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Cover: A dish for all seasons

June, 2012

29Jun 12

Paella Valenciana – Rabbit Paella with Spring Onions

Paella ValencianaPaella Valenciana is a Spanish dish from the coastal region of Valencia. During certain fiestas in Spain, the whole village congregates in celebration, and a feast is cooked up for everyone in a gigantic paella dish (which can be metres wide)!  Everyone is there.  The kids play and the grandparents sit and talk in the sun.  I’ve been to a few of these events over the years, and I love both the community feeling, and watching on as the paella is cooked over coal.

One of the secrets of making good paella is this – when you add the stock, stir everything once, then don’t stir it again for the rest of the cooking time.  This way you can create a pretty arrangement of all of the ingredients and they stay in place.  This is particularly effective with seafood paella such as this prawn paella with chorizo.

What you need:

  • 400g rabbit, roughly cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 400g chicken, roughly cut into bite-sized pieces
  • 3 spring onions, finely sliced
  • 250g green beans
  • 150g fresh peas, removed from the pod (or substitute with frozen peas)
  • 1 large ripe tomato, finely chopped
  • 400g paella rice
  • 1.5L chicken stock
  • 6 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp ground paprika, sweet or smoked
  • Pinch of saffron
  • Salt

What to do:

  1. Heat the olive oil in a paella dish or large, flat-based frying pan.
  2. Add the chicken and the rabbit, browning the meat all over on a fairly high heat to seal in the juices.  Fry like this for 4-5 minutes, turning the meat as necessary.
  3. Add the onions and the green beans to the pan, and on a medium heat, cook for another 3-4 minutes.
  4. Add the rice, the saffron, the sweet paprika and the salt, and fry for a few minutes before pouring in about two-thirds of a litre of the chicken stock.  Stir immediately, just once, and bring the stock up to the boil.  Add the peas and then turn down the heat and simmer until the rice softens – this could take 20-30 minutes depending on the rice you are using.  Don’t cover the pan with a lid but do keep an eye on the dish and add more stock if necessary as it absorbs and evaporates during cooking.  Don’t let the pan run dry because the rice will then stick.  At the end of the cooking time, you are aiming for all of the stock to have been absorbed into the dish, leaving the rice soft, moist and full of flavour.
  5. Season lightly again all over with salt and place the cooking dish on a mat on the table to serve once sat down together.  Enjoy with wine or beer and a hunk of baguette.

20-30 minutes to prepare, less than 45 minutes to cook

Makes: 4 main courses

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28Jun 12

Slow Cooked Spring Lamb Shanks in Cognac

Slow-Cooked Spring Lamb Shanks in CognacAn aromatic infusion of lamb that will melt in your mouth…

I first tasted slow cooked spring lamb shanks in Cognac in Northern Spain, just a stones throw from the farm where the animals were raised.  We ate it in the spring, when lamb is in peak season.  The meat becomes so soft that it falls off the bone, and it melts its aromatic Cognac infusion onto your palate.  If you don’t have a slow cooker, replace step 3 by cooking the lamb in a covered casserole dish in the oven.  Cook at 170ºC for about 3 hours, checking that the lamb is thoroughly cooked before serving.

What you need:

  • 2 lamb shanks on the bone
  • 350ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 200ml Cognac
  • ½ chicken stock cube
  • 1 onion, peeled and quartered
  • 1 tomato, halved
  • 5 garlic cloves, whole and unpeeled
  • 2 whole laurel leaves
  • 1 tsp Demerara sugar
  • A generous pinch of dried oregano
  • A generous pinch of dried parsley
  • Salt and pepper to season

What to do:

  1. In the morning of the day that you will be eating the dish, heat 100ml of the oil in a frying pan, season with a generous pinch of salt, and fry the lamb shanks for 5-10 minutes until golden brown all over.
  2. Transfer the shanks to the slow cooker and switch the cooker on to the low setting.  Sieve the oil from the frying pan over the lamb and add the remaining oil.  Crumble in the stock cube; add the cognac, onion, tomato, garlic cloves, laurel and sugar.  Season with salt and pepper, then sprinkle with oregano and parsley.
  3. Stir to coat the shanks, put the lid on the pot and slow cook on low for 8 hours.  Turn the lamb over half-way through the cooking time.
  4. Remove the lamb shanks from the pot and pour the sauce into a heavy-based frying pan.  Put the shanks back into the slow cooker and put the lid on to keep them warm.  On a medium to high heat, reduce the sauce on the hob by half to intensify the flavour.
  5. Place the lamb shanks into wide and shallow bowls, pour over with the sauce, and serve with creamy mashed potato and Spanish-style green beans.

15 minutes to prepare, 8 hours 10 minutes to cook

Makes 2 servings

Note: I just love lamb, so one of my favourite Italian dishes is Lamb and Linguine Bolognese.

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26Jun 12

Cream of Asparagus Soup, without the cream

Cream of Asparagus Soup, without the cream
As you may have noticed if you read my blog regularly, one of my favourite vegetables is asparagus, particularly the green kind. Not only is it tasty, it is also really good for you, being a good source of fibre, potassium and folic acid. It also helps to prevent water retention and lower cholesterol. Asparagus is still in season in June, so this is a good time to make a nice, smooth cream of asparagus soup, before summer really gets going and it’s too warm to for hot soup.

I don’t use cream in my recipe, as I prefer the taste of extra virgin olive oil, and I’ve realised that a little of it is enough to give the soup that rich, creamy texture. Plus, it’s much better for you!

If you love asparagus as much as I do, try these other recipes: Curly Asparagus Salad with Goat’s Cheese and Medjool Dates, Steamed Spring Vegetables with Toasted Pine Nuts or asparagus risotto.

Cream of Asparagus Soup, without the cream
Author: 
Recipe type: Starter
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Cream of Asparagus Soup with extra virgin olive oil instead of cream
Ingredients
  • 1 large bunch (about 250g) fresh green asparagus
  • 150 – 200g potatoes, peeled and cut into quarters
  • 1 large leek, finely chopped
  • 1 clove garlic, chopped
  • 1 chicken or vegetable stock cube
  • 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt and pepper to taste
Instructions
  1. Chop the asparagus, being careful not to damage the tips and discarding any tough woody parts from the lower ends.
  2. Lightly fry the chopped leeks, asparagus and garlic in a saucepan with a tablespoon of olive oil.
  3. Set aside 8-12 asparagus tips if you want to use them for garnish.
  4. Add the potatoes and water until all the ingredients are covered. Add the stock cube (crumbled), bring to the boil and boil until the potatoes are soft (about 20 mins).
  5. Remove from heat, add two tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and then blend everything with a blender until smooth, seasoning with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Serve hot.

 

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25Jun 12

Artichoke Heart Linguine

Artichoke Heart LinguineI find myself eating quite a lot of pasta in the spring and summer. All of the different shapes, flavours and textures seem to complement simply cooked green vegetables really well. Artichoke Heart Linguine is a well-established favourite of mine. It’s such a quick and simple vegetarian meal to throw together, so it’s great for nights when you want to be a bit creative, but don’t have much time!  Here’s another great pasta dish to try sometime too…sprout, chestnut and thyme tagliatelle.

Artichokes come into season in June and stay with us throughout the summer. They are a wonderful vegetable but can be a challenge to cook well. Because of this, my recipe uses artichokes that have already been marinated and softened for you, in herbs and oil. You’ll find these in most supermarkets in little glass jars; and they really are wonderful. If you prefer to cook, marinate and store your own artichokes, there are plenty of references on how to do that on the internet. I use fresh herbs and lime juice in this recipe to really bring out the flavours of the dish. Serve with a glass of chilled Chianti.

Artichoke Heart Linguine
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2
 
Artichoke Heart Linguine is a quick and simple vegetarian meal to throw together, so it’s great for nights when you want to be a bit creative, but don’t have much time!
Ingredients
  • 220g fresh linguine pasta
  • 60g soft artichokes hearts, marinated in oil
  • 2 tbsp pine kernels
  • The juice of half a lime
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled and mince
  • ½ tbsp fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  • ½ tbsp fresh thyme leaves, roughly chopped
  • Parmesan shavings to decorate
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to season
Instructions
  1. Dry fry the pine kernels in a frying pan for a couple of minutes, toasting them until they are golden-brown. Remove and set to one side.
  2. Cook the fresh linguine in plenty of salted water until al dente.
  3. Tip the artichokes from the jar, along with the oil, into the frying pan and heat them through with the garlic, thyme, and parsley. Squeeze over the lime juice and stir.
  4. Drain the pasta and serve into bowls. Top with the artichokes, the pine nuts, and the shavings of Parmesan.

 

 

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22Jun 12

Tortilla de Patata with Sorrel (Spanish Omelette with Sorrel)

Spanish Omelette with SorrelWe spent Easter in Spain, in a small village in the northeast; where the hills are like bulbous ferrous rock, and the villagers weave deep familial roots through the generations – including ours. It’s a beautiful place. My daughter is half Spanish, and one of her favourite foods is Tortilla – Spanish omelette.  Here’s a seasonal version for you: Tortilla de Patata with Sorrel.

There’s a little restaurant that we always go to just before our long journey home. It’s called Ben y Ben’s, and we love it because they lavish us with tea, glasses of red wine, pancetta, olives and best for our little one, tortilla de patata. We cut it into shapes: circles, squares and triangles and then pop a piece of olive on the top – that’s how she likes it best. When we were there at Easter, they came out from the kitchen with a very special omelette. Laced with green, the Tortilla de Patata with sorrel not only looked pretty, but tasted really good too. Sorrel grows wild in May and through the early months of the summer in England. If you’re going to go hunting for it, make sure you know for certain what you’re picking; or if in any doubt – buy it from your local market.

Also try this classic spanish potato omelette.

Tortilla de Patata with Sorrel (Spanish Omelette with Sorrel)
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2-4
 
Laced with green, the Tortilla de Patata with sorrel not only looked pretty, but tasted really good too. Sorrel grows wild in May and through the early months of the summer in England.
Ingredients
  • 1 medium onion
  • A good slug of extra virgin olive oil
  • 280g Desirée potatoes
  • 6 eggs
  • 100g fresh sorrel, thoroughly washed and finely chopped
  • Salt flakes to season
Instructions
  1. Finely slice the onion and place to one side.
  2. Peel and wash the potatoes. Pat dry with kitchen paper. Cut into quarters and then work your way through each potato, slicing off small roughly shaped thin pieces from the top. Do this as quickly as you can to prevent browning. Once sliced, pat with kitchen paper to dry.
  3. Heat the olive oil in a 20cm diameter non-stick frying pan until just smoking. Put the onion and the potato together into the pan and coat them in the oil, moving them about. Now turn the heat down to its very lowest setting, season with salt and fry the vegetables slowly for around 20-30 minutes until soft. Move them about as necessary and don’t let them brown.
  4. Once soft, add the sorrel to the pan and soften for 5-8 minutes.
  5. Whisk the eggs lightly in a large mixing bowl. Turn the cooked vegetables into the bowl and mix together. Add some more oil to the pan and heat at medium before carefully pouring the omelette mixture back into the pan. From this point, no stirring! Turn the heat back down to its lowest setting and cook very slowly for around 10 to 15 minutes. Loosen the edges of the omelette gently with the spatula from time to time.
  6. It’s time to turn the omelette. Place a plate that matches the size of the pan over the omelette and turn the pan over to release it onto the plate. Add a little more oil to the pan if necessary and then gently slide the omelette back into the pan, frying slowly on the other side until thoroughly cooked.
Notes
Cooking time may vary from between ½ to 1 hour

 

 

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21Jun 12

Grilled stuffed mushrooms

White button mushrooms are one of the most widely consumed mushrooms in the world. They are available in shops all year round, but those who like mushroom hunting can usually find them after rainfall from late spring through to autumn. I love mushroom hunting, but I’m never sure if the ones I’ve picked are edible! So for safety I prefer to use the cultivated ones.

I love them; in pasta sauce, in risotto, in pies, in soups, in salads… they are so verstile. This dish is inspired by some “tapas” we had in Spain this Easter: grilled stuffed mushrooms made with Serrano ham (Spanish dry-cured ham), garlic and parsley. I brought some ham back from Spain so I used that for this recipe and added some sun-dried tomatoes for a personal touch. They are so delicious and easy to make, you should try them!

Little tip: They make a great appetiser for this mushroom risotto recipe.

Grilled stuffed mushrooms
Author: 
Recipe type: Starter
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 2-3
 
This dish is inspired by some "tapas" we had in Spain this Easter: grilled stuffed mushrooms made with Serrano ham (Spanish dry-cured ham), garlic and parsley.
Ingredients
  • 12 medium sized white button mushrooms
  • 50g Serrano ham (or any dry-cured ham), finely chopped
  • 2 or 3 sun-dried tomatoes, finely chopped
  • 2 medium sized garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
  • Olive oil, for sautéing
Instructions
  1. Clean the mushrooms, cut off the tips of the stems and dry if necessary.
  2. Remove the stems, making sure not to break the mushroom caps. Leave the caps aside.
  3. Finely chop the mushroom stems and mix them with the chopped garlic, dried tomatoes and parsley.
  4. Sauté this mixture in a little olive oil on a high heat for 2 to 3 minutes, stirring regularly.
  5. Turn off the heat and add the chopped ham to the mixture.
  6. Fill the mushroom caps with the mixture. (There will usually be a small amount of mixture left over).
  7. Cook the mushrooms in a grill pan on a medium heat until they are light brown and serve.
Notes
What are "tapas"? Tapas are typical in Spain. They are small portions of food, anything from some simple olives to a dish of paella, served to accompany a drink. In most parts of the country tapas are ordered and paid for separately, but in some provinces, especially Granada and Almería, the tapa comes free with each cold drink you order.

 

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19Jun 12

Pasteli or Olympic honey and sesame bites

Pasteli or Olympic honey and sesame bitesHere is a very old and very easy recipe fit for any Olympic sportsman! The Ancient Greeks may well have made Pasteli for the participants of the original Olympic Games in 776 B.C., as these chewy and crunchy honey and sesame bites are packed full of energy, minerals and vitamins. Sesame seeds are high in calcium, magnesium, iron, zinc and B1, to name just a few, and honey is antibacterial and contains antioxidants. The health benefits of honey depend on its quality, so I always try to buy organic or raw, unprocessed honey, which contains more healthy substances (that haven’t been eliminated through so much processing) and makes this snack or dessert much more tasty and nutritious!

For extra protein, try these grilled chicken wings with a honey and lime butter sauce. They don´t have sesame seeds, but why not sprinkle some over the top for extra measure?

Pasteli or Olympic honey and sesame bites
Author: 
Recipe type: Snack, Dessert
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: various
 
These honey and sesame bites are packed full of energy, minerals and vitamins.
Ingredients
  • 120g toasted sesame seeds
  • 5.5 tbsp or 115ml raw honey
  • unrefined sea salt
Instructions
  1. Heat the honey in a saucepan over a medium heat until it starts to boil.
  2. Add the sesame seeds and a dash of sea salt to the honey and stir using a wooden spoon, cooking slowly and stirring continually for about 10 minutes or until the mixture boils again and caramelizes (turns golden brown), then remove from heat.
  3. Carefully pour the mixture of honey and sesame seeds onto a large piece of baking paper on a smooth surface and smooth out the mixture with a spatula, patting down to a uniform thickness.
  4. Cover the outspread mixture with another large piece of baking paper and use a rolling pin to spread out and thin the mixture some more, to about 1cm thick.
  5. Set aside until the Pasteli is cool enough to handle (but still warm) and cut into equal sized pieces.
  6. Wait until cold before serving.
  7. Uneaten Pasteli bites can be stored in an airtight container with a sheet of baking paper inbetween each layer.

 

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17Jun 12

Traditional Scotch eggs

Traditional Scottish EggsWhile looking for ideas for traditional British food to prepare for our little Jubilee street party at the beginning of the month, I saw some Scotch eggs in the supermarket and thought “typically British!” and realized that I had never tried home-made ones because they can be found all year round in any supermarket. As I’d never made them before, I decided to do a test run yesterday and discovered how delicious they can really be, rolled in sausage meat and breadcrumbs and then deep-fried. Not very healthy, I know!

They can be oven baked, but for tradition’s sake I’m definitely going to use this recipe again for this weekend’s Jubilee celebration; it’s well worth the effort! (If you like eggs, you can also try this typical Spanish dish called a Spanish Potato Omelette. It’s really just eggs and potatoes, but it’s quite a treat!)

Traditional Scotch eggs
Author: 
Recipe type: Appetiser, Starter
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 6 portions
 
Traditional Scotch eggs, rolled in sausage meat and breadcrumbs then deep fried; delicious finger food for any Jubilee street party.
Ingredients
  • 6 large hard boiled eggs, cooled
  • 450g sausage meat
  • 200g plain flour (seasoned with salt and black pepper)
  • 200g breadcrumbs
  • 2 eggs, beaten
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh parsley
  • 2 tbsp finely chopped fresh chives
  • ½ tsp dried thyme
  • Vegetable oil (for deep frying)
  • Black pepper (freshly ground)
  • Salt
Instructions
  1. Peel the hard boiled eggs and set aside.
  2. Add the parsley, thyme, chives, some salt and black pepper to the sausage meat and mix in a bowl.
  3. Divide the sausage meat mixture into 6 equal portions and flatten them out into ovals.
  4. Roll each boiled egg in the seasoned flour and then warp each one in a sausage meat oval, making sure to totally cover the egg and smoothing out any bumps.
  5. Coat each sausage-covered egg in beaten egg and roll into the breadcrumbs, covering completely.
  6. Heat the oil in a deep frying pan. You’ll know it’s hot enough when you drop a breadcrumb into it and it sizzles strongly.
  7. Place each Scotch egg into the hot oil very carefully and deep-fry for around 8 minutes or until golden brown and completely cooked.
  8. When cooked, carefully remove the eggs from the oil with a slotted spoon and leave to drain on paper towel.
  9. Can be served warm or cold.

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14Jun 12

Rich and Tasty Watercress Soup

Rich and Tasty Watercress SoupWatercress! That crunchy, peppery green leaf that’s in season in May! There are lots of meals you can make with it if you use your imagination. I love it stuffed copiously into sandwiches, laced into salads drizzled with honey and balsamic vinegar, and many other ways. But today I’m here to share a really yummy version of  soup – rich and tasty watercress soup.

It’s developed over time, based on several recipes that I’ve tried and tested until I’ve reached this particular set of ingredients. No doubt the recipe will keep evolving; as I love to experiment and move things on after a while. It’s good to keep fresh and enjoy change in life, wouldn’t you say? I love the addition of a little Tabasco in this soup; it’s just there in the background giving a little extra twang to your taste buds!

Soup and salad is a perfect meal for spring and summer. Why not pair this soup with a watercress and mango salad?

Watercress is actually a member of the mustard family (which explains its mild heat). When you’ve bought it, cut the stems, wash it really thoroughly and then pat it with kitchen paper. You can store it for up to 4-5 days in the fridge in a plastic bag. Watercress is full of vitamins A and C; contains calcium; and is of course fat and cholesterol free – until you add the cream!

Rich and Tasty Watercress Soup
Author: 
Recipe type: Entree
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
Rich and tasty watercress soup - featuring that crunchy, peppery green leaf that’s in season in May!
Ingredients
  • 600g fresh watercress, thoroughly washed and roughly chopped
  • 600ml chicken stock, hot
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 4 medium shallots
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced (or reduce to taste)
  • 3 fistfuls of fresh mint, saving a little to garnish
  • 3 fistfuls of fresh parsley, saving a little to garnish
  • 8 tbsp double cream
  • 4 dashes of Tabasco sauce
  • A generous swirl of extra virgin olive oil
  • 4 tbsp Greek yoghurt
  • Salt flakes and fresh ground black pepper to season
Instructions
  1. Heat the butter in a deep-based saucepan; and then brown the shallots and garlic gently together for 5-8 minutes until soft.
  2. Add in the watercress, fresh herbs and the hot chicken stock; stir and bring the soup up to the boil. Cover, reduce the heat and simmer for 3-4 minutes to cook the watercress.
  3. Splash in the Tabasco and spoon in the cream. Continue to simmer for a couple more minutes.
  4. Swirl in the olive oil and season really well with salt and pepper. Transfer into a food blender and whizz until smooth.
  5. Serve in individual bowls topped with a sprig of fresh herbs.
  6. You could also add a spoonful of Greek yoghurt while serving, but that is optional.

 

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13Jun 12

Spanish Noodles with King Prawns and Clams (Fideua)

FideuaClams are best of season in January and February in the UK, but you may be lucky and find some in the first half of March too.  I love this combination of seafood and noodles, a little like a noodle paella I guess.  The garlic and the fish stock bring wonderful flavours to the dish. 

Spanish noodles with king prawns and clams is a slightly anglicised variation on a dish from the Spanish region of Valencia, where sun and seafood are abundant.  Be sure that your clams are fresh, properly prepared and checked before you cook them – if in doubt, ask at the fish counter.  You can also substitute the clams for mussels if you prefer.

What you need:

  • 6 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 400g very fine, short noodles (Fideua)
  • 400g king prawns, peeled
  • 350g clams in their shells, cleaned and prepared with any that are open, or come open with a light tap, discarded
  • 6 spring onions, or 1 medium onion, finely sliced
  • 6 garlic cloves, peeled and finely sliced
  • Generous pinch of dried parsley
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley, roughly chopped
  • ½ L fish stock
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper
  • Twist of lemon

What to do:

  1. Heat the oil in a large frying pan, and on a medium heat, fry the onions for a few minutes.
  2. Add the prawns and the garlic and cook for 5-10 minutes until the onions are really soft.
  3. Add the noodles and the dried parsley to the pan and continue to fry for a few minutes before pouring in the stock, seasoning well with salt and pepper.
  4. Add the clams and bring the stock up to the boil.  Turn down the heat and simmer uncovered for 5 minutes or until the stock has been absorbed into the dish. Add the fresh parsley, (saving a little for the garnish) stirring it in on the heat for another minute before tasting, and if necessary, adding a little more seasoning.  Add more stock to the dish as you cook if necessary to prevent it from becoming too dry.  Scan the finished dish for any clams that have not opened during cooking, and discard them.
  5. Squeeze over the lemon, serve into dishes and top with the fresh parsley garnish.
  6. Enjoy with a glass of Spanish white wine and baguette rubbed with garlic and drizzled with olive oil.

Ready in less than 30 minutes

Makes: 4 servings

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