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.

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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.

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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 😀
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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.

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Gluten Free Blueberry Pancakes

Some things are just made to go together: strawberries and chocolate; a needle and thread; Starsky and Hutch; fish and chips; a lazy Sunday and blueberry pancakes.

So sayeth me.

a delicious stack of pancakes

What about you?  Do you fancy some?

Makes around 8 medium-ish pancakes

Ingredients
3 large eggs, separated
115g gluten free plain flour
1 heaped teaspoon baking powder
140ml milk
A good pinch of salt
Maple syrup and a dot of butter to serve
Music

If you’re going to need to cook in batches (which is very likely) put the oven on now, at a reasonable temperature, so that you can pop cooked pancakes in there to keep warm while you finish frying their kin.

egg yolk and flourPlace the flour and baking powder into a bowl then beat in egg yolks and milk, creating a smooth batter.  Start with the yolks, then add the milk a bit at a time, beating after each addition.

beaten to peaksWhisk the whites with the salt until they form stiff peaks.

fold togetherAdd egg whites to flour and yolk batter.

fold until just combinedUsing a large metal spoon, cut and fold in the whites until just combined – go gently, taking care to keep in as much of the air as possible.

sprinkle with blueberriesHeat a heavy based pan or griddle on a medium to high heat.  Lightly brush surface with a thin coating of butter or oil then pour on batter – make your pancakes as big or as small as you like.

You may need to control the run with a spatula but after a few moments they’ll start to firm up and hold their own shape.

Sprinkle with a few blueberries and continue to cook until the bottom is golden brown.

Turn pancakes over (blueberry side down) and continue to cook until that side is also golden brown.  You may need to press them down gently with your spatula to get even colouring.

Work quickly through cooking your batches as the mixture rapidly deflates and becomes overly runny (still nice when cooked though).Topped with butter and maple syrupServe immediately, stacked high, with a little button of melting butter and a good dousing of maple syrup (far more than it would appear in the pictures!)

x

Gluten Free Squishy Gingerbread

a cold and frosty morning
It’s been cold around these parts recently and I’ve got to say that after an exceptionally mild December and January this has been a little shocking to the system. (Hey, I’m British…we talk about the weather 😀 ).

squishy gingerbread

Cold and frosty mornings, grey afternoons and icy evenings have triggered cravings for squishy, sticky ginger cake, thrumming with warm spices and satisfyingly substantial.

Wanna try some?

Ingredients
300g self raising gluten free flour
2-3 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon ground mixed spice
250ml full fat milk (it has to be full fat!)
2 large eggs
150g butter
200g golden syrup
200g black treacle
120g brown sugar (the darker and more ‘treacley’ the better – muscovado is ideal)
1 teaspoon bicarbonate of soda, mixed with 2 tablespoons hot water

For the Icing (which is not at all necessary but I like it!)
Fresh lemon juice – about 3 teaspoons
Icing sugar – about 4 tablespoons
Music

Grease your baking tin (a 20cm square cake tin is a good size) and line with baking parchment.

Preheat the oven to gas mark 3/170°C/325°F

Put the flour, ground ginger and ground spice into a largeish mixing bowl and make a well in the middle – set to one side.

Lightly beat eggs and milk together – set to one side.

Melt butter, sugar, syrup and treacle

Melt the butter, sugar, syrup and treacle in a saucepan over a low heat.

Remove from heat, then mix in the beaten egg and milk, and the dissolved bicarbonate of soda.

add liquid to flour

Using a hand whisk to mix, slowly and steadily pour the the liquid ingredients into the flour,  continuing to beat until smooth.   The best way to avoid lumpy bits is to make a thick paste with a small amount of the liquid and then slowly whisk in the rest – don’t dump the whole lot in at once or you’ll be chasing little flour capsules for ages!

This is a very runny batter so don’t worry – improbable as it seems, that liquid mix will firm up and become gingerbread 🙂

pour into prepared tin

It will start bubbling and fizzing as the bicarbonate of soda begins to react, so you need to move quickly to make sure you don’t lose precious ‘lift’ for your cake.

Pour into the prepared tin and bake for 45–60 minutes until well risen and firm to the touch.  To decide if it’s done, use a finger to gently press the cake – if it’s springy, it’s done.  If you use the toothpick test and your toothpick comes out clean, you’ve over baked it.

Carefully remove baking parchment

Leave in the tin to cool before carefully turning out and removing baking parchment.

drizzle with icing and cut into squares

To make the icing: mix lemon juice with icing sugar until you reach the desired consistency (about the consistency of pouring cream).  When you’re happy, drizzle over the gingerbread.

Let icing set before cutting into squares.  As you can see, because the top of the gingerbread is sticky it will discolour your icing – it doesn’t affect taste!

squishy gingerbread and hot choc

If you fancy a steaming mug of luxurious, thick hot chocolate to go with this, you should look here 🙂

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