Beef & Aubergine Fatteh

This recipe comes from the latest book by Nigella Lawson ‘At my table’. Since I  first saw it  a few month ago, I’ve already made it several times. It’s my new ‘go to’ recipe for dinner parties, as it’s perfect for sharing, easily adaptable to the vegetarian version (just replace the beef mince with Quorn/soya mince, or double the quantities of aubergine and add the mushrooms). I normally serve it with the roasted vegetables, couscous or herby bulgur wheat on side. Everyone loves it.

BEEF & AUBERGINE FATTEH

(Nigella Lawson recipe)

Ingredients:

For the base:

4 pitta breads, split open and cut into nacho-sized triangles

For the sauce:

500g Greek-style yoghurt

4 tablespoons tahini, at room temperature

1 lemon, juice only

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1–2 teaspoon sea salt flakes, to taste

125g pomegranate seeds

50g toasted pine nuts (optional)

1 tbsp finely shredded mint leaves (optional)

 

For the ‘meaty’ layer:

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 aubergine, cut into small cubes

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons ground coriander

1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or paprika, plus extra for sprinkling

1–2 teaspoon sea salt flakes, to taste

500g beef mince

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
  2. To make the aubergine-beef layer, warm the oil in a heavy-based saucepan or casserole, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, over a medium-low heat for 5 minutes, then turn the heat down to low and cook for another 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden colour.

  3. Turn the heat up to medium, add the aubergine cubes and stir well. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Turn the heat down if they look as if they’re catching.

  4. Stir in the cumin, coriander and a teaspoon each Aleppo pepper and sea salt flakes. Turn the heat up to high, add the mince and use a fork to break it up a little and turn in the pan until it’s lost its red colour. Turn the heat back down to medium and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the meat is cooked through. Taste to see if you want to add more salt, then take off the heat.

  5. To make a sauce, pour about 3cm of just-boiled water into a fresh pan and put over a low heat. Sit the bowl with the ‘tahini, yoghurt, lemon juice, garlic and salt’ mixture on top, making sure the bowl does not touch the water. Beat well until the yogurt is slightly above room temperature and has the consistency of lightly whipped cream. Set aside.
  6. Toast the pitta breads and cut it into triangles.
  7. To assemble, arrange the crisp pitta triangles on a large plate. Top with the aubergine-beef mixture, followed by the yoghurt-tahini sauce. Sprinkle with Aleppo pepper or paprika to give a light dusting. Scatter over the pomegranate seeds and toasted pine nuts and, finally, strew with the finely shredded mint leaves. Eat with your fingers, nacho-style.

 

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Pan-fried Gnocchi with Watercress Pesto and Roasted Cherry Tomatoes

I love gnocchi, but only if they are pan-fried. I found boiled ones to be a bit heavy and sloppy. When I discovered pan-fried gnocchi (thanks to Nigella!), it was a game changer and since then I don’t do it any other way.

If I remember it right, I saw this recipe on one of the Sainsbury’s recipe cards, which you can pick up from the store. The recipe is so easy and adaptable, you can easily adjust it to your taste.

PAN-FRIED GNOCCHI WITH WATERCRESS PESTO & ROASTED TOMATOES

Ingredients:

200g cherry tomatoes, halved

2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

75ml olive oil, plus extra for frying

3 tbsp walnuts/pine nuts, toasted

1 x 110g bag watercress

1 x 500g pack fresh gnocchi

100g fine green beans, halved

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200C. Place the halved tomatoes on the oiled roasting tray and roast until they are ready and caramelised on the edges.
  2. While the tomatoes are roasting, make the pesto by putting the garlic, olive oil, walnuts and the watercress in a food processor, blitz to combine. Check for seasoning.
  3. Heat a large frying pan with a splash of olive oil, add the gnocchi and toss gently over a medium-high heat for 6-8 minutes until lightly golden.
  4. Meanwhile, cook the beans in boiling salted water for 2-3 minutes until just tender, drain.
  5. To assemble, add the pesto to the gnocchi and toss together. Gently stir in the beans and tomatoes. Serve as a side dish or as a main with some salad.

Super tender meatballs in tomato sauce with cannellini beans

Here is a quick improvisation on one of the classic Italian Polpette, which I made few times before, which I highly recommend. Fennel is this magic ingredient, which transforms these meatballs to another level of deliciousness.

This time I ran out of fennel seeds, instead I just added some chilli powder, paprika & Worcestershire sauce for a little bit of kick, plus cannellini beans for some substance.

PORK POLPETTE IN TOMATO SAUCE WITH CANNELLINI BEANS

Ingredients

For tomato sauce:

100ml extra virgin olive oil
1 white onion, finely sliced
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/2 tbsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
pinch of chilli flakes to your taste
1/2 paprika powder
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
1 small handful of oregano, finely chopped
pinch of caster sugar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (optional)
1 x 400g tin of cannellini beans (or any other canned beans of your choice)
chopped dill/parsley to garnish (optional)
For the Polpette:

1.5 kg minced pork

3 medium free-range eggs

150g breadcrumbs

large pinch of dried chilli flakes

salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

  1. 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 tinned tomatoes, cannelloni beans and bring to a gentle simmer. Leave to bubble on the lowest heat for about 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the sugar, Worcestershire sauce, if using, and the oregano. Taste and see if it needs anything else. Set aside for now.
  2. To make meatballs, preheat the oven to 220C. Put the pork, eggs, breadcrumbs, chilli flakes, salt and pepper into a large mixing bowl 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.
  3. Then poach the meatballs in the tomato & beans sauce for 10 minutes.
  4. Serve on its own with some fresh chopped herbs and nice crusty bread or focaccia.

Soft Cottage Cheese Biscuits

These biscuits are a taste of childhood for me. It comes from the time when our mums couldn’t get hold of chocolate, nuts or any other ‘exotic’ ingredients easily, so they had to make some treats with what was available. However, the cottage cheese was a staple ingredients in any household, hence in our culture so many recipes are based on this product, which is still very popular to this day.

These biscuits are very frugal, just 4 ingredients, but you need to get hold of this type of cottage cheese/farmers cheese/tvorog to get a right consistency. Luckily, it’s widely available in all big supermarkets, in  ‘world section’.

They are the best while still warm, with glass of milk.

SOFT COTTAGE CHEESE BISCUITS

(About 30-35 biscuits)

Ingredients:

200g butter,at room temperature

250g farmers/cottage cheese

350g plain flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

sugar for rolling , approx 150g

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Line up a baking sheet with the parchment paper.
  2. In a big bowl, mix together the butter and cottage cheese first, then add the flour and baking powder. Using a wooden spoon or a mixer, make sure it is well incorporated. At this stage, you might need to add a bit more flour to get the consistency of sought when it is pliable, but not sticking to the hands.
  3. Then, on a lightly dusted with flour clean surface, roll out the dough at about 0.5 cm thickness. Cut the circuits with the cookies cutter (I prefer using 3 inches/88mm cutter).  Cut as much circles from the dough as possible, save the scraps, scrunch them into a little ball and reuse it, repeating the the same process.
  4. Put the sugar into a small bowl and press one side of  the circle of dough into the sugar. Fold it in half to form a half moon shape. Press one side into the sugar again, fold it in half and press one of the sides in the sugar. Alternately, you can press both sides in the sugar straight away, but in this case your biscuits will be much darker in colour and crispier. I normally do half and half to satisfy everyone. Notice that there is no sugar added in a dough, so you control how much sugar you want to roll into the biscuits.
  5. Place the cookies on pre lined baking tray and bake for 20 – 25 minutes or until the cookies are puffed and golden.

Open Grilled Sandwich with Apple & Cheese

My Mum used to make this on Sundays for breakfast. What a treat it was, sweet apple slices make a simple grilled cheese sandwich taste gourmet.

OPEN GRILLED SANDWICH WITH APPLE & CHEESE

Ingredients:

(All quantities are flexible)

Preferably whole grain bread, sliced

sweet apple, sliced

mature cheddar, grated or sliced

black pepper

Method:

  1. Place the slices of bread on baking sheet.
  2. Top with sliced apple and grated cheddar cheese, few twists of black pepper on top.
  3. Place it under the grill until cheese has melted,  approx. 2-3 minutes or until it’s golden and bubbling.

Parsley Sauce

Knock Knock
Who’s there!
Parsley!
Parsley who?
Parsley the sauce please!

Excuse this bad joke, but I just couldn’t resist..
I have to admit that not only have I never made parsley sauce, I never even tried it before.  One of my colleagues always says how much she loves it. I had to try it to see what it’s all about.

I see the appeal now,  it’s a really delicious, quick and no fuss sauce to make and can be used with ham, fishcakes, baked fish, or even vegetables. We had it simply with baked salmon and green beans.

CLASSIC PARSLEY SAUCE

(adapted from BBC Food)

Tip:  Make it just before you need to use it.

Ingredients:

25g butter

25g plain flour

400ml milk

a good handful flat leaf parsley, chopped

salt and pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Melt the butter in a saucepan.

  2. Stir in the flour and cook for 1-2 minutes, watch the heat to ensure sure the paste does not burn.

  3. Gradually stir in the milk to get a smooth sauce. I prefer to use a whisk for that, stirring all the time, bring to the boil.

  4. Lower the heat and simmer gently for 5-7 minutes.
  5. Season with salt and pepper, stir in chopped parsley, serve it straight away.

 

Insalata di Arance / Orange Salad

We had a few versions of this salad when we visited Sicily. Because oranges were in season, this salad was available pretty much everywhere. One version had oranges and fennel, another had oranges, onion, cheese and mint. Even all of the above plus olives. The list goes on. All of them were refreshing, palate cleansing, very simple but delicious.

Since I brought back with me a few oranges, I also made a several versions of this salad at home. Here is one:

INSALATA DI ARANCE

Ingredients:

2 oranges, skin removed and cut into rounds

2-3 spring onions, ends removed and finely sliced

50g mild cheese (sorry, I know it’s not authentic, but I used Edam)

extra virgin oil to dress, to taste

1 teaspoon poppy seeds (optional)

Method:

  1. Mix the ingredients together and serve.