Caesar Salad Cornets, Nigella Lawson

So far in this challenge, I think this is the recipe I have least to write about. It’s quite straightforward. I couldn’t find the exact recipe online but if you just mix all the ingredients for a caesar salad and use it to fill some tortilla wraps, that’s pretty much it. Nigella does go into detail about how to wrap them properly to keep filling spilling out which may help some people.

Do you ever get a burning sensation at the roof of your mouth when you eat parmesan? I sometimes do. Not sure why.

The post I’ve been dreading

I’m going to get my apology in first with this post. I love Nigella. I often wish I could be her, but there is one recipe that I tried a while ago which I won’t be recreating, not even for the sake of my challenge as it’s a waste of ingredients. Her chef’s salad.

In doing this challenge, I wanted to provide as much guidance based on my own experiences as possible so if you attempt any of these recipes, you can avoid any pitfalls. My advice with this recipe is, don’t bother.

I made this salad for my boyfriend (now husband) while living in London. It seemed straightforward, and I love any salad that contains plenty of meat and cheese. However, to this day, we both shudder when we recount our experience of this.

Somehow, none of the ingredients mesh – the iceberg lettuce is too watery and rigid, ham is just ham (get nice ham, but it won’t guarantee a nice salad), emmental is one of my favourite cheeses but just doesn’t work, there’s too much sweetcorn in it and avocado…again, love avocado, but all these ingredients just stand alone in this dish and don’t seem to complement each other. Even the dressing can’t help bind them together – the mustard vinegar dressing is just too tart for ingredients that all have quite subtle flavours.

I couldn’t find a link to the recipe online, but as you may have gathered, that’s no bad thing. Nigella, I’m sorry, so far I have loved all your other recipes but this is one that is firmly banished to the history books.

Quick chilli that turned into a curry…

Ah summer, with its salads and sorbets…the summer of 2012 however, brings with it the need for comfort food. Chilli! After finishing work, I just wanted to be wrapped up on the sofa under a blanket (I’m desperate to put the heating on but trying to save our oil for the official winter), so I didn’t want to slave in the kitchen for hours. I turned to the Nigella Express book for inspiration, here is the recipe and this is what happened…

I never buy pre-prepared sauces (apart from pesto), so this recipe was taking me out of my comfort zone somewhat. It requires one can of mixed spicy beans and a jar of chunky vegetable sauce for pasta. This is meant to help speed up the cooking process. Luckily there are plenty of good quality pre-prepared sauces out there.

You don’t need to add any oil as the first thing you do is fry some chorizo – these release enough of their own rich, spicy oil to accommodate the minced beef.

You really need to be a meat lover to enjoy this…

After cooking the meat, all the other ingredients go in and are left for 20mins. Now, everything was going to plan until I realised that my other half had bought curried beans rather than spicy beans (I have noticed from my last few posts that I do complain about his shopping skills, but I am grateful that he does the shopping while I work from home). I added some chilli flakes to ensure it would be spicy, but this chilli had suddenly turned into a curry.

Nevertheless, served with rice, it was delicious. And there’s plenty leftover for lunch tomorrow!

A feast of desserts (2 in fact)

I know, I know. It’s been a while and I won’t make excuses, I’ve just been lazy! So let’s get back on track…

We were invited over for dinner at friends’ and in passing, I said I’d make dessert. However, I deliberately forgot about this until our host texted me on Saturday morning to double check this was still the case. I didn’t have the heart to say no, so a quick text to my husband to do a quick food shop and I was making lemon meringue cake and sticky semolina cake from Feast, Nigella Lawson.

Now, we had been for dinner with these friends before and been blown over by the cooking skills. We had high hopes for the starter and main so the dessert would have to live up to them. Not wanting to risk the dessert being a flop, I decided to make two so I’d have a back up!

Lemon meringue cake
Click here for the recipe.

This should come with a warning – if you make it, you will not want to go back to lemon meringue pie. So give careful consideration to whether you want to go ahead and bake this.

What makes this such an amazing dessert is that it includes sponge. When I first read the recipe, I was worried this would make it too dry, but it somehow adds to the moistness of it. Plus, no need to make pastry!!

The only problem I encountered was that, once you have baked both cakes with the meringue topping, you need to be very careful in assembling the final product. With the first layer, it doesn’t matter if the meringue cracks and crumbles as it can form the base, by the top layer has to stay in tact. Just try not to touch it! I carefully teased it out of the tin from underneath, then removed the bottom of the tin and greaseproof paper with a large steak knife…you may discover a better way!

Spreading cream and lemon curd in the centre is very satisfying, but eating it, even more so. There was none left, I forgot my camera and here is the pitiful image I took…

Try it. I promise, you will love it!

Sticky semolina cake
No recipe link I’m afraid.

I chose this purely because I had rosewater and orange blossom water at my disposal and the recipe seemed straightforward enough. Now, when I asked my husband to buy semolina, I didn’t bank on this. Luckily, I had some dry semolina in the cupboard (it was a bit out of date but still in its sealed packet so thought it would be ok).

From the picture you can see I don’t have a suitable baking tray…

Again, very easy to make the cake itself, plus the rosewater and orange blossom syrup. The best part is, when you take the cake hot out of the oven, you pour the syrup over it. Don’t be scared, it looks like a lot but it will all eventually absorb.

I cut these up into squares and we had them with coffee after our meal. They have a hint of turkish delight but what really sets the taste buds going is the ground cardamom. It wasn’t too overpowering, but gave it a different dimension somehow.

All in all, a great success, and we had lobster (locally caught) thermidor for starter and slow barbequed lamb for main. Delicious!

Spaghettini with prawns and chilli, Nigella Express

Apologies, I couldn’t find this recipe online, but it’s page 293 in the book.

I had to google spaghettini. What did we used to do without google? I look up actors who I’m convinced I’ve seen in another programme but can’t remember which one; wildlife or plants I notice on walks or in the garden that I don’t recognise; and the names of people I know.

I found spaghettini online (apparently it’s very thin spaghetti) but not in the shop. Instead I bought regular spaghetti and linguine. I opted for the latter because I was in the mood for flat rather than round. Apart from that, the only other thing I had to substitute was sunblush tomatoes for sun dried tomatoes (one is meant to be drier and wrinklier than the other but in my experience it really depends on the producer).

Quick and easy, and it required Nigella’s favourite again – spring onions. But can someone please tell me if it’s at all possible to mix ingredients into spaghetti (or linguine) properly?? I can never disperse everything and meat and vegetables usually end up at the bottom of the pan.

The flavours were delicate, which I like – I prefer to be able to taste my pasta.

Mini meatloaves and moonblush tomatoes, Nigella Express

In an attempt to make these posts more interactive I have decided, where possible, to include a link to the recipes I discuss. I didn’t want to infringe on any copyright guidelines by typing them out in my blog so adding links to recipes online seems to be the best option.

Moonblush tomatoes
Hazaar! At my first attempt, here is the recipe: moonblush tomatoes

I made these the night before I planned on eating them. Quite straightforward, preheat the oven, put everything in a tray, put tray in oven then turn the oven off and leave the tray in overnight.

I was like a child at Christmas and had to hold back from ruining the effect by opening the oven to check on the tiny tomatoes’ progress. My plan was to serve them with Nigella’s mini meatloaves (no innuendo intended).

Mini meatloaves
And if you’re keen to try them yourself, here is the recipe: mini meatloaves (so far so good on the recipe link front!)

I’ve never had meatloaf before so had nothing to compare these with. But here are my preparation tips – if you’re in the UK and/or just don’t have access to any A.1. steak sauce, substitute it with good old HP Sauce, also, I don’t know why but I chose to use Ready Brek  instead of quick cook oats. I had both in the cupboard but I thought the fine powdery consistency of the former might work better. I don’t know if I was right in thinking this.

The loaves went in and the whole house smelt amazing – a meaty, oaty aroma.

However, when they came out, they didn’t look anything like the picture in the book. No idea why. They looked anaemic next to Nigella’s golden brown creations. She suggests waiting until they’re cool to eat, but I couldn’t resist trying one of them. They were bloomin hard to get off the baking sheet but tasted great.

We ate the meatloaves with the moonblush tomatoes that evening, I enjoyed the loaves with leftover hot salsa from when we had the quesadillas. I didn’t enjoy the moonblush tomatoes as much. They are incredibly intense and sightly too salty. Coupled with the meatloaves (which included a large quantity of salty sausagemeat), it was too much. They might be better mixed into some dish or other or to complement fresher, sweeter or starchier ingredients.

See what you think!

Quesadillas, Nigella Express

Tortilla, cured hams, jalapeño, cheese and hot salsa says Wednesday night, doesn’t it?!

We eat a lot of wraps in our house – they’re quick and can be healthy if you want them to be. The only difference with quesadillas as far as I can see is that instead of rolling the tortillas, you fold them and instead of eating cold, you griddle them.

I don’t own a griddle. I may have mentioned this before. I get by with a frying pan but it just doesn’t make food look as aesthetically pleasing.

We both created our own tortillas, which we would eventually share. My husband’s were bursting to the brim with filling and we found that you do need to press down on the tortilla once folded to make sure they stay in tact in the pan.

The whole house smelt of pancakes and we devoured these with some hot salsa. We both wanted more – unfortunately we didn’t have any cured ham left otherwise we would still be eating these today!