Tomato Conchiglie with creamy béchamel and crispy cheese topping

Pasta shells cooked in a delicious tomato sauce, topped with béchamel sauce and cheddar cheese then finished under a hot grill.

 

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Serves two people

Preparation and cooking time 30 minutes

Ingredients and method

200g dried Conchiglie – cooked to al dente as per packet instructions

150g mature cheddar cheese – grated 

75g butter

1 bay leaf

2 tbsp. olive oil

1 heaped dessert spoon plain flour

Approx. 500ml semi skimmed milk

Dried oregano – 1 tsp for tomato sauce, 1/3 tsp for béchamel 

1 tsp dried parsley

4 round tomatoes

4 cloves garlic

1 stick celery

1 red bell pepper

1 tsp brown sugar

2 tsp tomato puree

Black pepper for grinding

Sea salt – to taste

You need a food processor or mini chopper for the tomato sauce

 

To make the tomato sauce

In a large flat non stick frying pan dry fry over a medium heat, 4 tomatoes, 4 cloves garlic, 1 stick celery and 1 red bell pepper, turning occasionally until charred.

Remove from the pan and allow to cool on a chopping board. Then remove the garlic skins and the stalks/seeds from the bell pepper.

Transfer into a mini chopper along with 2 tbsp. olive oil, 1 tsp dried oregano, 1 tsp dried parsley, 1 tsp brown sugar, 2 tsp tomato puree, 1/2 tsp ground black pepper and 1/2 tsp of sea salt. Blitz until a smooth sauce is formed, set aside ready to cook.

To make the béchamel sauce

Melt approx. 75g butter in a sauce pan then add 1 heaped dessert spoon of flour and stir into a paste.

Add a small volume of milk, 1/3 tsp dried oregano, 1 bay leaf, 4-5 turns of a pepper grinder and stir well until a smooth sauce is formed.

Increase heat slightly and add approx. 250ml of milk, stirring well to keep a smooth sauce (Tip: you can use a whisk or silicone spatula to help keep sauce smooth).

Keep stirring as the milk heats and the sauce thickens, once it becomes thick add another 150ml milk and keep stirring as sauce heats again. Bring the sauce to the boil, if the sauce is too thick add a little more milk, stir well and bring back to the boil then fish out the bay leaf and remove the pan from the heat – set aside ready to add to the dish.

With a béchamel you want to keep adding milk whilst heating the sauce until it no longer thickens as it reaches boiling point. I have listed the milk as 500ml, however you may need slightly less or more – cooking a béchamel is one of those things that it is difficult to list an exact quantity for.

 

Cooking the dish

Start by cooking the pasta to al dente as per packet instructions, then drain and set aside ready to add to the pan.

In a deep wide frying pan add the blended tomato sauce and gently heat through until it bubbles and simmer for 4-5 minutes.

Add the pasta to the tomato sauce, stir well and simmer the pasta in the sauce for 2-3 minutes.

Pre heat your grill on a medium to hot setting (3/4 setting).

Give the pasta and tomato sauce another good stir then drizzle the béchamel sauce over the pasta, making sure the béchamel is distributed over the whole dish. Top with the grated mature cheddar.

Place under the hot grill and cook until the cheese melts and starts to colour, this should take 6-8 minutes depending on your grill. Once the cheese melts and colours like a pizza topping the dish is ready, remove from the grill and serve.

We had this dish with a leafy green side salad and some green beans, although it works just fine by itself – I hope you enjoy.

 

 

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Sweet Potato Fish Cakes

Sweet potato fish cakes with a delicious garlic and chilli sauce.

A very easy to make recipe for restaurant standard fish cakes. Using tinned salmon and crab along with a few kitchen essentials, this recipe is a real winner. The sauce made from butter, garlic, chilli, lemon, white wine, fish stock, parsley, tarragon and diced tomato completes the dish.

The two most important things are to make sure the sweet potato mash is as dry as possible and also to avoid the temptation to turn them too early in the pan – otherwise they will not hold together as you cook. Please don’t mistake the colouration for burning, it’s this crust that holds the cakes together.

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This recipe makes 6-8 fishcakes

Ingredients and method

For the Fish Cakes:

750g Sweet potatoes – peel and thinly slice

250g shredded crab meat – 2 small tins drained of brine

200-225g red salmon – 1 small tin drained of brine

1/2 tsp sweet smoked paprika

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

25-50g breadcrumbs – see notes below

2- 4 tbsp. oil  to pan fry – I used Scottish rapeseed oil.

You require a food processor for this recipe

 

For the Sauce:

2 round tomatoes – diced

1/3 glass of dry white wine

3 cloves garlic – crush or finely chop

1 red chilli – deseed and finely chop

200ml fish stock

1 tbsp. fresh squeezed lemon juice

1/2 tsp dried tarragon

1/2 tsp dried parsley

10-15g butter

Freshly ground black pepper – to taste

 

Method: Start by par boiling the sliced sweet potatoes – put them in a pan of cold water, heat through to the boil then simmer for 7-8 minutes. Drain them then put them back in the dry pan over a low heat for a few minutes (shaking the pan occasionally), then turn off hob and let the residual heat dry the potatoes. If they still seem wet leave them on the heat for a few more minutes. It is vital to dry the potatoes out as much as possible.

Once dried and cooled transfer the potatoes into a food processor. Add 25g breadcrumbs, 1/2 tsp black pepper, the crab and salmon and blitz until combined into a smooth paste. Check the consistency of the paste – you want it to be thick enough that patties can be formed in your hands without them immediately falling apart. If when you test the mixture it seems too wet add the rest of the breadcrumbs as they will absorb the excess moisture.

Start forming the fish cakes – you want them to be about 3cm thick and slightly wider than a standard coffee mug. Don’t make them much bigger or thicker than this as they may not hold together when cooked if they are too big or cook in the middle if they are too thick. See the picture at the top for an example of size. AS you form each one set aside on a plate ready to pan fry.

Before pan frying the fish cakes start to make the sauce as you want the sauce to reduce and intensify in flavour. Start by melting the butter in a small frying pan (a wide pan will reduce far quicker than a saucepan) then add the garlic and chilli then fry for 3-4 minutes stirring frequently. Next add the white wine and cook it off for a few minutes, then add the fish stock along with the dried herbs. Stir well and leave sauce simmering on a medium low heat for 10-15 minutes or until it has reduced by half. Turn off the heat as the sauce will be reheated when the fish cakes are ready – the tomatoes, pepper and lemon juice are added as the sauce

To pan fry the fish cakes – use a wide plat non stick frying pan, take care not to overload the pan as you need enough room to flip the fish cakes, cook in batches of max 4 if using a 30cm frying pan like me. Heat 2 tbsp. oil in the frying pan over a medium high heat. Add the fish cakes one at a time, giving them a final squeeze into shape just as you add them into the pan. They will need approx. 4 minutes on first side – the clue that they are ready is you should be able to see the crust forming on the edges and the cakes should easily slide on the pan. It is vital not to turn them too early as the cakes will either fall apart or loose shape. Once turned they should cook slightly quicker on the other side – approx. 3 minutes . Again the fish cakes will slide easily on the pan when the crust is formed and they are ready. Transfer to the plate ready to serve, or place on a baking tray and keep in a warm oven if you are making two batches.

To finish the sauce – heat the sauce through over a medium heat, once hot add 1 tbsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice and the diced tomatoes, stir through the sauce and continue to cook for 1-2 minutes. You want to warm the tomatoes through but not cook them, they bring a freshness and balance to the rich slightly acidic sauce. Add a little freshly ground black pepper to taste, then get ready to serve.

Place the cooked fish cakes on a serving plate and spoon some of the sauce over the fish cakes and onto the plate as shown in the pictures. Enjoy!

 

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King Prawn Linguine flavoured with Prawn and Pepper sauce.

Linguine pasta with king prawns, in a delicious sauce made from red pepper, tomato, garlic, basil, oregano, onion, flavoured with a stock made from the prawn heads and shells.

In this dish I use a simple stock made from prawn shells and heads to get every bit of flavour from the prawns. This is added to a flavour base (red pepper, garlic, tomato, basil, oregano, tomato pure, olive oil and onion) and cooked down to intensify the flavour. The sauce is completed with seasoning and a little sugar for sweetness. The raw prawns are gently cooked in the sauce, then the pasta is added to the sauce for the final few minutes of cooking, then finished with a little lemon juice.

I am really proud of this recipe and hope you like it as much as I do. Its very easy to make and certain to impress friends and family.

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Serves two

Preparation time 15 minutes, cooking time 12-15 minutes

 

Ingredients and method

150g good quality dried linguine – cook as per packet instructions to al dente 

250-300g Raw whole King Prawns – see method

250-300ml water

1-2 tbsp. olive oil

1 red bell pepper – remove stalk and seeds

1 large beef tomato – remove core

12 basil leaves – plus a few extra for a garnish

1 medium size red onion – peel

4 large garlic cloves – peel, crush

1 tsp dried oregano

1 tbsp. tomato pure

1 tsp brown sugar

Freshly ground black pepper – see method

Salt to taste – season at end once stock has reduced

Juice of half a lemon – cut other half into wedges to serve

You require a mini chopper of food processor for this recipe

 

Method: Begin by removing the shells and heads from the raw prawns, devein the prawns and set aside.

Pour 250-300ml of water into a sauce pan and bring to the boil, add the prawn shells and heads and simmer for 10-15 minutes until stock has reduced to 200ml. Unlike stocks from vegetables or animal bones stocks made from shellfish absorb all the flavour very quickly. Once reduced set aside ready to add to the dish.

Make the flavour base by adding the red pepper, basil, oregano, garlic, tomato, tomato pure, onion and olive oil to the mini chopper, blend until a smooth sauce is formed. Set aside ready to add to the pan.

Cook the pasta as per packet instructions (around 10-12 minutes), as soon as this starts begin to cook the pasta sauce. Heat a non stick frying pan over a medium heat and add the blended sauce, stir frequently and cook for 5 minutes to bring out all the flavours in the sauce. Take care not to burn the sauce and if it begins to catch on the pan add a little of the prawn stock to loosen it.

Next add the prawn stock to the pan, stir well, increase heat to bring to the boil, then reduce to a simmer. Add a tsp of brown sugar and a generous amount of black pepper, do not add any salt until the dish is reduced. Keep simmering and stirring occasionally until sauce has reduced in half (should take 4-5 minutes), then taste test and add salt to taste.

Once the pasta is cooked drain it and set it aside ready to add to the pan.

Add the raw prawns to the simmering sauce and gently stir until they change from grey to pink (60-90 seconds), take care not to overcook them. I would recommend deliberately undercooking them here as they will finish cooking as you add the pasta.

Add the cooked pasta to the sauce and gently stir the sauce through the pasta and cook for 1 minute. Finish the dish by adding  juice of half a lemon and stir through to lift the sauce.

Serve immediately and garnish with a few torn basil leaves.

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Homemade Pizza

A easy recipe for great tasting home made Pizza

I used to live on a diet of Pizza and beer, so I know a good Pizza when I taste one. I have experimented a bit to finally come up with a recipe that I am happy with.

The recipe is very straightforward, although pizzas are only as good as the ingredients so use good quality flour, mozzarella and nice ripe tomatoes.

For convenience I used my Kitchenaid mixer to do the hard work. This recipe gives enough dough for 2 large pizzas, if only making one you can freeze the remaining dough for next time.

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Ingredients and method

 

For the Pizza base:

550g strong white flour (plus extra to dust) – sieve into a bowl to make into a fine powder

7g yeast sachet

3tbsp olive oil

1 tsp salt

350ml warm water

1/4 tsp oregano

Note: I used my Kitchenaid food mixer to make the dough, If doing this by hand kneed the dough for approx. 12 minutes.

Method: Sieve the flour into the mixing bowl, then add the salt, oregano and yeast. Make a well in the middle of the bowl and then add the olive oil and warm water. Attach the dough hook and place in bowl then turn on at a low speed setting, I recommend setting 2. Leave the mixer to kneed the dough until it forms a smooth silky elastic dough, I recommend approx. 4 minutes.

Remove bowl from the mixer, cover with a damp tea towel and leave for 90 minutes until dough has doubled in size.  After this knock the air out of the dough, then use the food mixer to kneed the dough for a further 2 minutes.

Divide the dough in half, then dust the worksurface with some flour. Roll the dough half into a ball then place on the surface and roll out until you form a thin disc. It is my opinion that the thinner you roll the dough the better the pizza will be. Transfer the rolled base onto a baking tray ready for the toppings.

For the pizza toppings

3 cloves garlic – thinly sliced

3 large round tomatoes – chopped

1/2 tsp dried parsley

1/2 tsp dried basil

1/2 tsp dried oregano

1/4 tsp brown sugar

Salt and pepper

1 tbsp. olive oil

Approx. 75g-100g mozzarella per pizza

To make the pizza sauce: Add 1 tbsp. of oil to a  saucepan and heat over a medium hot heat. Add the garlic to the hot oil and fry for 1 minute then add the chopped tomatoes and mix well. Cook until the tomatoes start to break down then add the herbs, the sugar and season to taste. Add the sauce to a mini blender or food processor and blitz until a smooth sauce is made.

Assembly and cooking: Spread a generous amount of the tomato sauce over the top of the rolled out pizza base, leaving a small crust round the outside. Tear pieces of mozzarella and spread evenly on top on the tomato sauce. Sprinkle a little extra ground black pepper on top and a little drizzle of olive oil.

Transfer to a hot oven (approx. 220°c fan) and cook for 12-15 minutes, until the pizza crust is golden brown and the cheese in the middle of the pizza bubbles away. Remove from oven, cool on a wire rack for a few minutes, then slice and enjoy.

 

 

 

 

My Ultimate Tomato Soup

My ultimate tomato soup – oven roasted tomatoes, garlic, chillies, red onion and Romano peppers give this soup the deepest of flavours.

I wanted to make a tomato soup which tasted differently to my other versions, which are quite heavily spiced. With this soup I oven roasted the vegetables and added them to a soup base of fried celery and carrot along with some stock and herbs. The result was a true tomato soup with a real depth of tomato flavour.

To accompany the soup I made some simple croutons out of a couple of slices of sour dough bread – rubbing the cubes in the same tray as the roasted vegetables helped imprint the flavour into the croutons.

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Gives two large portions

Preparation and cooking time less than 1 hour

Ingredients and method

2 sticks celery – slice thinly

3 medium carrots – peel, slice thinly

1-2 tbsp. olive oil – plus a little extra to drizzle on croutons

6 round tomatoes

3 small red onions

1 Romano pepper – remove stalk and seeds before roasting

1 large red chilli – remove stalk and seeds before roasting

4 cloves garlic – keep in skin for roasting (prevents it burning)

1 litre stock – chicken or vegetable

2-3 tsp brown sugar

salt and pepper

2 slices of sourdough bread

4-6 basil leafs

1 tbps chopped parley

2 bay leafs

Method: start by preheating your oven to around 200°C, space out the tomatoes, onions, chillies, Romano peppers and garlic on a non stick backing tray then roast for 15-20 minutes then remove from oven and set aside to cool.

In a deep stock/soup pot warm 1-2 tbsp. of olive oil over a medium heat then add the bay leafs, celery and carrot. Fry for around 5 minutes until the carrots and celery begin to soften then remove from the heat. Once the roasted vegetables are cooled remove the skins from the pepper, tomatoes and garlic then add (along with the chilli) into the soup pan and return to the heat. Fry for a further 5 minutes then add the stock followed by the herbs (basil and parsley), bring to boil then reduce to a simmer for 20 minutes.

As the soup simmers make the croutons – cut the sour dough into 2cm cubes then tip them on to the same baking tray used to roast the vegetables, rub the cubes of bread into the tray to absorb and juices or residue left from the roasted vegetables then drizzle with a little olive oil. Place in the oven at 200°C and bake for 8-10 minutes until golden and crispy, remove from oven and set aside to cook.

Remove the bay leafs from the soup then use a stick blender to blitz the soup until smooth. Add 2 teaspoon of brown sugar, a generous amount of black pepper and season with a little salt. Taste test and adjust seasoning to taste. Heat the soup through then ladle into soup bowls, adding a generous handful of croutons just before serving. Enjoy.

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Pan fried Tiger Prawns on a bed of Crab Linguine with Roasted tomato, Garlic and Romano Pepper sauce.

Pan fried Tiger prawns on a bed of crab linguine with roasted Jack Hawkins tomato, garlic and red Romano pepper sauce.

I came up with this recipe after watching a lot of Mediterranean cookery shows recently. My aim was to come up with a tomato based pasta sauce which had a different taste to my usual pasta sauce. I didn’t copy any particular recipe more like used techniques I saw in a variety of these shows showcasing local chefs making traditional local dishes.

I bought some nice large Jack Hawkins tomatoes and thought they would make an excellent base for the sauce. I decided to roast one along with some round tomatoes, garlic in its skin and a deseeded Romano red pepper – this is the base for the sauce and roasting them before cooking brings out their rich deep flavours. Once roasted and cooled I removed the skins from all three, as well as the core of the tomatoes, then blend them into a smooth sauce.

With the second Jack Hawkins tomato I used a blowtorch to blister then remove the skin, then removed the core and diced the tomato. I added the chopped tomato to a bowl along with some finely chopped parsley and basil. The purpose of this is to give both added flavour and texture to the dish.

I had some really nice Indonesian tiger prawns which I pan-fried in their shells with some olive oil until they were just cooked – its so important not to overcook prawns as they just become tough and chewy. I cooked them in the same pan that I then cooked the pasta sauce to get every last bit of flavour.

The sauce itself was made by frying the chopped herb/tomato mixture in a little olive oil along with a splash of white wine followed by the roasted sauce. The pasta was cooked until all dente, drained then finished off in the sauce so that it absorbed the delicate yet deep flavour. Some crab meat was added to the pan so that it was heated through by the steam from the sauce then carefully and gently mixed through the sauce with the back of a wooden spoon so that the chunks of crab meat stayed intact. The Pasta was then spooned into pasta bowls and the cooked prawns carefully placed interlocking on top.

I was really pleased with the results and can confidently say that this was not just restaurant standard but very good restaurant standard. I will be cooking this again for certain.

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Serves two people

Preparation 20-25 minutes, cooking time less than 15 minutes

 

Ingredients

200g dried Linguine – I used De Cecco, cooking times may vary  

2 Large Jack Hawkins tomatoes – use beef or other large varieties as alternative

4 cloves garlic – keep skin on

1 romano red pepper – remove seeds and stalk

3-4 round tomatoes

4 large Tiger prawns – devein in shell, keep head on. Trim legs and feelers with scissors

180g tinned white crab meat – drain before use

8-10 basil leafs

1-2 tbsp. chopped fresh flat leaf parsley

100ml dry white wine – choose one which works with shellfish

2-3 tbsp. olive oil

Sea salt – generous pinch plus extra to taste

Black peppercorn mill

1 tsp brown sugar

 

Method: Start by roasting the red pepper, garlic, 1 jack Hawkins tomato and the round tomatoes in a hot oven (approx. 200°C) for 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Once cooled remove the skins and the tomato core then add to a mini chopper/food processor and blitz until a smooth sauce is formed.

Remove skin from the second Jack Hawkins tomato, I used a blowtorch, however this could also be done by boiling the tomato in water for 3-4 minutes then placing in a bowl of cold water. Dice this tomato and add to a bowl along with the chopped herbs.

Cook the pasta as per packet instructions until all dente in well salted water. In a deep frying pan heat 2-3 tbsp. of olive oil until very hot, add the prawns and cook for 1-2 minutes on each side – the second they turn pink they are ready, don’t keep cooking them as the residual heat from shells will finish them. Set them aside on a plate ready to add to final dish, retain the oil in pan to cook the sauce.

Add the chopped tomato and herbs to the pan and fry over a medium high heat for 1-2 minutes then add the wine. Stir and fry for a further 2 minutes then pour in the roasted sauce, stir well until combined. Add a generous amount of black pepper, 1 tsp brown sugar and a generous pinch of salt then stir well until combined with the sauce. Add the cooked pasta, mix well then taste for seasoning, add extra if required. Carefully add the crab meat to the top of the pasta sauce and let the steam from the pasta heat the crab for 1-2 minutes then use the back of a spoon and gently mix the crab through the pasta, try to keep the crab chunks intact.

Spoon the pasta into pre-heated pasta bowls then place the cooked prawns interlocking on top. Serve immediately and enjoy!

 

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