sackful of onions.

This was a marvellous recipe which involved roasting the peeled onions rather that crying away onto the chopping board, and when soft, boiling with stock and wine.  The crouton on the top is a french stick with Emmental cheese, the whole lot grilled to melt the cheese. Delicious.

Tonight's second recipe - on p17 - is a comfort eating dish of fried potatoes and cheese - a more sophisticated version of cheesy chips.

With the potatoes scrubbed and cooked on the hob with plenty of butter and oil, this is never going to be a dish to win approval with Rosemary Conley, let alone when the Emmental cheese is laid on top and left a minute or two to melt, but it was very tasty.  I had it with cooked chicken and veg.

Lovely! But it does want eating straight away - if the cheese goes cold it stops being decadently gooey and reverts to plastic and tasteless.

I'm noting after just a couple of weeks, that Mr S does have a feel for a generous portion - the soup went into three, and not two; using a half a pound of potatoes per the recipe meant that the second dish went into two comfortably rather than being a single portion.

Wednesday, 8 January 2014

Week 1 - Lamb Stew and Orange Cake

This week I'm joining Mr S on p10, when he puts together a lamb stew.

I love a good stew, and think that I've pretty much got the idea - lots of root veg, cheap cut of meat, cook for hours.

But the first ingredient on the list is pot barley, which I rather assumed was the same as pearl barley, but apparently not - pot barley is not milled and polished as much as pearl barley and so is 'nuttier'.  Probably healthier too with all that roughage - however, Sainsbury's could only furnish me with pearl barley, so that's what went in the pot.

The other ingredients were added with no further surprises except one - I'd halved the ingredients so that my stew should be for two, yet as everything was added to my big casserole dish, it was soon apparent that the two people in question would have to have extraordinarily hearty appetites.

It did cook down a little after a few hours in slow oven, but even so.  I strained the gravy off in order to remove the fat, and the next day heated the stew through for a substantial and delicious dinner.  A hit.

Mr S has a cake down on p10 too - an orange sponge cooked in a loaf tin and topped with icing drizzled over the top.

A twist with this cake is the addition of some orange marmalade, which adds a real zing.  I'd make less icing next time, I think - by the time I'd licked the bowl out, and eaten the spare icing that dribbled onto the board, I think I'd had as much icing as the cake had. Moist and tangy, the cake is a hit too.

A very pleasing start to the year!