Recipe of the Week – 17th September 2018 – Luxury Macaroni Cheese

Macaroni Cheese is one of the well known recipes that for some reason I don’t seem to cook much. It might be the subconscious memory of once trying the bright yellow stuff that you get in tins, or just that other forms of pasta jump into my mind first, but I felt that it was time to properly give it a go. Purists may not like the additions here, but I like meals with lots of variety, and the squash and spinach definitely add something special.

Serves 6

Ingredients

400g dried macaroni

1 large butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and diced

2 tbs olive oil

1 tbs dried sage

Salt and pepper to season

2 tbs butter

1 tbs whole grain mustard

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

3 tbs plain flour

500ml milk

50g Vegetarian Parmesan, grated

200g extra mature cheddar cheese, grated

100g fresh spinach, roughly chopped

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 220C.

2. Add the chopped butternut squash cubes to a large baking tray, drizzle the oil over then coat with the sage and season. Mix well to coat and place in the oven for 30 minutes. Set aside and turn the oven down to 180C.

3. Meanwhile, bring a large saucepan of salted water to the boil then add the pasta. Return to the boil and simmer for 8 minutes (do not cook completely!). Rinse, drain and set aside.

4. In another large pan, melt the butter then add the garlic and mustard. Simmer for 1 minute then add the flour and cook for a further minute before gradually adding the milk. Continue whisking until smooth then add the cheddar and continue whisking until melted.

5. Add the pasta, butternut squash cubes and spinach to a large casserole dish, mix well then cover with the cheese sauce. Season well then finally cover with the grated Parmesan.

6. Place in the oven for 25 minutes until brown. Serve immediately with fresh bread.

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Recipe of the Week – 27th August 2018 – Very Full Vegetable Tart

This recipe is my rainy Bank Holiday Monday childcare solution – after a weekend of camping we were all craving vegetables and something a bit posh (as much as we all love Pot Noodles!). This is something that we all made together, creating quite a lot of mess and washing up, but we did have a lot of fun and next time the kids can make it themselves!

Serves 6

Ingredients

250g plain flour

100g unsalted butter, diced

30g vegetable fat (I used Trex)

A pinch of salt

2 tbs water

1 medium courgette, finely diced

1 spring onion, finely chopped

125g frozen peas

125g frozen sweetcorn

2 tbs olive oil

2 eggs, beaten

100ml natural yoghurt

100ml milk

20g nature cheddar cheese, grated

Salt and pepper to taste

Method

1. Sieve the flour and salt into a large bowl, add the cubes of butter and fat, and rub between the fingers until it resembles breadcrumbs.

2. Slowly add the water to the bowl, and mix until it can be formed into pastry. Wrap the pastry in cling film and place in the fridge for 30 minutes.

3. Meanwhile, pour the olive oil in a large frying pan and gently sauté the courgette and spring onions for 10 minutes until soft.

4. Preheat the oven to 200C.

5. Roll out the pastry on a floured surface then form to fill a greased 8″ (20cm) flan tin. Prick all over with a fork.

6. Add a layer of greaseproof paper to the base of the tart then cover with baking beans. Place in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove the beans and paper then return to the oven for a further 5 minutes.

7. Reduce the heat of the oven to 180C.

8. Beat the eggs, milk and yogurt together in a large jug and season well.

9. Next, cover the base of the tart with the courgette mixture, peas and sweetcorn and pour the egg mixture over. Sprinkle with the cheese and place in the oven for 40 minutes until brown.

10. Serve hot or cold with a fresh salad and some bread.

Recipe of the Week – 20th August 2018 – Sweet Potato Lasagne

This is a recipe that I have adapted from a cookbook that my daughter wanted for her 9th birthday last week. I am obviously very happy to be experimenting with food with my children, and it is great that they really enjoy doing it too – maybe soon I can have a rest at home and let them do all of the cooking!

Serves 6

Ingredients

3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and thickly sliced

2 courgettes, sliced

1 red pepper, deseeded and sliced

4 tbs olive oil

200g Quorn or soya mince

2 x 400 cans of good quality chopped tomatoes

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

1 tbs Herbes de Provence

12 sheets of dried lasagne

400g ricotta

100ml Greek plain yoghurt

1 free range egg

3 tbs chopped fresh basil

100g mature cheddar cheese, grated

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 180C. Place all of the vegetables in a large bowl and add half of the oil. Season, then mix well to coat. Pour onto a large roasting tray and place in the oven for 40 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, add the remaining oil to a large frying pan and gently fry the mince and garlic for 8 minutes. Add the tomatoes and Herbes de Provence and stir well. Simmer for 10 minutes then set aside.

3. In a small bowl mix together the yoghurt, ricotta, egg, half of the grated cheddar, and chopped basil then set aside.

4. When the vegetables are cooked, place half in the bottom of a large casserole dish then cover with 3 sheets of pasta. Add half of the tomato and mince mixture, then again place three sheets of pasta over. Add half of the cheese mixture and cover with the pasta sheets. Repeat these three layers until all are used up then finally top with the remaining grated cheese.

5. Place in the oven for a further 40 minutes until golden. Serve immediately with garlic bread or a small salad.

Recipe of the Week – 13th August 2018 – Oven Baked Aubergine Caponata

This is a really simple recipe, which is a variation on a traditional Caponata but oven baked, which helps thicken the sauce and also intensifies the flavours. As readers of this blog will know, I love aubergines, and this recipe really brings out the best in them!

Serves 6

Ingredients

6 small aubergines, quartered lengthways

2 medium onions, peeled and quartered

1 red pepper, sliced

2 cloves of garlic, crushed

50g pitted green olives

25g capers

4 tbs extra virgin olive oil

2 tbs red wine vinegar

2 x 440ml cans of good quality chopped tomatoes

3 tbs flaked almonds

Small handful of fresh basil

Salt and pepper to season

Method

1. Place the aubergine quarters in a large bowl and sprinkle with salt. Leave for 30 minutes to rinse and drain.

2. Preheat the oven to 180C.

3. Place the aubergines and onion quarters on a large baking tray, drizzle with the oil and season. Place in the oven for 20 minutes.

4. When part baked, stir the aubergines and onions then add the pepper slices, tomatoes, red wine vinegar, garlic, olives and capers and stir well. Return to the oven for a further 20 minutes.

5. Remove the Caponata from the oven, season, and scatter the almonds and basil leaves over and serve warm with fresh bread or a green salad.

Recipe of the Week – 9th July 2018 – Butternut Squash and Spinach Salad

I will make no apologies for posting another salad recipe here – as the (unprecedented) heatwave continues here in the U.K. I am definitely struggling to find enthusiasm to create anything hot, but I am especially pleased with this warm salad recipe. There are lots of different flavour combinations within this, from the filling and satisfying butternut squash to the fresh spinach, crunchy cashew nuts and sweet cranberry pieces – it’s definitely not a boring side salad!

Serves 4

Ingredients

1 large butternut squash, peeled, deseeded and cubed

2 red onions, finely sliced

1 clove of garlic, minced

1 tbs olive oil

100g fresh baby spinach, rinsed and drained

50g cashew nuts

2 tbs dried cranberries

100g feta cheese, cubed

Method

1. Add the butternut squash cubes to a large saucepan of boiling water, bring to the boil then simmer for 15 minutes.

2. Add the drained squash cubes to a large bowl with the onions slices, cashews, garlic, and oil, and season. Mix well then pour into a large frying pan and fry gently for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool slightly.

3. Meanwhile, add the cranberries to a small bowl of boiling water and allow to soak for 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.

4. In a large salad bowl, mix together the spinach leaves, butternut squash mixture and cranberries. Top with the feta cubes and serve at room temperature with some fresh toasted pittas.

Recipe of the Week – 2nd July 2018 – Herby Summer Salad

We are currently going through a bit of a heatwave here in England, and for once in my life I am finding it hard to get enthusiastic about cooking hot food! If you are also struggling and crave something lighter, here is a nice simple salad recipe which also made good use of the many herbs that seem to spring up in our garden at this time of year.

Serves 4 as a main or 6 as a side

Ingredients

200g baby salad potatoes, sliced

1 yellow bell pepper, deseeded and finely sliced

100g green beans, cut into small pieces

50g fresh spinach, washed and roughly chopped

3 tbs extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp mustard seeds

Small handful each of fresh mint, parsley and chives

2 tbs runny honey (or agave nectar if vegan)

3 plain flour tortilla wraps

Salt and pepper to taste

Method

1. Place the potato slices and green beans in a large saucepan of boiling water, bring to the boil then simmer for 10 minutes. Drain and set aside.

2. In a small frying pan add the mustard seeds and place on a high heat to toast for 30 seconds. Set aside.

3. Place the spinach, potato slices, beans, pepper slices and mustard seeds in a large salad bowl.

4. In a small jug mix together the oil, herbs, honey and seasoning and pour over the salad. Mix well to combine.

5. Heat a large frying pan and gently toast the tortilla wraps (10 seconds each side), then cut into wedges and mix with the salad.

6. Place in a fridge to chill for 15 minutes then serve.

Recipe of the Week – 25th June 2018 – Puy Lentil and Courgette Salad

I’m not going to take the credit for this one – this is the first post in five years that doesn’t feature one of my creations. This excellent dish was made my by long-suffering wife based upon a Slimming World recipe and was really tasty, and was definitely a case of giving credit where it was due. This recipe was light yet filling, very tasty, almost fat free and perfect for a warm Summer evening. Take away the egg and topping and it’s vegan too!

Serves 6

Ingredients

250g dried Puy lentils

2 large red onions, sliced

2 courgettes, sliced

6 tomatoes, halved

1 yellow pepper, deseeded then sliced

Low calorie olive oil cooking spray

2 tsp cumin seeds

1 small red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped

Small handful each of fresh mint and coriander, roughly chopped.

200g fresh spinach, rinsed and drained

6 free range eggs

100g quark

For the dressing;

2 tsp smoked paprika

Juice from 2 lemons

1 tsp chilli powder

Method

1. Preheat the oven to 150C.

2. On a large baking tray lined with baking parchment, place the tomatoes (cut side up), the onions, pepper slices and courgettes and spray them lightly with the oil. Sprinkle the cumin seeds over and slow roast for approximately one hour.

3. Meanwhile, place the lentils in a large saucepan, cover with water, bring to the boil then reduce to simmer for 25 minutes. Drain and allow to cool.

4. Mix the dressing ingredients together and season.

5. Add the roasted vegetables, spinach leaves, lentils, fresh herbs and dressing, and stir well.

6. Poach 6 eggs until just cooked and place one on each bowl.

7. Mix the chopped chilli with the quark and place a tablespoon of the mixture on each egg.

8. Serve immediately with fresh bread.