13 December 2011

Spaghetti with cherry tomatoes, creme fraiche and bottarga

Bottarga's a bit of a funny one. Incredibly expensive (an entire dried roe in a Bologna Deli whose price I enquired was valued at over forty euroes), and strongly redolent of fish food in its little jar, it sits in the cupboard waiting for moments such as this. It's a luxury item like truffle oil that's best saved for an occasional treat. Used judiciously and simply (like truffle oil) it gives an extra kick to standard dishes. For this combination try and get hold of very sweet cherry tomatoes and cook them slowly to give a wonderful flavoursome sauce.

  • cherry tomatoes
  • olive oil
  • a few cloves of garlic, chilli flakes
  • bottarga
  • creme fraiche

    The key here is to give the tomatoes plenty of time - be generous with the olive oil and garlic and patient with the cooking time. They will break down and form a wonderful sauce. Add chilli flakes to taste.

    Serve with a dab of creme fraiche and a sprinkle of bottarga. These can then be mixed on the plate to make a beautifully rich but simple sauce.

    Some fine parmesan may or may not be gilding the lilly. You decide.

    2 December 2011

    SD, ON's chilli con carne

    Beautiful huh?  The dark orange of those little chillies in the middle is just amazing. After a bit of a scatter-gun approach to chilli inclusion in the pork stew I made a few months ago I would like to ID these ones. The top chilli is ancho (massive, mild, rich, sweet/smoky). If you know what the others are can you please let me know.

    Having nabbed an enormous bit of beef in the supermarket (a silverside roast on one of those half price deals) I wanted to make some sort of spiced beef stew. Now the obvious cultural touchstone is the oft used and abused chilli con carne. There are purists and pragmatists - there are dilettantes and devotees. I've enjoyed all sorts and do not take a hard-line on these matters. (Why is it always made with mince thought?)

    So I made up the recipe with some background reading informed by hollow legs and the Guardian. I did not include beans (though there were some on the side, refried style) but did include some tomatoes (not too many though).
    • cheap cut of beef, roughly cubed
    • lots of carrots (1/3 the amount of beef)
    • lots of onions (1/2 the amount of beef)
    • spices: cinnamon stick, five cloves, a big-ish spoon of cumin
    • a sprinkle of oregano
    • one head of garlic
    • one big handful of sweet cherry tomatoes
    • a selection of dried Mexican chillies
    • two limes

    Toast the chillies and then soak them in boiling water for half an hour.

    Brown the beef in batches.

    Fry the onions roughly chopped in vegetable oil for ten minutes. Add the spices and fry for a couple of minutes. Add the whole head of garlic - cloves peeled but un-chopped (they will disintegrate). Add the chopped carrot and tomatoes. Add the beef. Add the oregano.

    Blitz the chillies to a paste in the magimix. Add this to the mix.

    Cook for two and half - three and a half hours. Mash down any big bits of beef and the garlic cloves. Squeeze two limes in.

    Serve with delicious thinly sliced red onions softened in lime juice, refried beans, salad and sour cream.


    Messy and vary tasty. This preparation certainly had the heat that the pork lacked but it was a slow and rich heat the lazily penetrated the mouth, pleasurably tempered by the vegetable content. Very pleasing and very easy to prepare. This is a rough and ready dish which doesn't suite fussiness so will be easy to adapt.