Spring cleaning & speedy suppers

We have one of those corner cupboards that opens out with two semicircle shelves, and the curves don’t make it easy to store things in there. I have my cake tins and metal cooling racks on the top and pyrex dishes on the bottom. Needless to say the cooling racks fall down quite a bit and the cake tin towers are not very stable.

The answer to my husband’s “Do you really need all these tins?” is “Yes I do!” In fact I need two of most of them, UK recipes and continental recipes ask for different size tins and they are the most difficult thing to tidy away in a relatively small kitchen.

And you become attached to them – the tray for decadently rich chocolate brownies, the one for the flour free roulade, the two for victoria sponge cakes, the big square ones for birthday cakes, the loaf tins for the banana and walnut breakfast loaf.

Then there’s the junk drawer, which I constantly try to sort out. It has all those weird useful yet useless utensils in there, plus string, lighters, permanent markers, pegs (for bags of crisps), knife sharpener, meat thermometer, tape measure, pens, pencil and a rubber (my fault for still wanting to have a paper calendar).

So what are useful useless gadgets? Well, that would be the boiled egg topper. I have two varieties; the guillotine (think of a cigar topper that could remove the tip of your finger) and the serrated circular scissor thingy. Obviously useful, but easily replaced by the knife you are buttering your slice of toast with, which also goes in the dishwasher and comes out clean, unlike the other two. I have a jam spoon which is a long spoon with a u bend so it can sit on the side of the jar, an apple corer, cheese scraper slicer thingy, cheese wire, toast ‘smile’ indentor, tea bag squeezer and the list goes on…

smileytoast

To my defense a lot were gifts, and there are a couple of really useful ones that save time and a knife can’t do the job as well or as fast. I couldn’t live without my bean stringer and slicer, nor my micro grater. But as in all other aspects of life we over buy. I have a block of knives which I use, and then on top I just need my grater, peelers and whisk. Hmm – time for that clean out! But sorry, Honey – the cake tins stay put.

gadgets

As we are going to be busy spring cleaning (or just busy outside making the most of the weather) here are a couple of speedy suppers.

Peppered Steaks with Stroganoff sauce on ciabatta rolls

Serves 4

  • 500g pork filet, thickly sliced (can be replaced with medaillon of veal or steak or even strips of chicken breast)
  • ½ tsp olive oil
  • ½ tbsp. crushed mixed peppercorns
  • 2 ciabatta rolls halved
  • mixed salad leaves to serve

For the stroganoff sauce

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 300 g mushrooms, sliced (you can swap or add red and yellow peppers or thin green asparagus, halved lengthways, when it starts to hit the shops)
  • 1 clove garlic crushed (or micro grated)
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • 100 ml white wine
  • 100ml half fat crème fraîche
  • 2 tsp Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon (optional)
  1. Sandwich the pork slices between two sheets of cling film and lightly bash out till about 3 mm thick, brush with oil and sprinkle toe pepper over both sides.
  2. Make the sauce by heating oil in a non stick pan and sauté mushrooms till lightly golden, reduce the heat and add garlic and paprika and cook for 1 minute and then add the wine. Reduce the wine by half and remove from the heat. Stir in the crème fraîche, mustard and tarragon and season to taste. Add a little hot water if seems too thick. Keep warm.
  3. Heat a large frying pan over a medium high heat, add a little oil then fry the pork for 1-2 minutes on each side or until just cooked through. Remove from the pan and allow to rest for a few minutes.
  4. Toast the cut side of each roll. Place half on a plate and divide the meat slices between them. Spoon over the warm sauce and serve with salad.

maycollage

 Spring baby leaf spinach, bacon and pine nut pasta with a lemon dressing

 Serves 4

  • 1 lemon non treated
  • 3tbsp olive oil
  • 300g pasta such as pappardelle
  • 8 rashers streaky bacon (lard maigre)
  • 50g pine nuts
  • 250g baby leaf spinach, thick stalks removed
  1. Grate the lemon zest and mix with 2 tablespoons of the juice and the olive oil, season and set aside. Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions, meanwhile heat a frying pan and dry fry the bacon for 2 mins or until starting to turn golden. Add the pine nuts and cook with the bacon until toasted golden, stirring often.
  2. Drain the pasta and return to the hot pan and tip in the spinach leaves, stirring gently until the spinach has wilted. Toss in the bacon, pine nuts and the lemon dressing. Season to taste and serve with a drizzle of olive oil and some freshly ground black pepper. A really tasty and satisfying dish!

 

Text and photos by Alison Korter-Lacki, April 2013

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