OK, I forgot to take all the pics….

4

OK, I forgot to take all the pics....

….so you will have to take it from me that tonight’s supper was a 3 course delight. Late, mind…leaves on the line, hurricanes, fences down, hair lightly ruffled etc all of which caused us to not begin supper until 8.30pm… but all worth it – and if Annie’s other half is tuning in, it was all healthy too, James!

Starter…as in the pic above…slices of fennel doused in lemon juice and olive oil wrapped in prosciutto crudo with cherry toms and fennel salami – finocchiona – with a drizzle of fig balsamic. Main course – and this was very good – really very good – tagliatelle with a creamy basil sauce. Into a blender – pop a big handful or two of basil, a clove of garlic peeled and sliced, two tablespoons of white wine vinegar, a teaspoon of dijon mustard, a teaspoon of capers and enough olive oil to give it a thick, just about runny, consistency. Blitz! Add to a bowl and add 2 or 3 dessert spoons of single cream. Cook your tagliatelle, drain it, stir in the sauce and serve – scattering over some toasted pine nuts if you will – they only take a minute or two in a dry frying pan. And of course we all grated over some parmesan.

I actually prefer this to my normal straight pesto sauce. It was simply unctuous.

OK – to finish off, I sliced a fabulous crisp Italian pear and placed a large piece on a small saucer to which I added a thin slice of creamy gorgonzola. This was all washed down with an amazing Malbec from Argentina called Alamos – purchased from those lovely people in Majestic in Winchester. Possibly a contributory factor as to why I forgot to photo the main course and the dessert! Hey – but it was all fab and each of the 3 dishes complimented each other marvellously.

Oh…and in the photo I was not just the only one drinking- the others just hadn’t arrived at the table yet!

Right – nearly 10.15 pm. Time to laze by the woodburner and dream about tomorrow’s supper….

Roasted Red Pepper, Tomato and Garlic soup…Mmmm!

8

Roasted Red Pepper, Tomato and Garlic soup...Mmmm!

How healthy were we last night! This is a really filling soup full of goodness, yumminess and all round smugness. And easy to do – although a soupcon of patience is required – excuse the potage pun.

Ingredients – enough for 4 or 5

6 red peppers, halved & deseeded
8 decent tomatoes – halved and seeds removed
3 cloves of garlic, skin on
600 ml of chicken or vegetable stock
50 gm bread crumbs
1 tbsp paprika
Bunch of coriander

Pop your red peppers and garlic on a baking tray and place in hot oven until skins start to blacken – about 15 minutes.

Remove garlic to one side – place peppers in a bowl and cover with cling film. After about 10 minutes or so, remove and skin – the skin will come off easily. Doesn’t matter if odd bit of black doesn’t – all adds to the flavour! Pop in a blender – blitz and add to a deep pan. Then blitz the toms – add to the pan. Pop the garlic out of its skin and add to the…yes…you guessed….pan! Add the breadcrumbs, half the coriander and the paprika. Then the hot stock. Stir well.

Bring to a low simmer and leave for about 15 minutes to warm right through. Check seasoning – mine needed none. Stock should give it all the salt it needs. Serve with more chopped coriander and a little more bread. We had some cold salami on the side too. Wonderful, warm and a tonic for weary winter bones.

Note to self – Must make this more often!!

A little Moroccan Magic makes Sunday sublime….

13

A little Moroccan Magic makes Sunday sublime....

I saw this idea on a Jamie Oliver programme a while ago now – but I cannot remember which one! Anyway, this is my version using fabulously underrated shin beef – mine was from those lovely people at Parsonage Farm. I love the tactile nature of rubbing the beef in the early stages and the way this cut just melts in the mouth after serious slow cooking. We went to the pub whilst it was simmering! It suited our Sunday and slipped down a treat – highly recommended and great social food. I cooked it in a Dutch oven casserole pan – I know some folk cook it in a tagine – but I have never dabbled in those – yet. Anyway – this works and I have just finished the leftover warmed up inside a pitta for lunch today!

Ingredients for 4/5

750 gm shin beef, fat trimmed off and cut into serious cubes
2 small onions chopped
Bunch of fresh coriander
Half a butternut squash peeled and cubed
400 gm tin chickpeas
400 gm tin chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp of tomato sauce
600 ml of chicken or vegetable stock
Olive oil

Spice mix
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp ground cumin – I crushed cumin seeds in a mortar
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp paprika
Salt and black pepper

Mix all spice ingredients together and add to cubed beef in a bowl – with your hands run in to the beef until all the mix has been taken in. You can do this in advance if you wish.

Add a glug of olive oil to the pan – deep sided preferably – and gently pan fry the beef for about 5 minutes. Add the onion and half the coriander chopped. Fry for a further 5 minutes. Add the chickpeas and the tomatoes and then all apart form 100 gm of the stock – you are just keeping some back for later in case it starts to dry out a tad – but it shouldn’t.

Bring to the boil – stir well – reduce heat – pop some foil over then the lid and simmer for 2 hours on a low heat.

Then add the butternut squash cubes – a little more stock if needed. Put foil and lid back on.

Cook for another 1 and a half hours. Consistency should now be quite thick and the meat should be falling apart to the touch. Serve with cous cous and scatter on the remainder of the coriander.

This is a very satisfying autumnal dish – cheap too – and a great alternative to Sunday roasts!

Minty lamb in a red wine sauce on Parmesan mash…

2

Minty lamb in a red wine sauce on Parmesan mash...

Just a really warming luscious simple lamb stew, perfect for autumnal nights. This is a favourite of mine though I do not make it often enough. Last night we had it for supper and we all remembered why we like it so much – velvety and filling and
soothing.

I used neck fillet cubed. 3 or 4 fillets should easily be enough for 4 of you
Plain flour for dusting / runny honey / half a bottle of a good red wine – I used a tempranillo / bunch of mint torn into shreds / 12 baby plum tomatoes / a clove of garlic peeled and left whole / black pepper / chicken stock cube / olive oil

I use a high sided stainless steel casserole with a lid – see my earlier blog on these highly versatile creatures. Coat the lamb pieces in the flour. Then drizzle over a little of the honey.
Pan fry the lamb in olive oil until browned lightly. Remove from pan and add to the casserole. Add the tomatoes and fry gently until starting to soften. Add to the lamb, pop in the garlic clove then add enough red wine to just cover the ingredients, then crumble in the chicken stock cube and stir.Toss in the mint but save some for last few minutes. Add a dash of tomato puree if you wish – depending on how strong you like your sauces. A dash of black pepper too. 

Bring to the boil then reduce heat to a simmer for about an hour and a half. Cover with foil first then put on the lid. Add rest of mint before serving. 

I ladled it onto a bed of pillowy soft parmesan mash – potatoes mashed with 100 gm of butter a tablespoon of cream and 50 gm or so of grated parmesan. 
Heaven on a plate.

Right, back to my wine and a bag of my favourite Seabrook’s Cheese and onion crisps! Enjoy your evening, people!

Smoked paprika and pancetta chicken…

12

Smoked paprika and pancetta chicken...

Today’s Sunday lunch was so simple I will not bore you with the recipe – even Simon on his simplest of days could sort this one out. Suffice to say that, with the rain dribbling down my windows, food with  an autumnal smokiness was needed – what better ingredients than chorizo and paprika…… I could almost feel the pagan pangs of bonfires and mist laden gatherings coursing through me as I assembled the dish – or maybe it was the the third glass of smoky shiraz… Anyway, I poured a glug or two of olive oil in the cavity of the free range bird, smothered her skin in paprika, then barded her with pancetta strips. She looked devilish. The smells from the oven as she cooked made me want to go out and do druid dances round my chiminea. I resisted.

I served the chicken with quartered roasted potatoes, to which I added a dozen slices of chorizo for the last ten minutes. Delightful. I also steamed some spinach in my wok. Then squeeze drained it – popped it back in the wok with a knob of butter and bags of black pepper for about two minutes on a high heat to let it meld together.

Everyone was a winner – even the cat got a slice or two of the paprika blessed bird. She is snoozing now…and I am going shortly to join her!

IMG_4397

Dreamy creamy zucchini pancetta pasta…

4

Dreamy creamy zucchini pancetta pasta...

One of those cold damp nights that needed a solidly substantial yet velvety pasta dish to nourish the nerves, soften the stress and warm the marrow. I decided to cobble together two of my favourite pasta dishes – both on this blog – and it worked perfectly. The creamy tomato pasta with the lardons and courgette pasta. But instead of lardons I had some wonderfully fragrant strips of pancetta. Washed down with a rugged French wine this was a delight.

Ingredients

300 gm of rigatoni pasta – soaks up the creamy sauce
12 baby plum toms
I clove garlic finely chopped
8 strips of pancetta
1 courgette / zucchini cubed
100 ml of cream
Tbsp rosemary
Sprinkle of dried crushed chilli
Olive oil
Black pepper

Pan fry the courgette in the olive oil for about 5 minutes then add the garlic. Continue til the courgette begins to brown then add the tomatoes. Add the chilli and the rosemary.

IMG_4387

Just to warn you at this point – the aroma is stunning!

Put the pasta on- takes 11 minutes normally.

Fry the courgette mix gently for around 8 minutes then add the pancetta. Once the pancetta starts to crisp, about two minutes, add the cream. After a minute add a grind of black pepper.

Drain the pasta and spoon over the creamy mixture.

A super autumnal dish.

IMG_4391

The poetry of prawns…

4

The poetry of prawns...

Saturday evening saw just the two of us, so we indulged in one of our favourite supper dishes…prawns with chilli, parsley, garlic and ginger on lightly toasted ciabatta. I am sure you have all done this before but I make no excuse for recording it here – this is, after all, as much a record of what I eat, as it is to inspire others…though hopefully I do do that from time to time as well!

The succulent nature of this dish, the fizz of the chilli, the dripping ooziness of the oil as it dribbles down your chin, the tenderness of the lemony gingery prawns as they gently massage your tastebuds make this a very sensual supper – I love it!

Ingredients for 2

2 small ciabatta loaves cut in half lengthways and lightly toasted.
Good olive oil
Thumb size piece of ginger peeled and chopped finely
2 cloves of garlic chopped
2 red chillis deseeded and chopped roughly
200 gm of raw tiger prawns – about 8 each
Juice of 1 lemon
Chopped flat leaf parsley
Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Into a large hot frying pan add a glug of olive oil – add the ginger, garlic, chilli and the lovely prawns. Fry over medium heat for about 3 minutes until prawns colour up. Turn heat down and add the lemon juice, parsley and another little smidgen of olive oil. Toss together for a minute or so. It should be a nice juicy sauce now – season a little – just a little salt and a tad more pepper. Serve over the warm ciabatta slices – and, being an olive oil freak, I added even more of the golden glory!

All I could do afterwards was simply sit in silence and stare at my plate as the tastes continued to roll around my mouth.

Then I poured another glass of chilled white wine and turned the music up…….

A Polish dish that’s easy to polish off!

6

A Polish dish that's easy to polish off!

I stumbled across these delightful dumplings at Lidl recently in their Polish range – oh wow are they something! They are potato based dumplings filled with a terrific tasty mixture of pork and beef mince with leek, onion and carrot. They are called Pyzy Zmiesem – not easy to say when you have had a few glasses of vino….! Anyway, they come frozen. You just need to pop them in a large pan of boiling water with a tbsp of oil and a little salt. After about 10 minutes they rise to the top, then you reduce the heat and simmer for 8 minutes. I made a lardons and tomato sauce to accompany these beauties. I pan fried garlic, cumin seeds, crushed dried chillies and a bay leaf for a minute then added a 100 gm of lardons.

IMG_4285

As it turned a gorgeous lightly crispy colour I added a 40o gm can of chopped toms plus a little sugar. I brought this to the boil and then turned down the heat for 20 minutes and let it thicken a tad.Then I turned off the heat, popped a lid on and left it whilst the Pyzy got busy. I drained them, gently laid them on a dish, added a splash of red wine vinegar and good olive oil to the tomato mixture and ladled this silky sauce over them, adding a basil leaf or two for colour.

The family wolfed it – I would love to have a go at making my own – though it would be hard to match the texture and flavour of these demon dumplings.

A fine supper dish when time is at a premium!

IMG_4287

Rocket fuelled Lazy Light Lunch…

5

Rocket fuelled Lazy Light Lunch...

Busy Saturday doing lots of little really…so needed a light lunch that would tidy us over until supper – friends coming round so afternoon shopping trip to Salisbury was on the cards. Had a gorgeous ciabatta loaf which I sliced and grilled lightly on one side, then rubbed with babe Spanish tomatoes split in half – the shells I then pushed into each slice. I topped them with some sexy serrano ham, slivers of salty, sweet and tangy parmesan. Then a little rocket, some more olive oil and voila – a simple, yet just right lunch – I adore rocket – it just adds that pepperiness to such dishes and makes them even more appealing.

Pasta Broccoli…seriously good for you!

15

Pasta Broccoli...

The photo does not really do this dish justice – if you have never tried this combo before – you must. I had something like this in a restaurant over the summer – and I think this is roughly how they did it – but anyway – I like it like this!  It is simple, healthy and delicious.

I was never a fan of this particular greenery but since reading an article on men’s health last year we are now best buddies! This following article is from research into broccoli and the advantages for men in particular – though it is, no doubt, great for ladies too! It caught my eye because I had a creaky joint – not that type! – it was actually my hip! – and, yes, this stuff is good for joints – so, if you can get through the article the recipe follows – but this is great stuff and worth knowing – I didn’t! Listen up!

Ounce for ounce, broccoli has more vitamins and minerals than almost any vegetable you can eat. (Good news indeed!) Take vitamin K, for example. Broccoli is brimming with 93 micrograms of the stuff per cup. That’s good news, since K is essential for building cartilage and heading off joint inflammation as you get older.

Broccoli also protects your peepers with an abundance of lutein and zeaxanthin, two cartenoids critical to vision. Florets harbour the bulk of broccoli’s carotenoids, including beta-carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A.

It is also a good source of fibre and may help ward off cancer. Studies show that eating three servings a week of cruciferous vegetables like broccoli may slash your risk for prostate cancer significantly. Mix broccoli with tomatoes for even better protection.
Broccoli’s secret to fighting cancer? Researchers believe it’s an antioxidant called sulforaphane, which helps substances called Phase 2 enzymes defend the body against cancer. Sulforaphane also squelches H. pylori, the bacteria behind most common stomach ulcer.’

OK, some jargon there towards the end, but you get the picture. Broccoli is good for you! I guess you all knew that – it was more a learning curve for me….

Anyway, enough science! The recipe!

Ingredients for 4

400 gm pasta
A head of broccoli broken into florets
Olive oil
4 garlic cloves finely sliced
Pinch of red chilli flakes
Black pepper
About 50 gm of parmesan cheese grated – you can use more – or add more at the table

Ok. Put your pasta into a big pan of boiling water – after 4 minutes add the broccoli. No need for salt, as the parmesan does the job later – but add some if you must! Whilst it is cooking ( I cooked it for a further 6 minutes) in a small frying pan, fry the garlic gently in a good, hearty splash of olive oil until it just, just turns a little brown.

Strain the pasta and broc – reserve a tiny bit of the cooking water in the pan. Add the broc and pasta back to the pan and then add the garlic and the oil – stir round – grind over some black pepper and add the chilli flakes – stir gently then stir in the parmesan.

Serve immediately – you can add more chilli flakes to your taste, or more parmesan, or even more oil at the table if you so wish. I like the broccoli a little more al dente than I cooked it yesterday – I took my eye off the pan! So be careful ! But it was, nonetheless, a great and easy supper dish – my kids loved it and it is now a firm fixture in my culinary simple supper repertoire.

And, I know it is doing me….. deep within….good!