Asparagus, Pea and Parmesan Pasta Animals (or, putting adulthood on hold)

Asparagus Pea Parmesan Pasta_Title

Recently, I have been trying to be better at being a Grown Up. It’s been going well. I take a packed lunch to work, and I walk to work. I had a break up – a proper one, with crying and re-evaluating your sense of self-worth and all that stuff – and came out the other side. I have conversations about council tax and bank accounts. I am going to go to Ikea for pleasure. I am going to book flights to fly somewhere alone, and I am terrified. I moved house, and I dealt with my old landlord (and will continue to deal with him until he actually definitely puts my deposit repayment cheque in the post). My parents did do some of the moving house for me because I can’t be trusted behind the wheel of a van. But I did source the van. So, I’ve been being a grown up. 

Over the last week, though, I have had a cold. I have been snot-nosed and sore throated and ugh. So, I have snuggled beneath my unicorn duvet, read books, watched Adventure Time, eaten breakfast in the middle of the afternoon and been distinctly unadult. It’s been nice. Occasionally, a good wallow, especially over something trivial in the long term like a cold, is a great thing.

Pasta Animals

But then, work returns, the weekend is done. And you power through, like an adult. Talk about the data, send all the emails, eat a packed lunch. Adult, but with sickness still seeping in. 

Asparagus Pea Parmesan Pasta_3

When I got home I wanted to not be an adult. Get under the unicorn duvet, and watch Adventure Time. So I pulled out the pasta animals. Pasta animals are a storecupboard staple; a good reminder that, really, life is good and ok and you can do whatever you want. I wanted to eat comforting food with cheese on it, so I cooked the pasta animals with a stock cube in the water, and Birds’ Eye frozen peas because those aye-aye captain adverts were staples of 90s TV, and I covered them in cheese.

And I added asparagus because it’s important to remember adulthood doesn’t go away with pasta animals, but it can work with them.
 Asparagus Pea Parmesan Pasta_2

Asparagus, Pea and Parmesan Pasta Animals
Serves 2
Pasta Animals for when adulthood needs to stop for a while. But you still want to eat asparagus.
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
15 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
15 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 cups pasta animals (or any pasta will do)
  2. 1 vegetable stock cube
  3. 1 cup frozen peas
  4. 1 cup chopped asparagus (this is one little pack from Sainsburys, the kind with about 10 stems in)
  5. 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  6. 1/2 tbsp butter
  7. Juice of 1 lemon
Instructions
  1. Do some prep: grate the cheese, cut the aspargus, fill a pan with water, unwrap the stock cube. This will make it all quicker in the long run.
  2. Bring a pan of water to the boil, with more water than the pasta needs. Add the stock cube and stir to dissolve. Consult the packet for how long the pasta will take to cook, as this will help with other timings. The pasta animals, for example, take 7 - 9 minutes. Put the pasta animals into the boiling water and leave them to warm up alone for a while.
  3. About 4 minutes before the end of your pasta's cooking time, add the asparagus to the pot. It should turn a vibrant green.
  4. About 1 minute before the end of your pasta's cooking time, ass the frozen peas. They, too, should turn a vibrant green.
  5. When done, drain the pasta, peas and asparagus, reserving 1 cup full of the water.
  6. Pop the pasta, peas and asparagus into a big bowl. Add the butter and parmesan and stir to melt Add some of the pasta water back in, a little a time and mixing all the while, until the dish reaches a creamy consistency to your liking. You might not need to use that much of the water.
  7. Serve in big bowls.
Doughs and Don'ts http://www.doughsanddonts.com/

Courgette Noodles with Oil, Olives and Runner Beans (or, the start of spiralizing)

Courgette Noodles_Title

It was my birthday on Monday. I turned 24. 

24 is no big deal, the calm before the storm of the 25 quarter-century landmark. For a day that’s really no big deal, I was lucky to have a lovely day with lovely people and, importantly, really good food. 

First, there was breakfast at the Battersea branch of The Breakfast Club. I had Huevos Al Benny, which is muffins and poached eggs with other brilliant things like chorizo and hollandaise and spinach and it was good. I also had a salted caramel milkshake which is something I think everyone should have on their birthday. Then there was a rousing game of Jurassic crazy golf, followed by a trip to a pub that involved a burger oozing with the juiciest, most luscious pulled pork and kimchi and ahhhhh it was good. 

Anyway. Also for my birthday, my parents sent me a small handheld spiralizer. Spiralizers are something I regard with some suspicion, like quinoa or drinking kale, because let’s be honest here: pasta is delicious. I am all about the gluten and carbohydrates. I do not think courgettes or sweet potatoes can substitute for pasta. 

But I might just be a convert.

Courgette Noodles_Spiralized

Let’s stay honest: courgettes and sweet potatoes in long thin shapes aren’t fooling anyone, they don’t taste like pasta. They are not a substitute; keep the pasta and keep the carbs and keep that comfort in your life. But, courgettes and sweet potatoes are delicious in their own right, and it’s pleasing to cut them into long thin strands and smother them in other delicious things. So, the spiralizer wins. It helps make tasty food.

Here’s something I stumbled upon while playing with spiralized courgettes. It’s kind of an amalgamation of This and This.  But with courgette noodles. 

Courgette Noodles with Oil, Olives and Runner Beans
Serves 2
A good starting point for spiralizing (or, at least where I started).
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Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
20 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 2 courgettes, spiralized
  2. 3 tbsp olive oil
  3. 4 cloves garlic, minced
  4. Generous handful runner beans (I used 2/3 of a fresh pack from Sainsburys), halved lengthways
  5. 1 cup olives, halved (I used kalamata from a jar)
  6. Zest of 1 lemon
Instructions
  1. Bring some water to the boil. Once boiling, add the runner beans and cook for 2 minutes or until they are an intense bright green. Drain, set aside.
  2. Over a medium heat, heat 2 tbsps of the oil in a pan until it shimmers.
  3. Add the garlic and lemon zest and garlic and fry for a little while until fragrant. Add the courgette noodles, and fry for a short while, keeping them moving, until warmed through*.
  4. Turn off the heat, add the beans to the noodles, as well as the last tbsp of olive oil, the olives and a few good grinds of black pepper. Give it a stir to combine and serve.
Notes
  1. *I don't think you actually *need* to warm the courgette but I don't know that I like cold courgette.
Doughs and Don'ts http://www.doughsanddonts.com/

Pork and Chorizo Lasagne (or, Fun Days and week lasting food)

Doughs and donts_Pork and Chorizo Lasagne Title
I was off work all last week, doing all the good not being at work things like stalking Borough Market stalls for free samples of cheese, seeing awkward rock musicals with my parents and leisurely cooking time-consuming meals. There was the day I was technically at work for our Fun Day Out. Which was Fun, but did involve an African drumming workshop, making me expose my distinct lack of rhythm and hand to eye co-ordination to all my colleagues. There was also a bit where we had to chant and DANCE SOLO (as in ALONE) in the middle of the circle of everyone else and it was the single most daunting experience of my entire life. 

But we won’t ever talk about that again. 

Doughs and donts_Pork and Chorizo Lasagne 3
I am back at work this week. Which is good, because I like structure and doing things and having reasons to get out of bed in the morning beyond the promise of free cheese samples. But it means there is less time to spend hours leisurely cooking. So, at the weekend I embarked on a lasagne. Although the time spent hovering over a lasagne is minimal, there’s still prep and assembly. And, if you are a single person, it is a square meal to last most of a delicious week. I have already made dinner to last until Thursday. 

This particular lasagne is made with pork and chorizo. Sometimes I just google the word ‘Chorizo’ and make every recipe the search throws up. I love chorizo. It’s the best. It is my favourite thing. This lasagne is better for including it. It is also better for tasting like fennel and ricotta and nutmeg. And chorizo.

Doughs and donts_Pork and Chorizo Lasagne
You start by knocking together a meat sauce. You can always stop after the meat sauce, sod pre-heating the oven and just eat this with some pasta. It’s nice. Or you can go full lasagne. In going full lasagne, I only have a square pyrex dish and rectangular lasagne sheets, though. My full lasagne is a cobbled together mess, but it tastes nice. I never said presentation was a strong point. 

Doughs and donts_Pork and Chorizo Lasagne
This lasagne is inspired by the recipe here. With the sauce I nabbed the brilliant idea of fennel but sorted the rest myself, but the ricotta white sauce bit is lifted nearly entirely from that recipe – I’ve played with quantity (read: added more cheese) but kept the basic structure. I’ve also put it in cups because I like that better than weighing cheese. Always grate and scoop. 

Pork and Chorizo Lasagne
Serves 8
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Cook Time
2 hr
Total Time
2 hr 30 min
Cook Time
2 hr
Total Time
2 hr 30 min
For the meat sauce
  1. 2 tbsp olive oil
  2. 750g pork mince (I normally work in cups but difficult to work that out in the meat aisle of Sainsburys...)
  3. 1 onion, chopped
  4. 4 cloves garlic, minced
  5. 1.5 cups chopped chorizo (the same as one of the rings you can buy at the shop)
  6. 1 tbsp fennel seeds, crushed
  7. 1 tbsp dried oregano
  8. 1 cup red wine
  9. 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  10. 2 bay leaves
  11. 1 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  12. 2 tbsp tomato puree
For the white sauce
  1. 2 cups ricotta
  2. 1 egg, beaten
  3. 1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
  4. 3/4 cup grated parmesan
And
  1. Lasagne sheets - I used 12 rectangular ones
  2. 1 cup shredded mozzarella (2 of the balls you can get)
Instructions
  1. Over a medium heat the olive oil in a deep frying pan. Fry the onion and garlic for a few minutes, until it's fragrant and the onion is starting to go clear.
  2. Add the chorizo to the pan and fry until the oil is released and you can stir and cover the onion and garlic in spicy red oil goodness.
  3. Add the pork mince and brown.
  4. Add the fennel seeds and oregano.
  5. Pour in the red wine and balsamic vinegar and let cook for 3-4 minutes until your kitchen is full of a boozy aroma.
  6. Add the tinned tomatoes, the tomato puree and the bay leaves. Turn the heat up and bring the sauce to a boil. Then, turn the heat low and leave to simmer for a good 30-40 minutes until the sauce has thickened.
  7. Just before the 30-40 minutes is up, preheat the oven to 180 °C.
  8. In a bowl, combine the ricotta, nutmeg and eggs.
  9. Take the sauce off the heat, remove the bay leaves and discard and in an oven proof dish begin to assemble the lasagne. Take a generous cup of the sauce and put it in the dish, spreading evenly. Then, add a layer of pasta sheets*. Then, another even layer of the sauce using another generous cup full. Add another layer of pasta, followed by a layer using all of the ricotta mix. Add another layer of pasta sheets, followed by a final big cupful of the sauce. Add a another layer of pasta, then spread the mozzarella over the top trying not to leave much of the pasta exposed.
  10. Bake for 35 - 40 minutes, until a knife inserted into the lasagne goes through without meeting resistance. Serve.
Notes
  1. I like to soak the sheets of lasagne in some warm water before I pop them into the actual structure, just because I get a bit concerned about it not cooking through before the cheese burns. It's not really necessary mind.
If the description above is not clear, the structure of the lasagne is like so, with the top layer at the top of the list
  1. ---Mozarella---
  2. ---Pasta---
  3. ---Meat Sauce---
  4. ---Pasta---
  5. ---Ricotta white sauce---
  6. ---Pasta---
  7. ---Meat sauce---
  8. ---Pasta---
  9. ---Meat Sauce---
Adapted from Rock Recipes
Adapted from Rock Recipes
Doughs and Don'ts http://www.doughsanddonts.com/