I told my Spanish friend Alejandro that I was going to make Gazpacho this week and he quizzed me about what I intended to put in it to ensure that I was making what he deemed to be an authentic Spanish Gazpacho. When I dropped ‘lemons’ into the list of ingredients that I intended to use, he promptly stopped me and told me in no uncertain terms that lemon is not a Gazpacho ingredient and that the vinegar is all that you need – and I have to say that now having made it without lemons that I agree with him.
For those of you that are less familiar with Gazpacho it is a cold tomato soup made using raw ingredients and there is absolutely no cooking involved. All you need to make it is a sharp knife and a hand blender – simple. Whilst summer is drawing to a close this is a great option if you are looking for a refreshing starter or light lunch. The underlying flavours are both tangy and slightly creamy making you want to go back for more. Enjoy!
Gammon has to be one of my all time favourite meats! Whenever I have it I can see my childhood self standing bare foot in the larder carefully carving off thin slivers of ham and savouring the deliciously sweet and salty ‘melt in your mouth’ goodness.
Growing up we tended to only eat gammon at Christmas as it was considered a special treat. My mother would cook it late on Christmas Eve and its aroma would waft through the house in an almost teasing fashion as we knew we’d have to wait until Christmas lunch before we were able to indulge. Self-restraint is not something my family are known for when it comes to food.
Gammon can be cooked like any other roast – pop it in a roasting tray with onion and other bits and bobs and then cook in the oven for as long as it needs depending on its weight. For gammon you work on the principle of 30 minutes per 500g at 190C.
As you cook the recipe below the smell of mulled cider will fill your kitchen as the spices infuse with the cooking liqueur. The ‘piece de resistance’ comes when you glaze the joint with runny honey mixed with the juices – the result will be a sticky sweet slightly caramelised unctuous gammon. Enjoy!
Sometimes it is important to go back to basics and learn how to make certain staples. The staple that I am going to focus on here is pasta. I personally eat a lot of pasta due to its convenience; most dried pasta cooks in less than 10 minutes, which means often you can have your meal ready in 15 minutes. So why make fresh pasta? Well, firstly it tastes a lot nicer and secondly it can be a fun thing to make with friends.
Pasta is incredibly simple to make: all you need is eggs and ‘00’ flour, bring together as a dough, knead and roll out finely and you will have made pasta. All other ingredients that you add to the dough just act as flavouring for the pasta.
The key to making pasta is getting the texture of the dough right; what you are looking for is a firm but elastic dough. If the dough is too malleable and soft it will break up when it comes to rolling and you may find that the dough sticks together afterwards. If this happens, then add some more flour to the dough and restart the rolling process.
Summer is upon us and soft fruit is at its best and can be bought very cheaply. Whilst I absolutely love a fruit salad served with a little Greek yogurt and honey, sometimes you need something a little bit more decadent…
This recipe below is a little gem and is very easy to make. The longest part of the whole process is waiting for the cake to cook and cool. So if time is tight I would suggest making the cake the day before and leaving to cool overnight. Whilst I have suggested that you use nectarines and pomegranate seeds for the topping, many other fruits would work just as well.
Alternative topping ideas:
peaches and redcurrants
blueberries, strawberries and raspberries
apricots and redcurrants
mango and red chilli, lime juice and fresh mint
As the sponge is made using ground almonds it will mean that the cake once cooked will be quite dense and moist. So don’t worry about the cake not rising, it isn’t meant to. The mascarpone cream makes this pudding wonderfully rich and silky and fruit not only acts as the decoration but gives the just enough acidity to prevent this pudding becoming too sweet. Enjoy!
I have been playing around in the kitchen making fresh pasta over the last couple of weeks. Making pasta can be hit or miss if you don’t get the consistency of the dough right, if the dough is too supple it will break up when it comes to rolling or will not hold its form when you cut it into tagliatelle or spaghetti. What you are looking for is a firm dough that is firm and elastic. As with many things practise makes perfect and once you get used to recognising when the dough has the right consistency it is very straightforward and fun to make. I am going to share how to make fresh pasta in a separate blog in the upcoming weeks breaking it down into a helpful guide so that hopefully you can avoid making the same mistakes I did when I was learning.
The recipe below is very simple and can be prepared in a matter of minutes. It is a vibrant dish due to the colour of the ingredients that you use. The key to making this recipe shine is buy the best quality tomatoes and mozzarella that you can afford as this will take this dish from being good to great! If you can get a combination of tomatoes preferably a combination of yellow and red that are ripe and packed full of flavour that would be ideal. This is a great mid-week recipe to have on hand if you are having friends over, it is incredibly easy and packed full of the flavours of summertime. Enjoy!
I have many fond childhood memories of summer holidays spent in Italy visiting my Aunt and Uncle. Many hours would be spent searching for the tortoises in my uncle’s vegetable patch between the most delicious al fresco lunches and suppers. I think it was during these visits that I first encountered the delights of Italian cured meats and of course Gorgonzola. Every day platters cheese, freshly sliced salami, Parma ham and Coppa would be piled on a long trestle table along with bowls filled with slices of melon, tomato salads, bread and other delicious bits and bobs and we would eat to our heart’s content.
This salad recipe is a nod to those summer days in Italy. For those of you that are less familiar with Coppa it is a type of salami made using the part of the loin of pork that is taken near the neck which is cured and marinated in red wine a garlic. It is traditionally served raw, cut into thin slices though it can also be used as bacon in recipes. You can find Coppa in most Italian delicatessens, however, if you aren’t able to find it then I would substitute with Serrano Ham.
This recipe is a lovely balance of flavours and textures which for me evokes the tastes of summer and is definitely one to try. The recipe makes enough for 1 person, so multiply the ingredients as required. Enjoy!
The herbs in my garden are flourishing at the moment and most weekends I make a herb pesto or salsa of sorts to keep them under control. There is no right or wrong way to make a pesto, just use the herbs that you have available and adjust to your own tastes. My preference is to make a straightforward herb pesto and add different ingredients to it depending on what I am eating. By adding a little white vinegar, gherkins and capers you get a sharper almost salsa verde type dressing to go with lamb, or If you add pine nuts and parmesan to the mix then you will have a more traditional pesto.
The herb pesto recipe makes roughly a jam jar full and will keep in the fridge for a couple of weeks. You can use herb pesto in all sorts of ways as it is particularly versatile, for example it can be used to flavour bread as below, as a dip, as a sauce for pasta or simply as an accompaniment to grilled chicken.
The herb buns are a great tear and share food to have with a barbecue or as an accompaniment to a salad. This bread recipe is simple and makes light, fluffy buns, just make sure that you do knead the bread properly at the outset until the dough springs back when you touch it and then just be patient and wait for it to rise. Enjoy!
At home my barbecue is starting to come into its own as it is now being used regularly at the weekends rather than gathering leaves in the corner of the garden. ‘Beer can chicken’ is something that I cook fairly regularly on the barbecue as it is very easy and keeps the meat moist and succulent. The only difficulty with this recipe is getting the chicken on and off the barbecue – I would strongly recommend that you have a couple of decent pairs of tongs to hand when you do this…
You can make this recipe in the oven if you don’t have a barbecue, however you won’t get the delicious smoky flavour. If you are going to use the oven instead then cook at 180°C for 1hr 20 minutes or until the juices run clear. Don’t forget to stand the chicken on a roasting tray if you do cook it this way otherwise you will have one messy oven to deal with afterwards.
This recipe is definitely worth a go if you are having friends over this weekend, just serve with some barbecued veggies or a couple of big salads. Enjoy!
Aubergine is a fairly underrated vegetable which I think is a little unfair. When cooked well it is absolutely delicious and is a fairly meaty vegetable which is great if you are looking for something to bulk up a meal.
As with many things, preparation key to making this vegetable shine. For aubergine this means cutting the vegetable as required by a recipe, place on some kitchen paper or a tea towel, sprinkle over some salt, cover and leave for 10 minutes to draw the moisture out of the vegetable. If you are using the aubergine as a layer in a dish for example as it is used in the moussaka recipe below then there this one further step that I would highly recommend – lightly oil each side of the aubergine, place under a hot grill and cook for 4-5 minutes on each side which will soften the aubergine and give it a slightly smoky taste – adding to the overall flavour of the dish.
I like to think of moussaka as a healthier version of a lasagne as aubergine replaces the pasta sheets and in this recipe the crème fraiche replaces the béchamel sauce. I would avoid using low fat crème fraiche for this recipe as it has a tendency to split and go watery. If you can’t get crème fraiche and don’t want to make a béchamel sauce then use cream cheese instead.
I would suggest serving this recipe with a green salad as this moussaka recipe is packed full of flavour and it would be a shame to overpower it. So don’t over complicate it – a rocket or watercress salad with a little French dressing is the ideal accompaniment to this dish. Enjoy!
I would describe the recipe below as quite manly as the ingredients that are used are hearty and somewhat earthy. However I don’t think risotto is often associated as being a masculine meal but I hope that the chaps trying this recipe will be pleasantly surprised by this little number. If you are looking for a recipe for date night then I would recommend giving this recipe a go.
For those of you that have not made a risotto before the most important thing to remember is not to rush. A risotto works best when you cook it on a low heat adding the stock a little at a time allowing the rice to absorb the liquid before adding more. It is important that whilst doing this you stir it regularly to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Provided that you take your time you will end up with a beautifully creamy risotto – so make sure when you are cooking a risotto that you give yourself at least 20-30 minutes to make it!
The other thing I would say for those of you that are put off by this recipe because there are too many elements don’t be as there really are only 6 steps. Here is the breakdown of what you need to do:
Wash and put the red peppers in the oven – no need to remove the core and seeds at this point.
Whilst the peppers are cooking prepare your risotto. Once it is cooked – cover and leave to one side whilst you cook the steak and green vegetables.
Boil or steam green vegetables.
Heat frying pan and cook the steak.
Whilst the steak is resting and the vegetables are draining the vegetables – core and seed the peppers.
Cut the steak into strip and plate up.
It really is that straightforward I promise. The only downside to this recipe is that there is a lot of washing up – sorry about that…
My final comment is that I tend to find the more charred the peppers the better the flavour, so don’t worry if the skin on the peppers is black – that is what you are aiming for. Enjoy!