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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One pot: Part one – Sausages

I realise I have been fairly quiet for a few weeks but I hope you will agree, for good reason, as I have been developing some new recipes for the blog. As I mentioned in an earlier post I received a cast iron pot for Christmas from my future in-laws, and thought as I seem to be using it a hell of a lot that I should share some of the things that are coming out of it.

So this will be a series of three recipes all in made in under an hour in one pot, keeping the washing up down and keeping the whole family happy… I’m struggling to see a downside on this one! Unless you don’t like sausage. Then that’s a big downside.

Ingredients:

  • 8 good quality, pork sausages. (95% pork or more)
  • 1 can of Butterbeans
  •  2 red peppers, finely sliced
  • 1 red onion, finely chopped
  • 3 cloves of garlic, crushed
  • sliced button mushrooms
  • 4 sage leaves
  • 2 tbsp. tomato puree
  • 1 tbsp. Worcester sauce
  • 1 tbsp. olive oil
  • salt
  • pepper
  • A little water (about a 1/4 of a cup)

Method:

  1. Start by putting the pot on a medium heat and adding the oil.
  2. Add the sausages in and cook for 5 minutes until browned.
  3. Remove the sausages and add the onion, garlic, peppers, sage, mushrooms, worcs. sauce and tomato puree, season well with the salt and pepper (to taste) and keep on a low heat for a couple of minutes.
  4. Add the water, reintroduce the sausages and pop the butter beans in. Stir well.
  5. Put the lid on and leave to simmer on a low heat for 15 minutes. Check the pot every now and then and stir to stop any sticking or burning. Add a splash more water if really needed. (Be careful not to over do it)
  6. Serve with brown rice or potatoes and dig in!

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As you can see it is superbly easy and it is honestly really good, hearty food. One down, two more to come. The next recipe is a chilli that is packed full of veg and has heaps of everything good to keep you ticking over nicely as we start to creep towards the slightly warmer, brighter, spring months.

Throwback Thursday: The chilli pepper.

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The Trinidad scorpion pepper, this one is a mean customer

This is an old post from the previous blog that was very popular when I first wrote it. Thought some people might find it useful or interesting… plus its very much in the spirit of ‘#tbt’

So, the chilli pepper. One of my favourite natural ingredients (garlic being another) and usually ends up in my sauces, salads, chopped up in wraps or sandwiches or scattered over the molten cheese of a pizza. I’m getting hungry just writing this! Here’s some interesting facts about the chilli.

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  • The chili has been used in the Americas since around about 7500 BC and one of the first Europeans to experience the fiery kick of a chilli was actually Christopher Columbus.
  • They were used for medicinal purposes in Spain after they were brought back by a member of Columbus’s crew.
  • They were traded with the Portuguese and spread through colonies throughout Asia, including their introduction into Indian cuisine.
  • New variations of chilli are still being created today.

What can I do with them though?

Everybody knows you can cut them up and put them in chilli’s or curries, that’s a great application for them as they have become a staple in the countries of those dishes origin. But how about getting a little more creative with it? Try these quick little ideas sometime or simply use them to inspire your own creations. these are just a few of my favourites.

Devils grilled cheese on toast

ingredients:

  • 2 thick slices of good quality bread. (bloomer/tiger bread is good cut into slices around 2cm thick)
  • 60g strong cheddar cheese
  • 60g red Leicester cheese
  • 2 tablespoons tomato puree
  • 1 teaspoon Worcester sauce
  • 1 tea spoon of mild chilli powder
  • 2 jalapeno chilli peppers, finely chopped (keep the seeds!)
  1. Preheat the grill at a medium to high heat.
  2. Mix the tomato puree, Worcester sauce and the chilli powder well.
  3. put the bread under the grill until it starts to brown on the one side.
  4. remove the bread from the grill and evenly spread the spicy puree evenly over both slices
  5. scatter all the cheese and chopped peppers over the untoasted side of the bread, return to grill and toast until melted, then remove and enjoy!.

Habanero hot sauce

  • ½ cup water
  • ½ cup white rice vinegar
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon minced garlic
  • 2 habanero peppers, minced
  • 1 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 teaspoon ground paprika
  • 1 tablespoon ketchup
  • Pinch of white pepper
  1. Add the water and vinegar to a saucepan and bring to the boil on a medium heat.
  2. Add the sugar, garlic, peppers, ginger, paprika, white pepper and ketchup.
  3. Simmer for 5 minutes.
  4. Strain into a serving dish to serve.

This works great for a BBQ or even a dip for a Saturday night in watching a movie or some really bad TV. Very warming on a winters eve but equally inviting in the heat of summer. perfect.

Are they good for me?

Red chilies contain large amounts of vitamin C and small amounts of carotene. Yellow and especially green chilies (which are essentially unripe fruit) contain a lower amount of both. In addition, peppers are a good source of most B vitamins. So in short, yes. they are. They are also said to kick start your metabolic rate, which could help fat burning.

Hottest chilli out there?

They’re measured by something called the scoville scale. check it out below

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Now that’s a little snippet of what the chilli is all about and how you can use it, next time you get chance jump in your kitchen and use it in something new. Throw them in an omelette or through some noodles or salad. They’re really versatile, and add a third dimension to many a dish. Don’t be scared, get cooking!

Phil

Chicken and chorizo stew.

Over the course of 2014, I had found myself doing a lot of new things and being inspired to create new recipes, make dishes that can take me away from the everyday trudge of mealtime and keep eating after work just as enjoyable as eating at the weekend. Monday blues are no excuse to stick to beans on toast (not that there’s anything wrong with beans on toast!) purely through a lack of inspiration.

I have a few stalwart recipes that come to mind that tend to remedy this, however, This one in particular is fast becoming a favourite for me and my family! I have cooked this for a fair few people now and its always met with the same positive reaction, which makes me feel pretty confident that its something you guys will love.  Its hearty, its healthy, and its full of ingredients that when put together, create a great ‘feel good’ kind of meal that is quite suitable for battling Monday blues, getting over the Wednesday hump or any day of the week you need a bit of a pick me up. Oh and don’t worry about not having time. It doesn’t take more than 5o minutes in total, So get somebody to help with the prep or chop your ingredients in advance to save time.

Ingredients:

  • 1 tbspn rapeseed oil.
  • 4 Chicken breasts. Diced.
  • 1 Chorizo ring.
  • 200g Diced butternut squash.
  • 100ml Red wine.
  • 1 Tin chopped tomatoes.
  • 300ml Good chicken stock.
  • 1 tbspn Dijon mustard.
  • 1 tbspn Paprika.
  • 1 tbspn Turmeric.
  • 2 Chopped sticks of celery.
  • 2 tbspn Worcester sauce.
  • 1 Can butter beans.
  • Salt and pepper to taste.

Method:

  1. Add oil to a large cast iron dish or saucepan on a low heat, add the oil, chorizo and celery. Fry for a few minutes until the chorizo releases its own oil and starts to brown.
  2. Add the chicken a move around the pan until the chicken starts to also take on the reddish brown colour from the chorizo. (About 3-4 minutes).
  3. Splash in the red wine, followed by the squash, tomatoes and chicken stock. Stir and simmer for 5 minutes.
  4. Next pop in the Dijon mustard along with the paprika and turmeric. Leave on a medium heat for 30 minutes, stirring regularly.
  5. A few minutes before serving add the butter beans and give them a good stir around. Put the lid on if you have one and leave them to warm through for a couple of minutes, turn the heat up if you wish to finish it off nicely. (Putting them in at the end retains their form better as they seem to escape their outer casings and disintegrate into the abyss otherwise)
  6. Serve with rice and enjoy being hugged from the inside. I use the easy micro bags of rice to save time and as a bit of a cheat.

 

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There you have it! Its as easy as that to make and its worth every second. Packed full of all the good stuff you need to feel full and satisfied without neglecting your vegetables. The chorizo is just an added bonus to reward your obvious dedication to giving yourself something healthy to eat!

 

Give it a try, get creative and add your own twist to it and add fresh chilies or olives. Go crazy!

Guinea fowl thighs with bacon

Again and again I walk into my local supermarket and straight to the meat and fish section to find something to make something worth writing about. This time I saw the guinea fowl thighs, I rarely see them as they mostly just stock full birds, so I snapped them up.

I rifled through the isles to find something to go with it, I picked some thick cut bacon lardons and an onion squash. Here was the resulting recipe!

Ingredients:

4 Guinea fowl thighs
200g bacon lardons
Dash of white wine (50ml)
Rapeseed oil
Pepper

1onion squash, peeled and chopped
A little oil
Salt
Pepper

prep:
preheat your oven at 180\gas mark 7

Method:

Place the squash on a tray and sprinkle with salt and pepper. place in the oven.

Add 1 tablespoons of rapeseed oil to a large non stick frying pan on a medium/high heat, followed by the bacon.

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Fry the bacon until it starts to brown, then add the wine. Stir the bacon and wine to lift the sediment from the bottom of the pan and simmer for 2 minutes.

Add the guinea fowl, and fry gently on each side for a few minutes until browned.

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Remove everything from the pan and place in an oven proof tray, sprinkle with a little pepper, then place in the
oven for around 20 minutes.

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After 20 minutes check the squash has softened in the middle. browned nicely around the edges and that the guinea foel thighs juices are running clear, then serve with your favourite green vegetables and enjoy.

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Oriental vegetable noodles with grilled salmon and firecracker sauce

An old recipe I found, one of the first I ever wrote but certainly worth a go! Its my ode to the exiting and vibrant flavours involved in Chinese and Asian cooking. If your not a lover of fish substitute it with a few chicken breasts, whether its used as a summer treat sitting in your garden or a winter warmer eaten while snuggled up in your wing back chair on a Saturday night, its sure to go down well.

Oriental vegetable noodles with grilled salmon and firecracker sauce

To serve 2 you’ll need:

4 small Pak choi, quartered.

handful of button mushrooms, quartered.

4 baby corns , finely chopped.

100g Dried egg noodles. (usually flat packed in packs of four)

Mixed bell peppers, julienned.

4 spring onions, diced.

2 medium sized salmon fillets.

Pinch sea salt.

for the Firecracker sauce:

2 Tbsp rapeseed oil

1 cup chicken stock stock.

2 Tbsp red cooking wine.

3 Tbsp of soy sauce.

2 level Tspn garlic powder.

1 Tspn ground ginger.

2 Large fresh chili’s (I used 1 green and one red) finely chopped.

2 Tbsp of honey.

Method for the sauce:

1) Add the stock and wine, to a frying pan or wok. Bring to a gentle simmer.

2) Once at a simmer add the honey, garlic, ginger and chili’s (including the seeds!)

3) Now leave on a medium high heat for a few minutes until it reduces by half, then take it completely off the heat.

Method for the noodles:

Preheat your grill.

1) Add the salt to some water in a large saucepan and bring to the boil. Then add the noodles and veg leave for a few minutes on a high heat until the noodles soften, leaving some crunch in the veg.

2) Pat dry the salmon, adding a little salt and pepper to one side of each of the filets and place under the grill. grill for around 4-5 minutes each side. the flesh should release a milky, mayonaise sort of looking fat into the grill pan and will flake really easily once cooked. (Keep an eye on it and don’t over cook it as it really is key to the dish to have that lovely salmon on top!)

3) drain the noodles, retaining a little of the cooking water.

4) Put the sauce back on the heat and add the noodles, mixing well.

5) Serve the salmon on a bed of noodles, dress with any remaining sauce and devour!

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2013 recap: The burgathon recipe sheets

2013 has been a crazy year and the blog has gone from strength to strength over the months, I can only thank everybody who reads the blog for helping it get up an running. Its been a fun start to a life of online food writing.

The highlight of the year for me food wise was battle of the burgers in London, which triggered the Burgathon series. A trio of recipes aimed at getting people to make their own, homemade burgers to enjoy rather than buying shop bought ones, while satisfying my perverse adoration for burgery goodness. So below find all of the Burgathon recipes together in one place! Thanks again for reading. 2014 is going to be huge!

The Mardi Gras burger

Ingredients:

The Mardi Gras burger sauce

  • 1 White onion, Diced.
  • 2 Tbspn Olive oil.
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced.
  • 125ml Southern comfort/ Spirit of Louisiana liquor.
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes.
  • 2 tbspn brown sugar.
  • 3 Tbspn Worcester sauce.
  • 1 heaped tbspn good tomato ketchup.
  • Large pinch of sea salt.
  • 1 Tspn white pepper.

The burger

  • 600g lean steak mince.
  • 1 1/2 tbspn Cayenne pepper.
  • 1 tbspn Smoked paprika.
  • Large pinch sea salt.
  • Large pinch black pepper.
  • 2 Tbspn olive oil.
  • 4 slices of smoked cheddar.
  • 4 Good quality seeded buns.
  • Handful of mixed salad leaves.

Method:

Firstly you will want to get cracking with the sauce.

  1. Put the oil into a large frying pan and bring to a medium heat and spread the oil out evenly.
  2. Add the onions and garlic and cook until the garlic starts to soften and becomes fragrant.
  3. Add the Southern comfort and simmer for 5 minutes until it reduces to half its volume, cooking out the majority of the alcohol.
  4. Add the tomatoes, sugar, Worcester sauce, ketchup, salt and pepper. Cook on the medium heat for an additional 10 minutes, stirring regularly until the sauce thickens and the tomato juices reduce and begin to emulsify.
  5. Take off the heat and leave to cool, then drop the contents of the pan into a food processor and pulse a few times. This will give it a thicker consistency and thicken it up a little.
  6. Empty into a small container and put to one side to await its meaty vehicle.
Before and after... Father and son.

Before and after… Father and son.

For the burger…

  1. Combine the meat, cayenne, paprika, salt and pepper in a large bowl and mix well with clean hands.
  2. Split and roll into 4 evenly sized balls.
  3. Pat the balls down into approximately 2 cm thickness and lay on a plate, cover the plate with cling film.
  4. Refrigerate patties for 20 minutes.
  5. Preheat a griddle pan on a medium heat. Pre-heat your grill too.
  6. add a dash of oil to both sides of each burger and gently rub it in.
  7. Place 2 patties at a time on the griddle and cook for around 6-7 minutes on each side.
  8. At the end of the second sides cooking period, add the cheese to the top of the burger and leave to melt for a further 2 minutes.
  9. Take the Burgers off the heat and leave to rest in a warm place for 3 minutes.
  10. Cut the buns in half and grill each side until slightly browned.
  11. Add the mixed leaves to the bottom part of the bun, followed by the burger, top it with the sauce and cap it off with the top half of the bun.
This sucker got soul!

This sucker got soul!

——

the big pig burger

  • 500g of pork mince
  • 5-6 well sized fresh sage leaves, finely sliced
  • 2 tspn minced fresh garlic
  • large pinch fine sea salt
  • 2-3 grinds of black pepper
  • 2 Portobello mushrooms
  • Handful of baby leaf spinach
  • 2 thick slices of Claxton mild blue cheese
  • 2 burger buns of your choice, halved
  • Dijon mustard
  • 2 tbsp Olive oil

method:

  1. In a large bowl, combine the pork mince, sage, garlic, salt and pepper and mix with clean hands until you can make one large ball with the mixture.
  2. Split the mixture into 2 evenly shaped balls and pat down into large discs.
  3. Cover with cling film and pop in the fridge for 20 minutes.
  4. Place a griddle pan on a medium heat, and apply a little oil to each side of each burger. Preheat your grill on medium/high.
  5. Place the burger on the griddle and cook for 6-7 minutes on each side. then remove from the heat to rest in a warm place, check the middle of the burger by pressing it with your thumb, it should be as firm as the outside if it is cooked all the way through.
  6. Place the mushrooms under the grill and cook for a few minutes on each side until it starts to flatten. remove from grill.
  7. place your bread rolls under the grill until browned, repeat for both sides.
  8. place a teaspoon of Dijon on the bottom of the bun, followed by some spinach, rest the burger on the spinach and place a slice of the blue cheese over the burger, followed by a mushroom and cap it with the remaining side of the toasted bun.

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The maple bagel burger

For the burger

600g lean steak mince
3 tablespoons maple syrup
large pinch cracked black pepper
1 tablespoon mild chili flakes
pinch fine sea salt
4 fresh white bagels
8 slices pastrami
8 slices good Swiss cheese
chopped salad leaves of your choice, sliced tomato and a splash of olive oil.

For the dressing

1 tablespoon sour cream
1 tablespoon good quality mayonnaise
1 teaspoon Worcester sauce
1 teaspoon English mustard
pinch white pepper.

Method:

  1. Combine the mince, chili flakes, maple syrup, salt and pepper in a bowl. With clean hands mix well until all seasoning and the maple syrup is evenly distributed.
  2. split into 4 evenly sized balls and pat down into discs around an inch thick.
  3. Cover and leave in the fridge for 10-20 minutes to firm up.
  4. preheat a griddle pan on a medium heat and add a little oil to each side of the burgers.
  5. Add the burgers to the griddle 2 at a time and cook for 7 minutes on each side. Preheat your grill on high.
  6. Grill the bagels on both sides until they start to brown.
  7. cut up 2 pieces of pastrami per burger, top with a few pieces of cheese and slide under the grill for a few minutes. then remove and rest for a few moments.
  8. Mix all of the dressing ingredients together and add it right the way around the base of the bagels, followed by the salad, the burger with the pastrami and now soft Swiss cheese, capped off with the top half of the bagel and press down a little to push it all together.
  9. Then enjoy it! it really is a show stopper!
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Maple steak burger

So that’s it, 2013 is over and 2014 has begun, I wish you all the very best and hope it is a truly great year for all of you.

Phil