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Hearty Minestrone

16 Sep

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The chill of autumn has swooped in out of nowhere and I have found myself rummaging around in my big hearty recipe books… or my bookmarked internet tabs for those meals that are basically the equivalent of a couch, a fire and a cuddly doggie! This dish is exactly that and is so handy because its also a one pot wonder which cuts the dishes to slave away over afterwards.

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This is a really basic minestrone but why fix something that’s not broken? It uses mostly store cupboard ingredients and has so much flavor, you will be blown away. It can also be made ahead of time which fits wonderfully into hectic life at the moment. It gives wholesome portions and supplied us with two days worth of dinners which was amazing and really freed up my evening.

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Hearty Minestrone

1/2tbsp olive oil

3-4 rindless bacon slices, cubed

3 carrots, peeled and diced

1/2 medium courgette, diced

1/2 red pepper, diced

1/2 green pepper, diced

150g button mushrooms, quartered

1 red onion, diced

3-4 garlic cloves

2 bay leaves

1tsp dried oregano

2 x 400g tin chopped tomatoes

2 cups chicken stock, more if needed

1 x 400g tin chickpeas, drained

1/2-1 cup pasta shapes

parmesan, to serve

  • Heat the oil in a large casserole dish and cook the bacon cubes until lightly browned. Add the carrots, courgettes, peppers, mushrooms, onion, garlic, bay leaves and oregano and cook for 5-10mins over medium heat until softened and smelling delicious.
  • Pop in the chopped tomatoes, chicken stock and chickpeas and season with salt and pepper to taste. Bring to the boil, turn down to a simmer and cook for roughly 30mins.
  • Add the pasta and cook for a further 10mins until al dente. Taste and correct seasoning if necessary and thin with some extra stock or water if it’s too thick.
  • Serve piping hot, but don’t burn your tongue, with lashings of parmesan and some basil leaves.

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Homemade Tortilla Wraps

11 Sep

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If, like me, you have always marveled at the magic of a tortilla then look no further. These are honestly so easy to make, not even any tricky yeast in these to catch you out. So there is no reason not to give it a whirl. These are best served hot from the pan as they are still very soft and easy to fold then but will keep for up to three days if you keep them airtight. These don’t have the same leathery feel as some shop bought tortillas, they are much softer and are actually more durable when folding, wrapping and generally over loading your tortillas. They only have to be rested for 30mins and will have all family and friends astounded by your culinary expertise.

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Homemade Tortilla Wraps (Makes about 10)

3 cups plain flour

1tsp salt

1/2tsp baking powder

1/3 cup vegetable oil

1 cup hot water

  • In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, salt and baking powder.
  • Drizzle in the oil and use your fingers to work it through the flour until it resembles crumbs.
  • Make a well in the middle and pour in most of the hot water. Mix until it forms a soft ball adding the rest of the water if needed.
  • Place in a clean bowl, cover with a tea towel or cling film and let rest for 30mins. It won’t rise as there is no yeast only baking powder, so don’t worry if you come back and it is the same size.
  • Divide the dough into ten balls and roll each one out into a thin disc on a well floured surface.
  • Heat a large frying pan over a medium/high heat and cook the wraps for 1-2mins or until brown and blistered then turn and repeat on the other side.
  • Serve warm, also suitable for freezing.

Sticky Honey and Garlic Meatball Salad

21 Aug

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I am a big fan of a generous plate of tender meatballs smothered in a classic tomato sauce sitting atop a beautiful mound of fresh spaghetti but we all need a change sometimes and this recipe is perfect for that. The actual meatballs are quite basic but the sauce is just to die for, it is sweet and sticky and chock full of garlic. It uses all ingredients that everyone should have lurking around their cupboards and it would go beautifully with any sort of meat. I think it would be perfect for chicken in a wrap.

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I serve these over a fresh, crisp salad instead of the usual pasta which makes the dish much lighter and ideal for Summer. It would also be great stuffed into a crunchy baguette if your feeling hungrier! I’m off to the beautiful Italy tomorrow so I will try to post while I’m there but if I don’t I will hopefully be back on Tuesday. It will be tough work but i’ll try to sample as many gelato flavors as I can to report back to you. A big task but I’m up to it, Ciao! 😀

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Sticky Glazed Garlic and Honey Meatball Salad (Serves 2-3)

250-300g lean mince beef

1 small egg. lightly beaten

1/2cup breadcrumbs

1tsp mixed herbs

1/2 onion, finely diced

2tbsp Worcestershire sauce

salt and pepper

For the Sauce:

1/2tbsp sesame oil

4 garlic cloves, minced

1/3 cup ketchup

1/4 cup honey

2tbsp soy sauce

For the Salad:

a handful of iceberg lettuce, shredded

1/4 cucumber, diced

1/2 pepper, sliced thinly

2-3tbsp tinned sweetcorn, drained

6-8 cherry tomatoes, halved

2 small carrots, thinly sliced or grated

grated parmesan, to serve

  • Preheat the grill to high.
  • In a large bowl, mix together the mince, egg, breadcrumbs, herbs, onion, Worcestershire sauce and salt and pepper using clean hands preferably.
  • Shape the beef mixture into roughly 10 meatballs and place on a lined tray.
  • Cook under the grill for 6-8mins on both sides or until the meat is cooked all the way through.
  • Meanwhile make the sauce, heat the oil in a medium pot over medium heat then add the minced garlic and cook for 1-2mins to soften. Add the ketchup, honey and soy sauce and bring to the boil, mixing continuously.
  • Turn the heat down to a simmer and let reduce for 5mins.
  • Once the meatballs are cooked add them to the pot with the sauce and toss to coat.
  • Toss the salad ingredients together then divide between bowls, top with meatballs and extra sauce and dust with a fine grating of parmesan.

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Mature Cheddar and Sage Scones

19 Aug

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There is something soothing about going into the kitchen early in the morning and turning simple, everyday ingredients into something magnificent. It really relaxes me and always ensures I have a really calm and happy day. Things are so hectic at the moment because of the Florence trip (I’m soooo excited!) so I really needed something to chill me out, this was the perfect answer. Not only did I have a great baking “therapy” session to start my day but I ended up with these fantastic scones and believe me nothing smells better coming out of the oven then super cheesy scones!

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The sage and mustard are subtle but compliment the cheesy flavors well. The one thing I would highly recommend is that you use really tangy mature cheddar so that you have a real sharpness from the scones. These are great as is or used to accompany loads of different meals such as scrambled eggs for a decadent brunch, a steaming bowl of soup for lunch or alongside a meaty main for dinner.

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Mature Cheddar and Sage Scones (Makes 5-6)

225g plain flour

1tsp cream of tartar

1/2tsp baking soda

a pinch of salt

50g butter, cold and cubed

70g mature cheddar, grated (Plus extra for the top)

1 heaped tsp dried sage

21/2tsp mustard powder

a pinch of salt and pepper

1/4 pint milk, plus a drop extra for glazing)

  • Preheat the oven to 230°c/450°f.
  • Sieve the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda and salt into a large bowl. Add the cubed butter and rub into the flour using your fingertips until it resembles breadcrumbs.
  • Stir in the grated cheese, sage, mustard powder and season to taste with salt and pepper.
  • Make a well in the centre and add most of the milk. Mix together with a wooden spoon, add the remaining milk if necessary until it forms a soft dough.
  • Turn out onto a floured surface and roll out to about 1inch thick, cut into roughly five rounds.
  • Place the rounds on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment. Brush with some extra milk and top with more grated cheese.
  • Bake in the oven for 10mins until golden.

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Tuna Chickpea Salad with Honey Harissa Dressing

16 Aug

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A quick salad packed with protein and other good stuff is always high on my list of favorite foods to eat, especially when I’ve had a hectic day and all I want to do is chill with a tasty dinner. This dinner is so quick and the harissa dressing adds bag loads of flavor with practically no effort at all. Me and mom just booked a last minute holiday to Florence, Italy for next week and I am so excited! Although it does mean there is heaps of last minute organizing to get sorted which is why I had no time for a fancy, elaborate dinner tonight.

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Not only was time a benefit of this dish but it is super healthy too. I am watching what I eat between now and Florence because I am planning on eating pizza and pasta and gelato til I’m blue in the face because god knows when I’ll get such an amazing opportunity again. I’m planning on taking loads of photos, roughly half will probably end up being of food! If anybody has any suggestions of good places to either see or eat in while we are there, I would love your advice 🙂

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Tuna Chickpea Salad with Honey Harissa Dressing (Serves 2)

1tbsp olive oil, plus extra for tuna steak if using

1/2 courgette, finely diced

1/2 red pepper, finely diced

1/2 yellow pepper, finely diced

2 spring onions, sliced on the diagonal

3 large garlic cloves, minced

1 small beetroot, finely diced

10 cherry tomatoes, halved

1 x 400g tin chickpeas, drained

1 tuna steak or 1 tin tuna in brine, drained

 For the Dressing:

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2tbsp honey

juice of 1/2 lemon

1tsp harissa paste

salt and pepper, to taste

  • If using a tuna steak, heat 1tbsp oil in a large frying pan and cook for 4-5mins on each side for a well done steak or until it is no longer pink in the middle. Transfer to a cutting board and cut or flake into rough chunks. Set aside.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together all the dressing ingredients and set aside.
  • Heat the oil in  a large frying pan over high heat. Add the courgette, peppers, spring onions and garlic. Saute until softened 2-3mins then add the beetroot, tomato and chickpeas and cook for a further 1-2mins.
  • Divide between bowls, scatter tuna chunks on top and drizzle generously with the dressing. Serve with Corn on the cob or some steamed broccoli.

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Crisp Sun Dried Tomato and Parmesan Polenta Triangles

13 Aug

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I have always been curious about polenta and for the longest time I barely even knew what it was, but I decided it was time to expand my food palate. I always thought the look of grilled polenta looked much more appetizing then the soft version so I went searching for a tasty recipe and found this gem. It is flavored lightly with sun dried tomato and parmesan which brings it up to a whole new level and pairs beautifully with a simple ratatouille. This is a handy dish because is better if made the night before and quick grilled before serving. You could mix all sorts of flavors through this  or even make a sweet version.

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Crisp Sun Dried Tomato and Parmesan Polenta Triangles (Serves 4)

2 cups chicken stock

1 cup polenta/cornmeal

3 sun dried tomatoes, roughly chopped

1/4 cup grated parmesan

2-3 garlic cloves, minced

1/2tsp dried basil

1/2tsp dried oregano

1tbsp olive oil

  • Bring  the stock to the boil in a small pot.
  • Take it off the heat and add the polenta, sun dried tomatoes, parmesan, garlic and herbs and mix to combine.
  • Leave until the polenta becomes fluffy and all the stock is absorbed.
  • Grease a round/square baking tin or dish and add the polenta, spreading it out in an even layer.
  • Chill in the fridge overnight or at least 3-4hrs.
  • Cut into slices and heat the oil in a large griddle pan. Add the polenta slices and grill for 2-3mins on each side until crisp and lightly golden.

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Peach, Tomato and Mature Cheddar Wrap

9 Aug

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I have always loved pairing sweet fruit with savory, tangy flavors such as a sharp cheddar or feta cheese or even pickled onions. The sweet against the sharp just works to perfection and this wrap is a perfect example of how harmonious they can be. Peaches are in season at the moment and they are so amazingly mouthwatering and juicy that I’m trying to use them in just about everything to make the most of it.

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A sharp, crumbly, mature cheddar is one of my all time favorite indulgences and I like it in basically everything from a simple grilled cheese to sprinkled on a crispy baked potato or just a chutney, cheese and crackers combo. It just never gets boring! This wrap is really healthy and makes it easy to incorporate fruit and veg into your diet.

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Peach, Tomato and Mature Cheddar Wrap (Serves 1)

1 small wrap

a small handful of spinach leaves

1/2 peach, stoned and cut into wedges

1/2 small tomato, cut into wedges

a matchbox size of mature cheddar, cut into small cubes or grated

1/2 samll vacuum packed beetroot, cubed

1 spring onion (green part only) sliced on the diagonal

salt and pepper

  • Heat the wrap in the microwave for 10-15sec until warm and soft.
  • Place the spinach leaves in a flat layer on one side of the wrap then fan out the peach and tomato wedges on top.
  • Sprinkle with cheddar cubes/grated cheddar, beetroot and sliced spring onion. Season with salt and pepper.
  • Fold over and try and keep all the fillings under control while you eat!

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