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Posts Tagged ‘Starter’

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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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.)

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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)

 

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Conchiglie al Cavolo Nero

We’ve made this a couple times recently as  Cavolo Nero is around and we keep on being drawn to it. Especially as we’re starting to tire of root veg and looking forward to all the treats that will come with Spring.

The dish is  creamy and cheesy, with load of garlic and iron rich Cavolo Nero. Fairly rich for a main course in our opinion but absolutely perfect served in small starter portions.

If it suits you can blanch and dry the Cavolo nero and make the garlic puree in advance which leaves very little to do to get the dish on the table.

Wine suggestion: An old favourite came to the rescue here in the form of the Sartarelli Verdicchio dei Castelli di Jesi Classico Superiore “Tralivio” which has a great weight but also a freshness and vibrant texture. The flavour of the food isn’t shy, so make sure whatever you choose has enough body to cope.

Conchiglie al Cavolo Nero – serves 6 as a starter

  • 900g Cavolo Nero
  • 300ml double cream
  • 7 garlic cloves, peeled
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2-3 dried chillies, crumbled or 2 tsp chilli flakes (adjust to your heat preference)
  • 150g Parmesan, freshly grated
  • 250g conchiglie or other shell-shaped pasta

Remove the central stalk from the Cavelo Nero leaves and cut each one into 3 or 4 pieces. Blanch the leaves in boiling salted water for 3 minutes by which time they should be tender and bright green. Drain and dry in a clean tea towel.

Put the double cream and 5 of the whole garlic cloves into a pan and simmer until the garlic is soft, about 15 minutes. Purée in a blender.

In a separate pan, heat the olive oil and fry the remaining 2 garlic cloves, cut into thin slices, and the chilli. When the garlic has coloured, add the blanched Cavolo Nero, stir & season. Pour in the cream and garlic purée, bring to the boil, and cook for 5 minutes until the Cavolo Nero is coated and the sauce has thickened. Add the Parmesan.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water, then drain well before mixing well with the sauce.

(Original recipe from The River Cafe Cookbook by Rose Gray & Ruth Rogers, Ebury Press, 1995.)

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Setas al jerez

One of our local grocers had a pile of mushrooms of all sorts (it is the season) so we took the inspiration and had a delicious version of mushrooms on toast flavoured with sherry. Good quality sourdough, toasted, rubbed with a clove of garlic & drizzled with good olive oil to serve.

Wine suggestion: As we started with this for a much larger dinner with friends we opened a bottle of dry Oloroso sherry to accompany. We were lucky to have a bottle of the Hidalgo Oloroso VORS (average age 30yo) which was a complex, rich, nutty style of sherry with a wonderfully complex citrus peel, nutty and spicy nose. The palate is funky with profound, fresh, nutty, lemony complexity. The surprising citrus notes in the sherry lifted the mushrooms even further. Sherry of this quality is simply the best value fine wine in the world as we we kept on running out of descriptions of the taste, smell and finish of this.

Setas al jerez – Mushrooms with Sherry – serves 4

  • 400g wild mushrooms
  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
  • 150ml fino or dry, old amontillado sherry
  • a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg
  • a small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped

Wipe the mushrooms clean with a damp cloth but don’t be tempted to soak or wash them in water.

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan, cook the onion gently for about 10 minutes or until soft and golden, then add the garlic and cook for another minute. Turn up the heat, add the mushrooms and cook for about 5 minutes until soft. Next add the sherry and nutmeg and cook for another minute, followed by the parsley, salt and black pepper.

Serve with toast that you have rubbed lightly with garlic and drizzled with your best olive oil.

(Original recipe from The Moro Cookbook, Ebury Press, 2001.)

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Spicy Prawns

These prawns, flavoured with lots of garlic and warm spices, make a simple but really tasty starter. Serve with plenty of bread for mopping up the juices.

Wine Suggestion: We really like unoaked, slightly lighter, Spanish reds with this dish especially with 30 minutes in the fridge to give a cool edge to them. A newish find has been the Jesus Romero “Rubus”, a delicious blend of Garnacha, Tempranillo and Syrah which has a purity and persistence of fruit that charms us every time.

Spicy Prawns – serves 4

  • 300g raw peeled king prawns
  • 4tbsp olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 tsp paprika
  • 1½ tsp ground cumin
  • ¾ tsp ground ginger
  • a good pinch of cayenne pepper or chilli powder
  • 5 tbsp chopped coriander or parsley

Heat the oil with the garlic and spices in a large frying pan. Keep stirring until aromatic, then throw in the prawns and fry quickly over a medium heat until pink – about a minute. Stir in the coriander or parsley and serve.

(Original recipe from Foolproof Mediterranean Cookery by Claudia Roden, BBC Worldwide Ltd., 2003.)

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Broad bean & mozzarella salad

A real taste of summer and a smashing way to start a dinner party. Serve on a big wooden board with a glass of something bubbly.

Wine Suggestion: Go white, go Italian, go fresh and textured. We’d recommend a good Pecorino from Abruzzo or Marches or maybe a Gavi or Soave.

Smashed broad bean and mozzarella salad – serves 4

  • 300g podded broad beans (you need about 1kg in their pods to get this amount) or 300g frozen broad beans
  • 1 lemon, juiced
  • 100g pecorino, grated
  • handful of mint leaves
  • handful of basil leaves
  • olive oil
  • sourdough/country style bread, 8 slices toasted (we toasted ours on the barbecue), rubbed with garlic & drizzled with olive oil
  • 2 balls buffalo mozzarella

Blanch the podded broad beans in boiling water for 2 minutes, drain and pop the green bean out of the papery skin.

Smash the double-podded broad beans with a good pinch of sea salt in a big pestle & mortar. Add the lemon juice, pecorino and herbs (keep a few leaves to garnish) and 4tbsp olive oil and mix together. Season well and pile onto the toast.

Tear the mozzarella into chunks and set on top of the broad bean mash, Finish with another drizzle of oil, some black pepper and a few herbs.

(Original recipe by Ben O’Donoghue for BBC Olive Magazine, August 2005.)

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