Quick Pasta Alternative

second-quick-pasta-01Our private name for Spaghetti Aglio e Olio has always been quick pasta or Schnelle Nudeln to be precise, obviously in reference to the short preparation time and minimum effort required.

Here’s another lovely quick pasta dish, with the added bonus of increased capacity for using-up leftover vegetable:

Fettuccine with Sage Butter, Nuts and Stuff

I start with a small amount of vegetables. I happen to have half a bulb of fennel and half a small squash in the fridge, on another day some Swiss chard or cauliflower might do the trick or perhaps thin stripes of Savoy cabbage or Italian Cavolo Nego will join the party.

Bring a pot of pasta cooking water to the boil.

Meanwhile, toast a handful of nuts in a non-sticking frying pan. We had pistachio nuts and pumpkin seeds, but walnuts or Macadamia would also be great. Salt slightly and set the nuts aside but keep the pan.

Dice the veg and using the same pan to caramelise lightly in a little bit of butter except when using cauliflower.
When using cauliflower, cut into small chunks such that each has a flat side, and dry-roast in the same pan at moderate heat. When using cabbage greens such as stripes of Savoy cabbage or Cavolo Nero, stir-fry dry for two minutes, then for another 30 seconds with added butter.

Season to taste with salt and pepper, then set aside.

Add a teaspoon of salt and 250 g of good quality egg Fettuccine to the boiling pasta water, reduce the heat and stir gently once the dry pasta begins to soften up to avoid lumps.

Clean, dry and chop a large handful of fresh sage leaves into very fine bits. Melt 75 g of butter until it begins to foam, then add the sage and stir occasionally for a minute.

Drain the pasta and dress with the nuts, vegetables and sage butter.

I added little pieces of blue cheese but I suppose the addition of cheese is optional.

Quick and easy.

Party Bread Rolls

P20150926112635.JPGThese savoury bread rolls make for great finger food to take along to a party and share. They are easily adjusted to vegetarians or vegans and can be very delicious, especially when straight from the oven.

I make a basic bread dough and let it rise for half an hour, then roll it out. This needs to rise for another 30 to 45 minutes, preferably in a warm and damp environment. I usually put it into the oven, covering the inside of the door with a tea towel wet with hot water.

Meanwhile, collect an assortment of “toppings”. Semi-dried tomatoes work great, salami or Chorizo slices, goats cheese or Swiss Gruyere, chopped olives, rosemary, fresh thyme, basil. Whatever your garden has to offer, or that magic cupboard in the larder. Perhaps you could even use up one of those jars of relish, pickles or chutney?

Spread and sprinkle the toppings of your choice across the surface of the bread dough, then roll up into one large roll and cut into slices.

Now lay out the slices on a tray with baking parchment and let recover from the ordeal for another 30 to 45 minutes, again preferably in a warm and not dry environment, then dust lightly with flour and bake at 200 C until ready within approximately 15 minutes.

Devilled Eggs

DSC_0264Everybody loves these, and most people usually say “oh! I remember we used to make those, too!”

Everybody used to make devilled eggs for all occasions some time during the past century. Not so for us. We still make them and still love them and whenever we offer some, at most one is left over if nobody dares take the last one. Otherwise none.

Hard-boil half a dozen of medium-size free range eggs, then shock in very cold water and peel. Cut right through the middle, arrange the egg white halves on a serving plate and collect the yolks in a small mixing bowl. Add the devil in the form of a very generous amount of mustard, and perhaps a small amount of soured cream to make the mix lighter. Mix well with a fork or a hand mixer, fill into a piping bag and into the waiting egg whites.

Optionally decorate with a caper or a sliver of red peppers, although I find this is taking the retro look too far. For a more refined look and for far more fiddly preparations consider using Quail eggs.

 

Ivory Coast Soup

DSC_0521This is a lovely vegetarian option for when you feel like saving the planet: a pan-roasted ginger and pumpkin soup with fresh spinach, seared feta cheese, pine kernels and toasted pumpkin seeds.

It’s fairly quickly made, looks good, tastes great and helps save the planet!

Remove skin and seed from a nice squash or pumpkin, then dice the flesh and dry roast it in a non-sticking frying pan until is is nicely caramelized. I include a dried red chilly, two large gloves of garlic, a teaspoon of coriander seeds, two star anise and a few twigs ot thyme for flavour.

Add a pint of water, a pinch of salt and a large thumb-sized piece of fresh ginger, grated. Stir, turn the heat down and let simmer gently for a few minutes.

Toast a handful of pine kernels and set aside.

Toast a handful of pumpkin seeds until they are popping nicely, set aside.

Wash and drain the fresh spinach.

Now return to the soup. Remove chilly, anise and twigs, then blizz the rest in a blender, adding a little more water if necessary. Season to taste and keep warm.

Heat some olive oil with a glove of garlic, then add the fresh spinach to moderate heat. Close the lid to let steam gently.

Cut a generous piece of feta chesse per portion and put in a non-sticking frying pan and reasonably high heat. The idea is to heat it up, partially melt it and, if your feta is sufficiently dry, lightly caramelize it around the edges.

Finally, the assembly:

Mix the pine kernels with the spinach and build a nest in the middle of each plate, then put the feta on top. Surround it with the soup. Try to marble the soup with soured cream or double cream, which looks good and rounds the flavour, then sprinkle the toasted pumpkin seeds around the perimeter. Add a drizzle of chilly oil or pumpkin seed oil.

 

Linda’s Biscotti

20151128174447Friend Linda declined the honour, but she gets it anyway as she introduced me to these very lovely Cranberry Pistachio Biscotti. They are easy to make, lovely looking, perfect with the coffee after a meal, or just at any time.

It’s an American recipe and comes in cup measures, but I added a translation. This is my version of it:

2 cups white wheat flour (250 g)
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup soft unsalted butter (110 g)
3/4 cup sugar (100 g)
2 large free range eggs
1/2 vanilla pod
1 cup shelled pistachios (two handful)
1 cup dried cranberries, alternatively dried cherries or blueberries (two handful)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Roast the pistachios lightly in a non-sticking frying pan. Wrap the hot pistachios in a tea towel and rub the chaff off, then set aside to cool down a little.

Beat the butter with the sugar until light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, followed by the seeds from the vanilla pod. Mix in the flour, baking powder and salt.

Toss the berries with the cinnamon. Add the pistachios and fruit to the dough mix, stir in well.

Cover a flat tray with baking parchment. Form two logs from the dough, about 1 inch high and 1 .. 2 inch wide. Leave 3 inches between the logs.

Bake at 160 C (325 F) until golden, about 20 minutes. Let cool down at least for 30 minutes, then slice and bake the slices for approximately 7 minutes on each side until they begin to colour.

Focaccia

DSC_0524

Few things are better than a real and really fresh Focaccia straight from the oven. The extraordinary amounts consumed with enthusiasm at our house on various occasions are simply stunning.

It is very easy to make, but you need to be around to see to it every 20 minutes over two or three hours:

Make a basic bread dough from 65 ml water on 100 ml white wheat flour. Use 400 g flour for a standard square baking tray, 250 g for a round one.

Prepare the dough. Roll it out after the second kneading and put it on baking parchment onto the tray.

Infuse 120 ml olive oil with a crushed glove of garlic and 4 crushed dried red chillies. (100 ml for a round tray).

Let the dough rise for 20 minutes, then apply the following treatment:

Use a fork to prick the dough. Penetrate the surface and 2/3 of the depth but don’t go all the way through. Then brush on as much of the oil as the dough will take; don’t let puddles sit on the surface but let it sink into your holes.

Repeat this every 20 to 30 minutes, at least four or five times or until all the oil has been absorbed. Then sprinkle with chopped rosemary and sea salt, optionally adding more red chilly flakes. Give it another 30 minutes to recover from this treatment.

Bake at 210 C (410 F) until it looks right, about 25 minutes.

Transfer on a cooling rack, cut and eat just as soon as you dare.

Greek Yogurt Ice Cream

DSC_0898.JPGA tangy Greek yogurt ice cream served with poached pears and nuts.

For the ice cream, I make a custard from 250 ml double cream, 60 g sugar, four free-range egg yolks and half a vanilla pod. Whisk in a paste made from a heaped tablespoon of corn starch, this helps keeping the ice cream in shape later.

Whisk in 500 ml of Greek Yogurt in the last few seconds, remove from the heat. Let cool down, then chill. Churn it just after the main course; chilled well, this only takes about 30 minutes in the ice cream machine.

Poach one or two pealed and cored pears with 1 tablespoon of sugar and one start anise each in 250 ml water or rice wine vinegar. Take the fruit out after approximately 30 minutes, increase the heat and reduce the liquor to a thick honey consistency.

Poaching in rice wine vinegar will probably need sweetening with honey or apply jelly but makes a nice sharp contrast to the sweet ice cream.

The version in these photos uses a Balsamic Caramel. Good old Salted Caramel or simple Balsamic Glaze would also be nice, and so would be natural dark honey.

Add some toasted and chopped pistacho or macadamia nuts for added crunch and good looks.

Elderflower Cordial

P20160528135323.JPG250 g fresh and ripe Elderflower
1 l Water
1 kg Sugar
1 unwaxed lemon
1 tbls citric acid or juice

Mix sugar and water, bring it to the boil. Let it cool down a little, then add the finely sliced lemons, additional lemon juice or citric acid to taste. Now add the unwashed flowers, stir, then cover and let rest in a cool place for 2..3 days.

Now filter the liquid through a muslin cloth and discard the solids.

Bring the syrup to the boil, then bottle into sterilised bottles.

 

Goats Cheese Millefeuille

cropped-P20160521193324-2.jpgWell, I say millefeuille but really we are talking about three sheets of double-layered filo pastry, but it does make for an excellent starter!

It’s impressive, it has the Wow! factor, and it isn’t all that hard to make. A great way to start a dinner party.

My Goats Cheese Millefeuille is a small stack of double-layered filo pastry, flavoured with fennel pollen and baked crisp. In between the sheets is an assortment of textures and flavours such as molten goats cheese, roasted beetroot, raw fennel shavings, raspberries and blueberries.

The exact choice of incredients for the filling isn’t very important so long as they combine well and offer variety in texture and aroma.

Goats cheese is required unless you change the name of the dish. I usually use the types which are rolled in ash, and melt them in a frying pan with a spot of butter.

Roasted beetroot, lightly tossed with balsamic vinegar, a small splash of lime juice and a sprinkling of salt works beautifully.

Soured cream will provide moisture, or perhaps a spoonful of roasted fennel puree, the Missus’ favourite.

Raw fennel shavings are always nice and, speaking of shavings, Parmesan cheese shavings could also work well.

A fruit component is, in my opinion, essential. Fresh raspberries, blueberries or blackberries work well and look great. Blood orange or grapefruit fillets could also work if your citrus fruit filleting skills are OK; the fruit can’t be soggy or it ruins the filo.

For the filo sheets, the method is simple:

Buy a pack of good quality filo sheets. Prefer the not frozen variety if you can. Roll out one, and cover generously with melted butter (warm, not hot!). Give it a generous sprinkling of fennel pollen, then add another sheet of filo pastry. Not everyone has fennel pollen in the spice cupboard (and it is a little bit on the expensive side unless you are foraging). Alternatively, course black pepper or fresh nutmeg shavings also work well.

Cut the double-layer into the required size, maybe as large as a playing card, using a pair of scissors. Place on baking parchment, then bake at 190 C until dark golden, approximately 10 minutes.

Take out of the oven, very gently transfer onto a cooling rack and leave there until it is time to assemble. Use the pictures and your own imagination as a guide!

Vegan Tomato Tarte

IMG_20180822_195506.jpgThis was very moorish and a good addition to my vegan repertoire: a tomato tarte.

Instead of the usual puff pastry used with Provencale tarte, which is rich in butter and not suitable for vegans, I made a light and crisp pizza base. I covered this with tapenade from dried tomatoes, garlic and black olives. I added a rich layer of extra lush and tasty beefsteak tomato slices, sprinkled with salt and chilly oil.

Vegan-approved!