This is a recipe we've been thinking about doing for a while, ever since we first read about it. It's a similar idea to the picnic loaves which are a cross between a sandwich and a stuffed loaf.
The first step is to make the pasta sauce. We often do a 'meat sauce' in the pressure cooker, simply putting chopped vegetables (such as onion, pepper, courgette, leek, garlic) in the pan along with a tin or two of tomatoes, some herbs and seasoning and a packet of mince. The lid goes on the pressure cooker and the sauce is cooked for an hour or so.
The next step is to make the dough. For this I used my normal 'mostly white' loaf, using milk instead of water, and making the dough slightly softer than normal.
Roll out the dough and sprinkle some cornmeal in the centre (this helps stop the bottom going soggy during cooking).
Mix the cooked spaghetti with the sauce and spread over the dough.
Dot the pasta with diced mozzarella.
Cut slits in the dough, going outwards from the pile of pasta. Fold the slits over to approximate a 'plait'. There was spare dough at the edges which we used to make doughballs. Brush the loaf with melted butter and cover with grated cheese (such as parmesan or pecorino).
Bake at gas mark 4 (180C) for half an hour. I assembled the loaf on some baking parchment and transferred it to a pizza stone to cook. The loaf came out well, with no sign of a soggy bottom.
I was surprised by how straightforward this was to make. The 'meat sauce' is something we regularly make and often have in the fridge or freezer. The bread dough is quick to make and just needs to be left to prove for a few hours.
This has spurred me on to try other stuffed loaves. A couple of years ago I made a macaroni cheese pie (inspired by a pie we bought while out at a country show) so I think a macaroni loaf would work well. The cheese sauce would have to be quite thick but I can't see why it wouldn't be as good as the spaghetti loaf.
Although I prefer to cook most meals more or less from scratch, I do sometimes like the occasional bit of convenience food. We sometimes have packets of flavoured noodles or the macaroni cheese `Pasta-n-Sauce' and various supermarket brands and copies. We usually add extra vegetables and a meat, such as chicken, tuna or prawns, otherwise they aren't big enough for a meal for two.
The Kraft `Mac and Cheese' is often mentioned in American TV programmes so when I was in Chicago 3 years ago (my God is it really that long ago, time has flown!) I bought a packet to bring home to try.
The British macaroni cheese packets are straightforward to cook: the entire pack of pasta and sauce powder is added to a pan of milk and water and boiled until done.
The American version comes in a box with two packets inside. The larger pack contains the pasta which needs to be cooked separately. The smaller pack is the sauce powder. The cooked pasta is drained and then mixed with butter, milk and the packet of sauce mix.
The British version is smaller but makes more sauce with more flavour. The American version ends up with a pan of pasta with practically no sauce, the milk seems to just get absorbed into the pasta leaving a thin coating. The end result is much less satisfying than a bowl of pasta in a cheese-like sauce.
I recently bought a box of `Tropical Sun' macaroni cheese, which is cooked in the same was as the Kraft mac and cheese. It was also similar to the Kraft stuff in that it was disappointing with very little sauce and was fairly tasteless.
A bowl of proper home made macaroni cheese is much better than any of the above. It's very easy to make but takes a bit longer and is a bit more effort. The hardest part of the job is to grate the cheese. Making the roux is easy, whisking in the milk is easy, adding the cheese is easy. The only real disadvantage of making it properly is the extra washing up it generates.
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I have cooked with spätzle a few times before but each time the recipe has been very similar, using onions and cheese along with whatever meat is being used in the meal. Now to be honest tonight's recipe is also a variation on the same theme. The inspiration came from here. We decision to cook this was made at the last minute so we I made a version using the ingredients we had in the house.
I cooked the noodles in a pan of boiling water, sliced an onion and a leek and cooked them in some olive oil, and grated some pecorino cheese. We had cooked prawns and mussels so they got mixed in at the end along with a splash of lemon juice and some freshly ground pepper. It was a quick and easy meal to make.
We regularly buy a ginger and coriander marinated chicken from the supermarket but usually did it with fried rice and had kind of run out ideas for it. I did a bit of googling for recipe ideas and thought I'd have a go at Ginger Peanut Chicken Pasta. I did my usual thing of just reading through the ingredients then making up my own version.
I fried an onion and a couple of cloves of garlic, added 1/4 tsp ground ginger and 1 tsp chilli flakes and a splash of lemon juice and soy sauce. I then mixed 1/2 cup of milk with a heaped tablespoon of peanut butter and a teaspoon of cornflour and stirred it to get it as smooth as possible. Meanwhile I cooked the chicken in the oven and boiled a pan of spaghetti. When the chicken was cooked I added the peanut/milk mixture to pan and heated until it had thickened. It worked out quite well.
I found these recipes while looking for something to do with the meat from a roast chicken. Kreplach appear to be a Jewish ravioli but folded into a triangle instead of made from two squares of pasta pressed together. I prepared the dough and filling yesterday to save time.
The dough was made by mixing together two cups of flour, a pinch of salt, two eggs, a quarter of a cup of oil and a couple of tablespoons of water (just enough water to bring everything together without making the dough too wet).
To make the filling, I minced two small onions and a clove of garlic and fried them in some oil before leaving them to cool. I shredded the chicken and mixed in the onion and garlic.
When I got home from work I started to assemble the Kreplach. I cut off a quarter of the dough and rolled it as thinly as possible. I cut out squares and put a spoonful of the meat in the middle of each. I folded one corner over to make a small pasty-shaped dumpling.
In the meantime I made a sauce out of red peppers, leeks and passata, with a small amount of chilli and parsley added for extra flavour. I simmered the kreplach for around 15-20 minutes.
Tonight's tea came about because Emma bought some dressed crab during her trip into the city centre this afternoon. I started off by thinking that crab goes well with both chilli and basil. I originally considered crab and chilli pasta with a basil oil drizzled on top. I then thought I like crabcakes but haven't had any for a while. Tea then became crabcakes (flavoured with onion, chilli and garlic) served with noodles and a basil oil.
Emma suggested spätzle instead of noodles so we arrived at the third and final iteration of tea:
The dressed crab was in a tub with brown crabmeat mixed with mayonnaise at the bottom and white crabmeat with chopped hard boiled egg on top. I mixed it together with 2 finely chopped chillies and 2 sliced garlic cloves. I then added a beaten egg and enough breadcrumbs to bind everything together.
I shaped the crabcakes into small 'burgers' and coated them in cornmeal. I fried them in a little oil for 10-15 minutes while I prepared the spätzle.
While the spätzle cooked I fried 1 sliced medium in a little oil until it had softened. We had a small amount of cooked chicken leftover in the fridge so I added that too.
I shredded a handful of basil leaves and grated about 100g of cheese and set them aside for later.
When the spätzle was cooked, I drained it then mixed in the onion, shredded chicken, shredded basil and half the cheese. The rest of the cheese was sprinkled on top.
I cooked a couple of new recipes this week. The first was a Chicken and Paneer satay-style curry.
The sauce was equal volumes of milk and chicken stock to which I added:
- 1 teaspoon each of ground coriander and ground cumin
- 1/4 teaspoon of ground ginger
- 1 teaspoon each of curry powder and garam masala
- 2 tablespoons of crunchy peanut butter
I fried 2 chicken breast and one red onion and added them to the sauce, leaving them to simmer for a few minutes. Towards the end of the cooking, I diced the paneer and gently fried it in a small amount of oil, adding it to the pan just before serving.
The next recipe was a Cheese and Sausage Spatzle.
The Spatzle came from Lidl - we bought it because it was a bit different and we hadn't cooked with it before. While it was boiling, I fried a couple of red onions and a few sausages, and added a pinch each of salt, chilli flakes and thyme leaves. I also grated the cheese.
I placed half of the spatzle in the bottom of an oven-proof dish followed by a layer of the onion and sausage mixture, then a layer of cheese, then repeated the layers. I baked it in the oven for about 30 minutes at gas mark 4, until it had heated through and the cheese had melted.
It worked well for such a simple recipe. The rough texture of the spatzle would work better than a traditional italian pasta, which tends to be smoother, and wouldn't have held together as well.
We finally finished the tub of mascarpone today. I made the pasta bake on monday. The sauce was based on a small quantity of Heston-style cheese sauce with half of the mascarpone mixed in, along with one egg. I added fried veg, diced chicken, and cooked macaroni (from about 300g of dried). Everything got mixed together and put in a pyrex, sprinkled with mixed seeds and grated cheese, then baked in the oven for about 40 minutes.
We have 2 pyrex dishes and if we make a pasta bake to fit the larger of them, it is enough for 4 portions so it lasts us for 2 days. We had the second half today.
The final last bits of the mascarpone were actually eaten with a chocolate eclair for pudding, after we got back from the shops. The eclairs weren't planned. They were reduced at M&S because they had reached their sell-by date.
We bought a big tub of mascarpone the other day which means we have had to find enough ways to use it before it starts to go off.
The first use was nice and straightforward: We dolloped a bit on a toasted hot cross bun.
Today I made a chicken and butternut squash risotto following the standard risotto method: I fried some diced squash, finely chopped leeks, garlic, and a pinch of dried chilli. I'm not sure if I've mentioned this before but when we have a glut of chillies, I make my own dried chilli. I slice the chillies in half lengthways then put them on a sheet of kitchen roll in a small metal tray, which I then put on the radiator for a week or so. I then smash the chillies up using a small food processor.
Back to the risotto. After adding the chilli I added risotto rice and home made chicken stock. When the rice was roughly half cooked, I added some diced cooked chicken and a generous pinch of salt. When it was all fully cooked I added a generous heaped tablespoon of the mascarpone and stirred it in. The risotto was very rich and creamy and the mascarpone seemed to help keep it fairly firm, instead of going sloppy which can sometimes happen when I use ordinary cream cheese.
Tomorrow I will make a pasta bake. The mascarpone and a beaten egg should hold the pasta together well so it doesn't collapse too much when I serve. I will find out tomorrow.
The year before last I tried to cook (or at least eat) a new different recipe each week. I probably won't be able to do the same thing again this year but I will endeavour to try more new recipes, since last year we weren't as adventurous with our cooking. I do enjoy cooking different foods but we are both going to be very busy this year, which is why I am not going to make any promises.
Last night we cooked a roast chicken so today I made a chicken stock using the bones, along with some herbs, peppercorns, garlic and the outer leaves from some leeks. Tonight I decided to make a risotto using the stock and remaining chicken. Since we had fish in the freezer and saffron on the shelf, this morphed into a paella. Although we do have some paella rice, I decided to try my normal paella recipe but using the small orzo (or risoni) pasta instead. I tried to stay faithful to the risotto method but I added the orzo to hot stock, instead of the other way round, which is more usual for risottos.
Ingredients and Method
- Dice and fry some vegetables, including red pepper, leek, courgette, garlic.
- Put the fish in a pan of boiling water then turn the heat off and let the fish cook in the remaining heat.
- Add a couple of cups of chicken stock to the vegetables and bring to the boil. Stir in a few strands of saffron and add a cup of pasta.
- When the pasta is cooked halfway, add a cup of shredded chicken and a squirt of tomato puree, along with any seasoning.
- When the pasta is cooked, stir in a tablespoon of cream cheese followed by the cooked fish.
To serve, all it needs is a grind of fresh black pepper and a sprinkle of parmesan. I know that isn't the right way to serve a paella but we like it that way.
Tonight I made a mince and halloumi pasta bake, based on a recipe from the BBC food website. There were two versions of the recipe given, I followed the one by a member of the public instead of the Paul Rankin version, because the sauce contained egg and I thought that might set better. The only changes I made were to use 100g of halloumi in the pasta and sauce, 400g of macaroni, and 340g of mince. This was simply because of the sizes of the packs of meat and cheese, and the amount of pasta left in the pack on our shelf. I also used turkey mince instead of pork mince. It was quite fortunate I used less ingredients because the pyrex tray was very full by the time I layered everything in.
This is the first time I have used halloumi in a recipe, instead of simply slicing and frying it. Overall the pasta bake was very good. I might mix the sauce with the pasta next time so it holds together better for serving but otherwise it went well.
The lasagne came about because we had some fresh lasagne sheets in the fridge. The meatballs in the sauce meant the lasagne was a bit tricky to eat but the mixture of quail eggs and meatballs meant that each mouthful tasted different.
The meatballs contained turkey mince, grated cheese and seasoning. The tomato sauce was cooked down for a couple of hours to concentrate the flavours.
We received a lot of food related presents for Christmas, including some fancy multi-coloured pasta. Here we served some of it with a home-made chicken and kale pesto.
- Chop and fry 2 cloves of garlic
- Finely chop 2 handfuls of kale and add to the pan with the garlic. Fry until it wilts.
- Put a tablespoon or so of pine nuts (or a similar seed mixture) in a food processor and blitz to a fine powder.
- Add the garlic and kale to the food processor and blitz to a paste.
- Add a tablespoon of cream and a couple of spoons of grated parmesan
- Season to taste.
- Mix in some sliced cooked chicken and serve with the pasta.
Orzo is a small pasta, roughly the same size and shape as a large grain of rice, which we first bought a few months ago when a local shop had some on special offer. It seems to be quite a fashionable pasta shape these days and has turned up in a few recipes, such as this one from the You Magazine.
The original recipe called for a round squash but we had a butternut so instead of slicing the top off, I cut in half but made sure there was a 'small' half to use as the lid and the larger half to fill with the cheese mixture.
The cheese mixture was equal weights of creme fraiche and grated cheddar, with some nutmeg and white pepper mixed in. I put a few sage leaves on the filling, put the 'lid' on top, and baked at gas mark 5 for about 1½ hours.
10 minutes before the end, I cooked the orzo. I scooped out the squash and filling (which wasn't easy because it was very hot) and served it with the orzo. The squash hadn't gone fully soft so I slightly mashed some of it with the spoon to give it a smoother texture. I chopped the sage leaves and stirred them in with the cheesy mixture when I served.
The pasta bake makes enough for 4 servings. We ate half on wednesday and put the rest in the fridge. We finished it off tonight and like a lot of such foods, the flavours seem to improve after a few days.
Pre-heat the oven to gas mark 4.
Dice and fry some vegetables: 2 medium onions, 1 small courgette, 1 pepper, a couple of cloves of garlic.
Cook 250g of pasta.
Drain one tin of tuna.
Make a cheese sauce (approximately 400-500ml or so). We made a roux using 40g of butter and 40g of flour. We added 100g of grated cheese, 1 tablespoon of wasabi paste, and a sprinkling of chilli flakes.
To assemble, mix the pasta and vegetables in a pyrex tray. Stir in a couple of tablespoons of tomato puree and the tin of tuna.
Stir in the cheese sauce and top with a mixture of grated cheese and seeds and/or breadcrumbs. We used some ground-up Wasabi Peas (from Marks & Spencers) to give a crunchy texture and extra wasabi flavour.
Cover the tray with foil and bake for 40 minutes, removing the foil 10 minutes before the end to crisp off the toppings.
Clockwise from top left: 1) Pasta and vegetables in the pyrex dish. 2) Tuna and tomato puree mixed in. 3) Ready for the oven. 4) Close up of the crispy topping.