Sooo, the last few weeks have been a little manic. My season with the boat in France came to a close as the weather cooled and the boat shut down for the winter. I thought, lovely, two weeks off to enjoy some autumness in the UK before heading to Malta at the end of October. Oh no! After just two days I got a call from the OH to say I was welcome to join his boat for the last three weeks of their season, taking her from Cagliari down to Malta and then cruising about a bit for two weeks. And so my boaty cooking got an extension, with some lovely new guests to cook for, and two boys that appreciate not having to eat crisp wraps (ahem…) because they’re too busy to cook!
This post is especially for those lovely guests, with a collection of recipes that were requested after they were enjoyed on board. To start we have the hearty cous cous salad, then a big, beefy lasagne and the perfect plum crumble.
Cous Cous Salad
(how much cous cous could a cook cook, if a cook could cook cous cous….)
Flavoured cous cous, chickpeas, carrot, fennel bulb, cherry tomatoes, spring onions, chili, garlic, olive oil, cider vinegar, orange zest, salt and pepper.
Boil the kettle and cook the cous cous according to the instructions on the packet. Put it in a big bowl and drizzle it with loads of olive oil. Stir in a tin of chickpeas. Grate the carrot, chop the fennel thinly, halve the tomatoes, slice the spring onions and chili finely, crush the garlic. Mix all this into the cous cous along with the seasoning and orange zest. Stir in a generous amount of vinegar, so that when you taste it its slightly acidic.
This needs a few hours to cook ideally so set aside a rainy afternoon for this one. This recipe feeds about 8 people.
800g minced beef, 4 tins peeled plum tomatoes, 2 glasses red wine, 2 onions, carrot, loads of garlic (as ever), olive oil, balsamic vinegar, lasagne sheets (buy two packets to be on the safe side), extra parmesan shavings for the top.
Bechamel: 50g butter, 50g flour, milk, bay leaf, parmesan cheese (loads, grated), salt and pepper.
Chop onion, carrot and garlic finely, fry gently in lots of olive oil. Add the wine and simmer gently for five minutes. Pour in the tins of tomatoes, squishing the tomatoes in your hand before adding them. Simmer while you fry the mince in a big frying pan. Stir a little balsamic into the frying beef as it adds great flavour. Tip the beef into the sauce and then simmer with a lid on for as long as possible. Add more wine if the sauce gets a bit thick.
For the bechamel, make a roux by melting the butter and then stirring in the flour in a saucepan. Add the milk slowly, whisking all the time to avoid lumps. Add the bay leaf and the parmesan. Don’t make this until you’re ready to put it all together as the bechamel will get a skin and go lumpy if you leave it.
Layer beef, lasagne, bechamel, lasagne, beef etc until the dish is full making sure bechamel is on the top. Then scatter lots of parmesan shavings over the top. Bake for 40 mins in the oven at 180 C.
For the crumble mix: 250g plain flour, 150g butter, 175g sugar, 50g rolled oats, handful of toasted, chopped nuts.
Filling: Plums (about 12), couple of tablespoons sugar, knob butter, sloe gin or fruity equivalent.
In pan, gently heat the fruit in the butter, sugar and gin. Pour it into the crumble dish.
Place flour and sugar into a bowl and mix. Rub the butter into the flour until it looks like breadcrumbs, it takes awhile and you need quite strong fingers! Stir in the nuts and oats then pour over the fruit in the dish. Sprinkle a little brown sugar over the top and then pop it in the oven for 40 minutes or so, or until the fruity juices are bubbling up and the top is golden brown. Use any fruit for this, apples, pears, blackberries, frozen fruit or tinned fruit, its an incredibly easy and versatile pud for these chilly winter months.