Spicy Crisp Broccoli

I find this a great accompaniment to richer curries as, done properly, it retains the fresh clean flavours to cleanse the palette between mouthfuls.

Ingredients:

A good sized head of Broccoli, a little over a lb in weight, and make sure the florets are dark green.  Cut the florets off and don’t waste the stalk.  Finely slice it into thin rounds.

2 tbsp light oil [I have had good results using Rice Oil with this]; 3 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced; 2 tsp cumin seeds; 2 fresh red chillies, de-seeded and sliced into thin rounds; 1 heaped tbsp gram [chickpea] flour; 1 tsp ground cumin; 1 tsp ground coriander; 1 tsp ground cardamom; 1/2 tsp sea salt;  3 tbsp water.

Mix the gram flour, salt, ground cumin, coriander and cardamom together in a small bowl.  Use a largish frying pan, with a lid, and heat the oil.  Add the cumin seeds, chilli and garlic, then stir-fry for a couple of minutes, taking care the garlic browns but doesn’t burn.  Then add the broccoli, turn up the heat and stir-fry for about 3/4 minutes.  Turn the heat down low and add the gram flour mixture, sprinkling it evenly and stirring it in.   Add the water and stir then cook for a further 6/7 minutes.  Serve immediately.

apanē bhōjana kā ānanda!

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Focaccia Pomodoro – Buy it? – or – Bake it!

If you have a lovely local Italian Deli where they bake their own and you can buy it warm and soft – Buy it and support them!     If however you don’t…………….or it’s a Sunday & they’re closed and if overpriced, flabby, supermarket pap is your only alternative – Bake it yourself!  It’s easy and delicious with that wonderful feeling – I made this!  All it takes is a little time.

Don’t ever make the mistake of using anything other than the best ingredients you can find.  This doesn’t mean paying the earth.  Sometimes it just means getting up off your backside and going to a market or finding a good deli.   Balzano’s Deli in Cambridge for instance has wonderful Sun-blushed tomatoes and lovely Olives, and Seafood, and Prosciutto, and, and, and…………..

Ingredients for 1. ‘Course while you’re at it you could make two or three………

12 oz [350 g] Good quality strong white bread flour; 1/2 tsp sea salt; 1 tsp thyme; 2 tbsp good Olive Oil; 200 ml warm water; 1 tsp yeast.    4/5 pitted & halved black olives; 6 sun-dried or sun-blushed tomatoes [a wonderful treat if you can find them locally.]

Mix the flour, salt & thyme well together in a large mixing bowl.  Crumb the oil into the mix.  Stir the yeast into the warm water and mix that in too.  Knead it together, not too vigorously, then cover the bowl and leave in a warm place for 2 hours.

Turn on to a floured surface, lightly knead again, then flatten and spread to an oval shape and put onto a oiled baking sheet.  No thinner than 1/2 “.  Arrange your olives and tomatoes on the surface, and leave in that warm place for 45 mins to rise further.  When risen indent all over with your fingers [my favourite bit!] and drizzle a little Olive Oil and sprinkle a little salt.  Pre-heat the oven to 180 [170 if a fan oven] and bake for 35/40 mins.  It’s done when golden-brown and slightly hollow sounding when tapped on the bottom.  A bit like me really………………………..

Serve with a Green Salad and/or Antipasti.

Buono Appetito

Risotto Bianco for Dummies!

So many make a great fuss about Risottos.  It actually takes no more time than any other hearty family dish.  Does it need stirring?  Yes!  So what!  It only needs it each time you chuck another ladleful of stock in.  Use the time in between to prepare something else, the pudding, or test the wine, talk to your guests, grate the cheese, whatever!  This is cooking not a boring task like scrubbing the bath!   Enjoy!

This is a simple recipe for a basic risotto, excellent on its own, or you can experiment and add items [mushrooms, sea-food, bottled artichoke hearts, etc] to make something even more special.

Serves 4, though as usual you can increase the basic ingredients to suit the number of bodies!

1 1/2 pints stock [I make mine from organic veg cubes or powder, but, even better, if you have your own stock, chicken, fish or w.h.y. do use it as appropriate for the dish];  1/2 a good size fennel bulb separated and finely chopped; 2 cloves of garlic, finely sliced; a medium onion finely chopped; 8 oz of proper Risotto rice; 1 good wineglass of Pino Grigio [and make it a good one, don’t cook with stuff you wouldn’t serve to your favourite guests]or a Dry Vermouth; 2 oz unsalted butter; 2 tbsp good olive oil; about 3 to 4 oz of grated Manchego [personal bias again,I just find it creamier when melted than Parmesan]; Sea salt & pepper to taste.

Heat the stock ’til it has boiled then leave to stand on one side, add a pinch or two of sea salt and pepper. I put mine in a large jug with ladle at the ready in it.  Use a good size, wide & deep, fry pan with a flat bottom and cover  if you have one, and heat the olive oil & butter together ’til melted.  Add the Fennel, Garlic and Onion and cook on a lowish heat for about 15 mins stirring occasionally so it goes translucent but NOT brown.  When the mix, or soffrito, is ready add your rice and turn up the heat.

The rice begins to fry, keep stirring and the rice begins to take on the oil and become somewhat translucent itself.  When it does add the wine/ vermouth and stir away ’til the rice has absorbed it, enjoying the delightful smell being given off.  Cook’s Perks!

Then add your first ladleful of hot stock.  A soon as it boils up turn down the heat to a simmer so the rice doesn’t begin to harden on the outside. Stir and push the rice around so that it begins to give off its creamy starch.  Let each ladleful get absorbed before adding the next.  I usually add my extra ingredients, if I’m using any, about half way through the stock jugs contents. This is plenty of time for seafood, artichokes or whatever to heat through without breaking down to mush.

Continue adding stock and stirring the rice and test when you think it may be done.  A slight al dente is about perfect.  Don’t worry if you run out of stock before this happens, just have a little boiling water on hand to add to your jug and keep going ’til it’s done.  By this time it will be creamy and smooth.

Turn the heat off and sprinkle the grated Manchego over evenly.  Put your cover on and leave for a couple of minutes ’til it’s melded into a delicious whole.  Serve immediately, with a mixed green salad and ripe plum tomatoes, sliced.  Perfecto!

Buono Appetito!

Linguini alla Putanesca

One of my personal favourites for a quick, easy, fairly light meal.  As there is no cheese used on the meal itself I often follow this with a Plum Tomato & Pak Choi [fresh & small leaves if poss. or sliced into strips] salad accompanied by a decent Brie or Neufchatel.  A simple meal, which when eaten outdoors on a Summers day, with a chilled Pino Grigio and good friends makes life seem somehow brighter!

Serves 4

4 garlic cloves finely chopped; 2 tbsp capers rinsed; 12 oz fresh ripe tomatoes, peeled & chopped [or a can of chopped Organic Italian tomatoes]; 2 handfuls of black olives, pitted and halved; can of anchovies, oil drained and not used; 4 tbsp good quality Olive Oil, 2 oz unsalted butter; 1 dried red chilli, crushed and mixed with the capers.  Fresh coriander chopped finely. 400 g Linguini.  Black pepper.

Heat the oil & butter in a large pan and add the drained anchovies, snipping them up with scissors.  Then add the garlic.  Stir until the garlic is just browning, then add the caper/chilli mix.  Stir, then add the tomatoes and olives.  When bubbling turn down and simmer for 20 mins, adding pepper to taste [it may, of course, be spicy enough without pepper!].

Then, with your pasta water at a rolling boil, add a little rock salt and olive oil, then your linguini. Stir once gently to ensure it doesn’t stick together and cook until ‘al dente’   Drain well and stir into your pan with the sauce.  That’s why you needed a large pan!  Leave to cook for a couple of minutes ’til the linguini is well coated with the sauce.  Sprinkle over the chopped coriander, and serve, in the cooking pan, straight to the table.

If any of your guests raise their eyebrows at this…..They’re the wrong guests!!!!

Buono Appetito

Farfalle con i Broccoli e le Acciughe

You know how it is.  Sometimes you look in the fridge and cupboard and think WTH!! What can I make out of this lot!  Well, experiments can turn out well and sometimes, much to my surprise, I find either Italians or Indians [dependent on the amount of spices used] have got there first!  This recipe has its home in Southern Italy, the Apulia region I later found, and it has become a favourite quick meal for ‘Veggie/Piscatorial’ friends when they drop in.

A small head of Broccoli; a good glug of decent Olive Oil; a can of anchovy fillets in oil; 3 oz Manchego cheese, freshly grated; black pepper.  400 g of Farfalle [pasta bows] or Conchigle or similar.

Cut off the broccoli florets, halving if overlarge, slice the stalk into thin rounds.  [I invariably keep my broccoli in the fridge standing in a bowl of water having cut off the bottom slice.  Keeps it fresh & green ’til you need to use it.]  Steam over a pan of boiling water for about 5 mins, removing while still Al Dente.  Then cut the florets into small pieces.

Heat the oil over a medium heat and add the anchovies, oil and all, snipping them up small with scissors.  Add all the steamed broccoli, and stir and cook together for 2/3 minutes. When well melded together grind plenty of black pepper over the mix, and turn the heat right down.

Bring your pasta water to a rolling boil adding a little rock salt and olive oil, then cook your pasta.  Drain and put into a warmed bowl, stirring with a little olive oil.  Add the Broccoli mix and stir gently through.  Sprinkle the Manchego overall.

Then serve, and if asked, airily say, “This?”, “Oh it’s just something I knocked up from odds and ends……….”

Buono Appetito!

Mascarpone di Frutta

A simple but delicious way of making a boring fruit salad into a real treat!

I always use seasonal fruit and, as far as possible, local grown and/or organic, but Kiwis, Melons and Pineapples don’t [yet!] grow in the UK, so indulge yourself a little!

If available fresh English Strawberries, hulled of course and halved if large; Pears and Apples, cored & cut into largish chunks; Peaches and/or Nectarines stoned & cut as before. Kiwi fruit, peeled and sliced thick; A small melon, using the sweetest centre flesh in chunks; Black or White grapes halved.  A glassful of fresh orange juice; 1 1/2 oz brown sugar; 2 tbsp of organic runny honey; small tub of Mascarpone; 10/12 fresh picked Mint leaves [I transplant supermarket mint plants into terracotta pots and stand them in saucers of gravel, water the gravel, the plants take what they want, and last for a year at least!]

Warm the OJ and dissolve the sugar in it.  Pour over the mixed fruit in a shallow bowl and leave for 20 mins.  Mix the honey with the mascarpone.  Serve the fruit into individual bowls and put a large dollop of mascarpone on each.  Pick mint leaves, and roughly tear, then decorate the mascarpone topping with them.

Buono Appetito!