Sweet and salty peanut biscuits (Nigella Lawson)

October 31, 2018

If greed alone were the spur and measure, these would be my favourite biscuits. There’s something about the contrast between salt and sweet and their crumbly lightness that makes them instantly addictive. They make a seductive partnership with vanilla ice cream: you can do this the elegant grown-up way with bowls of ice cream and a plate of the biscuits; or, my weakness, made up into sandwiches, the nubbly discs clasped round the soft, cold cream.

Two requests: don’t use jumbo peanuts and don’t use all butter. You need that Trex: quite apart from its trailer-trash charm, it’s what makes them light.

Makes about 30
light muscovado sugar 75g, plus more for dipping later
unsalted butter 100g
vegetable shortening such as Trex 50g
egg 1 large
vanilla extract 1 tsp
self-raising flour 175g
salted peanuts 125g
baking sheets 2, lined

Preheat the oven to 190C/gas mark 5. In a large bowl, mix together the sugar, butter, shortening, egg and vanilla. Just beat it together, no ceremony, to combine well. You may find this easiest to do with an electric mixer. Stir in the flour and then the peanuts – and that’s your dough done. Now, drop the dough in rounded teaspoons about 5cm apart onto the prepared baking sheets.

Oil the bottom of a glass, or brush with melted butter, and dip it into some more light muscovado sugar and then press gently on the biscuits to flatten them.

Bake for 8-10 minutes, by which time they should be cooked through (though remember that biscuits always continue to cook for a while out of the oven), then remove to a wire rack to cool.

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Noodle soup with lentils and soured cream (Nigel Slater)

September 17, 2018
Noodle soup with lentils and soured cream

Serves 4-6
onions 4
olive oil 3 tbsp
garlic 3 cloves
ground turmeric 2 tsp
chickpeas 1 x 400g tin
haricot beans 1 x 400g tin
small brown lentils 100g
vegetable stock 1 litre
butter 40g
linguine or Iranian reshteh noodles 100g
spinach 200g
parsley 30g
coriander 20g
mint 15g
soured cream 250ml

Peel the onions. Roughly chop two of them and thinly slice the others. Warm the olive oil in a large pan set over a moderate heat, add the two chopped onions and fry them for 10-15 minutes till soft and pale gold. Peel and thinly slice the garlic. Stir in the garlic and ground turmeric and continue cooking for a couple of minutes.

Drain the chickpeas and haricot beans and stir them into the onions together with the lentils and stock. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and leave to simmer for 30 minutes, stirring the pan occasionally.

Melt the butter in a shallow pan, then add the reserved sliced onions and let them cook slowly, with the occasional stir, until they are a rich toffee brown. This will take a good half an hour.

Add the linguine or noodles to the simmering beans. Wash the spinach, put it in a separate pan set over a medium heat, cover with a lid and leave it for 3 or 4 minutes until it has wilted. Turn occasionally with kitchen tongs. Remove the spinach and put it in a colander under cold running water until cool.

Wring the moisture from the spinach with your hands then stir into the simmering stew. Roughly chop the parsley, coriander and mint leaves and stir most of them into the onions and beans.

Fold in the soured cream, then ladle into bowls and fold in the remaining herbs and the fried onions.

Pesto (Felicity Cloake)

July 23, 2018

Prep 20-25 min
Makes 1 small jar

2 tbsp pine nuts
1 pinch salt
250g fresh basil leaves
1 garlic clove (optional)
25g parmesan
25g pecorino
300ml extra-virgin olive oil

1 Toast the nuts

Heat a frying pan on a medium flame, then toast the pine nuts, shaking the pan occasionally, until fragrant and starting to colour. Pine nuts, especially the fat Italian kind, aren’t cheap, so many commercial pestos use cashews; pistachios or almonds also make decent substitutes. (Always taste pine nuts before use: they go rancid very quickly.) Tip out on to a plate and leave to cool completely.

2 Grate the cheese

Meanwhile, get everything else ready. Finely grate the cheese: parmesan and pecorino (I like a combination of the two: the former for its richness; the latter for its cleaner, saltier flavour) are the traditional choices in pesto’s Ligurian homeland, but many commercial pestos use cheaper grana padano; indeed, pretty much any very hard cheese will work.

3 Prep the basil

Pick the basil leaves until you have 250g: discard the stalks, because they discolour quickly and give an unpleasantly fibrous texture to the pesto. (This may seem extravagant, but pasta and pesto is still a pretty cheap meal, especially if you buy the basil in large bunches at a market or greengrocers, where it tends to be cheaper than the supermarket.)

4 Mortar v food processor

Choose your equipment: purists insist that pesto can be made only with a pestle and mortar, because the action is less violent than a food processor. There’s a surprising logic behind this – experiments show that more coarsely chopped basil retains more flavour – but you can still make great pesto in a machine, so long as you use it with care.

5 Start pounding (garlic optional)

Lightly crush the nuts with a pinch of salt, then gradually add the basil, pounding or pulsing just until you have a thick paste. Work as quickly as possible, so the basil retains its vibrant green colour, but be careful not to overwork it, especially if you’re using a food processor. You can also add a garlic clove, although I don’t.

6 Add the cheese and oil

Stir in the cheese, then gradually beat in the oil, keeping a little back for the top of the jar. Extra-virgin olive oil is the usual choice, but you need to exercise caution: some are so strongly peppery that they will overpower the basil, so taste before use. To keep costs down, mix with a neutral oil, as commercial manufacturers often do.

7 Leftovers

Pesto is best eaten fresh, but if you have any left over, spoon into a sterilised jar, then cover with olive oil to form a seal. It should keep for a couple of weeks in the fridge, though always taste a little before adding it to anything. Alternatively, it freezes surprisingly well: ice-cube trays are a good receptacle for individual portions.

8 Traditional extras

To make classic Genovese pesto pasta, seek out trofie: these little twisted pasta pieces hold the sauce perfectly, but strozzapreti, linguine or any long pasta will also do. Boil in well-salted water and toss with the pesto, a handful of blanched green beans and some boiled, peeled and cubed waxy potatoes – a dash of pasta cooking water helps emulsify the sauce.

9 Variations

The word “pesto” comes from “pestare”, meaning to pound or crush, but what you choose to crush is up to you. Pesto alla Siciliana, or pesto rosso, is made with tomatoes, almonds and occasionally mint instead of basil; pesto alla Calabrese uses tomatoes, roast red peppers and ricotta. I often make a British version with wild garlic or parsley, walnuts and goat’s cheese.

Fergus Henderson’s Welsh Rarebit

July 18, 2018
Welsh rarebit

Makes four pieces
butter a knob
flour 1 tbsp
English mustard powder 1 tsp
cayenne pepper ½ tsp
Guinness 200ml
Worcestershire sauce a very long splash
mature strong cheddar 450g, grated
toast 4 pieces

Melt the butter in a pan, stir in the flour, and let the mixture cook until it smells biscuity but is not browning. Add the mustard powder and cayenne pepper then stir in the Guinness and Worcestershire sauce, then gently melt in the cheese. When it’s all of one consistency remove from the heat, pour out into a shallow container, and allow to set.

Spread on toast 1cm thick and place under the grill. Eat when bubbling golden brown. This makes a splendid savoury at the end of your meal, washed down with a glass of port, or a steadying snack.

Fergus Henderson’s beef mince on dripping toast

July 18, 2018
Beef mince on dripping toast.

Firstly, save your dripping! Dripping toast is one of those treats for the day after, a lovely second wind from the previous day’s roast. Mince is a dish discussed as much in Scotland (and indeed in London) as cassoulet is in Castelnaudary. Questions such as should you add peas or carrots can start a gastronomic row of great proportions. I do like a spot of carrot in mine.

Total cost: £9.70

Serves 4
onion 1, peeled and thinly sliced
leek 1, cleaned, sliced lengthways in half, then thinly sliced across
carrot 1, peeled, sliced lengthways in half, then thinly sliced across
garlic 2 cloves, peeled and chopped
extra virgin olive oil a splash
minced beef 750g
whole tinned tomatoes 2
oatmeal a handful
Worcestershire sauce 3 tbsp
chicken stock 250ml

For the dripping toast
good white bread 4 slices
dripping to spread generously

In a large pan, sweat the onion, leek, carrot and garlic in the splash of olive oil until softened. Add the mince, giving it a healthy stir to break up. Add the tinned tomatoes, crushed in your hand – a subliminal gesture. Keep stirring and add the oatmeal, not so much that you end up with porridge.

Stir, add the Worcestershire sauce and – if you have a bottle open – a glug of red wine. As this may take it above the £10 mark, it is delicious but not essential. Pour in three-quarters of the chicken stock and stir again.

Take a view on the liquid content; if it seems a wee bit dry, add the rest of the stock. You are looking for a loose lava consistency. Check for seasoning.

Now allow the mince to simmer gently for 1 and a half hours, if not 2 (if it is drying out, add more stock). Time allows the mince to become itself, as is the case for most of us.

Toast the bread, spread the dripping onto each slice and put under the grill for a moment to make sure it melts completely. Spoon the mince over the toast.

Squashed Brussels Sprouts with Chorizo and Chestnuts (Jamie Oliver)

December 1, 2017

Best Roast Potatoes (Jamie Oliver)

December 1, 2017

Perfect chocolate crispy cakes (Felicity Cloake)

October 9, 2017

(Makes about 25)
100g dark chocolate
75g milk chocolate
50g butter
2 tbsp cocoa powder
4 tbsp golden syrup
135g puffed rice

Set a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure it doesn’t touch the water. Break the chocolate into roughly equally sized pieces and add to the bowl along with the butter. Melt, stirring occasionally to help it along.

Meanwhile, put the puffed rice in a large bowl and line a tin about 20cm square with foil.

Once the chocolate has melted, stir in the syrup and cocoa until you have a smooth mixture. Pour into the bowl of puffed rice and mix well, then spoon into the tin. Press down very firmly with the back of a spoon, then refrigerate for 1-2 hours until set. Cut into squares and store in an airtight container well out of easy reach.

Perfect Penne All’arrabbiata (Felicity Cloake)

October 9, 2017

Serves 2
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, plus a little extra to finish
1 tsp chilli flakes
2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
400g good tinned chopped tomatoes
200g penne
1/4 tsp red wine vinegar
Handful of basil leaves

Heat the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and add the chilli. When it begins to darken, stir in the garlic and cook just until it colours slightly, then add the tomatoes and a generous pinch of salt, breaking up the tomatoes with a spoon.

Simmer for about 15 minutes while you cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water until just al dente. The sauce should be thick by this time – if it looks too dry, add a splash of the pasta cooking water.

Stir in the vinegar and season to taste, then drain the pasta and stir into the sauce. Cook until the sauce coats each piece, then divide between bowls, drizzle over a little oil and tear over the basil leaves.

Toffee Creme Caramels (Waitrose)

October 3, 2017