Recipe: pasta alla vodka

This year we’ve eaten a lot of pasta. I think we needed it this year more than ever. To me, a nice pasta dish is really comforting, especially if it is of the creamy Roman kind, but it also helps that so many pasta dishes are easy and quick to make. It seems much needed from time to time, this year when we have spent so much more time in our kitchens.

Pasta alla vodka has become a firm favourite that we eat quite often, and the creamy tomato-y sauce with a hint of vodka is just the best when in need for a bowl of comfort. I use Bon Appetit’s recipe and like them I prefer to make it with a medium-sized rigatoni.

Obviously one can eat pasta any day of the week but I’ve found it especially nice to make it on Fridays to celebrate the end of the working week with a quick but lovely pasta dish and a glass of wine. It sets one up for the weekend ahead, even in a lockdown.

Pasta alla vodka with rigatoni, serves 4

Adapted from Bon Appetit’s recipe.

500 g medium-sized rigatoni

1 medium onion, finely chopped

4 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled

115 g Parmesan cheese, finely grated

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tube (127 g) double-concentrated tomato paste

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (can be omitted)

60 ml vodka

180 ml double cream

basil leaves for serving

Boil the pasta al dente according to the instructions on the packet. Pour the oil into a large saucepan and place on medium heat. Add onion and garlic and cook, stirring constantly, just until onion is starting to brown around the edges, approx 5–7 minutes. Add tomato paste, and red pepper flakes if using, and stir until the paste evenly coats the onions. Continue to cook, stirring often, until the paste is deep red and starting to brown on bottom of pot, approx 5–7 minutes. Add the vodka to deglaze pan and stir to incorporate, scraping the bottom of pot. Reduce the heat to low. Using a heatproof glass measuring cup, scoop about 60 ml boiling water from the pasta pot, then add the cream to it and slowly pour it into the tomato paste while stirring. Remove from heat. Reserve about 150 ml of the pasta water and add the cooked rigatoni to the sauce. Add some of the pasta water to the pot and stir on low heat as the pasta continues to cook and the sauce thickens. Gradually add half of the Parmesan, stirring constantly to melt the cheese. You should have a smooth, glossy sauce that coats each piece of pasta. Season with salt and divide pasta among bowls. Top with remaining cheese, drizzle with olive oil and scatter basil on top.

Recipe: the best side salad!

I don’t say this lightly, but this is, in my opinion, the best side salad. It doesn’t look like much, but it’s got crunch, it’s creamy and tangy and covered with grated parmesan.

So far I’ve paired it with lasagne and shrimp rolls with skin-on oven fries; two dishes that I love but I felt some kind of freshness was needed and this is the only salad that has really worked so now it’s forever in my repertoire.

It’s quite simple really, just crunchy little gem lettuce leaves (you don’t even need to cut or shred them) slathered in a homemade ranch-ish dressing with herbs and covered in a scattering of grated parmesan and some more herbs to make it look a bit more exciting. That’s it! It will only take you mere minutes to make but it will complement so many dishes.

Creamy side salad with parmesan, serves 2

1 little gem lettuce, rinsed and patted dry

4 tbsp soured cream

1,5 tbsp mayonnaise

1/2 tsp dijon or English mustard

3 drops of tabasco

1 small bunch of parsley, finely chopped

1 small bunch of chives, finely chopped

salt and pepper

Topping:

approx 3 tbsp finely grated parmesan

some finely chopped chives

Cut the bottom off the lettuce and place the leaves whole in a bowl. In a smaller bowl, combine soured cream and mayonnaise. Add dijon, tabasco and herbs. Season to taste. Mix the lettuce with the dressing until every lettuce leaf has a thin coating of dressing. Transfer to a serving bowl or platter. Scatter with finely grated parmesan and some more chives.

Updated: Cider Chicken

The last time we had people over for dinner before lockdown this is what I made; an updated version of my ten year old recipe for cider chicken. It’s really fun to cook my old recipes and get reacquainted. with the familiar flavours. And this is a recipe I’m particular proud of. But, as with everything, there was a little room for improvement. The recipe below feels fresher and easier and is still as delicious as the original!

Cider chicken, serves 4

8-10 chicken thighs with the skin on

1 tbsp olive oil

salt and pepper

2-3 tsp herb de Provence

500 ml dry apple cider

1/2 stock cube

2 tsp dijon mustard

500 ml cream

bunch fresh parsley, chopped

Add the olive oil to a frying pan frying pan that you can use in the oven later (no plastic handles that could melt) and heat to medium-high. Brown the chicken all around until nice and golden. Season with salt, pepper and herbs. Pour cider into the pan until approx 2 cm place in the oven. Cook in 200C for 15-20 minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Remove the chicken and keep warm.

Add the remaining cider to the pan and place on high heat to reduce a little. Add the cream, mustard and stock cube. Let it thicken and adjust the seasoning and herbs. Place the chicken in a varm serving dish, pour over the sauce and scatter with chopped parsley.

Recipe: Ciabatta Sandwich with Tomato Cream Cheese and Prosciutto

I completely forgot to share with you my perfect sandwich that I invented on a lovely summer’s day in Norfolk.

As you know I make this tomato cream cheese and pair it with prosciutto or parma ham A LOT, and it just hit me that it would work really well in a sandwich too. But not on boring bread; it had to be a crunchy freshly baked ciabatta. And with the addition of crispy gem lettuce and cucumber slices it feels really fresh even on a hot day, but I could honestly eat this all year round; it’s THAT good.

So without much further ado, let me share with you how I make it! And if you’re not sure what type of ciabatta and tomatoes I mean I have provided links below.

Ciabatta sandwich with tomato cream cheese and prosciutto, serves 2

1 half ciabatta from the supermarket

80 g Philadelphia cream cheese

2 tbsp sunblush tomatoes in oil, finely chopped

salt and pepper

2 slices prosciutto

2 little gem lettuce leaves, washed in cold water and dried

6 cucumber slices

Bake the bread until golden (approx 10 minutes in 180C) and leave to cool. Cut in half and then in half again so you have four pieces, two bottoms and two uppers.

Mix the tomato and cream cheese together in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

On the two bottom halves, spread a generous layer of the tomato cream cheese. Add the lettuce leaves, then the prosciutto slices folded in half. Place the cucumber slices on top of the ham. Spread the upper halves with the tomato cream cheese and place on top like a sandwich. Tuck in!

My Favourite Autumn Recipes!

I had the good intention of writing an inspiring post each month, to highlight what’s in season and link to some recipes from my vast blog archives. I managed it for a few months but with COVID, trips to Norfolk, work and well, life in general I’m way behind. But instead of scrapping those posts altogether, I thought I would make them a quarterly instalments instead, as that’s hopefully more manageable. Let’s call it seasonal inspiration.

It’s now October and autumn is in full swing. So without much further ado I would like to present to you a few autumnal favourites. You will see mushroom recipes, stews and soups and pretty much all things autumnal. Happy cooking!

This starter with burrata, fried girolles, brown butter and dill is just phenomenal and a great dish for transitioning into autumn. (I know at least some of us are struggling to accept that summer is over…)

This spaghetti carbonara with girolles is another favourite this time of year. I love the combination of fried mushrooms and creamy pasta. So comforting and delicious!

If you fancy more of a project, why not make your own mushroom ravioli from scratch?! It’s as satisfying as it is delicious!

This toast is one of my autumnal favourites. You know those cold rainy days when you just need a hug in the shape of melted cheese?! This will make you feel better. The combination of earthy mushrooms + creamy brie + fragrant rosemary is amazing. Especially when topped on crispy butter-fried bread.

Another great autumnal dish is this pork fillet en croûte with a mushroom filling. Delicious and dinner party worthy!

Moving on to stews, this lamb stew with red wine, cream and mushrooms is one of my favourites to make because it’s so easy – yet so warming and lovely!

For a weeknight this quick chilli is easy and delightful, especially topped with grated cheese and soured cream. And maybe some cornbread on the side. Yum!

Autumn is also (finally!) the time for soups! Carrot and coriander soup has become a firm favourite since I moved to the UK. Before that I thought this would be a strange combination but it really works!

On a cold night nothing beats hot soup and melted cheese, and this broccoli soup with cheddar combines the two! It’s basically broccoli cheese made into a soup and I’m here for it!

I’m really into sweet potatoes at the moment and this soup with lemongrass is wonderful and totally vegan (if you use vegetable stock).

It wouldn’t be autumn without pumpkin and this roasted butternut squash with Persian pesto and feta is just to die for.

Last but not least, we obviously need to include apples. This is hands down the best apple cake there is! It has a nice crunchy top that makes it unusual but also utterly delicious. With a hint of cinnamon of course!

I also love this yoghurt pannacotta with soft baked apples and a hint of rosemary! The perfect autumn pudding!

There you are – a nice little selection of my favourite autumn recipes! Let me know if you try any of them and how you get on.

Recipe: Buttery Almond Biscuits (Bondkakor)

During lockdown I did a lot of baking. Like a lot a lot. Our 5pm tea time break was holy and I tried to make sure we had nice treats to enjoy each day.

It was a fun game of finding ingredients and trying to think of what to make with them. I made these particular biscuits when we were low on eggs. It felt so satisfactory to be able to make something delicious (and trust me when I say these biscuits are buttery and scrumptious!) even when you can’t get hold of something as basic as eggs.

But I urge you to make them even if you have plenty of eggs on hand, because they are so so good! I baked half in the Aga and half in a regular oven at a later time (the dough freezes really well!), and they were definitely best when baked in the Aga, so if you have or have access to one, don’t hesitate to make these!

Bondkakor (Buttery Almond Cookies), makes about 60

Translated from and adapted after Ica’s recipe.

30 g whole almonds

150 g plain flour

1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda

80 g caster sugar

1/2 tbsp golden syrup

1 tsp water

100 g butter

Chop the almonds roughly. Pour the flour and bicarb into a bowl and mix. Add sugar, syrup, almonds, water and butter. Work the ingredients into a dough. Shape into two rolls, each approx 3 cm in diamanter. Wrap in clingfilm and place in the fridge for a few hours to firm up. Pre-heat the oven to 200˚C. Cut the rolls into 5 mm thick slices and place on parchment paper covered baking trays. Bake in the middle of the oven for 5-7 minutes. Place on a wire rack to cool.

Recipe: Cheat’s carbonara

You know how it’s a complete no-no to have cream in your pasta carbonara?! Well, during lockdown I had to forgo my principles a little when I was short on eggs. The honesty box for eggs at the village farm was under high demand and sometimes you were unlucky and went without.

So I ended up adding a little cream to my egg yolks and parmesan and it was actually so much easier to make a carbonara that way. No holding of breath and giving a silent prayer that it would turn out ok. It just worked, so for us non-Italians I actually think this is the best way to learn how to make this dish. And then when you’re confident and can make it in your sleep, make it without the cream and experience the authentic version, because it’s pretty great. Yes, better than this version with cream. But when you’re low on eggs or tired one night after work, then this is my go-to!

Cheat’s carbonara, serves 2

Very similar to proper carbonara, but much easier to make!

1 large free-range egg yolks

40g Parmesan cheese, plus extra to serve

2-3 tbsp cream

150g good quality pancetta, diced

200g dried good quality spaghetti

1 clove of garlic

extra virgin olive oil

black pepper

a pinch of salt

Put the egg yolk into a bowl, finely grate in the Parmesan, season with pepper, then mix well with a fork and put to one side. Cook the spaghetti in a large pan of boiling salted water until al dente.

Fry the pancetta in a little oil over medium-high heat. Peel the garlic and crush it and add it to the pan for flavour – remove if it browns or when finished cooking. Reserve some cooking water and drain the pasta and add it to the pancetta pan. Toss well over the heat so it really soaks up all the flavour, then remove the pan from the heat. Transfer the pasta back to the spaghetti pan, season and add a splash of the cooking water, then pour in the egg mixture and the cream. Mix well (I like to use tongs to move the pasta around in the pan), adding more cooking water (if needed) until lovely and glossy. Serve with a grating of parmesan and extra pepper. 

Recipe: my home-made granola with almonds and raisins

Although I have mentioned it on the blog before, I don’t tend to talk about the fact that I have some stomach problems, all the time. But what I can (and can’t) eat of course really effects what recipes I post here on the blog.

If you like me, can’t eat very much dietary fibre, then I hope you can find some good recipes on here. But I do sometimes struggle to eat healthily because most healthy foods are off limits for me. And buying granola is a mine field. There is at least one thing (sometimes several) that I need to pick out before I pour it onto my yoghurt, so it is a lot easier making my own.

Oats, although high in fibre, consists mainly of soluble fibre, which even I can handle some of, so they’re a great base. And so good for you! I toast them until I have crunchy golden delicious-smelling clusters, then add the almond slivers to be gently toasted and then the raisins afterwards.

In general I can’t eat very many nuts, but peeled and sliced almond slivers (or ground almonds) work in moderation, so that’s why I added those. Same with dried fruits; in general I can’t handle it, but a few raisins work. Prunes or apricots on the other hand are a no-no. (Yes, my condition is A LOT about trial and error).

I will say though, that this granola is for everyone! I have given it to neighbours and friends and they all love it. What I really like about it (apart from the fact that I don’t have to pick anything out!) is that it’s not overly sweet, but still delicious. (Just imagine how much sugar that they use in store-bought granolas that taste really sweet! Scary!) But my favourite part – apart from the taste – is the way your whole house smells heavenly as you make it. It would be perfect in a scented candle!

Hanna’s granola with almonds and raisins, 1 large batch

500 g rolled oats

100 g almond slivers

150 g raisins

125 ml caster sugar

125 ml water

50 ml vegetable oil

1 tsp vanilla

2 tbsp honey

a pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 150C. Cover a baking tray with raised edges with parchment paper. Mix water, sugar, oil, honey, vanilla and salt in a small bowl until the sugar has melted. Pour the oats onto the baking tray and pour in the sugar mixture. Mix with a wooden spoon until all the oats are a little damp from the syrup. Spread out evenly and toast until golden, for approx 20-30 minutes.

Stir and toast for another 10-15 minutes. Add the almond slivers and toast for another 5 minutes. Take the tray out of the oven and leave to cool. Add the raisins and leave to cool completely before transferring the granola to an airtight container. Keeps for a month (but might not last as long).

Recipe: The Easiest Scones!

When I saw Rosie make these on her Instagram in the middle of lockdown, I decided to try them straight away. I already have a great scone recipe on the blog, courtesy of Paul Hollywood, but these seemed a lot easier and quicker to make.

I even managed to get hold of clotted cream, so two days in a row we had freshly baked scones with jam and clotted cream with our tea. So yummy!

These are definitely your everyday type of scones. The ones you whip up just before eating them, and I think they are intended that way. If you’re putting on a whole afternoon tea spread I would make the Paul Hollywood ones though, as they are more like the ones you get in a nice restaurant. Less rustic.

I can’t stress enough how easy these are to make! If you haven’t made scones before or are a bit scared of baking, this is the recipe to try. Line up the ingredients and have the tea, clotted cream and jam ready!

The easiest scones, makes about 16

Adapted from Rosie The Londoner’s recipe.

8 heaped tbsp self-raising flour

quarter pack of butter (about 62 g), cubed

150 ml milk

pinch of salt

Pre-heat the oven to 200 C. Add the flour and salt to a large mixing bowl and add in the cubed butter. Use finger tips to break up the butter until it resembles breadcrumbs in texture. Make a well in the middle and pour in the milk. Use a knife to bring it together into a sticky dough. Dust a surface with flour and place the dough on it. Sprinkle some flour on top and pat the dough until approx 1.5 inches thick, taking care not to knock the air out of it or work the dough too much. Cut out scones with a cookie cutter or a glass. Keep going until all the dough has been used. Place the scones on a parchment lined baking tray. Bake for 10-15 minutes and let cool on a wire rack. Split the scones open to serve.

Recipe: The Most Versatile Sauce!

This cold faux bearnaise sauce has been my go-to this summer! It works so well with any barbecued meats (pork fillet, glazed ribs you name it!) and roast chicken if you can’t be bothered to make gravy and it’s just the best!

But let me explain the faux bearnaise element. It’s the flavouring with shallots, tarragon and vinegar. The texture is a lot lighter than a bearnaise sauce and it’s not as decadent as it has no butter. So please don’t expect a bearnaise sauce substitute (although it is in my opinion so much nicer than any readymade bearnaise sauc

Faux bearnaise sauce, serves 6

Translated from and adapted after Zeina’s Kitchen’s recipe.

200 ml creme fraiche

50 ml mayonnaise

1 shallots, finely chopped

1-2 tsp white wine vinegar

2 tbsp dried tarragon

small bunch parsley, finely chopped

2 tsp dijon mustard

1/2 tbsp caster sugar

salt and pepper

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and keep refrigerated for an hour or so before serving.