Pasta with Kale (in the absence of Cavolo Nero)

January is a dark, gloomy month for those of us in the Northern Hemisphere. For many of us it is a month of tightening the financial belt and loosening the trouser belt (whilst making plans to get fit) after the excesses of Christmas.

This is a dish which ticks all those resolution boxes – healthy, economical and it looks like Spring in a bowl, which is no bad thing. The garlic will ward away germs (or so my old Italian aunties always told me), it’s quick to prepare and you’ll feel comfortably full but without the feelings of guilt after eating this. Sounds good to me!

Even looking at it fills you with vitamins!
Even looking at it fills you with vitamins!

This dish was food for the poor folk…simple ingredients (although if you can afford to use your best olive oil, I’d highly recommend it) and no fuss to make.

Quantities are easily halved or doubled, I used regular kale as I didn’t have cavolo nero (also known as black leaf kale), and it was delicious. The colour was a more vibrant green than the almost black-green you get with cavolo nero.

Ingredients (to serve 2 people very generously)

  • 200g of kale leaves
  • Approx 100ml of extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cloves of garlic, peeled
  • Maldon (or coarse) sea salt and black pepper
  • Grated parmesan to serve (optional)

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil and cook the kale and 2 of the garlic cloves for about 5 minutes until soft. It needs to be slightly more than wilted, but not soggy. Drain and put into a food processor.

As you start processing the kale, add slugs of olive oil to the mix until you have a slightly sloppy paste – rather like pesto.

Pasta with Cavolo Nero (1)

Crush the remaining clove of garlic with a teaspoon of rough salt and add 2 teaspoons of olive oil then stir this into the kale mixture. Taste and season with extra salt and black pepper if necessary and then stir into your favourite pasta, making sure you keep a little of the cooking water to loosen up the pasta if necessary once you have added the kale.

To serve, add grated parmesan if liked and some folk even add a little extra drizzle of olive oil. Go on, I won’t tell anyone!

If you’d like to see how we make our olive oil in Spain, click here.

Pasta with Smoked Pork Belly and Black Olives and Breakfast in Biarritz

Driving through France on our little road trip we bought a few foodie souvenirs to remind us of Bordeaux. Some delicious wines, a piece of deliciously pungent cheese which we ate as part of a picnic and some wonderful cured pork belly. It was sold in a market from a butcher’s stall and was in the section with the salamis and cured meats. My French is a little rusty now but I think the lady who ran the stall was telling me that they cured it themselves and sold two versions – one smoked and one salted and peppered. Of course, we bought both!

I was too busy chatting to the butcher to take a snap, so here's one of the fish stall!
I was too busy chatting to the butcher to take a snap, so here’s one of the fish stall!

After leaving Bordeaux we stopped off for breakfast in Biarritz – it’s somewhere I had often hoped to visit and imagined the glamour of bygone days. It really was a quick pit stop but enough time to enjoy the beautiful coastal views and breakfast!

Le Petit Dejeuner
Le Petit Dejeuner

Back to the Pork Belly….It’s delicious cut into tiny pieces and enjoyed as a nibble with a glass of ice cold rosé wine. It’s equally wonderful when heated, in the same way you would use lardons. I made a quick, fresh tasting  pasta sauce to bring out the smokey flavour of this wonderful cut of meat and if you ever come across it…do buy some!

Pasta with Smoked Pork Belly (2)

Pasta Sauce to serve 2 people

  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • 4 ripe tomatoes cut into small pieces (save the juices too)
  • 2 heaped teaspoons of tomato purée
  • About half a cup of chopped smoked pork belly (or use bacon or lardons)
  • Half a cup of chopped black olives
  • A good splash of white wine
  • Salt and pepper
  • Olive oil

Put the water for your pasta on to boil and then start your sauce. Gently fry the garlic for a minute or two, until it starts to soften then add the tomatoes with their juices and cook for a couple of minutes until they start to break down. By now it’s probably time to put your pasta into the water, so go ahead, the rest of the sauce doesn’t take long.

Add the rest of the ingredients  and continue to simmer while the pasta cooks. Check and adjust the seasoning, drain the pasta and add the pasta to the sauce. Pour yourself a glass of wine and enjoy your speedy and delicious meal.

Crab, Lemon, Chili and Ricotta Ravioli and Mushroom and Tomato Ravioli

That’s a whole lot of ravioli, but as Chgo John will confirm, if you’re going to make ravioli, you may as well make plenty!

Ravioli (7)

A previous ravioli making session confirmed that they’re much easier and more fun to make if you work with friends. A recent Sunday lunch with girlfriends was a hands on affair – cooking first, eating later, but all accompanied with laughter, wine and chatting.

Ravioli (1)

We made half a kilo of pasta (500g of flour with 5 eggs, salt and a splash of olive oil) and two fillings. Weights are approximate, but will make filling for about 25 ravioli per filling and you may find you have enough pasta left over for making a little batch of tagliatelle.

Lemon & Chilli Filling

  • About 200g fresh ricotta
  • Approx 200g cooked crab meat (white and dark)
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh grated ginger
  • The grated zest of a lemon
  • 1 small red chilli, deseeded (or not!) and very finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper

Mix all the ingredients together, taste and adjust seasoning and use to fill your ravioli. We served these with melted butter melted butter mixed with a little crème fraiche, lemon zest and fresh rosemary with parmesan.

Ravioli (11)

Mushroom Filling with Tomato Sauce

  • 1 dozen medium sized mushrooms and stalks very finely chopped and fired gently with 2 cloves of crushed garlic and 1 teaspoon of finely chopped rosemary until softened
  • About 125g mascarpone cheese
  • ¼ teaspoon of smoked pimentón
  • ½ ball of mozzarella, finely chopped
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  • About 2 cups of thick homemade tomato sauce
  • Fresh parmesan

Mix together the mushrooms, pimentón, mascarpone and mozzarella to form a paté type paste, season and adjust if necessary. Use to fill your ravioli and serve with tomato sauce and freshly grated or thinly sliced parmesan.

Staple Guns and Happy Accident Pasta

It’s been a busy old time here and writing has been virtually impossible. Floorboards are up, plumbing is going down, kitchen units have been delivered and it’s freezing cold. Oh well, I think we’ve got to the stage where it can’t possibly get any worse, just better, so onwards and upwards.

In between the mucky stuff, we’ve continued to eat well. Never fear, Chica and Big Man won’t fade away. I had planned one evening to make a carbonara but got home to find, shock horror, not an egg in the house. As we have no chickens here, I had to make do and ended up with what I call my Happy Accident pasta.

Happy Accident Pasta (1)

I fried some garlic and finely chopped onion then added a few rashers of finely chopped smoked streaky bacon and a handful of sliced mushrooms.

When the pasta was cooked I kept a little of the cooking water and stirred in the bacon and mushrooms plus a good dollop of crème fraiche, some finely chopped spinach and about half a cup of chopped up dolcelatte.

Result? Creamy, delicious, quick pasta but most definitely not carbonara.

Then it was back to work tidying up some dining chairs we bought second hand. Quite a traditional style but it will work in the house. The chairs had a regency stripe silk material covering them but it had seen better days…many bottoms had clearly sat on them and enjoyed countless meals around the table.

Dining Chair Seats (3)

So it was off with old material.

Dining Chair Seats (4)

Cutting out of a new piece using the old one as a template (and the fabric was recycled too from a friend’s kind donation of unwanted curtains). Fortunately Luna and Alfi (who appears to be headless in the photo) were around to comfort test the fabric.

Dining Chair Seats (6)

A staple gun frenzy followed.

Dining Chair Seats (10)

Now we have six fancy new dining chairs…who wants to come round and help wear them out?!

Dining Chair Seats (13)

Speedy Pasta with Aubergine and Tomato Sauce

When I lived in London my life was, as you can imagine, very different from life Up The Mountain.  For a start I had a Proper Grown Up Job. And I travelled a lot, sometimes spending weeks living out of a suitcase or briefly stopping at home for a pit stop to repack the case.  At times like this my best friends were the local take away menus.  Luckily, I lived in an area that boasted an amazing amount of pretty good quality restaurants who could get something tasty to my doorstep within about 30 minutes of me placing a call.

When I moved to Spain, it took me a while to adjust to the fact that when I didn´t feel all that much like cooking it was either Big Man´s special fried eggs, or jamon, cheese and melon to eat. The nearest take aways or delivery services are, I imagine, in a town a 45 minute drive away.

Finally I realised that I could still have something tasty to eat in about the same amount of time as it would have taken me to decide what to order from the take away menu, make the call and wait for the delivery guy to show up.

This is one of my speedy suppers.  In the time it takes for a large pot of water to come to the boil and the pasta to cook, I have a delicious sauce made to serve with my favourite pasta, plenty of grated parmesan and I even get to swig a glass of wine while it´s cooking.  Well, I need a dash of wine for the sauce.

Per person you need half an aubergine finely diced, two cloves of crushed garlic, two medium tomatoes peeled and chopped, a large slug of wine, a tablespoon of chopped fresh herbs (I used a mixture of parsley and basil), seasoning and olive oil. I also use a crushed dried chili as I like my sauce spicy, but this is up to you.

Put the pot of water on to boil and sauté the aubergine until brown.  Now add the garlic and once it is softened add the tomato and seasoning and the chili if using.  Let the tomato cook down a little by which time you will probably be ready to put the pasta into the pot.  Add your wine and herbs to the sauce and let it bubble away gently until the pasta is cooked and ready to be drained. Taste and adjust the seasoning if necessary.

The sauce is a little like the one used in Pasta alla Norma  (ChgoJohn has a fine example of it here and Linda at Savouring Every Bite here).   These recipes give you a deeper tasting, richer sauce as it´s cooked for longer. Yum!

Now all you need to do is mix the sauce into the pasta, grate or shave over plenty of your favourite cheese, pour another glass of wine and think about how you are putting the fast food delivery services out of business.