parmesan

Spicy Tomato Spelt Spaghetti (Vegan)

Spicy tomato spelt spaghetti Are you a creamy or tomatoey person? I’m definitely the latter but regardless, everybody needs a solid go to tomato pasta sauce in their life, I know I do. I’ve always loved spaghetti coated in a rich, vibrant, sweet and spicy tomato based sauce. It doesn’t get much better than that. It was one of my favourite meals as a kid, oodles of spaghetti piled high and tossed in a rich red sauce. I used to have fun eating it too, relishing in the fact the table was set with spoons and forks as opposed to the traditional knife and fork (why can’t I get excited over such things anymore?!). There’s only one thing I don’t like about this meal and that’s the noises, you know the ones – sucking, slurping, general pasta suction techniques, we’ve all done it. I can’t deal with my emotions when I’m subjected to this. Surely, you can ONLY do this when eating alone and isn’t this the reason why you never order spaghetti on a first date?Spaghetti topped with parmesan

This spicy tomato spelt spaghetti is a 15 minute meal that couldn’t be more simple. It’s too true, the simple things are often the best. This is so speedy, it’s quicker than picking up the phone, ordering take out and waiting for it’s delivery. A basic italian inspired tomato spaghetti that’s delicious as is but would work really well powered up with your favourite veg, especially chestnut mushrooms, spinach, broccoli, a handful of rocket or a sprinkle of lemon zest. It’s a truly versatile dish. I like to use spelt spaghetti for the lower gluten and higher vitamin content but any wholegrain pasta would make a worthy nutritious and filling meal.Simple spaghetti ingredients

In my book a perfect tomato sauce needs good quality tomatoes, a good glug of olive oil, generous garlic, correct seasoning, a little sweetness and some spice. I like it really spicy but then again I do have a slight addiction to all things chili so if you prefer it a little milder then use a little less spice. It’s a great idea to make a large batch of the sauce and freeze half as it’s so versatile you could use it for another pasta dish such as lasagne, mixed with butter beans, poured over veggies or as a base for stuffed veggies. Just a thought. Two bowls of spaghetti

So, are you a creamy or tomatoey pasta person?

What’s your view on spaghetti eating etiquette?Spaghetti twisted on fork ready for slurping!

Spicy tomato spelt spaghetti

(serve 2)

200 grams spelt spaghetti
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 red chili, finely chopped
1 teaspoon oregano + 1/2 teaspoon crushed chili
1 can chopped tomatoes
1/2 teaspoon sugar
salt + pepper
generous handful of black olives
fresh basil leaves, torn

Method:

1. Place the spaghetti into salted boiling water + cook according to packet instructions.
2. Heat the olive oil + add the garlic, chili + oregano stirring until fragrant. Add the tomatoes, sugar + seasonings simmering for 10-15 minutes.
3. Drain the spaghetti + set aside. Add some of the pasta water to the sauce if it needs a little thinning. Stir the torn basil leaves, black olives + cooked spaghetti through the spicy tomato sauce.
4. Serve immediately + garnish with extra olives + basil leaves.

The Ultimate Vegetarian Lasagne with Roasted Romano Pepper + Pumpkin

Roasted red pepper + pumpkin lasagneRuss and me cook together every night. Occasionally one of us will suggest we’ll cook alone to free the other up but we just kind of like cooking together. We enjoy it, it’s relaxing, plus it takes half the time and we get to chat about our day whilst chopping, stirring and getting ready to eat fabulous food. The thing is, yeah it’s a habit but a good one surely – well you gotta eat and we get to feast on delicious, fresh and nutritious meals every night. Cooking together is a lot more fun than cooking alone but we seem to have definitely assigned ourselves set roles, Russ does most of the chopping and salad bits and I crack on with the actual cooking, timings, table arranging, flavours and cleaning. Well we both share the cleaning but I’m starting to think I got the raw end of the deal being a slave to the hob! I’d challenge Russ to swap with me but his knife skills are too good and I always prefer salads made by another! We’ve both just slipped into these roles and seem to get on with them like a well oiled machine- funny how habits form over time without us really noticing. Maybe I’ll challenge him to get down and dirty with the cooking whilst I sharpen my knife skills….yeah maybe. He can keep the bathroom cleaning duties though, I don’t want to share that one or bin change day!Slice of lasagne

I adore vegetarian lasagne but I don’t buy into complicated lasagnes at all. To me, the most important aspects are the flavours and good quality pasta sheets. I’ve made a full on traditional lasagne from scratch before and it seemed to take an age, but this recipe is just perfect and takes less time, especially if you’ve pre roasted vegetables to hand. I have to say when cooking in tandem (Hi Russ!) there really isn’t any recipe that’s too much so I really have no excuses. However, this is so jam packed full of fresh and vibrant ingredients it really doesn’t need a lot of fuss and time.Roasted vegetables

I use a cheats white sauce to quicken the lasagne process further and only spread this on the top layer as opposed to traditionally distributed throughout. I find this enough but if you prefer a creamier dish then just double the creme fraiche mixture and add to as many of the layers as you like. The roasted vegetables give this lasagne a beautifully sweet flavour, transforming the plain old chopped tomatoes into a sweet, rich and extremely moreish sauce. I like to add a little chili for a spicier version, actually I add chili to almost everything so just ignore me.Lasagne - ready for assembly!

Here is a fact and an opinion: Fact first, this is much healthier than traditional meat lasagnes. The tomatoes, peppers and pumpkin make this dish extremely nutrient dense and the cheese, creme fraiche and lentils provide an excellent protein content too. Now opinion, well I believe this is tastier than any other lasagne by miles, meat or non meat. It’s the ultimate vegetarian lasagne.

Do you have quirky routines/habits around cooking?Lasagne + Russ' salad is perfection

The ultimate vegetarian lasagne

(serves 2 hungry people)

200 grams pasta sheets (I used gluten free)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 romano peppers
2 cups cubed pumpkin or squash
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon, oregano + thyme
1 white onion, chopped finely
1 can chopped tomatoes + 1 can water
1/2 cup lentils
chopped parsley

cheat’s white sauce:
1 cup creme fraiche + a little water to loosen
1/2 cup parmesan, grated
1 cup mozzarella, grated

1. Pre-heat oven to 190ºC. Place whole peppers + squash in an square 12″ oven proof dish. Season + drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil + roast for 25 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, heat the remaining olive oil, add the onion, garlic + seasonings stirring until fragrant + translucent. Add the tomatoes + water, keep on a low simmer for 20 minutes until the vegetables are roasted.
3. Remove the roasted vegetables from the oven. Peel the skins off the peppers (they should fall off) + chop roughly. Add both to the tomato sauce.
4. In a small bowl, combine the creme fraiche with a little water + stir through the parmesan. It should be a pourable consistency.
5. Assemble the lasagne in the square dish starting with a base layer of sauce, followed by the lasagne sheets. Continue for 3 layers of tomato base + pasta. Pour the white sauce over the assembled lasagne + place in the oven for 30 – 45 minutes depending on pasta sheets used.
6. Remove 5 minutes before the end + add the mozzarella. Place bake in the oven until the cheese is lightly browned + bubbling. Serve immediately with a big salad + garlic baguette.

Keep refrigerated, delicious eaten cold + freezable on day of making.

10 Minute Fig, Walnut + Lemon Thyme Fusilli

The most delicious ingredientsSo I was gonna start this post by sharing those cherished italian memories forged during the year I lived and loved in Florence but then I realised I’ve never lived in Italy and this is but a dream! So naturally, I’m going to share information on smells and my love affair with garlic.

What is it about garlic that does this to me?! The aroma of garlic gently sizzling in olive oil has got to be my all time favourite smells. I joke with Russ that you could fry any inedible and gross food or non-food (don’t ask) in garlic and I’d eat it! We end up listing a load of rancid, disgusting ‘things’ whilst agreeing that garlic would more than likely make it irresistible! Sometimes I think we’re quite immature for our age.  There’s one smell I like more than just garlic and that’s garlic and white wine cooking together – oh my god, this does it for me big time. I’m quite the garlic fan which is just as well as when we lived in Korea we were served a lot of raw garlic and I got very involved.DSC_7068

This 10 minute fig, walnut + lemon thyme beauty has a good hit of garlic and is one of my favourite pasta dishes. I got out of the pasta habit for a while there and I’m wondering why this happened to me. Maybe it was pasta overload whilst at university because this was definitely my staple food. Or maybe it’s the wheat and gluten ‘cos I don’t like too much of that either. But really I think I just forgot how good italian pasta dishes can be with so few simple ingredients. It’s comfort food which can also be nourishing when combined with the right ingredients. I’m a big fan of spelt spaghetti (less gluten) and also brown rice varieties so I use these when avoiding gluten overload. This fig, walnut + lemon thyme dish is enough to get me back on pasta track though. The simplicity, the flavours and the aroma are so good;  sweet figs, earthy and  creamy walnuts mingling with white wine and garlic infused fusilli.Delicious fig, walnut, wine + lemon thyme fusilli

It’s healthy too, the walnuts and olive oil make this a pasta that’s packed full of heart healthy monounsaturated fats. A good fat that helps to reduce blood cholesterol levels, lowers the risk of heart disease and helps to regulate our blood sugar and insulin levels. The figs are a great source of potassium and fibre and  help to reduce high blood pressure. But really figs are just beautiful, I think they’re one of the prettiest fruits around making this dish easy on the eye! Oh yes, another thing – if you use wholegrain gluten free pasta such as brown rice, whole wheat or spelt you’ll be getting an extremely fibre rich meal which will satiate, keep you full for longer and regulate blood sugar levels. This is a perfect lunchtime or evening meal with a little italian inspiration on the side.

So, what are your favourite cooking smells?Fusilli + wine = delicious

 

10 minute fig, walnut + lemon thyme fusilli

(serves 2)

150 grams fusilli
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 small glass white wine
2 figs, sliced
50 grams walnuts, toasted
generous sprinkle lemon thyme
parmesan, to serve
salt & pepper

1. Place the fusilli in salted boiling water & cook according to packet instructions.
2. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over a low heat & add the garlic, cooking until fragrant. Stir in the figs & add the white wine, allowing to simmer until the alcohol burns off, about 5 minutes.
3. Add the thyme, walnuts & cooked pasta stirring through to fully incorporate.
4. Transfer to large serving bowls. Serve with a scattering of extra thyme & a generous sprinkle of parmesan

Sun Dried Aubergine Bake + Italian Kale Salad – GF

“I think the reward for conformity is that everyone likes you except yourself” ~Rita Mae Brown

I’m not having a bad day or getting deep on you, I just love this quote, well quotes generally. It’s one of many I’ve been reading whilst I should be working. I do this a lot! But I need  inspiration every now and then and this is just a reminder that it’s OK to make choices slightly outside of the box or against the grain. It’s all about keeping strength in the face of social conditioning because let’s face it at some point we’re all subject to societal expectations. Not that I’m making any radical choices right now (although that depends on your idea of radical!) but occasionally I do feel the pressure to do things a certain way and I need to reality check when this happens. I don’t want to be in a box anyway! I usually just search quotes on a certain subject and lose myself in a sea of inspiration. I guess I just love random, out of the blue musings, such a great way to distract my mind from a mundane task or worry that I’m headed down wrong choice lane, wherever that may be. At least making an aubergine bake is definitely not down that lane!Aubergine bake italian style

I don’t often cook Italian food  but when I do I wonder why I don’t make the effort more! This really is gorgeous, especially with this mediterranean inspired kale salad. Lately, I’m just loving this massage your food malarkey, it gives the kale a much softer taste and texture as a result of the oil and lemon infusing their magic. I think I’ll be manipulating my kale a lot more! Of course any salad would work well with this, I’m just looking for more excuses to get more kale in to my meals and as I should be.Italian kale salad

Kale is a complete powerhouse of nutrients and has got to be one of the healthiest veggies on the block. Check this out: 1 cup of this humble green veggie provides 1327% of our daily vitamin K needs, now that’s powerful stuff! Let’s just take this fact as an indicator of it’s superiority in the healthy foods arena as it also contains impressive levels of vitamins A, B6 and C, tryptophan, copper, iron, calcium and fibre. Of course there’s more, it’s jam packed full of anti-oxidant, anti-cancer and anti-inflammatory nutrients too, wow! Apologies for the science lesson but I’m just writing a quick note to myself: eat more kale! Slice, griddle, assemble & bake!

So the bake, well I call it bake but I’m sure there’s a pretty Italian name for this. Anyhow, this recipe is really simple (just slice, griddle, assemble and bake!), unbelievably tasty and full of vitamins and phytonutrients. Apparently, aubergines contain nasunin, an important free radical scavenger that helps protect brain cell membranes, I know – scientific stuff and I’m not one to turn down a brain boost! This is a great alternative to lasagne, especially if you’re looking for a lighter option as it’s very low in carbs. However, I cannot eat this without bread, it’s just one of my  rules.

Delicious aubergine bake!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Back to quotes, what’s your quote of the day?

Sun dried aubergine bake

(serves 2)

2 aubergines, sliced lengthways 1/2 cm thickness
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 red onion, finely chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 sun dried tomatoes, chopped roughly
1/2 teaspoon red chili
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon brown sugar
salt & pepper
1 can tomatoes & half can water

generous sprinkle parmesan (vegetarian), grated

Italian kale salad

2 handfuls fresh kale, stalks removed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 lemon, juiced
1/4 teaspoon salt
2 fresh tomatoes
1/2 red onion, sliced finely
handful olives, chopped

Method:

1. Preheat the oven to 200 ºC. Brush the aubergine slices with olive oil, charring on both sides in a griddle pan over a low heat. This will need to be done in batches.
2. Meanwhile lightly fry the onion & garlic in a pan over a low heat for 5 minutes. Add the remaining ingredients (except cheese) and simmer for a further 10 minutes.
3. Spoon a little mixture into an oven proof dish. Arrange one layer of the aubergine & repeat with a thin layer of sauce. Repeat until all slices have been used. Bake for 25 minutes. Remove from the oven 5 minutes before the end to add the cheese.

Note: It’s important to griddle the aubergine prior to baking to soften them, plus a griddle effect looks nice too. I’ve never assembled this without pre-cooking them but I guess this would be fine as long as the total bake time is extended.

Salad:

1. Place the kale & chopped onion in a bowl or on a chopping board. Combine the oil, lemon & salt in a small bowl. Massage the dressing into the leaves & onion mixture for 3 minutes.
2. Place on serving plate and dress with remaining ingredients.

Lentil & Portobello Burger with a Quick Apricot Chutney – GF

Lentil & mushroom burgerKiller circuits this morning, a murderous self inflicted session in the living room! There was no trainer yelling at me to man up and give him twenty more, it was just Russ and I and we were going for it! In all honesty, when it’s just me I swear I don’t work out as hard but when we join forces and workout together it’s like we just push each other that bit harder. There’s an unspoken ‘keep it going’, ‘don’t be a god damn wimp’ type pressure and it’s pretty effective! This is why I love working out with someone else, time flies and it’s way more fun. Needless to say today’s Saturday session was a fabulous full body workout, followed by amazing stove top coffee and quinoa granola! But this isn’t even about granola, that granola was good though. This is about burgers, vegetarian patties, healthy bun fillers, veggie sliders….I’m always on the endless quest to find a great burger.

The great lentil portobello burger.

Lentil & mushroom burger with apricot chutney

These lentil based beauties are bursting with rich umami flavours resulting from a hearty mix  of onion, garlic, mushrooms, parmesan, soy sauce and red wine. They have a rich, earthy, savoury taste and a pleasant texture which firms up nicely after a quick fry and a good grilling. There are so many options when it comes to plant based burgers but this is ideal for those looking for a slightly richer flavour and hoping to avoid some of mushier bean varieties.Lentil & mushroom burger process

It’s pretty filling too and satisfied a ravenous circuit induced hunger nicely. The apricot chutney is definitely a good friend to this burger with a sticky, smokey sweetness shining all over the bun and down my fingers! We had our burger in polenta topped buns with lettuce, tomato and onion and it was good.Lentil & mushroom burger with salad

Who’s your workout buddy? Do you push yourself that bit harder when you have someone with you?

Lentil mushroom burger & a quick apricot chutney

(makes 2 ‘big’ and 4 normal burgers- we made 2 of course)

1/2 white onion, chopped finely
1 clove garlic, minced
1 cup of portobello mushrooms, chopped finely
1 carrot, grated
splash red wine
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1.2 cup cooked lentils
1/4 cup vegetarian parmesan, grated
1/2 cup oats
1 egg
parsley, chopped
oil for frying

apricot chutney

6 small apricots, chopped
i cup water
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
dash of cinnamon
1 tablespoon liquid smoke or chipotle sauce

Method:

1. Saute the onion, garlic, mushrooms & carrots for 5 minutes. Add the red wine, soy sauce, thyme & cooked lentils. Keep on a low heat until all liquid has evaporated. Transfer to a bowl & allow to cool a little.
2. Add the oats, parmesan, parsley & egg to the cooled mixture, combining thoroughly. Set aside for 30 minutes.
3. Shape into 2 large or 4 smaller burger patties.  Transfer to a greased frying pan for 5 minutes to set on one side. Turn over and finish under a medium grill for 10 minutes or until firm to the touch & browned. Reduce grilling slightly if making 4 burgers from the mixture.
4. Enjoy in a bun with salad and liberal quantities of apricot chutney.

For the pickle:

Combine all ingredients and simmer on a low heat until apricots have softened & the chutney has a sticky appearance. Add more water if necessary. Transfer to a serving dish to cool.