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Tuesday
May152018

Sweet Potato Mac and Cheese 

From Nigella Lawson's "Simply Nigella"

I’m just going to say it: this is the best macaroni cheese I’ve ever eaten – better than the macaroni cheese I ate as a child; better than the macaroni cheese I brought my own children up on when they were little (they don’t agree); better than any fancy restaurant macaroni cheese with white truffle or lobster; better than any macaroni cheese I have loved in my life thus far, and there have been many.

I don’t feel it’s boastful to say as much, as the greatness lies not in any brilliance on my part, but in the simple tastes of the ingredients as they fuse in the heat. That’s home cooking for you.

Serves 4
sweet potatoes 2.5 pounds
pennette 1 1/3 cups pasta
soft unsalted butter 4 tbsp
plain flour 3  tbsp
full-fat milk 2.1 cups
English mustard 1 tsp
paprika ¼ tsp , plus ¼ tsp to sprinkle on top
feta cheese/or other sharp cheese 1 cup
mature cheddar 1 cup, grated, plus 1.2 cup to sprinkle on top
fresh sage leaves 4
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Put on a large-ish pan of water to boil, with the lid on to make it come to the boil faster.

Peel the sweet potatoes and cut them roughly into cubed pieces. When the water’s boiling, add salt to taste, and then the sweet potato pieces, and cook them for about 10 minutes or until they are soft. Scoop them out of the water into a bowl – using a “spider” or slotted spoon – and lightly mash with a fork, without turning them into a purée. Don’t get rid of this water, as you will need it to cook your pasta in later.

In another saucepan, gently melt the butter and add the flour, whisking to form a roux, then take the pan off the heat, slowly whisk in the milk and, when it’s all combined and smooth, put back on the heat. Exchange your whisk for a wooden spoon, and continue to stir until your gently bubbling sauce has lost any floury taste and has thickened. Add the mustard and the ¼ teaspoon of paprika. Season to taste, but do remember that you will be adding cheddar and salty feta later, so underdo it for now.

Cook the pennette in the sweet-potato water, starting to check 2 minutes earlier than packet instructions dictate, as you want to make sure it doesn’t lose its bite entirely. Drain (reserving some of the pasta cooking water first) and then add the pennette to the mashed sweet potato, and fold in to combine; the heat of the pasta will make the mash easier to mix in.

Add the feta cheese to the sweet potato and pasta mixture, crumbling it in so that it is easier to disperse evenly, then fold in the white sauce, adding the 1.5 cups grated cheddar as you go. Add some of the pasta cooking water, should you feel it needs loosening up at all.

Check for seasoning again, then, when you’re happy, spoon the brightly sauced macaroni cheese into 4 small ovenproof dishes  (or 1 large rectangular 2quart dish). Sprinkle the remaining cheddar over each one, dust with the remaining ¼ teaspoon of paprika, then shred the sage leaves and scatter the skinny green ribbons over the top, too.

Put the pots on a baking tray, pop into the oven and bake for 20 minutes (or, if you’re making this in a larger dish, bake for 30-35 minutes), by which time they will be piping hot and bubbling, and begging you to eat them.

Friday
May112018

LINGUINE WITH LEMON, GARLIC AND THYME MUSHROOMS

Perfect for Warm Days Ahead

This is one of my proudest creations and, I suppose, a good example of a recipe that isn't originally from Italy, but sits uncontroversially in her culinary canon. I don't think it would be too presumptuous to name this linguine ai funghi crudi. It is about as speedy as you can imagine: you do no more to the mushrooms than slice them, steep them in oil, garlic, lemon and thyme and toss them into the hot cooked pasta.

If all you can find is regular button mushrooms, this pasta is still worth making - so no excuses.

INGREDIENTS

Serves: 4-6

METRIC CUPS
  • 8 ounces cremini mushrooms
  • ⅓ cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon sea salt flakes (or 1½ teaspoons table salt)
  • 1 small clove garlic (crushed)
  • zest and juice of 1 lemon
  • 4 sprigs fresh thyme (leaves stripped off)
  • 1 pound linguine
  • 1 bunch fresh parsley (chopped)
  • 2 - 3 tablespoons freshly grated parmesan cheese (or to taste)
  • freshly ground black pepper

Instructions

  1. Slice the mushrooms finely, and put in a large bowl with the oil, salt, crushed garlic, lemon juice and zest, and marvellously scented thyme leaves.
  2. Cook the pasta according to packet instructions and drain loosely, retaining some water. Quickly put the drained pasta into the bowl with the mushroom mixture.
  3. Toss everything together well, then add the chopped parsley, grated cheese and pepper to taste, before tossing again, and eat with joy in your heart.
Friday
Apr132018

Shortcut Sausage Meatballs

Total:
1 hr 5 min
Active:
30 min
Yield:
4 servings
Level:
Easy

Ingredients

  • 1 pound hot or sweet Italian sausages
  • 2 tablespoons garlic-flavored oil
  • 4 fat or 6 spindly scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/4 cup white wine or vermouth
  • Two 14-ounce cans diced tomatoes, plus water to rinse 1/2 can
  • 2 bay leaves
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Chopped fresh parsley, to serve (optional)

Directions

Squeeze the sausage meat from the sausages and roll small cherry-tomato-sized meatballs out of it, putting them onto a plastic wrap-lined baking sheet as you go. Your final tally should be around 40.

Heat the oil in a large, heavy pan or flameproof Dutch oven and add the meatballs, frying them until golden; as they become firmer, nudge them up in the pan to make room for the rest, if you can't fit them all in at first.

When all the meatballs are in the pan and browned, add the scallions and oregano and stir about gently.

Add the wine or vermouth and diced tomatoes, then fill half of one of the empty cans with cold water and tip it into the other empty can, then into the pan. The can-to-can technique is just my way of making sure you rinse out as much of the tomato residue as possible.

Put in the bay leaves and let the pan come to a fast simmer. Let cook like this, uncovered, for 20 minutes, until the sauce has thickened slightly and the meatballs are cooked through. Check the sauce for seasoning, adding some salt and pepper, if you like.

During this time you can cook whatever you fancy to go with the meatballs, whether it be pasta, rice, whatever.

Once the meatballs are ready, you can eat them immediately or let them stand, off the heat but still on the stove, for 15 minutes. The sauce will thicken up a bit on standing. Should your diners be other than children who balk at green bits, sprinkle with parsley on serving.

Friday
Jan052018

Cornbread-Topped Chili Warms Winter Nights (and Days)

There are few more welcome sights than a big vat of chilli. The cornbread topping is a glorious golden touch, that everyone can crumble into the spiced meat as they eat, for ballast and crunchy contrast. It makes your life easier and the chilli better if you make the meat up in advance, adding the topping and baking the lot just before you serve.

INGREDIENTS

Serves: up to 20

METRICCUPS

FOR THE CHILLI CON CARNE

  • 4 onions
  • 4 x 14 ounces cans of diced tomatoes
  • 8 tablespoons tomato ketchup
  • 8 tablespoons tomato puree
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
  • 2 x 15 ounces cans of kidney beans (drained)
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 4 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons dried chiles (or to taste)
  • 2 teaspoons ground coriander
  • 2 teaspoons ground cumin
  • 5 cardamom pods (bruised)
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 3¼ pounds ground beef

FOR THE CORNBREAD

  • 1½ teaspoons salt
  • 4 cups cornmeal
  • 4 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 6 teaspoons baking powder
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 3 cups buttermilk
  • 4 large eggs
  • 2 teaspoons honey
  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 cups coarsely grated cheddar cheese

TO SERVE

  • 4 ripe avocados
  • 4 scallions
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 4 tablespoons chopped cilantro
  • 2 cups sour cream
  • paprika to dust over
  • 3¾ cups grated cheddar cheese

METHOD

  1. Peel and finely chop the onions; you might want to use the processor here, and if so, add the peeled garlic or mince it by hand. Heat the oil in a very large pan - it has to take everything later - and fry the onion and garlic until they begin to soften. Add the chilli, coriander, cumin and crushed cardamom pods and stir well.
  2. Deseed and finely dice the red bell peppers, and tip into the spicy onion. Break up the ground beef into the pan and, using a fork, keep turning it to separate it as the meat browns. It's hard to brown quite so much meat, so just do the best you can.
  3. Add the diced tomatoes, kidney beans, ketchup, puree and water, stirring to make a rich red sauce. When the chilli starts to boil, sprinkle over the cocoa and stir it in. Simmer partially covered for 1½ hours. At this point you can cool and freeze the chilli, or just keep it in the fridge - or a cool place - overnight.
  4. Preheat the oven to gas mark 7/425ºF. Tip the chilli into a large, wide dish or keep in the pan that is ovenproof.
  5. Combine the salt, cornmeal, flour, baking powder and cinnamon in a bowl.
  6. Whisk together the buttermilk, eggs, honey and oil in a jug, and then stir into the dry ingredients, mixing to make a vivid yellow batter.
  7. Pour the cornmeal topping over the chilli con carne, or blob it over to cover the top as evenly as possible. Don't worry if some of the chilli seeps through as this won't matter one tiny bit.
  8. Sprinkle the cheese over the top of the cornbread and then bake in the oven for 30 minutes or until the cornbread topping is risen and golden and the chilli underneath is bubbling. How long this precisely takes depends on how cold or hot the chilli was when it went into the oven. Since it's such a huge vat, you may find it simpler to reheat it on the stove in its pan, before it gets its topping, to start with.
  9. Let the chilli stand for about 5 minutes once out of the oven before cutting the top into squares or slices to serve with a helping of chilli underneath.
  10. And alongside this chilli, as with the vegetarian chilli overleaf, you should dollop out an un-chillied guacamole, some cool sour cream and a mounded pile of strong grated Cheddar. So, mash the ripe avocados with the finely chopped scallions and add the lime juice and some salt to taste. Stir in most of the chopped coriander and turn into two bowls, sprinkling each with the remaining coriander.
  11. Divide the sour cream into another two bowls, and dust with a little paprika and, into yet another pair of bowls, grate the Cheddar so that people can take clumps and add the tangy cheese to their plates of guacamole and sour-cream splodged chilli.

This recipe is featured in Nigella Lawson's "Feast," Available at Amazon and other bookstores. 

Friday
Jan052018

Laurie Colwin's Oven Baked Mustard Chicken

  • YIELD - 4 to 6 servings
  • TIME- About 2 hours 15 minutes

Joshua Bright for The New York Times

INGREDIENTS

  • ¾ cup Dijon mustard
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cinnamon
  •  Salt and black pepper
  • 2 cups fine dry unseasoned bread crumbs
  • 2 chickens, 2 to 3 pounds each, quartered, rinsed and dried
  • 1 tablespoon sweet paprika, or as needed
  • 3 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

PREPARATION

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. In a large mixing bowl, combine mustard, garlic, thyme, cinnamon, a pinch of salt and 1/2 teaspoon black pepper. Place bread crumbs in another large bowl.
  2. Working in batches, coat chicken quarters on all sides with mustard mixture. Shake off excess mustard, then coat completely with bread crumbs. Arrange in a single layer in a large, shallow baking pan.
  3. Dust the chicken with paprika and scatter butter pieces on top. Bake until crust is deep golden brown and crispy, about 2 hours. (Depending on the oven, the size of the pan and the size of the chickens, baking time may be as long as 2 1/2 hours.) Serve hot or at room temperature.