Italian Veggie Cottage Pie

A nice and easy vegetarian dinner here, and an interesting take on cottage pie from BBC Good Food.

Pretty simple to throw together – cook the diced aubergine first, then add the garlic, sun-dried tomatoes and some of their oil plus some oregano. Cook for a little bit then add the spinach and let it wilt down.

Add some flour and stir it in, then add some milk and grated cheese and bring to the boil. Let it bubble and reduce so that the sauce thickens, then transfer it all to a pie dish and cover with mashed potato and a bit more cheese. Warming, filling and tasty – plus a good wodge of vegetables!

Roast Chicken with Peppers and Chilli, plus fried potatoes

Some more Diana Henry goodness today. Seriously, her book – A Bird in the Hand – is a ridiculously great source of recipes. Go and buy it!

The ingredient list for this one is pretty short but creates a quick and tasty supper. She recommends serving with fried potato slices, which isn’t something I’ve ever made before and there is no specific guidance in the recipe. I gave it a go, and the end results tasted okay but were a bit wet and floppy rather than the crispiness I had expected. Still, tasted good so I’m not going to complain!

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Halloween Sausage Stew

With Halloween approaching, this hearty stew looked like a good contender. We found it on the Sainsbury’s Homemade By You website, but their version looks much better than ours because they go to the effort of decorating tortilla pieces to look like gravestones and using herbs to create a grass effect. Voila – a graveyard for dinner!

It’s a quick and easy meal to knock out. First brown the sausages, then cook the other ingredients and once it’s all simmering add the sausages back in and leave it to simmer. With all that simmering it takes quite a while to cook but it’s a very “hands off” affair with virtually no effort required and very little washing up is generated either.

Tuna and Vegetable Pasta Bake with Greek Yoghurt

Continuing the theme of “Little Twists” from the Sainsbury’s Homemade By You website, we’ve given it another go with this vegetable loaded pasta bake with Greek yoghurt.

It’s also a great way to get your five a day – there are a lot of vegetables in this, to which you add chopped tomatoes, greek yoghurt, herbs and tinned tuna. The whole thing goes in the oven with a topping of cheese so that it goes nice and brown on top.

The end result was a great big bowl of very satisfying food. There’s nothing too exciting here – it’s basically just a pasta bake with tuna, but the combination of lots of vegetables, cheese and tuna makes for something very tasty and satisfying. The addition of yoghurt makes for something a bit creamier and richer, but to be honest I don’t think that it really added all that much – it would have been a great meal even without it.

Tagliata for Two

We’re revisiting a classic tonight, Nigella’s Italian themed Nigellissima – it’s the book which first got me into cooking properly and not just buying quiche and frozen pizza from the supermarket every week! This dinner is actually composed of two recipes from that book, but tagliata for two is the “main event”.

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The meal is pretty straightforward to make. You oil some steak and then fry it, then transfer to a marinade of olive oil, red wine vinegar, chilli flakes and oregano. Then you remove the steak and thinly slice it, and put some chopped cherry tomatoes (I accidentally used plum) in the marinade and serve it up.

For a bit of something extra on the side, I also used Nigella’s recipe for mushrooms in garlic – nice and easy and a bit of extra vegetable on the side.

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The resulting meal was nice but nothing to write home about. Trying to combine all the various elements, time got a little bit away from me and I ended up serving a fairly cold dish. Mostly my fault, but it didn’t help the end result. Nothing wrong here, just nothing all that exciting.

Pork Bolognese

Looking for a slightly different source of recipes this week, I wound up on the Waitrose website and found this recipe for pork bolognese. Apart from the pork mince, we had everything in the cupboard already so it seemed like an easy option.

An in truth, it is. Chop the onion and carrot and fry them with the pork mince. Once cooked, add the chopped tomatoes, then refill the container with water and add that too. Also add a couple of tablespoons of tomato puree, some oregano and a chicken stock cube. Then you can leave the whole thing to simmer for 15 – 20 minutes and get on and cook some pasta.

The recipe says this is for two people, but I think that may be a typo and it’s actually for four. It calls for 500g of pork mince, which seems a lot, but also for 500g of pasta which makes for a monster of a meal. I actually dialled the pasta back to just 200g and it was still a really substantial meal.

Taste wise? It was OK. Not terrible, not bad, but not spectacular.

Italian Vibe Vegetable Soup

We’ve been followers of Dennis The Prescott on Instagram for quite some time now, so when we were looking for something healthy to eat and he posted a link to this recipe for Italian Vibe Vegetable Soup, we thought we’d give it a go.

There’s a mountain of vegetables and healthy stuff in this, so you can’t go too far wrong with it. We had to make a few substitutions but nothing drastic – for example, we had no conchigle pasta so we used macaroni instead.

Somewhere along the line I made a mistake because my quantity of liquid seemed to low. As such, this turned out to be more of a pasta and vegetable stew but still tasted great.

Roast Chicken

Nothing fancy here – a whole chicken, smothered in olive oil and sprinkled with a little oregano and sea salt flakes.

Served up with some mashed potatoes and some broccoli fried in soy sauce, this makes for a surprisingly simple and easy dinner. There was chicken left over… looks like another recipe in the pipeline…

Meatballs and Tomato Sauce

We’ve had a copy of Nigella Bites on the shelf for a few years now but never seem to really use it. I’m not sure why, so I dusted it off and decided to give her homemade meatballs and pasta sauce a try. The full recipe actually includes making your own pasta, but that was a step too far for a dinner that I’m cooking after a long day at work!

Making the meatballs is pretty easy, mixing mince with egg, salt, pepper, oregano and breadcrumbs. This is then shaped into balls which go in the fridge whilst you get on with the sauce. The sauce is pretty simple too – chopped onion, garlic and oregano are fried in butter before adding tomato passata and water. A pinch of salt, pepper and sugar gets added too. Bring it to the boil and add a little milk, then put the meatballs in the simmering liquid. Wait for them to change colour before stirring and then cook for about 20 minutes.

By the time it’s ready the sauce has really thickened up and the end result is rather special. We enjoyed this one a lot – very satisfying, even if it does take longer to make than just whacking some pre-prepared meatballs in a jar of pasta sauce.

Vegetable Pasta Bake with a Yoghurt Twist

We continue our exploration of the “Homemade By You” site with this healthy recipe for a vegetarian pasta bake with a Greek yoghurt ‘twist’.

The recipe involves a whole load vegetables making it pretty healthy even when you consider the yoghurt and cheese. We used wholemeal penne pasta for a bit of extra fibre.

Technique wise, it’s very simple. Roast the chopped vegetables in the over, then mix with cooked pasta, chopped tomatoes and herbs and some Greek yoghurt. Sprinkle with some grated cheese and then bake in the oven.

Easy and healthy – and pretty cheap to make, too.