Thursday, 31 July 2008

Green veg cannelloni

One of my favourite pasta dishes is spinach and ricotta cannelloni. On Monday we still had a lot of green vegetables leftover from our box. So I decided to substitute the spinach for the other veg we had. We used cannelloni tubes but these could easily be substituted with fresh lasagne sheets, which you could roll with the filling to make tubes.

Green veg cannelloni
(Serves 2 greedy people or four with some bread and salad)

  • Broad beans
  • 1 Courgette, grated
  • Broccoli
  • Ricotta cheese, 250g
  • Pecorino cheese, 3 tbsps
  • Cannelloni tubes
  • Tomato pasta sauce (we made our own, but you could use shop bought)
  • Cheddar cheese
For the filling: boil the broccoli for 5 mins and beans for about 3 mins. Remove the beans from their skins. In a boil mash up the broccoli. To the broccoli add the beans, courgette, ricotta, pecorino cheese, salt and pepper.

Fill the tubes with the mixture.

Put a tablespoon or so of the tomato sauce on the base of a oven proof dish, they place the tubes in the dish. Cover the tubes with the rest of the sauce. Top with the cheddar cheese.

Bake at gas mark 6 for 20-30 mins, until cheese is golden and tubes are soft.

This dish made a great alternative to the spinach and ricotta classic and helped us use up the green veg left. The change also meant that we packed roughly 4 portions of veg into one meal (counting the tomatoes in the sauce, which do count by the way).

I am entering this into this week Presto Pasta Nights which this week is held by Ruth at Once Upon a Feast, make sure you check out the round up.

Wednesday, 30 July 2008

A new book and jam making

Andrew and I both have book collections, Andrew's is full of climbing guides and mine is full cookery books. As you can see from the photo my cookery books fill more than 2 shelves. Whereas Andrew's books only take up one. My collection has had a recent addition: River Cottage Handbook no. 2 - Preserves. Its a really great book and goes beyond jams and chutneys, though of course it does cover these too. When we had our first glances through the book there were a lot of 'oh I want to make that' or 'that looks great'.

Examples of recipes that are on the hitlist are:

  • Cider apple butter
  • Spiced pickled pears
  • St Clement's squash
  • Souper mix ( which is a puree of veg to be used in the place of stock cubes)
  • Blackberry and apple leather
The recipes are easy to follow and there are a lot of suggestions for variations. Like all the River Cottage books its easy to read and very inspiring. I would definitely recommend this book.

After we got this book we really want to try it and decided to make a classic, strawberry jam. We went to Craigie's Farm for PYO. This also meant I got to use my jam pan which has not really been used. The recipe takes some of the strawberries and mashes them with some of the sugar, then you add the rest of the strawberries.

We can't wait to move to our new flat as the jam making in our small kitchen was really hot.

We managed to fill five jars with our first jam of the season. I have only ever made jam once before at school, which was quite a while ago. So this is a new first for our household.

Now we have tested one of the recipes from the book, we want to try some more. I have two other preserve books and although they won't be made redundant by the new arrival. I will definitely consult the River Cottage book first, before the others. I am sure it won't be long before we are driving back to Craigie's to pick some more fruit destined for jars.

Sunday, 27 July 2008

God bless Nigel!

We are not very religious people but we do worship somethings/people. For example we both worship Jonny Wilkinson, especially his right foot. I regularly give thanks for the existence of Le Creuset. Todays post is about someone that is also high revered, Nigel Slater. I love the way he writes about food. I am currently enjoying his Eating for England book. This Saturday we went to the Farmers Market and bought some lamb loin chops, with a recipe of Nigel's in mind. This recipe is from his Kitchen Diaries book. The orginial recipe contains aubergine but Nigel doesn't like people to follow his recipes to the letter. So we adapted it to the veg we had from our box.

  • 1 onion, sliced thickly
  • 4 garlic cloves, peeled and left whole
  • 6 tomatoes, halved
  • 6 small potatoes, halved lengthwise
  • 1 turnip, chopped into large chunks
  • 1 courgette, chopped into large sticks
  • 4 lamb double loin chops
  • Olive oil
Into a large roasting tin put the onion, turnip, garlic cloves , tomatoes and potatoes. Add about a tablespoon or so of olive oil, toss the veg so they are covered and season. If we had some thyme or rosemary I would have put this in too. Put this into a oven gas mark 6 for 30 mins.

After 30 mins, add the courgette and then top with the lamb chops. Turn the oven up gas mark 7 and cook for another 30 mins.

We love this recipe, its a roast dinner without all the washing up. Thank you Nigel!

Saturday, 26 July 2008

Yoghurt making

Andrew and I are really keen to try and be less reliant on the supermarkets as we can. So we have been doing little things. Ever since reading it on the beansprouts blog, we wanted make yoghurt. So we gave it a go. It was so easy. You can use a flask but we bought a yoghurt maker, for ease. It holds a litre beaker, which makes it much easier to clean. We bought a litre of milk to the boil and allowed it to cool down.

We then stirred in a few dessert spoons of yoghurt (this has to be live yoghurt) and poured it into the beaker.

We fill the yoghurt maker with lukewarm water. The beaker is then put into the yoghurt maker.

I told Andrew that it would take 8-10 hours, but he wanted to watch it work.

The first time I made it, I made Greek yoghurt. Which means you need to strain the yoghurt.

We have yoghurt with our lunches, so this is a lot cheaper than shop bought. It also removes one more thing off our shopping list. We normally make a fruit compote to have with the yoghurt. It is now part of our weekly rituals, as well as making bread and muesli. It's great to have the yoghurt in fridge ready for meals. We have started to use it as a substitute for creme fraiche in sauces.

Thursday, 24 July 2008

Broccoli Pesto

I went to Paperinos for dinner last night with some work collegues. I had a bowl of pasta but it was awful, greasy and not at all nice. So tonight I thought I would have a decent bowl of pasta. After the success of the cabbage pesto, I thought that I would try another green veg based pesto. So when broccoli was in our veg box this week I thought I would give it ago.

The first thing I noticed was it wasn't as dark green as the cabbage pesto, a much lighter green. The pesto was very light almost like mousse. The best thing about making pesto that it is so quick. I have a little handblender which has a small processor attachment, which is great for making pastes. I think next time I would like try using almonds instead of pinenuts. I always see so many different pestos, some using rocket, others using lime.

Broccoli pesto:
Boil the broccoli for 4 mins, drain and rinse with cool water to stop it cooking any further. Into my blender, I put the broccoli and a couple of handfuls of toasted pinenuts, 1 tbsp grated pecorino, zest of 1 lemon, lemon juice (to taste) and olive oil. I then blitzed until it was smoothish! This was stirred into cooked pasta, with some chopped tomatoes and olives. It was topped with a few toasted pinenuts and more pecorino.

I'm entering this dish into this weeks Presto Pasta Nights which this week is being held by Katie @ Thyme for Cooking . Make sure you have a look at her blog on Friday when the roundup should be up!

This week in the box we got:

  • Broccoli
  • Cabbage
  • Broad beans
  • Courgettes
  • Lettuce
  • Turnips
  • Potatoes
  • Onions
  • Carrots

Friday, 18 July 2008

Like that but not that.

A lot of the food I cook comes from reading recipes on the web and changing them in some way. Even more after we got the veg box, as we don't always have what the recipe states. It reminds me of a Mitchell and Webb sketch:

This is something that Andrew and I quote a lot. When we get the veg box, we get a newsletter which comes with recipe. This week's recipe was a courgette and broad bean pasta dish. So on Wednesday I decided to make this dish using gnocchi. We have a lot of potatoes, so gnocchi is a good way to use them up. For the sauce I fried onion and garlic until soft. I then added a sliced courgette again cooked it until soft. Some chopped tomatoes, olives and cooked broad beans. I then stirred in the gnocchi and put it an ovenproof dish. This was topped with mozzarella and pecorino and grilled until browned.

Today whilst I was looking for something to do with marrow. I came across a forum when someone said that they used marrow instead of aubergine in moussaka. So I started to look around for vegetarian moussaka recipes. What I made wasn't an authentic moussaka, nothing like it but it tasted great.

I fried an finely diced onion and crushed garlic in some olive oil. Once they were soft I added some chopped garlic and carrot. After 5 mins I added a tin of chopped tomatoes and a tinful of water, a pinch of sugar, dried crush chillies. A few handfuls of red lentils were added and this was simmered for 20 mins, until the lentils were cooked. I then added a tin of green lentils. I put a layer of sliced marrow (which were steamed for a couple of mins) in a greased ovenproof dish. Then I put a half of the lentil mixture, then another layer of the marrow, then lentil again. This was topped with sliced potato (which was also cooked). The potato was covered with a white sauce. This was finished with mozzarella and cheddar. Not at all authentic, but it tasted really great.

This week in the box we got:

  • Marrow
  • Courgette
  • Broad beans
  • Tomatoes
  • Red Kale
  • Cabbage
  • Celery
  • Potatoes
  • Onion
  • Carrots

Thursday, 17 July 2008

Take one packet of mince . . .

Whilst going through the freezer I noticed that we had a packet of pork mince. So I started to thinking about what I could do with it. I decided to try and make it last two dinners.

The first dish was little pork and apricot patties served with tumeric rice. All I did was fry half an onion and some garlic until soft. I left this cool for a bit and then added it to 250g of pork mince. I then chopped some dried apricots (about 6) added it to the pork. I then stirred and then shaped them into four little patties which were grilled. For the tumeric rice, I just added a small amount of tumeric to the water. This was served with some yoghurt which was flavoured with some lemon juice. Yum yum.

For the second night I decided to make some meatballs. These were flavoured with lemon zest and had some finely diced onion and chopped parsley added. Again I used 250 g of pork mince. These were baked in the oven for 25 mins at gas mark 6. In another roasting tin I added some paris brown and button mushrooms, sliced courgette and thinly sliced garlic. I added some olive oil and roasted them in the oven for 10-15 min. To make a sauce I put the roasting tin with the mushrooms in on the hob and added some marsala (about 3tbsp). I allowed this simmer for a minute before adding a couple of spoonfuls of yoghurt. The meatballs were added to this sauce. This was served with spaghetti which was dressed with some olive oil, lemon juice and parsley.

I am entering the pasta recipe into this weeks Presto Pasta Nights. Which this week is being hosted by Ruth @ Once Upon a Feast. Check out the round up which will be on her website on Friday.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

A quick update

In May, we started our little window garden. Unfortunately our theses have been slowly taking over our lives, so the plants have been a bit neglected. Our window box full of herbs have bitten the dust, as has our tigerella tomato plant (sorry Lynn!)

Our window box with the three tomato plants are doing OK. We did think that we had bought bush tomato plants, but they are not. They are huge! The other day as I was daydreaming whilst writing my thesis, I notice that we actually had some tomatoes on our plants!!! Very exciting. We are moving in a few weeks time, I am not sure how we are going to move them. It could be challenging.

The cut and come again salad box is doing really well too. Its right by the dining table so we just rip off a couple of leaves for dinner.

In the autumn I made some spicy apple and walnut chutney which is running out. So to keep us going I made some rhubarb and raisin chutney. I got the recipe from my Women's Institute preserves book.

And finally for this rapid roundup. In this weeks box:

  • Broccoli
  • Broad beans
  • Kohl rabi
  • Courgettes
  • Spinach
  • Cabbage
  • Onions
  • Carrots
  • Potatoes

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

I broke the rules . .

I have a silly rule, I think it comes from my Mum. We never have the same carbohydrate for dinner twice in a row. But this week I broke the rules. Andrew is away working this week, so I have spent most of my time writing up. And cooking is just the excuse I need to leave my thesis for long periods of time, so I have been cooking quick and easy things to resist temptation. Which means for the last two days pasta! In my defence they were at least different shaped pasta.

On Monday, another person in the lab passed their viva. We had a nice spread of food and champagne to celebrate. There were loads of leftover olives, so we all took some home.

On Tuesday I made a tapenade (olives, capers and olive oil) and then stir this into pasta put it into an ovenproof dish. I then added some tomatoes, topped with grated pecorino and pine nuts. I cooked it on gas mark 6 for 20 mins, until the cheese had melted.

Today I had spaghetti. Again with olives, there were quite a lot. I still have some left. So whilst the pasta was cooking. I heated some olive oil in a frying added some sliced garlic, then add some chopped tomatoes, capers, olives, pinch of dried chilli flakes, couple of spoonfuls of the pasta cooking water and a splash of red wine vinegar. When the pasta is cooked and to the sauce. I topped this with grated pecorino and griddled courgettes.

I am entering this pasta dish into this week's Presto Pasta Nights roundup, which this week is hosted by Gay at A Scientist in the Kitchen. The roundup should be up on Friday.

Tuesday, 8 July 2008

If at first you don't suceed . . .

When I was at the Farmers Market I saw some smoked mussels. Andrew loves smoked fish, so I bought them. I did have an idea of what I wanted to do with them. The idea was to a tomatoey rice/paella thing. Not exactly clear, I know. But I knew what I wanted to make.

The first time I tried this I used long grain rice and did it on the hob. It was OK, but not how I wanted it. So this time I took inspiration from Bill Granger's Baked Risotto. It turned out much better, just as I had imagined. The Smoked mussels were great too.

Baked paella risotto

  • olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 180 g risotto rice
  • chorizo, chopped
  • 1 tin of chopped tomatoes (400g)
  • 375 ml vegetable stock
  • A couple of handfuls of frozen sweetcorn
  • 1 courgette, sliced
  • Smoked mussels
Preheat the oven to Gas Mark 6

In a casserole dish cook the chorizo in some olive oil until it releases its fat and starts to colour. Add the onion until it softens but doesn't colour. Add the rice and stir for a minute.

Add the stock and tomatoes and bring up to the boil, stir in the sweetcorn and courgette. Cover and put in the oven for 20-30 mins until rice is cooked. Stir in the smoked mussels and serve. We had some creme fraiche on the top.

Wednesday, 2 July 2008

Eating our greens

The veg box arrived this week bursting with greens, this week:

  • Courgettes
  • Broad beans
  • Broccoli
  • Spring cabbage
  • Kohl Rabi
  • Tomatoes
  • Onions
  • Potatoes
  • Carrots
I seem to cook pasta on the day of the box arrival. I am not sure why but again we had pasta today. Once I saw the courgettes, beans and broccoli. I wanted to make a creamy lemon pasta with these veg.

So I blanched the beans in boiling water for a few minutes, for the last minute I added the broccoli. I fried a sliced garlic clove on a medium heat for a few seconds before adding one sliced courgette. After a couple of mins I added the broccoli and cooked for a minute. I then added the beans, lemon zest and lemon juice. I added some of the pasta cooking water, creme fraiche and pecorino cheese. I then stirred in the pasta. This topped with a bit more pecorino and toasted pine nuts. The lemon worked really well with the green veg and the pine nuts added a nice crunch.

We are starting to get a lot of tomatoes in our box now. So I expect that next weeks pasta dish will have a tomato based sauce.

Again this will be entered into this weeks Presto Pasta Nights will be hosted by Ruth @ Once Upon A Feast. The round up will be posted on Ruth's blog on Thursday.

The Weekend

On Saturday I went to the Farmers Market. I bought some salmon with a specific dish in mind. With the pak choi in the veg box, I wanted to make a Bill Granger recipe. The recipe was taken from Simply Bill, its glazed salmon. Its a simple dish which is served with brown rice and steamed pak choi.

When I went to the Farmers Market I also bought some lamb neck fillet. I had intended to use this to make kebabs, but the weather on Sunday was a bit grim. So I fancied something warming. Andrew had wanted to have Lancashire hotpot for a while. So I decided to use the neck fillet in a hotpot. I have never been to Lancashire, so I have never taste the authentic dish. I am not sure how this measures against it.

I thinly sliced a kohl rabi (leftover from the veg box) and potatoes and covered the bottom of the casserole dish with it.

I then lightly fried an onion in vegetable oil. Once soft I put this on top of the potatoes.

The meat was cut into medium chunks and coated in seasoned flour. This was fried in oil and bit of butter until brown and then put into the casserole dish, I also tucked in some large chunks of carrots. I added some (about 1 tbsp) Worcestershire sauce.

This was then covered with more thinly sliced potato. Vegetable stock was poured over, just enough to cover the top of the potatoes. This was then covered and put in the oven for 20 mins at gas mark 6, then turn down the oven to gas mark 1 and cook for 1 hour. The lid was then removed and the oven was turned up to gas mark 6 and it was cooked for a final 20 mins to brown the top.

We had this with some pickled cabbage. This was bought from a deli and we both really liked this, So I will definitely make some.

This was delicious and I expect that we will make many more this winter.

Sweet Nothings

When we went down to Andrew's parents I acquired a new recipe, for teabread. I have been told by Andrew that this is a Broadway speciality. Apparently if I am ever to get Broadway behind my name I have to learn to make this and also pavlova, another Broadway speciality. So one down, one to go.


  • 6 oz Currants
  • 6 oz Sultanas
  • 8 oz Dark brown Sugar
  • 1/2 pint Hot black tea
  • 10 oz Self raising flour
  • 1 beaten egg
Put the sugar, currants and sultanas in a bowl, pour on the hot tea, stir well. Cover and leave overnight.

Grease and line a loaf tin. Heat oven to gas mark 2.

Stir in the flour and egg into the fruit and sugar mixture.

Mix thoroughly, put in the tin and bake for an hour and 45 mins.

Turn out onto a wire rack to cool.

Last week, I also made a carrot cake for a lab meeting. My supervisor had been given some very special chocolates from a swanky meeting he went to in London. He took them to the meeting but nobody touched them but my carrot cake went down a storm. I will definitely be making it again. I used a recipe from BBC Good Food. If you make it be warned that the recipe seemed to make too much icing, I would half it.

Tuesday, 1 July 2008

Double Chocolate Chip Cookies

My mouth started drooling as soon as I saw this month's recipe for Sweet and Simple Bakes. Andrew has a bit of an issue at the moment. He is getting more and more patriotic. He has now taken to calling pain au chocolate, chocolate bread. As he doesn't see why we should have to use the French words for things that can be translated into English. I think his PhD has effected his brain too. So when I told him that this months challenge was cookies, he pulled a face and said that we should call them biscuits!!! You would think that there were bigger issues in the world, but I think this is important to him! I do agree that we seem to put some cuisines on a peddlestool, especially French cuisine. As good as it is, we do have food to be proud of in Britain. Anyway I digress back to the cookies, oops I mean biscuits.

I owed my friend after she read 2 of my chapters, in fact I owed her big time. So I thought I could pay her back with the cookies.

After saying that I don't like white chocolate I decided to add dark and white chocolate. So I suppose these were triple chocolate, instead of double. I used chopped chocolate rather than chocolate chips.

I made them quite big. They were lovely and chewy. They seemed to go down well. I think that I have paid off my debt.

I asked Andrew to let me take a photo so I could show someone enjoying these lovely cookies but he couldn't stop laughing. You can't get the models these days . . .

Check out the round up which will be posted on the sweet and simple bakes website and the recipe can be found here