Category Archives: Pasta

Scrumptious summer salad recipes

I’ve included these recipes as a tribute to the bright and joyous colours of summer (UK not included). They’re rather eclectic but the flavours are definitely there. Hope you enjoy them.

Mackerel, mozarella and red pepper salad with mustard root mash aerial Soba noodle stir fry with broccoli, spring onions, tofu and leafy greens 2 Carrot, red cabbage and broad bean slaw Mackerel, mozarella and red pepper salad with mustard root mash 2

Smoked mackerel, mozzarella and red pepper salad with wholegrain mustard root mash

They say never to pair fish with cheese but I think this recipe works wonders. The strong flavour of the mackerel is well matched with the creaminess and texture of the mozzarella. Finally, the oiled peppers and mustard mash give it some additional punch alongside the crunchy gem lettuce.

Mackerel, mozarella and red pepper salad with mustard root mash 2

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 100g smoke mackerel, cooked
  • 100g reduced fat mozzarella cheese, torn into small chunks
  • 1 red pepper, 1 yellow pepper, in oil/char grilled (pre-packaged)
  • 1 baby gem lettuce
  • A handful of lambs lettuce

For the root vegetable – mustard mash

  • 500g mixed root vegetables: I used 1 small swede, 1 small celeriac and 2 carrots
  • 25g butter
  • 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard

Directions

  • For the root vegetable mash, put the vegetables in a large pan of salted water. Bring to the boil and cook for 15 minutes until tender. Drain well, then mash adding the butter and mustard.
  • Mix together until the butter has melted.
  • Add some salt and pepper then serve.
  • For the salad, arrange the mackerel, mozzarella, salad leaves and mixed peppers in a bowl and pour over the oil from the mixed peppers.
  • Mix together thoroughly before serving alongside the mash

Soba noodle stir fry with broccoli, spring onions, tofu and leafy greens

This vegetarian recipe has great East Asian flavours and is seriously flavourful. The soba noodles offer a decent alternative to wheat pasta, if you are gluten-intolerant, and the dish itself offers a healthy balance of protein, carbs and very little fat.

Soba noodle stir fry with broccoli, spring onions, tofu and leafy greens 2

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 5 tbsp olive oil
  • 100g soba noodles
  • 3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • A small cube of fresh ginger, finely sliced
  • 1 head of broccoli, cut into florets
  • 150g firm tofu, drained, patted dry and cut into small cubes
  • 4 Spring onions, sliced lengthways
  • 4 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2 tbsp honey
  • (optional) a handful of leafy greens
  • (optional) 2 tbsp almond nut butter
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

  • In a large pot of boiling water, cook the soba noodles according to package instructions. Add the broccoli florets for the final 5 minutes of cooking. Cook until tender.
  • Drain the water then toss the noodles and broccoli with 2 tbsp of olive oil to prevent the noodles from sticking together.
  • Next, in a small bowl, whisk together the soy sauce and honey; set aside.
  • Heat 3 tbsp olive oil in a large wok or frying pan over high heat. Add the tofu and cook until golden brown, stirring constantly, for about 3-4 minutes. Set the tofu aside in a small dish.
  • Heat the remaining 2 tbsp olive oil over a medium heat, adding the garlic, ginger and spring onions. Cook, stirring frequently, for about 1 minute.
  • Add the soy sauce and honey to the pan and toss in the soba noodles, broccoli florets and tofu.
  • (optional) Finally, stir the almond-nut butter into the pan until well mixed.
  • Season to taste and then serve alongside the (optional) leafy greens.

Carrot, red cabbage and broad bean slaw

This is a colourful and crunchy recipe which can be eaten as a main or side dish.

Carrot, red cabbage and broad bean slaw

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 1 small red cabbage, quartered, cored and shredded finely
  • 6 carrots, cut into thin strips (a decent food processor should have an attachment blade for this)

For the dressing:

  • 1 tbsp sesame oil,
  • 1 tbsp lemon juice,
  • Salt and pepper,
  • 150g broad beans,
  • (optional) a handful of coriander,
  • (optional) a sprinkle of sesame seeds, or some other variety of Omega 3/Omega 6 rich seeds (linseeds, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds)

Directions

  • Mix the sesame oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper in a small bowl to make a dressing and then set aside.
  • Boil a large saucepan of water, add the cabbage and simmer for 3 minutes. Add the broad beans and simmer for 1 minute more. Drain the vegetables, leave to cool, then toss with the grated carrot, dressing and (optional) coriander leaves and sesame seeds.

Bowled over: instant noodles work their charm

Following my blog post on Japanese cuisine, which focused mainly on sushi, I’ve since been interested to know more about another Japanese national obsession: instant noodles.

image

‘Instant’ noodles are the most popular type of noodles and they come with a mixed reputation: seen as either cheap and nutritionless or scrumptous and time saving. They often come dried in thin foil packaging with a salty, potent sachet of flavourings and little freeze-dried nubs of vegetables. When I was backpacking / travelling they were a lifesaver: I’d often poach an egg in the boiling liquor before serving them up. Let’s be honest: you need all the extra nutrition you can get!

In Japan, instant noodles are seen as a symbol of the nation. Japanese magazines and even museums are said to exist with the sole purpose of glorifying instant Ramen noodles with their cult status.

Noodles are, of course, the pre-cursor to Italian pasta. It was Marco Polo, the Italian explorer, who took the recipe back to his homeland from China, before making a few adaptations. It’s something not often acknowledged in the West, but we certainly have a lot to thank our Far Eastern compatriots for their noodle-based inventiveness.

Furthermore, I was reading recently that British appetites for Asian cuisines is continuing to grow. The could be put down to the sheer range of dishes on offer throughout the region. In Vietnam the two main noodle dishes, which I’ve had the pleasure of enjoying, are ‘Cao Lao’ from Hoi An and ‘Pho Bo’. The noodles in Cao Lao are all about texture; they are firm, chewy and delicious served alongside ground pork, spices, fresh mint, basil and coriander. As for ‘Pho Bo’, the broth is slightly lighter, the noodles flatter and is commonly served with a refreshing mixture of lime, peppers, mint, bean sprouts and either pork or chicken. The herbs make the taste quite strong and almost floral.

Malaysian fried noodles, known locally as mi goreng, are definitely one of my all time favourite dishes. Such is the profusion of street food in Malaysian hawker stalls you can literally buy a bowl anywhere. Mi goreng are egg noodles served with either meat (chicken, prawns, beef) or vegetables (tofu), with a hint of sambal olek (spicy chilli sauce), before being topped with a fried egg.

So, I hoped this has peaked your appetite for a steamy bowl noodles. For the recipe below I’ve gone with a Chinese noodle classic.

Chicken chow mein

Never mind phoning up for a takeaway, this is an incredibly quick and easy recipe to make (15 minutes max) and makes a great chicken dish. It has a range of different flavours and textures: the salty soy sauce, heat from the ginger and chilli and lots of crunchy vegetables like bok choi, red and yellow pepper, water chestnuts, spring onions and (optional) bean sprouts.

Chicken chow mein image two

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 2 boneless skinless chicken breasts sliced into thin strips
  • 1 green chilli, finely chopped
  • 2.5cm piece fresh root ginger, peeled and grated
  • 2 cloves garlic, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 tbsp groundnut oil
  • 1 tbsp sesame oil
  • 2 heads bok choi, chopped
  • 4 spring onions, chopped
  • 400g egg noodles, cooked according to packet instructions
  • 1 yellow pepper, chopped into 2 cm squares
  • 1 red pepper, chopped into 2 cm squares
  • 1 small bunch fresh coriander, leaves only, chopped
  • 1½tsp nam pla (Thai fish sauce – optional)
  • 4 tbsp light soy sauce
  • Black pepper, to taste

Directions

  • Heat the oil in a wok or medium pan to a medium-high heat and throw in the chilli, ginger and garlic. Stir immediately to prevent burning the ingredients.
  • Cook for 30 seconds and then add the chicken . Continue to stir fry and stir continuously until golden-brown all over.
  • Transfer the seared chicken, along with any juices, from the wok or pan into a bowl and set aside to rest.
  • Return the pan to the heat and add the sesame oil.
  • Fry the remaining peppers for 1-2 minutes. Add the chicken back into the wok (reserving the juices) along with the nam pla and soy sauce. Add the chopped bok choi and spring onions to the wok along with the cooked noodles. Stir fry for 1-2 minutes to heat through.Cook for one minute, or until the liquid has thickened slightly.
  • To serve, season the chow mein with the black pepper and garnish with the fresh coriander leaves.

Pesto verde

According to various news outlets, output of olive oil across Italy and Spain has decreased dramatically due to a poor harvest in 2014.

As a result, the wholesale price is increasing, having a knock on effect for shoppers, who are now stocking up on supplies. In many cases, a 500ml bottle of good extra-virgin olive oil will cost about the same amount as a cheap bottle of supermarket wine; coming in at around the £5 mark.

With this in mind, I thought I’d do an olive oil blog post before things turn too sour, and turn my attention to one Italian dish famous for it’s use of extra-virgin olive oil: Pesto verde, or green pesto.

Basil pesto leaves

Fragrant basil leaves

Pesto is very much a household name in the UK now. As well as its use as a pasta sauce, you’ll also find it to be a great sauce to have with grilled meat, white fish or salmon (see my pesto topped salmon recipe).

It also goes well in a salad of mushrooms, artichokes, tomatoes and crunchy greens and you’ll often find that “chicken and pesto sandwiches” are a dime a dozen these days.

This vibrant green Italian sauce/paste is traditionally derived from basil leaves, but you can easily adapt it to work with parsley, rocket, coriander or even spinach. Whatever the choice, once the leaves are combined with fresh lemon and extra-virgin olive oil, the end result always has a nice zip to it.

Pine nuts

Pine nuts

There is a slight conundrum over the type of nuts used, however; toasted pine nuts (pictured right) being the traditional choice. These small, pebbly nuts are like little tear drops, and have a richer flavour than, say, hazelnuts or almonds. When combined with basil, not only do the nuts give pesto it’s body and substance but also a lovely creaminess and a nutritional source of fats and protein.

I remember the first time I tried green pesto; it was around eight years ago, in an Italian restaurant named Est Est Est on Edinburgh’s George Street. Regrettably this eatery is now closed down but the pesto itself left a lasting impression on me – and not in a positive way. It was a simple dish of linguine and pesto verde (green pesto) but I found the taste very acerbic, overpowering and even sour. I needed some sort of protein, like grilled chicken, to absorb some of the intense flavours.

As I’ve gotten older I’ve tried to adapt my own recipe for pesto, and have found that it goes best with meat or fish, rather than just pasta on it’s own.

With pesto, it’s always a case of experimentation. For instance, adding a bit more cheese or oil until you are happy with the taste and consistency. Adding a squeeze of lemon juice at the end to give it a little twang it sometimes nice, but it’s not essential. My advice is to keep “tasting as you go”, to avoid one ingredient overpowering the rest.

Let’s get cracking.

Penne with pesto verde (green pesto)

Penne pasta with pesto

Ingredients:

Basil pesto ingredients

ingredients – (clockwise from left) grated parmesan cheese, pine nuts, lemon, extra-virgin olive oil, basil, garlic

  • 350g penne pasta
  • 60g parmesan cheese, grated
  • 50g pine nuts,
  • 1/2 lemon, juice only
  • 150ml extra-virgin olive oil,
  • A handful of basil leaves,
  • 1 garlic clove,
  • Salt and pepper, to taste
  • Rocket leaves, to garnish (optional)

Directions:

  • Cook the penne pasta according to packet instructions.
  • Heat a small pan over a medium heat and carefully dry fry the pine nuts for about 10 minutes.
  • Pound the garlic, salt and basil leaves in a pestle and mortar, or pulse in a food processor, to make into a paste.
  • Add the pine nuts to the mixture and pound again.
  • Turn out into a bowl and add half the Parmesan.
  • Next, whisk in the olive oil and lemon juice until you have an oozy consistency.
  • Finally, as the rest of the parmesan cheese along with the seasoning.
  • Mix with the cooked penne and serve.

Salmon

Navigation in nature is an incredible thing but it often throws in a few oddities: for instance, have you ever wondered how a bumble bee can navigate itself to pollen and then back to the nest, yet it cannot find its way out of a conservatory with the double doors wide open?

Now, I’m not one to gloat over this  – I have the sense of direction of an Asda shopping trolley – but it did get me thinking; that there are some incredible examples in nature of an in-built instinctual compass. Wild salmon are a case in point. Born in fresh water, they then migrate to the ocean, before returning to fresh water to reproduce. It is said that species will then return to the exact spot where they were born in order to spawn.

I love that. Nature may be brutal, but it is an incredible source of wonder.

As well as being exceptionally good navigators, however, salmon are also extremely good for eating. They are a rich and versatile protein and are abundant in Omega-3 fatty acids, owing to the higher fat content in the flesh.

There are so many different ways of cooking salmon: pan fried, poached, smoked or simply baked in foil with a dash of white wine and some vegetables. I personally like it wrapped in a buttery pastry parcel (en croute/wellington) with a good dollop of horseradish or mustard. If you prefer thinly sliced smoked salmon, I find that it’s often a good idea to add a dash of lemon juice, whcih helps to enhance the flavour.

For the recipes below I’ve tried to show a few variations. Hope you enjoy them.

Pesto topped salmon with spinach, lentils and barley

Salmon and lentils is to France what pie and mash is the Britain. The image doesn’t quite qualify as ‘pesto glazed’ but the recipe still works a treat.

Salmon with pesto, spinach, lentils and barley

Serves 1

Ingredients

  • 1 salmon portion
  • 1 tsp fresh basil pesto
  • 400g baby spinach, washed
  • 150g green lentil, pea and barley mix, soaked overnight
  • 300ml water

Directions

  • Place the green lentil, pea and barley mix into a medium pan with the water and bring to a rolling boil. After 30 minutes remove the pan from the heat.
  • Meanwhile, bring a separate small pan of water (just enough to immerse the fish) to a gentle simmer and poach the salmon for 7-8 minutes. Remove from the heat and cover with a lid.
  • Remove the salmon from the water with a slotted spoon, place the water back on the heat, bring to a boil, this time adding the spinach for around 1 minute.
  • To serve, drain the lentil, pea and barley mix and place onto the plate. Remove the wilted spinach a slotted spoon and place this on top, followed by the salmon portion.
  • Using a teaspoon, spread the pesto onto the top of the salmon portion and serve.

Salmon tagliatelle with chives and boursain cheese

A simple supper dish using salmon with deliciously creamy cheese

Salmon flakes with tagliatelli, chives and boursin cheese

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Serves 1 – 2

Ingredients

  • 200g tagliatelle pasta
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 x 150g salmon portion, poached and flaked
  • 40g boursain cheese
  • Chives, to garnish
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

  • Cook the pasta according to packet instructions. Drain the water and place the pasta back into the pan.
  • Toss together with the olive oil and boursain cheese then fold in the salmon.
  • Serve onto warm plates and sprinkle with chives.

Salmon and cottage cheese bagel with and dill and capers

I’ve substituted the more commonly used cream cheese for cottage cheese in this recipe for a higher protein/less fat content. Still a great combination atop the chewy bagel.

Salmon and cottage cheese bagel with capers and dill

Serves 1 – 2

Ingredients

  • 1 plain bagel
  • 60g cottage cheese
  • 3 – 4 slices of smoked salmon
  • 1 tbsp capers
  • a few sprigs of dill, chopped

Directions

  • Mix the cottage cheese with the dill.
  • Slice the bagel in half horizontally and spoon on the cottage cheese and dill. Layer the salmon slices on top, sprinkle on the capers with a squeeze of lemon and serve.

Salmon with butternut squash, carrots, mushrooms and butterbeans

Flaked salmon alongside root vegetables provides great texture in this sustaining dish.

Salmon with squash, butterbeans, mushrooms and rice

Serves 1 – 2

Ingredients

  • 50g butter beans
  • 2 carrots, sliced (1cm width)
  • 1/4 medium butternut squash, chopped into 1cm squares
  • 50g brown rice
  • 1 salmon portion
  • 50g button mushrooms, sliced
  • a small handful of black olives
  • 500ml water
  • Salt and pepper

Directions

  • Bring the water to the boil in a deep pan, then add the carrots, butternut squash and rice. Continue to boil for 15 minutes.
  • Add the butter beans and mushrooms and cook for a  further 5 minutes.
  • Turn down to a simmer and gently place the salmon in the pan and cover with a lid so that the salmon steams in the broth. Cook the salmon in the pot for 10-12 minutes until cooked through.
  • Remove the lid and cook until the water has been absorbed/evaporated.
  • Season with salt and pepper and serve.