Thursday, 21 May 2015

Italian Sausage & Chilli Pesto Pasta

This was inspired by a picture I saw on Pinterest that looked delicious but had no real accompanying recipe as such. The sauce has a base of fresh chilli pesto, bought from a stall at a weekly farmer’s market in the quadrant bit at the back of Guy’s Hospital (its a lovely space actually, a hidden part of London). I also grabbed some Italian sausages there, skinned them and crumbled up and fried the meat. Not much more to it really, some black olives (I used kalamata but I think those wrinkly, very salty cured ones that come in jars would be excellent in this), toasted pine nuts, a bit of basil and some Pecorino.

So thank you for whosoever pinned that particular picture: this is simplicity itself, and delicious with it.

Italian Sausage & Chilli Pesto Pasta
serves 2

2 Italian sausages, skinned and roughly crumbled
1 tsp garlic olive oil
glug red wine
4 tbsp chilli pesto
handful black olives, pitted and roughly chopped
2 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
small handful basil leaves, torn
200g wholewheat spaghetti
Pecorino, to serve

Put the pasta on to boil in salted water in a large pan.

Meanwhile fry off the sausage in the garlic oil until browned and resembling coarse mince. Add a glug of wine and let it bubble down before throwing in the olives and pesto.

When the pasta is al dente drain, reserving a little cooking water, and then mix the pasta in with the sausage and pesto sauce. Combine well and add a little of the cooking water to loosen the sauce slightly.

Serve immediately scattered with pines nuts, basil and Pecorino.

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Monday, 11 May 2015

Tarragon Gondi

This is yet another good Ottolenghi recipe that he has himself adapted from one in Gideon Kalimian's The Persian Kitchen (a book that I have not been able to find any reference to on t’internet). I think what drew me to this - apart from the fact that despite the criticisms he gets (usually related to long lists of weird ingredients, which I quite like) I like to cook his recipes - is the fact that two of the ingredients, dried limes and lime powder, I already had in the cupboard and was keen to find an interesting and unusual recipe for.

Gondi is Jewish Persian dish of matzo-less meatballs served in a soup, traditionally on Shabbat. The recipe may seem to call for a huge amount of fresh herbs but they are fairly essential to Iranian cuisine and the intensely bittersweet and aromatic dried limes also lend the soup a distinctly Persian flavour. Both dried limes and lime powder can be sourced quite easily on the internet - try Persopolis or Spice Mountain and the same shops can also be visited in person in Peckham or Borough Market respectively.

Tarragon Gondi
serves 3

50g basmati rice
250g minced beef
1 medium onion, finely grated or whizzed up in a spice grinder
15g fresh tarragon, leaves picked & chopped
½ tbsp ground cumin
1 tsp dried Iranian lime powder
3-4 dates, pitted & roughly chopped
sea salt &freshly ground black pepper
1250ml chicken stock
1 whole dried Iranian lime, pierced with a sharp knife or skewer
2 large carrots or 4-5 large chantenay carrots, peeled & cut into 5cm x 0.5cm batons
200g tinned chickpeas, drained
½ tsp turmeric
5 cardamon pods, lightly crushed
10g basil leaves, roughly shredded
10g mint leaves, roughly shredded

Cook the rice in a small pan of boiling water for four minutes then drain, refresh with cold water and drain again. Shake the sieve to get rid of any excess water. Tip the rice into a large bowl and add the beef, onion, tarragon, cumin, lime powder and dates, as well as a large pinch of salt and a good grind of black pepper.

Mix everything together well then shape into small balls weighing about 40g each (you should have 12 or so in all). Cover and put in the fridge for half an hour, to firm up.

In a large pan put the stock, limes, carrots, chickpeas, turmeric, cardamom and ½ a teaspoon of salt. Put on a high heat, bring to a boil, then turn the heat to low.

Carefully lower the meatballs into the broth and simmer gently for 30 minutes, until the meat and rice are cooked and the stock has reduced by about half (cover the pan if it reduces too much).

Towards the end of the cooking time press the lime with the back of a spoon, to help release its juices.

Divide the gondi and veg between bowls, spooning the soup on top and sprinkling with the herbs to serve.

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Wednesday, 6 May 2015

Casarecce with Asparagus, Sausage & Ricotta

Casarecce is a fairly new pasta shape for me: basically short lengths of pasta that have been rolled across their width, with each side rolled in the opposite direction. The rolled length is then slightly twisted so that the pasta is in the shape of a "S" when viewed from the end.

You could however use any short pasta for this - the original recipe (I can’t, unfortunately, remember where that was) that I adapted for instance called for gemelli. Similarly any spicy sausage could be used too - I used sausages that have been seasoned in a Chorizo style rather than actual cooking chorizo and they worked very well.

Casarecce with Asparagus, Sausage & Ricotta 
serves 2

100g thin asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2 in lengths
150g casarecce
130-150g chorizo style sausages (2 fat sausages), removed from skins & “crumbled”
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 tbsp double cream
95g ricotta
15g Parmesan, finely grated
4 basil leaves (optional)
sea salt and freshly ground pepper (to taste)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the asparagus. Cook for a few minutes until just tender then remove with a slotted spoon and plunge into iced water to stop cooking and refresh.

Bring the water to a boil again, add the pasta and cook according to packet directions.

Meanwhile heat a large sauté or frying pan and cook the sausage and onion until the meat is browned and the onions softened. Drain any fat that has rendered from the sausages and add the asparagus, cream, and a small pinch of salt and simmer for 2 minutes.

Drain the pasta, reserving some cooking water, and add the pasta to the sauté pan along with the ricotta, a good grind of black pepper and 2-3 tbsp of the reserved pasta water.

Stir around carefully so that everything is mixed well.

Add the Parmesan and stir again then serve immediately garnished with the basil leaves.

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Monday, 4 May 2015

Spicy Taiwanese Chicken & Celery

Another great dish to cook if you have a bit of a glut of celery - this is from a reader recipe on Food 52: I’ve changed it slightly, mainly in upping the amount of chicken and sauce as, if I’m serving over a rice, I like it nice and saucy. As it turns out there wasn’t actually a massive amount of sauce even with me increasing those ingredients, but the rice was a welcome relief as my chilli seems to have been particularly hot and I didn’t deseed it.

If you can, use Chinese celery but I just used the usual stuff as I still had the inner stalks from the batch I’d bought for the braised over polenta dish I cooked recently, and that worked fine.

In fact I have to say this was delicious, surprisingly so as I thought it would be a bit boring. But beige as it may look (particularly with the brown rice), it really was rather good. I think this may be, in part, due to the rendered chicken fat.

Spicy Taiwanese Chicken & Celery
serves 2

200g (approx) inner celery sticks, trimmed, veins peeled off & sliced into 1 inch batons
3 skinless chicken thigh fillets (trimmed but fat reserved), sliced into thin pieces
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 red chilli, finely sliced (lengthways)
2 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tsp sesame oil
2 tbsp Shaoxing rice wine (or dry sherry)
2 tbsp water
1 tbsp potato flour

Combine all the ingredients bar the celery, chilli and chicken fat, in a bowl. Set aside to marinate for 30 mins.

Heat a wok over high heat. Add the chicken fat and render for 3 minutes (or until no more fat renders). Discard the solids and pour the rendered fat into a bowl, leaving approximately 1 tbsp in the wok.

Add the chicken to the wok, leaving as much sauce behind in the bowl as you can and stirfry, stirring constantly until the meat is almost done. Remove the chicken and set aside on a plate.

Add another 2 tablespoons rendered fat to the wok and then add the celery. Saute for 2-3 mins then add the chillis and stir around for a minute. Add the chicken back in and the sauce still in the bowl then stir for another minute.

Serve immediately over rice.

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Thursday, 30 April 2015

Pasta with Oven Roasted Tomatoes, Broccoli & Lemon

Blimey! Well it has certainly been a while since I posted. To say the least. Usually I annoy myself by excusing myself for the laxity of my posting but on this occasion I have a really, really good excuse - I only went and had a flipping baby! Two months ago in fact but today he is blissfully napping and for once I don't have a million other things to try and cram into these infrequent moments of quiet.

So without further ado, onto the recipe. Essentially this is adapted from here but I decided to make my own oven-roasted tomatoes as I had the time to do so (obviously we're going back a while and this was pre-baby: if you choose to do the same, make them ahead of time: either a couple of hours before you cook the pasta or further in advance as they will keep for a little while, particularly if you coat them in a bit more olive oil. Otherwise you could buy some sunblush tomatoes from the shop.

Obviously if I had the time to do the tomatoes I probably should have also made pesto but we had a little in the fridge from a chicken dish I had made a few nights before (Prosciutto wrapped chicken with asparagus for dinner guests).

I should really have used feta here, as per the original recipe, but I’d already bought some ricotta for a different recipe (this one) so decided to use that. In all honesty I think feta would have worked better in both: it has a lovely salty tang that would work well. The ricotta doesn’t really add anything. Lesson learned and all that!

Wholewheat Penne with Oven Roasted Tomatoes, Broccoli & Lemon
serves 2

150-200g whole wheat penne
100g tenderstem broccoli
10-15 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 fat garlic clove, sliced plus 1 small garlic clove, crushed
few sprigs of thyme
2 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp basil pesto
20g ricotta (or feta)
juice of ½ lemon
small handful basil leaves, chiffonaded

To make the oven-roasted tomatoes, preheat the oven to 150C and in a bowl toss the tomatoes with the olive oil, sliced garlic, thyme and some freshly ground black pepper and sea salt together.

Leave to one side for about ten minutes.

Line an oven-proof tray with baking parchment and tip the tomatoes and seasonings out onto it, spreading out quite reasonably.

Pop in the oven and roast for about 45 minutes, turning the tray halfway through. Turn the oven down to about 100C and roast for a further 45 minutes, again turning the tray after 20-25 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Cook the penne according to package directions. Adding the broccoli for the last 1-2 minutes of cooking.

Drain and return both the pasta and broccoli to the pan over a low heat.

Add the tomatoes and garlic to the pan with the pasta and baby broccoli and sauté for 1-2 minutes until fragrant.

Add the pesto, half of the ricotta, and the lemon juice. Toss in the pan until well combined. Remove from heat and add most of the basil.

Serve immediately sprinkled with the remaining ricotta and basil.

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Friday, 23 January 2015

Carne Adovada with Mexican Pickled Onions, Street Salad & Guacamole

I’d had it in mind to cook the New Mexican dish Carne Adovada (pork cooked in a red chilli sauce) for some time and this had a lot to do with the gorgeous red colour I’d seen on the first recipe I saw - sadly mine doesn’t have that rich redness but I think it still looks pretty luscious all the same.

I then found a Kenji’s Food Lab recipe on Serious Eats and decided that I would follow it pretty much to the letter. Kenji approaches recipes in a very systematic, scientific way - he does lots of testing and if he thinks that this would result in the best dish I would put my trust in him.

Of course me following a recipe to the letter is easily said than done. So of course I have here substituted one of the chillies - but for the New Mexico variety as I had bought some specifically many months ago (and also as I didn’t have pasillas). And a couple of quantities have changed but only slightly. Oh, and I added red kidney beans but as they were in the fridge and I wasn’t sure what else I would put them in.

I served this with Mexican pitta’s, homemade Mexican style pickled red onions and guacamole and a Mexican “street salad” adapted from Jamie’s here. Corn tortillas with similar accompaniments would work too.

Carne Adovada
serves 2-3

1⅓ whole dried ancho chilies, seeds and stems removed, roughly torn
1⅓ whole dried New Mexico chilies, seeds and stems removed
375ml chicken stock
25g raisins
150ml orange juice
1 tbsp chopped chipotle chili in adobo
1 tbsp white vinegar
1 tbsp fish sauce
435g boneless pork shoulder, trimmed and cut into 2-inch chunks
2 tsp sunflower oil
1 small onion, thinly sliced
2 medium cloves garlic, crushed
¾ tsp dried Mexican oregano
1 tsp ground cumin
1 bay leaf
100g red kidney beans
sea salt

Place dried chilies in a medium saucepan over medium high heat and cook, turning occasionally, until softening and fragrant, about 1 minute.

Add chicken stock, raisins, orange juice concentrate, chipotles in adobo, white vinegar, and fish sauce.

Bring to a boil over high heat before reducing heat to a bare simmer, and let cook until chilies are totally softened, about 15 minutes. Blend into a smooth puree using a blender (hand or otherwise). Set aside.

Pat pork dry with paper towels and heat the vegetable oil in a large heavy-bottomed casserole over a medium-high heat until smoking. Add pork all at once and spread as evenly as you can (for once it's ok if the pan is crowded). Cook without moving until bottom surface is well browned, about 8 minutes. Give a stir, cook for a few minutes more then transfer pork to a bowl and set aside.

Turn the heat right down and add the onions and garlic to the casserole and cook, stirring frequently, until onions and garlic are softened and beginning to brown, 10-15 minutes. Add oregano and cumin and cook, stirring constantly, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.

Add the chili mixture from the blender to the casserole and stir well to scrape up any browned bits from the bottom. Return the pork to the casserole also. Add bay leaves and beans.

Bring to a boil then reduce to a bare simmer. Cover, leaving lid slightly ajar, and cook, stirring occasionally until pork chunks break apart when you apply pressure with a spoon, about 2 hours.

The sauce should be fairly thick so if needed, increase the heat to a light simmer and cook, stirring frequently, until reduced to the desired consistency. Season very carefully to taste with salt.

Serve with accompaniments of your choice.

Pickled Red Onions
(you’ll make more than you need so keep the excess in an airtight container in the fridge)

2 tsp sea salt
1 red onion, thinly sliced
½ tsp. whole black peppercorns
½ tsp. dried oregano
½ tsp. cumin seeds
1 clove garlic, sliced
50ml red wine vinegar
20ml lime juice
40ml orange juice

In a bowl, toss salt and onion together; let sit until onion releases some of its liquid, about 15 minutes.

Mix the vinegar, lime & orange juices together.

Drain the onion and give it a quick rinse. Drain again and put back in the bowl and mix in the peppercorns, oregano, cumin, and garlic. Spoon the mixture into a jar then pour over the vinegar and seal with lid. Pop in the fridge for at least 4 hours before using.

serves 2

1 large ripe avocado
⅛ red onion, very finely chopped
juice of ½ - 1 lime
½ tsp salt
½ green chilli, seeded and finely chopped
1 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped

Cut open the avocado, remove the stone and scoop out the flesh into a bowl. Roughly mash the flesh with a fork (try and keep it quite chunky), adding half the lime juice as you do so.

Fold in the rest of the lime juice, chillies, salt coriander and red onion.

Season with plenty of black pepper and more salt, lime juice and coriander if you think it needs it.

Mexican Street Salad
serves 2

Use a mandolin or food processor with a slicing attachment if you can, it will make the whole process a lot less labourious

½ small white cabbage, finely shredded
6 radishes, (about 10) trimmed and finely sliced
2 small carrots, peeled and finely sliced
small bunch fresh coriander, leaves and stalks finely chopped
1 green chilli, finely sliced
extra virgin olive oil
juice of 1 lime
sea salt

Put the cabbage into a large bowl with the radishes, carrots and most of the coriander. Mix everything together really well then add almost all the chopped chilli and a good lug of extra virgin olive oil.

Add most of the lime juice and a good pinch of salt, then toss together and taste. Keep adjusting the flavour by adding more coriander, chilli and / or lime juice as you see fit until its just right.

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Wednesday, 21 January 2015

Cod & Spinach Curry

I think I may have mentioned before that I really never used to like fish curries and they were certainly something I would never order in a restaurant or as a take-away. I am now qute partial to them: never too spicy or over-powering as fish of course has quite a delicate flavour and you don’t want to mask it too much but something like this with a nice mild heat and freshness of flavour.

Unfortunately I am not sure where this recipe originated: it is possible I came up with it completely myself but i can’t be 100% sure. I do know I served it with “cauliflower rice” so it was possible I was in a mega-healthy phase. This is excellent for such times as it is low in calories and fat but also super good for you. But even when those things don’t mean a lot to you this is really very good and extremely tasty.

Cod & Spinach Curry
serves 2

juice ½ lemon
½ tsp salt
300g cod fillets, cut into large pieces
10 sprays cooking spray (or ½ tsp vegetable oil)
½ cinnamon stick
2 cloves
2 green cardamom pods
¼ tsp black peppercorns
5 curry leaves
1 onion, chopped
2 green chillies, deseeded & finely chopped
½ tbsp grated ginger
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
200g can chopped tomatoes
½ tsp turmeric
¼ tsp Kashmiri chilli powder
1 tsp ground coriander
130g spinach, roughly chopped

In a bowl stir together the lemon juice, salt and pieces of fish and set aside.

Heat the oil in a large sauté or frying pan. Add the whole spices and curry leaves, cook for 3-4 mins, then add the onions. Fry until the onions are soft and turning golden at the edges, then add the chillies, ginger and garlic and cook for a minute or so longer.

Tip in the tomatoes and the remaining spices and cook, uncovered, on a low heat for 5-10 minutes, stirring frequently to prevent the spices sticking and burning.

Pour 75ml water into the pan, bring to a simmer, then add the fish. Cover with a lid and cook for 5 mins more. Add the spinach and when it has wilted remove from the heat and set aside.

Serve with cauliflower rice or plain basmati if you prefer.

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