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.

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.




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.


Salmon with Pickled Cucumber

Salmon and Pickled Cucumber

I was asked recently for more supper recipes, easy, quick, everyday numbers to resolve that daily dilemma, what are we going to eat tonight?    Several ideas came to mind but this is the one I was cooking that night for supper and in itself presented me with a problem.  Could I actually offer this up as a recipe?  As you will see it contains very few ingredients and furthermore part of it is from a recipe I created last year, the Herby Ricotta with Pickled Cucumber (September 2014).   Surely no one needs the suggestion of salmon for supper but maybe the pickled cucumber is a bit of a departure?  Indeed the crunchy, sweet and sour elements of this go splendidly with the rich, oily salmon, quite a partnership.  Anyway I dithered for a bit before realising how mad I sound.  Get ahold of yourself I said.  This is not a dilemma, choosing names for your children, deciding which house to buy, what career to pursue – these could all be considered dilemmas but not whether this can be justified as a recipe or not.

That it is unbelievably quick and easy is hardly a problem; nor that it requires a shopping list you could probably fit on a stamp;  most crucially it is extremely good and of course, good for you.  If you aren’t a carbo phobe it goes perfectly with glorious, fudgy Jersey royals and a big green salad, heavy on the fresh mint, would also be just the ticket, a fab supper.

Salmon with Pickled Cucumber

I made extra of this last week and had it cold for my lunch the next day.  I ate it with a salad but couldn’t help thinking it would also make a stellar filling for a sandwich.

2 salmon fillets

1 teaspoon olive oil

A couple of chives, finely chopped

Half a cucumber

1 tablespoon caster sugar

2 tablespoons white wine vinegar


Put the sugar and vinegar into a shallow bowl with a pinch of salt and leave to dissolve. Using a vegetable peeler, take long slices of cucumber avoiding the watery seeds in the middle and add to the bowl.  Leave for half an hour, stirring occasionally, for the cucumber to “pickle”.  Meanwhile brush the salmon fillets with the oil on both sides and put skin side down in a hot pan.  Leave for 5 minutes before turning and cooking on the other side for a further 5 minutes – this should be just right but cook a little longer if you prefer or your fillets are huge.  Sprinkle with the chives and serve with the pickled cucumber.  Enough for 2 but easily doubled, tripled….



Cosy Beef Stew and Parsley Dumplings

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This summer has been fantastic, I have loved the sun, the heat and eating a lot of salads.  Whilst basking in all this however, there was a tiny bit of my happy in the knowledge that come September it might cool down a little and I would be able to light the fire and make some cosy autumn food.

Now, I realise I seem to have dived right into ‘freezing outside, possibly even snowing winter food’ but you know what I couldn’t resist.  It has been months since my last stew (I feel that should have been confession) and it was time for a fix.  Added to that my little boy asked earlier in the week when we would be having stew and dumplings.  Sooner than you think my little treasure I thought to myself.

Here it is and it is a beauty.  Very simple, 30 minutes work tops and then a few hours in the oven.  What you are rewarded with however, far exceeds that brief effort you put in.  Tender falling apart beef, soft carrots, crispy and fluffy dumplings with masses of glistening savoury gravy.  You can then sit around the table, enjoy this with some greens and perhaps raise a glass of good red wine to the fabulous summer of 2013.

Beef and Carrot Stew with Parsley Dumplings

1 kg braising beef, cubed

1 tablespoon oil

1 onion, chopped

7/8 medium carrots, peeled and halved lenthways

1 heaped tablespoon plain flour

500ml beef stock

200ml red wine

1 teaspoon redcurrant jelly

Sprig of thyme

A bayleaf

For the dumplings –

100g self raising flour

50g suet

A handful of parsley, finely chopped

5 tablespoons cold water

Pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 150c.  Heat the oil in a large casserole (that has a lid) and brown the meat in batches and set aside.  Then fry the onion (you may need a little more oil) until softened.  Return the meat to the pan, sprinkle over the flour and stir it in well.  Pour over the stock and wine and redcurrant jelly, give it a mix then add the carrots, thyme and bay leaf.  Put into the oven for 3 hours.

Just before the time is up, mix the ingredients for the dumplings and form into little balls about the size of a walnut and turn the oven up to 180.  Remove the pan from the oven, quickly (and carefully) check the seasoning and then place the dumplings onto the surface of the stew.  Put the lid back on and return to the oven for 20 minutes, then remove the lid and cook for a further 20 minutes to crisp up the outside of the dumplings.  Enough for 4.

We followed this with a fabulous custard tart (I know, I know, bikini appropriate food clearly now forgotten) and it made me proud of British Food!

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