Sausages & Lentils with Herb Relish

Sausages & Lentils with Herb Relish

What frightening and difficult times we live in. I hope you are coping with the lockdown and that you and your loved ones are staying safe and well. There are four of us here. My youngest son is home from university, possibly until the Autumn; this is lovely for my husband and me. We took the decision to dispense with the services of the carers who were coming in every day to look after my frail and demented 95 year old mother-in-law. We just felt the risk of the virus being brought into the house was too high. It means there is even more for us to do but of course we are here and have the time to do it.

We are trying hard not to go to the shops and have been lucky enough to get a couple of online supermarket orders delivered. Our excellent local butcher, Ruby and White, has also set up an online delivery service. This means I have not (yet) been unable to cook my chosen dish for want of the necessary ingredients.

I have turned more than once recently to Diana Henry’s most recent book, From the Oven to the Table. You will remember I cooked this chicken with sherry and torn sourdough recipe from it a while ago. Last week I made the Sausages and Lentils with Herb Relish, which I want to recommend to you. I have begun to feel uncomfortable about writing out someone else’s recipes in full. After all, food writers like Diana Henry, have spent months working on their cookbooks, devising recipes, cooking them probably several times, tweaking them and then writing them up for the likes of us. So from now on I will continue to point you in the direction of good recipes and tell you how I adapted them for Aga cooking, but unless they are my own, I will not write them out in full.

Until now, my most successful attempt at a sausages and lentils dish was the one I wrote about here. This one is similar but in my opinion, even better.

Diana Henry’s Sausages & Lentils with Herb Relish

My tips for adapting it for the Aga are as follows:

  • When browning the sausages, heat the oil in the sauté pan on the simmering plate, add the sausages and then place the pan on the floor of the roasting oven. Shake the pan after about five minutes, or take it out and turn the sausages over one by one before returning the pan to the roasting oven floor, to ensure they’re brown all over
  • When you’ve taken the sausages out of the pan and added the vegetables and pancetta, you can return it to the floor of the roasting oven to cook them quickly, but you must keep checking them; it’s hot in there and you don’t want to burn the onions. Alternatively, if you have enough time, you can cook them in the simmering oven
  • Once you’ve added the garlic and lentils and the stock mixture and returned the sausages to the pan, put it uncovered in the baking oven for about fifteen minutes before adding the remaining liquid if you think it needs it. Remember, you will get less evaporation in an Aga
  • At this point you can continue to cook the dish in the baking oven (for about 25 minutes) until the lentils are soft and the liquid has been absorbed, but you could also put it in the simmering oven and forget about it for a while. It all depends on how early you started cooking and when you want to eat
  • Do make the herb relish; it’s a delicious accompaniment to this dish. The only herb I had in my fridge was flatleaf parsley but combined with the capers, garlic, mustard and lemon, it worked perfectly.

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Braised beef with macaroni au gratin

Braised beef with macaroni au gratin

French cuisine hasn’t had a great press in the last few years. I’m not sure how fair that is or how qualified I am to judge given that our last family holiday in France was 8 years ago. We were in the South West near Bordeaux, and while we were surprised to have a couple of disappointing meals we also enjoyed some sublime cuisine. Rick Stein’s recent television series “Secret France” showed that delicious French food is alive and well throughout the country and here in Bristol the fairly new restaurant Little French has been highly praised in the national press and shows that the “unpretentious French food” it offers is beloved by many of us. Following a superb lunch there the other day, during which between us my husband and I enjoyed mackerel tartare, mouclade and frites, queen scallops and hake with clams, I was inspired to make Clothilde’s Beef, a recipe in Diana Henry’s book Food from Plenty. She tells how she first ate it on a French exchange as a teenager when it was cooked by her opposite number, Clothilde. She notes that instead of potatoes, her French family served it with a gratin of macaroni. This immediately took me back to the food I used to eat on my many visits to France as a teenager and later on as a student when I was doing a degree in modern languages. It’s exactly the type of dish the mother of my friend Françoise would make. How powerfully evocative food can be!

Ingredients

  • 1kg silverside of beef
  • Salt and butter
  • 1 tbsp groundnut oil
  • 2 onions, halved and each half either sliced into crescent moons or cut into three or four wedges
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 150ml dry white or red wine
  • 4 carrots, halved lengthways
  • 2 plum tomatoes, quartered
  • 3 thyme sprigs
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 150ml chicken or beef stock

Method

  • Season the beef
  • Heat the oil in a frying pan on the boiling plate and add the beef
  • Immediately transfer the pan to the floor of the roasting oven to brown, turning it over after about five minutes
  • Once brown, transfer the beef to a casserole while you add the onions to the pan, tossing them around in the fat before returning the pan to the floor of the roasting oven to cook the onions until golden. Keep an eye on them; you don’t want them to burn
  • With the frying pan on the simmering plate add the crushed garlic and cook for a minute or two
  • Add the wine to the onion and garlic mixture and bring it to boil
  • Add this mixture to the casserole along with the tomatoes, carrots, thyme and bay
  • Bring the stock to the boil in the pan on the simmering plate and pour it into the casserole
  • Season well, put the lid on and place the casserole in the simmering oven for a minimum of four hours. Mine was in there for about six; the vegetables were soft and the meat wonderfully tender and the juice deliciously aromatic

For the macaroni au gratin

  • 150g macaroni
  • a little olive oil
  • salt
  • 150-200g Gruyère cheese (depends how cheesy you like it), grated
  • 230ml double cream
  • Cook the macaroni in boiling, salted water on the boiling plate for 5-6 minutes, until barely al dente
  • Drain in a colander and shake it dry
  • Spread it out on a baking tray, drizzle with a little olive oil and toss until coated to keep the macaroni from sticking to one another; leave to cool
  • In a saucepan on the simmering plate bring the cream and ½ tsp salt to a boil, letting it simmer for a minute; the cream will start to thicken
  • Add the macaroni and cook for a further minute before gradually adding about ¾ of the cheese, stirring and letting it melt into the sauce
  • Transfer to a baking dish and sprinkle over the remaining cheese
  • With the rack on the first set of runners place the dish in the roasting oven and cook for 10-15 minutes, turning the dish round halfway through, until it’s sizzling hot with a golden brown crust

 

 

 

Scandinavian Meatballs

Scandinavian Meatballs

I’m calling these “Scandinavian” because I consulted my Norwegian grandmother’s recipe for the meatballs themselves and stole elements of a Diana Henry recipe for Swedish meatballs (in her book “Roast Figs Sugar Snow”) to make the sauce.

Surprisingly, even though my mother gave me her mother’s meatball recipe years ago, I had never used it before. I make meatballs a lot, but usually Italian-style ones in a tomato sauce to serve with spaghetti. It’s good to have a change and these, dare I say it, are just as good or possibly better. If Italian flavours are what you’re after it’s simpler just to make a ragù.

The addition of baking powder to my grandmother’s meatballs is a revelation: it makes them wonderfully light and airy. You can serve these with lingonberry sauce or jam. My son bought me some at SkandiKitchen in London. Ikea sells it too, but if you haven’t got any, cranberry sauce would also go well. I served them with braised, spiced red cabbage and plain boiled potatoes, which struck me as being very Norwegian. I’d like to think my grandmother would approve and that she’d be pleased I served them on her Porsgrund china plates. IMG_3152

Scandinavian Meatballs

Ingredients

Meatballs:

  • 500g pork mince
  • 500g beef mince
  • 1 heaped tsp salt
  • 1 heaped tsp baking powder
  • 1 heaped tsp ground white pepper
  • 1 heaped tsp ground ginger
  • 100g breadcrumbs, soaked for about 30 minutes in 150ml milk until all the milk has been absorbed
  • About 1 tbsp sunflower or groundnut oil

Sauce:

  • 400ml chicken or beef stock
  • 20g butter
  • 1 tbsp sunflower or groundnut oil
  • 1 tbsp plain flour
  • 200g sour cream
  • 3 tbsps chopped fresh dill

Method

  • Mix all the ingredients for the meatballs thoroughly in a large bowl. You could do this in a food processor
  • Using wet hands form the mixture into balls. I’ll leave the size to you
  • Fry in a little oil until brown. I “fried” them, drizzled with oil, on the large Aga baking tray for five minutes on the floor of the roasting oven before turning them over and frying for a further five minutes or until they were nicely browned. Doing it in the oven like this stops the Aga losing heat and means you don’t get fat splashing over the Aga top
  • Heat the butter with 1 tbsp oil in a large saucepan or sauté pan on the simmering plate. Add the flour and cook, stirring until the flour is golden
  • Take the pan off the heat and gradually add the stock, stirring well after each addition
  • Put the pan back on the simmering plate and bring the liquid up to the boil, stirring constantly
  • Add the sour cream and then the meatballs
  • Cover and place in the simmering oven for at least 30 minutes (but as you know, they will be fine if left there for much longer than that) until the meatballs are cooked through. (If you are short of time you could cook them for about 15 minutes in the baking oven.)
  • Taste for seasoning, add the chopped dill and serve

 

 

Diana Henry’s Chicken with Torn Sourdough, Sherry, Raisins & Bitter Leaves

Diana Henry’s Chicken with Torn Sourdough, Sherry, Raisins & Bitter Leaves

All my favourites in one dish: Diana Henry; a new one tin recipe; chicken thighs; sourdough. This is one of those perfect for the Aga one tin dishes which has the added bonus of using up some of the sourdough I have been making. My sourdough is improving and everyone seems to enjoy eating it but this new pastime has brought out the perfectionist in me and I haven’t yet achieved my ideal loaf. I am beginning to understand what drives people to keep baking sourdough. Part of the enjoyment is reading books about it and watching video demonstrations. I am aspiring to make Chad Robertson’s “basic country bread” as described in his wonderful book “Tartine“. I am reading it avidly and am grateful to my youngest son for leaving it at home when he returned to university this week. The other sourdough book I’m finding invaluable is James Morton’s “Super Sourdough” which my sons gave me for Christmas.

Anyway, back to the chicken recipe. It’s from Diana Henry’s latest wonderful book “From the Oven to the Table” and I hope you find it as delicious, interesting and distinctive as we did. The great thing is it’s very easy to up the quantities, using an additional roasting tin, without much extra work. You would need to allow some extra time in the oven and swap the tins round halfway through to make sure all the chicken pieces achieved that golden brown crispiness.

Ingredients

(Serves 4)

  • 175g sourdough bread, torn into pieces roughly 5cm square
  • 450g small waxy potatoes, cut into chunks
  • 1 large onion, peeled and cut into wedges
  • 6 thyme sprigs
  • 1-2 tsps (according to preference) chilli flakes
  • 1 head of garlic, cloves separated but not peeled
  • 150g pancetta or bacon, ideally in one piece cut into chunks, but I used rashers which I chopped up
  • 8 skin-on bone-in chicken thighs
  • 2 tbsps sherry vinegar
  • 220ml amontillado sherry
  • 5 tbsps extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
  • 150g spring onions, trimmed
  • 50g raisins
  • 100g bitter salad leaves such as radicchio or chicory
  • 25g toasted pine nuts

Method

  • Put the bread, onion, potatoes, thyme, chilli and garlic cloves in the large Aga roasting tin
  • Add the pancetta or bacon and the chicken thighs
  • Pour on the sherry vinegar, 70ml of the sherry and 4 tablespoons of the olive oil
  • Season and toss everything round with your hands, finishing with the chicken thighs skin side up. Make sure the bread isn’t too exposed, or lying at the edges, or it will become too dark
  • Slide onto the second set of runners in the roasting oven and roast for 25 minutes, tossing the ingredients round and turning the tin round once. Keep the chicken skin side up
  • Mix the spring onions with the last tablespoon of olive oil in a bowl and lay them on top of the tin, adding another 50ml sherry
  • Return to the oven for a further 15 minutes
  • Pour the remaining sherry into a small pan with the raisins and bring to just under the boil on the boiling plate. Leave these to sit, then add them to the roasting tin for the last 5 minutes of the cooking time
  • For us this was a kitchen supper so I served it from the tin and placed a salad bowl of red chicory dressed with balsamic and olive oil on the table. Alternatively, you could transfer everything to a large serving dish and mix in the leaves
  • Throw on the pine nuts and serve

 

 

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

Scones and ‘Nearly’ Strawberry Jam

Scones and ‘Nearly’ Strawberry Jam

Yesterday I made the lightest and most delicious scones I’ve ever eaten. They are “Lily’s Scones” from Nigella Lawson’s “How to be a Domestic Goddess” book and I can’t think why I hadn’t tried them until now. You probably all already know about them but here’s the recipe, just in case. Oh, and I served them with Diana Henry’s “nearly” strawberry jam which I made the other day; it’s a quick way of making jam and perfect for this time of year when strawberries are in abundance. It’s a fairly runny jam (just like my Norwegian grandmother used to make, actually) and deliciously fresh-tasting.

Diana Henry’s “Nearly” Strawberry Jam

  • 350g strawberries, hulled and gently wiped clean
  • 75g granulated sugar
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon

Method

  • Quarter the large strawberries and leave the small ones whole
  • Place them in a saucepan with the sugar and lemon juice
  • Set on the simmering plate and stir a little until the sugar dissolves
  • Roughly mash the fruit with a fork or potato masher. You want to end up with a mixture which is part purée, part chunks of fruit
  • Remove to the simmering oven for about an hour until it’s thickened somewhat, but remember, this is a runny jam
  • Pour into a bowl and leave to cool or into a lidded jar for storing in the refrigerator where it will keep for at least four days

Diana Henry says you could make a larger batch and freeze some.

Lily’s Scones

(Makes about 12)

(You will need your large Aga baking tray, lined with bake-o-glide and a 6 1/2 cm crinkle-edged cutter)

Ingredients

  • 500g plain flour
  • 1tsp (or perhaps a little less) salt
  • 2 tsps bicarbonate of soda
  • 41/2 teaspoons cream of tartar
  • 50g cold unslated butter, diced
  • 25g lard, in teaspooned lumps
  • 300ml milk
  • 1 large egg, beaten, for egg-wash

Method

  • Sift the flour, salt, bicarb and cream of tartar into a large bowl
  • Rub in the fats till it goes like damp sand
  • Add the milk all at once, mix briefly and then turn out onto a floured surface and knead lightly to form a dough
  • Roll out very gently to about 3cm thickness
  • Dip the cutter into some flour, then stamp out your scones. You will need to reroll for the last couple
  • Place them on the baking tray and brush the tops with the egg-wash
  • Slide onto the second set of runners in the roasting oven and leave for 10-12 minutes until risen and golden

Serve with jam and Rodda’s clotted cream: the jam goes on first and the cream on top, as my Cornish daughter-in-law insists.

 

Raspberry Yoghurt Cake

Raspberry Yoghurt Cake

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while you’ll know how fond I am of baking with raspberries. I’ve made this raspberry yoghurt cake twice now, once with regular flour and once with spelt and can honestly say there was no noticeable difference. The recipe is by Diana Henry – no surprises there! – and is from her book Simple. I love that the recipe was inspired by a cake she ate at a café in Nettlebed, a village in Oxfordshire, which holds many happy memories for me.

On the day Theresa May resigned I announced on Twitter that I was about to make this cake as a break from all the political drama, and there was quite a bit of interest, which is why I’m writing up the recipe for you today. The yoghurt doesn’t give the cake a yoghurt-y taste, if you know what I mean, but I think it gives it a lightness and makes it deliciously moist. It’s a perfect summer cake, but if you keep raspberries in your freezer, there’s nothing to stop you making it at other times of the year.

Raspberry Yoghurt Cake

Ingredients

  • 125g unsalted butter
  • 225g caster sugar
  • Finely grated zest of 2 unwaxed lemons
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 300g plain flour or spelt flour
  • 2 tsps baking powder
  • 115g natural yoghurt (I love Yeo Valley Greek Style)
  • 200g raspberries

Icing

  • 150g icing sugar
  • Approx. 2 tbsps lemon juice
  • About 10 raspberries

 

Method

(Preheat conventional oven to 180ºC)

  • Butter a 22 x 12 x 7cm loaf tin and line the base with bake-o-glide or baking parchment
  • Beat the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy
  • Add the lemon zest and vanilla
  • Add the eggs, a little at a time, beating well after each addition
  • Put 2 tbsps of flour in a bowl and toss the raspberries in it
  • Mix the flour and baking powder together and fold this into the batter, alternating with spoonfuls of the yoghurt
  • Put one third of the batter into your loaf tin and add half the raspberries, spreading them out evenly
  • Put another one third of the batter on top followed by the remaining raspberries and finishing with the rest of the batter
  • Bake for about an hour and 15 minutes in the baking oven, but check after 40 minutes or so and cover it with foil if it seems to be colouring too much
  • A skewer should come out clean when it’s done. Leave the cake in the tin for 10 minutes before turning it out onto a wire rack to cool
  • Mix the icing sugar with the lemon juice until smooth
  • Spread two thirds of this on the cooled cake
  • Partly crush the 10 raspberries and add them to the remaining icing. Don’t completely mix them in; you just want them to stain bits of the icing. Pour over the cake

 

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