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Archive for the ‘Meat dishes’ Category

I had to get this recipe onto the blog quickly because the season for sprouting broccoli will be coming to an end soon, although you could substitute it for ‘normal’ broccoli (really called Calabrese) or even that stuff called ‘tender-stem broccoli’ you find in the supermarkets. Actually many brassica plants would be good here, perhaps savoy cabbage or kale?

Pasta with purple-sprouting and pancetta

This isn’t really a recipe, more of a suggestion, and I often think it’s absurd to give quantities for pasta because everyone cooks and eats different quantities. We eat mountains of the stuff in our house – others are likely more reserved.

So while your pasta is cooking (I used penne) fry some pieces of pancetta in a deep frying pan until they begin to turn golden, then add a few garlic cloves cut into very thin slices and cook for a few more minutes. Five minutes before your pasta is ready add you broccoli to the boiling water (saves space and washing up), then drain.

To the frying pan add a few tablespoons of crème fraiche and a good handful of finely grated parmesan. Throw in the pasta and broccoli and perhaps some of the pasta cooking water to make a nice sauce. Season with plenty of black pepper and serve in bowls with more parmesan to sprinkle on top if necessary.

This dish is light, but smooth and creamy and speaks of the season. None of the flavours over-power the delicious sweet purple-sprouting broccoli – which is what this dish celebrates.

 

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Homemade pizza

Making pizza is one of those things we often can’t really be bothered to do because you can buy them from the supermarket or from the take-away easily enough. But it is really worth it I promise you. I’m not going to pretend it is quick or easy – there are several processes but none are difficult to do, especially on a Friday evening with a glass of wine in your hand and some music in the kitchen.

Less grease, fresher flavours, more choice; these are the big advantages. Choose any toppings you like, and use less cheese. I personally hate pizzas that are thickly covered in cheese, when you strip all that cheese away there is little flavour left on top of the soggy dough. Better to cover it in a homemade rich tomato sauce and then punchy flavours like Italian salami or Parma ham, sundried tomatoes or marinated artichokes, olives, basil, mushrooms – the possibilities are endless – and a small amount of fresh mozzarella and parmesan.

My dough recipe makes enough for two whole pizzas and I always cover with two different toppings, one meat, one veg. On the first I did Milano salami, sundried tomatoes and then when it came out of the oven I scattered it with rocket I had dressed in extra-virgin olive oil, a smidge of lemon juice and salt and pepper.

The other had a bit extra cheese and mushrooms I had fried in a pan with garlic and some roasted red peppers from the jar. Sliced on platters with a bowl of green salad and some olive ciabatta on the table this is a feast for two, or could be stretched to serve three or four people by bolstering the salad and adding garlic bread then a dessert.

 

Pizza bases (makes two)

300g 00 Bread flour (a soft flour for making pasta and pizza, or normal bread flour)

1tsp instant yeast powder

1tsp table salt

1tbsp olive oil

200ml warm water

Tip the flour in a bowl and mix with the salt and yeast. Make a well in the middle and tip in the water and oil, combine with a fork and once it starts to come together squash into a ball and tip onto a floured work surface. Kneed for five minutes until soft and stretchy then put aside into a floured bowl. You don’t need to let it rise for a thin-crust. Separate into two pieces of dough and roll out into your pizza shape, put on a baking sheet and top with your chosen toppings.

Pizza sauce

500ml carton of passata

Two cloves of garlic, finely chopped

1tsp oregano

This makes enough sauce for four pizzas, so just stash the left-overs in the freezer until next time. Simply fry the garlic in oil for a minute or two and add the passata, oregano and salt and pepper. Simmer for 20-30 minutes until it has thickened.

Making the pizza

Spread the sauce over your bases and add your toppings, resisting the temptation to put too much topping on, or it will be soggy. Then put in a hot pre-heated oven (220 degree/ gas 7) for 10-15 minutes, until golden and bubbling. Eat with your hands for goodness sake – not a knife and fork.

 

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Every year there are things that make each Christmas memorable. That dodgy Christmas present you received from a family member (I’m not naming names), the argument over the dinner table, snow on Christmas day. This year, for me, it will be the food that stays in my memory. Over six years of being together and me and the other half had never spent Christmas day alone together.

Antipasti platter

This meant that despite my love of cooking I’d never cooked Christmas dinner, or even Christmas Eve supper or a Boxing Day buffet before. It had always been done for us by family members. So this year it was such a treat to do it our way (ie my way!). No dry turkey or over cooked veg, instead a delicious rare roast beef, which was divine eaten later thinly sliced in sandwiches with my honey and mustard mayonnaise and rocket.

But even better was our Christmas Eve meal and I write about it here because it is in no way festive or specific to this time of year. It is the kind of delicious meal you could eat at any time and whilst it could be seen as a simple family meal by some, I think it can be a great dish to serve up when friends are coming around for dinner.

It is homemade Italian meatballs with fresh pasta and tomato sauce, made into a feast by beginning with a big antipasti platter. The one in the photo may not look huge – indeed it wasn’t – but remember it was for only two people.

Italian meatballs with fresh pasta and tomato sauce

It’s true to say there is very little work that goes into putting together an antipasti platter, in fact what it actually demands is just a bit of creative shopping and some careful design on a rustic wooden board, or nice serving plate. That is why it is so good for  dinner party – little hassle and no stress but impressive to guests.

Start with some good ciabatta or olive bread, warmed of course to give it a delicious fresh taste. That in turn leads you on to the classic olive oil and balsamic vinegar (the vinegar isn’t essential) but very good extra virgin olive oil is.

A selection of cured meats and salami is next up on my list, you can get nice selections in some supermarkets, but it will never be as good as slices cut at a deli in front of you. While you are there you can also pick up antipasti vegetables, artichokes are particularly good but expensive and I love stuffed red peppers. If you want you can make a small effort you make these yourself by buying those delicious Pepperdew peppers you can get in jars that are slightly spicy and sweet. Mixed good cream cheese or ricotta with fresh herbs, such as basil, mint and chives and carefully stuff little blobs into the peppers. Olives of your choice are an obvious addition, but you could also add grissini (Italian bread sticks) for people to wrap Parma ham around and nibble or some parmesan chunks to make it even more filling.

Be careful not to over-do it, people will happily graze on antipasti until they are full as an egg and then have no room left for your meatballs, which you actually bothered to spend time making.

So on to these delicious little balls of yumminess. I use a recipe by Gennaro Contaldo , having tried and adapted many, many recipes and this one is – I think – failsafe. It uses a mix of beef and pork mince  (as many recipes to do) and a lot of bread crumbs, which makes the balls very light and moist, quite the opposite to what people think will happen if you add dried bread. Just a little grated parmesan, garlic and parsley is all the flavourings you need.

In the photo I had used fresh tagliatelle, however my preference is linguine which is thinner. I make a classic plain tomato sauce by frying two or three cloves of garlic in some olive oil for a minute then adding a 500g pack of passata, a swig of balsamic and salt of pepper, simmer for 30 minutes and it’s done. The recipe below is my slightly adapted version of Gennaro’s meatballs.

 

Italian meatballs (makes enough to serve four if having a starter)

250g beef mince

250g pork mince

½ garlic clove, finely minced

100g fresh breadcrumbs

1tbsp chopped fresh parsley

40g grated parmesan

1 egg

 Method

Put the meat, parsley, garlic, parmesan and breadcrumbs in a deep bowl, get your hands in and really mush it up and squash it together so it is thoroughly mixed and the meat is broken down – this will make the meatball smoother. Add the whisked up egg and mix with your hands again. With wet hands roll into small balls a bit smaller than a golf ball. Put in an oiled baking tray or ceramic dish and bake in a hot oven (200/Gas 6) for about 20 minutes.

Serve however and with whatever you want, but I like it with the fresh pasta and tomato sauce with more fresh parmesan on top and lots of torn up fresh basil. If you are serving two, as I do, then cook them and freeze them once cool. Defrost and reheat them in the tomato sauce when you want them.

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I wasn’t too sure what to call this blog post, bread-crumbed food isn’t exactly a sexy subject – some people might even go as far as to say it is boring. These are people, however, who have only eaten supermarket bought, pre-made, breaded items.

These are indeed pretty boring, no doubt about it (floppy, bland and uninspiring). But I am here to try and persuade you that bread-crumbing is in fact exciting, delicious and definitely not boring. (It’s also simple, frugal and infinitely adaptable).

Lemon, herb and breadcrumb coated turkey

The first thing to say is that you can breadcrumb all kinds of things but chicken, turkey, pork and meaty white fish are the best. Secondly you shouldn’t just use breadcrumbs. Clearly the crumb forms the base of the crunchy coating, but then you can build up the flavour by mixing in other ingredients.

Firstly; finely chopped fresh herbs will add loads of punch – thyme on pork, parsley on fish, basil or oregano on chicken, or mix them up and put them all together. Then what about spices, bits of chilli or lemon and lime zest? Finely grated parmesan is excellent as well, but don’t add too much. It won’t necessarily taste cheesy, more savoury and salty, plus when it melts it helps the crumb stick together nicely. Also try swapping some, or all, of the breadcrumb for polenta which gives a very crispy, crunchy texture and a beautiful yellow/orange colour.

Then for the cooking: Mix up your breadcrumb and flavourings in a large shallow bowl with plenty of seasoning. I suggest bashing out meat like chicken, turkey or pork until flattened so it cooks quickly and remains succulent. It also means more crumby goodness per piece of meat. You’ll need to dip in seasoned flour first and then some beaten egg before placing in the crumb mix and moving around until it is covered. Press it down to make sure it’s all good and stuck.

Then place in a pre-heated frying pan with some sunflower oil. Don’t move the meat until it has formed a lovely golden crust underneath, flip and cook through on the other side. Because it is so crispy and crunchy I like to serve with a dip, whether that is simply ketchup or mayonnaise or a homemade aioli or salsa.

Last thing to say is this is a frugal dish if you remember to keep your old stale bits of bread, whiz them up and put them in the freezer until you need them. Then you can breadcrumb things whenever you want to your heart’s content!

In the meal pictured I used flattened turkey steaks and covered them in breadcrumbs mixed with lemon zest, parsley and basil with plenty of seasoning. I also made a roasted garlic and lemon mayonnaise by roasting a couple of garlic cloves in their skins for 20 minutes before popping them out and mashing them into two or three tablespoons of mayo, little bit of lemon zest and a squeeze of juice. Alongside a crispy salad it was healthy and delicious.

Try chicken pieces in breadcrumbs mixed with parmesan and chopped basil, or fish in breadcrumbs, chilli, coriander and lime zest.

 

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I am both immensely proud and unbelievably staggered to introduce a guest blog by my chap (the other half of Food4two) His role is usually just the eating part – and the clearing up, never cooking. Following many disasters in the kitchen, from melting equipment to burning sausages to a cinder and putting raw onion into a tomato sauce with meatballs, he has been all but banned from the kitchen. But please read on to see he has found a minor talent in the kitchen – and in fact a talent for writing. Will….over to you

The Quesadilla made by Will is not a dish to be eaten in polite company, oozing and dripping with deliciousness as I tentatively place it in my mouth (edit- shovel it in my mouth). Today was the first time I ran 10k and I have to say for the last 10 minutes of it I was solely concerned with what culinary delight I was going to reward myself with when I got home. Anyone that knows me will tell you that ‘culinary delight’ is not the phrase people might use after sampling my cooking. For, you see, six years of living with a foodie girlfriend that always takes charge in the kitchen has robbed me of the chance to learn any cooking skills (read: I am too lazy to bother) and I am only now just getting a grasp of the basics. Whilst running I immediately hankered for a big plate of Rapid Ragu being a fan of Nigella’s recipes. Yes the Rapid Ragu got me though the pain and near blindness of over one hour of running and past the finish line.

Will's homemade, stuffed to within an inch of their lives, quesadillas

 However it was not to be, on calling the girlfriend to consult on the matter (whilst staving off the hunger by munching a Claire produced oaty energy bar) I was instructed that we were having pasta tonight and there was no way I could have pasta TWICE in a day. Thus I was denied my ragu. Tempted as I was to prove her wrong and show I could eat my body weight in carbohydrate I began flicking though Nigella Express. I settled on Quesadillas. So, after the obligatory dash round the supermarket for the necessary provisions I set to it.

Ingredients all lined up neatly on the worktop, pan heating up and a nice pack of Serrano ham from Murcia in front of me ready to be devoured. I mulled over how best to do it and settled on simply doing it as quickly as possible so the first would still be hot when the last hit the plate. I layed out the Serano ham over the tortilla then smothering with hot salsa and hot jalapeños, countered with a big dollop of sour cream and two handfuls of cheese. One minute cooking each side and they were done. Coincidentally they also took one minute each to eat.

The main downside was using a flat pan so I missed out on the cool black lines (I would have used a George Foreman but that was chucked after I managed to melt the plastic cover in my great Foreman-grilling disaster of winter 2010). The next, if you could call it a problem, was that I had drastically overfilled the tortilla to the point of near structural failure. The salsa was leaking out and sizzling on the pan, but not to worry as in the end they all tasted great and done the job of filling me up. I was very happy with the Quesadillas with all their cheesy-creamy- salsa oozing action, and myself for undertaking such a momentous task unsupervised by the missus.

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I can’t count the number of bad chicken Caesar salads I’ve had in pubs and chain restaurants, it made me forget how delicious this dish can be when done right. You might think a homemade chicken Caesar salad doesn’t sound that exciting, but actually if you make the dressing from scratch and pan fry your chicken so it is delicious and juicy and you make rustic, chunky croutons it is actually something very special.

Simple chicken Caesar salad

When I served this to my boyfriend he was amazed, he absolutely loved it – wolfed it down in fact and I’ve made it several times since. The flavours are simple and classic, a deep salty and creamy dressing of parmesan, garlic and anchovies on crispy lettuce leaves with crunchy croutons, succulent warm chicken and shavings of cheese.

The recipe I used came from Jamie magazine and is simple to follow and really delivers on flavour. I have amended it somewhat, for ease and to suit me. I hope you feel inspired to give this classic dish a go (please don’t get out the shop bought sauce, I’ll never forgive you!) It would be perfect for an informal dinner for friends on a Friday night or a romantic dinner for two…….

Chicken Caesar Salad (serves 2)

One cos lettuce

Two chicken breasts, skin-on

Sprig of rosemary

One garlic clove, sliced

Parmesan to serve

Dressing:

100ml whole-egg mayonnaise

1tbsp crème fraiche

1 garlic clove, minced

2 anchovy fillets, finely chopped

Juice of half a lemon

20g freshly grated parmesan cheese

 

1. Mix all the dressing ingredients together and set aside.

2. Make some croutons by slicing up some crusty bread into chunks, place on a baking try and rub with a small amount of olive oil, salt and pepper. Place in an oven at 170 degrees and bake until golden.

3. Rub the chicken breasts with olive oil, rosemary, garlic, salt and pepper. Then place in a hot frying pan skin side down. If possible find something heavy to put on top of the chicken breasts to press them down and get the skin crispy. Turn over and do the same on the second side. Cook for around 10 minutes in total, turning two or three times.

4. Check to see the chicken is cooked through, then remove to a chopping board. Toss your lettuce with plenty of the dressing, sprinkle on croutons. Slice the chicken breasts and sit on top of the salad. Use a vegetable peeler to grate shards of parmesan over the salad. Serve with the left-over dressing on the side.

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Slow cooked lamb shank for one

I have momentarily changed into Food4one instead of Food4two with this dish, although the beauty of this is you can just keep multiplying it to make whatever quantity you want.

Anyway, cooking for two people can often turn into cooking for one person if the other person isn’t around.

In this instance, when I’m at home alone for dinner, I do one of two things. I either do something seriously simple ie an omelette, soup or something out of the freezer, because I can’t be bothered to create lots of mess and wash up. On the other hand I sometimes go to the other end of the scale and think ‘what the hay’ I’m here alone, I’ll make myself something decadent and delicious, accompanied by a bottle of wine.

This was one of those night. Lamb shanks take a long while to cook, but they are worth the wait, yielding into soft, succulent meat with slow cooking. And I know what you are thinking ‘that is a massive meal for one small woman’, but quite a bit is bone (oh, who I am kidding, it was a huge meal, but it was delicious and I ate it all).

Here I’ve served my shank with creamy mash and savoy cabbage.

Lamb Shank for one

Simply place your lamb shank in a large piece of tin foil and bring the edges up to meet the top of the bone. It doesn’t need to be done up, leave it open at the top, but you need to be able to pour liquid in and for it to stay sat at the bottom.

Pour in a slug of red wine, or port, a garlic clove, some springs of thyme, seasoning and put in a medium oven for one hour.

Take lamb out of the oven and roll down the foil so the lamb is a little bit less covered and open to the elements. Put back in the oven for a further 40mins to one hour.

Remove from oven, set lamb shank to one side to rest. Pour the juices into a pan and add 100ml of beef stock and reduce down for five minutes. Add a little cornflower to thicken if you wish and pour the sauce over your shank and mash.

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