15 December 2014

Linguine with Parma ham, artichokes and pecorino


At Christmastime it's hard to know what to shop for - and cook - for those meals in between the parties, the main event and the in-front-of-the-telly buffets. For some bizarre reason we all feel obliged to stock up on massive tins of chocolates, fizzy drinks, boxes of crackers - and of course vast amounts of Brussel's sprouts. What I suggest is that, when you do your Christmas food shopping you consider getting some really high quality deli goods, which you can use in a number of ways, either for picking at in front of the telly in aforementioned buffet style, or to create a decent meal with. Here I have used some seriously top drawer ingredients to create a deli pasta, which is so special that it's quite suitable for a Christmas get together.

The lovely people at extremely posh and gorgeous Italian food website Ufuud asked me if I would like to have some free goodies from their online store. Well, it'd be rude not to! I chose a huge hunk of Parma ham, some linguine and pecorino and, along with some artichokes preserved in olive oil that I happened to have in, I created this simple but sophisticated pasta dish. What's great about these ingredients is that they keep for ages, and you can knock up a delicious pasta with them in minutes that still has wow factor. When you have such special ingredients it is vital that you keep it simple, so that's what I've done here, simply heating them and tossing them through al dente linguine.

The Ufuud guys are so lovely that they even gave me some vouchers to pass on to my readers... to enter: Like my page on Facebook, Share the competition, and Comment underneath the Facebook post to be in with a chance of winning £50 in vouchers to spend on their website - plus a very special extra prize that is top secret.

Competition closes at the end of the week, 19th December, at midnight. The winner will be picked at random and notified on Facebook so keep an eye out once you have entered.

Serves: 3-4 people (2 adults and 2 kids)
Prep time: 2 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Total time: 12 minutes

Ingredients: 
300g linguine (I use 100g per adult, 50g per child)
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
75g parma ham, cut into strips or chunks
280g jar of sliced artichoke hearts in oil
50g pecorino, grated
Fresh parsley, roughly chopped

Instructions:
  1. Put a large pan of water on to boil. Add a little salt and when boiling angrily add the pasta. 
  2. Whilst the pasta is cooking, heat some olive oil in a pan, add the sliced garlic and warm through. Don't let the garlic colour. Add the parma ham and gently heat through. Now for the artichokes. Be gentle - you want them to keep their shape. 
  3. Season with just black pepper, as the meat and cheese are both salty. 
  4. Reserve a half mugful of water and drain the pasta. Add the linguine to the artichoke hearts and ham. Toss well, adding a splash of water to loosen the pasta. Throw in a handful of fresh parsley and toss again. Serve with lots and lots of grated pecorino. 

9 December 2014

Spaghetti bolognese with chilli and thyme


Schwartz asked me to make one of their recipes: this comforting, herby spag bol spiked with a little chilli. I was happy to help, loving this classic as we all do. Seriously, does anyone you know dislike it? If so, immediately unfriend them, as they are clearly mad. I was especially happy to do it as I love the additions of dried herbs and spices. Dried thyme, along with rosemary, mint and oregano is one of my favourite ingredients and a Godsend in winter months when you need flavour but have no basil and parsley growing (for me, they must be fresh). There's a good, robust hit of thyme in this recipe - and it's all the more enjoyable for it. Chilli powder in a spag bol is a new one on me, but it's worth a try, I held back a little as my kids are only 4 and 2, but go for broke if your family can handle it.

My other spag bol tips are... (you're on the edge of your seat right now aren't you): use great quality beef mince from your local butcher. (I literally am in love with my butchers, Watson's farm shop in Hope. They are immense, been serving this little village for a couple of hundred years, the same family. How lucky am I to have those guys on my doorstep? VUUURY.) Then once you have your quality mince, cook it for a long time - this recipe dictates an hour and I think that's fine. Do it for at least that long, on a low, low heat and with the lid on. Lastly use good quality pasta, not the cheapest one available. Tagliatelle, spaghetti, linguine are all great for this dish - but spend a few extra pennies and the different is noticeable (and of course cook it for just under the time it says to attain that all important al dente texture). Serve with freshly grated parmesan and you'll be in for a right good treat.

Serves: 4 adults
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 1 hour
Total time: just over an hour

Ingredients: 
450g beef mince
1 onion, diced
1 tablespoon Schwartz dried thyme
1 teaspoon (or more, as your taste dictates) Schwartz chilli powder
275ml (1 large glass) of red wine
1 tablespoon of tomato puree
1 tin chopped tomatoes
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
400g spaghetti
Freshly grated parmesan to serve

Instructions: 

  1. Let the onion sweat in the oil for a few minutes until soft. 
  2. Add the mince and brown. Throw in the thyme and chilli and cook out for a minute or two. 
  3. Now the tomato puree. And the red wine. Cook that off for a couple of minutes now. 
  4. And finally the tinned toms. Season. Bring to the boil then simmer, lid on, for 1 hour. 
  5. When it's 20 mins away from being ready, put a large pan of water on to boil. When boiling add the pasta and cook until al dente. Reserve half a mugful of pasta water and drain. 
  6. Combine the pasta and sauce and toss well, adding a splash of the pasta water to avoid it going claggy. Serve with a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and some parmesan.


I was paid to write this post for Schwartz and sent the herbs and spices to make the dish. I am happy to work with them as I love their products. If you think I would like your products and would like me to write a paid sponsored post using them please email rachel@wellwornwhisk.co.uk. 

5 December 2014

Leftover pheasant (or turkey) and chestnut risotto


It's a funny old world. One minute I'm swerving all over the country lanes to avoid hitting a pheasant in the road, the next I'm eating one for dinner. I don't eat pheasant often, but it being the season and they are so plentiful around here, that I bought a few last week. These were from the Chatsworth estate, so they'd had a pretty good life thus far, don't feel too bad for them. If you've never had it before, pheasant is like a smaller, fattier chicken that is full of flavour. The best way to cook them Adam tells me (I have to be honest, he made the original pheasant dish and I just dealt with the leftovers) is to pan fry the birds whole, then finish in the oven, making a sauce with the pan juices and some wine. It was lovely, but we had quite a lot of leftovers. 

Hence the risotto. I created this recipe for Instant Pot, who I love working with as I am evangelical about my own machine. Instant Pot is an electronic pressure cooker for those who don't know. It made this risotto in ten minutes, no stirring required. I have included both methods below, for those who are interested (or already have one) and those who don't. Seriously though, if you've been asked by your partner what you'd like for Chrimbo, I'd give this some thought. Check out other Instant Pot recipes by me. 

Obviously this would be excellent with leftover turkey (throw in some chopped, leftover Brussels at the end too), and also with chicken. I used the carcasses to make a quick stock (10 minutes on manual, just bones and boiling water to cover), so I felt very pleased to have squeezed every last bit of value and flavour from our three birds. 

Serves: 4  

Prep time: 5 minutes 
Cook time: 10 minutes (20 minutes without an IP)
Total time: 15 minutes (25 minutes without an IP)

Ingredients: 
Leftover pheasant (or chicken, or turkey) – about 200-300g, chopped into bite size pieces
200g vacuum packed chestnuts, chopped roughly
300g Arborio (or carnaroli) risotto rice
800ml stock (ideally from the carcass, but if not bouillon or cubes are fine)
Small glass of white wine (about 175ml)
1 onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, crushed
2 tablespoon of olive oil
50g parmesan, grated, plus more to serve
Fresh parsley, chopped roughly
Salt and pepper

To serve:            
A drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
More parmesan

Instant Pot Instructions: 
  1. Set Instant Pot to Saute. Add oil.
  2. Soften onion and garlic in the oil for a few minutes.
  3. Add the rice and and coat in the oil.
  4. Now tip in the wine and stock. And the chestnuts too – but not the meat, it is already cooked so you will add that last.
  5. Secure lid. Press Cancel and set to Rice for 10 minutes.
  6. Let it stay on the Keep Warm setting once cooked. Release steam and stir in the meat and grated parmesan, stirring well to release the creaminess. You may like to add a splash of boiling water to loosen it; it’s up to you. Wait until the meat is thoroughly heated through before serving.
  7. Serve with a green salad, a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil and some more parmesan.

Normal Instructions: 
  1. Soften onion and garlic in oil for 5 minutes.  
  2. Add rice and coat in oil for 2 more minutes. 
  3. Tip in wine and let it sizzle off for a moment. Add the chestnuts. 
  4. Stir, gradually adding the hot stock ladle by ladle. You may need more stock or boiling water sing this method, so have a boiled kettle ready. The rice is ready once it is puffed up and cooked through (taste to see). It should take about 20 minutes. 
  5. Add the cooked meat and heat through. 
  6. Finally for the parmesan and parsley. 
  7. Serve with some nice leaves, a drizzle of good olive oil and freshly grated parmesan.

2 December 2014

Amaretto mulled wine and spiced bisuits


Last night in the village there was a Christingle service, where the 40-odd kids from the primary school (including my 4 year old son, Arthur) sang really sweet Christmas songs (well, Arthur didn't sing much but he did sway and look cute). Then the villagers sang carols outside as the village was lit up. We ended up in the extremely well decorated local enjoying a couple of glasses of 'Mulls'. It was really nice. Christmas has officially begun.

I say that, but we still won't put our tree up for a couple of weeks. Well, I might cave after about 10 days... Many people I have spoken to already have their tree up. And have had it up for over a week! Isn't this all happening an awful lot earlier than it used to? Shouldn't we at least wait until 1st December? Isn't that the whole point of advent? That it marks the first day of Christmas?

I fear that things like Black Friday are starting to mark the beginning of Christmas, which is so sad. I know we all like to go Christmas shopping, and presents are a part of the Christmas celebration. But for me it's so important that the commercial element of this festival make up only a small proportion of it. The rest of Christmas is about friends, family, food, music, decorations, games, roaring fires, smells and sounds, family traditions - and church if you're that way inclined.

If you're feeling Christmassy and fancy making something nice to enjoy at home, I think it should be this: chuck together a big pan of mulled wine, knock up some biscuits and snuggle up with a friend or your other half. Put some Christmas tunes on and feel oh so merry. There is no comparison between shop bought Mulls and homemade. Once you've tried it, you'll never go back. And it's perfect for parties, as you can keep adding to it, adjusting the strength as you wish. It's like a glass of pure happiness. And oh my goodness the smell..!

I've added these recipes together as they go very nicely. And it's a nice way to serve the mulled wine, if you do choose to do it for a social occasion.

I have used amaretto, as it gives a really nice almond-y taste. But feel free to use brandy if that's what you fancy - or why not try whisky? That'd be very jolly.

Mulled wine

Makes: about 6-8 glasses
Prep time: 2 minutes
Cook time: 20 minutes
Total time: 22 minutes

Ingredients: 
1 good bottle of red wine
1/2 pint of water
1 orange, sliced
1 lemon, sliced
20 cloves
1 cinnamon stick
3-6 tablespoons of runny honey (depending on taste)
3 tablespoons of amaretto (or brandy)

Instructions: 
  1. Simply put all ingredients in the pan and bring to a low simmer for 20 minutes. 
  2. Do not bring it to over 70C or else the alcohol will boil off!
  3. It is fine to make this ahead of time and warm up to serve. 

Spiced Christmas biscuits

Makes: about 12 (these go quickly so maybe double up if preparing for a party!)
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 10 minutes
Total time: 15 minutes

Ingredients: 
110g self-raising flour
1 teaspoon of mixed spice
1 teaspoon of bicarbonate of soda
40g brown sugar
50g butter, softened
2 tablespoons of golden syrup

Instructions: 
  1. Preheat oven to 170C. Grease 2 baking trays. 
  2. Simply mix all the ingredients together with an electric whisk until it forms a dough. Use a wooden spoon if you have no electric whisk for the first bit. Bring it together with your hands. 
  3. Using a teaspoon to scoop the dough, roll balls about the size of ping pong balls and pop on the tray. They will flatten whilst they bake. Watch them carefully as they burn quickly. 
  4. Let them cool on the tray a little and then on a wire rack. 

26 November 2014

Pear and pecan cake


Come 7 o clock, whether the kids are down yet or not, I am getting into my PJs and putting the kettle on, ready for a cuppa and a little somethin'-somethin'. Sometimes the kids join me, we have a nice little time. Usually it's a homemade treat, though last night it was a local bakery's mince pies. (I'm making some homemade mincemeat today so hopefully my own mincies will feature on here soon - YAY, so Christmassy!)

If I don't have some homemade treats in the house I get a bit panicky - I can't fathom having no options to accompany my tea drinking. At this time of year it's ideally a cake that you can grab a slice quickly, cold with a cuppa for elevenses or a mid afternoon pick me up, or that you can warm up and serve with custard or cream after dinner for a pud - like this one! I like using up overripe fruit in cakes; they are past eating and perfect to use in baking. Some people don't like walnuts, as they have a slight bitter taste. I suggest replacing with pecans if you're in this club of walnut haters. They have the same creamy taste and nobbly crunch, but no bitterness.

I have adapted Mary Berry's Apple and Cinnamon cake here, omitting sultanas, switching up pears for apples and pecans for walnuts. I cooked it for a bit less time too. Also, I folded my fruit throughout, instead of creating a middle layer, which is what Mary does.

This is such a delicious, easy cake. One of the nicest I've made for ages.

Makes: a large cake which slices into 8 large or 16 little slices
Prep time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 60 minutes

Ingredients: 
225g softened butter
225g soft brown sugar
225g self-raising flour
3 large eggs
100g pecans, chopped roughly
2 teaspoons of baking powder
400g (ish) of pears, peeled, and chopped into dice
1 teaspoon of cinnamon

Instructions:

  1. Preheat oven to 170C. 
  2. Grease and line a 23cm diameter cake tin. 
  3. Beat all the ingredients together, leaving the fruit till last, and gently folding it in. 
  4. Pour the batter into the lined cake tin. 
  5. Bake for 60 minutes. 
  6. Let it cool in the tin then take out to finish cooling on a rack. Eat warm with cream, then cold without.