Chargrilled Vegetable Pasta

Left over dips and a zest free lemon

What is a person to do with a spoonful of olive dip, a couple of spoons of aubergine and red pepper dip and a zestless lemon?

Chargrilled veg pasta

Add a few other ingredients and create an awesome pasta dish, that’s what!

This is a bit of an unfair recipe really, because unless you’ve made the olive dip and the aubergine and red pepper dip that I’ve previously posted, and have some leftover, then you won’t be able to make this exact dish.

Still, I decided to post anyway partly because those factors might have aligned for you, but perhaps more to demonstrate the fundamental principle that making pasta sauce is a good way to use up leftover dips like these, or salsa, or a bean dip, or any other non-creamy dip really.

Orange bell pepper and artichokes in oil

Ingredients
Enough pasta for your serving requirements
3-4 tablespoons of leftover dips (the non-creamy variety)
1 red onion, diced
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
A splash or two of olive oil
Passata – probably about 150-200ml
A few sprigs of thyme, leaves removed
A couple of squeezes of lemon juice
Vegetables for chargrilling – I used an orange bell pepper and some artichokes in lemon oil but courgettes, aubergines and the like would be great too.
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
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Put your pasta on to cook – follow instructions on packet – when ready, drain and keep warm.

Chargrilled vegetables

Meanwhile, brush your chosen vegetables with oil and cook on a very hot griddle or grill, until chargrilled.  Conveniently, this should take about the same amount of time as it does for the pasta to cook and for you to make the sauce 🙂

If they’re done sooner, pop them on a plate and keep them warm.

Red onion, thyme and garlic

Heat a splash of oil in a large pan and cooked the diced onions until just starting to soften.  Add the garlic and cook for a few more moments.

Passata

Add your leftover dips and enough passata to loosen the mixture but not make it runny – today we’re making a coating sauce, not a bowl of soup 😉

Tip in your cooked pasta and gently stir to make sure it’s all well coated with sauce.

Squeeze in the lemon juice and sprinkle over the thyme leaves, stir and allow to warm through for another minute or so.

Arrange vegetables on top

Season to taste and serve with chargrilled vegetables arranged on top.

Beam with pride – by using up leftovers instead of leaving them at the back of the fridge to fester quietly into the afterlife, you did a little bit to help the planet.

Tuck into your dinner with gusto (or some other dining companion if you prefer 😉 )

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Roasted Aubergine and Red Pepper Dip

It’s one of life’s little pleasures to hear people making ‘nomnom’ noises as they’re devouring food that you’ve cooked – wouldn’t you agree?

This dip makes people do that and it’s easier than pie to make (much easier…why do they even say ‘easy as pie’?)

Roast aubergine & red pepper dipIngredients

For Roasting
1 aubergine (egg plant), cut into chunks
1 red pepper, de-seeded and diced (not too small!)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and kept whole
1 teaspoon chilli powder
¾ teaspoon ground coriander
¾ teaspoon ground cumin
A slosh of olive oil

For the Food Processor (or Mortar & Pestle)
1 tablespoon tomato purée (the stuff you get in the squeezy toothpaste type tube)
A small handful of fresh coriander leaves
A good glug of olive oil (which is more than a slosh, in case you’re wondering)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Music

Preheat the oven to gas mark 7/425°F/220°C

Using your hands, mix together all the ‘for roasting’ ingredients.mix ingredients together

It’s a good idea to do this in the tin that you’ll be roasting in – that way you don’t spend ages trying to scrape the spices off the side of a bowl.
And it’s one less thing to wash up.  See how I look after you?  You’re welcome. 😉
Spread everything in an even layer and slam onto the middle shelf of your preheated oven.

roast until just starting to blacken

Roast for around 35-40 minutes, or until things are just starting to blacken at the edges. Allow to cool in the tray for 10 minutes or so.

tip into food processor

Tip roasted vegetables into a food processor together with the tomato purée, coriander leaves, olive oil, a pinch of salt and a healthy amount of black pepper.

Blitz, taste, adjust seasoning, blitz again if necessary; bear in mind this is nicer when it’s still got some texture to it rather than being completely smooth.

aubergine & red pepper dip

Tip into a serving dish and drizzle with a little more olive oil.

Cover and chill in the fridge until ready to serve.

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Divine Black Olive Dip

Wrong olives and right olives

I picked up the wrong olives and ended up with those nasty, rubbery, flavourless ones instead of softly wrinkled, salty ones.

Somewhat loathe to throw away a whole jar of olives, even exceedingly bad ones, I came up with this dip-which-is-nearly-but-not-quite-a-tapenade (no anchovies).  Having done so, I’m now dying to try it using some good olives; something that tastes this good with a bad base ingredient is going to taste utterly sublime with an excellent one!

Ingredients
Approx. 120g black olives (if these are of poor quality you’ll also need a handful of sea salt)
1 tablespoon capers
1-2 garlic cloves
A couple of sprigs fresh thyme, leaves stripped
½ lemon, juice only
A splosh of olive oil
Music

If you’ve got the horrid type of olives like I had (see top picture) there’s first going to have to be some salting action.  If you have decent olives, skip this step.

sprinkle liberally with salt

Tip the olives into a nylon (not metal!) sieve, drain off the liquid and set over a bowl.  Sprinkle generously with sea salt, cover with a plate and weight down with whatever heavy thing you have that will work – children and pets not advised.  Set to one side for a minimum of 2 hours, longer if possible.

Before using, give the olives a quick rinse to wash off any excess salt – there’s plenty more of that going to be coming from the capers 🙂

Black olive dip ingredients

Place olives and all other ingredients into a food processor or mortar & pestle; use only a little olive oil to start with and add more as required to achieve desired consistency.

Pulse or pound until smoothish.

Black olive dip and pitta bread

Tip into a bowl and serve with warm pitta bread.

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Cooling Minty Cucumber Sauce

This is a great dip or sauce to have alongside spicy foods like curries or koftas.  Provide huge bowls of it for the weak of taste bud amongst your kith and kin – you know, those who prefer bland food and freak out at the sight of a chilli 😉

Minty cucumber sauce

It takes minutes to make and can be eaten immediately; however, it does benefit from being allowed to sit a while before consumption…the flavours get a chance to meld together that way.

Ingredients
Around 5 tablespoons natural yoghurt
Around 2 tablespoons crème fraîche (or just use an extra couple of spoons of yoghurt)
Approx. 2 inch piece of cucumber, finely diced
A sprig of mint leaves, finely chopped
A squeeze of lemon juice
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Music

Music on?  I bet you’ll have this made before the track’s finished…

Ready?  Set?  Go…

Ingredients

Put everything (including the lemon juice, which is not apparent in this picture), into a bowl.

Mix, taste, adjust seasoning as required.

Cooling minty cucumber sauce

Bish, bash, bosh…your sauce is ready 😀
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Quick and Tasty Beef Koftas

Looking for a winning dish for dinner?

Cooked beef koftas

In that case, you should know that these beef koftas are almost effortless to whip up; the bulk of the time it takes to make them is actually the 30 minutes chilling time. Winner.

They don’t seem that effortless to the people eating them, who will demonstrate their appreciation of your ‘slaving’ over dinner by showering you with attention and affection.  Win, win.

They’ll probably do the washing up too.  Win, win, win.

Of course, they taste amazing too.  Win, win, win, win.

Well, would you look at that!  It would appear that the beef koftas are quadruple winners!  There’s clearly no need for you to continue your search for a dinner dish, which is happy news, because by now you must be very hungry.  I shall delay you no longer and will proceed to tell you how to make this scrumptious meal…

Kofta ingredients

Serves 3-6 people, depending on accompanying dishes

Ingredients
500g minced beef
1 onion, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
2-4 green chillies, finely chopped
¾ teaspoon ground coriander
¾ teaspoon ground cumin
1 egg
a handful of fresh coriander leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon harissa paste (If I’d had harissa paste in the stores I’d have used it, and the dish would have benefited from it, so I’ve included it here)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 wooden skewers
Music

Done your onion and chilli chopping?  Ok then, let’s get this show on the road…

Mix ingredients by hand

Throw everything (apart from the skewers) into a bowl and use your hands to mix well.

Shape onto skewers

Divide the mix into 12 rough balls then form into oval shapes on the wooden skewers (or make into patties if you don’t have any skewers).

Cover and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Beef koftas

Heat a lightly oiled griddle or grill and cook for around 8-12 minutes on a medium to high heat, turning to ensure they’re browned all over.

Job’s a good ‘un!

Beef koftas with Mediterranean dips

Served here with a minty cucumber sauce*, pitta bread and a selection of Mediterranean dips*.

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* Recipes to follow shortly 🙂

Chicken Breast with Mushrooms and Blue Cheese Sauce

This recipe arose due to the need to use up several bits and pieces in the Renegade stores – the cheese and cream being the main driving factors.
Oh the hardship 😉
The resulting dish turned out to be very quick and easy to make, but felt like a real treat – another great midweek meal.

Chicken with mushrooms and blue cheese sauceServes 2

Ingredients
2 skinless chicken breasts
a sprinkling of olive oil
6-8 mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
2 knobs of butter
2 garlic cloves, crushed
75-100ml white wine
1 chicken stockpot/stock cube
2 dessert spoons (ish) of crème fraîche – leave it out if you don’t have any
1 large tablespoon of cream cheese – I used chive flavoured Philadelphia
100-125ml double cream
125-150g gorgonzola, cubed – or other blue cheese of your choice
2 teaspoons of fresh parsley, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper

Depending on the cheese you use, and how much of it, you may also need a couple of heaped teaspoons of cornflour, mixed to a runny paste with a little cold water, to thicken the sauce

Music

First you need to butterfly your chicken breasts.

Place your hand flat on top of the chicken – this holds it still and keeps your fingers out of the way at the same time.

Use a sharp pointed knife, and starting at the fat end of the breast, slice across the chicken, almost but not quite cutting it in half. It should still be joined at one edge and you should be able to open it up like a book – or a butterfly’s wings.

cover with cling flim and bash

Once you’ve done that, cover with cling film and bash with a rolling pin.  Not too much – you want to tenderise and flatten it, not pulp and obliterate it.

Rub lightly with olive oil and cook on a preheated grill, turning once, for around 8-10 minutes or until cooked through.

mushrooms

Meanwhile, melt a knob of butter in a large pan and heat until it foams.

Add your sliced mushrooms in a single layer and cook, turning once, until both sides are beautifully browned.  Remove from pan but keep warm.

sauce ingredients

Make your sauce by melting a knob of butter in a pan over a medium heat then cooking the crushed garlic for a minute or so.

Add wine and stockpot/cube and heat until stockpot has melted.

Add cream cheese, crème fraîche, cream and blue cheese and continue to heat, stirring frequently, until the cheese has melted.  Do not allow to boil.

If necessary, thicken with a little cornflour paste.

Stir in chopped parsley and plenty of black pepper.

Chicken mushrooms and blue cheese sauce

Place cooked chicken breast onto a warmed plate, arrange sautéed mushrooms on top and pour over the blue cheese sauce.

Chicken breast with mushrooms and blue cheese sauce

Served with petit pois and green beans sautéed in herb butter, and oven baked sweet potato chips.

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Puff Pastry Mushroom Tarts

These gorgeous individual tarts are the result of some kitchen playtime aimed at producing non-meat options for serving at Mum’s birthday party – I think they’ll be going on the menu 🙂

A forest of mushroomsI debated whether or not to add garlic to the recipe but in the end decided against – the flavours of these particular mushrooms are so amazing I just wanted to let them shine.  However, if using a mix of more ‘ordinary’ mushrooms, then I’d probably include it.  As ever, with this and everything you cook, the choice is yours!

Serves two if cut into approx. 12cm circles – will make more if circles are smaller 😉

Ingredients
Approx 200g of ready made puff pastry
A knob of butter
250-300g mixed wild/’exotic’ mushrooms, roughly chopped (we used golden enoki, white enoki and brown shimeji – whatever you use, choose really flavourful varieties like these, morrel, shiitake or porcini, for example)
25g-30g parmesan, finely grated
Small handful fresh parsley leaves, roughly chopped
1 small onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, crushed (optional)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 egg, beaten
Music

Set the oven to preheat at gas mark 6/200°C/400°F.

Pastry circlesRoll the pastry out and cut four circles – mine were about 12cm each.  Brush two circles with beaten egg then stack the other two on top…so you have two discs, each made of two layers of pastry.
Apologies for the absence of visuals – the lighting (and the lack of my photography skills) was doing grim pink and green things to the colour of the pastry.  And let’s face it, my ‘solution’ of using this black and white effect isn’t desperately appetising either.  Perhaps you can see why I gave up trying to take photos of the uncooked pastry?!

Pastry cuttersIf you have a suitably sized smaller pastry cutter, use it to score a 1cm-ish border around the edge of each pastry circle – don’t go all the way through the layers, just about half way.  You can do it with a knife if you don’t have a pastry cutter.

Leave to chill in the fridge, but not on the baking tray you intend to use to bake them on.  All will become clear my friend, read on…

Finely diced onionsHeat the butter in a large frying pan and cook onions over a low heat until soft.

Cooked onion and mushroomsTurn up heat a little, add chopped mushrooms (and crushed garlic if using) and cook for a further 5 minutes or so, making sure there’s no liquid left in the pan.

Mushrooms, parsley and parmesanCombine cooked onions and mushrooms with parsley and parmesan.  Season with salt and pepper.

This is my tip for avoiding a soggy bottom on your tart (ooh, err!) –  lightly oil your baking tray and pop it into the oven to heat while you finish prepping up the tarts.  See why it’s a good thing your baking tray isn’t in the fridge? 😉

Spoon the mushroom mix into the marked centre circle of each chilled pastry disc then brush the edge  with beaten egg.

Mushroom Tarts - bakedCarefully slide onto your preheated baking tray and bake for about 15-20 mins, until puffed up and golden brown.

Mushroom Tart - puff pastryServed here with oven baked, truffle butter drizzled asparagus (oh yeah baby!), on a bed of crushed carrots, with roasted baby potatoes.  Really, really good 🙂
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Bresaola, Pear and Gorgonzola Salad

In a ‘gotta try something new’ state of mind I was browsing the virtual shelves of our online supermarket when I stumbled across something called bresaola. What a find!

If you haven’t done so yet, you should try it (make this recipe).  If you have…damn you for keeping it a secret from me! 😉

BresaolaHow would I describe it?  Well, it’s air dried, salt beef, served sliced very, veeerry thinly and usually quite simply dressed.  At the risk of bringing the wrath of real foodies upon my head for my failure to note all the subtleties, I’d say it’s kinda like a delicious beef version of Parma ham.

Isn’t that colour something special?

PearsThese beautifully ripe, russet skinned Taylor’s Gold pears seemed like a perfect partner for the cured beef.

GorgonzolaAnd to top things off, runny, ripe Gorgonzola providing a delicious, tangy contrast to the sweet pears and the salty beef.

Bresaola, gorgonzola and pear saladPour over a honey mustard & lemon dressing and it all comes together beautifully 🙂


Ingredients
10-12 slices bresaola
2 ripe pears, cored and thinly sliced (skin on)
100-150g gorgonzola (or other blue cheese), cut into chunks/crumbled
1 lemon, juice only
A glug of olive oil
A small knob of butter
1 teaspoon whole grain mustard
2 teaspoons honey
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Watercress or other edible greenery
A handful of mixed cherry tomatoes
Music

Toss pear slices in a tablespoon or so of the lemon juice.

Cooked pearsHeat oil and butter in a frying pan and cook pear over a medium to high heat, until edges are turning brown.  Remove from pan and set to one side.

Dressing ingredientsMake dressing by mixing together remaining lemon juice, mustard and honey until well combined.  Season to taste.

Bresaola, pear and gorgonzola saladArrange watercress, tomatoes and bresaola on plate, scatter over cheese, top with pears and drizzle over dressing.

Feast!
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Cod & Chorizo Stew

The weather had been fractious all day and by evening it was building itself up into a proper little temper tantrum – the wind was flinging things around streets and gardens, and the rain was sounding like small stones as it hit the windows in intermittent bursts.  It was a night most conducive to snuggling on the sofa, watching something silly on TV and eating something from a bowl.

Served codI’d taken some cod loin out of the freezer, intending to have it roasted with vegetables, but that plan was quickly cancelled in favour of this cod and chorizo stew.

In the process of making it I discovered a terrible gap in our spice collection…

Edvard_Munch_-_The_Scream_-_Google_Art_Project…no smoked paprika!! 😉

I’ve included paprika in the recipe because, although good without, the dish needed it to elevate it to wonderful status.

Ingredients
300g cod loin, cut into chunks
A splosh of olive oil
2 onions, diced
2 carrots, diced
2-3 celery sticks, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
100g chorizo, diced
1 red bell pepper, chopped
½-1 teaspoon dried oregano
½-1 teaspoon hot smoked paprika
3-4 sprigs fresh thyme, leaves stripped
Approx. 250ml dry cider (or dry white wine)
2 tins chopped tomatoes
10-12 cherry tomatoes
1 vegetable stockpot (or stock cube)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Music

(Always makes me think of Chef J 🙂 )

First, make sure the living room’s ready for your return – close the curtains, turn on the lamps, get the cushions just how you like them…

Ok, now we’re ready to cook!
Diced onion, celery and carrotYou need a pan with a lid.  Heat the oil in that pan and add chopped onions, celery and carrot.  Swish everything around to make sure it’s well mixed and lightly coated with oil.  Cook over a low temperature, with the lid on, for 15-20 minutes.  Stir and prod occasionally.

Chopped chorizo and dried oregano

Add chorizo, oregano, garlic, smoked paprika, and most of the thyme (keep some back for garnish) and cook for a further 3-5 minutes.Chopped red pepperAdd chopped pepper and continue to cook over a low heat, with the lid on, until your pepper is just soft around the edges and your mix looks…Cooked soffritto with chorizo and peppers…something like this!

CiderTurn up the heat a little, add cider (or wine) and simmer with the lid off until the liquid is reduced by about half.

Cherry tomatoes

Veg stockpot

Add tinned tomatoes, cherry tomatoes and stockpot (or cube).  Simmer for 10-15 minutes, with the lid off, until liquid has reduced and started to thicken.From this to this

Before and after reduction: not the best pictures but if you click on them to enlarge and study them quite closely, like a spot the difference, you can see the changes 😉
Add cod chunksAdd cod chunks, pop the lid back on and cook for a further 3-5 minutes, or until the fish is just cooked through.

Cooked codSeason to taste, sprinkle over reserved thyme and serve with mashed potatoes or crusty bread.  Or both.

Cod & Chorizo Stew with Mashed PotatoesNow, take your bowl and go snuggle up in your cosy living room 🙂
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Cucumber & Dill Salad

D’you know what?  I’ve absolutely nothing to say!  How astoundingly rare.

So, I’ll just cut to the chase and get on with the recipe…

No quantities in the ingredients list as it all depends on how many you’re serving and how much you like the salad…judge by eye and taste and you shouldn’t go wrong 🙂

Ingredients
Cucumber, cut into slices
Fresh dill, finely chopped
Soured cream
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Music

The first thing you need to do is find your sieve and balance it over a bowl.  Don’t use a metal one!

We’re going to disgorge the cucumbers – this is just a posh way of saying we’re going to get some of the water out of them.  It will give a salty flavour and softer texture to the cucumber.

Cucumber and saltPlace a layer of cucumber slices into the sieve and sprinkle with salt.

Salted cucumberKeep layering cucumber and salt until you have enough, or you’ve filled your sieve, whichever comes first.

Now place a small plate over the top and put something heavy-ish on top to weight it down.  Set to one side for 2-3 hours.

Disgorged cucumberAfter a few hours, when plenty of water has drained from the cucumber, remove slices from sieve and lay out on kitchen towel – gently pat dry.

Some people rinse the slices before drying in order to remove some of the salt – I think this is unnecessary but you may wish to do so.

Soured cream and dillIn a bowl that will be large enough to accommodate your cucumber slices, mix together soured cream and chopped dill.

Add cucumber slices and a good dose of black pepper and gently mix.  Taste and adjust seasoning.

Cover bowl and refrigerate until ready to use – ideally give it 30 minutes to an hour to allow flavours to blend.

People tend to come by and ‘just try a bit’ so consider setting a guard dog on duty beside the fridge to ensure there’s still enough salad left when you come to serve it.

with salmon en crouteYou may find a little water continues to seep from the cucumbers after mixing with the soured cream – don’t worry, just before serving give everything one last stir.  Taste again to check seasoning is still good and serve with dish of your choice.

Cucumber and dill salad shown here served with mini salmon en croute.  It also makes an excellent, cooling, side dish to go with spicy foods.

Enjoy!
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