Monday, 25 June 2012

Courgette & Chilli Penne

This recipe is for those people who have reservations about cooking with courgettes because they think they are bland and also for those who may have visited the same restaurant as me, eaten the same dish and thought that they would like to re-create it at home and save themselves about seven quid. Courgettes / Zucchini are full of water and need to be cooked correctly or they taste of nothing. For this dish, they are grated and then firmly squeezed to release all of their liquid. I've had this a few times in Carluccios who serve it with huge pieces of Penne and deep fried spinach balls. This is my interpretation anyway which tastes very fresh whilst delivering quite a bit of heat through the garlic and chili. There isn't actually a sauce as such, but the texture of the melted cheese and veg still works well to coat the pasta.

Ingredients (for 2 people) : 150g Penne, 2 large courgettes grated and firmly squeezed, half a bulb of crushed garlic, finely chopped red chili, 100g grated Parmesan, 3 finely sliced shallots, 1tbsp olive oil, 2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, seasoning

1. In a pan of salted boiling water, cook the pasta as per normal.
2. On a medium heat, fry the courgettes and shallots in the olive oil. The mixture will reduce down by about half during the cooking process. After about ten minutes, add the garlic and the chili.
3. Cook for a further five minutes. Keep stirring the veg as you don't want it to colour.
4. By now the pasta should be cooked, drain and reserve a couple of spoonfuls of the water.
5. Add the cheese to the veg and stir in until it has all melted. Now add the pasta and mix thoroughly.
6. The sauce will become sticky, so just loosen with a couple of glugs of extra virgin olive oil and give it a few grinds of black pepper.

Saturday, 23 June 2012

Roast wild duck with blackberry sauce and celeriac purée

I've been fortunate to have visited many of England's top restaurants and if I lie about how well I cooked this dish I might even get a job in one of them! To date I have yet to eat at Le Manoir aux quat saisons which is Raymond Blanc's theatre of gastronomony in Oxfordshire.  Therefore, tonight I though that I'd bring 2 Michelin star dining to Chez Moi which is just so much cheaper anyway!

I have stolen this recipe from the BBC website which saves me writing out the long list of ingredients and another page of instructions. In essence, I found the dish quite easy in terms of technique but you do need a plethora of pots, pans and other gadgets which will create a lot of washing up. I used duck breasts which I pan fried skin side down for about 5 minutes before roasting them off in the over for a further 10 minutes. The end product is one of gamey meat offset by a mildly sweet and sour punchy sauce and a light earthy puree that combines various textures and colours. Not actually wishing to challenge Monsieur Blanc, but I kept the puree a little thick just to add a little more substance and used is as the base of the dish.  I served with some green beans and the remaining Merlot which contributed to the sauce. Talking of which, there was some left over which I suspect will work well with some pork and apple sausages during the week.

Thursday, 21 June 2012

Hot smoked salmon & potato salad

I'm a firm believer in using seasonal products for two reasons. 1. The taste 2. The cost. Why pay silly money for strawberries in winter? In saying that I could eat Christmas Pudding all year round. Jersey Royal potatoes are currently in season and taste great. To be honest they are fine just simply boiled in their skins and tossed in some olive oil and seasoning. They also make a great base ingredient for a warm salad. This dish is very easy to make and all of the components come together perfectly to give nice variations in taste and texture.

Ingredients (for 2) : 300g hot smoked salmon fillets, 500g jersey royals, 100g watercress, 100ml creme fraiche, tbsp horseradish, juice of half a lemon, handful of chopped spring onions, seasoning.

1. Boil the potatoes in salted water
2. In a bowl combine the creme fraiche with the horseradish, lemon juice and seasoning. If the sauce is too thick, just add a dash of milk.
3. In a serving dish, mix the watercress with the spring onions and flake in the fish in bite size pieces.
4. Once the potatoes are cooked, drain and add to the salad. Drizzle over the dressing and mix thoroughly

For a salad with so few ingredients, there is smokeyness, pepperyness, nuttyness and piquancyness!

Monday, 18 June 2012

A cheeky little Cheese & Onion tart

I think that I'd do ok on Ready Steady Cook, well as long as I wasn't up against someone with a Michelin star. I had a family function at the weekend and despite laying on a fine spread still felt that there was one dish missing. As they were due to arrive, it was too late to go out and buy something, so I had to use the remnants from other dishes already made plus anything I could forage from the garden.

The leftovers available were : Puff pastry (tarte tatin), Cheddar Cheese (Cheeseboard), Red Onion, oregano (Greek salad). Together with some thyme picked from the garden, a little olive oil, butter, seasoning and brown sugar, I came up with the following. As a supper dish with a nice salad alongside, this would be enough for one person.

As it turned out, it was one of the tastiest dishes of the evening!

1. Roll out a piece of puff pasty until it's about half a cm thick and approx 15cm x 15cm. Set aside on a lightly greased baking sheet. Heat the over to 200c
2. Slice the red onion and gently saute in a pan with a knob of butter and a tbsp of olive oil.
3. Once soft, add 2tsp of brown sugar and some dried herbs. Season well and cook for a further couple of minutes.
4. Spoon the mixture into the centre of the pastry, leaving a gap as shown around the edge. Top with a good handful of grated cheese and a few sprigs of thyme.
5. Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes until golden.

Thursday, 14 June 2012

Mushroom and Spinach Pasta

The other day a friend cooked me a pasta carbonara for lunch. Out of courtesy I ate it, but to be honest you could have laid bricks with the sauce. It was gloopy, had no taste and was totally anaemic. I later had a sneaky look in the bin to find a supermarket bought carton of sauce. Call me a snob, I don't care but I never buy pre-made sauces regardless of them being tomato or cream based.

Tonight's supper is so simple, I'm actually loathed to put it on here. However, I just want to prove to people how easy it is to make and the taste and texture is immeasurable to the processed puke we see on the shelves. It literally takes 20 minutes to make from beginning to end, so don't tell me you don't have time! I just throw things in, so I'll have a guess at the quantities. What you are looking for though is a nice smooth sauce, not too thick, but not drowning the pasta either. The cost for 2 people is approx £1.75 pp

Ingredients : 150g Fusilli, 100g sliced chestnut mushrooms, 100g spinach, diced medium onion, 2 cloves of crushed garlic, 100g creme fraiche, 100ml chicken / veg stock, large handful of grated Parmesan, 2tbsp olive oil, 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, seasoning

1. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and add the pasta.
2. Meanwhile, saute the mushrooms in the olive oil until nicely coloured. Reduce the heat and add the garlic and onion. Fry until soft.
3. Add the creme fraiche and Parmesan and mix thoroughly. Now add enough stock until you get a smooth sauce. Add plenty of freshly ground black pepper.
4. Finally stir in the spinach. It's nice to have a combination of wilted leaves and some still with a little texture. If the sauce becomes sticky, add some more stock.
5. To serve, pile onto a plate and drizzle with some extra virgin olive oil. If you're feeling indulgent and want to take this dish to a higher level, drizzle with truffle oil instead.

Tuesday, 12 June 2012

Asparagus and Pea Risotto

With the summer neither here nor there, my appetite is all over the place. Do I want a sexy salad or a hearty casserole? What do I put on my shopping list? Such decisions eh. Anyway, with a view to pitching a dish somewhere between Spring and Autumn, I elected on a light and fresh risotto. The only thing to deliberate on was whether mint and Parmesan went together. Mint goes with peas and asparagus but you can't have a risotto without oodles of cheese. I tried them together wasn't happening! Oh sod it I thought, if it tastes awful I won't mention it in the blog.

The dish is very easy, just requires a little TLC standing over the rice base adding the stock. It's just the basic risotto recipe but has a much lighter, fresher taste and texture than some others may have. Takes about 30 minutes to make and the cost per person is about

Ingredients (for 2 people) : 150g arborio rice, medium onion finely diced, 400ml veg or chicken stock, 1/2 glass dry white wine, 12 asparagus spears, 150g frozen peas, 1 tbsp olive oil, 2 knobs butter, large handful of grated Parmesan, 1 tbsp finely chopped mint, freshly ground black pepper

1. In a saucepan of boiling water, blanch the asparagus for 3 minutes. Drain, then tip into a bowl of iced water. You can add the frozen peas to this bowl halfway through cooking the rice.
2. Gently saute the onion and garlic in half the butter and the olive oil until soft.
3. Add the rice and coat with the mixture. As soon as the rice starts to crackle, add the wine and cook off the alcohol. Next add two ladles of the stock. Tip. Keep the stock on a gentle simmer throughout.
4. Gradually add stock until rice is almost ready. Then pour in the vegetables and stir in gently.
5. Add the remaining butter, plenty of pepper, the cheese and half of the mint and mix thoroughly.
6. Pile onto warm plates and then top with some more mint.

Oh, by the way, the mint works well. As the cheese has already melted in, the tastes do not clash. The al dente texture of the veg against the creamy rice is good and it just tastes fresh and erm.....summery!

Tuesday, 5 June 2012

Stilton and Bacon salad

I hold my hands up, this isn't the most healthy salad in the world. It does have fruit in it though! Some ingredients are just made for each other and with some leftover bacon and stilton in the fridge, a cheeky little salad wasn't that far away. With both being on the salty side, I needed something to sweeten it up and add texture, hence the inclusion of some pears and a dash of honey. The whole thing takes no more than 30 minutes from start to finish and costs about £2.25 per head.

Ingredients (for 2 people) : 4 rashers of bacon cut into strips, 2 ripe pears peeled cored and quartered, 75g stilton, 1oz butter, few glugs of olive oil, 2 tbsp honey, handful of pine nuts, splash of balsamic vinegar, 100g rocket or other peppery leaves, tsp dijon mustard, seasoning.

1. Dry fry the pine nuts until golden and set aside.
2. Fry off the bacon in a little olive oil until it starts to crisp up. Set aside on some kitchen paper.
3. Place the leaves on a serving plate
4. Gently fry the pears in half the butter and the remaining olive oil. Add 1 tbsp of honey and cook until tender. Then drizzle over a dash of the vinegar. You want the pears to be slightly caramelised but not overcooked. Remove with a slotted spoon and set aside.
5. In the pan you cooked the pears in, add the pine nuts, mustard, remaining butter and honey. Cook for a minute or so.
6. To serve, add the bacon and pears to the leaves. Crumble the cheese over the top and then top with the honey and pine nut dressing.

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Totally Indulgent Lemon & Strawberry Tiramisu

This dessert is not for the faint hearted. I often try to reduce the calorie count for some dishes, for this one I've upped it and thrown in some booze for good measure. Well, its Lizzies diamond jubilee weekend, so this is dedicated to her, a sweet fit for a queen!

I like normal Tiramisu but I think that it has the components that can be tinkered with. This version is more suited for the summer, hence the additional of strawberries. It's colourful, has a good variation of textures and if you like it a tad sharp it actually cleanses the palette. To make it even more indulgent, I serve it with a shot of Limoncello Liqueur. Forget the cost, forget the calories, but don't forget this recipe! This should serve 6.

Ingredients : 250g mascarpone cheese, 150ml double cream, 2 tbsp good quality lemon curd, 200g strawberries, 3 tbsp caster sugar, zest and juice of 4 lemons, 12 boudoir biscuits (sponge fingers), 2 tbsp sugar, handful of toasted almonds, Limoncello liqueur (optional)

1. Add the juice of 2 lemons, the sugar and 150 ml water to a pan. Bring to the boil and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Set aside to cool.
2. Meanwhile in a bowl add the mascarpone, cream, sugar, remaining lemon juice and the zest. Whip together until smooth. Then fold in the lemon curd gently to get a marble effect.
3. Toss the biscuits in the syrup to coat and then line the base of a trifle dish. They need to be moist rather than mushy. Add more syrup if necessary and then drizzle over some Limoncello.
4. Now slice half the strawberries and lay on top of the sponge.
5. Pour over the cream mixture and level off. Place in the fridge
6. To serve, decorate with the remaining strawberries and the almonds. Dust with icing sugar.
7. Pour a shot of Limoncello liqueur and enjoy :o)

Baked salmon with a mustard and parsley crust

Today was quite busy so I just wanted something simple yet tasty for supper. I keep inviting Lorraine Pascal over for dinner with little success. The next best thing is to create one of her delicious recipes. Topping a piece of fish with a crust adds texture and flavour, although to be honest the inclusion of sugar did create some doubts. So what if it tastes naff I thought, I can blame Lorraine, blow her out and go back to Delia!

I served this with some crushed new potatoes tossed in a lemon and herb vinaigrette and some asparagus. The dish is so moist, it doesn't need a sauce. It tastes great and the topping of the sweet sugar, piquant mustard, sharp lime and herby parsley is perfect. The cost for two people equates to approx £3.50 per head.

Ingredients : 2 skinless salmon fillets, 50g breadcrumbs, 1tbsp soft light brown sugar, 1 tbsp dijon mustard, knob of butter, grated zest of 2 limes, handful of finely chopped parsley, seasoning.

1. Pre-heat the oven to 200c / gm6.
2. In a bowl, add the breadcrumbs, sugar, mustard, butter, lime zest, parsley and seasoning. Mix well.
3. Lay the fillets on a baking tray and top with the crust. Pat down well, then roast in the oven for 10-15 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish.
4. Serve with some veg of your choice and squeeze some of the lime over the fish.

Friday, 1 June 2012

Meatball Tagine (Kefta Mkaoura)

Some friends of mine recently returned from Morocco and told me of a tagine they had which seemed a tad weird but tasted great. I did a quick search on line and lo and behold there it was. Basically you make a simple tagine sauce, add some beef or lamb meatballs, but then add some eggs and bake in the oven. It's essential that the eggs are cooked but remain runny. As the tagine is only cooked for about half an hour, it's not as rich as maybe the two hour lamb dish, which means that the eggs work well. To serve, just make some couscous and warm some type of flat bread. For two people the cost is about £2.75 per head, although we had plenty left over and could've fed three. The whole dish can be either made in a tagine if you have one big enough or in a casserole dish.

Ingredients : Meatballs - 500g minced lamb or beef, 1tsp cumin, 1 tsp paprika, handful of chopped parsley, seasoning. Sauce - finely copped onion, 2 tins of chopped tomatoes, tsp cumin, tsp paprika, 2 crushed garlic cloves, seasoning, handful of coriander, 2 medium eggs, 3 tbsp olive oil.
1. Pre-heat over to 200 / gm 6
2. In a bowl, add all of the meatball ingredients. Roll up your sleeves and scrunch together with your hands until all mixed in. Wash hands but don't dry them as this will make rolling the balls easier.
3. Make up about 20-25 balls, about an inch in diameter. Set aside in the fridge to firm up a little.
4. After about 10 minutes, heat 2 tbsp of the oil and brown the balls all over. Remove and in the same pan add the onion to 1tbsp of oil. Gently fry until soft, then add the remaining sauce ingredients except for the coriander.
5. Simmer for about 20 minutes until the sauce has thickened. This is important as the eggs will need a base to sit on. Stir the meatballs into the sauce and then make a couple of dips for the eggs. Crack the eggs into the tagine and then cover. Bake in oven for about 10 mins until eggs are just set.
6. To serve, sprinkle over some chopped coriander.