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Roasted Vegetable Quinoa with Lime and Mustard Dressing

Howdy foodies. Apologies, it’s been a while. I’ve been busy, working, studying and wedding planning. The wedding is just over 3 months away. Eek! Jemima has also been running me ragged, leaving my blog somewhat abandoned. I have been busy in the kitchen though, I’m finding my stride again. And, we’ve been putting the outside kitchen and terrace to use for barbecues, hence this post tonight; to tell you all about a special summer veggie dish I made last weekend.

This really is a super simple and deliciously tasty quinoa dish, and it was a huge hit. Strangely, not only amongst my female guests as one might expect.

Richard often pulls a funny face at the mere suggestion of something like cous cous or quinoa. Like it isn’t manly enough for him or something. That said, he really enjoyed this recipe. Having to admit defeat and confess that it had “loads of flavour” in his words, although it probably pained him to say, no doubt. He sees food like quinoa as a ‘fad’ that nobody actually likes. I admit that plain quinoa would be bland, boring and quite frankly a chore to eat. Throw in the mix though some delicious roasted vegetables and a zingy dressing and it’s transformed into a bright summery dish that is a pleasure to eat.

The dish will serve about six to eight people as a side dish, or it would stretch to four weekday lunches for work. I know I enjoyed the left over portion for my lunch yesterday. I would say this is fine to keep in the fridge for around 4-5 days, just pop it in an airtight container to keep it fresh.

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Tuscan Fish Stew – a firm family favourite

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Tuscan fish stew; the ultimate favourite in our house, well amongst everyone except Max (Richard’s son, the fussy eater) who opted for sausage and chips over this delicious feast… I despair I really do. We also had a rather heated 20 minute debate about him not wanting a vegetable with his sausage and chips, he was given the option of beans or peas – “neither”  he stubbornly exclaimed. Now this just doesn’t wash in Miss Friday’s house, everyone has to have vegetables and that’s that! Daisy (Richard’s daughter), on the other hand, well she devoured the fish stew.

You may recall that I have posted this recipe before, but as it’s so popular I’ve tweaked it a few times and thought there was no harm in sharing it once more. I honestly think that each time I cook this dish Richard falls in love with me a little bit more. I joke. But he does love it, and he always comments and makes sure I know how much he enjoyed it – then again they do say that the way to a man’s heart is through his stomach. In this case, I think it’s true. Few things make me happier than pleasing Richard with food. Given that he’s an excellent cook, there is often stiff competition – but he will never cook this one as well as I do. Note: that’s confidence, rather than arrogance.

What I love most is the lightness of the dish, it has such a fresh delicate flavour. It’s really not the sort of meal that sits on your stomach for hours after, which is a welcome relief after all the heavy festive foods that we’ve experienced over the past couple of months. Let’s face it, we all have leftover Christmas cake – and it has to be eaten right?

I’d advise you to buy the freshest fish you can afford, the flavours in the stew are so simple because it’s really all about letting the fish shine through. We bought the fish from a local market in Saffron Walden. Known for being a market town and famous for it’s rich heritage of buildings dating back to the medieval times, Saffron Walden is well worth a visit if your in the area. The market is held every Tuesday and Saturday throughout the year and hosts a wonderful array of stalls for foodies, everything from olives, meats, breads, fish and a huge fruit and vegetable stall (if you can bear the noisy del-boy esque market trader).

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Tuscan Inspired Fish Stew
 
Author: 
Recipe type: Fish
Cuisine: Tuscan
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Ingredients
  • Fresh fish (such as haddock, mussels, clams and king prawns)
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • Small red onion, finely chopped
  • 3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
  • 200ml white wine
  • 400g chopped tomatoes
  • 500ml fish stock
  • 2 medium red chillies, finely chopped
  • Juice of half a lemon
  • Parsley to garnish
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Ciabatta loaf, sliced
  • 1 garlic clove, chopped in half
  • A handful of grated parmesan cheese
Instructions
  1. Heat the oil in a large casserole dish. Fry the onion until softened – around 5 minutes. Add the garlic and salt and pepper, fry for a couple of minutes.
  2. Add the wine and let it reduce for a couple of minutes, then add the tomatoes, fish stock and chillies and cook for 10 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile lightly toast the Ciabatta slices on both sides, rub them with a clove of garlic, pressing down firmly on the bread to flavour it with garlic. Top each slice with a little parmesan and return to the grill to melt.
  4. Meanwhile, add the seafood starting with the white fish, followed by the shellfish, lemon and parsley. Place the lid firmly on the casserole dish and allow to cook until the mussels and clams have fully opened and the fish is cooked through (this doesn't take long). Serve in warmed bowls with the cheesy garlic croutons.

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Spicy Vegetable Rice with Prawns

I figured that if it’s good enough for Jamie Oliver and his 15 minute meals, it’s good enough for Miss Friday’s midweek meals. I’m talking about Uncle Ben’s Express Rice; I had a pouch of his Wholegrain Tomato and Basil Rice with Quinoa lurking in the back of my cupboard, which was the inspiration behind tonight’s dinner. Of course I had to pimp it up a little.

I’m a huge fan of short cuts, and I make no bones about it either – especially during the week when time is tight, or for those evenings where you’d rather not be slaving over the hot stove all night. Yes, even I have days like that.

So, using what I could find in my fridge (a few random left over vegetables) and store cupboard (herbs and spices) I created a speedy midweek meal that also happens to be wonderfully healthy. I had some jumbo king prawns to use so I decided to make this delicious spicy rice dish. It reminded me of a jambalaya, now I realise the ingredients are quite different, but you’ll appreciate what I mean from the picture.

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Spicy Vegetable Rice with Prawns
 
Author: 
Recipe type: Dinner
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Ingredients
  • Uncle Ben’s Express Tomato and Basil Wholegrain Rice
  • 225g cooked jumbo king prawns
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 red pepper, small dice
  • 1 red onion, small dice
  • 1 courgette, small dice
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Knorr herb infusion stock pot
  • 600g chopped tomatoes
  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar
  • ½ tsp sugar
  • ¼ tsp spicy smoked paprika
  • ¼ tsp dried chilli flakes
  • Salt and freshly cracked black pepper
Instructions
  1. Heat the olive oil in a large pan over a medium heat. Add the chopped vegetables and garlic, cook for about 10 minutes stirring until the vegetables have softened. Season generously with salt and pepper.
  2. Then add the chopped tomatoes, stock pot, and vinegar, allow to cook for a further 2 minutes before adding the sugar, paprika and chilli flakes.
  3. Meanwhile, heat the rice in the microwave and add it to the pan, mix well to incorporate all of the vegetables.
  4. Finally, add the jumbo king prawns and simmer for 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

 

salad

Butternut Squash & Feta Quinoa Salad



When I’ve nothing scrumptious left over from dinner the night before, or simply don’t have time to make lunch I pop to the supermarket in search of a ready-made salad or sandwich. Let’s face it, from time to time most of us end up eating packaged flavourless and quite often disappointing lunches we’ve grabbed on the way into the office. However, a few weeks back I was pleasantly surprised by a Tesco packaged salad – it was utterly delicious, but at £3 a pop it’s a little over-priced.
I decided I’d have a go at making it myself – and it was just as good. I didn’t follow the ingredients list exactly; as you well know these supermarkets love an ingredients list that’s as long as your arm. But, I ensured all of the big flavours were captured and it really was great.
The best thing about this salad is that its part of the Tesco Healthy Living range, so we know it’s good for us. I made a big bowl as a side dish for our barbecue and everyone loved it. This salad is so easy to prepare, the only cooking involved is the roasted vegetables. I bought the bulgur wheat and quinoa already cooked, so it’s really just a case of assembling the ingredients. What could be easier than that?
Cooked Bulgur Wheat and Quinoa (I used a mixed bag)
500g butternut squash (about half a large squash), cubed
Pack of feta cheese, cubed
100g cooked soya beans
1 can chickpeas, drained
Half a red pepper, diced
Half a yellow pepper, diced
Two handfuls of raw spinach, finely sliced
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
150g low fat natural yoghurt
Bunch of mint, finely chopped
1 small red onion, finely diced
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper

Start by placing the peppers and butternut squash onto a baking tray. Drizzle with oil and season. Place in the centre of a pre-heated oven on 180⁰C for 30-35 minutes.

Meanwhile re-heat the bulgur wheat and quinoa and place in a large bowl. Add the soya beans, chickpeas, spinach, red onion and half of the mint – season well and mix to combine. Once the peppers and squash have cooled add them to the bowl too. Top with the feta and mix carefully to ensure you don’t break the feta up. The salad is now ready to serve.

To make the dressing, mix the yoghurt, lemon zest, juice and remaining mint in a smaller bowl. Serve this on the side. 
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Halloumi Salad

This vibrant salad is bursting with flavours; the peppery salad leaves and red onion are delicious with the cool herby yoghurt and salty halloumi. I’m going to be honest, I quite often find salads the most boring thing to eat, but a well thought out salad with balanced flavours is actually quite a delicious little dinner.
I’m trying my hardest to be good at the moment, and failing quite miserably for the most part. You may or may not have seen my previous post on indulgent chocolate buttons. I’m constantly torn between my love of food and not wanting to be fat, a battle I fear I’ll always face. But, when I am disciplined enough to be healthy, I feel quite chuffed with myself, especially when a healthy dinner turns out to be so tasty. So, if you are like me and practically turn your nose up at the thought of having a salad for dinner, just give this a go, it’s truly delicious.
It’s hard to beat grilled halloumi, but if you’re not a fan feta would work well too; essentially, it’s the salty element of this salad that I love the most. Even my meat eating carnivore of a boyfriend was happy to have a supper without meat, for once! This dish would make a wonderful side for a BBQ too now that we are coming into Spring.
  
* 250g Halloumi
* 100g Watercress, spinach and rocket salad
* 225g vine tomatoes
* 1 small red onion, thinly sliced
* 50g croutons (either bought or homemade)
* 150g low fat natural yoghurt
* Handful chopped basil
* Handful chopped dill
Preheat the oven to 160⁰C.
Mix the chopped basil and dill into the yoghurt and set aside.
Remove the tomatoes from the vine, cut in half and place on a baking tray. Drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast the tomatoes for about 10-15 minutes.
Meanwhile, assemble the salad; place the salad leaves, red onion and croutons in a large salad bowl, top with the roasted tomatoes and yoghurt dressing.

Place a griddle over the heat and add the halloumi and fry for about 4-5 minutes on each side ensure both sides are lightly browned. Pop the halloumi on top of the salad and serve immediately. 
Fish-Stew

Tuscan Inspired Fish Stew with Cheesy Croutons



“That’s the best thing you’ve ever made for me” said the boyfriend to the girlfriend – WOW – what a statement! Obviously I’m more than happy with that. Hopefully you’ll love this recipe as much as Richard did. I must say I rather enjoyed it myself. It’s a tomato based fish stew with delicious cheesy garlic croutons. If you’re watching your weight (it is January after all), then you can have this stew without the croutons, but I’m sure one wouldn’t hurt.
I absolutely love seafood, especially mussels and prawns, but you really could make this with any fish, monkfish would work very well as it’s about as robust as fish comes, making it perfect for stew. This is a Tuscan recipe, inspired by a recipe I found in my Italian Cookery Course book and resembles many fish stews. I decided to make it using a cooked seafood selection, which makes it super quick and fuss free; no shelling and pre-cooking necessary.
There is something quite wonderful about a crispy, cheesy garlic crouton to mop up your deliciously fresh fish stew. I popped in a couple of finely chopped green finger chillies too, which isn’t typically Italian, but it really works. You get a devilishly spicy note which makes this dish perfect for a cold evening. If you don’t like very spicy food then you can omit the chillies, or take the seeds out – but I simply love spicy food.
Cooked seafood selection (mussels, prawns and squid)
3 tbsp olive oil
Red onion, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
200ml white wine (preferably something Italian)
400g chopped tomatoes
750ml fish stock
2 green finger chillies, finely chopped
Parsley to garnish
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
Ciabatta loaf, sliced
1 garlic clove, chopped in half
A handful of grated cheese (such as parmesan or pecorino)
Heat the oil in a large casserole dish. Fry the onion until softened – around 5-7 minutes. Add the garlic and salt and pepper, fry for a couple of minutes.
Add the wine and let it reduce for a couple of minutes. Add the tomatoes and chilli and cook for 10 minutes. Add the fish stock and leave to simmer for a further 10 minutes.
Meanwhile lightly toast the Ciabatta slices on both sides, and then rub them with the sliced clove of garlic, pressing down firmly on the bread to flavour it with garlic. Top each slice with a little cheese and return to the grill to melt.

Meanwhile add the seafood and parsley leave for a few minutes then serve in warmed bowls with the cheesy garlic croutons. 
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Authentic Tuscan Ragú


The best Italian food is simple, rustic and colourful

There must be a million ragú recipes out there, but this wonderfully versatile sauce plays such a big part in authentic Italian cookery, so one more won’t hurt. Made with the freshest ingredients and slow cooked to perfection, there is no doubt that a huge pot of rich, mahogany ragú bubbling away on the stove will set your taste buds tingling. The red wine and mix of different meats, beef and lamb mince and chicken livers really set this recipe apart from the rest and creates the most wonderful depth of flavour.
The versatility of this ragú is what I love the most; enjoy it with freshly made pasta or in a lasagne. But, for me its best served on toasted ciabatta bread, topped and vine tomatoes, freshly chopped basil and a few shavings of parmesan, all washed down with a delicious Italian red wine. Make a big batch and freeze it for delicious, but quick, weeknight meals.

I’ve mentioned a few times, I’ve recently discovered a love of authentic Italian cookery, so I was delighted when I received an email from the folks at To Tuscany, explaining that they were running a foodie blogger competition, and they wanted me to enter. The idea is to post a Tuscan inspired recipe, which is something I was only too pleased to set about making. Having thought about the basics of Italian cookery, and the simplistic approach Italian’s seem to adopt when cooking, I knew the recipe had to encompass three things, fresh ingredients, good preparation and enjoyment. There is nothing the Italian’s love more that sitting down to enjoy a lovingly prepared meal over a lazy afternoon. And, given that seasonality plays such an important part in Italian cookery, only the freshest ingredients would do.
I’m excited at the prospect of a foodie competition, mostly because it allows me to put my thinking cap on and get creative, but also because I want to win a week in one of your Tuscany villas. Really I do! Imagine sitting in the warm Tuscan sunshine enjoying a glass of the finest Italian wine and munching your way through some delicious bruschetta, knowing you’ve earned your way there by creating a delicious Tuscan recipe. Fingers crossed!
Given that ragú is probably one of the most common Italian recipes, and one that is showcased in various different versions all across Italy, it may seem an obvious choice. But, ragú is all too often ruined by people mistaking it for a simple flavour combination; it’s a far cry from simple, dull or boring. Made with the best quality ingredients and just the right about of love your ragú will have the most wonderful depth of flavour, making you feel as if you’re enjoying an authentic Italian dish on a hill-top hamlet in Tuscany. We can but dream…

Authentic Tuscan Ragú Recipe

Recipe makes a large batch for freezing

250g Beef mince
250g lamb mince
200g Chicken livers, finely chopped
5 tbsp Italian extra virgin olive oil (such as De Cecco Il Classico)
800g chopped tomatoes
5 tbsp tomato purée
200ml of red wine
Salt and black pepper
Handful of freshly chopped basil
10 vine tomatoes, halved
4 tbsp parmesan shavings
A combination of the following ingredients finely chopped is what the Italian’s call Soffritto, which forms the basis of many authentic Italian meals:
2 Red onions
2 Carrots
2 Celery sticks
1 sprig of rosemary (optional in most Soffritto recipes)
2 bay leaves (optional in most Soffritto recipes)

Start by heating the oil in a pan and gently frying the red onion, carrots and celery. Add the rosemary and bay leaves. Cook until golden, about 12-15 minutes. Remove the rosemary and bay leaves and season with salt and freshly ground black pepper.
Add the meats to the pan and continue to cook for a further 15 minutes. Once browned add the wine and stir well. Cook until the wine and fat from the meats has evaporated.
Add the chopped tomatoes, tomato purée and season to taste.
Serve with toasted ciabatta, topped with a generous spoonful or ragú, a few chopped vine tomatoes, freshly chopped basil and parmesan shavings.

Bon appétit!

 Wine Paring – Piccini Super Tuscan – medium bodied, it’s a blend of Sagiovese, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, particularly good with red meat, pasta and rich tomato sauce – Perfect indeed!


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Lamb with Roasted Red Onions and Basil (Nigellissima)

 
This morningafternoon I woke with a rather fuzzy head and what can only be described as a gargantuan appetite. A few too many gin and tonics last night may indeed be the reason behind my pounding headache, but the hunger was all too evident. The problem is, I am very often sick with a hangover so food is out of the question, even water doesn’t sit well in my stomach when I’m it this pathetic state. I waited, almost all day; I toyed with the idea of leaving my onsie on to pop to the supermarket in search of ingredients for dinner, then I reasoned with myself that this was probably socially ‘uncouth’ behaviour and a little, dare I say, trampy? So, having dressed and washed myself, I spent the next half an hour searching through various recipe books for something that would hit the spot. I came across a recipe for roasted red onions with basil in Nigella’s Nigellissima book.  
Nigella suggests lamb to accompany the dish, which I thought was pretty darn perfect, so off I popped to the supermarket in search of my ingredients, and some headache tablets.
 
This dish is perfect as it is, I didn’t feel I needed any carbs, but obviously you could have new, roasted or even sautéed potatoes with it. The fennel seeds, balsamic and basil are all punchy flavours that are delicious with the sweet roasted red onions and slightly rare lamb. Having cooked up this little feast, I was actually quite disappointed that I didn’t have company to share it with. I’ve a friend coming for dinner on Tuesday so I might try it with roasted brussels sprouts and red onions. If you’ve never had roasted brussels – make sure it’s something you try, they are a far cry from the soggy, cabbage smelling, over boiled ones your mum puts on your Christmas dinner plate. Sorry mum! But, honestly I’m almost certain that even those of you who wince at the thought of a brussels sprout will enjoy them roasted. 

For Nigella’s Roasted Red Onions with Basil Recipe click here!

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Harissa pasta sauce with big flavour

This is a super simple sauce that’s healthy and packed with big flavour; delicious with pasta, chicken and white fish.  So, if you’ve a spare 20 minutes, I suggest you use it making a batch of this; it can be put into jars and kept for up to a week in the fridge, or frozen for a rainy day.
It kind of came together as a concoction of things that needed using up, which I often find is a great way to discover new recipes. The roasted peppers, onions and garlic give a wonderful level of flavour, combined with a splash of balsamic and tbsp of Harissa, it’s simply heaven.
Harissa is a North African spicy cooking paste made up of rose petals, garlic; red chilli peppers and a blend of spices (smoked paprika, cumin, caraway and coriander), although the ingredients can vary slightly depending on the country. Its most commonly found in Moroccan and Tunisian cooking, and is a popular ingredient in tajines, soups and stews. Harissa can also be used as a condiment, served as an accompaniment to many dishes.
This spicy little sauce really packs a punch, perfect for adding big flavour to sauces and stews. But go easy, a little goes a long way.


2 tins chopped tomatoes
2 red peppers roasted
2 red onions roasted
5 cloves garlic roasted
2 tbsp olive oil
1 tsp mixed herbs
1 tbsp Harissa (mix of garlic, chilli and rose petal)
1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1tbsp sugar
Handful of fresh basil
Place the peppers, onions and garlic on a roasting tray, drizzle with oil and roast at 200⁰C for 20 minutes, once cooled use a food processor to blend to a paste.
Place a pan over a medium heat and add the chopped tomatoes, herbs, balsamic vinegar and sugar. Add the paste along with the Harissa. Continue to cook for 10 minutes. Before serving add a handful of freshly chopped basil. 

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Caramelised Red Onion and Goats’ Cheese Pasta

Friday is upon us once again, and I’m looking forward to a food filled weekend. I’m trying my hand at some Thai specialties this weekend, so watch this space for more tasty treats next week.
Now, back to Caramelised Red Onion and Goats’ Cheese Pasta! This truly is a great recipe, made with the simplest of ingredients, but oozes strong flavours, from the sweet, sticky caramelised onions to the tangy goats’ cheese; it practically melts in your mouth! If you’re a fan of acquired tastes this is definitely a dish for you.
Goats’ cheese is renowned for its tart strong flavour. It is important to select a goats’ cheese that isn’t too strong, as you don’t want it to be over powering. Ask at the deli counter of your supermarket for a goats’ cheese that is ideal for cooking with, they do some great milder varieties that will complement this dish wonderfully. 



Ingredients:                                                           
160g fusilli pasta
75g diced cooking chorizo
50g goats’ cheese sliced
2 red onions sliced
3 tbsp freshly chopped basil
1 can of chopped tomatoes
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil
Roasted baby tomatoes on the vine
2 tbsp grated parmesan to serve
Directions:

  1. Add the oil and onions to the pan and cook for 10 minutes, once the onions are soft add the sugar and salt and stir continuously.  If the onions become a little dry add a little water to the pan and continue cooking for 10 minutes.
  2. Meanwhile place the vine tomatoes on a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil, roast in the oven for 10 minutes. Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions.
  3. Once the onions have caramelised add 1 table spoon of the balsamic vinegar and cook for a further minute (this helps to deglaze the pan, and adds a real depth to the flavour), add the chorizo and cook for 5 minutes. Remove from the pan and set aside.
  4. Add the chopped tomatoes and remaining balsamic vinegar to the pan with half of the basil, cook for 4 minutes, adding most of the caramelised onion and chorizo at the last minute.
  5. Drain the pasta and mix into the pan of chopped tomatoes.
  6. Serve the pasta, adding the goats’ cheese, roasted vine tomatoes, remaining caramelised onions and basil to garnish. Sprinkle with parmesan if desired.

  
Serves:                                2
Preparation time:             10 minutes
Cooking time:                   30 minutes