Thursday, April 30, 2009

Penne with Zucchini & Mascarpone

Out of curiosity I bought a copy of easy cook magazine the other day and was amazed initially at the sheer volume of recipes that could be made in less than half an hour, serving up in under a whole hour not being one of my core skills. Though in my defence I usually have at least one thing to nibble on while you wait. Then I looked a little closer - and wish I hadn't! - at things like lamb and potato hot pot - ready in 20 minutes, cost per portion £1.20. It required the cook to seal diced shoulder of lamb for five minutes, add a tub of shop gravy, top it with sliced boiled potato and grill for 5 minutes. The meat would be soooooo tough - you need lots of gentle heat to make tender meat.

But the recipe that really snagged the edge of my mind and won't let go is one for lasagne - ready in less than 20 minutes. Without using no cook pasta. It involved tipping boiling water over sheets of fresh lasagne then interleaving them with slices of processed ham and tinned olives and coating the lot in tinned tomatoes that had simmered for 3 minutes with a clove of garlic. Top it with cheddar and eggs mixed into a pot of yoghurt. It could only produce a nasty mess. A vision of it keeps popping unbidden into my mind - they very kindly supplied a photograph - rumpled pasta and thin slices of pink plastic ham with lumps, from the olives no doubt, the base haemorrhaging thick red gloop.

No wonder people buy ready meals.
Not me, obviously.

I'm back at french class this week and really needed quick quick when I got home. I had half a tub of mascarpone left from Friday that I didn't want to waste, some zucchinis that I bought for something else that's not going to happen this week and on Saturday I made a batch of basil oil that I am besotted with. Pasta it had to be.

Penne with Zucchini & Mascarpone
3 zucchini, about 6 or 7 inches long, halved lengthways, then cut into thick slices
6 cloves new season garlic, or 2 regular garlic, peeled and finely chopped
2 tablespoons basil oil or olive oil
1/2 tspn chilli flakes
1/2 tspn fresh grated nutmeg
125ml mascarpone
250 gr penne pasta
Salt and fresh ground pepper

Bring a large pan of salted water to the boil. Add the pasta.

Warm the oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and add the garlic, chilli flakes and zucchinis. Stir to coat then leave to cook on a low heat for 5 m inutes. Grate in the nutmeg, season and stir well. The zucchini should be turning brown in patches and softening slightly.

Take half a ladle of hot water out of the pasta and mix it into the mascarpone to make a loose sauce.

When the pasta is cooked drain it and then return to the pan. Mix in the zucchini and the mascarpone till well combined. Serve in large bowls.
Total yum.

Apart from it's fabulous flavour and the lush creaminess and the small resistance to the bite from the zucchini and the little pinpricks of heat from the chilli the other thing about this dish is how easy it is. While the pasta water comes to the boil, chop garlic and zucchinis and cook the lot together in separate pans.
And ready in twenty minutes....

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Courgette & Parmesan Tart

I love the wibbly web - you can find any truth for which you seek with the application of the appropriate amount of effort. I made this fab concoction in double quick time after work on Friday and was delighted with the result and with the fact that despite his protestations that he really really does not like puff pastry it was a big hit with the man as well. Myslf, I love puff pastry so much I would happily eat it unadorned if still warm from the oven. Not much chance of that of late!

Seeking a little information about the exact nature of mascarpone I typed it into google and came up with Mascarpone is one of the foods that make the food police quiver and stop dead in their tracks. It is a fresh, very rich cow’s milk cheese — double or triple cream (60% to 75% milk fat) from ochef. I also discovered that it is fat free. According to the aptly named good to know Honey grilled peaches with mascarpone - There's only 25 calories in this dessert, so you don't have to give up your after-dinner pudding Serves: 4-8 Calories per serving: 25 kcals though to be fair it does say Fat per serving (without mascarpone): 0g. But then you read the recipe and it finishes with a flourish Serve immediately with scoops of mascarpone in each centre with 2 or 3 raspberries on top. Personally I'm adding those scoops.

Which ever version you tell yourself I recommend this dish as a quick and easy supper made decadent as you like with mascarpone which uses cream skimmed from the milk to make Parmesan as its base and therein lies the information you need to understand the essence of its delight. It is an adaptation from BBC Olive Magazine which listed it as the dish for Friday night - and for us it was.

Creamy Courgette Slice

375g sheet ready rolled pastry

3 courgettes, thinly sliced

2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped

1 tbspn olive oil

125g mascarpone

50g Parmesan, grated

Heat the oven too gas 6/200C. Unroll the pastry onto a baking sheet and, using the point of a sharp knife, make a line all the way round the pastry 2cm in from the edge.

Toss the courgettes and garlic with the olive oil and lots of seasoning.

Mix the mascarpone with half the parmesan and spread inside the border line of the pastry. Arrange the courgette slices in overlapping rows on top.

Bake for 15 minutes then scatter with the rest of the parmesan. Bake for another 15-20 minutes.

Serve hot with salad.

And nice cold next day for lunch.

Friday, April 24, 2009

This week I wanted...I bought....I made

Big don't know - the sun is shining for the fifth day in a row and I am thoroughly confused - it's still April. And the forecast is rain but I wish to be optimistic and believe it will be no more than a passing shower... So Saturday night is party night for David's birthday and I'm planning crispy chickpeas and sage because I have a sage plant gone wild now on the plan for this weekend, followed by roast pork one of the finest pieces of pork I've eaten and a vegetable pilau a lovely thing studded with pomegranate seeds the juice of which I managed to spray over me, the bench, the sink, the floor... and the lovely Vicki who is also here will bring cake. Yay! Sunday night we are out to see Lang Lang so I'm wondering about salad late afternoon or some such best laid plans - I bought the tickets a year ago - but I was really ill Sunday morning and stayed that way for days - the man had to fend for himself. Monday lamb casserole seriously could not face food, had a little vegetable soup I'd like to try, Tuesday out, Wednesday should again be french so salad pasta with courgettes I think, Thursday pasta an omelette and salad and Friday sausage sarnies perhaps.

It was indeed cold and wet Saturday morning - un-yay - so Borough Market was quieter than last week and that was compensation. Though the man whinged all the way round that he needed his hat...

At Ginger Pig they had a couple of fine examples of boned rolled shoulder of pork and I chose one that was of magnificent proportions on the basis that we'd be feeding people for dinner and I wanted leftovers for lunchboxes so that I didn't have to do much Sunday. Also bought some diced lamb for a spring casserole later in the week so that came to a grand total of £33.70
At Booths I bought lots of vegetables - some aubergines, zucchinis, cauliflower, sugarsnaps, parsley, basil, carrots and a pomegranate that came to £11.50 but I had 11 without 50 so that's what I paid

At Brindisa I wanted the makings of a classic lentil dish so bought nora peppers, diced sweet pancetta and a morcilla. I thought about buying a pack of their fabulous white beans but even dried they are £11 so I baulked at that. Instead the man added a pack of sliced lomo to go with snack starters so it was £11.20

At Wild Beef I bought some eggs - £1.50 and that was all over that side of the market

Back in the main section I bought coffee from Monmouth who are about to open a new shop near Tower Bridge as well as their existing shops at Borough and Covent Garden because the front of the main market is about to be redeveloped and they will lose their pitch without any guarantee about the size of the temporary pitch or even indeed whether it will have hot water - which you can see could be a handicap in the production of fresh coffee... £9.50 for the beans

Olives from the fresh olive company - big fat green ones with tarragon and roasted peppers that are particularly fine and which my friend Marie devised when she was in charge of such things - £4.50 for a well packed tub

Didn't need bread as I had a white loaf from St Johns from the previous days outing for lunch so at Neals Yard it was yoghurt and milk for £6.70

So it was a fairly hefty £78.10 but it did include a party!

Monday, April 20, 2009

Clams with sherry and white beans

Clams with White Beans

The longest-lived animal ever discovered is a clam that lived on the seabed in the frigid waters off Iceland's north coast. It managed to clock up 405 years - a seriously long time in icy waters, till a research team from Bangor University came along looking for clams and dragged it to the surface.

"Its death is an unfortunate aspect of this work, but we hope to derive lots of information from it," said Al Wanamaker, a postdoctoral scientist on the university's Arctica team. "For our work it's a bonus, but it wasn't good for this particular animal." The joys of academic understatement.

We supped on decidedly younger clams on Saturday night. I have eaten them occasionally but never cooked them till recently when I tried a stirfry with mussels and thai basil and sort of swamped the delicacy of the flavour without creating a great dinner. Undeterred I bought some more on Saturday to make a Casa Moro dish with the softness of new season garlic and some pale cream sherry to bring out their sweetness. What a treat they turned out to be.

Clams with sherry and white beans

750g small clams
4 tbspns olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped or 5 or 6 new season cloves
150 ml manzanilla sherry or white wine
2 tbspns flat leaf parsley, roughly chopped
200g cooked drained white beans that you like
30 threads saffron, infused in 3 tbspns boiling water
Lots of fresh ground black pepper

Wash the clams under cold running water, discarding any that are broken or open. In a large pan, heat the olive oil over a medium heat. When hot add the garlic and fry for a couple of seconds tillit just begins to colour. Add the sherry or wine and simmer till it is reduced by two thirds. Add the clams, half the parsley, the beans and the saffron water and mix thoroughly. Cover and simmer for 3 minutes until the clams are fully opened.

Taste for seasoning, add lashings of black pepper and the remaining parsley and serve immediately with a drizzle of olive oil acros the top and a chunk of crusty bread at the side.

Have to say the saffron I used was fairly old and dusty and probably didn't bring much to the dish - could be time to splash out on a few new threads. This would also be good with some chunks of pancetta and perhaps some smoked paprika.

All in all a great Saturday night special.

Friday, April 17, 2009

This week I wanted...I bought...I made

Smoked ham in the distance on Sunday night

Saturday night I'm thinking grilled fish and salad or maybe clams. Clams it was with white beans and sherry for a treat of a supper Sunday we are planning to go for a long walk in the country so roast dinner is probably not a great idea. Thinking ham, cook it Saturday then cold for supper Sunday with eggs and chips too tired to make chips(!) but perfect otherwise but so very tired after 12 miles hiking in the spring sunshine that I collapsed at the table sipping a restorative drink while the man very kindly fried eggs and buttered bread and served it all to me and nice for lunches in the week with potato salad or coleslaw. The weather is trying to be warmer and spring like and though it is twelve degrees and raining today I have not abandoned hope. Monday I want to try a new dahl recipe it was not as nice as I was hoping but definitely better cold later in the week with the ahm for lunch and perhaps a spicy cabbage dish with rice. Tuesday I'm out so may buy the man a pie for a treat. Wednesday my french class returns it was cancelled but the soup was good so we shall have the bean and pasta soup from the freezer. Thursday we are out. Friday something eggy actually might try a open courgette pie.

The merest hint of sunshine after an abysmally wet Friday had the crowds out big time at Borough Market Saturday. Not buyuing much necessarily but in my way! At the Ginger Pig I bought a big piece of smoked gammon which was brilliant Sunday night and lasted the whole week for lunches - £21.30 - then had a chat to Charlie to tell him about the stew beans I made for Food Chain last weekend for which he had supplied the pig tails. It was an interesting dish and one I would make again.

At Elizabeth King's Pork Pie's we bought a steak pie - the next generation are branching out into hot pies and as the man needed his own sustenance for Tuesday this was a great opportunity to try - £3.50

Then to the other side to find Vaheed working on his Borough Olives stall - and a little shocked to be stood all day serving though he did it for years. It was nice to catch up with him - he's funny as ever and though business is a little slow it's holding up. Bought a slightly discounted tin of olive oil for £22.50. Offered £20 for cash but he was having none of it

At Brindisa I bought a jar of cooked white beans which at £3.95 were expensive as well as pale and creamy and very lovely in the clams and the other half of the jar I mixed with chopped parsley and basil oil for lunch Monday

At Booths I bought new and main crop potatoes still there and still fine, new potatoes for salad for lunches cucumber salami salad sarnie Saturday, bananas lunches, rocket with salami in crusty bread for our lunch on Sunday, spring cabbage stir fried with chilli and coconut, new season garlic lovely with clams and sugarsnaps lunchboxes for £8

At Shellseekers I bought clams £7.70 Saturday supper

Then through to Gastronomica for salami - £3

At Neals Yard I bought milk, bread and yoghurt for £10.20

No brownies this week - a small amount of easter egg remains and brownies would be a distraction...

So I spent £80.15 - not sure entirely what prices are going up but food is definitely costing more. Also bought onions, parsley, chillies, black beans - the dried kind rather than the salted kind, red lentils, butter and a jar of home made strawberry jam from a National Trust stall at Leith Tower. Couldn't resist. Nothing was wasted or thrown away and the potatoes should be good next week. Not cheap but definitely pleasurable week.

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Bean & Pasta Soup

It is one of those generic soups - bean and pasta - that everyone likes and there are subtly different versions everywhere to be found and then, when you make it, the reason for its ubiquity is clear. This is a great meal full of textures and flavours to soothe the hungry beast. It started when I wanted to use up some Parmesan rinds that have been sat in the fridge for ages. Great for umami. I had half a packet of white Argentinian beans that look like cannellini's but are more robust when soaked and boiled but have a lovely creamy texture when cooked. I had a new rosemary plant - I kill at least one rosemary plant a year, I don't know why. No knack.

There was smoked bacon in the freezer and some parsley that also needed using up. Needeed some lovely little pasta 'o's and this was dinner in the realm of the divine.

Bean & Pasta Soup
150g haricot or white Argentinian beans or similar, soaked overnight
Bouquet garni of parsley, thyme, rosemary and celery leaves
1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 sticks of celery, thinly sliced
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed
1tsp chopped fresh rosemary leaves
4 rashers of smoked streaky bacon, roughly chopped
2tbsp olive oil
200g tin of chopped tomatoes
500ml-600ml chicken or vegetable stock or water
100g small pasta shapes, such as ditalini or rigati
1tbsp of chopped flat-leaf parsley
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Parmesan rind, if you have some

Drain and rinse the beans. Put them into a large pan, cover with cold water and add a bouquet garni. Bring to the boil and simmer for 40-50 minutes till the beans are just tender. Add a tablespoon of salt after 30 minutes. Do this the day before if you like, they will sit happily in the fridge overnight and it is then reasonably quick to make the final dish.

Gently cook the onion, celery, garlic, rosemary and bacon in the olive oil for about 15 minutes until the vegetables are soft.

Purée half the beans in a food processor or blender, then add to the pan with the tomatoes. Parmesan rind (if using) and stock. Bring to the boil and simmer for 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, cook the pasta in salted boiling water until al dente, then drain. Add the cooked pasta, the whole beans and the parsley to the stew and simmer for a further 10-15 minutes.

The mixture should be fairly thick but still with the consistency of soup - add a little more water or stock if necessary. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Serve with freshly grated Parmesan if you didn't use rinds in the making. Otherwise needs nothing more than crusty bread to mop up the dregs.

A great way to start bank holiday weekend, and enough left over to freeze for another time.

Thursday, April 09, 2009

I wanted... I bought.... I made

Easter - holidays - yay! Off to Borough Friday so we are having t bone steak because a fabulous example on the counter of the Ginger Pig last week had us both dribbling and I've thought of nothing since. A little salad garnish perhaps. And so it was and it was fabulous. To offset costs a little I shall use what's left for noodle salad Saturday which was good too. Sunday I have Food Chain so the man can fend for himself at lunch and we shall have kofta and chickpeas and beetroot in the evening we actually still had a little steak left so we had that on toast followed by some more toast topped with rocchetta. Monday aubergine pasta we had the lamb balls with chick pea masala, Tuesday lentils I think a very slow but really good baked aubergine pasta dish and Wednesday some vegetable curry beef rissoles with potato salad and carrot and fennel. Thursday we're out and again on Friday.

Borough Market was up and fully functioning just after 10 on Friday morning with everyone very cheerful despite the fact that for them it was an ordinary weekend rather than a holiday. At the Ginger Pig I bought a couple of lovely thick slices of t bone steak and a little bit of smoked bacon for the freezer and it was £27.90. Holiday treat.

At Booths I bought cucumber, new potatoes salad, little aubergines noodles and a big aubergine pasta, a couple of heads of old garlic and one of juicy new season, spring onions noodles, watercress noodles and cheese on toast, big flat mushrooms steak garnish with one and then mushrooms on toast for an utterly decadent breakfast Saturday morning and a green pepper with chick peas and yoghurt for £6.20

At the cheese stall of Gastronomica I bought a piece of sweetish pecorino and a rocchetta - £14

At the other Gastronomica I bought braesola Friday lunch - £4

From Monmouth I bought coffee beans - £9

At Neals Yard I bought bread and milk and spaghetti - £8.20

And lastly, but not leastly, I bought hot cross buns and a cottage loaf from Flour Power for £3.10

So a not inconsiderable £72.40 - and I then bought yoghurt, chick peas, rhubarb and butter in the week

Monday, April 06, 2009

Slow Roasted Ham Hock

I am currently enamoured of, amongst other things, ham hocks. Look at that photo and it's not hard to see why. They are lovely juicy things, full of flavour and very cheap. They give abundantly to the home cook without a lot of effort, requiring generally only that you give them time to cook.
Simmered with herbs and a few vegetables they provide moist meat and a pot of stock for soups or risotto and this is the way I normally cook one. But I read somewhere of Mario Batali, the New York chef and writer, serving up slow roasted hock and I have had a hankering for that ever since. In my mind's eye it was crispy and sticky and juicy - surely a simple enough thing to produce?

So this Saturday I bought not one but two hocks from Silfield Farm shop, the idea being to have one with garlic potatoes and a poached egg for a fairly decadent Sunday night supper and then have the other cold in lunchboxes for a couple of days with some crispy salad. But then I bottled it.
I'd made a fairly ordinary stir fry with mussels and clams Saturday night that should have been fabulous and suddenly I was worried that I was going off half cocked again and would end up having another ordinary dinner and daily reminders of the disapppointment till the second one was finished. The second hock went into the freezer.
Shouldn't have worried - it worked brilliantly. The thyme and onions gradually melted into an unctuous mess in the base of the pan, the cider gave the meat a nice stickiness without being particularly sweet and the final blast of heat made the skin golden and crisp.
Utterly lovely.

Slow Roasted Ham Hock
1 unsmoked ham hock, about 1kg in weight
3 or 4 onions, peeled and thickly sliced
4 sprigs thyme, leaves shredded off the stalks
1 tbspn olive oil
100ml dry cider
Salt and pepper

Wash the hock. Heat the oven to Gas 2. Put the olive oil into the base of a roasting pan then cover with the sliced onions and thyme leaves. Add some salt and pepper and mix it all together with your hands. You should have a layer of onions about half an inch thick. Put the hock on top and season lightly. Spoon over a little cider then loosely cover the pan with foil.

Put the pan into the oven and cook for about two and a half hours, basting with the cider every half an hour.

Remove the foil and turn the heat up to Gas 7 and cook for another 20-30 minutes till the skin is all golden and crisp.

Rest for 20 minutes then slice and eat with a pile of onions.

Completely amazing. And just enough left for lunch Monday.
Not to mention one that's now in the freezer in need of a plan... Ideas?

Friday, April 03, 2009

I wanted...I bought...I made

Back in what seems like a very cold London after a lovely holiday in Mauritius I'm not entirely sure what it is I want to eat next week. I have a little paté and cheese and salad in the fridge for a light supper tonight and then it's back to Borough tomorrow. I am definitely taken with the idea of slow roasted ham hock so that may be Sunday's treat with some garlic potatoes and green salad just to lighten the load utterly fab but eaten with a poached egg to be utterly decadent. Saturday some Chinese I think along the lines of exotic noodles not as successful as I'd hoped but an okay soba noodles with mussels and clams but the flavour of the shellfish did not shine perhaps. Monday I think a thick bean soup actually had chargrilled vegetable pasta sans cheese as I have a load of Parmesan rinds in the fridge to use up. Tuesday we are out, Wednesday vegetable curry had to walk home from work due to a couple of accidents closing roads so by the time I got started on spiced cabbage it would take too long so the man went to the takeaway for peking duck! - roasted cauliflower perhaps with a chick pea masala, Thursday some pasta bean soup and Friday may well be omelette and salad now it will be tbone steaks as a new easter tradition.

Inspired by the pleasure of being back at Borough Market I had no trouble at all shopping! At Ginger Pig I bought some lamb mince and a pigs trotter for £4.50 - that's right I spent less than £5 at the Ginger Pig - possibly a miracle. They did have a spectacular piece of t-bone on the top of the counter which the man and I both looked longingly at, resisted the temptation to buy immediately only by deciding that we'd buy some Friday to start a new easter tradition.

Then to Silfield for ham hocks - for some reason I always buy them here and not at the Ginger Pig. They have really good fat meaty ones usually in a great mountain but they only had three on display first thing Saturday so lucky we got in early. Bought two thinking I'd like to slow roast them with onions and cider, the second for lunches. Then had a moment of doubt - never slow roasted a hock before and what if it's horrible? - so only cooked one and put one in the freezer - £5.90

At Booths we needed lots of veg - potatoes, carrots, parsley, bananas, cabbage, aubergine, tomatoes, courgettes, cucumber and fennel - £11.20

Needed clams and mussels from Shellseekers - £7.50

Still had eggs from the last shop so didn't go over to the other side. Instead bought parma ham and mozzarella from the parma stall - £9.70

To Neals Yard for milk, pasta and bread and also a couple of tubs of cream that were marked down and will be good for the freezer - £7.90

Hot cross buns and more bread from Flour Power - £3.10 - the little cottage loaf has gone up 10p

So a not too bad £49.80. Also bought soba noodles, holy basil, chinese cabbage, olive oil to make curry leaf oil, butter, chick peas and yoghurt.