Stockpot City….

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Stockpot City....

Someone asked me the other day bout my reference in my recipes to a stock pot – well, I have 3 and I use these guys almost every day in some way or another. They are SO versatile – each one is a little different in its own way – I bought 2 of them in France and one in Italy and they get on well!

They have different size steamer baskets – one is more of a pasta pot insert. The tall one is ideal for spaghetti and linguine – and they all go in the oven. I could not part with any of them – at Christmas and when I have lots of folk to cook for they come into their own. They have been through a lot with me and never let me down – they are very easy to clean too – well house trained!

They see duty as steamers, casseroles, stew makers, pasta cooks, stock makers, chilli and soup fiends as well as jam making from time to time. The smaller one with the glass lid possibly gets out most – but they all know how vital they are to my kitchen!

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A tuna day keeps the doctor away….!

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A tuna day keeps the fiddler away....!

A Tune A Day was a popular guitar tutor book when I was knee high to a grasshopper…by an old guitar player called Bert Weedon if I recall…anyway…tuna is supposed to be good for you like all oily fish so I guess eating it should keep the doc away! Look, I’m rambling…so…Tuna…what can one say..the tinned variety does not always get a good press…but I have a phenomenally simple recipe that our family loves. Tis cheap as chips…and yet satisfying, vibrant and malleable. My wife does a version of this pizzaiola sauce mixing it all up cold first then adding it to the hot pasta. Delicious. Love it. But….I have to…it is in my nature….be different…and so I have taken her dish and cooked it! So…in a frying pan – I use a wok because it is easy to add the pasta to at the finale- I drizzle some olive oil, a chopped clove of garlic, a whole pierced red chill, and a good sprinkle of dried oregano. Get it warm and cosy…not fizzing. Then add 800 grams of your best chopped tinned tomatoes, a dash of tomato puree or a good tom sauce, and a handful of chopped fresh basil leaves and stalks. Bring it to a gentle simmer. Add 2 teaspoons of rinsed capers, a good handful of black olives – if tinned rinse! – and I added 6 mozzarella pearls halved – though you could just add a sliced ball of mozzarella. Sprinkle in some ground black pepper and a little ground rock salt. Add a tin of tuna..stir it gently in. It should look like this!

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Put on 400 gm of rigatoni pasta – best for soaking up the juices – and let the sauce simmer whilst it cooks. The mozzarella will become unctuously runny and the whole thing will make you want to pour a good glass of red in celebration. Drain the pasta. Add it to the sauce carefully and stir it all together. Add a few more torn basil leaves, a drizzle of oil and serve. This is soooo easy and soooo terrifically delicious. Cheers!

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Simple supper inspired by Slater

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Simple supper inspired by Slater

Tonight when I got in from work, sun still shining, I whizzed up a smoked mackerel paté – an easy peasy paté that hits the spot every time. I think it was originally from a Jamie Oliver book – the 30 minute meal one. You must do it – though I would be amazed if many of you out there have not had a crack at this. All you do is get your food mixer out. Then take 3 fillets of peppered smoked mackerel – break them up and add to the mixer, along with 200 gm of soft cream cheese, a good dollop of horse radish, zest and juice of a lemon and a handful of chopped flat leaf parsley. Whizz it all to some good music for about 2 minutes. What emerges is an unctuous cream of a paté. Fridge it for half an hour – then just before you serve it, drizzle a little olive oil over it and serve with toast.

Once we had come to terms with the loveliness of this, sat back, imbibed a glass or two of rosé, I served a very simple Nigel Slater inspired dish as in the pic above. Simply add a splash of olive oil to a frying pan, add a chopped clove of garlic, a handful of sweet red cherry tomatoes and a sprig of chopped fresh rosemary- I throw in the sprig after too. Fry gently til the toms start to fall under a gentle prod. Add a little fresh cream, a little rock salt and some black pepper. Serve with fusilli pasta. So good. A perfect simple supper.

Sloe gin sausages in tomato sauce

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Sloe gin sausages in tomato sauce

Decided that last night it was a ‘let’s go with what’s in but let’s be imaginative’ supper..so the gorgeous 6 pork sausages keeping themselves to themselves in the fridge were chopped and pan fried in olive oil with a sprinkle of cumin seeds, chopped green chilli, bay leaf, garlic clove slithered, an onion finely sliced and black pepper. After 30 minutes the ensemble was looking and smelling seriously inviting – so in went 2 large splashes of sloe gin to deglaze and flavour the mix. This made the difference. After 2 or 3 minutes, in went 600 ml of chopped tomatoes and a can of drained cannellini beans. I left it for 20 minutes or so to thicken up. It was served  with some seriously large pasta shells and a side dish of asparagus spears with large loving slices of pecorino and swirls of olive oil. The sloe gin I used was from Wiltshire Liqueur Company – the link is on the side bar – lovely to use local produce.

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Penne con Sugo di Salsicce….a brilliant mid week dish..

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Penne con Sugo di Salsicce....a brilliant mid week dish..

These tinkers nestling in the dish are from Parsonage Farm…. Tuscan Style sausages ..perfect for one of my kids’ favourite dishes. I first saw this dish eons ago in the first River Cafe book…and it has stayed with me ever since..though it gets a tiddly bit altered each time, depending on how I feel!

Right then, here we go…

2 tbsps Olive oil
5 or 6 Italian spiced fresh pork sausages, meat removed from skins and crumbled (if you can’t get them easily – just use good quality pork sausages)
1 small red onions peeled and chopped.
2 garlic cloves, peeled and chopped.
2 small dried chillies, crumbled or a good tbsp or two of crushed dried chillies.
2 bay leaves
Small handful of fresh rosemary
Large glass of a good red wine

2x 400g tines peeled plum tomatoes, drained.
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
120g parmesan, freshly grated – be generous
150ml single Cream
75 gram per person of penne rigate – but this is for folk who may not be hungry or not require seconds – I usually cook a 500gm bag.

Heat the oil in a large pan, and fry the sausage meat, stirring and breaking up the pieces. 

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After the juice from the meat has evaporated and the fat begins to run, add the onion, garlic, chilli, rosemary and bay leaves.

Cook gently for almost 30 mins until the onions are brown. Pour in the wine, increase the heat and cook until the wine evaporates. Now add the tomatoes, lower the heat, and simmer gently until you have a thick sauce, about 45-60 minutes.

Season with salt (and pepper, if the sausages were not spicy), and add the Parmesan and cream.

Cook the penne and then drain well. Add the pasta to the sauce, mix and serve. 

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This is so good..I mean…really truly scrumptiously delicious on a big scale.

Trout with pasta…no? Really? Oh yes! A velvet inferno….

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Last night, ’twas another late night supper – and another ‘what the heck have I got in the fridge’ moment –  and I really was in the mood for something with a bit of zing, a bit of velvet inferno. It was definitely a night for a zingy something or other. There, nestling at the bottom of the fridge, trying to mind their own business were 4 trout fillets that I bought last Monday afternoon – and there was green chilli and….well, that was it. So…I wrapped the fillets in foil with a little butter, and made a tomato sauce with the finely sliced chilli. It was actually quite pokey without taking my breath away – just enough not to mask the flavour of the trout. In the cupboard there is always lots of pasta of all shapes and sizes but for some reason my eyes alighted on a bag of macaroni – perfect. I wanted something that was going to match the delicacy of the fish-chilli and trout – yes – the velvet inferno may yet be possible.  Pasta went on the plates and then I cut the fillets into three pieces and arranged them on top of the pasta – then ladled over the wonderfully zingy sauce. Ok..the pic below may not do it justice – it may not be Picasso on a plate…but it was poetry for the palate…..

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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!!

Oscar would be Wild about this Wild Garlic Pesto…

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Just had tripoline pasta with the most amazing wild garlic pesto made by a very good friend of mine who excels in this stuff.. recipe to follow as soon as I can get her to share it! Soon I hope! Added a little pan fried pancetta – not that it needed it – but I love the stuff. The flavours are mouth hummingly filling,,,gorgeous…tis sex in a bowl….mmmmmmm!!!! Image