Monday, 22 August 2011

Recipe XXII - Trottole Vegetariane (with Pancetta)

A couple of weeks ago, a former student of mine asked me if I could post a vegetarian dish. Now, I could never condone the ruination of a meal by omitting the only thing that makes it tasty, so I compromised. In this recipe, the pancetta is optional. Instead, why not add more vegetables, like aubergine, or at least add some mozzarella to it to make it a teensy-weensy bit more filling... In any case, this takes just over half an hour to prepare, cook and serve.

500g pasta
2 thick rashers of pancetta
1 red pepper
1 courgette
1 whole garlic bulb or 3 cloves of garlic
Some cherry tomatoes
Some fresh herbs
Some cooking olive oil
Some olive oil for drizzling
A large slice of parmigiano reggiano (Parmesan) for grating

Cut up the vegetables into the sizes you like. Some prefer round slices of courgette and some prefer quarters or halves. The same for the peppers - some like whole strips, some small squares.
Cut the cherry tomatoes in half, cut up the garlic into small pieces, cut up the pancetta with a decent pair of kitchen scissors, not forgetting to remove the hard edges and boney pieces left. Fill a saucepan with water and add a pinch of salt, put on a high temperature.

Take a large high-sided frying pan and put in your olive oil for cooking. Turn on the cooker to a high temperature and fry the bacon/pancetta pieces for a few minutes until browned. Remove them carefully from the hot oil, then put the pepper and courgette in the pan. After the initial sweat, turn the temperature down and add the remaining ingredients, except the Parmesan.

*Never put fresh herbs into the pan at the beginning, or they will just burn to a crisp. The same applies to dried herbs and garlic. Always put them in towards the end so they remain green or fresh.
Timing is essential - don't forget, if your veggies are ready before the pasta, take them off the heat until two minutes from when the pasta is ready.
Put the pancetta back in the frying pan and give it a quick mix in with the rest of the ingredients.
Drizzle with good quality extra virgin olive oil and cover with grated Parmesan.
Tremendous outside in the evening air with a lovely bottle of young white wine.

Sunday, 14 August 2011

Recipe XXI - Buttermilk Scones

Although the making of these did not provide many truly good photogenic moments, the results were most satisfying. This is a particularly simple recipe, and took less than an hour from beginning to end.

300g self-raising flour + extra for kneading
60g COLD butter in blocks + extra for the greasing the baking tray
45g caster sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
300ml buttermilk
A drop of milk for glazing
A handful of sultanas and/or raisins

Warm the oven to about 220°C.
Whilst it is heating up, take the flour, butter, baking powder and sugar, and work them into a crumbly consistency.

Add the raisins and the buttermilk, and mix it in vigorously until the whole thing becomes a doughy mixture. If it is still runny, add more flour until the mixture does not fall off a spoon.

Take your baking tray and grease it with some butter. Then take a large spoonful of your mixture and flick it onto the baking tray. Feel free to make adjustments to its shape. I didn't, but it is just a matter of preference.
Again, as a matter of preference, you may want to glaze the surface of the scones before baking, but I didn't.

Put the baking tray in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes or until golden brown.

As usual, serve with butter or whipped cream and jam. Enjoy!

Sunday, 7 August 2011

Recipe XX - Paella Del Norte

When I set out to make a paella, I decided not to call it anything Spanish - the Mediterraneans are so fastidious when it comes to food that naming it anything other than something new was never going to happen. They are all about sun, sea and food, but when it comes to substance, forget it. For example, I would like to draw your attention to the cooking instructions written
on the side of the rice packet I bought in Luxembourg:

It says:
"1. To warm up 600cl of meat soup and 1/3 of Paella seasoning(PDS) until Bowling. Soon to extinguish fire. 2. To place in a paella pan, 4 spoonfuls of olive oil, 250 g of chicken (pieces), 250 g pork ribds, 1/2 red pepper stripes, fry during 5 minutes until they are gilded and to add 1 tomato grated, to continue frying 4-5 min all the ingredients together.
3. Add 200g, fry 1 minute, add the broth and to cook during 10 strong fire min, 5-6 min to average fire. To extinguish and to let rest 5 min (cover the paella pan with a rag).
Upon not having a copy of the Sun, I settled for a glass lid. Anyway, here's my version:

300g paella rice
4 chicken thighs
3 tomatoes (quartered)
1 pepper (sliced into strips)
1 courgette
1 onion
Some frozen peas
500ml chicken stock
Some chives
Fresh herbs (oregano, thyme, etc...)
White wine (or a squeezed lemon)

Cut up the vegetables into different shaped pieces. To cut a courgette into quarters in less than 2 minutes, firstly cut it lengthways twice to make a cross-shape, stopping a centimetre from the end. Then put it on its side and cut it into thin pieces (see photo).

Put the chicken into a paellera or wide frying pan, put salt over it and fry gently until sealed. Add the vegetables (not the tomatoes, peas or herbs) and continue frying for a further five to ten minutes, until they are nicely sweating but not soft.

Put the paella rice in for a long minute to soak up some of the oil. Add the tomatoes, and put a lid on to allow the juices to run. A couple of minutes into this stage you can add the stock, the peas and the herbs. Put more salt in, and add some white wine. I love to put a lot in because it complements the salty flavour of the meat and rice, but you can put as little as you like in.

By now the whole dish is bubbling away with all the juices and liquids, cooking the rice as it goes. Paella rice, contrary to most people's expectations, takes a relatively short time to boil, only 15 minutes. So once those 15 minutes since you added the rice are up, the rest is letting the dish mix in and acquire flavour. Some like to wait until the juices have been absorbed, and some like there to be
something runny. That's the reason for the lid - it is a harmless way for the juices to absorb.

Other notes:
Serve preferably outdoors.

A bottle of sweet wine from Moravia or Alsace will go splendidly with it!

Monday, 1 August 2011

Recipe XIX - Cooking with Fruit: Peach Jam and Peach Chutney

Ingredients for the jam:
8 to 10 peaches (750g pack)
A packet of gelling sugar (2:1)
A tablespoonful of ginger

Instructions for the jam:
Take the peel off the peaches and cut them into small pieces, removing the pips.
Weigh the amount of fruit you have left - in my case, I had about 650g left after step one.
Add exactly half the weight of sugar compared to the fruit.

Put the peaches and sugar into a saucepan, adding a decent spoonful of ginger.

Put some empty, clean jam jars into the oven on about 100°C for twenty minutes.
This will sterilise them so that the surface of the jam doesn't form mould.

Gently heat up the mixture in the saucepan. Once it is starting to bubble, let it boil vigorously for about three minutes.

Remove the jam jars from the oven and spoon the mixture into the jars. Leave to set. To check if the mixture is going to set well enough, put a very small amount onto a spoon and wait for twenty seconds. If it is going to set well, it will solidify on the spoon.

To create a vacuum, turn the jam jars upside down whilst setting. Once set, turn them up the right way.

Ingredients for the chutney:
The same amount of peaches, peeled and weighed (in my case, there were 450g)
Ordinary cane sugar, half the amount of the peaches.
Vinegar (white wine / apple cider / ordinary) - for the amount, use your own judgement - as a rule of thumb, try half a millilitre per gram of fruit. So I put in 225ml of vinegar.
One dessertspoonful of ginger
A handful of raisins or sultanas
Three cloves

Once again, put all the ingredients into the saucepan and bring to the boil. Leave it in there long enough to soften.
Don't let the liquid reduce too much - keep the lid on.
If after about 20-25 minutes it is still not soft, get the potato masher out and give it a good crushing.
Take your jampots out of the oven and fill them with your chutney.
Screw the tops on and allow them to cool.