Ceviche (For When the Aga is Switched Off)

Ceviche (For When the Aga is Switched Off)

For the first time in the eleven years I’ve owned an Aga, the engineer who came to service mine last week was not able to carry out the work. It was my fault: Aga advises owners to turn it off 24 hours before the service but I in my infinite wisdom thought the evening before would be soon enough, forgetting that this year’s appointment was at the early hour of 8am. I did not realise that it would not have cooled down enough by then for the engineer to work on. I am telling you this so that you can learn from my mistake. Another tip is to lift up the lids and open all the doors to help it cool down more quickly.

If like me you have no other oven, you have to plan cold meals for when your Aga is switched off. (Mine takes about 5 hours to come back to full temperature; newer ones might be quicker; older ones possibly much slower.) I have the perfect recipe for such times, especially if it’s summer: ceviche. Ceviche is a South American dish of marinated raw fish or seafood. This one is ceviche de sierra by Diana Henry and is packed full of all the Mexican flavours I love, including chillies, lime and coriander.

Ceviche de Sierra

Serves 6

Ingredients

  • 4 fillets extremely fresh mackerel, bream or sea bass, skin removed
  • 3 limes
  • 1 shallot, very finely sliced
  • 1 large, ripe avocado
  • 4 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 red and 1 green chilli, halved, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 10g bunch coriander, leaves only, roughly chopped
  • 3-4 tbsp pomegranate seeds

Method

  • Slice the fish into broad strips
  • Put them into a dish with the juice of two limes and the shallot
  • Halve the avocado, remove the stone and slice the flesh
  • Peel the skin from each slice, then put them into a shallow serving bowl or on a plate
  • Season and toss in the juice of the third lime
  • Add the fish and shallot, oil, chilli and coriander and toss gently together
  • Sprinkle on the pomegranate seeds and serve

 

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Chicken with Za’atar and Aubergine Yoghurt

Chicken with Za’atar and Aubergine Yoghurt

This summer our second son is getting married. The excitement is building in the family – it’s the first wedding – and we are all busy in our different ways with preparations. Busiest of all are our daughter-in-law to be and her parents but now that his Part III architecture exams and coursework are out of the way, our son has also got stuck in. He’s been painting signs and designing and printing menus and orders of service. His super-efficient future wife has drawn up lists and rotas so that we all know what we’re doing in the build up to the day. The wedding will be in a church near her family home in Cornwall and the reception in a marquee in the garden. We have rented a cottage nearby so that we can be on hand to help and also have a holiday afterwards. Our son has chosen his brothers as the best men and all being well, they have sorted out a speech and who will deliver it (maybe it will be all three of them, I don’t yet know) and who will be responsible for the ring. Our youngest son is going to read a poem at the service and one of the bride’s sisters will be giving a reading.

My husband has chosen the wines (a tough job but someone’s got to do it, he says) with the help of willing tasters like me: a light and fruity Pinot Noir (Villa Maria Cellar Selection) from Majestic Wine Merchants; a Sauvignon Blanc (Cloudy Bay) from Avery’s, Bristol; and champagne from Waitrose. The caterers are booked, so we’re nearly set.

Every single one of us will be in the marquee on the day before the wedding, laying tables and decorating it with flowers. The logistics of getting everyone to Cornwall have been complicated but we seem to have cracked that now: youngest son will be arriving there on the eve of the wedding from a week’s walking and camping on the Isle of Arran and my sisters-in-law are going to ensure that my somewhat frail 92 year old mother-in-law gets there too.

We haven’t had a “whole family” holiday for three years so I’m looking forward to this one, even though it will not involve much lazing around. It’s a very happy occasion and a great excuse for us all to be together. I’m sure we will eat out (seafood please!) but I will also cook some meals in our rented kitchen. I want to keep these as simple as possible (nothing new there!). I will miss my Aga of course and hope I haven’t forgotten how to cook on a conventional cooker.

I’ve made this delicious chicken dish by Annie Bell a couple of times recently. It is one I can imagine making in Cornwall, provided the kitchen is equipped with big enough roasting tins.

Serves 6 (I made it first for 4 and then for 3, using two pieces of chicken per person and scaling down the other ingredients)

For the chicken

  • 2 lemons
  • 150ml extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 2 heaped tsps za’atar
  • 2 cinnamon sticks, broken in half
  • 1.8-2kg free-range chicken thighs and drumsticks
  • 50g pine nuts

For the aubergine yoghurt

  • 2 aubergines
  • 1 small or ½ garlic clove, crushed
  • 150g natural Greek yoghurt
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus an extra couple of tbsp to serve
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley or coriander, plus extra to serve

Method

  • Slice one of the lemons, discarding the ends, and juice the other. Combine the lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, onion, za’atar, cinnamon and sliced lemon in a large dish. Add the chicken pieces and coat thoroughly with the marinade. Cover and chill for several hours or overnight.
  • For the aubergine yoghurt, preheat a conventional oven to 220ºC. Prick the aubergines all over with a skewer to stop them bursting, and roast for 45-60 minutes (in the Aga roasting oven) until wrinkled, blackened and soft, then leave to cool.
  • Cut off the ends, peel off the skin, halve lengthways and coarsely chop
  • Place the flesh in a sieve and press out the excess liquid using the back of a large spoon
  • Briefly whizz to a coarse purée with the garlic and some salt in a food processor
  • Transfer to a bowl and stir in the yoghurt, olive oil, lemon juice and parsley or coriander. Drizzle over the extra oil and scatter over some more herbs. Set aside
  • If you’ve turned it off, switch your oven back on to 220ºC
  • Season the chicken pieces and arrange, skin side up in a single layer in two roasting tins (the large Aga ones)
  • Option: if you have space you could add halved new potatoes to the tins. I did this
  • Drizzle the marinade over everything and tuck the lemon slices in between
  • Roast (in the Aga roasting oven) for about 45 minutes, swapping the tins round halfway through and sprinkling over the pine nuts after 15 minutes (I forgot to do this the second time I made this dish; it was still delicious but I recommend you try to remember them)
  • Serve with the yoghurt sauce and a green salad

 

Warm Salad of Griddled Chicken, Freekeh, Preserved Lemon, Sour Cherries and Mint

Warm Salad of Griddled Chicken, Freekeh, Preserved Lemon, Sour Cherries and Mint

The title for this recipe is very long, isn’t it? It’s another Diana Henry one but I’m making no apologies. I wanted to try freekeh (a cereal food made from unripened wheat which has been roasted and crushed into small pieces) because I’d never used it before so I pored over my various cookbooks and this was the recipe which appealed the most on the day. It’s perfect for the summer weather we’re having now. Instead of cooking the chicken in a griddle pan, you could barbecue it outside.

I’m enjoying the weather. We’ve barbecued twice this weekend, which has been lovely. My husband was supposed to be taking it easy after a small operation on Friday, but was up to standing at the grill while I got on with preparing vegetables and salads.

For the Chicken

Serves 4

  • 4 skinless boneless chicken thighs or breasts
  • 4 garlic cloves, grated or crushed
  • salt and pepper
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 6 tbsp olive oil

For the Salad

  • 100g dried sour cherries
  • 2 preserved lemons
  • 200g freekeh
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp honey (or maple syrup)
  • 3 tsp white balsamic vinegar
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • good pinch of ground cinnamon
  • laves from 10 sprigs of mint, torn
  • 10g chopped flat-leaf parsley

Method

  • If you are using breasts and they’re particularly thick, cut them in half horizontally. Marinate the chicken if you have time, even if it’s only for an hour or two. Mix the garlic, seasoning, lemon juice and olive oil in a dish and lay the chicken it it, turning it to coat. Cover with clingfilm and put in the fridge. Bring to room temperature before cooking
  • Place your griddle pan on the floor of the Aga roasting oven to get it really hot
  • Put the cherries in a small saucepan and add enough water to just cover. Bring to the boil on the boiling plate, then remove from the heat and leave to plump up for 30 minutes
  • Remove the flesh from the preserved lemons and discard. Cut the rind into slivers
  • Put the freekeh into a saucepan and cover with water, adding the regular olive oil and seasoning well. Bring to the boil on the boiling plate, then cover and transfer to the simmering oven for about half an hour, or until just tender. Drain
  • In a serving bowl mix the virgin oil, honey or maple syrup, white balsamic, lemon juice, cinnamon and plenty of salt and pepper. Add the drained freekeh and stir
  • Drain the cherries and fork them into the grains with the preserved lemon and most of the herbs
  • Place the heated griddle pan on the boiling plate and put the chicken on it (leaving the marinade behind)
  • Let it sizzle and splatter for two minutes, then turn it over. At this point you can place the griddle pan back on the floor of the roasting oven and leave the chicken to cook there for about 8 minutes until it’s cooked through. You can keep the griddle plan on the boiling plate and then move it to the simmering plate if you prefer but placing it in the oven minimises the amount of fat splattering everywhere
  • Taste the freekeh. You might want to add more lemon juice. The mixture should be moist and well-seasoned
  • Divide between four plates and serve the chicken on top or alongside, scattering the remaining herbs over. I served ours with some tzatziki

Our weekend in the garden:

 

 

 

Beef Short Ribs

Beef Short Ribs

A Bank Holiday Weekend and an opportunity to try a new recipe requiring hours of slow cooking: my sort of recipe. I bought the beef with no particular recipe in mind so I was pleased to find I’d bookmarked this one for Glazed Sticky Longhorn Short Ribs over a year ago. I have no idea if my ribs were from Longhorn cows but I bought them from my excellent local butcher, Ruby and White, which has never let me down.

Ingredients

Serves 6

  • About 3kg beef short ribs
  • Rapeseed oil
  • Seasoning

For the sticky BBQ glaze

  • 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp light soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 300ml passata
  • 100ml tomato ketchup
  • 2 level tsp five spice
  • 1 level tsp all spice
  • 1 level tsp cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1 level tsp Sichuan pepper
  • ½ tsp ground black pepper
  • 6 tbsp dark brown sugar
  • 1 level tsp rapeseed oil

Method

(Preheat conventional oven to 100ºC)

  • Place the ribs in a large roasting tin, season and drizzle with rapeseed oil
  • Cover with a double layer of foil and place in the simmering oven to slow-roast for about 8 hours but can be longer. The meat will be tender and falling off the bone
  • A couple of hours before the end of the cooking time make the glaze
  • Place everything in a saucepan, add 100ml water and stir on a medium heat/the simmering plate until the sugar has dissolved.
  • Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes. Or bring to the boil and leave uncovered in the simmering oven for at least half an hour
  • Then pour about ⅔ of the sauce over your ribs, replace the foil and return them to the simmering oven for a minimum of 30 minutes but can be longer
  • I didn’t have all the ingredients for the seasonal slaw so I served our ribs with Nigella’s Hot and Sour Shredded Salad (recipe in her book “Kitchen”) and steamed Basmati rice, with the remaining glaze drizzled over the ribs

Nigella’s Hot and Sour Shredded Salad

Serves 6

  • 3 carrots
  • 4 spring onions
  • 1 long red chilli
  • 1 long green chilli
  • 20g/small bunch coriander

for the dressing:

  • juice of 1 lime (if you don’t have one, a lemon will do)
  • 4 x tbsp Thai fish sauce
  • 1 tsp caster sugar
  • Cut the carrots into long slices and then julienne them (i.e. cut into matchstick-like strips)
  • Trim and halve the spring onions and julienne as well
  • De-seed the chillies and cut into juliennes
  • Finely chop the coriander
  • Mix all of the above in a bowl. In another bowl mix the lime juice, fish sauce and sugar and dress the vegetables with this

 

 

Italian/New York Meatballs

Italian/New York Meatballs

I make meatballs fairly regularly: Italian ones with garlic and herbs in tomato sauce, Thai ones with ginger, chilli and lime in a broth and Scandinavian ones with nutmeg and white pepper in a sour cream sauce. These are just the basics; there are so many variations, I feel I could spend my life making delicious meatballs without serving the same ones twice. And I haven’t even mentioned the accompaniments: pasta, noodles, potatoes or bread? I feel a whole series of blog posts coming on.

When a recipe I spotted recently promised to give me Italian-style meatballs like they make in New York, I couldn’t wait to try them. The meatballs proposed by chef Stephen Harris in the Telegraph are, as he says, quick to make and to cook. While they are not the best I’ve made, they’re pretty good and do conjure up that New York/Italian vibe.

Ingredients

For 2 people

  • 500g beef mince
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves (optional)
  • 1 ½ tbsp olive oil and some for drizzling
  • 100g baby spinach
  • 1 x 400g tin tomatoes
  • About 30g parmesan and a squeeze of lemon

Method

  • In a bowl mix the mince with about 5 pinches of salt and the thyme leaves if using
  • Roll the mince between your palms into 10 x 50g balls
  • Heat half a tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan and gently fry the meatballs, turning them until they’re brown all over. They will not yet be cooked through to the middle
  • Remove the balls to a plate and heat another half tablespoon of oil in the pan and add the spinach leaves, cooking them until wilted
  • Add the tomatoes, bring to the boil and stir in a little more salt
  • Add the meatballs, turn down to a simmer and cook. If you’re using an Aga, you don’t need to cover them: just place the pan in the simmering oven for about half an hour or longer if you need to. If using a conventional hob, loosely cover the tin (with a lid or some scrunched up foil) and simmer for about 10 minutes
  • Drizzle with a little olive oil, add a squeeze of lemon and serve with grilled ciabatta (see below) and a rocket salad

Grilled ciabatta

  • Split half a ciabatta lengthways
  • Take a ridged griddle pan if you have one (or a regular frying pan if you don’t) and pre-heat it in the roasting oven
  • Place it on the boiling plate and add your ciabatta slices and toast on both sides
  • Rub the pieces of ciabatta with the cut sides of two halved cloves of garlic and drizzle over some olive oil

If I was making these again, I’d add breadcrumbs soaked for half an hour in milk to the meat mixture. I find this makes the meatball texture softer and less rubbery. But that’s for another day. In the meantime, these will do fine.

Chicken and Sweet Potatoes with Miso, Ginger and Spring Onions

Chicken and Sweet Potatoes with Miso, Ginger and Spring Onions

 

Another of my Easter weekend dishes was this simple chicken traybake, which is also a Diana Henry recipe. It appeared in the Telegraph’s Stella magazine a few weeks ago. I tried it then and knew my family would like it. It’s perfectly suited to Aga cooking.

Ingredients

For 4-6 people, depending on hunger levels and the size of the chicken thighs

  • 8 chicken thighs
  • 700g sweet potatoes, washed and cut into wedges
  • 2½ tbsp white miso
  • 1 ½ tbsp honey or maple syrup
  • 2 tbsp rice wine
  • 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 2.5cm chunk ginger root, peeled and grated or finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed
  • 1 red chilli, halved and finely chopped (use the seeds for extra heat)
  • 12-18 spring onions
  • 3 tsp black or toasted white sesame seeds (or a mixture of the two)

For the final basting

  • 1 tbsp white miso
  • 1 tbsp honey or maple syrup
  • ½ tbsp dark soy sauce
  • ½ tbsp rice wine

Method

Pre-heat conventional oven to 190ºC/gas mark 5

  • Place the thighs in a large roasting tin with the sweet potato wedges (they should be able to lie in a single layer)
  • Mix together everything else except the spring onions and sesame seeds. Pour this over the chicken and sweet potatoes, turning everything over so the ingredients are well coated, finishing with the chicken skin-side up
  • Roast for 45 minutes at the top of the roasting oven, basting every so often, and turning the wedges over
  • Mix the final basting ingredients together and about 15 minutes before the end of cooking time, take the tin out of the oven and pour them over, adding the spring onions at the same time. They should become soft and slightly charred
  • When cooked, sprinkle with the sesame seeds and serve
  • I served ours with pak choi stir-fried in a little groundnut oil with black pepper and soy sauce

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Indian Leg of Lamb

Indian Leg of Lamb

We had a lovely weekend at home this Easter, with our sons and two of their girlfriends joining us for most of it. I tried to keep the cooking as simple (but delicious) as possible and had a cooking-free Saturday night when we went to our local Italian to celebrate my birthday the previous week.

For Easter Sunday lunch I ordered a large leg of lamb from the butcher and asked him to remove the bone and butterfly it. My thinking was that it would cook more quickly and carve more easily (although carving is my (surgeon) husband’s job!).

On Saturday afternoon I prepared the marinade, covered the lamb and put it in the fridge to be forgotten about until Sunday morning.61zmh4n5vpl

I adapted the following recipe from Diana Henry’s book, Cook Simple.

Indian Leg of Lamb

For about 8 people

Ingredients

  • 1 x 2kg leg of lamb, boned and butterflied
  • 55g blanched almonds
  • 2 onions, roughly chopped
  • 8 garlic cloves, peeled and halved
  • a big chunk of fresh root ginger, peeled and roughly chopped
  • 4 green chillies, halved and deseeded
  • 550g plain yoghurt
  • 1 tbsp ground cumin
  • 4 tsps ground coriander
  • 2 tsps ground cinnamon
  • 2 tsps garam masala
  • salt and pepper

Method

  • Make deep gashes all over the meat with a sharp knife and put it in a dish
  • Blitz everything else in a food processor and spread this all over the lamb, massaging it in with your hands. It will look like this: IMG_4477
  • Cover with clingfilm and place in the fridge
  • On Sunday morning, preheat a conventional oven to 200ºC, take the lamb out of the fridge and let it come up to room temperature. Place it in a large roasting tin and cover with foil
  • Aga users: put it in the roasting oven for about 30 minutes, then remove the foil for 5 or ten minutes before placing the lamb in the simmering oven until you’re ready to serve lunch. This was 2pm in our case, so the total cooking time was about four and a half hours. If you’re using a conventional oven, the cooking time is about one and a half hours, with the foil removed for the last 20 minutes or so
  • Leave the lamb to rest on a board while you reheat the cooking juices, stirring as you go, to make a delicious sauce to be served with the lamb
  • I served our lamb with a pilaff, carrots roasted with coriander and garlic and two green vegetables

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