Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Have a Good(e) Think!!

Today I start with 'one-pot' meals. Perhaps my favourites, as these can mostly be left to cook slowly in their own time at low heat, either in the oven or on the hob.let's start with that one. No, not cheating because it is made in 'one-pot' (well 'deep dish') and when served with salad, no other cooking needs to be done. If other vegetables were included in the pie (peas, carrots...) not even a salad need be prepared.
Cheese, Onion and Potato Pie: serves 6
1 lb (500g) shortcrust pastry
4 oz (100g) grated Cheddar (or other hard) cheese
4 oz (100g) same cheese, but thinly sliced
1 x 200g tub creme fraiche
2 lb (900g) jloury potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
2 onions, thinly sliced
freshly ground black pepper
a good pinch paprika pepper
small grating nutmeg
1 egg, beaten
Roll out 2/3rds of the pastry to line a 9" deep pie tin. Bake blind for 10 minutes at 200C, 400F, gas 6, then remove from oven. Mix the grated cheese with the creme fraiche, then start layering the pastry case with sliced potato, onion, and the sliced cheese, dotting a teaspoon or so of the creme fraiche mix between each layer, and also a little of the seasonings as you go. Keep layering until all the fillings have been used up - which will rise well above the sides of the dish.
Roll out the remaining pastry so that it is large enough to fit over the filling, brush the sides of the dish with egg, place the filling over the pie and press the pastry to seal to the pie rim, trimming away any surplus (you can roll this out to make leaves to decorated the top if you wish). Crimp pastry edges with a fork, then brush the surface with egg and return to oven to bake for half an hour at the above temperature, reducing to 180C, 350F, gas 4 for a further hour. Remove from oven and leave to cool for 15 minutes before slicing.

Although we think of stews and casseroles as more a winter dish, this next is definitely one for the spring as it uses seasonal vegetables (although similar or frozen ones could be used in place of fresh), and cooked on the hob instead of having to use the more expensive oven heat. As ever, the weight of the chicken is more to do with the portions you wish to serve rather than their weight. Myself prefer to work by price rather than weight.
Chicken in a Pot: serves 4
1 tblsp olive or sunflower oil
1 onion, chopped
1 lb (500g) chicken thighs, skinned and boned
10 oz (300g) small 'new' potatoes
15 fl oz (425ml) vegetable (or chicken) stock
freshly ground black pepper
8 oz (225g) broccoli, broken into small florets
12 oz (350g) spring greens, shredded
5 oz (150g) peas or broad beans (or mixture of both)
green leaves of sprouting onions, sliced (see above)
2 tblsp pesto
Heat the oil in a large, heat-proof and fairly deep pan. Add the onions and gently fry for 5 minutes, the lay in the chicken thighs, top side down, and fry until lightly coloured, then turn and cook the underside (this way the appearance is better when served from the dish at the table).
Add the stock, potatoes, and a generous amount of black pepper (to taste of course, you can add more later) then bring to the boil, cover and simmer for half an hour until the potatoes are tender. By then the chicken should also be cooked through - but check if your thighs are larger than normal (well you know what I mean).
Time then to stir in the broccoli, spring greens, (frozen) peas/broad beans, and the onion tops. Bring back to the boil, cover and simmer for a further 5 minutes. Stir in the pesto, take the pan to the table and serve.

The final recipe today is another 'one-pot', again cooked on the hob although this time you need to be in hovering distance to give it a stir when necessary. Not quite a curry, more a lightly spiced 'pilaf', but as it uses mainly store-cupboard ingredients (this includes frozen veg), a good cheap dish to serve when 'the fresh' has just about run out.
Green Bean Pilaff: serves 4
2 large onions, thinly sliced
2 oz (25g) butter
12 oz (350g) long-grain rice (pref basmati)
handful fresh herbs: dill, parsley or mint, chopped
1 3/4 pints (1 ltr) vegetable stock
good pinch saffron (opt)
1 - 2 tsp ground turmeric
1 lb (500g) mixed frozen broad beans, peas, green beans
6 oz (175g) Greek yogurt
1 - 2 tbsp milk
1 clove garlic, crushed
salt and pepper
Melt the butter in a large deep frying pan and fry the onions for about 5 minutes until just beginning to brown. Stir in the turmeric followed by the rice to coat the grains with the now coloured and flavoured butter. Pour in 1 1/2 pints of the stock, bring to the boil, then cover and simmer for 5 minutes. Stir in the beans and half the herbs, and continue cooking for five minutes more, by which time the rice should have absorbed the liquid and become tender. If necessary add some (or all) of the remaining stock (which should be very hot). The pilaf should be 'dry' rather than 'moist' as when making a risotto.
Remove the pan from the heat, replacing lid to keep the food warm, then mix the yogurt with the garlic and enough milk and seasoning to taste, then spoon this on the top of the pilaf, and garnish by scattering over the remaining herbs. Take the pan to the table and left everyone help themselves.