Saturday Night Pasta

If I’m not quick in deciding what’s for dinner on a Saturday evening this is what the kids demand. They call it Butter Pasta, but the name doesn’t do it justice. It’s quick, it’s filling, it’s brimming with flavour. One thing is for sure this is super easy to throw together. There are no vegetables in this, which delights the kids but throws me into a health freak panic. I just serve a big salad at the table with this and everyone (especially me) is happy.

In the most basic iteration of this dish you are boiling a pan of pasta, and serving with butter and Parmesan, which melts gloriously as you stir through the hot pasta. But really there are so many little things you can add to spruce this up. In this, my most complex version, which isn’t very complicated at all, I’m suggesting garlic, dried chilli flakes and a little chicken stock along with the standard issue butter and parmesan. Oh and who wouldn’t want a generous grinding of fresh black pepper over this?

We’ve eaten this with every pasta shape imaginable (except macaroni, which I can’t help but reserve exclusively for Macaroni Cheese). I think my favourite is cavatappi (the kind of corkscrew shaped pasta you can see in the picture above) or fusilli. The kids love spaghetti, of course.

Use what ever pasta you have in the cupboard and make this as simple, or elaborate as you fancy. Here are some of the additions I’ve tried, and loved, so far: lemon zest; fresh red chilli fried with the garlic; sun dried tomatoes; fresh herbs, especially basil, oregano or thyme. As I write this I’m thinking truffle oil in place of the butter would be heavenly. Let your taste buds be your guide.

Ingredients

Serves 4 – 5

  • 500g bag of pasta
  • 1 garlic clove, crushed
  • A small splash of olive oil
  • 1/2 teaspoon of dried chilli flakes (more if you fancy a spicy pasta)
  • 1/2 stock cube (chicken stock is lovely here but veg is also fine)
  • A rounded tablespoon of butter (more if you like a slicker pasta)
  • A generous grating of Parmesan cheese
  • Black pepper

Method

  • Cook your pasta according to the packet instructions, or for slightly less time than the packet suggests if, like me, you prefer al dente pasta.
  • Meanwhile gently fry your garlic in the olive oil for a minute, add the dried chilli and stir.
  • Crumble in the 1/2 stock cube and add about 100ml of hot water. Stir, simmer for a couple of minutes then turn out the heat.
  • Once your pasta is cooked to perfection, drain and return to the pan, pour and scrape in the garlicky stock and stir.
  • Now plop in the butter and stir again, add more butter if you feel this quantity isn’t enough for you, just don’t go crazy or this could very quickly account for a full day’s worth of calories!
  • Scatter in your Parmesan cheese and stir again.
  • Serve with a good grinding of black pepper and little more grated Parmesan.

Simple Carrot Slaw

Let’s be honest not everyone is a fan of cabbage. It must be one of the least glamourous vegetables out there. Poor old cabbage. I, for the record, love it and could merrily eat it by the bowlful.

I do delight in a homemade coleslaw. I can coax even the most hardened cabbage avoider in my house to sample a teeny bit of classic coleslaw, but who wants that effort? Food should be joyous, not hard graft. So I came up with this cabbage-free slaw, which was accepted by all as a tasty side dish and the bowl was scraped clean. Result.

You could leave out the coriander and keep this really simple. Or you could replace it with any other freshly chopped herb you fancy. You could also sprinkle in some quickly toasted cumin seeds. I do like a piquant kick so I have tried this with a finely chopped green chilli, which, frankly, knocks your socks off.

Whatever you choose to do with this, in a few short minutes it will be ready to charm your taste buds.

Simple Carrot Slaw

Recipe

Ingredients

  • A couple of large carrots, grated
  • A couple of spring onions, finely sliced
  • A dessert spoon of mayo
  • A dessert spoon of greek yoghurt
  • A pinch of salt
  • A grinding of black pepper
  • A small handful of fresh coriander, roughly chopped. Plus a few leaves for garnish.

Method

  • Put everything, except your extra coriander garnish, in a bowl and mix.
  • Scatter over the remaining coriander garnish.
  • Eat.

One Pot Mini Pasta Marvel

This quick and easy pot of pasta is packed with flavour to really deliver full on satisfaction.

I made this for lunch today. The kids are off school, we ate all the bread at breakfast, I didn’t have much time. Enter one pot mini pasta marvel. And this, my friends, really is a one pot deal. I hate it when you start cooking a ‘one pot’ meal only to discover half way through that you have add a pre-cooked ingredient, like rice or potatoes or roasted veg.

As with most of my recipes you can chop and change these ingredients at your pleasure. So you might heat up a veggie or a beef stock. Bored of carrots? Try sweet potatoes. Out of fresh veg? Use frozen spinach, peas or sweetcorn. Don’t have mini pasta in your store cupboard? Just break up spaghetti into small pieces.

I’d say this pot of loveliness is a cross between soup and a hearty (albeit mini) pasta dish. If you are in the mood for a bowl of soup just add more liquid. If a soft and tender bowl of pasta is more your thing then simmer without a lid on your pan for the last couple of minutes.

One Pot Mini Pasta Marvel

serves 4

Ingredients

  • 1 litre of stock (use 1.5 litres if you’re going for a soupy texture)
  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 medium carrots, fairly finely diced
  • 1 medium potato, fairly finely diced
  • 300g small pasta shapes such as stellini, ditalini or those tiny alphabet shapes
  • A couple of pinches of oregano
  • 2 tablespoons of tomato puree
  • A couple of mushrooms, diced
  • A handful of fresh parsley, chopped
  • A tablespoon or so of fresh rosemary, chopped
  • 2 tablespoons of freshly grated parmesan and extra for serving
  • Black pepper

Method

  • Heat your stock in a large pan. While you wait for it come up to a simmer add the onions.
  • Once the stock is simmering chuck in the chopped potato and carrots. Simmer for 5 – 6 minutes.
  • Now pour in the pasta shapes, oregano, tomato puree and mushrooms. Continue to simmer for a further 5 minutes, or until the pasta and veg are tender. Stir quite frequently as I find these rascal pasta shapes have a tendency to stick to the pan.
  • Turn off the heat, stir in the herbs and parmesan. Leave to sit for a couple of minutes while you gather your bowls / spoons / fellow diners.
  • Serve with a grinding of black pepper and an extra sprinkle of grated parmesan.

Banana & Sunken Chocolate Cake

Within an hour of writing my last blog post for fluffy banana pancakes I made this cake. Auto suggestion or potassium deficiency? Hard to say.

This cake is delicious, quick and easy – the perfect threesome in my kitchen. It’s the kind of cake you look forward to with a cuppa mid afternoon, not too fancy but still a little bit indulgent. I made it to use up a couple brown bananas which were lurking on my counter top but I fancied something less worthy than a banana loaf. Hello sunken chocolate chunks.

This would be just as fabulous with dark chocolate (my kids aren’t keen) or white chocolate (I’m not keen) or indeed a mixture of dark, white and milk.

Banana & Sunken Chocolate cake Recipe

Ingredients

  • 125g butter
  • 150g caster sugar
  • 2 large bananas, mashed
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 175g self-raising flour
  • 150g milk chocolate, chopped into chunks

Method

  • Before you start, heat your oven to 180 or 170 fan / gas mark 4. Grease and line a round cake tin, preferably with a loose bottom for easy release later on.
  • Melt your butter, then remove from the heat and whisk in the sugar.
  • Next mix in the mashed banana and vanilla before whisking in the eggs one at a time.
  • Add half the flour and mix well, then mix in the rest of the flour and the chocolate chunks.
  • Scrape into the waiting tin and bake for 40 minutes. Check that the cake is golden and a skewer comes out clean (if it doesn’t, just pop it back in the oven and check every 5 minutes).
  • Leave to stand on a cooling rack for a while before turning out.

the easiest peasiest pea & mint soup

Lunch in minutes

Yesterday was Easter. There were chocolate eggs, there was home made chocolate cake. We definitely needed something green for lunch. Problem was I was in a post sugar slump and didn’t really have the energy for a big healthy lunch production. Cue this cheeky little pea soup, which was on the table in minutes (probably about 10 minutes to be precise). It was the nicest, easiest, speediest soup I’ve had, maybe ever.

So without further fuss, here is the 4 ingredient, 2 step recipe for easy peasy pea and mint soup.

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 bunch of spring onions – chop off the ends then roughly chop
  • About 650g frozen peas
  • 1 litre of chicken stock (veg would also be fine)
  • 4 mint leaves

recipe

  • Put all of your ingredients into a pan, bring to the boil then turn down and simmer with the lid on for about 6 minutes.
  • Remove from the heat, chuck in your mint leaves then blend until smooth.
Vibrant green, minty bowl of healthy stuff