I’ll avoid that fashionable Nordic word that is doing the rounds at the moment – cosy does it for me.
But if you think that this means a binge on cakes, bread and potato, much as we love them, think again. We have been building our proteins, attending to our healthy fats and concentrating on the green vegetables that abound at this autumn time.
Here are some recipes which worked for us. All quantities are given per person for you to scale as you wish.
- One or two eggs
- 100g cooked spinach (see tips below)
- I tablespoon double cream or crème fraiche
- 25g grated hard cheese – cheddar or a strong gouda will work well
- Seasoning – salt, pepper, nutmeg
If you have an Alice, as I have, then ask her to poach one or two eggs per person, leaving them at the soft yolk stage. Otherwise, if you are unsure about poaching eggs, softly boil and gently peel. Combine the cream and cheese, seasoning as you like; nutmeg is especially lovely.
Meanwhile, rub butter around a heat proof dish. Lay in the cooked spinach, place the eggs on top and cover with the cheese sauce.
Heat in a medium oven, near the top for a little browning.
- Half an aubergine, sliced
- 100g beef mince
- Half an onion, chopped fine
- Stick of celery, chopped fine
- Clove of garlic, chopped fine
- 2 or 3 tablespoons tomato puree
- 25g grated hard cheese
- 2 tablespoons double cream or crème fraiche
- Olive oil
- Seasoning – cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and pepper
On a flat oven tray, pour some olive oil enough to cover thinly. Press the slices of aubergine into the oil then quickly turn over. Bake at medium high for twenty or twenty five minutes until thoroughly soft and slightly browned. Cool a little.
Meanwhile, heat a little olive oil in a pan. Sauté the onion, celery and garlic until softened while still pale. Push to the edges of the pan. Add the mince and brown thoroughly, then incorporate the tomato purée with a pinch of cinnamon if you like, cover and simmer for about twenty minutes.
Lightly butter or oil an oven proof dish. Layer the aubergine, then meat mixture, until it is all used. Pour over the cheese and cream mixed together with a grating of nutmeg, spreading without worrying – it will melt over.
Bake for about twenty five minutes in a medium oven near the top for a lightly browned surface.
Stuffed Marrow or Squash
- Two or three rings of marrow or squash, seeds removed
- Two sausages, or about 100g sausage meat – best quality
- A quarter onion and half stick of celery, finely chopped#
- Fresh herbs – sage is very good here
- Place the marrow or squash rings on a baking sheet.
- Mash the chopped veg into the sausage meat with a fork.
- Fill the cavities with the meat mixture.
- Bake for up to 50 minutes in a medium oven, raising the heat to brown for the last five minutes if needed.
Smoked Haddock Supper
- A piece of traditionally smoked, undyed haddock
- Spinach and poached egg as above
- Double cream
- Milk to cover the haddock
Alice says that this is her favourite comfort food.
- Place the haddock in a pan, just covered with milk. Bring to the boil and set aside for seven minutes.
- Meanwhile prepare the spinach and lay in a buttered oven proof bowl. Put the cooked haddock carefully on top, then the poached egg.
- Take about half of the haddock cooking milk – perhaps 100ml – and mix in a small knob of butter and a tablespoon of cream. Pour over the egg and heat through in a medium oven; about ten minutes, or even less, until bubbling.
- A piece of free range chicken – thigh has much the best flavour though you might like two!
- A sliced onion
- Yoghourt, full fat, about 100ml
- Spices: six crushed coriander seeds, a pinch of cumin, also crushed, half a stick of cinnamon, left intact, some freshly ground black pepper – these are our favourites
- Olive oil with a little butter
- Heat the olive oil and butter. Gently fry the onion until softened. Add the chicken and brown on all surfaces. Pour the yoghourt over carefully – it will probably curdle in the end, but it doesn’t affect the taste.
- Simmer very gently for about half an hour – check that the chicken juices are running clear. Serve with some Cloud Bread (see below) to mop up the lovely sauce.
The Best Way to Cook Steak – a treat for a special occasion
- Steak – fillet or whatever you like best
- Spinach, prepared as above
- Crème Fraiche
- A very small spoonful of bramble jelly, or sherry
- A little butter and oil
Heat the butter and oil in a heavy pan. Season the steak with salt and pepper on both sides. Cook on a high heat to sear both sides quickly, then on a lower heat continue to cook until done to your preferred rareness.
Meanwhile, prepare spinach as in the tip below.
You also have time for hard and fast mushrooms, tip below.
When the steaks and vegetables are cooked, remove to a warm plate and keep in a warm place. Raise the heat in the steak cooking pan – add any juices from the mushrooms as well – then add either the jelly or sherry. Scrape all the lovely crusty bits from the pan and stir into the juices while the jelly melts or the sherry heats through.
Reduce the heat and stir in a tablespoon of crème fraiche, combining well with the rest, until you have a smooth sauce. Plate up the steak and vegetables and pour over the sauce.
When making a cheese sauce with no flour, use a small amount of double cream or crème fraiche, and mix in the cheese at the start of your preparation. This makes the cheese sticky and soaks up the liquid from the cream so it coats well and a little goes a long way.
The best way, in our experience, to cook spinach whether frozen (leaf rather than chopped) or fresh is to boil in a very little water until wilted then place in a sieve or colander with a weighted plate on top until completely drained. Then sauté in a little butter to dry still more.
Simple fried fish is lovely, dipped first in gram flour, served with a slice of lemon and some vegetable sides.
I always line my baking sheets with non stick parchment paper. You can use it several times until it begins to singe, then it can go into the compost. Easy lift – off and less tricky washing up.
BBC Good Food has a lovely recipe for Cloud Bread, a wonderful alternative for making sandwiches or toast, full of protein and omega fats. This is a brief summary of the method as we adapted it.
- Four eggs, whites stiffly beaten with a pinch of cream of tartar
- 50g cream cheese
- A pinch of salt and some nigella, poppy or sesame seeds
Beat the egg yolks with the cream cheese and chosen flavourings. Fold gently into the whites, keeping in as much air as possible. Very quickly spoon eight discs on to a baking sheet lined with parchment. Bake at gas mark 2 until golden and craggy. Cool a little before removing from the sheet. It freezes well, makes good sandwiches and can be toasted.
Alice invented a lovely variation with a half teaspoon of vanilla instead of the savoury flavours.
We made a wonderful pizza by spreading the cloud bread over a baking tray and topping with tomato puree, finely chopped vegetables, ham and salami finishing with grated cheese and baking for ten minutes.
Lucy’s Gram Pancakes are a similarly high protein solution good for wraps, and they can be used as a basis for Indian spice flavours, grated vegetable additions, topped with cheese and melted, the possibilities are almost endless.
2 eggs, 125g gram flour, 250ml milk or milk and water and a pinch of salt mixed well together. It looks thin but will set into a good cake when it hits the hot pan. Gram is chick pea flour, very high in protein and far lower in carbohydrate than wheat.
Lucy’s Hard and Fast Mushrooms – the only way to perfect cooking
Heat a little oil and butter together in a heavy pan while you halve or quarter your mushrooms – try to choose similar sizes. Then, working from the outside, in concentric circles, place mushrooms on a cut side down into the hot fat.
When you have them all in it will probably be time to turn the first ones over to the next side (if you are just cooking for one, wait until the first surface is browned) and then, again, to the round surface. When you work quickly and hot, the mushrooms stay juicy while toasting the surfaces avoiding wet or dry results.
- Courgettes, halved and roasted on an oven tray with a little oil
cauliflower florets, steamed, pan fried with crushed coriander
stir fried cabbage with shredded bacon
- Marrow baked in the oven, brushed with oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper
- Wedges of squash, as with marrow