Seven days until Christmas. Now that’s 2016 almost over. I just can’t believe it. Can you?! We have been having quite a rainy week and for the very first time yesterday I felt the cold and the humidity. Is it really time to wear our coats? Could be, but it should get a little warmer over the next few days so we’ll just have to see about that. My friends in MI have been some wicked snowstorms. I’ve been asking for some but none of them obliged yet! Oh well.
These days some of my friends are making it very easy for me to decide what recipes to write about. Yesterday a friend told me that she was making some cupcakes and thought of me, which was very very nice of her, me thinks. Today I had a little chat with another friend of mine about the joys of pasta, and how it can be classified as comfort food. As a typical Maltese I enjoy a nice plate of pasta once in a while, not only because it is one of the easiest things to prepare, but because there’s nothing better than pasta with a sauce made from simple ingredients. The Italians serve pasta as a primo, which is as it should be. But unfortunately in general we (as in non-Italians and not as in Maltese please) have made the portions bigger and bigger.
Cooking with chorizo is one of my favourite things to do. It wasn’t common in recipe books at all but lately it’s becoming more and more popular. It’s cured and smoked, and it can be eaten as is, but it gives a great depth of flavour when incorporated into your cooking. It is very strong and salty so go easy with it, but be brave and try it. For those who are new to it (just like me a couple of months ago) here’s something you should consider – a recipe which I tried recently from James Tanner Takes 5. (You know how much I like this book so I won’t bore you again!) It’s quick and uncomplicated. Simple enough, but you will want a second helping. James’ recipe calls for penne, and I can see why. I used tagliatelle instead and if he were here he would probably tell you to use whatever you like. However if you like to eat bite-sized chunks of meat and pasta at one go, then it’s penne all the way!
A little note about the ingredients before you start. If like me you don’t have sherry vinegar in your pantry, try using some white wine vinegar instead, and please don’t panic when you see that this recipe needs whipping cream. You don’t need it…really. James suggests using half-fat crème fraiche instead and it works fine. Tried and tested. Don’t let it heat up too much though because it tends to curdle. James cooks with shallots, most probably because they will give you a delicate flavour which is needed against the chorizo. I must confess that I didn’t have those so I used one common onion. I could have tried using spring onions instead. Also you can adjust the pasta quantity depending on how many people you’re having over for lunch. The quantities below are James’. Serves 4.
- 350g dried penne
- 250g chorizo, cut into diagonal thin slices
- 1 tablespoon olive oil
- 2 shallots
- 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
- 125ml whipping cream or half-fat crème fraiche
- Cook the penne according to the packet instructions.
- In the meantime, slice the chorizo, and heat the olive oil in a pan. Tip in the shallots or onion and soften over medium heat for around 2 minutes. Add the chorizo and crank up the heat until it starts to release some of it’s oil.
- Add the sherry vinegar and leave to cook for around another minute or so over high heat and stir to deglaze your pan. Pour in the cream or crème fraiche, but don’t boil it if you’re using the latter. Just let it heat up and remove at once from the heat. Season with some fresh ground pepper.
- Drain the pasta and add the sauce on top into warm individual bowls.
Enjoy with a glass of chilled white vino and eat it in the garden!
I’ve been MIA these past couple of weeks. J has been on leave and it’s nice to take a break from the computer screen sometimes. What I’m finding difficult is to get into non-holiday mode again, if you know what I mean. Now who wants to stay inside when the Sun’s shining? Not me! So keeping in mind the holidays, a birthday celebration and of course a certain Royal Wedding, here’s my little gift to you.
This is a sweet little recipe from James Tanner and his recently published book James Tanner Takes 5. It’s one of my favourite books, firstly because it’s got photos for every recipe. I’m just a home cook so you can forgive me for saying that. I also love it because the pages are not glossy, so you can see the pages clearly in artificial light. I hate it when I’m flipping through a recipe book late in the evening and have to adjust the angle of the page because I’m blinded by the reflection of light in my eyes! So for me this is a winner. So please chefs, less gloss, more umph!
This is hardly a recipe; it’s assembly takes seconds but it’s really tasty – if cheese is your thing. It makes great party food and it’s an ideal snack for sharing. To avoid double dipping (I hate that) give everyone a teaspoon and a small ramekin if serving at the table. All you need are four ingredients. How neat is that!
- 250g camembert (in it’s wooden box)
- 1 garlic clove, peeled
- ½ teaspoon dried thyme
- 1 tablespoon maple syrup or honey
- Preheat your oven to 200°C/Gas Mark 6. Remove any wax packaging from around the cheese and also the wooden lid. Replace the wax paper with a square piece of kitchen foil big enough to loosely wrap the cheese in. Place the camembert inside the foil and again in the box.
- On the surface of the cheese score a few lines with a sharp knife and insert the slices of garlic. Sprinkle with thyme and pour over the maple syrup or honey. Scrunch the foil to cover the cheese (remember: not to tight). Place the lot into a baking dish and bake for around 15 minutes until the cheese is soft and spreadable on the inside.
Serve this with some baguettes. Easy!