Sunday riches: feasting at Nigina Express

At the moment, I’m preparing a workshop to run with our PhD students on writing. I enjoy writing; that’s part of the reason why I decided to blog about my (culinary) life. Blogging is also a good way to work my writing out – kind of like a writing gym; each sentence is a set, each paragraph a circuit. But I think that writing isn’t just writing: there’s an art and a craft to it. Joanna Penn at the Creative Penn says that this is an important distinction: “Art is subjective, its beauty lies in the eyes of the beholder … but craft is objective. There is a right way and a wrong way to craft” (http://www.thecreativepenn.com/2011/09/05/art-craft-writing/). She further indicates that the craft is functional, while art is about beauty.

If we turn to the kitchen, these same notions apply. Some people cook in a way that is functional; for them, cooking is craft. I fall firmly into this camp; for me, cooking is a type of alchemy, bringing together different elements to make something functional. For other people, cooking is both craft and art. I don’t think cooking cannot incorporate craft, because it’s always functional: at the end of the day, you want it to be something that someone can eat and enjoy. But for this latter group of people, cooking is also art; it’s about creating something beautiful, pleasing to the senses (particularly sight, smell, and taste).

My friend, Regina, is one of these arty cooking people. She prepares beautiful menus, regardless of whether she is making things that are complicated or simple. Given her love for Nigella (Lawson), it’s unsurprising that her is known as ‘Nigina Express’ 😉

Yesterday afternoon, we were lucky enough to head over to Nigina Express for a bit of alfresco feasting (sounds much better than ‘scoffing myself in my friend’s backyard’!). While H paddled in the pool and the Bubaloo grooved to ‘Gangnam Style’ (and can now do the dance, thanks to lovely 10 year old D), I photographed the three family friendly courses: Pigs in Blankets, Chicken with Greek herb sauce, and flourless chocolate cake. The first two are courtesy of Nigella Lawson, and the third is out of Regina’s recipe book!

Pigs in blankets with mustard dipping sauce (they’re also good with tomato sauce)

You will need:

2 sheets defrosted puff pastry

1 egg

16 frankfurters

1. Preheat the oven to 220C. Roll out the sheets of puff pastry to make it a bit thinner, to make one long side. Cut the rectangle into 1/4s, then cut each rectangle in half lengthwise, to give 8 small pastry strips.

2. Beat the egg in a small bowl and paint each pastry section with the egg wash. Sit a frankfurter horizontally on the side of one pastry strip and roll it up until it just seals. Do this with all frankfurters/pastry.

3. Cut each rolled frankfurter into 4 small pieces, squeezing the pastry around the sausage as you go. Place on a lined baking tray. Repeat with the other sheet of pastry.

4. Paint the franks in the egg wash and bake for 15-20 minutes or until golden brown.

Mustard dipping sauce: In a bowl, mix together 100g wholegrain mustard, 100g Dijon mustard and 2 tbsp sour cream.

YUM Yum yum…

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Chicken with Greek herb sauce

You will need:

12 chicken thighs

juice of 1 lemon

4 tablespoons olive oil

salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Place the chicken thighs (skin side up if they have skin on) in a roasting tin, then pour over the lemon juice and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Place in the oven and roast for 45 minutes.

Greek herb sauce: 500ml plain Greek yoghurt, 4 large/6 small spring onions, 1 green chilli (deseeded), 1 clove peeled garlic (crushed), 1/2 cucumber (finely diced), 3 tablespoons each of chopped fresh coriander, mint and/or dill, salt and pepper. Put all ingredients together in a bowl and mix to combine. Season to taste.

Serve with baked potatoes

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Flourless chocolate cake

This cake has the most gooey yummy centre; we can’t get enough! Ingredients are in italics.

1. Melt together 250g chocolate and 250g unsalted butter. Cool and set aside.

2. Whisk 6 egg whites until stiff. Set aside.

3. Whisk 6 egg yolks with 3/4 cup castor sugar, 1/4 cup light brown sugar, then add the chocolate mixture. Fold in 1/2 cup almond meal, 3 tbsp flour and 1 tbsp egg white mixture. Fold in remaining egg white mixture.

4. Bake in a 23cm cake pan at 190C for 25-30 minutes, or until the cake is cooked but still has a slight wobble.

At Nigina Express, this cake is served with persian fairy floss – H’s favourite! Try and stop after 1 piece!

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