Reidbury's Kitchen

Food thoughts, recipes and billowing smoke from a home cook's kitchen in London


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Creamy Macaroni Bake with Salami and Chilli

Creamy Macaroni Bake with Salami and Chilli, 'What Katie Ate'

Creamy Macaroni Bake with Salami and Chilli, ‘What Katie Ate’

The only good thing about the weather here in the UK at the moment is the opportunity to indulge in comfort food. Macaroni and cheese is a wonderful combination at the best of times, but the addition of chilli and salami just tipped me over the edge! I actually had been up for making mac n cheese since I had something very similar at Pizza Express recently that had Nduja sausage melted into it. God, it was good. So I was hoping I could recreate the chilli, meaty kick by following this Creamy Macaroni Bake with Salami and Chilli recipe in ‘What Katie Ate’ by Katie Quinn Davies – buy the book here.

When I made this I was a little concerned that the creamy sauce seemed very thin, but it did end up working out as it should – so don’t be afraid. I also recommend getting salami from the deli counter so it’s in one piece and you can cut it up into good sized chunks (rather than spindly little slices), and definitely roast the tomatoes as per the recipe. The sweetness that they add to this dish was a perfect addition! And the recipe says it serves 6 – and it’s a pretty whopping portion size, so it’s certainly a great dish to cook for a crowd.

KB rating 9/10. PR rating 9/10

Creamy Macaroni Bake with Salami and Chilli (serves 6)

Ingredients:

  • 250g cherry tomatoes, cut in half
  • Olive oil, for cooking
  • Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 500g macaroni
  • 250g salami, cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 60g butter
  • 50g plain flour
  • 1 litre milk
  • Large handful of grated Parmesan, plus extra for topping and to serve
  • Large handful grated pecorino, plus extra for topping
  • Large pinch freshly grated nutmeg
  • 0.5 – 1tsp dried chilli flakes (to taste)
  • 3 tbsp cream
  • 1 tsp white truffle oil (optional) – I didn’t bother
  • 80ml white wine
  • Handful basil leaves, torn
  • Crusty bread rolls and a green salad, to serve

Method:

Preheat the oven to 160C fan, 180C, gas mark 4.

Place the cherry tomatoes on a baking sheet, cut-side up. Drizzle with a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper, then roast for 30-40 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside, then increase the oven temperature to 180C fan, 200C, gas mark 6.

Half-fill a large saucepan with salted water, add a glug of olive oil and bring to a rolling boil over a high heat. Add the macaroni and cook for 8 minutes until just al dente (the pasta will continue to cook in the oven, so don’t overcook at this point). Drain and rinse under cold water, then transfer to a large heavy-based casserole dish. Add another glug of oil and stir to coat the macaroni evenly, then add the salami and roast tomatoes. Stir again and season with a little salt and lots of pepper, then set aside.

Portion of Macaroni Bake

Portion of Macaroni Bake

Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan over a medium heat. Add the flour and whisk until smooth, then cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Reduce the heat a little, then gradually add the milk, stirring constantly until the sauce has thickened and is smooth and creamy. Remove the pan from the heat. Add the Parmesan, pecorino, nutmeg, dried chilli flakes, cream and truffle oil (if using), and season with a little more pepper. Mix together well, then pour over the macaroni mixture in the casserole dish, along with the white wine, and toss to coat well. Stir through the basil leaves, then scatter a generous amount of extra Parmesan and pecorino over the top.

Bake for 30-40 minutes until bubbling, golden brown and crispy (if you like, place the dish under a hot grill for a minute or two to get an even crispier topping).

Serve piping hot with extra grated Parmesan, crusty rolls and a green salad on the side.

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Beef and Wild Mushroom Lasagne

Beef and Wild Mushroom Lasagne, Rachel Allen

Beef and Wild Mushroom Lasagne, Rachel Allen

I’m quite embarrassed to say that I’ve never cooked a lasagne before. I think it’s because I didn’t eat beef for a while and it just didn’t crop up on my radar. So, I wanted to redress the situation and I saw a lovely-sounding recipe in Rachel Allen’s book, Entertaining at Home for Beef and Wild Mushroom Lasagne. I don’t really like messing with a classic dish, but this combination of lasagne layers really appealed to me. It’s still quite traditional, with a great, meaty-tasting beef ragu. But it also has an additional layer in the middle of wild mushrooms in some béchamel sauce and it has a bacon layer. A BACON LAYER! And everything tastes better with bacon. Fact.

It’s not a dish that’s easy to rustle up mid week – in fact I felt like I spent all day Sunday in the kitchen – but I do think I would be able to make this much quicker next time around now I know what I’m doing. The one thing that took way longer than the recipe stated, and got my anger levels soaring, was the béchamel sauce. I wholly disagree with the delightful Rachel Allen here… she suggests boiling the milk and then adding the roux that you’ve made separately and whisking it in. This method did not work for me – it took over three times as much roux to get the bloody thing to thicken and I found it really hard to properly whisk it into the milk. By the time the sauce thickened, it had reduced further than I’d have liked, so I felt a bit stingy with the top layer on the lasagne!  When I make this again I will stick with the traditional way of making the sauce – making a roux first, and then slowly whisking in the milk. And my only other comment would be to keep it in the oven a bit longer, perhaps at a lower temperature, to make sure the pasta sheets are soft. These were, in part, al dente! I actually quite like that, but guess it’s not to everyone’s taste

Anyway, that said, the whole thing came together well at the end and it’s an absolute whopper of a lasagne. I’ll be happily eating this for weeks!

KB rating 8.5/10. PR rating 8.5/10.

Beef and Wild Mushroom Lasagne (serves an army. More specifically 8-10 people)

Ingredients

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 onions, peeled and chopped
  • 800g minced beef
  • 150ml red wine
  • 1 tbsp chopped rosemary
  • 1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and chopped
  • 25g butter
  • 400g mixed wild mushrooms, sliced (eg. enoki, chanterelles, ceps, shiitake, oyster…but good old button mushrooms would be a good backup if you can’t get more interesting ones)
  • 250g streaky bacon (about 12 rashers), cut into 2cm dice
  • 500g no-soak lasagne sheets (approx 30 sheets)
  • 25g Gruyere, grated
  • 25g Parmesan, grated
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper

For the béchamel sauce

  • 1.2 litres (2 pints) milk
  • 1 carrot, peeled
  • 1 bay leaf or 1/2 onion, peeled
  • 2-3 tbsp roux (made with 1.5 tbsp butter and 1.5 tbsp plain flour)
  • 225g Gruyere, grated
  • 2-3 tsp Dijon mustard

Lasagne or ovenproof dish about 30 x 25 x 5cm

Method

Pour the oil into a large saucepan on a medium heat, add the onions and cook for 5-8 minutes until softened but not browned. Then add in the beef, red wine and rosemary, cooking for a further 5 minutes. Stir occasionally until the meat starts to brown. Add the tomatoes and garlic and season with salt and pepper. Rinse the tomato tin with a little water and add to the tomatoes. Continue to cook on a medium heat for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the mixture has thickened slightly.

Melt the butter in a large frying pan on a high heat and add the mushrooms. Season with salt and pepper and cook for 7-10 minutes, tossing regularly. When the mushrooms are cooked and turning golden, check the seasoning, then remove from the pan and set aside.

In the same frying pan still on a high heat, add a little oil and add the bacon. Fry until golden and crisp (note that the bacon will crisp up further as it cools). Set aside.

Preheat the oven to 200C (400F or Gas mark 6), then make the béchamel sauce.

Pour the milk into another large saucepan, add the carrots and bay leaf or onion and place on a low heat to bring slowly up to the boil. Allow to gently simmer for 3-4 minutes to allow the flavours to infuse, then remove and discard the carrot and bay leaf or onion. Next bring the milk to the boil and whisk in the roux. Continue whisking for a minute or two (allegedly…see note above about this), whilst the mixture gently boils. The sauce should be thick but pourable.

Remove from the heat and, while the mixture is still hot, stir in the Gruyere and mustard, and season with salt and pepper to taste. Place a quarter of the sauce in a bowl (this will be the lasagne topping), and stir the mushrooms into the remaining sauce.

To assemble your lasagne:

  1. Spread a little béchamel over the base of the dish to stop your pasta sticking to it
  2. Arrange a layer of lasagne sheets (approx 5 used per layer, but this depends on the size of your sheet and the size of your dish)
  3. Place half the bacon on top of the pasta sheets
  4. Add half of the meat on top of the bacon
  5. Add another layer of lasagne sheets
  6. Pour over all the mushroom mixture
  7. Add another layer of lasagne sheets
  8. Sprinkle over the rest of the bacon
  9. And then add the rest of the meat
  10. Top with another layer of lasagne sheets
  11. Add the remaining quarter of the béchamel sauce (make sure you don’t leave any pasta sheets uncovered here, otherwise they’ll go dry and hard)
  12. Scatter over the Gruyere and Parmesan cheese

Cook in the oven for 30-40 minutes until the top is golden brown and bubbling and the pasta is cooked. Buon appetito!


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Surf and Turf…And A Cake

A few recipes to include today, given my lack of blog updates for a while! First up, two steak dishes to compare.

The first steak recipe we cooked was Steak with Chimichurri from Olive Magazine, June 2011 (p.3 of the BBQ section). It’s a pretty straightforward recipe that works as well on a griddle pan as it would on a BBQ. Cook the steak for 2 minutes a side on a searing hot pan (with just a little olive oil rubbed over) and serve with the Chimichurri which incudes paprika, cumin, garlic, red onion, red wine vinegar and some coriander. All emulsified with olive oil. I did enjoy this dish but felt the chimichurri was a little powdery due to the cumin and paprika. I’d be interested in researching other chimichurri recipes to see if I can improve on this a little. But the sauce works really well with the steak and I served with home made wedges. KB rating 8/10. PR rating 8/10

Steak with Chimichurri. Olive Magazine, June 2011

The next steak recipe was the simply titled Spicy Fillet Steaks from Delicious Magazine, September 2011 (p.88). I don’t often eat fillet steak, preferring the flavour of rump, but decided to stick to the recipe and pushed the boat out on fillets! Again, the steak is cooked simply on a searing hot griddle pan (2 mins a side) and then left to rest for 10 minutes. During this 10 mins you create the sauce by using the same pan as you cooked the steaks and adding garlic, fennel seeds, sun-dried tomato paste and chilli. To turn these flavours into a sauce you add some balsamic vinegar, red wine and beef stock and allow to reduce. By this time your steaks have rested and you can add in their juices to the sauce. The recipe suggests serving with rocket – I’m still not keen on this, so I went for the old faithful. Yep, home made potato wedges! (Worth noting there was a gap of a couple of weeks between cooking these two recipes!). Somehow that sauce is greater than the sum of its parts – very fiery and rich and works amazingly well with the steak. I can see why fillet works well here as you get the texture of the cut, but the sauce packs in the flavour that is often lacking with fillet steak. Amazing, and one for the repertoire. KB rating 9/10. PR rating 9/10

Spicy Fillet Steaks. Delicious Magazine, September 2011

Up next was a recipe that Paul cooked for us, Spicy Chorizo Potatoes with Fried Eggs from the p.32 of the ‘£5 Supper for Two’ supplement with Olive Magazine, September 2011. The recipe only had 7 ingredients but it worked really well. Simply cook some potatoes in boiling water and drain, then fry in oil until golden. Remove from pan and add some onion and green chilli, before adding chorizo and paprika. Once cooked, add the potatoes back into the pan and serve with a fried egg on top. Great comfort food, stuff you’d often have in your fridge and very tasty. Nom nom nom. KB rating 8.5/10. PR rating 8/10.

Spicy Chorizo Potatoes with Fried Eggs, Olive Magazine Supplement, September 2011

Another recipe Paul cooked recently was Linguine with Garlic, Prawns & Spinach from Gino D’Acampo’s ‘The Italian Diet’ (p. 104). A nice pasta supper with fresh flavours (lemon, parsley and cherry tomatoes) in addition to the ingredients in the recipe title. Very enjoyable but I found it strange that the recipe only used the zest from the lemon and no juice – think I’d add a bit of juice next time and increase the amount of spinach to give this recipe a bit more oomph! The prawns, however, were really juicy and full of flavour and were definitely the highlight. KB rating 7/10. PR rating 7/10.

Linguine with Garlic, Prawns and Spinach. Gino d'Acampo, 'The Italian Diet'

I cooked another recipe from Gino D’Acampo’s ‘The Italian Diet’ book recently too – Chicken with Lemon Butter Sauce (p.150). You can’t beat butter, lemon and chicken as a flavour combination (my own roast chicken uses lots of butter and lemon – surprise, surprise, it’s Nigella who inspired me!) and it works really nicely in this recipe. Unfortunately I had a slight issue when making this dish – the first stage is to coat thin pieces of chicken in seasoned flour and fry in a pan before removing and keeping warm. You then proceed to make the sauce in the same pan by deglazing with some lemon juice and stock, and adding parsely and butter to create a creamy texture. However, the floured chicken was catching on the pan so there was a slightly burnt layer over the pan that, when I deglazed, made the sauce really, really bitter and burnt tasting. I tried to sieve but to no avail! So I effectively had to make a sauce from scratch which meant the chickeny bits from the pan that add so much flavour were lost. Boo! I’ll make this again but with a more careful eye! KB rating 7/10. PR rating 7.5/10

Chicken with Lemon Butter Sauce. Gino d'Acampo, 'The Italian Diet'

Given I’ve been feeling unwell over the last week I decided to cook two things with a view to making me feel better! So first up was a simple soup – Summer Veg-Box Soup from Olive Magazine, June 2011 (p.44). Dead easy to make – fry spring onions and courgettes in oil (I upgraded to garlic oil to add further flavour). Add some orzo pasta before adding frozen peas, frozen broad beans and veg stock and allow the whole thing to bubble away. I got a bit carried away with adding extra orzo, so it turned out being less liquidy than it should, but that’s what I was after anyway. Serve in a mug with warm bread and I instantly started to feel better. Yum. KB rating 8/10.

Summer Veg-Box Soup. Olive Magazine, June 2011

And finally, what else can cheer you up when you’re feeling grotty? Tea and cake. It’s a winner, so I decided to make a Victoria Sponge from 101 Teatime Treats (p.10). I hadn’t made one before, but now I am the proud owner of 2 cake tins I felt it was time. I had a slight worry when the oven started to smell like scrambled eggs, but turns out I was being paranoid and the end result was very good indeed given it was my first attempt. Buttercream and strawberry jam, with a mug of tea, completed the treat. KB rating 8/10. PR rating 8.5/10

Victoria Sponge. 101 Teatime Treats


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Pretty much pasta…

A few meals cooked this week, of which a couple are Reidbury’s tried and tested favourites! In addition to the recipes that follow I should admit to a takeaway curry (featuring my new obsession – paneer cheese in ‘Mottor Paneer’ form. Paneer cheese with peas – shouldn’t work but somehow it really does) and one night of 5 types of cheese and a good bottle of red…First up this week in the genuine cooking stakes – Sicilian Sausage Pasta from Delicious Magazine, July 2011 (p.34). A relatively simple pasta recipe that I hadn’t tried before. It works well as a ‘I’ve just got in from work, don’t want to reduce myself to a takeaway…what can I conjure up myself’ recipe. It uses sausage meat (easily squeezed from their cases), tomatoes, lemon, chilli, creme fraiche and Parmesan to create a fresh pasta sauce. Enjoyable but it felt a little thin on the ground with regards to taste – I think i’d up the chilli quota next time. Good meal to create when you’re a bit tired and uninterested. KB rating 6.5/10. PR rating 7/10.

Sicilian Sausage Pasta. Delicious Magazine, July 2011

Next up was a Reidbury favourite, Pasta with Sausages, Mustard and Caramelised Onions from Nigel Slater’s ‘Real Fast Food’  (p.12o). This has been cooked numerous times in the Reidbury kitchen and we often have a chorizo ring in the fridge for this very purpose. There’s something amazing about the chorizo oil that works so well with onions, mustard and pasta and it’s a nice feel good recipe as it’s so simple but tasty. Easy to knock up in about 15 minutes and not too much chopping if you’re feeling lazy. The recipe advocates the use of wholegrain pasta which I actually prefer – but Paul is harder to convince! KB rating 8.5/10. PR rating 7.5/10

Pasta with Sausage, Mustard and Caramelised Onions. Nigel Slater’s ‘Real Fast Food’

Last recipe this week was another Reidbury favourite. Definitely in our top 3 homecooked meals at the moment – Harissa Chicken Kebabs with Spring Fattoush and Couscous, from Olive Magazine, April 2011 (p.66). There’s something about this recipe that means the whole is greater than the sum of its parts. The harissa chicken is straighforward enough – chunks of chicken breast marinated in harissa and olive oil. But somehow grilling this on skewers makes the chicken really flavourful and moist. The spring fattoush incorporates cucumber, radish, lettuce, spring onions, mint and toasted pitta bread with a simple dressing of garlic, oil, sumac and lemon juice. Served with simple couscous and the whole meal is amazing! KB rating 9/10. PR rating 9/10.

Harissa Chicken Kebabs with Spring Fattoush. Olive Magazine, April 2011

Finally Paul and I went to Su Sazzagoni in Victoria Park for dinner on Friday. I really enjoyed the honest, Sardinian ambience and menu and particularly enjoyed the Spritz aperitif (currently one of my favourite drinks – either dry white wine or prosecco with Aperol and sparkling water – usually served with lots of ice and slice of orange). Out of 4 dishes (2 starters and 2 mains) only one really stood out – Paul’s simple-sounding starter of pasta with sausage. I did enjoy both of my dishes but felt a little disappointed – the seafood skewer didn’t have enough flavour and the prawns were mushy. My main of tuna was lovely but the bland salad didn’t offer enough contrast. I would go back again but I’d stick to their pasta and pizza rather than the grilled seafood as I’d been advised previously.


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Who is Tim Dobson?

Another busy week, but more due to long hours at work than for fun reasons unfortunately! Paul and I went to watch Bridesmaids mid-week though and had a lovely meal at Wagamama beforehand. Their Raw Salad starter is one of my favourite dishes from a High-End Chain and I get ridiculously virtuous cravings for it now and then – it definitely hit the spot!

Our other non home-cooked treat this week was a huge plate of Fish and Chips! After getting absolutely drenched watching the British Open golf on Saturday and spending 2 hours getting home we wanted some comfort food. Nothing ever beats fish and chips with mushy peas, along with a huge cuppa! Mmmm!

On to the meals cooked this week. First up was Tim Dobson’s Prawn Pasta from Olive Magazine, August 2011 (p.11) – no idea who Tim Dobson is, but his pasta was pretty good! It’s a very simple pasta recipe but very tasty, particularly as I don’t normally go for creamy sauces. The prawns were the best component – I cooked them in garlic oil first (as the recipe requested cooked, peeled prawns and I only raw, frozen ones) and they then get marinated in lime juice before being added back into the pasta with cream, spinach and Parmesan. KB rating 7/10. PR rating 7/10

Tim Dobson's Prawn Pasta. Olive Magazine, August 2011

Finally this week I made Chicken Saltimbocca with Green Beans and Shallots from Olive Magazine, August 2011 (p.52). Not sure how authentic this recipe is for Saltimbocca but it was definitely good. It involves flattening chicken thighs before adding sage leaves and wrapping them in Parma Ham, then sauteeing in butter and finishing them off in the oven. This was served with green beans and a simple shallot sauce (with a white wine and stock reduction). I also served this with crushed new potatoes. I liked the recipe but would probably alter things a little – Paul suggested that the sauce would be better served on top of the chicken rather than through the green beans and I agree. I also think chicken breast would work better than chicken thighs here – I love chicken thighs but in this recipe I’d have preferred the texture of white meat instead. KB rating 7/10. PR rating 7.5/10

Chicken Saltimbocca with Green Beans and Shallots. Olive Magazine, August 2011