Easy Vegetable Tart

This vegetable tart is really simple to make (especially if you don’t make the puff pastry) and you can customise the toppings as you please. I didn’t make my own puff pastry as I thought it would be too time consuming as I was cooking a large-ish meal as well so opted for the shop-bought kind which really lessened the preparation time. I topped the tart with courgette and mushrooms and a little mozzarella. I think this would also make a lovely individual starter as you can really brush up the presentation easily.

Easy Vegetable Tart, serves 4

Preparation time: 15 minutes

Baking time: 20 minutes

-2 tbsp sundried tomato paste

-1 crushed garlic clove

-365g puff pastry

-100g mozzarella

-1 courgette

-1tbsp olive oil

-2 tsp dried oregano

-100g mushrooms, sliced

First mix the tomato paste and crushed garlic together. I only had tomato puree so added in some chopped sundried tomatoes.

Roll out your pastry gently to a thickness of about 3-5mm in any shape you like.

  

Score round about a centimetre if the border with a fork making a hatched pattern. Prick the main base of your tart as well and spread the tomato mix thinly. I actually found the tomato a little overwhelming afterwards so you could perhaps lessen this to half the mix.

Slice the courgette and mushrooms thinly and arrange on the tart. Top with some mozzarella and give it all a good seasoning.

Bake in a preheated 220 degrees Celsius oven for 20 minutes.

 

Please let me know in the comments section below your favourite combinations or vegetables and toppings – the rest of the food in the listed menu here will be up shortly!

 

cooked as part of this menu

Chicken Wings!

I have not actually ever made chicken wings before and thought I would attempt some as my brother and sister love them. The recipe I used was fairly simple and I had hoped that the overnight marinating of the chicken would give it a lot of flavour, but surprisingly it was just mediocre for my taste so if any readers have any tips or other recipes, I would be very grateful if you would leave comments below.

Easy chicken wings, makes 16

Preparation time : 15 minutes

Roasting time : 45-50 minutes

-16 raw chicken wings

-2 garlic cloves, crushed

-Zest and juice of 1 lemon

-1tsp cumin seeds

2 tbsp olive oil

-1 tbsp honey (optional)

First make the marinade by mixing garlic, lemon zest, juice, cumin and oil in a medium bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

Toss the wings in the marinade so that they are thoroughly coated and leave to rest overnight so that the marinade can be absorbed in the meat. As I didn’t find that the flavour had been absorbed quite as much, I would suggest making some small slits in the chicken wings to improve this.

When you are ready to cook the chicken wings, put in the oven at 200 degrees Celsius for 45-50 minutes until golden brown and crisp. You can drizzle a little honey onto them for the last 10 minutes if roasting if preferred.

 

 

cooked as part of this menu

Omelette – The First Attempt

So I had never made or eaten an omelette before until about half an hour ago. Omelettes are great for quick snacks or accompaniments to meals because all you need are eggs and you can chuck in whatever takes your fancy. I thought I would make one because we have so many boxes of eggs thanks to the chickens at the farm I recently started working. I called this my first attempt because I know that there are lots of things I could improve on for next time, so here’s the slightly haphazard ‘recipe’ I used.

First I cracked two fresh eggs into a pyrex glass jug (I find these easier to pour into the pan as opposed to a regular bowl) and mixed. Season with salt and pepper to taste. If you have some herbs like chives or parsley or other herbs, now would be a good time to tear them up and mix with the egg. Heat up a medium sized pan (about 20-30cm in diameter) and add some olive oil. Make sure the pan is relatively hot before adding the eggs. Meanwhile prepare your filling. I used finely chopped peppers and some ham in mine, but any vegetables, meats, and cheeses work nicely too. (Maybe leave your favourite combinations in the comments below and I’ll be sure to try them out?)

Turn your pan down to a medium heat and pour in the eggs.Keep turning and mixing very gently (you don’t want it to become scrambled) every 10-20 seconds so that different parts of the omelette will cook. Obviously you don’t want liquid uncooked egg in the middle with your filling when you sit down to eat it. When about 2/3 of the egg is cooked, sprinkle on your filling of choice. Carefully use a spatula to ease off half the omelette and fold it over the other half so that your filling is sandwiched in between. The omelette should now be semi-circle shaped, cook for 4-5 minutes until ready and serve immediately.

I ate this for dinner with some toasted homemade soda bread baked lovingly by my mother and it made a delicious meal!

 

How to make tomato pasta sauce

It has seriously been such dull drizzly weather for the past few weeks and I was really craving some fresh tomato sauce on Friday, so I decided to make it. This recipe is really easy to make and takes about 30-40 minutes in total including preparation. I have used tinned tomatoes as that was all we had in the kitchen, if you want it to be really fresh you can easily use the same weight in fresh tomatoes.

Fresh Tomato Sauce, serves 6-8 

Preparation time : 30-40 minutes

– 2 tbsp olive oil

– 2-3 small cloves of garlic, peeled and finely chopped

– 1 piece of ginger (about the size of your thumb), peeled and finely grated

– 2 medium sized onions (or a handful of shallots – I used a mixture as we were running low on onions), peeled and roughly chopped

– 2 x 400g tinned tomatoes

– 200g tomato passata

(Alternatively you may use the the same weight in fresh tomatoes, to prepare – put in boiling water for 10-15 seconds and carefully peel off the skin, chop roughly and use a blender to purée them so that half the mixture is smooth and the other half still has some tomato chunks in)

– 2 large handfuls of fresh basil

– 2 tsp of dried oregano

– salt and freshly milled pepper, to season

– a pinch of sugar

First ‘peel’ the ginger with a small sharp knife and grate finely. You can see in the photos the size of the piece that I used, it doesn’t have to be totally precise so just use what you feel is right and suits your taste.

 

Next prepare the garlic and onions. A good tip for peeling garlic is to use the flat side of a wide knife to crush it slightly, the skin peels off much easier this way. Chop as finely as possible. Do the same to the onions. It doesn’t really matter what type they are (I used a red onion and a shallot as that was all we had).

Heat a large pan and add the olive oil when hot. Next stir in the onions. After a few minutes, add the garlic and ginger. Let the onions soften but keep stirring to avoid burning. This should take about 5-8 minutes (before and after photos below).

 

Next pour in all the chopped tomatoes and passata. Mix thoroughly with the onions, garlic and ginger. Season with salt, pepper, torn basil leaves and dried oregano. Lastly add a pinch of sugar.

Cover the tomato sauce partly with a lid and simmer gently for a further 20-30 minutes until you reach your preferred consistency. The sauce should become much thicker at this point.

I also added in a sliced red pepper and some meatballs which were left over in our fridge.

Serve hot and season again if necessary. This sauce will keep for a few weeks stored in the fridge. I hope to do a post in a few weeks about how to make your own meatballs to accompany this, so look out for it. This is an incredibly easy sauce to make and is very versatile once you have this basic sauce. You can add mince to make it into a bolognese or add more vegetables to include more protein, or serve with meatballs – it’s totally up to you!

Noodles with lettuce and egg

I had this for breakfast this morning. I also took some photos of the packet of shrimp-flavoured noodles so you know what they look like.

It is very similar to the recent posts that I have done about frying vegetables with the noodles. I also added in some fried egg. To do this, whisk the egg together first in a bowl and pour into a lightly oiled pan. Cook like a pancake and cut into strips before adding to noodles.

 

Simple noodles and veg for dinner.

My mother is a superb cook, I only wish that some of her instinctive skill had rubbed off on me. I remember sitting on the kitchen work-top when I was much younger and watching her cook as well as helping her make delicious dumplings, oh if only I had the freedom of time now! She is Oriental and cooks fabulous meals from the most basic ingredients – her simple and lightly-flavoured Chinese cooking is characteristic of the region she grew up in as opposed to some of the very strong flavours favoured (that’s a tongue-twister!) by other regions. My palate is used to this style of cooking as I have been brought up in it, and I think it works best for everyday home cooking – it’s healthy, simple, and quick. However despite this I am not really used to cooking Chinese food, I find the eating part suits me better. I think the ultimate comfort food for me is just a steaming bowl of rice really. That’s how easy I am to please. Anyway, my skills do exist beyond opening a pack of ‘gong-zai mian’ (Cantonese for ‘doll/toy noodles – aptly named after the famous ‘Nissin’ brand noodles which have a little cartoon person on them), even if only just.

Although I do love these instant noodles very occasionally…

Tonight I used shrimp-flavoured noodles instead. You can get these easily in any Chinese/Oriental supermarket (we go to Wing-Yip which has EVERYTHING, I didn’t even realise they also have a new online store too in case you don’t live by one). They are quick and easy to cook (about 10-15 minutes in boiling water) and have a gentle shrimpy/prawny taste which is less bland than plain noodles.

Anyway, before cooking the actual noodles, I first chopped up some broccoli and put it into the pan of water first. If you chop them relatively small, it cooks much faster and so after about 10 minutes you can put the noodles into the same pan. I also sliced some baby sweetcorn and cut up some leftover roast pork. You can basically add any vegetables or meat that you have in your fridge really and it makes a decent meal.

After about 20 minutes of total cooking time, remove the broccoli and noodles from the pan. Meanwhile heat another pan and pour a few teaspoons of oil into it when hot. Stir in your meat and vegetables and fry for about 5-8 minutes. You can also add a little bit of chicken/beef stock (about 10ml) before seasoning to taste. Serve on top of the noodles and stir in with a light drizzle of soy sauce.

Ta da! (Sometimes I also add a fried egg on top). A really quick easy meal ready in less than half an hour.

Good old spaghetti bolognese

This recipe provided the main course for our meal this evening. It’s a great hot-pot dish that you can prepare and then leave bubbling away for an hour and half while you get on with something else. Not to mention how easy it is to make. A fantastic solution to feeding any hungry student!

Spaghetti Bolognese, makes 8

Preparation time : 45 minutes

Cooking time : 1 and 1/2 hours (90 minutes if you prefer)

All that steam has got to my camera - sorry about the blurriness

-500g good quality lean minced beef

-A few tbsp of mild olive oil

-2 onions, finely chopped

-1 carrot, finely chopped

-2 sticks of celery, finely chopped

-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped

-150g pancetta (or smoked bacon rashers), diced

-A few tsp of dried mixed herbs or a handful of torn basil

-2 x 400g tin of chopped tomatoes

-2 tbsp tomato purée

-150ml white wine

-100ml water

-150ml milk

-5oog spaghetti or tagliatelle

Ingredients line up

Heat a casserole heat-proof dish/large pan and add the olive oil. Ensure the pan is hot so that the mince sizzles when added. Keep at a medium heat whilst you brown the mince for 10 minutes, using a wooden spoon to break the lumps. The colour should change from raw pink to a rather unappetising grey before the familiar brown.

 

Remove the mince from the heat and place in a spare bowl. Now prepare the vegetables (easily done in advance). Finely chop the carrot, celery, onions and garlic.

As you can see from the photo, I like to have everything ready – there’s no harm in measuring out the milk, wine and water at this stage. To the same pan/casserole dish, add a little more oil if needed ensuring it is hot. Add the diced pancetta and fry gently for 7-8 minutes (bacon rashers will take a few minutes longer).

Next add the vegetables and turn down the heat cooking for 10 minutes or so until the vegetables have softened (you can put the lid on and stir every few minutes).

Then return the mince and add the herbs. Stir in the tomato purée and wine, allowing the bubble and reduce for a few minutes.

Then stir in the milk and both tins of chopped tomatoes. Slosh the water in the cans to rinse them clean and add all the liquid to the pan. Season with salt and pepper.

Partly cover the pan and leave to simmer gently.

This makes a really tender and rich sauce. After about 45 minutes, cover completely otherwise the sauce may become dry.

Leave for an hour and a half - patience is a virtue

Cook the spaghetti or tagliatelle when ready to serve. Drain and serve with the bolognese. Season with cheese.

Hungry no more - Dig in!

Those observant views will notice this is only the second meal of a three course dinner. Dessert awaits – apple and walnut loaf…