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Penne alla Norma

Penne alla norma

We love Rick Stein’s recipes as everything seems to come from true inspiration and has been tested in a real world kitchen so it all works. This recipe is no exception and delivers in flavour and balance perfectly.

Pasta alla Norma is traditionally made with spaghetti but worked just as well penne pasta as a substitute.

Wine Suggestions: Aubergine tends to work with Southern Italian reds really well, but we had an unexpected burst of sunshine so opened a Provençal rosé, Chateau Vignelaure La Source, which is an old favourite. It worked a treat and  will definitely try it again with other aubergine dishes.

Pasta alla Norma – Pasta with Aubergines, Tomatoes, Chilli & Cheese – serves 4

  • 500g aubergines (2 large ones)
  • 500g well-flavoured tomatoes or top quality tinned plum tomatoes, drained (Italian brands are best)
  • 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 400g dried spaghetti
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • ¼ tsp crushed dried chillies
  • A large handful of fresh basil leaves, torn into small pieces
  • 100g finely grated ricotta salata or crumbled feta cheese

Trim the aubergines and cut into two across the middle, then cut each piece lengthways into chip-sized sticks. Toss with 1 tsp of salt and set in a colander over a bowl to drain for 30-40 minutes.

Meanwhile, if using fresh tomatoes, squeeze them over the sink to get rid of most of the juice and seeds. Roughly chop the tomatoes and set aside.

Bring a large pan of water to the boil (about 4.5 litres) and season generously with salt (about 8 teaspoons).

Pat the aubergines dry with kitchen paper to remove the salt and any liquid. Heat 4 tbsp of the frying pan, add half the aubergines and fry until lightly golden. Lift onto a plate lined with kitchen paper  and leave to drain while you fry the next batch. After removing the second batch of aubergine, leave the oil in the frying pan to cool.

Put the spaghetti into the boiling water and cook according to the packet or until al dente. 

Before the pasta is ready, add the remaining oil and the garlic to the cooled frying pan and return to the heat. When the garlic begins to sizzle gently, add the crushed chillies and the tomatoes and cook over a high heat for a few minutes or until they have broken down into a sauce. Season well and stir in the aubergines.

Drain the pasta and add to the sauce with the torn basil and half the cheese, then toss well. Divide between warm bowls and serve sprinkled with the remaining cheese.

(Original recipe from Rick Stein’s Mediterranean Escapes, BBC Books, 2007.)

Aubergine & Lamb Stew

This is not the best looking dish but who cares when it tastes this good. To quote Itamar Srulovich (of Honey & Co. and the author of this recipe):

“Do not cook it to impress. Cook it for the ones you love the most, or just for you; it is that good.”

We concur Itamar!!

Wine Suggestion: Try a Mediterranean-style wine, a Primitivo or something similarly juicy from the south of Italy. We paired this with a lovely organic wine by Michele Biancardi, his Uno Piu Uno which is a cracking blend of Primitive and Nero di Troia. Only 12.5% abv but juicy and delicious so it didn’t overwhelm the lamb and aubergine and had enough depth to compliment it perfectly.

Patlican – Lamb & aubergine stew – serves 2

  • 450g lamb neck, cut into large dice
  • ½ tsp salt
  • ½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 aubergine, cut into large cubes (about 350g)
  • 1 large tomato, cut into large cubes
  • 1 small red onion, peeled and cut into wedges
  • 6 whole cloves of garlic, peeled
  • ½ small red chilli, thinly sliced
  • 3 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • 150ml water
  • 1 tbsp pomegranate molasses

Season the lamb cubes with the salt and pepper.

Heat a large pan over a medium-high heat, add the oil and the diced lamb, and sear the meat all over. When the meat has browned (about 5-6 minutes), add the aubergine, tomato, onion & garlic. Cover and leave to steam for 5 minutes, then remove the lid and stir in the chilli and thyme. Reduce the heat to low and cook slowly for about 15 minutes, then pour in the water and pomegranate molasses.

Keep cooking on a low heat for 50-60 minutes or until the veg have broken down and the meat is soft enough to tear with a fork.

Serve with bread so you waste no sauce!

(Original recipe from Honey & Co.: Food From the Middle East by Sarit Packer & Itamar Srulovich, Saltyard Books, 2014.)

Spinach omelette chapati wrap

This dish makes a really tasty lunch and is a great use for leftover chapatis. Kids will like them too!

Spinach Omelette Chapati Wraps – serves 4

  • 1 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 4 scallions, finely chopped
  • 1 tsp garam masala
  • 4 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 50g mature cheddar, roughly grated
  • 2 thin ham slices, cut into strips
  • 100g baby spinach leaves
  • 4 chapatis

Heat a little of the oil in a non-stick 20cm frying pan. Add a quarter of the scallions and cook gently for a few minutes. Add ¼ tsp of the garam masala and cook for about 30 seconds.

Add a quarter of the beaten egg and tip the pan to cover the base – cook for 1 minute until the base is golden. Sprinkle over a quarter of the cheese, ham and spinach, cover with a lid and cook for another minute or until the spinach is just wilted and the cheese melted.

Meanwhile, heat a chapati in the microwave for 30 seconds or in a dry frying pan. Tip the omelette out on top of the warm chapati and roll up. Repeat with the rest of the ingredients to make 3 more wraps.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

Haloumi & Aubergine Kebabs on a bulgur & pea salad

We’re much keener on nutty bulgur than quinoa that seems so popular at the moment. Bulgur makes for a much more interesting salad in our opinion and these aubergine and halloumi kebabs are a great veggie option for the barbecue. Leftovers taste nice for lunch the next day too.

Aubergine and Halloumi Kebabs with Garlic & Herb Bulgur Wheat 

  • 2 aubergines, sliced into strips
  • 200g pack of halloumi cheese, cut into cubes
  • 2 tbsp olive oil plus more for brushing
  • 1 tbsp capers, roughly chopped
  • 1 tsp chopped mint

FOR THE GARLIC & HERB BULGUR WHEAT

  • 200g bulgur wheat
  • 175g frozen peas
  • 6 tbsp garlic oil (to make garlic oil just gently simmer a couple of peeled and smashed garlic cloves in oil for about 10 minutes, then discard the garlic and let the oil cool before using)
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • handful of herbs (such as mint, parsley, chives or a mixture) roughly chopped

Brush the aubergine strips with olive oil and barbecue until softened. Thread onto skewers with the halloumi cubes.

Mix the remaining olive oil with the chopped capers and mint.

Barbecue the kebabs until the cheese is golden and drizzle over the dressing to serve.

Meanwhile, cook the bulgar wheat in boiling salted water for 15 minutes or until tender, adding the peas for the last few minutes.

Make the dressing with the oil, lemon juice and seasoning. Fold the herbs through the drained bulgur wheat and peas and gently stir in the dressing.

(Original recipe for kebabs from BBC Olive Magazine July 2014 and bulgur wheat from BBC Good Food.)

Hake and scallion mash with a soy butter sauce

The soy butter sauce here is absolutely delicious and we were perhaps a bit over-generous with it when plating up. You can do some sort of drizzly thing if you want it look a bit fancier. Either way your guests will be impressed!

Wine Suggestion: We went off-piste and served a light bodied, Loire Valley red from Saumur-Champigny, the Chateau Hureau “Tuffe” 2010. As it was a warm evening we’d chilled the bottle for 30 minutes in the fridge and it was charming and a delightful match proving that red wine can go with fish. We think the depth of flavour in the soy butter sauce helped too.

Hake on Scallion Mash with a Soy Butter Sauce – serves 4

  • 4 x 200g pieces of thick hake fillet, with skin on
  • melted butter for brushing
  • 1 tsp fine sea salt
  • sea salt flakes and coarsely crushed black pepper

FOR THE SCALLION MASH:

  • 1.25kg floury potatoes, peeled and cut into chunks
  • 50g butter
  • 1 bunch scallions, thinly sliced
  • a little milk
  • salt and freshly ground white pepper

FOR THE SOY BUTTER SAUCE:

  • 600ml chicken stock (preferably home-made)
  • 2 tbsp dark soy sauce
  • 75g unsalted butter
  • 1 tomato, skinned, seeded and diced (plunge into hot water for 1 minute to make peeling easier)
  • 1 heaped tsp chopped coriander

Lay the fish in a shallow dish with the skin-side down and sprinkle with the sea salt flakes, then set aside for 30 minutes. Rinse the salt off and dry the fish with kitchen paper. Brush the fish pieces with the melted butter and put skin-side up on a greased baking tray. Sprinkle the skin with a few sea salt flakes and some black pepper.

Cook the potatoes in boiling unsalted water for 20 minutes or until tender.

Start the sauce by putting the stock and soy sauce into another pan and boiling rapidly until reduced by half.

Preheat the grill to high and grill the hake for 8 minutes on one side only.

When the fish is almost done, add the butter to the sauce and whisk it in. Take off the heat and add the tomato and coriander.

Drain the potatoes and return to the pan, then mash until smooth. Heat the butter in another pan and toss the scallions in the hot butter briefly. Beat scallions and butter into the potato with a little bit of milk and some salt and white pepper. Spoon the scallions mash into the centre of warm plates. Rest the hake on top and spoon the sauce around the outside.

(Original recipe from Rick Stein Fish & Shellfish, Random House, 2014.)

Rosemary & garlic spatchcock chicken with bulgur wheat salad

This tastes just as good as a cold chicken and bulgur salad the following day – great for lunchboxes!

Wine Suggestion: we drank a delicious Fiano made in Puglia by Michele Biancardi. It had delightful layers of fruit, texture from spice and minerality and a dancing freshness that worked well with the roasted chicken and still allowed the freshness of the salad to shine through. We suspect the depth and personality of this wine is helped by the biodynamic viticulture as it just had “something” extra without being weighty and forceful. If you can’t find this one do look out for Fiano, an interesting Italian white that you might not have tried.

Rosemary and Garlic Spatchcock Chicken with Bulgur Wheat Salad – serves 4 

  • 1 x 1.5kg chicken

FOR THE MARINADE:

  • 50ml olive oil
  • 1 lemon, juiced and zest finely grated
  • 4 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 2 tbsp chopped rosemary leaves

FOR THE SALAD:

  • 200g bulgur wheat
  • 1 lemon , juiced and zest finely grated
  • seeds and juice of 1 pomegranate
  • 1 tbsp chopped mint
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 50ml olive oil

To spatchcock the chicken you need to first remove the backbone by cutting through the chicken on both side of the bone (use poultry shears if you have them or really sharp scissors). Remove the backbone and open the chicken out, then put the chicken, breast side up, onto a worktop and use your palms to flatten it. Make a few slashes in the legs with a sharp knife.

Make the marinade by mixing all of the ingredients in a bowl and seasoning well with sea salt and black pepper.

Put the chicken into a wide, shallow dish, pour over the marinade and rub in well with your hands. Cover with cling film and chill for at least 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/Gas 7.

Put the chicken into a roasting tin along with all the marinade and bake for about 1 hour or until cooked through (the juices need to be totally clear when pierced with a skewer and the legs should feel loose).

Meanwhile, cover the bulgur wheat with boiling water and leave to soak for 10-15 minutes or until just soft, then drain.

Mix the lemon juice and zest with the pomegranate seeds and juice, herbs and olive oil. Stir in the bulgur and season well with sea salt and black pepper.

When the chicken is cooked, cover with foil and leave to rest in the tin and leave in the switched off oven for a few minutes, then carve in to pieces and serve with the salad.

(Original recipe from Rachel Allen’s Rachel’s Everyday Kitchen, HarperCollins, 2013.)

Pasta Primavera

Pasta Primavera

This was tasty. We were a bit concerned about the boiled onion at first but it gives a nice onion flavour without any fried taste which isn’t required here with the light creamy sauce. Good for a weeknight or weekend lunch.

Pasta Primavera – serves 4-6

  • 1 red pepper, halved and deseeded
  • 1 large onion, roughly chopped
  • 225g asparagus, trimmed and cut into 2.5cm lengths
  • 100g sugarsnap peas, sliced in half lengthways
  • 300g dried penne
  • 100ml double cream
  • 60g Parmesan cheese, coarsely grated
  • juice of ½ lemon
  • 25g toasted pine nuts
  • 1 tbsp torn fresh basil leaves

Put the pepper halves under a hot grill, skin side up, for around 10 minutes or until the skin is completely charred. Seal in a plastic bag and leave to cool, then peel and discard the skin. Slice the flesh into large pieces.

Cook the chopped onion in a pan of salted boiling water for 9 minutes, then add the asparagus. Cook for another minute before adding the sugarsnaps and continue to boil for another 2 minutes. Drain and rinse in cold water.

Cook the penne in a large pan of salted boiling water for the recommended time on the pack, then return to the pan with the cooled vegetables. Add the roasted pepper, cream and cheese and stir over a gentle heat to warm through. Season well with sea salt and black pepper.

Squeeze over the lemon and scatter over the pine nuts and basil to serve.

(Original recipe from Mary Berry’s Cookery Course, DK, 2013.)

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