Weekly menu 24

Week 24 and I have included something a little unusual this week. Jollof rice is a Nigerian dish, which is very close to my heart. Many years ago, a very kind Nigerian friend took me in when I was pretty much homeless until I got back on my feet. During this time she made some amazing food for me, and it was actually a friend of hers who taught me how to make Jollof rice. This version is not as authentic as her recipe, as I have changed it over the years to suit my taste but I hope still does justice to this fantastic dish. Give it a try, it’s very moreish.

Enjoy 🙂

Saturday: Sticky spare ribs
Sunday: Jollof rice w/ chicken
Monday: Onion tart
Tuesday: Beef and bok choi noodles
Wednesday: Orecchiette w/ a walnut sauce
Thursday: Stuffed courgettes
Friday: Mussels w/ celery and chilli

Sticky spare ribs

500g pork spare ribs, chopped in half
Large bottle of coke
4 slices ginger
6 cloves garlic
Pinch of salt
3/4 tbsp brown sugar
3/4 tbsp plain flour
Dash of soy sauce

Before you start cooking the ribs, place your ribs in a dish with 3 ginger slices, salt, sugar, flour and soy sauce. Make sure all the seasoning is evenly distributed across all the meat, and leave them to marinade for 30 minutes/1 hour.

Set an oiled frying pan on medium heat and pop 1 ginger slice and 3 garlic cloves on it. Add in the ribs and brown them on both sides for roughly 2-3 minutes each. Then place the ribs in an oiled pot (with a lid) and pour in enough coke to fully cover the meat. It will take about 30 minutes for the coke to reduce, keep and eye on it and stir regularly. When you are left with a lovely sticky coating on your ribs, just check one to make sure the meat is cooked through, serve straight away piled high on a plate and scattered with a finely sliced deseeded red chilli.

Jollof rice w/ chicken

8 skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into large pieces
3 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, halved and sliced
3 tbsp tomato purée
1 Knorr chicken stockpot / or stock cube
400g basmati rice
1 red pepper, deseeded and thickly sliced
1 yellow pepper, deseeded and thickly sliced
100g okra, halved
Small bunch coriander, roughly chopped, to serve

2 garlic cloves
2 x 400g cans plum tomatoes
thumb-size piece fresh root ginger
1-2 scotch bonnet chillies, (deseeded if you wish)
1 tsp fresh thyme leaves

Season the chicken with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tbsp of the oil in a large deep frying pan over a high heat then add the meat and fry for about 6-8 mins till browned all over. Lift out of the pan onto a plate.

Add the rest of the oil to the pan and fry the onions until soft but not golden, about 5 mins. While the onions cook, make the ginger and chilli base. Put the garlic, tomatoes, ginger, thyme and chillies into a food processor or blender and whizz till smooth. Add the tomato purée to the onions, fry for another 2 mins then add the ginger and chilli mix. Add the chicken stock pot (or crumble in the cube), stir well then pour in 600ml boiling water. Add the chicken, bring to the boil then simmer for 15 mins.

Put the rice into a large bowl, cover with cold water and use your hands to wash the grains. Then drain the rice. Add the rice to the pan, turn the heat down to a simmer then cover with foil and a lid (so no steam can escape) and cook for 20 mins. Take the lid off (the rice won’t be cooked yet) then scatter the peppers and okra over the rice. Re-cover and cook for 10 mins until the veg is softened and the rice tender. Just before serving, mix the veg through and scatter over coriander.

Onion tart

225g ready shortcrust pastry sheets
600 g onions, thinly sliced
2 tbsp olive oil
3 eggs, beaten
125 ml milk
75 g cheddar cheese
Couple of springs fresh thyme, leaves stripped off the stalks

Preheat the oven to 200C/gas 6 and grease a 25cm metal loose-bottomed tart tin. Line the tin with the short crust pastry and prick the bottom with a fork.

Fry the onions in the olive oil for 5-6 minutes until they are soft then spread them evenly over the pastry. Season the beaten eggs with salt and pepper, add the milk and pour over the onions. Sprinkle on the thyme leaves then scatter the cheddar over the tart ensuring that it is evenly distributed. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the filling has set and the top is golden brown. Serve with rocket, watercress and baby spinach leaves.

Beef and bok choi noodles

225g dried medium egg noodles.
300g lean beef steak, (e.g. sirloin or fillet, trimmed of all fat)
1 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp oyster sauce
2 tbsp Chinese rice wine
2 tsp rice wine vinegar
1 tsp sunflower oil
5cm piece fresh ginger, cut into fine matchsticks
4 small heads bok choi, cut into wide strips
Bunch spring onions, trimmed and cut on the diagonal into 1cm slices
100g beansprouts
1 tsp toasted sesame oil

Bring a large pan of lightly salted water to the boil. Add the noodles and cook for 4 minutes, until just tender. Drain and set aside.

Cut the steak into thin slices, about 2cm wide. Spread out on a plate and season. In a small bowl, mix together the soy sauce, oyster sauce, rice wine and vinegar. Set aside. Heat the oil in a wok or large, non-stick deep frying pan over a high heat. Add the steak and stir-fry for 1 minute, until just cooked. Lift out with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the ginger, bok choi, spring onions and beansprouts. Stir-fry for 1 minute.

Return the beef to the pan along with the noodles, soy and oyster sauce mixture and the toasted sesame oil. Briefly toss together, until heated through. Serve immediately.

Orecchiette w/ a walnut sauce

175g Orecchiette pasta
75g shelled walnuts
2 cloves of garlic, peeled
2 heaped tbsp freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra to serve
4 level tbsp mascarpone

Chop half the walnuts finely together with the garlic in a mini-chopper or small processor. Then combine this mixture in a bowl with the Parmesan cheese and mascarpone, and season well with salt flakes and ground pepper.

Bring a pan containing two litres of salted water to the boil and warm two pasta bowls. Add the pasta to the water, give it one good stir and let it simmer for about 12 minutes. Meanwhile, chop the rest of the walnuts (not too finely this time).

Drain the pasta in a colander, return it to the pan and quickly stir in the walnut sauce, keeping the pan over a low heat as you do so to heat the sauce through.

Serve the pasta with the extra nuts sprinkled over and some more Parmesan on the table.

Stuffed courgettes

3 large courgettes
200 ml hot water
200g canned chopped tomatoes
4 tbsp olive oil

For the filling
100g minced beef
2 tbsp rice, washed and drained
1 onion, chopped finely
1 green chilli, chopped
A large pinch of cumin

For the yogurt sauce
250g yogurt
2 tbsp dill, chopped
1 garlic clove, smashed
2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Wash, top and tail the courgettes and cut into 3 or 4 pieces 8-10cm long that can stand on their own. Use a long, sharp knife, or long handled thin spoon scoop out their middles.

Mix all the filling ingredients with 50 ml water and seasoning then carefully fill the cavities – don’t push the filling down but just tap it on the work surface, leaving a good centimetre at the top for the rice to expand.

In a bowl, whisk together the chopped tomatoes, hot water, olive oil and some seasoning. Stand the courgettes up like pillars in a thick-bottomed saucepan with a lid, and pour the tomato cooking liquor all around it.

Put a lid on and bring to a fast simmer – cook for 15 minutes like this, then turn down to the lowest possible for another 15 mins. Mix the ingredients for the yogurt sauce together gently so that not all of the olive oil is incorporated but is gathering slightly on the surface.

When the courgettes are cooked, take care when lifting them out that all the filling doesn’t fall out the bottom. Put them on your serving dish as you reduce the tomato sauce in the pan down to a spooning consistency.

Serve with some of the tomato sauce spooned over and the yoghurt sauce on the side and salad. Finish with a few sprigs of dill.

Mussels w/ celery and chilli

1kg fresh mussels
Olive oil, for frying
3 spring onions, chopped
1 banana shallot, thinly sliced
1 celery stick, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, peeled and thinly sliced
1 fresh red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
4 sprigs thyme, leaves removed from the stalks
1 bay leaf
1-2 tbsp vermouth
150ml dry white wine
2 tbsp crème fraîche
Small bunch flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped
Crusty bread, to serve

Wash mussels well and scrub the beards off. Throw away any that do not close when tapped against a hard surface. Drain the mussels. Heat a large, heavy-based sauté pan or shallow saucepan over a high heat. Add a good glug of oil and fry the spring onions, shallot, celery, garlic, chilli, thyme and bay leaf together. Cook for 2 minutes, shaking the pan, until the shallot and celery start to become tender.

Add the mussels to the pan and shake over a very high heat for about 30 seconds. Cover tightly with a lid and leave to steam for 2 minutes, shaking the pan now and again. When the mussels begin to open add the vermouth and wine and continue to cook, uncovered, for a further 1-2 minutes to reduce the liquid. Cover and cook for a final 1 minute until the mussels have completely opened. Discard any that remain shut at the end of cooking.

Add the crème fraîche and parsley to the pan, then taste and adjust the seasoning as necessary. Cover the pan and shake to combine the flavours. Remove the lid, stir, and serve immediately with plenty of crusty bread.

(Credits: Allegra McEvedy, The Little Graduate, Delicious Magazine, Gordon Ramsey, Delia Smith, JJMoola’s Kitchen)


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