Way back when I didn’t cook – well career women didn’t – my idea of a cooked dinner was either a Marks & Spencer ready meal or, if I was feeling very adventurous, a pasta bake. And yes to my shame I used packet sauce – well I did add in the tuna and the sweetcorn and make the salad ;-) Actually thinking about it I feel sorry for my partner at the time – thankfully his Mother always invited us for Sunday lunch so he was guaranteed one decent meal a week!
Now thanks to Darina Allen, my time in Ballymaloe and in particular my friend Nicola, I can now make my own pasta bake . I promise no packet sauces have crossed my threshold for years :-)
This is a variation on my standby recipe and as such I have to apologise as all quantities are approximate. I know – this used to drive me mad when I was learning to cook and it’s taken me a long time to be confident with ‘a bit of this and a handful of that’. I blame it on my scientific background.
I also wanted to blog this today to help you use up any Christmas leftovers still lurking in your fridge before Twelfth Night. Last night’s supper was to use up mine before the new year’s resolutions kick in on Monday ………
Cook and drain some pasta – I estimated enough for 2. The general guideline is 75g dried pasta per person. I’d have preferred to use penne but hey, the choice was between fusilli or animal shapes. The fusilli won
Sauté a shallot and some chopped peppers in a butter/oil mix. Add some chopped smoked salmon (I used 2 long slices) , a handful of frozen peas and somecapers.
Cook for 2-3 mins then add a good glug of vermouth(or white wine if you’ve a bottle open). Allow to reduce for few minutes.
Pour in cream (I had about half a large carton left , approx 250ml) and a teaspoon of my ‘secret’ ingredient – Ikea‘s dill mustard. Trust me you need a jar of this in your fridge!
Then add in the cooked pasta and transfer the mix to a casserole dish.
Top with panko breadcumbs and chunks ofcamembert.
Bake for 15-20 mins at 170 C Fan until golden and bubbling.
Serve with a nice big glass of wine……….and a green salad
Happy Cooking !
The health kick starts Monday I promise………… I’ll be researching recipes for my lighter cooking course which starts 14th January
I make a lot of canapés – both for business and home entertaining. This year I’ve been asked for easy canapé ideas at my cookery demos so I thought I’d share a few of my favourites. I hope you like them!
I used to make my tartlets from filo pastry – a rather long process but I came across the idea for these on holiday last year and they have made my life much easier!
To make the tartlets you need....
You need a mini-muffin tray, a packet of wonton wrappers, some sunflower oil and a pastry brush – brush each wonton sheet with oil and mould it into the muffin tin to make a small case. (This is much easier to demonstrate than explain!)
When you’ve filled the mini muffin tray sprinkle the cases with a little salt and bake at 200 C for 4 mins. Allow to cool on a wire rack and then use or store in airtight container for up to 4 days.
This is what your end product should look like:
The possiblities are now endless….Some fillings I use are:
Avocado & crab topped with some créme fraiche and dill mustard
Red onion marmalade and Cooleeney brie (put in oven for minute or two to soften the cheese)
Thai beef salad
Crab & avocado tartlets
Red Onion Marmalade & Cooleeney Brie
Sticky Christmas Sausages
This is another great recipe from my favourite Christmas book ‘Nigella’s Christmas’ and the best thing is that they can be prepared in advance and frozen – just put mix and sausages in plastic bag and take out of freezer a few hours before your guests are due!
What you need:
2lbs cocktail sausages (approx. 60)
125 ml sweet chilli sauce
60 ml cranberry sauce
60 ml soy sauce
1 tbsp. dark muscovado sugar
Juice of 1 small orange
Juice of 1 lime
What you do:
Mix together all the ingredients except the sausages to make glaze
Put sausages in foil tray (much easier than cleaning a roasting tray!)
Pour glaze over sausages and mix to coat.
Cook for 20 mins then turn and cook for another 10 -20 mins until they’re hot and sticky.
Sticky Christmas Sausages
Smoked Salmon/Trout Wraps
This is another quick and easy idea which doesn’t really need a recipe!
Smoked Trout Wraps
What you need:
Tortillla wraps (I find the Discovery ones the easiest to roll!)