This sauce has been a revelation for me. I bookmarked the Pinch of Yum recipe YEARS ago, but finally gotten around to trying it few months back. I was feeling slightly worse for wear on the run up to exams, wanted something comforting for lunch, something filling but that wouldn’t have me in need of a lie down after eating. This fitted the bill perfectly.
If you didn’t know it had cauliflower in it, you’d be forgiven for thinking it was just an ‘ordinary’ cheesy white sauce. There is perhaps a hint of nutty roasted-cauli taste, but so little that I’ve managed to feed this to cauliflower haters with no problems whatsoever. It’s reasonably low in calories (compared to my usual recipe!) yet tastes so indulgent and rich. It freezes far better than a traditional white sauce, making it perfect for study day lunches. Tossed with a good pasta, stirred into rice or even thinned down into a soup (I like to use chicken stock to do so) it’s become a firm favourite.
I’ve even used it to make what turned out to be a pretty awesome cauliflower cheese – add to roasted cauliflower, top with extra cheese then grill until golden. Perfection without all the calories!
75g grated parmesan (or other cheese of your choice), finely grated
1/2 cup milk (more to taste)
Toss the cauliflower with the oil, season with salt and pepper, then roast at 200C for around 20 minutes, or until very lightly charred and fork-tender. Meanwhile slowly cook the garlic in butter over a slow eat until soft – don’t let it brown or it will taste bitter. You could also add some fresh herbs to the pan – rosemary is particularly good!
Pop the cauliflower, parmesan, garlic and buttery juices (discard any herbs) into a blender and whizz until smooth, gradually adding the milk until you have your desired consistency. Chill until ready to use. I find this sauce keeps well in the fridge for a couple of days, or in the freezer for a good long while.
Enjoy stirred into tasty for a comforting meal without the guilt! Next time I make this I’m planning to try it as a base for a white pizza…
I can never resist a pasta dish – and when it’s creamy and cheesy then so much the better.
Of course, this dish isn’t the healthiest but damn, it’s so worth it! The sauce is creamy and rich, with the goat’s cheese flavour shining through. The onions are sweet and soft, enhanced with thyme, honey and balsamic. There’s a crunch from some walnuts, some freshness and bite from the rocket.
It’s a comforting bowl, best enjoyed wrapped up in a blanket. It’s perfect for hygge Autumnal evenings!
Recipe (serves 2 generously)
a knob of butter
2 red onion, finely sliced
1 of clove garlic, crushed (but left fairly whole)
1 tbsp fresh thyme leaves (or 1/2 tsp dried)
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tsp Co-op runny honey
150g pasta – we loved it with farfelle
2-3 teaspoons of soft goat’s cheese
1 bag of fresh rocket
a small handful of walnuts, chopped
Melt the butter in a large frying pan, add the sliced red onion, and fry over a medium heat for 3-4 minutes. Add the garlic and thyme and reduce the heat to low before cooking for 10 mins, stirring occasionally. The onions should be very soft, but not brown. Fish out the garlic clove and discard.
Add the balsamic vinegar and honey and continue cooking over a low heat whilst you cook the pasta. If the onions start to stick, add a spoon of pasta water. Drain the cooked pasta, reserve a mug of cooking water, and add the pasta to the onions. Season well with pepper, then stir through the goat’s cheese – add water gradually if the sauce is too thick.
Serve on a bed of rocket, sprinkle with the walnuts, and enjoy!
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.
Recently, 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…
Recipe (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
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!
We 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!
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!
But 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.
My 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!
Oh, 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
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!
Ingredients (Ultimate Bolognese, for two greedy people, or two normal people with leftovers for lunch)
250g beef mince
1 white onion
1 stick of celery
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!
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.
But 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.
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.
*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?
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.
I 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!
Roasted 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!
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.
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?
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.
I’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!
Taken 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!
Ingredients (serves 2 greedy people)
2-3 florets of cauliflower per person
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.
Meanwhile 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.
Add 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.
Grill 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.
I 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?
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.
My 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.
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!
Now, 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.
Having 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!
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.
My 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.
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
First 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).
Return 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.
Pour 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.
Serve 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?
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. One 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! Thinking 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! Just 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
Cheese – I went for parmesan and a good grating of a Scottish cheddar
Pasta – spaghetti is best really
First 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! And while that’s frying, crack and egg into a bowl, beat and add your grated cheeses. Now 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. Once the pasta has boiled, drain, and tip straight in with the haggis. Toss together. Turn 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!
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?