Monday, 19 December 2011

Griddled Scallops with crispy bacon, Pea & Mint Purée and a Balsamic Reduction

Jaysus, I didn't last long on the 'no carbs' did I? Well in fairness, who was I kidding on the run up to Christmas, when there's sauces to taste and chocolates to scoff? I did, in fairness, lose about 4 pounds, so that's me and my Christmas dinner sorted. I'll start again in January. I promise. 


Anyway, this year, like every year, I don't get to cook Christmas day dinner, because that's my mam's gig and to give her her due, she has it perfected, down to the stuffing 4 ways, veg 7 ways, potatoes 3 ways topped with the marrowfat peas, which, after years of gagging at the smell of them every Dec 25th, I now know I quite simply couldn't do without them as part of the festive trimmings.


So, as mam takes the reigns for the mains, I'm left to create the starter. This might seem easy, but the key is to leave room for mams everest of food, so a taste sensation is a must; but without spoiling the appetite. Pictured in this recipe is a big starter, but I would say this year I'll do maybe two scallops max per person. Judge yourself depending on your diners. 
Restauranty food-I think so. A damn good restaurant! 





Griddled Scallops with crispy bacon, Pea & Mint Purée and a Balsamic Reduction
Serves 4


8 large fresh scallops, trimmed (you can get frozen, but fresh is best)
Ahhh Push it...push it real good


8 rindless streaky rashers


For the Pea Purée
500g Frozen peas 


2 tablespoons of cooking liquid


2 tablespoons of creme fraiche


Handful of fresh mint


juice of half a big lemon or one small lemon


1 heaped tablespoon of grated Parmesan




First, prepare the pea purée. This can be made in advance and reheated when plating up. 
1. Cook the peas until tender. I threw in a bit of chicken stock but it's not necessary.


2. Drain the peas, reserving a couple of tablespoons of cooking liquid, add the mint and creme fraiche.


3. BLITZ in food processor, or using a hand blender, or if you are really equipless, mash it with a fork.


4. Push through a sieve, using a metal spoon to manipulate the smooth purée until all you are left with in the sieve is a dry pea pulp, about a heaped tablespoon. This is worth what may seem a fiddly procedure. Stir in the lemon, Parmesan and season with a good bitta salt and pepper


5. Warm through before serving



Balsamic Reduction is stingy on
the eyes but Mwah on the plate
Balsamic reduction
10 tablespoons of Balsamic. Put into a pan and heat for a few minutes until the vinegar has turned syrupy. Not only does it look cheffy on the plate, it adds a nice twist to the dish.



Meanwhile, grill the bacon. You surely know how to do that. If not, YouTube it.
Fry up the Roe in a bitta butter for a 'chefs treat'
Cooking the scallops.
1. Heat the griddlepan until almost smoking. 


2. brush the scallops in a little olive oil and a tiny bit of seasoning.


3. Add the scallops to the pan and after a couple of seconds lift of the pan using a tongs and put back in the same spot. This helps them not to stick, I think. (you could just do them on a regular pan with a splash of olive oil, I just like the griddled affect)


4. Cook for 1-2 mins each side, repeating step three after you turn over.


5. Serve immediately, which the balsamic reduction (it sounds posh, ok? so keep giving the dish it's full proper title) a little dollop of pea purée, warmed bacon slice, topped with your lovely seared or griddled scallop.


Viola. Purées, blitzing, reductions, griddling.....You're on the Michelin Road. 















Monday, 5 December 2011

The end of the (carb) affair.......but before I go...

 Carbs, they make us feel happy, don't they? They're quick and easy and satisfying and cheap. Carbs and I are on a break for a while until I find a size 12 that fits me. Then we might start seeing each other again, but on a less intense basis. So, I won't be cooking some of my favourite things but that doesn't mean I can't continue to share my favourite recipes with you. I had 'The Last Supper' at the weekend, and as Last suppers go, this really did the job. It was a carbalicious farewell for the next few weeks as I move to Proteinville.

On another note, I want to tell you that I have been getting some great feedback from this blog, which I cannot tell you how inspiring and encouraging that is. And what I really loved was 'non foodies' are really enjoying it too. But, if you are one of those people that are reading this and saying "ooooh that looks lovely, but I couldn't never cook that", I'll beg you to TRY. Think of it as payment to me. Maybe not this dish, but try fresh pasta tossed through the tomato sauce that is detailed below. Start simple and build from there. It might not make you rich but it will give you a sense of satisfaction that is incomparable to anything. Well, almost. Go on, make a list, head to tesco and bypass the dolmio isle. You owe me. I'm looking at you Elaine!


Cannelloni stuffed lovingly with ricotta and spinach






I love all of the ingredients used in this dish. It takes a bit of work and lots of pots and pans will be used it's fair to say, but the results are just delicious, and totally worth the extra bitta elbow grease. I found myself in a real Nigella moment as I was smiling away to myself as I prepared this. There was finger licking too. It comes with the territory when food like this is around the house. Theres such satisfaction with the assembly and love that goes into something like cannelloni. You couldn't possibly miss the meat, it's gutsy and solid and any man would be impressed with this.



Preheat the oven to 200 degrees

The universal Tomato sauce
For the tomato Sauce
(learn this off by heart and you'll never go hungry)
Ingredients
1 shallot, finely chopped (or a small onion)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tins of plum tomatoes or a big jar of passata
1 Tablespoon of Balsamic Vinegar
1 heaped teaspoon of muscavado sugar (or regular stuff)
Salt and pepper
Pinch of chilli flakes (optional, I love the slight kick)
1 teaspoon of dried basil (or a bunch of fresh leaves, chopped if you can get it)
Infusing the milk is a must



Basic White sauce
Ingredients
1 pint of milk
1 Bouguet garni
1 sliced carrot
1 sliced onion
4 peppercorns
1 oz butter
1 oz flour
grated nutmeg
Salt & Pepper



filled Cannelloni 
1 pack of FRESH lasagne sheets (I got mine in Tesco)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 bags of baby spinach
1 pot of ricotta 
1 small handful of Parmesan
salt & pepper to season
A good grating of nutmeg

Top with torn mozzarella and some more parmesan before baking.



First, make the tomato sauce:

In a large heavy saucepan, gently heat a splash of olive oil and on a very low heat, gently sweat the shallots and garlic for 10 minutes, stirring occasionaly so they don't burn. Add in the vinegar and tomatoes and turn up the heat and bring to a simmer. Add in the sugar pepper, chilli flakes and basil and allow to simmer on a low heat for about 15-25 minutes until you the sauce has reduced  by a third. 

NB- Add in a handful of Parmesan if you like and toss through fresh tagliatelle, maybe with some torn mozarella and fresh basil leaves. That's actually my favourite dish in the world.


Then crack on with the bechamel:

Firstly, to make a wicked Bechamel, it's really important to infuse the milk first. It might sound fussy, but it's not, it's just about firing a few bits and pieces in and the results pay dividends. In a pot, pour in about a pint of milk, and into that throw in a thinly sliced carrot and onion (no need to peel either) if you can make a bouquet garni of a sprig of thyme, parsley, rosemary and a bayleaf (or buy those dried 'teabag' bouquet garni if you don't have access to the fresh stuff) and also three or four pepper corns. Bring to a simmer and turn off the heat and allow to stand for 15 minutes if you can.

In the meantime, melt 1 oz of butter slowly in a pot, when melted add in 1oz of flour and whisk for about a minute over a low heat (we do NOT want it to burn, otherwise you'll have a yucky brown sauce) Using a sieve pour the milk into the roux mixture, using a metal spoon to squeeze the flavour from the veg and herbs.

Continue to whisk until you have a lovely, smooth, creamy sauce. Add a bit more milk if needs be to have a nice consistency. I like to grate in some nutmeg and season to your liking.

And now for the filling & Assembly:

In a big pan, slowly melt a knob of butter and add a splash of olive oil. Sweat the garlic for a couple of minutes on a very low heat, ensuring it doesn't burn. Turn up the heat and add the two bags of spinach. It may sound like a lot, but it wilts to nothingness. Spread it out on a plate to allow it to cool. Squeeze out excess water, chop and mix through the ricotta cheese, parmesan, salt, pepper and nutmeg. Have a chefs treat and eat a couple of spoonfuls. It's just so good!

In a pan of boiling water throw in the lasagne sheets for a minute. Take them out and quickly rinse with cold water. This is just to make the lasagne easy to roll. Spoon the mixture along the end of the sheet and roll up. Place on a casserole dish that has been spread with a nice thick layer of the tomato sauce.

When all the cannelloni has been rolled and placed on the tomato sauce, top with the bechamel and then top that with some torn mozzerella and another sprinkling of Parmesan.

Place into a preheated oven for 25 minutes or until the golden on top. Allow to stand for about 10 minutes before serving to allow to set.

Then think about heading to Proteinville for a holiday if you find yourself eating this every day.


It's with a heavy heart that I say Farewell
to Carbs. I'll be back, don't you worry......





Wednesday, 30 November 2011

That's Amore..... (PIZZA LIKE)

It's quite clear I've found a comfort in Italian grub. It's comforting food and it's become my comfort zone. So pasta has been nailed, risotto has been perfected. (what? it has!) so Pizza was left to tackle. Baked goods have never been my forte. Some fellow bloggers churn out so many sweet delights that I suspect some the oompa Loompas must be helping out in their kitchens. The Italians like to keep it simple and so do I so pizza dough couldn't be that hard.....could it?

Since discovering the cinchness of pizza making, It's  been on the menu 6 days straight. This is a true story. I actually can't believe that everyone isn't making pizza. It's SO cheap, SO delicious, and there's amazing rewards to reap not to mention that ego enhancing gratitude from your diners. Darren Bradley seems to be the biggest non-pro pizza master who has a purpose built outside pizza oven. His amazing array of pizzas inspired me to give it a go. When I discovered it could all be done in my magi-mix I was thrilled. If my kitchen was burning, this apparatus would be grabbed. Darren gave me this dough recipe and I'll never look back. Like most, I don't have a pizza oven, so Darren advised that I get a pizza stone. There was a small one available in a local kitchen supply store at €35, but being on a budget, I called on my favourite advertising client, RIGHT PRICE TILES, and they gave me an unglazed heat resistant tile which has done a fine job at emulating it's posh paid-for counterpart. Just place it in the centre at the oven and preheat. The pizza will then be slid directly on using either a pizza peel, or, for those on a budget, a side of a cardboard box, the latter proving quite affective actually. 

I cannot stress how fun this is to make. Tj, my 4 year old, impressed me so much. He saw me making one and begged me for his own dough ball. I couldn't believe how he rolled it out, spread the passatta like a pro, sprinkled the mozzarella, strategically placed the chorizo and then sprinkled some fresh thyme on top. I've pics below of his efforts. I'm so proud of his interest in cooking. Let's get all our kids cooking....and what better way that cooking their favourite food. 


Pizza Dough Ingredients
500g of strong flour
7g of dried yeast
2 tablespoons of Olive Oil
2 teaspoons of salt
2 teaspoons of caster sugar
1/2 pint of tepid water

You can make this by hand, involving lots of elbow grease but I did mine using the dough blade in my beloved Magi-mix. I whizz everything up for about 30 seconds. (add a bit more flour if necessary to achieve a nice solid dough). Divide the mixture into 4 and rolls into nice neat dough balls. Pop them into food bags and allow to prove in the hotpress for an hour, or in the fridge overnight.


PREHEAT OVEN WITH TILE TO THE HOTTEST TEMP
When ready to rock and pizza roll, flour your surface and knead the dough and roll out using a rolling pin. Flip up in the air if you want to be cleaning your kitchen for an hour afterwards. Roll the dough very thin, until you have a pizza base about 12 inches or so in diameter. The dough will be nice an elastic and won't break. Transfer to a floured piece of cardboard or pizza slice and leave to rest for 10 minutes.

Once rested, rock on with your toppings. I have listed my two favourites, Florentine and Beetroot & Goats cheese

Florentine Pizza, runny egg a must
Florentine
Ingredients
Passata, seasoned with salt and pepper and a bitta dried basil 
Bag of spinach, wilted with excess water removed.
tin of anchovies, drained
grated nutmeg
mozzarella (I use the lidl stuff, perfectly lovely)
one egg, cracked into a shallow cup

Smear the base with passata, arrange the spinach, leaving a gap in the middle for the egg, add the anchovies and sprinkle with the cheese and grated nutmeg. drizzle lightly with Olive oil.
After 6 minutes in oven, open the oven door and throw the raw egg in the middle. Cook for a further 4-5 minutes. I love this pizza, I love eggs, I love Spinach, I love carbs. Life is good when a florentine is about to be sliced in my kitchen.

Beetroot and Goats Cheese, this is one posh pizza. 

Beetroot and Goats cheese
This requires no passata
3 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
One sprig of fresh rosemary, finely chopped
2 beetroot, chopped into orange segment shapes (pat dry with some kitchen roll)
a few slices of soft goats cheese rounds (again, I used Lidl)
Drizzle with Olive oil before putting into the oven.




The the time the pizza takes will depend on your oven. Typically, it should take about 10-12 minutes. 

Monday, 14 November 2011

Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic

Lots of Garlic, and I permit you to have a snog afterwards
I actually love the name of this bold recipe. Chicken with 40 cloves of garlic sounds quite straightforward and to the point, but rest assured you won't be wearing eau de garlic for days afterwards. Something dreamy happens the garlic cloves. They turn into little nuggets of sweet meltiness that spread like velvet on crusty bread once eased out of their jackets. That bread which will mop up the liquor from the pot that once held the lightly perfumed chicken. When I hear the term 'French classic' I think it's going to be an arduous sweat in the kitchen involving lots of pots and pans and work. Not so, this is a super easy although the results taste like labour intensive food love slavery.

Roast Chicken is one of my favourite dishes and I have to say, I detest 'all the trimmings' I prefer roast chicken, nice gravy and one veg. The traditional way to eat a roast, in my experience, is to have a plate piled high with 4 different vegetables, mashed potatoes, roast potatoes, stuffing and gravy. That's not for me. I prefer to savour one or two flavours and enjoy them without confusing my taste buds. So this dish needs nothing more than one veg, (I chose glazed carrots) and some crusty bread. I believe sourdough seems to be a popular choice, but all I had was regular French loaf which sufficed perfectly fine.
I browned the chicken for the purposes of the photo, next time,
I'll prob place the chicken into the pot, breast down,
my favourite way to cook chicken.

I researched a few recipe so here's my take on roast chicken with 40 cloves of garlic

Ingredients
40 cloves of garlic....d'oh (about three bulbs, jackets in tact, papery excess removed)
One free range chicken
bouquet garni (I used fresh parley, sage, thyme, Rosemary and a bayleaf tied with a string)
wedge of lemon
2 tablespoons of brandy
one cup of white wine
one cup of chicken stock

Preheat oven to 180 degrees celcius

The finished product, so delicious and fun to eat too.



























Method
 In a large cast iron pot, heat a decent glug of olive oil and brown the breast side of the chicken, this isn't necessary, but is nice for the purpose of aesthetics and crispy skin lovers. Once the chicken is browned, lift out with a tongs and stuff with a bouquet garni and a wedge of lemon and sprinkle some sea salt and freshly cracked pepper and set aside. In the same pan, add two tablespoons of brandy, the wine and stock and bring to the boil, scraping the bits on the bottom left from the chicken. Turn off the heat and add in the garlic cloves and place the chicken on top. Cover with a lid and put it in the oven for 60 mins. After that time, remove lid and cook for a further 15 minutes. Lift out the chicken and allow to rest for a few minutes. Scoop out the garlic and thicken the liquor with one heaped teaspoon of flour, whisk like mad until the lumps disappear. This gravy, without doubt, is the best gravy I've ever tasted. Serve the chook in the centre of the table and make it a messy but fun food event using the bread as a host to the amazing flavours this dish has to offer.


Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Chorizo, sage & white bean pasta (€2.70 per portion)

I'm in Tesco, I'm at the till, I've just keyed in my pin number and I'm waiting with bated breath for 'transaction complete'. The receipt processes....phew!  I heave a sigh of relief and think of all the things I can cook with my purchases. Food buying has had to take a hit amongst other things. I won't compromise on quality but I have had to compromise on certain ingredients. But this has forced me to move out of my comfort zone and look for new tasty recipes that don't cost the earth. What I ADORE about this dish, depth of amazing flavours aside, is that I priced is as €2.70 per portion approx

This has become a favourite with my family. In fact I cooked a big pot for my parents last night. It's the least I can do as they are the best parents in the world. The addition of sage brings a lovely wintery dimension and the chorizo is almost nutty and sweet. It's superb. Try it tonight.

NB: Try adding a pint of stock in the sauce to make what I call a 'Stoup' (not quite a stew, not quite a soup)




Ingredients
1 chorizo ring, chopped into slices 1/2 inch thick

1 shallot, finely chopped

2 fat cloves of garlic chopped

One big bunch of sage, finely chopped

1 bayleaf

1 glass of red wine

1 500ml carton of passata 

salt & pepper to season

1 teaspoon of sugar

1/2 oz dark chocolate (70% min)

2 oz grated Parmesan

1 tin of cannellini beans, drained and rinsed.

toss through your preferred fresh pasta


Method
On a heavy pan, heat a little drizzle of olive oil. Fry the chorizo on both sides until nicely browned. With a slotted spoon, transfer chorizo to separate dish

Allow the pan to cool slightly before adding the shallot and garlic. The chorizo will have left a lovely red oil in which to sweat the vegetable. Sweat on a very low heat for about 10 minutes

Turn up the heat and add the chopped sage a bayleaf and cook for a minute

Add the wine and bubble for a couple of minutes to take away the harsh winey taste

Add the tomatoes, and sugar and allow to reduce by 1/3, or to your favourite consistency.

Finish by adding the chocolate, parmesan, seasoning and beans, and toss through freshly cooked fresh pasta.



I promise you once you cook this, it'll will inevitably become a weekly fixture in your house....


Sunday, 23 October 2011

Linguine with tiger Prawns, garlic, lemon and chili

Barefoot Contessa and her appreciative
 and affectionate husband
I first saw this dish prepared by Ina Garten on her cooking programme "Barefoot Contessa". I love watching her cook and and am always amused by her husband Jefferys consistent surprise by her fabulous food creations, which almost always ends up in some cringeworthy smooching. But, this jolly gyrating cook has some fabulous recipes and this one stood out for me. 


It has been adapted slightly of course. I love the contrast of flavors, the sweetness of the prawns against the citricy lemon, coupled with the fiery heat from the chili, softened by the luscious butter. And then of course, lots of garlic, which makes everything good. It's a winner of a dish and genuinely one of my favourite meals to cook (incidentally it takes about 8 minutes)

Linguine with tiger Prawns, garlic, lemon and chili



Ensure it's raw prawns you use



Ingredients
Serves 4



Enough Linguine for 4

4oz butter (it might seem like a lot, but this will 
essentially make up the sauce for the dish)


6 fat garlic cloves, crushed

1lb Raw Tiger prawns

1 heaped teaspoon of dried chili flakes

Juice and grated zest of a lemon 

Handful of Parmesan, grated

Fresh chopped parsley, chives or dill to serve 




Method
Melt the butter on a very low heat and add the crushed garlic. Cook on a very low heat until translucent.

Turn up the heat and add the raw prawns, lemon zest and juice and chili and cook until prawns have turned opaque. This only takes a minute or two.

Meanwhile, cook pasta according to packet instructions. I love the fresh stuff, flavour aside, it takes two minutes.

Add one ladle of cooking water from the pasta and allow to bubble for a minute or two, add the Parmesan, this will make the sauce creamy.

Toss cooked linguine through the sauce and topped with chopped herbs and another sprinkling of Parmesan and possibly more chili flakes if you like the heat, which I do.

Serve with tossed green salad and/or crusty bread. 

Friday, 14 October 2011

Smoked Mackerel & Chive Scrambled Eggs




 
You may or may not know that I am fantatical when it comes to eggs.

I'm afraid I don't keep to the  recommended "an egg a day is ok" For me, an egg a day just doesn't cut it. I gave up fags so I'm entitled to my vices. Mines eggs, it could be worse in all fairness. 

The pairing of smoked mackerel and eggs is an oldie but a goodie. Have a read of my recipe. Everyone cooks scrambled eggs arseways in my opinion. I've never enjoyed scrambled eggs until about two years ago when I discovered how it's meant to be done. Believe it or not, scrambled eggs are not meant to be rubbery and sweaty. This dish is a sophisticated twist which turns the humble scrambled egg into a cheffy creation 


Served 2 as a big breakfast/supper/midnight feast 

Ingredients 
2 smoked mackerel fillets, skin removed & chopped (mine had a pepper coating) 
4 large free range eggs. 
1 tablespoon of snipped chives, the smaller you snip, the better. The food's got to be pretty. 
1oz butter 
1 oz grated Parmesan (just coz) 
A squeeze of lemon juice to serve. 

Method
On a cold pan, crack in the eggs (no need to pre whisk) add in the butter 

Turn on to a medium/low heat, and using a spatula, keep the eggs moving slowly, no need to over mix 

Add in chopped mackerel and chives and continue until the eggs are almost set, turn off the heat and the eggs will continue cook 

Consistency should be soft, but lightly set, add in Parmesan and a squeeze of lemon. It would be at this point you would season the eggs, but mine needed none, as the mackerel had enough salt in it and they were peppered too. 

Served on toasted brown bread a cuppa tea. I think this could be classed as comfort food, creamy, delicious, heart and belly-warming. 

Monday, 10 October 2011

Cheese & Thyme Soufflé

ALL RISE- well that's the goal
Prepare the ramekins with butter and a dusting
 of finely grated Parmesan
I'm a girl on a mission. It's the whole 'feel the fear and do it anyway' approach. Of course there's no fear as such, I'm tackling recipes that to most of us, are deemed difficult and should be left to the experts. I'm far from an expert and am under no illusions as to my weaknesses in the kitchen (the biggest being food). But one recipe I'd never even researched or attempted to consider was soufflé. Notoriously renowned for being finicky and sinky. Nope, let me dispel your fears. It's actually earned an unfair rep. Essentially, its a thick béchamel with folded egg whites. It's a puffy omelette in fairness. Give it a go and impress your friends.

I did my usual gig of reading a dozen recipes before creating my own.


Serves 6
Preheat the oven to 200 degrees-prepare 6 ramekins with butter and dust with finely grated Parmesan



Did I mention Thyme is my fav herb?
Ingredients
1 oz butter
1 oz flour
1/2 pint of milk infused with one sliced onion, a couple of peppercorns, a few thin slices of carrot, a bay leaf and sprig of thyme.
2 oz of grated Gruyere (all recipes seemed to use this, but all I had was a strong market bought cheddar, so used that)
2 oz grated Parmesan
freshly grated nutmeg
pinch of cayenne pepper
a couple of sprigs of Thyme leaves, leaves picked
salt & pepper
4 egg yolks
4 egg whites





Method
Firstly, put the milk and the ingredients listed above on the hob under a medium heat and bring to a simmer.

Melt the butter in a heavy saucepan and when it begins to foam, add the flour and cook for 2-3 minutes over a medium heat.

Add the milk (strained) and stir using a balloon whist until a thick smooth consistency is achieved. Reduce the heat to the lowest setting, and add the cheese, grated nutmeg, thyme leaves, cayenne pepper and season well. Remember the flavour needs to be concentrated as it will be diluted with the egg whites. Add the egg yolks and whisk well.

Transfer the mixture to a big bowl that will eventually host the egg white folding exercise.

Whisk the egg whites in a clean dry bowl (I feel I have to say that as all recipes harp on about clean bowls with egg whites-I've yet to whisk mine in a dirty bowl) until stiff peaks are formed

Transfer a couple of tablespoons into the silky cheese mixture and fold in. Don't be heavy handed but don't be scared either. Add the remainder of the egg whites in two batches. I used a spatula and turned the bowl to help fold as lightly as possible. It's all about keeping the air in, and not over mixing. Don't over think it.

Working swiftly, transfer the mixture into the 6 ramekins, filling almost, but not quite to the top.

With a clean finger, wipe around the top of the ramekin to leave a groove around the mixture, which will help them rise well.

Place on a baking tray and cook for about 8-10 mins, or until golden brown on top. Serve immediately with a tossed salad, and a round of applause from your guests...

Creamy Tomato, Chilli & Prawn tagliatelli

Prawns and chilli are as good together as tomato and basil, so fuze the four ingredients and you've got a serious taste sensation that packs a punch.This delivers, there's no doubt in that but I'd suggest you discover your chilli tolerance by adding in half what I've suggested, and taste before adding the rest, or more if your palate likes it. I sprinkled mine with more flakes before serving, as I love the kick.

I've potentially two dishes in one here, as the base sauce for this is a simple tomato sauce, which, when tossed through pasta, mozzarella, and torn basil is just such a wonderfully simple clean dish.  It's like pasta was invented for it.

Serves 4
Ingredients:
For the basic tomato sauce:
Knob of butter and splash of olive oil
2 shallots, finely chopped
3 fat garlic cloves, crushed
2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar
I dessertspoon of muscavado sugar
2 tins of chopped plum tomatoes
I teaspoon of dried basil (or if you can get it fresh, even better- 3 tablespoons, chopped)
Season to taste

2 tablespoons cream (or creme fraiche)
500g  raw prawns
1 heaped teaspoon dried chilli flakes

Method
Over a very low heat, sweat the onions and garlic in the oil & butter until soft. Turn up heat and add balsamic and stir continuously until reduced by half.

Add sugar and tomatoes and bring to a simmer. Reduce for about 15 mins. Add in basil and season.

This is my basic tomato sauce as I mentioned above.

Continue the dish by adding in the chilli, cream and prawns. Cook for a couple of minutes until the prawns turn pink.

Toss through freshly cooked tagliatelli and garnish with fresh basil leaves.

Busy people- why not double the tomato basic sauce recipe and freeze it? Healthy fast food. Can't beat it with a big stick!