Recipe: Halloumi salad with sweet potato croutons

Can you really claim a salad is a recipe? When it comes down to it it’s just some ingredients mixed together in a bowl. Although at its basic level isn’t all food is just ingredients mixed together in a bowl? And this has got very deep very quickly. Continue reading “Recipe: Halloumi salad with sweet potato croutons”

Recipe: Goat’s Cheese and Honey Pasta

A lot of the meals I make are basically my favourite ingredients thrown together over pasta. And often they end up being less than the sum of their parts – just because I love butternut squash and I love brie doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll go together. And in that example it definitely doesn’t mean they’ll go together, lesson well and truly learnt.

But with this recipe; boy do they all go together. Continue reading “Recipe: Goat’s Cheese and Honey Pasta”

Recipe: Sweet Potato Ratatouille

I don’t particularly like ratatouille. And if that’s not the stupidest way to start a recipe for ratatouille then I don’t know what it is.

When I planned this meal in my head it was really more of a vegetarian chilli. But I only own one saucepan and needed that for the rice so this got chucked in the oven instead. It turns out it’s a fine line between chilli and ratatouille and you cross it when you cook it in the oven. And change your mind about putting the kidney beans in. Continue reading “Recipe: Sweet Potato Ratatouille”

Recipe: Make-ahead satay noodles

For the past four weeks I have had a sausage roll with salad for lunch at work every day. Every single day. For four weeks.

But I do this with food. I go through a period where I can eat endless amounts of one meal and never get even slightly bored. And then one day I’ll wake up and just won’t fancy it any more.

The granola phase for example Continue reading “Recipe: Make-ahead satay noodles”

Recipe: Garlic and chilli stuffed mushrooms

  
Until two weeks ago, would you believe it, I didn’t like mushrooms. I wouldn’t refuse point blank to eat them, I wasn’t making a huge scene if one accidentally got on my fork, but if they were easy and inoffensive to pick out of a meal I would. I just didn’t understand how people could like a vegetable roughly the same texture as… in fact the texture isn’t like anything else at all. It is something completely unique. Slimy and rubbery and weirdly ridged and the most disgusting shade of brown imaginable.

Then that fateful night, when I suddenly got the most overwhelming craving for mushrooms. I swear, sometimes I think I’m pregnant with the strange cravings I get out of nowhere. There was the time I decided I couldn’t live if I didn’t have red cabbage for dinner. And then the all-the-time-nothing-but jam sandwiches phase. And now mushrooms.

Maybe I’ve just only ever eaten badly cooked mushrooms. Or overnight my taste buds reconfigured. Or I actually am pregnant. Whatever the reason (definitely not the last one) I now like mushrooms.

Beyond like. I love mushrooms. I actively look forward to eating mushrooms. I plan meals around mushrooms.

And when you’re eating mushrooms every other day you quite quickly run out of ideas for what to do with them. I’d had pasta, stir-frys, all day breakfasts, mushrooms on toast: what else did people make with mushrooms? Why, they stuff them of course.

Usually the kind of person taking the time to stuff a mushroom is someone throwing a dinner party. I can imagine Aunt Petunia slaving away in the kitchen, stuffing mushrooms with goats cheese and thinking how much this is going to impress the Masons (that’s a Harry Potter reference for those of you who’ve been living under a rock for the past 15 years).

I, however, am a long way from being Aunt Petunia in many ways (thank god). Most importantly, for the point that I’m trying to make, I have never in my life thrown a dinner party. Some people might make stuffed mushrooms to smooze their guests into placing a large order of drills, I make them for my lunch on a boring rainy Saturday. (But if you are the kind of person who throws dinner parties then three mushrooms per person and a basket of crusty bread and you won’t be able to stop your guests buying drills. Providing there are no house elf related catastrophes. And now I think the Harry Potter reference has run its course).

A quick google told me that the most popular fillings for mushrooms include bacon (which I don’t like), goats cheese (which I don’t like) or cream cheese (which I didn’t have). So I improvised with the contents of my fridge and came up with one of the best things I have ever made. Seriously. These could even stand up next to the salted caramel cheesecake of dreams.

  
I guess the point of publishing these recipes is partly so you can learn from my experiences. And the main thing I’ll take away from this? Don’t try and stuff closed cup mushrooms unless you really have no other choice. Hollowing out a mushroom is not an easy task and is a waste of a Saturday afternoon. Even when you can do it while singing along to Taylor Swift. Just buy chestnut mushrooms.

Oh and if you are Aunt Petunia-ing it and making them as a starter they have the added bonus of the option to make the filling ahead. Just get as far as step seven, then leave the filling to cool and add an extra couple of minutes to the oven timings to get that cheese bubbling and delicious.

Makes enough for two as a starter or one as a very fancy lunch.

Ingredients

1 tbsp cooking oil

Knob of butter

½ onion

½ red pepper

½ green pepper

1 clove of garlic

1 red chilli

1 tsp oregano or mixed dried herbs

Salt and pepper

6 medium sized mushrooms

50g grated cheese

2 tbsp breadcrumbs

1 tsp olive oil

 

Method

  1. Preheat the oven to 160°C
  2. Finely chop the onions and peppers
  3. Heat the cooking oil and butter in a frying pan over a medium/low heat
  4. Once hot add the onions and peppers and fry for about 8 minutes, stirring often, until the onion is softened and just started to brown
  5. Finely chop the garlic and red chilli
  6. Once the onions and peppers are done, reduce the heat to low and add the garlic, chilli, herbs and seasoning and cook for two minutes.
  7. Turn the heat off the frying pan (at this point you can just leave the filling to cool and just heat in the oven later or carry straight on to the next step)
  8. Remove the stems from the mushrooms and put them in an oven roasting dish, top side down
  9. Grate the cheese and stir into the vegetable filling, then use a teaspoon to fill the mushrooms with this mixture
  10. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs over the tops of the mushrooms, drizzle with olive oil and put in the centre of the oven for 10 minutes, until the breadcrumbs are golden and the cheese is bubbling

Recipe: Store cupboard pasta bake

I eat a pasta bake for dinner at least once a week. Usually it’s that day when I was supposed to go to the shop on the way home but couldn’t actually be bothered because it was drizzling and my legs hurt and I just wanted to put my feet up and eat something unhealthy and covered in cheese.  And although this might feel like the unhealthiest thing you could eat you can cram a lot of your five a day into a pasta bake.

This recipe is one that I have been in love with since I was eleven and it was first cooked for me by my dad. I believe my response was something along the lines of ‘extremely, extraordinarily delicious.’ Twelve years on and I’m still cooking it although I’ve veered quite a lot from the original because nowadays basil is a luxury I can ill afford. It’s still in the recipe but you won’t lose much by not including it.

You could kid yourself and serve it with a salad. Usually I eat a raw carrot while I’m cooking which has much the same effect.


Serves two, takes about 20 minutes.

Ingredients

2 tbsp cooking oil

1 onion, finely chopped

1 clove of garlic, finely chopped

1 yellow pepper, cut into thin strips

1 red pepper cut into thin strips

1 tsp sugar

175g penne pasta

500g tin chopped tomatoes

75g cream cheese (or cream, crème fraiche, whatever you’ve got in the fridge)

Salt and pepper

Small bunch of fresh basil

100g grated or sliced cheese (ideally mozzarella but any cheese that melts will work)

Method

Preheat the grill.

Heat the oil in a large frying pan over a medium heat. Once hot add the onion.

When the onion is softened add the pepper and sugar and turn the heat up to high.

Cook the pasta in a large pan of salted water, according to pack instructions.

Once the onion and peppers have browned and caramelised add the garlic and fry for one minute, then add the cream cheese, tinned tomatoes and seasoning to taste. Stir until the sauce turns pink and simmer over a low heat until the pasta is ready.

Tear the basil leaves into the sauce and mix in the pasta. Then transfer to an ovenproof dish, top with the cheese and place under the grill for 3-4 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbling.

Sweetcorn fritters and fennel seed coleslaw

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I had it in my head that sweetcorn fritters were a deep south of America kind of thing that should be eaten while drinking iced tea, listening to blues and saying ‘y’all’ in a cringy attempt at an southern accent. But I spent a month in America and came across these nowhere. Which was a bit of a disappointment but hasn’t stopped me loving them.

The coleslaw I pretty much made up to satisfy a craving for red cabbage (I know, really weird) with random stuff I had in the cupboard. But unlike so many of my more experimental recipes it actually makes a delicious combination.

The fritters and coleslaw on their own are just the right size for a lunch or light dinner but add some fried chicken and you’ve got a proper meal. I just don’t really cook meat for myself very often.

Serves 2 (2 fritters each)

Ingredients for the fritters

1 small onion

1 clove garlic

2 tablespoon cooking oil

2 eggs

4 tablespoons milk

75g self-raising flour

184g tin sweetcorn

Salt and pepper

Hot sauce to serve

Ingredients for the coleslaw

Half a small red cabbage

Two carrots

Small bunch of parsley

1 teaspoon fennel seeds

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 teaspoon honey

Splash balsamic vinegar

Method

Finely chop the onion and garlic and fry until soft with 1 tablespoon of the cooking oil. Remove from the heat.

Beat the eggs, milk and flour into a smooth batter. Mix in the sweetcorn, onions, garlic and seasoning.

Preheat the oven to 50°C.

Heat a small amount of oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and once the oil is hot add a ladle of batter. Cook for about 3 minutes on each side until lightly browned. Remove from the pan, wrap in foil and put in the oven to keep warm. Repeat until you run out of batter.

While the fritters are frying make the coleslaw. Peel the carrot and then use the vegetable peeler to make thin ribbons.

Finely slice the red cabbage, chop the parsley and mix together with the carrot, fennel seeds, olive oil, honey and vinegar.

Serve with hot sauce, iced tea and a Creedance Clearwater Revival CD, preferably on a ranch in Louisiana.

Recipe: Sweet potato and butternut squash filo pie

Imagine for a moment that you are the kind of person who on a summer’s day gets up early, cooks a variety of incredibly fancy food, packs it into a traditional wicker hamper and takes your family out for a picnic. It’s probably eaten sat on a checked blanket. Off proper crockery. And fed to children with names like Caspian and Seraphina. And alongside your smoked salmon and cream cheese sandwiches and homemade scotch eggs this pie would not look out of place.

I say this but I cooked it in my greasy, hasn’t-been-properly-clean-since-we-moved-in, always-has-a-pile-of-dirty-washing­-up-next-to-the-sink kitchen and then ate off my lap in front of the telly. And the day after I ate chicken nuggets, chips and spaghetti hoops for dinner. So it may look, sound and taste fancy but it’s deceptively easy.

A note on feta cheese; do not go all cheap-skate when you’re in the supermarket and buy innocuous ‘Greek salad cheese.’ It is not the same. For one thing it doesn’t melt so you just end up with lumps of it in your mash and secondly I think it might actually have been halloumi. So go crazy and splash out that extra 50p on the good stuff, it is worth it.

Insisting that you use precisely 400g each of sweet potato and butternut squash is a little impractical. They do not come in nice easy sizes like that. So what I suggest you do is buy more than you need, cook and mash it all and then freeze what you don’t want today for another time. It freezes really well and can be defrosted in the microwave in ten minutes (depending on how large a quantity you have of course).

Serves 4, takes just under an hour, makes a medium amount of washing up (my highest priority when I’m cooking is minimising washing up).

 

Ingredients

400g butternut squash

400g sweet potato

1 tbsp cooking oil

1 clove garlic

100g pine nuts

Salt and pepper

2 tsp oregano

150g feta cheese

12 sheets filo pastry

1 tbsp olive oil

 

Method

Peel and chop the sweet potato and peel, chop and core the butternut squash, cutting both into 2cm cubes.

Boil in pan of salted water for 25 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 180C.

Finely chop the garlic.

Heat the cooking oil in a frying pan and add the garlic and pine nuts. Toast for 5 minutes.

When soft, drain and mash the sweet potato and butternut squash.

Crumble the feta into the mash, mix in the pine nuts and garlic and season with the salt, pepper and 1 tsp of the oregano.

Spread 4 sheets of the filo pastry on the base of an oven proof dish so that they overlap each other. Brush with the olive oil and season with salt, pepper and a light sprinkling of oregano. Repeat with a second and third layer of 4 filo sheets (don’t worry if they tear, it’s almost impossible for them not to).

Dollop the mash into the middle of the filo sheets and then gather up the edges of the pastry and fold them over the top.

Cook in the oven for 20 minutes until the pastry is golden and crispy.

Serve with a green salad.