What to do with the rest of the bag of Dill once you have made Nigella’s Sicilian Pasta: Cannellini Bean and Dill Stew

Sorry the title isn’t snappier but I felt like I needed an explanation in using dill at this time of year. As I have said before, to me dill conjures up Greek islands, lemons, salads with couscous and the like, not casseroles and crumbles and everything that goes with late Autumn.

The previous post revealed my delight with Nigellissima, the latest scrumptious series from Nigella Lawson. Here at Cutest Cakes HQ we have been having a bit of an Italian week ourselves what with one meal and another and the Sicilian Pasta featured, pieced together from the recipe bites on the iPlayer. It’s intensely fishy, with smoked mackerel the principle component and dill also featuring heavily. What shall I do with the rest of the packet? I think I have the answer and here it is:

So apart from the asparagus, which does give away the fact that I took this picture in the Summer, this is quite a hearty dish and can benefit from the addition of some premium sausages, either on the side or chop up into. It is also super speedy, taking no longer than the time to cook sausages should you be having some.

You will need (for 4):

1 can of Cannellini Beans in water, drained, 1 jar of Passata (or a tin and a half of chopped Tomatoes), 1 Onion, chopped, a little chopped Celery Leaves (optional), as much Dill as you can stand or what you have left over, chopped, Olive Oil, Salt and Pepper, grilled Sausages if you wish.

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan and cook the onion over a medium heat until soft and transparent, add the celery leaves if using, stir round for another minute, and then add the passata or tins of tomatoes if using them instead…..

I was given a very good tip regarding the difference between using tins of tomatoes or passata, which is passata will cook very quickly really only requiring a warm through and doesn’t require a period of cooking down and the excess liquid evaporating away, tins of tomatoes do require this lengthier simmer and benefit from a ½ teaspoon of sugar due to the bitterness of the seeds.

…….so depending on the state of your tomatoes proceed as discussed and add the drained beans and dill and allowing the whole lot to cook down for 5-10 minutes minimum. Season and if you are using passata you may need to add a little water from the kettle to prevent from drying out.

You can add the chopped sausages (if using) at the point of serving and serve with crusty bread, pasta, asparagus…. whatever takes your fancy.

Ottolenghi’s Mediterranean Feast has replaced Nigella for now. It is a visual wonder and I shall post a recipe inspired by his foray into Morocco next week.

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Tempted by a Tomatillo? Only if they are Curried.

Tomatillo? What’s that I here you cry… Well the official answer is the Mexican relative of a cape gooseberry and here are some examples:

Now I know they look under ripe and not very tempting, but after a couple of weeks of experimenting due to their arrival in our veg box, I think I might have the measure of them.

We started off trying them raw in a salad, always a good place to start I think. They are fairly hard and quite sour so whilst that was fine, we moved on to incorporating them in a guacamole style salsa to go with a chilli.

Now that worked really well: into a bowl combine some chopped avocado and equal quantities of chopped tomato and tomatillo. Mash together a little and add some chopped coriander and a little salt and pepper. The sourness of the tomatillos removes the need for lime juice.

Then last night I thought they might work well in a curry and so made my version of Cornish Chicken Curry. Cornish Chicken Curry!! What can be Cornish about Mexican fruits or Indian Curry. Ah well, Cornish Chicken Curry is by definition a dish of ‘using up stuff’ and what do we all have half a jar of in the fridge? A jar of curry paste, along with a few bits and pieces of veg which are looking long past their sell by date and the omnipresent store cupboard staple, a tin of tomatoes.

So this version of the curry went something like this (for 4): fry off a couple of smallish thinly sliced onions in a slug of oil for 5 minutes or so until soft and then add 2 cloves of chopped garlic, a sliced green chilli and 1 cm or 2 of grated fresh ginger. Stir all that around for 2 or 3 minutes, add some diced chicken (around 400-500g) and stir frequently until the chicken has coloured on all sides and then add a couple of tablespoons of curry paste, the tomato based ones work best like Balti or Rogan Josh. Add a diced pepper, 5 or 6 chopped tomatillos and any other veg you fancy, a tin of tomatoes and a cup of water, allow to come to the boil and simmer until the chicken and veg are cooked through. Season if required and serve with rice. The tomatillos again give a lovely sharp tang to the dish and do retain their form like peppers, a real winner.

Chicken curry essentially all looks the same so I haven’t taken a picture of that, but here’s the salad we tried: baby beetroot, potato, smoked salmon, samphire, dill and goat’s cheese. The tomatillos were superfluous frankly but the rest was nice enough. Top with a sprinkling of toasted flaked almonds.

Using Up Stuff Spaghetti

So we are finally off on holiday at the end of the week and the ‘using up stuff’ campaign is in full swing. Ridiculously enough at any given moment I seem to have enough food to last all four of us about a week (excluding bread and milk). I suppose if we were ever besieged or stranded in some way this is reassuring.

I’m going with a spaghetti dish as this is always the last carbohydrate item I am prepared to be without and everyone adores it. I have only relatively recently worked out how to make delicious creamy sauces to go with. I have no idea why, perhaps in my middle age I am more prepared to eat them so more motivated to get it right.

So here we go; this is a cream and blue cheese sauce base and I wouldn’t mind betting with the soft fruit season in full swing, odd half cartons of cream are lying around in most fridges right now!

Serves 2 so scale up for more, you will need: 250g Spaghetti, a handful of toasted Pine Nuts, some French Beans, topped and tailed, 6 tbsp Double Cream and 6 tbsp Milk, or 12 tbsp of Single Cream, 30g Blue Cheese (Dolcelatte, Danish Blue, Stilton), a rasher or 2 of Bacon, diced, 1 tbsp Garlic Oil, Black Pepper, Parmesan (optional).

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and add a dash of any oil. Once boiling add the spaghetti and the french beans and cook for the stated time and not a second more. (Spaghetti is cooked once a strand has just lost the ‘white’ uncooked center so test strands as you approach the end of the cooking time. If it is overcooked the spaghetti becomes spongy and soaks up the sauce too readily and it disappears. This is then problematic as the spaghetti then clumps and sticks together).

Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the cream, milk and blue chesse by mashing the cheese into the liquid, add some black pepper. Dry fry the pine nuts in a small frying pan over a moderate heat until toasted and remove to a plate, then cook the bacon in the garlic oil and remove to the plate with the  toasted pine nuts once cooked though.

Once the spaghetti and beans are cooked, drain and return to the saucepan, add the cream-cheese mixture and stir over a very low heat until the cream is heated through (probably less than a minute), add the bacon and pine nuts and toss with the spaghetti. Dollop out onto bowls and serve with grated parmesan and a little more black pepper if you wish.

I might get a chance to blog whilst I am away but I’m not sure, so if not, see you in a couple of weeks! Bon vacances tout les monde!!

Chilled Thai Broccoli and Ginger Soup

This has got EVERYTHING going for it. Low-fat as I used low-fat coconut milk, non-dairy, no gluten, works well heated up or chilled so perfect for all seasons

and absolutely scrumptious.

Just before we get onto that I am going to just show you these in a fit of jingoistic, patriotic excitement. Good Luck Team GB we are rooting for you in this house!

So on with the recipe; you will need for 4-6 servings:

2 tbsp Thai Green Curry Paste, 1 can of Coconut Milk, 600ml of vegetable stock, 3 cm piece of peeled Ginger, grated, 2 freeze-dried Lime Leaves, 2 heads of Broccoli, washed and broken up into smallish florets, 2 tbsp of fresh Coriander, chopped, 1 ½ tsp of sugar, the juice of a Lime, plus a little zest to garnish.

If you have a recipe to make Green Curry Paste, then I strongly recommend preparing the paste from scratch. It is far superior to the bought stuff. I use Nigel Slater’s recipe which can be found here. Half the quantities stated gives 2 tbsp.

Once you have made the paste it is easy peasy. Pour the coconut milk and the stock into a heavy bottom saucepan over a moderate heat and add to that the curry paste, grated ginger, broccoli florets, kaffir lime leaves, sugar and half the lime juice. If you have not made your paste you may wish to add a tsp of fish sauce to supply a bit of saltiness. Bring to the boil and then turn the heat down and simmer, with a lid on, until the broccoli is tender. Blend. Add the remaining lime juice and stir in most of the chopped coriander and check the seasoning.

That’s it.

Ladle hot or cooled into bowls and sprinkle with a little more coriander and the lime zest. I started off with it hot as I couldn’t wait and then moved onto chilled with a couple of ice cubes in the bowl. It delivers that sharp heat that inflames the back of your throat. Yummy.

More from the Unloved Vegetables: Broad Beans pep up a Ham and Watermelon Low Carb Lunch

It’s the end of term this week and as fate would have it the work load has increased to celebrate. Hmmm….

I have been up to my elbows in melting moments, photogenic cupcakes and Sleeping Beauty↓

However I’m not eating any of this and in fact the recent cream fest has led to a week or so of obsequious eating, and I am happy to share.

The following was absolutely delicious and uses a very unloved vegetable: the broad bean. I have to say I’m not keen on them ‘skin on’ so my advice is to pop them out of the skins once cooked and cooled a little. This does not remove all the bitterness but makes a surprising difference!

Based on the classic ham and melon Italian antipasta dish, you will need for 1 serving: a thick slice of Watermelon, a handful of cooked Broad Beans, skinned, some Feta Cheese, diced, a couple of slices of Parma ham or prosciutto crudo, Mint, chopped, a sprinkle of Pumpkin Seeds, toasted, Lemon Dressing made with 3 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil, 1 tbsp lemon juice, salt, pepper, a pinch of sugar).

Start off by expelling some of the pips from the melon, just the big ones, and then using a pastry cutter (around 5cm in diameter), stamp out two or three circles, arrange on the plate, then arrange the ham, shredded roughly, feta cheese, broad beans, mint, and toasted pumpkin seeds. Drizzle over the dressing and you are ready to go. I added a couple of diced cold new potatoes I had lying around as well and it all looked like this:

Despite the work load, roll on the summer holidays…

N.B. You can buy conservative slices of Watermelon in supermarkets and unless you are very keen on the stuff I suggest you seek out these.

Strawberry Glut Rain Delay Trifle

Ok, I promise this is the last of the strawberries and cream for a little while, but in my defense, Child 2’s strawberry patch has been extremely prolific despite the weather and we are ankle-deep in them. This doesn’t excuse the relentless presence of cream I know, but don’t be alarmed, I shall balance all this decadence out with some low-fat, low carb ideas very soon!

So whilst we were watching the tennis excitement on Sunday a rain delay struck, very helpfully, at the point where my better half and I felt we should really make a few dinner plans and have a cup of tea. The following dessert had vaguely been discussed over the weekend as Saturday morning’s charity bakeathon had left us with an orange sponge traybake to use up. My better half thought he might fancy his hand at a trifle recipe using the said sponge and the endless heaps of strawberries and so with a small amount of guidance from me produced this:

The kids, who are always reluctant to eat too much fruit, were charmed by this after a nervous start as there is no sherry involved and the strawberries seemed to maintain a low profile compared to the other components.

This is a fantastic way to use up left over cake. Quantities of cake, fruit, custard and cream are not critical at all and will depend on the number of mouths you have to feed or possibly how much left over cake you have.

You will need: some plain-ish Sponge Cake, Jam, Strawberries, Pimms, Lemonade, Custard either bought or homemade and Whipped Cream.

  • Begin by making up the Pimms, 1:2 Pimms to Lemonade so stronger than normal. 2 shots Pimms and 4 shots Lemonade should be enough for a regular quantity of trifle (4-6 servings). Pour the Pimms and Lemonade into a saucepan and heat until boiling and then simmer for a minute or two to boil off the alcohol. Allow to cool a little.
  • If your cake doesn’t already have jam in it, then make jam ‘sandwiches’ with it and then cut the sandwiches into fingers and arrange a generous layer in the bottom of your bowl, we used morello cherry jam but raspberry or strawberry would be fine too.
  • Pour the cooling Pimms mixture over the sponge and let that soak in whilst you wash and slice up some strawberries (around 200g). Add them as a layer over the cake.
  • Spoon on about 300-400ml of ready-made vanilla custard, for the size above, or make up some however you usually do having let it cool down to some degree before you spoon onto the strawberries. Cover with clingfilm at this point, to stop a skin forming if the custard is warm, and allow it reach room temperature then chill in the fridge.
  • Just before serving whip up about 300ml of whipping cream and spread over.
  • Decorate with whole strawberries or slices if you wish.
  • Yummy

For anyone who is wondering how the Turkish Delight turned out it is on my Facebook page. Click on the link on the side bar to have a look.

I have a cheeky request for anyone who is feeling charitable today. I need one more FB like for my Cutest Cakes Facebook page to receive stats info, so if you do go and see the Turkish Delight and have an account please could you consider ‘liking’ my account if you haven’t already. Also many thanks and to all the new follows here and the ‘likers’ over on FB that I have already.

I love you all.

Dillicious Pea Puree with Roasted Salmon

Yummy

Along with babies heads and bacon sandwiches, the smell of dill really does it for me. It seems to be impossible to grow it outdoors in the UK so when I open those packets of supermarket fresh dill, the pungent, aniseedy, aroma transports me back to Greek holidays: dry heat radiating from hot stone, Retsina and decaying vegetation. The Greeks in particular cook with dill a lot; it finds its way into stews, stuffings and salads rather like the way the Italians rely on basil.

This recipe has it’s roots in some Nigella recipe, and she called the following ‘mushy’ peas. I love mushy peas but this term seems a little harsh for such as delicious dish. Puree seems more onomatopoeic. It’s also a quick one. As usual serves 2.

Preheat the oven to 200°C/Fan 180°C and prepare the required number of salmon fillets, for preference, skin on. Once up to temperature, place the salmon on an oiled baking sheet, season with salt and pepper and a little lemon juice and put in the center of the oven for around 15 minutes.

Meanwhile peel a clove of garlic and place in a saucepan. Cover with 2 cm of just boiled water, return to and allow to boil for 2 – 3 minutes. Remove the clove from the water and pop ½ of it in a mini chopper or blender. (This gives flavour without all the bitterness of raw garlic). Pour away the water and then top up with fresh and cook around 200g of petit pois in the usual way. Drain and add the peas to the mini chopper along with plenty of dill sprigs. It’s hard to quantify exactly but keep going until you think you have enough for your own taste. You do need more to impart the flavour than you think. 4 tbsp minimum I would say. Also add about a tablespoon of lemon juice and a good dessertspoon of anything from 0% fat Greek yoghurt through to full fat soured cream. Blend to give a fairly smooth puree and then check the seasoning. Remove the fish from the oven and serve up on plates with a good dollop of the pureed peas. Scale up of course if required.

Great as a dip for new potatoes either with the salmon or without and genuinely helps use up a bag of dill. It seems to be sold in rather generous quantities. Other ‘using up’ ideas would be stuffed into sandwiches with smoked salmon, lemon juice and black pepper and Fabulously Fine Filo Fish Pie.

There will be more dillights to come…

Beach Hut Food (or almost half a dozen things to do with Tortilla Chips)

Despite the distinctly mediocre weather we have been experiencing this week, we have found our collective stiff upper lip and pressed on with our half term/Jubilee plans regardless. We like to book a beach hut on Studland beach for a week each year and this week has been the appointed one. The weather on the Isle of Purbeck can frequently render national forecasts useless and certainly for part of the time I think we have managed to suffer far less rain than some. Sunday tea time we returned from a very pleasant afternoon at the beach, switched on the TV, to find the National Anthem in full flow on the River Thames and a bedraggled choir trying to look cheerful notwithstanding the driving rain. Nightmare.

Kitchen for the week

So during a typical week, we like to cook at the beach as much as possible and over the years we have developed Beach Hut Food. This can easily be regarded as camping food and so with the camping/glamping/festival season upon us some might find the following useful. I’m not really suggesting anything very revelatory just jogging memories I suspect.

The return of the 5 layer dip; the original recipe is here but an easier or possibly more child friendly version would be as follows:

Small tin of refried beans spread on the bottom of  the bowl/saucepan/suitable receptacle.

A layer of sweetcorn from a small tin to cover the beans or a layer of guacamole from a ‘ready to eat’ tub

A layer of tomato salsa, strength to your taste

A layer of half fat soured cream

A layer of grated cheese

Arrange the tortilla chips around the bowl as illustrated. This is really good as an accompaniment to a barbecue. N.B. Doritos are not very strong and therefore not good for scooping. Sainsburys Basics Tortilla Chips are much much better in this regard.

Tortilla Soup; British summers being what they are, soup is still a must even in July at times. Cuppa soup Cream of Tomato or a tin of Heinz Tomato can be pepped up with a few drops of Tabasco sauce and tortilla chips to dip with.

Camp style Caesar Salad; this is adapted from a Nigella recipe so she deserves all the credit. Arrange some salad leaves (Little Gem are good here) in a bowl and dress with Caesar salad dressing (we like the Pizza Express Light variety). Add to that handfuls of tortilla chips and grated Parmesan or any grated cheese.

Tortilla chip sandwiches; if you are at the beach, the ‘do I have sand in my sandwich’ concern can be offset by adding tortilla chips to the filling. The crunchy sensation they provide will mask any actual sand. Again grated cheese, a drop of Tabasco and chips work well and should you have these ingredients around because you made the 5 layer dip, will help with using stuff up.

As it was Jubilee weekend, we really pushed the boat out however and had my favourite sandwich of all, baguette with smoked salmon, lots of dill, lemon juice and black pepper and whilst barbecuing constructed this user-friendly arrangement.

Frozen raw King Prawns can defrost throughout the day in a cool box. Thread onto the skewers as the barbecue is lit to finish defrosting if necessary. Fill a fish holder with the skewers and cherry tomatoes for ease of handling.

The fish holder is often filled with Bream stuffed with dill. If you have sea air up your nostrils, this barbecue dish has to be one of life’s great pleasures.

Warming up for Wimbledon

‘Vintage’ Sofa prompts Granola Update

So the last couple of days have been rather manic, with any spare time devoted to the acquisition of this:

with this :

Not a lot of time for blogging then.

However I have been sitting on a granola update, as well as my new Chesterfield, for a couple of weeks so I am going to share that.

The original granola recipe is quite a free-form idea using rolled oats, desiccated coconut, nuts, seeds and dried fruit toasted in a slight honey/butter glaze. Commercially, of course, there are variations of these sorts of things and maple and pecan is quite a common combination. I accidentally bought some maple syrup flavoured Golden Syrup recently and an idea formed that the said syrup could replace the honey component. Therefore if you are bored with the original version, fancy a change or are not keen on dried fruit, try this:

250g Rolled Oats, 50g Desiccated Coconut, 60-80g Pecans, 60g Almonds (still with the skins on for preference) and 30g hazelnuts all roughly chopped, 75ml Maple Syrup flavoured Golden Syrup and 50g Butter.

Pre-heat the oven to 170°C/Fan 155°C.

Measure out the dry ingredients into a large bowl and the syrup and butter into a saucepan and heat gently until the butter is melted. Stir to blend completely with the syrup.

Pour the wet into the dry and stir round until the dry is properly coated with the wet.

Spread out on a baking sheet and bake/toast for 30-40 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so to brown evenly.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely before transferring to an air-tight container.

Good with other cereals as a garnish, on its own or with yoghurt and fruit. Yummy.

I’m sure this could be made substituting actual maple syrup for the flavoured golden syrup but in the UK, unlike Canada, it doesn’t grow on trees and really is quite expensive.

Biryani for Beginners

Image

It is still the Easter School Holidays. The kids are at home and so there isn’t much time for a finely honed blog post.

I thought I might try the quick post function.

I cannot profess to be an authority when it comes to making curry. Friends and family seem to own books on the subject with words in the title like ‘Bible’. The only curry recipe book I have at home features in the picture above and is called ‘Let’s eat Indian at home’! For ages I thought it was more snappily entitled ‘Let eat Indian tonight!’ It’s in a series; one could be eating Italian, Mexican or Chinese instead. I can’t say I even follow the recipes that closely, just absorbing a feel for what ingredients and spices are necessary to distinguish my saags from my bhunas. I don’t seem to have the time for the full recipes either so usually invent and as usual that is what happened last night.

My Biryani worked out very well though, I knew what I was aiming for in principle but in the end I don’t think this is authentic in any way as I went entirely off-piste in construction. Like with all these things it is a bit of a effort, a 2-stage process, but surprisingly quick as well. This serves 4.

So there are 2 parts to this, a tomato and spinach sauce and the biryani. I will list the ingredients out as we go along but the biryani can optionally include 30g each of soaked sultanas and toasted flaked almonds. Therefore, if using, before you even get to the tomato sauce you need to soak the sultanas in a bowl of boiling water.

Stage One – The Tomato Sauce

¼ medium Onion, chopped, 1 tbsp flavourless Oil, crushed clove of Garlic, good pinch Chilli flakes, ½ tsp ground Ginger, 1 tsp ground coriander, 1 tsp ground cumin, pinch of Asafoetida, 1 red pepper, sliced, 1 tin of Tomatoes, chopped, or ½ tin of Passata, a handful of Spinach leaves, roughly chopped, 1 tsp chopped Mint, salt and pepper.

Heat the oil in a saucepan and add the onion, fry over a moderate heat until transparent and tinged brown round the edges, add the garlic, stir round for 30 seconds or so, add all the spices and stir again for another 30 seconds. Add the pepper, coat with the oil and spices and then add the tomatoes or passata, season, cover and simmer gently, stirring occasionally whist you make the biyani. If using passata you may need to slacken the sauce with recently boiled water from the kettle to prevent it from drying out.

Stage Two – The Biryani

350g Basmati rice, 800ml just boiled water, some left over roast lamb or chicken if you wish, chopped, ¾ Onion, sliced, 2 tbsp flavourless Oil, crushed clove of Garlic, 1 tsp finely chopped Ginger or ½ tsp of ground, pinch of Chilli flakes to taste, 1 tsp ground Coriander, 2 tsp Cumin, 1 tsp Turmeric, pinch of Garam Masala, 4 or 5 Mushrooms, sliced, juice of 1 Lemon, good handful of frozen Peas, salt and pepper, optionally 30g each of flaked Almonds, toasted and the soaked Sultanas, fresh Coriander to serve if you have it.

Preheat the oven to 180°C/Fan 165°C. In something like a Le Creuset casserole, heat the oil and fry the onion again gently until tinged brown round the edges, then add the garlic, ginger and spices except the Garam Masala and fry again for a minute or so, add the meat, if using, and mushrooms and coat in the spices. Then add the rice and again coat in the spices and cook for a minute stirring continuously. Add 600ml of the boiled water, stir again to combine and once the liquid is bubbling, season, cover and pop into the oven for 15 minutes. Whilst that is cooking, toast the flaked almonds in a frying pan without oil over a moderate heat, shaking the pan frequently. This only takes a minute or so then remove from the heat and set aside. Drain the sultanas and set aside too.

Once the 15 minutes is up take the casserole out of the oven, stir the rice mixture which should look pretty much cooked, add the peas, lemon juice, Garam Masala and remaining 200ml of recently boiled water, stir through and return, covered, to the oven for 5 more minutes.

Add the mint and spinach to the tomato sauce and stir through until the spinach is wilted. Check the seasoning.

Once the 5 minutes is up, remove biryani from oven, fork through and add the almonds and sultanas if using. Sprinkle with fresh coriander.

Serve a bed of the biryani with a garnish of tomato sauce on top.

The kids coped fairly well with this, obviously you can tailor the chilli heat to suit and leave out almonds and sultanas to give a more child-friendly spicy rice dish which would be enjoyable on its own. Ours really liked the rice; the tomato/spinach sauce – not so much!

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The Cutest Cakes: Individual Iced Cakes

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