Partidge in a pear tree? No….red wine!

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Such suppers are simply a treat and give a real feeling of early Christmas merriment. This is a warming, rounded, fulsome dish that leaves you feeling replete and at one with the world. It is simplicity itself and a partridge per person is practically perfect.

For 2

2 partridges
salt and freshly ground black pepper
25g/1oz butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 medium onion, finely sliced
100 gm lardons
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 tbsp plain flour
200ml/7fl oz red wine
350ml/12fl oz chicken stock
2 tbsp cranberry sauce or redcurrant jelly
4 potatoes peeled, cut into 3 pieces each and par boiled for 10 minutes
Handful of chopped flat leaf parsley

Season the partridges all over with black pepper and salt and rub in.

Melt the butter with the oil in a large flame-proof casserole or your largest saucepan over a medium heat. Add the partridges to the casserole, breast-side down, and fry for 1-2 minutes, or until nicely browned. Turn and fry on each of the remaining three sides for a further minute until browned all over. Remove from the casserole and put on a plate.

Reduce the heat and add the onion, lardons and thyme to the casserole. Fry gently for 5-6 minutes, or until the onions are softened and the lardons are beginning to brown, stirring regularly.

Sprinkle the flour into the pan and stir well. Cook for about five minutes, then add the wine and chicken stock. Spoon the cranberry sauce or redcurrant jelly on top and bring to a simmer, stirring constantly. Gently return the partridges to the pan and cover with a lid. Cook over a low heat for 30 minutes.

Then add the potatoes and cook for a further 30-40 minutes, or until the birds are very tender and the sauce has thickened. Pick out the thyme and adjust the seasoning to taste. Serve on warmed plates and sprinkle over the chopped parsley.

Tis the season to be merry and this one will have you purring with quiet satisfaction.

Carbonara…classico!

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This is the simplest supper supreme – yet it needs care and love and attention. Be patient – use the best ingredients and you cannot…well not really… go wrong…really.

Ingredients for 4

100 gm lardons

1 clove of garlic peeled and crushed

400 gram linguine or spaghetti

3 free range eggs

75 grams of grated parmesan

Salt and black pepper

A tiddly bit of cream- if you wish

Put the water on to boil for the pasta with a little oil and salt in. Pop the pasta in for 10 minutes or until al dente. Pan fry the crushed garlic and the lardons til just crispy then take off the heat. Warm a bowl – I use a stainless steel bowl and I pour in hot water to warm it. Crack into the bowl 3 eggs and then with a fork stir in the parmesan cheese. Add a decent grind or three of black pepper and a tiddly bit of salt. 

Drain the pasta. Add the hot pasta to the bowl with the eggs in and if you wish drizzle in a little single cream.

Add the lardons and crushed garlic mix with a little of the oil. Stir gently but quickly – around a minute then serve in bowls.

Oh this is so tasty and so wonderful and oh so often ruined by many restaurants – either they use far too much cream or over cook it and curdle it to oblivion.

With care this is the ultimate simple supper dish.

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My sous chef, Pip, imparting some last minute tips on the perfect carbonara….

4 Cheese Macaroni makes Monday’s supper magical…

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4 Cheese Macaroni makes Monday supper magical...

This is one of those dishes that is simply a sensory delight. It transforms a dull clichéd pasta and cheese dish into a veritable dish of the Gods. It looks good, it smells unbelievable and the texture is phenomenal. It is a dish to leave home for, to marry for, to fight for. I cannot tell you how good it is – but, and I know I wax lyrical rather too often at times – this dish is really worth waxing about – it is fabulous in every sense of the word. Please – please – please make it – and make it soon. Throw all other macaroni recipes in the bin.

For 4

500 gms pasta – use macaroni – I used a mix from my odds and sods tin – very home should have one
Sea salt
Freshly ground black pepper
Olive oil
2 large teaspoons of oregano
75 gms Parmesan cheese, freshly grated, plus a little extra for grating
100 gms Taleggio cheese, roughly chopped – my favourite …mmmm
100 gms mascarpone cheese
1 ball of mozzarella cheese
75 gms of lardons pan fired and put to one side
A sprinkle of dried chilli seeds

Preheat the oven to 200ºc. Cook the pasta in a pan of boiling water for 10 minutes, then drain in a colander and keep back a little of the cooking water.

Heat the olive oil in a large heavy-based frying pan, add the oregano and fry gently for a minute, then turn off the heat. Add the cooked pasta to the oregano oil (this is a vital part of the process and adds immensely to the sensory experience of this dish- I promise), along with a couple of spoonfuls of the reserved cooking water and the parmesan, taleggio and mascarpone.

Return to a medium heat and toss and stir around until most of the cheese has melted and you have a seriously goo style sauce – you may need to add a little more of the reserved cooking water. Add a short sharp shock of sea salt and two or three grinds of black pepper, then tip it all into an earthenware dish. Add the lardons. Add the mozzarella sliced into slivers and sprinkle over the extra parmesan. Then add the sprinkle of chilli seeds. Bake the macaroni cheese in the preheated oven for 10 minutes. Remove and stick the dish under a preheated grill until golden brown.

I served it with a rocket salad and a fine bottle of Primitivo from Puglia – a favourite wine of mine.

My Monday is now complete. I can face the rest of the week- all because of this dish.

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Pine nut & Pepper Pasta Perfection on a plate…oh, ok…in a bowl…

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Pine nut & Pepper Pasta Perfection on a plate..ok..a bowl

Right, just got a few minutes whilst I am poaching a chicken for supper and, before I do the rice,  to tell you what has been happening- well work has commenced once more, and yet with the sun still shining all is still fine soul-wise. So, suppers recently have been simple and of the ‘ok what have we got hanging out in the fridge variety’. Last night I just got out several items that nodded politely to me as I perused the cupboards…the general consensus was a pasta dish – and I wanted to do something around my standard courgette and lardon pasta dish that my kids love so much. Something a little more substantial still.

So.

I pan fried two diced courgettes with two cloves of chopped garlic, 100 gm of lardons and then in a moment of recklessness I threw in 75 gm of pine nuts and the chopped stems of several basil stalks. A dash of dried oregano too, then I added a red pepper cut into match stick slices and two mushrooms, very, very finely chopped – why? – my daughter doesn’t like them, so the smaller they are, the less she is likely to see them…and she didn’t! Then I sprinkled over some dried chilli flakes. This all combined pleasantly for about ten minutes. Once it looked just right – I drizzled on a little more good olive oil and waited for the rigatoni to cook. Then I drained it – added a portion to each bowl and spooned on a serving of the heavenly pine nut / pepper mix. And of course, we all shaved parmesan on it to our heart’s content – it was a marriage made in my kitchen!  It looked wonderfully colourful and it tested all the taste buds.

So, I have to head back to the kitchen now – pardon the rush!

Enjoy the coming weekend where ever you reside…and keep in touch!

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Clear up Paella…

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Clear up Paella...

Off to my Menorcan paradise this weekend for two weeks so having to cook dishes that use up what is in the cupboards or fridge. So tonight was a bit of a poor man’s paella – but though I had no chicken or chorizo – i had to use 100 gm of lardons instead of the latter – the resulting flavour was terrific – and there is none left! So I guess it worked! I used up the red and green peppers I had left and about 8oz of prawns that needed eating. Paella is such a sexy dish to cook anytime and the colours are so vibrant. I love, just love, cooking it.

Got to work out what to do with 4 cracking pork chops tomorrow! Cupboard is almost bare!