Tag: dinner

And I’m back… with some midweek spaghetti

A couple months back, I finally found myself a job and started working. As well as being busy during the day again, I was a little under the weather and I didn’t feel like cooking much. Uninspired, I fell back on old favourites. I stopped blogging. Things got busy, new habits developed and in this case, they didn’t involve blogging. Life ambled on.

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I hadn’t really thought much about the blog until a few days ago when I received a beautiful email from a wise student who inspired me, kind words from another friend about how she misses my recipes, another wanting to know what I have been reading. And so I’m back. Back to the blog and looking forward to it. I’ve been talking with a very-talented-certain-someone about making it look prettier and have been thumbing through new and old cook books getting excited.

I thought I would start with a quick and easy pasta dish that is perfect for a midweek, after work dinner. It’s quick to throw together, and can be used by scrounging around at the back of the fridge- there always seem to be half eaten jars of olives back there. I think it is great because of my love of anything that is either salty or vinegary. Don’t worry about chocolate or cakes for me, but salt and vinegar chips are a winner. Pickles, olives. fries and mustard are also good options. This is slightly healthier than the items on that list, but tastes just as good.

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Midweek Spaghetti 

1 handful of olives, I used a mix of green Sicilian olives and black Kalamata
3 diced tomatoes – I used Early Girl
1 big handful of cherry tomatoes, halved
1/4 red onion very finely chopped
1 Tbsp capers
Salt and pepper
Big, big glug of olive oil
Small glug of balsamic vinegar
1 tsp dried oregano
1 handful of rocket
1 handful of fresh basil and Italian parsley
Spaghetti

In a large bowl, add the destoned, halved olives, capers, tomatoes, red onion, tomatoes, oregano, salt, pepper, olive oil and balsamic. If you leave these for half an hour, they will slowly marinate in their own goodness and the bite will go from the red onion. While the spaghetti is cooking, add the rocket, basil and parsley to the bowl, then toss in the spaghetti. You want to eat this immediately, while the spaghetti is still hot, and it tastes great with some slithers of parmesan over the top.

DSCF3983It’s fresh and tasty and perfect for a summer’s evening.

It’s good to be back.

Anna x

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Bonding Over Pineapple Lumps

About a month ago, Ollie and I went into a cool wee shop just round the corner from our apartment. The kind that sells beautiful greeting cards, necklaces, tea towels and candles. The girl working there was eating pineapple lumps so of course, we struck up conversation. She had just received a care package from her mum back in New Zealand containing the pineapple lumps and large amounts of Whittaker’s chocolate. She seemed lovely, so I went back in the next week and gave her my number. Now this may seem rather forward, but in a city where you don’t know many people and you meet a good one, you just have to be bulshy!

Turns out we have a whole lot in common, both having studied English and Art Theory, worked in galleries around NZ, and have since been hanging out. Last week we were going to be going to an art exhibition after work, but cold misty weather, tired feet and hungry tummies brought us up to our place with some red wine instead. I rummaged in the fridge and found a cauliflower, some chicken stock in the freezer, and this cauliflower risotto was made.

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Cauliflower Risotto – thanks Jamie O.

1 cauliflower
1 onion
2 cloves garlic
1 stick celery
1 glass of wine
1 1/2 cups of amborio rice
1 litre chicken stock
Salt and Pepper
Parmesan

For the Pangrattato
A chunk of stale bread, I used walnut bread
3 anchovies
Chili flakes
2 sprigs of thyme, leaves removed
Olive oil

Firstly, attack your beautiful cauliflower. Trim the leaves off and cut out the middle trunk part so you are left the florets. Add these to your pan of hot stock and they will start to soften. Next, finely slice the middle trunk, the onion, garlic and celery stalk and gently fry for about 15 minutes, or until they have softened. When the vegetables have softened, add the rice and fry until it is slightly translucent. Next add the glass of wine and stir until the smell of alcohol has disappeared.

You can now start adding the stock and cauliflower bit by bit, little by little. The more you stir, the creamier it gets. You can smash up some of the cauliflower and leave other bits larger to keep the texture interesting. Continue until the rice is cooked and all the cauliflower has been added. The rice should be soft, but still have a bit of bite.

Remove from the heat and add the parmesan. Place a lid on the pan and allow to sit for 2 minutes. This lets the rice get really creamy and thick so don’t skip this step.

While this is happening, roughly chop the walnut bread. In a pan, fry the anchovies and chilli in the olive oil until the anchovies have melted down into a slaty oil. Add the breadcrumbs, stirring and tossing constantly until golden brown.

Serve with the pangrattato sprinkled on top, and some fresh parsley if you have it. The combination of the homely, creamy cauliflower and the crunchy, spicy and salty bread is heavenly. All the more so on a misty weekday night with a glass of wine and a new friend. The ultimate of girl’s nights.

Pasta al Pomodoro

Yesterday I talked with a friend who is back in the stifling summer heat of Milan for a wedding. I was taken back to my time living there and how the two of us realised we were living just down the road from each other, friends from school who had fallen out of touch. I could see her as clearly as if it was yesterday, in gumboots on the side of Viale Gran Sasso in the slushy grey snow as she waited for me. We were getting our first of many espresso together in the city we Kiwis were choosing to call home. Sometimes it seemed like we were the only sane ones in the whole city, other times it seemed like we were the ones creating all the drama. I was taken back to the friendships and the adventures, the flavours and fragrance of an Italian kitchen. The bag of tomatoes in my fridge were calling to me and I knew what I had to do with them.

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Last Night’s Pasta al Pomodoro

A generous glug of olive oil
1 big garlic clove
2 anchovy fillets
A sprinkling of chilli flakes
1/2 red onion
6 big fresh tomatoes (I had a few yellow cherry tomatoes I threw in too for good measure)
A peeling of lemon skin very finely chopped
6 green olives
1 Tbsp capers
Salt

Cover the bottom of a thick bottomed pan with olive oil and then add your whole garlic clove. When you can start to smell the garlic, add the chilli flakes and anchovy fillets and slowly slowly fry these until they dissolve into the oil making a delicious salty, spicy and garlicky oil (I have been known to finish here and coat the pasta with the oil for dinner. If I learnt one thing from Italy it is that simplicity is always best). Next, finely dice the red onion and add this with the lemon zest to slowly soften in the oil. Fill a bowl with boiling water and drop your tomatoes in. Leave for 30 seconds and then pull out and peel the skin off. Chop the tomatoes up and add these to the onion. There will be a lot of liquid from the tomatoes at this stage, so you want to leave them to simmer and thicken until you are left with a deep red sauce. Add the capers and stoned and cut up olives and you have yourself a sauce. Cook your pasta – I think something long and skinny is best for a sauce like this – and combine them. You don’t want your pasta to be swimming in the sauce, but nicely shiny from it. Top with grated parmesan to really make your meal amazing.

The beauty of pasta al pomodoro is that there is no one way to do it. I am sure there are many nonne out there who are shaking their heads at this recipe, but there seem to be hundreds of variations on eating tomatoes and pasta together. It can be as simple as oil, garlic and a tin of tomatoes. Either way, you know it is going to taste gooooood. It is my go to food, my comfort food and my favourite dinner in the world. Plus, I can put away serious amounts. Very happily.

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While the pasta cooked, we had a little marinated zucchini salad which was a lovely combination of fresh crunch, zingy vinegar and soft mozzarella. 

Marinated Zucchini Salad

Half a green zucchini
Half a yellow zucchini
1/2 clove of fresh garlic minced
Olive oil
The juice of a lemon
Salt
A splash of white wine vinegar
Handful of fresh basil, torn
A few balls of fresh mozzarella
Handful of baby spinnach
A few pieces of prosciutto torn into smaller pieces

Finely slice the zucchini and put in a bowl with the olive oil, garlic, basil, lemon juice, vinegar and salt. Leave these for a couple of hours to marinate. Just before you serve, add the baby spinach, prosciutto and mozzarella. Easy as that.

Buon appetito a tutti. And Livs, I wish I was there with you x

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Passing Time

I am sitting at the table by the window, nail polish drying on my finger nails, cup of tea close by as I try to distract myself from my impending job interview. One o’clock must be one of the worst times to have one. I feel like I can’t really do anything this morning, because what if I am late? I am very good at being late. But it is also a long time to sit around drinking tea and wondering what questions they might ask, what questions I should ask them…

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So instead, I will tell you what we had for dinner last night.

Slow Cooked Chicken Tacos

For the chicken

2 chicken thighs
1 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp ground coriander
1 tsp spicy paprika
1 tsp ground ginger
1 pinch of salt
1 pinch of brown sugar
1 garlic clove finely chopped
1 small handful of fresh coriander, finely chopped
Enough water to cover the bottom of your dish

For the slaw

1/3 small red cabbage
1/3 small green cabbage
1 big handful of baby spinach leaves
1 handful of fresh coriander
3 radishes
2 spring onions
1 small tin of pineapple
Juice of 1 lime
Olive oil
Salt

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Place your chicken thighs, bone in, skin on, in a dish with a lid. Combine the ingredients and pour on top of the chicken -they want to be snuggled in there quite tightly so they don’t lose all the delicious flavours.  Add some water to the bottom of the dish – this stops it from drying out- and put in the oven at 150 degrees celsius/300 fahrenheit for about two hours or until the chicken falls easily off the bone with just a fork. Take the skin off, pull apart and then pour all the delicious juices over the top.

While the chook is cooking, finely slice all the ingredients for the slaw, combine in a bowl with the lime juice, olive oil and a splash of the juice from the can of pineapple for the dressing. You can use whatever you want for the slaw, you just want to make sure you have a combination of flavours so there is earthy, spicy, tart and sweet crunching in your mouth.

Serve on either corn or flour mini soft tortillas and top with hot sauce should you wish. We have this amazing stuff that is made by firefighters in Palo Alto- sounds too good to be true huh?

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Normally by the time we have finished dinner the wind is blowing and the mist is swirling, but last night the evening was surprisingly balmy, so we climbed up to top of Buena Vista Park and looked out over the lights of the new city we call home.

A weekend of finding free things!

This week things have started to fall into place. I have managed to get myself a subbing job in a bookstore, met up with some old friends, made some new friends and found some awesome free things in our area. Friday night was an album release party at The Mill with a band playing, free Josey Baker breads, 4505 nachos plus BYO beers- it felt like a really fun house party in a cool space. Saturday was more free drinks, live music and food at the Public Bikes opening in Hayes Valley. So after that and an afternoon of eating ice cream in the sun, we wandered up the hill for a dinner at home. Herb crusted roast chicken with yummy summer salads.

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Herb Crusted Roast Chicken

1 onion quartered
1 lemon quartered
A big handful of fresh herbs – I used parsley, mint and basil as that is what I had, but wintry sage, rosemary and thyme would also be a good combo
Small handful of capers
3 cloves of garlic
Zest and juice of a lemon
1 Tbsp grainy mustard
BIG glug of olive oil
Sea salt

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First of all, stuff the cavity of the chicken with the onion and lemon. Next, finely chop the herbs, garlic and capers and mix them with everything else. Slather all over the chicken and pop her in the oven for about an hour. While she cooks, pull the tray out of the oven and scoop up the liquid from the chicken and pour it back over so the chicken doesn’t dry out.

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I served the chicken with an insalata caprese – three types of tomatoes, fresh mozzarella, basil and plenty of good olive oil and sea salt – and a zucchini and quinoa salad – three types of zucchini, loads of fresh herbs, slowly cooked onion, quinoa and a smokey dressing. It was lovely, the company was great and we found that the wine from Bi-rite is very good.

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On Sunday we went down to Civic Center to watch the final of the world cup and it was awesome! Heaps of people, flags, food trucks and cheering. It seems to me that there is plenty to do in this city without having to pay. Here’s to a week to follow up a good weekend.

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To Market, to Market.

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The weekend was lovely. We went to a beautiful cafe and drank iced coffee in the shade of trees bowed over with the weight of fresh plums. We bought a car (feeling very grown up right now as it isn’t a Toyota Carolla) and went on an adventure to Sausolito. We sat beside the wharf in the sunshine, had a beer and enjoyed incredible fish and chips at a place called, very originally, Fish. We drove over the Golden Gate bridge with me singing the Full House song and then drove to Twin Peaks to look over the city.

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Sunday was a trip to the farmer’s market to find some cheap produce. There were tomatoes, berries, and zucchini of all shapes and sizes. I am currently attempting to do some pickling and jam making; results have been mixed, but I will blog about that later this week. Back at the market I was drawn to the fish monger after our delicious fresh fish the day before. There was some beautifully pink salmon which didn’t have a price tag but was quickly wrapped up with ice for me to take home. Turns out that not everything at the market is cheap produce so I had to think of something worth while to do with this piece of fish.

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Salmon and Lentils with a Spicy Yoghurt Dressing

1 cup of puy lentils
2 cups water
3 zucchini
1 small head broccoli
A handful of fresh herbs- I used coriander, basil and Italian parsley
A handful of baby spinach
1 big salmon fillet
Pinch of fennel seeds
Olive oil
Sea salt
Half a cup of thick natural yoghurt
juice of half a juicy lemon
1 garlic clove, finely grated
1 tsp paprika

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First of all, cook your cup of lentils with two cups of water. Bring to the boil and then simmer for about twenty minutes. While they are busy bubbling away, bake the salmon with some lemon juice, salt and a pinch of fennel seeds. You don’t want to over cook the salmon, so depending on the size of the fillet, this should only take about fifteen minutes. Fry the zucchini and broccoli in a pan. I used a mix of yellow and green zucchini- they are just so pretty! Roughly chop the herbs and spinach and once the lentils are cooked, add along with the zucchini and broccoli. Break the salmon on top and then dress with a dressing made of the yoghurt, grated garlic clove, lemon juice and paprika. I also added some of the red onion I had pickled- it added a nice vinegary bite that complimented the earthy flavours of the lentils perfectly.

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This week I will let you know how my pickling/jam making goes, tell you all about the amazing looking restaurant we are going to for Ollie’s birthday, and about the book reading at a dive bar tonight. Until then, thank you for all the kind words and feedback you have given me so far. I have been overwhelmed by everybody’s response, so thank you x

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Asian Inspired

And so another Friday rolls round and it is coming up five weeks in this city. The sun is still shining, the wind is still gusting and I am still pottering in the kitchen, exploring new neighbourhoods and waiting for a work visa.

Earlier this week I wandered through Chinatown. Apparently it is the oldest Chinatown in North America, and the largest population of Chinese outside Asia. I walked past smells I couldn’t quite place, cars and fumes, shouting, lanterns and Chinese women doing synchronised dancing in a park opposite a beautiful Catholic church. I walked past these, and I started thinking about what to make for dinner. Something spicy, fresh and with noodles. Pho was calling to me.

Now this isn’t a real pho (a Vietnamese noodle soup), but my version made from what I had in the cupboard and what I felt like eating that night. Although it looks like there are a lot of flavours and ingredients, it really is very easy to make- there are only three steps. Simple as that. You can change it up, play around with different flavours and make it work for you. Have a go and let me know what yours turned out like.

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A Kind of Pho

Broth
Skin and bones from 2 big chicken thighs
1 litre water
1 celery stalk- with leaves
1 onion
1 carrot
1 chilli
1 tsp coriander seeds
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 Tbsp fish sauce
1 Tbsp soy sauce
2 Tbsp hossein sauce
1 chunk of ginger, skin on
4 cloves garlic
Salt

Soup
Flesh from the chicken thighs, finely sliced
Handful of mushrooms, sliced
2 bok choy, halved
Noodles – I used soba because that is what we had, but wide glass noodles would be better

Garnish
1 lime, quartered
Big handful of fresh coriander
Handful of mung beans
2 spring onions finely sliced
Fresh chilli, finely sliced
Half an onion, finely sliced and deep fried

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First of all, you need to make your broth. Simply put all your broth ingredients in a big pot, bring to the boil and then simmer for about an hour. This should give plenty of time for all your ingredients to get together and create a flavoursome broth. Taste to make sure it is good, and add more of anything you think it needs. Strain and put back on the heat. Bring to the boil again and add the chicken, mushrooms, bok choy and noodles. These should only take five minutes to cook, so while this is happening, finely finely slice some onion and deep fry and salt it. This will make a deliciously salty and sweet element to top your soup with. Divide your soup into bowls and get garnishing. Or, lay the garnishes on the table and let people add what they want.

Happy weekend x

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Little Indian Elephants

One fantastic thing about San Francisco is its love of Indian Pale Ale, every local brewery seems to make a good one, especially the one we found with the elephant on the label. It comes in a cute bottle, and did I mention the elephant? Anyway, the beer and then the beautiful cauliflower we bought at the farmer’s market on Sunday inspired me to make a curry to eat while we drink the beer. Here’s what I did.

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Cauliflower and Chickpea Curry

2 Tbsp ground cumin
1 Tbsp tumeric
1Tbsp ground coriander
1 Tbsp chili flakes
1Tbsp fresh grated ginger
Oil (I used olive oil because that is all my kitchen has, but you could use any)
1/2 red onion
1/2 white onion
4 cloves garlic
1 head of cauliflower
1 can chickpeas
1 cup frozen spinach
1 handful fresh coriander
Juice of half an orange
Splash of coconut water (you could also use stock or coconut milk, this is all I had at home)

To serve

Rice- obviously
Natural yoghurt
Fresh mint
Roughly chopped raw almonds (hazelnuts are even better with cauliflower if you have them)

Heat your oil and add all the spices, garlic and the grated ginger. Fry these until it has made a kind of paste like base for your curry. Now add the onion and slowly fry. Next comes the cauliflower, spinach, coriander, chickpeas, orange juice and coconut water or milk. Put the lid on the pot and simmer for at least half an hour or until the vegetables have softened and flavoured. Mine simmered for a good couple of hours as Ollie’s meeting lasted a little longer than expected, which was fine as it meant the flavours really had time to do their thing. I served it with some natural yoghurt, fresh mint and some roughly chopped raw almonds. And of course, a cold beer.

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Chicken in a New Pot

Yesterday was made a whole lot better by the arrival of my set of blue La Creuset kitchen delights- a casserole dish, a skillet and a little sauce pot. They are just so beautiful I had to keep walking into the kitchen to look at them! They are an incredibly generous wedding present from some family friends in New Zealand, and so we had a special dinner last night to honour them. DSCF3338

Chicken in a New Pot
4 chicken thighs, bone in
2 onions
8 cloves of garlic
2 tomatoes Handful of cherry tomatoes
Big handful basil
8 little potatoes
1 cup frozen spinach
A generous amount of olive oil
Salt and pepper to season

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This is a really easy recipe (I think it is based on a Jamie Oliver one I made a while back? Still waiting on my cookbooks to arrive). In a casserole pot or roasting tray, lay out your chicken thighs, the onions cut into wedges, the garlic peeled but left whole, the tomatoes cut into quarters, the cherry tomatoes halved, the potatoes halved, the spinach and the basil. Douse with olive oil, salt and pepper and put in the oven. Done deal. I left the lid on for the first hour, and then took it off for the second. This meant some of the liquid from the vegetables dried off a bit and the onions started to caramelise. My new oven is a gas one- new concept to me- so I am still getting my head around cooking in it. It seems a lot harder to make things nice and crispy, but I am sure I will master it over time, maybe with some tips from my dear readers?

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We shared some wine while we ate, and watched the fog roll in over the houses dotted on the hills opposite. This windy colourful city has kept me fuelled for another day.

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Cooking in a new kitchen

I have a kitchen. My very own, do whatever I want, fill it with whatever I want, kitchen. With this comes the fact I have nothing to go in the kitchen. A crate of things from New Zealand comes over in a couple of months, so it is a matter of working out what we can do without, and what we need immediately. Luckily we went out for dinner with a couple of new American friends on Sunday night to a cool wee local gastro pub called Magnolia with delicious beers and burgers. Steph lent us a pot, 2 knives, forks and spoons so we are good to go for a while! This means I am having to get creative with one pot. Here’s my first attempt…

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ONE POT WONDER

Pinch of fennel seeds
Pinch of chilli flakes
Tbsp of fresh thyme leaves
1 onion
1 stick celery
4 cloves garlic
2 chicken thighs
1 cup green lentils
1 tin tomatoes
1 cup of stock
Handful of green Sicilian olives
Handful of fresh parsley
Grated parmesan

Fry the onion, garlic, celery, fennel seeds, chilli flakes and thyme slowly in lots of olive oil. Once they have softened, turn up the heat a bit and add the chicken thighs so they lightly brown on each side. Then add the tin of tomatoes, the lentils and the stock, season well with salt and pepper then put the lid on and walk away. After about half an hour/45 minutes (I may have forgotten to check a clock) your lentils and chicken should have cooked. Try to schmush up the tomatoes as well as you can- they should have fallen apart a bit by themselves- and add the olives.

Serve this in a bowl with parsley and parmesan on top and some chunky sourdough bread on the side to mop up all the delicious juices.

This is served in our beautiful new bowls from Heath Ceramics– such an inspiring shop. We got a voucher for there from some amazing friends and got to spend it this weekend. Definitely worth checking out. Thanks guys!

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