Beef stew

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The weather over here continues to surprise me, there is no trace of the dry and sunny days we’ve been enjoying for the last two weeks. It is raining again, the sky is grey and it is hard to believe we are in mid-summer. I do not know about you but for me weather and food are intrinsically connected..as soon as I lack sunlight I tend to crave comfort food ūüôā Food that fills me up and makes me feel good. This ¬†stew is comfort food at its most comforting. And despite it is a humble dish, with a few ingredients, it always¬†does the magic for me with its sheer deliciousness. ¬†Stews vary from cuisine to cuisine but what the majority of them have in common are the chunky pieces of meat (mainly beef) and vegetables, simmered ¬†for several hours.

I am a big fan of one-pot meals as they provide not only for unfussy cooking but also maximum flavour. Just think of the meat, vegetables, herbs and olive oil blending beautifully and flavouring each other.  This hearty stew is Italian-inspired and is sure to satisfy.

Ingredients:

500 g boneless beef chuck cut into cubes

4 medium onions chopped coarsely

5 medium sized carrots, peeled and halved

5 cloves garlic, halved

500 g canned tomatoes, chopped

6 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 water cup dry red wine.  I always use wine that I like to drink on its own in my cooking.

3 cups water

2 sprigs fresh thyme

A handful of fresh chopped oregano. If using dry oregano-a teaspoon.

A handful of fresh chopped parsley

3 cups water

Salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons plain flour

Heat three tablespoons of olive oil in a pot (if you have a Dutch oven, even better) over medium-high heat. Season the beef chunks with salt and pepper then dredge in flour. Brown them well on all sides in the heated olive oil. Remove from the pot with a slotted spoon and set aside. Add the additional olive oil to the pot and sauté the chopped onion, stirring occasionally, for about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and stirring constantly sauté for half a minute. Remove from the pot. Pour the wine, scraping the browned bits from the bottom of the pot, and simmer until reduced, about 2 minutes. Return the meat and onions to the pot, add tomatoes, carrots, thyme and chopped oregano. Stir in salt and black pepper to taste, add water and cover with the lid.

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Simmer for 2 hours over low heat until the beef is very tender. After that uncover the pot and cook for additional 1/2 hour. Before serving discard the thyme sprig and stir in the chopped parsley.

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I served the stew on a bed of rice pilaf but it is also delicious with mashed potatoes, polenta or pasta.

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Lasana with spinach and cottage cheese

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I am a devoted¬†carnivore ūüôā ¬†but ¬†funnily enough I prefer my lasana meatless. I make both the meat and vegetarian versions but my preference goes firmly for the latter. Spinach, cottage cheese and tender noodles provide for a very tasty combo. ¬†If you are into that make this tummy-filling and absolutely enjoyable, from the first bite to end, lazana recipe. ¬†I bought no-boil noodles but I did blanch them for 2-3 minutes in salted boiling water because my boys prefer them very tender. Add 3-4 noodles in the boiling water and take them out with a¬†slotted spoon. I do not rinse the noodles with cold water, instead I line them in a plate and use as I alternate noodles/filling layers.

Ingredients:

500 g (1 package) lazana noodles

250 g cottage cheese

500 g spinach

1 onion and two cloves of garlic

500 g (1 package)  tomato sauce passata

150 g parmesan (yellow cheese will also do)

3 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil and more for drizzling

Freshly ground pepper

3-4 leaves of fresh basil

Salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 200 C. Heat the olive oil in a large pan and sauté the onion, add the finely chopped garlic and cook just for a few seconds.  Add the washed and chopped spinach and wilt until there is little liquid left.  Season with salt and set the pan aside. Season the cottage cheese with salt, pepper and a drizzle of olive oil. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add 3-4 lazana noodles. The pasta just needs to become flexible, about 2-3 minutes. Assembling your lazana goes simultaneously with boiling the noodles. Spread a thin layer of tomato sauce on the bottom of the baking dish, add some finely chopped basil and top with a layer of noodles.

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Top the noodles with half of the spinach and cheese mixtures.

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Drizzle with 5-6 tablespoons of tomato sauce and top with the next layer of noodles. Repeat with the other half of cheese/spinach mixtures, tomato sauce and top with the last layer of cooked noodles. Add the remaining tomato sauce and drizzle on some olive oil and 5-6 spoons of the water where the noodles cooked. Top with parmesan and cover with aluminium foil. Bake for about an hour and 15 minutes , removing the foil for the last 15 minutes to brown the top. Allow the baked lazana to sit for 10-15 minutes before slicing.

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Tagliatelle alla Carbonara

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Is there anything yummier than luscious Carbonara! I should think not!  It is hard to resist a plate  of tagliatelle  coated in velvety smooth Carbonara sauce. They say Romans are crazy about this dish, well even though I am not an Italian I find it difficult not to love it.  Every ingredient is ultra tasty in its own,  let alone when brought together. An explosion of flavours and ultimate indulgence for me.

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I jumped from joy when I found pancetta in one of the supermarkets in Gjakova yesterday and I knew Carbonara will be on my to-do list today. The recipe I am presenting deviates a bit from the authentic Roma one but hey I told you I am not an Italian and sometimes I like to improvise with my preferred flavours.  Cured pancetta combined with tagliatelle, silky cream and eggs explodes in glorious yumminess  when topped with salty parmigiano. To me this is not an every day dish but rather I-am-sick of dieting-and salads-every-day-and-I feel-indulgent-gimme-some real-food one. If you like to splurge like me from time to time, you may well do it the right way and try this recipe.

Ingredients:

500 g tagliatelle

200 g cubed pancetta or bacon

1 small onion finely chopped

2 eggs

200 g sour cream

150 g grated parmigiano (Parmesan)

2 tablespoons of olive oil

1/2 glass of water

Salt and pepper to taste

First, put a large pan of water with a generous pinch of salt  on to boil for the pasta. In another large pan, which will fit the pasta later, add the olive oil and cook the onion until translucent. Add the pancetta (or bacon) cubes and cook until crispy.

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 When ready take the pan off the heat and set aside. In the meantime you will have had the pasta cooking. In a bowl whisk together the cream and water, then add the eggs and half of the parmesan cheese. Season with little salt and black pepper. Put the pan with the pancetta (or bacon) cubes back on the heat again and add the drained pasta. Toss well quickly and take off the heat again. Let it sit for just a minute. Add the eggs, cream and cheese mixture and toss swiftly everything. It is the heat of the pasta that will heat the eggs and create a creamy sauce. If you keep the pan on the heat however you will end up with scrambled eggs. You do not want that! You want a smooth creamy sauce! If your sauce turns too thick thin with a little water from the cooked pasta.

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Serve at once with parmesan on top, freshly ground black pepper and parsley (optional).

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