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.

Cannellini Bean, Parsley and Lemon….dip

Cannellini bean dip

Now I will be frank and say I am a little nervous about the title of this – if my children were reading (having not previously tasted and devoured it as they do) I am pretty sure they would move on, pulses not being much to their liking.

For me, I struggle with the word dip, it is just a bit…. you know.  Dip covers a multitude and can be a tub of generic supermarket gunk or a red, oniony side dish to uh, dip things in.  Rarely have I come across anything with the moniker dip that I have wanted to love or, in many cases, finish.  This little beauty will, I hope, shatter all preconceptions.

It came about, as many things do out of my kitchen, from necessity over organisation.  I wanted something to offer with drinks but frankly the larder was pretty bare but for a few tins of beans.  I always have parsley, lemon and garlic on hand and so it was that these were the volunteers, the ingredients that stepped forward from a skeleton line up.

I actually made this three times over Easter, once to serve with said drinks and twice to put on the table along with a mezze type picnic lunch.  With some toasty baked pita my children scoffed this with unseemly speed and didn’t even stop when they discovered the star ingredient.  I could not believe my eyes at this nor my ears when they asked me to make it again.  Today we are having it with some roast chicken, new potatoes and a big salad.  It is really good, beyond easy and properly useful of have up your sleeve, but what are we going to call it?

Cannellini bean dip 2

Cannellini Bean, Parsley and Lemon Dip

Taste this when it is all whizzed together, it should have lots of lemon juice to give it zing and you will need a really good pinch of salt, possible two as pulses seem to lap them up.  Serve with chopped carrots, baked pita bread, breadsticks or alongside a roast chicken or with a collection of other mezze type dishes.

1 can of cannellini beans

1 small clove garlic

Half a small packet parsley, approx 20g

Juice of 1 large lemon

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil

Salt and pepper

Put all the ingredients into a small blender or a jug if you are using a hand held blender.  I find it easiest to put the lemon juice in first then you can pick any rogue seeds out easily, followed by the salt so it can dissolve in the juice.  The order doesn’t really matter though.  Whizz it all up, taste and check you are happy with it before decanting into a dish.  The four of us will polish this off between but that said, my husband and I could probably eat it all too.  You can double or treble easily if you have a crowd to feed.

 

Caldo Verde

Caldo Verde_

The vegetables around at this time of year are pretty hard and tough, the rugby players of the vegetable world if you will.  Big bruisers able to withstand adverse conditions and not ones to wilt in the face of a little frost.  On first sight they may seem a little solid and unapproachable – think swedes, celeriac, Jerusalem artichokes, kale, cabbages and big, floury winter potatoes.  A world away, or certainly a few months, from frilly rocket, pea shoots and delicate herbs.

Whilst summer produce is immediately scoffable and obvious in its delights, some of these winter offerings need a little gentle encouragement, accessories of butter and cream and time so that they too can shine.  The transformation can be astonishing and it is these cosy, reassuring and restoring soups and gratins that we need during the cold months.  Necessary ballast.

Last night I made a gratin with sliced potatoes, a few matchsticks of leftover ham, broccoli and a thick blanket of cheese sauce.  Baked until the top was bubbling and blistered and the broccoli satisfyingly singed, it was absolutely perfect for the coldest night of the year so far.

This is, for me, dream food.  The sort I start thinking about fairly soon after breakfast as I take Tom for a brisk walk up the hill and one of the reasons I push myself on said walks – so I can have seconds.

This soup is just such a warming little number and has a second smack of satisfaction in its frugality.  Caldo Verde is a Portuguese soup rustled up when there wasn’t much on offer and is traditionally just cabbage, potatoes and water with a little garlic.  I’ve taken a liberty by using lovely seasonal kale instead of cabbage and whilst I do add chorizo I stop myself there.  Tempting though it is to use stock rather than water or to add an onion or some herbs, such tinkering would be too great a departure from the original.

I urge you to try this, it makes a fabulous lunch followed by a good hunk of cheese.  Just don’t do what I did which was to burn my mouth in my speedy greed to taste it.

Caldo Verde 2

Caldo Verde

4 tablespoons good olive oil

2 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped

750g floury potatoes, diced (I don’t bother peeling them)

150g kale or Cavolo Nero, tear it up and remove big hard stalks

150g chorizo, sliced

Heat 3 tablespoons of oil in a large pan, add the garlic and then heat gently.  Once the garlic is dancing around the pan but not coloured add the potatoes and a teaspoon of salt, stir and cook for 5 minutes.  Add 1.2 litres of water and simmer for 20 minutes or until the potatoes are soft.  Mash about a 1/3 of the potatoes against the side of the pan with a wooden spoon so they break down a bit.  Add the kale and simmer for five minutes.  Meanwhile heat the remaining oil in a pan and fry the chorizo for a couple of minutes then add this to the potatoes and kale along with the fabulous orange oil.  Taste (cautiously) and adjust the seasoning if necessary then serve.  Enough for 4.

 

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.

My Favourite Green Salad

Green Salad 1

Happy New Year!  Are you looking for something fresh, green and crunchy? After the Christmas cake which I ate almost entirely myself I know I am.  I love salads all year round and eat them in one form or other several days a week.   However right now my craving knows no bounds.   After what feels like weeks of rain the sun is out and the sky is blue.  Tom and I went for a fabulous walk up beautiful Lewesdon Hill this morning and following a  hose down (Tom, not me) I felt like something healthy, raw (mostly) and fresh to eat.

This is the sort of salad we often have for a weekday lunch, perhaps with the addition of a few chunks of feta, maybe with soup if it is chilly or just good bread.  Whatever the weather we often have this for a weekend lunch alongside a roast chicken, my children invariably picking out the bits they like best.  It makes a lovely change from the usual roast with vegetables and feels a bit lighter – without losing out on the gorgeous golden roast chook.  Perfect with a steak for supper, no need for chips because of the croutons and it is just the thing with any barbecued meat (I know, I know, barely a sign of Spring outside and I am already talking barbecues, I can’t help myself).

Green Salad 4

I suspect you may have spotted the croutons so I must state that this is not diet food per se but it is so delicious, crisp and clean that I would certainly term it healthy.  Whatever, this is the green salad I turn to most often and usually have the ingredients in my fridge. No spring onions or avocado?  No matter, use what you have or what you like best.   This is enough for my lunch just as it is, the croutons, seeds and avocado giving it substance but as ever, it is just a guideline, an idea to share.

My Green Salad

4 slices of baguette or similar, cubed  (a little stale is fine)

1 tablespoon oil

1 small clove garlic, crushed or very finely chopped

1/2 teaspoon sugar

1/2 teaspoon dijon mustard

Juice of 1/2 lemon

3 tablespoons oil (I use 2 of good extra virgin olive oil and one of a plain oil)

Salt and pepper

1 tablespoon each of sunflower seeds, pumpkin seeds and pine kernels

1 little gem

A handful of baby spinach

A handful of rocket

2 spring onions, finely chopped

1 avocado, peeled and cubed

Small chunk of cucumber, peeled, deseeded and chopped

Chives, a small handful (parsley, mint or oregano work well or a combination of any)

Preheat the oven to 200.  Turn the cubes of bread in the tablespoon of oil, put in a small tin and bake for 5 minutes until golden, then sprinkle with a little salt.   In a small bowl mix the garlic, sugar, mustard, lemon juice a good pinch of salt and some black pepper.  Slowly add the 3 tablespoons of oil mixing well until emulsified.  In a small frying pan heat the seeds until just turning golden.   Cut up the little gem put it into a large salad bowl with the spinach, rocket and avocado.  Add most of the dressing and toss the salad, you may not need it all but I find this amount just right.  Scatter over the croutons and seeds and trickle over the rest of the dressing if you want.  Snip the chives or other herbs over the top.  Serves 2 for lunch or 2 adults and  2 children as a side dish.

If you are looking for more healthy New Years’ crunch, try my carrot salad which I posted in January 2013.

 

Tomato Bruschetta (summer on toast)

Anna May everyday Tomato bruschetta

Is this the taste of Summer?  I think it might be.  It is also one of the simplest and most rewarding.  All you need is a loaf of sourdough (or similar), a pile of tip top, super ripe, full of sun juicy tomatoes, some really good olive oil, garlic and a few herbs if you have them.

My family love these and we eat them several times a week when the tomatoes are on top form.  I toast the bread, chop the tomatoes and then set up a production line – a plate full of these bruschetta are always greeted with delight and never hang around.

I urge you to make these.  The toms in my garden are still a little small and green but the ones at my local farm shop are perfect right now (Washingpool Farm Shop in case you are near the coast on the Dorset/Devon border this summer, superb shop and worth a visit).

Surprisingly these also work for a picnic, just toast the bread at home and then take the tomato mixture in a tub.  When you get where you are going rub some garlic over the toasts (undressed sourdough stays crispy for ages) then top with tomatoes and drizzle with a little of the oil.  Tuck in with your toes in the grass or better still the sand and remind yourself what summer tastes like.

Anna May everyday Tomatoes

Tomato Bruschetta

It is difficult to be exact as I don’t know the size of your sourdough but this is a guide.  This amount would serve 4 with drinks before lunch or dinner but I bet they will want more.

1/2 loaf sourdough

Tomatoes, around 300g

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 clove of garlic peeled and halved

A splash of red wine vinegar

Pinch of salt

Fresh marjoram or basil of you have some to hand

Slice and toast the sourdough.  Finely chop the tomatoes and put in a bowl with the oil, vinegar, a pinch of sea salt and some black pepper if you like, stir.  Rub the toasts with a cut side of garlic, top with the tomato mixture.  Pour over any remaining oil and sprinkle with the herbs.

 

Fresh Herb Sauce

Anna May everyday Iced tea Grenita-3

I cannot rave enough about this sauce – it is simply beyond useful and thoroughly delicious.

We have it with grilled or roast chicken and I wouldn’t contemplate a barbecue without it.  Smoky charred chicken wrapped in a soft flatbread with this fresh herby sauce is a lunch supreme (see Summer Lunch Part 1 last week).  With roast lamb I add mint to the parsley base and it becomes a modern twist on a traditional mint sauce.  With some marjoram or oregano and a pinch of chilli flakes it is the perfect accompaniment to a steak which makes sense as it is a simplified version of an Argentinian chimmichurri.

You can fiddle around with the ingredients to suit your taste, change the herbs as suggested above, add more garlic (or less), substitute lemon juice for the vinegar if you prefer.  Really it  is up to you, the only thing I would urge is that you try it.

Green Herb Sauce

1 bunch parsley (around 30-40 grams)

6 tablespoons olive oil

2 tablespoons red wine vinegar

1 clove garlic, chopped

1 teaspoon sugar

1 pinch of salt

1 pinch of dried chilli flakes (optional)

Put all the ingredients into a jug and blend with a hand held blender.  Alternatively blend in a liquidiser.  Taste and adjust, you may need a splash more vinegar or a pinch more salt or sugar.  Enough for 4.