King prawns with butter, garlic and white wine

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Another quick and tasty summer supper:

Put some spaghetti on the boil, and chop a clove of garlic finely. When the pasta is almost al dente, remove from the heat and put aside (leaving it in the hot water). In a large frying pan, melt a knob of butter and fry the garlic until almost brown. Add half a glass of white wine (not your finest Chablis but any wine you cook with should be good enough to drink) and cook until the alcohol has boiled off- around a minute. Toss in your king prawns and cook until pink. Add a squeeze of lemon juice and some coarsely chopped flat leaf parsley. Season with black pepper, toss in the pasta and serve with toasted bread to soak up any juice. Bosh!


Honey, mustard & lemon chicken

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Here’s my take on this timeless classic:

In a bowl, mix 2 tablespoons of olive oil with 1 tablespoon each of honey and dijon mustard. Add some parsley, tarragon, a pinch of salt and a twist of cracked black pepper. Whisk together and pour over some chicken thighs or drumsticks in an ovenproof dish.

Add new potatoes cut into inch thick pieces, a knob of butter and a couple of whole peeled garlic cloves and bake in a preheated 220 degree oven for around 30 mins or until the chicken skin is golden, crispy and the meat has reached an internal temperature of 74 degrees.

Serve with a peppery salad of watercress, finely sliced red onion and and cherry tomatoes. The perfect summer supper!


Pan fried salmon fillet with garlic and chilli oil served with parsley and new potatoes

10 minutes from fridge to plate. So easy I’m not even going to bother telling you how to do it. Infusing your own olive oil is one of the cheapest, easiest and damn right most delicious things you can ever do.

 


Sole – Fishy Tapas in the Rainy City

Sole has become one of Manchester’s most talked about new restaurants having opened up in a quiet back street of the Northern Quarter a few months ago. Big things have been said about this small place, so I was very excited about trying it out. Even more so as it was my birthday. Well, did it live up to such high expectations? Short answer: no. Long answer: keep on reading.

The rather bizarre experience began the week before we even walked through the front door. Having booked a table for 11, I was emailed a menu and asked to get everyone’s order before we arrived. A bit of a pain, sure, but with there being a large group of us I could sort of understand this, if they didn’t want to run out of anything. Fair enough. I spent the next week chasing people, only to be told the day before we were due to dine that the menu had changed and I’d wasted my time hassling my friends over razor clams. Not cool.

Now, on to the meal itself. Most of us opted for the grazing menu – which is a very keenly priced selection of dishes that each go for around the £6 mark – order two each and you’re nicely full. “#fishytapas” we called it. The food frankly didn’t live up to the hype and rave reviews that I’ve been hearing about. I ordered two dishes – mussles and chilli prawns. The mussles, while tasty weren’t anything particularly special and the waiting staff didn’t bring an extra bowl for the shells or lemon water to wash our hands with when done. This being a seafood restaurant you’d think they’d remember that. The chilli prawns they actually completely forgot about until I reminded the waiter, and when they did arrive were quite overcooked and had an overwhelming taste of burnt garlic. Now, for £6 a place I’m not going to argue too much as it does represent good value but considering the image of contemporary fine dining this restaurant is trying to create, the food just wasn’t up to scratch by a long way. If anything it was comparable to pretty decent home cooked suppers. Okay, but nothing too memorable.

Average food at a decent price is fine if the atmosphere and service are something to savour though, but sadly for Sole this is where things get a bit worse. They forgot the wine, forgot one of my dishes and then tried to charge us £12 for bread we didn’t order and were told was complimentary. Add to that the rather sterile atmosphere and surly waiting staff, and I probably won’t be returning in a hurry. I still had a great evening, but this was down to the company, and sadly not the food.

Food 6/10

Service 3/10


Patatas Bravas with smokey Chorizo & Garlic and Parsley Crostini

A delicious Spanish inspired dish that  is absolutely marvellous. Gorgeous slowly cooked smokey sausage with a big punch of chilli that goes great with the deep flavour of the garlic and sweet red onions and tomatoes. Served with crispy sautéed potatoes and slices of olive ciabatta, toasted and topped with home made garlic and parsley butter. I had a nice glass of full bodied Spanish Tempranillo with it – beyond gorgeous. Tempranillo is a great wine to serve with rustic spicy dishes like this. Its robust, smokey yet sweet and stands up to strong flavours, and is low in tannins.

 


Home made lasagne with cherry tomato and watercress salad.

My previous post highlighted how to make your own pasta. Well, here’s how to make something from that. Lasagne!

Serves 4

You’ll need:

  • 400g minced beef
  • 1 tin of good quality canned tomatoes
  • 1tbsp tomato puree
  • 2 cloves garlic
  • 1 onion
  • oregano
  • 1 glass of red wine
  • splash of worcester sauce
  • glug of olive oil
  • beef stock [or a stock cube –  I use Knorr stock pots if I don’t have any home made stock to hand]
  • butter
  • flour
  • milk
  • parmesan cheese

Start by adding the beef to a hot pan with a glug of olive oil. Fry off until it starts to brown. Add the chopped onions and fry for 5 mins, or until the onions start to brown. Add chopped garlic and fry for another 5 mins. Deglaze with red wine and add tomato puree. Cook for a minute or two and add the canned tomatoes [remember to swish out the can with a splash of water and add to the sauce for extra tomatoey-ness!]. Add a splash or worcester sauce and season with black pepper. Add the beef stock. Stir, cover and cook on a low heat for 2 hours, stirring every 30 mins and adding water if needed. Seriously, the longer you leave it the better it gets, so no rushing this, ok?

While thats cooking, you can make the white sauce. Start by melting some butter in a pan and adding an equal amount of flour. Cook the roux for a couple of minutes and slowly add milk, whisking constantly. Keep doing this until you have a thick sauce that coats the back of a spoon. Remove from the heat and melt in a handful of grated strong cheese [A comte, gruyere or even a vintage cheddar is good].

Now to assemble the lasagne. In a large baking dish place your home made pasta sheets, covered by a layer of the meat sauce, then a layer of the white sauce. Repeat until the dish is almost full. Finally sprinkle generously with grated parmesan and place in a preheated 200 degree oven for about 20 mins or until the top is golden brown. Leave to stand for about 10 mins [make the salad!] then dig in. And have seconds.

 


Pasta

I can’t believe I haven’t actually posted a pasta recipe before. Maybe because its the easiest thing in the world to make. Home made pasta is so quick and so delicious that I don’t understand why more people don’t make it in this country. From cupboard to plate, including the cleaning its quicker than shop bought as well. Anyway, let’s crack on:

You’ll need:

  • 1 egg [Fresh, free range organic eggs are of course best. I get mine from a friend of the family who keeps chickens :)]
  • 100g ’00’ flour [Normal flour will of course work as well, but get 00 ‘tipo’ flour if you can. It also rocks for making pizza. Its very easy to find in Italian delis and higher end supermarkets].

Thats it – end of ingredients list. Easy, eh? Basically crack the egg into a bowl with the flour, mix with a fork, knead onto a flat surface and roll out with a rolling pin. Forget pasta machines, they’re not worth the faffing around. And you’ll never see a proper Italian Mamma using one of those.

Cut into shaped of your choice and cook in boiling heavily salted water [we didn’t season the pasta, remember] for 3-4 minutes. Serve with any sauce you like!


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