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Cover: A dish for all seasons

Meal for 4 people

17Sep 12

Rabbit in Almond and Liver Sauce

Rabbit in Almond and Liver Sauce
My mother-in-law sent me this rabbit in almond and liver sauce recipe to try because I mentioned that we don’t often cook rabbit at home. It’s not as popular and easy to get hold of here in the UK as it is in the rest of Europe, probably because it was so cheap and plentiful during WWII that it was later associated with food rationing. I think it’s making a comeback though, as I’ve seen it in some restaurants and “gastropubs”. And with the economic downturn, it makes a cheap and lower fat alternative to other meats.

Also, it’s in season all year round, but my butcher tells me that the best sized rabbits are available from July to December. I suggest buying wild rabbit; it’s free range and has a natural diet, which means it’s tastier and better for you. Most butchers should have it – just check that it’s wild and British.

If you’ve never tried this meat, I really recommend this dish, as the almond sauce goes really well with the subtle game taste of the rabbit. And why not also try my paella valenciana? Or this braised rabbit?

Rabbit in Almond and Liver Sauce
Author: 
Recipe type: Main
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Serves: 4
 
This Rabbit in Almond and Liver Sauce is perfect for those who have never tried rabbit.
Ingredients
  • 1 cleaned wild rabbit, jointed into 8 pieces, and its liver
  • 300ml meat stock
  • 200g roasted almonds
  • 125ml white wine
  • 1 onion, peeled and finely diced
  • 2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped
  • 1 bay leaf
  • ½ tsp white pepper
  • Salt
Instructions
  1. Fry the rabbit’s liver and almonds with the bay leaf, white pepper and a large pinch of salt.
  2. Turn off the heat and add the meat stock.
  3. Purée in a blender, then set aside.
  4. Lightly fry the onion, garlic and rabbit pieces in a casserole with a pinch of salt, then add the wine and simmer for about 5 minutes.
  5. Add the liver sauce to the casserole and boil for 30 minutes, until the rabbit meat is cooked.
  6. Add more salt and pepper if necessary.
  7. Serve with boiled potatoes, chips, or your favourite vegetables.
Notes
Here are some tips from my butcher: Buy a rabbit with pink and rosy flesh, and a fresh smell. It shouldn’t have bruised or dark areas of flesh, nor should it have a very strong gamey smell. Wild rabbit is very tender, but be careful not to overcook it as it can turn tough.

 

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21Jul 12

Asparagus and Cream Cheese Ravioli

Ravioli with Asparagus in a Tarragon Cream CheesePasta – a soft and sensual art in creation and consummation…

Home-made pasta offers a world of discovery.  Try making this asparagus and cream cheese ravioliAsparagus is in full season from April to June. So why not take advantage of the season and also try this asparagus and cheese pudding?

What you need:

  • 500g strong pasta flour
  • 5 large eggs
  • Semolina flour for dusting
  • 2 bunches of asparagus
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • A little olive oil
  • 80g butter
  • Salt and fresh ground pepper to season
  • 425g ricotta cheese
  • 1 large handful of fresh tarragon, finely shredded
  • 90g parmesan cheese, finely grated, and some to sprinkle when you serve

What to do:

  1. Whizz the pasta flour and eggs for about 30 seconds in a food processor.  Let it rest for a couple of minutes and whizz again for a short time, forming dough.  Remove and knead by hand for a couple of minutes until smooth and elastic.  Wrap with clingfilm and chill in the fridge for one hour.
  2. When ready, split the dough into 4 balls, re-wrapping those you’re not working with.  Press one with your palms to flatten it a little then pass it through your pasta machine on the widest setting.  Fold the dough in to the middle from both sides and run it through again.  Do this twice more until your pasta is the width of the machine.  Dust the dough with flour and change the setting on your machine to one thinner.  Keep working the dough through a setting at a time until the pasta is 1-1.5mm thick, in long sheets.
  3. Wash the asparagus and cut into thin pieces. Fry them in olive oil, a little of the butter and the garlic.  Season well with salt and pepper and let cool.
  4. Mix and mush the ricotta, parmesan, asparagus and 2/3 of the tarragon in a bowl.
  5. Lay a pasta sheet out onto a flour-dusted surface and place generous single teaspoons of the mixture onto it, 5cm apart along the length.  Brush water onto the pasta around the filling and gently lay another pasta sheet over the top of the first one.  Use the little finger side of your hand and gently press the pasta together, cupping your curled hand around the filling pressing out any air and sealing the pasta sheets together.  Crinkle cut in between the ravioli to separate them.  Repeat with the remaining pasta sheets and filling.
  6. Cook the pasta in gently boiling water for 3-4 minutes.  Sprinkle the remaining butter and salt onto the drained pasta.  Garnish with the rest of the parmesan and tarragon.

1 hour to prepare plus chilling time, 10 minutes to cook

Makes 4 servings

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18Jul 12

Rich Shepherd’s Pie with Red Wine Stock

Rich Shepherd's Pie with Red Wine Stock

Have a go at this rich shepherd’s pie with red wine stock, using the best of the season’s lamb. (For a a more vegetarian-friendly aubergine bake, try this baked aubergine parmesan with tofu pesto.

What you need:

  • 450g minced lamb
  • 1 medium onion, finely sliced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced or crushed
  • 90ml extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 carrots, cut into small cubes
  • 2 aubergines, cut into small cubes
  • A generous splash of Worcester sauce
  • 2.5 tbsp tomato purée
  • 100ml red wine
  • 90ml lamb, beef or chicken stock
  • Pinch of sugar
  • 4 medium tomatoes, diced
  • 1 tbsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
  • 3-4 floury potatoes, King Edward or Maris Piper, peeled and cut
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • Splash of milk
  • Salt and fresh ground black pepper to season

What to do:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180ºC.
  2. Boil the potatoes in a large pan of salted water for around 15-20 minutes, checking to see if they are tender with a sharp knife.
  3. Whilst the potatoes are cooking, make the pie filling:  Dry fry the lamb mince in a hot, wide and high-sided pan, until browned all over.  This will take around 5 minutes.  Transfer the lamb to a sieve over a bowl to drain.
  4. Meanwhile, add some of the olive oil to the frying pan, and sauté the onions and garlic together for 4-5 minutes until soft.
  5. Combine in the carrots, aubergines and the remaining olive oil (see how much oil the aubergines absorb when they cook!) and cook on for another 5 minutes or so.
  6. Add the drained lamb back to the pan, splash over with the Worcester sauce, pour in the tomato purée, add the pinch of sugar, and continue cooking for another 5-6 minutes, stirring the ingredients well.
  7. Now pour in the hot stock and the wine.  Season with salt and pepper.  Stir, and bring the liquid up to the boil.  Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook for another 6-8 minutes.  Add in the chopped tomatoes, the fresh parsley and thyme.
  8. Once the potatoes are cooked, drain them, pat them lightly with kitchen paper and mash them.  Add in the milk and butter, combining the ingredients together.
  9. Transfer the pie filling into a large oven proof dish and cover over with the mashed potato.  Use a fork to create plough lines, and bake the pie in the oven for around 20-30 minutes, until the lamb filling is bubbling and the potato turns golden brown.

Less than 30 minutes to prepare, 40 – 60 minutes to cook

Makes 4 servings

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16Jul 12

Butter Bean and Chorizo Stew

Butter Bean and Chorizo Stew

Butter beans tend to have a fairly limited growing season in the UK – late spring to early summer.  They tend to do a little better in warmer climates, but you can grow them successfully in the UK.  Try planting them after the last frost and harvesting them 80-90 days later.

My butter bean and chorizo stew recipe uses large butter beans, which incidentally are low in fat and a great source of iron.  As we all know, we are fortunate enough to be able to buy butter beans pretty much year-round, either dried or with salty water in jars.  I usually buy them ready-to-use in jars, which avoids the overnight soaking and cooking stages.

I love to make this stew on those spring evenings that still have a chill in the air, on April shower days or crisp early May nights to warm and comfort the family. (Another great option is this bacon, carrot, butter bean and coriander soup.)

What you need:

  • 1 medium onion, peeled and sliced
  • 4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil, or a little more, or less, to your taste
  • 3-5 garlic cloves, peeled and sliced
  • 3 large carrots, washed and sliced into 1.5cm rounds
  • ½ sweet chorizo sausage, cut into 1.5cm rounds
  • About 500g jar large butter beans, ready to use.  Use a little more, or a little less – it doesn’t matter
  • 600ml tomato-based pasta sauce
  • 2 small tumblers of water, approximately

What to do:

  1. In a large, heavy-based saucepan, fry the onions in the olive oil on a medium heat for a few minutes.
  2. Add the garlic, carrots, chorizo and butter beans and continue to fry for around 5-10 minutes until the carrots begin to soften around the edges.
  3. Pour in the tomato-based pasta sauce and stir to coat all of the ingredients.  Add a small tumbler or two of water until the sauce arrives at the consistency you like.
  4. Bring the pan to the boil, then reduce the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for about 30 – 40 minutes until the carrots are tender.

Great served with home-made garlic bread or Rosemary Focaccia to tear and dip.

15 minutes to prepare, 50 – 60 minutes to cook

Makes 4 generous servings

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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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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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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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31May 12

Comforting Carrot, Coriander and Cumin soup

Carrot and Coriander SoupWhen out of the UK for a few years, I was missing those wonderful Covent Garden soups, especially my favourite – carrot and coriander.  So after a fruitless search to uncover them on the supermarket shelves, I decided to get making my own version which I call comforting carrot, coriander and cumin soup, and I’m so glad I did.  I like the alliteration, but the flavour’s even better, because nothing beats fresh home-made soup!  Carrots are a delicious root vegetable packed with carotene, which the body converts to vitamin A.

I’ve given this traditional recipe a little extra kick with the addition of cumin.  I like to make mine pretty intense for extra comfort, but you can vary the amount to your own taste.  I’ve kept the cumin content moderate in this recipe for you, so add or take away as you wish.

What you need:

  • 500g fresh carrots, washed and sliced
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1.2 litres of vegetable stock
  • 1 large bunch of fresh coriander, roughly chopped and some kept aside for the garnish
  • 1tsp ground cumin
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper

What you do:

  1. Add the oil to a large pan and soften the onions and carrots together for a few minutes.
  2. Sprinkle in the ground cumin, salt, and ground pepper.  Stir and cook for another couple of minutes.
  3. Pour in the vegetable stock and bring the liquid to the boil.  Once boiling, reduce the heat and simmer until the vegetables are cooked.
  4. Add most of the coriander and blend the ingredients into a soup to the texture of your choice. I like mine a little rough, but it’s just as yummy smooth.
  5. Serve in pretty bowls topped with a coriander garnish.

20 minutes to prepare – 20-30 minutes to cook

Makes 4 servings

Note: In general, carrot and coriander make for a great combination in soups. If you want to add a bit more protein, try this bacon, carrot, butter bean and coriander soup. It’s a bit heartier, so keep it in mind if you are quite hungry.

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20May 12

Succulent Scallops and Spicy Chorizo

Succulent Scallops and Spanish ChorizoThis succulent scallops and spicy chorizo recipe is one of the fastest, easiest and tastiest dishes I’ve prepared. You’ve really got to try it. Rich in omega 3, and low in calories, scallops are in season now. Their soft succulence, combined with the rich spice of the Spanish chorizo is a heavenly combination. With the zest of lemon and the freshness of parsley your taste-buds will be zinging! This is a perfect starter for a special occasion. Add your splash of sophistication by serving in scallop shells. But hey, they taste just as good eaten from a beautiful bowl.

 

You will find fresh scallops in fish markets in January, or for those pressed for time, grab a bag of frozen ones from the supermarket, they taste great too.

You can find chorizo in most supermarkets. If you find one labelled spicy, go for that. You don’t need to add any oil to your pan, the chorizo has plenty. As you cook it, the paprika and oil release to create a wonderful rich colour in the pan. If you have any leftover, try chorizo braised in red wine.

What you need:

  • 100g chorizo sausage
  • 400g halved scallops
  • Juice of ½ lemon
  • 4 tablespoons of chopped fresh parsley

What to do:
1. Cut the chorizo into thin slices.
2. Put a frying pan on the heat and when hot, fry the chorizo dry for a couple of minutes only, until beginning to crisp on each side. You will see the oil released in the pan.
3. Put the chorizo in a bowl, then fry the scallops in the wonderful orange chorizo oil for around a minute each side.
4. Return the chorizo to the pan with the scallops, squeeze in the lemon juice and sizzle for a few seconds.
5. Serve in the thoroughly washed scallop shells or in small bowls sprinkled with fresh chopped parsley.

Note, if you are buying scallops in their shells, be sure to find out how to prepare them before cooking first.

10 mins to prepare and cook
Makes 8 starters or 4 main courses

A little more about scallops…
Do you remember Botticelli’s painting The Birth of Venus? It depicts the Greek goddess Aphrodite rising from a scallop shell! Could eating scallops be an aphrodisiac?
The logo of the petrol company Shell is based on the scallop shell.
Most species live in tropical waters, but several live in polar waters. It is the muscle part that we eat.

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04May 12

Mexican Chicken Mole, Puebla Style

Mexican Chicken MoléThe 5th May is a special day in Mexico.  Mexican pride and heritage are celebrated in the Cinco de Mayo festival, when Mexican chicken mole, Puebla style is often cooked up communally.

Puebla is one of the three states that claim to be the founder of mole.  There are myths and legends surrounding the origin of the dish.  You can find out more if you want to because they are rather fascinating.

For some people, mole might be an acquired taste because it combines many interesting flavours such as chocolate and chicken. These two ingredients might not normally go together, but in mole and in this chicken thighs with a chilli chocolate sauce recipe, they are absolutely fantastic!

What you need:

  • 400g chicken breast pieces, skinless
  • 400g chicken thighs, boneless, skinless
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large onion, finely sliced
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1 tsp ground cumin
  • ½ tsp ground cinnamon
  • 2 garlic cloves, finely sliced
  • 2 dried ancho chillies, torn into 3cm pieces
  • 700ml hot chicken stock
  • 30g sultanas
  • 1 medium tomato, coarsely chopped
  • 3 tbsp almond flakes, toasted
  • The zest of 1 orange
  • 15g unsweetened cocoa powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • Twist of black pepper
  • White rice or enchiladas to serve

What to do:

  1. Heat the oil on the hob in a cast iron-style casserole dish.  Add the onion and fry for 5 minutes on a medium to high heat, until the onions begin to soften.  Sprinkle over the cumin, coriander and cinnamon and stir in, cooking for a further minute.
  2. Add the garlic and chilli to the pan and fry on for a couple of minutes until the chilli softens.  Stir in the chicken stock.  Now add the tomato, sultanas, sliced almonds and orange zest to the pan and combine.  Bring the sauce up to the boil.
  3. Add the chicken pieces, cover the pan and reduce the heat to a simmer, cooking for around 10-15 minutes or until the chicken is thoroughly cooked.  Remove the chicken from the pan and shred it with 2 forks.  Put it to one side.
  4. Add the chocolate to the sauce, and let it melt.  Whizz the sauce with a hand blender until smooth.  Reduce the sauce over a medium heat for around 20 minutes.  Add the chicken back to the pan, season with salt and pepper, and serve with white rice or in enchiladas.

15 minutes to prepare, around 45 minutes to cook

Makes 3-4 servings

A little more about ancho chillies:  Ancho means ‘wide’ in Spanish.  These are dried; deep reddish brown chilli peppers about 7.5cm wide and 10cm long which have a sweet, hot flavour.  When fresh, they are called poblanos.  Anchos are flat, wrinkled, and heart-shaped.

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