Tuesday, 24 April 2007

Pasta Primavera

With recent high pressure systems over the UK bringing unseasonably warm weather, Spring has most definitely sprung. The trees are very nearly green, the flush of cherry blossom is blowing away, and spring flowers are blooming everywhere. With the British asparagus season just starting, I'm in nearly the perfect location to take advantage of some of the best spears in the country - I'm just down the road from Evesham.
Now the weekend before last I tried my hand at making fresh pasta - it worked well, but I didn't roll it out thinly enough and it *really* didn't look pretty enough to share pics. Fortunately I froze some of the dough, which meant tonight I had fun rolling it out really thinly. Result? pretty damn good pasta, even if I do say so myself - will share the recipe another time.

The sauce recipe is loosely based on one I saw on the BBC's Saturday Kitchen show, but makes more use of the seasonal, spring vegetables I have to hand. Oh yeah, and guess who's still trying to finish up the purple sprouting broccoli? ;-)

Enough fresh spaghetti for one person
6 Asparagus Spears (chopped into 1" lengths)
4 Purple Sprouting Broccoli Spears (chopped into 1" lengths)
1 large handful Frozen Peas (fresh would have been better, but I didn't have any)
3 slices Prosciutto Ham (cut into small pieces)
2 tbsp Grated Parmesan (plus a little more to serve)
50g Butter
1/2 clove Garlic (crushed)
2 tsp mint (I used the freeze-dried stuff because I didn't have any fresh)
Salt and Pepper

1) Melt the butter in a small pan and fry the garlic for a few seconds.

2) Add the asparagus, broccoli and peas and stir in a little water. Continue to cook for a couple of minutes, stirring regularly.

3) Stir through the mint, parmesan, salt, pepper and ham and remove from the heat.

4) Cook your pasta in salted, boiling water; drain and toss with the sauce until well-covered.

Serve immediately with a little more parmesan and black pepper on top.

Monday, 23 April 2007

Chicken and Broccoli Stir-Fry

I finally found somewhere that sells gluten free oyster sauce! Wing Yip have supermarkets around the country, but none very convenient for me, so I placed an order online this weekend. Unfortunately the postage cost £5, so I made sure I got my money's worth by stocking up on a couple of jars of oyster sauce, Shaosing, bags of black fungus and dried chinese mushrooms, and some other bits and pieces - I've got a couple of recipes in mind for this week, can you tell? :-)

But in the absence of oyster sauce, what do you do when you receive the most enormous bunch of purple sprouting broccoli in your vegetable box?
On Saturday night, having just finished a stack of ironing, I realised it was getting pretty late and that I was actually, pretty hungry! Wanting something quick, I figured that a stir fry would work. If you have a rice cooker, it's even better because you can just set the rice cooking and by the time the rest is ready, the rice is cooked!

1 Chicken Breast (chopped into smallish pieces)
5 Purple Sprouting Broccoli Stems (chooped into 1" lengths)
1 Clove Garlic (crushed)
1/2" Fresh Ginger (sliced finely)
1 tbsp Cornflour
1 tbsp Oil
2 tbsp Soy Sauce
1/2 tsp 5 Spice Powder
1 large tbsp Honey
1 tbsp Lime Juice

1) Mix the chicken with the cornflour and a little of the oil until well-coated. Set aside for 15 minutes. (This is where you start preparing your rice and cooking it ;-) )

2) Blanch the broccoli in boiling water for a couple of minutes; drain and set aside.

3) Fry the garlic and ginger in the remainder of the oil for 30 seconds. Add the chicken and continue to cook until sealed. Add the broccoli and stir-fry until the chicken is *just* cooked.

4) Mix the soy sauce, lime juice, honey and five spice together before adding to the pan. Stir through until everything is well-coated. Serve immediately over your rice.

Monday, 16 April 2007

Mixed Bean and Olive Chilli

This chilli was one of my 'must-get-recipe-from-mum' ones, because it's wonderfully quick, cheap and with the exception of the minced beef, makes use of lots of storecupboard bits - brilliant if you've not been shopping for a while. That said, this week I registered with a couple of supermarkets who do online shopping / delivery services; not for the convenience (although having your groceries delivered is always a bonus and has the advantage in that it's one less car going to the supermarket), but for the simple reason that I'm a compulsive impulse buyer. Let me lose in a supermarket and I can inevitably find a hundred and one things that I *need* but weren't on my shopping list. So yeah, I signed up for online shopping. My biggest reason NOT to go shopping online before now was mainly for the fruit and vegetables - I'm really fussy and like to pick 'just' the right ones that are ripe. Now I get my organic vegetables delivered as well, it's no longer a problem!

Anyhow, back on to the chilli...
Best made with 2-for-one minced beef (on offer of course), a leftover chunk of cheese from the fridge, plus the few other random ingredients you may have laying around in your storecupboard.
Happy cooking, and I hope your weather is as nice as it is here!

500g Lean Minced Beef
1 Medium Onion (chopped finely)
1 Tin Mixed Beans (rinsed well)
Approx 12 Green Olives (stoned and chopped in half)
2 tbsp Tomato Puree
2 tbsp Sundried Tomato Paste
2 tbsp Chilli Powder (hot or mild, your call)
1 tsp Cinnamon
1 tsp Minced Garlic
1 Beef Stock Cube
Grated Cheese (for topping with)

Preheat oven to 200 Celcius

1) Fry the garlic and onions in a little oil until browned. Add the minced beef and continue to cook until brown.

2) Add the tomato puree and paste, chilli powder, cinnamon, beans ad olives. Mix well and stir in the beef stock cube with a little water. tir again and allow to simmer gently for 15 minutes.

3) Transfer to an ovenproof dish, cover with grated cheese and bake for 20 minutes or until the cheese is just browning and going crispy on the top. Serve with rice and/or tortilla chips.

Tuesday, 10 April 2007

Chicken and Pesto Lasagne

Another recipe inspired by delicious Magazine's Italian special!
Any GF'er knows that shop-bought, gluten free pasta is a really hit-or-miss affair - I've been cooking and eating gluten free since January now and in that time have come across some real winners and losers insofar as pasta is concerned. Delicious Magazine had a recipe for making your own fresh egg pasta and I had intended to make my own lasagne sheets for this recipe that I dreamt up. Unfortunately we had scrambled eggs for breakfast and guess who forgot to buy more... As a result I was forced to use 'quick' pasta sheets which resulted in a rather chewy lasagne because there's not a lot of liquid in it. Note to self - remember to buy lots of eggs next time! Other than that, this recipe tasted *really* good - again, shop-bought green pesto can either be really good or really bad. Fortunately it's really easy to make although my basil plant's looking a little sorry for itself now :-)

Serve the lasagne with fresh salad leaves - I dress mine with my favourite Honey and Balsamic Vinegar Dressing

30g Fresh Basil Leaves
100g Pine Nuts
2 Cloves Garlic
100ml Olive Oil

2 Chicken Breasts (chopped into small chunks)
1/2 Smoked Sausage (Matthesons (Kielbasa-style), chopped into half-rounds)
1 Small Onion (chopped finely)

1/2 Pint Milk
200g Cheddar (grated)
100g Mozzarella (sliced)
20g Parmesan
1 Bay Leaf
1/2 tsp Ground Nutmeg
2 tbsp Cornflour

12 - 15 Fresh Lasagne Sheets
Salt & Pepper

Preheat oven to 180 Celcius

1) Make the pesto first; blend all ingredients together in a food processor or with a hand blender, to a creamy consistency.

2) Fry the onion in a little oil until golden. Add the chicken and sausage and fry until cooked through and slightly crispy. Set aside.

3) Make the cheese sauce; mix the cornflour in a little of the milk until smooth, before adding the rest of the milk. Heat gently in a saucepan and stir in the nutmeg, bay leaf, parmesan and half of the Cheddar. Stir until thickened and set aside, removing the bay leaf just before use.

4) Assemble the lasagne; place the chicken and sausage mixture evenly over the bottom of a 9" square oven dish. Place alternate layers of lasagne sheets and pesto, finishing with a layer of pasta. Top with the cheese sauce followed byt he mozzarella slices and the remainder of the Cheddar.

5) Bake for approximately 30 minutes until the pasta is tender and the cheese is browned on top.

Monday, 9 April 2007

Gnocchi With Sausage and Sweet Chilli Tomato Sauce

I remember eating gnocchi in a restaurant years ago and being completely put off by the plate of dense, slimy blobs. Now, many years later I felt that I ought to give the humble potato pasta another try. Inspired by Delicious Magazine's Italian month, the gnocchi here were adapted from one of their recipes to be gluten free. I also made a different sauce using my favourite Matthesons sausages (the British version of kielbasa (I think), which I recently discovered were gluten free), in a tomato and sweet chilli sauce.

The results?
Beautiful, light and fluffy diamonds, half eaten straight away and the other half stored in the freezer for another day. Brilliant!

These take a little planning in advance as the potatoes need cooking and then ricing / mashing.
I baked my potatoes as it helps dry them out a little.

500g Baking Potatoes
150g GF Flour (or '00' pasta flour for non GF people)
2 Medium Eggs (lightly beaten)
1/2 tsp Salt

1) Prick the potato skins and bake until cooked - time depends on the size of the potatoes.

2) Using a spoon, scoop out the insides and pass through a potato ricer (or do as I do, and press through a sieve).

3) Add the eggs, flour and salf and combine into a pliable dough. Divide into quarters, rolling each quarter into a 1" 'tube'. Flatten slightly and cut into even diamond-shaped pieces.

4) To cook, cook in salted, boiling water for 2 - 3 minutes. Drain and melt a little butter into the gnocchi before serving.

Sausage and Sweet Chilli Tomato Sauce

1 Small Tin Chopped Tomatoes
1 tbsp Tomato Puree
1 Small Onion (chopped finely)
1 tsp Chilli Flakes
2 tsp Sugar
1/2 Smoked Sausage / Kielbasa (chopped into 1/4" rounds)
1 Handful Basil Leaves (rouchly chopped)
Salt & Pepper

1) Lightly fry the Onions in a little oil until golden. Add the sausage and heat through until the sausage has nice crispy edges.

2) Lower the heat and stir through the tinned tomatoes, puree, chilli flakes and sugar. Simmer until the liquid content has reduced by about half.

3) Stir in the basil and seasoning to taste.

Serve the sauce over the gnocchi and finish with fresh parmesan and basil leaves.

Saturday, 7 April 2007

Missy's Ma's Watercress Soup

Spring time = Watercress = SOUP!
Hannah and I have been on a bit of a soup binge at work recently, and with the warm, sunny weather we've been having recently, I just had to show her my mother's amazing watercress soup.

Ma's watercress soup is infamous. Sworn vegetable 'haters' love it. Soup 'haters' love it. It's wonderful both hot and cold and is great as a starter or a main course. Personally I prefer it cool with crackers and slices of crumbly, white Cheshire cheese on the side for lunch. Also, it's incredibly simple to make! There's just 5 (with an optional 2 more) ingredients and it takes just 30 minutes from start to finish.

Watercress contains significant amounts of iron, calcium and folic acid, as well as high levels of vitamins A and C. It's also just in season now, and will be through until October.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Easter break!

500g Watercress (with thickest stems removed)
2 Medium Potatoes (peeled and chopped into 1" cubes)
1 Medium Onion (chopped)
Approx 500ml Chicken Stock
1 tbsp Oil
Salt & Pepper
Wholegrain Mustard (optional)
Cream (optional)

1) Sweat the onions in a large pan until transparent.

2) Add the potatoes and enough chicken stock to cover them. Simmer for 15 minutes.

3) Add the watercress and mustard (optional) and continue to simmer until the potatoes are tender and the watercress is fully wilted (approximately 5 minutes). Season to taste with salt and pepper.

4) Remove from the heat and blend in a food processor or with a hand blender.

5) Return to the pan and reheat if serving hot, or allow to cool. Stir through 2 tbsps cream (optional) and garnish with a little more to serve..

Wednesday, 4 April 2007

Spring Lamb with Roasted New Potatoes

From the picture, this may not look like all that much, but I think I'm on to a winner here and it certainly gets the thumbs up!
While in the UK we can get good lamb imported from New Zealand for the whole year round, April is the start of the British lamb season and Easter weekend is also usually associated with lamb (which is of course, why I have a joint of pork :-) ). The British lamb season runs from April to October, with the best lamb coming later in the season.

While we're still a little early for new potatoes (which have the best season between May and July), the imported ones do still work nicely with the lamb. I served the lamb and potatoes with Cauliflower and Broccoli Cheese and gravy made with the meat juices. Mmmmmyummy!

4 Small(ish) Lamb Leg Steaks
1 Heaped tsp Mint Sauce
1 tsp Minced Garlic
1/2 tsp Wholegrain Mustard
2 tsp Redcurrant Jelly
2 tbsp Lemon Juice
Salt & Pepper

New Potatoes
A Little Oil
1 tsp Mint Sauce
Salt & Pepper

Preheat Oven to 180 C

1) Mix the mint sauce, garlic, mustard, redcurrant jelly, salt, pepper and lemon juice and marinate the lamb in an ovenproof dish for at least 20 minutes.

2) Boil the new potatoes in enough salted water to cover them, until nearly cooked

3) Drain and return to the pan with a little oil, mint sauce and seasoning and shake gently to coat. Bake for 30 minutes on a baking sheet, turning once during cooking to brown move evenly.

4) Bake the lamb in the dish it marinated in, for 20 minutes at the top of the oven.