100g Onion, diced
1 x Garlic, Chopped
100g Green Pepper
100g Red Pepper
50ml Olive oil
A good pinch of “Herbs de Provence”
a good pinch of chopped Parsley
Salt and Pepper to taste
First, we peel the tomatoes using the “blanch and refresh” method. Get a large saucepan of water on and bring to the boil. While you are waiting get a large bowl and fill it with cold or ice water. Using a very sharp knife or even a razor blade cut a small X in the bottom of each tomato, you only want to cut the skin, that’s all. Once the water is boiling add the tomatoes for no more than a minute, then remove them and plunge them into the cold/ice water, this should make them very easy to peel, then chop them into about 1 cm dice.
Slice the onion and finely chop the garlic, cut the peppers into slices about 2 – 3 cm long.
Add the olive oil, onions, garlic and peppers to a large thick bottomed cooking pot. Cover to keep in the moisture and cook over a medium heat for 20 minutes, stirring frequently and adding olive oil as necessary to prevent burning.
Now add the herbs de provence and peeled tomatoes, stir well and cook for another 15 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Chop the Aubergine and courgettes into a large dice (2cm) and add them to the pot. Cook for another 25 minutes, season to taste with salt and pepper and garnish with parsley.
1 packet of puff pastry
5 – 6 tomatoes, as ripe as possible, diced roughly with the majority of the seeds removed
10 – 12 black olives, finely chopped
Shredded Parma ham (or other dried meat)
Mini mozzarella balls (or shredded mozz)
Handful of basil leaves, roughly torn up
Strong cheese, such as Red Leicester or vintage cheddar, finely grated
Fresh rocket (or oregano, thyme or similar)
Serves 2 as a main course, 4-6 as a snack/starter
Preheat the oven to 200 C.
Flour your worktop well and roll out the pastry to fit the size of a large baking tray. Place it carefully on the baking tray and brush all over with the vegetable oil.
Dress the pastry to 1 centimetre from the edge with your toppings, starting with the tomatoes, then moving onto the olives, basil, parma ham and mozzarella. Sprinkle the grated cheese over the top and place in the oven to bake for 20-25 minutes, until the edge of the pastry is golden brown.
Remove from the oven, cut into large slices and sprinkle with the rocket before serving.
It’s National Gut week in the UK this week (23rd – 29th August). It’s an annual campaign that aims to help people understand the importance of good digestive health by providing free information and advice on how to achieve a healthy gut. Which seems like a good idea that we don’t have an equivalent to here in Ireland
Still at least we can read the UK website and documentation to get ourselves up to speed
Antony Worrall Thompson is one of the Ambassadors for the Campaign and has devised a number of recipes for those suffering from IBS, looking to watch their weight or who simply want to look after their inner health. The recipe that follows is one that he has kindly provided to help promote the cause. You can find out more about Gut Week here and I recommend having a read over this document for some quick tips to a healthier gut.
450g lean leg of lamb, cut into 2.5cm cubes
11/2 teaspoons ground black pepper
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 large onion, roughly diced
4 garlic cloves, crushed
4 tomatoes, skinned and diced
1 tablespoon harissa or hot pepper paste
400g tin of chickpeas in water, drained and rinsed
350g trimmed and peeled pumpkin, cut into 2.5cm cubes
1 pickled lemon, finely diced
2 tablespoons chopped mint
1 tablespoon chopped coriander
Coat the lamb in the black pepper.
Heat the oil in a large non-stick saucepan, add the lamb and cook until it has browned all over. Add the onion and garlic and cook until the onion is soft and is slightly brown, adding a splash of water if necessary to prevent sticking.
Add the tomatoes, harissa and 425ml water. Bring to a simmer,cover and cook over a medium heat for 1 1/4 – 1 1/2 hours, topping up with water as necessary, until the lamb is almost tender.
Add the chickpeas and pumpkin and cook for a further 15 minutes or until the pumpkin is tender. Add the lemon, mint and coriander. Serve immediately.
225g spaghetti nero (or your favourite dried pasta)
120g of streaky bacon
Half a dried chipotle chilli
400g can of chopped tomatoes
Pepper Worcestershire Sauce
Some chopped parsley and freshly grated parmesan (or pecorino) for garnish
My thanks to Kat, who mentioned this as one of her favourite dishes in our recent prize draw, it wasn’t a dish I was familiar with so I Googled it, liked the look of the dish and found a recipe here, which I’ve adapted a little to make it my own.
It was only later when I was researching a little more I discovered this Wikipedia article which gives great information about the origins of the dish and a list of more “authentic” ingredients, which included pigs cheek. While I’m growing more adventurous in both my cooking and eating, I think I’ll stick to the streaky bacon substitution for now
Start by thinly slicing the onion and chopping the bacon into strips between half a centimetre and a centimetre across. Then take your chipotle chilli and cut it in half, discard the seeds and chop half of it as finely as possible. If you don’t have chipotle chilli available you could use a whole fresh chilli or about half a teaspoon of chilli flakes instead.
Next heat some olive oil in a pan and fry the bacon on a medium to low heat until it begins to crisp at the edges. Now add the onion and chilli. Cook on a low heat until the onion begins to caramelise, this will take about fifteen to twenty minutes.
Add the chopped tomatoes and sugar and stir this together. Bring this to a very gentle simmer and allow it to thicken for another fifteen to twenty minutes.
Taste it and season to taste with salt and pepper and a dash of Worcestershire sauce.
When I made this first, we served and ate straight away, there was a portion left over which I planned to eat for my lunch the next day. I was pleasantly surprised to find that the flavours had come together much better after the sauce had been cooled and left overnight in a sealed container in the fridge. It seemed to bring out the smoky flavour of the chipotle and this blended with the bacon much better. Don’t get me wrong, it was still delicious immediately after cooking but in future I will make the sauce the day before and store it in the fridge overnight before eating.
So the next day, prepare and cook your pasta as per the instructions. The pasta pictured above is spaghetti nero, the taste is very similar to regular pasta however it has been coloured with squid ink during the manufacturing process and gives a different visual aspect to the dish.
While the pasta is cooking, gently reheat the sauce. Once the pasta is ready, plate it with a generous serving of sauce, some freshly grated parmesan (or pecorino) cheese and some chopped flat leaf parsley for garnish.
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
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.