Pasticcio

I made this dish for a group of friends coming overr.  I’d never heard of it before but everyone loved it. It’s a perfect recipes for friends as it’s quite quick to make. My guests helped themselves to Pasticcio, salad, garlic bread and homemade French dressing.  This recipe makes 6 but 4 of us polished this dish off – yummy scrummy!

1 tbsp sunflower oil

500g minced pork or beef

2 onions, chopped

3 garlic cloves, crushed

1 x 400g can chopped tomatoes

90g tomato puree

90ml red wine

2 bay leaves

1 tsp sugar

1 tsp dried oregano

½ tsp ground cinnamon (optional)

250g short cut macaroni

salt and black pepper

Cheese sauce

30g butter

30g plain flour

300ml milk

175g mature Cheddar cheese, grated

1 egg yolk

1 tsp Dijon mustard

  1.  Heat the sunflower oil in a large frying pan, add the meat, onions and garlic, and cook over a medium heat for 5 minutes or until lightly browned.
  2. Add the tomatoes, tomato puree, and wine. Bring to the boil and simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. Add the bay leaves, sugar, oregano and cinnamon (if using) and season with  salt and pepper.  Simmer gently for about 10 minutes or until the sauce is thickened.
  4. Meanwhile cook the macaroni in boiling salted water for about 8-10 minutes until just tender.  Drain and set aside.
  5. Make the cheese sauce: melt the butter in a saucepan, sprinkle in the flour, and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Remove from the heat and gradually blend in the milk.  Bring to the boil, stirring constantly until the mixture thickens.  Simmer for 2-3 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the cheese, egg yolk, and mustard, and season with salt and pepper.
  6. Spoon half of the meat mixture into an ovenproof dish and add half of the macaroni.  Cover with the remaining meat mixture, then top with the remaining macaroni and the cheese sauce.
  7. Bake the pasticcio in a preheated oven at 180oC (350oF, Gas Mark 4) for 40 minutes or until the topping is golden.
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Creamy pesto chicken with roasted tomatoes

This dish is delicious and nice and healthy.  It’s the perfect mid week meal as it takes no time at all and is quite a cheap meal to make.

4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

3 tbsp pesto

85 light cream cheese (I used sundried tomato and basil Philadelphia for extra flavor but you could experiment with anything)

4 tbsp breadcrumbs, preferably from day-old bread

175g baby tomatoes, on the vine

Handful pine nuts

Handful of basil leaves.

  1. Heat oven to 200C/fan 180C/gas 6. Use a small sharp knife to make a slit along the side of each chicken breast to form a pocket. Mix together the pesto and cream cheese, then carefully spoon a quarter of the mixture into each chicken breast and smooth over the opening to seal.
  2. Brush a little oil, about 1 tsp, all over each chicken breast and season well. Tip the breadcrumbs onto a large plate and season. Place each breast on the plate and press all over with the breadcrumbs. Place in a lightly oiled shallow baking dish along with the tomatoes (kept together on the vine in a couple of bunches). Drizzle over the remaining oil.
  3. Cook in the oven for 20-25 mins until the chicken starts to turn golden and is cooked through. Scatter over the pine nuts and cook for 2 mins more. Sprinkle with basil leaves.  I served with salad and some homemade bread.

Fruit cake

This fruit cake recipe is delicious and never fails.  It’s moist, tasty and goes perfectly with a cuppa. Guests always love it and it nevers stays around for long!

125g butter

125g raisins

125g currants

75g sultanas

150g light muscovado sugar

150ml (1/2 pint) water

300g self-raising flour

1 tsp mixed spice

2 eggs

  1. Put the butter, dried fruit, sugar and water in a saucepan and bring to the boil.  Heat gently for 5 minutes and then to cool for 15mins.
  2. Put the flour and mixed spice into a mixing bowl.  Add the cooled fruit mixture and eggs and mix to a soft dropping consistency.
  3. Spoon into a 20cm (8inch) tin greased and based lined with oiled greaseproof paper (I used a loaf tin and it was perfect).  Spread the surface level and then bake in a pre-heated overn 160oC (325F), Gas Mark 3, for 45-55mins (My cakes always need about 55mins, some time more so don’t worry if it’s not cooked after 55mins).  The cake should be well risen, slightly cracked and a skewer comes out clean when inserted into the middle. Tip:  If you have a fan assisted oven you might need to cover the cake lightly with foil after 30mins to prevent the top from overbrowning.
  4. Leave to cool for 10mins, then loosen the edges, turn out on to a wire rack and peel off the lining paper.  Leave to cool completed before eating – if you can wait 🙂  Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Homemade French Dressing

This French dressing recipe is delicious. It’s easy to make and tastes so much nicer than shop bought dressings.

Peel and finely chop ¼ of a clove of garlic • Put the garlic, 1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard, 2 tablespoons of white or red wine vinegar (I always use white wine vinegar) and 6 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil into a jar with a pinch of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper • Put the lid on the jar and shake well.

It’s that easy 🙂

 

 

Creamy courgette lasagne

I made this creamy courgette lasagne for a veggie friend who came to dinner.  It was quick and easy to make and went down well, even amongst the meat eaters.  I also topped with a bit of parmesen.

Serves 4

Dried lasagne sheets

1 tbsp sunflower oil

1 onion, finely chopped

700g courgettes (about 6) coarsely grated

2 garlie cloves, crushed

250g tub ricotta

50g cheddar

350g Tomato sauce – I made my own sauce (recipe below)

Chilli flakes (optional)

 

  1. Heat oven to 220C/fan 200C/gas 7. Put a pan of water on to boil, then cook the lasagne sheets for about 5 mins until softened, but not cooked through. Rinse in cold water, then drizzle with a little oil to stop them sticking together.
  2. Meanwhile, heat the oil in a large frying pan, then fry the onion. After 3 mins, add the courgettes and garlic and continue to fry until the courgette has softened and turned bright green. Stir in 2/3 of both the ricotta, cheddar and chilli flakes and then season to taste. Heat the tomato sauce until hot.
  3. In a large baking dish, layer up the lasagne, starting with half the courgette mix, then pasta, then tomato sauce. Repeat, top with blobs of the remaining ricotta, then scatter with the rest of the cheddar. Bake on the top shelf for about 10 mins until the pasta is tender and the cheese is golden.

For the tomato sauce

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a saucepan. Add the onions, garlic cloves and carrot, roughly chopped and cook for 5-7 mins over a medium heat until softened. Turn up the heat a little and stir in the tomato purée. Cook for 1 min, pour in white wine, then cook for 5 mins until this has reduced by two-thirds. Pour over 3 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes and add 1 handful basil leaves. Bring to the boil then simmer for 20 mins. Leave to cool, whizz in a food processor.

Parmesan and Thyme Crostini

Serves: 9

150g grated parmesan

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme leaves

1 (200g) tub cream cheese, softened

1 baguette

1. Preheat the grill. Slice baguette into 1cm slices. Arrange the bread slices on a baking tray. Toast under the grill for 1 minute per side, or until both sides are slightly toasted.

2.In a mixing bowl, combine the Pecorino, garlic, thyme and cream cheese. Spread the mixture over the tops of the baguette slices. Grill for a further 3 minutes, until cheese is melted.

A lovely recipe to serve as a starter.  The cheese is very strong so you might want to serve with some grapes.  I served with Ricotta and roasted tomoto crostini and Prosciutto, pear & rocket rolls.  YUMMY!!!

Prosciutto, pear and rocket rolls

Makes 24

2 ripe but firm pears, cored and halved

1 tsp lemon juice

2 large handfuls of rocket

12 slices of proscuitto

20g of parmesan

24 cocktail sticks

1. Cut each pear half into 4 long pieces, to make 16. You’ll need 12, so eat the rest.

2. Combine the pears and lemon juice and season.

3. Put a pear slice and a few leaves of rocket on each prosciutto slice. Add a shaving of Parmesan, roll tightly and secure with 2 toothpicks.

4. Roll all the others, then cut each in half in between the toothpicks.

Another great canape recipe.  I served them when friends came over for dinner and they went down a treat.  I served them with Parmesan and Thyme Crostini’s and Ricotta and roasted tomato crostini’s.

Lasagne

2 tbsp olive oil, plus a little for greasing

750g lean mince

90g prosciutto

Home made tomato sauce (see below)

200ml beef stock

A little grated nutmeg

300g lasagne sheets

Home made white sauce (see below)

125g mozzarella

For the tomato sauce

Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a saucepan

2 onions, finely chopped

2 garlic cloves, sliced

1 carrot, roughly chopped.

2 tbsp tomato purée.

200ml white wine,

3 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes

1 handful basil leaves.

For the white sauce

85g butter

85g plain flour

1¼pt milk

  1. First make the tomato sauce. Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a saucepan. Add the onions, garlic cloves and carrot, roughly chopped and cook for 5-7 mins over a medium heat until softened. Turn up the heat a little and stir in the tomato purée. Cook for 1 min, pour in white wine, then cook for 5 mins until this has reduced by two-thirds. Pour over 3 x 400g cans chopped tomatoes and add 1 handful basil leaves. Bring to the boil then simmer for 20 mins. Leave to cool, whizz in a food processor.
  2. Heat the oil in a frying pan, then cook the beef in two batches for about 10 mins until browned all over. Finely chop 4 slices of prosciutto, then stir through the meat mixture.
  3. Pour over the tomato sauce and stock, add the nutmeg, then season. Bring up to the boil, then simmer for 30 mins until the ragu looks rich and is well coated in sauce.
  4. Now make the white sauce. Melt the butter in a saucepan, stir in the plain flour, then cook for 2 mins. Slowly whisk in the milk, then bring to the boil, stirring. Turn down heat, then cook until the sauce starts to thicken and coats the back of a wooden spoon. Sauce can now be cooled and kept in the fridge for up to 3 days or frozen for 3 months.
  5. Heat oven to 180C/fan 160C/gas 4. To assemble lasagne, lightly oil an ovenproof serving dish (30 x 20cm). Spoon over a third of the ragu sauce, then cover with lasagne sheets. Drizzle over about one quarter of the white sauce. Repeat until you have 3 layers of pasta. Cover with the remaining half quantity of white sauce, making sure you can’t see any pasta poking through. Tear the mozzarella into thin strips, then scatter over the top. Arrange the rest of the prosciutto on top. Bake for 45 mins until the top is bubbling and lightly browned.

Depending on the size of your dish there’ll be quite a lot of tomato sauce left over.  This left over sauce make a great spaghetti bolognaise or topping for a jacket potato.  This is one of my favourite recipes and is great when served with Italian salad and dressing.

Making your own tomato sauce does take a while but it tastes SO much better than shop bought sauce. 🙂

Ricotta and roasted tomato crostini

Makes 24

Baguette

4 cups tomatoes

5 tablespoons olive oil

Salt and black pepper

1 cup ricotta

1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

Heat oven to 400° F. On a rimmed baking sheet, toss the tomatoes with 3 tablespoons of the olive oil, ½ teaspoon salt, and ¼ teaspoon pepper. Roast until the tomatoes are beginning to burst, 20 to 25 minutes.

Meanwhile, place the baguette slices on a baking sheet and brush both sides of the bread with the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil. Bake until golden brown, 4 to 5 minutes per side.

Dividing evenly, spread the ricotta on the toasted baguette slices, top with the tomato mixture, and sprinkle with the thyme.

 

I served with salmon blinis and mozzerella and marinated pepper bruschetta.

 

Mozzerella and Marinated Pepper Brushetta

 

Serves 4

1 yellow pepper

1 red pepper

10ml olive oil

1 sprig of flat-leaf parsley, chopped

Ciabatta

1 ball of good mozzerella

Burn the skins of the peppers on the hob. Once the skins are completely burnt, use a teatowel and rub off the skin.  Wait to cool before removing the seeds and stalks. Cut each pepper into slivers and marinate them for one hour in the olive oil and chopped parsley.

Season each piece of ciabatta with olive oil and salt, then grill or griddle each side for 20-30 seconds until lightly toasted. To serve, season the burrata with extra-virgin olive oil, salt and black pepper. Place a portion of the burrata on each piece of ciabatta and top with a spoon of marinated peppers.

I served with salmon blinis and ricotta and tomota crostinis.