Fettuccini with Leeks, Bacon & Cream

I am really excited about this recipe for Fettuccini with Leeks and Bacon, probably because I am really hungry and it sounds just what I want to eat now. There are so many really good ready made pastas on the market now, and so much choice. This recipe would work just as well with pappardelle or tagliatelle, just choose a good one.

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Fettuccini with Leeks, Bacon & Cream

Serves 2

2 tablespoons olive oil

90g slices thin-cut smoked streaky bacon, cut into small strips

1 large leek or 2 small, white and pale-green parts only, halved lengthwise, shredded crosswise and washed

100mls double cream

125g fettuccine, tagliatelle or pappardelle

Finely grated Parmesan or Grana Padano

Heat oil in a heavy bottomed saucepan over medium heat. Add bacon and cook, stirring often, until fat is rendered and bacon is crisp, 5-8 minutes. Add leeks and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Cook over a low heat for as long as possible, stirring often, until leeks first completely soften and then begin to caramelize. Meanwhile, cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Add the cream to the leeks and some of the pasta water so that you have a nice creamy consistency but not too dry. Check seasoning. Drain pasta and add to the leeks and bacon. Add the parmesan to taste and serve straight away.

Leeks cut

Save

Leek and Parmesan Tart

I made a Squash, Red Onion and Goat’s Cheese Tart a few weeks ago and it reminded me of another, in fact my favourite tart, which I often used to cook for supperclubs in the early days. This Leek and Parmesan Tart is really easy to make and great as a starter at a dinner party when you want everything to be prepared in advance. But it also makes a lovely lunch. Serve it very slightly warm with a crisp salad on the side.

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Leek and Parmesan Tart

Serves 6

Tart tin 10” / 25cm

For the pastry

175g plain flour

80g butter, cold and cubed

Pinch of salt if using unsalted butter

1 egg

For the filling

2 large or 3 small leeks

Olive oil

Butter

Small bunch of thyme, very finely chopped

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

½ pt double cream

3 egg yolks

80g grated parmesan

Put the flour and butter for the pastry, and salt if using, in a food processor. Mix until you have breadcrumbs. Add the egg and just mix enough for the pastry to come together in a ball. Wrap in cling film and put in the fridge for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 180C.  Roll out the pastry and line the tart tin. Get a round piece of greaseproof paper and carefully cover the pasty with it. Folding it down over the top edge. Blind bake for about 15 minutes or until the pasty is very light golden brown. Meanwhile sweat the leeks gently in a heavy bottomed saucepan, with some butter, a glug of olive oil, the thyme and some salt and pepper. Cover and cook very slowly for 15 to 20 minutes. Remove the lid and continue to cook until beginning to caramelise. Remove from the heat and add the cream and the yolks and the grated parmesan cheese. Season to taste. Pour into the tart case. Turn the oven down to 170C and cook the tart for about 20-30 minutes, until set and lightly golden brown.

leeks

Crispy Fried Leeks

Here is an interesting thing to do with leeks. Deep-fry them. May sound strange but I’m sure you have all had fried onions before and know how delicious they are. Well, leeks are even easier, due to their lower water content, they crisp up nicely and I think they might be rather nice as an addition to a winter salad.

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Crispy Fried Leeks

vegetable oil for deep-frying

1 large leek

Cornflour

Fine sea salt

In a medium saucepan heat oil to 180C/350F. Use a thermometer.

Julienne leeks by cutting the leek in half lengthways and then in half cross ways. Finely shred the leek lengthways into thin strips.  Don’t worry too much about them being perfect, just try and keep them even sized. Dust the leeks in cornflour and fry until golden brown, about 30 seconds to a minute. Drain on a paper towel, season with salt.

crispy-fried-leeks

Leek and Mushroom Brown and Wild Rice Pilaf

I love leeks. Not the insipid, colourless and tasteless looking ones you get ready trimmed in the supermarket. I mean the ones that look like they have just been pulled out of a muddy field, in rolling, autumnal countryside. They seem as if they are as if they are as old as time, and indeed they are apparently mentioned in the bible.

This is a really quick and easy recipe. It is a one-pot-dish and what’s more, it is really good for you.

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Leek and Mushroom Brown and Wild Rice Pilaf

I added coriander because I love it, but you could use another herb such as parsley and maybe a little drizzle of white truffle oil.

750mls vegetable or chicken stock (can be made with 2 good quality cubes)

200g brown basmati and wild rice mix (can be ready bought or mix your own)

40g butter

Glug extra virgin oil

2 large leeks, finely sliced and well washed

300g fresh mushrooms, sliced

2 cloves garlic, finely grated

Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper

Fresh herbs – coriander or parsley

Melt the butter in a heavy bottomed large saucepan (with a lid.) Add the leek and a good glug of olive oil. Sweat down for about 10-15 minutes until they are just beginning to caramelise. Add the mushrooms and cook down once again. Add the garlic and fry for a minute more. Season well with salt and pepper. Add the rice and stir and then the stock. Cover with the lid and cook on a low heat for about 40 minutes.  Check once or twice whilst cooking and stir. When rice is tender, remove from heat. Stir in the chopped herbs and check seasoning.

Slit leeks

Jamón, Leek and Manchego Croquetas and Salsa Rosa

Last week I was talking about Patatas Bravas and my confusion in the different variations and then, completely by chance I found an insight into the true description of the dish. What it should really be called is Patatas Fritas with Bravas Sauce. You can even buy ready made Bravas (spicy tomato) sauce, and just as I suspected it should be smooth and never chunky.

Anyway I found this out whilst reading the menu of a particularly well-reviewed Tapas restaurant, called The Salt Yard.  Since having children, I no longer seem to have the time or money for eating out in fancy restaurants, so I have to satisfy myself with reading their menus, and making it myself.

These Jamon, Leek and Manchego Croquetas with Salsa Rossa caught my eye and since I had some leeks to use up in my box this week, I thought I would give them a try.  Absolutely delicious, a real treat, even though as always I still had to do the washing up.

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Jamón, Leek and Manchego Croquetas and Salsa Rosa

Makes about 15

100g sliced, good-quality cured Spanish ham such as Serrano or Ibericao

2 tbsp olive oil

60g unsalted butter

½ leek, finely diced

60g plain flour

400 -500ml whole milk

2 free-range eggs, beaten

150g panko breadcrumbs

25g manchego or other hard cheese, finely grated

1 litre olive oil, to fry

Dice your ham as finely as possible. Heat the oil and butter in a medium, heavy-bottomed saucepan over a medium heat and, when the butter melts, add the leek and and fry gently for 5 minutes or so, then add the ham and cook until the leek has softened, and the ham fat has begun to melt for another 5 minutes. Turn the heat down, gradually stir in the flour and cook gently for a few minutes. Remove from the heat and gradually stir in the milk, beating it in well, until you have a smooth paste. Cook for another few minutes until it has the consistency of smooth mashed potato and season to taste with some black pepper and a small pinch salt. Put the béchamel in a bowl and allow to cool, then cover, pressing the clingfilm on to the surface of the sauce to prevent a skin from forming, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

Put the beaten eggs into a bowl, and the breadcrumbs and cheese into another. With floured hands, roll spoonful’s of the mixture into cylinders and dip these into the egg, then roll in the breadcrumbs until well coated. Heat the olive oil in a large pan to 180C. Use a thermometer as the correct heat is very important. Prepare a plate lined with kitchen roll. Fry the croquetas in batches for a couple of minutes until golden all over, then lift out with a slotted spoon and serve at once.

Grilled Red Peppers

Salsa Rossa

6 tomatoes, skinned, de-seeded & chopped

1 large red pepper, roasted, peeled & chopped

1 garlic clove, crushed

1 tbsp capers in vinegar, drained and chopped

2 anchovies, finely chopped (optional)

1 red chilli, finely chopped

1 tbsp balsamic vinegar

1 tbsp parsley, chopped

Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl and season to taste.

Slit leeks

Leek and Taleggio Pie

I think I must have been super hungry when I was researching this week’s recipes. This pie in particular, with it’s pastry, potato, cream and cheese. I must have been ravenous! But it turned out to be really delicious and served alongside a nice crisp, healthy salad, I wasn’t hungry any more!

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Leek and Taleggio Pie

Serves 2-4 (depending on how hungry you are)

1 large baking potato, peeled and diced

2 large leeks, washed and sliced into rounds

A knob of butter

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

50ml double cream

200g Taleggio or similar cheese, cut into chunks

1 sprig thyme, leaves picked

500g packet of ready-rolled all-butter puff pastry ( you may need 2 packets of some brands)

1 egg, for washing

Heat an oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Cook the baking potato in boiling salted water until just tender, then drain and set aside. Cook the leeks over a medium heat in the butter until tender. Season well with salt and pepper. Set aside. In a bowl, mix the cooked potato with the leeks, cream, Taleggio and thyme leaves and season well. Lay one sheet of pastry on top of a 25cm non-stick (or lightly buttered) pie dish and press into the base – there will be an overhang, which can be trimmed off. Spoon the leek mixture into the prepared dish and place the other sheet of pastry on top. Crimp around the sides to seal, trim and then brush the top with egg and make an incision in the middle of the lid to let the steam escape while it’s in the oven. Cook the pie for 30 40 minutes until the pastry has turned golden and crisp. Rest for a few minutes before serving.

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Butternut Squash, Leek, Pea and Goat’s Cheese Lasanga

I have got a Riverford Lunch this week, when I go to a customer’s house and cook lunch for their friends. This lunch is hopefully so impressive and delicious that these friends are completely won over by the virtues of Riverford and their wonderful tasting vegetables, that they are instantaneously compelled to become Riverford customers themselves. No pressure there then!

I always start with a large veg box and try and use up all the ingredients in one meal, in original, inspiring and interesting ways. As the menu evolves, I usually find that I am left with a few misfit ingredients, which need to be combined together and result in a delicious and harmonious recipe. And this is where, each week, the real challenge lies. This week I was left with leeks, butternut squash and peas! As excited as I was to see fresh peas again, it took me quite a while to get my head around how to incorporate them with the other vegetables without losing them all together. I am pretty pleased with my resulting Butternut Squash, Leek, Pea and Goat’s Cheese Lasanga. The lovely fresh peas add a touch of spring to an otherwise Autumnal dish and the goats cheese perfectly counterbalances the sweetness of the vegetables. Just hope my lunch customers are impressed!

Butternut Squash, Leek, Pea and Goat’s Cheese Lasanga

Butternut Squash, Leek, Pea and Goat’s Cheese Lasanga

Serves 4
I butternut squash
bag of Riverford peas
3 small leeks
50g Butter
50g Flour
1 pint Milk
100g Parmesan, freshly grated
200g Hard goat’s cheese, such as St Helen’s Farm, cut into small cubes
A box of lasagne sheets
Olive Oil
Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Pre-heat the oven to 180C. Peel and cut your butternut squash into bitesized chunks. Season with salt and pepper and toss in olive oil. Roast in the oven for about 30-40 minutes until soft and beginning to caramelise.

Roast Butternut Squash

Check from time to time and move around to ensure even cooking. Meanwhile shred your leeks and wash well. In a large, heavy bottomed saucepan add the butter and the leeks and sweat down until really soft and beginning to colour. Season well with salt and pepper. Remove from the heat and add the flour. Stir well and then return to the heat to cook out the flour for a few minutes. Slowly add the milk and whisk over a medium heat until the sauce boils and thickens. Remove from the heat and add the grated parmesan. Season well to taste with salt and pepper. You don’t want your lasagne to dry so make sure the béchamel is creamy. Add more milk if necessary. Cook the peas for a few minutes in a pan of boiling salted water. Drain,

Take a large gratin put a very thin layer of béchamel on the bottom. Top with a layer of lasagne sheets. Break up the sheets if necessary. Top with the butternut squash and 1/3 of the remaining béchamel and 1/2 the goat’s cheese. Next do another layer of lasagne. Then top with the remaining butternut squash, the rest of the goat’s cheese and the next 1/3 of béchamel. Next the final layer of lasagne and finally the rest of the béchamel. Cook in the oven for 30 minutes or so until golden brown on top and a blunt knife inserts easily all the way through.

Peas

Family Bolognaise

I have been so busy this week with thinking about Christmas, that I forgot to order my veg box. I was so occupied looking at all the Christmas hampers and cook books for family, that I clean forgot. But it is amazing how rummaging through the fridge I came up with all sorts. Last week I was talking about bulking out, or even replacing, meat dishes with mushrooms and I had a punnet to use up so that went in, and I had leeks too, which can always replace onions in sauces or stews.

I have also been talking quite a bit about cooking for kids and I came across a picture of my daughter aged 3, quite happily tucking into Spaghetti Bolognaise and I wondered how she had managed to turn into the fussy little madam she is today. I know that I have probably been a bit to blame, maybe bearing the adults in mind a little too much when cooking family dishes and I am quite a robust sort of cook. With children’s sensitive, little palettes, a little too much pepper or chili is probably enough to put them off. So I decided to make a batch of Bolognaise entirely with her in mind and see if I could win her back. Here are a few key points when cooking for kids although obviously you will need to adapt them for your own. Anyway, I am very pleased otro say that my efforts were rewarded when she not only finished up her own plateful, but somewhat regrettably, half of mine too!

• Go easy on the pepper and chilli. Don’t use too much wine. Make sure you cook it off.

• Break up the tinned tomatoes really well. Children can be fussy about pieces of tomato in things. Don’t use chopped, use whole, and mush them up with your hands until there are no big chunks left.

• Make sure you do not let anything catch. Burning makes things taste bitter. We tend to use leaner and leaner meat which of then does not have enough fat to cook. Add sufficient. If your sauce is greasy at the end, skim it or blot it with kitchen paper,

• Leave out (or puree) vegetables that they hate. My daughter will not eat carrots, no matter how I try and tell her they are something else, golden nuggets for example, she is not falling for it. As frustrating as it is leaving these things out, it is not as frustrating as them refusing to eat the whole dish.

• Cut vegetables fine, and cook down for as long as possible. Do this slowly with enough oil and a good pinch of salt. This will help them disappear into the sauce. This will also add some of the missing flavour that you have had to leave out, back.

• Be careful with cuts of meat. Children can be particularly fussy about skin, sinew or pieces of fat.

• Be careful with “green bits” ie herbs. Dried oregano is best to start with as it is familiar from pizzas.

Spag Bol 2

Family Bolognaise
Extra virgin olive oil
250 g quality British beef mince
6 rashers thinly sliced dry-cured smoked streaky bacon, sliced into lardons
2 cloves of garlic, peeled and grated
1 leek, peeled and finely chopped (or onion)
2 sticks celery, very finely chopped
4 large Portobello mushrooms or 8 smaller ones
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp tomato puree
100 ml red wine
2 x 400 g tins of plum tomatoes

Put a casserole pan on a medium heat, add a splash of olive oil then cook then brown the meat. Break it up completely with a wooden spoon. Do not burn. Add more oil if necessary. When golden brown, remove to a separate bowl. Drain any extra fat if necessary. Add another glug of oil to the pan and add the bacon. At first the bacon will sweat. Use the liquid to scrape the bottom of the pan clean so that it does not burn. Fry until crispy. Add leek or onion and celery and sweat for a good 10 minutes, with a pinch of salt, stirring now and then, until really soft. Add the mushrooms, oregano and garlic and cook until completely broken down. Add the mince back, the tomato puree and then pour in the red wine. Bring to the boil and cook off for at least 2 minutes. Add the mushed up tinned tomatoes. Rinse the tins out with a little water and add that too. Either tip the whole lot into a slow cooker for 3 hours on slow or cover with a lid and cook on the hob very slowly for 1 ½ hours. Check seasoning and add salt and a little pepper to taste.

Serve with whatever pasta your kids like best. Parmesan is obviously optional too. Don’t forget it is great in baked potatoes.

Amelie eating spag bol

Chicken, Leek and Bacon Pie

Sometimes I run out of things to do with mushrooms. I always put plenty in my Bolognaise sauce and this reminded me that they are a delicious way of bulking out a meat dish. And as I stared into the fridge at the hoard of mushrooms and leeks, a delicious Chicken Pie, sprang to mind and then there was no stopping me. What is great about this recipe, is that it uses the whole chicken, which is so much more economical than buying separate pieces and that you make your own stock. It is a little more time consuming, but really worth the extra effort. You can make up for lost time with readymade and even ready rolled puff pastry. Everyone who knows me, knows I am a great fan of this super time saving product. This comes from a girl who used to make her own! It is a bit hit and miss and as you can see from the photos, mine didn’t rise particularly brilliantly. As always I was trying to do too many things at once and did not give it my full attention, but it still tasted great. Make sure the oven is really hot to get the puff to rise. You can always turn it down afterwards.

I served up my pie with some of the longest French beans I have ever seen. When they turned up in my box I have to admit I thought they were going to be really stringy and tough. But they were surprising tender and along with the pie, the kids love them.

Chicken Pie

Chicken, Leek and Bacon Pie
1 free-range organic chicken
2 leeks
1 carrot
2 sticks celery
handful thyme, some for the stock and some finely chopped for the
200g smoked streaky bacon, cut into lardons
50g butter
400g mushrooms, sliced
50g plain flour
500g ready rolled fresh all butter puff pastry, or frozen & defrosted
1 egg
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Take the chicken and bend back it’s legs so that they are underneath the breast. Put into a large saucepan, big enough to comfortably hold the chicken. Fill with water up to nearly the top of the chicken. (The idea is that the legs, which take longer to cook are submerged in water and the breast stays above so that it is just steamed and remains moist.) Add the leek tops, the roughly chopped celery and carrot and the thyme. Bring to the boil, turn down the heat and cover the pan. Allow to gently simmer for 45 minutes. Meanwhile shred and wash the remaining leek. Heat another large saucepan and add the bacon and the butter. Cook until crisp. Add the leeks and sweat. Season with salt and freshly ground black pepper. (If you have a lid, cover the pan to begin with. The steam helps the initial sweating process and the salt also helps to add moisture drawn out from the leeks.) Cook until just beginning to caramelise. Add the mushrooms and continue to cook until they are completely cooked down and no liquid remains. Add the chopped thyme and the flour into the pan and cook, stirring, for 1 min. Remove from the heat when ready.

Meanwhile, when your chicken is cooked, remove it from the stock to cool. The stock can carry on reducing. When the chicken is cool enough to handle, take the flakes of meat off the bone. Make sure you only keep nice chicken meat. (If it is for the kids, be particularly vigilant.) Keep to one side. The bones can go back into the reducing stock but discard the skin. Take 500mls of your stock, pass it through a sieve and add it to your leek and mushroom mixture. Gradually stir in the stock and bring to the boil, stirring until thickened. Add the chicken back into the mixture and tip into a large pie or baking dish (approx 20 x 30cm) and leave to cool.

Heat oven to 220C/fan 200C/gas 7. Top with the sheet of pastry. Try and tuck it all in so that is cooks evenly (not like I did) and brush with egg. Pick a few times with a fork and then bake for 30 mins or until the pastry is risen and dark golden brown.

Daniel eating french beans

Sweet Potato and Leek Pasties

Maybe it was memories of Mussels down in Padstow, but I suddenly got a massive craving for a Cornish Pasty. Cornish pasties date back to the 13th Century, during the reign of Henry III. They were eaten by poorer working families who could only afford cheap ingredients such as potatoes, swede and onion. Meat was added later. Miners and farm workers took this portable and easy to eat convenience food with them to work because it was so well suited to the purpose. Its size and shape made it easy to carry, its pastry case insulated the contents and was durable enough to survive, while its wholesome ingredients provided enough sustenance to see the workers through their long and arduous working days. The crust (crimped edge) was used as a handle which was then discarded due to the high levels of arsenic in many of the tin mines. Luckily, now a days we can eat all the pastry and they are great in the kids lunch box, but the classic mix of beef, swede, onion and potato is set in stone and it would be considered sacrilege to modify these ingredients in any way.

But your pasty does not have to be Cornish. In fact, it could come from almost anywhere and contain whatever you like or have to hand. It is a fabulous way of using up left over root vegetables which is always helpful with a veg box in the winter; carrots, celeriac, parsnips, turnips, sweet potatoes and squashes all work fantastically well. It could be meat free but it certainly makes a little meat go a long way. Just remember whatever you put in your pasty, it must be cut pretty small and must all cook in the same time. I always worry with pies when the ingredients go in raw, that the filling won’t cook or I will end up with soggy pastry, but as long as the pieces in your filling are never any larger than about 1cm, and the pastry is sealed well, the pasty acts like a little steamer and they always turn out great.

My next top tip for busy cooks, is ready made, ready rolled shortcrust pasty. The supermarkets have really got their acts together on the pastry front and you can find a good selection of all-butter pastries in the chilled or freezer section. Check the ingredients and make sure that they contain little more than butter and flour and you can guarantee that they will be good.

So here is a vegetarian version with nothing more than sweet potato and leek. I haven’t called them Cornish as they have no meat or swede, but you can add whatever you like and call it whatever you like too.

Pasty on a plate

Sweet Potato and Leek Pasties
1 large sweet potato, peeled
2 leeks, shredded, washed well and drained well
salt and freshly ground black pepper
knob of butter
2 packets of ready rolled all-butter shortcrust pasty
1 egg, lightly whisked

Chop the sweet potatoes into cubes, no bigger than 1 cms and mix together with the leeks, plenty of salt and freshly ground black pepper. Lightly grease a baking tray with butter or line with baking or silicone paper. Preheat the oven to 170C/325F/Gas 3. Cut your pasty in to discs roughly 15cms wide. I use a small bowl to cut round. Spoon some mixture into the middle of each disk (be generous, you can get in more than you think) and top with a large knob of butter. Then bring the pastry around and crimp together. I find the ready rolled pastry stick fine but they are best if you turn the pastry over before filling. The down side sticks best. Do not get the pastry wet or that will stop is sealing. A genuine Cornish pasty has a distinctive ‘D’ shape and is crimped on one side, never on top but I like mine the other way. It is up to you. Just make sure it is well sealed and has plenty of filling. Put the pasties onto the baking tray and brush the top of each pasty with the egg. Bake on the middle shelf of the oven for about 30 minutes or until the pasties are golden-brown.

pasty being made