Fridge Clean Out Pasta

A little bit of this, a little bit of that


Some days you can plan all you want but nothing goes to plan. Most days in the life of a stay at home mum are like this. Since baby number two has come along, all I seem to be doing is feeding him and trying to stop my toddler from poking his baby brothers eyes out. The struggle is real!

Amidst all this craziness I find taking out even 15 minutes to cook gives me composure and peace. After all when you do what you love you are one step closer to nirvana! Today I was all set on making my husband his favourite chicken schnitzel with mash potatoes and roast vegetables. Only problem was I had none of the ingredients in the fridge. Talk about things not going to plan!

While last minute food shopping was out of the question! Yes you do lose basic liberties like running out to the shops on a whim when you are a parent. My 15 minute window to put a meal on the table was rapidly closing too. After ransacking the fridge and pantry, I managed to pull together – a pack of spaghetti, a punnet of grape tomatoes, handful of kalamata olives,  capers, half a bunch of parsley and a bag of frozen peas. There was only one way this was going, we were heading to Italy (well metaphorically anyway) with a big bowl of pasta.

 

Ingredients: 12  Cooking time: 15 minutes

Serves: 4

  • One packet of pasta (I used spaghettini)
  • One punnet of grape/cherry tomatoes, cut in halves
  • 250 gms of peas
  • Handful of olives, cut into halves
  • Two tablespoons of capers 
  • Half a bunch of parsley, finely chopped
  • One onion, finely sliced
  • Three to four garlic pods, finely chopped
  • Five tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil (EVOO)
  • Salt to season 
  • Cracked black pepper to garnish (optional)
  • Grated Parmesan to garnish (optional)

In a heavy bottom sauce pan bring water to a boil. Cook the pasta as per packet instructions.

While the pasta is cooking, in another saucepan heat three tablespoons of EVOO. Add garlic, once aromatic add onions and cook until onions are lightly caramelised. Then add half of the chopped parsley, along with the olives and capers. Mix well. Cook on a low flame for four to five minutes.


Now add peas and toss the mixture thoroughly. Once peas are slightly soft add the tomatoes, season with salt and cook on a high heat for two to three minutes. 

Finally add the pasta, followed by the rest of the parsley and EVOO. Toss through to make sure all the ingredients are evenly mixed. Your fridge clean out pasta is ready to serve. Garnish with cracked pepper and Parmesan. 

Pumpkin and Carrot Soup

If winter had a fragrance, this would be it…

There’s a real chill in the air these days. A perfect reason to stock up on vegetables and make soups to last for days. After all there is nothing more comforting than a warm bowl of soup on a cold night, watching Netflix wrapped up in a blanket. 

I am a big fan of combining different vegetables and spices whilst making soup. Take this soup for instance, pumpkin and carrot are combined with cinnamon and ginger. Now if winter had a   fragrance this would be it. Cinnamon brings out the sweetness in pumpkin and ginger, while ginger gives the soup a really earthiness. I don’t even have to begin to tell you the health benefits of these ingredients. Let’s just say it’s like winning a jackpot of good health.

So without further ado here’s the recipe.

Ingredients: 18  Cooking time: 45 minutes

Serves: 4

  • Half a pumpkin, peeled and cubed (I used Kent pumpkin)
  • Four medium sized carrots, peeled and chopped 
  • One medium sized onion, sliced
  • Three to four pods of garlic, chopped
  • Thumb sized piece of ginger, peeled and grated 
  • One large cinnamon stick 
  • Two bayleaves
  • Half a teaspoon of rosemary leaves
  • Half a teaspoon of smoked paprika
  • Half a teaspoon of cumin powder
  • Salt to season 
  • Three tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1.25 ltr of stock or water

For the garnish 

  • Sage leaves
  • Small piece of ginger
  • Two tablespoons of olive oil 
  • Toasted sesame seeds
  • Sour cream or Greek yogurt (optional)

Heat oil in a crockpot. Add garlic, once aromatic add onion, ginger, bay leaves and cinnamon. Cook on medium heat for three to four minutes. 


Now add pumpkin and carrots, followed by all the dried herbs and spices. Mix well, cover the pot and cook on a medium heat for five to seven minutes.

Add water or stock, cover the pot and let the soup simmer for 20 to 30 minutes on a medium heat. 


Now take out the bayleaves and cinnamon stick. Season with salt as required and blend the soup. Add the bayleaves and cinnamon stick back in the soup. Cover the pot again and let the soup simmer again for five to ten minutes.

To prepare the garnish, mix olive oil, sage and smashed ginger in a skillet. Heat until aromatic. Keep aside.

Your lip smackingly delicious soup is ready to be served. Ladle a generous serve into a bowl, glaze it with the sensational sage and ginger oil, add a dollop of sour cream or Greek yogurt and finally top with toasted sesame seeds. Serve with some toasted sourdough bread. Aaahhh!!!! Heaven.

Leek, potato and cabbage soup

Another classic, with a twist…

  
I love ‘fridge clean-out’ kind of soups. The other day I found a globe of Savoy cabbage and leek in my fridge. Rustling through the pantry I found a couple of potatoes. There was only one way these ingredients were headed, into a large crockpot and coming out as a warm bowl of comforting soup.

Cabbage gives this classic potato and leek soup a real textural twist. My philosophy behind cooking is about always trying new things. Whether that is flavours, ingredients or cooking techniques they all make us one step closer to becoming culinary geniuses.

Ingredients: 10  Cooking time: 45 minutes

Serves: 4

  • One leek, finely chopped  
  • One Savoy cabbage, finely sliced
  • Two medium potatoes, peeled and cubed
  • Two to three pods of garlic, finely chopped
  • One medium sized bay leaf
  • One litre of vegetable stock 
  • One teaspoon crushed black pepper
  • Salt to season
  • One tablespoon butter
  • Two tablespoons olive oil

In a heavy bottom pot, melt butter and heat olive oil together. Add garlic, once aromatic add leek. I usually use the white part of the leek only, but this time I used the green bits too. Lower the heat and cook until leeks are slightly soft.

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Now add the cabbage and mix the ingredients well. Add potatoes, stock, season with salt and pepper. Finally add a bay leaf and cover the pot.

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Cook on a medium heat until potatoes are soft. Your lip smackingly delicious soup is ready to serve. Personally I like my soups with texture, but you can blend yours if you wish. 

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Garnish with some more crushed black pepper, serve alongside some warm crusty bread. Another winter warmer to comfort you on a cold night.

  

Winter Shakshuka

Shake a leg or two with a Shakshuka…

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Shakshuka is a traditional Israeli breakfast dish, which in the west we popularly know as baked eggs. Gooey, runny eggs cooked in an utterly flavour packed tomato sauce full of herbs and spices, lets be honest what’s not to love about it! I have previously made a harissa spiced Shakshuka, you can find the recipe here

While traditionally a Shakshuka is always made in a tomato sauce, I decided to change things up a bit. Today’s Shakshuka recipe is an ode to a chilled winter morning where all your heart yearns for is a pan full of comfort, flavour and indulgence. Butter, cream, leeks, peas and eggs these ingredients scream winter with a passion and you can most certainly guarantee that you are in for treat when these flavours combine together.

So what are you waiting for checkout the recipe below

Ingredients:  12   Cooking time: 30 minutes

Serves: 2

  • Four free range eggs
  • One leek (white part only), finely chopped
  • 200 gms of peas (I used frozen)
  • 200 gms of spinach (I used frozen)
  • One small brown onion, finely chopped
  • Half a bunch of fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • 10 to 12 fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
  • 100 ml light cooking cream
  • One tablespoon of butter
  • One tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt to season
  • Quarter teaspoon of smoked paprika

In a skillet melt butter and add the chopped onion and leek. Cook until leeks are soft and aromatic.

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Now add peas, spinach, parsley and mint. Give all the ingredients a good stir, once they a mixed well add cooking cream and olive oil. Season with salt as required and let the sauce simmer on a low heat for five to seven minutes.

Before cracking the eggs you can blend the ingredients into a smooth sauce, but since I love the different textures and prefer the sauce to be rustic, so I have not blended it.

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Crack the eggs into the sauce, leaving space between them. Lower the heat, cover the skillet with a lid and cook until the egg whites are cooked. The whole point of a Shakshuka is that the eggs should be runny, but if you don’t like runny eggs you can continue to cook the eggs until they are the consistency of soft-boiled eggs. Note, if you cook the eggs past this point you rather not make this dish at all because a hard-cooked egg is really not worth a Shakshuka. 

Lastly sprinkle some smoked paprika on each of the egg, this gives them a little extra flavour boost and makes them look really pretty too.

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You can serve this dish with warmed up Lebanese bread, chargrilled sourdough, Indian flat breads and if you are utterly health conscious then serve this dish with a simple green side salad.

One bite will give you a taste of nirvana. So don’t wait and try this recipe for your next weekend family brunch and remember to shake a leg or two with a Shakshuka.

Wild Mushroom Ragu with Creamy Polenta

Glamourising vegetarian food, one dish at a time…

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After moving to Australia and travelling around the world, I have noticed how underrated good vegetarian food is. For some reason the vegetarian culinary repertoire across most restaurants rarely showcase delicious fresh produce or out of the box cooking techniques. I am no masterchef but I suppose having been a vegetarian for 27+ years I can definitely put up a cracker of a vegetarian dish sure to give even some of the meat dishes a run for its money.

Today’s dish is definitely one that will even knock the socks of an avid carnivore! Ragu traditionally is a slow cooked Italian meat based sauce served with pasta. However since I am all about challenging traditions in the kitchen, my ragu recipe is quick and easy and above all vegetarian!

I have used a medley of Mushrooms as a star of this dish. A mixture of fresh and dried mushrooms provides an abundance of different textures and deep mushroom flavor. I haved served the stew with a creamy polenta, believe me when I say it’s a match made in heaven.

So without further ado, here’s my lip smackingly delicious autumn winter classic.

Ingredients:  18  Cooking time: 30 minutes

Serves:

For the Ragu

  • 20 gms of dried Porcini mushrooms
  • 200 gms of sliced swiss brown mushrooms
  • 100 gms of shimeji mushrooms 
  • One brown onion, chopped
  • Five to six pods of garlic, finely chopped
  • Eight to ten parsley stems, finely chopped
  • 10 to 12 sprigs of fresh lemon thyme
  • Two tablespoons of goats cheese (optional)
  • 300ml of light cooking cream
  • Three tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • Salt to season

For the Polenta

  • One cup of polenta
  • Three cups of water
  • One tablespoon butter

For the Garnish (optional)

  • One bunch of asparagus, hard ends trimmed
  • One tablespoon extra virgin olive oil
  • One tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • 0.5 teaspoon fresh lemon juice

 

Begin by soaking the porcini mushrooms in hot water and keep aside.

Heat extra virgin olive oil in a pan. Add chopped onions, followed by chopped garlic and cook until the onions are slightly caramelised and you can smell the delicious garlic aroma.

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Now add chopped parsley stems and about six to eight sprigs of lemon thyme. These fresh herbs help in flavouring the oil and give the dish a great fresh flavour. Cook the onion mix on a medium heat for five to seven minutes.

Add the assorted mushrooms, except the porcini mushrooms to the onion mix and let them sweat on a low heat for about seven to ten minutes. 

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Now add the remaining lemon thyme sprigs to flavour the mushrooms. Followed by porcini mushrooms including their stock. Right about now, you should be smelling the mushroomy goodness!

Once the mushrooms are tender add cream and goats cheese. Season with salt as desired, cover the pan with a lid and let the ragu simmer for another five minutes on low heat.

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To make the polenta, in a saucepan bring three cups of water to a boil. Now lower the flame and add the polenta. Stir continuously to avoid lumps and polenta sticking to the bottom of the pan. Once the water is absorbed and the polenta has thickened add a tablespoon of butter and stir it through to give the polenta its richness and shiny glaze. Finally season with salt as desired.

Finally for the garnish, heat olive oil in a pan. Add the asparagus, followed by lemon juice and balsamic vinegar. Continuously toss the asparagus until evenly coated with the balsamic glaze. Take off the heat once tender.

To assemble the dish – place the creamy polenta at the base, ladle the delicious mushroom ragu on top and finally add the asparagus as the final garnish. 

Enjoy this lip smackingly delicious hearty dish with a beautiful red wine and you may just find yourself teleported to Italy.

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