Food: Roasted Vegetable Fusilli

Here’s a simple recipe you can knock up with very little effort in around 30 minutes! I used courgette, tomatoes and pepper, but feel free to use any Mediterranean veg you can get your hands on. Aubergine would be great, but if using aubergine, remember to salt & wash it first!

You’ll need:

  • Handful of cherry tomatoes,
  • 1 Courgette, sliced
  • 1 Pointed pepper, deseeded & sliced
  • 1tbs Balsamic vinegar
  • 1tbs olive oil
  • Handful of basil, ripped
  • Salt & pepper
  • 100g Fusilli pasta (per person)

Turn your oven on to 140°C and let it come up to speed. Whilst this is doing, in a roasting tray, add the chopped veg, oil, balsamic vinegar and salt. Toss it around until the sweet, oily, vinegary mixture has coated each vegetable piece. Place in the oven and leave for 20 minutes, only checking halfway through. This is the time you can get on with the pasta.

Weigh 100g of pasta per person, I used 200g as it’s for myself and my partner, Tom. Boil around 1 litre of water in a kettle. Once boiled, add the water to the pan and salt liberally. Nigella famously said (albeit it a Anna Del Conte quote 😉 ) that the water should be as salty as the Med Sea. Add the pasta and cook until al-dente.

Once done, drain and add back to the pan. The roasted vegetables should be ready by now. Take them out of the oven and stir through the pasta. Add in around half of the ripped basil and stir again. It is now ready to serve.

Add to a bowl and finish with a crack or two of black pepper and the other half of the basil.

I paired this rustic yet tasty evening meal with half a loaf of focaccia I had got from Wright’s Food Emporium (an amazing bistro/deli in Llanartne, Wales.) and a chilled Peroni doppio malto.  They paired beautifully with the pasta!

Buon appetito!

Food: Kale & walnut pesto

Here’s a fuss free recipe for a fresh pesto that’s incredibly flavoursome and an interesting twist on a traditional pesto.

I had some basil left in the fridge, so I added that, but it’s purely optional because the kale & walnut can stand on their own with out it. It’s easy to make a big batch up and freeze, so you constantly have a supply of tasty pesto, that’s also vegan friendly too, as an added bonus!

 

You’ll need:

  •  1/2 bag of kale (roughly 100g)
  • Handful of walnuts (roughly 20g), chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, chopped
  • 4 (heaped)tbs Nooch (Nutritional yeast)
  • 100ml cold-pressed rapeseed oil
  • Salt & pepper
  • Handful of basil, chopped (optional)

 

Start by blanching the kale, as it can be a bit tough on blenders. Keep your eye on it though, as it you want it still vibrant green and full of its nutrients. Once its done, drain and set aside. Place the walnuts into a pan on a medium heat and toast them until they release their nutty aroma and burnish. Another one to keep an eye on as they can scorch easily. Again, once done, set aside.

Here’s where the fun part comes in!

Traditionally, in Italy, they would use a pestle and mortar to make pesto, laboriously grinding the leaves and nuts, until they form into a tasty green sauce.

Ain’t nobody got time for that!

Yes, it would be idillic if we could, but in our time stressed lives, we need food that’s quick and easy to prepare! All of this hard work can be done in a jiffy with a food processor.

Plug it in, and start by adding the ingredients, minus the oil. Place the lid on and whizz until they form a green mixture. As it’s whizzing, trickle the oil bit by bit to the sauce. Remember to stop half way, scrape the sides down with a spatula and go again, this will ensure a smoother, more even pesto.

A couple more whizzes and your done!

Use like you would pre-made pesto, on pasta, as a marinade etc.

 

Enjoy!

Food: Creamy aubergine pesto pasta

I had an extra aubergine in my fridge and I didn’t know what to do with it – well this a perfect for a midweek evening meal!

Feeds 2/3

To make you’ll need:

For the pesto:

  • A big handful of spinach
  • A handful of watercress
  • A handful of basil
  • 20g blanched almonds
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated
  • 10g nutritional yest, ground
  • Some Extra Virgin Olive oil
  • Salt & pepper

For the dish:

  • 1 aubergine
  • 4 tbs of the pesto
  • 180g dried tagliatelle
  • 1tbs dried rosemary
  • Handful of wild rocket
  • Juice & zest of 1/2 lemon
  • 1 heaped tablespoon of Vegan cream cheese- I used Oatly
  • Splash of Non-dairy milk- I used Oatly
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1tbs garlic infused oil

 

To start, all you have to do is blend up the leaves, nuts and garlic with a stick blender until smooth. Pour in the oil bit by bit until it’s a runny paste and then set aside. Next, add the nutritional yeast and season with salt & pepper then blend again. Done!

Prepare the aubergine by cutting it into coins and place them into a colander over a bowl. Sprinkle with a generous pinch of salt and leave for 30 minutes until the juices have extracted. When this happens, pat them down with a wet cloth, sprinkle them with the rosemary and place on a chopping board. Chop the coins of aubergine into thick strips. Once this is done you can start cooking.

Set a shallow pan on a low heat with a glug of garlic oil. When the pan heats up, add in the aubergine and fry until it starts to soften. When this happens, squeeze the juice of half a lemon in and place the lid on for it to steam in the juices. Leave the lid on for a good 6-7 minutes or so. This is the time you can start the pasta. Cook the pasta in a pot of salted & oiled boiling water until sufficiently ‘al-dente’.

When you’re ready to take the lid off, the aubergine should be soft and the skin should have become a bright fuchsia. Now add in the pesto and allow it to cook down. Splash in some oat milk and a generous nob of cream cheese. Drain the pasta and stir through with a big handful of wild rocket. Make sure the sauce clings to everything – the heat of the dish will wake the rocket up. Heap into bowls and season with freshly ground black pepper.

I served mine with a large, crisp glass of white.

Buon Appetito!

 

Food: Ionian vegetable penne

Here’s a recipe for a Mediterranean meal that’s bursting with flavour, vitamins and nutrients that will help you beat the Winter blues and take you to the shores of the Med.

Serves 4

You’ll need:

  • 1 medium aubergine,
  • 3 cloves of garlic,
  • Minced 1/4 head of broccoli,
  • Handful of mushrooms, sliced,
  • 200g penne pasta,
  • Handful of fresh spinach,
  • Handful of cherry tomatoes, halved,
  • 1 tbs of sundried tomato paste,
  • 1 can of chopped tomatoes,
  • 1 large brown onion, chopped finely,
  • Small glass of white wine,
  • 1 tbs dried oregano,
  • 1 tbs dried rosemary,
  • Handful of fresh basil, chopped,
  • Salt & pepper,
  • Squeeze of lemon juice,
  • Glug of garlic infused oil,

Start by chopping the aubergine into coins and place them in to a colander (over a bowl). Sprinkle salt over them and wait until it starts extracting it’s juices (this stops it becoming bitter). This should take 30 minutes or so.

Once the juice has been extracted wipe with a paper towel and fry off into a shallow Dutch oven on high with a drizzle of garlic oil. Once coloured in both sides, take them out and chop them into bite sized chunks. Squeeze some lemon juice over the aubergine and add another glug of oil to the pan. Next, add the chopped onions and garlic and fry off until translucent. Add in the sundried tomato paste and chopped tomatoes. Simmer for 8-10 minutes. Next, add the sliced mushrooms, cherry tomatoes and the dried herbs. Cook until the mushrooms have started to soften. Next, add the white wine and basil. Cook for a further 5 minutes, then place (lid on) into a preheated oven at 140 for 45 minutes- an hour.

While it’s cooking you can prepare the broccoli. To do this, chop the head into florets and parboil the florets in salted water. Once sufficiently ‘al-dente’, remove and pat with a paper towel. Next, place a cast iron skillet on your hob’s highest setting. Once scorching hot, char the broccoli using some tongs (constantly turning them as they can easily burn rather than char). When ready, place them in a bowl, squeeze some lemon juice and place a saucepan lid on top (it will slightly steam them).

Once the hour’s up take out the Dutch oven, add the broccoli and stir. Place on the hob on low, to keep it warm. This is the time to cook the pasta. Boil some penne (dried or fresh) in some salted and oiled water. Cook until sufficiently ‘al-dente’. Strain the pasta, then add it to the sauce. Finally take a handful of fresh spinach and place into the pan. It will begin to wilt as it hits the pan. Stir everything together and serve. Garnish with a sprinkle of chopped fresh basil. We served ours with a couple of glasses of ice cold lemon water and some amazing Rosemary focaccia from Wright’s Food Emporium.

Buon Appetito!

Food: Vegan espresso gelato

This is one of the easiest recipes I’ve ever made. It uses a handful of ingredients and minimal effort, but produces a rich & creamy dairy-free ice cream.

You’ll need:

  • 1 tin of coconut milk
  • A splash of soy milk/almond milk
  • 3 tbs of freshly brewed strong espresso
  • A Splash of Amaretto
  • 150g icing sugar, sifted
  • A sprinkle of salt

 

I had nearly a full tin of coconut milk (left over from the Spicy sweet potato and chickpea recipe here) that needed using up. I started to think what to make with it – and vegan gelato popped into my head.

Only full fat coconut milk will work here, so put the can of reduced fat milk away!

The actual recipe is easy, begin by spooning it into a mixing bowl, and with an electric whisk, mix until it comes together into a thick batter. Next, add a splash of soy milk/ almond milk – or any non dairy milk to loosen it up a bit. Mix again. Add the espresso and amaretto and mix again. See I told you this was easy 😉

Sift in the icing sugar and you guessed it, mix. Add a sprinkle of salt. Mix on the top speed to add a tonne of volume to it. When it’s nearly doubled in mass scrape of the excess from the whisk and pour into a lidded container. Now place in the freezer. It’s essentially done.

There’s only one thing left to do, it’s not hard though – every hour, just take the container out and stir it thoroughly with a spoon. Do this about 5/6 times and then leave it a few more hours to set properly (I left mine overnight). This will make sure the gelato is smooth and creamy when it hits your tongue.

The next day I made a salted chocolate sauce to serve with it.

To make this all you need is:

  • 50g good quality dark chocolate (minimum 70% cacao solids)
  • 1 tsp flavourless oil (I used sunflower)
  • 1tbs agave
  • A pinch of good quality Sea Salt (I used Maldon)

 

To make: chop and melt the dark chocolate in a pan on a low heat on the stove. Add the agave and oil and stir until it comes together into a glossy, dark mixture. Take off the heat and pour over the gelato. The temperature difference should start to set the chocolate mixture. Sprinkle the salt on the dark topping & devour!

Food: Pancetta, mushroom & pesto pasta

Here’s a recipe perfect for a quick meal on a weeknight and it gives you a variation on the famous Italian pesto.

You’ll need:

for the pesto:

  • A big handful of spinach
  • A handful of watercress
  • A handful of basil
  • 20g blanched almonds
  • 2 garlic cloves, grated
  • 10g Parmesan, grated
  • Some Extra Virgin Olive oil
  • salt & pepper

 

For the meal:

  • A small pack of pancetta
  • 20g chestnut mushrooms
  • 200g penne pasta ( I usually work on 100g per person, so this serves 2)
  • Half a packet of Italian salad leaves/ wild rocket
  • salt & pepper

Before you start the meal I’d make the pesto, albeit not a traditional pesto, which includes pine nuts that can be expensive, any creamy nut will work and its fun to experiment with different leaves and nuts. To do this, all you have to do is use blender ( I use a stick blender) and  blend up the leaves, nuts and garlic until smooth, pouring in the oil little by little until its a runny paste. Next, add the Parmesan and season with salt & pepper and blend again. Keep aside. You can also freeze the pesto if you’ve made too much.

Next, Heat a shallow pan on low and fry the pancetta, until all of its smokey oil has been rendered. Now, add the mushrooms and fry them until soft. Whilst this is cooking you can boil the pasta in some salted water. When the mushrooms are done, add a big heaped spoonful (or two) of the pesto, to cook the raw garlic out. The pan by this point should be a vibrant green. Next, drain and add the pasta and stir. Then, add half a packet of Italian salad leaves and stir until the green oily sauce has covered everything. Serve and top with plenty of black pepper and freshly grated Parmesan. We served ours with some homemade garlic bread and a couple of crisp larger.

Buon Appetito!

Food: Butternut, spinach & amaretti pie

Heres a recipe for an easy, tasty and filling pie with flavours of rosemary, lemon and amaretti.

You’ll need:

  • 1 small/medium butternut squash, roasted
  • 200g frozen spinach
  • 50g amaretti biscuits, crushed
  • Zest of 1 lemon
  • 50g breadcrumbs (I used brioche breadcrumbs)
  • Handful of fresh rosemary, chopped
  • Splash of white wine
  • A squirt of lemon juice
  • A drizle of garlic oil
  • splash of amaretto
  • 20g Parmesan, grated
  • 3 shallots, chopped
  • salt & pepper
  • 1 egg
  •  A pack of puff pastry
  • Some pumpkin seeds (optional)

Start by roasting the butternut squash, you can either do this on the day or in advance (I like to always have some roasted squash in my freezer.) It usually takes around 40 minutes at 180°C, after being chopped into quarter and its seeds have been scooped out. A little drizzle of oil,salt and  maybe a sprinkle of dried rosemary. Once out of the oven leave to cool, then once cool, scoop the orange flesh into a bowl.

The bowl is basically where everything comes together, which is great for minimising washing up. Next, add the chopped rosemary and breadcrumbs (again, its another ingredient I just have in my freezer all year round, but you could use shop bought ones.) and mix. Once this is done you can concentrate on the shallots. Chop them finely and fry off in a little oil (I used garlic infused oil) until translucent and soft. Leave to cool. Once cool, combine into the orange mixture and add the amaretti biscuits and lemon zest. The spinach can either be left out for a few hours to defrost, or as I did, you can defrost it in a microwave. Either way, once the spinach is defrosted wrap it in some paper towel and squeeze the liquid out, this will make sure your filling isn’t too wet. Now,  little by little add the  wet ingredients, constantly checking that it isn’t getting too wet. Season with parmesan, salt and pepper and leave for a few hours (or overnight) in the fridge to firm up and for the flavours to meld.

Once ready to cook, on a floured surface, simply roll out some puff pastry to a nice big rectangle. Spoon some of the filling to one side and fold the other side over, so that it covers the filling. Press around the filling and trim. Now either crimp the edge by hand or press with a fork to make a decorative edge (essentially this is like a pasty, but posher ;).)  Prick the surface a few times with a knife and brush over an egg wash. For decoration I stuck some spare rosemary into the holes and applied a row of pumpkins seeds to the top.

Place into a preheated oven at 220°C for 30-40 minutes, then leave for 15 minutes to cool. It’s now ready to serve. We served ours with some balsamic dressed leaves and a gin & apple cocktail, recipe found here.

I had some mixture leftover, so I made these little pies for Tom’s colleagues.

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Enjoy!