Monday, 10 December 2012

Oven-baked pasta with guinea fowl, cherry tomatoes and soured cream

A couple of days ago, we had an amazing roast guinea fowl. I wanted to do something tasty with the left over meat and steamed asparagus and this is what we had tonight. It was a wonderfully satisfying meal on a wintry Monday night. You can use chicken for this as well.

(serves 2)

200 g cooked guinea fowl
300 g cherry tomatoes
1 red chilli, chopped
1-2 garlic cloves, crushed
150 ml soured cream
extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
sea salt
a handful of freshly chopped coriander

200 g pasta

1. Boil the kettle and add the boiling water, pasta and some salt to a saucepan. Cook as per packet instructions.

2. Heat a little olive oil in a non-stick frying pan and add the cherry tomatoes. Cook them over a high heat for 3-4 minutes. Turn down the heat and add the chilli and garlic. Season with pepper and salt. Cook for another few minutes, then add the chopped up guinea fowl, soured cream and coriander. Bring to the boil and take off the heat.

3. Drain the pasta when ready. Pour into an oven-proof dish, pour over the sauce and mix. Bake in the oven at gas mark 5/ 200°C for 15 minutes.

Friday, 7 December 2012

"Franzose" - Spiced hot apple wine with calvados

This is a nice alternative to mulled wine in the winter and pre-xmas season.

(serves 4-5)

1 bottle of still apple wine or French cider (4-5% alcohol)
1 large (15 cm) cinnamon stick, cut into 3-4 pieces
5-6 star anise
8 cloves
1/2 tsp fennel seeds
6 cardamom pods, cracked
2 tsp honey or to taste
70 ml calvados

Place all the spices on a piece of muslin, gather the muslin and wrap with a piece of string to make a bag.

Add all the bag of spices, apple wine and honey into a saucepan and heat very slowly. Steep for 15 minutes but don't boil. Just before serving add the calvados and heat throught. Serve in warmed tea glasses or mugs.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

Lamb ragù with fennel seeds

I love a good ragù, or bolognese as most of us would call it. And I now know that the quick way we tend to do it is not the tastiest way. Try and let it simmer for at least an hour-and-a-half, longer if you can. Normally, you'd add water to make sure the meat stays moist but I made this easy by adding 2 tins of chopped tomatoes to just 250 g of mince. This should serve 4 - 6 people. As there are only two of us, we had dinner for two nights: stuffed aubergine and couscous on Tuesday and pasta with ragù on Wednesday.

250 g lamb mince
1 onion, finely chopped
1 whole bulb garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp whole fennel seeds
2 tins of chopped tomatoes in thick sauce
good glug of dry white wine
extra virgin olive oil
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
1/2 tsp brown sugar

In a heavy bottomed saucepan, e. g. Le Creuset, heat some olive oil and sauté the onions, garlic and fennel seeds for about 5 minutes without browning. Add the mince and sauté until lightly browned all over. Add the tinned tomatoes, wine and sugar and season with pepper and salt. Simmer for at least 1 1/2 hours.

Serve with pasta and sprinkle with freshly ground parmesan. Alternatively, stuff halved peppers and aubergines. Bake for 30-45 minutes at 200 °C.

Red wine, mushroom and pancetta risotto

Having cooked this three times now, twice just for the two of us and once for a larger group at hour friends' in Holland, I have to say that it is currently my favourite risotto. It looks a wee bit strange, i. e. pink, but don't let that fool you. It is tasty as get out. And it only takes about 30 minutes to make, in total.
Unfortunately, British supermarkets don't have a good selection of mushrooms so I've only used ordinary mushrooms and oyster mushrooms so far. I'm dreaming of using a mix of wonderful wild mushrooms, chanterelles in particular, and perhaps a tiny wee amount of dried porcinis and the soaking juices of those... If you want to prepare a vegetarian version of this, I would definitely recommend using porcinis.
(serves 2)
200 g arborio rice
1/2 red onion, very finely chopped
1-2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
1 celery stick, very finely chopped
175 ml full-bodied red wine
1.2 l vegetable stock
extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
50 g freshly grated parmesan
1/2 packet of pancetta
250 g mushrooms

1. First of all, heat a little olive oil in a non-stick frying pan and sauté the mushrooms and pancetta until crisp and golden. Set them aside.

2. Heat a couple of lugs of olive oil in a saucepan and cook the onion, garlic and celery over a medium heat for about 5 minutes without them browning.
3. Add the rice and stir for a couple of minutes until it starts to look a little translucent.
4. Add the wine and stir until it's been absorbed by the rice. Then add a ladle of stock at the time and keep stirring. You want the rice to bubble but not boil so adjust the heat as necessary during this step. The rice will take about 15-20 minutes.

5. Once the rice is done it shouldn't be completely dry but still have some nice liquid left. Now season with the black pepper (I don't use salt because there is enough in the pancetta, stock and parmesan) and add the mushroom-and-pancetta mix.
6. Next, mix in the parmesan and a little olive oil. Put the lid on and leave for a couple of minutes. Then serve.

Sunday, 11 November 2012

Rocket Chicken

I like to marinate the chicken in the herb oil for a few hours to let the flavours permeate the meat.

1 free range or organic chicken (1250-1500 g)
1 whole garlic bulb
1/2 quantity of rocket oil (see below)
freshly ground black pepper
sea salt
1 whole lemon
6 slices of pancetta, optional

Rocket Oil

100 g wild rocket
freshly ground black pepper
sea salt
1 garlic clove, crushed
100 ml olive oil

1. First make the oil, by adding all the ingredients except the oil into a food processor or beaker of a hand held blender. Add about half the oil and start whizzing it up. Add more oil as required. Taste and set aside.

2. Place the chicken on a large platter. Season inside and out with pepper and salt. Then slather on the rocket oil, a tablespoon or two a the time. Rub all over with your hands. Wash your hands really well. Cover the chicken with cling film and place in the fridge until needed.

3. When you're ready to cook, pre-heat the oven to 200°C/gas mark 5. Boil some water and cook the lemon for about 8-10 minutes. Meanwhile, place the chicken in a roasting tray and break up the garlic bulb. You don't have to peel the cloves.

4. When the lemon is cooked remove it from the water and carefully stab it all over with a sharp knife or fork. Stuff the chicken with the garlic and whole lemon. Roast in the oven for approx. 1 hour 15 to 1 hour 30 minutes.After about 45 minutes, cover the chicke with the pancetta slices . The chicken is cooked when piercing the thigh and the juices run clear.

In winter, serve this with rosemary roasted parsnips, carrots and potatoes. In the summerm this is lovely with a tray of roasted cherry tomatoes, aubergines and courgettes.

Monday, 22 October 2012

Pasta with Aubergine, Red Pepper, Fennel Seeds, Lime Juice and Fresh Coriander

We're currently eating pasta every night because it's quick and, prepared right, absolutely stunning. This is a vegan dish that I put together tonight without thinking about it too much and it was fabulous.

(serves 2)

200-250 g durum wheat pasta
1 aubergine
2 sweet red peppers
1 red onion
1 whole-bulb garlic
1 sweet red chilli
1 tsp fennel seeds
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
juice of 1 lime
1/2 bunch of fresh coriander, finely chopped
extra virgin olive oil

1. Cut the aubergines lengthways into four thick slices and slice into 1 cm thick slices. Halve and dessed the peppers and cut into 2 cm strips. Peel and half the onion and cut into thin wedges. Peel the garlic and cut into slivers.

2. Place all the vegetables into a roasting tray. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle over the fennel seed and drizzle with olive oil. Bake at 200 °C/gas mark 5-6 for 45-60 minutes, depending on your oven. Mix every 20 minute or so.

3. When the veggies are almost ready cook the pasta in lightly salted water as per packet instructions. Drain and return to the saucepan. Add the roasted veg and the lime juice. Mix and serve on plates. Sprinkle with the chopped coriander and serve immeditately.

If you don't like coriander try flat leaf parsley instead.

Sunday, 21 October 2012

Baby Courgette, Chorizo and Dolce Latte Pasta Bake

I admit it. I am currently crazy about chorizo. However, leave out the chorizo and this is a fab vegetarian pasta bake.

(serves two)

8 baby courgettes
1 red chilli
50 g chorizo
250 ml semi-skimmed milk
1 garlic clove
freshly ground black pepper
75 g dolce latte
1 heaped tsp flour cold water
200 g pasta

1. Cut the baby courgette in half lengthways. Half and deseed the chilli and finely slice.

2. Boil the pasta in lightly salted water for about half the time it says on the packet. Drain the pasta and place into an oven-proof dish.

3. Make the sauce by pouring the milk into a small saucepan, crumble and add the dolce latte. Season with pepper. Squeeze in the garlic. Heat slowly.

4. Put 1 heaped tsp of flour into a cup or similar and add 1-2 tbsp cold water. Mix using a whisk. Add to the cheese sauce and bring to the boil stirring regularly so the sauce won't burn.

5. At the same time, sauté the sliced chorizo, chilli and courgettes (cut-side down) for a minute or two until lightly browned. Remove and place onto kitchen towel to drain.

6. Add the chorizo, courgettes and chilli to the oven-proof dish, mix with the pasta and pour over the sauce. Cover with tin foil and bake at 200°C/gas mark 5 for 45 minutes. The pasta will have absorbed most of or all of the sauce. Serve with a tomato, cucumber and pomegranate salad.

Tomato, cucumber and pomegranate salad

1/2 cucumber
250 g cherry plum tomatoes
1 pomegranate
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
juice of 1 lime
extra virgin olive oils

1. Peel the cucumber if you or your guests have problems digesting the skin. Cut lenghtways and scoop out the seeds with a teaspoon. Cut lengthways again and chop into 1 cm pieces.

2. Halve the cherry tomatoes.

3. Remove the fruit from the pomegranate taking care that none of the white pip gets in as it's bitter.

4. Place all the salad ingredients into a nice serving bowl. Season with pepper and salt. Squeeze over the lime juice and add about 4 tbsp olive oil. Leave to marinate for an hour or so before serving.

Autumn Pasta - Conchiglie with Butternut Squash

I just love all the little squash/pumpkins that are in the shops at this time of year. Unfortunately, most of them end up really flowery after roasting. Therefore I recommend butternut squash, which stays firm and is an absolute joy to eat. BTW, it's easy to turn this into a vegetarian recipe. Just leave out the chorizo and season the veg with a little salt.

(serves 4)

1 butternut squash
100 g chorizo
1 sweet red pepper
250 cherry (plum) tomatoes
freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
2-3 garlic cloves.

350 g conchigle pasta
sea salt

freshly grated parmesan

1. Trim the top of the butternut squash, then half and core. Cut into sections and dice. Coarsely chop the pepper. Cut the chorizo lengthways and slice.

2. Place all the butternut squash, pepper, whole cherry tomatoes, unpeeled garlic cloves and chorizo slices into a roasting tray. Season with freshly ground black pepper and drizzle with a generous amount of olive oil. Mix well and place in the oven. Roast for 45-60 minutes at 200°C, gas mark 4.

3. When the veg are almost done, cook the pasta in boiling salted water according to packet instructions.

4. Drain the pasta and mix with the veggies. Sprinkle with parmesan and serve with a crisp leafy salad.

Sunday, 14 October 2012

Mushrooms stuffed with butter beans served with pistachio basmati rice

This recipe can easily be turned into a veggie dish. Just leave out the bresaola and chorizo and season with salt. I served this with pistachio basmati anad a broccoli salad, only this time I used balsamic for the dressing instead of lemon juice and served the salad cold.
(serves 2-4)

1 tin of organic butter beans (no added salt or sugar), drained
1 red onion
1 white onion
3 garlic cloves
5 spring onions
50 g chorizo
4 sices of bresaola, optional
1 heaped tsp. dried oregano
150 ml full bodied red wine
extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper

4 large flat mushrooms
100 g crumbled feta cheese

1. Peel the mushrooms and remove the stalks. Set aside. 2. Halve and slice the onions, coarsely grate the garlic and slice the spring onions. Halve the chorizo lengthways and slice into 2-3 mm thick slices. Cut the bresaola in half and slice. 3. Heat the olive oil in a heavy saucepan, e. g. Le Creuset, add onions, spring onions garlic, chorizo, bresaola, chopped mushroom stalks, oregano and sautée first over a high heat, then over a medium heat to caramalise the onion and brown the meat. This'll take 10-15 minutes. 4. Add the drained butter beans and mix. Pour over the wine and season with pepper. Cook over a low to medium heat for about 30-45 minutes to infuse the flavours. 5. Fill the mushrooms with the bean mix and place in a lightly oiled baking tray. Cover with tin foil and bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes. Remove the tin foil, sprinkle over the feta cheese and put under the grill for a couple of minutes until the feta has browned.

Pistachio basmati

Pistachio Rice

Normally, I don't buy basmati rice because I prefer brown rice but when I spotted brown basmati at the supermarket the other day I was keen to try it out.

300 g brown basmati rice
50 g unsalted toasted pistachio nuts, shelled and coarsely chopped
1 garlic clove
1/2 tsp cumin, toasted and ground
200 g brown basmati rice

1. Wash and cook the basmati according to the packet instructions in lightly salted water until tender.
2. Toast the cumin in a non-stick pan and grind in a mortar.
3. Coarsely chop the pistachios and grate the carlic.
4. When the rice is done, heat some olive oil. Add the pistachios, garlic and cumin to the pan. Fry for a couple of minutes. Add the rice and mix well. Serve immediately.

Saturday, 6 October 2012

Chorizo Cassoulet with Cannellini Beans

This is a wonderful warming autumn dish which I served with a warm broccoli salad. If you're vegetarian and leave out the chorizo just add a little salt. If you want to leave out the wine, you can optionally add a tablespoon of balsamic.

100 g chorizo, halved lengthways and sliced
1 onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 leek, finely sliced
1 can organic cannellini beans (without salt or sugar), rinsed and drained
300 g potatoes, peeled and diced
1/2 small Hokaido pumpkin, diced
1 carrot, peeled, cut lenghtways and sliced
500 ml tomato passata
8-10 sage leaves. finely sliced
2 bay leaves, rolled up and secured with a cocktail stick extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp hot Hungarian paprika
1/2 glass of full bodied red wine
optionally soured cream for serving

1. Sauté the onion, garlic, leak, sage and chorizo over a medium heat until the veggies are soft.

2. Add the potatoes, carrot, pumpkin, beans, bay leaves and mix well. Then add the passata and wine, if used. Season with pepper and paprika.

3. Bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook for 30-60 minutes. The longer it cooks the more intense the flavours.

4. Serve with the warm broccoli salad or a crunchy green salad.

Warm Broccoli Salad

I served this with a chorizo cassoulet and it was just divine.

500 g broccoli
1 tbsp red onion, very, very finely chopped
1 clove of garlic
juice of 1/2 a lemon
freshly ground black pepper
sea salt
approx. 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1. Cut the broccoli into florets and cut the florets into halves or, if bigger, three or four pieces. Pleace into a steamer and steam for about 10 minutes until just cooked al dente.

2. In the meantime, make your dressing.

3. Tip the broccoli into a dish, leave to cool for a few minutes. Then dress and serve.
Add a finely chopped chilli and use balsamic instead of lemon juice.

Monday, 10 September 2012

Soup of roasted courgettes with fennel seeds

We love not having to think about lunch and in winter this means we make a large pot of soup to sustain us during the week. But before it's time for the really filling, warming soups I'm making soups that still remind me of summer. Today, I roasted courgettes for a soup. It doesn't take long to put all the ingredients together but it takes a fair amount of time in the oven. The combination of caramelised onion, garlic and celery and fennel makes this soup truly scrumptious.

4 large courgettes
1 large onion
2 whole clove garlic bulbs
2 celery sticks
1 tsp fennel seeds
1.8 l vegetable stock
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
herby tops of three carrots
extra virgin olive oil
2 handfuls of fresh (or frozen) home-made breadcrumbs

1. Wash the courgettes, cut off top and bottom and half lengthways. Place cut side up into a roasting tray.

2. Peel and half the oninion and cut into thickish slices. Peel the garlic cloves and cut into about 4-6 pieces each. Cut the celery into 3 cm long bits. Crush every piece with the ball of your hand. Scatter onion and garlic over and around the courgettes.

3. Season with a little salt and a generous amount of black pepper. Sprinkle the fennel seeds over the top. Drizzle with olive oil and mix everything with your hands.

4. Place into a preheated oven and cook at gas mark 7/220°C until all the vegetabels are lightly browned. Our oven isn't great so I put it up to full whack after about 35 minutes and also turned the courgettes cut side down.

5. When the courgettes are cooked, make the sock either fresh or from powder and add the coarsely chopped leafy parts of the carrot tops.

6. Transfer all the veg into a saucepan, add the breadcrumbs and stock and purée. Check the seasoning and serve or leave to cool and refrigerate in portions ready to pack for lunch.

Friday, 20 July 2012

Pea and Pesto Risotto

I love risotto and tend to use the basic risotto recipe from Jamie Oliver The Return of the Naked Chef.

(serves 2 as a main course)

1/2 onion or 1 shallott, very finely chopped
1 garlic clove, very finely chopped
optionally 1 celery stick, very finely chopped
200 g risotto rice
175 ml dry white wine
1.25 l vegetable stock
freshly ground pepper
1 heaped tbsp of home-made pesto
50 g freshly grated parmesan
250 g fresh or frozen peas
extra virgin olive oil

1. To start with, steam your peas until almost tender – they'll cook a little more when added to the risotto – and set them aside.

2. Heat about 1 tbsp of olive oil in a saucepan and sauté the onion, garlic and celery over a medium heat for about 5 minutes until soften but not brown. Add the rice and keep stirring until it becomes transparent. Now add the wine. Keep stirring until the wine has been absorbed. Then add the stock a ladle full at a time until the rice is to your liking (al dente or just cooked). This takes about 15-20 minutes.

3. Turn off the heat, season with pepper and add the pesto and parmesan. Mix well. This is when it all becomes really creamy.

4. Lastly add the peas and serve immediately drizzled with a little olive oil, if desired, and topped with some peppery salad leaves, e. g. rocket, mizuna, mustard leaves.

Mental Pasta Sauce

Last night I raked through the fridge and came across three lightly wrinkled sweet red peppers. They weren't useful as a veg anymore but fine for use in a soup or sauce. So I gathered a few more items, all of them fresh, I hasten to add, and set about making a pasta sauce. If you don't like anchovies, use capers or some chopped olives instead. If you don't like either of these ingredients, just season the sauce with a little salt.

When we were eating I asked my other half: "So, what do you think?" The answer was "Mental!"

1 red onion
1 whole bulb garlic
1 small red chilli, chopped
3 sweet red peppers
1 courgette
a few good glugs of olive oil
1 tin of anchovies in olive oil
a few sprigs of fresh oregano
freshly ground black pepper
1 tsp sweet Hungarian paprika
1 tin tomatoes in thick sauce
150-175 ml red wine
freshly grated parmesan
fresh rocket

1. Chop all the ingredients into fairly small bits. Pick the leaves off the oregano and chop them finely. You can leave the anchovies whole as they disolve in the hot oil. Use the oil from the can, too, for a more intense flavour.

2. Heat the oil in a heavy saucepan and add all the ingredients apart from the wine, tomatoes and seasoning. Sauté over a medium heat until the veg are starting to brown stirring occasionally to prevent them from sticking.

3. Season with black pepper. Add the wine, tomatoes and paprika. Bring to the boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer for at least 30 minutes. The longer you can leave it the better. My sauce bubbled away for about 2 hours and tasted, well, mental ;)

4. Before serving, lightly blend the sauce. Serve with pasta topped with freshly grated parmesan and rocket leaves.

Saturday, 14 July 2012

Pea cake

This year, we've really gotten into fresh peas and cooked right they are deliciously sweet. So I wondered if and how they could be turned into a dessert or cake. Adapting a carrot cake recipe seemed the simplest and safest option. So here's the result. I hope you find it as delicious as I do. 500 g peas in their pods (approx. 170 peas)
2 tbsp fresh lemon juice
grated skin of 1 lemon
125 g soft, unsalted butter
125 g fine brown sugar
2 drops of vanilla extract
1 touch of salt
4 medium eggs
75 g walnuts, chopped
100 g ordinary flour
100 g wholemeal flour
1 tsp baking powder

200 g full-fat cream cheese
2 tbsp whipping cream
50 g fine brown sugar
grated skin of 1/2 lemon
optionally walnut haves for decorating

1. Cook the peas in boiling water until they're soft. While I normally only cook the 2-3 minutes, give them at least 5 minutes so they can be squashed. When soft, drain the pease and roughly mash them with a potato masher or in a pestle and mortar. Set aside

2. Place the butter, sugar, eggs, lemon juice and lemon rind in a food p
rocessor and combine until the sugar has dissolved.

3. Add the peas and mix in.

4. Mix the chopped nuts, flour and baking powder and add a tablespoon at the time.

5. Grease an 18 cm spring tin and pour in the cake mix. In a preheated oven, bake aft 175°C/150°C for fan-assisted ovens/gas mark 4 for about 40-50 minutes.

6. Cool on a rack.

7. For the topping beat the cheese, sugar, cream and lemon rind into a smooth paste. Keep in the fridge until needed. Then lavishly cover your cake and optionally decorate with walnut halves.

Pea Quiche

Shortcrust pastry:
200 g wholemeal, ordinary or white bread flower
100 g unsalted butter
2 tsp baking powder
3 tbsp water

500 g peas in their pods (approx. 170 g peas, you can, of course, use frozen peas)
4 eggs
2 heaped tbsp crème fraiche or soured cream
freshly ground black pepper
sea salt
1-2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped or crushed

1. Make the pastry by combining flour, baking poweder, salt and butter adding water as required. Grease a 26 cm quiche base with a little olive oil and press the pastry into it. Stab several times with a fork make. Cover with grease-proof paper and dried peas or similar and bake blind at gas mark 5, 200 °C for 10 minutes.
2. Meanwhile make the filling. Boil some water and cook the peas seasoned with black pepper for 2-3 minutes. Drain and set aside.

3. Place the eggs and cream in a bowl. Season with pepper and salt and beat together. Add the peas and pour onto the base.

3. Bake for approx. 40 minutes at 200°C, 175° in fan-assisted oven or gas mark 5.

Peas with Pancetta

500 g peas in their pods (approx. 170 g peas)
50 g pancetta, cut into small strips
freshly ground black pepper
2-3 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
extra virgin olive oil
good glug of white wine

1. Boil some water and cook the peas seasoned with black pepper for 2-3 minutes. Drain and set aside.

2. In a frying pan heat a little oil and cook the pancetta and garlic over a medium heat until the pancetta is crispy.

3. Add the peas and the white wine, season with pepper, heat through for a couple of minutes.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Lemony Roasted Asparagus Risotto

(serves 2)

200 g risotto or paella rice
2 banana shallots, very finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, very finely chopped
1.5 l vegetable stock
175 ml dry white wine
freshly ground black pepper
sea salt
50 g freshly grated parmesan
extra virgin olive oil
250 g green asparagus
juice of 1 lemon
butter (optional)

1. Prepare the asparagus first: Bend so it breaks where the woddy end starts. (You can use the woody bits along with other ingredients to make a vegetable stock.) Wash and place into a roasting tray, season with a little pepper and salt und drizzle with olive oil. Roast at 220 °C/gas mark 6 for approx. 12 minutes. It should still have quite a bit of bite because it will cook when added to the risotto. Drizzle with lemon juice, remove onto a plate and leave to cool, then chop into 3-4 cm long pieces. Add the juices from the baking tray to your stock.

2. For the risotto, heat some olive oil in a saucepan and sauté the onion and garlic for 5 minutes at a low heat until tender but not browned.

3. Add the rice and keep stirring until the rice starts to become translucent. Then add the wine. Keep stirring until the wine has been absorbed. Now start adding the hot stock a ladle at the time. Over a medium heat keep stirring the whole time. After about 15-20 minutes check if the rice is done. If you like make it al dente.

4. Now turn off the heat and add the asparagus.

5. Next, add the parmesan and a little olive oil or butter. Mix carefully and leave for a couple of minutes. This is how it becomes so wonderfully creamy.

Serve on warmed plates optionally drizzled with a nice olive oil and topped with some watercress.

Spinach soup with tahini and chickpeas

Normally I don't add salt to soups as I find that there is enough salt even in the reduced salt vegetable stock powder I usually use. However, the stock for this soup was home made without added salt.

500 g fresh spinach, washed
1 tin of organic chickpeas, drained
2-2.5 l vegetable stock
2 heaped tbsp of unsalted tahini
1 onion, finely chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 large handfuls of fine wholemeal oat flakes
extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper
sea salt
dried herbes des Provence

1. Heat the oil in a large saucepan and sauté the onion, garlic and herbs over a low to medium heat for about 5 minutes until softened but not browned.

2. Add the stock, oat flakes, tahini and half of the chickpeas. Season with pepper and salt and bring to the boil. Simmer for about 10 minutes until the oat flakes have softened.

3. Add the spinach and let it wilt. Then check the seasoning and blend.

4. After blending, check the seasoning again, add the remaining chickpeas and heat through.

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Coriander Pesto

This is a gorgeous alternative to the traditional basil-based pesto. Don't worry about the coriander being to strong-flavoured. Combined with all the other ingredients it makes a yummy pesto. Pasta and home-made pesto = bliss :)))

(serves 4)

50 coriander, washed and spun (or dried really well)
40 toasted hazelnuts, skin removed
4 garlic cloves
freshly ground black pepper
sea salt
a good lug of extra virgin olive oil (about 20 seconds' worth)
2 small handfuls of freshly grated parmesan

Put all the ingredients into food processor and zap or into a beaker and purée with a handheld blender. Any left-overs will keep in the fridge for a few days in an airtight container and covered completely with olive oil.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Pasta with roasted courgettes and haloumi

This is just for two servings but that's because we love lots of veggies in our dishes. The amount of vegetables might be enough for four servings.

200 g pasta
3 courgettes
1 haloumi cheese
1 red onion
1 red chilli
1 garlic clove
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil

1. Preheat the oven to gas mark 6/ 200 °C. Pour some olive oil into a roasting try and place the tray into the oven to heat for about 5 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, cut the courgettes lengthways and slice them. Half and slice the red onion, chop up the garlic, core and finely slice the chilli. Slice the haloumi and then roughly chop it.

3. Place the courgettes into the heated roasting tray and add all the other ingredients. Season with a little salt and pepper and roast for about 30-40 minutes, depending on your oven.

4. Boil the pasta and mix in the veg. Serve immediately, optionally with a side salad.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Pork chops with cream, mustard and spinach topping

I've used a lot of spinach for just two people. That amount is probably enough for 4. I served this with fusilli pasta drizzled with a touch of extra virgin olive oil.

2 pork chops
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
150 ml soured cream
1 heaped tsp Dijon mustard
250 g spinach leaves
1 garlic clove, crushed
extra virgin olive oil

1. Season the pork chops on both sides with pepper and salt. Heat the olive oil in a frying pan and fry the meat for about 4-5 minutes on each side (depends on thickness).

2. In the meantime, switch on the oven to the lowest setting and warm 3 plates.

3. Wash the spinach and spin dry. If you don't have a salad spinner, shake your colander and tip the spinach onto a clean dish cloth. Pat it as dry as possible without bruising the leaves. Set aside.

4. Mix the soured cream, mustard and garlic and season with a little black pepper. Set aside.

5. Once the meat is cooked, transfer onto one of the warmed plates and place in the oven.

6. Tip the spinach into the frying pan and wilt in the cooking oil. Add the cream mixture and heat through.

7. Place a chop on each plate, optionally drizzling with the meat juices, and top with the creamy spinach. Serve immediately.

Sunday, 8 April 2012

Swiss Walnut Tart (Engadiner Nusskuchen)

I came across this recipe via a community sister of a home décor website I'm active on and simply had to try it out. It's wonderful - and I don't normally eat cakes! One little thing: I find the shortcrust pastry a wee bit sweet so reduced the amount of sugar, originally 150 g. Also, I always use fine unrefined brown sugar instead of white sugar. In this case I think it probably enhances the overall butterscotch taste. But anyone who loves pecan pie, banoffi pie, florentine biscuits etc. has got to try this! :))))

Shortcrust pastry:
160 g butter, softened
100 g sugar
1 pinch of salt
1 egg
300 g flour

20 g butter
300 g sugar
250 g coarsely chopped walnuts
250 ml whipping cream, warmed

1 egg yolk for brushing

1. Work the softened butter, sugar, flour and egg into a shortcrust pastry, then chill.

2. In the meantime make the filling:

Melt the butter over a low heat in a saucepan, add the sugar and over a medium to high heat keep stirring until the sugar has melted and you have a smooth, thick caramel. If there are lumps, don't worry just keep stirring until they have dissolved.

Add the walnuts and warmed cream and bring to the boil. Leave to cool a little. Don't worry if there are hard bits and the mix isn't quite homogenous, that happened to me as well but they'll dissolve with the heat from the oven.

3. While the nut mix is cooling, get your shortcrust pastry out of the fridge and divide in two parts: 1/3 for the lid and 2/3 for the base.

Roll out the base or press into a 24 cm spring tin or flan dish bringing it up to form a rim. Use a fork to stab some holes into the bottom. Now add the nut mix.

Roll out the pastry for the lid and cover the cake. Fold any excess pastry over, with a fork stab a few holes into the lid and brush with egg yolk.

4. Baking times:

fan-assisted oven: 30-40 min at 180 °C on the second level from the bottom

gas oven: 40 min at gas mark 5 (200 °C)

Check if it's finished with a skewer - there will still be a little sticky caramel on the skewer.

If using a spring tin turn out of the tin and leave to cool on a rack, otherwise leave and serve in the flan dish. Optionally serve with whipped cream or to complement the sweetness of the cake with crème fraîche, soured cream or Greek yoghurt.

Tuesday, 20 March 2012

Strips of sirloin with guacamole and roasted veg

One night, we only had one steak so I had to think of something to do that would serve the two of us. It all started with thinking about a steak sandwich and resulted in this absolutely delicious meal that I'd happily serve to any guest.

1x 175 g sirloin steak, brushed with olive oil and seasoned with pepper and salt, fried for 1 min 15 sec on each side, the rested for 5 minutes in the oven on a warmed plate (not hot) covered with a warmed stainless steel lid (or tin foil) in an oven preheated and left on at 1/2 gas mark

guacamole, soured cream and veg

veg: 2 sweet (pointed peppers), 1 bunch spring onions, 200g thickly sliced mushrooms, 3 crushed garlic cloves - sautéd in a frying pan until soft then seasoned with pepper and salt and kept warm in the oven at gas mark 1/2 while the meat is cooked.

Served with crusty bread, optionally trickled with EVO.

Pasta with smoked mackerel, cherry tomatoes and avocado

I usually make this with cold left over pasta but it's nice with hot pasta as well.

250g of cooked pasta, hot or cold
200g smoked mackerel, flaked
1 ripe avocado, cubed (with a spoon)
250g cherry (plum) tomatoes, halved
freshly ground black pepper
a drizzle of olive oil

Roasted Aubergine Soup

This is a wonderfully sumptuous soup that is great as a starter or for lunch. Next time I'll try using ground cumin instead of the herbes.

2 large aubergines, halved lengthways
freshly ground black pepper
olive oil
1 banana shallot, finely chopped
1 large garlic clove, very finely chopped
Herbes de Provence
1 l vegetable (or other) stock
1 handful of bread crumbs

1. Season the aubergines with pepper, place them cut side down into a roasting tray, drizzle with olive oil and roast for 45 minutes to an hour in a very hot oven until they have softened. Take out and leave to cool before roughly chopping them up.
2.Heat a little olive oil in a saucepan and sauté the onions, garlic and herbs until softened but not brown. Add the aubergines, bread crumbs and stock. Season with a little black pepper. Bring to the boil, then simmer till hot. Blitz and serve.

Monday, 6 February 2012

Parsnip and Spinach Soup

On Sundays in winter, we usually make a large pot of soup that'll serve us for lunch throughout the week. Today, my partner had a look in the fridge and came up with this stunner!

2 largeish onions, chopped
1 whole clove garlic, chopped
dried basil
1.5 kg parsnips
750 g carrotsSend
200 g spinach leaves
2 medium potatoes
2 l low-salt stock
black pepper
1 chilli, chopped and deseeded
olive oil

1. Sauté the onions, garlic, chilli and basil until the onions become translucent. Add the parsnips, carrots and potatoes and mix together until the veggie are coated (2-3 minutes).

2. Add the stock and season with black pepper. Bring to the boil and add the spinach.

3. Simmer for 20 minutes or until all the veg are soft, stirring from time to time as the spinach tends to float to the surface. Blend when ready.

For a less sweet flavour, try this with fewer parsnips and more potatoes.