Friday, 7 September 2007

Black tagliatelle with tomatoes, garlic and olives

You know how it is - husband pops into Lidl, spies black squid ink pasta for sale and comes home with a bagful as 'something interesting for the girls'. The girls, Hannah, 5, and three-year-old Rosie were, respectively, dubious and fascinated.
The pasta, meanwhile, sat in the cupboard for a week or two, daring me to think of something to cook with it.
Recipe books seem to err on the side of a seafood sauce, suggesting things like clams, prawns or, appropriately, squid. Unfortunately such delicacies are not thick on the ground on the Preselis! But then I was in my local Spar which happily stocks lovely veggies from the local biodynamic farm, Plas Dwbl, and there was a lovely carton of yellow egg tomatoes and a bag of mixed differently sized cherry tomatoes, with a couple of the yellow ones thrown in for good luck. How could I resist!
We had some of these jewel-like delights for lunch tossed around in a little olive oil in a frying pan then popped into a sandwich with smoked bacon and crusty granary bread.
But I couldn't resist them at tea time either and the black tagliatelle sort of jumped out of the cupboard at me. So I cooked this:
Black tagliatelle with tomatoes, garlic and olives
  1. Set the oven to Gas mark 6-7, and put a good handful of mixed cherry and yellow tomatoes into a roasting tin. Cut up some of the bigger tomatoes, the rest can be left whole.
  2. Roughly chop one garlic clove per person, and a couple of shallots or red onions too. Add a few glugs of good olive oil, stir and put in the oven.
  3. Meanwhile cook the black tagliatelle, a nest or two person according to greed, in boiling salted water according to the packet instructions.
  4. Chop a nice big handful of parsley, preferably the broad-leaved type.
  5. When the tomatoes are blistering and soft, add a handful of green olives per person to the roasting tin, swirl it around and put back into the oven until the olives are heated through.
  6. Drain the pasta, reserving a few tablespoonfuls of the cooking water, then toss the tomatoey contents of the roasting tin and the parsley into the hot pasta. Add some of the cooking water to loosen up the lovely tasty sauce.
  7. Pile into dishes and top with freshly grated Parmesan and ground black pepper.

Monday, 16 July 2007

Green soup

This is a summer soup. I make gallons of it once the courgettes kick in, mostly at the request of Rosie who calls it "proper soup". It is a bit difficult to write a recipe for it as I usually just use whatever is to hand, but I'll have a go!

I usually head off into the veggie garden in my stripy apron and fill the lap with cucumbers and courgettes, dropping a few on the way back to the kitchen. I might grab a bit of flat leaf parsley on the way too.

It really is great for using up the glut of courgettes - but is at its best once the cucumbers are around too. In fact, 'proper' green soup is probably made with 100% cucumbers, even when served hot it tastes cool somehow! I suppose it could be served as a chilled soup too, but I'm not much of a fan of chilled soups and I have never tried it.

When there is a glut of courgettes I chop them up into chunks and put them in the freezer in plastic bags in the right quantities to make a batch of this soup. I don't bother with blanching - I'm not sure really what that is for - and it doesn't make a difference to the soup. Just grab a bag out of the freezer and put them into the pan frozen, then follow the recipe as normal.


An armful of green things: courgettes, cucumbers, lettuce, spinach, nettles etc. Use singly or in combination. The minimum quantity is the equivalent of about four large cucumbers.

A knob of butter or 1tbsp of olive oil

500ml chicken stock (or water and a sachet of instant miso soup)

100g of soft cheese (approximately half a 200g tub of Philadelphia light) or use creme fraiche, or one of the soft goat's cheese logs they sell at Farmers' Markets. I once made it with Feta cheese and that too was delicious.

Freshly grated nutmeg

Black pepper


  • Chop the courgettes/cucumbers etc into chunks and put them in a large pan with the butter/oil. Slap on a lid and leave to sweat until soft and transparent.

  • Add enough stock to make the desired soup consistency.

  • Grab one of those stick blender jobbies and buzz the soup in the pan until it is smooth (or put it in a blender/food processor, but that's more washing up!)

  • Add the soft cheese, as much nutmeg as you dare and the black pepper and buzz again.

  • Serve with oatcakes for a delicious healthy low fat, low GI meal.


  • Swirl with double cream if you are really posh/showing off/not on a diet.
  • I once made it with yellow courgettes - yellow soup!

Monday, 2 July 2007

Squidgy banana cake

This is one for toddlers and small children. It is based on Nigella Lawson's banana bread on page 33 of 'How to be a Domestic Goddess' but my method is slightly different. The result is a deliciously fragrant loaf cake that can be served with custard for a lovely winter pudding or eaten cold. I love wholemealy things, so can't resist adding a bit of Dove's organic wholemeal flour, but make it with all white flour if preferred. This definitely is cooking as a game you can eat!

4 really ripe bananas
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
150g caster or soft brown sugar
125g olive or sunflower oil
100g plain flour
75g wholemeal flour
2 tsp baking powder
half tsp bicarbonate of soda
half tsp salt
100g sultanas

  1. Scrub your toddler/small child, put aprons on everything and possibly newspaper on the floor too, according to the child's temperament. More than one toddler/child may be used.
  2. Get a really big plastic bowl.
  3. Peel the bananas. Throw into bowl and set toddler/child to attack. Get them to squeeze and squidge.
  4. Next you need two large eggs. Give them to the children to crack into the bowl. Fish out bits of shell - use other bits of shell to pick up the fragments, for some reason this seems to work. Allow the children to feel the texture of the egg white and the slippery yolk, then break the yolk and watch the yellow run into the banana.
  5. Continue squidging the mix. Add vanilla extract. Smell the yummy vanilla.
  6. Add the sugar. You could reduce the amount of sugar a little as it is quite a sweet cake. Squidge!
  7. Weigh 125g of olive or sunflower oil and pour in.
  8. Add 100g plain flour and 75g of wholemeal flour. Squidge!
  9. Add 2 tsp baking powder, half a tsp bicarbonate of soda and half a tsp of salt.
  10. Add 100g sultanas and squidge until thoroughly mixed.
  11. Put handfuls of the mixture into a lined loaf tin, scraping the bowl/hands/arms etc with a spatula.
  12. If 100% sure about the freshness of the eggs, leave the children licking their hands and arms while you put the cake into an oven preheated to 170 degrees C/gas mark 3 for an hour to an hour and 15 minutes.
  13. If not sure about provenance of eggs, try to prevent children from licking arms etc. Try!
  14. Give toddler/child washing up bowl full of bubbly water and the dirty bowl and spatula and a plastic jug for 'water play' (aka 'washing up'!). Make yourself a cup of tea.
  15. The cake is cooked when a skewer inserted in the middle comes out clean. Wait a few minutes before slicing and eating.


  • Add chopped plain chocolate for a choconana cake.
  • Add 1tsp of cinnamon or mixed spice for a spicynana cake.

Tuesday, 26 June 2007

Instant banana ice cream

This is based on an idea from TV chef James Martin. This is a lovely alternative to shop bought ice cream as you can control the amount of sugar and fat. The result is a soft scoop ice cream, but you must eat it straight away. Left overs can be frozen, but will need to spend a little time in the fridge to soften up before serving. The bananas must be properly ripe with nice spotty skins, otherwise you don't get a lovely creamy result.

Ingredients and method:

4 ripe bananas - slice, put in a thin layer in a plastic bag and freeze, perferably overnight but you can do it in the morning and make this ice cream after school.

When you are ready to serve the ice cream put the bananas into a food processor and add:

250 ml natural yoghurt (I use approximatley half a large tub of Yeo Valley organic) 0r 250ml buttermilk (or a mixture)

2-3 tbsp (or to taste) maple syrup or runny honey or soft brown sugar

Slap the lid on and process until you have a nice thick ice cream, but not too long or it will turn into a smoothie!

Scoop into cornets or bowls.

Replace a banana or two with frozen mango, strawberries or other soft fruit.
Use flavoured yoghurt, eg strawberry, but reduce the amount of syrup/honey.
If just using banana, add 1 tsp natural vanilla extract for a banana and vanilla ice cream.

Rosie's favourite sausage bolognese sauce

1 large onion
450g sausages
1 tsp mixed herbs or 1 tbsp fresh herbs such as thyme, rosemary, sage
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
1 tbsp tomato puree
1 dash tomato ketchup

Finely chop the onion and brown it in a frying pan with about a tablespoonful of olive oil.
Meanwhile skin the sausages and squeeze the meat out into the frying pan. Push it about and chop it up with the onion until both are starting to colour.
Add the herbs and the tomatoes, then fill the can up with cold water and add that too.
Leave to bubble away until it is a nice thick sauce.
Stir in the ketchup (this is optional, but child-pleasing).
Serve over pasta, baked potatoes or boiled new potatoes and top with a sprinkling of freshly grated parmesan (or cheddar if preferred).

Serves four.

Add grated carrot as a hidden vegetable.
Add a can of red kidney beans and some chilli powder for a sausage chilli and serve with boiled rice.
Layer it up with lasagne sheets and bechamel sauce to make a sausage lasagne.