Category Archives: food

Fettuccine with a simple tomato and red pepper sauce

Fettuccine with Bacon and Pepper Sauce (8367)

I’ve always said that, for me, the hardest part of writing recipes is not really the recipes themselves, but the introduction. I’m never happy to post something without one. I think food, like most of the things in life, has to have some kind of context, no matter how small it might be.

Now when I say ‘small’ I don’t mean insignificant. I never mean that because to me that’s somewhat disrespectful. Eating with your partner, spouse, friends, or even alone is never a small thing. I don’t want to sound too philosophical here. Leading busy lives means that sometimes we might skip supper and/or lunch with others. That’s one reason why I like to have people over for supper. Sometimes I do it on the spur of the moment, on a whim,  when I know my pantry and fridge are stocked for that week. Sometimes I even wing it, without many ingredients to hand. We all have those days where all we want is to be alone, and for the most part I lunch alone, but nothing beats a full table.

Continue reading Fettuccine with a simple tomato and red pepper sauce

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Trottole with Courgettes and Ricotta (#PastaFriday and the conclusion to Writing 101)

Trottole with Courgette Sauce and Ricotta (7804)

I can’t quite get my head round the fact that it’s already the beginning of October. Children have started school this week here in Malta and today, poor things, they made their way in the rain. We had quite a storm this morning and this doesn’t make the commute easy for all those who have to walk out the door to work. Flooding affected the usual places and traffic was even more nightmarish than usual. I hope everyone made it to their destination in one piece. It’s Friday once again though, so there’s the weekend to look forward to. Anything to hold on to, to make life better, right?

Continue reading Trottole with Courgettes and Ricotta (#PastaFriday and the conclusion to Writing 101)

In time for Valentine’s Day: Chocolate Pasta with Pecans and Caramel Sauce

Chocolate Pasta (8841)

You might have noticed by now that I don’t really give much attention to any particular feast days or special occasions, except for Christmas on this blog. I have been asked so many times about it over the past few months but I have never given an answer. Perhaps it’s because I really don’t have one. What I know is that I am not into trends, but this week I will give in. I won’t bore you with the notion that love should be celebrated every day of the year. Let’s leave it at that! I made this recipe some weeks ago and I loved it, and I thought it would be a great Valentine’s Day post. It’s got chocolate and cream, and the pecans come as a bonus. I still find my liking this kind of dish a bit of a shock, especially because the nature of Nigella’s latest book somewhat perplexes me. I thought I would warm up to it, but I really didn’t like it as much as her other titles. However I found myself wanting to make this. You wouldn’t feed this to an Italian, but I’m not an Italian anyway. Chocolate pasta, which in my case are penne, just because those were the only kind I found in the shops, are a bit hard to come by. Luckily for me I managed to find them at one of my local stores, although online was the way to go on this one.

Chocolate Pasta (8781)

Chocolate Pasta (8827)

But beware – this is rich. I would say that with these quantities, which I changed a little, will give you 2 substantial portions. You will need a glass or two of water to drink, apart from a little bubbly if you want to. At first it will not taste that sweet, but you’ll see as you go along that the sweetness will catch up with you. It’s all good mind you, as long as you don’t eat this everyday! And I know you will not! And you won’t need any dessert – this is an all-in-one meal and takes minutes to prepare.

  • 250g cocoa pasta
  • pinch salt, for the pasta water
  • 60g unsalted pecans, roughly chopped
  • 60g unsalted butter, softened
  • 60g soft light brown sugar
  • 100ml double cream, plus around 3 tablespoons for serving

Chocolate Pasta (8828)

Chocolate Pasta (8829)

Boil the water for the pasta, add some salt to the water and cook according to packet instructions, preferably al dente.

In a pan (non-stick will make your life easier but stainless will work fine, at least it did for me), toast the pecans. When they’re ready, put them in a small container and set aside.

Chocolate Pasta (8832)

Chocolate Pasta (8834)

Chocolate Pasta (8835)

In the same pan, over medium heat add the softened butter and brown sugar, and gently stir. Let everything bubble up and when it turns into a lovely toffee colour, stir in the cream. Add the toasted pecans and take it off the heat.

Chocolate Pasta (8837)

Chocolate Pasta (8839)

Reserve some of the water from the pasta, and drain. Add the cocoa pasta to the caramel and pecan sauce and mix well. If needed, add one to two tablespoons of the reserved water, and give the pasta another stir until every bit of it is coated with the sauce.

Serve immediately with a little cream on top.

Chocolate Pasta (8844)

Enjoy!

Rob x

(Recipe adapted from Nigellissima, Chatto & Windus, 2012.)

This is *not* a sponsored post.

Churros

Churros (8928)

This recipe is as recent as it gets: we finally made churros at home. This week. It was messy, the kitchen has never seen such chaos I think, and even though I will not attempt this again very soon, I can say that every minute was worth both the long wait (I’ve been wanting to try this ever since Ms. Lawson signed my book) as well as the mess. The company was great too – we asked our lovely neighbour to come over for a taste and we gobbled everything up in one sitting. That’s the way it should be. Good food is meant to be shared and after a busy few days we needed a pick-me-up.

Churros (8909)

January was such a boring month. There was a sort-of-sweet-ban in this house for a few weeks, mainly due to the overeating done during Christmas. This month, and hopefully the rest of the year, will be about balance. I hope, that is. What a way to start the month, I hear you say! And you may be right, but this recipe is too good to let it percolate for long in my folder. Try this, at least once…(yeah, right.)

Churros (8910)

Before I go on though, make sure you are not distracted when you cook with these quantities of oil. Concentrate and you will be safe. And take any photos at your own risk – I did and boy it was hard!

For the coating:

  • 50g golden caster sugar
  • 2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

Churros (8913)

Churros (8915)

For the chocolate dipping sauce:

  • 100g good quality dark chocolate, cut into chunks
  • 30g milk chocolate
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) golden syrup
  • 150ml double cream

Churros (8923)

Churros (8916)

For the dough:

  • 125g plain flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 tablespoon (15ml) olive oil
  • approx. 210ml freshly boiled water

Churros (8921)

Fryer (8922)

For the oil quantities:

  • This really depends on what you’re using. For a fryer, we used around 3 litres of vegetable/rapeseed oil. If you are using a pan, aim for around 500ml to a litre, depending on the size. J was in charge of this, thank goodness.

*You will also need a bowl or plate with some kitchen towels on it, to drain the churros.*

Churros (8925)

Churros (8926)

Mix the caster sugar and ground cinnamon together in a small bowl, and place these in a shallow dish or plate. Set aside.

Melt the chocolate ingredients in a small bowl over simmering water. (I prefer this method over using the microwave or heating directly in a pan on the stove.) When everything has just melted, remove from the heat and set aside in a warm place. Give it a stir once in a while. Don’t worry. It will not harden again.

For the dough, place the plain flour and baking powder in a mixing bowl. Add the olive oil. Now pour the boiling water slowly onto the flour. Don’t pour the whole amount at once; you risk the dough turning into a soup. Once you have a thick-ish, warm, sticky mixture. Leave it to rest for around 10 to 15 minutes.

In a heavy-based saucepan, or a deep-fat fryer, pour and heat the oil to 170C. Use a thermometer if using a pan. **Always pay the utmost attention when cooking with oil.** In the meantime pour the sticky dough into a piping bag with a large nozzle attached to the bottom of it. Spoon the sticky dough in the bag and slowly push the dough into the pan. Cut the dough into any length you want. We tried long ones and short stubby shapes. Both were good!

As each piece of dough turns golden brown, use tongs to take it out of the oil and place it on some kitchen towels. When drained, place the churros on the sugar and cinnamon plate. Shake and/or sprinkle the sugary mixture on the churros. Coat them well.

Churros (8927)

Churros (8929)

Serve with the chocolate dipping sauce. Delicious.

Churros (8930)

Enjoy! These are messy, as you can see from the photos, but as this is not a fancy cookbook, I took the pics as everything was. I do bother with neatness most of the time, but this was not one of those moments.

Rob x

(Recipe adapted from Nigella Lawson’s Kitchen, Chatto & Windus, 2010.)

**This is NOT a sponsored post.**

Recipe: Beijing Rice

Chinese Fried Rice (8422)

This is one of the simplest recipes you can imagine. It’s tasty, salty (my weakness in food; don’t let my sweet tooth fool you) and made with pantry ingredients. I just love this stuff. I saw this first on Chinese Food Made Easy but it was J who suggested we try it after we both arrived home one evening after a very tiring day.

I bought the book primarily because I wanted to learn how to cook Chinese food, or a version of it, at home, without resorting to unnecessary trips to the takeaway. The good thing is that we don’t do that often, but once in a blue moon I do get that annoying urge for something very salty. Instead of rushing out to get food containing who-knows-how-many-extra-grams of salt, which quite frankly I don’t need and I would guess other unmentionable things, J and I opt for this either alone or as a side. It definitely hits the spot.

Serves 3 to 4 as a snack or side dish.

  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil or rapeseed oil
  • 3 large eggs, lightly beaten
  • 1 cup thai rice, cooked
  • 3 large ripe tomatoes, sliced
  • 3 tablespoons dark soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
  • pinch of pepper
  • 2 spring onions, finely chopped
  • a sprinkle of fresh coriander

Heat up a wok, or a non-stick pan over very high heat and add the vegetable oil into the pan. (You must work quickly but carefully from here on, so take a deep breath and go for it.) Add the beaten eggs and scramble them for a couple of minutes.

Next add the rice and stir well to break it up. Add the tomatoes and stir-fry everything for a few more minutes. Everything is practically already cooked so you don’t really need more than five minutes I would say.

Pour in the soy sauce, sesame oil, pepper and spring onions. Give the rice another good mix and serve immediately. Sprinkle some coriander on top of each serving.

Enjoy!

Rob x

(Recipe adapted from Ching-He Huang’s Chinese Food Made Easy, HarperCollins, 2008.)

Recipe: Chicken and Chorizo Casserole

Chicken Thighs and Chorizo (8724)

My idea of a rainy afternoon is having loads of good books to read, sipping a hot chocolate on the couch with a thick throw, or two. No radio, no movies, no nothing. Just some peace and quiet. That’s how I spent yesterday afternoon, and by the looks of it that’s how it will be today. I am one lucky lady I know. My idea of a comforting meal after such an afternoon is something like this recipe. It’s a breeze to make and full of flavour.

Chicken Thighs and Chorizo (8717)

Chicken Thighs and Chorizo (8716)

This is actually my take on two recipes from Elizabeth Bard’s Lunch in Paris and Mireille Guiliano’s The French Women Don’t Get Fat Cookbook. I read Lunch in Paris in two days; you could say I devoured it, but that would sound silly. On the other hand, the latter was a bit of a surprise. I didn’t think I was going to like such a book, but honestly, I really enjoyed it. The recipes are simple, delicious, fresh and flavourful and it’s not about low-fat this and low-fat that, and margerine and saccharine. Yuck. You use butter and there’s chocolate in their too. Lovely. Hold on, I hear you say. Are you on a diet? Are you now into low-fat fad? Eh? The answer is simply: nope. I *do* need to lose some weight, yes, but what I’m really into is variety.

Chicken Thighs and Chorizo (8723)

Fact is I get bored very easily. I’m also not into any trend, because trends come and go, and quiet frankly I find it hard to keep up. I’m not running a restaurant. I cook at home, like most of you do, so I don’t need to constantly come up with new stuff. I eat everything and I’m willing to try anything, as long as it’s good edible. Please also note that I’m not into palpitating cobra hearts or bird nests. Those things are for Mr. Bourdain; definitely not for me.

Chicken Thighs and Chorizo (8720)

Chicken Thighs and Chorizo (8722)

So give me a hearty but light meal any day and you’ll make me very happy. Fish or chicken are easier on me than red meat, especially in the evening. As much as I like grilling steak I don’t sleep well if I have that for dinner. When I’m not baking this is the kind of food I like to cook. By the time the pan is simmering on the hob or baking in the oven, all by itself, I can do the washing up without stressing myself to death, lay the table, light a candle perhaps and relax.

Chicken Thighs and Chorizo (8718)

Please don’t let the not-so-short list of ingredients intimidate you. I promise you, this is painless and cheap. Serves 4.

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 8 large chicken thighs
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon pepper
  • 100g chorizo, cut into bite-sized cubes
  • 1 large red onion, peeled and chopped
  • 1 teaspoon sweet paprika
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and roughly chopped or crushed
  • 2 sticks celery, finely chopped
  • 1 leek, chopped
  • half a large lemon, cut in half
  • freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 large yellow pepper, roughly chopped
  • 75ml chicken stock
  • 800g polpa di pomodoro (plus some water to get to the bits of tomato on the sides and bottom of the can)
  • 2 teaspoons tomato concentrate
  • pinch of salt and pepper
  • 1 tablespoon light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons dried thyme

In a large pan heat the oil and butter over a medium-high heat. Add the chicken, salt and pepper and brown the chicken on both sides. Brown in batches if your pan is not big enough to fit all the thighs at once. Remove from the pan, set aside in a warm bowl.

In the same pan add the chorizo, onions, paprika and garlic cloves. There is no need to add more oil here as the chorizo will release its own. Give everything a stir, scraping the bottom of the pan and allow the onions to turn opaque. Now add the celery, leek, lemon and its juice and yellow pepper.* Cook for around 5 minutes, making sure to coat the vegetables well with the juices from the pan. Add the chicken thighs back in.

Pour in the chicken stock, polpa, tomato concentrate, salt, pepper, sugar and thyme. Give the contents of the pan a good stir again. Cover and let it simmer for around an hour over medium-low heat.

Chicken Thighs and Chorizo (8726)

Serve with basmati rice.

*Alternatively you could add around 4 large potatoes, cut into chunks or quarters with the vegetables, and serve it with some crusty bread, omitting the rice.

Enjoy! What is your favourite one-pot meal?

Rob x

(Adapted from Elizabeth Bard’s Lunch in Paris, Summersdale, 2011 and Mireille Guiliano’s The French Women Don’t Get Fat Cookbook, Simon & Schuster, 2011.)

Broccoli Soup

Broccoli Soup (8542)In general we all overindulge on food over the holiday period. I, for one, did so. I love to bake, even more so during Christmas but I have to say that this year I have eased on baking extra goodies; I end up with too much food during the first week of January. For example, one of the first things I let go is the traditional Christmas cake. (J loves it but it’s not a particular favourite of mine.) Now, before you say I am the meanest person on the planet, let me explain why. We are only two people in this house. I don’t want a big cake to sit there for 6 months in a container, waiting for J to finish it up. The cake keeps but there’s a limit to freshness, with anything, especially in summer. We made plenty of other goodies this year, so J put his mind at rest when we discussed our plans.

As you might have figured by now, you know I’m not a health nut, and I would devour anything when I’m hungry. Nonetheless I like soothing foods, even if it means having some soup on a regular basis. For me, a good soup can be classified as comfort food. When I was a child my mum made sure I ate loads of fruit, veggies and protein, but many years ago I lost track of what I was eating. Now I pace myself, instead of half a cake, I eat one slice! As they say, it’s not rocket science, but I never judge someone for overeating or putting on weight. I know how hard it can be to lose it. I’m no expert – this is just my experience.

What I like to do is to ease on the cakes and sugars, especially in January. It does me a world of good. I eat normally; it’s not healthy to go cold turkey anyways. So let’s ease into 2014 with a very simple recipe, shall we? As with many soup recipes, I make this whenever I have too much broccoli. I never throw extra ingredients away, unless they go bad obviously. However I try not to let anything get to that stage in the first place. It’s good to plan weekly meals, but as a shopper I do go overboard, once in a while. Fact. It just happens. Instead of getting all hot and bothered about it, I go through my cookbook collection, or simply google recipes. It works!

I made this broccoli soup very recently. It’s almost like a broth. Now to be honest, I’m a fan of thick soups. The thin stuff doesn’t usually do anything for me. I recently had a lovely long chat with a reader of this blog about the pros and cons of thick soups. Yes, it’s amazing what food bloggers talk about. It drives people mad! I like this recipe, but if you prefer you could always add more potatoes to bulk it up. It just needs to be served very hot. I don’t like cold soup. You can even have it in a large mug while snuggling under a warm throw, watching The Mentalist. Like one normally does! Serves 4.

  • 2 or 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 medium red onions, roughly chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 large potato, peeled and roughly chopped in chunks
  • 2 sticks celery, roughly chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon mixed spice or garam masala
  • 500g broccoli, washed, roughly chopped and stalks removed
  • 2 litres vegetable stock
  • salt and pepper, to taste
  • a swirl of sour cream and another of extra virgin olive oil, for topping each serving

Place a large pan over medium heat. When the pan is hot, add the olive oil together with the onions, garlic, potato, celery and spices, and give everything a good stir. When the onion turns golden, add the broccoli and stir, making sure the broccoli are covered with the onion mixture.

Pour in the vegetable stock, let the stock bubble up, reduce the heat and let it simmer until you can comfortably pierce through the broccoli with a fork. Carefully pour the soup into a free-standing blender, or better still, insert a stick blender into the pan and blend, until you have a smooth mixture.

Add salt and pepper if you like. Pour the soup into your serving bowls and swirl the sour cream and a little extra virgin olive oil on top. Serve immediately.

Enjoy!

Rob x