Instead of a starter when I have people over I like to serve nibbles… it takes the pressure off in that I don’t have to make lots of things plus if dinner runs late people don’t go hungry.

I served some really bright green olives, sourdough bread, mozzarella and some beautiful figs.

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Before the main event and my new favourite thing… risotto!

You need;
2 pints stock (chicken, or vegetable) note that if you don’t have fresh buy the best cubes you can find
2 tbsp olive oil
knob of butter
1 large onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
½ head celery, trimmed and finely chopped
400g risotto rice
2 wine glasses dry white wine
1 small butternut squash, cut into bite sized cubes
salt and freshly ground black pepper
70g butter + more for sage leaves
handful of fresh sage
115g freshly grated Parmesan cheese
150g mascarpone cheese to serve

So…

1. You need to roast the squash pieces first, peel and cut your squash and put in the oven for 30-40 minutes, coat in a little olive oil and season with salt and pepper.

2. Heat the stock.

3. Put the oil and butter in a saucepan, add the onion and garlic and cook very slowly for about 15 minutes without colouring… This is called a soffrito. You want everything to go translucent.

4. Then add the rice and very briefly lightly fry until the edges go a little translucent. Add the wine and keep stirring – it will smell fantastic.

5. Once the wine has cooked into the rice, add your first ladle of hot stock and a good pinch of salt. Turn down the heat to a simmer so the rice doesn’t cook too quickly on the outside.

6. Keep adding ladlefuls of stock, stirring and massaging the creamy starch out of the rice, allowing each ladleful to be absorbed before adding the next. This will take around 15 minutes.

7. Taste the rice to check if it’s cooked. If not, carry on adding stock until the rice is soft but with a slight bite.

8. When the rice is nearly cooked, and just before you add the final ladleful of stock, stir in the butternut squash. Remove from the heat and add the butter, and parmesan.

Season now to your taste…

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Put a lid on the pan and allow to sit for 2 minutes so it gets all creamy. Meanwhile quickly heat up a big knob of butter and fry your sage leaves until it starts to brown.

Serve your risotto with the sage leaves on top and add a cool dollop of mascarpone on top, let it melt into the hot rice… its amazing trust me.

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I served this with a beautiful kale salad, which I will have to share with you soon!

 And my second favourite thing about having friends to dinner? Leftovers! Figs and mozzarella and honey. Yum.

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So I have some news…

I have decided to consolidate my blogs, I am moving Full as an Egg over to Swoon as a regular blog post.

I have not decided what to do with this address so for now I am going to re-post while I decide as I have quite a few subscribers here, any suggestions?

Pop over to Swoon today for a great quick and easy spaghetti recipe… 

Sweet Potato Cream Pasta with Kale and Bacon

Tower of Power Breakfast

September 7, 2012

This recipe is not my own, I so wish it was.

I saw this on one of the many many food blogs I read, but one of my go to for awesome healthy food; My New Roots not only are the recipes healthy Sarah tells you why each ingredient is good for you… meaning you gain knowledge every time you cook with her recipes.

You can see the full recipe and photographs here

We needed fuel for a day of painting so I thought this was a great opportunity to make this…

My slightly simplified version… 

For 3-4 you need:
2 large sweet potatoes
2 large red onions
spinach ( a big handful for each person)
cherry tomatoes (5-6 per person)
seat salt
black pepper
olive oil
1 egg per person
brown sugar
dried chilli flakes

1. Slice up your sweet potato and roast in the oven at around 220c for 20-30 minutes, making the edges go crispy and ensuring that the larger pieces are cooked through
At the same time saute your onions, slowly, add a little sugar for some extra sweetness.

2. Add some olive oil to a small saucepan and chuck in the tomatoes, put on a low heat and pop the lid on and cook until they are bursting. Watch these don’t burn, this will take 10-15 minutes but do it as slowly as possible.

When these bits are all done, Sarah suggests putting them all in a baking tray in the oven to keep warm… good thinking!

3. Saute your spinach in the same pan you did the onions, this will take 1-2 minutes… pop to one side while you poach your eggs the pile it up and enjoy…

Season with salt and pepper and chilli flakes if you have them!

Very filling and so good…

It’s a little faffy but very easy… try it at the weekend when you have plenty of time. 

Did everyone (in the UK) have a lovely four days off? I love bank holidays but the extra day was such a treat. Big up the Queen for the Bank Holiday Tuesday.

When’s her next anniversary?

Anyway after a lot of overindulging this weekend last night I needed comfort, carbs and some health so I made this pasta bake, a Jamie Oliver recipe I have tried a few times. It’s simple and so tasty and can’t be there bad for you with all those tomatoes.

I of course cheated a little so check the link for the original.

You need;
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
extra virgin olive oil
1 white onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced
1 tablespoon dried chilli flakes (or more if you like)
3 tins of good-quality chopped plum tomatoes
a large handful of fresh basil leaves
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
2 tablespoons of red wine
400g dried orecchiette (I used conchiglie which worked well)
4 big handfuls of freshly grated Parmesan cheese
3 balls of mozzarella

You start by making a basic tomato sauce, this will see you well with any pasta dish and is so delicious I think would be great with some spaghetti and nothing else.

Heat a good swig of extra virgin olive oil in a large saucepan then add the onion, garlic and chilli and slowly fry for about 10 minutes on a medium to low heat until softened.

Add the tins of tomatoes to the onion and garlic, with a small glass of water and the red wine (adds a nice richness) and bring to the boil and simmer for around 20 minutes then finally tear your basil leaves into the sauce season with salt, pepper and a little swig of red wine vinegar.

While doing this you could also cook your pasta according to its instructions, I always do mine a little less than it says, and cook with a little olive oil in the water (and salt of course) and pre-heat your oven to around 200c.

When your pasta is cooked, drain and toss with half of the tomato sauce and a handful of Parmesan. Get a baking dish and rub it with a little olive oil.

Now it’s time to layer up, start with a layer of the saucy pasta then more sauce then mozzarella then parmesan and then once again… that was as far as mine went. Save some parmesan for the top. Now bake for 15 minutes, until it’s all bubbly and golden and some of your pasta is going crisp. 

We ate this with a really simple green salad and red wine. I needed health but I also needed red wine.

And the best thing? I will be eating this for lunch today… minus the red wine.

I have been all about the recommendations lately, and not giving much out about what I have been cooking… mostly because I haven’t.

In between decorating, enjoying the little bursts of sunshine and generally being quite busy I haven’t been cooking properly lately. There have been lots of Waitrose/M&S trips to buy food I don’t have to do anything with.

I need this break I think. It hard to get anything done in an evening if you plan on cooking properly and I am a girl who likes her early nights.

But anyway this is a little something I made for my girlfriends a couple of weeks ago and have been meaning to make again and make prettier and better so I could share it with you.

I have made it again, yesterday, after a few glasses of wine in the sunshine it’s the only thing I could think of, but it definitely wasn’t prettier so here you are. I am sharing with you anyway with a photograph from my phone. I hope that’s okay… it really is a good salad and another ‘boy-friendly’ salad, I had proof last night.

As this is a salad I am not giving you quantities you can make it for 1 or many, teeny or huge.

You need;
Rocket and spinach
Tomatoes
Mushrooms
Red onions
Potatoes
Blue Cheese
Prosciutto

So first I caramelised the onions, do take your time with this do it slowly and take at least 30 minutes, you might want to do this first. About 15 minutes in a sprinkled sugar on them and then stirred that in. Fry on a low heat with a little oil and stir and watch.

At the same time I put all the tomatoes on a baking tray with some olive oil and seat salt and black pepper again on a low temperature and left them in there while I cooked everything else. I used the best cherry tomatoes I could get my hands on but you can use any kind you like.

This was also the first time this year I tasted Jersey Royals, damn they are lovely. ut again you could use any potato you want, I simply boiled them because of all the other tasty (naughty) ingredients in this dish but you could also fry them up with the prosciutto. That would be good…

So those are the bits you need to cook, fry your prosciutto last then you just need to chuck your salad into the bowl, add those hot bits then the crumbled blue cheese (I used Gorgonzola this time and have also tried it with a Stilton) and lastly the Prosciutto.

And yes I did serve it with a huge lump of garlic bread. What?

*Since it is BBQ weather (finally) in Bristol here are some more sunshine worthy recipes for you to try this weekend.

Salads;
Apple and hazelnut salad
Strawberry and halloumi salad
Blueberry and goats cheese salad
Sweet Potato, pomegranate and halloumi salad
Asparagus and mozzarella salad
The perfect Caesar salad
Grilled peach salad
Griddled potato salad

Dips;
Guacamole
Hummous
Salsa

Bread;
Soft white rolls

BBQ;
Beef burgers
Bean burgers
Red chilli fish patties
Lamb Kofta

Or use my Portugal post for inspiration, all we did was BBQ and eat the pool…

Eating in Portugal

or this for a simple quick supper that lets you stay outside for longer

Pan-fried salmon and avocado salsa

One of our wedding gifts from our friends was some cookery school vouchers with The Square Food Foundation, we didn’t get around to starting to use them until now.

I booked us onto the Spice Trail evening for a date night…

The kitchen is a big light space with enough cookery stations for people to pair up.

We sat with the chefs first while they talked a little about chillies and spices. Here are some points they raised… most of you will know these but I thought I would include them anyway.

Chillies;

  • The general rule of thumb is that the smaller the chilli the more potent it is; the heat is concentrated in the seeds and the veins of the chilli (simply because they are smaller)
  • Remove seeds from chillies to make them milder for cooking or leave them in to gain full effect
  • Take care when preparing chilli to avoid touching the eyes and sensitive skin; wash hands, boards and knives thoroughly after preparing chillies – wash with soap before adding water, as chillies are oily this will remove the heat.
  • Chilli powder dried chillies are used sparingly and should be added at the beginning of cooking; they will keep for 12 months in a cool, dark place
  • Cooking does not really diminish the intensity of chillies but their strength can be mitigated with cream or yoghurt

And spice;

  • Spices like cinnamon, cardamom, mustard seed, coriander, cumin, tumeric & fenugreek should be added at the early stages of cooking to release flavour
  • Salt is vital for carrying flavour and should be added at the beginning of the cooking process; check the seasoning at the end of the cooking and adjust

We made 2 dishes and ate 3, 1 Thai influenced, one Indian influenced and a dessert.

First we started our main;

A quick chicken curry with yogurt and spices

This is a really tasty alternative to the greasy take away you might have eaten if you’d had slightly less energy. I like to serve it with a little yoghurt and naan bread for an inexpensive, warming meal.

Serves 4-5

For the curry base
¾in ginger, peeled
6 fat garlic cloves, peeled
3 medium tomatoes, chopped into large chunks
1½ tbsp ground coriander
1¼ tsp garam masala
¼-½ tsp red chilli powder, or more if you like it hot
½ tsp turmeric powder
1 tsp cumin powder
3 good tbsp of full-fat Greek yoghurt
Salt to taste

For the curry

750g chicken thighs, skinned
7 baby potatoes, peeled and quartered
3 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp ghee or unsalted butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
3 handfuls of baby spinach
Handful of finely chopped coriander leaves and stems

 For the base, make a paste of the ginger, garlic and tomatoes. I use a hand blender, but you can chop the tomatoes and finely grate the ginger and garlic – the sauce will not be as smooth though. Stir in the spices, salt and yoghurt. Add the chicken and potatoes and leave to marinate in the fridge for 10mins. Heat the oil and butter/ghee in a medium non-stick saucepan. Add the onion and cook over a moderate flame, stirring often, until the onion is well browned on the edges, around 7-8 minutes.

Add the chicken, potatoes and curry base and cook over a moderate-high heat, tossing the chicken in the paste quite often until small oil droplets start to form on the base or edges of the pan; this takes around 10-12 minutes. If it still isn’t cooked, you can add a splash of water and cook for another 5 minutes or until the water has reduced.

Add enough water to come halfway up the chicken and bring to the boil. Cover and cook on a low flame until the chicken and potatoes are cooked through, around 12-15 minutes more (depending on the size of the joints and potatoes).

Add the spinach and, once wilted, taste and adjust the seasoning. There should be enough of the sauce for a creamy gravy; if not, add a little more water from the kettle. If you add too much, reduce over a high heat.
Stir in the coriander and serve.

For the vegetarian alternative – replace the chicken with one small cauliflower, leaves removed and broken into florets. Treat in exactly the same way as the chicken.

Pilaff Rice

 25g 1oz butter or ghee
2tbsp onion or shallot, finely chopped
400g 14oz long grain rice, preferably basmati
Scant 1 litre chicken stock
2tbsp herbs (parsley, thyme, chives), freshly chopped, optional
Salt and pepper

Melt butte or ghee in a casserole, add onion and sweat for 2-3min. Add rice and toss for 1-2min, just long enough for the grains to change colour. Season with salt and pepper, add stock, cover and bring to the boil. Reduce heat to a minimum and then simmer on top of the stove or in the oven (170°C/325°F/gas 3) for about 10min. By then the rice should just be cooked – about 10min. By then the rice should be just cooked and all the liquid absorbed. Just before serving, stir in the fresh herbs if using

This is so worth the extra effort so go for it people, best rice ever.

Sea bass or grey mullet en papillote

Serves 4

4 x 160g fillets of sea bass or grey mullet, cleaned, scaled and trimmed
Olive oil
2 red chillies, deseeded and cut into thin strips
1 stalk lemongrass, outside leaves removed, discarded and very finely slice
400g can coconut milk
1-2tbsp fish sauce
Juice and zest of 1 lime
4 lime leaves, very finely sliced

( I would also add some sugar, Thai food is supposed to hit the 4 different tastes (salt, sour, sweet and bitter) and this didn’t really. Not my favourite dish)

Preheat oven to 220C (425F) gas 7.

Season fish inside and out with salt and pepper. Brush four 12in (30cm) squares of foil with a little olive oil and put a fish diagonally across the centre of each piece. Bring sides of the foil up around the fish and crimp together tightly at each end leaving the top open.

In a bowl mix the coconut milk with the lemongrass and chilli, lime zest, juice and lime leaves. Spoon the mixture over the four fish.

Finally, pour a teaspoon of fish sauce into each parcel then seal well. Put on a large baking sheet and bake for 10min.

To serve, put the unopened parcels of fish on four warmed plates and allow each person to open up their parcel. Serve with coconut rice.

The curry was great though and this really is a good easy recipe that most people will like as you can tailor it to anyone’s heat tolerance and likes and dislikes.

My husband has already made this again.

Like I said I wasn’t hugely into this dish but I think a few tweaks and it could be good.

The dish we didn’t get to make (due to time) was the dessert but the lovely Square Food people passed on the recipe so I hope to make this soon.

Rich Chilli Chocolate Tart

For the Sweet Pastry 
 
250g flour
85g icing sugar
125 butter
1 vanilla pod, halved lengthways and seeds scraped out
1 small egg beaten

First make the sweet pastry. Sift flour and icing sugar until completely combined. Rub butter into the flour until nearly breadcrumb consistency. Make a well in the flour and add vanilla and egg yolks. Knead mixture with fingers. Refrigerate for a minimum 20 minutes

Roll out the pastry as thinly as possible and line a tart case with it. Bake blind for 15 – 20 minutes at 190°C then for a further 5 minutes with the baking beans removed, until the pastry is completely cooked.

For the Filling

700ml cream
pinch chilli flakes
350g 70% cocoa solids dark chocolate
5 eggs
2 yolks
1 tsp cocoa powder
150g sugar

To make the tart filling, bring the cream to boiling point with the chilli flakes then remove from the heat and pour over the chocolate, stirring to combine until the mixture has a smooth, glossy consistency. In a separate bowl, combine the sugar, eggs, yolks and cocoa and then stir into the chocolate mixture. Pour into the sweet pastry case and bake at 150°C – 160°C for 15 minutes until the tart is just set. Remove and cool for 30 minutes before eating. Serve with crème fraiche.

 We still have more vouchers to spend and I am looking forward to picking our next course. This one was a great way to spend an evening but as we both cook with chilli and spice a lot at home we didn’t really learn much. So next time instead of sticking to what we know and like I might pick something geared towards something we don’t cook.

Check out the Square Food Foundation – they are doing really great things.

Our dessert I was sad to see was not sticky rice and mango (Husbands favourite) but steamed banana cakes, but these were so cute and again simple to make I am glad I learnt how as I never would have chosen these.

We made little cups from banana leaves to steam our cakes in.

You need, for two people;
3 very ripe bananas
100g rice flour
20 tapioca flour for thickening
120g sugar
pinch salt
60ml coconut cream
50 grated young coconut

1. Mix all the ingredients in a mixing bowl and smash until a smooth mixture is formed. Pour the mixture into containers or cups, or banana leaves!

2. Steam them over boiling water for 20-30 minutes or until the cakes become springy.

 You can eat the cakes hot or cold, I ate one of mine with some coffee at the end of a long day of eating.

I had to, such a Thai dessert, quite light considering and I imagine stomach and mouth soothing too great after a hot Thai dish