Local heroes: Feast Foods

Local heroes: Feast Foods

Something that has always really bothered me in Wolverhampton is the lack of choice when it comes to food and I am mainly referring to the city center, as there are a few small independent businesses that have fashioned a place for themselves within the boundaries of WV, but the city centre has always been a bit of a joke. If your satisfied with KFC, McDonald’s and Subway then you’re going to love it here but the majority of us (millennial’s especially) want and need a lot more. We are all increasingly enthusiastic to experience new things and try food and drink we maybe haven’t had access to before.

This is why I am trying to do a series of write ups centered around the few local newcomers that are trying to make a difference and offer us an element of choice, innovation and food with some heart. If you are local and you care about food enough to take a leap of faith on that idea that you have had bubbling away under the surface for as long as you can remember, then we want to speak to you. Whether your making waves in Wolverhampton or within your own town or city, you deserve as much spotlight as we can give you.

First off the bat is the wonderful Feast Foods. Feast Foods are a vegan and vegetarian food delivery service based in Wolverhampton that offer clean, natural lunches available Monday to Friday and right to your place of work. After trawling through the city streets desperate not to settle for a Sainsbury’s meal deal many times it is music to my ears knowing that someone is putting their energy into giving people a healthy alternative to the usual suspects. I caught up with the mind behind Feast foods, Nadiah to find out more.

Hi Nadiah, so How did Feast foods come about?

I have always enjoyed making a lovely lunch to look forward to – it’s all I think about and I count down the hours until I get to sit and eat something delicious. Everyone would comment on my lunch that I had rustled up and would always ask for a little taste. There was defiantly a lot of food envy going on! It wasn’t until a friend of mine approached me to make what I was going to have for lunch for him as well, that I started making extra lunches for friends and family. Before I knew it, friends of friends and colleagues were asking if they could also order a lunch from me, and so FEAST was born. It’s as simple as that.

Who are the Feast foods team?

Me, myself and I. The FEAST team simply consists of just me (Nadiah). I am the brains behind FEAST and I cook every order myself. I do everything.

Are you looking to challenge the common attitudes towards vegan and vegetarian diets? Some people might think it can be quite limiting.

 I am not necessarily trying to convert people to become a vegan or vegetarian. However, I do think it is very important for people to understand where their food has come from and what they are eating. People are not aware of the health and environmental issues eating meat and dairy have, and there’s a misconception that a meal has to contain meat or dairy to be tasty.

For me FEAST is not only about creating healthy vegetarian and vegan dishes but also a way to educate people on what they can eat with it being not only tasty but healthy too. For instance, did you know…

‘Vegetarians and vegans live, on average, six to 10 years longer than meat-eaters.’

 ‘A typical pig factory generates the same amount of raw waste as a city of 12,000 people. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, raising animals for food is the number-one source of water pollution.’

My father, who is Jordanian used to make me the most amazing home cooked Middle Eastern dishes when I was younger. I never appreciated it until I went to university in Brighton and didn’t want to eat these unhealthy, tasteless ready meals. So, I put my apron on and started to experiment in the kitchen. Everything was cooked fresh and I developed an understanding and appreciation towards food, and some very happy, well-fed flat mates! My mind and body benefited from eating well.

Given we are currently experiencing a national obesity crisis, I think it’s more important than ever to reassess what we are eating. We should be eating all these beautiful natural fruits and vegetables instead of constantly grazing on foods that have effects on our bodies and the environment.

With your concept being so unique in the area, do you think Wolverhampton has more potential when it comes to food? 

 Definitely – Wolverhampton has huge potential when it comes to food. Compared to other cities, it’s very difficult to find somewhere to eat in Wolverhampton, especially for vegetarians or vegans or those looking for a healthier option. I really struggle to eat locally and find this frustrating.

I believe we need to give people more options than always eating at fast food chains. If we only provide these unhealthy choices it is impossible to make a healthy choice. People are now interested in keeping fit and changing their food diets so we should be offering the people of Wolverhampton a chance to use their palates instead of eating processed food.

I believe FEAST is the first step towards this, and offers people in the city an affordable way to eat at least one meal a day that is meat free, fresh, healthy and delicious. I hope others start to see the potential in Wolverhampton and continue to invest in the city’s food industry.

If you could suggest one of your dishes to convert somebody who wasn’t sure about veganism, what would you pick?

I would suggest the Black Bean Chilli with Nachos. It is so tasty! It is packed with aromatic spices, rich in flavour and completely addictive. Made with crisp peppers, black beans, mixed beans and served with mini garlic nachos, it is so simple but always a satisfying lunch.

 Whats everyones personal favourite dish from your menu’s so far?

 With an exception to the Black Bean Chilli dish I get asked frequently for the Falafel Salad Box to be put on the menu. I make authentic Middle Eastern falafel, which is served with homemade houmous, soy tzatziki, flat bread and a mixed salad. I also sell this dish in my new food trailer

Where would you love to see Feast Foods in 2 years time?

 I would love to have café or coffee shop serving delicious healthy veggie and vegan food and craft coffee. I used to work for a coffee roastery in Brighton and miss having a beautiful coffee now that I have moved back home. If I could bring this to Wolverhampton too, I would be really happy for completely selfish reasons. I would also like FEAST to be doing frequent events and food festivals with our new trailer.

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Finally, anything you would like to say to the readers?

 I really believe that Wolverhampton needs and deserves new, fresh and healthy food options. At FEAST, my mission to fill this gap by designing exciting dishes with fresh and nutritious ingredients at an affordable price.

90% of my customers are meat eaters and all of them keep coming back to order FEAST lunches because they feel happy and healthy for eating natural, meat free, delicious food. FEAST gives the people of Wolverhampton the chance to have a choice to eat delicious, nutritious and healthy lunches!

I am very passionate about contributing to where I live and hope this can make a real difference. Equally, I look forward to one day being able to provide jobs to people in Wolverhampton who share the same work ethic and passion for food that I have.

 

Thanks to Nadiah for giving up her time to tell us more about Feast foods and helping to diversify options available to the local community. It’s a brave move starting any business but starting up something that goes against the grain is even more bold. I wish her the best of luck in the future and hope you all support her if you can. You can find FF on Instagram for some beautiful examples of their dishes and visit The Feast Foods website  to get involved!

 

 

 

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The Hungry Buck Cuban sandwich

A little while ago I watched a film called ‘Chef’ on Netflix starring John Favreau where he plays Carl Casper, a head chef at a major restaurant in California. He hits a snag when the owner of the restaurant tries to shackle his creativity and tie him down to cooking ‘classic’ proven dishes instead of being free to innovate and create something edgy and special. A high flying blogger and critic Ramsey Michel is heavily critical of Carl’s menu which starts a Twitter war between the two, Carl unfortunately being quite aggressive in his retaliation, not realising that Twitter is a very public forum to start a war of words. Ultimately this triggers a sequence of events that ruin his credibility and essentially ruins his career.

This gives Carl the opportunity to strip everything back and make something beautifully simple, tasty and fun. Traveling the country in a food truck making a huge impact with his iteration of the Cuban sandwich, he tries to rebuild his career and rebuild his fractured relationships with his family along the way. Its a brilliant film and I would recommend anybody watch it whether you are a food lover or not its a great ‘Feel good’ movie to watch on a Sunday night to help battle those lurking Monday blues.

Naturally I have spent a lot of time since watching the film researching the Cuban sandwich in its different iterations and disputed guises in and around the USA, making notes on equivalent ingredients to substitute the less available items on UK shores. Traditionally a Cuban sandwich is made from ‘Cuban’ bread which is baked in long, baguette style shapes with a crisp outer crust and a soft flaky middle, Ham, roasted pork, yellow mustard, Swiss cheese and pickles which is then pressed in a sandwich press called a Plancha. The bread being the main sticking point over here in the UK if you don’t have time to make it yourself.

In terms of the roast pork I wanted to give the sandwich a quick and easy alternative so slow roasting for hours for the sake of making one sandwich was never really a viable option for me! So I switched it up for some pork loin steaks and made a quick spice rub from salt, garlic, cumin, cinnamon and lime juice. So as blasphemous as this may be to the purists this is my homage to the iconic Cuban sandwich.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 Panini roll
  • Honey roast ham
  • 1 Pork loin steak
  • Large pickles, thinly
  • 4 slices of Swiss or Emmental cheese
  • Half a lime

Sprinkle 1/2 a teaspoon of each of the following onto a plate

  • Cinnamon
  • Cumin
  • Garlic powder
  • salt

Method:

  1. Preheat a griddle pan on a medium heat, cut the bread and lay the cheese onto the bottom half.
  2. Place to pork loin steak onto the plate and press into the spice mix, flip over and rub into the meat. Repeat for both sides.
  3. Add the pork to the pan, squeeze the juice of the lime directly onto the meat and cook for around 4 minutes each side. Remove and rest. Keep the pan on a low heat.
  4. Add the pork loin to the sandwich (you can slice it if you want) and layer the ham, pickles and any remaining cheese onto the sandwich. Add a good spread of the mustard onto the remaining bread and place on the top of the sandwich, Lightly butter the top and bottom of the bread.
  5. Turn the heat up on the griddle and add the sandwich to the pan, press down with a spare frying pan or plate to keep it compressed and on the heat. Keep it like this until browned and then flip it over to repeat.
  6. Remove your crispy Cuban from the pan and enjoy! Cut diagonally for really authentic detailing!

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Rub – The return

As some of you may have seen I recently reviewed Birmingham’s new American inspired restaurant on Broad street, Rub smokehouse and bar. In summary, I gave them a good review and said it was a good place to eat with an enjoyable atmosphere with plenty to offer its customers, although my burger was ever so slightly over done as I prefer my beef a little rarer. This was by no means a criticism just an observation made within an overall good experience at Rub.

As it turns turns out they read my review and got in touch. Throughout the review I had plenty of positive things to say about the experience but they paid special attention to the fact that my burger was a touch past my preference and it really mattered to them that it wasn’t a 100%, so I was invited back again to have a look around their kitchen to see how they prep their service, meet the management and have something else to eat. Naturally I accepted their generous offer and went to see them after work on Thursday of last week.

Starter

Starter

I was greeted by a few of the front of house staff and asked for Sean, who came out to meet me and take me to a table he has set aside for us to talk at. We sat for a few minutes and talked about the history of the company, how Rub came about, their philosophy and where they are going next, which was quite an interesting chat. The company is run by three people who all have strengths in different areas but all really care about what Rub smokehouse presents to it’s customers, this trio consists of Sean Singer, Luke Billingham and Jason Rowe who have a combined experience of 45 years in the food industry. All three have come together to successfully create a brand that is stylish, loud, fun and friendly, starting with their branch in Nottingham and as of just under four weeks ago, Birmingham.

Marvin and his pork shouldersInside the kitchen

Sean walked me through their smoking process and showed me the kitchen during service which was an enlightening experience as the kitchen wasn’t nearly as big I thought it would be but they use the space so incredibly well. One side of the kitchen is used for meat preparation and is home to Hank and Marvin. These two guys are very good at what they do and do a minimum shift of 16 hours straight, seven days a week… mainly because Hank and Marvin are the names of the smokers! Hank holds the beef brisket and Marvin is your guy for the pork shoulder. Smoking the meat for 16 hours using Hickory creates a mild and universally appealing flavour and ensures the meat gives up any hope of being anything other than melt in the mouth. They are the stars of the show and are an invaluable asset to the kitchen and it shows in just how much they are used, as Sean informed me they actually get through around 3,500kg of meat a week. Yes guys that is not a typing error… 3,500kg of meat a week, which begs the question:

‘How good is the meat and do they cut any corners to keep up with demand?’

The short answer is; very good and no. All of their meats are sourced from a farm in North Yorkshire called Sykes house farm and they receive 7 daily deliveries per week. Not a single piece of meat is frozen at Rub as it is used at its freshest straight from the farm. There is a large walk in fridge that holds it all until it is used as day one is spent planning for day two, for instance, Monday’s are spent prepping Tuesdays meat in the smoker etc. All other fresh produce such as vegetables, salad and none meat based produce is kept in a separate walk in fridge closer to the main runs of the kitchen, Interestingly enough there are also two microwaves in the building and they are used for two things and two things only, heating babies bottles and warming up porridge. Not a single drop of food that is served on the main menu enters them. Which is fantastic as everything from the burgers, steaks, fries, corn dogs, smoked cheddar mash and all the other fantastic sides are made fresh that day. Not too shabby for a place that can cater for 400 covers at once.

After looking at the kitchen and food storage I took a peak into the ‘cellar’ to look at their keg and cask set up which was also an interesting part of the visit for me as its very much an aspect of my day job working in sales for Marston’s brewery. They have multiple beers on tap at the bar including Blue moon, Brew dog’s Punk IPA, Brooklyn Lager, Samuel Adams and Budweiser to name a few, making their selection predominantly on message with the all American theme with the exception of a few great European beers (I’m looking at you Brew dog). All in all they cater for most beer drinkers and can offer you a decent amount of choice when looking for a drink to go with your ribs.

The cellar

Once this was all said and done we sat down again and talked for a little longer about their POS system and how the staff will take orders as the restaurant develops. The system is used by each member of staff using an Ipad strapped to their wrists making notepads a thing of the past and offering the customer a more interactive experience, for example if I wasn’t sure if I wanted the Rub-dog millionaire or the Rub burger I can ask the member of staff to simply press the option on their screen to reveal a picture of the dish in question. Better yet when it comes to adding my optional extras I can be handed the Ipad to select my own additions such as extra meat, cheeses, onions, pickles and that sort of thing to make each meal a truly unique, customisable experience. A really great idea made even more unqiue by the fact they are the only company to use the system in the UK at the present moment in time, paving the way for the rest of the industry to look and take note. Rub smokehouse and bar are making waves and showing people how its done in more ways than one it seems.

Sean then offered to order me some food using the system so I could see the whole process and get to grips with it, I accepted his offer and ordered the Reuben sandwich, which is a wonderful combination of the slow cooked beef brisket, slaw, Monterrey jack cheese and pickles on a sour dough roll smothered in their Jack Daniels enriched gravy. I was then handed the Ipad to select my additional extras and customise the dish, a very simple and effective way of creating something truly awesome, however I restrained myself and only had a few bits like bacon, extra pickles, extra cheese and switched the standard fries for sweet potato ones. I didn’t want to take anything away from the brisket itself as I wanted to experience it fully and not overload the sandwich so I could judge it on its own merit. Hank had done a stellar job of looking after this one as it just fell to pieces as I attempted to cut it, I gave up any hope of picking anything up with hands the minute it came to table, it was a glorious gravy laden mountain of meat and sour dough bread and I loved it. The fries were delicate and sweet on the inside and had a wonderfully satisfying crunch upon biting into them, they were not in the slightest bit greasy either which was fantastic! A good helping of salt and French’s mustard took them to another level and completed the dish. The rest of the sandwich was a thoroughly enjoyable experience and it all came together to put something really special on my platter! The bacon provided a strong salty hit, the gravy was a rich and silky quilt over the entire sandwich, the extra pickle spiked every bite with a tangy punch that sliced through from the background and left enough room on the palate for the cheese to enter the fray. Fantastic.

The reuben

Funnily enough I really loved my Thursday and Sean kept me entertained for well over an hour, which I cannot convey enough gratitude for as he is a busy man. The Birmingham branch is a perfect representation of everything that makes Rub and their philosophy so great in my eyes as it is a fun and welcoming atmosphere, offering amazing food and an incredible amount of passion. Passion for their customers and the food they serve, passion for the way their staff feel and a passion for making sure everybody leaves with a smile on their face wanting more, while literally being incapable of putting anymore in that is!

Directions anyone?

Directions anyone?

Rub smokehouse and bar is the perfect place to eat and have fun with family or friends. If you want a restaurant that offers more potential in one menu run (which changes around every three months) than some places do in a whole year’s worth of menu development, an atmosphere that is comfortable with itself and happy knowing it doesn’t apologise for being true to their philosophy, produces extraordinarily great food and cares so much about their customers they will spend precious time with somebody to talk about the hard work that do on an everyday basis then this is the place for you. A special mention has to go to Sean for taking the time to see me and looking after me so well, I also feel like this is the start of a great relationship between this blog and Rub and I thoroughly hope they continue to go from strength to strength, making all of their future plans possible so more and more people can share this brilliantly unique dining experience.

Rub is unapologetic in its quest for unique awesomeness …and I love them for it.

10/10

Super sunday meatloaf

America has gone through quite the renaissance in terms of the worlds perception of their food in recent years, they are now supremely fashionable due to the popularity of their incredible barbeque recipes. Not a day goes by that I don’t see a new pulled pork product or a BBQ 20 hour beef option added to another menu at the bigger chains or even some of the smaller, more independent cafes and restaurants and for good reason.

America knows how to utilise great meat very effectively and create some incredible food. One dish in particular that I have always admired is the quintessential stateside family meal, the meatloaf. As somebody who grew up in the United kingdom watching shows from the USA I had always heard about meatloaf but never fully understood what it was until a few years ago when I put some effort into research. I have been working on a recipe since then and found a few pointers along the way to get the best from it and to be fair I am very happy with how it turns out now when I make it, as the first ones that I made were dry and a little bland. I didn’t really feel like I had captured the essence of the homely experience that the meatloaf represented to so many families across the pond, until now. I am happy enough with it to share the recipe for you to try at home!

What you’ll need:

  • 400g lean minced beef
  • 400g lean pork mince
  • 6 good quality pork sausage, removed from skins (I used pork and red onion sausage with 85% pork)
  • A handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped
  • 1 carrot, diced
  • 1 celery stick, diced
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic finely sliced
  • 1 medium egg
  • 75g wholemeal breadcrumbs
  • 100g smoked streaky bacon
  • 4-5 tablespoons of maple syrup
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Olive oil

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What to do:

  1. In a frying pan, add 1 tablespoon of oil and add the celery, carrots, onion and garlic and fry until slightly softened and the onions start to become milder in colour. Take it off the heat and leave it to cool.
  2. Preheat the oven at 180 degrees or equivalent.
  3. In a large bowl mix the beef, pork and sausage meat with the breadcrumbs, egg, parsley and season well with the salt and pepper. Add the now cooled veg from the pan and mix well to combine.
  4. In an oiled loaf tin pack the mix in to the top and turn out to reveal a nice uniform shape onto a lightly oiled baking tray.
  5. Wrap in the bacon so it is tightly packed in around the sides, leaving both end pieces exposed.
  6. Brush the maple syrup over the top of the bacon and around the sides and top with a bit of pepper.
  7. Bake in the oven for 45 minutes to an hour. until crispy on the outside or it reads around 77 degrees on a skewer.
  8. Remove from the tray carefully, and slice into even slices to serve to your family and friends! Best served with gravy or like I do with a sour cream and chive sauce, roast sweet potatoes and a big salad. Heaven.

As always play around with it and see what you can make of it yourself, this is but a blank canvas to get your juices flowing but it does certainly work as it is, so I implore you to give it a try.

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Thanks for reading and enjoy!

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Puff pastry tarts

This weekend made me realise something quite alarming. I haven’t given myself the time recently to have a good session in the kitchen and more so, put anything on the blog. So I made sure I could make something nice for lunch on Saturday for me and the other half that I could share with you all. I have been rather preoccupied as of late due to getting a new job and having a lot of information and new things to process as I have moved to a totally different industry, so Ive been having to prioritise that as you can imagine. Although it is definitely a positive thing as I now work for Marston’s brewery and in all honesty it is a huge step for me as I can now say that I work in an industry I am passionate about. Kind of a dream job as it involves the food and drink industry, its a huge, huge move for me and opens up a whole world of knowledge to me. (Beer/ food combinations are a very interesting topic!)

So anyway back on topic, the good lady has been on at me for a while to make her something from the old blog that I always harp on about as being one of my favourite recipes, and I felt this weekend was quite fitting as on Monday I start a new fitness regime in preparation for our holiday in France. If your going to treat yourself to something you might as well go all out anyway right?

Goats cheese and balsamic onion puff pastry tart

What you’ll need

1/2 roll of shop bought puff pastry

100g goats cheese

1 red onion finely chopped

balsamic dressing

green pesto

handful of rocket

small sprinkle of lemon juice

salt

pepper

olive oil

egg wash

Chorizo jam and spring onion puff pastry tart

1/2 roll shop bought puff pastry

1 jar chorizo jam

3 finely chopped spring onions

handful grated mozzarella

salt pepper

egg wash

Method

  1. Unload the pastry out of the box and roll out flat. Leave out of the fridge for 2 minutes before use. Preheat your oven at 200 degrees. Put a little oil in a frying pan and on a medium heat, lightly fry down the onion until translucent and soft, add 1.5 tablespoons of balsamic, the lemon juice and a good helping of salt and pepper. Turn the heat down to the lowest heat and stir well. The onions will take on the balsamic and become dark and aromatic. Take off the heat and leave to rest.
  2. cut into two equal square parts and fold over around all edges to create a barrier and a bit of a wall around each tart.
  3. lightly prick with a fork in the middle/base of the tart and brush both down with the egg wash.
  4. Place in the oven for 5 minutes until the starts to rise. When this happens remove them from the oven and on the first one add a tablespoon of pesto, spread evenly over the pastry. Followed by the onions and a few big slices of goats cheese… On the second tart spread the chorizo jam (dont be shy with it!) around then add the cheese, followed by the spring onions.
  5. Place back in the oven for 20 minutes at 160 degrees or until golden/brown.
  6. Remove and serve with a big salad and dress the goats cheese tart with a few spring of rocket

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As always a simple concept that makes for a really satisfying meal for you and the rest of the family… me and my fiance ate both on our own so be warned, if you have a family of four or more, double the volume. You will need it!

I will hopefully get round to doing that second part of the York article I promised this week so I will do my best to sort it out!

Have a great week everybody!

Phil

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Simple cod burger with gnocchi sardi salad

So, its now April apparently and it very much seems like March was one of those months that disappeared faster than a horse running at the national. The months seem to fly now that the clocks have changed and even though it is incredible to be having some lighter evenings to relax outside, it just seems like time goes a little bit faster when your enjoying yourself in pub gardens and having barbeques at home.

All the more reason to make the most of all this sunshine were currently having! The bank holiday was an absolute beauty weather wise and there certainly was no shortage of people taking their chance to have a pint by the canal at my local, the Fox and Anchor near Coven.

It is not very often I rave about a chain pub but I do love the Fox as it has a great ambiance in the winter when they light the log fires and even more so when they are buzzing with summer beer garden seekers. I even got a little bit sunburned. Which is not exactly hard as I burn like an ant under a blow torch.

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Now that we have all emerged from our wintery cocoons its time for some lighter food to compliment the bottles of Corona on the lawn (slice of lime optional but advised). White fish comes to mind as its quick, fresh and light on the pallet while being full of protein and really satisfying, paired up with this pasta salad which is the true star of this dish,makes a great meal. Enhanced further by the fact that its full of all the good stuff you can fit in without it becoming unbalanced, you’ll be feeling very pleased with yourself afterwards. No guilt. No hastle.

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Try this recipe on for size next time your feeling lazy on one of these warmer evenings.

Serves 4

For the burger:

  • 2 cod loins. Both halved.
  • 4 wholemeal buns.
  • Tartar sauce.
  • Soy sauce.
  • Pepper.
  • Few salad leaves of your choice.
  • Olive oil.

Pasta salad:

  • 400g gnocchi sardi.
  • 1 small box of cherry or small variety of tomatoes, all halved.
  • 1 courgette, diced.
  • 1 red and 1 orange pepper, diced.
  • 1 small can of sweetcorn.
  • 3 spring onions, finely chopped.
  • handful fresh parsley, finely chopped.
  • 5 tablespoons of zero fat Greek yoghurt.
  • 5 tablespoons light mayonnaise.
  • 1 tablespoons dijon mustard.
  • salt and pepper to taste.

Method:

  1. Cook the pasta to pack instructions.
  2. Add the pasta to a large mixing bowl and stir in all of the other ingredients apart from the courgette.
  3. Preheat a frying pan on a medium heat, add a tiny bit of oil and fry the courgette until it starts to brown a little, then remove and mix into the salad.
  4. Give a good few turns on a salt and pepper mill.
  5. Chill for 20 minutes.
  6. Use the preheated pan and add a little more oil.
  7. Add the cod loin halves and fry on a medium heat for around 4 minutes. Turn over and repeat.
  8. Turn the heat up to high and add a tablespoon of soy sauce, give the pan a shake so it reaches all of the fish, do this for around 30 seconds and repeat on the other side.
  9. Cut the rolls and put around a teaspoon of tartar sauce on both halves. Lay a few leaves on the bottom half, followed by the soy fried fish, along with anything else you want to add. (Go crazy, its a blank canvas).
  10. Finish with one big sprinkle of black pepper, cap it off with the top half of the bread and serve with a big spoon full of the pasta.

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Its another very simple but very effective recipe to fill a void after a hard day at work when the evening is best spent enjoying the sunshine outside!

Ultimate baked pasta

Hi all, today I find myself in the peculiar position of sitting in a Mcdonald’s eating breakfast (Only some porridge and a tea) waiting for my ride to work and taking advantage of their free WIFI facility. Peculiar only due to the fact that I am present in one of their ‘restaurant’s’ as I usually find their take on food as totally abhorrent and something I would never partake in, however I feel I’m safe with tea and porridge. Possibly. Cue the e-mails about their porridge oats being genetically manufactured in Scotland by mad scientists dressed as clowns.

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I am finding it hard to find slots in my time to physically sit down and write blog posts at present as I commute long distances for work but this is a good example of how I’m trying to fit it all in, between lifts and shifts. one could say I have an undying commitment to the cause, although this may possibly be a minor over-dramatization to the alternative of ‘fitting it in when I can’, so at present I would say a post every few weeks is a realistic target.

As some of my older posts have shown I am really keen on Italian food, I have always found its ability to combine artistry with simplicity incredibly attractive. Whether your an outright novice or an experienced veteran in the kitchen its a type of cooking that offers something for everybody. This dish present you with a relatively simple method but offers a show stopping flavour and combination of textures that elevate it beyond the typical ‘Pasta bakes’ of Homepride and Dolmio fame. The ingredients can be as cheap or as expensive as you can make them and you can finish the entire dish in around an hour, definitely one to please a few house guests at the weekend.

What you’ll need:

300g short tube pasta (Macaroni, ziti etc)
200g lamb mince
1 heaped Tbspn dried oregano
100g sliced salami
100g sliced pepperoni
Handful of red Leicester cheese
Large handful of fresh spinach
1 ball of mozzarella cheese
3 large fresh eggs
olive oil
salt
pepper

For the sauce:
2 tablespoons of red pesto
1 tin chopped Tomatoes
1 Tbspn mascarpone
handful of basil leaves
Salt
Pepper

Method:

1: In a bowl, add the lamb mince and the oregano with a little salt and pepper to taste. Combine well and roll into small meatballs. Around 1.5 inches in diameter.

2:Add pasta to a pan of boiling water and cook to packet instructions. Approximately 20 minutes in salted, boiling water.

3: Heat a tablespoon of olive oil to a frying pan and on a medium heat, lightly fry the meatballs until browned. This will take roughly 3 minutes. You don’t want to fully cook them yet. Remove from the pan to rest, leaving the fat in the pan. (We need it shortly)

4: In a blender blitz the tomatoes with the basil leaves. Add it to the frying pan on a medium heat with the reserved lamb fat. Add the pesto and the mascarpone, stirring well until well combined then leave to simmer for 5 minutes.

5: By now the pasta should be cooked, drain the pasta while reserving a little of the cooking water. Reintroduce the pasta to the pan with the reserved water and add the sauce and spinach. Mix thoroughly.

6: Preheat oven at 180 degrees or equivalent temperature. Beat the eggs together well in a cup or bowl.

7: In a medium to large lasagne dish, add a few tablespoons of the sauce to the bottom and create a layer of the pepperoni and salami in nice tidy rows. Add a big spoon of the pasta and spread evenly. Repeat until the dish is full, ending with a layer of pasta. This usually covers around 3-4 layers dependant on how big your dish is!

8: Add the meatballs to the top of the pasta and push in so they are half submerged in the pasta. Tear the mozzarella and scatter around the meatballs, then sprinkle on your red Leicester.

9: Take the beaten eggs and pour over the whole dish nice and evenly, it should seep through all the gaps and go down the sides of the pasta. Gives a few prods with a fork so it totally penetrates the pasta, it will bind together into a perfect harmony of cheesy, pasta goodness. Now add it to the oven and bake for around 30-40 minutes.

10: Remove from the oven and check the eggs are cooked through with a skewer or a knife, it should come out without any raw egg on. If still not cooked cook for further 3-5 minutes and check regularly.

11: Indulge it with your family and friends. Your onto a winner. Guarantee you’ll make it more than once. Best thing is it’s adaptable so make it your own, go to town add what you want and experiment.

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