Zucchine, limone e fagoli

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Courgette ribbons with cannellini beans and a lemon dressing

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One here for a friend of mine, Annie Mihell. Saw this recipe, made it for lunch and thought she would love it – so let’s see!

For 4

4 courgettes

1 lemon

400 gm tin of cannellini beans

Some chopped chives

A handful of chopped flat leaf parsley

Salt and black pepper

2 tbsps of extra virgin olive oil

Method

Slice the courgettes thinly lengthways using a swivel blade peeler. Avoid the centre of the courgettes as they are quite bitter for a dish like this. Bring a pan of water to the boil and add the strips for 1 minute, then drain well. Pop into a large salad bowl.

Grate over the zest of half the lemon and squeeze in the juice of the whole lemon. Add the beans, chives and parsley. Season with salt and pepper.

Pour over the oil and mix well. Leave to marinate for at least 5 minutes.

Serve at room temperature with crusty bread. Summer squeezed and sliced for a salad!

Beanz do not have to mean Heinz!

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Beanz do not have to mean Heinz!

This is a recipe I first came across in Tuscany, though I have had similar hearty soups in Rome and Sicily. Nonetheless, it is redolent of all that is fabulous about the Mediterranean and its warmth permeates every mouthful. Close your eyes and you will be sitting by the sea sensing the magic of the Med through every pore.

And it is, as ever, so simple. Why oh why does anyone ever contemplate buying a tinned soup? I am at a loss for an answer. Speed? Cost? Certainly not flavour.

Anyway, here we go. Do this one. Please.

2 tbsp olive oil
1 celery stick chopped
1 onion chopped
1 large carrot chopped
1 litre of chicken or veg stock
400 gm can of cannellini beans drained
400 gm can of borlotti beans drained
Sprigs of fresh thyme and rosemary
1 bay leaf
8 rashers of prosciutto – or you could, at a pinch, use streaky smoked bacon
4 good Sicilian sausages – or, frankly, any top quality bangers with flavour

Heat the oil in a large casserole pan or stock pot. Add the vegetables and a little rock salt and black pepper. Cook gently for 10 minutes. Add the stock, beans, thyme, rosemary and bay leaf. Bring to the boil and simmer for another ten minutes.

Lift out the herbs with a slotted spoon. Bin. Use a stick blender and whizz to a rough chunky but creamy texture.

Cook the sausages how ever which way you fancy – grilling possibly best for this recipe. Allow to cool a tad, then slice each sausage into 4 or 5 pieces.

Add to the soup, and pan fry gently the prosciutto until crispy. Add a rasher or two to each bowl. Serve this dish of the Gods with crusty bread and a good hearty glass of pinotage or other suitable firm red. The sausages are not necessary but make it a real tummy rumbler of a meal. 

Enjoy with or without the sausage…but be bold.

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Happy New Year! A tasty way to bring in 2014!

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Happy New Year! A tasty way to bring in 2014!

Last night was a joyfully easy evening – good company, good wine plus tastes and flavours to salivate the soul. It began with a nice, crisp and fruity Sancerre whilst we waited for my good friend Annie’s starter to appear – gorgeous medjool dates stuffed with stilton and wrapped in parma ham, drizzled in olive oil and baked in an oven at 200c for 20 minutes til crisp and unctuous.

Main course was based on a recipe from Nigel Slater’s new book ‘Eat’ – highly recommended!

Chicken thighs marinated for an hour in olive oil, dried chilli flakes and crushed garlic, roasted in the oven at 200c for 30 minutes – I added more fresh red chilli to Nigel’s recipe and a little squeeze of fresh lemon. I baked potatoes, and when they were ready, split them, scooped out the flesh and mixed it with butter and grated parmesan – popped them back in the oven for 5 minutes once the chicken was ready. Best part was the silky cannellini bean dish.

2 x 400 gm of cannellini beans in a pan with 200 ml of crème fraîche – warm it through then add a little salt and a couple of grinds of black pepper. Mash with a potato masher and serve with the chicken and spuds. Dreamy…really dreamy!

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The gorgeous juices left over from the chicken I put to one side and used as the base for a New Year’s day vegetable soup.

I kept to white last night – prosecco, champagne and Sancerre. I enjoyed every minute of the evening – and the simple supper sumptuously eased in the new year.

Have a great year everyone! So many recipes to look forward to – so much to share! Cheers!

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Shoulder of fortune…

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Shoulder of fortune...

I last made this dish back in March (recipe March 30th) but I have always only ever done previously cooked it with a leg – but a good friend of mine – a lovely lady called Liza – let me, very kindly, have a shoulder of lamb from one of her own recently slaughtered beasts. And it was tremendous – cooking lamb straight on the rack for me is one of, if not the best, ways to treat this fine meat. It went in for 3 hours on 160c. Perfection. It oozed taste and succulence. Below it, I had popped the leeks, chopped, 2 red onions sliced and 5 cloves of garlic, halved in a tray of olive oil and roasted then for 10 minutes before adding bay leaves, a bouquet garni and 2 tins of drained cannellini beans this time, plus 1 and a half litres of chicken stock. It sat under the lamb and caught all its fabulous juices. I had scored the lamb first and rubbed in a garam masala mix, which gave it a wonderful warmth for a Sunday.

If you have never tried it – please, please do! It is magical.

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IMG_4494All the good things in life on a plate…