There have been several aubergine themed recipes on the meal plan and blog recently, I just can’t seem to eat enough of them! The combination of aubergine and tomatoes is a hard one to beat, it’s one of my absolute favourites. Even better when the veggies are roasted to intensify the flavour and served with cheese. My roasted aubergine and tomato pasta is the culmination of many attempts to get it just right. Dicing the aubergine up like this not only means a quicker cooking time but more aubergine surface area to soak up all that olive oil.
The food in Italy was everything I wanted it to be and Tuscany in particular was filled with incredible locations to eat amazing food. We went to a restaurant in Montepulciano on our first night in Tuscany; it was in an old wine cellar and the food was sensational. I ordered the Tuscan Sausage Ragu and along with a glass of local red wine and Italian hospitality it was such a memorable meal. I wanted to try and recreate the flavours, if not the ambiance, at home and my version of this sausage ragu has been through a few different variations until I’ve reached the recipe below. It’s not exactly the same but it’s wonderfully delicious in its own right.
I always think cauliflower is at its very best when served with cheese. As much as I think this is still true I have been really enjoying roasting and frying it lately and this cauliflower and sundried tomato pasta is my current favourite way to eat cauliflower. Cheap to make, vegan, delicious and so fast to cook; we’re talking 15 minutes from fridge to table. If only all weeknight cooking could be like this!
You will need (for four servings):
- 300g pasta £0.30
- 1 small romanesco (or other) cauliflower, chopped into small florets £1.50
- 6 sundried tomatoes, finely chopped £0.30
- 2 small garlic cloves, crushed £0.10
- 3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil £0.15
- Pinch saffron £0.50
- Salt and pepper £0.02
You’ll need a pan full of boiling water with a steamer to go on top. It’s no problem if you don’t have a steamer; you’ll just need an extra pan of boiling water for the cauliflower.
The weather has certainly changed, although I do consider November to technically be in autumn things have started to get much wintrier. With ice in the mornings, digging scarves and hats out of the drawers and the fire blazing it’s definitely the time of year for soup. The more filling and comforting the soup the better and my autumn vegetable minestrone is exactly that; a restorative bowl of loveliness. Filled with six different vegetables including beans to bulk it all out it’s simple, speedy, cheap and delicious.
I imagine that as you read sage and black pudding pasta you’ll fall into one of two camps of people; either the ‘a full English isn’t the same without it’ camp or the ‘I don’t like it’ camp. If you know what goes into making a black pudding I can understand that it doesn’t really help to sell itself: pork blood, pork fat, oatmeal and spices. The spices vary between producers so try out a local one if you can get your hands on it, it’s definitely worth it. Black pudding is such a polarising ingredient but it’s actually pretty cheap meaning it’s perfect for cooking on a budget.
There’s ragu, and then there’s proper ragu. You know the two kinds I mean; the quick one that we Brits chuck on top of a pile of spaghetti and the one that takes time, effort, care and attention to make. Don’t get me wrong, the former has its place but this recipe is for the latter; which incidentally freezes very well meaning it is perfect for cooking up a big batch and then reaping the rewards in the weeks to come. It has taken a long time to get this recipe to be my version of a perfect ragu so I hope you enjoy it.
I think this is a perfect meal in many ways: firstly, it’s just the right size for two people; secondly, it’s really simple to make; thirdly, it’s deliciously vegetarian and full of veg and lastly, it’s really versatile. My tomato and mascarpone gnocchi bake is made from a few ingredients which I often have in the kitchen anyway. Just the thing for a busy Monday night when you want something quick and tasty. You could add anything to it that you had hanging around in your cupboards, maybe some olives, sundried tomatoes, leftover chicken or roasted veg or you could pop some cheese on top.
I think I’m part Italian. More likely, I like to think I’m part Italian. The reason for this recent realisation is that Italian food is the food I crave the most; when I’m looking for inspiration I invariably turn my attention to that most wonderful of countries. Pasta is the obvious Italian ingredient to inspire meals but the rice dishes, salads, marinades, stews, cheeses, meats and sauces always make me feel like I’m having a little Italian getaway in my own kitchen. This ragu and aubergine pasta bake was inspired by Rick Stein’s recent series: Long Weekends. I’m sure my recipe is very different to theirs, I’m bound to have forgotten some ingredients or added others, but the principle is the same; great big, hearty portions of food. It’s worth getting hold of some fontina cheese for this pasta bake (more on that later).
I won’t lie to you. This is not a dish that’s light on calories. But my word it is worth every one of them. My fennel and sausage ragu is exactly what the doctor ordered for mid-February. It’s full of good, hearty ingredients and it can’t fail to cheer you up from the inside out on a chilly evening. This dish is all about the sausages; the better the sausages you can get your hands on, the better the finished dish. Head to your local farmers’ market, butcher or farm shop to get hold of something spicy and Italian, they may be a little more expensive but trust me, you won’t regret it.
It’s always interesting to try something different with a classic. Not content with, although always very welcome, standard macaroni cheese I wanted to add a few bits here and there to make it extra special. I dreamt up my beer, mustard and onion macaroni cheese and set about making it. I wasn’t sure how best to incorporate the beer so I settled on trying out a beer béchamel.
You will need (for 2):
- 150g macaroni
- 25g butter
- 25g plain flour
- 100ml milk
- 200ml beer – preferably a bitter (if you’re not sure what’s what, this guide can help!)
- 50g strong cheddar, grated
- 100g emmental, grated
- 1 tbsp wholegrain mustard
- 2-3 tsp caramelised onions
- Salt and pepper
Cook the macaroni according to packet instructions. Preheat and oven to 180C.
To make the beer béchamel melt the butter over a medium heat then add the flour. Cook the flour for at least one minute. Mix together the milk and beer then slowly add this to the butter and flour, stirring all the time so you don’t get any lumps. Cook the béchamel for a few minutes until thickened then remove from the heat.