Friday, 30 March 2018

Fettucine with Smoked Mussels, Broccolini and Grape Tomatoes

For Valentine's Day I made a Thai Red Curry tomato soup and garnished it with steamed mussels. On impulse I bought extra mussels, and had my husband smoke them for another time. They have been calling me from the freezer ever since.

When I made cannelloni a couple of nights ago I had extra fresh pasta, so cut it into fettuccine and dried it. These two items were the inspiration for this dish.

Instead of  using Basic Tomato Sauce for a base, I used some of the heirloom cherry and grape tomatoes I had in the fridge, and combined them with fresh parsley, garlic and capers to make a chunky, fresh tomato sauce. This requires minimal cooking...just enough to warm the tomatoes and bring out the sweetness. This was perfect with the smoky mussels.

The dish needed something green, and the half bunch of broccolini left in the fridge was perfect...cut into shorter lengths and blanched in the pasta cooking water to lessen the cooking time in the pan with the mussels.

This was easy to make, and full of bright, bold flavours and textures. The smokiness from the mussels was not too overpowering, and I managed to use up quite a few food items in one tasty meal!

In a small bowl, combine the following:

2 cups grape tomatoes, halved
1 tablespoon capers
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon lemon juice

Set aside until needed.

In a heavy bottomed pan, using a bit of olive oil, cook:

1/2 medium onion, finely chopped
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
Pinch of salt

Cook until the onions start to soften.


Blanched broccolini, cut into 3" lengths

Cook for a couple of minutes, until the broccolini is hot and almost as tender as you like it.


1 cup smoked mussels

Cook for a couple of minutes, stirring often, until the mussels are heated through, and the broccolini is tender.

As soon as the mussels and broccolini are ready, add the tomatoes, garlic, capers and herbs that you prepared earlier.


1/4 cup pasta water

Leave on the heat just enough to warm the tomatoes.

Drain the fettuccine and toss with a bit of olive oil and chopped fresh basil.

Season lightly with salt and pepper.

Portion the fettuccine into shallow bowls...

.....and divide the mussels, broccolini, tomatoes and the rest of the sauce between the bowls.

  • Smoked mussels can be bought in cans, in grocery stores or fish shops. They are usually packed in oil, and this oil can add a lot of flavour to your pasta.
  • You can also use fresh mussels; add them to the pan along with the pasta water, cover and allow them to steam open. Serve them in the shells. Place a bowl on the table for people to discard the shells.
  • Feel free to use other shellfish...scallops, clams, crab, prawns. 
  • If you do not have grape or cherry tomatoes, use ripe tomatoes, finely chopped.
  • I was originally going to use fresh basil, but felt that it might clash with the mussels. Parsley has a milder flavour, so did not compete.
  • Capers, lemon and garlic are all excellent flavour with seafood...I used a lemon infused olive oil to toss the pasta, which added another layer of flavour.
  • You can also use white wine in the sauce if you have some...I used pasta water.

Tuesday, 27 March 2018

Chocolate Pear Cake with Mascarpone Filling

This rich, dense, moist and very chocolatey cake came about when I had a few things that needed to be used: 3 ripe pears, a couple of tablespoons of icing sugar, sour cream and some mascarpone cheese.

As I had no dark chocolate of any kind in the house I bought a slab of dark chocolate with 72% cocoa butter, and used some of that. This really intensified the chocolate flavour and richness.

The pears added moisture and sweetness, while the sour cream upped the richness factor even more. Despite the sugar and pears, this cake was not overly sweet to the taste, but dense, rich and screaming chocolate from every bite!

My idea to add a layer of mascarpone to the centre did not worked out quite as planned....instead of staying as an obvious separate layer, it melted and blended into the batter a bit, but this was not a bad thing at all.

In a stand mixer, using the paddle attachment, cream together:

6 ounces softened butter
1 1/2 cups sugar

When the butter and sugar are light and fluffy, add:

2 eggs, one at a time
1 teaspoon vanilla

Sift together the dry ingredients:

2 1/2 cups flour
1/4 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon


1/3 of the dry ingredients to the mixer, and mix on low speed until just combined.


1/4 cup sour cream

Mix until combined, and then scrape the bowl down.

Add the remaining dry ingredients in two additions, alternating with 1/4 cup sour cream.


3 ripe pears, cored

Add the grated pear to the batter, along with:

1/4 cup finely chopped dark chocolate

Mix gently until just combined

To make the mascarpone filling, combine:

3 ounces mascarpone
2 tablespoons icing sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon milk

Mix in:

2 tablespoons finely chopped dark chocolate

Turn the oven on to heat up to 350F. Lightly grease a bundt pan.

Spread 1/3 of the chocolate pear batter on the bottom of the prepared pan.

Gently spread the mascarpone filling on top of the chocolate pear batter, keeping it away from the sides of the pan.

Place the remaining chocolate pear batter on top of the mascarpone and carefully spread it evenly in the pan.

Bake until the cake has risen, is slightly cracked in the centre and a wooden slewer inserted into the centre of the cake comes out clean.

This took around 60 minutes in my oven.

Allow the cake to cool in the pan for about 10 minutes, before inverting it onto a cooling rack. Leave to cool to room temperature before cutting and serving. This cake actually tastes even better the following day, so if you can make it a day ahead, do so; the richness of the chocolate intensifies.

I served the cake with afternoon coffee, but it can be served as a dessert...simply add some whipped cream!

  • For the liquid ingredients in the batter, buttermilk, or plain yoghurt can be used instead of sour cream.
  • Instead of pears, try grated apple, zucchini, boiled or roasted (not pickled) beets. You will need 2 cups of whichever alternative you choose to use.
  • If you have chocolate chips, use those.
  • Mascarpone is not something that I buy very often, and I had actually been trying out a recipe to make some with leftover whipping cream. I was happy with the result, but needed to use it for something, and it was a very small amount. 
  • Cream cheese can be used instead of mascarpone.
  • The mascarpone can be flavoured with lemon or orange zest as well.
  • This cake can be made in two loaf pans if you do not have a bundt pan.
  • In the event that you have any cake left, it can be frozen...wrap it well.

Friday, 23 March 2018

Chicken Breasts in a Curried Chutney Sauce

What a tasty way to use the last half cup of peach chutney in the jar! Paired with the spice of curry powder, this sauce was on the sweeter side, with a lot of spice from the curry powder and chutney. I added some dried apricots for their chewy texture, and used up half an onion as well.

On a plate, combine:

1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons curry powder
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon salt

Cut into cubes:

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

Add the chicken to the curry-oil mixture and turn to coat all sides of the chicken.

Using a small amount of olive oil, sear the chicken in a hot pan.

Remove the chicken and set aside. Keep the pan for making the sauce.

In the same pan, using a small amount of olive oil if needed, cook until soft and slightly coloured:

1/2 medium onion, sliced


1 teaspoon curry powder

Cook, stirring for a minute.

Stir in:

1/2 cup chutney


1/2 cup chicken stock

Bring to a boil, and turn down to a simmer.


8 - 10 dried apricots, sliced

Add the seared chicken back to the pan. Cover and simmer until the chicken is fully cooked.

Uncover, taste and adjust seasoning.

Stir in:

2 green onions, sliced

Serve the chicken on a bed of basmati rice and green peas.

  • This was an easy dish to put together, taking only as long as it took to cook the rice.
  • The chicken breasts can be left whole and baked or simmered in the sauce.
  • Other meat options include chicken drumsticks or thighs; firm white fish; pork tenderloin or chops.
  • The spiciness (heat) can be increased by adding chili flakes or cayenne pepper.
  • If you find that the sauce is too sweet, add some lemon juice.
  • The chutney I used was a peach chutney; you can use any chutney you have available.
  • The apricots can be omitted, or can be replaced with other dried fruit such as raisins.
  • Leftover chicken can be added to wraps for lunch.

Monday, 19 March 2018

Green Salad with Papaya, Salted Honey Macadamias and a Poppyseed Dressing

As the weather starts to change we notice that we are wanting lighter meals, and I start making salads more often. I had half a papaya, some macadamia nuts and spinach to use...and I am still working on using that huge container of honey I bought, which is starting to crystallize.

The greens in my salad were a mixture of baby spinach and romaine hearts, and I made a poppyseed dressing, using more of the honey and some rice wine vinegar.

I made these nuts a couple of weeks ago, and we loved them, so I made them again. Quick and easy, all in one pan, and they have the sweet and salty contrast. I have some spiced salt, that is seasoned with cayenne pepper and smoked paprika, so it added a kick of heat and beautiful red colour to the nuts.

This salad was full of colour, contrasting tastes and textures...creamy dressing, crunchy greens, soft and sweet papaya, and nuts that added crunch, sweetness, saltiness and spice!

Start off with the nuts. Prepare a piece of foil for the nuts to cool on by lightly greasing it with some olive oil. Set aside until needed.

In a heavy bottomed nonstick pan, heat:

1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon olive oil

When the honey and oil are hot add:

2/3 cup raw macadamia nuts

Continue to cook over  a medium heat, stirring often, until the nuts are well coated and starting to toast, and the honey and oil are thick and bubbling.

Stir in:

1/4 - 1/2 teaspoon salt (mine was seasoned with cayenne pepper and smoked paprika)

Immediately scrape the hot nuts and caramel onto the prepared foil and leave to cool completely.

To make the poppyseed dressing, combine the following with a hand blender in a large measuring jug:

1 egg yolk
1 1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
4 teaspoons honey
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced shallot

Add and blend in:

1/4 cup olive oil

Then slowly, while continuing to blend, add:

1/2 cup vegetable oil

Taste and adjust seasoning.

Stir in:

1 tablespoon poppyseeds

To finish off the salad, place the washed greens in a large bowl, and gently toss with the dressing. Add a little at a time, you only need enough to coat the greens; save the rest for another salad.

I used a combination of baby spinach and romaine hearts.


1/2 papaya, peeled, seeded and chopped

Gently mix it with the dressing and greens.

To plate the salad, mound the greens in the centre of each plate, adding the papaya and salted honey macadamia nuts around the outside. I cooked some smoked pork tenderloin to round out the meal.

  • As with all salads, use your favourite greens, or those that you have available. I had some spinach to use, and added some romaine hearts to make sure there was enough. Some options included arugula, beet greens, radish sprouts, curly endive or a mix of different lettuces.
  • Seasonal fruit is always good in a salad, it adds colour, freshness, sweetness. Try fresh berries, peaches, plums, figs, pears or grapes.
  • Not everyone likes poppyseeds, but I do. They can be omitted if you are not a fan. They do add a unique flavour, as well as crunch. I like to add them to egg salad as well.
  • Macadamia nuts are not something I have in the house very often, and I am sure that goes for most people. The great thing about nuts is that they are basically interchangeable, especially in a recipe like this, so go ahead and mix it up.
  • Plain sea salt can be used. You can add your own smoked paprika and cayenne pepper if you want the heat, or omit it if you don't. Add as much or as little salt as you are comfortable with.
  • Green or red onion can be used instead of shallot for the dressing. Fresh chives could also be used...add them at the end so that the colour and texture remain.
  • You can use maple syrup instead of honey in the dressing. If you have a strong flavoured honey such as Manuka honey or thyme honey that will be a good choice as well.
  • Add protein to complete the meal....I used pork tenderloin, but you can add chicken or fish.

Thursday, 15 March 2018

Potato, Cauliflower and Leek Soup with Cambozola Cheese

A couple of nights ago I made scalloped potatoes, with leeks and cauliflower to serve with our chicken. There was a small amount left, and as we hadn't eaten it for lunch I used it to make soup.

Obviously this would not be enough to make soup for two people, but there was still some cauliflower and half an onion in the fridge, a couple of potatoes that were beginning to get a bit soft,  as well as some chicken stock in the freezer.

A small piece of Cambozola cheese caught my eye...this would be a perfect addition to the soup, and I also made some black pepper and rosemary biscuits, as I had used rosemary in the scalloped potatoes.

There was whipping cream in the scalloped potatoes, which added enough creaminess and richness for me, so I used only chicken stock, and added milk to adjust the consistency of my soup.

Adding the Cambozola to the bowl gave the option of eating the cheese as it was, taking it out and placing it on the biscuits, or stirring it in to melt into the hot soup. Whichever way you go, it's a win all around!

Cook in a bit of olive oil:

1/2 medium onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, peeled
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

When the onions and garlic are softened and starting to colour slightly, add:

2 russet potatoes, peeled and chopped
1/4 of a cauliflower, chopped


3 cups chicken stock

Bring to a boil, then turn down to simmer.


1 1/2 cups leftover scalloped potatoes (see the post Potatoes Two Ways)

Simmer until the potato and cauliflower chunks are soft.

Puree the soup, using a hand blender or food processor.

Taste and adjust seasoning, and adjust the consistency by adding either milk or chicken stock if needed.

To serve, ladle the hot soup into a bowl, and top with 3 slices of Cambozola cheese, and garnish with a sprig of rosemary, passing bread at the table... I made black pepper and rosemary biscuits instead of bread.

  • If you do not have leftover scalloped potatoes, use a large leek instead of onion. Increase the amount of cauliflower to one small cauliflower, and when the soup has been pureed, add 1 cup of whipping cream.
  • I used rosemary in the scalloped potatoes, so I also used it in my biscuits. Other herbs can be used in the soup if you like....thyme is a good choice.
  • If you have Parmesan rinds, add them to the soup while it cooks, removing them before you puree it. 
  • Blue cheese and cauliflower are a natural flavour combination, so add crumbled blue cheese if you have it instead of Cambozola. Goat cheese or grated Parmesan can also be used.