Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Autumnal Pasta

This Nigel Slater recipe is perfect for welcoming Autumn. It's very simple to make and the earthiness makes it perfect for a gloomy evening when the temperatures start to drop a little. A glass of red wine would also be a great accompaniment - an excellent antidote to low spirits.

Ingredients to serve 3 very greedy people, or 4 bird-like eaters: (Nigel gives exact measurements - but ball park estimates work fine..)

A generous couple of handfuls of chestnut mushrooms - very thinly sliced
A generous knob of butter (about 25g)
A slick of olive oil
Lots of parsley - chopped finely
Lots of grated Parmesan cheese
2 cloves of garlic - thinly sliced
400g pasta (Fusilli has been used here because it was all there was in the cupboard, it was very nice, tagliatelle would have been very good.)

The make:
Melt the butter and olive oil and cook the mushrooms very slowly over a low heat for about 15mins.
Bring a large pot of salted water to boil - and cook your pasta for about 12mins, or whatever the packet tells you.
Meanwhile, continue cooking your mushrooms and season them as well as adding the garlic to cook at the same time as the pasta.
When the pasta has cooked, drain it, and add it to the mushrooms, butter and garlic. Add the parsley and Parmesan cheese. Let it sit on the stove for a couple of minutes longer then serve into big bowls.

Sunday, 28 August 2011

Homemade Chicken Pie

Making a pie from left over chicken can be a lovely way to spend a hungover evening, (recommended for milder hangovers only.)
Creating a chicken pie is surprisingly easy with ready cooked chicken and ready-made pastry, and it is fun when there are two of you in the kitchen. It is especially good on darker evenings as the weather is turning, when you can spend time in a warm kitchen and listen the radio.

Firstly, you must pick every morsel of meat from the chicken carcass. This task is a love/hate thing. So, if you really can't bring yourself to pick about the carcass like a proper carnivore, then get someone else to do it. But, it can actually be a bizarrely enjoyable task.

To create a chicken and mushroom pie: (in the easiest possible way)
(It may look clumsy but that's the excellence of a home-made pie, it won't look shop bought - but why would you want it to?!)

1. Slice a generous amount of mushrooms and simmer in milk for about 15mins.
2. Meanwhile, roll out your ready made pasty and line a greased pie dish with it.
3. Once the mushrooms are done, remove them from the milk with a slotted spoon and set to one side, you will need the milk for the white sauce.
4. Make a white sauce, a slap dash manner often works - mix a small knob of butter with a spoon of flour over a medium heat, until it forms a paste. Then, add the milk a spoonful at a time and stir in until fully absorbed. The milk should be added a little at a time otherwise you will get lumps.)
5. Once your sauce has reached a smooth and silky consistency (not too thick) season with salt and pepper and remove from the heat. Add your mushrooms and chicken.
6. Fill the pie and roll out another piece of pastry for the lid and seal with a little water. Make a word out of pastry scraps, if you wish.
7. When you're ready to eat it, which will probably be the next day, brush with milk and cook in a hot oven (180c) for about half an hour.

Friday, 26 August 2011

Easy Pea and Potato Soup

I am a big soup eater - when I was at University (back in the good old days..) I made soup all the time. It may have been because at some point someone bought a hand-held blender and I just wanted to render everything put before me into a paste..

But soups are so comforting - both to eat, and to prepare. This one is so basic and easy that it only takes 15 minutes or so to make;

All it consists of it:

a couple of handfuls of new potatoes, chopped
2 x shallots
1 bunch of fresh parsley, also to chop
2 x leeks, chopped
1 x tub fresh stock - in this case vegetable, but I love to use chicken too/ if you don't have any available use Bouillon stock powder
a couple of cupfuls of peas

Simply dice all of your vegetables - heat some butter in a pan and add the shallots, along with the leeks; in the meantime boil your new potatoes. When they're done, throw them in with the rest of the veg and let it fry gently for about ten minutes until golden. At this point you should be ready to add the stock and peas, and garnish with the parsley; you could blend it or have it as I did, as a sort of broth - accompanied by a cheese toastie! The perfect lunch for a foul Autumnal day.

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

For the Ultimate Munchies: Tuna Mayonnaise Sandwiches

I experienced one of those absolutely crushing hangovers this weekend: an almighty headache, accompanied by a nausea that I couldn't shake until about 3pm. It's funny how, in my experience, I go from barely being able to hold a cup of tea down to being ravenously hungry. But when you do get beyond the point of just wanting to curl up in a whimpering ball in bed - and you can actually look forward to the idea of food - then this tuna mayonnaise is just the thing.

I usually make a huge batch with the idea of having it as a sandwich filler for the next few days - but I usually end up gorging on it in front of the telly..


1 x tin tuna (in salt water, preferably)
1 x large tin of sweetcorn
about 5 decent sized tablespoons of yoghurt (or half a tub)
1 tablespoon of mayonnaise
Juice of 1 lemon, plus zest
1 x large bunch of parsley, chopped
2 spring onions, diced
generous handful of sea salt and pepper

I usually alternate ingredients - a handful of chopped capers goes wonderfully, and likewise using different herbs like mint makes it really tasty. Celery is also a delicious stand-in if you don't have sweetcorn!

Simply combine the ingredients and pile generously onto a good, thick bit of bread - and enjoy with a cup of tea to relieve yourself of hangover hell!

P.S for said hangover hell, I strongly recommend ibuprofen instead of paracetamol - and once you feel like you won't be sick (again) a glass of coke helps. Something about the fizziness and the sugar I think..

Monday, 8 August 2011

An Italian Birthday Feast

Our birthdays both fall around mid-summer and this year we were celebrating 22. So we prepared a small feast for friends with an Italian meal. Such a special occasion always calls for a special meal, but we also kept simplicity in mind. With so much sparkly eye-shadow to apply, time was not on our side, not that we wanted to spend too much time sweating in an unforgiving kitchen anyway!

So, this is what we planned: something special and something light. Perfect for a midsummer pair of birthday celebrations for a handful of friends..

Cocktails to start:
Strawberry Bellini's -Inspired by Jamie Oliver, mostly.
Push a punnet of strawberries through a sieve.
Spoon into the bottom of glasses and pour over Prosecco (Cava will also do fine.)

Tomato and Mozzarella Salad -
Inspired by Grace's recent holiday to Sorrento.
This couldn't be simpler or more delicious.
Cut a generous amount of tomatoes into nice wedges and place in your serving bowl.
Tear two balls of mozzarella into rough chunks.
Dress with olive oil, salt, pepper and a sprinkling of dried herbs.

Roasted Pepper bruschetta -
Inspired by Carllucio.
De-seed and roughly chop your peppers and place under a hot grill until the skins char. Once they are cool enough to handle, remove their skins and slice into small pieces.
Cut some good bread (sourdough was used here) into slices and toast under the grill. Chop a tomato. Once the bread has toasted, assemble the pepper and scraps of tomato over the bread and season with salt, pepper, olive oil and dried herbs if you wish.

Rustic Pesto Pasta -
Inspired by Grace's mother.
Easier than blending and better than from a jar, this rustic pesto is incredibly fresh.

Heat a generous amount of olive oil and simmer some garlic in there so that it flavours the oil, in the meantime, tear lots of basil leaves into shreds (the more the better,) and place into a bowl. Add some (ready toasted) pine nuts to the basil and grate lots of Parmesan cheese. When the oil is sufficiently garlic-y, discard the garlic bulbs and combine everything together. Season with salt and pepper and leave to happily sit until you are ready.

Cook the pasta as the packet tells you and once drained, add the rustic pesto sauce. Serve with a few too many glasses of wine than necessary.

Lunchtime Lentil Salad

A fairy virtuous Monday lunch - perfect after a weekend of good fun which has resulted in exhaustion. This is a nice bolstering salad which is good for days in the summer.

1 spilling handful of lentils (puy are recommended.)
Olive oil (preferably chili oil)
Glugof red wine
Salt and pepper
Serrano or parma ham (or both) torn into pieces
More or less a handful of goats cheese, cut into generous chunks, (on this occasion honeyed goats cheese has been used, which is highly recommended as it is heavenly.)
Lots of chopped parsley

To cook and prepare
1.) Cook the lentils according to the packet instructions, they usually take about 20 mins of simmering.
2.) Drain the lentils and dress them with the olive oil, red wine, salt & pepper and leave on the heat to warm through for a couple on minutes.
3. ) Add the torn ham, chunks of goats cheese and parsley.
4.) Mix the whole salad together and enjoy with a glass of sparkling water.

Thursday, 4 August 2011

Easy and delicious Spanish omelette

This omelette is perfect for a no-brainer, light dinner, when you can't spend very much money (or can't be bothered to hit the supermarkets). It's a nice beginning-of-the week dish, perfect after a boozy and tiring weekend; it's also absurdly easy to prepare, and looks pretty!

Ingredients (serves two, generously):

4 eggs (the fresher the better, and always free range)
About ten new potatoes, depending on size
Two or three red chillies, de-seeded (my preference)
Whatever herbs you have growing or in your fridge! In this case I used chives and parsley
Salt and pepper to season
1 white onion

To prepare, simply whisk your eggs in a bowl with a fork, add the salt, pepper and parsley. In the meantime boil your potatoes and fry your onion and red chillies (which you must remember to de-seed!). When the potatoes are soft enough to pierce with a fork, chuck them into the frying pan with the onion and leave to golden for about five minutes; now add the whisked egg, and keep on a medium heat.

I usually put the pan under a grill to cook the top of the omelette, once the base has hardened.
When it's cooked, sprinkle the rest of your chopped parsley and chives over the top, and serve with a crusty sourdough loaf, some ripe tomatoes and good cheese.