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This was my first attempt at making tomato pilaf.  Not really sure what a pilaf is, but it was tasty and a bit like a risotto.  I’d seen the recipe in Jojo Tulloh’s Freshly Picked and it sounded so simple and potentially tasty.

We used brown rice instead of white so it took longer to cook, but by far the most enjoyable part of making this was skinning the tomatoes – it’s just such a mucky job but deeply fun.  This is fantastic comfort food and requires excellent tomatoes.

Tomato Pilaf

Feeds 4 (but we found it only fed 2!)

olive oil
1 small onion, finely chopped
200g long-grain rice
1 clove of garlic, peeled and crushed
1 tsp salt
450g tomatoes, peeled, deseeded and finely chopped
knob of butter
small bunch of basil
black pepper

Warm about a tablespoon of olive oil in a medium-sized pan and gently fry the onion until it is soft.  Stir in the rice and cook for about a minute.

Pour over 500ml of just-boiled water (I used the water I’d used to loosen the tomato skins) along with the salt.  Bring to a simmer and cover and leave to cook – the recipe says for about 10 minutes but our rice (which was brown) took a lot longer.

When the rice is almost cooked, heat a glug of olive oil in a frying pan and add the garlic and tomatoes.  Fry over a high heat until the tomato is almost a sauce, but still with some chunks.

Stir the tomatoes into the rice, along with torn up basil leaves and a generous knob of butter.  Season with ground black pepper and eat right away.

Taken and adapted slightly from Jojo Tulloh’s ‘Freshly Picked’.

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Spaghetti bolognese and variations of it are one of Mr Rigg’s favourite meals.  I’m not so keen on spaghetti bolognese as we know it in this country, made with minced beef – I would rather make a sauce of slow cooked meat.

So whilst trying to be a good girlfriend, last night I used some leftover minced pork to make tiny meatballs to sit on a bowl of pasta and served with lashings of homemade tomato sauce.

I say they were ‘made up’ meatballs, because I just added bits and pieces as I saw fit.  The ‘bits and pieces’ included breadcrumbs, fresh sage, grated Parmesan, an egg and seasoning of salt and pepper.  I mixed this all together and started to make my meatballs.

I made them quite tiny – like a large marble size – and popped them on a tray and into the fridge to firm up for a bit.

Next I fried them in a little oil to brown them – and set off the smoke alarm…which is a regular occurence in our house – our neighbours must think we are terrible cooks!

Then the final stage of cooking them was to pop them into the oven covered with foil whilst the pasta cooked. 

I popped the cooked meatballs on top of the pile of steaming pasta and then ladled over some of my homemade tomato sauce.  Topped with a little grated Parmesan and plenty of black pepper for me, they were scrumy.

Tonight we tried one of Hugh’s latest recipes – his version of pot noodle with spicy chorizo, spring onions and fennel seeds. 

It’s really simple.  In a bowl you pop dried egg noodles, chopped chorizo, sliced spring onions and crushed fennel seeds.  To make this less pot noodle lunchtime snack and more dinner for two, I lightly fried the chorizo and crushed fennel seeds, and half the spring onions.  Just to soften them a little.

The recipe then tells you to pour enough boiling water over the noodles, and stir in tomato passata that has been well seasoned with salt and pepper.  Then you leave it for 5-6 minutes.  We did this, but found that the noodles didn’t quite cook enough and the sauce was lukewarm by the time we came to eat it.

So we transferred everything to a pan and heated it up.  I added a good-sized spoonful of sundried tomato paste which gave a depth of flavour.  Lastly we stirred through some chopped flat leaf parsley from the garden.

All in all it was a pretty tasty and good dinner with a few little tweaks – really a delicious bowl of soupy noodles, spicy with chorizo and fragrant with fennel.

Spanish style chorizo and spring onion noodles

Feeds 2

2 nests of egg noodles
60g chorizo
8 spring onions
200ml tomato passata
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tbsp sundried tomato paste
salt and pepper
handful of parsley or basil

Chop up the chorizo and spring onions, and crush the fennel seeds in a pestle and mortar.

Heat up a small frying pan and gently fry the chorizo, spring onions and fennel seeds for a few minutes.

Mix together the tomato passata, sundried tomato paste, and salt and pepper to taste.

In a pan, place the egg noodles, chorizo, spring onions, fennel seeds and tomato passata.  Pour over just enough boiling water to cover.  Put over a medium heat and cook for about 5 minutes or until the sauce is hot and the noodles are cooked.

Stir through some chopped parsley or basil and eat.

Sweetcorn fritters are part of my childhood memories.  When I was younger my neighbour’s house was always full of lots of kids and she would often feed us all – sweetcorn fritters, simply made and cooked quickly on her Aga were what I remember her making us.

The making and cooking of them is just one of those childhood memories that will always stick with me, all us kids crowded round a big wooden table digging in to the hot fritters as they came off the stove.  So with sweetcorn season upon us this is what we had for dinner.

With a new but delicious recipe from the Riverford Farm Cookbook we dug into a plateful of hot fritters with a green salad, hot radish sprouts and a simple tomato salsa.  The fritter batter contained polenta and flecks of fresh (and homegrown I might add!) red chilli and fresh herbs from the garden.

No Aga in sight, I used one of my favourite cast iron enamel frying pans and they crisped up to a gorgeous golden brown.

I’m busy getting lost in this great blog from Masterchef finalist Alex and have put his tomato and fennel soup on my list of ‘must cook’.

Meanwhile, we are majoring on spring stew – a meal of my own invention – pearl barley, pancetta and a host of vegetables.  Served for friends on Friday night with poached chicken.  Yum.

hearty tomato, lemon and lentil soup

hearty tomato, lemon and lentil soup

This recipe should be tried by all – it’s delicious.  A fantastic winter soup that will bring a little ray of summer sunshine into these cold and dismal days.  It bursts with rich tomato and zingy lemon, but with deep earthy lentils and hearty pasta twirls.  And what’s more, it is made from store cupboard staples.  We ate large bowlfuls with grated Parmesan and a sprinkling of torn parsley.  For lunch the next day I finished up the leftovers with a pile of sunflower sprouts and a drizzle of oil.

Tomato, Lemon and Lentil Soup

Serves 2
(this is what the recipe says, but really it’s two large bowlfuls and one for lunch the next day)

1 onion, peeled and chopped
1 garlic clove, peeled and finely chopped
1 carrot, peeled and chopped
400g tin plum tomatoes
60g red lentils
900ml (1 1/2 pints) vegetable stock
75g fusilli
Olive oil
Lemon juice
Salt and Pepper

Delicious garnishes: torn flat leaf parsley or sunflower sprouts

Heat some oil in a large saucepan and gentle fry the onion, garlic and carrot until soft.

Add the tinned tomatoes and break up a bit. Add the red lentils and stock and stir well. Bring to the boil, then lower the heat and simmer for about 30 minutes until the lentils are tender.

While the soup is simmering, cook the pasta in a separate pan. This is really important – the first time I made this soup I thought I would save on washing up and bunged the dry pasta in with the soup to cook. The soup turned out more like a stew as the pasta absorbed too much of the cooking liquid.

When the soup has had its 30 minutes, use a hand blended to blitz it up a little bit so that it is a mixture or smooth and coarse textures. Add the pasta and a generous squeeze of lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper.

Make sure you taste the soup and add more lemon juice, salt and pepper until the soup bursts with flavour in your mouth.

Serve in warm bowls with plain or with a garnish of your choice.

soup with sunflower sprouts

soup with sunflower sprouts

This recipe is taken and slightly adapted from Family Food by Silvana Franco.

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Eat the Earth

I love food, especially locally grown and seasonal food. This is my place to share my food finds and the food I like to eat.

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