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 Haggis Carbonara_zpsglm4oomv.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!

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!

 photo Haggis Carbonara 8_zpswhef8xoo.jpg photo Haggis Carbonara 15_zpsy1awggq5.jpg photo Haggis Carbonara 19_zpssc66rv8s.jpg photo Haggis Carbonara 20_zpsg7llbs9q.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

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 a personalised apron 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?

Ready Meal Review: Sainsbury’s Chicken & Bacon Pasta Bake

 

 

It’s pretty common knowledge that I’m not a fan of ready meals. Definitely not to live on by any means – I just don’t think they are particularly nutritious, and I also think they are a ridiculous waste of money. That said they do have their place. There are (very rare!) occasions where you don’t have any food in the house, don’t want a takeaway, and just want the comfort of something warm and stodgy. On those occasions I do see the point of ready meals. As long as they are good. To that end, I’m going to add very occasional reviews of any ready meals I eat to this blog. They will be rare because I probably eat one a term if that. But if I can’t persuade you to steer away from them all together, I can recommend ones that aren’t too offensive. And offer tips to make them better.

2014-01-08 19.16.49First up is this offering from Sainsbury’s – Chicken & Bacon Pasta Bake. Not that there was much of a ‘bake’ element with it…

I decided to buy a ready meal on this occasion because I headed back to university in the middle of my Christmas holidays for one night only. We’d also suffered a power cut in the “Storms of 2013” and so I couldn’t rely on any of my ready-frozen meals being safe, so my boyfriend and I opted for a ready meal. We bought two of these pasta dishes (at £2 each, I KNOW I could make something for the same price, if not less, that tastes far better!) along with a garlic bread and a salad. Cheaper than a takeaway, but definitely not inexpensive.

The instructions (we used the oven) were to cook for 15 minutes (lid on, but pierced), then take the lid off, stir and cook uncovered for a further 15 minutes.

The stirring part was when I encountered the first problem. It didn’t actually taste of anything except whatever herb that was in there! I panicked ever so slightly and turned to the spice rack;

2014-01-08 19.14.08I stirred in hell of a lot of black pepper, a good lot of garlic powder, and a little onion powder. This lifted the dish right up, but I’ve got to be honest, it still wasn’t great.

After it had finished cooking (including at extra 10 minutes at a higher temperature) it looked like this;

2014-01-08 19.16.32Definitely not what was advertised on the packets…where’s my crispy ‘baked’ top?! I’ve got to be really honest, I reckon this dish cried out for a cheesy topping. If I’d had some, I would have definitely added some!

Having said all that, adding all the additions definitely helped, and along with the salad and garlic bread it certainly made for a comforting dinner in front of a DVD. Would I have it again? Possibly if I was absolutely stuck. Would I rush out and get another one? No, I reckon it was overpriced for what it was, and I’d sooner try something else, just in case there’s something better. Moral of the ready meal story? Add salt, pepper, garlic and onion, and everything will taste a lot better.

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Do you have any ready-meal recommendations?

 

 

 

Recipe: One-Pan Mac’n’Cheese

I made this only two hours ago, and I’m already writing a blog post about it. That says a lot about this recipe! It was just lovely, and so, so easy. I adapted The Londoner’s recipe, making it more student friendly (because to be honest, I really can’t afford loads of different cheeses – I stick to basic cheddar and the cheapest parmesan I can find!) and less irritating to my minor dairy intolerance.

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If you want the best photos, and the actual method, do check out Rosie’s blog. I love all of her recipes, my version of her Banana Nutella muffins are a huge favourite amongst my friends, and I can’t wait to try out these.

I will add a point about the one-pan-ness. I chose to top mine with extra cheese and shove it in the oven briefly, so used an extra pan. To be honest, I wouldn’t bother with this step next time as it was cheesy enough, so it really is one-pan. I mean, just look at this fabulous (fail) photo of the stringy cheese!

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What do you need to make this cheesy goodness? My amounts make one (BIG!) serving:

  • Bacon (1 rasher – 20p)
  • Some spices – I went with a Cajun mix, which I always find works great with cheese (prince negligible)
  • 100g of pasta, any tube-type shape is good (10p)
  • 1 vegetable stock cube (7p) – made up to 1/2 mug of stock
  • 1/4 mug milk/soya cream (10p)
  • 75-100g cheddar cheese (75p)
  • A sprinkling of parmesan, though I didn’t find I needed it (10p)

Total cost per serving is £1.32 – with salad you would have a great meal for under £1.50. And hardly any washing up to – win win!

Let’s get cooking!

Chop up your bacon into cubes, and fry in the pan you will be using. You want one with a lid! Once the bacon is browned, sprinkle in the spices, fry for a couple more minutes, then tip into the bowl you will be serving in, or the dish that you will grill the pasta in.

2013-12-07 19.05.37Tip your stock and milk/cream into the pan, add your pasta, stir well and cover.

2013-12-07 19.04.53Cook for 10-12 minutes, stirring every few, until the pasta is cooked to your liking, and the sauce has thickened. Grate your cheese whilst this is cooking, or read some of your reading list. Or bloglovin‘…You should have something like this in your saucepan by the end:

2013-12-07 19.19.05Add your bacon back in, and stir in your cheese. If you want to grill it, keep some back.

2013-12-07 19.22.15Now eat as it is (I personally will do next time), or transfer to a grill-proof dish, and top with more cheese.

2013-12-07 19.23.10Throw under the grill while you prepare a healthy accompaniment. I went with salad, but I think some cauliflower would work well.

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Mmm salad! I was lazy and just ate my pasta out of the grilling dish. I won’t judge if you do the same!

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Curl up in front of your favourite TV-show (I’m currently weeks behind watching Masterchef, but enjoying it immensely!) and enjoy this winter warmer, knowing you’ve hardly any washing up to do. Perfect for lazy days.

Have you tried any of the Londoner’s amazing recipes?