Lunches part 3

Part 3 in my lunch series has been a long time coming — it’s been almost a year (!) since I posted Part 2 (Part 1 here). To give a quick summary, this series is about lunch items that can be prepared quickly and that take the dullness out of what is often for a lot of people a ‘throwaway’ meal.

7. Leftover vegetarian chili
Yes, it may seem a bit odd to includes leftovers in this feature, but this really makes the best lunch, especially on a winter’s day. You can make the chili the night before or even freeze it in advance (it’s easy to throw together and once assembled you can leave to simmer for as long as you like). The way I make it would perhaps be considered by some as a ‘loose’ version of chili, but I’ll share my method regardless: sautee garlic (and onion, if you wish) in a bit of olive oil. Add 2 (400g) cans of chopped tomatoes, followed by whatever veg you like (I like carrots, peppers, and some tomatoes). Add 2 cans of red kidney beans, + spices (I used a little cumin, ground coriander, garam masala, and my personal favourite to add to a chili, a little cinnamon). Simmer (the longer the better). Best with a bit of grated cheddar, chopped fresh coriander, & a dollop of sour cream on top! This makes enough for 2 meals for 2; adjust as necessary.

8. Cheat’s tomato soup
I’m calling this a cheat’s soup because it’s not made with fresh ingredients which for some reason to me feels like cheating! However I’ve made this loads of times and enjoyed it each and every one. What is imperative for this recipe is the tomatoes — find ones that are good quality. I cannot stress this enough. To make, simply sautee a little garlic and/or onions in some oil, add 2 cans of diced tomatoes along with salt and pepper, and simmer for anywhere between 10-20 minutes. Then puree the soup and add in a dollop of cream or creme fraiche (you do not need a lot to create a bit of a ‘creamy’ feeling). My favourite garnish herb for this soup is dill, but lots of others would work too. Best served with crusty bread!

9. A version of Ottolenghi’s conchiglioni
I am even surprising myself that I’ve included an Ottolenghi dish in this series, however this is a great-tasting pasta and has to be one of the easier dishes in his repertoire! It’s also, in Ottolenghi’s words, comfort food at its finest. The recipe is from Jerusalem. I have made it several times with many substitutions and variations. The basic ingredients you need are pasta, plain Greek yogurt*, feta cheese, basil, chili flakes, and nuts. *When I first told H. that I was making pasta with yogurt he had a confused and disgusted look on his face. I promise that it works though! To make it, simply prepare the pasta as directed, and once cooked combine with a large dollop of yogurt, some basil leaves, chili flakes, feta, and nuts as desired (pine nuts work the best in my experience). You can also mix spinach leaves in which I’ve found to work really well.



Zucchini Pasta

The internet, or at least the blogs on my Feedly, is exploding with zucchini recipes. It’s that time of year. Unfortunately this one is going to be no different as it is the first of many posts featuring this adaptable and delicious vegetable. My uncle P.’s vegetable garden was teeming with zucchinis while we were in Sandy Cove, and I definitely took advantage of it. One morning I stumbled upon this beautiful post and zucchini pasta recipe (scroll down). The timing was perfect since I had 2 zucchinis I needed to use up.

This is one of my favourite pasta dishes I’ve had in a long time. It was soooo good. Its flavours are not big and bold but, as H. put it, “subtle and fresh.” It didn’t feel like a heavy pasta dish at all. I left out the mint and pine nuts as I didn’t have them and even without this dish was a real winner for me. I will be making it again very soon.

Shredded zucchinni
Shredded zucchinni
Finished product!
Finished product!

Prawn Ravioli {Valentine’s Day Part 2}

{Part 1 here}

For our main meal, I wanted to purchase something we wouldn’t usually buy. I originally wanted crab, but the fishmonger didn’t have any, so we went with shrimp instead. I got the idea of making the ravioli from this beautiful post on a blog I recently discovered called Manger.

Before we even started we encountered our first problem: the shrimp H. bought were unpeeled with the heads still on! We spent an hour peeling and washing them and the ‘meat’ we got out of it was not really enough to make it worthwhile. However this being Valentine’s Day, one has to accept one’s partner’s mistakes, and we soldiered on!! 🙂

I stayed fairly true to the recipe I linked to, but did make a few changes. First was the filling. Sadly, I do not have a food processor and thought that simply by vigourously combining the ingredients, it would still be alright. The taste was not bad, but the texture was off: there’s a reason that ravioli fillings are generally smooth! Also, we used all of our shrimp for the ravioli (there was actually enough for two meals), so did not fry the rest as in the recipe. I thus incorporated the carrots into the virgin sauce which worked really well. H. is the pasta-maker and used his own recipe (in German).

Aside from the filling texture issue (our fault), the ravioli and salad were tasty. The sauce (not really visible as a ‘sauce’ in the pic), with the garlic, tomatoes, and pine nuts, was absolutely delicious.

shrimp rav 2

Lunches part 2

Following on from my first installment, here’s part 2 in my quest to find easy and delicious lunchtime meals.

4. Wholewheat spaghetti with walnuts, blue cheese, & cherry tomatoes {my own recipe}
This is a quick pasta dish to whip up. Aside from toasting the walnuts (which I burnt, as you may be able to tell from the picture), there’s not much prep except cooking the pasta and chopping. Once the pasta is ready, simply toss all ingredients together with a bit of olive oil, lemon juice, salt and pepper, and enjoy.

5. Spicy baked beans & tomatoes with an egg on top {adapted from this recipe}
This is a little riff off a breakfast meal and it’s not your average baked beans either. This is essentially beans and tomatoes baked in the oven with an egg on top, along with a little cheese. To make it, combine a bit of oil, garlic, beans, a can of tomatoes, some cumin, and chiles if you’re using them in a pan and simmer for 20 minutes or so (note: I didn’t have any black beans so used kidney beans and it worked just fine). After that, assemble the mixture into a ovenproof dish, add desired number of eggs on top, and bake for about 5-10 minutes at 230C. The last step is to broil at the end after you’ve topped the mixture with a bit of cheese. Serve with a large handful of fresh coriander (which I unfortunately did not have!).

6. Indian-spiced chicken salad {based on recipe here}
This is great to make with leftover chicken (or turkey, as the recipe suggests). I simplified the original so all the needs to be done is make the dressing and a do bit of light chopping. I made my dressing using mayo, Greek yogurt, ground cumin and coriander, red chili flakes, ginger, lemon juice, and a bit of salt & pepper. Next time I would leave out the mayo and only use the yogurt. I topped with with green onion and chopped fresh coriander – would leave out the green onions next time as I didn’t quite like the texture.

New Feature: Quick & Delicious Lunchtime Dishes

This post introduces a new “feature” on my blog: reports on tried and tested easy and tasty lunches. (Also new: the snow!)

Since I work from home a lot, I look forward to lunch not only to satisfy my hunger but also as a break from reading and writing. A proper break goes a long way to having a productive afternoon. With this in mind, I’ve been on the hunt for tasty lunches that can be made in under half an hour. Rather than making a separate post about each one, I figured I’d combine 3-in-1 and post whenever I have three accumulated. My criteria are that they have to be reasonably healthy, easy to prepare, and interesting (boring lunches=bad). Bonus if they use up leftovers, etc.

{1} Roasted vegetable pasta with mint and yogurt (Original recipe here)
This dish is great because you can throw pretty much any vegetable into it (I used tomatoes, eggplant, and mushrooms), and, since most of us have dried pasta around, even a modified version of this is easy to whip up. You can also toss the veggies in the oven and forget about them while they roast if you want to do other things. The pasta salad was tasty, but I would definitely recommend using less vinegar; 3 tablespoons was too much! The addition of a bit of Greek yogurt adds a creamy texture, and the mint balances out the acid nicely. With wholewheat pasta this can be very healthy as well.

{2} Instant ramen noodles with peanut & ginger dressing (Original recipe here)
This uses instant ramen noodles (known as Mr. Noodles to me!), which, before making this, I had not had since I was about 15. Since I found packets for 18p each at Lidl, this was a very budget-friendly lunch. I left the steak from the original recipe out and instead made the dressing using lime juice, ginger, peanut butter, & water, and then topped with coriander, spring onion, and cucumber. This went over well!


{3} Scroungers’ bean salad (My own concoction)
This is the ultimate scrounge-around-the-cupboards dish. Back from a weekend away earlier this week, the fridge and cupboards were almost bare. I mixed together chickpeas and red kidney beans, plus whatever veggies I could find, which were a red pepper and tomato (note: greens needed next time), and some feta cheese. I dressed the salad with only olive oil, lemon juice, and salt & pepper, but you could use any dressing you like really.

Chicken Mac & Cheese

Amid serious chaos in other areas of my life, I am trying to keep on cooking and blogging. One, it is a huge stress relief. Two, we’re trying to keep things as normal as possible. And three, writing as often as possible (in any form) is important to me.

A couple of nights ago, after FINALLY being able to use our oven, we decided we needed some comfort food. What better than mac & cheese? It’s quite an indulgent meal, but we needed it! This is my own recipe. It is very creamy and does not dry out in the oven, which is important for a mac & cheese for me. As with any pasta bake, you can throw pretty much anything in. I like the combination of tomatoes and cheese, but mushrooms, peppers, aubergine, zucchini, and many other veggies would also work. Similarly you can adjust the seasoning to be spicier, more garlicky, etc.

-Roughly 300g noodles (I used fusili, but penne would be better)
-450g (approx.) chicken breast, chopped into cubes or shredded
-500ml combination of milk and cream – your choice (I used a 250ml skim milk, 200ml double cream)
-1 tsp Dijon mustard
-1-2 cloves of garlic
-Cheese of choice: I used mostly cheddar plus a bit of soft goat’s cheese and feta
-10-12 cherry tomatoes, cut in half
-To season: salt, pepper, any Italian herbs, and red pepper flakes

To make: 

  1. Cut up chicken, season with salt and pepper, and cook.
  2. Cook pasta to al dente.
  3. Meanwhile, combine milk/cream, garlic, Dijon, and seasonings of choice into a small pan and bring to a boil. Milk boils over very easily, so keep an eye on it!
  4. In an oven-proof baking dish, combine the pasta, cooked chicken, and sauce, and stir in the cheese.
  5. Top with cherry tomatoes and bake for 20-25 minutes at 200c.

Lobster & Shrimp Pasta with Herbed Cream Sauce

In addition to halibut, we were also fortunate to be able to take leftover lobster home from our Victoria Day weekend in Sandy Cove. In the past, I have made risotto and lobster spaghetti with leftovers, but I wanted to try something different. I searched and came across this recipe, which seemed easy to whip up quickly.

We didn’t have quite enough lobster for three people, so I also threw in a few shrimp as well. This pasta was typical comfort food and definitely hit the spot, but didn’t have the ‘wow’ factor. I probably wouldn’t make it again, or at least make a few changes if I did.

Close up

Shrimp Pasta Toss

This post is my first one from Canada! 🙂 H. and I had a very hectic few weeks, but we’re settling in now, and I’m so happy to be HOME!

I made this pasta last night, after an afternoon of sailing (H.’s first time on a boat, and my first in many years :)). I was looking for something quick and easy and this fit the bill. Frozen cooked shrimp is something I always like to have on hand here because it is versatile and easy to defrost (15 minutes under running cold water). The pasta I made ended up being a combination of these two recipes. The main ingredients were tomato, shrimp, and a sprinkling of feta on top. This pasta wasn’t bursting full of flavour, but it was tasty, and quick to throw together.

Stay tuned for lots more to come! 😀

Truffled Mac & Cheese

In the last of the reports on the dinner party fare, we had this mac & cheese, along with a spinach salad, as the main meal. The recipe was recommended to me by one of my best friends.

I did modify things slightly: I used mostly cheddar cheese and I didn’t add the Dijon. This mac & cheese was delicious — everyone had second helpings. If/when I make it again though, I will bake it for only 10-15 minutes. It was too dry for my taste (although it didn’t bother anyone else). I do love the texture of over-baked noodles but a little less time in the oven will make it creamier.

PS: Happy Valentine’s Day to those who celebrate it. We don’t (really), but are making a nice dinner in tonight, so look for updates about that soon.

Pasta with Slow-Roasted Tomatoes

Well, Christmas is right around the corner and I figured I’d better post once more before the holiday madness descends upon us (and let’s face it, I don’t cook at all much at my bf’s parents’).

This recipe (although you can hardly call it that) comes from an edition of Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food magazine, which I bought while I was home in Canada earlier this year. It’s a dead easy meal but something that is very dependable, adaptable, and tasty. Give me anything that contains tomatoes and pasta and I am happy!

Slow-roasted tomatoes are so tasty. They are the savoury equivalent of chocolate melting in your mouth. I remember when I was home in the summertime that my aunt would slow roast a huge batch of tomatoes every day. This meal just involves roasting them at 100C degrees for an hour, and then tossing them with a bit of olive oil, salt & pepper, garlic, and herbs. I made it another time and added a bit of feta cheese — very versatile!