Thursday, 23 June 2011

A side of spaghetti!

Bizarrely, pasta as a side dish is a rather weird concept for me.  I love pasta, probably a bit more than is considered normal, but I always have huge bowls of it, rather than having it as a small part of a meal.  So the other day when I was having a “what the heck will I serve this with” moment with some chicken, I remembered reading about a simple pasta side dish that might just do the trick.  It’s an easy one too, which uses very few ingredients yet manages to be mega tasty at the same time.  I suspect cheese and oil quality are key – I am using up gorgeous olive oil purchased on a recent trip to Spain, and the end of a block of parmesan imported from Italy that I bought on a whim.  But I’m pretty sure this would be tasty regardless.

 To achieve this culinary dream, boil some spaghetti (or other pasta shape) is salted water until tender.  While waiting toast some black peppercorns in a dry pan then grind.  Drain the pasta but add some of the cooking liquid back into the pan with the drained pasta, then add some nice extra virgin olive oil, a decent amount of grated parmesan cheese and lots and lots of the black pepper (don’t be shy with it – this is a black pepper and cheese pasta!).  Finish with some chopped parsley if available and serve right away. 

Monday, 20 June 2011

Fathers Day Meatballs

There are few things more tasty, more comforting and more delicious than home made meatballs.  I was reading recently about the appearance of meatballs across a variety of world cuisines.  I have made many variations myself: Moroccan lamb served with cous cous, turkey meatballs with fennel, greek meatballs stuffed with feta.  But it’s the Italian kind served with a rich tomato sauce that keep me going back for more.   

And what could be more perfect for a tasty fathers day meal for my lovely “faither”, who informed me that when he goes to the Italian it’s always a choice between the calzone or the meatballs.  Maybe I’ll attempt the calzone next year.  For now, here’s my top tips for a tasty meatball and lush tomato sauce.

The Meatball
-          Mix it up. I always try to use a combination of beef and pork mince.  It just seems to make them more moist and more tasty!
-          Make em big! They shrink on cooking so make them a bit bigger than you think.  We had the most amazing Italian style meatballs on Arthur Avenue in Bronx, NYC – and they were huge!
-         Experiment with additions.  While a basic meatball made with meat, onion, egg and breadcrumbs is deliciously simple, I like to try new additions each time I make them. Lasts nights incarnation included chilli flakes, smoked paprika and grated parmesan, but other things worth trying include garlic, various herbs and spices,  chopped chorizo, tomato puree, or cubes of mozzarella in the middle.
-         Bake them.  Have tried pan frying meatballs but I find the best results come from baking them on an oven tray drizzled with olive oil to create that caramelised brown outside.
The Sauce
-          It’s all in the Can.  I honestly believe you get what you pay for with canned tomatoes, so I try to use the best I can afford (which aint to fancy to be honest!).  They are so often on special offer I tend to have a cupboard full of them. I rarely use fresh tomatoes for a sauce.
-          Oil, oil, oil. Same goes for olive oil.  Good oil makes the world of difference – and the more the better!
-          Basic is better.  For meatballs there’s no need to go extravagant with your sauce.  I used a simple tomato, garlic, white wine and olive oil base, with added black pepper, salt and sugar.  A teaspoon of smoked paprika can make a big difference though.
-          And to finish...  I love to finish off my sauce with a glug or three of gorgeous olive oil and a sprinkling of fresh parsley and basil.

Mmmmm.  Good stuff.  Enjoy!

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Celeriac Soup

Been getting a bit fed up of the soup options at the local place near work (as nice as they are) so have brought my own today which I am very much looking forward to.  Had a sneaky bowl before bed and it was yum!

Teaspoon of butter
1 medium onion (diced)
1 clove garlic (chopped)
1 medium celeriac (diced)
½ leek (sliced)
Vegetable stock
Bay leaf
1/3 pint of milk (I used semi skimmed)
Salt & Pepper to season

Fry the onion in the butter on a low heat until soft and sweet (10 minutes ish), add the garlic, leek and celeriac and fry for 5 more minutes.  Add the stock and the bay leaf and simmer for 30 minutes until all the veg are soft.  Add the milk, then use a hand blender to puree the soup, adding more milk if needed for consistency.  At this point, just before blending, you could add some mixed fresh herbs, however I wanted to make sure the taste of celeriac was not overpowered so did not do this. Season and serve.  This might be tasty topped with thin sliced of fried chorizo sausage.

Tuesday, 14 June 2011

Pasta with Basil and Rocket Pesto

Made this tasty concoction with some leftovers in the house.  As usual I have no measurements per say, it’s all about making and tasting and then adding as required.  The only way of cooking in my opinion!  I used my kitchen must have for this recipe – our Kenwood Mini Chopper, which is ideal when making pestos and pastes for curries etc.

Basil and Rocket Pesto

Handful of Basil (leaves and fine stalks)
Roughly chopped lump of parmesan cheese
1 small clove of garlic
Ground Black Pepper
Load of good olive oil
Half teaspoon approx of honey to sweeten
(Can also add pine nuts if you have them)

Whizz all the ingredients up in the mini chopper, tasting and adding more of certain ingredients to balance flavour if required.  Serve with nice al-dente pasta.

The leftovers are delicious cold for a next day lunch also!


Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Sun, Sun, Sun

So we’re being told today that factor 15 sun protection is no longer enough to keep us safe in the sun.  I feel vindicated – I’ve been saying this for years!  Being a whitey who never takes a tan I have given up all futile attempts and now my mission is to avoid the burn.  My tip, slap on the factor 30+, sit in the shade and concentrate on the more important things in life: food and drink! 

And what is better on a hot day than an ice cold beer?  Could it be one of Nigella Lawsons incredible Lageritas?  Yes please!!
  • 1 bottle of beer (330ml)
  • 1 shot of tequila (25ml)
  • 1 shot of orange liquor – I used triple sec
  • 1 shot of lime cordial (though I just missed this out and used extra fresh lime for zing)
  • A squeeze of fresh lime (about half a lime)
All you do is pour the ingredients into a jug and mix. Delicioso!

Tuesday, 31 May 2011

Salmorejo – my Sevillan discovery

Have just returned from a rather fabulous two week holiday during which we spent the first week touring Andalucia.  To say i was excited about this is a bit of an understatement .  Sun, sea, sangria and of course....tapas!  While I was concerned that my inability to share food on a normal basis would prove a bit of a barrier to me appreciating the full tapas experience, I needn’t have been.  The chance to try so many delicious and interesting dishes, even if only a small plate shared between friends, was too strong to resist. 

First stop Seville, where on arrival we feasted on a light lunch of chorizo and jamon and cheese bocqadillas, accompanied by garlic potatoes and the most pungent yet tasty goats cheese on crispy toasts.  Other tapas delights in Seville included baked goats cheese served with apple, strawberries and balsamic, bowls of delicious olives, juicy argentinian grilled beef, barbeques pork steak, and cheese and spinach croquettes.  But the dish of the city was without a doubt the most amazing Salmorejo: a chilled blended tomato and bread soup, served with crumbled boiled egg and jamon. Absolutely delicious.  The sweet juicy tomatoes and the fresh olive oil taste was perfect on a hot humid evening.  This is definitely on top of my must recreate list!

Taken from BBC - mine will have no tuna!!

Here is BBC food’s take on the recipe which I will no doubt soon try – though without a doubt minus the tuna! 


  • 8 ripe tomatoes
  • 1 green pepper
  • 3 garlic cloves
  • 2 slices of bread
  • olive oil, about 125 ml
  • white wine vinegar or apple cider vinegar

To finish:
  • chopped hard-boiled eggs
  • flakes of tuna
  • chopped fresh onion
  • chunks of serrano ham
  • chopped green pepper
  1. Chop the tomatoes, green pepper, and garlic coarsely. Put in a mixer adding the bread soaked in a bit of water, part of the olive oil and salt to taste. Pulse through. Add some water just to reach a creamy texture. At the end add the vinegar and mix again. Check the seasoning, adding more salt or vinegar and maybe more oil if necessary.
  2. Serve drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and the guarniciones: chopped fresh onion and green pepper, crumbled hard boiled egg, flakes of tuna or small chunks of jamon Serrano.
Try it on a hot summers day with fresh crust bread for dipping – you will not be disappointed!

Friday, 22 October 2010

Home-made Gnocchi - My First Attempt

Well tonight's little adventure began with a rather messy kitchen and a rather grumpy Susie.   But after a bit of washing and cleaning i tackled a first for me - home made gnocchi.  I used a recipe i found on the net and decided I'd stick to it to see how it went - unlike me as i'm not very good at following recipes to the letter.  I always make them a bit more tasty i reckon!

The recipe was as follows: 2 baking potatoes, 2 egg yolks, almost 2 cups of flour, salt

I love it - the amounts are almost as exact as in my recipes!  Basically you want the potatoes cooked and mashed really really fine (i used a potato ricer) and while they are still warm you add the egg yolks and flour to form a dough that is neither too sticky or too firm. (i had to keep adding flour until it was no longer too sticky so i have no idea how much i actually used in the end, sorry.) I baked the potatoes then scooped put the fluffy insides, as apparently you don't want them too moist which can happen if you boil them.

Then you split the dough into smaller pieces, roll them into long sausages, and then slice them into gnocchi sized pieces.

Drop them into boiling salted water, and once they float to the surface boil for another minute then drain and serve with your favourite sauce.  Yum!

Ideas for improving?  Adding one of the following: nutmeg, garlic salt, crushed black pepper, parmesan, herbs.  Will try some of these soon for sure!