Food Challenge Recipe 29: Baked Tomato Sauce

This week’s recipe was adapted from one I saw from Smitten Kitchen, after seeing her post about it on instagram. I have one of her books, but this recipe wasn’t in there, so I got it off the website.

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When I saw the ingredients and method, it looked so simple, but I was afraid that the mild watery cherry tomatoes available to me would affect the flavour of the finished sauce. Thankfully, this recipe, and the accompanying ingredients, worked together wonderfully to create a fantastically fresh and beautifully tomatoey sauce, in all the ways you’d want it to be tomatoey!

Here’s what I did for sauce enough for 2 people:

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I took a small punnet of cherry tomatoes (about 250g) and sliced each one across its equator. Then I lay each one out, cut side up, in a baking dish, which had had 1 tbsp of olive oil coated over the bottom. You need to create a single layer of tomatoes.

Next I combined 1/6 cup of panko breadcrumbs, 1/8 cup of vegan parmesan, 1 tbsp of lacto-free mature cheddar cheese that had been grated and 1 crushed garlic clove. I mixed them with a fork to combine.

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Then the whole lot was spread over top of the tomatoes.

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You’ve got to make sure each tomato has a good amount of coating. Then I added a little salt and pepper, and drizzled with 1/2 tbsp of olive oil.

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This was then popped into the oven at 180c (fan) for 20 minutes, until the crumbs are starting to brown and the cheese is all melted.

At this time I put some pasta on to cook, so that it was ready at the same time as the tomatoes.

At the end of their cooking time, I took the baked tomatoes out of the oven and added 1/8 cup fresh chopped basil and lightly mashed the tomatoes with a fork.

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This created the sauce! The recipe then asked for another tbsp of oil to be added, but I didn’t want to add any more oil for dietary reasons. I don’t feel like it needed it.

I then mixed in the pasta, and Bob’s your uncle!

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The finished sauce was fresh, tasty and well seasoned. The tomato flavour wasn’t lost. The breadcrumbs had mushed up, so weren’t crunchy at all, however they had mixed with the cheese to create a savoury, thick, seasoning. The basil was a fantastic addition. It added a fragrant green freshness.

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We chose this pasta shape because I know it holds onto sauce very well. If you make this, I’d recommend that you use a small pasta shape that will hold onto the sauce, too.

I can see me making this pasta sauce regularly. It was simply, quick and so tasty!

I give this recipe 10/10

 

Food Challenge Recipe 28: Sweet & Spicy Baked Cauliflower

I’m trying to get better at tolerating spicy foods. It’s not that I don’t like it, or I’m not willing to try it, it’s just that too much spice in food results in me being unable to taste ANYTHING any more. That’s not the point of food!

But I don’t avoid heat, and at times will deliberately try foods slightly outside my comfort zone in a hope that it’ll ease my tolerance up. I’d wanted to try a baked cauliflower recipe for a while, and so when I saw this one, I thought “why not??”!

You start with 4 cups of cauliflower florets. For me this was a whole small cauliflower head.

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For the next part I grabbed a quart sized Ziplock bag to put the liquid for the marinade into, which made for a quick mix and simple cleanup.

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I added 2 tablespoons of maple syrup, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 1 tablespoon of Sriracha (the recipe asked for 2 but I was too scared to add that much hot sauce!), 1/2 tablespoon of light soy sauce and 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper.

To this I added all the cauliflower, sealed the bag and smooshed and shook the whole lot until it was covered as evenly as I could get it!

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I’d already lined a baking sheet, and had the oven on at 180c (fan). This might have been a little hot, so next time I’ll bake this at 170c.

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I was able to simply pour the whole lot onto the sheet, spread it out evenly so that everything had the chance to bake and crisp up (if the tray is too crowded the veg will steam instead of crisping) and pop it in the oven for 30 minutes.

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I took my baking sheet out a couple of minutes early, when I noticed some of the edges were starting to char. I also think that my tray might have been slightly over crowded in areas as the florets were a little too moist in parts. I gave one of the florets a try whilst it was still warm.

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I was glad I hadn’t added too much Sriracha as the bit I tried was really rather spicy! But my intention for this recipe was to allow the cauliflower to cool, and then top a salad with it. So that’s what I did!

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Once it was cool, I found the spiciness had reduced a LOT. In fact, if I make this again, I might add more hot sauce if I intend on eating this cold again. The flavour was really lovely. Spicy but also sweet (like the title suggested!) and the cauliflower flavour still came through nicely.

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I really enjoyed eating this. We had quite a bit left over, and I must admit it did leave the fridge smelling rather pungently of cauliflower, but the flavours were really good even days afterwards.

I give this recipe 7/10

Food Challenge Recipe 27: Home-Made Frappe!

If you haven’t noticed, it’s been rather hot of late. I’m not complaining – I bloody love the heat and can’t get enough of it. I want to feel the warmth of the sun on my skin ALL THE TIME. But sometimes it’s nice to have something icy and cold to eat or drink.

This week I decided I wanted to have a crack at making a blended coffee (or frappe) at home because I blooming love them, and figured it would be something nice to start my day off. On the day I made this, by the time I’d gotten up it was already 24c outside, so it seemed only appropriate!

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If you want to give this a go yourself, you’re going to have to work out the measurements for yourself based on how much coffee and sweetness you want, and also how big your cup is. I was making one blended coffee, I didn’t need it very sweet and I didn’t want a huge amount of caffeine. I was making mine for an average sized cold drink reusable travel cup, with straw.

I made my blended coffee in a BlendActive machine and it was more than capable of blending the ice. I filled the blending bottle 3/4 full with ice cubes.

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I then used light soy milk to fill the cup to almost the height of the ice.

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Next I made some hot coffee with 1.5 tsp of freeze-dried instant coffee, in an espresso cup.

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I added 2 tsp of Monin caramel coffee syrup to this hot coffee and mixed it in. This probably wasn’t enough syrup so add more if you like it sweet.

I tipped the hot coffee and syrup mixture into the blending bottle, on top of the ice and milk. Then I blended it!

It took less than 20 seconds to be blended and ready!

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And here’s the finished article! The ice was slightly more chunky than those you’d get if you bought it in a coffee shop, but crushed enough to go through the straw with no issues.

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This was a very refreshing alternative to my usual hot morning coffee, tasted great and stayed icy for a really long time in this cup, so I was able to take it out and about in the hot morning sun as I ran my errands.

Next time I think I’ll add a little more syrup, but for this occasion it was perfect!

I give this recipe 9/10!

This Week I Have Been Mostly….

this week i have been mostly

Another catch-up post? I know – this is a good thing. It means things have slowed down to the point, where I have some time to reflect on what I’ve been up to, rather than just go with it!

I have been LOVING this warmer weather. I really do feel like we’ve gone straight from Winter to Summer, leaving Spring behind. I also love thunder storms, and we’ve had a few corkers! I’m enjoying seeing all the plants coming up in my garden – so many different colours and shapes popping up out of nowhere – I have no idea what any of it is!

I’ve been busy planning things for my upcoming holiday to Florida, in September. We’ve booked in some really fun things, lots of places to eat, and my shopping list is well under way. We’re there for two weeks this year, and I’m pretty sure we’ve already filled each day!

I’ve also got my Mickey’s Not So Scary Halloween party costume sorted, for this year. Even though this isn’t a Disney World holiday (same as last year) we’re still going into the Magic Kingdom park for one evening, for the Halloween party.

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Can you guess who I’m going as? Hmm….

Aside from this, I’m still really enjoying my calligraphy course, and have started doing a few mini projects. I’m not pressurising myself to get them done in a certain time frame or in a certain way. I’m letting them happen organically, which works well for me.

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They mainly happen to be Disney themed, but that shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone really….

I’ve also been adding art to my office walls. Again, I want this to happen organically, and we visited Homesense recently, and their selection of framed art was really great. We ended up getting three pictures for my office, and two for around the house. I happen to have chosen all illustrated pieces for my office, and these two look great on my wall.

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Lastly, I’ll just mention that the jewellery making masterclass I attended with the MK Bloggers group earlier in the year, was featured in the events supplement of Blogosphere Magazine this quarter. It was fun to see my face in print!

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So that’s it for now. I have a week off coming up, and some fun things planned for that, and stay tuned for more recipes too. Are you enjoying seeing my 2018 food challenge recipes each week? Let me know what your favourite recipes have been so far – I’d love to know!

Until next time….

Food Challenge Recipe 22: Soft Baked Pretzels

I hadn’t deliberately set out to make theme park food so much, during this challenge, but when you’ve got 52 recipes to make and you love eating park food, then why not?!

Gary and I decided we wanted to make pretzels a while back, and found a recipe (they’re all about the same anyway) but we saw it takes a long time to make them so decided to wait until we had a whole day free. Which was a good thing. Pretzels are HARD.

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You start with the dry ingredients

  • 600g of strong white flour (sifted)
  • 1 level tsp of fast acting yeast
  • 2 tbsp of soft light brown sugar
  • 1 tsp salt

You mix this together. Then create a well and slowly add liquid (375ml warm water, with 1 tbsp of vegetable oil mixed into it)

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Mix this together to create a dough that’s not too dry and not too sticky. I had to add more flour as mine was way too sticky.

You knead this for 10 minutes by stretching it out and folding it back on itself.

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After the 10 minutes your dough should spring back when you push a finger into it.

The dough goes into an oil lined bowl and has to prove in a warm, dry place for 1-3 hours, or until it’s doubled in size.

We left ours near the airing cupboard, with clingfilm over top and a towel loosely wrapped around the bowl. After 2 hours it was almost spilling out of the bowl!

I lined two baking trays and set the oven to fan 210c.

Next the dough has to be split and shaped. I removed it onto a lightly floured surface and punched it down, and then knead lightly. I then divided it into 10 pieces which I covered whilst I shaped each piece. I think I should have cut it into 14 bits though, to make the pretzels a little thinner.

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To shape, you roll the piece into a long snake, no thicker than a pencil (I found this really hard because the dough kept springing back…)

Then you twist it around and stick the ends to the shape using a little water.

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Not the easiest task. Once they were all shaped, I had to leave them for 10-20 minutes (I think I went for 15!) sat on their tray and covered.

Next is a step I’m assured you must not miss out, because this is what gives the pretzels their shiny brown crust.

You bring 1 litre of water to the boil in a large pan, add 75g of bicarb and dissolve it. Then on barely a simmer, you carefully place up to 3 pretzels into the water for 30 seconds on each side, before removing to their tray.

This was really hard. The shapes fell apart on moving them, and then flipping them in the water. They looked like poops when they came out of the solution….

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Two trays of wet pretzel-ish shaped lumps later…. I sprinkled salt on top of one tray and left the other plain for sugar and cinnamon afterwards.

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The recipe said to bake for 8-10 minutes. My oven runs hot, so I always go for the shortest time and then test. The recipe also said to turn half way through, but this was impossible…..

After 8 minutes I could see the pretzels were mostly cooked, but still had a little raw dough in the very middles, so I carefully flipped them over as much as I could and left them back in the oven for about 2-4 minutes. I kept testing them until I got bored and decided they were cooked enough.

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As much as they had lost their shape somewhat in the dipping stage, they actually looked okay when they came out of the oven. Nice and brown, with a lovely crust.

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Somewhat thicker than we’d hoped though. We sprinkled the cinnamon sugar on top of the second batch and moved the whole lot to the cooling tray.

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We left them to mostly cool, and then both decided to try a sweet pretzel.

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The inside was soft and light, and it tasted like a pretzel! I was kind of impressed!

We left them to cool before putting them in tins, but here was where we discovered that these have absolutely NO shelf life. Even before we got them in the tins, the tops of them looked like they were wrinkling, almost curdling. It was so strange.

I took one to work the next day to eat as a snack, and it was definitely not the same as it had been the day before.

My verdict is, if you want a pretzel, pay the money for a pretzel. These are time-consuming and difficult and need a very specific level of skill to make them correctly. I don’t think we’ll be making them again, but I’m glad we tried even though they went weirdly bad very fast.

I give this recipe 6/10

Food Challenge Recipe 21: Easy, Tasty, Stove-Top BBQ Chicken

G-Man and I love BBQ chicken but we’ve never made a BBQ sauce from scratch before, and when I saw this recipe and saw it was so simple, I knew I wanted to try it.

There are quite a few ingredients in this recipe, but they are all items you’d probably have or don’t mind stocking up to have in your store cupboard.

I made some potato wedges to go with this chicken. The recipe for the wedges was from the same place and told me to soak the chopped wedges in water for an hour before cooking. This step was totally unnecessary in my opinion.

I coated the wedges in spray oil, 1 tsp of garlic powder and 1 tsp of Italian seasoning. I cooked these at 200c (fan) for 40 minutes, turning half way.

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For the chicken, it couldn’t be easier. All the ingredients for the sauce go straight into a large deep frying pan, all together. Here’s what I added:

  • 3/4 cup of passata
  • 1 cup water
  • 2 cloves crushed garlic
  • 1/2 tbsp cider vinegar
  • 1 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • 2 tbsp maple syrup
  • 1.5 tbsp soy sauce
  • 2.5 tsp smoked paprika
  • 1/2 tsp chilli powder
  • 1/2 tsp onion powder
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • pinch mustard powder

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Then I added 400g diced chicken breast, which was enough for two people, and one small diced red onion.

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I brought this to the boil and let it bubble on high for 20 minutes, turning the chicken over half way.

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The sauce will reduce down towards the end, so keep an eye on it, and if you need to add more water until the chicken is cooked, then do, but I didn’t need to.

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And that was it – so seriously easy!

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Not the most photogenic of dishes, but what it lacked in pretty, it gave in flavour!

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The wedges were tasty but I think they were a flavour too many with the chicken, so next time I’ll cook them with just salt and pepper on them to go with this.

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The chicken, however, was delicious. The sauce was exactly what I like from a BBQ sauce. Sweet, tangy, smokey but not too much of any of those. The tomato flavour wasn’t over powering, and it was seasoned perfectly! I was very impressed that something so simple was so full of flavour.

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I will definitely be making this again!

I give this recipe 10/10!

Food Challenge Recipe 20: One Pot Vegetarian Chilli Mac

This week’s recipe is another Mexican inspired one. I think this warmer weather has me thinking of hotter climates all over the world and all I want is spice and punchy flavour!

I found this recipe on Pinterest and I’ve tweaked it somewhat so that it tastes the way I like it. This recipe serves 3 people and is fairly filling. It required using some frozen chopped veg which I’d never used before, and tomato soup instead of passata to add depth.

I found a tomato and herb soup which didn’t have any dairy in, so I used this. It was 100ml less liquid than the recipe required so I made up the rest by adding to the required water volume.

Here’s what I did!

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I took 70g of frozen diced onion, 125g of sliced frozen mixed peppers and 4 medium mushrooms which had been diced, and soften them in a pan in some already warm olive oil. The recipe also called for 1/2 a mild chilli, diced. I can’t handle too much heat so I left this out.

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Once softened I added 120g of canned (rinsed) kidney beans, 1/2 tsp of smoked paprika, 1/2 tsp mild chilli powder and 1/4 tsp of ground cumin. I also added salt and pepper (but not too much because this could be tweaked later on) I stirred this around and then added 400ml of tomato soup and 250ml of water.

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I mixed this up and then added 180g of dry macaroni. You can use whichever pasta you’d like, but I just so happened to have some macaroni in my cupboard. I brought this to a simmer and let it cook for 15 mins, stirring regularly.

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At about 5 minutes before the end of cooking, I tasted the liquid and decided it needed more salt and 1 tsp of sugar to break the acidity. I also decided it needed a bit more depth and asked Gary to choose a BBQ sauce from his vast collection. I needed one which wasn’t too sweet, was a little vinegary and with a bit of smoke. I added 1.5 tbsp (approx) of this, gave it a stir and the flavour was just right.

At 15 minutes, the macaroni wasn’t cooked yet so I gave it some more time, testing it in 5 minutes increments and adding a little boiling water if I felt it was getting to dry. This macaroni seems to always need 10 minutes more cooking time when cooking it within a one pot dish, so I was prepared for this, but your pasta might cook faster.

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When I was happy with the ‘bite’ of the pasta, it was time to serve!

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I served mine with some grated lactose-free mature cheddar, but it would be equally nice with snipped spring onions or herbs on top.

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This was a super quick and really easy, hearty meal to cook. It even tasted great when I had the leftovers for lunch during the week.

I think I’ll be making this again!

I give this recipe 8.5/10

Food Challenge Recipe 19: Fresh Orange Sorbet

When I started this challenge I wanted to make sure I wasn’t just making recipes for me, but also making recipes Gary would like and giving us both the opportunity to expand our cooking skills.

Orange sorbet has been one of his favourites since the 80’s when this was something you could get everywhere – it was the sorbet flavour of choice! But now you really can’t find it. More often than not it’ll be mango, raspberry or lemon sorbet, and if you do find orange, it’s usually blood orange which doesn’t taste the same.

This year we took the plunge and bought a very reasonably priced ice cream maker. The idea being he could make his sorbet and since I’m unable to eat standard dairy ice cream, I could also use it to try my hand at making dairy-free ice creams!

So to start we decided to give orange sorbet a try. There are a tonne of orange sorbet recipes, all differing, but being the same all at once. The amount of juice and sugar you need are the most common variants, but we found a recipe that looked fairly good and decided to go with that one.

To start with, you need to make sure that if you’re using an ice cream maker with a freezer bowl, you’ve put it in the freezer for the relevant amount of time ahead of beginning your recipe. Then you need to make a sugar syrup.

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You bring 1 cup of water (250ml) and 1/2 cup (125ml) sugar to the boil and then let it simmer low for 20 minutes.

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You can tell the syrup is done when the fluidity of the liquid is thicker than water and it lightly coats the back of a metal teaspoon.

Then you take it off the heat and let it cool. We took this opportunity to juice the oranges at this point, whilst the sugar syrup was cooling.

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We had a net of 7 oranges so we juiced them all. We needed 2 cups (500ml) of juice for this recipe, so after juicing all the oranges we had a small glass of juice left over to drink. Yummy!

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By this point, the syrup was room temperature, so we poured the juice into the syrup and gave it a quick whisk together.

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This then went into the fridge for an hour to chill. After the hour we took it out, assembled the ice cream maker and set it to work!

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This churned for 30 minutes, which may have been a bit too long, but we’re still learning.

What came out of the machine was more like a granita than a sorbet.

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But the taste was epic. Essentially this is frozen, sweetened orange juice. But it was incredible. So much so that the whole of the following day at work I was craving another bowl of the stuff!

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This was a good, fairly simple recipe to follow and the resulting flavours were really great. We need to try this again but churn the mixture for about 5 minutes less.

This will be great to try again in the heat of the summer, and I’m eager to try different flavours too!

I give this recipe 8/10

Food Challenge Recipe 18: Sweet & Sticky Tomato and Onion Bake

You’ll probably have noticed an unintentional theme in my last month or so’s recipes. I mostly eat vegetarian food, and a lot of it focusses on tomato and basil maybe with potato thrown in there.

I’m lactose intolerant so can’t eat dairy and my husband has Crohn’s meaning there are a few things that have to be omitted from his diet, including red meat. We never ate a lot of that anyway, so that wasn’t a problem, but I thought it worth mentioning, just in case you wondered why I rarely include meaty or cheesy recipes!

This week’s recipe is one I found whilst scooting through recipe books on Amazon. I don’t know if you’re aware, but sometimes they publish full recipes in the image section of the recipe book. I use this to gauge whether I think I’ll like what’s included. But on this occasion I liked a recipe so much, I screenshotted it, and that’s what this week’s recipe turned out to be! I’m rubbish so I can’t remember the name of the book. I’ve looked but I can’t find it. If I do I’ll update this post!

Anyway, this recipe was for 4 people but I cut it down by half and it was the perfect amount for 2.

You start off with preparing 250g of baby onions. I couldn’t find baby onions so I used the same amount of small shallots.

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To prepare them, you pop them into a bowl and pour boiling water over them. Then after about a minute, I pulled them out one by one with a slotted spoon and peeled the skins off. They just slipped right off! I’ve never prepared an onion in this way so I learned a new skill, and found it quite therapeutic!

I’d turned the oven to fan 190c already and lined a roasting tray with foil (for easier clean-up!) In hindsight I think, for my oven, 170c would have been a bit better.

I tumbled the peeled onions into the tray and then added 375g of cherry tomatoes and 375g of halved new potatoes.

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Then I drizzled about a tablespoon and a half of olive oil over the top and added salt and pepper, and gave it all a good mix.

This then went into the oven for an hour. You’ve got to stir it all around every 15 minutes to make sure the tomato juices get all up in every nook and cranny.

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After the hour was up, I added 200g drained and rinsed cannellini beans and a handful of fresh basil leaves and mixed it all together.

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At this point I turned the oven down to 170c as you can see the onions are already quite charred. Everything went back into the oven for 15 minutes more, and then it was served!

The recipe states to ‘make sure not to miss a drop of those juices’. There weren’t any juices in my pan, so I really believe the temperature of the oven had been too hot!

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Everything was cooked well, and you can still see the tomatoes have some moisture but if there had been some more moisture in the pan I think the beans would have been slightly more tender.

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I served this with some (probably too many) green beans, which added some clean greenness to the meal.

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This was a very good meal. The onions were sticky and caramelised, the tomatoes had deepened in flavour and basted the rest of the meal. The beans, though a little dry, added a texture and savouryness to the dish, and the potatoes soaked in all the lovely flavours from the rest. The basil added a great hit of fresh herby green.

I had thought we might want to add some balsamic glaze to this meal, but it wasn’t necessary. A simple, fresh and relatively healthy dish – we’ll be making this again (with only a tweak in oven temperature!)

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I give this recipe 8.5/10

Food Challenge Recipe 17: Simple, Quick Pasta Sauce

I’m going to be straight with you, I was really stumped for this week’s recipe. I had no inspiration and after spending 2 days on Pinterest I gave up. But Gary made a good point – the pasta sauce we usually buy (just a stir-in tomato and basil sauce) isn’t available in stores any more for some reason and we’re struggling to find a sauce we like.

So he found a recipe on the NHS website (did you know they had recipes?!) and it looked simple and quick so I thought I’d give it a go. Being from the NHS, the recipe had no salt or sugar in it and very little oil, so I adapted it a little so that it would actually potentially taste nice. Which is the point, right?

This was a recipe for 2 people’s worth of sauce.

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The only ingredients you need other than the pasta you’re going to put it on are:

  • 1 400g can of chopped tomatoes
  • 1 onion chopped as finely as you can manage (for me that’s not very fine!)
  • 2 tsp of garlic infused olive oil
  • 1 tbsp double concentrate tomato puree
  • a sprinkle of Italian seasoning, to taste
  • pepper, salt and sugar to taste (sugar is really important to take away the acidity of the tinned tomatoes)

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All good recipes start with frying an onion. I fried this off in the garlic oil until they were soft (but should have probably left them in a little longer than I did…. I was feeling lazy!)

Then you add the tin of tomatoes, puree and herbs.

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I mixed this all together and allowed it to simmer for about 15 minutes. I tasted this at the start of this time, seasoned and added sugar. I also tasted again about 5 minutes before the end and tweaked it a little.

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In this time you can cook your pasta according to the packet.

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The finished sauce was okay. But it was just okay. It needed more sweetness, and I should have fried the onion down a little more. It was fresh flavoured and the herbs came through. But I still had that creaky feeling on my teeth from the acidity of the tomatoes. I feel like maybe some stock and a bit more sugar would have helped that.

The recipe suggested this might also make a good pizza sauce, and I can see how that would work. I appreciated the speed of this recipe and the fact that you would probably have all of these ingredients in your cupboard anyway.

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I give this recipe 5/10