Malfada corta with mushrooms and bacon

You could make this quick and easy pasta dish with dried porcini and chestnut mushroom sauce as a vegetarian dish, however, the crispy bacon lardons I use to top it with add protein and an extra dimension of flavour and texture. Either way, it’s completely delicious and, as long as you remember to pre-soak the porcini mushrooms in advance, you can have it on the table in about 20 minutes. It’s a perfect autumn supper dish for two or just double or treble the ingredients to serve four or six people.

Malfada Corta with mushrooms and bacon

Serves 2

  • 300g Malfada corta pasta, it’s like short cut tagliatelle; I use Sainsbury’s ‘Taste the Difference’
  • 4 pieces of streaky bacon cut into lardon strips
  • 30g dried porcini mushrooms
  • 25g butter
  • 150ml double cream
  • 300g chestnut mushrooms, sliced
  • 30ml white wine (brandy or Madeira works well too)
  • 1 tsp brown French mustard
  • 1 tbsp Parmesan cheese
  • 1 tbsp parsley, finely chopped
  • Salt and black pepper

To make…

  • About an hour or so before you want to cook the dish, place the dried porcini in a small bowl and just cover with boiling water. This will create a full flavoured stock to use in the sauce. When you are ready to start cooking, strain the stock away from the mushrooms into another dish. Reserve the porcini which should now be plumped up and rehydrated, chop them finely.
  • Put the pasta on to cook according to the pack instructions. It should take about 10 minutes.
  • Fry the bacon lardons in a large non-stick frying pan. It should take just a few minutes for them to become crisp and brown. Take them out of the pan with a slotted spoon and put them to one side on a plate.
  • Add the butter to the bacon fat in the pan. Add the mushrooms and cook them until lightly browned and caramelised. Add the white wine and stir for a few moments so it burns off the alcohol. Pour in the porcini stock except the last few drops in the bottom of the dish as it might contain a little fine grit from the mushrooms. Allow it to evaporate and concentrate to half the volume. Stir in the chopped porcini, mustard and the cream. Season with a little salt and plenty of ground black pepper. Taste and check the seasoning is to your liking. The sauce should be quite thick and silky. Stir in the parsley.
  • Drain the pasta and reserve and tablespoon of the starchy cooking water. Turn the drained pasta into the sauce and stir to coat it thoroughly. If it needs to loosened slightly, add the reserved cooking water.
  • Divide into two equal portions and turn it into warmed pasta bowls. Top with an equal amount of the crispy bacon lardons and top with a generous grating of Parmesan.

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Spicy shepherds pie

These early autumn days can be warm and sunny but the minute the sun goes down it’s properly chilly. It’s time to bring out the big comfort food guns and this spicy shepherd’s pie is just the job. A real shepherd’s pie is made with leftover Sunday roast lamb and gravy but you could substitute lamb mince of course. The Madras spiced gravy is the star of the show and goes beautifully with root veg like parsnips, carrots, swede and celeriac (just use your favourite mix), all topped with fluffy mashed potato. If you wanted to make it vegetarian, you could swap out the meat for a can of lentils.

Spicy shepherds pie

Serves 4

  • 500g or so of leftover roast lamb chopped into bite sized pieces
  • Leftover lamb gravy or chicken stock
  • 3 tbsps plain Greek yoghurt
  • 1 tsp tomato puree
  • 1 tsp cumin seeds
  • 1 large carrot, peeled and chopped into small dice
  • 1/4 of a celeriac, peeled and chopped into small dice
  • 1 parsnip, peeled and chopped into small dice
  • 1 stick of celery, peeled and chopped into small dice
  • 1/4 of a small swede, peeled and chopped into small dice
  • 1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
  • 2 tsps Madras curry powder
  • 4 or 5 large potatoes, peeled and quartered into equal sized chunks
  • 2 tbsps light olive oil
  • 40g butter plus a little extra for dotting at the end.
  • 1/4 tsp turmeric
  • Salt and white pepper

To make…

  • Put the potatoes into boiling salted water with the turmeric and cook for about 10 minutes or until they are cooked through. Once cooked, mash and whisk in the butter, salt and white pepper. It needs to be quite thick so it sits easily on the meat and vegetables but add in a tablespoon or two of hot milk to loosen it up if it’s too stiff.
  • Meanwhile, make the filling. Add the oil and cumin seeds to a sauté pan over a medium heat. Cook the onions for 10 minutes and then add the rest of the vegetables. Cook for another 5 minutes until all the vegetables are softened and slightly caramelised. Sprinkle over the madras curry powder and gradually stir in the yoghurt. Add your tomato paste, leftover gravy or enough chicken stock to just cover the vegetables. Season with salt and black pepper. Stir in the chopped lamb. Taste to check that you’re happy with the sauce – add in more seasoning if you feel it needs it.
  • Preheat the oven to 180C.
  • Turn the lamb mixture out into your baking dish. Top up the stock to just under the top line of the filling if it looks like it’s not generous enough but it shouldn’t be swimming in sauce.
  • Carefully top with the mash ensuring that it’s even and goes right into the edges of your dish. Use a fork to rough up the top to give it a rustic look. Dot with a little extra butter.
  • Place the baking dish onto a metal baking dish – it will cook more evenly and it won’t bubble up and splash the bottom of your oven. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until the top is golden and bubbling.
  • Allow it to sit for a few minutes once you take it out of the oven to serve. You could serve it with extra green veg on the side.

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Pasta with smoked sriracha sauce

When I need a tasty store-cupboard ingredients vegan supper recipe up my sleeve that will also suit the non-vegans, I usually turn to some kind of pasta dish. I really love smoky sriracha hot sauce (I like the Eaten Alive brand) so I combined it with some wood-roasted peppers and canned tomatoes to make a really delicious sauce that works for vegans and, if I want to create options for the meat eaters, I can add chorizo or meatballs or some crumbled feta to make it work for vegetarians. Either way, it’s very easy to make and extremely tasty.

Serves 4

  • 1 x 400g can of tomatoes
  • 1 tbsp tomato puree
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped
  • 1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
  • 1 fresh chilli, finely chopped
  • 2 wood roasted peppers, finely chopped – I use Peppardew ones from a jar
  • 1 tbs of smoked sriracha hot sauceI use the ‘It’s Alive’ brand
  • Your favourite pasta – I used Sainsbury’s ‘Taste the Difference’ casarecce
  • Non-vegan options: add your favourite meatballs, some chopped chorizo and cook in the sauce while the pasta cooks or garnish with feta cheese.

To make…

  • To make the sauce, add the oil to a large saute pan on medium heat and gently cook the onions for about 15 minutes until they are soft and sweet. Stir in the garlic and chilli and cook for a couple of minutes.
  • Add the tomatoes, tomato paste and the sriracha sauce and cook for another ten minutes. Season with a little salt and pepper. Once the sauce has reduced and started to thicken, add the chopped peppers.
  • Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the pack. It normally takes about 12 minutes so I put it on once the onions are cooked. Once cooked, drain and reserve a tablespoon of the cooking water.
  • Add the pasta and the reserved cooking water to the sauce and combine thoroughly. Leave it for a couple of minutes so the sauce is good and silky. Serve in warm bowls.

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Celebration cake

Sometimes, you want to make a special cake that everyone wants to be the first to taste. This is one of those cakes. I’ve made it for my daughter’s birthday party and as a dessert cake for a friend’s wedding and it’s gone down a storm on both occasions. The sponge and the Italian meringue icing is flavoured with maple syrup which gives it a lovely smoky richness; you could decorate it with chopped walnuts or pecans but the edible gold leaf makes it extra-special. Gold candles for a birthday version would look brilliant too.

Serves 12

Cake

  • 225g softened unsalted butter
  • 225 light muscovado sugar
  • grated rind of an orange
  • 4 large eggs
  • 100ml maple syrup
  • 350g self-raising flour
  • 2 level tsps baking powder
  • 1/2 level tsp ground ginger
  • 50g chopped pecans or walnuts
  • Edible gold leaf for decoration

Icing

  • 2 large egg whites
  • 125ml maple syrup
  • 125g golden caster sugar
  • 1/4 tsp cream of tartar
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence

To make…

  • Pre-heat the oven to 180 C.
  • Grease a 1.75 litre ring mould baking tin and dust thoroughly with a little flour to prevent sticking.
  • Beat the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy.
  • Gradually add the eggs and then fold in the flour, baking powder, ginger, maple syrup and orange rind. Stir in the nuts.
  • Spoon the mixture into the tin and tap it to level the surface. Bake for about 40 minutes until well risen and golden and springy to the touch. Leave to cool in the tin and then turn it out onto a cooling rack. Don’t be tempted to turn it out too early or half the cake will stay in the tin! It’s not the end of the world if a little does stick to the tin though as you’ll be icing it.
  • To make the icing, add everything except the vanilla essence in to a metal or glass bowl that fits over a saucepan to create a double boiler. Fill the saucepan with enough water to cover the base but not to touch the bowl. Bring the water to the boil, set the bowl of ingredients over the water and, using a hand-held whisk, beat the mixture vigorously for 5-7 minutes. Take the bowl off the saucepan and beat in the vanilla extract.
  • Place the cake onto a serving plate or stand.
  • Cut out 4 strips of baking parchment about 8cm wide and arrange in a square along each edge of your cake plate or stand. Ice the sides and top of the cake with the meringue icing. Give it a swirly rather than a smooth effect and then dot the top with the gold leaf. Whip the pieces of baking parchment away to reveal an icing-free serving plate.

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Posted in Cakes & biscuits, Recipes | Tagged , , , , , , , | 1 Comment