Wednesday, 30 July 2014

Roasted Cauliflower, Sage & Almond Risotto

It’s odd how many Australian chefs I come across when I trawl the web looking for new inspiration. This is a recipe from one that I don’t think I was aware of: Donna Hay and very glad to come across it I am as it is absolutely terrific: gorgeously oozy risotto with nuttiness from the roast cauliflower and almonds and offset by a hint of bitterness from the sage.

It could well be one of my very favourites now. But lets face it I do have quite a lot of those.

Personally I think the addition of sherry gives it a slightly Spanish edge so if you can get Marcona almonds all the better. As it turned out the the almonds I had in the cupboard had gone rancid so I had to use almond flakes rather than chopped.

I’ve not written it into the recipe but a tip is that rather than throw the cauliflower stalks away when trimming the cauliflower into florets, chop them up finely and throw in with the shallots when you are sweating them: it gives an extra flavour dimension to the risotto, different from the roasted cauliflower topping.

You can use other any other soft cheese that will melt well such as taleggio, or perhaps in keeping with the Spanish angle try and source a Brie-style cheese from there.

Roasted Cauliflower, Sage & Almond Risotto
serves 2

250g cauliflower, trimmed and chopped
1 tbsp olive oil
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
20g almond flakes
½ bunch sage, leaves picked
750ml hot chicken stock
30g butter
2 banana shallots, finely chopped
150g arborio rice
60ml dry sherry
20g finely grated parmesan
50g Brie de Meaux, sliced

Preheat oven to 220°C.

Place the cauliflower, oil, salt and pepper on a baking tray and toss to coat. Roast for 15 minutes then add the almonds and half the sage leaves and roast for a further 5–8 minutes or until golden and crisp. Set aside and keep warm.

Meanwhile place the stock in a saucepan over a low heat to keep warm.

Melt the butter in a separate large saucepan over medium heat. Add the shallot and cook gently for 10 minutes or until soft and translucent.

Turn the heat up a little and tip in the rice. Stir around to coat for a minute or so before adding the sherry. Finely chop the remaining sage and throw that in too.

Cook, stirring, for 1–2 minutes or until the sherry is absorbed.

Gradually add the stock, 1 ladleful at a time. Allow the stock to be absorbed before adding the next ladleful.

Stir often but don’t worry about standing and stirring continuously until the stock is absorbed and rice is al dente. Probably between 20 and 30 minutes.

Stir through parmesan, and season carefully.

Cover, remove from the heat and leave to stand for 5 minutes before spooning into serving bowls. Top with Brie slices and the roasted cauliflower, sage & nuts to serve.

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Monday, 28 July 2014

Vegetable & Lentil Stew

This is another 5:2 recipe that I came across - and one if I’m honest that I didn’t have particularly high hopes but it was soooo good: really hearty and comforting and just incredibly tasty.

I’ve adapted it slightly from the original here mainly in adding some garlic and swapping out soya mince (I really didn’t fancy it) for Quorn (which I appreciate lots of people don’t fancy) but it would probably be pretty good with minced beef or lamb for a non-veggie version or keeping with the original soya, if that’s your thing.

It has been a while since I cooked it but I really fancy it again now. Which should tell you all you need to know.

Vegetable & Lentil Stew
serves 3

1 tsp olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
2 large carrots (approx 160g), chopped
450g Butternut Squash, peeled & chopped
8 chestnut mushrooms, fairly thickly sliced
2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 green chilli, finely chopped
100g Puy lentils
70g frozen peas, thawed
175g Quorn
60ml red wine
750ml vegetable stock
2 tbsp tomato puree
2 tbsp wholegrain mustard
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

In a large pan, saute the onion with the olive oil, until soft, stirring occasionally - about 10 minutes.

Add the garlic, carrots, chilli and butternut squash and cook gently for 5 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook for another few minutes.

Add the lentils and red wine and stir well to combine.

Add the stock, tomato puree and mustard. Give a good stir and bring to the boil. Reduce to a simmer, cover with a lid and leave to cook for about an hour, stirring occasionally to ensure it’s not sticking.

About 35-40 minutes in, add the quorn mince and stir, then add the peas in the last few minutes of cooking time.

Check the seasoning carefully, adjusting as necessary, and serve immediately in bowls.

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Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Carluccio's Tuna Linguine

This is reasonably similar to some other tuna pasta recipes I cook but the addition of the ginger in the sauce really intrigued me so I decided to give it a go anyway. I was glad I did as it is really good on top of being simple and pretty much a store cupboard standby.

It is an Antonio Carluccio recipe: he of the eponymous Carluccio’s and generally quite fascinating life - see here.

In following the recipe I was going to use olive oil - as evidenced by the ingredients list below - but as my tuna was packed in olive oil & I had to drain that anyway I chose to use that. It is up to you how you go ahead but I think that actually makes more sense.

Tuna Linguine
serves 2

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1½ tbsp parsley, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely chopped
½ small red chilli, finely chopped
½ cm fresh ginger, peeled and thinly sliced
225ml passata
200g good quality tuna in oil, drained and roughly chopped
sea salt
200g dried linguine
freshly ground black pepper

Heat the oil over a medium-low heat and gently fry the garlic, chilli, ginger and one tablespoon of the parsley, for a few minutes until the garlic is softened but not coloured.

Add the tomatoes and continue to cook for another few minutes. Stir in the tuna and salt to taste.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to package instructions (be careful with this as the original recipe actually stated 8-10 minutes but my linguine packet said 3!) or until al dente, and drain.

Toss the pasta with the sauce and serve immediately sprinkled with the remaining parsley and freshly ground black pepper.

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Sunday, 20 July 2014

Stir-fried Garlic Beef & Ong Choi

Ong choi (or choy) is the Cantonese name (空心菜) for a leafy vegetable that is eaten all over Asia. It is also known as water spinach or morning glory although the Cantonese literally translates as "hollow vegetable" which is completely understandable once you get your hands on some.

I’d seen some in one of our local supermarkets and snapped it up (let’s face it Tescbury tends not to have anything out of the ordinary) on a mission to cook with something hitherto unknown to me. The most common means of preparing it is as a simple stir-fry, with or without some minced garlic but I came across a recipe on, reprinted from Delicious magazine that stirfried it with beef: this is an adaptation of that.

Spinach or even watercress could be used if you can’t find ong choi, or failing that tenderstem broccoli may work.

Just as an FYI, I often chuck my beef in the freezer for a while before preparing something like this to make it easier to slice thinly.

Garlic Beef & Ong Choi
serves 2

200g beef fillet, sliced into even-sized thin strips
few pinches Chinese five-spice
light soy sauce
Shaoxing wine
1 tbsp groundnut oil
4 large garlic cloves, finely chopped
150g ong choi, washed, leaves and stems cut across the stem in equal 10cm lengths
1 medium red chilli, finely chopped
½ tsp toasted sesame oil

In a small bowl mix the beef slices with the Chinese five-spice and a glug or 2 of soy sauce & Shaoxing wine, set aside.

Heat a wok over a high heat. When hot, add the groundnut oil and garlic and stir-fry for 30 seconds. Add the beef and stir-fry for a few minutes, until browned.

Add the ong choi and chilli and stir-fry until the leaves have wilted slightly.

Remove from the heat and drizzle over 1 tsp of light soy and ½ tsp or so of sesame oil.

Serve immediately with rice.

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Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Smoked Haddock & Pearl Barley Casserole

At the time of cooking this I was back on the 5:2 as it was the start of the year and I was feeling a bit lardy. Fish is an easy thing to build into 5:2 meal plans as it is so low in calories, even smoked fish as is used here.

I’d also decided, as a type of new year’s resolution, to incorporate more whole grains into our diet and so coming across this recipe was a bit of a godsend as it meant I could use some of my newly purchased pearl barley.

Pearl barley is barley that has been processed to remove its hull and bran. Barley needs to have its fibrous outer hull removed anyway before it can be eaten (pot or Scotch barley) but pearl barley is taken a step further and is polished to remove the bran layer, meaning it cooks faster and is less chewy. Because it has had the bran removed it doesn’t actually need soaking before cooking but I did it to just cut the cooking time slightly.

Try and get undyed smoked haddock if you can so you don’t have that lurid acid house party thing going on in your dish, but if that is all you can get, it is fine.

This is incredibly tasty, surprisingly so really and I’ve made it a couple of times since and will probably do so again soon.

Smoked Haddock & Pearl Barley Casserole
serves 2

245g smoked haddock, cut into chunks
40g frozen peas
60g pearl barley
1 tsp wholegrain mustard
1 banana shallot, finely chopped
250ml chicken stock
5g butter
juice of ½ lime
handful parsley, finely chopped
2 eggs, poached

Put the frozen peas in a colander and rinse with boiling water. Set aside.

Melt the butter in a heavy based pan and add the onion: cook over a low heat for 10 minutes until softened and translucent.

Add the stock and the pearl barley and bring to a gentle simmer. Cook for around 30 minutes until the pearl barley is tender.

Add the smoked haddock, and mustard and cook for a further 5 minutes before adding the peas and lime juice.

Cook for 2-3 minutes more and then check the seasoning before stirring through half of the parsley.

Serve in bowls with the remaining parsley sprinkled over and each topped with a poached egg.

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Tuesday, 15 July 2014

Baked Chicken with Tomatoes & Brown Rice

This is adapted from an HFW recipe which I saw on the Guardian website and by all accounts is his version of a one pot (well two really, if you’re being picky) chicken cacciatore.

I used brown rice which meant that the total cooking time was at the longer end of the scale but use what you fancy and to ensure a quicker cooking time basmati is a good option or you could try a short grain rice such as arborio.

We really enjoyed this and it is especially good with a nice big, lightly dressed, green salad on the side. 

Baked Chicken with Tomatoes & Brown Rice
Serves 4

1 tbsp olive oil
4-6 bone-in, skin-on chicken portions - I used drumsticks & thighs, seasoned with salt & pepper
1 med-large onion, chopped
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped
1 red chilli, finely chopped (optional)
scant tsp dried oregano
100g brown (or white) rice
125ml dry white wine
2 tsp tomato purée
400g chopped tinned tomatoes, crushed
350ml chicken stock
100g green (or black) olives

Heat the oven to 180C.

Put a large frying or sauté pan on a fairly high heat and add the oil. Brown the chicken pieces well in two batches. Transfer to an ovenproof dish, skin side up, and roast in the oven for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, turn the heat down to low under the frying pan, pouring off any excess fat if necessary so you have around a tablespoon left.

Add the onions and cook gently for 10 minutes until soft and translucent. Add the garlic, chili and oregano and cook for a few minutes more.

Stir in the rice for a minute or two then turn the heat up and add the wine. Simmer for a couple of minutes, stirring, until the liquid has evaporated.

Stir in the tomato purée, then add the tinned tomatoes and stock, and bring back to a boil.

Season carefully to taste.

Tip the tomatoey rice into the chicken dish, scraping off any grains of rice that may be on top of the chicken (they won’t cook up there).

Scatter in the olives, and roast for 30-60 minutes longer (as I mentioned this will be type-of-rice dependent).

When the rice is tender remove from the oven and leave to sit for 10 minutes before serving.

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Thursday, 10 July 2014

Smoky Bacon & Pea Pasta

A ridiculously simple recipe here adapted from the stable of super easy, super tasty Jamie Oliver pasta dishes. He makes it with mini pasta shells, and to be fair that would cut down the cooking time, but it’s pretty quick as it is. I used, as you can see, linguine.

For me this is pretty much a store-cupboard dinner given that I will always have pancetta or lardons in the fridge or freezer and of course peas in the freezer too.

Honestly there’s not a great deal else that can be said - it’s good and tasty and it’s quick. What’s not to love?

Smoky Bacon & Pea Pasta
serves 2 (with maybe some leftovers for a light lunch)

olive oil
200g pasta
100g smoked bacon lardons
1 fat clove garlic, crushed
85g fresh peas
1 heaped tbsp crème fraîche
50g freshly grated parmesan
½ lemon
1 egg
sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook pasta according to the packet instructions.

You actually only want half the egg so whisk it up in a small bowl and pour or spoon out half of it. Mix in the crème fraîche, along with some salt and pepper and set aside.

Get a large frying pan over a medium heat and add a good lug of olive oil. Add the bacon to the pan, sprinkle a little pepper over and fry until golden and crisp. Add the garlic and cook for a minute or so more.

Add the frozen peas to the frying pan and give it a good shake. Cover the pan and leave to fry gently while the pasta finishes cooking (add a tablespoon of water from the pasta pan if necessary).

Drain the pasta in a colander over a large bowl, reserving some of the cooking water.

Add the pasta to the frying pan and squeeze over some lemon juice: stir well so that the bacon and peas are well mixed.

Now add the eggy crème fraîche mixture, take off the heat and mix everything together: the sauce should be silky & smooth. If you need to thin it out a bit add a little of the reserved cooking water. Add the grated Parmesan and give it all another few stirs.

Divide between bowls and serve.

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Wednesday, 9 July 2014

Green Herb Prawn Curry

I found this at Olive magazine when I was on the hunt for some low calorie recipes that seemed decadent: important I think when you are going for low-cal as the decadence helps your tummy think that it is being properly sated (in my opinion anyway).

I slightly buggered this up in that I should have added the ground seeds from 2 cardomom pods into the spice mix. I’m not sure how I missed them but probably will try this again and include them next time. I altered the recipe slightly adding some yoghurt and fish sauce for added tartness and zing and a few shakes of jalapeno tabasco to pep up the heat levels slightly.

This is very mild, light and fresh tasting, redolent with herbs. And on top of all that it is super healthy as well, particularly if you were to use half fat coconut milk.

Green Herb Prawn Curry
Serves 2

1.5cm ginger, roughly chopped
1 large garlic clove, roughly chopped
1 (or 2 small) banana shallot
1-2 green chillies, seeded and roughly chopped
½ tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
50ml chicken stock
100ml coconut milk

1 tbsp 0% fat Greek yoghurt
couple shakes green jalapeno tabasco (optional)
splash of fish sauce
bunch coriander, finely chopped
½ bunch mint, leaves finely chopped
175g large raw peeled prawns

Put the ginger, garlic, onion, chillies and all of the spices in a spice grinder or food processor and whizz to a paste, adding a splash of water if necessary to combine.

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a pan and fry the paste for 5 minutes until very fragrant.

Add the stock and coconut milk and simmer for 10 minutes then add the herbs and prawns and simmer for a further 3 minutes until the prawns are pink and cooked through.

Serve immediately with steamed basmati rice.

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Thursday, 3 July 2014

Potato, Pea & Spinach Curry

A really lovely vegetarian main here that is pretty quick to cook as long as you are parboiling the spuds.

A quick note about cooking with yoghurt which can often curdle when cooked. The trick is to make sure you have brought it to room temperature, whip it lightly with a fork and then add it to the curry off the heat.

And speaking of which, you can use coconut milk or yoghurt if you like rather than both. I was experimenting with using both so as to be a little less calorific (coconut milk can be a bit of a shocker).

Therefore neither Thai or Indian really but rather a delicious fusion of both

Potato, Pea & Spinach Curry
serves 2

400g new potatoes, halved
200g frozen peas
2tsp groundnut oil
2cm piece of ginger, chopped
2 large cloves garlic, chopped
2 banana shallots, chopped
1 tsp cumin seeds
3 cardamom pods, seeds only, crushed
1 tsp ground turmeric
1 red chilli, deseeded & finely sliced
1 green chili, deseeded & finely sliced
200ml coconut milk
125ml yogurt
100-150ml veg stock
1 tsp medium curry powder
juice of ½ lime
large handful of spinach, roughly chopped
2 tsp fish sauce
pinch sugar
small handful coriander, finely chopped

Boil a kettle & when it has boiled pour over the peas in a colander: drain them and set aside.

Meanwhile parboil the potatoes for about 10 minutes (until just tender to the point of a knife but not cooked through).

Whizz the ginger, garlic, shallots and 2 tbsp of water to a smooth paste in a grinder.

Heat the oil in a heavy based pan and when hot add the paste, cumin, turmeric, curry powder and crushed cardamom seeds. Fry over a medium heat for about 10 minutes until fragrant and the paste has thickened.

Stir in the chillies and potatoes so they are coated with the paste and spices.

Add the stock, a pinch of sugar and fish sauce and gradually add the coconut milk, stirring all the time. Cover and cook on a low heat for 20-30 minutes.

Remove the lid and if necessary increase the heat until a hard simmer for up to 10 minutes to thicken the sauce a little.

Add the peas and lime juice and cook another 3-5 minutes, then add the spinach and most of the chopped coriander.

When the spinach is wilted, remove from the heat and carefully and gradually stir in the yoghurt.

Serve with the chopped coriander leaves sprinkled over and, if you like, some lime wedges on the side.

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