Posts Tagged ‘pasta’

My fridge hasn’t been to inspirational recently.

But after a traumatic 5km charity run I thought I’d treat myself with a nice supper lastnight. So when I got back from work today the standard of fridge leftovers was a lot better than usual.

Some asparagus, sugar snaps and soft goat’s cheese. Delicious.

I ferreted out some frozen broad beans, mint leaves, virgin olive oil and some crushed pink pepper.

And then the best bulking out ingredient ever: orecchiette. I’m not one for splashing the cash in the supermarket unless it’s for a good reason. But if you’re using nice ingredients, it really is worth the extra £1 for this ‘little ear’ Southern Italian pasta made from durum wheat semolina and water. They have a slightly rough outer surface, and a tasty soft, chewy centre.

It’s a light meal with great summery flavours. And it’s a classic one pan dish – the pasta takes ten minutes, so chuck in the broad beans six minutes into cooking, and then chuck in the asparagus and sugar snaps a couple of minutes later. Drain and dress with mint leaves and goat’s cheese.

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Budget eating is big. There are entire blogs devoted to feeding yourself on a shoestring. And today I’m going to join in, because I came up with quite a good wheeze involving the Marks & Spencer ‘two-salads-for-£3 deal’.

It’s quite simple. One for lunch and the other one as the base of your evening meal. I had giant cous cous with roasted pepper and red onion at work, and then used this one to sheesh up my supper:

The rest just involves the sort of food you might have lying around in your kitchen. Tescos penne pasta (48p), mushrooms (78p) creme fraiche (£1.10) and bacon. Boil the pasta, and in the meantime cut up and then fry the bacon. Add the chopped mushrooms to the pan after five minutes - and chuck in a bit of thyme if you happen to have any lying about. (I didn’t - but it would’ve been nice!)

Once everything’s cooked, add a couple tablespoons of creme fraiche to the warm pan (but take it off direct heat to do this). A slosh of chicken stock and a squeeze of lemon would be a good addition - once again, I didn’t manage lastnight - I was too tired/hungry, but it would have enhanced the creme fraiche-based sauce.

Finally add the cooked pasta, and then chuck in the Marks & Spencer salad pot you didn’t eat at lunchtime – in this case, bean salad. Stir and serve. Quick, cheap and tasty.

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Any food blogger worth their salt seems to be playing around with ndjua at the moment, so when I came across the glistening meaty log at Broadway market last week, I couldn’t resist jumping on the band wagon myself. And what a super jump it was.

The fiery Calabrian meat is often described as a ‘spreadable’ salami…but to say it’s ‘spreadable’ suggests that it could be treated like flora and slathered on toast - which would be a big mistake, because this stuff is H.O.T.

I thought of adding it to a tomato sauce, but then changed my mind, and decided to start with an undiluted version - putting it straight into pasta with a few roasted vegetables. If I’m being honest it was so spicy it was a little painful to eat at times…but in a good way. The hotness is a Mediterranean, peppery hotness – a bit like fresh chilli oil on hot salami pizza.

150g orecchiette (obviously any pasta will work, but sauces tend to stick better to orecchiette)
small lump of ndjua – probably around 70g …a little bit goes a long way
1 red onion
1 large courgette

Cut the onion into wedges, and slice the courgette into 1cm rounds. Put them into a roasting tin with oil and pop them into an oven at 200C.

Once then onion and courgette has been cooking for 25 minutes, put the pasta on to boil. Heat up a knob of butter in a pan and add the ndjua.

Drain the pasta, and add it along with the onion and courgettes to the ndjua. Enjoy – with a glass of cold water at hand.

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I was recently asked what my favourite sort of cooking was: pastry, foreign cuisine, game, puddings…? But I honestly couldn’t whittle it down.

I gave it some thought though, and I reckon my favourite sort of cooking is ‘cooking on a budget.’ Does that count?

There’s nothing more satisfying at the end of a dinner party than calculating that you fed everyone for £3.25/head. Or steering yourself away from the ‘Eat in for £10’ supermarket display, and then rustling up something back home with £5 worth of ingredients. Or spending £7 to make a huge Bolognese, which gets frozen into 15 individual suppers (46p/meal – see, I can’t help myself – it’s like a disease!)

The thing is that Florence was amazing. Beautiful sites, wonderful fiaschetterias, great cocktail bars…but when we tried to find somewhere to eat, they were either crazy-expensive places, or medium-expensive-but-distinctly-average places.

Much to my delight, this meant that we could justify splashing out on expensive ingredients, and cooking back in the kitchen of the farmhouse where we were staying…because we figured that it was still a snip of what we’d pay in the piazzas. Spending to save…or something like that,

When we first arrived, we were exhausted, and in need of supper (I’d been ‘Head Navigator’ on the drive from Pisa, and inevitably missed the bypass which meant that we had to drive through Florence, which took us several hours longer than it should have done.)

Anyway, we stopped off at a Co-Op on the way, and picked up a magnum of chianti and some food basics. I don’t know if it’s the Italian ingredients that make everything taste so good, or the fact that we were in holiday which makes everything taste better….but the meal below was so simple and so delicious, my mouth is watering at the very thought of it.

I fried a large onion, and about seven (!) cloves of garlic (when in Rome…) then I added a chopped-up Italian sausage and some extra chilli. I let it fry for a few minutes, and then poured in a tin of chopped tomatoes, and a carton of passata over everything, then added some chickpeas and left to simmer for ten minutes. To be eaten with pasta, and enjoyed with a large glass of chianti!

The next morning we woke up in a thunderstorm, so we decided to lie around and read all morning. We zoned out for a few hours, then zoned back in and realized that morning had drifted straight past without us noticing, and it was the afternoon already. We’d missed breakfast, and were suddenly quite peckish.

In the name of using up leftovers, I put the remains of the previous night’s sauce in a frying pan. Once it’d all began to heat up, I scraped two holes, and then cracked two eggs into the pan. Served with a hunk of Italian bread – delicious!

As the week went on, we visited little delis nearby, and created mouth watering platters of exciting little treats and dips and spreads for supper. Then, the best part was that all the remains went with pasta for lunch the next day - my personal favourite was boiled asparagus with mozzarella, pesto and parma ham.

The photo below was another meal we had at the farmhouse. We couldn’t find any yeast (or ‘lievito’ in Italian!) so we made a sort of heavy, flour-water flatbreat (not exactly restaurant standard, but it did the trick). Then we slapped on all sorts of pizza toppings we had rolling about in the fridge - tomato sauce, cheese, olives, sausage…as you can see, it didn’t work out too badly.

…and finally, just for posterity, here’s the lovely farmhouse kitchen where all the magic happened!!

Just a little plug for Catina - if you fancy staying 15km east of Florence, (near Sieci), and gorging yourselves on meats, cheeses and chianti, then click here or here for more details.

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