Orzo with Bacon, Tomato and Cream Sauce

Orzo with bacon and tomato

This is a winner.  A little girl (aged 3) recently came to stay and when it came to teatime she wasn’t in the mood for any nonsense.  I was fairly confident she would like this as my children adore it, even my son who is absolutely not the first to request pasta, ever.

When  the time came to serve though, I realised I had forgotten the vagaries of young children and must admit, felt a brief tremor of nerves.  Hurrah, it was a huge success and she polished off three helpings much to the panic of my daughter who was eyeing the reducing seconds in the pan with alarm.

So offer this with confidence and not only to children, I make no secret of loving it and am often to be caught sneaking a spoonful or two from the pan before it disappears.

Orzo with Bacon, Tomato and Cream Sauce

Orzo is a rice shaped pasta we have a particular fondness for but use any small shape you like. I keep those little rectangular packs of pancetta in the fridge and along with some small packs of passata in the larder this becomes an almost store cupboard supper.

125g orzo

1 teaspoon olive oil

100g pancetta, pack sizes vary and a little more won’t hurt if that is what you have

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

100g passata

2 tablespoons cream

A few sprigs of parsley, chopped


Cook the orzo according to the packet instructions, probably around 11 minutes.  Meanwhile put the pancetta into a large frying pan with a teaspoon of olive oil and cook until well coloured and crispy in places.  Add the garlic and cook for a minute before adding the passata, stir and cook for a few minutes before adding the cream.   Drain the pasta retaining a little of the cooking water.  Put the pasta into the sauce, stir until combined adding a little of the cooking water if you need it to loosen the sauce.  Grate over some parmesan, add the chopped parsley and serve with more parmesan to hand.  Serves two adults or three children.




Cinnamon Pannacotta with Maple Syrup Apples

Cinnamon Pannacotta

To me this has a faintly Autumnal air about it and I had been saving it until the end of the Summer but then someone asked me for the recipe.  In truth it is good any day of year and as apples are around all the time a good one to have up your sleeve.

I adore Pannacotta, there is something about the creamy wobbliness that is irresistible.  Usually I make a vanilla version which I can then serve with any fruit that happens to be in season, pureed gooseberries, rhubarb and blackcurrants all being favourites.  Should the fruit bowl be bare however, then a good chocolate sauce (one without cream) makes them a pudding of dreams.  You can find my Vanilla Pannacotta here (July 2014).

This one came about because I’d made a note ages ago to combine cinnamon with apples and maple syrup and eventually got around to having a go.  A favourite North American combination I suspect and a possible Jelly Bean one too if that is your thing.  I tried pie and crumble and whilst a good combo the individual flavours got a little muddled.  An ice cream was a nice idea but try getting apples to make themselves heard against cinnamon in an ice cream.  This pannacotta really works though.  Gently bosky sweetness from the cinnamon goes so well with the creaminess of the pannacotta which is kept the right side of too rich with the addition of yogurt.  The apples and maple syrup compliment each other politely, allowing both to show themselves off.

Cinnamon Pannacotta with Maple Syrup Apples

On another occasion just make a panful of these sweet, soft apples and serve over vanilla ice cream.

200ml whole milk

100ml single cream

100ml Greek yogurt

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

60g caster sugar

2 gelatine leaves

2 eating apples such as Braeburn, peeled, cored and finely sliced

1 tablespoon butter

2 tablespoons maple syrup

Put the gelatine in a bowl of cold water to soften.  Heat the milk, cream, cinnamon and sugar until it just reaches boiling point.  Remove from the heat and add the squeezed out gelatine, whisk well and leave to cool, stirring occasionally.  Whisk in the yogurt and divide between 4 ramekins or small metal moulds.  Put into the fridge for at least 4 hours to set.  About 20 minutes before serving prepare the apples,  melt the butter in a frying pan and cook the apples gently in this for about 10 minutes until turning golden brown and becoming floppy.  At this point add the maple syrup and cook for a further 5 minutes until the apples are well coated and the syrup reduced.  To serve, dip each ramekin briefly into hot water before turning out onto a plate and serve with the apples.  Serves 4.

Smoked Haddock and Chive Risotto

Smoked haddock and chive risotto

We are in the midst of that horror that is house buying.  The house selling seems to be a dream but the purchase is causing unknown stress and as such I am in need of great comfort.   What could be more reassuring and bolstering than risotto.  Cosy, creamy and requiring very little effort to eat, sofa food if ever there was.   As it oozes gently across your plate you just know it is going to make you feel better.  That, and the bar of chocolate to follow….

For this I have chosen smoked haddock because I find it an old fashioned, nostalgic ingredient which in itself brings me comfort.  Purists may recoil at the hint of yellow coming from this fish and by all means use undyed if you prefer.  The haddock I purchased did, clearly, have a belt of sunshine yellow about it but as it was good quality I wasn’t going to let it bother me.  Indeed I rather like the jolly jauntiness of yellow and it certainly makes this uplifting to look at along with its green chive freckles.

Parmesan I know is not traditional with fish risottos but I do think cheese goes rather well with smoked fish so personally, I am all for a good grating but I leave that up to you.  One final suggestion I make is a poached egg.  The golden yolk breaking over the risotto is a fabulous addition and would make this go further should you wish to feed more souls in need of comfort, or otherwise.

Smoked haddock and chive risotto 2

Smoked Haddock Risotto with Chives

I am not keen on fish stock unless I have just made it so tend to use chicken or vegetable, either works fine.  That I can use stock cubes if necessary makes this a superb store cupboard supper as smoked haddock is happily stored in the freezer and the chives can be growing in a pot or your garden.   Onions, lemons and arborio rice I always have in the larder.   Finally, you will have to stand and stir this for around 20 minutes but the beauty of being trapped stove side is that you are unable to help anyone find their homework, walk the dog, hang the washing out……

1 tablespoon butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 onion finely chopped

200g arborio rice

1 wineglass dry white wine

500/600ml stock (see introduction)

Juice of half a lemon

Chives, about 10g, finely chopped

250g smoked haddock, cut into pieces

Salt and pepper

Make your stock if using cubes or heat it up if is already liquid, either way keep it hot by or on the hob.  Melt the butter and oil in a large pan and cook the onion for 5 to 10 minutes until soft but not coloured and then add the rice.  Give it a good stir to ensure all the grains are well coated.  Add the wine and stir until it has been absorbed by the rice.  Then add the stock a ladleful at a time, stirring continuously until each addition is absorbed.  Towards the end of this process you should taste a grain of rice as different brands vary but I suspect it will take around 20 minutes.  When it is nearly done add the fish and your final slosh of stock and continue stirring.  Finally add the lemon juice and taste for salt at this point as you may not need much depending on the saltiness of your fish but add lots of pepper and most of the chives.  Stir and leave it to stand for 2-3 minutes.  Sprinkle with the last of the chives and serve.  Enough for 2.