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Indulging, exotic mushroom, zesty and nurturing Lumaconi pasta

11 Oct

Over the last few weeks its been one of those where you just don’t realise where the time has gone. October? That’s less than 90 days till Christmas! I have my days where I obsess about salads, veg and high protein dishes to pull me through my week at work and at the gym, but sometimes I believe you need to take some time, cook something you just really feel like enjoying, not necessarily what your body needs, but what you just WANT!

On days like these I tend to stroll lazily through the supermarket looking for something interesting, or sometimes just some veg or food I wouldn’t normally have on my weekly shopping list. I always find something that inspires me to create a new dish or even new twist on an old dish.

This week, I present to you my lumaconi.  In this case, it really IS all about the pasta!! I love it with a light, zesty sauce, and not drenched in cream. Surprisingly, I’ve received a number of compliments for this simple little dish. Today, slow down a bit, but some music on, pour yourself a beautiful glass of wine and start cooking. Take your time. Don’t rush. I believe this dish is all about the love you put into it.

Zesty exotic mushroom, spinach & feta lumaconi

exotic mushrooms

 

Ingredients

juice and zest of 1 x lemon

1 x pack of baby spinach leaves

250g mix of fresh exotic mushrooms, very roughly chopped

1 x tablespoon of butter + 1 teaspoon of butter

1/2 x glass of dry white wine

250g of soft, greek feta cheese

3 x tablespoons of freshly grated parmesan or pecorino

1/2 cup of reserved pasta water

salt & pepper to taste

exotic mushrooms

Add your butter to a heated pan and allow to melt. Gently start frying your mushrooms. Remember, if you don’t give mushrooms space, they wont brown.

exotic mushrooms

Fry your mushrooms until brown. Now remove the mushrooms from the pan and blanch your spinach in the remaining butter and mushroom juices.

mushroom & spinach

Remove the spinach and place aside. Add the teaspoon of butter and turn up the heat. Now add your mushrooms back in the pan again.

spinach and mushrooms

Add the white wine, lemon juice and lemon zest. Mix through. Allow the liquid to reduce and then set aside to cool.

butter & mushrooms

Now start cooking your pasta according to the packet instructions, making sure to cook it 4 minutes less than stated on the packet.

grated lemon zest

When this is done, reserve half a cup of the pasta water, keep aside and drain your pasta.

lumaconi pasta

Add the spinach to the mushroom mixture & crumble your feta into the spinach and mushroom mixture.

lumaconi pasta

Now put it back on the heat. Add the pasta and start mixing it through gently, slowly adding the reserved pasta water.

fried mushrooms

The pasta water will mix with the feta, allowing a gentle thickened sauce.

mushroom, feta & spinach

All you need to do now is flavour it with freshly ground black pepper and a few pinches of salt.

grated parmesan

Time to dish up!

spinach, feat and lumaconi pasta

Sprinkle over the grated parmesan, take a sip of your wine and enjoy!

Tuna Melt Casserole

1 Feb

You know what they say: A good marriage is like a casserole, only those responsible for it really know what goes in it. Where in this case, I know everyone has their little special touch for their casserole. Mine? Two things, wine & cheese! Best combination, whether you use them together in food or just as is, from where I come from in SA, it is definitely a winning pair!

This was last weekend’s indulgent Sunday coach potato food. As you know, its pretty cold in London at the moment, so no one is going out. Best thing to do is have a proper lie in, coffee in hand and then when you get up start cooking a heart warming casserole! My big guy tends to have the best ideas when I ask him on a Sunday morning what he’ll like for lunch. Even if it is a very straight forward dish, I strive to make it extra yummy and extra indulgent! Lets just say there’s no shortage of cheese in this dis. It can be gluten free by using gluten free pasta, and corn flour for the béchamel sauce ( if not using cream).

For those that choose to make the béchamel sauce, you can click on this link for a step by step guide. Just before I turn off the heat, for the béchamel sauce, I add a handful of grated cheese and mix it through until melted.

onion

http://www.wikihow.com/Make-B%C3%A9chamel-Sauce

Tuna Melt Casserole

Ingredients

Rigatoni pasta ( cooked to packet instructions)

1 x onion roughly chopped

1 x handful of chopped mushrooms

1 x teaspoon of butter

1 x teaspoon of olive oil

1 x cup bacon lardons / pieces

2 x tins of chunky tuna

1 teaspoon of chopped garlic

Salt & pepper to taste

1 x cup of cream ( if not making béchamel sauce)

2x cups of mature cheddar, grated

pinch of nutmeg

2 x tomatoes, finely sliced

1 x cup of chicken soup sachet

1 x teaspoon of Italian herbs

1 x white wine

chopped mushrooms

Add the butter and olive oil to the pan. Fry your onion in the pan for about 5-8 minutes and add the bacon lardons with the mushroom. Add the garlic and mix through.

chopped garlic

Add tuna and fry together for 5 minutes. In the meantime, add your pasta to boiling water and cook according to cooking instructions.

chopped mushrooms

Now add the soup sachet and mix through. Increase the heat and add the white wine. Mix through and lower the heat again. Keep mixing, as the wine will thicken due to the soup powder.

butter

If you’re using cream instead of béchamel, add it now and mix through. Add the pinch of nutmeg and mix through. Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celsius.

Flavour with salt and black pepper to taste.

grated cheese

If you’re using béchamel, mix the tuna, mushroom & bacon mixture into the sauce and mix through. Add this to your cooked pasta and mix through. Transfer the mixture to a casserole dish.

bechamel

Sprinkle the cheese over the pasta, distributing it evenly.

cooking wine

Place all the tomato slices evenly over the pasta. Sprinkle with the Italian herbs, season with salt and black pepper.

pasta

Cook in the oven under the grill until the cheese is super crispy!

pasta

To add a little extra indulgence, I’ve sliced over a little avocado for extra creaminess!

pasta

“Flat” out cheating lasagne

21 Apr

I have been feeling cheated. Cheated by time. Who gets home, cooks supper and goes to sleep barely having an hour or two ( in our case, none)  to chat with the one that gives you that sparkle in your eye? I feel cheated as some magic, miniature magician has been sitting on the clock and moving it with its little hands every time I look away. How unfair is this? Someone must be cheating somewhere!

By the looks of it, you can see my camera and fingers aren’t working either as I could barely remember my blog password from rejecting my little baby for so long!! No time people… no time!! 😦   Another thing that I feel cheated by is my eye cream… who is to decide to write on the label that it makes you look “fresh faced”? The only thing that makes me look fresh faced is the ever so strikingly pale colour of my skin that seems to glow from “whiteness” when I walk in the cold to the bus stop… with PUFFY eyes…yay for eyecream….

So, why not try and trick time and cheat as well?? That is what this lasagne dish is all about. Quick, tasty and happy… with loads and loads of mushrooms!!! All for mushrooms… Aye!

6-8 lasagne sheets ( or more, your own preference)

1 large punnet of small button mushrooms, some halved, some whole

25g salted butter

1 teaspoon of crushed garlic

1 brown onion chopped

150ml of chicken stock

30ml of dry white wine

5-6 sprigs of fresh thyme

150ml cream/soya cream

parmesan cheese to grate

big ball of buffalo mozzarella

salt and pepper to taste

Place your butter in a heated saucepan and allow to melt. Add a drop of olive oil and this will prevent the butter from burning. When the butter is melted, add the onions. Allow the onions to “carmelize” over low heat. As the onions seem to become softer, add your mushrooms and garlic.

Allow to simmer for about 10 minutes over low heat. Now, turn the heat up and add your chicken stock and white wine. Leave uncovered and allow to simmer down for about 10 – 15 minutes, until the liquid has halved.

Taste and season with salt if needed. Now, add half of your thyme ( take the leaves off the little twigs). Mix through with love and add the cream. Allow to simmer for about 7 minutes to allow the thyme to infuse in the mushroom mixture.

While it is simmering, place your lasagne sheets in salted, boiling water. It should cook in about 8-10 minutes, depending on how you like the texture. When this is done, you’re just about ready 🙂

Place one lasagne sheet on a plate. Dish over some mushrooms and tear some mozzarella and place on top of the mushrooms. Now place a lasagne sheet over this again. You will keep going until you are happy with your “tower”. Just like layering normal lasagne.. this just doesn’t go in the oven.

When this is done,drizzle some of the sauce on it and top it off with some freshly grated parmesan and black pepper. Easy peasy, cheaty weasy!!

A refreshing change.. .. minty, fresh meatballs

15 Mar

No tomato meatball fights today!!! No energy for it to be honest. Why is it that we ( this would actually be me) get soooo excited and inspired by many things that we always want to do everything all at once and succeed with all of  it at once, immediately?

Well… its definitely not refreshing to say that it is covered in impatience as well… and a bit of disappointment. I know it is because I have been trying to do everything at once… and doing everything at once amounts to eventually getting nowhere at all.

So after a weekend filled with doing nothing….( yes, lying on the couch eating numerous amounts of  food does amount to doing nothing.)… BUT, I was very tired and exhausted and in a lot of pain.. so I would think this is a good enough of an excuse 🙂

However, this amounted to me feeling very guilty for not taking ANY photos, writing ANY blogs or making ANY food…You read it…. my Conan, hero of the household rescued me this weekend providing me with food,, the game of throne series and copious amounts of tea  ;-p

Now, feeling slightly better, I  have decided to do a new take on meatballs… especially after my Big boy and I are the new faces of Gaviscon.. less tomato.. less indegestion. SO… it is the season of spring… and it is fresh and it is green… mint.. mint … and mint… and always, naturallly, garlic 🙂 This happy dish put a smile on big boy’s face… and as always I hear him eating out of the saucepans in the kitchen again… a very familiar sound I may add.

Creamy minted meatballs

1 onion very finely chopped ( use a food processor)

2 teaspoons of fresh mint, finely chopped

1 teaspoon of garlic

2 teaspoons of cumin

2 teaspoons of dried chives

1 pack of 250g  beef mince

1 egg

3 tablespoons of breadcrumbs

2 handfuls of mushrooms, roughly chopped

3 handfuls of mixed greens, roughly chopped ( mine was cabbage and spinach)

2 cups of orzo pasta

600ml of vegetable stock, made with one cube

2 tablespoons of olive oil

250ml of cream/soya cream/ creme fraiche

Fresh parmesan for grating

1 ripe avo,cut in pieces

Chop your onion into pieces small enough to fit into your food processor and add 1 teaspoon of the garlic and all the mint. It should be processed to quite fine, until it is just almost a paste, but not a paste.

Place your mince in a mixing bowl and add the cumin, chives, breadcrumbs and egg. Flavour with salt and pepper. Mix well. Now, make them into little meatballs. Whichever size you prefer.

When this is done, add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to a heated pan. Now, add your onion, mint and garlic mixture to the pan. Fry gently for about 7 minutes. Now, place your meatballs in the pan with the onion mixture. Let them brown in the pan and squiggle them about.

While the meatballs are cooking, add the remaining olive oil to a heated saucepan. Add the remaining garlic and add your mushrooms. Fry them until just slightly browned, and add your greens. Mix through. Now, add your orzo and mix through and then add your vegetable stock. Keep the heat on medium while cooking the orzo and stir frequently to prevent it from sticking to the bottom of the saucepan. Do not put the lid on, keep it uncovered.

While this is cooking, check on your meatballs. If they are brown, add your cream and turn it down so that it simmers gently. Dont forget to check on your orzo.

This should be done when 90% of the liquid has been absorbed. Usually about 10 – 15 minutes.

When it is done, dish up the orzo, place the meatballs with its sauce on top, grind over some black pepper, add your avo and grate with a bit of fresh parmigiana,  and you’ve got yourself a winner!

Leftover Thursday

17 Nov

Which, to be honest, there isn’t really much left. I think I am talking about myself. After numerous weeks of being stuck on Ego Planet, I am very happy to have my last day tomorrow in Ego-man land. So from a patience point of view, there is nothing left.

However, after rushing home again last night, as always, I just thought about my friend decided to pop a good ‘ol whole chicken in the oven. Whenever in doubt, this is the route I take, and, I have to say, my friend Amanda, very happily noted to me how easy it is to actually just cook a chicken. You can’t really go wrong with a roast chicken. In her words ” roast chicken breast with a simple tomato salad, yum”, and well, that is what I did. I was very happy that she reminded me. Sorry to say, but coming home so late, there was no time really to do my normal blog routine.

BUT, I was very lucky to have some leftover chicken that smiled at me when I came home and so Leftover Thursday came round ;-p Don’t worry if you don’t have leftover chicken, then just take a pack of chicken fillets and everyone’s happy! This is almost a cupboard meal, but, add some tomatoes and you have a little bit of freshness popping through! So, without further ado, leftover chicken and pesto pasta

handful of cherry tomatoes

2 tablespoons of olive oil

teaspoon of crushed garlic

salt & pepper to taste

2 tablespoons of roughly cut artichokes

Leftover roast chicken / 1 pack of chicken fillets, cut in cubes

1/2 glass of dry white wine

2 tablespoons of traditional green pesto

3 cups of pasta of your choice cooked according to packet instructions

1 1/2 tablespoon of capers

Little bit of goats cheese to crumble over as garnish

Heat a frying pan and add your olive oil and garlic. Mix through, add your cherry tomatoes and put on the lid. Shake the pan about and listen until you hear some of the juices splurting out in the pan. Now add your chicken. Mix about and add your capers. Taste and season with salt and pepper.

Allow to simmer for 5 minutes and turn up the heat a bit. Add your artichokes. Now add your white wine and allow to simmer for 5 minutes.

Turn off the heat and add your pesto.  Dish up your pasta, top with your chicken mixture and crumble over your goats cheese. Quick, tasty and happy!

In a thyme tuna pickle

26 Oct

As almost every other day, when I left the house in the (pitch black) dark this morning, I forgot to take out some meat from the freezer. Yet again, this home is plagued by the flu… As I was sitting at work, very much looking like I swallowed 2 golfballs, I realised that the kitchen is “meatless”.

Heavily doped by boredom, I allowed my thoughts to move to our fridge and cupboard… tada!! No surprises there, tuna, bacon, garden tomatoes and capers. Capers are little buggers that go surprisingly well with quite a number of dishes. Particularly tuna and salmon.

I’ve never really known what plant capers come from or how they actually end up in the little jar that I buy them in.. so I went to investigate, after all, I am soooo very busy at work. Logically its like a type of pod from a plant and not too pleasant to eat as is.

Very much like olives. Put some love in it, give it some time and its tasty and very happy!! Pickled… .. ironic as I was not in the best of moods and I might well have been compared to a caper that has been lying in vinegar.. with very sour look on my face…. but when you combine it with its favourite friends, you wont get better!! So enough of all the blah blah blah… lets get cooking!

Tuna & Caper Spaghetti

2 teaspoons of garlic

1/4 cup of dry white wine

juice of 1/2 lemon

handful of cherry tomatoes, halved

1 tablespoon of capers / 3 teaspoons if the spoon doesn’t fit through the jar

1/2 pack of bacon, cut into medium bitesized slices with scissors

2 tins of chunky tuna with water

1 tablespoon of olive oil

1 tablespoon of freshly grated parmesan

Bunch of fresh thyme

Spaghetti ( your choice of serving, follow instructions on packet)

Heat a pan with olive oil. Toss in your bacon and cook for about 7 minutes. Add the tuna. Toss in the pan to allow it to be coated with the bacon juices. Add the tomatoes and garlic and toss about. Now add your white wine and lemon juice. Add parmesan cheese and mix through.

Add your thyme and cover with lid and allow to simmer for 15 minutes. Lastly, add your capers and toss about. Reserve some of the pasta water, literally 2 tablespoons.

Add your tuna ingredients all to your pasta saucepan ( with the pasta in) and toss lightly. Cover with the lid and allow to stand for about 5 – 7 minutes. Dish up and grate over some freshly grated parmesan…. subtle flavours, but one of my favourites… njum!!!!!!

What the heck, lets have pork neck

30 Aug

Unlike the flavourful dish I will talk about shortly, I would like to give you the true definition of a pig and how it is part of my morning, every morning. No, not the lovely crispy bacon, this pig is alive 🙂 PIG: A pig is any of the animals in the genus Sus, within the Suidae family of even-toed ungulates. Pigs include the domestic pig, its ancestor the wild boar, and several other wild relatives. Pigs are omnivores and are highly social and intelligent animals. As you might have realized, these pigs dress up in suits in the morning and tramp all over you to get on the train. They are also omnivores, which means, they will basically eat you alive! Their second, more well known name would be – middle aged bankers, on the overland rail.  Highly intelligent creatures, but that is about it, for an animal 🙂 For some reason when I always get angry in the morning, I always feel better when I know we will enjoy pork for supper 🙂 There is something very satisfying in teaching a piggy some manners. Marinate it, cook it properly and it is the most well-mannered taste that you will enjoy for the day 🙂

Hey, pigs have great taste ;-p  Simply put, I am not a happy camper after having to go back to work after bank holiday, so obviously there will be a bit of negativity 🙂 Well, skip that part because the positivity just came back after I enjoyed a lovely supper 🙂 This is a love and leave dish – for the pork that is. I am sure you will enjoy this and all negative spirits will disappear!

Zingy pork

One pack of pork neck steak

One whole garlic’s cloves, lightly crushed

2 tablespoons of olive oil

salt & pepper

1 twig of fresh rosemary

handful of twigs of fresh thyme

30ml dry white wine

1 tin of tinned, chopped tomatoes

30ml balsamic vinegar

juice of half lemon

4 spring onions, snipped

1/2 leek, roughly chopped

2 handfuls of mushrooms, roughly chopped

1 red pepper finely chopped

1 teaspoon crushed garlic

1 teaspoon of olive oil for the sauce

Preheat your oven to 180 degrees Celcius. Place your pork on a non-stick baking tray.

Flavour with salt and black pepper. Toss around your garlic. Sprinkle your thyme and rosemary over the pork. Drizzle with your olive oil. Now place in the oven and cook dor 30 – 35 minutes, or until golden and cooked. While this is cooking, add  the remaining olive oil to a frying pan.

Add your crushed garlic, leeks, spring onion & red pepper to a frying pan. Now fry for about 8-10 minutes. Add your mushrooms. Fryn until almost done and flavour with salt. Add the white wine. Mix through and allow to simmer.

After 10 minutes, add your tinned tomatoes, balsamic vinegar and lemon juice. Flavour with salt according to your personal taste. Meanwhile, you can cook some pasta, I used orzo pasta, as your base for the pork and sauce.

When your pork is done, take it out of the oven. Place your orzo in your plate. Place the pork on top of that and top it off with your lovely sauce. Enjoy with a simple veggies or a side salad 🙂