Risi e bisi…. it’s easy peasy!

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Venetian Rice Dish with Pancetta and Peas

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This is one of those dishes that I have been meaning to get around to cooking for a while….I should have made it before – it is delicious!

Simplicity itself and considering the basic ingredients the result is remarkable. It satisfies the soul and calms the beast. It is awash with flavours.

For 4

60gm butter

3 tbsps olive oil

1 onion peeled and finely chopped

150 gm pancetta or smoky bacon

500gm frozen peas

A handful of chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

1.5 L of hot chicken or vegetable stock

400 gm arborio rice

50 gm parmesan grated

Good extra virgin oil for drizzling

Salt and pepper to taste

Melt 40 gm of the butter with the oil in a large sauté pan and fry the onion and pancetta for 5 minutes, stirring now and then, Add the peas with the parsley, and 2 ladlefuls of the hot stock. Simmer for 15 minutes – no lid – until the stock has evaporated.

Add the rice and stir gently on a medium heat for 2 minutes. Pour in 500 ml of the stock and continue to cook, stirring occasionally. As soon as the water has been absorbed add more stock, a ladleful at a time. Cook for 20 more minutes until the risotto looks a little like soup and the rice is cooked but still has a bite to it.

Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the remaining butter and parmesan. Cover with a lid and leave to rest for 3 minutes. Serve in warmed bowls and drizzle on a little olive oil at the table.

Autumnal bliss in a bowl.

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Sautéed mushrooms on garlic toast with a parmesan cream…

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Sautéed mushrooms on garlic toast with a parmesan cream...

Some things go just naturally together. You hear so often about colours that do or do not go together. Fashion revolves around colours and shapes, shades and cuts. Music is all about harmony and rhythm. So too with food. Food revolves around pairings and teamwork – flavour matchings, some forced, some natural, some accidental. Art is all about shades, textures, lines and colour matching. Beauty is in the eye of the beholder and beauty is all around us. It is here in Bonnie Lalley’s painting, capturing the delicate association of three wonders of nature – highlighting the vibrancy of three ingredients that magically meld together on the plate. Pork, mushrooms, garlic. And for me, of all the great cuts that the fabulous creature that is the pig supplies to our world, bacon is undoubtedly one item I could not live without.

Bonnie’s painting reminded me of one of my favourite special brunch dishes. Please try it and wallow in the way nature brings trios of tastes to our palates.

Sautéed mushrooms on garlic toast with a parmesan cream

For the mushrooms

A knob of butter
A drizzle olive oil
1 shallot, finely diced
2 handfuls of mushrooms of your choice, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1 tbsp sherry vinegar
A handful flatleaf parsley, chopped
A sprig fresh tarragon, roughly chopped
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

For the parmesan cream

200ml7fl oz double cream
40g/1½oz parmesan, finely grated

For the toast

4 thick slices of rustic bread
Extra-virgin olive oil, for drizzling
1 garlic clove, halved

For the bacon and eggs

4 slices smoked streaky bacon
1 tbsp vinegar
2 free-range eggs
2 sprigs parsley, to garnish

For the mushrooms, heat a frying pan over a medium heat and add the butter, olive oil and shallots. Fry for 2-3 minutes until softened then add the mushrooms. Increase the heat and fry the mushrooms for 2-3 minutes, or until the mushrooms are golden-brown around the edges. De-glaze the pan with the sherry vinegar, using a wooden spoon to scrape up any browned bits, the stir in the herbs. Season with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper. Keep warm.

For the parmesan cream, bring the cream to a boil in a small saucepan over a medium heat then whisk in the parmesan and some freshly ground black pepper. Simmer for 3-4 minutes or until reduced to a thick sauce consistency. Keep warm.

For the toast, preheat a griddle pan over a medium-high heat. Drizzle the bread with olive oil and toast on the griddle pan until crisp and golden-brown on both sides. Rub one side of each piece of toast with the garlic. Set aside and keep warm. Keep the griddle pan hot.

For the bacon and eggs, griddle the bacon rashers in the same pan you used for the toast until crisp and then set aside and keep warm.

Bring a saucepan of water to a simmer and pour in the vinegar. Crack the eggs into ramekins or cups and tip them gently into the water. Cook for 2 minutes or until the white is opaque and the yolk cooked to your liking- for me the eggs have to be soft and ready to run! Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper.

To serve, place the toast on serving plates, top with the mushrooms then the egg and lay over the bacon, spoon over the cream sauce and finish with a sprig of parsley.

These are ingredients that go together that were made for each other.

Just like Bonnie’s painting and my recipe!

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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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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Minty lamb in a red wine sauce on Parmesan mash…

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Minty lamb in a red wine sauce on Parmesan mash...

Just a really warming luscious simple lamb stew, perfect for autumnal nights. This is a favourite of mine though I do not make it often enough. Last night we had it for supper and we all remembered why we like it so much – velvety and filling and
soothing.

I used neck fillet cubed. 3 or 4 fillets should easily be enough for 4 of you
Plain flour for dusting / runny honey / half a bottle of a good red wine – I used a tempranillo / bunch of mint torn into shreds / 12 baby plum tomatoes / a clove of garlic peeled and left whole / black pepper / chicken stock cube / olive oil

I use a high sided stainless steel casserole with a lid – see my earlier blog on these highly versatile creatures. Coat the lamb pieces in the flour. Then drizzle over a little of the honey.
Pan fry the lamb in olive oil until browned lightly. Remove from pan and add to the casserole. Add the tomatoes and fry gently until starting to soften. Add to the lamb, pop in the garlic clove then add enough red wine to just cover the ingredients, then crumble in the chicken stock cube and stir.Toss in the mint but save some for last few minutes. Add a dash of tomato puree if you wish – depending on how strong you like your sauces. A dash of black pepper too. 

Bring to the boil then reduce heat to a simmer for about an hour and a half. Cover with foil first then put on the lid. Add rest of mint before serving. 

I ladled it onto a bed of pillowy soft parmesan mash – potatoes mashed with 100 gm of butter a tablespoon of cream and 50 gm or so of grated parmesan. 
Heaven on a plate.

Right, back to my wine and a bag of my favourite Seabrook’s Cheese and onion crisps! Enjoy your evening, people!

Perfect perky pork….

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Perfect perky pork....

All I am doing this evening is just sharing my supper with you…and it was all down to just wonderfully old fashioned succulent pork belly sourced from a local farm – Parsonage Farm in Upton. Good meat needs little frills, no fancy sauces – just love and attention. I scored the skin then rubbed it with rock salt, black pepper and thyme. No oil this time and it worked a dream. Crisp crackling and the juiciest tenderest mouth drenchingly perfect pork. It had a blast at 180c for 30 mins then an hour at 180c, then I let it rest for a while. I served it with steamed shredded savoy cabbage and parmesan mash – plus the jus from the meat with a little stock added and some pepper and thyme.
I drank with it, a rather fabulous wine from southern France, called Pigassou. That is all you need to know. A very fine and rewarding Monday supper. A happy week to you all!

Rocket fuelled Lazy Light Lunch…

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Rocket fuelled Lazy Light Lunch...

Busy Saturday doing lots of little really…so needed a light lunch that would tidy us over until supper – friends coming round so afternoon shopping trip to Salisbury was on the cards. Had a gorgeous ciabatta loaf which I sliced and grilled lightly on one side, then rubbed with babe Spanish tomatoes split in half – the shells I then pushed into each slice. I topped them with some sexy serrano ham, slivers of salty, sweet and tangy parmesan. Then a little rocket, some more olive oil and voila – a simple, yet just right lunch – I adore rocket – it just adds that pepperiness to such dishes and makes them even more appealing.

Hearty Artichoke Bake…

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Hearty Artichoke Bake...

We were in need of a simple tasty and quick lunch today – so I turned to a recipe from a South African couple who first served this at a friend’s birthday buffet. The ingredients sound highly implausible – how can they possibly combine to make anything edible – let alone tasty?

Well, my friends, believe me – this is a cracker of a dish – and I certainly could not guess how it was made when I first sampled it. Try it – for lunch, I used the following ingredient amounts which are perfect for a buffet dish- but I split it in to two smaller dishes – cooked one and popped one in the fridge for the weekend. I think you could also fill individual ramekins as a starter too.

INGREDIENTS

1 tin of artichoke hearts
3-6 garlic cloves – I used 4 – up to you how garlicky you feel!
1 430ml bottle of good mayo
1 wedge of parmesan

Drain artichokes and slice in to smaller pieces – add to a bowl.
Slice garlic into slivers and add to the artichokes. Empty the bottle of mayo into the mix and then grate the parmesan wedge in also. Mix it all mellifluously together. Place in to an oven dish and pop into a preheated oven – 180c – for about 20 minutes until the top is golden brown. Let it cool for about 5 – 10 minutes or so.

Serve with lots of good crusty bread. Just dip in and let those flavours hit your t-buds!

I also know a joke about a man called Arty who is hired to kill a good friend’s wife – and he only charges him a pound to do so.
He strangles her in an empty aisle in a local supermarket and also kills an onlooker who tries to stop him- headline in the paper next day ‘Arty Chokes Two for a Pound at Sainsbury’s!’

Ouch!! The recipe is a lot better than the joke – not hard to believe, I hear you say …..ok…I’ll stick to cooking!

Hasta Pasta…

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Hasta Pasta...

Supper last night was a ‘what’s in the fridge ‘supper. And what was lurking in the fridge was one of my favourite veg – asparagus. So, into the pan went two slices of smoked bacon, chopped, then after a minute I added one clove of garlic finely chopped, one red chilli chopped. I steamed the asparagus then cut it into 5 cm pieces and added it to the other ingredients. A little drizzle of olive oil before serving on a bowl of pasta with lots of good parmesan grated over. I was stuck for a name for this dish – asparagus looks like a spear – I remembered the Latin for spear was hasta..so Hasta Pasta it is!!