Chicken with Tomatoes and Peppers

Here is a comforting and satisfying stew that is done in under 30 minutes.

1 tbs. garlic-infused olive oil
1 shallot, peeled and finely diced
1 lb. skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into bite-sized pieces
1 tsp. dried oregano
2 tbs. Marsala
1 x 14 oz. can chopped tomtoes
1/2 tsp. sea salt flakes
1 x 12 oz. jar roasted red peppers, drained
cooked orzo, to serve

Heat the oil in a large, heavy-bottomed pan and cook the shallots over a medium heat until softened, about 3 minutes. Add the chicken with the dried oregano and turn them about in the pan. Add the Marsala and allow it to bubble for a minute, then tip in the tomatoes. Fill the tomato can half full with water, swill it around, then add to the pan with the salt. Continue to cook, uncovered for 20 minutes, or until the chicken is cooked through and the sauce has thicken.

Snip the peppers into the pan and stir until they are warm. Serve over orzo.

Serves 3-4

Pork Chops with Fennel Seeds and Allspice

Fragrant with savory spices, these pork chops are a jot to make and a joy to eat.

2 pork chops, not too lean
3 tbs. all-purpose flour
2 tsp. fennel seeds
1/2 tsp. ground allspice
1/2 tsp. celery salt
punch ground cloves
freshly ground pepper
2 tbs. garlic-infused olive oil
5 tbs. Marsala

Cut the rind and most of the fat off the pork chops. Mix the flour, fennel seeds, allspice, celery salt, cloves and a good grinding of pepper on a dinner plate. Dredge the pork chops in the mixture.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet that the chops will fit snugly in and cook the pork chops for 5 minutes on each side. Tip in the Marsala and cook the pork chops for 5 more minutes. Remove to heated plates and bubble the sauce until thickened. Pour it over the chops and serve.

Serves 2

Sicilian Cauliflower Salad

The mixture of sweet, Marsala-soaked raisins, salty olives and a delicate saffron-scented dressing gives ordinary cauliflower the star treatment. This is a fabulous make-ahead salad.

1 head cauliflower
1 tsp. kosher salt
2 bay leaves
1/2 tsp. saffron threads
1/4 cup water from a recently boiled kettle
1/2 cup golden raisins
5 tbs. Marsala
1 shallot, finely chopped
1 tbs. lemon juice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup oil-brined black olives
3 tbs. toasted pine nuts
small bunch fresh parsley, chopped

Break the cauliflower into florets and put these in a saucepan that has a lid. Cover with cold water, add the salt and bay leaves, put the lid on, set the pan on a high heat and bring to a boil. Drain immediately and run under cold water, then set aside.

Meanwhile, put the saffron threads in a small bowl and add the boiled water. Let steep.

Put the raisins in a small saucepan with the Marsala and bring to a boil, then immediately remove from the heat.

Add the shallots and lemon juice to the saffron water. Slowly whisk in the olive oil to make the dressing.

Tip the still-warm cauliflower into a serving bowl and add the raisins and any Marsala, the dressing and the olives. Toss well and check the seasoning. Let sit for about 30 minutes. Toss in most of the pine nuts and parsley, then scatter the rest over the top and serve.

Serves 4-6

Fettuccini with Mushrooms, Marsala and Mascarpone

This pasta is quite elegant and sophisticated. The creamy marsala-laced sauce is just right with the husky and earthy porcini mushrooms.

1/2 cup dried porcini mushrooms
1/4 cup marsala
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup mascarpone
freshly grated nutmeg
ground pepper
2 tbs. chopped fresh parsley, plus more to serve
8 oz. egg fettuccini or taliatelle
1 tbs. unsalted butter
small clove of garlic, grated
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Measure the porcini mushrooms into a small saucepan and add the marsala and water. Bring to a boil, then take it off the heat and let stand at least 10 minutes.

Put the mascarpone into a bowl and add a good grating of fresh nutmeg and pepper. Strain the marsala and water from the saucepan into the bowl and mix with a fork. Squeeze the porcini mushrooms over the bowl, then chop and add as well.

Boil water for the pasta and salt when it boils. Cook the pasta per the package directions. Keep a little pasta water aside, then drain the pasta and tip back into the pot. Stir in the mascarpone mixture and add a little of the pasta water if you need to loosen the sauce.

Check the seasoning and serve sprinkled with Parmesan cheese.

Serves 2