Monday, 13 October 2014

Nigella's Curly Pasta with Feta, Spinach & Pine Nuts

I love a simple pasta recipe (don't we all) and this is another successful addition to my weeknight easy dinners rota. When I first came across it in Nigella Kitchen I wasn't sure what to expect and wasn't convinced it was a dish that would have a huge amount of flavour. I'm pleased to report that I was most definitely wrong on that score and it's certainly a recipe worth trying.



The big plus is that I almost always have all of the ingredients to hand so it doesn't require much in the way of forward planning. The allspice might seem a bit of an unusual addition and it does smell quite strong when you add it to the pan, however by the time the dish is ready that strength disappears and you're just left with a savoury hint in the background.

As I've halved the original recipe you only need to use half a pack of feta. If you don't have any plans for the rest of it then Jamie Oliver's Greek Chicken or Jo Pratt's Bulgar Wheat Salad are two fetatastic recipes. You can find them here.

Curly Pasta with Feta, Spinach & Pine Nuts
(adapted from Kitchen by Nigella Lawson)

25g pine nuts
1 tablespoon garlic oil
1/2 onion, peeled and sliced (tip - chop up the rest, wrap in cling film and keep it in the freezer for another time. You can fry it straight from the freezer)
250g curly pasta or other short pasta of your choice
1/8 teaspoon allspice
250g frozen spinach
100g feta cheese, crumbled
2-3 tablespoons grated Parmesan cheese
salt and pepper to taste

1) Put a large pan of water on to boil for the pasta

2) Toast the pine nuts in a hot, dry pan (you can use the same one for the sauce later) until golden, then remove to a cold plate

3) Heat the garlic oil in the pan and add the onion slices (although if you've just used the pan for the pine nuts you might want to leave it to cool down a bit first to avoid burning the onions). Cook on a lowish heat for 8-10 minutes, stirring regularly, until soft. If they look like they're getting too brown, sprinkle with a little salt to help draw out the water and slow down browning.

4) When the water comes to the boil, add salt and the pasta.

5) When the onion is ready add the allspice. Then add the frozen spinach. Keep stirring to help the spinach melt consistently.

6) Just before you drain the pasta, scoop out a small cupful of the cooking water and add to the spinach sauce.

7) Crumble the feta into the spinach sauce, stirring as the feta gradually melts. Stir in 1-2 tablespoons of the parmesan and the taste to see if you need to add any more (unless, like me, you follow the can't-have-too-much-parmesan school of though, in which case you'll probably just throw it all in at once. And then add some more).

8) Drain the pasta and toss into the feta spinach sauce to mix, the season to taste. Add the pine nuts and mix through.

Serves 2 (this is half of the original recipe which was supposed to serve 6 so I guess you could split it between 3 of you. If you really wanted to. We didn't)

Sunday, 14 September 2014

Clandestine Cake Club - Bury St Edmunds - 13th September 2014

This month's event was held at location we had visited last year, The Cadogan Arms in Ingham, just outside Bury St Edmunds. As before they were very welcoming and helpful and it proved once again to be a great venue for us.

The theme this month was "Anything Goes" which was as simple as it sounds - members were free to bring any cake they liked. We had a lovely selection of cakes to choose from although by chance most of us had chosen cakes with some sort of cream cheese icing. Nevertheless they were all delicious, even though several of us had experienced some sort of technical hitch in the process of making them!

Here's what we had to choose from...

Trish's Carrot Cake



Amelia's Chocolate Guiness Cake



My Cocoa Courgette Cake



Rene's Lemon Cake



Hannah's Red Velvet Cake



Ian's Chocolate Fudge Cake


Charlotte's Courgette & Lime Cake



Thanks again to The Cadogan for letting us hold our meeting there. For more information about the Clandestine Cake Club and details of our next event have a look at the website here.

Tuesday, 9 September 2014

The Hairy Bikers' Chicken & Mushroom Risotto

A week or so ago I was in our local library and happened across the Hairy Bikers Diet book (The Hairy Dieters) and, as I was about to embark on one of my try-not-to-eat-like-a-horse phases, I though it would be worth a look. That turned out to be a good decision as everything I've tried so far has turned out really well.

The book is full of the usual recipes - breakfast dishes, pasta, stews, baking etc - but every recipe is written with the diet-concious in mind. The focus is on portion control and reducing fat where possible and the calorie content per portion is listed in each case.

This particular recipe turned out really well and had bags of flavour. Risottos always take a little time to make and this was no different but otherwise it was pretty straightforward. I particularly liked the suggestion to poach the chicken in the stock as this saved the trouble to having to cook it separately. The only issue you might have is when you're cooking for someone else who isn't trying to cut back on food as the portions are not generous. In this case the original recipe was for four people so for two of us I reduced everything by half but only reduced the rice and stock by a quarter. I then took a third of the final dish and gave the rest to my hungrier husband!



Chicken & Mushroom Risotto
(adapted from the The Hairy Dieters)

5g dried wild mushrooms
750ml just boiled water
chicken stock cube or bouillon
1 skinless, boneless chicken breast
1 tbsp olive oil
75g small chestnut mushrooms, wiped and sliced
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
110g risotto rice
1-2 tbsp grated parmesan
1 tbsp half-fat creme fraiche
salt & pepper

1) Put the dried mushrooms in a small heatproof bowl and pour over 50ml of the just-boiled water. Pour the rest of the water into a medium saucepan and add the stock cube/bouillon. Leave the mushrooms to soak.

2) Put the chicken breast in the stock and place over a medium heat. Bring to a gentle simmer, then cook for 10 minutes, turning after the first 5 minutes. The liquid should just simmer gently - don't let it boil. Lift the chicken breast out of the stock and leave to cool a little.

3) Place a large non-stick saucepan on the hob over a medium-high heat and add the oil. Fry the sliced chestnut mushrooms for 3 minutes until lightly browned, stirring constantly. Add the onion and garlic to the pan and cook with the mushrooms for 3 minutes until pale golden brown, stirring. Stir in the rice and cook for a minute with the vegetables, stirring constantly until the grains look translucent.

4) Reduce the heat to medium-low, add a large ladleful of the hot stock to the pan and stir well. As soon as it has been absorbed, add another ladleful. Continue gradually adding stock to the pan until it has all been used and the rice is looking swollen and creamy but isn't quite tender. This will take around 25 minutes and you need to keep stirring.

5) Just before the rice is ready, drain the dried mushrooms through a fine sieve placed over a bowl and reserve the soaking liquid. Roughly chop the mushrooms and add them to the pan with the rice. Stir in the mushroom soaking liquid and cook for a couple of minutes while you prepare the chicken. The risotto should look fairly saucy at this point but if not you may need to stir in some extra water.

6) Cut the chicken into strips and stir them into the rice. Add the parmesan and heat through for 2-3 minutes, then remove from the heat and check the seasoning. Stir in the creme fraiche, cover with a lid and leave the risotto to stand for 3-5 minutes before serving.

Serves one person on reduced rations and one person with a bigger appetite.

1/3 = one portion of 317 calories

Friday, 8 August 2014

Nigella's Prawn Pasta Rosa

Here's one of those great quick and easy meals that are ideal for a family dinner.

Luckily both my children love prawns, which comes in very handy as they're so quick to cook and make a nice change from chicken or pork. It's not quite a storecupboard recipe as mascarpone isn't something I always have in the fridge but with a bit of forward planning it's super quick to assemble and always goes down well.

The original recipe was for two people but I have adapted it to feed the four of us.

Prawn Pasta Rosa
(adapted from Italianissimo by Nigella Lawson)

1 1/2 tablespoons tomato puree
6 tablespoons milk
6 tablespoons mascarpone
1 1/2 tablespoons garlic oil
1/2 teaspoon dried chilli flakes (I tend to leave this out)
225g raw peeled prawns (or small cooked prawns)
100ml vermouth (or white wine)
350g pasta
salt for pasta water

1) Put a pan of water on to boil, adding salt when it comes to the boil, and then cook the pasta according to the instruction on the pack.

2) Whisk together the tomato puree and milk, add the mascarpone then whisk again to combine.

3) In a large pan or wok warm the garlic oil and add the chilli flakes (if using). Stir then add the prawns and stir-fry for a minute or two (longer if frozen) until cooked through.

4) Pour in the vermouth and let it bubble up and reduce a little then add the pink sauce. Cook, stirring, until it is hot throughout, checking that the prawns are also cooked.

5) Drain the pasta and add it to the sauce, stirring to combine, before serving.

Serves two adults and two children





Monday, 14 July 2014

Clandestine Cake Club - Bury St Edmunds - 28th June 2014

The theme of the last Bury St Edmunds Clandestine Cake Club was "Layers, Layers, Layers" and boy did we get our money's worth this time! We each had to bring a cake with at least two layers and as you can see below we had some fantastic cakes to choose from. However, lots of layers means lots of cake and we all struggled this month to meet our usual slice quota. I think most of us managed around five slices... definitely not up to our usual standards! 

Our venue this month was the Six Bells pub in Horringer, just south of Bury St Edmunds, who were very welcoming and provided us with a lovely big table in a side room for us to spread all our cakes out on. I haven't eaten here since it was taken over by the new owners but I've heard great things about the food and hope to give it a try soon.

Here's what we had to choose from...

Sarah and Tamar's Elderflower Cordial Cake



Helen F's Lemony Layer Cake



Rene's Pimms and Strawberry Layer Cake



Katherine's Boozy Orange Cake



Amelia's Dark & White Chocolate Layer Cake



Kate's Strawberry & Vanilla Layer Cake



Lynda's Neapolitan Triple Berry Cake



Sam's Chocolate Chip Layer Cake (poor Sam had a bit of a cake-dropping incident en-route which didn't do the icing any favours. Still tasted fab though!)

Siobhan's Blackcurrant & Star Anise Cake



Sophie's Strawberry Meringue Layer Cake



My Chocolate & Marshmallow Layer Cake






Thanks again to the Six Bells for being such great hosts. For details of all upcoming Clandestine Cake Club events have a look at the website here.

Saturday, 12 July 2014

Chocolate Melting Moments

I came across this recipe in a fit of have-to-bake-something-right-now madness that sometimes comes over me, particularly when I haven't done much baking in a while. Unfortunately I discovered that I had no eggs, unsalted butter or even the half-full box of stork that usually lives in the fridge on an almost permanent basis. Luckily this recipe doesn't require eggs and I found we had just the right amount salted butter in the only-for-toast butter dish. Clearly this was meant to be.







I've made similar biscuits before. The Grannie Boyd's biscuits in Nigella's How to be a Domestic Goddess are the same sort of dry (but in a good way), crumbly, chocolatey biscuits that are deceptively simple to make but also the sort of recipe I might skip over for looking a bit unexciting. In the book where I found them (Rachel Allen's Home Cooking) they don't have a picture and I hadn't even noticed the recipe until the other day. My mistake! Not only are these biscuits amazingly yummy on their own, but, unlike Nigella's recipe, they're taken to the next level by sandwiching them together with Nutella, yes NUTELLA!

So...quick, easy, yummy and Nutella! What are you waiting for?





Chocolate Melting Moments
(from Home Cooking by Rachel Allen)

125g/4 1/2 oz butter, softened, plus extra for greasing
50g/2oz icing sugar
50g/2oz cornflour
25g/1oz cocoa powder
100g/3 1/2 oz plain flour
Nutella for filling

1) Preheat the oven to 180c/350f/gas mark 4. Lightly grease or line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

2) Cream the butter in a large bowl and add the icing sugar, beating until light and fluffy. Sift in the cornflour, cocoa powder and flour and mix until the dough comes together.

3) Shape the dough into a sausage shape and slice into 24 equal pieces. Roll into balls, place slightly apart on the baking sheet and then flatten each biscuit a little using the back of a fork. The biscuits don't spread much so bear this in mind when flattening them. Bake in the oven for 10-12 minutes until slightly firm.

4) Remove from the oven and leave the biscuits on the baking sheet for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack. Once they have completely cooled, sandwich the biscuits together with a generous layer of nutella.

Makes 24 biscuits, 12 when sandwiched together


Friday, 6 June 2014

Sesame Salmon with Pak Choi

I'm reviving my blog with a brilliant recipe I discovered last night in a copy of delicious magazine. I was looking for something light, summery and low in carbs and this turned out to be a perfect fit. As with so many of the best recipes it was wonderfully simple to make, helped by the fact that the salmon is cooked in the oven for the last five minutes, leaving you time to finish off the veg.

The result was perfectly cooked salmon on top of deliciously flavoured pak choi, one of my favourite vegetables. The sesame seeds also added a nice crunch and I'll definitely try making it with black sesame seeds next time as they look quite impressive in the picture in the magazine.



Sesame Salmon with Pak Choi
(adapted from delicious magazine)

25g each black and white sesame seeds (or all white)
4 x sustainable skinless salmon fillets (pin-boned)
4 tbsp olive oil plus extra for brushing
4cm piece fresh ginger, grated
bunch spring onions plus extra to serve
4 pak choi
1 tsp honey
2 tsp soy sauce
2 tsp rice vinegar

1) Heat the oven to 180c/160 fan/gas 4. Combine the sesame seeds on a plate. Brush the salmon with a little olive oil then coat with the sesame seeds.

2) Heat 2 tbsp oil in a large pan and cook the salmon for 2 minutes on each side.

3) Put on a baking tray and bake for 5 minutes or until just cooked. Rest for 3 minutes.

4) Meanwhile, heat the rest of the oil in the pan and add the ginger and spring onions. Cook, stirring, for 1-2 minutes until the onion is slightly soft. Trim and slice the pak choi into 1cm strips and add to the pan with the honey, soy sauce and rice vinegar. Cook for 1-2 minutes until the leaves are wilted. Season well.

5) To serve, divide the pak choi mixture between four plates and top with the salmon.

Serves 4