Swiss meringues (AKA those massive ones)

You know, those massive ones with the swirls in that you get at bakeries.

I am OK at making regular meringues (that I now know to be “French”), but I wanted something a bit more solid. I have been told that they are Swiss meringues. OK then. I think I remember a challenge on Great British Bake Off that involved two kinds of meringue, an Apparently Swiss meringues are the most stable before cooking, which sounds like a good recommendation to me.

The recipe I’m using is by Dan Lepard, who I had not heard of before but if this works I’ll definitely count myself a fan. His recipe was for 115g of egg white and 225g of sugar, but I wanted to make “two eggs worth”, so I weighed the whites and came up with 125g of sugar. #Maths. He also said that you should use caster sugar but I really don’t see the point, especially if you are dissolving it anyway, so I used granulated because that’s what I had.

So: Put oven on at 150C. Put boiling water in a pan on the hob, turn on heat to get it simmering. Put egg whites and sugar in pan and stir a bit til it all seems hot and melted/dissolved. Now you want to whisk the egg/sugar mixture for ages and ages while it cools down. The recipe says 15 minutes. Anyone who has tried to make bread and “knead for 10 minutes” knows that’s a very long time. If you have nothing electric that can whisk do not even attempt this unless you are very strong and have a very high boredom threshold. A Kitchenaid type thing would be great for this (Dan says to use the metal bowl, if you have one). I used the machine below.

meringues in mixer

I do not recommend using this kind of machine to make this kind of meringue. The mixture got very stiff, the whisk no longer moved, and I ended up breaking my drive shaft. Whoops. Espares have lots of spare parts and also do next-day delivery, useful if you find yourself in this kind of predicament.

broken drive shaft

I decided to proceed anyway… I blobbed the mixture onto greaseproof paper on a baking tray. Put into oven, turn oven down to 130C. If you’ve made the right amount (115g egg, 225g sugar), you should have 12  meringues and should cook them for 45 mins, then turn off the oven and leave them in while the oven cools down.

uncooked meringue

They expand a bit in the oven but not a lot

cooked swiss meringues

Here they are – very tasty and crisp with a hole in the middle.

I will be making these again, and next time I’m going to attempt doing some colourful swirls. I’ll also use ,my electric hand mixer with the whisk attachment and hope that it doesn’t break…

Hello Fresh Jamie Oliver Chicken Stir Fry (without broccoli)

The third recipe from my Hello Fresh box. One was here. The second here.

I’ll admit that the changes I had to make here were partially my fault. I knew that I would be eating out a few days this week, so I checked the dates on the meat/fish part and made them in the order of how long they would last. I just forgot to check how long a head of broccoli lasts without going a bit weird and yellow.

However, for a service aimed at people who are busy, that’s delivered once a week, I don’t think I was unreasonable to expect ingredients that were delivered on the Sunday to be OK on the following Saturday (within the week). Perhaps Hello Fresh should pack up the ingredients for each recipe together and label with things like “if eating with 3 days keep me at room temp, if not you might want to fridge me”.

Hello Fresh Jamie Oliver stirfry card

So this recipe was supposed to have broccoli, and instead I used sugarsnap peas. Because I had some in the fridge. If I hadn’t I would have been rather disappointed. As it was this recipe was FINE, but not very exciting or novel.

Hello Fresh Jamie Oliver stirfry recipe

As with the pork belly stew, there was not a lot of meat here. Unlike the risotto, I did not think that the carb portions were noticeably generous. I’d normally allow 75-100g of pasta per person, and here we had 125g of noodles between two.

Hello Fresh Jamie Oliver ingredients

There was a lot of chopping to do here. The recipe instructed me to do all the chopping before starting. I understand that this is aimed at people who don’t cook a lot (hence my previous comments on expecting me to have the equipment to zest a lemon) but telling me to chop everything beforehand seemed unnecessary. I could do some of the chopping while the noodles were boiling.

Hello Fresh chopped things

I normally like Jamie Oliver recipes, and I like the co-branding. These two things do go together. However I was not convinced by the instructions on how long to cook the vegetables for. Very few people can slice carrots finely enough that this much stir-frying would result in them being anything other than very hard and crunchy.

Hello Fresh Jamie Oliver stirfry

This was a pleasant dinner, and I liked the fish sauce on the noodles, but I don’t feel as if I learned or discovered anything. Apart from “meat is not the only thing that might go off after 6 days”.

Hello Fresh Cod with Lemony Risotto

Recipe #2 from my Hello Fresh box – #1 was here.

In contrast to the chickpea stew – this was not a one-pot recipe. It was a one-pot (risotto), one-frying-pan (cod), one roasting-tin (tomatoes) recipe.It would have been even more if I’d done as suggested and used another pan to keep my stock hot while very very slowly adding it to the risotto, but I don’t believe in mollycoddling risotto. Chuck in “quite a bit” of stock, give it a stir, and do something else for 5 minutes. What’s the worst that could happen?

All that said, I thought this was a good recipe and I would make it again.

The portions were generous too – 175g of risotto rice for 2 people is more than I would normally use.

Hello Fresh recipe card cod and risotto

I didn’t use the tomatoes provided because I had some cherry tomatoes that were starting to go a bit soft – I would suggest using more tomatoes than it says and more than you think you need because they shrink quite a bit while roasting and they make the meal look better than just some white-beige food. Not that there’s anything wrong with beige food of course.

Hello Fresh cod risotto recipe

Some people say you shouldn’t have parmesan with fish-based food. I think they are probably just wrong. Although if you are making this for a pescetarian, parmesan is always (by definition) made with animal rennet. So whether you can use it will depend on how strict they are on animal products.

cod risotto ingredients

I didn’t obey the presentation instructions – I scattered the tomatoes on top of the risotto rather than stirring them in. Even with using more tomato than instructed there were not that many of them.

Cod risotto

The recipe required you to have the means to grate the parmesan and zest the lemon – perhaps not something that someone unused to cooking would have. And again you had to measure out water for the risotto. Instructions of “you may not want to use all the stock” might also have been useful, although in my case it worked out fine.

Good recipe, the best of the box I’d say, and good for getting me to cook something I wouldn’t normally cook as I rarely choose fish.

Hello Fresh Pork Belly and Chickpea Stew

I can’t decide whether I am a fan of Hello Fresh or not.

£39 seems a lot to spend on 3 meals for 2 people, especially when M&S does Dine in for £10 and includes a bottle of wine.

On the other hand it does nicely give you all the bits to make a meal from scratch, and you can keep the recipe card.

I think really I am just not their target market.

I am, however, a person who easily gets stuck in a rut of cooking the same thing all the time, so when a friend offered a code to get £25 off my “first” box, I said yes. You can use her code ZEBZBH too and get the same deal if you like – just enter it when you get to the checkout stage. I think she’ll get some money off. £14 for a box sounded very reasonable and it’d get me cooking something that I hadn’t chosen.

Recipe #1 in my box was this

Hello Fresh Pork belly recipe

 

It helpfully includes a picture of what all the ingredients look like so you can find them in the box. It even makes clear that a garlic CLOVE is not a garlic BULB (apparently this is a likely mistake…)

Pork belly stew ingredients

Here they all are on my counter. The pack of pork belly was only 150g – this is really a vegetable stew flavoured with pork belly, not a “pork belly stew”. The mini squeezy pack of red wine vinegar was cute and clever.

Hello Fresh Pork Belly Stew recipe

The recipe is here. I did nearly everything it said except

a – I used more than one garlic clove to make my garlic ciabatta

b – I didn’t measure 200ml, I guessed it. I imagine that people who buy a pre-measured box of ingredients might not even HAVE the means to measure 200ml.

Garlic ciabatta

Simple but effective – garlic toasts made this feel more special.

Pork belly stew made

The finished meal was of a decent size and had very good flavour – anything with a lot of smoked paprika would! The bunch of spring greens seemed massive at first and took a bit of persuading to go into the pan. If I made this again I’d cut them a lot smaller than the recommended “2cm strips”. Everything else is small and spoonable and the long strips of green are a bit annoying.

Recipe rating: easy. Took around the suggested 30 minutes. Would possibly make again, but probably just with bacon rather than trying to find pork belly.

How to cook perfect aloo tikki

A grandiose promise of a title – simply copied from the Guardian article from which I got my inspiration. A more accurate title would be “How I cooked some perfectly nice aloo tikki”.

I didn’t know what aloo tikki was – I can read Indian menus well enough to know that aloo means potato and I love potato, so that was good enough. It’s friend potato cakes, and it handily can be made out of things that I usually have lying around.

So: boil some potatoes. peel or unpeeled, whatever you would normally do for mash.

While they are boiling, fry some onion (red in this case), with some ginger and garlic. I used jarred ginger and garlic pastes.

peas and onions

When the potatoes are nearly soft, throw some frozen peas and some garam masala and black mustard seeds into the onion pan.  I added turmeric as well because I felt that yellowness was required, but this also added yellowness to my hands when rolling the balls.

Drain the potatoes well. Mash them and then stir in the onion mix.

aloo tikki mix

Clean out the onion pan well, put in some oil. Or use another pan if someone else is doing the washing up.

Make balls or patties or whatever shape you think is correct out of your mash-and-onion-and-stuff mixture. Dip in flour of some kind. This is hard to do when it’s hot, unless you have teflon hands, so if you can try to allow for some cooling-down time.

Fry the balls.

aloo tikki cooking

So far everything is ACCIDENTALLY VEGAN (the best kind of vegan in my opinion). I’m going to eat it with yoghurt so that’ll be gone, but you could eat with plant based sauces if you chose.

aloo tikki with yoghurt

I have greek yoghurt there with mint and salt stirred into it. These are not the prettiest thing, but they are tasty.

It’s a bit difficult to go wrong with fried potato…

 

 

Simply Nigella Indian-spiced shepherd’s pie

Top tip: lamb mince is harder to find than beef mince or pork mince. Do not assume that your local/express/little supermarket will have it.

This is a little bit of faff but it is LOVELY. I haven’t made a shepherd’s (or cottage) pie in ages and I’d forgotten how nice it is.

I have also never bothered seeking out cardamom pods before. You know, the things that look like lemon seeds that you find in pilau rice. They are totally worth finding. They add a fragrance that really lifts the dish, and I’ve started using them in my daal now.

nigella recipe book

Making the topping. Peel 1kg of sweet potatoes and put to boil with some salt, 2tbsp white peppercorns (I couldn’t find this, used ground), 6 cracked cardamom pods, peeled strips of lime rind from one lime, and juice from half a lime. Nigella boils her sweet potatoes with the skin on, then cools and peels. This seems like too much faff to me so I peeled them and cut them into chunky pieces so I could lift them out afterwards.

Making the meaty bit. Stick 3 cloves garlic, 4cm ginger, 1 onion, 2tsp cumin (Nigella insists on seeds but ground was OK), 2tsp coriander (same), seeds from 6 cardamom pods (did you know they have seeds inside? I didn’t), 2tbsp oil (Nigella says cold-pressed coconut oil but I think that’s probably bollocks and you won’t taste it so any flavourless oil will work), all into a blender and whizz them up. Put into large pan, fry for a bit, add 500g lamb mince, 2tsp garam masala, 1tsp chilli flakes, 1tsp turmeric. Full disclosure: I put all the spices into the whizzing-up stage and it was fine. Add 1 tin chopped tomatoes, 1 tin cold water, 100g red lentils, salt, 2tbsp Worcestershire sauce. Simmer.

While meaty bit simmers. Put oven on to 220c. I don’t know how long Nigella’s oven takes to heat up but the meat is simmering for 25 mins so no need to put it on before this stage. Once the sweet potato is soft, lift out the pieces of sweet potato with a slotted spoon. Chuck away all the other bits. Mash.

Get ready to go in oven. Get your dish. Put meaty bit in dish. Put sweet potato on top. If you like you can do some faffing around with ginger. I didn’t, but I’l describe it anyway. Apparently if you grate ginger, twirls it up in some kitchen roll and squeeze it, you get “ginger juice” to put on top of your sweet potato mash. Put it in the oven.indian shepherd's pie

35 mins later – take it out and it should look like this

sweet potato shepherd's pie

On a plate it’ll look like this.

The thing I can’t show you in a picture is the smell. It smells WONDERFUL.

Simply Nigella Sweet Potato Macaroni Cheese

Before any wheat-avoiders get optimistic – this is not sweet potato instead of  pasta, this is sweet potato as well as pasta.

I don’t know why either really. It was nice though.

I’ll give the instructions from memory in chronological order. Nigella did little dishes but I did this in a “feeds 4” sized lasagne dish.

Put oven on to 200C, boil kettle.

Peel two sweet potatoes, cut them up a bit, put in a big saucepan and boil (using water from the kettle of course). Fill the kettle up again and set it to boil again.

Melt 3 tbsp (60g apparently) in  small saucepan, add 3 tbsp of plain flour and beat in til it makes a paste. Wonder why your pastes never look this good when you are trying to make choux pastry or croquettas.

Take off the heat. Pour in a little bit of full-fat milk, beat til it looks smooth. Don’t bother with a whisk, it’ll just get stuck inside the balloon. Just beat it hard with a wooden spoon. Keep doing this til you’ve added 500ml (just under a pint) of milk. Beat it HARD. Don’t add the milk all at once or it’ll go lumpy.

Put back on very low heat, stir occasionally while you roughly chop up 75g (a bit under half a pack) of feta and grate 125g (half or a quarter of a pack depending on the size of your pack) of mature cheddar.

Your sweet potatoes are probably soft now – lift them out of the water with a slotted spoon and put them into the lasagne dish. Nigella doesn’t actually say where to put them, but this dish is getting dirty anyway and nobody wants to make more washing up unless they have to. Put 300g (3/5 of a pack) of macaroni or other pasta into the sweet-potato-ish water. Add more water from your kettle til it’s covered, keep the heat on to cook the pasta.

Stir your sauce – is it thick yet? Give it a teaspoon of mustard and a teaspoon of paprika. Don’t forget to stir right down to the bottom. If it’s not thick yet, cook it some more. If it gets really thick, don’t worry, but turn off the heat.

Stir your feta and some of your cheddar into your now-thick white sauce. Add some salt, but I have no idea how much.

Mash your sweet potatoes with a masher.

Is your pasta cooked yet? Drain your pasta – keep a bit of the water.

Put your pasta and your mashed sweet potato into the big saucepan. If your sauce is very thick, add a bit of the pasta water. Put that in the saucepan too and stir it all about. Does it look gloopy and sticky? Good.

I wiped around my lasagne dish with some butter using a bit of kitchen roll. I have no idea if this helped but it seemed like a good idea.

Does this seem like an awful lots of steps for a baked pasta dish to you? It took me 45 mins from a cold start to get to this stage, and this is the first time I’ve done it. I’d expect this bit to be under 30 mins once I knew what I was doing.

Put your gloopy pasta-potato-sauce mix into your lasagne dish, sprinkle over the rest of the cheddar, sprinkle over some paprika. Nigella does something with sage leaves. If you have a sage plant in your garden then I guess put some leaves on top? Put into oven.

Come back 20-30mins later – everything is already hot and cooked so you just want to make the cheese melt and look good. You could probably do this bit under the grill really.

melted cheese

Gooey cheese is good.

nigella sweet potato macaroni cheese

Here is it on a plate. It’s nice. Sweet. I’d add more salt next time. My cucumbers are not manky, they have balsamic vinegar on them.

Verdict: tasty, filling, not really sure what the sweet potato is for but sure why not?