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Spicy Tomato Pasta with Homegrown Chillies 22 July 2006

Posted by cath in easy, freeze-friendly, mildly spicy, Recipes, summer, variations, very spicy.
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I’ve been growing chillies in the hottest, sunniest window of the house. Yesterday was finally time to try the first fruits.

I’ve got a mixture of red, purpley and still green chillies on the plant, so we tasted a bright red and a green one.

 

chillies fresh from the plant

homegrown chillies

 

An easy dinner, variation on the basic tomato sauce: Spicy Tomato sauce, this one has chorizo, chillies, basil and a ewes milk Parmesan style cheese:

Close up of finished dish

spaghetti with spicy tomato and chorizo sauce

 

First make your basic tomato sauce with 5 or 6 tomatoes per person.

Once the tomato sauce has cooked for an hour, put on the spaghetti in a large pot with plenty of boiling water.

Use about 2 chillies per person, or to taste. Two of my fresh homegrown chillies were sampled – very hot and fiery with a lovely fresh taste and amazing smell, 4 of these in 2 portions gave a pretty spicy dish). The red chili was hot but mellow and slightly sweet, the green chili was slightly hotter and fresher, more zingy in flavour.

You’ll also need a handful of basil, some grated Parmesan-style cheese, pepper and extra virgin olive oil. I’ve also used some chorizo, but this is optional.

 

  1. Finely chop the chillies – seeds and all if you want it properly spicy, add it to the sauce on the heat and continue to cook until the pasta is cooked
  2. Roughly chop the chorizo, if using
  3. One the pasta is cooked, drain it and return to the pan with some olive oil, swirl together
  4. Turn off the heat from the sauce, add chorizo, basil and stir through
  5. Serve the pasta, top with sauce and a sprinkling of cheese and a grind of pepper

Spicy Tomato Pasta

The finished dish

 

Summer Drinks > Iced Coffee 21 July 2006

Posted by cath in drinks, easy, Recipes, summer.
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frothy iced coffee

frothy iced coffee

Iced Coffee

iced coffee

To me, this is the perfect summer drink. Here’s how to make it:

  1. Put on some coffee – I use one of the stove-top espresso makers, quick and easy to use (see below for details…)
  2. When the coffee is done, pour it into a glass jug or mug to help it cool down – if you want sugar in the finished drink, add it now whilst the coffee is hot
  3. Whilst the coffee is cooling you can make the crushed ice – just crush about 4-5 cubes per cup of coffee – I use a manual ice crusher as its only a small amount
  4. Add the crushed ice to some cold milk, add milk to taste, equal milk to coffee is a good starting ratio, you can always add extra milk at the end if required. Use a container with a sealing lid if you have one, or if you want it extra frothy, put the milk and crushed ice into a liquidiser, then blend together with the coffee for 30 seconds or so. If you do this step in advance, keep the milk and ice in the fridge or freezer until you’re coffee is ready and slightly cooled.
  5. When the coffee is slightly cooled, add it to the iced milk put the lid on the container and vigorously shake. If you don’t have a liquidiser or sealed container, then you can just stir everything together. Taste and add extra milk as required.
  6. Serve immediately (or put the jug in the fridge and shake up again before serving

Jug of Iced Coffee

Jug of Iced Coffee

Coffee

A very easy way to make small quantities (2-3 cups) of coffee is in one of the Italian stove-top espresso makers like this one:

Coffee Pot

Coffee Pot

Add a scoop (roughly 1 tbsp) of coffee per cup, more if you like strong espresso, and fill the bottom up with water up to the line (or underneath the valve)

Put it on a medium heat and after a while steam will pour out of the spout and then stop – that’s it – it’s ready!

You can either drink the espresso, or, add hot milk for a cafe au lait, add hot or cold chocolate milk for a mocha, or add hot water and cold milk for a good strong white coffee

…also good for baking cakes, desserts and even chocolate making. Definitely a worthwhile purchase if you don’t have one.

 

And what about buying coffee?

Well, I have to say I buy a mixture of good Fairtrade coffee and fantastically flavoured strong (but pure evil no doubt) Lavazza Gold – mainly coz there isn’t a great supply of Fairtrade espresso ground coffee around here, but also it is good :)

We’re still not grinding our own beans – that could be a step worth taking though…

 

Tomato and Basil Sauce for Pasta 5 July 2006

Posted by cath in easy, freeze-friendly, Recipes, variations, vegetables.
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Tomato Sauce, perhaps the most wonderful thing you can do in the kitchen! Tomatoes are in season right now, so go and buy some and try this!

Pasta and Sauce

Tomato and Sausage sauce with Pasta

garnished with Basil leaves and grated cheese

 

How to make a basic tomato sauce:

Step 1, buy some good quality tomatoes – preferably from a local source, not the supermarket – honestly they will taste much better. I recommend J & M Craig, Carluke, available from the Castle Terrace Farmers Market in Edinburgh.

Step 2, roughly chop the most ripe tomatoes, skin, seeds and all. For 2-3 people you’ll need about 500g – scale the recipe up or down as required, it keeps well in the fridge or freezer.

Step 3, roughly chop 1 large or 2 small onions and a few cloves of garlic.

 

Cooking:

  1. Heat some olive oil in a pan.
  2. Add the onions and sweat down on a medium heat until translucent.
  3. Then add the garlic and cook for about a minute.
  4. Now add the tomatoes, stir and cook for a minute or two until they start to soften.
  5. Once the tomatoes are hot, turn down the heat and half-cover the pan.
  6. With the heat on very low, stirring occasionally, cook for about an hour (minimum) until the sauce has thickened and sweetened. Turn off the heat.
  7. Now add salt and pepper to taste.
  8. Finally, throw in some chopped fresh herbs, basil or parsley are excellent.
  9. Serve with pasta and top with some grated cheese (Parmesan style)

 

Final adjustments:

If the sauce is too runny, try boiling it down without a lid until you get the desired consistency.

If the sauce is quite thick, add a few spoons of the water you use to cook the pasta in, again, keep going until you get the consistency you want.

Drizzle some extra virgin olive oil into the sauce at the end for a slightly richer flavour.

If you’re fussy about tomato skin and pips, you can use a sieve or press the finished sauce to remove them, but I think the chunky texture works well and saves loads of time!

 

Variations:

As well as the classic tomato and basil, you can combine many different things into this sauce. It also works as a base for bolognese, chilli con carne or anything that needs a bit of tomato sauce.

Add a bit of fried pancetta, cooked sausages, sliced chorizo or salami or anything meaty for a quick meaty pasta sauce (see picture above).

Add mushrooms (fried or cooked in the sauce), spinach, other vegetables, more herbs – rosemary, thyme, oregano, marjoram for veggie pasta sauces.

Add chillies – I hope soon to be adding my homegrown chillies to the sauce for a bit of a kick…, olives, capers, anchovies…the list is endless.

Try your favourite ingredients…use something different every time. Dinner never got so easy!

 

Tip!

Get some really good quality dry pasta – macaroni, penne, spaghetti, spaghettini, linguine, whatever you like. The best pasta is rough on the outside, rather than smooth (which is a quality of mass production).

Following recipes and other controversial topics! 5 July 2006

Posted by cath in general info, help, Info and Cooks Notes, ingredients, Recipes, thai curry, Thai food, thai salad, thai soups, variations.
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One thing you all should know about cooking is that it’s all about personal taste. As the cook, you get to decide what ingredients to use and what your meal should taste like. For me, recipes are just guides, offering ideas and techniques, which are then adapted to what I have, what I like, who is coming round for the meal etc.

Variety is important. Everyone can have their own special way of making things, and there is nothing wrong with that. But if you’re new to cooking, you may find it hard to deviate from recipes, so here are some tips on what to think about when reading a recipe.

There has been some controversy about my Laab recipe so lets start with some thoughts about Thai salads and other Thai food…

A recent post included another recipe for Laab. The two recipes are very similar – a couple of different ingredients, including sugar in the alternate recipe, and slightly different cooking techniques.

Cooking can be a controversial topic, and you’ll find many different ingredient lists and techniques for basically the same dish – Thai food is no different. Depending what ingredients you can find, you may have to adapt and look for substitutions. Also consider where you are, what your personal tastes are, and what about your guests? My Thai cookery teacher always asked what a dish needed when we tasted it…his response was always “more chilli!” so my recipes are pretty spicy reflecting this. Having tried both spicy and less spicy (when entertaining guests) I think it’s always worth adding a little more chilli than you think, the heat really works with Thai food.

Here are some other things to think about:

I don’t like adding extra sugar when it’s not required, so I would generally only add sugar to sweet and sour and possibly shop-bought panang paste. Its all about personal taste, but here in the UK we rarely need extra salt or sugar – this is not a tropical climate! So think about who’s going to be eating your meal, and where, before chucking in any sugar…

When you’re learning to cook it’s good if you taste your food before and after adding extra ingredients. Thai food has four main layers of flavour: salt, sugar, sour and spicy. If you taste before adding fish sauce or lime juice to a dish you can see what a difference these ingredients make. In my laab recipe, mint provides sweetness, with fish sauce, chillies and lime providing their usual salt, spice and sourness. If you like extra sour, add more lime juice at the end, as discussed elsewhere, cooking lime juice reduces it’s sourness. Taste and adjust until it’s what you like, or what you think your guests will enjoy.

Kaffir lime leaves are a common enough ingredient in salad, but I am not a big fan – I prefer fresh herbs such as mint and coriander as they are more widely available locally (in the UK). Lime leaves keep well in the freezer and are a good ingredient to have on hand frozen to add to soups and curries for an extra lemony flavour. But frozen leaves don’t work quite so well chopped up in salads. If you want to try lime leaves in salads look out for fresh lime leaves and use them promptly.

Now for the most controversial topic – do we marinate the meat (albeit for just a few minutes) before cooking, or after! My recipe recommends adding flavour including lime juice to the mince before cooking, then cooking it all up. This is the recipe I was taught, but more interestingly, it is a technique I watched many times on stalls and in restaurants. Some Thai (and other regional) dishes are actually not cooked: prawns and other meats are sometimes ‘cooked’ by just marinating in lime juice – the acid in the juice ‘cooks’ the meat or fish so it’s technically no longer raw. In the case of Laab, this was always the first step, you will see the meat take on a less raw appearance as its sits in the lime juice while you prepare the rest of the dish. Cooking in this case just heats up the salad, properly cooking it where appropriate, Thai meat salads are usually served warm. Adding the hot meat to the herbs in the serving dish really brings out their aroma. Remember if you cook the meat for long, the lime juice sourness will dissipate so add some more at the end.

So: cook, taste, add the next flavour, taste again…this is the best way to learn and adapt to your palette and to understand the effect of making substitutions.