I never did love ketchup. I know everyone does. It is said to be the perfect combination of sweet, sour, salty and savoury, and tomatoes are one of my favourite ingredients, but I just find ketchup to be wanting, and something that is used to blanket other flavours not actually add to the dish. The flavour profile feels a bit two dimensional and dull to me, so I don’t have it in my pantry. Not out of snobbery, I love proper Asian instant noodles and all sorts of other things. I love good eating, and that comes in many forms, I am completely open when it comes to this.
This post is the second in a sponsored series that I am working on with BRITA as part of their Better with BRITA campaign. I explore recipes that use BRITA filtered water as a key ingredient, in this instance a healthy and nutritious one pot dish based on cauliflower cous cous.
Not only is this a healthy and nutritious one pot dish, it is also speedy and very flexible. It is a frugal dish also, a perfect dish for using up the ends of veg that are lurking in your fridge. Combining lots of different flavours and textures makes this dish even better.
The base of it is a cous cous, well, kind of. It is a cauliflower cous cous, fond of dieters of all descriptions. I love cauliflower, it is so good raw, unbeatable with cheese and perfect with spice. It is great roasted whole, steamed in florets, and superb when blitzed in a food processor into a rice or cous cous. I am not generally a fan of veg a sa substitute for carbs, but this works so well, and the taste of cauliflower adds a lot to this vegetable packed powerhouse.
Can you handle another ragu recipe? So close to the last? I ate this ragu several days in a row last week, which is normally something that I am loathe to do, but this was so delicious and utterly more-ish, that I couldn’t resist it. It has a little twist too. Normally ragu is served with parmesan, but I chose something else, also intense, oven crisped kale with paprika and sea salt, for a wonderful textural and flavour contrast. It is something that I do quite often, I have blogged about it before too.
One of the things that I love about Italy is their adherence to tradition. They love their recipe rules and stick stringently to them. Very much so. Do not break the rules! They eat so well as a result. Who wouldn’t want to be Italian?
One of the good things about not being Italian is that I can come home and absorb all of the different influences and stories and concoct something new. I can make something inspired by tradition, but not wedded to it. Italians, I know you are shrieking, but without this attitude my beloved Spaghetti Corkese would never have been born. I think you might even like it! Nor would today’s dinner, with the wrong pasta shape and a Bolognese inspired ragu that was a little too wet to be Bolognese, and that I finished with cream before topping with crispy kale. I know, cream. Cream! But you know, delicious.
The rigatoni was the wrong pasta shape but it was a lovely one from Gragnano that I bought in Italy (the best dried pasta comes from there). It was there, and it was the perfect size tube for the ragu to snuggle and hide in. The cream was my Irish and indulgent take on finishing a ragu with milk. Just a lick of cream gives each portion a decadent texture and roundness, and when cooked in, you may not even know it is there. Now that I have done it, I am fairly sure that one of my favourite Emilia Romagna trattoria ragus was finished like this.
The recipe is based on the ragu that I made with Walter in Bologna. Walter is from Lazio and we cooked a ragu based on the one that his father taught him, but adapted so that it was Bologna style. I made it a little Irish, I think, but it is still more authentic than most you will get outside Italy.
Try it. Enjoy it. Make lots and eat it all week. And make lots of the crispy kale, as you won’t be able to stop eating it. Unless you don’t like kale, of course!
As the Italian say, cook with love and passion. Which I translate as: enjoy it, give it time and patience, and be tender.
It won’t surprise you, but I don’t do dry January. Nor do I do diets. I reign myself in, become a little more pragmatic and try and restore balance by eating a little lighter but still in normal amounts. Or rather, I start eating normal amounts. Replacing sour cream with yogurt. Eating more fish and less meat. A bit more salad. Lots of avocados. Frying less, although still a little. Lighter Brighter cooking is what I shall call it. It is all about being aware that every little bit makes a difference but not killing the enjoyment of it. Food is sustenance and a source of great pleasure. The key to health is home cooking, moderation and exercise. And good sleep.
With diets, I think a lot of people feel better not because they have cut out a food group (don’t get me started), but because they have started paying attention to what they eat, and what they cook. One very big thing is cutting out processed food. Some go from not cooking at all to eating predominantly home cooked food. I bet that if you speak to a lot of very successful dieters, you will discover that they transitioned from not really thinking about what they ate to being a lot more considerate about what they cooked, and eating less processed food. They almost certainly exercised a lot more.
The reality (certainly for me) is that even when you think about what you cook (and I do a lot), it doesn’t mean that you are necessarily eating well. But when you do think about it from a health perspective, and start to feel the benefits of Lighter Brighter cooking, when you can see exactly what you are eating, not through a film in a plastic tray spinning around in a microwave, but because you have cooked it and see just how much of everything has gone in, that is empowering. When you cook, you can also adapt your recipes to make them lighter and no less delicious.
Enter salmon tacos. I am lucky that I live near a great fishmonger (and I have a great butcher too). Last Saturday I went late and there was not much left, but there was some lovely salmon. I did two things with it it, a teriyaki (a simple combination of 50ml soy sauce & 50 ml mirin with 1 tsp of honey, reduced by half over a medium heat, and then used to glaze a just-cooked piece of salmon, delicious) and also some lovely light salmon tacos.
I never even heard of toad in the hole as a child. I may have heard it referred to but I always thought that it referred to Toad of Toad Hall of The Wind in the Willows. I was quite surprised to discover it was a joyous and simple concoction of sausages roasted in Yorkshire batter. Delicious!
This is super easy to prepare at home and I am sharing the recipe with you today very quickly, because I really think you need to make it. I have also made this with the cocktail cooking chorizo sausages from Brindisa in a muffin tray. They were so cute I half wanted to tuck them up in bed instead of eating them.
For this, I used common or garden proper pork sausages. That taste of pork and just that. I am not liking the trend of sticking all types of things in sausages. Some things are best left simple (unless they are very good and then I am ok with that).
This makes enough for 2 with 2 sausages each. Or if cooking for 1 as I was, enough for 1 and a big Yorkshire pudding for later. I often cook for 1, and it upsets me that people think it is pointless to do so. We should all cook for ourselves and take pleasure in it.
RECIPE: Toad in the Hole
50g plain flour, sifted
pinch of salt
150ml whole milk
one small tray that will accomodate two sausages and wiggle room
flavourless oil or – indulgently – duck fat
Whisk together the salt, egg, milk and flour until there is no lumps and leave aside for an hour.
Preheat your oven to 200 deg C and lightly roast the sausages in a little oil / fat until they are starting to brown.
Remove the sausages and add more fat, it should cover the whole of the bottom of the pan (or you won’t get a nice crisp bottom). Heat in the oven then add the sausages and pour in the batter until it comes half way up the sausages. Put the leftover batter in another small tin with fat to cook a Yorkshire pudding. Or make a second one.
Roast for 20 minutes, in white time the pastry will puff up and crisp.
Eat with gravy and lots of it.