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Chickpea fennel & leek soup

We recently bought a copy of the Venetian cookbook, Polpo, by Russell Norman – it’s about 7 years since it was published and we’ve been coveting it ever since. This soup doesn’t sound exciting but it’s absolutely delicious and will fill even the hungriest of bellies (perhaps with some bread).

Chickpea, leek  & fennel soup – serves 6 to 8

  • 500g dried chickpeas
  • 2 litres chicken stock
  • a pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • 2 shallots, finely diced
  • 2 leeks, cut into 1cm pieces
  • 2 small fennel bulbs, cut into 1cm pieces

Cover the chickpeas in water and soak overnight. Drain and put into a heavy-based pan with the chicken stock. The stock needs to cover the chickpeas by about 3 cm. Add the dried chilli and cook until tender (start checking after the first 30 minutes but they could take an hour).

Heat a little olive oil in another heavy pan and sweat the shallots, leeks and fennel until soft. Season with salt and pepper. Combine the chickpeas and stock with the sweated vegetables and simmer for 5 minutes.

Remove about a quarter of the veg and chickpeas and set aside (we forgot to do this!). Blend the remainder until smooth. Return the reserved veg and chickpeas to the pan and season to taste. Serve with a drizzle of good olive oil.

(Original recipe from Polpo: A Venetian Cookbook (of sorts) by Russell Norman, Bloomsbury, 2012.)

 

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Breakfast quesadilla

Quesadillas are a regular feature on our weekend breakfast/lunch table as we often have tortilla wraps leftover from pack lunches in the week. We loved these spicy, veggie ones for Saturday breakfast.

Breakfast Quesadillas – serves 2

  • a knob of butter
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • ½ an avocado, sliced
  • 2 flour tortillas
  • 4 cherry tomatoes, chopped
  • 25g cheddar cheese, grated
  • 2 pickled jalapeños, chopped

Heat the butter in a small pan, tip in the eggs and stir until scrambled.

Scatter the avocado over one of the tortillas. Top with the scrambled eggs, the cherry tomatoes, the cheddar and the jalapeños. Top with the other tortilla and slide into a hot non-stick frying pan (we brush the tortillas on the outside with a tiny bit of oil to help them brown). Cook for 2-3 minutes then flip over and continue to cook until the cheese is melted and the insides are hot. Cut into wedges to serve.

(Original recipe by Janine Ratcliffe in BBC Olive Magazine, March 2019.)

Turmeric Roasted Cauliflower with Dhal

A vegan dish for mid-week that is not only super-healthy but very tasty too.

Turmeric Roasted Cauliflower with Dhal – serves 4

FOR THE CAULIFLOWER:

  • 1 large cauliflower, sliced into 1cm steaks (or you can break into florets but don’t waste the stalk)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1 garlic clove, thinly sliced

FOR THE DHAL:

  • ½ tbsp coconut oil
  • 1 onion, diced
  • 1 red chilli, deseeded and finely diced
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tbsp medium curry powder
  • 250g red lentils
  • 400ml tin light coconut milk
  • 400ml vegetable stock
  • generous handful of spinach leaves
  • 2 tbsp fresh coriander, chopped
  • juice of ½ a lemon
  • 2 tbsp flaked almonds, toasted

Preheat the oven to 200C/Fan 180C/Gas 6.

Put the cauliflower into a large roasting tin and sprinkle with the olive oil.

Roast the cauliflower for 15 minutes, then remove from the oven and scatter over the turmeric and garlic. Return to the oven for a further 15 minutes or until browned and tender.

Meanwhile, heat the coconut oil in a lidded saucepan and gently fry the onion and chilli for about 4 minutes.

Add the cumin, garlic and curry powder and cook for another couple of minutes before stirring in the lentils, coconut milk and stock. Bring to the boil then cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until the lentils are soft.

Add the spinach and stir until wilted. Stir in the coriander and season to taste.

Squeeze the lemon over the cauliflower and serve with the dhal and the toasted almonds.

(Original recipe from The Fast 800 by Michael Mosley, Short Books, 2019.)

 

Spaghetti with Ricotta & Toasted Pine Nuts

Mondays are all about leftovers in our house and we’re determined to use all bits and pieces hanging around after the weekend. This pasta dish helped us out with the remains of a jar of sundried tomatoes and some ricotta cheese. Also great to use the chives that have recently sprouted up in the garden – a positive sign of things to come.

Wine Suggestion: Look for a good Verdicchio with a fuller body, but still fresh and balanced. Tonight an old favourite, the Sartarelli Tralivio.

Spaghetti with Ricotta Cheese & Toasted Pine Nuts – serves 4 (easily halved)

  • 6 tbsp pine nuts
  • 250g ricotta cheese
  • 100g sundried tomatoes in oil, drained and sliced into thin strips
  • ¼ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • 10 fresh basil leaves, chopped, plus extra to garnish
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tbsp hot water
  • 500g spaghetti

Toast the pine nuts in a dry frying pan until golden brown, then set aside.

Put the ricotta cheese, sundried tomatoes, chives, nutmeg, pine nuts and basil into a large bowl. Pour over the oil and hot water, season with salt and pepper, and mix together. Leave to rest at room temperature while you cook the pasta.

Cook the spaghetti in a large saucepan of boiling salty water until al dente. Drain and tip into the bowl with the ricotta mixture (don’t be too particular when draining as a little water will help to loosen the sauce). Gently fold everything together for 30 seconds to combine. Serve with the extra basil.

(Original recipe from Gino’s Pasta by Gino D’Acampo, Kyle Books, 2010.)

Harissa & Goat's Cheese Buns

Try these at the weekend, they’re a good accompaniment for drinks, something fizzy perhaps. They taste best hot but you can have them all prepped on trays in the fridge ready to slide into the oven as people arrive. A nice idea from two of our very favourite cooks – Sarit Packer & Itamer Srulovich of Honey & Co.

Wine suggestion: a good crémant. For fun we opened the Taille Princess Blanc de Gérard Depardieu by Bouvet-Ladubay, a Chenin Blanc-Chardonnay sparkling from Saumur. We chuckle every time with the liberal use of Gérard’s branding and his portrait on the label and on the capsule. That said it is an excellent crémant and a good match to savoury cheese bites like these.

Harissa & Goat’s Cheese Buns – makes about 20 

  • 175g self-raising flour
  • 100g butter (at room temperature), diced
  • 1 egg, lightly whisked and divided into 2 small bowls
  • 60g grated pecorino or Parmesan
  • 125g ricotta
  • 125g soft, young, rindless goat’s cheese
  • 30g rose harissa paste
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp whole cumin seeds

Put the flour and butter in a mixer bowl with a paddle attachment and combine to a crumb-like consistency.

Add half the egg and half the grated pecorino or Parmesan, along with the ricotta, goat’s cheese, harissa paste and salt. Mix together to form a soft, pliable dough.

Divide the dough into two pieces and roll each one into a log about 20cm long. Brush each log all over with the other half of the egg.

Mix the rest of the cheese with the cumin seeds and sprinkle over the work surface. Roll the logs in the mixture until coated all over. Put the logs on a try in the fridge to rest for at least an hour or up to 48 hours.

When ready to bake, heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 6.

Cut each log into about 10 slices, about 2cm thick, and lay them on a lined baking tray. Bake for 13-15 minutes until teh cheese is golden but the buns are still soft. Serve hot.

(Original recipe from Honey & Co. At Home by Sarit Packer & Itamar Srulovich, Pavilion, 2018.)

Radish Tzatziki

Radish Raita

This makes a nice change from the usual cucumber variety. Good with barbecued lamb or pork and dishes with Greek flavours. We liked it on the side of our giant beans and spinach rice.

Radish Tzatziki – serves 2

  • 100g Greek yoghurt
  • ½ tbsp chopped dill, plus extra to serve
  • 8 small radishes, roughly chopped or sliced
  • ½ clove of garlic, crushed
  • juice of ½ lemon

Mix all the ingredients together and season. Garnish with some extra dill.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

Conchiglie Rigate Piccanti

This pasta sauce is rich and full of flavour and works best without cheese, so don’t be tempted to add any. A new favourite for us and great for using up sun-dried tomatoes.

Wine Suggestion: Pico Maccario make some delicious Barbera and their entry “Lavignone” is a benchmark for the Asti region (Piedmont). Not only does it work with this dish, but we’d suggest versatile for many other dishes and occasions; a crowd pleaser and very food friendly.

Conchiglie Rigate Piccanti – serves 4

  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 80g pitted Kalamata olives, halved
  • 1 hot red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 80g sun-dried tomatoes in oil, drained and finely chopped
  • 300g pork mince
  • 300g passata
  • 400g conghiglie rigate (medium shell pasta)

Heat the oil in a medium saucepan over a medium heat and fry the onion and olives for a couple of minutes, stirring now and then.

Add the chilli, sun-dried tomatoes and the pork mince and continue frying for another 6 minutes.

Stir in the passata and gently simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Keep stirring every couple of minutes. Season with salt and remove from the heat.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in plenty of salty water according the timings on the pack. Drain and tip back into the saucepan.

Pour the sauce into the pasta pan and stir over a low heat for 30 seconds to combine.

(Original recipe from Gino’s Pasta by Gino D’Acampo, Kyle Books, 2010.)