Wednesday, 19 May 2010

Spanish Tortilla

After looking in the fridge slightly horrified at the number of vegetables that were about to spoil, i decided to do something about it and use them up. In an attempt to make something reasonably healthy, I decided upon a Spanish tortilla. Given that I've only ever made them occasionally, I was relieved when my other half returned from work in time to advise me on the best way to assemble the tortilla itself. Without him, it would probably have resembled scrambled eggs with vegetables.

Ingredients (makes about 8 slices):
6 eggs
1 red onion
1/2 a red pepper
1/2 a green pepper
1 courgette
1 clove of garlic, minced
200g baby new potatoes
1 tsp mixed herbs
salt and pepper
20g grated parmesan

First, put the new potatoes on to boil. While the potatoes are boiling, slice the onions and peppers and gently fry them in olive oil until soft. Then, thinly slice the courgettes (I used a mandolin), add the mixed herbs and also fry until the courgettes are soft. Add the garlic and fry for a minute or so before turning off the heat. 

Once the potatoes are boiled, set drain and set aside to cool for about 10 minutes. Once cool enough to handle, slice into approx. 1cm slices and add to the frying pan with the other vegetables. 

Crack the eggs into a large bowl, season with salt and pepper and beat with a fork until the whites and eggs are blended together. Turn the heat back on for the frying pan and turn on the grill at the same time. Add a little fresh olive oil to the pan and fry for a couple of minutes until the vegetables are hot. 

Add the eggs and stir until the liquid is distributed evenly across the pan and all the vegetables appear to be coated. Without stirring any further, cook over a medium heat for a further 3-4 minutes, until you can smell the cooked egg. Then, sprinkle on top the parmesan and put under the grill for a further two minutes to cook and brown the top. 

Cut into slices and serve with a fresh, leafy salad. I like to dollop a little peri peri sauce on top to add more zing, but it is also lovely on its own.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Pasta Pomodorino

Pasta in tomato sauce is a perfect no fuss supper. It takes very little time to prepare and when done well can be one of life's simple pleasures. I have made this version with fresh tomatoes as opposed to tinned for optimum flavour. It takes a little more effort to prepare, but for the difference in taste you will be handsomely rewarded. Use the most flavoursome tomatoes you can find, otherwise add a teaspoon of tomato puree to boost the flavour.

Ingredients (serves 2):
6 fresh tomatoes
1/2 an onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbsp olive oil
1 glass white wine
squeeze of lemon juice
About 20 basil leaves, torn
salt and pepper
20g grated parmesan
140g linguini

Finely chop the onions and fry until soft in olive oil. While the onions are frying, boil the kettle and immerse the tomatoes in a bowl, making sure they are covered with boiling water. Leave to sit for about a minute and a half, then peel off the skin from each tomato (this is extremely satisfying!) and set aside. Once you have peeled all the tomatoes, chop them into quarters, taking care to remove the woody stem at the top. 

Add the garlic to the soft onion and fry for a minute before adding the chopped tomatoes. Turn the heat down really low and simmer with the lid on for 5 minutes to keep in all the moisture. Stir the tomatoes gently to break them apart, then add the wine and a squeeze of lemon juice. Simmer for a further 20 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the sauce starts to stick to the pan, just add a couple of tablespoons of water. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Put the pasta on to boil - I used linguini, but it is lovely with penne or spaghetti too. When the pasta is still slightly al dente, drain and stir in the tomato sauce, the basil (reserving two or three leaves for garnish) and most of the parmesan (again, keep aside a little to sprinkle on top at the end). Transfer into a serving bowl, garnish, and enjoy with a glass of chilled white wine.

Monday, 10 May 2010

Salade Niçoise

There is a great deal of debate about what should go into a salade Niçoise. Tuna or no tuna, new potatoes or no potatoes. Some people add anchovies and capers. Some add broad beans. Others hold off on the egg. For me though, salade Niçoise is not the same without juicy riviera olives, marinated artichokes, green beans, baby new potatoes and seared tuna. Tinned will do, but really good fresh tuna, I think, makes the dish. Lashings of vinaigrette should go without saying and you will have an indulgent salad fit for a king (or queen).

Ingredients (serves 4):
1 cos lettuce, shredded
a handful of green beans
a handful of riviera olives
100g marinated artichoke hearts
2 free range eggs, hard boiled
a handful of ripe cherry tomatoes, sliced in half
250g baby new potatoes
250g fresh tuna steak

First, put the potatoes and the eggs on to boil, followed by the green beans. When the beans are done (about 4-5 minutes), blanch them by running them under cold water and set aside to drain.

In a large salad bowl, put the shredded kos lettuce, riviera olives, cherry tomatoes and the artichoke hearts, which you may want to halve or quarter. Then, add the beans and, once cooled, the potatoes and dress with lashings of vinaigrette.

Next, using either a frying pan or a George Foreman (I used the latter), sear the tuna - if frying, for about 30 seconds on each side, or until there is no pink showing top and bottom, but it is still quite pink in the middle. Slice the tuna and toss into the salad. Finally, peel and quarter the eggs, place on top of the salad and serve.

Insalata Tricolore

This is such a lovely, vibrantly coloured salad, and can be prepared in minutes. To enjoy it at its best, use the most flavoursome tomatoes you can get your hands on and also use a perfectly ripe avocado. I went all out with this one and used buffalo mozarella, but any good mozzarella in its natural water will do.

(serves 4 as a side salad):
2 ripe vine tomatoes
1 ripe avocado
250g buffalo mozzarella
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
6 basil leaves, torn
salt and pepper

Slice the tomatoes, avocado and mozarella and arrange on a plate. Season with salt and pepper then drizzle the olive oil and lemon juice evenly across the salad. Sprinkle with torn shreds of basil and serve.

Insalata di Tonno e Fagioli (Tuna and Bean Salad)

Another lovely summer salad, which has the handy additional factor in that it can almost entirely be made from store cupboard ingredients! My mother makes this quite regularly, but I suspect that it originates from my aunt in Rome, however I'm not entirely sure. As with the Greek Salad, it's worth soaking the onions beforehand to remove a little of their pungency.

Ingredients (serves 4 as a side salad):
180g tuna in spring water
400g cannelloni beans
1 small red onion
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tbsp lemon juice
salt and pepper

Drain the tuna and cannelloni beans and scatter across a large salad dish. Slice the onion and soak in lukewarm salted water for 10 minutes. Then drain and add to the tuna and beans. Season with salt and pepper, then pour over the olive oil and lemon juice. Toss to distribute all the flavours evenly, and serve.

Greek Salad

In an attempt to feel more summery and healthy despite the lack of visible summer, I have been making lots of salads. Greek salad is excellent because it’s really quick to make and is deliciously refreshing, especially when served with plenty of fresh bread to mop up all the gorgeous juices.

I learned a wonderful trick from Turkish au pair I had when I was about 12, who always soaked the onion slices in lukewarm, salted water to draw out some of the pungency, and it makes all the difference.

Ingredients (Serves 4):
4 full-flavoured salad tomatoes (I used Rosa tomatoes)
1/3 of a cucumber
1 small red onion, sliced

Handful black olives
50g feta
2 tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp dried oregano
salt and pepper

Chop the tomatoes into chunks, removing the slightly woody part at the top, then chop the cucumber into cubes and put into a large bowl with the tomatoes. Slice the onions, then soak them in lukewarm salted water for 10 minutes. Just before you rinse and drain the onions, gently squeeze them in the water, and then set aside to drain. Add the drained onion, the olives and the olive oil, lemon juice, oregano, salt and pepper and mix in until evenly distributed. Finally, crumble the feta on top, gently stir into the salad and serve.