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Monday, 20 April 2015


Friday, 10 April 2015

A Beast of a Dinner!

My Favourite Pasta
I'm having another 'freezer week' because once again, I find myself totally stocked up with all manner of basic ingredients that I have hardly used.

There is pasta everywhere I look, loads of garlic, both wild and bulb and a freezer full of vegetables. So, I wonder, what can I do with them.

My favourite pasta is 'spirali' as shown above. I like it because it keeps its shape well when cooked and has a good solid 'bite' to it. And, there is also the fact that I can get three 400g bags of it for a pound round where I live!

So, I have loads of pasta, garlic, a lump of cheese, a big bottle of lemon juice and some black pepper. Question is, what to do with it all? Well, I also have a big bag of peas in the freezer and green beans. Now, again, forgive me for mentioning green beans again - but I love them.

First things first, boil a kettle and put a pan on. By the time the kettle's boiled, the pan is hot, so our it in and its bubbling right away. Nice way to save on electricity costs that.

Salt the water well and tip in 150grams of pasta and let it bubble away. While its doing that get out the garlic press and crush two hefty cloves - we don't want no vampire creeping up on us now do we?

Done that? OK, now grate about 50 grams of hard cheese. I used some vintage cheddar, but you can use a hard Italian if you want.

Next, cut a good slice of butter off a packet - about 5 grams should do it.

When the pasta is about half way done, chuck in 100 grams of frozen peas. Let the water start bubbling again and then after about a minute a two - when the pasta is almost ready, chuck in 100 grams of frozen green beans. Cook them until the pasta is done, but not so much as they don't have a 'crunch' about them.

Pull off about 100mls of the pasta water and then drain the rest of it off. Put the pasta water back in the pan, now back on the heat, then chuck in the garlic, butter and a teaspoon of black pepper and a tablespoon of lemon juice.

Fizz that lot together for about a minute without letting it boil dry, then return the pasta and mix it all together. Once that's done, stir in the cheese until its all melted. Then, tip it out into a big pasta bowl. And then, get your lemon juice and squeeze it over the top and serve.

This is a beast of a dinner for one, or a medium lunch for two if served with a lump of crusty bread and perhaps some very green salad. What you get is the solid bite of the pasta, the smoothness and tanginess of the butter and cheese. Then comes the hit from the black pepper and the garlic, with the lemon juice perfectly complementing the earthiness of the peas and the lovely green crunch of the green beans.

It was just an accidental combination, but it worked and so will now become another one of those staples that I will pull out whenever I cannot think of anything else.

Sunday, 5 April 2015

Still wild about garlic

So, its THAT time of year again.

One of these days I will get round to harvesting Wild Garlic commercially, because a, I know where to find a BIG stock of it and b, all the top chefs love using it when it is in season.  

My First Crop of 2015
This is my first crop of this year, taken not from my big (and secret) supply base, but from a little copse in the midst of a very nice residential area just above Finsbury Park Station.
Within an hour of picking it, it was washed, blanched and popped into a jar with some chilli flakes, black pepper and Extra Virgin Olive Oil and then stored away at the back of the larder.  I shall be back to it in about a month's time when I am sure it will taste glorious. 

And talking about Garlic, I've been making garlic bread. Oh, and Soda Bread and Pitta Bread and Wholemeal Loaf. 

You see, I went on this bread making course a month or so ago at our local community centre. I spent a glorious Saturday with a load of other locals because taught how to make the food of life by a local expert.  Then, a few days later, a local Jewish couple (I live near Stamford Hill, home to Europe's largest Orthodox Jewish community) announced they were moving and needed to give away a load of bread flour. 

Now, when I say a load, I mean a LOAD. We are talking 30 Kilos here! Apparently, they used to do a lot of baking, but then the novelty wore off. It took me two runs on my bike to pick it all up. On getting it home, I gave some to the housemates, who include a local primary school teacher. My other 'housie' works in a children's hospital and is a great baker or bread, so she was very glad of it. 

But even after all my give aways I am still left with LOADS of bread flour. I've baked a few loaves with it, but in the last week or two have been focussing on pizza bases, 

My Go To Cookbook
Now, when I want to know something, I go to my Leith's Vegetarian Bible. I rather suspect this is the ultimate vegetarian cookbook. I was given it as a leaving present from the staff at the first school I taught in. To say that it was a very welcome present is something of an understatement. Next to Rosamund Richardson's books' this is the one I use most of all. 

As you can see below, it gives a very reliable recipe for a pizza base that I have used many times. It's quick, simple and produces a lovely pizza dough. 

A simple and straightforward Pizza base. 
Tonight, I used it to make a garlic bread. But of course, I had already used up my wild garlic, so I had to use the real stuff for this. Only I didn't. What you see below is what is left of the garlic and parsley bread I made this evening to go with my pasta and tomato pesto main course. 

The garlic I used for this bread was frozen. I saw this stuff in the local supermarket a week or two ago and thought I would give it a go. I so wish I hadn't. My first thought was to roast the frozen cloves in order to draw the flavour out of them. 


All I was left with was a hot, tasteless mush! So, I took another couple of cloves out of the freezer, microwaved them for a few seconds to thaw them out and then chopped them up with some parsley and olive oil. Well the result as you can see below, is a nice looking bread - that was totally tasteless. 

So, lesson learned is this. NEVER, EVER, use frozen garlic cloves again! They will be in the bin before the night is out and I will be buying the real stuff (or using the wild stuff) from now onwards. So, just in case you are ever templted to use frozen garlic, below is a picture of the stuff I bought, so you can avoid it in the future.