Roasted Orange Pepper Pesto Pasta

Is there anything more fulfilling than a simple mid-week pasta dish?

This recipe was suggested by Oddbox in their weekly newsletter and is adapted from the original recipe from Table for Two. I adapted the recipe to include almonds which I already had in stock and made additional portions for leftovers (the below quantities will serve 4). I also lazily toasted the nuts in the oven with the peppers as opposed to frying separately in a pan because hey, it’s OK to take short-cuts.

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 x peppers deseeded & chopped into large chunks (red, yellow or orange will work best)
  • 2 x tbsps Pine Nuts
  • 2 x tsps flaked almonds
  • 2 x handfuls of fresh basil
  • 2 x garlic cloves peeled
  • 2 x handful of parmesan
  • Olive oil
  • 200g pasta

METHOD

Preheat oven to 180c

Place peppers, garlic & nuts into roasting tray, drizzle with olive oil and roast for 20-25 mins.

Once cooked, place cooked ingredients into a bowl and add the basil, a handful of parmesan and a generoug glug of olive oil then blend with a hand blender.

Cook pasta according to instructions then drain, saving a couple of tbsps of the cooking water.

Mix in the pesto with the pasta and reserved water and heat for a couple of minutes before serving with the remaining parmesan.

Such a simple recipe, the pesto can be kept in the fridge to be served as leftovers or as a paste with something completely different, I think it would be delicious on a bruschetta topped with tomatoes. You can also freeze any leftover pesto in ice cube trays, which is what I have done to save a few portions for my son who is pasta obsessed.

Celeriac & Potato Gratin (3 Ways)

I’ve received quite a bit of celeriac in my veg. box delivery from Oddbox recently. My go to recipes with celeriac are normally soup & mash but I do like to vary my meals as often as possible and this week my partner suggested a gratin. As I already had potatoes and onions in the cupboard, it seemed like the perfect accompaniment to serve with Pork for a Sunday Dinner. There’s loads of recipes for celeriac gratin on-line, but here is my attempt. Feel free to adjust the quantities of celeriac & potato if you have different amounts to use up.

INGREDIENTS

  • Half a celeriac (approx 500g.) chopped in similar size pieces to the potato. (I peel with a knife post boiling as find it easier)
  • 600g potatoes halved or quartered depending on size. (I didn’t bother peeling but this is completely up to you)
  • 2 x small onions, finely sliced
  • 150ml cream
  • 150ml milk
  • Knob of butter
  • 2 x cloves of garlic
  • 1 x sprig of rosemary

METHOD

Parboil the celeriac & potato for 10 mins (I start with cold water & start the 10 mins when the water starts to boil)

Melt knob of butter in pan and slowly cook the onions over very low heat for 10 mins, or until they start to brown.

Add cream, garlic, rosemary and enough milk to cover the onions, bring to a simmer and then simmer very gently for 10 minutes. After the 10 minutes is up, remove the garlic cloves & rosemary sprig.

Slice the potatoes & celeriac thinly (I use a mandolin) & roughly layer in an ovenproof bowl pouring over some of the cream & onion mixture after each layer.

Top the final layer with any remaining onion mixture, and bake in the oven at 180c for approx 1 hour or until golden brown.

This dish is such a rich, hearty and alternative side to a Sunday roast and it makes for incredible leftovers. I think gratin is one of those dishes that almost tastes better second time around. On this occasion, I completely mixed up the leftovers and served with fried pancetta and fried egg for a incredibly tasty and wholesome mid-week dinner.

My 20 month old son also enjoyed a portion of the gratin, he’s had celeriac a few times and I think originally found the taste maybe a bit too strong, but this time coupled with the cream, he ate every single last bite. Remember that celeriac is an allergen to if your child hasn’t tried it before, start with small quantities. My tactic with my son is to continue to expose him to as many tastes as possible and offer again and again even if he has refused the item on one occasion. It can be hit or miss but he’s generally a pretty good eater and the things he does enjoy often amazes me.

Saturday Salsa

Saturday’s dinner was based around some beautiful purple sprouting broccoli I received in my weekly Oddbox delivery and with a vegetable as pretty and fresh as this, I wanted to keep the meal simple. I opted to fry the broccoli for a few minutes and served it with shop bought breaded Cod and a homemade salsa, which enabled me to use up some tomatoes, onions & coriander that I had in.

Salsa is so simple to make, you simply mix tomato, onion & coriander with oil & vinegar and you’re done. Generally for dressings I follow a rule of 3 oil to 1 vinegar. Rough quantities that I used are:

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 x small onion (red or yellow)
  • 2 x tomatoes (or use a couple of handfuls of cherry tomatoes)
  • 1 x handful of coriander
  • 1 x tbsp of red wine vinegar
  • 3 x tbsps Olive Oil

METHOD

Slice onions really thin (I use a mandolin) and chop tomatoes & coriander

Mix all ingredients together

Season, chill in fridge and serve.

I also wanted to take this opportunity to show you how I generally try to portion out a meal for my 20 month old son the next day (he’s 20 months so eats far too early for us). Saving a portion of our evening meal for him means less prep for me and more variety for him. It’s not always practical and I’m always conscious of not adding salt & sugar to his portion, alongside ensuring safe storage & reheating but it’s something that generally works really well for us.

Apple & Plum Shortcake

At the end of each week I try to use up any of our leftover fruit before our next Oddbox arrives. This normally involves making some form of freezer snack for my 20 month old son and I work through a rotation of muffins, flap-jacks, biscuits & purees.

This week however I decided the adults of the house deserved a treat, mainly because as I stared at the apples & plums in my fruit bowl, they seemed to scream short-cake at me.

I found this recipe online and adapted it as below. I’m not a great baker having only really ventured into it like the rest of the world during lock-down but this was super simple. The cake did turn out slightly under-baked and next time I’ll add an extra 5 minutes to the cooking time, but my oh my it tasted of buttery goodness.

It’s worth keeping this cake in the fridge if you’re not able to eat it straight away as the fruit made the cake soggy after a day or so, I’d also consider not stewing the fruit first to prevent this in future bakes.

The recipe below could also be adapted for any leftover fruit you have. What would you use?

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 egg
  • 300g plain flour
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • 200 g soft butter
  • 200g caster sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla essence
  • 300g plums/apples (or fruit of your choice)

METHOD

Preheat oven to 180c.

Place chopped fruit in pan with a few tbsps of water and stew over a low heat for 10 minutes before draining.

Cream butter and sugar with wooden spoon until light & fluffy.

Add the egg and vanilla and beat well.

Fold in the flour and baking powder until well combined.

Press two-thirds of the shortcake mixture into the base of a greased loaf tin.

Lay the stewed fruit over the base.

Sprinkle the remaining shortcake mixture on top and press down gently.

Bake for 35 minutes, until lightly golden brown.

Dill & Gin Mojito

Herbs have got to be one of the worst things for buying in too large a quantity for me, I try to avoid/substitute where possible and if I’m organised enough I’ll dry/freeze them. I have an old blog post on that here.

I’ve also started to grow my own but only have a very small selection at the moment as I’m very good at killing plants, so I’ll keep you all updated on the progress.

Anyway, this week I had a lot of dill left over (which is allegedly 10 days past it’s Best Before date but is still looking pretty good looking to me). I figured it was something that would probably go quite well with gin as I consider it to have that same spring fresh taste as cucumber which compliments some gins very well.

A quick internet search threw up this wonderful Gin Dill Mojito from Meg is Well and I can now safely say, I’ll never have leftover dill again. This months gin of choice from Craft Gin Club is Cuckoo Gin from my home county of Lancashire. (If you refuse to count Greater Manchester as a county that is). I’m now wondering what other herbs would go well in cocktails, any suggestions?

Ingredients (serves 1) – original recipe from Meg is Well.

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Weekly Meal Plan – 20.05.2021

It’s been a long old time since I last blogged and a lot has changed. I’ve had a baby, moved house, joined Instagram and lived through a global pandemic. My one constant through all this time though has been my commitment to food-waste and my love of a weekly meal plan. Therefore it seems apt that my first post back is about how I meal plan, the recipes will follow throughout the week.

When to meal plan?

This is completely dependent on when you have the time to do so and when you’re planning on doing your weekly shop. For me I tend to meal plan twice a week for 3/4 days at a time, the reason for this is that I receive my weekly vegetable box from Oddbox on a Wednesday morning and I hate going to the supermarket at the weekend, therefore on a Wednesday, I tend to meal plan from Wednesday through to Sunday and do one large weekly shop for everything I need to see me through to the end of the week. When I get to Sunday, I then review the contents left-over in my fridge and plan the meals for the Mon/Tues. Leaving a few days blank in the meal plan also leaves a bit of leeway if something hasn’t gone to plan such as an impromptu night out (extremely rare in these days of Coronavirus) or a lazy emergency pizza night after a long day at work.

For a lot of people meal planning at the weekend might be best and it might make more sense to leave the weekends unplanned if they’re the times you are most likely to eat elsewhere/off-plan. This is something you need to make fit in with your own personal life-style.

Where to start?

I always start by cleaning my fridge on a Tuesday night and assessing any left-over ingredients that might have been forgotten about, my fridge is normally pretty empty by the end of the week so this isn’t a big job. The leftover ingredients from the previous week will be the ones I aim to use up first.

When my Oddbox arrives, I then look at all the ingredients together and try to come up with a number of recipes for the week ahead, incorporating as many of the ingredients as I possibly can.

Where to get inspiration?

For this part I use a combination of sources; my own personal experience & ideas, the internet and recipe books. As an idea, below are the ingredients I have this week.

IMG_1360IMG_1357

The first picture is of the leftovers from the previous week, and the second picture is of the Oddbox ingredients received this week.

Of the old ingredients which I want to use first, I couldn’t think of any combination containing courgette & red cabbage but the internet tells me that a Chana Dal is a good option so I’ll be adapting this recipe from One Green Planet. This recipe is great as I can also throw in the coriander and spinach, I also know that I have the chana dal / split lentils in my cupboard.

Moving on to the other ingredients, my boyfriend saw the celeriac and asked for a gratin which will make use of the potato, onion & half of the celeriac, we’ll get at least 4 servings out of this and the only additional ingredient I’ll need to purchase is some form of cream. I’ll probably throw in some of the Rosemary and serve it with pork chops as pork and celeriac go really well together.

Each week Oddbox suggest a recipe in their news-letter, this week they suggested a pesto pasta using up the peppers. This is a super quick & simple mid week dinner that I’ll make 4 portions of and have the leftovers for lunch.

I fancy keeping the broccoli simple, so I’ll serve this as a side with some fish and also use the tomato, onions & coriander to make an accompanying salsa.

For the additional courgettes I had no inspiration this week so I picked up one of my recipe books and searched for courgette recipes. The first one that came up was a Chorizo & Courgette Salad from the Hairy Bikers One Pot Wonder book. I’d never have dreamed of combining these ingredients so I’m excited to try it. 

With my recipe books, I tend to pick a different book each week for inspiration and I find it’s a great way of trying out recipes and actually using the books as opposed to just looking at the pretty pictures.

The above meals incorporate all of the ingredients above except the dill which I’ll probably serve with the fish and I might also consider a salmon, cream cheese & dill bagel for lunch. I confess that I will struggle to get through the whole packet before it’s past it’s best so I’ll probably have to get creative in finding a use for it.

What next?

Next I need to determine what days I’ll be eating each meal on and do the shopping list. For the latter I’ll work through the recipes and figure out do I already have the ingredients I need in, if not can they be substituted for something else, and if not then I’ll add them to my Alexa shopping list. We keep Alexa in the kitchen solely for this purpose and it’s great to be able to add items to the shopping list as you run out of them. Using Alexa in this way means we rarely end up at the supermarket wondering if we do or don’t have something in.

To determine what days to have the meals on, I tend to consider what’s going on that week and what ingredients need using first. I’ll try to use the older or more perishable ingredients  to start with and I also consider what days I’m likely to be the most busy on as these are the days that call for easy recipes or leftovers. My partner and I both work from home at the moment which means we can prep throughout the day sometimes, I’ll often prep my veg at lunch which takes some pressure off in the evening however as we potentially return to the office we may lose this luxury. My other consideration here is what do I want to eat at the weekend, I’d rather have the more unhealthy or naughtier meals at the weekend which is just a mental reward thing for me to differentiate the weekends from mid-week.

Once I’ve done all this, I write the plan up on my kitchen blackboard and that’s it.

Below is the plan for the week ahead (we’re busy on Thurs/Fri which is why the plan doesn’t start until Saturday. I’ve also cancelled next weeks Oddbox as we’ve got plenty of food in to see us through the week), I’ll share more of my plans in the weeks ahead and of course post any recipes that I create.

What are your tips to meal planning, I’d love to hear.

Meal Plan

Saturday

Dinner: Fish w. Broccoli & Salsa

Sunday

Dinner: Celeriac Gratin & Pork Tenderloin

Monday

Lunch: Leftover Pork Sandwich

Dinner: Courgette & Red Cabbage Chana Dal

Tuesday

Lunch: Leftover Courgette & Red Cabbage Chana Dal

Dinner: Leftover Celeriac Gratin w. Eggs & Pancetta

Wednesday

Lunch: Salmon, Cream Cheese & Dill Bagel

Dinner: Red Pepper Pesto Pasta

Thursday

Lunch: Leftover Red Pepper Pesto Pasta

Dinner: Chorizo & Courgette Salad

Fridat

Lunch: Leftover Chorizo & Courgette Salad

Dinner: TBC

Melon Sorbet

I’m lucky enough to be going on an extended vacation next week for three whole weeks which means I have only a couple of days to use up the food in my fridge to avoid it going to waste.

I’m lucky enough to be going on an extended vacation next week for three whole weeks which means I have only a couple of days to use up the food in my fridge to avoid it going to waste.

I’d had a picnic at the weekend where I’d made some delicious fruit skewers, but what this meant is that there was lots of leftover perishable fruit. One of the ingredients I had was 3/4 of a Cantaloupe melon, which I just knew I wasn’t going to eat. Rather than just freezing it to be used in smoothies at a later date, I decided to try out some of the melon Sorbet recipes I found on the internet and here is my adaptation of the various recipes found via Google.

INGREDIENTS

  • 300g chopped Cantaloupe Melon
  • 40g sugar
  • 40ml water
  • 1 tbsp lemon zest
  • 1 Tsp honey

METHOD

Blend the chopped melon (I use a hand blender as pictured; this and the Joseph Joseph electronic scales are my two favourite kitchen appliances in my generally low tech kitchen).Check that the mixture is smooth. (I had a few hidden lumps and had to pick out a bit of melon skin that had made its way into the bowl).Make a sugar paste by heating the sugar, water and lemon zest until it boils and starts to thicken (about 5 mins) and let the paste sit for 10 mins.I opted to not strain out the zest but  having sampled the finished product, I would recommend that you dAdd bit more lemon if want more of a tang.Put in fridge for a few hoursPlace in freezer over night.Once frozen the Sorbet was pretty solid and I had to let defrost for around 15 minutes before serving. If I was to do this recipe again, I would probably try stirring during the freezing process and breaking into portions before it was fully frozen.

Pinto bean chilli and taco shells

Growing up, my mother struggled to get me to eat my greens, and if anything had even the slightest fleck of spice or herb, a food tantrum would ensue.  Over the years, I've managed to introduce so many vegetables and flavours into my diet that I'll now happily eat meals that contain purely vegetables without complaint.

This dish here is made with a whole host of leftover vegetables but the main star of this dish is the dried pinto beans which are a good staple to keep in stock for bulking out meat free dishes into cheap, nutritious and protein filled dinners.

INGREDIENTS

  • 200g pinto beans
  • 1 onion diced
  • 2 x garlic cloves crushed
  • 6 x mushrooms chopped
  •  1 x carrot diced
  • 1 x red pepper
  • 400g tinned tomatoes
  • 1x green birds eye chillies
  • 1 tbsp oil
  • 1-2 tsp chilli powder
  • 2 tsp cumin
  • 2 tsp ground coriander
  • 300 ml veg stock
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 1 bay leaf
  • Sugar
  • Salt and pepper

METHOD

Soak beans overnight & cook according to the packet instructions.

Meanwhile cook the onion and garlic for 2 mins before adding the spices and chilli and continuing to fry for a further 2 minutes

Add all of the other ingredients and cook for 2 mins before adding the vegetable stock. Stir well and scrape all of the spices off the bottom of pan.

Finally add the tomatoes, oregano and bay leaf, bring to boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes.

Limp lettuce

Lettuce!!! I love a crispy iceberg, but nothing upsets me more than when it's started to turn brown and limp its way towards the bin.

I thought hey, there's got to be a solution, and according to the internet there is. Ideas range from storing your lettuce in water (too messy), separating all the leaves and storing each layer between kitchen roll (too fussy) and my favourite…cooking it!

Now this sounded weird to me at first but I thought id give it a whirl, there's various recipes in this excellent Guardian article such as lettuce soup, lettuce pesto or my personal favourite – stir fry.

Lettuce stir fry sounds strange but really what's the difference between a Chinese cabbage and a lettuce? In the grand scheme of things, absolutely nothing.

So I followed recipe number two from the above article and to test out its success, I served it to my better half without mentioning the secret ingredient, and guess what – approval all round.

Never again will the be a limping lettuce in my salad drawer again.

Cheese and Bacon Pin-wheels

A while ago, I posted a recipe idea for puff pastry pinwheels which can be served as a tasty crowd pleaser when entertaining, or with a salad as a quick and easy mid week meal.

The best thing about these pinwheels is that you can make them with a whole host of leftover ingredients including cheese, vegetables and meat. They are also super easy and quite fun to prepare, so why not get the kids to help you out with this recipe during the summer holidays?

Here’s a recipe with my favourite combination of cheese & bacon, but I’d love to hear what ingredients other people use in their creations.

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 x bacon rashes, diced
  • 250g pre-made puff pastry
  • 100g Wensleydale cheese, grated
  • 50g blue cheese, crumbled
  • Tomato purée

METHOD

Preheat oven to 200c or as per the puff pastry packet instructions.

Fry the bacon for a couple of minutes, until it starts to brown.

Roll out the puff pastry, squeeze over the tomato puree and spread, ensuring the whole sheet is covered.

Sprinkle the pastry with the cheese and bacon, or whatever ingredients you are using. (In this instance, no seasoning is needed, as both the bacon and blue cheese are already very salty).

Cut the pastry into 8 strips, approx. 2cm wide each and then roll each strip into a wheel.

Place the wheels on a baking tray and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes or until golden in colour.