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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King Prawn Dhal Curry

King prawns, potatoes and carrots in a delicious spiced lentil and tomato curry sauce.

A easy to make curry dish guaranteed to impress your friends and family – they won’t believe you didn’t pick it up from your local Indian restaurant.

Serve with choice of rice or Indian bread.

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Serves two

Preparation and cooking time around 1 hour

 

Ingredients and method

200-250g raw king prawns – devein, butterfly

100g peeled new potatoes – cut into small pieces to cook quickly

5-6 round vine tomatoes – cut into quarters

75g red spilt lentils – rinse thoroughly until water runs clear

1 medium/large carrot – peel and thinly slice into discs

2 tbsp. vegetable oil

1 tsp mustard seeds

2 medium size white onions – peel and dice

2 medium size red onions – peel and dice

1 small bulb of garlic – peel, crush

15-20g ginger – peel, thinly slice

1 heaped dessert spoon sliced Almond

2 bay leaves

5 cardamom pods

5 cloves

1/2 tsp cumin seeds

1/2 tsp ground turmeric

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1/4 tsp ground fenugreek

80g red split lentils – rinse thoroughly

1 tsp salt – plus extra to taste

water – see method

20-25g butter – cut into cubes

2-3 tbsp. chopped coriander leaf

Note: You require a stick blender (or glass blender) for this recipe

 

Method: Start by boiling the potatoes for 7-8 minutes , then drain them and set aside ready to add to the curry.

In a deep pan heat 2 tbsp. vegetable oil over a medium high heat and add a teaspoon of mustard seeds. Let the oil heat until the mustard seeds start popping like popcorn. Add the onions and fry for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally until the onions start to colour. Add the garlic, ginger, bay leaves, cardamom, cloves, tomatoes and sliced almonds and stir through the fried onions. Next add half a teaspoon of cumin seeds, ground turmeric, ground coriander and a quarter of  ground fenugreek. Stir well and fry the mixture for 4-5 minutes.

Next add the washed lentils and stir well, then add enough water to completely submerge the mixture (I added 2 and a half mugs of water) and a teaspoon of salt. Stir well, bring to the boil, then simmer for 20 minutes, stirring frequently.  After this remove the bay leaves, cardamom pods and cloves from the sauce and blend into a smooth sauce.

Add the cooked potatoes and the thinly sliced carrot (these are both cut into small pieces so they cook quickly) and gently simmer in the sauce for 10-15 minutes, stirring frequently as lentils can stick to pans and burn. Taste test the sauce – you may want to add more salt or add more water, depending upon how thick you like your sauce. If your sauce is too runny simply continue to simmer until it reduces to your preference.

When the sauce add the cubes of butter and stir them into the sauce, this will add flavour and the classic gleam to the curry sauce. Complete the dish by adding 1 tbsp. of chopped coriander and the raw king prawns – let them gently poach in the sauce and serve as soon as they turn from grey to pink.

Ladle into bowls and garnish with the rest of the chopped coriander, 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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Easy Homemade Bread

A simple recipe for great tasting homemade bread.

Its hard to beat fresh baked bread, but its not hard to bake with this easy to follow recipe. I have made a round loaf, however you can use a loaf tin to make a traditional shaped loaf if you wish, or roll it into a baguette shape if you wish.

This loaf is beat eaten on the same day, however it freezes well and also makes awesome toast the next day.

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Ingredients and method

500g strong white bread flour (plus extra for dusting)
7g sachet of fast acting yeast
2 teaspoon of salt
3-4 tablespoon olive oil (plus a small drop to oil bowl)
300ml warm water

You require a large mixing bowl, damp tea towel, flat surface to kneed, a sieve, baking parchment, baking tray and a cooling rack. A serrated bread knife is helpful for slicing.

As a ‘cheat’ you can use a food mixer or food processor with dough hook to kneed the bread.

Method: Start by sieving the flour into a mixing bowl then add the salt and yeast, mix well. Form a well in the centre then add the olive oil and the water then mix well with your hands. If the dough is stiff add 1-2 teaspoons of water to soften it. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured flat surface then kneed the dough until it is stretched and has a slightly silky appearance (you can use dough hook on appliance for this step).  Lightly oil the mixing bowl then add the dough, cover with a damp tea towel and set aside for 60-90 minutes (until doubled in size). Before shaping, knock back the dough (use fist to knock air out of risen dough), then shape the dough into a ball on a lightly floured surface then transfer onto a baking tray lined with baking parchment. Lightly dust with flour then use a knife to make a pattern – cut a few cm deep in a diagonal or criss-cross pattern.  Heat oven to 200°C fan assisted (220°c non fan), then bake for 25 minutes until golden brown. Use the tap test to check it is ready, tap bottom of loaf and if it sounds hollow it is ready. Transfer to a baking tray to cool before slicing.

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Char Grilled Pepper and Butternut Squash Soup

Delicious, healthy spicy soup with grilled peppers, tomatoes and butternut squash

Soups are a speciality of mine and this is one of my best. A flavour base of garlic, red onion, white onion, carrot and chilli is fried in a little oil along with some spices. Mixed peppers are separately grilled to bring out their deep flavours. Butternut squash and tomatoes are added to the fried mixture, then the peppers, some stock and herbs.  After a short simmer the mixture is blended into a smooth delicious soup.

 

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Butternut squash and char grilled pepper soup

This recipe gives 4 large servings

Preparation 10-15 minutes

Cooking time 60 minutes

Ingredients

2 white onions – peeled roughly chopped

2 red onions – peeled roughly chopped

1 large red chilli – sliced (add extra if you want it hot!)

2 sticks celery – sliced

4-6 carrots – peeled, sliced

6 cloves garlic – peeled, crushed

1 large red bell pepper – deseeded, cut into chunks

1 large green bell pepper – deseeded, cut into chunks

1 butternut squash – peeled, deseeded, cut into small pieces

2 litres vegetable stock

3 bay leaf

1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley

2-3 dessert spoons brown sugar (to taste)

1-2 teaspoons salt (to taste)

1 teaspoon crushed black pepper

6-8 basil leaves – retain 2 to thinly slice for garnish

400g tin chopped tomatoes

1 teaspoon paprika

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

2 tablespoons olive oil

You require a hand blender, grill pan and a deep stock pot.

Get cooking

 

  1. Start by heating the grill pan, then add the peppers. Drizzle a little Olive oil over the peppers then grill, turning occasionally, for approx 10 minutes. You want the peppers to blacken and soften to bring out their deep flavours. Once cooked remove from the grill pan and set aside to add to soup later.
  2. Now heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in the stock pot over a medium heat. Once hot add the garlic, chilli and bay leaf and fry them in the oil, stirring frequently, for 2-3 minutes to help flavour the oil.
  3. Next add the sliced celery, carrot, red onion and white onion. Keep on a medium heat and stir fry for 7-8 minutes until the mixture softens. Add a little extra olive oil if the mixture starts to stick to the pan- colour is fine but you do not want the flavour base to stick to bottom of pan and burn as this will be effect the flavour.
  4. Next add the butternut squash and the grilled peppers, stir well. Add  a teaspoon of salt and a generous amount of freshly ground black pepper. Stir and fry for a further 5 minutes.
  5. Then add 1 tablespoon chopped fresh parsley, 1 teaspoon paprika, 1 teaspoon smoked paprika, half teaspoon ground coriander and half teaspoon dried oregano. Stir well and fry for 3-4 minutes. It is vital not to burn the spices so if the mixture sticks to pan add a little water to loosen it.
  6. Add the chopped tomatoes, stir well and allow to cook for a further 3-4 minutes.
  7. Next add the stock and stir well – make sure you scape all the residue on the sides of the pan into the stock as they give flavour to the soup. Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer, cover with a lid and cook on a low heat for 30 minutes.
  8. After 30 minutes, remove lid and stir well. If you can remove the bay leafs, and scrape any residue on the pan sides back into the soup.
  9. Use a hand blender to form a smooth soup, alternatively transfer to a glass blender or food processor to do the same.
  10. Serve in large bowls and garnish with a little sliced basil leaf. Enjoy!