Rum and Raisin Ice Cream

Delicious rum and raisin ice cream which is best served “affogato” style with a shot of Pedro Ximez sherry on the side, which can be poured over, around, or drunk along with the ice cream.
Rum and raisin ice cream, with PX sherry, makes a great alternative Christmas dessert.
Two days in advance of making take as many raisins as you fancy and put them in a bowl. Cover them with as much nice dark rum (I try and use Dark Matter) as it takes. Allow them to soak at room temperature for about 48 hours. They should plump up and absorb the rum, and extra day soaking will do no harm.
Once the raisins are ready to use make a classic vanilla ice cream. Right at the end pour in the strained raisins and as much of the rummy liquid as you think it can stand. Put it in the freezer.
Fabulous. You can make this a week or two in advance.

Tomato and Chorizo Pasta

A good winter warmer. Tomato and Chorizo Pasta is simple and quick to make. Use any pasta shape you like. I think penne or a shell type pasta works best.

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, crushed or finely chopped
  • 1-2 fresh chillies to taste, or some chilli flakes
  • 2-4 fresh medium tomatoes, chopped (I don’t skin them but you can)
  • 100ml double cream (more or less to taste)
  • 1 chorizo (cooked), chopped or sliced
  • Some of the pasta cooking water to loosen
  • Basil leaves
  • Parmesan for sprinkling

Method

  1. Put on a big pot of salted boiling water for the pasta.
  2. Put the chopped onions and chilli in some olive oil and soften them gently till the onions are translucent and soft. This can take up to 20 minutes.
  3. Add the garlic once the onions are soft. (Garlic cooks much quicker than the onions and easily burns to the bottom of the pan if put in too early.)
  4. Put the pasta in the boiling water. I use dried pasta and it takes about 10 minutes to cook.
  5. While the pasta cooks add the tomatoes and salt to the onions, chilli and garlic. Let this simmer gently till the tomatoes are soft.
  6. Just before serving add the chorizo and the cream to taste. Warm through but don’t cook (if the chorizos need to be cooked add them alone and a bit earlier).
  7. Stir in some fresh basil and/or parsley.
  8. Drain the penne (keeping the cooking water) when cooked and serve with the sauce. Garnish with pepper and parmesan as your fancy takes you.
Tips
I like good smoky Spanish chorizo for the tomato and chorizo pasta. I find six inches of chorizo good for two to three people. I strip any skin or membrane before I cut them up by cutting along one side of the sausage. I find the membrane usually peels off easily.
Using raw chorizo should be equally nice, in which case I might put some fennel seeds in too because it feels right.
Omit the cream if you don’t like or are watching fat.

Cod and Chorizo Stew

A lovely cod and chorizo stew with a Spanish element. It makes a great bowl dinner and is great served with pieces of nice bread and butter. Based on a Tom Kerridge recipe but changed a little.
Fish wise this works fine with Cod or any other similar white fish. Just watch the cooking time. Less is more. Fish overcooks very easily and becomes unpleasant.
This a good freezer dish because you can make the tomato chorizo stew part in advance and freeze it. Then the fish can be done after defrosting and reheating, with the spinach added at the end.
If you are not keeping the stew for later do the fish part first as it needs at least an hour in the saffron.

Ingredients

  • 4 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 onions, finely chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 2 red chillies, chopped
  • 4 cooking chorizos (we find the raw chorizo style sausages that are a bit like a British banger work quite well, or you can go for the more Spanish style but they may be a bit more intense)
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp smoked paprika
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 cinnamon stick
  • 200ml chicken stock
  • 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1 can butter beans, drained and rinsed
  • Salt and black pepper, to taste
  • 1 pinch saffron
  • 4 pieces of cod loin (skinned), nice thick pieces about 5-6cm square and 2-3cm thick if you can find them
  • 200g spinach leaves
Bowl showing the cod and chorizo stew with cod loin on top
Cod and chorizo stew

Method

  1. Lay out a piece of cling film for each cod fillet on the counter. Lightly break up the saffron with a mortar and pestle and sprinkle half of it over the cling film. Put each cod fillet on top of the saffron cling film then sprinkle the remaining saffron over the tops. Wrap tightly in the cling film and place in the fridge for 1-2 hours. (If you are making the stew and then freezing it then skip preparing the fish until you defrost and want to heat the dish.)
  2. Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3.
  3. Place a casserole on the heat with the olive oil then add the onions, grated garlic and red chillies and cook over a medium heat for 10-12 minutes, or until the onion has softened.
  4. Skin the chorizo sausages then slice into bite-sized chunks and add it to the casserole. Cook for a further 5 minutes, or until the red paprika oil comes out of the sausage. Add the cumin, paprika, bay leaves and cinnamon stick. Cook for a further 3-4 minutes.
  5. Add chicken stock and tinned tomatoes. Bring to the boil then cook in the oven for 45 minutes.
  6. Remove from the oven and season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Stir in the drained can of beans.
  7. Take the cod from the fridge then remove the cling film, and place on top of the cooking stew, replacing the lid. Don’t submerge it. The cod will sit on top of the sauce and cook in the steam from the casserole.
  8. Transfer to the oven for 12-15 minutes, or until the fish is cooked. (Thin fillets may only need 5-6 minutes, beware of overcooking.)
  9. Take the casserole from the oven then gently lift the fish from the pot and place on a warmed plate.
  10. Stir the spinach and stir into the stew until it is just wilted.
Serve the cod and chorizo in bowls. Spoon some stew into the bowl then place the cooked fish on top. Serve with good fresh bread and butter on the side.

Lamb Scottadito

These are little barbequed lamb chops designed to be eaten with your hands. Known as lamb scottadito in Italian cookery, this is a brilliant way to speed up the cooking of lamb cutlets. Kids love them prepared like this because you can pick them up with your fingers (scottadito refers to burning your fingers in your rush to eat.) Best cooked on a barbecue.
Salsa verde is a lovely sauce to go with the cutlets, this quantity probably does 8-9 cutlets.  You probably want 3 cutlets per person. Increase the salsa verde quantities for more servings.

Ingredients

  • A rack of lamb (or more then one if you need), French trimmed – which just means with the bones stripped and cleanly showing
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 tbsp chopped rosemary
For the salsa verde
  • 3 tbsp chopped parsley
  • 1 tbsp chopped mint
  • 1 tbsp chopped basil
  • 1 tbsp small capers in vinegar, or salted – rinsed, drained and chopped
  • 1 anchovy fillet (packed in oil), drained and finely chopped
  • ½ tbsp Dijon mustard
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Method

  1. Make the salsa verde, mix together all the chopped ingredients in a bowl, then add the mustard and olive oil, stir well to amalgamate. Check and adjust the seasoning. Set aside at room temperature while you prepare the lamb.
  2. Cut the rack of lamb into individual cutlets.
  3. Now beat them out slightly before cooking. Put each one on a chopping board and lay a sheet of clingfilm on top. Using a rolling pin, or the flat part of a heavy knife or cleaver, gently hit the meaty part so it flattens to half the original thickness and spreads to twice the width.
  4. Cook on a barbecue or a ridged griddle pan. Brush both sides of the flattened cutlets with olive oil, then sprinkle with rosemary, salt and pepper. Place the cutlets carefully on the hot pan or grill and cook for a maximum of 1 minute on each side, less if this seems too long.
  5. I use my blowtorch to finish the cutlets. Sometimes the bones (which cook slower) can be a bit bloody and this isn’t very appetising. So I take the blowtorch very quickly around the edge of the bones and cutlets to finish them off before serving.
Serve the lamb scottadito on warmed plates and drizzle over the salsa verde. Serve warm.

Leek and Potato Soup

Washing the leeks in cold water to remove grit
Washing the leeks

A very delicious and simple no fuss Leek and Potato soup, which has the merit of being veggie. Much better than you might imagine. This is based on a Delia recipe. Lovely warm. Can also be served chilled as Vichysoisse

Ingredients

  • 4 large leeks
  • 1 medium onion, chopped small
  • 2 medium potatoes, peeled and diced, about 1cm cubes is fine
  • 50g butter
  • 1 litre vegetable stock (I use Marigold Swiss Vegetable Bouillon, it’s indispensable)
  • 250 ml milk
  • salt and freshly milled black pepper
To serve:
  • Snipped fresh chives or chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tablespoons cream or crème fraiche

Method

Cooking the leeks and potatoes in butter
Cooking the leeks and potatoes in butter
  1. Start by trimming the leeks, discarding any tough or scraggy outer layer.
  2. First, cut the bottom half off each leek (the white bit) a short distance below the point where the leaves splay. This bit doesn’t have any soil or grit and can be quickly cut in half lengthwise and sliced.
  3. Split the top sections in half lengthways and slice them quite finely, then wash them thoroughly in two or three changes of water to get rid of any grit. Drain well.
  4. In a largish saucepan, melt the butter, then add the leeks, onions and potatoes.  Season with some salt and pepper, then cover and let the vegetables sweat over a very low heat for about 15 minutes. You don’t want any colouring or browning.
  5. Then add the stock and milk, bring to simmering point, cover and let the soup simmer very gently for a further 20 minutes – take care, if you have the heat too high the milk in it may cause it to boil over.
  6. Now you can put the whole lot into a blender – leave it to cool first – and blend to a purée.
  7. Blend the soup in batches, then return the soup to the saucepan and reheat gently, tasting to check the seasoning.
  8. Add a swirl of cream or crème fraîche to each serving and sprinkle with freshly snipped chives (fabulous) or parsley.
I like croutons with this.

Croutons

Bag of frozen croutons
Frozen croutons

Croutons are often a lovely addition to a soup. They give a texture and some carbohydrates if they are needed. If you serve them in a bowl then folks can add as many or as few as they prefer.

The trouble with croutons is making them. Usually, when you think of them it’s all a bit too late and you don’t have any suitable bread and myriad other reasons why you just won’t bother.

The freezer is your saviour here. I keep a bag of pre-cut croutons in the freezer for just such occasions. You can make them in about 15 minutes with almost no effort.

Whenever I have leftover homemade bread (either from the breadmaker or handmade) I cube it up into croutons. My preferred size is quite rustic, about 1.5cm (⅔”) square. I also trim the crusts as they can go quite crusty and hard. Leave them on if you prefer. Keep a poly bag in the freezer and add croutons every time there’s some leftover bread.

Croutons don’t keep well when cooked. They can dry right out and become overly firm and crunchy. You need to serve them within 10-15 minutes of being ready.

If they are larger sized I find they have a nice crunchy outside but a slightly softer centre which is the preferred texture as far as I am concerned. I also prefer white bread croutons as I think that is nicer than some of the denser types of bread.

Method

  1. They defrost in 10 minutes in a warm kitchen, if you spread them around, while the oven is warming to about 180C.
  2. Put them in a big enough bowl and add a glug of some vegetable, or olive oil if it’s not too strong.
  3. Stir them around so they absorb the oil, adding more if you need it. When you cook them any excess will come out.
  4. Spread them on an oven tray and put them in the oven for 5-6 minutes till they look a golden brown but not too dark
  5. Put them in a serving bowl lined with some kitchen paper to absorb any excess

Ragu (Bolognese Sauce)

This is now my favourite Ragu sauce for pasta. It’s not a traditional Bolognese sauce but this is how I like it.
You can do this with beef, or pork, or a mix of pork and beef. I like the mixed pork & beef mince. You can either get pork and beef and grind it yourself or you can buy it ready minced.
I suggest you make a double batch. Have a fresh egg pasta, ideally tagliatelle, with the sauce. Or Gnocchi is good. Bag up a couple for the freezer. Or make a lasagne. A homemade lasagne with fresh homemade pasta sheets is a bit of work, but a joy.
Serve with grated parmesan or a lovely creamy pecorino if you have.

Ingredients

  • Olive oil
  • 2 medium carrots
  • 2 medium onions
  • 2 celery stalks
  • 50-100g of pancetta (it’s even better if you can get proper Italian pancetta)
  • 2 garlic cloves, cut in half lengthwise
  • Bouquet Garni – Sprig of rosemary, Sprig of sage, Couple of fresh bay leaves. Chopped basil stalks can be good too if not too woody and just added to the soffrito.
  • Half bottle of drinkable red wine
  • Tablespoon of tomato paste
  • 1kg good fresh tomatoes, peeled and deseeded, then chopped. (Alternatively, I frequently use a couple of tins as the fresh ones are often poor)
  • 500g Minced Beef
  • 500g Minced Pork
  • Salt and pepper to taste

Method

  1. Finely chop the carrots, onion, celery. And the pancetta into matchsticks
  2. Put a decent amount of olive oil in a pot and fry off the carrots, onion, celery, with the garlic cloves in a pot and fry them moderately to make the soffritto. Keep stirring and the aim is to sweat them off but not brown them too much.
  3. Fry the pancetta until slightly crispy and add to the soffritto.
  4. In a separate frying pan brown the mince in some oil. Do it in parts. Grey steamed mince is not what we want. This needs a properly hot pan and the mince needs to brown. A slightly golden colour as the mince ever so slightly crisps is the desired outcome. You can actually hear the change in sound from a hiss to a more crackly sound as the mince begins to caramelise. This is what makes the flavour in your ragu. Put the cooked mince in with the vegetables and repeat until you are done. (Tom Kerridge cooks the mince spread thinly on a baking sheet and in a very hot oven until quite golden, I’ve not tried yet but seems like it could be easier and less smoky in the kitchen.)
  5. Now add the herbs in the bouquet garni to the pot, turn the heat up and add the red wine. Stir and cook it off until almost all of the wine is gone.
  6. Add the tomato paste and the tomatoes and stir it in. Bringing back to a gentle simmer.
  7. Put a lid on it and put it in a medium oven for about 90 minutes. Check it every 30 minutes or so. If it’s too wet and sloppy then leave the lid off so it reduces a bit. Don’t be frightened to give it another 30 minutes if it needs it.
  8. When you take it out the sauce should be rich and thick. If it’s not you can put it on the stovetop and reduce it down, but stand over it, stirring all the time or you will burn it.
I bag it up in single and double portions and freeze it so it’s a source of convenient meals. It’s one of those great discoveries in the freezer when you can’t be bothered doing much cooking and you find a leftover bag of ragu. A quick microwave and a boiling of spaghetti produces a delicious emergency dinner.

Thai Beef Salad

Thai beef salad with medium cooked steak layered on top
Thai Beef Salad

I love this Thai Beef Salad. Fresh lime leaves are essential I’m afraid. They give such an unmistakable zing.

I added some salad leaves and served it with a bowl of jasmine rice. Use whatever salad you prefer or have to hand. You need enough dressing to provide a liquid to blend into the rice. I spooned salad in beside the rice in a bowl and loved the mix of creamy bland rice and strong salad dressing.
I’m very lucky to have custody of my son’s lime leaf plant. I have a cutting developing. It lives outside in summer, but inside at all other times.

Ingredients

Dressing and Marinade (do multiple quantities if you are doing more steaks)

  • 1½ tbsp fresh lime juice
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped palm sugar
  • 1 tbsp fish sauce
  • 2 tsp sesame oil
  • 1 tsp light soy sauce
  • 2 tsp finely grated fresh ginger

Salad

  • Beef steak as much as you like, sirloin, rib eye, or rump according to preference
  • 200g tomatoes, whatever you like, cherry or cut up larger tomatoes
  • 1 cucumber, halved lengthways, sliced
  • 1 red onion, halved and cut into very thin slices
  • Anything else you fancy – avocado is nice, grated carrot, etc.
  • 2 fresh red chillies, as hot as you prefer, halved and deseeded, thinly sliced lengthways, chop lengths smaller if they are too long
  • 1 bunch fresh mint, leaves picked, large leaves torn
  • 1 bunch fresh coriander, leaves picked, lightly chopped
  • 1 bunch fresh Thai basil, leaves picked and torn, I just use regular basil if I don’t have Thai basil
  • Some salad leaves, as you prefer
  • 50g toasted peanuts or cashew nuts, roughly chopped
  • 2-4 kaffir lime leaves, centre veins removed, finely shredded

Method

  1. Whisk together lime juice, garlic, fish sauce, sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger and palm sugar in a jug.
  2. Place the steak in a suitable dish. Cover with enough of the dressing to marinade in the fridge for a couple of hours. Remember that you must NOT use the marinade dressing in the salad as it has been in contact with the raw meat. You have to discard later.
  3. Prepare your salad vegetables
  4. Toast your cashew or peanuts in a dry frying pan, set aside to cool
  5. Cook your steak as you prefer and let it rest somewhere warm. Be careful of temperature and turning the steak as the marinade has sugar in it. This will make it char to black quite easily on the outside, so some care is required not to burn the outside.
  6. Make up a bowl or tray with the salad leaves and other salad items.
  7. Slice up the steak to thin ribbons and place on top of the salad
  8. Drizzle with the remaining dressing (NOT the marinade) and sprinkle with the nuts
Serve with on its own with some jasmine rice, or as part of a larger Thai meal.

Oxtail Ragu

Beefy oxtail ragu makes a delicious rich sauce for pasta. Serves 4 as a main or 6-8 as a starter. Takes a few hours to cook, but not much time to prepare. Great to make the day before needed and this also makes it easier to remove the layer of fat from the casserole before serving.

Ingredients

  • 2 carrots
  • 1 large onion
  • 1 stick celery
  • 1 leek if you have it
  • 2 chopped cloves of garlic
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1kg Oxtail
  • 1 bottle red wine
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 sprig rosemary
  • 1 sprig sage with 2 large leaves

Method

  1. Pre-heat your oven to 140C fan
  2. Chop the carrot, onion, celery and leek into a fine dice.
  3. Make a soffrito (Heat the olive oil and add the diced veg and the garlic and sweat them off in a casserole pot till cooked but not browned)
  4. While the soffrito is cooking brown the oxtail pieces in a frying pan with some of the olive oil
  5. Add the browned oxtail to the casserole
  6. Add the herbs and pour in the red wine and bring to a simmer
  7. Put the casserole in the oven and cook for 4-5 hours until there is a rich dark sauce and the oxtail is tender
  8. Once cooked take the casserole from the oven and let it cool enough that the oxtail can be removed to a plate to strip the meat from the bones. Collect the meat in a bowl.
  9. Remove the herb stalks
  10. The casserole of ragu will have a decent layer of fat. Either skim this off with a large spoon and discard. Or, chill the sauce in the fridge overnight and the fat will harden and can be easily removed.
  11. To serve, recombine the pieces of oxtail meat with the ragu in a small pot and heat
Best with a chunky pasta like pappardelle. Serve a portion of pasta in a pasta bowl, spoon over some ragu. Serve with a cheese like pecorino or ossau iraty.
Variant
  • This would also make a lovely ravioli. Perhaps 3 medium sized ravioli with homemade pasta per person. With a some of the ragu, with only a small amount of sauce, for the filling. Use the rest of the sauce to dress the ravioli. Perhaps some sort of creamy horseradish drizzle would lift it to something pretty special.

Risotto Alla Milanese – Great With Osso Buco

Risotto Alla Milanese is a simple saffron risotto often served with Osso Buco.
The texture and wetness of the risotto is important. There is nothing worse then claggy, stodgy risotto. Equally, you don’t want it too soupy, especially if serving with Osso Buco which will have a wet gravy. If, when it has rested it seems too “dry” then adding a ladle of the remaining stock can loosen it up just before serving.
Traditionally this also had some bone marrow in it. I don’t even attempt this, for two reasons. Firstly, it’s much harder to get. Secondly, it’s very rich and if you are serving this with Osso Buco, which is already rich, then it’s all a bit too much.

Ingredients

  • 25-30g butter
  • 1 medium onion very finely chopped
  • Risotto rice, 80-100g per person
  • 100ml of white wine or vermouth
  • A good pinch of saffron
  • About 500ml of chicken stock. You need to vary for the number of portions and rice quantities, but start using boiling water if you run short.
  • 100g Parmesan, finely grated, adjust to taste
  • 25-40g cold butter, cubed

Method

  1. To make the risotto start by softening the onion gently till it is soft. This can take 10-20 minutes. You don’t want colour, no golden onions here.
  2. Put the stock pot beside the risotto pot and warm it up till it’s at the gentlest simmer, put a ladle in the pot.
  3. Add the rice and stir until the grains are hot and well coated in the butter
  4. Add the vermouth or wine and let it simmer down, the alcohol will burn off
  5. Add some salt, probably about a teaspoon, you can adjust at the end. Remember the butter might be salted.
  6. Now ladle stock, a couple of ladlefuls at a time, into the rice. Stir the rice more or less continuously until the stock is mainly absorbed, then add some more of the stock, and continue. The stirring brings out the starch and creates the creaminess of texture.
  7. After the first ladleful add the saffron. I put two-thirds in a mortar and pestle and grind it, washing the grounds out with a little of the stock into the risotto pot. Add the remaining threads, these are nice to see in the finished risotto.
  8. You have to test the grains to see if it is ready. Cooking will take 15-20 minutes. When the rice grains are just losing their dry firmness in the centre it’s time to stop.
  9. Now for the “mantecatura”, which is just making it creamy. Add the half the parmesan, and the cold butter cubes. Beat these in with a wooden spoon for a minute or so till all is incorporated and creamy.
  10. Serve in bowls with a sprinkle of parmesan and freshly ground pepper.