Weekly menu 39

Tuesday’s fish fingers are a cheats dream for a quick dinner and they can be prepared in advance to the stage before you cook them and then stored in the fridge for up to 24 hours or freezer for up to 3 months – Billy Bonus! I love food like this because we all have those days when you just can’t be arsed and this is what cooking your own food is all about, in the long run it really does make life easy for you.

Currently I am trying of these fasting diets which means 2 days a week I eat no more than 600 calories. This week (first back from holiday), I couldn’t think straight when I was doing our weekly shop so I didn’t plan what I would bring in for my lunch on my diet days so I picked up some low-cal ready meals from the supermarket. I promise you I have regretted that decision with every tasteless mouthful. I would have had a much more pleasurable experience chomping my way through a bag of celery! Lesson learned for me again – being lazy just means that I am more likely to hit the chocs to compensate for the misery of eating faux food!

Enjoy cooking, love cooking and take pleasure in it, it’s worth every mouthful! 🙂

Saturday: Tex-Mex squash casserole
Sunday: Roast grouse w/ Madeira gravy, veg and duck fat chips
Monday: Mushroom soup w/ watercress pesto
Tuesday: Salmon fish fingers
Wednesday: Swedish meatballs
Thursday: Sichuan-style wok-fried aubergine and tofu in chilli bean sauce
Friday: Chicken and rhubarb bake w/ radish salad and new potatoes

Tex-Mex squash casserole

2 yellow squash and 2 courgette sliced into coin depth rounds
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 jalapeno, diced
2 tablespoons of butter
1 can tomatoes, drained or two cups of diced fresh tomatoes
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp of cumin
1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper
1 cup of chicken or vegetable stock
2 tbsp of flour
1/2 cup single cream and milk mixed
1/2 cup of sour cream
1/2 cup of coriander leaves, chopped
2 cups grated cheddar
2 cups crushed tortilla chips
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4.

Heat the butter in a large deep frying on medium heat. When melted, add the squash, courgette, onion and jalapenos, and sauté until onions are translucent and the squash is soft, about ten minutes.

Add the garlic, cumin, chili powder, cayenne, salt, pepper and cook for a minute. Then stir in the flour and cook until a light-brown past forms, about a minute.

Now add the stock and tomatoes and stir until the mixture thickens, which should happen in a couple of minutes. Add the cream/milk mixture, sour cream and coridander and turn off the heat. Stir well and season to taste.

In a greased casserole dish, layer the bottom with the crushed tortilla chips. Pour on top of the chips the creamy squash mixture and then cover the whole dish with the grated cheese.

Cook uncovered for thirty minutes, or until top is brown and bubbling.

Roast grouse w/ Madeira gravy, veg and chips

4 grouse, ready to cook w/ giblets reserved
4 tbs butter
1 pinch of plain flour
75 ml Madeira
1 tsp redcurrant jelly
300 ml game stock
4 small slices bread
100g foie gras, (from a terrine is fine)
4 little bundles of watercress

For the chips:
duck fat, (enough to fill deep fat fryer or deep saucepan)
2 large potatoes

Preheat the oven to 180C/gas 4.

Take the giblets and chop them into small dice. Melt 1 tbs of the butter in a saucepan, when foaming add the giblets and flour, season and fry briskly until nicely caramelised. Add the Madeira and bring to the boil then reduce by half. Then add the stock, bring to a gentle simmer and cook for 40 minutes.

Strain and press through a sieve into a clean pan. Bring back to the gentlest boil and as the sauce throws up a skin, skim it off. Reduce to a good flavour,stir in the jelly and adjust the seasoning if required.

To cook the grouse, season the cavities with salt and pepper and then coat the birds with butter and place them in a good sized roasting pan. Season the tops with salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 15-20 mins, basting every 5 mins. If the birds are quite small then 15 minutes will give you a nice rare finish.

Once you take them from the oven lift the birds onto a warm dish and leave to rest somewhere warm for 15 mins.

Place the roasting pan back onto the hob and fry the 4 slices of bread to a light golden crispness.

Remove them from the pan and rest on absorbent paper. Then spread the foie gras equally onto each toast.

For the chips: heat the duck fat in a deep fat fryer or saucepan to around 130C (use a meat or kitchen thermometer for this), basically just medium heat. Cut the potato into chunky chips and fry for 6-7 minutes, or until cooked all the way through, but not browned. Remove the chips with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Now increase the heat to 180C or high heat. Carefully put the chips back in and cook until browned all over. Remove again with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.

Place one of these on each plate and rest a grouse on each one. Meanwhile bring the gravy back to the boil and add a tablespoon of butter. Check the seasoning and pour the gravy over each grouse and garnish each bird with a bundle of watercress.

Serve with veg of your choice and your duck fat chips.

Mushroom soup w/ watercress pesto

10 g dried porcini mushrooms
knob of butter
olive oil, for frying
150 g banana shallots, finely chopped
4 sprigs thyme, stripped
600 g mixed mushrooms, roughly chopped
1 litres hot vegetable stock
3 tbsp creme fraiche

For the watercress pesto
40 g watercress
handful flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
1 garlic clove, roughly chopped
3 tbsp parmesan, or vegetarian Italian hard cheese, grated
handful toasted macadamia nuts
1 tbsp truffle oil
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

Put the dried porcini mushrooms in a small bowl and pour over enough boiling water to just cover them, then set to one side.

In a large casserole dish, melt the butter along with a good glug of olive oil. Add the shallots and gently sauté until soft. Add the thyme and chopped mushrooms.

Drain the porcini mushrooms, straining the soaking liquid to remove any grit. Add both the casserole dish. Continue cooking until the mushrooms have reduced down and most of the moisture released has disappeared. Add the stock and simmer for about 20 minutes, then blitz with a stick blender to make the soup. Season and stir in the crème fraiche.

For the pesto: Put the watercress, parsley, garlic, parmesan and nuts to a pestle and mortar and bash until pulverized. Add the truffle oil and extra virgin olive oil.

Serve the soup into warmed bowls and top with a spoonful of pesto.

Salmon fish fingers

500 g centre cut fillet of salmon, without skin
3 tbsp plain flour
2 eggs
110 g fresh white breadcrumbs or panko crumbs
25 g butter, (if shallow-frying)
2 tbsp olive oil
1 lemon, cut into wedges

For the tomato and basil dip:
275 g tomatoes, roughly chopped
110 ml crème fraîche
1 tbsp finely shredded basil

Preheat the oven 220C/gas 7.

Cut the piece of salmon in half across the width and then cut each half into six equal-sized fingers down the length. Sift the flour onto a plate or into a wide bowl, beat the eggs in another bowl and place the breadcrumbs in a third. Season each with salt and pepper.

Dust the salmon fingers in the flour, then dip them in the beaten egg and finally in the breadcrumbs, to evenly coat.

To shallow-fry, melt the butter with the olive oil in a large frying pan on a medium–high heat and fry the fish fingers for 3–4 minutes each side or until crisp, golden and cooked through. Drain well on kitchen paper. Alternatively, drizzle the olive oil on a large baking sheet and arrange the fish fingers on the oiled sheet. Bake in the oven for 8–10 minutes, turning halfway through cooking, until crisp, golden and cooked through.

For the tomato dip Blitz the chopped tomato in a blender or using a hand-held blender until smooth. Push through a fine sieve into a small saucepan and simmer on a low heat for 4–5 minutes or until reduced and thickened. Remove and leave to cool completely before stirring into the crème fraîche with the basil and a little salt and pepper.

Serve the salmon fish fingers with lemon wedges, the tomato and basil dip and any veg you like.

Swedish meatballs
100 g butter
3 banana shallots, very very finely chopped
400g minced veal (you can use beef if you prefer but the flavour is better with veal)
400g fatty minced pork
50g stale white breadcrumbs, (brioche is perfect)
1-2 tsp milk
1 medium egg, beaten
½ a wholenutmeg, finely grated
2 tsp ground allspice
¼ tsp white pepper

For the sauce
2 tbsp plain flour
125 ml white wine
50 ml white wine vinegar
2 tsp caster sugar
1 tbsp Dijon mustard
500 ml chicken stock
4 heaped tbsp creme fraiche
3 tbsp dill, finely chopped

Melt 50g butter in a small pan and sauté the shallots for at least 8 minutes or until tender but not coloured, stirring frequently. Scrape the shallots into a large bowl. Add the veal mince, pork mince, breadcrumbs, milk and egg. Add the nutmeg and allspice, white pepper and season well with salt. Really squeeze the mixture together, until completely combined.

Fashion your meat into balls the size of a walnut in its shell. Melt the remaining 50g butter in a large frying pan and fry the meatballs carefully over a medium heat, turning regularly until golden brown all over. The object is not to cook the meatballs through but just to brown them. It’s important that you don’t burn the butter. Transfer the meatballs to a plate.

For the sauce, sprinkle the flour into the pan and stir into the butter. Cook out for 30 seconds or so – be careful not burn the flour. Add the white wine and vinegar, stirring constantly. The flour will swell with the added liquid. Stir in the sugar and mustard, then add the chicken stock. Simmer rapidly until the consistency of the sauce is similar to pouring double cream. Add the crème fraiche and whisk in. Add the meatballs and bring to a gentle simmer. Put a lid on the pan and cook the meatballs for 5 minutes, checking to ensure it isn’t boiling.

Test the seasoning of the sauce one last time. Scatter over the dill and serve with potato rosti or mash.

Sichuan-style wok-fried aubergine and tofu in chilli bean sauce
For the chilli bean sauce:
300 ml water
8 medium red chillies, seeds removed and flesh roughly chopped
400 g can soya or broad beans, rinsed and drained
3-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 tbsp dark soy sauce
1 tbsp salt
1 tbsp rice vinegar, or Mirin

For the stir-fry:
2 tbsp groundnut oil
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp ginger, grated and peeled
1 aubergine
500 ml hot vegetable stock
2 tbsp light soy sauce
400 g (firm beancurd) tofu in water, drained and cut into cubes
2 small spring onions, chopped lengthways
Handful coriander leaves
Steamed rice, to serve

For the chilli bean sauce: pour the water into a pan, add the chillies and bring to the boil. Reduce the heat and cook gently until the chillies have softened.

Add the canned beans and return the mixture to the boil. Using a hand blender, roughly mash up the beans and chillies, adding the garlic intermittently, to make a chunky sauce.

Season with the soy sauce, salt and rice vinegar and mix well. Pour the sauce into a sterilised jar, seal and cool. (The sauce can be kept in the fridge for up to 10 days)

For the stir-fry: heat a wok over a medium-high heat until hot, then pour in the oil. Add the garlic and ginger and stir-fry for just less than 1 minute. Add the sliced aubergine and stir-fry for 2-3 minutes. Add the hot vegetable stock, then add 3 tablespoons of the chilli bean sauce and the soy sauce and stir well. Add the tofu and stir-fry gently for a further 1-2 minutes or until it is cooked.

Garnish with spring onions, and coriander leaves. Serve with steamed rice.

Chicken and rhubarb bake w/ radish salad and new potatoes

For the chicken:
8 pieces of chicken – you can portion up a whole bird or just use thighs and drumsticks
300 g rhubarb, cut in to 3cm pieces
50 g sugar

For the cucumber radish salad:
1 cucumber, deseeded and sliced
1 bunch of radishes, sliced
100 ml goats’ milk yogurt (or greek yoghurt if you are not a fan of the goat!)
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
2 tbsp fresh mint, chopped

For the chicken: Preheat the oven to 200C/gas 6. Put the chicken pieces in an ovenproof dish, sprinkle with salt and pepper and roast in the oven for 30 minutes.

Next mix the rhubarb and sugar in a bowl. Take the chicken out of the oven, place the rhubarb under the chicken, put it back in the oven and roast for a further 15 minutes.

For the cucumber radish salad: Mix the cucumber and radish slices in a bowl. Blend together the yoghurt, garlic and mint and mix this into the salad. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve the chicken and rhubarb with the salad and boiled potatoes.

(Credits: Homesick Texan, Gastrogeek, Valentine Warner, Trine Hahnemann, Kate Wesson, Ching-He Huang,
JJMoola’s Kitchen)


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