“Oven Chips with Oregano and Feta” from “Ottolenghi Simple”

This is absolute genius. As a lover and aficionado of cheese fries in any form, I’m flummoxed as to why it never occurred to me to have feta cheese fries. I’m here to tell you they are delicious, incredible, and yes, simple.

But “simple” is a relative term. Would you define simple as cutting potatoes to form your own chips? If you answered no, then this wouldn’t be simple for you. But given that I’d done exactly this task once before and had a good handle on how to do it efficiently, it was not hard at all for me, but I could see how others would think it wasn’t worth the hassle.

However, the payoff for going to the trouble of cutting your own chips was huge. They were fresh and, in a weird way, light. I say weird because you toss them twice in different oil, first sunflower and then olive oil with garlic, but because they were fresh potatoes they weren’t as claggy as frozen chips usually are.

Undoubtedly the  pièce de résistance was the addition of the feta cheese. Yum. Will we be having this again? What do you think?

Kudos, Ottolenghi, kudos.

“Oven Chips with Oregano and Feta” from “Ottolenghi Simple”

“Mashed Potato” from “Dinner in an Instant”

Real truth here: I was well into adulthood before I discovered that mashed potatoes could be made in something OTHER than a pressure cooker.

This, of course, is an embarrassing admission. But it’s true. (To be fair to me, I was also younger and a less experienced cook back then. But still…) The only way my Irish-American family ever made mashed potatoes, and being Irish-American we had them A LOT, was in the pressure cooker. I think I knew how to make them in the pressure cooker even before I had hit double digits in age. The first cooking lesson I ever had probably intoned, “Don’t ever, ever forget to put water in the bottom of the pressure cooker, otherwise, it might EXPLODE.” Given that this was the late 1970s and early 1980s, this was definitely true.

However, when I had my first apartment, I did not have a pressure cooker– this being the 1990s by then, they definitely had fallen out of favour– so I learned how to make mashed potatoes the old fashioned way: by boiling the potatoes in a pot full of water. I’ve been making mashed potatoes this way ever since– from dinners for two to Thanksgiving banquets for 30.

When I saw the recipe for mashed potatoes made in a pressure cooker in this book, I figured it might be nice to take a trip down memory lane and make them in the method that sustained by childhood. Surely, they would be just as good as I remembered them, right?

Well, you know what they say about not being to go home again. I mean, sure, the mashed potatoes were fine, but they weren’t the ambrosia of my childhood. They certainly get cooked a whole lot quicker– 10 minutes versus 30 minutes– so that’s a plus. But the downside is by doing them in the pressure cooker, you’re really steaming the potatoes rather than boiling them, and what we found was that they ended up having a very gluey consistency, which is less than ideal. It’s possible there was operator error in play here, but we all liked the traditional (read: Slower) way better.

Would I make them this way again? Maybe, but only if I was super short of time.

“Mashed Potato” from “Dinner in an Instant”

“Boulangère Potatoes” from “On the Side”

One of our traditional Christmas Eve dishes is potato dauphinoise. What’s not to love? Cream and potatoes, lovingly roasted until they are as soft as a pillow on your fork. (If you’re curious, I use this recipe from Nigel Slater. Works like a dream every time.) The only downside is it’s a very rich dish. So rich, in fact, that it’s one of our Christmas treats. Goodness knows I could eat it all the time, but I know that wouldn’t be prudent. So we save it as a special treat.

But along comes Ed Smith and these boulangère potatoes. Just like potato dauphinoise, but without the richness of the cream. The rest of the method is nearly identical, save for using chicken stock instead of cream.

What a result. Absolutely delicious. One caveat though: this is very much a “make only when you have a few hours” [read: the weekend] dish. Once you get through slicing 1.5 kilograms of potatoes really thinly– we use either the food processor the mandoline, depending on who’s doing the slicing– you then have to bake it for more than hour. So it takes some time and love. But it’s totally worth it.

Ed’s top tip is to return to the oven throughout baking and pushing down the potatoes with a fish slice (or a spatula would work too), which leads to the layers being deliciously compact and all the more soft.

Highly recommended. And not just for Christmas Eve.

If you’d like to try this yourself, cooked.com has the recipe here. 

“Boulangère Potatoes” from “On the Side”

“Roast Chicken with Lemon, Rosemary, Garlic and Potatoes” from “Simply Nigella”


Tom: Is this called chicken with added carbon?

Kirstin: Yes. The temperatures were all wrong.

Tom: I’m loving this!

Kirstin: It’s not supposed to be carbon! So I will fix the temperatures.

Tom: Crispy chicken with burnt potatoes and leeks is just heaven.

Kirstin: No. See, 220 for an hour ten. That’s not working for me. And I turned the temperature down in the middle too as I was worried about the leeks. Also, there’s no gravy.

Tom: Ah. That’s the only possible objection.

Kirstin: NO! And the carbonised everything else.

Tom: But I love the carbon!

Ella: How many milliseconds in a second?

Tom: Think about it!

Kirstin: Wait, you do Latin, right?

Ella: I know. But if there are 60 seconds in a minute and 60 minutes in an hour. But suddenly it goes to thousands.

Tom: Blame the Mesopotamians!

“Roast Chicken with Lemon, Rosemary, Garlic and Potatoes” from “Simply Nigella”

“Pork Cooked in Milk” and “Poor Man’s Potatoes” from “The Moro Cookbook”

IMG_6267Or, if you’d like it in the Spanish, “Lomo con Leche” and “Patatas a lo Pobre”

Maureen: So what do you think?

Tim: I like the potatoes.

Maureen: You should. You asked for them and they were a total faff to make.  What about the pork?

Nicholas (11): A big thumbs up for me.

Maureen: I think you would say that of any roast pork, frankly, since you ask for porcetta every Sunday.

Nicholas: That might be true.

Andrew (15): Me gusta!

Maureen: I’m glad you approve. I think it’s fine, but it’s not my favourite roast pork.

Tim: It’s sort of bland.

Maureen: I know! Which as a total surprise because it smelled absolutely delicious when I was making it. I was completely intrigued by the method– cooking the pork in milk rather than roasting it– but Mike from Dring’s assured me this method, while strange, really did work. The method worked, but the taste is a bit disappointing.

Tim: Would you make it again?

Maureen: The potatoes I’d make again, definitely. The pork I probably wouldn’t. While I can appreciate the novelty factor of the way I cooked it, I just don’t think it’s as good as some of the other roast pork that I make.

If you’re curious about the pork cooked in milk and want to give it a try, the Demon Cook reposted it on her blog. You can find it by clicking through these sentences.

“Pork Cooked in Milk” and “Poor Man’s Potatoes” from “The Moro Cookbook”

“Italian Sausage and Chips” with “Torn Tomato Salad” from “Bill’s Italian Food”

Miles and Ella: I love it when you make this!

Kirstin: Really? I thought you didn’t like it.


Miles: I don’t like those seed things on the top.

Kirstin: Oh, the fennel. I’ve put fewer in these time than the recipe calls for. But I’ve kept the chilli in because I love it so.

Tom: I really love it when you make this! I particularly love the tomato marmalade that you serve it with.


Kirstin: Oh yes. It is good, isn’t it? Right, I’ll start making this again,  in that case!

“Italian Sausage and Chips” with “Torn Tomato Salad” from “Bill’s Italian Food”

“My Sag Aloo” from “Save With Jamie”

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAKudos for David Loftus, who did the photography for “Save with Jamie,” for making this recipe look so appealing in the photos for the book. My photo doesn’t look horrible, I think, but the ones in the book look SO MUCH more appetizing. 

One of the problems with this recipe is the way that it’s spelled.  Our local indian spells is saag aloo, but a quick check on the Interweb shows that both spellings are OK, so maybe I’m being a bit picky. It doesn’t take anything away from the dish, however, which was quite good.

The recipe itself is a winner. First of all, it’s vegetarian and even vegan — if you drop the use of yogurt– which is always a good thing in my book. We would have had it for Meat Free Monday, but alas we had it on a Tuesday just to mix things up a bit.  I’m always looking for good vegetarian dishes, so I think this one might be added to a regular rotation.

There’s two things you should know before making this, though. First this dish takes some time to make. In my case, it took about an hour from start to finish. This wasn’t a problem for me, as I had the time, but if you’re in a rush, this isn’t a recipe to use. The long cooking time probably did contribute to the really rich flavours that it had, so perhaps the time commitment was worth it. Second, you need to be confident in the instructions and be willing to work the burner on your stove. There is a lot of liquid that needs to be boiled down, but you do get there in the end, even if it does seem like quite a lot of liquid at the beginning. It just takes time to do so (see No. 1).

I had to make one modification, which might have altered things somewhat. It turns out that frozen spinach is a rare ingredient, as none of our local stores (The Cooperative, Sainsbury’s, even Waitrose) had it to sell. In the end, I got 400 grams of fresh spinach– rather than 300 grams of frozen– and mixed it into the curry in batches so it would wilt and become incorporated. I’m quite certain that just adding frozen spinach would be easier, but I had to make do. It might have been even better using fresh instead of frozen as a result.

Did we like it? Yes we did. I had mine wrapped in lettuce leaves (see photo above), while Tim and Andrew had theirs with naan bread and rice. I think Tim and I liked ours slightly more than Andrew, but only because he’s not a huge fan of spicy dishes and this had quite a bit of chilli in it. In the future, I might not add the temper of chilli and garlic to the boys’ dishes and instead just put it into ours.

Will I make it again? Probably. But only on a weeknight in which I had the luxury of time to make it, which, unfortunately, in this house, isn’t very often.

“My Sag Aloo” from “Save With Jamie”

“Bavette a l’Echalotte” and “Pommes de Terre Sautees” from “The Skinny French Kitchen”

Maureen: I could tell you the French name for this dish, but I won’t. Let’s just say we’re having steak and potatoes.

Nicholas (10): Yeah! I love steak. When can we go to Hawksmoor next? 

Andrew: I love Hawksmoor. That’s why I picked it for my celebratory dinner.

Maureen: True. It’s not every day that you go out to dinner to celebrate that you’re now taller than your mother. But we digress. What do you think?

Nicholas: Nothing but yum.


Andrew: Thumbs up, for sure.

Maureen: She recommended getting skirt steak from the butchers. I really wasn’t sure about it, but I followed the directions just the same. Thanks Drings for the awesome skirt steak. Not only is it an inexpensive cut, but it’s also delicious.

Andrew: I love these potatoes.

Maureen: Me too. They were a total faff to make and the pan is going to take a whole day of soaking to make it clean. But she did this really clever thing where you add just a bit of butter at the end so it tastes of butter but there’s hardly any in it. I will make these potatoes again.

Nicholas: Make the steak again too!

Maureen: I will. I promise. This was easy, quick and delicious. Win. Win. Win.

“Bavette a l’Echalotte” and “Pommes de Terre Sautees” from “The Skinny French Kitchen”

“Bangers & Mustard Mash” and “Garlic-Roasted Cauliflower” from “How Easy Is That?”

Dear Mrs. Contessa:

Can I call you Barefoot? No, I won’t. That’s just silly. I’ve never met you, so I’m going to stay formal.

First of all, please don’t take anything that I say here personally. I’m sure you’re a lovely person. Hey, anyone who guest stars on “30 Rock”, my favourite TV show, totally rates in my book. But what I’m about to say might be a bit harsh.

When I saw your recipe for “Bangers & Mustard Mash” in your “How Easy Is That?” cookbook, I thought, “Great. That’s perfect. We eat that all the time, so that truly will be, ‘How Easy Is That?” But it was a TOTAL disaster, and would have been even worse if I had followed your instructions to the letter.

In your introduction, you say that you went to a wedding in London where they served “bangers and mash” at their wedding reception. You said, “It was the best wedding food I’d ever eaten and it had so much style.”


Style? Bangers and mash? Maybe I’ve really gone native, having lived in England now for 14 years, but I don’t see it. Don’t get me wrong, I love bangers and mash. They just don’t seem particularly stylish to me.

Also, I totally understand being beguiled by mustard mash. It seems so exotic for an American. Mashed Potatoes! With Mustard! How interesting! The exact same thing happened to me as I had my first mustard mash when I was reviewing London restaurants for Lonely Planet. I thought they were the Best. Thing. Ever. At the time, I had only been a Londoner for 9 months, so I felt the same as you. But what I didn’t appreciate then, but do now, is that mustard mash is a pretty bog standard mash offering.

Where did things go wrong, Mrs. Contessa? Bangers and mash. Trust me, it couldn’t be easier. I’m willing to bet this is one of the dishes they teach in Home Ec or Food Tech or whatever they call it these days. Let me take a moment to provide a recipe autopsy, perhaps so you can see the error of your ways.

Continue reading ““Bangers & Mustard Mash” and “Garlic-Roasted Cauliflower” from “How Easy Is That?””

“Bangers & Mustard Mash” and “Garlic-Roasted Cauliflower” from “How Easy Is That?”

“Italian Traybake” from “Nigellissima”

If you want to try this yourself, click through on this sentence for a copy of the recipe from the Daily Mail.

Maureen: What did everyone think?

Andrew (13): It was OK.

Nicholas: I think it was one of the best things I’ve ever had!

Tim: What did you like about it?

Nicholas: I liked the chicken, and the potatoes and the broccoli.

Tim: The broccoli was on the side and doesn’t really count for these purposes, but OK. You didn’t like the sausages?

Nicholas: No. They were tough.

Continue reading ““Italian Traybake” from “Nigellissima””

“Italian Traybake” from “Nigellissima”