Monday, October 3, 2022

Comfort Food For One: Recipes From Nici Wickes’ Best-Selling A Quiet Kitchen

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Beloved food writer Nici Wickes brings us into her home and her life in her wonderful (and best-selling!) new cookbook, A Quiet Kitchen. In this extract, we bring you four recipes that are perfect comfort food for one, because it’s comfort food season!

Chicken pot pie

“The best pot pie. Not kidding.”

SERVES ONE WITH LEFTOVERS (MAYBE)

1/2 large onion, diced

1 tablespoon butter

at least 1 rasher bacon, diced

1/2 stalk celery, diced

fresh fennel fronds and/or tarragon leaves

2–3 big tablespoons creme fraiche (or sour cream)

2 free-range boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized chunks

1/2 cup vegetable or chicken stock

1/4 cup white wine

2 cups baby spinach

1 large potato, thinly sliced

salt and pepper

a splash of olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Grease a small ovenproof dish.

2. In a saucepan, fry the diced onion in the butter until soft. Add the bacon, celery and fresh fennel fronds and/or tarragon. Cook for 2–3 minutes.

3. Add the creme fraiche (or sour cream), chicken, stock and white wine and simmer vigorously for 5–7 minutes. Add in the baby spinach.

4. Tumble the chicken mix into the prepared dish. Top with the sliced potato, sprinkle with salt and pepper,

and drizzle with a splash of olive oil. Cover with foil and cook for 30–40 minutes, the last 10 minutes uncovered, and maybe turn on the grill to brown the top if it doesn’t look golden brown enough.

baked eggplant recipe from A Quiet Kitchen

Baked eggplant

“I swear I only really learnt to cook eggplant properly on a visit to Sicily in 2018. The trick is to cook it longer than you think you need to in order to make it really, truly, magically silky.”

SERVES ONE FOR DINNER WITH LEFTOVERS FOR LUNCH

1 large eggplant

100g feta cheese

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 cloves garlic, finely chopped

1 leek, chopped into medium rounds

1 stalk celery, chopped into small chunks

2 tomatoes, roughly chopped

a small sprig of fresh rosemary or thyme, leaves picked

salt and pepper

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Lightly grease a baking dish with oil.

2. Cut the stalk from the top of the eggplant then cut in half lengthways. With a sharp knife cut 4–5 slits lengthways down each half from the top so that the eggplant will fan out when placed in the baking dish.

3. Crumble and stuff the feta between the eggplant slits.

4. Add the oil to a frying pan and saute the garlic, leek, celery, tomatoes and fresh herbs for 10 minutes or so. Spoon the vegetables over the top of the eggplant, season and cover with foil.

5. Bake for 45–60 minutes until the eggplant is thoroughly cooked through and soft. Remove the foil and return to the oven for a further 10 minutes to brown up. Serve with crusty bread to dip into it. YUM!

Mushroom ragu recipe from A Quiet Kitchen

Mushroom & bacon ragù

“This is a go-to dish for me when I’m craving a slow-cooked comfort dish but haven’t got much time. My fast ragù (or ragout if you’re French) is full of deep delectable flavours and ready in the time it takes to cook the pasta. Say hello to cosy deliciousness!”

SERVES ONE OR TWO

100–130g dried pasta (I use pappardelle but feel free to use spaghetti, penne, shells,etc.)

1 small onion, diced

2 rashers quality bacon, diced

2–3 large flat mushrooms (or 6–8 brown button), thinly sliced

a handful of fresh spinach leaves, roughly chopped

1/4 cup white wine (optional) or extra pasta water

2 tablespoons sour cream or creme fraiche

1/4 teaspoon sea salt

a pinch of black pepper

small handful of parsely, chopped

1/4 cup grated Parmesan

bread to serve

1. Add pasta to a pot of well-salted water on a rolling boil.

2. Heat the oil in a pan and fry onion and bacon until onion is soft and bacon is browned. Add in sliced mushrooms and spinach and cook for 4–5 minutes until mushrooms are cooked through. Pour in a large splash of wine or pasta water, and stir through the sour cream or creme fraiche and seasoning. Simmer for 30 seconds. Scoop out about 1/3 cup more pasta water and add this to the pan to create a sauce, simmering for another 30 seconds or so.

3. Drain pasta once cooked and add to the pan. Stir to coat in sauce.

4. Serve ragu in bowls and sprinkle with parsley and Parmesan.

Note: If you lay a large wooden spoon over your pasta pot it will prevent it boiling over.

Fruit sponge recipe from A Quiet Kitchen

Fruit sponge

“Don’t judge! By now you must already know that pudding is a perfectly good dinner option in my world. Always have a tin of black Doris plums in the pantry – comfort in a can.”

SERVES TWO OR MAYBE JUST ONE SOME DAYS

1/2 x 850g can black Doris plums

20g butter, softened

2 tablespoons sugar

1 small egg

⅓ cup self-raising flour

1–2 tablespoons milk

1. Preheat the oven to 180°C. Pour plums into an ovenproof bowl. Place in the oven to get hot while you make the sponge.

2. In a medium-sized bowl, beat butter and sugar until pale and creamy then add the egg and beat well. Sift in the flour and mix to combine. Add milk, a tablespoon at a time, and stir until you have a batter that’s dropping consistency. Dollop the mixture over the hot fruit. It won’t cover the fruit but will spread out while it is cooking.

3. Cook for about 30–45 minutes. Test that it’s cooked by inserting a skewer or knife into the sponge — it will come out clean when cooked.

4. Serve with a dash of cream, ice cream or custard — or all three!

Note: Dropping consistency is an old-fashioned term but a good guide to the desired stiffness of cake batters. A spoonful of batter should not run off the spoon, nor stick to it, but rather it ought to drop lazily of its own accord.

Nici Wickes' cookbook A Quiet Kitchen

A Quiet Kitchen by Nici Wickes photography by Todd Eyre, published by Bateman Books, RRP$45.00, Now Available

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