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. Some people I know have used tumeric, however that is most certainly not saffron, and though adds a similar colour, the earthiness of tumeric really can ruin an otherwise decent paella.

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, chorizo, prawns, onions, pepper, pancetta and a small tin of tomatoes.

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

Red Pepper, Basil and Tomato Salad

A nice accompaniment to grilled meats is a salad. This recipe is one of my regular salads and is very simple to make. It consists of lettuce, halved cherry or small tomatoes and thinly sliced pointed red pepper. This time I also added some basil leaves.

I dress the salad with olive oil, white wine vinegar and ground black pepper.

Simple, refreshing with a hint of heat from the pepper (red and black).

Alba Ristorante Part Three

I was recently lucky enough to go to dinner at the Alba Ristorante in London with some friends., not just once, but enjoyed it enough the first time to go for a second meal. Unlike a lot of Italian restaurants I have been too, the menu here was not full of pasta and pizza, on the contrary it was very different and as a result much more interesting and refreshing.

Misto di Verdure alla Griglia Condite al Balsamico

On my second visit for my starter I had the Misto di Verdure alla Griglia Condite al Balsamico or in English, Mixed grilled Italian vegetables balsamic & extra virgin olive oil.

This was very nice, a simple dish which worked very well. There were courgettes, pepper, tomato and aubergine.

Out of the two starters I had, I think I preferred the duck.



In a large frying pan, place some olive oil and butter. Then add some finely chopped onion, red pepper, courgette and pancetta.

Soften the onions.

Bring up the heat.

Add the risotto rice and ensure that the rice is coated in the oil and butter.

Add a splash of white wine.

Now add some chicken stock.

Keep topping up with stock to ensure that the rice doesn’t dry out.

Once the rice is virtually cooked, add a large handful of grated parmesan, some chopped parsley and some freshly ground black pepper.

Serve, garnish with a few slices of lemon.

Chicken and Irish Sausages

Well I mentioned I had purchased Paul Rankin’s Irish Pork Sausages again.

This time I roasted them in the oven with chicken, red pepper, mushrooms and pancetta.

Chicken and Irish Sausages

I served it with a lemon risotto.

Chicken Kebabs

Chicken Kebabs

In order to make these kebabs, take some organic chicken, I used skinless and boneless thighs. I prefer the thigh meat over the breast as I find it has more flavour.

Cut into cubes about the size of cherry tomatoes.

Cut some red pepper and onions to a similar size.

Now thread, the chicken, red pepper, onions, along with some cherry tomatoes.

Pour some olive oil and balsamic vinegar over the kebabs, add ground black pepper and marinade for at least an hour.

Place under a hot grill or at the top of a hot oven and cook for fifteen to twenty minutes.

Serve with a salad.

Pasta Salad

I do like a nice pasta salad, especially as it can be eaten instead of bread and adds some substance to a salad based meal.

The problem I have with some you can buy is that they are either too salty or too wet! So where possible I try and make my own.

This is a very simple recipe and you can adjust quantities to taste, how much you want, how much you have in the fridge.

Pasta Salad

Cook some pasta.

You can use any pasta, but have been using and prefer De Cecco’s Fusilli.

While the pasta is cooking, in a frying pan add some olive oil and then add onions and red pepper. After that has cooked for a while add some mushrooms.

Ensure that they are cooked through, add some freshly chopped parsley and turn off the heat.

Now you could add the pepper and mushrooms raw, but I prefer to have them cooked.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain and then to stop it cooking further and to cool it down rinse well with cold water.

Put the cooked pasta in a bowl, add a splash of olive oil for flavour and to stop it sticking. Note always add oil to cooked and drained pasta to stop it sticking. Adding it the boiling water does not do this as the oil floats on the top of the water.

To the cooked pasta add some mayonnaise and some creme frache.

Then add the cooked mixture.

Stir with a spoon until the rice and cooked mixture is evenly coated. As with a lot of salads though you could serve this straight away, it will improve if you leave it in the fridge for a few hours.


National Trust Cafe

I had an excellent meal yesterday at the National Trust cafe in Swindon (next door to the STEAM museum and the Swindon shopping outlet). It’s part of their headquarters.

National Trust Headquarters, Swindon

I ordered the pork chop with tomatoes and mushrooms served with vegetables and seasonal potatoes.

The chop (which was boned or boneless) was grilled to perfection, too often with this kind of dish you find some cafes cook it in advance and keep it warm which usually means that the pork dries out and is very tough. This pork chop was full of flavour, tender and delicious. The chop was covered with a chunky sauce made form tomatoes and mushrooms which was well flavoured and for me perfectly seasoned (which means it wasn’t salty).

The vegetables were okay, the carrots tasted as though they were cooked from fresh, but I have a suspicion that the peas and sweetcorn were cooked from frozen (which isn’t surprising and they tasted fine).

The potatoes were roasted new potatoes which were well cooked and very tasty.

My other half went for the red pepper flan (okay read quiche) which was served warm with potatoes and salad. She said the flan was really nice, I was almost too focussed on my pork to ask her for a taste.

For afters I had the treacle tart, too often these can be over sweet, but this was just right in terms of sweetness, but I did find the pastry somewhat tough.

The pork chop dish was very reasonable at £5.95, the flan was only £4.95. I did think the treacle tart was sightly overpriced at £3.25 (especially as other cakes were only £1.50). However overall it certainly was value for money.

Compared to the food offerings in the shopping outlet, if you are out Swindon way, pop over to the National Trust cafe and enjoy a delicious meal in peaceful and pleasant environment.

Pasta in Tomato Sauce

This is a very quick and easy dish with a lovely piquant tomato sauce.

Pasta in Tomato Sauce

In a large frying pan, cook off some pancetta, then in the same pan soften a finely chopped onion and red pepper.

When the pancetta, onions and pepper are nearly cooked, add a good splash of balsamic vinegar, then as this boils add a blended tin of tomatoes (or you could use passata if you want to). Add some tomato puree and sliced mushrooms. Leave to simmer for at least twenty minutes and preferably a little longer. Towards the end add some chopped fresh parsley.

When you are nearly ready to eat, cook the pasta. With a tomato sauce I much prefer to use a dried pasta (and use fresh pasta with a cream based sauce). With this recipe I used De Cecco Fusilli.

When the pasta is cooked, drain and toss the pasta in the sauce.

Serve with freshly grated parmesan and ground black pepper.

If you like to you could add some black olives or anchovies to the sauce, I prefer not to due to the saltiness of these ingredients.

Tomato Sauce

This is a nice and simple yet tasty tomato sauce.

Take a small (or half a large onion) and dice finely.

Take half a red pepper and dice finely.

Soften the onion and pepper in a large frying pan with a splash of olive oil.

When the onion and pepper are nearly cooked you can add some chopped mushrooms (but this is optional, however they do add a really nice flavour).

Once the mushrooms are cooked add a good splash of balsamic vinegar and turn up the heat.

Now add a tin of chopped tomatoes or passata. I usually just use a tin of chopped (or whole) tomatoes and then whizz it in a blender. Add some tomato puree and cook for at least fifteen minutes.

It goes well with a lot of dishes, meat, fish or vegetarian.

I served mine with plain rice and thin pork loin steaks which I had covered in flour, then egg and then breadcrumbs and shallow fried.