Saturday, 31 August 2013

Spaghetti with breadcrumbs

You know how I love simplicity. In food and in life, though the "in life" bit doesn't always come as easily. In the kitchen I am in control, whereas in life there are many conflicting forces at work, people who think and feel differently to me, with desires that don't necessary match mine, I tend to veer into strange corners. When I talk about simplicity in the kitchen, what I am really talking about is soul food - those homely recipes that make you feel warm and cosy on the inside and take hardly any effort, or ingredients, to make. When my semi-Italian lover (for want of a better definition at this moment in time) reminisced about spaghetti with breadcrumbs in Tuscany, I  immediately had to try and recreate it - even though it was 4am - instinctively knowing that this had the potential to be one of those special dishes
Yet I was sceptical throughout the entire cooking time, modifying and elaborating the dish with whatever I had lying around the cupboards and fridge, trying to make it edible. It ended up being much more than that. In fact, I recreated again the next day for lunch too. And I think I may well recreate it many more times in my lifetime. I used wholewheat spaghetti for this, which I cooked in salted water until it was al dente. While this is cooking, fry the breadcrumbs in the mixture of olive oil and butter (mainly olive oil). Once they have turned golden (after 3-4min), add the garlic salt, pepper and dried thyme, then cook for a further 2min. Turn the heat off and add the lemon juice. When the spaghetti is done, drain it and add it to the pan with the breadcrumbs. Put the stove back on and toss it all  together while heating for a couple of minutes - ideally you would use a very large frying pan for this. Finish off with plenty of freshly grated parmesan cheese. Do not eat at 4am if you care about your waistline

Friday, 30 August 2013

Courgettes stuffed with cinnamon lamb

When I was working all the time I imagined that having free time in London would be massively productive. In actual fact, I have become a cat. I sleep, I sunbathe, I eat, I meditate, I run in the park, make love and stretch, write a little bit. OK, so cats don't write, but you get the picture. I thought that I would be blogging every day, but no, I am too busy stretching and meditating, apparently this can  take entire days. At times I feel that familiar, suffocating feeling start to creep in - guilt. I then remind myself that I had been working full time for over 8 years, that I deserve to live a little, even a lot, that life is short, that I need to enjoy my freedom, and I try and let that suffocating feeling go, to feel grateful that I've had this beautiful Summer in London. Being brought up a Catholic, it's not easy letting go of guilt, but I won't give up trying. I want my actions to come from a place of love, and not of guilt or any other negative emotion. I'm still cooking all the time, but right now it always seems to be late at night, when I can't take good pictures. Yesterday, I finally managed to cook something before the sun set - it was these lovingly stuffed courgettes
They seem Middle-Eastern in flavour with the lamb and cinnamon flavours, yet this is a (heavily modified) Polish recipe. Often these two worlds meet in the kitchen, due to many factors - Arab traders in the Middle-Ages swapping spices for amber from the Baltic sea, Jewish and Armenian influences from the movements of people through this land over many centuries, and constant wars with the Ottoman Empire when Poland was still great...
Wash and dry the courgettes, then slice them in half and scoop out the insides carefully (I used a small, sharp knife and my fingers). Chop these bits and blanche in boiling, salted water for about 5min. Meanwhile, chop the onion as finely as you possibly can. Fry it in the olive oil, then after 10min, add the lamb mince. Use a fork to mash these together while they are cooking. Add the cinnamon, salt and pepper. Keep mashing and cooking for about 5min, then add the drained courgette meat. Cover and allow to simmer for about 10min, then take the lid off and keep mashing. Finally, remove from heat and add a tablespoon of breadcrumbs to soak up the juices. Allow to cool slightly before stuffing the courgettes with the mixture. Bake for 30min at about 150 degrees C, serve with white rice

Ingredients (serves 2)

150g minced lamb's meat
3 courgettes
1 red onion
2 teaspoons cinnamon
Salt and pepper
Olive oil for frying

Monday, 12 August 2013

Quinoa salad with gorgonzola and burnt-garlic vinaigrette

I've had the strangest few weeks in ways that I can't even begin to explain. I haven't been cooking much, as attention has been focused inwards. I think in time I will appreciate that this was an important period for me, my personal development, yet I have no idea why yet. I have the oddest sensation that something is shifting inside me, yet I have no clue as to what end. I've been given this book to help with the process and it's unputdownable (I think I just made that word up), both frustrating and mind-blowing. In the midst of all this inner turmoil, I managed to make this lovely quinoa salad with blue cheese, broccoli and burnt garlic vinaigrette. The garlic isn't actually burnt, it's just browned to turn it crispy and give it that smokey flavour you sometimes find in Asian food, and I feel compliments the quinoa. Basically, heat the oil in a frying pan and when it's hot, throw in the chopped garlic. Fry for 1 min, stirring, then turn the heat off and allow it to carry on browning for a minute longer, then place it on some paper, to remove excess oil, and add it to the vinaigrette (I always use a jar). The salad turned out surprisingly well, which I've decided to take as a good omen, a sign that I'm heading in the right direction...

Quinoa, cooked
Tin of mixed beans, drained
Broccoli, steamed
Gorgonzola, cubed
Red pepper, chopped


Juice of 1 lemon
Garlic, browned as described
Olive oil
Garlic salt 
Black pepper
1 teaspoon wholegrain mustard