A while back you may remember me talking about how my thai yellow soup came into being. This is the very recipe where that chilli mishap occurred. You see, my beloved Elly is not a big fan of “spicy” food so I was trying to create a thai curry that she would at least like, so I could have a curry more often without feeling guilty that I was torturing her.
Honestly it had nothing to do with me wanting to slowly increase her tolerance for spicy food
On that fateful day the particular green chili I had decided to use was (unknown to me) not terribly hot and as I was cooking with Elly in mind I also removed the seeds. Since that incident I now cut a tiny amount of chilli off the end and touch my tongue with it to get an idea of heat. If I don’t feel a burn I use the seeds in the dish.
But that’s just me – I’ve known people who put lots more chilli in their cooking than I do, it’s all down to personal taste so it’s always a good idea to experiment with the strength and amount of chilli in a curry if it’s not to your liking.
1 stick of lemongrass
3 cloves of garlic
1 green chilli (seeds optional)
Half an onion
Thumb sized piece of ginger
Handful of fresh coriander (leaves and stems)
Handful of fresh basil leaves
Handful of fresh mint leaves
Half teaspoon ground coriander
Half teaspoon ground cumin
Half teaspoon pepper
3 tablespoons fish sauce
Juice of half a lime (zest the lime first and save along with the remaining juice)
1 teaspoon brown sugar
Roughly a quarter can of coconut milk
and the rest
1 and a half onions, finely diced
4 chicken breasts, diced
2 bell peppers, diced
Three-quarter tin of coconut milk
2 kaffir lime leaves
The Curry Paste
To make the curry paste, roughly chop the ingredients and add everything except the coconut milk to your blender. Give them a few pulses to break it down a little. You are looking for a this to become a thick but smooth paste, so add the coconut milk a little at a time and try to blend. As soon as it starts to turn into a paste stop adding coconut milk and blend to a smooth paste.
Now you have your curry paste, you can store this for a day or two in an airtight container in the fridge. Or you can use it fresh, which is always my preference. It’s nice to know that you could make this up in advance if you were going to be a little pushed for time.
and the rest
Next, you’ll want to heat a frying pan over a medium to high heat and when it is up to temperature add a little oil and then your paste. You just want to release the aromatics from it so don’t wait too long (about a minute) before adding the rest of the onions and allowing them to soften a little (about 5 minutes). Add the diced chicken and stir fry until sealed (about 5 minutes).
Now increase the heat under your pan and add the coconut milk, diced peppers and the kaffir lime leaves. As soon as the mixture begins to boil, reduce to a simmer for about 20 – 25 minutes and serve on a bed of pilaf rice.
Remember the lime zest and juice I said to save? Well, here’s a great way to use it up and add a real subtle zing and punch to this dish. When making the rice pilaf, add the lime zest and juice instead of the turmeric and cook as normal. Hey presto, zingy rice!
lasagna is a typical Italian dish, it has many variations even in the same regions there can be big differences. I’ve developed my own over the years as I like the northern style with plenty of Béchamel sauce while also liking the simple tomato based meat sauces of the southern regions. This recipe combines the best of both and one or two other influences as well.
While it’s very common to see lasagna not many people realise just how much goes into it, you cook up a meat sauce, then you make the Béchamel sauce and finally you layer it all together and bake it. A 3 part process that can be a little time-consuming but is well worth the effort.
Oh and before anyone says it, I know, a Béchamel sauce with cheese added is a Mornay sauce so this is not a traditional lasagna at all really.
I use a lasagna tray for making this (approx. 32cm x 26cm x 8cm), if you don’t have one of similar size you could use a number of smaller ones, just be aware of the depth, you’ll be surprised how much the layers add up to.
1 x Anchovy fillet
6 x slices of pancetta or bacon, chopped
1 x large sprig of rosemary, picked and finely chopped
2 x bay leaves
1 x large red onion, diced
2 x sticks of celery, diced
1 x carrot, diced
2 x cloves of garlic, crushed
500g Beef mince
500g Pork mince
250ml Red wine
3 x 400g tins of tomatoes, chopped (plus one tin of water)
1 x Star Anise
Béchamel (Mornay) sauce
6 x cloves
75g x parmesan
3 x mozzarella balls, diced
400g of lasagna sheets
Freshly grated Nutmeg
Serves 12 – 15 portions
The meat Sauce
Begin by heating a large saucepan over a medium heat, once it’s up to temperature add a little extra virgin olive oil, then the anchovy and pancetta/bacon, fry them for about a minute and add the onion, celery, carrot, garlic, rosemary and bay leaves. Cook these together gently for about 20 minutes.
Next you want to add your meat, making sure to break it up as much as possible as you’re adding it and keep it moving over a high heat until it browns, then add the wine and simmer for a minute before adding the 3 tins of chopped tomatoes and a tin of water.
Finally add a single star anise, bring the lot to a boil and simmer for 1 hour. Then taste and season before removing the bay leaves and star anise as they can have a very unpleasant texture and it’s only their flavour we’re after anyway.
While the meat sauce is simmering get on with the Béchamel sauce.
Béchamel (Mornay) sauce
Take the half onion and skewer it with the cloves, now place this in a saucepan along with the milk and warm it but do not let it boil.
In another slightly larger saucepan, start melting the butter but do not let it burn, keep the heat as low as possible. Once melted add the flour and quickly stir it in until you have a sandy paste like substance. Now using a wooden spoon or plastic whisk start to slowly add the warmed milk, (but not the onion and cloves) mixing it in as you go, the slower you can add the milk the less likely you are to end up with a lumpy sauce so take your time.
Once all the milk has been added you need to “cook out” the flour, this is done by continuing to bring the sauce slowly up to temperature, stirring regularly and tasting. This can take as little as 10 minutes or as long as an hour. When you taste it, if you can still taste flour then keep going and taste again in another few minutes. Once you’ve “cooked out” the flour you have a Béchamel sauce and this can be used with many dishes or subtly changed by adding things like chopped parsley or dill to create other sauces.
But what we want to do is make a Mornay sauce so we add in about half the diced mozzarella and most of the parmesan cheese, hold back enough to cover the top of the final dish. Stir the sauce until the cheese melts and combines completely with the sauce, if it’s too thick use a little milk to thin it, but don’t go crazy we want it a little thick so it will sit on top of the meat layer rather than combining with it.
Final assembly and baking
Take some kitchen paper dipped in extra virgin olive oil and oil up your lasagna dish. If you have a non stick dish, I prefer to start with a pasta layer as it makes the lasagna a little easier to serve. next you want to add a layer of meat sauce followed by a layer of the Béchamel/Mornay sauce. Then sprinkle at little less than a third of the remaining mozzarella over the Béchamel, sprinkle a little grated nutmeg and repeat the Pasta, meat sauce, Béchamel, mozzarella and nutmeg, layers twice more using all the remaining mozzarella on the top, also sprinkle the top with the remaining parmesan.
Bake for 30 – 40 minutes at 180C until the top is golden and bubbling. You can serve this immediately although it’s best to let it cool a little first as the portions will stay together better.
This also freezes very well just wait for the lasagna to cool completely and portion into freezer suitable bags or boxes. Then when you just have to defrost them and reheat when you want Lasagne.
1 whole chicken, best quality you can afford
30g butter, softened
Mixed herbs, finely chopped (should give approx 1 handful when chopped)
1 lemon, zested and cut in half. Zest finely diced
Coppa di Parma (or Parma ham)
Root vegetables (carrots, parsnips, onions)
Heat your oven to 180 C.
This is a beautiful and simple one tray dinner. Start by preparing your chicken – check it has been thoroughly cleaned out internally, trim away any excess fatty skin from the openings. Begin to delicately tease the skin away from the flesh of the breast area, creating a pocket under the skin.
Mix your chopped herbs, lemon zest and some salt & pepper with softened butter. Rub this into the chicken flesh inside the pocket you created by lifting the skin. Also rub it all over the outside of the chicken, covering all of the skin. Next, take your pieces of coppa di parma and place in the skin pocket of the chicken. Place one half of the lemon in the cavity of your chicken, this will help to keep your chicken moist.
Chicken should be roasted for 20 mins per lb plus 20 mins. Your vegetables and potatoes will take about 1 hour to cook, so place the chicken in a large roasting tin and place it in the oven. Now, begin to prepare your vegetables and add them to the roasting tin when there’s one hour of cooking time left.
Peel your vegetables as needed and cut into similar sized chunks. Toss them in a little olive oil (add a little dried herbs if you like) before adding to the roasting tin.
Ensure that the juices of the chicken are running clear, by cutting into the bird with a sharp knife, and then rest for 10 minutes before carving.
Line a large baking tin with overlapping pieces of clingfilm, ensuring that all parts of the interior are covered.
Place the butter and sliced Mars bars in a large Pyrex (glass) bowl and place this into a suitably-sized saucepan (the bowl should not touch the bottom, and leave space for 2 inches of water). Bring the water to a strong simmer and melt the butter & Mars bars, stirring occasionally. Once it has all melted, stir continuously until the the melted butter is absorbed into the rest – be patient, it will “come together” eventually.
Lift the bowl off the saucepan and add in 5 mugfuls of Rice Krispies. Stir this well, but gently, until all the Rice Krispies are coated and no lumps of the melted mixture remain. Pour / spoon into your baking tin and gently smooth out until even.
Wash your Pyrex bowl, dry and place back on the saucepan of water. Break up the chocolate into the bowl and melt over simmering water. Once melted and smooth, pour over the Rice Krispies. It’s best to use a soft spatula so that you can scrape out as much of the chocolate as possible. Tip the baking tray back and forward until the base layer is evenly covered.
Cover with a tea towel and leave in a cool place to set (varies from 2 – 24 hours, dependent on season/temperature). Do NOT refrigerate as this will make the Rice Krispie layer go soggy.
Cut with a sharp knife and store in an air tight container (old biscuit tins are perfect), will keep for up to 7 days – but I bet they won’t last that long!
Vinaigrette dressings are very quick and simple to make and this recipe is a good “standard” dressing to learn. It’s ridiculously easy and quick to make and if you store it in the fridge will keep for about a month.
The secret of a vinaigrette is simple – three parts fat to one part acid with some mustard, salt and pepper to help the emulsifying.
Get a clean and preferably sterilised glass bottle and start by putting some balsamic vinegar in, fill it about an eighth of the way up.
Then add roughly three times as much extra virgin olive oil, followed by a pinch of salt and pepper. Lastly add a little French mustard.
Now seal the bottle and shake it for about a minute. Take a small taste and adjust the seasoning if needed. Now let it sit for about 10 minutes, if it starts to split into layers then add a little more mustard and repeat the process. All vinaigarettes will separate eventually but ideally you want one that stays emulsified for 10 minutes or so.
Store this in a cool dry place until you’re ready to use it. Then give the bottle a shake and drizzle lightly over your salad to serve.
The great thing about this recipe is that you can substitute so many different things, I regularly use lemon or lime juice instead of balsamic vinegar.
I’ve also been known to use some truffle oil or other flavoured extra virgin olive oils to give a little variety to the taste. It’s a great recipe to experiment with as you can come up with something that is completely unique to your tastes and preference.
I have to say I find that lemon juice really freshens the flavour of any salad and makes it something special for any occasion and in case you’re wondering it’s taken me far longer to type this recipe than it takes to make it, so have fun with it and if you find a combination you really like please let us know in the comments.