Tag Archives: recipe

Fish Pie (serves 4 to 6)

what's for dinner?

I looked in the freezer at about 4 o’ clock and scanned my options. More often than not I confess that I am not actually prepared to make dinner. I think about food all the time and I read cookbooks and cooking magazines if I have a spare moment but, I’m not really a concrete planner of meals. I go over ingredients and techniques in my head (my form of daydreaming) but never want to pin myself down to one dish over another. During the day, in my head, anything seems possible. Then evening begins to loom and the people I live with start asking the dreaded question “what’s for dinner?” and I need to snap back into reality. If I have nothing at the ready from the shop or in the fridge, the freezer door is my reality and today, as the hour grew late I pulled out the quickest thing – fish! I had 3 pieces of salmon and 3 pieces of tilapia??? I didn’t want to fry it and then have to make a sauce or simmer in a broth and then cook rice or some other starch, along with a vegetable. I wanted this something to be an all in one affair. Throwing the whole dinner in the oven in one dish was an appealing thought this evening so, when asked, I shouted out, “Fish Pie!” The prep at the beginning seems a little daunting but I find that making a quick burst at the beginning and nothing much after that is a good way to go (especially if you are tired). In defense of frozen fish I have to say that yes, of course I would prefer fresh out of the water but I don’t want to have to go to the marketplace every time I want a piece of fish. I don’t live by the dock or in a coastal town so I do the sensible thing…I buy certain kinds of fish from the freezer section. Fish these days is frozen pretty efficiently and I have had more “off” fish from the fish counter than from my freezer. So my advice is….keep a little frozen fish in your kitchen for nights like these.

You will need: 3 pieces salmon (6oz each approx), 3 pieces of tilapia (4-6oz each approx), 1 onion, 3 lbs potatoes, 3 cups milk (2% or whole),3 bay leaves, 1 cup frozen peas, 1 tsp peppercorns, 8 0z unsalted butter (8 tbs or 1 stick), 4 tbs unbleached white flour, 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt, 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper.

Peel potatoes and put in pot and fill pot with cold water until the potatoes are just covered. Boil until soft (test with a knife) and then mash with 4 oz (4 tbs) butter, 1/2 cup milk, 1 tsp salt and freshly ground black pepper and set aside.

Preheat oven 375*

Rinse fish and reserve on a plate. Put remaining milk (2 1/2 cups) in shallow saute pan (large enough to cook the fish) and add the onion (quartered),

Poach fish

peppercorns, and bay leaves. Turn the pan to medium heat and let the milk come to a very gentle boil. Add fish in as even a layer as possible. Shake the pan gently so the milk covers or washes over the fish. Turn pan heat to low, cover and poach

add fish to casserole

the fish until just cooked (about 4 to 5 minutes). Remove fish from milk and reserve on a plate. Strain milk into a bowl to remove all the seasonings. Reserve the milk for sauce. Keep pan on low and add the remainder of the butter (4tbs). When it has melted add the flour and stir with a whisk until smooth and has cooked into the butter (about 1 minute). Add the warm milk slowly to the pan and whisk continuously. Add 1/2 tsp kosher salt and some freshly ground black

take out of oven when it looks like this!

pepper. Add peas and let it cook for about 3 to 4 minutes. Turn off pan. Take a shallow casserole (2′ deep) and butter the sides and bottom thinly. Flake fish (break up slightly) into bottom of casserole in an even layer and then pour sauce over the top of it. Spread potatoes over the top of the sauce & fish. Smooth out with a fork (will leave a nice lined pattern) and add a few thin slices of butter to the top of the potatoes (optional). Cook in oven for 35 to 40 minutes. The top should be starting to look golden and the sauce a little bubbly on the sides. Remove from oven and let it sit for about 10 minutes before serving. I served this with some sautéed spinach, (sautéed in extra virgin olive oil about 3 minutes before serving). Everyone cleaned their plates – the way it should be..

Lamb Stew

It was a freezing cold day so tonight’s dinner had to be primitive. It had to be something you would cook if your house was devoid of heat and your dinner was going to be the only thing to keep you warm in your bed at night. Our big blanket came this evening in the form of lamb. Nothing warms better than a steaming bowl of syrupy lamb stew. I know lots of people who cringe when I talk about lamb for dinner. They find it too intense a taste. For me it is a food that I grew up eating. It was a once a week offering and came in a big pot with lots of potatoes bobbing in the stew broth. I have been conditioned to believe that it is the medicine for cold nights (well that and a hot water bottle!) and my job is to pass that message onto my children.  It takes a bit of time to cook so get it into the oven as soon as you can.

You will need: 3 lbs lamb shoulder, 8 cloves garlic (separated but left in skins), 3 carrots, 3 parsnips, 2 celery stalks, 1 140z can whole peeled Roma tomatoes & juice, 1 onion, 1 cup red wine, 3 cups vegetable stock or chicken stock OR 3 cups water and 1 bouillon cube (chicken or vegetable), 1 tbs chopped fresh rosemary, salt and freshly ground pepper.

Prehead oven 325*

Dice onions, slice carrots, parsnips & celery. Chop rosemary. Set vegetables aside

season meat..

and get the big 12″ saute pan onto the stove on high heat. Season the lamb with salt and pepper. If you don’t buy the meat already cut into pieces you can do the

sear the meat

job yourself. Cut the meat into big chunks. If you do not have a big saute pan use your heavy casserole pot to do the job. When pan is hot add 3 tbs olive oil and sear meat in batches until it is well browned. Turn heat down and add onions &

onion, celery, carrot, parsnip - saute

celery and saute for about 3 minutes. Add carrots and parsnips and saute for a further 4 to 5 minutes.  Add rosemary, give it a minute before adding the red wine. Let it bubble for a minute or two and then add the tomatoes, garlic & stock or water and bouillon cube.  Let the liquid come to a boil at which time put the lamb back into the liquid. Taste the liquid and add more seasoning (salt  & pepper) if you think it needs it – this is purely a matter of taste.  Cook in oven for

Bring everything to a boil

2 hours. Take out and test meat. If it needs more liquid add a cup of water and stir in. If it is not completely tender put back in oven for

eat bread and butter to stave off hunger..

another 1/2 hour. Take it out and let it sit covered for 10 minutes.  Serve with some baby steamed potatoes (or rice) and some greens. Sometimes a big loaf of bread is all you may feel like……pretty easy dinner to put together.

et voila!

Pork Wontons (for Cheaters!)

Saturday Night in the Crappy Kitchen

No, I don’t mean that kind of cheater, although if you are cheating in your relationship there is no reason why you can’t cheat making wontons also – you may even have less guilt about using bought wonton wrappers and not making them from scratch? I will say that I feel absolutely no guilt about buying the wonton dough – if I didn’t buy it already cut into perfect little thin squares, I would only make these wonderful morsels of heaven on rare occasions.

good wrappers

I also happen to find the perfect brand and now I happily make these any time there is a request! They still require a little bit of time (especially if you are making them solo) so I usually like to make them on the weekend when I can invite more hands to take part and we just eat them as they cook.

Cheaters

This leads to all sorts of great “kitchen time” and in my world there is nothing better than cooking, eating, talking, laughing and of course, drinking with family and friends even if we all are a little squished into my crappy kitchen. So, to make a long story longer, we made pork wontons for dinner this Saturday evening. I had my daughter’s nimble fingers wrapping alongside me and we turned out about 80 wontons in no time!  We ate them up like savages in the kitchen. I was civilized enough however and give everyone their own little bowl of dipping sauce and plate and nothing much was said save some oohs and aahs. I served this with edamame beans (soy beans) in their pods. I steamed them and mixed with a little extra virgin olive oil and coarse kosher salt. My friend Lisa grows them in her garden in the summer but I bought these frozen in their pods and they tasted really good. You could of course serve the wontons with a crispy salad or some stir-fry vegetables and rice.

You will need: 1 lb ground pork, 6 scallions, 3 big cloves garlic, 1 tbs freshly grated ginger, 1 tbs soy sauce, 2 tbs mirin (this is a sweetened sake you can find in the Asian section of your supermarket) or rice wine, 2 tsp sesame oil, 1/2 to 1 tsp white sugar (fine crystals),  50 to 60 wonton wrappers (mine were 3″ sq), vegetable oil for frying.

Put pork in big bowl. Slice scallions very thinly, chop garlic finely, grate ginger and set aside.

scallion, garlic & ginger ready to go

In a little bowl add soy sauce, mirin, sesame oil and sugar and mix together. Put chopped vegetables into pork, along with the liquid and mix very well (I use my hands – most effective). You can do this ahead of time – up to 6 hours or so.. Now you are ready to put the filling into the wonton wrapper – I put as many as I can on a board (6 to 9) in nice even rows.

wonton stations

Get a little bowl of water and set it beside your board. Dip a finger into the water and wet the borders of each wonton. Take a little spoon and place a small amount of pork onto the center of the wrapper (about 1 full tsp) and fold one corner directly over the opposite corner (you will have a triangle).

then fold..

Press down very lightly and then take the other corners and fold into the middle. It is like a little envelope. I know that round wonton wrappers are folded differently (you just put the meat in the center and close the edges together so it becomes a 1/2 round shape and then you sort of fold and pinch it together) but for the squares I find this method works very well.

work from 3pm and clockwise to 12 noon!

It is all a question of experimentation until you find a method that gets those little dough skins together securely. I like to get all the wontons made before the frying gets underway. It just gets too hectic otherwise. I place all the wontons on big lightly floured plates until they are all ready to be cooked.

Phew!

Now it is time to cook them: I generally fry them but here are both methods below.

Frying: Get a big pan and turn to medium/high heat. When the pan is hot add vegetable oil – enough to cover the bottom of your pan (2 tbs).

sizzle

Let the oil get hot (it will sort of shimmer) and add wontons in a single layer. DO NOT crowd your pan or your impatience will lead to soggy wontons! Cook until golden and quickly turn over. The whole process will take about 4 to 5 minutes per batch. Put on plate and watch them disappear. If you have to keep them warm, put in oven at 180* uncovered.

Boiling: Put on a big pot (6-8 qt) and fill with cold water and about 2 tsp salt. Cover and let the water come to a rolling boil. Add wontons in batches (whatever fits comfortably only) and let them gently boil (turn heat down to about medium) until they float to the surface. This process takes about the same amount of time as the frying method.

Dipping sauce: I make a very simple sauce and here it is – 6 tbs soy sauce, 3 tbs mirin, 2 chopped scallions, 1 tsp sesame oil.

dipping sauce

Combine all ingredients and put in a couple of different bowls (or all hands will be crowding around the only bowl!).

Alternatively you could just dip in soy sauce alone or mirin alone (salty or sweet)

Pork Wontons served with Edamame Beans and Dipping Sauce - yum

Shin beef with smoked paprika, onions and peppers

Tonight I was at a total loss as what to cook for dinner. I looked in the fridge and saw about 3 lbs of Shin Beef looking back at me. Personally I was not remotely in the mood for beef but knew that is what it must be, since it was there and I wasn’t about to thaw something else. OK, so shin beef??? Why did I buy it??

what to do?

It looked meaty and I was attracted to the big shin marrow bone in every slice? So I was going to have to evoke the emotion I felt when buying it and get stuck in!  I opened the cupboard that held all my spices and honed in on the smoked paprika and, in that moment I knew that this dinner would be…..shin beef, smoked paprika and onions! Simple. I was also still thinking that I did not want beef, so I decided to take a bag of baby french lentil beans that I have had for a while and make a kind of stew….Sometimes when I truly don’t what to eat what everyone else is eating I admit it, I make another dish!  This is not a problem for me since hanging out in the kitchen is where I want to be and while the shin beef was cooking why not try to invent another dish for the annals!

Preheat oven to 400*

You will need: 3 lbs of sliced shin beef, 4 small onions, 1 red pepper, 1 cup white wine, 3 cup vegetable or chicken broth, 1 cup water (more if needed), 1 1/2 tbs smoked paprika, 2 bay leaves or 1 sachet of bouquet garni, 2 tbs unbleached white flour, salt and black pepper, olive oil for frying.

Dice onions and chop pepper into big pieces and set aside. Put big saute pan (12″) on stove top on high heat.

sear

Let it get hot and add olive oil and wait for 1 minute before adding 1 layer of seasoned (salt & pepper sprinkled onto raw meat) shin beef to pan. Sear on one side and then on the other. This will take about 2 minutes per side. Remove to plate as it cooks and set aside. When all the meat has been seared turn heat down to medium and add onions. Let them cook for about 3 minutes before adding the red pepper. Give it a stir and let cook for about 2 minutes more. Add paprika and stir in and let it cook for about 1 minute. Add flour and bay leaves and let it cook for another minute before adding the cup of white wine. Stir and let cook for about 2 minutes before adding the rest of the broth and the water. Turn up heat and let it come to a boil. Taste broth and season with salt and pepper.  Put shin beef back into the pan, cover and place in oven for 1 1/2 hour (during that hour is when I  made the lentil dish). Take it out after the alotted time and test the meat. It should be really tender. If not, put back in oven for another 10 minutes or so until you are satisfied. Let it rest out of oven for about 10 or 15 minutes. I served it with leftover rice and threw some spinach in the bowls of the vegetable lovers. To reheat leftover rice I put it in a pot, cover with lid and heat on the lowest setting on your stove for about 20 minutes (I suppose you could try the microwave but I don’t have one so have no advice to give on that count – sorry).

spot the marrow

Big thing to note about this dish: The bones in the shin are full of bone marrow. This is the gelatinous unctuous morsel found in the center of the bone and is the highlight of the dish for me. Pop it out with a fork and spread it on a tiny piece of toasted bread and you have yourself a gastronomic moment. It sounds awful (made up of blood cells and connective tissue) and in a way I think that is because it connects you to the animal it came from in a more realistic way, but if you can accept that, you can begin to appreciate the subtle wonderful taste it has to offer.

homemade hot chocolate for dessert (the least I could do)

You could center a whole meal around this (I know they do in some french restaurants) and open up a new world to your palate. Next thing you know you’ll be trying gooey duck!

Spaghetti with Roasted Meatballs (serves 4)

Tonight I was all set to make a Cobb Salad. I was looking forward to crunchy romaine lettuce and crispy bacon – however, one of the key ingredients – avocado, was horribly under-ripe. I was so disappointed. I turned the avocado display upside-down looking for just one with some semblance of softness, but my efforts proved futile and I had to rethink the whole dinner plan. I went ahead and bought a couple of avocados and will use them for my craving later in the week, when they are nice and ripe. I bought lots of food to save me the agony of having to grocery shop again this week. I have to say that the weekly grind of having to buy groceries is not that much fun for me. I like buying food when it is a “day out”.  When I announce to my daughter “let’s go shopping”, I don’t mean to the Mall. I want to peruse the aisles of the nearest gourmet supermarket and drool at the fish counter or get a sample of some runny blue cheese or buy a loaf of chocolate bread with cranberries no less (and eat it in the car on the way home). I want to dawdle in the International section and puzzle over all the mysterious  colorful gelatinous jars in the Japanese section. I want to go home with my bags filled with anything from sea urchin to edible rice paper! Going to the local market to buy milk and toilet paper is a chore, not a passion. I run into people I don’t really want to talk to and everyone working there is usually eyeing the clock, ready to bolt as soon as their shift is over. Anyway….I grabbed some minced beef and a jar of marinara sauce (yes, a jar) and settled on spaghetti and meatballs – wow, how exciting. I will say that the meatballs are good and buying a jar of sauce does not really riddle me with guilt at this time of year. The tomatoes are dismally pale red and completely unexciting. I could have used a tin of tomatoes but the sauce I buy on these occasions works just as well as me trying to feel proud of the fact that I made the effort to make the sauce myself.

Newman's Own!

I buy Newman’s Own Marinara sauce – Mr. Newman was a decent man and so is his sauce. It is affordable and unpretentious, with a short list of ingredients – no looking up obscure additives or flavor enhancers on the internet to make sure it’s not going to slowly poison me to death! So, on to this evenings dinner shall we..It really doesn’t take very long as all you are really making are the meatballs. In the summer I make a very simple tomato sauce, but tonight using bought sauce afforded me some more time to potter in the kitchen with my family.

Audrey Head-Burn?

We watched “Roman Holiday” and my daughter was introduced to the actress she thought I called Audrey Head-Burn!

You will need : 1 1/2 lbs minced beef (or a mixture or lamb & beef), 1 medium onion, 1 egg, 2 or 3 slices of white sandwich bread, 1 tsp kosher salt, 1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper, 1 tsp madras curry powder (optional), 1 1lb box spaghetti (I use Barilla), 2 cups of marinara sauce (bought or made, bought it for tonight, but usually make it in the summer or, when I feel like it), 1 cup white flour, 1/2 cup milk,  2 tbs extra virgin olive oil, 2 tbs heavy cream (optional).

Preheat oven to 400* Dice onions and saute on medium to low heat in 1 to 2 tbs extra virgin olive oil until very soft (10/12 minutes). While onions are cooking crack egg into big bowl and add mince, salt, pepper and curry powder (even though it is great without, give the curry powder a try, it is good). Tear bread into a little bowl and pour about 1/2 cup milk over it. Press it down and let it soak for 5 or so minutes before squeezing out a little and adding to the meat. Note about the bread: I use bread the I would never actually buy to make a sandwich.

get ready to mix

It is not some good Italian ciabatta or French baguette. It is what I call “plastic bread” It gets really gummy and works so well in the meatball mixture. You have to believe me. Freeze a loaf especially for meatballs (and then of course there is no waste). When onions are nice and soft add to meat and mix everything together. I do this with my hands – most effective, but feel free to be afraid to touch the meat you just bought and are going to eat, and use a spoon. When it is well mixed, put flour on a plate or in a wide bowl and form meatballs.

up close to the meatball

I usually add a little oil to my palms as I go (meat doesn’t stick as much) and form to the size of a ping-pong ball. Roll in flour and put on a big plate. Here is where things get a little different. I don’t really like frying the meatballs on a pan and then finishing them off in the sauce. I get a little tired of doing batches in a pan, waiting to turn them etc etc So….I experimenting with doing the entire job in the oven. Not only do I get to do all the meatballs at once, unattended (twice that amount can be done this way), I also end up with a lovely outside crust and a tender inside.

up close to the cooked meatball

After the meatballs are formed, put a cooking /baking sheet in the hot oven with 2 tbs olive oil drizzled on it. Let it sit in the oven for 3 or 4 minutes. Remove it and place the meatballs on the sheet in a single layer. Let them cook for 14 minutes, take out, turn with a tongs and finish in oven for another 10 to 12 minutes. While the meatballs are cooking, put the water on for the pasta and cook according to package. Put big saute pan on low heat with marinara sauce and add 2 tbs heavy cream (optional but I think it adds softness and flavor to the tomatoes). Sometimes I mince some fresh rosemary or oregano into the sauce… When the meatballs are cooked, add to the sauce and add the spaghetti to the pan also.

a little pepper and ready to eat

Make sure to reserve some of the pasta cooking water (1/2 cup or so) and add to the pasta sauce also. Serve with a salad or some sautéed greens.

Pork Tenderloin w/ garlic, rosemary & potatoes (serves 6)

So today I absolutely knew I did not want to go to the supermarket for ANYTHING and was going to cook whatever I put my hand on in the fridge. The freezer offered two pork tenderloin, hence, tonight’s dinner.

The end result.

You will need: 2 pork tenderloin (about 1 1 lbs pieces or 2 1/2 kg pieces), 2 small onions diced, 3 carrots sliced into thick sticks or plain old rounds, 2 medium  potatoes (large dice), 10 cloves garlic – 4 of which are chopped fine and 6 left whole (don’t panic, read method),1 cup white wine (I actually used flat prosecco – when I

chop chop

opened it I found it way too sweet so I kept it for cooking!), 2 cups chicken broth, 1 tbs Coleman’s English mustard (or Dijon mustard), 1 tbs fresh rosemary chopped fine (or 1 tsp dried), olive oil.

Preheat oven to 375*

rub for pork

First prepare the rub for the tenderloin. Chop 4 cloves of the garlic and the fresh rosemary very finely. Add the garlic and 1/2 of the rosemary,along with the mustard and 3 tbs olive oil to a small bowl and mix together. Slather all over the 2 pork tenderloin (make sure they are dry) and set aside while you keep busy prepping the vegetables.

more chopping

Dice onions, cut carrots into thick match sticks or rounds and dice the potatoes. Put big saute pan (12″) on stove top on med/high heat. Let it warm for a minute and add about 3 tbs olive oil. Let it get hot and add both tenderloins to pan (should sizzle but not be too crazy). Sear on all sides (I turn 4 times, front, back, side, side) until carmel brown.

nice hot pan

Turn down heat to medium, take pork off pan and add onions. Saute for about 3 minutes and then add carrots and the 6 whole (in skin) garlic cloves. Note: the garlic is whole and is for the people who love to slurp the roasted garlic meat out of the skins while they dine, so reserve for the serious garlic lover. It can also be pasted on your bread if you choose to eat it with this dinner. Saute for another 3 minutes before adding the rest of the fresh rosemary and the diced potatoes. Add more oil if necessary.

everything is in!

Saute for a further 3 minutes or so before adding the wine (or flat prosecco!). Let bubble slightly for about 1 minute before adding the chicken stock and a grind of freshly ground black pepper. Let it come to a bubble. Put the two tenderloin back in the pan . Put in oven for 30 minutes or until the pork is done (if you are a worrier about meat doneness just take the temp with a meat thermometer).

ready to rest

Take out of oven and remove the tenderloin to a board.  Cover and let it rest for about 5 minutes before slicing.  It can be eaten as is or with crusty bread or rice. If you are cooking rice, do so while the pork is in the oven. I have a rice cooker for the job which is such a life saver. I don’t have to watch it and I can satisfy a massive appetite by bulking the dish up with an aromatic basmati rice! This dinner turned

Not bad eh?

I know what I'm having for lunch tomorrow..

out really well actually. The mustard on the pork bumped up the flavor a notch or two. All of plates came back to the kitchen completely clean!

Simmered Peas with Scallions (serves 4)

This is the vegetable dish I cooked tonight with my fish & Chips but I have cooked it with lots of other things. So if you like peas, and have some in you freezer (handy item to keep stocked) consider this – a more interesting approach to the humble little Pea!

kitchen activity

You will need: 5 or 6 scallions (green onions), 2 cups baby peas, 1 cup chicken broth,  1 tbs white wine (if you have it), fresh rosemary (if you have it), 1 tbs extra virgin olive oil, salt & black pepper to taste.

ready for chopping

Set pan on stove-top on medium heat add oil. Give it a minute to warm and then add slices scallions (including all green parts). Saute for about 4 or 5 minutes until soft and then add white wine & rosemary. Give it a minute before adding broth.

frosty peas

When broth is hot add peas and about 1/2 tsp of salt (no salt if you are using a full sodium broth so taste to check) and pepper. Simmer until peas are cooked (about 4 to 5 minutes) and keep warm on low heat until ready to serve. If you want some heat add about 1/2 tsp of cayenne pepper flakes (chile flakes) to cooked peas.

ready already?

This is a great dish to make if you want something handy and fast.