Review: Nonna Tonda Pasta @ Market Hall, Victoria

Market Hall, both the Victoria and Fulham locations, may well be one of my favourite foodie things of the last few years. All of the joys of street food markets – getting to choose where/what you eat, not having to be guided by other’s choices, small portions so you can try ALLLLL the food – but without the bad bits. AKA no getting cold and wet thanks to the standard British weather.

 photo Market Hall Pasta_zpsaejvnvbl.jpgThese indoor dining halls are casual, a little bit chaotic (I’d advise going in with a vague plan and, at peak times, making sure everyone has a phone on them as I definitely think you could get lost in the crowds). Getting a table can be difficult but if you, like us, are all eating from the same vendor then bar seats at the serving area are usually available. Food is ordered and then collected when the handed-out buzzers sound, meaning it all arrives at different times. Along with the noise this doesn’t make it the best location for a girly catch up (if you’re in Victoria head to Hai Cenato for that) but it’s fun, it’s buzzy, and it delivers tasty food.

In Victoria there’s around 12 food traders – and so many of them are on my list to try. Roti King, Fanny’s, Bunshop, Monty’s Deli… I think I could live in Market Hall for a couple of months and not get bored of the food. However on a cold, wet and windy Saturday with a hungover husband in tow it was definitely time for some carby goodness.

Now I’ve got a bit of a thing for good pasta. I now can’t buy supermarket own-brand stuff, and I’ve eaten some amazing pastas in both Italy and London (Padella is well worth queuing for in my opinion, and Lina Stores is high on my list to try).  I was gutted last year when I missed out the chance to try to Fat Tony’s pop-up at the now-closed Bar Termini – it was hailed some of the best pasta that London has ever seen. So yep, sorely gutted to have missed out. And insanely excited that it’s the same guys behind Nonna Tonda at Market Hall.

 photo Pasta at Nonna Tonda Victoria 3_zpsekaw7tdo.jpg photo Pasta at Nonna Tonda Victoria 5_zpsavsovxdi.jpgYour choice is pretty much pasta, or pasta. Or maybe some pasta. If you’re not a pasta fan, move on.

I went classic and ordered the bucatini cacio e pepe – and it was glorious. The pasta was perfectly al dente with a good bit of bit but still soft and slippery – and bucatini is the perfect shape as the little hole absorbs plenty of the glorious cheesy, creamy, peppery sauce. How they make it this good with just water and cheese I’ll never know (I watched them make it, trying to learn tips, but they were so speedy!).

 photo Pasta at Nonna Tonda Victoria 1_zpsq6je76s9.jpgW went for something a little tomato-ey with shredded meat. It was a special on the day we visited, but it went down extremely well and certainly went some way to appeasing him (dragging him to a noisy dining hall with a hangover perhaps didn’t win me any wife points that weekend!).

I also want to mention the bread that was served with each bowl of pasta. I’m not sure what it was exactly (it wasn’t like any focaccia I’ve made or eaten before) but it was slightly oily, so light in crumb and just delicious. Perfect for mopping up leftover sauce.

 photo Pasta at Nonna Tonda Victoria 4_zpsxosmn6iv.jpgI’d like to say I’d be back to Nonna Tonda but, whilst I’d happily eat there again, there’s so many other places in Market Hall I’d like to try. For a foodie it’s a must-visit spot in London, and one I know I’ll be returning to time and time again.

Where would you choose to eat in Market Hall?

 

Recipe: Haggis Carbonara for Burn’s Night

I love haggis, but I totally get that it isn’t for everyone. Particularly if you’ve never tried it, yet you’ve googled what’s in it. I’m of the opinion that if I’m willing to eat meat I should be willing to eat all meat, so things like haggis, black pudding and offal don’t bother me at all – but I still understand that it can turn people’s stomachs a tad! With this in mind I wanted to create a Haggis dish which is perfect as the ‘introduction’ to haggis. Haggis for beginners, if you will.

 photo Haggis Carbonara_zpsglm4oomv.jpg photo Haggis Carbonara 9_zps39wa1lek.jpgAnd so Haggis Carbonara was born.

Instead of a lump of haggis you’ve got crumbled up bits throughout the carbonara sauce. You’ve got cheesy creaminess to break up the strong pepperiness of the haggis. And pasta, because you can’t go wrong with carbs. In fact the haggis pasta combo is a winner in my book. This dish is rich, hearty and unbelievably comforting. Perfect for a Burn’s Night supper in – and great if you want to give haggis a go this January.

 photo Haggis Carbonara 8_zpswhef8xoo.jpg photo Haggis Carbonara 19_zpssc66rv8s.jpgRecipe (serves 2)

  • Decent knob of butter
  • 2 rounds of haggis (I used patties – cheaper and less scary than getting a ‘whole’ haggis!)
  • 2 eggs – one whole and one yolk only (freeze the white for making meringues)
  • A good handful of cheese – I went for parmesan and a good grating of a Scottish cheddar
  • 180g pasta – spaghetti or tagliatelle is best really

First of put the 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! While that’s frying beat the egg and yolk in a mug and add your grated cheeses (keep some back for sprinkling on top!).

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 spoon – and repeat until the cheese has melted and you have a smooth mixture. Not only does this lighten the sauce but it also seems to reduce the risk of ending up with scrambled eggs.

Once the pasta has boiled, drain (reserve some water), and tip straight in with the haggis. Toss together. Turn the heat off, and wait a few minutes. Add the egg mixture gradually (tossing well between additions) into the pasta. If it starts to scramble don’t add any more; wait another minute but stir through some cooking water. 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, sprinkle with extra cheese and eat as quickly as possible. Trust me, cold carbonara isn’t a good thing!

And if you want to make my (legendary) carbonara without the haggis, simply fry a little bacon until crisp and follow the same recipe, adding plenty of black pepper. I personally think haggis is peppery enough so wouldn’t add any to this particular dish.

 photo Haggis Carbonara 15_zpsy1awggq5.jpg photo Haggis Carbonara 20_zpsg7llbs9q.jpg photo Haggis Carbonara 13_zpss4wzzeso.jpgI originally posted this recipe a good 5 years ago now (with some pretty wonderful photos I must admit) and it’s been one of my most popular posts. So much so I thought some up to date camera skills were needed!

*In the interests of complete disclosure the post was originally in collaboration with Sykes Cottages, but I’ve not had any request to rewrite the post! 

Have you ever tried haggis?

Recipe: Lemon, Courgette & Kale Pasta

We all have that one dish in a restaurant that we always order, no matter what. Whilst in most places I do try to order something different each time, in Bella Italia I always, always go for the Pollo Siciliana.  Pasta tubes with chicken, courgette, and spinach in a creamy tarragon and lemon sauce, it’s zingy, indulgent and totally yummy. I always say I’ll try something else but I find it pretty irresistible!

 photo Lemon Courgette Pasta_zpsz0vx7np3.jpgIt’s also a dish I find myself craving quite often, but eating out costs pennies and this gal is saving for a wedding after all – so I made it myself. This one isn’t *quite* the same as the original, but it’s super quick to make and satisfies the craving. I’ve cut out the chicken to make it meat-free, and switched out the spinach for kale as I prefer the texture. I’ve also added peas to up the veg content. The result is a dish that’s super zingy with lemon and packed full of veg. I’ve kept the flavour intense by slowly frying garlic and dried tarragon, adding a splash of white wine and using the best quality pasta I could find. It’s relatively guilt-free too – with the cream limited to a single splash and no cheese added. The perfect mid-week meal!

 photo Green Vegetable Pasta with Lemon White Wine Sauce 5_zpsbglqmto5.jpg

 photo Green Vegetable Pasta with Lemon White Wine Sauce 5_zpsbglqmto5.jpg
Recipe (Serves 1)

  • 50g good quality pasta
  • 1 medium courgette
  • 2 handfuls kale, thick stems trimmed and discarded
  • 1 handful frozen peas
  • 1 lemon, zest and juice
  • 1 garlic clove
  • 1/2 tsp dried tarragon
  • Pinch dried chilli flakes
  • Splash of white wine
  • Splash of cream (double or single works fine – as does creme fraiche, mascapone etc)

First up, slice the courgette thinly (around the thickness of a £1 coin). Fry in a little olive oil with some black pepper until starting to soften, then set aside. In the same pan add a little more olive oil, turn the heat down as low as possible and add the crushed garlic clove, the tarragon and the chilli. Allow to cook slowly for around 10 minutes, adding the lemon zest halfway through, whilst you boil the pasta and steam the kale.

Once the pasta is cooked, drain and reserve a mug of the pasta water. Turn the heat up on the garlic and add the wine, before allowing to almost fully evaporate. Add in the pasta, steamed kale, peas and courgette, along with the lemon juice and plenty of black pepper. Toss together until the peas and defrosted and warmed through, adding pasta water if necessary to loosen. Stir through a splash of cream, and serve immediately. Ideally with a glass of wine and your favourite TV series.

 photo Green Vegetable Pasta with Lemon White Wine Sauce 2_zpsynlmk1na.jpg

 photo Green Vegetable Pasta with Lemon White Wine Sauce 4_zps88jc76na.jpgCourgettes are one of my favourite summer vegetables, and this is a great way of using them up. Next on my list is this recipe from Half Baked Harvest.

Do you have a go-to meal when eating out, or do you prefer to try something new?

Restaurant Review: Pasta Perfection @ Padella, Borough Market

Anyone who loves food, or indeed anyone who has ever been to Borough Market, will be aware of Padella. It’s hard to miss the huge queues that start to snake around the market during the afternoon, just as it is difficult to ignore the tantalizing smells of garlic, of Parmesan. It’s also pretty difficult to miss the happy and satisfied faces of the people who managing to wait out the queue and snap up a much coveted table.

 photo Padella_zps1sgcekwm.jpgObviously, me being me, I become obsessed with going. And I hate queuing. I mean, there’s no way I’m going to spend my rare free Saturdays (I have potentially under a year to go before I reclaim my weekends back from studying – what will I do with all that time?!) queuing for lunch. I also have a teensy tendency to get a little hangry, so I can’t imagine W would be too happy for me to queue for potentially 2+ hours either! With that in mind, and a random Monday booked off work, we set about a day of foodie-touristing in London. 1 day, several restaurants with no-booking policies and an ice-cream exhibition (Scoop is well worth a trip, even if just to stand in a freezer during this heatwave!).

So, is Padella worth the hype?

Short answer = YES!. Long answer = see below.

 photo Padella Pasta Restaurant Review 10_zps8ldagsux.jpg photo Padella Pasta Restaurant Review 13_zpsx41h68bu.jpgWe started with Burrata, something which I’ve wanted to try forever, but which neither of us had ever actually ordered before. I’m fairly sure it’s now my go-to summer starter if I see it on the menu. Stretchy mozzarella, balancing the line between chewy and non-rubbery perfectly, with a just liquid, just oozing centre. Sat in a oil of fruity olive oil, sprinkled with sea salt and served with well-baked bread, this is heaven on a plate. It was rich, creamy, cheesy and yet surprisingly light.

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And then came the pasta. The star of the show. W ordered the daily special, which was delicate pasta parcels filled with a rabbit mix. The rabbit was tender, lightly shredded, with some soft vegetables in there. The flavours balanced bold yet subtle. Nothing overtook the rabbit, yet the whole dish shone. There was nowhere for the pasta to hide with this dish, yet it was clear it was expertly made.

I plumped for the Tagliarini with Exmouth Mussels, Chilli, Garlic and Oregano. And oh my! I’ve eaten a lot of pasta dishes in my time, and this is by far and away one of the best. It beats any pasta I ate in Rome hands down, with only a single dish in Venice remaining unbeaten. Pasta in the UK hasn’t come close to this so far, and I could have eaten it day after day. Soft, silky and extremely delicate pasta strands in the most fragrant of seafood sauces, small but plump mussels, and just the right level of chilli and garlic. It was sweet, it was savoury, it was absolutely delicious.

 photo Padella Pasta Restaurant Review 17_zpsjplffh18.jpg photo Padella Pasta Restaurant Review 22_zpswmortqll.jpgAnd then we finished with Lemon Tart. I thought it couldn’t get any better, but this was a fine example of a lemon tart. Very zingy, just the right amount of sweetness, and very well balanced with a dollop of creme fraiche. We shared this, but I regret the decision to share. Next time I’m keeping it all for myself.

So is Padella worth the hype, worth the queue? I hate to say it, but yes. I don’t think I’d risk queuing on a weekend, and I’d highly advise turning up before they open and planning on an early lunch. We joined the queue at around 11.35, they opened at noon, and we were seated just before 12.30. Service was pleasant, not at all rushed, and prices were surprisingly reasonable with our meal coming to just over £30 including service. I’d happily pay that for my pasta dish alone. That’s how much I loved it.

Would you be willing to queue for lunch?

Food: 5 Quick & Easy Pasta Recipes

I’ve mentioned it many, many times, but pasta is a go-to dish for us – as I’m sure it is for a lot of household. I mean, what’s not to love?! Endless combinations, quick to cook, child-friendly. It’s the perfect after-work dinner and it’s no wonder we rely on it quite so much!

That said, we’ve spent the last year or so trying to branch out a little from our usual pasta dishes. We had a couple of go-tos – pesto pasta, carbonara, mac’n’cheese. None overly healthy, all lacking vegetables. That’s certainly changed now, here’s just five of our favourite quick and easy pasta recipes.

Fennel Pasta

This is something completely different, however the crunch of the fennel, the aniseed flavour, saltiness from parmesan and silky smooth pasta are a wonderful combination. You can find my recipe here.

Carbonara

A classic Carbonara is my ultimate pasta dish. A thick, rich and creamy sauce made entirely from egg (no cream in sight!), filled with plenty of cheese, freshly cracked black pepper and crispy bacon. It’s utterly delicious and I aim to always, always keep the necessary ingredients in our kitchen.

My recipe is simple – cook the pasta according to pack instructions, and fry cubed bacon in a little butter. Beat an egg in a mug (1 egg for two people, for one person just use the yolk, for a richer carbonara for two use two egg yolks) and add a handful of parmesan. Sometimes I also add a sprinkling of cheddar for extra richness. Beat together. Sowly add 4-5 tablespoons of the hot pasta water to the egg mixture, beating constantly – this should melt the cheese. Once the pasta is done drain (reserving a little water) and add to the bacon pan with a lot of black pepper. Remove from the heat and toss together, then gradually add the egg mixture. Toss constantly, adding a little pasta water if it starts to scramble. Serve immediately with extra parmesan.

Mushroom & Lentil Tomato-Free Bolognese

A traditional meat Bolognese is delicious, I can’t deny it, but it really needs a good hour or two simmering time to make the flavours really sing. This vegan version is quicker, once the lentils are added it needs just 20 or so minutes for them to soften.

Simply follow my recipe for Tomato-Free Bolognese, but add diced mushrooms to the onion/celery/carrot mixture. Instead of the mince, add in red lentils, then just simmer until these are cooked.

Courgette & Pea Summer Pasta with Lemon & Feta

This is my favourite pasta dish for the summer. It’s light, it’s fresh, it’s ready in just 15 minutes. It’s packed full of green veg, yet the use of the feta keeps the comfort food element that’s so important in pasta dishes. Full recipe here.

Caramelised Onion & Goat’s Cheese Pasta

This is the comforting, I-need-cheesy-carbs dish. The dish you want to curl up on the sofa with, fork in hand, blanket over feet and watch a girly film with. This is the dish I turn to if I want to cook a pasta dish that will make me feel instantly better. You can see my full recipe here, but in essence it is softened red onions, caramelised with thyme, honey and balsamic vinegar, stirred into pasta with soft goat’s cheese and plenty of seasoning. Served on a bed of rocket and scattered with walnuts it both tastes wonderful and looks impressive.

And with that, I know what I’m having for dinner tonight. Pasta. Now I just need to decide which recipe to use…

Are you a pasta fan? What’s your go-to recipe?

Recipe: Creamy & Cheesy Cauliflower Sauce

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!

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Recipe (makes around 6 portions)

  • 6 large cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 large knob of butter
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 2 cauliflowers, split into medium-size florets
  • 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…

What’s your current favourite recipe?

Recipe: Caramelized Onion, Rocket & Goat’s Cheese Pasta

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!

What’s your favourite pasta dish?

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?