Tag Archive | pasta

Simple Courgette Pasta for Dinosaurs

dinosaur courgette

This is the giga-courgette. The latest in a series of giant courgettes to have grown apparently overnight in my garden. The picture includes an actual, genuine, totally-real-life dinosaur for size reference. (I found him grazing on my herbaceous border last week) I would call it a marrow except it’s not quite there yet. I have been very impressed with this year’s variety of plant that seems to let courgettes grow to mammoth size before they develop the texture and seeds of marrows. I would buy it again next year except I can’t remember for the life of me what it was called.

Excellent though all this is, it does leave me with a bit of a surplus. Which is ironic given that the inhabitants of this city are still reeling from “that month when Sainsburys didn’t have courgettes.” How we all survived that apocalyptic event I can’t fathom…

I’m pleased to say (not a little smugly) that my home-grown courgettes do taste nicer than the supermarket one, especially this yellow variety which is much sweeter. This means that I really want to enjoy them in simple recipes without a lot of flavour competition. The recipe below is really simple and great for summer. You can make this with any courgettes of course and it will still taste good, but if you do have access to a farmers’ market, organic store or a kindly friend with a courgette problem then I would urge you to try it with the nicest courgettes you can get your hands on. Even if that means wresting a dinosaur for them.

IMG_20170710_195534.jpg

Two normal sized courgettes from my plants last week

Recipe notes

I prefer using spelt pasta these days because it doesn’t stick together in the pan like lots of the gluten free ones do, however it’s not suitable for people with a serious gluten intolerance. Spelt pasta comes in white and brown, and the white version tastes just like normal pasta to me. Having said that, I actually prefer the brown as it is more flavoursome and filling. You can actually use any shape of pasta for these recipes but I find spaghetti works best.

I have taken to peeling courgettes instead of chopping them – you basically peel them like a carrot and keep going until there’s nothing left (mind your fingers!). They cook much quicker that way and I prefer the texture. If you have one of those fancy spiralizers you could also use that.

Since I am a fearsome carnivorous velociraptor I use bacon in this recipe when eating alone. If my herbivorous brachiosaur mate is joining me however, we substitute it with Quorn hot dogs. The flavour seems to work better than Quorn bacon for some reason. They come in frozen and non-frozen packets and as far as I can tell they’re exactly the same thing; we just use the frozen ones because they’re cheaper. They are not vegan however.

If you are using standard out of season courgettes for this and want to add a little extra flavour, a little green “FreeFrom” brand pesto works brilliantly to perk it up.

Ingredients (serves 2 hungry dinosaurs)

  • 1 giga-courgette or 2 smaller ones
  • 3 spring onions
  • 3 pieces of streaky bacon OR 5 Quorn hot dogs
  • Seeds – I use a pre-mixed packet of pumpkin, linseed, sunflower and sesame seeds.
  • Cashew nut pieces
  • Cold-pressed olive oil
  • Vegetable oil
  • Approx 200g pasta – gluten free or spelt

 

Method

(Vegetarian instructions in green)

  1. Cook the pasta, following the times given on the packet. If using gluten free, heating it up in cold water (as opposed to using boiling water from the kettle) may help it to stick less. Remember to stir often throughout the cooking process.
  2. While the pasta is cooking, peel and/or chop the vegetables. Courgette pasta 2.jpg
  3. If using bacon, cut into little squares and fry for a couple of minutes.
  4. Cook the hot dogs as per the instructions on the packet (for the frozen ones this involves removing them from the packet and microwaving for 2mins).
  5. Add the vegetables to the frying pan and cook for about 5mins until they soften. Courgette pasta 3.jpg
  6. Chop the hot dogs into pieces and add them to the pan about halfway through cooking the veg.
  7. Toss in a handful of chopped nuts and seeds. Fry for 1 minute.
  8. Add the pasta and stir it all up until it is thoroughly mixed and warmed through. Courgette pasta 4.jpg
  9. Plate up and drizzle over a little olive oil.  Courgette pasta 5.jpg
  10. Roar victoriously.

Courgette pasta 7.jpg

 

 

Advertisements

Home Comforts (macaroni cheese)

img_20150101_070708

(Wheat and lactose free/vegan)

At first I felt hesitant about starting with this recipe or even posting it on here at all because it’s not very exciting. There are a hundred recipes out there for macaroni cheese, why on earth do we need another one? It’s not even a healthy dish for goodness sake. It’s hardly the kind of ground-breaking, inspirational extravaganza of awesomeness I was hoping to impress you with on my first post. But then, one of the major hurdles that I encountered at the start of all this was the lack of familiar recipes. Wonderful though the bulger wheat salads and triple-cooked celeriac quinoa cakes sounded, the thought of suddenly having to change my entire shopping list and culinary skill-set overnight was incredibly daunting.* And sometimes I don’t want to be healthy damn it. New to dairy-free, wheat-free cooking, all I really wanted at that moment was a nice big bowl of macaroni cheese. So here it is, the first recipe on this blog and my version of the meal I grew up with.

*If, in fact, you are the sort of person who did grow up with bulgar wheat salads as part of your regular meal rotation, do feel free to read this introduction in reverse: here is my recipe for the amazing and exotic delight that is macaroni cheese.

Recipe Tips

  • I have had real problems finding gluten-free macaroni, and even bigger problems finding some that does not immediately stick together to form an evil gelatinous lump the minute you introduce it to boiling water. The corn-based ones seem to be the worst for this. I have taken to using penne instead as it’s basically just bigger tubes and the advantage is you can pretend that you are a child eating giant macaroni. If you can eat spelt pasta this really is best as it doesn’t stick and the white kind tastes just like normal pasta.
  • If you do have to use gluten free pasta I’ve found that heating the water up with the pasta from cold as opposed to pouring boiling water onto it can stop some of the sticking, or at least slow it down so that you have the chance to get in there with a wooden spoon and stir it. Then don’t stop stirring it. Really. I mean it. Your life is now the saucepan for the next 10 minutes. I actually hold a book with one hand and stir with the other. I also give it a quick rinse under the tap after draining it when cooked to get rid of any remaining starch.
  • To speed life up a bit, I time things so that both the carrot and the pasta can be on the hob cooking at the same time. I then use the carrot pan to make the sauce in to minimise washing up.
  • The sauce I use is what I have heard referred to as “the cheat version” of Mornay sauce, which I think is silly because I certainly can’t taste the difference and this one is so much easier than the classic roux method (more on that another time). It also uses cornflour which is a bonus for the gluten-free.
  • Yeast flakes are a vegan dietary supplement that can be found in most health food shops. They look and smell exactly like fish food but they add great flavour to all kinds of dishes and taste much better than they smell, trust me.

 

Essential basic ingredients – serves 2 greedy people (my husband and I) or 3 normal people

  • Pasta – macaroni if you can find it. Gluten-free or otherwise. Approx. 200g
  • ½ pint milk or milk substitute (Soya milk works well, as does Lactofree)
  • ½ pint boiling water (plus extra for cooking the pasta)
  • 1 carrot
  • 2 heaped tablespoons of cornflour
  • 4oz cheddar cheese (melty vegan or Lactofree extra mature work fine)
  • Salt and pepper
  • A pinch of Herbes de Provence
  • 1 teaspoon English mustard

Optional ingredients

  • A pinch of vegan yeast flakes
  • 1 gluten-free vegetable stock cube (I highly recommend adding this but if you can’t eat the onion just add a dash more seasoning instead
  • ½ courgette
  • A packet of smoky bacon crisps
  • Vegan hot dogs or a couple of strips of bacon
  • Breadcrumbs (2-3 slices of stale bread should do it. Brown or white, gluten free or not – it’s all good)

Method

Cook the pasta.

Follow the guidelines on the back of the packet for cooking times as they do vary. Drain when cooked.

Prepare the vegetables

  1. Chop the carrot and courgette into discs.
  2. Pop the carrot into a pan with ½ pint boiling water and a vegetable stock cube. Cook for 5-10 mins (depending on how crunchy you like your carrots). Scoop the carrots out of the water with a slotted spoon (or spear them with a fork) and pop them on a plate out of the way (Washing-up tip – I use the one that I am planning on eating off later).
  3. Put the courgette discs in a bowl with a tiny splash of water. Cover with microwavable clingfilm and microwave on full power for about 1 ½ mins. Normally I would never recommend microwaving courgette as it will make it taste watery and strange but in this case it works perfectly.

Make the sauce

  1. Mix the cornflour with a little of the milk in a glass until it dissolves.
  2. Add the milk to the carrot water (if a lot has boiled off you might need to top it up – you should have roughly 1 pint of liquid in total)
  3. Add the salt, pepper and herbs.
  4. Heat until it starts to simmer then remove from the heat.
  5. Tip in the cornflour and stir like crazy. I actually use a silicone balloon whisk for this bit.
  6. Return the pan to the heat and keep stirring until the sauce thickens to the consistency of, well, a sauce rather than watery milk.
  7. Grate and add the cheese. Stir until it melts.
  8. Add the mustard and a generous pinch of yeast flakes.
  9. Add the carrot, courgette and pasta and stir until heated through.

And there you go. At this point my Mum would serve it to us kids like it is, and certainly you can eat it this way, however these days I like to bake it for extra gloopiness and a crunchy top. So, if you have the time to spare, continue on to….

… the extras.

Baked

Put the macaroni cheese in an ovenproof dish. I then place it onto a baking tray to catch any drips when I inevitably over-fill it and the sauce bubbles over. Bake on 180C for roughly half an hour (depending how crispy you like it)

A crispy top.

Pulverise some stale bread in a food processor to make breadcrumbs. Or just rub it with your fingers. Or buy them; do what you like. Add a little more grated cheese, salt and pepper and add to the top of your macaroni before you bake it.

Potato

When I was growing up I was always jealous of my best friend whose Mum let her crumble ready salted crisps on top of her macaroni cheese. I think this is a genius idea and the contrasting textures are really interesting. Just don’t bake the crisps. Another good friend over at www.iwillliveoffcrisps.tumblr.com recommends smoky bacon flavour for this. (If you need to know anything about crisps, check out her blog. In fact, check it out even if you don’t think you need to know anything about crisps. It’s that good) She also recommends Nigella’s tip of adding 500g of mashed sweet potato to your sauce. I’ve not tried this yet but it sounds very exciting. I will post an update once I’ve tried it.

Meat

Another way of adding interest to your macaroni cheese is to add microwavable hot dogs (Quorn do great vegetarian ones), crispy bacon or ham. Come on now, this is a macaroni cheese recipe; it was never going to be healthy.