A colourful, mouth-watering Minestrone

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I love weekends filled with cooking. The house smells fantastic, the fridge and freezer fill up with beautiful meals that I’ll be enjoying in the following weeks. A spiced peach jam, lentil and eggplant sheperds pie, spanish lentil soup, clam and corn chowder, vichyssoise and this delicious minestrone. If I had more time, I’d document all I’ve done but sometimes you just want to get on with it!!! I’ll be running full steam ahead over the next weeks, I will start canning and pickling on top of cooking comfort food we all crave once the wearher cools. I can’t wait!

Minestrone has a flexible ingredient list according to what you have on hand and what’s seasonal. It checks all the boxes for me at the end of summer. Fresh ingredients, warmth and a hit of flavour with all those fragrant herbs from the garden. So any ingredient you see in this list can be switched to what suits your tastes and what you’ve picked up at the market 🙂

Ingredients

2-3 chipolata sausage, cut into 1 inch pieces

1 cup fresh roma beans

1 of each green and yellow zuchini, quartered

1 onion, diced

2-3 garlic cloves, minced

1 bunch kale, shredded

1 large tomato, diced

200-300 gr. fusilli or similar pasta

Sprigs of each fresh oregano and thyme

1 teaspoon each chili flakes and fennel seeds, crushed

Salt and pepper to taste

Olive oil for cooking

1 litre chicken stock

Parmesan shavings and basil to garnish

Instructions

Heat a little olive oil in a large casserole over medium heat, add onions and sweat for a few minutes then add garlic until fragrant. Add sausage pieces then zucchini, stirring frm time to time. Whe sausage starts to colour add tomatoes and beans. Stir to combine and continue to cook until tomatoes start blistering, add stock, herbs, spices and season with salt and pepper to taste. Allow to come to a slow simmer, then add kale and pasta and cook for 20-30 minutes or until pasta is cooked al dente. Serve in large soup bowl topped with parmesan and granish with basil. Makes 4-6 portions, freezes for up to a month and keeps n the refrigerator for up to a week. Enjoy!

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Eggplant ragù with creamy polenta, chasing rainbows, beautiful sunsets and Bittersweet moments

SCN_0001The end of summer is usually a time in the season that I love. Fresh fruits and veggies abound, evenings get cooler. Cozy evenings call for warm and comforting dishes and a better nights sleep for being more comfortable! This year, because of our weird summer, it feels like I’ve been cheated out of this. I’m enjoying the cool evenings and the market, but I’m not quite prepared to let go of the summer. Where were the heat waves, most of all, who stole our sun??? Cross my fingers that autumn isn’t dismal and grey… On a more positive note, after a big rainfall last week, a beautiful rainbow appeared. I always wonder if there is a pot of gold at the end of it…! 🙂 We’ve also had some beautiful sunsets recently, take a look!

I’m slowly edging towards filling and comforting foods. Eggplant can be so boring, and totally spectacular. It all depends on how you cook it, olive oil and garlic LOVE eggplant. A very simple and delicious side is to sauté some garlic in olive oil then add cubed eggplant. Allow the eggplant to caramelize , stir, continue until golden brown. Delicious! This ragù is a version of that, with eggplant and tomatoes to finish it off. It’s beautiful with polenta but would also do nicely with some fresh Pappardelle topped with flaked Parmesan and a light drizzle of olive oil. Happy cooking! 🙂

RECIPE

1 medium size Fond May eggplant (or small eggplant), cubed

1 custard marrow, quartered and sliced

1 shallot, thinly sliced

3 Roma tomatoes, cubed

2 large cloves garlic, crushed and sliced

1 sprig fresh oregano, thyme and basil, shredded, keeping top of basil for garnish

1/2 cup polenta

2 cups broth

Parmesan

Salt & pepper to taste

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INSTRUCTIONS

Bring broth to a boil, add polenta, whisking constantly. Continue to stir regularly, meanwhile heat a skillet on medium heat. Add oil to coat, add garlic and shallot, stir occasionally until golden. Add marrow, eggplant and herbs, stir to blend. Allow to caramelize, stirring only to distribute colour evenly, When well browned add tomatoes and stir to coat. Allow to reduce lightly, remove from heat. Verify polenta is cooked, then plate, coating polenta with ragù. Lightly drizzle with olive oil and garnish with basil. Makes 2 portions. Both polenta and ragù can be frozen separately. Enjoy!

 

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Sunday Paella

 

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As a child, I grew up with my grandparents preparing paella at the cottage every Sunday in the summer. The dish is a fond memory of both the season but also my grandparents and the cottage. Later on, as I spent some time in Valencia, it was also a confirmation of a celebratory dish, as for the Sunday during the village feria, a large group of friends shared this beautiful dish served on tables set in the streets specially for the occasion. There is usually a fair amount of wine involved as well, in the form of sangria, it is summer after all (!) and maybe that’s what helps create such a festive aura 🙂

At our house, there was also a regulatory argument between my grandmother and grandfather, surrounding the making of the fire, the cornerstone of any true paella. You can make it on the stove, but you’d be missing the whole point! So as I was saying, the fire, which has to be just right, the coals need to keep for a good 30 minutes, but not too hot, or you’ll burn the paella. Next important part of the dish is the ingredients. The dish came to be in Valencia, in the Albufera region, where rice is grown and was made by peasants, so all the ingredients are what they had on hand.  Rabbit, seafood from the ocean nearby and local produce.  There is no one recipe as you will make with whatever you have on hand.  The dish is actually named from the actual pan you cook everything in. It could be a vegetarian paella, seafood, with meat, there really are no limits to your imagination! As we have fresh peas right now, those went in. The one constant is the Bomba rice, tomatoes, garlic, paprika. While cooking, the aroma is spectacular and the finished result is spectacular. Bonus? No dishes, everyone eats directly from the paella! Just have a few small dishes to collect meat bones or seafood shells. Now if that doesn’t spell fun, I don’t know what does! 🙂

Recipe

1 large tomato, diced

1 small onion, diced

2 pieces chicken

10 large shrimp

1/3 cup Bomba rice

3 cloves garlic, crushed & minced

1 red pepper, sliced

1 cup peas

1/2 cup garlic shoots, sliced

2 cups stock (seafood, chicken, I used a combination of both)

I tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

Pinch saffron

Salt to taste

Instructions

On a well lit charcoal fire, heat paella with a tablespoon of olive oil. Place chicken and cook until golden. Remove and put aside, add garlic and paprika to pan and toss, add onions, toss, add tomatoes and blend well. Add peppers and toss, then peas and garlic shoots, toss. Add rice and stir to combine and allow flavors to meld. Place chicken then add stock. Place shrimp in a circle around dish. Allow to cook for 30-40 minutes. When you think dish is ready, continue cooking for 5-10 minutes as this is when the rice will caramelize at the bottom. Remove from fire and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Serve with lemons to squeeze over rice. Serves 2. Enjoy!

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Sunday Spaghetti & Meatballs with fresh pasta

Nothing says sunday night like fresh pasta with meatball sauce! I don’t exactly make mine like an italian nona, but I certainly love it! It’s simple, quick and super satisfying 🙂  And something about meatballs reminds me of childhood, what kid doesn’t love spaghetti and meatballs? I have a vague memory of my cousin Dominic and I waiting for dinner and getting excited because we were having pasghetti…Lol, I can’t remember if it was he or I who couldn’t pronounce it 🙂  As far as the fresh pasta is concerned, I warn you, once you start, it will be hard to come back! Don’t be fooled, it looks complicated and time-consuming but it really isn’t, and you’ll love it every single time !

Recipes

Fresh pasta

1 cup semolina flour and more for dusting

1 egg

1/4 cup water

Dash of salt

Place flour in a mixing bowl and make a well in the middle, add water, salt and egg and mix well. Knead briefly until smooth and soft. The dough should be pliable. Cover and rest in the fridge for an hour or up to overnight. In the meantime make the pasta sauce.

Tomato sauce

2 cups canned tomatoes

1 cup chopped fennel bulb

1 onion, chopped

1 garlic clove, minced

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

Salt and pepper to taste

1 teaspoon olive oil

Heat olive oil in saucepan, add onions and stir until soft and translucent. Add garlic, then fennel seeds and stir. Add fennel bulb, stirring to combine and add tomatoes. Simmer on medium low heat for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, make meatballs.

Meatballs

75 g. each ground beef, pork and veal

1 onion

1 cup mushrooms

2 cloves garlic

1 teaspoon smoked paprika

Salt and pepper to taste

Place onion, garlic and mushrooms in a food processor and process until ground like the meat. Place in a mixing bowl with the meat and seasonings and blend well. Make meatballs the size of your preference, the larger they are, the longer they will have to cook. Transfer sauce into blender and blend on high until smooth. Return to saucepan and add meatballs. Cook for 30 minutes or more until you’ve reached the desired consistency.  Make the pasta: using a pasta machine, flatten the dough in increments until thin enough to pass through the spaghetti blade. Do this by passing it first through the first increment, folding the dough in two and passing it through again a few more times until the dough is smooth, dusting with flour as needed for the dough not to stick. Now pass it through into the second size and continue until you reach the fourth or fifth size. The dough should now have lengthened and thinned. Now pass the ribbon through the spaghetti blade. Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan, drop pasta into boiling water and loosen with a fork if needed. Cook for 2-3 minutes. Drain and plate with pasta sauce and meatballs. Shave parmesan ribbons on to the pasta and decorate with basil leaves.  Makes 2 portions. Enjoy!

Spanish lentil soup to soothe the soul

March… the month of make it or break it! I’ve personally had it with winter. I generally get through the winter without complaining too much but for some reason this year seems to be rougher. Not enough sun, not enough warmth, too much gloom… I’ve been cooking meals that reassure me, that make me feel like there is hope! This recipe is a classic in my house. It gets tweaked a tiny bit from time to time, however I’m sure it remains true to my grandmother’s original recipe! If you can find a true, good chorizo, you’re set. I love that this recipe is from my spanish roots and yet all the ingredients are local. The only imported product is the smoked paprika! The soup is perfectly paired with a creamy goat cheese and a crusty country bread. It’s hearty, tasty, and comforting!!!

 

Recipe

1 cup lentils

1 medium chorizo, sliced

2 cups chicken broth (or water)

1 medium carrot, sliced

1 tomato, crushed

1 large shallot, diced

2 cloves garlic, minced

1 1/2 teaspoon smoked paprika

1 tablespoon olive oil

Salt & pepper to taste

Instructions

Heat oilve oil on medium heat in saucepan, add shallots until soft and translucent. Add garlic and stir. Add tomatoes, carrots and paprika and cook for 1 minute. Add chorizo and lentils and stir to mix. Add broth and simmer on low for +/- 30 minutes or until lentils are just soft under tooth. Can be frozen up to 4 months. makes 2 large portions. Enjoy!