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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Mexican Prawn and Crab Soup

King prawns and swimming crab in a delicious prawn stock flavoured with tomato, chipotle, guajillo, garlic and bell pepper. Garnished with strips of fried corn tortilla, red onion, sliced chilli, avocado and coriander leaf.

This recipe is far simpler than it looks, and is made in three easy stages – making a prawn shell stock, making a paste to flavour the stock, then adding the meat and the garnishes.

Like all great soups it is important to get the absolute maximum flavour out of the ingredients, the garnishes not only look pretty but add extra flavour and different textures to the dish.

You must use whole raw king prawns for this dish, although tinned crab meat is ok. You require a mini chopper, blender or food processor for this recipe.

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Serves Two people

Preparation and cooking 45-50 minutes

 

Ingredients and method

For the prawn stock

Shells and heads from 250-300g raw king prawns – keep meat separate

1 tbsp. vegetable oil

1 carrot – peel, thinly slice

1 stick celery – thinly slice

1 onion – peel, slice

2 bay leaves

1-2 tbsp. coriander leaf and stalk

1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp fresh ground black pepper

1.25l water

Method: Heat the oil in a large saucepan over a medium high heat. Add the raw prawn shells and stir-fry until they all change from grey to pink. Add the onion, bay, carrot and celery and stir-fry for 4-5 minutes.

Add  the water, bring to the boil, then reduce to a gentle simmer. Add the salt, pepper and coriander and simmer for 15-20 minutes. Allow to cool then strain the stock, ensuring that you squeeze all the juice out of the shells. Set aside for later.

To flavour the stock

3 dried guajillo chillies – soak in water for 30 minutes, discard liquid

3 large round tomatoes

6 cloves garlic – leave skin on, see method

1 large white onion

1 tsp chipotle paste

1 red bell pepper – remove stalk and seeds, cut into quarters

1 fish stock cube – I use knorr stock cubes

Method: Heat a large non stick frying pan over a medium heat until hot. Add the tomatoes, bell peppers, guajillo chillies and the onion. Dry fry these, turning occasionally for 15-20 minutes until they show some colour, then remove on to a chopping board and allow to cool.

Remove the garlic skins, remove the onion skin and quarter the tomatoes. Add all the ingredients into the mini chopper along with 1 tsp chipotle paste. Blitz until a smooth paste is formed.

Warm the stock from earlier over a medium heat, add the flavour paste and the stock cube, stir well until combined, bring to the boil for 10 minutes then reduce to a simmer.

For the Prawns, Crab and garnishes

250-300 Raw King Prawn meat

125-150g tin shredded blue swimming crab meat

Vegetable oil for shallow frying

2 corn tortillas – cut into strips

1 avocado – slice into strips at last minute

1 red onion – diced

1 red chilli – thinly sliced

2-3 tbsp. chopped coriander leaf

Method: Heat the oil to 175-180°c then fry the tortilla strips in small batches until golden and crispy. Only do a few at a time as they cook very quickly. Drain them on absorbent paper and set aside ready to add to the dish.

Prepare the other garnishes – dice the avocado, dice the onion and slice the red chilli, collect together ready to add to the soup.

Bring the soup back to the boil them add the prawns, turn off the heat and let the residual heat poach the prawns. As soon as they turn pink serve the dish.

Ladle the soup and prawns in to deep serving bowls. Add the shredded crab in chunks, add the tortilla strips, onion, avocado, chilli and coriander then serve immediately.

As always more than happy to answer any questions.

 

 

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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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Scottish Mussels in roasted Tomato and Pepper sauce

Rope grown Scottish mussels, cooked in a sauce made from roasted tomato, red pepper, onion, garlic, chilli, fish stock, white wine and coriander.

One of my favourite ways to cook mussels, guaranteed to bring flavour to your diner table. The secret of the flavour comes from the roasted sauce, which brings a rich deeply satisfying flavour to the dish. Serve with some nice sour dough or crusty bread.

Many people are put off cooking mussels at home because they think it is either hard or too time consuming. In reality it is very easy, to prepare the mussels simply rinse them in water, then soak them in water for 10-15 minutes, discarding any that stay open. To clean them scrape any barnacles off the shells and remove the beards by pulling them gently then cut them off with kitchen scissors. Rinse them well under running water, then they are ready to cook – which takes a matter of minutes, and is easy to tell because they open when they are cooked.

Note: to cook this recipe you require a wide, deep pan with a tight fitting lid.

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Serves two people

Preparation 45 minutes, cooking time less than 10 minutes.

 

Ingredients and method

For the roasted tomato sauce:

2 small red onions – roast whole

1 medium white onion – roast whole

1 Romano pepper – remove stalk and seeds

2 red chillies – remove stalk and seeds

4 plum tomatoes

2 round tomatoes

6 cloves garlic

Method: Pre heat your oven to 220°c. Place the tomatoes, onions, chilli, garlic and pepper on the tray and roast for 30 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool. Remove the skins from the tomatoes, chilli, peppers, garlic and onion. Place all in a mini blender or food processor and blitz until a smooth sauce is made.

For the main dish

1 kg rope grown mussels – see opening notes for cleaning instructions

1-2 tbsp. olive oil

1/2 glass dry white wine

500ml fish stock

1 tsp brown sugar

Salt and pepper – to taste

3 tbsp. roughly chopped coriander

Method: Heat 1-2 tbsp. of olive oil in the pan over a medium heat. Add the roasted sauce along with the white wine, fish stock, sugar, black pepper and a little salt – take care not to add too much as there is salt in the stock. Bring to the boil then simmer for 5-10 minutes.

Add the chopped coriander, stir well, then add the cleaned mussels. Increase the heat until sauce starts to bubble then place the lid on the pan, reduce heat slightly and leave to cook for 3 minutes. Carefully remove lid and look at the mussels, they are ready when they open (see picture for example) if necessary replace lid and cook for further minute. It is important not to over cook the mussels as they will turn rubbery.

Ladle into pre warmed bowls and serve straight away with some nice sourdough or crusty bread to soak up the wonderous sauce.

 

 

 

 

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.

 

 

 

 

Spiced Bean Soup

A rich, smokey and spicey soup of vegetables and mixed beans

A simple recipe for a rich, smokey, spicey and deeply flavoursome soup which is as healthy as it is delicious. A flavour base of onion, peas, garlic, carrot and celery is fried in a little olive oil then mixed beans, chipotle paste, spices, herbs, tomato paste and stock are added. Unlike most my soups this one is not blended so it is important to spend a little time cutting the vegetables so that they are all the same size and cook at the same time. The result is a soup with a really satisfying deep flavour – works brilliantly with a nice bacon roll (other fillings are available) or as a starter on its own.

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 This recipe gives 4 large portions

Preparation time 15 minutes, cooking time 45 minutes

 

Ingredients and method

2 tbsp. olive oil

3 white onions – finely diced

3 sticks celery – finely diced

4 cloves garlic – crush finely chopped

50g garden peas

4 carrots – peel, finely diced

400g tin mixed beans (in water) – drain, rinse well

2 bay leafs

1 tsp smoked paprika

1 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp ground coriander

1 tsp chilli powder

2 tsp chipotle paste

2 dessert spoons tomato paste

1 dessert spoon brown sugar

1.5 litres vegetable/chicken stock

2 tbsp. chopped coriander leaf

salt and pepper

Method: Start by heating 2 tbsp. olive oil in a deep stock/soup pot then fry the onion, bay leafs, carrot, garlic, peas and celery for 5-7 minutes until slightly softened. Add the beans, the chipotle and tomato paste and mix well, then add the spices. Stir fry for a further 2 minutes then add in the stock, the chopped coriander, the sugar, a generous amount of black pepper and a little salt. Bring the soup to the boil then reduce to a simmer, cover pot with lid and cook for around 40 minutes. After this carefully remove lid and taste test the seasoning, add a little extra salt or pepper if required. Before serving remove the bay leafs then ladle the soup into bowls. Enjoy.