Orzo with Bacon, Peas and Parmesan

More PeasIn homage to my garden peas, of which I am so proud this year, I tried some Orzo with Bacon, Peas and Parmesan Cheese.  I don’t know how I managed to never hear about Orzo but now that I have, it is like someone who lives in your street that you never new existed for years until suddenly one day you are introduced and after that you bump into them, every half an hour, for the next three weeks.  So it is with Orzo – it seems to be everywhere at the moment. Merchant Gourmet have added it to their impressive range of ingredients along with Giant Cous Cous and Camargue Red Rice and all sorts of things I am constantly on the hunt for.  They really seem to be a company with their finger on the pulse.

Anyway, I was really impressed with Orzo.  It sort of has the texture of something between tiny Gnocchi and perfectly cooked rice – something I am still striving to achieve!  This recipe took me about 10 minutes to make from start to finish and made a fantastic family lunch.  Quicker and less fattening than Risotto, I most certainly will be using a lot more of it.  I can’t wait to try it in my Minestrone.

Orzo with Peas

Orzo with Bacon, Peas and Parmesan

2 Tablespoons olive oil
200g Streaky Bacon, cut in small lardons
150g orzo pasta
1 1/4 cup fresh or frozen peas
1 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Little Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Fry the bacon in a little oil, over a medium heat until really crispy.  Remove from the heat.  Cook the Orzo in plenty of salted, boiling water.  If using fresh peas, add after about 3 minutes, if using frozen peas, add after about 6 minutes.  Bring back to the boil and cook for about 6-7 minutes in total.  Drain when cooked and add to the bacon.  Use the oil from the bacon to coat the pasta and add the Parmesan cheese and a drizzle of extra virgin olive oil, freshly ground black pepper and salt to taste.  Garnish with young pea shoots.



Roast Chicken Breast with Mushroom, Thyme and Cream Sauce

Roast Chicken Breast with Mushroom, Thyme and Cream Sauce 2When I think of Autumn, I think of mushrooms and unsurprisingly they are in all of the Riverford boxes this week. This is a recipe I came up with for the family I cook for every week. When I was working as a chef in French restaurants, sauces could take literally hours to prepare, from the stocks, to the demi-glace, to the reductions. I don’t have time for that sort of cooking anymore, but I have discovered that sherry is a great way of cheating. You need an Amontillado or a medium dry one. I don’t know how, but it replicates the taste of a really well reduced stock with a wine reduction and when combined with umami rich ingredients such as chicken and mushrooms it transforms them into something really special. In short, they taste like a dish in a super expensive restaurant which is always a treat, especially when it is really quick and easy.

I did a little bit of research and was very disappointed to discover that Heston Blumenthal had also worked this out and written whole essays on the subject but this is meant to be a time saving recipe so I won’t go into any more detail other than to say – it works!

Roast Chicken Breast with Mushroom, Thyme and Cream SauceRoast Chicken Breast with Mushroom, Thyme and Cream Sauce

I love this with just some Tagliatelle and French beans but the kids prefer sautéed potatoes.

2 large chicken breasts, skin on

Olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Large knob of butter

250g mushrooms

10g dried porcini

1-2 cloves garlic, finely grated

Sprig of thyme, leaves only

150mls medium dry sherry

150mls double cream

Pre-heat the oven to 180 C. Place a heavy bottomed frying-pan (one that can go in the oven) on a medium heat. Add a glug of olive oil. Season the skin side of the chicken with salt and place skin side down on the pan. Season the flesh side with salt and pepper. The pan should not be too hot, as this give the chicken skin time to really crisp up. When deep golden brown and crispy, flip the chicken over and put in the oven. Cook for 10 minutes or so until firm and juices run clear.

Meanwhile, boil the kettle and cover the porcini in boiling water. Thinly slice the mushrooms. When the chicken is cooked, remove it from the oven and put the chicken and any juices to one side to rest. Cover to keep warm. In the same pan, fry the mushrooms in the butter.  Be careful as the frying pan handle will still be hot. Season the mushrooms with salt and pepper and cook down until all the juices have cooked away the mushrooms start frying. Add a little oil if necessary. Cook until golden brown. Add the garlic and thyme leaves and fry for a minute more. Remove the porcini from their soaking liquid, making sure to keep it and finely chop. Add the porcini to the mushrooms and fry for a minute more. Add the sherry and the porcini liquid and reduce until syrupy. Add any juices from the resting chicken and reduce once more. Add the cream and bring back to the boil. Reduce until you have the consistency of single cream. You don’t want the sauce to be gloopy. Adjust seasoning. Return the chicken to the pan and serve.





Banh Mi Xiu Mai (Vietnamese Meatball Sandwich)

Banh mi, is a fabulous Vietnamese sandwich. It is so popular now a days that there is a whole website devoted just to the Bahn Mi sandwich, how to make it and where to eat it. It actually just means bread in Vienamese but since French colonisation it refers to a particular hybrid of French bread, less crusty and more sub like.  It is then filled with, amongst other things, roast pork, pate, chilli, mayonnaise, pickled carrot, mint and coriander. There is even a Breakfast Bahn mi, filled with bacon and eggs.  I am not actually a huge fan of roast or grilled pork, so when I discovered a Bahn mi with meatballs, I couldn’t wait to give it a try.  I left the chilli out of my meatballs so that the kids can eat them too, so it makes a fantastic family lunch or supper, especially when it is warm enough to cook the meatballs on the barbecue.

Bahn Mi

For the Hot Chili and Garlic Mayo: or you can buy Siracha Chilli Mayo

300ml Olive oil / sunflower oil, or a blend of the two

2 large egg yolks

1tsp Mustard (Dijon is my favourite)

Juice of half a lemon

3 fat cloves garlic

1 tablespoon hot chilli sauce (such as Sriracha)

For the Meatballs:

600g minced outdoor bread pork

3 garlic cloves

Large knob of fresh ginger, roughly chopped

1 stick of lemon grass, roughly chopped

3 spring onions, finely chopped

1 tablespoon fish sauce (Nam Pla or Nuoc Cham)

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1/2 teaspoon sea salt

For the sandwich:

4 10-inch-long individual baguettes or four 10-inch-long pieces French-bread baguette (cut from 2 baguettes)

Pickled carrot

Sunflower oil

Lettuce (I use baby gems)

Handful of fresh mint

Handful of fresh Coriander

Fresh lime

Hot Chili Mayo: or you can buy Sirancha Chilli Mayo

Thoroughly mash the garlic and a little salt into a paste. I use the side of my knife or you could use a pestle and mortar. Put the egg yolks in a small bowl with the mustard and a pinch of salt. Whisk well until thoroughly blended. Add the oil very slowly, to the egg mixture, whisking well after each addition. When all the oil has been incorporated, check seasoning and add lemon juice and chilli sauce to taste.

For the Meatballs:

Whiz up the garlic, ginger and lemongrass with the fish sauce with a hand blender or in a small food processor, until you have a smooth paste. In large bowl, mix the mince with the paste, the spring onions and the salt and pepper. Using moistened hands roll the meat mixture into 1-inch meatballs. Fry gently in a little oil in a frying pan until golden brown and cooked through. Alternatively cook on the barbecue.

To assemble the sandwiches:

Cut each baguette or baguette piece horizontally in half. If using the barbecue, lightly char-grill. Spread with hot chili mayo. Pile in the lettuce, pickled carrot, meatballs and herbs. Add more chilli sauce if you like.

Lemon Posset

I seem to have done quite a lot of entertaining recently and I am working on coming up with the easiest entertaining recipes ever. This is one of them – the simplest dessert, ready in minutes, never goes wrong and yet is tastes very complicated and sophisticated. You can make your own shortbread, or you can do what I did and cheat. My favourite at the moment is Waitrose “Rose petal & Chinese tea”.

Lemon posset 1

Lemon Posset

Serves 6

600ml/21fl oz double cream

150g/5oz caster sugar

2 large lemons, zest and juice only

place the double cream and the sugar into a large pan over a low heat and bring to the boil slowly. Boil for three minutes, then remove from the heat and allow to cool. Add the lemon juice and zest and whisk well. Pour the lemon cream mixture into six large serving glasses and refrigerate for three hours.



Spicy Fennel, Sausage, Tomato Pasta

I hate to admit it but we eat rather a lot of sausages in our family. They are cheap and please everyone, which is always a bonus. I serve them up alongside all manner of vegetables and it is a great use up of whatever veg I have in the fridge, but I was I was thrilled to come up with this new way of serving them up and still managing to please the family.

Sausage and Fennel Pasta

Spicy Fennel, Sausage, Tomato Pasta

Serves 2

Extra virgin olive oil

2 heads fennel, finely chopped

1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds

8 good quality sausages or about 400g sausage meat

100mls white wine

Pinch chilli flakes

200g pasta, I used pappardelle

Freshy grated parmesan

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

In a heavy bottomed saucepan gently fry the fennel with some olive oil. When beginning to colour, add the sausage meat. Squeeze it from the casings and break it up really well with a wooden spoon. You don’t want any large lumps. Turn up the heat and fry really well. It is nice if it begins to brown. Add the wine and use it to deglaze the pan. Scape the bottom to release any stuck on sausage. Add a pinch of chilli flakes and the tin of tomatoes. Rinse the tin out with a little water and add that too. Let the sauce gently bubble away whilst you cook your pasta. Check seasoning before serving. Top with parmesan.


Red Onion and Rosemary Focaccia.

When I was making pizza dough this week, I made up an extra batch for Focaccia. Focaccia is quite simply an Italian bread, similar to a deep-pan pizza that, no matter the topping, should involve a generous amount of Olive Oil.  This acts to produce a golden brown, crispy crust that is to die for.  It has to be fresh out of the oven.  Don’t ever believe that it is worth buying a Focaccia from a supermarket shelf.  It will inevitably be a complete contradiction of what it is meant to be – slightly stale, dry and dreary.  You have to make it yourself. And it will be anything but!

I love this time of year when all the alliums are out and so I topped my Focaccia with caramelised red onions, which I just cooked slowly with some extra virgin olive oil, a great way of using up a glut of onions.

Onion Flowers

Red Onion and Rosemary Focaccia.

½ batch of pizza dough

6 red onions

Extra virgin olive oil

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Malden sea salt


Lightly oil a large metal frying pan or a metal dish with olive oil. Press in the pizza dough. Allow to prove for 20 minutes. Meanwhile, cut your onions really thin. Use a food processor if you have one. Add to a heavy bottomed saucepan with lots of olive oil, a pinch of salt and some freshly groung black pepper. Very finely chop your rosemary and add that too. Cook over a medium heat until almost dissolved. Keep an eye on them so they do not catch. Cook them for as long as you have got. Check for seasoning. Preheat your oven to 200C. Add your onion mixture all over the dough, but not quite at the edges. Sprinkle with Malden sea salt. Bake neat the bottom of the oven to ensure that the top gets cooked in the same time as the bottom. Bake until deep-golden brown. Remove the Focaccia from the tin to allow the bottom to cool. Eat warm.

Small Red Onions