Homemade Scampi

I never had scampi growing up so I never actually knew what it was. I think I ordered it in a pub once and didn’t like the flavour or texture at all as it felt really processed and not like real fish – and this put me off having it for a long time.

I think I saw in a magazine that scampi is actually supposed to just be prawns which is when I started to do my own healthier version in breadcrumbs and cooked in the oven rather than battered and deep fried. Obviously this tastes nothing like what you expect scampi to be like and is ultimately breaded prawns but I love having a portion of these with some homemade wedges and peas on a Friday night!

Ingredients – serves two

  • 175g raw king prawns
  • 1-2 handfuls of flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 2-3 handfuls of breadcrumbs (I used gluten free bread crusts and made crumbs in the food processor)
  • Peas and homemade chips/wedges to serve

Method

Put the flour, egg and breadcrumbs in three separate bowls.

 

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Dredge the prawns in the flour, then coat in eggs and finally toss in the breadcrumbs. You can do this a few at a time.

Lay the prawns out on a baking tray, and cook in a preheated oven at 180 degrees celsius for 3 minutes. Turn the prawns over and cook for a further three minutes.

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Serve immediately with a good squeeze of lemon, preferably with some homemade wedges and peas!

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* I pan fried some squid and served with half of the prawns for a seafood mix here, with stir fried cabbage and kale and homemade chips.

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Chicken & Leek Rosti

This is an adapted version of a recipe given to me by my mum when I went to Uni. Her version was mainly chicken, leek and tarragon but I’m not a huge fan of tarragon. I also love mushrooms with chicken so I like to add those in! As I try and stick to a gluten free diet a potato rosti topping to a pie filling is a great alternative and I love the texture it creates. I would really recommend trying the rosti on your favourite pie filling even if you don’t try my chicken recipe! The filling here is super quick to make though which is great for a weeknight.

I used pre cooked chicken  – this is a perfect way to use up the leftovers. You could use uncooked chicken though, it would just need to be fried off with the vegetables early on in the recipe. I also make too much filling so I can freeze batch for another day – technically it would serve 6 if all served in one go (and it would need more topping).

Ingredients – serves 2/3 twice if freezing half a batch

  • large knob of butter
  • 1 white onion, finely diced
  • 2 leeks, sliced in rings
  • 200g chestnut mushrooms, in chunks
  • good splash of white wine
  • 200ml chicken stock
  • 250ml creme fraiche
  • meat from the equivalent of 6 roasted chicken thighs, shredded into chunks
  • small bunch of chives finely chopped

Topping:

  • 2 large potatoes
  • 50g butter

Method

Start by getting the potatoes on to boil. Cut them in half but keep the skins on. Boil in salted water for 8-10 minutes. You don’t want them overly soft so dont let them cook too long.

Sweat the onions and leeks in butter (if you add a tiny but of oil as well it will stop the butter getting too hot and burning). Add the mushrooms as it starts to soften and cook until the mushrooms have released their water and start to brown.

Add the wine and let it cook off for 30 seconds. Stir in the creme fraiche and stock (only add all of the stock if necessary – add more or less depending on how saucy you want it).

Add the chicken and chives, and season with salt and pepper. Allow to heat through and for the sauce to thicken slightly.

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The potatoes should be ready to be strained by now. Put on some rubber gloves and use a cheese grater to grate them. You will end up with the potato skin being pushed out and left over which means you shouldn’t waste any potato flesh.

Pour the chicken filling into an oven dish. Distribute the potato evenly over the top. Melt the butter in a saucepan and drizzle over the top of the potato then season with salt and pepper.

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Put in a pre heated oven at 180 degrees celsius for half an hour or until the potato starts to brown and crisp at the edges.

Serve with green vegetables and enjoy!

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Vegetable Puff Pastry Slice

With half a pack of puff pastry left from the pie we had earlier in the week this was the perfect lunch to use up lots of leftover veg in the fridge too. It could easily have some streaky bacon or some kind of sliced meat if a fully vegetarian version isn’t to your taste, but as a general rule I would say just use up anything you have in your fridge and top with plenty of cheese! Below are the ingredients I used but adapt as necessary. This would make a tasty dinner with a nice green salad on a weeknight too.

Ingredients (could technically serve 4 but its so tasty aim for 2 with seconds!)

  • 250g puff pastry
  • two tablespoons of tomato puree
  • one leek cut into round slices
  • 150g chestnut mushrooms cut into large chunks
  • 200g cherry tomatoes cut in half
  • 125g mozzarella cut/torn into small chunks
  • handful of flat leaf parsley chopped finely

Method

Roll out the pastry to about half the thickness of a pound coin, then score the outside with a knife (not all the way through) to allow the crust to puff up and create an outline for the filling to go up to. It is a good idea to move the pastry to a sheet of baking paper at this point.

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Spread the base (inside the scored lines) with the tomato puree. I like to use the back of a spoon to do this evenly and gently.

Gently fry the leeks in a knob of butter and a drizzle of oil for a few minutes, then add the mushrooms and continue to fry until both are softened and starting to brown.

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Spread the cooked vegetables evenly over the pastry. Dot the halved tomatoes cut side up all over. Place the mozzarella in the gaps, sprinkle the parsley and season well.

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Use the baking paper to pick up the pastry and place the whole thing on a flat baking tray and cook in a preheated oven at 180 degrees (fan oven) for 20 minutes.

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Slice into four, and enjoy!

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Chicken and Chorizo Pie

After the ramen I made at the weekend I wanted to use up the chicken meat I had shredded after making the stock, and about 250ml of the broth/stock I had left over. I cam across this recipe on the Good Food website which made for a sumptious weeknight meal that I would have normally saved for a weekend due to the time I think it takes to make a good pie. As always I made a few changes to the original recipe – mainly the swap of cream for creme fraiche to make it lighter and using the recooked chicken I had in the fridge. If you don’t have the luxury of the chicken and stock leftover that I had of course you could follow the original recipe linked above to prepare from scratch.

Ingredients – serves 4 (or two greedy people having seconds!)

  • one white onion, finely diced
  • two garlic cloves, minced/grated
  • half a chorizo ring (about 120g), in round slices then halved
  • 2 tablespoons plain flour (I used gluten free)
  • 300ml chicken stock (homemade if possible for better flavour)
  • 100ml creme fraiche
  • chicken meat from 20 wings (about 500g), shredded
  • large handful of parsley, chopped
  • 250g puff pastry
  • splash of milk for brushing (or egg wash if you prefer)

Method – takes about 45 minutes (if chicken is already cooked)

Sweat the onion and garlic in olive oil in a frying pan for 5-7 minutes until soft. Add the chorizo and fry for a few minutes until it starts to crisp and release its own oil. Stir in the flour, allow to cook for 30 seconds and then stir in the chicken stock.

Stir and let the stock heat through and thicken with the flour. Add the creme fraiche and allow to heat through, stirring slowly. Add the chicken and cook for a minute or so until warmed through. Decide if the consistency is thick enough – if not use cornflour to thicken. Stir through the parsley and a grind of black pepper. The chorizo and stock should mean salt isn’t needed but check for seasoning and add if needed.

Pour the filling into a pie dish that it will pretty much fill. You don’t want too much space between the filling and the pastry.

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Roll the pastry out until about half a centimetre thick. Brush the edge of the dish with milk and place the pastry over the top, finishing with our choice of edging. I like to use the end of a fork to press down the edges and then use a knife to trim. Make some fun decorations with the trimming and use milk to stick them on the top! Brush the pie all over with milk or egg wash and use the tip of a knife to put two small air holes in the top of the pastry. Put the pie in a pre heated oven (180 degrees fan) on a baking tray (in case of spillages!) for half an hour until the pastry is golden and crisp.

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Serve with some green veg and enjoy!

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Quick Fish Stew

My mum gave me this recipe when I was at University. In my final year I was self catered and was in dire need of some recipes to get me through! When I was at Uni I suddenly realised I had relied on my mum being the most incredible cook for the previous twenty years and as a result of being fed such good food had high expectations of the quality of my meals and when left to fend for myself I just couldn’t meet those expectations! Since then I have tried to recreate many of my favourite dinners from home – usually following a phone conversation where mum gives me a vague outline of what she does (she never measure anything!) and I have a go myself. This then normally ends with the verdict that its not as good as mum’s…

This fish stew is such a great weeknight dinner as its really quick but super tasty and satisfying. At home we would always dunk in some nice crusty bread to soak up the juice which was amazing! Now I follow a (mostly) gluten free diet I tend to just finish up the juice with a spoon which still hits the spot!

Ingredients – serves two

  • 400g fish in large chunks (a mixture of salmon/cod/haddock with some of it smoked if possible to add extra flavour)
  • two spring onions, finely sliced
  • one stick of celery, finely sliced
  • large pinch of saffron
  • small glass of white wine
  • 200g tinned tomatoes
  • 50-70g rice – about two handfuls (I like to use brown rice)
  • half a teaspoon of dried oregano
  • half a bayleaf
  • handful of parsley, chopped
  • half a lemon, (juice)

Method – takes about 30 minutes

In some olive oil lightly cook the fish pieces in a heavy based saucepan for a few minutes on all sides. Remove and put in a bowl for later.

In another splash of olive oil (if the pan is dry) fry the spring onion, celery and saffron for a few minutes. Pour in in the wine and cook for a further minute. Add the tomatoes, rice, oregano and bayleaf and bring to a simmer. Leave to simmer with the lid tilted for about 20 minutes until the rice is cooked.

Remove the bay leaf and return the fish to the pan, stirring gently. Leave for a couple of minutes until the fish is cooked through. Finally stir in the parsley and lemon juice and serve in bowls immediately.

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Cod and Seafood Stew

My husband took me for an impromptu lunch at a Spanish deli/restaurant that we stumbled across at the weekend. He was tempted in by the mouthwatering jamon hanging in the window and I didn’t take too much persuading! We ordered a jamon bocadillo (baguette) and  a portion of the daily special ‘cod with prawns’ to share. We dived straight in when it arrived so sadly I didn’t take a picture, but the whole time we were eating I was saying “I am going to try and make this at home”!

So, as it’s Friday I went to the supermarket and stocked up a range of ingredients that I thought might recreate the flavours of the dish, with a few adaptations including my favourite seafood: squid and clams. I would have happily had some tiger prawns too but they didn’t have any left… it definitely doesn’t need it but any fish and seafood combination would work really well with the sauce.

Our paprika is a bit spicy which gave the dish more of a kick than I was expecting, so make sure you check the type of paprika you have before getting carried away and adding too much! The sauce was just delicious and you can’t beat the soft squid texture you get by cooking it slowly for a longer time. This is a sure addition to our favourites!

Ingredients (serves two generously)

  • One onion, thinly sliced
  • Two garlic cloves, minced/grated
  • Two medium potatoes, thinly sliced (about half a cm thick)
  • One teaspoon of paprika
  • 4 large squid tubes, sliced into 1cm rings
  • 250g passata
  • 250ml chicken stock
  • 300g cod loin, cut into two pieces
  • Fresh clams (I used 500g but 300g would be enough)
  • A handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • Quarter of a lemon
  • Vegetables to serve

Method (Takes about half an hour)

Sweat the onion and garlic in a frying pan with olive oil. Add the sliced potatoes, paprika and season well. Add the squid and stir well, leaving for a few minutes to heat through and start to sizzle.

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Pour in the passata and stock, stir well and leave to simmer for 15 minutes or until the potatoes are soft and the sauce has reduced and thickened. Stir occasionally to stop anything sticking to the pan.

 

Meanwhile make some vegetables to serve on the side. I sliced two small leeks into rings and cooked gently in butter in a saucepan for five minutes. I then added the sliced outer leaves (about 8 leaves) of a savoy cabbage, put the lid on and let cook down for another 5 minutes. Give it a good grind of salt and pepper before serving.

Back to the stew… nestle the fish into the sauce and continue to simmer for a couple of minutes. Then scatter the clams on top and cover for another 3 minutes until all of the fish is cooked through.

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Sprinkle with the parsley and squeeze the lemon over the fish. Serve the pan on the table with greens on the side. Enjoy!

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Saffron Rice with Prawns

I found this recipe in a book called ‘Gorgeous Suppers’ by Annie Bell – a present given to me a few years ago that I haven’t made as much use of as I should. You can get the book here. In her book she calls this recipe ‘oven-baked saffron rice with prawns and scallops’ – I had to take out the scallops due to not being able to get them unless I paid a fortune for the huge ones in their shells (not prepared to go that far for a weeknight dinner!).

The concept of cooking a risotto in the oven was new to me, and to be honest I was a little hesitant about how well it would work after knowing how much you have to tend the pan when cooking a risotto properly on the hob. However, I stand corrected. This was so easy and  the consistency was amazing. I will try my next chicken and mushroom risotto in the oven too and see if it works just as well! I was also a bit suspicious of the amount of parmesan going in as I’m not sure parmesan and seafood always goes that well together, but again this was a really nice surprise. The flavours of saffron, parmesan and prawns came together beautifully and made a really rich, luxurious risotto.

Ingredients – serves four (or two with leftovers for lunch!)

  • one large knob of butter plus a few small ones
  • one white onion, finely diced
  • about 300g of arborio risotto rice (I counted five handfuls)
  • 750ml of fish stock
  • a large pinch of saffron (I think the more the better – it looked like about 30 strands)
  • one small glass of white wine
  • 50g freshly grated parmesan (or about 3 handfuls)
  • 300g raw king prawns
  • 100-150g small cooked prawns (or 4-6 scallops if using instead)

Method – takes no more than 45 minutes from start to finish

Preheat the oven to 200 degrees (fan) and find a suitable ovenproof dish for the rice.

Sweat the onion in the butter in a heavy based saucepan for a few minutes until softened. Meanwhile make your stock if using cubes or warm through if using fresh (I used cubes and it tasted great). In a separate dish pour a small amount of boiling water on the saffron and allow to soften. Try to blend with the back of a spoon to bring out the flavour into the water.

Add the rice to the pan and stir well. Pour in the wine and leave to absorb for a couple of minutes. Stir in the stock, saffron mixture and plenty of seasoning, then bring to the boil. Pour carefuly into your ovenproof dish trying to evenly distribute the rice. Cover the dish with foil and bake in the oven for 15 minutes.

Towards the end of this cooking time grate the parmesan and season the raw prawns. Remove the risotto after the 15 mins and stir through the seafood carefully. Sprinkle the parmesan all over the top and dot a few extra knobs of butter, then recover with foil and put back in the over for 15 more minutes. I misread the recipe here – Annie says to leave it uncovered at this point but I felt that the moisture was kept by me recovering it. Maybe a few minutes without the foil would be a good idea if you want to crisp up the parmesan but I personally liked the soft classic risotto-like consistency.

Serve the dish on the table with something green. I stir fried some spinach and kale with butter and lemon but a nice salad would work well too.

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Roast Chicken & Potato Hash

I was looking to be inspired by some new chicken recipes on the Good Food website at the weekend and came across the picture for this recipe which looked delicious! As much as I love a confit duck leg I didn’t really fancy cooking my chicken in so much oil so I adapted it for a healthier, quicker weeknight option. I kept the vegetable and potato hash the same though and this was a really tasty way to get loads of healthy vegetables on the plate and I would definitely make it again.

Follow the recipe on the good food website here for the hash (and the chicken if you want to go for the full confit version).

For the roasted chicken option…

Ingredients – serves two

  • 3 chicken thighs on the bone
  • 4-5 sprigs of fresh thyme
  • zest of hand a lemon
  • olive oil
  • salt & pepper

Method – takes 40 minutes from start to finish

Lay the chicken skin side up on a rack inside a foiled roasting tin. Sprinkle the lemon and thyme liberally over each thigh, then drizzle with olive oil. A liberal pinch of salt and pepper on top, and then put into a preheated oven at 180 degrees (fan) for 40 minutes.

Meanwhile, about 20 minutes into the cooking time make the hash according to the recipe from Good Food.

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As the hash is finishing, boil water in a saucepan with  little salt to speed up the boiling time. Crack in two eggs and leave to poach for exactly two minutes for the perfect runny centre.

Serve the crispy chicken on top of a big mound of well seasoned hash (I chopped the chicken from the third thigh and shared it between us – I just didn’t feel one thigh would be enough!). Use a slotted spoon to remove the eggs and drain on kitchen towel before adding to the plate. Eat immediately while the egg is gooey!

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Quick Chicken Tikka Masala

I made a tikka masala once before from scratch and all I really remember was it taking a long time to make and it didn’t have quite as much flavour as I would have liked. I also hate using jar sauces so I had to have another go! For Christmas I was given some Indian serving dishes by my mum, along with a book called ‘Indian Made Simple’ which you can find an older edition of here.

I followed the structure of the sauce recipe from the book, with a couple of adaptations. I don’t do a lot of Indian cooking so I haven’t bought a tub of ghee as I imagine it would join the collection of rarely used jars at the back of my fridge… I used a little vegetable oil in this recipe and it worked just fine. Secondly, the recipe used cream which I substituted for the lighter creme fraiche option and this worked out great.

For the chicken I used a marinade that my mum taught me when I was at University – it has the best flavour and the tikka spice powder is better than anything I have made from a recipe (see picture below of this). I love chicken thighs as they keep their moisture when cooked, but I like to serve it off the bone for ease of eating.

Sadly we were so hungry that I totally forgot to take a picture of the final dish as it was served! You should get the idea though! It had a super rich flavour and a nice level of spice, and I love the tandoori chicken flavour. Will definitely make again and very achievable on a weekday if you prepare the marinade in advance. The sauce can also be made in advance and reheated if you want even less to do in the evening!

Ingredients – serves two (also include your choice of sides not listed below)

Marinated Tandoori Chicken

  • Half a tub of plain yogurt (about 250-300g)
  • One lime – juice and zest
  • 4 tablespoons of tandoori tikka powder (see pic below) – you can get this in an oriental supermarket or maybe in a larger supermarket
  • one tablespoon of olive oil
  • 3-4 bone in chicken thighs (or any other type of joint that you like)

Sauce

  • One tablespoon of vegetable oil (or ghee if you have it)
  • One garlic clove, minced/grated
  • Half a red chilli, finely chopped (I don’t like my food too spicy but if you can take the heat use a whole chilli!)
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 2 tsp ground paprika (I used Spanish paprika which made the sauce extra smoky but probably less Indian in flavour!)
  • one tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 250-300ml creme fraiche (I use a half fat version to keep it even skinnier or you could use double cream for the luxury version!)

Method – 45 minutes (plus marinating)

Prepare the marinade in the morning or the night before. Simply stir the ingredients together in a shallow dish until well mixed. Score the chicken thighs deeply on the skin side, then nestle the chicken in the marinade spooning the mixture all over until totally covered. Cover with clingfilm and keep in the fridge until you want to cook. The longer you leave it the deeper the flavour goes into the chicken.

Scoop the chicken out of the marinade using tongs, but keep the leftover marinade for later (don’t scrape it off the chicken, it still wants to be covered in a nice layer for cooking). Lay the chicken (skin side up) on an oiled (greased) rack inside a roasting tin lined with foil. You can either cook the chicken in the oven or under the grill. I sometimes find grilling chicken on the bone overdoes the outside so I did this one in the oven, but it takes longer. If you choose to use the oven like me, get it in before you start the sauce at 180 degrees (fan).

To make the sauce fry the garlic and chilli in a frying pan with the oil for a minute. Add the spices and season well with salt and pepper, stirring for another 30 seconds.

This is the time to get your rice on the go too as it will be ready in 10-15 minutes. I like to use brown rice which takes that long to cook (and has more of a bite to it which I like) but if you are using white rice it may be less cooking time to vary accordingly.

Add the tinned tomatoes and the creme fraiche, stirring slowly. Put in less creme fraiche (or cream of course if you prefer it) to start with and add more to taste. Let the sauce simmer for ten minutes to thicken. If you are grilling your chicken, now it the time to get it in – keep an eye on it and keep turning it.

Once the chicken is cooked you can remove it from the oven. You could blast it under the grill to give it a little more colour if you cooked it in the oven – it gets a nice charred texture which gives a great flavour. It should look something like the picture below.

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Once the sauce has thickened a little, you can add in the leftover marinade to give it even more flavour. This is optional as it cane quite strong but I love it! Let it simmer again for a few minutes, and it is good to go!

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When everything is ready, you can serve the chicken as it is with the sauce and rice. I like to cut the chicken off the bone and into large chunks which I then layer over the top of the sauce and rice. Sorry again for the lack of picture of the finished article!

Sprinkle some chopped coriander for a stylish garnish and serve alongside some warm naan bread or my preferred side of poppadum and mango chutney. Yum!

Orzo with Prawns and Tomatoes

I was at the supermarket looking for a specific type of pasta (which they sadly didn’t have – turns out Mafaldine is really hard to get hold of!) when I came across orzo. I have had this one before when on holiday in Greece and I remember really enjoying the pasta cross with rice sort of texture. So I picked up a pack thinking a nice tomato sauce and some prawns would go nicely with it. I googled a few recipes for inspiration but didn’t really like any of them in entirety. Instead I merged the bits I liked together and came up with the following recipe. In particular I really liked the idea of treating the orzo like a risotto rice and using passata rather than water to cook it in. The smoky chorizo brings a delicious rich flavour and the roasted tomatoes on top burst with flavour as you start eating. Super tasty!

Ingredients – serves two

  • olive oil
  • 6 tomatoes on the vine (or more if they are cherry/plum tomatoes)
  • two echalion shallots (or 3-4 small round shallots), finely diced
  • one garlic clove, minced/grated
  • half of a chorizo ring – about 100-130g (I used a slightly spicy one but you could go for smoky to avoid any heat)
  • half a glass of white wine
  • 180g orzo
  • 300g passata (use just over half a carton if buying a 500g one)
  • 200ml hot water (if needed)
  • frozen peas (about 100g, but I just poured them until it looked about right!)
  • parmesan – a good couple of handfuls when grated (see picture)
  • handful of parsley leaves, finely chopped

Method – takes about half an hour including prep

Start by getting the vine tomatoes straight into the oven (180 degrees fan oven) on a baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and liberally season with salt and pepper. Prick them a couple of times with the end of a knife to avoid explosions in the oven too!

Gently sweat the shallots and garlic in a  heavy based saucepan until softened (about 8 minutes). Meanwhile, peel the chorizo stick and slice into rounds about 1cm thick. I like to then cut them in half to get more chunks. Add to the pan and allow to sizzle for a few minutes.

Once the oils have started to come out of the chorizo and it is all smelling delicious add in the orzo and stir with a wooden spoon to coat in the oils. Leave for 30 seconds and then pour in the wine and allow to bubble for a minute or so.

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Cook off the alcohol before adding the passata

 

Once the wine has almost been absorbed, pour in the passata, stir and leave to simmer for 8 minutes. Keep stirring every few minutes, adding a splash of hot water if it starts to look too thick. I used about 200ml in total to keep the orzo cooking in the sauce.

Meanwhile, in a frying pan sear the prawns on each side on a high heat so that they are just pink.

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Pan fry the prawns until just pink

Once the orzo is tender (it will still have a bit of a bite like a risotto rice) add the peas, parmesan and parsley. Put the lid on and leave for a couple of minutes for the cheese to melt and the peas and prawns to cook through. At this stage take the tomatoes out the oven to cook slightly before serving.

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Two handfuls of parmesan and one handful of parsley

Give it all a good stir and serve into bowls. Cut off the stalks (I like to leave a little of the green for presentation) from the tomatoes and nestle 3 on the top of each serving (more if using cherry tomatoes). A little parmesan and parsley to sprinkle on the top finishes it nicely, then tuck in!

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