Friday, August 21, 2009

Lobster spaghetti

Serves 4

This really is not as extravagant as you might think, since a little lobster goes a long way in this dish. We par cook the lobsters in their shells to ensure that the finished dish is not overcooked. At home, simply toss the lobster in the sauce at the end of the cooking time. Serve immediately with a crisp green salad and a super chilled glass of white Burgundy.

600g cherry tomatoes
1 chilli, deseeded and chopped
1 spring onion, finely sliced
1 clove garlic, peeled and chopped
50g unsalted butter
Freshly ground black pepper
125ml dry white wine
500g fresh spaghetti
1 tblsp olive oil
1 cooked lobster (750g whole cooked weight), meat removed
100ml double cream
3 tblsp freshly chopped basil
Parmesan cheese shavings
Olive oil to drizzle

Place the tomatoes, chilli, onion, garlic and butter in a heavy-based pan and cook over a moderate heat until soft but not coloured. Break the tomatoes up with a spoon as they cook.

Season with pepper, add the wine and cook slowly until the wine has virtually evaporated and the tomatoes have caramelised. The sauce will be quite chunky in texture: if you prefer a smoother sauce, pass the mixture through a sieve and return to the pan.

Bring a large pan of water to the boil, add the spaghetti and oil and cook till al dente.
Take the lobster meat and cut into small medallions or bite-sized pieces. Drain the pasta in a colander and transfer to a warm serving plate.

Add the cream to the tomato sauce and bring to the boil, add the lobster and toss to warm through. Do not overcook at this stage.

Pour over the spaghetti, scatter over the basil and parmesan, drizzle with the oil.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Caramelised hazelnut chocolate clusters

Makes 24

These petits fours are simply clumps of hazelnuts set in a buttery caramel and then coated in melted dark chocolate. If the notion takes you, milk or white chocolate can easily be substituted, and the nuts swapped for some dried fruit. Such a simple recipe for the kids to get involved in the kitchen.

200g caster sugar
2 tblsp water
50g butter
100g whole hazelnuts
200g dark chocolate (55–60 per cent cocoa solids)

Line a baking sheet with a silicone cooking liner or baking parchment. Melt the sugar with the water in a heavy-based saucepan over a very gentle heat. Once all the sugar grains have dissolved, stir in the melted butter. Increase the heat and boil to a mid-golden colour. Take off the heat.

Drop in a cluster of three nuts, scoop out at once with a metal spoon and place on the lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining nuts to make about 24 clusters. Cool until set and firm.
Melt the chocolate. Dunk each nut cluster into the chocolate to coat and place on baking parchment to set. Store in an airtight tin for up to three days.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Courgette cakes

Makes about 6

In the same vein as the current tomato glut, courgettes are abundant in many gardens right now. These little cakes are simply a seasonal attempt to offer variety to what can often be looked upon as a boring vegetable. Unfairly so I feel, and for those who can only think of courgettes as an exotic addition to ratatouille, please read on...

3 large courgettes (about 500g)
4 spring onions
1 clove garlic
3 tblsp plain flour
a large egg
100g feta cheese
a small bunch of dill
olive oil
fine-quality chutney to serve

Coarsely grate the courgette into a colander, sprinkle lightly with salt and leave in the sink for half an hour or so.

Chop the onions finely and warm them gently with a little oil in a shallow pan. They should soften but not colour. Peel and chop the garlic and stir into the onions with the courgettes.

When all is soft and starting to turn pale gold, stir in the flour and continue cooking for a couple of minutes or so, with the occasional stir. Beat the egg lightly, then stir it into the onion mixture, then crumble in the cheese and the chopped dill.

Season with black pepper and a little salt.

Heat three tablespoons of oil in a shallow pan, drop heaped tablespoons of the mixture into the hot oil and let them cook until they are golden on the underside. Turn carefully - they will be fragile - and cook the other side. Lift the cakes out with a spatula and drain briefly on kitchen paper. Serve with the chutney or simply a good squeeze of lemon juice.