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Monday
Apr082019

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.

Thursday
Apr042019

White Chocolate Cheesecake at Springtime Treat

The white chocolate is only a delicate presence here. It brings a gorgeous, rounded vanilla flavour and helps the cheesecake set in the fridge overnight to a perfect, tenderly firm consistency. And while I love this pale, plain and unadorned, it can be beautifully partyfied by a sprinkling of chopped pistachios and a jewel-bright scattering of pomegranate seeds.

INGREDIENTS

Makes: 8 slices

FOR THE FILLING:

  • 7 ounces white cooking chocolate (roughly chopped)
  • 10 ounces full-fat cream cheese (at room temperature, drained of any liquid)
  • 1¼ cups heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract

FOR THE BASE:

  • 6 ounces graham crackers
  • 3 tablespoons soft unsalted butter

Directions

You will need 1 x 8-inch springform cake tin.

  1. Put the pieces of white chocolate into a heatproof bowl that will sit on top of a saucepan. Fill the pan with a small amount of water, just enough to come up about 1½ inches up the sides, and bring to the boil. Sit the bowl of chocolate on top, making sure the base of the bowl doesn’t touch the water. Turn the heat down and let the white chocolate melt very gently, every now and then giving it a careful stir with a silicone spatula. Once there are only a few small lumps of unmelted chocolate left, give it another stir then remove the bowl and sit it somewhere for about 10 minutes, until the chocolate remains liquid but is cooled to room temperature.
  2. For the base, break the biscuits into a food processor and blitz until you have almost all crumbs. Add the butter and process again until the mixture starts to clump and cleave to the blade. If doing this by hand, put the biscuits into a bag, crush to crumbs, then melt the butter and stir into the biscuit crumbs until well mixed.
  3. Press the biscuit mixture into the springform cake tin, letting some come a little way up the sides. The back of a dessert or serving spoon is the easiest tool for the already easy job here. Stash the tin in the fridge while you get on with the cheesecake filling.
  4. Beat the cream cheese in a bowl that will take all the ingredients later – a wooden spoon is fine here – until it is soft. Gently fold in the slightly cooled, melted white chocolate.
  5. Softly whip the cream so it is thickened but the peaks don’t hold their shape, then fold it into the white chocolate mixture in two batches. Add the lemon juice and vanilla extract and fold these in, then pour and scrape the pale, almost-moussy mixture into the biscuit-lined tin. Smooth the top, cover the tin with cling film and refrigerate overnight before serving.
  6. When you’re ready to eat it, make sure it’s been out of the fridge for 10 minutes before unclipping from the tin and cutting it into slices. Don’t expect to be able to remove the whole cheesecake from the tin’s base unless you are both patient and dexterous. I was once foolhardy enough to try…

ADDITIONAL INFORMATION

MAKE AHEAD / STORE NOTE:
Refrigerate, covered with cling film, for up to 3 days.

FREEZE NOTE:
Can be frozen for up to 3 months. Wrap the cheesecake, still in its tin, tightly in a double layer of cling film and a layer of foil. To defrost, unwrap the cheesecake, cover the top loosely with fresh cling film and leave in the fridge overnight.

This Recipe is featured in Nigella Lawson's "At My Table"

Friday
Feb222019

Hearty Three-Bean Baked Beans a Winner

Ingredients

  • 1/2 pound ground beef
  • 5 bacon strips, diced
  • 1/2 cup chopped onion
  • 1/3 cup packed brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/4 cup ketchup
  • 1/4 cup barbecue sauce
  • 2 tablespoons molasses
  • 2 tablespoons prepared mustard
  • 1/2 teaspoon chili powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 cans (16 ounces each) pork and beans, undrained
  • 1 can (16 ounces) butter beans, rinsed and drained
  • 1 can (16 ounces) kidney beans, rinsed and drained

Directions

  • Preheat oven to 350°. In a large skillet, cook and crumble beef with bacon and onion over medium heat until beef is no longer pink; drain.
  • Stir in sugars, ketchup, barbecue sauce, molasses, mustard, chili powder and salt until blended. Stir in beans. Transfer to a greased 2-1/2-qt. baking dish. Bake, covered, until beans reach desired thickness, about 1 hour. 
  • Freeze option: Freeze cooled bean mixture in freezer containers. To use, partially thaw in refrigerator overnight. Heat through in a saucepan, stirring occasionally and adding a little water if necessary.
Nutrition Facts
3/4 cup: 269 calories, 8g fat (2g saturated fat), 19mg cholesterol, 708mg sodium, 42g carbohydrate (21g sugars, 7g fiber), 13g protein.
Tuesday
Feb192019

Sweetcorn Chowder Perfect Food for Chilly Day

INTRODUCTION

The tortillas we use here are those crisp, crunchy, corn-gritty triangles that somehow always feel like a guilty pleasure. Although having said that, I know only that "guilty pleasures" exist, but I have never understood the point of feeling guilty about pleasure. Rather, I see plenty of reasons for feeling guilty about failing to take pleasure in things.

When I plan to make this, I tend to take a big pack of frozen corn out of the deep freeze at breakfast time, in readiness for a super-quick, fantastically soothing, mellow-yellow and very pleasing supper that night.

Use whatever cheese you like; mostly I go for Cheddar since I always have some in the fridge, but I am happy about using up other bits and pieces. If children are eating, it's wise to omit the chillis - unless they're being very annoying.

INGREDIENTS

Serves: 6

  • 6 cups frozen sweetcorn kernels (defrosted)
  • 3 scallions (debearded and halved)
  • 1 clove garlic (peeled)
  • ¼ cup semolina
  • 6 cups hot vegetable broth (made from concentrate or cube)
  • 14 ounces lightly salted tortilla chips
  • 2 cups grated cheddar cheese
  • 2 long red chiles (deseeded and finely chopped (optional))

METHOD

  1. Preheat the oven to 400ºF.
  2. Drain the sweetcorn and put into a food processor with the scallions, garlic and semolina. Blitz to a speckled primrose mush; unless you have a big processor you may have to do this in two batches.
  3. Tip this mixture into a large saucepan, add the hot vegetable broth and bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and let the chowder simmer, partially covered for 10 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, spread the tortilla chips out on a foil-lined baking sheet and sprinkle the cheese over. Warm in the hot oven for 5-10 minutes or until the cheese melts over the chips.
  5. Ladle the soup into bowls and put a small mound of cheese-molten chips into the middle of each bowl. Sprinkle some of the red chilli on top, if you feel like it, and serve immediately to very grateful people.
Monday
Jan212019

Cold Cure Soup

  • YIELD: 4 servings (about 6 cups)
  • TIME: 2.25 hours 

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 pounds chicken wings
  • 1 carrot, peeled and halved
  • 1 onion, peeled and halved
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 1 3-inch knob of ginger, peeled
  • 1 tablespoon Maldon salt or 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt
  • ¼ cup fresh citrus juice (2 parts orange juice to 1 part lime juice), plus zest in strips
  •  Chopped cilantro, for garnish
  • 1 small red chili pepper, seeded and cut into fine rings, for garnish

PREPARATION

  1. In a large stockpot, combine chicken, carrot, onion, cinnamon, ginger and salt. Add 3 quarts water, orange zest and juice.
  2. Place over high heat, and bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low. Simmer, uncovered, until liquid has reduced to about half and chicken flavor is strong, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
  3. Pour through a fine mesh strainer into a bowl, and discard solids. Allow broth to cool, then refrigerate overnight. When ready to serve, remove layer of solidified fat from surface, and wipe surface of congealed soup with a paper towel to remove traces of grease. Soup may be covered and refrigerated for up to three days.
  4. To serve, warm soup, ladle into mugs or bowls, and garnish.

 

Recipe from Nigella Lawson's: 

At My Table