Roasted Red Pepper, Tomato and Garlic soup…Mmmm!

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Roasted Red Pepper, Tomato and Garlic soup...Mmmm!

How healthy were we last night! This is a really filling soup full of goodness, yumminess and all round smugness. And easy to do – although a soupcon of patience is required – excuse the potage pun.

Ingredients – enough for 4 or 5

6 red peppers, halved & deseeded
8 decent tomatoes – halved and seeds removed
3 cloves of garlic, skin on
600 ml of chicken or vegetable stock
50 gm bread crumbs
1 tbsp paprika
Bunch of coriander

Pop your red peppers and garlic on a baking tray and place in hot oven until skins start to blacken – about 15 minutes.

Remove garlic to one side – place peppers in a bowl and cover with cling film. After about 10 minutes or so, remove and skin – the skin will come off easily. Doesn’t matter if odd bit of black doesn’t – all adds to the flavour! Pop in a blender – blitz and add to a deep pan. Then blitz the toms – add to the pan. Pop the garlic out of its skin and add to the…yes…you guessed….pan! Add the breadcrumbs, half the coriander and the paprika. Then the hot stock. Stir well.

Bring to a low simmer and leave for about 15 minutes to warm right through. Check seasoning – mine needed none. Stock should give it all the salt it needs. Serve with more chopped coriander and a little more bread. We had some cold salami on the side too. Wonderful, warm and a tonic for weary winter bones.

Note to self – Must make this more often!!

A little Moroccan Magic makes Sunday sublime….

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A little Moroccan Magic makes Sunday sublime....

I saw this idea on a Jamie Oliver programme a while ago now – but I cannot remember which one! Anyway, this is my version using fabulously underrated shin beef – mine was from those lovely people at Parsonage Farm. I love the tactile nature of rubbing the beef in the early stages and the way this cut just melts in the mouth after serious slow cooking. We went to the pub whilst it was simmering! It suited our Sunday and slipped down a treat – highly recommended and great social food. I cooked it in a Dutch oven casserole pan – I know some folk cook it in a tagine – but I have never dabbled in those – yet. Anyway – this works and I have just finished the leftover warmed up inside a pitta for lunch today!

Ingredients for 4/5

750 gm shin beef, fat trimmed off and cut into serious cubes
2 small onions chopped
Bunch of fresh coriander
Half a butternut squash peeled and cubed
400 gm tin chickpeas
400 gm tin chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp of tomato sauce
600 ml of chicken or vegetable stock
Olive oil

Spice mix
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
1 tbsp ground cumin – I crushed cumin seeds in a mortar
1 tbsp ground ginger
1 tbsp paprika
Salt and black pepper

Mix all spice ingredients together and add to cubed beef in a bowl – with your hands run in to the beef until all the mix has been taken in. You can do this in advance if you wish.

Add a glug of olive oil to the pan – deep sided preferably – and gently pan fry the beef for about 5 minutes. Add the onion and half the coriander chopped. Fry for a further 5 minutes. Add the chickpeas and the tomatoes and then all apart form 100 gm of the stock – you are just keeping some back for later in case it starts to dry out a tad – but it shouldn’t.

Bring to the boil – stir well – reduce heat – pop some foil over then the lid and simmer for 2 hours on a low heat.

Then add the butternut squash cubes – a little more stock if needed. Put foil and lid back on.

Cook for another 1 and a half hours. Consistency should now be quite thick and the meat should be falling apart to the touch. Serve with cous cous and scatter on the remainder of the coriander.

This is a very satisfying autumnal dish – cheap too – and a great alternative to Sunday roasts!

Smoked paprika and pancetta chicken…

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Smoked paprika and pancetta chicken...

Today’s Sunday lunch was so simple I will not bore you with the recipe – even Simon on his simplest of days could sort this one out. Suffice to say that, with the rain dribbling down my windows, food with  an autumnal smokiness was needed – what better ingredients than chorizo and paprika…… I could almost feel the pagan pangs of bonfires and mist laden gatherings coursing through me as I assembled the dish – or maybe it was the the third glass of smoky shiraz… Anyway, I poured a glug or two of olive oil in the cavity of the free range bird, smothered her skin in paprika, then barded her with pancetta strips. She looked devilish. The smells from the oven as she cooked made me want to go out and do druid dances round my chiminea. I resisted.

I served the chicken with quartered roasted potatoes, to which I added a dozen slices of chorizo for the last ten minutes. Delightful. I also steamed some spinach in my wok. Then squeeze drained it – popped it back in the wok with a knob of butter and bags of black pepper for about two minutes on a high heat to let it meld together.

Everyone was a winner – even the cat got a slice or two of the paprika blessed bird. She is snoozing now…and I am going shortly to join her!

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Paella con verduras y jamón serrano…

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Paella con verduras y jamón serrano...

Last night I was once more in the mood for one of my favourite dishes…but this time I wanted to make one that centred on vegetables. I was very pleased with the result and the flavours were fresh and vibrant. There is no reason why you could not make this a completely vegetarian dish I guess, if you used veg stock instead of chicken and cut out the ham.
But that is not for me…..I wanted a hint of meat and the delicate wisps of serrano ham were a perfect match to the rainbow of veg. I reckon that this is also a very healthy dish- I’m not one for adding up this or working out that calory or carb wise – but I reckon this would be hard to beat for a colourful, healthy, reasonably quick dish that could not fail to impress your guests – or just you and yours!

Ingredients for 4 – with a little left over!

1 aubergine – or eggplant for my US friends! Halved, quartered lengthways and cubed
1 red pepper – deseeded and cut into squares or strips.
1 courgette – or zucchini! – halved, quartered lengthways and cubed
6 cloves of garlic
400 gm of paella rice – rinsed well under cold water
100 gm of serrano ham = cut lengthways down the centre then into strips
olive oil
125 ml of dry white wine – I only had cava in – I drink mostly red – but the cava worked just as well! Decadent!
1 litre chicken stock
Pinch of saffron – or colorante
Almost a tsp of smoky paprika
12 baby plum tomatoes, halved – or you could use cherry toms
Handful of chopped parsley

Add a good glug of oil to a paella pan- or huge frying pan if not – or a sauté pan would do – but for goodness sake go out and buy a paella pan tomorrow!

Once it is hot add the aubergine, pepper and courgette. Pan fry for about 5 minutes stirring all the time. Then add the garlic and leave for another 5 minutes. Add the serrano ham and fry for just a minute or so until it starts to colour and crisp a little. Add in the rice and move around the pan til all the grains look coated.

Then add the wine and let it bubble for a moment. Have a drink yourself. Then add the stock, saffron or colorante, and the paprika. Stir, and once it is bubbling, turn down to a very low heat and leave for 15 minutes stirring every now and then.

Then add the tomatoes and cook for about another 10 minutes or until the liquid has been absorbed. The rice should still have a little bite, be al dente, toothsome…you get the idea. Toss on the parsley – remove from the heat and let it rest for 5 minutes whilst you set out the plates and have another glass of something good.

Then serve!

I liked this as an alternative to my meatier, fishier version very much. Please get more paella into your life!

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Even my kitchen angels were impressed…..!

Patatas bravas…be bold my friends…be bold…

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Patatas bravas...be bold my friends...be bold...

Two of my favourite tapas that I make at home are tortilla and patatas bravas. The latter is often not done properly in some of the more touristy areas, where it can just be virtually chips with mayonnaise and a spicy ketchup.

This may be ok, but it ain’t patatas bravas, amigo!

Here is a very good version that produces a fairly authentic taste. To make the perfect patatas bravas, I roast the potatoes instead of frying them, which gives a less greasy, but equally crisp result (and is also considerably easier in most kitchens).

The creamy, unashamedly garlicky alioli-style sauce completes the dish perfectly – the Spanish equivalent of many students kebab van favourite, chips with ketchup and garlic sauce! Paired with a chilled Spanish beer, this is is just one of those unbeatable late night snacks.Can be a side dish, a tapa or an accompaniment. Whatever rocks your socks.

PATATAS BRAVAS

Serves 4-6
500g waxy potatoes
300ml olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
2 red chillis, finely chopped
400g tin chopped tomatoes
Tsp sugar
Tsp salt
1 tsp smoked paprika
2 tbsp sherry vinegar
1 egg
1 clove garlic, crushed

Preheat the oven to 200C. Peel the potatoes and cut into rough 2cm chunks. Put a roasting tray with 2 tbsp olive oil into the oven and leave to heat for 5 minutes, then take out, toss the potatoes in the hot oil, and bake for about 45 minutes until crisp and golden.

Meanwhile, make the sauces. Put 2 tbsp oil into a heavy-bottomed pan on a medium heat, and
cook the onion for about seven minutes until golden and soft. Add the chilli, and cook for another couple of minutes, then add the tomatoes, sugar, salt and smoked paprika and stir well.

Bring to the boil, and then turn down the heat and simmer for about 20 minutes until thick and dark. Take off the heat, add 1 tbsp sherry vinegar, and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

To make the alioli, put the egg in the small bowl of a food processor along with the garlic and 1tbsp sherry vinegar. Add 1 tbsp olive oil and whizz until incorporated, then drizzle in the rest of the olive oil with the motor running, until you have creamy mayonnaise-style sauce.

Season to taste. (You can also use a hand blender, but it’s harder to drizzle and beat at the same time.) Take the potatoes out of the oven and sprinkle with a little salt.

Spread the tomato sauce on to the plates, put the potatoes on top, then serve with a small bowl of  alioli on the side and serve immediately.

The whole point of these is the ‘bravas’ part. If it ain’t a heat challenge then there is no bravado! Be bloody, bold and resolute!

Tonight I served mine with some meanly pan fried belly pork – the flavours were fixatingly stunning.