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.
This is without doubt one of the most deliciously mouth watering recipes I’ve ever devised, for obvious reasons I guess. Roasted bone marrow spooned over garlicky mushrooms and salty jewels of bacon and perfumed woody thyme… what’s not to love? These mushroom toasts would be ideal for a Christmas Eve or New Year’s Eve dinner party. Just go easy on the garlic so as not to knock your guests side ways with your garlic breath.
This recipe really packs a punch in terms of flavour and it’s just so simple. Aside from waiting for the bone marrow to cook it only takes about 10 minutes to throw together, so even when you’ve still got some last minute wrapping to do you can find 10 minutes right?
Bring some restaurant elegance into your home
It is easy to bring a little bit of restaurant into your own kitchen. In fact, Christmas has to be the ideal time. Your guests will really appreciate the touch of elegance it brings to the dinner table, plus you’ll look extra chefy. All you have to do is ask your butcher for some femur bone cut into small discs and pop it into the oven. Job done! Well almost…
The inspiration for the recipe
The inspiration for this recipe came from a book I recently bought for a friend. It’s a book I feel compelled to share with all foodies I know. ‘The Flavour Thesaurus’ is always on hand in my kitchen. If you’re a foodie and you’ve not heard of it or read it I urge you to pop out and grab a copy. As the title suggests, the book is set out like a thesaurus and is a bible of parings, recipes and ideas for the creative cook. On many an occasion I’ve taken inspiration from the book, perhaps when I have a random ingredient left over and I’m not sure what to pair it with. I can always count on The Flavour Thesaurus to come up with the goods.
Garlic mushroom toasts with bacon, thyme and roasted bone marrow
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).
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
This recipe will serve two as a main meal with bread and butter, or four as a starter.
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
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.
For the puttanseca sauce:
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.
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.
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.
I figured that if it’s good enough for Jamie Oliver and his 15 minute meals, it’s good enough for Miss Friday’s midweek meals. I’m talking about Uncle Ben’s Express Rice; I had a pouch of his Wholegrain Tomato and Basil Rice with Quinoa lurking in the back of my cupboard, which was the inspiration behind tonight’s dinner. Of course I had to pimp it up a little.
I’m a huge fan of short cuts, and I make no bones about it either – especially during the week when time is tight, or for those evenings where you’d rather not be slaving over the hot stove all night. Yes, even I have days like that.
So, using what I could find in my fridge (a few random left over vegetables) and store cupboard (herbs and spices) I created a speedy midweek meal that also happens to be wonderfully healthy. I had some jumbo king prawns to use so I decided to make this delicious spicy rice dish. It reminded me of a jambalaya, now I realise the ingredients are quite different, but you’ll appreciate what I mean from the picture.
Uncle Ben’s Express Tomato and Basil Wholegrain Rice
225g cooked jumbo king prawns
1 tbsp olive oil
1 red pepper, small dice
1 red onion, small dice
1 courgette, small dice
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Knorr herb infusion stock pot
600g chopped tomatoes
1 tsp balsamic vinegar
½ tsp sugar
¼ tsp spicy smoked paprika
¼ tsp dried chilli flakes
Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Heat the olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the chopped vegetables and garlic, cook for about 10 minutes stirring until the vegetables have softened. Season generously with salt and pepper.
Then add the chopped tomatoes, stock pot, and vinegar, allow to cook for a further 2 minutes before adding the sugar, paprika and chilli flakes.
Meanwhile, heat the rice in the microwave and add it to the pan, mix well to incorporate all of the vegetables.
Finally, add the jumbo king prawns and simmer for 5 minutes. Serve immediately.
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.
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!
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.
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.
Meanwhile, boil the pasta - this will need about 12 minutes, or 11 for al dente.
Crumble the blue cheese into the pan and allow to simmer until the pasta is cooked.
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.
By this time the chicken will be cooked through, remove from the oven and stir into the pasta.
Serve immediately in warmed bowls with a little parmesan if required.
Oysters are like Marmite – they divide option the world over. You either love them or hate them. Personally I like them, but until last week I’d only ever tried them raw, which I’m guessing is the same for most people who have either tried them or eat them on a regular basis. Richard (the boyfriend) adores oysters and we were talking about baked oysters and both had to confess to never having tried them like this. Ridiculous for a foodie I know. So we went straight out and bought some so we could try a little recipe development.
If you’ve only ever tried oysters raw (even if you hated them) you have to try this recipe before ruling them out completely. They are totally different when cooked, both in texture and flavour.
The name Oysters Rockefeller is more of a method of cooking oysters rather than a recipe as such, the term Rockefeller actually means having oysters on the half-shell and topping them with various ingredients (often parsley and other herbs, butter, garlic and bread crumbs) they are then usually baked in the oven until cooked through.
We decided that the simpler the better, we went with seasoned parmesan and parsley breadcrumbs, garlic, spring onion and a little fried bacon. In my option they are not all that different to baked parmesan crusted mussels, if you’ve ever had them, just a little more moist and meaty.
This is going to become a definite staple for dinner parties, I figure that oysters are always a talking point anyway purely because they divide opinion so much, and perhaps even more so when you do something completely different that people haven’t tried.
This one probably doesn’t warrant an actual recipe to be typed up because it’s simple a case of shucking your oysters, popping them into a baking tray and topping them with a few delicious ingredients, but in case you want to do them exactly as I did I’ve included the ingredients and method below.
Open the oyster shells with a shucker. Discard the top shell and loosen each oyster from the base of its shell, place them into a large roasting tin ensuring you keep as much liquid inside them as possible
Blitz together the bread crumbs, parmesan and parsley. Set aside.
Add the oil and butter to a pan and add the bacon, fry for 4 minutes until golden and crisp. Remove from the pan and set aside.
Add the spring onions and garlic to the pan and fry until softened and cooked through, about 3 minutes - set aside with the bacon. Crumble the bacon and mix into the spring onions.
Top each oyster with a teaspoon full of the spring onion and bacon mixture, followed by the bread crumbs.
Carefully place the roasting tin into the oven and cook for 15 minutes.
Remove the tray from the oven - the shells will be very hot so you will need to allow then to cool for a minute or so before handling.
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.
I’ve decided that enough is enough, my poor waistline can no longer cope with all the indulgence I can’t seem to help myself from eating. I’ve always loved food, but since starting this blog that love of food has turned into an obsession, mostly an unhealthy one. It’s true, I love butter… but it’s time I had a break from cakes and creamy pasta dishes. I’ve gained a stone in weight since I moved in with my boyfriend a year ago – that’s contentment for you, but I’m not happy that my jeans are tight and I feel sluggish and lethargic sometimes.
I’d been thinking about joining Slimming World for a while, so I finally got round to making the plunge. I was very nervous walking into that village hall full of slimming ladies, who all seemed to know each other. The ‘newbie’ feeling, we’ve all had it at one point or another, but it doesn’t get any easier does it? That feeling that everyone is staring at you. But, honestly the group is so lovely, the ladies are so welcoming and two weeks in I already feel completely at ease.
I’d built up an idea in my head that slimming or dieting was going to be so difficult, but the SW plan makes it feel fuss free and like you are not depriving yourself of the foods you love, just cutting down and making healthier more informed choices. Never in my life have I felt the need to diet before, but at 10st 1.5lbs and only 5ft 2inches tall it’s quite necessary. My BMI suggests that I’m verging on being overweight, a scary thought! All in all, I have 1st 1.5lbs to loose, which is pretty much 10% of my body weight!
I made the rather silly decision to start SW the week of my Birthday, so as anticipated I didn’t do so well the first week, I over indulged on fish and chips and far too much alcohol. I went to the group weigh in fearing the worst – but I’d actually lost 1lb. Harrah! Okay, so it’s only 1 measly pound, but a loss is a loss, and I’ll take that! This week I’ve been much better than last so I’m hoping I’ll have lost a bit more.
I won’t bore you with the ins and outs, but essentially SW is about food optimising, having lots of healthy foods like fruit, vegetables and lean meats, potatoes, rice and pasta. Yes pasta! And cutting back on your wheat (bread) and dairy (milk and cheese), then there are your syns, the things like chocolate and wine, which you can have, but in moderation.
Being the avid cook that I am, I’ve purchased a few of the recipe books to ensure I stay on track and find it easy to make the right choices. So far I’ve cooked a whole host of dishes that have been very delicious. Trust me I was surprised, who knew curry without cream and spag bol without parmesan could taste so good. To show you just how delicious the SW meals are I wanted to share some snaps with you. For Slimming World recipes you can visit their website.
The recipe is from the SW A Taste of Asia book and it got huge thumbs up from the boyfriend, who was more than sceptical about a ‘healthy’ version of a special fried rice. “It’s better than take-away” he confessed!