Friday, 27 May 2011

Pasta, asparagus and cake

A few weeks ago I won a cookbook (yes, I won!!) after leaving a comment on a give-away post over at Kelly-Jane's blog 'Cooking the Books'. The book I won was Audrey Gordon's Tuscan Summer. The book itself is a comedy really, perhaps a bit too much sometimes, but I admit to laughing out loud a few times. In-between the silly stuff are recipes, and my eyes fell on 'Pasta with Spinach and Ricotta' immediately and I decided this was going to be the first dish to try out.

Verdict: Totally delicious! This is one of those 'heaven-on-a-plate' meals for me. I started off with heating olive oil in a pan, then adding garlic (bit more than stated, I am a real garlic person), nutmeg and a little butter (1tsp for me as I halved the recipe). Then I threw in some finely sliced spinach leaves and left that for a few minutes before I seasoned with salt and pepper, then spooned in ricotta and double dream with a bit of cooking water from the pasta. Left this to simmer for about 5 minutes. When the pasta was cooked, I drained it and added it to the pan and stirred in some freshly grated parmesan. Lovely! Master 10 and Miss 1 both finished their plates.

Asparagus quiche:

I thought I might as well try something else with asparagus. It was very nice, but I do pefer them either steamed and dressed with olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper..perhaps a bit of parmesan, or in a risotto. Cooked it a bit long here as you can see. No harm done though.

Carrot Cake - Dan Lepard:

I had been craving carrot cake for a while and decided to try a new recipe. I have developed a recipe myself which is the one I make most often, but I thought a bit of new input would be good and saw this recipe on Dan Lepard's forum:

It was easy to make and nice and moist. Wasn't too keen on the icing with lemon flavour, which is kind of strange as I normally adore lemon, but on a carrot cake it just didn't do it for me. I still think mine is better, but I'm obviously a bit partial to that one... :)

We are entering June soon and I am planning a 'Junk Free June' after it was suggested on the food forum I don't really eat much junk to be honest, except for the odd chocolate on a weekend. It has been agreed that if one must eat chocolate it should be fairtrade or organic in June and that's totally fine by me. I have also chosen to limit the intake of a few things to make it a 'Junk Free June'. I might not be able to shut these out completely, but I will try. That is no sugar (so no baking in June!), no cream or sour cream..and the likes, no full fat milk in cooking (dont drink it anyways), no bread with less than 50% wholemeal and no white pasta. Since I'm in charge of cooking and bread baking it shouldnt be too hard.

Hmmmm... I better hurry up and bake something this weekend then before June comes! Not terrific timing wise to have ordered two new baking books off amazon...

Saturday, 21 May 2011

Stuffed mushroom, greens and potato wedges

I made green beans from Nigella Feast (green beans in herbed yoghurt - although I had no fresh herbs that day) which is my favourite way of eating them.

Potato wedges were also inspired by Nigella Feast and seasoned with salt, paprika and chilli pepper flakes. 1 hour at 210'C/Gas 7. (I also left them on a lower shelf while the mushrooms were cooking).

I stuffed field mushrooms with a mixture of pesto, tomatoes (seeds removed), garlic, onion, salt and pepper, then topped with cheddar. They were baked in the oven for about 20 minutes at 200'C/Gas 6.

Monday, 16 May 2011

A sweet treat and more...

This was just a salad starter that I made for my husband and myself one evening, followed by spaghetti with a deconstructed pesto. For the starter I used two gem leaves for each of us and filled it with a mixture of cheese, green olives, tomatoes and parsley in a light salad dressing. It was good fun eating salad in this fashion! This is officially one of the best loaves of bread I've made this far:

I mixed 500g flour with 300ml handhot water and let it sit for 30 minutes. Then I dissolved 20g fresh yeast in a couple of tbsp of water and added this along with 2 tbsp sourdough starter, 10g salt and a handful of flour and kneaded for ages and ages. How come I knead for an eternity and still no windowpane??? I did stretch and fold a couple of times and I think it was slightly over-proved in the end but it did not damage the end result. I shouldnt have bothered scoring it though, lesson learned!

Then an other day I made focaccia to go with tomato soup. There was also some left for my husband to take to work as sandwiches.

Nigella's Italian Tomato and Pasta soup:

Ever since I spotted British tomatoes in the shops I've been itching to make tomato soup. I usually make Linda McCartney's recipe, but this time I decided to give Nigella a go, and it is from Nigella Kitchen. It is the very last recipe in the book.

Approx. 575 g ripe and fantastic tomatoes

3 tbsp olive oil

2 garlic cloves

1 large oinion, finely chopped

1.5 litres cold water

1 tsp sea salt

freshly ground pepper

2 tsp caster sugar

150 g soup pasta

sour cream to serve (optional)

Fresh parsley, chopped (optional)

Skin the tomatoes by placing them in a bowl and pouring hot water over them. Nigella says to start frying whole garlic cloves and then discarding them before adding chopped onion. I didnt do that, I sauteed onion and added minced garlic cloves and fried a little longer. I skinned tomatoes, you were also supposed to get rid of seeds and white membrane, but not me thanks! Had quite a few small tomatoes and I just couldnt be bothered. Then add tomatoes to onion and garlic and cook for 5 minutes. Now add water and let it come to a boil, then add salt, pepper and sugar and leave it to simmer for 20 minutes for chunky soup and 40 minutes for smooth soup. I chose the smooth option and proceeded to give it a few goes in the blender, then back in the pan for 10 more minutes along with the pasta. Check seasoning.

Verdict: It is a really nice soup, but I think it would greatly benefit from some more flavour, such as a few parmesan rinds while simmering...mmm.. now that's a thought!

OK... this turned out to be a slightly odd meal! I made a Mediterranean Pepper Salad, from Nadia Sawalha's Stuffed Vine Leaves Saved My Life. I thought it was really nice, but the rest of the family thought the dinner was rather poor. I also made some pasta dressed in lemon infused olive oil, but it was rather boring, I should have just mixed the pasta into the salad. We live and learn. The flatbreads are from River Cottage Bread Book, and not unlike naan, only naan is tastier in my opinion. I also made use of them the next morning for breakfast by sandwiching two together with grated cheese, English mustard, parsley and tomatoes and then frying them on the griddle pan. Very pleasant.

Now finally for the sweet finale! This is also from Nigella Kitchen and is called 'No-fuss fruit tart', and it definitely lived up to that. No-fuss it was. Basically, all I had to do was to blitz 375 g digestive biscuits with 75 g unsalted butter in the food processor. Press these crumbs into a 25cm tart tin and put it in the fridge while you mix the filling. In a clean processer bowl, mix 400 g cream cheese with 240 g lemon curd, take your tart tin out of the fridge and fill with the cream and curd mixture. Then decorate with berries of your choice. (actually, she lists 125 g each of blueberries, blackberries, raspberries, redcurrants or pomegranate seeds and strawberries.. but I sort of just did my own thing). I let it stand overnight in the fridge. It didnt set completely and was still a little runny, but it was very tasty. Very cheesecaky flavour.
Definitely worth making.

Tuesday, 10 May 2011

May cooking and eating

Yesterday I flicked through a few cookbooks for inspiration when planning this weeks menu. I take great comfort in menu planning. It makes shopping easier and saves me spending the whole day thinking about what to cook. For Monday I landed on Nigel Slater's Aspargus and Lemon risotto from Kitchen Diaries. Aspargus are in season at the moment and one must make the most of it. This risotto ticked all the boxes for us and the flavour was very satisfying.

Butter: A thick slice, about 50 g.

One small onion, finely chopped.

Arborio rice: 200 g

A glass of white wine or Noilly Prat (I used schloer, a sparkling grape juice)

Aspargus: 400 g (I used 320 g), chopped.

Hot chicken stock: 1 litre (you could use vegetable stock to make this a vegetarian risotto)

Lemons: 2 (I used juice of 1/2 and zest of 1)

Grated Parmesan: 3 tbsp

I used a mixture of olive oil and butter for frying the onion. Had half a red onion lying about so I used that. I also added a finely chopped stick of celery for more flavour. Then add the rice and let it get coated by the butter, and then your schloer. Then pour in a ladleful of stock and let it cook, when it is evaporated add chopped aspargus and more stock. Then proceed with adding stock, lemon zest and juice until rice is cooked. This will take approx. 20 minutes. When you are satisfied , add parmesan (and a nut of butter if you wish) and check seasoning. The recipe serves 2, according to Nigel Slater, but it fed 2 adults and 2 kids last night :)

Pasta with sweet tomato sauce

I had some lovely sweet British tomatoes that I wanted to use. Of course, they are quite excellent uncooked in salads or just for munching.. but I fancied a tomatoes-in-season-pasta-sauce. This is what I did:

1 tbsp olive oil and 1 tsp butter for frying

1/2 red onion, chopped

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 tbsp tomato puree

150 g sweet tomatoes

150 ml stock (vegetable, chicken or beef)

A handful of flat leaf parsley

Basil infused olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste.

Parmesan cheese

110 g wholewheat spaghetti (that was what was left in the pack!)

Saute onion in olive oil and butter until soft, add the garlic and fry for 30 seconds, then add the tomato puree and the fresh tomatoes. Let it cook for about 3 minutes. Put your pasta on, according to packet instructions. Now add your stock and let it simmer on medium heat. When the pasta is almost done and your sauce has thickened, add the parsley to the tomatoes and stir. Turn the heat off and stir in about 1 - 2 tsp of Basil oil (or if you have fresh basil that's all good). Check and adjust seasoning. Drain your spaghetti and add it to the sauce, give it a good stir and plate up! Grate some parmesan over if you wish. This served me and Miss 1 generously.

This will be my entry for Presto Pasta Nights (, which is hosted by Jacqueline over at this week.

Greek lamb chops with lemon and potatoes

I am not awfully keen on lamb, but this is a surprisingly tasty dish which I have made a few times. It's from Nigella Kitchen by Nigella Lawson. I love the spices used here and next time I am roasting potatoes I am going to use this as flavouring (garlic oil, dried mint, dried chilli flakes, sea salt, lemons - zest and juice- and parsley).

Southern potato curry

Another reicpe from I love Curry by Anjum Anand. I fancied adding some greens to this curry which went well. Served with roti and salad.

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

I'm still here!

I have been on holiday for a couple of weeks and thus not been able to blog. I was mostly ill whilst on holiday, sadly, but managed to do some cooking. Unfortunately, I didn't take any pictures of what I made. I did however take pictures of yesterday's meal at home and my lunch today.

This is a paneer and pepper curry from Anjum Anand's 'I love curry'. I loved it, Miss 1 ate it though found it spicy, Master 10 ate it reluctantly (1: Where's the meat and 2: I already had curry at school) and hubby liked it ( come you didn't make palak paneer??). I served it with naan and a salad.

For lunch today Miss 1 and myself had the Corsican Omelette from Nigella Lawson's 'Forever Summer'. I am generally not too keen on omelettes.. they are so...eggy! But this one was lovely, with mint and feta cheese (should have been chevre, but didnt have any). Served with rocket, tomatoes and avocado with a drizzle of lemon oil and sea salt.

Attention sourdough bakers! I had a go at making sourdough during my holiday, but faced two problems:

1) It turned out like a brick

2) Too sour

What to do?