Wednesday, 26 February 2014

Smokey Sausage and Pepper Pasta

People, it seems, are becoming more and more bogged down with the pressures of everyday work or family activities and tea time is becoming more of a chore. That tends to see people reaching for the convenience food. If you can gain a bit more confidence in the kitchen by adopting a few simple cooking processes and learning how to be creative with what you have, it is amazing what you can do.

I always ensure that the spice and dried herb cabinet is full to the brim. They lift the dullest and most bland of ingredients to another level. This dish is a perfect example of what you can do with just a few fresh ingredients and some non-perishable store cupboard herbs and spices. It is completely non-authentic, but does that matter when it is cheap and delicious, packed full of flavour and filling for the whole family? 

Smokey Sausage and Pepper Pasta
Feeds 4

8 good quality pork sausages (I use Gordon's of East Boldon - always a top quality and award winning banger)
1 onion, sliced
1 pepper, sliced
2 cloves of garlic, sliced
2 tins of tomatoes
1 tsp chilli flakes
2 tsps dried oregano
2 tspn paprika (if you can get it, smoked sweet paprika)
1 tbsp tomato purée
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper
Tagliatelle or your pasta of choice
Fresh basil

1 - In a large casserole dish, heat the olive oil and then quickly brown the sausages all over. Remove and keep aside.
2 - Add the onions and pepper to the oil and stir for 5 minutes until soft and slightly browned. Add the tomato purée, garlic, herbs and spices and cook for 1 minute.
3 - Return the sausages to the casserole dish with the tomatoes. Bring to the boil and then simmer with the lid on for 20 minutes. Taste for seasoning.
4 - Boil your pasta of choice. Serve with the smokey sausage and pasta sauce, a scattering of basil and a green salad.

Saturday, 22 February 2014

Corn Soda Bread

Soda bread is so easy to make: 10 minutes maximum mixing, 25 minutes in the oven and minutes to devour with lots of butter.

This one is perfect for the gluten intolerant, using a good quality gluten free flour along with maize, or ground corn. It gives a lovely crunchy outside and a scone-like inside.

You can experiment with this recipe by adding some Cheddar cheese, perhaps some whole spices such as cumin and chilli. Try it, you won't regret it.

Corn Soda Bread
Feeds 4-6

300g bread flour 
200g ground corn/maize
1 tsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tsp bicarbonate of soda
500g natural yoghurt

1 - Pre-heat the oven to GM6/200C.
2 - In a large bowl, mix together the dry ingredients then pour in the yoghurt. Mix together with a wooden spoon then tip onto a floured baking tray. Form it into a dome shape but don't knead or press it too much.
3 - Use a knife and cut a cross into the top. Place onto the middle shelf and bake for 25-30 minutes until golden. If you tap the bottom it should make a hollow sound.
4 - Allow to rest for 10 minutes then serve with lots of butter.

Tuesday, 18 February 2014

Chocolate and Almond Mousse Cake

You may need to burn a few calories after tackling my favourite easy cake,  the chocolate mousse cake. Rich, buttery and intense with high cocoa content, it is a crowd pleaser pretty much all of the time. I love the chestnut version; so seasonal and a brilliant alternative for Christmas pudding for chocolate lovers. But I also love almonds, and with ground almonds surely being a staple cupboard ingredient for everybody, you can whip one of these up in no time.

Chocolate and Almond Mousse Cake
Feeds 8

250g 70-80% chocolate
250g butter
200g ground almonds
50g sliced almonds
5 eggs
100g caster sugar
1 vanilla pod, split and seeded (optional)

1 - Preheat the oven to 180C/GM4.
2 - Break up the chocolate and put into a heatproof bowl along with the butter. Place over a pan of water and bring to the boil until the chocolate and butter have melted.
3 - Separate the eggs. In a bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, vanilla seeds and sugar until pale. Stir in the chocolate and butter and then finally, gently fold in the ground almonds and the sliced almonds.
4 - Whisk the egg whites until they reach 'soft peak' stage, or you can hold the bowl upside down and nothing falls out. Gently fold into the mixture.
5 - Grease and paper a 20cm spring form cake tin. Pour in the cake mixture, then place on the middle shelf of the oven and bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the cake is still slightly wobbly and the surface has cracked.
6 - Remove and rest until cool. Decorate with cocoa powder and a handful of sliced almonds.

Meatball Marinara

An unnamed high street food provider has a version of this on their menu. Meatball marinara: hot meatballs, tomato sauce and cheese stuffed ...