Aga Caponata

Aga Caponata

I recently took part in a fun Twitter challenge. Jenny Linford (@jennylinford) invited her followers every day for a week to name their seven favourite cookbooks. As well as making my choices, which wasn’t easy, I so enjoyed browsing the hashtag #7favouritecookbooks. Of course many of the books mentioned were my own favourites too while some I’d heard about but never owned (and now want to!) and some I’d never come across but now want to explore. The books in my selection were well used by me, obviously, and in several cases constituted just one example of work by my favourite cookery writers like Delia Smith and Diana Henry.

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Recently for friends I made the roasted vegetable couscous dish in Delia’s Summer Collection, one of my seven choices. They all remarked how the dish had stood the test of time and that it reminded them what an excellent book it is. We agreed on what an impact it had had and how it had changed the way we cooked: suddenly we were needing fresh coriander and limes all the time and as for roasting vegetables as an alternative to boiling or frying them, this was a revelation.

I make this type of roasted ratatouille all the time now, sometimes with the harissa dressing and couscous, but mostly to serve with roasted or barbecued meat. Leftovers are delicious warm or cold with a dollop of hummus. This summer I’ve been making a similar dish which particularly complements fish, but also goes well with meat; it’s the Sicilian caponata. The authentic way of making it is to fry each vegetable separately but the other day I thought I’d try roasting them all together in the same way I’d do the roasted ratatouille; this seemed to me to be the ideal Aga way. Only the tomatoes are prepared separately and then added at the end.

I was guided by the caponata recipe in Xanthe Clay’s lovely book “The Contented Cook”.

Aga Caponata

Ingredients

  • 1 large aubergine, cubed
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, peeled, cut into 10 or 12 wedges
  • 1 fat garlic clove, crushed
  • 2 red peppers, deseeded and thickly sliced
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced (save the frondy tops)
  • 2-3 large, ripe tomatoes (I used plum; you could use tinned if you don’t have any fresh ones)
  • 1/2 glass red wine
  • 2 tbsps red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • Handful of green olives
  • 2 tbsps capers
  • Basil leaves (optional)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

  • Place the aubergine, onion, garlic, peppers and fennel in the small Aga roasting tin
  • Season and stir in about 3 tbsps of olive oil, coating everything
  • Slide the tin onto the top set of runners in the roasting oven and roast for 30 to 40 minutes until the vegetables are soft and slightly charred in places
  • Meanwhile put the tomatoes in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Leave for a couple of minutes, then drain under cold water and peel off the skins and deseed. Chop the flesh
  • Put the wine, wine vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to the boil on the simmering plate. Add the chopped tomato and cook in the simmering oven until the mixture has reduced to a thick sauce. Season and stir it into the cooked vegetables.
  • Leave to cool to room temperature before mixing in the olives, capers and the basil or fennel fronds
  • Check the seasoning and serve

 

 

 

 

 

A One Tin Supper: Roasted Sausages, Fennel and Potatoes

A One Tin Supper: Roasted Sausages, Fennel and Potatoes

I recently added this dish to my repertoire of suppers you can cook in one roasting tin. It is the essence of uncomplicated cooking and what home cook is not a fan of that, especially midweek when there isn’t a great deal of time? And as all Aga owners know, this type of cooking is particularly suited to the Aga way of cooking.

My recipe is based on one of Nigel Slater’s from his “midweek dinner” series in the Guardian. It came about, as so many meals do, when I had not planned what to cook but had some pork sausages and a couple of fennel bulbs in the fridge that needed using up. A quick Google and there was Nigel with the inspiration I needed. He recommends honey but my Canadian-born husband and I prefer maple syrup. fullsizeoutput_3233

Roasted Sausages, Fennel and Potatoes

Ingredients

For 4 people

  • About 8 good quality pork sausages
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3-4 fennel bulbs, trimmed and cut into thickish segments
  • 600g new potatoes, halved
  • 75ml white vermouth or white wine
  • Heaped tbsp grain mustard
  • 2 tbsps maple syrup or honey

Method

  • Place the sausages in the large Aga roasting tin with a tablespoon of oil and slide it onto the second set of runners in the roasting oven for 5-10 minutes to colour the sausages a little
  • Take it out of the oven and add the fennel and potatoes, turning them in the oil and seasoning. You might want to add a little more oil
  • Return to the oven and roast for about 40 minutes, turning everything about halfway through
  • Take out of the oven and remove everything to a serving dish. Place this in the simmering oven
  • Place the roasting tin on the simmering plate and add the vermouth or wine. Let this bubble up while scraping up any bits that have stuck to the tin
  • Stir in the mustard and maple syrup or honey and let this all bubble for a couple of minutes before tasting for seasoning
  • Pour the “sauce” over everything in the dish and return it to the simmering oven until you’re ready to eat for 15 to 30 minutes. During this time everything will become extra sticky and caramelised

Serve with a green salad or green vegetable or indeed both.

 

 

 

 

Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce

Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce

The combination of pasta and tomato sauce is one of my favourite things, and I make it a lot. I probably make Felicity Cloake’s “perfect” sauce the most but not every time. Another favourite is the one I told you about here.

Whenever we eat this I’m transported back to when my boys were young. I would make it for them at least once a week; clean plates were guaranteed. Of course one could easily pick up a tub of sauce from the supermarket, and sometimes on busy days I would do this, but in truth it doesn’t take long to prepare your own. I’d like to think that’s what Italians would do. In fact I happened to be chatting on the phone to an Italian friend when making tomato sauce yesterday, and he gave me a few tips. You see I had bought some fresh San Marzano plum tomatoes in my local Waitrose IMG_3587 and wanted to make my sauce with these instead of the usual tinned tomatoes. I’m sure in Italy this sauce is made with fresh tomatoes a lot of the time, but until relatively recently we couldn’t even buy fresh plum tomatoes here so we all use tinned. I knew the San Marzano was considered to be a superior tomato and a quick Google search revealed that it’s also sweeter and less acidic than other plum tomatoes. I normally add a little sugar when cooking tomatoes but didn’t in this case: they were sweet enough.

My friend Antonio said there was no need even to cook them: I could just chop them up, add a little olive oil, basil and seasoning, and add them to hot pasta. I will do that next time but I had already chopped an onion which was softening in some olive oil in the simmering oven. His next tip was to slightly undercook the spaghetti, drain it and then finishing cooking it in the sauce. He also said to add some grated parmesan at the same time as adding the pasta. I will describe everything I did below.

Fresh Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

  • 700g fresh San Marzano plum tomatoes, chopped (no need to peel)
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 fat clove garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • About three basil stalks, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • A handful of basil leaves
  • Grated parmesan, to taste

Method

  • Add the olive oil and chopped onion to a sauté pan or wide saucepan and heat gently on the simmering plate
  • Cover and place in the simmering oven until the onion is soft
  • Add the basil stalks and garlic and cook for a minute on the simmering plate before stirring in the tomatoes, red wine vinegar and some salt and pepper
  • Place the pan in the simmering oven for about an hour but it could well be ready before that and will not come to any harm if you leave it for longer than that. I covered my pan for part of the time but am not sure it makes much difference
  • Meanwhile cook your spaghetti according to packet instructions but for 1 or 2 minutes less than prescribed
  • Drain and add it immediately, with some of the cooking water still clinging to it, to your sauce
  • Add some grated parmesan to the pan
  • Toss it all together for a couple of minutes with the pan on the simmering plate; the pasta will absorb a little of the sauce and finishing cooking
  • To serve, add the basil leaves, shredded if large, and have some more grated Parmesan on the table for whoever wants it

Rocket dressed with extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper is the perfect accompaniment, as is this bottle of Valpolicella.

 

 

 

 

 

 

One-Tray Pork and Mushroom Pasta

One-Tray Pork and Mushroom Pasta

Who doesn’t love a meal which can be cooked in just one tray or tin? With this one by the great Ottolenghi, flavour and texture are not sacrificed for simplicity. The recipe was in his Guardian column (third recipe down) recently and I couldn’t wait to make it. I’ve already made it twice and  am certain it’s going to become a staple in this house.

I have made one-pot pasta dishes before, where the pasta and the sauce ingredients are all cooked together in water in a large pan on the hob, so I was delighted to find this one because cooking everything, including the pasta itself, together in one roasting tin in the oven seemed so perfectly suited to Aga cooking. Even the rocket is stirred in rather than served separately. There is also a scrumptious salsa and I would urge you to take the extra few minutes to make this.

I found it slightly trickier than usual to decide which Aga oven(s) to use for this dish. Ottolenghi’s instructions for a conventional oven are 240ºC for the initial meat-browning stage and to turn it down to 200ºC after that. I found that if I put it in the roasting oven for both stages the pasta browned too quickly, even if I did as instructed and turned it in the sauce a couple of times to keep as much of it as possible submerged. I’ve shown at 7. below what worked for me. You might find a different oven permutation suits you better.

If you can’t find paccheri, Ottolenghi suggests using rigatoni or tortiglioni. I bought my paccheri from Ocado.

Ingredients

(Serves 6)

  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • 30g dried porcini mushrooms
  • 750g minced pork
  • 350g Cumberland sausages, casings removed
  • 2 tbsps Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 tbsps tomato paste
  • ⅓ tsp chilli flakes (how precise Ottolenghi is!)
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 15g sage leaves, roughly chopped (I used a little less than this because we’re not keen on a strong sage flavour)
  • 75ml olive oil
  • 60g Parmesan, grated
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 celery stalks, roughly chopped
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 500g oyster mushrooms, left whole or roughly torn into large pieces
  • 100ml double cream
  • 250g paccheri
  • 70g rocket leaves

Caper Salsa

  • 35g capers, roughly chopped
  • 15g parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 lemon, zested: add the zest and juice to taste
  • 3 tbsps olive oil

Method

  1. Add the porcini mushrooms to the chicken stock in a saucepan and bring to the boil on the boiling plate. Remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly
  2. Place the mince, sausage meat, Worchestershire sauce, tomato paste, chilli flakes, fennel seeds, sage, 3 tbsps of the olive oil, half the Parmesan, 1 3/4 tsps salt and some ground black pepper in the full size Aga roasting tin
  3. Blitz the celery, onion and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped and add to the roasting tin and mix it all together
  4. Bake in the middle (with the tin hanging from the third rung from the top) of the roasting oven for 30 minutes until brown and sizzling
  5. Using a fork, break up the meat to get rid of any clumps, then stir in the porcini mushrooms and stock, the oyster mushrooms, pasta, cream and remaining 2 tablespoons of oil
  6. Make sure to stir in the pasta very thoroughly and that it is mostly submerged in the sauce
  7. Return to the Aga but this time to the baking oven to cook for about 45 minutes. Take it out a couple of times to stir the pasta in the sauce. Alternatively, if you have time, place it in the roasting oven or baking oven for 10-15 minutes before transferring it to the simmering oven for an hour or more (depending on when you wish to eat). As we Aga owners know, it will not come to any harm
  8. Meanwhile make the salsa by combining all the ingredients in a small bowl and adding a grinding of black pepper
  9. Stir in the rocket and remaining Parmesan before serving. You could also sprinkle over some extra Parmesan shavings

Ottolenghi says to pour the salsa over the whole thing but I chose to serve it in a bowl to be passed round the table.

(The first time I made it there were only three of us so I roughly halved the quantities and used the half size Aga roasting tin, which is the one you can see in these photos.)

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Chicken Marbella

Chicken Marbella

Many years ago my sister-in-law gave me The Silver Palate Cookbook for my birthday. It was written by two American women who had opened a shop in New York selling various foodstuffs and gourmet take-away dishes which they prepared themselves. The shop was a huge success as was this book of its recipes, which gave the owner the sense they were cooking restaurant food in their own homes, but without too much hassle. It felt cool to own this book.

When my children were young I used the book mainly for its baking recipes. There was a period when almost weekly I made the chocolate chip cookies as an after school treat for my sons and their friends. I still make the glazed lemon cake, at his request, for my eldest son’s birthday (he’s 31!)

I don’t think I’m unusual in that I sometimes forget about the cookbooks I own. It doesn’t mean I no longer like them and nor do I ever get rid of books (I’m looking at you, Marie Kondo). fullsizeoutput_319b I love returning to old favourites and it only takes a newspaper food column or blog post to jog my memory and renew my fondness for a book or recipe.

Which is exactly what happened a couple of weeks ago when Debora Robertson wrote a post on her website entitled “You should make Chicken Marbella, you know” and I was prompted to get my Silver Palate book out again. The recipe in the book uses four small chickens (weighing 2 1/2  lbs each), quartered, giving 16 sixteen pieces. This was too much for my purposes (a small family supper) so I scaled down. I could have jointed a chicken but decided to use eight free-range chicken thighs (skin on, bone in) instead. This is what I did:

Chicken Marbella

(This dish involves marinating so start it several hours ahead or even better: the night before)

Ingredients

  • 8 chicken thighs, bone in, skin on
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 2 tsps dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4-5 tbsps red wine vinegar
  • 4-5 tbsps olive oil
  • 10-12 pitted prunes
  • 16 pitted green olives
  • 2 tbsps capers with a bit of juice
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 tbsps brown sugar
  • 100ml white wine
  • 2 tbsps (approx) chopped flatleaf parsley

Method

  • In a large bowl or dish combine the chicken thighs, garlic, oregano, seasoning, vinegar, oil, prunes, olives, capers and juice and bay leaves. Cover and leave to marinate in the fridge for a few hours or overnight
  • To bring it up to room temperature, take the chicken out of the fridge about an hour before you want to cook it
  • Arrange the chicken and other ingredients in the small Aga roasting tin (or any tin measuring approx 32 x 21 cms) spooning the marinade around and over the chicken
  • Sprinkle over the sugar and pour in the white wine
  • Bake in the roasting oven for about 45 minutes. Or, if you have time, start it off in there for 15-20 minutes and then move to the simmering oven to finishing cooking slowly, allowing the chicken to become supremely tender and sticky and the flavours to develop, until you’re ready to eat
  • Sprinkle with the chopped parsley to serve

We ate ours with wholegrain basmati rice and green beans. Broccoli or a green salad would also go well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fårikål

Fårikål

I wrote about this Norwegian dish on my Tumblr a few years ago. Making it last night reminded me how incredibly simple but delicious it is, so I thought I’d republish it here.

The translation of fårikål is “lamb (or mutton) in cabbage” which, to be honest, probably isn’t making you want to try it. However, I urge you to as it’s a very plain dish on the face of it but easy to make and very delicious, wholesome and warming: the ultimate comfort food. It’s traditional to eat it in the autumn in Norway, but there’s no reason at all not to make it in February or any other (winter) month.

I was interested and delighted to read that the recipe Magnus Nilsson gives for this dish in his wonderful The Nordic Cook Book is more or less the same as the one that’s been handed down to me by Norwegian grandmother via my mother.

Here’s what you do.

Take some chunky pieces of lamb on the bone. My mother used to use chump chops, but I’m not sure if this term is used these days.

Take a large white cabbage (or a green one, but my mother always used white so that is what I do too), or a small one if you’re only cooking for a couple of people. Cut it into fairly large wedges.

In a casserole or large saucepan layer the cabbage and the lamb, sprinkle in some salt and fill it half way up with water.

You now need to add black peppercorns and it’s very handy if you have one of these spice infusers (see photo). When I was growing up my mother would bring these back from Norway for all her friends. I’ve never seen them in the shops here but my husband spotted this “Spice Infuser GUSTO” from Gefu online which I’m sure will do the same job. IMG_2009You fill it with whole black peppercorns and place it in among your lamb and cabbage. Then you simply remove it at the end of cooking and diners don’t have to bite into peppercorns, which can a)  give them a fright or b) break their teeth. It’s also not very pleasant. Of course if you haven’t got one you can tie the peppercorns (about a tablespoonful) in a muslin bag or indeed live dangerously and leave them loose in your stew.

 

Bring the whole thing to the boil on the boiling plate and then place it, covered, in the simmering oven for a minimum of two hours but preferably longer until the lamb and cabbage are tender.

Some like to thicken their fårikål by dusting the raw lamb pieces with flour, but I have never done this and don’t think it’s necessary.

Serve with plain boiled potatoes and plenty (and I mean a lot) of chopped parsley.

 

 

Spiced Apple Cake

Spiced Apple Cake

My plan for today was to tell you about the most delicious veal ragù I’d made but I’m afraid it was disappointing and I can’t quite work out what went wrong. I guess you win some and you lose some. I won’t give up though and when I get it right, I will let you know. Meanwhile, there’s my trusty old favourite ragù which I wrote about here.

So instead I want to tell you about an apple cake recipe I’ve recently fallen in love with. Forgive me for giving you another apple cake recipe but this one is too good to ignore. You probably aren’t surprised though, because I believe I’ve mentioned in previous posts how much I love apple cake.

There’s something about the slightly caramel flavour of this one that reminds me of the plum torte I wrote about here; the soft brown sugar is probably responsible. I came across the recipe on the Spectator website.

Spiced Apple Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 large cooking apple
  • 1 eating apple
  • 200g unsalted butter, melted (by placing it in a bowl on top of the Aga at the back) fullsizeoutput_317d
  • 225g light brown sugar
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar

 

 

 

Method

  • Lightly grease and line a 9″/23cm cake tin with bake-o-glide
  • Place the brown sugar, flour, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl and rub between your fingers to get rid of any lumps in the sugar
  • Briefly whisk the eggs in a small bowl using a fork and then add them and the melted butter to the dry ingredients, quickly mixing the whole lot together with a spatula
  • Peel and core the apples and cut each into 12 wedges
  • Pour three quarters of the mixture into your prepared tin and arrange the apple slices in a circle, alternating cooking and eating apples and starting from the outside. Place any spare segments in the centre of the circle
  • Spoon the rest of the mixture into the middle of the cake and don’t try to spread it to the sides. Sprinkle over the caster sugar
  • Bake for about 50 minutes until the top is golden brown and taught. Leave in the tin to cool for 10 minutes

Can be served warm or cold. I love serving any apple cake with whipped cream, but it’s up to you.