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.

Wild Garlic Pizza

Pizza WG

Last weekend I fell in the river.  I was keen to clear a bit of it that had got rather clogged up with logs, twigs and sticks after the last flood and had set out, pole in hand, to sort it.  I was leaning right over the river against an old tree stump in order to get the pole into the middle of all this debris when there was an almighty creak followed by a splash.  It seems this particular stump had long ago relinquished its hold on life, was entirely hollow and both it and I fell right into the river.  It was very cold.  I had been accompanied on this mission by Tom who, uncharacteristically for a Springer, doesn’t like water and was now pacing the riverbank anxiously presumably wondering what I was doing.  So, I was soaking to the waist and my boots were full of water but as I couldn’t get any wetter I decided I might as well carry on clearing the river and in fact it was much easier now that I was well and truly in.   Climbing out I found myself on nose level with swathes of wild garlic which is abundant along the bank and decided that is  what we would have for supper.

Each year we are spoilt with this particular foragers’ treat and I have made all manner of things with it, Wild Garlic Pesto (May 2013) and Wild Garlic Focaccia (May 2014) to name two.   I add it to salads, cautiously though it is pretty potent, and chuck into pasta dishes letting it wilt in the residual heat.  This years leaves have been around for a couple of weeks but it is only in the last few days that the white flowers have emerged.

We often make pizzas on a Saturday evening so I decided to see how much wild garlic we could get onto those.  My dough is a simple version of my white bread but with a good slosh of olive oil.  It is a dream to work with and cooks to a suitably crisp crust.   I decided to make my Fresh Herb Sauce (July 2013) with half parsley and half wild garlic which resulted in a pungent fabulously green number to drizzle over some of the pizzas when they emerged from the oven but you could just as happily use the Wild Garlic Pesto.  We strewed the pizzas with torn wild garlic leaves rather as I often use rocket and in fact rocket came into play when the wild garlic I picked had all gone and I couldn’t persuade anyone into the pouring rain to get more.

Pizzas are a personal thing and us such my family put different ingredients on each one – we usually start with a tomato sauce, the same one as used in my Meatloaf recipe (November 2015).  My son keeps his simple with cheese and salami, my daughter will add olives, capers and garlic to hers and my husband and I tend to add a good amount of chilli, mozzarella and lots of greenery when the pizzas emerge blistered and bubbling from the oven.   A trickle of good olive oil and a sprinkle of sea salt bring the whole together and I can’t recommend these enough.  They are a world away from wodgy doughy shop bought pizzas and, I tell myself, must be better for us….

Wild Garlic Pizza

The following makes four pizzas which are just the right size for us, two adults and two children but you could happily double the recipe.  Remember you need to allow time for the proving but unlike normal bread, the doesn’t really need a second rise.

250g strong white flour

5g quick yeast

5g fine salt

2 tablespoons olive oil

100-150 ml luke warm water

Toppings of your choice, see above, but probably to include tomato sauce, mozzarella or cheddar, salami or pepperoni, olives, chilli flakes, capers etc

Mix the flour, yeast, salt, oil and 100 ml of water in a large bowl, you may need some more of the water but probably not all of it.  Once it comes together in a dough knead it for 10 minutes by hand or in a stand mixer.  When this is a smooth ball, put a little oil into the bowl to stop the dough sticking and leave in a warm place for an hour or so until doubled in size.  Preheat your oven to 220 and put in a couple of baking sheets to heat up.  Divide the dough into four and roll out thinly but not too thinly or you will struggle to get them from your work surface onto the baking tray.  If you are worried about his roll them out on baking parchment and they can cook on this.  Don’t use greaseproof paper as the pizzas will stick to this, you will never get them off and will have to eat the greaseproof paper along with the pizza, I found this out the hard way.  Add whatever toppings you have decided on but don’t go mad, if they are too heavy or wet you won’t get a crisp bottom.  Carefully take a hot baking sheet out of the oven, sprinkle with semolina if you have some or flour, put your pizza onto this and bake for 8-10 minutes or until cooked, bubbling and blistered.  When it is done I thoroughly recommend torn wild garlic if you can get some or rocket strewn on top or the wild garlic fresh herb sauce.  Each pizza serves 1.

 

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

Parmesan

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

Salt

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….

 

 

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

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.