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We’re back from our holidays and sadly no longer living on a diet of bread, cheese & wine (bread, cheese & ice cream for Orlaith – age 5). This is a nice simple pasta dish for a Friday night.

Wine Suggestion: our choice is a fresh Chenin blanc, the Chateau Hureau Argile which has a crisp freshness as well as great depth matching the creamy chicken.

Chicken, Rocket & Pine Nut Pasta – serves 4 to 6

  • 450g penne pasta
  • 6 tbsp pine nuts
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 tsp fresh thyme leaves
  • 4 large chicken breast fillets, sliced into thin strips
  • 4 tbsp crème fraîche
  • 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
  • 100g rocket or watercress, remove any tough stalks
  • Parmesan shavings, to serve

Cook the pasta in lots of boiling salty water until al dente.

Heat a frying pan and lightly toast the pine nuts, then set aside.

Add 1 tbsp of oil to the pan and sauté the onion, garlic & thyme for a few minutes, then tip into a bowl and set aside.

Add another tbsp of oil to the pan and cook the chicken strips for 2-3 minutes and season lightly, then turn and cook for another few minutes, until cooked through and lightly browned. Return the onion mixture and stir to combine. Stir in the crème fraíche and mustard, then bring to a gentle simmer but don’t let it boil.

Drain the pasta and return to the pan, then pour in the creamy chicken and add the rocket or watercress. Toss lightly to combine and season.

Divide between warm bowls and garnish with the toasted pine nuts and some Parmesan shavings.

(Original recipe from Neven Maguire’s Complete Family Cookbook, Gill Books, 2016.)

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Spicy potatoes

We loved these Indian spiced potatoes and they were great for bulking out some leftover saag paneer that definitely would not have satisfied our hungry bellies.

Spicy Potatoes – serves 4

  • 800g potatoes, peeled and cut into small chunks
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp mustard seeds
  • 1 tsp turmeric
  • 2 tsp garam masala
  • 140g frozen peas

Cover the potatoes in cold salted water and bring to the boil. Simmer for 5 mins or until just tender, then drain and allow to steam dry for a few mins.

Heat the oil in a frying pan and fry the spices for a minute until fragrant. Throw in the potatoes and toss well so they are coated in the spices. Gently fry for 5-10 mins until golden, then add peas, mix well and cook for another 3-4 minutes. Season well before serving.

(Original recipe from BBC Good Food)

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Everyday Palestinian Salad

We love a chopped salad and this one in particular is a handy one to have up your sleeve. We served with a Palestinian rice dish but it would be suitable for all sorts of eventualities.

Everyday Palestinian Salad – serves 4

  • 4 Persian cucumbers or 1 regular cucumber
  • 3 medium tomatoes
  • 1 red pepper
  • 10g parsley leaves, finely chopped
  • 10g mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • juice of a lemon

Slice the cucumbers in half and remove the seeds with a teaspoon. Finely chop into 1cm dice.

Scoop the seed out of the tomatoes and chop into similar sized pieces to the cucumber. Do the same with the red pepper and put all three into a large bowl.

Dress the salad with the herbs, olive oil, lemon juice, and plenty of salt and black pepper.

(Original recipe from Zaitoon by Yasmin Khan, Bloomsbury, 2018.)

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Maqloubeh: rice with aubergines & peppers

We had to change our plans at the last minute last weekend and instead of spending it away, and enjoying someone else’s cooking, we ended up at home with an empty fridge. Thankfully we could find all we needed for this fresh Palestinian dish in the local veg shop. The recipe is from Zaitoon by Yasmin Khan – we can’t get enough of this book! Really good served with some yoghurt, pickled chillies and a simple Palestinian salad but it would also make a great side dish for a crowd with some barbecued meat or fish.

Wine Suggestion: as this is both a characterful and elegant dish we’d recommend a fuller bodied white with hints of spice and freshness; a good Alsace Pinot Gris springs to mind first. However, we went a little different and chose the Zuani Vigne Collio Bianco, a traditional blend of Pinot Grigio, Chardonnay, Friuliano and Sauvignon Blanc from the north-east of Italy. Layers of freshness and fruit, hints of different spices and an elegant, refined texture. So underrated as a wine and worth seeking out.

Upside- down rice with aubergines & peppers (Maqloubeh) – serves 6

  • 2 medium aubergines, cut into 2cm thick slices
  • 2 red peppers, trimmed and sliced
  • light olive oil
  • leaves from a few sprigs of thyme
  • 1 garlic bulb, separated into cloves but not peeled
  • 2 medium tomatoes, thickly sliced
  • 300g white basmati rice
  • ¾ tsp cumin seeds
  • ¾ tsp coriander seeds
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • ½ tsp ground allspice
  • 1 tsp ground turmeric
  • 500ml hot vegetable stock or chicken stock
  • 40g salted butter or extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tsp Aleppo pepper (pul biber) or ½ tsp chilli flakes
  • handful of coriander leaves, chopped

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

Put the aubergines and peppers on separate baking trays. Drizzle both with light olive oil, ½ tsp salt and thyme leaves, then scatter the garlic cloves amongst the peppers. Put the trays into the oven to bake for 25-30 minutes. After 20 minute, add the tomatoes to the pepper tray.

Meanwhile, rinse the rice in cold water to remove excess starch (the water will run clear), then put into a large bowl of cold water to soak for 15 minutes. Drain and set aside.

Set the cooked vegetables aside to cool and pop the garlic cloves out of their skins.

Toast the cumin and coriander seeds in a dry pan over a medium heat until they smell good, then grind in a mortar and pestle and place in a jug with the cinnamon, allspice and turmeric. Add the hot stock and ¾ tsp of salt.

Melt half the butter or oil in a large saucepan. Arrange the aubergines to line the base of the buttery saucepan – keep it neat as they will end up on top of the finished dish. Add the tomatoes, roasted garlic and peppers. Spoon in the rice, then pour over the hot stock and 150ml of boiled water. Bring the pan to the boil, then reduce the heat and cover with a clean tea towel and a lid. Cook for 20 minutes, then switch off the heat and leave to rest for 5 minutes.

Melt the rest of the butter or oil in a small saucepan and stir in the Aleppo pepper or chilli.

Turn the rice pan upside down onto a serving platter, then spoon over the Aleppo pepper butter and scatter over the chopped coriander before serving.

(Original recipe from Zaitoon by Yasmin Khan, Bloomsbury, 2018.)

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Spiced Cauliflower Roast

We try to eat fairly light mid-week with an emphasis on veg and not too many carbs. It’s much easier in the summer when the nights are bright and we don’t crave comfort food the same way.

Today is the first Monday of June, it’s been grey and lashing with rain all day and it feels far from summery, but we live in hope. So there is loads going on in this roasted cauliflower dish – hot chilli, cooling yoghurt, sour pomegranate, fresh herbs and crispy chickpeas. Just what we needed.

Wine Suggestion: A great match is the mildly unfashionable, but very beloved by wine enthusiasts, Mosel Riesling. For simplicity the Dr Loosen Estate Riesling which balances a lighter body with a good depth and personality; light alcohol and body but a dancing, full flavour.

Spiced Cauliflower Roast – serves 4

  • 50g butter, softened at room temperature
  • 2 tsp chilli flakes
  • ½ tsp sumac
  • ½ tsp allspice
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 cauliflower (about 1kg)
  • 2 x 400g tins chickpeas, drained and rinsed
  • small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, chopped
  • small bunch of coriander, chopped
  • small bunch of mint, chopped
  • 1 red onion, very finely chopped
  • 200g cherry tomatoes on the vine
  • 50g pine nuts, toasted
  • pomegranate molasses

FOR THE FETA DRESSING:

  • 100g good-quality feta
  • 100g Greek yoghurt
  • juice of ½ lemon

Heat the oven to 220C/200C fan/gas 7.

Beat the butter and spices with a wooden spoon in a small bowl.

Trim the outer leaves of the cauliflower and remove the very bottom of the root but not all of it as it will help hold it together. Bring a large pan of salty water to the boil. Cook the cauliflower for 3-4 minutes to soften slightly, then gently remove from the water and onto a baking tray.

Scatter the chickpeas around the cauliflower. Rub the cauliflower with the spiced butter, dot a little butter over the chickpeas and season everything. Roast in the oven for 35 minutes or until the cauliflower is completely tender and the chickpeas crispy.

Meanwhile, make the feta dressing by whisking the feta and yoghurt together in a large bowl until creamy. Add the lemon juice and whisk again, then season. Chill in the fridge until needed.

Remove the cauliflower and chickpeas from the oven and transfer the cauliflower onto a plate. Mix the remaining ingredients except the pomegranate molasses, with the warm chickpeas on the tray. Arrange the chickpeas on a platter and put the whole cauliflower on top. Spoon over the feta dressing and drizzle with a little pomegranate molasses to serve.

(Original recipe from BBCGoodFood)

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Radiatori with Sausage & Saffron

We’re getting a new kitchen and currently trying to clear the cupboards of as many ingredients as possible to save us having to pack them away. I don’t know why we bought a bag of radiatori pasta, maybe we just liked the look of it, but a quick flick of the books turned up the perfect recipe. Do find Italian sausages if you can (we used luganega but you can often find good pork and fennel ones too) as they’re a lot denser than our traditional sausages. Gone are the days when we used to beg Italian restaurants to sell us some!

Wine suggestion: the saffron gives this dish a refinement and character a little different to some other Italian / pasta recipes and we think that the newly classic wines of the Tuscan coast, specifically Bolgheri and northern Maremma suit the dish really well. For sheer value we’d open a bottle Argentiera’s Poggio ai Ginepri which is Cabernet Sauvignon led. However, if you can stretch further then the Cabernet Franc led wines of Biserno, like their il Pino would make this dish feel like a proper event – as all Friday night dishes should be!

Radiatori with Sausage & Saffron – serves 4 to 6

  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • a large onion, roughly chopped
  • 500g Italian sausages, remove the skins and break up the meat with your hands
  • ¼ tsp of saffron threads
  • 600ml passata
  • 500g radiatori pasta
  • basil & grated pecorino (to serve)

Warm the oil in a heavy casserole. Add the onion with a pinch of sea salt and cook over a medium-low heat for about 10 minutes or until softened.

Turn the heat up, then add the sausagemeat, keep breaking it up with your spoon if needed, and stir until it loses its raw appearance, then add the saffron and passata. Bring to a bubble and turn the heat down low and simmer gently for 40 minutes.

Place a lid on the casserole and turn off the heat, then cook the pasta in lots of boiling, salty water for the time on the packet. Reserve a few ladlefuls of pasta water before you drain it.

Tip the pasta into the sauce and toss together, adding a bit of pasta water to help it come together if needed. Serve sprinkled with basil and pecorino.

(Original  recipe from At My Table by Nigella Lawson, Chatto & Windus, 2017.)

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Braised Lamb with Spring VegetablesA great dish for when you want to eat spring food but it’s chilly outside. Leftovers taste great the next day too. Serve with new potatoes.

Wine Suggestion: This works superbly with Syrah and if you’d like to taste something different then the Insolgio del Cinghiale from Tenuta Biserno which is a Syrah, Cabernet Franc blend from the Maremma in Italy is well worth finding. A wine that shows a new side to Syrah and that Italy also has some superb sites for this grape, especially in a blend.

Braised lamb with spring vegetables – serves 4

  • 2 tbsp plain flour
  • 600g lamb neck fillet, trimmed of excess fat and cut into 3cm pieces
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 6 baby leeks, sliced
  • 4 shallots, halved
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • 700ml lamb stock or chicken stock
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 2 sprigs of rosemary
  • finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • 150g Chantenay carrots, halved lengthways if large
  • 100g fine green beans, halved
  • 150g fresh or frozen peas
  • 150g fresh or frozen broad beans
  • new potatoes, to serve

Put the flour into a large freezer bag and season well with salt and pepper. Add the lamb pieces to the bag and shake to coat in the flour. Tip the lamb out into a sieve to get rid of excess flour.

Heat 1 tbsp of the oil in a flameproof casserole over a medium heat. Brown the meat in batches, then remove with a slotted spoon onto some kitchen paper.

Add the remaining tablespoon of oil to the casserole and add the leeks, shallots, and garlic. Cook over a medium heat for a few minutes.

Return the meat to the casserole and add the stock, bay leaf, rosemary, and lemon zest. Season well and bring to a simmer, skim off any scum, then cover and simmer gently for 1½ hours.

Add the carrots, return to the boil, then simmer gently, uncovered, for 10 minutes to reduce the sauce. Add the green bean, peas, and baby broad beans. Return to the boil and simmer for another 10 minutes, or until the vegetables are just tender and the sauce has thickened slightly.

Remove the rosemary and bay leaf and serve with new potatoes.

(Original recipe from Family Kitchen Cookbook by Caroline Bretherton, DK, 2013.)

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