I love aubergines (aka eggplants)! They are one of my favourite vegetables if not my favourite vegetable (although they are technically a fruit, but let’s not quibble over that just now). I even have a Pinterest board dedicated to them! They are crazy versatile, as evidenced by the myriad ways to have them, and I don’t think I’ve come across an aubergine dish yet that I didn’t like. My mum is totally to blame for my aubergine fondness, she makes this mean Chinese chilli aubergine that when I was a kid I used to pick at the leftovers, stone cold straight out of the fridge, and then tried (and failed!) to cover up the holes I’d left…
Aubergines are in season still so this is a great recipe for a quick and satisfying Meatless Monday supper, or an any night supper. The dish is full of that unmistakeable smoky aubergine flavour, perfectly complimented by the spicy tomato sauce. And cooking the aubergines in the oven avoids all that oil soaking up that they love which, whilst it does make them much tastier, isn’t brilliant for the old waistline. The fresh basil bridges late Summer and early Autumn, and makes a lovely difference so while you can substitute it for dried basil I would recommend trying not to.
Spicy Aubergine & Tomato Pasta
Smoky roasted aubergines in a simple spicy tomato sauce over linguine makes for a perfect Meatless Monday, or any day, supper.
1 tsp crushed chilli flakes, plus extra for finishing
1/4 cup fresh, chopped basil, plus extra for finishing
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 packet linguine
Preheat the oven to 220° C/425° F.
Slice the eggplants into 1-inch thick slices, then cut again until you have large cube-ish pieces. Spread out on a baking sheet or roasting tray. Salt well and season with black pepper before drizzling over with 2 tbsp of olive oil. Toss the aubergine cubes until they are well coated .
Pop the aubergine cubes in the oven and roast until they're tender and browning, which should take about 20 minutes.
While the aubergine is roasting, heat 3 tbsp olive oil on low heat in a large saucepan. Add the onions and sautée for 6-8 minutes, until the onions are soft.
While the onions are sautéeing, put a large saucepan of water on to boil for your pasta.
Add the garlic and sautée for another minute before adding the tomatoes, oregano, chilli flakes, sugar and basil. Add a couple of good slugs of balsamic and then turn the heat up until the sauce is simmering.
At this point, give the aubergine a good shake to toss everything around again and then pop back in the oven.
Give the sauce another 10-12 minutes, until it has thickened up.
When the eggplant is ready, remove it from the oven and add it to the sauce. Continue to simmer gently on very low heat.
Bring a large pot of water to boil. Salt well before popping the linguine in. Cook per the packet instructions, until al dente.
When the pasta is ready, drain and drop into the sauce. Gently fold in the sauce until the pasta is well coated. Dish up and top with chopped basil and chilli flakes to taste. Serve with grated parmesan.
Summer feels like it’s on the way out already – boo hiss – but I’m not quite ready to break out the winter warmers yet so here’s a dish from Hubby that’s perfect for inbetween the seasons and, in a very rare departure for me, carb-less. Left to my own devices I’d happily stockpile rice or pasta for every dinner, but this dish does that magical thing of making the missing carbs unmissed! It is, quite honestly, the only meal with no carbs that I actually look forward to as opposed to the usual pouting.
So what’s to love about it? The saltiness of the Teriyaki is perfectly tempered by cool crisp lettuce, with additional crunch and texture brought to you by water chestnuts and toasted cashews. It also reminds me a little (a lot!) of something we used to order at a Chinese restaurant in Hong Kong (that was confusingly!) called the American Restaurant. Then again, as its the American in our house who cooks all the Asian food and not the half Chinese, maybe it wasn’t such a daft name after all…
We like to use turkey mince for this (thigh or breast are both good), it’s super lean and lets us feel smug for one meal for eating well, but it works just as well with pork or beef mince 🙂
Start by preheating the oven to 200C and roasting the cashew nuts - spread the nuts out on a baking tray and pop in the oven for about 8 minutes.
While the nuts are roasting, rinse the spring onions before topping and tailing, and then chop (or snip with scissors) all the way down, separating green parts to one side and white parts to another
Tip the mince into a medium sized mixing bowl, or any bowl of an equivalent size that will give you enough room to mix everything up. Toss in a handful of the white bits of spring onion, add the minced garlic, 2 tbsp Terriyaki sauce, sprinkle over 1 tsp sugar and then 1 tsp corn starch. Season with white pepper before mixing thoroughly. Leave to marinade for about 20 minutes
While the mince is marinading, drain and rinse the water chestnuts. Roughly chop and then stir into marinading meat mixture.
Also while the mince is marinading, take the roasted cashew nuts and crush roughly. Hubby likes to pop them in a freezer bag before taking a rolling pin to them - it's mess-less and very theraputic apparently!
Place a wok over a medium flame and add 2 tsp vegetable oil. When the oil is heated add the marinaded meat and give it a good toss around the wok before leaving it to cook through - this should take a couple of minutes.
Add the crushed cashew nuts to the wok and tossing everything around again before turning the heat up to high.
Add the shaoxing/sherry and ketjup manis/soy and cook for about five minutes, or until the meat is browned through.
While the meat is finishing cooking, separate the lettuce leaves and then wash and drain them - or give them a good shake - and then pile them up on a plate.
When the meat is browned and looks ready, add another 100ml (1/3rd cup) terriyaki and then taste and season or add more sugar if required. Cook for a further five minutes, until most of the cooking liquid has absorbed.
If you still need to thicken the sauce then add 1 tsp corn starch to 3 tsp water and mix into a paste before adding to the meat and stirring through. Keep it on a high heat for about a minute to thicken.
Plate up the mince and scatter the green bits of spring onion over it just before serving with the lettuce leaves.
That rarest of things, a carb-less dish that I actually look forward to!
So… I took a bit of a sabbatical from the blog apparently… Wasn’t intentional, I just got a bit distracted by life there, and in a good way. In the meantime, lovely Hubby gave the blog a wee bit of a design refresh which I am seriously loving! Doesn’t it look all grown-up and shiny 🙂 Refreshed from sabbatical + shiny blog + Autumn on the way = time to get stuck back in! And I thought I’d start with a new favourite 🙂
While we’re still clinging on to Summer, here’s a recipe that we seem to have been indulging in quite a bit. The dish is light, the pasta dressed rather than swimming in a heavy sauce, and its really quick to rustle up which is perfect for when the weather is stupidly hot and you don’t want to be stuck in the kitchen for any longer than you have to be.
I think I’ve probably mentioned this before but I’m a wee bit fussy when it comes to seafood… It’s mostly a trust thing, i.e. I don’t trust it not to be hiding tiny bones or bits of shell in a random mouthful. But I’ve been making my peace with it, fish by fish, and have finally gotten round to the joy that is white crab meat – all tasty and sweet and not at all ‘fishy’, unlike brown crab meat.
I’ve been finding excuses all summer to rustle up a bowl of this with deliberate forays down the fish aisle seeming to end more often than not in “Oh look! Crab meat! Shame to let it waste away on the shelf there…” much to Hubby’s amusement.
There are a lot of recipes out there for this, believe me, I tried most of them! My version is a bit of a mash up of the ones I tried, dialling up this and dialling down that until it hit just the right spot for me.
In keeping with my preferrence for cooking short cuts (understatement of the year!) you can get some fantastic ready cooked white crab meat from the supermarket (M&S is good but Watirose stocks our favourite from Seafood & Eat It). Be prepared to go higher end for it – without naming names, we bought some white crab meat from a reputable supermarket only for it to be not very ‘white’ at all…
With the crab meat taken care of, aka ready cooked, the rest of the recipe is barely any work at all which is what makes it perfect for a midweek summer supper. Not to mention that it is fair bursting with lovely flavours!
Spaghetti works just fine but I think it’s best really with linguine, the crab meat just seems to cling better to a flatter noodle. The capers are entirely optional, but they do add another layer of flavour not to mention texture. And finally, parmesan at your peril. There’s that whole food crime thing that Italians have about putting cheese on seafood and having tried this with and without a sprinkling of parmesan it’s safe to say that the Italians are definitely on to something…
Chilli, Lemony, Garlicky Crab Linguine
A light and zingy pasta dish with a wee kick, too delicious for how easy it is to rustle up.
2 lemons, juice and zest 1, cut 1 into wedges for serving
Half pack of Linguine
Salt and pepper
Start by bringing a large saucepan of water to the boil. While you’re waiting, mince your garlic and finely chop your red chilli, seeds and all for a wee bit of a kick (or de-seed before chopping if you'd prefer this kick free).
When the water is boiling, salt well and then pop in your linguine and cook per the packet instructions.
While the linguine is cooking, heat the oil and butter in a deep frying pan (a wok is perfect for this) before adding the garlic and chilli. Fry gently for one minute without letting it brown before adding the crabmeat and stirring everything through for another minute.
Add the wine and turn up the heat until you've brought it to a boil. Season and then reduce the heat a little so that it's still bubbling away quite happily - you want to reduce this right down and cook all the alcohol off in the time it takes the linguine to finish cooking.
When the linguine is ready, scoop out about 1/2 a cup of the cooking liquid before draining. Add the linquine to the crab mixture together with the parsley, capers, lemon juice, lemon zest and a splash of the linquine cooking water. Give everything a good toss together before dishing up with lemon wedges on the side.
I have a serious weakness for foodie mags, a seriousweakness. I’ll read them first, usually curled up on the sofa with a nice cup of tea, and hold up every other page to Hubby making “oooh!” noises (bless him for humouring me every time!). If there’s anything that grabs my attention right away I’ll tear it straight out and try it sooner rather than later. Then I’ll leave the magazine lying around for a couple of months before going through it again and tearing out every recipe I like. It’s one of the reasons Hubby actually got me to start this blog, to do something with all those torn out recipes that were piling up around us. 🙂
This recipe is adapted from one of those ones that I tore out straight away, from a recent-ish issue of Waitrose’s magazine. It was the picture that grabbed my attention first, all those plump pink prawns, and then the fact that it was a curry to boot. I’ve only ever really cooked prawns a few times, for spaghetti dishes, which always felt quite a summery supper to have. That and Hubby is originally from a landlocked state so was a wee bit wary of seafood, but he seems to have finally come around to it (and how!) so didn’t take much persuading to be fed this, especially when there was curry involved…
The original recipe uses canned tomatoes but we found that substituting V8 juice instead added a whole other layer of spice and flavour, which is then tempered beautifully by the coconut milk. The curry’s heat is down to how strong your red chilli is so if you want to err on the side of caution then de-seed it before chopping and you can always add a wee bit of chilli powder while the tomato juice is simmering if you think it needs it – I’ve read that you can cut the tip off a red chilli and place it against your tongue to check its heat but I’ve never been brave enough!
This is a deliciously light and fresh curry which feels perfect for early Spring, comfort food without being heavy. The mustard and cumin seeds add a lovely fragrant note that is a perfect compliment to the fresh coriander. Don’t skimp on the seeds, they really do make that much of a difference. And if this becomes a bit of a regular dish on your dinner roster (like it has on ours already) then you’ll be getting through those wee bottles in next to no time. 🙂
Light & Spicy Prawn Curry
A light, fresh and fragrant curry that's perfect for the warm months!
small bunch of coriander (28g bag), stalks and leaves separated
1/2 red chilli, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed
15g fresh ginger, grated
300ml V8 juice (or canned chopped tomatoes)
1/2 tbsp garam masala
300ml coconut milk
235g raw king prawns, deveined
The trick to this dish for me is doing all the chopping/crushing/grating/de-veining work before you start cooking. Sorting the prawns takes a bit of time but nobody wants to eat the ‘poop chute’ (sorry!).
The tip of a paring knife works a charm, but I find that a toothpick is even easier to tease out that nasty dark thread. Pop the de-veined prawns into a bowl of ice cold water and then into the fridge until you’re ready to use them.
Then finely chop the coriander stalks, dice the onion, mince the garlic, finely chop the red chilli and grate the ginger (if you freeze your ginger beforehand it makes grating it much easier).
Heat the oil in a large wok or saute pan over a medium-high heat before adding the mustard and cumin seeds. Cook until they start to pop.
Add the onions to the popping seeds and turn the heat down to medium before cooking for a further 3-5 minutes, or until the onions are golden.
Add the finely chopped coriander stalks to the pan with the chilli, garlic and ginger, and cook for another 7 minutes.
Tip in the V8 juice (or canned tomatoes) and season before cooking for 5 minutes, by which time the sauce should have reduced and be a bit paste-like (you should start to see the oil separate). Then stir in the garam masala and the coconut milk, and taste for seasoning.
Pat the prawns dry with kitchen paper and add them to the sauce. Cook for about 3-4 minutes, until the prawns turn pink.
I’ve had this Nigel Slater recipe, courtesy of a blog called Simply Delicious, pinned On Pinterest for almost as long as I’ve had boards there. There’s just something about the blogger’s mouthwatering photo of the dish that made me long to a) make this, and b) in a lovely shallow Le Creuset. As I didn’t have a lovely shallow Le Creuset the recipe went unmade, but I’d look longingly at it on Pinterest every now and then, and then go and check the price of my object of desire in the vain hope there was a sale on. Patience finally paid off on Christmas day when Hubby managed to find one online for almost half price, so we splurged for it (it still wasn’t cheap!) and my beautiful new piece of cookware finally arrived this week. And I knew exactly how to christen it…
I love creamy white wine sauces. Once the alcohol burns off it leaves behind an awesome sweet note that just tastes of indulgence. And if there are mushrooms they always manage to soak that indulgence right up so that you get randomly intense hits of it whenever you bite into one. The chicken itself was perfectly tender and moist, which was a relief as we’d used chicken breasts rather than the acknowledged (and rightly so) more flavoursome thighs or legs.
Which reminds me!
Along with my lovely le crueset, I also got a fantastic Christmas present from an even more fantastic friend of a subscription to Cooks Illustrated – an American foodie mag – that had an article in it recommending that you start chicken and duck breasts skin side down in a cold skillet if you want properly crispy skin. It’s a French technique apparently, and gives the skin time to render its fat before the meat overcooks. I suspect I got impatient and turned my chicken too quickly, but even still the skin was definitely less soggy and sad than some of my previous attempts to brown it.
I’ve adapted the recipe to feed two to four by halving the ingredients in the original, so if you’re looking to make this for a larger group then it should happily scale up. And you don’t need a posh pan to cook it, a large frying pan should do just as well – I think a deeper sided pot like a stockpot, however, might now allow the alcohol to burn off as easily but that might just be me making stuff up (!)
We had this on rice which was absolutely perfect for soaking up all that delicious jup (an awesome Chinese word for sauce), not that my Chinese half is being biased or anything. And whilst January is supposed to be the month for under-indulging after the holidays, it’s miserable enough if you ask me without stinting on comfort food every once in a while.
Hubby had already requested this again before he’d finished his plate so it’s probably safe to assume this was a success! I’m giving at least half the credit for that to my lovely new Le Creuset 😉 If you fancy a look at Le Creuset’s beautiful casserole range, check their website out and prepare yourself for some serious cookware desire!
Coq au Riesling
Chicken and mushrooms in a lush white wine and cream sauce, comfort food in a French stylee.
Pop the butter and oil together in a large shallow pan or frying pan and while it's still cold place the chicken breasts skin side down. Turn the heat on and up to high and brown the chicken on both sides, then remove to a plate.
Turn the heat down to medium and in the same pan add the onions and bacon. Fry until the onions are soft and translucent and the bacon is browning nicely. Add the sliced garlic and fry for another 30-60 seconds before removing it all from the pan, tilting to leave as much as of the cooking fat behind.
Now add the mushrooms to the pan and fry for 5 minutes or so, until they've shrunk and started to brown. Then add the onion, bacon and garlic back into the pan. Season and give everything a good stir before popping the browned chicken on top, skin side up.
Add the wine and turn the heat up until it comes up to a boil. Give it a couple of minutes before turning the heat down so that the liquid is simmering. Cover and leave to bubble gently away for 15 minutes.
After 15 minutes, take the cover off and turn the heat up. Let it bubble madly for a couple of minutes and then taste. If it's still too boozy then let it bubble for another couple of minutes and taste again. Repeat until the alcohol has burned off (I probably needed 5 minutes or so) and season again if it needs it. Add the cream and cook for another 10 minutes, by which time the sauce should have thickened up a bit - if not, add a wee bit of cornflour mixed with cold water and stir through.
Finally, scatter generously with parsley and dish up.
Pulled pork seems to be this Autumn’s ‘it’ recipe, covered by most every foodie magazine over the last month or two and helped no doubt by the increasing popularity of street food, of which the pulled pork van is usually the shining star. But Hubby was making this long before it became trendy, bringing his recipe from the motherland of BBQ with him when he washed up on these shores. What elevates Hubby’s version for me though is the home-made BBQ sauce that he makes from the leftover cooking liquid, which is hands down better than anything store bought that I’ve ever tasted.
Hubby serves it in the traditional way, on a bun with lashings of coleslaw and french fries and spears of dill pickle on the side, but it’s also delicious in a wrap (great leftover lunch!) or on mash or as a quesedilla filling. I think I’ve even seen it suggested as a baked potato topping, and why not!
Don’t let the long list of ingredients put you off, it really is as easy as throwing everything in a pot and then leaving it to do its thing through the afternoon, at the end of which you’ll have a succulent slow cooked joint that will just fall apart. Perfect Autumn fodder, I promise you 🙂
And now, over to Hubby!
Pulled Pork "Sammiches"
An easy slow cook approach to Carolina BBQ, all in one happy pot.
2-3 tsp mesquite liquid smoke (hard to find, but Lupe Pinto’s in Bruntsfield sells this. Or try Amazon!)
1/2 – 1 bottle favoured beer, add it to the stock
Stuff you’ll need, for the BBQ sauce…
2 cups reserved vegetables from the pork
6 ounces (170 mls) reserved cooking liquid from the pork
2 tsp garlic, finely chopped or minced
2 tsp very finely chopped ginger (or cheat and use powdered ginger at 1tsp, I do)
2 tsp cumin
2 cups ketchup
1/2 cup brown sugar (as a starter, more to taste, I do prefer a sweeter BBQ)
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
6 tablespoons cider vinegar (seems like a lot, but mixed in through the pork it isn’t)
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 – 1 Tbsp Red Hot or Tabasco sauce
2-3 tsp mesquite liquid smoke
Stuff you’ll need, for serving:
Good sized burger buns or white baps
Other stuff you’ll need…
Good slow-cooker, or large stewpot with lid
Tray for cooling and shredding the pork
Good size mixing bowl
A liquidiser or food processor
Begin my browning the pork on all sides (even the fatty side), as this will help to seal in the juices. Keep the strings on the pork as well as it will hold it together while it’s slow cooking.
If you’re using a slowcooker, just put everything in the pot, cover, set to low heat and either leave overnight to tend to in the morning, or leave it all day whilst you’re at work, and come home to dinner ready-made!
If you’re doing this on the hob however, once you’ve browned the pork, simply toss everything into a large stockpot, mix it about, and then bring it up to a gentle boil.
Don’t worry about trimming the pork shoulder or cutting fat, it’s much easier to do later once it’s all warm and falling apart, plus the fat adds a great flavour to the cooking liquid.
Once boiling, cover, reduce temperate to lowest heat, and simmer. This should take about 4-5 hours on the hob before it’s ready to fall apart. Stir the pot and rotate the pork every hour or so, but keep covered. You’ll know when it’s done.
Remove the pork to a baking tray or deep baking dish for cooling, and reserve the cooked vegetables and cooking liquid for your BBQ sauce.
You won’t need to cool the pork completely, just enough to handle it without burning. At this point you can pull off or cut off the excess fat — don’t be afraid to take the pork shoulder completely apart. Any connective tissue will have nicely gelatinised by this point, but you don’t want too much fat in the pork, so remove as much as you like.
Now, divide the pork into workable chunks, and shred in the baking pan with two forks, pulling the fibres apart finely. This both increases the volume of the meat as well as making it ready to soak up all of the lovely BBQ sauce. You can use your fingers for a more “rustic” shredding, instead, if you like.
Once it’s shredded, drizzle over a ladle or two of the cooking liquid, mix, cover, and set aside.
Now for the BBQ sauce…
In your liquidiser/food processor, combine the reserved vegetables, cooking liquid, garlic and ginger, and process until smooth, and about the thickness and consistency of ketchup. Add the remaining ingredients and process until thoroughly mixed. Season with salt and pepper.
The proportions are to taste, but this will, on its own, be a sweet, slightly tangy sauce. Mixing it with the pork results in a really rich, tangy sauce. Some like it sweeter, some like it with less cider, let your taste buds guide you.
Toss the pulled pork with about 2 cups of the sauce, and set aside. If it looks like it needs more sauce, add away. The remainder is just used for dipping on the side anyway.
You can prep all of this in advance and just reheat in a wok or stewpot, adding a -little- water to reheat it when it’s time to serve.
Serve it with the coleslaw on top of a goodly pile of the pork on toasted buns. We serve this in the States with chips and spears of gherkin (The Polish kind, with Dill, not the sweeter British ones).
You can use a pork loin roast but the yield will be much lower. A shoulder will comfortably feed four. If you get this at the supermarket the size should be ok, so go for a weighty one. Careful asking for this at a butcher as they’ll often give you the whole shoulder + shank, which is frankly massive.