Wednesday, 30 May 2012

Prawn Pil Pil

More inspiration from Olive Magazine tonight.  Steve has a favourite starteat a local restaurant which I thought sounded very like this recipe. I couldn't really recreate that, but we enjoyed them all the same. I used raw king prawns without the shell as opposed to large raw prawns with the shell on. This was a very light meal which we bulked out with some french bread, it would be no good if you're starving.

Serves 2
Thinly slice 4 cloves of garlic and finely chop 1 red chilli, then fry for a couple of minutes in 5 tbsp of good olive oil. Stir in half a teaspoon of sweet or hot paprika for a few seconds, then 300g shell-on large raw prawns, 1 tbsp chopped parsley and some salt and fry until the pawns are pink. Eat with your fingers a good squeeze of lemon juice and bread for mopping up the juices.

Monday, 28 May 2012

Penne with a quick sausage sauce

There were numerous thumbs up from the children during dinner tonight and the words delicious mouthed through the window. I was having my dinner in the garden, even though it had become quite cool, while the kiddies ate inside. I have had the River Cafe cook book for years and this is the only recipe I have ever tried out of it. I have posted a sausage sauce previously, this one has fewer ingredients but still a wonderful flavour. 

Serves 6 
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 small red onions, peeled and chopped
6 good quality pork sausages, meat removed from skins and crumbled
1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
2 bay leaves (I didn't have any)
2 small dried chillies, crumbled, or a sprinkling of chilli flakes
800 g can peeled plum tomatoes, drained and chopped
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
450 g pasta penne
150 ml double cream (I used much less)
120 g Parmesan, freshly grated

In a large saucepan, heat the oil and fry the onion until light brown. Add the crumbled sausage, the rosemary, bay leaves and chili. Fry together over a high heat, stirring to mash the sausages. Remove all but 1 tablespoon of the fat, and continue to cook for 20 minutes. The sausagemeat should become brown and disintegrate. Add the tomatoes, stir and return to a boil. Remove from the stove.

Cook the penne in a generous amount of boiling salted water, then drain thoroughly.

Stir the cream into the sauce along with the drained penne and half the Parmesan. Serve with the remaining Parmesan.

Sunday, 27 May 2012

Chicken with prosciutto ham and roasted vine tomatoes

This is too good to be true, another beautiful day, another meal in the garden. This meal tonight is a simpler version of a meal from 'Jamie's 30 minute meals'. I know I keep saying it, but it is so simple. It's not cooking, it's assembling a few ingredients and sticking them in the oven. I ended up doing two different meals this evening as we had friends for dinner. Pork saltimbocca for 3 of us and this dish for the other 3. It didn't feel like an effort because both meals are very straight forward and I just roasted some new potatoes (see roasted new potatoes, May entry) and did some garden peas to accompany both dishes.

Serves 4 
4 chicken breasts
sweet paprika
dried oregano
olive oil
300g cherry tomatoes on the vine 
4 slices of bacon of proscitutto ham
Lemon (optional)

On a piece of greaseproof paper, sprinkle some sweet paprika, olive oil, oregano and seasoning and mix together. Dip the chicken breasts into the mixture to give a little coating. Heat the oven to 180C. Heat some olive oil in a frying pan and fry the chicken breasts until just golden on both sides. Put the chicken breast in a roasting dish with the vine tomatoes. Put a piece of ham or bacon on each chicken breast and sprinkle with some more olive oil. Add the lemon pieces if using. Then bake in the oven for about 30 minutes, until the chicken is cooked through.  

Saturday, 26 May 2012

Salad Pizza

There is something about eating in the sunshine with a glass of wine and good food that makes everything else feel ok. I've had a really lovely day at our school jubilee fair. The children have loved it, the weather has been perfect. I came home feeling really hungry and started to make this pizza, which was on the front cover of Olive magazine this month. I made a second one with prosciutto ham and pineapple for the kids. I didn't read the recipe correctly as I was doing it and used the whole ciabatta mix so I split the dough up into two pizzas.

olive oil
garlic clove thinly sliced
chopped tomatoes, 230 g tin
ciabatta bread mix 150g
plain flour
1 x 125g ball of mozzarella tomatoes
rocket a handful (I did not have this tonight)
1 small avocado sliced
10 halved baby plum tomatoes
balsamic to finish

Heat a non stick pan with 1 tsp of olive oil, add the garlic and cook for a minute. Add the tomatoes and cook for 10-15 minutes until thickened and reduced, then cool.
Heat the oven to 220C. Mix the bread mix with 100ml of water and 1 tsp olive oil and knead for 5 mins. Roll out to a large rough circle (about 28cm) and put on a non stick baking tray with a dusting of plain flour. Leave for 10 mins to puff up a bit.
Spread a thin layer of the tomato sacue over the base and top with mozzarella. Bake for 15 - 20 mins until puffed and golden. To serve scatter over rocket, avocado, tomatoes, season and add a drizzle of balsamic vinegar.

Friday, 25 May 2012

Smoky gazpacho

It really does make a change to make a soup for cooling down purposes. The unusually hot weather we are having made me want to try this chilled soup today. It's lovely with a squirt of fresh lime juice and some fresh coriander on top too. This is from the June edition of Olive Magazine. 

Serves 2
1 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
1 small red pepper, 3/4 chopped, 1/4 diced
1 red onion, 3/4 chopped, 1/4 diced
1//4 cucumber, peeled and roughly chopped, plus a handful diced
garlic clove
1 tsp smoked paprika (I just used normal paprika)
olive oil
sherry vinegar 1 tbsp
150 ml vegetable stock
tabasco sauce (optional)

Put the tomatoes and their juice, chopped pepper, onion, cucumber and garlic in a food processor. Add the paprika, 2 tbsp oil, plenty of seasoning and vinegar. Whiz until smooth, then pour in enough vege stock to make a consistencey you like. Chill for at least an hour, then serve with the diced pepper, onion and cucumber and a dash of tabasco if you like.

Tuesday, 22 May 2012

Sweet and Sour chicken

The kids have a habit of inviting friends for tea last minute, which meant tonight they got to have the nice food. Steve and I had to settle for the strangest meal of underdone boiled eggs on a rocket salad with some mayonnaise on top. Certainly not worth a blog. The sweet and sour recipe is my own recipe, which came about after a little experimenting with different ingredients. The combination of all the ingredients listed below makes a much less gloopy sauce than you would get with a chinese takeaway or out of a jar. I tend not to measure the amounts, so this is just a rough guide, start by adding small amounts, then perfect it to your taste.

Serves 2
olive oil for frying
2 chicken breasts, chopped into chunks
1 onion sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
4 tablespoons of tomato ketchup
2 tablespoons of honey
a red and green pepper, cut into strips (I didn't have any tonight)
1 tablespoon of soy sauce, 
1 tablespoon of Japanese rice vinegar (I think any vinegar would do)
pineapple chunks and a bit of the juice from the tin

Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the onion and garlic until golden. Add the chicken breast and cook through. Next add the peppers and continue frying until the peppers are soft. Add all of the other ingredients. Now it's a matter of just tasting the sauce and making sure you get the right balance of sweet and sour. Of course you can add other ingredients like spring onions, water chestnuts, cashew nuts, anything you fancy really.

Monday, 21 May 2012

Moules and frites

I have always loved mussels. I have a really vivid memory of a holiday in France when I was little. We collected vast quantities of mussels off the rocks at the beach, then my mum was shown how to cook them by the owners of the villa we stayed in.  I can remember being slightly perturbed by the fact that there were other little creatures that had unfortunately ended up in the pan too.
Let me say now,  I haven't been scrubbing and preparing live mussels this evening. These are the variety that you buy in a sealed pack and heat in a pan or a microwave. Hence this is a meal idea not a recipe.  I remember the first time Rachel tried mussels, she was only about four years old. I had made them for Steve and I thinking that there was no way Rachel would eat them. She ended up demanding a bowl for herself. It took James a little while to follow suit, but now he really likes them too. I found the sauce on these ones tonight a wee bit artificial and there is nothing like fresh mussels, but they made a really nice change.

Quick Caesar salad

Quick in the sense that I bought all of the ingredients and mixed them together, rather than making the croutons and dressing etc. Great for a tasty and speedy lunch though. 
Omit the chicken for a vegetarian version.

Serves 2
Half an iceberg lettuce, shredded
a handful of chopped cooked chicken breast
a bottle of caesar salad dressing, coat the lettuce to your desired amount (I used one from Marks and Spencer)
a packet of croutons (really lovely ones from Marks and Spencer)
Shavings of parmesan

Just mix everything together, top with some more shavings of parmesan and freshly ground black pepper.

Sunday, 20 May 2012

Chicken with a parmesan and lemon crust

The sun has shone, the children haven't been fighting, it's been a good day. Even better, I think it is the first time this year that it's been warm enough to eat dinner in the garden. I was having one of those moments in the shop when we popped in to pick something up for tea, where I couldn't think of anything to cook. Then I remembered a little scrap of paper in my recipe book with this recipe. Perfect, quick and summery. It's another recipe I asked for after eating this meal at a friends house so I don't know where it originated from. 
I served it tonight with some salad potatoes which I just mashed and buttered and some rocket salad with a balsamic glaze.

Serves 4
4 Chicken breasts
2 slices of bread made into breadcrumbs
rind of a large lemon
salt and pepper
a sprinkle of dried oregano
juice of a lemon
45g freshly grated parmesan
2 tablespoons of olive oil
butter on top

Heat the oven to 180C. Mix together the breadcrumbs, parmesan, rind and juice of the lemon, salt and pepper, oregano and olive oil. Place the chicken breasts in a roasting dish, then press the topping onto each chicken breast, put a little bit of butter to each chicken breast. Bake in the oven for about 40 minutes until the chicken breasts are cooked and the topping is crispy and golden.

Thursday, 17 May 2012

Panna cotta

I made panna cotta for the first time today. I have had this dessert a couple of times when I have eaten out recently and thought I must give it a go. It wasn't difficult, very easy in fact and although I bought some little moulds especially to make it in, glasses work equally as well. I served mine with some raspberries heated up with a little water and sugar. This dessert will become a regular of mine. Emily you will love this. This recipe is taken from this months Olive magazine.

Makes 6
3 leaves of gelatine
300ml of double cream
300ml of whole milk
100g golden caster sugar
1 vanilla pod,split
fruit to serve

Soak the gelatine leaves in cold water until floppy. Put the cream, milk and sugar and vanilla in a pan and bring to the boil, turn down and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and add the gelatine leaves, squeezing out any excess water, stir until dissolved. Pout through the sieve into a jug, then pour into 6 individual glasses or moulds. Chill in the fridge for 3 hours or overnight until set.

Serve in glasses or turn out of the moulds with the poached fruit. To remove from the moulds I dipped them quickly into boiling water. 

Wednesday, 16 May 2012

Acapulco Chicken

I needed to make 3 chicken breasts feed 5 of us tonight, so this was a perfect recipe to compensate for the small amount of meat.  As usual I didn't have some of the ingredients needed for the recipe, though missing out the tortilla chips didn't affect the flavour. Thankfully I decided to taste the sauce before adding a second birds eye chilli. The dish was really fiery, but nicely so. Greek yoghurt cooled it down slightly for the children. I requested this recipe from a friend after she cooked it for me for dinner, I'm not sure where the recipe came from originally.

Serves 4
1 tbsp olive oil
8 boneless, skinless chicken thighs cut into chunks, or 4 chicken breasts
1 onion sliced
2 garlic cloves chopped
1-2 teaspoons of chilli powder
400g can chopped tomatoes
175 ml chicken stock
400g can kidney beans drained
half teaspoon dried oregano
100g tortilla chips
salt and pepper
soured cream and parsley sprigs, to garnish
cooked rice, to serve

Heat the oil in a pan, add the chicken, onion and garlic and cook for about 5 minutes until golden. Add the chilli and stir fry for 30 seconds, then add the tomatoes, stock, kidney beans and oregano, season with salt and pepper, bring to the boil, cover and simmer for 20 minutes or until the chicken is tender.
Transfer the chicken to a serving dish and sprinkle over the tortilla chips. Top with a dollop of soured cream, some parsley sprigs and a sprinkling of chilli powder. Serve with rice.

Greek Salad

Whilst on honeymoon in Kefalonia all those years ago, I had a Greek salad every  lunchtime sitting in a little restaurant by the sea. Today wasn't quite as idyllic, but it brought back happy memories and it was warm enough to eat lunch in the garden for a change. I nearly had the right ingredients to make a Greek salad. The feta cheese I thought I had turned out to be halloumi, but it made a good substitute.

Serves 2
2 large tomatoes, quartered
half a cucumber chopped into large chunks
a handful of black olives (I love crespo greek style ones)
half a pack of feta cheese
red onion in rings, amount to suit
red pepper cut into rings, amount to suit
a salad dressing, 2 parts olive oil, 1 part wine vinegar, seasoning and some dried oregano

Mix all of the ingredients together in a bowl and pour over the dressing. Mix together and serve.

Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Lemon and chocolate cake

I made this lovely lemon cake in the Easter holidays and didn't get around to posting the recipe. It's from 'Green and Black's Chocolate Recipes'. We took it for our train journey to Edinburgh, it certainly beat anything you could buy on the train. My favourite lemon cake has to be Nigellas Lemon drizzle cake, which I'll have to do soon. 

Ingredients for batter:
125g unsalted butter
125g caster sugar
2 large eggs
150g self-raising flour
1 tsp baking powder
grated rind of 1 large lemon
1 tablespoon milk
75g dark chocolate, minimum 60% cocoa solids, chopped

Ingredients for drizzle:
50g golden granulated sugar
juice of one lemon

Preheat the oven to 180C. Line a loaf tin with grease paper.
Whisk the butter, caster sugar, eggs, flour, baking powder and lemon rind for about 2 minutes. Whisk in the milk to make a soft dropping consistency. Stir in the chocolate.
Spoon the mixture into the prepared tin, smooth the surface, bake for 40 minutes or until the centre of the cake springs back when gently pressed. Remove from the oven.
Stir the granulated sugar into the lemon juice and pour over the hot cake in its tin. Make a few holes with a fine skewer if the icing remains on the surface.
Remove the cake from its tin and place on a wire rack, leaving it in it’s paper to cool completely.

Monday, 14 May 2012

Pesto Rice Salad

Our friends Simon and Karen used to have a BBQ every summer at their home and invite all their friends and colleagues. That was an awful lot of people. They had the catering down to perfection after a couple of years. This was one of the most popular dishes done in vast quantities. I would sometimes only eat this at the BBQ, it was so delicious.  It's amazing how food can evoke really strong happy memories. As soon as Steve took a mouthful tonight he said how much this reminded him of being at Simon and Karen's house. This is another reipe from Delia's 'Summer Collection'.

Serves 4 - 6

For the pesto rice salad:
225 ml arborio risotto rice, measured in a glass measuring jug
450 ml vegetable stock, boiling
1 lemon, juice
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
fresh basil leaves
4 spring onions, finely chopped
25 g parmesan, (Parmigiano Reggiano) shavings (made with a potato peeler)
black pepper

For the pesto sauce:
50 g leaves basil (I only had 30g)
1 large clove garlic, crushed
1 tbsp pine kernels
6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
25 g parmesan, grated
salt to taste

To make the pesto sauce, if you have a blender, put in the basil, garlic, pine nuts and olive oil together with some salt and blend until you have a smooth purée. Then transfer the purée to a bowl and stir in the grated Parmesan cheese. If you don't have a blender, use a large pestle and mortar to pound the basil, garlic and pine nuts to a paste. Slowly add the salt and cheese, then very gradually add the oil until you have obtained a smooth purée.

Now measure the rice into a glass measuring jug, then add about one quarter of the pesto sauce to it and stir it around to coat all the grains. Tip the mixture into a shallow saucepan or frying pan with a lid and pour the boiling stock into the jug, then pour this over the rice. Now turn on the heat and stir with a wooden spoon, adding 1 level teaspoon of salt. Then, when it begins to boil, put the lid on, turn the heat down to low and let the rice cook for exactly 20 minutes.

As soon as it's ready, tip all the rice into a serving bowl, then simply pour in the lemon juice, olive oil and the remaining pesto sauce. Combine the ingredients together, stirring and tossing. At this stage taste and season with salt and pepper. Finally scatter some torn basil leaves, finely chopped spring onion and then some shavings of Parmesan over the surface of the salad as a garnish. If you want to serve the salad cold, add the basil, onion and Parmesan just before serving.

Creamy Mushroom Soup

One of the first posts I did on this blog was for a simple mushroom soup. The recipe I used today was different again to that one. It takes a little longer to make, but the result was a far more superior soup. A friend told me about Pinterest, I'm not going to start using it, as I think it will be quite adicitive. You create an online notice board to pin all your favourite things to from the internet, food, interior design, clothes etc.  You can browse the site without joining, which is where I came across this recipe. There are endless pinboards with images of food that people have come across on the internet. There is a link to where the image came from and I have discovered some wonderful food blogs this way. This was from a website called I used a mug to measure the milk, cream and stock, I used single cream, but for a healthier option don't add as much, or add more milk instead of cream.

Serves 2

300g fresh mushrooms - cleaned and chopped finely (I used button mushrooms)
1 tbsp olive oil
3 cloves garlic - chopped (I left this out today, as I still have the musty garlic)
1 tbsp butter
1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 - 2 bay leaf
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
1 cup chicken or vegetable stock
1 tbsp flour dissolved in 1 tbsp water
Salt to taste
1/2 cup heavy cream
1/2 cup milk
Dash of nutmeg
Freshly ground black pepper to taste
Fresh parsley or thyme for garnish

1. Heat olive oil in a sauce pan. Add butter and lightly sauté garlic on medium heat.
2. Add in mushrooms, thyme, bay leaf and Worcestershire sauce. Cook over medium heat for 5 minutes, or until the moisture from the mushrooms disappears.
3. Add in chicken/vege stock. Stir occasionally until stock boils , then reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.
4 Add diluted flour in, and stir constantly (while simmering) until the mixture thickens. Season with salt and nutmeg. Taste and adjust seasoning.
5. Finally, add milk and heavy cream, and bring to a simmer. Turn heat off.
6. Serve hot in your soup bowl. Add freshly ground black pepper. Garnish with fresh parsley or thyme if you have them on hand.

I hadn't finely chopped the mushrooms or the onion so at the end I gave the soup a quick blitz with a hand held blender, leaving it still quite thick.

Sunday, 13 May 2012

Roast shoulder of Lamb with roast vegetables

I have never cooked a shoulder of lamb before, usually I would go for a leg of lamb, but as this was only cut available in my local shop I thought I'd give it a try. I thought it was a bit fatty but had plenty of flavour. I usually accompany roast lamb with roast vegetables, today these were, potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots and red onion. The only thing I parboiled was the potatoes and put them in about 15 mins before the rest of the vegetables. They all cooked together for a good hour or so in a hot oven around 200C. I made the Yorkshire puddings, they were no where near as impressive as the ones that Rachel made a couple of weeks ago. Steve had the good sense when we put our kitchen in years ago to put in two identical ovens side by side, so I am able to cook things at different temperatures. 

Serves 8
1.5 kg shoulder of lamb, off the bone
olive oil
salt and pepper
garlic cloves
a small tin of anchovies (optional)
fresh rosemary

Lay the anchovy fillets on top of the lamb in a roasting dish. Season with some black pepper and sprinkle with olive oil. Lay some rosemary and garlic cloves around the lamb and roast in a very hot oven for 15 mins at 220C. Turn down to 150C and roast for a another 1-2 hours depending on how pink you like the lamb. I cooked mine for about an hour and a half, I would have preferred it more pink. Leave the meat to rest covered in foil for at least 10 mins.

For the gravy I added some flour, some red wine and some water to the juices from the lamb. I added a little redcurrant jelly to give the gravy a little sweetness.

Saturday, 12 May 2012

Cavatelli Primavera

Gosh, I've gone all Italian just because the sun has been shining today. This is a recipe I was reminded of after my trip to London last weekend, a recipe I haven't done for a long time. Lots of summeriness all around (Is that a word? It should be).

Serves 4
a punnet of cherry tomatoes, halved (approx 300g)
250g fresh ricotta
1 glass olive oil
fresh basil leaves
salt and pepper
fresh parmesan cheese (lots of it)
pasta (I used farfalle)

Put the tomatoes in a dish, add the olive oil, basil, salt and pepper and stand for an hour.
Five minutes before the pasta is cooked add the ricotta to the tomatoes. Drain the pasta, toss together with the tomatoes and sprinkle generously with fresh parmesan and olive oil if needed.

Thursday, 10 May 2012

Pork Saltimbocca

This is a classic Italian dish which should be made with veal. I have never cooked with veal and don't intend to, so this recipe with pork works really well instead. This is from Delia Smiths 'Summer Collection'. I used the make this dish with chicken, but having had this version cooked for me at a friends house I have done this recipe ever since. It's a really nice dinner party meal. 

Serves 2
8oz pork tenderloin, cut into 6 medallions, 1 inch thick
6 slices of parma ham 
6 large fresh sage leaves
olive oil
170 ml marsala wine
salt and freshly milled black pepper

First of all beat the pieces of meat out to make them a little thinner. Use a clenched fist to do this, but don't go mad and break the meat – it just needs to be flattened and stretched a bit. Season the meat with salt and pepper and now lay the slices of Parma ham on top of it (because they won't be precisely the same size, fold the ham and double over the pieces if necessary to make them fit).

Now place a sage leaf in the centre of each piece and secure it with half a cocktail stick, using it as you would a dress-making pin. Next, measure the Marsala into a small saucepan and place it on a gentle heat to warm through. Now heat the oil in the frying pan until fairly hot, then fry the slices of pork (sage leaf side down first) for 2 minutes, then flip the pieces over and fry them for another 2 minutes.

After that, pour in the hot Marsala and let it bubble and reduce for a minute or so until it becomes a syrupy sauce. Now transfer the pork to warm serving plates, remove the cocktail sticks and spoon the sauce over. Serve with sautéed potatoes sprinkled with a few herbs before cooking, and a mixed salad.

Tuesday, 8 May 2012

Sticky chicken

This is another recipe acquired from my sister in law Ady. My only problem with it tonight was the garlic I bought yesterday was really musty, hence it overpowered all the other flavours. Now it's all I can taste. Otherwise this would have been a really tasty meal which is incredibly easy to prepare and cook. I don't feel the need to add the amounts of some of the ingredients, as it's a matter of taste how much garlic and ginger you want in the sauce.

Serves 4
4 chicken breasts, cut into strips
soy sauce, a good dousing
fresh ginger, chopped into strips
garlic, crushed
honey, a couple of large tablespoons
juice of half a lime
ground black pepper

Mix the chicken with all of the other ingredients in a roasting dish. Leave to marinade for about half an hour. Heat the oven to 200C. Cook the chicken for approximately 30 minutes, by which time the sauce will be sticky and reduced. Serve with rice or noodles and some greens.

Monday, 7 May 2012

Roasted new potatoes

I have mentioned these before in the recipe for 'slow roasted marmalade pork'. They are so easy to cook as there is no need to par boil them first. I used a 1kg bag of new potatoes, I halved the larger ones. Stick them in a hot oven about 200C, drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt. I added some fresh rosemary. Roast for about 40 mins to an hour until beautifully golden, then crush slightly with a potato masher then put back in the oven for 10 or so more minutes.

Vincisgrassi (pasta baked with parma ham)

I invited my sister and family today with the promise of a roast lamb lunch, only to find that when I got my online shop delivered this morning, I'd ordered a frozen leg of lamb. There was no way that was going to defrost in a hurry. Luckily I had also shopped for the ingredients for a meal I liked the look of in this months Olive magazine. A good time to give it a try it then. Thankfully it was really lovely and didn't disappoint. Quite rich and creamy, the recipe for 6 served 8 of us, although one little person doesn't eat very much. It wasn't the quickest dish to prepare, but I had plenty of time this morning to prepare. I used less parma ham than the recipe stated, and I didn't cook the pasta first, I've had problems with it sticking together in the past. I also wondered why the recipe states to blend the sauce after reducing it, I couldn't see any benefit of doing that and wouldn't bother next time. I served the dish with crushed new potatoes and a green salad. 

Serve 6
30 g dried porcini
500ml double cream
500ml chicken stock
1 bay leaf (I didn't have any)
olive oil
400g finely chopped flat mushrooms
300g shredded parma ham
1 egg
6 large sheets or 12 small sheets of fresh pasta
150g grated parmesan
25g butter

Just cover the porcini in boiling water. Put the cream, stock and bay in a large frying pan, bring to a simmer and reduce by half ( I found it didn't reduce that much)
Remove the porcini, squeeze dry and finely chop. Add the porcini soaking liquid to the cream while it's reducing. Put 2 tbsp oil in a large pan and add the mushrooms and porcini and cook until browned and the liquid has been reabsorbed. Stir in the parsley and the ham. Cool.
Heat the oven to 200C. Pour the cream into a blender and whizz, add the egg then whizz again. Boil the pasta for 1-2 mins then drain. Brush a baking tray with butter, add a layer of pasta. Ladle cream onto the pasta, then sprinkle with parmesan. Scatter with the mushroom mix, add more pasta. Continue layering pasta with cream, cheese and mushroom, finishing with pasta topped with cream and cheese. Bake for 20 mins until golden and bubbling.

Sunday, 6 May 2012

Keralan fish curry

My brother in law Mike cooked this wonderful Nigella Lawson curry for us last night. It couldn't have been more perfect. It has a really tangy flavour, quite unlike any other curry I have tried. I am always inspired by the food we have on our visits to London. Ady doesn't eat meat, just fish and has an array of lovely vegetarian recipes. I have another one from the weekend to try soon. Ady and I share a love of food, and can sit for hours reading cookery books and discussing new recipes. I guess thats how the trip to the Borough market came about. 

Serves: 4-6
1.25kg firm white fish (we used cod, and I don't think you need quite that amount)
2 teaspoons turmeric
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
2 medium onions, halved and cut into fine half-moons
2 long red chillies
4cm piece fresh ginger
Pinch ground cumin
1 x 400ml tin coconut milk
1-2 tablespoons concentrated tamarind
1 tablespoon liquid fish stock

Cut the fish into bite-sized chunks, put them into a large bowl, and rub with a little salt and 1 teaspoon turmeric. Heat the oil in a large, shallow pan and peel and tip in your fine half-moons of onion; sprinkle them with a little salt to stop them browning and then cook, stirring, until they've softened; this should take scarcely 5 minutes.
Cut the whole, unseeded chillies into thin slices across (although if you really don't want this at all hot, you can deseed and then just chop them) and then toss them into the pan of softened onions. Peel the ginger and slice it, then cut the slices into straw-like strips and add them too, along with the remaining teaspoon of turmeric and the cumin. Fry them with the onions for a few minutes.
Pour the tin of coconut milk into a measuring jug and add a tablespoon of tamarind paste and the fish stock, using boiling water from the kettle to bring the liquid up to the litre mark. Pour it into the pan, stirring it in to make the delicate curry sauce. Taste and add more tamarind paste if you want to. And actually you can do all this hours in advance if this helps.
When you are absolutely ready to eat, add the fish to the hot sauce and heat for a couple of minute until it's cooked through but still tender.

Lemon rice

Ady made this lemon rice to accompany the fish curry, this would be a great accompaniment to most curries. Mike is a photographer and I gave him the camera to photograph the food, is it me or is that photo so much better than my usual photographs?

1 tbsp vegetable oil
250g basmati rice
1/2 tsp ground turmeric
1/2 tsp dried mint
juice and zest of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp black mustard seeds.

Choose a pan with a close fitting lid, and heat the oil gently before adding the rice. Stir to coat in the oil and stir in the turmeric and mint. Squeeze in the lemon juice and add 500ml water so that it covers the rice by a few centirmetres. Stir in the salt, put the lid on, bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer and cook gently until all the water has been absorbed. This should take about 15 minutes.
Toast the mustard seeds in a dry frying pan,sprinkle the rice with the mustard seeds and lemon zest to serve. 

A trip to Borough Market, London

I have just returned from a visit to London for the weekend to see my brother and sister in law. A trip out with the children yesterday led us to the Borough Market, a feast for the foodie lover. Rather busy and cold and wet the kids didn't want to stay too long, but long enough to sample empanadas (Argentinian pasties), pretzels, chocolate brownies and turkish delight, just to name a few things.

Friday, 4 May 2012

Broccoli and Stilton soup

I'm always surprised how delicious this soup is as it's so simple to make. It's got to be up there in my favourite soups. I love blue cheese now, I hated it when I was little, I remember my sister eating loads when we were young and I couldn't understand how she could like it. Something of an acquired taste, but if you're not a fan of blue cheese, cream cheese works equally as well. 

Enough for 4 servings
1 head of broccoli, use the stalk as well, just discarding the tough bits
1 onion, chopped
800ml vegetable stock
60g blue stilton, or more if you want more flavour
olive oil
a little black pepper for seasoning

Fry the onion in the olive oil in a large saucepan until soft and golden. Add the chopped broccoli and the stock then leave to simmer until the broccoli is tender. Approx 20 mins. Crumble in the blue stilton then puree the soup to a smooth consistency. 

Thursday, 3 May 2012

Gnocchi and blue cheese bake

I had a bag of fresh gnocchi in the fridge to use up. There were 3 recipes for gnocchi and blue cheese bake on the BBC good food website. I choose the one that took 15 minutes to make, quick, easy and delicious. 

Serves 4
500g fresh gnocchi
250g bag baby spinach
100ml crème fraîche , half-fat if preferred
4 tbsp grated parmesan
100g soft blue cheese

Cook the gnocchi in a large pan of boiling water according to pack instructions. Plunge the spinach into the same pan, then immediately drain through a colander and shake off any excess water.
Put the crème fraîche in a small ovenproof dish with the grated parmesan. Add the hot, drained gnocchi and spinach and give everything a good stir. Crumble the blue cheese over and season with ground pepper.
Slide the dish under a hot grill until the cheese is bubbling and golden. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, 1 May 2012

Beef in ale stew

The recipe below is 'Jools Favourite beef Stew' from Jamie's dinners. I very loosely based tonight's meal on this recipe. I used ale instead of red wine and only had sweet potatoes and carrots to use.  What I'm saying is that you can chuck anything in a beef stew, add some wine or beer and after a few hours of cooking it's going to taste good. I should have added the sweet potatoes half way through the cooking as they were a bit too soft and I have just realised that I forgot the stock which is why it was a wee bit dry tonight. I have followed this recipe exactly before, it's an excellent stew to do for a big group lunch. As there is no browning of the meat first, it's reasonably quick to prepare. Once it's in the oven you can put your feet up and relax. 

Serves 6

• olive oil
• a knob of butter
• 1 onion, peeled and chopped
• a handful of fresh sage leaves
• 800g stewing steak or beef skirt, cut into 5cm/2 inch pieces
• sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
• flour, to dust
• 2 parsnips, peeled and quartered
• 4 carrots, peeled and halved
• ½ a butternut squash, halved, deseeded and roughly diced
• optional: a handful of Jerusalem artichokes, peeled and halved
• 500g small potatoes
• 2 tablespoons tomato purée
• ½ a bottle of red wine
• 285ml, beef or vegetable stock
• zest of 1 lemon, finely grated
• a handful of rosemary, leaves picked
• 1 clove of garlic, peeled and finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 160ºC.  Put a little oil and your knob of butter into an appropriately sized pot or casserole pan. Add your onion and all the sage leaves and fry for 3 or 4 minutes. Toss the meat in a little seasoned flour, then add it to the pan with all the vegetables, the tomato purée, wine and stock, and gently stir together. Season generously with freshly ground black pepper and just a little salt. Bring to the boil, place a lid on top, then cook in the preheated oven until the meat is tender. Sometimes this takes 3 hours, sometimes 4 – it depends on what cut of meat you’re using and how fresh it is. The only way to test is to mash up a piece of meat and if it falls apart easily it’s ready. Once it’s cooked, you can turn the oven down to about 110°C and just hold it there until you’re ready to eat.

The best way to serve this is by ladling big spoonfuls into bowls, accompanied by a glass of French red wine and some really fresh, warmed bread. Mix the lemon zest, chopped rosemary and garlic together and sprinkle over the stew before eating. Just the smallest amount will make a world of difference – as soon as it hits the hot stew it will release an amazing fragrance.