Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce

Spaghetti with Fresh Tomato Sauce

The combination of pasta and tomato sauce is one of my favourite things, and I make it a lot. I probably make Felicity Cloake’s “perfect” sauce the most but not every time. Another favourite is the one I told you about here.

Whenever we eat this I’m transported back to when my boys were young. I would make it for them at least once a week; clean plates were guaranteed. Of course one could easily pick up a tub of sauce from the supermarket, and sometimes on busy days I would do this, but in truth it doesn’t take long to prepare your own. I’d like to think that’s what Italians would do. In fact I happened to be chatting on the phone to an Italian friend when making tomato sauce yesterday, and he gave me a few tips. You see I had bought some fresh San Marzano plum tomatoes in my local Waitrose IMG_3587 and wanted to make my sauce with these instead of the usual tinned tomatoes. I’m sure in Italy this sauce is made with fresh tomatoes a lot of the time, but until relatively recently we couldn’t even buy fresh plum tomatoes here so we all use tinned. I knew the San Marzano was considered to be a superior tomato and a quick Google search revealed that it’s also sweeter and less acidic than other plum tomatoes. I normally add a little sugar when cooking tomatoes but didn’t in this case: they were sweet enough.

My friend Antonio said there was no need even to cook them: I could just chop them up, add a little olive oil, basil and seasoning, and add them to hot pasta. I will do that next time but I had already chopped an onion which was softening in some olive oil in the simmering oven. His next tip was to slightly undercook the spaghetti, drain it and then finishing cooking it in the sauce. He also said to add some grated parmesan at the same time as adding the pasta. I will describe everything I did below.

Fresh Tomato Sauce

Ingredients

  • 700g fresh San Marzano plum tomatoes, chopped (no need to peel)
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 1 fat clove garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • About three basil stalks, chopped
  • Salt and pepper
  • A handful of basil leaves
  • Grated parmesan, to taste

Method

  • Add the olive oil and chopped onion to a sauté pan or wide saucepan and heat gently on the simmering plate
  • Cover and place in the simmering oven until the onion is soft
  • Add the basil stalks and garlic and cook for a minute on the simmering plate before stirring in the tomatoes, red wine vinegar and some salt and pepper
  • Place the pan in the simmering oven for about an hour but it could well be ready before that and will not come to any harm if you leave it for longer than that. I covered my pan for part of the time but am not sure it makes much difference
  • Meanwhile cook your spaghetti according to packet instructions but for 1 or 2 minutes less than prescribed
  • Drain and add it immediately, with some of the cooking water still clinging to it, to your sauce
  • Add some grated parmesan to the pan
  • Toss it all together for a couple of minutes with the pan on the simmering plate; the pasta will absorb a little of the sauce and finishing cooking
  • To serve, add the basil leaves, shredded if large, and have some more grated Parmesan on the table for whoever wants it

Rocket dressed with extra virgin olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper is the perfect accompaniment, as is this bottle of Valpolicella.

 

 

 

 

 

 

One-Tray Pork and Mushroom Pasta

One-Tray Pork and Mushroom Pasta

Who doesn’t love a meal which can be cooked in just one tray or tin? With this one by the great Ottolenghi, flavour and texture are not sacrificed for simplicity. The recipe was in his Guardian column (third recipe down) recently and I couldn’t wait to make it. I’ve already made it twice and  am certain it’s going to become a staple in this house.

I have made one-pot pasta dishes before, where the pasta and the sauce ingredients are all cooked together in water in a large pan on the hob, so I was delighted to find this one because cooking everything, including the pasta itself, together in one roasting tin in the oven seemed so perfectly suited to Aga cooking. Even the rocket is stirred in rather than served separately. There is also a scrumptious salsa and I would urge you to take the extra few minutes to make this.

I found it slightly trickier than usual to decide which Aga oven(s) to use for this dish. Ottolenghi’s instructions for a conventional oven are 240ºC for the initial meat-browning stage and to turn it down to 200ºC after that. I found that if I put it in the roasting oven for both stages the pasta browned too quickly, even if I did as instructed and turned it in the sauce a couple of times to keep as much of it as possible submerged. I’ve shown at 7. below what worked for me. You might find a different oven permutation suits you better.

If you can’t find paccheri, Ottolenghi suggests using rigatoni or tortiglioni. I bought my paccheri from Ocado.

Ingredients

(Serves 6)

  • 1 litre chicken stock
  • 30g dried porcini mushrooms
  • 750g minced pork
  • 350g Cumberland sausages, casings removed
  • 2 tbsps Worcestershire sauce
  • 3 tbsps tomato paste
  • ⅓ tsp chilli flakes (how precise Ottolenghi is!)
  • 1 tbsp fennel seeds
  • 15g sage leaves, roughly chopped (I used a little less than this because we’re not keen on a strong sage flavour)
  • 75ml olive oil
  • 60g Parmesan, grated
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 celery stalks, roughly chopped
  • 1 onion, roughly chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 500g oyster mushrooms, left whole or roughly torn into large pieces
  • 100ml double cream
  • 250g paccheri
  • 70g rocket leaves

Caper Salsa

  • 35g capers, roughly chopped
  • 15g parsley, finely chopped
  • 1 lemon, zested: add the zest and juice to taste
  • 3 tbsps olive oil

Method

  1. Add the porcini mushrooms to the chicken stock in a saucepan and bring to the boil on the boiling plate. Remove from the heat and leave to cool slightly
  2. Place the mince, sausage meat, Worchestershire sauce, tomato paste, chilli flakes, fennel seeds, sage, 3 tbsps of the olive oil, half the Parmesan, 1 3/4 tsps salt and some ground black pepper in the full size Aga roasting tin
  3. Blitz the celery, onion and garlic in a food processor until finely chopped and add to the roasting tin and mix it all together
  4. Bake in the middle (with the tin hanging from the third rung from the top) of the roasting oven for 30 minutes until brown and sizzling
  5. Using a fork, break up the meat to get rid of any clumps, then stir in the porcini mushrooms and stock, the oyster mushrooms, pasta, cream and remaining 2 tablespoons of oil
  6. Make sure to stir in the pasta very thoroughly and that it is mostly submerged in the sauce
  7. Return to the Aga but this time to the baking oven to cook for about 45 minutes. Take it out a couple of times to stir the pasta in the sauce. Alternatively, if you have time, place it in the roasting oven or baking oven for 10-15 minutes before transferring it to the simmering oven for an hour or more (depending on when you wish to eat). As we Aga owners know, it will not come to any harm
  8. Meanwhile make the salsa by combining all the ingredients in a small bowl and adding a grinding of black pepper
  9. Stir in the rocket and remaining Parmesan before serving. You could also sprinkle over some extra Parmesan shavings

Ottolenghi says to pour the salsa over the whole thing but I chose to serve it in a bowl to be passed round the table.

(The first time I made it there were only three of us so I roughly halved the quantities and used the half size Aga roasting tin, which is the one you can see in these photos.)

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Chicken Marbella

Chicken Marbella

Many years ago my sister-in-law gave me The Silver Palate Cookbook for my birthday. It was written by two American women who had opened a shop in New York selling various foodstuffs and gourmet take-away dishes which they prepared themselves. The shop was a huge success as was this book of its recipes, which gave the owner the sense they were cooking restaurant food in their own homes, but without too much hassle. It felt cool to own this book.

When my children were young I used the book mainly for its baking recipes. There was a period when almost weekly I made the chocolate chip cookies as an after school treat for my sons and their friends. I still make the glazed lemon cake, at his request, for my eldest son’s birthday (he’s 31!)

I don’t think I’m unusual in that I sometimes forget about the cookbooks I own. It doesn’t mean I no longer like them and nor do I ever get rid of books (I’m looking at you, Marie Kondo). fullsizeoutput_319b I love returning to old favourites and it only takes a newspaper food column or blog post to jog my memory and renew my fondness for a book or recipe.

Which is exactly what happened a couple of weeks ago when Debora Robertson wrote a post on her website entitled “You should make Chicken Marbella, you know” and I was prompted to get my Silver Palate book out again. The recipe in the book uses four small chickens (weighing 2 1/2  lbs each), quartered, giving 16 sixteen pieces. This was too much for my purposes (a small family supper) so I scaled down. I could have jointed a chicken but decided to use eight free-range chicken thighs (skin on, bone in) instead. This is what I did:

Chicken Marbella

(This dish involves marinating so start it several hours ahead or even better: the night before)

Ingredients

  • 8 chicken thighs, bone in, skin on
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
  • 2 tsps dried oregano
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • 4-5 tbsps red wine vinegar
  • 4-5 tbsps olive oil
  • 10-12 pitted prunes
  • 16 pitted green olives
  • 2 tbsps capers with a bit of juice
  • 3 bay leaves
  • 2 tbsps brown sugar
  • 100ml white wine
  • 2 tbsps (approx) chopped flatleaf parsley

Method

  • In a large bowl or dish combine the chicken thighs, garlic, oregano, seasoning, vinegar, oil, prunes, olives, capers and juice and bay leaves. Cover and leave to marinate in the fridge for a few hours or overnight
  • To bring it up to room temperature, take the chicken out of the fridge about an hour before you want to cook it
  • Arrange the chicken and other ingredients in the small Aga roasting tin (or any tin measuring approx 32 x 21 cms) spooning the marinade around and over the chicken
  • Sprinkle over the sugar and pour in the white wine
  • Bake in the roasting oven for about 45 minutes. Or, if you have time, start it off in there for 15-20 minutes and then move to the simmering oven to finishing cooking slowly, allowing the chicken to become supremely tender and sticky and the flavours to develop, until you’re ready to eat
  • Sprinkle with the chopped parsley to serve

We ate ours with wholegrain basmati rice and green beans. Broccoli or a green salad would also go well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fårikål

Fårikål

I wrote about this Norwegian dish on my Tumblr a few years ago. Making it last night reminded me how incredibly simple but delicious it is, so I thought I’d republish it here.

The translation of fårikål is “lamb (or mutton) in cabbage” which, to be honest, probably isn’t making you want to try it. However, I urge you to as it’s a very plain dish on the face of it but easy to make and very delicious, wholesome and warming: the ultimate comfort food. It’s traditional to eat it in the autumn in Norway, but there’s no reason at all not to make it in February or any other (winter) month.

I was interested and delighted to read that the recipe Magnus Nilsson gives for this dish in his wonderful The Nordic Cook Book is more or less the same as the one that’s been handed down to me by Norwegian grandmother via my mother.

Here’s what you do.

Take some chunky pieces of lamb on the bone. My mother used to use chump chops, but I’m not sure if this term is used these days.

Take a large white cabbage (or a green one, but my mother always used white so that is what I do too), or a small one if you’re only cooking for a couple of people. Cut it into fairly large wedges.

In a casserole or large saucepan layer the cabbage and the lamb, sprinkle in some salt and fill it half way up with water.

You now need to add black peppercorns and it’s very handy if you have one of these spice infusers (see photo). When I was growing up my mother would bring these back from Norway for all her friends. I’ve never seen them in the shops here but my husband spotted this “Spice Infuser GUSTO” from Gefu online which I’m sure will do the same job. IMG_2009You fill it with whole black peppercorns and place it in among your lamb and cabbage. Then you simply remove it at the end of cooking and diners don’t have to bite into peppercorns, which can a)  give them a fright or b) break their teeth. It’s also not very pleasant. Of course if you haven’t got one you can tie the peppercorns (about a tablespoonful) in a muslin bag or indeed live dangerously and leave them loose in your stew.

 

Bring the whole thing to the boil on the boiling plate and then place it, covered, in the simmering oven for a minimum of two hours but preferably longer until the lamb and cabbage are tender.

Some like to thicken their fårikål by dusting the raw lamb pieces with flour, but I have never done this and don’t think it’s necessary.

Serve with plain boiled potatoes and plenty (and I mean a lot) of chopped parsley.

 

 

Spiced Apple Cake

Spiced Apple Cake

My plan for today was to tell you about the most delicious veal ragù I’d made but I’m afraid it was disappointing and I can’t quite work out what went wrong. I guess you win some and you lose some. I won’t give up though and when I get it right, I will let you know. Meanwhile, there’s my trusty old favourite ragù which I wrote about here.

So instead I want to tell you about an apple cake recipe I’ve recently fallen in love with. Forgive me for giving you another apple cake recipe but this one is too good to ignore. You probably aren’t surprised though, because I believe I’ve mentioned in previous posts how much I love apple cake.

There’s something about the slightly caramel flavour of this one that reminds me of the plum torte I wrote about here; the soft brown sugar is probably responsible. I came across the recipe on the Spectator website.

Spiced Apple Cake

Ingredients

  • 1 large cooking apple
  • 1 eating apple
  • 200g unsalted butter, melted (by placing it in a bowl on top of the Aga at the back) fullsizeoutput_317d
  • 225g light brown sugar
  • 225g self-raising flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • ¼ tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tbsp caster sugar

 

 

 

Method

  • Lightly grease and line a 9″/23cm cake tin with bake-o-glide
  • Place the brown sugar, flour, baking powder, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl and rub between your fingers to get rid of any lumps in the sugar
  • Briefly whisk the eggs in a small bowl using a fork and then add them and the melted butter to the dry ingredients, quickly mixing the whole lot together with a spatula
  • Peel and core the apples and cut each into 12 wedges
  • Pour three quarters of the mixture into your prepared tin and arrange the apple slices in a circle, alternating cooking and eating apples and starting from the outside. Place any spare segments in the centre of the circle
  • Spoon the rest of the mixture into the middle of the cake and don’t try to spread it to the sides. Sprinkle over the caster sugar
  • Bake for about 50 minutes until the top is golden brown and taught. Leave in the tin to cool for 10 minutes

Can be served warm or cold. I love serving any apple cake with whipped cream, but it’s up to you.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Butternut Squash, Sweet Potato and Chickpea Stew

Butternut Squash, Sweet Potato and Chickpea Stew

I’ve been enjoying January so far. After the pressures of December, taking life at a slower pace is fine by me. I don’t mind the weather either, as long as my house is warm, and when I’m outdoors, being half-Norwegian I know that there’s no such thing as bad weather, only unsuitable clothing. I relish the changes of seasons that we have in this country. Last weekend we went to stay with friends in the Scottish Borders. We were only away three days but it felt longer and was a lovely break. It was grey and cold but we had packed waterproofs and lots of layers and strode out across the beautiful countryside.

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Without having to sacrifice my desire for comfort food during this long, cold month I have more or less stuck to my plan not to cook meat during the week. There was a blip last Monday when I made a chicken pie because I wanted to use up the remains of the roast chicken we’d had the day before. First I made stock with the carcass, and then made the pie filling using some mushrooms, bacon and thyme and of course the chicken and stock. I took Nigella’s advice and added a tablespoon of Marsala too: delicious. I topped the pie with some good quality shop-bought puff pastry. The rest of the time we’ve been eating dals and rice, pasta with tomato-based sauces and vegetable curries.

This week I made a stew with some squash, sweet potato and chickpeas and that’s the recipe I’m going to give you in this post. It’s ridiculously easy to make* and can be adapted to whatever you have in your kitchen. It’s basically an Angela Hartnett recipe which was in her Sunday Telegraph column last weekend, the theme being one-pot meals. She used pumpkin but said it would work with any root vegetables and/or gourds. She accompanied it with toasted pitta bread; I served ours with rice.

*Angela instructs us to throw everything into the pot at the same time, even the onion, but the onion didn’t soften to my satisfaction (I had a feeling it wouldn’t) even though I cooked my stew for longer than the prescribed 30-35 minutes, so I’m suggesting softening the onion in a little olive oil before adding all the other ingredients.

Butternut Squash, Sweet Potato and Chickpea Stew

(Serves 3-4)

  • About 350g diced butternut squash and sweet potato, peeled and cubed
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red onion, sliced
  • 1 x 400g tin chickpeas in water
  • 1 x 400g tin cherry tomatoes, including the juice
  • Juice and zest of 1 orange
  • 1 tsp grated fresh ginger
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
  • ¼ tsp each of ground coriander, cumin and chilli flakes
  • Plain yoghurt, seasoned
  • Chopped coriander

Method

  • Gentle heat the olive oil in a large ovenproof saucepan or sauté pan on the simmering plate and add the onion slices
  • Stir and cook until softened (as you know, the best way to do this is to cover the pan and place it in the simmering oven for 15 minutes or so)
  • Add all the remaining ingredients except for the yoghurt and coriander. Season and mix well
  • Put the lid back on and place the pan in the roasting oven (with the rack on the third rung from the top) and cook for 30-35 minutes or maybe longer if your squash is still hard, as mine was. If you’ve started it in good time, you could just remove it to the simmering oven now and leave it there until it’s time to eat
  • Scatter over the coriander and serve with rice or toasted pitta bread. Put the yoghurt in a bowl on the table for people to help themselves.

 

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Jerusalem Artichokes with Fennel and Peas

Jerusalem Artichokes with Fennel and Peas

Having consumed during the Christmas period one massive turkey, a Norwegian spiced pork belly, a baked ham and a venison casserole, we are craving vegetables in this house. Sprouts, red cabbage, salads and lots of fruit also featured heavily on the menu but meat predominated. I’m not saying we’re going in for Veganuaray or any other New Year trend; it’s about needing to reset our dietary priorities. This month I’m going to cook without meat during the week but we’ll continue to have a roast or other meat dish on Sundays.

With this in mind I was delighted to pore over one of my Christmas presents from my sons: Joe Trivelli’s book, The Modern Italian Cook. I confess I was not familiar with Trivelli, who is head chef of the River Café, but I am glad to have been introduced. And Diana Henry, whose recipes you know I love, gave it a mention in her Telegraph column. If that’s not a recommendation, I don’t know what is.

It’s a beautiful book and I want to make everything in it but so far I’ve only got as far as making one of the dishes twice, first as a starter on New Year’s Eve and then last night we had it as our main meal with some fresh bread to mop up the juices. The recipe works well in the Aga.

Jerusalem artichokes with fennel and peas

Serves 4 (or 6 as a starter)

Ingredients

  • 500g Jerusalem artichokes
  • 2 fennel bulbs, trimmed
  • ½ large or 1 small red onion, sliced
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 500g frozen peas
  • 10 mint leaves
  • 2 parsley sprigs or a handful of chopped parsley
  • 1 lemon
  • Sea salt, black pepper and extra virgin olive oil

Method

  • Peel the artichokes and cut into wedges. Keep under water to stop them discolouring.
  • Remove any stringy-looking outer parts of the fennel and cut into thin wedges. Toss in some lemon juice to prevent them discolouring
  • Heat a tablespoon of oil in a heavy-based, wide pan with a lid and sweat the onion with a pinch of salt. You could place the pan in the simmering oven at this point
  • Once the onion is soft add the garlic and a minute or two later the fennel. Stew with the lid on for five minutes (or longer if you put it in the simmering oven)
  • Add the Jerusalem artichokes, peas and some black pepper and continue to stew. Trivelli says to do this for 10 minutes over a low heat but my artichokes needed a lot longer than this (in the simmering oven) before they were soft. In fact, to try to speed things up I put the pan in the baking oven for a while. And Trivelli is right to say that Jerusalem artichokes cook unevenly: I found that when some wedges were soft and tender, others were still hard. But your patience will be rewarded, I promise you
  • Once your artichokes are cooked, check the seasoning, add your herbs and stir them through with some extra virgin olive oil
  • Serve with wedges of lemon to squeeze over