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

Fantastically Flavoursome Pasta Bake

Day 6 of the Cupboard Challenge, and in the process of preparing dishes for Big Sis’ impending birthday celebration I’d managed to add a couple of red peppers to our supplies.  For a short while I was worried that this might be cheating, but then I remembered…this is my game so I can make up the rules.

It’s not cheating.
To any VIPs reading this: I know, and I’ll say it before you do – 7 or 47, some things never change 😀

The beauty of this dish, as with much of what we cook, is that it’s pretty willing to flex according to what you have in your stores.  Treat the following as a guide…this is by no means a recipe that needs to be slavishly followed!

OrecchietteNote however, that the shape of your pasta does make a difference to the finished dish.  I like to use orecchiette for this as all the chopped pieces of meat and veg get caught and held in the pasta dimples.  Little tubes, like tortiglioni work well too, as do the small shell shapes of conchigliette.  Long pasta, such as spaghetti or linguine is not so great.

Number of servings depends on how much of everything you use, and on how big the receiving appetites are.;-)

Ingredients
Sufficient cooked pasta for your serving requirements.
Courgette – diced
Red pepper – diced
Soffritto
 Dried porcini mushrooms – soaked in hot water for around 30 mins (keep the liquid for the sauce)
A handful of diced pancetta
A splash of olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Freshly grated parmesan for topping

Sauce Ingredients
Another splash of olive oil
Crushed garlic – a lot or a little, as you prefer
400g tin of chopped tomatoes
a good splash of the mushroom soaking liquid
1 chicken stock pot (or stock cube)
Approx. 150g crème fraîche (or more, or less…flexible, remember? 😉 )
A few sprigs of fresh thyme – leaves picked from stalks
More sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Music

Got your groove on?  And your apron if you wear one?  Let’s set to it then…

Preheat oven to gas mark 6/200°C/400°F.

Put your cooked pasta into a large bowl.

Drain the mushrooms (keeping the liquid) and roughly chop – add to the pasta.

Prepared vegHeat the oil and cook the soffritto over a medium heat until it starts to soften.  Turn up the heat a little and add the red pepper and courgettes; continue to cook until the peppers are just beginning to soften and the courgettes are starting to brown.

Add to the pasta and mushrooms.

Cubed pancettaChuck the pancetta into the same pan used for the vegetables, and fry until beginning to crisp.  Soak off excess fat with kitchen roll, then add to pasta and veg.

Pasta mixMix pasta, veg and pancetta together, season with salt and pepper, then tip into a shallow, oven proof dish.

See what I mean about those lovely veggies getting held in the pasta?  Like teeny tiny serving bowls they are 😉

Garlic and thymeNow for the sauce:  wipe out your pan with kitchen roll, leaving the thinnest layer of pancetta fat…sauté the crushed garlic in that (just a few seconds)

Tinned chopped tomatoes

Chicken stockpotAdd the chopped tomatoes, stock pot and some mushroom liquid.  Stir well and bring to a simmer.

Creme fraicheRemove pan from heat.  Stir in crème fraîche, thyme leaves, salt and pepper.

Liberally sprinkled with grated parmesanPour sauce over the pasta and sprinkle with freshly grated parmesan.  Be liberal but not insanely generous…you want it to crisp up a bit, not end up in a gloopy blob.

Baked cheese often seems to look burned in my photos - in reality this was perfectly browned ;-)
Baked cheese often seems to look burned in my photos – in reality this was perfectly browned 😉

Bake in the preheated oven for around 20 minutes, or until top is golden brown and bubbling.

Pasta bake with baked fennelOn this occasion we had baked fennel on the side, but a fresh green salad is good too.

In its baked form this dish wasn’t wildly photogenic…but does it really matter when something tastes this good?
x

The food week that was – 23/03/15

This was yet another shitty week in the day job so it’s a really good thing I’d made myself food accountable in last week’s meals post, otherwise we’d have almost definitely bowed to laziness and another week of dire dinners.

As it was we managed a passable imitation of being responsible adults, putting together mostly decent meals, at approximately expected/accepted meal times.
Spud and beansMonday: Having declared that this week would be full of culinary thrills, we started the week with a really basic meal of baked spuds, cheese and beans.   A sprinkling of chives gave a gentle oniony flavour lift, a touch of colour, and a nod towards actually making an effort.

Camembert, leeks and bacon Tuesday: I was half way through making a leek, bacon and Stilton quiche when I found a mini Camembert lolling at the side of the cheese box.  A quick consult with Barn to check he was open to some food experimentation, and the leek and bacon Camembert melt was born.

Cut CamembertMini Camembert cheese, studded with garlic, surrounded by sautéed leeks and bacon, and baked on a shortcrust pastry base.  Served with roasted carrots and parsnips, and wilted spinach.

There’s a lot I would change about this – use puff pastry instead of shortcrust, use less bacon, make them individual – but as an off the cuff experiment it worked out ok.  Loved the way the melted cheese spilled out, creating a sauce for the veggies.

Malaysian beef curryWednesday: Making mid-week better with a hot and spicy Malaysian beef curry on jasmine rice.

Butternut squash risottoThursday: Creamy risotto with roast butternut squash and black olives, finished with a drizzle of lemon infused olive oil and a generous sprinkling of chopped, fresh basil.  On the side, watercress, tomato and cucumber salad, topped with toasted sunflower seeds and dressed with balsamic vinegar.

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The food week that was – 09/03/15

A slightly strange week, filled with carbohydrates and see-saw emotions…Baked spud and sausagesMonday: Exhausted from our day jobs, and suffering severe Monday-itis, we slung potatoes into the oven, defrosted leftover veg chilli, grilled sausages, chucked cheese all over it and ate.  There was a definite correlation between the decline in grumpy silence and the progression of food consumption 😉

Savoury bread puddingTuesday: Savoury bread pudding made using left over olive bread and an onion bagel, layered with more olives and crumbled Stilton, then saturated with a savoury egg custard, topped with cherry tomatoes and grated parmesan, baked ’til golden brown.

Spag BolWednesday: Rich, meaty, wine steeped, mushroom studded, slowly simmered, Bolognese sauce served with Fusilli lunghi bucati (aka Rasta Pasta), with plenty of black pepper and freshly grated Parmesan to finish.

Soup ingredients

Thursday: Having been variously chopped, sautéed, simmered, blended and seasoned, these ingredients (plus some veg stock and cream) became…

Soup…this delicious soup.  A stack of door-stop style roast beef sandwiches rounded things off nicely.  Petit Man has been suffering with a harsh cough and cold (a real one, not a Man one), so this worked well to soothe and comfort.

Shortbread

Thursday snacking: Gluten free shortbread – probably the quickest and easiest sweet baked snack you will ever make!

Here’s how to make them:  You require three ingredients – butter, caster sugar and gluten free flour – in the weight ratio 2:1:3.  I also use a small amount of baking powder (about 1 teaspoon per 300g of flour) as I prefer the more open texture this gives, but it’s not necessary.

Cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy.  Sift in flour (and baking powder, if using).  Using your hands gently fold and knead the mixture until it comes together into a firm ball.  Press into an appropriately sized, greased baking tin then chill in the fridge for about 10 minutes.  Bake at gas mark 5/190°C until golden brown.  Cut while still warm, cool on a rack and dredge with caster sugar before serving.

If you like a flavoured biscuit you can add lemon/lime/orange zest to the flour, or chuck in some vanilla, or drizzle with melted chocolate when cooled, or…whatever else you like.  There are no strict rules 😉Baked spuds and tuna

Friday: Baked potatoes stuffed with tuna, sweetcorn and sliced black olives, served with beer battered onion rings and rather over baked cherry tomatoes.  About as simple as it gets – I think the only way less effort could have been put into this meal is if it had been made into a sandwich. – nonetheless, satisfying.  Sometimes simple is just what you need.

Cheese, olives & crackers

Saturday: We like cheese.  We amass cheeses like a weird, hoarding, mischief of mice.  We currently have 11 different cheese varieties in our fridge.  For the dairy-curious amongst you, they are : Stilton, Gorgonzola, Parmesan, extra mature Cheddar, oak smoked Cheddar, farmhouse Cheddar, grated Mozzarella, Edam, Camembert, Cambozola and Halloumi.

It’s somewhat inevitable then, that some meals are nothing but cheese.  And so it was on Saturday evening.  With crackers, olives and a glass of wine, I’d call this a very well balanced meal 😀

Cornish sardines and Staffordshire oatcakes

Sunday Brunch: Fresh Cornish sardines, topped with a little crushed garlic and a good squeeze of lemon juice, then grilled until the skins were crispy.  Served with lemon wedges and Staffordshire oatcakes.

Sunday Dinner: It was Mothers’ Day here in the UK – those of the family who were able to gathered at Mum’s house where Medieval, despite being in much pain with an injured foot, cooked an incredible roast chicken dinner for us all.  He presented us with rosemary and lemon chicken, garlic mashed potatoes, roast squash and parsnips, broccoli, carrots, Spring cabbage and gravy – the only fault to be found was that it was so delicious and tempting, it was gobbled up before I remembered about taking a photo!

Just Something I Wanted to Say: Whether you feel that Mothers’ Day is just another commercially driven construct, or see it as a wonderful chance to express love and gratitude, it can, like any other celebration, be a difficult, sadness triggering time for many.  Within my own small sphere there are people whose mothers have died, ones who have troubled relationships with emotionally distant mothers, ones who were brought up in care and who don’t know their mothers, ones who are estranged from their mothers, ones who cannot have children, those whose children have died…many, many reasons why a little extra love, thought and tenderness might be due to them on the day that is all about celebrating motherhood.  So I send extra special thoughts and hugs to anyone who felt that tug of sorrow yesterday, whoever you are and wherever you are.

x

The food week that was – 02/02/15

I believe, for a variety of reasons, that it is a good thing for me to have a regular publishing schedule for this blog; taking account of other commitments I’ve decided that I will post once a week.  There may be extra posts when things are happening, or if the mood takes me, but as a demonstration that I can stick to a schedule, I hereby commit to posting at least every Sunday.  Cakes and parties (oddly) come along in little clusters and so, on their own, will not promote regularity of posting.  If I have nothing else to bring to show and tell (like today), I’ll post about the week’s meals (oh, the thrills, I hear you gasp 😉 )

Oven 'Fried' Brie (Mon 2nd)Monday: Something extra yummy to take the sting out of the start of the working week – crispy coated oven baked brie wedges, oozing their unctuous goodness onto crisp cos lettuce leaves,  scooped up with crusty bread, with a dollop of deliciously sticky rich onion marmalade on the side.Carrot & Coriander Soup (Tues 3rd)Tuesday: Working late and having dinner there.  A homely, satisfying bowl of freshly made carrot and coriander soup for lunch before leaving.

Pizza collageWednesday: Mid-week pizza night to try out some new frozen pizza doughs I discovered – one flavoured with chilli, the other with rosemary.  I made a base sauce using passata, garlic and herbs, then with a selection of toppings we each came up with our own perfect creations. Making them was companionable and fun, and the dough turned out to be really good – the whole thing was a BIG success!

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