Posts Tagged With: pasta

CCC Mostly Italian

I made a concerted effort to finish off the dried tagliatelle last week, in part so I could free up the tall and pretty jar it was stored in to keep the fancy new noodles I got during the week. Early shifts meant that I needed to keep it simple and straight forward most days, so first we used up some broccoli florets I’d got on special in a dish that was essentially, pasta, broccoli and two kinds of cheese, simple and delicious. Later in the week I made two variations on tagliatelle with beans – the recipe called for broad beans, but I had edamame which don’t need peeled – crème fraîche and garlic, which got spruced up with various combinations of peppers, spring onions, hard Italian cheese and toasted pine-nuts.

The Tuscan Beef Ragu did indeed convert successfully into a Tuscan Bean Ragu, though given how much ragu I ended up with, I feel if I’d used beef instead of beans, I’d have been eating ragu all week! As it was, I had a lot of food rather than two much food. Between shifts and the weather, I actually ended up prepping the ragu to the point where it’s meant to go in the oven and then actually baked it the following day. It came out pretty decently, though it wasn’t special enough for me to consider it worthy of inclusion in my regular rotation of bulk cook recipes – the effort to tastiness ratio isn’t worthwhile.

Speaking of gnocchi – one of the better parts of the ragu was the gnocchi in it – a colleague who keeps chickens had an excess of eggs, so I’ve been eating cooked egg breakfasts more frequently lately, and it’s reminded me how much I enjoy paprika fried gnocchi as a side with a cooked breakfast. Crunchy on the outside, soft on the inside, just a little spicy – lovely.

Additionally, I’ve been making a valiant attempt at cooking up the giant tapioca that has been lurking in the cupboard since my ill-fated experiments with making bubble tea a couple of years ago. I loved tapioca pudding as a child, but it’s not something I’ve ever made for myself as an adult, in fact, I’m not sure I’ve actually ever eaten it as an adult, as I don’t think my mum’s really made it since I went to uni. My dad has always preferred rice pudding and semolina – he tends to refer to it and its sibling sago as ‘frogspawn’ – so I guess it wasn’t worth the hassle? Whatever the reason, I had a hankering and got her to send me the recipe, and lo, after much patient stirring – and also an impatiently burned tongue – I had tapioca pudding. It was more glutinous than I remembered, seeming to take forever to thicken up, but that might be a product of it being giant tapioca, and the recipe omitted the essential ingredients, generous sprinklings of both nutmeg and cinnamon. However, once my tongue had recovered from it’s scalding, I had a big bowl of hot, filling, comfort food – and equally important, leftovers for the following day!

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CCC Week 7

This week has continued the theme of making old favourite recipes, between my favourite quick and dirty tomato pasta sauce – in fact the recipe that my header photo showcases, minus the cooked chicken – a batch of English muffins and a banana loaf, mildly tweaked for the current circumstances but otherwise from a recipe of my mum’s that I’ve been making all my life. I’ve come to the conclusion that if I’m using all wholemeal flour instead of half and half, it makes a drier cake and I need to compensate with more eggs/other liquid than the recipe would normally call for.

I went through a phase, before I moved up here, when I first got into making bread, of attempting to make all the weird and wonderful bread options in my Lorraine Pascale cook books. However, having fun aground on focaccia, and never being entirely satisfied with my rolls, I mostly stuck to making Soda Bread and English muffins, and while I do sporadically make soda bread when I’m at my parents, I haven’t made these kind of muffins in a good six years. You can make them in the oven or on the stove top, but I always prefer to make them on the stove top. I’ve made the successfully in a heavy bottomed frying pan, but these days I’ve got an actual girdle pan so it feels rude not to use that.

My girdle pan has actually been getting a fair amount of use lately, between the banana pancakes and the English muffins. I wasn’t sure if I’d use it enough to make it worth giving some of my limited cupboard space to when my mum offered it to me, just after I moved house. It’s really just been lurking on the shelf above the fridge since I moved in, but it’s proved a fun and handy tool over lockdown so I suspect it’s here to stay. Now I’m wondering if I could make flat breads on it.

Now that pasta has returned to the supermarket shelves properly and there’s enough on the shelf that I don’t feel guilty buying some, I’ve been revelling in a different kind of comfort food. Certainly there was my abovementioned quick and dirty pasta sauce, but I was moved to dig out my little Italian food cookbook and dry some more complicated and decadent recipes. I have barely touched that recipe book since becoming a vegetarian, because so many of my favourite recipes from it are heavy on the meat. However, it’s proved quite inspirational, and I’ve rediscovered some tasty recipes some straight forward – I made a cheesy mushroom pasta bake that was heavy on the garlic and included three different types of cheese – and plotted out a couple of rather more adventurous dishes to try to next week.

Vegetables stuffed with other things – rice, couscous, other vegetables – were a bit of a cliché of vegetarian cooking when I was a kid, and while I tend to agree that life is too short to stuff a mushroom, I do love a stuffed pepper so the rice stuffed peppers rather appeals. There’s also a few polenta based recipes, and I used to love cooking with polenta before I went veggie so clearly it’s high time I brought that back into circulation. I also mis-read a recipe Tuscan Beef Ragu as Tuscan Bean Ragu but on reading the recipe, I bet you could make a lovely dish with beans instead of beef that would fit the bill nicely. And that’s before I even look at the dessert section!

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Cooking the Book – November Edition

I had all sorts of plans to cook all sorts of exciting this last month. I had a week’s holiday and everything so I thought I might actually get lots made that week – maybe even do some baking!

The month started well, with some Sweet and Sour Chicken (Quorn again, I did intend to make it with tofu, but there was all this quorn in the freezer needing used up), which, despite a minor disaster, was pretty good. The minor disaster was that it suggested using dried chilli flakes. I normally measure them out before adding them to anything – my tongue is notoriously timid with chilli – but I always end up putting too little in whatever I’m cooking. (I’m better at judging chilli powder, but chilli flakes are what I have in the cupboard.) So, in my wisdom, I decided to shake some into the pan, and you can guess what happened next can’t you? I didn’t quite end up with half a jar in the pan, but there were decidedly more than were necessary to the recipe. It could all have been much worse but that was definitely the spiciest sweet and sour chicken I’ve ever eaten.

Sweet and Sour!

I had two other recipes picked out to make this month, good, solid, winter warmers. Perfect bulk cooks to nourish me through the long winter nights. I even bought vegetables for them. Did I make them? No. I did in fact get to the very last day of November without having cooked anything else from the book. I was really starting to think I was going to fail out for this month.

Handily though, I remembered that there was a recipe for a Porcini, shitake and Oyster Mushroom Pasta in the book and that I had loads of mushrooms that I’d bought for one of the recipes I hadn’t made. (As the recipe name suggests, it requires several kinds of mushrooms, handily I had some more unusual mushrooms in dried form in the cupboard to balance out the masses of Chestnut mushrooms.) I cut down the recipe from its original version, as I always end up with far too much food. There was still a slight excess of mushrooms, but only really enough that I ended up with a small side of mushrooms for another recipe later in the week, rather than an excess of them. An odd side effect of cutting down the recipe was that I ended up with lots of excess vegetable stock – its really awkward to make a small amount of stock out of stock cubes – so I cooked my spaghetti in the leftover stock and it was incredibly tasty. I could have eaten the spaghetti plain, maybe with a little parmesan but perfect just as it was. I’m not sure if it was the intention of the recipe or a product of cutting it down, but the mushroom liquor didn’t cook down as much as I expected – I think if I make it again, I would add some corn flour to thicken up the sauce, I do prefer a bit of body to my sauce.

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Wednesday – Days 2 & 3

Wednesday night continued the plan of keep it simple with a pasta and sauce dish. I had half a pepper from the night before, along with the remains of the packets of green beans and mushrooms that needed used up. Also unearthed in the fridge was an unexpected full tub of cream cheese, an entirely expected third of a carton of passata (a fridge/cupboard staple in our house, it amuses me inordinately that its considered a ‘foodie’ ingredient when I tend to buy the Tesco value version) and some cooked chicken.
Jar of pasta, cooked chicken, cream cheese, chopped pepper, mushrooms and greenbeans

I thought, seeing that I was writing up this recipe that I would actually measure out the pasta on the scales, instead of just counting out handfuls (2 per person) of pasta as I usually do. Amusingly it turns out that, at least when it comes to pasta bows, 2oz pasta per person does in fact equal two handfuls. Bow pasta on the other hand turns out to expand massively so we could have lived with a bit less, but once that became clear I just upped the veg and chicken I was adding to the sauce and made enough for an extra portion for the following day – success! (I have college on a Thursday night so quick and easy dinner is ideal, thus I try to make extra of whatever I’m making on a Wednesday night so that I’ve got dinner for the following day)
Dried oragano
We’ve got an absolute ton of dried herbs and spices in the house, so I’m trying to use them up, so some dried oregano went in the pasta water (in place of salt of which I’m trying to use less) and some dried basil went in the sauce. I used to have a basil plant in the kitchen, which was just amazing for cooking with, I should get another of those once the better weather comes around.

The sauce itself is my cheating tomato sauce, I start with some mushrooms and sauté them until they’re nice and soft, and chuck in about half a teaspoon/a clove of chopped Garlic. (Speaking of food waste, I love cooking with Garlic but I never used to be able to use it all up before it sprouted, then we discovered ‘lazy garlic’ which is jars of pre-chopped garlic in a little vinegar to preserve it so now we use twice as much garlic and waste far less of it too. I’m sure you could do it yourself in a jar at home but its one of my absolute favourite convenience ingredients.) Then I added the pepper and give that a wee stir-fry, before adding the passata – between a third and half a carton depending on how many portions I’m making of it. Simmer that away for a few minutes and then reduce the heat and add the cream cheese – about a third of the tub usually, but more to taste or if it needs using up, as I often make this dish as a ‘what have we got in fridge?’ meal. Stir gently until fully blended, add seasoning (in this case ground basil) to taste and then add the cooked meat if using, simmer gently until meat is heated through or pasta is finished cooking and combine!
Pots simmering
This sauce actually has its origins in tomato and mascarpone sauce. I kept seeing it as these ‘fresh’ cook in sauces, so I read the ingredients one day and realised that I could make it myself cheaper with passata and mascarpone cheese. I did that a few times, and it was nice but I find mascarpone to be a bit bland, a bit too creamy and not cheesy enough in flavour really, so I tried substituting the mascarpone for cream cheese one day, liked it better and well its considerably cheaper as I’ve often got cream chees in for sandwiches anyway. I sometimes make it with ricotta if we happen to have some left, which is the tastiest option I find. A large proportion of my ‘experimentation’ in the kitchen is borne of looking in the fridge discovering that we don’t have x thing that I need for the recipe but we do have y similar item, shrugging and going ‘eh, we’ll try it’. It doesn’t always work but it works more often than not.

Finally, during my epic food shop the previous week I’d picked up one of those cheese and tomato over flat bread things, so that got stuck in the oven and served up with it. Quick, easy tea, using up loads of stuff we had kicking about in the fridge.
Finished product

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