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Monday, 18 May 2015

18–Keith Abel, Veg Box Companion - Cooking the Books

 

Starter:   Globe Artichokes with Garlic Butter Dip

Main:      Undercover Onion Tart

Dessert:  Rhubarb Compote

abel and cole

My fortnightly veg. box has quickly grown to a veg., fruit, meat and fish box...which eliminates the need for a weekly shop and I just pop into the supermarket to pick up essentials such as bread and milk, making it oh so less stressful and time consuming! Accompanying the initial box came a recipe book to help me use those veggies well…and it’s one I regularly turn to.
The recipes from the free book also include meat and fish, and I find are vital, especially when using up the little bits and bobs you have left, or the more unusual veg, although I’ve also begun to create my own, such as Kohlslaw, which uses a kohlrabi instead of cabbage in a simple coleslaw of grated carrot, sliced onion and kohlrabi mixed with shop-bought mayo.

Starter: Globe Artichokes with Garlic Butter Dip

Easiness: 8/10

Taste: 8/10

Make again: 8/10

Cheats & Changes: none

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The start this week is globe artichokes, something I first had aged around 15 whilst in Switzerland on exchange. They family served steamed artichokes with a Dijon dressing, which were absolutely delicious but completed alien! Since then, I've always fancied trying them out myself, but the Abel and Cole recipe gave an easy melted butter and garlic dip. Steam the artichokes until the base stem is soft, crush garlic and melt with butter and salt. Tear each petal leaf by leaf and dip the base, the bit that is part of the heart, into the sauce, scraping off the flesh with your teeth...very animal! Once the leaf flesh has been demolished, remove the hairy 'choke' and quarter the heart, dipping this too. I'll be trying this again, especially since F asked the next day for another one, but with the Dijon dressing as I think the vinegar will really help lift the flavours, but the garlic butter was good too. Recipe here

Main: Undercover Onion Tart

Easiness: 7/10

Taste: 8/10

Make again: 8/10

Cheats & Changes: used half leeks, half onions

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Main course is onion tart, mainly because I have all the ingredients to hand and it'll serve well as a lunch dish to take cold to work. This was the first time I’ve made a proper savoury homemade pastry, life’s too short in general, but I’ll certainly be doing it again as it was so simple and worked a treat. The base was crisp – no soggy bottoms here – and the pastry short. I used half leeks as only had one onion left, and it could do with a little more crème fraiche, but really was delicious. As I was making it, I wanted to top with halved asparagus spears too, but refrained, sticking to as much of the recipe as i could to check it worked, and it did. This was definitely a perfect summer-time tea. Check out the Abel and Cole website here for the recipe.

Dessert: Rhubarb Compote

Easiness: 10/10

Taste: 9/10

Make again: 8/10

Cheats & Changes: none

rhu1

Dessert is a simple rhubarb compote which is very versatile. I’m using mine to top some homemade meringue, something I’m usually rubbish as making, but seem to have the knack if I use the KitchenAid! The recipe is a simple and fast jammy mixture which you can use in many different ways…how about a base for crumble, or as part of a summer Mess with natural yoghurt swirled with icing sugar? Or even a little dollop in the glass before topping with Prosecco? I’ll leave the rest of the ideas to you, the recipe’s here. Put chopped rhubarb, sugar, half a vanilla pod and a little water into the pan and soften for around 10-15 minutes. Drain and retain the syrup to use as cordial. Thanks to Angela and Bella for the rhubarb – I’ll pop a jar of the compote round!

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Friday, 15 May 2015

17–Alice Hart, Alice’s Cook Book - Cooking the Books

 

Starter:   Sticky Tamarind Chicken Wings

Main:      Lamb, Courgette & Halloumi Burgers

Dessert:  Honey’s Raspberry Turnovers

Alice Cooks
I've had this book for a few years now. It was originally sent to me by the publishers as a sample copy, and I've since cooked a few things. The recipes are that little bit different, and unusual, but generally seem to work (apart from a cake disaster I remember!) Anyway, this time, I chose recipes I haven't tried before...sticky wings, lamb, courgette and halloumi burgers, raspberry turnovers served with the simplest vanilla icecream you'll ever make, which I’ll post at a later date.

Starter: Sticky Tamarind Chicken Wings

Easiness: 8/10

Taste: 10/10

Make again: 10/10

Cheats & Changes: none – though I couldn’t find ‘fresh’ tamarind, so used a little pot of it already mixed from Tesco and added the whole pot. Skip the stage in the recipe where the tamarind is mixed with water.

These were a case of combining, leaving and roasting. My only quibble was finding free range chicken wings. The supermarkets tend to see and sell wings as a ‘cheap’ box of leftovers, and are, therefore, usually part of their value range. I did hesitate, and before cooking again, will attempt to find a higher welfare box of wings. Combine tamarind, groundnut oil ( I used olive) , runny honey, dark muscovado sugar, soy sauce, grated fresh ginger, squashed garlic cloves and chilli flakes. Pop into a bag with the wings and leave to marinate after giving everything a good squash together. Roast in a single layer at 190 degrees c for 30 minutes.

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I prepped a batch of these and left in the fridge ready to watch the boxing a couple of weeks ago and they went down a treat! So much so that family in Mexico felt to urge for wings as well and had to order some in! The recipe is here, but it’s really one of those where leaving out one ingredients, or swapping for another, won’t really alter the flavours drastically, and it’ll still be delish!

Main: Lamb, Courgette & Halloumi Burgers

Easiness: 8/10

Taste: 8/10

Make again: 8/10

Cheats & Changes: none

Try to use the best lamb mince you can for the burgers as this way you'll get a softer, more 'falley apart' burger. It's a case of combining, then cooking the ingredients, (courgette with the water squished out, lamb, halloumi, mint) so really not a lot to it, apart from grating the courgette and halloumi. The Greek yoghurt dip with mint is a classic combination with lamb and, therefore, obviously works really well. Even my little one wolfed down her burger with dip...the first burger she's actually enjoyed! The link is here.

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Dessert: Honey’s Raspberry Turnovers

Easiness: 10/10

Taste: 9/10

Make again: 10/10

Cheats & Changes: none

For the raspberry turnovers, again, it's not hard. Cut pre-bought, pre-rolled puff pastry squares, fill with raspberries and a sprinkling of sugar, glue together with milk or egg and varnish the top before baking on high for 20 minutes. If you need a recipe it's here, but it really is a case of assemblage!

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All in all, this little gem surprised me! All three recipes were quick and easy, especially compared to the disaster of a raspberry cake I had previously tried, and all were delicious. I’ll definitely be digging it out again in the near future!

 Alice's Cookbook - Paperback - 9781844008889 - Alice Hart

 

Friday, 1 May 2015

16 – Nigella Lawson, Nigella Bites – Cooking the Books

 

Starter:   Halloumi with Chilli

Main:      Salmon with Greens and Shitake Mushrooms

Dessert:  Orange Breakfast Muffins

Nigella Bites

What did the cheese say when he looked in the mirror?

Hallo – me

Anyway, if you’ve got a better cheese joke, then feel free to comment it below! Sure there’s one about a bear in a tree, hiding donkeys, and so on and so forth!

This week was Nigella’s turn. Everything always looks so delicious when she cooks and I’ve never bought or used Halloumi before. The main was chosen simply because I have much salmon available after buying it half price from Tesco and filleting myself – why not have a go? It’s not a difficult as it sounds, I promise, and you get so many fillets which you can cut to whichever size you’d like.

Starter: Halloumi with Chilli

Easiness: 10/10

Taste: 7/10

Make again: 5/10

Cheats & Changes: none

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I used a block of Halloumi, 1tbsp extra virgin olive oil and 1tbsp finely chopped red chilli without seeds. Slice the cheese into the thickness of a pound coin. Pop into a hot, dry frying pan and leave to turn golden. Flip so each side is evenly cooked. Meanwhile, combine the chilli and oil. As soon as the slices of cheese are ready, serve on a plate and pour the chilli oil over. Serve immediately while hot.

This last part was where we went wrong. Mine were cooked, drizzled and ready but my husband wasn’t! Therefore, when it came to the eating, the cheese was rather hard and squeaked on the teeth! I’d advise immediate eating in future.

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Main:

Easiness: 9/10

Taste: 8/10

Make again: 8/10 Very quick and simple

Cheats & Changes: I didn’t have any soy, the main flavouring, but thought it would work well with some Hoi Sin marinade I had in the cupboard, which it did. I added green and purple mange tout too.

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The recipe for this is stupidly easy. Fry or grill the salmon, remove from pan and keep warm. Throw your pak choi, Asian greens, stalks and sliced shiitake mushrooms into the pan with a splash of soy sauce to taste. Now, there’s usually a bottle of this hiding, with a sticky lid and sticky base at the back of the cupboard in our house, but this night, it wasn’t to be so. So I improvised and used a similar jar of hoi sin marinade instead! First I marinated the salmon with that and some grated ginger (keep pieces in the freezer and grate straight from there!) then followed the recipe, throwing in some green and purple mange tout that was left in the bottom of the fridge too.

If you’ve got greens and salmon, it’s a really quick dinner. Noodles would be an lovely extra addition to bulk it out a bit more. The flavours I used worked well, but see no reason it wouldn’t be nearly as tasty with the soy, a grating of ginger and a sprinkle of lime.

Dessert:

Easiness: 8/10

Taste: 9/10

Make again: 9/10

Cheats & Changes: I used clementines, also mainly plain flour as I didn’t have enough s.r. flour, so added extra bicarb. Used OJ from concentrate, not freshly squeezed as suggested!

I know, I know…I’ve made it for dessert, but it’s name suggests a breakfast item. Well, yes. It’s cakey, muffiny, and hot with custard for pudding would be perfect. Nigella, however, eats hers warm from the oven, torn open and slathered with butter and jam. I don’t know how she does it, I really don’t! I did have mine for breakfast, gently warmed in the microwave, but I decided they probably already had enough calories without me decadently adding any more!

Ingredients:

75g unsalted butter

250g s.r. flour

25g ground almonds

1/2 tsp bicarb of soda

1 tsp baking powder

75g caster sugar

zest 1 orange

100ml orange juice

100ml full fat ilk

1 egg

Method:

Preheat oven to 200 degrees c.

Melt the butter and set aside. Tip flour, almonds, bicarb, baking powder, sugar and zest into a large bowl. In a jug, pour the OJ, milk, egg and cooled melted butter. Whisk a little to combine. Pour the liquid ingredients into the powders. mixing with a fork. Don’t be tempted to do this in a processor, KitchenAid, or with an electric mixer…just combine with a fork until the flour is only just mixed in. It should be a little lumpy and never overworked! Spoon into the muffin cases and bake for 20 mins. Voila!

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They really were good, and perfect to take into work for breakfast with a cup of coffee once you’re there. (Oh yes, I may have added chocolate chips to some of them by accident – the packet sort of spilled out of my hand into the mixture!)

Saturday, 25 April 2015

15 – Your M&S Cookbook – Cooking the Books

 

Starter:   Spiced Beef and Orange Koftas with Sunshine Salsa

Main:      Sticky Spiced Duck with Apple

Dessert:  Gingerbread Squares with Lemon Drizzle

m&s cookbook

Starter: Spiced Beef and Orange Koftas with Sunshine Salsa

Easiness: 8/10, especially if you already have pesto

Taste: 9/10

Make again: 9/10

Cheats & Changes: leek and coriander seed instead of onion and coriander leaf

You could easily make a quick flatbread to serve these with if you’re not pushed for time, or else and toasted pitta would do the job. In fact, the pitta recipe is great and works every time, creating a lovely pocket inside to pop the kofta into.

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The salsa is grated orange zest added to segmented orange, mixed with chopped tomatoes, chopped fresh coriander, olive oil and salt and pepper. For the kofta, add orange zest, finely chopped onions, minced beef, harissa, fresh chopped coriander, pine nuts, salt & pepper (all to taste) and egg and mix well. Shape around wooden skewers that have been soaked in water first to prevent burning. Pop under a hot grill, turning regularly, for around 12 minutes until cooked through. Serve with the salsa and warmed pittas. DSC_0554

When making, I found that the mixture was already quite sticky before adding the egg, but added it nonetheless to follow the recipe. This meant, however, that the mixture didn’t really stick to the sticks as it should have so just beware. If it’s already a sticky mixture, there’s really no need to add the egg.  As usual, I found myself beginning without the required ingredients, so substituted onion for finely chopped leek, and coriander leaf for crushed coriander seed, but the flavours were still good. These were truly delicious and something I’m looking forward to doing again in the summer months.

Main: Sticky Spiced Duck with Apple

Easiness: 7/10

Taste: 8/10 Flavours were good. The marinade was delicious

Make again: 4/10 (going up to a 7/10 with the right ingredients!)

Cheats & Changes: I used duck legs rather than breasts to save a bit of money!

Ingredients:

4 duck breasts

4 tbsp dark muscovado sugar

4 tbsp cider vinegar

4 star anise

2 dessert apples

chunk of butter

egg noodles

Method:

Slash the duck skin in a diamond pattern and place in a bag or bowl with the sugar, star anise and vinegar. Leave to marinate for at least 30 minutes.

Give it a good squish to ensure all the duck is coated

Heat a heavy based frying pan til hot and place the breasts skin down until the skin sizzles and begins to crispen. Turn down heat to medium and fry in each side for about 5 minutes. Remove and leave to stand for ten minutes.

Core and thickly slice the apple. Remove the fat from the pan but leave the sticky goodness. Add a chunk of butter and fry the apple slices, adding any leftover marinade, and bubble for a minute until sticky.

Cook the noodles, and serve everything, drizzling any leftover juice from the apple pan over the top.

First off, this would work much better with duck breast: if you’re going to use leg, I suggest a low, slow cook so the meat falls off the bone. I tried to combine the two and failed miserably. I also used rice noodles instead of egg which were disgusting. All in all, not a very successful meal but edible, just about. If you actually used the ingredients suggested, it would have been much, much tastier. The apples were yummy!

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Dessert: Gingerbread Squares with Lemon Drizzle

Easiness: /10

Taste: /10

Make again: /10

Cheats & Changes: none

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Ingredients:

175g s.r. flour

1tbsp ground ginger

2 eggs

100g light muscovado sugar

4tbsp black treacle

4 tbsp milk

4tbsp sunflower oil

Method:

Grease and line a 19cm square cake tin and preheat oven to 180 degrees c.

Beat together eggs, sugar, treacle, milk and oil.

In a separate bowl, sift the flour and ginger.

Make a well in the powders and beat in the liquids until thoroughly combined and lumpless.

Pour into the tin and bake for 25/30 mins. Leave to cool for 5 minutes before turning out on a cooling rack.

Mix some icing sugar, water and lemon juice to a thick paste that you can drizzle over the cake.

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This was quite a runny mixture, but rose nicely and turned out well. Mine was a little bitter, probably due to the fact that the treacle I used had been half used and in the cupboard for a few years (!) but was good, especially with the lemon drizzle on top. I used real zest and a little juice rather than the extract as per the recipe and gave it a proper coating, not just a few lines. Once cut into small squares, it doesn't last too long so this is a cake for either sharing, or wrapping tightly and cutting one square at a time!

The recipe that lasts, and the one I’ll be making this summer, is definitely the koftas as you can play around with the flavourings according to what you’ve got in the cupboard at the time.

Thursday, 2 April 2015

Lea & Perrins Lasagne

I was contacted by Lea & Perrins recently to see if I’d like to test out one of their recipes. Of course, I said yes as it sounded like a fantastic opportunity to have a go at something I think I’ve got down to a T … lasagne. I have a very simple but tasty version of this that I’ve developed over the years and it always works well, so I was interested to give a different version a try out, especially since it involved several ‘dashes’ of the Worcestershire Sauce itself.

Lea & Perrins Hamper

The hamper of ingredients arrived and I was excited to get cracking, although once I’d turned out everything, never have I seen so many ingredients in rode to make one lasagne. My version sticks to the mains – beef, tomatoes, puree and a basic cheese sauce with added wholegrain mustard. The Lea & Perrins version is based more on a classic Italian Ragu with small chunks of carrot and celery running through it, added pancetta and a combination of Parmesan and Mozzarella. You can find the recipe, and many others using Lea & Perrins here.

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Although I don’t usually stick to quantities, I followed this recipe exactly, despite the fact it left out the part where I actually had to add the diced carrot and celery to the pan…the cook in me thought this step might be needed though, so I threw them in anyway after dicing at Step 2.

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Essentially you fry off pancetta, minced beef, onion, celery and carrot. Add tinned tomatoes, tomato puree, red wine, Worcestershire sauce, beef stock and leave to simmer. Meanwhile, make the white sauce. Now, this is something I might do again, as the addition of a clove studded onion really lifted the flavours of the sauce.

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Once the ragu has been slowly simmering for at least an hour, layer up your lasagne beginning with the meat. Top each layer with lasagne sheets, white sauce, torn mozzarella, parmesan and basil leaves.

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The recipe suggests leaving the top layer of lasagne free of white sauce and just using cheese, but I had a little leftover, so spread a thin layer on top and well as cheese instead.

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It seemed to work as well. Bake in the oven until browned and bubbling.

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Although taking longer to prep. than my usual lasagne, it was tasty and we particularly enjoyed the pancetta cubes and, as I said, flavour of the white sauce. What the Lea & Perrins did was sweeten up the usual bitterness of the tomatoes and whereas I normally add a small teaspoon of sugar, the Worcestershire sauce really did the trick and added another layer of flavour besides.

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Would I be bothered with all the ingredients and quantities next time? Probably not, but I’d certainly use ideas from this, including the Lea & Perrins rather than the sugar and the cloved onion, in my own version.

Disclaimer: Although I was sent products to try for the purpose of this post, all views and opinions are entirely my own, truthful and honest.

Tuesday, 31 March 2015

14–Carluccio & Contaldo–Two Greedy Italians–Cooking the Books

two greedy italians 

Starter:   Testaroli with Pesto 

Main:      Merluzzo in Crosta (cod with tomato crust) 

Dessert:  Lemon Granita

Whilst trying to find seem thing different in my recipe books this week, it appears I have far more than my fair share of Italian based ideas. One of these is from the Two Greedy Italians. Otherwise known as Gennaro Contaldo, Jamie's friend and mentor, and Antonio Carluccio. With the things I had in the fridge and the standard store cupboard staples, I found myself rather limited for choice this week. Rather than a starter, I've gone for a 'primo' plate, often a pasta plate or more substantial starter.

Starter: Testaroli con Pesto

Easiness: 8/10, especially if you already have pesto

Taste: 8/10

Make again: 4/10 – if you’ve got pasta, you may as well use that instead.

Cheats & Changes: none

This testaroli is a dish often made by the poorer Italian from the Lunigiana region, and it combines only water, flour and salt and ends up more like a pancake batter than a pasta as such. Let's call it a cross between gnocchi, pasta and pancakes. And since it's meant to be served with a plain and simple sauce, I did as suggested and used pesto, the same I used for Jamie's white risotto, as one jar goes a long way!

Sieve a pinch of salt and 350g plain flour. Whisk in 300 ml water little by little, then add 2 tbs olive oil. In a hot, greased pan, fry these in pancake type rounds, then slice. Pop into a pot of boiling, salted water until they rise to the top. Pour your chosen flavour over the top and serve sprinkled with a little cheese.

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If you have pasta to hand, you’d be as well using that, but this did serve as a quick alternative if the cupboard is bare.

Main: Merluzzo in Crosta

Easiness: 7/10

Taste: 8/10

Make again: 8/10

Cheats & Changes: none

The main is a simple cod which I'll serve with potato dauphinois and a green salad: merluzzo in crosta. You combine stale bread, sundried tomatoes, black olives and salt and pepper in a processor until it all resembles breadcrumbs. Splash a little white wine and olive oil over the cod fillets and bake at 150 for five minutes. Then add the topping and bake again for ten mins or until the fish is just cooked through. Serve with greens and whatever else you'd like.

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This was a lovely spring / summer dish and had a fresh, healthy feel to it for once, especially after all those rich stews. It was really lovely and one I’ll definitely make again.
 

Dessert: Lemon Granita

Easiness: 8/10

Taste:10 /10

Make again: 10/10

Cheats & Changes: none

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Dessert is more of a palette cleanser served in between courses but you can always serve it as a light, fresh dessert: lemon granita. Add half a litre of water and 300g sugar to the pan and heat until it's beginning to turn syrupy, about ten minutes. Remove from heat and stir in half a litre of strained lemon juice, about 6-8 lemons, then leave for at least half an hour, stirring occasionally. Add the grated zest of one lemon and stir again. Tip into a plastic tub and freeze, every half an hour, remove and mix with a fork to break up the ice crystals. Now, this is where you need to have planned ahead and made sure you'll be at home for a few hours as this should be done over the cruise of about four hours, every thirty minutes! Once finished, you can leave it in the freezer until ready to serve.

This was really, really nice. Much more so than expected. It gave an instant hit of sugar, so much so that you thought it was going to be too sweet. Then the sour zest hit you and the sweetness was replaced. You were left with a refreshed feeling! I’ll make this again for a quick between-courses refresher, but maybe use a little less sugar.

Sunday, 22 March 2015

13–Jamie Oliver, Jamie’s Italy – Cooking the Books

Starter:     Baked Mushrooms stuffed with Ricotta

Main:        White Risotto

Dessert:    Vanilla Ice-cream with Olive Oil and Sea Salt

Jamie's Italian

Starter: Baked Mushrooms stuffed with Ricotta

Easiness: 9/10

Taste: 9/10

Make again:9 /10

Cheats & Changes: none

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I do like a stuffed mushroom! And this was no exception. Again, you know the flavours are going to work before you begin and it’s one of those things that when you’ve made a few different versions of it, you sort of come up with your own version based on the ingredients you have to hand. Jamie mixed chilli, lemon zest, parmesan, salt and pepper with ricotta, stuffed the mushrooms, sprinkled a little more parmesan on top and baked until bubbling. We used little mushrooms as served as ‘canapés’ and just popped them into our mouths. The recipe is here but you can really do your own version.

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Main: White Risotto with Pesto

Easiness: 6/10

Taste: 8/10

Make again: 7/10 – but I’ll definitely make the pesto again

Cheats & Changes: none

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I came across this recipe whilst looking for a pesto sauce to have with some homemade ravioli – made in the KitchenAid but hand finished as I think the ravioli attachment just looks too clumsy to be worthwhile using it. Much easier to lay one sheet on top of the other and cut around by hand. Whatever you do, don’t bother buying the Kitchen Craft single ravioli cutter – it doesn’t cut and is absolutely useless. You’d be far better buying a ravioli wheel cutter instead.

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Anyway, I digress! I still have a jar of the pesto left, so this seemed the ideal recipe with which to use it. A simple white onion based risotto. The pesto is just blitzing the usual pesto ingredients and altering to you own to your own taste: pine nuts, basil, garlic, parmesan, olive oil, a squeeze of lemon juice if you like, salt and pepper. Jamie’s recipe is here, but it really is a question of taste. The risotto is also a very simple combination of onion, celery and garlic, cooked soffrito (slowly until softening but not coloured). The recipe is here, but if you’re used to making your own usual risotto, you can use that. Once they’ve softened, ad the rice and leave for as long as possible before it starts to catch. Pour in wine and leave until it’s a,most bubbled away. Add the stock, ladle by ladle until it’s been absorbed. At the end, remove from the heat and stir in a large knob of butter and grated parmesan. Leave for a couple of minutes with a lid on to go all gooey. Dollop a large spoonful of the pesto on top and serve with toasted pine nuts sprinkled over.

If you’re going to make a risotto, and you have a jar of pesto at the ready, homemade or otherwise, this is really quick, simple and, more importantly, tasty.
 

Dessert: Vanilla Ice Cream with Olive Oil and Sea Salt

Easiness: 10/10

Taste: 10/10

Make again: 10/10

Cheats & Changes: none

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I think this is the first ‘full house’ 30/30 I’ve given! Jamie himself admits to this being an unusual combination and one you have to try to believe it can work. What you do need to make sure is that all your three ingredients are superb quality. I’m using Carte D’Or vanilla ice-cream, a delicious Abel and Cole extra virgin olive oil and Maldon sea salt. Very, very tasty. No more standard vanilla for us!

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