Spaghetti with squid and chorizo

Even though the weather in the UK has gone really cold, this dish has transported me right to the Mediterranean climate. Making the pasta for the spaghetti couldn’t be easier, it takes less time than chopping all the other ingredients. I would suggest to start with the pasta, as it can then dry a little while you prepare everything else.

250g pasta flour 00 grade
2 eggs
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3 medium squid tubes
3 chorizo sausages
1 onion, finely chopped
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 red or yellow pepper
12 cherry tomatoes, cut in quarters
handful of parsley
1 courgette / zucchini
splash of olive oil
salt and black pepper
juice of 1 lemon

 

1.  Measure the pasta flour in a bowl. Make a well in the centre, and pour the eggs in. Then, starting with a fork, break the eggs and little by little mix the eggs with the surrounding flour. Once the dough gets firmer, move onto kneading by hand.

2. Divide the dough into two pieces. Flatten the pieces with your hands, and roll through the pasta machine, on the biggest setting. Fold the dough over in half, and roll through the same setting again. Then reduce the setting to the next, and roll through. Repeat until desired thickness is achieved. Next, using the spaghetti cutting roller part, cut the pasta sheet into spaghetti. Then, leave to dry while you prepare the rest.

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3. Prepare all the other ingredients. Heat olive oil in a pan, and fry the onions, squid and chorizo for few minutes, until cooked.

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4. Add the garlic, pepper and courgette. Fry for few minutes. At the same time, boil water with salt added, and put the spaghetti in. Boil for about three minutes, then drain.

5. Add the tomatoes and lemon juice, and season with salt and pepper. Add the spaghetti, mixing everything together. Lastly stir in the parsley.

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Cottage pie / Shepherd’s pie

This is a heart and belly warming classic British dish, however I’m sure other nations have their own variation of the same thing. Even in my native Finland we have something similar. I have added ingredients to the basic version, so it actually probably doesn’t even have any particular national background. For a long time, I always had to check with my British husband what the difference with cottage pie and shepherd’s pie is. The difference is very simple: cottage pie is shepherd’s pie, but with a cheese crust on top. This kind of food is proper, honest home cooking. I tend to make a large batch, which will give you couple of dinners, or dinner for the first night and lunch to take to work with you for few days. I like mine with slight heat from the pepper, if you would like yours mild I would suggest reducing the black pepper and white pepper to half (or just use full amount of black pepper and leave white pepper out).

1.5 kg potatoes
2 tsp salt
50g butter
3dl milk
pinch of salt
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1 medium onion
2 small or 1 large carrots, peeled
1 courgette / zucchini
4 chestnut mushrooms
500g mince beef (if you don’t eat red meat, you can easily swap this to mince turkey)
2 tbsp vegetable or olive oil
1/2 – 1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
1 tsp ground white pepper
1 tsp ground paprika
1 tsp ground allspice
~~~~~
3 dl cheese

1. Peel and rinse the potatoes. Cut in half or quarters, depending on size. Place in a pan and cover with cold water. Add the salt, and bring to boil. Depending on the size of the pieces, boil gently for about 20 minutes, or until soft.

2. While the potatoes are boiling, finely chop the onion, carrots, courgette and mushrooms. I normally use standard brown/yellow onions for cooking, but I have a lot of very strong red onions in my cupboard, so I used that instead.

3. Fry the onions in the oil for few minutes, until starting to turn translucent.

4. Add the meat. Keep beating it with a wooden spatula as it’s cooking, to break it into small crumbly texture. During the cooking, add all the spices. This’s whole step will take you around 10 minutes.

5. Once the meat is cooked, add the carrots, courgette and mushrooms, and fry for 5 minutes, stirring.

6. Once the potatoes are soft, discard the cooking water. Mash the potatoes, and add the butter, milk and salt. I prefer my mash to be firmer when using it in a dish like this, otherwise it won’t hold the mince mixture in a separate layer.

7. Layer half of the mash at the bottom of an oven casserole dish. Then add a layer of the meat mixture. I usually pat it into a firm, dense, even layer. They add the remaining mash. To make sure you have an equal amount to cover the whole dish, I usually start by adding a dollop in the corners, then in the middle, and then plead it across evenly.

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8. Finally, add the cheese. I normally tend to use a mixture of extra mature cheddar and red leicester, however this time I replaced the latter with gruyere. Cook in preheated oven 180°C / 355°F for 40-45 minutes until the cheese top has become slightly crunchy.

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Sea bream with mango and crab salad

This plate of food is like sunshine on a plate. It’s so fresh and colourful, and all the flavours just simply work really well. Even though raw garlic and chilli are used, when eating this you don’t notice it. It’s also a quick dish to make.

1 mango

1 avocado

2 large red chillies (mild, or to your liking), finely chopped

1 clove of garlic, finely chopped

3 spring onions, chopped into thin slices

100g cooked white crab meat

100g king prawns (I tend to use raw and cook them myself, but cooked are ok too)

1 lime (juice)

1. Cut the mango and avocado into cubes.

2. Add finely chopped garlic and chilli (deseeded). Add all the other salad ingredients.

3. I usually use raw prawns so I put the mixed salad into fridge, and pan-fry the prawns. I then let them cool, while cooking the fish (pan-fry for about 5 minutes, then finish under a grill in the oven for another 5 minutes). Then mix the prawns into the salad, and serve with the fish.

Slow cooked lamb shanks

This is my husband’s favourite Sunday roast. I must admit that lamb has never been my favourite meat, however when I cooked these lamb shanks for the first time I was completely sold. The meat literally falls off the bone. This is also one of the dishes I would cook when I want to impress guests. With this kind of dish, I would say the main challenge is timing of all the elements. The lamb itself will take a long time in the oven, but once they are cooked, they can be covered and put aside to wait. You can also see the links to the perfect accompaniments of roast potatoes and Yorkshire pudding below.

Perfect roast potatoes
Yorkshire pudding
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4 lamb shanks
100g plain flour, seasoned with salt / black pepper
2 tbsp vegetable oil
500ml red wine
500ml chicken stock
1 onion, sliced
3 fresh rosemary sprigs
3 fresh bay leaves

1. Heat the oven to 160°C / 320°F.

2. Coat the lamb with the flour.

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3. Heat the oil in a casserole dish, and fry the lamb for about 5 minutes, turning until browned all over.

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4. Add all the other ingredients. Liquid should pretty much cover the meat. Because of the size of the dish I use, I have to use double the amount of wine and stock than in the recipe, to cover the meat.

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5. Place in the oven, and cook for 3 hours.

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6. Remove the shanks. You need to be careful when handling them, as they are now so soft that the meat will fall off very easily.

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7. Sieve the liquid into a pan.

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8. Reduce the cooking liquid by boiling, uncovered, to about half, to get wonderful gravy that’s full of flavour.

Perfect roast potatoes

Preparing potatoes this way was very unfamiliar way to me when I moved to UK. On the Finnish dining table they are mostly consumed as either plain boiled, or as creamed garlic potato bake (another one of my favourites). First, I didn’t even care about them cooked this way. Then, I started trying to make my own, and realised how difficult it actually is to get them perfect: crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. Even with my recipe below, they didn’t always turn out that well. To perfect my roast potatoes has really taken effort through trial and error, but finally it has paid off.

A big tip that helped me, was that when using duck / goose fat, you need to mix it with vegetable / olive oil. Otherwise your potatoes won’t get so crispy. The other key things are that once you’ve boiled your potatoes, cool them completely. I tend to boil my potatoes first thing in the morning, and then they’ll have plenty of time to cool before the other stage. Also, you need to turn them every 20 minutes or so, it’s the hot fat that crisps them up. Also, you need to heat the fat in the oven before adding the potatoes.

large potatoes
garlic cloves, bashed
rosemary sprigs
olive oil
duck or goose fat
salt

1. Peel the potatoes, and cut into halves or quarters, depending on size. Wash the pieces under running water for 5 minutes, to wash off the starch.

2. Place the potatoes in a pan together with the garlic and rosemary. Cover with water, bring to boil and cook until very soft (covered with a lid).

3. Drain the cooked potatoes, and let cool.

4. Heat oven to 180°C / 350°F.

5. Put about 5mm layer of oil and dollops of the duck or goose fat at the bottom of a roasting tray. Heat the oil / fat in the oven for 15 minutes.

6. Add the potatoes to the hot oil, and cook them for at least 1 hour and 20 minutes. Turn the potatoes every 20 minutes.

 

7. Drain cooked potatoes on kitchen tissue, and sprinkle with salt.

Chicken fajitas

I may be known for my fine dining hobby, but sometimes you just want that honest food that may be messy to eat. For my fajitas, I tend to make make everything apart from the tortillas from scratch. This Mexican food is enjoyed across the world, and making everything by yourself allows you to adjust the spicing to your liking. The tortillas are usually eaten with a selection of fried meat, fried peppers and onions, tomato salsa, guacamole, creme fraiché and cheese. I tend to leave the cheese out, and just to make things easier, fry the meat together with the pepper and onion. In my blog I have individual posts for my guacamole and salsa, so I won’t write them again on here, but I’ll include links for them. This is great comfort food for those cosy evenings in.

Tomato salsa
Homemade guacamole
crème fraiche
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500g chicken breasts
2 peppers
2 onions
2 cloves of garlic
1 small green chilli
2 tsp cumin powder
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/2 tsp salt
splash of vegetable oil

1. Finely chop the chilli and garlic. Slice the peppers and onions, and set aside.

2. Cut the chicken breasts into strips. Fry in the oil, adding the cumin, salt and pepper. Once just about cooked through, add the other ingredients. Fry until onions are cooked.

Homemade pizza

Whether you’re having a quiet, cosy night in by yourself or with family, or are hosting a house party, homemade pizza never disappoints. The good thing is that there are no rules when it comes to the toppings, and you can make yours exactly how you like. It’s also a great way to use up some leftover ingredients in your fridge. I often make mine with mince beef, however this time I made mine half chicken – half tuna.

Dough for the pizza base
350g strong white bread flour
1 sachet of fast action dried yeast
1/2 tsp salt
1 tsp sugar
1 tbsp olive oil
2 dl lukewarm water

1. Mix all the dry ingredients together.

2. Mix the warm water and oil together, and add to the dry ingredients slowly, whilst mixing. I use a food food processor, but if you’ve doing this by hand a wooden fork is good, as it will tie air into the dough. Knead for about 10 minutes. Kneading the dough for this long will help you get it to rise nicely.

3. Cover with an oiled cling film, and a non-see-through cloth, and leave to rise for 30 minutes.

4. Flatten the dough by hand. I then tend to use a rolling pin to get the dough thin. I usually make one big pizza, so I then place the dough in the oven tray, and stretch it to the whole size of the tray by hand. It’s easy to do, as the dough is very flexible and won’t break easily.

 

Tomato sauce

1 celery stick
1-2 carrots
1 medium onion
2-3 garlic cloves
handful of fresh basil leaves
handful of fresh parsley
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
4 tbsp tomato purée
dried oregano
dried herbs de provence
olive oil
salt
black pepper

1. In a blender, finely chop onion, garlic, carrot, celery and fresh herbs,  and fry in olive oil in  pan.

2. Blend the chopped tomatoes, and add to the pan. Add dried herbs and tomato purée, and season with salt and pepper.

3. Put back in the blender, to make extra smooth texture, otherwise it’ll be somewhat coarse.

Building your pizza

1. Spread some tomato sauce on.

2. Sprinkle most of the grated cheese on. I tend to use something like cheddar. Today I used a mixture of cheddar, red leicester and manchego.

3. Add the other ingredients of your liking, and sprinkle the remaining cheese on. I used tomatoes, red pepper, mushrooms and red onion. On the tuna half, I crumbled some blue cheese on top, on the chicken half (I cut the chicken into small pieces and pan fried it) I used the same cheese mixture as at the bottom of the pizza.

 

4. Heat the oven to 250°C / 480°F. Place the pizza on the bottom shelf and cook for 15 minutes. When I take the pizza out I tend to squeeze some raw garlic, and sprinkle some dried oregano on (this might be a Finnish habit).