Archive for the 'Jamie Oliver' Category

The best tuna meatballs

April 12, 2010


I love it when you buy a book second-hand and it still bears the imprint of previous ownership: train tickets used as bookmarks, notes in the margins, cooking stains, sentimental notes. In the case of ‘Jamie’s Italy’, it’s a nice piece of cream coloured card with the message ‘Malcolm and Carol – with very much love from Barney and Diana, 25th November 2005’. In pencil at the bottom someone has added ‘This can be exchanged!’

Well, judging by the flawless condition of the pages, I’d say Malcolm and Barbara didn’t get much use out of this gift. Still, I salute them for doing the charitable thing and giving it away instead of taking up the offer of a more suitable present (or maybe they just didn’t want to have to ask for the receipt?)

Either way, Barney and Diana – this one’s for you. I hope you like meatballs.

The best tuna meatballs  Serves 2

The name is Jamie’s, not mine, although I’m prepared to believe him – they were pretty great. I think I may have even improved them slightly by using some leftover rabbit stew topping from the freezer instead of the breadcrumbs; the main difference was the inclusion of fennel seeds, so I can recommend that as a nice addition.

The other major change I made was to increase the amount of tuna and decrease the amount of breadcrumbs, purely because Waitrose sells tuna in handy 250g packets.

For the tomato sauce:
olive oil
1/2 small onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, finely sliced
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
salt and pepper
red wine vinegar (optional)
small bunch parsley, chopped

For the meatballs:
250g tuna, diced
olive oil
25g pinenuts
1/2 tsp cinnamon
salt and pepper
1/2 tsp dried oregano
small handful parsley, chopped
50g breadcrumbs
1/2 tsp fennel seeds (optional)
25g parmesan, grated
1 egg
zest and juice of 1/2 lemon

150g spaghetti, tagliatelle etc. to serve

Start by making the sauce: heat a tablespoon or so of oil in a pan, add the onion and garlic, and fry over a low heat for about 10 minutes, until soft. Add the oregano, chopped tomatoes, some salt and pepper, and bring to the boil. Turn down the heat to a simmer and cook for 15 minutes, then turn off the heat and blend until smooth. Taste for seasoning – you may need to add a little red wine vinegar at this stage.

For the meatballs, heat another tbsp of oil in a frying pan and fry the tuna with the pinenuts, cinnamon and some seasoning for a couple of minutes, or until the tuna is cooked on all sides. Remove from the heat and tip into a mixing bowl. Allow to cool down for 5 minutes. Add the oregano, parsley, breadcrumbs, fennel seeds (if using), parmesan, egg, lemon zest and juice and mix well with your hands. Squeeze the mixture into balls about the size of a golf ball – I got 10 balls from this amount. It may help the shaping to have wet hands. Place the meatballs on a lightly oiled tray in the fridge for an hour or so.

When you’re ready to eat, put your pasta on to cook. Put the pan you cooked the tuna in back on the heat, adding a little more oil. Cook the meatballs until golden brown on all sides, which should take about 10 minutes. Reheat the tomato sauce if necessary.

Add the cooked pasta to the tomato sauce, mix, and serve with the meatballs and a sprinkle of chopped parsley.

Adapted from Jamie Oliver’s ‘Jamie’s Italy’.


Pasta e ceci

April 7, 2010

I’m back from Edinburgh, where the weather was surprisingly nice, actually, and the food was a bit hit and miss, though we were staying on the same street as a cheese shop which went some way to remedying that. We ate the most amazing nutty goat’s cheese but carelessly forgot to remember what it was called, so all we know is that it comes in black wax and is a bit like gouda. Next to the cheese shop was a shop selling strange alcoholic substances in giant tanks and we went in and asked them to decant us some somerset pomona and an elderberry and port liqueur. “Is this a present for someone who likes cheese, by any chance?” the shop lady asked. Er, yes. Us.

I also got quite excited in a shop called ‘I Heart Candy’ which had an entire display table dedicated to licorice. And we managed to spend over £7 on four marinated artichoke hearts in the Valvona & Crolla deli. Over seven whole pounds. On a small part of a vegetable. We savoured them later in Carlisle train station’s waiting room as we waited for our second crowded railway service replacement bus.

So, I’m back, and I was meant to be meeting friends for dinner at Jamie’s Italian tonight, but it got cancelled so I didn’t get to eat my favourite thing from the menu, which is the slow braised balsamic chickpeas. Instead I made this, and it should really come as no surprise that I liked it a lot. It’s somewhere between a soup and a stew, thick and rustic, and it’s the kind of simple tasting thing that you feel like you could happily carry on eating until you’re very, very full. It feels quite fortifying, as if you should be eating it after a bracing walk or when recovering from illness.  Even in good health, I’d rather have eaten this than several of the overpriced restaurant meals I ate last week, and I’d still have money left over for artichokes.

Pasta e ceci (pasta with chickpeas)  Serves 2-4

1 small onion, finely chopped
1 stick of celery, chopped
1 clove of garlic, finely chopped
extra virgin olive oil
a sprig of rosemary, leaves picked and chopped (I used thyme because I had it, but I love the combination of chickpeas and rosemary so can imagine it would be even better)
2 x 400g tins chickpeas
500ml chicken stock or vegetable stock
100g small pasta shapes (I used macaroni)
salt and pepper
small handful of basil or parsley, leaves picked and torn (optional)

Put the onion, celery, rosemary and garlic into a pan with a little olive oil over the lowest possible heat. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes until the vegetables are soft but not coloured.

Drain and rinse the chickpeas and add them to the pan. Pour on the stock and cook gently, covered, for half an hour. Remove half the chickpeas with a slotted spoon and set aside while you puree the remaining soup with a hand blender (or in a food processor if you don’t have a hand blender). Add the reserved chickpeas back to the pan with the pasta, season, and simmer gently for about 15-20 minutes until the pasta is cooked. Watch that the soup doesn’t start sticking to the bottom of the pan. Add water if necessary to get the desired consistency – I didn’t add much as I like soup to be thick. Check the seasoning.

Serve drizzled with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkled with basil or parsley if you have it.

From Jamie Oliver’s ‘Jamie’s Italy’.


March 30, 2010

This week’s book is my one and only Jamie Oliver, ‘Jamie’s Italy’. Well, actually it’s this week and next week’s book, as I’m off to Edinburgh for a wee break so it will be split across two weeks.

So here’s the first taste: caponata is a Sicilian aubergine stew with a sweet-sour taste. The sourness comes from the addition of vinegar, the sweetness is sometimes enhanced by raisins (although not in Jamie’s version). It’s simple and very good: the aubergines become deliciously soft and creamy, the almonds (sometimes pine nuts are used) add crunch, there are little sweet tomatoes and salty capers, and it all combines into something perfectly well-rounded. I had this for dinner with some couscous, followed up by these kale chips and a glass of sherry. Oh yeah, I know how to live, me.

Caponata  Serves 1 as a main course, 2 as a side

1 large aubergine
olive oil
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 onion (preferably red, but I only had brown), chopped
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
2 tbsp herb vinegar (I used plain red wine vinegar)
3 tomatoes, roughly chopped (I used about 15 teeny plum tomatoes)
small handful parsley, stalks and leaves separated and each chopped
1 tbsp slivered toasted almonds

Chop the aubergine into chunks. Heat a couple of glugs of olive oil in a large pan over a high heat (there should be room for the aubergine in more or less one layer) and fry the aubergine chunks with the oregano and a grinding of salt for around 5 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the aubergine is golden. Add more oil as needed if it starts to catch on the bottom of the pan.

Add the onion, garlic and parsley stalks and fry for another couple of minutes. Pour in the vinegar and, when it has evaporated, add the tomatoes. Turn down the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Serve sprinkled with the chopped parsley leaves and almonds.

Adapted from Jamie Oliver’s ‘Jamie’s Italy’.