Recipe – Fig and Gorgonzola Pizza with Caramelized Shallots

A fabulous pizza where the sweetness of dried figs and caramelized shallots complements the smooth, tangy unctuousness of the Gorgonzola. The only thing that takes a bit of time to prepare are the onions and they can be made in advance and kept in the fridge or frozen for several months.

Other than that, you can whip this up in under 30 minutes, especially if you buy a raw ready-made pizza crust.

I make a batch of caramelized shallots/onions a couple of times a year and store them in small containers in the freezer. Defrosted and gently re-heated, they make a perfect topping for steak, burgers, grilled salmon; beaten into mashed potatoes, folded into an omelet or used as a topping for bruschetta. Caramelized onions (onion jam) takes approximately 45 mins to 1 hr, although the actual prep time is about 5 mins.

Non-vegetarians can add shredded prosciutto for an even more decadent pizza.

Pizza with Fig, Gorgonzola & Caramelized Shallots

FIG and GORGONZOLA PIZZA with CARAMELIZED ONION

(Serves two hungry people or 6 as an appetizer snack)

Ingredients:

For the caramelized onion that can be made ahead –

8 oz (227g) of shallots, red or yellow onions

2 oz (57g) butter

1 tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon of honey

2 tablespoons of sherry vinegar

A sprig of fresh thyme

*A raw pizza crust, approx 12ins across (I used a ready-made thin raw crust…don’t feel guilty using shortcuts like this when you have such fabulous toppings)

6 oz (170g) of Gorgonzola diced or sliced – however you prefer

4 oz (113g) of soft-dried black mission figs, stalks trimmed and halved lengthwise

Sea salt, freshly milled black pepper

Action:

Starting with the shallots/onion, slice them very thinly across in rings then sauté over low heat in the warmed olive oil and melted butter, until soft and translucent; approx 5 mins.

Add the honey and vinegar – season to taste with salt and pepper. Throw in the thyme sprig and cover with a tight fitting lid (or use heavy duty foil if you don’t have one). Cook on a very, very low heat for about 45 mins to an hour, stirring occasionally. If they look a bit dry along the way, add a tablespoon of water. Once they’ve become glossy, jammy and meltingly tender, crank up the heat to rapidly boil off any residual liquid. Remove the thyme stalk and set the onions aside to cool (once cooled you can freeze them or store in the fridge for a week).

For the crust ( in my case, made by someone else) – pre-heat the oven to 400F /200C. Arrange the raw crust on a baking sheet, brush lightly with olive oil and bake for 5 mins (can be done ahead).

Pile on the toppings and finish with a drizzle of olive oil. Bake until the cheese is bubbling and the edges of the crust are golden, approx 10-12 mins.

Notes:

The toppings’ quantities are only meant as a guide. Use more or less, at will.

Fresh figs, mozzarella and caramelized onions make a lovely, milder-tasting alternative if fresh figs are in season (which isn’t often in Colorado). Simply snip the stalks off and split them lengthwise into 3 slices per fig as they’re much larger than dried ones. Buffalo mozzarella is best if you can get it.

You can also use figs of the calimyrna variety but they won’t be as darkly dramatic as black mission figs.

 

Posted in Made in Under 30 mins, Pasta, Vegetables / Vegetarian | Leave a comment

Recipe – Linguine with Crab, Fresh Herbs, Lemon & Chili

One of the best things about pasta is that you can create something quite luxurious in a matter of minutes and this lovely seafood dish is no exception. If you can’t get hold of fresh crab, use the best quality jumbo lump crab meat you can find, often found in cans or vacuum packed.

One the other hand, I recommend you stay away from anything called ‘krab’ – it may look like the real thing but I wouldn’t feed it to my cat, if I had one.

Experiment with different herbs such as mint or parsley. I particularly like tarragon but you don’t want to overdo it. Feel free to adjust the amount of chili and lemon as well…

Linguine with Crab, Fresh Herbs, Lemon & Chili

LINGUINE WITH CRAB, FRESH HERBS, LEMON & CHILI

(Serves 2)

Ingredients:

8 oz (227g) of linguine

4 tablespoons of butter, divided

2 tablespoons of olive oil, divided

1 medium shallot, minced

1 clove of garlic, crushed

1/2 – 1 teaspoon of dried chili flakes, to taste

1 -2 tablespoons of fresh lemon juice

2 heaped teaspoons of finely grated lemon zest

1/2 cup (20ml) of dry white wine

Freshly ground black pepper

8 oz of shelled crab or jumbo lump crab meat

1/3 cup of fresh tarragon and chives, mixed

Action:

Cook the pasta according to instructions and set aside 1/2-1 cup of the cooking liquid. While the pasta is cooking,  heat 1 tablespoon of butter with 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a deep skillet or saute pan and sweat the minced shallot until it’s soft (3-4 minutes), then add the garlic and chili flakes. Cook for a couple of minutes more, then add the white wine, and bring the heat up to evaporate it.

Tip the cooked pasta into the pan with the shallot and garlic, adding 1/2 cup of pasta cooking water.  Toss the pasta around to coat for about 1-2 minutes then add the remaining butter, olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, half of the herbs, a good grind of black pepper – and finally the crab.

Keep tossing the pasta until the butter has melted and transfer it to a warmed serving bowl with the remaining herbs scattered over.  Finish with a little extra lemon juice sprinkled over if you like.

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Fish & Seafood, Made in Under 30 mins, Pasta | Leave a comment

Recipe – Classic French Apple Tart

Or perhaps I should call this my lazy version of a classic French apple tart as I used a jar of organic sugar-free apple puree for the filling, because I couldn’t be bothered to peel and cook a load of apples – and the jar was sitting on my shelf.

That said, I did make the pastry from scratch, using my all-time favorite dessert pastry (pâte sucrée) recipe, that’s a doddle to make if you have a food processor and is well worth a little effort.

These quantities below will make a single tart or six individual ones if you prefer. You’ll need a fluted loose-based tart tin(s).

French apple tart is absolutely delicious served cold with cream or crème fraîche and both the filling and pastry can be made ahead.

French Apple Tart

French Apple Tart

FRENCH APPLE TART

(Serves 6)

Ingredients for the filling:

3 cups (700ml) of organic unsweetened apple puree

The finely grated zest of an orange

1-2 oz (28-57g) of sugar depending on how sweet your tooth is

1 oz (28g) of butter at room temp

2 Golden Delicious apples for the topping

For the pastry:

1 and 2/3 cups (400ml measure) of all-purpose (plain) flour

2 tablespoons of fine white sugar

Pinch of salt

5 oz (142g) of chilled unsalted butter, cut into small pieces

Approx 3 tablespoons of iced water

1 large egg yolk

1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract

For the glaze:

2 tablespoons of good apricot jam

2 tablespoons of water

1 teaspoon of lemon juice

Action:

Make the pastry first. Whizz the sugar and flour in a food processor then add the egg yolk, 2-3 tablespoons of iced water and the vanilla. Pulse until it forms a clump, adding tiny amounts more water if you think it needs it. Scoop the pastry out, form it into a ball then flatten it into a disc. Wrap it in cling film and chill in the fridge for a minimum of 2 hrs or overnight. You can also freeze it at this point.

For the filling, combine the apple puree, butter and orange zest in a heavy pan and cook gently together until slightly thickened, stirring all the time. Set it aside to cool.

When you’re ready to assemble the tart(s), roll out the pastry on a lightly floured surface and drape it over the fluted pan, pressing it gently into place. Trim off the excess, using it to fill in any uneven parts, pushing into place with your fingers.

Return the tart to the fridge for another 15 minutes while you preheat the oven to 400F (200C).

Fill the tart with the cooled apple. Thinly slice the unpeeled apples and arrange the slices on the surface of the tart. Bake for 25 minutes or until the pastry is tinged golden brown and the apples are soft.

While the tart is baking, heat the apricot jam, water and lemon juice until the jam is melted and syrupy – strain this over the cooked tart as soon as it comes out of the oven, using a pastry brush to spread the glaze evenly.

Allow the tart to cool completely before serving. If you don’t want to serve it with cream, a scoop of really good vanilla ice cream would be quite perfect in an all-American way.

 

 

 

 

Posted in Desserts | 4 Comments

Recipe – Turkey Meatloaf with Tarragon & Lemon Zest

An incredibly simple recipe for ground turkey (or chicken), this meatloaf is much lighter than the beefy version.

Fragrant with tarragon and lemon zest, it’s delicious whether eaten hot or cold making it great picnic fodder, which may seem a bit optimistic for late April  – but as today is warm and sunny, eating outdoors seems to be just around the corner.

I like to serve turkey meatloaf with boiled baby new potatoes and a green salad.

Turkey Meatloaf

TURKEY MEATLOAF WITH TARRAGON & LEMON ZEST

(Serves 6)

Ingredients:

1.5lbs (750g) of ground turkey

1 shallot, minced

1 clove of garlic, crushed

1 large egg, lightly beaten

1 cup (250ml measure) of dried breadcrumbs

1/4 cup (50ml measure) of Dijon mustard

2 heaped tablespoons of chopped fresh tarragon

1 tablespoon of finely grated lemon zest

1 tablespoon of tamari or soy sauce

Sea salt and black pepper to taste

Red pepper strips for decoration (optional)

Action:

Preheat the oven to 350F (180C). Oil a loaf pan (8″ x 4″ / 1.5 liter).

In a large bowl, mix all the ingredients together, combining well.

Arrange strips of red pepper on the base of the pan then pile the turkey mixture on top, pressing down lightly to even it out.

Bake for 1 hour. Remove from the oven and allow it to rest for 15 minutes before turning it out to slice. Otherwise you can cool it entirely in the pan if you’re serving it cold.

This will keep covered for a couple of days in the fridge or wrap it well in foil to freeze.

 

Posted in Poultry | 1 Comment

Recipe – Indian Spiced Avocado with Ginger & Chili

I suppose this could be considered Southern India’s answer to guacamole, although I suspect it existed centuries earlier than that ubiquitous avocado offering as it originated with Arab settlers who arrived in India over 400 years ago.

Who knows – but in any event, if you love avocado and aromatic Asian spices spiked with lime and garlic, then you’ll love this recipe – adapted and courtesy of a friend who travels a lot and knows her stuff.

Served at room temperature with lots of soft, warm naan bread, it makes a wonderful appetizer and is ready in under 30 minutes.

*Note – fresh curry leaves are available from good Asian supermarkets and online. They aren’t meant to be eaten but add a lovely nutty dimension to the finished dish.

Indian Spiced Avocado with Chili, Ginger & Lime

Indian-Spiced Avocado with Ginger, Chili & Lime

INDIAN-SPICED AVOCADO WITH CHILI, GINGER & LIME

(Serves 4 as an appetizer)

Ingredients:

2 large firm-ripe avocados

The juice of 1 lime

A small handful of chopped cilantro (coriander leaf)

6-8 curry leaves, preferably fresh (optional)

Sea salt to taste

1 tablespoon of toasted sesame oil and 1 tablespoon of coconut or avocado oil

1 teaspoon of mustard seeds (preferably black)

1 teaspoon of finely minced garlic

1.5 teaspoons of freshly grated ginger

1/2 a medium red onion, finely chopped

1/2 a teaspoon of good curry powder

1-2 hot red chilies, seeded and thinly sliced

Action:

Halve the avocados, remove the seed and scoop out the flesh with a spoon – chop coarsely. In a bowl, combine the avocado, lime juice, curry leaves (if using), chopped cilantro and a good grind of sea salt to taste. Set aside.

Heat the oils in a heavy skillet or saute pan with a lid and once hot, add the mustard seeds. Use the lid to cover as they’ll start to pop furiously. Once they’ve calmed down, add the garlic, stir for a minute, then add the onion. Saute for about 6 minutes or until soft. Add the chili and curry powder and cook for another minute or so. Take it off the heat and stir in the avocado mixture.

Serve at room temp with some warm Indian naan bread, home-made or otherwise.

 

 

 

Posted in Indian & Asian Cuisine, Made in Under 30 mins, Vegan, Vegetables / Vegetarian | 2 Comments

Recipe – Baked Eggs with Asparagus

Now that spring is doing its very best to spring itself upon us, the supermarkets are full of  tender young asparagus stalks and what better way to use them than in this lovely brunch dish?

Baked eggs are very adaptable and being slightly more elegant, they make a nice change from the usual poached, fried or scrambled versions that end up on our breakfast plates.

You can add fresh herbs, sliced spring onion (scallions), prosciutto, spinach or anything else you like to serve with eggs. The basic recipe remains the same.

Here, a touch of lemon zest, a few chili flakes and some freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano give it a lively twist. I like to serve baked eggs with hot, crusty olive bread to mop up the sauce.

This recipe contains anchovies so isn’t suitable for vegetarians.

Baked Eggs with Asparagus, Parmesan, Chili & Lemon Zest

BAKED EGGS WITH ASPARAGUS

(Enough for two)

Ingredients:

4 large eggs

6 oz (170g) of fresh asparagus, trimmed

2 anchovy fillets, chopped

1 oz (28g) of grated Parmigiano Reggiano plus some extra

1 & 3/4 oz (50ml) of crème fraîche (or heavy cream)

1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon of finely shredded lemon zest

A small pinch of chili flakes

Action:

Preheat the oven to 350F (180C). Oil or butter two shallow gratin dishes.

Steam the asparagus until it’s just tender then rinse them under cold running water and pat dry.

Mix together the crème fraîche, chopped anchovy, grated Parmigiano and mustard. Divide this between the buttered dishes, making a small well in the center. Arrange the asparagus around the sides then crack a couple of eggs into the center of each dish. Sprinkle with lemon zest, a few chili flakes, a little more grated cheese and a grind of sea salt to taste.

Bake in the preheated oven for 18 to 20 minutes until the eggs are set and serve immediately with some hot crusty bread for dunking.

 

 

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Recipe – My Favorite ‘Mac ‘n Cheese’

Who doesn’t love a really good mac ‘n cheese? Or in this instance, any macaroni-sized pasta with a combination of your favorite cheeses. Here I used rotini pasta, Parmigiano Reggiano, Mozzarella, cave-aged Gruyere and a mature Dutch Prima Donna.

Use whatever combination of soft and hard cheeses you like. And for a truly sublime result, don’t completely blend the cheeses into the pasta before baking – leave them a bit arbitrary, that way you’ll have a selection of deliciously different mouthfuls.

Mac 'n Cheese (Pasta con Quattro Formaggi)

‘Mac ‘n Cheese’

PASTA WITH FOUR CHEESES (Pasta con Quattro Formaggi)

(Serves 4-6)

Ingredients:

1 pint (600ml) of bechamel sauce – directions below

3 oz (75g) each of the following cheeses, or whatever you prefer:

  • Parmesan – grated (save half of this for the topping)
  • Fresh Mozzarella – sliced thinly
  • Gruyere – cut into little matchsticks
  • Aged Gouda or Bella Donna, cut into little matchsticks

2 oz (50g) of butter

12 oz (350g) of your favorite pasta shapes such as macaroni, shells, bucatini, penne, fusili, etc.

Action:

Preheat the oven to 425F (220C).

Cook the pasta according to instructions, until it’s only just al-dente. Drain and tip into a well-buttered oven proof dish.

Meanwhile make the sauce as follows (and this is the laziest way possible):

In a heavy pan, combine 1 pint (600ml) of milk, 2 oz (50g) of butter, 2oz (50g) of plain flour, a bay leaf, a pinch of freshly grated nutmeg, a small piece of onion, sea salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste. Over a moderate heat and whisking continuously to fully combine the ingredients,  bring it to a boil. Once thickened, take the sauce off the heat and discard the onion and bay leaf.

Pour the sauce over the cooked pasta in the baking dish, stirring well to combine, then add the cheeses, one at a time, folding them through the pasta until randomly distributed.

Scatter the remaining Parmesan over the top and dot with a little more butter. Bake in the preheated oven for 12 minutes – just long enough to melt all the cheese.

Finally, stick it under the broiler/grill for a few minutes to create a crunchy golden topping just before serving with a nice little green salad perhaps.

 

 

 

Posted in Pasta, Vegetables / Vegetarian | Leave a comment