I love pasta! The first dish I ever learned to cook was macaroni cheese. I was 7 years old and couldn’t even reach the stove-top without a stool but (with proper adult supervision of course) I made my own cheese sauce from scratch, and it’s been my go-to ever since. Both of my parents were cooks and pasta fans, so many other pasta dishes would feature growing up – spaghetti carbonara, baked lasagne, ham and mushroom tagliatelle. True fact – I once one a pair of trainers from a Nickelodeon phone-in for being able to name 5 types of pasta.
Yet I’d never made my own pasta before, and I’m not sure why. Then I was inspired by a colleague bringing homemade pasta in for her lunch, and I finally decided to give it a go. My first attempt I just used a rolling pin and a pizza cutter for rolling and shaping and it worked. Obviously since then I’ve bought a pasta machine – any excuse! You can pick them up for under £15 online or in places like TK Maxx so just keep your eyes peeled for a deal.
Homemade pasta is ultimate simple food. Okay to get the best out of it you could do with a proper pasta machine, but in essence all it takes is two ingredients and some elbow grease. Sure you can push the boat out and use proper 00 flour, or semolina. However if good old plain flour is all you have in, then that’s all you need. I use the traditional egg but if you need or want to be egg-free, swap for a similar volume of your choice of liquid – water is the easiest and you could add a bit of oil for richness; or pesto, spinach or tomato for colour.
[recipe title=”Homemade pasta” servings=”3-4″ time=”20mins prep, plus 30mins chilling” difficulty=”easy”]
200g plain flour
2 medium eggs
Boiling salted water to cook
- Put your flour in to a mixing bowl and make a well in the middle. Crack your eggs in to this well
- Start by using a fork to mix the eggs and gradually incorporate the flour. As it starts to come together abandon the fork and use your hands until all the flour is combined with the egg and your dough comes together in a ball
- Turn your ball out on to a very lightly floured surface and kneed for 5 to 10 minutes. You’ll know you’ve hit the sweet-spot between sticky and dry when the dough is smooth and springs back slightly when you press it
- Wrap the dough well in cling film and pop it in the fridge to chill for 30 minutes. If you’re having a complicated sauce with your pasta now is a good time to prepare it
- After 30 minutes take your dough out of the fridge and it’s ready to be rolled and cut. Either use a rolling pin to roll the pasta out as thin as you can get and cut in to strips with a knife or (like I did) a pizza cutter. Alternatively, if you have a pasta machine roll the dough out with that. I tend to go through at thickness 1, then 2, then fold over (book fold) and go back to 1. I do this 3 times and then progress up through the numbers until my sheet of pasta is nice and thin before cutting in to ribbons.
- Leave your cut pasta to dry while you get a pan of salted water to the boil. This fresh pasta will only need about 3 minutes once it’s in the water!
I hope I’ve made that sound as easy as it is! Please let me know if I’ve inspired you to try homemade pasta, or if I’ve just left you craving a big bowl of carb-y goodness!
Do you ever buy something ‘just because’ and then have to backwards engineer a reason for your cupboard full of weird and wonderful ingredients? Yeah, me too. So after a trip to Lidl I had a bottle of raspberry syrup glaring at me accusingly from across the kitchen. Then on baking Sunday I couldn’t take it any more – I will not be judged by an impulse buy! I had to throw together a recipe to use the syrup. A loaf cake is always an obvious choice for me, but as I didn’t have any eggs in I decided to get creative so, yup, this is also vegan.
There’s a bit more method in this than my normal “mix everything in a bowl and cross your fingers” approach, but I’ve balanced this by using a simple cup measure. I’ve included weights if you need them, but I’m a total convert to cup measures now – much less fuss. I was a little taken aback by how runny this batter is, although as you’ll see from the photos I had great fun pouring it in to the cake tin. What I’m saying is don’t worry if your mixture looks more like ganache than cake, it’ll all come out okay in the end.
[recipe title=”Vegan Chocolate & Raspberry Loaf Cake” servings=”10″ time=”15mins prep, 50mins cooking” difficulty=”easy”]
Self raising flour – 1 and 1/2 cup (192g)
Cocoa powder – 3 tbsp
Sea salt – 1/2 tsp
Vegetable oil – 6 tbsp
Raspberry syrup – 2 tsp
Lemon juice – 1 tbsp
Cold Water – 1 cup (235ml)
Granulated sugar – 3/4 cup (150g)
- Pre-heat your oven to 170oC and line or grease a standard loaf tin
- Sift the flour and cocoa powder together in to a bowl and sprinkle through the salt, stirring to distribute.
- Pour the oil, syrup, lemon juice and water in to a large bowl and gently whisk to combine. Slowly add the sugar and stir through.
- Spoon your dry mixture in to the wet, gently whisking as you go until everything is combined in to a smooth, velvety runny batter that resembles your favourite ganache.
- Pour the mixture in to your loaf tin and bake at for 45-50 minutes – until an inserted skewer comes out clean.
- Slice to serve. If you want to be really popular, do what I did and take a loaf in to work. That one disappeared very quickly.
Enjoy, and if you give this one a try, let me know in the comments below. Also, if you think of any other syrups I can swap in for the raspberry I’m interested to experiment.
Sometimes I just feel the need for a nice, crumbly and moist slice of coconut cake. Don’t you? Perfect with a nice cup of tea and so satisfying. Like most loafs this is a ‘low and slow’ type deal, so I tend to stick one of these in the oven on a Sunday morning and leave it to do its thing while I get some bits done (or nap on the sofa, whatever*).
This keeps well in an airtight tin for 5 days or so, making it ideal to cut and come again throughout the week. I’ve gotten in to a habit of doing a couple of batches of baking on a Sunday to see me through the week, like a proper old fashioned housewife or something. I find the baking relaxing and it takes the edge off of Sundays, preparing some nice things for the coming days at work at least.
(*probably best not to fall asleep while you have the oven on btw. Be safe!)
[recipe title=”Coconut Loaf Cake” servings=”10 approx” time=”1hr” difficulty=”easy”]
4oz soft brown sugar
6oz self-raising flour
2oz dessicated coconut
3tsp lemon juice
2 medium eggs
- Preheat your oven to 150oC and grease and line a standard loaf tin
- Cream the butter and sugar together in a large mixing bowl
- Sift the flour in to another bowl and stir through the coconut
- Add the flour/coconut mix to your butter/sugar mix and stir to combine
- Whisk the eggs with the lemon juice and gradually add this to the rest of your mixture until you have a thick batter
- Spoon your batter in to your prepared tin and level the top with a pallet knife
- Bake for 50 minutes until the top is nicely browned and an inserted skewer comes out clean
Now the only question is, what kind of tea are you going to have with your slice?
Popcorn is the ultimate quick snack, don’t you think? My sister gave us a popcorn maker for Christmas a couple of years ago and I’ve taken great delight in coming up with lots of flavours for our Netflix & chill (no, actual chill) snack. I make a mean salted caramel, and I’ve served parmesan & paprika popcorn as pre-dinner party nibbles with great success.
So here’s a quick one you can try to make movie night more special.
[recipe title=”Rosemary & Bacon Popcorn” servings=”2″ time=”20mins” difficulty=”easy” image=”http://www.maggiebob.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/05/bacon-rosemary-popcorn.jpg” description=”A savoury popcorn for couple’s movie night”]
- 3 rashers streaky bacon
- 4tbsp popcorn kernals
- 2tbsp oil
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- Put the oil and rosemary sprigs in to a pan and warm through for 5 minutes. Then put to one side and leave to infuse while you prepare everything else.
- Lay the bacon out on a baking tray and place in a cold oven. Turn the oven on to 200oC and leave for 15 minutes until the bacon is crispy.
- While the bacon is cooking pop your corn in your air popper or in a pan with a small amount of oil.
- When the bacon is cooked chop it up in to small bits. Remove the rosemary sprigs from the oil and finely chop about half of a sprig.
- Stir the infused oil, bacon & chopped rosemary through your popcorn and serve.
This is one of my current favourite rubber chicken recipes – that is one of my many clever ways of using leftover meat from the Sunday roast. I don’t know about you but I feel ridiculously smug when I can make one bird feed us both for 4 dinners in a row.
Now as a rule I don’t like peanut butter, although my aversion isn’t as bad as it used to be. Luckily the husband loves it so we always have a jar in. Chicken satay is one of my favourite things to order from the takeaway, so making this always feels like a treat. Now that we’re supposedly heading in to summer you could even cook these skewers on a barbeque instead of in the oven, and as you’re using chicken that’s already cooked you don’t have to worry so much about poisoning someone – although do make sure it’s heated right through again, however you’re cooking it.
For the satay
2tbsp smooth peanut butter
1tbsp light soy sauce
1tbsp white wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, grated
Pinch chilli powder
1 cooked chicken breast
8 button mushrooms
For the accompaniment
1 tin coconut rice
1/2 tin long grain rice
- Put all the satay sauce ingredients in a large bowl and whisk together in to a smooth paste.
- Dice up chicken breast in to chunky cubes and put this in the sauce along with the mushrooms. Marinate in the fridge for at least 1hr.
- While your chicken is marinating, soak 4 wooden skewers in water. This stops them burning during the cooking process.
- Once your satay mix has had enough time in the fridge, preheat oven to 180c
- Skewer the chicken and mushrooms. Lay the skewers over a shallow baking dish so that none of the food touches the bottom. Reserve any leftover sauce from the bowl – you can use this for a dipping sauce after cooking.
- Put your skewers (on their baking dish) in the oven and bake for 20 mins
- In the meantime, empty the tin of coconut milk in to a pan and add your rice. Bring to boil then simmer until liquid is absorbed & the rice is cooked and sticky.
- At the last minute, stir-fry some green beans with a little soy sauce to serve on the side.
I hope that sounds as delicious to you as it tastes to me! Do let me know if you try this, or if you have another trusty recipe for leftover chicken.
Chocolate and beetroot is not as weird a combination as you might think. As well as replacing the eggs, butter and/or milk, the beetroot enhances the chocolate flavour of the cocoa, and lets you keep the whole thing vegan too. I’ve tried making chocolate cake with beetroot in it before, but the results were a little… earthy. Turns out I had seriously underestimated how much pre-cooking beetroot actually needs. But I’ll let you in on a little secret – buy the pre-cooked beetroot from the supermarket. You get three vacuum packed bulbs already perfectly cooked and ready to go for about 50p. Plus you don’t end up with pink fingers, worktops, kitchen.
I decided to focus on brownies – this recipe delivers the cracked top and fudgy interior I crave. These will keep for at least a week in an airtight tin and are great eaten just as they are, warm with a scoop of ice-cream, or I’ve been taking a piece in my lunchbox each day to enjoy with my afternoon cuppa.
(makes 24 squares)
250g pre-cooked beetroot
200g self-raising flour
150g soft brown sugar
60g cocoa powder
1 tsp vanilla
- Pre-heat your oven to 200oC and line and grease a brownie tin – mine is 20cm by 30cm, different sizes will just mean different sized pieces
- Tip your beetroot in to a food processor and blitz until you have a purple mush (puree). If you don’t have a processor, mash the beetroot down to as smooth as you can.
- Sift the flour, sugar and cocoa powder in to a large mixing bowl.
- Stir the vanilla and salt through your pureed beetroot, then tip the beetroot in to the mixing bowl and stir to combine with the flour mixture.
- Gradually pour in the oil, stirring in to your mixture until you have a smooth wet batter that almost looks grainy (see my pictures) and more or less sits together in one ball
- Tip the batter in to your lined tin and spread out level using a pallet knife. Don’t worry if some oil rises to the top at this stage – this is what gives the brownie its crust
- Bake in your pre-heated oven for 25-30 minutes. You’ll know the brownies are done when the top is cracked and dry and an inserted skewer comes out with just a little bit of mixture sticking to it.
There are really rich and fudgy and a gorgeous colour – almost akin to Red Velvet cake. And because the beetroot performs the job of an egg here (binding the mixture together), these are ‘accidentally’ vegan. So whether you’re baking for a vegan friend, trying to sneak more vegetables in to a diet or just looking to enjoy a bloody good brownie I hope you give these a try!
This was my dinner tonight. I posted this picture to twitter, and was immediately asked for the recipe – happy to oblige!
To make the fishcakes I used some leftover baked coley I had, and supplemented this with some tinned mackerel. You can use whatever fish you have – maybe some white fish with a tin of salmon added for colour and flavour?
For the fishcakes:
200g cooked fish
200g boiled potatoes
1 egg, lightly beaten
Plain flour (for dusting)
Salt, pepper, lemon & paprika for seasoning
For the pea puree:
200g frozen peas
1 small shallot
2 tablespoons of cream cheese
1. Flake the fish in to a bowl (carefully removing any remaining skin and bones). Mash the potatoes and stir this into the fish. Season this mixture to taste.
2. Mix the egg through your fishcakes mixture until it is all bound together. Form into 4 cakes, and dip in flour to lightly coat.
3. Fry the cakes off in a hot pan with a little oil until both sides are lightly browned and crispy.
4. To make the pea puree, boil the peas for 4/5 minutes until they are cooked, and then blitz in a food processor along with the (roughly chopped) shallot and the cream cheese. Season with a little black pepper if desired.
Please remember – I never actually weigh things, so these measurements are guestimates. Let me know if you give this recipe a shot.