Meat Loaf

I always remember my mums Meat Loaf being delicious. A great way to combine different meat and a more unusual way to use up mince and sausages. I also love how the mince cooked in the oven tastes completely different to mince fried in the pan, not sure why? It has been a good while since I cooked Meat Loaf, so I cooked it last night. Of course, I aimed to bring a bit of the Med into this loaf and oh boy am I glad I did.
I combined a a packet of beef mince with sausages (taken out of their skins), prosciutto, chopped fennel, a red pepper and a good deal of parsley. I mixed everything together for a good while before pushing into a loaf tin. Pace the loaf tin into a larger baking tray half filled with boiling water and throw into a hot 200 C oven for 45 minutes. Pierce with a skewer to ensure your loaf is hot throughout and drain the fat that will ooze out of the meat.

20130306-193133.jpg

Slice your loaf and serve on top of some rocket. Simple, no need for carbs or a sauce!

20130306-193212.jpg

20130306-193311.jpg

Fish Fish Fish

I told you all that we bought a great deal of fish at the local supermarket last week, this was the result: a delicious livornese fish stew. My kitchen looked like a murder scene with all sorts of fish all over the place, but the end product was clean, crisp and packed full of flavour.
I don’t normally cook with fish as I often find filleting and boing them very tedious and one of my pet hates is finding a fish bone!
The base of this sauce consisted of chopped tomatoes, onions, garlic, carrots, celery, green pepper, white wine vinegar, chillies, sultanas and a great big bunch of herbs; dill and parsley. I just love combining all these ingredients together in the same pot over a few hours and adding the fish. I used Monkfish, salmon, whitebait and tilapia (a firm textured, white fleshed fish). These are a little bit different than the typical fish used in stews, but they were delicious and the different aromas given off from the different fish really combined well. Fish marries so well with both dill and parsley, and with a little kick from the chilli and sweetness from the sultanas this was dish bursting with flavour.
Overall, the stew was cooking for 2 hours before being served with polenta and some crunchy white bread. If only I could have enjoyed this looking out into the ocean. Some day soon perhaps?

20130306-184122.jpg

20130306-184131.jpg

As always I cannot wait to try this dish using different fish, a different base and different vegetables, so is the awesomeness of home cooking.

Have you cooked with different types of seafood recently? Would love to hear from you!

Happy Eating everyone

J

HEARTy Pasta

Well, yesterday was the day to use the lamb hearts that I had purchased from a local market. You may remember me blogging about a ragu with chicken livers, and that was a delight, so I was brave and went for the heart. Though similar to the ragu I made previously, the inclusion of lamb and a near novelty pasta – bucatini – made this very different, but equally delicious.
I began by frying the hearts. I put my hands up right now and admit that I am a compete amateur at offal and I was on a voyage of discovery. Though this is when you discover the best dishes! Once browned on all sides, I chopped the hearts into pieces, reserving the more muscly bits to be blitzed and added to the tomato sauce. I am getting pretty good at the basic tomato sauce, just a little tomato purée, passata, a couple of cloves of garlic and salt & pepper. I added some delicious chestnut mushrooms to this sauce, the thinking behind this was that lamb and mushrooms would marry very well.
I added the blitzed heart to the sauce and simmered for around 25/30 minutes. After that, I added the bucatini (long macaroni esque tubes, perfect for collecting a thick tomato sauce) to boiling water and added the heart chunks to the sauce. Around 6 minutes later, the pasta was nice and al dente and the heart was still a little pink in the middle.
Served with some crusty white bread, and a glass of gorgeous Montepulciano d’Abbruzzo this was divine! The heart had the perfect juicy, tender texture and the taste, oh my goodness. Although, surprisingly enough, it tasted like lamb I personally thought there was a slightly gamey tint to it, certainly more flavoursome than the lamb chops.
This was a delicious voyage, and the combo of tomato, garlic, mushroom, intense lamb, bread and red wine, it was, well….. rather special to say the least. If you get the chance to buy hearts please try it. A little odd when you think about it, but extremely delicious and the more of the animals we eat, the less is thrown away and the more respect we show them.

20130225-193142.jpg

20130225-193251.jpg

20130225-193320.jpg

Tonight was no fuss. We popped to the local fishmonger to pick some fish and got some Sprats which we dusted with flour and fried. A spray of lime juice and some parsley and we were good to go.

20130225-193041.jpg

Check out my good lady’s blog to find out more!

Emily Clarke Food

That’s all folks, we did buy alot of fish so stay tuned….

Happy eating everyone

J

Leftovers

We often cook too much of a portion and most of us either put leftovers in the fridge for later, put in the fridge and forget about them, put them in the freezer or worse of all just throw them away. In my case I put my leftover Sicilian salmon (although there was no salmon left) into the fridge to have for lunch.
However, instead of simply reheating it I wanted to try be a bit more adventurous. I had the idea of shaping them into small balls, coating them in breadcrumbs then shallow frying them and oh boy what a delight!
I very simply added 1 egg into the leftover sauce to get a nice sticky consistency and make some breadcrumbs. Take a tablespoon of the mixture and shape into balls before coating them in the breadcrumbs. Once nicely coated, shallow fry until they have a nice golden colour and there you go, simplicity!

20130223-144536.jpg

I served this over some rocket tossed in balsamic vinegar, a lovely light lunch pack full of flavour. The mixture actually tasted a little sweet and sour, the chillies as sultanas in the sauce really married together well.
Quite excited for the next few days, I predict another pizza is on the card soon, I want to try a beetroot risotto and have some chicken as well. Will keep you all posted of course.

Happy eating everyone!

J

Pizza 1 Hangover 0

It’s been a few days since I last blogged, I blame the alcohol that was consumed over the weekend. The 2 day hangover is a clear sign that I’m getting older, but it was great seeing the guys again. I had them round for dinner on Friday. I made some of my ragu I previously blogged about with polenta and homemade bread. I tried adding mozarella to the cooked polenta along with butter, and the result was stringy, and just delicious.
As Thursday was Valentines Day, and Emily and my anniversary, we popped into Edinburgh for some lunch. We visited a small French cafe in the Grassmarket, it was a delight. I had the Terrine of the Day which was a lovely Red Deer and Fois Gras. I do not agree with the force feeding of animals, and would not knowingly order it, but it was delicious. Emily had Snails in a lovely garlic sauce to go along with endless French baguette and delicious red wine. We followed with a cheese board, so there we were with a selection of cheeses, bread and good French wine. It almost seemed like a religious act.

My Red Deer & Fois Gras Terrine. Delicious.

20130218-210941.jpg

Emily’s Snails

20130218-210952.jpg

The Holy Trinity

20130218-211004.jpg

To finally conquer the hangover I made some good old pizza tonight with pepperoni and basil. There is nothing better on this planet than eating freshly made pizza, the base perfectly crunchy and the cheese bubbling away; heavenly!

Traditional Pizze e pepperoni e basil, fantastico!

20130218-211056.jpg

Hoping that all of you have a week full of wonderful food to look forward. It’s going to be more cucina povera for me for the rest of the month, so stay tuned for simple recipes on a tight budget!

Happy eating everyone!

J

Ragu & Gnocchi Heaven

20130213-205842.jpg

Ok, we have all heard of spaghetti bolognese and I must admit it is a delight; nice spaghetti with a very rich tomato sauce. However, to Italians, there is no such thing as spaghetti bolognese. It is a dish that became common amongst the Italian immigrants who were arriving in America in their hundreds of thousands at the star of the twentieth century, escaping dire poverty in Italy, in particular the south. This is an important point, as spaghetti is much more common in southern Italian cuisine rather than northern. So this southern pasta was mixed with a tomato and meat sauce and you got spaghetti bolognese. After tonights ragu di Bologna however, I am not going back to spag bol!

Pasta debate aside, I actually took this opportunity to perfect my potato Gnocchi, little delightful pillows that resemble potato dumplings. These go well with any sauce as they absorb a lot of the flavour. To get the perfect Gnocchi, mix approx 150g of mashed potatoes (do not add any butter or milk or cream) with 100g 00 flour, 1 egg and a pinch of salt. You are looking for a nice dry dough, if it too runny it will result in soggy heavy Gnocchi. Take a handful of the dough at a time and roll out into a thing sausage shape, the with a sharp knife cut into roughly 2cm long dumplings. Take each individual Gnocchi and press into a fork to get a channel pattern, this is not for decoration it will help absorb more sauce! Now onto the sauce….

The thing that made the difference with this ragu was the inclusion of chicken livers. This gives an extra dimension both in terms of texture and of course taste. What I have discovered recently is that there are not many Italian dishes that do not include certain basics: carrots, celery, onion and garlic. So, add of all of these with some pork mince, chopped pork and some blended chicken livers. All you need now is some tomatoes, so add a good deal of tomato paste (to give a lovely concentrated flavour) and some delicious passata (sieved tomatoes). Another secret to this is to have it cooking for hours, you will not get the desired flavours if you only have it cooking for a short time,vin this case good things definitely come to those who wait! I waited for more than 4 hours today, and it was good good good!

Your Gnocchi will take only a few minutes to cook in boiling water and they will tell you when they are ready by floating to the top. I was overjoyed with my Gnocchi tonight as they were perfectly fluffy and soaked up the flavour of the ragu brilliantly.

20130213-210016.jpg

Add your Gnocchi then top with a good load of the ragu, sit back and enjoy. 4 hours in the making but a dish that will live with me for a very long time, food does that doesn’t it?

I have a group of old friends coming over on Friday night, I now know what I will be cooking them! I hope wherever you are you are having both your stomachs and your souls fed, happy eating everyone!

J

Gnocchi with butter and sage

Well last night, I made some homemade potato gnocchi with a sage and butter sauce. I just love making gnocchi add I added some grounded nuts to the potato mix this time. I seen Gennaro Contaldo make a Gnocchi using chestnut flour and the result was supposed to be really delicious. I didn’t have chestnut four so thought I’d blitz a mixture of nuts I had in the cupboard.

I just love Gnocchi, and just like many other foods I can remember when I first had experienced it. I was back home from university for the weekend ad my mum served up Gnocchi with sauerkraut and bratwurst. This is almost more of an Austrian recipe rather than Italian but it was simply delicious, and the Gnocchi was just so light, fluffy and delicious. I now make Gnocchi regularly and have combined them with lots of different sauces.

Once you have a nice creamy mash, add a good deal of ’00’ flour and the crushed nuts and mix until you have a nice dough. Officially, for 1kg potatoes you will need 300g of flour but alter the quantities as you need.
Once you have a dough, take a handful of gnocchi and roll out into a long sausage shape and cut into 2cm chunks. Boil in salted water for 3-4 minutes until the Gnocchi float to the top.
For the sauce, I very simply mixed 1 tbsp of butter, a good deal of chopped sage, 1 tbsp of extra virgin olive oil and a little water. Bring all ingredients together to the boil and cook for several minutes whilst your Gnocchi cooks. Mix your gnocchi into the sauce and ensure each Gnocchi is fully coated in the sauce.
Simple, quick recipe with maximum flavour. The Gnocchi should be nice and light and the sauce nice and velvety.

Em is in charge of dinner tonight so I can just look forward to eating! Thanks again to all who have visited my page so far and I hope you continue to visit.

Happy eating everyone

James

20130211-121401.jpg

Salmon with cabbage parcel & stuffed onion

20130204-193135.jpg

So I combined a number of different ingredients tonight with a surprisingly sophisticated result. I had salmon, cabbage, onions, and some leftover home made sun dried tomato pesto in the fridge. I did come across lovely stuffed onions in a classic Italian cookbook the other day with a mixture of mince, vegetables and herbs being stuffed int an onion and baked. I didn’t have these ingredients so I had to alter the recipe…….. How about a nice mackerel pâté? That would go well with onion wouldn’t it? I was, after all, serving it along with salmon??

So I blitzed some mackerel wit a good bit of extra virgin olive oil to make a pâté whilst I peeled and halved 2 large white onions. I scooped out several inner layers and filled with a tbsp of the mackerel pâté and into the oven at 190degrees.
I also thought I would make some cabbage parcels as well. I par boiled some Savoy cabbage leaves in boiling water for a few minutes, filled with some leftover tomato pesto and folded into nice little parcels. These 2 sideshows will surround the main events, some delicious fresh salmon.

I placed the cabbage parcels into the oven whilst I turned my attention to the salmon. Seasoned well with salt and pepper, I cook salmon for 3 minutes on each side (starting with the skin side down) and then for 2 minutes on each end and finally 1 last minute skin side down. The result is a deliciously crispy skin with a nice pink interior, bellissimo.

So here you have it folks, delicious Salmon with a pesto stuffed cabbage parcel and a mackerel ate stuffed onion. The salmon was divine, the pesto really complimented the heartiness of the cabbage and the baked onion was just sensational, matching the fishy stuffing spectacularly. It is just great to throw so many different ideas together, I recommend you all try it yourself!

Happy eating folks

J

Lunchtime Kick

The weather is still foul here; gusty winds and horizontal rain, just horrible. On the positive side however, it is always good to turn to some classic dishes for comfort, this morning I made one such classic to help warm the coggles at lunch time, Penne alla Arrabiata with chilli and fennel sausages.

Yet again, this was a very quick dish to put together, taking the time it took the water to boil and cook the pasta. We got some delicious italian style sausages from our local supermarket bursting with fennel and chilli, they are very very special. I started off by frying the sausages wit some olive oil before turning my attention to the sauce….

I very simply chopped some garlic and onion and added to some passata. I then added 1 tsp of sugar and a whole chilli with all the seeds. I do love chilli, especially when the wind and rain are battering the windows. I cooked the sauce together for around 7-8 minutes as the sausages fried and the pasta boiled.

Once the sausages were done, I cut them into nice chunks and added them to the sauce. A few minutes later and my pasta was nice and al dente. Needless to say I couldn’t stop thinking about my inch all day and it did not disappoint. The mixture of fennel, chilli and tomato together with the delicious al dente pene, it was very special. I just love pasta, and garlic, and chilli and tomato sauce, and fennel haha.

Thank you to all who have visited my blog, I really hope you are enjoying my ramblings on food and do continue to keep in touch. There is no better way to interact with people than through food.

As always, happy eating everyone! Remember that so long as you have food on your plate, you have solved all problems for the time being!

J

Video: Turkey with courgettes, chickpeas and kale.

Turkey with courgettes, chickpeas and kale

Here’s a short video of me cooking turkey steaks with courgettes, chickpeas and kale. Delicious, simple, very healthy and very very quick.
Apologies for any problems understanding my Scottish accent hah and for the amateur camera work and editing.

Happy eating everyone

J