MTT: Creamed Leeks

Leeks slow-braised with cream

 Confession: I have not been to a supermarket since Hux was born. Whilst this is undoubtedly good for the soul it is simultaneously bad for the wallet, as both our villages’s Co-op and Tesco Express are more expensive than the huge supermarket down the road. The farmers market is lovely but it’s so easy to get so carried away with the organicness of it all that I find myself with an excess of kale or purple sprouting broccoli that will never ever get eaten.

Washed and prepped leeks

Since I’ve been doing two or three little shops a week I’ve really noticed some bad shopping habits, and two items I consistently buy each time I shop – aside from Thomas The Tank Engine yoghurts – are double cream and decent butter (you know, the stuff with crunch crystals of sea salt? YUM). I seem to have gone all French on my cooking skills and am channelling somewhat of an artery-clogging Julia Child. But let’s consider our cholesterol when the weather warms up, shall we? This season seems to be the winter of comfort food and I’m ok with that.

Leeks covered in butter

 These Creamed Leeks originated when we took a weekend trip to Cheltenham in April. We had the most amazing Sunday roast which came with a side of creamed leeks with truffles. These were so mouthwateringly delicious I grilled the waitress for a vague recipe that I could replicate at home. Ever since this side dish has been a regular accompaniment to our Roast Chicken dinners and I can’t recommend it enough: it really adds that extra lift to a veg that I normally find a bit boring.

Pan of braised leeks

If you like the sound of this you should check out this creamy cabbage recipe: try it once and you’ll never look at a cabbage in the same way again.

Roast dinner

 

5.0 from 1 reviews
Creamed Leeks
 
Prep time
Cook time
Total time
 
I use one leek per person but this recipe calls for three as I like a bit of leftovers: I eat them the next day in an epic roast dinner sandwich. If you've never had roast potatoes between two slices of bread you really haven't lived. The drizzle of truffle oil on top is a welcome addition though not necessary as we don't all have gold-lined pockets.
Author:
Recipe type: Side
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • 3 leeks
  • 25g good butter
  • 100ml cream
  • Sea salt
  • Slug of truffle oil (optional)
Instructions
  1. Wash and chop your leeks into half centimetre pieces.
  2. Heat a frying pan on a low-med heat and melt your butter. Add your leeks and stir well to coat.
  3. Cook the leeks for a good 20-25 mins: use your judgement here, I like mine slightly caramelised with a bit of colour so tend to turn the heat up for the last five to ten mins. The important thing is to make sure they're lovely and soft.
  4. Add the cream and cook for another four mins, until the cream starts to thicken. Add a good pinch of salt to taste and your drizzle of truffle oil.

 

 

MTT: Garlic Oil

Do you remember about 4 or 5 years ago, when Pizza Express had those vouchers for 241 pizzas all over the internet? We used to meet our friends there after work most Fridays and have a night of Pizza and wine. And this is when my serious garlic obsession began.

I always ordered the same pizza, the La Reine, and the discovery of garlic oil as an addition to it was a revelation. I’d drip it alllll over the pizza, save extra for the crusts, and would basically honk of garlic for the next couple of days. It tasted SO GOOD though it was almost worth the looks of disgust and friends wafting their hands in front of their noses whenever they spoke to me. Plus I was engaged to Will then, so didn’t really need to worry about not smelling.

Ever since then I’ve used Garlic in as many dishes as I can: slow-roasted lamb, pasta, roast chicken, homemade chicken kievs, guacamole… it’s my hero ingredient, goes into everything. On the odd speedy-cooking occasion I will use Waitrose’s lazy garlic, but more often than not I’ll add a bit of garlic to my meals with some homemade garlic oil.

This is one of the easiest recipes I will ever post but it really transforms some foods; it adds a great edge to spaghetti carbonara, grilled meats or even to plain pasta. It’s a kitchen staple of mine and I can’t recommend it enough.

Homemade Garlic Oil
 
I use a lovely glass bottle that once held cordial from M&S, but any glass bottle will do.
Ingredients
  • 1 glass bottle
  • 1 pouring spout (mine was from The Scullery kitchen shop in Muswell Hill many moons ago)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 750ml olive oil
Instructions
  1. Thoroughly clean and dry your glass bottle.
  2. Crack open your garlic and peel the individual cloves. I do this by slicing off the rough flat side then crushing the clove with the flat blade of a knife. It makes it a lot easier to remove the skin this way.
  3. Put all the cloves in the bottle and pour in the oil.
  4. Infuse somewhere out of the way for a week or so with the lid on.

PS: Please take a quick look at this information about the link between botulism and garlic oil.

MTT: Chips Two Ways

Will tells me it’s bad form to judge a restaurant by the chips they serve as it’s so subjective, but I do. Every time. Not ordering fries in a restaurant is a rare occurrence for me (my preference: French Fries. Thin cut, crispy on the outside, soft on the inside) and I will return to an eaterie just for the chips. I love them.

My current top three chip vendors are, in no particular order:
- Malmaison, Farringdon: come with a homemade aioli, my personal favourite condiment. Not too thin, not too thick. Crispy.
- Robinson’s, Newport Pagnell, Bucks: super crispy and moreish, though slightly too greasy the last time I went, maybe they were having an off day? V good value for money.
- Hix at Selfridges, London: cooked to crispy perfection in a vat of Beef dripping. Enough said.

I’d like to give an honourary mention to the No Stress Cafe in Paris who served me a plate of sublime fries a couple of weeks ago but for logistical reasons it’s tough to return there on a regular basis. I also suffered a dose of dicky tummy from their steak tartare but it was so tasty that it was almost worth it.

It was the side of fries I had at Hix recently that inspired me to design my own perfect fries. These were cooked in beef dripping and I’m practically salivating thinking of them now. They were AMAZING. Amazing, amazing. Mine were not so amazing, but nearly there. I am a dripping convert.

The second recipe is one of Will’s creations which he took me by surprise with one evening. As a total contrast they use skin-on potato wedges but are every bit as crispy and moreish as my delicious French Fries.

Beef Dripping French Fries

It goes without saying that boiling beef dripping to such high temperatures is slightly dangerous so please be careful; don’t go and take a bath while the chips are cooking or anything.

- 750g Beef Dripping
- Potatoes, chopped to slim chip size: approx 6-8mm wide
- Sea salt

1. Put chipped potatoes in a medium-sized heavy-bottomed saucepan and cover with water. Turn on a medium heat until the water is simmering and cook for around three minutes, until just soft on the outside.
2. Drain and clean the saucepan of any remaining liquid.
3. Put the Beef dripping in the saucepan and again heat on medium until melted. Cook the oil at 180 degrees (if you don’t use a deep fat fryer you can measure the temperature of the oil with a sugar thermometer).
4. Cook the fries in batches (you don’t want to add too many at once as they’ll lower the temperature of the oil) until they start turning golden. Remove from the fat and drain on kitchen towel.
5. Once all fries have been cooked, turn the oil up to high (220 degrees) and fry in batches once more until golden-brown all over.
6. Drain again and serve with a liberal sprinkling of sea salt.

 

Will’s Outstanding Potato Wedges

The below is my go-to recipe when I don’t want a smelly house (as this is what happens when you deep fry stuff. Without fail).

- Potatoes, washed, unpeeled and sliced into half then chunky wedges
- Olive oil, a very generous slug of
- Sea salt and black pepper

1. Heat your oven to 220 degrees c.
2. Put your wedges on a baking tray and glug a load of olive oil over them; enough so they all have a light coating.
3. Season with salt and pepper and put in the oven until golden brown.
4. When the potatoes start turning golden brown (about 15 minutes) turn the oven down to 180 degrees.
5. Cook until done, around 20 minutes.

MTT: Thyme and Garlic Sauteed Mushrooms

It’s a bit of an obvious statement, but once I discovered fresh herbs at the age of 22 or so (and I don’t just mean some limp Basil sandwiched between mozarella and tomato or chucked into spag bol) my cooking was revolutionised. Herbs bring the most wonderful flavours to the simplest dishes, raising them up a level from “mmm” to “OMMMMMMMMM”, and I was amazed it took me so long in my food journey to figure that out.

I suppose I have more than I’d like to thank Jamie O for.

At any one time we have four or five herbs on our kitchen windowsill; thyme, some form of a-bit-brown-at-the-edges parsley, a wild mint, basil and coriander. We don’t have a garden in our new place and bidding farewell to our sprawling rosemary bush (my favorite herb!) in Nottingham was tough, so I either buy it from the grocer or pinch some from my Mum and Dad’s garden nearby.

In my constant quest for 5 a day and a defined waistline I like to play around with the ‘carb’ portion of my meal; I try to stay away from processed white carbs (pasta, bread etc) and eat lighter things that don’t leave me feeling as bloated. Beans and lentils work well, and I always try to eat sweet potatoes over white ones. Often at lunch time I will replace the potato portion of my meal with salad, egg or mushroom. Mushrooms especially keep me full until dinner time, are easy to cook and taste delicious.

These thyme and garlic mushrooms are brilliant. They take about three seconds to pull together, go with plenty of things and taste lovely. I ate them today with a couple of sausages and some steamed courgette but they come into their own with a nice piece of steak or chucked on a piece of toast with onion relish.

Thyme and Garlic Sauteed Mushrooms
 
I threw in a couple of drops of fancy truffle oil at the end of the process, but this is not necessary at all.
Recipe type: Side
Serves: 2
Ingredients
  • Half pack mushrooms (I used chestnut)
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • Half tbsp olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • Handful fresh thyme
  • Salt and pepper
Instructions
  1. Crush and finely chop the garlic and put into a heavy-bottomed pan on a low heat.
  2. While the garlic is frying off, roughly chop the mushrooms. With chestnut mushrooms I like to chop them in halves, then into thirds.
  3. Add to the pan along with the thyme sprigs. Put the lid on the pan and give it a good shake.
  4. Cook on a medium-low heat for 5 minutes, shaking again half way through.
  5. Add salt and pepper to taste.

MTT: Boston Baked Beans

Does Barbecued food contain Umami? I’m not sure, but these barbecue-ish Boston Baked Beans do have a taste that makes me want to simultaneously smack my lips, say “yummmmm”, smile, and rub my belly in a very contented manner. They really are that delicious and moreish.

I’d like to point out that:
1. They’re cooked with Pork Belly
2. They contain brown sugar AND treacle
3. They are cooked for 4 lovely hours
3. LOOK AT THAT PHOTO

Need I say more? Like I said, just look at them. Dark, sticky, delicious. My mouth is watering.

These beans are one of my all-time favorite things right now. They are sweet, sticky, filling and because they aren’t refined carbohydrates I can kind of kid myself they’re healthy. You can be naughty like me and eat them on their own for lunch (with a beer), or you can be naughty like me and eat them with macaroni cheese and pulled pork for dinner (with a beer). Diet? What diet?

This is another recipe I prepare at lunch time and then squirrel away in oven until it’s needed that evening. The flavours almost intensify overnight so it’s a perfect candidate for making in advance and the only person I know who doesn’t like these beans is Elfie. So she gets the less-umami’d Heinz. Her loss.

Even more appealing, this recipe doesn’t require any sort of ingredient weighing. It’s all tablespoons, teaspoons, and pinches. Which makes me feel like Nigella (with a smaller bosom).

5.0 from 1 reviews
Boston Baked Beans
 
This recipe lists Haricot and Cannellini beans, but really you can use any combination of white beans.
Recipe type: Side dish
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 500g pork belly, in strips
  • 790g tinned white beans (approx - this should be 3 tins), I used Haricot and Cannellini
  • 2 bay leaves
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon cinnamon
  • 3.5 tbsp tomato puree
  • 3.5 tbsp brown sugar
  • 3 tbsp black treacle
  • 2 tbsp Worcester sauce
  • 1 diced onion
  • good pinch sea salt
Instructions
  1. Pre-heat your oven to 140 degrees C
  2. Chop the pork belly into slices and throw in a large, oven proof saucepan.
  3. Add all ingredients and mix well.
  4. Seal the saucepan using tin foil over the top and cover with the lid, making it as airtight as possible.
  5. Cook for 3 hours.
  6. Stir well and cook uncovered for another hour.

MTT: Panzanella

There have been a couple of new additions to my Life List this week, one of them being ‘do a foodie tour across Italy’. As much as I wholeheartedly love Greek food, to me the Italians do it with more finesse, variation, and most importantly, wine. I’m going to start my Italian food journey by taking my dad on a birthday Italian cookery course soon (what? He couldn’t go alone!), and until then I have some Burrata (which I would rather not ruin with our bland british tomatoes so I’m thinking about using it on a pizza) and a handful of Italian-inspired recipes to tide me over.

I used one of these recipes for Panzanella when my Mother-in-Law came for dinner last week, which I served with a couple of other salads.  It’s never particularly easy to cook and parent at the same time so I prefer to make quick, easy recipes that can take a bit of standing around in case we have to make an emergency trip to the park. Or to bed for a nap. Panzanella requires an amount of standing time so it’s perfect for a prepare-ahead dinner.

 

It’s an easy, pretty, colourful, summery salad that you could eat on its own for lunch, or accompany it with a green salad and some rosemary roast potatoes for dinner.


Panzanella
 
The dish is traditionally made with stale bread, but I oven-bake mine to crisp it up. Another - slightly naughtier - idea is to fry off the bread in Olive Oil. But I couldn't possibly condone such behaviour.
Recipe type: Salad
Serves: 4
Ingredients
  • 3 cloves garlic, crushed and finely chopped
  • 1 large, mild chilli, chopped finely
  • 600g ripe tomatoes (preferably organic), roughly chopped
  • 3 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 100ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 de-seeded red pepper, roughly chopped
  • half large cucumber
  • 4 thick slices bread
  • small bunch basil
Instructions
  1. If you are baking your bread, break it into chunks and bake in the oven on a medium heat until golden brown.
  2. Stir together the garlic, chilli and a pinch of salt. Add the sugar and vinegar, mix, and turn into a large salad bowl. Add the olive oil and stir in.
  3. Prepare and add all salad ingredients to the bowl.
  4. Stir in bread chunks.
  5. Tear herb leaves over and season with salt and pepper; leave to stand for at least 30 minutes before serving, stirring through a couple of times.