Mushroom, pesto and cream lasagne

This great big plate of vegetarian delight comes from Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries.

It’s something of a cooking marathon his – I think that beginning to end took about 2 hours. That’s because you have to cook the mushrooms and onions, plus you have to make the pesto, and in our case we also had to make béchamel sauce. None of these tasks are particularly strenuous, but together they add to the time and coordination required.

Once you’ve got everything ready, alternating layers of pasta and mushroom filling are put into a dish, and then topped out with the pesto and finally the béchamel. It takes about 40 minutes in oven at the end, so this clearly isn’t a quick thing to throw together but the end result is a really nice take on lasagne and despite being vegetarian it completely satisfied us two omnivores.

A friend of ours managed to cut down the prep time by using ready made pesto and béchamel sauce which still produced something tasty – you can check out the evidence on his Instagram here.

Roast vegetable tortilla recipe with a green olive twist

Our third meal from the Sainsbury’s Homemade by You website is this vegetable tortilla (or maybe frittata?). It’s another vegetable loaded meal with plenty of health, plus low fat protein in the form of many many eggs.

It’s really easy too – we’re basically cooking the vegetables and then pouring an eggy mixture over it. Then it cooks in the pan, before being finished off under the grill.

Lots of food. Lots of taste. The twist on this occasion is green olives which were nice but did seem a little out of place… we love olives enough not to complain though.

Arnold Bennett Frittata

This recipe comes from Jamie Oliver’s “Jamie’s 15 Minute Meals“, a book which we’ve had a long time but don’t often use. Although the book’s title is accurate, and you can crank these recipes out very quickly, they also tend to generate a lot of washing up. They’re also usually aimed at four people, and the quantities involved don’t always halve nicely. This recipe jumped out, however, as one which looked fairly “washing-up-lite” and easy to do for two people.

Method wise, there’s hardly anything to it. Poach the fish with some bay leaves and pop the focaccia in the oven to warm/toast. Beat the eggs and add some peas and chopped spring onions along with some seasoning.

The fish should be cooked by now so remove it from the water and break it up a bit using a fork (and removing the skin if there is any). Pour the egg mixture into a pan and after a minute or so until it starts to set, then add the fish. Sprinkle with parmesan and put under the grill to finish.

That just leaves the salad, which is basically some grated apple (sprinkled with lemon juice to stop it going brown) and watercress. Some chopped chives and walnuts with a glug of olive oil finish it off. Jamie also adds emmental, but Mark isn’t a fan of cold cheese so we skipped that bit.

Surprisingly quick and easy, and looks really impressive because there are so many parts to it. Full marks to Mr Oliver. The only problem we had is that this really is a meal for four, so with half the ingredients our frittata looked a bit thing (should have used a smaller pan really).

Turkey Meatballs in Tomato Sauce

Making a bundt cake recently reminded me of what a wonderful book Nigella Lawson’s Kitchen is, so I went rummaging through it for recipes which I’d still not tried and found this one. I was attracted to it because the picture in the book shows the meal simmering in a yellow casserole dish very similar to the one we own!

The recipe is in two parts – making the sauce is pretty simple because you just blitz some veg in a food processor and then gently fry it for a bit before adding a tin of plum tomatoes and some water and letting it simmer.The rest of the ingredients go to making the turkey meatballs which require very little effort. I’d forgotten how easy Nigella’s recipes can be!

You then gently place the meatballs into the liquid (they pretty much float on top) and let them cook whilst the sauce simmers. Mine took a bit longer than expected because I had halved quantities, but had to use the full amount of water to ensure there was enough liquid for the meatballs to float in. It reduced down to a really tasty tomato sauce, although the meatballs weren’t the most exciting things I’ve eaten. Some pasta on the side and this made for an easy and tasty supper – and relatively low fat with the turkey mince, too.

Mushroom Pappardelle

This was a quick, throw together easy supper found in the September chapter of Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries. It’s really easy to make. You just fry the mushrooms in some butter and olive oil and once they’ve browned add some chopped garlic and parsley. Finally you add some cooked pappardelle and sprinkle the parmesan in, warm it all through and serve.

End result was… meh. I wasn’t overly impressed. I thought that there was too much pasta and not enough of everything else. Mark seemed to like it, but afterwards it just felt like I’d eaten a massive pile of carbs (well, I suppose I had!).

Tofu and Miso Gratin

Continuing our Japanese theme with Kimiko Barber’s Cook Japanese at Home, we picked this recipe out to give our first major try at cooking tofu. It’s not a food that we’ve really ever had much of before – and my attempts at cooking it in the past haven’t been all that great or successful. It seems the trick is to make sure it’s properly drained before cooking so that it’s firmer… so let’s give it a go.

There’s a fairly long list of ingredients for this recipe, but it’s not actually all that hard to put together. You dust the chicken in flour and then fry it for a few minutes. Then the vegetables get added to the pan, chopped into bite sized chunks. Next you add the dashi stock (again, we used instant dashi for ease) and the mushrooms. After it’s simmered for a bit, add some miso paste and tofu and simmer it some more… then transfer the whole thing to a buttered gratin dish and sprinkle parmesan over it and bake it in the oven for a little under 15 minutes.

There’s lots of protein and vegetable in this, but not very much carb. As Kimiko suggests, we served it with some crusty bread which worked really nicely for mopping up all those umami juices. I expected this to be a really heavy meal but it wasn’t at all. I’m not saying that I’m 100% sold on tofu yet, but this was a really tasty and satisfying meal.

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.

Asparagus, Lemon and Parmesan Pasta

A super quick and easy recipe here from our old reliable Nigel Slater’s The 30 Minute Cook.

Super easy recipe – boil some water and add the asparagus which has been chopped into short pieces. COok for a couple of minutes and then remove from the water. Add the pasta to the water (we used conchigle). Next fry up some sliced garlic in butter, and then add the asparagus and cook for a few minutes. Add some lemon juice.

Once everything’s cooked, assemble – strain the pasta and mix with the asparagus and garlic, plus plenty of parmesan. Season with salt and pepper and you’re done. Simple and tasty -not the most exciting meal in the world, but a great result for very little effort.

Lemon and Asparagus Risotto

If you like asparagus, this is the recipe for you – it involves lots of the green stuff. This recipe is quite seasonal, coming from the May chapter of Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries. I was a bit wary – lemon and asparagus isn’t a combination I’ve ever tried before – but Nigel Slater has a proven track record in our house for choosing flavour combinations which work well together.

It’s pretty standard risotto making here – fry the onion in butter, add the rice followed by a glass of white wine or dry vermouth (we used the latter). Then slowly add the chicken stock a ladle at a time, adding the asparagus part way through. Now, I was lazy here and just poured it all in – didn’t seem to affect things negatively! You also need the zest and juice of two lemons at this stage.

Before serving, stir through some freshly ground black pepper and some parmesan and you’re done. The asparagus and lemon work really well together, producing a light and bright meal which is also comforting and satisfying. Thumbs up for Mr Slater!

Pork and Lemon Polpettina

Another Nigel Slater recipe for this meal, this time coming from Real Fast Food. The meatballs themselves are pretty easy to put together. We used panko instead of regular breadcrumbs and mixed these with pork mince, lemon juice, grated parmesan and some chopped anchovies. Thyme and parsley are added for some extra flavour.

As recommended, we served this up with some pasta (tagliatelle) and some broccoli for vegetables. Nigel’s recipe uses 500g of pork mince but says that it’s sufficient for 4 people. I made the same amount (just because the supermarket didn’t have smaller packs of mince) for the two of us and it was certainly a big plate of food… the recipe is probably enough for 3 hungry adults.