Gnocchi Arrabbiata

Gnocchi Arrabbiata

A great recipe for a quick midweek supper, gnocchi is paired with a light tomato sauce packing a big kick of chilli.

Topping the gnocchi with a little diced mozzarella, fresh basil and parmesan shavings makes for a more impressive and, most importantly, a more delicious dish.

Gnocchi Arrabbiata
Serves 2

Ingredients:

For the Sauce: 300g Passata, 2tbsp Olive Oil, 2 Shallots (Diced), 1 Garlic Clove (Finely Sliced), 1tsp Tomato Purée, 1/2tsp Salt, Large Handful Fresh Basil (Chopped), 2 Red Chillies (Sliced), Juice 1/2 Lemon

To Finish: 200g Good Quality Gnocchi, 1 Ball Mozzarella (Diced), Fresh Basil Leaves, Handful Parmesan Shavings, Extra Virgin Olive Oil, Cracked Black Pepper

Method:

1) Begin by making the sauce: Sauté the shallot and garlic for 5 minutes in a large pan over a medium heat in the olive oil. Add the tomato purée and cook for a further 2 minutes, stirring continuously. Add the passata and sliced chilli and cook over a low heat for 10 minutes until slightly reduced. Stir in the chopped basil, lemon juice and salt and keep the sauce warm whilst you cook the gnocchi.

2) Boil the gnocchi in a large pan salted water until they float to the top (approx 2 minutes). Remove and drain and add to the sauce. Fold the gnocchi through the sauce.

3) Serve the gnocchi with the diced mozzarella, basil leaves, shaved parmesan and a good crack of black pepper.

Enjoy!

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Lemon Macaroons

Lemon Macaroons

 

A trip to Paris and a visit to Ladurée has resulted in a love affair with Macaroons. Nothing would make me happier than scoffing a couple of the chewy wonders with mid-morning coffee – unfortunately I am far too impatient to make them at home.

So when I received a macaroon baking mat for Christmas it was quickly dispatched to Jane (the baker in the relationship) with instructions to make me some beautiful elevenses! I was not to be disappointed – these lemon macaroons are glorious!

Detailed below is the recipe for when using a silicon macaroon baking mat. If a traditionalist and using baking parchment there is no need to pre-heat the baking tray and the cooking time should be reduced by 4 minutes.

Lemon Macaroons
Makes 28 Whole Macaroons

Ingredients:

For the Macaroon Base: 185g Icing Sugar, 185g Ground Almonds, 2 Large Egg Whites, Yellow Food Colouring.

For the Meringue: 185g Caster Sugar, 2 tbsp Water, 2 Large Egg Whites, 1/2 tsp Lemon Juice.

For the Filling: Good Quality Lemon Curd.

Method:

1) Pre-heat the oven to 170C. Place the silicon baking mat on a baking tray in the middle of the oven to pre-heat.

2) Make the macaroon base: Combine the icing sugar, ground almonds and egg whites in a large bowl. Mix using an electric mixer until the mixture is smooth. Add around 20 drops of food colouring and mix briefly to combine. Set aside.

3) Make the meringue: Whisk the egg white and lemon juice with an electric mixer until you achieve firm peaks. Meanwhile make a syrup with the sugar and water by placing in a small saucepan and cooking over a high heat until the mixture reaches 120C. Lower the speed of the mixer and slowly pour the syrup into the egg white mixture, continuing to whisk for 2 minutes.

4) Combine the Mixtures: Take a little of the meringue mixture and combine with the macaroon base to loosen. Fold the remaining meringue mixture into the base, being careful not to knock too much air out.

5) Cook the Macaroons: Spoon the mixture into a piping bag with a medium plain nozzle attached. Remove the baking tray from the oven. Pipe around 1/2 tbsp of mixture into each macaroon mould, covering the baking mat. Cook in the oven for 12 minutes. Once ready, remove from the oven and allow to cool. Once cooled remove from the mould and set aside on a cooling rack . Repeat this step until the macaroon mixture is exhausted.

6) Assemble the Macaroons: Sandwich two macaroon halves together with the lemon curd.

These taste even better the next day. Stored in the fridge they should last around 4 days.

Enjoy!

Cooking Vegetables

 

This is a most rewarding method of cooking young, tender vegetables – retaining their crunch and vibrance often lost when boiling or steaming. Nothing bothers me more than limp, dull, mis-treated vegetables.

I feel boiling should be saved only for the hardest or oldest of vegetables and potatoes. Cooking young and tender varieties (especially green) in a big pot of boiling water tends to dilute their flavour and renders their colour insipid. By cooking the vegetables for a short while, in a little butter, water and seasoning you can be sure that all of those wonderful fresh flavours and colours are kept locked in.

Prepare your vegetables in the usual fashion; however, cut harder varieties into smaller pieces and leave those which are tender mostly whole or in larger pieces. The directions below are based on enough vegetables to feed four.

Place the vegetables in an appropriately sized saucepan with a large knob of butter. Season generously with sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper. Add a good splash of cold water (around 1/4 to 1/2 a cup).

Place the saucepan on a high heat and cover. Cook for anything from 1 minute for very tender vegetables to 3-4 minutes for harder varieties. Thinly sliced carrots and broccoli will generally take around 3 minutes, courgette and asparagus 2 minutes.

Once ready, toss with a handful of finely chopped parsley and a squeeze of fresh lemon juice. Serve the vegetables basted with the cooking liquor.

Enjoy!

Herb Garden

Herbs Grown Outside from Small Plants

Herbs are fundamental to cooking great tasting food and what better than cooking with herbs you have grown yourself. You know they have been raised by your own fair hands and they are far less expensive than shop bought herbs. Whether growing from seed or small plants, they are easy and rewarding to look after.

Start with the basics; grow basil and coriander, maybe some dill, inside in direct sunlight and water often. Plant thyme, rosemary and sage outside either on the windowsill or in planters (make sure to keep your sage under control or it will soon run amock!) Ensure you use your herbs, cutting regularly once up to full size to ensure they continue to flourish.

Once you have the hang of it try planting some different varieties. Borage grows very well in the summer and is great used in cocktails, as do curry plants.

If you have the time and space, many more obscure varieties are available from seed. Don’t be daunted, buy an inexpensive window propagator and your seeds will germinate in no time and with little effort. Watercress grows very well in the summer when sown directly outside into window planters, if sown now you will have a crop ready in a few weeks.

Watercress from Seed Outside

Purple and Thai Basil from Seed