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Category Archives: Cooking

The Strong Female Lead

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As most people could tell from a quick glance at my Facebook photos, I’m no slave to fashion. In fact I’m probably not even a well looked after and healthily remunerated employee to it, yet there is one thing currently in fashion that I can fully support, and that is The Strong Female Lead. Not just in film and TV, but in real life too. I’m very on board with the Katniss Everdeen’s, Leslie Knope’s, Beatrix Kiddo’s and such of film and TV fame (if they’re not pining for a man throughout the entire story and you know, have actual interests and aspirations aside from having the most amazing wedding of all time, like actual real women then I’m all for it) but strong women who haven’t been dreamed up by writers in Hollywood are far more intriguing and inspiring to me. Let’s get the sob story out of the way quick – I’m not a fan of self-pity and I don’t like to dwell on the past, but without the sob story my fascination with strong women makes no sense. My mum passed away when I was young, so when a couple of years on from this I was bought a Janet Jackson CD it was like a light had been switched on. I had my female relatives there for me who were and are brilliant still, but for everyday female inspiration, I had pop stars to rely on. Janet Jackson sang about feminism! Racism! Inequality! SEX! Of course, 10 year old me wasn’t really aware of any of these issues and couldn’t really get her head around what any of it really meant, but here was a woman totally not afraid about speaking her mind, sounding completely bad ass and starting to teach me valuable life lessons that (and this is very important) I could make up awesome dance routines to in my bedroom. I just wanted to be the girl sassy enough to be able to throw out the line “no my first name ain’t baby, it’s Janet, Miss Jackson if you’re nasty” to any boy foolish enough to mess with me. It’s not happened yet, my name isn’t Janet Jackson, I’m betrothed to be wed and mum to a demanding one year old, so the likelihood of me ever saying it grows slimmer by the day but you never know… The Design of a Decade album was a crash course in being a woman, what to believe in and stand for, and my tiny little mind soaked it all up so that I would be ready for when I would be old enough to get my head around it all.

 

Fast forward twenty years or so and my favourite Real Life Strong Female Lead is of course, Nigella Lawson (and Beyoncé. Always Beyoncé.) If you’re ever feeling like crap and you just can’t face something, google the footage of Nigella arriving in court for the trial of her former assistants. The press were tearing her apart, incredibly private and mortifying details about her home life and marriage were being discussed in court and splashed all over the tabloids, and she was going through a divorce from a man who had publicly humiliated her. Does she look even remotely bothered? No, she looks incredible, confident and her IDGAF face is on point. If that doesn’t inspire you to attend that job interview/go to a terrifying meeting/meet that blind date then there’s no helping you. Team Nigella all the way in my house. Obviously then, I snaffled up her new cookbook Simply Nigella, which I have been cooking recipes from over the past few weeks. It’s a bit of a departure from her usual style in that alongside the heavenly looking baking recipes and savoury comfort food that she’s famous for, she also includes quite a lot of healthy and ‘free from’ recipes. I’ve no beef with that, you can’t constantly eat butter and cream filled foods unless your goal in life is to keel over from a heart attack at 30, and it’s good to have a healthy balance in your kitchen. So far I’ve cooked the chicken shawarma (juicy, spicy chicken that received a rave review from The Boyfriend, so a complete success), Thai cinnamon prawn noodles (warm, savoury and tongue tingling-ly yummy), coconut spiced cod (not bad but not amazing) and split pea soup with ginger, chilli and lime (I wasn’t very enthused about this one, it just didn’t do it for me). A mixed bag so far, although there are loads of recipes I can’t wait to find the time to try, such as Indian spiced shepherd’s pie, chai muffins, sweet potato macaroni cheese, ramen, salted chocolate tart, Asian short ribs and chocolate chip cookie dough pots. There are lots more I’m itching to try but the latter are high up on the ‘to cook’ list. I’m hoping Simply Nigella will be just as trusty a steed as her Express, Kitchen, Bites and Christmas books have ended up being for me.

 

As for me, I’m certainly no Janet Jackson, Beyonce or Nigella, but I’d like to consider myself a Strong Female Lead in my own life. Maybe not physically (although carrying around a baby for the last year has certainly done my arms a few favours) but in other ways, definitely. I like to think of myself as a cotton ball with a hidden rod of metal running through it. I’ll cry at the series finale of New Girl, sure, and watching the news is risky business these days for my mascara, plus don’t get me started on how mushy I can get when my baby boy breaks out into laughter, but when push comes to shove I am made of tougher stuff. When my son was much smaller and my significant other wasn’t working away, I didn’t think I would be able to manage at all with looking after a baby once my other half went back to working away for weeks at a time, and yet I’ve managed to do it without losing my mind. Plus I’ve managed to work full time whilst doing so. I know, single parents do it all the time and I have nothing but respect for them, but for me, Miss Anxiety, Miss I Have An Itinerary For Everything And I Don’t Know How To Fit All Of This Into One, it’s a big deal. I managed to live in a house that was practically a building site for two years and didn’t have a stroke – badass. I got made redundant while on maternity leave, and after 10 months of spending my days singing nursery rhymes and turning pears into mush, I somehow managed to get through my first job interview in five years and miraculously got the job. That’s a straight to video film (showing my age there) in then making right there! I’ve already said I’m not good with self-pity, and I’m really not good at bigging myself up so this blog entry has been excruciating for me to write (thank God for self-deprecation) but it’s definitely time for women to embrace their inner Strong Female Lead, so I’m starting with myself. Nigella has taught me how to cook over the years, but recently she’s also inspired me to keep my head up, pull my shoulders back and just get on with it. She’s also bloody good with a Middle Eastern marinated chicken recipe. The girl’s alright with me.

 

 

 

All The P’s

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The type of food that each of us class as comfort food no doubt varies wildly between all of us, but I’m willing to bet there are a few classics that come up time and time again. Any form of fruit pie or crumble smothered in custard must pop up on millions of Brits comfort food wish list, as must cheese on toast and roast dinner. For me, comfort food needs to be carb packed, whether that’s a shepherds pie topped with fluffy mash, a crunchy baguette smothered with butter, or pasta sheets layered up in a lasagna. Or it must be sweet, but again there needs to be an element of stodge from pastry, sponge or crumble. Eton Mess is delicious, no doubt, but when I’ve had a shocker of a day the last thing I need is a light fruity dessert. I need something heavy that will then leave me feeling so full and tired that the only thing left to do is drift off to sleep and wake up in the morning to a more promising day. Nothing cures a bad day more effectively than comfort food induced sleep.

Being heavily pregnant and with The Boyfriend on a far away continent for another 11 days, comfort food has played a big part in recent weeks. Combine this with not having to concern myself with fitting into my normal wardrobe of skinny Topshop jeans and beloved tea dresses, and you’ve got one sure fire way to cheer me up. I’m lucky to have supportive family and lovely friends too of course to keep me busy and spend quality time with, whilst the great thing about pregnancy is that you find yourself no longer tolerating flaky or terminally ill friendships. If you ask someone if you’ve done something to offend them and they say no, then they continue to make thinly veiled comments on social media, create awkward atmospheres and ignore invitations, then I really can’t be bothered. I have to pee every 20 minutes and spend most of my free time either eating for two or being in bed by 8:30, I really don’t have the time, energy or the will to work out what’s going on. After my antenatal class yesterday, believe me there are bigger things to worry about!

It was after this antenatal class that I knew I was in need of something comforting. There’s nothing like a midwife doing a demonstration with a doll and a plastic pelvic skeleton to have you running for the nearest bowl of carbohydrates. Especially when the midwife’s exclaiming how ‘isn’t nature wonderful’ and all you can think is that no actually, nature is not all that right now. I’m down with nature when it involves penguins or sunsets or daffodils, but there are some things that nature really messed up. Thanks nature.

Luckily I have just the cook to turn to for a carby comfort meal – Miss Lawson of course. Her Nigellissima book is my least used of all of her books, I don’t like being constrained by one country’s recipes in a cookbook, but the recipes do look tasty, what with them being Nigella-fied. I went for the alliteratively pleasing pasta, petit poits and pancetta risotto which promised all the comfort and starchiness of a risotto without the 30 minutes of constant, mind numbing stirring which can be useful at times but not when in need of quick comfort. This is achieved by using orzo pasta which looks very similar to rice and absorbs the water quickly, leaving you with a dish not all that different to a rice risotto. It’s a very simple dish too, all you do is crisp up the pancetta in some hot oil, chuck in some frozen peas, pasta and water, then once all the water is absorbed stir in butter and Parmesan until melted and you’re good to go. It’s a one pan job too, there’s no chopping and most importantly no constant stirring, so for a mid week meal it’s simplicity itself.

Taste wise, it’s not up there with Nigella’s greatest hits. Her recipes usually pack in a lot of flavour but this one misses the mark a little. It’s still comforting, the pasta is starchy and silky and there’s a faint tang of salt from the pancetta and Parmesan, but it’s just a bit too subtle. Nigella warns not to over salt the dish because of the already salty main ingredients, but it still wasn’t enough to bring out a lot of flavour. The flavour would probably be improved with the addition of a stock cube to the water, it might take the sodium levels up a bit higher but I’d imagine the taste would be much better. In fact, just adding a little more of all the salty ingredients would improve this dish, and perhaps half a glass of white wine. Maybe the short cut of using pasta instead of arborio rice means that the intensity of flavour that normally accompanies a risotto is sacrificed, because you’re not investing the time to gradually build up flavours. Still, if you’re in the market for a quick, easy, comforting dinner that takes next to no effort and would probably keep the kids happy, you could definitely do worse. Certainly not comforting enough though to get the image of that plastic pelvis out of my mind.

 
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Posted by on September 14, 2014 in Books, Cooking, Food, Italian, Nigella Lawson

 

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Reinventing The Roast

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Roast dinner is easily the most iconic of all the British foods. You could argue that a bacon sandwich or the full English should take the title, or that nothing is more British than a cup of tea accompanied by the perfect dunking biscuit (chocolate digestives, always), but for me, nothing says home like a big plate of roast dinner. It’s what the vast majority of us grew up on, its the one dish that I absolutely cannot wait to have if I’ve been somewhere abroad for a couple of weeks, and to sit down at the table with a roast dinner equals sitting round a table with some of your favourite people, whether that be your parents, relatives, best friends or significant other. Let’s face it, you don’t cook a roast for someone you aren’t fond of. I’m not spending my precious Sunday with someone I can’t wait to say goodbye to, end of.

The Boyfriend (I’ve gone back to boyfriend in writing only, I can’t stand the word fiancé, it sounds too pretentious, so until he’s The Hubby it’s back to informalities. Plus, I can only take the word fiancé seriously if I say it in the same tone Jay Z says “Beyonceeeeeeeeee” in his raps, which is not seriously at all. We are still very much engaged) is a big fan of the roast dinner and no doubt would be appalled at what I cooked for myself last night. Good thing then that he is thousands of miles away. Even as I was telling him what I was having for my dinner I evaded the truth by stating ‘oh just some chicken thing with potatoes’ because I knew to tell him the that I was making One Pan Sunday Lunch from a Nigel Slater cookbook would bring scorn down upon me! He is not a fan of Nigel Slater for some reason which I can’t quite fathom, and likes roast dinner just the way it’s been for decades, thank you very much. Admittedly, I find watching Nigel on TV a little cringe worthy but I can’t put my finger on why that is, considering that I love his writing and his recipes are pretty much always spot on. It’s not him, it’s definitely me, and I apologise Nigel because I think you’re brilliant.

If you haven’t discovered Nigel Slater yet then I really urge you to do so. I first stumbled upon his books when I checked out his cookbook Real Food from the library years ago when I didn’t want to spend all of my money on cookbooks. It’s an absolute classic and is filled with food you immediately want to eat. The chapters of the book are defined by his favourite ingredients, so you have one chapter dedicated to cheese, another to garlic, to sausage, to ice cream. This is a man whose books I can totally get on with. He also writes like an absolute dream about food and is a genius at conveying flavours, textures and smells as well as understanding just how significant food is in our day to day lives. Him and Nigella are my favourite food writers and both know that what people really want to eat at home is unpretentious, tasty and easy. So many food writers fail to recognise this. Considering how much I love him then, it’s surprising that I never actually owned one of his books until six months ago. I have the library to thank for saving my pennies for so long whilst continually checking out ‘Real Food’ every time I needed a fix. I bought his latest book Eat last year, flicked through it going ‘yum’ or ‘mmmmm’ every other page and then completely forgot about it. Until now! I’ve resurrected Eat from under the bed and after flicking through it again I’m in love.

Needing something soothing and filling I eventually plumped for the One Pan Sunday Lunch. It helped in my decision making that I’d just bought a cast iron shallow casserole dish that I’d been wanting for ages (not Le Creuset sadly, but a much more affordable alternative in the same volcanic orange shade) and was itching to use it. The dish is seriously simple, it takes the three best parts of a roast chicken dinner and you only need one pan. Basically, you brown some chicken thighs and potatoes, pour in a stock, cook for 20 minutes, then once you’ve removed the chicken and potatoes, add cream, milk, breadcrumbs and herbs to the stock to make a ridiculously gorgeous bread sauce. I LOVE bread sauce. I haven’t had a lot of it in the past, I’m an adult convert to the stuff, but when you get proper homemade bread sauce, it’s up there with sliced bread. This bread sauce in particular was perfect. Because it had soaked up all the chicken juices and the stock (I used a concentrated chicken bouillon that you can find amongst the Oxo cubes) the sauce was immensely savoury with a deep, meaty flavour as well as being smooth and creamy. Much as I am a fan of sweet foods I’m finding myself more and more compelled to the far more savoury foods and this dish is nirvana for savoury lovers. The potatoes had crispy edges but were soft and fluffy too from being cooked in the stock and the chicken was perfectly cooked, albeit with less than perfect skin. The skin had started out crispy but once I’d poured in the stock and let the chicken cook, all crispiness went out the window. The only downside to the dish. If you want an immensely chicken-y dinner without the time and work of a full on roast, then this my friends is the dish for you. I gave myself a little more washing up to do by cooking some broccoli to go alongside it and by all means you can pick and choose what vegetable you’d like to go with it if you’re a 7 a day minded sort. I only hope I can convey to you through words how delicious this meal was, and that although the photo makes it look quite bland, brown and boring you should never judge a book by its cover. I certainly can’t wait to try more of Nigel’s recipes.

 
 

Well, I’m Going To Texas

The trouble with being so in awe of such an enormous country is that you know you’ll never have the time, money nor inclination to get to grips with the entire place. I don’t think there’s one single state in the US that I wouldn’t deem worthy of a trip to, but with 50 states spread over thousands of miles and some states being worthy of multiple visits, it’s not going to happen without a pretty big lottery win. I’d like to believe that one day I really will win the lottery, but considering I always forget to buy a ticket each week the odds are pretty slim. This fascination with America then and my lack of millions goes some way to explaining the many cookbooks focusing on the country that adorn my bookshelf. To make the most of these books and get more mileage out of them, the theme running through my blogs for the next few weeks will be focusing on the Deep South of the States and the food originating from the region. Or until I get bored and move on, don’t be too shocked if the next blog is all about pasta. I’m fickle like that.

The Deep South apparently consists of the states Alabama, Georgia, Mississippi, Louisiana and Tennessee. I thought it also included Texas and did so up until writing that last sentence, so for the purpose of this blog and to save my blushes, Texas is now part of the Deep South. In my defence it is right next to Louisiana. I’m not one to let facts get in the way of a good recipe. Today I cooked from The Homesick Texan by Lisa Fain and is a collection of the foods she grew up with in Texas before moving to New York. The book is filled with classic photos depicting the Lone Star state – think cowboy boots, vast stretches of road and no mans land, cattle and great big slabs of meat- as well as recipes a true Texan would know and love. You’ll be unsurprised to hear that Texas is up there as one of the states I’d really, really like to visit compared to just really wanting to visit (it still has to contend with California, Maine, Louisiana, Georgia and the Carolina’s – stiff competition). I can’t even tell you why I want to visit it, it’s just so iconic and I think of it as the essence of America, if that makes any sense. When I think of America, two images come immediately to mind, one of which is the New York skyline and the other the cattle horns and cowboy boots of Texas. Get me on that plane to Dallas, please.

Fancy-pants king ranch chicken casserole is the dish I cooked, and yes, that is the title given to it in the book. Most magnificent a name. It’s certainly unique. Lisa tells me that this casserole is one of the most popular ones that Texans make but does not go into the provenance of the name. Even though there are a lot of ingredients for this, if you have a well stocked spice cupboard and vegetable drawer you’ll probably have no problem throwing this together. The chicken breasts are fried in a marinade of ancho chilli powder, lime juice and salt, then shredded and added into a homemade enchilada sauce which is then layered in a baking dish with corn tortillas and lots of cheese. To call it a casserole is pretty misleading as after cooking I would describe it more as an enchilada lasagna (lasagna like in structure alone, with the tortillas replacing lasagna sheets) and a really delicious one at that. It’s subtly spicy, creamy and very cheesy and the perfect antidote to the cold weather, the return to work and the endless diet adverts. Despite all the peppers and tomatoes in the casserole it’s not particularly healthy with all the butter and cheese but mentally it’s the equivalent of sitting in front of the fire with a cosy blanket and a good book – pure comfort. It got the thumbs up from The Fiancé too, which is a rarity when it comes to me experimenting with lesser used cookbooks. If you want to give this recipe a try have a gander at her website The Homesick Texan where you’ll find this very recipe.

It’s safe to say that this recipe has done nothing to dissuade me from wanting to check out Texas, in fact it’s just made me keener to visit. Better start buying those lottery tickets.

 
 

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Getting Back On The Horse

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I’m not one to make New Years Resolutions – after all, why make January even more miserable with failed promises to better yourself? – but I’d like to think that this year the least I can commit myself to is getting back in the kitchen and back to the blog. My cooking mojo recently has been somewhat lacking and the mere thought of venturing into the cold, miserably dated kitchen which we’re saving our pennies to renovate leaves me feeling less than inspired to be totally honest. But as it happens, I’m only human, and upon being asked by several friends who I’d never dreamed would find my blog remotely interesting “what’s happened to your blog?” over the last few months, my head found itself becoming rather large, and so here I am, getting back on that horse. I wouldn’t want to let my adoring public down, after all.

I couldn’t start a new year of cooking without falling back on my trusty old faithful, Nigella Lawson. She’s had a terrible year and I for one am backing her all the way. I find it abhorrent that the press have gone after her as savagely as they have, while Saatchi, the man who publicly grabbed, humiliated and subsequently tried to destroy her seems to have faded into the background without a flicker of interest from the press about the ‘intimate terrorism’ he subjected his wife to. It makes me feel really uncomfortable to see people so gleeful and revelling in the fall from grace and humiliation of a successful woman who has been the victim of some form of domestic abuse, while the real criminal fades into the background. I don’t care what drugs Nigella may or may not have taken, to me she will always be my favourite food writer and a prime example of triumph through adversity. I will always buy her books. Us girls have got to stick together.

Anyway, to the food. I cooked yellow split pea and frankfurter soup from Nigella’s Feast, a cookbook I don’t actually use all that often. It sounds like an odd choice of soup and not one I’d normally cook, but it’s packed full of symbolism and if you can’t cook for symbolisms sake alone on New Years Day then when can you? The yellow from the split peas symbolises gold whilst the roundness of the peas and the pound coin sized circles of sausage symbolises wealth, so the dish itself is supposed to wish you a year of happiness, wealth and prosperity. Who doesn’t wish for that on the 1st January, the warmth and tidings of Christmas now fading to a distant memory along with your pay packet and perfectly fitting skinny jeans? I’m not superstitious, but it can’t hurt now can it?

The soup is simplicity itself to cook, all the fine dicing of the vegetables is done by the food processor and from there it’s a simple case of throwing everything in a saucepan for an hour until the split peas are soft. I substituted frankfurters for some smoked sausage as The Fiancé is none too keen on them, I’m sure this had no impact whatsoever on the outcome of the soup. Before eating I had some trepidation as at some points during the cooking it smelt to me -and sorry if you’re eating- like vomit and as you can see from the photo, didn’t look all that far off it either. I had some back-up tins of tomato soup in the background should it turn out to be disgusting. However, it wasn’t too bad. Comforting and warm on a cold, rainy day with a touch of spice from the mace and surprisingly filling from the peas, it’s a pretty satisfying lunch. Let’s hope it gets me that winning lottery ticket too.

So, Happy New Year to you all, and thank you to those people nagging me about blogging again – it feels good to be back.

 
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Posted by on January 1, 2014 in Books, Cooking, Food, Lunch, Nigella Lawson

 

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A Tale of Two Pasta Bakes

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It might come as a surprise to some of you that up until very recently (and by recently, I mean this year) I’d never had macaroni cheese. I know, it came as a surprise to me too, I love pasta and I really love cheese. How did I get to the age of 27 without eating macaroni cheese? How could such a thing happen? I wish I could say. Despite my dad hating cheese, I still got a decent amount of cheese on toast and pizza as a child, yet mac and cheese evaded me. As a cookbook obsessed, blogging adult, macaroni cheese was always on my hit list, and with the not so keen on it Boyfriend away in Kenya, now seemed the perfect time to make one from scratch. Being such a classic recipe, there were many cookbooks that I could have got a recipe from but I chose Supper Club by Kerstin Rodgers which hasn’t really been used much at all since I brought it last year. It’s a straightforward recipe where you have to make a cheese sauce (a béchamel sauce with cheese melted into it), boil up some pasta and then combine before popping in the oven. This cheese sauce had the inclusion of whole grain mustard and pickled green peppercorns which I for one was most grateful for. They cut through the richness of the cheese, although not as much as I would have liked. It was a really rich pasta dish and while very tasty, was a bit much. That’s right, it was a bit much for me and I didn’t even have enough cheese as specified in the recipe.

When it comes to pasta, I’m very much on the side of tomato based dishes. I love cheese and cream but given the choice between a carbonara or an arrabiatta, the arrabiatta will win every time. Tastes better, is probably more nutritious and I can easily eat a whole lot more of it than a creamy pasta dish. Winning all round. This then was exactly the kind of dish I craved after waking up on Sunday with the hangover from hell, living room floorboards soaked in 50% vodka and cava, and eggcups coated in pink gunk after being used as makeshift shot glasses. Clearly a good night had been had. What can I say, after years of faithfully relying on cookbooks for culinary inspiration, alcohol gave me a eureka moment and this recipe just popped into my head. I just don’t do my own recipes normally so this really was a bolt out of the blue, any off the cuff recipes I make normally end in disaster. A future career as an alcoholic cookbook author await, naturally. The fact that this recipe also happened to taste delicious whilst using items that I already had in my fridge / cupboards only made me feel more smug that for this bad boy dinner, I had only to rely on myself. This then, is my macaroni mini meatball bake, and it’s perfect comfort food, with the spicy tomato sauce loaded with meatballs and covered in the melted, gooey cheese that’s turned gloriously crunchy around the edges. I don’t like to blow my own horn, but toot toot. Thank you, Smirnoff, for the inspiration.

Meatballs:
300g minced beef
1 clove garlic, chopped
2 tsp dried oregano
Salt and pepper

Combine all meatball ingredients together with your hands. Roll into little balls, line up on a baking tray and grill until cooked through (it took me about 10 mins). Cool on kitchen paper. This is just a basic meatball recipe, feel free to add chopped chilli, onion, spices, basil etc according to your own tastes.

Tomato Sauce:
1 onion, chopped finely
2 cloves of garlic, chopped finely
1 red chilli, chopped finely, seeds kept in
1x 400g tin tomatoes
200-300ml chicken stock
Splash of balsamic vinegar
Dried oregano
A few drops of tobasco
1-2tbsp tomato purée
Splash of Worcestershire sauce
Pinch of sugar
Salt and pepper

250g macaroni
Parmesan cheese
Cheddar cheese

Preheat oven to 180 degrees centigrade. Cook the onion, garlic and chilli in a saucepan over a medium heat until soft. Add the tomatoes, bring to the boil. Add the tomato purée, balsamic vinegar, oregano, Tobasco, Worcestershire sauce, and sugar. Add a third of the stock, simmer for 10-15 minutes. If after this it looks too thick, add some more stock. You don’t want it too thick as the macaroni will need a small amount of moisture once in the oven, but you also don’t want a watery sauce, so add the stock little by little until you’re happy with the sauces thickness and consistency. Season.

Cook 250g macaroni for approx 4-5 minutes less than the packet cooking time. Drain, then stir into the tomato sauce. Add the meatballs, stir again and transfer to a square dish (something that you’d make a lasagna for two in). Cover liberally in your grated cheeses and bake in the oven for 20-30 minutes.

Serves 2-3 people (leftovers taste great reheated the next day too).

 
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Posted by on September 24, 2013 in Baking, Books, Cooking, Food, Italian

 

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Warning: This Post Is Bad For Your Health

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Now I like a sugar high as much as the next person, but this past weekend there’s a good chance I took it too far. Brownie cookies. Jam doughnut muffins. I don’t even need to write anything more for you to understand the levels of butter and sugar needed for such baked goods. Much like Road Dahl characters, everything you need to know is all in the name. Miss Honey was always going to be an absolute darling and Augustus Gloop only ever a greedy bastard. And so brownie cookies and jam doughnut muffins are inevitably naughty. In my defence (although it would never stand up in court) I did have friends over for coffee, visited family and took part in a recruitment day at work so the goodies were shared. Spreading not only the love, but also the calories.

Brownie cookies then come from Smitten Kitchen, one of the newest additions to the collection. I’ve not yet ventured into the savoury section of the book, despite the fact that every time I dive in to pick a recipe I go in with the best of intentions. But the significantly sized sweet section of the book always draws me in and I conveniently forget the existence of the salad section. There is nothing sweet in the book that I don’t instantly want to cook. These cookies are an absolute doddle to make, although not owning an electric mixer puts you at an advantage if you want to build those biceps up whilst also working on your domestic goddess skills. One day I will have one of those beautifully glossy KitchenAid mixers (pistachio green is my current favourite) and so until then nothing else will do. If I were to compromise on a lesser model I would then be stuck with it for life, so I’m more than happy to save and continue to bake the hard way. I’m such a martyr.

The best part about making these cookies is rolling them out and getting the cookie cutters out of the drawer. I just don’t feel like I use cookie cutters enough, it’s immensely satisfying to feel the soft dough yield to the cookie cutter and to see the devastation you’ve inflicted upon that poor, innocent cookie dough. It’s like being a war lord, only without the dodgy morality and inability to sleep at night. These brownie cookies deliver exactly what you expect: they have the exterior crispness of a biscuit, the softness of a brownie within and taste purely of chocolate. They’re at their best on the day they’re baked, but are still all too edible 24 hours on. I should *warn* you that this recipe makes a lot of bite-sized biscuits (approx 70 using a 4cm cookie cutter) and also *warn* that the raw dough is even more edible than the end product. I *definitely* didn’t eat spoonfuls of the stuff while it was cooling in the fridge. No siree.

As well as this I made jam doughnut muffins. All the taste of a fried doughnut without the hassle of deep frying, right? Well, almost. These are in essence a plain vanilla muffin with a dollop of jam in the middle, then rolled in melted butter and sugar once cooked. They come from the wonderful mind of Nigella Lawson and can be found in HTBADG, in the kids section. Move over kids, these treats are wasted on you. I served these to a friend and her two year old daughter while they were still a little warm from the oven, which is probably the best way to eat them if you want to emulate the deliciousness of a freshly fried doughnut from a van at the fair. I thought they were nice, nothing amazing but certainly wouldn’t turn my nose up if offered them. These went down pretty well with everyone who had them though out the day and I think if they were smaller they might be better. After the bite size brownie cookies I think there’s something to be said for mini versions of sweet treats. Although why I’m trying to perfect doughnuts I’ll never know, what with fairground doughnuts and Krispy Kreme already firm favourites on our fair isle, and Dunking’ Donuts on its way (The Boyfriend cannot get enough of DD coffee on holiday, so he is sure to be making regular trips once over here) making doughnuts at home seems completely pointless. Sure is fun trying though.

 

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