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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Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Mozzarella & Pesto Stuffed Chicken

This is another recipe where you have an excuse to pound away at chicken breasts with a rolling pin: being a good stress reliever if you need it.

We had this with some broccoli roasted with garlic but really you can have whatever you like: spuds, salad, even pasta. And of course the same really goes for the chicken: it stands to reason that you can stuff it with all sorts of goodies rather than the pesto and cheese.

Mozzarella & Pesto Stuffed Chicken
serves 2

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded until thin
2 tbsp pesto (I used the chilli pesto we’d had in this pasta dish)
2 tbsp half fat crème fraîche
2 tbsp grated mozzarella cheese
1 egg, beaten
3 tbsp finely grated Parmesan cheese
3 tbsp panko breadcrumbs
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 190C and spray a small ovenproof dish with non-stick spray.

In a small bowl mix together the pesto, crème fraîche, and grated mozzarella and then spread half of the mixture over each flattened chicken breast, stopping about ½ inch from the edge of the chicken.

Roll up the chicken breasts and secure them with a couple of wooden toothpicks.

Have two bowls ready: one with the beaten egg and the other with the panko breadcrumbs mixed with the Parmesan, seasoned with black pepper to taste.

Dip each chicken breast roll first into the egg mixture and then into the Parmesan breadcrumbs, patting it on to ensure that each roll is well-coated with the mixture.

Put the chicken into the baking dish and bake until the chicken is firm and lightly browned, about 30-35 minutes.

Serve with accompaniment of your choice.

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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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