I’ve just read ‘Dear Francesca’ from cover to cover. The recipes use a relatively small range of ingredients to create wonderful food. This is one of the first recipes I tried, using a tray of cherry tomatoes that had ended up in my fridge, along with some of the staples from the book: ricotta and pecorino.
I didn’t have spaghettini, so I used spaghetti, which is very slightly thicker. It was fine, I had no complaints.
- 3 tbsp good extra-virgin olive oil
- A punnet of cherry tomatoes, or a couple of good handfuls, quartered
- a clove of garlic, peeled and roughly chopped
- 180g spaghettini (or enough pasta for 2 people, whatever your usual measure is, I allow 60 to 75g per person)
- salt and black pepper, freshly ground
- 2 tbsp ricotta cheese
- two good pinches of dried oregano
- freshly grated pecorino
- Heat the oil in a pan, and add the tomatoes and garlic. Turn the heat down low and let them cook for ten minutes. There will be a bit of sizzling.
- Meanwhile, cook the pasta in boiling water, according to the instructions.
- When the tomatoes are completely softened, add the oregano and the ricotta cheese, and mix well. Check for taste and add salt if required.
- When the spaghettini is cooked, drain it, return to the pan and add the sauce, pecorino and a grating of good black pepper.
This dish is sensational. We bought 3kg of small Dublin bay prawns from a local fisherman, and boiled them for a couple of minutes in batches. The cooking water was flavoured with a pinch of saffron. We peeled them after they had cooled. Then I made this sauce and served them with toasted pitta bread and a green salad, as well as a stupendous white burgundy.
- Cooked peeled prawns, as above
- 3 tbs olive oil
- 3 cloves of garlic, sliced and chopped
- 1 1/2 tsp caraway seeds
- 2 small dried hot chillies, crumbled
- 1 green pepper, diced small
- 2 cans chopped tomatoes
- 1/2 tsp honey or sugar
- chopped parsley
- salt and pepper
- Heat the olive oil in a medium saucepan, and fry the garlic over a medium to low heat until it starts to brown.
- Add the caraway and the chilli and cook for a further 30 seconds before adding the green peppers. Cook for another 10 minutes.
- Add the tomatoes and bring to a slow simmer. Cook for another 20 minutes, so that the sauce is reduced and thickening. Add sugar, salt, and pepper to your taste.
- Add the prawns and simmer for another couple of minutes to heat them through.
- Serve in a bowl, garnished with chopped parsley. A rocket salad and toasted pitta bread is ideal as an accompaniment.
I’ve been eating a lot of salad this summer, this is a good one to serve with some of the other dishes that I’ve posted this year. It is from Nightingales and Roses by Maryann Sinaiee. I have adapted it a bit, because we don’t get a lot of pomegranates on South Uist, but you can add these for an extra burst of colour and flavour.
- Half a long cucumber
- About the same weight in cherry tomatoes
- About the same weight in spring onions
- A couple of sprigs of fresh mint
- A good squeeze of lemon juice
- Olive oil
- Salt and pepper
- Peel the cucumber and dice
- Cut the tomatoes into 8 (half, half and half again)
- Chop the spring onions into small circles
- Chop the mint finely
- Mix the chopped ingredients.
- Just before serving, mix in the lemon juice, salt and pepper, and a drizzle of olive oil.
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.
- 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
- 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.
This is the first recipe I have tried from the ‘Cook for Syria’ recipe book. The book is a collection of recipes from Syria, and so much more. It tells about the culture of food and sharing in Syria, builds links with people using the #CookForSyria @CookForSyria tags, and raising money for Unicef to help children affected by fighting in their beautiful country.
I served it to a visitor, and we shared a lot of stories about the ethics and politics of food. I had to make a few adaptions to fit my ingredients.
- 2 aubergines
- 6 cloves of garlic
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- 1 tsp paprika
- 1 tsp cumin
- 2 tsp za’atar (I used the mystery mixed Italian herbs, but za’atar is available from Seasoned Pioneers. )
- salt and pepper
- olive oil
- 1 red onion
- 4 chopped tomatoes
- 2 tbsp tomato puree
- 1 can chopped tomatoes
- 1 can chickpeas
- 3 tsp apple cider vinegar
- Chopped coriander to serve
- Coconut vegan yoghurt, or grated creamed coconut
- Preheat the oven to 200C
- Chop the aubergine into chunks. I split them length-ways into quarters and then slice thickly.
- Put the aubergines into a roasting tin with the spices and 4 cloves of garlic, coat with olive oil and roast for 25 to 30 minutes
- Finely chop the red onion and cook it slowly in olive oil, for around 10 minutes
- Add 2 cloves of garlic, chopped, along with the tomatoes, tomato puree and tinned tomatoes. Bring to the boil and simmer for 20 minutes
- Add the aubergine, chickpeas, salt, apple cider vinegar and cook until the chickpeas are hot.
- Serve with a garnish of coriander leaves and coconut yoghurt.
I served this with rice, and we were very full afterwards
I have tried many recipes for ratatouille, this is the best. I think I got it off the internet, with a promise that this was the most authentic.
- 1 aubergine, diced
- 4 courgettes, halved and sliced
- 300g french beans, cut to 1 inch lengths
- 4 tbsp olive oil
- 1 onion, thinly sliced
- 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
- 2 cans of chopped tomatoes
- 3/4 cup of chopped fennel leaves
- fresh basil leaves, torn
- Pinch of sugar
- Salt and pepper to taste
- Salt the diced aubergines and courgettes and set aside. Rinse the salt off after 20 minutes (I do this in a colander)
- Heat the oil in a large pan, and gently fry the onion and garlic until soft.
- Add the aubergines and courgettes, and cook for another five minutes or so.
- Add the remaining ingredients and simmer with the lid on for 20 minutes, and then with the lid off for 20 minutes. Keep a close eye and stir occasionally, to stop the mixture sticking to the bottom of the pan.
This freezes OK, but it is best reheated the day after making it.
I thought I was being brilliant and inventive and then discovered that this is a classic. There are hundreds of versions on the internet already.
- Around 250ml sweet tomato sauce
- 1 can of chickpeas
- 1 tbsp mystery herb mixture including dried chillies from a present from Italy
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 250g pasta
- Start by bringing a pan of water to the boil, and cook the pasta for the time advised on the pack, usually around 8 to 9 minutes.
- In another pan, heat the olive oil, add the mystery herbs and after a few seconds, add the tomato sauce and bring it to a simmer.
- Drain the chickpeas and add to the tomato sauce, and bring it back to a simmer.
- When the pasta is done, drain and stir in the sauce and then serve
I had two more large beetroot left, so I made this soup, adapted slightly from Madhur Jaffrey’s Eastern Vegetarian Cooking, which I bought in 1983s. The link is to a subsequent edition.
- 2 large beetroot, peeled and diced
- 500ml water
- 1/2 tsp cumin seeds
- 4 whole cloves
- 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, or a 2cm stick of cinnamon
- 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 level tsp ground black pepper
- Sour cream or double cream
- Cook the chopped beetroot in the water. Simmer for about an hour, to make sure the beetroot is really soft.
- Drain the beetroot, and make the liquid up to 450ml if necessary.
- Add the beetroot back to the liquor, along with the tin of chopped tomatoes and use the soup wand to liquidise
- In a saucepan, fry the spices in butter, and then add the beetroot and tomatoes, and bring to a simmer.
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Strain the soup through a coarse sieve to remove the whole spices, and then add the cream, and reheat.
I need to add this recipe because it is used in so many other things. I’m just about to add some recipes for meatballs and this is a prerequisite.
- 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
- 2 tbsp olive oil
- 1 small chilli, finely chopped, or one dried chilli, crumbled
- 2 tsp dried oregano
- 3 tins of plum tomatoes
- 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
- 1 handful of basil, roughly chopped (I have made this without, when none in the shops)
- salt and pepper
- In a large pan, gently fry the garlic in the olive oil.
- Add the chilli, oregano and tomatoes. Don’t break the tomatoes up if possible, leave them whole. Bring to the boil and simmer very gently, checking every 10 minutes or so. If it is looking dry, add water.
- Add the vinegar, and break up the tomatoes, stirring well. Add basil leaves, salt and pepper. A bit of very good olive oil can be added at this stage.
This makes a good quantity of tomato sauce, enough for one meatball recipe, and enough to serve six people.
I have no idea if this recipe is Mexican at all. I got it from my friend Kay, who I think got it from a book called the Vegetarian Epicure which I have never chased down yet.
- 2 large onions
- 4 cloves of garlic
- 2 floz olive oil
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- 1/2 tsp ground coriander
- 1/2 tsp ground cloves
- 1/4 tsp ground pepper
- 2 cups of white rice
- 1 1/2 pints of tomato puree (I use canned chopped tomatoes which I blend, or you could use passata)
- 2 tsp salt
- 14 floz water
- Chop the onions and garlic and lightly fry in the oil.
- Add the ginger, coriander, cloves and pepper, and stir for 30 seconds
- Add the rice and stir, cooking until the rice seems to be turning clear and beginning to brown
- Add the tomato puree, salt and water, and simmer for 25 minutes