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.

Pasta bake with sage and feta meatballs

This is definitely a recipe of procrastination. I saw a picture on instagram of a meatball based pasta bake and resolved to make my own. This is a little faffy and requires a bit of early preparation but them end result looks pretty cool and this is definitely one of those you want to keep in reserve if you have to cook for somebody you’d like to impress. Also, for those of you who are more health concious or appreciate a bit of a healthy balance in your cooking I did actually make some courgetti (or is it zoodles) in amongst all the pasta which makes it feel less stodgy. Even D who can be a bit suspicious of courgettes commented how he liked that part. I think part of enjoying vegetables might just be having them might just be cutting them and seasoning them the right way. (However, I might reassess this opinion if/when we decide to actually have children).

Anyway, for this recipe it is better to make the meatballs in advance and allow them to chill and firm up. (It also makes them washing up seem less overwhelming) The actual construction of the pasta bake doesn’t take much time to put together.

For this recipe you will need:

For the meatballs

375-400g mince (I just used half of one of those big packs you can buy)

2 cloves garlic

1 handful sage leaves

1 egg

100g (approx) feta cheese

2 slices brown bread

For the pasta bake

2 mugs full of pasta shapes

1 large jar of passata

1 teaspoon chilli sauce

1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar

1 courgette

Gouda or similar cheese

Salt and pepper

Serves 4

To make the meatballs first put the feta, bread and sage in a food processor and blend. To this add the egg and meat. Roll the meat mix into your desired meatball size and set aside to cool in a sealed box for a few hours.

Now I made a bit of a schoolboy error when I made this and thought it would be like lasagne where I could get away with not cooking the pasta but you do in fact need to cook this. If you try to cook it in the sauce you will be waiting for ages while your intended food recipients almost cry with hunger. Anyway, cook the pasta and brown your meatballs.

Put the pasta in a casserole dish (I used my beloved Le Creuset). Make a sauce by mixing together your passata, salt, pepper, balsamic vinegar and chilli sauce. Pour this over the pasta and spiralize or grate over your courgette. (I have one like this, thanks Grandma!). Top the courgetti with the meatballs and cheese. Bake in an oven preheated to 200°C for 30 minutes.

Delicious and filling when you’re in the mood for pasta.

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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.

Easy sausage meatballs with tomato and rosemary sauce

So while it seems like the rest of social media is denouncing pasta in favour of kale, sweet potato and lots and lots of protein shakes. While I’m all for healthy eating and living well; I do think there is definitely a place for pasta as part of a healthy diet. Pasta is lovely, in moderation if makes your stomach happy and keeps you full stopping you reaching for something sweeter in the middle of the evening.

In addition, as well as praising pasta in this post I should mention; sausage meatballs have been something of a revelation in this house. Sausages (especially good quality sausages) need no extra seasoning meaning that you can skin the sausages and reshape them in one easy step. In addition it provides a bit of variety when compared with more traditional meatball recipes. It’s probably also a good recipe for my mother (if she’s reading this) who is allergic to pork in its original state but can manage sausages and bacon and from time to time might prefer a new sausage recipe.

DSC_0640To make this you will need

6 – 8 good quality sausages

2 red onions

1 clove garlic

200g passata

Salt and pepper

1 small glass red wine

Worcester sauce (or Hederson’s relish) – optional

1 sprig fresh rosemary

1/2 teaspoon brown sugar

100g frozen peas

Olive oil

Splash of soy sauce (to bring out the umami flavour)

Pasta shells (I use approx 3/4 mug per person except with those fancy ones where the shells are massive)

50g goats cheese

Remove the sausages from their skins by squeezing the meat out with the flat of a knife. Shape the meat into small meatball shapes (about 2cm in size). Put these into the fridge to cool for approximately 30 minutes (or longer if you wish).

DSC_0627DSC_0628While the meatballs are chilling prepare your onions by peeling them and cutting them into segments and peel and crush the garlic. Heat these in the olive oil over a moderate heat until soft. Just as the onions soften add the brown sugar and allow the onion to caramelise.

DSC_0629DSC_0630Add the meatballs and heat, stirring gently until the meatballs are starting to brown. To this add the passata, salt and pepper, wine, rosemary, soy sauce, peas and Worcester sauce (if using). Start cooking the pasta as per the instructions on the pack. While the pasta is cooking gently simmer the meatballs.

DSC_0631DSC_0632DSC_0634DSC_0635Once the pasta is cooked take some of the starchy water and add to the pasta sauce to loosen it. Reseason with the salt and pepper as desired. Stir in the cooked pasta and cut up the cheese and melt into the sauce on a lot heat.

DSC_0636DSC_0638Et voila, meatballs!

Tortellini, rosemary and goats cheese soup

I always associate soups with Autumn and winter weather. I just cannot fathom the idea of eating something like leek and tomato soup on a warm day. However this soup has a light fresh flavour and takes about 20 minutes so you won’t be sweating over a hot stove for too long. The tortellini make this a hearty meal – so this is perfect after a busy day. Tortellini is often served as quite a stodgy meal in the UK (although I ate it with just butter in Italy and it was a starter there). However, this is a slightly lighter take on a quick and easy favourite and you will find you eat far less pasta than usual.

To make this soup you will need:

1 pack fresh tortellini (with the filling your your choice)

300ml chicken stock or vegetable stock

2 spring onions cut into slices

2 peppers cut into small pieces (or 1/4 bag frozen peppers)

3-4 frozen spinach brickettes or 2 large handfuls of spinach

1/2 a courgette

About 10g butter

About 50g soft goats cheese

1 sprig fresh rosemary

Salt and pepper

Serves 3

Fry your spring onions, along with your peppers and frozen spinach in the butter until the spinach has defrosted. Add extra butter while cooking if required (If using fresh spinach add this when the tortellini is added). Pour over your stock and add your rosemary and allow this to start simmering. Use a potato peeler to make thin slices of courgette (can you tell this is my new food obsession?) and add to the stock. Taste and season with salt and pepper as required.

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To this add your tortellini and simmer over a higher heat until the pasta is cooked (about 5 minutes). Once the pasta has cooked turn off the heat and gently stir in your goats cheese so a few blobs of the cheese remain.

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This soup also keeps really well for some souper leftovers!

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Courgette and pecorino meatballs

Sometimes cohabiting has made me learn far more about myself that I actually realised. One of the things I have learned is when I am determined to do something I eventually do it. So when D admitted to me that he used to regularly eat meatballs from a tin before he had me bossing him about. I was absolutely insistent that freshly made meatballs would blow his mind and I set about proving this, despite never having made a meatball in my life prior to our meeting last year.

These meatballs are the absolute one on days when you’re really hungry. It tastes fantastic and you prepare the meatballs a few hours before cooking them so they are perfect when you know you’re going to have a busy day. In an attempt to increase our vegetable intake I use a potato peeler to make fine pieces of courgette to cook with the spaghetti while it is cooking. If you want to make this recipe gluten free take the breadcrumbs out of the mix as well as one of the eggs and serve with rice.

To make your own meatballs and sauce you will need:

For the meatballs (Makes enough meatballs for 4 very hungry people, or 5 normal people)

750g mince (I used pork and beef mince)

1 slice stale bread

1 small onion (or half a larger one)

2 eggs

1 courgette

Salt and pepper

100g pecorino cheese, grated (Use parmesan or grana padano if you wish)

For the sauce (I froze half of our meatballs so the sauce serves 2-4)

1 small onion

1 clove garlic (add more if you wish)

500g passata

1 small glass red wine

Olive oil

1/2 teaspoon chilli powder

Salt and pepper

2 handfuls cherry tomatoes, halved

1 handful basil leaves

100g buffalo mozzarella

Place your mince in a large mixing bowl. Using a food processor blitz your bread until it forms breadcrumbs, Place this with the mince, pecorino and salt and pepper. Add your courgette, onion  and egg to the food processor and whizz up until the courgette and onion are finely chopped.

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Put the courgette mix into the bowl and use your hands to mix it all together evenly. Roll this mix into the meatballs, just over an inch in diameter and chill for several hours (or overnight). If you don’t want to cook all your meatballs this is the ideal point to freeze some of them.

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When you come to making the sauce; finely chop your onion and crush your garlic. Fry these over a low heat until soft. Add your meatballs and cook until all sides are lightly browned.

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To this add your passata, wine, chilli powder and salt and pepper. Cook over a gentle heat for around 10 minutes.

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Add your cherry tomato halves and cook for another 5 minutes.

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Break your mozzarella into the tomato sauce and top the whole thing with fresh basil. Allow the cheese to thoroughly melt into the tomato sauce and serve with spaghetti.

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Apparently serving meatballs with pasta is actually an Italian American thing rather than an Italian thing? Either ways it’s a comforting meal that we can both get on board with.

Oh and the tinned meatballs? Hopefully a thing of the past.

Vivido – Harrogate

So tonight my friends and I decided to have a casual meal out and a catch up after work. We actually do all work in the same place, but it gets busy and its nice to spend quality time together outside of work. My friend DC suggested Vivido as it has a decent early bird menu and she’d heard some good reviews.

Inside Vivido is a spacious restaurant with a relaxed modern feel. Luckily as it was a Tuesday night the restaurant was quiet and we could sit by the window. Now I love sitting outside or by the window in restaurants. I think it’s because I am basically a big nosy kid who wants to know everything that’s going on. Anyway, it was pretty lovely sitting by a window, with the sun shining drinking wine and eating pizza.

We all decided to order from the early bird menu which is basically 2 courses and a glass of wine or a soft drink before 7. The normal menu looked absolutely lovely and we all were going pretty dizzy with the choice, but thriftiness won us all over.

ED ordered whitebait to start. I’ve never tried it before (I used to be shockingly fussy when I was younger). The batter was lovely and crispy and ED said it reminded her of eating it on holiday.

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Here fishy fishy fishy

DC, Miss S and I all had insalata caprese which was tomato and mozzarella salad with a green pesto dressing. The mozzarella was good quality, as were the tomatoes. Sometimes simplicity is best and this was one of those times.

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Cheesy

For main course Miss S and ED had salmon tagliatelle which they both enjoyed. I tried some and it was pretty nice, despite me not being particularly enamoured by cooked salmon.

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Pre parmesan

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Post parmesan

DC and I opted for pizza with prosciutto. The base was thin and crispy and the pizza was really tasty. I’ve not had pizza since approximately January and this one was pretty decent. Not the best I’ve ever had, but I really enjoyed it.

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Pizza pizza pizza

ED and I chose not to have dessert we were both pretty full) but DC has a sweet tooth so she and Miss S shared a slice of chocolate fudge cake. Doesn’t it look glorious? I was pretty damn jealous!

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Now I would say that the menu we dined off was pretty fantastic value really. It has made me very keen to try other things on the Vivido menu so I will definitely be visiting here again.

You can find more information about Vivido here.