I have recently been doing some design work for a small but perfectly formed client who has a rather splendid café in Victoria (I will put a link to his website when I have finished building it. Nag me!). Part of the design work is to shoot photographs of his rather excellent food. He sells takeaway pasta dishes that you can mix and match from a wide range of ingredients. He also sells some trusty ‘standard’ items (believe me, they are not standard, nor are they average or ordinary) that are listed on his menu.
Now, I am a man of symmetry. I like symmetry, especially when I’m designing menus boards. He had five salads. I needed him to have six – two rows of three. So whilst doing the layout, I shoved an entirely imagined item, Tuscan Pasta Salad, into the empty space.
Then came the photography and I decided to invent the Tuscan Pasta salad for real. It is dead simple to make, healthy and delicious. And Tuscan. Which sounds Italian because it is.
The recipe consists of two main groups of things: Roast veg and pasta. So here goes:
- 1 red pepper – remove the core and chop into biggish chunks
- 1 Green Pepper
- 10 halved cherry tomatoes
- 1 Red onion, peeled and quartered
- 1 clove of garlic, chopped
- Some halved mushrooms
- Coarse ground pepper
- A sprig of rosemary
- Sea salt
- A few trimmed green beans (for steaming)
- A few tender stem broccoli florets (to steam with the beans)
- Pasta – any short pasta will do – I’d recommend conchiglie _ I used fresh gigli (it means flower in Italian) made fresh by my client. You are unlikely to find it in the shops.
- Cook the pasta as usual – I slightly overcook the pasta for a salad by about a minute
- Get all the other stuff except the beans and the broccoli and put them in a pot with a small amount of olive oil – I only use a tablespoon
- Put the lid on the pot and subject the contents to an earthquake. This mixes everything up, gets the salt and oil etc. where it should be
- Sling the veg on a roasting tray and roast for 10 minutes at 200 degrees
- Steam your beans for seven minutes, adding the broccoli when there are three minutes remaining.
- Rinse the cooked pasta in cold water to cool it down (or have it hot – I don’t care and it is deluxe whichever way you have it)
- Add your roasted veg and the juices to the pasta
- Stir with a mighty vigour
- Sling the steamed broccoli and beans on top
- Add toasted pine nuts if you want to really impress yourself. And me.
As with all my recipes, don’t get over anxious about quantities. Just follow your nose!
It is a long time since I have written anything here. I ran out of words after being advised by someone beloved and very important to me to maybe try my hand at writing. So I have been sulking. I think I might have finished now, so I’ll see if I can still write and will try my hand at it.
So: Coq au Vin. In Zimbabwe’s Shona we would call it “Huku ne doro”, “doro” being as close as I can get to a Shona word for wine. It means booze. This recipe uses wine. White wine.
Now we all know that for me to write a recipe, it is first necessary to tell you a story. I don’t really have a story to go with this, but bear with me an I will make one up as we go. In fact, I will tell you the circumstances surrounding me cooking this dish and will embellish it with a few lies, some exaggeration and perhaps an amusing anecdote or two.
Well, my fine son Ross, who works ever so hard sampling (and occasionally selling) his employers’ copious amounts of beer announced to me that he had a night off and was in the mood to do some cooking. He was picturing something “lovely” and rare. We discussed a few options and nearly went for Fillet of Black Rhino stuffed with Malawian Mountain Cabbage, Served on a Bed of Magic Mushrooms but didn’t have the cash, and Ross, whose generosity and income are rather mismatched in favour of generosity, was buying the ingredients. We went to the supermarket.
Looking at their meat chillers we noticed a distinct absence of Rhino meat, which kicked the whole Fillet of Black Rhino stuffed with Malawian Mountain Cabbage, Served on a Bed of Magic Mushrooms into touch. So we bought some chicken legs. And bacon lardons. And mushrooms. And Shallots. And wine.
After taking these ingredients for a well deserved beer piss-up apperatif at The Regent or The Mason’s Arse – I cannot recollect which – we wobbled our way to my palatial abode pretending to look sober for my lovely supervisor, Anna. And look sober we did, if we held on to something and didn’t speak. We were unspeakable. Anna was speechless. The cat was dumbstruck.
With great stealth and agility Ross and I headed for the kitchen where without even a sound we silently and efficiently got out the necessary pots and pans. After picking up everything that had fallen on the floor and putting it back in the cupboard, we picked up everything that had once again fallen out of the cupboard onto the floor. Eventually we discovered that if you tell cascading cookware to “SHHHHH” it stops falling out of the cupboard. We were back in Ninja Chef mode. We gaffer-taped the cupboard closed. We removed the gaffer tape and let the cat out of the cupboard. Sometimes the cat looks quite wok-like and mistakes can happen.
Being very dribbling drunk slightly merry, I knew that we’d have to move quickly and cook something marvellous in just a few minutes or else there’d be a rebellion by Anna who had, we were certain, not heard the pots cascading out of the cupboard. Speed and efficiency were called for. So Ross and I had another beer. We discussed what we were going to do. It turned out we were going to have another beer.
Eventually we did get started on cooking this fine, simple, dead easy recipe for Coq au Vin. We had it with Weapons Grade Roast Potatoes. This recipe for Coq au Vin should take no longer than 30 minutes from prep to plate (a bit of forward planning is needed to account for the potatoes – or you can do rice instead).
- 4 Chicken legs – thigh and drumstick – one for each diner.
- One Sliced onion
- Several peeled shallots – be generous
- 3 or 4 chopped cloves of garlic
- 1 stick of chopped celery
- Bacon lardons
- A punnet of mushrooms
- Some thyme
- A sprig of rosemary
- A large glass of red or white wine (we used white German table wine – nothing fancy)
- Get an oven proof pan and put it on the stove. Get it HOT!
- Throw in a splosh of olive oil. Get it smoking hot.
- Brown the chicken legs, turning regularly to ensure a nice golden brown colour
- Put the chicken legs aside
- Throw the bacon lardons into the pan – keep them moving and allow them to colour-up
- Throw in the chopped onion, the shallots, garlic, celery
- Allow the onion, shallots and garlic to soften and go golden brown
- Put the chicken legs back in the pan and mix it all up a bit
- Add the wine
- Sling the whole pan in the oven at 200ºC for 20 – 25 minutes
- While the chicken is cooking, sauteé the mushrooms with a bit of chopped in butter and olive oil
- When the chicken is done, add the mushrooms
- Eat it like you stole it.
In case no one noticed, here in the United Kingdom, it is winter. This means that is is somewhat cooler than in summer. In fact, today, my car told me that it was 3 degrees below freezing. And there is this white stuff on the ground and occasionally in the sky. It is bloody freezing. Various people who know nothing about these things tell me this is all down to climate change. Whatever. I’m a sceptic. Read more…
British television, apart from a few isolated islands of brilliance, is slipping slowly into a sticky quagmire of something worse than mediocrity. The F Word, starring the King of Cussing, Gawdon Ramsay seems to be leading the charge. Read more…
One of my finest achievements with this blog is how many pervy people have been attracted to it. About three or four so far. Several times a day I check the stats and of recent times, I have noticed that there have been some splendid Google search terms. I am tickled pink that little old big fat me and the fine, fantastic Foodriot.org are now attracting an altogether naughtier audience. Who knows where it will all end? Read more…
I have been thinking a lot recently about my very, very good friend Mike “Roman Maroni” McKenna. I have, through much fault of my own, lost touch with him. One of the warmest, kindest and funniest people I have ever known. I want him back. Mike, if you read this blog, this message is for you: Read more…
Over the last two days, I have been engaged in a correspondence with a gentleman claiming to be a doctor who would like very much to make a reservation for 15 in my restaurant. Read more…