Category Archives: Savoury

Neapolitan-Inspired Bean Soup

gino-dacampos-bean-soup-0628I was going to write an entirely different recipe today, but that is taking so much of my time on this rainy busy day, that I just had to forgo the idea. Instead let me give you a deliciously hearty recipe for a soup that is easily becoming a staple in my house.

A few months ago, my bro-in-law J2 awarded me the guardianship of some of his cookbooks, a role which I take very seriously, by cooking from them myself, as it should be. It made me think of this beautiful bean soup, especially because today the rain is coming down hard on this island, and it looks as if it’s staying for the next couple of days. It’s annoying but truly we need it. I feel sorry for all those who need to venture out. The roads are crazy with traffic and I just received a message from a friend saying how soaked she got. Stay safe and avoid extra driving everyone. It’s not nice out there.

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Image and link to the recipe: Beef Burger

Burger with Grilled Peppers (9936)I don’t know about you but we haven’t used the BBQ in this house yet. I bet you guys are cooking up a storm and grilling to your heart’s content, but I’m doing nothing of the sort. I’m cooking yes, but only because we have to eat, but during these hot days there’s no enjoyment to be found in the kitchen.

Continue reading Image and link to the recipe: Beef Burger

Sweetcorn Pudding

Nigella's Sweetcorn Cake Revisited (7092)Let’s cut to the chase. Just because I can’t contain my excitement! Today sees the launch of one the most anticipated cookbooks of the yearSimply Nigella. I’m still waiting for my copy so this is not a review, unfortunately (I would have loved to have one right here for you). So until that day comes, in celebration of the book, I am revisiting a recipe which has been an old favourite of mine for ages. It was one of the first things I learnt to make while I was still teaching myself the kitchen basics. I didn’t have any of Nigella’s books at the time, and fifteen years ago the internet was not as it is today. So I watched all her shows on the Food Network. Now there’s YouTube which make things a lot easier!

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Spicy Cauliflower Curry

Cauliflower-Curry-(6421)

As I was going through many recipes this morning, trying to decide which one to put up on here, I began to feel nostalgic. This photo was taken by the lovely J quite some time ago, when yours truly wasn’t really interested in taking pictures to begin with. Ahh the memories! Don’t get me wrong. Even though taking my own photos is fun and it makes it easier to ‘own’ this blog, I do miss the days when we started out with bad lighting and sharing one camera and one lens. I cooked and J took all the pics, and it felt like teamwork. Now I cook and take the majority of the images. However stirring and mixing and pouring while handling the camera can be somewhat dangerous…when you’re me. I tend to spill things and/or burn myself in the process, so when this happens J steps in…when I ask for help. There are a few times when I’m in the zone (and they are the best days) where I feel I can handle anything. The camera might be smeared with an absurd amount of flour or chocolate, but that’s when I get a few decent pics. And I’m happy. I’m no expert, as you might have noticed…surely noticed…but I love learning and experimenting, and J is a brilliant teacher.

I made this curry or stir-fry, call it what you will, when I wanted something really quick for lunch. Cooking for Friends is not one of my favourite books. I rarely use it because I find that some recipes just don’t work, but this one does with a few changes. If you and your pals like spice then this one’s for you and it’s a good excuse to use some of that fenugreek that’s been sitting in your cupboard doing nothing. If it’s still fragrant then go ahead and use some of it here. It will transform your dish into something special together with the coriander. I love both.

  • 600g of cauliflower, chopped into florets
  • ½ teaspoon fenugreek
  • ½ teaspoon coriander seeds
  • ½ teaspoon cumin seeds
  • ½ teaspoon ground turmeric
  • ¼ teaspoon salt
  • ¼ teaspoon pepper
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely sliced
  • 1 green pepper, roughly chopped
  • 1 courgette, chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely chopped or crushed
  • 1 large red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped
  • 100ml vegetable stock (or chicken stock, if you prefer)

Lightly toast the fenugreek, coriander and cumin seeds in a pan over medium-low heat. A couple of minutes will do. Use a mortar and pestle to crush the seeds, together with the salt and pepper, and grind everything into a fine powder.

In a large pan, heat the olive oil and add the chopped onion. Add a tiny amount of salt to draw some moisture out of the onion to soften. When the onion is soft, add the garlic, chilli and the ground spices and stir.

Add the cauliflower florets and the vegetable stock. Cook until the cauliflower is tender and most of the liquid has been absorbed or evaporated.

Serve with rice or pasta, or as a side dish with fish or meat. Serves 4.

Enjoy!

Rob x

(Recipe adapted from Gordon Ramsay’s Cooking for Friends, HarperCollins, 2008)

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.)

Bloody Mary

Bloody Mary (6904)

Fact is I’m not much of a drinker. I do enjoy a glass of red with dinner sometimes and I am also partial to some port or brandy in the colder months. Yes I’m getting old. This is a first for me, in that today I’m giving you a cocktail recipe. From what I have read, there are, apparently two schools of thought on Bloody Mary: the love it or hate it. I would like to propose another: the occasional one a.k.a. it’s-good-for-brunch. I won’t go into whether it can cure a hangover or not. I haven’t tried that, and I wouldn’t want you to, but hey I’m not your mum…but don’t get sloshed! No, I’m not lecturing you.

It’s very very really salty, but it’s fantastic for a brunch party any time of the year. I was once told a story (true or not I have no idea) about a host inviting a so-called-friend for brunch simply because this person mixed the most delicious Bloody Mary ever! One thing I can tell you for sure is that I wouldn’t have liked to be this friend, but I would have liked one of these. Happy Holidays!

  • 45 ml vodka
  • 150ml tomato juice
  • 15ml fresh lemon juice
  • pinch celery salt
  • 2 dashes Worcestershire sauce
  • 2 dashes Tabasco sauce
  • freshly ground pepper
  • celery stick
  • lemon wedge as garnish

Fill a tall glass with ice. Pour in the tomato juice and lemon juice. Add the vodka, celery salt, Worcestershire and Tabasco sauces. Give everything a stir, then add the pepper. Garnish with a lemon wedge, a celery stick and a stirrer if needed. And you’re done.

I hope to give you one more recipe in the next post before taking a break. So hold on for one more! Enjoy the holidays and Happy Christmas!

Rob x

Spiced Lasagna with Spinach and Ricotta

Lasagna-(6411)

I love a good lasagna. To eat that is. Well, let’s say that unless J is at home and can help me with lifting the heavy pans I don’t enjoy it. What I also don’t enjoy is the washing up of all those pots and pans. Even now as I’m writing this, my wrists are not happy and every time I write one word I have to stop and wish my carpal tunnel away. My frustration could also be a result of taking loads of pictures with this one and in my kitchen cooking and carrying a heavy-ish camera don’t always go together.

Look, not all cooking is a breeze and sometimes a challenge is good for the soul. Not to sound too dramatic, this is an easy dish, but it takes some time to prepare. You might be asking me “is there anything you like here?” Of course there is. I have extra portions for the next day, and it will taste even better tomorrow. Just give yourself a couple of hours for prep time and assembly and you’ll be OK. I admit I don’t make this as often as I would like, but when I do I remind myself that I should, and what better way to welcome the winter months! And the kitchen is smelling lovely! I also have a vegetarian one lurking in my files which I must not forget…

Please be aware there are quite a few photos in this post. I just thought they would be of help. Thank you for being ever so patient with me as always.

For the sauce:

  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1 large onion, chopped
  • ¼ teaspoon paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon garam masala or mixed spice
  • ¼ chilli flakes (optional)
  • ¼ curry powder (optional)
  • 250g bacon, chopped
  • 2 shots red vermouth
  • 500g minced beef, preferably lean
  • 500g passata di pomodoro
  • 2 tablespoons light brown sugar
  • around 250ml water

For the ricotta mixture:

  • 500g ricotta
  • 500g frozen spinach, thawed; you could also steam fresh baby spinach, and set it aside to cool
  • 100g fresh parsley or basil, roughly chopped
  • around 6 tablespoons milk, or enough just to thin the mixture a little bit
  • salt and pepper, to taste*
  • 2 large eggs, beaten

For the bechamel sauce:

  • 25g butter
  • 3 to 4 tablespoons plain flour
  • 1 litre semi-skimmed milk

You also need around 700g to 900g lasagna sheets (around 30 sheets), depending on the size of the dish you want to use.

To prepare the sauce place a large pan preferably with a heavy base on medium heat and pour in the olive oil. Chop the onion, crush the garlic and tip in the pan, together with the spices, and stir occasionally. Once the onions have softened and turned opaque add the bacon and the vermouth and let it cook through.

Add the lean minced beef and cook until brown. Pour the passata and sugar in with the beef mixture, stir, add the water, give everything a good stir once more, cover and let it simmer for around 30 minutes. Turn off the heat and set aside.

Lasagna with Ricotta and Spinach (8639)

For the ricotta mixture, I would advise you to remove as much of the spinach water as you can. To do this, simply thaw on a sieve on top of a bowl and squash the spinach downwards with your hands or a spoon.

Lasagna with Ricotta and Spinach (8643)

Place the spinach in a medium mixing bowl, together with the ricotta, fresh parsley, milk, add salt and pepper, give everything a good mix and now is the time to taste. When you’re happy with the seasoning, add the beaten eggs, stir and set aside.

Lasagna with Ricotta and Spinach (8646)

Lasagna with Ricotta and Spinach (8673)

To assemble the lasagne, pour a thin layer of sauce, enough to cover the bottom of the dish. Then build the lasagna alternating as many lasagna sheets as you can fit in one layer (I can fit 6 in mine), then a layer of sauce, another layer of lasagna sheets, a layer of ricotta mixture, a layer of lasagna sheets and start the process again, until you get almost to the top.

Lasagna with Ricotta and Spinach (8674)

Lasagna with Ricotta and Spinach (8676)

Lasagna with Ricotta and Spinach (8679)

Lasagna with Ricotta and Spinach (8680)

Lasagna with Ricotta and Spinach (8683)

Lasagna with Ricotta and Spinach (8685)

Preheat the oven to 180ºC and set everything aside to prepare the bechamel. In a small heavy-based saucepan make a roux, by melting the butter, adding the flour and stir vigorously until you get a golden paste, around 6 minutes will do the trick. As you whisk, gradually add the milk, a little at a time. Whisk to avoid any lumps and once in a while scrape the bottom sides of the pan so that nothing sticks to it. Whisk in all the milk until you get a nice velvety sauce. Add salt and pepper and some grated nutmeg.

Lasagna with Ricotta and Spinach (8652)

Lasagna with Ricotta and Spinach (8655)

Lasagna with Ricotta and Spinach (8656)

Lasagna with Ricotta and Spinach (8657)

Lasagna with Ricotta and Spinach (8661)

Pour over the top of the assembled lasagna and bake for 1 hour.

Lasagna with Ricotta and Spinach (8691)

Lasagna with Ricotta and Spinach (8698)

Leave to stand for 15 minutes and serve to 6-8 hungry people! Enjoy with a glass of red.

Lasagna with Ricotta and Spinach (8700)

I hope you enjoyed the recipe and the photos. If you decide to try this over the holidays let me know! I always appreciate feedback.

Happy Holidays!

Rob x