Chorizo spaghetti and the virtues of pasta

Pasta is the best carbohydrate going. Fact. Comes in a thousand different types, fresh, dry, each shape having its own flavour and properties, suiting itself to whichever sauce you’re cooking with it. There’s little orzo and oriecciette for soups and salads. Penne for creamy sauce that gets all through the tubes. Linguine always seems to be higher brow for me. Special occasions and for seafood which demands respect.
And then there’s spaghetti. The all rounder. Battered and abused for many years, smothered with dolmio or Lloyd Grossman and thrown against walls.
It’s my favourite though. When I lived on my own for the first time when I was 17/18 I used to go down the local kebab house and get a pot of chilli sauce for 25p, then cook some spaghetti and toss that through with some olive oil and loads of salt and pepper. Perfection.
That’s why it’s the absolute ‘go-to’ for me. I knew I wanted it for dinner, and I made a sauce that I thought would be nice, and didn’t disappoint.

For 2, you’ll need:
200g spaghetti
Half a ‘U’ of chorizo
1 clove of garlic
Half a red chilli
4 tbsp of low fat yoghurt
1 lemon
A fistful of parsley

Start by getting your spaghetti on. Loads of boiling water and a big pinch of salt. Cook it for anything more than 10 minutes and we’ll fall out.
Meanwhile lump up your chorizo into small pieces and fry gently in a small frying pan. It should start leaking it’s orange oils instantaneously.
Once the chorizo is a crispy and is swimming in oil, thrown in your roughly chopped garlic and finely chopped chilli. Fry for 30 seconds.
Meanwhile mix your yoghurt and a little lemon juice and a bit of the zest in a bowl. Pour over your chorizo and mix well. Splash in some pasta cooking water during cooking, it will loosen the sauce slightly.
Drain your pasta and put it back into the pan you cooked it in. Pour over your sauce and stir in a big handful of chopped parsley and some grated Parmesan. Season. Eat.



Beef, stout and roasted shallot stew

Haven’t made a stew in absolutely ages, and this weather certainly calls for it. Have had a few days off this week so I’ve actually been able to see how grey and miserable it is outside.
Stew has mixed memories for me growing up. My mum used to do an absolutely stonking pot roasted beef bourguignon with puff pastry lids. My dad on the other hand used to make an ‘Ulster stew’. Mince, carrots, onions and potatoes. From what I’m told he only started using oxo cubes in it once he met my mum.
Hopefully mines more like my mums than my dads!

To feed 4:

800g of shin of beef
500g shallots
4 cloves garlic
2 tbsp tomato purée
3 tbsp plain flour
110g pack of cubed pancetta
Few sprigs of thyme
500g stout
2 carrots
2 parsnips
3 sticks celery
500ml beef stock (I used a knorr stock pot)
Small bunch of parsley
Put your oven onto 180°C and cut all your shallots in half, with the skin still on, drizzle with oil and bang in the oven. They should take about an hour till they’re frazzled at the sides but still juicy in the middle. About half way through throw your garlic cloves in too.

In your chosen stew pot, brown and render the fat from your pancetta. Some say this isn’t necessary in a stew, but I think it will just add another layer of flavour. To get the ultimate in crispy lardons start them off in a cold pan and keep on a medium heat. You’ll get a nice even colour. Once browned, remove from the pan.
Either get your butcher too, or cut your beef into inch and a half cubes. Toss these in seasoned flour and fry in batches in the bacon fat. You may need to add a knob of butter so there’s enough fat to fry. Make sure you get a nice colour on your beef, this is where the flavour and colour of your stew will come from.
Once browned and removed, add your tomato purée in and fry for 30 seconds before adding your stout, stock, thyme, pancetta and beef back in.
Bring up to the boil and then turn down to a low simmer. Come back and check every 20 minutes for an hour, stirring, checking the liquid level and skimming.
Once your shallots and garlic are nicely roasted, peel them and add to your stew. At this time trim and peel your parsnips and carrots. Cut these into large pieces, with your celery and add to your stew.

Simmer for a further hour until the meat is falling apart, your vegetables are tender and the sauce is a nice, viscous, coating consistency.
Serve with creamy, buttery mash potato and gremolata, made from chopped parsley, lemon zest and juice and a drizzle of oil.
Winter warmer.

Corgette, pea and lemon spaghetti

Not in any way seasonal eating, but sometimes you have to try these things and say: ‘Yeah, that’ll be banging on a hot summers night in August’. This is one of them.
Ive thrown a bit of sumac into this dish too. Bought some from a whole foodsy type place on Roman Road in Bethnal Green the other week. I realise that that sentence makes little or no sense to people who know East London. Whole foods, in Bethnal Green?! It’s called Simply Fresh and is like a Turkish organic supermarket. If you cook any Ottolenghi recipes and live in East, then you need to check it out!
Really love this recipe. Prep and cooking time are absolutely minimal and rewarded with a beautiful plate of food.

Recipe for two:

200g spaghetti
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
100g frozen peas
1 tbsp chilli flakes
1 courgette
2 heaped tbsp cream cheese
Zest of 1 lemon
Juice of 1/2 – 1 lemon
1 tbsp sumac

Get your kettle on to boil, then get your water into a large pan with a big pinch of salt. Boil spaghetti for 9 minutes. It should be served al dente.
Grate your courgette on the wide teeth of a box grater and get it into a pan with the olive oil and a pinch of salt. The heat should be medium-high, you want to cook the courgette nice and quickly.
Meanwhile mix together the lemon juice, zest and cream cheese and season with loads of black pepper.
Half way though cooking the pasta, splash in some of the cooking water to let your sauce down a touch. The sauce can be a touch claggy otherwise.
Once the courgette is soft, throw in your peas, sumac and chilli flakes. Cook the peas till they are only just cooked. Probably no more than 2 minutes after they’ve defrosted. You want them to ‘pop’ in the mouth.
Drain your pasta and toss everything together. Serve with grated Parmesan and chopped parsley.

Orange, honey and mustard chicken

Really fancied something easy for dinner tonight and a bit healthy as I may or may not have had a tin of beans with a mountain of cheese and a whole loaf of bread for lunch.
This is a Diana Henry recipe from her book A Change of Appetite. Some really good mid-week dinners in there.
I’ve pimped the recipe a bit but feel free to put whatever the fuck you want in it!
Did a little Ottolenghi style cucumber pickle/salad to go with it. Trust me the cumin seeds make it!

To feed two you’ll need:
5 chicken thighs
4 tbsp honey and a little extra for drizzling
Juice and zest of half an orange
2 tbsp whole grain mustard
6 sprigs of thyme
2 fennel bulbs (3 if they’re small)
1 chilli
1 tbsp sumac
2 tbsp olive oil
Thumb size knob of ginger

1 cucumber or 2 small middle eastern ones
Half a red onion
1 tbsp cumin seeds
Small bunch of coriander
Olive oil
White wine vinegar

Whack your oven onto 200°C and get a roasting tray out that will fit your chicken thighs in. Remember you’ve got to get your fennel in there too later, I forgot!
Mix together your orange juice and zest, honey, mustard, oil and pour over the chicken in your roasting tray. Sprinkle each thigh with sumac and salt.
Lump up your ginger, don’t bother peeling it, and finely slice half your chilli. I like to slice up all the stems of the bunch of coriander too. Sprinkle.
Chuck on your thyme.

Get it in the oven! Bake for 15 minutes.
For the salad lump up your cucumber. Finely slice your onion and chilli. Sprinkle cumin seeds. Drizzle with oil and vinegar, season and taste. Done.
After 15 minutes pull your chicken out and spoon over some of the juices. Cut your fennel bulbs into quarters, removing any tough outer leaves. Add these to the roasting tray, drizzle everything with a bit of honey and roast for another 30 minutes.
At the last minute finely lump some coriander and sprinkle over everything.
I ate it like this but with basmati rice or rice noodles would be perfect to suck up all those lovely juices.