Red Fideuá

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This is such a sensational supper dish and simplicity itself. It is a sort of paella but with broken spaghetti instead of rice.

Fideuà is a Valencian word, in Catalan it is Fideuada – from fideu, Catalan / Valencian for “noodle” – and it is a dish typical of  the Valencian region of Spain.

It originated in the 1920s in the city of Gandia (close to where we were on holiday this year – a very beautiful small coastal resort on the Costa Azahar) when thin noodles like vermicelli were used instead of rice in the popular dish paella. It can have all the usual culprits; chicken, prawns, rabbit etc but, like all great peasant dishes, it is perfect too for using leftovers, or as a make do dish from what you have in your store cupboard and fridge.

So, this is my version tonight!

I went for a red motif! I had san marzano tomatoes, red pepper, a red chilli and chorizo in the fridge so, along with 400 gm of dry spaghetti lingering in my pasta pot – fideuà it was.

I pan fried a sliced red onion, a deseeded and sliced red pepper and 3 cloves of finely chopped garlic in olive oil in one of my smaller paella pans for about ten minutes. But you could easily use a large frying pan or a sauté pan.

Then I added 100 gm of lardons and about 50 gm of chorizo sausage cut into small cubes, a finely chopped and deseeded red chilli and 6 san marzano toms quartered. I cooked this mix for a further ten minutes or so, added a sprinkle of smoked paprika, then a glass of white wine – about 125 ml.

Once the wine had reduced a little I added 500 ml of hot chicken stock. I fiddled with my Spotify tracks for a moment on my i phone, and then when the mix was all bubbling pleasantly I added     400 gm of broken up spaghetti. You need then to gently coax  the mixture round the pan for about 20 minutes until the spaghetti is al dente – you may need to add a little hot water along the way to keep it moist.

About 5 minutes from the end I stirred in a little saffron to give it a golden edge. The resultant dish was remarkable and delicious in the extreme.

My two teenage children were wowed – and they do not wow easily!

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Smoked bacon and Jersey Royal salad…

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Smoked bacon and Jersey Royal salad...

Some suppers require little more than good ingredients and a firm splash of simplicity. Tonight it was just my daughter and I so we decided to go for a dish that reflected the weather. Not quite summer, and still a lot of spring rain in the air. A dish that blended the freshness of early summer with the warmth of late spring. So I turned to my trusted friends – new potatoes and smoked bacon. Made for each other.

I popped 10 halved Jersey Royals on to boil for 15 minutes until a knife could slip through them with delicate ease. I fried 4 rashers of good bacon once the spuds had cooked. I then drained the Jerseys, added a grind or two of black pepper and sea salt and added them to the frying pan to soak up the juices and take on a little colour.

The next important thing is to turn off the heat and let the potatoes cool for a few minutes.

Into two bowls I added a variety of salad leaves that were lingering with intent in the fridge plus some finely grated fresh beetroot. I then sliced 10 San Marzano tomatoes and shared them between the bowls. Then, with a steady hand, I dealt out the potatoes and the bacon slices which I had each snipped into three pieces or so.

I gently tossed all the ingredients and added a swirl or two of a balsamic glaze.

This is the simplest of suppers and yet one which, like a butterfly net, catches the very essence of the finely poised seasons of Spring and Summer.

And you leave the table thinking, yes, all is well with the world; Summer is not far off, and Spring is still watching over us.

The marriage of tastes is sublime – and it looks good too.

Right, time for another glass of tempranillo.

Winter’s warming glory…

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Winter's warming glory...

Often the simplest things in life are the most beautiful. The things we take for granted – golden leaves, a sparrow’s song, ripening berries peeping through hedgerows , snow drops peeking out from under the soil where they have slept peacefully during the dark drear months of winter.

And so it is with food – often food stuffs we overlook or turn our nose up at can provide delectable surprises. Inexpensive and warming when the wet weather whirls its way through our world.

Take the humble tin of corned beef. I loathed it as a child – all my sandwiches on school trips seemed to contain nothing else but slabs of it  and I found it hard to swallow. I remember my Granddad telling me tales of WW1 and life in the trenches when frequently the only dish on offer was tinned ‘bully beef’ as he called it. Sounded grim!

The stuff sold in cans gets its name from the corns, or grains of salt, that are used to preserve it. The beef is chopped up and preserved with salt – sometimes it was brine – and canned with beef fat and jelly. When I was young there seemed to be too much of the jelly for my liking! Today most of the corned beef in cans  comes from Uruguay or Brazil.

It was first mentioned in 1621 in a recipe of one Robert Burton in his ‘Anatomy of Melancholy‘ -clearly he too had been getting corned beef sandwiches too often in his packed lunch!

Anyway, he writes ‘ Beef…corned, young of an Ox.’ He also mentions that you could get corned pork . Corned beef in many parts of the world refers to salt beef – a wonderful cut from the brisket – we used to eat a lot of it when we lived in New Zealand. Corned beef in the UK means the stuff that comes in those trade mark rectangular cans with the pesky winding key opener.

The Irish eat a lot of it apparently, especially on St Patrick’s Day – a combination of corned beef heated through with cooked cabbage. And of course there is the traditional corned beef hash which improved my opinion of the stuff when my folks made this stew in my early teens. Great with lashings of brown sauce. Corned beef also gets used in lots of pasties sold in the chains of high street bakers.

But, my favourite way of eating it – and I have made this for many a long year, going back to my thrifty student days, is a Corned Beef Chilli.

I cannot explain how good this dish is – and I know some folk out there will be grimacing or even switching to another blog at this point – which is a pity – because, as I said to begin with – the simplest and often the cheapest dishes are the best. Right, assuming you are all still with me….! The recipe!

For 4

1 can of corned beef chopped into chunks.
1 red onion chopped
1 clove of garlic chopped
3 chillies deseeded and chopped – I use 2 red and 1 green
2 x 400gm chopped tinned tomatoes
1 tablespoon of cumin seeds
A bunch of fresh coriander (cilantro)

500 gm rigatoni pasta (for some odd reason, it goes far better with pasta than rice – believe me.

In a frying pan, heat some olive oil and pan fry the onions, garlic, chillies, and cumin seeds.

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Let the onions soften, then add the tinned tomatoes and bring to a good simmer. Cook for about 20 minutes on a low heat.

Then add the corned beef and stir around gently. Now add three quarters of the bunch of coriander chopped. Stir again. Let it simmer whilst you cook your pasta. It can happily sit there for another 40 minutes or so, getting thicker and hotter.

Serve the pasta in bowls and spoon over the corned beef chilli. Add a sprinkle of chopped coriander to each bowl.

It is like no other chilli you will have tasted and everyone for whom I have cooked it has been amazed at the flavour and deliciousness of this dish.

Thanks, Bonnie, for the inspiration. A wonderful painting to go with a wonderful winter warmer of a meal!