Tuesday, 30 December 2014

Fusili Afredo

Fusili Alfredo

One of the staples I used to exist on when I was student. And my kids absolutely love it and make it now they are students. Really simple, very rich and creamy, and even though I have been making it for years, I have always just "thrown" everything together up until now. It is only the discipline of writing this blog that has got me to think about the actual proportions needed. In other words, this is another classic Italian dish you can't really go wrong with. So don't get too anal about the measurements below.

Ingredients (serves 2 - takes about 20 minutes to cook):

30g Softened Unsalted Butter
200g of pasta (any pasta really, but long varieties such as spaghetti, fetuccini or linguini are most commonly used. Frankly I had run out when I made this one which is why I went for fusili)
50ml of Single Cream, slightly warmed
A Tablespoon of Mascarpone
30g Grated Mild Cheddar
50g Grated Parmessan
100g Button Mushrooms Quartered
100g of Bacon Lardons (or Pancetta cut into cubes)
30g Garden Peas (or Petit pois)
Small Hand full of Chopped Parsley Leaves
Freshly Ground Black Pepper Corns

The Cooking:

In a pot of boiling water, cook your pasta through in the usual way. In a separate pan, on a medium heat fry your lardons/pancetta in a knob of butter for about 7 minutes (chortle! chortle! I said "knob" Fnar! Fnar!). Once it starts to crisp up, add your mushrooms (which will mop up what ever fat is in the pan). Dry fry and stir for another 2-3 minutes so they brown up. Then add your 30g of softened butter, cream and mascarpone. Blend together thoroughly. Once combined add your grated cheeses a hand full at a time, stirring until thoroughly melted. I generally do this with a whisk to ensure you end up with a very smooth finish. Once all the cheeses are melted and smooth, add your peas and stir in.

You should now be left with a thick, smooth, creamy sauce (with pancetta/lardons, mushroom bits and peas floating in it). Drain off your cooked pasta and add it to the pan with your "Alfredo"sauce. Mix thoroughly and allow the pasta to absorb some of it by cooking on a low heat for a further minute or two. Stirring continuously so it does not stick or burn.

Serve up, sprinkled with some parmesan and seasoned with ground black pepper and chopped parsley.

A nice variation on this theme that also works well - instead of cheddar, use St Agur blue cheese. Mega! 

Saturday, 20 December 2014

Christmas Port & Cranberry Sauce

Christmas Port & Cranberry Sauce

Come Christmas Day, this makes a perfect accompaniment for your turkey and gravy. Also, if you follow this recipe to the letter you will end up with about 3 litres of the stuff, enough to fill 10 large jars (or 15 small ones) so you can give them out as presents for foody friends ahead of the big day. If you are only making for your self then divide all the quantities by 6 (and only use 2 oranges).


A Whole 1 litre bottle of Port (I know!!)
10 Oranges (you'll need the zest from 6 and the juice from all of them)
6 Star Anise
210g Golden Castor Sugar
1 and a half 340g jars of Redcurrant Jelly
30ml of Brandy
1.5kg of Fresh Cranberries
300g Dry Sweet Cranberries
Edible gold glitter (for sparkle)
Some pretty jars and labels

The Cooking:

Grate the zest of 6 oranges (quite time consuming unless you have a device". Then in a massive pot throw in the fresh cranberries, orange juice and zest, star anise, port and redcurrant jelly and bring to the boil. Keep it at a simmer, giving it a stir every now and then, until the fruit has all burst and the sauce has started to thicken slightly (about an hour).

Turn the heat down, add the brandy and the dried cranberries. Heat through for another 10 minutes then let it all cool. Using a slotted spoon, trawl through the mixture to retrieve and disgard the star anise.

Once cooled the mixture will thicken a lot. Add it to your jars and to give it a bit Christmas sparkle, sprinkle on the top of each one a little bit of edible gold glitter (the one I used was from Waitrose and is called "Bronze Crunch"). One or two tea spoons will be enough for all your jars as you don't want the crunch to dominate. Its just a little decoration.

Keep them in the fridge. They'll keep for a couple of weeks. Bring to room temperature before serving a dollop on your plate of Christmas dinner.

Look at that colour. Its a warming pot full of Christmas!

Tagliatelle With Salmon and Prawns

Tagliatelle With Salmon & Prawns (serves 3)


2 Salmon fillets
100g of peeled prawns
2 slices of lemon and juice of half a lemon
25g Unsalted butter
Handful of Fresh Chopped Parsley
4 small chalottes (or 2 big ones) finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, crushed and chopped
2 Table spoons of creme fraiche
Grated Parmesan
3 hand fulls of Tagliatelle, linguine or spaghetti
20ml of white wine

The Cooking:

In a pan, add a tea spoonful of vegetable oil and melt half your butter and on a low heat. Add you salmon fillets, spray with freshly squeezed lemon juice and pop your lemon slices into the pan. Gently fry your salmon fillets for about 10 minutes each side (until all the flesh has turned from orange to peach). Remove from the pan and rest on chopping board for a few minutes. Take a fork and break up into flakes. 

Meanwhile, in a separate pan, pour in boiling water and add your pasta. Cook for about 12 minutes or until soft.

While the pasta is cooking, put the remaining butter into the pn you used for the salmon, add your shallots, parsley and garlic and in them gently fry your prawns for a couple of minutes on each side. If they are raw when you start cooking them, they should turn from grey to pink when cooked.Turn the heat up, add the wine and let it reduce down. Then add your flaked salmon back into the pan, drain your pasta and add that, and the creme fraiche. Turn down to a low heat and stir the lot together for about 3-4 minutes. Until the cream has covered everything and the pasta has absorbed the butter from the pan.

Season, dish up and sprinkle with some grated Parmesan.

Monday, 8 December 2014

Slow Roast Pork Belly with Caramelized Red Onion Chutney

Slow Roast Pork Belly With Caramelized Red Onion Chutney


1kg of Pork Belly
150g Brown Sugar
1 litre of boiling water
170g Sea Salt
2 teaspoons of black pepper corns
2 cloves
1 bay leaf
Sprig of fresh time
A jar of caramelized red onion chutney (I do have a recipe but that's for another time)

The Cooking:

The day before you want to eat this dish, make a brine by combining the sugar, salt, pepper corns, cloves, bay leaf and thyme with the boiling water in a saucepan. Cook on a high heat, stirring until all the sugar and salt has dissolved, then put to one side to cool for about an hour. Once cooled, put your meat into a tray big enough to accommodate it, along with and all the brine, without over flowing. You will notice that the meat has a tendancy to float, so best weight it down with an upturned bowl, then seal in place by covering in cling film. Put it in a fridge for 24 hours.

The salt in the solution will act by rendering down the fat in the pork so you are left with an aptly meaty roast, with beautiful crackling and crispy bits.

After its had 24 hours of sitting in the fridge, pre-heat an oven to 150 degrees. Drain off the brine, give the meat a swill under a cold tap and dab dry with a cloth, then put the meat uncovered into a roasting tin and roast for 4 hours.

Serve up with mash, shredded greens and carrots and a big dolop of caramelized red onion chutney. lovely with a ruby red real ale.

Sunday, 7 December 2014

Big Beef and Tomato Casserole (to feed 30)

Big Beef & Tomato Casserole

We volunteered to prepare a dinner for a shelter for the homeless at The High Street Baptist's Church in Merthyr Tydfil (something I recommend every one to do). This is what we put together with a view to feeding up to 30 people. If you don't have a commercial kitchen (as I don't) preparing this much food in one go is something of a challenge. We needed to borrow a very large cooking pot to make it possible. We also had to divvy up the work as you could do with 2 hands to halve how long the preparation takes. Any way,I'll shut up now and get on with the recipe.


4.5kg of Diced Beef
2kg Onions, peeled and chopped
3kg Carrots, peeled and sliced
2kg Bacon Lardons
4 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
Whole 500g carton of Pasata
Whole 30g packet of fresh Thyme finely chopped
30g of powdered garlic (or garlic salt)
5 Bay Leaves
2kg Frozen Garden Peas
6 pints of Strong Beef Stock (made with 12 stock cubes)
30g Butter
Plain Flour
Vegetable Oil

The Cooking:

If you are not used to cooking in these quantities, you need a bit of planning to pull it off. If two are sharing the preparation, you can work quick enough not to need to worry about chopped veg going brown or drying out. If working alone you will need to compensate for that by keeping your chopped veg in water (which adds its own problems of draining it off sufficiently to cook it properly). Either way, start by chopping all your onions and carrots and opening the tins you are going to need. Time things so that while you are prepping your other ingredients you can crisp up your bacon lardons - which takes 30 minutes. Turn on your oven to 190 degrees, then put your bacon lardons into two roasting tins and bake for around 30 minutes (or until crunchy). When done, drain off all the surplus fat and put into the pot you will be cooking in (or split it across the two pots if you can't get one big enough). 

Then, with your helper, start to brown your onions about 2 or 3 handfuls at a time in each frying pan or wok. Don't over fill them. And use clean oil and a dollop of butter with every shift. Once they are softened and golden, ad them to you big pot with the crisp lardons. Repeat exactly the same process with your carrots, then brown your meat and add that. Once its all together in the pot, get a good fist full of plain flour and dust that over the top. Now add your garlic, your chopped thyme, your bay leafs a good dash of salt and ground black pepper and give the whole mixture a good stir (I snapped a perfectly good wooden spoon doing this so use something pretty sturdy).

Put the lot onto a medium heat, add your peas, chopped tomatoes, pasata and stock. Turn the heat up high, stirring your mixture so it does not stick. Then when it starts bubbling (which will take a while as there is so much of it), cover it and turn the heat down low and let it simmer for about an hour and a half.

Serve up with boiled potatoes.

I was truly humbled by my evening helping out at "The People's Kitchen" in The High Street Baptist Church in Merthyr Tydfil. It is wonderful work that you do and being a part of it for the short time that I was was a privilege. And appreciation shown by everyone involved for my contribution was over whelming. Thank you for giving me the opportunity.