Thursday, 11 December 2014

Tagliatelle with Prawns in a Sweet Tomato Sauce


This is a Jamie Oliver recipe that I have been adapting from a Sunday supplement pullout for many years (but I think it is from Jamie’s Kitchen or you can find it on his website) and really a rather good one at that.

With this one you should try and get hold of small (and therefore it seems by necessity cooked) shrimp or prawns as they will be that little bit sweeter and I think their small size just goes better with this recipe than, say, tiger prawns or large uncooked prawns. As they are pre-cooked of course you will need to make sure that you don’t then overcook them in the sauce. You want to make sure that they are heated through but haven’t gone tough and rubbery.


Tagliatelle with Prawns in a Sweet Tomato Sauce
serves 2


4 ripe tomatoes
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
190 g small peeled prawns or shrimps
1 small clove garlic, peeled and finely chopped
zest and juice of ½ lemon
1 shot of Cognac
75 ml single cream
200 g dried tagliatelle
1 small handful fresh parsley, roughly chopped
30g ricotta (or feta)


Blanch and skin the tomatoes, then halve and chop pretty finely.

Put a pan of salted water on to heat for the pasta. Put a glug or so of olive oil in a second pan, and fry the prawns, garlic, lemon zest and tomatoes for a couple of minutes. Add the cognac and flame if you like: it will only do so for about 20 seconds.


Add the cream, allow to simmer gently for a couple more minutes and then remove the pan from the heat. Season the sauce carefully with salt, pepper and lemon juice.


Meanwhile cook the tagliatelle according to the packet instructions and if your sauce will have cooled by the time the pasta is cooked, reheat it. Take this opportunity to check the seasoning carefully too.

Drain the cooked pasta in a colander and then throw back in the pan and toss with the parsley in the pan in which it was cooked. Divide the pasta between plates and top with the shrimp sauce. Crumble over a little ricotta or feta.





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Wednesday, 10 December 2014

Bourbon Basted Pork Chops


I made the marinade for this in the morning and let the chops sit in it all day - this will of course increase the depth of flavour but in all honesty it is not strictly necessary and this could just as easily be whipped up after work and let sit for 30 mins or so

Summer, at the time, was here so we chucked them on the BBQ (the bf is an Aussie after all) but you could cook them however you want. Just remember that if you use bone-in they will need a longer cooking time, unless you’re using Iberico pork or something which is OK a little pink. And if you are, lucky you.

Some lovely Jersey Royals would go perfectly with this but unfortunately for me that wasn’t to be so instead we had some honey carrots and parmentier potatoes.


Bourbon Basted Pork Chops
serves 2


1½ tbsp lemon juice (about half a lemon)
3 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tbsp Worcestershire Sauce
2 tbsp bourbon
½ tbsp grated shallot (about 1 small banana shallot)
¼ tsp hot sauce
¼ tsp pepper
2 pork loin chops


In a small saucepan mix together all of the ingredients except the pork and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and simmer 5 minutes. Reserve half of the sauce.

Pour half of the sauce over the pork chops and marinate 30 minutes to overnight.


Grill the chops (in my case on a pre-heated BBQ) for 6 minutes and then flip and grill for a further 5 minutes on the other side, basting often with the reserved sauce. Make sure the chops are cooked through and then serve with your choice of sides.







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Monday, 8 December 2014

Sichuan-Style Braised Tofu with Mushrooms


This is a pretty quick meal to whip up when you’re short of time and fancy something without meat (note - to be truly veggie, substitute the chicken stock for vegetable or just water). Plus it is pretty versatile as you can use the tofu of your choice (I would have preferred silken but could only get firm), ditto mushrooms. You could even make it with chicken instead of tofu if you wanted a non veggie version.

This has some similarities with, and is partially inspired by, a kind of mapo tofu that I have blogged previously (I’m actually amazed that I haven’t posted a proper mapo tofu as it is one of my favourite things in the world. Will have to remedy that soon) but just about different enough to warrant it’s own inclusion.


Sichuan style Braised Tofu with Mushrooms
Serves 3-4

2 tbsp cooking oil
2 inch knob of ginger, sliced into matchsticks
3 cloves garlic, crushed
3 skinny spring onions, cut into 1 inch sections on an angle
2 tbsp chilli bean paste
1 tbsp Shaoxing wine (optional)
1 block of tofu, cut into bite size pieces
20g dried wood ear mushroom, or black fungus, soaked & thinly sliced
100g shiitake mushroom (fresh), thinly sliced
2 tbsp light soy sauce
1 tsp palm sugar
½ teaspoon ground white pepper
200-300ml weak chicken stock
½ tbsp potato flour, mixed with 1 tbsp water
small handful coriander leaves, chopped
1 tsp ground roasted Sichuan pepper


Steep the tofu pieces in very hot, lightly salted water and set aside.

Heat the oil in a wok over a high heat and swirl it around to coat the sides. Turn the heat down a little and sauté the ginger, garlic, and spring onions until fragrant. About 3 minutes.


Add the chili bean paste and stir around for a further minute or so. Splash in the cooking wine if using.


Remove the tofu from the hot water with a slotted spoon and add to the wok along with the mushrooms. Add the soy sauce, sugar and white pepper and stir everything together carefully so it is mixed well.

Pour in the stock, stir, and bring to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer over a low heat for 5 minutes.


Add a little of the flour and water mixture, stirring carefully to thicken the sauce. Add more as needed but be careful to not add more than you need - you want it slightly thickened rather than gloopy.

Serve immediately over steamed white rice, sprinkle with the ground Sichuan pepper and coriander.






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Wednesday, 3 December 2014

Cauliflower Puttanesca


There isn’t a huge amount to say about this dish really. Ultimately I love the punchy & rugged flavours of puttanesca: salty olives, piquant capers, tangy tomatoes and whereas my usual (and much loved) version of this has tuna, on this occasion i wanted something vegetarian. Of course I do have a bit of a soft spot for cauliflower as well so I thought this may fit the bill quite nicely. And it did.


Cauliflower “Puttanesca”
serves 2


175g pasta
1 tbsp olive oil
½ head cauliflower, cut into small florets
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
150g tomatoes, chopped
1 tsp sun-dried tomato paste
60g black olives, pitted & roughly chopped
1 tbsp capers, rinsed
¼ tsp red pepper flakes
1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
Parmesan, grated, to serve


Cook the pasta according to the package directions

Meanwhile, heat the oil in sauté pan over medium-high heat. Add the cauliflower with a pinch of salt and pepper and cook tossing occasionally for about 5 minutes, until golden.

Add the garlic and cook, stirring, for about a minute until fragrant. 


Add the tomatoes, olives, capers, tomato paste and crushed red pepper.


Cook stirring occasionally until the cauliflower is tender and the tomatoes are breaking down. About 10 minutes more.

Drain the pasta, reserving a little of the cooking water and toss the pasta with the sauce, adding a little of the drained water to loosen.

Serve topped with the parsley and Parmesan.






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Tuesday, 2 December 2014

Grilled Chicken with Nectarine Salsa & Truffle Fries


It may now be winter, Christmas is approaching after all but here is a nice and pretty simple dish that should easily transport you back to the height of summer. Well, perhaps.

I think the piece de resistance here is the nectarine salsa - a really juicy, zesty relish that will go with all sorts of grilled white meats or fish. Peach is, naturally, a good alternative.

Obviously my choice was to serve it with marinated (in Old Bay seasoning, garlic olive oil and lime juice) chicken that we grilled on the BBQ (in winter perhaps use a griddle pan). The truffle fries are pretty genius too actually and this was altogether a really lovely meal.


Nectarine Salsa
serves 2 as a relish very generously


2 nectarines, stoned and diced (leave the skins on)
¼ small red onion, finely chopped
½ tbsp chopped mint
½ tbsp chopped coriander
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
juice of ½ lime
½ mild to medium green chilli, finely chopped
½ tsp agave nectar (or honey)
½ tsp olive oil
sea salt and black pepper


Mix the vinegar, agave nectar and lime juice in a small bowl and stir together until well combined.

Put the rest of the ingredients in a bowl, pour over the vinegar / lime juice mixture and combine carefully.

Season to taste with a little salt & pepper.



Truffle Fries
serves 2


2 maris piper potatoes, cut into fries
1 tbsp truffle flavored extra virgin olive oil
Parmesan cheese, finely grated, to taste
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


Preheat oven to 220C

Line a baking sheet with greaseproof paper and then place the fries onto the sheet. Drizzle over the truffle oil and a little salt and pepper and gently toss to combine.

Place into oven and bake for 30 minutes.

Grate over some Parmesan, give another little shake then put back into the oven for another 5-10 minutes, until golden brown and crisp.






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Friday, 28 November 2014

Smoky Bacon & Wild Garlic Udon


This is adapted from a recipe I saw on Guardian’s recipe swap feature online - as chance would have it, at the time, I actually worked with MiMi who has a secret life (well not) as a food blogger: a rather more professional one than me of course with a good-looking site and a published book.

Anyway I’ve adapted the original on the Guardian site a bit - I’ve used wild garlic instead of watercress, added some bamboo shoot strips and lightly fried oyster mushrooms and cut down the sugar a bit as well as mixing some red pepper flakes in with the paprika. Actually now that I think about it I did quite a lot different

Unfortunately my wild garlic was looking a bit sad - I’d bought it the week before at the market (convincing myself that they wouldn’t have it the next time I went) and I’d kind of messed up my weeks recipe plannage a bit somehow. But heyho - stirred into the soup it still tasted fine anyway even if it does look a bit limp.

Oh and by the way - red wine vinegar in pic - I actually used rice wine vinegar: only realised had put the wrong one out afterwards


Smoky Bacon & Wild Garlic Udon
serves 2


6 rashers of smoked streaky bacon
800ml chicken or vegetable stock
½ tbsp caster sugar
200g fresh udon noodles
2 tbsp light soy sauce
2 tbsp dark soy sauce
2 tbsp rice wine vinegar
½ tbsp black vinegar
2 spring onion, finely sliced
large handful wild garlic, trimmed & roughly chopped, stems kept separate
75g bamboo shoot strips
75-100g oyster & shiitake mushrooms, sliced
pinch of sweet smoked paprika mixed with pinch red pepper flakes, to serve


In a large saucepan bring the stock, bacon and sugar to the boil then down to medium-low and simmer for 5 minutes.

Fish out the bacon and slice into bite sized strips.

Add the soy sauces and wine vinegar to the stock and simmer for a few minutes more before adding the bamboo shoots and noodles.

Let the noodles cook in the stock for about 5 minutes - add the garlic stems a couple of minutes in.

Meanwhile heat a little sesame or garlic oil in a non stick pan and quickly fry the bacon pieces so they start to brown just a little at the edges.

Push the bacon to one side and add the mushrooms, again frying lightly until they start to colour slightly.

By now the noodles should be ready so divide them between 2 bowls and then pour the soup over.

Top with the bacon, wild garlic, mushrooms and spring onion and sprinkle over some of the paprika / pepper flakes mix.

Serve immediately with chilli oil on the side for those who want it (me).




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Thursday, 27 November 2014

Beef Braised with Daikon


I’d searched high and low for the daikon that I originally used for the Korean Ramyun: it was massive, nearly 2 foot long, so I was damned if I was going to waste the rest of it after all that palaver.

A few internet searches came up with this Cantonese dish - it should be made with “chou hou sauce” which is a braising sauce made from soybeans, garlic and ginger and sometimes sesame too. My generously stocked Asian cupboard (yes I have one) doesn’t include any of this sauce but apparently hoisin is similar so my intention was to use that instead as well as to add a star anise to help replicate chou hou’s slightly sweet, anise-y taste. And some added sesame oil hopefully takes care of that side of things too

As it turns out I couldn’t find my hoisin sauce (unfortunately I wasn’t actually looking hard enough as I have packets of the stuff brought back from China) so used oyster sauce instead. As I was tasting during the cooking process it occurred to me that chou hou is supposed to be slightly spicy, made from soybeans and with a slight aniseed flavour. A bit like gochujang then so after about an hour (when this occurred to me) I stirred in a teaspoon of it.

Slow cooking will give you melt-in-the-mouth beef and tender daikon infused with a delicious and rich meaty flavour plus a gorgeous sauce that is terrific over plain white rice.


Braised Beef and Daikon
serves 3 with rice.

500g stewing beef, cut into large chunks
1 tbsp rapeseed or groundnut oil
3 thick slices ginger
2 large garlic cloves, bashed
1-2 dried red chilli, left whole
60ml Shaoxing wine
1½ tbsp oyster sauce
½ -1 tbsp light soy sauce
½ - 1 tbsp dark soy sauce
½ heaped tsp miso paste
1 star anise
1 small stick cassia bark
small pinch of white pepper
½ tsp palm sugar
200ml chicken stock
250-300g daikon, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 tbsp potato starch or corn flour
3-4 spring onion, green parts only, finely sliced
2 tsp sesame oil, to finish


Blanch the beef in boiling water in a medium pan for 2 minutes, then drain and set aside.

Wipe the pan then heat the oil in it over a medium heat. Brown the beef on all sides in batches. Put all the beef back in the pan then add the ginger, chillies, star anise, cassia, garlic, soy & oyster sauces, miso, Shaoxing, pepper and sugar. Stir for a minute or two until aromatic.


Add all the other ingredients up to, but not including, the daikon and stir to mix. Bring to a boil and then lower the heat so that everything is just at a simmer. Half cover the pot and let it do its thing for about 1½ to 2 hours.

After 1½ hours check that the beef is getting tender then add the daikon for the final 40 minutes or so. 


Mix up a cornstarch slurry by combining the cornstarch with cold water and then stir as much as you desire into the sauce to thicken it to your liking.

Serve with rice scattered over with spring onion greens and sprinkled with the sesame oil before serving.






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