Tuesday, 15 May 2012

Sicilian caponata

I seem to be on a bit of an Italian theme at the moment and it's no bad thing. I want fresh whole ingredients quickly and simply transformed into tasty healthy food – something the Italians have been doing for centuries. When I speak to those of you who are making the recipes I put on here, it seems that most of you are looking for easy, healthy midweek meals. Something to pop on the stove walk away for 20 minutes and forget about while you pour a glass of wine and put your feet up. So this one keeps it simple. It's a one-pot stew, a bung it all in and let those Mediterranean flavours work their magic. Have it with bread, a jacket potato or simply with a couple of shavings of parmesan. Buon appetitio!

Serves 2, and a leftover lunch

1/2 onion, finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 aubergine, cubed
5 very ripe large tomatoes, chopped (or 1 tin chopped tomatoes)
1/2 courgette
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 tsp dried oregano
1 bunch fresh basil
10-15 large pitted green olives
2 tbsp capers
2 tbsp sultanas
Parmesan and toasted pine nuts, to serve

1. In a large pan fry the onion in a little olive oil until soft, add the garlic and stir. Add the aubergine and fry for a couple of minutes. Then add the chopped tomatoes, courgette, red wine vinegar and oregano and fry for about 5 minutes.

2. Add a handful of chopped basil leaves, the whole olives, capers and sultanas, stir and cover with a lid. Turn the heat down and simmer for 15-20 minutes, until the vegetables are cooked through but not mushy yet.

3. Scatter with fresh basil leaves, torn, some parmesan and pine nuts.

Wednesday, 9 May 2012

Rack of lamb with braised lentils and salsa verde

It's been a long time since my last post, a busy schedule and the tail end of winter conspired to leave me less than inspired in the kitchen. Now I seem to have emerged from my hibernation to a very wet spring, but at least we can still have the tastes of spring on a plate. And this spring lamb dish was inspired by my boyfriend, Luke, who loves a good rack of lamb. Here it's been given an Italian pairing with braised lentils and salsa verde, the lentils still hearty on a cool evening and the fresh, zingy salsa transporting me to a warm verandah in a southern Italian villa. Well, until the sun decides to shine I'm going to keep things bright, cheery and healthy in the kitchen and with all those lovely lentils, fresh herbs and a gorgeous piece of lamb this dish tops my spring-eating list.

 Serves 2

1 rack of lamb
2 tsp dijon mustard
1 piece stale bread
3 cloves garlic
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves picked
2 lemons, zested
1 onion
200g puy lentils
1 pint vegetable stock
1 tbsp white wine vinegar
a few sprigs fresh thyme
1 bay leaf
1 bunch fresh parsley
5 small anchovy fillets
1 tbsp capers juice of
1 lemon

 1. Preheat the oven to 180C, 160C fan. Using a teaspoon coat the rack of lamb with the mustard and set aside. Blitz the bread, 1 clove of garlic, the rosemary, zest of 1 lemon in a food processor until it is crumbs. Place the crumbs on a plate and then roll the rack of lamb over the crumbs, until well coated.

 2. Fry the onion and garlic in a little olive oil until the onion is soft. Then add the lentils and stock, white wine vinegar, thyme, bay leaf and season with black pepper. Bring to the boil and simmer for 25 mins.

 3. Roughly chop the parsley, anchovies, capers and place in a small bowl, then add the lemon juice and remaining zest and 2 tbsp of olive oil. Mix and season with salt and pepper to taste.

 4. After the lentils have been simmering for 5 mins place the lamb on a baking tray and roast in the oven for 20 mins, until the coating is brown and the lamb is just blushing in the middle.

 5. If the lentils are running low on water add a little more stock. When they are soft but not yet mushy turn them off and ladle into bowls. Remove the lamb from the oven and place on top of the lentils and scatter with the salsa verde.

 Now, sit back with a glass of Chianti on that southern Italian verandah, bliss!