Curry In A Hurry: Lamb And Pea Keema

This is essentially mince curry. You can call it what you like, but that’s what it is.

The mere notion of of ‘mince curry’ conjures up 1960s horrors made with stale curry powder and garnished with hardboiled eggs, but, if you peel off the mask of stubborn ‘authenticity’ for a minute, you’ll realise that this has as good a place at a south Asian table as any – because the term curry simply implies a gravied dish. And this is stewed minced lamb served in a spiced gravy with peas. Admittedly if one was to use beef mince then we’re back in the Sixties, as of course beef isn’t eaten in India (the cow is sacred), but calling it keema satisfies the culture-appropriating food snob within us. But nobody’s going to sue you if you do use minced beef.

This originated from Delicious magazine’s website and I combined it with my own recipe for chicken balti to make it a bit more worthy of talking about. It won’t set the world on fire and it’s certainly not Instagrammable, but it is imperative for the middle of the miserable working week when the extra step of making mash for shepherds’ pie just seems like climbing Everest in the fog.

 

Lamb and Pea Keema

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250g lamb mince

1 tbsp beef dripping

1 onion, diced

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 tbsp ground coriander

1 tsp ground cumin

1 tsp turmeric

1/2 tsp chilli powder

1/2 tsp ground ginger

1 tsp garam masala

100g frozen peas

1 tbsp tomato puree, diluted in 200-300ml boiling water

Lemon juice

  1. Heat dripping (or oil) in a saucepan over medium heat. Add diced onion and fry until softened. Add garlic and cook for another minute or so.
  2. Add lamb mince and turn up heat – fry until browned, and then add all ground spices except the garam masala. Reduce heat back to medium and allow to cook out for 5 minutes.
  3. Toss in the peas and cook just until the frozen look leaves them before pouring in the tomato ‘stock’.
  4. Bring to boil and simmer rapidly for 10 minutes, or until most of the liquid has evaporated. You want some left but not much. Think shepherds’ pie base.
  5. Taste for seasoning and then squirt in a good dash of lemon juice and the garam masala and stir through.
  6. Serve with naans, boiled rice and whatever your heart desires.
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Cupboard Love: Chorizo and Pea Pilaf

It’s becoming a dangerously repetitive maxim on here, but honestly, its amazing what you can make by just scrabbling around in your fridge, freezer and store cupboard and applying a little knowhow.

I appreciate that this looks like an Eastern Mediterranean zig-zag; we begin in Spain and end up in Persia – this is not me purposely being globetrottingly eclectic in the kitchen, but merely hunting for a fast supper which creatively used some leftover chorizo sausage that was too little to do anything else with. It has some roots in a couple of Nigella’s recipes, but really, most of us will have these things in these days. I didn’t weigh the chorizo but it was the ends of two sausages that I’d bought and used for Nigella’s Chorizo and Chickpea stew and refused to waste.

It’s super easy and fast to make, one pot as well, so it’s perfect for anyone so harried in the middle of the miserable working week when the idea of cooking just makes you want to shriek. These measurements serve one, but you can of course double or quadruple. Just remember it’s one part rice to two parts stock.

I suppose you can also add chopped dried apricots (or indeed ANY dried fruit) to ramp up the Scheherezade exoticism of this dish but it’s perfectly good as is. Indeed you could also add saffron to the stock…..

Chorizo And Pea Pilaf

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approx 80g chorizo, cut into small chunks

80g frozen peas

100g basmati rice

200ml chicken stock

Splash (1tbsp) dry sherry

 

  1. In an oilless pan over medium heat, fry the chorizo pieces until the orange oil runs out.
  2. Remove from heat and add sherry, it will sizzle a bit.
  3. Add peas and cook until frozen look leaves them.
  4. Add rice and stir until slicked in the orange-tinted oil and sherry remnants.
  5. Pour over stock and bring to a bubble.
  6. Clamp on a lid and reduce heat to very low. Simmer for 15 minutes or until all the liquid is absorbed.
  7. Once the rice is cooked, stir briefly (with a fork) and don’t panic if there’s any crispy bits – in Persian cooking this is very desirable and known as the tahdig. Serve immediately into a waiting bowl.

Real Men DO Eat Quiche: Four Cheese And Sherry-Caramelized Onion Quiche With Chutney

I really need to up my game of finding inspiration everywhere so I can produce more recipes. This one was borne out of financial hardship and the prospect of what to serve my visiting brother for lunch. Which going by the title doesn’t sound like pauper’s cooking but I already had four different cheeses in the fridge including two impulse buys from one of Waitrose’s perpetual 2 for £4 offers and were all open and needing use. You can of course use any 4 cheeses your heart desires, though cheddar is recommended for grating atop. Don;t feel confined by weights when it comes to the cheese….I go purely by eye here and don’t get hung up on proportions of each kind.  As long as you are precise for the pastry and custard, you’ll be fine.

Same with the chutney layer – I had some homemade ‘rag bag’ chutney – so-named for its ludicrous combination of fridge, cupboard and freezer-raid ingredients – that was sat in the fridge and felt was perfect to cut through all the cheeses. You can use any good bought chutney from a jar; anything you’d serve with a cheeseboard will do (though not mango – think Branston pickle or ploughman’s relish. Yes you can use Branston if you want…just don’t tell me about it).

Quiche is a fantastic thing to have in any savvy cook’s repetoire – its basis is simple with its easy pastry base and simple custard filling, and, like a frittata or omelette, you can throw in any leftover vegetables hanging round your fridge drawers though I recommend cooking them first. Caramelised onions are a fabulous addition, which is why I’ve gone for them, though obviously they take time to cook; this is weekend cooking at its finest…pottering about the kitchen unharried and serene. This is also much better made one day ahead to allow the filling to settle and makes for easier slicing.

Four Cheese And Sherry-Caramelised Onion Quiche With Chutney Layer

 

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For the onions:
2 regular onions, peeled and sliced lengthways

Oil or butter, or a mixture of the two

A good few splashes of medium dry sherry

For the pastry case:
280g plain flour

70g lard

70g butter

Water, to combine the dough

For the filling:
2 large eggs

284ml double cream

A mixture of:
Cheddar, grated
Blue Shropshire, crumbled
Double Gloucester With Onion And Chives, crumbled
Parmesan, grated
Or indeed whatever combo of cheeses your heart desires.

About 3-4 tbsp (enough to make an even but thin layer) good piquant chutney, either home made if you’re super domesticated or any bought one from a jar.

You will need 1 x 20cm sandwich tin, greased, as well as some baking parchment and beans.

  1.  Heat the oil (or butter, or both) in a thick bottomed pan over a medium-high heat until shimmering. Add onion slices and stir to coat with oil. Spread them out in an even layer and allow to cook for 10 minutes. Turn heat down to medium if your hob is particularly fierce.
  2. After the 10 minutes, sprinkle some salt over the onions, and optionally, a pinch of sugar to help the caramelisation process. If they catch a bit as they cook, just splash in a bit of water and stir to loosen.
  3. Cook, stirring every few minutes for at least 30 minutes…as soon as they start sticking..let them stick a little and brown, but stir before they burn.
  4. Continue to cook and scrape until they are a rich brown. Taste for sweetness. Once you’re happy, deglaze the pan with the sherry and stir to loosen all those crucial brown bits off the bottom. Turn heat up to cook off and reduce the sherry right down – you don’t want any excess liquid but they will take on its’ spicy-sweet, bosky flavour.  Decant into a bowl and set aside.

  5. Now you can get on with the pastry (or indeed you can do this before you cook the onions if you’re super organised). First, preheat oven to 200C (180 fan). In a stand mixer or food processor; or indeed by hand if you’re not a lazy bum; rub/mix the fats into the flour until it resembles medium oatmeal or breadcrumbs, and then gently pour in the water. As soon as the dough looks like it’s about to cohere, turn the machine off and squidge together to form said dough.
  6. On a floured surface, roll out the pastry to a round about the thickness of a £1 coin. You want it strong enough to prevent leakage but not too thick. Use your rolling pin to lift it and drape over the sandwich tin so there’s an overhang, pushing into the edges. Don’t worry if it’s not perfectly neat. You’re not a factory. Pull away scraps but you want it slightly above the height of the tin to allow for shrinkage. Chill in the fridge for 20-30 minutes.
  7. Lightly prick the base of the tart with a fork; line with parchment and fill with ceramic beans or dried beans or rice if you’ve not got the ceramic ones. Bake blind for 20 minutes; remove the parchment and beans, and then continue to bake for 5-10 minutes until biscuity. Remember to not go overboard here; it’s going to be baked again once it’s filled!
  8. Whilst the base is cooking, beat the eggs in a jug or bowl with the cream and season. When the case is ready, spread it carefully with the chutney (or pickle), trying not to cut it, before sprinkling with the parmesan, Shropshire, double Gloucester – I layer the parmesan over the chutney and dot with the crumbled Shropshire and Gloucester. But do this your way; as long as the chutney is the first thing to go on.
  9. Arrange half the cooled, caramelised onions atop the cheeses, before pouring over the eggs-and-cream-mix and finally, scatter with the grated cheddar and the other half of the onions.
  10. Bake for 20-25 minutes until set and golden brown. Remove from oven and let cool completely in the tin.

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    Don’t be alarmed…once its completely cooled and ready to serve, you can trim away those ugly dark edges.
  11. When the quiche is cooled completely, trim away the ugly (and possibly darkened to inedible) edges of the pastry and carefully remove from the tin, before cutting into wedges and serving with whatever you like.

 

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The closest I got to taking a photo of the quiche served…

Hot And Sour: Southeast Asian Chicken and Kale Salad

Firstly let me just own up: I have never been to any country in South East Asia. But I do know that their cuisine – huge on flavour yet low on calories/guilt – is often the first port of call to any foodie who has to exercise a modicum of dietary restraint. I am a bit of a greedy pig, which I know is not news (and certainly not fake news), but even I have to reel in my desires. My low-carb diet took a hiatus to accommodate Easter, and lately I’ve decided to relax it more at weekends (especially if copious alcohol consumption is planned).

I don’t know whether to call this a salad or not as the kale is steamed, but isn’t served hot. It was yet another result of a fridge raid today when I needed a low carb but filling lunch and some cooked chicken breast to use up. It is a mutation of Nigella Lawson’s gingery hot duck salad from Bites, which in turn was a spin off from Cambodian beef salad so, I guess you can call this recipe the next stage. This is the beauty of cooking – evolution.

I am not naturally a salad person so if I do make one, it has to deliver on taste and not feel like a punishment. My salads usually have heat in there somewhere, maybe fruit, herbs, and certainly something sharp and pickled. Vinegar or citrus juices tend to be my choice of dressing, I loathe those claggy bottled ones.

Kale I genuinely enjoy eating (don’t convince me a kale smoothie does not taste absolutely vile though. Just cook it and eat it as a veg, stop inflicting such horror on your soul) as it is beefy and meaty for a leafy green and still fairly cheap to buy and is always grown in the UK all year round, and I had half a bag to use up and no salad leaves in the fridge.

I nearly always have a bought roast chicken in the fridge (because sadly I don’t roast birds nearly as often as I would like to these days which is madness as it would work out SO much cheaper) but I tend to prefer the dark meat (think a drumstick torn off the bird like an island savage when post-work hunger pangs hit) whereas my ex partner/good friend favours the breast. But on those occasions when I do have cooked chicken breast laying about, I have to anoint it with some seriously spiky, punchy flavouring.  But I do tend to leave the skin on as it’s a small sacrifice of virtue in order to up the flavour stakes.

The dressing is hot, salty, sour and even a little sweet – if the idea of sugar appalls you, then just use granulated sweetener or agave syrup instead. You do need balance here. I have done it with half lime, half sweet orange before, but this time I wanted the full acerbic hit of the lime. The ginger is to taste, don’t get your ruler out. In truth, I find it easier to just grate the whole root and go by eye. And I don’t bother to peel because I’m lazy.

This is a fiercely hot salad, not for the faint hearted (and if, as I often do, you go for full geographical authenticity and use those fiendish Thai birds-eye chillies or go EVEN hotter up the Scoville scale, then it’s strictly professionals only time)  but if you do like the food that bites back, it’s an easy summer lunch or light supper. If you’re as much of a heat junkie as I am, you will love it.

Serves 1 but can be doubled.

Southeast Asian Chicken and Kale Salad

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125-150g (about half a 250g bag) curly kale, tough stems removed

1 cold cooked chicken breast, skin on  (either from a leftover roast, bought packet or rotisserie chicken)

2 tbsp fish sauce

Juice of 1 and a half limes

1 tsp sugar or any sweetener you desire

Few drops toasted sesame oil

1-2cm piece ginger, grated.

1 green chilli, chopped (de-seed if you’re of a more timorous bent, or use 1-2 birds-eyes if you think you’re hard enough)

 

  1. Place kale in a steamer, either electric or one set over boiling water, sprinkle with salt and steam until tender. Alternatively you can boil in salted water.
  2. Slice chicken breast on the diagonal, going for that 80s Chinese takeaway fan-style carving but if some of the meat crumbles, spoiling the perfect slices, don’t get het up. Please leave on the skin. You’ll thank me.
  3. In a bowl, mix together fish sauce, lime juice, sesame oil, chopped chilli and grated ginger before tumbling in the sliced chicken. Stir to coat thoroughly. Think of this as a quasi-marinade as well as a dressing.
  4. This can be served with the kale hot or at room temperature,  so don’t fret about timing – when kale is tender, (and drained if you boiled it), decant it onto a plate before topping with the chicken, making sure to scrape out any remnants of the dressing with a spatula and dive in.

 

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Herb-flecked and fragrant: Quinoa and Chickpea Salad with Macerated Onions

I have a confession to make: As I write this I’m almost one week into a low-carbohydrate diet (but still on my smugly non-puritanical terms: If I fancy a bag of crisps or a slice of cake, I just won’t eat any bread, rice, potatoes or pasta that day. It’s all about balance and moderation – you didn’t think I’d become Calgary Avansino [she’ll sue me one day] did you??), so I’m looking for speedy suppers that are big on flavour, but don’t rely on the crutches of pasta or bread as the base. Even when in virtuous mode, I do not go in for rigid blandness or mimsy portions.

This colourful and herb-flecked quinoa and chickpea salad was born out of a store cupboard and fridge rummage as I found myself falling into the trap of buying new things for supper every day. Now I know what you’re thinking, it sounds hessian-weave and militant Wellness vegan time, but I assure you, if I didn’t like the taste of this, I wouldn’t make it, let alone publish the recipe. (I can’t stop channelling Queen Nigella can I? I’m too far gone.)

Indeed I have looked towards St Nigella for part of this – one of her frequent recipe components; the zingy macerated onions. It might sound inconvenient to steep finely-sliced red onions in vinegar (or lime juice which works just as well) for half an hour, but the acid takes out that acrid burn you get with raw onion, making them tangy and sweet, so you can eat this in the company of others without them recoiling in horror. Even with this step, this is still gratifyingly easy cooking and quick to make. Plus cold, it makes a great packed lunch for work.

This is packed with colour and zing; the vinegar or lime juice that the onions steep in, forms the dressing (no oil so I’m keeping company with the food fascism brigade here), there’s 2 chillies thrown in; some mouth-puckeringly, alligator-skin-hued capers, and the herbs, roughly chopped provide pungency – I want them more like a salad leaf instead of a garnish; whilst the grated carrot and chopped cucumber provide sweet, cool, familiarity.

You’ll notice I’ve flitted Stateside and back with the measurements, but I think it’s much easier to cook grains like quinoa (which like rice cooked by the absorption method, it’s 1 part grain to 2 parts liquid) if you go by volume. I generally don’t weigh ingredients for salads, rather going by eye, so feel free to add more or less of each of the components to your taste.

Serves 3-4 depending on appetite

Quinoa and Chickpea Salad with Macerated Onions

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Half red onion, finely sliced into half moons

About 60ml red wine vinegar or fresh lime juice (60ml = about 2-3 limes)

1 cup quinoa

2 cups chicken or vegetable stock

400g can chickpeas, drained

Generous handful rocket leaves

A handful each of coriander, mint (de-stemmed), and parsley, roughly chopped or even left as whole leaves if you want

1-2 chillies, finely chopped

Approx 1 tbsp capers

1 medium carrot, grated

1/3 cucumber, cut into triangles

 

  1. In a bowl, place the sliced red onion and douse with vinegar or lime juice. Cover with cling film and leave to steep for 30 minutes.
  2. In a saucepan, bring the stock to the boil and add the quinoa grains. Bring back to the boil before lowering the heat and clamping on a lid. Cook for about 15 minutes until swollen and all the stock absorbed.
  3. In a large bowl, combine the chilli, roughly chopped herbs, rocket, cucumber pieces and grated carrot. Toss to mix.
  4. When the quinoa is cooked through, upend into the green garden of vegetables and stir with two forks to prevent the quinoa from clumping. The heat may wilt the rocket a little – if you want to, you can cook and cool the quinoa in advance.
  5. When the onions have had their steeping time, empty the pale puce strands, along with their steeping liquid into the salad and stir again to mix.
  6. Finally add the chickpeas and capers and give one final quick toss to ensure everything’s combined, decant onto a plate  (I also topped mine with a few of those bacon flavoured crispy bits) or into tubs for meal prep and dive in.

    NOTE: If you’re spreading this out for meal prep, store in a bowl covered with cling in the refrigerator and eat within 2 days, or in individual plastic airtight tubs.

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Creamy Lemon Spaghetti

There’s no greater quick and cheap meal than pasta (unless you’re one of these puritans who thinks carbs are basically edible anthrax), and my lemon spaghetti was born in the middle of a miserable working week and the idea of cooking just made me want to shriek (in a totes masc4masc way). It also shows just how much Nigella Lawson is embossed on my brain as it turns out this is very similar if not identical to her lemon linguine from her very first series of Bites/How To Eat, but I had a bit of cream left from another recipe and it was a case of let’s use that up whilst also rummaging around to see what would make a decent fast meal for one.

You don;t have to cook the sauce, just toss it through the drained, cooked pasta until warmed through in the residual heat of the pan. What I also love about this recipe is that it’s another slap in the face to the clean eating brigade. Carbs, fat and lots of them. It sounds rich but the lemon cuts that, making it both creamy and light at the same time. If you do have parmesan cheese in the fridge, then swap the cheddar for that. I just didn’t have any parmesan in the day I made this. You can also use tagliatelle or linguine if you have those knocking about…long pasta is much better suited for this type of sauce, but at a pinch you can use short cut pasta like penne or fusili if that’s all you have in the house…

Finally…sorry the photo is appalling. I almost forgot to snap it until I’d sat down to eat and consequently this is the result.

Serves 1 but can be doubled for 2.

Creamy Lemon Spaghetti

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125g spaghetti

1 egg yolk

zest and juice 1 lemon (this is to taste)

1-2 tbsp Grated cheddar

3-4 tbsp double cream (approx)

1 tbsp butter (approx)

 

  1. Set a pan of water on to boil and once it is boiling, salt generously – as Anna Del Conte once said, the water you cook pasta in must be as ‘salty as the Mediterranean’ – and slip in the strands of spaghetti.
  2. In a small bowl, whisk together (a fork is fine for this) the egg yolk, cheddar cheese, cream, lemon zest and juice, along with some black pepper, until you have a pale primrose-hued emulsion.
  3. When the spaghetti is ready but still with a little bite, drain, reserving a small amount of the starchy cooking water, and place back into the hot pan.
  4. Pour over the creamy sauce and stir until warmed through and all the spaghetti is coated, with a little of the reserved pasta water to help the sauce amalgamate with the pasta. You want it well-dressed but not drowning in sauce.
  5. Pour into a bowl, find a comfy spot, stick on Netflix and dive in.

Mellow Yellow: Risotto alla Milanese

Risotto is classic comfort food in my eyes. It contains all the necessary items that bring solace and protection from life: carbs (yes the C word) and fat. Like a savoury rice pudding without the divisive tarpaulin of skin, this classic staple of Italian cooking is one of those foods you can feel hugging you from within.

It comes in many different forms, but surely there is no finer take on this most sinful of rice dishes than the Milanese version: Lit up with the deep gold bleeding from strands of that most magical of spices, saffron, risotto alla milanese is resplendent in its simplicity. Like many classic dishes, it is steeped in the mythology that there is this one great authentic recipe that all cooks must obey, but this simply isn’t the case….as Nigella Lawson once quipped, cooking is alive, like language…so I don’t proclaim this to be an authentic take on the perfect accompaniment to osso bucco veal, but merely my version of it.

I have no time for snobbery in the kitchen and I used whatever was to hand, including rosé wine (it was dregs of some trashy Gallo White Grenache left in the fridge and needed using up) and stock from a cube (because the most pretentious foodies of course deem any stock not home made as disreputable and not the thing), as well as grated cheddar instead of parmesan. Not that I’m going out of my way to be rebellious here; I just used what was in the fridge and on the shelf. By all means use parmesan and white wine as well as homemade chicken stock if you have them.  If you’re opening a bottle of wine especially for this, obviously drink the rest with the meal! Vermouth would also be good here if you can’t justify buying a bottle of wine just for this.

I will be bossy about one thing – you MUST use saffron otherwise this isn’t Milanese risotto! It’s better value to buy saffron online than the little jars from the supermarket, and you get more for your money. It keeps for ages so do invest. No turmeric please. The flavour is quite different and would be invasive here.

You could even use cheap long grain rice if you wanted if that’s all you have/budget is tight, but you won’t get the same creamy texture – risotto rice is short grain and can absorb more liquid, but I used to make risotto using long grain from my old student cookbook years ago and it does work  in a similar fashion – ris = rice after all, so I can vouch for that as a commendable alternative. Just don’t serve it to a discerning Italian.

This recipe serves one happily, but can easily be doubled for two.

Risotto alla Milanese per uno

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60g butter (go by eye if that’s easier)

1 tbsp olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 stick celery, finely chopped

150g short-grain/risotto rice – I used arborio but if you can find Vialone Nano rice, please use that.

125ml (small glass) rosé or white wine

500ml chicken or vegetable stock – I recommend Knorr chicken cubes as it helps with the yellow colour

Grated parmesan (or cheddar if you haven’t got any parmesan) to serve

Generous pinch saffron threads

  1. Mix saffron into the stock and pour into a small saucepan set over a medium heat. It is important to keep the stock hot.
  2.  Over a medium heat, melt half the butter along with the olive oil and tumble in the finely chopped vegetables. Cook for about 5 minutes, sprinkling with salt to stop colouring, until soft.
  3. Tip in the flat pearls of rice and stir until they are shiny and slick with onion-celery oil – this is known as tostatura in Italian.
  4. Pour over wine and stir, allowing the rice grains to absorb it.
  5. Once the wine is absorbed, ladle in the stock one ladleful at a time, stirring constantly and not adding the next ladleful until the previous has been fully absorbed by the rice. Keep going until all the stock is used up and the rice is al dente…it should have some bite but be creamy and tender; this should take around 20 minutes.

  6. Don’t leave the stove during this. It’s hard to be precise as different bags of the same rice can differ in their thirst, so you may not need all the stock, or you may need to add extra water from the kettle.
  7. Once the rice is ready (do taste and check the texture) get ready to make the mantecatura; the all important finishing touch. Dot the risotto with the remaining butter, along with the grated cheese (Use roughly 2 tbsp but it’s to taste), and, should you have some on standby, a little cream (no more than 1 tbsp otherwise you risk muting the brilliant summery yellow of the risotto) and stir until melted in and creamy – the Venetians call this all’onda which means ‘with a wave to it’. You don’t want a rock-solid mass.
  8. Serve immediately.

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