Helen’s Vegan “Medi Veg” Pasta

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Hello lovelies,

I came up with this fantastic pasta quite recently and honestly, it’s so delicious that even my die-hard meat-loving husband is asking for seconds! I was inspired by Tesco’s frozen Mediterranean vegetable mix but there were things that I wanted to add and things that I wanted to remove or reduce- particularly too much salt and oil. With that in mind, I sat down and conjured up my own roasted Medittereanean vegetable mix, only for us to blend them and turn them into a tasty pasta sauce!

I used dried pasta for this recipe, rather than fresh, as it is typically vegan (though do check!). Although not a vegan myself, I’ve wanted to explore vegan cooking for a while to find tasty, healthy recipes which will help provide my husband and myself with essential vitamins and nutrients. After a little research, I’m proud to say that this recipe is 100% vegan. It can be served alongside meat for those meat-lovers or topped with grated cheese for vegetarians of course, but I assure you that it’s quite fine on it’s own!

Prep time: 10 minutes

Cooking time: 15 minutes

Serves: 4

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups (512g) dried fusilli pasta
  • Water, plus 100ml boiled water
  • 24 cherry tomatoes
  • 1 red bell pepper, diced
  • 1 red onion, peeled and diced
  • 1/2 courgette, diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced
  • 1 tbsp dried basil
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 tsp salt (use only 1/2 tsp if you prefer not to boil pasta in salt water)
  • 1tsp ground black pepper

The method:

  • In a large pot, bring enough water to a rolling boil and boil the fusilli pasta for 5 minutes, or until cooked through. Add 1/2 tsp salt, if desired.
  • In a large frying pan, heat the olive oil and add cherry tomatoes, bell pepper, onion, courgette and garlic. Cook continuously over a medium heat until onion turns translucent and the vegetables have softened, about ten minutes.
  • Once cooked, place the vegetable mix into a blender and add the remaining salt, black pepper, basil and boiling water. Blend for 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until smooth.
  • Drain the pasta and return to the pot. Pour over the vegetable mixture and stir well to coat the pasta.
  • Serve and enjoy!

I hope that you enjoy this recipe and I hope that it satisfies your tastebuds. Has this pasta got the thumbs up from your picky eaters? Do let me know in the comments!

Keep smiling, everyone!

Helen xx

Helen’s Hearty Slow Cooker Beef Stew (With Herby Dumplings!)

Hello lovelies!

It’s that time of year where the cold nights are settling in and we all start looking for something warm and filling to enjoy.

Have no fear!

I started pot of this wonderful hearty stew off this evening and I thought.. hey.. why not feature it on my blog? It was a bitter -3 degrees in some parts of the UK last night and I’ve no doubt that some of you need warming up!

Serves: 2

For this recipe, you will need:

  • 400g diced beef
  • 1 medium onion, peeled and diced
  • 2 medium-sized carrots, peeled and sliced
  • 500ml beef stock (or 500ml water and 1 bouillon cube)
  • 1 tbsp dried thyme
  • 200ml red wine (I use Merlot!)

You will also need:

  • 100g plain white flour
  • A large pinch bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 large rounded tablespoon butter substitute (Utterly Butterly etc)
  • 30ml milk
  • Black pepper

Method:

  • Set your slow cooker to LOW
  • Place the beef, stock, carrots, onions, red wine and thyme in the bowl, cover with the lid and allow to simmer for at least 3 hours.
  • Half an hour before serving, set your slow cooker to HIGH.
  • In a small bowl, crumb together the flour, butter substitute, salt sugar, thyme and bicarbonate of soda.
  • Mix in the milk a little at a time until a stiff dough forms.
  • Divide the mixture with a spoon and shape lightly with your fingers. It will be a little sticky.
  • Give the stew a good stir and drop the dumplings into the stew, Stirring the stew first distributes the heat so that they start cooking straight away.
  • Cover with the lid again and allow the dumplings to cook for fifteen minutes.
  • Divide between two serving bowls and sprinkle with some cracked black pepper. Enjoy!

Feel free to add other vegetables and let me know how it turns out. This is only a very simple, warming and filling stew from my household to yours!

My Limoncello Cheesecake In A Jar Recipe



Good evening lovelies,

I decided to share this mouth-watering recipe with you which I absolutely love. I tweaked a basic lemon cheesecake a few times and came up with this wonderful result!

I make these desserts in individual jars for a bit of a quirky flare, but if you want to make one large cheesecake for sharing, then a greased 10-inch cake pan works fine too!

For this recipe, you will need:

  • 12 digestive biscuits
  • 60g butter
  • 500g quark fat-free cheese
  • 600ml double (heavy) cream
  • 200g sugar
  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 400g jar lemon curd
  • 5cl (50ml) Limoncello
  • Candied lemon zest (optional)

You will also need:

  • 8 clean, empty jars
  • A small saucepan
  • A silicon spatula
  • A large mixing bowl
  • 2 small bowls
  • A whisk
  • A sieve
  • A rolling pin
  • A ziplock bag
  • A piping bag
  • A couple of tablespoons (3, unless you want to wash up between steps!)
  • A metal skewer, or toothpick

Method

  1. Begin by crushing the digestives in a ziplock bag, using a rolling pin.
  2. Melt the butter in a saucepan, remove from the heat and stir in the biscuit crumbs with a silicon spatula.
  3. Using a spoon, divide the crumb mixture evenly between the jars and press down slightly, using the back of the spoon. Place in the refrigerator for a few minutes to set while you complete the next steps.
  4. In a large bowl. whisk the cream until stiff. Fold in the quark cheese and sugar and whisk again.
  5. Slowly whisk in the lemon juice and load into a piping bag, using a tablespoon. You may need to fill the bag 2-3 times to fill all of the jars.
  6. Remove the jars from the refrigerator and use the piping bags to carefully fill the jars. The bag allows you to pipe the cream cheese mixture to the bottom of the jar, resulting in tidier desserts.
  7. Shake the jars gently to level out the cream cheese mixture and place back in the refrigerator.
  8. In a bowl, stir the lemon curd and limoncello together. Mix well until smooth.
  9. Pass the limoncello mixture through a sieve and into a clean bowl, stir the mixture in the sieve gently, pushing the mixture through.
  10. Remove the cheesecakes from the refrigerator and spoon the limoncello mixture carefully onto the cheesecakes, tapping the jar gently to spread it.
  11. Using a metal skewer, gentle swirl or feather the surface of the cream cheese mixture and limoncello mixture together. Decorate with a few piece of candied lemon zest.

You can vary the basic cheesecake mixture for almost any flavour. Irish cream and mint chocolate chip were also favourites! What’s your favourite cheesecake flavour? Let me know in the comments!

Enjoy your evening, lovelies!

Helen xx



My Perfect Steak & Onion Rings Recipe



I promised Matt that I would be sure to include the way I cook his steak with onion rings on my recipes page. We’ve tried all kinds of steak for this, but we’ve agreed that a nice juicy sirloin or rib-eye steak is best.

From several men that I have spoken to, my husband is apparently a lucky fella. A woman who knows how to cook a steak to perfection is apparently to be cherished!

I always remove the fatty rind from my steak. Personally, I find it gives the steak a less greasy, more luxurious flavour. Try it and see what works for you.

My onion rings are made with a simplified tempura batter. Since making them the first time, my onion rings have become rather popular. I tried making them with a beer batter like I used for cod and I found this worked just as well. The ingredients are also a lot cheaper and the result is just as good!

For this recipe, you will need:

The Steak

Ingredients

  • One 8 oz Sirloin steak, fat removed
  • 1 tsp finely ground sea salt
  • 1 tsp finely ground black pepper
  • 1 tbsp clarified butter
  • A little flour

You will also need

  • A griddle pan
  • Tongs or a spatula
  • A clock, or a good sense of time!
  • A pastry brush

The method

  • Combine the salt and pepper and season the steak generously on both sides.
  • Melt the butter in the griddle pan. When a pinch of flour bubbles in the pan, it is ready.
  • Fry the steak in the centre of the pan for 2 minutes thirty seconds. Flip and fry on the other side for another 2 minutes and thirty seconds. It will be brown on the outside, but perfectly medium-rare in the centre.
  • Allow the steak to rest for a minute or two while you prepare the plate. Brush with the melted butter and juices before serving.

The onion rings

Ingredients

  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 3 tbsp plain white flour
  • 1 tsp cornflour
  • 1 pinch bicarbonate of soda
  • 1 pinch table salt
  • 3 tbsp water
  • Sunflower oil

You will also need;

  • A small bowl
  • A fork
  • A small frying pan
  • A plate
  • Kitchen roll (for draining)

The Method

  • In a small bowl, mix together the flour, cornflour, bicarbonate of soda and salt.
  • Generously fill a small frying pan to 1/3 full with sunflower oil.
  • Add the water to the flour mixture and whisk with a fork. The mixture should resemble heavy cream. Do not worry if some small lumps remain, If the mixture is too thick, add a few more drops of water and whisk again.
  • Test the oil by allowing a small amount of batter to drip into the oil. If it bubbles and floats after a few seconds, the oil is ready.
  • Dip the onion rings into the batter and allow any surplus to run off. They don’t need a thick coating as the batter will bubble in the oil.
  • Fry the rings for a minute or two either side, until golden. When they are ready, transfer them to a plate lined with kitchen roll to drain.

To serve, place the steak on a warmed plate, pile the onion rings on top of the steak and serve with plenty of thick cut chips, mushrooms and peas.

Buon appetito!



My Family Heirloom Fruit Cake Recipe



I love Great British Bake Off, don’t you? Even if you’ve never seen it (you should), baking is pretty awesome and a favourite past time of mine.

When I was a little girl, my grandmother used to make these darling little gems and keep them in an old Quality Street tin. She’d never offer you a cake, she’d just hold them at hip height and rotate the tin back and forth a few times. If there was a rumble, she concluded, there were fruit cakes, and they were probably good enough to eat. Only then would she remove the lid and offer you a cake. When she passed away in 2011, I made it my personal goal to make these little gems and serve them in a Quality Street tin at her funeral, just like she would have done if she were there. I later found out that this recipe has been handed down to me by at least five generations!

It’s important to note that this recipe calls for going by sight, not exact weight. None of us are perfectionists, and in my blood line “about” is a perfectly acceptable unit of measurement. Use scales, but don’t use them too precisely. They are quite a dense cake and definitely aren’t a sponge, but don’t let that put you off.

Oh, and if you have a gas oven rather than an electric oven, then they are much, much better!

For this recipe, you will need:

  • About 8 oz/230g white self-raising flour
  • About 4oz/115g salted butter
  • About 4oz/115g 4oz granulated white sugar
  • 2 free-range eggs
  • A little milk
  • 1-2 handfuls sultanas

You will also need:

  • A large mixing bowl (glass preferred, but not essential)
  • A wooden spoon
  • Kitchen scales
  • A mug
  • A fork
  • A 12-hole muffin tray OR an 8-inch round cake tin
  • 12 muffin cases OR greaseproof paper
  • Wire cooling rack

The Method:

  • Heat the oven on gas mark 5/190 ° C/375 ° F.
  • Line the muffin tray or cake tin with muffin cases or greaseproof paper and set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl, crumb together the butter, sugar and flour until fine crumbs are formed.
  • Crack the eggs into a mug and whisk well with a fork.
  • Make a well in the crumb mixture and add the eggs and dried fruit. Mix thoroughly to combine all ingredients.
  • The mixture should fall off of the spoon with little effort when raised. If it’s too dry, add a little milk. If it’s too wet, add a little more flour.
  • Beat the mixture for 1-2 minutes to incorporate plenty of air. The cake batter should appear glossy and the sultanas should be covered.
  • Once ready, transfer the mixture and share or spread evenly into your lined cases or tin.
  • Bake the cakes in the middle of the oven for approximately 25 minutes. If a skewer pierced through the top of the cake comes out clean, then your cake is ready.
  • Transfer the baked cake or cakes to a wire cooling rack and allow to cool completely.

Top tip

  • These cakes is best enjoyed with some lovely traditionally sweet, white breakfast tea!



My Omelette To End All Omelettes!



Hello lovelies,

For lunch today my dearly beloved asked me to make an omelette and I decided to be a little more attentive than usual. Normally, I just make him his ham & cheese omelette but today I decided to go for that something extra!

As a sensualist, cooking is just something else that I enjoy. I love it when I create such a flavour that I leave people silenced!

For this crowd-pleasing omelette you will need:

Ingredients

  • 3 large, free-range eggs
  • 1 small white onion, diced
  • 1tbsp olive oil
  • 1 pinch table salt (not rock salt)
  • 1 pinch ground white pepper
  • 1/2 tsp dried parsley
  • 2 tbsp fresh milk
  • 1 slice deli ham, diced
  • 2 medium slices mature cheddar cheese

You will also need

  • A non-stick frying pan
  • A jug
  • A whisk
  • A small bowl (for the fried onions)

The method

  • In a large non-stick frying pan, heat the oil and fry the onions until translucent, then set aside in a small bowl. Do not wipe out the pan as you can use leftover oil for cooking the omelette later.
  • Whisk the eggs, milk, salt, pepper and parsley together until uniform and foamy.
  • Heat the frying over a medium-low frame, whisk the egg mixture again briefly and pour into the pan.
  • Sprinkle in the ham and fried onions and crumble over the cheese.
  • Once the omelette is beginning to set and come away from the edges, flip it onto itself and finish cooking.

I’ve been asked to add mushrooms next time, so I will let you know how that goes!

What do you like in your omelettes? Let me know in the comments!



My “Baguette-Me-Not” Sandwich Filler Recipe



Hello lovelies!

This recipe came about from a bit of leftover pesto I had from making my husband’s favourite pesto-stuffed chicken. For someone who used to hate pesto, my husband has done a complete turnaround and now insists I make these sandwiches any time I make pesto.

If you’re a fan of Bob’s Burgers, then you will also understand the word puns that go into their burger titles. I originally put this filling into half of a crusty baguette, hence, baguette-me-not! I know, you’re welcome 😉

Serves: 2

For this recipe, you will need:

  • A pestle and mortar
  • A small frying pan
  • A bowl
  • A spoon

The ingredients:

  • 1 cooked chicken breast, diced
  • 1 rasher uncooked, unsmoked bacon, diced
  • 1 small piece Grana Padano cheese (1 x 1 x 1/2 inch should be sufficient)
  • 1 tbsp pine nuts, toasted
  • 1 tbsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 tsp olive oil
  • Pinch ground black pepper
  • 2 tbsp mayonnaise

The method:

  1. Place the pine nuts, Grana Padano cheese, dried basil, garlic, pepper and olive oil into a pestle and mortar and grind until smooth. The mixture may be a little dry- don’t worry about that.
  2. Heat the bacon in a dry frying pan and heat until translucent. Add the pesto for the last two minutes of cooking and heat until all ingredients and cooked through.
  3. Pour the pesto-bacon mixture into a bowl and add the diced chicken and mayonnaise. Stir well and enjoy!

Top tips:

  • This sandwich filler seems to work better if it’s left in a covered bowl in the refrigerator for at least 2-4 hours to “marinate”.
  • Don’t use smoked bacon – the added salt and the salt in the mayonnaise and cheese can be too much and lead to a rather unpleasant experience! Opt for unsmoked bacon to prevent things from becoming overpowering.