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Posts Tagged ‘Starter’

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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Pan fried king prawns

These are amazing!!!!! Pick up some prawns and make them tonight.

Pan-fried King Prawns (daeha jjiim) – serves 2 as a starter

  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • ½ cm piece of ginger, peeled and finely grated
  • 2 tsp soy sauce
  • 2 tsp roasted sesame seed oil
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 1 tsp vegetable oil
  • 150g king prawns, shelled
  • 1 spring onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp roasted pine nuts, roughly chopped

Combine the garlic, ginger, soy sauce, sesame seed oil and honey together to make a sauce.

Heat the vegetable oil in a pan over a high heat. When it’s very hot, add the prawns and cook for a minute, then turn them over. Add the sauce and cook for another minute until cooked through.

Serve immediately with the spring onion and pine nuts sprinkled over the top.

(Original recipe from Our Korean Kitchen by Jordan Bourke & Regina Pyo, W&N, 2015.)

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Marinated Piquillo peppers

So easy to prepare, but the real key is getting top quality roasted peppers. If you can find Navarrico Piquillo peppers from Spain then rejoice. They are expensive but the tin is jammed full so you will get several tasty dishes out of it.

Wine Suggestion: This dish works great with an extra dry and savoury Sherry and our pick is a dry Amontillado which is salty, savoury, nutty and yet with super low acidity it is a perfect balance to the sweet, smokey and piquant peppers.

Pimientos del piquillo aliñados (Marinated piquillo peppers) – serves 4

  • 225g piquillo peppers (see above)
  • 1 clove of garlic, thinly sliced
  • 1 tbsp sherry vinegar
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • a handful of roughly chopped flat-leaf parsley

Drain the peppers and either leave whole or tear roughly. Toss with the rest of the ingredients, season with sea salt and black pepper, and leave to allow the flavours to come together for 30 minutes or so.

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

 

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Spanakopita

The classic spinach & feta combination never gets tired. These savoury Greek pastries are delicious and very easy to make. We worked out a production line (thanks Tricia & Orla) and had them assembled in no time! Great as a starter or snack with drinks. Perfect entertaining food.

Wine Suggestion: If you can find an Assyrtiko,  a crisp and delicious Greek white, then you’ve got a great match. Unfortunately it can be hard to find good Greek wines so stick to the Mediterranean and search for a Fiano or Greco di Tufo from Italy. Failing this we’ve had crisp Touraine Sauvignon Blancs with this as well to great effect.

Spanakopita (Spinch, mint & feta pastries) – makes 18-20

  • 500g spinach
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • ½ small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 scallions, trimmed and finely chopped
  • 100g Greek feta cheese
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tbsp finely grated Greek kefalotiri cheese or Parmesan
  • a pinch of finely grated nutmeg
  • 2 tbsp chopped mint
  • 250-275g pack of filo pastry (about 6 sheets)
  • 100g butter, melted

Wash and dry the spinach (remove the stalks if they look tough). Finely shred the leaves.

Heat the oil in a large pan, add the onion and cook gently until soft but not browned. Gradually add the spinach, a handful at a time, until it has all wilted. Tip into a colander and drain, pressing out the liquid with a wooden spoon, then return to the pan with the scallions and cook for 1 minute. Leave to cool.

Crumble the feta into a large bowl and roughly mash with a fork – you can leave it a bit chunky. Mix in the eggs, Parmesan, the spinach mixture, nutmeg, mint and season with salt and pepper.

Preheat the oven to 180C/Gas Mark 4.

Unroll the sheets of filo and cut the stack lengthways into strips about 7.5cm wide. Brush the top layer with melted butter. Put a heaped teaspoonful of the filling in the centre of one strip, at the end closest to you, and fold one bottom corner of the pastry diagonally over the filling, so that the corner touches the opposite side to make a triangle. Then fold over the filled triangular corner, and keep folding it along the whole strip in a triangular parcel. Repeat to make all the spanakopita.

Brush the undersides of each parcel with more butter and place on a lightly buttered baking tray. Brush the tops with butter and bake for 25 minutes or until crisp and golden brown.

These are best served straight from the oven while the pastry is still crispy but they are also good at room temperature.

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

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