Wednesday, 5 November 2014

Spicy tomato-bacon mushroom pasta

It's November, which means the dark nights are here, the cold crisp weather returns and possibly some snow in the coming weeks. For me, the winter months are a time for hibernation as I'm not the biggest fan of cold weather and I long to have duvet days. When I long for duvet days, I also long for lots of carbohydrates, this dish satisfies this need. Many of us love pasta and I am a big fan, eating a pasta based dish at least once a week. There are so many different pasta varieties and many ways to cook pasta but often favourites can become habits and the usual pasta dish should be revisited or amended so we don't get bored eating the same dish. This spicy tomato-bacon pasta does that, instead of cooking the usual "spag bol" I decided to make another tomato based dish. The red chill brings a warmth to this dish (perfect for the winter nights), the bacon adds the flavour, mushrooms give it a lovely earthy flavour and the pasta is well, the centrepiece. And if you are pressed for time and unable to make your own tomato sauce there are many good tomato pasta sauces which would shave half the time to prep and make this dish, making it an ideal mid-week meal. 
Here is how my spicy tomato-bacon pasta turned out:

Spicy tomato-bacon pasta

Spicy tomato-bacon pasta

Spicy tomato-bacon pasta

Spicy tomato-bacon pasta dish 

Recipe from Cook Step-By-Step.

Serves 6, Prep 35-40 minutes, Cook 30-40 minutes
125g thick cut bacon rashers, slices or bacon lardons
375g mushrooms, trimmed and sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 red chill, deseeded and finely diced
leaves from 5-7 oregano sprigs, finely chopped
2 x 400g cans chopped plum tomatoes
salt and pepper
500g pasta quills
30g butter
60g Parmesan cheese

1) Make the sauce. Put the bacon into a frying pan. Fry over a low heat, stirring occasionally, for 5-7 minutes, until the bacon is lightly browned and the fat is rendered. Spoon off all but 3tbsp pf the fat. Increase the heat and add the mushrooms. Cook, stirring for 3-5 minutes, until mushrooms have softened and most of the liquid has evaporated.
2) Add the garlic, chili, oregano, chopped tomatoes, salt and pepper. Bring to a boil, cover and simmer, stirring occasionally for 25-30 minutes, until thick and rich. If necessary to thicken the sauce, continue to cook, uncovered, for a few minutes longer. Taste the sauce for seasoning.
3) Cook the pasta. Fill a large pan with cold water, bring to a boil, and add 1 tbsp salt. Add the pasta quills. Simmer until al dente, tender but still chewy, stirring occasionally. It should take 5-8 minutes, or cook according to the package directions. Drain in a colander.
4) Finish the dish. Put the quills into a warmed serving bowl, and add the butter. Toss together until well coated. Spoon over he sauce and  half the cheese. Toss together, then sprinkle over a little more Parmesan. Serve immediately, with the remaining cheese.

I am sharing this dish with a couple of blogging challenges, the first Extra Veg challenge hosted by Helen from Fuss Free Flavours  and Michelle from Utterly Scrummy. As this pasta dish contains two types of vegetables, I can sneakily enter this dish to this blog challenge.

The second blog challenge i'm sharing this dish with is Credit Card Munch hosted by Alida by My Little Italian Kitchen on behalf of Camilla from Fab Food for All and Helen from Fuss Free Flavours. As I used leftover mushrooms and cheaper cuts of meat, it is quite an economical dish.


Sunday, 6 April 2014

Aunt Sally's meatbloaf

This dish is described as a true American Classic which is great served with mashed potatoes and ketchup. I've only made meatloaf once before (recipe from Nigella's Kitchen cook book) and that dish contained eggs, which was not to my liking. This version of meatloaf is stated to be old fashioned and was right up my street! I found the meatloaf to be hearty so it can be served for family gatherings and also can be made 2 days ahead if kept covered in the refrigerator. I didn't anticipate that this dish would take so long to make, so I would strongly advise you to make this dish over a weekend. I liked how the spinach added a speckled colour in the meatloaf and I ensured everything is well seasoned which enhances the flavour. Once the preparation is out of the way, which is easy and simple enough, you can let the oven do all the hard work. After around 1 and a half hours my meatloaf was baked.  As a lover of mince I was pleasantly pleased with how flavoursome the mince and bacon turned out. I served my meatloaf with rice and garden peas which is perhaps not the classic accompaniments, but worked well.
Baked meatloaf

Meatloaf and rice

Meatloaf and rice

Spinach cooking

Onions and mince added

Spinach added 

Eggs added


Meatloaf baked

Serves 4-6, Prep 25-30 minutes, Cook 1 - 1/2 hours
175g spinach
salt and pepper
375g streaky bacon rashers
2 eggs
6 slices of white bread
750g minced beef
1 large onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 tbsp Worcestershire sauce

Prepare the ingredients
1) Remove the tough ribs and stalks from the spinach. Wash it well in a sink of water, then repeat, until all traces of grit and soil are gone. Half-fill a saucepan with water and bring to a boil. Add salt, then spinach and simmer for 2-3 minutes, just until tender. Do not overcook, or the spinach will lose it's vivid colour and the flavour will dull.
2) Drain the spinach in a colander, rinse with cold water to stop the cooking and retain the bright green colour, and drain again thoroughly.
3) Cut the bacon into tiny strips, reserving 4 neat rashers for the top of the meat loaf. Lightly beat the eggs in a small bowl until evenly blended. Trim off and discard the crusts from the bread. Work the bread slices in the food processor or blender, using the pulse button, until they form even crumbs, then tip them into a large bowl that is big enough to comfortably hold all the remaining ingredients.
4) Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4 Add the minced meat, chopped spinach, onion, garlic,  Worcestershire sauce, salt and pepper to the large bowl and mix.
5) Add the beaten eggs and lightly mix them in. To test for seasoning, fry a spoonful of the mixture in a frying pan until browned on both sides. Taste it and add more seasoning to the remaining mixture if necessary.
6) Transfer to a 23x13x7.5cm (9x5x3in), or 900g (2lbs), loaf tin, pressing it down and patting with a wooden spoon to smooth the top. arrange the reserved bacon rashers on top of the meat loaf.
7)  Bake the meat loaf in the heated oven for 1-1 1/4 hours, until a skewer inserted in the centre for 30 seconds come out hot to the the touch. Let it stand at least 10 minutes in the tin to reabsorb the juices and become easier to slice. Run a knife around the edge, unmould the meat loaf and cut into slices.


Thursday, 18 July 2013

Chicken Paprika.

I'm always looking for new chicken recipes as it was one of my favourite meats to eat and chicken is so versatile. I've been on a mission this year to make dishes from cookbooks that I already have instead of going out there and purchasing new ones. This dish comes from one of my old favourites/bargain cook book entitled Cook Step by Step which contains over 300 recipes, all illustrated and which I purchased from the Book People at my previous job for £4. This dish is heavily influenced by flavours of Hungary and as such paprika is used to marinade the chicken and forms part of the sauce. I must say that this dish was easy to prepare as the oven completed the majority of the work. I liked the earthy flavour of paprika but next time I would add some crushed or birds eye chillies to give the dish a quick. I definitely would make this again and the dish would go down well for those who like tomato based dishes.
Here is how my chicken paprika turned out:
Chicken paprika

Recipe for chicken paprika

8 pieces of chicken thighs, bone in, skin on.
salt and pepper
2 tbsp vegetable oil
1 large onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
3 tbsp paprika, plus more to taste
1tbsp plain flour
400g can chopped tomatoes
500 ml chicken stock
125ml soured cream.

Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas mark . Season the chicken pieces. Heat the oil in the casserole on top of the stove. Working in the batches, if necessary add the chicken to the casserole, skin-side down, and brown well for about 5 minutes.
Turn the chicken and brown the other side. Transfer to a plate and set aside. Add the onion to the casserole and cook over a medium heat, stirring occasionally for 2-3 minutes, until soft. Add the garlic and continue cooking for 3-5 minutes longer.
Stir in the paprika. Cook very gently, stirring occasionally for about 5 minutes. Stir in the flour, then add the tomatoes, stock, salt and pepper, bring to the boil. Return the chicken, cover and cook in the heated oven for 35-40 minutes, until the chicken is tender.
Transfer the chicken pieces to a plate and serve warm with rice, potatoes or vegetables.


Monday, 27 August 2012

Cold chicken and ham pie - tea time treats picnic pies.

I've been scouring other food blogs over the last few weeks so that I can participate in more blogging events. Having participated in quite a few Forever Nigella blog hops I discovered Lavender and Lovage blog who hosted this months Forever Nigella Fridge Raider theme. I also discovered that Lavender and Lovage, alongside another blogger What Kate Baked host a monthly blogging event called "Tea time treats" which invites bloggers to participate and share there creations of a themed Tea time treat such as afternoon tea, scones, cakes - all lovely baked goodies which are classed as a tea time treat.

This months theme is picnic pies, and I thought I would certainly have to participate in and make some form of pie which could double up as a picnic treat. I must admit I am no expert on pies, in fact the last pie I made was in December so I thought participating in the Tea time treat challenge would help me develop my pie making skills (or so I thought).  I decided to attempt to make a pie from one of my recent cook book purchases entitled "cook step by step" this is currently available from the book people for £4 (if you are as lucky as me to have the book people come around snap it up). I spotted a recipe for cold chicken and ham pie, which is is fact a pie that should be eaten cold (as in the title recipe). The pictures for the pie looked inviting and the step by step stages made the pie appear to be easy. I thought it would be more resourceful to make the chicken and ham pie and eat it hot for my evening meal, and the following day have a slice cold for lunch with some mixed salad.
Here is how a slice of the chicken and ham pie turned out :

My pie as it should be, cold and a tea time picnic treat.
My pie hot as an evening meal.

I think this is the type of pie that could be carried along to a picnic and eaten on a lovely warm summers day, especially. I certainly think pies should be made only on a weekend as it is a time consuming meal to make, although satisfying and rewarding. To make the pie I first mixed plain flour, butter, and salt into breadcrumbs.
Mixing the core ingredients. 
Once I achieved the breadcrumbs I added water and kneaded to a smooth dough.
Pastry dough.
I rested the pastry for 30 minutes and then began to work on the filling. I cut the chicken and pork chops into small chunks.
Chicken and pork cut into chunks.
I then put this mixture into my food processor and lightly minced. I then added sage, all purpose seasoning, mixed herbs and the rind of the lemon.
Minced meats
I rolled out the pastry to fit into a spring form cake tin.
rolled out pastry
I then placed the rolled out pastry into the oiled cake tin, in preparation for my filling. Meanwhile I began to boil 5 eggs, so that the hard boiled eggs could be placed around the filling mixture.
Pastry in tin.
I placed the filling in the pastry tin, and began to un peel the 5 eggs, but all 5 eggs, yes all 5 eggs were too runny (I boiled for 10 minutes) so had to make the pie without the eggs.
Filling in pie.
To make up for the loss of eggs, I rolled out pastry trimmings and turned them into stars to make myself feel better about an essential ingredient not being in the pie.
Pie before entering the oven with a chimney.
After one and a half hours baking my pie turned out, well rather interesting.
Finished pie.
The following day I had a slice of chicken and ham pie cold, which was absolutely delicious.
This is how the pie should have turned out - but we won't go there today!
I am entering this recipe to tea time treats, hopefully I will get some inspiration from fellow bloggers for their picnic pies.

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