Recipe: Minty Pea Pasta

Minty Pea Pasta
Minty Pea Pasta

Ingredients;

Pasta for 4 – I used fresh spaghetti
1 onion, finely diced
2 large handfuls of peas
1/2 cup butter, softened
A large handful of fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
1/2 teaspoon dried mint
1 tablespoon lemon juice
1 teaspoon paprika
Large pinch of salt

Serves 4


In a bowl mix the butter, lemon juice, mint (fresh and dried), salt and paprika until well blended. I’ve found it’s best to soften the butter first, about 10 seconds in our microwave on it’s lowest power setting does the job, although in the recent heat just leaving the butter out of the fridge for about an hour has the same effect. Once mixed pop it in the fridge while the rest is being prepared.

Next you’ll need to prepare your pasta. If you’re using dried pasta follow the instructions on the packet. Alternatively you can use our fresh pasta recipe for this, I just used the spaghetti cutter that came with our pasta maker instead of a knife for the tagiatelle described in the recipe. This recipe works great with any pasta so use your favourite.

The pasta needs to be just ready when you complete this next stage so timing is important. Thankfully this next step is pretty easy 😉

Now add about half the butter mixture to a frying pan on a medium high heat and when it has melted add in the onion and fry until they start to soften. Now add the peas and a little of the pasta water and let this cook the peas for 2-3 minutes.

Drain your pasta, then add the contents of the frying pan to the pasta and toss this over a medium heat. Add the remaining butter mixture and continue to toss the pasta until it has melted completely. Then you’re ready to serve.

I’m a Picky Eater

I’m a bit of a picky eater, although not as bad as I was when younger, there was a time when I wouldn’t eat anything green (apart from peas and only if mixed into mashed spud with ketchup, I have no idea why) and was exceptionally choosy about the fish that I would eat, usually only deciding whether or not I would eat a certain fish when I smelt it cooking. So one day I would eat haddock and the next I wouldn’t. I’m still not sure how Mum put up with me.

Portobello Mushrooms
Image by ne* via Flickr

In truth most of my picky eating has disappeared as I’ve grown older, there are still some things I don’t particularly like and as a result avoid, asparagus jumps to mind, I’m just not fond of the flavour. To be honest, the more I cook and explore food the more I’m interested in trying things I haven’t tasted before and also re-visiting ones that I decided I didn’t like previously.

There is one food that is extremely popular and I simply will not eat it, if you’ve been following the recipes you may have noticed that I have never published a recipe with mushrooms in.

This is often raised as a topic for conversation, when I politely refuse them at dinner or pick them out of a dish. I really wish people wouldn’t ask me this when they’re eating as the reason comes from an experience I had as a child and it’s not really suitable for the dinner table. Invariably my reluctance to tell only makes people more curious until eventually I (reluctantly) tell them the story and then I’m the bad guy for telling the story at the dinner table.

When I was a child my family would at certain times of the year spend Sunday afternoons wandering the fields and hedgerows of friends’ farmland foraging for wild fruit, nuts and mushrooms. It was a great family pastime, we all got exercise, fresh air, no admission fee (other than the occasional few pots of wild jam mum made from the fruit, dropped on the relevant doorsteps) and effectively free (incredibly fresh) food.

Part of the excitement on the mushroom days was getting home, and selecting the choicest ones from what you had collected, giving them a quick rinse, removing the stalk, adding a nob of butter and throwing them directly onto the hot plate of the cooker. Where they would sizzle for a few minutes until they were ready to eat and we’d scoop them up with whatever was to hand add a sprinkle of salt and devour them.

It was after one of these mushroom foraging excursions when I couldn’t have been more than four years old that we arrived home and I was eager to get a few large ones I had found onto the hob. As soon as we were in the door I bolted into the kitchen and rinsed mine off, pulled the stalk, added the butter and threw them onto the cooker, I wasn’t about to be delicate about it.

As soon as the first one was done, it was handed to me and I took a big bite and while the butter was still dripping down my chin, I noticed something unusual about the piece still in my hand. I was trying to work out what it was when a small piece fell out of the remaining mushroom leaving behind an almost perfectly round tiny little hole and I started to know what the guy who discovered what’s worse than finding a worm in your apple felt like. There was spitting and coughing and I’m not ashamed to admit that four year old me burst into tears at the thought of having eaten half a worm.

That was the last time a mushroom knowingly passed my lips. It’s the weirdest thing because even the smell of raw mushroom now turns my stomach. It happened so long ago that I can barely remember the taste or texture of a mushroom and the part of me that has become adventurous about my food and cooking thinks, “Well you really liked them until that happened so why not try them again?” keeps getting overruled by the memory of that one event.

I have decided that this fear needs to be conquered – it’s irrational and too much like a phobia not to be confronted. So in the next few weeks I will be trying dishes with mushrooms, it may be a bit longer before I start adding them to the recipes but who knows.

So, are you a picky eater? Are there any foods that you simply won’t eat? Have your say below.

Recipe: Ragu Giorgio (aka the best spag bol)

Ragu
Ragu

Ingredients;

Extra virgin olive oil
3 x carrot, halved lengthways and chopped
3 x celery sticks, halved lengthways and chopped
3 x onions, finely diced
3 x garlic cloves, finely sliced
1 x anchovy
5 large tomatoes
50g sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped or blitzed in a blender
150g tomato puree
2 x large handfuls of fresh basil, roughly chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
Pinch of ground cumin
500g lean mince beef
2 x bay leaves
500ml water
250ml wine
300ml Italian tomato sauce


Once you have completed all the preparation, get a large saucepan, pour in a generous lug of olive oil and get it onto a high heat until the oil just starts to smoke. Add the anchovy and fry this hard until it starts to break up and disappear. At this point add your carrots and bring the heat down to a medium heat.

Fry these for about 5 minutes, then add the onion and celery and reduce the heat to a low heat and continue to fry this until the onions begin to caramelise (usually twenty to twenty five minutes) stirring occasionally.

While this is happening you need to skin, quarter, core and de-seed the tomatoes. To skin them you will need a pan of boiling water and a bowl of ice cold water. First score an X on to the bottom of each tomato, with the water boiling hard, carefully pop the tomatoes in for about 1 minute, then remove with a slotted spoon and place them in the bowl of ice water to stop them cooking and make them easier to handle. Now you should be able to remove the skin by simply tearing from where you made the X. Next quarter the tomatoes and using a teaspoon remove the core and seeds in one go, you only want the flesh of the tomato. Remember to keep an eye on the main saucepan while you are doing this.

If the onions are starting to caramelise by now, simply remove the pan from the heat. Begin to fry the mince, with a pinch of cumin powder, in a large frying pan over a high heat. You want to brown the meat as quickly as possible, making sure that you brown all the meat.

Depending on the quality of the mince you may find that it releases some water once you start to fry it, if this happens keep the heat as high as you can and keep turning and moving the mince until all the water boils off. This can take a bit of time so don’t forget about the other pan, and remove it from the heat if the onions start to caramelise before the meat is done. You want to keep frying the mince until it is completely dry looking and starts to stick to your frying pan.

At this point your onions should have started to caramelise and you may have removed them from the heat, if you have, get them back onto a low heat for about a minute then add the meat. If the onions haven’t started to caramelise then turn the heat down on the meat and give it an occasional stir until the onions start to caramelise and then add the meat and stir the lot together.

By now there may well be some mince and fat stuck to your frying pan, this is great because that’s pure flavour. Add a good splash of your wine to the frying pan and using a wooden spoon or spatula gently stir and scrape those little bits off the pan, the heat and wine should make this very easy and in less than a minute all that flavour should have combined with the wine which you can now pour into the saucepan.

With regards to the wine: The conventional wisdom is to use red wine. If you have some available great, however the day I came up with this recipe, I looked at our collection of unfinished bottles and there were no reds, as I didn’t want to open a bottle of red just for this, I picked up a bottle of white wine, a Sauternes (very sweet wine) that had been open too long and had started to vinegar a little. A quick bit of measuring and in it went.

Now if my mum was still alive I would have gotten an earful, not only letting such a good wine start to vinegar but also for using it for cooking, that is until she tasted the end result, this gave the whole dish a different flavour than if I had used a red wine and exaggerated the caramelised flavour of the veg in a way that’s hard to describe.

Next you will need to add all the tomatoes, tomato purée, the blitzed sun-dried tomatoes, Italian tomato sauce, oregano, the rest of the wine, basil, bay leaves and stir gently.

Now bring this up to a medium heat and start to add the water, while stirring continuously. You want to add enough water so that the sauce is slightly thinner than you want the end result to be. In my case this turned out to be 500ml almost exactly but depending on the water contents of your ingredients you may require less or more. Once you’re happy with the consistency bring it to a very gentle simmer and cover the pot.

You want to simmer this for at least an hour stirring it occasionally. After an hour give it a good stir, if it’s still a little thinner than you like leave the lid off and let it simmer for a few more minutes and it should thicken up. I’ve had this Ragu simmering for up to 3 hours on occasion and if anything it just improves the flavours.

Finally, taste it and season it with salt and pepper if required and stir in 2 tablespoons of the best extra virgin olive oil you can find.

I like to serve this with fresh Tagliatelle and some Parmesan cheese, grated fresh over the top at the table.

Thankfully this recipe freezes really well and is ideal for freezing in bags as described here, 150ml is a serving so we tend to freeze it in bags of 300ml for the two of us. Alternatively, we’ve found the leftovers make great pizza. just spread some on your pizza base, add some cheese over the top (crumbled Mozzarella if you want to be really decadent) and cook as usual.

The One Hundred and Second

No, I’m not talking about an airborne or infantry unit! It’s our one hundred and second post here on notjunkfood.net

Prize draw Prizes
Prize draw Prizes

Yes, our one hundredth post slipped quietly past on Monday, we’ve never been ones to mark the round number anniversaries, it just seems so arbitrary. Oh alright then, I missed it, but in order to mark the occasion of our one hundred and second post I want to take a few moments to look at how far we’ve come since we launched back in January of this year and that first recipe, scrambled eggs.

Since then it’s been great to see how the web-site and our presence on both Facebook and Twitter have grown and continue to grow. With over 400 individual visits per week and one thousand links to our site, 343 followers on Twitter and 125 likes on Facebook, it’s safe to say that things have grown faster than we expected. It’s also great to know that we have attracted an international audience with readers from our nearest neighbour the UK to places as far flung as the USA, India and even Australia. I’m so happy to be able to thank all our readers for helping us get this far :)

So to mark the occasion of our one hundred and second post, we’re having a draw with a great prize, a copy of “Easy Entertaining” by Darina Allen of the Ballymaloe Cookery School and also a Ballymaloe Cookery School apron, both pictured above.

To enter all you have to do is leave a comment on this post telling us what your favourite meal is and we will pick a winner at random from all the entries after the closing date – Wednesday 30th June at 5pm GMT – so get your entries in and tell your friends, families and loved ones to do the same 😉

Recipe: BBQ Pork Chops

BBQ pork chops served with coleslaw, blazin saddles baked beans and mashed spud
BBQ pork chops served with coleslaw, blazin saddles baked beans and mashed spud

Ingredients;

2 x Irish Pork chops
BBQ Rub
BBQ Sauce

Serves 2

Line

Start by giving the pork chops a quick rinse in running water and patting them dry with kitchen towel.

Next you want to sprinkle some of the BBQ rub onto a clean plate and lay the pork chops on top. Now turn them over and rub the “BBQ Rub” that has stuck into the meat well, then turn them over and do the same on the other side. Keep turning and rubbing the mixture into the chops until the mixture starts to feel like a paste and the fat of the chops has taken on a reddish tinge.

At this point wrap them with cling film and pop them in the fridge for at least twelve hours (I usually leave them overnight) to allow the flavours to combine with the meat.

The next day when you are ready to start cooking get your grill as hot as you can (be that your barbecue grill or kitchen grill) and place the pork chops on to cook for five to seven minutes per side.

When the second side has had its cooking time, turn the chops again and brush on a generous helping of BBQ Sauce and place them back on the grill for another five to seven minutes, then turn them one last time and brush the second side generously and back on the grill again for another five to seven minutes. At this point you’re ready to serve.

I like to serve these with some of my “Blazin Saddles” Baked Beans and mashed potato with some chives chopped through them. Coleslaw is always good with BBQ even if it is store bought 😉

These can be frozen once the rub has been applied and then defrosted ready for use, whenever you want. So I would normally buy about 10 pork chops mix up a batch of the rub and apply it. Then freeze them, in pairs, in sealed plastic bags. Doing this in advance means that you can pull a pair of them out of the freezer on your way to work to defrost during the day and have a quick and easy dinner to look forward to when you get home in the evening.