Pasta with Bacon, Garlic, Chilli and Parsley

pasta with bacon garlic chilli and parsley

 

We have had masses of building work done over the summer, hence my silence on these pages.  Some days I had a kitchen to use, other days not so much.  Once the Aga was decommissioned I moved onto a two ring gas hob (no oven) and once that was a goner it was braais or picnics.  There have certainly been some stressful moments and I have deposited more money in the swear box than I care to think about.  My poor husband and children have had to put up with a lot of unusual suppers from a rather mad-eyed cook but it was worth it and we now have a fabulous new kitchen.

The thing about being put on the spot kit wise is that it really focuses the mind.  If all the gadgetry has been boxed up (or just covered in dust) and there is only a pan to hand then one must make do.  One such recipe that came into play was this pasta with bacon, garlic, chilli and parsley.  Comprising of store cupboard and garden ingredients this can be reliably whipped up with the minimum of equipment, time or energy.  On one occasion I also added a pile of halved cherry tomatoes because I had some that needed using up.  It is certainly just as good without and I wouldn’t use tasteless winter (or jetset) tomatoes for the sake of it.

I highly recommend making this whether you are enjoying building works or not – it is cheap, very cheerful and everyone, particularly the children love it – what could be better (apart from a new kitchen).

Pasta with bacon, garlic, chilli and parsley

As with many of my recipes this is open to interpretation – if you adore bacon then add more;  if your children can’t bear chilli then leave it out.  The parsley is very much an ingredient here rather than merely a garnish but if the green stuff horrifies your little ones……

6 good fat rashers of smoked streaky bacon

2 large cloves of garlic

1/4 teaspoon dried chilli flakes

1/2 bunch parsley

300g pasta of your choice

Olive oil

Get your pasta cooking in a large pan of generously salted water.   Put a tablespoon of oil in a large frying pan and snip (I find scissors easiest here) the bacon into it.  Cook until just turning crispy then add the garlic and chilli, stir it around over a gentle heat ensuring the garlic doesn’t brown.  When the pasta is done, drain it retaining a little of the cooking water.  Tumble the pasta into the frying pan and mix well with the bacon, garlic and chilli adding a splash or two of cooking water to keep the whole thing quite slippery.  Chop the parsley over the top, season well and serve with parmesan if you like.  This amount is enough for two adults and two children.

Camp Fajitas

camp fajitas 2

I only have to hear Van McCoy’s The Hustle and I am transported back to Yorkshire that hot summer of 1976.  The fair came to our local town, Ripon and one evening, as a treat, we went to check it out.  The market square was full dodgems, waltzers and even a big wheel.  The air was heady with excitement, the music and the residual heat of the day.  Girls in their cheesecloth tops and cut off jeans hot pants and the boys watchful with their James Hunt hairdo’s and a packet of JPS tucked casually into capped t shirt sleeves.   The memory stays with me and reminds me of that long dusty hot summer with the school holidays reaching ahead for weeks. Without any internet or electronic games we had to amuse ourselves and there was a lot of playing in the garden, den building, making camps followed by general milling around.

These summer holidays have started off promisingly warm and I am keen for my children to fill their time as I did, mucking about outside, splashing in the river and climbing trees.  One way I’ve found to keep them busy is to get them to cook and campfire cooking has got to be up there as the best kind.  Even the most bored or bolshy child desperate to get onto their phone can usually be tempted by the thrill of the fire and ensuing feast.

These fajitas are perfect for a camp cook out, a doddle to make and seem to keep everyone happy.   You can cut up the vegetables and chicken or depending on their age, get your little darlings to do it for you, I am all for a bit of delegation/child labour.  We made the flatbreads you see in the picture and they could not be easier but by all means buy some if that is a step too far.   Much to my childrens’ disapproval I like to add lettuce to my wraps and if you are particularly carb-phobic you could dispense with the bread all together and fold your chicken and peppers into a large lettuce leaf.

camp fajitas

There are all manner of goodies you can add to your wraps.  I don’t add too much chilli when cooking to keep these family friendly so a drop of two of sriracha is mandatory for me and we always have sour cream or greek yogurt.   I might make a chunky guacamole or my quick pickled onions (August 2014) which add fabulous crunch and tang – the point is that the children love making these to their own specifications.  If you make the bread dough first then this can rise whilst you get on with the chicken and vegetables.  I use my usual bread recipe but on this occasion it only needs one rise before rolling them out.  If you are dong these on a camp fire I find a paella pan or large frying pan the best option.  Cook the filling first then put it on a plate to one side whilst you cook the flatbreads, they only take a few minutes each and this way you can use just one pan.

Camp Fajitas

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 large onions, peeled and sliced

3 large peppers, cored and sliced

2 large cloves of garlic, peeled and sliced

2 large chicken breasts, sliced into fairly small pieces

1 teaspoon cumin

1 teaspoon paprika

A pinch of cayenne pepper (more if you want it a little more spicy)

Salt and pepper

500g strong white bread flour plus a bit extra for rolling out

10g fast action yeast

10g fine salt

300ml lukewarm water

Mix the flour, yeast and salt with the water and combine to a dough.  If you are at home and have a stand mixer use this otherwise knead by hand for about 10 minutes then leave the dough covered for an hour to prove.  Put the oil into your large pan (see intro) and cook the onions and peppers with a good pinch of salt over a medium heat until soft, probably around 20 minutes.  Towards the end of this time add the garlic and cook for a few minutes.  Put the peppers and onions on a plate and cook the chicken in the same pan, you shouldn’t need anymore oil but add a bit if necessary.  Once golden add the spices and a pinch of salt, cook for a few more minutes then add around 100ml of water to create a bit of sauce, check for seasoning.  Put all this onto the plate with the peppers and onions and wipe the pan with a bit of kitchen roll but don’t bother washing it.

Take balls of the bread dough about the size of a satsuma and roll out in a little flour until the size of a large side plate.  Keeping the pan on the heat cook these for a couple of minutes either side until slightly puffed up and browning at the edges.  Put each flatbread into a folded tea towel to keep warm and soft while you do the rest  – you should get about 8 to 10.   Bung the filling back into the pan if it needs warming through and then tuck in along with any extra bits and pieces you have decided on (see intro).

 

Meatloaf, Sliders and Meatballs

Meatloaf

I may have mentioned that between them my children like most foods.  Between them that is.  Together there often seems very little common ground.  My daughter would like to live on Sausage Pasta, my son doesn’t like sausages or pasta.  My son would live on salad, hummus and broccoli whilst my daughter would recoil from all three.  Finding something to cook that we all like is therefore challenging.  I am not keen on making different things for everyone but equally the greedy child in me remembers mealtime excitement being dashed when presented with something I didn’t like and I want my two to love their food.

You can imagine my delight therefore when they both scoffed this meatloaf with unseemly haste, plates completely clean, seconds requested and announced not only was it delicious but required on a regular basis.  The joy, the relief.  My son even said “Mamma, your meatloaf is amazing!” now, I don’t know if he has tried any other meatloaf but I happily took the compliment.

These ingredients result in a big old batch but it makes sense this way because the mince comes in 500g packs.  You could happily make two meatloaves and freeze one but I tend to mix it up a bit.  I made the sliders the size of a snooker ball which I then flatten a bit.  Once cooked (in the same way as the meatballs) they have a tendency to crumble a little but for me this adds to their charm as they hit the mark somewhere between a mini hamburger and a sloppy Joe in a bun with salad and ketchup.  The meatballs I freeze in a single layer on a baking tray and then put into a tub once frozen.  These I fry or roast until cooked through, cover in tomato sauce and serve with rice or orzo, inexplicably this being a pasta my son likes.

Meatloaf, sliders and meatballs

This may seem a long list of ingredients but you probably have most of it to hand anyway.  I reckon on this amount making one meatloaf, four sliders and about 12 meatballs.  The tomato sauce below is also great with the meatballs.  If you have any meatloaf left over it makes an incredible sandwich….

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large onion, finely chopped

Salt

500g pork mince

500g beef mince

2 large cloves garlic, finely chopped

100g breadcrumbs

2 eggs beaten

1 tablespoon thyme leaves

60ml milk

3 tablespoons Worcester sauce

2 tablespoons ketchup

Small bunch parsley, finely chopped

Tomato sauce –

1 tin chopped tomatoes

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 clove garlic finely chopped

1 teaspoon brown sugar

1 tablespoons red wine or 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Preheat the oven to 200.  Heat the first tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan and cook the onion, with a pinch of salt, until soft then allow to cool.  In a large bowl put the rest of the ingredients (apart from the sauce ones) and mix well together (hands are easiest for mixing this) along with the cooled onions, 1 teaspoon of salt and around 20 turns on the pepper grinder.  Split the mixture and form half into a loaf a similar shape but a little smaller than a housebrick and make the rest into sliders or meatballs (see introduction).  Put the meatloaf onto a baking tray and cook for half an hour but check after 20 minutes and if browning too much cover with foil.  Meanwhile put the second tablespoon of oil into a small pan with the garlic, heat gently and as soon as it sizzles add the tinned tomatoes, sugar, wine or vinegar and a good pinch of salt.  Let this simmer for twenty minutes.  When the meatloaf is cooked let it sit for five minutes and then transfer to a warm serving plate and pour over the sauce.  Enough for two adults and two children.

Meatloaf 2

 

 

Weekend Food

Marble Cake close 2

We had a houseful over the weekend with extras for lunch on Sunday and whilst I wanted everyone to be well fed of course, the last thing on the menu was for me to be stuck in the kitchen (hissing) all weekend.  With ages ranging from 18 months to grandparents and childrens’ teas to add to the mix I had much to do.  Nothing for it but a bit of organisation, a good list and setting Friday morning aside to get ahead.  I thought I’d let you know what we ate and what I was able to prepare beforehand in case any of these tips help.

Saturday lunch was a picnic with Cannellini Bean, Parsley and Lemon Dip (April 2015) with grissini (recipe coming soon) and Wild Garlic Focaccia (May 2014) alongside a big plate of salami, a bowl of tomatoes and a good chunk of cheddar.  For pudding we had meringues with vanilla bean cream and chocolate sauce (recipe coming soon).  I made the grissini, focaccia, meringues and dip on Friday so putting lunch together on Saturday only took a few minutes.  Incidentally the dough for the focaccia will happily sit in the fridge overnight so it can be baked just before lunch.

Wild Garlic Focaccia

At tea the children had orzo with bacon and tomato sauce (June 2015).  Pudding, and for us to tuck into with a cup of tea, was a Chocolate and Vanilla Marble Cake (October 2013) which I made on Friday.  For supper we had Chicken with Harissa (October 2012) with Little Rosemary Roasties (March 2015) and my favourite Green Salad (January 2014) – couldn’t have been easier.

On Sunday we had Lamb which had been marinading in garlic, lemon and rosemary.  With this Fresh Herb Sauce (July 2013) but I used half mint and half parsley which made a funky full of flavour modern take on old fashioned mint sauce.  It went down an absolute treat.

Asparagus with parmesan

We didn’t need much for supper so I roasted several bunches of fabulous in season asparagus (June 2014) followed by Vanilla Pannacotta (July 2014) with poached rhubarb, both of which I made on Friday.

At each sitting I was delighted that the children scoffed everything except one who found the colour of the fresh herb sauce too alarmingly green.  Admittedly I gave myself quite I lot to do on Friday but I have to tell you it was worth it and it helped to know anything left to prepare was easy and also that so much was already in the fridge or cake tin.

Finally please don’t think there is even one iota of smuggery here,  I am rarely this organised but have proved to myself this weekend the virtue of planning and preparing ahead.  You may always be this organised but if not, I hope some of these tips and recipes might help you breeze through it next time you have a houseful.

One more thing, I finished off the leftover poached rhubarb and vanilla bean cream with a last meringue and it was fabulous.  It reminded me of a rhubarb pavlova that I made a couple of times last year and I will post that recipe soon.

 

Chicken with Chorizo, Parsley and Lemon

Chicken with Chorizo 2

It is a funny time of year.  Yesterday I got caught in a hailstorm whereas today there is a definite whiff of Spring in the air.  Primroses are nudging snowdrops out of the way, lambs are bouncing and I am tempted to put washing out on the line.   Rather as fashion magazines talk of that tricky between seasons time, what to wear, what to wear?  So in the kitchen we can feel caught on the hop.  Rich, hearty, belt loosening stews feel a little de trop now but salady lunches are still a way off.  Winter veg remains on offer and the bounty of Spring produce is yet to appear.

This then is the answer.  An unbelievably easy, one pot wonder that is both cooked and served in the same pan (less washing up, marvellous) and doesn’t require any hard to find or particularly seasonal ingredients.  Indeed, if like me you tend to keep chorizo in the fridge, then you may well have all the necessary to hand.   This will serve you well for lunch or supper and is just the ticket if you have friends over for dinner as it will tick along in the oven quite happily whilst you sit with a glass of something chilled.  You don’t really need to serve anything with it but my favourite green salad (January 2014 without the croutons I think) would be a verdant, refreshing side dish if  you want.

Chicken with Chorizo

For pudding I can’t think of anything better than Vanilla Pannacotta (July 2014) but instead of the summer blackcurrants in that recipe serve it with some baked rhubarb.  I made this last week for a girls lunch and was delighted with the combination, both creamy and refreshing, perfect for Spring – see the photograph at the bottom.

Chicken with Chorizo 3

Chicken with Chorizo, Parsley and Lemon

I serve this alongside a bowl of yogurt that has a little finely chopped garlic and salt added, it works an absolute treat with the chickpeas.  By the way, if chickpeas are really not your thing (ahem Miss and Master May) then omit them and serve with waxy little new potatoes which will be equally fabulous.  Incidentally don’t scrimp on the parsley, it is very much part of the dish and not just a garnish!

1 red onion

100g chorizo, sliced into discs

4 chicken thighs

1 clove garlic

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 lemon, halved

1 tin of chickpeas

1 small packet parsley, chopped

Plain yogurt to serve, see introduction

Preheat the oven to 200.  Peel and cut the onion into eighths and put into a large roasting pan with the oil, chorizo, chicken and garlic and turn it all over in the oil.  Season with salt and put in the oven for 30 minutes.  After this time take the pan out, baste the chicken, add the chickpeas and squeeze both lemon halves over it all and put these halves in the pan too.  Cook for a further 10 minutes, remove from the oven.  Sprinkle with the parsley and serve.  This amount serves two but it is easily doubled or tripled.

Vanilla Pannacotta with Rhubarb

Pannacotta with rhubarb

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Penne con Salsicccia (or Sausage Pasta)

Sausage Pasta 3

So I promised you easy, everyday family food and then give you shortbread.  This is to make up for it.  For those days when I have so much on my to do list I can’t think straight and whilst busy writing and testing a couple of recipes I don’t actually have anything for supper.  For those days you need emergency food that can be conjured up from whatever you might keep in your fridge or larder.

Any day of the week my daughter would choose pasta for tea.  Ideally a Bolognese type ragu or this sausage pasta.  My son however doesn’t like pasta or sausages…. Quite a conundrum and this tends to remain for days when he is out.  I must stress though that of all the people, child or adult, who have tried this, he is the only one who doesn’t like it!

Sausage Pasta_

I love this though and whenever I cook it for my daughter I hover greedily and wish I had thought of it for our supper.  Speedy and simple, the sauce takes no more time to make than the pasta does to cook.  Add as much or as little chilli as you like depending on your diners.  I struggle to find spicy, Italian sausages around here so add heat with some dried chilli flakes whose  smoky flavour is perfect here.  Should you be able to find some genuine salsiccia (you lucky thing) the taste a bit once it is cooked before adding chilli in case it is not required.

This is supremely comforting, quick, cheap and easy – what more could you want?

Sausage Pasta

I might add the some leaf spinach along with the cream and water if this is for our dinner letting it wilt in the heat of the sausage sauce.  My daughter would be horrified if I did this to her favourite supper so I tend to leave the spinach out for her but sometimes I add some peas…..

1 tablespoon oil

6 good sausages, skin removed

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

Pinch of chilli flakes (see above)

1 tablespoon cream

1/2 a small bunch of parsley, chopped

150g short pasta, I use penne but it is up to you

Parmesan to serve

Cook the pasta as per the packet instructions.   Heat the oil in a frying pan and cook the sausage, breaking it up as much as you can.  When it is starting to look a little brown and crisping around the edges add the garlic and chilli.  Cook for a few more minutes to lose the rawness in the garlic and then add the cream and 3 tablespoons of water out of the pasta pan.   When the pasta is cooked drain then add to the pan with the sausage, give it all a good mix, taste and see what seasoning it needs then sprinkle over the parsley and serve with lots of grated parmesan.  Enough for 2 but easily doubled or tripled.

Sausage Pasta 2

Cheddar is King

Barbers 1883 Steak

When it comes to cheese, Cheddar is King.  I feel some intakes of breath and raised eyebrows so let me explain.  I love cheese, absolutely adore the stuff.  Blue cheese, soft cheese, smelly cheese, holey cheese, hard cheese – you name it, it works for me.  If however and God forbid, I had to choose just one cheese then it would have to be cheddar and this is why.

Parmesan is fabulous – strong, salty and perfect grated on pasta, shaved over salads or in chunks after dinner with a perfect pear – but I don’t want it in a cheese and pickle sandwich.  Gorgonzola in a warm salad with mushrooms or melted over my onion tart tatin is splendid but I wouldn’t want it in my cauliflower cheese.  Sharp white feta – just the ticket in a Greek salad or my Feta and Spinach parcels but honestly has no place in a wobbly, fluffy cheese souffle.  Do you see where I am going with this?  All cheeses have their perfect place, some can even adapt to a couple of occasions but there is only one contender for the main prize, one that can do everything, the supreme all rounder – the mighty cheddar.

Sweet, tangy, nutty, salty it is just divine and a regular in my fridge.  In fact since I first set out into the big wide world and had to fend for myself I don’t think my shopping basket has ever been without it.   First few weeks in London – cheese on toast with Worcester sauce to remind me of Yorkshire Saturdays in front of the wrestling.  Studying for my city exams – cheese and pickle sandwiches for a week so as to have no cooking distraction.  Oh and when I say cheese in both these cases I do of course mean cheddar.

It is a saviour when I need to rustle up a packed lunch from a skeleton fridge or for a snack and I’m sure barely a week goes by without it being the main feature – cheese souffle, cauliflower cheese, Welsh rarebit, cheesy leeks on toast, a grand Saturday ploughmans or my daughters favourite, plain pasta with butter and cheese.

This then, is a new best friend.  A love child if you will from a grilled cheese sandwich and a steak sarnie.  The melty cheddar forms an alliance between the savoury, meaty juices and the sweet onion relish that has to be tasted to be believed.  That it is all incased in toasty, crisp bread is simply gilding the lily.  It is superb, it is supreme.  Just try it.

Barbers 1883 Steak 2

Barbers 1833 Cheddar and Steak Sandwich with Quick Onion Relish

You might want to add a handful of rocket or watercress to the sandwich for a little peppery bite, not that it needs it but you might like the greenery.

1 teaspoon butter

1 teaspoon olive oil

1 small onion (snooker ball size), chopped

1 heaped teaspoon dark brown sugar

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1 steak, approx 250g

2 thick slices of good, rustic bread – a sourdough or similar

50g good strong cheddar, I used Barbers 1833, thinly sliced

Melt the butter and oil in a small frying pan, add the onion and a pinch of salt and cook slowly until soft, about 15 minutes.  Stir in the sugar, balsamic and a teaspoon of water and cook for another 15 minutes by which time you should have a sticky relish, taste it as you may need a drop or two more of balsamic.  Cook your steak how you like but rare to medium rare works best for this, then sprinkle with salt and leave to rest for at least 5 minutes.  Whilst it is resting preheat your grill to high, toast the bread and then divide the cheese between the two slices of toast and put under the grill until the cheese is melting.  Place your rested steak onto one slice of cheesy toast, spread over the onion relish and top with the remaining slice.  Cut in half and tuck in.

I recently attended the BBC Good Food Fair as a guest of Barbers1833 who kindly gave me some of their delicious cheddar which I used for this and several other recipes.  I was already a fan of their cheddar and regularly buy it from my local farmshop.  By the way, I have previously made my Cheese Sables with Rosemary Salt (December 2013) which rely on a belting cheddar, with Barbers1833 and they were amazing.

Cheese Biscuits 2

Chorizo and Potatoes

Chorizo and Potatoes 3

Is there anything that doesn’t taste better with a bit of chorizo in it?  I love that rich, spicy flavour and the way it imparts its sunny personality into other ingredients.   Chorizo has great shelf life and is fantastic to have in the fridge for those inevitable moments when you have empty beaks to feed and the cupboard is bare.

This is one of my children’s favourites, unbelievably quick and only uses 5 ingredients.  If you don’t have any potatoes, make Chorizo and Beans (365 things to eat, June 2013) or for a more summery feel, Chorizo, Tomatoes and Green Beans (September 2013).

Chorizo and Potatoes

 

Chorizo with Potatoes

I use the Goikoa Spanish chorizo which I buy in Waitrose, it comes in a 260g horseshoe but any other cooking chorizo would be fine too.

1 teaspoon olive oil

1/2 ‘horseshoe’ Chorizo

1 clove garlic, finely chopped

4 medium new/waxy potoates

Small tin chopped tomatoes, approx 227g

Small handful parsley, chopped

Heat the oil in a pan over a low heat, slice the chorizo and add it to the pan.  Meanwhile slice the potatoes and cook until tender then drain.  When the chorizo is beginning to colour on both sides, add the garlic and cook for a minute followed by the tomatoes.  Let this simmer for 3-4 minutes then put the drained potatoes into the pan, turn them so they are coated with the tomato sauce, finally sprinkle over the parsley.  This serves 2 but is easily doubled, just use the whole horseshoe of chorizo and a normal 400g tin of tomatoes.

Chorizo and Potatoes 2

 

 

Chicken with Peppers and Onions

Chicken with peppers

I look through cook books and magazines checking out the new recipes or twists on classics and whilst I love some of the ideas and promise myself I will try this or that, what I really want is a simple idea for supper.  What to cook for supper.  How many times do you ask yourself that in a week?  Well presumably 7 but add to that some children’s teas or a supper party for friends and it become a highly repetitive question.  What I would rather not have however, is highly repetitive suppers – you know, chicken on Mondays, sausages on Tuesdays etc.

So we need more supper dishes.  Something stress free that won’t demand too much attention or time at the end of the day, won’t break the bank and is properly lip smacking delicious.

This then, ticks all those boxes.  A few ingredients bunged in a pan and roasted in the oven.  What a testimony to the sum being so much greater than the parts.  Crispy skin on the chicken, soft sweet peppers and onions with a winey sauce that is nothing short of divine.  This cooks itself whilst you pour yourself a glass of wine and get on with something else, or better still, with nothing at all.

Chicken with Peppers and Onions

I serve this with something green, usually wilted spinach or green beans and new or waxy potatoes, roasted in the oven at the same time as the chicken.  It’s a great, easy, weekday supper but also something I would happily serve to friends.  You can up the amount of chilli flakes if you like, I usually leave them out if the children are eating this with us.

2 medium onions, peeled and cut into sixths

1 large pepper, red, orange or yellow, cut into slices

2 cloves garlic finely chopped

1 desertspoon olive oil

2 chicken legs (or 4 chicken thighs in which case reduce the cooking time a little)

Salt and pepper

1/4 teaspoon dried chilli flakes (optional)

100ml white wine

Fresh parsley or oregano, a small handful chopped

Preheat the oven to 200.  Put the onion, pepper and garlic in a baking pan and turn in the olive oil.  Put the chicken legs on top, give it a good sprinkle of salt and pepper and the chilli flakes if using.  Cook in the oven for 30 minutes then pour in the wine and give it a further 15 minutes.  If your chicken legs are large you may need a little more time.  When the chicken is bronzed and cooked and the vegetables soft remove from the oven, sprinkle over the herbs.  Serves 2 but easily double or tripled.

Chicken with peppers 2

For some other fab supper ideas try Claypot Chicken (May 2013 and no, you don’t need a clay pot) which still reigns supreme in top spot.  Nipping at its heels though is Chicken with Harissa (October 2012)…. one of my very early recipes and one still without a photograph I’m afraid but well worth a try.

Girls’ Night In

Chilli

Some years ago, before marriage and children, a girl’s nights in seemed to be a fairly frequent occurrence and enormous fun.  Different in those days though when, to be frank, a couple of bottles of wine, a packet of cigarettes and a video (remember those) of Take That Live made for a belting evening with the girls.  You know who you are!

These days however, finding a free evening is a different ball game.  Children need ferrying from one after school activity to another and there is a husband to be fed.   The girlfriends from those heady, single gal days are now dotted around the World rather than living just down the road and the Take That video looks like a sad relic next to all the dvds.

So I was particularly pleased when a couple of Dorset friends suggested coming over for wine, movies, popcorn and ice cream.   We are going to kick off with frozen raspberry daiquiris, a grown up slush puppy.  I persuade myself that the lime juice and berries go some way towards off setting the rum and the fabulous bright zingy pink seems a suitably girly start.  Then chilli – perfect fork food to eat in front of a film, spicy and warming.  Rich with tomatoes, earthy cumin and a good blast of heat from the chilli and cayenne.  Alongside I will offer the essential sour cream, grated cheddar, extra chillies and home made tortilla chips.  For pudding I have good vanilla ice cream in the freezer and the wherewithal for either hot chocolate sauce or salted caramel sauce depending on our mood.

All that remains is to decide whether it will be a “no one puts Baby in the corner”, “Goose, you big stud” or “Kevin, I think I broke your shower” evening…..

Chilli and dvds

Chilli

There are probably hundred of recipes for Chilli but this is how I make it.  You can go the cubed beef or mince route – I use mince just because that is what I have always done and a little nostalgia is not a bad thing on a Girls’ night.   For the tortilla chips, I buy regular tortillas and cut them into 6 or 8, brush lightly with oil, sprinkle with a little salt and bake at 200 for about 5 minutes or until crisp.  They are just right with the chilli but you could serve rice too.  You can cook this ahead of time or the day before.

1 tablespoon oil

1 onion, chopped

1 yellow, red or orange pepper, sliced

4 cloves garlic, finely chopped

400g beef mince

2 heaped teaspoons cumin

1 teaspoon sea salt

1/4 – 1/2 cayenne pepper (I do a 1/4 if serving to children, 1/2+ for adults)

250ml red wine

1 tablespoon tomato puree

1 tablespoon tomato ketchup

1 tin chopped tomatoes

2 tins of kidney beans, drained and rinsed

Chopped parsley or coriander, whichever you prefer

Preheat the oven to 150.  Heat the oil in a large pan and soften the onions and pepper for about 10 minutes until soft.  Add the garlic followed by the mince and cook, stirring, until brown.   Add the cumin, salt, cayenne and a generous amount of black pepper, then the tomatoes, puree, ketchup and wine.  Give it a good stir, bring to a simmer, put on the lid and cook in the oven for an hour, add the kidney beans and cook for a further hour.  Check for seasoning, sprinkle over the parsley or coriander and serve with whichever accompaniments you choose.  Enough for 4 with rice.