Recipe: Butternut Squash Pasta

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Butternut  squash is hands down my favourite vegetable – I love it roasted, in risottos or whizzed up into a soup. My husband, on the other hand, is not as keen on the orange starchy vegetable but, thanks to the Jamie Oliver cookbook I received at Christmas, we have now found a dish we both enjoy.

The recipe for Squash Rigatoni is featured in Save with Jamie and I have only made a couple of small changes – I use rosemary instead of thyme as we both prefer it, gluten free pasta as my husband can’t eat wheat and I have sprinkled some pancetta fried in garlic oil over the pasta before serving.

Butternut cooked

Start by roasting a whole butternut squash in the oven (180 degrees/gas mark 4) for one and a half hours.

Butternut cut

Once it is cooked, split it in half, deseed and scoop out the flesh and either use right away or save for another day. The recipe only calls for half a squash so you can use the leftover flesh to make soup or another of Jamie’s recipes such as squash houmous or squash fritters.

Here’s how to make the pasta dish: 

(Serves 4, cooking time: 20 minutes)

Ingredients: 

320g dried rigatoni (or other pasta)

Olive oil

Dried chilli flakes

8 sprigs of thyme

2 cloves of garlic

2 tablespoons of creme fraiche

40g blue cheese

1-2 tablespoons of boiling water

Parmesan cheese

Put a generous splash of olive oil and a pinch of dried chilli flakes into a large pan on a medium heat, then strip in the leaves from the thyme (or in our case rosemary) and squash in the garlic through a garlic crusher. Fry for one minute then add the creme fraiche, blue cheese and a splash of boiling water. Simmer gently while you cook the pasta according to the packet instructions, then drain reserving a cupful of cooking water. Season the squash mixture, toss the pasta through it, loosening with the cooking water if needed. 

If, like my husband you don’t feel you’ve had a proper meal unless it has some meat in it, fry some pancetta cubes in a pan until just crispy and sprinkle over the pasta along with parmesan cheese before serving.

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Apologies that my pictures aren’t the best – I cooked this in the evening and with no natural light it is hard to make food look appetising. But take my word for it, this recipe is definitely worth trying!

Recipe: Daim Biscuits

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You can’t beat a good biscuit – together with a nice cup of tea (or glass of milk for the kiddos) it can turn a bad day into a bearable one with the first bite. The children and I first made these biscuits over half term and then Casper and I whipped up another batch this week when he was off school with an ear infection. I honestly think that just the delicious smell wafting through the kitchen did him as much good as all the spoonfuls of Calpol put together! If you don’t believe me, try them for yourself, quick and easy to make, they are the perfect mix of soft and crunchy – what’s not to love?

Daim biscuits:

(makes around 20-30 biscuits)
100 g butter (at room temperature)
80g caster sugar
1 tbsp vanilla essence
1 tbsp golden syrup
150 g plain flour
1/2 tsp bicarbonate of soda
2 regular Daim bars (crushed into small pieces with a pestle and mortar)

Mix all the ingredients in a bowl and knead into a dough. Divide in two pieces and roll into two long sausage shapes. Place them on a tray covered in baking parchment and flatten with your fingers. Bake in the oven at 175 C, for 12-15 minutes. Take out the tray and cut the biscuits diagonally before they have cooled.

Enjoy! X

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Recipe: Swedish ‘Sockerkaka’ Sponge Cake

Sockerkaka

I realise this is a bit of a departure from my previous healthy living post but I just downloaded last week’s photos from my camera and wanted to share this recipe with you. Sockerkaka (meaning: Sugar cake) is incredibly popular in Sweden and it is the perfect cake to whip up when you have unexpected company as it’s so simple to make and pretty much all the ingredients are cupboard staples. I made this last week when my friend and her daughter came over, it took me no more than ten minutes to mix up the batter once the kids had gone to school and then I could get on with my work while it was baking in the oven. You could add other flavours such as cocoa powder or lemon juice and zest but this is the original (and in my opinion the best) recipe:

3 eggs
180 g caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence
50 g butter
100 ml milk
220 g plain flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 175 degrees. Whisk together the eggs, sugar, and vanilla essence until white and fluffy. Melt the butter and stir in the milk, then add that to the mixture. Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a separate bowl and carefully fold into the batter. Pour into a prepared ring cake tin and bake in the middle of the oven for 25-30 minutes.

A healthy breakfast to kick-start your day

Breakfast

I hardly ever skip breakfast and on the rare days that I do, I very quickly live to regret it when the inevitable mid-morning energy slump sets in. Whether or not you adhere to the old saying that breakfast is the most important meal of the day, a healthy one beats a sugar-laden bowl of cereal hands down. My favourite go-to breakfast is my homemade low carb muesli but on cold mornings I often crave something warm like eggs or porridge. I found this recipe on Pinterest – it’s super simple and guaranteed to keep your energy levels up until lunch time. And if you’re not a breakfast fan, it tastes just as good for lunch, maybe with a bowl of soup.

The recipe specified Ezekiel bread but I’ve never seen that in the supermarkets here so I substituted my regular Soy & Linseed bread. Simply toast the bread, spread avocado on top, sprinkle over some crushed red pepper, season with salt & pepper and top it all off with a fried egg, sunny side up.

A delicious start to the day!

Recipe – Lasagne without the Pasta

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I hardly ever eat pasta at home as my husband suffers from coeliac disease and has to avoid all wheat and gluten. The kids will often have spaghetti bolognese or other pasta dishes for their tea and occasionally my husband will make us all a carbonara with gluten free spaghetti on a weekend (although he is not mad about the taste or texture). Over time I have got used to cooking rice, potatoes or just vegetables to go with whatever meat/chicken/fish we’re having. Sometimes though, on a chilly autumn night, I long for a bowl of lasagne with a nice glass of red wine. So I was delighted to come across a recipe which uses thin courgette slices instead of the traditional pasta sheets. As well as being great for anyone with a gluten allergy, it also works for those trying to cut down on the carbs.

I make my own version of bolognese (slightly spicy with a splash of double cream) but you can use whatever recipe you like for the meat sauce.

1 onion – chopped

garlic oil or 1-2 garlic cloves and olive oil

500 g beef mince

1 can chopped tomatoes

2-3 teaspoons Sambal Oelek (or Thai red chilli paste)

1-2 tablespoons soy sauce

a splash of red wine

2-3 tablespoons double cream

1-2 courgettes – finely sliced lengthways, I use a cheese slicer (bought from Ikea) to make the slices really thin

Cheese sauce: 400-500 ml creme fraiche mixed with 300 ml grated cheese

Turn the oven to 175c. Fry the onion and garlic until softened. Add the mince, breaking it up with a fork or spatula. Let it brown then add the other ingredients and simmer for 20-30 minutes.

Alternate the courgette slices, bolognese and cheese sauce in an oven proof rectangular dish, topping it with a sprinkle of grated cheese. Cook in the oven for 40 minutes and serve with vegetables or a green salad (and a glass or two of Vino Rosso for that authentic Italian taste)

My Latest TV Addiction

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My husband and I often have wildly different tastes in TV programmes. I like glamour and drama, with a healthy bit of cheese thrown in (think Revenge, Gossip Girl – RIP, I still miss Chuck & Blair – and Made in Chelsea) while he prefers sport, Top Gear or worthy documentaries, which I think I should watch to boost my intellect but just find sooo boring. But now and again our tastes do overlap – we were both avid followers of Homeland (starts again on Sunday, yay!) The Bridge, Borgen and The Americans, to name but a few.

Most recently, it’s TV chef extraordinaire Jamie Oliver’s (is he ever off the telly?) latest series Save with Jamie that has caught our attention. Neither of us is usually that enamored with cookery shows but we both like the idea of roasting a big joint of meat or grilling a side of salmon for a family Sunday lunch and then eeking it out to make another two or three meals during the week. Last Sunday we had roast chicken with all the trimmings and then boiled the carcass to make chicken stock which, together with the leftover meat, was turned into a stew that lasted us two days.

Of course I realise that there is certain irony in a multi-millionaire chef showing us mere mortals how to cut down on our food spend, but if it saves us money and makes meal planning that bit easier then I’m all for it. And say what you will about the ‘Naked Chef’, he is a national institution and you do get the feeling that he does really care about the eating habits of the nation, even if he is laughing all the way to the bank.

Find the chicken stew recipe here

Recipe: Gluten Free Apple & Blackberry Crumble

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Last weekend I made my first ever crumble. It was really easy and tasted delicious so I can’t believe it had taken me so long. My only excuse is that, until now, the children have not been super keen on cooked fruit. But it turns out that, if you add enough butter and sugar, they gobble it all up! It probably also helped that they had picked the apples and blackberries themselves a couple of days before.

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Ingredients

For the crumble
  • 30g/1¼oz unsalted butter

  • 3 large Bramley apples or similar tart cooking apples, peeled, cores removed, each apple cut into 0.5cm/¼in slices

  • 150g/5¼oz caster sugar

  • 80g/3oz fresh blackberries

For the crumble topping
  • 170g/6oz gluten free flour

  • 85g/3oz unsalted butter

  • 1-2 tbsps caster sugar

Preparation method

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4.
  2. For the crumble filling, heat the butter in pan over a medium heat. Add the apple slices and fry for 3-4 minutes, or until softened.
  3. Add the sugar and stir well to coat the apples. Continue to cook until the apples are tender and golden-brown and the sugar has melted.
  4. Add the blackberries and stir gently to combine.
  5. For the crumble topping, sift the flour into a large mixing bowl. Add the butter and sugar and rub together, using your fingertips, until the mixture resembles breadcrumbs. (Or even better, put it all into a food processor like I did and mix until it looks like breadcrumbs)
  6. Spoon the apple and blackberry filling into a shallow ovenproof dish. Sprinkle over the topping mixture to just cover the filling. Transfer the dish to the oven and bake for 20 minutes, or until the topping is pale golden brown and the filling is bubbling.

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Recipe: Lemon chicken with black olives

ingredients

Last night I tried a new recipe for a chicken dish which is perfect for this time of year – light but still filling with a refreshing taste of lemon.

Lemon Chicken with Olives

.4 chicken fillets
2 garlic cloves
butter for frying
1 tsp salt
a pinch of black pepper
250ml double cream
1⁄2 chicken stock cube
1 tsp rosemary
grated zest and juice from 1⁄2 lemon
a handful of pitted black olives
3 tbsps roughly chopped parsley 

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Slice the chicken fillets in half length-wise. Peel and finely chop the garlic. Melt the butter in a frying pan and brown the seasoned chicken along with the  garlic. Combine the cream, chicken stock, rosemary and lemon juice in a casserole  in a casserole pan over a medium heat. Add the chicken and garlic and simmer covered for around five minutes or until the chicken is cooked through. Stir in the lemon zest, olives and parsley (I omitted the parsley).

Pot 2

I served this chicken dish with potato wedges and peas – yummy!

plate