Thursday, 21 March 2013

Vegetable Chilli (the best you've ever tasted)

This chilli is so easy to make that it's really impossible to get it wrong - it just takes a bit of time. It feeds a whole bunch of people (about 6) so is great if you're having friends round, plus it freezes brilliantly. It's also packed with the things your parents always ask if you're eating enough of, like BEANS (look, Mum!), and what’s more, you can adapt it to whatever you fancy or just happen to have in the fridge - use different kinds beans or vegetables, or play around with the spices to vary it.

Because of the awesomeness I ended up making it two days in a row last week - first to feed my friends before a night out, and the second time because Fraser requested it when he came to stay. I'd made double quantity the first night (there were 9 of us) but my hopes of leftovers were in vain!

- 1 onion
- 2 peppers (yellow and red)
- 2 sticks celery
- 1 large carrot
- 2 cloves garlic
- 2 chillies (red and green)
- 300g Quorn mince
- 1tsp chilli powder
- 1½tsp ground cumin
- 1tsp ground coriander
- 2tsp cinnamon 
- 1tsp paprika
- 1 glass red wine
- 2x 400g tin chopped tomatoes
- 2x 400g tin kidney beans (or any you like)
- 200ml vegetable stock
- 1 bay leaf
- 30g fresh coriander

1. Heat some olive oil in a large pan or wok. Roughly chop the onion, peppers, celery, carrot, garlic and chillies and add to said pan, then cook for about 10 minutes, until softened and beginning to colour.

2. Add the Quorn mince (straight from frozen, but bash it a bit to break it up first) and cook for a few minutes until it's browned, then add the spices and cook for a further 5 minutes. This is the only point where you really have to watch it, or the spices will stick to the bottom of the pan and burn.

3. Stir in the tomatoes, red wine, bay leaf, vegetable stock and beans (drained), then give it a good stir to mix it all together. Bring it to a boil, then let it simmer for about an hour, stirring every 10 minutes or so to make sure it isn't sticking.

4. Turn off the heat, then roughly chop the coriander and add it to the pan, along with salt and pepper to taste. You can serve it with basically anything - my favourite is in tortilla wraps with sour cream and a strong cheddar, but you could do it with rice and add chopped spring onions, or even just eat it by itself. The choice is yours! But do eat it - you're missing out until you do.

Thursday, 14 March 2013

The most awesome macaroni cheese in the world ever.

This isn't really macaroni cheese because it's not made with macaroni. Just to get that out there now. But what else could you call it?

I never really liked macaroni cheese - to the point that when I told Mum I'd made this she was genuinely surprised. But I had an odd craving the other day, and I also had an awesome goats' cheese in the fridge I brought back to London from home. So I made this, loosely based on a recipe from Lorraine Pascale.


Ingredients: (serves 3)
- 9oz rigatoni or penne
- 4 spring onions
- 2 cloves garlic
- 1 tsp dried thyme
- 30g bag curly parsley                          
- 30g plain flour
- 30g butter
- ½ nutmeg, grated
- 2tsp French mustard
- 300ml double cream
- 100ml milk
- 75g goats cheese
- 50g parmesan
- salt and pepper
- 100g breadcrumbs 

1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Chop the garlic and spring onions, and put into a pan with a knob of butter and the thyme. Cook until soft and starting to colour - about 8 minutes.
2. Put the pasta on to cook. Do for 2 minutes or so less than the packet instructions, as it'll cook more in the oven.
3. Put the butter, flour, nutmeg and mustard into a saucepan, and cook on a medium heat until the butter has melted and it's formed a sort of paste.
4. Take off the heat and let cool for a couple of minutes, then add the milk and cream slowly, beating constantly to avoid it going lumpy or splitting. *IF IT DOES SPLIT* let it cool more, then grab some extra milk and whisk in a little at a time until the sauce comes together.
5. Put the pan back onto the heat and add the cheese, along with about two thirds of the parsley and some salt and pepper.
6. Tip the pasta and spring onion mixture into a dish, and pour the sauce over the top. Mix well and top with the breadcrumbs, then bake for 20-25 minutes until golden and bubbling. 

 You can vary it however you fancy too - such as by adding leeks or pine nuts into the spring onion mix, or using a different kind of cheese. Whatever you have in your cupboard!

Wednesday, 6 March 2013

Actual Cannelloni

Got people coming over that you want to impress a bit? Then this is the one for you. It's named so to differentiate from my Aubergine Not-Cannelloni in October, and is a slightly longer post than normal because there are a few different bits to it, but I promise you it's worth it!

The only time I'd ever really had cannelloni was for school dinners (it was the best thing they did!), but generally speaking I was suspicious of it. Maybe because I couldn't see inside them, or maybe because I used to have a prejudice against spinach - I'm not sure, but I do know that all that changed when Fraser took me to Jamie's Italian for Valentine's last month. I had the 'Honeycomb Cannelloni 3 Ways', and it was like I'd stumbled across a whole new world of food. Last week we had people over for dinner, so I thought I'd get creative and see what I could do. This was the result.

I decided it was a bit much to try and have three different fillings, but I did do two - one was a spinach and ricotta, and the other was a butternut squash and sage. And they were pretty epic if I do say so myself.

Ingredients: (serves 6)
Spinach and Ricotta                                                         Butternut Squash
- 1 clove garlic                                                                 - 1 large squash
- large knob of butter                                                      - 1 onion   
- ¼ grated nutmeg                                                           - 1 clove garlic   
- 1tsp dried oregano                                                        - 2tbsp cream 
- 200g bag spinach                                                           - ¼ tsp grated nutmeg
- 250g pot ricotta cheese                                                - 1tbsp chopped sage leaves   

Tomato Sauce                                                                   Assembly/Topping
- 1 onion                                                                          - approx. 18 cannelloni tubes
- 1 clove garlic                                                                  - 200ml crème fraîche  
- 1 tin chopped tomatoes                                                - 100g freshly grated parmesan   
- 400ml water                                                                     
- 1 oxo cube                                                                       
- half jar of sun-dried tomatoes                                            
- handful chopped sage leaves                                           

I know it looks like a scarily long list of ingredients, but I promise if you look closely it's not as scary as you think. The majority of things are store-cupboard ingredients that even if you don't have, you can bet someone else in your flat will!
Butternut Squash
1. Start on this one first because it takes the longest, and can be cooking while you do other things. Peel and chop your squash into cubes - about the size of the last joint on your little finger if you can bear it, as the smaller they are the faster they'll cook. 
2. Melt the butter in a pan, then add the onion and garlic and cook for five minutes until softened.  
3. Add the cubes of squash and cook for about 30 minutes - adding the sage and nutmeg along with some seasoning after 20 minutes.  
4. Take off the heat and let cool a little, before adding the cream and mashing.

Spinach and Ricotta
1. Melt the butter in a fairly large saucepan, then add the garlic, nutmeg and oregano and cook for a couple of minutes until the garlic is soft.
2. Wash the spinach and add in a bit at a time - it shrinks down to almost nothing so I guarantee you'll need more than you think. Make sure you keep turning the spinach too, to make sure what's on the bottom doesn't burn and it's all cooked nicely.
3. After a few minutes, transfer the spinach to a bowl and let it cool down. DON'T throw away all the lovely liquid in the pan - it'll form the basis for the tomato sauce.

4. When the spinach is cool, squeeze out any excess liquid (don't throw away) and chop finely. Put it back in the bowl with the liquid, season, then mix with the ricotta.

Tomato Sauce
1. Grab the pan you cooked the spinach in, with the liquid still in the bottom, and add to it the onion and garlic. Cook for about 8 minutes until soft and starting to colour.
2. Chop up the sundried tomatoes and add those to the pan. You don't have to use them, but it gives such a beautiful intense flavour if you do! Cook for another 2 minutes.
3. Add the chopped tomatoes, water and oxo cube, and bring to a simmer. Cook until it's reduced by about a third, then add the sage leaves and season, and pour into the bottom of the dish you're baking your cannelloni in.

1. Grab yourself two plastic sandwich bags, and fill with the mixtures for the filling. Twist around the top to keep it secure and cut a small hole in the tip: you now have a make-shift piping bag.
2. Use the piping bags to fill the cannelloni tubes. You can do half of them with one filling and half with the other, or mix it up - completely up to you.
3. Lay the tubes on top of the tomato sauce in the dish you're baking them in.

 4. Spoon the crème fraîche over the top and sprinkle over the parmesan, then bake at 180°C for about 30 minutes - until golden and bubbling. Serve with garlic bread.
Gluten Free: Either grab yourself some gluten-free lasagna sheets and use them to make your own cannelloni pasta, or just cook some penne and mix the fillings together with the tomato sauce to make a pasta bake. Top the same as the non-gluten-free version and bake for 5-10 minutes less.

The gluten free pasta bake version

Voila! It looks like a lot of work, but I promise you it isn't really - especially if you buy the cannelloni tubes you don't need to cook first, like I did. Please do leave any questions/results of your own in the comments, and good luck!