Pasta with a cream sauce and vegetables

Cream sauce is a classic, but I usually only make this recipe when I have lots of vegetables in the garden, over the summer. This year I grew red orache, and it turned the whole dish a lovely pink colour. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 25g butter (use vegetable oil for a vegan version)
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped or crushed
  • 300ml cream (use soya cream for a vegan version)
  • salt and pepper
  • freshly grated nutmeg
  • Approx 700g fresh vegetables – a mixture of orache, shelled broad beans, mange tout, asparagus tips, carrots, etcetera
  • 400g pasta (best with fusilli)
  • A good squeeze of lemon juice
  • Herb garnish (chervil, or parsley, or chive flowers)

METHOD:

  • Melt the butter in a small to medium saucepan, and add gently cook the onion for around 10 minutes until tender.
  • Add the garlic, cook for a couple more minutes, and then add the cream. Leave to simmer gently so that the mixture thickens, around 10 minutes.
  • Season with salt, pepper and nutmeg, and set aside until it is required. 
  • Prepare the vegetables; cut the asparagus into 2 cm lengths, peel and cut the carrots into similar sized pieces, cut the orache or spinach to large shreds. 
  • Steam the beans, asparagus and carrots for around 5 minutes, then add the other vegetables for another 3 minutes or so. 
  • Meanwhile cook the pasta according to the instructions on the packet, around 10 minutes. 
  • Add the vegetables to the cream sauce and bring to a simmer, check the seasoning and add a good squeeze of lemon juice. Do not forget this step because it is a bit dull without it. 
  • Add the sauce to the drained pasta, and serve on warmed plates, garnished with herbs. 

Orzo with meatballs

This is a bit of a mixture of recipes. My daughter left some Orzo pasta when she last visited. I hadn’t come across it before, it looks like large bits of rice. So I googled and tested and used what was in my fridge and freezer. This is heavily based on Nigella Lawson’s dish of the same name, but there are other twists from similar recipes. 

You could use one of my other meatball recipes to make the meatball mixture, but I followed the method below. The recipe makes six servings. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 500g mince
  • 1 large egg
  • 50g breadcrumbs
  • 1 tsp dried oregano
  • 50g grated parmesan
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 1 litre cold water
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 tsp dried oregano (I actually used the mystery herbs)
  • 60ml red vermouth or red wine
  • 2 cans of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 300g orzo pasta

METHOD:

  • Put the mince, egg, breadcrumbs, garlic, oregano, parmesan and 1 tsp salt into a large mixing bowl, and mix to a smooth paste. Leave to chill in the fridge for half an hour minimum.
  • Heat the oven to 180C
  • Make small meatballs from the mixture, about the size of a large marble. I made around 35. They should be small enough to eat whole without looking greedy. Put them onto the bottom of a roasting tray or baking sheet. 
  • Bake the meatballs in the oven for around fifteen minutes. 
  • MEANWHILE get ready for the sauce and pasta. Get the ingredients assembled. 
  • Heat the oil in a large casserole dish or pan with a lid. Cook the chopped onion over a medium heat for around 10 minutes until very soft and cooked
  • Add the herbs and stir them in, before adding the vermouth. 
  • Once the vermouth is hot and bubbling, add the tomatoes, and rinse out the tins with the water before adding that as well. Add 1 tsp salt at this stage. 
  • Bring the mixture back to a simmer, and let it cook with the lid on for around twenty minutes.
  • Add the orzo and the meatballs, bring back to a simmer, and cook with the lid on for a further ten to fifteen minutes. The orzo has a tendency to stick, so the occasional stir will help. 
  • Serve in shallow bowls, garnished with parmesan shavings and chopped parsley. 
  • I also served a dish of grilled asparagus and buttered baby carrots. 

Asparagus Risotto

This is a beautiful summer risotto. We made it because there was asparagus that had been reduced in the co-op, and added some fresh vegetables from the garden. I added mange tout peas, broad beans, and chive flowers. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 100g broad beans
  • 100g asparagus, chopped into 2cm lengths
  • 100g mange tout peas (or about 300g total green vegetables)
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 75ml dry white wine
  • 750ml hot vegetable stock
  • 2 teaspoons of chopped fresh sage
  • 50g butter
  • Salt and pepper
  • 50g parmesan cheese, grated
  • a handful of chive flowers

METHOD:

  • Gently fry the onion in half of the butter, until it is soft, about five minutes.
  • Add the rice and give it a good stir, heating it through. 
  • Add the glass of wine, and bring the mixture back to a simmer. 
  • Start adding the stock, a ladleful at a time, bringing the risotto back to a simmer each time, and waiting for the stock to be absorbed into the rice. 
  • About half-way through, add the sage, asparagus, beans and peas. Continue adding the stock as before. 
  • When the rice is just about done, take the risotto from the heat, stir in the parmesan and the chive flowers and the rest of the butter. Season with pepper, and a bit of salt if required. Leave the risotto to rest. 
  • Transfer to a warmed platter to serve. 

This can be garnished with toasted sage leaves, or other chopped herbs. 

Beans, garlic, dill and eggs

I can hardly wait to tell you about this recipe, or to eat it again. It is delicious, and dangerously garlicky, so I think I will be in trouble at work tomorrow. I made it with tinned beans, but the original recipe starts from scratch. I got the recipe from the remarkable book, Nightingales and Roses. These are recipes from all over Iran, organised by seasonal availability of ingredients. Where she wins over my other current favourite book, Jerusalem, is her serving suggestions. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 can of cannellini or borlotti beans
  • 50g butter
  • 3 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 small bulb of garlic, with the cloves peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 tsp turmeric powder
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • 3 tsp of dill seed, or 5 tsp dried dill weed, or 30g fresh dill, chopped
  • salt, to taste
  • 4 eggs

METHOD:

  • Melt the butter in a medium lidded frying pan, add the oil and then the chopped garlic, and fry until the garlic is turning golden. 
  • Add the turmeric, pepper, dill, and salt, and then add the can of beans including the water they are in. 
  • Bring to a simmer, and cook, until the mixture is getting drier and thicker. 
  • Make 4 wells in the bean mixture, and into each well, break an egg. Cover the pan and cook on a low heat until the eggs are cooked to your liking. 

The book suggests serving this with a little rice, with side dishes of olives, chopped radishes, smoked fish. We were not so dainty, and served this with a side salad with herbs and some bread, olives and labneh

Frittata

I think I got this recipe from Nadine Abensur’s new Cranks’ recipe book, which I gave to someone. We are in peak egg season at the moment, I have been given so many boxes of eggs. Combine that with summer potatoes, and the sweet burn of fresh garlic from the garden. Who knew that the Hebrides could be so lush. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • New potatoes, around 4 medium sized, or more if they are smaller
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • Lots of olive oil
  • tomatoes, peppers or other vegetable, optional
  • salt and pepper
  • 8 eggs

METHOD:

  • Slice the potatoes thickly, and slice the onions finely. Chop the garlic. 
  • Heat some olive oil in a large deep frying pan. Turn the heat to low and then add the potatoes, onions and garlic. Cook on a low low heat until the potatoes are cooked. Stir so that nothing burns. 
  • Meanwhile, beat the eggs with salt and pepper. 
  • Add the fried potatoes to the eggs
  • Put the onions or other vegetables with a little oil in the pan, and then, over a medium heat, add the eggs and potatoes. 
  • Once the edges and bottom of the frittata appear to be cooked, put the pan under a hot grill for 4-5 minutes

Serve in slices with salad and wine. 

Home-made Labneh

I only recently discovered Labneh, and now I want it every day – classic with salad at lunch-time in the summer. It is very easy to make as well. It is a dish from the Levant (think of the countries south of Turkey, like Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Israel, Palestine) – east of the Mediterranean. 

There are recipes everywhere once you start looking; this one is from Jerusalem

INGREDIENTS: 

  • Two tubs of thick plain yoghurt, around 500g each, could be greek style yoghurt, goats’ milk yoghurt
  • 3/4 tsp salt

METHOD:

  • Pour the yogurt into a large bowl. Stir in salt.
  • Line another large bowl with a linen or muslin towel (or several layers of cheesecloth.) Pour the yogurt mixture into the towel. Pick up the edges of the towel and tie at the top. Hang from a kitchen sink faucet to drain for 24 to 48 hours. Alternatively, set a large sieve, lined with linen towel over a deep bowl. Add the yogurt mixture. Cover gently with the overhang of the linen towel, or another linen towel. Set aside on the counter, or in the fridge, to drain for 24-48 hours. I actually used a muslin intended for coping with babies, still new. I tied the tops over the yoghurt, and rigged up a thing with string and a wooden spoon over a deep bowl. You may need to empty the bowl at the bottom half-way. Also, it takes up a bit of space in the fridge. 

To serve, spread labneh in a bowl and top with extra virgin olive oilza’atar spice (or chopped fresh herbs like mint or parsley). Add fresh pitta, or other warm bread, on the side. Sliced vegetables, such as tomatoes, radishes, olives, are a good addition. 

I have been storing the labneh in a plastic container in the fridge, and allegedly it will keep for a couple of weeks.

Penne with wild orache, pine nuts and parmesan

I put seaweed on my soft fruit plants this year, and as a result, I think I imported a load of orache seeds. If you don’t know, orache is a weed that grows on the upper shore at this time of year, and it is delicious. I’ve got more than I can eat at the moment, the most successful vegetable in my garden at the moment. I also had some left-over wholewheat pasta courtesy of my super-healthy children, so I used that too. Plain pasta is good too. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 200g pasta
  • salt
  • enough orache to feed four people (no idea of weight, it just looked OK)
  • 2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped, not crushed
  • olive oil
  • freshly ground black pepper
  • a squeeze of orange juice
  • 50g pine-nuts, toasted
  • 50g freshly grated parmesan cheese

METHOD:

  • Fill a large pan with water, bring to the boil and then add the pasta along with a good spoonful of salt, and bring the water back to the boil. Let the pasta cook as long as the pack says (8 minutes for plain pasta, 11 minutes for wholewheat is the usual thing)
  • A couple of minutes before the pasta is done, stir-fry the orache and garlic in a bit of olive oil for a couple of minutes, until the orache has wilted. Season with salt, pepper and lemon juice
  • Drain the cooked pasta and the put it back in the warm pan. Add the orache and the pine nuts and parmesan. Give it all a quick stir, check the seasoning, and serve. 

Roasted butternut squash and red onion with tahini

This is another recipe from Jerusalem by Sami Tamimi and Yotam Ottolenghi. It fits well with my lifestyle in summer; food that can be put in the oven, and then served hot or cold, straight away or for the next meal, part of a large meal or just as a light lunch. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 1 Large butternut squash. 
  • 3 red onions
  • 50ml olive oil
  • 3 tbsp light tahini paste (available locally!)
  • 1.5 tbsp lemon or lime juice
  • 1 clove of garlic, crushed
  • 30g pine nuts
  • 1 tbsp za’atar (from Seasoned pioneers)
  • 1 tbsp chopped parsley
  • salt and pepper

METHOD:

  • Preheat the oven to 240C gas mark 9
  • Cut the onions and butternut squash into wedges. I peeled and cut each onion into 6-8 wedges. I cut the squash into 3 equal bits across the way, and then cut each bit into 6-8 wedges, measuring around 2cm by 6cm. Remove the seeds.
  • Put the squash and onions in a large bowl, and add 3 tbsp of olive oil, stir to coat, and then add 1 tsp salt, black pepper and mix well. 
  • Spread the onions and squash onto a baking tray, and turn the squash skin-side down. 
  • Roast in the hot oven for 30 minutes. 
  • Meanwhile, use a small bowl and a fork to mix the tahini with the lemon juice, 2 tbsp water, crushed garlic, and 1/4 tsp salt. The mixture should be runny, like honey. 
  • Pour a little olive oil into a pan, and toast the pine nuts over a medium heat with a pinch of salt. Stir, keeping a close eye, until the pine nuts are toasty brown. Transfer to a small bowl. 
  • Put the roast vegetables onto a serving platter, drizzle over with the tahini dressing, sprinkle over with the toasted pine-nuts in oil, and then sprinkle over the za’atar and chopped parsley. 

I enjoyed this better when cooled down to a warm dish, rather than hot. Also good cold the next day. 

 

New potatoes with green beans, celeriac and halloumi

I’ve been playing with this recipe for about a month, which means we have been eating various versions of it every few days. It is quite delicious, and it is easy to adapt to what you have available. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 400 to 500g new potatoes, chopped into bite-size chunks (Jersey Royals work well, one bag full)
  • 5 cloves garlic, skin-on, lightly squished
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt, and ground black pepper to taste
  • 200g green beans, halved (one pack is usually between 140 and 250g – one pack will do)
  • 1/2 celeriac, peeled and cut into bite-sized chunks (optional)
  • 225g halloumi, cut into 2cm cubes (one pack)
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice (equally delicious with lime juice)
  • 1 tsp cumin or caraway seed (optional)

METHOD:

  • Preheat oven to 200°C/180°C fan/gas 6.
  • Put the potatoes and celeriac in a large roasting tray with the garlic, add the olive oil, salt and pepper, the cumin or caraway seed, and mix well. Cook for 30 minutes in the oven.
  • Remove from the oven, add the beans and halloumi and toss to combine. Return the tray to the oven for 15 mins until the beans are tender and the cheese is starting to caramelise.
  • Add a generous squeeze of lemon juice and toss everything again, then transfer to a serving dish. 

This is really good cold the next day as well. You could serve it as a side-dish, a starter or as a light lunch. 

Couscous for one

I’m home alone, and I am eating a lot of meals that I prepared earlier and froze in single portions. This is fine in theory, as I don’t have to spend a lot of time cooking after work. However, I’m not great at couscous portion control, so this week I have been testing out whether I can do couscous for one person. It is all about ratios. 

Couscous is made out of wheat, tiny small balls of steamed semolina flour. It is really very tiny bits of pasta. 

INGREDIENTS/PROPORTIONS:

  • 50g Couscous
  • 75ml water or stock
  • A teaspoon of olive oil
  • A small pinch of salt, if required

METHOD:

  • Bring the water or stock to the boil, with the olive oil and salt
  • Add the couscous, take the pan off the heat and cover. Leave to stand for 5 minutes, and then stir with a fork before serving. 

Obviously, this can be scaled up as far as you like. 50g is a reasonable portion for one.