Love To Cook

Green Minestrone Soup – Serves 6

This delicious soup is a meal in itself and is also very healthy, perfect for the cold February days when not much is fresh in season.

60ml of Extra virgin olive oil
3 celery sticks, finely chopped
1 red onion, chopped
2 carrots, chopped
1 garlic clove, finely sliced
2x400g cans chopped tomatoes
1 kg of Swiss chard
1x400g jar/can borlotti beans, drained (rinse if canned)
Salt and black pepper
Good quality olive oil, to serve

1. Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the celery, onion, carrots and garlic. Cook on a low heat for 20 minutes until soft, stirring occasionally.
2. Put in the tomatoes and stir, then cook for a further 20 minutes, stirring occasionally.
3. Meanwhile, remove the Swiss chard leaves from the stalks. Finely chop the stalks; keep the leaves whole. Blanch the leaves in a large pan of boiling salted water for about 3 minutes until tender. Remove with tongs to a colander to drain, then roughly chop and set aside.
4. Add the chopped stalks to the pan of boiling water and cook for 3 minutes until tender. Drain well in the colander set over a bowl (reserve the blanching water). Set the stalks aside.
5. Add the borlotti beans to the tomato mixture and cook for a further 10 minutes before pouring in the 400ml of the chard blanching water. Bring to the boil, then simmer for 5 minutes.
6. Add the chard leaves and stalks. Season with salt and pepper. If you want a smoother soup, blitz it for 10 seconds using a hand blender- this will give you a creamy but still chunky consistency. Serve the soup hot, with a good dash of high-quality olive oil added to each bowl.

Recommended Wine: Pinot Noir (New Zealand)

Fish en Papillote – Serves 4

This recipe is straight from the 60s-70s, a true classic. Many years ago, I was working for a restaurant once and this was one of their most sold dishes. Even if February is not the best season, I love to use mackerel for many different reasons, mackerel are part of the oily fish family so they come packed with omega 3 and vitamin A calcium. Mackerel is now classified by nutritionist as a “superfood”, making them in the same category of beetroots, avocados, etc. The best mackerel in England are usually on the market between September and November but are available all year round. This is an interesting way to cook mackerel, stuffed, wrapped in greaseproof paper and finally deep fried. This makes a substantial supper dish that requires no accompaniment.

100g brown rice, cooked
100g spring onion, trimmed and chopped
small bunch of watercress
100g dried apricot, soaked overnight, then chopped
50g butter, softened
30ml lemon juice
4 mackerel about 10-12oz each, cleaned and boned
Oil for frying
Salt and black pepper

1. For the stuffing, stir together in a bowl the rice, onion, watercress and the apricots, with salt and pepper to taste. Combine with the butter and the lemon juice.
2. Lightly grease four 12inch squares of greaseproof paper. Fill each fish cavity care fully with the stuffing, then place the fish on the greaseproof paper and fold the paper to make four sealed parcels.
3. Heat the frying oil in a heavy based pan, try not to heat the oil to much. Ideally should be around 170c (355F), fry the parcels for 7 minutes.
4. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on kitchen paper. Serve immediately and enjoy!

Recommended Wine: Riesling (Austria or Germany)

Boiled orange, Almond and Rosewater Cake – Serves 8-10

The addition of rosewater gives this old favourite a Middle Eastern flavour. This very moist cake is good served with cream and a strong coffee.

3 medium oranges
250g caster sugar
350g ground almonds
6 eggs
2 tsp baking powder
100ml rosewater
150ml orange juice
zest of 1 orange, cut in thin long strips
150g white sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 180c. Line a 9-10in cake tin with baking paper. Wipe oranges well and place in a deep saucepan with enough cold water to cover. Bring to the boil and cook lid on for 20 minutes.
2. Remove the oranges from the pan and cool for 20 minutes. Cut in half and remove any seeds, then place in a food processor, skin and all. Add caster sugar and process for 30 second.
3. Add almonds, eggs, baking powder and half of the rosewater and puree’ for 10 seconds. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and puree’ for a further 10 seconds. Pour the mixture into the tin and bake for 60 minutes.
4. Check after 50 minutes by inserting a skewer into the centre of the cake. It should come out slightly moist, but if you think it need more cooking, cover the tin with foil and cook until done.
5. Cool for 30 minutes in the tin before removing and placing on a plate. Meanwhile, bring orange juice, zest and sugar to the boil, simmer until syrupy, then remove from the heat and add the remaining rosewater. Prick the top of the cake 20 times with a skewer and spoon the syrup over. It’s ready to serve. Enjoy!

Recommended Wine: Prosecco Valdobbiadene (Italy)

Simone Conti

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