Pasta e fagioli – One New Recipe A Week

I’ve had a miserable cold this week so was hankering after soup today, whilst ask my 4-year old what she wants for tea and she inevitably says ‘pasta’ so this hearty pasta and bean soup from the Italian Puglia region totally hits the spot. This recipe replaces beans (and i’ve made similar soups before with Borlotti beans which work really well) with chickpeas which my daughter refers to as simply ‘yummy scrummy’. The recipe states that the pasta shapes traditionally used are ‘orecchiette’ or ‘little ears’ but any small-ish pasta shape works well. I actually only had fusilli (twists) in which were fine too.

The recipe is taken from ‘Easy Vegetarian one-pot’ – which is a very handy book including over 100 salads, frittatas, stews, tagines and so on. I amended the amounts from serves 4 down to 3 – it was just me and the 4 year-old this evening so there some left over for my work lunch tomorrow. The chilli flakes give this a lovely warmth and i’d probably add more if it was just for me and my OH. A tasty, filling, healthy and quick to make soup.


250g/9oz dried chickpeas (i just used about 3/4 of a tin of chickpeas)
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped (i used half a medium sized onion)
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped (i just used one)
a sprig of fresh rosemary (didn’t have this so just used dried mixed herbs)
1/4 teaspoon dried chilli/hot pepper flakes
400g/14oz can chopped tomatoes
1 tablespoon tomato puree/paste
1.5 litres/6 cups vegetable stock (i cut this down to about half a litre but i like quite thick soups)
100g/3.5oz small pasta shapes such as orecchiete or conchigliette
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
freshly grated parmesan cheese to serve (or veggie alternative. i used a Pecorino cheese)
extra virgin olive oil, to serve

(If not just using a tin of chickpeas…) Soak the chickpeas in cold water overnight. Drain and put in a large saucepan with sufficient cold water to cover. Bring to the boil, reduce the heat to medium and cook, uncovered, for 45 minutes, until very tender. Drain and set asaide.

Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based saucepan set over medium heat. Add the onion, garlic, rosemary and chilli/hot pepper flakes along with a pinch of salt and cook for 8-10 minutes, stirring often, until the onoin has softened.

Increase the heat to high. Stir in the tomatoes, tomato puree/paste, stock and the chickpeas and bring to the boil. Add the pasta, reduce the heat to a medium simmer and cook for about 20 minutes, until the pasta is tender. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Serve sprinkled with cheese and drizzled with olive oil.


Banana Tea Bread (or Banana and Walnut Loaf) – One New Recipe a Week

With only 2 out of the 3 members of our household eating bananas, we regularly end up some weeks with some pretty sorry-looking speckled black-skinned bananas. Hating the idea of chucking them in the bin, over the last year i’ve regularly made banana-related muffins and cakes (a favourite being Nigel Slater’s Black Banana Cake).

I know there are a million different versions of banana bread but i didn’t fancy making it with chocolate and i’ve never actually made one with walnuts so i turned to the Baking Bible – ie: the Be Ro Home Recipes book which has a recipe for Banana Tea Bread (or Banana and Walnut loaf). I picked up the 40th edition last year but the 41st edition is the most recent release and it’s available on Amazon too, which is chock-full of basic and traditional cakes and pastries but just can’t be beat. I’ve made a few things out of here which have all been excellent. This was my first attempt at baking with my new oven so had to adjust a bit (and covered the loaf for the last 15 mins or so baking time so as not to overcook the top) but am really pleased – it’s delicious (and made great use of a handful of manky bananas).

Banana Tea Bread

225g (8ox) Be-Ro Self Raising Flour
1/4 teaspoon Bicarbonate of Soda
pinch Salt
75g (3oz) butter (i used Bertolli butter-like spread)
175g (6oz) caster sugar
2 medium eggs, beaten
450g (1lb) bananas, weighed with skin, peeled, mashed (i had just under this – about 4 large bananas)
100g (4oz) walnuts, chopped

1) Heat Oven to 180C/350F/Gas Mark 4. Grease and line the base of a 1kg (2lb) loaf tin
2) Mix together flour, bicarbonate of soda and salt
3) Cream the butter and sugar until pale and fluffy, add the eggs a little at a time alternately with the flour.
4) Stir in the bananas and walnuts and place in prepared tin. Bake for about 1 1/4 hours. (i checked after an hour and turned the heat down to 160C for the last 15mins- i have a fan oven – and covered the top of the loaf with parchment so it didn’t burn).
5) Cool on a wire rack


Channa aur simla mirch and Matar Paneer – One New Recipe A Week

Or Fried Chick Peas and Peppers and Peas and Cheese in Tomato Sauce…

Have to be honest – this is i suppose another guest post by my OH who made these dishes for dinner a couple of weeks after we moved into our new house (5 weeks ago now!) and have either been unpacking/knackered/watching the Olympics in recent weeks (Team GB has 22 Golds at time of writing this – Amazing!) so haven’t got round to adding it. Which is remiss of me because both dishes were absolutely gorgeous and were again from rediscovered favourite The Hare Krishna Book of Vegetarian Cooking. It took only half an hour or so to make both dishes and were served with plain white basmati rice.

So both recipes just taken from the book and any comments in italics:

Channa aur simla mirch (Fried Chick peas and peppers)
1 1/2 cups (250g) chick-peas (we used a tin of chick peas)
1 1/2 tsp salt
2 tbs ghee or vegetable oil
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 or 2 fresh chillies, minced (these were just chopped up)
1 tsp grated fresh ginger (dried is fine)
1/2 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp asafetida
1 green bell pepper, cut into 1/2-inch (1.5cm) pieces
1 medium-sized tomato, washed and chopped (optional)
2 medium-sized tomatoes, washed and cut into 8 wedges each

Soak the chick-peas overnight in water to double their volume (or just use tinned chick peas). Drain them and put them into a pot. Add enough water to cover them by about 3 inches (7.5cm) and add 1/2 teaspoon of salt. Boil for 10 minutes. Remove any froth that has collected on top, cover and gently simmer over medium-low het for 40 minutes to 1 hour, until chick peas are tender. Then drain off the water (save 1/2 cup – 125ml – if you plan to make a sauce) (IGNORE all this if you’re using tinned chick peas instead).
Over medium heat, heath the ghee or vegetable oil in a frying pan and fry the cumin seeds. Then add the minced chilli and ginger. Add the turmeric and asafetida and then follow immediately with the cut pepper. Turn the pieces of pepper with a spoon. When they appear soft and browned, add the drained chick-peas and stir for 3 minutes. Then add the remaining salt. If you would like a sauce, add the water you saved or 1 chopped tomato and cook 5 minutes more. (The 2 medium-szed tomatoes are to be served as garnish)

Matar Paneer (Peas and cheese in tomato sauce)

(You can adjust the thickness of the sauce to your taste by varying the amount of water. Thin, it goes well with rice, thick with chapatis).

8oz (225g) Paneer (Indian cheese now widely available in supermarkets- though you could use any decent hard cheese like cheddar)
ghee or vegetable oil for deep frying (sort-of optional)
4 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp turmeric
2 tbs ghee
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1 or 2 fresh chillies, seeded and minced
1 tsp grated fresh ginger
1/4 tsp asafetida
1lb (450g) fresh peas shelled (we used frozen peas)
2/3 cup (150ml) water
6 tomatoes, chopped
1 1/2 tbs lemon juice
1 tsp garam masala

Knead the paneer well until it is smooth and soft. Then, form it into grape sized balls and deep fry them in ghee or vegetable oil until they are crisp and golden-brown. (NB – if using supermarket bought paneer, you don’t need to do this – OH just cuts the block of paneer – see pic – and just frys in a little ghee rather than deep fry). Remove them from the ghee with a slotted spoon and drop them into a solution of 3 teaspoons of salt, 2 teaspoons of turmeric and 2 cups of warm water or whey. Let them soak while you go on to the next step (NB – you don’t really need to do this either…)
In a medium sized saucepan, heath the 2 tablespoons of ghee over medium heat. Then add the cumin seeds, followed by the minced chillies and grated giner. When the cumin seeds are browned (in about 30 to 45 seconds) toss in the asafetida, the remaining turmeric and a few seconds later the peas. Now add the water, cover the pan, and cook the peas until they are tender. Add the tomatoes and cheese balls (paneer chunks). Cook over the same medium heat for 5 more minutes. Just before serving, add a generous squeeze of lemon, and season with the remaining teaspoon of salt and the garam masala.

Fried chick-peas and peppers and Peas and cheese in tomato sauce

Cheat’s Easy Onion, Tomato, Spinach and Cheese Tart – One new recipe a week

After the near-disaster of the Blueberry Muffins i decided to try and redeem myself a bit and bake something else immediately afterwards. I’d picked up some pre-made shortcrust pastry (which was reduced in the supermarket – i normally make my own and yes, home-made always tastes better but sometimes it’s just handy to have some in the fridge!) and on the back of the packet there was a recipe for an Easy Bacon, Tomato and Cheese Tart which i decided to adapt and omit the bacon and add some onion and spinach instead (both of which we have loads of at the moment). If you want to make your own pastry then an easy recipe is here on the BBC Good Food website. My comments in italics.

500g JUS-ROL shortcrust pastry (or your own-made pastry)
5-6 Spring onions (i just chopped up one normal onion and softened them in a pan)
4-5 rashers bacon chopped (i omitted this but you could also use Quorn or similar veggie bacon)
3 eggs
250ml milk (i used semi-skimmed)
2 tomatoes
3 heaped tbsp Cheddar Cheese – grated
A few basil leaves (optional)
(i also included a couple of handfuls of spinach wilted in a pan)

Follow pastry preparation instructions. Preheat oven to 200c (180c for fan-assisted ovens)/Gas Mark 6.

1) Roll out pastry and line a 20cm flan tin (i blind baked mine for about 15 minutes or so but you don’t have to do this – my OH’s mum never does and her tarts/quiches are always excellent and not soggy at all – and i’m not just saying that:-)
2) Gently fry the bacon until just cooked and allow to cool (instead i had my chopped onion on a low heat to soften in one pan and had wilted my spinach in another and laid it on a bit of kitchen towel to saok up any excess liquid). Meanwhile beat together then eggs and milk and add seasoning.
3) Scatter the bacon in the base of the pastry case with the (spring) onions and cheese. Add tomato slices on top (i also added the spinach here) then pour in the egg mixture. (I don’t know about you but i always seem to have some mixture seep a bit through my case here and either have to do a bit of damage limitation if its over the tops by added a bit of spare pastry or mopping up any thats spilled onto the baking tray then getting it into the oven as quickly as possible! – i think i may just need a new flan tin…)
4) Bake for approx. 20 minutes until filling is set and pastry is golden. If desired, scatter with basil leaves.

Was really pleased with this (despite TYL refusing to eat any *sigh*) and it was great cold next day for lunch too.



Summer Spaghetti with Avocado – One new recipe a week

I have been waiting for over a week for these Avocado’s to ripen which i bought from Asda (serves me right i know..) and after flicking through Rose Elliot’s Vegetarian Meals in Minutes, just had to make this dish. Combining two of my favourite things to eat; the aforementioned Avocado and Spaghetti – both of which I could eat daily and never tire of either.

Rose suggests eating this with hot garlic bread and a leafy salad – we just had big bowls of it which were just as delicious without any accompaniements. The amounts here serve 2, so just adjust accordingly if feeding a family. I didn’t try it on TheYoungLady today (she was a bit of a grumpus today so not really in a mood to try anything new…) but certainly will in future. Its quick, taking only as long as the spaghetti takes to cook, healthy and is a lovely light spaghetti dish. My comments are in italics (apologies for rubbish pics – my Blackberry phone camer is starting to show its age – i must use my camera next time!).

450g/1lb tomatoes (I cheated here and just used a 400g tin of Italian plum tomatoes)
175g/6oz spaghetti
2tbls olive oil (i may have added a tad more.…)
1 garlic clove, crushed
salt and freshly ground black pepper (i used sea salt after having acquired a free tube of it from a colleague this week who’d been given two by mistake in her online Waitrose food delivery order..delicious)
1 avocado
lemon juice
6-8 large basil leaves (i used some frozen chopped basil leaves here)
freshly grated Parmesan cheese – optional (or whatever cheese you have handy)

1) First fill a saucepan with 2 litres/3.5 pints of water and bring to the boil for the pasta
2) Put the tomatoes into a bowl, cover with boiling water and leave for a few seconds until the skins split. Drain, cover with cold water and slip off the skins with a sharp knife. Chop the tomatoes roughly, removing any hard bits of core. (Or you can skip this bit and use a tin of tomatoes like i did – you will have more sauce but thats ok).
3) When the water boils, add the spaghetti and cook, uncovered for about 8 mijutes until al dente.
4) Heat the oil in a large saucepan, add the garlic and cook over a moderate heat for 1-2 minutes. Add the chopped tomatoes and salt and pepper to taste and heat gently, just to warm through. Peel, stone and chop the avocado (or scoop/gouge out the flesh as best you can – i find the idea of peeling an avocado messy) and toss it in a little lemon juice.
5) Drain the pasta and return it to the still-warm saucepan. Add the tomato misxture and the avocado and toss well to mix, the tear in the basil (as i was using frozen, i put the basil into the chopped tomatoes at stage 4), check the seasoning and serve. Hand round Parmesan cheese separately, if you like.

Macaroni Peas – One New Recipe A Week

So, spurred on by Saturday’s Sweet Potato Gnocchi i decided to make something from Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s River Cottage Veg Everyday which i’d wanted to make since getting the book at the end of last year – Macaroni Peas!

Everyone loves Macaroni Cheese obviously and my OH is the master of it in our house but i really fancied this as it looked quick, had a load of veg in it and thought TheYoungLady would like it (macaroni, peas and bit of cheese – what’s not to like?)

For info – i amended the amounts Hugh suggests for the pasta and peas (as it’s feeding two adults and a 3 year old rather than 4 people) and the amount i ended up with still left enough for us all to have a second serving-spoonful. My amounts and any comments are in italics.

500g Peas (fresh or frozen) or petit pois (i used 300g of frozen peas)
300g small macaroni or smallish pasta shapes such as orecchiette or fusilli, or even risoni (i used 200g of macaroni)
50g butter (i used ‘I can’t believe it’s not butter‘)
1 garlic clove, chopped ( i used one big clove plus a tiny half-clove)
25g Parmesan, hard goat’s cheese or other well-flavoured hard cheese coarsely grated plis extra to serve (i just used mature cheddar)
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper (just used normal table salt *note to self to get some decent sea-salt though!*)
Shredded basil or flat-leaf parsley to serve (optional)

Put a large pan of salted water on to boil, so that you’re ready to cook the pasta while the sauce is coming together.
Put the peas in a pan, cover with water, bring to the boil and simmer until tender – just a couple of minutes for frozen or very tender fresh peas, longer for older fresh peas.
When the peas are almost cooked, add the pasta to the pan of boiling water and cook until al dente.
Meanwhile, melt the butter in a small pan over a low heat and add the garlic. Let is cook gently for just a couple of minutes, without colouring, then remove from the heat.
Drain the peas, reserving the cooking water. Put about half of them in a blender with 6 tablespoons of the cooking water, the butter and garlic and the grated cheese. (I just used a hand blender here in a pan) Blitz to a smooth, loose puree, adding a little more water if needed. Combine with the whole peas and season with salt and pepper to taste.
Drain the pasta as soon as it is ready and toss immediately with the hot pea sauce. Serve topped with plenty of ground black pepper and more grated Parmesan. Shredded basil of chopped flat-leaf parsley is a goo, but by no means essential, finishing touch. (i had neither!)

This was SUCH a tasty dish and another success all round. The garlic really makes the dish, as does blending half of it. I added a couple more tablespoons of the cooking water, as Hugh suggests, but this is definately going to be a regular tea in our house. Quick too, with really only taking the time it takes to bring a couple of pans of water to the boil and to cook the macaroni.



Easy Sweet Potato Gnocchi – One New Recipe A Week

We’re a largely Vegetarian household (my OH is the Vegetarian and TheYoungLady doesn’t really like the taste of meat though does eat the odd fish finger or bit of scampi) but like everybody we tend to revert to the half dozen or so dishes that we know well.

However, with a creaking bookshelf of not-touched-nearly-enough cookery books aswell as the aquisition recently of the excellent Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall’s River Cottage Veg Everyday and The Meat Free Monday Cookbook by Paul, Stella and Mary McCartney. Both of these books are crammed with uncomplicated tasty recipes so we have made it our mission to try and do at least one new recipe a week. Naturally this sometimes takes a bit of planning, to ensure you have theright ingredients but we’re also trying to cut down on the Big shop once a week or so and buying what we need as and when, which means a few trips to the shop but has meant our shops are more focussed, less distracted by BOGOFs and other deals and is cheaper overall.

I love Sweet Potato and we tend to have this in curries or mashed so keeping mind our mission, i saw the recipe for Sweet Potato Gnocchi in The Meat Free Monday cookbook (page 15 ‘Spring’) and was surprised that it only had a few ingredients. Equally surprising was how easy it was to make and we all mucked in, with TheYoungLady loving the mashing and rolling out. We cheated a bit by just using Sacla Pesto but the recipe for the rocket pesto looks easy to do to. This is in the book as a Lunch recipe and we made it for lunch today. We have a quarter of the gnocchi dough left which we’re going to freeze. Easy peasy.

Recipe from The Meat Free Monday Cookbook(my comments in italics)

625g Sweet Potatoes, peeled and diced
15g butter (we just used I can’t Believe it’s not…)
75g plain flour (and extra for handling and rolling dough)
100g semolina
freshly grated nutmeg (we just used ground nutmeg)
salt and freshly ground pepper

For the Pesto (as mentioned, we just had Sacla Pesto with it instead)
50g rocket
2 garlic cloves, crushed
3 tablespoons pine nuts
100ml olive oil

Cook and drain the sweet potatoes in boiling salted water for 10 minutes or until just tender. Drain and leave to cool.

Place all ingredients for the pesto in a food processor or pound with pestle and mortar to make a coarse paste.

Mash the potatoes in a bowl until smooth. Add the butter, flour, semolina, nutmeg, salt and pepper. Mix to a dough. Divide the dough into four pieces and shape each piece into a long roll about 2cm in diameter (you’ll need flour on your surface here and we certainly needed floury hands/bit more flour onto the dough to handle it as its quite a wet dough), Cut each roll across into equal-size rounds. Bring  large saucepan of salted water to the boil (have to admit, i just re-used the earlier water). Drop the gnocchi into the water in batches (my batches were of 5 or 6) and cook for 3-5 minutes until they rise to the surface. Remove with a slotted spoon and keep warm while you cook the rest. Once all the gnocchi are cooked, stir in the pesto and serve. (we added a bit of cheese over the top and this would work really well with a salad on the side too.)

We three thought it a real success and not complicated to make, probably taking about an hour to make in total. It tasted great, was really filling, healthy and low in fat – one we’ll definately make again.

I can’t take credit for these home-made pizza’s

Not sure if i’ve mentioned here that i haven’t really baked much this year. I did quite a bit of baking last year, much of it with my 3 year old daughter. Messy yes, but she loves the mixing though rarely actually ate any of the cake. And of course, therein lies the problem of baking. Unless you have a large household or have folk coming round for tea every other night, then you will undoubtedly have to eat a reasonable amount of cake/tart/muffins/brownies etc which whilst the glutton in me thoroughly enjoyed but my waistline did not.

I digress – i have been re-inspired recently, largely by reading lovely food blog posts such as this to have a shot at making bread. I have only ever made one oven loaf before, which was similar to this one on the BBC Good Food mag website (minus the asparagus which i just didn’t have in). It tasted great and was amazingly easy and i’m not sure why i haven’t done it again. I think i’m going to attempt soda bread.

My Other Half has in recent years been getting into cooking too, specialising in home-made pizzas, Indian dhaals and curries, excellent veggie bakes and lasagnes and chutneys. He’s also the master of our bread-making machine which we go through phases of using. Having done a loaf at the weekend he decreed he was going to try to do more hand-made loaves. We have a large Magimix food processor (which i don’t use nearly enough) but which is great at making pastry and pizza dough.

OH’s home-made pizza’s are usually accompanied by wine and trashy weekend TV or a film. He made these last weekend (one with cheesy/olivey, the other nice and spicy with pepperdew peppers and chillies). They were fabulous.