Recipe: Chorizo and Roasted Vegetable Lasagne

How does one improve on a lovely vegetable lasagne? You add chorizo of course. There is nothing in life that isn’t improved by that spicy little sausage. I love it in all it’s paprika spiked glory. Of course you can just leave it out if you are a vegetarian, it’s still delicious. (you are missing out though)

Serves 4-6

What you need:

(for the roasted vegetables)

  • 1 aubergine
  • 2 courgettes
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 tsp herbes de provence
  • 1 tbsp olive oil

(for the chorizo and tomato sauce)

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 onion, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 100g soft cooking chorizo, finely chopped
  • A pinch of chilli flakes
  • ½ tsp herbes de provence
  • 700g tomato passata
  • A pinch of sugar

(for the white sauce)

  • 1 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp plain white flour
  • 200ml warm milk
  • Pinch of nutmeg
  • 100g cheddar cheese, grated

(for the lasagne)

  • One packet of fresh egg lasagne sheets
  • 1 ball of mozzarella
  • A few tablespoons of grated parmesan
  • Some extra grated cheddar cheese

What you do:

  1. Slice the aubergine, courgettes and pepper into rounds or strips and toss in a bowl with the oil, herbs and some salt and pepper. Roast in a moderate oven for about 30 minutes, turning halfway.
  2. Meanwhile, make the tomato sauce. Heat the oil in a pan and add in the onion, garlic and chopped chorizo, stirring regularly until the veg is soft and the chorizo is cooked. Next, add the chilli flakes, herbs and tomatoes then season well with salt and pepper and a pinch of sugar. Leave to simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring every now and then until it is thick and richly flavoured.
  3. To make the white sauce, melt the butter in a pan over a low heat then whisk in the flour to make a smooth paste. Gradually whisk in the milk until you have a thick, creamy, smooth sauce. Season well and add the nutmeg. Off the heat, add the grated cheddar cheese and stir well to melt.
  4. To assemble, put a tablespoon of the tomato sauce in the bottom of the lasagne dish then top with lasagne sheets. Next, add a layer of roasted vegetables and top with some nuggets of mozzarella and a grating of parmesan before adding a generous layer of the tomato and chorizo sauce. Continue with some more pasta sheets then repeat the vegetables, cheese and sauce layers. Once all is used up, add a final layer of pasta then top with the cheese sauce. Finish with some more grated parmesan, some torn up mozzarella and an extra grating of cheddar cheese.
  5. Cook at 180°c for around 35-40 minutes, until bubbling and golden.

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You only need a lightly dressed green salad alongside this rich, tasty lasagne dish. It’s also lovely cold for lunch the next day!

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Recipe: King Prawn Linguine

I have a vivid memory of eating a dish similar to this in Zizzis once when out with friends. It was a lovely summery evening and I was enjoying a catch up with two friends I hadn’t seen for a long while and decided to order outside of my comfort zone. This was a few years ago when I was still a little on the fussy side and had only just started to venture into the unknown world of fish and seafood. I’ve still only dipped my toe in but I do enjoy a good prawn dish. The king prawn linguine I had at Zizzi was rich, flavourful and a little spicy and it was a really memorable dinner, surprising as it was only in a chain restaurant. I’ve wanted to recreate this dish for a long time and think I’ve pretty much nailed it. Though I do say so myself.

Serves 2

What you need:

  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp fennel seeds
  • 1/2 a fresh red chilli, de-seeded and finely chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 1 400g tin chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp herbes de provence
  • 180g cooked and peeled king prawns
  • 200g linguine

What you do:

  1. This is a really quick recipe so get everything out and ready to go. Start by heating the olive oil in a pan with the fennel seeds, chilli and garlic. Sizzle away for a minute or so then pop in the tin of tomatoes and the herbes de provence (or any other mixed herbs) with some salt and pepper and let this cook for around 10 minutes until it has thickened and the sauce is nice and rich.
  2. Whilst the sauce is blipping away, cook the linguine according to the packet instructions and reserve a small cupful of the cooking liquid.
  3. At the end of the cooking time, add the prawns to the tomato sauce and stir gently to heat them through. Drain the pasta and add it to the prawns and tomatoes along with the reserved cooking liquid. Stir until well combined then serve in big deep bowls, ready to dive in.

 

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NERDY TIP: Using the pasta cooking liquid in a sauce helps the sauce stick to the pasta due to the starch that has released into the water. It’s a good one to remember for pretty much all pasta dishes.

I really enjoy this dish, it’s super quick, really easy and relies on a lot of things you probably already have in the cupboard. It’s lovely with a crisp green salad and some garlic bread, because, let’s face it, who can eat pasta without garlic bread? Not me.

Recipe: Chicken, Leek and Mushroom Risotto

I wish I was an Italian. I think I would make a good Italian housewife, standing stove-side for the day conjuring up delicious recipes whilst my husband whizzes around the city on a Lambretta. See, this is what happens when I make a risotto and my mind has time to wander whilst I stir, calmly and serenely. I never used to like risotto, thinking it was bland and boring with every mouthful tasting the same. Whilst true that every mouthful does taste the same, it’s a good thing as the flavours are in no way bland and if made and seasoned correctly a risotto can be a thing of beauty. A steaming bowl of creamy, buttery rice is the epitome of comfort food and will make any woes disappear. Apart from any woes regarding your weight, this isn’t really gonna help in that department but who cares?

Serves 2-3

What you need:

  • 2 chicken breasts
  • 2 tsp olive oil
  • A large knob of butter, about 50g
  • 6 mushrooms, sliced
  • 1 leek, halved lengthwise and finely sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 cup of arborio rice
  • 1 cup of white wine
  • 750ml chicken stock
  • 1 lemon
  • a handful of grated parmesan cheese

What you do:

  1. Start by roasting the chicken breasts. Pop them into a roasting tray with 1 tsp of the olive oil and plenty of salt and pepper and cook them in an oven pre-heated to around 180°c for around 20 minutes, or until cooked through.
  2. Heat the other tsp of olive oil in a heavy based pan or casserole dish along with half of the butter. Once hot, add in your sliced mushrooms, leek and garlic and cook until the vegetables have softened. You don’t want any crunch in this risotto, everything needs to be meltingly soft.
  3. Once the vegetables are soft, add in a cup of arborio rice. I used an American cup measure, but you can use a coffee cup or similar. Measurements are not particularly important here. Stir the rice through the buttery vegetables for a couple of minutes to start the cooking process, then add in your cup of wine and stir until the liquid has been absorbed.
  4. Now the part that I love, the constant stirring. Adding the stock a ladleful at a time, keep stirring the rice to allow the startch to be released. This is why you need to use arborio rice as regular rice will never create the same creamy texture. Don’t add the next batch of stock until the previous has been absorbed. The whole process should take around 20 minutes, you may need less stock, you may need more. You need to be intuitive and keep testing the rice to see when it is cooked. When you reach the stage where it looks perfect, shred in the roasted chicken, add the zest from half a lemon and the juice from both halves, the rest of the butter and a handful of parmesan. Add a little extra stock and stir gently with the heat turned off until you achieve a creamy texture with no wateriness.
  5. Season the risotto carefully and serve in bowls with a little extra parmesan on top.

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Comfort in a bowl, Italian style.

Recipe: Spaghetti and Meatballs

Want to know how to feel like an Italian goddess of the kitchen? Look no further than my spaghetti and meatballs. Every time I make this I transform from plain old Tania living in Rochester to Sofia who lives in a chic apartment overlooking central Rome who cooks in lingerie and a silk robe whilst her hunky husband Marco pours the red wine and lights the candles ready for dinner. I quickly come back to reality when I have to squish the mince up with my hands, running to the sink for fear of puking.

On that lovely note, on to my recipe!

Serves 2, greedily, which is really the only way to eat pasta, but would likely stretch to feed 3-4. I just wouldn’t want to.

What you need:

  • 250g minced beef (I use 10% fat)
  • 1 tbsp breadcrumbs
  • 1 tbsp grated parmesan
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce (how authentically Italian of me)
  • 1/4 tsp paprika
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder
  • pinch of dried thyme
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • 2 rashers streaky smoked bacon
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, finely chopped
  • 2 cloves minced garlic
  • A splash of marsala or wine (optional)
  • 400g tin of chopped tomatoes
  • 1/2 tsp sugar
  • Enough spaghetti to feed an army, or about 100g per person
  • More parmesan, for grating over the top

What you do:

  1. In a bowl, combine the minced beef with the breadcrumbs, parmesan, Worcestershire sauce, garlic powder, paprika, thyme and some salt and pepper. Mix it up well using your hands then form into smallish meatballs. You should get around 12 meatballs out of this amount. Don’t make them too large, no-one wants a large ball of meat in their mouth at dinner time. You can keep the meatballs in the fridge if you want to make them in advance.
  2. Heat the olive oil in a pan and fry the meatballs off, turning them until they are nicely browned on all sides. This takes about 5 minutes, but you can just check inside one to make sure it’s cooked. Remove them from the pan and set to one side.
  3. Finely slice the bacon and add this to the same pan that you have just removed the meatballs from along with the chopped onion, pepper and garlic. Cook this until the vegetables have softened and the bacon is starting to crisp. Splash in a bit of booze. I always use marsala as I use it in everything but a trickle of red wine would do the job. Cook this off for a minute or two until it no longer smells like a brewery in your kitchen.
  4. Add in the tin of chopped tomatoes, the sugar and plenty of salt and pepper and cook the sauce for about 10 minutes until the tomatoes are rich and have lost their rawness. Whilst the sauce is bubbling away, cook the spaghetti according to packet instructions.
  5. Add your meatballs into the sauce and stir well, but gently, to immerse them in all the yummy flavours. Cook the sauce and meatballs together for a few minutes before draining your spaghetti and adding that to the pan also. Toss everything together well, transfer to large waiting bowls and top with some extra grated parmesan. Now get stuck in and earn your spaghetti stained smile.

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