Absurdly addictive asparagus

This recipe combines so many of my favorite flavors and is going to be a firm favorite. Such a heady combination of leeks, pancetta, orange zest, pine nuts and parsley added to the asparagus is without doubt the best asparagus recipe I’ve encountered.

Screen Shot 2016-01-06 at 12.46.46 PM

Serves 4

4 oz pancetta, cut into 3/8 inch to 1/4 inch dice
1 tbsp butter
1 lb asparagus, woody ends trimmed and sliced into 2 inch pieces on the bias
1 1/4 cups leek, thinly sliced crosswise (white and pale green parts only)
2 cloves garlic, minced
Zest of one lemon
1 teaspoon orange zest
2 tbsp toasted pine nuts
1-2 tbsp Italian parsley, chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

In a large non-stick pan, sauté the pancetta, stirring frequently, over medium heat, until crisp and lightly golden.
Add 1 tbsp of butter to pan. Add the asparagus pieces and leeks and sauté until the asparagus is tender crisp, about 3-4 minutes.
Add the garlic, lemon and orange zest, toasted pine nuts and parsley and sauté for about 1 minute, until fragrant.
Season to taste with freshly ground pepper and salt and serve immediately.

Roasted cauliflower steak with capers, pancetta and raisins

Another magical cauliflower recipe.
Don’t have two 12-inch ovenproof skillets? Sear off the cauliflower steaks in two batches, then roast all four steaks on a half-sheet pan, instead of in the two skillets.

Screen Shot 2015-09-29 at 6.51.50 AM

5 (1/4-inch-thick) slices pancetta (5 ounces), diced
1/2 cup golden raisins
3 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
4 tbsp cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/4 tsp salt
2 pinches of sugar
1 large head cauliflower, sliced into 4 thick “steaks”. (Don’t worry if you get several smaller “steaks” instead, it’s hard not to break them up a bit)
2 tbsp water
1/2 cup capers, drained

Put the oven racks in upper and lower thirds of the oven, and preheat the oven to 400F.

Cook the pancetta in 1 dry 12-inch skillet over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until crisp, about 8 minutes, then transfer with a slotted spoon to paper towels to drain. Pour off the fat and wipe the skillet clean.

Stir together the raisins and lemon juice in a small bowl.
Heat 1 tbsp oil, 1 tbsp butter, 1/8 tsp salt, and a pinch each of sugar and pepper in 2 x 12-inch skillets over medium-high heat, swirling skillets occasionally, until butter begins to brown.
Add 2 cauliflower steaks to each skillet and lightly season with salt and pepper then cook until the undersides are golden, about 4 minutes.

Transfer the skillets to the oven and roast the cauliflower, without turning, switching the position of the skillets halfway through roasting, until the cauliflower is just tender and the undersides are golden brown, 12 to 15 minutes (depending on thickness).

While the cauliflower roasts, bring the water just to a boil in a 1-quart heavy saucepan over moderate heat, then stir in the pancetta, capers, and raisins with lemon juice. Add the remaining 2 tbsp butter, and stir until incorporated.
Remove from the heat, and season with pepper.
Carefully invert the cauliflower steaks with a spatula onto a platter, and spoon the sauce over them.

Roasted dates with pancetta, almonds and chile

A gorgeous recipe from chef, Michael Symon. Simple, but so addictive.
Sliced almonds and red pepper flakes are added to sauteing pancetta and then spooned over roasted dates. The intensity of the flavors from the sweetness of the dates through the saltiness of the pancetta, the nuttiness of the almonds and the spicy heat from the chile is such a great combination on the tongue.

Screen Shot 2015-08-14 at 7.16.09 PM

Serves 4 to 6

2 cups pitted dates
3 oz pancetta, finely diced (1/2 cup)
1/2 cup sliced almonds
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp crushed red pepper flakes
1 cup Chicken Stock
1 tbsp unsalted butter
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves

 Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Put the dates on a small rimmed baking sheet and roast in the oven until heated through, about 5 minutes. Turn off the oven but leave the dates in there while you cook the pancetta.

In a medium sauté pan over medium heat, cook the pancetta until it is three-quarters crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the almonds and continue cooking until they brown, a few minutes. Add the garlic and cook for another minute or so. Add the red pepper flakes and stock and bring to a simmer, scraping the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Remove the pan from the heat and whisk in the butter, stirring continuously until the butter is melted. Stir in the lemon juice and parsley.
Add the dates to the pan and swirl and toss them in the sauce. Divide the cooked dates among four to six plates and spoon the sauce over them.


Orecchiette carbonara with charred Brussel sprouts

Lovely and soothing with the nutty flavor of the charred Brussel sprouts.

1/2 lb Brussel sprouts, trimmed, leaves separated
12 oz fresh or dried orecchiette, or other fresh or dried small pasta
Kosher salt
2 oz pancetta (Italian bacon) finely chopped  (about 1/4 cup)
1/2 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, cut into pieces
1/2 cup grated pecorino plus more
2 large egg yolks, beaten to blend
2 tbsp olive oil, divided

Heat 1 tbsp oil in a large skillet over high heat. Working in batches, add the brussel sprouts and cook, tossing occasionally, until charred in spots and crisp tender, about 5 minutes or so ; transfer to a plate and set aside. Wipe out the skillet.
* You can also toss the Brussel sprouts in a little olive oil, season and roast them on a shallow baking tray at 400 F for 15 minutes or so until they are tender and charred.

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling, salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente (about 5 mins for fresh pasta). Drain, reserving 1 cup of the pasta cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 tbsp oil in the same skillet over medium heat. Add the pancetta and cook, stirring often, until slightly crisp, about 5 minutes. Add the pepper and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Immediately add 1/2 cup of the pasta cooking liquid to keep the pepper from burning; reduce the heat to low and gradually add the butter, swirling the skillet and adding more pasta liquid as needed, until a thick glossy sauce forms.
(Taste as you go and switch to hot water once the sauce is adequately seasoned)

Add the pasta to the skillet and toss to coat.
Add the pecorino, toss to combine.
Remove from the heat, mix in the egg yolks. Add the reserved Brussel sprouts leaves, toss, adding pasta cooking liquid or hot water as needed to thin the sauce.

Serve the pasta topped with more Pecorino


Coq au riesling

This is one of the great Nigel Slater’s recipes. I love his food as it has so much flavor and is easy.
I know you’ve probably had Coq au vin many times, but this is ten times tastier, creamier and has a real depth in flavor.
Make sure you serve this with really good warm crusty bread because everyone will be wanting to mop up the incredible sauce.

Serves 2 but you can easily double or treble it

4 tbsp butter
1 tbsp olive oil
4 oz bacon (streaky) or pancetta, diced
2  onions, peeled and chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled and chopped
4 joints of organic, free range chicken on the bone, seasoned with salt and pepper (I used whole chicken legs)
10 oz small cremini (brown) mushrooms, halved or quartered
16 fl oz medium dry white wine, such as Riesling
10 fl oz heavy cream
4 tbsp chopped Italian parsley

Melt the butter in a heavy shallow cast iron dish like the one in the photograph (Le Creuset) and pour in the oil.
Put in the diced bacon or pancetta and let it color a little then add the onions and garlic.
Leave to cook over a moderate heat until the onions have softened but not yet colored.

Scoop the bacon and onions out with a slotted spoon, leaving behind the cooking juices, then add the seasoned chicken pieces.
Let them brown lightly on all sides. A moderate heat is best for this but be prepared to add a little more oil if the butter shows signs of browning.

Remove the chicken pieces and set aside. Add the mushrooms to the juices in the pan and continue cooking for 10 mins, then return the bacon, onions and chicken pieces to the pan.
Turn up the heat, pour in the wine and bring quickly to the boil and then turn it down to a simmer.
Let everything cook at a gentle bubble for 25 to 35 minutes, turning the chicken from time to time.

Lift the chicken out of the pan and pour in the cream. Season with salt and freshly ground pepper and stir in the chopped parsley.
Continue cooking at an enthusiastic bubble until the cream starts to thicken slightly.

Return the chicken to the pan.
When the chicken is thoroughly hot and the sauce has thickened it is time to serve!

Pancetta and Gruyere cheese breakfast casserole

I have a weakness for these “cold weather” Sunday family breakfasts! They are so comforting and tasty especially with our fire on in the kitchen, steaming hot coffee, laptops and newspapers strewn around.
This is great because you can prepare it the night before, refrigerate and throw in the oven when you get up in the morning. The family will awaken to the smell of baking cheese and pancetta!!
It’s important to mark a weekend with something different!

Serves 4 to 6

4 cups day-old egg enriched bread, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
2 tbsp olive oil, divided
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar
1/2lb thickly sliced pancetta, diced
6 large eggs
1&1/2 cups whole milk
1/2 tsp dry mustard powder (I use Colmans)
1/4 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
2 tsp fresh thyme leaves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 heaped cup freshly grated gruyere cheese (about 6 ounces)

Grease an 8 inch square baking dish and spread the cubed bread in the bottom.
Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a skillet over medium to low heat.
Add the onions, salt and sugar.
Saute until they are lightly caramelized, a golden brown color, for about 15 to 20 minutes.
Meanwhile, in another heavy skillet, heat the other tbsp olive oil over medium heat saute the pancetta until the fat is almost all rendered and it begins to get crisp, about 8 to 10 minutes. Set on a paper towel to drain.

Whisk together the eggs, milk, dry mustard, thyme and nutmeg.
Season with about 1/4 tsp of the salt and a generous amount of black pepper.
Spread the pancetta over the bread cubes then layer the onions on top.
Sprinkle the grated gruyere cheese on next then pour the egg mixture over the entire thing.
Press down on the top gently so that all the bread cubes get soaked a bit with the egg mixture.
Cover and refrigerate overnight

In the morning, preheat the oven to 350 F and take the casserole out of the fridge while the oven is preheating.
Bake, uncovered for 30 to 50 minutes or until the edges are bubbling and the top begins to brown.

NB – The baking time will be greatly dependent on the depth of the dish you use.
Check the interior with a knife. if it comes out clean, the bread/custard is baked through.
Cover with foil near the end of cooking is the top is brown enough for your taste.

Breakfast casserole with pancetta and cinnamon ricotta

Absolutely delicious and indulgent!
Serves 4 -6 people

1/4 lb pancetta, diced
1 small ciabatta loaf, thinly sliced
1/2 lb ricotta cheese
1 tbsp plus 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, divided
1 1/2 tsp vanilla essence,
1/4 cup dark brown sugar
5 extra large eggs
1/2 cup half and half
2 tbsp turbinado sugar

Butter an 8 by 8 casserole dish and set aside.
Heat a saute pan over medium heat and cook pancetta 5 – 6 minutes until cooked through. Remove from the heat and set aside to cool.
Fold together the ricotta, 1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon, vanilla essence and dark brown sugar. In a separate bowl whisk together the 5 eggs, half and half and t tsp cinnamon.
Place a layer of ciabatta in the prepared pan. Spread the ricotta cheese mixture over the bread.
Sprinkle cooled pancetta over the top.
Layer the remaining bread slices over the top. Pour the egg mixture evenly over the remaining bread, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.
Remove the casserole from the fridge and allow to sit at room temperature for 20 minutes. Sprinkle with turbinado sugar. Preheat the oven to 350 F and bake for 40 minutes or until the custard is set.
Serve warm!