Linguini with Fresh & Sundried Tomatoes, Green Olives & Basil


, , , ,

I was inspired by the tomato pasta of my last post to cook something similarly fresh tasting. So this quick to prepare dish is the result, using ingredients that I already had in the store cupboard. I give you the recipe exactly as I did it, but of course if you don’t have Aliolli and/or Chilli Jam in your cupboard, change for fresh garlic and chilli to taste.

A perfect lunch for one or a light colourful starter if you halve the amounts per person.



Per person –

30 gms linguini

10 ml olive oil

1 large tomato

3 sundried tomatoes

6 green olives

1.25 ml aliolli

2,5 ml chilli jam

Fresh basil leaves

Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Get a pan of water heating up for the pasta. Add to it 5 ml of the olive oil and half a teaspoon of salt.

When the water is boiling, add the sundried tomatoes to the water and let simmer for a couple of minutes. Scoop out and leave to cool.

Add the linguini to the water and leave to cook at a medium simmer.

Put the other 5ml of olive oil in a shallow pan. Add the aliolli and chilli jam.

Slice the sundried tomatoes and add to the pan.

Remove stones from the olives and cut each olive in half. Add to the pan.

Halve the tomato across its equator and using a fine grater grate the pulp into a bowl until you are left with just the skin in your hand. If the grater is fine enough it should sift out the majority of the seeds. If the odd seed makes it into the sauce, it is not the end of the world.

Add the fresh tomato pulp to the shallow pan.

Roughly chop the basil leaves.

When the pasta is two or three minutes from the al dente stage of crookedness, slowly heat the sauce stirring to mix all the ingredients.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain and add to the sauce. Mix well to coat the pasta with the sauce. Season with salt, freshly ground black pepper and two thirds of the basil leaves. Turn again to mix in.

Turn into a pasta bowl and garnish with the rest of the basil leaves.


Al Fresco, Via Savona, 50, Milano


, , , , , , , , , ,

I was recently in Milan on a mainly art viewing trip, but of course one also has to eat. We managed to find a couple of restaurants with not only verdant gardens in which to enjoy the cool of the evening after a hard days gallerying, but amazing food too. Al Fresco was our favourite.

Al Fresco 2

To start we had a couple of dishes to share.

Bruschetta topped with Ricotta Cheese, Anchovies and Sweet Onions pickled in Raspberry Vinegar.

A plate of the most tender Parma Ham served with Polenta Crispbread and pickled courgettes.

IMG_1754 IMG_1755

Then I had as a main course –

Potato Gnocchi with Baby Lamb Ragout, Pecorino Cheese and Black Truffle



………Jeanne had –

Pork Fillet cooked with Marsala Wine, Spinach, Pine-nut Cream, Pantelleria Raising and Lambrusco Vinegar…….


……….and Simon –

Maccheroni Pasta with Raw Tomatoes, Olives, Capers, Basil Cream and Buffalo Stracciatella Cheese


I will leave it to you to formulate and experiment with recipes for these dishes. Should I have a go myself and achieve success, you will be the first to know.

Two Cabbage Salads – My Coleslaw & Bavarian Cabbage Salad


, , , , , ,

I have always made Coleslaw for myself with the oil and vinegar dressing as in the recipe below. For me the mayonnaise masks the flavour of the vegetables, while the French dressing brings it out. Having recently converted a couple of friends to this style of Coleslaw, including my sister who I had assumed made it this way already, I thought you, reader or two, would like the recipe too.

The Bavarian Cabbage Salad may not be Bavarian at all, but the making of it was demonstrated to me by a friend from that region, so that is what it is called in my recipe book. I had eaten it at her house several times and loved it so had to have the recipe.



Quarter of a medium sized white cabbage

1 red apple

2 medium carrots – peeled

30 grams peanuts – dry roasted

50 grams small raisins

1 tablespoon white wine vinegar

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Remove the outer tough leaves from the cabbage and discard.

Cut the cabbage into very fine slices, and put into a largish salad bowl.

Finely grate the carrots and add to the cabbage.

Quarter the apple, remove the cores, cut each wedge in half lengthways, then into thin slices.

Add to the cabbage and carrots.

Add the nuts and raisins, then the oil and vinegar. Mix well.

Season to taste.

If eating the same day, leave for at least two hours at room temperature for the flavours to meld.

This salad will keep for two or three days in the fridge.



Quarter of a medium sized white cabbage

100 ml stock

Quarter of a teaspoon of caraway seeds

50 grams finely cut bacon lardons – can be smoked or not

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Salt and freshly ground black pepper


Finely slice the cabbage and put into a salad bowl.

Put the stock into a small saucepan with the caraway and heat until boiling.

Pour over the cabbage and mix with a spoon, then with your hands mix and squeeze the cabbage to break it a bit and help it absorb the stock a little.

Fry the lardons in the olive oil until nicely lightly browned.

Add to the cabbage and mix well.

Add the vinegar and seasoning. Mix well again.

Again if you are eating the salad the same day, leave covered at room temperature for at least two hours for the flavours to meld.

If you store the salad in the fridge for any length of time, let it come back to room temperature before eating.



A Mid-Week Dinner – Continued


, , , , , , , , , ,

For the – probably one of you – who has been waiting for the rest of the recipes for this dinner, here at last they are. IMG_1518 SPINACH WITH PINE NUTS AND RAISINS

For 4

25 grams pine nuts

A good bunch of fresh tender spinach

Olive oil 25 grams small golden raisins

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Firstly toast the pine nuts until a golden brown in a thick based pan over a low heat. Shake the pan from time to time to turn the nuts.

Wash and drain the spinach.

Heat a tablespoon of oil in a shallow pan. Add the spinach, cover and let wilt for a couple of minutes over a low heat.

Add the pine nuts and raisins and stir to mix.

Season then cover the pan again and leave to cook for about five minutes.

Serve on hot plates.


For 4

20 medium sized peeled prawns

1 large clove garlic

Olive oil

Juice of half a lemon

Chopped flat leaved parsley

Heat a tablespoon or so of olive oil in a frying pan.

Add the chopped garlic and fry until light brown.

Add the prawns and cook quickly on a high heat until opaque and slightly browned.

Squeeze in the lemon juice and stir to collect any brownings at the bottom of the pan.

Sprinkle in the parsley and serve immediately on a hot dish.



The only remotely complicated thing about this recipe is remembering to cook the custards early enough that they can cool completely. You can of course cook them the day before they are needed.

I will point out also that it is not an error that the custard does not have sugar added to it. There is enough sweetness in the caramelised fig to balance the less sweet custard.

4 tablespoons caramelised fig jam

Butter for greasing your pots

2 eggs

200 ml full fat milk

Few drops vanilla essence

Preheat the oven to 140C

To cook this you will need individual ovenproof pots for the custard. Most crockery is oven proof provided you don’t heat or cool it too rapidly. I used some glass coffee cups to cook my custards.

Grease the pots with butter and then put a tablespoon of the fig jam in the bottom of each.

Break the eggs into a jug and whisk lightly to mix.

Add the milk and vanilla essence and whisk a bit more to mix this.

Pouring through a sieve to remove any solid bits in the egg, pour the custard into the pots.

Put the pots into a deep baking dish and add boiling water to the dish to come about 2cm up the pots. This prevents the custards getting too hot and burning on their bases.

Put in the oven and leave to cook for about an hour until the custards are just set.

Remove from the oven and leave to cool completely.

To serve slide a thin knife around the edge of the custard, put a small plate on top of the pot and invert the whole lot. You may have to give the custard and encouraging shake. If any of the jam stays in the pot, simply spoon neatly on top of the custard.


100 grams plain flour

40 grams fine semolina

Quarter teaspoon ground cardamoms

30 grams sugar

100 grams butter

Put all the dry ingredients in a bowl and mix.

Cut the butter into small pieces into the flour mix and rub in.

Bring the mix together in a firm dough.

On a floured surface roll the dough out to just under a centimetre thick.

If you have a very small round cutter – ideally about 3cm diameter – then cut into small biscuits. Otherwise cut into small squares or lozenges.

Bake at 150C for about an hour until pale golden.

A Mid-Week Dinner


, , , , , , , ,




This didn’t seem like a complicated meal for mid-week when I cooked it the other week, but now that I am writing about it, there is quite a lot of work. I must have been in one of those Zen cooking moods.

Much of it is done in advance, which makes it feel less work. The oxtail stew is cooked the evening before and left to very slowly cool in the oven overnight, which lets it cook long and slow and so develop a rich flavour. I cooked enough stew so that there was enough not only for this meal, but also for making Fresh Pasta with Beef Ragout for my sisters the following weekend.


I have jars of Caramelised Fig Jam, made from fruit from the farm last summer. So for the dessert, I only needed to mix an egg custard, put that in pots on top of the Fig Jam and then put the pots in the oven to cook and set.

But then I got into biscuit making mood. The custards are perfectly fine without the biscuits. But I had that yearning in my minds stomach for buttery, crunchy, sweetness with the gorgeous fragrance of cardamoms…..


I am giving you the stew recipe today. You will get the starters and dessert tomorrow.


Serves 6

6 pieces oxtail

2-3 tablespoons flour

salt and freshly ground black pepper

olive oil

4 cloves garlic – finely chopped

1 large onion – finely chopped

2 red peppers – cut into strips

2 large tomatoes – skinned and roughly chopped

half a bottle of full bodied red Spanish wine

1 clove

5allspice berries

Small piece of cinnamon bark


freshly ground black pepper

Gremolata – finely chopped fresh garlic, flat leaved parsley and the finely grated zest of one lemon

Put the flour in a shallow dish and season very generously with salt and black pepper.

Heat 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil in a thick based casserole.

Coat the oxtail pieces in the seasoned flour and fry on a medium heat, turning each side until browned all over.

This may have to be done in two batches. The meat pieces will brown more easily if they are not crowded in the pan.

Add more oil as you go along if needed.

Remove the meat from the pan and put to one side.

Add the onions and garlic to the pan and cook for a couple of minutes.

Add the peppers and continue cooking for about ten minutes until the onions are slightly browned.

Add the tomatoes and cook for a further five minutes scraping any flour stuck to the base of the pan into the sauce as it is moistened.

Put the meat back in the pan.

Add the wine. It should just come up to the top of the meat.

Heat to a simmer.

Put the clove and allspice berries into a thick based dry pan and heat slowly for five minutes or so to toast and bring out the flavour.

Grind to a powder with a pestle and mortar.

Add this to the stew with the piece of cinnamon.

Cover the casserole and put in a low oven, you want the sauce to be showing an occasional bubble but no more. For my oven this is 120C.

Leave to cook for 6 hours. Turn the oven off and leave to slowly cool.

Reheat at 180C the next day to serve.

Serve with plain boiled potatoes and gremolata sprinkled on top.



Baby Squid with Garlic & Chilli


Whenever I go to look at the fresh fish at my local market, everything is so fresh and glistening that I just want to buy it all. This week I limited myself to some small and tender squid and the last of the crabs. The crabs that we get here are small but very tasty, so will make a fantastic soup.

The squid was quickly fried with garlic and chilli for lunch.


This is so simple it is almost not a recipe.

For 2 as a main course, for 4 as a starter

500 grams small squid
Olive oil
3 cloves garlic – finely chopped
Fresh red chilli – to taste
Small bunch flat leaved parsley – roughly chopped
Juice of half a lemon

The cleaning of the squid is the most time consuming job in preparing this dish.

Cut the tentacles off just above the squid’s eyes, and then remove the sharp beak type mouth in the centre of the tentacles. Pull the innards out of the squid and discard. A cat will love you if you send these their way.


Put the empty bodies and tentacles into a colander and wash thoroughly.

Leave to drain while you chop the garlic, chilli and parsley.

Heat the oil in a shallow pan and add the garlic and chilli. Fry for a couple of minutes.

Add the squid and keep frying on a medium heat, turning from time to time.

The squid are cooked once they are opaque and a bit pink, which should take about 7 minutes. Add the parsley and lemon juice. Stir to blend and to moisten the tasty bits at the bottom of the pan.


That’s it!

Serve with a simple tomato salad and some fresh bread.

Christmassy Things – Part Two – Lime & Quince Mincemeat


, , , ,


Sweet Mincemeat is so easy to make and so much tastier than the ready made that I don’t understand why anyone would not make their own. Also when you make your own you can control the amount of sugar in it. I find most commercial food products that are sweet have increased the proportion of sugar over the last few years.

I am a great believer in using either what you have or can get hold of locally. Frequently this can point you in the direction of improving on an original recipe, as is the case here. The limes giving the mincemeat a fresher and slightly more acid citrus zing than the lemons that are normally used.

I only have one small quince tree, but it works incredibly hard and produces 40 to 50 fruit per year, some weighing as much as 800 grams. They made fabulous quince jelly, and using an old recipe where the fruit is sweetened with raisins and flavoured with orange peel, Mermelada. This being the Portugese name for quince and the recipe being the forerunner of the marmalade we know today.


Still there were plenty of Quince left for other things. Being of the same family as apples, surely I thought, they could be substituted for them in any preserve recipes? And of course I am always looking for new ways of using my limes…..


1 kilo Limes
1 kilo Quince
1 kilo Sugar either white or unrefined
300 grams Beef suet
300 grams Raisins
300 grams Currants
100 grams Candied orange and clementine peel
250 ml brandy

Firstly find yourself a container big enough to comfortably take all of the above.

For the limes, having a lime farm, I am able to wait until my limes are fully ripe quite yellow and sweeter than the hard green ones generally available. If when buying your limes some of them are more yellow than others, go for those as they are sweeter. If you can find unwaxed ones so much the better.

Wash them then put them in a pan with just enough water to cover and bring slowly to the boil. Simmer for an hour until tender.

Drain the limes and let them cool. Halve them and remove any pips. Put them in the food processor and process them into a coarse pulp. Put the pulp in your container.

Next the quince. Peel and core the quince and grate them. I use the grater on the food processor for this as well. Quince are so hard that grating by hand would be a bit onerous.

Immediately add to the limes and mix well. Add the brandy and the sugar and mix again. This will stop the grated quince from going brown.

For the suet I prefer to use fresh beef suet. Although the trimming and chopping of the suet adds more work to the recipe I find the end result lighter than using prepared packet suet.

If you are using fresh suet, trim off any sinewy or bloody bits, then chop the suet finely.

Mix the suet and then the currants and raisins into the lime and quince mix.

For the candied orange and clementine, I like to make my own. Not because I have orange and clementine growing on the farm, but because home made candied peel has much more zing than most that you buy. It is not difficult to do.

Take the peel off some washed oranges with a potato peeler, until you have 50 grams. Chop it into strips or squares and put it into a small saucepan.
Wash and peel some clementine until you have 50 grams of peel. Again chop into strips or squares. Add to the orange in the pan.
Add enough juice from the oranges to just cover the peel. Add 150 grams sugar. Bring to the boil and simmer for 30 minutes until the peel is brightly coloured and the liquid reduced.

Add the above peel and its juice to the mincemeat mix and stir well to amalgamate.

Pack the mincemeat into clean and sterilised jars. Seal.

The mincemeat will look quite pale to begin with, but will darken as it matures. I like to make the mincemeat one year and then use it the next, although in recent years I haven’t managed that as it is so good that it all gets snapped up by friends and family.

The above amount made 12 jars of 350ml capacity.

Christmassy Things – Part One – The Pudding


, ,

To develop my recipe for Christmas Pudding I tried out some very old recipes including the Plum Pudding that was popular before the currant and raisins version that we like today and I tried out other modern chefs recipes. The basic recipes I kept coming back to were Eliza Acton’s, first published in 1845 and that of Peggy Libby (my sister’s mother-in -law) which was taught to her by her father. The two recipes were almost identical, differing only slightly in proportions of ingredients.

Both recipes make a pudding light in colour and texture, and not overly sweet. Neither recipe uses too much in the way of spice, only nutmeg, which I think gives it a cleaner less complicated taste.

I have added to and tweaked the recipes to my own taste. My two pudding gurus did not put nuts in their puddings, but I like the texture and taste of nuts so they are in. You, of course, can decide for yourself which way you want to go.


Makes enough to feed 12, either as one large or two smaller puddings
100 grams fresh fine breadcrumbs
100 grams plain flour
200 grams fresh suet chopped finely
400 grams dried fruit – a mix of raisins, currants and cranberries
125 grams minced/grated apple
150 grams light brown sugar
1 unwaxed orange
half an unwaxed lemon
40 grams walnuts
40 grams hazelnuts
40 grams almonds
Half a teaspoon ground nutmeg
3 large eggs
Small glass of brandy

I am not a big fan of the commercially produced mixed peel and prefer the flavour and zing of freshly boiled peel. So start by cutting the orange in half and with a very sharp knife pare off the zest leaving the pith behind. Cut into either fine strips or small pieces. Do the same with the half lemon. Put in a small saucepan together with the juice from the fruits.

Bring to the boil and simmer for 7 minutes. Turn off the heat and leave to cool.


If you can get fresh beef suet, which most butchers will provide at a good low price, it makes I think a lighter pudding. I am a little suspicious of how long some of the boxes of ready chopped and floured suet may have been hanging around. Vegetarian suet? If you must. You won’t get the same texture of pudding.
For the fresh suet, all you need to do is chop it finely. Do not be tempted to do this in the food processor as it turns to mush. (As I have learned by grim experience)

Put all the ingredients in a large bowl and stir well to combine to a firm mix. If the mix seems a bit too dry, add a little extra brandy.

Generously butter your pudding dish and add the mixture.

Cut a piece of baking parchment to fit the top of the pudding. Then cut a piece of aluminium foil that will cover the top and come two to three centimetres down the basin. It is useful to tie string round the basin to hold the foil, and then loop it round the base and tie at the top to make a handle to aid removal of the pudding from the steaming pan.

The puddings need 3 and a half hours steaming altogether. I give mine a steam for two and a half hours when I first make them, and then another hour or so when I come to serve them.

The pudding will keep for a long time, you can even make them one year for the following one. If you do this keep them in the fridge and every six months or so check that they are all right and feed them with a little brandy.

Generally speaking I like to make my puddings in September for that years Christmas, although this year I have only just made them and we are already well into December. I will let you know if they suffer from a lack of maturing time.

Parsnip Casserole


, ,

I love all vegetables, but have extra affection for the chosen few. I don’t know if it is the scarcity here of parsnips, and the few that we do get tend to be small and woody, but the sight of the plump white roots in the vegetable stalls at my local market in London have me yearning for roast parsnips all crisp brown and caramelised around the edges, or parsnip patties with a sharp sweet and sour sauce, or this casserole which perfectly brings out the flavour of these sweet roots.


Serves 4 as a side vegetable and 2 as a main course
About 500 grams parsnips
4 medium sized tomatoes
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
200 ml single cream or crème fraiche
Parmesan/pecorino/mature hard cheese to grate


Peel the parsnips and slice thinly.
Thinly slice the tomatoes.
In an ovenproof casserole, layer the ingredients. Start with a trickle of cream, then some parsnips layed side by side, then tomato slices, another trickle of cream, salt and pepper and finally a little grated cheese.
Continue layering until all the ingredients are used ending with a layer of parsnips topped with cheese.
Cover and bake at 175 C for an hour and a half.