Whipped Feta with Slow Roasted Tomatoes (or, celebrating with a big plate of cheese)

I have been in London for 4 entire years. 4 years since I quit uni, went home for one week then got a job in a grotty pub in Clapham on a whim and had to move before I even had time to think it through. In those 4 years I’ve lived in Peckham, Tooting and Islington with a total of 6 flatmates. I have had 5 jobs, seen over 200 shows, breathed really very little clean air and only had one major breakdown. I’ve seen the giraffes at London Zoo, the dinosaurs in Crystal Palace, that really awesome Pangolin in the Natural History Museum and the goths in Camden Town. I’ve been to talks about feminism, cooking classes in the Docklands and down a path of singing trees in Kew Gardens. I’ve stood at the top of St. Paul’s and spent hours trying not to catch the eyes of strangers half a mile underground; been to meetings at the BBC and carried industrial bags of popcorn around the various universities in the East End. 

…and things are, well, good. Great, sometimes. I feel settled and comfortable and if you plopped me down somewhere in zones 1 – 6 I could probably find a bus home. I’ve lived here longer than I lived in Edinburgh, and even though I still pine for Scotland a little bit, I almost can’t imagine leaving London. 

So I’ve been celebrating, sort of. I think with comfort, safety and security – all things I have somehow found in this chaotic jumble of a city – comes the ability to explore a bit and try new things. Cooking new things, wandering around and finding new corners and new neighbourhoods. When celebrating and when trying new things you can’t really do better than finding a fresh way to prepare a shedload of cheese.

I recently signed up the Domestic Sluttery newsletter and it is GREAT. In the last week I have received a recipe for Tunnocks Tea Cake fudge and a history of women’s involvement in the creation of the periodic table. It’s a really lovely thing to get in your inbox each day. 

So this recipe – which is rich, creamy, salty and absolutely delicious – is pretty much just a recipe nicked from them, with a few modifications to method (I hate cleaning the food processor) and quantity. When I saw it pop into my inbox, I needed to make it – it sounded so simple but so luxurious, and it absolutely is. Whether dolloped onto pasta animals – as pictured here – or drizzled over toast, it is delicious. 

Slow Roasted Vegetables with Whipped Feta
Serves 2
Roasted veg, massive plate of cheese.
Write a review
Print
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
1 hr 30 min
Total Time
1 hr 40 min
Prep Time
10 min
Cook Time
1 hr 30 min
Total Time
1 hr 40 min
For the Whipped Feta
  1. 200g greek yoghurt
  2. 300g feta
  3. Juice of half a lemon
  4. 1 crushed clove of garlic
For the vegetables
  1. A punnet of cherry tomatoes
  2. 4 red peppers, deseeded, destalked and cut in half
  3. 1 onion, cut into quarters or eighths
  4. A good shake of chilli flakes
  5. A few drizzles of the best olive oil you can get
Instructions
  1. Heat oven to 180°C. Lay the cut peppers, the onion and the tomatoes on a tray. Drizzle over the olive oil, sprinkle on the chilli flakes and maybe a few grinds of pepper (add salt, too, if you like - but go easy, the whipped feta will be salty as). Mix everything up with your hands to make sure everything is coated in the oil. Put in the oven, and roast for about an hour.
  2. Towards the end of your roasting time, combine all the ingredients for the whipped feta in a bowl (add some pepper, too) - I whisked and whisked and whisked, and though it clumped a bit after a while I got a mostly smooth texture I was happy with. DS does this in a blender which would also be fine.
  3. Sort out whatever you are serving this with - make some toast, cook some pasta, prepare a cheese funnel etc.
  4. Remove the vegetables from the oven, put them over your additional serving bits, dollop on the whipped feta in massive quantities. Add coriander if you want.
Adapted from Domestic Sluttery
Adapted from Domestic Sluttery
Doughs and Don'ts http://www.doughsanddonts.com/

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.
Write a review
Print
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/

Sausage and Bacon Mac and Cheese (or, new year, new mac)

2017 is here! And riding on the waves of the rolling calendar comes an Amazon Top 10 full of books on how to slim down; office one-upmanship on how little everyone has eaten in their quest to be good; and a new vigour behind talk of clean eating, wellness and weight loss. 

And I am here, too, with a recipe for sausage and bacon mac and cheese that is oozing with calories, comfort and beauty. See, the start of a new year is all about reinventing yourself, and that often seems to focus on reinventing yourself as a thin person. 

I am a size 18. I am also 5ft11 and was given Doc Martens for Christmas so I’m cutting quite an imposing figure of late. I am not thin; I am plus size in both directions, and like so many on the heftier end of the scale, January is an absolute slog. We are knee deep in diet culture, wading through bad science and pictures of slinky women on billboards telling us we just aren’t hot enough.

If there is one thing I began to accomplish in 2016 it was a sense of self-acceptance. I am learning to feel comfortable in my own skin and to recognise my own greatness in even the smallest measures. And it is hard, but it is great. I go to the gym and I run on the treadmill (assisted by my best love of 2016: the Hamilton soundtrack) and I do not care if my arse jiggles because I am just running and I am not throwing away my shot. I eat coco pops because I want to. I will wear loose tops or tight jeans if I want to and I will feel great in either. This is hard, because this time of year all of the advertising world has turned and is trying to make me different. This onslaught *might* make you want to try to shed some weight, but it can also chip away at you until your mental health is in shreds. 

My mental health is improving. It’s better. But it falters a little everytime an outside source tells me not to trust myself, or tells me I could be better. Diets, detoxes, whatever – they don’t care for mental health because mental health can’t get you dem washboard abs, they tell us to use sources outside of our body to determine how to deal with it, rather than taking cues from the thing itself. And everytime I falter, I fight to remind myself that food is gorgeous, and I fight to ensure my relationship with food is based on nourishment and not guilt. 

So, this mac and cheese. This is to nourish you. Diets pop up in the new year, but it’s still winter. A few weeks ago we were all about pumpkin soup and big stews and quality street for breakfast. It’s still winter and comfort food is still good and comforting. You can heat your house while you cook up some sausages, and feel the warmth rise from the bubbling white sauce as you stand over the cooker, stirring. It is a little gooey, with a little crispiness from the baking, a little crunchiness from the nuts, and a deep, hearty meatiness from the sausages and bacon. It will make you feel good enough, and happy enough, and it will give you the nourishment you need to be whoever the fuck you want to be in 2017. 

(This recipe is based on the stuffing mac and cheese in Georgina Hayden’s lovely Stirring Slowly. You can read Georgina’s thoughts on food and self care at The Pool – she is sweeter and less sweary.)

Sausage and Bacon Mac and Cheese
Serves 6
Nourishing.
Write a review
Print
Total Time
40 min
Total Time
40 min
Ingredients
  1. 4 - 5 garlic cloves
  2. 75g butter
  3. 100g flour
  4. 2 tsp wholegrain mustard
  5. 750ml milk
  6. 150g mature cheddar (plus a little extra for the top)
  7. 50g parmesan (again, plus a bit more for the top)
  8. 500g pasta (I used spirali, any tube pasta will do)
  9. 6 pork sausages, cooked and cut into chunks
  10. 4 rashers of bacon, cooked and cut up
  11. A few sprigs of rosemary - some finely chopped, some left in little sprigs
  12. Handful of walnuts, roughly chopped*
Instructions
  1. Cook the pasta a few minutes short of packet instructions - it should be al dente. Reserve a cup of the pasta water. Heat the oven to 180°c fan.
  2. Over a medium heat, melt the butter. Add the garlic and cook for a minute until you get a lovely garlic fragrance. Add in the flour and beat, it will form a thick, sort of rounded paste called a roux. As you beat, it should pick up all the flour from the pan, leaving it clean - when this has happened, add in the milk.
  3. Stir the milk and flour-y mix, until it is lump free (use a whisk if you're getting persistent lumps) and a bit thicker. Once it has thickened, chuck in the cheese, mustard and chopped rosemary and continue to stir until the cheese has melted.
  4. Mix the drained pasta into the cheese sauce. If it seems a bit too thick, add in some of the reserved pasta water. Pour into an oven safe dish. Scatter some walnuts and the sprigs of rosemary on top. Add a little extra cheese - grate on some extra parmesan and cheddar.
  5. Bake for 20 - 25 minutes until golden and crispy on top. Serve - maybe with a salad or some roasted kale.
Notes
  1. *These are nice and really do a lot for the texture and taste, though they are the sort of thing you can cut because they are a bit expensive. You could put some dried rosemary in at the same time as the mustard to get a bit of the flavour.
Adapted from Georgina Hayden - Stirring Slowly
Adapted from Georgina Hayden - Stirring Slowly
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.
Write a review
Print
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/

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
Write a review
Print
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.
Write a review
Print
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/

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
Write a review
Print
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/

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.
Write a review
Print
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/

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.
Write a review
Print
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/