Epicure Organic Puy Lentils

Today I roasted some pancetta covered organic chicken thighs on a bed of onions, red pepper, mushrooms and courgettes. This was splashed with some olive oil and seasoned with black pepper.

Whilst this was in the oven, I softened in a frying pan, some finely chopped onion with pancetta. When the onion was nicely soft, I added some red wine and beef stock before simmering it down. Beef stock over chicken stock just because of the colour rather than flavour. I then reduced and reduced this.

When I was happy with the sauce I whisked in some butter (with a fork as it happens rather than a whisk) and then added a tin of Epicure Organic Puy Lentils. I needed to add a bit more stock at this point.

I was really impressed with the Epicure Organic Puy Lentils and will certainly be buying them again, I guess it would be potentially tastier to use dried lentils, but I personally was quite happy with the tin.

So I put the lentils on the plate, placed the chicken on top and surrounded it with the roasted vegetables. I served this along with carrots and green beans.

Really tasty.

Risotto disaster…

Last night I decided to cook a risotto to go with the shellfish I was cooking. I have done this in the past usually using white wine, lemon, rocket and parmesan to flavour the risotto. Alas I had no white wine, no lemon and no rocket, though I did have a block of parmesan to hand. Little piece of advice here, never buy pre-grated parmesan this is usually  grated from dried out pieces of old parmesan or so an old Italian friend of mine once said. Though as it is usually cheaper than the solid stuff I am inclined to believe her! So there I was cooking this risotto and wondering how I should flavour it. Well I had mushrooms and they always work well in risotto, I had some red wine, and I had some chicken stock. There we go, good to go, or so I thought.

Basically it didn’t work quite as well as I hoped. Firstly it came out a grey lilac colour rather than the rich red brown I was expecting. Well that was down to the red wine, lack of dark stock and the mushrooms. Secondly it was rather bland, it had no bite. I think it could have done with a splash of balsamic vinegar.

Most of it was eaten so either we were hungry or it wasn’t half as bad as it looked.

Having said that, the scallops wrapped in pancetta were delicious.

Bella Italia

I quite like Bella Italia, yes I know it is a chain and they use a range of pre-made ingredients in their cooking and it’s all systems and less about flair and passion. Even having said that compared to other places I enjoy the food, the service, the atmosphere and the Italian’ess.

I was there on Monday for lunch and had an enjoyable meal. I started with the calamari and unlike other places which serve pre-cooked rubbery squid rings, at Bella Italia they do use the whole squid. However they do seem to overcook it, it would  be much better if they cooked for half the time that they do. Still nice, but not how I like it. It arrived with lemon and mayonnaise.

I had pizza for my main course, a Quattro Stagioni, the four seasons; pepperoni, smoked ham, roasted mushrooms and artichokes. It was quite nice, I prefer the pizza from Pizza Express, but this is so much better than the pizzas you can get in other (so-called) pizza eateries. The smoked ham was too salty for me, so that went off, but the mushrooms and artichokes were done well. The pizza base was just right, thin and not too crispy or too soggy. The tomato sauce was slightly too salty, but did taste of tomates. I would have liked a little more cheese.

The pasta dish ordered by my other half was very nice as well, Penne Funghi Pancetta. which was pancetta bacon, mushrooms and penne pasta sauteed in a creamy cheese sauce.

We had soft drinks and left before we could have coffee as we were pushed for time.

The service was fine, though it did take a little time for our main courses to arrive, and it felt like they had been waiting for a while.

Overall it was a nice place for lunch and I would make a return visit.

Spanish Chicken

Tonight I had a very nice spanish chicken dish (that was cooked for me). Containing tomatoes, mushrooms, onion, potatoes and chicken and cooked in a single pot, it was delicious. The main seasoning was freshly ground black pepper which to me gave it a very spanish feel, as did the potato.

Chicken, Red Pepper and Mushrooms in a Cream and Saffron sauce with Gnocchi

This is a dish I made.

Chicken, Red Pepper and Mushrooms in a Cream and Saffron sauce with Gnocchi

Take some chicken thighs, add olive oil to a hot pan.

Brown the chicken in the pan, then remove.

Add chopped onion and red pepper to the pan.

Cook on a low heat until soft.

Add chopped mushrooms.

Meanwhile soak some saffron in a little hot water.

Once the mushrooms, onions and red pepper are cooked, add the chicken.

Add some freshly chopped parsley.

Add the saffron.

Add a couple of large spoonfuls of creme frache, you could use double cream, but I prefer creme frache.

Serve with some freshly cooked gnocchi.

Done.

Bruschetta

A variety of bruschetta with cheese, tomatoes (fresh and sun-dried), artichokes and mushrooms.

Bruschetta

Start off with a ciabatta, though in theory you could use a baguette or french stick (and I have done so).

Slice.

Butter one side only.

Add topping.

Dribble olive oil over.

Bake in a hot oven for less than ten minutes.

Serve.

Eat.

Linguine with mushrooms, cream and saffron

In an pan of boiling water add the linguine. This will take 11 minutes to cook, but check the packaging to be sure. No need to add salt or oil to the boiling water.

In a pan, heat some olive oil.

Add some cubed pancetta and a finely chopped onion,

Cook until the onion has softened.

Add some sliced mushrooms.

Once the mushrooms are cooked (how long this takes depends on the size of the pan, how hot it is and the quantity of ingredients) add creme frache and a few strands of saffron.

Stir on a low heat until the saffron has imparted a golden tinge to the cream mixture.

You could use cream instead of creme frache, I use creme frache as I like the flavour. You don’t need to use saffron, but it adds a wonderful flavour as well as colour to the dish.

Once the linguine is cooked, drain, add the cream mixture, a handful of grated parmesan, a good twist or two of ground black pepper.

Stir well and serve.