Easy Vegetable Tray Bake with Halloumi and Pesto

Simple and delicious one-pan of your ‘5 a day’ supper. Easy adaptable to whatever is in season, but this Mediterranean selection works very well with Halloumi. Perfect addition for the BBQ or a picnic. Of course, it is even better with home-made pesto, but on this occasion I used shop-bought, which is also just fine. You also can use Feta cheese instead of Halloumi.

EASY VEGETABLE TRAY BAKE WITH HALLOUMI & PESTO

(Originally seen in ‘Red’ magazine)

Ingredients:

500g new potatoes, halved lengthways

3 Mixed Peppers, seeds removed, sliced

2 tbsp olive oil

2 tablespoons good quality pesto

zest of ½ lemon, plus squeeze of juice

125g cherry tomatoes, halved

250g pack Halloumi cheese, thickly sliced

black olives (optional)

salt & pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Cook the potatoes in a pan of boiling water for 5 minutes or until just tender. Drain, then tip into a large, shallow roasting tin and scatter over sliced peppers. Drizzle over with the olive oil, salt, mix well, bake for about 20 minute.
  2. Meanwhile in a little bowl, mix together pesto, zest and lemon juice, plus 1 tablespoon of water, if the paste is too thick. Set aside.
  3. Turn up the heat to 220°C. Add the halved tomatoes, olives, sprinkle half of the pesto mixture and sliced halloumi on top. Roast for a further 5-10 minutes or until the cheese is golden brown. Remove from the oven, drizzle over the rest of the pesto and serve straightaway.
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Beef & Aubergine Fatteh

This recipe comes from the latest book by Nigella Lawson ‘At my table’. Since I  first saw it  a few month ago, I’ve already made it several times. It’s my new ‘go to’ recipe for dinner parties, as it’s perfect for sharing, easily adaptable to the vegetarian version (just replace the beef mince with Quorn/soya mince, or double the quantities of aubergine and add the mushrooms). I normally serve it with the roasted vegetables, couscous or herby bulgur wheat on side. Everyone loves it.

BEEF & AUBERGINE FATTEH

(Nigella Lawson recipe)

Ingredients:

For the base:

4 pitta breads, split open and cut into nacho-sized triangles

For the sauce:

500g Greek-style yoghurt

4 tablespoons tahini, at room temperature

1 lemon, juice only

2 garlic cloves, crushed

1–2 teaspoon sea salt flakes, to taste

125g pomegranate seeds

50g toasted pine nuts (optional)

1 tbsp finely shredded mint leaves (optional)

 

For the ‘meaty’ layer:

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 small onion, finely chopped

1 aubergine, cut into small cubes

2 teaspoons ground cumin

2 teaspoons ground coriander

1 teaspoon Aleppo pepper or paprika, plus extra for sprinkling

1–2 teaspoon sea salt flakes, to taste

500g beef mince

Method:

  1. Preheat the oven to 180C.
  2. To make the aubergine-beef layer, warm the oil in a heavy-based saucepan or casserole, add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, over a medium-low heat for 5 minutes, then turn the heat down to low and cook for another 4 minutes, stirring occasionally, until soft and golden colour.

  3. Turn the heat up to medium, add the aubergine cubes and stir well. Cook for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Turn the heat down if they look as if they’re catching.

  4. Stir in the cumin, coriander and a teaspoon each Aleppo pepper and sea salt flakes. Turn the heat up to high, add the mince and use a fork to break it up a little and turn in the pan until it’s lost its red colour. Turn the heat back down to medium and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the meat is cooked through. Taste to see if you want to add more salt, then take off the heat.

  5. To make a sauce, pour about 3cm of just-boiled water into a fresh pan and put over a low heat. Sit the bowl with the ‘tahini, yoghurt, lemon juice, garlic and salt’ mixture on top, making sure the bowl does not touch the water. Beat well until the yogurt is slightly above room temperature and has the consistency of lightly whipped cream. Set aside.
  6. Toast the pitta breads and cut it into triangles.
  7. To assemble, arrange the crisp pitta triangles on a large plate. Top with the aubergine-beef mixture, followed by the yoghurt-tahini sauce. Sprinkle with Aleppo pepper or paprika to give a light dusting. Scatter over the pomegranate seeds and toasted pine nuts and, finally, strew with the finely shredded mint leaves. Eat with your fingers, nacho-style.

 

Cheesy Chicken Meatloaf

My Mum was recommending to try this recipe for ages, but for some reason I always dismissed it. Maybe because we are not really big sandwich or appetiser fans, which this recipe is particularly good for. One day, something took over me and I decided to have a go, and I didn’t regret it. I think it’s brilliant recipe and I only wished I discovered it earlier. It takes no time or effort to prepare, and as a result you’ll have the most succulent, tender and delicious meatloaf. Of course, it is great sliced in sandwiches, but you can also have it on its own with just salad, or with added any grains/pulses/roasted vegetables. Also, it’s perfect dish to take with you to the picnic or beach.

VERY MOIST CHEESY CHICKEN MEATLOAF

Ingredients:

1-2 tablespoon olive oil

600g chicken fillets, cut into small chunks

1-2 onion (depends on the size), finely chopped

2-3 carrots (depends on the size), grated

3 tablespoons semolina

2 eggs

200g mild cheese (Cheddar, Edam, Leicester or any other hard mild cheese), grated

salt & pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Fry the chicken pieces with olive oil until all juices run clear and chicken ready, set aside.
  2. Add more oil to the same pan and fry chopped onion, followed by carrots, until it’s cooked and translucent.
  3. Transfer in the food processor, or using a hand blender, mix it all until preferable consistency. I like to keep it a bit chunky, not completely puréed, so I’d just pulse a few times. If the mixture looks a bit dry, add few tablespoons of water.
  4. When you are happy with the consistency, transfer it to the bowl (if you are using food processor) and add the remaining ingredients, season and mix it all well, then pour it into the prepared loaf tin (you might want to butter the tin first).
  5. Bake in the preheated oven at 180C for 30-45 minutes.

 

 

Super tender meatballs in tomato sauce with cannellini beans

Here is a quick improvisation on one of the classic Italian Polpette, which I made few times before, which I highly recommend. Fennel is this magic ingredient, which transforms these meatballs to another level of deliciousness.

This time I ran out of fennel seeds, instead I just added some chilli powder, paprika & Worcestershire sauce for a little bit of kick, plus cannellini beans for some substance.

PORK POLPETTE IN TOMATO SAUCE WITH CANNELLINI BEANS

Ingredients

For tomato sauce:

100ml extra virgin olive oil
1 white onion, finely sliced
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/2 tbsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper
pinch of chilli flakes to your taste
1/2 paprika powder
2 x 400g tins chopped tomatoes
1 small handful of oregano, finely chopped
pinch of caster sugar
1 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce (optional)
1 x 400g tin of cannellini beans (or any other canned beans of your choice)
chopped dill/parsley to garnish (optional)
For the Polpette:

1.5 kg minced pork

3 medium free-range eggs

150g breadcrumbs

large pinch of dried chilli flakes

salt flakes and freshly ground black pepper

Method:

  1. To make a sauce, heat half the oil in a large saucepan and sweat the onion, garlic, salt, pepper and chilli on a medium heat for about 15 minutes. When transparent, add the tinned tomatoes, cannelloni beans and bring to a gentle simmer. Leave to bubble on the lowest heat for about 20 minutes. Turn off the heat and add the sugar, Worcestershire sauce, if using, and the oregano. Taste and see if it needs anything else. Set aside for now.
  2. To make meatballs, preheat the oven to 220C. Put the pork, eggs, breadcrumbs, chilli flakes, salt and pepper into a large mixing bowl and massage thoroughly. Roll into approx 45g balls, place them on a greased baking tray and roast in the oven for 10 minutes, turning once until they are starting to brown.
  3. Then poach the meatballs in the tomato & beans sauce for 10 minutes.
  4. Serve on its own with some fresh chopped herbs and nice crusty bread or focaccia.

Chipolatas with Caramelised Onions and Cranberries

Following Nigel Slater TV advice, with a few improvisations, I’ve been using up all remains of  Christmas (and the freezer). It takes very little effort to prepare, but tastes very festive and special.

CHIPOLATAS WITH CARAMELISED ONION AND CRANBERRIES

(Adapted from N. Slater recipe)

Ingredients:

1-2 tablespoons olive oil

2-3 red onions, thinly sliced

1 pack of your preferred chipolatas

150g fresh cranberries

2 tablespoons cranberry jam

splash of red wine (optional)

pinch of cinnamon

handful of fresh spinach

Method:

  1. Heat the oil in a large, heavy-based frying pan over a low heat. Add the onions, stir to coat the onion in the oil. Cover the pan and cook very slowly for 15-20 minutes, stirring occasionally to prevent them from burning.
  2. Add the chipolatas, increase the heat a little and continue to cook about 15 minutes or until the meat is almost cooked.
  3. Add the fresh cranberries, pinch of cinnamon, cranberry jam and splash of wine, if using. Mix well to coat everything evenly, cover with lid and cook for another 10 minutes.
  4. At the end of the cooking mix in some fresh spinach, give another minute or two, taste for seasoning, serve with some hearty bread or with puy lentils.

 

Veggie Shepherd’s Pie with Sweet Potato Topping

I could’ t recommend this veggie version of shepherd’s pie enough. I first tried it when I had to prepare a dinner  for a few vegetarians some time ago. Since then it became my choice of preference, even over meaty version. Addition of the red wine is a must!

VEGGIE SHEPHERD’S PIE WITH SWEET POTATO TOPPING

(adapted from BBC Good Food collection)

Ingredients:

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 large onion, finely diced

2 large carrots, finely cubed

2 celery sticks, finely cubed

2 tablespoons thyme, chopped

200ml red wine

400g can chopped tomatoes

2 vegetable stock cubes

400g cooked green/puy lentils (alternatively 1x410g canned lentil)

About 1kg sweet potatoes, peeled and cut in chunks

25g butter

85g mature cheddar, grated

Method:

  1. In a large frying pan, heat the oil, then fry the onion until golden. Add the carrots, celery and thyme,  continue to cook for a few more minutes. Then pour in the wine, 150ml of water and the tomatoes, sprinkle the stock cubes and simmer for 15 minutes. Tip in the lentils and simmer for another 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile boil the sweet potatoes for 15 minutes or until cooked, drain well and mash with the butter, season well to taste.
  3. Pile the lentil mixture into a pie oven-proof dish, spoon the mash on top, sprinkle over with the grated cheese and some extra thyme if you wish. At this stage, pie can be covered and chilled for 2 days, or frozen for up to a month.
  4. If you are cooking straight away, heat the oven up to 180C. Cook for 20 minutes if cooking straight away, or for 40 minutes from chilled. In both cases cook until golden on the top and hot  and bubbly all the way through. Serve with green veggies of your choice.

Chicken with Prunes, Saffron & Paprika

Rick Stein is one of my absolute favourite TV chefs. He seems to me such a good personality, with his never ending passion for food that it’s almost infectious. He also is great story teller, with a good sense of humour. I loved his ‘Long weekends’ episodes and after watching it, I discovered Bologna. My sister lives just an hour away from Bologna, but every time visiting her, I never considered to visit this place, thinking of it more like a ‘bus or a train stop’ on the way to Tuscany or further a field. And only after watching an episode on Bologna by Rick Stein we decided to pay a visit, and so glad we that we did.

Then again, inspired by his other trip, we went to Sicily and fell in love with the country and its FOOD.

By coincidence, a friend of mine gave me his book (‘Long weekends’) for my birthday, I was thrilled. Not only does it take me back to those wonderful locations from the series and my own travels, it’s also packed with amazing food ideas, tips and techniques.

One of my highlights from this book is this recipe below. It takes only a few ingredients and no time to prepare at all, mainly waiting for it to be cooked.

CHICKEN WITH PRUNES, SAFFRON & PAPRIKA

(from Rick Stein’s ‘Long weekends’ book)

Ingredients:

8 skinless chicken thighs

1 litre water

pinch of saffron

4 tablespoons olive oil

3 red onions, finely sliced

1.5 tablespoon sweet paprika

20 pitted prunes

1 teaspoon salt

blask pepper to taste

Method:

  1. Place the chicken thighs in a saucepan with the water and the saffron. Bring to the boil, then turn down the heat and allow to poach for 10-15 minutes. Drain, reserving the cooking liquid.
  2. In a large heavy bottomed pan heat the olive oil over medium-low heat and gently sweat the onion util very soft, about 10 minutes.
  3. Add the paprika, cook for 2 minutes, then add the chicken thighs, about 700ml of the cooking liquid and the prunes. Season with the salt and pepper and simmer for about 20 minutes, until heated through.
  4. If at the end of the cooking it remains very watery, remove the chicken, prunes and onion with the slotted spoon and keep it warm while you reduce down the sauce until desired consistency.
  5. Serve it with some rice dish of your choice. I also love it with plain buttery buckwheat.