Chargrilled Vegetable Pasta

Left over dips and a zest free lemon

What is a person to do with a spoonful of olive dip, a couple of spoons of aubergine and red pepper dip and a zestless lemon?

Chargrilled veg pasta

Add a few other ingredients and create an awesome pasta dish, that’s what!

This is a bit of an unfair recipe really, because unless you’ve made the olive dip and the aubergine and red pepper dip that I’ve previously posted, and have some leftover, then you won’t be able to make this exact dish.

Still, I decided to post anyway partly because those factors might have aligned for you, but perhaps more to demonstrate the fundamental principle that making pasta sauce is a good way to use up leftover dips like these, or salsa, or a bean dip, or any other non-creamy dip really.

Orange bell pepper and artichokes in oil

Ingredients
Enough pasta for your serving requirements
3-4 tablespoons of leftover dips (the non-creamy variety)
1 red onion, diced
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
A splash or two of olive oil
Passata – probably about 150-200ml
A few sprigs of thyme, leaves removed
A couple of squeezes of lemon juice
Vegetables for chargrilling – I used an orange bell pepper and some artichokes in lemon oil but courgettes, aubergines and the like would be great too.
Sea salt & freshly ground black pepper
Music

Put your pasta on to cook – follow instructions on packet – when ready, drain and keep warm.

Chargrilled vegetables

Meanwhile, brush your chosen vegetables with oil and cook on a very hot griddle or grill, until chargrilled.  Conveniently, this should take about the same amount of time as it does for the pasta to cook and for you to make the sauce 🙂

If they’re done sooner, pop them on a plate and keep them warm.

Red onion, thyme and garlic

Heat a splash of oil in a large pan and cooked the diced onions until just starting to soften.  Add the garlic and cook for a few more moments.

Passata

Add your leftover dips and enough passata to loosen the mixture but not make it runny – today we’re making a coating sauce, not a bowl of soup 😉

Tip in your cooked pasta and gently stir to make sure it’s all well coated with sauce.

Squeeze in the lemon juice and sprinkle over the thyme leaves, stir and allow to warm through for another minute or so.

Arrange vegetables on top

Season to taste and serve with chargrilled vegetables arranged on top.

Beam with pride – by using up leftovers instead of leaving them at the back of the fridge to fester quietly into the afterlife, you did a little bit to help the planet.

Tuck into your dinner with gusto (or some other dining companion if you prefer 😉 )

x

A (Working) Week’s Worth of Tasty Sandwiches (Part 2)

Well, I’m still being a control freak over Barn’s lunch (not that he’s complaining), so here’s a second week’s worth of sandwich ideas for you:

cheese salad pittaWholemeal pitta bread, split and spread with chive Philadelphia cream cheese, filled with grated Red Leicester cheese and a crisp peppery salad of rocket leaves, shredded radish, diced sweet red peppers and chopped spring onion.

roast pork on cheese & chutney bread
Thickly sliced cheese & chutney bread (yup, that’s right, the cheese & chutney are baked into the bread!) with slices of roast pork on a bed of baby spinach leaves, topped off with a dollop of chunky apple sauce.

Malted grain and rye flatbread with pastrami
Malted grain and rye flatbread, spread with mustard mayo then folded and filled with red lettuce leaves (they come in a mixed bag – who knows what they’re actually called?!), pastrami and slices of Jarlsberg cheese.

Now, I know what you’re thinking…you can’t have pastrami without pickles…and I agree wholeheartedly.  If this had been for me the helping of sliced pickles would have been so generous as to result in major spillage and much sandwich messiness.  However, Barn isn’t as keen on pickles as I am (he doesn’t dislike them, just would never eat them from the jar as a snack, the way I do) so I chopped some up into really small pieces and mixed it in with the mustard mayo – this satisfied us both 😀

Tiger roll with hummus, feta, red pepper & olives
Crusty rolls, slightly hollowed and shaped to form ‘bowls’; spread inside with hummus then filled with mixed salad leaves, feta cheese, sliced olives and diced red peppers.

Seeded batch loaf with shredded roast chicken, stuffing and apple sauce
Multi-seeded sliced loaf filled with shredded roast chicken and sage & onion stuffing, on a bed of baby spinach leaves, topped off with a dollop of Bramley apple sauce.

Now I wonder…based on the last two weeks…would you want me making your lunch sandwiches or do you think I’m unnecessarily keeping Barn from his plain cheese? 😉

x

 

Roasted Aubergine and Red Pepper Dip

It’s one of life’s little pleasures to hear people making ‘nomnom’ noises as they’re devouring food that you’ve cooked – wouldn’t you agree?

This dip makes people do that and it’s easier than pie to make (much easier…why do they even say ‘easy as pie’?)

Roast aubergine & red pepper dipIngredients

For Roasting
1 aubergine (egg plant), cut into chunks
1 red pepper, de-seeded and diced (not too small!)
2 cloves garlic, peeled and kept whole
1 teaspoon chilli powder
¾ teaspoon ground coriander
¾ teaspoon ground cumin
A slosh of olive oil

For the Food Processor (or Mortar & Pestle)
1 tablespoon tomato purée (the stuff you get in the squeezy toothpaste type tube)
A small handful of fresh coriander leaves
A good glug of olive oil (which is more than a slosh, in case you’re wondering)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Music

Preheat the oven to gas mark 7/425°F/220°C

Using your hands, mix together all the ‘for roasting’ ingredients.mix ingredients together

It’s a good idea to do this in the tin that you’ll be roasting in – that way you don’t spend ages trying to scrape the spices off the side of a bowl.
And it’s one less thing to wash up.  See how I look after you?  You’re welcome. 😉
Spread everything in an even layer and slam onto the middle shelf of your preheated oven.

roast until just starting to blacken

Roast for around 35-40 minutes, or until things are just starting to blacken at the edges. Allow to cool in the tray for 10 minutes or so.

tip into food processor

Tip roasted vegetables into a food processor together with the tomato purée, coriander leaves, olive oil, a pinch of salt and a healthy amount of black pepper.

Blitz, taste, adjust seasoning, blitz again if necessary; bear in mind this is nicer when it’s still got some texture to it rather than being completely smooth.

aubergine & red pepper dip

Tip into a serving dish and drizzle with a little more olive oil.

Cover and chill in the fridge until ready to serve.

x

Divine Black Olive Dip

Wrong olives and right olives

I picked up the wrong olives and ended up with those nasty, rubbery, flavourless ones instead of softly wrinkled, salty ones.

Somewhat loathe to throw away a whole jar of olives, even exceedingly bad ones, I came up with this dip-which-is-nearly-but-not-quite-a-tapenade (no anchovies).  Having done so, I’m now dying to try it using some good olives; something that tastes this good with a bad base ingredient is going to taste utterly sublime with an excellent one!

Ingredients
Approx. 120g black olives (if these are of poor quality you’ll also need a handful of sea salt)
1 tablespoon capers
1-2 garlic cloves
A couple of sprigs fresh thyme, leaves stripped
½ lemon, juice only
A splosh of olive oil
Music

If you’ve got the horrid type of olives like I had (see top picture) there’s first going to have to be some salting action.  If you have decent olives, skip this step.

sprinkle liberally with salt

Tip the olives into a nylon (not metal!) sieve, drain off the liquid and set over a bowl.  Sprinkle generously with sea salt, cover with a plate and weight down with whatever heavy thing you have that will work – children and pets not advised.  Set to one side for a minimum of 2 hours, longer if possible.

Before using, give the olives a quick rinse to wash off any excess salt – there’s plenty more of that going to be coming from the capers 🙂

Black olive dip ingredients

Place olives and all other ingredients into a food processor or mortar & pestle; use only a little olive oil to start with and add more as required to achieve desired consistency.

Pulse or pound until smoothish.

Black olive dip and pitta bread

Tip into a bowl and serve with warm pitta bread.

x

 

A (Working) Week’s Worth of Sandwiches

Barn is currently benefiting from my temporarily unemployed status as, with more free time available, I’ve come over all house-wifely.

Don’t worry, past experience says it’s not sustainable.

However, for now, one of the areas to which my Stepford attention has been drawn is Barn’s lunch.  He takes sandwiches to work (when he remembers to), and without fail what he makes is sliced cheddar cheese in between slices of pre-cut white bread.

Dull.

just cheese

Now I’m the last person in the world who would object to cheese, but c’mon now…this is not the way to do lunch.

This is why the Radically Overhauling Lunch League (current membership : 1) needed to be initiated.

The agreed rules of conduct are as follows:

  • it has to be sandwiches as the nature of Barn’s work means truly eating on the go – no chance to sit with boxed salads, plates or cutlery
  • eggs are not welcomed by colleagues due to the farty smell they emit, both before and after consumption
  • no tinned fish of any kind, or smoked salmon (whaaat?!)
  • no lamb (again, whaaat?!) 

I can safely say the project has so far been something of a success; Barn’s lunches are now, apparently, a major topic of conversation between colleagues in the car each morning.  Methinks they need more going on in their lives 😉

Without further ado, let the lunches commence…

roast beef with horseradish mayo

Wholemeal ‘Thins’ with wafer thin slices of roast topside of beef, de-seeded and chopped tomatoes, peppery rocket and watercress leaves and a generous helping of horseradish mayonnaise.

ham & swiss cheese (jarlsberg) with mustard mayo

Seeded rolls spread with wholegrain mustard mayonnaise then filled with thickly carved roast ham and Jarlsberg cheese.

roast chicken salad

Wholemeal rolls filled with roast chicken chunks, crisp sweetcorn kernels, finely sliced spring onions, de-seeded, chopped tomatoes, and a generous helping of chives, all bound together in creamy mayonnaise.

roast chicken and bacon

Multi-seed rolls filled with slices of roast chicken, crispy bacon and Jarlsberg cheese, on a bed of fresh lettuce and sliced tomatoes, finished with a swipe of English mustard.

triple cheese and rocket

Multi-seed rolls with triple cheese filling (grated red Leicester and grated mature white Cheddar mixed together with chive Philadelphia cream cheese) on a bed of crisp, peppery rocket.

So that concludes a week’s worth of tasty sandwiches – do any of them appeal to you?

x

 

Cooling Minty Cucumber Sauce

This is a great dip or sauce to have alongside spicy foods like curries or koftas.  Provide huge bowls of it for the weak of taste bud amongst your kith and kin – you know, those who prefer bland food and freak out at the sight of a chilli 😉

Minty cucumber sauce

It takes minutes to make and can be eaten immediately; however, it does benefit from being allowed to sit a while before consumption…the flavours get a chance to meld together that way.

Ingredients
Around 5 tablespoons natural yoghurt
Around 2 tablespoons crème fraîche (or just use an extra couple of spoons of yoghurt)
Approx. 2 inch piece of cucumber, finely diced
A sprig of mint leaves, finely chopped
A squeeze of lemon juice
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Music

Music on?  I bet you’ll have this made before the track’s finished…

Ready?  Set?  Go…

Ingredients

Put everything (including the lemon juice, which is not apparent in this picture), into a bowl.

Mix, taste, adjust seasoning as required.

Cooling minty cucumber sauce

Bish, bash, bosh…your sauce is ready 😀
x

Quick and Tasty Beef Koftas

Looking for a winning dish for dinner?

Cooked beef koftas

In that case, you should know that these beef koftas are almost effortless to whip up; the bulk of the time it takes to make them is actually the 30 minutes chilling time. Winner.

They don’t seem that effortless to the people eating them, who will demonstrate their appreciation of your ‘slaving’ over dinner by showering you with attention and affection.  Win, win.

They’ll probably do the washing up too.  Win, win, win.

Of course, they taste amazing too.  Win, win, win, win.

Well, would you look at that!  It would appear that the beef koftas are quadruple winners!  There’s clearly no need for you to continue your search for a dinner dish, which is happy news, because by now you must be very hungry.  I shall delay you no longer and will proceed to tell you how to make this scrumptious meal…

Kofta ingredients

Serves 3-6 people, depending on accompanying dishes

Ingredients
500g minced beef
1 onion, chopped
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
2-4 green chillies, finely chopped
¾ teaspoon ground coriander
¾ teaspoon ground cumin
1 egg
a handful of fresh coriander leaves, chopped
1 teaspoon harissa paste (If I’d had harissa paste in the stores I’d have used it, and the dish would have benefited from it, so I’ve included it here)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
12 wooden skewers
Music

Done your onion and chilli chopping?  Ok then, let’s get this show on the road…

Mix ingredients by hand

Throw everything (apart from the skewers) into a bowl and use your hands to mix well.

Shape onto skewers

Divide the mix into 12 rough balls then form into oval shapes on the wooden skewers (or make into patties if you don’t have any skewers).

Cover and chill in the fridge for at least 30 minutes.

Beef koftas

Heat a lightly oiled griddle or grill and cook for around 8-12 minutes on a medium to high heat, turning to ensure they’re browned all over.

Job’s a good ‘un!

Beef koftas with Mediterranean dips

Served here with a minty cucumber sauce*, pitta bread and a selection of Mediterranean dips*.

x

* Recipes to follow shortly 🙂

Chicken Breast with Mushrooms and Blue Cheese Sauce

This recipe arose due to the need to use up several bits and pieces in the Renegade stores – the cheese and cream being the main driving factors.
Oh the hardship 😉
The resulting dish turned out to be very quick and easy to make, but felt like a real treat – another great midweek meal.

Chicken with mushrooms and blue cheese sauceServes 2

Ingredients
2 skinless chicken breasts
a sprinkling of olive oil
6-8 mushrooms, cleaned and sliced
2 knobs of butter
2 garlic cloves, crushed
75-100ml white wine
1 chicken stockpot/stock cube
2 dessert spoons (ish) of crème fraîche – leave it out if you don’t have any
1 large tablespoon of cream cheese – I used chive flavoured Philadelphia
100-125ml double cream
125-150g gorgonzola, cubed – or other blue cheese of your choice
2 teaspoons of fresh parsley, chopped
Freshly ground black pepper

Depending on the cheese you use, and how much of it, you may also need a couple of heaped teaspoons of cornflour, mixed to a runny paste with a little cold water, to thicken the sauce

Music

First you need to butterfly your chicken breasts.

Place your hand flat on top of the chicken – this holds it still and keeps your fingers out of the way at the same time.

Use a sharp pointed knife, and starting at the fat end of the breast, slice across the chicken, almost but not quite cutting it in half. It should still be joined at one edge and you should be able to open it up like a book – or a butterfly’s wings.

cover with cling flim and bash

Once you’ve done that, cover with cling film and bash with a rolling pin.  Not too much – you want to tenderise and flatten it, not pulp and obliterate it.

Rub lightly with olive oil and cook on a preheated grill, turning once, for around 8-10 minutes or until cooked through.

mushrooms

Meanwhile, melt a knob of butter in a large pan and heat until it foams.

Add your sliced mushrooms in a single layer and cook, turning once, until both sides are beautifully browned.  Remove from pan but keep warm.

sauce ingredients

Make your sauce by melting a knob of butter in a pan over a medium heat then cooking the crushed garlic for a minute or so.

Add wine and stockpot/cube and heat until stockpot has melted.

Add cream cheese, crème fraîche, cream and blue cheese and continue to heat, stirring frequently, until the cheese has melted.  Do not allow to boil.

If necessary, thicken with a little cornflour paste.

Stir in chopped parsley and plenty of black pepper.

Chicken mushrooms and blue cheese sauce

Place cooked chicken breast onto a warmed plate, arrange sautéed mushrooms on top and pour over the blue cheese sauce.

Chicken breast with mushrooms and blue cheese sauce

Served with petit pois and green beans sautéed in herb butter, and oven baked sweet potato chips.

x

Thai Style Meatballs with Spicy Peanut Sauce

Thai style meatballs on noodles

Fragrantly spiced meatballs on a bed of noodles, smothered in a creamy but fiery peanut sauce: a quick, easy and very tasty meal, ideal for mid-week when cooking motivation is fading and take-out food is looking appealing.  Way better than ordering in, and not that much more effort.

meatball ingredientsIngredients

For the meatballs
500g minced meat (I used beef here but go with what you like)
4-5 spring onions, finely chopped
1 red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
1 dessert spoon fresh ginger root, grated
½ lime – zest and juice
A small handful of fresh coriander leaves, finely chopped
1 egg

curry paste ingredientsFor the sauce
1 tin coconut milk
2-3 tablespoons peanut butter – smooth or crunchy, as is your desire

For the curry paste
6-7 shallots
3-4 garlic cloves
3-4 red chillies
1 teaspoon peppercorns – crushed
½ teaspoon ground coriander
½ teaspoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon fish sauce (nam pla)
½ lemon – zest only
½ lime – zest and juice
A handful of fresh coriander leaves

A couple of tablespoons of oil for frying

Noodles or rice to serve

Music

You’ll need a plate or tray for putting the rolled meatballs on – one that will fit in your fridge.  Got one?  Grand!

all the meatball ingredients in a bowl

Put all the meatball ingredients into a bowl and, using your hands, mix together.

roll into balls

Shape into 16-20 small meatballs and chill in the fridge for about 20 minutes (or 10 in the freezer, but don’t forget about them!)

prepared curry paste ingredients

Put all the curry paste ingredients into a food processor.  Or you can use a pestle and mortar – it brings out more oils, and therefore flavours, but my word do you have to work for them!

ground to a paste

Grind to a thick paste.

Coconut milk

Heat around a tablespoon of oil in a saucepan until it reaches sizzling point then add your curry paste.  Cook, stirring, for a few minutes then add coconut milk.  Bring to a simmer.

Peanut butter

Stir in 2-3 tablespoons of peanut butter and continue to heat until sauce has thickened.  You may need to use a hand whisk to bring together the oils.  Keep warm on a low heat while you fry up your meatballs; stir occasionally to keep it from sticking.

Thai style meatballs with spicy peanut sauce

Heat a few tablespoons of oil in a frying pan and cook the meatballs until they’re evenly browned all over and piping hot in the middle.

Arrange meatballs on noodles or rice, pour over peanut sauce and finish with a sprinkling of chopped spring onion.

Ta da!  Dinner’s done!

x

Rich and Hearty Beef Casserole

When you wake up in the morning and the world looks like this, you need something hot, substantial and nurturing on the menu for dinner.

Rich beef casserole served with vegetable bake and rosemary roast potatoes

I think you’d be hard pushed to find something more fitting to that description than this beef casserole – chunks of beef and baby button mushrooms in a meaty, onion rich gravy – real heart-cockle warming stuff.  Bear in mind, of course, it doesn’t have to be snowing in order for you to have it for dinner 😉

To get the very best from the beef this wine infused dish is cooked low and slow in the oven, allowing the meat to gently relax and get to know its fellow ingredients – it is by no means an ‘in a hurry’ recipe.  The good news is that although it takes 4 hours to cook, it only takes about 20 minutes to prepare and needs to be tended only once during the cooking time (and then once more just before serving).

Ideally, it’s cooked in a pan or dish that can go from hob to oven (and back again), that way you don’t lose a scrap of flavour.  Ideal for the washing up situation too.

Rich beef casserole

To my mind all this makes it an excellent dinner for a weekend/day off: a stupendously good meal with just enough preparation and attention required that you can justifiably say you made an effort, but plenty of ‘hands off time’ in which to do weekendy/day off-ish things.

As a bonus, your house gradually fills with the drool inducing, appetite stimulating aromas of herbs and garlic and meat and wine – so good.  By the time it’s ready, believe me, so are you!

Serves 3-4 if presented with side dishes
Serves 2 if eaten with nothing but thickly buttered crusty bread

Ingredients
400g diced beef braising steak
4-5 rashers of streaky bacon, each cut into about 6 pieces (use scissors – so much easier than a knife 😉 )
1 onion, diced
2-3 cloves garlic, crushed
3-4 sticks of celery, diced (if they have leaves on, chop those up and throw them in too…they’re full of flavour)
12-14 shallots, peeled
Several tablespoons of olive oil
2 beef stockpots/stock cubes
1 mini bottle (about 200ml) red wine
800ml water
2-3 heaped teaspoons cornflour, in a mug or small jug, mixed to a paste with a little cold water
200g button mushrooms, cleaned but left whole
1 bay leaf
A sprig of thyme
Freshly ground black pepper
Music

Ok, have you got everything together and done your prep?  Let’s go then…

Preheat the oven to gas mark 2/300°F/150°C

cubed beef

With the heat reasonably high, heat 1 or 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a casserole dish or oven safe pan and brown the beef, a few pieces at a time; remove cooked pieces from the pan and set to one side.

browned shallots

If necessary add another tablespoon of olive oil to the pan, allow it to heat, then quickly brown your shallots and bacon.  Remove from pan and set to one side.

crushed garlic, diced onion and celery

Having cooked off some of the bacon fat it’s unlikely you’ll need more oil in the pan, but add a little if you need to and allow it to heat up.  Now add the celery, onions and garlic and cook until just starting to brown.

Return the meat to the pan.

wine and stockpots

Add the red wine and stir well, making sure you scrape any  gorgeous, caramelised brown bits off the bottom of the pan.

bay leaf and thyme

Add water, stockpots, bay leaf and thyme and bring to simmering point.

Put the lid on the pan and put it in the oven.

Set a timer for 3 hours.

after 3 hours

After 3 hours retrieve your casserole from the oven.

mushrooms

Add bacon, onions and mushrooms, and a little more water if you think it’s going to dry out too much over the next hour.  Don’t add too much though, you’ll dilute the flavours.

Put the lid back on and put the pan back in the oven.

Set a timer for 1 hour.

transfer to stove top to thicken

After 1 hour take the pan from the oven and put it back on the hob on a medium heat.  Fish out the thyme twig and the bay leaf and discard.

add cornflour

Ladle a little of the gravy into the mug containing the cornflour paste, stirring to mix well.

Pour the liquid back into your pan and cook, stirring continuously, until gravy has thickened.

Rich beef casserole with veg bake and rosemary roast potatoes

Serve with whatever you fancy…mashed potato and green beans…or tiny boiled potatoes, carrots and broccoli…or baked potatoes and mange tout…or…

Shown here with rosemary roast potatoes and cheese topped vegetable bake.

x