Chorizo and Broccoli Pasta for One (or, a loveletter to my freezer)

When me and my flatmate Alice were looking for a new flat the size of the freezer became a sticking point. As single, busy-ish women who mainly cook for just themselves, our lives are basically a series of tiny races against time before the food we have bought expires and is left to decay in the bottom of the fridge. Or it would, were we not both so hopelessly devoted to our freezer. In the flat we eventually settled on there is a four drawer (two drawers each!) marvel of a freezer, rarely with an inch of space to spare, bursting with half loaves of bread, single fillets of chicken breast, ziplocked bags of bolognese, ice cream and delicious oven chips. 

(I feel like oven chips are one of those things that you probably aren’t supposed to mention if you are trying to be *serious* about food. But hot, crispy oven chips – maybe with a fried egg and bacon – are undoubtedly one of the great joys of this earth and making them from scratch is a faff and they probably wont be as good anyway. If you think this is untrue, pop to your local big Sainsbury’s and buy a bag of frozen American curly fries – the slightly confusing vibrant orange kind – pop them in an oven and then shove them in your face and try to tell me it wasn’t incredibly satisfying. Maybe get some frozen chicken nuggets while you’re out.)

It’s difficult to shop as a single person, because supermarkets sell in bulk. I cannot explain the glee I feel when I got into a shop and it’s the kind that sells courgettes individually instead of in a pack of three. Three is an unhelpful number of courgettes. Buying bulk bags of carrots would mean I could just eat carrots for a week and still have carrots fucking everywhere on Friday. Chillies, as well. Rarely do I need 10+ chillies, but that’s how they’re sold. This type of shopping leads to wastefulness, and my reluctance to take out the bins means I try to avoid wastefulness. 

And so: the freezer. A thing of beauty and of bounty. At all times I store bags of the following: brussel sprouts, sweetcorn, fine green beans, broccoli florets and peas. I also tend to have sausages, because combining them with any of the above makes a meal. I will cut up extra veg (those fucking extra courgettes, or leeks – also often sold in threes), pop them in bags and freeze them, too. Chopped herbs and chillies in there. My most recent freezer revelation is that you can freeze fresh ginger, and grate it as needed without peeling. This also works with lemons and limes. 

It seems worth pointing out – as is important in these times of Bad Food Science – that frozen vegetables are as healthy as fresh. Nutrients are not lost in the freezing process, it does not make food worse and it is not in someway unclean. Freezing is a good way of making things go further, so you don’t have to buy more stuff. 

So, this pasta – which is creamy, a little spicy and very delicious – it not so much made up of store cupboard staples as freezer staples (did I mention when I go to markets that sell cooking chorizo I stock up and fill the freezer? I do, it’s the good stuff). It has minimal ingredients but tastes delicious – the kind of thing that’s good to make after a long day where you need comfort (ie cheese), but also speed. This dish is a loveletter to my freezer and to the vegetables it stops festering, to the money it saves me and the waste it stops me producing, and ultimately for being the thing that allows me regular access to ice cream and facilitates my love of oven chips. Freezing is ❄️ cool ❄️ 

Chorizo and Broccoli Pasta for One
Serves 1
Spicy, silky pasta with pops of green.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
25 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
25 min
Ingredients
  1. Half a cooking chorizo sausage (I used these - http://www.brindisa.com/store/spanish-ham-chorizo-spanish-meats/spanish-cooking-chorizo/alejandro-chorizo-barbacoa/ - so probably like, 60 - 70g?), diced into small morsels
  2. 2 cloves garlic, minced
  3. About 75g uncooked pasta (I used tagliatelle and used 3 of the nests)
  4. A good amount of parmesan, grated as finely as you can - amount 1/3 of one of those triangular wedge, or enough to form a mound on your chopping board a couple of centimeters high)*
  5. Two fistfuls frozen broccoli florets
Instructions
  1. Take a minute to cut up your chorizo and mince your garlic. Maybe grate
  2. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and cook your pasta according to packet instructions. For the final five minutes of cooking time, add the broccoli.**
  3. Meanwhile, heat just a drop of oil in a frying pan over a medium high heat. Chuck in the chorizo, and cook until it releases a beautiful orange oil and starts to smell fragrant (about 4 - 5 minutes), then add the garlic and cook for a further few minutes.
  4. When the pasta and broccoli are cooked, drain them, reserving a cup of the water it was cooked in.
  5. Remove the chorizo pan from the heat (a residual heat is enough for this next bit), then throw the pasta and broccoli into the pan. Add about 1/3 of the cheese, and some of the water, and mix slowly. The cheese should melt and coat the pasta. Add more cheese, then the same again - add water if needed to assist in the melting and coating. It is best to add cheese in batches, as this helps keep it creamy - add it all in one go and the temperature will drop too quickly and the parmesan will clump. It'll taste fine but won't look as nice.
  6. Add a little salt and pepper if desired and then serve.
Notes
  1. *Apologies for these deeply imprecise measurements, but my advice when dealing with cooking for one is to follow your heart - use the quantities of meat, pasta, cheese and garlic that you alone desire
  2. **Frozen florets are sometimes massive, so I have been known to fish them out of the pasta water once they are mostly cooked and cut them up into bite size chunks.
Doughs and Don'ts http://www.doughsanddonts.com/

Peanut Butter Noodles (or, I Am Not Rory Gilmore)

I have fallen into a Star’s Hollow Spiral; a big Gilmore Gulf. I have been watching Gilmore Girls ad nauseum for a while. 

Originally, it felt like something that would be comforting in the dark winter nights, like Friends but without the homophobia. It was, for a while. It was easy, simple television where people talked about food all the time. There was always this underlying feeling that I didn’t actually like the show much – that Lorelai is kind of forcing Rory into a friendship, that Luke is a plaid shirt both inside and out, that Rory is a bit wet and that the whole show should be Paris and Kirk going on a roadtrip anyway  – but the silliness and slightly saccharine plot lines were nice enough to have on in the background.

But then, as I reached Season 5, I was hit with a sad realisation: I am Rory Gilmore. I am not fiercely independent Lorelai or dependable Dean, I am not angry, imperfect, endlessly entertaining Paris – no, I am Rory. 

I should imagine if I’d watched this show when it was on the early noughties, I would’ve wanted to be Rory. Bookish, clever, unpopular-but-unfussed Rory, with her good grades and unusual disinterest in any kind of contemporary fiction. Now, of course, I’d choose to be Paris. But I am Rory.

I read something that said as the seasons trudge along, everyone makes uncharacteristic decisions because of some plot – including Rory’s choice to leave university after she learns she might not be good enough to follow the career path she’s dreamed of. 

But it just didn’t seem uncharacteristic to me. Rory has been told her whole life she’s so good, and her performance in everything corroborates it. So when she isn’t, it all collapses, and she reacts in an extreme way because it suddenly seems like everyone’s been lying to her and she’s actually been hopelessly inadequate all along. And, well… I am a bit Rory Gilmore. Without sounding like an arrogant twat, I breezed through school on a wave of merits and As and then got to uni and fucked it. Uni was hard and I wasn’t good enough and so I quit because I wasn’t used to finding things hard (there are some footnotes to the situation I could add here but let’s leave those for now). I am Rory Gilmore, because sometimes I just can’t cope with not being good enough. In the months Rory spends living at her grandparents lamenting her very existence, I found so much of myself in her.

But I’m also not Rory Gilmore. Because I actually learned to cook, because once I’d well and truly failed at the thing I thought I was meant to do, I needed to learn to take care of myself or risk wallowing in the depths of self-pity for the rest of time. So I did, and that involves stuff like these Peanut Butter Noodles, which are quick and delicious and I love them so much that I often make them in big batches so I can take them to work with me and enjoy the nutty, silky, vibrant flavour at my desk. I might be a Rory in terms of my ability to handle failure, but I’m a Sookie St James wannabe in the kitchen.

Oh, and I’m also not a Rory Gilmore because I will literally never think someone is cool if they try to impress me with a magic trick. Never. 

Peanut Butter Noodles
Serves 2
Smooth and nourishing nutty noodles.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
20 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
10 min
Total Time
20 min
Ingredients
  1. 3 tbsp peanut butter
  2. 3 tbsp soy sauce
  3. 2 tbsp sweet chilli sauce
  4. 1 tbsp honey
  5. 1/2 - 3/4 cup water (depends how "wet" you like a stir fry)
  6. A glug of oil (sunflower or sesame oil is good)
  7. 2/3 cloves garlic, minced
  8. Thumbnail sized bit of ginger, minced
  9. 3 or four handfuls of veg (I used carrot sticks, two peppers and sugar snap beans for this one - but bamboo shoots, tenderstem broccoli, mushrooms.... it's all good)
  10. 2 nests of noodles (I used the straight to wok ribbon kind here)
  11. 2 or 3 spring onions, sliced
  12. Juice of half a lime
Instructions
  1. In a wee bowl, mix together the peanut butter, soy sauce, sweet chilli sauce, honey and water, along with a little salt.
  2. Heat the oil in a wok or frying pan until it's proper hot, then add the garlic and ginger. Stir it about for a minute, without letting it burn, then add in the veg (carrots take longer to cook unless sliced well thin, so maybe give them a bit longer before adding in the rest). Keep it moving until the veg is nearly cooked through.
  3. Add the noodles to the pan, along with the sauce*. Keep moving for about 2 minutes until the noodles are cooked through and the sauce is hot. Stir through the spring onions, season with salt and pepper to taste.
Notes
  1. *If you're not using the straight to wok kind, cook the noodles according to pack instructions before throwing them in.
Doughs and Don'ts http://www.doughsanddonts.com/

Pasta Amatriciana (AKA A Reason to Talk About Jessica Jones)

Pasta Amatriciana
I just finished a rewatch of Jessica Jones. 

Jessica Jones focuses on a once super-hero, now PTSD suffering ace PI, who gets tangled up with a psychopath who just so happens to have mind controls powers and be desperately obsessed with her. 

jessica jones gif

But you know that, because obviously you’ve already watched it through once, watched it again and concluded that it is the best show of all time. 

(Okay, maybe not the best show of all time… but Bake Off isn’t back until August)

I just really, really love it, guys. At its very core, it’s all about a friendship between women and about recovery, but surrounding that is this kind of gritty crime drama about the most haunting villain in all of the history of ever. It’s brilliant, because it’s so different from the other things Marvel are doing, and actually championing showing women on screen as strong and flawed and, y’know, like real people. This is a step in the right direction. Also there are fights. 

Pasta Amatriciana

Let’s just talk about Kilgrave for a minute, as well, because he is really chilling. World domination is the common aim, but Kilgrave has arguably the most useful power of all of the powers in the MCU, and yet he is using it nearly entirely to perve on women and make people piss themselves or slice open their skin – that is some terrifying stuff. Even though he is pure evil, though, he is occasional a right charmer, or sometimes someone to pity, and then the show manages to make you feel dirty for pitying him. Just wanted to throw this in here, because he is the slimiest villain ever and it is so watchable. There aren’t many villains that make me want to cook something. 

Pasta Amatriciana

So, on my second watch through, while crawling in my skin as Kilgrave does his next reprehensible thing, I noticed he references this pasta dish a couple of times – his favourite, apparently – Pasta Amatriciana. I did a quick search to see what this was, and then decided to have a go at making a version. 

It’s surprising, in some ways, because if you were Kilgrave you could demand anything of any level of grandeur and get it, but actually this pasta is very simple and can be prepared in about half an hour and it’s likely you have all the ingredients to hand. Perhaps it is so he can roll into someone’s house and know they can make it without needing to go to the store and therefore potentially leave his field of influence, or perhaps he just really loves pancetta. 

Pasta Amatriciana
He does like Jessica Jones. In some ways this pasta is like Jessica Jones. It looks simple enough, but when you get into it it’s actually pretty firey, and the sauce is cooked down for long enough that the flavours get deep and a little more complex. Plus, the name sounds pretentious, which strikes me as something Kilgrave would really go for. 

It’s a really great pasta to watch Jessica Jones with, too, because it’s comforting and warm, and really delicious. So as you watch people being told to put their hands in blenders, you can be reminded that your world is OK, and no one is controlling you, and you can definitely go back for seconds. 

Try it. You will love it. 

Pasta Amatriciana

Pasta Amatriciana
Serves 2
A spicy tomato pasta full of pancetta. A Kilgrave favourite. You will love it.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 onion
  2. 1 cup pancetta (the stuff you get in cubes in the cold meats section of Sainsbo's will be fine)
  3. 1 tsp chilli flakes (or, to taste)
  4. 1 cup dry white wine
  5. 1 tin of chopped tomatoes
  6. Pecorino, grated, about 3/4 of a cup, with a little reserved for garnish
  7. More than enough pasta for 2, I used spaghetti; enough so that if I held it in my first it formed a tube with the same diameter as a £2 coin*
Instructions
  1. First, chop your onion. I went for coarse slices over diced, for no reason other than I find that visually pleasing and I just got a cleaver and slicing is suddenly very enjoyable.
  2. Fry the pancetta on a very low heat, until it just begins to crisp.
  3. Throw in your sliced onion, stir to coat the onion in the delicious bacon fat, and keep frying for a few minutes until the onion gets clear and tender.
  4. Add the chilli flakes, stir again so the small red flakes stick to the onion, like red chicken pox on pale skin (but delicious)
  5. Chuck in the wine, and let it reduce. If you are in a hurry you can turn the heat up and keep stirring, if you are not, leave it. It will reduce in its own time, until syruppy is about right.
  6. Throw the tinned tomatoes in, and again leave it to reduce down, because I very much think this should be a thick sauce. This might be another 10 minutes.
  7. While your sauce reduces, that's a good time to cook your pasta. Bring a pan of salted water to the boil and cook according to packet instructions.
  8. When the pasta is done, drain it. Take your sauce off the heat, and stir in the pecorino. When the cheese is melted, throw the pasta in too, and mix it all up, before serving. Eat while watching your most favourite episode of Jessica Jones
Notes
  1. Traditionally, this is apparently made with Bucatti, which is like hollow spaghetti. Sainsbury's do not sell this.
Doughs and Don'ts http://www.doughsanddonts.com/

Turkey, Cranberry and Brie Toasties (or, love of leftovers)

Turkey, Cranberry and Brie Toasties

Christmas is done. This year, it was just me and my parents. My mum and I, despite lacking two additional family members since my brother and his wife are up in Yorshire, decided not to scale down dinner at all. 12 Yorkshire puddings for 3 people obviously seemed about right. This Boxing Day, we are therefore up to our knees in Celebrations wrappers and a shedload of leftovers.

In a mission to start to work through the leftovers, I made these sandwiches. They are quick, because Christmas Day is all about big and bold and excess, but Boxing Day is about lay ins and good books and lounging. But Christmas, as a time, is really all about deliciousness, which these sandwiches definitely are. 

Turkey, Cranberry and Brie Toasties

(Actually, I think there was a time when Christmas was all about toys and watching my dad put stickers on things and making Lego constructs, and another time when it was about getting as far in to the latest Final Fantasy game as possible in a single day, but now it is absolutely all about food).

These toasties are very buttery, a little crispy, and full of cheese, and a bit fruity, which is everything you want in a season so wholeheartedly dedicated to calories. They are really quite filling, too. They are quick enough that you can whip them up for some people you love, increase surplus fridge space, do a quick clean and still have time to fit in a watch of Paddington in the afternoon. 

Turkey, Cranberry and Brie Toasties

 

Turkey, Cranberry and Brie Toasties
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Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
10 min
Prep Time
5 min
Cook Time
10 min
Ingredients
  1. Bread
  2. Leftover Christmas Turkey
  3. Cranberry Sauce
  4. Brie
  5. Butter
  6. Salad Leaves (I used rocket)
For one sandwich
  1. Cut two slices of bread. Lightly butter each side of each slice.
  2. On one side of one slice, pile up some brie.
  3. On one side of the other slice, spread over some cranberry sauce, and pile on some turkey.
  4. In a frying pan, over a medium heat, melt a little butter. Then, place the brie slice (butter down, brie up) into the pan, and fry until the underside browns.
  5. When the bread has browned, throw a handful of rocket onto the brie.
  6. Then, take the cranberry-turkey covered slice, and place it (turkey down, butter up), quickly, onto the brie slathered bread.
  7. Flip the whole sandwich, and let the bread on the other side brown again.
  8. Remove, serve. Repeat for as many sandwiches as you need, or want.
Adapted from from Christmas Dinner
Adapted from from Christmas Dinner
Doughs and Don'ts http://www.doughsanddonts.com/

Chorizo and Harissa Mac and Cheese (or, the story of Callum and a Camden Market copycat)

Chorizo and Harissa Mac and Cheese

My friend Callum visited this weekend, for a one-night-only extravaganza of a stay before he jetted off to Greece for a spell. Callum and I met in Edinburgh during university, but he now lives in his home town of Aberdeen and I am in London; opposite ends of this fair isle. It is rare that I see him these days. He, along with a few others, came to my house, I prepared a beer can chicken (as any special occasion demands) and we drank wine and there was piano playing and silliness.

By the way, if you are preparing a meal for friends one Friday night, maybe leave work a bit early of choose something that doesn’t take 3 hours, so you can sit down to dinner earlier than 11pm. But, if you do choose something that takes 3 hours, I wholeheartedly recommend a cheeseboard to distract your guests from the fact dinner is a long way away. 

I was planning on putting up a beer can chicken recipe, but I changed my mind. Partly because I didn’t take any photos of the prep or finished article because, as I say, it was late and we were hungry (and drunk). Perhaps another time. If you want to make one, it basically involves all the normal prep that goes into a roast chicken but you cook it standing, supported by a half full beercan in it’s bum. I was taught to make it by my friend Lillis and it remains the best thing in my culinary repertoire. 

Chorizo and Harissa Mac and Cheese

But this isn’t about beer can chicken. This is about Callum, and this is about things covered in cheese. I have lived in London for two years and in that time Callum has now visited twice (one day I’ll make it up to Aberdeen…). The last time he came, in July, was glorious. We wandered along the South Bank and drank beer and played scrabble. We also took a trip to Camden Market, where we looked at trinkets, drank a little more and ate delicious food.

In Camden Market, on all weekdays, stands The Mac Factory – the mecca of mac lovers. It sells delicious, creamy mac and cheese in its purest form or covered in various other glorious things. On a sunny Sunday in July, Callum and I sat by the canal with cider and brilliant mac and cheese. Two random men showed up with a keyboard and sang 80s pop songs out of key and it was perfect. 

The Mac Factory

This recipe is based on The Mac Factory’s Posh Spice, a spiced up Mac and Cheese with harissa and chorizo (ie the best food in the world). I have no idea how they made theirs, but I know it is infinitely tasty, and this isn’t a bad homemade substitute. 

This one is for you, Callum. 

Chorizo and Harissa Mac and Cheese
Serves 4
Mac and cheese with extra spice
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Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
15 min
Cook Time
15 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 1 chorizo ring, skinned and chopped (about a cup once chopped)
  2. 1 red onion, chopped
  3. 4 1/2 cups pasta (I used Spirali here, which is a name Sainsburys has created to make 'spiral' sound Italian and sexy)
  4. 2 tbsp oil (or quite a big glug)
  5. 3 tbsp flour
  6. 1 1/2 cups milk
  7. 3 tsps harissa paste
  8. 1 1/4 cup mature cheddar, cubed
  9. 1/2 cup grated parmesan
  10. 1 ball of mozzarella, roughly shredded
Instructions
  1. Pop your pasta on to boil. Cook according to packet instructions.
  2. Heat the oil over a medium high heat in a saucepan. Fry the onion and chorizo, until the onion is fragrant and the oil has been released from the chorizo.
  3. Turn the heat down low and add the flour and stir quickly until everything is coated.
  4. Pour in the milk and add the harissa paste. Keep stirring, making sure the flour doesn't clump and the sauce thickens nicely. This might take a few minutes.
  5. When the sauce is thicker, add in the cheddar and parmesan and leave to melt, stirring once in a while. When melted, throw in the mozzarella and let that melt, too.
  6. Drain your pasta and then add it into the cheesy sauce.
  7. Serve.
Notes
  1. The Mac Factory top theirs with toasted bread crumbs and you could, too. I didn't have bread and didn't want to make some just for this.
Adapted from The Mac Factory
Adapted from The Mac Factory
Doughs and Don'ts http://www.doughsanddonts.com/

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/

Spicy Sausage Rigatoni (or, pasta for bad days)

Doughs and Don'ts - Spicy Sausage Rigatoni

Summer is turning into Autumn: rain is falling with more frequency, leaves are just starting to turn, there’s more of a chill in the air and I am spending more and more time wrapped in my polka dot duvet watching Great British Bake Off ad nauseum on BBC iPlayer. 

Recently, I have had a string of Bad Days. 

These bad days have much to do with my mental health, and a little to do with the things happening in actual life and not in my head. Dealing with a mental health condition is tough because, in my case, all I want to do is cry into a pillow in between naps.  Sometimes it’s hard to want to do things, and the only thing I think I can at least try to do between naps and crying is to look after myself properly. 

Doughs and Don'ts - Spicy Sausage Rigatoni

So I pick myself up and out comes my big red pot, because the only way I know how to look after myself is to cook. This is what I do when I am feeling bad or sad. Make food. Food is the closest thing we have to magic, I think. It is alchemy that makes good things to alter the mind. This is the time when all I want is comfort and warmth. Sausages, spice and big red pots are the way to do this. Also if you added red wine or a beer it would probably make this extra comforting. 

Also, just so you know where my allegiance lies, I am putting all of my heart into backing Sandy to win GBBO 2015. What a lovely lady she is. 

Spicy Sausage Rigatoni
Serves 4
Warm, slightly spicy sausage goodness. A spag bol by any other name.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 6 - 8 cups pasta*
  2. 8 pork sausages
  3. 1 tbsp oil
  4. 1 onion, chopped
  5. 4 cloves garlic, minced
  6. 1 red chilli, minced
  7. 2 tsp smoked paprika
  8. 2 1/2 tbsp dried basil
  9. 2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
  10. 2 tbsp tomato puree
  11. 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
Instructions
  1. Take the casing off the sausages.
  2. Heat the oil over medium heat in a nice big pan. Once hot, add the sausage meat. Keep it moving to break it all up a bit. Cook the meat until it starts to look a bit browner and a lot less pink.
  3. Add the onion, garlic and chilli and continue to heat for a few minutes until the onion begins to go clear and the garlic is fragrant.
  4. Add in the paprika and basil and fry for another minute.
  5. Add chopped tomatoes, the tomato puree and the balsamic vinegar. Bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer over a low heat until reduced and a bit thicker.
  6. While the sauce bubbles, cook your pasta according to packet instructions.
  7. Dish up it, mixing the sauce all into the pasta.
Notes
  1. *I measure pasta by filling a bowl for each person I'm serving for with pasta, then popping it in the pot. So, this might not be quite right. I used rigatoni for this one largely because I think it visually appealing, but any pasta will of course be fine. Follow your heart on pasta shapes, always.
Doughs and Don'ts http://www.doughsanddonts.com/

Raspberry, Goat’s Cheese and Walnut Salad (or, an alternative to cake)

Raspeberry, Goats Cheese and Walnut Salad
Last weekend I went to York with my mum. From Friday to Sunday we ate nothing apart from cake. Actually we did have paella before the first round of cake, and chips at one point…

But ultimately it was all about cake. A lot of cake. We basically went away only to eat cake. Here is the four cakes we ate between us in a single (short) sitting:

Bettys Tea Room

Oh and there was an ice cream sundae with brown bread ice cream and toffee.
If ever you’re in York I thoroughly recommend a trip to Betty’s. And that you buy several fat rascals to take away with you to help with withdrawal symptoms.

Now I am not someone who counts calories. Or who is generally even that fussed. I am mostly about things tasting good. But even I have a limit. So, on Monday night, back in my own house, it was definitely a day for a salad.

Weighed down by weekend cake and tiredness it needed to be a quick one. Armed with a discount punnet of raspberries and a deep, possibly unusual obsession with both goat’s cheese and balsamic vinegar, I set to work. And, speedily, a salad did happen.

It was good.

(it was not as good as four cakes from Betty’s in York)

Raspberry, Goats Cheese and Walnut Salad

Raspberry, Goat's Cheese and Walnut Salad
Serves 3
Quick, simple, tasty. Not as good as cake.
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Prep Time
15 min
Total Time
10 min
Prep Time
15 min
Total Time
10 min
For the dressing
  1. 1/2 cup raspberries
  2. 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  3. 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  4. 1 tbsp honey
For the salad
  1. 6 - 8 cups salad leaves (I used baby spinach, watercress and rocket)
  2. 1 1/2 cup walnuts
  3. 1 cup soft goat's cheese, crumbled
Instructions
  1. For the dressing, put all the dressing ingredients in a bowl and mash together.*
  2. In another bowl, combine salad leaves, walnuts and goat's cheese.
  3. Pour the dressing over everything. Serve.
Notes
  1. *could be done in a blender for smoothness, but I was not interested in washing up a blender.
Doughs and Don'ts http://www.doughsanddonts.com/

Comforting Mac and Cheese (or, the pasta of celebrations)

Doughs and Don't - Comforting Mac and Cheese

Sometimes I have had a bad day. Sometimes I need to watch the Swan Princess in my pyjamas and swallow my sadness with big gulps of pasta covered in creamy cheese. Enter this dish. 

Sometimes I have had an amazing day. I have energy and joy and want to hug people in the street and I want something dlightfully delicious and probably covered in creamy cheese to celebrate. ENTER THE MAC AND CHEESE. 

DoughsandDonts_MacoroniCheese2

This is a ‘just got a new job’ dinner and a ‘just broke up with my boyfriend and want to sit and cry for a bit’ dinner. It’s what you cook when your flatmates have a look in their eyes betraying a deep deep inner sadness. Basically its tasty and really comforting and not at all healthy. Perfect ‘fuck this’ food. 

It is also quick, taking less than 30 mins to make, and infinitely customisable. This version is full of garlic and wholegrain mustard because those things make other things taste great. 

It makes about 4 – 6 servings (more if you eat it with a side or as a side…). If I’m doing ‘make it better’ mac it is not unlikely I will eat 4 – 6 portions. If I am doing ‘good day getting better’ mac I might share it. Maybe. Or I might put on my pyjamas and watch the Swan Princess and enjoy all the gooey gooey cheese myself. 

 

Comforting Mac and Cheese (or, the pasta of celebrations)
Serves 4
Gooey cheesy pasta to make the worst day seem actually amazing.
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Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
20 min
Total Time
30 min
Ingredients
  1. 4 cups pasta (whichever shape you like)
  2. Pinch of salt
  3. 3 cloves of garlic, minced
  4. 1/3 cup butter
  5. 2 1/2 cups cubed mature cheddar
  6. 1/2 cup flour
  7. 1 1/2 cups milk
  8. 1 tsp dried dill
  9. 2 tsp wholegrain mustard
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 180 degrees C.
  2. Cook pasta according to packet instructions (add a pinch of salt to the water), until al-dente.
  3. In a saucepan, melt the butter.
  4. Once butter is liquid, add garlic. Cook for 20 seconds until the garlic just begins to get fragrant.
  5. Add the flour. Beat the flour and butter together into a thick, thick, nearly solid paste.
  6. Add milk and stir until the paste has combined with the milk. Heat for a few minutes to cook out the flour taste a little, but do not boil.
  7. Add the cheese, the mustard and several good grinds of black pepper. Keep stirring until cheese has melted.
  8. Drain the pasta. In an oven proof dish, combine the pasta and sauce thoroughly.
  9. Cook for 6 - 10 minutes, until the top is just starting to crisp and brown.
  10. Change into pyjamas, serve hot and dig in.
Notes
  1. You could probably use less cheese but I don't because I really want the cheese.
Doughs and Don'ts http://www.doughsanddonts.com/