Keep Calm & Eat Pesto

Keep calm and eat lettuce pesto

I have always loved pesto ever since my teens when one day my sister cooked us up a batch of pasta with lashings of pesto mixed
into it. Both store bought but the flavour and almost immediate satisfaction that filled our bellies after just 15 minutes cooking time has always left the classic pesto and pasta combination as a staple in my household. I have always enjoyed the taste of store bought pesto but nothing can beat a fresh pesto made from scratch. It’s flavour is always lighter and fresher tasting, pairing brilliantly with more then just a simple pasta dish. I often make pesto for the start of the week as a go to dressing for quick meals when I’m busy. It can be a little expensive to make your own pesto as you need quite alot of fresh herbs but there is a solution. I use lettuce to bulk the pesto out yet it doesn’t detract from the flavour as I still uses the herbs plus all the other classic ingredients. It is the perfect way to use up salad leaves which are often one of the most thrown away items in British households and you know how I hate waste!

Lettuce pesto ingredientsIngredients to make a small jar: 1 good handful of fresh herbs,2 good handfuls of salad leaves, 2 large handful of nuts or seeds, A small lump of hard cheese, 2 garlic cloves, 2tbsp of olive oil plus extra for jar. sprinkle of salt and pepper.

1. I have given these vague ingredients as you can pretty much choose whatever combination of items you want. A classic pesto is basil, pine nuts and parmesan but you can adapt it with anything. Here are some ideas

Mint/parsley, almonds, mature chedder

Coriander, cashews, manchego , abit of chilli and ginger

Dill, sunflower seeds, pecorino

Lovely ingredients for lovely lettuce pesto A spoonful of lettuce pesto helps the leftovers go down2. Whizz all the ingredients together in a food processor, slowly adding the olive oil as you go, till you get a think paste that isn’t too wet.

3. Add to a jar, press down with a spoon and cover with a layer of olive oil. It should keep for 1 week, topping up with oil to cover if you use a little at a time. (My oil looks horrible in this photo, it has no colour weirdly. That’s what you get for cheap olive oil)

Lettuce Pesto Ready to Go

You can add pesto to loads of different dishes other then pasta, here is a few and please feel free to add your own uses in the comments.

Dolloped on pizza either as a replacement to a tomato sauce or as an addition blobbed on randomly

Mixed into potato salad

On top of a baked potato

A sandwich filling with some fresh salad veggies (tomato, pesto and mozzarella sounds good)

A salad dressing, mixed with some more  oilve oil and a little lemon juice or vinegar

A crust or rub for fish or meats

Basically anything


x xxx


Kohlrabi, celery and potato Gratin

Kohlrabi, celery and potato

This is a really quick recipe for a gratin because who doesn’t like food smothered in cream! I had a Kohlrabi in my veg box and having never cooked it looked to the internet for some inspiration. I found a several gratins with varying ingredients so I settled on a mix of Kohlrabi, celery and potato. It’s another great dish that can be prepared ahead of time, kept in the fridge and whacked into the oven when you get home. Kohlrabi has a slightly sweet appley taste but has a root vegetable like texture so it lends well to savoury dishes but it would be interesting to see if you can make it work in a sweet recipe. Any ideas people?

sliced veggies for gratin

Ingredients Serves 2: 1 smalll kohlrabi, 2/3 medium potatoes, 2 celery sticks, 1 garlic clove, 150ml of  double cream, 150ml veg stock, a small handful of fresh rosemary or 1 heaped tsp  of dried rosemary

1. Peel the kohlrabi and potatoes, slice in to thin slices (having a mandolin works well here) Dice the celery into thin slices also. Slice the garlic and chop up the rosemary.

2. Heat the veg stock up gently in a pan and add the milk to mix together (DO NOT BOIL) add the garlic and rosemary and allow to infuse for 5 mins on a low heat.Tasty Ingredients for Kohlrabi Gratin

3. Layer the kohlrabi, potato and celery in a baking dish and slowly add the liquid, and continue to layer until your dish is full. You don’t want the liquid to be full right to the top, at least 1cm from the top is good. I prefer to finish with a layer of potato on top as it browns nicely.

4. Pop in the oven for 40 mins at Gas Mark 5. A good grind of black pepper on top never goes a miss. Serve with a crisp salad to offset the gorge on creamy goodness.

Kohlrabi Gratin

There we have it! Has any one got a brilliant recipe for kohlrabi, would love to hear?


x xxx

p.s. Sorry about the lack of finished photos, as always I ate it before I had a chance to photo it, nom nom

Chef Skills: Homemade Pasta

pumpkin ravioliAs part of my new years resolution I wanted to learn more technical kitchen skills and hone my knowledge of the essentials that make a great chef. My first attempt is to practice making pasta. H got me a beautiful pasta maker for Christmas so seemed like the perfect place to start plus I love pasta! I did my first attempt New Years Eve with a classic tagliatelle carbonara and it went really well. It could definitely be improved though as it took me a while to get the right consistency and I think it was a little bit to thick but the flavour was perfect.

pasta mix at the start

The ingredients are simple and I normally do measuring by eye but to serve 4 you need 2 cups of flour, 3 medium eggs or 2 large, tsp of olive oil. Mix ingredients in a bowl until combined but it will probably be crumbly at first. Turn out on to a floured surface and need for about 5 minutes. I think my initial problem was that I didn’t kneed it for long enough time. After kneeding, rest in the fridge while wrapped up for 30-45 minutes. I like to cut the dough in to pieces and work one piece at a time so as not to dry out and keep the rest wrapped up.

pasta doughRoll the pasta through the press starting with the largest setting normally marked as 1, keep rolling the pasta through the maker tightening the gap until you reach the desired thickness. Do not try and force the pasta through by notching up the number but do it one at a time as you may break the pasta maker. If you are making something other then flat sheets like ravioli or lasagne you will need to pass the pasta through another attachment, I am lucky to have both tagliatelle and fettuccini (although it says fettuccini it’s more like spaghetti)  I found oiling and occasionally flouring the machine made the pasta pass through much easier. You then need to dry the pasta out a little by hanging it on a flour dusted drying rack, which for most people will be an improvised piece of housewares. Mine consisted of balancing a floured rolling pin on some kitchen canisters.

pasta maker

As the pasta is fresh it will take not much time to cook, 6-8 minutes seems about right, just taste it after 6 minutes and see. It has a softer texture to al dente dried pasta but it still has bite. Pasta is such a versatile dish you can add any flavours to it. My second attempt I went for ravioli as I really wanted to try it out and I was pretty pleased with the taste, texture and shape. I had a few problems again but the dough was much easier to work with this time. For Ravioli you want to pass the dough through the machine to the desired thickness. You want to add a small spoonful of your filling in the centre of your sheets, depending on how long your sheet is spread them out. Place another sheet over the top and wetting the edges so they stick. You need to press the pasta down around the filling to make sure there are no pockets of air otherwise they will explode (some of mine did) You then want to cut out your pasta shapes either using a knife or a cutter. I used a round cookie cutter. Cook as the instructions above.

Nom nom nom pumpkin ravioliI created pumpkin and garlic ravioli with a beurre noisette and toasted pumpkin seeds and I loved the taste. Definitely will be having that meal again and experiment with some different flavours


x xxx

Thrifty & Nifty Food: Slow cooker Risotto

Slow cooker to the rescueMany a food purist might say you can’t do a risotto in a slow cooker but they would be wrong. If your strapped for time, have a bundle of things to do and still have to make dinner; the slow cooker can be a life saver. Most recipes I do require little more then putting everything in and letting it go. This risotto recipe does require a little more prep but a lot less then if you did risotto the traditional way. The prep took me just 10 minutes and though the cooking time is longer (1 hour and a half) it is a better option when your busy especially if you did the prep earlier on in the day. This recipe is for a mushroom risotto but all flavours are possible.  Ingredients serves 2: 1 cup of risotto rice, a medium onion diced, 1 or 2 garlic cloves diced, 6 medium mushrooms sliced , 2 tbsp. white wine vinegar, 500ml veg or chicken stock, olive oil

1. I used one frying pan to do the prep (cuts down on washing up) Sauté the onion and garlic till translucent. Meanwhile coat the inside of the slow cooker with olive oil and set on a high heat

2. Once the onions and garlic are done add to the slow cooker, turn the heat up on the pan and add the rice so it takes on the flavours of the pan, just like a regular risotto, add the vinegar and let it bubble till all is absorbed. Add the rice to the slow cooker

3. Add the stock to the slow cooker and add any dried herbs you might want. Stir once to make sure no rice has stuck to the bottom and then leave for between 1 and 2 hours till most of the liquid has been soaked up

Slow cooker risotto4. When there is still a little liquid left to be absorbed turn the slow cooker off as the rice will continue to cook and doesn’t need any more heat (or electricity wasted on it) Sauté the mushrooms in butter and olive oil till soft then mix through the risotto

5. Serve in bowls with fresh herbs and a light side salad, this is comfort food at its best

The risotto definitely doesn’t have the same bite as when done from scratch in a pan and has a softer sticker texture but it tastes just as good and really warms you up on those cold nights. I also wanted to highlight that I love using the slow cooker because it hardly uses any electricity so its good for the environment and your pocket :D I have a electricity monitor from British Gas and it uses only 2p an hour which is way better then using the oven for meals(a whopping 30p) but unfortunately can’t compare it to the stove top as we have a gas one. I still imagine the slow cooker is cheaper then using gas.

Please share your own slow cooker recipes that you love for winter


x xxx

p.s. sorry there is no final picture of the end result, this happens a lot with food posts I plan to do, I end up forgetting to take the last picture because I wanna get the food in my belly asap and only remember after I’ve finished, DOH!

Thrifty + Nifty Food: Double Dinner

This post is still running on the theme of tip 2# Buy in Bulk by creating two recipes from one main ingredient but this week is Tip 4# Double Dinner which is when you cook two meals at the same time, meaning less cooking time and meals are ready for days when your really busy. Seem alot of faff? It’s not when you’ve got a plan. The dishes i do when i double up are often similar in the basic ingredients but with a few twists and normally with a different type of carbohydrate (pasta, potatoes, rice). These dishes are a little unusual for me and the family at the moment as the main ingredient is mince and we tend not to buy meat on a normal shop due to the cost and health benefits of a veggie diet but visiting we have guests at the moment who eat meat. So when i do cook with meat especially mince or a whole chicken i like it to go a long way and so doubling the dinner means you can create at least two meals for your family and reduce the cost by adding in cheaper and healthier ingredients.  As always essential ingredients in RED, must have  flavour GREEN and any extras ORANGE.

Lasagna & Cottage Pie

Ingredients, serves 6 each meal or 4 spread over 3 meals
500g Mince
2 Large onions finely chopped
4 Garlic Cloves, finely chopped
2 tins of plum tomatoes
500ml of beef stock/ 2 stock cubes worth or water if you dont have stock
3 Red peppers, roughly chopped
300g Red Lentils
400g Can of Baked Beans
200g mushrooms, roughly chopped
200g runner beans, roughly chopped

50g Butter
1tbsp of plain flour
1 Pint of Milk

4 Large potatoes
As many Lasagna sheets as you need to get 3 layers in your bowl i used 18!!!
2 tbsp Worcester Sauce
1tsp of cinnamon powder

1. Sweat the onions in oil on a low heat in the biggest pan you have for 10 minutes and add the garlic halfway through

2. Add the mince and brown most of it all over. Add the tomatoes and stock to the pan and simmer for 10 mins

3. Transfer about a third of the mince to a  another large pan with plenty of the cooking liquid. Add the lentils and baked beans if you have them and 1 tbsp of the Worcester sauce

4. To the other pan add the peppers, mushrooms and runner beans along with the rest of the Worcester sauce and cinnamon.

5. Cook both for a further 15 mins and while its cooking you can make the Bechamel sauce .

6.Gently heat the milk in a pan till warm but not hot. Melt the butter in another pan and once little bubbles start to appear sprinkle a little flour at a time and whisk. Once the flour has all been stirred in whisk quickly for a few minutes until cooked through. It should look like a golden yellow liquid the quality of single cream. Take it off the heat and stir in the warm milk a little at a time stirring constantly. It will start off very thick at first and then more like single cream again once all the milk has been added. Don’t worry if it gets too runny, once it cools a little it will thicken.

7. Once both mince pots have cooked, lay out the lasagna. Place a layer of the pepper mince in  an oven proof dish ( Square or rectangular otherwise you’ll go in circles trying to get the lasagna sheets to fit) then layer the pasta sheets and then the sauce. Repeat 2 more times and bob in the oven at 200 degrees or Gas mark 5 for 25 minutes

8. To finish the cottage pie, peel and chop the potatoes into large chunks. Boil in salted water for 15-20 minutes till soft. Drain and mash with butter and mustard if you like. If its a little dry add a little warmed milk for extra creaminess.

9. Toss the lentil mince into another baking dish and spoon over the mash potato, flattening it across the top, or you could get super fancy and pipe it on the top but lets just say mine is rustic. When you want to eat it pop in the oven at 200 degrees or gas mark 5 and dinners done.

I just add a seasonal salad on the side for a light touch and there you go, two dinners done at the same time and then you have dinner ready to go for when you need it. And even if i do say so myself it was absolutely gorgeous the lasagna, canny way to try the cottage pie. What have you got planned for dinner this week?


X xxx

Thrifty + Nifty Food: Lentil and Bacon Soup

Another new featurette which I’d like to continue, Thrifty and Nifty Food. A collection of simple and tasty dishes that you can make from scratch without breaking the bank.  I cook from fresh almost every day because:

1. I know what is going into my meals and it’s easy to make healthy choices when you’re doing the cooking.

2. I know it is better for my purse and I can make more meals for less money.

3. I love it.

Supermarkets tend to make us think that it’s too complicated and expensive to cook from scratch everyday but it doesn’t have to be if you keep a well stocked cupboard and mix up meals with fresh produce. My number one tip though is to have a wide variety of herbs, spices and condiments. Sound expensive??? It’s not if you buy at least one new item weekly until you have a great selection of flavourings. For each recipe I will put the essentials in RED, the extra flavour in GREEN and you can add other ingredients if you have them, in ORANGE. Simples!

To kick things off: Lentil and Bacon Soup

A super quick and easy recipe adapted from the Hugh Fearlessly-Eatsitall and Fizz Carr family cook book. I first made this recipe with a massive pack of reduced bacon bits. All those bits of pork that don’t quite make picture perfect rashers get lobbed in a packet and sold for pennies really. So after one too many bacon sarnies,Ii used the rest of the bacon bits to make this lovely wholesome soup which hardly costs anything.

Ingredients- To serve 4

1 Large Onion, Oregano or Thyme, 1/2 Tbsp    
Sunflower/Vegetable Oil
2 Celery Stalks                                                            
200g of Red Lentils   
5 Rashers of Bacon or equivalent in bacon bits
 Tomatoe Puree 1/2 tbsp     
Oregano or Thyme, 1/2 Tbsp
Worcestershire Sauce
Lots of Black Pepper
1.5 Litres of Veg/Chicken Stock

1. Peel and chop onions, carrots and celery finely. Snip the bacon bits into little pieces with scissors.

2. Pour plenty of your oil into a large pan and warm on a medium heat. Once warmed, add the onion, carrots, celery and fry gently for 10-15 minutes, don’t let them colour too quickly by stiring frequently.

3. While the veg is gently frying, crisp up the bacon bits either under the grill or in a frying pan. Add to the veg once it’s as crispy as you like.

4. Add the lentils and stock to the pan. Stir in the pepper, herbs, tomato puree and Worcester sauce. No need for salt as the bacon should season the soup well but check for taste at the end of cooking.

5. Bring to the boil, then reduce and simmer for at least half an hour until the lentils are soft.

6. Tastes even better the next day. Serve piping hot with some crusty bread to dunk.

And there you have it, a thrifty and nifty meal to fill you and your family up. As you can see from the pics it comes out more like stew then soup but if you want to make it more liquidy, add more stock.  It was a great dinner that the family loved, and plenty left over for throughout the week.

Do you have any thrifty dinners you make again and again???


X xxx