Mini Pizzas

26 Sep

imageI make bread, with some level of success, on a regular basis, but this was the first time I had tried to make Pizzas. There were two reasons I wanted to make these. Firstly, I was having the Grandchildren for a few days and it was pouring with rain so I needed something to keep do that would keep them amused.  Secondly, my three year old granddaughter was not eating very well and I thought she would eat her Pizza if she had made it herself. I was right!  We had great fun and even my husband, who says he doesn’t like pizzas, enjoyed the results and ended up eating two of them himself.

I got the recipe from a good food magazine but the idea was more local as one of our excellent restaurants, Zamanis, had held pizza making sessions for local children and they all seemed to enjoy it. I can see why.

My Granddaughters pizza stuck with the basics of tomato sauce and mozzarella whilst my Grandson was a bit more adventurous and added ham and a variety of Italian salamis.  My husband and I went the full hog and used the ham and Italian salamis as well as mushrooms, red onion, sliced peppers and olives with a separate one topped with anchovies, olives, peppers and onions.  They were all yummy.

Here is a link to their recipe on the website.

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/mini-top-your-own-pizzas

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Cioppino – an Italian-American fish soup to die for.

22 Sep

DSCI0101Cioppino is a fish stew originating in San Fransisco. It is considered an Italian-American dish, and is related to various regional fish soups and stews of Italian cuisine.  Cioppino is traditionally made from the catch of the day, which in the dish’s place of origin is typically a combination of Dungerness crabs, clams, shrimp, scallops, squid, mussels and fish. The seafood is then combined with fresh tomatoes in a wine sauce, and served with crusty bread. The dish is comparable to caccissio and brodetto from Italy, as well as other fish dishes from the Mediterranean region such as bouillabaisse, burrida, and bourride of French Provence, and suquet de peix from Catalan speaking regions of coastal Spain.

Cioppino was developed in San Francisco in the late 1800s by the famed Italian fish wholesaler Achille Paladini, (later titled “The Fish King”) who settled in the North Beach section of the city, he came from the seaport town of Ancona, Italy in 1865.  He originally made it when the boats came back from sea and the ‘left overs’ were used to make a fish stew, a few Dungeness Crabs were also added. It eventually became a staple as Italian restaurants proliferated in San Francisco. The name comes from ciuppin, a word in the Ligurian dialect of the port city of Genoa, meaning “to chop” or “chopped” which described the process of making the stew by chopping up various ‘left overs’ of the day’s catch.  Ciuppin is also a classic soup of Genoa, similar in flavour to cioppino, with less tomato, and the seafood cooked to the point that it falls apart.

Generally the seafood is cooked in broth and served in the shell, including the crab (if any) that is often served halved or quartered. It therefore requires special utensils and, importantly, a bib. My version is a lazy version but tastes fantastic and is much easier and quicker to cook.

Cioppino                                 Serves 3-4

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • small knob of butter
  • 1 banana shallot, finely sliced
  • 1 fennel bulb, finely sliced
  • 2 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree
  • 150ml dry white wine
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tsp tabasco
  • 500ml fish stock
  • 500g of firm white fish (I used cod loin), cut into 2 inch pieces
  • 200g raw prawns
  • 1 pack ready cooked mussel meat
  • handful flatleaf parsley, chopped
  1. Heat the oil and butter in a large pan until melted then add the shallot, fennel and garlic. Turn the heat to low, cover and cook for about 10 minutes, checking occasionally to ensure it does not burn.
  2. Stir in the tomato puree, and white wine and cook for a few minutes to allow the alcohol to evaporate. Then stir in the tomatoes, Tabasco and fish stock.  Mix well and simmer gently for 30 minutes.
  3. Add the prawns and cod loin and simmer, uncovered, for 5 minutes then add the mussels and allow them to warm through for a minute.  Add the parsley, mix carefully, then serve with crusty bread.

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Ramen beef and mushrooms

18 Sep

imageThis lovely beef Ramen dish reminded me of two things. Firstly, there are still amazing recipes to try that will shoot straight into your top 20 and secondly, always buy the best you can afford.  In this case I bought fillet steak and the end result was melt in your mouth beef accompanied by soft noodles in an incredibly beautiful spice infused broth.  Overall a sensational combinations of taste explosions in your mouth that I was still savouring for some time afterwards.

The broth is based on Miso, a traditional Japanese staple food and seasoning.  There are two main types of Miso and its popularity varies dependant in where you are in Japan.  The most common types are white miso traditionally consumed in the western part of Japan including Kyoto, while the eastern regions including Tokyo tend to prefer red miso. Miso is typically salty but its flavour and aroma depend on various factors such as ingredients, fermentation and the length of the ageing process. Other important variables that contribute to the flavour of a particular miso include temperature, duration of fermentation, salt content and the variety of koji. These different ingredients and variables result in miso which may be described as salty, sweet, earthy, fruity and savoury. You can find Miso soup in most large supermarkets in the UK. Miso paste is more difficult to find. For a great selection of both try the Clearspring on-line shop.

Here is the recipe, a variation of the one I found in a Tesco magazine.

Ramen beef with mushrooms                                              Serves 4

  • 3 sachets of Miso soup (I used the red version)
  • 1 inch piece of root ginger, finely sliced into matchsticks
  • 1 star anise
  • 150g Udon noodles
  • 2 fillet steaks
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 oz shiitake mushrooms, halved if large
  • 4 oz chestnut mushrooms, sliced
  • 1  x 200g pack baby leaf greens, finely shredded
  • 1 red chilli, finely sliced
  • 6 spring onions, finely sliced
  • A few leaves of coriander for garnish
  1. Dissolve the Miso soup in 1 litre of freshly boiled water in a large pan. Add the ginger and star anise then leave to simmer over a low heat.
  2. Meanwhile cook the noodles as per packet instructions. Drain well.
  3. Heat a griddle pan over a high heat. Lightly oil the steaks and season well.  When the pan is smoking, griddle them for 3 minutes on each side. Remove from the heat and allow to rest for 5 minutes then slice thinly.
  4. Add the mushrooms to the broth and continue to cook for 5 minutes.
  5. Heat a little oil to a clean pan and fry the chilli and spring onions until just turning brown.
  6. Divide the noodles between 4 bowls and ladle over the broth in equal measures. Lay the beef slices on top then scatter with the chilli and spring onions. garnish with the coriander and serve immediately.

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Mediterranean Baked haddock

6 Sep

DSCI0094  As I get older I find I am eating much more fish than I am meat. It isn’t that I don’t like meat but I seem to be going off the consistency.  I thought that by increasing the amount of fish I eat in my diet the healthier I would become but this may not be so.

Some fish, such as king mackerel, shark, and swordfish, are consistently high in mercury, which can harm the nervous system of a fetus or young child. Certain other fish, including canned light tuna, are also occasionally high in that metal. While the health effects of sporadic exposure are unclear, our fish safety experts think that women who are pregnant, nursing, or may become pregnant, as well as young children, should take special precautions. The risk posed by mercury in fish to other people is less established, though in general the heavier you are the more fish you can eat. Certain other contaminants sometimes found in fish, such as dioxins and PCBs, have been linked to some cancers and reproductive problems. While it’s unclear whether the levels typically found in fish pose health effects, a few types may have lower levels of those pollutants. For example, some studies suggest that wild salmon may contain less mercury than farmed salmon.

On the other hand, fish is the only food that directly supplies large amounts of the omega-3 fatty acids that have been shown to cut the risk of heart attack and stroke. Omega-3s may also elevate mood and help prevent certain cancers, cognitive decline, and eye disease. Most people can get enough by consuming fatty fish at least twice a week. Good choices include salmon and sardines, since they’re also low in mercury. People who already have coronary heart disease require about a gram a day of those fatty acids, an amount that frequently requires taking a supplement.

So, I guess the answer is to eat fish in moderation, just like all other food groups. Did I really need to listen to experts to come to that conclusion?

Well, here is the recipe.  It is based on Mediterranean ingredients and tastes lovely. If you are cutting down on carbohydrates this is the perfect meal served with green vegetables.

Mediterranean Baked Haddock.              Serves 2

  • 2 Haddock fillets, skinned
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 400g can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 tsp capers
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • about 12 pitted black olives (I used Kalamata)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  1. Heat the oven to 200C/180C fan/gas 5.
  2. Lay the fish in an oven to table dish and season lightly.
  3. Heat the oil in a frying pan and gently fry the onion until it is soft but not coloured (takes about 10 minutes).
  4. Add the tomatoes and simmer until reduced by 1/3, then add the olives, capers and garlic.  Simmer for 2 minutes then pour over the fish.
  5. Bake the fish in the oven for 10 to 15 minutes (depends on thickness of fillets) or until the fish is cooked and is opaque and flaky.
  6. Serve immediately with green vegetables and new potatoes if you like.

 

 

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Chicken cacciatore

2 Sep

imageI love rustic food and this is one of my favourites.  I like to serve it with either mashed potatoes or pasta but my favourite is krithiraki (Greek version of Orzo).  I made this the other night for my Brother and Sister-in-law. It is so easy to make and you can prepare well in advance and warm up when you are ready so ideal for entertaining.

Cacciatore means “hunter” in Italian. In cuisine, alla cacciatora refers to a meal prepared “hunter-style” with onions, herbs, usually tomatoes, often bell peppers, and sometimes wine.  The dish is originally from Central Italy, but like so much Italian cuisine, every region has put its own twist on the recipe.  This one, with tomatoes, is probably the most widely travelled.

Chicken Cacciatore                                              Serves 6

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 small onions, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic (4 if small) crushed
  • 2 stalks celery, finely chopped
  • 250g pancetta, thinly sliced and chopped
  • 200g button mushrooms, thinly sliced
  • 12 chicken thighs, skinned but bone in
  • 130 ml dry white wine
  • 3 tins chopped tomatoes
  • Good pinch sugar
  • 1 oregano sprig
  • 1 rosemary sprig
  • 1 bay leaf
  1. Heat half the oil in a large pan or casserole. Add the onion, garlic and celery and fry over a moderate heat for 10 minutes until golden and softened. Stir occasionally to prevent sticking and burning.
  2. Add the pancetta and mushrooms. Increase the heat and cook, stirring occasionally, for 10 minutes until starting to brown. Remove and set aside.
  3. Add the rest of the oil and fry the chicken in batches over a high heat to brown all over. Season as you go with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
  4. Spoon off any excess fat then add the wine and cook until the liquid has almost evaporated.
  5. Add the tomatoes, sugar and herbs with 125 ml of cold water. Bring to the boil the stir in the reserved pancetta mix.  Cover and simmer for 30 minutes or until the chicken is tender but remains on the bone.
  6. If you like a thicker sauce, remove the chicken pieces and keep warm then boil the sauce until thickened. Season to taste. return the chicken to the sauce and heat thoroughly then serve with pasta or mashed potato.

 

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Pasta bake with courgettes and sausage

29 Aug

DSCI0165I suppose every one has their own version of comfort food but, for me. pasta does it every time.  Apart from it being so versatile, it is quick and easy to cook and, often, freezes well so there is always a ready meal in the freezer.

This pasta recipe was the ultimate in comfort food.  Little nuggets of sausage in a beautiful tomato sauce and topped with melted cheese.  Absolutely delicious.  I am already thinking about how I could vary the recipe.  Maybe, instead of adding a pinch of chilli to the sauce I could use chilli sausages, or for an added Mediterranean twist maybe Italian sausages.  How about a Spanish influence with chorizo? I could vary the vegetables too.  Perhaps replace the courgettes with spinach or asparagus spears.  I can see we will be having this dish a few times in the future.

Sausage is a food usually made from ground meat with a skin around it. Typically, a sausage is formed in a casing traditionally made from intestine, but sometimes synthetic. Some sausages are cooked during processing and the casing may be removed after. Sausage making is a traditional food preservation technique. Sausages may be preserved by curing, drying, or smoking. Charcuterie is the branch of cooking devoted to prepared meat products, such as bacon, ham, sausage and other foods, primarily from pork.

Wikipedia lists 189 types of sausage from around the world and the list is incomplete! Looks like I will have more variations to this recipe than I initially thought.

I found the recipe in a Good Food magazine and adapted it to my taste.  Here is the link to the recipe on their website and my version below.

http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/courgette-sausage-rigatoni-bakes?destination=node/4063616

Pasta bake with courgettes and sausages                Serves 4

  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 8 good-quality pork sausages
  • 3 courgettes, sliced on the diagonal then cut into batons
  • 4 cloves garlic, finely sliced
  • good pinch chilli flakes
  • 2 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes
  • 300g / 10 oz penne
  • 150g ball mozzarella, patted dry and torn into chunks
  1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan. Squeeze the sausage meat out of the skins and breaks into small nuggets. Fry in the oil until brown and cooked through. You may need to do this in two batches.
  2. Add the courgettes to the pan with the garlic and chilli flakes. fry for a couple of minutes then pour over the tomatoes. Season and allow to bubble for 5 minutes, adding a splash of water if it is too thick.
  3. Meanwhile cook the penne as per packet instructions. Drain well and stir trough the sauce.
  4. Transfer everything to oven-to-table dishes, either individual or one large dish.  Sprinkle over the mozzarella and place under a hot grill until the cheese is golden and melted. Serve immediately.

NB This dish can be frozen after assembling. Defrost before reheating and heat through in a low oven for 20 minutes.

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Chicken and Roquefort salad

25 Aug

imageI am always looking for interesting salad recipes to eat during the summer. This recipe is an absolute delight. I found it in a Sainsburys Magazine but, even with an extensive search, could not find a link on their website so I have written it out in full below.

I would never have dreamt of putting chicken, blue cheese, pecans and peaches together in one salad, although I have made salads with a combination of some of these flavours. This is also the first time I used honey in a salad dressing and I was very nervous that the overall effect would be too sweet. I need not have worried. The saltiness of the cheese was a perfect complement to the peaches and dressing and the pecans and chicken made for a great variation in textures. My husband loved it so I am sure we will be having this again. Be sure that the peaches are ripe as the hard ones have little flavour and will not be sweet enough for the overall effect.  If you measure the honey after the oil it will slide off the spoon easily.

Chicken and Roquefort Salad                        Serves 2

  • 2 ripe peaches, stone removed and cut into 8 wedges each
  • 2 small chicken breasts, cooked (I braised mine in chicken stock for 15 minutes before slicing and cooling)
  • 100g Roquefort cheese
  • 1 romaine lettuce heart, leaves washed and shredded
  • 2 tsp thyme leaves
  • 1.5 tbsp white wine vinegar
  • 1.5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1.5 tbsp clear honey
  • handful of pecans, halved
  1. Divide the lettuce between two plates and scatter with the peaches. Crumble over the cheese and scatter with the chicken (cold) and pecans.
  2. In a small bowl whisk together the thyme, vinegar, oil and honey. Season with salt and black pepper the drizzle liberally over the salad.
  3. Serve immediately.

 

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Pork, broccoli and cashew stir fry

21 Aug

DSCI0111I have become a little disillusioned by the food served in Chinese restaurants of late.  Somehow it all tastes very similar and I seem to have a headache the day after eating it. Maybe that’s the wine, oh well.  I have had some success with just throwing in various meats, fish and vegetables into a flavourless oil and stir frying but it is the sauce I struggle with.  There are some amazing Chinese flavourings for sauces but the combination of them to make a balanced tasty sauce is quite tricky.  I have, over recent years found some excellent combinations for classic Chinese dishes such as Sweet and Sour.  The sauce for this dish is similar to a Sichuan sauce but not nearly as fiery as those I have experienced in the past.

I thought I would find out a little more about cashew nuts.

The cashew tree is a tropical evergreen that produces the cashew nut and the cashew apple.  The cashew nut is served as a snack or used in recipes, like other nuts, although it is actually a seed.

The cashew apple is a fruit, whose pulp can be processed into a sweet, astringent fruit drink or distilled into liqueur.Although a nut in the culinary sense, in the botanical sense the nut of the cashew is a seed. The seed is surrounded by a double shell containing an allergenic phenolic resin, anacardic acid, a potent skin irritant chemically related to the better-known allergenic oil urushiol which is also a toxin found in the related poison ivy. Properly roasting cashews destroys the toxin, but it must be done outdoors as the smoke (not unlike that from burning poison ivy) contains urushiol droplets which can cause severe, sometimes life-threatening, reactions by irritating the lungs.  It seems like someone has to go through a hazardous process to bring us this snack.

I found the recipe in a Good Food magazine.  Here is a link to it on their website. http://www.bbcgoodfood.com/recipes/sichuan-pork-broccoli-cashew-stir-fry

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American blueberry pancakes, delicious.

14 Aug

 

imageI love pancakes and my favourite are crepes with lemon and sugar. I remember when my Grandma used to make them for me on Pancake Day. We could have as many as we could eat but she would never make them on any other day of the year.  This is the first time I have made American pancakes and I have to say they were very easy. I made them for my Grandson who had come over from Chicago for a holiday.  I was surprised how well they turned out and they actually looked really professional.  I did use a little more oil than stated and added a knob of butter to give them a golden colour.

American and Canadian pancakes (sometimes called hotcakes, griddlecakes, or flapjacks) are usually served at breakfast, in a stack of two or three pancakes topped with real or artificial maple syrup and butter, and often served with sides such as bacon, toast, eggs or sausage. Other popular topping alternatives include jam, peanut butter, nuts, fruit, honey, powdered sugar, whipped cream, cane syrup, and molasses.

The thick batter contains eggs, flour, milk, and a raising agent such as baking powder. The batter can have ingredients such as buttermilk, blueberries, strawberries, bananas, apples, chocolate chips, cheese, or sugar added. Spices such as cinnamon, vanilla and nutmeg can also be used. Yogurt may be used to give the pancakes a relatively moist consistency. Pancakes may be ⅓ inch (1 cm) thick and about 4 inches (10 cm) in diameter.

Here is the recipe from the Good Food website.

  • 200g self-raising flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 egg
  • 300ml milk
  • knob butter
  • 150g pack blueberries
  • sunflower oil and/or a little butter for cooking
  • golden or maple syrup
  1. Mix together the flour, baking powder and a pinch of salt in a large bowl. Beat the egg with the milk, make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and whisk in the milk to make a thick smooth batter. Beat in the melted butter, and gently stir in half the blueberries.
  2. Heat a teaspoon of oil or small knob of butter in a large non-stick frying pan. Drop a large tablespoonful of the batter per pancake into the pan to make pancakes about 7.5cm across. Make three or four pancakes at a time. Cook for about 3 minutes over a medium heat until small bubbles appear on the surface of each pancake, then turn and cook another 2-3 minutes until golden. Cover with kitchen paper to keep warm while you use up the rest of the batter. Serve with golden syrup and the rest of the blueberries.

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Spicy potatoes with spinach

10 Aug

DSCI0052I love spinach, especially in curries.  One of my favourite side dishes is sag aloo. I have tried many recipes but, until now, have been disappointed.  This recipe is not a traditional sag aloo but it is delicious and, for me, is exactly what I want to accompany an Indian meal.

Full of nutrients and delicious taste, spinach is a winter superfood. But  what’s the best way to eat it? Here are a few tips, courtesy of Care2 website.

  • It’s wiser to choose tender baby spinach leaves. The larger the leaves, the  more mature they are and more likely to be tough or stringy.
  • Spinach  leaves that are placed under direct light in the stores have been found to  contain more nutrients than those stored in darkness.
  • Cooking spinach actually increases its health benefits!  Just half a cup of cooked spinach will give you three times as much nutrition as one  cup of raw spinach. That’s because the body cannot completely break down and use the  nutrients in raw spinach.
  • As an exception to the advice above, research studies show that taking  spinach in juice form is actually the healthiest way to consume it. Blend  spinach with other vegetables or fruits to create a delicious glass of juice.
  • There’s a compound in spinach called oxalic acid, which blocks the  absorption of calcium and iron. An easy way to solve this problem is to pair  spinach with a food high in vitamin C.
  • Freezing spinach diminishes its health benefits. The way to get the best  from the leaf is to buy it fresh and eat it the same day.
  • Do place spinach on your ‘organic shopping’ list, because the leaf tends to  be sprayed heavily with pesticides that don’t come off with normal washing.
  • Everyone talks about the benefits of spinach in nourishing the eyes and  building bones. What few know is that it also very good for digestion. Spinach  eases constipation and protects the mucus lining of the stomach, so that you  stay free of ulcers.  It also flushes out toxins from the colon.
  • Another lesser known benefit of spinach is its role in skin care. The bounty  of vitamins and minerals in spinach can bring you quick relief from dry, itchy  skin and lavish you with a radiant complexion. Regular consumption of fresh,  organic spinach juice has been shown to improve skin health  dramatically.

Read more: http://www.care2.com/greenliving/8-surprising-health-facts-about-spinach.html#ixzz2UwrG42ip

Well, here is the recipe.  Hope you like it.

Spicy potatoes and spinach                                     Serves 2-4 (depending on using as a main or side dish)

  • 400g waxy new potatoes (I used Charlotte), cut into 1 inch pieces
  • 2 tbsp sunflower oil
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1 x 2 inch piece of cinnamon stick, halved
  • 1/2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 tsp ginger paste (or 1 inch root ginger peeled and grated)
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/2 tsp ground turmeric
  • 1/4 tsp hot chilli powder
  • 200g chopped canned tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 200 ml warm cooking liquid (reserved from potatoes)
  • 1 bag washed and ready to eat baby leaf spinach
  1. Cook the potatoes in boiling salted water for about 10 minutes or until just tender.
  2. Heat the oil in a large non-stick pan or wok and add the fennel seeds and cinnamon stick.  Cook for a few seconds then add the onion, garlic and ginger.  Fry over a medium heat for about 5 – 10 minutes or until the onion is soft and just turning colour.
  3. Reduce the heat to low and add the coriander, cumin, turmeric and chilli powder. Stir fry for about 30 seconds then add the tomatoes. Increase the heat and cook until the tomato juice has evaporated.
  4. Cook the spinach as per instruction on packet. Drain and squeeze out excess juice then chop roughly and add to the tomatoes with the potatoes and 200 ml of the potato cooking water.  Season with the salt. Mix well and when warmed through, serve.

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