Tuesday, 27 August 2013

Week 31 - Onion Gratin

Jamie commended this recipe as a great representation of how onion can be a stand alone dish. I love it, and rarely cook a meal without it but other than a whole roast one on Sundays (or camping) I don't think I have cooked a side with just onion. You cook it for so long that the taste is delish but still respected. I also loved the addition of cheese.

Book: Cook with Jamie

Recipe: The Best Onion Gratin


Serves 4

4 medium red onions, peeled and quartered
olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
8 sprigs of fresh thyme leaves, picked
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced
a small wineglass of white wine
4 tablespoons creme fraiche
500g gruyere cheese, grated
50g parmesan cheese, grated


Preheat the oven to 200°C. Break the onion quarters apart to give you little 'petals'. Place these in an A4-sized dish or earthenware oven dish. Drizzle with a couple of gluts of olive oil and a pinch of salt and pepper, and toss in your thyme and garlic. Mix up well, add your white wine, cover with a double layer of tinfoil, wrap tightly and place in the preheated oven. Bake for 45 minutes, then remove the dish from the oven, take the tinfoil off and pop the dish back in the oven for 15 minutes to start caramelising. Once the onion is looking lightly golden, stir in your creme fraiche and sprinkle over the cheese. Turn the oven down to 180°C and let the gratin tick away for about 15 minutes or until golden and gorgeous. You can eat this straight away, or cool it down and flash it under the grill later.

Changes Made: I only had cheddar and parmesan, and used creme rather than creme fraiche, plus I used a mixture of red and white onions. 

Results: So good, I am a huge fan of onion and this hit all the right spots! I halved the recipe but for two of us it was not enough.

Next Time: More onion.

Tuesday, 20 August 2013

Week 30 - Baked Apples

Speaking to my OH I came to realised he has not had the pleasure of ever eating a baked apple. I am not sure that I had that many when I was little, but they are such a simple, tasty desert I just had to bake them for him. He opted for no raisins but couldn't not have them. They cooked up so nicely the cut around the middle really helped to get the flavour on the outside along with the middle.

Book: Ministry of Food

Recipe: Baked Apples


Serves 4

50g unsalted butter
4 large Bramley apples
2 bay leaves, dried or fresh
2 cloves
50g flaked almonds
100g light muscovado sugar
75g raisins
1 orange
1 lemon
1 heaped teaspoon mixed spice
1 shot of brandy or whisky


Take your butter out of the fridge about 15 to 30 minutes before you start making your baked apples so it has time to soften a bit first. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Use an apple corer to remove the cores from your apples, then carefully score around the middle of each one, using a knife. Place the apples in a baking fish. If using dried nay leaves, crumble them into little pieces; if using fresh you will need to finely chop them. Place into a pestle and mortar with the cloves and bash up. Put into a large bowl with most of the almonds and the rest of the ingredients. Using your hands, mix well, squeezing all the flavours into the butter. Stuff this mixture into the hole in each apple (where you have removed the core) and rub the outside of each fruit with any leftover mixture. Toss the remaining almonds in the bowl so they become lightly coated in any leftover juices, then sprinkle over the top of the apples. 

Place in the preheated oven for 35 to 40 minutes, until golden and soft. Remove from the oven and leave to cool down for about 5 minutes before serving. Put each apple into a small bowl and spoon over the lovely caramalised juices from the pan. These apples are great with a dollop of good vanilla ice cream, creme fraiche or custard (or just by themselves!).

Changes Made: No muscovado sugar and used brown sugar instead. I also used granny smith apples. 

Results: Yum, reminded me of a simpler time, such an easy ones and great for the kids too.

Next Time: Nothing (again)

Tuesday, 13 August 2013

Week 29 - Chicken with Mole Sauce

I liked the idea of this meal, it looked like something really different with the stock and the chilli, chocolate, banana sauce thing and rice. Unfortunately it did not work out like I had expected. My Mum had actually cook this a little while ago and really liked it, but it was too bland for me. I like taste! 

Bit of a fail in my books, but who knows, others may like it!

Book: 15 Minute Meals

Recipe: Mexican Chicken, wicked mole sauce, rice & veg


Serves 4

Chicken, rice & veg

2 carrots
2 spring onions
2 chicken stock cubes
1 red pepper
2 rashers of smoked streaky bacon
a couple of springs of fresh thyme
1 mug (300g) of wholegrain or basmati rice
4 x 120g skinless chicken breasts
175g okra
100g frozen peas

Mole Sauce

2 spring onions
2 cloves of garlic
½ a fresh red chilli
1 dried smoked chipotle or ancho chilli
1 pinch of cumin seeds
1 heaped tbsp smooth peanut butter
30g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids)
1 heaped tsp cocoa powder
a 2.5cm piece of banana
1 lemon


Finely slice the carrots and trimmed spring onions, then put into the casserole pan with 500ml of boiling water and crumble in the stock cubes. Deseed the pepper, cut into 8, then add to the stock with the bacon and thyme sprigs and put the lid on. Put 1 mug of rice and 2 mugs of boiling water into the medium pan with a pinch of salt and cover with a lid, stirring occasionally.

Trim and add the spring onions, peeled garlic and chillies to the liquidizer with the cumin seeds, peanut butter, a couple of splashes of boiling wear, salt and pepper, then blitz until fine. Put into the frying pan, boil, then simmer. Add the chicken, okra and peas to the casserole pan until the chicken is cooked through, replace the lid.

Scrape the mixture from the frying pan back into the liquidizer and add the chocolate, cocoa, peeled banana and lemon juice, then whiz until silky smooth and season until it's incredible. Fluff up the rice, finely slice the chicken and serve with the mole sauce, veg and broth.

Changes Made: Could not find any yummy dried chilli's so just popped in some flakes.

Results: Unfortunately, I was not a fan. The chicken was bland, the stock tasted too much like vegetables. I liked the chilli, chocolate sauce but the rest needs a little work. 

That being said, it is a really healthy meal, so if that is your plan, go for it. 

Next Time: Not cook it, sorry Jamie.

Monday, 5 August 2013

Week 28 - Rack of Lamb

We have recently found a wholesale butcher that sold lamb racks for $13.99 per kilo! So we just had to snap some up and enjoy on a sunday evening. Lamb racks are just so special and really do not need much in the way of marinating, keep it simple and just don't overcook the meat! This recipe turned out so well, I loved the different sides and the family style platter.

Book: 30 Minute Meals

Recipe: Spring Lamb, Vegetable Platter, Mint Sauce and Chanti Gravy (I did not do the chocolate fondue) 


Serves 6

For The Lamb

1 quality 8-bone rack of lamb, fat removed
1 2-piece pack quality lamb neck fillet, approximately 250g
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
white wine vinegar
300 g cherry tomatoes on the vine

For The Gravy

4 rashers higher-welfare smoked bacon
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 heaped tablespoon plain flour
½ glass red wine

For The Vegetables

500 g baby new potatoes
250 g baby carrots
1 bunch fresh mint, stalks of
1 organic chicken stock cube
200 g fine beans
200 g runner beans
½ Savoy cabbage
200 g frozen peas
1 knob butter
½ lemon

For The Mint Sauce

1 bunch fresh mint, leaves from
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon golden caster sugar

For The Seasonings

olive oil
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
black pepper


Get all your ingredients and equipment ready. Put a large frying pan and a large saucepan on a high heat. Fill and boil the kettle. Turn the oven on to 220°C/425°F/gas 7. Halve the rack of lamb, then season with salt & pepper and add to the frying pan with a lug of olive oil.

Wash the potatoes and trim the tops of the carrots. Add everything to the large saucepan with a pinch of salt. Rip the leafy tops off the bunch of mint and put aside for the mint sauce. Make sure the band is still around the stalks, then add them to the saucepan. Just cover with boiled water and crumble in the chicken stock cube. Put the lid on.

Drizzle olive oil straight into the pack of neck fillet and season. Turn the racks of lamb then put the two neck fillets in the pan. Sear the ends of the meat and keep coming back to the pan and turning each piece so they brown all over.

Pull the leaves off 3 sprigs of rosemary and put into a pestle & mortar with a good pinch of salt & pepper. Peel the garlic, add to the mortar, and pound really well. Turn the lamb over. Add Dijon mustard to the mortar with a good couple of lugs of olive oil and a swig of white wine vinegar. Mix well.

Make sure all sides of the lamb are seared, then use tongs to transfer all of it to a roasting tray. Pour away most of the fat in the pan, then put it back on a very low heat for the gravy. Spoon the dressing from the pestle & mortar over the lamb and put the vines of cherry tomatoes on top. Move everything around until well coated in the dressing. Sprinkle with salt, then whack on the top shelf of the oven and set the timer for 14 minutes for blushing to medium meat, slightly less for rare, and more for well done. Turn the racks over halfway through.

Finely slice the bacon and put into the frying pan. Finely chop the reserved mint leaves and add to the unwashed pestle & mortar. Pound, then add the red wine vinegar, caster sugar, a pinch of salt and 2 tablespoons of cooking water from the veg pot. Muddle together with the pestle, have a taste to check the balance, and add a tiny splash of extra virgin olive oil. Take to the table with a spoon.

Turn the heat under the bacon right up and add the leaves from the rosemary. Stir in the flour, red wine and a few ladles of cooking water. Trim all the beans and put the runner beans through a runner bean slicer or slice at an angle, 1cm thick. Cut the Savoy cabbage half in two and click off any fatty outer leaves, then discard the stalk. Cut the cabbage into thin wedges. Add the cabbage, beans and peas to the saucepan, then stir and put the lid back on.

Turn the lamb over. If your tomatoes are colouring too much, lean the meat on top of them. Stir in a spoonful of cooking water if needed.

When the 14 minutes are up, take your lamb out of the oven and leave it to rest for a minute. Drain the veg in a colander, then return them to the pan. Drizzle well with extra virgin olive oil, and add a good pinch of salt & pepper and a knob of butter. Squeeze over the juice of ½ a lemon and toss well. Tip on to a large serving platter and take to the table.

Taste and correct the seasoning, then pour into a gravy boat and take to the table.

Cut the racks into individual chops and slice up the neck fillet. Pile on a platter. Move most of the cherry tomatoes to the platter on top of the lamb, mushing the rest into the cooking juices. Stir in a good lug of extra virgin olive oil, then drizzle over the platter and serve.

Changes Made: I forgot to get the neck from the butcher.

Results: Everything a lamb rack should be! Lamb was cooked perfectly and the mint sauce has the perfect amount of kick from the vinegar. 

Next Time: The neck would have been a nice variation in the meat,