Spinach & Artichoke Pasta Bake

After watching numerous videos on ‘spinach artichoke dip’ or ‘spinach artichoke bread’, I jumped on the bandwagon and decided to make a spinach and artichoke pasta bake.

Cheese and spinach I love, so that wasn’t a problem. However, I had never tried artichokes until having this dish. I was a little bit hesitant, but after giving this new veg a taste, it made a great addition. I can understand why everyone loves the spinach and artichoke combination now!

This dish is really simple to make and lends from my Turkey and Bacon Pasta recipe. I added vegetable stock, cream cheese, cheddar, and parmesan to make a flavourful and creamy cheese sauce.

Serves 4

Ingredients

  • 250g pasta of your choice (I used wholewheat fusilli)
  • 150g baby spinach
  • 1 can (400g) artichoke hearts, drained and quartered
  • 250ml milk
  • 1 1/2 tbsp butter
  • 1 tbsp flour
  • 1 vegetable stock cube (I prefer Knorr)
  • 30g grated parmesan
  • 2 tbsp light cream cheese (I used Philadephia Light)
  • 100g grated mature cheddar (use 40g for topping)
  • 1 tsp season-all
  • 1 tsp ground garlic
  • 1/2 tsp paprika (for topping)
  • 1 tsp black pepper (1/2 tsp for topping)

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan)/ gas mark 4.
  2. Boil the pasta according to packet instructions, but remove from the heat 2 minutes before the suggested time.
  3. On a low heat, melt the butter in the pan and then add the flour. Stir for 2 minutes until the mixture becomes a smooth consistency.
  4. Pour in a quarter of the milk at a time, then the stock cube, and stir until the mixture blends smoothly.
  5. Add in the cream cheese, grated parmesan and cheddar, and stir until the cheeses melt into a smooth mixture.
  6. Add the spinach, artichokes, season-all, ground garlic, paprika and black pepper into the pan. Stir into the sauce until the spinach wilts. Taste for seasoning and adjust if necessary.
  7. By now, the pasta should be cooked. Drain and add the pasta to the sauce, stirring until the pasta is covered evenly.
  8. Pour the pasta into an oven dish, top with the cheddar, paprika, and black pepper, and bake for 15 minutes.
  9. Enjoy!

Spinach Artichoke (1)

Tip: If your sauce is too thick, add some milk. If it’s too thin, add more flour and cheese.

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Banana, walnut & chocolate chip loaf cake

It’s about time I made a loaf cake.

I didn’t own a loaf tin until last week actually.

I’ve seen many recipes using 2lb loaf tins, but I went and bought a 3lb one because my family can eat.

I do love a banana bread, but I also love to jazz things up. I’ve added chopped walnuts for a nutty crunch, and dark chocolate pieces for pockets of its bittersweet flavour. I was also easy on the amount of sugar because ripened bananas are already sweet as is.

The purchase of a loaf tin may mean I’ll start baking loaves of bread and many more loaf cakes, who knows?

Below’s recipe is for a 2lb tin, but just do some quick maths to adjust the measurements for a larger (or smaller) tin.

Serves 8-10

Ingredients

  • 3 large ripe bananas
  • 250g plain flour, sieved
  • 75g caster sugar
  • 100g brown sugar
  • 120g unsalted butter, soft
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tbsp milk
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 70g chopped walnuts
  • 70g chocolate chunks (I prefer dark chocolate)
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • Pinch of salt

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180ºC (160ºC fan)/ gas mark 4. Grease a 2lb (23×13cm) loaf tin with butter.
  2. Peel and mash the bananas in a bowl.
  3. In a separate bowl, cream together the butter, caster sugar and brown sugar with a wooden spoon or whisk until well combined and paler in colour.
  4. Beat in the eggs one at a time, add the vanilla extract, then fold in the mashed bananas, flour, baking powder, milk and cinnamon.
  5. Fold in the chopped walnuts and chocolate chunks.
  6. Spoon the batter into the loaf tin, and place into the oven for 50 mins to 1 hour, or until the cake springs back when tapped gently.
  7. Leave to cool, then enjoy!

Tip: If your bananas aren’t ripe, roast them (unpeeled) in the oven for 20 mins at 180ºC (160ºC fan)/ gas mark 4. The skins should be black. Peel and mash them up as usual, but leave to cool before adding to the cake batter.

Quinoa, Stir-fried Vegetables, and Feta Salad

I was in the mood for having ”super grains” after having some from the cafe at work a few weeks ago. It was a quinoa, sultana and almond salad. Of course, I picked out the sultanas (it’s a texture thing), and just had the quinoa and almonds, along with some lettuce, onions and tomatoes. It tasted great.

Sometimes I get bored of having the typical rice, pasta, or potatoes, so quinoa was a good change. Also, my rice cooker broke mid-week, and I can’t be asked to sit in the kitchen to watch over brown rice cooking on the stove after work everyday.

The thought of having to wait for my stainless steel pot to soak in soapy water for at least an hour before being able to wash up, made my head hurt. I really have to do the dishes before eating, or it just feels wrong!

If I could make something in bulk just once, and refrigerate it, I’d be content. Old rice just doesn’t sit well with me, unless I’m stir frying it. I was hoping to find a tasty dish with inexpensive ingredients, so I had a browse on BBC Good Food.

I came across this amazing recipe by Sarah Cook, and gave it my own spin.

Serves 5

Ingredients

  • 250g quinoa
  • 3 large bell peppers, cut into chunks
  • 1 large courgette, sliced into ~ 5mm thick semi circles
  • 1 large red onion, cut into chunks
  • 1 vegetable stock cube (I prefer Knorr)
  • 2 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
  • 1/2 tsp season-all
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper
  • Juice of 1 lemon
  • 150g feta cheese, cubed
  • Parsley, chopped (optional)

Method

  1. Follow the packet instructions for cooking the quinoa, but add in the vegetable stock cube and stir. Drain once cooked and separate the grains using a fork.
  2. In a pan, heat the olive oil over a medium/high heat, then add in the chopped onion, bell peppers, courgettes, paprika, chilli flakes, season-all, and black pepper. Stir fry for 3-4 minutes until the vegetables start to soften.
  3. Once the vegetables are cooked, add them to the quinoa.
  4. Add the lemon juice and feta cheese, and stir until well combined.
  5. Serve into a bowl and top with roughly chopped parsley.
Bulgur veg and feta salad
I tried this meal with bulgur wheat as well, and it tasted just as great!

 

Baby Potatoes with Roasted Vegetables

It was one of those days where I had to throw something together in a short space of time. I gave myself a pat on the back for not succumbing to getting a takeaway.

Anyway, this quick fix consists of baby potatoes, peppers, onions, courgettes, and cheese. The cheese of choice on this particular day was Gouda as I wanted something mild and mellow. I also kept the vegetables large and chunky.

Serves 2

Ingredients

  • 500g baby potatoes, halved
  • 50 – 70g Gouda, sliced into small pieces
  • 2 large bell peppers, cut into chunks
  • 1 courgette, sliced
  • 1 large red onion, cut into chunks
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp paprika
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp season-all
  • 1/2 tsp black pepper

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200°C (180°C fan)/ gas mark 6.
  2. In an oven proof dish/tray, add the bell peppers, courgettes, red onion, olive oil, paprika, garlic powder, season-all, and black pepper. Give it a mix and place in the oven for 20 minutes. Toss half way.
  3. While the vegetables are roasting, cover the potatoes with cold water in a pot and bring to a boil over high heat on your stove. Reduce the heat so the potatoes simmer for 10 – 15 minutes until tender.
  4. Drain the potatoes in a colander, and take out your roasted vegetables from the oven. Add the potatoes to the oven dish/tray and mix with the vegetables. Top with chunks of Gouda (or a cheese of your choice), and place back into the oven for a few more minutes until the cheese has melted.
  5. Enjoy!

Roasted Rosemary Potatoes

These roasted potatoes were made back at Christmas. They went nicely alongside the rest of our dinner which included: roasted turkey (marinated for 2 days by my mum of course), pigs in blankets, carrots, parsnips, sage & onion stuffing, cranberry sauce, gravy, and slaw. We also had a classic apple crumble for dessert – you can find my recipe here.

I used Maris Piper potatoes as they leave you with a fluffy inside and crispy outside. The oil/fat chosen was simply olive oil. I know some people like to use duck or goose fat which gives a nice flavour, but for me, it’s not necessary. Check out the quick and easy steps to making these rosemary roasted potatoes below.

Ingredients

  • 2.5kg Maris Piper potatoes, peeled, cleaned, and cut into medium sized chunks
  • 6-8 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 tsp dried rosemary
  • 1 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 2 tsp ground garlic

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 200ºC (180ºC fan)/ gas mark 6.
  2. In a large pot, parboil the potatoes for 6-8 minutes, then drain. Shake the potatoes together to fluff up their edges.
  3. Add the olive oil into a large baking tray until covered with a thin layer, and heat in the oven for a few minutes until smoky.
  4. Once the oil is hot, carefully place the potatoes onto the tray and season with the rosemary, salt, pepper and garlic. Coat with the olive oil already in the tray.
  5. Roast for 40 – 50 minutes, turning at least once throughout the cook.
  6. Enjoy these spuds as part of your roast dinner.

Ghanaian Meat Pies

I first learned how to make meat pies from my mum when I was back in secondary school. If you have an African mother like myself, you’d know they always use their eyes to measure. So, that’s how I’ve done it since.

I remember going to hall parties (if you know, you know) and biting into many meat pies with barely any filling. I never understood the point of being stingy with the filling, hence why I decided to make them myself.

Warning: you’ll need a lot of time on your hands to make meat pies. Making a small batch just isn’t logical as they will be eaten swiftly. Honestly, I’ve had to hide a few in the fridge, just so I wouldn’t be disappointed when a batch of 30 disappears in 2 – 3 days. Excluding myself, there are 4 family members in the house –you do the maths!

Of course when you have no measurements, it’s pretty hard writing up a recipe. It’s taken up some time, but here it is! I’ve used corned-beef for this recipe, but go ahead and try this with a protein of your choice or vegetables.

Makes 15 – 20 pies

Ingredients

For the dough

  • 1.5kg plain flour
  • 500g salted butter (I prefer Stork)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 250 ml water

For the filling

  • 600 – 700g corned beef
  • 1 large onion, sliced or diced
  • 1 tbsp oil (any suitable frying oil)
  • 1 Maggi cube (or liquid Maggi seasoning)
  • 1/2 tsp ground black pepper
  • 1 tsp Chilli flakes
  • 1 tbsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp of tomato ketchup

Miscellaneous

  • 1 egg (for egg wash)
  • Rolling pin
  • Wooden board
  • Fork

Method

Dough

  1. In a bowl, add the flour and butter. Rub together using your fingertips.
  2. Add the teaspoon of ground nutmeg to the flour and butter mix.
  3. In a separate bowl, dissolve the 1/2 teaspoon of salt in 250 ml water.
  4. Add a little bit of water at a time to the flour mixture, and knead.
  5. Keep adding water and knead until you have a ball of dough.

Filling

  1. In a frying pan, heat up oil and fry onions until they start to soften up.
  2. Add in the corned beef and mix together.
  3. Add the Maggi cube, black pepper, chilli flakes, soy sauce and ketchup.
  4. Cook for 5 mins and check for seasoning.

Pie construction

  1. Flour your board and rolling pin.
  2. Beat on egg in a bowl.
  3. Get a handful of dough and roll in your hand to make a ball. Place on the board and roll out into a circle about 3mm in thickness
  4. Place some of the filling on one half of the circle, leaving some space around the edge.
  5. Close the pastry (should look like a semi circle). Using your fork, poke 3 holes into the pie, then press your fork around the edge for a decorative finish
  6. Place pies on a greased and floured baking tray. Egg wash the pies.
  7. Bake for 25 mins or until the pastry is golden brown. Enjoy!

Nutella Cupcakes

Here’s another cupcake recipe for you all to enjoy –  this time, it features the use of Nutella (or any other generic hazelnut-chocolate spread). The cake includes cocoa powder, chopped roasted hazelnuts, and a surprise Nutella centre. Buttercream is a mixture of vanilla and Nutella, and topped off with more chopped hazelnuts for an extra crunch.

So far, I’ve got three solid cupcake flavours, and I need some more to add to my collection. Feel free to let me know of any flavour combinations you’d like to see!

Check out the recipe below:

Makes 12 cupcakes

Ingredients

  • 100g self-raising flour, sieved
  • 30g cocoa powder, sieved
  • 50g chopped or ground hazelnuts (and a little more for topping)
  • 130g caster sugar
  • 140g unsalted butter, soft
  • 1/4 tsp baking powder
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 1/2 tbsp milk
  • 1/2 tsp vanilla extract
  • 3 heaped tbsp Nutella
  • 400g vanilla buttercream

Method

  1. Preheat oven to 180ºC (160ºC fan)/ gas mark 4. Line a 12 hole cupcake tray with paper cases.
  2. In a bowl, cream together the butter and the caster sugar with a wooden spoon or whisk until well combined and pale.
  3. Beat in the eggs, and fold in the flour, cocoa powder, and baking powder.
  4. Add in the vanilla extract and the milk, and mix together until you have a smooth chocolate cupcake batter.
  5. Add in the chopped or ground hazelnuts, and stir in.
  6. Spoon the batter into each case until about two-thirds full.
  7. Place in the oven for 20-25 minutes, or until the cupcakes spring back when tapped gently. Leave to cool.
  8. When the cupcakes have cooled, make a small hole in the middle of each cake (I use the end of a teaspoon for this part). Add 1 1/2 tbsp of Nutella to small piping bag. Cut off the tip of the bag so the diameter will fit the hole you made in your cupcakes. Pipe the Nutella into each cupcake hole – be generous!
  9. Spoon the buttercream into another piping bag with a nozzle of your choice, and and 1 1/2 tbsp of Nutella. Give it a little stir and pipe in a spiral motion.
  10. Sprinkle some more chopped or ground hazelnuts on top, and enjoy!