Essentials, Pasta

Pasta dough

This is a basic recipe for egg based pasta dough.
If you have access to a vacuum sealer machine I would definitely recommend to vacuum seal the dough after it’s kneaded as this helps the flour hydration / resting further.

The recipe makes roughly 420 g finished dough, which should be enough for a dinner main dish for 4 people.

Ingredients for Pasta dough:

250 g Tipo 00 pasta flour
125 g egg yolks, roughly 7 large eggs
1 large egg
13 g extra-virgin olive oil
15 g whole milk
1/4 tsp salt

How to make Pasta dough:
Start by making a round mound of the flour in the middle of your work-bench. Take away some of the flour, maybe 1/8th or so… so that you can add this back to the dough should it be too wet.
Make a big hole in the middle of the mound, big enough for all the other ingredients, so you basically end up with a thick ring of flour.
Add the rest of the ingredients in the middle of this hole.
Start mixing everything together in the well with a fork or your fingers. Gradually pull in more and more flour until everything comes together in a wet dough. It’s almost essential to have a plastic bench scraper at this stage to be able to scrape the wet dough and flour off the bench and it’s also useful at the start to handle the dough.
Once it all comes together start using your hands to knead it. Use the heal of your hand to knead and keep folding it over and kneading away from you. Knead like this for 5 minutes.

At this stage the dough should be ready. Either put in a plastic bag and let it rest in the fridge for about 5 hours, or vacuum pack.

Mains, Salad

Panzanella Salad

Panzanella salad (Tuscan chopped salad of typically soaked stale bread, onions and tomatoes) is one of my favourite things to eat in the warmer months of the year.
The variations are endless and hence this post is more of a description of the method than a recipe per se. You can vary what bread you use, what fat you toast it in, how you toast it, whether you add spices or herbs to the bread… and that’s just one component in the salad!
When I make a panzanella a few things are constant though:
– Some kind of vinaigrette
– I toast the bread in the oven
– I pretty much always include tomatoes

I thought it was kinda pointless to give amounts for a salad so I only give amounts for things like the vinaigrette. And of course as mentioned before, this example is just one variation I made the same day I wrote this post.

Ingredients for Panzanella Salad:

Carrots, coarsely grated
Tomatoes, quartered
Salad leaves
Pine nuts
Marjoram, fresh, chopped
Hard goats cheese, diced
Bread (a bit stale is fine)
Olive oil
Extra virgin olive oil
Dijon mustard
White vine vinegar (preferably Champagne vinegar)
Black pepper

How to make Panzanella Salad:
Start by toasting of the bread. Cut or tear the bread into pieces maybe 4 cm big, or whatever you want. Toss with olive oil in a roasting pan, until nicely coated with oil. Also smash a few garlic cloves with your knife and throw into the pan as well. Toast in a 200C oven and toss the bread in the pan every so often until uniformly nicely toasted.
You can also do this under the grill in the oven, which is a lot faster but also requires more attention.
Once bread is nicely toasted, move to a tray lined with kitchen towel to get rid of some of the oil. Reserve.
Toast of the pine nuts as well on a sheet-tray, lightly salt. Keep attention on them as they burn very easily. You want them lightly roasted, golden brown.

Next make the vinaigrette; in a medium bowl – mix about 1 small teaspoon of Dijon mustard with a big pinch of salt, some finely milled fresh black pepper, 1 small teaspoon of honey and 60 ml of vinegar. Also add 1 glove of garlic crushed, I prefer to use a fine Microplane and grate the garlic instead of crushing it but either will work. Whisk this until all combined.
Make sure the bowl is secure (a damp tea-towel around the base of the bowl works great) then start drizzling in 60 ml olive oil while whisking constantly, next do the same again with 60 ml extra virgin olive oil and finally the same again with 60 ml olive oil again. Taste the vinaigrette and adjust with oil if it’s too acidic, vinegar if it’s not acidic enough and salt if it’s not salty enough.
Preferably store the vinaigrette in a squeezy bottle for easy application and easy storage in the fridge (this recipe makes way more than you need for this one dish).

But your tomatoes and carrots in a bowl and douse with vinegar and season with some salt, add the chopped marjoram and mix properly. Depending on how you want the bread to be (soaked or crispy) you can add the bread to the carrots and tomatoes too.
Add your salad leaves to the serving bowls and dress lightly with some more vinaigrette. Add the carrots and tomatoes to the serving plates, scatter over bread, capers, cheese, toasted pine nuts. Drizzle a touch of vinaigrette on top. Enjoy!

Mains, Pasta

Pasta with Courgette, Onion and Kale

I made this pasta dish freestyle with ingredients I happened to have in the fridge and in the pantry. Turned out surprisingly tasty.
The only tricky part really is the very end when everything comes together in the sauté pan – I used a fairly big Sauteuse pan with sloped sides, which makes the last steps a bit easier.

This serves 2 hungry people.

Ingredients for Pasta with Courgette, Onion and Kale:

1 courgette
1 onion
1 big handful of kale
3 cloves garlic
0.5 star anise
1 heaped teaspoon of Dijon mustard
25 g of butter
100 ml white wine
250 g pasta
Wedge of lemon
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Flat-leaf parsley

How to make Pasta with Courgette, Onion and Kale:
Dice courgette into about 4 mm dice. Add to hot deep sauté pan with olive oil. Salt. Start sautéing.
Slice onion. Add to pan with star anise. Salt a bit more.
Slice garlic. Add to pan.
Sauté for a while until caramelised and looking good. Add butter, melt while sautéing. 
Add kale and Dijon, bit more salt. Stir then add wine, full heat to boil off alcohol. Lid on to make kale cook.
The idea is kind to make a kind of Beurre Blanc with wine, vegetable juices and butter.
Lid off, sauce is now kind of done. Take out star anise. Leave on low heat or even slightly off burner. 
Boil pasta water, salt to sea water level. Boil pasta. When almost done take out a good cup of the pasta water.
Drain pasta and add to sauce sauté pan. Add enough of your reserved pasta water to bind to a sauce (the starch in the reserved pasta water will bind the sauce), while stirring sauté pan over heat. Hit with Parmesan, parsley, some lemon juice and EVOO. Bind together to a nicely sauced pasta.
Serve immediately on warmed plates (so that the sauce doesn’t seize).

Mains, Pasta

Pasta with Stilton, jalapeño and cavolo nero

This serves 2 hungry people.

Ingredients for Pasta with Stilton, jalapeño and cavolo nero:

225 g Stilton cheese
200 ml crème fraîche
5 garlic cloves
2 anchovy fillets
1 big teaspoon of Dijon mustard
Splash of Noilly Prat or similar vermouth
0.5 – 1 fresh jalapeño, deseeded and finely chopped
200 g Cavolo Nero
40 g butter
50 g vegetable stock
Olive oil
190 g pasta, fusilli or similar
Handful of hazelnuts, for garnish
Handful of walnuts, for garnish
Small amount flat-leaf parsley, for garnish
Small amount of chives, for garnish

How to make Pasta with Stilton, jalapeño and cavolo nero:
Start by putting on water for the pasta.
Slice two of the garlic cloves in medium-fine slices and also slice the anchovy fillets. Heat a medium large saucier or pot on medium heat and sauté the garlic and anchovies in olive oil and half the butter, stir constantly with a spoon or fork so the anchovies break up and flavor the oil. Cut the cheese into chunks and add to the pan together with the vermouth and Dijon mustard. Stir and then cover the pan with a lid. Lower the heat to low. Let the cheese melt and stir from time to time. When the cheese is melted and smooth add the crème fraîche and the chopped jalapeño. Use at least 0.5 jalapeño and up to 1 if you like it hotter. Do not use the seeds.
Let the sauce bubble away slowly without a lid. Stir occasionally.

For the cavolo nero start with making a garlic fork to stir with, this will lightly perfume the cavolo nero with garlic. Put the remaining garlic cloves on the tins of a fork. Chop the cavolo nero roughly. Put a big sauté pan on medium to high heat and add the remaining butter and the vegetable stock. Swirl the pan to make a liaison between the butter and the stock. Add the cavolo nero and stir with the garlic fork and toss to coat with the butter mixture, season with salt. Put a lid on the pan and let the cavolo nero cook over low to medium heat. Stir with the garlic fork from time to time and try a piece to judge for doneness. I like them a little bit al dente but not too crunchy.
The cavolo nero takes maybe 5 – 10 minutes to cook.

For the nuts roast the hazelnuts first in a 180C oven until the skins are starting to blacken. Take the nuts out of the oven and put them in a clean kitchen towel, fold the towel over the nuts as to make a package and then rub the towel hard with the palm of your hand to loosen the skins. Unwrap the towel and pick out the nuts with the least skin on. Chop the nuts  coarsely and reserve until plating.
Roast the walnuts until darkish brown, chop coarsely and reserve until plating.

Salt the pasta water until it’s salty as the sea and then cook the pasta as per the instructions on the package. Drain the pasta by putting a lid on the pan slightly ajar, try to reserve a little bit of the pasta water in the pan.

Add the pasta to the cavolo nero pan and dump the sauce on top. Stir and toss to combine properly.

To plate put the pasta in a deep bowl, top with the roasted nuts, the herbs, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and some black pepper.


Beef cheeks braised in red wine

Also known as Joues de Bœuf à la Bourguignonne in it’s native tongue, this was a great autumnal dish full of flavour and richness. As often with braises it’s better the next day so make it in advance if you can.

This serves about 4 people.

Ingredients for Beef cheeks braised in red wine:
100g plain flour
10g salt
10g pepper
700g beef cheeks, cut into 12 large pieces
50ml rapeseed oil
150g carrots, roughly chopped
150g onions, roughly chopped
1.1 litres good-quality red wine
4 cloves garlic, chopped

For the bouquet garni:
1 stick celery
4 stalks flat-leaf parsley
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs thyme
3 green leek leaves

For the garnish:

120g baby onions or small shallots
30g unsalted butter, plus extra to glaze
½ tsp caster sugar
200g baby carrots
120g, smoked streaky bacon, cut into lardons
12 button mushrooms

For the mashed potato:
800g potatoes, such as Maris Piper, King Edward or Idaho
1 litre water
25g salt
200g unsalted butter
100ml double cream
salt and pepper
flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped, to garnish (optional)

How to make Beef cheeks braised in red wine:
For the mash, peel the potatoes, cut into quarters and place in a large saucepan. Cover with the water and add the salt. Slowly bring to the boil and simmer until tender – if you boil them too hard, they will take on too much salt. The timing will depend on the size of your chunks.

Drain in a colander and allow to dry by leaving them to sit and steam in the colander for a few minutes. Pass the potato and butter through a mouli or return them to the pan and mash until smooth.

Meanwhile, pour the cream into a small saucepan and warm it through gently. Place the pan of mashed potato back on a medium heat and stir to dry the potato out. Add the warm cream and mix it in with a spoon until very smooth. Check the seasoning, garnish with the parsley, if using, and serve immediately.

To make the beef cheeks, heat the oven to 200C/gas mark 6. Place the flour on a plate, season with salt and pepper, then roll the pieces of meat in it until lightly coated. Heat the oil in a large, heavy casserole until very hot. Brown the meat quickly and evenly. Add the chopped carrot and onion, cover, and leave to sweat gently for 10 minutes.

Holding the lid over the casserole, pour away all the cooking fat. Add the wine and stir to deglaze. Bring to the boil, then add the garlic and bouquet garni, and season. Replace the lid and cook in the oven for about 2½ hours, until the meat is very tender. Stir regularly during cooking, adding a little water if necessary.

Meanwhile, place the baby onions in a saucepan large enough to hold them in a single layer. Cover with 50ml water, or enough so that the onions are only just covered, and stir in the butter and sugar. Place a circle of greaseproof paper (a cartouche) over the surface of the liquid and bring to the boil. Simmer until all the liquid has evaporated and the onions are glazed and shiny. Keep warm, covered, over a very low heat.

At the same time, blanch the baby carrots in boiling salted water, drain well, then return to the pan and toss in enough butter to coat them until they are shiny. Fry the bacon in a small frying pan over a high heat, until crisp. Remove from the pan with a slotted spoon, then add the mushrooms to the pan, frying them in the bacon fat, until golden and tender.

Remove the casserole from the oven. Lift out the pieces of meat with a slotted spoon and discard the vegetables and the bouquet garni. Place the meat in a clean pan, pass the sauce through a fine sieve over the meat and gently stir in the bacon and mushrooms.

Serve the daube on plates with mashed potato, the glazed button onions and carrots, and the sauce over the top.

Mains, Soup

Roasted red pepper soup with almond potato croquette

This soup is really easy to make and super tasty. The taste of peppers and almonds of course evoking Spain.

Ingredients for Roasted red pepper soup:
30 ml olive oil
25 g unsalted butter
1 banana shallot, sliced
2 garlic cloves, sliced
0.5 tsp smoked paprika
2 sprigs thyme, chopped
2 tbsp tomato purée
400 g roasted red peppers from a jar, drained
400 ml brown chicken stock
100 ml double cream, plus a bit extra for garnish
Salt (smoked salt preferable)
Extra virgin olive oil

Ingredients for Almond potato croquette:
1 litre sunflower oil (or other veg oil for deep frying)
1 kg of bake potatoes
500 g rock salt
2 tbsp flatleaf parsley, finely chopped
100 g plain white flour
100 g flaked almonds
2 large eggs, beaten

How to make Roasted red pepper soup with almond potato croquette:
For the red pepper soup; start with heating the oil in butter in a saute pan, add the shallots, garlic, smoked paprika and thyme and saute for a few minutes. Add the tomato purée and cook it out for a minute or so until it turns from red to brown. Add the peppers, stock and about 10 leaves of basil and cook for about 6 minutes. Add the cream and cook for a few more minutes. Transfer to a blender and blend until silky smooth. Pass through a chinois and reserve until ready to plate.

For the croquettes; preheat the oven to 200C (non-fan), put the rock salt on a sheet pan and then put the potatoes on top. The salt helps draw out moisture making the final potatoes lighter.
Bake the potatoes in the oven for 90 minutes. When the potatoes are done, split them in half lengthwise while still hot, scoop out the hot flesh and pass through a tamis. Let cool down to room temperature.
Mix the parsley into the mashed potato, season with salt and pepper and then roll to little egg shapes.
Heat the oil for deep-frying in a saucepan to 180C.
Put the flour, beaten egg and almonds onto three separate plates. Roll the croquettes in the flour, then in the egg mixture and then in the flaked almonds.
Carefully lower the croquettes into the hot oil and deep fry for about 3 minutes until golden brown and crisp. Remove using a slotted metal spoon onto a plate lined with lots of kitchen paper.

When ready to plate carefully ladle the soup into warmed bowls, add a croquette to the bowl. Finish the soup with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, a drizzle of cream and a few young small basil leaves.

Mains, Pasta

Casarecce with gorgonzola, broccoli and tomato

This is a nice pasta dish that I cook a lot because it’s relatively easy and really yummy.
The nuts and vegetables can of course be varied to whatever is available in the shops or in season. When wonderful purple sprouting broccoli is in season I tend to use that, otherwise tenderstem broccoli works just fine.
On this occasion I’ve used Casarecce pasta but any short shaped pasta shape will do.

Ingredients for Casarecce with gorgonzola, broccoli and tomato:
200g Gorgonzola Piccante, cubed
200g tenderstem broccoli
250g Casarecce (or other short-tube pasta)
100g Crème fraîche
0.5 tsp Dijon mustard
15g butter
2 preserved anchovy fillets, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
3 vine-ripened tomatoes, concasse
Handful of pinenuts
Handful of walnuts
Splash of white wine or Vermouth
Olive oil
Extra Virgin Olive Oil

How to make Casarecce with gorgonzola, broccoli and tomato:
First thing to do is to put a sheet pan in the freezer, which we will use later for the broccoli.
Start with putting on water for the pasta and when it’s cooking salt the pasta water to the salinity of sea water (around 10g salt to 1 liter water). Put on another pan of water for the broccoli, again with sea water salting levels.
Make a cross top and bottom on the tomatoes then put in a bowl with boiling water for a few minutes. When the skins are softened peel the tomatoes and then with a paring knife remove the bit of stem left at the top. Concasse the tomatoes and reserve.
Put the oven on 180C fan. Oil two sheetpans and put the pinenuts on one and walnuts on another. Lightly salt both the nuts. Roast the nuts in the oven until nicely golden. Leave the nuts on kitchen-towel to drain some of some of the oil off. When ready you can crush the walnuts with the underside of a pan or in a pestle and mortar.
Start the sauce by melting the butter with a touch of olive oil in a smallish stainless steel pan. When the bubbling subsides add the garlic and anchovies, stir constantly with a wooden spoon until the anchovy is dissolved and the garlic is slightly brown. Add the cubed gorgonzola to the pot together with a splash of white wine and the dijon. Lower the heat to low and continue stirring and basting the gorgonzola cubes until they melt. Add a large tablespoon of the crème fraîche and stir. Taste the sauce as you go along to see how dominant you want the gorgonzola to be, tame it with more crème fraîche if the sauce needs to be milder. That’s the sauce pretty much done, let it bubble away ever so gently on a low flame.
Boil the broccoli until tender, not too al dente but not too soft either. When cooked (test doneness with a sharp paring knife) drain the broccoli and then spread out on the frozen sheet tray to cool rapidly without leaking flavour. Set aside.
Boil the pasta. When done to al dente drain but save a bit of the starchy pasta water. After draining put the pasta back in the pasta pot and put some extra virgin olive oil through it.

To assemble the dish, roughly chop the broccoli and add to the warm pasta pot. Toss to heat through. Check the consistency of the gorgonzola sauce and if too thick thin it out a bit with the starchy pasta water. Add the gorgonzola sauce to the pasta pot too and stir through. Finally add the tomato concasse and stir through.

Serve the pasta on warmed pasta plates and top with the nuts.


Roast Chicken

This recipe utilises brining to uniformly season the chicken and also to make it more moist. After the brining the chicken is rested in the fridge overnight to dry out the skin so you get really great roasted skin.
The brine is 3.5 % salt.

This recipe is a lot easier to make if you have a large plastic container (6 – 7 liter) that you can place the brine and chicken in. Just make sure that the container fits in your fridge.

Ingredients for the Roast Chicken:
5 liters water
175g sea salt
100g honey
12 bay leaves
6 garlic cloves, skin left on, smashed
2 tbsp black peppercorns
10g fresh rosemary leaves
10g thyme leaves
50g flat-leaf parsley
2 lemons, halfed

One free range chicken, about 1.5 kg
15g thyme (twigs)
Rapeseed oil

Preparing the roast chicken:
Place all of the brine ingredients into a large saucepan. Cover with a lid and boil for one minute, stirring to dissolve the salt. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
Rinse the chicken thoroughly under cold running water. Add the chicken to the brine. Chill in the fridge for six hours.
Remove the chicken from the brine, rinse under cold running water and pat dry with kitchen paper.
Place the chicken on a cake rack and place uncovered in the fridge overnight, this will further dry out the chicken skin.

Preheat the oven to 240C.

Season the inside of each chicken with a light sprinkling of salt and freshly ground black pepper.

To truss the chicken, place one chicken on a tray with the legs towards you. Tuck the wing tips under the bird. Cut a 90 cm piece of kitchen twine and place it on top of the neck end of the breast. Lift the neck end of the bird and pull the twine down around the wings and under the chicken, then bring the ends up over the breast, towards you, and tie the twine into a knot, pulling it tight to plump the breast.

Bring the ends of the twine around the ends of the drumsticks and straight up. Tie as before to pull the drumsticks together and form a compact bird; tie again to secure the knot.
Let the chicken sit at room temperature for 20 to 30 minutes before roasting.

Season the outside of the chicken with a light sprinkling of salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Place a heavy-based, ovenproof frying pan over a high heat. When the pan is hot, add half the oil and heat until hot.
Put the chicken breast-side up into the pan, and then into the oven with the legs facing the back of the oven. Roast for 40 minutes, checking the bird every 15 minutes and rotating the frying pan if the chicken are browning unevenly.
After 40 minutes, check the temperature of the bird by inserting a thermometer between the leg and the thigh. The temperature should read approximately 68C. The chicken will continue to cook as it sits, reaching a temperature of about 73C.
When the bird are cooked, remove from the oven, add the thyme leaves to the pans, and baste the bird with the juices and thyme leaves. Set aside in a warm place for ten minutes.

Carve and serve.


Fillet of beef stroganoff with riz pilaff

beef_stroganoff-1Beef stroganoff is one of my favorite beef dishes and it’s quick enough to prepare for a weeknight supper.
The secret to a good stroganoff is to saute the beef very quickly to keep it as rare as possible while still browning it. Another secret is to reduce the vinegar until almost evaporated, otherwise the dish can end up too sour.

Serve with a medium bodied red wine, like a Sangiovese or a Fleurie.

This recipe serves two [hungry] people.

Ingredients for the beef stroganoff:
450g fillet of beef
1 tsp hot paprika
2 tsp sweet paprika
2 tbsp vegetable oil
30g butter
2 shallots, finely chopped
115g button mushrooms, sliced
1 tsp tomato purée
50ml white wine vinegar
75ml white wine
200ml double cream
115g dill pickle, julienned
125ml sour cream
1 tbsp flat leaf parsley, finely chopped
1 pinch sweet paprika

Preparing the beef stroganoff:
Sprinkle the beef strips with the paprika and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Heat a large frying pan with the vegetable oil. Quickly flash-fry the beef strips, making sure you keep them as rare as possible, then tip the meat into a colander, reserving any juices that drain off.
Using the same pan, add the butter, shallots and sliced mushrooms and cook for one minute. Add the tomato purée and cook for few more minutes, stirring the ingredients together. Add the white wine vinegar and cook until completely evaporated.
Add the white wine and cook until reduced by half then pour in the double cream, bring to a boil, and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Add the seared beef and the reserved juice and gently warm through, taking care not to boil or you will overcook the beef.
To serve, pour the stroganoff into a large warmed serving dish and sprinkle with dill pickle. Drizzle the sour cream over the top then sprinkle with chopped parsley and dust with paprika. Serve with the rice along side.

Ingredients for the riz pilaff:
50g butter
50g onion, finely chopped
250g long-grain rice
500ml hot white chicken stock
1 bay leaf
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Preparing the riz pilaff:
For the rice, preheat the oven to 200C.
Heat an ovenproof sauté pan until hot, add half the butter and the onion and cook gently for a few minutes until softened but not colored.
Add the rice and stir well then fry gently for another minute, again without colouring, and add the hot stock, seasoning and bay leaf.
Bring to the boil, stirring with a wooden spoon, then cover with buttered grease-proofpaper and a lid and place in the oven. Cook for 15 minutes until the rice is cooked but still firm.

Remove the bay leaf, add the last of the butter and separate the grains of rice with a fork.
Season with salt and freshly ground pepper then transfer to a clean warmed serving dish and keep covered with a clean piece of grease-proof paper until ready to serve.