Pasta with Pancetta, Peas and Parmesan

We’ve had some really beautiful weather in the past couple of weeks and, with my new raised veg beds complete, I finally managed to get out and sow my first ever vegetables. I’m fortunate that my Mum is a trained horticulture specialist and garden designer, so she helped me select some fruit and veg that would be fairly easy for me to grow and I’d be able to harvest this year. She really is in her element in the garden and it was lovely to spend the day with her as she showed me the different ways to sow each of the seeds and how to water and care for them. There really is something so satisfying about spending time outdoors in the mud!

At this time of year, when there’s not a whole lot of excitement around in terms of fresh fruit and veg, I tend to rely on whatever I’ve got stashed in my freezer or store-cupboard. This simple pasta dish that takes about 15 minutes to make and it’s an ideal mid-week supper when you’ve had a busy day at work and want something quick and satisfying to eat.

You will need:

400g of dried Penne pasta
3 tbsp olive oil
1 garlic clove
½ an onion
150g panchetta, cut into thin slices
2 tbsp of of crème fraiche
150g frozen peas
Parmesan for sprinkling
Serves 4

1.) Bring a pot of salted water to the boil and then cook the penne pasta according to the instructions on the packet.
2.) In a large pan, heat the oil in a frying pan and cook the onion until it begins to soften. Add pancetta and cook for about 4 minutes, or until it begins to brown, then add the garlic and peas. Cook for about another minute, or until the peas are cooked, and then turn off the heat.
3.) Drain the pasta and add it to the pan with the onion, garlic and pancetta. Add 2 tbsp of crème fraiche and mix gently until well combined. If you prefer you sauce more creamy then just add more creme fraiche. 
4.) Serve on warmed plates and sprinkle generously with parmesan.

Moroccan-style Bean Stew

All images © Heather Wilkinson 2012

I’ve really got into combining sweet and savoury flavours recently, and I thought I’d use these as a basis for creating a dish for Meat-free Monday. This is a Moroccan-inspired bean stew, healthy, tasty and incredibly simple to prepare. I made sure to make plenty so there was enough left for lunch the next day. I really wanted to try making flat breads but ran out of time, so I served the stew with toasted wholemeal pittas and a yogurt dip.

You will need
400g (dry weight) of mixed beans and pulses (I used chick peas, kidney and flageolet beans)
400g of good quality chopped tinned tomatoes (+ half a tin of water)
½ tsp cumin
½ tsp cinnamon
½ tsp dried chilli flakes (or fresh chilli if you prefer)
½ tsp paprika
A handful of sultanas
1 handful of dried chopped apricots
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp dried powered ginger
1 tsp tomato puree
1 onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 generous glug of olive oil
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

1.)Heat the oil in a large pan. Add your onion and allow to soften before adding your garlic, carrots, cumin, ginger, paprika, cinnamon, chilli and coriander. Cook for about 3 minutes.
2.)Add your beans, tomatoes, tomato puree, sultanas, apricots and half a tin of fresh water. Stir gently to combine all the ingredients together. 
3.)Leave on a gentle simmer, stirring occasionally, for about 30 mins to allow the stew to cook down.

Cosy winter vegetable soup

All images © Heather Wilkinson 2012

The temperature has really plummeted here this week. It’s the kind of cold weather that means you have to hop from foot to foot just to generate enough heat to stop your toes going numb. I basically live off soup when the weather’s like this, and I luckily had enough root veg to whip up a batch today. Soups of this nature can be a tad bland, so I add just a pinch of dried ginger to give it a subtle lift.

You will need

2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 medium onion, sliced
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 carrots, peeled and sliced
1 stick of celery, sliced
1 leek, sliced
150g potato, peeled and diced
150g swede, peeled and diced
½ tsp freshly ground nutmeg
½ tsp dried ground ginger
1 litre milk
Single cream

1.) Heat the oil in a saucepan, add the onion and fry until soft.
2.) Add your garlic, carrot, leek and celery, stir it all together and continue to fry for about 5 minutes.
3.) Next, add your swede, potato, nutmeg and ginger, salt and pepper. Add the milk, bring to the boil then turn down to a simmer for 25 minutes, or until all the vegetables have softened.
4.) Add your soup mixture to a liquidiser and blend together until it is smooth. You can run it through a sieve if you want it extra smooth.
5.) Return the soup to a clean pan, add a little cream, mix and heat thoroughly. Serve with fresh crusty bread.

Chicken and leek risotto

Here’s the final recipe in my ‘Give life to your leftovers’ series. This recipe not only makes good use your remaining roast chicken, but also includes delicious leeks, which are currently in season. And the addition of parsley and lemon zest (optional, of course) really brings this dish to life.

The secret to great risotto is to take your time over it, adding the stock gradually and stirring slowly to allow it to be fully absorbed by the rice. This recipe serves 2.

You will need
Your remaining chicken meat, cut into bite-sized pieces
175g Arborio risotto rice
600ml of chicken stock
2 tbsp of olive oil
1 clove of garlic, crushed
½ large leek, diced
2 tbsp of crème friache
1 small onion, chopped into small pieces
A generous handful of finely grated parmesan cheese
Handful of chopped flat-leaf parsley
A teaspoon of grated lemon zest
salt and pepper to taste

1.)Heat the stock
2.)In a separate pan, heat the olive oil and add the onions, garlic and leeks. Fry very slowly for about 15 minutes until softened.
3.)Add the rice and cook for 2 minutes until the rice is coated and glossy.
4.)With the heat on a simmer, carefully add your chicken stock, one ladle at a time, to your saucepan of rice and stir using a wooden spoon.
5.)Keep adding ladlefuls of stock, allowing each to be absorbed by the rice before adding the next. This will take about 15 minutes. You’re aiming for your rice to be soft but with a slight bite.
6.)When all of your stock has been used and absorbed by the rice, add your chicken, stir, remove the saucepan from the heat and add the parmesan, 2 tbsps of crème fraiche, stir and season to taste.
7.)Divide the risotto between two bowls, top with lemon zest, parsley.

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