Quick dinners

An Ode to Cavatappi

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Pasta. I would have it for every meal and be perfectly okay with that. Covered with a simple tin of tuna or a fancy sauce, I’m not too fussy. I had a major love affair with ravioli in my early student years – I think it’s all I ate for the first 3 weeks I moved out. However, now it’s nearly always dried penne or fusilli, for conveniences sake.

BUT. After being carb free for 8 weeks before my holiday (torturous) – I realised how much I missed plain and simple fresh egg pasta, and fresh pesto.

Short of being inspired to make my own pasta shapes (nearly, but not quite enough), I popped to ASDA and found a bag of Cavatappi fresh pasta, which inspired me to make a delicious pasta bake with roasted veggies. I can’t take all the credit for this one, it was primarily my mum’s concoction that I happily wolfed down – but I can’t stop thinking about the difference the pasta shape made! It meant it went all crunchy with the cheesy layer on the top where it had been in a little too long – just made it even better – and the cheesy spirals went perfect with the roasted mushrooms and courgettes. Who’d have thought it!? Anyway, there is another bag in my fridge ready for some more cavatappi goodness.

Quick recipe!

1. Roast any veggies you want to include – we had mushrooms, courgettes and tomatoes. Throw the tomatoes in for the last 5 mins so they don’t lose their shape too much!! 

2. Cook the pasta according to instructions on the packet (use fresh pasta if possible!).

3. Mix it all together and stir through some spinach and grated cheese. We used mozzarella and smoked cheddar.

4. Put it into a baking dish and sprinkle some more cheese on top! We had parmesan and some more smoked cheddar on top! 

5. Bake for 10mins or so, just until the cheese melts and it all goes delicious and gooey.

6. Devour. 

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Mushroom & Spinach Quesadillas with Sour Cream & Chive Dip

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Quesadillas – they have confused me for a while. They look delicious, but after trying and failing to make them on my George Forman years ago (what was I thinking?), I gave up. However, after a visit to Lucha Libre Liverpool and ordering the Mushroom and Spinach quesadillas – I fell in love with them all over again – they’re just like an inside out pizza! (You have to visit Lucha Libre ASAP by the way – Mexican food done right!) I needed to recreate them so found SORTED Food’s video of their sweet potato and blue cheese quesadillas – I will be trying them ASAP but James doesn’t share my love of blue cheese so that’ll have to be saved for cooking for one! These were delicious with the sour cream and chive dip I got from the boys at SORTED, and served up with my discovery of Pico de Gallo I talked about here. I made enough for 2 of us for a main and they went down a treat, with some leftovers for the next day too!

INGREDIENTS

Quesadillas

Chestnut mushrooms

Bag of washed spinach

100g cheddar cheese

6 flour tortillas

Sesame oil to fry

 

Sour Cream & Chive dip

200ml sour cream

Half a bunch of chives

Lemon

Salt

RECIPE

  1. I made the dip first, as the quesadillas are so quick to make! Chop up the chives quite finely, and combine in a bowl with the sour cream. Squeeze half a lemon juice in there, and sprinkle some extra chives on top! Easy.
  2. Next, I sliced the mushrooms and fried them on a medium heat for a couple of minutes, until just cooked through. Then I threw in the spinach to wilt down at the last second. Once cooked I put the mixture to one side to begin to assemble!
  3. I grated the cheese up and tried to use it as a glue to hold it all together! I lay out 3 tortillas, and sprinkled a layer of cheddar over each. Then I spooned the mixture between the three tortillas. I sprinkled another layer of cheddar to hold the lid on, and then I placed the last 3 tortillas over the tops. Done!
  4. Now to fry them! I put some more oil in a medium to high pan, and placed one of the filled quesadillas in to cook. It doesn’t take long! When the bottom was crispy I flipped it over (with difficulty – some mushrooms did escape!) and cooked the other side through.
  5. When they were done I transferred it over to a board where I cut into sixths, which seemed a nice size. Cook up the last two, slice them up and serve! Eat immediately (not that you need telling!).

Jamie’s 15 Minute (5 minutes) Smokey Baked Beans

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Beans, beans, they’re good for your heart! The more you eat, the more you fart! Well, I’m not owning up to anything here, but I will tell you I love these quick baked beans! Jamie Oliver again – 15 minute meals this time – and swiped from a Cajun Steak recipe I can’t say I’ve tried yet. I think I saw these on the programme he filmed for Channel 4, and they have fast become a BBQ favourite. So quick it’s ridiculous, and uses most things you have in your cupboard – love these types of recipes. Serve them up with some salad, burgers, sausages, halloumi and sangria and have a feast!! Perfect for bank holidays!

Ingredients

2 x 400g tins of mixed beans

350g passata

2 tablespoons tomato ketchup

2 tablespoons HP brown sauce

1 heaped teaspoon English mustard

1 teaspoon tabasco

1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 teaspoon runny honey

40g grated cheddar cheese

Recipe

1. Drain and rinse the beans and start frying them for a couple of minutes on a medium heat. This will crispen the outsides up.

2. Next, add the rest of the ingredients except for the cheddar, mix well and bring to the boil.

3. Grate over the cheddar cheese and put in the oven at 200°C until golden and bubbling!

4. Serve and enjoy!

Tips

Make more! These are delicious the next day, hot or cold, so I will make extra and use as a side dish.

Pea, Feta & Mint Fritters and Yoghurt Mint Dip

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Having finished uni this week, I can finally do all the things I never felt I had time for before!! Including these! Pea, feta & mint fritters with yoghurt mint dipping sauce from Gourmande In the Kitchen, found them the other day, and a combination of not needing the whole of ASDA to make them, and looking fairly quick and easy to do, meant they were on the list of things to make! I did them for lunch today and although they took longer than I thought to make, they were definitely worth it. Especially the little golden bits which was big hunks of melting feta – amazing!! The recipe was originally gluten free and grain free, but I wasn’t too bothered about that and changed it up a little bit to suit what I had in. I’m a big fan of mashing anything together, frying it and calling it a fritter, so I was easily pleased!! Here’s the recipe I used:

Ingredients

For the Yogurt Sauce:
  • 120 ml thick Greek or strained plain yogurt
  • 1 Tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 Tablespoon fresh mint, finely chopped
  • Pinch of sea salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • Extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
For the Pea Fritters:
  • 260 g fresh or thawed frozen green peas
  • 2 large eggs
  • 2 spring onions (or one medium shallot), white and light green parts thinly sliced
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh mint leaves, coarsely chopped
  • The zest from half of an unwaxed or organic lemon, finely grated
  • 56g sheep’s milk feta
  • 28 g coconut flour, sifted
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • ¼ tsp freshly ground pepper
  • Olive oil for frying

Instructions

  1. Make the Yogurt Sauce:
  2. Whisk all ingredients in a small bowl until smooth. Season to taste with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper and drizzle with olive oil.
  3. Refrigerate until needed. (Can be made ahead of time)
  1. Make the Pea Fritters:
  2. Cook peas in a large saucepan of boiling salted water until just tender (about 3-4 minutes).
  3. Drain and mash coarsely using a fork or pulse briefly in a food processor until chunky.
  4. In a large bowl whisk together the egg, green onions or shallots, mint, lemon rind, feta, coconut flour and salt and pepper. Add in the pea mixture and mix thoroughly. Set aside for 5 minutes to allow the coconut flour to absorb some of the moisture.
  5. Heat a thin layer of coconut oil in a medium frying pan over medium heat and place heaped tablespoons of the pea mixture in the pan pressing down the mixture into a disc. Cook in batches flipping when golden on one side (about 2 minutes each side).
  6. Drain fritters on parchment paper if needed.
  7. Serve immediately with the yogurt sauce on the side and additional lemon wedges and a green salad if desired.

I don’t really like a strong flavour of mint to be honest, but followed the recipe and it wasn’t too much, but add more if you like that sort of thing!! Same with the lemon really, but I did forget to serve with the lemon wedges at the end so I’d definitely do that next time. I served these for lunch for two with a salad which was enough, but it’d need to be served with more for a bigger number of people. Perfect for a picky tea – like the Sesame Seeded Halloumi from the other day!!

Happy frittering!

Sesame Seeded Halloumi

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So I’ve been busy of late with excessive uni work, dissertation deadlines and exams upon exams, meaning I’ve been heading home for tea without the time to figure out how to feed myself! Luckily mum’s ‘just thrown together’ tea’s resemble a banquet for me who generally hardly has anything in to throw together except beans and dried couscous. Not great.

The stand out for this however, was the sesame seeded halloumi. We’ve done this for years but I can’t remember where we first heard about it – but it gives it this amazing skin and crunch that is unbeatable. For ages we used to coat it in flour making it brown and crispy, but this adds something else to it and it’s amazing!! One of those things you have to tell people to try if they like halloumi, or even mention the word around me!

It’s quite simply halloumi sliced up and coated in sesame seeds, and then fried on a medium heat. Serve with salad, parmesan potatoes, and anything else you like to make up your picky tea! Garlic bread is a must though.

Vegetarian Pan of Scouse

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I am from Liverpool. So obviously absolutely love a pan of scouse (probably known to everyone else as stew). I don’t really care what you call it, as long as you make it and eat it.
My memory of scouse is of my Grandma’s – and was beautiful. Homemade, honest and delicious. And my Mum has since made it many times – and adapted it to be veggie to suit my brother using Quorn mince. Tastes just as nice to me, and also contains something like 80% less fat – like the advert says! Handy bonus.
So I wanted to make it last week, and rang my mum for the ingredients. The only thing was she knew what to get, but when asked how much of anything, replied with a bit of a vague non-answer, about how I’d ‘just know’. Unsatisfied I thought I’d find some quantities online for a scouse, if not a stew. Nope. Couldn’t find anything. Anyway, ended up buying wayyyy too much, but suppose I did ‘just know’ and didn’t use it all. So here’s the veggie recipe for a bloody amazing taste of Liverpool.

Ingredients
– 2 white onions, chopped up.
– 3 large carrots, chopped into discs.
– 6 Maris Piper medium sized potatoes, peeled and chopped into 2cm bite sized pieces.
– Quorn mince (500g).
– Bouillon vegetable stock (I think I made a litre up and used just under this, but best to have too much in case it goes a bit dry).
– Mixed herbs (a healthy sprinkle).
– Salt and pepper.
– Half a bag of washed spinach.

Recipe
– Fry the onions in a large pan on a medium heat. When they’ve softened, add the potatoes. Leave for them to soften a little bit too.
– Add the mince and mix well. Then add the carrots, and finally add the stock until it’s about 2 cm from the top of the mixture.
– Add the herbs, salt and pepper, and mix well. Leave to simmer for at least 20 minutes. If possible, make this in the morning and reheat at night for dinner – the potatoes will have soaked up all the juices and makes it 10x as amazing. Or reheat the leftovers the next day. Yum.
– When ready to serve, throw in the spinach until it’s wilted down.
– Serve with pickled beetroot and/or red cabbage, and a generous squirt of brown sauce or ketchup – much to my mum’s dismay – its got to be done!!