I can’t really claim this to be a recipe, it’s more an idea for something to serve with drinks or just to nibble on. This is one of my go to snacks on hot summer days – days when turning the heat up in the kitchen can be a slightly unbearable thought, so, dinner ends up being a succession of nibbles and salads. Nothing wrong with that, in fact, I love to eat this way, I love to spend summer evenings pottering about in a cool kitchen and presenting plate after plate of little delicious things that people think I’ve spent ages working on.
This works best with a salty cheese, I mostly use Manchego, but pecorino is a really good one too. You can also try it with blue cheese, roquefort or calabres would be where I’d go with this. I that a goats’ milk or ewes’ milk cheese offers an extra silty quality that contrasts best with the sweetness of the honey and the earthy thyme taste. If you want to make a more decadent version, try pecorino flavoured with truffle.
Preparation Time: 5 minutes Serves 4 12 to 16 slices of mature manchego cheese
2 x tsps of honey
1 x tbsp of fresh thyme chopped finely
Lay the slices of cheese on your serving dish, drizzle with honey and then sprinkle the thyme over your plate.
Tips and Variations
Serve with a crisp glass of white Rioja or Albariño
Until recently I hardly ever made spinach this way, I hardly ever used nice big wild spinach leaves. Mostly I’d use the baby leaves in salads with roast vegetables and cous cous, or, I’d use the frozen variety. I still use both of these, especially the frozen type of spinach, it’s just so handy to drop into sauces, stews or soups. I’ve noticed that although a lot of people tell me they love spinach, so many don’t cook it, or, they do the boiling thing – yeeeuuucchh!
I have to admit I’ve become slightly addicted to this recipe and go through loads of spinach this way each week. But, I suppose there could be worse addictions, right? I’ve been eating it so much I even started to think my body might be deficient in some vitamins or minerals, but then, that doesn’t explain my constant chocolate and ice-cream cravings – or does it?
Preparation Time: Less than 10 minutes Cooking Time: Less than 5 minutes
Serves 4 1 x tbsp olive oil 4 x large garlic cloves chopped finely
500gr / 1.1 lb wild spinach, washed and woody stems removed. Chop roughly.
½ a nutmeg
Salt and pepper
Dry off the spinach with a clean tea towel to remove most of the excess water after washing.
Heat the oil in a non-stick frying pan, or you can do this in a larger soup/stock pan that will hold the spinach. The heat should be medium high.
Add the garlic and cook for about 20 seconds (don’t let it colour and certainly not burn), then add as much spinach as you can and toss it in the garlic until it starts to wilt. Keep adding the spinach until it has all wilted.
Remove the pan from the heat, grate over the nutmeg add salt and pepper to taste, stir through and serve immediately.
Tips and Variations
It is important to toss the spinach in your garlic and oil so that the garlic doesn’t burn. Alternatively you can add the garlic after the spinach, but I prefer it before as I like to cook the rawness out of the garlic.
I like to add some fresh or dried chili flakes to the oil and garlic, anchovies work well too. A spritz of lemon juice over the spinach before serving is also nice especially if you serve with chicken or fish.
This is a great side dish to so many meats, I love it with fish and chicken but goes equally well with pork or beef too.
I’ve gone from one extreme to the other. A few months ago I decided I was making (and eating) much too much pasta. I’d come to rely on it, and noticed that the evening meal was a pasta one maybe 3 or 4 times a week. Another thing that made me think my habit was getting a bit out of hand was when I realised how much space my ‘pasta collection’ was taking up in the store cupboard and how many varieties I had. After going (almost) cold turkey for the whole summer, I think it is safe to venture back into pasta.
Ingredients 1 x cauliflower broken into small florets
300gr / 10.5oz. rigatoni pasta (good quality of course)
250gr / 9oz. green beans, topped and tailed and halved
2 x tbsp olive oil
2 x shallots chopped finely
3 x garlic cloves chopped finely
175gr / 6oz. bacon cut into cubes
300gr / 10.5oz. cherry tomatoes, halved
Juice of a lemon
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
To Serve: Some Extra virgin olive oil and pecorino cheese
Put boiling water directly from the kettle into a large pan that will be big enough to cook the pasta, beans and cauliflower at the same time. Add a good pinch of salt to the water and put it on a high heat.
Once the water is bubbling add the pasta. Check the cooking time on the pasta and add the cauliflower at the right moment to give it about 8 minutes to cook. Then the beans, they will need about 5 minutes.
Whilst the pasta and the vegetables are cooking, heat the oil in a frying pan. The pan you choose will need to be large enough to hold the pasta, cauliflower and beans too. Add the shallots and garlic allowing them to cook and fry gently for a couple of minutes, then add the bacon.
Cook until the bacon is crisp and the shallots have browned, this will probably take up to 5 minutes on a medium to high heat.
Add the tomatoes, stir through and then take 4 tbsps from your boiling pasta water and add to the tomato mix in the frying pan, then add the lemon juice. Allow this to reduce and bubble until most of the liquid has gone.
Add your pasta, cauliflower and beans to the frying pan and stir through, check for seasoning and serve drizzled with a little extra virgin olive oil and some finely grated pecorino cheese.
Tips and Variations
Try a mix of broccoli and cauliflower.
If your frying pan is not big enough to hold everything, add the tomato sauce to the pasta pan instead of the other way around in step 6.
This is a bit of an accidental vegetarian recipe. What I mean by that is that I didn’t set out to make a vegetarian recipe, but it sort of just happened that way. Staring into the fridge one day at a butternut squash that I had bought on impulse (ok, some women buy shoes on impulse, I buy squash – what of it?), I had to come up with a way to use it. I had been obsessing over a curry with squash for a while, maybe combine it with some frozen spinach which I always have in the freezer anyway and perhaps some chickpeas. But, I didn’t feel like a curry that day, and then it came to me, all of a sudden, it had to be pasta……
Ingredients for 4 Servings For the Butternut Squash 2 x medium butternut squash, peeled and diced (smallish, bite sized pieces– remember though, they will shrink a bit in the oven)
2 x tsp honey
1 x tbsp olive oil
½ a freshly grated nutmeg
Salt and pepper For the Spinach Sauce 2 x tbsp olive oil
500gr / 1.1 lb. frozen spinach (not creamed spinach), defrosted
3 x shallots chopped finely
5 or 6 sage leaves chopped finely
2 or 3 large garlic cloves chopped finely
300gr / 10 oz. cherry tomatoes, quartered
300ml / 10 fl.oz. buttermilk To Serve 75gr / 2.5 oz. toasted pine nuts
50gr / 1.5 oz. grated pecorino cheese (or parmesan)
Some extra virgin oil to drizzle over (optional)
Lumache Rigate pasta
Pre-heat the oven to 200°C/400°F.
Place the butternut squash in a roasting tray big enough that you can spread it out. Drizzle over the oil, mix it through to cover all your squash, then drizzle over the honey, grate over the nutmeg, sprinkle over a little salt and pepper. Place in the oven for about 15 to 20 minutes. The time will depend on how big you made your pieces of squash. The result you are looking for is that the squash has softened a little (not mushy though) and that it has taken on some colour.
Whilst the squash is cooking you can get on with the pasta and the spinach sauce. Drop your pasta into boiling, salted water for as long as the packaging instructs.
For the spinach sauce, heat the olive oil in a heavy bottomed pan, then add the shallots, garlic and sage. Cook until they have browned then add the spinach. I like to keep any water that has come from the spinach, I don’t drain it, just add it all. Stir through and add the tomatoes, mix in. Once bubbling, add the buttermilk, mix it through, then add and some salt and pepper to taste. This part of the cooking only takes a few minutes, you don’t want to overcook the spinach otherwise it will lose its vibrant green colour.
When the squash is ready, add about 2/3 of it to the spinach in the pan and stir through, keep the rest back to dress.
To add the pasta, I don’t drain it, as I want to get a little (just a little) of the water in which it has cooked into my sauce. To do this I decant the pasta into the pan with the spinach and butternut by using a slotted spoon. Stir your pasta through, check for seasoning.
To serve sprinkle over the remaining squash, pine nuts, cheese and drizzle over some extra virgin olive oil if you wish.
Tips and Variations
You can make the squash in advance and heat it through the spinach sauce.
They say you should wait for the first frost before you eat sprouts. Sounds like an old wives tale doesn’t it? There is truth in this particular ‘rule’. The freezing temperatures forces the little sprouts to turn their carbohydrates into sugar, so giving a better taste. Don’t ask me to explain the science of it. Someone much more qualified needs to do that.
Anyway, it’s pretty obvious that we have had our first frost. Hopefully, we are heading for our last! Before the season is over, I just wanted to have one more burst of Brussels – so here it is, a creamy (but of course with no cream) carbonara style dish.
The Recipe for Brussel Sprout Fettuccini Carbonara
Ingredients for 4 Servings 250gr / 0.5 lb. (dry weight) of good quality fettuccini pasta.
550gr / 1.2 lb. Brussel sprouts, cleaned and chopped quite finely, but not too small.
2 x shallots chopped finely
2 x large cloves of garlic chopped finely
150gr / 5 oz. smoked bacon chopped into small pieces
2 x eggs, beaten just enough to bring them together, then set them aside
Lots of freshly ground black pepper
75gr / 2.5 oz. finely grated parmesan cheese
Salt to taste
2 x tbsp of olive oil
Heat the oil in a non-stick pan. When it reaches a medium high heat, add the shallots and garlic and sauté for a minute.
Add the sprouts, cook until they are browned and become a little softer ( not too soft though, you don’t want them to be mushy, but to retain a little bite). You can probably get going with cooking the pasta when the sprouts are nearly finished. Just follow the instructions on the packet for timings. The best way to cook pasta is to put it into a pan with plenty of boiling water and a good helping of salt.
When the sprouts are cooked, move them to the outside area of the pan and add the bacon to the centre, allowing it to cook for a couple of minutes, turning a couple of times.
When the bacon is cooked, mix it through the sprouts and give a good grind of black pepper and a little salt. Careful with salt as the bacon and the parmesan will also add a salty flavour.
When the pasta is ready, bring your two pans close together on the stove. Then, with tongs, grab the pasta and drag is swiftly into the pan with the sprouts. By doing this you take in some of the pasta water. This water helps bind and create your sauce. You don’t need much, in this case probably about 2 tablespoons worth. This dragging technique should ensure that you have enough.
Turn the heat off under your sprouts and pasta. Add the egg (not directly on to the base of the pan but onto the pasta mixture) add the parmesan. Stir through quite quickly, this will create a creamy style sauce.
Check for seasoning, and serve immediately with some extra parmesan sprinkled over the top if you wish.
Tips and Variations
This works well with all sorts of pasta. The only type that doesn’t work so well for a carbonara style dish is whole meal or gluten free varieties. These pastas seem to lack the starchy constituent that gives your sauce that creamy texture.