Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Smoked Salmon Pasta

I have, in all seriousness, made this dish at least once a week for the last month. It is so quick, and so much like a warm, creamy comfort food, that it is almost impossible to believe that it's pretty healthy as well. It reheats well for packed lunches and second dinners. Plus it's cheap to boot, which means I am now in the habit of constantly stocking cream cheese and smoked salmon trimmings. I particularly like broccoli in it, though tonight I added in spinach as well which made it seem extra virtuous. I'm sure we'll get bored of it at some point, but for now, I'm going to stuff myself with this dish.

Smoked Salmon Pasta
Serves 4


500g pasta (I like penne or fusilli for this)
A head of broccoli, approximately 350g
150g spinach (optional)
120g package of smoked salmon trimmings
1 package of cream cheese (or soft cheese as they call it in the UK)
salt and pepper


1. Bring a large pot of water to boil (one large enough to hold all of the pasta and veg comfortably). Add a generous amount of salt to the water, the way you would when just cooking pasta.

2. While you are waiting for the water to boil, wash the broccoli and cut it up into small chunks and florets. You can use the entire stalk in this dish as well, as long as you cut it up into small bits so it cooks through.

3. Add pasta to boiling water and cook for 7 minutes. Add broccoli and cook for 3 minutes more. If you're adding spinach, pop that in 1 minute before everything is done.

4. Drain the pasta and veg. Return it all to the pot and then stir in the cream cheese and smoked salmon. Add pepper to taste. Dive in.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Lemon Almond and Polenta Cake

Yet another cake recipe that makes use of bits I have floating around the cupboards, such as ground almonds and cornmeal/polenta. Nigella's recipes haven't failed me yet - she's brilliant for the home cook. While I made the stupid mistake of leaving out the lemon zest from the cake batter, I just stirred it into the lemon syrup at the end and think everything still turned out alright, though I'd recommend sticking with the original recipe here.

Lemon Almond and Polenta Cake

Adapted from Nigella.com


for the cake
200 grams soft unsalted butter 

200 grams caster sugar
200 grams ground almonds
100 grams fine polenta (or cornmeal)
1 ½ teaspoons baking powder 

3 large eggs

for the syrup 
zest of 2 lemons
juice of 2 lemons
100 grams icing sugar (originally calls for 125 but I only had 100 and it was sweet enough)


  1. Line the base of a 23cm / 9inch springform cake tin with baking parchment and grease its sides lightly with butter. I used a 10 inch silicone round cake tin as it's what I had.
  2. Preheat the oven to 180°C/gas mark 4/ 350°F.
  3. Beat the butter and sugar till pale and whipped, either by hand in a bowl with a wooden spoon, or using a freestanding mixer.
  4. Mix together the almonds, polenta and baking powder, and beat some of this into the butter-sugar mixture, followed by 1 egg, then alternate dry ingredients and eggs, beating all the while.
  5. Finally, beat in the lemon zest* and pour, spoon or scrape the mixture into your prepared tin and bake in the oven for about 30 minutes. (If you use smaller tin, and your cake is thicker, it may be closer to 40 minutes, as in original recipe.)
  6. It may seem wibbly but, if the cake is cooked, a cake tester should come out cleanish and, most significantly, the edges of the cake will have begun to shrink away from the sides of the tin. remove from the oven to a wire cooling rack, but leave in its tin.
  7. Make the syrup by boiling together the lemon zest*, lemon juice and icing sugar in a smallish saucepan.
  8. Once the icing sugar’s dissolved into the juice, you’re done.
  9. Prick the top of the cake all over with a cake tester (a skewer would be too destructive), pour the warm syrup over the cake, and leave to cool before taking it out of its tin.
*As mentioned, I would include the lemon zest in the batter in step 5 rather than in the syrup in step 7. But when I made it, I had to put the zest in step 7 due to my earlier mistake, which is why it is written out this way.

Tuesday, December 03, 2013

Soup of Cannellini Beans with Pasta and Rosemary

It's time for a hearty, filling soup recipe. Gray skies and dreary drizzle make me want to grab a warm bowl of soup with plenty of textures and a homey, comforting taste - and this one is just the recipe for it. You get the soft slippery texture of the pasta, and the creamy bite of the cannelini beans, and you feel virtuous as you slurp down spoonfuls of veg in the form of tomatoes, cabbage, carrots and celery and onion. The rosemary makes this an autumnal winner of a soup, and the pancetta is just that bit of meaty luxury that you keep dipping your spoon in for.

Soup of Cannellini Beans with Pasta and Rosemary
Adapted from The Amateur Gourmet, who adapted it from Chez Panisse Cooking



140g pancetta, diced
2 medium yellow onion, finely diced
4 medium carrots, finely diced
3 stalks celery, finely diced
5 cloves garlic, sliced
3 3-inch sprigs rosemary
500g dried cannellini beans, covered with cold water and soaked for 8 to 12 hours
3 cups Savoy cabbage, sliced into thin ribbons
8 cups water
1 can diced tomatoes
250g macaroni elbows
Salt and pepper
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese (optional)
More olive oil for drizzling


Add the pancetta to a large saucepot over low-medium heat to let some of the fat render out. Then add the onion, carrot, celery, garlic, and rosemary and soften over low heat, without browning, for 8 to 10 minutes. 

Drain the beans, add them and the cabbage, pour in the water and tomatoes, bring to a simmer, and cover the pot. Taste the liquid after 30 minutes. It should be slightly salty from the pancetta, but add additional salt to taste. 

Cook slowly for about 1 hour and 10 minutes more or until the beans have softened throughout.

When the beans are cooked (and you can only know by tasting: they should taste creamy), transfer 2 cups of the broth and beans to a blender and puree them thoroughly. Return the puree to the pot. 

Check to see if you think the soup is too thick for adding pasta - I added another 2 cups of water. Stir in the pasta; correct the soup to your taste with salt and pepper, and cook until pasta is al dente. 

Remove the rosemary sprigs and dish it up into warm bowls. Sprinkle the Parmesan and about a teaspoon of extra virgin olive oil over each portion at the table if you'd like.