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, 26 February 2014

Week 8 - Oxtail Stew and Treacle Tart

It's good stick-to-your-ribs fare this week!  We start with braised oxtail with mustard and mash (p63).

I had some trouble buying oxtail - of course you are tripping over it in the fresh meat section in the supermarkets when you don't want it, but even a trip to the normally reliable Morrisons didn't come up trumps.  So I went up to the butchers instead - oddly enough, we don't have a butcher in the town (literally at the end of the road), so although I'd love keep things local and patronise the small businessman, it involves getting the car out, or over four quid on the bus, or getting the bike out, which I'm less inclined to do in winter.  Anyway.

At the butchers, I was shown a tray of wonderful oxtail and asked the butcher's advice as to how many pieces to go in a stew to feed four.  He bagged four lovely pieces up, handed the bag over and asked for £8.80.  Oh.

At least you can look at all the individually cling film wrapped joints in the supermarket and spend some time choosing, and do all your muttering of 'blimey - I'm not paying that much!' in the privacy of your own trolley. As opposed to being told a price which you can either accept, challenge, or dither with a queue forming behind you and ask for the bag to be opened again and a bit taken out as it is more than you thought it would be.

Did I say what was going through my mind?  'Oh dear, Mr Butcher - are you sure?  I thought that oxtail was a cheap cut of meat, but nearly £9 is rather more I wanted to pay for a midweek stew'.


I made the world's smallest consumer protest, however, by saying, 'I was going to buy some sausages too, but I think that I'll leave it for now', as I handed over my tenner.

So back in the kitchen, the oxtail goes in a bag with flour, ground chilli and dry mustard powder.  Once it's coated in the seasoned flour, it's browned in a casserole dish.  Fish them out an set aside and put chopped onions, carrot, celery, garlic and mushrooms over a low heat to soften.  Put the oxtail back, as tomato puree, bay leaves, thyme and a bottle of 'ballsy red wine' - Mr S's words, not mine.  Bring to a simmer then put a lid on and but in a low oven for ages.

Once quite tender, strain off the gravy, cool overnight and remove the fat.  Add the gravy back to the stew and warm through, stirring in some grain and dijon mustard, and chopped parsley.  Serve with mash.

For pudding, it's treacle tart (p65).  Once I had the knack of the pastry base, and blind baked that, it was easy peasy to add breadcrumbs, syrup and lemon juice.  Whizz filling together and put in the pastry case, cook in a medium oven for half an hour.

Serve with ice cream and a smile. Yum.

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Week 7 - Kipper Patties and Hot Chocolate Pudding

I was spoilt for choice with what to cook from this week's recipes - lots of lovely things - but decided to forego the stew and pork chops to go for something fishy and something sweet.

So we're with Mr S on p48 with a simple smoked fish recipe.  It is certainly simple, and it turns out to be not only very tasty, but also very cheap.  Ticking all the right boxes here. All we need are kippers, floury potatoes (I used the baking potatoes 'picasso' which I grew last year), dill, flour, garlic and mayonnaise.

I boiled the kippers in the bag, then drained and scraped the skin off and mashed them in with the cooked potato (& a knob of butter) and chopped dill, then made them into patties, and left them to cool in the fridge.

Meanwhile I mixed the rest of the chopped dill and a crushed garlic clove into the mayo.  Finally, the patties are dusted with flour and fried for a few minuetes on each side.  Job done.

I followed this with the most delightful rich chocolate puddings (p52).  Easy to make, but impressive enough for entertaining, I would think.

So we're melting chocolate, and adding butter and - secret star ingredient - nutella, meanwhile beating egg yolks and caster sugar until really creamy.

Then clean the beaters and whisk up the egg whites. Fold the melty chocky mix into the eggs & sugar, and then fold the eggwhites in.  Put into buttered ramekins & bake in a moderate oven.

They puff up to the top of the ramekins and crack along the top leaving a slightly gooey middle.  Excellent with cream - yum!

Wednesday, 12 February 2014

Week 6 - Lamb Shanks & Mustard and Smoked Haddock & Beans

Anything involving lamb shanks is likely to be good - I think that lamb is my favourite meat.  And I don't eat nearly enough fish, so I'm looking forward to this one too.

We're with Mr S on p44, and the good news is that all the ingredients - even including the lamb shank which I happened to have in the freezer - are already to hand. That is something that I really can get on with - most weeks I am finding that I'm cooking with things I have in the cupboard/fridge and rarely seem to have to get in anything special.  Good.

Brown the lamb shank in a pan and add onions, bay leaves, rosemary, garlic, stock and red wine. Cover with foil. Cook in oven for ages.  Simple enough - my only deviation from this was to put the whole lot into a roasting bag.  Halfway through, stir in grain mustard.

I had this with boiled potatoes, but Mr S suggests mash with mustard.

Next up, the haddock.  Cover the skinned haddock with milk and water in a shallow buttered dish and bake the oven until cooked.  Drain & wash dish.  Mix cooked beans with cream, milk, chopped parsley, grain mustard.  Spoon the beans into the dish, lay on the fish, cover with more beans and bake for 40mins.

This dried out rather, so it would have been sensible to cover with foil.  I added extra cream at the end to compensate which improved matters.

And I scoffed the lot forgetting to take a pic. Oops!

Wednesday, 5 February 2014

Week 5 - Baked Lime Cheesecake and Broth

This week we are with Mr S on p32, where we're baking a lime cheesecake.  Not something that I've done before, and perhaps I should have taken heed of the fact the Mr S confesses to a disaster with this, and treated it as an omen.

I certainly travelled a rocky road making it, but it seems to have come good in the end.

The trouble is with the pastry.  Mr S gives a number of warnings about the pastry needing chilling to stop it shrinking, to VERY CAREFULLY line the flan case to leave NO HOLES AT ALL or else the filling will leak out, then chill again; blind bake and then you are are eventually ready to put in the filling.

So I processed the flour, icing sugar and butter along with an egg yolk and a smidgen of water, bound it together, and following the instructions for preparing the pastry for the case.  I moulded it into the flan case and blind baked.

Well, the pasty case did shrink and came out the oven with huge cracks, looking like those pictures in wildlife documentaries of dried up watering holes in Africa.

Clearly, the filling would dribble through the base and all over the floor of the oven before I'd closed the door, so I had to have a rethink.

There were a number of options (try again, try again with a different flan dish, buy ready made pastry, buy a pastry flan dish ready cooked) but my colleague came up with the best, suggesting I bashed the pastry base into crumbs, binding with some melted butter and pressing into a flan dish as you would a crushed biscuit base.  Marvellous.

I did just that, and poured in the filling of lightly beaten egg, lime juice, cream, sugar and lime zest.  I baked it, and ate it once chilled.

By contrast, the broth (p. 41) was simplicity itself - chopped up carrot, celery, garlic, shallots and leek were softened in goosefat, then added to a big casserole dish with chicken stock, cooked pearl barley, bay leaves and thyme.

Potatoes were sliced and added on top and the whole thing cooked with the lid on in the slow oven for hours.

Tastes delicious - and sticks to your ribs!