Aga Caponata

Aga Caponata

I recently took part in a fun Twitter challenge. Jenny Linford (@jennylinford) invited her followers every day for a week to name their seven favourite cookbooks. As well as making my choices, which wasn’t easy, I so enjoyed browsing the hashtag #7favouritecookbooks. Of course many of the books mentioned were my own favourites too while some I’d heard about but never owned (and now want to!) and some I’d never come across but now want to explore. The books in my selection were well used by me, obviously, and in several cases constituted just one example of work by my favourite cookery writers like Delia Smith and Diana Henry.

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Recently for friends I made the roasted vegetable couscous dish in Delia’s Summer Collection, one of my seven choices. They all remarked how the dish had stood the test of time and that it reminded them what an excellent book it is. We agreed on what an impact it had had and how it had changed the way we cooked: suddenly we were needing fresh coriander and limes all the time and as for roasting vegetables as an alternative to boiling or frying them, this was a revelation.

I make this type of roasted ratatouille all the time now, sometimes with the harissa dressing and couscous, but mostly to serve with roasted or barbecued meat. Leftovers are delicious warm or cold with a dollop of hummus. This summer I’ve been making a similar dish which particularly complements fish, but also goes well with meat; it’s the Sicilian caponata. The authentic way of making it is to fry each vegetable separately but the other day I thought I’d try roasting them all together in the same way I’d do the roasted ratatouille; this seemed to me to be the ideal Aga way. Only the tomatoes are prepared separately and then added at the end.

I was guided by the caponata recipe in Xanthe Clay’s lovely book “The Contented Cook”.

Aga Caponata

Ingredients

  • 1 large aubergine, cubed
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 large onion, peeled, cut into 10 or 12 wedges
  • 1 fat garlic clove, crushed
  • 2 red peppers, deseeded and thickly sliced
  • 1 fennel bulb, trimmed and sliced (save the frondy tops)
  • 2-3 large, ripe tomatoes (I used plum; you could use tinned if you don’t have any fresh ones)
  • 1/2 glass red wine
  • 2 tbsps red wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp sugar
  • Handful of green olives
  • 2 tbsps capers
  • Basil leaves (optional)
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

  • Place the aubergine, onion, garlic, peppers and fennel in the small Aga roasting tin
  • Season and stir in about 3 tbsps of olive oil, coating everything
  • Slide the tin onto the top set of runners in the roasting oven and roast for 30 to 40 minutes until the vegetables are soft and slightly charred in places
  • Meanwhile put the tomatoes in a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Leave for a couple of minutes, then drain under cold water and peel off the skins and deseed. Chop the flesh
  • Put the wine, wine vinegar and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to the boil on the simmering plate. Add the chopped tomato and cook in the simmering oven until the mixture has reduced to a thick sauce. Season and stir it into the cooked vegetables.
  • Leave to cool to room temperature before mixing in the olives, capers and the basil or fennel fronds
  • Check the seasoning and serve

 

 

 

 

 

A One Tin Supper: Roasted Sausages, Fennel and Potatoes

A One Tin Supper: Roasted Sausages, Fennel and Potatoes

I recently added this dish to my repertoire of suppers you can cook in one roasting tin. It is the essence of uncomplicated cooking and what home cook is not a fan of that, especially midweek when there isn’t a great deal of time? And as all Aga owners know, this type of cooking is particularly suited to the Aga way of cooking.

My recipe is based on one of Nigel Slater’s from his “midweek dinner” series in the Guardian. It came about, as so many meals do, when I had not planned what to cook but had some pork sausages and a couple of fennel bulbs in the fridge that needed using up. A quick Google and there was Nigel with the inspiration I needed. He recommends honey but my Canadian-born husband and I prefer maple syrup. fullsizeoutput_3233

Roasted Sausages, Fennel and Potatoes

Ingredients

For 4 people

  • About 8 good quality pork sausages
  • Olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3-4 fennel bulbs, trimmed and cut into thickish segments
  • 600g new potatoes, halved
  • 75ml white vermouth or white wine
  • Heaped tbsp grain mustard
  • 2 tbsps maple syrup or honey

Method

  • Place the sausages in the large Aga roasting tin with a tablespoon of oil and slide it onto the second set of runners in the roasting oven for 5-10 minutes to colour the sausages a little
  • Take it out of the oven and add the fennel and potatoes, turning them in the oil and seasoning. You might want to add a little more oil
  • Return to the oven and roast for about 40 minutes, turning everything about halfway through
  • Take out of the oven and remove everything to a serving dish. Place this in the simmering oven
  • Place the roasting tin on the simmering plate and add the vermouth or wine. Let this bubble up while scraping up any bits that have stuck to the tin
  • Stir in the mustard and maple syrup or honey and let this all bubble for a couple of minutes before tasting for seasoning
  • Pour the “sauce” over everything in the dish and return it to the simmering oven until you’re ready to eat for 15 to 30 minutes. During this time everything will become extra sticky and caramelised

Serve with a green salad or green vegetable or indeed both.

 

 

 

 

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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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

 

 

Film Club Supper alla Bolognese

I belong to a little film club comprising eight friends.  We meet every six weeks or so and take it in turns to host.  The hostess (yes, we are all female) chooses the film and makes supper which we eat at the start of the evening, usually, but not always, sitting at a kitchen or dining room table.  Pudding and/or chocolates tend to be consumed on the sofa while watching the film.  We are allowed to pause the film for loo breaks, to make tea and coffee or to comment on or ask each other questions about the film.  It’s great fun.

We’ve watched a wide range of films over the years, both foreign language and English.  It was my turn to host our last meeting and I chose the film Carol with Cate Blanchett and Roony Mara.  I always mean to go to the cinema to see the Oscar nominated films but invariably don’t get around to it, so film club presents an excellent opportunity.  And it’s so easy to watch films these days.  On this occasion all I did was log on to Amazon Instant Video to rent the film and within seconds it was available to watch.

We liked the film very much.  It is beautiful and moving and Cate Blanchett’s performance is every bit as good as one has come to expect.  But I will leave film reviews to others and move on to important matters like the food!

Supper was Rick Stein’s Bolognese sausage ragù with tagliatelle.  I’d recently watched his programme from Bologna in which he’d toured that city’s food markets and restaurants.  It had transported me back to a wonderful holiday we’d enjoyed in that region of Italy when we’d also discovered its delicious cucina.

During the programme Stein made the ragù and I decided there and then to make it for film club.  My guests were too polite to say so but I know it was a little dry.  I was trying not to add too much wine/stock/cream to adjust for the fact that, as I’ve mentioned before in this blog, Agas are brilliant at retaining moisture.  But I went too far and felt we could have done with a little more creaminess to coat the strands of tagliatelle.  The flavour, however, was superb: with the aroma of fennel, rosemary and chilli, we could almost have been in Bologna.  I will definitely be making it again soon and might update this post if I get the liquid:sausagemeat ratio right next time, but for  now, here’s the recipe with my suggestions based on my experience.

By the way, I made double the BBC recipe linked to above (there were seven of us eating that night) and cooked, I felt, a little too much tagliatelle (750g).  I didn’t add all of it to the ragù but there was still plenty; nor did I emulate Rick Stein and make my own pasta.  I chose this very good quality one by  “Artigiano Pastaio” which is not cheap but worth it for a treat.

Finally, at the last minute, with my friends arriving on the doorstep, I remembered just in time to take a few photos.   Taking photos of the food needs to become second nature to me and I must learn to ignore my family when they roll their eyes at me for holding up the meal in order to take pics, or I won’t be able to call myself a blogger.

Ingredients

(For 4 people)

  • 400g fresh or good quality dried tagliatelle (or homemade as per Rick Stein’s recipe)
  • 400g sausagement
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 sticks celery, chopped
  • 3/4 tsp fennel seeds, roughly ground in pestle and mortar
  • 1/4 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1 sprig rosemary, leaves finely chopped
  • I large clove garlic, crushed
  • 150ml dry white wine
  • 150ml chicken stock
  • 150ml double cream
  • Salt and pepper
  • Grated parmesan to serve

Method

  • Heat the oil in a large casserole on the boiling plate and break up the sausagemeat into it.  Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring all the time, moving it to the simmering plate if it seems too hot
  • Add the onion, celery, fennel seeds, chilli flakes and rosemary and cook for about 15 minutes until the onion is soft.  You can do this in the simmering oven, maybe for a little longer than 15 minutes
  • Add the garlic, give it a stir and then pour in the white wine.  Cook for 10 minutes or so on the simmering plate until it’s reduced.  Then add 100ml of stock and 100ml of cream, season, let it come to a simmer then cover with a lid.  Cook in the simmering oven for 30 minutes or so and take a look.  If you think it looks a bit dry add the rest of the stock and cream.
  • You can leave it for an hour or two in the simmering oven.  When you’re nearly ready to eat, cook the tagliatelle according to packet instructions and when it’s al dente, drain, add it to the ragù and mix it in.

Serve with a dressed green salad.

 

I haven’t posted for a while so here are photos of other things we’ve been eating lately.  First, I made Mamma Moore’s apple cake again, but this time with rhubarb, of which my allotment-owning sister-in-law brought a whole load when she visited recently.  It worked superbly; rhubarb and ginger have a real affinity.

And then last night we had the simplest of seasonal dishes: trout caught the night before by my husband’s friend, baked in the oven with lemon juice, butter and parsley and accompanied by Jersey Royal new potatoes, carrots and fresh peas.