Friday, 29 July 2016

Spaghetti cacio e pepe recipe

The ultimate quick pasta meal is to bung a jar of pesto on spaghetti but there is a new lazy pasta dinner in town, cacio e pepe. Originally a speciality of Rome, this dish has been popularised by
the latest rave in London restaurants, a 'pasta bar' near to Borough Market called 'Padella'. For the reasonable price of £6 you can rock up to sit at a white marble counter and order 'pici cacio e pepe', fresh pasta with grated pecorino cheese (cacio is Roman dialect for cheese) and black pepper. It's absolutely fantastic. So good there will probably be a massive queue.
But you can make it at home very easily, it takes a mere ten minutes, the time it takes to cook decent spaghetti.
This recipe originally appeared in Metro.

Cacio e Pepe spaghetti Recipe

Serves 4

1 tbsp sea salt
300g to 400g of good quality spaghetti (Cooking time should not be less than 9 minutes on the packet, NO quick cook. De Cecco is a good brand)
170g of finely grated pecorino cheese (parmesan can be used)
2-3 tbsps of freshly crushed black pepper (I've used ordinary black pepper, long pepper and Cambodian Kampot pepper, the stronger and fresher the better).
50ml of good olive oil (strictly speaking you don't have olive oil but I like it)

Cook your spaghetti in a large saucepan with plenty of hot water, adding the sea salt. Bring to a boil and cook for a couple of minutes less than it states on the packet. (Pasta continues to cook as you drain it in the colander and on the plate.)
While this is cooking grate the pecorino and grind the pepper. Mix together in a large bowl.
Drain the spaghetti into a colander but and THIS IS ESSENTIAL, hold back a cup of the pasta water.
Tip the spaghetti into the bowl of cheese and pepper and add the pasta water. Swirl the lot around, add the olive oil and serve hot.

It's simple, it's delicious. It's your new after work dinner.

Padella's Pici Cacio e Pepe

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Thursday, 21 July 2016

No cook recipes for a muggy summer: quick pear pickle

pickled pear canapé

pickled pear canapé

Right now the last thing I want to do is cook. So my next few recipes will concentrate on no cook recipes. In this clammy heat, you want light foods, fresh, crunchy, salads, raw fish dishes such as ceviche and poké, which are quick pickled with lime and lemon. I'm also drinking 'shrubs', vinegar and fruit based drinks that refresh and cool. 

The simplest 'shrub' is Apple Cider vinegar (with mother) diluted with water. Ugh! I hear you say, drinking vinegar???? Trust me, once you get over the initial strangeness, this concoction is remarkably thirst quenching and enlivening. Plus there are health benefits such as a boost for the immune system while helping to combat thrush and candida, all of which are more likely to occur during the oppressive heat.
Quick pickled fruit livens up canapés, salads and can be used as a side dish. 
Here I give you a recipe for Quick Pickled Pears but it works just as well with apples. I've also used the pickled pear slices as a garnish for a stylish canapé but it also goes well with cheese and cheesy dishes.
I used the pink tinged South African Forelle pears for this recipe. South Africa has opposite seasons to the UK, so when our pears and apples are out of season, we can eat shipped produce from there.

Quick Pickled Pear recipe

3 Forelle pears, thinly sliced, pips and tough centre removed

3 tbsp of Apple cider vinegar
2 tbsps of brown sugar
1 tbsp of good sea salt
A handful of dill sprigs, chopped

Mix all the ingredients together and leave in the fridge for an hour. 

Endive/Chicory boat with smoked salmon, goats cheese, dill and pickled pear

I'm not quite sure what to call this vegetable.  In France they call this crisp vegetable with a slightly bitter flavour, endives while in Britain, traditionally we call them chicory. Today you'll find them under both names. They are grown 'forced' underground so that that the leaves are pale. 

Makes around 12

2 endives (chicory)

100g goat's cheese
150g smoked salmon, cut into thin slices
A handful of Pickled pears
White Pepper

Cut the end from the endive and carefully separate the larger leaves into individual leaves or 'boats'.

Put a heaped teaspoon (or pipe a few centimetres with a piping bag, ) of goat's cheese in the endive.
Take the thin strips of smoked salmon and roll them up, place with the 'boats', next to the goats cheese.
Then place a slice or two of the pickled pear.
Season with salt and white pepper.
Serve with a good white wine 
pickled pear canapé

Monday, 18 July 2016

King Coal - local charcoal plus a recipe for BBQ pizza

Ian Loasby, charcoal maker from London.

charcoal maker

According to the weather forecasters, this week we'll have an opportunity to have a proper sunny BBQ. Hooray!
Unfortunately a barbecue can also be environmentally unfriendly. Most of the charcoal we buy in this country is from unsustainable sources. It is of poor quality, glued together with binders, heavy and damp. Good charcoal is light and tinkles in the bag, almost like glass. Archeological evidence shows that charcoal has been made for 30,000 years and Britain had hundreds of coppiced forests (a system of woodland management whereby trees are cut down and offshoots regrown cyclically), which provided wood for the makers known as colliers. There are now 500 'burners' in the UK, many of them in the National Coppice Federation.
In North London, if you want to buy local, Ian Loasby is your man. A former computer programmer, he was so influenced by John Seymour's seminal 'bible', 'The Complete Book of Self-Sufficiency', his wife booked him onto a weekend course in coppicing. Drained by the prospect of working at a desk, he then took a two year course at Capel Manor in woodland management.
A resident of Tottenham, Ian runs regular woodland and education projects in Queens Wood, Highgate. I went to see where he makes charcoal, to see the enormous belching, smoking 'Exeter retort', reminiscent of a steam punk contraption. Why make wood into charcoal?  Ian explained that effectively you are drying the wood, eliminating all moisture, so it can achieve a higher temperature when burnt. Charcoal was originally used by blacksmiths to smelt iron but is also excellent for cooking purposes. Local char burns steadily, produces less smoke and fewer dangerous vapours. 40% of British woodland is under-managed, so we have the capacity to make more of our own charcoal and it would be a good source of employment.
Making charcoal is a time consuming craft. The retort is filled with wood, Loasby uses hornbeam, hazel, silver birch, sweet chestnut, oak and ash.  The oxygen is eliminated as the retort is heated for between 8 and 12 hours to 450 ºc (it requires careful tending for gaskets blow off and dents form in the metal sides). When first opened, the cooling charcoal gleams with iridescent colours such as blue and gold.
To buy local charcoal, contact Ian Loasby at He charges £8 a bag of charcoal. He also builds hazelwood hurdles and supplies biochar for fertilising gardens.
grilled pizza on the bbq

Barbecue Pizza Recipe

Pizza on a barbecue? Not only is it possible but it is particularly delicious. The trick is to put the toppings on at the last minute.

Makes 2 pizzas

For the pizza dough

250g strong flour or 00 flour
1 packet 7g of fast acting yeast
150ml lukewarm water
1/2 tsp salt
1tsp sugar or honey
3tbsps olive oil and more for brushing
2tbsps coarse semolina

For the toppings

3tbsp olive oil
500ml tomato passata
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 fresh bay leaves
4 mozzarella balls, torn up
Fresh herbs such as basil, oregano.
Freshly ground black pepper
Sea salt

Olive oil for drizzling

Make the dough by mixing the flour, water, yeast, salt, sugar, olive oil together. Leave to proof for an hour or more.
Light your barbecue, wait until the coals are hot but with no flame. Ideally your barbecue will be between 210 and 260ºC (400 to 500ºF).
Make the tomato sauce by putting the olive oil, passata, minced garlic and bay leaves into a medium saucepan and simmering for 15 minutes.
Scatter the semolina onto a chopping board, roll out your pizza into a thick circle and brush one side generously with olive oil. (I set up a little pizza station next to the BBQ.)
Place the pizza on the BBQ, oil side down. Close the lid. Allow the pizza to cook for five minutes. This is a bit like a pizza oven with the lid on, and the dough will puff up.
Turn the pizza over and quickly add the toppings. Spoon on the tomato sauce and spreading it with the back of a spoon all over the pizza. Distribute the mozzarella, scatter the herbs, grind on the black pepper and add any other toppings. Add a drizzle more olive oil and some sea salt.
Close the lid again. Leave for five minutes.
Serve immediately.
This piece first appeared in the Ham and High.