Saturday supper for Popeye fans everywhere….

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Saturday supper for Popeye fans everywhere....

Saturday was a bit of a stinker of a day at work so on returning at 6pm it was a case of cranking up something easy and tasty and social – so I turned to seranno ham and spinach! They were the first things to wave at me when I opened the fridge door so they got lucky. I must put out a big thank you to Peter Lane of icookyoueat for the inspiration for the spinach dish. I had them at his house recently, though I have to say I could not remember the recipe -blame his generosity with the vino! – so I gave it my own spin – hope they sound ok, Peter! They certainly tasted very good. I took a large bag of spinach and steamed it til it just wilted. Then it went into a sieve – well I used a fine colander – and pressed out all the liquid. I left it to cool. Then in a bowl I mixed some bread crumbs with a good handful of grated parmesan – please never buy the ready grated stuff. I added the spinach and mixed it together with black pepper and a little rock salt and some dried chilli flakes. I used a little beaten egg to bind it then rolled it into balls – then I pan fried them in olive oil until a little crispy on the outside but meltingly soft inside.

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I served them as a grand sort of tapas with an aubergine tray bake. I’ve mentioned this before but this is how I do it. Slice up
an aubergine (eggplant to my friends across the pond!), drizzle (that is such a sexy word) olive oil on a baking tray, then add the aubergine slices. Pop in the oven – 200c-for about 10 minutes til beginning to turn golden. Remove – flip them over – drizzle more olive oil over them – scatter some sweet baby plum toms around (or you could halve some normal toms – as long as they are tasty!) Back in oven for another 10 minutes or so- toms should be softening now. Top the aubergine with chunks of mozzarella. Back in oven for 5 mins – then out and top with slices of serrano ham – or of course parma if you wish – then back in the oven for final 3 minutes. Out – scatter over some basil leaves and some grated parmesan and a tad ore olive oil and black pepper and bob’s your uncle. Apparently. Serve with crusty bread. Delicious. And simple. You could add other bits and pieces – eg slices of oiled mushrooms to this too. Play around!  And the spinach balls go really well with it! Though, you could, as my friend Peter did, serve them on a bed of spaghetti or linguini. Popeye would probably smoke them!

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Simple supper inspired by Slater

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Simple supper inspired by Slater

Tonight when I got in from work, sun still shining, I whizzed up a smoked mackerel paté – an easy peasy paté that hits the spot every time. I think it was originally from a Jamie Oliver book – the 30 minute meal one. You must do it – though I would be amazed if many of you out there have not had a crack at this. All you do is get your food mixer out. Then take 3 fillets of peppered smoked mackerel – break them up and add to the mixer, along with 200 gm of soft cream cheese, a good dollop of horse radish, zest and juice of a lemon and a handful of chopped flat leaf parsley. Whizz it all to some good music for about 2 minutes. What emerges is an unctuous cream of a paté. Fridge it for half an hour – then just before you serve it, drizzle a little olive oil over it and serve with toast.

Once we had come to terms with the loveliness of this, sat back, imbibed a glass or two of rosé, I served a very simple Nigel Slater inspired dish as in the pic above. Simply add a splash of olive oil to a frying pan, add a chopped clove of garlic, a handful of sweet red cherry tomatoes and a sprig of chopped fresh rosemary- I throw in the sprig after too. Fry gently til the toms start to fall under a gentle prod. Add a little fresh cream, a little rock salt and some black pepper. Serve with fusilli pasta. So good. A perfect simple supper.

Gnocchi, gnocchi, who’s there?

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Gnocchi, gnocchi, who's there?

Tonight’s supper…a spicy pinto bean fuelled arrabiata gnocchi dish. Fizz bang wallop! For the sauce….pan fry a sliced deseeded red chilli with some mean smokey bacon cut into strips – you could use lardon or pancetta – a tablespoon of oregano in garlic oil. Added 300gm of a good quality tomato passata, a little ground black pepper. Bring to a gentle boil, then turn down to a simmer for about twenty minutes or so. If it tastes a little bitter, add a pinch of sugar. Add a small tin of pinto beans and cook for another 10 minutes or so. Cook the fresh gnocchi for a minute or so until it rises to the top of a pan of lightly salted boiling water. Drain and add to the sauce. I then added a small handful of torn basil leaves at the last minute before I served it. On the side I served two courgettes, sliced, pan fried in olive oil and butter with some garlic and dried chiili & a little rock salt. It was a spot hitting dish for a Friday evening. Bullseye!

Penne con Sugo di Salsicce….a brilliant mid week dish..

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Penne con Sugo di Salsicce....a brilliant mid week dish..

These tinkers nestling in the dish are from Parsonage Farm…. Tuscan Style sausages ..perfect for one of my kids’ favourite dishes. I first saw this dish eons ago in the first River Cafe book…and it has stayed with me ever since..though it gets a tiddly bit altered each time, depending on how I feel!

Right then, here we go…

2 tbsps Olive oil
5 or 6 Italian spiced fresh pork sausages, meat removed from skins and crumbled (if you can’t get them easily – just use good quality pork sausages)
1 small red onions peeled and chopped.
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped.
2 small dried chillies, crumbled or a good tbsp or two of crushed dried chillies.
2 bay leaves
Small handful of fresh rosemary
Large glass of a good red wine

2x 400g tines peeled plum tomatoes, drained.
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
120g parmesan, freshly grated – be generous
150ml single Cream
75 gram per person of penne rigate – but this is for folk who may not be hungry or not require seconds – I usually cook a 500gm bag.

Heat the oil in a large pan, and fry the sausage meat, stirring and breaking up the pieces. 

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After the juice from the meat has evaporated and the fat begins to run, add the onion, garlic, chilli, rosemary and bay leaves.

Cook gently for almost 30 mins until the onions are brown. Pour in the wine, increase the heat and cook until the wine evaporates. Now add the tomatoes, lower the heat, and simmer gently until you have a thick sauce, about 45-60 minutes.

Season with salt (and pepper, if the sausages were not spicy), and add the Parmesan and cream.

Cook the penne and then drain well. Add the pasta to the sauce, mix and serve. 

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This is so good..I mean…really truly scrumptiously delicious on a big scale.

Scramble, scramble, scramble…..

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Scramble, scramble, scramble.....

Off out to work in a moment, but thought I would share with you this terrific view of perfect scrambled eggs – recently devoured seconds ago by my very self. I love the word scramble – just something about it – say it out loud – go on, if no one’s there – or even if there is! Who cares – SCRAMBLE! Just a few small pieces of unsalted butter and 4 eggs broken into a cold pan – enough for two. A little salt and black pepper. Put onto a high heat and stir for 30 seconds – then off and continue stirring – repeat this on off the heat, stirring all the time, until the mixture becomes creamy and just, just starting to catch a little. Do not overcook or it will turn into the rubbery mass that you usually get in motorway service stations. Not recommended! No need to butter the toast either. Fabulous. Mouth watering simplicity. Right – off to work – I’d better scramble!