Wednesday, 30 October 2013

Creamy Light Garlic Pasta with Spinach and Rainbow Chard

I normally make this dish with mushrooms, but when I opened the box up....they were rather mouldy! So I had to improvise a bit :)

This dish is meant to be indulgent, full of flavour and comforting, but also light.

Up until very recently I have made this sauce with single - or double - cream, but I've found that this version is tastier and healthier :)

I put a small handful of spaghetti in boiling water to cook, while I started on the sauce.

First of all I gently fried three big cloves of garlic in a knob of butter - this gives more flavour than oil, but is less healthy.

After the buttery garlic had wonderfully perfumed the kitchen, I added three big spoonfuls of creme fraiche to the pan. This was quickly followed by a generous spoonful of Le Roule (see the Slightly More Interesting Soup recipe for a photo). This is a creamy, garlicy cheese which vamps up the flavour. 

When the spaghetti was three minutes from being cooked, I added two large handfuls of baby spinach and rainbow chard (from the same bag of prewashed leaves) to the sauce. I kept the heat at a low-medium, so as to not mess with the consistency of the creme fraiche, and put a lid on the pan to steam the leaves. 

At this point I drained the pasta, returned it to the pan and shook the pepper and salt pots over it, to give it a lot of flavour. The pepper goes really well with the minimal, yet strong, flavours of this dish.

I was so hungry at this point, that I didn't pay much attention to presentation! Hopefully you will have an idea of how it looked from these pictures :)

I plated up the pasta and poured the sauce and lightly steamed leaves ontop.

Buon Appetito

Monday, 28 October 2013

Halloween Student Supper

This easy, cheap, seasonal, tasty, vegetarian three course supper is sure to impress anyone that you care to share it with :) 

We have... ~ Beetroot 'Bat Wing' Soup ~ 'Petrifying' Pumpkin Risotto with roasted, sated pumpkin seeds ~ 'Pickled Brains', also known as White Chocolate covered walnuts in Lemon and Raspberry Jelly ~

Beetroot Soup

Soup is so easy to make, this beetroot one is also particularly tasty! I chopped up one small onion, four big fat cloves of garlic and left them to sweat over a tablespoon of sunflower oil. Meanwhile I chopped eight pre-cooked beetroots and added them to the pan once the onions were soft. 

Stirring occasionally, after 10 minutes I added 500ml of vegetable stock and left it again, over a low heat, for another 10 minutes.

I left the pan on a back burner until it was lukewarm (preparing to cook the risotto in the meantime.)
When it was cool enough I blended it until smooth and added 1 dessert spoon of sugar, to sweeten up the earthy flavour of beetroot. 

Before serving, reheat the soup on the hob and warm up pitta bread in the toaster - then cut with scissors into spooky shapes! You could even add a creme fraiche cresent moon if you like :)
Pumpkin Risotto with roasted, salted Pumkin Seeds

Risotto is a great meal for a cold night, this one uses up the seeds and guts of your Halloween pumpkin too! Super thrifty!

Start off by cutting a lid in your pumpkin - remember to leave a v-shaped notch, so that it's easy to lift off and close again. Pull out the seeds, separating them from the flesh. Once it's bare, get a big metal spoon and scrape into the walls of the pumpkin to get as much of it's guts out as you can.

(How to make Roasted Salted Pumpkin Seeds:
1. Preheat the oven to 150 degrees Celsius

2. Wash and pat-dry the seeds
3. In a bowl, or lunchbox, cover them with a generous glug of oil and a generous pinch of salt
4.Spread the seeds evenly across a baking tray
5.Keep them in the oven until they start to turn a crispy brown colour (about 30 minutes)
6.Leave on the side to cool.)

The seeds separated from the pumpkin flesh

In a big saucepan I put a large onion and four big fat garlic cloves to sweat, with oil and a generous knob of butter. When these were soft I added one mug full of risotto rice (paella rice is just as good, if you can find it at a good price) and four mugs full of pumpkin flesh. To get as much of the buttery garlic flavour into the pumpkin, I put a lid over the pan and let it sweat over a low-medium heat for a good five minutes.

To cook the rice, some liquid is needed. Here I boiled a full kettle and made up a litre of vegetable stock. By adding the stock to the pan one large spoonful at a time, and stirring constantly for the next half an hour, this slowly releases the starch in the rice and gives the risotto it's creamy texture. At this point you can turn up the heat to a medium-high level. Not going to lie, this is labour intensive! I now have 'Risotto-maker's-wrist', but you can always get whoever is in the house to help out in return for some dinner! 

It isn't obvious when the risotto is ready, the way to tell is by chewing on one grain of rice; if it is crunchy, you'll need more stock and more stirring, but if it is soft, then you are ready to plate up!

This is a very orange and brown meal, so to add some fresh colour, you can either boil up some frozen peas to add to the dish, or add a tasty decoration of parsley.

Finally top it off with a sprinkling of roasted seeds, for great added texture and a salty kick!

White Chocolate covered Walnuts in Lemon and Raspberry Jelly
To make these 'Pickled Brains' I used this vegetarian jelly, which you can find in all good health food shops, for £1.09 per packet. To make it I boiled a kettle and added half a litre to the jelly powder, in a glass measuring jug. It needs a quick mix, then can be added to any container you like.

Over a pan of lightly boiling water, I stirred white chocolate buttons in a glass dish (this is called a bain-maire if you want to show off ;) ). When the chocolate was melted to a silky smooth texture, I dipped walnuts in until they were covered, and let them cool on a plate.

When the jelly was set, I used a small knife to cut a slit into the jelly - make sure it's near the edge of the glass so that you can see the 'brains' clearly - and gently pushed the walnuts in.

Ta Da! My housemates suggested that using empty jam jars or novelty test tubes would be much better than wine glasses, if you can find some!

I hope that you like this menu, if you have any comments please leave them below :) Happy Halloween! 

Sunday, 20 October 2013

Sunday Night Smoothies

To use up some 2 week old apples, my housemate made smoothies :)

She chopped up the apples, removing any very squidgy parts, blitzed them in a blender, added chopped bananas, and a whole pot of yoghurt and gave it a final blitz. 

I think they were sweet enough, but if you make these, you could add honey to taste, or use a sweeter yoghurt, such as vanilla or one with honey in it already.

Because the apples oxidized very quickly, the smoothies were this chocolate-milky colour, but don't let that put you off, they were delicious :)

4 apples and 3 bananas were enough for five glasses of smoothie.

Sunday, 13 October 2013

Slightly more interesting Soup

I'm sure that there are thousands of students up and down the country who snaffle a can of tomato soup for a quick, hot, lunch, every day.

But to jazz up a can of, what is likely to be, 30p own-brand Tomato soup, here's an easy trick which makes the world of difference.

I like to add a generous spoon of Le Roule. It is a creamy, soft, garlic and herb cheese, originally from France. I bought this, generously sized pack, for £1.00!

Also, for a B12 vitamin boost for us non-meat-eaters, make up some buttery Marmite-covered toast. Yeast Extract or Vegemite will probably be just as good :)

Trust me, adding a spoon of this soft cheese will transform your lunchtime! :) 

Spiced up Cottage Cheese Jacket Potato

When the weather turns cold, and you've had a long chilly day in the library, what is better than sticking a potato in the oven to crisp up, while you have a relaxing bath? :)

To keep on the healthy theme, I have onion + chive cottage cheese as my main filling. But to make things more interesting, adding a big spoonful of Olive and Sundried Tomato pasta sauce on the side make a lot of difference.

Cheeky tip, don't pile these cold fillings onto or into your potato, this will cool it down pretty fast. To keep it warm and toasty, add the fillings to the fork as you go :)


A side salad of tomato, lettuce, sweet peppers and cucumber, with a simple dressing of Red Palm Fruit Oil - which has extra vitamins, antioxodants and omega oils - and balsamic vinegar, is tangy and quick to make.

Et voila, bon appetit mon amis :) 

Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Quorn Chicken Curry

Tonight I'm making another British favourite, curry!

I have cheated a little bit here and bought some Tikka Masala Paste in a jar, rather than making a sauce from scratch. But a jar of paste goes much further than buying one jar of ready made sauce per curry.

I put a small portion of Easy Cook Brown Rice into boiling water to cook for 30 minutes. I chose brown rice over white rice because it's much healthier - and I need to keep up to the standards that I've set myself with this blog! :D

Half a chopped onion and two big fat cloves of chopped garlic were left to 'sweat' in sunflower oil over a low heat. If the heat is too high then the garlic will burn - because of the natural sugars it has - and the onion will brown up way too quickly. Sweating them down also makes the kitchen smell delicious so you might have some very interested housemates hanging around the hob.

Next I tipped a portion of Quorn Chicken into a bowl - to see how much I would need to cook - and then added it to the onion mix, quickly followed by generous shakes of Cumin Powder, for extra curry flavour. 

After about three minutes of frying this mix I added two generous tablespoons of the Tikka Masala and left it to fry under a lid for another five minutes. This is to add as much flavour as possible to the Quorn.

One and a half tins of plum tomatoes will add all of the juicy tastiness that you expect from a curry :)

 I chopped and added half a green, red and yellow pepper, and half a cup of water to the mix. To reduce the curry down from way-too-watery to thick-and-yummy, leave the lid off on a medium/high simmer.

In this little interlude I played some Johnny Flynn tracks on YouTube and tidied up the kitchen ;D

I did my little heat-up-the-bowl-with-the-boiled-water-trick, drained and dried the bowl, filled it mostly with rice, topped it with curry and added a spoon of Mango Chutney for extra flavour.
बॉन एपेतीत
bon appetit :) 

Please leave any comments or questions below, much appreciated! 

Tuesday, 1 October 2013

Simple Spaghetti

Pasta is the staple of many British students, here I'm going to show you how I take it up a notch, for only a few pennies extra.

I bought a jar of 'Tomato and Spicy Pepper' pasta sauce, for under 50p in Aldi. To make it more interesting, I added some pitted black olives, which I chopped up to make them go further. 

Another way of saving money - by not wasting food which you have bought and cooked - is to know the right portion size for you. If you're a rugby player or a serious swimmer, you'll need more spaghetti than I do....personally squeezing an amount around the width of a 10p or 50p coin is plenty for me. These two 'portions' here are enough for two fairly big meals for my healthy appetite.
I always snap the pasta in half so that it completely fits in the pan and therefore cooks at the same rate. (A few years ago, I used to slowly edge it into the boiling water as the bottom half cooked, this is a bit of a time waster.)

As the sauce heated through, I kept testing the spaghetti to see when it was 'al dente' and time to turn off the heat (when it still has a bit of a bite to it). At this point I put about 125g of washed baby spinach over the simmering sauce and covered it with a lid. This steams, and cooks, the spinach just enough to keep a 'fresh leaf' flavour when it is plated up.

 Another habit that I have is draining pasta over the plate which I'll be eating from, this heats the plate very quickly, and means that your dinner will stay warmer for longer :) just be careful not to pour all of the water on to it...and remember to drain and dry your plate too! I have forgotten a couple of times :S

I then tip the drained pasta back in the pan, season with salt and pepper and grate some cheddar on to it. Most of the time when I put cheese on top of a finished pasta dish, it melts away and loses a lot of the flavour and texture. Mixing it into the pasta first means that the hot sauce won't ruin it at all really! 

There you have it :) a simple mid-week dinner, which is taken up a notch with tangy oily olives, a calcium and vitamin boost from the spinach, and hopefully your purse will be happy too, at around £1.33 per portion.