Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Pasta e ceci

So I recently read about this dish, pasta e ceci, here, and it was mouthwatering enough to get me to try and make it at home. Some Googling resulted in a few recipes, here and here, which I used to cobble together a version of the dish using what I had around the house. Served it up for dinner to three hungry men and they wolfed it down, so I would consider that a success.

Pasta e ceci
Serves four hungry people


500g dried chickpeas
2 carrots
1 stalk of celery
4 small tomatoes, skinned,de-seeded then chopped
1 litre of cooking water (or use plain water/mild stock)
250g of small pasta shapes (ditalini, short cut macaroni, etc)
4 small onions, finely chopped
2 sprigs of rosemary
3 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1 tsp chilli flakes
olive oil
Salt and pepper to season


1. Put dried chickpeas, carrot, celery, and one sprig of rosemary into large pot. Cover with water by at least 2 inches. Simmer for 2-3 hours (check for doneness - the chickpeas should be tender but not mushy). When done, drain and reserve at least 1 liter of the cooking water, and discard the carrot, celery and rosemary.

2. Pour the olive oil into a heavy based saucepan and heat gently. Finely chop the other rosemary sprig and add it to the pan and fry over a gentle heat till it begins to release its aroma.

3. Add the onions and garlic to the pan and fry over a gentle heat till soft and golden.

4. Add the chopped tomatoes and fry for just a couple of minutes before adding the cooked chickpeas, water and the seasonings. Simmer for approx 20mins, then remove about half of the soup and process through a food mill (use a blender if you don\'t have a food mill). Return the pureed soup to the pan.

5. Add the raw pasta then simmer gently, stirring regularly to make sure the pasta doesn't start sticking to the base of the pan. Add a little more water/stock if necessary.

6. Once the pasta is done, let it rest for a few minutes before serving.

7. Serve with a little drizzle of extra virgin olive oil (I didn't bother, but served some crusty bread and rocket on the side which paired nicely).

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Carrot and Feta Cake

Couldn't resist this recipe from good old Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall. Savoury cakes are fantastic - they feel a little bit indulgent but it's ok to eat them for dinner!

Carrot and feta cake
Adapted from The Guardian

50g butter, plus a little extra for greasing the tin
1 small onion, peeled and finely chopped
1 tsp ground cumin
100g plain flour
100g cornmeal
1 ½ tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
½ tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 carrots (about 200g), peeled and grated
200g feta, crumbled (recipe calls for 180g but my packet of feta was 200g)
2 tsp fresh thyme, finely chopped (original recipe calls for dill but I had thyme in the garden)
3 eggs, lightly beaten
150ml skim milk

Warm the butter in a small frying pan over a medium-low heat and sauté the onion until soft and translucent. Add the cumin, stir for a minute, then set aside to cool.

Heat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Butter a 1.5-litre loaf tin, or a loose-bottomed Victoria sandwich tin, and line with baking parchment. Butter the parchment, too (you can also make smaller ones in muffin tins or mini loaf tins, in which case simply butter the smaller moulds and dust with flour).

Sift together the flour, cornmeal, baking powder, salt and pepper. Stir in the cooled cooked onion, grated carrot, feta and thyme. In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and milk, then mix into the flour mixture until just combined, and pour into the prepared tin (or tins).

Bake large cakes for 40 minutes, smaller ones for 12-15 minutes, until a toothpick or skewer comes out with no crumbs attached. Leave to cool in the tin for five minutes, then turn out on to a wire rack to cool completely. Serve with a nice salad on the side to make for a light meal.

Monday, May 09, 2011

The Riding House Cafe

43-51 Great Titchfield Street

After hearing several raves about the Riding House Cafe, reservations were made to take advantage of their soft opening 50% off special. The cocktail list was so fun that I had to start with a Pony Club which was a nice way to ease into the evening. A chopped salad with avocado and palm hearts was ordered to share, and while it was certainly good, I think I might agree with A that it can be a bit disappointing to order something that would be easily replicated at home. Mains were much more successful - the chorizo hash browns were a nice breakfast-for-dinner dish, and the rack of pork was juicy and perfectly cooked. Usually we would skip dessert but the table next to us ordered the hot fudge sundae, complete with macaroons and honey comb, and it looked irresistable. Perfect for sharing, it would have been too sweet for just one person to consume. With the soft opening discount, dinner was very reasonable - too bad it's already over...