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Golden Couscous

Golden Couscous

Plain buttered couscous is perfect with tagine and middle eastern stews. Occasionally though it’s nice to add a few extras to make it taste a bit special.

Golden Couscous – serves 3 to 4 as a side (easy to double)

  • 25g butter
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp ground turmeric
  • 150g couscous
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 175ml vegetable or chicken stock
  • juice of ½ a lemon
  • 75g pine nuts, toasted

Melt the butter in a saucepan over a medium heat, then tip in the onion, season with salt and pepper and cook for 10 minutes or until softened and golden. Stir in the turmeric, then remove from the heat and set aside.

Put the couscous into a bowl and rub in the olive oil with your fingertips.

Pour the stock into a saucepan and bring to the boil, then pour over the couscous, cover with clingfilm and allow to steam for 5-6 minutes or until the stock has been absorbed.

Stir in the onions, lemon juice and toasted pine nuts and season to taste.

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

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Cauliflower risotto

Using one of our favourite vegetables, that strangely we haven’t cooked for a while. Perfect comfort food for chilly evenings.

Wine Suggestion:  not as easy to suggest a wine as we thought given the conflicting flavours but we found that the Quinta Soalheiro Alvarinho Reserva a surprisingly good match. This combined a vibrant freshness with a layer of subtle oak, mineral nuttiness from the fine lees and a textured persistence that both balanced the food and didn’t overwhelm it. This wine continues to surprise with it’s quality and brilliance.

Cauliflower, leek & blue cheese risotto – serves 4

  • ½ a head of cauliflower, broken into florets
  • 25g butter
  • 2 leeks, cut into rings and washed thoroughly
  • 250g risotto rice
  • 1 litre hot chicken stock
  • 25g Parmesan cheese
  • 100g creamy blue cheese, e.g. Cashel blue or dolcelatte, broken into small chunks

Cook the cauliflower florets in boiling salted water until just tender, then drain well and set aside.

Melt the butter in a saucepan and cook the leeks over a low heat for about 10 minutes or until soft. Add the risotto rice and stir around until glistening with the butter. Now add the hot stock a ladleful at a time, stirring continuously until each has been absorbed before adding another. It should take about 25 minutes to add all of the liquid and by this time the rice should be cooked. A few minutes before the end, carefully stir in the cooked cauliflower and stir gently so you don’t break it up to much, then add the Parmesan and blue cheese.

(Original recipe from Food from Plenty by Diana Henry, Mitchell Beazley, 2011.)

 

Penne with blue cheese sauce

We seem to have a piece of blue cheese that sits permanently on the shelf on our fridge door. It changes every week but never completely disappears and so we find ourselves constantly on the search for weeknight dinners to put it to good use. Not a bad problem to have.

Wine Suggestion: We’ve cooked dishes similar to this many times and have found they work best with white wines with body: Chardonnay, Chenin Blanc, Soave … if it has a touch of oak or richness then all to the good.

Penne with blue cheese sauce – serves 4

  • 350g penne pasta
  • 200g frozen leaf spinach
  • 85g Danish blue or other blue cheese, crumbled
  • a pinch of chilli flakes
  • 250g tub mascarpone cheese
  • 25g Parmesan, grated

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil and cook the pasta according to the instructions on the pack, add the spinach 3 minutes before the end of the cooking time. Drain the pasta and spinach and tip into a shallow heatproof dish along with the blue cheese, chilli flakes and lots of black pepper.

Put spoonfuls of the mascarpone over the top of the pasta. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and grill for 5 minutes or until the mascarpone has melted and the top is golden. Serve with a green salad.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food Magazine, October, 2000.)

Sweet potato vindaloo

It hasn’t happened just yet but there will come a time when we will grow tired of all the winter root veg and will be hankering for spring and some lighter dishes. If you start to feel this way we recommend turning to cookbooks inspired by India which often contain some of the most interesting and delicious veggie dishes. Don’t be put off by the fiery connotations of ‘vindaloo’, this is a spicy dish but nothing too scary and is tamed by the additions of fluffy white rice and cool yoghurt.

Sweet potato vindaloo – serves 4

  • 4 tbsp rapeseed oil
  • 6 cloves
  • 1 star anise
  • 20 black peppercorns
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 2 tsp cumin seeds
  • 6 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 4cm piece of ginger, peeled and grated
  • 5 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • ¾ tbsp chilli powder (feel free to adjust to your own tolerance level)
  • 2 medium onions, finely sliced
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • 1 x 400g tin of plum tomatoes
  • 1kg sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into bite-size cubes
  • yoghurt, to serve
  • steamed white basmati rice, to serve

Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a large frying (for which you have a lid) over a medium heat, then add the cloves, star anise, black peppercorns, cinnamon stick and cumin seeds. Stir-fry for a couple of minutes until fragrant and then remove from the heat and grind in a spice grinder or pestle and mortar. Add the garlic, ginger & vinegar and continue to grind to a smooth paste, then mix in the chilli powder.

Heat the remaining 3 tbsp of oil in the same pan over a medium heat, then add the onions. Cook for 15 minutes or more until brown and caramelised. Add the spice paste, salt and sugar, then cook for another couple of minutes before tipping in the tomatoes and crushing with a wooden spoon. Fill the empty tomato tin half full with water and add to the pan. Cover the pan with a lid and cook for around 5 minutes, then add the sweet potatoes.

Bring the curry to the boil, then cover and simmer for 20 to 25 minutes or until the sweet potato is completely tender. Serve with cool natural yoghurt and hot basmati rice.

(Original recipe from Fresh India by Meera Sodha, Penguin, 2016.)

Winter Minestrone

Winter minestrone

We’re never in our own house for Christmas as we travel up north to be with family. That doesn’t stop us on insisting that the stock left in the pot in which the ham was cooked, goes into the freezer ready for us to take home and make minestrone with. The perfect foil for all the over-indulgence in the days preceding.

Winter Minestrone – serves 6

  • 500g cavolo nero, remove any thicker stalks and shred thickly
  • 1 large onion, diced
  • 3 ribs of celery, diced, with a few leaves
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 400g pumpkin/squash flesh, peeled and cut into 1cm chunks
  • 1 potato
  • 400g cooked white beans – we used a tin of cannellini beans
  • 1.5 litres of ham stock, water or bean broth (if you’ve cooked dried beans)
  • A parmesan rind (always good to keep in the fridge to add extra depth of flavour to soups)
  • A small sprig of sage
  • Freshly grated Parmesan, to serve

Wash the cavolo nero, strip any particularly thick stems from the leaves and roughly chop. Roll up the leaves and shred thickly.

Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-based pan and slowly fry the onion and celery with a pinch of salt, until soft, about 8 minutes.

Add the pumpkin/squash to the pan along with the cavolo nero stems and a tiny pinch of salt, stirring until each chunk glistens with oil. Add half the cavolo nero leaves, half the beans, the water and the parmesan rind.

Turn up the heat so the soup is almost boiling, then reduce to a simmer for 30 minutes or until the vegetables are tender. Five minutes before the end of the cooking time, add the rest of the cavolo nero and beans. Taste and season, then add the chopped sage. Allow it to sit for 5 minutes, then serve with some freshly grated Parmesan.

(Original recipe by Rachel Roddy in The Guardian24th November 2017.)

 

Pepper crusted Salmon with garlic chickpeasWe really liked this simple fish dish and the garlic chickpeas are delicious! Nice and easy for a Friday night.

Wine Suggestion: We opened a Muscadet, as it was in the fridge and they typically work with fish and seafood. That said we weren’t sure it would hold up to the stronger salmon, pepper and spices but were refreshingly surprised at how it more than held it’s own.

Pepper-crusted salmon with garlic & chickpeas – serves 4

  • 4 skinless salmon fillets, about 150g
  • 2 tsp black peppercorns
  • 1 tsp paprika
  • grated zest and juice of 2 limes
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

FOR THE CHICKPEAS:

  • 2 x 400g tins chickpeas
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 150ml vegetable stock
  • 130g bag baby spinach

Heat oven to 190C/Fan 170C/Gas 5.

Put the salmon into a shallow ovenproof dish in a single layer. Roughly crush the peppercorns with a pestle and mortar, then mix with the paprika, lime zest and some sea salt.

Brush the salmon lightly with oil, then sprinkle over the pepper mix. Bake for 12-15 minutes or until the salmon is just cooked.

Meanwhile, drain the chickpeas and rinse well under cold water, then drain. Heat the oil in a pan, then add the garlic and cook gently for 5 minutes without browning. Add the chickpeas and stock and warm gently. Crush the chickpeas lightly with a potato masher, then add the spinach and stir well until the leaves are wilted. Add the lime juice and some salt and pepper, then heat through before serving with the salmon. Serve a lime wedge on the side if you like.

(Original recipe by Dhruv Baker in BBC Good Food Magazine, December 2008.)

This is the ‘succulent lamb stew’ from Jamie Oliver’s latest book – ‘5 Ingredients’ . It takes a little while in the oven but requires virtually no prep and the results are super tasty. Who knew a jar of pickled onions could be such a revelation? We served with buttery mashed potatoes and steamed broccoli.

This is the third recipe we’ve tried from this book and have yet to be disappointed. Go Jamie!

Wine Suggestion: we found that a youthful wine from Jumilla, the Finca Bacara “3015” Monastrell was a great match. It was perfectly ripe but avoided the clumsy tannins of other Monastrell we’ve had in the past despite being young and only spending 2 months in oak to bring it together. Look for juicy fruit, freshness, and bold but supple and unobtrusive tannins in whatever you choose.

Easiest Ever Lamb Stew – serves 6

  • a few good sprigs of rosemary, about 15g, leaves stripped
  • 800g boneless lamb shoulder, cut into 3cm chunks
  • 150g mixed-colour olives
  • 1 x 280g jar of silverskin pickled onions
  • 2 x 400g tins of plum tomatoes

Preheat the oven to 170C/Gas 3.

Heat a 30cm shallow casserole pan over a high heat, add 1 tbsp of olive oil and toss the rosemary leaves around for about a minute to crisp up. Scoop out the rosemary and set aside, then brown the lamb for a couple of minutes in the same pan.

Drain the pickled onions and add to the pan with the olives (remove the stones if necessary first). Stir everything together before adding the tinned tomatoes, breaking them up with a spoon, plus 2 tinfuls of water. Cover and cook in the oven for 2 hours, or until the sauce has thickened and the lamb is meltingly tender. Jamie suggests stirring half-way through and adding a splash of water if needed. After an hour we had loads of liquid left in the dish so cooked for the remaining hour with the lid off. It probably depends on the heat in your oven so do as needed.

Taste the dish and season with salt and black pepper, then sprinkle over the crispy rosemary to serve.

(Original recipe from 5 Ingredients by Jamie Oliver, Penguin, 2017.)