Monday, 25 July 2016

PASTA WITH AUBERGINE & RICOTTA

Pascal recently bought a new cook book of 200 pasta recipes - a dream come true for him. He is going to be in charge of meal times when this baby does finally make an appearance (I am currently 3 days overdue) and pasta is his speciality. Obviously we had to try it out straight away. This recipe took about 40 minutes to cook and prepare.

Ingredients for 4 people:

2 large aubergines
Olive oil for frying
4 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 x 400g tins of chopped tomatoes
20 basil leaves, torn (I probably used more than this because I love basil)
400g dried pasta (such as rigatoni, penne or farfalle)
200g ricotta
4 tablespoons of finely grated pecorino / Parmesan cheese
Salt and black pepper


Cut the aubergines into quarters length ways, then each quarter in half length ways (if that makes sense). Then cut the pieces into finger-sized lengths.


Heat a good dollop of oil in a large frying pan over a high heat until the surface of the oil seems to shimmer. Add the aubergines in batches and fry until golden. With a slotted spoon, remove and drain on kitchen paper.



Heat a tablespoon of oil in a frying pan over a medium heat and add the garlic for 30 seconds. Then stir in the aubergines and season well. Next add the tomatoes, bring to the boil, and simmer uncovered for 20 minutes.




Meanwhile cook the pasta in salted boiling water according to the packet's instructions. Mine took around ten minutes. Drain whilst reserving a ladleful of cooking water.


Remove the tomato and aubergine sauce from the heat and add half the basil. Season again if necessary - we needed to. Next mix in the pasta and add some cooking water if necessary - we added a little.




Finally serve immediately with a scattering of ricotta, pecorino / Parmesan and the remaining basil.


This is the kind of pasta dish that Pascal would order in a restaurant whereas I prefer something with a bit of meat. I have to say I am now converted to vegetarian pasta dishes as this was incredible. The combination of all the flavours was amazing and it tastes so fresh. This is Arabella's food hell as she hates aubergines but I love them and don't have them enough. I will definitely be making this again soon - plus all this veg must be good for the baby!!

Wednesday, 20 July 2016

CHIT CHAAT CHAI, WANDSWORTH

I rarely eat Indian food as I am not a fan of spice, however it is two days until my due date, I am desperate to have this baby sooner rather than later, and curry apparently brings the labour on. Unfortunately it is now the next day and I am still pregnant but I am happy to say the food was so good I might now be a curry convert!

So last night we went to Chit Chaat Chai with our lovely friends Hard and Fran. Chit Chaat Chai is a new restaurant on the Old York Road in Wandsworth and it serves "chaat food" which is Indian street food, family food, treat food, weekend food - according to the website - the best of all foods!

I had no clue about the menu however the waitress kindly explained the different dishes and what went with what plus Fran had been here before.

We started off with pani puri and yoghurt puris. These were so good we ordered them twice! The pani puris are a combination of sweet, spice and tangy flavours and the yoghurt puris are crunchy round puri balls filled with chickpeas, yoghurt and chaatneys. You eat both of these all in one mouthful! They were excellent and the yoghurt puris were my favourite of the night.



We shared everything - next up were the masala chicken wings - these were good but small, I liked the sauce though.


We also had the okra fries which went well with the Bombay bhel which is a Bombay beach classic of puffed rice, potatoes, onions, chickpeas and tangy tamarind topped with pomegranates. Both so tasty once again - so much flavour and a good kick but not unbearably hot.



We also had the chilli paneer in hope that would be spicy enough to bring the baby on - they were hot but not hideously so and even though I have no idea what they actually are, they tasted great.


For the more "traditional" curry part of the evening we had baby aubergine curry in a peanut masala sauce and lamb railway curry which is apparently what they used to serve in all first class railway carriages and a basket of nan breads. I can't really describe the flavours and what was in the curries but they were good!




My baby brain is in full swing and I am limited in my description of all the food. However what I can say it that it was all really good - my favourite was definitely the tapas style starters. I think the last time I had a curry was when I was pregnant with Arabella 8 years ago, now I know about Indian Street food, I definitely won't be leaving it that long this time. I would really recommend this place. Maybe I will be back again next week if the baby still hasn't arrived?!!

Chit Chaat Chai

356 Old York Road
London
SW18 1SS
Tel: 020 8480 2364
Email: bookings@chitchaatchai.com
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Monday, 18 July 2016

STEAK AND BLUE CHEESE MELTS

I love steak with blue cheese and this weekend I was tempted to book to go to lunch at Smith & Wollensky's in the West End as they do an excellent steak with blue cheese sauce. However, it costs almost £50…..I'm not sure I like it that much…..think I would rather spend the money in Zara!!

Anyway as an alternative I decided to try and cook it myself, blue cheese is one thing I have not been able to give up during my pregnancy. This is really easy and literally took about 10 minutes. We cooked our steaks on the bbq however you could grill or fry them.

Ingredients for 2 people:

2 thick cut sirloin steaks
3 tablespoons of creme fraiche
75g of creamy blue cheese (I used Roquefort)
1 tablespoon of parsley



As I mentioned earlier we cooked our steaks on the BBQ - if you are doing this preheat the BBQ for ten minutes whilst you make the blue cheese topping.

In a bowl mix together the cheese, creme fraiche and parsley. Season with black pepper and set aside.


If you are frying the steaks in a frying pan, preheat the grill to high. I like my steak medium rare so Pascal cooked it on the BBQ for two minutes on the first side and then a couple of minutes on the other side.




Then add the topping and either cook on the BBQ for another two minutes or pop under the preheated grill for another couple of minutes.



Serve with a crisp green salad and enjoy.




This was really really good - I can't believe I have never tried to make it before - it is now my ultimate favourite. So tasty and so easy and a great way to jazz up an ordinary steak. If you wanted to be really "naughty", you could even add chips or I was thinking a side of mac and cheese. 

This is definitely going to be a regular supper this summer. Once the baby is born (3 days til the due date) Pascal is going to be in charge of cooking which means pasta, pasta and more pasta but hopefully I can squeeze this in on other days!!
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Tuesday, 12 July 2016

EASY RICOTTA, HAM & SPINACH LASAGNE

This could be the last family meal I cook in a while - Arabella is off to her father's for the start of the summer holidays and I am 10 days away from my due date. Obviously Pascal and Arabella wanted pasta so I decided to give this recipe a go - it is from Olive magazine and took around 40 minutes.

Ingredients for 4 people:

200g baby spinach
250g tub of ricotta
4 tablespoons of mascarpone
4 large or 8 smaller fresh pasta sheets
2-3 tablespoons of fresh pesto
200g cooked shredded ham hock
5 heaped tablespoons of grated Parmesan



Preheat the oven to 220 C / 200 C fan / gas mark 7.

Put the spinach in a colander and pour a full kettle of boiling water over the spinach to wilt it (you could also microwave the bag of spinach). Cool and then squeeze out as much liquid as possible and chop - there was a lot of liquid!




Mix the spinach, ricotta and mascarpone and season well.




Cook the pasta sheets in boiling water for 3 minutes until tender and drain well.



Now layer up the pasta and the filling - I greased the baking dish with fry light to start - then added a sheet of pasta, a quarter of the ricotta mixture, a few blobs of pasta and a quarter of the ham. Repeat all of this until all the ingredients are used up.





Finish with the Parmesan and bake in the oven for 20-25 minutes until golden and bubbling - I did 23!







Tuck in and enjoy! 

This was totally different to normal lasagne but it made a nice alternative. I thought Arabella was going to turn her nose up at the spinach but she didn't even mention it - I think she just thought it was part of the pesto. The only thing we would do slightly differently next time would be to add some grated cheddar cheese to each layer - yes we are cheese addicts so it might be a little over the top for some - but I think it would be a delicious addition! However we did really enjoy it and the recipe wasn't too time consuming. It is a dish you could also prepare ahead and would be great with a green salad. I look forward to our leftovers tomorrow!!

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Wednesday, 6 July 2016

CHEAT'S LASAGNE

I love a lasagne but it is quite time consuming to make so I jumped for joy when I found this recipe in Olive magazine. Even though it takes 40 minutes, it is simple and easy and doesn't use too many ingredients. However it wasn't easy to find the beef and red wine ravioli, after looking in M&S, Sainsburys and Tescos, I finally found it in Waitrose.

Ingredients for 2 people:

2 cloves of garlic, crushed
1-2 tablespoons of olive oil
400g tin of chopped tomatoes (mine actually had basil in them too)
A small handful of basil, chopped (I used a pinch of dry basil as that is all I had)
250g beef and red wine ravioli
4 tablespoons of mascarpone
4 tablespoons of Parmesan, plus extra for the top (obviously I went to town)!
1 ball of mozzarella, sliced



Preheat the oven to 200 C / 180 C fan / gas mark 6.

Cook the garlic in 1 tablespoon of olive oil for a couple of minutes and then tip in the tomatoes. Simmer for 10 minutes until thickened and then season and stir in the basil (as I mentioned my chopped tomatoes already came with basil and then I just added a pinch of dry basil).





Meanwhile cook the ravioli in boiling water until almost tender but drain before it's done as it will continue cooking in the oven. This meant that I literally cooked it for one minute.



Mix together the mascarpone and the Parmesan - mine didn't mix that well to be honest and was quite "sticky".



Oil a small baking dish - I used fry light oil spray. Spoon a little tomato sauce (about a third) on the bottom, add half the ravioli and then dollop over half the mascarpone mix.





Add some more tomato and then repeat the process with the ravioli, mascarpone mix and then the remaining tomato sauce.

Top with the mozzarella and Parmesan. Bake for at least 20-25 minutes until golden and bubbling and then serve.






This was a great, easy version of lasagne and would be perfect with a green salad and even some garlic bread if you are feeling particularly naughty! Perfect for a midweek supper - I will definitely be cooking this again. I reckon you could do a "veggie" version and use spinach and ricotta ravioli instead of the beef and it would still be delicious. Arabella also gave it the thumbs up!


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