Orecchiette Pasta

I think it was the time I had some delicious pasta at Paesan in London that inspired me to buy some orecchiette pasta when I saw some on sale in Aldi. Though I did have a dish of this pasta back in 2014 at Bottelino’s.

Orecchiette are a pasta typical of Apulia, a region of Southern Italy. Their name comes from their shape, which resembles a small ear.

The pasta took 18 minutes to cook, which from experience of cooking a range of pasta types is quite long.

While the pasta was cooking, in another pan I cooked off some pancetta, onions, pepper and mushrooms.

To this, once it was cooked I added some creme frache.

Once the pasta was cooked I drained and then added to the pan with the mushrooms in. I added some grated parmesan, mixed together, finished off with some pine nuts, and then served.

Mushroom Tortellini

Mushroom Tortellini

This is a warming pasta dish that has a somewhat autumnal feel to it, but you can eat it at anytime.

I generally make this sauce (and variations of it) for a range of different pasta, but as I quite like tortellini, this time I had the sauce with filled pasta.

I use fresh tortellini, one day I might get round to making some by hand, I have made fresh pasta before, but then my pasta machine broke, and I haven’t replaced it. This was a spicy sausage tortellini from a supermarket which takes a few minutes to cook.

To make the sauce, in a large frying pan add a splash of olive oil. I also sometimes use truffle oil, which has a real flavour boost to the sauce. Then add some diced pancetta. My personal favourite of the moment is the pancetta from Aldi, however I also quite like buying it (when I can) from an Italian Deli and dice it myself. One the pancetta has started to cook, add chopped red onion and red pepper. Once the onion and pepper have softened, add some (well a fair bit) of sliced mushrooms. I usually add some butter as well at this point to help with the mushrooms cooking. I prefer using chestnut mushrooms, but also throw in some of the Woodland mushrooms from Morrisons as well. 

Stir.

When the mushrooms are nearly cooked, add a small bag of baby spinach. This will wilt down and should be stirred in.

I then add some creme frache mix into the mushrooms.

At this point I cook the pasta, which only takes a few minutes, drain, and add to the sauce. I then generously grate some parmesan into the sauce and pasta along with some freshly ground black pepper. 

Serve and add more parmesan to taste.

Pan fried Gnocchi

I quite like gnocchi, but though I buy fresh gnocchi, my usual cooking method is to simmer it in boiling water for a few minutes. I have seen people fry gnocchi on the television in cooking shows, but not tried it myself. They always appeared to fry gnocchi they had made themselves. I wasn’t sure how using shop bought gnocchi if that would work out.

So doing some browsing recently I was interested to see they had the Rana pan fried gnocchi on sale. So I bought a pack to try out.

Pan-fried gnocchi are crispy on the outside, but soft and fluffy on the inside,

It had been in the fridge for a while when I decided to cook them.

I cooked some pancetta, onion and mushrooms and then removed these from the pan. I then added some butter and pan fried the gnocchi for five minutes.  Once the gnocchi was cooked I added the cooked pancetta, onion and mushrooms.

I did enjoy the dish and hope to cook this again soon.

What we had for Christmas Lunch

I blog about what we eat for Christmas lunch, mainly to remember things that worked well and for those that didn’t, not to repeat that mistake. This post is a little later than I planned, but it’s here now.

This year we ordered two Christmas roasts from Tesco. I was a little concerned as the night before the day I was going to collect the order I got a phone call from my local Tesco saying that part of my order had not been delivered to the store and offered a replacement. I wasn’t too happy with this, as it was quite short notice. In the end they had a late night delivery so I got my order in the end.

The main one was a part-boned turkey with chestnut stuffing. This was really nice roasted the chestnut stuffing was really nice too, with who chestnuts within it.

The second was a three bird roast, comprising a duck stuffed with goose and turkey. I remember once spending a lot of money on a Marks and Spencer four bird roast, which though very nice was mainly a big turkey with some duck, goose and chicken. So was a little bit of a disappointment, I blogged about that here, which reminded me not to go down that road again.

Along with the roasts we had roast potatoes, these I cooked in my usual way, which is as follows. I used Maris Piper potatoes, the type of potatoes I find is critical for getting crispy roast potatoes and a fluffy centre. I peel the potatoes and then par-boil for about ten minutes. Whilst they are in the pan of boiling water, I place the roasting tray in a hot oven with some sunflower oil (and I also add a splash of olive oil for flavour). This means once the potatoes are drained they are added to the pan which is pre-heated and has hot oil in. This speeds up cooking time and ensures a crispy roast potato.

I also did my regular dish of brussel sprouts pan fried with chestnut smoked bacon lardons and chestnuts.

brussel sprouts pan fried with chestnut smoked bacon lardons and chestnuts

I did roasted parsnips. Along with them I did some festive carrots, I followed a Jamie Oliver recipe for carrots. I took a frying pan, this I filled with evenly cut carrots, either whole or halved in the main. I then covered them with boiling water. To this I add a large knob of butter, a splash of white wine vinegar, the juice from two clementines (or similar citrus fruit, or one orange) and some dried mixed herbs. Then let the carrots bubble away on the stove top for about 40 minutes. Once the eater has evaporated, the carrots should caramelise in the remaining sweet and sour mix.

We had a selection of stuffings and pigs in blankets.

Overall we were very happy with the meal, it was very tasty.

Our Christmas Dinner

I usually document our Christmas dinner in December, in the main so that I can recall what we had and when, what we liked and what we wouldn’t get again.

In 2014 we went with an Aldi Four Bird Roast and though we enjoyed it, I wanted to have something different in 2015. Due to a range of reasons we didn’t pre-order any thing for lunch, so in the end it was a quick trip out to the local Morrisons. I bought a small turkey and a duck.

These were roasted in the over, taking about two hours. The flavour was pretty good and I managed to not over cook (or under cook) the roasts.

They were served with some traditional accompaniments, such as pigs in blankets and a range of stuffings.

The brussels sprouts were peeled and halved. These were then pre-cooked for a couple of minutes in boiling water. As we neared the serving time, in a hot frying pan I added a small amount of olive oil and fried off some pancetta. I then added the brusels with some pre-cooked chestnuts.

Overall a really nice festive meal.

Homemade Quiche

Quiche

I haven’t made quiche for a while now, but over the weekend decided to throw one together.

I made some shortcrust pastry and baked it blind in the oven in a flan tin. Everytime I do that I always think I should be using some baking beans, but I don’t have any, so I lined the top of the pastry with baking parchment and used another pan on top to keep the pastry flat. One tip I picked up from the television was to fold the pastry over the edge of the flan tin and once cooked this is carved off, and creates a level pie base.

I filled the base first with some fresh spinach and the cooked onions, peppers, mushrooms and pancetta. I then added some grated mature cheddar cheese. There are lots of choices when it comes to quiche fillings,

I placed the flan in the oven and then filled it, covering the rest of the filling with an egg and milk mixture.

The quiche is then baked in the oven until the egg has set and the top of the quiche has started to brown.

Delicious warm, it can also be served cold with salad.

Brussels with Chestnuts and Pancetta

brussel sprouts pan fried with chestnut smoked bacon lardons and chestnuts

I once again cooked this accompaniment to the Christmas roast we had this year. It is very simple to cook, has festive overtones and really adds something special to the humble sprout.

I peeled and halved the sprouts, now I know some people will think that what is he doing, sprouts are supposed to be whole! Well what I want in this dish is for the sprouts to be a similar size to the chestnuts. The sprouts were partially cooked in advance, by placing in simmering water for about five minutes, drained and plunged into cold water and left to one side. You can do this earlier in the day so freeing up hob space for other things.

When you are close to serving time, in a hot frying plan, add a splash of olive oil and add the pancetta. I went for smoked pancetta, as I much prefer the stronger flavour and it goes well with the similarly strong flavour of the sprouts. Cook the pancetta until is just going crispy. The add the partially cooked sprouts and the chestnuts. I used the cooked and vacuum packed chestnuts from Merchant Gourmet. These are already prepared and cooked and are quick and easy to use. Next year I might use fresh chestnuts and prepare them myself. You can season with some black pepper, but no need to add extra salt, as the pancetta bacon adds the saltiness to the dish.

Toss and saute the sprouts and chestnuts with the pancetta and serve with your favourite festive roast.

Don’t buy the pasta!

Remind me please that if I ever go to Frankie and Benny’s again, don’t order the pasta!

You know for am American Italian Diner I am disappointed how they serve pasta, which in my opinion should be a signature dish for them. Similarly how difficult is it to get pasta wrong?

I should have remembered when I ordered the Philly Steak Bake which was not the best pasta dish I had eaten. I should have known better, you would think? The thing is back then my son had ordered the Spaghetti Oceana which looked great and according to my son was delicious.

Chicken Penne Romana

So this time I ordered Chicken Penne Romana, which was penne pasta with chicken breast, spicy pepperoni and pancetta bacon tossed with Mamma’s rich Neapolitan tomato and herb sauce. It came with the choice of fries or salad. Now why on earth did is come with fries, okay partly my fault I should have chosen the salad option! It is a very British thing I believe that to have potatoes and pasta together, you know lasagne and chips for example.

Next time, choose the salad, next time… well next time I won’t choose the pasta so it won’t be a problem.

So what about the pasta? Let’s be straight, it certainly wasn’t an awful dish, so bad I couldn’t eat it. No it was certainly edible and I did finish the dish. The thing is, it could have been so much better. The so called rich tomato sauce, was anything but rich, and lacked flavour and richness. It was too bland and it was this that really marked down the quality of the dish. When you read the description “tossed with Mamma’s rich Neapolitan tomato and herb sauce” you kind of expect that to be the case, the reality was that didn’t happen, the pasta was in the bowl and the sauce poured on top. If you wanted it tossed you were going to have to do that yourself.

It was a pity that the dish turned out the way it did, as the concept sounded really good.

Steak with Peppercorns and Pancetta

This is quite a quick meal and can be served with steamed vegetables and crispy potatoes.

I normally prefer ribeye cut of steak these days, with sirloin as second choice, as I prefer the flavour of ribeye. Rump, though cheaper, is often tougher than either ribeye or sirloin. I find fillet, not just more expensive, but often lacks flavour. Though in this dish it would work as the peppercorns and the pancetta add a striking flavour to the dish.

I prepare the steak by rubbing in some olive oil. Then in a plain unoiled hot pan I cook the steak. About half way through cooking I added some black peppercorns.

In order to save time, in a seperate pan I cooked off some pancetta and once they were nearly cooked added the mushrooms.

Removing the steak from the pan, once cooked, I added the pancetta and mushrooms and added half a tub of creme frache, which I let heat through.

I sliced the steak, put on the plate, poured over the sauce and served with steamed vegetables and crispy potatoes. It would also work well with plain rice.

Paella with chicken and chorizo

I seem to be cooking paella more and more recently.

The key for me is the right kind of rice and saffron. I really do like the way the saffron adds not just colour, but also flavour.

After that you can add many different things to make a really nice paella.

The dish above contains in addition to the rice and saffron, the following, chicken, chorizo, prawns, onions, pepper, pancetta and peas. This is different to the last time I cooked paella.

There is something about paella, the richness, flavours that I really enjoy.