Tag Archives: recipe

Penne al Pistacchio

I imagine the humble pistachio to be in many eyes as it is in mine, just a humble snack and occupation for bored hands, occasionally stretching its uses to ice cream and fancy biscuits. Probably with good reason, because for any decent quantity that precious commodity time is required: frustrating, nail-breaking shell-breaking. But that is no excuse not to try this recipe, stick on some music, get something to read, reflect and get cracking. This is such a pleasure to eat, it has an amazing nutty flavour and texture whilst the alcohol lends a sweet almost caramel taste all balanced by the fat and saltiness of the pancetta.

Before writing this I thought hard about whether I should post pasta recipes, for everyone knows about pasta and the web is awash with recipes for every kind of pasta imaginable so should I try and stay away from the obvious? But there is such a beautiful simplicity to pasta in all its forms, the story of fuss and controversy over what started as two ingredients has endured over 1000 years and is one full of myth and lore.. It just fascinates me. So I will continue sharing this love here, aiming for the more obscure, unknown and unique dishes from Italy; simple yet interesting and full of flavour and obviously true to the generations of Italians cooking it beforehand.

This recipe is taken from Al Dente by William Black, a truly inspiring read for anyone even slightly interested in Italy and its food. The recipes contained are usually straight from an Italian ‘nonna’ and left unadulterated, so you know it’s the real thing.

As for ingredients in this one, I have read brandy can be substituted for dark rum; I used Jerez and some use white wine. I can’t think of many places that offer a large range, but if you do, aim for the flavoursome Sicilian Bronte variety, whose wonderful red shell gives way to the greenest of nuts – the true King of Pistachios. And feel free to point me in the direction of some more recipes using these please!

Penne al Pistacchio

serves 4

400g penne

30g unsalted butter

1 onion, chopped finely

2 garlic cloves, chopped finely

50g pancetta, diced

1 tablespoon reduced chicken stock

50g pistachios, finely chopped or given a quick whizz in a blender.

100 ml brandy

200ml single cream

salt and pepper

Cook the penne in the normal way until al dente.

Meanwhile, in a large pan on a medium heat melt butter and soften onions, adding garlic after 3 minutes and making sure only slight caramelisation occurs.

Add the pancetta then the stock and a ladel of pasta water. Cook for 5 minutes more. Check the penne.

Stir in pistachios (reserve a sprinkling as a garnish, add brandy and flame with a long match.

Add cream and season to taste then add drained pasta to pan stirring for 1 minute.
Serve.

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Summer is Coming – Home-dried Tomatoes

Welcome news to start this week for all those living in the UK with the prospect of some sun and balmy heights of 25C before the end of the week (well done to the Guardian for putting a downer on things for those living in Scotland though). Underused BBQ’s will be dragged out of sheds throughout the country, Pimm’s opened and pasty bodies exposed as summer finally arrives.

The weekend just gone here in Valencia was hot, nothing unusual there, clocking 34C on Saturday but for me it was the start of Summer with my first BBQ of the year. Prawns with alioli, squid, garlic and rosemary butterflied leg of lamb, chorizos and of course bananas on the coals. What it did miss however was some tomatoes, not your bland supermarket tomato, nor the popular sun-dried tomato (whose texture or taste is really not that great when bought in a jar?), but the semi-dry, over-priced, full-flavoured morsels of goodness that are sun-blushed tomatoes.  Ok so done in the oven isn’t the same as the sun, but let’s not put too much confidence in British weather to stay good and leave them outside, besides when these come out you won’t be going to that deli counter any more.

Get to a grocer or market this weekend and grab a few kilos of very ripe tomatoes, preferably English as imported ones will lack that sweet-savoury caramel flavour that comes from being picked ripe. Even better if you have a bumper garden crop.

I used this recipe from the brilliant Heston Blumenthal at home, a must-have book for any ambitious home cook. The flavours are pretty provencal but obviously this type of recipe calls for individual taste so play around with herbs  and quantities to personal taste. The recipe forms part of a tomato tart which is  probably the best I have ever eaten, think tapenade, caramelised onions, pesto… salivating?

Removing the pulp and seeds first means a shorter time in the oven, and in my opinion removing the skin first leaves such a lovely, smooth texture at the end which is very worth the effort (for less hassle and less pleasure just leave them be, season and dry for 4-5 hours instead).

Oven-dried tomatoes 

medium to large very ripe tomatoes

cloves of garlic, peeled and finely sliced

bay leaves, finely sliced

thyme sprigs

salt

caster sugar

olive oil

  • Peel tomatoes.
  • Cut in half and scoop out pulp and seeds.
  • Drain on kitchen paper for around 2 hours.
  • Oven at 100C.
  • Line baking tray(s) with parchment , place tomatoes cut-side up and add to each some garlic, bay and thyme. Season with salt and sugar.
  • Drizzle with olive oil and place in oven for 3 hours.

After 3 hours the result should be a dry but soft tomato, for me the texture was almost that of a dried apricot but less chewy. Eat that day drizzled with some good oil or store in a sterilized jar covered with oil – find endless uses for these in pastas, salads, tarts etc.. enjoy!

Razor Clams with Chorizo and Samphire

Adapted from the Scott’s of London dish

I served this dish as a starter as part of a 6-course dinner, it wasn’t originally planned but the sea urchins for my planned starter weren’t available at the market (typical having just read an article on having a plan B for dinner parties and thinking I would never need one because I lived next to Europe’s largest food market).

Comparing this effort to my last one showed how much more refined I had become in my cooking style. Using these ingredients it is easy to overuse one aspect and unbalance the flavours of the dish so less really is more:

  • A fresh and delicately flavoured shellfish
  • An oily and intensely flavoured chorizo
  • A salty and easily spoilt green

This dish really does exhibit how the best quality ingredients can make a dish. The chorizo required won’t be found next to the sausages in your local supermarket, it needs to be a semi-dry one. I chose a chorizo from ‘Jamon Iberico de Bellota’  (the pig used to make the world’s best ham – it really is the best money can buy and goes a long way, 3 sausages between 7 people). So make the effort to go to the nearest deli in search of them or try ordering from Brindisa in London. The fat rendered creates such a rich and simple sauce so have some bread handy to mop it up.

Also this is great for dinner parties as the clams can be prepared hours in advance and re-heated in the oven when ready to serve.

Razor Clams with Chorizo and Samphire
serves 4

1kg of razor clams
half a glass of white wine
small handful of parsley
3 garlic cloves
salt

3 semi-dry chorizos cut into 1/4″ thick coins
30g Butter

handful of samphire/ sea asparagus

Oven at 180C

  • Rinse the clams under cold water for 10 minutes until clean.
  • Heat the wine, garlic, parsley and salt in a saucepan wide enough to lay the clams.
  • When boiling add clams, shake pan and cover for 2 minutes or until shells open
  • Remove Clams, run under cold water to cool and clean. To clean, remove the darker looking sac from the mussel and discard, reserving the flesh and shell
  • Lay the shells on a roasting tray, one or two per person and replace the flesh (I put two clams in one shell)
  • Drizzle each clam with a teaspoon of stock water left in the pan and place on middle shelf in oven for 10 minutes
  • Meanwhile, add chorizo coins to a frying pan on medium-low heat (NO OIL) render the fat, stirring occasionally and lowering the flame if starting to burn
  • When fat rendered and chorizo cooked (around 8 minutes) remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen towel. To the oil left in the pan add the butter and stir with a small whisk over a medium heat until well combined and thickened
  • To serve: Remove the clams from the oven and plate accordingly, scatter over chorizo, dip samphire into sauce and place then drizzle over sauce as desired.
  • Enjoy!