Pappardelle with Rose Harissa, Black Olives and Capers

If there was ever any doubt that I enjoy a good pasta dish here is now your third post in a row talking about just another pasta sauce.

Before I talk about the sauce though I do need to mention up front that the pappardelle I used here were clearly not of high quality and also not long enough. I’m very rarely disappointed by the quality of store-bought pasta (I mean It’s pasta — what can go wrong really?) but I clearly should have splurged on a better alternative to these.

Pappardelle with Rose Harissa, Black Olives and Capers

Luckily, the rose harissa sauce more than made up for the disappointment of the noodles themselves. While I’m predisposed to like anything harissa this dish did have a little more finesse than my usual spice bomb that takes over the dish when I improvise with my favourite of all spicy ingredients. I really enjoyed the combination of harissa, capers, olives, tomatoes.

The capers and olives gave the sauce a lot of depth despite being very quick to make. This hint of depth did leave me longing for a little more developed flavour from the combination of all ingredients. A little patience will help next time, I believe

One of the more important insights from this experiment though is that a side of yoghurt works with pretty much any dish, even pasta. I would have not paired it but the yoghurt does play nicely with the spice. In a household like ours where different people enjoy different levels of heat it also is a great way to let everyone adjust as they go along.

All in all a great success: I will definitely make this one again!

Spaghetti with Spiced Cherry Tomato Sauce

When I read the recipe of this dish I felt it was inspired by pasta al’Arrabbiata, a spicy Italian tomato sauce often made with cherry tomatoes.

Fettuccine with Spiced Cherry Tomato Sauce

The cherry tomatoes give a certain level of sweetness to the otherwise very spicy dish. However, execution on this recipe seems paramount and I did not do a good job of reducing the sauce enough before finishing the dish. The result was a very wet pasta with the sauce not sticking well to the spaghetti (perhaps I should have used the fettuccine from the recipe which would have also helped). We live and learn!

Overall, I did find myself longing for a less watery sauce, more chilli, and a good amount of basil and cheese to complete the arrabbiata.

Orzo with Prawns, Tomato and Marinated Feta

It’s been a while since my last post! How can you trust that I have continued cooking more recipes without the evidence? The answer is you cannot (!) and here I am making good on my promise (mostly to myself) to write notes about every recipe I cook in this book.

This week I cooked another pasta dish. I enjoy pasta dishes for their versatility, the never-ending combinations of shapes, sauces, ingredients and, of course, for how quick they are to make, especially on a work night. This week’s dish featured orzo which basically looks and acts like fake rice (I apologise to the orzo purists of the world whom I’ve now gravely offended). Cooked in a single pot the orzo turned the sauce into a risotto-like consistency in just about 15 minutes.

Orzo with Prawns, Tomato and Marinated Feta

I find that prawns are very easy to overcook for those of us who wish to avoid poisoning our guests at the dinner table. I must say that I was rather proud of how I managed on these though which came out tasting extremely fresh and delicious.

The marinated feta was interesting but not necessary in my opinion. Perhaps it was the quality of the feta that was underwhelming or I should have diced it smaller. In its current form, however, I found the feta distracted from the quality and simplicity of the remaining dish.

Would I make this again? Absolutely! But I would leave out or experiment with the marinated feta a little more.

Going off-recipe: Puy Lentils with Aubergine, Tomatoes and Cucumber Raita

This week, I went off recipe and mixed two recipes that seemed to go well together in order to tackle some of the leftover vegetables in the fridge. I started with the puy lentils with aubergine and tomatoes as described in the book but decided to make an adaptation of the tomato and cucumber raita from the book instead of simply adding yoghurt. The result was a nice combination and goes to show that the two recipes do mix and leaving out a few ingredients doesn’t seem to hurt.

The aubergine for this recipe needed to bake for an hour so I used that time to make the cucumber raita (without tomatoes). Adding some preserved lemon and chilli elevated the yoghurt quite a bit and turned it into its own well-received dish.

As far as the aubergine and lentil mix goes, I probably added too many lentils (because I wanted to finish the bag). This caused the lentils to overwhelm the aubergine flavour somewhat. Not a big deal though as the result was still delicious. A very well-liked and nice aubergine leftover dish. I would make this again for the same reason.

Orecchiette with Chickpeas and Za’atar

It has been a while since I last posted but that does not mean that I have not been actively cooking more recipes! With things being a bit hectic at work and life in general it was ever-more important to me to find quick recipes that would not take a long time but would still be very interesting.

Orecchiette with Chickpeas and za’atar fits that requirement perfectly and already sounds like a good combination. This took me approx. 30 minutes to make and the outcome shows you don’t need to spend two hours in the kitchen to create a well-rounded dish.

Having cooked it I can also confidently state it has so far been the favourite of the household. While I think I personally still prefer the Puy Lentil and Aubergine Stew this is the new favourite of my two house mates and a close second favourite for me. Having eaten this I find myself wondering about more combinations of chickpeas and pasta.

Puy Lentil and Aubergine Stew

As I’ve previously mentioned, aubergines never used to be a big staple in my cooking. I did not grow up eating a lot of them and hence very few of my recipes in the family cookbook feature them. Having cooked quite a few dishes from SIMPLE now that with this vegetable as their star ingredient I must reconsider: their taste and versatility in a lot of different dishes have definitely impressed me have shown me what a fool I’ve been!

The puy and aubergine stew is another dish with aubergine as its star ingredient. And right off the bat I can say that this is probably is one of my favourite new recipe to make from the book. I cannot overstate how excellent and incredibly easy it was to make all at the same time.

The result reminds me of a mix between a nice and slow-cooked ratatouille and a hefty German lentil soup. I’m sure that’s not what Ottolengthi intended when the recipe was conceived but it works for me.

I must also say that the added Urfa chilli flakes give a very interesting spicy contrast to the zing from the creme fraiche. These chilli flakes are markedly different from the “regular” chilli flakes I normally find at the supermarket: while they provide spice levels they also seem to come with a certain level of depth and smokiness that I did not expect from a chilli — almost as if a fresh chilli had been preserved over a very long time. I’m looking forward to trying them in different recipes in the future.

It comes as no surprise that I will absolutely make this again: this is an excellent example of where the result is far great than the sum of its parts. Who would have thought that throwing together some aubergine, tomatoes and stock would result in such a delicious stew? Not me — that’s for sure!

Spinach and Gorgonzola-Stuffed Jacket Potatoes

Baked potatoes remind me of the time I have spent in the England. When I first came to England I found jacket potatoes a rather odd choice, particularly the combination of potatoes with baked beans. Like I have said before though I’m definitely partial to some potatoes.

These potato skins are stuffed with their own potato filling with the added butter and cheese. What could possibly go wrong?

This overall took quite a long time to make: 2 1/2 hours or so. Granted I didn’t do much during all this time and relied mostly on the oven. The gorgonzola gave this an interesting sharpness that paired well with the creamy potato mash.

The resulting potatoes tasted good, but I didn’t find them 2 1/2 hours-level-good. I can definitely imagine this as a slightly fancier side dish for a barbecue though.

Roasted Aubergine with Anchovies and Oregano

Today is a week night so I could not spend more as much time as I would on a Saturday but this shouldn’t stop me from making something new: roasted aubergine with Anchovies and Oregano.

I had not really planned for this recipe but it looked simple enough to get done in a short time. Since I also had some chicken in the fridge I also re-made Chicken With Miso, Ginger and Lime, hoping that the flavours would go together.

One note on the chicken: I was already much faster than last time preparing it all and I can definitely see this become a staple: mix it with some vegetables and spend most of the time waiting for it all to roast in the oven.

Back to the aubergine: this one also needed roasting — a true sign of a very simple dish — and therefore didn’t take much work, leaving me more time for the chicken preparation. Just before serving, mix it all together with an anchovy dressing and some parsley.

Roasted aubergine with anchovies and oregano is a lovely-looking side dish

I didn’t expect the aubergine to almost overpower the anchovies which is why I went a little lighter on those (I admit I could not really see aubergine and anchovies really working). But that’s exactly what happened. I plan to be braver next time!

Chicken With Miso, Ginger and Lime

Saturday was full of cooking for me to feed my friends at home and the star of the show for this dinner was the chicken with miso, ginger and lime (as a note on the side: I do enjoy the very descriptive recipe titles in SIMPLE).

I’m actually rather proud of how this came out of the oven, almost exactly like it was pictured in the book!

I haven’t cooked much with miso before this so I was very intrigued to find out more and see what kind of flavour it would impart on the chicken legs in just such a short period of time (there wasn’t really any time to let the chicken soak in the marinade). It worked great and the chicken had a very rich and deep flavour.

Using miso here in such a simple way inspired me to play around with it more. Just today I used some miso for some simple scrambled eggs with spinach for lunch which I can highly recommend doing.

The coriander stems and spring onions worked well in combination with the side dish of potatoes and the sauce which consisted of a mix of the marinade and the fat from the chicken was a real hit. The only problem? No leftovers…

New Potatoes with Peas and Coriander

Saturday was a cooking day for me and I volunteered to feed my friends at home with a variation of one of the example weekend suppers described in the book. The dinner started with a Chopped Salad With Tahini and Za’atar, followed by Chicken With Miso, Ginger and Lime, and potatoes with peas and coriander as a side.

Coming from Germany, potatoes have long played a huge role in many of my favourite dishes at home. My parents inherited their love for potatoes from my grandparents and it seems simply handed it down to me. A side of potatoes with peas and coriander simply had to impress then and was sure to be a home run!

New potatoes with peas and coriander

These potatoes did not disappoint.

It’s a side dish that I can imagine working with almost anything. It’s fantastically easy to make and this recipe even saw the return of my new favourite ingredient, the preserved lemon (see Braised Eggs with Leek and za’atar). The slightly tangy backdrop of the preserved lemon and the sharp taste of the coriander in a paste of peas complimented the potatoes extremely well and lightened the overall dish.

We actually had some leftovers and these tasted great the next day, too. I highly recommend making these to accompany any other main dish or even on their own. Seriously.