Pasta Alla Puttanesca

Puttanesca (1)

Pasta Puttanesca. Pasta for ladies of easy virtue?

All you need: Olive oil (extra virgin), capers, olives, garlic and tomato. Another version of this also includes anchovies. Generally, black olives are used. I prefer green olives. Adding in a little basil or parsley does no harm.

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Dice everything up and thoroughly heat through in a pan with a good slug of virgin olive oil.

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When finished toss into pasta. This version uses diced smokey bacon (even better with prosciutto).

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How stupid simple is this? Fast, fresh and simple. Truly fantastic. Really fresh and really tasty and so versatile! For those who need something quick and easy to throw together on the hoof, on a busy work day, then this is a must have in the repertoire. It isn’t just good for pasta. How about using it to liven up a piece of fish.

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Maybe add in some smoked salmon.

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As an accompaniment to a piece of gammon maybe (this is really good).

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Or how about with prawns and garlic bread.

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Is there anything this can’t be used with? This sauce is so good and so clever it’s amazing. Seriously amazing.

Puttanesca Sauce
I first came across this brilliant little sauce many years ago in Claudia Rodens book on Mediterranean cookery where she says the source of the name is a mystery. More recently I saw this on Nigella Lawson’s website and featured in one of Rick Steins’ DVD’s. You will see it in many books on Italian food, although rarely labeled ‘Puttanesca’. Usually this is labeled as olive and caper sauce. The Italian word “puttana” literally translates to “whore” or “prostitute”. So literally, “pasta of the whores”. The idea being, according to some, that this is something quick and simple for “the generous ladies of Naples” to make on a busy work day between clients! Personally, I see this usage as a little bit of mischief. No doubt, for some, the name makes for fun dinner party conversation after a few glasses of wine! Another way to look at this name is simply as a graphic way to imply something cheap and easy. A sure thing. “even a Naples prostitute can make this!” (with due apologies and respect to the good ladies of Naples!).

In summary this great little sauce is cheap, easy and will pretty much go with anything.

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Mozzarella and Tomato Toasties

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I’ve been indulging in one of my favourite stress busters. Playing in the kitchen. I’m not going to tell you what it is I’ve been playing with because that could, potentially, spoil a future blog. Although, I suspect, you could give it a good guess……

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I just happen to have some left over tomato sauce and some Mozzarella cheese. The sauce is made from a reduction of roughly 50/50 fresh (just off the vine) and tinned tomatoes well reduced. No onion, no garlic, just tomato and nothing else. It is this sauce base that really makes this very modest little toastie so brilliantly and wonderfully fantastic that I just had to tell you about it.

Spread the sauce over slices of bread. Dot with mozzarella and add a little ripped up basil (By the time I got around to making images I ran out of basil and used parsley, but you get the idea).

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Add another slice on top and toast any way you like. I imagine this would be just as good as an open sandwich too. Serve with a simple green salad.

I love cooks treats don’t you?

The Great Mexican Breakfast

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“Breakfast is a popular part of the day in Mexico, and with so many different treats on offer, it’s easy to see why. Back in London, fried eggs on tortillas bathed in a spicy tomato sauce or Mexican scrambled eggs make the perfect lazy weekend eating – and both beat the biggest hangovers.” – Thomasina Miers, Mexican Food Made Simple.

Sunday morning. I fancy something different. Flicking trough my library I came across this, The Great Mexican Breakfast from my current favourite TV chef Thomasina Miers of Masterchef and Wahaca fame. I only came across the television series Mexican Food Made Simple quite recently and was blown away by it.

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Most of what I need. Like everything I do, I adapt to what I have available. So this will differ from the book. Basically, tinned tomato, chilli, egg, onion, garlic and cheese.

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Bugger, I have no tarragon (“dynamite in this sauce”). In fact, I’m right out all my fresh herbs. I don’t even have frozen. So I’m going to use dried. I’m also leaving out the sugar (I’m diabetic). I’m also leaving out the lard (diabetes is enough, thank you very much). Chuck the onion, garlic and chilli in to a pan with a good slug of olive oil and soften. Then put in the tinned tomatoes and the dried herbs. Then comes a good bit. Going back to bet with a mug of tea for 20 minutes whist the sauce simmers on a low heat.

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Then comes what I rekon is a key, must have ingredient. One of the great, great classics and one of the great wonders of the culinary world. If there were to be a foodie version of Desert Island Discs then this would be one of my eight ingredients. In fact, like the works of Shakespeare, it might already be there.

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Worcestershire sauce. Widely used in Mexican cooking apparently. It’s easy to see why as we all know it compliments things like minced beef and tomato so, so well.

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Warm up a tortilla in a frying pan and put onto a plate.

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Then spread on the sauce. I think this is a good point to season with salt and pepper. Finally a fried egg and some grated cheese. The end result? Fantastic. Maybe I should have had two eggs?

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You, of course, won’t do this. You will do the original, which is so much better.

A Summer Snack

I love vegging on the sofa with a beer and a bag of crisps and a dvd. I know it’s not healthy and I know it’s not right. But you see it’s the mindset. For some reason, I forget that a simple snack like this takes no time to make and I will wake up the following morning with a clear conscious. Best of all it looks and tastes fantastic.

Next time I pass the snack shelf in the supermarket I must turn away and collect myself a different kind of snack. You see, I’ve come to the conclusion that when creating a healthy diet the good work is done in the supermarket and not the kitchen. So from now on as I cruise down the aisles it will be combat between me and those clever marketing men. Wish me luck.