Month: October 2013

Last Night’s Dinner – Pasta with Aubergine and Roasted Vegetables

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After I was asked to put some veggie friendly recipes on here I decided yesterday to make a pasta dish with aubergine.

I love Aubergine, especially roasted or chargrilled. Its delicious and I think it should be used more in people’s cooking.

This dish uses aubergine in two ways, roasted in cubes for a nutty bite and roasted and mashed to make a sauce to coat the pasta. You only need one aubergine to make this dish sing, its filling, healthy and cheap to make. You dont even need to be vegetarian to enjoy it!

Give it a go!

Roasted Vegetable Pasta2.JPG

Serves 2

Ingredients

200g Pasta – I used Fiorelli as I love the frilly edges, but any shape will work
1 Aubergine
Handful of tomatoes -any kind – cut in half
400g Mushrooms – halved
1 red onion – roughly chopped
2 cloves garlic
About 4 sun dried tomatoes from a jar – chopped (optional)
Olive oil
Salt and Pepper
Fresh basil – roughly chopped
1 Ball Mozzarella – torn into smallish pieces

Method

Preheat the oven to 190.

Cut the aubergine in half lengthways. Cut one side into small cubes and set aside. Score the other half,drizzle with oil and season.

Oil a baking tray, and place the tomatoes cut side down on it and sprinkle with salt. Place the halved aubergine (the one that is still intact) on the tray and place into the oven.

Toss the aubergine cubes, mushrooms and onion with some olive oil in a roasting tray, season with salt and pepper and add the garlic cloves. Give them a light bash before putting in but leave the skin on. Place these into the oven.

After about 30 mins the vegetables will be roasting nicely, give them a shake and test the large half of the aubergine to see if its soft all the way through. Roast it all for another 1o mins while you cook the pasta in plently of boiling salted water.

When the pasta is done, drain it and reserve a little of the cooking water. Remove the vegetables from the oven.

Take the aubergine ‘boat’ and remove all the soft insides leaving the skin behind. Mash this up with a little salt and mix through the pasta with the roasted tomatoes. This aubergine and tomato mixture will create a sauce that clings to the pasts. Add a little cooking water if needed to loosen it up. Add the rest of the veg, most of the basil and the sundried tomatoes if using.

Dish up and garnish with more basil, the mozzarella and a grind or two of black pepper. Serve immediately. My belly is rumbling just writing this!

Enjoy!

Roasted Vegetable Pasta

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Pasta Pasta Pasta

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Did I mention I love pasta?!

Pasta is the ultimate fast food. In in 10 mins you can have an amazingly tasty and beautiful dish on the table with minimal fuss and maximum flavour.

As you know from my ‘Inspired’ post, I have been cooking pasta for while, but I have come a long way from tipping a can of soup over a bowl of cooked fusilli, thankfully!

Here follows one recipe that can go two ways, Prawn and Chilli Linguine or Crab and Chilli Spaghetti. Of course any long pasta will work, Tagliatelle or Parpadelle, whatever you fancy. Just decide whether you want juicy prawns or sweet crab and go from there.

These are Mr T’s favourite pasta dishes and luckily for me, one of the easiest recipes you will ever make!

Ingredients

Any long pasta – about 100g per person
Raw king prawns or White Crab Meat (using a can of this is fine)
1 – 2 long red chillies (depending on how much heat you want) – chopped finely
1 clove of garlic – crushed
Zest of half a lemon and some of the juice
1 tbsp butter
Sea salt and black pepper
Extra Virgin Olive Oil for drizzling
A small handful of rocket leaves

Method

Bring a large pan of salted water to a rolling boil and add your pasta. Give it a quick stir and leave to cook for around 8 mins.

In a frying pan melt the butter then add half the chilli and all of the garlic, cook for about 30 seconds before adding the prawns/crab meat. When the prawns and cooked and pink or the crab is warmed through, add the lemon zest and a squeeze of juice. Turn the pan off the heat.

When the pasta is cooked, drain and reserve some of the cooking water. Add the cooked pasta to the frying pan and toss well to coat each strand with the buttery, chilli, garlicy juices and distribute the prawns/crab throughout. If it looks a bit dry add a splash of the cooking water to loosen. Toss through the rest of the chilli and half of the rocket leaves. Season with salt and pepper.

Place in a bowl, top with the rest of the rocket ad a drizzle of olive oil.

Simple as that! Enjoy!

Prawn and Chilli Linguine
Prawn and Chilli Linguine
Crab and Chilli Spaghetti
Crab and Chilli Spaghetti

Steak and Chips with Creamed Leeks

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On Sunday morning, Mr T and I decided that we needed meat. We’d had a heavy night Saturday at my best friend’s wedding party and steak and chips was just what the doctor ordered.

Steak is easy to cook. The problem is, its easy to overcook too. If you follow a few simple rules then you will be able to cook a steak to your liking with no issues.

The Rules

1. Always make sure your steak is room temperature before cooking
2. The pan needs to be REALLY hot.
3. REST THE MEAT.

Its that simple.

Now, choose your cut of steak. Fillet, Sirloin, Rump. Or maybe flat iron steak, or skirt. We went for Rib Eye, cut from a huge slab of meat at the butcher counter in Sainsburys. The meat had some lovely marbling, meaning we knew it would be juicy and delicious.

steak

To cook it, ensure the steak is at room temperature first. Drizzle with a little oil and season with salt and pepper. Heat a griddle pan until its searingly hot (to test this, hold your hand about 10cm from the surface of the pan – if your hand gets hot quickly, its good to go) and add the steak. Dont turn it, poke it or press it down. Just leave it alone for about 4 mins then turn and leave alone again for a further 3 mins. This will give you medium. Less for rare, more for well done.

steak cooking

Leave the steaks to rest on a plate for at least 5 mins. This allows the juices to redistribute and make for a really tender steak.

To serve with the steak I made chips. Simply slice a couple of baking potatoes into chips, toss in olive oil and cook in a hot oven for about 30-45 mins. Season with salt before serving.

chips

The final dish was made up with the steak, chips, some peas and a large flat mushroom which I cooked on the griddle pan to char it. I also made creamed leeks which go beautifully with, well, anything!

Slice a couple of leeks thinly, either in rounds or legthways. Cook them over a low heat in a knob of butter for about 20 mins until they are really soft and melting. Drizzle in a couple of tablespoons of double cream and season with salt and lots of black pepper. The creamy leeks almost make a sauce with the meat juices.

Delish.
Steak and Chips

Chorizo Pasta

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I have always loved pasta and I have developed a real love for chorizo too. Last week I had a craving for both, so I thought I would have a go at combining the two and see what happened. What happened was a very tasty dish that was easy to prepare and cooked with minimal fuss. A good friday night supper with a few glasses of wine.

This is a very simple dish with only a few ingredients so its worth trying to source the best quality Chorizo you can. I used one of the rings that you can eat straight away, but next time I think I will use a soft cooking chorizo to give a more tender finish when its cooked through in the wine. I used parpadelle and rioja, but you can use any pasta and red wine you like.

Serves 2-4 – depending on your appetite!

Ingredients

1 Chorizo sausage – cut into bite size chunks
450g Pasta
1 – 2 glasses red wine
1 small red onion – sliced
Handful of chestnut mushrooms – sliced
1 glove garlic – sliced thinly
1 bunch parsely – roughly chopped
Salt and pepper
Olive oil
Parmesan – to serve (optional)

Method

In a pan, heat some olive oil and add the onions and garlic. Cook over a medium – low heat until softened. Add the mushrooms, cook for a few minutes and add the chorizo. Allow to crisp up slightly on a high heat, about 1-2 mins, then add the red wine. Bring to the boil, then turn the heat down and put a lid on. Check it occaisonally and stir now and then. Cook for 20 mins, halfway through, add half of the chopped parsley, then for the last 5 mins, remove the lid to let the wine reduce. Season with salt and pepper.

When the chorizo is nearly done, cook the pasta in plenty of boiling salted water. Drain and mix with the chorizo, scatter with the rest of the parsley and maybe a sprinkle of parmesan, if you like. Serve straight away.

Enjoy!

Choriozo pasta

Inspired

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I am the kind of cook who tends to make up recipes, sometimes as I go along and other times based on things I’ve seen on TV or read in a cook book.

I havent always cooked, what I would call, proper food though. For a long time, from the age of about 17 – 21 I would love nothing more than a can of Heinz lentil soup poured over a bowl of cooked pasta. Or cooked spaghetti covered in butter and tomato ketchup sprinkled liberally with cheese and melted in the microwave. I also loved ready meals and Chicago Town pizzas! I’m not even ashamed, and sometimes I still crave my ‘Lentil Pasta Stew’ as I liked to call it.

However, time has moved on, I now love nothing better than to cook proper grub and after years of being addicted to Music TV, its now all about cooking programmes. Come Dine With Me, The Naked Chef, Great British Bake Off, Hells Kitchen, Masterchef (which I auditioned for in 2010!) – you name it, I will watch it. I became inspired by TV chefs, Jamie Oliver, Gordon Ramsey, Rick Stein and Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall. I started going to their restaurants, buying their books and watching the TV shows. I learned everything I know from watching and absorbing the techniques, words and terms, types of cuisine, methods of cooking certain things. I cant get enough. I am constantly learning new things and love nothing better than recreating and adapting recipes I see on the box.

Every Christmas I get at least one cook book. Last year I got six! My total is now around forty. I love them. I use them for recipes, references, to double check an oven temperature or cooking time. I love the feel of opening a cook book for the first time and drinking in the words and pictures. I have two signed cook books (Jamie’s America and Rick Steins Far Eastern Odyssey) which I queued for hours to get. I went a bit giddy when I met Jamie – told him my husband thought he should be knighted – what a thing to say! And meeting Rick I was completely starstruck…

My aim and the reason behind starting this blog is write do my own cook book one day, showing ordinary people, like me, that cooking can be easy and so rewarding. I want to show people how to make a roast dinner with all the trimmings, the perfect pasta dish, speedy suppers and quick lunches to share with friends.

I think the picture below sums up my inspiration. What’s yours?

Cookbooks

Fish Cakes

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When I was young, my dad used to cook ‘yellow fish’ served with mash. It was smoked haddock of course, dyed a lurid bright yellow and cooked in butter. It was one of my favourite meals.

This fish cake recipe invokes all those childhood memories and gives me a lovely nostalgic feeling as well as being utterly delicious! you can use whatever fish you like, smoked or unsmoked, but I find smoked fish adds a lovely depth of flavour to this dish.

I have used Panko Breadcrumbs in this recipe, they are a japanese breadcrumb which is dried for maximum crunch when fried. You can use any breadcrumb, I’ve been known to use the bisto tubs of golden breadcrumbs (don’t tell any one) but you can use fresh if you have a stale loaf lying around.

This recipe makes 6 large fish cakes to serve 2 as a main course, but you can make them smaller for more people as a starter or light lunch.

Ingredients

2 fillets of fish – I usually use one undyed smoked haddock and one unsmoked haddock
3 baking potatoes
Knob of butter
1/2 pint of milk
1 red chilli – deseeded and chopped finely
1 small bunch flat leaf parsley – chopped
Salt and pepper
Breadcrumbs
1 egg
Flour – for dusting
Olive Oil for frying

Method

First of all you need to cook your potatoes so they are easily mashed. There are many ways you can do this. You can peel and boil them in salted water until soft. You can steam them, again peeled until they’re soft. However, my fail safe way of getting fluffy and, most importantly, dry mash is to bake the potatoes in their skins. I will freely admit I usually do this in the microwave. You wont be using the skins so they dont need to be crisp and lets face it, its quicker! Anyway – cook your potatoes using your chosen method and when they are cooked, mash the flesh of the potato with a knob of butter until fluffy and quite dry. You don’t want to add milk or cream as this will mean the fish cake is too sloppy. Leave the mash to cool.

While your potatoes are cooking, poach the fish. Pour the milk into a wide pan, and top up with the same amount of water. Place the fish into the liquid and put on the heat, bring to the boil and then turn the heat off. The fish will cook in the residual heat. When its cooled slightly, remove from the heat and flake, into fairly large pieces and leave to cool completely.

While the potatoes and fish cool down, place the flour onto a plate, beat the egg with a little water and put into a bowl and put the breadcrumbs onto another plate. This will be your assembly line for breadcrumbing the fish cakes.

To assemble the fish cakes, mix the cooled fish with the potato, chilli and parsley. Mix well but gently to retain the flakes of the fish in the mixture. Add salt and pepper to taste. Form the cakes into balls and flatten to create cakes.

Dust each cake with flour, pat off the excess, then dip into the egg, and finally into the breadcrumbs to coat each cake with a good layer. Place onto a plate and continue breadcrumbing all of them. Chill in the fridge for at least 15 mins so they firm up.

To cook, heat about a cm of oil in a pan until shimmering. Cook the fish cakes for around 5 mins on each side on a medium heat until they are golden brown and crunchy.

Serve with salad leaves and a squeeze of lemon juice…and maybe some chilli jam!

Enjoy!

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Mr T’s Lamb Rogan Josh

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As much as I do pretty much all of the cooking in our house, sometimes Mr T pulls something out of the bag and really impresses me!

Armed with a recipe from the one and only Jamie Oliver, Mr T rustled up the most amazing Lamb Rogan Josh I’ve ever tasted last Saturday. He tweaked it slightly as Jamie O does like his chillies, and while we’re not scared of some spice, 8 seemed a lot! So the recipe below is the slightly amended version.

Note – There is quite a bit of prep involved in this recipe but dont be put off. Once its all come together you can pretty much leave it to its own devices. Mr T marinated the meat for about 5-6 hours, rather than overnight, but either would work well. We bought 2 boned half shoulders of lamb from the supermarket, to save deboning a whole one, and just chopped it into big chunks.

The orginal recipe serves 4, but ours would have easily served about 8 – we’re having the leftovers tonight!

Ingredients

3 inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and grated
8 cloves garlic – crushed
1 teaspoon turmeric
4 tablespoons natural yoghurt (full fat – none of the fat free stuff!)
1 teaspoon crushed black peppercorns
1 kg lamb shoulder, cut into big cubes
5 medium-sized red onions – chopped roughly
2 red peppers – deseeded and chopped roughly
3 fresh red chillies, deseeded
1 tablespoon green cardamom pods
½ tablespoon whole cloves
1 cinnamon stick or 1tsp ground cinnamon
2 tablespoons coriander seeds
3 small dried red chillies
2 teaspoons paprika
2 x tin chopped tomatoes
½ tablespoon salt
Fresh corriander, mint and chilli to serve (optional)

Method

Put the yoghurt into a bowl big enough to hold the lamb, add the turmeric, pepper, garlic and ginger and mix well, then add the lamb and stir it well to eensure its all coated with the yoghurt. Cover with cling film and leave in the fridge overnight if possible – 5/6 hours will be enough though.

Preheat your oven to 170ºC/325ºF/gas 3. Whizz your peppers, onions and chillies in a food processor to make a paste.

In a cast iron casserole pot with a lid, toast the cardomom, coriander seeds, cinnamon (if using a stick) and cloves (no oil) for a few minutes until they start smelling slightly nutty and toasted. Then add them to a pestle and mortar and grind to a powder with the dried chillies.

Keep the pan on the heat and add a splash of oil. Add the onion, peppers and chilli paste from the food processor with the ground up spices and paprika (if using ground cinnamon, add it now).

Cook over a gentle heat for about 10 minutes. Add half a pint of water, the tins of tomatoes, turn up the heat and stir well – bringing it to the boil. Add the salt, put the lid on and whack the pot into the oven. It will now cook slowly, and when you take the pot out of the oven 2 hours later, the lamb will be falling apart tender and the sauce will be thick and smelling amazing!

Check for seasoning and serve with some more yoghurt on the side and garnished with fresh chopped red chilli, corriander and mint, if you like.

We had ours with rice and naan bread which we bought – tonight we will be having it with the homemade flat breads I posted last week. I’m really looking forward to dinner!

Its quite spicy, so feel free to reduce the amount of chilli if you want, or add some yoghurt at the end to temper it slightly.

Enjoy!

Rogan Josh

Rogan Josh cooked