Saturday, 26 January 2013

Peashoot, Bacon and Ricotta Penne

As much as I have learned to now love cooking just for myself, I really do prefer to share my food. And even more so if I have little helpers to assist! There is something about sharing that ignites my inner 'feeder' setting, no one ever leaves hungry!

My eldest niece A is also a little culinary gem of the future and eats far more ‘weird stuff’ than I did at her age and makes a great sous chef in the kitchen! I hope to bring you lots more of recipes me make together, however we are both rather greedy and have often forgotten to take pictures!

We made this great, speedy and surprisingly frugal pasta dish a few months back but I just hadn't gotten around to posting it …. Its full of bold flavours and was thoroughly tasty!

Serves two:


125g ricotta
Cooking Bacon trim - a rough handful
100g bag peashoots
2 heaped tbsp Purple basil
Black pepper
200g penne pasta

1) Boil pasta as per packet instructions

2) Meanwhile, when the pasta is almost cooked through, fry the bacon in its own fat until browned, turn off the heat. Drain the pasta, reserving about half a cupful.

3) Gently stir in ricotta to the bacon pan along with a little of the reserved cooking water to loosen slightly, add to the pasta, wilt in the peashoots and basil, season with black pepper and garnish with a few more leaves.


Whilst it has sadly died off now, the purple basil was a delight to grow and made an interesting sight on the kitchen windowsill! When warmth beckons again upon the windowsill I hopefully will be able to seed some more!

Budgets are definitely tightening for a lot, I know mine has been both ends of the spectrum over the past few years, what with redundancies, moving and illness and as a result I have managed to become very thrifty in the kitchen - and this dish whilst including the luxury item of peashoots, everything else was  already to hand. 

The Bacon was a real economical purchase – I picked up Sainsbury’s cooking bacon for the first time  - heck it was getting chopped up anyway who cares if its pretty rashers - it was a huge packet for 99p and I froze four separate portions, which contained about 6 chunky rashers and various, meaty, not too fatty/rindy offcuts that I had expected! I costed this dish as being approximately £2.10 to serve two, a winner I think for something so fresh and tasty! The ricotta was also leftover from cheesecake so was a great use up of it too!

This is also being sent over to Helen's Credit Crunch Munch event:

Sunday, 20 January 2013

Potato, Mushroom and Blue Cheese Melt

Its a little over due this post but just before Christmas I was sent a bag of some lovely red skinned Rudolph Potatoes, which in turn got turned into a few different potato based dishes!

Whilst these snow white centred beauties made excellent mini roast potatoes - one of my favourite ways to cook potatoes - simply tossed in oil - in this case Mr Hugh's Extra Virgin Rapeseed oil, sea salt and some freshly chopped rosemary sprigs:

However, a new personal favourite was this proper fridge raid supper, and in about 20 minutes I had this gorgeous mini roasting pan full of my favourite foods, grilled until meltingly delicious! 

Just before Christmas I treated myself to a small hardy non-stick roasting pan - ideal for one or two portions, if not use a small gratin style or small shallow casserole dish

2 medium sized rudolph potatoes, cut into 2cm chunks
4 chestnut mushrooms, sliced
A few sliced green olives - mine were leftover from Boxing day
Small wedge of gorganzola cheese

1) Start by boiling the potatoes until just tender – about 12 minutes. 

2) Meanwhile fry the mushrooms in a little oil until nicely browned. 

3) Drain the potatoes well, place in a greased non-stick roasting pan in an even layer, dot over the olives, scattering of the cheese, mushrooms and season with salt and pepper. Place until a hot grill until everything is starting to brown and the cheese has melted nicely. 

Serve garnished with fresh parsley and your choice of vegetable – mine was my Christmas favourite of spiced red cabbage, which I made a job lot of before Christmas - it freezes a treat!

Thanks to both Rudolph Potatoes and Mr Hugh's oil for the Samples

Monday, 14 January 2013

Marmite Noodle Soup and its Variations...

In an effort to fit into not one, but two bridesmaid dresses at the end of last year, drast action was needed as what with winter approaching vs bad knees; resulting in a distinct lack of exercise, and thus resulting in being a little curvier than the dresses required, this soup became my trusty dieting friend – and hooray the dresses both did up perfectly!

This is a soup that lacks finesse but makes up for on flavour! I love the savoury kick the marmite gives it, if however you are not a fan, you could substitute soy sauce. It is also a staple meal of mine post working late shift when you are hungry but don't want a heavy meal sitting on your stomach. 


Start by grabbing your intended serving bowl, fill with water, transfer to a pan and bring to the boil

Then stir in 1 tsp marmite and ½ tsp vegetable bouillon powder, add a handful of soup pasta/ noodles and add in either of the following

Half a grated carrot
Half a grated courgette 
Sliced mushrooms (lightly fry first in the pan)
Handful frozen mixed vegetables
Frozen peas
Sliced peppers 


Then reduce the heat to a moderate simmer for about five minutes or until the pasta is cooked through. 

If you prefer a thicker soup, add a little cornflour slackened with water to the boiling soup and stir vigorously. You can now serve up or turn it into a more protein boosted version with these optional extras:

Courgette version
Egg versions:

Turn off the heat, crack in an egg, don’t touch for 30 seconds then lightly whisk with a fork and serve immediately, preferably garnished with a little fresh coriander and a twist of black pepper. It doesn't look pretty but it tastes good!

Or quickly fry a one egg omelette, shred into the cooked soup

Once the soup is almost cooked, throw in a small handful of cooked peeled prawns, a little fresh coriander here too is welcome. 

Mushroom and Egg version
Basically the list is endless! Leftover scraps of meat work perfectly well too. It is a great way of using up fridge leftovers and super frugal!

I am also sending this over to Credit Crunch Munch created between Camilla from Fab Food 4 All and Helen from Fuss Free Flavours and also held this month by Helen

Monday, 7 January 2013

Jamie’s 15 minute meals - Mushroom Farfalle

In all honesty, I’ve not cooked as much from the 30 minute meals book as much as I had initially planned to, despite the fact I did want to eat it all but the 15 minute book in comparison is much more up more street practical wise! There is a rare cook book that has me wanting to make at least 90% of the recipes from it, and more importantly thinking I can manage them in an ill equipped kitchen with electric hob, and a random selection of herbs and spices that live rammed into the corner of the kitchen counter!

One thing I must mention is my love of salad, most of mine are born of random ingredients, indeed my beloved colleague and friend Ces knows me if anything else that I will nearly always have a mystery salad in my lunchbag for her to pick at too, however Jamie’s are far more exciting, combining big flavours and yet without having to buy something much more than my local shops can cater for where I live!

Friends also know me rather well for my cookery book love, and I read through most of this one with Miss L, overall we wanted everything but there was a certain ‘ohhrgghh’ when we spotted sausage gnocchi! I just need to convert her to the love of fennel…give me time.. mwah!

Whenever I get a new book, I used to use an excel sheet to document but have gone back to mostly scribbling out page numbers and reasons to make, however with this book it was a complete waste of time as I filled in 3 pages worth and pretty much realised wanted to make everything, or at least my take on it anyway! Always a good sign of things to come!

So what to make first was the biggest question!! I normally do rough meal planners based around what I have in, combined with what I fancy eating so it needed to fit in without too many changes, however I was recently staying at my aunts house and had taken the book with me (as you do!), and between us decided to try the Mushroom Farfalle, with blue cheese salad...

As I was in my lovely Aunties brand spanking new kitchen, it took me a little longer than 15 minutes to pull off dinner but now I know where everything is, it really wouldn't take long at all to make next time, and there will be a next time!

One of the erm , slightly unusual ingredients was cottage cheese. I have never, ever cooked with cottage cheese and wondered how it would work within the pasta etc but we were pleasantly surprised, and its definitely an ingredient I now look at in a new light!

The recipe portions were very generous considering the calorie count was quite sinless - and it was all delicious! I really liked the crunch of the salad, and the pasta was just perfect - a nice bit of spice courtesy of my aunties home grown chillies, earthy mushrooms and the creamy cottage cheese all worked together in harmony. We would happily make both dishes again!

Almost ready to eat!

Finished plateful:

I'm also sending my pasta over to the new Pasta Please challenge over at Tinned Tomatoes, which is born out of the ashes from the now sadly ended Presto Pasta Nights!

Wednesday, 2 January 2013

Sausage and Sweet Potato Stew

One thing I frequently do is go shopping with a list, then change my mind or spot something on offer that I just can’t resist – on this occasion it was a bag of sweet potatoes for something silly like 65p – how could I say no! Over the following days amongst other recipes I had it cut into wedges and roasted, mashed up with mango chutney (from a Jamie recipe) and also this rather delicious, warming Sausage and sweet potato stew. Like most of my recipes I made it up as I cooked, and it was delicious. It tastes like a barbecue style of sauce and great for a chilly night!

A great little cheat item I discovered last year was Knorr’s herb infusion pots – if like me you have limited space for growing herbs, they make a great little shortcut, adding lots of flavour and minimal effort! I even accidentally added one to a curry I made the other week after getting the coloured lids confused, fortunately it was still as delicious!

This an easy to prepare and make dinner for one, two or more – I froze a spare portion as like to have my own ‘ready meals’ for days when time or energy are in short supply!


2 smallish sweet potatoes, peeled and diced into 1cm cubes
500ml passatta/ sieved tomatoes
1 tsp English mustard
1 tsp smoked paprika
8 sausages
Knorr Herb infusion pot
1 courgette, diced into 1cm chunks
½ red pepper, sliced
1 onion
Spray oil

1) Fry the onion and sausages for 10 minutes, until browned and the onions are soft and golden, adding more oil as necessary.

2) Stir in the sweet potato cubes, courgette and peppers, fry over a moderate heat for five minutes until just softening.

3) Stir through the stock pot and passatta, mustard and smoked paprika, cover and simmer over a gentle bubbling heat for about 15 minutes, add a splash of water if it looks a little dry. Test the potato using a sharp knife - if it pierces easily then its time to eat!

Serve with some nice carbs, I used groats and my home made chilli cheese bread but rice or mash would be equally good here. When I reheated one of the portions I grated over a cloud of grana padano, which was a delicious addition!

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