Tomato & Fennel Pasta

Tomato & Fennel Pasta

This year I grew a lot of tomatoes. To be honest, I’m still going through them, having brought in a load of green numbers and leaving them to ripen in the central heating.

I’m also re-evaluating my relationship with food and economy in a bid to spend less in the shops and use what I have in the war cupboard. Granted, Master McDuff and I recently came back from a trip which took in Italy, so the cupboard is quite impressive at the moment.

With the tomatoes and pasta choice at the ready and a vegetarian friend coming over for lunch, I decided to make a simple tomato, fennel seed and pasta dish, which from start to table took less than half an hour. And that was even with the Aperol Spritz (it was a weekend)

Serve with a simple green salad to balance matters out a bit. Win!

Ingredients (serves four)

400g ribbony pasta

20 – 30 cherry tomatoes

Tablespoon fennel seeds

3 – 4 garlic cloves

Olive oil

Sea salt

Pecorino and or parmesan to serve (I used both, did I mention we’ve just been to Italy?)

Method

Boil the water, adding some salt and olive oil to prevent the stickiness (love Jamie Oliver!) and add the pasta.

While this is getting ready, prepare your tomatoes by simply washing and halving them.

Crush the fennel seeds with a touch of salt in a pestle and mortar.

Peel and flatten the garlic cloves, allowing some flavour to escape.

Heat a large wide pan with olive oil and add the halved tomatoes, after they’ve turned a little mushy though still firm, add the fennel seed and salt combo and let this fuse, along with the garlic cloves.

Let all this sit together on a gentle heat, stirring occasionally for around 15 – 20 minutes, by which point the pasta will easily be ready. I added the cooked ribbons to the tomatoey pan and gently folded the mix in on itself.

Serve with some scrapings of pecorino or parmesan. Saluti!

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Lamb Kleftiko

Lamb Kleftiko

Sometimes I just get the feeling that I want to cook something in paper, goodness knows why. Perhaps it’s just that paper is just that bit more tactile than foil, crockery or tins? Anyway, with this in mind and on the cards I turned to Felicity Cloake’s recipe for lamb kleftiko, as she has certainly done her homework on this humble yet tasty recipe. The full article can be found here.

This is a great dish for something really simple and special with minimal fuss, as preparing special Sunday style dinners are different these days. With Monty either getting under my feet, constantly shouting “HOT!” at the oven or watching him sit/fidget on the kitchen stepladder eagerly anticipating the next tasters, isn’t, frankly the relaxed affair of olde.

So this dish, you can prepare the night before, marinade overnight, spend little time preparing the rest of the dish before putting in the oven for a few hours to do it’s thing. Before voila, deliciousness, one meal, for two or three, with leftovers and a bone for a dog, in a neat paper bag and hardly any washing up. There’s a few wins.

Felicity’s recipe is based on serving six people, I halved this, including the cooking time – and asked the butcher to halve the shoulder. I also omitted the cherry tomatoes on this occasion. She also gives the option to cook this in a casserole or in paper, I chose the latter. To accompany the dish I made a simple Greek-ish salad of baby leaves, cucumber, green olives and feta cheese, with an olive oil, lemon juice and zest, salt and pepper dressing.

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Felicity’s Lamb Kleftiko 

Ingredients

1 lamb shoulder, about 2kg
Olive oil
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 heads of garlic
2 lemons
1 kg waxy potatoes
1 large red onion
1 red pepper
1 bay leaf
12 cherry tomatoes

Method

Night Before:

Rub the meat with oil. Sprinkle over the cinnamon, oregano and salt, and peel and roughly crush half a head of garlic. Rub all this into the meat with your hands along with the juice of one lemon. Cover and leave for 12 hours.

On The Day:

Heat the oven to 160C.

Cut the potatoes into wedges and use them to line the base of a large lidded casserole dish (or use a roasting tin lined with enough parchment paper to fold over the top of the joint on both sides – you’ll probably need two pieces at right angles).

Cut the onion into wedges and the pepper into chunky strips, removing the seeds, then add the cherry tomatoes. Place the lamb on top. Cut the remaining garlic and lemon in half laterally, squeeze the lemon briefly over the potatoes, and tuck the shells and the garlic in around the joint along with the bay leaf. Pour 200ml water into the dish. If using a casserole dish, tuck a damp piece of greaseproof on top and cover, if using a roasting dish, sprinkle the overhanging paper with water and fold over and tuck in to form a sealed package.

Bake for 4-5 hours until very tender.

Turn the oven up to 220C and roast, uncovered, for 10-15 minutes at this higher temperature, then lift the joint out and set aside. Put the vegetables back in for 15 minutes until starting to brown, then serve with the meat.

Enjoy!