Thursday, 11 August 2011

conchiglie with bacon and peas

conchiglie with bacon and peas

The cupboards are bare! I mean they were already bare until I figured out this meal. Ruth had bought some rather bedraggled looking peas at the car boot sale this morning and there was a packet of bacon at the bottom of the fridge. There was a glass of wine still in a bottle from last night but I turned my back and half of it was guzzled with a "mind if I drink this wine? Oh, you didn't need it to cook with did you?"
"No Dear, just leave me some, please."
To be honest, I was grateful that I still had the peas (willingly podded by oldest and youngest boys).
This isn't fancy - it's just supper (tea in my house :D ).

Serves 5 (if 3 are kids)
  • 250g smoked streaky bacon, chopped into strips 1/4 inch across
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed or chopped up small
  • peas (fresh or defrosted frozen peas)
  • a glass of crisp white or rose wine (a full glass, not the glug I was left with!)
  • a handful of chopped parsley (I'm all out of flat leaf so curly is good)
  • a few pine nuts, toasted in a dry pan until coloured
  • 30g butter
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper

  1. fry the bacon strips in a little olive oil, in a large frying pan, until really nice and crispy, then set aside somewhere warm
  2. bring a large pan of salted water to the boil for the pasta and cook as per instructions
  3. while the pasta is cooking, gently fry the onion and garlic in the bacon pan with half of the butter
  4. add the peas to the pasta for the last few minutes of cooking
  5. add the wine to the onion and garlic and reduce by at least half (add half the bacon at this point)
  6. whisk in the last of the butter and the parsley to the onion pan, to thicken the sauce
  7. drain the pasta and peas and add to the sauce - combine
  8. turn out into a warm serving dish, sprinkling the rest of the bacon and the pine nuts
Optional - watch in surprise as your children eat the meal without complaint or bickering!

Parmesan and wine always makes good pasta terrific!

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

picture of spaghetti with crispy courgette and lemon

spaghetti with crispy courgette and lemon

An old friend's request for more innovative ideas with courgettes sparked me to adapt a recipe that I've made lots of times with aubergine. The dish- very tasty- preceded an evening 'in' with Ruth and the two older boys, watching a movie called 'Monster'. I don't recall ever hearing any hype about it but one of the testimonials on the cover said believe the hype! Several national newspapers had reputedly awarded it with 5 stars but omitted to saying how many this was out of. Perhaps it went straight to DVD. Anyway, it wasn't especially good but did have some gruesome then cute alien monsters that were really just giant octopus. Which leads me to my point: not to be disrespectful to an important piece of cinema history but to suggest that this recipe might be really nice with some thin slivers of octopus or calamari.

Serves 2 or 3
  • 350g of spaghetti (I go for Value spaghetti since it is 20p for 500g and nobody has ever complained)
  • 2 or 3 medium courgettes cut into sticks (julienned if you can add ed to a french word to infer past tense)
  • a little flour seasoned with salt and pepper
  • a small red chilli, seeded and finely sliced
  • a small onion, finely chopped
  • a clove of garlic, finely sliced
  • the juice of 1/2 a lemon with some of the zest of the lemon finely sliced
  • a handful of rocket (could be replaced with flat leaf parsley)
  • olive oil
  • butter
  • sea salt
This dish requires a little bit of multi tasking so it's a little difficult to step by step
  1. sprinkle a little salt over the julienne courgettes and set aside in a colander over the sink for 15 minutes or so
  2. bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook spaghetti by the instructions on the packet
  3. heat oil about 1/2 an inch deep over a moderate heat
  4. pat the courgette dry between paper towels and dredge in the seasoned flour, shaking off any extra flour
  5. fry the courgette until it just begins to colour (any more and they will become unpalatable). I did mine in 2 batches since a smaller pan makes the oil deeper. They do keep their crisp nicely for long enough. When the sticks are cooked remove with a slotted spoon and set aside on paper towel
  6. in a large pan, gently colour the onion in the butter, before adding the garlic and rocket (this can be done when the spaghetti is put in since it will sit for a few minutes off the heat, rocket wilting rather than cooking. If using parsley, add towards the end)
  7. when the spaghetti is cooked, drain and add to the onion pan, returning it to a gentle heat for a few minutes. Squeeze the lemon over the spaghetti and season with salt and pepper, to taste
  8. turn the spaghetti into a large warmed dish, piling the courgette on top and finishing with the chilli and lemon zest
  9. and this is entirely optional... I sprinkled the finished dish with nasturtium just for some colour (they don't really taste of anything)
Finally: if you pile with parmesan as I tend do do with all things spaghetti, be careful as the flavours in this dish are quite delicate :)

Monday, 8 August 2011

picture of chicken thighs with tomatoes and chorizo

chicken thighs with tomato and chorizo

From the start these chicken thighs were headed towards the barbecue but the weather was determinedly inclement. Running short of charcoal, I had picked some up in town during a sunny dog-walk. Despite my misgivings about the walk home with dog, groceries and 5kg of fuel, Ruth insisted that it would be good for the environment, better than coming back in the car. The sun collapsed behind heavy rain-clouds and I trudged home, with a mind to roast the little fellas.


for the chicken:

  • 8 chicken thighs
  • 2tsps sweet smoked paprika
  • 1 tsp sumac
  • salt and pepper
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of half a smallish lemon
  • 2 cloves of garlic, smashed and pulped with sea salt using the back of a heavy, broad knife
  1. Mix the ingredients and set aside for at least a couple of hours
  2. I roasted these on a highish heat for about 45 minutes but it will depend on the size. Just use a sharp knife or skewer to check when they are done
  3. Rest for 5 minutes or so before serving


for the sauce:

  • a glug of extra virgin olive oil (some will say that it is best to use something lighter but I love the flavour)
  • small red onion finely chopped
  • 400g can of chopped tomatoes (even better with fresh, plump, juicy, ripe tomatoes :)
  • about 3 inches of Spanish chorizo, skinned and chopped into 1/4 inch cubes (I used a spicy variety)
  • a clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • one side sliced from a red pepper, chopped like the chorizo
  • the leaves from a handful of fresh thyme sprigs
  • salt and pepper
  • 1/2 tsp of sugar
  • the rest of that lemon from the chicken
  1. sweat the onion in the oil over a medium temperature before adding the garlic
  2. before the garlic really takes on any colour add the chorizo and red pepper, and fry gently for 5 to 10 minutes
  3. add the tomatoes and maybe a little water, cook over a gentle heat for 5 minutes
  4. add the sugar and seasoning
  5. continue to let it bubble gently for another 20 minutes or so, checking that it does not dry out. If it looks too thick, add a little water from time to time
As you can see, I served the chicken on the sauce with a lemon garnish. The flowers are Ruth's pretty cornflowers. The picture isn't quite as sharp and bright as we'd have liked but that can be blamed on those menacing storm clouds.

To accompany this was the ever present courgettes fried in a little oil with some pepper and garlic, along with new potatoes roasted with rosemary and whole garlic. Delicious.

Perfect I'd say with polenta, wild rice, cous cous etc. How about seasoning with some chopped black olives instead of salt? You decide...

Picture of nicoise ish salad

nicoise (ish) salad

Rooting through My Pictures I just found this picture of a beautiful salad based generally on the French classic. As with most of my recipes I cannot make any claim to authenticity but every dish is genuine and comes from the heart. If you're luck enough to have a veg plot or a few pots with lettuces, it has to be right to adapt and alter any instructions to make the most delicious meal that inspiration conjures.

I love this salad as, although it has quite a few ingredients, none of the individual flavours get lost. It's definitely best eaten with a glass of chilled, dry rose (preferably from the South of France) but then, let's be honest, most things are:)

Serves 2-4

  • a lettuce (round, flat, cos or lolo rosso is good - I'm not so keen on iceberg)
  • 1/2 a red onion thinnly sliced in rings
  • 1 or 2 beetroot, boiled and scrubbed then cut into small cubes
  • a small tin of anchovies
  • a small handful of black olives
  • a tin of tuna (I prefer it to be packed in oil rather than brine) - it goes without saying that a couple of pieces of fresh tuna steak, griddled or cooked quickly over hot coals would be best but it is so expensive these days. If you take this route, let the fish cool down so as not to wilt the leaves.
  • fresh young courgettes sliced thinly
  • about 3 inches of cucumber cut into quarters longways with the seeds discarded and then chopped
  • a tomato or a few cherry tomatoes
  • fresh chopped parsley or maybe some dill
  • 2 hard boiled eggs, shelled and quartered longways
I guess I'd add some fennel if I had some since it complements fish so nicely.

For the dressing:

  • the juice of a lemon (white wine vinegar would also be fine)
  • a good slug of extra virgin olive oil ( I usually work on about 3 parts oil to one part juice or vinegar)
  • salt and pepper
  1. Layer the salad ingredients finishing with the anchovies, olives and eggs
  2. Whisk the dressing briskly until it emulsifies (becomes thick like double cream) - pour over the salad just before serving
  3. Scatter the finely chopped herbs over the completed salad

I served this with some crusty bread. Needless to say, the kids didn't eat this (wouldn't even attempt it because it is a SALAD) so Ruth and I had 2 meals out of it - or maybe we just sat and ate it all; I don't remember but that sounds quite likely!

Sunday, 7 August 2011

pictures of courgettes with mint and nuts

courgettes with nuts and mint

We have a glut of courgettes at the moment so expect several recipes where they feature pretty strongly. This year we have grown both yellow and green ones. The recipe is one that I have adapted from the gorgeous Moro East cookery book by Sam and Sam Clark, who have a restaurant in London. I used this dish as an accompaniment to home made boerewors susage and minted new potatoes. The kids had some kebabs made from chicken and courgettes marinated in a little olive oil and  Moroccan BBQ seasoning from the Spice Shop in London ( - simply grilled on the barbecue and served in warm pitta.

(Could serve 4ish)

4 or 5 courgettes of varying size - sliced as thinly as pound coins
extra virgin olive oil to cover the bottom of the pan
a small handful of blanched whole almonds
a few pine nuts
2 cloves of garlic - finely sliced
salt and pepper
a handful of chopped mint
a handful of freshly podded peas

1. Sprinkle the sliced courgettes with salt and set aside in a collander, on the draining board, for about 15 or 20 minutes.

2. On a moderate flame, fry the almonds until pinkish (3 or 4 minutes) then remove them from the pan with a slotted spoon.

3. Add the pine nuts to the pan and cook briefly, just until they begin to colour. Take them out and leave them with the almonds.

4. Pat the courgettes dry with kitchen towel before adding them to the hot pan. Cook for 10 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. Season with pepper.

5. Add the garlic and half of the mint. Cook for a further 5 minutes.

6. Return the nuts to the pan along with the peas. Cook for another 5 minutes.

7. Turn into a serving dish and sprinkle with the remaining mint.

This dish can be served hot or at room temperature. (I'll be eating what's left cold if Ruth doesn't get to it first!)