Conchiglioni Rigati Stuffed with a Ragu Bolognese

Conchiglioni Rigati are large pasta shells, which I think look lovely. Each shell stuffed with a rich meat sauce that's been slowly cooked with red wine with tomatoes and other good things. Topped with a white sauce and finished with a good amount of Parmesan cheese is delish and well worth the fairly long cooking time.

This recipe will serve 6 or 4 quite greedy people
Printable Recipe

You will need:
One large or two medium sized ovenproof dishes
400g Conchiglioni Rigati pasta (large pasta shells)
200g Parmesan, freshly grated

For the Meat Sauce:
2 onions
1 carrot
1 stick celery
4 fat cloves of garlic
80g of either smoked streaky bacon or pancetta
1 tablespoon tomato puree
5 or 6 sun dried tomatoes drained from their oil (or re hydrated dried ones)
30g butter
1 tablespoon olive oil
250g minced beef
250g minced pork
1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes – including the juice
160ml red wine
3 bay leaves

For the Béchamel sauce:
100g butter
70g plain flour
560ml milk
salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste
freshly grated nutmeg

How to do it:
Peel the onions and carrots and chop into big cubes. Do the same with the celery. Peel the garlic cloves and put them all including the bacon into a food processor and finely chop to almost a paste.
Don’t bother washing the processor up just yet – hold up on that as you’ll need it again in a minute!
Heat the butter and oil in a large pan and fry this mixture along with the tomato puree over a low heat and cook for about 10 minutes or until soft.
Now add the beef and pork and stir it about a bit until it browns evenly.
While this is cooking nicely add the sun dried tomatoes to the food processor and give them a good whizz up so you end up with a tomato paste.
Add this paste to the meat. Give everything a good stir.
Add the tomatoes, red wine and bay leaves. Stir well and bring to the boil.
Now turn down the heat and cover with a bit of kitchen foil or a lid but only partially cover.
Let this mixture cook for about on a low heat for about 1 and half hours stirring now and then. It shouldn't go dry unless you have the heat too high.
If it does you will need to add a teeny bit more wine or water if you must.

For the Sauce:
Melt the butter in a saucepan then add the flour and stir and cook together. Take off the heat briefly, and whisk in the milk with a hand held balloon whisk.
Now put back on the heat stirring all the time.
Once the sauce is bubbling leave it for a few minutes to cook stirring all the while.
Season with salt and pepper and turn down the heat and cook until slightly thickened.
You want a fairly running sauce. When that’s done remove from the heat and stir in some freshly grated nutmeg.
Preheat your oven to 200C/400F/ Gas 6
Put a large pan of slightly salted water on to boil ready for your pasta. When it’s boiling add the pasta shells. Cook them until they are almost done (al dente). You don’t want soggy pasta.

Drain the pasta shells and let them cool at bit.
One at a time, fill each shell with a good spoonful of the meat sauce (bay leaves removed) and place meat side up and side by side in your baking dish.
Keep going until you've no room left in your dish or dishes if you your making two lots.
Now pour the white sauce over and in between the shells. Sprinkle the top generously with grated Parmesan – you can mix in some grated cheddar too if you fancy.
Cover loosely with foil and cook for about 25 minutes - if you let the sauce get cold before you made this then it will of course take a bit longer to heat through.
Now remove the foil and cook for another 10 minutes until it’s cooked through, piping hot and the top is bubbling, golden and crispy.


Ciabatta with Parsley Garlic and Parmesan

Crunchy, garlicky, cheesy bread, oozing with extra virgin olive oil. Probably no good for you whatsoever - but it is nice!

Ciabatta with Garlic and Parmesan

When buying Parmesan only ever buy 'Parmigiano Reggiano' if it doesn't have that on it then it's not the same stuff and it wont taste half as good as the real thing. 

Chinese Curry - Tastes Just Like Takeaway

Have you ever wondered how they make the kind of Chicken Curry you get from the takeaway? Well read on and find out how.  Of course, I can only speak of the kind of curry we get here in the UK Chinese restaurant's and takeaways.

Chinese Chicken Curry

There are two sauce's you need. One is 'Hot and Spicy' Curry Sauce Concentrate and the other is a sauce mix sold in a packet, brand name Mai Mai and is called 'Genuine Chinese Curry Mix'.
It was my brother Michael that first dabbled about in the kitchen and came up with this recipe which it has to be said is spot on.

Also you might wonder, as I did, how the chicken is always so tender in Chinese restaurants?  I asked the woman in a Chinese supermarket how it was done and this is what I was told. All I can say is, it may sound strange, but it works!  Frying cubes of chicken can sometimes result it being a bit on the tough side.


Pak Choi Stir-Fry Recipe - Virtually Fat Free

Pak Choi stir fried with ginger, garlic, chili and oyster sauce.
Two or three minutes and it's on the table! The rice as the accompaniment is the only thing that takes any time at all.

The best news is, this dish is virtually fat free!  Pak choi or Bok choy are easily available in most large UK supermarkets, for example, Tesco, Asda and Sainsbury's. I could only get red Pak choi but I don't imagine it tastes any different.

Pak Choi Stir Fry

My photos aren't too amazing but you get the idea. You will need a wok for this. You can use as little or as much of each ingredient, it will depend on your taste. So the amounts I've listed are very 'ish' amounts.

Caramelised Carrot Chutney with Sultanas

No quite knowing what to do with the amount of carrots I had in the fridge, I decided chutney was the way to go!

Now, I've never made chutney in my life so after searching the net and coming up with lots of Indian based chutneys (nice but not what I wanted) I made this up out of bits and pieces from three different recipes. 

I liked the idea of sultanas - so in they went too. All I can say it it tastes nice - looks like it ought to and above all was easy to make.

Parma Wrapped Chicken Stuffed with Apricots - Served with Stilton Sauce

Chicken fillets, wrapped in Parma ham and stuffed with apricots - simple and yet so good.
The Stilton sauce goes really well with the sweetness of the apricots. To serve, you will of course, need nice big fat chips and lots of them and a side salad.

Paul had this in a restaurant we went to a while back, ever since he's been on to me to make it, s
o here it is.

Preheat the oven to 200C/400F or Gas 6

You will need to serve 2:

clingfilm and something flat and bashable
2 skinless chicken fillets - nice big ones
4 slices of Parma ham
about 6 to 8 apricots - not fresh, you want the soft dried ones for this
salt and white pepper to season

olive oil for drizzling

For the Stilton Sauce:

10ml (a small amount) of olive oil
1 shallot - finely chopped

100ml double cream

150g Stilton cheese

freshly ground black pepper

How to do it:
Place a chicken fillet between cling film and bash it out till it's flat - don't go too mad as you don't want it to tear.
Lightly season with pepper on both sides and only one side with salt. The side you are going to wrap the Parma ham around wont need salt as the ham is salty.

Chop the apricots into small dice and place in the center of the fillet. Roll it over and use Parma ham to wrap in to a parcel. Repeat with the second fillet.
Place the chicken fillets into a shallow baking dish and drizzle with olive oil.
Put into your preheated oven for about 25 minutes or until cooked through. Remember, as they are thin they will cook quicker than normal.

Now you can make the sauce:
Heat a little olive oil in a small saucepan. Gently cook the shallots until they are tender - about 10 minutes. Don't let them colour.
Cut the Stilton into chunks and add that to the saucepan. Let it melt for a few minutes. Stir using a wooden spoon.
Now you can add almost all of the cream. Let it cook on a gentle heat until the cheese has melted.

See what sort of thickness it is and add the rest of the cream if you need to. 100ml is normally about right for that amount of cheese. The sauce should be thick 'ish' - not thin and watery.
Add a little black pepper and turn off the heat till your ready to serve.
When the chicken is done you can heat the cheese sauce through.


Food Hygiene

It is so important to have a good knowledge and standard of hygiene when handling and cooking food. Poor standards can result in serious illness.

I've just completed an online course for a Food, Hygiene and Safety Certificate.
The course was so easy to follow and I completed the whole thing from start to finish this morning.
I also found it very interesting and as it's an e-learning course, you don't even have to leave your home to complete it. The certificate is posted straight to your door!

Even if you don't cook in a professional kitchen, you'll benefit from knowing how to keep your kitchen and its equipment in the best and safest condition possible.

Roasted New Potatoes, Peppers and Vine Tomatoes with Harissa

Roasted new potatoes, peppers and vine tomatoes basted in olive oil and Rose Harissa paste. The tomatoes end up almost melting, creating a lovely sweet tasting coating for the potatoes and peppers.
There's no real recipe to this one, I made up as I went along

New potatoes cut to mak
e them of equal size if they aren't already.
Red Bell pepper, cut into strips. Throw them into a shallow baking dish pour over a good amount of extra virgin olive oil.
Season well with sea salt and pepper.
Sprinkle over a pinch of dried oregano and freshly picked thyme le
Mix with your hands to coat everything nicely and then stir through a good dollop of Rose Harissa paste.

Put a bunch of vine tomatoes on the top, drizzle them with olive oil.

Bake in a preheated ove
n 200C/400F or Gas 6 for about 40 to 50 minutes or until the potatoes have cooked through. You will want to move everything about a bit half way through.
Test by inserting a sharp knife. Remove the stalk form the tomatoes and serve immediately.

Harissa paste is available from any good supermarket and if I do say so myself this is one seriously yummy side dish.
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