Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Mushroom & Goats Cheese Ravioli

Every time I make fresh pasta I always wonder why I have left it so long since I last made it. Nothing can compare with homemade fresh pasta and although I always have this notion in my head that it is time consuming and a lot of hard work, it actually takes no time at all to make and is very easy (especially if you have a pasta maker!). Although you can make pasta without a pasta maker it takes a bit longer since you have to roll out the pasta yourself and I find I can never get it thin enough, however don't let me put you off! If you want to try fresh pasta without a pasta maker please do so!

Since Mr. Vanilla has been away a lot recently for work we decided that we would have a nice, romantic meal on Saturday night. On the menu - one of my favourite pasta dishes, mushroom and goats cheese ravioli. Don't be intimidated by the thought of making ravioli as it is just as easy and any extra time that it takes is more than worth it for the taste. However that being said, I would say that this recipe (for me anyway) is definitely a weekend recipe when you have a bit more time and is perfect if you are wanting a recipe that will impress! Served with a lemon-parsley butter sauce this ravioli is light, absolutely delicious and will leave you wanting to make it again and again. We had it for a main course on Saturday then as a starter on Sunday – I told you, you will want it more than once!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Tomato Tomatoe

Saturday mornings are my time to sleep in a little - I look forward to them all week! Last Saturday was no exception. Mr. Vanilla got up with Wee One around 6.30am and I slept until 8.30am then lay in bed for another 20 minutes or so…bliss. It was because of this that our decision to go to the farmers market was a bit last minute, but we decided to head down nevertheless and see if there was anything left. Finally arriving at 10.30am (no we don’t live that far away, it just apparently takes us that long to get organised and out the door!) I was delighted to see all of the stalls still overflowing with produce and not because it was quiet (certainly wasn’t!) but because it’s that time of year. The summer has been long and dry and now everything is in full bloom ready to be harvested – from a food point of view, early September has to be my favourite time of year. We went expecting to just have a wander around and perhaps pick up a couple of things, instead we had to leave because our bag was overflowing and my purse empty! Delicious crisp apples; mini summer patti pan’s; luscious red peppers ( named “lipstick” peppers – how could I resist?!); a selection of chillies; deep purple mini aubergines; a loaf of dill and onion bread; a wedge of local garlic and herb cheese; some venison pepperoni and a large bag of tomatoes! (So much for just a couple of things that might be left on the stalls!)

Now although everything we bought had me excited and desperate to get into the kitchen, it was the last item on the list that really made me happy! When I say we bought a large bag of tomatoes, I don’t mean the end of season tomatoes that although taste wonderful, don’t rate highly in appearances and are only good for making sauce, I mean I bought the most beautiful selection of tomatoes I have seen in a while. The trays were overflowing with large red, yellow, orange, green and purple tomatoes all of which had grown right on my doorstep. Does it seriously get any better than that?! Being someone who is possibly addicted to tomatoes, I would have to say no (my other half might disagree since he is not a fan of fresh tomatoes - don’t get me started!!) so for that reason I have dedicated this post entirely to tomatoes!

Fresh Tomato Soup

And just because I couldn't resist, my recipe for a lovely fresh cream of tomato soup.....

Tomato Soup

This recipe beats tinned tomato soup any day! Full of fresh flavours and all the comfort you associate with tomato soup – all you need on the side is some fresh crusty bread or for the ultimate in feel good food, a cheese toastie!

30g/1oz butter
1 tbsp olive oil
1 leek, cleaned and finely chopped
2 cloves of garlic, roughly chopped
1 medium sized potato, peeled & cut into pieces
1.5kg fresh, juicy vine-ripened tomatoes, cut into quarters the stalk removed then roughly chopped
1 tbsp sugar (or to taste)
2 tbsp sundried tomato puree
1 bay leaf, fresh if possible otherwise dried is fine
750ml chicken or vegetable stock
Salt & pepper
125ml whipping cream
Handful of fresh basil leaves
Extra virgin olive oil

Melt the butter with the olive oil in a large pan. Add the leeks and cook over a medium heat for roughly 5 minutes then add the garlic and cook for another minute before adding the potato, tomatoes, sugar, tomato puree, bay leaf and some salt and pepper. Cover and leave to cook for 10 minutes before adding the stock then continue to cook uncovered for another 20 minutes.

Remove the bay leaf then leave to cool before blending to a smooth consistency. Transfer the pureed soup into a clean pan then add the cream and gently reheat. Taste to check the seasoning, and adjust if necessary before serving with some torn basil leaves and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

5 Hour Smoked Ribs

Like a lot of people, Sunday for us has to include a nice family meal where we spend plenty of time in the kitchen leisurely cooking and chatting then sit down at the table and savour every bite with a bottle of wine – even if it is just the two of us! In the winter it is comforting roasts or stews like Coq au Vin, Beef Bourguignon or my delicious Barbecue Beef stew, that are cooked slowly for a long time, filling the house with their delicious aromas. Summer is no different except for the fact that the majority of the time the meat is cooked on the barbecue by Mr. Vanilla while I cook the sides. With the weather starting to change and the need for a little comfort food, this Sunday was all about low and slow….Mr. Vanilla smoked some beef ribs on the barbecue over indirect heat for 5 hours and I cooked up a pot of barbecue baked beans. The end result had us still talking about it the next morning which in my opinion is a good indication of just how much we enjoyed it!

5 Hour Smoked Beef Ribs

I have to give Mr. Vanilla full credit for these ribs (as much as I would love to take the credit myself) – he did himself proud! We have eaten a lot of smoked ribs over the years and we both agreed these were the best yet! Sticky and almost chewy on the outside and then buttery, melt-in-your-mouth beef underneath. The meat was so tender it practically fell off the bone and was perfectly smoked and then finished with the lovely sweet and tangy barbecue sauce. Yes, he did well and so I will give him all the credit, especially because he spent 5 hours smoking them! This recipe is an absolute must if you like ribs, just make sure you have a dry day, plenty of time and of course a beer or two to help you on your way!

Serves 4

2 kg approx. of beef ribs
(That was more than enough for the 4 of us but it just depends how hungry you are and whether you would be happy with any leftovers! The ribs we bought were called beef ‘grilling’ ribs – see what you can get.)

For the dry rub:
5 tbsp paprika (I use 3 tbsp of ordinary paprika & 2 tbsp La Chinata sweet paprika)
3 tbsp onion powder
3 tbsp garlic powder
2 tbsp Italian seasoning
1 tbsp mustard powder
1 tbsp salt
2 tsp ground black pepper

For the BBQ sauce:
1 cup of bbq sauce of your choice
2 tbsp brown sugar
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp onion powder
3 cloves of garlic, crushed
¼ cup olive oil

Since the barbecue is Mr. Vanilla's domain the instructions for getting the barbecue ready to go are a little on the brief side! Hopefully though it will be enough to get you going. One piece of advice though is that Mr. Vanilla always uses a thermometer – it’s the only way to make sure the temperature stays consistent. Light the barbecue and let it come to temperature – Mr. Vanilla kept it at 275F for the full 5 hours to ensure long, slow smoking and used natural lump charcoal (hardwood) with natural briquettes which give the lovely smoky flavour.

While the barbecue coals are smouldering away start getting the ribs ready. Mix all of the dry rub ingredients together in a small bowl. Place the beef ribs on a large baking tray and sprinkle over the dry rub. Rub the mix well into the ribs so that they are evenly covered on both sides. Set the ribs aside until you are ready to start cooking them.

When your barbecue has reached the right temperature place the ribs onto the grill. Leave to slowly smoke for 4 hours checking every hour or so (check more at the start to ensure they are smoking very gently).

While the ribs are smoking make the BBQ sauce by placing everything together into a small pan. Bring to a simmer then continue to simmer gently for a couple of minutes then remove from the heat and leave to cool.

After 4 hours baste the ribs with the barbecue sauce then leave to smoke for another 30 minutes before basting again. Leave for a final 30 minutes then remove from the barbecue and place on a large plate. Leave to rest for 5 minutes then roll up your sleeves, get the fingers bowls ready and enjoy!

BBQ Baked Beans

The key to these beans is to cook them low and slow. A perfect weekend recipe when you have time to let them slowly simmer away and infuse with all the delicious flavours.

I used Chipotle BBQ Sauce for a change which definitely added a nice kick to the beans. If you would prefer not to have any spice use normal BBQ sauce and instead of using hot paprika use sweet or ordinary paprika instead.

Drizzle of olive oil
6 rashers of streaky bacon, snipped or cut into small pieces
1 onion, finely chopped
1 fat clove of garlic, crushed
2 tins of navy or cannellini beans
250ml passata
4 tbsp BBQ sauce (I used Chipotle BBQ sauce for a little extra kick)
250ml chicken stock
2 tsp light brown sugar
1 tsp hot paprika (La Chinata if you can)
1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
3 sprigs of thyme
1 sprig of rosemary
1 bay leaf – either fresh or dried
Salt & freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a large medium-large pan then added the bacon pieces and cook until they are just turning crispy. Add the onion and cook for 5 minutes until the onions have softened then add the garlic and cook for another minute before adding the beans. Stir well then add the passata, BBQ sauce, stock, sugar, paprika, Worcestershire sauce, thyme, rosemary, bay leaf, salt and pepper. Mix everything together well then cover and leave to simmer over a very low heat for 1 hour, stirring from time to time.

After 1 hour remove the lid and continue to simmer for another 30 minutes. Just before serving remove the thyme, rosemary and bay leaf and taste to check the seasoning.
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