Spaghetti Aglio, Olio e Peperoncino

Sometimes simple is best. It’s cold outside, I’ve got Miles Davis floating out of my laptop (I know, I know, im a wanker) and I have to be up at 2.30am to go to work and bake 100+ loaves.  If ever there was a need for a fuss-free dinner, tonight’s the night. 

The inspiration for tonight’s dinner stems from Rachel Roddy’s fantastic book ‘Five Quarters – recipes and notes from a kitchen in Rome’. Rachel did what most of us dream of doing on a dreary English evening – upping sticks and moving to Rome. The book is therefore a story of her journey and some of the wonderful food she has eaten and continues to cook and eat. 

What’s most poignant about the book is its authenticity. These are recipes that Romans cook and eat. The real-deal. 

Italian food is based around the quality of your ingredients, and this recipe is that epitomised. Good quality pasta, dressed in aromatic garlic and chilli, sizzled in a little good quality extra virgin olive oil and served with handfuls of chopped parsley and freshly grated Parmesan. Pinch of salt, twist of pepper. That’s how Romans eat. 

For 1 easy dinner you’ll need:

  • 100g good quality dried spaghetti
  • 1 fat garlic clove 
  • 1/2-1 tsp chilli flakes
  • 2tbsp good quality extra virgin olive oil 
  • Handful of chopped parsley
  • Handful of freshly grated Parmesan 

Get your pasta on. This should be cooked in a big pot of heavily salted water. I’d advise cooking it for 1 minute less than the packet instructions, it should be Al dente! 

After a few minutes chop your garlic and add to a frying pan with your oil and chilli. I like to bring it up to frying from cold, it’s much easier to keep control of your garlic that way. It burns very easily. If it’s ready early, put to one side. It should be cooled and ever so slightly golden, but not brown. 

When your pasta is ready, drain and get it straight into your frying pan to toss around in the luscious oil. Now add your Parmesan and parsley. Toss. Taste. Season. Devour. 

Delia’s Basque Chicken

Basque Chicken

This recipe is an absolute classic in my house hold, my Mum’s been cooking this one first for my Dad and then for us kids for years. This is the perfect one pot wonder for me with the whole lot being cooked in a casserole dish that you’ve bunged in the oven. Its Delia at her best.
Full of smoky, comforting flavours that are perfect for this time of year. It’s guaranteed to rid you of that chill in your bones on a cold eve.
Another thing I love about this dish is that it makes loads and is perfect for portioning up and putting in the freezer. Take it out before you go to work and you’ll be looking forward to dinner for the rest of the day. Sometimes it just doesn’t always make it to the freezer though.

This recipe feeds four and you’ll need:
1 Med-Large Chicken (around 1.75kg), jointed into 8 pieces
2 Large Red Peppers
2 White Onions
2-3 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil
150g Chorizo
1 tbsp Sweet Paprika
50g Sun-dried Tomatoes in Oil
2 Large Garlic Cloves
1 tbsp Tomato Puree
Brown Basmati rice, measured to 275ml in a measuring jug
375ml Chicken Stock
170ml White Wine
1 large Orange, peeled and cut into wedges
A few sprigs of fresh thyme
50g Kalamata Olives

Get your oven onto 180ÂșC

Firstly you’ll need to joint your chicken into 8 pieces. If you’ve never done this before there are tutorials on YouTube and also in books. You’ll have 8 pieces of chicken, all on the bone. Two drumsticks, two thighs, and 4 pieces of breast, still on the breast bone. Season all of these well and place to one side.
As opposed to getting these straight into the pan to start browning, i like to get everything I need weighed out and prepped so that there is no mad dashes during cooking to get things, prep things and weigh them out! This saves time in the long run and is how you would cook in a professional kitchen.
De-seed and slice your red peppers into fairly large strips, remember that they are going to cook for a while so you want them to stay intact throughout cooking. Each pepper should get you 6 strips. Also slice your onions into similar sized pieces. Peel and cut your chorizo into 1/4 inch pieces, chop your garlic, segment your orange and drain your sun-dried tomatoes and cut in half. Now just weigh your rice, measure your stock and you’re ready to go!
Start by heating 2 tbsp olive oil on a medium-high heat in your casserole dish and start browning your chicken pieces. It’s important to do this in batches, otherwise you will over-crowd the pan and your chicken will stew and not brown! They should be a lovely nutty brown colour on both sides. Remove with a slotted spoon once browned to a dish.
This is one of the first building blocks for a delicious dinner, those dark crusty bits on the bottom of your pan are what will turn your dinner from the ordinary to the extraordinary!
Once all of your chicken is browned and put to one side, add your chorizo. You are looking to crisp this up a little bit and also to render all of its paprika laced pork fat. Once this is starting to crisp remove with the slotted spoon and add to the chicken.
Now add the peppers and onions and fry till the edges start to brown and have turned translucent. This will take 5-10 minutes.
Now add your garlic, paprika, thyme, sun-dried tomatoes and tomato puree and fry this on a gentler heat for 2 minutes, stirring regularly. Now add your rice and stir thoroughly so that each individual grain has a coating of blood-red oil. This will ensure that you have beautiful individual grains of rice in the finished dish and avoid clumping.
Now add the stock and wine and also a good pinch of salt and pepper. Trying to get the seasoning right at the stage is important as it will result in a much superior dish to trying to bring the seasoning up once the dish has come out of the oven.
Add the chorizo back in and mix through, and nestle your chicken pieces on the top of the rice. They should be partly submerged but also still visible at the top so that they are roasting as well as poaching.
Lastly place the orange wedges on the top and chuck on your olives.
I line my lid with a piece of tin foil to ensure that as much of the moisture stays in as possible, get this on and bung it in the oven for an hour.

Bob’s your Uncle, and you’ve got the perfect dish for autumn. Even down to the colour of the changing leaves.
Serve with a big glass of Rioja.