Monthly Archives: October 2015

Mushrooms in Red Wine and Miso Sauce



Mushrooms are too often just fried and served, or buried in a pie. This recipe, although it is for a side dish,  brings them centre stage, and it is so simple to put together, taking just over 25 minutes to prepare, cook and serve.

A word of warning for those unused to using miso paste. It is a strong flavour, and it is easy to over do it. Add a bit and taste it before adding any more. It will be worth it all. You will be rewarded with a full flavoured side dish that everyone will be calling for seconds.

Serves 4. Preparation time 10 minutes. Cooking time 15 – 20 minutes or so.


2 tablespoons butter

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 cloves of garlic minced

1 red pepper diced

2 tablespoons red wine

16 oz button mushrooms

1/2 to 1 teaspoon miso paste

2 tablespoons chopped parsley



Melt the butter and oil in a saucepan big enough to hold the mushrooms.

DSCN6977Sauté the minced garlic for a few minutes. Add the diced red pepper and continue to sauté

Add the red wine and bring back up to a simmer.

Stir in the miso paste. Taste and add more if needed.


Add the mushrooms and stir to coat thoroughly, cover and simmer for 15 minutes

Remove the lid and continue cooking to reduce the liquid, for another 5 to 10 minutes.

Season to taste.


Serve and sprinkle the chopped parsley over the mushrooms.


Here I have served it with Peas and Saute Potatoes.



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Filed under All Year, Side Dishes, Student Food, Vegetables




I rather like this African take on ratatouille, or perhaps the French copied this when they colonised parts of North Africa. Anyway who really cares, as I like ratatouille and I also like shakshuka.

This recipe is simplicity itself and you could put a meal on the table in little over 35 minutes. Ignore the title and think poached eggs in rich tomato sauce.

If you Google ‘shakshuka recipes’ you will get about 181,000 hits and if you start to read some of them, it quickly becomes apparent that this is a dish that is at home anywhere from Mauritania on the north-west coast of Africa all the way round the Mediterranean to Albania and beyond into the Balkans. Each country that has it will doubtless claim it as their own. However what is certain is the number of different ways of adding different ingredients. Essentially a vegetarian dish, in some countries sausages or shrimps are added . The cheese and the spices used vary according to country and availability.

Basically make a spicy tomato sauce and add what else takes your fancy.

In some countries this is a breakfast meal, cooked and served straight to the table, in single serving cast iron pans with hunks of bread to mop up the juices, but this is versatile enough to be served straight to table, in a paella dish for instance, as part of a dinner course, with rice and some green vegetable.

With an eye to appearances, I would have preferred to have had a green pepper, however they are basically unobtainable here in the north of Italy. I think next time I make it I will add some peas, just to add contrast with the red background.


Serves 4

Total time to prepare and cook 35 mins


3 tbsp Olive oil

1 large onion diced

2 small zucchini diced

3 cloves garlic

1 red pepper (green would look better), diced

1 yellow pepper,diced

3 medium tomatoes or a 450 g/1 lb can of tomatoes diced small

100 ml/3½ fl oz/½ cup red or white wine

2 tsp ground cumin

1 – 2 tsp chili flakes (or whatever form of chili you are most comfortable with)

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp smoked paprika

2 or 3 tsp dried basil

salt and pepper to taste

100 g/3½ oz/1 cup grated cheese (Use what is local and available. I used parmesan, but cheddar, feta or pecorino would be ideal)

4 medium to large eggs



Peel and dice the onion, put it into the pan with the oil and soften for 5 minutes. (I used a 30 cm/12 inch pan, but you might want to use a bigger pan otherwise the eggs will look crowded)


Dice the peppers and add to the pan and soften for 5 minutes


Dice the zucchini and add to the pan and soften for 5 minutes.


Dice the tofu and add to the pan ( I know, it is not in the list of ingredients but I found it lurking in the fridge and decided to add it)


Add the tomatoes and wine, bring to the boil and then simmer for about 15 minutes.



Meanwhile add the spices, basil, sugar, salt and pepper. Stir them in well. Taste and adjust the flavour according to your desire,


Sprinkle the cheese all over


Make 4 ‘nests’ in the mixture and crack the eggs into them. The observant ones of you will have spotted only 2 eggs, and that is because I was cooking for 2, me and Joy, but the list of ingredients is for 4.

Cook for a further 5 minutes or so, according to how soft you like your eggs.

You might have to add water if the mixture is drying out or cover the pan with a lid to help cook the eggs or to stop it from drying out.


Serve immediately












Filed under All Year, Main Meal, Spicy, Student Food, Student Food, Vegetables

This is Not HP Sauce


This sauce is not HP sauce, but on tasting it you would be forgiven for thinking it is. Being English and living in Italy, there some things that I have grown up with that are not available in the shops and supermarkets. HP sauce being one of them.  Over the 10 years or more that we have lived here we have learnt to make do with alternatives to many ‘English’ foods, but there are no alternatives to this special brown sauce .

I do like HP sauce but I do not eat a great deal of it. It is spicy and I like it when I have chips (french fries/patate frite) on my plate. Joy, my wife, likes the sauce with baked beans on toast and with chips. No doubt I could buy this in Milan or Turin, but they are both over 60 miles (100 kms) or so away, and so several years ago I started researching by looking at recipes on the internet, and comparing those with what was actually written on a bottle of HP. After several trials I eventually refined my recipe until I arrived at this one. It is good, as good as the real stuff, if not better, but with one important difference: there are no unnecessary additives, fillers or flavour enhancers. This is the real deal, and it has good shelf life, anything up to 2 years or so.

The following list of ingredients will make over 2 litres/4 US pints/3½ UK pints, but I start with the quantity of plums that I can either forage or buy, and then adjust the other ingredients to suit. Yes I could buy 2 kg/4.5 lbs of plums but quite often I can buy more for a lower unit cost, and anyway there is a very healthy plum tree in the meadow behind our house that is loaded with small plums, and we have permission to pick.



2 kg/4½lbs plums , that are sweet and firm. If over ripe they will just dissolve and you will have to simmer the end product for longer to achieve a good pouring consistency.

1 litre/2 US pints/1.75 UK pints red wine vinegar or malted vinegar

175 gm/6 oz dates, stoned and chopped

115 gm/4 oz raisins

1 large onion, chopped

4 large cloves garlic, chopped

60 gm/2 oz/5 cm/2 in fresh ginger, grated or equivalent ginger paste or powder

1 tbsp coriander seeds, freshly ground

1 tsp allspice berries, freshly ground

1 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tbsp ground turmeric

2 tsp ground nutmeg

1 tsp salt

200 gm/ tamarind seedless, cut into small cubes or paste

300 gm/10 oz dark sugar


Halve and stone the plums and chop if they are large.


I can pass on a small tip here. On each plum there is a groove running from top to bottom.



By cutting the plum at 90° to this groove, when you twist the 2 halves apart the stone is left edge-ways in one half and is then much easier to remove.



Put the plums pieces into a stainless steel pan with all the other ingredients.

Bring slowly to the boil, stirring occasionally, and then simmer uncovered for about 1 hour. Stirring towards the end of the hour to ensure that it is not sticking.

Remove from the heat and using a stick blender, reduce thoroughly to a smooth consistency.

Taste for  heat and add more cayenne if desired.

The consistency should be the same as that of commercial ketchups/catsups, so test by putting a tablespoonful on a cold tea plate. Allow it to cool. When cold, it should retain its shape and move slowly when the plate is tipped. If you want to thicken it, simmer for 20 minutes at a time and test again.


When it is ready, pour into clean, dry and very hot screw cap jars. Fill close to the rim and screw down the lid tight. Store in a cool, dry and dark place.





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Filed under All Year, Sauces, Spicy