Kitchen Sink Frittata

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I ran out of fresh vegetables one day and was too lazy to venture out for more. As usual, it was time to raid the freezer and find something fairly healthy for lunch. The freezer yielded my usual supply of chopped spinach, petit pois, minced shallots, minced garlic and bacon, and I also found some frozen (!) red chillis.  I had some spare eggs and always keep milk in the fridge, so I was pretty much set. There were parmesan cheese and brined green peppercorns in the fridge too, so that I also tossed in. As I put back the peppercorns, I noticed a bottle of anchovies lurking in one of the compartments, so no prizes for guessing what went in next. DC commented that it was a surprise he didn’t break his teeth nibbling on the kitchen sink.

This is a very useful recipe for coming up with something very delicious and fresh-looking and tasting without putting in too much of an effort. It’s also a bit like fried rice or pizza in that it uses up leftovers. Toss whatever that seems vaguely yummy in it and it should turn out fine. Other things I’d add if I had it would include boiled potato slices, peppers, cheese cubes, tomato, courgettes. Well, pretty much any vegetable really. Go easier on the meat, but if you’re anything like me I doubt you’ll have much leftover meat hanging around anyway. In my recipe I give approximate quantities, just feel free to make it up as you go along. Just make sure that there’s enough egg to barely cover the filling and you’re cool.

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Ingredients:

1 tbsp butter
2 rashers bacon, chopped
4 finely chopped garlic cloves
8 finely chopped shallots
cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed
a few tbsp petit pois, thawed
1 large red chilli, chopped coarsely
2 anchovies, coarsely chopped
1 generous tsp green peppercorns in brine
3 eggs
a good splash of milk (about 2 egg shells full)
good grating of parmesan cheese

Method:

  1. Melt the butter in a non-stick frying pan and brown the bacon till the fat is rendered. Add the garlic and shallot and saute gently till just fragrant. Don’t allow it to colour.
  2. Add in the vegetables, anchovies and green peppercorns and saute till the mixture is hot. Set aside in a bowl.
  3. In another large bowl, beat the milk and eggs together, then pour it onto the hot pan. Quickly spoon the hot spinach mixture over and spread gently. Stir very gently along the top of the frittata so that the egg and filling will mix. Turn the heat to low and cook till the middle is almost set, 5-10 minutes. Now’s a good time to preheat the broiler.
  4. When the top looks almost set, i.e. still wobbly but not liquid, transfer to the broiler and cook till set. Grate over a very generous layer of parmesan and return to the broiler. Cook till cheese is melted and brown. Remove from heat.
  5. Very carefully loosen the sides of the frittata with a spatula and invert onto a plate. Use kitchen gloves. Cut into wedges and serve with fresh brown bread.

Makes 8 generous wedges.

Pesto Variations: Rocket (Deconstructed)

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I like the strong, bitter, almost meaty flavour of rocket. It seems to be a love it or hate it affair with this leaf and I’m firmly in the love-it camp. Rocket works not just as a salad leaf to perk up an otherwise boring lettuce salad, it also comes into its own used as a herb in pesto. The fact that it’s priced like a salad leaf, not a herb, also boosts its popularity in eatdrinkcooktravel land.

I’m normally quite lazy when it comes to pesto, so lazy that I don’t even want to break out the food processor for it. That’s why my favourite way to make pasta in pesto is a sort of deconstructed version.

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Ingredients:

linguine
handful pine nuts
1 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 handfuls of rocket, chopped
parmesan cheese, optional

Method:

  1. Cook the linguine in plenty of boiling salted water till al dente.
  2. Toast the pine nuts in a dry frying pan, tossing often till golden brown. Set aside and chop coarsely if you can be bothered.
  3. When the linguine is about done, heat the oil in the frying pan and gently cook the garlic for a few seconds.
  4. Add the pasta, a spoonful of its cooking liquid and the rocket and toss till the linguine is well-coated.
  5. Toss in the pine nuts and season to taste.
  6. Grate over the parmesan cheese if you’re using and serve.

Serves 2.

Pesto Variations: Classic

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This recipe is the first of a loose series of pesto-inspired experiments. Pesto is a typical Italian pasta dressing. It’s associated with Genoa in the Liguria region, an area famous for olive oil and apparently perfect basil with the most ideal balance of flavours. Italian mamas make it by pounding garlic, basil leaves, pine nuts in a mortar and pestle, hence the name. Grated pecorino cheese is then stirred in to complete the pesto.

I’ve only made pesto using a mortar and pestle once and learned my lesson after that: it is long, hard work. Some people swear by using a mezzaluna for the job but purists just laugh. Now I use a food processor like the average sensible modern cook.

In this recipe I use parmesan cheese simply because it’s the easiest to find. Please use pecorino if you can find or afford it.

Ingredients:

1 handful pine nuts
pinch coarse sea salt
2 cloves garlic
50-100 g (one supermarket pack) basil leaves, stems discarded
1 handful parmesan cheese, finely grated
3 tbsp best extra-virgin olive oil

Method:

  1. Toast the pine nuts in a hot frying pan. No need to add oil, just toss frequently till golden brown.
  2. Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and pulse, scraping down frequently, till just smooth.
  3. Use to dress pasta or drizzle over minestrone soup. It can keep in the fridge for a while. Make sure the top is covered with oil.

Makes about ½ cup pesto.