Monday, 14 August 2017

Mackerel and Roasted Tomato Fettuccine

The amount of pasta I'm eating at the moment is ridiculous. It's always been one of my favourite foods, but I've been having a bit of a love affair with it again recently. So much so that I've half-considered renaming this blog "The Pasta Diaries", though I'm sure followers would fall away thick and fast if I offered nothing but pasta.

When I first started this blog, the ethos behind it was (mostly) quick and easy meals that you could make after work. Pasta definitely fits this bill, and this recipe is ready in the time it takes to roast the tomatoes. Not quite a Jamie's 15 minute meal, but nearly.

If like me, you always keep frozen chopped shallots and frozen parsley in stock (don't judge, they're a lifesaver when strapped for time), you can almost entirely make this as part of a fridge/cupboard raid. I nearly always have cherry tomatoes in the house, and you can easily substitute fresh smoked mackerel for tinned, leaving off the spinach. Fresh is always nicer, but sometimes needs must.

Ingredients (serves 2):
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 mild red chilli, sliced
1 tbsp nonpareille capers
1 tbsp dry black olives, destoned and roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic, crushed
250g baby vine tomatoes, sliced in half lengthways
75g baby spinach
10g flat leaf parsley, chopped
2 smoked mackerel fillets
100ml white wine
1 tbsp olive oil
150g fettuccine
Salt and pepper to taste

Let's cook!

First, pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees and roast the tomatoes on a baking tray for 20-25 minutes, then put a pot of salted water on to boil. While the tomatoes are roasting, sauté the chopped shallots in the olive oil alongside of the chillies until soft. Add the crushed garlic and cook for a further couple of minutes. Add the wine, capers and olives, turn down the heat and reduce the sauce by about 50%.

Once the tomatoes are done, add the fettuccine to the boiling water (I used the posh DeCecco egg stuff which takes 4 minutes) then wilt the spinach into the sauce. Add another glug of extra virgin olive oil, flake in the mackerel fillets (discarding the skin) then carefully stir in the tomatoes so they don't break up.

When the pasta is ready, drain and divide between two bowls. Spoon the sauce on top and scatter over the lemon zest before finishing off with a good squeeze of lemon over each bowl. Garnish with chopped parsley and then gobble down this super quick and easy dish while hot.

Sunday, 18 June 2017

Crab Tagliatelle

Why do we cook? Ostensibly because we need to eat to stay alive, but I think for many it goes deeper than that. We cook to show we love someone. We cook because we want to create and experiment. We cook to nurture, to heal.

There's something innately comforting about the act of cooking, all attention diverted towards slicing, stirring, tasting. I like to think you can taste the difference when something has been cooked with love. When time calls for comfort food - soft, delicious, easy to eat - for me there is nothing better than a good bowl of pasta. Dressed down and smothered in gooey, melted cheese it's a reassuring comfort blanket, but importantly it also scrubs up pretty well and is an altogether different beast.

This is somewhere between the two. Delicious and a little creamy but fancy enough to impress friends for a weeknight supper. It's also quick and easy enough to make when you need the edible equivalent of a hug as it's on the table in 35 minutes at most.

Best made with a glass of wine in hand and great company, as this is made with comparatively few ingredients it helps if you use the best you can get your paws on. Full-flavoured tomatoes will really bring it to life, and try to get your hands on good quality egg pasta (I used tagliatelle from Rummo). Better still, go the whole hog and make it yourself!

Ingredients (Serves 3, or 2 greedy people):
250g egg tagliatelle
250g baby vine tomatoes
100g mixed brown and white crab meat
2 anchovy fillets
1 red chilli
1 clove garlic
1 spring onion
1 tbsp nonparaille capers
2 tbsp olive oil
1 small glass of white wine
Squeeze of lemon juice
1 tbsp finely chopped parsley
Salt and pepper to taste

Let's cook:
Pre-heat the oven to 180° and put a large saucepan of salted water on to boil for the pasta

Place the vine tomatoes on a baking tray and drizzle with 1tbsp olive oil and a little salt and pepper. Roast in the oven for 20-30 minutes, until the skins start to split and the tomatoes are soft. 

While the tomatoes are roasting, finely slice the chilli, garlic and spring onion, then gently heat a large frying pan or sauté. With the remaining olive oil, melt the anchovies with the red chilli for about 5 mins, then add the garlic and spring onion. Cook for a further minute, then add the capers and turn the heat down as low as it will go. 

Once the tomatoes are roasted, add to the pan minus their vines and smoosh them down a little so they spill their gorgeous juices. I also added the olive oil from the roasting dish as it had been infused with tomatoes juices as they roasted. Add the wine, bring to the boil then reduce the heat and stir in the crab meat. The brown meat means it will take on a lovely, creamy consistency. Season to taste with salt and pepper, and your sauce is pretty much ready to go.

Add the tagliatelle to the boiling water, and cook as per the instructions. Stir the parsley into the sauce and add a squeeze of lemon. I also chucked about a tablespoon of the pasta water into the crab sauce to thin it a bit. Drain the pasta, then divide up between the plates. 

Serve with an extra sprinkle of parsley, a glass of chilled wine and good company.  

Sunday, 3 January 2016

Asian-inspired Seafood Noodle Soup

It's been a while, hasn't it? I recently worked out I've moved house 4 times in the last 18 months (out of the old flat, into my Mum's, into the new house, back to Mum's, back into the new house) and my life has been somewhat turned on its head. I also started a new job last January, which is still going great, if not a little exhausting trying to settle into a new work routine when your home life is in chaos.

But here we are, 20 months after we got the keys to this little house. We have a new, wonderful kitchen and a new year, which I'm hoping will see a return to blogging with a little more regularity. Not that it will be hard, given the frequency that I've posted in the last 18 months.

In the spirit of the new year, I wanted to start on a healthy (and health-giving) note. It hasn't been the coldest winter so far, but it has been grey and miserable. What better then, than a warming broth full of wholesome goodness? To keep the flavours light I've used a home made chicken stock with seafood and some vibrant green vegetables. Despite being a die-hard chilli addict, this time I've avoided adding chilli as the gorgeous broth-poached salmon should speak for itself.

Ingredients (serves 2):
1 litre fresh chicken stock
1 star anise
1 stick lemongrass
1 small piece ginger (about the size of your thumbnail)
1/2 tsp pink peppercorns
1/2 tsp white peppercorns
1/2 tsp coriander seed
1 dsp light soy sauce
85g brown rice udon noodles
1 salmon fillet
100g small scallops
80g king prawns
100g sugar snap peas
45g baby pak choi
100g baby chestnut mushrooms

Simmer the chicken stock on low with the star anise, lemongrass, ginger, pink and white peppercorns and coriander seed for 25 minutes, then add the soy sauce. While the broth is simmering, slice the baby mushrooms in half and separate the pak choi leaves from the lighter base. Next, poach the salmon in the broth for 5 minutes before removing and setting aside to cool.

Flake the salmon and leave aside for the time being, then sieve the broth into a new pan, making sure to catch the broth components in the sieve - discard these. Add the noodles to the clear broth pan and simmer for 5 minutes, then add in the light pak choi stem, mushrooms and sugar snaps. After a further couple of minutes, chuck in the prawns, scallops and pak choi leaves and simmer for a final two minutes.

Spoon the soup into two bowls, scattering the flaked salmon on top and enjoy. Perfect healthy, warming soup for a cold winter's evening.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

Pasta with Chorizo and Pomodorino Tomatoes

In the spirit of trying to ease myself back into the world of blogging, I bring you this recipe which I made on Sunday night as I am currently in a hotel room in Leeds typing up notes from my various interviews.  It's a perfect quick and easy weeknight supper, and I wish I was eating it right now instead of an M&S salad!

I've been going through a raging chipotle and chorizo phase recently, and have found myself making this simple pasta dish at least once a week for the past month. It's quick to make (though slow to simmer!), delicious and requires very little effort. Choose a pasta that holds its sauce well; this is not one for spaghetti!

The slow cooking really brings out the sweet, smokey flavour of the chipotle and chorizo, and I love the bursting cherry tomatoes which are a relatively new discovery. In my mind, Sainsbury's makes the best ones, though all are reasonable.

Ingredients (serves 4):
1 large eschalion shallot, finely chopped
30g chorizo, chopped
2 garlic cloves, chopped
400g tin of pomodorino (cherry) tomatoes
1/2 tsp ancho chilli
1/2 tsp chipotle powder
1/2 glass red wine
salt and pepper to taste

350-400g pasta, depending on how hungry you are!

Heat a medium-sized sauce pan on low heat and add the chorizo. When it starts to melt, add the shallot and slowly fry until the shallot is translucent. The fat from the chorizo should mean that you don't need any additional oil. Next, cook the garlic with the chorizo and shallot for about a minute before adding the pomodorino tomatoes, chilli powders and red wine.

Turn the heat down low, and simmer for as long as you can possibly bear; the flavour improves over time. I try to leave it for about an hour, but sometimes hunger gets the better of me.

When the sauce tastes rich and smokey, put some water on for the pasta, add a large pinch of salt and bring to the boil. Cook your pasta as per the instructions on the bag. I like Fiorelli as it holds the sauce beautifully, but go with whatever takes your fancy.When the pasta is cooked, serve up and pour the sauce over it. I find it doesn't really need Parmesan (and I'm a Parmesan fiend) but feel free to add some if you like the extra flavour.

Sunday, 8 March 2015

Sweetcorn Fritters

Oh lordy, has it really been that long? 10 months to the day. And I said the same thing last time I failed to update too. Live gets in the way sometimes...

It's been a busy and fairly dramatic 10 months. I won't bore you with the details, but a new home and two new jobs in the space of a year (and that was just the start of it it) has certainly kept me on my toes. But! It's nearly spring. The sun keeps peeking out and I'm gradually considering coming out of hibernation. We're about to have our kitchen demolished to make way for something hopefully less decrepit, but I thought I'd go for one last hurrah and make use of it before it goes. Crappy old kitchen you have served me well, with your doors falling off their hinges, sticky drawers, rattly old oven and lights that won't work. 

Anyway, enjoy! A quick and easy starter, or a delicious lunchtime snack shoved in a pitta bread with some salad and loaded up with delicious coriander lime yoghurt!

For the fritters
200g tin of sweetcorn
20g fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 shallots
3 spring onions
2 garlic cloves
125g plain flour
5 free range eggs
1 tsp chipotle powder
1 tsp ancho chilli powder
1/2 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
1 tsp black pepper

For the yoghurt sauce
200ml fat free yogurt
20g coriander
juice and zest of 1 lime
2 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove

To make the yoghurt sauce,  pour 200ml yoghurt into a mixing bowl. Finely chop the coriander and add to the mixing bowl along with the juice and zest of a lime. pour in 2 tablespoons olive oil and then crush in one clove of garlic. mix together thoroughly so the olive oil emulsifies with the yoghurt, and transfer to the fridge until ready to use.

To make the fritters, drain the sweetcorn, then transfer contents of sieve to a large bowl. Finely chop the shallots and flat leaf parsley. Add to the sweetcorn and crush in the garlic. Finely slice the spring onions and add those in too. Add the cumin, chipotle, ancho, salt and pepper then mix all the ingredients together. 

Break the eggs into the mixing bowl and add the flour and then stir until you have a batter and all the ingredients are evenly distributed. 

Pour a little oil (about a dessertspoon) into the bottom of a frying pan and heat until the oil begins to smoke a little. Add three separate dollops of batter to the pan (about 6cm in diameter and 1.5cm high) and cook each side for a couple of minutes, until golden and the fritters hold their shape. Transfer to an oven tray lined with foil. Repeat until you have used up all the batter - I found I made 16 fritters. You will need to add a drop more oil each time as it burns off rapidly as each set of fritters cooks.

Turn the oven on to about 150°C and bake for 15-20 minutes. If you want to eliminate the baking stage you can deep-fry the fritters, but I prefer to adopt a slightly healthier and less greasy method. 

Serve warm, 2-3 fritters per person, and spoon the yoghurt sauce on top.

Thursday, 8 May 2014

Butternut Squash Ravioli with Sage Butter and Pine Nuts

Oh blimey. Has it really been that long? 10 months is pretty shocking, I do apologise. If anyone's still reading, I bet you thought I'd sneakily transitioned from blogger to ex-blogger. Lots has been going on though. I had one of the busiest work years in a long time from about last summer onwards (so, around the time I last blogged then) which stole much of my free time and weekends, and meant that I barely had time to cook, let alone cook, photograph and write up recipes. I became very familiar with my local Japanese delivery place.

And then I went and moved house, twice. I am no longer a North London girl, but have reverted to my West London roots and moved to Ealing. We've spent much of the last two months doing various things to the house ahead of moving in, but we're in now and gradually working our way through vast amounts of unpacking.  A life without boxes will be a pleasure indeed.

In the midst of all the chaos, I had a few quieter moments when living at my mum's. Quiet enough to have a go at making ravioli. I made a gorgeous crab ravioli with a lemongrass sauce for New Year's (but was far, far too drunk to consider photographing it) and then a month or so later, made this. Roasting the butternut adds a gorgeous earthy sweetness, and the parmesan really pulls it together. This makes a delicious, if not slightly decadent starter. If you want to eat it as a main, either halve the number of people around or double the recipe!

Apologies for the poor quality of the photo - I seem to be in an iPhone-only zone until I remember exactly where I put my cameras...

Ingredients (serves 4 as a starter):
For the pasta:
4 eggs
500g flour

For the filling: 
1 small butternut squash (around 500g peeled weight)
2 tbsp grated parmesan
Pinch of nutmeg
Salt and pepper to taste

For the sage butter:
Handful of fresh sage leaves
50g butter

To garnish:
1 tbsp toasted pine nuts
Parmesan shavings

It really helps if you can  make the pasta and the pasta filling the day before, but it's not the end of the world if you can't. Just make sure you have plenty of time to chill down your pasta dough after you have made it, and make sure the filling is also cool before you add it to the ravioli.

Anyway, to make the pasta, pour the flour into a bowl and make a hole in the centre to allow the eggs to be dropped into it. Mix the eggs with a fork, taking a little flour from the sides gradually until the eggs and flour are blended. If the mixture is too dry and crumbly add a little lukewarm water. If it is too wet, add a little more flour. Remove the mixture from the bowl and place it on a lightly floured table or worktop. Knead it with your hands until it comes together like a ball of play-dough. Cut the ball into quarters (this gives you a more manageable amount of dough to work with), wrap tightly in cling film and chill down in the fridge for a couple of hours.

Next, make the butternut filling - peel the butternut, remove the seeds and chop into large chunks. Drizzle with olive oil and season with a little salt and pepper. Roast for 45 minutes, until soft. Leave to cool for 10 minutes, then chuck the squash into a food processor or run through a mouli to puree. Stir in the nutmeg and parmesan, then season with salt and pepper to taste.

Next, roll out the pasta. Remove one ball at a time from the fridge (each ball makes about 6 ravioli) and set up your pasta machine. Starting on the widest setting, run the pasta through each size gauge several times, folding over the dough each time, until your pasta has been through the thinnest gauge. Next, set your long, thin pasta sheet down on a lightly floured surface, spoon a teaspoon of the butternut purée at 10cm intervals, and then using a pastry brush, seal around the filling with a little water. Place on top your next sheet of pasta and gently press around the edges of the ravioli to seal the filling in. Repeat these steps until you have 2-3 portions of ravioli per person. Dust with flour and cover with a dry tea towel until ready to cook.

When ready to eat, put a large pan of water on to boil, lightly toast the pine nuts in a dry drying pan, and as the water comes to the boil, melt the butter in a sauce pan. Add the sage leaves to the molten butter and fry until crisp (a couple of minutes at most) then set the saucepan aside. Boil the ravioli for a couple of minutes, before removing from the water and arranging on plates. Distribute the sage butter across the plates, scatter with pine nuts and then finish with a couple of shavings of parmesan on each plate. Fiddly, but delicious!

Sunday, 28 July 2013

Arzu Salad

Continuing with the Turkish theme, this is a salad that reminds me so much of my childhood. My sister and I had a succession of Au Pairs when we were small - Spanish, French, Hungarian and Turkish. We invariably spent a lot of time with them, us helping them with their English, and they in turn looked after us, keeping us out of trouble, and cooking for us. We adored most of them, and they all left their mark on us in some way or another.

A Hungarian Au Pair taught us how to make wonderful paprika and sausage stews and some very rude Hungarian swearwords. And one of the Turkish Au Pairs taught my sister and I how to make this delicious summer salad. We used to come home from school and instead of pigging out on pizza and pasta, would frequently make and devour this salad, mopping up the juices with lots of fresh bread. It became known as Arzu Salad, after the Au Pair who made it.

It is this kind of recipe that I love - food that someone else adores, and makes for you in the hope that you will fall for it too. 

Ingredients (serves 4):
1 red onion
1 small cucumber
2 vine tomatoes
2 Turkish green peppers
1 tbsp roughly chopped parsley
Juice of 1 lemon
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper

Chop the onion and then leave it to soak in lightly salted, lukewarm water for 15 minutes (this draws out some of the bitterness from the onion). Try to chop the other vegetables around the same size as the onion. While it is soaking, peel and chop the cucumber, chop the tomato making sure you retain as much juice as possible, then de-seed and chop the peppers. Add the lemon juice and olive oil, then season to taste with salt and pepper.

Drain, rinse and then add the onion, roughly chop the parsley and then toss all the ingredients together. Serve as part of a selection of salads with plenty of fresh, crusty bread to mop up the juices.

Saturday, 27 July 2013

Menemen - Turkish scrambled eggs

I've been having obsessions with certain foods recently. I suspect, a sign that I'm less run down and have some semblance of an interest in cooking again - something that has been distinctly dormant in recent months. This is one of my obsessions, and is a gorgeous Turkish breakfast. It is simple, but quite slow to make so definitely not a breakfast when you're in a hurry!

I've had this many times on holiday in Turkey over the years, but never thought to try and recreate it at home. One of those dishes that don't always translate to another country, I guess. This is partly down to the UK having distinctly rubbish tomatoes! I cheated a little and boosted the tomato flavour with some tomato purée, but it's a small compromise for a delicious dish. And with the beautiful summer sunshine that we are currently experiencing, my opinion changed - it is definitely the perfect weather for menemen.

A tip on tomatoes - buy them on the vine and never put them in the fridge. They won't be quite as good as Mediterranean ones, but leave them out for a few days and they will have a lot more flavour.

Ingredients (serves 4):
1 red onion
3 Turkish long green peppers
3 large vine tomatoes
1 tsp tomato purée (optional)
6 eggs
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp chilli flakes
1 tbsp roughly chopped fresh parsley
20g butter

Slice the tomatoes in half, grate them into a bowl and then set aside for the time being. Finely chop the onion then deseed and chop the green pepper. Melt the butter in a large saucepan then gently cook the onions until softened. Add the green peppers and cook for about a further 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes, and if they're a bit anaemic, a teaspoon of tomato purée to give them a flavour boost then turn the heat right down and cook until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Season to taste with a little salt and pepper - I found my tomatoes were quite sharp so needed tempering slightly.

While the liquid is reducing, crack the eggs into a large bowl, add the thyme and chilli flakes and season with salt and pepper. Gently whisk until all the ingredients are combined. Once there is very little liquid remaining in the tomato mixture, pour in the egg and gently stir as you would scrambled eggs. Don't overcook them - part of the joy of this dish is a smooth, very slightly liquid egg mixture. Just before it is ready, stir in about 3/4 of the parsley, reserving the rest for garnish.

Spoon the mixture over slices of lightly toasted bread, garnish with the remaining parsley and enjoy! Perfect for a weekend brunch.

Wednesday, 24 July 2013

Spinach and Feta Fritatta

Oh dear, it's been a while. Four months in fact. I can only blame work, which has been so ridiculously busy that I have lived off a diet of takeaways, oven pizza and whichever quick and easy pasta dishes I had to hand.

And then there was the heatwave, and I didn't feel like cooking at all, so ate nothing but salad and gazpacho. Anything to avoid turning on the oven. But, doing a big shop recently, I suddenly felt like cooking again. I've bought ingredients for all of my favourite summer recipes, more salad, more avocados and of course, more gazpacho.

Arriving home at a sensible time for the first night in ages, I rolled up my proverbial sleeves and found myself in the mood to cook. Nothing fancy - it's still too warm for that - but a lovely, summery frittata which is as good cold as it is warm, and is a fantastically quick evening meal. I can't think of anything I'd rather eat at the moment.

Ingredients (serves 8 as part of a salad):
6 eggs
250g spinach
1 medium red onion
100g Greek feta
1 tsp olive oil 

Preheat your grill and gently heat the frying pan over a medium heat.  Add the onion and cook until just starting to turn golden, then add the spinach and toss for a minute or two until wilted, then remove from the heat and allow the vegetables to cool slightly.

Beat the eggs in a bowl and season with a little salt and pepper. Crumble the feta over the spinach and red onion, and then gently pour in the egg. Stir a little to distribute the egg, spinach and feta evenly, then turn the heat back on and cook over a low heat for 3-4 minutes.

Next, carefully place your frying pan under the grill for a further 2 to 3 minutes, or until the frittata is golden and cooked through (check the centre with a fork - it should be firm and without runny bits). Put a plate over the pan and turn over quickly but carefully – the frittata should come right out. Serve hot or cold - I love it with a green salad with lots of avocado and a basil dressing.

Tuesday, 19 March 2013

Paprika and Honey Marinaded Chicken

I've been sitting on this recipe for months. I first made this back in December, but was in the middle of a blogging slump so it just sat on my camera, waiting for me to write it up. If you make it in advance, it's a reasonably quick and very delicious weekend meal. The lovely smokey warmth of the paprika infuses the chicken while the honey adds a subtle sweetness.

It is basically comfort food. Smokey warmth and tender chicken that falls off the bone. Perfect for cold, rainy, so-called "spring" days when all you want to do is curl under a duvet, watch the rain fall against the window panes, and huddle up under a blanket while watching old films.

 Ingredients (Serves 2):
1 spatchcock chicken or two half chicken pieces
125 ml olive oil
125 ml lemon juice
3 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons honey
1 dsp smoked paprika
1 dsp mixed herbs

In a mixing bowl, add the olive oil, lemon juice, honey, smoked paprika and mixed herbs and crush in the garlic. Mix together until well combined, then place the chicken skin side down in a roasting tray and pour the marinade over the chicken.

Marinade the chicken for at least an hour at room temperature, or alternatively, cover and place in the fridge for up to 24 hours. Bring to room temperature before roasting.

Preheat the oven to 180°C, flip the chicken so the skin faces upwards, baste, cover the roasting tray with foil and then roast for 45 minutes. After 45 minutes, remove the foil, baste the chicken and cook uncovered for 15 minutes. Recover and leave to stand for 5 minutes, then serve. I served this with a cous cous, butternut squash and tarragon salad, which was delicious.