Recipe: Simple Fennel Pasta

Like many households, I’m sure, pasta is our go-to meal. When we don’t know what to cook, you can bet it will end up involving pasta. Whether it’s my tomato-free bolognese, a decadent carbonara or gut-lining mac’n’cheese, we love the carby-comfort food hit.

 photo Fennel Pasta_zps5mdlg1mw.jpgRecently, though, we’ve been trying to experiment a bit more. When we say “oh, we’ll have pasta” we try to pick out a new recipe, try a new combination. Even, as in this recipe, to try something new with an ingredient we rarely use.

Fennel is something I’m a bit scared of, to tell the truth. I have never liked aniseed, going as far as retching when the Liquorice Alsorts were bought out on family car journeys. It was a Dynamo Pizza (now sadly removed from the menu) that first got me eating fennel – the combination of just al-dente fennel with ham, mozzarella and pomegranate seeds was a delight. And so I agreed to try out this pasta dish. And a few additions later, we have a firm favourite…

 photo Fennel Pasta 2_zpsep5blspt.jpg photo Fennel Pasta 4_zpsbcftekk8.jpgRecipe (to serve 2)

  • 1 tbsp olive oil, plus a little extra virgin olive oil to drizzle before serving
  • 1&1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 3 garlic cloves,crushed
  • 1 lemon, both the zest and the juice – if we have half a lemon hanging around in the fridge we’ll sometimes add extra too
  • 1 fennel bulb, finely sliced, fronds (the green flowery bits) reserved
  • 175g linguine
  • 1/3 pack parsley, chopped (I’m not a fan of parsley but it does work here)
  • Parmesan, or other similar hard cheese

Heat the oil in a frying pan cook the fennel seeds until they pop (about 90 seconds over a not-too-high heat). Add in the garlic and allow to cook for a minute or so, but don’t let it colour. Throw in the lemon zest and half the fennel, lower the heat and cook for 10-12 mins or until the fennel has softened – cook the pasta whilst you’re waiting.

Add the cooked pasta to the frying pan, along with a few tablespoons of pasta water (reserve a bit more, just in case). Toss together, along with the remaining raw fennel, parsley and lemon juice. Season well, then pile into bowls, topping with the fennel fronds, a drizzle of oil and a generous serving of parmesan. Perfect with a glass of chilled white wine!

 photo Fennel Pasta 1_zpskq3zsmbc.jpg photo Fennel Pasta 3_zpsdqxh2yaw.jpgWe found this was a gorgeously light pasta dish, yet still full of flavour. The contrasting textures of the pasta alongside the cooked and raw fennel added extra interest. All in all a rather yummy dish!

What’s your favourite pasta dish?

Recipe: Nomato Sauce & My Ultimate (Tomato-Free!) Bolognese

Since becoming allergic to tomatoes, one of the biggest things I’ve missed has been spaghetti bolognese and lasagne. I love pizza as much as the next person, but white pizzas are pretty damn good. Sure, I can’t eat regular curries any more but I’ve developed a love for tandoori chicken instead. But Bolognese? Try finding a tomato-free version and you’ll see what I mean!

 photo Nomato Sauce_zpsxouvsbyd.jpgBut then I used the excuse of W being away to get a bit creative in the kitchen (i.e. make a shit tonne of mess). I’d been eyeing up various ‘nomato’ and ‘nightshade-free’ red sauces for a few years, but I’d always been scared to make them. Actually, I tried once but it was overly carrot-y and not a success. This time I did a lot of research, then ignored everything, combined a few recipes and hoped for the best…

And it worked.

 photo Nomato Sauce and Ultimate Bolognese 17_zpsblvxht2k.jpgMy God, is this red sauce a wonderful thing! Apparently it doesn’t taste exactly like tomatoes (I don’t remember) but it is pretty damn close. It’s amazingly versatile and works in all kinds of recipes – including on a pizza to make the best pepporoni one I’ve had in years (sure, I love white pizzas, but there’s something about a greasy pepporoni one that I hadn’t realised I was missing out on!).

The tomato-free Bolognese, though, is where this nomato sauce really shines. The Bolognese is rich, almost creamy. The meat is soft and tender, the sauce is silky. You would never guess it’s lacking what is supposedly a vital ingredient! Everyone has their own secrets to a good Bolognese. Katy adds HP Brown sauce, and both soy and Worcestershire sauces to hers. I have seen many people add chicken livers, something I’m determined to try the next time I get control of the shopping trolley.  And of course, there is Marcella Hazan’s recipe, often described as the Holy Grail of Bolognese. All I can say is that we love this recipe; full of flavour and just damn delicious. I’m now craving it as I type!

 photo Nomato Sauce and Ultimate Bolognese 12_zpshvewulti.jpg photo Nomato Sauce and Ultimate Bolognese 7_zpsmahrrmdy.jpgOh, and if you’re feeling more virtuous? I can highly recommend this Bolognese served over courgetti and boodles (softened in a little garlic olive oil for 2 mins). Just don’t skip the parmesan!

Ingredients (Nomato Sauce – generally makes 4 big portions and 1 smaller one)

  • 2 red peppers
  • 1 red onion
  • 2 white onions (big-ish ones if possibly, if yours are smaller chuck another one in)
  • 5 sticks of celery
  • 6 carrots
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 3 dried bay leaves
  • 2 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
  • 1 litre of vegetable stock
  • 1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
  • 3/4 of a vacuum pack of beetroot

I’m afraid there’s a lot of chopping here (though you could definitely use a food chopper to save time!).

Slice your peppers and pop in a baking dish. Roast for 20-30 minutes until the skin is blackened. Transfer to a bowl, over with sling-film and leave to cool before removing and discarding the skins.

Finely chop your onions, celery and carrots. Pop into a large pan with a little olive oil and a pinch of salt, and saute over a low heat for a good twenty minutes. You want them to soften and sweeten, but not brown. Add the garlic and bay leaves and increase the heat; fry for two minutes. Add the balsamic vinegar and let it bubble away, before adding the stock and the cooled roasted peppers. Bring to the boil, then allow to simmer for half an hour, or until the vegetables are soft. Top up with more water if necessary.

Slice the beetroot into smaller pieces, then add to the pan along with the soy sauce. Cook for around 10 more minutes, then leave to cool before pureeing until smooth. Portion up and freeze. I find this works amazingly well in my Bolognese recipe (below), but I’ve also used it in curries, tagines and to top a pizza. It’s a great way of adding extra vegetables in too!

 photo Nomato Sauce and Ultimate Bolognese 16_zpsydavykal.jpg photo Nomato Sauce and Ultimate Bolognese 10_zpsgnwpmn5p.jpgIngredients (Ultimate Bolognese, for two greedy people, or two normal people with leftovers for lunch)

  • 250g beef mince
  • 1 white onion
  • 1 stick of celery
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 garlic cloves
  • 1 small glass of red wine
  • 50ml full-fat milk
  • 1 portion of nomato sauce (around 3 ladelfuls)
  • 1/2 beef stock cube
  • Dried herbs – I usually go for a pinch each of basil, oregano and thyme

This isn’t a quick Monday-night dinner, I’ll admit. This is a lazy Saturday evening meal, or a Friday night treat. I’ll usually crack open a bottle of red and stand stirring, wine glass in hand. However, for a quicker version: omit the celery, carrot and milk, only simmer for as long as you have time for. It’s definitely worth trying the full recipe though…

Finely chop the vegetables. Pop a fry pan onto a medium head and add the mince (no added oil!) – fry until browned all over, then tip into a bowl. Add a little olive oil to the pan, then add the vegetables and fry until soft and the onion is slightly golden. Add the garlic and herbs, along with the mince. Fry for a few more minutes, then tip in the glass of wine. Allow to bubble away, turn the heat down, then add the milk. Cook, stirring, until the milk has almost evaporated away before adding the nomato sauce and the stock cube.

Turn the heat to the lowest setting and allow to simmer away for at least an hour, stirring every now and then, adding a touch of hot water if it’s starting to catch. The end result will be melt-in-the-mouth, super savoury and almost creamy. A proper bowl of comfort food served over spaghetti – and even better added to homemade cheesy bechamel in a lasagne!
 photo Nomato Sauce and Ultimate Bolognese 11_zpssjnaqek9.jpg photo Nomato Sauce and Ultimate Bolognese 13_zpsvzk0wr7a.jpg

What’s your secret to a good Bolognese sauce?

Recipe: Springtime Vegetable Carbonara

Without a doubt, one of my absolute all-time favourite meals is carbonara. Ridiculously quick to make, on-hand ingredients, comforting and tasty. The combination of soft pasta, silky, creamy sauce, peppery and cheesy, with salty hits from the bacon – it really is my idea of perfection.

 photo Springtime Vegetable Carbonara 4_zpsm7iuyyg6.jpgBut recently I’ve been trying to lighten it up, increase the veg content (sorry, a salad/vegetables on the side is not a good combination with carbonara). I wanted to stay as true as possible to the original dish, mainly for the simplicity. I love that I can have dinner ready in under fifteen minutes when making this, and now I have a slightly more bulked out green version too. Perfect for spring, perfect for a quick dash in and out whilst studying!

This version is actually even quicker and needs less washing up – doing away with the bacon helps with that. And it’s perfect for using up any odds and ends lying around. A bit of leek adds some sweetness, broad beans would be wonderful, sugarsnap peas add crunch. Feel free to add mint instead of parsley, sprinkle with feta, stir through a leftover spoon of cream cheese… it really is an adaptable recipe. I imagine it would would perfectly with a “courgette’o’nara” too.

 photo Springtime Vegetable Carbonara 1_zpsbjfqwdu2.jpg photo Springtime Vegetable Carbonara 3_zpsdeyj1sni.jpgIngredients

  • 70g pasta, I favour spaghetti in a carbonara
  • Small handful frozen peas
  • 1 garlic clove, peeled but left whole
  • 2 mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 slice of ham, chopped
  • 1 handful baby spinach, washed
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 small handful finely grated parmesan
  • 1 bunch parsley leaves, chopped

Cook the pasta, adding the peas for the final four minutes, before draining and running under the cold tap to cool. Whilst the pasta is cooking, combine the cheese and egg, and dribble in a little of the hot pasta water, beating constantly – this melts the cheese and prevents the egg from scrambling later.

Add a little oil to the same pan, and lightly fry the mushrooms and garlic clove for a minute. Fish out the garlic and add the ham. Fry for 1 minute, then add the pasta, peas and spinach. Heat until just warm, remove from the heat and add the egg mixture gradually, stirring constantly. Return to a very low heat and stir constantly until the sauce is thickened but not scrambled. Stir through the parsley and plenty of black pepper, and serve immediately.

This is definitely one of my new favourite dinners – comforting, filling, and a decent amount of green. It’s almost as good as a standard carbonara! I may have mentioned it before, but it is my aim to keep all carbonara ingredients in my house at all times – and Aldi are making this super easy with their excellently priced eggs and bacon lately. I may have been having too many BAE sandwiches for my own good… Comfort food aside, I’ve noticed the quality of fresh produce has very much improved over the last couple of years, making it the perfect place to grab a load of spring veg. The upped veg content makes the perfect for a quick springtime supper; fresh and colourful, and not too stodgy.
 photo Springtime Vegetable Carbonara 5_zpsbplel0o7.jpg photo Springtime Vegetable Carbonara 7_zpssdxupgpr.jpg

*Aldi provided me with vouchers for ingredients for a Springtime recipe, though as always all opinions are my own!

Are you a pasta fan? What’s your favourite quick dinner?

Recipe: Homemade Pesto

Pesto is one of the things I’ve poo-poo-ed about making at home. Such a faff, a bit expensive, and the jarred stuff is perfectly fine. Well the jarred stuff WAS perfectly fine until I made my own. Now I can’t touch the stuff. Homemade is so much fresher, so much more fragrant, and I can adapt it – I like mine chunkier and less oily, heavy on the garlic and slightly less cheese.

 photo Homemade Pesto Recipes 9_zpsbjfcpckm.jpg photo Homemade Pesto Recipes 1_zpsmdsxkrfj.jpgI love the fact that it’s super simple to make in bulk, and not exactly expensive – I often only buy fresh herbs when they are reduced, then will quickly whizz up a batch of pesto for the freezer. It’s adaptable to what you what too. No pinenuts? Just any kind of nut you have! No herbs? Try kale pesto. No parmesan? A punchy hard cheddar will do!

 photo Homemade Pesto Recipes 7_zpsbswpjwom.jpg photo Homemade Pesto Recipes 6_zps2a9pn7km.jpgRoasted red pepper pesto is my ultimate favourite, simply because it tastes as close to tomatoes as possible without actually containing them. I have a constant supply of a jar from Waitrose, but making my own has been a revelation – so much fresher, and as it’s got less oil it makes for a perfect crisp pizza.

Green pesto is just as delicious, and super lovely tossed through fresh pasta. I love it cold for lunch – and one of my ultimate comfort food dinners is a pasta bake made with chicken and a creamy pesto. Just yum!
 photo Homemade Pesto Recipes 5_zpsc0qloj80.jpg photo Homemade Pesto Recipes 8_zpsxiez5qm0.jpg

Roasted Pepper Pesto

Start by roasted off your peppers – whack the oven up as far as it will go, quarter and deseed the peppers and place skinside up in a tin. Roast for 10-20 minutes until blackened, then tip into a bowl and cover with cling-film until cool. Then just slip the skins off – as they have steamed whilst cooking it should be a pretty easy job.

Grab a frying pan and toast your nuts on a high heat (no oil) until beginning to turn golden. Add to a food processor along with a clove or two of garlic, your peppers and a good handful of cheese. Blitz until you have your preferred consistency, then use how you fancy. I love this as a pizza sauce, but it’s perfect tossed through pasta for a quick lunch.
 photo Homemade Pesto Recipes 2_zpsgmruepot.jpg photo Homemade Pesto Recipes 4_zpspfju3ohp.jpg

Classic Basil Pesto

The classic one this! Toast your pinenuts on a high heat, dry pan, then blitz with a handful of basic, cheese and a little garlic. Loosen with a teeny bit of olive oil if you want. I’d suggest freezing the classic pesto if you aren’t going to use it within twenty-four hours as I find the basil can go a little bitter – probably the issue with the jarred stuff!

I’m now craving a more summery meal of pasta tossed with fresh pesto, enjoyed in the evening sunshine. I have a feeling it will be a long time before I get to experience that again!

Have your ever made your own pesto? What’s your favourite pasta sauce?

Recipe: Cauliflower Mac’n’Cheese

Yep, ANOTHER mac’n’cheese recipe from me. I’m not entirely sure how many I’ve posted on here, but at least four. Which for someone who is meant to be low-carb isn’t great…but here is one which is slightlyyyy lower in carbs than usual.

 photo 8b32b1cf-96c8-44aa-b7a7-a8f32da5e195_zps9p8uyx5h.jpgI’ve fallen a little in love with cauliflower recently. I’m not on the whole one of those people who fall on foodie bandwagons. I’m not tempted to go sugar free, and I’m sure as hell not making meringues out of chickpea gunge (ew!). I’ve largely ignored the trend for making carb-y things out of cauliflower, but this felt worth a try. Because it’s not cauliflower pretending to be anything. It’s just cauliflower cheese and mac’n’cheese combined in one gooey bake. Sounds good? Yep, though so!

 photo 52c6199b-4734-46b7-a2fb-854a4403f659_zpsglttlzqo.jpgTaken from one of Jamie Oliver’s books, it’s a pretty easy recipe. His version calls for a ‘cheats’ cheese sauce made with creme fraiche, but we made our own (based on W’s cheesy pasta bake). We also added a few bits and made a lot of changes, so I’m pretty sure it’s not copyright to give you my version!

 photo 66829a1c-2975-465f-a0b9-1f1073be6161_zpsjo2fxags.jpgIngredients (serves 2 greedy people)

  • 2-3 florets of cauliflower per person
  • 140g macaroni
  • 2 rashers of bacon
  • 2 tablespoons plain flour
  • 500ml-ish of milk
  • Around 50g butter
  • A good handful of grated cheddar for the sauce
  • Breadcrumbs (1 slice of bread worth)
  • Another half handful of grated cheddar, plus some grated parmsan

Whilst an easy recipe, this creates a LOT of washing up. Finely chop your cauliflower, tip into a roasting tin, toss in a little oil and cook at 200C for about 10 minutes. You want it to start looking charred.

 photo 7223d5ad-2ce8-4890-b1fd-1d1b4dff9aa0_zpstomg3cez.jpgMeanwhile fry your diced bacon until crisp and cook your macaroni.

And make the cheese sauce. Melt butter in a pan, add flour and stir constantly. Pour in the milk gradually and keep stirring and heating until thick. Add the cheese and season well.

 photo dfb33f74-09ec-452f-b9c0-7423321c5085_zpshxfu85aa.jpg photo 46eab6eb-17a8-4663-892a-2efa8214bd31_zps62o3u0qu.jpg photo 255f343c-aeac-4548-be19-a05c5129b13e_zpsggjjgoga.jpgAdd your pasta to a baking dish, tip in the bacon and cauliflower. Stir to combine, pour over the sauce and make sure everything is covered. Mix together the rest of the cheese and breadcrumbs, then scatter this mixture over the top.

 photo b613a954-2747-493f-99d2-e4e7ee460ec1_zpsjlbiuthw.jpgGrill until golden, crispy, and delicious whilst you wash up all the pans.

Enjoy with a green salad, and feel slightly better about eating mac’n’cheese.

 photo 9078f510-5ab0-4ddb-a7d4-42a9410c66b2_zpsikudll5s.jpgI found this was a great way of eating cauliflower. I still don’t particularly like the stuff, but it wasn’t as horrific as a cauliflower cheese! The bacon and crispy breadcrumbs definitely help! And with the rest of the cauliflower? I might have got against my word and made it ‘pretend’ to be something else. There’s a sneaky peek on my Instagram, but you’ll just have to wait and find out!

Are you a fan of cauliflower? What’s your favourite cauliflower recipe?

Recipe: Smoked Salmon & Baby Kale Pasta

I’ve become a little uninspired with my regular meals lately. Being on a health kick means that I’m trying to avoid too much cheesy–stodgy-stuff but I’m beginning to crave pasta. With that in mind I resolved to try and find create some healthier pasta dishes.

 photo 1d012c98-e87d-49dc-a050-00fc4902102e_zps0a3qw1l1.jpgMy Healthier Mac’n’Cheese went down well, but I was after something with a bit more zing. It was almost fate when Florette asked me to try and come up with a recipe involving one of their newest products – baby kale. I decided to throw together something with whatever happened to be in my fridge. It turned out delicious, so despite it not being the most attractive of dishes, it’s what I’m sharing here.

 photo 4f589190-c2d9-40ea-baa5-4e3085e0d1f1_zpsjzsygjx7.jpgIngredients

  • 1 serving of pasta (I use 60-70g usually)
  • 1/2 bag of baby kale
  • Some smoked salmon – I used Sainsbury’s Basics, pretty much the offcuts, tastes fine but the texture is wrong for in a bagel!
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  • Plenty of black pepper
  • 1-2 tablespoons of low-fat creme fraiche

Cook the pasta, drain and reserve some of the cooking water.

Add the creme fraiche to the pan over a low heat, and wilt the baby kale. Add the lemon juice and pepper, stir through the salmon and pasta and heat thoroughly. That’s it – spectacularly quick and simple, perfect for after work. And goes nicely with a glass of white wine too!

 photo de8160e4-74f0-4dd7-8bb6-4f38655d6cfd_zpshfcklaj3.jpgNow, I love proper curly kale. I can get from the big, big bags in a week. Made into kale crisps as a snack, snuck into a salad, floating in soup, stir fried, or just steamed and drenched in gravy. It’s a winter staple for me. With that in mind I was curious about baby kale, but not curious enough to pay £1.30 for a bag…(disclaimer: I received vouchers for the baby kale, and a few other goodies including a recipe book, no money exchanged hands). It turns out that I do like baby kale, it’s like a more flavourful version of spinach. But worth the price? No. I’d sooner buy the regular stuff, though this is nicer in salads.

 photo 0daa69f5-efaf-4fad-a53f-06c14d348e37_zpsfliqffzp.jpgHaving said all that, I’ll definitely be adding this meal into the regular rotation. Quick, easy, healthy and very tasty, it’s just what I needed to spur me through this last week of dieting. I’m now raring to go and feeling a whole lot more positive.

Do you get bored of regular meals? What are your healthy mid-week staples – I need inspiration!

Recipe: The Healthier Mac’n’Cheese

I loveeee Mac’nCheese. There’s just something so comforting about soft pasta, silky sauce, and an almost crunchy topping. Possibly mixed with bacon as per my boyfriend’s recipe, maybe with some spices added. I’m wanting to experiment with a fresh-chilli mac after the gorgeous side I scoffed from Mother Clucker. But it’s not the healthiest meal, and as a result it’s saved for a special treat.

 photo 4fb9dacd-00b9-4020-ab50-d1deb97658db_zpsb7644b64.jpgMy version of The Londoner’s one-pan mac is definitely good for saving a few calories, and is probably the healthiest one I’ve found. But it lacks for me what is the best bit, the baked top. I’ve tried baking it but the sauce just solidifies. A couple of tries later, all in the name of research, and now I present you this recipe. Creamy, tangy, cheesy sauce, lightly spiced. Perfectly coated macaroni pasta. And a cheesy top that goes delightfully gooey and crispy. YUM.

 photo 859778e8-1e38-421f-b244-8a332c9c7634_zps48ee24cb.jpgIngredients

  • Pasta – I went for 50g of macaroni
  • 1 tablespoon low-fat creme fraiche
  • 1/2 teaspoon of mustard
  • 1 small matchbox sized chunk of cheese (i.e. a ‘proper’ serving)
  • A sprinkle of polenta

 photo a91929f3-a68c-4487-a872-255507925aa3_zps1d300b67.jpgFirst off, cook your pasta. You want to slightly undercook it, so chop a minute off the cooking time. Drain, but leave a little water in the pan (just enough to cover the base).

 photo 7ff743b0-1d0c-4a19-af22-5205619048fe_zpse1176bae.jpg photo 25884205-d907-4291-b358-2b830388487d_zps26ac0f16.jpgReturn to a low heat, and add the creme fraiche, mustard, and lots of black pepper. Add 3/4 of the cheese to the sauce, and stir until melted, combined and creamy.

 photo 2b0fd4cb-2388-4c31-bef4-de94f26eff20_zps5ed8dc32.jpgPour into a baking dish, and top with the remaining cheese. Slice it very thinly so it covers the whole dish. Sprinkle lightly with polenta, then bake for 15 or so minutes, until bubbling and golden. Yep – silly me forgot the polenta when I made this to photograph. It tastes damn good without it, just slightly less crispy.

 photo 3bf1c5f6-6442-4dad-a4aa-fbd3b2a55952_zps2e1cf470.jpgServe with a big crunchy salad, and you’ve got a comforting meal without the guilt. And it’s quick, and the pan doesn’t take half as much elbow grease to wash up as a proper cheese sauce. I know what I’m having for dinner tonight…

What’s your favourite meal? Do you have any tricks to make it healthier?

Recipe: Haggis Carbonara

As you may know I’ve holidayed in Edinburgh for the past two years; I adore the city, and I really love what I’ve seen of Scotland. One of my dream holidays in the next few years is to finish a stay in Edinburgh with some form of road trip around the country.  photo e190fe4e-8204-4b32-8fc2-b3c1d33ec858_zps411437dc.jpgOne of the things I love about Scotland is the food. Nothing too fancy, but everything is tasty, hearty and well seasoned – too many people are shy with the salt and pepper! When Sykes Cottages asked me to come up with an interesting Haggis recipe I was embarrassingly excited; I love haggis but have never cooked it myself. I was actually quite shocked at their statistics; nearly two-thirds of people wouldn’t order haggis if they saw it on the menu. I’ve got to say there are things I’d place ahead of haggis, but its definitely not a no-go area for me!  photo 2014-06-19123753_zps47344773.jpgThinking about my recipe, I wanted something quick and easy, but still comforting. Haggis isn’t meant to be light and healthy really! I’ve actually never had it ‘as it comes’, I’ve eaten it stuffed inside a chicken breast (pretty good) and in a fritter. A word about the Fritter – I highly recommend you visit Maison Bleue if you find yourself in Edinburgh. Pretty damn good set menu at roughly £30, but £15 if you’re a student and its a Tuesday. One of the most interesting (in a good way!) meals I’ve had, and they definitely don’t skimp on portions. But yes, I highly recommend their Haggis Fritters. Anyway, all the times I’ve enjoyed Haggis it’s been in quite a complex form. I didn’t want that, so I thought about the flavours – peppery and meaty. Then I realised it would be pretty nice in a carbonara. I was right, it was fantastic. I used a pattie of haggis as it was the easiest option for one. So cheap too!  photo 2014-08-15185358_zpseaec30eb.jpgJust to let you know, my regular carbonara comes very highly praised by my boyfriend. I’ve never planned to publish it on here and its not a dish that takes kindly to sitting around being photographed, but here it is. Aren’t you lucky?! To make it haggis-less, just fry chopped bacon until crisp, and add a good amount of pepper to the cheese mix. Ingredients

  • Decent knob of butter
  • 1 round of haggis
  • 1 egg
  • Cheese – I went for parmesan and a good grating of a Scottish cheddar
  • Pasta – spaghetti is best really

 photo 6140c989-1c95-4cd0-beeb-9556e103bb9c_zps9cb39dfd.jpgFirst of all put your pasta on to boil. I find 10 minutes is about right for most pastas. Meanwhile fry your haggis in butter – I crumbled mine up completely, but you could leave it in bigger chunks. I’d say crumbled is easier if you’re just starting out with haggis though!  photo 9165dc89-d6c5-4481-a929-a8ecd30145f3_zpsd692627e.jpg photo 1247502f-ff31-422b-94aa-18f4eafdfef6_zpsed6ad2e6.jpg photo 2e9a0b09-1f59-4853-9e22-a024294de140_zps221ca805.jpgAnd while that’s frying, crack and egg into a bowl, beat and add your grated cheeses.  photo 0e45a5cb-9383-47ae-bb5a-f6b69b99c878_zpsffde082f.jpgNow my secret for carbonara – take a tablespoon of the boiling pasta water (while the pasta is still cooking) and dribble it into the egg-cheese while beating with a fork. Do the same with another teaspoon. The water should just melt the cheese, make a smooth mixture, and lighten the end sauce.  photo 1c6b3cc2-9b19-4cbf-8222-4b910668aaaa_zps19571434.jpgOnce the pasta has boiled, drain, and tip straight in with the haggis. Toss together.  photo e190fe4e-8204-4b32-8fc2-b3c1d33ec858_zps411437dc.jpgTurn the heat off, and wait a few minutes. Tip the egg mixture gradually (tossing well between additions) into the pasta. If it starts to scramble don’t add any more; wait another minute. Once all the egg is in, if its not quite cooked enough to your liking (I’m not fussy about really runny egg!) put the pan back on a very low heat. Then serve, and eat as quickly as possible. Trust me, cold carbonara isn’t a good thing!  photo 84e5815d-9720-4a82-95fb-07b7137274ee_zps2b3c0a3e.jpg

Disclaimer: I was sent the personalised apron and £15 to cover ingredients costs (treated myself to posh parmesan!) by Sykes Cottages, but all opinions are my own. I genuinely love haggis!

Whats your opinion of haggis?

Recipe: Boyfriend’s Cheesy Pasta Bake

CheesyPastaBake photo CheesyPastaBake_zps5b08a68c.jpgThere’s a running joke that my future children will all be fat, and there’s a very good reason for this. My boyfriend is an amazing cook, in fact our mutual love of baking and cooking was one of the things we bonded over nearly four years ago. He likes to think he is better than me, and whilst sometimes he probably is I’ll always deny it. Neither of us are particularly intrigued by the healthy craze that seems to be taking the food blogging world by storm at the moment (cashew vegan “cheese” anyone?) and so today I bring you one of the most unhealthiest things I eat. Comfort food at its finest, and a recipe we both plan to be sure to teach our children to make as soon as they are tall enough to use the hob. And no vegan fake cheese in sight…

This cheesy pasta bake is rich, it’s filling, it’s hearty. I can rarely finish my portion (no matter how good we try to be, we always make too much). Its so, so cheesy, a teeny bit spicy, with good texture coming from both the grill and the meat. Its just utter perfection, and I can still remember the first time my boyfriend made it for me early on in our relationship. And I am not ashamed to admit that, on more than one occasion, he has offered to cook me a romantic meal and I have requested this.

Ingredients – for two greedy people

  •  Meat – we usually go for bacon and frankfurters.
  • Cheese – lots of it. At least two big handfuls of a strong mature cheddar. You could get posh and mix up your cheeses, but we rarely do.
  • 80g of pasta each – cooked and ran under a cold tap to cool.
  • Around 50g butter.
  • 2 tablespoons plain flour.
  • 500ml-ish of milk.
  • Seasoning – salt, plenty of black pepper, and some spicy (Cajun is particularly good here).

How to make my boy’s signature dish…

CheesePastaBake3 photo 2014-04-16194826_zpsc41b5099.jpgCheesyPastaBake4 photo 2014-04-16195144_zpsdeaff155.jpgCheesyPastaBake10 photo 2014-04-16195607_zps1f38ac81.jpgPrepare the meat. Dice the bacon, slice the frankfurters and fry in a little oil/butter until crisp. Add the spices (Cajun, not salt and pepper) to the meat just before it’s done, then mix this with the cooked and cooled pasta, and put into a baking dish.

CheesyPastaBake1 photo 2014-04-16194630_zps10a5533d.jpgCheesyPastaBake7 photo 2014-04-16195500_zps8fbc19ce.jpgGrate the cheese. When you think you have grated enough, grate some more. You’ll nibble at it whilst you make the sauce!

CheesyPastaBake5 photo 2014-04-16195420_zpsaba020d3.jpgCheesyPastaBake6 photo 2014-04-16195451_zps45e102a7.jpgCheesyPastaBake8 photo 2014-04-16195555_zps79bcdda2.jpgCheesyPastaBake9 photo 2014-04-16195557_zpsd31e8b1b.jpgCheesyPastaBake11 photo 2014-04-16195639_zps1a16ad73.jpgNow it’s onto the sauce. So many people shy away from make a classic white sauce in favour of the all-in-one method, but I’ve found that never tastes quite as good…Melt the butter in a small saucepan. Once it starts to foam, tip in the flour and stir continuously until golden brown. Turn the heat as low as it will go, and gradually add the milk in stages, stirring continuously. When all the milk is added season with salt and pepper, turn the heat up and stir continuously until thickened. Add the cheese and continue stirring. Then pour over the pasta/meat mixture. Use a fork to make sure all of the pasta is covered, top with some extra cheese (slices work best here) and grill for around 5-10 minutes until bubbling and slightly crispy.

CheesyPastaBake photo CheesyPastaBake_zps5b08a68c.jpgLet cool slightly, then serve up. As a small concession to the health-police – eat this with a salad. Its especially good with fridge-cold red peppers and crunchy lettuce. This is my all-time favourite, the meal I would request as my ‘last meal’ if I could.

What’s your absolute favourite meal?

 

What’s Cooking Wednesday (#9)

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I’m heading home this weekend (well to my hometown, but admittedly most of the weekend will be spend at my boyfriend’s and not my home!) so I don’t have many meals to plan, and I also haven’t been shopping this week. This meal plan is full of meals made up from store cupboard bits and pieces, and whatever I have left! Its also likely to change, as I’m sure some ingredients will start to get past their best so I’ll move things around to avoid waste. Anyway…

Wednesday – Steak Pie, Mash & Veg

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Bit of a comfort meal this one! I really love a good shop-bought steak pie, but I’m quite limited to the ones I can eat as a lot include tomato paste, so I’m looking forward to trying this.

Thursday – Thai Green Vegetable Curry

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This is just an excuse to play with a new toy – a much awaited Julienne peeler!

Friday – Leftover Curry/Soup

I’m not getting the train til relatively late, but I’ll still only have about 30 minutes to change and eat, so I watered down the leftovers from Thursday with stock, and ate with a Naan bread.

Saturday – Mum’s Meatballs, Spaghetti & Garlic Bread

Sunday – Beef Stew

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I put in a request for this at home, and am really looking forward to it. Yes I can make my own, but its nowhere near as good as mums!

Monday – Lentil Curry

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I experimented with a load of vegetables and curry – recipe to come soon. It  did NOT look good though!

Tuesday – Tomato-Free Beany Chilli

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A quick dinner from the freezer – a made-from-scratch tomato-free slow-cooker chilli, which I’ll serve with tortilla chips!

Do you make adjustable meal plans to avoid waste?