Spaghetti aux palourdes (alle vongole)

Sharing recipes is no way complete, without this favourite favourite dish on the list and I can’t believe I haven’t posted ‘Spaghetti all vongole’ (ie clams, palourdes – as you wish to say it) yet!

Naked Wines (UK and US) kindly posted a photo of our clam pasta/ ‘Spaghetti vongole’ dish online (served with Ben’s Pique Nique Blanc)- and it got me thinking, I should share what’s in it! So I posted the recipe there, and now it’s here at HQ…

This is a super quick and simple dish, and I’ve more or less always followed the Jamie Oliver version (that you can find online). We ate ours outside – yay! – our first dinner outdoors for the season, and with Ben’s Pique Nique (unashamed plug)… it was hard for me to stop eating and drinking.

Perhaps a good thing it was just the one meal outside this week.

I hope you give it a try!



“Spaghetti aux palourdes’ (ie ‘vongole’, ‘clams’ Frenchie style)

+ 1.5 kg rinsed clams
+ 3 x roughly chopped ripe tomatoes/ 15 or so halved cherry tomatoes
+ 2 x finely chopped shallots (or 1x small onion)
+ 4 garlic cloves (I squash them under the knife and then add to pan without chopping)
+ 1 x cup white wine
+ small chopped chilli/ chilli flakes to taste
+ olive oil
+ large handful of chopped parsley and cracked pepper for serving

– Put a large pot of water on to boil*
– In a second large pot over medium-high heat, fry shallots in a generous serving of olive oil until golden
– Increase flame/ electric setting to high heat and add garlic, chilli and tomatoes, stir for 5 minutes, or until softened and colouring
– Add the white wine, stirring continuously

* while you are frying, check to see when water is boiling, and add pasta and cook until al dente

– Once liquid has heated up, pour in clams and put a lid on the pot
– Clams should start opening after 4-5 minutes, keep mixing them around/ shuffling the pot until open.

With clams cooked, pasta cooked – serve with generous scattering of parsley and – cheeky plug!! – a chilled glass of Pique Nique Blanc or Pique Nique Rosé!


Et voila! Bon appetit.

Kat xoxo

Chilli con carne

Chilli con Carne (paired with Benji’s ‘Benjamin Darnault 2019 Minervois’)

It’s blowing a gale out on this Autumn day – it’s miserable weather!
– a perfect evening to savour a heart and stomach-warning ‘Chilli con carne’!

Our daughter Lilas begged me for a long time to cook her a Chilli con Carne. She’d discovered the dish at a friend’s house and every time she returned home, would remind me of my promise to make our own.
There is only so long you can make an 8-year-old wait – so thanks to Lilas (just like the chocolate cake!) I have been making this version, found on Jamie Oliver’s website, ever since.

What’s good about this Chilli con carne? Chickpeas along with the kidney beans lightening it all up, making it a little less ‘meaty’.

A few tips –

  1. I always double the quantity from the original recipe, so listed here is my doubled version.
    To be honest, for people like me who chop slowly (!) it’s a time-consuming dish as you chop the vegetables finely – so I prefer to go for it and make more than less, with the bonus of (even tastier) left-overs (I am a huge left-overs fan!).
  2. I order half beef mince and half beef rib/topside pieces to use (and cut the beef chunks into 3-4cm pieces) as we enjoy the variation in texture. Using only mince, I find the meat ‘disappears’ into the sauce.
  3. For best, tasty results, cook this at least one day ahead. The spices really come through on day 2 (like a good red wine).

Chilli con carne

ingredients:

1kg beef (500g minced/500g beef rib or topside pieces)
olive oil
4 x onions
5 x cloves garlic
4 x carrots
4 x sticks celery
4 x red capsicum/peppers
1 tablespoon chilli powder *
1 tablespoon ground cumin *
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon *
2 x 400 g tin chickpeas
2 x 400 g tin red kidney beans
4 x 400 g tin chopped tomatoes
4 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

salt and pepper to taste
bunch of fresh coriander (separate leaves from stalks)

* I am constantly tasting the pot as it cooks and often add more

method:

method:

Peel and finely chop the onion and fry over a medium heat, in a large cast-iron pot, with a few tablespoons of olive oil, until slightly golden.

Add garlic and finely chopped carrot, celery, peppers and add the chilli, cumin, cinnamon, salt and pepper and fry until soft, about 15-20 minutes.

Add drained tinned kidney beans and chick peas and tomatoes, breaking up tomatoes, add chopped coriander stalks. Stir.

Add the beef, breaking up the mince and pour two cans of water and balsamic vinegar into pot.

Bring to the boil, then lower heat to simmer, and cover with lid (or ajar if you want it to reduce a little). Cook for about 1 hour.

Serve with steamed rice, Coriander leaves, yoghurt and fresh wedges of lemon or lime.

Cheeky plug…
Why not serve it with Benji’s beautiful Minervois* red – or if you like pairing spicy with a white wine, his Viognier?!*

Et voila!

Kat xoxo

*Benjamin Darnault Minervois 2019, available in the UK here and in the US here
*Benjamin Darnault Viognier 2019, available in the UK here and in the US here

Time for a perfect chocolate cake

HipstamaticPhoto-570725398.089199

First up. Let me explain why this cake.  Anyone who knows me knows I hate dessert.  Not hate exactly, but if it comes to ordering the Tarte aux Pommes or Crème Brûlée at a restaurant, I prefer looking up the cheese selection.  Even better, let me flick a few pages back and pore over the starters again: grilled squid, pan-fried scallops, croquetas… Imagining these small plates takes me back to the anticipatory thrill of seating yourself down at a table, excited by the unknown – ready to open that first bottle and savour that first sip.

chocolate

But!  I have a huge love for chocolate (why doesn’t everyone serve a discreet square of dark chocolate with coffee like they do in France?) – and many years ago, to mark a very important occasion, I stumbled upon this recipe.

To be honest, it was the first time I’d ever made a cake.  For the first time in my life, I had a sincere desire to bake because our baby Lilas (our first and only child) was about to turn one.  It was an important, necessary task.  There HAD to be a cake!

So here’s the recipe, and apart from reducing the cooking time and adding more chocolate than the original recipe, we have served this same cake for many birthdays since Lilas’ ‘premier anniversaire’.

(p.s. I have not ever since added the brandy or coffee.  For me, spare the confusion, I adore savouring each one on their own)

(p.p.s. If you are a lover of wine like me, you’ll find this cake is a beautiful companion to wine, be it a sticky, sweet Rivesaltes-style dessert wine, a lovely red, a fresh white and why not, a glass of bubbles.  There’s a pretty damn good one that I like to match it with too…

VW cremant

 

(adapted from Stephanie Alexander’s Chocolate and Almond Cake)

ingredients:

140g dark chocolate (70% cocoa or higher )

100g unsalted butter

100g ground (flour) almonds

100g castor sugar

3 eggs, separated

icing sugar (optional for sprinkling)

method:

Preheat oven to 160 degrees Celsius

Line a 18cm baking tin with baker paper

Melt the chocolate on the stove in a double-boiler/ bain-marie

When chocolate has melted add the butter

Stir together when melted and then add almond flour and sugar, mix well

Remove from heat

Lightly beat egg yolks and stir into mixture

Beat egg whites until firm and then fold slowly into mixture, pour into tin

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Bake for 25-30 minutes for a softish centre  (the original recipe says 40-45 minutes but I find the cake is dry and too cake-like)

Cool in tin and then remove

Serve with a dusting of icing sugar or surrounded by fresh strawberries or raspberries …and some sweet or sparkling wine 😺

Et voila!

Kat xoxo

La Force

If you could register* all the events in life – the good, the bad, the memorable and the ones you are reluctant to remember…  You cherish them, are thankful for them, ignore them, fear them.  They make you what you are and hopefully, influence you to carry yourself forward, strong and determined to keep looking around the next corner.

“Life’s not a straight line,” I still hear Mamy (my French grandmother) saying to me, many years ago when I’d had my first taste of mortality, at a time I would prefer to forget.  I was sitting there at rock-bottom, listening to the words of this discreet and loving 87 year-old woman as she reeled off dark events in her life (nursing my baby for me, far physically stronger than me – my baby the beautiful being in this heavy time).  She spoke with dignity and humility. I’d had no idea of what she’d been through in her life – this petite, elegant woman who I already loved for how she observed people around her (I was doing a hell of a lot of that myself, not understanding or speaking the language of my new home), her conspiratorial grin and her willingness to accept me into the foreign family I’d suddenly landed myself in.  I looked upon her with new eyes.  She told me with certainty I would get through this time.  Mamy’s strength and empathy empowered me.  I thought, if she got through all of that, I can.

Many events have followed this conversation – and amidst the beautiful, there’s bloody well been a steady drum roll of tough ones for our family in the last few years.  But I understand the thread that runs through all of them, the good the bad, that collects me in its force and nurtures me.  It’s love. I sound bloody kitsch.  I don’t want to imply ‘lurve’, the cliched Hallmark cards or tits and arse ideas of lurve. I mean the big love. Love for and from the people in this life with me.  It empowers me, making me cherish today and determined to see tomorrow.

*I’ve been OCD-recording visual images on my Instagram feed, vigneronswife