Following Nigel Slater TV advice, with a few improvisations, I’ve been using up all remains of Christmas (and the freezer). It takes very little effort to prepare, but tastes very festive and special.
CHIPOLATAS WITH CARAMELISED ONION AND CRANBERRIES
(Adapted from N. Slater recipe)
1-2 tablespoons olive oil
2-3 red onions, thinly sliced
1 pack of your preferred chipolatas
150g fresh cranberries
2 tablespoons cranberry jam
splash of red wine (optional)
pinch of cinnamon
handful of fresh spinach
- Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based frying pan over a low heat. Add the onions, stir to coat the onion in the oil. Cover the pan and cook very slowly for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent them from burning.
- Add the chipolatas, increase the heat a little and continue to cook about 15 minutes or until the meat is almost cooked.
- Add the fresh cranberries, pinch of cinnamon, cranberry jam and splash of wine, if using. Mix well to coat everything evenly, cover with lid and cook for another 10 minutes.
- At the end of the cooking mix in some fresh spinach, give another minute or two, taste for seasoning, serve with some hearty bread or with puy lentils.
I could’ t recommend this veggie version of shepherd’s pie enough. I first tried it when I had to prepare a dinner for a few vegetarians some time ago. Since then it became my choice of preference, even over meaty version. Addition of the red wine is a must!
VEGGIE SHEPHERD’S PIE WITH SWEET POTATO TOPPING
(adapted from BBC Good Food collection)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 large onion, finely diced
2 large carrots, finely cubed
2 celery sticks, finely cubed
2 tablespoons thyme, chopped
200ml red wine
400g can chopped tomatoes
2 vegetable stock cubes
400g cooked green/puy lentils (alternatively 1x410g canned lentil)
About 1kg sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in chunks
85g mature cheddar, grated
- In a large frying pan, heat the oil, then fry the onion until golden. Add the carrots, celery and thyme, continue to cook for a few more minutes. Then pour in the wine, 150ml of water and the tomatoes, sprinkle the stock cubes and simmer for 15 minutes. Tip in the lentils and simmer for another 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile boil the sweet potatoes for 15 minutes or until cooked, drain well and mash with the butter, season well to taste.
- Pile the lentil mixture into a pie oven-proof dish, spoon the mash on top, sprinkle over with the grated cheese and some extra thyme if you wish. At this stage, pie can be covered and chilled for 2 days, or frozen for up to a month.
- If you are cooking straight away, heat the oven up to 180C. Cook for 20 minutes if cooking straight away, or for 40 minutes from chilled. In both cases cook until golden on the top and hot and bubbly all the way through. Serve with green veggies of your choice.
Rick Stein is one of my absolute favourite TV chefs. He seems to me such a good personality, with his never ending passion for food that it’s almost infectious. He also is great story teller, with a good sense of humour. I loved his ‘Long weekends’ episodes and after watching it, I discovered Bologna. My sister lives just an hour away from Bologna, but every time visiting her, I never considered to visit this place, thinking of it more like a ‘bus or a train stop’ on the way to Tuscany or further a field. And only after watching an episode on Bologna by Rick Stein we decided to pay a visit, and so glad we that we did.
Then again, inspired by his other trip, we went to Sicily and fell in love with the country and its FOOD.
By coincidence, a friend of mine gave me his book (‘Long weekends’) for my birthday, I was thrilled. Not only does it take me back to those wonderful locations from the series and my own travels, it’s also packed with amazing food ideas, tips and techniques.
One of my highlights from this book is this recipe below. It takes only a few ingredients and no time to prepare at all, mainly waiting for it to be cooked.
CHICKEN WITH PRUNES, SAFFRON & PAPRIKA
(from Rick Stein’s ‘Long weekends’ book)
8 skinless chicken thighs
1 litre water
pinch of saffron
4 tablespoons olive oil
3 red onions, finely sliced
1.5 tablespoon sweet paprika
20 pitted prunes
1 teaspoon salt
blask pepper to taste
- Place the chicken thighs in a saucepan with the water and the saffron. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and allow to poach for 10-15 minutes. Drain, reserving the cooking liquid.
- In a large heavy bottomed pan heat the olive oil over medium-low heat and gently sweat the onion util very soft, about 10 minutes.
- Add the paprika, cook for 2 minutes, then add the chicken thighs, about 700ml of the cooking liquid and the prunes. Season with the salt and pepper and simmer for about 20 minutes, until heated through.
- If at the end of the cooking it remains very watery, remove the chicken, prunes and onion with the slotted spoon and keep it warm while you reduce down the sauce until desired consistency.
- Serve it with some rice dish of your choice. I also love it with plain buttery buckwheat.
I’ve recently made this risotto for a dinner with the girls and it turned out to be a very successful dish. Considering that the ingredients are slightly unusual for a risotto, they work so well together. Rich and smooth without an overpowering beetroot flavour, and a pretty dish to serve.
BEETROOT RISOTTO WITH PRAWNS AND HORSERADISH
(Adapted from ‘Dinner at mine’ by Annie Nochols)
About 800g small raw beetroots
2-4 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, chopped
3 celery sticks, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 large tomato or 2 small ones, chopped
1.5 litres chicken or vegetable stock
400g risotto rice
200ml dry white wine
250g cooked peeled prawns
fresh dill to garnish
3-4 teaspoons creamed horseradish
250ml soured cream to serve (optional)
- Preheat your oven to 190C. Clean the beetroots, leaving the skin on, trim any stringy roots. Wrap up each beetroot in foil and bake for about an hour or until tender. When cooked, remove the beets from the oven, let it cool before peeling away the skin. Grate the beetroots and set aside.
- For the risotto, heat the butter and the olive oil together in a large heavy-bottomed pan, add the chopped onion, celery, carrots and cook them on a moderate heat until golden colour and well softened.
- Then add the chopped tomatoes and continue to cook for another few minutes.
- Meanwhile, place the stock in another pan and bring to just below boiling point; keep on the heat.
- Add the rice to the vegetable and cook for about 3 minutes or until the grains are slightly translucent. Add the wine and keep stirring until all of the liquid has been absorbed. Now add the grated beetroots.
- Then add a ladleful of the hot stock, stir in well and reduce the heat. Keep adding the stock, one ladleful a time, stirring and making sure that each ladleful has been absorbed before adding the next. You don’t need to stir the risotto all the time, but just make sure that it’s not sticking. Continue to cook until the rice is ready and very slightly al dente.
- Once risotto is cooked, remove the pan from the heat, check for seasoning, cover and leave to stand for 5 minutes.
- For the garnish, mix soured cream with the horseradish, chop the dill. (If you prefer, you can add horseradish straight to the risotto and omit soured cream.)
- To serve, spoon the risotto into bowls and top with the prawns, chopped dill and horseradish cream.
Meatballs – one of those dishes which unites the nations, everybody cooks them, everybody loves them. But apparently, according to history, Romans knew better. When you ask an Italian about meatballs, you can get into all sorts of discussions about what goes in to a meatball. But one thing is (almost always) certain: they tell you that their mother, their grandmother or their aunt made the best polpette. Other then that, it can be debated how the meatballs should be served or eaten: on its own, with or without the sauce, or even with some pasta.
Today’s recipe is from wonderful Polpo book.
There is a bit of love required to make the tomato sauce but the polpette are a breeze and the combination of fennel and pork tastes great, just a little bit unusual. You can reduce the amount of chilli flakes or fennel seeds to suit your taste. The original recipe asks for 20g of fennel seeds (in comparison, standard supermarket’s jag is 34g), I wasn’t brave to put more than half of it, I added 10g only and it was plenty to my liking.
PORK AND FENNEL POLPETTE
For the sauce:
100ml extra virgin olive oil
1 white onion, finely sliced
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/2 tbsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
small pinch chilli flakes
750g fresh tomatoes
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
1 small handful of oregano, finely chopped
pinch of caster sugar
For the Polpette:
1.5 kg minced pork
3 medium free-range eggs
large pinch of dried chilli flakes
10g fennel seeds, lightly toasted and ground in a pestle and mortar
salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper
- To make a sauce, heat half the oil in a large saucepan and sweat the onion, garlic, salt, pepper and chilli on a medium heat for about 15 minutes. When transparent, add the fresh tomatoes and the rest of the oil and cook on a low-medium heat for 15 minutes. Add the tinned tomatoes and bring to a gentle simmer. Leave to bubble on the lowest heat for about 1 hour. Turn off the heat and add the heat and add the oregano. Taste and see if it needs any sugar. When you’re pleased with the taste, blend together with a hand blender or in a food blender. Sometimes I like to leave my sauce chunky.
- To make meatballs, preheat the oven to 220C. Put the pork, eggs, breadcrumbs, chilli flakes, ground fennel seeds, salt and pepper into a large mixing bown and massage thoroughly. Roll into approx 45g balls, place them on a greased baking tray and roast in the oven for 10 minutes, turning once until they are starting to brown.
- Poach meatballs in the tomato sauce for 10 minutes.
- Serve on its own with some nice crusty bread or focaccia, or if you dare even with pasta.
With its delicious mix of flavours – mint, spinach, coriander, it is a great curry, which will keep you wanting more. Not only is it packed with all of the wonderful herbs and spices, but it has a punch of fibre, iron and vitamins from the dose of spinach.
GREEN CHICKEN CURRY
(Adapted from Simon Rimmer’s recipe)
3 skinless chicken breasts, cut into chunks
about 200g potatoes, cut into cubes, blanched in boiling water for 5 minutes, drained
3 tablespoons frozen peas
lime wedges, to garnish
rice or naan bread, to serve
3 green bird’s eye chillies
3 garlic cloves
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons tamarind paste
1 teaspoon ground coriander
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
400g spinach leaves
1 bunch of fresh coriander
good handful of mint
400ml coconut milk
- To make a curry paste, in a food processor, blend the onion, chillies, garlic, sugar, tamarind paste and ground coriander to a fine paste.
- In a large saucepan heat the oil, add the curry paste and gently fry for about 5 minutes.
- To make the sauce, in a food processor, mix the spinach, fresh coriander, mint and coconut milk. Add this sauce to saucepan with the paste and bring to the boil. Then reduce the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes – you may need to add a little water or stock to thin it down – then season with salt.
- Add the chicken pieces to the sauce and simmer for about 30 minutes or until cooked through, adding the blanched potatoes about 10 minutes in and cooking them until tender and cooked. Add the frozen peas for the last 5 minutes.
- Serve with rice or naan bread, garnished with limes and more fresh coriander, if you wish.
Although we don’t eat lamb (or meat in general) very often, if I had to choose, lamb definitely would be one of my favourites. I like slow roasting the shoulder or leg of lamb, but I’ve never cooked a rack of lamb before, somehow I worry that I’ll mess the timing up and it’ll be dry and chewy. Luckily there are plenty of other ways to enjoy lamb, like these baked lamb meatballs. I’ve been experimenting with these meatballs lately, adding different spices, and so far I like this way the best. Especially the addition of cinnamon and ginger makes such a big difference. Another advantage of this dish is that it takes no time to cook, but you’ll have dish full of flavours.
BAKED LAMB MEATBALLS IN TAHINI SAUCE
500g lamb mince
1 onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/3 teaspoon ground allspice
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup fresh coriander, chopped
For the sauce:
1/2 cup tahini
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
salt & pepper to taste
chopped fresh mint/ pistachios to serve (optional)
- Preheat the oven to 200C.
- In a large bowl mix together the lamb, onion, garlic, spices, olive oil and coriander, using metal spoon or just using your hands. Shape the mixture into the meatballs and arrange them in a single layer in a baking dish.
- Bake for 10 minutes. Meanwhile the meatballs in the oven, combine the tahini, lemon juice, cumin and slowly add 3/4 cup of water to create a smooth sauce. Taste and season with salt and pepper.
- Pour the sauce over the partially baked meatballs and bake for another 10-15 minutes, until meatballs are thoroughly cooked. The sauce will look like a thick glaze. Garnish with chopped nuts or mint. Serve with boiled rice/spinach pilau rice or lentil.