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Spaghetti with parsley, pancetta & parmigiano

We’re never surprised at how reliable the cookbooks from River Cafe are as in general they celebrate fabulous ingredients with simple cooking methods; our favourite way to cook too. This is a rich dish and works best served in small portions as a starter.

Wine Suggestion: The richness and parmesan cry out for higher acidity in the wine. We combined this idea with the almost bacon-ny yeasty and almondy autolysis of a sparkling Trento DOC, the Ferrari Perlé Nero Riserva. Body, richness, nuttiness and freshness; a great combo with the pasta.

When choosing between Italian sparkling wines we find the Trento DOC area has a bit more body and richness than the creamier and refined Franciacorta. This is not to say that top producers like Ferrari don’t have refinement, they do in spades, but that there is a lightness and elegance to be found in Franciacorta. Too light for this dish. Both areas produce some stunning wines.

Spaghetti with parsley, pancetta & parmesan – serves 6

  • 8 tbsp finely chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • 3 medium red onions, finely chopped
  • 200g pancetta, finely sliced, then cut into 5mm pieces plus an extra Rose 6 thin slices (one each)
  • 400g spaghetti
  • 150g butter
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 dried red chilli or a good pinch of dried chilli flakes
  • olive oil
  • 120g Parmesan, grated

Gently heat the butter in a heavy-based saucepan. Add the onion and cook gently for 15-20 minutes, then add the pancetta and garlic. Turn down the heat, stir and continue to cook for a further 10 minutes. You can turn up a bit again at the end if you want the pancetta to crisp up.  Season well with salt, pepper and the dried chilli. Stir in the parsley.

Heat a small frying pan, brush with oil, and fry the slices of pancetta to crisp them. Drain on paper towels.

Cook the spaghetti in a large saucepan of boiling salted water until al dente. Drain, but scoop out a few tablespoons of the cooking water first. Throw the spaghetti into the warm parsley mixture and toss, adding a little of the pasta water to help the sauce coat the pasta.

Serve with lots of Parmesan and a slice of pancetta on each bowl.

(Original recipe from River Cafe Green by Rose Gray & Ruth Rogers, Martin Gray, 2000.)

 

 

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Rainbow noodle salad

A healthy salad for lunchboxes and a good use for red cabbage which always seem impossible to get through. If you have a mandolin it will make short work of shredding the vegetables.

Rainbow Veg Noodle Salad – serves 2

  • 50g medium egg noodles
  • sesame oil
  • juice of ½ a lime
  • 1 tbsp peanut butter
  • 1 tbsp rice wine vinegar
  • 1 carrot, peeled and julienned
  • ½ a red pepper, thinly sliced
  • ¼ of a small red cabbage, thinly sliced
  • 50g sugar snap peas
  • 1 scallion, sliced
  • 1 tsp toasted sesame seeds

Cook the noodles according to the instructions on the packet, then rinse under cold water and drain well.

Whisk 2 tsp of the sesame oil, the lime juice, peanut butter and rice wine vinegar together in a large bowl. Add a splash of boiling water if the dressing appears too thick.

Add the noodles, carrot, pepper, cabbage and sugar snaps and toss to coat.

Divide between 2 containers and scatter with the scallion and sesame seeds.

(Original recipe from BBC Olive Magazine, February, 2014.)

 

Slow cooked squid in brandy and cream

This is cooked quick and hot, then low and slow. A bit disconcerting if your used to cooking squid quickly to avoid the rubber band effect but have faith the result is tender squid in a rice sauce.

Wine Suggestion: This went perfectly with a Bodegas Tradición dry Oloroso VORS whose very refined character plus muscle and body stood up to the rich brandy, cream and tomato flavour, while the deep nutty flavours complimented the squid. A dry, smooth and round wine with a gentle and persistent texture.

Squid with Brandy & Cream – serves 4

  • 50g butter
  • 1 large onion, finely diced
  • 3 thyme sprigs, leaves stripped
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 6 garlic loaves, chopped
  • 300ml passata
  • 1kg cleaned large squid
  • sunflower oil
  • 125ml brandy
  • 4 tbsp double cream
  • flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped (to serve)

Melt the butter in a casserole dish, then add the onion, thyme and bay leaves with plenty of black pepper. Fry gently for about 15 minutes or until the onion is soft and golden. Stir in the garlic. Turn the heat off and stir in the passata, then leave to stand while you fry the squid.

Cut the squid in half lengthways, then chop each half widthways into ribbons. Cut the fins and tentacles to a similar size. Dry the squid well with paper towels.

Put a large frying pan over a high heat and wait until it get smoking hot. Add a glug of sunflower oil and about a third of the squid with a good pinch of salt. Fry hard, stirring occasionally, until well coloured. Repeat until all the squid has been browned. Put each batch into the casserole dish with the tomato sauce.

Put the casserole back over the heat and add 100ml water. Stir well and bring to a simmer. Add 100ml of brandy and put the lid back on. Simmer very gently for 40 minutes, then a further 20 minutes with lid ajar so the juice reduces a little. When the squid is tender stir in the rest of the brandy and the cream. Serve with chopped parsley sprinkled over.

(Original recipe by Valentine Warner in BBC Good Food Magazine, March 2010.)

 

Good Food March 2010

Greek salad

Perfect with many Greek dishes, but none mores than barbecued lamb cutlets or kebabs/souvlaki. You could also serve it as as starter with some crusty bread. A very popular salad in our house when the days get warmer. In fact, we blogged it here a few years ago and it’s still a firm favourite.

Greek Salad – serves 4

  • 450g ripe tomatoes
  • ½ a cucumber
  • 1 red onion (we only use half an onion)
  • 200g Greek feta cheese
  • 4½ tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp ouzo/Pernod
  • 2 tbsp chopped dill
  • 20 small black olives
  • large pinch of dried oregano – Greek if you can find it

Cut the tomatoes into chunky pieces and cut the cucumber in half lengthways and then across into thick slices. Slice the red onion as thinly as possible (a mandolin is good for this if you have one). Crumble the feta into chunky pieces.

To make the dressing whisk the olive oil, ½ tsp salt, the red wine vinegar, ouzo/Pernod and some black pepper in a large salad bowl. Add the tomatoes, cucumber and onions and toss gently. Add the feta, dill and olives and mix briefly.

Drizzle with more olive oil, sprinkle with the dried oregano and some coarsely ground black pepper.

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

Pesto Lasagne

Pesto Lasagne

A really quick and easy lasagne full of Spring flavours. You don’t have to buy fresh pesto from the fridge as this tends to be more oily and makes this dish very rich; we successfully used a jar from a shelf instead.

Wine suggestion: A grassy European styled Sauvignon Blanc which tends to have a longer, if cooler, growing season is a good match. Avoid the big flavoured Sauvignon’s with the kiwi / tinned asparagus flavours that you might typically find from NZ and Chile as these flavours clash a bit. Exceptions to this always exist like the Dog Point Marlborough Sauvignon, but a good Touraine or Sancerre would be our match.

Pesto Lasagne – serves 4 to 6

  • 190g jar of pesto
  • 500g tub mascarpone
  • 200g bag spinach, roughly chopped
  • 250g frozen peas
  • small pack of basil
  • small pack of mint
  • 12 fresh lasagne sheets
  • 85g Parmesan, finely grated
  • 50g pine nuts
  • Green salad & garlic bread to serve

Heat the oven to 180C/160 fan/gas 4.

Put the pesto, half the mascarpone and 250ml vegetable stock in a saucepan. Heat, stirring, until smooth and bubbling. Add the spinach and peas and cook for another few minutes until the spinach has wilted and the peas have defrosted. Add the herbs and season but go easy with the salt.

Put a third of this pesto mixture into the base of a baking dish (approx. 18 x 25cm). Top with 4 lasagne sheets, then repeat with 2 more layers of sauce and lasagne sheets, finishing with a layer of pasta. Mix some milk into the remaining mascarpone to make a sauce consistency, season then pour over the top of the dish. Sprinkle with the Parmesan and pine nuts, then bake for 35-40 minutes or until brown on the top and bubbling. Scatter over a few basil leaves before serving.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food Magazine, February 2014.)

Buttery chilli prawns

Prawns in their shells are more often a holiday treat for us but they’re so easy to do and it’s nice to eat dinner with your hands. Finger bowls of warm water and lemon slices are useful – or you could lick them 😉

Wine Suggestion: If you are serving this as a special treat for two then go for a good pink sparkling. We had this as on a Friday night and luckily had a half-bottle of Billecart Salmon Rosé champagne which turned it into an extra special evening. On nights when this isn’t an option you should find a good Fiano, Verdicchio or Alvarinho.

Buttery Chilli Prawns – serves 2

  • 25g butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 1 red chilli, finely chopped (leave the seeds in)
  • ½ tsp sweet paprika
  • 12-20 large raw ing prawns with shells (12 should be enough for a starter for 2, for a main course about 20 is better)
  • 1 lemon, juiced (plus a few extra slices for finger bowls if using)
  • ½ a small bunch of parsley, roughly chopped
  • crusty bread – warm it in the oven before serving

Melt the butter & oil in a frying pan. Add the garlic, chilli and paprika and cook for a coupled of minutes or until golden. Turn up the heat and throw in the prawns. Fry for a few minutes until they turn pink, don’t be tempted to cook them for any longer. Take the pan off the heat, season and stir in the lemon juice & parsley.

Serve with warm crusty bread for wiping the bowl.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

 

Feta salad with spinach, crispbread, sumac & pinenuts

Another success from Sam & Sam Clark of Moro. Great textures and interesting flavours. Works as a starter or a side with grilled meat.

Feta salad with spinach, crispbread, sumac & pinenuts – serves 4

  • 500g young spinach, washed and dried (in a salad spinner ideally)
  • 200g good-quality feta cheese, crumbled
  • 1 dessertspoon fresh oregano or marjoram leaves
  • 75g pinenuts, very lightly toasted
  • 25g butter
  • 2 pitta breads
  • ½ garlic clove, crushed to a paste with salt
  • 1 tbsp good-quality red wine vinegar
  • 2 tsp sumac
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and black pepper

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.

Melt the butter. Split the pitta in half lengthways and brush the melted butter on both sides. Put the pittas on a rack in the middle of the oven and bake for 10-15 minutes or until golden brown. Remove and cool.

Whisk the garlic, red wine vinegar, sumac, olive oil together to make a dressing. Season to taste with the salt and pepper.

Put the spinach, roughly broken crispbread, half the feta cheese, the oregano/marjoram and pinenuts into a large bowl. Pour over most of the dressing and toss together. Serve with the rest of the feta and dressing on top.

(Original recipe from Moro: the cookbook by Sam & Sam Clark, Ebury Press, 2001.)