Pasta Puttanesca

Being an avid foodie, it’s almost impossible for me to pick a favourite dish, but there are a few that are certainly up there and this pasta dish certainly deserves a place in my top 5 meals. My friend Emily and I just adore this dish, mainly for its pungent delicious flavour, but also because there are few things more comforting that a big bowl of pasta. I’ve posted a puttanesca recipe before, but this is a variation on the last recipe, I wanted to create a super quick version of my favourite pasta dish that is just as delicious.  
If you’ve never tried puttanesca, I’ll warn you, it’s instantly addictive, and will most likely become a real go to meal when you’re having a busy week. You can almost make the entire meal from your store cupboard ingredients, all except the lemon juice, parsley and red chilli. Of course you could use chilli flakes, and bottled lemon juice, but the fresh parsley is a must. A word of warning, don’t add any salt to the dish, the anchovies provide all the saltiness you need.
Traditionally, you would use spaghetti in this dish, but any pasta you have knocking about is fine, and to be honest fusilli worked really well here, and for a speedy supper it’s easier to eat – that is simply my inner greed. My boyfriend always comments on how quickly I eat my meals.

250g fusilli pasta
1 can of chopped tomatoes
1 can of anchovies
3 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1 red chilli roughly chopped
2 tbsp capers
Juice of half a lemon
Handful of freshly chopped
Freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp parmesan cheese, grated

Start by cooking the pasta according to the packet instructions.
Meanwhile, add the anchovies to a hot pan, with the oil that they are in, using a wooden spoon break them up; the heat will turn them into a paste. Add the garlic and chilli, cook for a couple of minutes.
Add the chopped tomatoes, capers and half of the parsley to the pan. Squeeze over the juice of half a lemon and mix well to combine, allow this to simmer over a medium heat until the pasta is cooked.

Drain the pasta; add to the pan with a good pinch of freshly ground black pepper. Serve in warmed bowls with a sprinkling of parsley and parmesan. 

Tefal OptiGrill Review

Move over George Forman, there’s a new kid on the block; The Tefal OptiGrill and its one mean grilling machine. I was rather excited that the lovely people at Tefal sent me one to try out last week. The poor old George Forman grill has been tossed into the trash to make way for our shiny new kitchen gadget, but to be fair; it was getting a little old and tatty.
The OpitGrill features an automatic sensor to precisely measure the cooking process and a thickness measurement to adapt to the thickness of the meat or fish you are grilling, sounds great right? It also features a colour LED screen that indicates whether your meat is rare, medium or well-done – I think this is simply great, no more guess work with your steak.
With six automatic programmes you can have the perfect grilled fish, bacon, chicken, burgers and sausages every time and other features include a manual option if you are cooking vegetables, defrost and keep warm options. Obviously, I wasted no time in putting it through its paces and grilled just about everything in sight.
The OptiGrill is a stylish kitchen gadget; it’s mainly brushed stainless, with black detailing. The automatic programme panel and controls are easy to understand and the changing light makes the grill easy to use.
So far, I have tried steak, bacon and chicken, all of which were a success. The chicken was superb, I wrapped the breasts in cling film and bashed them with a rolling pin to flatten ‘escalope’ them and rubbed them with a Cajun spice mix before grilling them. The result was a super tasty, perfectly cooked chicken breast that was also a very healthy way of cooking it.  The steak was slightly more difficult to get right, but only because I cooked four steaks, which were all different in size and thickness, which I think, confused the OptiGrill. Next time I’ll ensure the meat is all the same size and I’m sure the results would be much better. I’m keen to try fish, vegetables and toasted sandwiches in the grill too.
The OptiGrill is certainly not a small piece of kitchen equipment. It’s rather large and bulky, but if you have a spare cupboard it can be popped away. I do find it takes up quite a bit of space on the worktop, but seeing as it cooks so well I can overlook this. It also feels very durable and hardwearing. The retail price is £149 which, if I’m completely honest, is slightly expensive for a glorified George Forman grill. Don’t get me wrong, it is an intelligent piece of equipment, that undoubtedly has more features but I probably wouldn’t pay over £100 for it.

Despite the objectionable price tag, the grill really does have some great features, such as the removable plates; you can completely remove them from the grill and wash them separately from the machine, which of course makes cleaning it a lot easier. We all know just how horrid these things are to clean. The plates are also dishwasher safe, which I’m sure, if you have a dishwasher, is great. Overall, I was impressed with the features of the Tefal OptiGrill and would recommend it to anyone that loves a kitchen gadget. 


Steak with Gruyere and Chive Croquette Potatoes, Red Cabbage and a Mustard Sauce with Shiitake Mushrooms

This recipe is my entry for the Maille Culinary Challenge. I was invited to participate in the challenge to create a mouth-watering recipe including at least one Maille product. They were kind enough to send me two of their delicious products free of charge and I was able to pick from a rather extensive list including many delicious ingredients. Rather than just including one of the ingredients, I decided to use both; I figured this would ensure I really thought hard about a recipe with different components. I quite often create recipes with one star piece, either the meat or fish and the sides will be fairly simple – such is my style of cooking. However, seeing as this was a culinary challenge it was only right that I challenged myself and created a dish where each element bought something special to the recipe. I chose the following ingredients:
The red cabbage worked beautifully with the balsamic glaze; it brought an intense sweetness to the dish that truly was delicious, whilst the mustard has a woody earthy flavour that compliments the shitake mushrooms wonderfully.
Fingers crossed my recipe goes down well. The first prize for the Maille Culinary Challenge is a “Food Lover London Tour” worth £390, and two runners up will receive a luxury Maille Gift Box with accessories valued at £150. Yes please!

Serves 4

* Half a red cabbage, finely sliced
* Half a red onion, finely sliced
* 1 garlic clove, finely chopped
6 tbsp butter
2 tbsp water
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 large potatoes
2 tbsp chives, snipped
90g Gruyere cheese, grated
Pinch white pepper
100g plain flour
1 egg, lightly beaten
50g golden breadcrumbs (preferably not fresh)
1 litre of vegetable oil
100g fresh shiitake mushrooms
200ml double cream
4 Sirloin Steaks
Start by finely slicing the red cabbage and red onion. Place in a saucepan with 2 tbsp of butter, the garlic, balsamic glaze and water; season with salt and pepper and cook on a medium heat for about 50 minutes, stirring every 10 minutes or so.
Meanwhile, peel and chop the potatoes, boil for 25-30 minutes, until soft. Remove from the heat and drain well, return the potatoes to the pan. Add 2 tbsp butter, chives, cheese, white pepper and a splash of cream, roughly mash. Don’t worry if they are a little lumpy, a bit of texture works well in the croquettes. Allow the mashed potato to cool slightly.
Whilst the mash is cooling, line up three bowls, fill one with the flour, one with the egg and a tbsp of water and the other with the bread crumbs. Take a small amount of the mashed potato in your hands and roll into a small ball, slightly smaller than a golf ball, roll in the flour, shaking off any excess. Then roll the ball in the egg and finally the bread crumbs. Place aside and repeat until you have used all of the mash, set these aside while you prepare the sauce.
Heat the vegetable oil in a medium saucepan. Slice the shiitake mushrooms, place in a pan with the remaining butter and season, fry on a medium heat for 5 minutes, once softened add the mustard and cream; heat through while you cook the steak and fry the croquettes as below.
Season the steak and fry in a little oil for the desired length of time, depending on how you like your steak cooked. I had fairly thick Sirloin that I like rare, so I fried for about 3-4 minutes on each side. Once cooked, set the steak aside and allow to rest. This is very important as it lets the fibres in the meat relax and allows the juices to flow, meaning you’ll end up with a much tastier steak.
Fry the croquettes in batches for about 30 seconds, they will brown very quickly. Remove from the oil and place on kitchen towel to drain off any excess oil.

Slice and serve the steak, topped with the mustard sauce and some snipped chives, three croquettes and some red cabbage.