Monthly Archives: May 2012

Strozzapreti

Strozzapreti - made for choking priests

Strozzapreti – made for choking priests

If someone had told me about a year ago that one day I would be making my own pasta and that my whole family would love it I would have laughed at you until I fell over… I always thought that making your own pasta required a massive amount of skill and effort, needing mad crazy tools such as a pasta rolling machine and the like and requiring a ton of space to hang your pasta to dry like an edible indoor laundry but it’s absolutely not! You don’t even need a bowl! Just your ingredients, a bit of time and a rolling pin!

Strozzapreti is a great place to start making your own pasta because it is ridiculously easy to make and form into pieces and when ready, it only take 2-3 minutes to cook.  It tastes great with most sauces and everybody can have a go making it.

The name Strozzapreti is a funny one, it means “priest choker” in Italian and the legends are many, my favourite one though is that in times gone by, the Catholic Church owned much unused land which they used to rent out to families in exchange for food cooked by the wives of the men who worked on the land. The husbands would be so angered by these corruptible and greedy priests that they would wish them to choke whist stuffing their faces with their wives food which in this instance was quick and easy to make for them, hence the name priest choker.  Another is that gluttonous priests would be so enamoured by this type of pasta that they would literally stuff their faces with it, choking themselves, sometimes to death! Geesh, I know I have a good appetite, but please!

Anyway, this pasta is a little different from most in that it isn’t made just with flour, eggs and salt. I actually replace most of the eggs with chopped tomatoes and their juices which give the pasta a lovely flavour.  Of course you can make Strozzapreti with eggs but I prefer it this way. Try using ’00 flour instead of plain, it’s made with a finer grain specifically for pastas.

This recipe gives you a heck of a lot of pasta, 6-8 servings in fact and be warned… it is VERY filling, so if you want to freeze some for another day, then do it in a ball and defrost it when you want to make more.

INGREDIENTS

  • 500g ’00 flour
  • 1 large egg
  • 3 large tinned plum tomatoes and their juices, finely chopped
  • Salt to taste

METHOD

  1. Here comes the fun part… Begin by putting a large pan of salted water on the boil.
  2. Tip the four onto your work surface and make a well in the middle, kind of like a flour volcano on your kitchen worktop.
  3. Pour the egg and tomatoes into the  well and slowly start to bring it all together until you have a dough, much like a bread dough.  You might find it becomes either a bit dry or wet, in which case you either add a bit more tomato juice or a bit more flour depending on which it is.
  4. Take about 1/4 of the dough and place it onto a lightly floured surface. Place a cloth over the remaining pasta dough to prevent it drying out while you work.
  5. Roll the dough you have on your work surface until it is about 3-5mm thick. Them using a sharp knife, cut it into strips about 3/4 inches wide.
  6. Take a strip of pasta and using your thumb and forefinger, pinch it together until you can roll it, sort of like a sausage, this will form a long twisted tubes which you then need to cut into 2 inch pieces. Don’t worry about being precise, it’s not about maths!
  7. Place your cut pasta onto a floured board so that none of the pieces are touching, and when you have as much pasta as you need ready (a board full feeds 2 of us happily), tip it gently into the boiling water.
  8. Give the pasta a good but gentle stir straight after it all goes into the water to prevent it from sticking together.
  9. Once the pasta floats to the top of the surface, give it another minutes and add it to whichever sauce you are using (I use my Crazy Simple Rosemary & Garlic Pasta Sauce) along with a splash or three of the starchy pasta water.
  10. Serve in the pan with crusty bread and salad.
Categories: Italian Dishes, Meat Dishes, Pizza & Pasta, Vegetarian Dishes | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Crazy Simple Rosemary & Garlic Pasta Sauce

I love a basic bowl of pasta, it’s the one thing that if I am starving but can’t be bothered to spend ages preparing and cooking a meal that I can throw together and eat knowing that I’ll be satisfied. It doesn’t matter if you are a vegetarian or a meat eater there is a pasta sauce out there that will suit everyone, including this one which can be made with with, or without meat. You can also substitute the oil for a large chunk of butter but you’re talking heart attack city! Stir it into spaghetti or a bowl of my home made Strozzapreti for a wicked fast, wonderful and filling supper dish.

INGREDIENTS

  • 6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • large sprig of fresh rosemary
  • 2 tablespoons grated parmesan
  • 100g Chorizo (either spicy or smoky is fine or you can leave it out completely)

METHOD

  1. Chop your garlic finely and remove the leaves from the rosemary stalks and chop them.
  2. In a frying pan, heat the olive oil and add the garlic, rosemary and Chorizo if you are using. Stir fry for about 2 minutes then add the parmesan.
  3. Add your pasta and stir it all together.
  4. Serve with some crusty bread.
Categories: Italian Dishes, Light Lunch, Pizza & Pasta, Sauces & Gravies | Tags: , , , , | Leave a comment

Herby Focaccia

Herby Focaccia - made for mopping up sauce!

Herby Focaccia – made for mopping up sauce!

Focaccia is an Italian flat-ish bread, traditionally baked and covered in salt, fresh rosemary and olive oil.  This version isn’t technically Focaccia because the herbs are inside the bread instead of one top and the dough is much drier and solid than traditional Focaccia would be.

What you have here though is a lovely alternative to garlic bread, thick pizza crust like slices with tons of lovely herbs inside waiting to explode in your mouth. It’s delicious for mopping up pasta sauce or simply dipping into olive oil, balsamic vinegar or pesto as a snack or starter.

It’s also ridiculously easy to make and only takes 15 minutes to cook in the oven because of it’s flatness. You can add as much or as little topping to it as you choose and spice it up with flavours such as chilli or sliced tomato or chopped garlic and parsley, but I tend to go for the regular olive oil, rosemary and some parmesan and grated mozzerella as well for that finishing touch.

INGREDIENTS

  • 345g strong bread flour
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon white sugar
  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast (this is the stuff you don’t need to activate in water first)
  • 1 teaspoon garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried basil
  • Pinch of ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 235 ml lukewarm water (if you can put your finger in it and not feel the temperature then it’s perfect)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon grated Parmesan cheese
  • 100g grated mozzarella

METHOD

  1. Sift the flour into a large mixing bowl.
  2. Add the salt, yeast, garlic powder, oregano, thyme, basil and black pepper and stir.
  3. Add the water and vegetable oil and start to scrape together into a dough using a knife before getting your hands in there and forming the final bread dough.
  4. Place the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic, this basically means if you stretch it, it bounces back into place without breaking., you need to knead the dough for at least 10 minutes to get the gluten going. Push the top of the dough away from you before pulling it back on top and repeating. Yes, you’re going to get muscles.
  5. Clean the bowl you mixed the dough in earlier and lightly coat it with oil. put the kneaded ball of dough inside and cover it with a damp teatowel or cling film and leave it to rise somewhere warm for 30-45 minutes. I place mine next to a hot radiator or near a sunny windowsill or just inside my loft if it’s warm out (it gets really warm up there in the summer), or in a conservatory or next to a hot oven. This is because I don’t actually have an airing cupboard, but if you do and it’s warm, then pop it in there!
  6. About 10 minutes before you go to fetch the bread dough, preheat the oven to 230C/210C Fan/Gas Mark 8.
  7. Check your dough, if it has risen to double it’s size it’s ready. bring it back to your work surface and punch it back down into the bowl. Turn it out onto an oiled baking sheet and flatten down it to about 1/2 – 1 inch in a rectangle shape.
  8. Using your fingers, push the top of the dough down to make dimples, then brush the top of the dough with the olive oil and sprinkle the cheeses over the top and drop a few springs of fresh rosemary here and there.
  9. Bake the bread in the oven for about 15 minutes, or until the top has turned golden brown, check that it is cooked through by lifting the bread and gently tapping the bottom, if it sounds hollow then it’s done.
  10. Serve warm with a bowl of pasta and use to mop up any left over sauce.
Categories: Bread | Tags: , , , , , | Leave a comment

Five Spice Quesadillas

Five Spice Quesadillas - delicious with or without meat!

Five Spice Quesadillas – delicious with or without meat!

What the heck is a quesadilla? I hear you cry, or not, you probably already know and if you do, then you will know that a quesadilla is a Mexican snack consisting of a flour tortilla (or wrap as we call them over here), filled with various ingredients and fried until crispy on the outside.  They are SO quick and easy to put together and cook and take just 15-20 minutes from prep to the table.  They are light and not overly filling and you can fill them with whatever you have in the fridge that takes your fancy.

Traditionally, they are filled with Mexican goodies such as cheese and refried beans, along with chilli, avocado and other vegetables and they are fried, but me being me, I like to mix things up a little bit and although I have some great recipes for more traditional quesadillas, this particular one is for a delicious Chinese inspired one.  I use cooked chicken pieces in mine and I also cheat with the Hoisin sauce (a delicious five spice Chinese sticky sauce), using the bottled version.

You might also notice that I cook my quesadillas in the oven not in the frying pan, you can do either, I just prefer the crisp you get from the oven… Don’t be tempted to brush oil or butter on the wraps, it won’t need them to crisp up and will only make them soggy and quite frankly rather unhealthy…!

Also, you can make it with or without the chicken so I’ve also included it in the Vegetarian Section.  And for those of you out there who like a bit of heat, simply add some chopped chilli to the mix…

So, here we go, this recipe will serve 1 person, to serve more, double the recipe.

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 flour tortillas (use white or grain)
  • 100g cooked chicken
  • 3 stalks baby corn
  • 2 spring onions
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 3 mushrooms (oyster if you can)
  • 1/2 sweet pointed red pepper
  • 50g bean sprouts
  • Fresh ginger (a piece about the size of your index fingernail)
  • 1 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice powder
  • 1 tablespoon Hoisin sauce
  • 1 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil

METHOD

  1. Heat your oven to Fan 180C/200C/Gas Mark 5.
  2. Chop your vegetables into small pieces (apart from the bean sprouts, you can leave these whole), pop them all together into a small mixing bowl and add the soy sauce. Chop the chicken and leave it separate from the vegetables in another bowl and sprinkle the five spice powder over the top.
  3. In a frying pan, heat the oil and add the vegetables. Stir fry for 3-5 minutes until soft and add the chicken. Keep stirring and add the Hoisin sauce.
  4. When the whole mixture is thoroughly heated through, take it off of the heat and spread half the mixture onto half a wrap and fold it over, doing this twice and laying both folded tortillas side by side on the baking sheet. I twill look like you have 2 half moon wraps on your sheet.
  5. Pop the baking sheet into the oven and leave to cook for 5 minutes, watching carefully to ensure the wraps don’t burn, as soon as they turn golden brown, remove them from the oven, flip them over and do the same thing on the other side.
  6. Remove from the oven and cut into slices.
  7. Serve with a rice salad or on it’s own – yum!
Categories: Chicken Dishes, Chinese Dishes, Dishes of the World, Light Lunch, Meat Dishes, Mexican Dishes, Vegetarian Dishes | Tags: , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Essential Utensils!

Essential Utensils For The Everyday Kitchen

Essential Utensils For The Everyday Kitchen

Just as every good workperson has his/her tools, so is it that every good cook has his/her utensils! (You’ll note that I went very PC there).

Yes, if you enjoy to cook on a regular basis, and let’s face it, if you are reading this blog you must like cooking enough to put up with my drivelling on and on and on… then you need a decent set of essential utensils.

I don’t mean the obvious essentials like a kettle, toaster, cutlery and plates etc, I mean the sort of equipment that will allow you to cook quickly, efficiently and easily in your kitchen be it when you have guests over or just for the family dinner.

Lets start with the electrical items, well lets not, because to be honest you don’t NEED these things, anything that a food processor can do, you can do with a knife or a cheese grater, anything that a toastie machine can do, you can do under a grill, anything a mixer can do, you can do with a bit of muscle and a mixing bowl, anything that a microwave can do, you can do in a regular oven… you get my drift here yes?  That said I don’t HATE these machines, quite the opposite in fact, I have a microwave which gets used to reheat food in a hurry or start of baked potatoes, I have a Breville sandwich toaster because both my girls and I are addicted to those lovely gooey cheese toasties which go down a treat on a rainy day.  I also have a waffle oven because it’s in the shape of Mickey Mouse and we have a 4 year old, and, horror of horrors I have not one, but TWO food processors, one regular processor which has a liquidiser attachment and which is great for blending soups and making smoothies or grating huge amounts of cheese, making breadcrumbs and chopping in a rush, and one mini processor which is a fantastic bit of kit which I got for Christmas last year and which gets a fair amount of use chopping onions and herbs and making pesto (you can pick these up for as little as £15).  And yes, I have a mixer, because it’s always easier to use a mixer for making dough, cake mix and whipping up cream etc.  Basically, these things are not ESSENTIAL items to have in your kitchen, but they can sometimes make your life easier if you are very busy.

So here is my list of must have essentials for a good running kitchen…

  1. A good set of knives is definitely one of the most essential things in the kitchen, I have a complete Jamie Oliver set along with a diamond sharpener (which is awesome) but you need not break the bank with a whole knife set, the essentials are a good chef’s knife for chopping, a good paring knife for peeling and cutting smaller things in your hand and a bread knife for cutting.. well bread really.
  2. A decent chopping board is next on the list, although health officials will tell you that plastic is better as it doesn’t trap bacteria, I find a couple of wooden boards, one for vegetables and one for meat, are much better, the larger and thicker the better, you don’t want them warping and bending on you unless you’re happy to use your board to cut off a couple of fingers.  You can also use the boards for serving food as well as preparing it!
  3. Pans are another obvious essential, you ideally want to have a set of 3, a small pan for sauces and gravies, a medium pan for veggies and smaller portions and a large pan for potatoes, pasta etc.  I have an additional large pan which I use for soups, curries and stews as well but it isn’t essential to have one of these unless you make a lot of them.  You also want to make sure that your pans are good quality with heavy bases so that heat distributes evenly when cooking with them.
  4. Another pan that is essential is a good sauté or frying pan, I also recommend buying a good cast iron griddle as well for that BBQ char on meats.
  5. A decent selection of wooden spoons is something I wouldn’t be without, you will use more than you think when cooking and as they are inexpensive to buy, it’s a good idea to have a few handy for different pans so you don’t have to keep going back and forth to wash them.  Also included in the wooden utensil list (though not entirely essential) are a spaghetti fork, stir fry spoon and rolling pin.
  6. Get yourself a decent grater, now I’m not talking about those ones that are £1.00 in supermarkets which grate 4 different sizes of cheese, I’m talking about the handheld ones, with a good one (starting off at about £3.50) you can grate lovely fresh parmesan over pasta or lemon and orange zest into a cheesecake, you’ll use it a lot more often than you think you will so go out and get one.
  7. Another tool that I wouldn’t be without in the kitchen is a set of prongs, I use them when making almost every meal! I used to have silicon ones but they were a pain, so I invested £2.50 in a pair of stainless steel ones from Asda. I use them for everything from turning sausages and meatballs in the pan to fishing rolls out of the oven!
  8. A crock pot (or slow cooker). OK yes, this isn’t an essential because the oven does the same job, but you can’t leave the oven on while you’re out at work can you? So the humble crock pot is on my list of kitchen essentials because they are inexpensive and invaluable in the kitchen, I use mine for all manner of things, slow cooking meat, stews, even pot roasts!
  9. Finally, you can use saucepan lids, but I personally recommend a good colander or sieve for draining vegetables and pasta.  The amount of times I lost my dinner down the sink because I lost my grip on a saucepan lid whilst straining just wasn’t worth the hassle any more so I went out and bought a colander and never looked back!

And that’s it, along with a few other items which you can pick up along the way such as mixing bowls and serving dishes, this list will give you the tools to cook up a veritable storm in the kitchen!

Categories: Quick post! | Tags: , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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