Creamy tomato and spinach pasta…

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I love spinach and I love finding different ways to get it into my recipes. Here I have adapted one of my favourite easy suppers to accommodate the gorgeous green stuff.

For 4

500 gm pasta tubes of choice – I used De Cecco rigatoni

100 gm of baby plum toms

Good handful of fresh spinach finely chopped

2 cloves of garlic chopped

Small handful of fresh coriander chopped

Olive oil

Truffle oil – optional

300 gm of single cream

Salt and black pepper

Add a good splash of olive oil to a large frying pan or preferably a deep pan such as a non stick wok. Pop in the garlic and warm the oil – add the tomatoes and bring the heat up until the tomatoes are starting to gently sizzle. Add the spinach and coriander and let them all wilt and flop together over a low to medium heat for about ten minutes whilst the pasta cooks.

Add a splash of truffle oil, black pepper and a good grind of sea salt to the tomato mixture. Once the pasta is ready and drained, add the cream to the tomatoes and warm through, stirring all the while for about 2 to 3 minutes. 

Then pour in the pasta and stir it all together into a wonderful and healthy and simple supper dish. (If you wished to meat it up, you could pan fry some lardon or sliced smoked bacon with the tomatoes at the start.)

Perfect for Popeyes everywhere!

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Sumptious Salmon Supper with a kick…

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Teriyaki Salmon on a bed of Spicy Rice

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This is a simple and phenomenally tasty supper dish, perfect for an autumnal Friday. Healthy and filling too. For each person, pop a decent salmon fillet, skinned, into an oven dish and drizzle over a good teriyaki sauce. Bake in the oven for 15 minutes at 160c for a fan oven, 180c if not.

Cook your rice – I use basmati cooked in a ceramic rice cooker. In a frying pan tip two or three tablespoons of olive oil –  heat –  then add two finely chopped and deseeded long red peppers, one finely chopped red chilli, and two chopped cloves of garlic. Fry for around ten minutes on a medium heat, then add 100 gm of finely chopped fresh spinach. Cook for a further 5 minutes.

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Pour the drained cooked rice into a bowl and gently stir through the pepper and spinach mix. Share the rice between plates and add a fillet of the salmon. Drizzle with some of the teriyaki sauce and serve.

This is such a marvellous match of flavours. It just works so well.

Salmon and September on a plate!

Cumin lamb steaks on a bed of rock salt crushed potatoes & buttered spinach with garlic sauce

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Cumin lamb steaks on a bed of rock salt crushed potatoes & buttered spinach with garlic sauce

Possibly my longest title to date! Couldn’t think of anything witty, well I could but they were all very corny. Anyway, this is a fabulous supper, inspired simply by my memories of our days in New Zealand where it seemed every other restaurant was doing some variation on the theme of lamb steaks piled on something or other, infused with this or that. I often pined for just a plain lamb steak…they were not easy to find..all the chefs wanted to ‘out sauce’ each other or come up with another way of disguising the lamb…possibly because they had so damn much they had become stone bored with the simple plain taste of…lamb! Well, I am in ‘fancy lamb steak denial mode’…so wanted for the first time in many years to recreate a dish like I experienced in Wellington.

This is my offering and it is very, very simple. And yet delightful.

I first rubbed each steak with cumin seeds and left them to think about things for half an hour or so.

I used a small bag of Venezia new potatoes which I boiled until they could just be pulled apart – about 20 minutes. I then drained them and popped them back in the pan with the lid on to steam a while.

I put a large knob of butter in a wok, melted it over a low heat and then added a bag of spinach, wilted it for about 10 minutes, added some black pepper and a little salt. Then put it in a sieve and squeezed the water out. Then it went back in the wok to keep warm.

I chopped 2 cloves of garlic and slipped them into a small pan with about 80 grams of butter and let them melt together.

The steaks were then pan fried in a heavy based skillet for three minutes a side in a tiny amount of olive oil.

The fun part is building the stack. The potatoes need a good grind of rock salt and a little butter before crushing them with a potato masher, but not too much. Arrange them on the plate, top with a spoonful or two of the spinach, put a steak on the top and drizzle with the garlic butter.

Then just tuck in….tis is a silken dish of buttery flavours that meld together like a marriage made south of the equator.

Rough weather risotto…

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Rough weather risotto...

So what do you do when you come in out of the deluge that the local rain gods have chosen to favour your region with and you feel damp and a tad despondent – and you look in the fridge and there is a hatful of fresh spinach left over from Monday…and then you see the bowl of toasted pine nuts that are also left over from Monday making a pass at you from a kitchen shelf?

Only one thing to do – a spinach and pine nut risotto!

Bliss in a bowl bestowed upon you with basic ingredients that warm and soothe away the aches and melancholy induced by the foul ferocious weather of ferrel February.

For 4 fair folk

1 onion finely chopped
75 gm unsalted butter
400 gm arborio rice
1 glass of white wine
1.5 litres of chicken stock
salt and pepper
A handy hatful of spinach washed and chopped roughly
60 gm parmesan cheese grated
100 gm toasted pine nuts

Fry the onion in half the butter until soft and transparent. I use a large stainless steel sauté pan. Add the rice and stir until the rice is coated with the butter and onions. Add the wine and stir well. After 1 minute stir in a ladleful of stock.. Stir gently then add more stock. Continue like this for about 20 minutes – put some good music on and open a bottle of red to see you through. The rice will become soft and tender but the grains will remain firm – perfect. Season with a grind or two of sea salt and black pepper.

Remove from the heat and stir in the rest of the butter, the spinach and the parmesan. Stir thoroughly and cover. Leave it to rest for two minutes, then serve in warmed bowls – top with the toasted pine nuts.

A brilliant way to use up two key ingredients left over from Monday’s bit of magic. This has to be a real favourite risotto of mine.

Simple and satisfying on a stormy eve.

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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Old favourite zinged up….

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Old favourite zinged up....

Having been away for so long over the summer, I tend to revisit old favourites for supper in the first few weeks – dishes I have missed. So, tonight it was chicken thighs with lemon – but this time I slit each thigh and inserted several slithers of gorgeous garlic. Then I rubbed them all over with lemon juice and then a dash of olive oil before finishing off with sprinkles of dried red chilli flakes. Into the oven on 200c for 40 minutes whilst I prepared some home made chips. I accompanied this with the jus from the chicken – stunning flavours – plus some sexily smooth spinach wilted in hot butter in a wok with rock salt and black pepper.

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It was good – very good – and reminded me how simple dishes are usually the best. Just remember to baste the chicken thighs once during coking and do not add use too much olive oil. I par boiled my chips first for 5 minutes, then popped them in a tray of preheated vegetable oil for 40 minutes too. And several glasses of Pinotage were happy companions. A great end to a fabulous sunny day in our garden. Oh…and I managed to find time to pick another kilo of blackberries…… so more crumble tomorrow!

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Monday magic… of the tomato variety…..

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Monday magic... of the tomato variety.....

Tonight was one of those nights when an experiment worked, and worked so well, I wanted to freeze time. The flavours were simply exquisite. I used one of my favourite base dishes of pan fried plum toms with rosemary and cream…and added to it. You know by now, well I know that you know that I know, that I like to fiddle with recipes…so here we fiddly well go!

For 4 folk who may have been working in the garden all day…

Two decent punnets of baby plum tomatoes – mine were from Spain and as sweet as a smile from Marilyn Monroe.
1 clove of garlic finely chopped
2 sprigs of fresh rosemary
250 ml of single cream
5 or 6 slices of serrano ham – or prosciutto would be fine
1 slice of smoked bacon
A good handful or more of baby spinach and rocket, chopped
Black pepper
Olive oil

400 gm of pasta – rigatoni or fusilli

Pop a good tablespoon or two of oil in a frying pan. Heat and then add the tomatoes. Add the garlic after a minute or so, then chop off with scissors quite a lot of rosemary into the pan and then add the sprigs too.

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Let them cook for about 15 minutes or so on a low heat until they give when pressed with a spoon. Flatten them a little with a slotted spoon – but don’t break them open too much.

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In a second pan, fry the smoked bacon finely chopped. When cooked, add in the serrano ham chopped and allow to crisp a little.

Cook the pasta – I always use rigatoni for this.

Add the bacon and ham to the tomato mixture, then add the cream. Heat gently and after two or three minutes, add in the spinach and rocket. Grind over some black pepper. Stir for about 5 minutes until it wilts into the cream sauce.

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Drain the pasta and then pop a portion into each of the 4 bowls – then spoon over the tomato mixture.

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I cannot express how wonderfully dreamy and gorgeous this dish is. It is…believe me…….no……don’t….make it for yourself!

I had been gardening all day today trying, as I mentioned in the last post, to get it tidied before this weekend’s belated birthday celebrations for my son and daughter. In the process, I discovered that there were lots of blackberries lurking wistfully below my sage plants and rosemary bushes. So, I picked them! And happily my rhubarb had coped with my absence and soldiered on, producing several fine stems which I duly cut…but with love. I poached the chopped rhubarb lightly and then popped them and the blackberries in a low gratin dish. I knocked up a crumble mix using plain flour, porridge oats, some crushed pecans, pumpkin seeds, butter and brown sugar. The result was stultifyngly superb though I say it myself!

I think part of the secret of the crispy buttery top was cooking it for 40 minutes on 180 degrees then switching the oven off, removing the crumble and after about 10 minutes returning it to the cooling oven whilst we ate the main course.

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Anyway it was fruitastic and even better because it all cane from our garden. I drank a cold pinot noir from Alsace whilst cooking, and a lovely bottle of shiraz with the meal itself. I listened to Bob Marley on the record player, then the Pet Shop Boys ‘Disco’. I felt good… and I felt as if I was back where I belonged……in my kitchen!

And here was the mellow aftermath in Alfredo’s after our meal…my home from home…

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Saturday supper for Popeye fans everywhere….

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Saturday supper for Popeye fans everywhere....

Saturday was a bit of a stinker of a day at work so on returning at 6pm it was a case of cranking up something easy and tasty and social – so I turned to seranno ham and spinach! They were the first things to wave at me when I opened the fridge door so they got lucky. I must put out a big thank you to Peter Lane of icookyoueat for the inspiration for the spinach dish. I had them at his house recently, though I have to say I could not remember the recipe -blame his generosity with the vino! – so I gave it my own spin – hope they sound ok, Peter! They certainly tasted very good. I took a large bag of spinach and steamed it til it just wilted. Then it went into a sieve – well I used a fine colander – and pressed out all the liquid. I left it to cool. Then in a bowl I mixed some bread crumbs with a good handful of grated parmesan – please never buy the ready grated stuff. I added the spinach and mixed it together with black pepper and a little rock salt and some dried chilli flakes. I used a little beaten egg to bind it then rolled it into balls – then I pan fried them in olive oil until a little crispy on the outside but meltingly soft inside.

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I served them as a grand sort of tapas with an aubergine tray bake. I’ve mentioned this before but this is how I do it. Slice up
an aubergine (eggplant to my friends across the pond!), drizzle (that is such a sexy word) olive oil on a baking tray, then add the aubergine slices. Pop in the oven – 200c-for about 10 minutes til beginning to turn golden. Remove – flip them over – drizzle more olive oil over them – scatter some sweet baby plum toms around (or you could halve some normal toms – as long as they are tasty!) Back in oven for another 10 minutes or so- toms should be softening now. Top the aubergine with chunks of mozzarella. Back in oven for 5 mins – then out and top with slices of serrano ham – or of course parma if you wish – then back in the oven for final 3 minutes. Out – scatter over some basil leaves and some grated parmesan and a tad ore olive oil and black pepper and bob’s your uncle. Apparently. Serve with crusty bread. Delicious. And simple. You could add other bits and pieces – eg slices of oiled mushrooms to this too. Play around!  And the spinach balls go really well with it! Though, you could, as my friend Peter did, serve them on a bed of spaghetti or linguini. Popeye would probably smoke them!

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Lamb in red wine and mint…

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Lamb in red wine and mint...Today’s Sunday lunch. This is a dish I have fiddled about with quite a bit over the years. I have made it with neck of lamb fillet, but today I used a kilo of marvellous diced lamb from Parsonage Farm in Upton, Hampshire where I like to buy a lot of my meat. Check them out on Twitter.Dust the diced lamb in flour, salt and black pepper, Pan fry in olive oil til coloured. Remove to a large casserole. Then deglaze the pan with a splash of red wine. Add juices to the casserole. Then pan fry for about 5 minutes 10 or 12 shallots. Add to casserole. Then pan fry about 10 or 12 cherry tomatoes for 5 minutes and add the to the pot too. Then put the casserole on a low heat, add a good bottle of red wine, two bay leaves and a squirt of tomato sauce or puree. Chop a big handful of fresh mint and add that to the pot as well. Bring to the boil, then turn down to a simmer and leave for half an hour with the lid on. Remove lid and continue to simmer for another hour.

I served it on a bed of mashed and buttered potatoes through which I stirred 100 grams of spinach. The look and taste is gorgeously warming and richly fulfilling!

A Lemon Moroccan Style Chicken Type Dish-Scrummy!

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Tough to explain how good this smells and tastes without smellevision – but believe – tis mighty fine.

For 4- take 4 or 5-if you are greedy- free range or organic chicken breasts – cut into good bite size chunks. Cut one onion in half and finely slice. Pan fry the onion in about a tbs of olive oil. Then add the chicken – pan fry for about 5-10 minutes until the chicken begins to turn golden. Then add a cinnamon stick snapped in half. A teaspoonful of ground coriander and one of ground cumin. Add the zest of one lemon, a sprinkle of thyme salt – or a sprinkle of dried thyme and some rock salt – a few grinds of black pepper. Add about an inch of fresh ginger chopped finely and a pinch or two of dried red chilli flakes. Stir all together to coat chicken. Add a drained 400 gm tin of chick peas. Pop lid on pan – I use  a large stainless steel saute pan – and leave for 5 minutes to combine flavours. Ok – then remove lid – add 200 ml of chicken stock to pan. Let it bubble for another 5 minutes with lid on. Then add 300 gm of spinach – pop lid back on again – leave for about 5-8 minutes until spinach wilts. Check seasoning – should be fine – then squeeze juice of a lemon over the dish. Serve with rice coloured with a little saffron or colorante – I always bring back a pot or two from Spain.  This is a simple and quick supper dish whih will never fail to impress. Enjoy.Image