Pasta with purple sprouting broccoli

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This dish is a variation of a recipe by Alastair Little found on the BBC’s Food website and came about for two reasons.  The first is that I really do need to eat more vegetables and the second is that I was given some purple sprouting broccoli by my friend Joy, who, in turn had been given it by her neighbour who grew it.  Joy decided to share her bounty (along with three sticks of rhubarb) with me.

The variation is the inclusion of red onion and cherry tomatoes which don’t appear in Mr Little’s recipe.

What you’ll need for two people as a main course is:

  • 1 red onion peeled and sliced
  • 8oz/225gr purple sprouting broccoli
  • 20 cherry tomatoes cut in halves
  • 2 cloves garlic peeled
  • 1 fresh chilli.
  • 1 small tin of anchovy fillets in olive oil, drained*
  • Good quality olive oil
  • 8oz/225gr pasta – choose between fusilli, penne rigate or, as I used in my recipe, tortiglioni
  • Grated parmesan or Grana Padano cheese
  • Salt and pepper

* If, like my niece Natalie, you don’t care for anchovies, or you wish to make the dish purely a veggie one omit the anchovies – the dish will be just as tasty.   If you do like anchovies but don’t want to use the whole tin use half instead.

What you’ll need to do:

  • Put on a large pan of salted water to boil.
  • Whilst the pasta water is coming to the boil prepare the broccoli by trimming the outer leaves and woody stalks.  Once done cut the brocoli into small pieces about 1cm/½.inch
  • Chop the garlic, chilli and anchovies finely.  I used my Cuisinart Mini Processor which does the job very well.  NB When it comes to prepping the chilli, if you like your dish fiery then chop the chilli whole including the seeds (hottest bit).  If you prefer a milder dish them slice the chilli in half and scrape away the seeds and discard then chop the chilli.
  • Once the pasta water has boiled add the pasta to the water, stir and cook according to taste or to the time suggested on the packet.
  • In the meantime take a large sauté pan or frying pan with high sides and place on the heat and slop in 3-4 tablespoons of olive oil.  Add the sliced red onion and cook over a low heat (you do not want the onions to brown or burn but be translucent) stirring from time to time.
  • Add the garlic/chilli/anchovy mix and stir coating the onions.   Then add the broccoli allowing it to cook a little then add the tomatoes and stir together.
  • At this point check the seasoning – the anchovies may be salty enough and all you need do is add a little ground pepper (black or white) if you wish.
  • Add a little (small ladle-full) of the pasta water to the brocoli/onion mix and let it bubble.
  • Once the pasta is cooked, drain and tip into the sauté pan and mix well.
  • If you wish, at this stage shower the contents of the sauté pan with the grated cheese (the amount of which is down to your taste) stirring so that it all gets well coated and you are ready to serve.

 

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Garlic chilli prawns with green beans

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It may seem as though I am getting a lot of inspiration from Waitrose of late however it is a coincidence – really!.  That said, this recipe is one of the latest in its card series for February and I cooked it the other night and thought it ideal for a quick tasty Friday night dinner.  Or any night for that matter.

I have tweaked this recipe a bit too because I thought that the quantities given for the sauce in the original were a bit on the meagre side.  Whilst you don’t want your dish to be awash with sauce you do want to have enough to taste and enjoy.

The quantities I have given to make up the sauce (tomato paste, rice vinegar et al) can be fiddled with to suit your own taste and how much you think you may want but the trick is mix as you go along and adjust/add accordingly.

What you’ll need for two people as a main course is:

  •  180 g / 6 oz  raw prawns (frozen or fresh)  Add or subtract the quantity according to your appetite.
  • 1 tbsp tomato purèe
  • 1 tsp chilli flakes (If you don’t like your food too fiery reduce the amount of chilli – or increase if you prefer it hotter!)
  • 1 tbsp Chinese rice vinegar*
  • 1 tbsp honey
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 and a 1/2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 200 g / 7 oz  fine green beans trimmed and cut into halves or thirds
  • 2 Salad/spring onions aka scallions sliced on the diagonal
  • 1 or 2 cloves of garlic crushed
  • 2 tsp finely grated fresh root ginger
  • 2-3 tsp sesame seeds toasted

*I would recommend that you do try to get  Chinese rice vinegar if you can because it has a nutty flavour which another rice vinegars (such as Japanese) may not.

Tip: The cooking time for this recipe is short so prepare everything in advance so all you have to do is throw each ingredient into the wok in turn.

To accompany:  Steamed rice or fried rice will, of course, go well with this dish.  Also egg noodles would be good too – they can be stirred into the mixture at the end before serving.  In either case, make sure you have your rice or noodles cooked ahead of stir-frying the prawns and kept warm.

What you’ll need to do:

  • Heat a frying pan over a medium to high heat.  Once the frying pan is hot tip the sesame seeds into the (dry) frying pan and toast the seeds.  Keep an eye on them and stir them around.  When they turn golden (not nut-brown) remove the frying pan from the heat and set seeds aside to cool.
  • Then heat the wok over a high heat and add the vegetable oil.
  • When the oil is hot add the beans, spring onions, garlic and ginger and stir-fry for about 30 seconds.
  • Add the prawns and fry for a minute  until they start to turn pink.
  • Tip in the sauce mixture ensuring that everything  is coated nicely and fry for another 2 minutes until the prawns are cooked through.
  • Just before serving sprinkle the toasted sesame seeds over the prawns.
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In the wok they go

 

Caramelised fennel, anchovy and chilli spaghetti/linguine

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This is an adaptation of a Waitrose recipe which appeared in one of its periodic MyWaitrose members’ mailings.  The original recipe called for sardines but because I don’t care for sardines I decided to modify the recipe.  And in doing so I added some onion, a little stock and changed linguine for spaghetti – only because I didn’t have any linguine to hand when I made this dish the other evening.

Like a number of my recipes this one, too, may be tweaked further.  If you don’t care for anchovies you can swap them or simply leave them out particularly if you wish to make it a vegetarian dish.

To say the fennel is caramelised is a little bit of a misnomer insofar that no sugar is used but rather the fennel is cooked over a high heat to brown it a little and give a caramel colour to the vegetable.

What you’ll need for two people as a main course or four people for a first course:

  • 200g/7oz (or more depending on appetites) spaghetti or linguine
  • 1 tin anchovies
  • Olive oil
  • 1 fennel bulb finely sliced.  Reserve the fronds
  • Half an onion finely chopped
  • Half a mug of chicken or vegetable stock*
  • Hot chilli flakes
  • Juice of half a lemon

* I use (among other stock cubes and concentrated stock) Knorr’s Touch of Taste liquid stock in bottles.  I find this ideal if you wish to make just a small amount of stock rather than having to make up 500ml of the stuff when using a stock cube.

What you’ll need to do:

  • Put a large saucepan of water to boil for the pasta, salting the water.  Once the water comes to the boil, add your pasta and cook according to the packet instructions or to taste.
  • Whilst the pasta is cooking heat some olive oil in a large frying pan.  You may use the olive oil from the tinned anchovies if you wish – I did a half-and-half, a bit of the anchovy oil and olive oil.
  • Add the fennel and fry over a high heat for 4-6 minutes stirring often until the fennel turns a caramel colour and has softened.  Remove from the frying pan to a dish and keep warm.
  • Reduce the heat and add the chopped onion to the frying pan and fry the onions a little. (Add a little more olive/anchovy oil if you think the pan might need it).   Add the anchovies to the onions and fry gently breaking up the anchovies with a wooden spoon.  They will start to melt into the onion/oil mix.
  • Add the stock and bring to the boil.  A half-mug of stock isn’t too much but what you are aiming for is the stock to reduce to a nice glossy consistency.  Return the fennel to the frying pan and mix together.
  • Drain the cooked pasta and add to the fennel, onion and anchovy sauce (add a little pasta water if you wish), add the chilli flakes and lemon juice and mix all together allowing the sauce to bubble a little and coat the pasta.
  • Serve topped with the reserved fennel fronds.
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Frying the fennel until caramel coloured

Cream of celeriac soup

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I made this soup after I returned home from spending a weekend with my friends Annie and Andrew at their home in Wiltshire.  On the Saturday Annie and Andrew took me to Salisbury where there is a very good market in the main square – a proper market with vegetable stalls, fruit sellers, butchers, a cheesemonger (maybe two) and all manner of stalls with delicious foods to buy.  One of my purchases was the celeriac – the other was a brace of pheasant which were locally sourced (and shot) and are now residing in my freezer – the subject of a future post.  I must say that the Salisbury saturday market is reason enough to move there.

What you’ll need for four people as a soup/first course:

  • One celeriac approximately 1kg in weight
  • One medium-sized onion peeled and cut in half
  • One small to medium-sized potato peeled and cut in half or quarters*
  • 1.5 litres vegetable stock
  • Salt and pepper
  • Cream**

What you’ll need to do:

  • Prepare the celeriac by trimming off the thick knobbly roots.  Then, either using a potato peeler or a sharp knife, ‘skin’ the celeriac.  If you are using a knife be careful not to take off chunks of the vegetable with the skin.  The skin is easy to trim away so not much force is needed.
  • Cut celeriac into chunks
  • Make up the vegetable stock in a large saucepan and bring to the boil.
  • Add the celeriac, onion and potato to the stock and reduce to a simmer.  Cover with saucepan lid and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes.
  • Check that the celeriac and potato are cooked and if so turn off the heat and allow the mixture to cool.
  • Once the broth and vegetables are cooled sufficiently transfer to a liquidiser and whizz until smooth.
  • Return soup to a clean saucepan and season with salt and a little pepper if you wish.  Remember,  the stock will have salt in it so you may not need to add more.
  • As you are warming the soup prior to serving pour in the cream a little at a time to your liking.  Once you have added the cream don’t let the soup boil as the cream may separate.

* I include a potato because it acts as a natural thickening agent.  If you prefer a thinner soup then you may either omit the potato altogether or add more stock after you have blended the soup.  I think the potato adds a little silkiness to the overall texture.

** If you wish to keep the calories down then you can ditch the cream – the soup will be just as delicious without it.  Oh yes, I use double cream myself.

As a post-script I would like to thank my friend June Lim of Singapore who suggested  I should put the picture of the finished dish at the top of the recipe and not at the bottom.

Bulldogs

When my sisters and I were children we would  visit our two aunts in Chester, Olwen and Morfydd.  Aunty Morfydd was a very good cook and she would often prepare bulldogs for us.  I don’t know why this sandwich got given the name of bulldog (perhaps my sisters know – I never thought to ask them) but it was Morfydd’s creation.

As we would visit in the afternoon it formed part of a high tea (not to be confused with afternoon tea) and our mother would make them for us for breakfast at home too.

It is, simply put, a toasted tomato sandwich however instead of buttering the inside the top piece of toast is buttered.  Though this recipe is ever so easy to make my sisters, particularly Caroline, often ask me to make bulldogs for them – so too my niece Natalie.

What you’ll need for two to three people is:

  • Olive oil
  • One 400g tin of tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper
  • 6-8 slices of white bread (white is best in my opinion)
  • Butter

What you’ll need to do:

  • Heat a good slug of olive oil in a saucepan.
  • When the oil has warmed up a bit put in the tomatoes.  If you are using whole plum tomatoes break them up a bit with a wooden spoon.
  • Cook the tomatoes over a medium to high heat for about 15 to 20 minutes.  The idea is to cook the tomatoes to a nice pulp.   But be warned – do not walk away and leave the tomatoes to their own devices because they will catch and burn.  Keep an eye on them and stir regularly.  You have arrived at the right consistency once the juice has evaporated and the resulting tomato sauce is glossy.
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Once the tomatoes are cooked you can set them aside and keep the pan warm (on a hot plate if you have one) with lid on the saucepan whilst you make the toast.

Once you have your toast nice and golden remove from the toaster or grill and on one piece of toast spread a thin layer of tomato.  Then place the second piece of toast on top and butter the top piece.

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Slice in half and enjoy you bulldogs!

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Postscript:

Cooking the tomatoes as described above also forms a basic tomato sauce for pasta.  In fact if you look back at my Arrabbiata and Amatriciana recipes this the basic sauce.

Oh yes, if you have more people to feed, simply add more tins of tomatoes and have more slice of bread to hand.  If you have left-over tomato sauce simply keep it in the fridge and use in the next days to make a pasta sauce of you choice.

 

Arrabbiata/Amatriciana sauce

Today you are getting a two-for-the-price-of-one deal with a recipe for Arrabbiata sauce and Amatriciana sauce and the reason being is that they are both very similar to each other.  The only difference between the two is that one (Amatriciana) has an additional ingredient, pancetta or bacon.  One sauce is vegetarian, and the other not.

Both sauces are a little fiery.   Arrabbiata, for example, means angry and is traditionally made with garlic, chilli, tomatoes and olive oil and as such is simplicity itself.  Amatriciana is very similar in composition except that pancetta or bacon is used. Amatriciana originated in the town of Amatrice in Lazio and traditionally used guanciale which is cured pork cheek.  As that is hard to come by outside of Italy (I imagine) pancetta or bacon is used as a substitute.

The pasta that is usually employed with Arrabiata is Penne or Penne Rigati but I have also used the larger tubular Rigatoni which works equally well and I have also paired this sauce with spaghetti which is the dish I have illustrated.  The pasta that works well with Amatriciana is bucatini, favoured in Rome so I am told but spaghetti works well too.

What you’ll need for two people for Arrabbiata is:

  • Olive oil
  • 2-3 cloves of garlic peeled and finely chopped
  • 2-3 dried chillies sliced, seeds included
  • 1 x 400g/14.10oz tin tomatoes

What you’ll need to do:

  • Heat a good slug of olive oil in a saucepan and add the chopped garlic and chillies.  Cook a little to release the aroma but do not let the garlic brown.
  • Add the tomatoes and bring to a simmer then let the sauce cook for around 20-30 minutes until the liquid has evaporated and the sauces becomes pulpy.

To make the Amatriciana sauce:

  • The ingredients listed above
  • Bacon cut into strips or pancetta cut into cubes.  Use as much or as little bacon/pancetta as suits your taste.   For two people I would suggest 2 rashers of bacon per person, more if you prefer.  Cut the bacon into thin strips but not too thin.   Add the bacon to the saucepan before adding the garlic and chillies.

The bacon I use is smoked back bacon which may be difficult to find in the US so Canadian bacon will work just as well.

If you are using streaky bacon (which is the standard bacon found in the US)  fry the bacon first (before adding the garlic and chillies) which will allow the bacon fat to render then add the garlic and chillies.  If necessary add a little olive oil – then add the tomatoes and follow the steps set out for Arrabbiata above.

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Sugo Amatriciana with spaghetti

 

 

Pea and ham soup

I had some ham hock which had to be used up and I wasn’t really sure what to do with it other than turn it into a pasta dish.  Then I had an idea – why not make a pea and ham soup which would be different from the traditional pea and ham soup?

The traditional pea and ham soup that most of us will remember is made using split peas, a ham hock bone and long, long cooking.  This one is simplicity itself AND it can be adapted for those who prefer a vegetarian version by using vegetable stock and omitting the ham hock.  And it is quick!  Well quicker than the two hours it takes to make the traditional version!

I had mentioned this recipe to my sister Maria and niece, Natalie, some time ago and they both have been pressing me to post it ever since.   So here it is, at last!

What you’ll need for two people is:

  • A knob of butter
  • 1 small onion peeled and chopped
  • 1 medium potato peeled and cubed
  • 500ml chicken or vegetable stock
  • 250gr frozen garden peas or petits pois
  • Salt and pepper (if required)
  • 100/150gr shredded ham hock (I used Waitrose shredded ham hock)
  • Double or single cream

What you’ll need to do:

  • Heat the butter in a saucepan then add the chopped onion and gently fry until opaque.
  • Add the stock and the potato cubes and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer. Let the broth simmer until the potato cubes are cooked.
  • Check to see if seasoning is required and adjust to taste if necessary. (Remember there may already be salt in the stock)
  • Add the peas and bring the broth back to the boil and cook the peas for a few minutes.
  • Turn off the heat and allow the soup to cool sufficiently then either transfer to a liquidiser to blend or if you prefer, use a hand-held blender directly into the soup.*
  • Pour the soup into a clean saucepan, return to the stove and warm through prior to serving.
  • To serve pour an equal amount of soup into two soup plates or bowls then pour a little cream in the middle of the soup.  Place a portion of the ham hock onto the cream and serve.

*If you are in a bit of a hurry you can liquidise the soup whilst hot but please be careful when transferring to your liquidiser and especially careful  if you use a hand-held blender in case some of the soup splurges upward and flies out of the pan!

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A delicious emerald-green pea soup