Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Funky Spaghetti

Funky spaghetti is a cross between warm salad and tasty linguine, with tomatoes, olives and fresh basil! Serve it as a main course or side dish.

Food Lust People Love: Funky spaghetti is a cross between warm salad and tasty linguine, with tomatoes, olives and basil! Serve it as a main course or side dish.

I wish I could remember when I first heard the name Jamie Oliver.  Certainly I watched his first series, The Naked Chef not long after arriving in Malaysia, so possibly as early as 2002. 

But I distinctly remember watching the Oprah show in 2003 when he made his first appearance and cooked this dish, with the help of some picky eater children.  It’s so fast that I was sort of expecting it to make an appearance in his new 30-Minutes Meals which my wonderful, kind and generous friend, Jane, has recently lent me.  But it didn’t.

It’s still one of the fastest and most delightful dishes around.  The little bit of prep that is required is easily done in the time the pasta cooks.  And in under 15 minutes, dinner is served. (N.B. My adaptation is probably NOT suitable for picky eater children!)

Funky Spaghetti
My recipe was adapted from this one by Jamie Oliver on the Oprah Winfrey website. It serves 3-4 (or more as a side dish.)

1 pound or 500g linguine
10 ounces or 300g baby plum tomatoes, red and yellow, preferably at room temperature
2 handfuls of fresh basil, leaves picked, and chopped if rather large.
6 to 8 glugs extra-virgin olive oil
1 clove of garlic (peeled and finely chopped)
Good splash, or even two, of balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
5-6 Greek-style (read: really salty) black olives
2 small hot green chilies, chopped very fine.

Put a large pot of water on to boil. While your water is coming to a boil, halve tomatoes.  Depending on the size of your little tomatoes, you might want to quarter them.  

Put pasta in the boiling water and cook until al dente.  While the pasta is cooking, add the garlic and chilies to a bowl with the vinegar. 

Add the tomatoes to the bowl and scrunch them until slightly mushed.  Season to taste with the salt and pepper.  

 Pit your olives and chop them up and add them to the bowl.

Cut the basil finely and add to the bowl. 

Food Lust People Love: Funky spaghetti is a cross between warm salad and tasty linguine, with tomatoes, olives and basil! Serve it as a main course or side dish.

Pour on the olive oil and give it all a good stir. 

Drain pasta, and while still steaming, mix with tomatoes.

Separate onto plates and serve. 

Food Lust People Love: Funky spaghetti is a cross between warm salad and tasty linguine, with tomatoes, olives and basil! Serve it as a main course or side dish.


Monday, October 3, 2011

Arepas with Pulled Pork and Black Bean Corn Salsa

What inspires you to cook?  For me, it can be something as simple and as fleeting as a Facebook mention by a friend of a meal she is eating.  Sometime this summer, my friend and former college roommate, Susi, went to Miami with her beautiful daughter.  She posted a photo of an arepa with pulled pork in a restaurant and it looked so delicious that her meal has been in the back of my mind ever since.  She has probably not given it a second thought!  I just went back to find the photo, only to discover that she had shredded chicken in her arepa!  But never mind.  I made pulled pork!  Because that’s what I’ve been dreaming about for weeks.

Ingredients for four stuffed arepas with leftover pork and two generous servings of salsa. Everything can be easily doubled or trebled, if your crockpot is big enough.

For the pork:
2 pieces of pork shoulder – 1/2 kilo or about a pound total
1 large yellow onion
6 cloves of garlic
Sea salt
Black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin

Mash the garlic with the side of a knife and then chop coarsely.

Slice your onion thickly and place them in the bottom of a slow cooker or crockpot. 

Put the pork on top of the onion and season with salt, pepper and cumin.

Scatter the garlic around and fill the basin with enough water to come halfway up the pork.

Put on the lid and cook on high for five to six hours.

Take the lid off and use the pork and onions to rub the lovely brown stuff off of the sides of the crockpot.  

Use two forks to shred the pork.  Check the seasoning and add more salt if necessary.

For the arepas:
1 cup or 150g of Harina P.A.N.
1 1/4 cups or 295ml lukewarm water
1/2 teaspoon salt

Add the salt to the Harina P.A.N. and pour this into a bowl with the water and stir until it is completely absorbed and makes a soft dough.

Tip it out on the counter top and knead a few times. Divide your dough into four equal pieces.

Make a circle of each about three inches in diameter. Preheat your oven to 350°F or 180°C.

Place on a hot griddle and brown both sides.  (Mine scorched a bit, as you can see. I think my fire was too high so be careful to keep it on a medium flame. Despite the color, they didn’t taste burnt at all though.)

Bake in the pre-heated oven for 15-20 minutes.

For the salsa:
1/2 cob of boiled corn
1/2 small purple onion
2 small hot chilies
1 cup or 170g of cooked black beans
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Sea salt
Small bunch of fresh cilantro or coriander 

Holding the stems, split the chilies down the middle and then chop them finely.

Slice the onion very thinly and then cut across to create tiny little pieces.

Add lime juice to the chilies and onion and leave them to marinate for at least 10 minutes. This takes the sharpness out of the onion and helps tame the heat of the chilies.

Finely chop the stems of the cilantro and add to the bowl, reserving the leaves for later.

Slice the corn off the cob, break the kernels apart and add to the bowl.  Mix thoroughly.

Add the black beans and mix again. Salt to taste.

Chop the coriander leaves roughly and add right before serving.

To serve all:  Slit the arepas and, using a slotted spoon, stuff them with the pork mixture. Add some extra hot sauce, if desired.  Each person gets two arepas and a good serving of salsa.


Saturday, October 1, 2011

Vanilla Extract and Vanilla Sugar - Easy How To

There is no easier recipe, if you can find reasonably priced vanilla beans.  I found mine on a trip to Bali, popped them in a ziplock bag in the freezer and have never used artificial vanilla again. The flavor cannot be matched by artificial vanilla extract.  This genuine vanilla extract or essence also makes a great gift for a baker you love!

1 liter bottle of inexpensive vodka
Several (7-8 or more) vanilla bean pods

Split the vanilla beans with a sharp knife but leave them in one piece.

Pour off just enough vodka to leave room for the vanilla beans. Stuff the split beans in the bottle.

Let the vanilla beans soak for at least a month. Your extract is now ready to use to give away. My bottle is several months old so it is lovely and dark isn't filled to the top as it was when I first made it.

You can top up the vodka as needed.  I will be topping mine up as soon as I remember to buy some more cheap vodka! As you can see, I have been using it regularly these the last few months.

While you are at it, split one or two more vanilla beans and pop them in a sealable jar filled with sugar. This makes lovely vanilla-flavored sugar that is great sprinkled on breakfast crepes or in coffee or on French toast.  I use it in baking as well.  It adds a vanilla flavor to muffins like these Nutella-filled Raspberry Muffins.