Pasta

Spaghetti with green tomatoes

Green tomatoes

I feel like I’ve been away from this blog for a long time and it’s nice to be back.

I think I might have over-egged the custard when I said at the end of my last post that my local library had reopened with a “stunning array of cookbooks”.

On closer inspection the bulk seems to be by new celebrity chefs such as Kirsty Allsop and Fearne Cotton (seriously!!!) and the old guard – Nigella, Mary, James, Jamie, Rick etc. But hidden amongst these largely style-over-content tomes there are a few more interesting books that I’ve never seen before. One called ‘The Good Carbs Cookbook’ seemed to speak to my rebellious, carb-loving self and this recipe, which promised to use up some of the green tomatoes currently refusing to ripen in my greenhouse, caught my eye.

It’s a good recipe that takes just as long to prepare as it does to cook a pan of spaghetti (about 10 minutes). So it’s perfect if you’re short of time on a midweek evening.

It’s not dissimilar to a regular herby pesto with the acidity of the green tomatoes taking the place of the usual lemon. It’s not a dish that’s going to blow you away with its complex flavours but the result is a perfectly tasty bowl of pasta that will make you feel virtuous and happy that those green tomatoes haven’t gone to waste.

Below it is the only other green tomato recipe I know – a chutney by good old Delia. It is wonderful (one of the best chutneys I’ve ever tasted) but in contrast with the pasta recipe it takes a great deal of time and effort to make and needs to mature for at least a year (preferably longer) before it’s at its very best. Not a great one then for the impatient. It’s sometimes difficult to see the advantages in putting the effort in now if the rewards are not to be enjoyed for such a long time.

Pasta with green tomatoes and fresh herbs

Adapted from ‘The Good Carbs Cookbook’ – Dr Alan Barclay, Kate McGhie & Philippa Sandall

Serves 2 greedy people or 4 normal ones

  • 6 medium green tomatoes
  • A generous handful of mint
  • A generous handful of basil
  • A generous handful of parsley
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • Sea salt and pepper to taste
  • Half a pack of spaghetti or linguine (250g)
  • 50-100g of ricotta (I think 50g between two is more than enough)
  • A light olive oil (not extra virgin) – between 50 – 125 ml (the original recipe uses the full 125ml but I think this is too much personally)

Roughly chop the tomatoes, mint, basil and parsley and place in a food processer with the olive oil and crushed garlic. Pulse for a few seconds until you have a chunky mixture.

Cook the pasta in a large pan of salted water until done to your liking. Purists would say it should be al dente but I prefer it a little more cooked than that. Drain but reserve a ladle full of the salty cooking water for the sauce.

Return the pasta to the pan over a low heat and add the tomato mixture. Tip in the reserved water and give everything a good stir to combine. Season well with salt and pepper to your own personal taste. I refrain from giving exact measures because I like a lot of salt and you may not.

Serve immediately with blobs of ricotta on top to be stirred in when eating.

NOTE: I think some green chilli would also be a good addition and you can play around with the quantities of herbs and oil depending on your personal taste.

Green tomato pasta

Delia Smith’s Green Tomato Chutney

Makes 8 x 450g jars

  • 1kg of green tomatoes
  • 1kg of cooking apples
  • 900g of onions
  • 6 large garlic cloves, crushed
  • 450g of raisins
  • 625g of soft brown sugar
  • 25g of pickling spice
  • ½ tablespoon of cayenne pepper
  • 2 level dessertspoons of ground ginger
  • ½ tablespoon of salt
  • 1.75 litres of malt vinegar

Wash the tomatoes and cut them into quarters.

Peel and quarter the onions.

Peel and core the apples – keeping them in water so that they don’t go brown.

Mince the tomatoes, onions, raisins and apples and place them in a very large pan. Now I don’t have a mincer and I don’t know of anyone that does these days. An alternative is to use a food processor and this is what I do.

Now add the garlic, cayenne, salt, ginger and sugar and mix everything together thoroughly.

Tie the pickling spice in a piece of cloth and attach the string to the handle of the pan so that it dangles down into the mix.

Now pour in the vinegar and bring to a simmer, removing any scum from the surface.

Simmer very gently for 3.5 hours without covering, stirring now and then to prevent sticking.

It is ready when the vinegar is absorbed and the chutney has thickened to a smooth consistency. The chutney should leave a trail on a metal spoon when it’s done.

Pour the chutney into 8 sterile 450g jars, filling them as full as possible.

Cover with wax sealing discs and seal with a tight lid immediately.

Store in a dark, cool place and leave for at least 3 months before eating. I have found though that this chutney is best when left for at least a year and the very best when left for 3 years!

 

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Wild garlic pesto

pesto 1

Wild garlic is in season right now and I’m like a woman possessed scouring verges and wooded areas for this completely free food. I’ve even trained my children to be on the lookout. It’s not hard to identify as the garlicky smell is unmistakable (but do check because it does look similar to Lilly of the Valley – which is poisonous). Not a great photo but this is what it looks like.

wildgarlicgrowing

My son Edgar likes to eat it raw in huge handfuls as soon as he’s picked it. I’m sure this is fine for his health  (wild garlic is said to have antibacterial, antibiotic and antiseptic properties) but it doesn’t do much for his breath.

If you live in Nottingham there’s a healthy blanket of wild garlic at Clifton Wood, and on a recent trip to Scarborough I discovered a great bit patch among the walking paths in South Cliff Gardens.

This wild garlic pesto recipe (from a recipe for gluttony) is brilliant. It uses roasted hazelnuts which provide texture. I just added a little lemon juice to cut through the intense garlic flavour. Toss it with some pasta for a quick and easy dinner.

Wild garlic pesto

1/2 of this amount makes enough to generously cover 500g of dried pasta to feed a family of four

  • 100g of wild garlic leaves
  • 75g of hazelnuts (roasted in the oven at 160oC for about 10 minutes and then crushed with a pestle and mortar)
  • 50g of Parmesan cheese (plus more on top if you’re mixing the pesto with pasta)
  • 1/2-1 tsp salt (or to taste)
  • 150ml of good olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon juice

Put all the ingredients above in a blender and whizz up. Taste and add more salt and lemon juice if necessary.

To store, decant into a sterilised jar and drizzle a thin layer of olive oil evenly over the surface (this will help preserve the colour). Keep in the fridge until needed.

pesto 2

Pasta with caramelised onions and yoghurt

pasta with onions

This recipe sounds a bit weird but I promise you it’s absolutely delicious.

The first time I made it I had a rather strange conversation via twitter with the writer Diana Henry.

@DianaHenryFood Help please! Part way through your pasta with onions recipe but have realised I forgot to buy dill. What else could I use?

@DianaHenryFood PS. I also realise that this is a long shot – sure you have much better things to do on a Thursday night. I’ll go away now.

@Shelton_Zoe is that the Turkish one?

@DianaHenryFood Yes. Thanks for the reply (couldn’t fit the whole title in). 5 minutes from serving up.

@Shelton_Zoe oh dear. Too late. Not at all the same but parsley would do, or thyme. For future ref 😉

@DianaHenryFood amazing dish even without dill – thanks for the recipe. I’ll try thyme next as it’s in my garden.

@Shelton_Zoe get dill!

@DianaHenryFood Yes, of course. Golden rule – always follow the original recipe exactly first BEFORE tinkering. I’ll leave you in peace now.

I hasten to add that the next time I cooked this dish I bought dill. It was nice without, but even nicer with.

It was kind of Diana Henry to answer my stupid question but why on earth was she on twitter on a Thursday evening?

But then again why was I?

Diana Henry’s pasta with caramelised onions and yoghurt

Serves 2

  • 425g onions (about 4 medium ones), very finely sliced
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 bay leaf
  • A 5 cm piece of cinnamon stick
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed
  • 145g tagliatelle (I probably used more than this because I’m greedy. If you want to make your own tagliatelle, here’s my tried and tested recipe)
  • 50g Greek yogurt
  • 1½ tablespoons of milk
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh dill, chopped (or thyme, or parsley, or nothing)
  • 15g butter
  • ¼ teaspoons of ground cayenne
  • finely crumbled feta to serve (I didn’t bother with this because I don’t like feta)

Put the onions in a heavy-based pan with the olive oil, bay and cinnamon. Cook over a medium heat, stirring the onions, until they start to turn golden. Then add the garlic and cook for a further two minutes.

Add a splash of water, cover the pan, turn the heat right down and leave until the onions are almost caramelised (about 35 minutes). Open the lid to check them every so often and add a little more water if they look dry.

When the onions are cooked, uncover, season with salt and pepper and boil away any excess liquid.

Cook the tagliatelle according to the packet instructions. Drain and toss it into the pot with the onions and stir in the yogurt, milk and dill.

Very quickly melt the butter in a small saucepan and add the cayenne. Cook for about 20 seconds.

Serve the pasta with the spiced butter drizzled on top (and, if you like, the feta on the side).

Tapenade

tapenade

I’m not sure how you make tapenade look appetising.

My husband is very good in the kitchen but a routine has developed whereby he will cook just once a week (usually on a Friday) and completely steal the show with something new, AND complicated, AND completely delicious. I meanwhile do the everyday scrap cooking that barely gets noticed.

Just a little bit annoying.

Last Friday he went all out making two types of fish cake as a starter (show-off), followed by Tom Kerridge’s ‘Tomato and olive tart with Cornish gurnard’ for the main course. The tart was really good but it was the tapenade spread over the base that completely blew me away.

I can’t believe that I’ve only just discovered tapenade. I’ve seen it many times on programmes like Masterchef and dismissed it as too ‘cheffy’, but it’s surprisingly easy to make and very versatile. I was a bit scared of the anchovies but you can’t really taste them. And just look at all the things you can do with it:

Ways to use tapenade (not exhaustive)

  • Spread over a puff pastry base as part of a tart (as in the aforementioned recipe ‘Tomato and olive tart with Cornish gurnard’)
  • Mix with any sort of pasta
  • Serve as an accompaniment to a nice piece of grilled chicken or fish
  • As a dip for raw vegetables or tortilla chips
  • As a bruschetta topping

So make loads and then keep it in the fridge in a very clean jam jar covered with a layer of olive oil. I’m not sure how long it lasts but I reckon two or three weeks would be fine because it uses ingredients that have already been preserved in some way.

In my usual ‘make do’ style it was me that used up the remaining tapenade in Monday night’s dinner – mixed up with orzo, leftover cooked sausage, a bit of mozzarella, a few black olives and some dog-eared basil leaves (AKA ‘chuck everything in the fridge in with some pasta’).

Tapenade (From Tom Kerridge’s ‘Proper Pub Food’)

Makes a jam jar’s worth

  • 115g stoned black olives
  • 25g of salted anchovy fillets
  • 2 tablespoons of capers, drained
  • 3 tablespoons of Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 130ml of extra virgin olive oil

Put all the ingredients, except the oil, into a food processor and blitz until finely chopped.

Add the olive oil and blitz again until you have a thick puree.

Store in a clean jam jar in the fridge until ready to use.

Linguine with hazelnuts, parsley and garlic

linguine with hazelnuts, parsley and garlic 2

It’s half term and we’ve been in Scarborough eating lots of gluttonous seaside food. Amazing fish & chips at the Magpie Cafe and giant ice cream sundaes at the Harbour Bar, but also things I’m a bit ashamed of, like ready-made pizzas from Sainsburys Local and my first McDonald’s hamburger in about five years (which, after a fair amount of rose wine, I declared was the most delicious thing I’d ever eaten!!!).

So for most of the week I’ve entered the kitchen only to turn on the oven and remove packaging. And on our return yesterday I was still in holiday  ‘I can’t be bothered to cook’ mode but we had to have something for dinner so I made this super quick pasta dish.

I tried the recipe for the first time a couple of weeks ago and I’ve got a feeling it’s going to become a staple in our house. It’s easy to make but a bit different to your usual pasta and sauce.

The original recipe (by Olia Hercules for the Guardian) is made with spaetzle (tiny egg dumplings that you make by pushing batter through a colander) but these are a faff to make and I’m not a huge fan of the texture so I make it with linguine instead.

Linguine with hazelnuts, parsley and garlic

For two

  • 200-300g of linguine (depending on appetite)
  • 70g of hazelnuts
  • 2 large garlic cloves, crushed with a little sea salt
  • 50g of parmesan cheese, grated
  • Two good handfuls of parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of good olive oil, plus a bit more for drizzling
  • Some sea salt

First toast the hazelnuts in an oven heated to 180oC for 8 minutes, or until golden brown. Roughly crush the nuts in a pestle and mortar or chop finely with a knife. I buy my hazelnuts unblanched from Lidl (where they’re cheapest) and find that once roasted the skins come off really easily.

Put the nuts, garlic, parsley, oil and parmesan in a large bowl and mix.

Cook the linguine according to the packet instructions, then drain and toss into the bowl with the other ingredients and stir until well coated. Serve immediately with a little extra olive oil drizzled over the top and a good sprinkling of  sea salt (although these are optional and can be left out if you’re watching your fat/salt content).

Serve with a green salad on the side if you’re worried about the absence of greens, and a large glass of crisp, white wine if you like.

A little rant and a really good pasta dish with salami, fennel and tomatoes

spaghetti with salami and fennel 2

‘Happy Days with the Naked Chef’ has to be the world’s most annoying cook book. It sums up everything I hate about the cult of the TV chef. It screams “look at me, don’t you wish you were me?” Look, here’s me and my misses all loved up, and look here are all my cool mates. It is also condescending in the extreme. It tells you how to make a fish finger sandwich for goodness sake, and then, just to be super annoying, it finishes with diet tips under the heading ‘You are what you eat’.

Having said all this, I do think that Jamie Oliver writes some good everyday recipes and this one is just brilliant. It’s also the reason why ‘Happy Days’ has been saved from the charity shop pile on several occasions – despite my husband’s objections (he just can’t stand the way Jamie’s smug photo on the spine follows him around the kitchen).

When I see fresh fennel in the greengrocers I immediately dream of this dish and unusually for a tomato based pasta dish it doesn’t require any cheese on top so it’s great if you’re cooking for someone who’s dairy intolerant.

Jamie Oliver’s spaghetti with salami, fennel and tomatoes

Serves 4

  • Olive oil
  • 140g of salami, sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon of fennel seeds, lightly cracked in a pestle and mortar or with a knife
  • 1 bulb of fennel, finely sliced
  • 2 tins of plum tomatoes
  • Salt and pepper
  • 455g dried spaghetti or linguine
  • 1 slice of stale bread

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the salami, sliced garlic and fennel seeds and cook for about a minute until the oil starts to run out of the salami and it begins to crisp.

Add the sliced fennel and cook for another 5 minutes or so until the fennel begins to soften. Now add the tinned tomatoes, turn the heat down to a gentle simmer and cook for 25 minutes without a lid until the sauce has thickened. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Cook your pasta in boiling salted until just soft.

While the pasta is cooking and the sauce is simmering make the crunchy breadcrumbs (Jamie calls these pangritata).

Take a thick slice of  bread (white or brown both work well and you can even use the crust end if that’s all you have). Chop the bread into small cubes with a knife or you can make coarse breadcrumbs with a food processor.

Heat a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a small frying pan over a highish heat and fry the breadcrumbs until they are golden. If you like you can also add a sprig of rosemary to the pan to flavour the oil and the breadcrumbs (you will need to discard this at the end).

When the pasta is done toss it with the tomato sauce and sprinkle the crunchy breadcrumbs on top.

Lovely little dumplings – Gyoza

gyoza

I adore Japanese food and I’ve had a mini obsession with gyoza (Japanese dumplings) since I first had them in Wagamamas 15 years ago.

When I was travelling in Tokyo my love affair even led me to seek out a ‘Gyoza Stadium’ (inside Namja Town a rather bonkers video game theme park featuring a strange cartoon girl and a ghost cat!!!) which had a whole ‘street’ of booths selling hundreds of types of gyoza. I was expecting a taste sensation but the dumplings I tried there were a bit disappointing. I decided (dare I say it) that I preferred the anglicised Wagamama’s version back home.

This recipe takes the Europeanisation of gyoza one step further and uses home-made pasta sheets as the dumpling wrappers. I came across the idea in Jamie Oliver’s ‘The Return of the Naked Chef’ and I think it works really well. If you’re not into making your own pasta then you could use ready-made gyoza wrappers  which you can buy from Asian supermarkets. The filling is similar to Jamie’s recipe but I form mine into half-moon shapes and cook by frying on one side and then steaming in the same pan – which I believe is more traditional.

These are a labour of love and you have to have a calm head as they are rather fiddly to assemble. In my view though, they are definitely, definitely worth it.

Gyoza

Makes about 20 (enough for 4 people as a starter)

Pasta

  • 110g 00 flour, or plain flour
  • 1 egg
  • A dash of oil (use a tasteless oil, not olive oil)
  • A pinch of salt

Filling

  • 150g pork (I use the scraggy ends of a piece of pork filet)
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 10g ginger
  • 1 teaspoon of lemon juice
  • 1 handful of fresh coriander, including stalks
  • 2 teaspoons sesame oil
  • 8 water chestnuts (from a small tin)
  • A good pinch of salt
  • A little black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon of groundnut oil for frying
  • A ladleful of hot water

Preparing the filing
To make the filing whizz up the ginger and garlic in a food processor or mini chopper. Then add all the other filling ingredients (meat, lemon juice, coriander, sesame oil, chestnuts, salt and pepper) and blitz again until relatively smooth.

Making the wrappers
Put all of the pasta ingredients in a bowl and mix together with your hands until it comes together in a ball. Lightly flour your work surface and knead the dough for a few minutes until smooth. Wrap the dough in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for at least half an hour.

Clamp your pasta machine to your work surface and set the machine to its thickest setting. Start by flattening the ball a little with your hands and then run through the machine. Keep rolling the piece through the machine changing for thinner and thinner settings until you reach the thinnest setting possible.

Cut out circles of pasta with a 7cm diameter cutter. Put the offcuts back through the pasta machine and cut out more circles, repeating until you have run out of dough. You should be able to get at least 20 circles from this amount of dough.

Assembling the gyoza
Put a small dollop of filling into the centre of each pasta circle. Lightly water the edge of the circle with your finger and fold the circle in half. Seal the edges and then pleat around the edge as in the photo below.

gyoza uncooked

This is a little laborious so make yourself a nice pot of tea, or pour yourself a glass of wine and set about it with a calm head. If you’re in the right frame of mind then it’s actually rather enjoyable.

Put each gyoza onto a cling film covered board sprinkled with a little semolina or flour to stop them sticking.

Cooking the gyoza
Heat a tablespoon of groundnut oil in a frying pan until hot. Add the gyoza to the pan and fry until they are golden on one side. Add a ladleful of boiling water to the pan and then immediate put a lid on and steam the gyoza in the pan for 4-5 minutes until the water has evaporated and the dumplings are cooked through. Serve immediately.

Serving
I like to make a dipping sauce using 3 parts soy sauce to 1 part rice wine, garnished with some coriander and red chilli.

NOTE: You can also make this recipe using chicken or prawns instead of pork.

My little helper.

My little helper.

Home-made pasta

When I was bought my beloved pasta machine Jamie Oliver had just published ‘The Return of the Naked Chef’ which had a whole section on making your own pasta. Keen to learn the art, I bought a copy of his book and was horrified to find that his ‘blinding pasta recipe’ used 4 whole eggs and no less than 8 egg yolks to serve just 4 people. Did the man not realise the price of eggs and how much the recipe would cost his readers to make? Undeterred, I managed to find this more economical recipe in an old Marks and Spencer’s Italian Cookery book published in 1979. It works just fine for me and I have been using it happily for 13 years.

The great thing about home-made pasta is that although it takes a little time to make it takes hardly any time at all to cook – just 1-2 minutes. It may seem like a lot of faffing about, and I’m sure pasta machines often appear on those lists of useless kitchen gadgets, but it’s so rewarding to make your own pasta from scratch and it really is delicious.

This recipe does require a pasta machine to roll out (you probably could do it with a rolling pin but that sounds like really hard work to me). I have an Imperia Pasta Maker with a spaghetti attachment which my sister bought me from Italy (but you can buy them here from John Lewis). It’s very well made and still going strong after lots of use.

Basic pasta recipe

Serves 4

  • 350g flour*
  • 3 eggs
  • A good pinch of salt
  • A dessert spoon of olive oil

*Until very recently I always just used plain flour (the original recipe doesn’t specify) and I was always happy with the results. Recently though I have been splashing out and buying ‘00’ flour as McDougalls now do this for a reasonable price. I think there is a small difference in that the pasta holds its shape better when boiled.

Put all of the above ingredients in a bowl and mix together with your hands until it comes together in a ball.

Lightly flour your work surface and knead the dough for a few minutes until smooth. Kneading pasta dough is much harder work than kneading bread dough. I think most recipes advise kneading for longer than I manage, usually about 3 minutes. Wrap the dough in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge for at least half an hour.

The dough.

The dough.

Now for the fun bit. Clamp your pasta machine to your work surface and set the machine to its thickest setting. Divide your dough into four and working with one ball at a time (keeping the others covered with the cling film so they don’t dry out) start by flattening the ball a little with your hands and then running through the machine. If the dough starts to crack a little (this often happens to me as I don’t knead for long enough) don’t worry, just fold the piece in two and run through the machine again until it softens up a bit, you may need to do this several times. Once smooth keep rolling the piece through the machine changing for thinner and thinner settings until you have the thickness you need for the type of pasta you want to make (see below for advice on this). It helps to dust the sheet lightly with flour each time you roll it through.

Rolling out using child labour.

Rolling out using child labour.

Flouring the pasta sheets.

Flouring the pasta sheets.

I use a clothes drying rack to hold the sheets while I repeat the process with the other three balls.

When I first got my pasta machine I can remember finding the rolling out rather tricky, it felt like I needed a third hand. But it didn’t take long to get the hang of it. My children absolutely love helping to roll out the pasta however it does take three times as long and a fair few arguments about whose turn it is to turn the handle.

Hanging out to dry.

Hanging out to dry.

Edgar with pasta

And again, 2 and a half years later.

Lasagne sheets
Use the thinnest thickness setting when rolling out. You will need to cut and trim the sheets to fit your oven dish. I usually do this once the pasta is cooked as the sheets expand slightly.

Tagliatele – hand cut
For hand cut tagliatele I use the thinnest thickness setting when rolling out with the machine. I then lay the sheets on a floured bread board and cut into strips with a knife about an inch thick but you don’t need to be exact. This gives a rustic feel but it does take a while.

Tagliatele – machine cut
This is quicker than the above method, again use the thinnest thickness setting. Then flour the pasta sheets before passing through the thicker side of the machine’s cutter which makes strips 1/2 cm thick.

Noodles
For noodles I use the second to last thickness setting when rolling out and then cut with the thinner side of the machine’s cutter.

Once the pasta is cut into the desired shape simply cook in a large pan of boiling water for 1-2 minutes or until cooked. If the pasta has been left to dry out for a while on the rack then it may need longer.

Cooked pasta.

Cooked pasta.

A good tip if you want to precook your pasta for use later is to immerse it in a bowl of iced water immediately after boiling and draining. This is great for fried noddle dishes where the noodles are best added cold. Once completely cool you can also then drain the noodles and toss in a little oil. They will then keep in the fridge for a few days or until you are ready to use.

Accompaniments to home-made pasta

For me the perfect sauce to accompany home-made pasta is a good pesto. See my post ‘Things in jars – pickling and pesto’ for a couple of recipes.

Other good uses are Pad Thai (noodles) and a meaty Ragu (tagliatele). Recipes for these will appear on this blog soon.