Thursday, 31 December 2009

New Year's Eve Spicy Smoky Shredded Chicken

A la Amy, this is shredded chicken for fajitas and tacos with flavourings done by me :)

6 chicken breasts
1 can of tomatoes
2 cartons of passata

Put this into the big metal pan and put it into the oven at 150 degrees for about four hours, then shred up the chicken with the back of a spoon and mix well into the tomatoes.


1 onion
2 red peppers
1 red chili, deseeded
a good squeeze of garlic
scant teaspoon of smoked paprika
scant teaspoon of chipotle
1 cup of chicken stock

Cook the above ingredients on the hob and add in the shredded chicken, combining so the flavours soak in together. Take it off the heat and let it go cold so it can go in the fridge if you're not using it straight away. If you do do this, it can be eaten cold or put into the ceramic crockpot and baked through til piping hot, and then served from the crockpot at the table.

Monday, 21 December 2009

Macaroon tarts

These were made every Christmas for my mother by my Aunt France, who of course gave me her name.

Rub 30z margarine into 30z self raising flour to make a pastry - roll out and cut into rounds and press down into a shallow bun tin.

Spoon some jam into each case (preferably red jam).

Whip 2 egg whites until stiff and then add almond essence, 3oz caster sugar, 2oz ground almonds and fold together.

Spoon in on top of the jam and bake in a hot oven for 20 minutes.

Amy & Nick's Wedding Cupcakes

175g softened unsalted butter
175g caster sugar
175g self-raising flour
3 medium eggs, beaten
Generous tablespoon of vanilla extract
2 generous tablespoons of rosewater

For the decoration:
You can go all out here or leave them plain, it's your call, but for the ones we did...
Rosewater icing paste, made with rosewater and icing sugar, to a runny consistency (but sticky - it's going to be used for glueing things to the cakes)
Vanilla sugar
Plain sugarpaste fondant icing, white, rolled out and cut into stars
Edible glitter

Make the cakes by creaming together the butter and sugar, adding the beaten eggs one at a time and then folding in the sifted flour. Finally add the vanilla and rosewater and spoon into cake cases (this makes 12). They need exactly 14.5 minutes in our oven at 180 degrees but you know the drill, and your oven, better than mine.

When they're hot out of the oven, sprinkle liberally with vanilla sugar. When they're cooled make the rosewater paste and use it to stick on star shapes cut from the sugarpaste fondant icing. Give everything a liberal dusting of icing sugar and edible sparkles et voila - 12 wedding cupcakes. Now repeat this ten times. :)

The Cuban Cure-all (spicy black bean soup)

This was made from memory with no real idea of quantities after watching Nigella's Christmas Kitchen in the throes of a hangover in a hotel room. With no pen to write anything down.

Serves 2 extremely hungry people or three if you've got lots of bread.

1 medium sized chorizo ring, peeled and chopped into thick slices
1 red onion
1 red pepper
Good slug of garlic
4 tomatoes
tsp cumin
tsp chile ancho
tsp chile chipotle
spring onions
3 cartons of black beans, drained
fresh coriander
half a lime (juice)
chicken stock

Chop the chorizo and stick it into a heavy based pot, and let the oil cook out slowly. When it's looking interestingly chewy add the peppers and onions along with the garlic and let them soften. Next add the tomatoes and spices, cover and leave it for about ten or fifteen minutes, however long you can bear it. Add the beans and just enough stock to barely cover, put the lid back on and give it about ten. Then mash slightly so the beans go into the water and thicken everything up, add the lime, coriander and sliced spring onions, and serve with a good splodge of sour cream and some nachos.

Wednesday, 2 December 2009

Mexican beany cheesy wraps

Here is how to make the dinner (which is cheesy beany rice which we'll eat with some wraps):

Ingredients -

1 big onion, chopped finely
1 sweet red pepper, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
2 courgettes, diced
1 pack of sliced chorizo (it's in the fridge), cut up
1 carton of passata
1 can of red kidney beans
1 can of pinto beans, Mexican bean mix or black beans - whichever we've got
small can of refried beans
250g rice (basmati)
500ml (ish) of chicken stock
garlic paste
chile ancho
chile chipotle
mild chili powder
grated cheese

To serve:
Freshly chopped coriander
soured cream
Sliced spring onions

To begin:
10 minutes: Chop the vegetables all ready.

5 minutes: Using the big metal pan, start by frying off the chorizo til it crisps up a bit. Use some oil because it's not as fatty as usual. DON'T let it burn or the whole dinner will be buggered up :)

5 minutes: Add the chopped onion and allow it to soften, and then follow that with a really good squeeze of garlic. Stir it through. Keep everything on a medium to low heat so it doesn't catch.

10 minutes: Add the peppers and courgettes, along with a scant teaspoon of chile chipotle, a teaspoon of chilo ancho and a teaspoon of mild chili powder (the mild chili powder is just in a regular Schwartz spice jar, the ancho and chipotle are in the metal pots). Give it all a good stir, make sure it's not sticking and put the lid on for about ten minutes to let it all soften together.
20-30 minutes (depending how long you've got): Add the passata and the drained pinto and kidney beans. Give everything a good stir and then put the lid back on.

2 minutes: Stir in the refried beans. Really keep an eye on this now because it's going to start going goopy and you REALLY don't want it to stick.

15 minutes: Add the chicken stock and the rice and REALLY stir it well. Put the lid on and hover, because it has a tendency to stick quite a lot at this point.

When the rice has sucked all the liquid up and is soft, it's ready for you to turn off the heat, stir in lots of cheese and the chopped coriander, and put the lid back on to keep it hot and make it all go gloopy (nomnomnom). If for any reason there is more liquid than you anticipated and the rice has all cooked, just leave the lid off for a few minutes and stand over it, stirring occasionally, for it to reduce down. It doesn't want to be rigidly dry but if it's too sloppy when the cheese goes in it will basically be like soup :)

The timings are only approximate so don't worry about them too much. DO chop everything FIRST though because as you know this pot sticks a lot and you need to be focusing on that rather than hurrying to chop things in time.

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Chicken with white wine and onion seed

This is the delicious filling from the Slightly Failed Pie, which we adapted and served over rice.

Chicken breasts (corresponding to the amount of people)
Baby carrots (8-10), peeled and sliced thinly
One large onion
Good slug of garlic paste
Likewise of tomato puree
2 large red chilis
about 200ml white wine
One carton of passata
2 tbsp black onion seeds
bunch of coriander

Start with the chilis - slice thinly and leave as many or as few seeds in as you like, and soften in some olive oil. Add to this the chopped onion, garlic paste and tomato paste and allow to cook down. You might put about a third of the carton of passata in at this point too and allow it to cook together.

Add the sliced chicken breasts, carrots and onion seeds and allow the chicken to seal well. Then put the rest of the passata and the white wine in and once the alcohol's cooked off from the wine put the lid on and leave it to simmer together slowly.

When you're ready to serve up just take it off the heat and stir the chopped coriander in. Have it with rice or potatoes :)

Saturday, 24 October 2009

Baked mushrooms a la Joy Duckett

For two people -

Four big flat mushrooms (we use Portabella I think)
About half a red onion
Strong cheese
(optional) - can of chopped tomatoes, courgette
Black pepper

If you're using the can of tomatoes and courgette, just thinly slice the courgette lengthways with a peeler and put that and the tomatoes into the bottom of a pyrex dish, stirring so the courgette and tomatoes are mixed.

Place the mushrooms on top, brown frilly side up, and thinly slice the red onion over it. Slice the cheese and arrange on top to cover, and add some black pepper. Pop it in the oven for about 20 minutes on 200 degrees.

Alternatively don't use the chopped tomatoes and courgette - use a sliced tomato or two and arrange it on top of the mushrooms with the onion, under the cheese. Bake it for the same amount of time.

Goes very well with chicken/fish/roast meat/everything :)

Chicken enchiladas

3-4 chicken breasts, cubed
1 small pack chorizo
1 onion
1-2 peppers, red and green or yellow
1-2 courgettes, depending on size
1 large tin of refried beans
1 tin of kidney or black beans, drained
1 jar of enchilada sauce
1 pack of grated cheese
8 plain flour tortillas

optionals - coriander, chili flakes/tabasco, chipotle, etc - depends on the potency of your enchilada sauce.

First things first - fry off the chorizo in a little oil til it crisps up and turns the oil paprika-y. Then add the chicken and allow to cook through.

Add the chopped onions, allow to soften a bit before stirring in the garlic, and then the chopped peppers and courgette. Put the lid on and leave to break down a bit.

Add the drained beans, about a third of the enchilada sauce, and leave to cook down a little bit longer. You could put the oven on to heat at this point - about 200 degrees.

Finally add the refried beans and break them down. When it's all bubbly and thick take it off the heat and add some chopped coriander and about half of the cheese. Stir it through and give it a couple of minutes to go a bit sticky.

Put the large pyrex dish out and begin by spooning about 1 eigth of the mixture into a tortilla. Repeat until there are four tortillas on the bottom of the dish. Don't be too stingy with the mixture :) Spread half the remaining enchilada sauce over the tortillas, making sure they're covered, and a little sprinkle of cheese. Repeat and finish with the rest of the sauce and cheese, making sure it's all covered well. STick it in the oven then for about 25 minutes til it's bubbly and the cheese is melted.

Serve with nachos, guacamole, sour cream and a big salad if you're feeling frisky :)

Butternut squash risotto

Quite possibly the new favourite, and if not, then definitely the flavour of the month:

1 butternut squash
1 good sized onion
1 pak of pancetta cubes or 3-4 rashers of smoked bacon, chopped finely
1 small pack of pine nuts
parmesan, grated
sage, to taste
black pepper
chicken stock, about 400ml
risotto rice, about 200g or so

So. Crank up the oven to heat, as high as it will go. Peel and chop the butternut squash into bite-sized pieces, and discard the seeds. Arrange on a baking tray and roll about in some olive oil. Pop it in the oven to nuke, keeping an eye on it so it doesn't burn.

While that's doing, saute the onion and bacon off together in a large pan, possibly in a dab of butter, and whilst THOSE are doing, grate a good whack of parmesan and toast the pine nuts, dry, in a small pan. Keep an eye on them as once they start to toast they can catch and burn really quickly. Add the garlic to the softened onion and bacon and allow to cook down.

When the butternut squash is soft enough to break up with a wooden spoon, add it to the pan along with a good sprinkle of black pepper and a really good shake of sage. Then add the rice and stock, cover and leave to cook, stirring occasionally. If the rice cooks before all the stock is absorbed take off the lid and allow to reduce uncovered, stirring from time to time so it doesn't stick.

When it's done take it off the heat, add the parmesan and pine nuts, stir and enjoy :)

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Lentil soup

This is basically a rip-off of Heinz vegetable and lentil soup but also a cunning way of using all the lonely stray veg up in the bottom of the fridge. Goes nice with a cheese sandwich.

5-6 tomatoes, or if you've got none to use up just use a tin of chopped toms and leave out the puree
one heart of celery
an onion
grated carrot (as much as you like, probably 1 or 2)
a yellow pepper
2 potatoes, peeled and cubed up small (1cm)
1 tablespoon of tomato puree (if using up fresh tomatoes)
salt and pepper
and then however many lentils and chicken stock you want.

So, just saute off the veg with the garlic and a generous sprinkle of salt (and an even more generous one of pepper). When they've softened a bit, add in however many lentils you think you'd like and then - the most important bit of measuring here - barely cover them with chicken stock. The rule is 1 chicken stock cube to approximately 300ml, so if you use a pint you'll need more like two. Don't ever use more than two though or it'll taste like a Pot Noodle.

After that just bring it up to the boil, stick the lid on and reduce to a slow simmer. You do need to keep stirring this one because the buggering lentils stick.

Beef Oxford

Another Joy Duckett special (although I seem to remember it's via Penny Bennett). Anyway, I've not really followed her recipe too closely, but it's essentially beef in red wine.

3-4 rashers of bacon
Good stewing steak
2 good sized carrots
1 heart of celery
2 green peppers
2 courgettes
1 bottle of good red wine
garlic (to taste, but the general rule is LOTS)
black olives, to taste
beef oxo cube

SO. In a dab of butter fry off your bacon, then add the beef and let it brown. When it's browned, add a good shake of nutmeg, black pepper and a beef oxo cube and stick the lid on while you chop up the veg.

Add a good slug of garlic and the chopped celery and onions and put the lid back on - it needs to cook down a bit before the rest of the vegetables go in. When they do, give them a few minutes to soften before adding the bottle of wine, rosemary and - if necessary - a bit of water to just barely cover the veg. If you do add water, add a bit more beef stock - between half and a whole cube. Most importantly though bring it up to the boil to cook the alcohol off before turning down to a simmer and putting the lid on. This is going to take a good three hours so put it on the lowest heat and keep the lid on tight.

About halfway through the cooking time add the olives. When it's ready, thicken the sauce with cornflour paste or thickening granules. Serve with plain steamed rice, crunchy roast potatoes or, if you're of a mind, some thick noodles. All are good.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

Sour cherry-lemon cupcakes

175g butter
175g golden caster sugar
3 medium eggs
175g self-raising flour, sifted
75g sour cherries (remember to keep 12 back for the tops of the cakes)
12 bite-size cubes of marzipan (well, or one per cake, as per the cherries)
1-2 lemons (rinds grated)

For the icing - icing sugar and lemon juice. You know how to get the consistency :)

Preheat the oven to 190 degrees (GM 5)

Beat the butter and sugar together, and then add the eggs (beaten) and flour a bit at a time. Add in the sour cherries and lemon zest and mix thoroughly. If it's really dry add a dash of milk.

Spoon half the cake mixture into the cake pans, smoothing it down evenly. Drop a cube of marzipan onto each one and then use the rest of the cake mix up. Get it as even as possible and smooth it flat on the top of each one. Make sure the marzipan is covered.

Bake for 15-20 minutes. Bear in mind that the skewer test won't work for this becuase the marzipan will be goopy, so do the press-spring test (ie, see if it springs back when you press it).

Leave them to cool (be careful getting them out because of the molten marzipan) and then when they're cold make the lemon icing (nice and thick), decorate with a cherry and put them somewhere cool (or cold) to set.

Sweet potato soup

1 onion
1 red pepper
1 pack of pancetta
dab of butter
2-3 sweet potatoes, depending how big they are
scant teaspoon of sweet smoked paprika
shake of cinnamon
garlic paste
boiling water
2 chicken stock cubes

Put the pancetta into the (metal) pan and let the fat render. While that's happening, chop the onion and red pepper.

When the pancetta is crispy and the fat's in the pan, take out the pancetta with a slotted spoon and put to one side. Add the butter, onion and red pepper to the pan and sweat off.

While that's happening, peel the sweet potatoes and slice into 1-cm thick slices. Then chop them up into 2-cm-ish cubes. Add a good squirt of garlic to the pan, stir it in and add the sweet potatoes. Put the lid on and leave to sweat while you boil the kettle and have a smoke.

Add the cinnamon and smoked paprika and stir in well, then crumble the stock cubes over the sweet potatoes. Finally, add enough boiling water from the kettle that it's JUST covered, turn the heat to medium-low, and stick the lid on. Wander off and make some tea or something; leave it for about 15-20 minutes.

Remove pan from heat and take off the lid so it cools a bit. Don apron/goggles/rain poncho/wellies and blend thoroughly with the hand blender. Stick the pancetta cubes back in and stir well before eating with enthusiastic faise.

Sweet potato soup

1 onion
1 red pepper
1 pack of pancetta
dab of butter
2-3 sweet potatoes, depending how big they are
scant teaspoon of sweet smoked paprika
shake of cinnamon
garlic paste
boiling water
2 chicken stock cubes

Put the pancetta into the (metal) pan and let the fat render. While that's happening, chop the onion and red pepper.

When the pancetta is crispy and the fat's in the pan, take out the pancetta with a slotted spoon and put to one side. Add the butter, onion and red pepper to the pan and sweat off.

While that's happening, peel the sweet potatoes and slice into 1-cm thick slices. Then chop them up into 2-cm-ish cubes. Add a good squirt of garlic to the pan, stir it in and add the sweet potatoes. Put the lid on and leave to sweat while you boil the kettle and have a smoke.

Add the cinnamon and smoked paprika and stir in well, then crumble the stock cubes over the sweet potatoes. Finally, add enough boiling water from the kettle that it's JUST covered, turn the heat to medium-low, and stick the lid on. Wander off and make some tea or something; leave it for about 15-20 minutes.

Remove pan from heat and take off the lid so it cools a bit. Don apron/goggles/rain poncho/wellies and blend thoroughly with the hand blender. Stick the pancetta cubes back in and stir well before eating with enthusiastic faise.

Sunday, 27 September 2009

Lisa's butternut squash and courgette soup

1 butternut squash
2/3/4 courgettes depending on size and season
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 large white onion
mild curry powder, or mixed curry spices - you know what you like
cayenne pepper
chicken stock
coconut milk, or yogurt, or however you want to do it
spring onion for garnish, but this is totally optional.

Peel and chop the butternut squash and nuke it - really nuke it - in the oven til it's soft. It'll take about 15-20 minutes, with a couple of turnings, on the highest setting. While that's going on, saute the chopped courgette, onion and garlic together until soft but not coloured, so leave the lid on and stir often. Add the now-squidgy squash and spices to the pan, along with the chicken stock (up to you how much depending on how much vegetable is in the pan), and then cover and leave it to cook down gently for a while. Hand-blend it or mash it, add the yogurt/coconut milk/whatever and stir in, and then garnish (if liked) with the spring onions; it's a nice crunch. Weirdly good with parmesan, I don't know why since it's technically curry flavoured.

Banana and chocolate chip loaf

225 self-raising flour
half a teaspoon bicarbonate of soda
2 eggs, beaten
3 bananas, mashed
80ml sesame oil
60ml milk
110g brown Splenda, or about 80 ish grams soft brown sugar
110g chocolate chips
60 walnuts
about 60g cherries, chopped
teaspoon of cinnamon

Set the oven for 180 degrees.

Sift the flour, bicarb and cinnamon into a large mixing bowl.

In a separate bowl, mix together the beaten eggs, mashed banana, oil and milk, and when they're stirred together mix in the sugar thoroughly. Stir this, in turn, into the flour and cinnamon mixture, and then add the chocolate, nuts and cherries.

Pour into the loaf tin (the silicone one), and bake for about 40 minutes. This is quite a soft squidgy affair when it's freshly done and hot, but be careful that it's fully cooked. The skewer won't come out clean as it's got banana and chocolate in it but it should be nearly there.

Friday, 25 September 2009

Potato, leek and bacon pie

Approx 1kg potatoes, peeled and chopped into even sized pieces
3 leeks
1 onion
3-4 slices smoked bacon
bit of garlic

For seasoning the mash -
lots of grated cheese

Boil the potatoes, and while that's going, sweat off the leeks, bacon and onion with the garlic. When the potatoes are cooked, mash them with the salt and pepper and cheese, and then just layer up in a pie dish and bake at about 180 degrees for about half an hour - 40 minutes.

Thursday, 24 September 2009

Roast tomato sauce, three ways

Basic sauce:

2-3 packs of baby tomatoes, preferably plum
1 head of garlic, separated into unpeeled cloves
olive oil
black pepper

For ALL VERSIONS, begin like this:

Heat the oven to 200 degrees. Line a roasting tin with foil or the floppy baking sheet, and sprinkle olive oil over it generously. Empty the tomatoes in, along with the unpeeled cloves of garlic, and roll them around so they're well coated. Season with salt and black pepper - not too much salt though - and stick them in the oven. They will take about 20 minutes but you MUST watch them or they'll burn. Give them a little roll or shake every so often.

While that is happening, pick one of the following recipe options.

Version 1 - Italian:

1 pack pancetta
1 large onion, sliced thinly
black olives, pitted and chopped finely

Sweat off the pancetta til the fat is rendered, and then add the onion and cook down. When the tomatoes look roasted, add them in with the olives, chili and basil, and squeeze all the squidgy roast garlic in, mashing them on the way. Let it cook down and voila.

Version 2 - Fakey Spanish

1 small pack chorizo
1 large onion, sliced thinly
black olives, pitted and chopped
finelysweet smoked paprika

As before, sweat off the chorizo til it's rendered, and add the onion and cook down. Add the tomatoes, paprika and olives and stir, and squeeze/mash all the roasted garlic before adding it to cook down.

Version 3 - Puttanesca

Anchovy fillets, drained and mashed
1 large onion, sliced thinly
black olives, pitted and chopped finely

With this version you don't add the anchovy until everything else has combined. So, in a dab of butter or splash of oil, sweat off the onion. Add the tomatoes, and follow the same procedure with squeezing/mashing etc. Add the chili, olives and anchoves towards the end of cooking and stir well.

Dirty rice

Serves 2-3 HUNGRY people:

1 onion, chopped
thinly sliced chorizo or spanish ham or other porky goodness
1 pack of black beans, drained
300g basmati rice
600ml chicken stock (you need two stock cubes)
1 tsp chile ancho powder
sprinkle of cayenne or chili flakes
sprinkle of oregano

Just soften off the onion and the porky loveliness in a saucepan, before adding the rice, beans, stock and seasoning, bringing to the boil, covering and simmering til everything is absorbed. Fluff it up with a fork and serve with chili/fajitas/whatever :)

Lamb Burgers A La Duckett

2 packs of minced lamb
1 large onion
good squirt of garlic paste
good splat of sweet chili sauce (be generous)
cumin, 1 - 1.5 tsp
pine nuts, a cupful (chopped)
dried apricots, a cupful (chopped)
Fresh parsley and mint, a good handful each, chopped
black pepper/salt
1 egg, beaten

Start by chopping the onion finely and sweating off in a pan so it's soft.

Then, combine all the ingredients EXCEPT THE EGG in a large bowl, seasoning well. Mix well with your hands and see what you think the consistency's like. Add about a third to a half of the egg and give it a good squidge. Then form it into burgers, grill or fry or whatever, and serve with houmus and chili sauce :)


1 pack of minced beef, or if you've got loads of time, stewing steak
1-2 rashers of bacon (optional, but nice), or a little chopped chorizo
1 large onion
green and red peppers
1-2 courgettes
garlic paste
tomato puree
carton chopped tomotoes or passata
small can of refried beans
small can kidney beans
carton of black beans
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp oregano
1/2 tsp chipotle
little splash of Tabasco
beef stock cube
1/2 tsp cinnamon
small bar dark, dark chocolate (grated)

Begin as you would with the Spaghetti Bolognese; if you're using any bacon or chorizo, stick em in the pan and let the fat render, and then add the beef along with the stock cube, cinnamon, and a little toot of garlic. When it's all browned and sticky and the juices are running, add the chopped onion and another slug of garlic and let it all go soft and lovely while you dice your peppers and courgettes.

When you're happy that the onion and meat are all cooked down, add the veg, stick the lid on, and leave everything to cook down for about ten minutes or so.

At this point, add the cinnamon, cumin, chili powder, chipotle, oregano, tomato puree and passata. Give it a good stir and let it bubble with the lid on while you get on with draining all the beans and grating the chocolate. When the beans are drained and the chocomalate is grated, add them to the pot, stir well, and put the lid back on. Don't add the refried beans just yet, because they thicken the sauce too much. You can hold back til quite near serving time on that one. Do leave things for about ten minutes and then taste. You might want to add the splash of Tabasco, or a pinch of salt or sugar depending on what you think it needs. After that though, it's smallest gas ring, lowest heat, lid on, and you go and watch the football and leave it all to do its thing.

Serve it with sour cream, nachos, guacamole, grated cheddar, rice, tortillas, whatever you like :)

Spaghetti Bolognese (kind of)

This is as taught to me by my mother, but with a couple of tweaks.

1 pack of minced beef
3-4 rashers smoked bacon
1 large onion
Good squeeze of garlic, or 3-4 cloves
Double handful of mushrooms
1-2 courgettes (optional)
green pepper (optional)
1 pack of passata or chopped tomatoes
tomato puree
beef oxo cube
Italian herb seasoning, or a mixture of basil, parsley and oregano
black pepper
black olives, if liked

Start the dish by putting the bacon into the pan and letting it crisp up, and the fat render. When that's done, add the minced beef and break it up as it cooks, adding the oxo cube, a generous shake of nutmeg, a little squirt of garlic paste, and some black pepper. Really let this brown and get all gooey; keep breaking it up with the spoon as it cooks down.

When you're happy it's browned nicely and all the juices are running, finely chop and add your onion, then put the lid on and turn everything down so that the onion has chance to cook down and soften with the meat.

While that's doing, chop the veg up; rough dice for the courgettes and peppers, and just halve or quarter the mushrooms. Add these to the pot and season well with black pepper. Give everything another ten or so minutes with the lid on to soften and saute. When that time's up, stir in your passata and tomato puree - along with the dried italian herbs, if you're using them (if you're using fresh don't add them until everything is cooked, and just stir them through at the end), and any olives. Put the lid on, reduce it to the lowest heat, and go about your business. It'll be cooked in about twenty minutes, but it'll keep getting better the longer you leave it for. If you cook it for an hour and then leave it overnight it will be stunning the next day :)

Otherwise, cook your pasta as usual, stir it into the sauce, add parmesan if you like, and scoff.

EDIT (13 April 2010):
A pork stock cube (instead of beef, Knorr make them) and a couple of leftover sausages made this quite amazing when we tried it.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009

Half-arsed, cobbled together minestrone soup

Pancetta or smoked bacon, chopped small
1 onion
1 celery heart
1 green or yellow pepper
1-2 courgettes, depending on size
1 leek, sliced thin
1 carrot, peeled and thinly sliced
Good slug of garlic
1 bottle of passata
chicken stock cube
black pepper
Spaghetti, broken up small (or other soup pasta)
Can of butter beans, drained
Can of haricot or borlotti beans, drained
Bunch of fresh basil, and another of parsley

Start as usual - render any fat from the bacon, and put the onion in to soften. Follow it with the garlic and all the other veg, chopped into small soup-sized dice.

Let them all cook down together for a good ten minutes, with the lid on, until everything is soft and lovely. Then add the passata, the stock cube, both cans of beans, the pasta, and - most importantly - about two thirds of the bottle the passata came in of boiled water. Wrap the bottle in a towel and use the hot water to get the rest of the tomato out.

Put the lid on and keep an eye on things, but mainly at this point you're just waiting for the pasta to cook, so keep it on a nice low simmer once it's all come to the boil.

Just before serving stir in the freshly chopped herbs and serve with some lovely cheese on top and some good bread.

Mushroom risotto

1 small pack of pancetta, or 3/4 rashers smoked bacon, chopped
1 onion
A really good squeeze of garlic paste
2 packs of mushrooms
250g risotto rice
chicken stock
Dried thyme (fresh is ace but this is a good what's-in-the-cupboard dinner)
black pepper
parmesan, grated to taste

Cook off the pancetta first to let the fat render, then add the onions and soften. Stir in the garlic, and add the chopped mushrooms, black pepper and thyme (a really good shake). Put the lid on, turn it down and leave them for a good fifteen minutes so everything is brown and sludgy and delicious smelling.

Put the kettle on, and while it's boiling add your rice to the pot and stir so it starts to cook. When the kettle's boiled, add enough water to barely cover the rice, at least one stock cube (possibly one and a half), and stir. Put the lid on, and now you will have to hover and keep stirring and (possibly) adding water. If you wanted to you could use a glass of wine in with the stock; if you do, add it before the stock goes in and let the alcohol cook off. Same rules apply then though - just barely cover the rice with the water - I mean there should still be some bits of rice breaking the surface of the water, do not drown it!

Anyway while that's doing, and it'll take about 15 minutes, grate your pile of parmesan, have a smoke etc, and keep giving it the occasional stir so it doesn't catch too much. If it starts to dry up too much - it should suck up the liquid but not be completely solid - add a little more water from the kettle but don't go drowning it or it'll be horrible.

When it's cooked (taste it to check), just take it off the heat, stir the cheese through thoroughly, and put the lid back on for a minute or two just to let it come together. Then eat eat eat! :D

Rice and beans/peas

1 onion
2 cloves of garlic or a little squeeze of garlic paste
one can (400ml) coconut milk
400ml chicken stock (made with 1.5 chicken stock cubes)
sprinkle of chili flakes
seriously good shake of dried thyme
400g basmati rice
one regular can of gunga peas, black beans or kidney beans, drained and rinsed

So, sweat off the onion and garlic together with the chili flakes until they're nice and soft.

Add the rice, beans/peas, coconut milk and chicken stock, with the thyme, and bring it to the boil.

Put the lid on, reduce to minimum heat and leave to cook - you need to stir it occasionally but not loads. When all the liquid has been sucked up, taste it to see if it's cooked, and then put the lid back on for a few minutes while you fiddle about with the sauce and put the dishes out. When you're ready to eat, fluff it up with a fork and go forth

Tomato, lentil and bacon soup

So, ingredients:

1 bottle of passata
1 big onion
1 pack of pancetta (optional)
2 courgettes
that head of celery lurking in the vegetable drawer
the stray lone red pepper on the middle shelf
chicken stock cube (s)
red lentils (I think there's a few left on the top shelf of the
vegetable rack by the door, if not there's a bag on the side by the
garlic paste
tomato puree
black pepper
italian herb seasoning
hot water

you also need my big metal pan and lid. Be warned, it takes ages to heat up but once it does it's FIERCE and you need to keep a close eye on things so they don't stick and burn.

If you're making lentilly bacony tomatoey loveliness start with the pancetta. Put it in dry and then let the fat render so it's crispy. Do this on a medium heat and watch it like a hawk. When it's all brown and lovely and gooey, fish it out (leaving the fat) and put it to one side.

Using the fat from the pancetta (if not, put a dab of butter or oil in) and start with softening the onions. Really watch them or they'll catch. You might do best to chop everything up first. When they've softened up, add all the other chopped veg and a really good slug of garlic paste (there's more on the vegetable rack) and put the lid on, leaving them to soften while you have a smoke (this is about the right amount of time). Keep a close eye and stir stir. When you're satisfied that they're softening up nicely, add the passata. Don't rinse the bottle! Put it on the side. Stir it in, along with the tomato puree and the black pepper and herbs, and then boil the kettle.

Wrap the passata bottle in a towel so you can hold it, and fill it about two thirds full with water from the kettle, to wash out the last bits of tomato. Add a stock cube. Stir it all in, stick the lid on, and leave it on a low heat for a good 20 minutes or so. Keep stirring occasionally to make sure there's no sticking.

When it's looking nicely globby, take it off the heat and put it on the side. Leave it for a few minutes. Have a cup of tea. Knit a few rows. Then come back, having removed any clothes you are particularly attached to, and put on your apron. Stand the pan on a folded towel on the side so it doesn't move, and using the hand blender carefully puree it smooth. I find that to start with you have to just attack it
bit by bit. Try not to splatter yourself too much and get it as smooth as you can. Be really careful though because the blade's deceptively sharp :)

At that point you can add the bacon back in and you might want to put some more water in too, about the same amount as before (and probably another stock cube, as optimum stock quantity is one stock cube to 300ml of water). Add in the leftover lentils in the veg rack and about another fifth of the new pack, and then let it simmer on a low low heat with the lid on, checking it to make sure it's not sticking.
If it looks dry add boiling water about a cup full at a time.

When it's done just turn it off and leave the lid on :) Don't forget it'll go bloopy and splattery as the lentils cook so keep your apron on as you're stirring.

Garlic bread dear? :)