Sunday, 27 April 2014

Tagliatelle with Prosciutto & Olives

I think it is fairly obvious that I love pasta and am constantly on the lookout for delicious looking new recipes that I can try (see also soups and broths although I tend to cook those less often for some reason). Often, those that look mopst appealing to me are a spin, basically, on something that I already cook.

I think that is the case here really: I often cook sauces with bacon or pancetta or prosciutto or ham and olives and of course the triumvirate of tomatoes, Shallots / onions and garlic and I think that was exactly what attracted me to this recipe.

That and the quite artful way the original is arranged. This then is adapted from here but I’m afraid I had to concede defeat with the presentation.

Tagliatelle with Prosciutto & Olives
serves 2

250-300g fresh tagliatelle
1 tbsp olive oil
3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 shallot, finely chopped
65g black olives, pitted & roughly halved
2 tomatoes, diced
65ml dry white wine
2 tsp tomato purée
20g unsalted butter, cubed
6 slices prosciutto, roughly torn
40g freshly grated Parmesan cheese, plus extra to serve
a small handful of flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped

In a heavy sauté pan warm the olive oil over a medium low heat and when hot add the garlic and shallots. Sauté until the shallots are softened and translucent: about 5-10 minutes.

Increase the heat a little and add the olives and tomatoes. cook for a further 2-3 minutes.

Add the wine and cook until it has all but evaporated and then add the butter and tomato purée.

Meanwhile cook the pasta according to packet instructions and when it is cooked drain, reserving a little of the cooking water, and add to the sauté pan with the sauce.

Mix well, but gently, adding a little of the pasta cooking if necessary to loosen the sauce and make it silkily coat all the pasta strands.

Stir through the prosciutto and parmesan then serve immediately sprinkled with the chopped parsley and a little extra parmesan.

Read More »

Saturday, 26 April 2014

West African Inspired Peanut & Chicken Stew

Apart from Moroccan inspired tagine-type dishes I rarely cook African meals which is a pity really seeing as the cuisine encompasses such a diverse range of foods.

The history of West Africa of course plays a large role in its cuisine and recipes, as interactions with different cultures over the centuries served to introduce many ingredients that are today key aspects of the different national culinary traditions.

Many years before the influence of Europeans, West African peoples were trading with the Arab world and ingredients such as cinnamon were introduced. Very many years later the Portuguese, French and British further influenced regional cuisines: chillies and tomatoes were probably brought from the New World via European explorers and slaves ships. Both have become ubiquitous components additions to West African food along with peanuts, corn, cassava, and plantains alongside original African ingredients such as black-eyed peas and okra.

Peanut (aka groundnut) stews are common to much of West Africa and particularly popular in Senegal, the Gambia, Mali, Guinea and Cote d'Ivoire. There exists a massive variety of recipes for the stew but at its core it is cooked with a sauce based on peanuts (natch) and the West African trinity of tomatoes, onion and chillies with a protein component of chicken, beef, mutton or occasionally in coastal areas, fish.

I think this makes for a really good introduction to (non-North) African cuisine and I will definitely be delving further. The other things is that this is so easy and makes for a hearty, delicious yet subtly different stew. Definitely give it a try.

West African Inspired Chicken & Peanut Stew
serves 2

1 tbsp coconut (or groundnut) oil
300g skinless chicken thigh fillets, cut into quarters
1 small onion or banana shallot, finely chopped
1” piece of ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 large garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
½ scotch bonnet chilli, deseeded and veined and finely chopped
175g sweet potatoes, scrubbed, peeled and diced
½ red pepper, chopped
200ml chicken stock
85g chunky organic peanut butter
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp cumin
200g tin chopped tomatoes
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 tsp picked lemon thyme leaves
pinch cayenne
salt and freshly ground black pepper
sml handful toasted peanuts
sml handful chopped coriander

Heat the oil in a large heavy bottomed sauté pan over a medium heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring often for about 10 minutes until softened.

Push the onions to the side of the pot and then add the chicken thigh pieces. Brown all over.

Turn down the heat and add the ginger, red pepper, chillies and garlic; cook gently until the red pepper is softened.

Add the cumin & coriander and stir well.

Add the sweet potatoes, chicken stock, peanut butter, ground coriander and tomatoes. Scrape up any chicken bits from the bottom of the pan and then stir until it is all well combined.

Bring to the boil then reduce to a simmer. Cover and simmer gently for 45 minutes.

Season to taste and then serve with rice and garnish with coriander, spring onions and peanuts.

Read More »

Thursday, 24 April 2014

Chicken & Mozzarella Arrabbiata

OK so everything about this screams “What are you on about!” - it isn’t arrabbiata by any means. And also, I’m a hypocrite. On occasion (not that often as, for a start, I have normally planned in advance what we will eat on any given day) a conversation between me & the bf has gone thus:

bf: what are we having for dinner?
me: I don’t know. Pasta?
bf: do we have mushrooms? pancetta?
me: um, yes, almost certainly
bf: oh good, so we can have carbonara….
me (cutting in): so most definitely *not* carbonara then!

But anyway, it does have tomatoes, garlic, olive oil and chili (kind of). Just ignore everything else.

So.. when cooking this, and being aware that it would also be feeding a small person, I only used red pepper flakes but feel free to up the chili hotness (as I normally would) by adding chopped fresh chillies or dried chilli flakes.

It isn’t entirely necessary to poach & shred the chicken, just slicing it or chopping it up into bite-size bits would also work but I think poaching in liquid beforehands ensures that it is moist & tender. The fact that the mozzarella is then able to insinuate itself more goo-ily into the sauce doesn’t hurt either.

Chicken Arrabiata with Mozzarella
serves 2½

2 tsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
1 large clove garlic, crushed
small handful basil, torn
1 tsp red pepper flakes
2 skinless chicken breasts, poached until just cooked & shredded
400g tin chopped plum tomatoes
½ tsp tomato purée
large glug red wine
pinch of sugar
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
200g dried penne pasta
1 ball of mozzarella, torn into small chunks
parmesan to serve

Sauté the onions over a low heat until soft and translucent. This will take 10-15 minutes. Add the crushed garlic and red pepper flakes and stir around for a couple of minutes more.

Turn up the heat and glug in a large splash of wine. Let it reduce and burn off the alcohol and then add the tomatoes, squishing them down with the back of a spoon.

Add the tomato purée, sugar, a good grind of black pepper and half the basil and let very gently simmer over a low heat for at least 15 minutes. Season to taste carefully.

Cook the pasta according to packet instructions and after about 5 minutes of the cooking time add the shredded chicken to the tomato sauce. Cover and simmer gently over a low heat.

When the pasta is just less than al denté, drain reserving a little of the water and add the drained pasta and the rest of the basil with a tablespoon or so of the pasta cooking water to the sauce.

Stir around well, then add the torn up mozzarella bits to the top.

Pop the lid back on, turn off the heat and leave for about 5 minutes.

Dish up and serve with some grated Parmesan on the table for people to help themselves.

Read More »

Monday, 21 April 2014

Asparagus, Mint & Lemon Risotto

This is pretty much a Jamie Oliver recipe really - you can find the original here: I think my only real adaptation was to add the fried prosciutto as a garnish, the salty savouriness worked pretty well.

Jamie’s idea of finely slicing the risotto lengths into little discs and keeping the tips whole is a good one: it gives a really good asparagus flavour to the risotto itself and of course you will get a delicious whole tip in (nearly) every bite.

Anyway, this is one of my favourite risotto recipes so give it a try.

Asparagus, Mint & Lemon Risotto
Serves 2

For the risotto base
250ml vegetable stock
½ tbsp olive oil
1 shallot, peeled and finely chopped
1 stick celery, trimmed and finely chopped
150 g risotto rice
65 ml vermouth
For the risotto
100g asparagus, finely chopped up until the tips
250 ml vegetable stock
12.5g butter
1 small handful Parmesan cheese, freshly grated, plus a block for grating
handful fresh mint, leaves picked and finely chopped
zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
sea salt
freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
2 slices of prosciutto, lightly fried, to serve

Bring the stock to a low simmer in a small saucepan.

In a separate large pan cook the shallot and celery very gently until soft but not coloured in the olive oil. About 15 minutes.

Add the rice and turn up the heat. Stir constantly for a couple of minutes so that the rice or vegetables don’t catch and then quickly pour in the vermouth. Keep stirring until the vermouth has evaporated.

Turn the heat down to medium-low (as you cook you will need to adjust this as necessary: you don’t want the rice to cook too quickly so that it has a stodgy outside but uncooked middle, nor too slowly or it will become a stodgy but gloopy mess).

Add a ladleful of stock to the rice. Stir often (but you don’t need to be a slave to it) until the liquid has been fully absorbed before adding the next ladleful.

Continue to add ladlefuls of stock until it has all be absorbed and the rice has begun to soften but is still al dente. This can be anywhere from 15-30 minutes so towards the end of the cooking time you’ll need to be a bit vigilant. You may also need some more stock.

Put a large saucepan on a medium to high heat and pour in half the stock, the risotto base and the finely sliced asparagus stalks and the tips.

Stir constantly and gently bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and simmer until almost all the stock has been absorbed.

Add the rest of the stock a ladleful at a time until the rice and asparagus are cooked. Check the rice often - you don’t want to overcook it so it should hold its shape but be soft and creamy and the whole kind of oozy.

Turn off the heat and quickly stir in the butter, Parmesan, mint, lemon juice and most of the lemon zest. Check the seasoning carefully and adjust if necessary.

Put a lid on the pan and leave the risotto to rest for a few minutes. Meanwhile you can quickly fry off the prosciutto.

Serve the risotto in bowls with a slice of fried Prosciutto atop each, drizzle over a little olive oil and scatter with the remaining lemon zest.

Have some more Parmesan on the table so you can add more if you like.

Read More »

Sunday, 20 April 2014

Panang Fish Curry

I’m pretty much laughing in the face of any authenticity here: this is purely a Panang curry by virtue of the fact that I am using a Mae Ploy Panang curry paste. Well that and the fact that I have made this with fish whereas usually it is made with beef or chicken.

But anyway it is good all the same and as one of the milder Thai curries I personally think it is a good match with white fish and there is the added advantage that this can be thrown together in a little over ten minutes.

Panang Fish Curry
serves 3

265g white skinless fish fillets, cut into chunks
120g green beans, halved
160ml coconut cream
200ml stock
2 tbsp Panang (or red curry) paste
1 tbsp (20g) palm sugar
2 tbsp fish sauce
4 kaffir lime leaves, finely shredded
small handful, basil leaves
1 red chilli, sliced (reserve a few slivers for garnish)


Put half of the coconut cream into a wok and fry for 3-5 minutes, stirring continuously, until the coconut oil begins to separate out.

Add the Panang curry paste and fry for 1-2 minutes.

Once the paste is cooked add the stock and add the green beans and red chillis, cook for a couple of minutes so the beans are starting to be tender.

Add the fish and cook for a minute more before adding the rest of the coconut cream, the palm sugar, half the kaffir lime and the fish sauce.

Simmer for a minute or so until the fish is cooked through then stir in half the basil leaves.

Turn off the heat and serve garnished with shredded kaffir lime leaves, red chilli slivers, and basil leaves.

Read More »

Sunday, 13 April 2014

Stir-fried Pork with Mushrooms

Borne out of the fact that we had Enoki mushrooms in the fridge to use up this is a very simple pork stir-fry that makes for an excellent mid-week dinner.

The ingredient list may seem quite long but really it is easy to throw together. If you wanted to you could make this simpler cutting the mushrooms down to just one type or even leaving the vegetables out altogether and just having pork alone.

The chilli oil is also purely optional but I am a big fan so think it really adds to the taste.

Pork & Mushroom Stir-fry
serves 2

For the Marinade
1 tsp sugar
½ tsp salt
½ tbsp light soy sauce
½ tbsp potato flour mixed with 1 tbsp water
For the pork & mushrooms
225g pork fillet, sliced into strips ½in x 1 ½ in
1 tbsp oil, divided
2-3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
2 spring onions, finely chopped, including greens (reserve)
80g enoki mushrooms, bottom stumpy bit removed
75g shitake mushrooms, sliced
6 baby corn, sliced on a steep angle
pinch white pepper
1 green chilli, finely chopped
chilli oil with sediment
For the Sauce
125ml stock
1 tbsp Shaoxing wine (or rice wine or sherry)
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp grated orange zest
1 tsp sesame seeds
½ tsp sesame oil

Mix the marinade ingredients together in a bowl and add the pork strips. Stir well to coat thoroughly and set aside for 15 minutes while you prepare everything else.

Mix the sauce ingredients in a separate bowl and set aside.

Heat a wok over a fairly high heat and add the oil. Stir-fry the garlic, spring onions and chilli until aromatic (be careful not to burn).

Throw in the pork and stir fry until it has lost its pinkness before tossing in the babycorn. Cook for a few minutes more then add the mushrooms and stir-fry for a couple of minutes.

Add the sauce ingredients and stir all together then let it bubble for a few minutes.

Serve over plain rice with a couple of splashes of chilli oil if you like and the spring onion greens sprinkled over.

Read More »

Sunday, 6 April 2014

Pasta e Fagioli

This is based on the classic Italian dish of pasta with beans (fagioli) in a thick and flavourful vegetable soup.

You can use any kind of beans - I’ve gone with a tin of 3-bean salad - as well as pretty much any veg you have laying around and you fancy. And in fact pretty much any pasta goes too: small is probably best so I’ve used some macaroni that was lying at the back of the cupboard in wait for me to finally getting around to making macaroni cheese but you could also use spaghetti. Just make sure you break into smaller (say, 3cm) lengths.

Ideally you would use homemade stock but a good, preferably organic, stock cube or powder is still good.

The classic pasta e fagioli topping is a swirl of extra virgin oil and Parmesan - the latter present here in the additional form of Parmesan croutons. Simplicity in itself, simply cut some oldish bread into 2cm cubes and place them in a roasting tin. Drizzle over some olive oil then some grated Parmesan and gently toss to coat the bread then cook in preheated oven for 5 minutes or so or until golden.

By the way, this was amazing for lunch next day but if you're going to do that only add the pasta the next day else it may be a bit too mushy.

Pasta e Fagioli
Serves 3-4

4 rashers or medallions of smoked bacon, chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
2 small or 1 fat clove of garlic, finely chopped
½ tsp chilli flakes
sprig or 2 of sage, leaves picked and finely chopped
1 bay leaf
1 fat leek, halved and sliced thinly
3 carrots, halved lengthways and sliced thinly (I used 4 small ones)
Parmesan rind (optional)
400g tin mixed beans, drained and rinsed
1 litre stock (I used pork but chicken or veg is fine)
200g tin plum tomatoes
1 ½ tbsp tomato purée
60g small pasta shapes
small handful of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
grated Parmesan, to serve
day old bread, cubed
olive oil, to serve

Fry the bacon in a large non-stick pan (it will cook in its own fat) until golden, then add the shallot, garlic leeks, celery and carrots along with the chilli flakes, herbs and a piece of Parmesan rind and cook for about 15 minutes until softened.

Tip in the beans, chicken stock, chopped tomatoes and tomato purée and pasta and simmer until the pasta is cooked.

Take off the heat, remove the bay leaf and Parmesan rind and stir through the parsley. Cover and leave to stand for 10 minutes then taste and carefully adjust the seasoning.

Serve in bowls topped with a swirl of olive oil, Parmesan croutons and a good grind of black pepper.

Read More »