Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Magic Tomato Sauce

This rich tomato sauce is my children's staple diet, kept on standby in individual portions in the freezer. Normally served with pasta and steamed broccoli, but can also be diluted with a little water to make soup, or used as a pizza topping with grated cheese on mini-pittas.

1 onion
1 carrot
1 pepper
1 tin chopped tomatoes
500g passata
1 tsp mixed herbs
2 tbsp olive oil
200g dried red lentils

  1. Put the lentils in a pan with at little more than double the volume of water. Bring to the boil and then reduce the heat and leave cooking until all the liquid has been absorbed.
  2. While the lentils are cooking, finely chop the onions and put them in a large pan with the olive oil and dried herbs. Cook over a medium heat, stirring regularly, until the onion starts to soften.
  3. Finely chop the peppers and carrots and add to the pan. Cook for another 10-15 minutes, strirring regularly.
  4. Add the tomatoes and passata to the vegetables and bring to the boil, then reduce the heat.
  5. Add the cooked lentils and continue to cook until the carrot is soft and the tomato has reduced to a thick consistency.
  6. Liquidise and leave to cool, then transfer to individual portion containers and freeze.
Note: You can vary the proportions of tomatoes to vegetables to suit your (or your children's) taste

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Risotto ai funghi

Mushroom risotto - serves 4

2 medium onions
2 sticks celery
4 cloves garlic
400g chestnut mushrooms
30g dried porcini mushrooms
2 tsp dried sage
2 dried bay leaves
2 stock cubes (or enough for approx. 400ml stock)
2 tbsp olive oil
250g arborio or carnaroli rice
100g fresh or frozen peas
a glass of white wine or a measure of brandy
freshly grated parmesan (to taste)

  1. Soak the dried porcini in 500ml hot water
  2. Finely chop the onions and the celery and add to in a large skillet or wok (ideally with a lid) with the olive oil and the dried sage. Cook over a medium heat, stirring regularly, for about 10 minutes. You're not aiming to cook the onion without browning it; it should soften and become translucent.
  3. Crush or finely chop the garlic and add to the pan; cook for another 5 minutes or so.
  4. Remove the mushroom stalks and chop finely, then cut the caps coarsely (e.g. halve and then cut into 1cm slices) and add to the pan. Stir regularly and keep cooking until the mushrooms have given up their liquid and then reabsorbed it.
  5. Put the rice in a sieve and rinse thoroughly. Add to the pan and mix it in, letting it cook for another couple of minutes.
  6. Add the peas; if using frozen peas, first cook them long enough to defrost.
  7. Strain the liquid in which the porcini have been soaking into another pan and add the porcini to the main pan. Add the stock cubes and bay leaves to the liquid in the second pan. Bring the stock to the boil and keep it simmering.
  8. Add just enough liquid to the main pan to cover the rice and vegetables. Continue to cook over a medium heat with the lid on, stirring regularly and adding liquid from the stock pan with a ladle when it has been absorbed. Top up the stock pan with hot water when you run out of liquid. Be patient and keep strirring and adding liquid until the rice is cooked; it should be soft, but still firm.
  9. When the rice is almost cooked, add the wine (or brandy). Stir some freshly grated parmesan (or another strong cheese) into the finished dish and let it sit for a few minutes before serving.
  10. Serve with steamed broccoli or some other fresh green vegetable and more freshly grated parmesan.