Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Roast Vegetables with (or without) Sausages

This week I went down to the Pyrennes for a couple of days- on the Spanish border near San Sebastian and found myself in the “Piment” area of France. We know piment as sweet red pepper (capsicum). They were everywhere- used a lot in Basque cooking and represented on everything that didn’t move. However no signs of a model giant pepper looming over the town of Espelette which is the source of dried piment. This devotion to piment also carried over the border into Spain where the markets around San Sebastian featured barrows of shiny red peppers- no sign of any green ones, anywhere. Although I use red peppers in this recipe I am sure if you sneak in a green one it will be fine.

This dish is basically roast vegetable with sausages stuck on the top. If you chose the vegetarian option (no sausages) just follow the cooking method for the vegetables. The roast vegetables make a great side dish for lamb.

I use pork chipolata sausages, which are all meat for this but any good quality sausage, high meat content and no or little filler, (breadcrumb, rusk etc) will work.

Cous cous goes great with this as the vegetables are rather juicy.

2 sweet red peppers

2 red onions

3 cloves of garlic

2 courgettes (zucchini)

2 medium tomatoes or handful of cherry tomatoes

fresh basil

chilli flakes

Salt and pepper

Sausages (as many as you think you’ll eat)

Corn oil

An hour and a half before dinner

Heat the oven to 200 C (400 F Gas 6)

Cut the peppers in half and remove the seeds and whitish membrane. Cut into slices. I usually do this from top to bottom but it is not important.

Peel the onions, cut them in half and then slice them finely.

Top and tail the courgettes and cut crosswise into slices about the width of your little finger.

Put all of these into an oven dish, sprinkle the oil over them and give a good stir. Add about a teaspoon of salt and a really good grind of pepper. Finish the lot off with a generous shake of chilli flakes (more if you like it hot)

Put all of this into the oven and cook for 30 minutes.

45 minutes before dinner

Heat a little oil- about a tablespoon, in a frying pan and brown the sausages on all sides – turning as you go. This will only take a couple of minutes. Place the sausages on top of the roasting vegetables and return the dish to the oven.

30 minutes before dinner

Chop up the tomatoes by removing the core , halving and cutting into chunks. Push the tomatoes into the vegetables around the sausages. Do the same with the basil leaves. Put the dish back into the oven.

10 minutes before dinner

Boil water and prepare the cous cous as per the instructions on the packet.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Butternut Pasta

This week we got our first hints of autumn- a morning chill and bright clear days.
This is when the pumpkins start appearing and to celebrate the fact I went to the pumpkin fair in St Mayme de Pereyrol. This is a delightfully rustic affair with pumpkins of enormous size on display. However when it comes to pumpkins size is not a good thing. I adore pumpkin but not those orange things with the bland, watery flesh. My favourites are the bluey-silvery skinned ones with a very firm flesh. I was lucky enough to find some at the fair- known here as Hungarian Blue
but it looked very like the ones from my childhood in New Zealand.
A good firm fleshed pumpkin would work well for this dish but I am using a butternut squash as they are easier to find and not so seasonal.

For four I use a whole butternut about 1.5kg (3lb) but this is not an exacting dish so don't pay too much attention to the size of the butternut. Just use what you have.
I prefer spaghettis for this but any pasta will do. Although I have suggested 350g (12 ounces) for four- you will know how much pasta you eat.

1 butternut squash
3-4 cloves of garlic
2-3 tablespoons of olive oil



an hour before dinner :

Heat the oven to 180 C (375 F)

Peel the butternut and cut into small cubes of about 4 cms (1-2 inches). Removing all the seeds by scraping out with a small spoon.
The easiest way to peel a butternut is to cut it crosswise into slices and then peel the slices.
Peel and chop the garlic into small pieces.
Scatter the butternut and garlic into a shallow roasting pan.
Sprinkle the olive oil over the vegetable and stir it around so the oil coats the butternut. Add some salt and a good grind of black pepper.
Place into the hot oven for about 45 minutes until the butternut is cooked and soft.

Chop some parsley and grate some parmesan for your garnish

20 minutes before eating :

Put on the water for pasta and cook as per the instructions.

Warm the bowl which you will mix the pasta dish in

When the pasta and butternut are cooked :

Mash the butternut gently with a fork.
Drain the pasta- reserving a little of the pasta water.
Place in a warmed bowl.
Add the butternut to the pasta tossing it gently to mix the butternut in. Slowly add some of the pasta water, tablespoon by tablespoon, to moisten the whole thing and the pasta is evenly coated with the golden butternut.

After serving the pasta, garnish with parsley and parmesan.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Sauteed Leeks

4 or 5 leeks

1- 2 tablespoons butter

1-2 teaspoons brown sugar

Remove the outer layer of leaves from the leeks. Cut the green tops off and the root then slice the leeks crosswise, in about 1cm slices. Put the cut leeks into a bowl of cold water and soak to clean properly. Drain in a colander before frying.

Heat a tablespoon of butter in a frying pan. When melted add the leeks with a good sprinkle of salt. Shake a couple of teaspoons of brown sugar over the leeks. Stir the leeks around in the pan until they soften and take on a lovely golden colour.

Mashed Potatoes

For 4

4-6 large potatoes, peeled and cut into 2.5cm/ 1 inch cubes

Bring salted water to the boil. Add the potatoes and bring back to the boil and boil for about 15minutes. Check if the potatoes are cooked, or cook until done.

Drain the potatoes into a colander. Return to the warm saucepan and mash with the addition of salt and pepper and either olive oil or butter. You can add a little milk with the butter for a softer texture.

Mash the potatoes while adding oil or butter bit by bit until you have the taste and consistency you like.

Chicken with Herbs & Black Olives

This herb flavoured chicken roasted with garlic and bacon stays deliciously moist as it cooks in white wine or stock. Creamy mashed potatoes and a simple green vegetable make a perfect meal. I really like sauteed leeks with this so have separate postings for the mash and leeks.

When using chicken pieces I prefer to use thighs as I think they have more flavour but this will work well with breast. Leaving the bone helps to keep. the meat moist.

All the herbs used here are fresh- any combination of rosemary, thyme, parsley or oregano- will work.

This recipe will also do for six people simply by increasing the amount of chicken and maybe a few more olives.

4 pieces of chicken

¼ Cup olive oil

1 tbspn of chopped thyme

1 tbspn of chopped rosemary

1 tbspn of chopped parsley &/or oregano ( optional)

1 tbspn salt


1/2 tsp chilli or hot pepper flakes

6 peeled garlic cloves

3 thick slices of bacon cut into 4cm pieces.

I cup dry white wine or stock or half and half

16 black olives

An hour before dinner

Heat the oven to 200C/400F/ gas mark 7

Toss the chicken pieces in the oil with the herbs, salt, and chilli and a good grind of pepper. Rub the mixture into the chicken.

Lay the chicken, with the skin side up in a shallow roasting tin.

Toss the garlic and bacon around the chicken.

Put the tin into the oven.

Prepare potatoes as for the recipe for mashing potatoes.

Prepare your green vegetable.

After the chicken has been in the oven for 20 minutes

Gently drizzle the wine/stock over the chicken and scatter the olives over.

Pop back into the oven for a further 25- 30 minutes until the chicken is cooked through and has a lovely golden skin.

While the chicken cooks cook your mashed potatoes.

Boil salted water for the green vegetable.

Check your potatoes, if cooked, drain and keep in the saucepan with the lid on.

10minutes before serving

Remove the chicken from the oven and let it stand, covered in foil, while you cook your green vegetable and mash the potatoes.

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Tomato Sauce

..... this couldn't be more simple, like falling off a log. Here is a very quick and easy mid week meal - the old favourite - pasta with tomato sauce & a salad...... so

30 minutes before eating :

Peel & chop the tomatoes. (See tip below)

Get your salad leaves organized - wash & spin them (or open the packet.) If you are going for a mixed salad prepare the other vegetables.

Put water for pasta on to boil with a little salt & a teaspoon of olive oil. Water boils faster (more energy efficient) if there is a lid on the saucepan.

20 minutes before eating :

Make the almost instant tomato sauce.

Almost Instant Tomato Sauce

1/2 cup dry white wine
1 medium onion, finely sliced
4 or 5 medium tomatoes, peeled, seeded & chopped (See tip below)
3 tablespoons of butter*
1 teaspoon sugar
dessertspoon of tomato puree

a good pinch of chilli flakes - suggested but not essential & if you wish - freshly chopped basil - as much as you like, up to a cup full.

*I know some people are frightened of butter so you can reduce the amount but it will taste better with the full 3 tablespoons.

The method is very straightforward:

Put the onions and the white wine in a saucepan & place over a fairly high heat until the liquid has reduced to about a couple of tablespoons. During this process, give it an occasional stir.

This should be about time to add the pasta to the boiling water.

Cook the pasta as per the instructions on the box - start your timing once the water has returned to the boil.

Add to the onions the tomatoes, butter, sugar, a good shake or generous pinch of salt, the tomato puree & the chili flakes.

Bring to a gentle boil, stir & simmer for about 15 minutes.

While the sauce cooks get your salad into it's bowl. A good idea is to put the dressing in the bottom of the bowl & put the leaves on top. This means that the salad won't go soggy while you're getting the rest together. Toss the salad when you serve it to distribute the dressing.

If you are using basil then stir into the tomato sauce at this stage and remove from the heat.

Strain the pasta into a colander & give it a good shake to get rid of extra excess water.

Put the pasta on the plates, add a good dollop of tomato sauce & top with some parmesan cheese.

Serve with salad on the side.


How to peel fresh tomatoes -

Put some water onto boil.

Score (a shallow cut) a cross in the bottom of each tomato. Place in a bowl. Pour enough boiling water onto the tomatoes in the bowl to cover them. Count to 20...... slowly.... Pour the hot water off the tomatoes & run cold water over them until they are cold. Leave the tomatoes sitting in cold water as you peel them. Once peeled do not put in water.

Removing the seeds from tomatoes -

The easiest way to do this is to cut the tomato into quarters & squeeze the seeds out. You'll soon get the hang of it as it soon becomes pretty obvious where the seeds are in the tomato.