Italian stewed lentils

This recipe is a classic side dish, to be served with Cotechino or Zampone. I often add a side serving of mashed potato and cabbage as well. I have also made it with tinned brown lentils when I was in a hurry and it was still grand. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • Approx. 300g brown lentils, such as Puy lentils
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • A sprig of fresh mint
  • A clove of garlic
  • 2-3 tbsp good olive oil 
  • Salt and pepper

METHOD:

  • Rinse the lentils in cold water. 
  • In a medium pan, heat the olive oil and then over a very low heat, cook the chopped onions, around 10 minutes, so they are soft. 
  • Add the lentils and then add a litre of hot water, and bring to a simmer
  • Add the mint and the whole clove of garlic, cover and cook on a low heat for around an hour and a half. Keep checking that the pan to make sure it isn’t burning. You can keep the lentils at a simmer in the oven as well. 
  • Once the lentils are tender, season with salt and pepper, and a drizzle of very good olive oil. 

Moro, the cookbook

I was excited when this book was published, a collection of recipes from Spain, North Africa and the Levant. The ingredients are simple, and the recipes are easy to follow. The flavours are outstanding. 

The story behind Moro, the recipe book is a tale of two people both called Sam, a husband and wife team who own Moro restaurant in London. They were already in love and inspired by Moorish influences on the food of Spain and the Mediterranean, so when they married, they took a camper-van and went on a food adventure, researching techniques, flavours, and the culture that brings the food to the table. 

In 1997, they opened their first restaurant in London, and in 2010 they opened their first tapas bar, Morito. They also have a news page on their website that occasionally showcases other recipes. There are other recipe books as well, since this first one: Casa Moro, Moro East and Morito. 

I was so excited to visit, can’t remember the year, but I can remember that I had their outstanding Seville Orange Tart. There are several of their recipes on this site from the first book, but you’ll just have to get your own copy. 

Jamie Oliver – The Naked Chef

This is the first recipe book that Jamie Oliver released, the cover has him looking fresh-faced and fashionable. I hadn’t seen the television programmes, but he was everywhere, it was hard not to be aware of the impression he was making at the time. The naked recipes aimed to strip food back to the basics of technique, good ingredients, and a twist of modernity. 

Unfortunately, he rather put my back up. I can’t work out exactly why. You don’t have to be young and trendy to cook, just like you don’t have to be a man or a woman, old or young. Anyway, I got over that little hurdle and tried out the recipes. The next hurdle is that most of the delicious fresh ingredients that he specifies are not available in the co-op, or have to be transported for miles and miles, so they are not as fresh or as fancy. 

The saving grace is, however, that if you do find a recipe in the book for which you can assemble the ingredients, the food is really delicious, and the directions are easy to follow. I haven’t got rid of the book, and I’m using it a little more. 

If you want to see what the hype was all about, and why I still have the book, it is available second-hand if you google, or available new here:

https://www.waterstones.com/book/the-naked-chef/jamie-oliver/9780141042954 

 

Kibbeh

This is a classic middle eastern dish, found all around the Levant and beyond. I derived this recipe from ‘Moro’ – but I wouldn’t have been able to do it without a really good mincer. I borrowed one as part of a bid to make white pudding, of which, more later. There are some good YouTube videos out there showing the technique, and many many versions. It is easier than it looks at first sight. 

INGREDIENTS:

Outer layer:

  • 250g very lean lamb, minced twice, second time on a fine setting
  • 1/2 small onion, grated finely
  • 125g fine bulgur wheat
  • salt and pepper

Filling:

  • 1/2 small onion, finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 150g lean lamb, minced once on a medium setting
  • 1 heaped teaspoon of Baharat spice mix (or 50/50 cinnamon and allspice, with a pinch of paprika)
  • 3 tbsp pine nuts and flaked almonds
  • 1 bunch fresh coriander, chopped
  • 1 small bunch fresh parsley, chopped
  • salt and pepper

To serve

  • Greek yogurt, flavoured with mint, salt and pepper, crushed garlic, and a drizzle of best olive oil

METHOD:

  • Start by making the outer layer. Wash the bulgur wheat with water, and set aside
  • Mix the minced lamb with grated onion, salt and pepper. 
  • ‘Kneed’ the bulgur wheat for around five minutes and then mix well into the minced lamb, to make a stiff paste. Set aside in the fridge. 
  • Next, make the filling. Toast the nuts in hot olive oil. As soon as they start to brown, scoop them out of the oil and set them aside. 
  • Fry the chopped onion in the olive oil very slowly for around 15 minutes, until caramelised. 
  • Add the lamb and Baharat spice mix and turn up the heat a little, to start cooking the lamb. Break up the lamb with a spatula as it cooks. Add a spoonful of cold water to slow the cooking a little, and cook until the pan is dry. 
  • Add the nuts and the chopped herbs, salt and pepper and remove from the heat. 
  • To make the kibbeh, take a ball of the casing about the size of a golf ball, and hollow it out, making a thin-walled cup of paste, and then fill this with the fried lamb filling, and seal it shut, making something lemon-shaped. Continue this way until all the mixtures are used up. 
  • Deep-fry the kibbeh in hot olive oil for around five minutes, turning to ensure they are brown all over. 
  • ALTERNATIVELY put half of the casing at the bottom of an oiled baking dish, add all of the filling and cover with the rest of the casing. Cook for 15 minutes in a hot oven. 

Serve with the yoghurt garnish, fresh flat-breads, and a  sharp green herb salad. For a more substantial meal, serve with a vegetable pilau. 

White pudding – first attempt

I tried making white pudding last weekend, what a palaver. I learned a lot. I made a huge amount of mess, and had difficulty finding a recipe. First top tip, use a sausage machine, probably impossible without. I used a fairly basic one that I then saw new on ebay for less than £40.  

INGREDIENTS:

  • 250g white perinephric lamb fat
  • 500g fine oatmeal, toasted in the oven
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 1 leek, finely chopped
  • 4 tsp celery salt
  • 2 tsp ground white pepper
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • White pudding skins (I used Ox runners from Scobies direct)

METHOD:

  • Soak the toasted oatmeal in around 750ml of water
  • Put the fat through the mincer on a medium setting
  • Fry the chopped onion and leek in a little fat on a low heat, until very soft. 
  • Mix the soaked oats, fat, onions and leek with the salt and pepper, and work to a smooth paste
  • Put it through the mincer on the finest setting. 
  • Soak the casing in cold water to get the salt off, and then load it onto the large nozzle on the machine. I used a tea towel to push it on, as it was slippery as anything. 
  • Feed the mixture back through the mincer and into the casing, being sure not to over-fill – the mixture should be about as thick as a nice sausage. 
  • Tie the puddings into loops, and then put into a large pan of boiling water, and simmer for about 3/4 hour. 
  • Cool the puddings and store them in the fridge or freezer. 

Italian Food, by Elizabeth David

Elizabeth David started writing about food in the 1950’s, inspired to learn about and describe the food she tasted first as a student at the Sorbonne in Paris, and then when she lived in countries around the Mediterranean. Her books are not like most recipe books. The food is described in context, aimed at an audience for whom this was exotic and new. The recipes recall the regions where they come from, the fresh ingredients at the heart of the cuisine, and the places she first tasted them.

The recipes sometimes lack exactitude,  but they also offer the options for easing the recipe to account for the ingredients to hand. They teach you to cook and to taste, and to learn about food. There are few illustrations, mostly sketches of implements, and the recipes are very many. This is a book that remains influential in the development of post-war cookery in the United Kingdom, such is its ability to explain and inspire. 

I have many recipe books, but if I am stuck for something new, if I have an ingredient I want to test, I will often pull this book off the shelf, and find myself leafing through the pages. I commend it to you. 

It is available from many online book sellers. I like the review on the Waterstone’s website (click to link to the book page)

Beetroot soup with cumin and mint

This is a delicious middle-eastern twist on beetroot soup, warm and filling. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 large onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 heaped teaspoonful of cumin seed
  • 750g raw beetroot, peeled and diced
  • 1 large potato, peeled and diced
  • Approx 1 litre of water
  • 3 tbsp wine vinegar
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • a good pinch of sweet paprika
  • 1 heaped tsp dried mint
  • salt and pepper
  • Greek-style plain yoghurt to serve

METHOD:

  • Heat the oil in a large soup pan, and when it is hot, add the onion with a pinch of salt, and fry over a very low heat for around 10 minutes.
  • Add the garlic and continue to fry for another minute or so, along with the cumin and paprika
  • Add the chopped potato and chopped beetroot, and then cover with water, around 1 to 1 1/4 litre, and bring to a simmer
  • Cook for around 20 minutes, until the beetroot is nice and tender. Use a soup blender to blitz it to a smooth mixture, and add the vinegars, mint, salt and pepper to taste. It needs quite a bit of salt. 
  • Serve with a goodly dollop of yoghurt in the centre, and flat breads and chopped herbs and a drizzle of good olive oil to garnish. This is also good without all the extras. 

Pasta with a pork and tomato sauce

We are eating what is in the fridge, to avoid going to the shops, and keeping it simple. We had some cuts of cooked pork in the freezer, and this was a really quick meal to make. The quantities below should serve 4-6 people, depending on their appetites, and the rest of the meal. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • 300g pasta such as penne rigate or pipe rigate, or tubetti
  • salt
  • Olive oil
  • 1 small onion, finely chopped
  • 450g left-over cooked pork. chopped to 1cm dice
  • a small glass of red wine
  • 1 tin of tomatoes, preferably San Marzano tomatoes
  • chopped flat-leaf parsley
  • grated pecorino cheese

METHOD:

  • Heat a large pan of salted water ready to cook the pasta
  • In a skillet, or large heavy frying pan, heat the olive oil and then fry the chopped onion over a medium heat until it softens, around five minutes
  • Add the pork, and cook for another 2-3 minutes. 
  • Pour in the wine and scrape round the bottom of the pan to pick up all of the flavour there. 
  • Add the chopped tomatoes, and rinse out the tin with a little water, adding this to the pan. 
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste, and simmer for around 12 minutes. 
  • Meanwhile, cook the pasta according to the directions on the pack. When it is done, drain it and add it to the sauce. Add a little pasta water if required, to get the sauce to a consistency that you like. 
  • Serve in bowls, garnished with parsley. The cheese should be grated and served in a dish on the table for people to serve themselves. 

 

 

Shakshouka – eggs poached in a spicy tomato sauce.

Susannah and Alexander have hens, so I have eggs. This is another dish in which the eggs are poached in a sauce. This is delicious served with warm flatbreads, such as pitta bread. Susannah is good at home-made flatbreads, and I shall have to get instruction. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • Olive oil
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 long red peppers, seeded and chopped
  • 1 hot green chilli, seeded and chopped
  • 1 tin of chopped tomato
  • 250ml vegetable stock 
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp oregano
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp ground black pepper
  • eggs – 2 per person
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley to garnish
  • feta cheese, crumbled, to garnish

METHOD:

  • Heat the oil in a large deep frying pan to a medium heat, and cook the chopped onions and peppers until soft, and beginning to brown at the edges. 
  • Add the oregano and spices, stir once and then add the tomatoes and stock, salt and pepper. Bring to a simmer and allow to cook until reduced to a thick stew. 
  • Use a spoon to make a small dent in the sauce, and crack the eggs into it, cover and cook for another 5 minutes or so. 
  • Garnish with the parsley and feta cheese and serve with bread. 

Lamb with vegetables, oranges and white wine.

This is an Italian recipe from Elizabeth David’s classic, ‘Italian Food’. It is delicious even if not cooked perfectly. I was very lucky and bought some really good quality hogget from West Gerinish, very tender, very tasty. I also used the mystery herbs – called ‘herbs for meat’ or ‘Italian seasoning’, possibly. 

INGREDIENTS:

  • About 900g to 1kg lamb cut in one piece from the leg.
  • A couple of carrots, chopped
  • A stick of celery, chopped
  • an onion, chopped
  • Chopped turnip, about the same volume as the carrot
  • Rind of 1 sweet orange
  • Juice of half the orange
  • 1 tsp coriander seed
  • 1 tbsp mystery herbs, or use oregano or marjoram
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
  • 1 can of chopped tomato
  • 2 glasses sweet white wine (or one of table wine, one of marsala)
  • olive oil
  • Salt and pepper
  • A splash of balsamic vinegar
  • About 200ml stock (vegetable, chicken or lamb)

METHOD:

  • Chop a clove of garlic finely, and rub it into the meat along with a handful of the mystery herbs, salt and pepper. 
  • Brown the meat in a little oil in a casserole dish, and then set aside.
  • In the same pan, fry the chopped onion slowly in the onion, and then add the garlic, and the rest of the chopped vegetables, garlic, coriander and orange rind, and cook until softened. 
  • Add the tomatoes, bring to a simmer then add the meat and white wine, and salt and pepper, and 200ml of stock. The meat should cook on a bed of vegetable stew, slowly roasting in the steam. 
  • Cover and simmer gently for two hours. This works better in a low oven. Keep an eye on the stew to make sure it doesn’t boil dry. 
  • At the end of cooking, squeeze the juice of half an orange over the meat and let it settle before serving.