Saved by a Bag of Salmon

On Summer Sundays, if we wake up and find that the weather is good, we’re inclined to jump into the car and go exploring and worry about what to have for dinner when we get back. More and more of the freezer’s contents can be cooked without the need for defrosting, so we can usually have something interesting without too much trouble. Here’s what we did yesterday. To serve 2 You will need:

  • A bag of frozen Salmon fillets from your supermarket (ours are 300g)
  • 100g prawns, cooked, shells removed
  • A tin of Lobster Bisque (Baxters has great texture, but it’s your choice)
  • Potato Croquettes (I find 3 each works, but it depends how hungry you are!)

Heat your oven to Gas Mark 6. Loosely wrap the frozen fish fillets in foil, with a little oil or a knob of butter, and place them on a shallow roasting tray. Put the potato croquettes onto the same tray and cook everything in the oven for 30 minutes, turning the tray around halfway through cooking. 20 minutes into the cooking time, tip the lobster bisque into a saucepan and heat it very gently on the hob. When it’s very nearly time to dish up tip the prawns into the bisque so that they can warm through. I recommend you serve this in shallow bowls rather than on flat plates – you don’t want to waste all that lovely bisque!

Bacon Roly Poly

Here’s a blast from the past for anybody looking for a winter warmer! You will need a steamer, but if necessary you can improvise that with a large saucepan and a colander, and the patience to wait for it to cook, but the result is well worth it.

225g plain flour
100g shredded suet
Water, to mix
8 to 10 bacon rashers
1 onion, chopped finely
1 pork or beef stock cube, crushed

  • Mix the flour with the shredded suet and add enough water to form a soft dough
  • Trim any excess fat from the bacon rashers
  • Roll the pastry into a rough oblong then lay the bacon rashers all over it
  • Scatter the chopped onions on top of the bacon, then sprinkle the crushed stock cube on top
  • Roll the pastry lengthways into a tube, as you would a swiss roll
  • Wrap the rolled pudding in foil, sealing it very carefully, and steam it for two-and-a-half hours

I serve this with some greens and carrots, but some more ambitious types tell me they like it with mash!

Sausage Danish

I am very grateful to Nigel Slater for demonstrating this recipe on one of his TV shows. It provides a quick and easy, but nonetheless impressive, snack for unexpected guests as well as a perfect picnic dish or light(ish) lunch. You will need:-

A 375g sheet of ready-made butter puff pastry
400g sausages
2tsp fennel seeds
Salt and freshly-ground black pepper
1 egg, beaten
Flour, for rolling out the pastry

  • Preheat your oven to 200C/400F/Gas 6
  • Lightly flour a work surface and roll out the pastry to 30x20cm/ 12×8″
  • Remove the skins from the sausages and spread the meat over the pastry, leaving a small border around the edges
  • Season the meat with salt and freshly-ground black pepper and sprinkle on the fennel seeds
  • Brush the edges of the pastry with a little beaten egg
  • With a long side facing you, roll both of the short sides of the pastry in towards the centre brushing the pastry with beaten egg as you go
  • Cut the roll into finger-thick slices and lay these on a baking tray, brushing them with any remaining beaten egg
  • Bake for 15 minutes or until golden

Now try, if you can, to resist the temptation to start eating these before they have had a couple of minutes to cool down a bit!


Chinese Flavours One-pot Style

The long, slow cooking of this dish takes away the heat of the chilli so that you get a comforting, spicy dish rather than a hot one. This quantity of meat, together with rice/noodles and vegetables, will serve 4 people. I usually use skirt or shin, both of which give great, cut-with-a-spoon, results. You will need:-

3 – 4 tbsp groundnut or vegetable oil, for frying
Thumb-size piece of ginger, peeled and finely grated
Bunch of spring onions, cleaned and sliced
1 small red chilli, deseeded and finely sliced
1kg braising beef, cut into large chunks
2 tbsp flour
1 tsp five-spice powder
2 whole star anise
2 tsp sugar (preferably muscovado)
3 tbsp Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
500ml beef stock (from a cube is fine)
3 tbsp dark soy sauce

  • Heat your oven to 150C, Gas 2
  • Heat 2 tbsp of the oil in a flameproof casserole. Gently fry the ginger, spring onions and chilli for about 3 minutes until soft, then remove them from the casserole and set them aside
  • Toss the beef in the flour, add a little more oil to the casserole and brown the meat. You will need to do this in batches so as to keep the meet browning, rather than braising
  • Bash the star anise with something heavy. You need to crack the outer shell to release the flavour, but not to crush them
  • Put all of the beef back into the casserole. Add the five-spice powder and star anise and tip the ginger, spring onion and chilli mixture in too. Add the sugar, and stir everything together until combined
  • Turn the heat up higher then add the wine or sherry to deglaze the casserole, scraping up any meaty bits which have stuck to the bottom
  • Pour in the stock and soy sauce, bring the whole lot to a simmer, cover tightly and transfer to the oven to cook for 2 to 2½ hours, stirring occasionally

Remove the star anise before serving or, if you can’t find them, warn people! This dish keeps well in the freezer. I usually cook the full quantity and freeze half to provide a quick meal when we’ve been out for the day.

Potato Cobbler

I found this cobbler being used in a Hairy Bikers’ recipe for chicken casserole. I used it with mutton myself, but the choice is yours. Just remember that you need to have seasoned and thickened your casserole to your satisfaction before adding the cobbler topping – it doesn’t leave enough of a gap for any adjustment afterwards. When I know I want to make this cobbler I cook too many potatoes for another meal, which allows me to weigh out the exact amount of mash I need without causing unnecessary waste. You will need:-

250g mashed potatoes  (not creamed, just mashed)
250g self raising flour, plus extra for rolling
pinch of salt
100g butter, cold, cut into small cubes
125ml milk

  • Cook your casserole as you normally would then, about 40 minutes before you intend to serve your meal, raise the oven temperature to Gas 6/200C/400F
  • Put the flour, salt and butter into a large bowl and use your fingertips to rub the mixture together until it resembles rough breadcrumbs
  • Add the mashed potato and mix it in thoroughly
  • Stir in the milk and mix everything together until you have a smooth dough
  • Flour your pastryboard/worktop generously and turn the dough onto it. Roll it into a sausage shape about 24cm long then divide it into 12 equal pieces
  • Take your casserole out of the oven and lay the pieces of dough on the top of it. Overlap the pieces slightly so that they more or less cover the contents
  • Brush the pieces with a little milk, season them with salt and pepper and return the casserole to the oven without its lid
  • The topping should take about 30 minutes to cook and when done should be well risen and golden brown


Sweetcorn & Chorizo

I saw somebody on a TV show making this yesterday and couldn’t help wondering why I hadn’t thought of it myself. It’s so simple, but it sounds so tasty. He just took a piece of cooking chorizo, skinned it, chopped it into small pieces and fried it in a small amount of oil. He added some prepared sweetcorn and stirred it together with the chorizo so that all the juices released by the meat mixed into the corn. How easy is that? I’ll be trying it very soon.

Oxtail, anyone?

I remember when oxtail made a cheap meal; it doesn’t any more. However, it is worth seeking out. With long, slow cooking it makes beautifully gelatinous stock and it works really well with the root vegetables which are readily available at this time of year. It’s very unlikely that you’ll find oxtail in the supermarket but if, like me, you are lucky enough to still have a proper local butcher or a farm shop, it’s well worth asking for it. The trick with oxtail is, I’ve found, to make sure you start cooking it the day before you plan to eat it so, on day one:-

  • Heat your oven to Gas 4
  • Take a flameproof casserole pot and brown your oxtail pieces in a little fat or oil
  • While that’s happening take two beef stock cubes and dissolve them in hot water
  • When the oxtail pieces have finished browning, add enough stock to just cover them, put the lid onto your casserole pot and put it into the oven
  • Cook for half an hour at Gas 4 then turn the oven down to 3 and let the oxtail cook for a further two and a half hours

When that’s done, leave the oxtail pieces in the casserole with the stock and let them go completely cold then put the whole lot into the fridge and forget about it until the next day. On day two:-

  • Heat your oven to Gas 5
  • Take the casserole out of the fridge and open it. You will find a layer of set fat on top. Remove this and discard it. If you leave it in the pot your dish will be spoiled by being too greasy
  • Put the casserole into the oven to allow the stock to melt and, while that’s happening, prepare your vegetables
  • When they’re ready, add them to the casserole and let the meat heat through while they cook. How long this takes will depend on your choice of vegetables and how big or small you’ve chopped them

Thus, with a bit of forward planning, you’ll have a beautiful one-pot wonder with meat falling off the bones and just right to serve in a comforting bowl. Enjoy!

A Great Combination

I have discovered – owing to a happy accident – that the combination of Honey Glazed Roast Parsnips, Bombay Potatoes and more or less any piece of plain cooked meat or poultry you like works beautifully. Prepare your own veggies or – as I do – buy them ready to cook. Chuck a lamb chop or a duck breast into the oven along with the veggies and very soon your kitchen will be full of wonderful aromas and your mouth will be watering. Bon appetit!

Jamaican Curry Goat

I bought some Goat meat from my newly found online meat supplier, Alternative Meats, because I’ve heard a number of people raving about “Curry Goat” but never been able to try it for myself before. I understand that sometimes it is made with mutton, but it seemed a shame to miss the opportunity of trying out a new meat as well as a new recipe. I’m setting out the original ingredients list below but I will make a note of a couple of adjustments I made – I don’t like my curry too hot and I’m not too fond of kidney beans other than in a Chilli! You will need:-

700g goat shoulder, cut into large dice
1 large onion, roughly chopped
10 garlic cloves*
100g ginger, chopped*
2 scotch bonnet chillies, chopped*
A small handful of curry leaves
3 sprigs of thyme
4tbsp mild curry powder*
2tsp salt
400g can chopped tomatoes
300ml stock
410g can kidney beans*
Juice of half a lemon
2tbsp coriander, chopped
Roti or other bread of your choice to serve

  • Blend the onion, garlic and ginger to a puree
  • Heat the oil in a flameproof casserole and gently fry the puree for about 5 minutes, until soft
  • Add the chillies, curry leaves, thyme, curry powder and salt and cook for a few more minutes until fragrant
  • Add the meat, turn up the heat and brown the cubes on all sides
  • Add the tomatoes and stock then bring to the boil and cook for 10 minutes
  • Turn down the heat, put a lid on the pot and leave the curry to simmer very gently for about 3 hours until the meat is at “falling apart” stage. Check every now and then and if towards the end of the cooking time your curry looks too wet take the lid off for a while. Alternatively cook in the oven on a low heat, as I did
  • Add the kidney beans and when they are warmed through stir in the lemon juice and chopped coriander (If you are using potatoes you will need to put them in sooner, of course, to give them time to cook through)
  • Warm your bread and dish up

*: I used 6 garlic cloves and 70g ginger, and I substituted the scotch bonnets with 2 milder chillies. I had medium curry powder in my store cupboard, so I used 2tbsp instead of 4. I popped in a couple of potatoes instead of the kidney beans (other recipes I found included potatoes, so I figure this is perfectly reasonable). After a long, slow cook this produced the kind of curry I like, which is warm and spicy but doesn’t require the attendance of the Fire Brigade!

Beef Olives

This is a great comfort food recipe for the winter months. It might sound a bit fiddly but really it’s quick to prepare and you can leave it in the oven for a long, slow cook while you go and do something more interesting. It’s also a good stress reliever as it involves some bashing with a heavy object! To make 4 parcels you will need:-

4 slices of decent quality steak
300ml beef stock
300ml red wine
150g smoked bacon lardons or pancetta cubes
150g pork mince
2 banana shallots, peeled and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2tbsp fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
50g fresh breadcrumbs
1 onion, roughly chopped
Baby carrots (as many as you like)
A little oil, or beef dripping, for shallow frying

You will also need some string, or wooden skewers, to hold the parcels together while they are cooking

  • Pre-heat your oven to 170C/Gas 3
  • You need the steaks to be about 1cm thick and big enough to roll into parcels around the filling, so put them between sheets of clingfilm and bash them with a meat tenderiser or whatever alternative heavy object is available (my cast-iron pans, for example, do the job well!)
  • Mix the lardons, mince, shallots, garlic, basil and breadcrumbs together in a large bowl
  • Shape the mixture into 4 sausages
  • Place 1 of the sausages onto each piece of steak and roll up into parcels
  • Secure the parcels with string (I recommend both lengthways and widthways) or use wooden skewers to hold them together
  • Heat the oil or dripping in an ovenproof pot and brown the parcels on all sides
  • Add the roughly chopped onion and the carrots to the pot and fry until coloured
  • Add the beef stock and red wine to the pot then place in the oven to cook for 2½ to 3 hours, until really tender
  • Remove the string or skewers before serving

I like to serve these with mash, but of course it’s up to you.