My love of a good bowl of soup is well known by now I should think. I have written a lot about it being the ultimate “bowl food” experience, and because of the myriad flavour combinations, textures and ability to adapt to the changing seasons it is a meal that knows no end to variation.
I came up with this recipe for Celery & Blue Cheese soup during a spell of weather in early May that was all blue sky and sunshine. So, loosely I am calling this a summer soup as for me it was inspired by the prospect of BBQ’s and dipping hot smoky chicken wings into a cooling blue cheese dip with sticks of crunchy, crisp celery on the side. So yes, I feel I am at liberty to call this a summer soup, although of course it would be just as comforting eaten beside a roaring fire, post walk on a rainy November day so, you know, whatever floats your boat!
Continue reading “Celery and Blue Cheese Soup”
Put up your hand if you’re running out of ideas of what to do with your glut of courgettes? It’s late July, courgettes are everywhere. They have been everywhere since about early June, and there’s still August to get through. You are finding it hard to even give the little buggers away for free. You’ve grated, spiralised, baked, stuffed, fried and stacked them, but they just won’t go away.
Well, help is at hand! This recipe was borne out of a need to use up a few too many courgettes that I received in my fortnightly organic veg box. My fennel plant in the garden was (is) slowly turning into a gigantic triffid and I still had some fecking hazelnuts in the nut bowl from Christmas (note to self, buy less in-shell nuts next Christmas – doesn’t matter how much of a bargain they are!) From this ramshackle bunch of ingredients was this risotto recipe born. Even my husband who really isn’t a fan of courgettes wolfed this down scraping the very last remnants from his plate and asking if there was any more left. Now, I call that a successful dish…
You may note that there is an absence of white wine and cheese in this dish. Instead of white wine, I have chosen to use the lemon juice for the acid, and instead of parmesan and cream, I have opted for the lighter option of crème fraiche. If you couldn’t face your risotto without some parmesan atop, then by all means knock yourself out…I’m not precious about these things!
Ingredients (serves 2):
- 1/2 cup of risotto rice
- 3 banana shallots
- Zest and juice of 1 large lemon
- 1 yellow chili
- 1 ltr of vegetable stock
- 2 courgettes (green/yellow), cut into 2cm pieces
- Fresh fennel/dill herb
- 1 tbsp of crème fraiche
- Handful of hazelnuts, shelled and roughly chopped
- Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
- Fennel pollen to garnish
- Finely chopped the shallots (in a mini-chopper is best).
- Add some olive oil to a frying pan over a medium heat. Add the shallots and gently fry until transparent. Do this slowly so as not to burn. Add the finely chopped chili.
- Add the rice to the pan and stir until well coated. Add the courgettes.
- Grate the zest of the lemon into the pan. After zesting, firmly roll the lemon then cut in half and extract all the juice directly into the pan. Stir everything together until the rice has absorbed the lemon juice.
- Begin adding the stock slowly, about a ladle full at a time, stirring constantly until all the liquid has been soaked up by the rice before adding more. The more liquid you add, the longer it will take for the rice to soak up the liquid but don’t rush this part of the process.
- Continue adding the liquid until about 750ml of stock is gone.
- At this point, your risotto will be pretty much done. Add the finely chopped fennel herb, stir and check for seasoning. Add / adjust as you need to.
- Check your rice. The risotto should not be too stodgy or too loose, and the rice should be cooked but retaining a little bite. If you would like your rice cooked a little softer, or your risotto a little looser, add the remaining stock so that the whole litre of it is used up.
- When happy with the risotto’s consistency, stir through the crème fraiche and scatter most of the hazelnuts through. A final stir and you are ready to serve.
- Garnish with the remaining hazelnuts, fennel pollen stems and a final twist of black pepper and you are ready to serve!
We’ve all been there…a great BBQ was had by all, but there was too much food bought/brought and nobody ate as much as they thought they could handle, and as a result you have been left with a load of cooked sausages. What to do with them? There’s only so many sausage sandwiches one can eat after all! Well, I can help you out of your conundrun!
The recipe below is a variation of a “Pasta al Forno” dish that was published in Olive Magazine in 2013. I have included a note after this recipe on how to make the original which is also yummy and appears regularly in my repertoire for fast, tasty weekday food!
Ingredients (serves 2-4, depending on appetite!):
Cooked sausages (enough for two per adult) cut lengthways and quartered
1tsbp of fennel seeds
1 clove of garlic
2-4 dried chilli pods (depending on your need for heat!)
2 tblsp of tomato puree
1 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
1 large / 2 small red bell peppers
1 tblsp of fresh chopped rosemary (if you only have dried use 1/2 tblsp)
50g pasta per person
Some cheese for grating over: Pecorino / Parmesan / Gran Padano etc
Freshly cracked black pepper and sea salt to season
Place a pan of salted water on the heat for the pasta.
Dry roast the fennel seeds slightly for a few minutes, careful not to burn them.
Pop the fennel seeds, chilli pods and garlic in a pestle and mortar and bash together.
Heat a small lug of olive oil in a frying pan to a medium heat and pop in the fennel/chili/garlic mix. Cook off for a couple of minutes.
Add the tomato puree and mix in with the aromatics; cook out for a minute or two.
Add in the tinned tomatoes and cook for a couple of minutes.
Meanwhile prepare you red peppers by deseeding, taking out the pith and cutting into roughyl 2cm pieces. Add to the pan and stir.
Add in your chopped sausages, turn the heat down and cook through until bubbling.
If the sauce becomes a little dry, add some water a little at a time. I use the tomato tin to get any left over tomato juice as well.
Place the pasta in to the boiling water. In the picture below I have used wholewheat pasta, but any pasta you have will do as long as it’s not the miniature stuff!
Chop the rosemary and add to the sausage mix along with a decent grind of fresh black pepper and some sea salt to season. Stir and cook through.
Drain the pasta. Check the sausage mix for seasoning and adjust if necessary.
Pour the sausage mix into the pasta; mix together and serve immediately on warmed plates.
Grate over a generous amount of the cheese and serve with a simple leaf salad with lemon dressing to freshen the palate.
The original recipe in Olive Magazine is for Rigatoni al Forno. Using pretty much the same ingredients but with fresh, high meat content sausages (I like to use Gubeen Italian Sausages to enhance the fennel seed and garlic flavours) and rigatoni pasta the following method would apply:
Deskin the sausages and place into a medium hot pan, cooking and breaking down the sausages as you go with the wooden spoon.
Then add the aromatic mix above with the rosemary; tinned tomatoes and puree, cook through. Add salt and pepper at the end.
Cook the rigatoni. Mix the pasta and meat mix together and place in a lasagne disj (or similar).
Grate 100g of Gran Padano over the top and then grill until the cheese melts and browns.
Al Forno literally means “from the fire” and this is where this dish is served straight from the grill / oven etc straight to the table still all hot and bubbling. People then help themselves!