Food Hall

This page is still slow baking in the oven - here are just a couple of taster bites for you to get your teeth into for now....

I stumbled across this stunning recipe which originates from Asia Minor some twenty years ago, and I've been cooking it on and off ever since. In our household it still ranks as the all time undisputed heavyweight champion 'King of the world Soups', and in all my Poirot esque recipe hunting's, I've never tripped over this or a similar recipe since. This is the  tidied up version. Serve as a main course soup on any occasion with really tasty chilled lager. Enjoy.
Click on the recipe image to enlarge or print off.

June 2011

Baked baby carrots -steamed in white wine, thyme and things.

The quantities in this recipe are based on approx 1 lb/ 450g’s of carrots. Vary according to your needs. (Really Phil?) (Yeah really) Although it works well with the baby carrot variety, you can just as easily use big old fat garden carrots and cut them down to something slimmer and sleeker. Just make sure they’re fresh as daisy’s and as orange as orange as you can get.

  • 1 lb/450g’s of baby carrots or cut down biggy ones, scrubbed and preferably skins left on.
  • ½ teaspoon of roughly crushed cumin seeds. If 
  • you can be arsed to lightly dry roast them in an iron pan for a few minutes first, it will increase their flavour several fold.
  • Handful of fresh thyme sprigs. English garden thyme or lemon thyme is fine. I prefer the flavour of English garden thyme myself.
  • A desert spoon or so of picked thyme leaves, to sprinkle over before serving.
  • 4 knobs of butter approx.
  • A glass of chardonnay or any white wine of your choosing.
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Optional addition: A couple of sprigs of fresh rosemary.

Prep: Make up a fire in a small coral of rocks and heat to 220ºC/425ºF - or gas mark 7 if you’ve got one of those fancy indoor oven type things. Burgle some kitchen foil from the neighbours when they’re out, about 1.5 mtrs in length, and fold in two to make a double thickness. Place carrots in the middle, dot with the knobs of butter. Sprinkle over the full sprigs of thyme, salt and pep and rosemary sprigs if optioned. Bring up the sides to form a roomy parcel, pour in the wine, then scrunch up and seal off your foil parcel leaving some ‘steam space’ room above the carrots and stuff inside. Place parcel onto similar sized oven proof receptacle thing, just to catch the juices in case the foil should split…and place onto fire or in fancy indoor oven for about 47 and a half minutes or until tender. May take longer for thicker carrots, or if it starts to rain half way through cooking time outside.

Time cheat: If you want to speed the whole cooking time process up, start by ‘part steaming’ the carrots for a bit first. Say 5 to 7 minutes to get them going. Then take them off the fire/oven after 20 minutes and check for done-ness. Note: If you don’t own at least one simple steamer then buy one. If you cant be bothered to buy one then make one by placing a sieve or a colander over a big pan of boiling water and placing any sort of rough lid on top. And use just enough hot tap water or kettle water to speed the whole process up quite a bit.

Flavour cheat: If your carrots tend to taste a bit bland sometimes, try sprinkling over some castor sugar once they’re partly cooked or steamed. Honey glazing works really well when you’re slow pan frying carrots or parsnips, but not so well when you’re steaming in wine as per this particular recipe. It’s a bit overpowering.

Pre Nosh: Once cooked, remove to plate or serving thing. Remove sprigs of drowned thyme & rosemary. Spoon over either some or all of the wine and butter soup. Nosh one of the carrots to test for seasoning. Sprinkle over the separate spoons worth of picked off thyme leaves you prepared earlier and serve to your pampered and patient, hungry pussycats in waiting.

Tip: You can always use some of the spare cooking juice to form a quick and simple winey buttery herby sauce if you want to. Whether you thicken it up with corn starch and/or add some cream or crème freche, or none of the above – you can also squeeze in some lemon juice too if you like a bit of a twist.

July - 2011
Recipe – Savoy Cabbage with Pancetta

(or a smoked bacon of your choosing):

I think this is the ‘King of Cabbage’ recipes, and have often eaten this dish entirely on its own out of soup bowls! In fact, this was the dish that got the kids eating cabbage in the first place.. if my local green grocer's is closed, once it's dark, I try to steal my Savoy’s from a really good looking cabbage patch as they tend to be much bigger than the mass produced tennis ball size savoys you have to actually pay legitimate currency for in Supermarkets.

Actual Prep & Cook Time – 20 mins

Note: I’ve shown a lot of the ingredients below as ‘optional’. The essence of this recipe is just the cabbage, bacon & stock – so if you don’t have, or fancy, any one or more of all the other ingredients, it doesn’t matter. The ‘all’ ingredients version is simply the ‘top of the range’ model that I’ve evolved over the past few years. This is fundamentally an Italian recipe. The ingredients I tend to leave out the most are the chilli and sometimes the garlic.

  • Savoy cabbage. Outer loose leaves removed. Quartered (to make slicing easier). The hard white core part mostly removed. Then thinly slice the remaining cabbage leaves and set aside.
  • 2 to 3 tbsp – ordinary non virgin olive oil (or any oil of your choice).
  • Knob of butter (optional).
  • A portion of pancetta or smoked bacon – ie; 4 to 8 slices – (you choose) chopped or diced smallish. N/B – Tesco sell 2 x decent size packs of pancetta for £5. Or you can simply use any smoked back or streaky bacon.
  • 300ml – chicken or vegetable stock. Either a full home made stock or, as I do….a quicky, using either stock cubes or ‘Marigold’ Swiss vegetable powder – (which is an excellent veg stock powder to keep in the cupboard by the way, and available in round tins from most supermarkets)
  • 1 clove garlic (optional) crushed, chopped or finely sliced – (you choose).
  • 2 shallots (optional) finely diced, sliced or chopped.
  • 1 leek (optional) slice down middle, wash, dry - then slice thinly.
  • Salt & Pepper seasoning.
  • 1 or 2 mild chilli’s (entirely optional) deseeded & finely diced. Or a few shakes of paprika works well too.
  • 1 tbsp fresh coriander (optional) roughly chopped. Or 1tspn approx dried.
  • 1 tbsp fresh tarragon (optional)        -ditto-                             -ditto-

Herb note: You can actually add any (or no) fresh or dried herbs of your choosing to this dish. It’s up to you. The secret is to only add the fresh herbs right at the very end, once the dish is cooked. Dried herbs can be added a little earlier.

This is a one pan dish. I happen to use a large saucepan/stock pot which measures 250mm x 100mm deep (10” x 4”) which works perfectly.

This is also the dish I cook last of all before serving with say a roast. The reason for this is that this dish is at its zenith when the cabbage leaves are ‘still’ bright green – and have not turned limp green or yellow-ish, as a result of either over cooking or leaving too long in a hot and lidded pan, on the counter.

  • Heat the oil over medium heat.
  • Add shallots & stir fry for 1 to 2 mins.
  • Add butter and pancetta or bacon & stir fry for 1 to 2 mins, or until the bacon looks to be nearly cooked.
  • Add garlic & leeks & chilli, and gently stir fry till leeks are half softened – about 2 mins – but don’t burn the garlic.
  • Add roughly ½ to 2/3rds of the stock – turn heat to high and bring everything to the boil.
  • Add the sliced cabbage and give it all a good stir to fully coat the cabbage in all the previous ingredients.
  • Season a bit - and add dried herbs if chosen.
  • Add the remainder of the stock, bring to a decent simmer, cover (for about three quarters of the cooking time) and simmer well for 10 to 15 mins stirring now and again – until the cabbage is tender/al dente & all or most of the liquid has evaporated. The green parts of the cabbage should ideally be a shiny bright green colour.
  • Check for seasoning.
  • Add fresh herbs if chosen.
  • And serve immediately…

This dish will keep overnight, to be eaten the next day – and also goes well the next day with sautéed potato or creamy mash and gravy.

Also – if you dice up some fresh or pre cooked chicken or pork, pan fry or wok it - until its either respectively cooked or heated through, then simply add it to your pre cooked cabbage recipe – it becomes a tasty & filling ‘ single bowl meal’ all by itself. What we call a ‘Cabbage Night!’

Hope you enjoy… Phil.

July 2011

Spaghetti alle vongole

Spaghetti vongole is a light, summery dish that should be kept as simple as possible – if you're splashing out on fresh clams, then it's a shame to lose them in a maelstrom of other flavours.

Serves 4

500g small clams (palourdes, or carpet shell are ideal)
(Or: If not clams…then a selection of say, prawns, cockles & mussels or any other mollusks of your choosing.)

350g approx - spaghetti (dried)
30g (knob) butter
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
3 fat cloves of garlic, finely chopped or crushed
½ medium-hot red chilli, or whole green chilli - finely chopped
100ml dry white wine
Small bunch of flat-leaf parsley, roughly chopped – Note/ You can also add coriander & basil
Zest of ½ a lemon (optional) and a spritz (good squeeze) of juice

1. Rinse the clams in cold running water, and scrub if necessary, then put them into a large bowl and cover with cold water. Salt generously and leave for a couple of hours, then drain and rinse well to remove any grit or sand.
2. Put the spaghetti into a large pan of salted boiling water and cook for a couple of minutes under the recommended time, until nearly done.
3. Meanwhile, put half the butter and all the olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat and soften the garlic and chilli.
4. Add the drained clams, and turn up the heat. Pour in the wine, cover and leave for a couple of minutes until most of them have opened. Discard any that are still closed. Add the others to the sauce, picking a few out of their shells for variety.
5. Drain the spaghetti and add to the pan along with the remaining butter. Toss well and leave for a minute, then stir through the chopped parsley, lemon zest and juice, season to taste and serve.

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