Homemade spaghetti alla puttanesca

Spaghetti alla puttanesca

Last Friday night I was home alone for tea, this is usually the time when I reach for the arborio rice and make risotto. No risotto this time though, mostly because I didn’t have the ingredients and didn’t want to venture out to get them! This time I raided the fridge and cupboards and created a version of spaghetti alla puttanesca.

This Italian recipe translates into English as, whore’s spaghetti. Yep, that’s what I made on Friday night after a busy day at work… I work in marketing don’t get any ideas! There’s loads of suggestions as to how the dish came about and got it’s name but it’s essentially a quick, tasty dish to throw together without many ingredients, most of which you probably have in the back of a cupboard in your kitchen. Quick and easy!

Recipes vary and there’s no exact science to it, which makes it my kind of dish, one I can tamper with! Here’s my version…

It serves two people, generously. I wasn’t greedy and ate the whole lot, there were leftovers!

Ingredients…

200g spaghetti
2 cloves garlic
1 tin of plum or chopped tomatoes
1 tsp dried chilli flakes
1 handful of olives, whatever you have (the ones I used this time were marinated in garlic and paprika which worked beautifully!)
Olive oil
Fresh basil or parsley, if you have it

Start by getting a pan of water on to cook the pasta. While that’s getting going finely slice the garlic and roughly chop the olives. When the water has come to the boil add salt and the spaghetti and cook as per the instructions on the packet. Heat a frying pan on a medium heat to make the sauce, add a little oil, then add the garlic. Gently fry for a minute, then add the olives and the chilli flakes. Leave these for a minute, then add in the tomatoes, and if you’re using plum ones, crush them with the back of a spoon. Leave the sauce to simmer until the pasta is cooked and then drain the pasta and add it to the sauce.

Simple as that. Drizzle with olive oil and fresh herbs if you have them.

Homemade spaghetti alla puttanesca

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Mac No Cheese

I’m not sure when I first discovered I had a serious love for mac and cheese. It was definitely as a child and it was either at home with a Heinz tin of it, on toast naturally, every tinned pasta in the UK ends up on toast, or on a trip to America as part of an all you can eat buffet. On reflection, it wasn’t the best mac and cheese in the world but it started something. That bright yellow, that isn’t found in any other pasta dish I can think of, just draws me in!

I make a pretty good regular mac and cheese if I do say so myself, but I’m eating less and less dairy lately so have made a vegan version of mac and cheese a few times now. I made it the other night, under the watchful eye of my Madre, and whilst I asked her to taste the sauce, I remembered she doesn’t like mac and cheese… On tasting the sauce, her words were something along the lines of, “oh that’s good, you wouldn’t know if didn’t have dairy in”… success! I’m not sure I agree with her that you wouldn’t know, and maybe she was just being nice but it did taste pretty good. It didn’t taste like the real thing, it never will do, but it’s fast becoming a good replacement.

So reach for the butternut squash and nutritional yeast, yep that’s a thing – vegans will already know full well what it is, and skip the dairy with this mac no cheese recipe…

OK, before the recipe, I feel I need to explain first what nutritional yeast is for those that don’t know. Why do so many vegan essential ingredients have hideous names? So, it looks like fish food, stay with me, it’s got a nutty, creamy, cheesy flavour, so works great in sauces like this to add a savoury cheesy taste to it. You might hear it called “nooch”, I’m not cool enough for that, so seek out some nutritional yeast and give it a taste!

Anyway, on with the recipe… It’s a good base for a vegan mac and cheese recipe but as usual with most of my recipes, I always meddle and tweak it each time I make it.

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This served 4 very hungry people, would probably serve more though! You’ll need some sort of a blender for the sauce.

Ingredients…

500g macaroni or penne or fusili, whatever shapes you have will do
1 butternut squash, peeled and chopped into inch sized pieces, ish
1 potato, same treatment as the squash
1 onion, finely sliced
2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1 tbsp English mustard
1 veg stock cube, and about 300ml water
4 tbsp nutritional yeast
100ml soy milk, or whatever milk alternative you like to use
Oil, again whatever you have, not the good stuff, it’s just for frying
Salt and pepper

Start by getting a pan of boiling water on for your pasta and put the kettle on to make your stock with. While this is happening prep your veg.

In a big frying pan heat some oil and fry the onions over a medium heat. When they’ve softened add the garlic, squash and potato. Let these fry for a few minutes. Add the stock and the milk, you can add more liquid later if you need it. Add the mustard and leave to simmer until the veg are soft.

Put the pasta on to cook, follow the instructions on the packet for this. Once the veg are cooked through, blend the sauce and add the noo… nope, can’t say it, sounds stupid… nutritional yeast and keep blending until it’s smooth. You might want to add some more liquid here if you need it. Give it a taste and season the sauce to your liking.

Now  the next step depends on how patient and hungry you’re feeling. Mix the sauce with the cooked pasta and pop in a dish under the grill to make the top a little crispy, or just eat it as it is if you can’t wait. I sometimes like to add herbs and breadcrumbs to the top before I grill it too, experiment with it!

Carrot Salad

Carrot salad might sound boring, stay with me, it’s not!

Turning various veg into noodles and spaghetti is quite commonplace now and this salad kind of plays on that. Don’t worry, no fancy spiralising gadget needed! Unless you have one, which I do as I’m a sucker for a gadget sometimes, then by all means use it, but all you really need is a speed peeler to turn your carrots into ribbons and make an interesting salad.

I’ve said it countless times, salads really aren’t boring and don’t have to just be a sad pile of lettuce with a few token slices of tomato or cucumber. Get creative with them and your lunch break will be better for it!

This salad is great by itself, or as I had it for lunch today, on a load of different salad leaves. It’d be great as a side dish to a curry for something fresh and crunchy, or in wraps with falafel, there’s loads of ways you could try it.

It makes enough for about 2 to 4 portions depending on how you’re serving it.

Ingredients:

2 carrots, peeled
1 stick of celery
1 red chilli, as usual, take the seeds out if you don’t like it hot!
A handful of each, radishes, coriander, pumpkin seeds
Olive oil
Lemon
Salt

Use the speed peeler to make ribbons of carrot, tear the coriander leaves (use the stalks for another recipe), finely slice the other veg. That’s pretty much it! Pop it all in a bowl and toss it with some oil, lemon juice and salt.

It’s a great base for a salad and you can add new things to it to make it different every time. Don’t have any celery, or don’t like it, just switch it out for something else like cucumber or peppers. Use different seeds and herbs. It’s really easy and versatile. Another reason to never have a boring salad again!

Carrot salad with chilli and coriander.

Wild Garlic Pesto

Wild Garlic Pesto

Spring is well underway. It’s a great time of year and it brings tasty veg with it, some of my favourites like asparagus, jersey royals and purple sprouting broccoli. Spring is also home to those few weeks a year when you can get wild garlic!

Since I found out about it, every year I go and pick some. This weekend it was lovely and sunny and while up early walking Dexter the dog, I foraged for some wild garlic to cook with.

Wild Garlic

I’ve seen it being sold in green grocers this year, don’t waste your money! Just go for a walk in whichever woods are closest to you and the chances are pretty good that you’ll find some. Though if you’d really rather buy it, I’ll sell you some! Anyway, how to find it, you’ll know it’s there because of the definite garlicky smell that comes with it. Look for a covering of long green leaves, and later in the season there will be little white flowers too. The leaves are at their tastiest if you pick them before the flowers open, though it’s still alright to eat after, and the flowers are edible too.

Be careful when you’re out looking for it, don’t confuse it with Lily of the Valley, that’s poisonous! If you’re unsure just crush the leaves between your fingers and you’ll smell the garlic, if you can’t smell it, put it down! So, pick the leaves and, if they’re there, pick some flowers too. Don’t be greedy and take too much! The leaves won’t keep for ages in the fridge, so it’s best picked on the day you plan on using it.

Wild Garlic

It goes without saying, but make sure you give it a rinse under cold water before you use it! There’s lots of things you can do with wild garlic, whiz up the leaves with some olive oil and drizzle over anything, like roasted veg, pasta, salad, use it to dip bread in, and you can freeze the flavoured oil, it’s best done in ice cube trays then you can just pop it into a pan to warm up when you fancy it. You can also wilt the leaves like you would do with spinach. Or don’t cook it and add the finely sliced leaves and flowers to salad.

This time I opted to turn the leaves into pesto. Easy to make and it keeps in the fridge for a couple of days. It’s not an exact science, you might need to add a touch more oil or lemon or salt, just make it to your taste, but here’s the general gist for what you’ll need and how to make it…

Ingredients:

2 handfuls of wild garlic leaves
1 lemon (you just need the juice so zest it and add that to something else another time)
1 handful of walnuts (or whatever kind of nuts you have, within reason, I’m not sure those chilli peanuts in the back of your cupboard would work!)
Extra virgin olive oil
Salt

(these clearly aren’t technical measurements, I did say it was the general gist of a recipe!)

Add a couple of tablespoons of oil, you might find you need to add more, just see how you go. Blitz everything, in a blender, with a stick blender, or in a mortar and pestle, to the consistency you like, adding oil as needed and seasoning to your taste. That’s it. I said it was easy!

Add it to pasta, on a pizza, use it as a dip, have it on a sandwich, use it however you fancy.

Happy foraging!

Wild Garlic Pesto

Roasted Tomatoes

Jamie Oliver’s Tomato Soup

If you didn’t know, I’m a lover of soup. Proper homemade soup is the best, there’s nothing better than it when you’re feeling cold and tired. It’s the ultimate comfort food for me.

I think because my memories of it were the tinned stuff that was too sweet, I’ve always been a hater of tomato soup. However, I’ve recently become a convert and started to like it, not the tinned stuff though, homemade is always better. I’ve tried this really simple recipe from Jamie Oliver for tomato soup a couple of times now, it’s the one that made me like tomato soup. But me being me, I have to meddle with a recipe!


The first time I made the soup I followed the recipe as it is. Making the soup last night, I decided to roast the tomatoes with some oregano, salt and oil, before popping them into the soup. Turned out to be a worthwhile added step, I love roasted tomatoes, I definitely think it added more flavour to the soup.

Leftovers to look forward to for lunches this week! I might even experiment and use some as a pasta sauce too.

Don’t reach for that tin opener! Give homemade soup a try. It’s easy, healthy and tasty. Try Jamie Oliver’s tomato soup, meddle with it or don’t, it’s good either way!