Monthly Archives: July 2012

The Best Pasta Sauce in the World. Seriously.

I really don’t think that I’m understating things here. In fact, I can’t believe that I haven’t written about this recipe before. It’s the one I always share when I get a recipe exchange e-mail, or need to whip up something to drop off to a sick friend. (It’s a better cure than chicken soup – honestly!) I was reminded of it tonight when I arrived home tired and famished from the launch of the Absolut Fringe Festival*, and realized that I had never written about it.

This recipe is from a brilliant cookbook that I reference all of the time – Keeping It Simple by Gary Rhodes. This lovely cookbook is chock full of great recipes, but is also a great reference for things like cooking times, ideas for what to do with a veg box, and how to do the classics. It also houses my go-to roast chicken and rib of beef recipes…couldn’t do Sunday lunch without it!

The recipes that I want to share today though, is a weekday staple in my house…ladies & gentlemen, I bring you…Bloody Mary Sauce. It pretty much does what it says on the tin…it’s a rich, but zingy tomato sauce with a little kick, and it’s delicious over any kind of pasta (I prefer spaghetti myself, but really, anything will do…) Perfect if you have a cold or a hangover, or if you want a quick, substantial meal that’s full of flavor. In short, AMAZING.

 

With these ingredients, how can you go wrong?

 

Bloody Mary Sauce from Keeping it Simple by Gary Rhodes

serves four

a large knob of butter

1 onion, finely chopped

3 tomatoes (I have made it with a 400g tin of tomatoes to a fine, but slightly less fabulous result)

500g/1lb 2 oz passata

a squeeze of lemon

1 t. Worchester sauce

a dash of Tabasco

a pinch of celeray salt

a splash of vodka (optional)

Melt the butter in a saucepan and gently fry the onion until soft. With the point of a knife, remove the eyes from the tomatoes. Place in a bowl and cover with boiling water for 10-15 seconds before placing under cold running water/ Peel away the skin, then quarter the tomatoes, de-seed and cut the flesh into cubes. Add the passata & tomato cubes to the onions, simmer for five minutes. Add the lemon juice, Worcester sauce, and the Tabasco. Season with celery salt & a twist of pepper, finish with a splash of vodka.

While making the sauce as above, cook the pasta until tender, drain and add to the finished sauce. Eat while making unseemly, very happy slurping noises.**

 

*Click here or here to learn more about my involvement with the festival!

**Not in the original directions…I may have editorialized a bit. Sorry Gary.

 

 

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Filed under Quick & Easy, Weekday

Dinner Dash

I was having lunch with some friends a while back when the topic of weeknight dinners was broached and a collective groan landed on the table next to my French onion soup. Everyone at the table was a working parent trying to juggle our own diary demands, plus those of our kids and partners’, while trying to satisfy our desire to sit down for tranquil family meals. It’s one hell of an equation…how can I bring child x to child y’s birthday party  whilst preparing a dinner that includes at least 2 of our 5 a day AND allows me to leave the house at 7 to dash off to colleague z’s leaving drinks? High school algebra was easier! (And that’s a strong statement coming from me…) In fact, I’ve had a draft of this blog post sitting on my computer for ages, but just haven’t had the time to proof and post it between meetings, appointments with the public health nurse, and managing the laundry.

Not everyday is like this in my house of course…I love to come home from work and lovingly stir a risotto,  roast chicken with spring vegetables, or make homemade cornbread while a pot of chili con carne simmers on the stove. In reality though, this happens a lot less often than I would like, so in order to keep dinner a budget-friendly, relatively nutritious event, I have a few recipes on stand by that I’d like to share. I can almost make them with my eyes closed at this stage, but no one has ever complained when they pop up on the table – tried and true family favorites.

The first is a lovely, summery pasta dish from Neven Maguire, one of my all-time favourite chefs. (his restaurant, McNean House is one of my happy places – get there if you can…)  This is a veggie dish with great substance and flavor without getting weighed down in too much cream, cheese, or butter.

Fettucine with Melting Courgettes (from Home Chef by Neven Maguire)

4 T. olive oil

2 shallots, peeled and finely chopped

450 g/1 lb courgettes (zuchinni where I come from!) or yellow squash

2 garlic cloves, peeled and finely chopped

2 tsp fresh thyme leaves, chopped

1/2 t dried chilli flakes

250g/9oz dried fettucine

25g/1oz butter

2T flat leaf parsley, chopped

4T. grated Parmesan cheese

salt and freshly ground black pepper

Heat the olive oil in a heavy-based frying pan over a low heat. Add the shallots and saute gently for about 5 minutes. Add the courgettes& garlic, then saute for a further 15 minutes until a light golden colour before adding chili flakes & thyme, then season with salt and pepper. In the mean time, cook your pasta according to the directions on the packet. When the courgettes and pasta are both finished toss together with the butter & parsley, serve in bowls with Parmesan.

Another last minute favorite of mine is from Jamie’s 30 Minute Meals and is called (for whatever reason) Jools Oliver’s Pregnant Pasta. (In my house we just call it  Yummy Sausage Pasta –  it’s easier to sell it that way…) I omit the chillies, as my little guy thinks that anything spicier than chorizo is an attempt to poison him, and I’ve often used a yellow onion instead of a the spring onions listed. (Side note: If anyone in Dublin is wondering where to buy the best sausages, my absolute favorites are the breakfast sausages from  the butcher counter at Fallon & Byrne)

These fishcakes from my home cook guru, Rachel Allen are also a crowd-pleaser in my house. You can serve them with any green veg/spud combo for a very healthy meal. In my house we favor steamed broccoli and wedges with a light dusting of paprika. Sometimes I stick them into burger buns with a bit of mayo and sell them as ‘fishburgers’ – not that they need much selling!

Spicy Salmon Fishcakes (from Rachel Allen’s Favourite Food at Home)

350g filleted & skinned salmon, roughly chopped
50g butter
2-3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
100g white breadcrumbs
1 egg, whisked
2tsp dijon mustard
2tbsp lemon juice
2tbsp chopped coriander
6 spring onions, chopped
2tsp Worcestershire sauce
1-2tsp Tabasco sauce or 1 deseeded chilli, chopped (optional)
Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and whiz to combine. Taste* for seasoning add salt, pepper, lemon juice, or Tabasco if necessary. Shape into patties with a 3 inch diameter. Pan fry in olive oil for 3-4 minutes on each side.
*I never do this because I dont like to taste the raw mixture, but it’s in the original directions! I eat raw salmon all the time, as I’m a big sushi fan, but for some reason tasting the pulsed mixture makes me shudder…
Well, I hope that offers a few dinner dash solutions. If all else fails, I call these guys or call into Marks and Spencer for their dine-in for two special, which can generally be split 3 ways. I have a hectic week ahead, so I’ll take notes on what I come up with and let you know if I find any other gems!

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Filed under Kid-friendly, Quick & Easy, Uncategorized, Weekday