Porcini mushroom, tomato and pancetta pasta

This is one of my go- to recipes for the middle of the week when you are after a satisfying yet lighter meal so I know you’ll love it too!

If there is one thing I can’t resist it’s a good old mushroom! Any variety keeps me happy however porcini keeps me very happy! In the UK you can pick up some decent dried mushrooms so I have used these here. You can use porcini by itself or a mixed selection of wild dried mushrooms if you can get them. The delicate earthiness of the mushroom weighs up the mouthwatering saltiness of the pancetta beautifully.

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Ingredients- serves 2
50g unsalted butter
50g pancetta- cubed
1 crushed garlic clove
20g dried porcini or mixed wild mushrooms
6 vine ripened tomatoes
1 small red chilli- dried or fresh
Handful of torn basil
150g dried penne or gigli

1. Before anything else you need to rehydrate the mushrooms by soaking them in  warm water. This usually takes around 10 minutes andthe mushrooms should feel soft when they are ready. Try and buy the best quality mushrooms you can and you really well tell the difference; your after decent sized pieces rather than mushroom dust!

2. Get a small non- stick pan and fry the pancetta cubes over a medium heat until they begin to turn golden. I don’t add any extra butter or oil to fry these as the natural fats do the trick. Remove the pancetta from the pan and blot on kitchen towel.

3. For the next stage you need a medium sized pan and melt 30g of the butter over a moderate heat. Add the garlic and snip the chilli into the pan and cook for 2 minutes. As a self- confessed chilli lover I think there is a time and place for dried chilli and this is one of them. Remember that dried chillies also contain seeds so remove them if you prefer a milder heat.

4. Quarter the tomatoes (or into sixths if they are larger) and add to the pan with the chilli and garlic. Simmer over a low heat for 10 minutes so that they tomatoes begin to reduce down and create a sauce. I then add the pancetta, softened mushrooms and the torn basil back into the pan and simmer for another 15 minutes. I  add some of the basil at this stage and save the rest to serve so it doesn’t disappear to nothing or go bitter. The sauce should be chunky and thick so that it coats the pasta.

5. Cook the pasta as per the cooking instructions and drain well. Add the remaining butter to the pasta and stir so each piece is coated. Combine the pasta and sauce and then it’s ready to go! Tear over a little extra basil and offer parmesan alongside. Using the best parmesan you can afford adds a little touch of luxury.

Porcini and pancetta- a perfectly moreish combination!

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Prawn and squash red Thai curry

When life gives you plenty of frozen king prawns and leftover butternut squash then the answer is to use them to create a beautifully fragrant Thai curry. Now for a word about the curry paste: yes, the ingredients list does look lengthy but it really is worth the effort! The paste can be made in large quantities ahead of time and then kept in the fridge. You will need the equivalent of around 2 tbsp worth of paste if you are cooking this for 2 people and simply double the amount for 4.

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Ingredients- serves 2
200g raw peeled king prawns- deveined
Half a small butternut squash- cut into bite sized chunks
300ml coconut milk
100ml chicken stock

For the red curry paste
6 whole dried red chillies
1 tbsp coriander seeds
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 1/2 tbsp galangal- chopped finely
1 tbsp lemonsgrass- chopped finely
1 tsp peppercorns
5 garlic cloves- finely grated
1 inch piece of fresh ginger- finely grated
2 shallots- finely chopped
1 lime- zest finely grated
2 tbsp fish sauce
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1/2 tsp salt

1. Start off by making the curry paste by toasting the coriander and cumin seeds in a small pan over a medium heat. As the spices start to release their fragrance, remove from the heat and set aside to cool slightly before grinding in a spice grinder or pestle and mortar. Add the rest of the ingredients and combine to form a thick paste.

2. Heat a small amount of vegetable or groundnut oil in a wok or wide frying pan and fry off the curry paste for a couple of minutes. Add the coconut milk and stock and stir well to combine. Increase the heat and bring to the boil before lowering to a simmer. I covered the pan and simmered it for around half an hour so it begins to reduce down and gives the flavours time to the flavours develop.

3. The chunks of butternut squash will take around 10 minutes for bite sized pieces so pop them in when you’re ready and simmer until almost tender. Check the chunks by piercing them with a knife; if it sinks in easily then it is ready! Towards the end of cooking, add in the prawns and simmer until they are cooked through. Serve the curry immediately with some extra chopped red chilli or a little freshly chopped coriander if you like and dig in. This is also delicious with sticky Thai rice which is easily accessible in supermarkets now.

King prawn and squash red curry- delicate, fragrant and oh so delicious so get cooking!

 

Spicy Middle Eastern chickpeas with feta

When the weekend comes around again, spend a little time preparing a delicious breakfast or brunch- after all, you’ve earned it following a busy week! This spicy chickpea dish was inspired by the flavours of the Middle East to give a hearty and satisfying start to the day but would also be perfect for a dinner. If you have any leftovers, these can be kept in a sealed container in the fridge for a couple of days and can be enjoyed at lunch the next day.

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Ingredients- serves 3-4
1 tbsp vegetable oil
1 red onion- finely chopped
2 garlic cloves- chopped or crushed
1 red or yellow bell pepper- chopped
1 tbsp each of ground cumin and ground coriander
1/2 tbsp harissa
400g soaked chickpeas- rinsed and drained
400g tinned chopped tomatoes
2 handfuls of baby spinach- washed, drained and roughly chopped
50g feta
1 tsp chilli flakes- optional

1. Kick off by heating the oven to 200c/ 180 fan. Take a large frying pan, or similar, and heat the oil over a medium heat. Cook the onion, garlic and pepper together until softening nicely. Add in the ground cumin and coriander as well as the harissa. Stir well so the spices and harissa coat the onion mixture; cook for a further minute.

2. Add the drained chickpeas to the pan and combine well. In next goes the tinned tomatoes. Simmer the chickpeas for a few minutes until the sauce is starting to reduce and thicken slightly before adding the spinach. Cook until it wilts in the sauce and can be evenly distributed throughout it. Crumble over the feta and a sprinkling of chilli flakes if you want a but more spice and pop in the oven. Leave it until the feta warms through and starts to melt a little. Serve with crusty fresh bread and dive in!

Middle Eastern inspired chickpeas- spice up your day!

Fragrant Asian salmon parcels

The idea of cooking ‘en papilotte’ (‘in parchment’) is quick and simple and keeps all the flavours locked in. Here delicate salmon is balanced with the aromatic flavours of Asia to bring a simple yet tasty meal. Monkfish or cod loin would also be perfect for this recipe if you prefer. I am a big fan of all Asian greens so I have used pak choi to layer the salmon on top of so it steams altogether.

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Ingredients- serves 2
2 spring onions- finely sliced on the diagonal
1 large garlic clove- crushed
1 2cm piece of fresh ginger- cut into thin strips
1 medium red chilli- deseeded and chopped
Juice of half a fresh lime
2 tbsp each of dark soy
1 tbsp rice wine
2 small heads of pak choi- shredded
2 salmon fillets

1. Start by preheating the oven to 190c/ 170fan. Take all the ingredients apart from the salmon and spring onions and combine in a small bowl; mix well and set aside.

2. Grab a couple of lengths of foil which will be big enough for the fish to sit happily in and lay them out on the work surface. Lightly oil each piece. Divide the pak choi and spring onions slices between the two pieces of foil and place them in the centre. Place the salmon atop its leafy, oniony bed and pour the dressing over the fish. Add a splash of water into each parcel so it steams well before gathering the foil together to create a well sealed parcel.

3. Place on a baking tray and cook for around 12 minutes until the fish is tender. Remove carefully and serve with a side dish of jasmine rice.

Salmon parcels- the key to delightfully fragrant and straightforward midweek meal!

Crab and spring onion macaroni

Crab and spring onion macaroni is a decadent twist on the classic macaroni cheese which begs to be cooked and savoured. I have used brown and white crab meat and I find this gives much more flavour compared to only using white so do look out for both. A hint of fresh red chilli would also be delicious in this recipe if you want to spice things up a bit but go easy as you don’t want to overpower the delicate crab. Compared to my usual macaroni cheese, this uses a small amount of good quality parmesan cheese so keep it simple. I have included panko as a topping mixed with parmesan which gives an added texture and crunch.

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Ingredients- serves 2
30g unsalted butter
30g plain flour
200ml milk
200ml double cream
40g parmesan
100g crab meat- half brown, half white
3-4 spring onions- shredded
200g macaroni
20g panko breadcrumbs (optional)

1. Start by preheating the oven to 200c/ 180 fan whilst you cook the pasta as per packet instructions; drain well and set aside. To get going with the sauce take a medium saucepan and melt the butter and flour together to form the base of the sauce. Gradually pour in the milk and cream and keep stirring so it doesn’t catch on the bottom of the pan; bring to a simmer and cook until thickened.

2. Remove the sauce from the heat and add half of the parmesan cheese as well as the crab meat. Stir well to combine before popping in the shredded spring onion. Add the cooked macaroni into the sauce and ensure that each piece is well coated in the sauce. Place in an ovenproof dish before topping with the remaining parmesan and panko breadcrumbs, if you’re using them.

3. Bake for 30 minutes until the topping is golden and bubbling and serve right away with a side salad if you like.

Indulgent crab and spring onion macaroni- a sumptuous twist on a comfort food favourite!