Store Cupboard Pasta

March 24, 2014

I will alway maintain that I am a cook. Not a chef. I think it's a very important distinction, chef's train long and hard to perfect their air. The work incredibly long and taxing hours and often under the command of very shouty bosses. To me a cook is someone who's education and instruction has been learned and delivered from childhood by parents and grandparents, developed through a series of semi-serious kitchen disasters and resulted in a hugely experimental and versatile set of skills.

I pride myself on being able to peek into the fridge and create something delicious from within, I still don't have a decent set of utensils and cookware but I make do with what i've got to make tasty things. I work full time and live in an area where grocery shopping means a car drive over to a large store out of town- Tesco Metro it ain't. By no means is this a 'woe is me' tale it's just life, like most of us lead and what I'm saying is that a cook is the person than schleps in around 6pm only to be faced with a fridge of odds and ends and whips up something that not only looks passable but tastes pretty bloody good as well!

This store cupboard pasta, loosely based on a puttanesca, is a store cupboard favorite when it's 8pm and my will power is holding me back from the take out menu.

Ingredients: To serve two,

3 cloves of garlic
1 can tuna
10ish green olives
half a jar of artichoke hearts
spaghetti- a generous fistful for 2
1 frozen cup of tomato sauce
parmesan to serve
salt and pepper


Pour boiling water over the pasta in a saucepan, season with salt and leave to cook until tender.

Meanwhile finely chop the garlic and throw into a pan with some roughly chopped olives and the artichokes.
Fry until the garlic is soft and smells sweet.

Set on a low heat and add the frozen cup of sauce, leave it to melt on the low heat.

When the pasta is cooked, drain and set aside. Once the sauce has melted and has begun to bubble, stir through the pasta and the tuna. Leave on a low heat until the tuna has heated through, don't over heat it as it will become chewy.

Serve with a generous shake of parmesan and some garlic bread if you are so inclined!


Salsa & Guacamole

March 23, 2014

I've been trying to get better at taking a lunch to work rather than buying something locally, which working in Downcity Providence is a tricky thing to resist.

I'm not a fussy eater but I know i'm not satisfied with something too ordinary and get bored of the same old thing day in day out.

This week i'm taking guacamole and blue and yellow corn tortilla chips to work. I'm partial to a pick and mix sort of meal and being that Mexican flavours are fast becoming my joint favourite with Indian, this has been satisfying my fickle lunch requirements.


2 large vine ripened tomatoes
1 red onion
3 very ripe avocados (even those that have a 'ripe' sticker on them in the market will be too hard, let them sit for a couple of days until they are squashy or use this tip to ripen them quickly)
the juice of 2 limes

salt and pepper
small bunch of fresh cilantro (make a heaped table spoon when chopped)


Quarter the tomatoes and remove the cores and fleshy seedy parts. Slice then dice into small pieces but don'r mash you want very fine pieces of tomato in the guacamole. Dice the red onion to the same size as the tomato.

Scoop out the avocado flesh and mash with a fork, this is how ripe they should be. I have perserved with market 'ripe' stickered avocados using a blended to smooth them into a paste and they just don't taste right! 
You want them super ripe so that you can mash the avocado rather than blending them, this give a much nicer texture.

Add the tomato and onion pieces to the avocado and mix into, being careful not to over mash the avocado. Add in the lime juice, the cilantro, salt and the pepper to taste.

Enjoy with tortilla chips, some spicy salsa and sour cream or tucked into a taco with grilled chicken, rice and more salsa!


Jam Jar Salad Dressing

March 22, 2014

Pre made salad dressing can be really expensive and with a lot of pre-made stuff, you don't really know what's in it. With the exception of a fancier dressing like Caesar  most are made from very few ingredients and are made by a simple vigorous mix.

Salads can be a really easy but impressive quick dinner and don't need to resemble rabbit food. Go for an interesting leaf over Iceberg alone. Try a mixture of salad, beef and cherry tomatoes in one dish, think about texture when building your salad. And don't forget they are not just for summer. A warm winter salad of roast peppers and artichokes with some crumbled feta topped with peppery rocket is a perfect meal for these temperamental pre-Spring days.

A really quick, go to vinaigrette dressing is made up of a decent olive oil, balsamic or some kind of wine vinegar, mustard (I tend to use Dijon for a milder flavour though whole grain would add texture), salt and pepper. The quantities will depend on how much you are making but I tend to go with about 2 parts oil to 1/3 - 1/2 cup vinegar, teaspoon of mustard and a shake of s and p.

This is a great base to start working from, experiment with different vinegars or flavoured oils, add in additional ingredient like honey or sub some out like replacing the vinegar with lemon juice.

By mixing the dressing up in a jam jar you can give them a really good shake with emulsifies the oil and vinegar creating a creamy texture and you have your built in storage pot!


Blueberry, Pear, Mint and Elderflower Smoothie

March 21, 2014

Adding in some extra nutrition to your diet doesn't mean sticking to one thing, that is a sure fire way of getting fed up with 'healthy eating' very quickly.

I've said it before but my rule of everything in moderation has always worked for me, so this is the approach I take when I ramp up my fitness and nutrition game after a bit of over indulgence.

Moderation also applies to the fruits and vegetables you include in any eating plan, don't just stick to the obvious or the mundane. Mix it up and include something new so that if you are holding back from those treats you really fancy you don't feel entirely deprived of 'fun' stuff, harness the excitement of trying something new.

Ingredients: To make 1 large smoothie

1 cup fresh blueberries
1 cup filtered water
10-15 fresh mint leaves
1 tblsp elderflower syrup/cordial (In the US i've found this in Ikea)
1/2 poached or canned pear (only used the canned pears if they are in juice)
1/2 cup pear juice or pear poaching juice


Blend. This will make really big smoothie, I usually have half in the morning and save the rest for a post work pick me up.


Cheatza- The Very Skinny Pizza

March 20, 2014

Something that I think is the real key to maintaining a healthy diet is making things that don't make you feel like you are dieting.

Feeling like you are being deprived of what you want or, more likely, deserve after a long days work in the office, running around after family or just generally keeping the world ticking along is a major downer.

Feeling happy, healthy and fulfilled will make choosing the skinny option over the indulgent one every now and then oh so much easier.

We love pizza in my house. Artisan, stone baked crust from the local woodfire oven restaurant, by the slice from a parlour or frozen from the box, pizza is king in the Vine household.

Really fancying a pizza and not relishing the make up time at the gym afterwards- this is what we'll munch.

Ingredients: per person

1 chicken breast
a dollop of tomato sauce- I used my go to Roasted Red Pepper and Tomato Sauce, I keep portions stored in the freezer for just such occasions.
5/6 cherry tomatoes
2 table spoons of Ricotta cheese
1 table spoon of Peanut Pesto
A handful of fresh rocket leaves
Black pepper


The problematic bits of the pizza lie in the base and the cheese. You can control your topping choices but you need something to put them on and something to be all melty. Unfortunately, in large and persistent quantities pizza crust and gooey mozzarella start to add up calories wise.

I am not a scientist or a nutritionist so I cannot and would not be naive enough to give you the calorific quantities in this dish. Using United States Department of Agriculture's Nutrient Database for Standard Reference information (see below) to compare the nutritional values of various ingredients I have made some substitutions that I think make a skinnier pizza.

Start by preparing your base, the chicken breast. Sandwich the breast between two pieces of cling film and bash it out with a rolling pin until its evenly thin, about 1/3 inch thick.

Peel off the film and splat the chicken on to oiled foil or baking paper on a baking tray. Squash any renegade bits of chicken back together so that it's a rustic circular shape.

Depending on the consistency of your tomato sauce you may want to drop it into a pan for a couple of minutes to reduce it down so it is the consistency of tomato paste. Removing a bit of the moisture will stop your cheatza ending up a soggy mess.

Spread the thickened sauce over the chicken, then sprinkle over the chopped fresh tomato. Dollop on the ricotta and pesto then bake in a medium/hot oven (about 380F) for about 20-25 minutes. The chicken is thin so won't take too long, but will be kept moist by the toppings.

If you wanted to be incredibly virtuous you could leave off the pesto and garnish with fresh basil after the chicken is baked, but I feel that the pesto seasons the dish and the small amount of parmesan in it allows you to get away with a little bit of ricotta in the place of a lot of mozzarella.

When baked, remove from the oven and pile with rocket, do not be stingy- restraint with salad is not in your interest. Season with black pepper, you won't need salt because of the parmesan in the pesto.

So this is how I figure that my cheatza recipe is a skinny alternative to a regular pizza:

Using a chicken breast instead of the usual crust adds protein and reduces the carbohydrate content of the meal.

Pizza crust/Italian bread     271 per 100g
Chicken                             114 per 100g

58% fewer calories

I use peanuts in my pesto instead of pine nuts because they are cheaper and lower in calories. Basil is a robust flavour that adds interest to any Italian dish and whilst the parmesan in the pesto is high in fat it's strong flavour means you can use a very small amount.

Peanuts          585 per 100 g
Pine nuts        673 per 100g

13% less fat

Using the lower calorie ricotta (you could get even lower because I used the whole milk variety) means you can still have that creamy texture but without all the gym guilt.

Mozzarella      300 per 100g
Ricotta            174 per 100g

42% less fat

(Both whole milk)


Freeze in Cups

March 19, 2014

As I've said before, I am all about thrifting. And when it comes to food thrifting it's all about portioning, freezing and storing.

If I can see that some tomatoes and bell peppers are starting to get a bit squashy I will ALWAYS knock up a batch of sauce.

Rather than freezing it in one large container, which takes up space, uses up my containers and means i'll have to defrost the whole lot and use it in one go, I freeze it in small portions. This may seem obvious, but I'll advise using plastic or paper cups to hold your portions.

A regular size plastic cup hold enough sauce for a simple pasta meal for two or one portion of soup or chunky sauce (chicken curry, beef stew etc). They are cheap, disposable and, once frozen with some cling film on top, can be tucked into any space that's available in your freezer.


Kiwi, Lime and Coconut Smoothie

March 18, 2014

I am no angel when it come to my diet. And you know what? I am totally ok with that. Some times I eat really naughty, indulgent food, sometimes I eat complete rubbish- and yes, I might like to cook but I also like to take out.

I think that the rule of everything in moderation is really a rule to live by. Fast food, skipping meals or cereal for dinner are not the end of the world, they aren't ideal but theres no need to beat yourself up about it. Just make some better choices in the coming days, take the stairs and chug down some extra water.

Life is about balance, in more ways than one, and having had a pretty hectic week last week, a taco or two and a 2am pizza delivery this is what i'll be supping on in the mornings this week.

Ingredients: This makes one large smoothie

2 kiwi fruit
2 tsps fresh squeezed lime juice
1 cup coconut water



It's simplicity in preparation doesn't do it's fresh zingy taste justice. I don't like bananas or yoghurt in smoothies- I rather a thick, fresh juice consistency which is what the kiwi provides. The fresh lime add both it's vitamin C credentials as well as the uplifting aroma and the coconut is the carrier for the vibrant  green pulp, not too sweet but also canceling out any tart notes in the kiwi.


Simple Italian Salad

March 17, 2014

The are some recipes I feel a bit of a fraud naming recipes. They are so simple and formed from traditional parings of flavours that I'd rather suggest this as an idea or suggestion for a light meal.

Coming home last the other night, having been out form drinks and missing dinner I was hankering for something to munch. Having learnt from a previous late night pizza ordering experience (trying to stay awake until it arrived gone 2am... I know, I know) I knew I would be knocking something up from what was in the fridge.

Still fancying something with those Italian flavours of tomato, basil and mozzarella I ended up with a fresher lighter meal that still satisfied that 'late night pizza' craving.

For one person.

2 large vine ripened tomatoes
1/2 red onion
1/2 ball of fresh mozzarella
Small bunch of fresh basil
Drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
Splash balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper


Deseed and chop the tomato into medium dice, chop the red onion into finer dice. Rip or chop the mozzarella into larger, bite sized chunks.

Lay the basil leaves on top of each other, roll them into a tight twist then finely slice so that you end up with delicate strands of herb. 

Toss these together with a twist of salt and pepper then dress with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.


Rising Dough

March 16, 2014

A lot of times recipes (including some of mine) call for dough to be left until it has risen to double the size. I don't know about you but I often end up pottering about whilst my dough rises, then when I go back to check on it's progress i've forgotten what size it was to begin with and can't judge if it's properly proved.

A simple way to figure out the progress of your rise is to take a photo of the dough right after you've plopped it in the pan so you can check it against the proving dough!


Not so naughty Potato Gratin

March 15, 2014

I'm of the opinion that carbs are a pretty essential component of any meal. Pasta, rice, bread, potato accompany pretty much any meal I make. As such there's often a decent amount of repetition amongst the carb rota so i'm always trying to make the good old potato into something more than mash or chips.

Potato Dauphinoise is probably the best thing you can do with a potato but the cream content does put it into the 'once in a while' category. I like to make a version of Boulangere Potatos when I really fancy something a bit more indulgent but the scales are warning me off the cream.

Ingredients: Quantities will depend on how many you are cooking for, below are for 2 people

2 large potatoes
4 cloves of garlic
About 2-3 cups of chicken stock (vegetable if you are that way included)
A little butter
Salt and pepper


Slice the potatoes very, very thinly- if you have a mandolin use that. Lay out a layer of potato slices across the base of the dish, grate over some garlic, salt and pepper. Continue to layer up the potatoes, garlic and seasoning until the dish is full.

Pour over the stock until it fills the dish.

You can cover and freeze for later or cook immediately.

To cook, cover with foil and place a slightly smaller pan of the same shape on top o the foil. It is a good idea to place the dishes onto a baking tray in case any stock spills over. Way down the top pan with something heavy that is oven proof (iron pan, baking dish, baking beads etc.)

Bake in a moderate oven, 350-70F, for about 40 minutes. After the initial baking time, remove the foil, spread some butter over the top and turn the oven temperature to 400F Bake for a further 10 minutes until the top of crisp and brown.


Fresh Pineapple with Minted Sugar

March 14, 2014

I feel a bit of a cheat calling this a recipe as it's more of an idea with a little bit of preparation.

Mint is such a brilliant herb, it's zingy flavour adds another level of interest and a touch of the exotic to so many dishes that could other wise be very normal.

This is a fab little pairing that can be an invigorating breakfast, sugar fix, or laid out on a plentiful platter at a party post rich chili con carne or spicy Mexican.


Bunch of fresh mint
Sugar- about a cup for every half cup of mint


Best results on this one are when you use a pestle and mortar to grind the sugar and mint together. This results in a bright, acid green sand that looks incredible over bright yellow pineapple.

If you don't have a pestle and mortar (yup, neither do I at the moment!) then a blender works well, though a stick blend is only effective if you are making a large batch and can immerse the blade in the sugar. Worst case scenario use the natural abrasive texture of the sugar and the back of a table spoon to smush the mint into the sugar.

Other used for minted sugar:

Over fruit- strawberries or kiwi are really good
Rimming Mint Martini glasses
Topping a Pink Grapefruit Drizzle Cake


Eggs is Eggs

March 13, 2014

Peeling eggs is one of those tasks that is hugely satisfying, if you are doing one or two. Any more than that and you risk getting shell stuck under your finger nails, which is one of the most painfully experiences one can know. Fact.

Theres also always that rogue grain of shell that sticks itself resolutely to the egg and ad a gritty crunch to your finished dish.

My mother in law taught me, what I assume is a well know little tip but made my cooking life a whole lot easier where eggs are concerned.

Once boiled, run the egg under cold water until it's cool enough to handle then peel under the rush of the water. The stream will carry away any small pieces of shell and reduce the friction of the shell against the eggs so it doesn't tear as you peel it.


Cinnamon Roll French Toast

March 12, 2014

So French toast has been a new delight in America. We have it in England, but with America doing brunch so incredibly well i've had the delightful experience of discovering it all over again.

I've decided that my ideal French toast is thick cut bread, crisp on the outside with a sticky, fluffy center. America has also developed my love of cinnamon, particularly sweet cinnamon in a soft, chewy roll with a morning coffee. I figure that mixing these two together would be nothing short of miraculous flavourwise, and though I say so myself, I was incredibly right.


3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 packet of fast action yeast
1/2 cup whole milk
1/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup butter
1 tsp salt
1 egg
Dash of vanilla extract
Pinch of salt

1/2 cup butter
3/4 cup sugar
2 tblsp ground cinnamon

1 egg
Dash of vanilla extract
Shake of sugar

Icing sugar
While milk
Vanilla extract


To make the dough tear or chop the sticks of vey cold butter into the flour and rub through with your fingers to make a wet sand mixture. Add in the sugar, yeast, salt and mix through.

Crack an egg into a bowl and whisk with the milk and vanilla extract.

Make a well in the flour and pour in the milk mixture, using your fingers or a fork, stir the milk and gradually work in the flour from the sides of the well until it's too thick to stir. Work the dough with your hands until it is one lump then move to a floured surface to knead it well.

To save your flour bags from picking up a sticky residue of your cinnamon bun project use this tip to keep your surface well floured.

Knead the dough until it's very smooth, for about 10 minutes. The enriched nature of this dough makes it's incredibly smooth with a rich, lustered appearance- it's lovely to knead so do it well to ensure a good rise!

Tuck the dough into a ball and plop back into the bowl, put it somewhere warm to rise. If, like me you don't have a hot cupboard then use your oven as I did here.

Make up the filling whilst the dough rises. Warm the butter for a couple of seconds in the microwave until it can be whipped. Add in the sugar and cinnamon and mix well, set aside for later.

When the dough has doubled in size remove it from the bowl and squash out the air, knead it for a minute or two until it relaxes and becomes more workable. Roll out the dough into a long rectangle, about a 1/4 inch in thickness.

Spread half of the cinnamon mix on to the top half of the rectangle of dough, fold the uncoated dough over the top so you have a square. Spread the remaining filling onto the folded dough and roll from the side into a fat sausage. Plop the roll into a loaf tin, tucking the edges under if the roll is too long to fit.

Cover with cling film and leave to rise again for another 30-40 minutes.

Bake the loaf in a preheated oven at 350F for about 30 minutes.

Once baked and cooled a little, cut into thick slices at least 1/2 inch thick- more if you are hungover.

Soak the slices for a couple of minutes on each side in a mix of egg, vanilla extract. If you are using the loaf straight out of the oven the loaf will require a little less of a soak as it will already be pretty soft and buttery. Shake a little sugar over each side of the bread- this will help with the all important crunch.

Fry in a medium hot pan in bubbling butter until golden brown on each side. Serve with a drizzle of icing made up from icing sugar, whole milk and vanilla- the quantities will depend on how much you want to make and how thick you like it. Start with the icing sugar in the cup and add a very small amount of milk until it's right.

I love to throw a couple of fresh strawberries or blueberries over to lighten it up.


Mint Martini

March 11, 2014

A wrote about making infused vodka a few days ago, in that particular post I made mint vodka.

I put the vodka to good use and mixed up a smashing mint martini!


2 measures mint infused vodka
1 measure of Vermouth
Minted sugar- blitz granulated sugar with a bunch of fresh mint

To 'rim' the glass, pour a little vermouth onto a plate, upturn the glass and dip the rim into the liquid. Spread the minted sugar onto another plate and dip the glass into the sugar. Twist the glass around to make sure the rim is well coated.

Crack 5 or 6 ice cubes into a cocktail shaker and pour over the vodka and Vermouth, shake vigorously until the shaker is too cold to hold with bare hands then strain into the waiting rimmed glass.


Creamed Corn and Bacon Chicken

March 10, 2014

There are two things that are always in my freezer. With working full time and being the cook in the family nothing makes me happier than a freezer stuffed with home made ready meals. However, even when a weekend finds itself filled with fun, friends and hangovers rather than cooking there are still two little stars that are always shoved in the freezer door. Frozen peas and frozen sweetcorn.

The versatility, and often, competitive freshness of these two kitchen staples offers infinite possibilities for throwing something together- and when you add in a couple more regular freezer dwellers, chicken and bacon, this is the delicious result.

This makes enough for 6 portions.

3 cups frozen sweetcorn kernels
1 sweet white onion
1 clover garlic
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 tbsp all purpose flour
1/2 cup grated cheese- any mildish white cheese like cheddar.
Salt and pepper- you can use white pepper if you'd rather not have black specks in the creamed corn
6 chicken breasts
18 slices of bacon


Finely chop the onion and grate the garlic then fry in a little butter in a large frying pan. Keep the heat medium high so that the onions and garlic become soft and translucent but not browned. You want a mellow savoury flavour rather than a very strong bite behind the sweet, creamy corn.

When the onions are soft and glistening pour in the corn and mix well. Again you don't want to colour the corn, cook it gentle. This also encourages the juices from the corn which in turn makes the whole mixture smoother and sweeter.

After about 10 minutes of gentle cooking sprinkle over the flour and mix in throughly, you don't want to come across any pockets of flour in the finished dish! The flour will help to thicken the sauce, as i've mentioned before, American heavy cream is not quite as thick at British double cream. So if making this in Britain you can leave out the flour!
Pour over the cream and stir in, let bubble for a minute or two before adding the cheese. Allow the cheese to melt into the sauce and stir in before tasting to determine your seasoning. The cheese will add some salt so always taste before adding too much.

Remove half the corn into a bowl and blend to a chunky paste- add this back into the frying pan and combine. You should end up with a thick, chunky sauce that has whole piece of corn coated in a smooth, sweet/savoury cream.

Set the creamed corn aside to cool, it will thicken as it does so which make stuffing the chicken easier. Also, if you intend to store the chicken breast rather than cook them immediately, you must make sure the corn is completely cold.

Cut the pockets into the chicken, place the breast with the side that's been cut away from the bird facing up. Pierce the bulbous end of the breast with the point of a large knife and gentle 'stab' the knife down through the length of the breast ensuring the knife does not break either surface of the breast, the sides or pointed end.

Draw the knife out once you reach the end of the breast, if the breasts are thick then return the knife to the cut pocket and widen it delicately with light slices. You want the opening of the pocket to be large enough to allow for a decided stuffing but not that the corn will leak out all over the place when cooked.

Stuff the pockets with as much corn as will fit. Squash the corn right into the end of the chicken, seal the cut end of the pocket by cutting a slice of bacon in half and wrapping it over the cut end. Wrap one full slice around the breast, securing the half slices, completely sealing in the corn. Wrap the other slice around the chicken so it's entirely coated in bacon.

Either pack the chicken up to store it in the fridge for up to 3 days or in the freezer or bake in a preheated oven of 380F for 25-30 minutes. If the bacon isn't completely crisp then finish the chicken under the grill or in a hot frying pan before serving.

This is like the creamy comfort food version of a chicken Kiev, if the garlic butter is creamed corn and the breadcrumbs are bacon. And we all know that bacon make everything better.


Hot and Dirty Martini

March 09, 2014

Huge thanks to a new friend, Anna, for introducing me to this bad boy!

Charlie is really the martini fan in our house, I do like them but that medicinal almost chemical sharpness of spirit means I really rather a flavoured martini- watered down a little with juice or the astringent sting of drink smoothed by additions.

Another fuss of mine is that alcoholic drinks are often incredibly sweet, i'm discovering Bloody Marys all over again and am really developing a taste for savoury drinks.


2 measures vodka
1 measure Vermouth
splash of olive juice
4 or 5 drops of Sriracha
3 green olives (stuffed w/ blue cheese if you want it really savoury)

Shake the vodka, Vermouth, olive juice and Sriracha over ice until the cocktail shaker is too cold to hold with bare hands.

Pour into a chilled martini glass and garnish with the olives.


Giant stuffed gnocchi in mushroom cream sauce

March 07, 2014

Charlie and I travelled to Italy a couple of years ago to attend the beautiful wedding of some friends. The wedding took place in the city of Cortona in Tuscany with the celebration continuing in Trasimeno in Umbria. We had the pleasure of spending the week preceding the nuptials exploring the countryside of the two regions and making the most of the amazing food!

One of the dishes that rendered us both speechless (astounding for Charlie given that it was vegetarian!) were the stuffed gnocchi we ate at a small trattoria in the back streets of Cortona. Even though we were only in Italy for a week we committed the cardinal sin of revisiting the restaurant rather than exploring something new- just because of these gnocchi!

This is my attempt to recreate them:

Ingredients: (This made enough for four people)

For the gnocchi- use the recipe from the Fried Gnocchi with Peanut Pesto

For the stuffing-

A little bit of butter for frying
1 lb chestnut mushrooms
5 cloves of garlic
A handful of fresh parsley
A drizzle of truffle oil
Salt and pepper

For the cream sauce-

1/2 cup white wine
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
1 tsp all purpose flour
Salt and pepper


Make the gnocchi as the recipe above directs. Wrap in cling film and leave to rest in the fridge while you make the stuffing.

Finely chop or grate the garlic and add it to the butter in the pan. I am forever burning garlic so I find it best to put the garlic and butter in a cold pan onto a cold hob then turn it to the desired heat. As the pan heats and melts the butter it is infused with garlic gently, by the time the butter is melted and gently sizzling the strong zing of garlic will have mellowed and you can add your other ingredients. Finely chop your mushrooms and add these to the pan also, fry on a medium heat until they have browned ever so slightly then turn the heat right down and allow the mushrooms to release their juices, stew in them then absorb them. This slow cooking of the mushrooms will intensify the rich flavour so you can get away with a small amount in each gnocchi piece.

When all the mushroom juice has been reabsorbed into the 'shrooms turn out the heat and set the pan aside. Take a scoop of about a third of the mushrooms out of the pan and add to a new clean frying pan.
Finely chop the parsley and add to the original mushroom pan along with a drizzle of truffle oil, salt and pepper to taste.

Leave the parsley-ed mushrooms to cool.

Heat the pan with the un-parsely-ed mushrooms in until they begin to sizzle, shake over the flour and stir in until even distributed. Splosh in the white wine and let it reduce by half, pour over the cream, stir in then turn the heat right down and leave to thicken and mull for about 20 minutes. Before serving, blend the sauce until it it smooth and velvety.

To make the gnocchi, instead of rolling and cutting into chunks, roll out the dough as you would pastry then use a cookie cutter to cut out circles. I used a martini glass (still not quite stocked up on gadgets yet!) about 12cm in diameter.

Place a teaspoon of mushroom stuffing into the center of each gnocchi circle then fold so that the edges meet. Should you need to, use a little water to seal the edge although gnocchi dough is stickier than traditional pasta so this may not be necessary.

You can either cook the fresh gnocchi or freeze them. Cooking from fresh will take not much longer than 2 to 3 minutes, you can tell they are done when they float to the surface and bob there.

To freeze, arrange the gnocchi on a cling filmed tray and set in the freezer. Once lightly frozen, transfer them to a pot or container, by freezing them on a tray first it stops them sticking together.

To cook from frozen simple drop them into boiling salted water, they will take about 6-7 minute to thoroughly cook, the more stuffed they are the longer. They will bob to the surface when done but check they are cooked through by sticking a fork into the underside then touching the fork to your lip to test the temperature.

Serve three large gnocchi with a good glug of cream sauce per person and taste a little bit of Tuscany.


Sticky Flour Bags

March 06, 2014

My packages of flour always used to have some evidence of the most recent recipe around the edges of the bag.

From dipping hands, gummy with shortcrust pastry or pasta dough or some sort of bread, into the bag to re-flour the surface when kneading.

To save your bags from becoming crusty relics to your baking projects, before you begin kneading scoop out more flour than you'll likely need and pile it to the side of your work space.

Sweep a layer of flour over your kneading surface, returning any excess to the pile. Crack on with kneading your dough, if you find you need more flour just wave some across from your waiting pile- no sticky bags!

You can return any excess flour from the pile to the bag once your done.


Herb Infused Liquor

March 05, 2014

I often find that, even with the best of intentions, I never manage to use a whole bunch of herbs. There are times for dried herbs and times for fresh and without a garden or even a window box in our current apartment, soggy bunches of half used herbs are inevitable.

Even though they are relatively cheap I still can't bear to chuck out something thats perfectly usable. Charlie has taken to experimenting with Martinis recently so these herb infused Vodkas are perfect!

This week I had a lot of mint left over so in it went to a small juice jar (from Crate and Barrel), topped up with some New Amsterdam Vodka and left to infuse over night. I find that if mint is left to stew for too long, much like peppermint tea, it takes on a slightly sickly flavour. As such I limit the infusion time to over night for mint, though other herbs could be left longer.

I'm going to splosh this infusion into a mint Martini but here are some other ideas for vodka and spirit infusions:

Basil vodka in a Bloody Mary
Basil vodka in a strawberry Daiquiri
Cilantro tequila in a Margarita
Lemon balm or Sorrel infused gin, mixed with chilled camomile tea for a Summer evening cocktail


Rhode Island Monthly's The Dish: Thanksgiving Journeys

March 04, 2014

"A British woman learns the meaning behind our favorite family feast."

"As a recent import to the States from England, the traditions surrounding Thanksgiving are all new to me. I have heard tales of Pilgrim Fathers, pumpkin pies and deep fried turkeys, but as yet have not experienced a true Thanksgiving. So I set out to learn about the holiday so deeply rooted in American history. And as it turns out, the whole shebang started in jolly old England nearly half a century ago. Though it’s fallen off the British calendar and is now resolutely an American institution, I am introducing myself through the best means I know how – food..."

Read more here.