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Salsa Verde

There is something amazing about Salsa Verde. Perhaps it’s the versatility of it; it really does go with everything from meat and fish to vegetables and potatoes. The perfect accompliment to a summer barbecue. It’s a recipe that packs a punch, so if you appreciate strong bold flavours, you’ll fall in love with it for sure.

Salsa Verde translates simply to ‘Green Sauce’. There are literally millions of versions out there, Italian, French, Spanish, Mexican. You name it, almost every country appears to have their own version incorporating different herbs and cold raw ingredients. The recipe below is my perfect balance of flavours.

A small amount of this Salsa Verde will totally transform any dinner into something truly remarkable. It keeps well in the fridge and even gets better with time. That’s if you have any left; it was so popular with my barbecue guests I had none left to save. Much to my disappointment.

You can keep it refrigerated for about a week and a half, or you could freeze it. Pop it into ice-cube trays and use them to jazz up pasta dishes and soups.

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Pizza Party (on a Friday night)

There is something rather joyful about covering the kitchen in flour and making pizza. Granted it’s a terribly messy task, but that’s where the fun is right? We love making pizzas on a Friday night when we have Rich’s children Max and Daisy. It’s a great family activity – everyone gets stuck in. The children go mad for them and love rolling out the dough and choosing their own toppings.

Rich makes a huge load of dough and I knock up a big batch of tomato sauce. Or we swap jobs, but Rich is rather good at kneading dough so I tend to let him do the hard work. We have everything laid out ready for the kids, dough, rolling pins, aprons, tomato sauce and as many different toppings as we can find. We like to see who can make the nicest looking, the biggest or  most flavourful pizza. Max won in the ‘best looking’ category hands down… here is his little chorizo masterpiece. Yes, it did taste as good as it looked.

Max's Pizza CookedFlourMax's Pizza Uncooked

Miss Friday’s Pizza

Mine was rather a funny shape and size, but for me it’s ALL about the flavour and that crunchy texture on the crust – delicious. And a pizza is simply not worth eating unless it has anchovies and olives on it. Of course, the kids would totally disagree – it’s all about cheese and pepperoni.

Making it at home is not going to compare to that stone baked taste you get from making it in a traditional pizza oven, but it’s still pretty darn tasty. I’ve posted about my uncle’s pizza oven before and shared the dough recipe that I use.

Jemima (my 10 month old) even had her very own pizza – future Miss Friday right there!

Do you have a perfect topping combination? Feel free to share it in the comments!

Nicole's Pizza CookedNew Picture (10)Jemima's Pizza

 

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Tuscan Fish Stew – a firm family favourite

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Tuscan fish stew; the ultimate favourite in our house, well amongst everyone except Max (Richard’s son, the fussy eater) who opted for sausage and chips over this delicious feast… I despair I really do. We also had a rather heated 20 minute debate about him not wanting a vegetable with his sausage and chips, he was given the option of beans or peas – “neither”  he stubbornly exclaimed. Now this just doesn’t wash in Miss Friday’s house, everyone has to have vegetables and that’s that! Daisy (Richard’s daughter), on the other hand, well she devoured the fish stew.

You may recall that I have posted this recipe before, but as it’s so popular I’ve tweaked it a few times and thought there was no harm in sharing it once more. I honestly think that each time I cook this dish Richard falls in love with me a little bit more. I joke. But he does love it, and he always comments and makes sure I know how much he enjoyed it – then again they do say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. In this case, I think it’s true. Few things make me happier than pleasing Richard with food. Given that he’s an excellent cook, there is often stiff competition – but he will never cook this one as well as I do. Note: that’s confidence, rather than arrogance.

What I love most is the lightness of the dish, it has such a fresh delicate flavour. It’s really not the sort of meal that sits on your stomach for hours after, which is a welcome relief after all the heavy festive foods that we’ve experienced over the past couple of months. Let’s face it, we all have leftover Christmas cake – and it has to be eaten right?

I’d advise you to buy the freshest fish you can afford, the flavours in the stew are so simple because it’s really all about letting the fish shine through. We bought the fish from a local market in Saffron Walden. Known for being a market town and famous for it’s rich heritage of buildings dating back to the medieval times, Saffron Walden is well worth a visit if your in the area. The market is held every Tuesday and Saturday throughout the year and hosts a wonderful array of stalls for foodies, everything from olives, meats, breads, fish and a huge fruit and vegetable stall (if you can bear the noisy del-boy esque market trader).

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Tuscan Inspired Fish Stew
 
Author: 
Recipe type: Fish
Cuisine: Tuscan
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Ingredients
  • Fresh fish (such as haddock, mussels, clams and king prawns)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Small red onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 200ml white wine
  • 400g chopped tomatoes
  • 500ml fish stock
  • 2 medium red chillies, finely chopped
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Parsley to garnish
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Ciabatta loaf, sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped in half
  • A handful of grated parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. Heat the oil in a large casserole dish. Fry the onion until softened – around 5 minutes. Add the garlic and salt and pepper, fry for a couple of minutes.
  2. Add the wine and let it reduce for a couple of minutes, then add the tomatoes, fish stock and chillies and cook for 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile lightly toast the Ciabatta slices on both sides, rub them with a clove of garlic, pressing down firmly on the bread to flavour it with garlic. Top each slice with a little parmesan and return to the grill to melt.
  4. Meanwhile, add the seafood starting with the white fish, followed by the shellfish, lemon and parsley. Place the lid firmly on the casserole dish and allow to cook until the mussels and clams have fully opened and the fish is cooked through (this doesn't take long). Serve in warmed bowls with the cheesy garlic croutons.

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Puttanesca Mussels Recipe – and why I don’t diet in January

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I sit for what can only be described as a rare moment in time. I am alone in the house. No boyfriend, no baby and no boyfriends children – and I don’t even feel guilty that I am utterly enjoying my own company. Something very strange has happened to me since becoming a mother. My camera roll on my phone is filled with baby pictures, rather than foodie ones. I’ve found it impossible to find time to blog lately – something any new mother will surely understand. But I’ve missed it. Once Jemima is asleep I begin the long task of washing and sterilising her bottles, tidying away her toys and bath things, washing her clothes, making my dinner, clearing and washing up – there is just no time. Giving up my blog isn’t an option. It’s my one hobby that’s wholly mine – something I can get lost in, and really it’s an excuse to eat just about anything that takes my fancy. That’s not something I’m prepared to give up just yet.

Speaking of eating anything you like. I am probably in the minority as I’ve decided that starting a healthy eating regime in January just doesn’t make any logical sense. You’re already feeling blue, given that the glistening lights of the festive season are a distant memory and the bank balance is looking somewhat dire. Not to mention the fact that the cupboards are stacked with indulgent unhealthy leftovers. What’s a girl to do? Struggle through the entire month trying to resist the last few Quality Street or that delicious cheese that calls my name every time I open the fridge? No!

Rich and I decided that we’d eat our way through what’s left of Christmas and start our health kick when I return to work (after five months of maternity leave) on the 1st of February. So, I have about two weeks left to enjoy being that smug person that isn’t having a ‘dry’ January and eating salad every night of the week.

Today I wanted to share with you a recipe that I happened upon because of leftovers. This week I made a huge batch of my favourite pasta dish – spaghetti puttanseca and used the left over sauce with mussels. It was utterly delicious. Puttanseca is a wonderfully pungent tomato based sauce – with ingredients like anchovies, chillies and capers it really packs a punch.

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Puttanesca Mussels
 
Author: 
Recipe type: Main, Starter, Snack
Cuisine: Fish
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
This recipe will serve two as a main meal with bread and butter, or four as a starter.
Ingredients
  • 1kg Mussels
  • 50ml dry white wine
  • 75ml Scrumpy cider
  • 2 shallots, finely shopped
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
  • ½ tsp of chilli flakes
  • 1 medium heat red chilli, roughly chopped
  • 5-6 canned anchovies in oil (reserve the oil)
  • 2 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 2 tsp of capers, drained
  • 10 black olives, roughly chopped
  • 400g chopped tomatoes
Instructions
  1. Start by cleaning and de-bearding the mussels in cold water. Discard any mussels that don't fully close when tapped. Place the mussels aside in a bowl.
  2. For the puttanseca sauce:
  3. Heat the olive oil in a pan over a medium heat and add the garlic, fresh and dried chilli and and anchovies (along with the oil from the anchovies). Allow to cook for a couple of minutes until the anchovies have melted away. Add the parsley, capers, olives and chopped tomatoes, turn the heat down to a gentle simmer and cook the sauce for about 20 minutes allowing the flavours to infuse.
  4. Place a separate large saucepan (with a lid) over a medium heat, add a little oil and fry the shallots until translucent. Add the mussels, wine and cider. Spoon in about 150ml of the puttanseca sauce and pop the lid on. Cook until all of the mussels have fully opened.
  5. Serve straight from the steaming pot with a stack of buttered bread and a sprinkling of freshly chopped parsley.

If shellfish isn’t your thing, you could always use up your leftover puttanseca sauce with grilled chicken and salad – that’s also great. And perfect if you’re watching your weight.

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Smoked Salmon Carbonara

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Is there a dish you never tire of?

For me it has to be spaghetti carbonara, I simply love it. The delicious richness of the dish and the salty pancetta makes me very happy – okay it’s not the most adventurous dish, but it is without a doubt the best comfort food going. There is something so wonderful about sitting down with a big bowl of pasta and digging in. I recently made my carbonara recipe for my brother and he loved it too. Even Richard, who is not fussed with pasta dishes, admitted that it really is a tasty dish.

I’ve made the recipe so many times over the years that I really have perfected it – but sometimes I like to mix things up a little. I had some smoked salmon in the fridge that needed using, so I decided to try it in a carbonara recipe. It was wonderful -totally different from a traditional one of course, but very nearly equally as good.

I didn’t use it, but I think next time I’ll try adding a little lemon zest, I think it will really bring it to another level and give a good lift of freshness to the dish.

Ordinarily I’d scoff at anyone using cream in a carbonara recipe, but given that this isn’t your typical authentic recipe I’m not going to feel shameful about it.

Smoked Salmon Carbonara
 
Author: 
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Ingredients
  • 100g smoked salmon, torn into bite sized pieces
  • 175g fusilli pasta (or pasta of your choice)
  • 2 eggs
  • 100ml double cream
  • 50g parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 tbsp freshly chopped chives
  • 1 tbsp of lemon zest (if using)
  • Pinch of salt
  • A good twist a fresh ground black pepper
Instructions
  1. Boil the pasta in a large pan of salted water until cooked al dente (firm to the bite).
  2. Meanwhile, pour the cream into a large bowl, break in the eggs and whisk well. Add the parmesan, chives, smoked salmon and salt and pepper stir. At this point you can add the lemon zest if using.
  3. Drain the pasta and return to the saucepan (off the heat), pour over the sauce and stir, ensuring the sauce fully coats the pasta. The residual heat from the pasta will cook the sauce but ensure the egg doesn’t scramble.
  4. Divide between two warmed bowls and scatter with a few snipped chives to garnish – and a little grated lemon zest if using.

 

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Lemon & Chicken Risotto

I’m back! Now, you may, or may not, have been wondering what happened to me. Hopefully some of you have missed me anyway. The truth be told, I’ve been on Slimming World for some time now, obviously I had a break over Christmas (who in their right mind would diet over Christmas?). Not me!

The good news is that I’ve lost a total of nine pounds, and only have five more to go until I reach my goal of loosing a whole stone. Woo hoo me! This being a food blogger thing doesn’t half make you gain a bit of weight. It’s not rocket science, we all know it’s impossible to remain slim and eat all of the foods you like. If only hey! But enough was enough, I realised that it was impossible for me to stick to my regular blogging schedule and not keep gaining weight at the alarming rate that I have been.

I’m not about to embark on sharing a million Slimming World recipes with you, that’s there thing. This is a dish I made a while back, but I just had to share with you, the flavours are so fresh and vibrant, and just look at the wonderful sunny colour of the puffed up lemon infused rice. It will certainly brighten up any cold January night. So just to clarify, this is definitely a non Slimming World friendly recipe. Having said that, if you swapped the oil and butter for low calorie cooking spray, omitted the wine and parmesan you’d be good to go.

Making risotto doesn’t need to be hard work, yes okay there is a fair bit of stirring involved, but otherwise it’s actually not that difficult, more time consuming really, having said that it only takes about 20 minutes.

It’s not often that I use ingredients that are hard to get hold of. I don’t like the idea that someone wouldn’t be able to re-create the dish at home, or have a nightmare trying to find where to buy them, but then sometimes things are just too delicious not to share. I bought this lemon risotto rice in Sorrento when I visited back in November and have been dying to use it. I’m sure you could find some online, I’ll certainly be looking out for some more. I wish I’d bought more home, but then again we all know how difficult it can be with one tiny piece of hand luggage, trying to stuff all of your things into it, let alone bringing back various foodie bits and bobs.

The flavours in this risotto are wonderful, they remind me so much of the busy afternoons I spent in Sorrento and Naples, dashing about all afternoon before sitting down to some delicious, lovingly prepared Italian cuisine.

Richard doesn’t like risotto. I know, weirdo right? He says that it’s pudding rice and shouldn’t be used in a savoury recipe, but I’m sure the 59 million strong population of Italy would wholeheartedly disagree with him! I just adore risotto, so if you have a delicious recipe leave the link in the comments below. I’d love some new recipes to try out.

Lemon Risotto

Lemon & Chicken Risotto
 
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Italian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
If you really struggle to find lemon risotto rice, just use the juice of a whole lemon and a little more zest after adding the liquid.
Ingredients
  • 2 large free range chicken breasts, cut into strips
  • Juice and zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and crushed
  • 1 white onion, peeled and diced
  • 220g lemon risotto rice
  • 400ml hot chicken stock
  • 200ml white wine
  • 2 tbsp freshly chopped parsley
  • 30-40g parmesan, grated
Instructions
  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Place the chicken strips in an oven proof dish, cover with the lemon juice and season well, cook for 20 minutes, or until tender and cooked through.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil and butter in a large saucepan, add the onion and garlic stir well and cook for a couple of minutes, add the rice, and stir to coat the grains with the oil and butter.
  3. Add the wine 100ml at a time, stirring continuously until the rice has absorbed the liquid. Continue by adding the chicken stock one ladle at a time until all of the liquid is absorbed.
  4. Finish by adding the lemon zest, parsley and parmesan, stir well until the parmesan had melted and slightly thickened the rice.
  5. Serve immediately

 

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Black ‘n’ Blue Penne Pasta with Cajun Chicken

I am possibly the most flippant person I know; I change my mind like the wind. I’ve decided to quit Slimming World after just 8 weeks – I admit I felt too deprived! To be fair, I had lost half a stone, which is half the weight I really wanted to, but I’ve resided to the fact that I’d rather be fat and satisfied.

Okay, that’s a slight exaggeration, I’m not exactly fat, at 9 stone 9 pounds I’m perhaps a few pounds off my ideal. It’s quite possible that if you don’t have the type of relationship I do with food you’d be okay with Slimming World, but I’m a food blogger and limiting myself to certain types of foods was never going to work. What is it they say, “It’s better to have tried” and all that…?

I have times when I feel like being super healthy and I admit I’m one of those people who feels smug with myself when I decide to have a salad for dinner or go for an impromptu run. But with the festive season pretty much upon us getting into shape and fitting into my summer clothes isn’t on my agenda right now.

So, keeping in theme with my ‘eating what I god damn like’ attitude, I made the most delicious supper tonight. It was inspired by a dish I had at Frankie and Benny’s of all places; I went for lunch with my colleague Jade the other day and had a delicious black and blue pasta dish. It’s a dish they only have on the lunch menu for some bazaar reason, it’s delicious and definitely deserves a place on their regular menu. So I decided to copy the dish, as best I could anyway. I’m sure that those in the know would argue it’s nothing like the real dish, but it really hit the spot and tasted just as good, if not better. That’s right, better!

Black ‘n’ Blue Penne Pasta with Cajun Chicken

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Black 'n' Blue Penne Pasta with Cajan Chicken
 
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Cuisine: Italian
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Ingredients
  • 2 chicken breasts, cut into thin strips
  • 1 tbsp cajun spice mix
  • 2 shallots, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 50g butter
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 150ml white wine
  • 150ml single cream
  • 125g Stilton, or similar blue cheese, crumbled
  • 250g penne pasta
Instructions
  1. Start by placing the chicken strips onto a baking sheet and sprinkling evenly with the cajun spice mix, place into a pre-heated oven at 200 degrees.
  2. Heat the butter oil in a pan over a high heat and fry the shallots and garlic until translucent, add the flour and stir well. Then immediately add the wine and simmer for a few minutes before adding the cream. At this point you will need to whisk the sauce well to ensure the flour is well combined and not lumpy.
  3. Meanwhile, boil the pasta - this will need about 12 minutes, or 11 for al dente.
  4. Crumble the blue cheese into the pan and allow to simmer until the pasta is cooked.
  5. Drain the pasta, reserving a little of the water (about 60ml), add this pasta water and the pasta to the sauce and stir well to combine.
  6. By this time the chicken will be cooked through, remove from the oven and stir into the pasta.
  7. Serve immediately in warmed bowls with a little parmesan if required.

 

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Naples and the Amalfi Coast – Restaurant Recommendations

As I dashed across the zebra crossing weaving in and out of scooters and cars that clearly had no intention of slowing down or stopping, I tripped over rubbish in the street, and felt somewhat intimidated by the stares of passersby and the almost constant sound of sirens, it was then that I realised that I’d arrived in Naples – and that it perhaps wasn’t quite as I had expected.

Continue reading “Naples and the Amalfi Coast – Restaurant Recommendations”

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My Top 3 Autumn Recipes

Steak & Ale Pie
Steak & Ale Pie
Tuscan Fish Stew
Tuscan Fish Stew
Pumpkin Spiced Latte
Pumpkin Spiced Latte

 

 

 

 

 

 

I’ve said it before, autumn is without doubt my favourite time of the year, the crisp golden leaves that litter the ground and all the promise of the Christmas festivities to come. There are many things that make this season so special, the first appearance of your winter woollies, misty mornings, duvet days and the heating going on for the first time. But, perhaps one of the best things about this time of year is the comfort food, it’s all about pies, pastries, casseroles and stews and I’ve been busy scanning the archives to bring you my favourite autumnal recipes.

Some dishes just seem to warm you from the inside out and the three recipes above will do just that. Each is special for it’s own merit, the steak and ale is one of my old favourites, a perfect combination of buttery pastry and rich gravy. Those of you who read my blog regularly (I’m hoping that’s a few of you) will know that the Tuscan Fish Stew is probably my best recipe to date and my boyfriend loves it, we make it all the time! And last but certainly not least is one of my newest recipes, but it gets a big thumbs up for seasonality and it was so delicious I couldn’t help but include it in my top three.

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Donna Hay’s Classic Spaghetti & Meatballs

Spaghetti and meatballs have got to be the ultimate comfort food. I love them, the boyfriend on the other hand has never been convinced – that was until he tried this recipe. I’ve tried plenty of recipes before, but never have I found one as good as this. It’s a Donna Hay recipe, she uses a combination of pork and beef mince which is definitely the secret. The bold fragrant aroma of sage and fresh basil work beautifully in unison in this dish – a real palate pleaser. The sauce is so fresh tasting, I’ve made it twice now and both times it was delicious. This recipe simply wouldn’t be complete though without a large glass of read wine.

I urge you to try this recipe, it makes a large batch (far too many meatballs for two, about 30 if I remember rightly) which is great as they freeze so well in batches ready for a speedy week-night supper when you are in a hurry; the sauce also freezes well.

Given all the changes to my blog recently I’ve been cooking from recipes and books for a while, rather than being adventurous myself, it saves time and produces a fool proof delicious meal every time, so I bring you this one from the wonderful Donna Hay.

All that is about to change though as I embark on what is likely to be a labour intensive festive cooking extravaganza, meaning I’ll be putting my creative culinary skills to the test. I’m helping out at my cousin’s Christmas open day (he owns a Butchers and Delicatessen) and has asked me to provide an array of festive baked goods for people to sample and order ahead of Christmas. I guess that means I’ll have a busy December lined up, I’ll be sick of the sight of mince pies. It also means I’ve been running about like a headless chicken in search of hamper baskets, cellophane and various other wrapping items at a reasonable price.

Donna Hay Meatballs

Click here for Donna Hay’s Classic Meatballs recipe!