Sausage, sweet potato and spinach lasagne

This recipe is one for those days when only something a bit more carb heavy and comforting will do, but at the same time you don’t want healthy eating to go completely out of the window. It was actually born because me really really craving lasagne but only having sausages in and not really being entirely enthusiastic about the whole rigmarole of making bolognese and bechamel sauce on a Thursday night. Still out of laziness comes a lot less food waste and overhearing D telling his friend about a really night lasagne I had made for him, so the recipe seems to have been successful in our house.

To make enough lasagne for 4 people you will need:

1 red onion

1 clove garlic

400g pork and leek sausages removed from their skins

3 large handfuls sweet potato chunks (I used frozen sweet potato)

3 large handfuls fresh spinach

1 teaspoon marjoram

1/2 teaspoon chilli flakes

150ml creme fraiche (I used low fat but all types work)

20g parmesan (plus extra for the top)

Salt and pepper

Approx 230g passata infused with herbs

125g buffalo mozzarella

4-5 lasagne sheets

 

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Peel and chop the onion and peel and crush the garlic. Fry on a gentle heat until soft. Add the skinned sausages and sweet potato chunks and season with the salt, pepper, marjoram and chilli. Cook over a medium heat, breaking up the sausage to smooth out, until the sweet potato has started to soften and the sausage is cooked.Add the spinach, creme fraiche and parmesan and stir until the spinach has wilted and the parmesan has melted into everything.

In a medium casserole dish make a smooth layer of this mixture. Top with your lasagne sheets (no need to pre cook). Pour over your passata. Break your mozzarella over the passata and grate over more parmesan and pepper.

Cook for about 20-25 minutes until the cheese on the top is golden.

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I think this will become part of our regular repertoire.

Chocolate cupcakes with raspberry mascarpone icing

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Some things in life just go wonderfully together, avocado and salt, cheese and bread etc. One of my favourite flavour combinations of them all is chocolate and raspberry. The raspberry topping of these cakes is cool and creamy, without being overwhelmingly sour or sickly sweet. Plus, the pink icing is very beautiful and required absolutely no food colouring.

This recipe is another simple way of putting a smile on even the most serious of faces. (I personally like to cheer people up by making them biscuits or cupcakes and then holding them up to my face as eyes, it never fails).

Also, in the name of full disclosure, this recipe makes far too much icing, so I would recommend freezing any you have remaining.

To make a batch of 12 cupcakes you will need:

For the cakes

3 large eggs

170g caster sugar

170g butter

155g self raising flour

15g cocoa powder

For the icing

2 1/2 tablespoons icing sugar

250g mascarpone

About 150g raspberries (I used fresh, but frozen are fine, once defrosted)

2 Cadbury flakes or similar

Preheat the oven to 180°C, line a cupcake tin with cake cases.

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Using an electric whisk beat your eggs and sugar until they leave a trail of mixture over the surface. Sift in your flour and cocoa powder and fold in.Melt your butter and fold in, until your mix is smooth.

Separate the mixture between the 12 cupcake cases. Bake these for approximately 12 minutes until the cakes have risen and are firm. Leave to cool.

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While the cakes are cooling make your raspberry icing by whisking together the mascarpone, icing sugar and raspberries. The berries will soon disintegrate making everything a lovely colour. Using a butter knife cover your cakes, leaving a swirl of the icing.

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Crumble over your chocolate flake and serve. Due to the mascarpone in these, keep refrigerated if you want them to keep more than a couple of days.

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Spinach, goats cheese and pine nut cannelloni

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If you want a recipe to cram about half a kilogram of spinach into your vegetable hating significant other, child or just somebody who is ridiculously picky about vegetables this might be a winner. Spinach has got so many wonderful anti inflammatory properties its nice that its so easily incorporated into a meal.

Anyway, I know pasta and gluten containing products have a bit of a bad reputation for being less healthy, or too heavy; but I did not find this recipe too stodgy. I remained nicely satisfied all evening. Which I think is the purpose of pasta, in moderation it fills you up and stops you creeping to the fridge for a mid evening snack. I admit I was pretty liberal with my cheese adding (I am a dyed in the wool cheese lover) but I used goats cheese and buffalo mozzarella which I find a bit easier to digest.

(As a side note if you do have coeliac disease or a wheat allergy and you do fancy trying this, I suggest you try layering the spinach and tomato with these lasagne sheets I looked up for you that are gluten free. I can be a gem sometimes)

Anyway, you might have noticed I do often cook with meat, but I am trying to incorporate more vegetarian meals into our diet. Unfortunately this is made slightly more difficult by the fact I am pretty intolerant to a lot of pulses (cry). I don’t particularly like my lentils to be served with a side of agonising stomach cramps etc. Anyway, back to the vegetarian meals; I feel if I can keep making vegetables more exciting I might be able to convince D of the merit of Meat Free Mondays….

To make enough cannelloni to feed 3 (or 2 if your male type person is feeling particularly peckish upon waking up from a night shift) you will need:

Approx 9 cannelloni tubes (you might need more or less depending upon how much filling you get)

About 400g frozen spinach (the water will evaporate)

1 glass white wine

fresh rosemary

1 small onion

1 large clove garlic

salt and pepper

vegetable oil

100g pine nuts

100g soft goats cheese

100g mozzarella

500g passata

Preheat your oven to 200°C. Peel and slice your onion and crush your garlic. Fry over a gentle heat until soft. Add your pine nuts and lightly toast before adding your rosemary, wine, spinach, salt and pepper.

Heat until all of the spinach has loosened and is cooked through. Add your goats cheese and stir until it is fully dispersed.

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Set aside the spinach to cool slightly. Using a teaspoon and your fingers stuff your uncooked cannelloni. If any Italian people want to correct me on how to do this in an authentic way please add a comment! Anyway I was obviously feeling pretty jaunty when I did my food shopping as you can see from the cannelloni I purchased.

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If you have any pine nuts leftover from your pasta stuffing endeavours never fear. Just set them aside for use as topping. (There’s no point wasting them).

Cover your pasta with cold passata. Dot over your mozzarella at random and sprinkle over your pine nuts and a little more rosemary. Season with more salt and pepper as desired. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the sauce is bubbling and the pasta is cooked.

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I can always tell when D particularly likes a meal as he is always up for seconds.

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This might take a little longer to make than most midweek meals but I can assure you the extra effort was well worth it.

One for all you students – 5 ways to feel like you’re winning the toastie game

DSC_0110No word of a lie, toasties are still one of my favourite fast foods. During my university career I ate countless toasties due to my sheer love of cheese in all forms. My poison of choice: cheddar cheese, mushrooms and mayonnaise on brown bread. Anyway, here are a few suggestions of what you may have in your cupboards to liven up your mealtimes (a true toastie fan knows they can be eaten around the clock). Obviously ingredients can be substituted and I’ve tried to keep realistic with ingredients. I know student loans only stretch so far.

  1. Make your own tuna melt. I personally never use a full can of tuna in one go, so this is a great way to use up any leftovers. Mix your tuna with a bit of mayonnaise (I usually use light mayo) and season with salt and pepper. Add to any cheese you like.
  2. Use up leftover pasta sauce or enchilada sauce by adding it to a toastie with mozzarella or other mild cheese. A great way to save money and reduce food waste.
  3. If you have 1/2 avocado, sliced avocado, chilli sauce and cheese is dreamy.
  4. Cooked chicken, pesto and strong cheddar (or feta cheese). Mediterranean vibes, even when its raining, you’re sitting in your pyjamas and you have an essay to write.
  5. Try a dessert toastie. If you want to pretend to be healthy banana and Nutella (because of the fruit), otherwise marshmallow and chocolate button is the one. Especially handy to know if your flatmate has had a horrible day and needs cheering up.

If you’re a student returning to university soon, or you’re a Fresher this year have a great year. Even if you aren’t a student, you just love toasted sandwiches; I hope you enjoy these easy ideas to make one of the most simple snacks even more dreamy.

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Goats cheese, ham and rosemary tart

IMG_0607 So at the risk of sounding like a broken, pastry obsessed, record; tarts are pretty standard weeknight fare for us. Although pastry is not particularly healthy I feel that the amount of vegetables makes up for this somewhat. Anyway, this is perfect for when you fancy something delicious in less that 30 minutes.

To make ham, goats cheese and rosemary tart you will need:

1 puff pastry sheet (or 1 block of puff pastry)

1 -2 large handfuls fresh spinach

About 10g butter

3 eggs

A splash of milk

Salt and pepper

1 sprig fresh rosemary

1 handful ham (I used Yorkshire ham)

2/3 courgette

Approx 100g goats cheese

Preheat your oven to 180°C. Roll out your pastry to the size of your baking tray and use a fork to pierce holes in it. Melt the butter and brush over the pastry. Cover with the spinach and use a peeler to make thin slices of courgette over the tart. Tear your ham and rosemary into small pieces and scatter over the tart. Beat your eggs and milk and pour over the tart. Cut your cheese into small pieces (about 1cm) and top your tart with this along with the salt and pepper. Bake the tart for 20-25 minutes or until the pastry is golden and crisped up.

Blue cheese and hazelnut stuffed mushrooms

I’ve mentioned before that like most couples, when one of us eats out the one who’s still at home tends to eat what the other is indifferent to (or dislikes). When D is left to his own devices he likes hotdogs, I usually have prawns or mushrooms. So last Friday night I decided to have a vegetarian meal for once.

To make your mushrooms and their stuffing you will need

2 portobello mushrooms

30g blue cheese (I used Harrogate blue)

10g butter (softened)

1 clove garlic

Salt and pepper

20g chopped hazelnuts

(This one goes out to all you mushroom lovers out there!)

Preheat your oven to 200°C. Remove the stalks from your mushrooms and wash them. Mash together the cheese, butter, garlic and hazelnuts. Top the mushrooms with this and bake in the oven for 25 minutes, until the mushrooms are cooked through. I had mine with toast, but this would go well with most things.

DSC_0076DSC_0080Sometimes we all need to eat something delicious when we have a solitary meal.

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Mini Frittatas

It is often said that necessity is the mother of invention and lately this has been true of my weeknight cooking. Being busy at work means I’m constantly on my feet in the lab which means I’m coming home more tired than usual. Its easy under these circumstances to shove something in the oven (or even give into the temptations of the excellent chip shop down the street). However, there is something stopping this becoming a nightly occurrence and that is that I am stubborn. I don’t want to get out of the routine of cooking something decent and healthy after work and the satisfaction that gives me. Fortunately, that’s where the wonders of the internet come in, I saw these a couple of times online and decided to give my own version a whirl.

To make Mini Frittatas I used

A muffin tray (if you have a silicone one you don’t need to line it, otherwise use cake cases to stop the egg sticking)

Eggs (1 per every 2 muffin sections)

Splash of milk

Bacon

Cherry tomatoes (1 per muffin section, halved)

A handful spinach

Sundried tomatoes, cut into small pieces

Feta cheese

Salt and pepper

(These are so flexible though so feel free to mix and match the ingredients)

Preheat the oven to 200°C. Place the spinach at the base of the muffin tray then split the bacon, cherry tomatoes and sundried tomatoes between your desired number of muffin sections crumbling over your cheese last.

DSC_0094DSC_0096Beat together the eggs and milk and split between the muffin cases. Top with salt and pepper. Bake the eggs for 20 minutes or until the eggs are cooked through.

DSC_0097DSC_0098DSC_0100I served mine with sweet potato fries and more salad. I made extra as the leftovers can be eaten cold for breakfast or lunch.

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