Tag Archives: Tomato

Recipe: Spaghetti Nero Amatriciana

Spaghetti Nero Amatriciana
Spaghetti Nero Amatriciana

Ingredients;

225g spaghetti nero (or your favourite dried pasta)
120g of streaky bacon
1 onion
Half a dried chipotle chilli
400g can of chopped tomatoes
Olive oil
Salt
Pepper
Worcestershire Sauce
Some chopped parsley and freshly grated parmesan (or pecorino) for garnish

Serves 3


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.

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.

Recipe: Cold Veggie Couscous

Ingredients;

2 x 125g bags “boil in the bag” couscous
2 sticks celery
1 small bell pepper (your choice of colour)
3 medium tomatoes
1 200g tin sweetcorn
Handful frozen peas
Handful baby broccoli
Handful fresh flat-leaf parsley
Handful sun-dried tomatoes
3 handfuls raisins
Half teaspoon chilli powder
Herbs to taste (e.g. dried oregano, basil, rosemary – approx 2 teaspoons)
Olive oil

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I love couscous, but the preparation can be messy. Superquinn stocks Roma Boil in the Bag Couscous which simply requires it to be boiled for 1 minute, then snip open the bag and pour out. It really is the easy option.

The recipe is so simple here – just chop up the celery, pepper & tomatoes really small and place in a bowl. Using a kitchen scissors, cut the parsley (stalks and all) into teeny chunks directly into the bowl. Also toss in the sweetcorn and raisins.

Bring a large pot of water to the boil, then add in the baby broccoli, sun-dried tomatoes and frozen peas. Boil these for 2 mins, then throw in the bags of couscous. After 1 minute, drain off the water and carefully snip open the bags, pouring the couscous into the bowl, mixing it in immediately.

Slice up the cooked baby broccoli and sun-dried tomatoes (briefly boiling them allows them to re-hydrate slightly) and place these in the bowl along with the cooked peas.

Finally add approx 1 tablespoon olive oil, the chilli powder and dried herbs and stir everything together until well mixed.

This couscous can be eaten on it’s own, or mixed with some protein – try diced prawns & crab sticks; leftover roast chicken; or even flaked roast salmon. I like to make up a batch of this on the weekend and grab a bowlful each day for lunch, with a different topping each time.

If you don’t like any of the vegetables in the recipe, then you can leave them out, but I’d highly recommend replacing them with something you prefer – you could try diced onion, spring onions, roast sweet potato, broccoli or alfalfa shoots or asparagus.

Recipe: “Blazing Saddles” Baked Beans

A Pot of Freshly made Baked Beans
Blazing Saddles Baked Beans

Ingredients;

4 whole onions finely sliced
1 heaped teaspoon of (smoked) paprika
3 fresh chillies finely diced
25g butter
3 x 400g tins of Pinto beans
3 x 400g tins of Cannellini beans
2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
4 bay leaves
Salt
Pepper
White wine vinegar
3 tablespoons of molasses
Olive oil

Serves 8-10

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Hmmm Beanz meanz Heinz, except in this case it doesn’t :) We are all familiar with baked beans in tomato sauce and how wonderful they are as a side order with a fry up or on hot buttered toast, it’s so easy to open a tin of them and bung ’em in the microwave, that we take them for granted.

When I made this first I was surprised by just how convenient the tinned version is by comparison to making your own, but when I tasted my own for the first time, I knew the effort was worth it.

These are close to being the best baked beans I have ever tasted, unfortunately that honour still resides with a man who served me from a fire pit when I was in Utah about 9 years ago as I haven’t managed to get the sweetness the same. Don’t worry, if I discover his secret I’ll update the post and let you all know 😉

First up you’re going to need a large saucepan on a medium heat. Add a lug of olive oil and once it’s up to temperature, add your sliced onion and paprika, give them a good stir and fry them for 10 – 15 minutes or until the onions soften.

Next add the butter to the pan and once that has melted, add the tinned tomatoes, 5 of the cans of beans (including the liquid), the bay leaves, a good pinch of salt and pepper.

Next, drain the liquid from the last can of beans and discard it. Then add the beans to the pot along with the chilli.

Now stir and bring this to a gentle simmer and bring the heat down, you just want them to burble and blurp (a little) at you rather than boil. If they boil, the beans will split and you’ll end up with mush rather than beans 😉

Leave them for about an hour and a half stirring occasionally.

Now taste them and season with salt and pepper to taste. Then add about a tablespoon of white wine vinegar, the molasses and stir well before serving or leaving them to cool and freezing them in portions.

These are great as a side dish with just about any meat and most fish, or used for the traditional beans on toast, or with a portion of boiled rice and a good ladle full of beans over the top.

Recipe: Italian Tomato Sauce

Italian Tomato Sauce
Italian Tomato Sauce

Ingredients;

1 anchovy fillet
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
1 large handful of basil, stalks and leaves separated and roughly chopped
2 tablespoons of dried oregano
4 x 400g of tinned plum tomatoes
extra virgin olive oil
salt
pepper
1 tablespoon of red wine vinegar

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Chop the garlic as finely as possibly, remove the leaves from the basil and roughly tear them up, take the green part of the Basil stalks and chop them up reasonably fine. Open the tins of plum tomatoes.

Heat a large saucepan and pour in roughly 2 tablespoons of oil, once this has heated add the anchovy and garlic, you want to stir fry these gently till the garlic starts to colour slightly and the anchovy starts to break up.

Next add the plum tomatoes, oregano, about half the basil leaves, all the chopped basil stalks and stir gently being careful not to break the tomatoes if at all possible. Put a lid on the saucepan and bring to a gentle boil and simmer for at least an hour stirring occasionally. I have let this sauce simmer gently for anything up to 3 hours depending on how much time I have on my hands, this makes the sauce a bit thicker and the flavours stronger.

At this point you can start to break up the tomatoes with a spoon or alternatively use a hand blender to blend it into a nice thick sauce.

Next add the remaining basil and taste the sauce. Then season with salt and pepper to taste, add a tablespoon of red wine vinegar, 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and stir them in well.

I’ve found from experience that the better the plum tomatoes the thicker the sauce, however if you find that your sauce is not as thick as you like it, simply simmer it for longer the next time you try.