Sunday, March 30, 2008

Pea and Pesto Soup

While flicking through my copy of Nigella's Express The Doc exclaimed "Oh, that looks good". 'That' was her pea and pesto soup and with the weather being the way it is what is better for a Sunday lunch than a nice warming bowl of soup? She advises using deli-bought pesto here, I used rocket pesto as my local deli had sold out of the standard basil variety and my basil at home is looking very sad at the moment. The flavour of the soup was good but the consistency was too watery (I have suggested 600ml rather than the 750ml water that I used). And I served it with some simple Bruschetta Al Pomodoro.

600 ml water

375g frozen peas

2 spring onions, trimmed
1/2 tsp salt

1/2 tsp lime juice

60ml pesto
  • Bring the water to the boil in a pan
  • Add the peas, spring onions, salt and lime juice
  • Simmer for about seven minutes
  • Remove spring onions, add pesto and blend
She says this serves 2, but we had another bowlful left over

Monday, March 17, 2008

Caffè Carluccio's

Little sis and I decided to check out Carluccio's for our dinner last night. I popped in a few weeks ago to pick up some bits in the deli section and the queue was out the door. We stuck our heads in on our way down Dawson St. yesterday and seeing the absence of a queue we hopped straight in. The fact that it was only half five might have helped - by the time we were leaving it was close on seven and there were at least a dozen people in the queue. If you're going it might be best to pick an early hour or be prepared to wait. It's definitely worth waiting for!

Those of you curious about the menu can take a look
here. We started with a selection of Italian breads dubbed the 'savoury bread tin' on the menu, grissini (bread sticks) and foccacia were good but we both felt the slice of brown walnut bread was slightly misplaced. It doesn't really work being dipped in olive oil like the others. For starter I had the Calamari which had only the barest coating of batter and were all the better for it, a simple salad and squeeze of lemon was all that was needed in accompaniment. Little sis had the Arancini di Riso Sicilian - deep-fried rice balls with ragù in one ball and mozzarella in the other with a red pepper sauce. They made wonderful comfort food and would make a good way of using up leftover risotto although the sauce would have been better if it had been slightly warmer. For main I opted for the Penne Giardiniera, described as "our own Pugliese penne with courgette, chilli and deep-fried spinach balls with parmesan and garlic". The concept of the deep-fried spinach balls intrigued me but they were good, adding a new texture to a dish that would otherwise be very soft. It was also nice to see something outside the pesto/carbonara/bolognese on an Italian menu. Little sis tends to be a picky eater but she went for the Penne alla Luganica. This was penne smothered in a rich tomato and spicy sausage sauce. The spices were subtle rather than overt and the texture was nicely smooth and creamy, leading to a dish that both she and I highly enjoyed. After this lot we were stufffed and wouldn't have been able to do justice to dessert. It felt it was very good value, with three San Pelligrinos the total bill was €51.25.

However we on our way out we picked up two chocolate slices from the deli and tucked into them about two hours later. They were nice but nothing spectacular, a little on the sweet side for both myself and Little sis. In retrospect they were only €2.50 and there was also a chocolate torte for €4.50 - perhaps the price differential speaks of the amount of good chocolate needed.

P.S. The Doc did remark this morning that I reeked of garlic, so maybe if you are going to pay Carluccio's a visit it would be best to bring the one you love with you!

Sunday, March 16, 2008


The thing about lasagne is that it is on every pub and cafe menu up and down the country but it is so rarely well-executed. It's not difficult to make a good lasagne but it does require some time - not necessarily chained to the stove - but just keeping an eye on things. I like to make this recipe over three days, ragu sauce on day one, make bechamel sauce and assemble on day two and then leave overnight for the flavours to meld together before baking.

Ragu Sauce:
2 carrots, diced

3 stalks celery, diced
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 medium onion, finely chopped
150g panchetta, diced

1 glass wine
1 kg mined beef
2 x 400g good quality tinned tomatoes

2 tbsp tomato puree
pinch dried oregano
  • Add 2 tbsp olive oil to the pan and add carrots, celery, garlic, onion and pancetta
  • Cook over a moderately low heat for 20 mins - you want all the veg to soften but not colour (this is known as a soffritto in Italian)
  • Turn heat up slightly and add the minced beef, stir until all meat has browned
  • Add the glass of wine and leave to bubble off
  • Add tomatoes, puree, oregano and season
  • Cook over a low heat for 1 1/2 - 2 hours until nice and thick
Bechamel Sauce:
1200 ml milk

1 onion, chopped

1 bay leaf

10 peppercorns

65g butter
65g plain flour
  • Place milk, onion, bay leaf and peppercorns in a saucepan
  • Bring up to the boil, swith off heat and leave to cool and infuse
  • Melt butter in a saucepan and add flour
  • Cook over a low heat for 1-2 mins (essential to cook the flour)
  • Add the milk one ladle at a time and whisk in thoroughly
  • Cook slowly over low heat until thick, stirring all the time
I like to blanch my lasagne's sheets for about 10 mins before assembly as it cuts down the cooking time later and allows the flavours to come together better before cooking. When ready to bake top with grated parmesan and bake @ 180° for 30-40 minutes.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Soothing Supper - Indian Lentils

In this house, we are a big fan of Indian food and this recipe comes from our most-used books "India with Passion: Modern Regional Home Food" by Manju Malhi. Most of the Indian food that the Irish palate is familiar with is Punjabi (from Northern India). However this book is divided into North, South, East and West with a description of the cuisine of the region at the beginning of each chapter.

Dal Makhani (buttered spiced black lentils) is one of our favourites. On cold nights like these a bowl of warming lentils is just perfect. The quantities here are for 2-3 as a main, 4-6 as a side dish. The Doc made this tonight and played around with the published method slightly - we were lucky enough to live for a few weeks with a family in New Delhi, and one of our Indian friends made something similar then and suggested frying the dry lentils briefly before adding the water (similar I would think to frying the rice for a minute before adding the liquid when making a risotto?).

Dal Makhan
i (literally "Buttered Lentils" adapted from "India with Passion" by Manju Malhi)
  • 1 tsp coriander
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 115g black lentils
  • 70g butter
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 green chillis, de-seeded and chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, crushed
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp tumeric
  • 1/4 tsp chilli powder
  • small tin kidney beans
  • 1 tsp grated ginger root
  • 1/4 tsp garam masala
  • 2 tsbp single cream (or yoghurt)
  • coriander leaves as garnish
  1. dry fry coriander, cumin and lentils for 1 min
  2. add 600ml water and simmer until lentils are tender (about 30 mins)
  3. melt butter in frying pan and add onion, chillis and garlic
  4. once onion starts to brown add lentils and all remaining ingredients down to the garam masala
  5. simmer until thickened, about 10 mins
  6. stir in cream and top with coriander