Spanish or Italian, I can’t decide…

We all have those days when we don’t want to slave over the hot stove and if you have some left over spuds this is the perfect recipe. But, Is it a tortilla or is it a frittata, please help me decide….the ingredients tend to a spanish tortilla more than an Italian frittata but basically they are the same as our much loved omelette, which I have to say, really is French. It’s seems though that every country has their own version of this basic homemade dish, so who can claim it as their own I don’t know!
image

chorizo leek and potato tortilla

2 tablespoons of butter
2 leeks sliced into thick rings
400g of cooked potatoes chopped into chunks
1 chorizo ring chopped into chunks
6 eggs
100g cheese ( be adventurous )
Salt n pepper
Thyme

Melt your butter in a large non stick frying pan. Add your leeks and gently soften them on both sides for about 5 minutes. Add the chorizo and fry them off till golden. Add your chopped potatoes, salt and pepper and fry for another two minutes. In a bowl crack your eggs, season and whisk them together. Making sure your ingredients are nicely spaced out in the frying pan, pour the eggs over to cover everything. Turn the heat right down and slowly cook. When nearly cooked but still raw on top, sprinkle over your cheese and thyme. Put under a hot grill and finish cooking until the cheese is all melty and golden. Serve with a salad and some crispy bread..yum mmm.

Hats off to winter

There’s something very satisfying about making a present for someone. And I don’t know about you but I love it when someone has put love and hard work into a present. So I’m hoping my sick auntie will like this, as I’ve put stitches of love into it.
This the basic pattern, add stripes as it pleases you or not at all.
image

Stitches

single crochet: insert hook,yarn over,draw through,yarn over and draw through two loops
half treble:yarn over, insert hook, yarn over, draw through, yarn over and draw through 3 loops
half treble 2together: yarn over, insert hook into first stitch, yarn over, draw through, yarn over, insert hook into second stitch, yarn over, draw through, yarn over and draw through all five loops….you’ll figure it out!

CROCHET BEANIE

Make 100 chains ( ch ) and slip stitch ( ss ) into the first to make a ring making sure it’s not twisted.
Make 1 ch and single crochet ( sc )into each ch until end and slip stitch into first sc. 100 sts.
Do 8 more rounds the same.
Make 2 ch, miss st at base of 2 ch, 1 half treble crochet ( htr ) into each stitch until end, ss into top of 2 ch at beginning of round.
Do 9 rounds the same.
Make 2 ch, miss st at base of 2 ch.* half treble2together ( htr2tog ) over next 2 htr, 1 htr into each of the next 7 htr * 11 times, ss to top of 2 ch at beginning of round. 89 sts.
Work 1 round htr.
Make 2 ch, miss st at base of 2 ch.* htr2tog over next 2 htr, 1 htr into each of next 6 htr * 11 times, ss to top of 2 ch at beg of round. 78 sts
Work one round htr.
Make 2 ch, miss st at base of 2 ch.* htr2tog over next 2 htr, 1 htr into each of next 5 htr* 11 times, ss to top of 2 ch at beg of round. 67 sts.
Work one round htr.
Make 2 ch, miss st at base of 2 ch. * htr2 tog over next htr, 1 htr into each of next 4 htr* 11 times, ss to top of 2 ch at beg of round. 56 sts.
This time don’t work one round of htr. But work as above and decrease the number of htr between htr2tog to 3. This gives you 56 sts.
Keep this pattern up reducing htr between htr2tog by 1st each round (4 rounds) till you htr2tog in each stitch, and end up with 12 sts.
Work one more round of htr2tog. Then fasten off. Run a gathering thread around the top of the last round and pull tight to close top and fasten securely.
Beautify your hat with buttons or ribbons!
image

Spiced blackberry and pear cordial

image

The big consolation that summer is over has to be, the blackberries. I can’t drive past a patch without ‘oooohing’ over them and wanting to stop and pick every last one of them. Because we have a lot of wild blackberries growing in the hedges round here, this happens quite regularly and most of the time its not possible to indulge myself. So to my delight on Saturday afternoon, a friend suggested we go pick blackberries in her fathers field and we spent a happy hour in the last of the summer sun, chatting and filling up our tubs with those plump black beauties. I love knowing my freezer if full with bags of blackberries ready for those dark winter days when we need cheering up with a pie or crumble. This recipe would cheer up any winters night…it’s inspired by the southern recipe from America, where a cordial isn’t diluted and most probably contains alcohol!
image

SPICED BLACKBERRY and PEAR CORDIAL
600g blackberries
4 pears chopped into small pieces
800 ml water
2 sticks of cinnamon
2 bay leaves
5 cloves
5 peppercorns
250g muscavado sugar
250 ml dark rum ( or brandy )

Put the blackberries, pears, water and spices into a pan and bring to the boil. Simmer for half an hour mushing and stirring it every now and then. In a clean pan put the sugar in the bottom and put a sieve over it with a clean sterilised muslin inside. Strain the blackberry mixture through the muslin onto the sugar. Press the pulp to get out all the juice. Turn the heat on under the pan and make sure all the sugar has melted. Then leave to cool completely. Add the rum and mix through. Pour into a sterilised bottle and leave in a dark cool place for two weeks to bring out the flavours…or like me try it out on some ice cream first!
image

Experimental fun

So, yesterday was a day given over to complete and utter experimentation, my version of heaven. The housework got done earlier in the week so I could play with food guilt free. And it was glorious, whizzing homegrown beetroot into a dazzling ruby paste, melting chocolate, folding lava like cake batter, adding ingredients just to see what happens! I’d love to know if its just me or is it a common trait that people who love to bake, loved chemistry in school? It kind of make sense, if its true, let me know!
This recipe is gluten free. And got the thumbs up from my fussy husband, four kids, and two friends and their kids…not bad for an experiment!
image

CHOCOLATE BEETROOT and PEAR CAKE

180g cooked beetroot
200g dark chocolate
250 ml olive oil ( normal not extra virgin )
2 tsp vanilla bean paste ( or extract )
5 eggs
200g caster sugar
4 tbsp cocoa powder
200g ground almonds
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
Pinch of salt
4 or 5 ripe pears

Preheat the oven to 180 C. Grease and line the bottom of a 9in springform tin. Whizz your cooked beetroot with a hand blender till fairly smooth. Break up the chocolate into a bowl and melt in the microwave in short blasts of twenty seconds, stirring after each blast until its just liquid. Pour in the olive oil and vanilla mix and leave aside. Break one egg into a large bowl and then add the other egg yolks to this whist separating the whites to another bowl. Add the caster sugar to the yolks and whisk till pale. Pour the olive oil, chocolate mixture into the yolks and whisk. Add the beetroot and mix in. Then whisk up the whites till stiff peaks form and fold gently into the chocolate mixture. In another bowl mix together the almond, cocoa powder, baking powder and salt, making sure to flatten of any lumps of cocoa. Fold this gently into the batter. Peel and slice the pears. Pour half the batter into the tin and then carefully place the slices of pear all over to cover. Pour the rest of the batter over and bake for 40 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean when inserted. Leave to cool in the tin.
STICKY PEAR GLAZE
Chop up one pear add 3 or 4 tablspoons of muscavado sugar and 2 tablspoons of water into a pan and cook till syrupy then pour over cake…

Posh up some dry old bread

I hate wasting food, even some old dry white bread. And it seems neither do the Italians because they came up with a tasty way to use it up. In fairness white bread doesn’t last long in our house, as I only occasionally buy it as a treat and is usually gobbled up in one go ( why is it so tasty?! ). But for some reason I had a hunk of it left over last week and impatiently waited for it to become nice and dry to make this and it was definitely worth it.

image

PANZANELLA

100g stale dry white bread ( uncut loaf ) torn into bite size pieces
200g of tomatoes diced
100g cucumber diced
100g Pepperdew piquante peppers (or chargrilled peppers)
1/2 red onion sliced thinly
4 tbsp balsamic vinegar
8 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp of water
1 clove of garlic crushed
Handful of fresh basil leaves torn
Salt

Put your chopped salad veg and bread into a large bowl and toss and slightly squeeze together. In a small bowl mix the remaining ingredients and pour over your salad. Toss again making sure all the bread has juice to suck up. Leave for 20 minutes or more, tossing again before serving. You can also leave over night in the fridge to soak up all the flavours…delicious!

Recipe critic…Rachel Allen

Rachel Allen, just in case you haven’t heard of her, is a very talented, celebrity chef from our very own Ireland. She just happens to be daughter in law to Darina Allen, who is also a very well known chef here and has the well renowned Ballymaloo cookery school. So there’s plenty of food knowledge in Rachel’s fingers. This recipe comes from the book…Entertaining at home…a beautiful book to have on your shelf.
image

TIRAMISU

1 egg yolk
1 tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
250g mascarpone
200ml cream
200ml strong black coffee(espresso)
2 tbsp brandy
10-12 boudoir biscuits(sponge biscuits)
1-2 tbsp cocoa powder, for dusting

Whisk up the egg, caster sugar and vanilla in a bowl till creamy. Add the mascarpone and cream and continue to whisk until smooth and creamy and slightly thickened. In another bowl mix the coffee and brandy together. Break the biscuits in two and dip into the coffee mixture until they absorb the liquid but are not breaking apart. Put them into the bottom of one of the six glasses, repeat with the remaining glasses. Add one tablespoon of the mascarpone mixture over the boudoir biscuits. Then add another layer of soaked boudoir biscuits on top and then a final layer of mascarpone. Dust each glass with cocoa powder and chill for at least one hour. Take out ten minutes before serving to take the chill off and dust again with more cocoa powder to serve.
THE VERDICT
Wow, what a simple easy dessert but a definite crowd pleaser. I like the idea of single servings as its a lot prettier than serving up a slab of it on a plate, plus it helps with the self control…you really would eat more but you actually don’t need more than these portion sizes! I used whisky instead of brandy (my husband wasn’t feeling generous with his brandy) it was still great and vanilla bean paste instead of extract as I love the little flecks of seeds through the cream. But this recipe is perfect just the way it is, Rachel, we give your recipe a 5 out of 5, yummy and extremely easy to make*****

A fresh and light pasta dish

Conchiglie, now how do you say that? I have to be honest and tell you I googled it because the way I was saying in my head, though it did have an Italian purr to it, was completely and utterly wrong. So here it is…’kon-KEEL-yay’….not what you had your head either, was it! I know, I know your just going to go back to calling them pasta shells and ignore the name on the front of the packet and I don’t blame you. We are not blessed with the array of different pasta’s available in Italy and though we love our pasta all over the world we are not even close to how much they love it over there. While shopping in a massive supermarket in Arezzo, Tuscany some years ago, we searched the place to find fresh milk….when we eventually found it it was tucked away in a tiny self standing fridge, bizarre to us but there seems to be no big demand for fresh milk as they use UHT. Two isles later, we come across the pasta isle and we were blown away, as the isle went from the back of the supermarket all the way to the front, filled on both sides with every kind of pasta you could dream of. Italians really do love pasta!
image

CONCHIGLIE with tiny veg and pancetta

400 g conchiglie pasta
500 ml of vegetable stock
2 tbsp olive oil
1 onion diced finely
200g cauliflower chopped into small florets
200 g of courgette chopped into cm size pieces
200 g of peas
200g of pancetta
50g Parmesan grated
A large knob of butter
A handful of chopped fresh herbs, like basil or mint

Start by sweating your onion gently in a frying pan with the olive oil. Put your veg stock in a large pan. Bring to the boil and add your pasta. Top up with boiling water and a little salt so the pasta is covered well. Simmer for the time it states on the packet or until all dente. In the meantime your onions should have softened, add the cauliflower and continue to sweat, stirring every now and then. Add the peas and pancetta and continue to cook. Lastly add your courgette, stirring to cook evenly just for a minute or two. When the veg is nearly cooked add two or three ladles of the pasta water along with the Parmesan. Stain the pasta and add to the veg along with the butter stir, season and allow the pasta to soak up the lovely flavours for a minute or two. Sprinkle in your herbs and serve using a ladle so you get both pasta and stock. Top with some freshly grated Parmesan.