University of Birmingham graduate with a passion for food & cooking as part of a healthy lifestyle

Twitter: @EatRainbowLove
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Thursday, 21 June 2012

Cheesy broccoli pasta bake

I made this the other night - it's nothing too special, I just really fancied some comfort food and a pasta bake is the ultimate comfort food for me. I made a simple cheese sauce and although I'm not a huge broccoli fan, I do love it in pasta bakes (what doesn't taste good when it's coated in cheese sauce anyway?) We also had some bacon in the fridge, and of course I always like to use onions and garlic with pasta so voila, this dish was born! And it is scrummy...

Serves 2-3
- 200g whole wheat penne
- olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 small onion
- 3-4 rashers bacon, cut into chunks
- 150g broccoli florets
- 20g butter
- 20g plain flour
- 200ml milk
- 1 tsp wholegrain mustard
- 75g cheddar cheese, grated, plus extra for sprinkling
- pepper, to season

1. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 5 / 200 degrees. Cook the pasta according to packet instructions, and add the broccoli florets around 5 minutes to the end of the pasta cooking time. Drain and set aside.
2. Meanwhile, soften the onion and garlic in the olive oil, then add the bacon until beginning to brown and crisp. Remove from the pan and set aside.
3. Using the same pan, to make the cheese sauce melt the butter and stir in the flour over a low heat until it forms a paste. Gradually add in the milk, stirring constantly until the sauce begins to thicken. (Be patient, it may take a while!) Once the sauce is coming together, add the mustard and the cheese; at this stage the sauce should be thick and smooth from the cheese. You can always add a little more milk if it is too thick 0 keep stirring!
4. Return the pasta and broccoli to the pan, add the bacon and onion and stir through the cheese sauce. Pour into an oven proof dish. Sprinkle with the remaining cheddar. I added some brie too because we had a bit leftover. Parmesan would work too and add breadcrumbs if you want a crunchy texture.
5.  Season with pepper and bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes, or until bubbling and golden brown and crisp on top.

Enjoy :)

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Cheese, tomato and herb quiche

I absolutely love quiche but have never attempted to make one before because whenever I look at recipes they always seem to use so many eggs and so much cream! I also love making (and eating..) shortcrust pastry but was always afraid that turning it into a quiche would leave it with a soggy bottom. Well, today I proved my assumptions to be very wrong! I looked over a few recipes and decided to use all milk instead of cream, with a bit of light soft cheese, and only one egg. I used fresh tomatoes, lots of herbs and some cheddar and parmesan, and the flavours were amazing. The texture was absolutely perfect as well - no soggy bottom, but crisp pastry instead, hoorah! I made this for Father's day as we decided to have a buffet. This quiche is perfect party food for buffets, makes a great lunch, or even dinner - serve with a side salad and some new potatoes in parsley butter for a delicious, summer meal (suitable for vegetarians!) I can't wait to create more quiche recipes, maybe bacon and leek, and next time I make this tomato one, I want to try putting broccoli in it too (I've had one like this from Sainsbury's and it is scrummy). If you are to try out one recipe this summer, I think it should be this one! Pastry isn't as tricky as you might think to get right, just follow the steps below.
Makes 1 large quiche (4-8 people)
For the pastry:
- 175g plain flour
- pinch of salt
- 40g lard
- 40g margarine
- 1 tsp thyme, chopped (I used dried)
- 2-3 tbsp water

For the filling:
- small knob of butter
- 1 small onion, chopped
- 350g tomatoes, sliced
- pinch of salt and pepper
- handful of parsley, chopped (I used fresh)
- 1 tsp thyme (dried)
- 1 tsp basil (dried)
- 2 tbsp boiling water
- 250ml milk
- 1 egg
- 1 tbsp light soft cheese
- handful of parmesan, grated
- handful of cheddar, grated

1. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4 / 180 degrees. For the filling, gently fry the onion in the butter for a few minutes until softened. Add the tomatoes, herbs and salt and pepper and stir.
2. Add the boiling water and simmer for 5-10 minutes, or until the tomatoes are softened. Leave to cool.
3. Whilst this is cooling, start on the pastry. Sieve the flour and salt into a large mixing bowl and add the margarine and lard.
4. Rub the fat into the flour with your fingertips 'from a height' (oo jamie oliver style...) until it resembles breadcrumbs. You can add in the thyme at this stage or the previous stage.
5. Add the water and knead gently into a soft dough. On a floured work-surface, roll out the dough until large enough to fit into a flan dish or metal case. Push down into the case, pressing into the sides.
6. To finish the filling, whisk together the milk, egg, soft cheese, parmesan and chessar until combined. Stir into the tomato and onion mixture and gently pour into the pastry case until filled to the top. Grate some more cheddar on top. I found that I had too much filling for the case, maybe because my case was too small. I put the remaining filling into little ramekin dishes and baked in the oven with the quiche so that it could be eaten anyway and not wasted.
7. Bake in the oven for 30-45 minutes, or until the filling has set and is golden brown. 
Enjoy :)

Saturday, 16 June 2012

Fruity flapjacks

I have never made flapjacks before today, in fact, I was never really that keen on them before either, but these have completely blown me away! I looked up a few different recipes and decided on the ingredients that I thought would work best (and with what I had in the house!) These are prune flapjacks, but the prunes can easily be swapped for apricots, dates, cranberries etc. They are incredibly moist, yet still crispy and crunchy when you get an edge piece. I used mainly margarine so I was shocked that they tasted so satisfyingly bad for you and buttery - obviously they're still not particularly 'healthy' but the marg does help a bit... I nearly always say this about the recipes I post, but these really were so easy to make as well! A brilliant treat to make if you're having friends or family over, everyone's bound to love them. I would probably modify the recipe if I was making chocolate flapjacks because the textures would be different, but you could always try just swapping the dried fruit for chocolate chips although I don't know if the texture would be as perfect! I will definitely stick to this recipe in the future and make these again and again - hope you like them as much as me.
Makes about 9 flapjacks
- 125g margarine, plus extra for greasing
- 50g butter
- 75g soft, brown sugar
- 55g runny honey
- 100g dried prunes (pitted), chopped
- 40g mixed dried fruit (raisins, saltanas etc.)
- 1 tsp sesame seeds
- 1 tsp golden linseeds (flax)
- 225g oats

1. Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4 / 180 degrees and grease a square or rectangular tin (e.g. 10.5 x 6.5 inches)
2. Over a low heat, melt the margarine, butter, sugar (leaving a little bit left) and honey in a pan, stirring until fully melted and the sugar dissolved.
3. Stir in the prunes, dried fruit, seeds and oats until fully mixed and coated.
4. Spoon the mixture into the tin, flattening with the back of a wooden spoon. Sprinkle over the remaining sugar and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown.
5. Remove from the oven and cut into squares/rectangles, and leave to cool in the tin.

Enjoy :)

Monday, 11 June 2012

Chicken chasseur with new potatoes in parsley butter

So this doesn't look particularly appetising... it looked better in real life! I've had one of those schwartz (but the Tesco version) chicken chasseur packet mixes lying around for ages and instead of using it I thought, I'm gonna make it from scratch! It went really well - I looked at a few different recipes beforehand and decided on the ingredients I wanted to use (or had in the house) and the result was scrummy. I'm not a huge fan of new potatoes (does anyone else think they taste weird?) so lathering them in butter and parsley was a genius idea. There is parsley in the chasseur as well so this worked nicely, as would parsley mash - I've made this before and it's delicious. You can tell I have a lot of parsley to use up... my mum bought a lot because it's a key ingredient in my favourite meal which she cooked me the other day (may share this recipe with you soon!) so I've been trying to use it up. Another great way to use parsley is making a lemon and parsley sauce (parsley, lemon juice, butter) which is yummy with chicken (just flatten and fry some chicken breasts). Chicken chasseur traditionally has wine in it but we didn't have any in the house and it tasted fine without, just not as rich I suppose. I have never really cooked this meal before and it made a really nice change - I would never really put chicken and chopped tomatoes together but, hey, it works! I used chicken thighs because they're much more moist and tender than chicken breast when cooked this way.

Serves 2
For chicken chasseur
- drizzle of olive oil
- 2 cloves garlic, crushed
- 1/2 red onion, chopped
- 4 rashers bacon, cut into large pieces
- 2-3 chicken thighs, skinless and boneless, cut into chunks
- 150g button mushrooms, or larger mushrooms, quartered
- 1 tbsp plain flour
- 400g tin chopped tomatoes
- 1/2 beef stock cube
- dash of Worcestershire sauce 
- large handful of fresh parsley, chopped

For potatoes
- 450-500g jersey royal potatoes
- large knob of butter
- handful of fresh parsley, chopped
- salt & pepper

1. Heat the olive oil in a deep pan and fry the garlic and onion for a few minutes until softened. Add the bacon and cook for a further few minutes, until the bacon begins to brown. Add the chicken pieces for around 5 minutes, or until they are cooked through and browned.
2. Add the mushrooms and stir to coat in the oil/bacon and chicken fat. Continue to cook until reduced in size and softened. Add the plain flour and stir until coated and a sort of paste has been formed. Pour in the chopped tomatoes and crumble in the beef stock cube. Boil for about 10 minutes, or until thickened.
3. Pour in a dash of Worcestershire sauce and add the parsley. Season to taste and serve with the new potatoes (see below).

1. Boil the potatoes in salted water for 20-25 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, in a small pan, melt the butter and stir in the parsley.
3. Once the potatoes are softened, drain, and stir in the parsley butter and serve with the chasseur and green vegetables (I cooked green beans).

Enjoy :)

Monday, 4 June 2012

Jubilee cake and cupcakes!

Most of the cupcakes are filled with raspberry jam so resemble mini victoria sponges (perfectly British for the Queen's Jubilee!), and both the cupcakes and the cake are topped with delicious vanilla buttercream. I am aware that the fruit flag pattern on the cake isn't exactly what the flag looks like, but I didn't have enough blueberries to do triangles or any raspberries for the diagonal lines so I just did what I could... I made these with my friend Leah, and it was so much quicker and more fun baking with someone else! We didn't have any red, white and blue sprinkles, but the union jack cupcake cases make up for it, and multi-coloured sprinkles still look cute. This is a really easy recipe to follow, so give it a try and make someone smile this bank holiday weekend :)

Makes 8 cupcakes and one small sponge
- 125g soft margarine
- 125g caster sugar
- 2 medium eggs, whisked
- 1/2 tsp vanilla essence
- 125g self-raising flour, sieved
- 1/2 tsp baking powder

For the buttercream:
- 150g unsalted butter
- 225g icing sugar
- 2 tbsp hot milk
- 1 tsp vanilla extract

Toppings and decorations
- few spoonfuls of raspberry jam
- sprinkles
- strawberries and blueberries

1. Pre-heat the oven to 180 degrees, line a muffin tin with 8 cupcake cases, and grease a small rectangular oven-proof dish or tin for the sponge.
2. In a large mixing bowl, cream together the margarine and sugar until light and fluffy. Gradually whisk in the eggs, vanilla essence, flour and baking powder until there is a smooth batter. Spoon into the cupcake cases (about 2/3's full) and pour the remains into the greased dish.
3. Bake in the oven for around 12 minutes for the cupcakes, and slightly longer for the sponge. Leave to cool on a wired rack.
4. Meanwhile, make the buttercream by whisking together the butter, sugar, milk and vanilla essence until smooth. Set aside.
5. To fill the cupcakes with jam, I used a cupcake plunger which removes the core of the cake. However, you can use a knife to do this it just takes a little longer.

6. Fill the centre with raspberry jam. If you want, you can put the sponge tops back on or leave it as it is.
7. Spread both the cake and cupcakes with the buttercream, use sprinkles and/or fruit to decorate and voila.
Enjoy :)

Saturday, 2 June 2012

Pasta and meatballs

A twist on the normal spaghetti bolognese! Although this takes a little longer than just browning mince, the dish is automatically transformed into something more special and exciting, so it is definitely worth it. I made half the meatballs with lamb mince and half the meatballs with beef mince (just what we had in the freezer) which made it even more interesting because there were two different flavours of meat - it was fun guessing which was which (clearly spend too much time with food...) It can be quite tricky cooking meatballs from scratch because they tend to crumble and fall apart when turning them in the frying pan. I found that the lamb meatballs didn't fall apart at all, and cooked perfectly, whereas the beef meatballs crumbled a bit (something to do with the type of meat? not sure what exactly though.) I love this meal, since I love cooking with fresh garlic and fresh herbs - the flavours in the meatballs and sauce were delicious. This meal will never fail to impress - people always think meatballs are more difficult to make than they really are (shh)!

Serves 2 (makes 12 meatballs)
- 250g mince (beef or lamb, or both)
- 3 garlic cloves, crushed
- 2 small red onions, chopped
- few handfuls of fresh parsley, chopped
- salt and pepper
- olive oil or egg yolk, for binding
- olive oil, for frying
- 1 red pepper, chopped
- tin of chopped tomatoes, or passata
- fresh basil, torn
- fresh parmesan, grated
- 200g pasta
(Above is the passata we used. It's a huge jar so I used just over half - it's basically the same as tinned tomatoes but just crushed rather than larger pieces of tomato. I think this brand was from Costco)

1. In a bowl, combine the mince, 1 crushed garlic clove, 1 chopped onion, chopped parsley, salt and pepper, and oil or egg. Shape into medium sized balls - it should make around 12.
2. Heat some olive oil in a large frying pan (I used 2 smaller frying pans) and fry the meatballs over a low-medium heat, turning occasionally to ensure they are cooked in the middle. They should be browned.
3. Set aside. Cook the pasta according to packet instructions (around 10 mins) in salted water. Meanwhile, fry the remaining onion and garlic in some olive oil. Once softened, add the peppers, cook for a few minutes, then add the passata or chopped tomatoes. Season to taste with fresh basil, salt and pepper, and some parmesan.
4. Return the meatballs to the sauce and heat through for a few minutes. Drain the pasta and serve topped with the meatballs and sauce. Garnish with some more basil leaves and some freshly grated parmesan!

Enjoy :)

Friday, 1 June 2012

Sweet scones with raspberry jam

These English treats are perfect for the Jubilee weekend - whether you're having friends and family over for afternoon tea, or having a party with a finger food buffet. I got this recipe from Lisa Faulkner's book again (I love it, I get so many recipes from there!) and they tasted yummy. However, I was cooking in a student kitchen with no mixing bowls, no scales, no sieve, and no rolling pin... You can imagine the dilemma of guessing the quantities and using a tall drinking glass to roll out the dough and cut out the round shapes. As a result of all the chaos, they didn't seem to rise well like scones usually would (only a few worked out okay) and I also forgot to brush them with milk, and I cooked them slightly too long... This meant that they were quite dense and crunchy, almost like biscuits! Delicious biscuits, nonetheless, especially with jam. I'm going to make these again soon when I'm home so I can get them right, and have them with clotted cream as well as jam. I'm sure this recipe will work perfectly well for you though, so give it a try!

Makes 16
- 375g self-raising flour, plus extra for dusting
- 1 tsp salt
- 2 tsp baking powder
- 2 tbsp caster sugar
- 75g cold butter, cubed, plus extra for greasing
- 175ml milk, plus extra for brushing
- raspberry or strawberry jam, to serve
- clotted cream, to serve
1. Preheat the oven to 200 degrees / gas mark 6 and grease a baking tray.
2. Sieve the flour, salt and baking powder together into a mixing bowl and add the sugar and butter. Rub together with your fingertips until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs.
3. Mix in the milk to make a dough, and knead a little until it becomes smooth.
4. Roll the dough out onto lightly floured surface to about 1cm thick and cut about sixteen 5-6cm rounds. 
Put the dough circles onto the greased baking tray and brush with a little milk.
5. Bake in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until risen and golden.
6. Serve warm or cold with clotted cream and jam!

Enjoy :)