Archive | April, 2012

Tomato Pasta

30 Apr

At least once a year I manage to fool myself into buying a jar of pasta sauce.  Usually when I’m pressed for time.  I’ll pick up a jar and fall prey to descriptions of juicy tomatoes and fresh basil and before I know it the jar has been popped into my basket.  Then, when it comes time to use it, I’m always hugely disappointed.  The flavours never really come through.  I think the reason this upsets me is that I know how easy it is to whip up an amazing sauce  in the time it takes to cook the pasta.

If I’m really in a rush, I will literally just roast tomatoes and garlic together and then blend them with some aged Pecorino and some fresh basil.   If I have a little more time on my hands, I make this sauce.

To start, take:

  • 6-8 small ripe tomatoes
  • 1 onion
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 10 cloves of garlic
  • 50 gms of a hard, sharp cheese like Pecorino or Parmesan
  • 1 Tbs of tomato puree
  • olive oil
  • a splash of white wine or white wine vinegar
  • fresh basil to taste
  • coarse salt

Cut the tomatoes in halves or quarters and place, with the garlic cloves, skins still on,  on a baking tray.  Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with salt and then roast at 200°C for about 20-30 mins.

Pour a good glug of olive oil into a medium pot and bring to a low heat.  Then add the finely sliced onion and allow it to cook slowly for about 20 mins until just starting to caramelize.  Now would also be a good time to start bringing a large pot of water to boil to cook the pasta.

Dice the carrot and celery as finely as you can and add to the just starting to caramelize onion and allow to cook for a further 5 mins.

While the carrot and celery are cooking, remove the roasting tin with the garlic and the tomatoes from the oven.  Once the garlic cloves have cooled slightly, grab them from the base and squeeze the garlic out of it’s skin.  Add this and the tomatoes to the onion, carrot, celery mix.  Don’t be alarmed at the number of garlic cloves.  They will have softened in flavour during roasting.

Now add the wine and tomato puree to the mix and leave it to cook for another 10 – 15 mins, until it resembles the picture above.

Add the basil and cheese to your blender and then top with the tomato sauce.  Whiz them together until smooth.

Cook the pasta as per the packet instructions and then drain the pasta in a colander and put back into the pot it was cooked in.  Top with the tomato sauce and serve with some crunchy garlic bread.  Simple and seriously tasty!

Rocky Road Fudge

25 Apr

Sometimes, when it’s been raining for too long, or payday is far away, or your relationship is yo-yo-ing, or as in my case, your family is miles away and it will be forever before you get to see them again, or any other time when life is in a teeth kicking mode, you NEED something that tastes of your childhood.  Something that will take you back to the kitchen giggles of when you were first discovering a love of cooking.  For me, it’s Rocky Road Fudge.

One bite into the soft, sweet marshmallow balanced with the crunchy roasted nuts, just held together with chocolate and I’m ten again.  This is one recipe I don’t really muck about with, I do my best to keep it exactly the way I first made it.  The only concession I make to the fact that I’m no longer ten, is that I now use two thirds dark chocolate.  The really great thing about this recipe is that it requires no special ingredients or equipment and it’s both quick and easy to make.  Making it perfect for the little ones.

Take:

1 tin of condensed milk

300gm of chocolate

2 cups of mixed nuts (I like hazel, walnut and almond)

150 gm of marshmallows

1 splash of vanilla essence

Before you begin, line a rectangular dish with baking paper and grease it.  Then put the nuts on a baking tray and let them gently toast at 180°C for about 15 – 20 mins.  Keep an eye on them to prevent them from catching.

While the nuts are filling the house with the scent of . . . well . . . nuts,  chop the chocolate in to even sized chunks so that it will melt evenly.

Before you melt the chocolate mix the nuts and marshmallows into a bowl.  I must confess to a little lie at this point, there is one other thing that I’ve changed since childhood.  I now use mini marshmallows.    We used to spend an eternity snipping regular sized marshmallows into bits, but honestly why do it if you don’t have to.

Now melt the chocolate.  If you’re working with a little one, you can melt the chocolate in the microwave.  I prefer melting it in a glass bowl over water because it makes me feel like I really know what I’m doing.

Once the chocolate has melted, quickly whisk in the condensed milk and the vanilla and then scrape the chocolate mix on top of the waiting marshmallows and nuts.  Using a wooden spoon, mix them all up together.  The sound of this, the nuts mixing together, is where this dish apparently got its name.  Once the marshmallows and nuts are evenly coated, pour into the lined dish and press down with the wooden spoon.

Now it the time to practice your patience.  Pop it in the fridge and leave it for at least an hour, until it has set.   Then pull it out of the tray using the parchment paper and slice into fudge sized bites.

Now, if we’re going to be honest, these babies, while munchish and morish, are never going to win any beauty awards, but display them on a on a glass stand and let their taste win the hearts of even the chews-iest of folk.  Because, trust me, they will.

Courgette Fritters

15 Apr

The BH and I were up quite late last night, so when we finally dragged ourselves out of bed this morning we were in the mood for a something a little more substantial than the usual breakfast fare.  Something leaning more towards lunch than breakfast on the brunch scale.  I had managed to take a packet of bacon out the freezer the night before, but beyond that I had no idea what I was going to serve.  Which is why, if you had popped your head through the kitchen window of  a tiny terraced house in a leafy English suburb this morning,  you would have seen a bath-robe, slipper-clad woman staring at an open refrigerator mumbling to herself for a good fifteen minutes before grabbing some courgettes from the crisping draw and shouting EUREKA loudly enough to scare the dog waiting hopefully at her side for her to drop something.

I adore courgettes, or zucchini if you will.  They are flavourful, versatile and they really come into their own when battered and fried.  Somehow, despite this very Scottish way of cooking them, you still feel they are at least a little bit healthy. It’s probably because they’re green.  So it was settled.  We were having courgette fritters.

To make 10 fritters take:

2 medium courgettes

1 medium egg, beaten

1 heaped tsp of sweet paprika

25gm of a hard sharp cheese like Parmesan or Pecorino Romano

1/2 a cup of self rising flour

1/4 of  an onion, very finely chopped

1 Tbs of coarse salt

1Tbs of vegetable oil, anything with a low smoke point

First grate the courgette as coarsely as possible.  You can use a cheese grater, a mandolin or my personal favourite,  especially if someone else is doing the dishes, a food processor. Then line a colander with a clean tea towel and put the colander over a bowl.

Put the grated courgette, chopped onion and salt in the bowl and mix together.  The salt is suppose to help draw the moisture out of the courgette.  Leave the mixture alone for about ten minutes.  Then fold up the edges of the dish towel and squeeze out as much moisture as possible.    It is gob smacking just how much moisture you can squeeze out of two courgettes.

Put the now dry, or at least drier, mixture in a bowl and add the cheese, paprika, beaten egg and mix well.  Next,  fold in the self rising flour to make a really thick batter. Then add the vegetable oil to a flat  heavy pan and heat on a medium heat for about a minute or two.

Spoon about an tenth of the batter in to the pan, AND THEN LEAVE IT ALONE!   Don’t touch it.  Let it cook for at least two minutes until a golden crust has formed on the bottom.  Try to flip it any earlier and it WILL stick.  Trust me.  Don’t do it.

Once it’s cooked on the bottom, turn and cook the other side  as well.  Remove from the pan and drain on kitchen towel and then fry the rest of the batter in batches.   Once all the fritters have been cooked serve with a spicy tomato sauce.

oh.four.one.

the port elizabeth blogger

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